Surfacing

Apr. 13th, 2008 11:16 pm
arsenicwaltz: (Default)
The feeling is... strange. Like walking underwater, at double speed. There is a revelation in every movement, in every twanging muscle, in every darting glance, and then...

Tangled in her bedclothes, the girl sits up in the dark with a jerk and a gasp. There is something strange here too, she notes. The soft cotton that should have been under her palms is gone, and the faint starlight through her curtains falls into and is absorbed by something of a deep, dark color. It takes a moment for the slippery rustling beneath her fingers to make any sense, but yes, here it is - she lights the nearby candelabra with a thought - silk. Her bedclothes are silk. She swears softly to herself, rubbing her eyes. Eddie appears a moment later, an anonymous stoppered bottle held gently in one hand.

"No, no. No need" she waves him away, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. "Some things I need to see about. Has there been any word from the Watcher?"
He pauses a moment, looking thoughtful. "No missstressss. No breachesssss reported on any front. Issss sssssomething wrong?"
"Wrong?" it is her turn to look thoughtful. "I don't know. Wrong is perhaps a little strong a word. Something is... different."

Candle in one hand, and the tail of her kimono trailing behind her, she prowls the halls restlessly, searching high and low for the disturbance that rings in her mind like the echo of churchbells. Her steps draw her ever inward, deeper and deeper into the depths of the Palace, until she stands again before the curved door of the Chasm and the Heartstone, the hum of air across the lintel a constant and soothing sound. She opens the door, trembling. The room is bathed in the same pale sourceless light as always, but there is something amiss, something different and unseen here. Taking one step past the wrought-iron railings and out onto the void, she pauses, thoughtfully, and looks back.

She almost falls, almost drops her single candle into that depthless chasm, almost forgets who and where she is in her startlement and falls, herself.

Above the door of the Chasm stands a nook. In that nook, until now, stood a statue of Psyche, blindfolded. Now the statue stands, bare-eyed, with rivulets of golden honey pouring down her cheeks, sword in one hand and lamp in the other. The girl squeezes her eyes shut, taking deep breaths to quell the pressure rising through her.

Later, she sits in the Palace garden, head on palm on knee, staring out into the warm spring darkness and thinking. The wind shifts imperceptibly, bearing on it the faint sounds of the City outside the walls, but also something... She sits up, sniffing the air with surprise, then gets to her feet and strides to the far wall, hands outstretched. The bare, blasted alabaster stones are gone, completely obscured by trellised oranges in bloom, wound with sweet night-flowering jasmine and honeysuckle. Crickets sing in the foliage, and fireflies blink and hover gaily. She sits, for she does not know what else to do, taking deep breaths which explode like a waterfall from her in laughter.

"Am I? Oh goddess, healed? Now? Only when all hope is fled?"
She flings her arms wide into the night, her heart full to bursting. "Then let them come!"
arsenicwaltz: (Default)
Feebly, the girl walks through the long corridors and twisting stairs of her Palace, her steps painfully slow and labored from her long convalescence. The long tail of the kimono drags elegantly behind her, lending an air of deliberate meditation to her progress. She heads inward now, and upward, away from the windows and public places, and into territory only infrequently patrolled by her servants.

Eventually, she comes to a large steel door with a strange pattern of straight lines and ninety degree turning paths terminating in dots traced upon it. Circuit lines, they shimmer slightly in the low light of the disused corridor, from time to time sending a slick pulse of light from one dot to the next. Unlike the other doors in the Palace this door has no knob, and in its place a black panel sits, slightly concave and with the texture of skillfully knapped obsidian.

She places her hand on the panel and it glows golden for a moment, spreading light through the nearby leads. The door opens with a slight hiss.

Three steps inside she stops and waits for her eyes to adjust. The room is circular, perhaps fifteen feet across, and the walls are completely coated with what appear at first to be pictures of various sizes and angles. Upon closer inspection though, the pictures ripple and move, relating stories in much the same fashion as the whispering portraits of the Hall of Faces. Each picture has its own rate of movement and tone of voice; some are slow, quiet, interspersed with great periods of stillness and silence, and others are kinetic orgies of sound and color and stories variously sung, chanted, or told in the animated style of a minstrel. Some are in between. But they are all different.

In the center of the room a large swiveling chair sits, armrests bedecked with control panels and self importantly blinking lights. In this chair sits a creature thin of limb, hairless, mouthless, but with wide staring, lidless eyes and thin nimble fingers that dance over the control panels with grace and practiced ease. The Watcher looks up at her arrival.

"I came as soon as I saw your signal. I am sorry it took so long. How bad is it?"

The Watcher swivels in his chair, pointing with those large eyes to a dark spot among the riotous pictures. Three touching squares on the wall stand out. One is dark, as if the feed had been cut off abruptly and crudely. Another holds nothing but static interspersed with blackness as if there were a signal out there, somewhere, but it was no longer pointed in her direction. A third dark square, slightly larger and more important than the rest, gibbers slightly, spilling out jovial sounds interrupted by long bursts of static.

"I am hardly surprised by that one," she says, pointing to the first square, "I daresay he was only waiting for some imagined slight so he could have his riteous indignation and cut me out completely. I gave him an admirable excuse, unfortunately."

"The second though... I had hoped he would stay true to his word. It's quite obvious he wants nothing to do with me until I can subscribe to his 'friendship' ideal." Despite her words, the girl's eyes are filling with tears, and the Watcher's eyes are bigger now as he nods. "I still miss him terribly though," she adds softly.

"It is the last one which will hurt the most. I know he is trying to protect himself, but it feels like he's showing me only the good things because he knows they'll hurt me. I can guess at what he's saying about me when I'm not listening..." She looks up to the pictures surrounding the third one, and indeed they have begun to flicker and break up, as if the static of their neighbor had somehow become contagious and spread to each item it touched. She sighs. "He has done what I have fought against for so many years. I can only hope that he understands that I am only saving him the trouble of censoring himself. I can only hope I don't lose the rest of them" she looks at the ring of diseased pictures "...as well."

Eyes streaming, she waves a hand in front of each of the beleaguered frames with an expression on her face of someone who's favorite horse had just broken a leg and must now be shot. The screens blink black, then blue, then in turn to the color test pattern and fade into nothingness. Nearby pictures swarm around the holes where the frames once were, and the girl sighs, wiping darkly hollowed eyes on a handkercheif before she turns for the door.

It is the Watcher who sees it then as her back is turned: a trio of frames emerging from the darkness and bursting into life, pulsing with black and lights, and flashes of leather, steel, and tall, tall boots. The Watcher, without mouth or voice, is beside himself trying to get the girl's attention, finally pounding on the back of his chair in order to get her to turn. One long white finger points at the trio of frames. She turns, and looks puzzledly at the newcomers, then laughs a short, ironic laugh.

"...somewhere He opens a window. I got it, I got it."

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