Not-So-Idle Hands


The strangest sensation of all for him was knowing that while he remained aware, knew he was in the hotel room, witnessed the comings and goings, wondered at them, it was unclear how he sensed these things. It was not a sound or smell and surely not sight; he simply felt these things, had been feeling them since the moment his body seized up and turned to stone.

He felt being moved, felt the small gang and all their debate on whether they should risk disobeying orders and jackhammering him into dust. The impression of a strong will with attributes much like his own taking over the debate, influence under it all, caught at him and he was at leisure to mull it over for what felt a few moments to him but realized had been hours. Interspersed were memories unfolding that dragged him away to different times and places like waves pulling him under.

When he’d surfaced again, he learned that Morena and Nick were safe, and she was there. If he’d had a beating heart, it would have thudded in relief that Sophie had survived as well. Instead, the stone warmed and glimmered within its box with no one to witness and wonder, least of all the object of its affections. Towards the beginning, he’d seen Sophie stumble in, injured. He’d struggled then, tried to force his body to change, only to be met with stinging sensations from all over. Then Morena and Nick had come in, voices had raised in discord and Nick had gone. Morena had fallen asleep and he’d spent time sensing her slowed heartbeat and the accelerated growth of her red blood cells.

Something was wrong with the transformation. As he inventoried his facts, he surmised it had now been several days and nights that his body refused to convert. Comfortable in the knowledge that Sophie was safe and that his incidental contact with Morena had ensured both her and Nick’s survival as well, he resigned himself to listening, to filling in the gaps and waiting to transfigure back. He learned from Sophie’s interrogation of Morena that there were some truths Morena would hold back. Nothing, however, had muted the anger Sophie felt from learning he’d shared blood with another human. Or his approach to confronting the tainted mistake.

It hurt him to not be able to explain. He worked out what he might say. And just as he found clarity, the story being told in the room expanded, revealing much about the other immortal hands at work in Bellevue that night. As he turned over all he knew, it made sense that if Sophie had a prior relationship with one vampire that still counted her as friend and mentor, there might be others. The sister and her brother.

There was nothing that Jesper could do when the brother came and called to her but still he’d fought again to transfigure, the stone heating in frustration. Sophie had said she was immune to vampire abilities and yet he witnessed her bidden by the power of Vox, causing even his stony form to vibrate. But his struggles had been in vain, for the better. She’d returned to Morena and Nick’s shock completely healed but adverse to conversation. She’d crawled back into bed, devoid of sleep, and silently wept.

This marble had become his prison and he struggled again, wanting to be with her, to shield her from this world of death and violence she so hated. But his body was not pure; it was the only thing that made sense. Chips of wood, glass fibers, maybe a cut from that accursed kukri, some debris had seeped in deep and prevented his return to her. It frustrated him, made him want to scream. As Morena moved to the adjoining room and Nick slinked off to secretive chores redoing the office, he bristled under the stony silence and tried to reach out to her. When he couldn’t sense anything but her presence, he tried to discern the impediment, walked through his injuries and tried to catalog what might have corrupted his slumber. With no way of removing it, he might be in here forever, like the true gargoyles of old myth, held fast to a silent penance. It made him burn from the inside, angry, afraid, desperate to get free and soar, to get to Conclave and tell them all she had risked and how she had saved them all.

Tension rippled through the stone. He couldn’t help it; he was screaming. With no mouth, no throat, no belly for breath, he seethed and spewed his mind forth, clenching his awareness until the stress threatened to fracture the marble.

Then, a sound, a lightness within the black, a scratching and then the shrill complaint of nails being displaced. A soft thump, a freshness, and then a silence. He felt her. She was close. Please, let me out. His anxiousness almost caused the crate to move.

Then her hand, soft, unsure, reached through the small gap in the wood planks she’d created with a crowbar. Her hand cupped his shoulder and she sighed. Relief moved through him, her touch warming him.

“I don’t know that you can hear me.” Her voice was breathy, tired.

I can.

“But I’d rather like to think you can.” Her voice tensing up with sobs. “I thought we’d have more time to talk. And I really really need to.”

Then talk to me. I’m in here. And I’m not going anywhere.

She took in a shuddery breath. “I never meant any of this to happen. But as I look around, all I see are my faults and failures. I thought I’d saved Maurice from this burden, enabled him to escape the violence that had taken his life. But I didn’t. I just kept it at bay. And now. Now he has become what he was meant to be. A vampire. Even though he no longer takes blood, he has the powers, all of them from whatever father spawned him.”

She sniffed in a sob. “And maybe that’s my fault too. I meddle where I shouldn’t. I had this vain thought that I could, through my teachings, hold back the tide. That I could save him. But that’s just it. He saved me. My injuries were…vast. And because we wanted to avoid too much scrutiny, I didn’t let the doctors help me. But Maurice, with his abilities, sensed it from so far away and came to make it better. Not my poor little Mo anymore.”

Her fingers moved across the stone, gently sliding down through the space where she’d removed the plank. He couldn’t reach out to her, but his emotions warmed the surface.

You need to sleep. You’re exhausted.

She pulled the blanket with her to the floor, laying on her side, resting her head on the arm that still stretched to touch him through the gap, now at his ankle. He felt her eyelids slow their blinking and sag.

“I wish I knew how to help you. But my help doesn’t seem to be worth anything.”

Things come around, as they do for you. Things come back for you. Like me. Just sleep.

Her eyelids closed and he felt her breathing soften.

I will be here when you wake.

“I was right. Jasmine is better off without me.”

Her touch, her breath, the sound of her heart, the name evoked a memory that his fear had pushed away. Maybe if he succumbed to the memory, she might remember too.

When he’d come out of the coma, he’d been wracked with pain, bandages oozing, septic. Wild for days, he’d shunned the light, growled at his captors from the darkest corner of the room, nearly killed a guard trying to bring him water. At the height of it were the blood curdling howls he let loose deep in the night, trying to call his wolves to him for help.

Confused, he knew such pain, like his bones were breaking in on themselves. But it was the rest of his senses that were on fire. He could smell everything, hear everything and the cacophony paralyzed his thinking. Once in a while, a voice spoke a familiar word or piece of a word and he found he could push all the rest away but then the remainder was unintelligible garble and the frustration pent up again until the rage took over.

He barricaded himself in the darkest corner, his breath ragged as he hadn’t let anyone tend to him since he’d awoken. The only reason he’d remained in the room at all was the light beyond suddenly terrified him. When he’d first jumped out of his bed, startled by some commotion in the hallway, women’s voices arguing, he’d stepped into a ray of light from the window which burnt his skin.

Ever since then, he shook with fear of the sun. The fear, coupled with the pain, drove his rage-filled panic. But nothing spurred the rage more than the awareness that below his waist where most of the pain emanated from, he felt much of what should have been there was missing. His gnarled hands with their jagged nails tried to rip at his bandages, only causing more cuts and his festering wounds to ooze dark fluids.

He crouched in the corner, unable to process his surroundings, his humanity buckling under the weight of sensory onslaught without a ground. He felt paralyzed and an old helplessness threatened to consume him. He’d been imprisoned before, a feast for dark creatures, and it had only been the kindness of a fellow prisoner that had saved his sanity.

It was slipping again. His mind. The doubt was debilitating and the fear crippled anything he might do. He whimpered in the corner, panting like the wild wounded creature he’d become. He waited for someone to release him from this misery. He could not endure it again.

For a day and a night, he heard the scuffles of people, light-footed woman, guards with clinking weapons, others indiscernible. He didn’t sleep. His body seemed to be destroying itself and he retched black mucus as he now shook with fever. And everywhere, he began to smell it. Thick, rich, metallic tinged, and pumping, all around, like the walls were filled with it. He knew it was what he needed now to survive. Against every care and caution, against gentle words spoken through rusty dungeon bars, he wanted it.

Blood. The thought of it became the only thing he could manage. It was helping him focus through the barrage of senses. He could hear a heart pounding as a terrified guard took over the night watch, smell his sweat and judged the guard’s weight and height from the sound of it coursing through his veins. Thinking of it brought him a measure of peace, uneasy, ruthless, painful but peace. And he latched on to it as he would any other savior put before him.

As day broke and he shuddered watching the light grow in the room, he vowed, this next night, he would break through the door, he would get what he required, and he would leave, embracing whatever hellish existence this was. He would not whimper in the corner and beg for death as he once had.

But the morning brought its own promises. He sensed her before he smelled her, before he heard her voice, sharp, angry, rapid. She flowed into his consciousness, washing aside his thirst as if a flood of pristine water. The guards, two of them now, tensed at her recriminations only to graduate to abject panic as another female approached.

She’d been here before, older, heavier but taller, with a slow rolling gait of one that had given birth, or at least been with child often.  The two females argued loudly, and it was if he felt the older woman grab the young one by the arm, he sensed her heart thud, blood vessels breaking in her fleshy arm as a bruise started.

Before he realized what he was doing, he flew across the room and slammed into the heavy wooden door, sending a shockwave through the entire wall. The wood was oak and he recognized the natural deterrent for what it was. He stopped only long enough to listen to the symphony of beating hearts out in the hallway and the continued pressure over the young woman’s arm. He beat his body against the door again, drawing shouts and clattering of weapons in the hallway. Again and again and again until he sensed his shoulder joint cracking, skin shredded and splintered but felt the door giving way. A few more assaults and he’d be through.

In the meantime, the arm was suddenly flush with blood as if snatched away and he heard the young woman’s voice, now plaintive. There was a longish pause before the older woman snapped orders and he sensed the guards move away from the door. He stepped back, unsure of himself. He was panting terribly and his natural inclination as the door slowly creaked open was to huddle backward into the corner.

Through the door she came, encased in yards of glittering green fabric but it was the jewels adorning her headdress refracting the light that he put his hand up to ward against, speeding his retreat to the far wall. He growled menacingly, turning his head away. But he heard the extra footfalls following behind her and he bellowed in rage as he launched himself at the door, slamming it back shut behind her. A warbled scream came from the hallway, bones crunched by the force.

In the flurry of action, he’d gotten too close to the light and it burned his skin again, his shoulder which he’d also torn against the wood of the door. He howled and leaped over the bed to his dank burrow in the corner, his labored breathing echoing off the tile walls. He wailed, bent over, the smell of burnt offal permeating the room.

She held her breath. Her heart pounded. Perhaps she would be merciful and slit his throat, an angel of mercy. He waited for it. He wanted it.

Her tiny feet made the softest sound as she approached him. It was the sound of blood pouring through her that he fixated on now. This was his chance to get out, wasn’t it? She would offer little resistance really. He turned his head to her just as she kneeled down to him, her hand brushing at his shoulder. He bared his teeth and prepared to strike when she gasped.

Her voice came out in a wonder of familiar words, “The sun has healed you.”

He paused as much from understanding her words as recognition that she was right. She drew his tattered sleeve away from this skin.

“See?”

As her fingers smoothed over the grimy skin, he saw that what had been gashed from his assault on the door had knitted and was perfectly smooth, unmarred with anything but the griminess of his existence. It took him only a moment for his fangs to ease away as she used a bit of her clothing to brush aside the filth. Then she ripped the sleeve completely apart and he yelped, jumping back, cowering, sniffing at his shoulder.

“Oh golden one, I would never hurt you. But what have you done to yourself?” 

He tossed her an angry glare. As if this were his fault.

“So you do understand me.” She stood. “Good. Now is not the time to feel sorry for yourself and cower in corners.” She walked to the shuttered window and called out loudly in another tongue he did not understand. There was a scuffling sound and then a creaking sound as light suddenly exploded into the room, dancing in colors refracted from the intricate stained glass.

He shuddered and raised his arm to shield himself. After a moment, he raised his head to see that she had turned and backed herself in front of the window, shadowing him from the light. He lowered his arm slowly, eyes stinging from the light still all around him.

She beckoned him forward with her dainty hands. “Come to me, golden one. You have nothing to fear.”

His instincts caused him to shuffle back on his heels. But he felt her allure, felt the promise of her words, felt bonded to her in ways he couldn’t comprehend. The light around her was blinding but it drew him. He looked at his shoulder which no longer hurt as well as looked perfectly healed.

“Please, golden one, you must trust me. You do not deserve to wallow in the dank shadows, a victim of fear. You belong in the sun, master of earth and light.”

If her words didn’t inspire him, the kaleidoscope around her intrigued him. And there was sense in her words; he was done cowering, tired of being the victim. He wanted his own release, whatever that may be.

He stretched out his arm and she spread her arms to her sides and approached, making sure no light reached him from around her. She took his hand in hers as he stayed crouched, his head even with her chest, his body protected by her broad shadow. It was then he recognized her kind green eyes, though the rest of her face was hidden behind a diaphanous veil. He scowled trying to look at her mouth. His hand reached out and pulled the fabric down along her cheek.

Her cheeks dimpled and tilted her head away from his pawing. “Ah yes, I forgot. You would not have seen me with my veil. Allow me.” Her hand pulled the fabric aside and suddenly her whole face, radiant in its own right, was there for him to see. And he did recognize her. And somewhere, something pulsed in his chest that had been dead.

It thudded hard and he put a hand to his chest, looking down. What was this now?

Her hand had followed him. When he looked back up at her with a questioning look, he was pressing her hand to his chest.

Her cheeks turned pink. “Why, yes, I feel it. It is your heart and it longs to feel the sun.”

He stared at her, discerning that her words were at odds with her own emotions. He was certain it beat because she was near. But he was aware enough to know it was no lie she told him; just a truth that she did not know, one he had not shared. If she could end his pain, he promised silently he would share all he was with her.

She began to draw him forward and the panic reared again but while he shut his eyes against it, he let her pull his crouched form forward until they were just inside the window. He was panting by then, the effort to keep trusting her warring with instincts honed from necessity.

She used one hand under his arm to pull him up and as he stood, his head cleared her height and prismatic light covered his face. He gasped, teeth bared, kept his eyes clenched shut but couldn’t help the reflex that brought his hands up to his face. She stared up in awe as the skin across his face, even his hair began to steam, even smoke. He clenched his fists, willing himself to stillness. If he was meant to burn, then he would burn. If this was the end she was to bring him to, then he was ready to accept it but there was no need for her to follow him to the end.

He opened his eyes to slits only and pushed her aside, toward the fountain in the corner. She stumbled and landed in a heap of green sparkling silk on the floor. He regretted having to be so brusque but he could feel the roar building and as soon as she was clear, he took a breath and his entire head caught fire. He heard her gasp but he gritted his teeth and tore at the remnants of his ruined clothing. If skin brought fire, then he would let it consume him all, every cursed morsel that had been food for wolves, revenge upon thieves, and a shield for the woman who lay frozen at his feet.

“No, it is too much, too soon!”

He barely heard her words through scorched ears as she scrambled away from him. He stepped back, stretched to full height, held his arms out, and embraced the light as his entire body went up in flame. So beyond caring and fear was he that he no longer felt tension of the pain, just the release of every nerve, every fiber, even bone, melting into liquid fuel, reshaping, reforming much like from the earth of the forest. He finally understood what he was and why he’d carried so much fear around with him and he would’ve released it all if not for her being so close.

He could not, would not cause her harm. But the strain of keeping the fire contained within was beginning to crackle and pop and ooze out of him. Fingers clenched in his fists became like cinders and he imagined them falling to the floor like ash, the rest of him soon to follow.

But suddenly there were shouts and a great deluge showered him, steam exploded around him, forcing him to the floor. His head ricocheted off the floor and through the fog that followed, he felt her cold, wet fingers as he was suddenly covered in an emerald sea, blotting out the light until it remained only as a dull ache behind his eyelids.

In the deepest recesses of the house with the lemon tree in the garden, hands panted in elaborated henna designs slipped yet another key in the padlock hanging from the cell. When it didn’t fit, she methodically moved to the next one on the huge iron ring with keys that ranged from elaborate ivory handled ones to ones that resembled handcuff keys.

A shudder rang through the house and the girl with henna painted hands dropped her veil looking down the hallway, frozen in place. The house creaked more now that the sun was creeping into darker, older spaces in the house causing rooms that had once been shut to come to life.

She looked back at the lock, picking the next key to try. As she did, a voice sang in a thick Parisian accent.

“Au clair de la lune,
L’aimable Lubin;
Frappe chez la brune,
Elle répond soudain :
–Qui frappe de la sorte ?
Il dit à son tour :
–Ouvrez votre porte,
Pour le Dieu d’Amour. »

By the light of the moon
Likeable Lubin
Knocks on the brunette’s door.
She suddenly responds:
– Who’s knocking like that?
He then replies:
– Open your door
for the God of Love!

One Response to “Not-So-Idle Hands”

  1. F. Skeeter Benton Says:

    AWESOME! Mom

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