Imalia drinks in the black rain, bathes in it, body and soul. Her twin daughters, no longer enraptured by the black rain from cloudless skies, have seen her face and cower beside her feet, whimpering. She laughs at them. What mother does not wish to see fear in a daughter’s eyes? Only a fool.
Imalia, mother, Mother. She has always known there were daughters. Nine daughters once. Only eight now. An even number. So inauspicious. Oh what she would do to have the ninth returned. But the ninth remembered her name, slipped her chains, and joined forces with an angel. Imalia will have to be satisfied with killing her, but what satisfaction it will be.
Mother, Imalia, Immortal. Immortal Imalia, who always knew that she was a mother. For what mother can forget her daughters? They beat the pulse of her heart; stir the blackened char of her bones, live within the fragile walls of her skin. Without them she is not Mother. And mother she assuredly is.
She lifts her hands to smear black rain into the ravage of her face. Hungry flesh swallows it, sucking every last drop into parched pores and wasted muscle, the pocked remains of denuded bone. Beneath bone and muscle the rain becomes sensual rivulets of ice and fire weaving within her, reaching down toward the black tear residing within her soul.
Like daughters to mother, it returns to its maker.
Margo scans the horizon, tasting the air, her senses hungry, searching, all consuming as the sky. The landscape beyond unfurls within her like a living portrait, the valleys, the glistening bowls of deep lakes, the swell of rivers, the cacophonous bustle of folk in countless townships across the breadth of south Great Britannia, their panic like riptides under restless waters.
Beyond them sounds the roar of Londinium, loud as blood through an artery. A clamouring. But in it she hears such variety. The call of market sellers, the cry of children, the rhetoric of parliament, all these sights, these sounds and a thousand more, a hundred thousand more. She seeks through them, through the whole varied tapestry as far as her senses reach, for the angel who calls himself Vespesian.
A moment ago, she had him, locked on and lasered in. But he’s gone, and all she can sense is the world at work, at play, at war. She’s afraid. She knows what he is. Death walking. He comes for her Rolf. In the single moment she had him in her sights she knew it, like she knows her own heart. She will do anything to stop him.
Withdrawing slowly from the madness of Londinium, she stops to touch the thoughts of Imalia. The Mother. Such darkness. Dark as the rain, as the storm within her own soul. Margo shifts her attention to the rain. Such strange rain. It had forgotten itself, thought itself something it was not. Now it’s remembering.
Whilst it makes no sound to the naked ear, to the unknowing ear, unschooled and deaf to things beyond, her ear is too clever by half, and she hears the rain. Screaming.
Vespesian waits, silent and still, clutching his prize. She had him, mind to mind, only moments ago. That thing, that creature who should be human and is not. How long has he been gone from the world he once knew to have missed this new twist in the war? Humans as weapons. Left wide open, soaking in the veils, becoming more than they should ever be.
What can he do? She’s a match to him, that one. Appalling depths in her. He smells Solomon’s hand in that. Good old Solomon, still laying waste to the rules. Doubtless she traded something precious for the power he poured into her fragile shell. Oh but she should have broken. Cracked apart and shattered to the four corners of this putrid cancer of a world. How did she not?
‘That one is tricky, a little thief,’ he murmurs to himself, quite unaware he speaks also to his companion, contained within the bottle. ‘I should like to grind her to powder, to dust. Hear her bones snap and crackle, her innards pop. Eat her whilst she’s warm, that little human thing. That flaw. But I dare not. I have not the sum of her.’
The bottle in his hand shudders and heats. He curls long fingers about its belly and croons.
‘Be still my love, be still. You will have your vessel. Fear not. I do not renege on my promises.’ He tilts his head and listens to the world, allowing it to resonate through him, and smiles. ‘Here it is, my love. Our hiding place. In plain sight. We’ll walk in plain sight cloaking ourselves in all the world. She’ll not see us until it’s too late.’
It warms again, a little flash of heat.
‘Don’t worry about the Mother,’ he says, reassuring. ‘She will run from you. She will remember what happened to her face, and run.’
© Ren Warom 2013