Chapter 32: Parasite
Bianca’s cell fuses emphatically with Mother Ebbani’s. The sound of ripping membranes mimics cracking pond ice. Meeting her again so soon can’t be good news.
Her Mentor’s chamber walls split Bianca’s cell as wide as it will go, spilling her onto the spongy floor. The lack of decorum startles her. Bianca suspects it will be a rough meeting.
“Marco lied to me, didn’t he?” says Bianca, skipping the niceties. “He did not bring Daniel back to the mountain.”
“If that is what he told you. He did not,” says Mother Ebbani, her voice constricted, as if a noose were pulled tight around her neck. She slumps on her cathedra behind membranes that ripple and sway like wind-blown curtains.
“This was absolutely his last chance,” says Bianca. “No more benefit of the doubt. I will take matters into my own hands from now on.” She hopes she sounds convincing.
“Yes, you will,” says Mother Ebbani. The absolute confidence in her tone startles Bianca.
“I’m sorry Mother. My judgment was poor. But Daniel seemed ready to return on his own and Marco seemed willing to take him. I don’t know what happened but it won’t happen again.”
“No, it will not. Come to me, child. Come closer.”
Ebbani is cooing. She never coos, certainly not in such circumstances. Bianca had expected another scolding. The unexpected kindness puzzles her.
Bianca crawls over on her hands and knees. A flap of curtain curls and rolls up, revealing Mother Ebbani’s bloated and warped form. She bulges in places she had never bulged before.
“Mother … you look ….” Bianca wants to say misshapen, but that seems harsh, impolite. “You look … different,” she says, instead. “Your complexion is all mottled. Are you feeling alright? What happened to you?”
“I’m fine, child,” says Mother Ebbani, but her speech is weak and labored. “Come over here. Beside me. I have something for you ... something to show you ... to give to you … a gift.”
Bianca stays put, on her knees, hands clasped, frozen with uncertainty and fear. She wants to flee, to wrap herself in her cell and slip away somewhere deep into the Warrens.
“I said come closer! I need you nearer.” Pain sprays from Mother Ebbani’s words.
The chamber is sealed, spreading the membranes of Bianca’s cell like an owl flaying a dormouse under talon. Bianca has no choice now. She is captive.
“What is it? What do you have for me?”
“I have a secret to share,” says Mother Ebbani.
“Something that will help you, that will make things right again.”
“But Mother, I know how to make things right. I don’t need any help. I just need to take matters into my own hands. I can’t rely on Marco. What he did, that was the last straw.”
“And what I have for you will make that happen for sure,” says Mother Ebbani. “It help you accomplish your task.”
“I don’t understand,” says Bianca.
“Come closer, and I will show you, child.”
Bianca rises and takes a step. Mother Ebbani’s curtain shrivels and retracts. Something knotted and tangled pulses within Mother Ebbani’s belly. Patches of light and dark dapple her surface like the camouflage of a cuttlefish.
“What happened to you?” says Bianca. “You look … pregnant.”
“It’s only a piece of the Primentor’s will,” says Mother Ebbani. “Nothing more. Nothing to fret about.”
“Is that your secret?” says Bianca. “That you’ve been empowered to help me? Is that all?”
“Just about,” says Mother Ebbani. “There’s more to tell, but it’s a secret. You need to come close enough to hear me whisper.”
Bianca’s trepidation eases. She advances up the springy incline leading to the cathedra, on tippy-toes.
“Yes my child. That’s it. Come nearer.”
Bianca moves one step closer, and tilts her head waiting for the promised whisper.
Mother Ebbani seizes her, pulls her head down. Her mouth opens wide and cover’s Bianca’s. Bianca recoils and tries to squirm away, but Ebbani’s claw-like grip shackles her wrists. Her strength, augmented by the Primentor’s will is insurmountable.
Something large and blunt surges out of Ebbani’s mouth and into Bianca’s. Bianca tries to scream but the attempt is swallowed with the bolus plunging down her throat. It flows into her belly, filling her abdomen with its thick coils.
The end of the creature snaps clear of Ebbani’s teeth and waggles down Bianca’s gullet like some foul thing spinning down a toilet. Bianca crumples and collapses. The thing inside twists and writhes, seeking its own comfort, nestling against her inner spaces.
A pain purer and brighter than any she has ever imagined shimmers through her form. Bianca gags, trying to purge herself of the thing, but it is firmly ensconced. It has settled in and become one with her.
Bianca trembles at Mother Ebbani’s feet.
“Why?” she cries.
Mother Ebbani slumps in her seat. She looks uniformly dim now, and almost as devoid as a Shade. It is Bianca’s light that now mottles and drifts.
“Never mind, why. Just bring it to him,” says Mother Ebbani, freed and panting. “Pass it on and you will be free.” This bitter extract of the Primentor’s will has now become Bianca’s sole reason to exist, its purpose her sole purpose.
She lifts her body off the floor because she must. She crawls across the chamber to the wall of her cell, grabs a fistful of membrane and pulls herself up.
“I’m so sorry child … to have to do this to you,” says Mother Ebbani. “But I had no choice … and now, neither do you.”Bianca understands now. All is clear, because the thing inside her has shared some of its secrets. Victoria can’t touch Daniel in Lethe. Not directly. She needs a vector.