In the belly of darkness, Margo struggles along, searching. Rolf’s in here somewhere, heart and breath reduced to whispers, but still holding on, still waiting for her to find him, still waiting for his Moe. His agony rings in her like bells, resounding in the marrow of her. She wraps herself in it, taking as much as she can into herself, hoping to spare him some small measure.
The Absence is far different than she expected, a more physical presence than shadows, or nightfall. It’s muscular, molasses thick and binds her within itself, restricting her, and rewarding her every movement with pain. A fracture here, a cut there, a hank of hair left dangling, bloodied, in her wake. A nail ripped from the bed, even once the tip of a finger. It liked that. It laughed.
The finger tip is numb now, just one pain amongst too many.
Her bones crackle as she moves, grinding within sore muscles, and her skin weeps blood. It’s taking its time, hurting her slowly, but each wound is profound, a wall to break through, and she moves more and more slowly. Reaches out ahead blindly, unable to see even herself, and hoping against hope that she will, at some point, feel Rolf’s skin against her palms, feel his chest rising.
The Absence croons as it almost tenderly snaps one of her ribs. She gulps air, determined not to cry out, and feels an internal darkness threaten as the sharp tip of rib digs into soft tissue. In the moments between giving in to unconsciousness and fighting it, something brushes across her fingertips.
She flinches, she’s been here before, and it was nothing, only the Absence playing with her, toying with her hopes. Last time she lost that fingertip, she’s worried that next time, perhaps now, it will damage something vital. Finish her before she can reach Rolf. But this time it is not the Absence, it is skin she feels. Warm skin.
Margo reaches out desperately, and grabs, her hand closing around a forearm. She gasps out a laugh, high-pitched, a mixture of hysteria, relief and bone-deep fear, snapping it off midway as jagged rib bone pokes into vulnerable flesh. Composing herself, Margo uses the limb for leverage, pulling herself through the thick mire of the darkness. She pretends she thinks it’s Rolf, and wails when the face comes close, reveals itself, though battered and half torn away, to be Vespesian, the angel Azrael.
She clings to him, screaming until her throat is raw. Not pretending. She doesn’t have to pretend. The pain is real. Somewhere in here, Rolf is dying, and she had to come to this creature first, whilst pretending to search for her Rolf. Solomon told her what to do, and even as her heart aches, even as the laughter of the Absence echoes in her ears, she’s reaching down, searching Azrael’s body.
There. The bottle. She palms it away, shoving it between her breasts and wincing as it catches, and tears, at a vicious cut. Her cleavage fills with blood. Good, it will mask the bottle from the Absence. She tries not to think about how much blood she’s lost, how much more she can afford to lose. If they fail, it won’t matter.
Margo screams until she has no strength left to scream, until she’s limp against the angel’s chest, the laughter of the Absence ringing in her ears. Dimly, she senses Moe within the castle walls now, crawling on hands and knees as he struggles to bring the only thing that can destroy this aberration ever closer.
Hurry Moe, she begs him, in the deepest enclave of her mind. Hurry!
© Ren Warom 2013