Posted on December 11, 2003 by Flames
Obsidian: the Age of Judgement Fiction by Elizabeth Peterson, winner of the Flames Rising Fiction Contest, 2003
I was wrong.
I woke for no reason from strangely blissful dreams, my eyes adjusting quickly to the dark of our room. Michael slept against me, his huge arm around my waist, one hand splayed across my belly. He should have woken to any disturbance before I did. Yet of the two of us, I woke, not to sound or movement or anything I could understand, but more to a pressure in the air. A feeling, growing from my abdomen under Michael’s palm and spreading up my veins with the shock of the purest Liquid Silver, disturbed my dreams and lifted my head. The feeling told of an unwelcome darkness.
I should have woken Michael to my fear. Instead, I rose alone, donning his shirt, which falls almost to my knees. I picked up his Diagnostic Seven, the heavy weight of his gun reassuring against the possibility of my former brood. I also lifted my black Blade, holding it ready in my left hand.
Stepping into the other room, my eyes went first to the far wall. A strange shape had been painted there, a rough outline of a curled figure, something like a baby curled in the womb. The symbol shone dark and wet in the weak light, and a trail of deepest red ran from the bottom. In a dark expanse of robes, the painter dragged a finger across the wall, finishing the terrible sigil. Then, pushing the black hood back, the figure turned to me, and I looked into a face I knew like my reflection, and green eyes more familiar to me than my own. I stared at a dead woman.
Terror, wonder, shock, and joy gripped me as you stood there, your head tipped just a little to the side, your smile welcoming. The gun and Blade fell from suddenly numb fingers. I did not trust my own eyes. I did not know what to believe, though my heart cried out in both joy and fear.
My voice trembled; with fear or longing I can’t say. No matter how I feared this specter before me, I wanted so much to fling myself into your arms. You stood there, alive and whole, and I loved you so.
Your voice. How I missed your voice!
You ended my torment, stepping forward to put your arms around me. I found myself clinging to you, holding your thin frame through that heavy robe, my tears soaking your shoulder. You stroked my hair soothingly, as you did when we were children, and gently rubbed my back. I felt you smile into my hair.
“You were dead! I thought you were dead!”
You stepped back, your eyes strangely calm as they looked into mine. This alarmed me. You, Nicole, were never calm.
“Yes,” you murmured, stroking my cheek. Your fingers felt icy cold. “I was dead.”
My heart began to pound wildly in my chest. Something was not right. You were not right.
“Nicole, what happened to you?”
You lifted your left hand, your palm facing me. Deep scars webbed across your hand and down your wrist, terrible wounds that shocked even me. On your fourth finger was a simple ring with a small, razor sharp blade.
“I don’t understand.”
You smiled calmly, coldly. “He came to me a day before the soldiers, Nat. He came while you slept beside me, and he told me I would have need of this. He put the ring on my finger, told me to keep it. He promised that I would see you again, that this moment would come.”
The joy slowly began to ebb from me, replaced with cold dread. I did not remember this strange man you spoke of. I did not understand, and I did not want to.
“When I returned, I, too, knew this moment would come. I knew I would find you, and give to the Box that which I love most. In return, I will have you back as we once were.”
“No. Oh, Nicole, no.”
“Don’t be afraid, Nat. Death is not forever. I will sacrifice to the Box that which is dearest to me, my own flesh, my own blood, and you will come back, and together we will be a terrible force.”
Finally, I could not deny it. I knew. This strange man I did not know had led you to the Box of Under. You had changed loyalties, changed masters, and come back from the dead. Now you had come for me.
“I don’t want to join the Box of Under, Nicole.”
“You will. I have seen it, Natalie. Don’t be afraid.”
“ ‘Don’t be afraid!’ Nicole, you’re going to kill me!”
“Then we can be together, forever. We are meant to be together, Natalie. We are part of each other, made from one flesh, one blood.”
I bolted for the room where Michael still slept, but you knew that I would before I did. You sidestepped directly into my path. I tried to dodge around you, and you blocked me again. We danced back and forth, you slowly driving me away from the warm safety through that door. At last my back hit the wall, while you stood before me, an even more solid barrier.
“There is no escaping the will of the Box, Natalie. Don’t try anymore. Be still.”
“Nicole,” I sobbed. “Why? You love me, don’t do this!”
“The Box wills it.”
While I was surprised when he entered the room, you were not. Michael stepped through, and froze, eyes going from one face to another. Then he moved, his BioBoosters driving him at an incredible speed. His hand lashed out, his flat palm smashing into your chest. You flew back and hit the wall just under your bloody painting, but you did not stay down long. As Michael took his first step towards you, you raised your hand with that strange blade, and spoke a single word.
That word may be the single thing I fear most in this world, or any other, ever again. Not even on that night where you took that poor corporate’s daughter into the back room had I heard anything like this. Screams, terrible screams, howls of pain, of torment and torture, filled our safe little rooms. Shrieks and wails tore at my heart and mind, driving me to my knees. Even now, those screams claw at my memory, so tormented, so hopeless.
Through the haze of those screams I saw you rise. You moved towards me, ignoring Michael gasping on the floor in as much terror as myself. Each step closer made the screams louder, more terrified, more pained. After ages of unspeakable horror, you stood before me. As I looked up into your face, I heard, through the screams, something else. Voices, snarling, whispering, hissing, terrible voices that left my soul feeling raped and foul.
Through it all, I finally looked into your eyes, looked beyond the surface, looked into your soul. For the first time, Nicole, I knew you. You were evil, true evil. You were evil before the Box of Under ever chose you, and I fear you were evil before Dermant’s wild brood made us theirs. Perhaps you were born evil.
Still, through the foul snarls and horrible screams and dawning understanding, I loved you.
I began to crawl across the floor, weeping with those terrible wails and sobs. You shook your head, thinking, perhaps, that I was trying to escape still. You knelt on the small of my back, driving me down and seizing my left hand. You slid your own ring onto my finger.
You shifted your weight off my back. Gently, firmly, you rolled me over so we were again face-to-face. I think I heard Michael say my name. He might have been trying to get to me, but I could not see. Probably. Your very touch made the profane howls rise in my soul, driving me to the edge of sanity. You smiled that cold smile, and caressed my stomach.
From deep within the wailing abyss of whatever darkness you had released, I heard a different cry. A single wail, crystal clear and shining white, cut like a knife through the foul voices calling for my blood, for my soul. The cry sliced across my vision, and I jolted back into control of my body. Through those hellish screams, I could see, and I could move.
You turned your head away slightly, your hand slipping into your robe. My right hand, shaking with the terror still echoing in the back of my soul, moved across the floor. From within your robes you pulled a knife.
Clear crystal sliced through your flesh, up under your ribs, deep into your body, straight into your heart. Your body jerked in shock, and your eyes stared in absolute wonder. You looked first at the blood soaking your black robe, then at me. As the crystal cry faded and the screams rose to a crescendo in my head, you shook your head and mouthed one word.
You were surprised, Nicole. The Box had not shown you that end. The Box had sent you for something, something within me, but it was that very something that had freed me from Its power. It was that very something that had surprised the all-seeing Box of Under itself.
You fell to land beside me, your blood covering both of us. You went still, and I lay writhing in agony. Finally, when I could take no more, blessed oblivion took me.
So I woke beside you, soaked in blood. Your blood, my blood…what is the difference? It is the same.
I have given up trying to scrub this death, this murder of my own self, from my skin. Let it stain me forever, I don’t care. Let it creep into me and take me, too, take me away from this one awful act of betrayal.
I kneel beside you, staring into your face. My face looks back at me. Our red hair, our high forehead, our little nose, our thin mouth… Only our eyes are different, Nicole. Both green, but one poison, the other lightning.
I stare into this sooty mirror of myself, seeing my past, fearing my future. I wonder if, through your soul, the Box owns part of my soul. I almost long for Its dark visions, just so I can understand this terrible night.
Michael is moving across the floor to me. I cannot tear my eyes from your face, but I know he is near. I feel his steel gray eyes studying me, and then studying you. I feel his surprise. We have all been terribly surprised today.
“This is Nicole. My sister. I told you about her.”
“You said she was dead.”
“She was. She is.”
“You never said you were twins.”
Twins. What does that mean, Nicole? I thought once we were identical, but now I’m not so sure. I hope not.
“Natalie? What happened?”
I can’t speak. I move shakily, turning from my dead twin and burying my face in his chest. I don’t cry, just shake.
Michael does not ask again. He draws me away from the body, seats me on our bed, and moves quickly around our little place, gathering our essentials. There are not many. Clothes, food, his weapons, my bloody clear crystal Blade, free now of the sooty black stain, all go into a single bag. Then he takes my arm and drapes it across his massive shoulders so he can support me. Gently, he all but carries me towards the door.
I pause only once to look back. I stare at you, Nicole, my evil twin, my dark mirror, my first love. I stare at you, our blood soaking the floor, our face fixed in the shock of death.
Finally, I know your face as your own, and my face as mine. We are not the same. I love you, Nicole. I always will. It is one of the three loves I’ve ever known.
I do not look back again. Leaning on Michael’s strength and love, I walk out the door. My own hand goes to where she caressed my abdomen, hoping to wipe away the feel of that dark touch, to protect the crystal pure life inside. Michael, sensing my fear, tightens his hold on me. I let my head rest on his shoulder as he leads me away.
I think he will be a good father.
For more information on Obsidian: the Age of Judgement check out Apophis Consortium.