Deep Red, Chapter Five
August 1, 1718: New myths are forming around the Mirrors. Though witches and werewolves have long been participants in the folklore of the common people, reports of vampires–as the volemic Mirrors are called–are starting to appear around the world. I have heard tell of what occurred in Salem, and believe that the imaginings of the bored or vindictive hold little weight, and that these so-called vampires are no more real than the witches in Massachusetts. The real vampires are far too concerned with destroying us to become a threat to the humans … October 11, 1718: I begin to see those I once considered friends becoming far more dangerous than the Mirrors, let alone any folktales regarding them. As they find new uses for their powers, they find inventive and abominable ways to torture and kill captives for information … January 24, 1719: I have a fifth child on the way. I see many of these human men treating their wives in a similar manner, like breeding cattle, and feel somewhat ashamed. At least our women are built sturdier. The human women are often bred to death, only for a farmer to take up another wife and begin working her again. The human men breed their slaves, as well. Victoria continues to chant that we must keep up our numbers. She says that children will be our only defense against the Mirrors. Though forced breeding seems unjust, it does have a poetry of keeping our tenuous family bonds unbroken. Since hearing about this prophesy, however, I believe that children will only doom us, but what am I to do? … April 11, 1720: My sixth child is born, and my wolf wife has left for the European continent. I am told to take another wife. I was blessed with all girls after the first. I will take my luck and try it no longer….
excerpts from The Diary of Walker Shinab, 1718-1720, trans. by Jonah Shinab, 1849
The return trip to Marlo’s cell was different from her initial, timid emergence. Reality began to bend around her as her memories came alive. In the common area, she saw her four year-old self sitting on the couch reading a book. A little dark haired boy laid next to her on his stomach. In one of the many open rooms Drew led her past, her five year-old self sat on the bed, braiding red hair and whispering secrets. She ached for her little giggling self. That little girl, the stolen child, felt companionship and belonging. She felt normal. Reality unbent when Drew cleared his throat. She realized they arrived at her door.
“I can take it from here,” Marlo said. When she opened the door, the room appeared to have reset itself. She went to the window and pulled open the curtains. The sound felt less grating this time.
“The window’s bolted shut,” Drew said.
“What would be the point of running?” she asked. She directed the question more toward herself than at the lickspittle hovering in the doorway. She looked out the window, her eyes adjusting to the light. Mountains rose up around the house, and thick trees covered the landscape surrounding Haven’s main grounds. A deer below nibbled on something beneath the melting snow. Tasty. Marlo winced and turned her back to the deer.
“I’ll be outside if you need anything,” Drew said, closing the door.
The door clicked shut, and she heard the lock turn. Now that she was alone, and fairly sure that the room was soundproof, she sat down on the bed and tried to stretch herself. She reached down with her mind to pull out her spirit. She had been calling to it since it retreated inside the previous night.
Know thyself had a completely different meaning for kindred. They were the most self-aware of all the Otherworlders, and had the most potential for personal evolution.
Marlo’s spirit came to her in the womb and chose her after following Marlo’s ancestor, Margaret, from the Otherworld to this one. Stories about Margaret and her brave exodus from the Otherworld filled Marlo’s childhood. At the center of each tale was Marlo’s spirit, and the part it played in executing the Great Plan to make this reality a home. Her spirit was even older than Margaret, and only chose a body every few hundred years. When she was a child, Lucy and Victoria praised Marlo’s magical talent, but the largest part of her gift involved the thousand year-old energy source and built-in teacher living inside her.
Spirits were more than the force behind a kindred’s magical abilities, they were also memory keepers. Of the million, perhaps a billion, memories her spirit carried at this moment, of all the innumerable questions it could answer, Marlo was only interested in what happened during her recent series of blackouts. The rest can wait, she thought. What about its lies? You think it doesn’t remember all Victoria made you forget? She felt uneasy about suspecting her spirit of hiding anything, which made her resent the voice even more. Though it did have a point.
Marlo mentally uncoiled the spirit’s hold on her solar plexus and pulled, gently at first, but then more firmly. She felt the sting when it released its grip. “Why are you being so difficult?” she asked once it finally came out and manifested into a moth-like shape, which was its favorite.
“I am afraid,” it said.
She indicated to the room around her. “We’re in club fed. Can’t get any safer.”
“There is no where safe for us anymore,” it said. It knows.
“What do you mean?” Marlo forced a smile.
“You have never lied to me before, Marlo. You should not begin now.”
“Can you hear it?” she whispered, as if she could keep anything between the two of them. There were now three.
“No,” her spirit replied. “But I can feel it.”
“What does it feel like?” she asked.
“There is no good and evil, Marlo,” it said.
Marlo shook her head. The moth wasn’t its favorite shape. Cryptic was.
“Can you at least tell me what happened?” she asked.
“The other night?” it asked. Marlo nodded.
“I did not see much at first,” it said. “We were dancing with your friends, then you took the drink from the human, even though you had not drunk any alcohol in a while.” Her spirit was in monologue-mode, not accusing, so Marlo felt no need to defend herself. “Then you began to lose consciousness, but your body was still moving and talking. I came out to watch over you. The human introduced your friends to his, and you all went onto Fort Carson together. His friends took yours into different buildings, and then you were alone. When he began to undress you, I went inside and tried to wake you up, but you would not stir. Then he tied you up, and you finally awoke.” Marlo remembered that part. Waking up with her arms in bondage and a six inch, pink penis rubbing against her skin. “Moments later, I was forced out of your body, and then you changed.”
“That’s the part I don’t get. It’s not possible. How could I change?”
“I do not know, but it was just how a changeling changes. I have seen it before, or something like it. You screamed, your bones began to break, and new teeth grew. It was not exactly the same as the transformations I have witnessed, though. You did not become an animal. Not precisely. You became…”
“Almost like a werewolf. Somewhere between a person and an animal. You frightened me.”
“Don’t say that,” Marlo said. “Please.” Even your beloved spirit betrays you. Soon I will be all you have left. “A disembodied voice?” Marlo yelled. “Not hardly.”
“I am worried there might be something wrong with your mind,” it said. “If you are part changeling, you should not be able to hear your other soul.”
Marlo shook her head. “Other than the voice, everything else is normal. Well, normal-ish. Except…I saw some things when I was coming back from breakfast.”
“You are hallucinating?”
“I don’t think so. I think I was remembering.”
Her spirit paused. “That could mean you will start remembering what happened to you the other night.”
“Why does it matter? You saw it.”
“I have seen many things I do not share with you, Marlo. If you remember what you did, I fear you might lose what little sanity you seem to have left.”
“I told you, I’m not crazy, and if I am part changeling, I’ll have to develop some way of dealing with mistakes. You need to tell me what happened before Victoria does.” In spite of her spirit’s matter-of-fact way of speaking, it was far more delicate with her than Victoria.
“You ripped into that human like a new changeling would, or one who has become demented. Most changelings will kill and then eat. You buried your face in his abdomen and let him scream before snapping his neck. You enjoyed it, Marlo.”
“You’re right,” she said. “I didn’t want to know that.” She sucked on her cheek. “If he screamed, then why didn’t anyone hear us and come into the room?”
“I spread out my energy and insulated the sound. I could not stop you, I could not help you, but I could save you.”
She wished she could hug her spirit. “You did the right thing,” she said. “If I’d been caught, I don’t know what would have happened. If our secret was exposed…”
“There are hundreds of years of safeguards to prevent such a thing. You think about others when you should be thinking of yourself. I protected you because you are my home. This is why I am so concerned. This changeling spirit is talking to you and was powerful enough to rip me from you. What else is it capable of?”
“I don’t know.”
Marlo put her finger to her lips and drew her spirit back into her as she heard the key turn in the door. It was a few minutes more before someone knocked. “Come in?” The thought of Victoria often made Marlo feel like a little girl again.
“It’s me, Marlo,” came a silky voice. Marlo breathed out. As Garrett’s beautiful face breached the door, she broke into a smile.