Episode 12: Umwelt: Double Jeopardy
Margo stares out into the maelstrom, it churns lunatic waltzes in the cat green glow of her eyes. Grainy black teeth gnash against the glass of the porthole. She gnashes back at them. Pearly teeth chomping with decided relish. The teeth on the glass explode in a shiver of dark sand and Margo chuckles to herself, licks cherry red lips.
‘Will this never end?’ Minnie moans, draped over Slimm’s lap. He strokes the skin of her arm, it glows and glistens like liquid silver under his fingers.
Margo grins, shark smile. ‘You know it won’t, Min. It’s there for a purpose. It’s no ordinary storm. Storms don’t have teeth, even on this god forsaken dust hole.’
‘Thas raht, shugahs,’ Mama drawls from the door, amber gaze gleaming pure as portents. ‘Thas tha Angel’s work. His way o’ handlin’ the Sistahs. Keepin’ ‘em occapied.’
Margo slinks over to Mama and curls her fingers through the scarlet fall of her hair, ruby highlights glisten in the bright glow of thaumic lamps.
‘And how, dearest, beloved Mama, do you know this?’
Mama cups Margo’s face with her hand, the glow behind her amber gaze intensifies, bright as staring into the sun. ‘Cos I’m a vessel, hunneh. They’s many who’s a vessel fah Angels. And ah’m one ‘o his.’ She strokes Margo’s cheek, smiling gently as Margo curves into the touch, eyes closing. ‘Youse all speshul. He made it so as you was looked ahfta. Mama here ta protect y’all and y’all are heah ta help Mama take out tha trash.’
Green appears between thick lashes, just a sliver, incisive and cunning. ‘Trash?’ Margo says, voice soft as a paw before the claws spring forth.
‘Surely, hon. They’s beasts hidin’ beneath tha skin up in this ship. That ole bitch’ll call ‘em to aid her if’n she senses the need. We’s gunna see to ‘em.’ Mama lifts Margo, ‘startin’ with yowah nex’ clahyant.’
Face to face they sit. Eyes mirrored into eyes. Between them the air clouds, fuses, as particles collide and stick, sparking off one another, killing one another, creating new particles. These glistening specks of new matter coalesce to black blossoms of power. The blossoms conjoin, spread, become fractal, edges pulsing violet and pink, hints of sunflower bright yellow.
‘Does the cat come?’ Evangelista asks her sister.
Evangelista’s face blanks, as if smoothed clean of life, of personality. Her mouth opens and from her throat echoes a sibilant whisper of a voice. Snake belly on leaves. The rifling of wind through dried grass.
‘Yes. He comes. He brings companions.’
Evangelista snaps back into herself. Her hands, supine on her thighs, rise up. Her twin’s hands mirror the movement. They halt either side of the fractal, glowing patterns of power between them. Then Evangelista leans forward and blows.
From her mouth golden particles like sunlight formed from spider silk flow out. The strands gather about the lace-edged blossoms of power, sink into them, then stretch outward, dragging the power apart. It resists for a moment, pulsing angry purple lights within the black.
Evangelista reaches out, her twin does the same. Their fingers hook the golden threads like cat’s cradles and gently tug them apart, pulling the power out like taffy between them. It shivers, thins and gives in. Spreads across the room, the golden threads weaving a shimmering grid throughout.
When it has touched all six surfaces, it fades. The sisters lower their hands. Evangelista smiles.
‘We are ready.’
Kitty stops still in the corridor. Skin rippling with muscle tension. Sparks crackle from the top of his head to his toes. He turns whirling eyes to Leek. A wave of his power rises behind her, pulls her toward him.
‘What is it?’ she asks.
He hisses, the sound one of low, murderous menace. ‘They have placed a power matrix,’ he says, between teeth, so much hiss of fury in the words she struggles to comprehend them at first. When the meaning filters through, Leek is no more aware of their import.
‘A power matrix?’
His hair flows around him, rising like black snakes into the air. ‘It is a gathering of power harnessed into the air, anchored to reality by threads and walls. If we walk into it blind they will triumph. They will be able to call forth their power from all around us, crush us.’
Leek’s lids flutter as sparks fly all about her, shatter and fizz on her skin, off the soft matter of her eyeballs. They tangle in her hair and follicles rise about her face. Twisting. Curling. She touches the strands with a finger, eyes wide with wonder. They coil about her hand, soft and faintly warm. Feels like her hair’s thinking for itself.
Her skeleton shudders within her, pixelates, dissolves, reforms as diamond, and the veils fall. She sees all about him, about her, a cage of energies, swirling and omnipotent. They rise and fall like a contained capsule of ocean. Edges of diamond white foam the waves; ripples of gold, of purest amber, glide through it, fleeting as fish in the deeps.
‘Beautiful,’ she breathes.
His gaze flares to fire and he clasps her shoulders, clawless this time. ‘You see it?’
Leek’s head moves up and down as the golden waves crash before her eyes, the diamond spray brushes her cheeks. ‘It’s my gift. I see the truth of things. But I’ve never seen this deep. It’s almost real.’
His mouth curves to a smile. ‘It is real. You’re seeing unhindered. I can use this.’
The waves around them spin to form a shell, a container. Leek reaches out and touches it and it flows like silken water through her fingers. Echoing lights off the insides of her eyes.
She can hear herself breathing, the rush of air from mouth to lung. Her fingers drift through the silken flow of his power. Dreamlike. And she watches, from a distance, detached, as it moves into her. Pours into her veins. Fills her skin with golden light, her lungs with liquid.
With it comes the essence of the Kitty. His heart beating within her, his air within her lungs. His thoughts within her head. His eyes seeing through hers. She gasps as it moves through her, chills her, freezes her both outside of and too deep into herself. Trapped.
Her hands clutch the air. He takes them, strong fingers curling around her trembling, frozen digits. Encircles them in warmth. Inside he does the same to her essence. Encapsulates her in the warm shelter of his power, drives out the chill and draws her back to clarity, to safety.
The waves unwrap from their bodies and fade back into him. The sound rushes in her ears, through her mind just like before, but she’s not afraid, his power can never harm her, he’s just made her a part of it.
‘Y’all all raht?’ Meg says, from behind, voice tight as clasped hands.
‘I’m fine,’ Leek replies, and laughs as the sound echoes with threads of Kitty’s voice. ‘We’re fine.’ Then she says to Kitty, ‘I’m ready.’
His hand tightens on hers, ‘I know.’
The grand ballroom in the centre of Peggy Dunne brims with delicate music. Strings climb to a crescendo and cascade down a spine of notes plucked from a spinet by the attenuated fingers of a pale young man in funereal black.
Throughout the room, couple sway and twirl to the music. Ornamental diagrams of movement upon the opalescent marble floor. Off to the side, escorted by the slender misery of Sebus Grimm, the Mother Immortal stands rested on her cane, surrounded by sycophants in elaborate costumes. Their teeth flash as they rush to be amused by her every utterance.
A dense cloud of fear all but obscures them from view. Rolf blinks it away. He fidgets in the doorway, plucks at his bow tie, at his waistcoat.
‘I think I preferred the bandit look,’ he says, lips pursed to a sulky pout. ‘If I wanted to hob-nob with stiff upper lips I’d go to the Congo.’
Moe pulls Rolf’s hands away and straightens the mess he’s made of his bowtie. ‘Stop complaining. It has to be you as you’ve enough power to sense whether she’s on to you or not. I’d be helpless.’
Rolf sighs, face flashing wicked as a red light zone. ‘I’d love to have you helpless,’ he says, to Moe’s singular dismay.
The Angel stifles a laugh behind a huge palm. Coughs. Says, ‘I’ve manipulated things so that you’re expected. You’ll engage her attention, focus only on her, keep her occupied. You’ll have to flirt.’
Rolf’s eyes pop. He blinks. Pure astonishment radiates from him in violent waves. So much so that the Angel reaches out a tendril of power to clamp them down.
‘Flirt?’ Rolf cracks out furiously. ‘With that old hag? I’d rather stick my tongue down the throat of that storm of yours.’
‘Think of it this way,’ the Angel growls in a helpful fashion, ‘if you don’t distract her somehow, she’ll kill your friends. My cat has done something stupid but necessary. If she catches him in that state, he’s hers, especially if she harms the woman.’
Rolf frowns, ‘what does that mean, exactly, Goliath?’
The Angel gives Rolf’s shoulders a little push. ‘It means you’d better pretend that, for the moment, you like pussy, and you’re not worried what vintage it comes in.’
Rolf makes a face, and a gagging sound, but strolls off regardless, stride fluid and blatantly sexual. Half the room turns to watch, sensing the display before they see it. His sensuality has a music all its own. Music formed of magnetism, drawing all eyes, all senses to itself and refusing to let go.
Moe watches him go in absolute silence. Eyes forming endless hollows as Rolf reaches the shrunken figure in purple whose malevolent power could destroy him with barely a thought.
‘He’s getting to you,’ the Angel mutters, amusement threads through it like yarn.
‘I’d have him just as soon as I’d have Margo,’ Moe replies softly. ‘Never. Those two are like heavy water; you can’t swim in something so deep, so all pervasive. The only option would be to drown.’
The Angel smiles; it’s an expression of too many teeth, too little emotion, a whole world of pitilessness. ‘My friend,’ he says, ‘you drowned when you met him.’
The door does not simply fly off its hinges; it evaporates to a slowly expanding spew of shards. They vaporise as they hit the twins’ invisible matrix. The twins stand side by side in the middle of the room. One hand laced between them, the other held aloft, fingers twitching, manipulating the matrix.
Kitty yells to Meg, ‘Do not enter the room until we’ve destroyed the matrix. You’ll die. Don’t shoot until I give the command. Any bullet sent into this room will be under their command.’
Meg nods, falls to the floor on her belly by the threshold, gun poised. Kitty nods approval and draws Leek into the room with him, flowing into her eyes as he does. The pressure of him sat within her head is unbearable and incredible all at once.
Leek takes in the room through both their eyes. She sees the glisten of the threads holding the power matrix. The power itself. Purple-black pockets of gloom stretched between the threads, veined with crystalline brights of yellow, red and orange. Jewels in the black.
Fuelled by the power of the Kitty, Leek reaches out along the golden threads, her fingers curving and pulling, seeing the weft, the weave and how it connects to the twins in looping, swirling patterns of colour and force. Her head falls to the side as she listens to the subtle song of it, thrumming upon the air. A hum. A reverberation. She hums back to it in harmony and it bends to her, luxurious as a cat’s back arches to a leg.
Kitty stares at her, enthralled, she’s working alone, using his power. He’d never imagined she’d be able to do such a thing. It’s enchanting. He can feel the soft touch of her on his very essence, the power that makes him what he is. Is surprised that it does not immolate her. It’s like watching a child play with fire and somehow escape being burnt.
Movement in the corner of his eye, swift as a mouse-tail in grass, catches his attention. Evangelista, trying to catch him off guard as her twin fights to keep control of the matrix, her hands tense, crooked to claws. He untangles his fingers from Leek’s, trusting in her use of his power, in her control of the matrix that adjusts its tone to hers and coils around her in loops, drawing down from the room to float about her in swirling kaleidoscopes of colour.
Kitty braces. Leaps. Meets Evangelista somewhere near the ceiling. Claws extend to foot long knives of energy, a golden glow on the air. Evangelista raises her AM blade, it scythes molecules, creates a shower of blue light dust, as it swifts down toward his neck.
He twists mid-air, graceful and contortionist as a cat even in human form. Swipes claws at her legs, rending four straight gashes across her white thigh. Standing stiff as a poker, still in the room’s centre, Angeline screams, a high hoarse note that rapes eardrums. Blood blooms on her thigh. Her hands fly from claws to clutch at her thigh, letting go her last hold on the matrix.
A pain razors down Kitty’s back as Evangeslista’s blade slices a path of fire down his spine, he hisses, flips and smashes her aside. Looks at Angeline, whose face blooms a black bruise. His grin is fierce, cruel, triumphant. He clashes head on with Evangelista, her blade flashes to and fro, visible only by the confetti of molecule deaths fluttering in its wake. He slashes each aside with impatient gold force claws.
His mind reaches back to Leek, reconnects to the part of himself he’s left within her. His power well. Through her eyes he sees the matrix curled about her, tame and crooning, she has her hands deep inside the mass of it, threads whipping through her fingers as she weaves it to her control. He whips back out of her, slaps aside a vicious volley of strikes from Evangelista and yells out to Meg.
‘Now, shoot the still one.’
Meg squints down the barrel of her pistol, a heavy old-fashioned silver number. Gentle finger squeezes a trigger too sensitive to be called hair. No bullets in this pistol. Force pellets. Glowing constellations of energized molecules encased in ensorcelled glass. The only thing that can stun a witch of this power.
It flies from the barrel, a blurred firefly moving at supersonic speed. Evangelista’s mouth gapes, her expression wild, she throws a mad flurry of hits at Kitty but he comes at her in a hurricane of claws as the bullet finds Angeline’s chest, explodes in a shower of anti-matter as the energized molecules within encounter those outside. A tiny black hole forms in Angeline’s chest and she topples to the ground. A heap of purple silk and pale limbs.
Evangelista lets out a shriek of sound so loud it leaves the heard spectrum and ripples across the air in silent waves. Then her eyes go blank and she plummets from near the ceiling to land at her sister’s feet.
‘Fuck me with a turtruck,’ Meg breathes out, ‘now thas whut I cawl a bullet.’
© Ren Warom 2011