Deep Red, Chapter Six
November 7, 1721: The blood gifts of the volemics have exceeded our expectations. The Mirrors are, for now, at bay and recuperating their losses. No doubt, this means the primordials are in the process of changing more humans into vampires. The werewolves and witches, who are born rather than created, remain divided between embracing us and our customs and remaining devout to the primordials who made them more than two millennia ago. The witches, especially, doubt the order of this patriarchal world, as I have questioned the matriarchal rulings of ours … November 23, 1722: The war continues at a standstill. We are ever-preparing for another attack. Victoria and Jack discuss an offensive movement toward our enemies, while Margaret and I plead for peace. The primordial on our Counsel remains passive toward any course of action. Though I wish for it, however, I fear peace is no longer possible. We are interlopers and will never be seen as anything more … November 12, 1723: Peace continues, and the silence becomes alarming. It is as if they are waiting for something … October 11, 1725: We have heard recent reports that several of our kind have developed a fondness for opium. While our kind is faithfully immune to all the diseases of this world, The East Indian Empire Company has filled this lull with their wares. I, too, have tried some of the more simple pleasures of the humans, but find that caring for my children occupies more time than I am able to waste, especially since Benjamin is reaching marriageable age … March 21, 1729: My Resident friend died a few days ago. I swear I saw a spirit singing for her. It was likely a stupor, but comforting nonetheless….
excerpts from The Diary of Walker Shinab, 1721-1729, trans. by Jonah Shinab, 1849
When Garrett arrived at Haven, Victoria warned him that Marlo had changed over the past eight years, but he needed little preparation. When he first entered Marlo’s room, he noticed that her tawny skin looked gaunt, and her full lips were cracked from dehydration. He had seen her look worse. Much worse.
Marlo hopped off the bed as soon as he entered, embracing him in a large hug. “How did you get here?” she asked.
“I drove,” he said. “Well, I took a helicopter, a plane, and then I drove. Victoria said you would need me.”
“I always need you,” she said, grinning, though Garrett took her sentiment for just that. Sentiment was easy to feel, and it didn’t have to be true.
In truth, following Isaak’s funeral, Garrett had heard nothing from Marlo for three years. While he had thought about her continuously, no one in the Otherworld community talked to Marlo back then, not even Lucy.
Her need for him, for his support, had actually come just after her twenty-first birthday. She had called him during an afternoon meeting in Amsterdam.
When he first heard her ever-so-hesitant voice say his name, he had done what most parents, surrogate or otherwise, tend to do: he pictured her as a young girl, bright and cheerful. He saw her little pigtails bounce as she had come running to him for a much-needed hug and reassurance that she was a person and not just a doll for Lucy and Victoria to play with.
Then that little girl filled in years of space with the black news that she spent her twenty-first birthday getting so laboriously drunk that she woke up next to a stranger, which constituted the beginning of a long string of incidents.
“I didn’t know who else to call,” Marlo had said. Back then, she had carried so much regret and loss. The fact that Garrett, of all the people in her life, had been the one she sought in her time of need only solidified his belief that, other than Isaak, he was the only person to ever show Marlo any real affection.
After their five minute conversation, during which Garrett had mostly listened, with the occasional reply of, “It’s all right, love. Everyone makes mistakes,” Marlo had become his little one again, like she had been during the brighter years.
Garrett looked at Marlo now, and knew that, though her recent ordeal set her back somewhat, Marlo was stronger than her past behavior implied. Not only was she a Cayce, but she had carried the spark in her childhood, the kind that made both her heart and magic shine.
When she had conquered transmutation at eight, she told him first. She had said, “Lucy and Victoria will be proud, but I knew you’d be pleased.”
Her eyes carried that same spark now.
“So, love,” Garret said to Marlo, “Tell me what happened the other night.”
“You mean last night?” she asked.
Garrett frowned. Did she honestly not know how long she had been here? “Jack brought you in three days ago,” Garrett said.
“Who the hell is Jack?” she asked.
“The bloody things that woman keeps from you. . . . He’s the volemic who’s been watching over you since you left Haven. He’s the reason I found you the night you almost died.”
Marlo’s face flushed with guilt. He knew she disliked being reminded of that time, but how could Victoria not tell her about someone who had been such a large part of Marlo’s life, even if his role—much like Garrett’s prescribed role—was invisible?
“And he brought me here three days ago?” Marlo asked. She looked dumbfounded.
“You’ve been in the hospital wing during most of that time,” Garrett said.
“Well, other than your incredible consumption of meth the night you overdosed, most human drugs do not cause blackouts or spontaneous changes in a once-presumed kindred. They wanted to keep you sedated while they administered their tests, in case you had another adverse reaction.”
Marlo blanched. “You know plenty,” she said.
“I had a talk with Rayne and Victoria before I came up here. And with Zoe. You’ll meet her soon enough.”
“So, why are you asking what happened with the soldier if you already know?”
“I suppose I want to know why you would take that drink in the first place, especially after the hell we went through to get you stable again.”
Hell could not begin to describe what Marlo had put Garrett through, but it was a start.
Two weeks before Marlo’s overdose, Jack had called Garrett and told him that he was beginning to worry about Marlo more than usual. While no hired guns had come for her in years, her drug and alcohol use had become so alarming that there were a few occasions where Jack thought Marlo’s heart might stop. Garrett had immediately flown from London to Colorado Springs after that call.
Marlo’s initial reception of him had been mixed. She said she loved seeing him again, but he could sense her guilt, and knew why she had never invited him to see her. She lived in squalor with five other people. Out of all six, she was the only one who had still retained all her teeth. Her Otherworld countenance also kept her from spotting or looking like she was sixty human years old. Still, her face had become emaciated and pale, and she looked like she had neither bathed nor changed her clothes in weeks.
She had accepted money from him but refused everything else he offered her. He had attempted to tread lightly at first but then began to pressure her to get a better place, find a respectable job, or even condition her hair, which is when she completely shut him out.
He had found her alone a few nights later, laying on the couch and barely clinging to life. After he forced about a pint of his own blood into her nearly lifeless body, the drugs had flowed into him through his hands, and by the time her face changed from pale purple to pinkish brown, the dopamine levels in his brain rose to such a pitch he thought his synapses might explode.
When he went to relieve himself of his poisoned blood in the kitchen, he had only made it through a few self-inflicted leechings via butcher knife before the euphoria took over and he could no longer stand.
In that moment, he had understood Marlo’s method of escape, and the need, how the drugs made him feel more powerful and alive than ever. He had barely felt Marlo’s smaller limbs pick him up and drag him back to the sink.
When the knife had pierced his skin again, he came back to the present and to Marlo slicing open his arms. “Come on,” she said. “Let it go.” He had relaxed and let her massage the rest of the amphetamines out of his veins.
Afterward, when Marlo led him back to the couch, she had whispered over and over, “I’m so sorry,” but the words had rung empty against his need for sustenance, and the desire for more of that glorious sensation. He had never been allowed to feel so powerful, not in the oppressive matriarchal Otherworld culture. She had stroked his hair as he lay on her lap, where he soon fell asleep.
He had slept until the sun rose, after which Marlo had summoned a deer for him to consume. The look in her eyes after he finished eating had kept him from voicing all the lectures he planned to issue.
Since then, she had let him pay for human therapy, yoga, her return to school, and she had not ingested any chemical stronger than coffee. Not until the other night, which was the largest factor in his disappointment.
A part of him couldn’t help feeling somewhat resentful, especially considering the habit he picked up after saving her life.
“You told me you were done with all that,” Garrett said. “The drinks, the men…. You have a good job, a college career, some nice friends…. You were starting to remind me again of that little girl who once told me that bringing the Miller Moths back to life was her life’s dearest ambition.”
Marlo flushed. “It was a mistake. A whole series of mistakes, and certainly not something I wanted to drag you into after the last time.” She paused and looked at him. “But I’m glad you’re here.”
At least this time he didn’t have to save her by absorbing all the toxins from her body, and then slash open his arms to get rid of them.
“Whether you know it or not, Marlo,” Garrett said, “I’m always bleeding for you. That’s what loving you is to me. I just had a little less to bleed over during the past two years.”
Marlo once told Garrett that having him internalize her bad choices was one of her deeper regrets. He could see that regret eating at her now. Marlo met eyes. “I took the drink,” she said. “I don’t know why. I have no excuses, but I am sorry. I know I’ve created a real shitstorm.”
Garrett’s anger softened. “One drink usually doesn’t have these kinds of consequences, even for a recovering addict.”
Marlo raised her eyebrow and nodded her head. “What happened after I left the barracks?”
“Victoria had Rayne alter the memories of the guards, your friends and his. She set up a scene in the woods, which makes the soldier’s C.O.D. look like an animal attack, which would have been less convincing in the barracks. Plenty of Otherworlders, and Residents, mind you, have done worse. In your case, the anomaly is what has everyone in a dither.” Garrett pushed himself off the bed and held out his hand. “And whether I want to admit it or not, Victoria is currently the only one with all the answers.”
Marlo nodded and hugged him again. “I don’t know what I would do without you,” she said.
“Unfortunately, you’re going to have to do most of this without me, at least in the flesh. We’re too close to Victoria now to continue our hidden friendship, and you have to learn to interact with Otherworlders your own age. Just know I will be a phone call away if you need my support.” Marlo looked disappointed, but he had to let it pass. “Are you ready to meet the beast?” he asked.
“As I’ll ever be.”