“I see you have heeded my words, girls,” the woman says as she weaves her way through the small house, animal skins draped nearly everywhere. Even the furniture is made of the beasts she’s slain. She’s always taken great pride in her kills. “That decision was wise.”
“So… you’re the woman who—”
“Patience, my dear.” I can hear the grin in her words. “Patience.”
Dametria is silenced as we continue to shift through the house, the elaborate fixtures strewn about in a, I guess, fashionable way to this woman. Worldly items with ‘worth’ as she liked to call it, owned her heart, and not much else. I used to believe I was the only one who resided within it, black and beating like the wings of a vulture. I’ve always thought she saw me as a son.
Her curved feet with impractically tall shoes stride their way to the stairs that led to the area I know best. She calls it The Fish Bowl. The walls rise up in a concaved fashion, benumb grey stone staring back at us as it circles around, the stairs we, or rather the girls walk down, following the rounded rock. I trot carefully down, aware of the pain I could end up in should I make a wrong move. These hooves have no traction when it comes to walking on stone.
The woman’s coy grin forms on her lips as she turns around to sit on a puma-skinned throne in the center of The Fish Bowl, her skin sagging in places they shouldn’t sag, dark spots blossoming from under her flesh as time slides by effortlessly, her powers taking a toll on her body. But power like hers… it’s worth the slow destruction of one’s body. I should know. I feel it every day.
Or, felt it, before I became a pig.
She waved her fingers, a purple glimmer dancing over them, and two chairs rise from the floor of stone, shifting and moving as the rocks making them up form a seat for my girlfriend and her companion. They hesitate, hovering over by the base of the stairs and gaping at the woman. I can almost feel their fear as it escapes from their pores. The animal inside me readies itself to run if needed, but I know the only danger the two girls are in is with me, once I become human again. And that should be any time now. I can feel the anticipation running through my veins. I am ready.
“I believe introductions are required,” the woman says, clasping her fragile-looking hands in her lap and looking out at the two girls expectantly as they settle uncomfortably into their seats. “How about you, Jackie? Would you like to go first?”
The little girl wrinkles her nose as she glares at the woman.
“Why would I want you to know anything about me? You already mysteriously know my name.”
The woman laughs. “Fine. Your trust has been broken by many, including the woman sitting next to you. Or could she be just a girl, flitting about from one emotion to the other and uncertain of where her path leads her?”
“You know nothing about me,” Dametria says, the embers in her voice glowing, struggling to come back to life. But her eyes are lit with the yearning of a thousand stars, and watering like a storm on the brink of collapsing and spilling onto the world below. She knows of this glorious woman, and is aware of what she created inside me. There is a hint of worry there, I can even see it with my pig eyes, and I could guess what it’s about… but I’d rather not.
“I made your boyfriend who he is.” The woman locks onto Dametria’s eyes and holds them there. “Was, until that girl came around. Cressa-la. His mind became foggy and he became distracted. And you were no help, trying to complete his quest for him, Amawa-na. The girl who changed her name to show devotion. But the reality, dear, is that he will never love you the way you want to be loved.”
Something flashes in her eyes. Pain.
“One wish, my dear,” the woman reiterates from their last meeting. “Your greatest desire.”
The storm flickers in her irises, and I can almost hear her thoughts.
“You have many. I can see that. Take your time. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Dametria, let’s go. We need to find Cressa-la.”
“So she can take away Dametria’s last chance of happiness?” The woman steps in, fueling Dametria’s fire. She glances at Dametria, reading her as I wait impatiently. “That is why you have come, dear, isn’t it? Happiness?”
“Dametria, let’s go.”
She hesitates, the fire dimming slightly as it runs like cooling lava in her veins. She’s changed.
The girl I once loved stands from her chair and turns to venture up the stairs behind Jackie. I stay at the woman’s feet, waiting for my reward.
“Tragic,” the woman says quietly. “I could have given you everything.”
Dametria turns to the woman as she reaches the top of the stairs, her eyes wide with the absence of fulfillment. She is empty with nothing more to lose. I can see it in her eyes, and I know the woman can too.
“I can see your pain, child. And I can sense you trying to suppress each spark that comes to life because of the possible future consequences.”
Dametria says nothing, her jaw clenched tightly.
“Isn’t it strange how the footfalls you’ve not taken are the ones that haunt you the most?”
She pauses before turning back around to head the rest of the way up, through the hole in the floor above.
“I’ll be waiting, Dametria. You know where to find me.”
She nearly slipped back down the steps as the woman uttered her final words to her, but she disappeared out of sight, probably heading to find Cressa-la.
Which I’d rather her not go.
I let out a squeal.
“Let her go,” the woman instructs me. “She’ll be back. But until then, you have a part to play.”
She smiles, deepening her face’s creases momentarily.
“The Damsel in Distress.”