“Away, away, the dove doth fly...To yonder hills on high... To find another dove to love, and live forever, nigh.”
A long sigh cuts through the silence blanketing the room, as the last note fades from my lips.
A mixture of grief and longing swirl within me.
Another woman’s voice should be singing in my place.
Petting my hair.
Whispering soft assurances to chase away my fears.
But that woman died.
Along with a piece of my soul, that I will never regain.
In the time since my parents were ripped from my life, I’d spent countless sleepless nights, laying awake and imagining how things could have been.
If only I hadn’t begged them to take me to the theater that night.
To see a boy, no less.
If only we hadn’t hit a water pocket on the curve of a turn.
If only my parents had lived.
If only...I’d died.
That’s a beautiful song, Samaria. Where did you learn it?
Circe’s voice, breaks through my veil of memories.
We’d awoken from another, particularly nasty nightmare about an hour ago.
And no amount of sheep counting, or revisiting my traumas, have helped our insomnia.
My mom used to sing it to me when I was a little kid. Her voice was much better than mine though. My dad used to tell her that she had the pipes of gold.
I would have loved to meet them... Well, as best as a disembodied voice in your head could, I mean. From what you have told me, they were lovely people.
Silence stretches between us again, and I find myself counting the dust particles floating in the air.
Hey, I was thinking.
A dangerous past time.
She ignores my quip.
How about we go explore the castle a bit, look around and see what we can see.
So in other words, snoop.
Paint it however you want, I see it as an adventure. One a lot more entertaining than listening to you count dust specks.
I crawl from my bed, hands and knees, sinking into the comforter as I go.
On my way to the door, I notice a simple, cream gown, with soft lace covering the chest and shoulders.
The body of the gown, flowed to the ground, a cascade of silk, folded over the back of the couch that sat off-center in my room.
Placed atop, lay a matching set of underwear. The fabric they are made from is unknown to me, but as I slip them on over my bare legs, they feel like nothing. Only the soft breeze fluttering over my naked form, can be detected.
Next, I slip the dress over my head, and it feels just as amazing as the underwear.
A blush creeps up my neck, as I picture Cairo bringing the change of clothes to me.
But that fantasy is quickly dashed, as there is no trace of his scent on the clothes.
Oddly enough, they smell like Ilani.
She will have to do better than a fresh pair of knickers, to get on my good side.
I don’t know, these are some top notch, knickers.
I’ve been called worse.
Do you always have to have the last word?
The moment I leave my room, I know something is not right.
I’m struck by a strange pulling sensation, tugging sharply at the center of my chest, like a fishhook snatching, and urging me to follow.
It is unpleasant, to say the least.
Intriguing, to say more.
What the hell?
My thoughts exactly.
Should we follow it?
Probably not, but you will.
I huff indignantly, but follow the pull, anyways.
What can I say, the ghoul knows me.
Why are you walking like that? It would look more suspicious if we were caught looking like a confused raccoon, than if we are just wandering around, like a normal person, roaming the halls at an unholy hour.
I pause, shoulders hitched, and elbows drawn, with one knee suspended mid-air, toe pointed.
This is how you sneak, ask shaggy.
Can you be serious for a moment, or would it kill you?
It quite possibly could.
You are mad, you know that?
You must be rubbing off on me.
Mmm, just get on with it, the tension is killing me.
I shrug, and continue down the dimly lit hall way, in a less conspicuous manner.
Not nearly as fun, if you ask me.
So instead, I silently hum the mission impossible theme song, to distract my nerves.
Shadows bounce at my feet, cast from the light of the crystals placed along the walls in hollowed fixtures.
And by the time I’ve made it to my third round of bah-nah-nahs.
I find myself at a dead end, facing a huge set of cheery wood double doors.
A sense of appreciation for the artist who engraved the entrance overtakes me.
Edit here !!!!!!!!!
Elegant cranes, with their spindly legs dipped in indigo water, stand along a winding river.
Large fanned out fronds, of leaning palm trees, shade the birds, grazing the waters.
One cranes neck is angled to the left upright corner, gazing at rolling sand dunes, and a burning sun set, nestled within.
The door is magnificently crafted.
But what lies beyond is what beckons me.
Pushing open the doors with a grunt, I cringe as they creak, sending a loud moan, echoing down the hall.
But a quick look behind me, reveals no pursuer.
Not surprising, we hadn’t come across one soul since leaving our room.
You are being dramatic.
Drama is my middle name.
I thought it was curiosity?
It’s a lengthy name.
Our conversation ceases, as I step into the dark room.
And two things happen simultaneously.
First, a large pale yellow chandelier fastened to the center of the triangular ceiling, flares to life. Illuminating rows and rows, of book shelves.
It would seem that I’d stumbled upon the library.
The second thing to happen, is the pulling sensation at my chest, increased by leaps and bounds, almost yanking me forwards.
My legs shake, and my knees threaten to buckle, but I heed the pull.
And down the seemingly endless walls of ancient spines we go.
My heart swells with nostalgia, as the distinctive scent of old pages fills my lungs.
‘The smell of knowledge,’ my dad used to say.
He had been a collector of all things old and forgotten.
And our home had been more of a museum, than a house.
But the love my parents had woven within those walls, had more than made up for the lack of material comfort.
I’d always loved the smell, dragging in deep breaths of the fragrance any chance I got.
But that all changed when I lost my parents.
Now the smell of books, consequently, dredges up memories of them.
Which is a shame.
Not that I don’t love them and their memory.
But recalling even the slightest bit of my past, always leads to the same end.
And flashing lights.
I shake my head to dislodge the unwanted thoughts, absentmindedly running my fingers along the books.
When the fish hook in my chest, suddenly snaps to the left, nearly barreling me into the wooden case.
My hand, which had been resting on a particularly wide 1st addition to some piece of Alithian history, fell freely, as the book collapsed into the wall behind it.
A cacophony of clicks and whirls ring out from the shelf, before each row begin to drop into the floor, forming a stair case, leading down into a black abyss.
Very scooby doo.
Ok shaggy, what next.
Well, since splitting up, isn’t an option. I guess it’s down the creepy stair way we go.
I don’t like this, it feels... off.
It feels like an adventure.
I toss her words back at her, with a twist.
Ouch, I set myself up for this, It would appear.
Yep. Here goes nothing.
I hesitantly step onto the first stair.
The step holds my weight, and my confidence finds its second wind.
Not wanting to risk losing my nerve, I practically fly down the wooden rungs, the hair on the back of my neck standing on end the entire way.
The sound of my bare feet slapping against wood, is the only thing to greet my ears.
And I sigh with relief as I come to the end of the stairs, and into a almost empty room.
Slowly, I scan my surroundings, where as the rest of the castle has been upgraded with the times. This room, it would appear, had been forgotten, left to gather mold and cobwebs.
The small space, reeks of mold and rodent feces, bare of any furnishings, aside from a stone table in the center.
A large leather bound book, its sides swollen with age and it’s pages bound unevenly, sits solemnly in the middle.
The cover is coated in a thick layer of dust, and the tugging in my chest, rips at my skin, dragging me to the book.
As if possessed, I lean over the stone slab, and blow a a slow breath out, across the books cover.
Dust flies in the air.
But it doesn’t settle in a natural way.
This dust puts on a show.
One that neither Circe nor I ever wanted to see.
The particles hang in the air, shiver slightly in a distorted mirage, like one would witness on a hot day.
And then, before my eyes, the dust begins to form shapes, and voices ring out around me, sounding off from every corner of the room.
My breath catches in my chest, and my eyes lock before me.
Fixed on a waking a nightmare, as scenes from long ago, reanimate in a jolted recreation.
Tall men and women, dressed in cotton, draped along their dark skin, fastened at their shoulders with golden broaches, shaped in the image of a coiled cobra, stand at an open door way, blocked by some sort of glowing white, transparent wall.
Upon closer inspection, it is apparent that they are Egyptians.
And very much...human.
but what they are doing in a dark, dusty room, that appears to be a jail of some sort, is lost on me.
They speak in rushed whispers, ones that pick up in volume as I focus, though their words come in bursts of clarity.
How I am able to understand their language, I have no clue.
But that doesn’t matter right now,
“The test subjects are ready-”
“We almost have enough.”
“They are hungry.”
“He will be watching.”
“Death comes to those who wait.”
Then the shimmering wall to the room drops, and a line of children, human and demon alike, are lead from the dark entrance.
Dressed in kilts of soiled cotton, and with faces more haggard than any child’s had right to be, they trudge after their captors.
The children’s dead eyed expression, is fixed on the ground, staring at their bloodied, chained wrists, and ankles
What the hell is this?
I ask circe, even though I’m sure she’s just as lost as I am.
But she doesn’t reply.
So I focus back on the children.
They now stand before another door way, one with a similar wall of energy blocking it.
A chill runs down my spine when the door drops, and a man emerges from within, his face is cast in shadows, but the aura around him screams one word.
But more concerning than that, is the familiar unease, his presence carries with it.
He holds a different aura than the humans.
But before I can ponder that for long, my eyes catch sight of something fastened at his hip.
A stark slash of silver, and rubies, against his leather encased legs.
A dagger, sharp and shining, its hilt crafted as a striking cobra, eyes set with flaming rubies.
I know that dagger.
It was one I had admired as child.
The very same, that my dad had convinced me was a letter opener.
The logical part of my brain, begins to rationalize that it is just a coincidence, that my dad had picked up a letter opener at some yard sale, and the uncanny similarities are only in my head.
But the piercing glare of the hilt, could not have been replicated.
They were the same.
They had to be.
Motion from the children, draws my attention back to the scenes in front of me.
The man is speaking, but his words come out garbled, and I can’t make out anything he says.
But the reaction the children give in response, is enough to give me a rough idea.
They flinch in unison, cowering closer to one another, unbothered by the fact that they are of different species.
My heart cleaves in two at the sight.
And shatters completely, as two children are ripped from their companions small grasp.
And a human.
I want to say that I am confused up to this point.
But if Circe’s silence was not answer enough.
The pair of terrified children, being dragged beyond the door, famed by the imposing demon, certainly was.
We are witnessing a glimpse of the past.
Or more specifically.
The creation of a ghoul.
The room shimmers as the picture shifts.
Stone slabs line a cold, brightly lit room, Mental cuffs and chains, attached to the legs of the tables, glint in the light.
Nausea builds in the pit of my stomach, flooding my mouth with saliva as it prepares to evacuate its hollow contents.
The two children who were chosen from the group, are dragged to their own tables, and strapped down, side by side.
The only sounds to fill the room, are those of the children, softly whimpering, too afraid to out right cry.
Circe booms suddenly, nearly scaring me out of my skin.
She repeats, almost a whisper this time.
And for the first time since she and I were bound, Circe takes control of our body.
And drags our ass back up the stares and away from the horror that was sure to be displayed, before releasing me.
The passage closes, with a series of soft clicks, the moment we are clear of the stairs.
I try, but the words feel sour on my tongue.
Like they would be more of an insult than an apology.
I...can we just go back to our room. I think I’ve had enough adventure for tonight.
Of course, anything you want.
Her emotions lay heavy against the mental barrier, that she erected between us, in an attempt to hide from me.
But at hearing my promise, mischief filters through the wall, separating us.
In that case, I think we would sleep far better in Cairo’s arms.
I almost choke on my own spit, though I can’t say that I’m totally surprised at her request.
Anything but that.
Hm, would it be too much to ask for pleasant dreams?
After everything we just witnessed, and the nagging familiarity of the strangers dagger, I highly doubt my dreams will have improved from earlier.
I’m a ghoul, not a Goddess. Ask for something plausible.
Fine. Sing to me.
Now that, I can do.
Our bickering brought us to the door of our room, in record time.
And as I lower myself down into the comforter once again, I begin to sing, soft and low.
Allowing my mothers lullaby to carry us off to sleep.