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Let’s start in a strange place, shall we? Let’s start at
Sometimes, he still dreams about the girl.
He is always blind in the dreams, must be blind, because there is no way it could be too dark for him to see. He is blind, but he can hear everything, feel everything, and reality dissolves.
She gasps when his hand closes over her mouth, and he can feel that tiny suction, then the wriggling and flopping as he holds her tightly from behind, muffling her screams with his flesh. He whispers desperate consolation in her ear until the feeble spell of his voice finally takes hold, and she relaxes into his arms, shivering with the sobs that cannot quite escape.
He tapes her arms and legs, wraps her in his jacket, and sits with her through the night. Her breath freezes on the air, and he can almost hear the chime of those ice-crystal clouds. His skin freezes and cracks. He would bleed, but he has no blood left, and the cold makes him tired, as if he were a reptile. He could almost sleep.
Sebastian is in the dream, too. He plucks the telephone away and lashes out with a burning fist. Broken teeth, jaw, ribs. One punch, one kick, no more.
“Too late,” he says. “I’m already back. Running to a teenager for help? Really, Hugo? You’re such a goddamn baby.”
His hands are hot, and they can be soothing when they want to be. They stroke away the bruises, and he layers his voice with Power, whispering away the pain.
“I’m Leonard. I’m n-not Hugo, I’m Leonard. Leonard…”
“Shhh, don’t worry about it. You want the kid, that’s okay. You can have her. My gift.” His hot hands move south, gentle still. “Don’t cry, okay? I hate you when you cry.”
She is waiting when they get there.
She gasps when his hand closes over her mouth, and he can feel that tiny suction, then the wriggling and flopping as he holds her tightly from behind, muffling her screams with his flesh. His mouth is swollen and full of tears, and his voice is so much weaker than Sebastian’s. He cannot take away her fear, only make her stop twisting to give his poor ribs a rest.
He sits with her through the night and listens to her hurting, but caring is impossible by then. Sebastian is in his head, squeezing his heart so tight he can barely feel, stroking his mind into silence. His throat burns with thirst. His veins ache, empty and hollow and screaming with lust, but he can’t care. He leaves without speaking to her, even though she begs, even though her faith is shattering into sunbursts on the dusty floor.
He sits in the car and presses himself close against the blasting heater. He is blind, but he seems to see tawny brown eyes, slightly tilted, smiling, fringed with dark, sooty lashes. He could drown in those eyes, has drowned in them before, just like so many others. Limpid pools full of the drowned, full of bodies. The back of his mind is full of struggling, the clinking of chains. Sebastian is bleeding her. The blood is the life, and so much more. Teeth penetrate. Essence is shared. Eventually, she stops fighting.
Tomorrow, he thinks. I’ll do it tomorrow. He won’t bleed her if she’s mine.
But he doesn’t really care.
When he pushes her down the stairs, she has Kate’s voice. “Lyonya,” she cries, but that never happened, and Kate was a thousand years ago, and she hurt him more than he could ever have hurt her.
When he runs, the girl is probably dead. Sebastian’s voice is gone, and his skull echoes emptily.
Sometimes, he still dreams about the girl, but when he wakes, the world is white, and his bones are ice, and his name has bled away with the last of his strength. They call it permafrost for a reason, you know, and his hands are bound up in dirt that does not sing and cannot heal. The ghosts here are pale and ancient. They speak in tongues he does not know.
And freedom is bitter.
© 2013 MR Graham