28 May 2017 2:02 AM (fiction | marginal prophet)
Corinne saw the stars gleaming like spearpoints. Dread washed into her and built to the terror of someone unable to breathe. She ran without destination or knowledge of her danger. The only alternatives would have been tears or panicked screaming. The stars followed her with sight as sharp as fangs before they launched themselves. Each fell with a businesslike violence to transfix her to the ground.
Then she did scream, hoping someone would hear her. No one did and the stars stood uncaring. With voices that flowed and thundered like many waters they spoke “Holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy…” until the word sacrificed its meaning and was elevated to pure cadence. A shape burst through the darkness, standing like a man with three faces; one burning red, one fulminating white, and one as blank and pitiless as the sun.
Her life's regrets and secret shames crowded her head. She felt herself ground beneath a wheel covered in eyes, stripping away everything but guilt that could be inspected in endless rumination. Worse were the veils. Each face was covered to the mouth, but currents of air and breath stirred the cloth. Each time, Corinne's soul clenched into an icy knot, dreading the thought of veil moving completely aside. She would gladly have chosen death or excruciating torment rather than being seen unconcealed by those hidden eyes.
The three-faced figure stood silent and unmoving, but the endless “Holy, holy, holy…” was whelmed by the silence of a still, small voice like maggots inside her that recognized her soul for the corruption that it was and began to writhe through it joyously. Mine! said the voice. My hand! Each word made her feel like a cancer in the universe. Decency required she be cut out and the world scraped clean of her or even burnt to be rid of her taint.
The voice slowed, taking long pauses as if struggling to express its thoughts in English. My mark upon your generations. I call you now. Corinne silently pleaded for the ground to swallow her. Too scared to speak, she had no idea what she would say if she could. She would have agreed to anything to make it stop— except ever being around it again. The voice repeated Mine! My hand! My call! until a clangor like angry children drowned it out. The ground became sweat-soaked cotton, and she recognized the sound as the crystalline chime of her waker.
Corinne hissed it to silence. She shook, her body convulsing with dry sobs, interrupted by the occasional giggle of receding adrenaline. She was afraid to get up, imagining things in the darkness. She was more afraid not to, remembering things in her head. She called in sick to work, telling a lie about stomach trouble.
She didn't know what to do with herself, but going back to bed was clearly out of the question. She took a shower, spending an hour and a half trying to wash away her feelings of defilement.
The dream was bad enough, but her mind took her back, remembering a field trip her sixth-grade class had taken to a detainment center for cultists— those few who, through destructiveness, lust for power, madness, and inherent evil, had given themselves to one god or another and then worked their deity's mad, destructive will. She'd been horrified by the sight of so many people, their minds partially burned away by divine power, abandoned stewing in their insanity. Those who'd accepted the powers of theurgy were the worst cases; they had often done the most harm and lived in a state of constant spiritual oppression that kept them from working miracles.
It was necessary to keep society safe. It was just. Only someone truly evil would serve the divine. Thinking of it now made her sick to her stomach and brought the tears back to her eyes.
She called her brother. She didn't want to be with herself.
“Arkady. Hi.” She tried to think of something to talk about, but couldn't come up with more than “I just called to see how you are. Haven't talked to you since last week.”
“During the work day? Are you all right? You don't sound all right.”
“No. I'm…I had—” He'd insist she see a soulwhisperer. The whisperer would find…her stomach went cold, but she fought back, forcibly changing mental gears. She didn't hate the world. She didn't hate people. She wasn't a bad person. No god could really be talking to her. If she saw a soulwhisperer she'd waste their time with a bad dream. Nothing else.
“Sorry. Tired and stressed. Thought I had some slack this morning and wanted to hear a friendly voice. I need to get back to firefighting, though. I'll call you later.”
“You…sure?” He didn't sound convinced.
“Yeah. It's just this deadline running me ragged.”
She said goodbye and broke the connection before he could ask her anything more. She felt guilty for lying to him, but she had to defend herself. She caught her train of thought and corrected it. She just didn't want to waste someone's time. Nothing to protect herself from.
She still didn't want to be alone and went in to work only a couple hours late, saying her stomach bug had cleared itself up.