Wed Aug 19, 2020 6:16 am
He reclined in her arms not with relaxation or ease, but with the stone-hard tension present in the bodies of terrified children: muscles so tight they carved new pathways in the underside of his skin, teeth clenched so violently they might as well have been carved from iron. That word was the only one he gave her, the name of that place. And while his eyes still remained in his skull, they certainly no longer remained in this world. Toward the sky they stared with aimless intent, as if the Black Oil had stolen every morsel of sense from them, torn out the presence of man and human and left him a husk as empty as a drained wineksin.
But his teeth, the three in the front, were no longer silver.
That invader had fled him, leaving barely a heartbeat, barely a mind to speak of.
She cried out, and he was deaf to it. The world, however, was not: the ashes seemed to swirl harder, the snow more fiercely, and the fire roared with more vigor and anger. More of the moon was visible than the sun, now, and shadows — wherever shadows still had the capacity to hide — stretched on as evening leaned inevitably over the burning landscape.
Wed Aug 19, 2020 11:23 am
Oh no no no…
Her scream dwindled to a rusty cough that hunched her double over him, Her brow resting on his belly, until she collapsed shaking, gasping for breath and only getting more rotten smoke. Better than she deserved for the foolishness of wasting her breath screaming when there was no one to call for help and precious little good air to begin with. The pulse in the side of his stiff, bristly neck was thready but present, even though by now her own heart raced so that she could be mistaking hers for his.
She shuffled until she worked a knee out from under her. Bracing her weight on a foot, it wobbled, but held.
Laying hands under the man’s arms, she braced herself and heaved. The first yank dragged claws across her shoulders and she had to let him drop as she found herself trapped on hands and knees, muscles trembling and oily sweat beading on her upper lip in the middle of a snowstorm. In the time it took to collect herself, she had a sudden, perfect vision: rolling him into the lake with her foot, ice cracking beneath him and the dark water swallowing him up, gone for good.
The second time she managed to drag him up to her shoulder, biting her lips against another scream as the edge of his belt scraped open a blister, sweat salt on raw flesh. His weight nearly collapsed them when she finally got both feet beneath her.
An there were a single cell in his addled head from which she could squeeze an answer, then he would answer.
One step, her foot shoving aside a blanket of soot-blackened snow.
Then another, pausing to heft the old man higher when he slipped down her back.
Another step. Another pause to catch her breath.
If she thought about what she was doing, she would not be able to do it at all.
Another shuffling step, dragging her burden along the lake’s edge toward the Dagger.