The night makes one think. A lot. The gist of my thoughts now concerned Oso, who slept soundly beside me. We’ve rekindled some of our lost passion, and now she sleeps here. I thought of asking her the questions plaguing me, but I didn’t. Her love is part of how I managed to hang on for this long and to lose it would be …
In any case, things are moving faster now. I stared at the sparkling ceiling of crystals above me. I’ve been in the Submer stage for a month now, according to Kook. But instead of studying, I’ve been told to do “absolutely nothing” while Sos and her team took notes. Sometimes they asked me to solve a puzzle or a riddle, but that’d be it. I sighed as things seemed to slip away from my grasp.
“Carran. Are you awake?” Oso shifted and moved closer to hug me. ”You’re thinking about your dream again, aren’t you?”
“I don’t dream. You know that.” I chuckled.
“Well, dream, goal, mission, whatever it is.” She placed a hand on my abdomen and slowly moved it up to my chest. “Can’t it wait until tomorrow comes, my love?”
“Maybe.” I placed my hand over hers and felt her heartbeat through our connection. “But your sister has a real penchant for ‘testing’.”
“No surprise there,” Oso said, retracting her arm as she frowned. “Well, now I can’t sleep.”
“Heh.” I smiled. “Want to do it?”
“Now?” She teased me, putting her face close to mine. “Haven’t you had enough already?”
I rolled over and got on top, enjoying the sight before me. “I’m addicted to you, my love. Don’t make me beg now.”
“Sweet talker.” She laughed while we grew closer. And then the only sound left was my lip on hers, and all was well.
Carer’s finally asleep. I thought as I heard his soft breathing behind me. The way he tries so hard was adorable. It’s like a pet dog, wanting to please his master. I stretched a hand out to his head and petted it. His head twitched at the touch but relaxed soon after as I began to gently rub it back and forth. I miss your hair. This prickly surface doesn’t suit you, but it had to be shaved. A small price to pay for the tests.
My mind wandered to that moment months ago, sitting in Sos’ little office. She served me some Lily Grey, which I accepted, with three spoonfuls of sugar for good measure. I asked her about the tests and what her goal was. Like a good doll, she said her work was Angan’s will as if mentioning her dispelled all doubt. I called her a cunt and took a sip. She snapped back, asking me what I wanted to do with her beloved pet project.
Scared I’ll mess things up for you again? I chuckled then as I lounged on her sofa. Must be nice to have a new mother to complain to about. Her face turned such an ugly red before throwing a book at me. I dodged it of course, then laughed. Everything’s a game to you, Oso. Your life, other people’s lives, even your newest playmate. And that suits me fine when you end up as a nameless body in the wilderness somewhere. But jest to me again about "mother", and I will split your skull in half with a punch.
Ha! Good one. Okay, that’s enough of me taking a piss at you. I stopped lounging then and stood up straight. Angan hasn’t done anything new in two hundred years. Then out of nowhere, he wants to make a magic super-tool and shove it up Carer’s ass. That should bring up alarm bells in anyone with a bit of common sense. Unease passed Sos’ face like ripples on a lake's surface. She took a sip from her own glass of tea before replying.
Why do you care a great deal about him, Oso? Have you fallen for him completely? If so, then do confess right here and now so we can avoid a lot of problem in the future. I didn’t answer then, opting to sidetrack things as usual to how drab her wardrobe had become. It was a simple question, but at the same time, it wasn't. Not when we hid so many secrets from one another, even as open as they are.
“Oso?” Carer’s voice made me jump a little as he stirred awake. “Where are you, baby? I miss you.”
My hand reached out to pet him, and soon he drifted off to sleep again.
I felt like I could stay that way forever.
OH FUCK OH FUCK OH FUCK OH FUCKKKK!!!! I thought to myself. I shouldn’t have tried to get to the shrine on my own. I should’ve waited for that guy to come back or something. I squirmed in my new bed, trying to ignore how soft it felt. Everything was fine until those … things swooped in out of nowhere. Heads on heads, hands on hands, everything on everything, and they all flew. Then I passed out and met … them.
Nausea came in waves as I tried to suppress the memory. I retched as I stumbled out of bed, a foot and a knee breaking my fall. What pain that came was welcomed to keep myself together. Oh gods, save me now. I know I made fun of you because you’ve got the stupidest names, but please have mercy. I want to go home and hug dad and sleep and fight monsters with spears again. I’m sorry about your shrine Kia, but I’ll make a new one in the village if you let me live. Please let me live!
The darkness and rock under me carried the silence better than I had hoped. It was comforting in a way, much like how dad forgave me after breaking an important vase of his. I never knew her, but that ugly, half-burnt thing used to be hers. It was an attempt of hers to be more “womanly”, which neither me nor dad could understand. He married her because they managed to kill the same monster at the same time. Or was it because they saved one another? I don’t know.
Are you dead, mom? Can you hear me now, your daughter? My name’s Sabine. I tried to reach out to something I believed more than the gods. I remember you a bit, at the start. You brushed my cheek and pinched it. It was very warm. I teared up as I began to move to the parts with my dad in them, but I hung on. I had time. Dad misses you. He tries too hard and is a bit awkward, but he’s getting better. But it’s going to change soon, because …
For the first time since my kidnapping, I felt a knot of dread and worry too familiar upon my heart. It’s something I don’t talk with my dad, and he never brings it up either. But we know it’s still there, hanging much like how ghosts would be. I put my hands over my face and sighed into the mask, letting the warm air sink into my skin. I did this several more times before I felt good enough to stand. And I did, doing it slow so as not to bump my head on the rocky ceiling. Once that move was complete, I felt my earlier panic creeping in to my heart, so I searched around for the bed. A bump on my left shin completed that search.
What now? I thought, my panic now accompanied by other feelings. I was too scared to notice before, but they wanted me for something. The lady thing, she was writing things down, like a merchant. They’re going to sell me? To who or what? Do I even want to know? I leaned back and let myself crash onto the bed, easing myself into the fluffy heaven it was.
I’m still alive, so they don’t want to kill me. Yet. Or they’re cannibals. I sat on that last point a good while before shaking my head. People don’t taste good. Save for some, most of them only kill us because we happened to be around. Ah, Jollon, you shouldn’t have stepped on that Whipsnap’s tail. I nodded as I recalled that sad memory. Wait, this isn’t the time for that. Focus, you’ve got to figure out what they want. Or I could try to escape.
The question that didn’t need to be voiced or thought of expressed itself in no plainer terms than on my body. It was frozen, with every muscle locked in and every bone rigid. It was a defeat for the soul and will, and I knew it. I thought so, I breathed in as I let the thoughts of escape go. I’m stuck here for now. I don’t even know if this can be healed, but I can live with this for now. A reminder of what to work on, I suppose.
I clenched my fists until the fingers were numb, and then some more.