I always want to call this variety 'Explorer' for some retarded reason and can never, ever remember its correct name. Discovery is a lovely heritage cultivar with a neat, smallish tree and crisp, slightly tart fruit that are still sweet enough to appeal to modern sensibilities. I can confirm that it's also a solid candidate for organic cultivation since we never do shit to it and it always produces an edible crop: not a single spot of moth this year.
Due to a an epically shitty spring we only grew six apples :(
I always want to call this variety 'Explorer' for some retarded reason and can never, ever remember its correct name. Discovery is a lovely heritage cultivar with a neat, smallish tree and crisp, slightly tart fruit that are still sweet enough to appeal to modern sensibilities. I can confirm that it's also a solid candidate for organic cultivation since we never do shit to it and it always produces an edible crop: not a single spot of moth this year.
Still think that social media shit's cute? Read these stunningly grotesque revelations about political harvesting and manipulation of our data in this piece by Carol Cadwalladr in the Guardian and kill your FB today.
I'm a piece of garbage
see more of this cool series here
Though Susan could not perceive the squeal emitted by the wheel of their trolley, William found it insupportably offensive and gave it a swift kick with his boot. She sat on the soft folds of his black afghan coat in the uppermost shelf of the cart, clutching her mirror bag as though it were bent on escape. It bulged with rolls of notes and she glanced down at them from staring at his face, flashing the money at him periodically, his patient acknowledgement slowly combating her disbelief. The midnight supermarket was sparsely populated with a host of nocturnal genera; ravers hung before the wall of caffeinated soda and drifted along the avenue of hypercoloured confectionary with red-rimmed stares, batting at tics, oblivious to furloughed whores, fretful hoarders and the peculiar elderly, the latter piloting their mobility scooters as though negotiating the floor of a sea trench. Susan waved him to a halt in the first aisle and leant out toward a packet of chocolate biscuits, frowning to herself and then replacing it in favour of a luxurious version usually beyond her resources, climbing up to stand and select two related flavours. He stood a foot on the cart to balance her weight and lifted a shoulder to rub at his whining ear; when she looked back at him, the sight spliced pieces of the bloody bout into her deliberations, and she murmured something that he missed.
“I am listening, but I’ve been punched in the head fifty times by a chernozhopyi." William admitted.
“I said... tell your rubbish alter ego not to let a giant idiot batter him like that in future.”
“We only communicate through lawyers and El Resto's always alienating his legal team.”
Susan shook her head, plucking a packet of Scottish shortbread from the shelf and balancing it on top of the baked goods already teetering in her lap.
“Nutella... the big jar..." she urged. "Did you have to bite him?”
“You probably couldn’t see it, but he was going for my dingaling with his overbite.”
“You were humping his face.” she laughed.
"In self defence." he promised, smiling at her as he swung them around a corner and parked before the sloping banks of produce, standing with his arms slack by his sides in an attitude of almost metaphysical receptivity to the mirrored array of imported and tropical fruit.
“Is it... fun?”
"Too much like work, but I'm not good at anything else, so, you know... c'est comme ça." he yawned, reaching on her behalf for the best hand of bananas. "You don't like it, do you?"
She paused as she leant over the cart.
"It's not that I don't appreciate the effort... it's just that I've never had a... a violent boyfriend before." Susan admitted. He frowned, rolling an orange in his hand, then smiled brightly.
"So I am your boyfriend..."
"Yes." she groaned.
"Say Sachiin, you are officially my boyfriend." William urged.
"I'll dump you if you're not careful." she laughed, gathering lemons in the crook of her elbow; he took them from her and replaced them with Tahitian limes. Behind them a skinny youth with silver glitter pasted around his eyes and naked plastic action figures dangling in a spangled corsage from his neck hovered as though anxious for some item in the display before them. When they stepped out of his way he looked up from his heavy, level stare in bright suspicion of their motives, then darted forward, seizing two handfuls of tiny mandarins and stuffing them down his trousers before dashing away in an attitude of frenzied triumph.
"It does explain a few things, you being punched in the head so often." Susan remarked.
"Hey... I was born this way."
"It looks incredibly painful."
"You only really feel the first one. I had my pain threshold kicked into orbit back in the good old days anyway." The pineapples attracted William's attention and he rolled half a dozen into the cart. "The only thing I like about the cage is being up against some fucking huge industrial piece who thinks you're the bitch they’re going to floss with. You can see it in their faces, when they’ve tried everything and nothing’s working, and they realise there’s something wrong with you... that never really gets old... I don't know why. I suppose I am related to my brother.”
Susan raised her brows at his interpretation, lifting a waxy purple ball dressed with a strange quatrefoil brooch of leathery remnant petals to her nose and finding herself stumped.
"What is this?" she demanded.
"Manggustan. Glad you asked." he replied, lifting the entire box from which she had taken it and setting it down into the trolley, along with two crates of ruby-blushing pomegranates. Their expense began to trouble her intrinsic parsimony and she glanced down into her purse once more in a visible expression of it. "I can book some more gigs if you like." he added.
"No." she said swiftly.
"Five grand... that's a shitload of Nutella and manggustans..."
"Don't... not for a while." The gravity of her expression inspired a small frisson that he allowed through the width of his shoulders. "What?" she inquired, lowering her voice self-consciously.
"Your caring what happens to me feels like someone licking the back of my neck." he confessed.
They smiled at one another and studied the vegetables together.
"Is there a special word for what vampyres... do... when they bite people?”
“In alujha, it's dujju la isdr... red into grey.”
“I think Petrouchka dujju la isdr’d someone at the fight. Is she really your friend?”
“She’s always liked me... we lend each other money. She plaits my hair.”
“She drinks blood.”
“I know, but in all honesty, almost no one gets taken by a neckfucker who wasn’t wearing a big dumb eat me sign on their forehead.” She seemed patently unconvinced. “Tell me you’d get into the back of a car with Pet or fucking Opal.” he insisted. “I’m not saying they’re not good at what they do, because they can suck you out a mile before you even know you’re in the water, but vampyres still need you to be stupid.” Susan wheeled them into the next aisle, its shelves stocked past head height with a hedonic profusion of breakfast cereals; the smell of bleached, sugar-drenched corn and printed cardboard prompted him to commandeer the cart and hurry onward. “I couldn’t snow you, and I wasn’t even drooling and hanging off your neck.” he added.
"All that much." she smirked. "I'd probably still be running if I hadn’t been tackled on the lawn, though.”
“Poupée, if you’d been running any slower you would have backed right into me.” William laughed, inclining his head to kiss her. An old lady trundled past with her two-tiered trolley overstuffed with tins of catfood and jelly crystals; Susan leant back from him, grimacing and scuffing her tongue on the back of her hand.
"Don't ever gargle liquid soap again."
He shook his head resolutely.
"I’d wrestle drunk gorillas for you Christabel, but I’m not putting toothpaste in my fucking mouth any time soon.” William told her as he pressed on. “You can have mint, or you can have me.”
Laughing at his strange aversions, she emptied his grasp of the fruit that he was surreptitiously consuming and dropped it into the trolley, climbing back up to her former station and sucking in a sharp breath at the importuning hand that wandered beneath her skirt. Susan called another halt before a wall of feminine appurtenance and chose hair clips for herself from a bewildering array of configurations, reaching up to sweep his hair behind his ears with a diamanté-studded headband and sitting back to admire the effect.
"My god, that is absolutely terrifying... wear it to your next fight." she smirked while he picked out a packet of applicator tampons.
"I can't help but think these are a disruptive influence."
"Can you slow down please?" she complained as he wheeled her swiftly past the rows of candy-hued deodorant.
"That stuff makes girls smell like they arrived by UPS and don't have a name yet but are possibly already ribbed for my pleasure. I am willing to... er... forego all death matches, for as long as you agree to smell as nature intended." He leant over her, sliding her hair from her nape and inhaling the warmth that rose from the neck of her dress. Shrugging her assent, she allowed him to steer them away from the meat counter before contesting the measure.
"I just saw you bite half of someone's face off so don't start with your vegan bollocks." Susan scolded as they halted before the display, looking over the various cuts until the shudder passing through his body was transmitted to her vehicle. "What is so bad about that?" she demanded, gesturing down at the neatly-primped arrangements.
"Il s'ylth nais sa'ama." he murmured, turning his face from the counter. "Sha'a'inii'tra... everything is wrong. Everything."
They stood for a short while in an impasse that grew from the inarticulate nature of his objections; in response to the depth of her own sentiments he placed his hands flat against the protective glazing, absorbing its damp, leaden scent and grim stasis before closing them on her cheeks. Her gaze fell to the frosted glass, the carnal shapes beneath recanting their blinded and attenuate passivity, becoming limbs and lost effects, the cabinet a shallow morgue, her perception of it rolled almost prismatically toward his own. She took his hands from her face and warmed them under her arms in silence, and did not contest their removal into an aisle devoted to convenience food. Still immersed in the implications of his elliptical communique, she chose an item from each category they coasted past and presented it to him, concerning herself closely with his reactions.
"Mmm, trash barge..." William grimaced to the rustling packet of pot noodles she held to his nose.
"Are you not worried about Caleb and his mates?"
"No... I love Cay." Her favourite brand of coffee exacerbated his expression. "Angry millipedes." he declared. Peanut butter fared no better. "Arse grease." he laughed, turning his head from the pottle. She lifted a brightly-coloured jar of raspberry jam from which he at first leant away as though avoiding some innominate peril, succumbing only as she pressed it on him, clasping it to his cheek and rolling the bottle across his face with his eyes closed. "Mmm, paradisiaque... savoureux... sssexuel... not as good as yours, though."
"I don't know how I feel about you eating two kilos of sucrose in one sitting. You don't even know what that is, do you?"
"It's fucking delicious, I can tell you that much. Take it away... I'll get the jar stuck in my throat."
"You're a bit of an addict, really, aren't you?" she laughed.
“It's low self esteem.” William assured her. "Just so you know, if at some point you do decide to leave me, my fragile sense of self worth would suffer such a fucking blow that I would probably find it preferable to return to an abusive relationship than to face the world alone.”
She pushed her foot into his groin.
“I would tell you to shut up but since we're on that, how long was your brother actually with this Helaine woman? And if she was as bad as you say, what was the attraction?”
“Ten long years, and come on... when you’re as likely to perforate someone for queue-jumping as he is, your boo's muti trade is all just part of life’s heavily-soiled tapestry. They're two evil peas in an evil fucking pod. Domestic evil peas. She bought his shoes."
“I know. Things might have been different if it hadn't been the Thirty Years War... but then again, probably not... everyone in Europe was going hard... catholics, lutherans, Swedish freaks, the fucking frogs... crazy Dutch people... Gustaf and Richelieu was paying us to stay home at one point, which was awesome, I have to say. Helaine's place was never more than a few days ride from whichever bloodbath was paying out, so the oversharing devil on Kala'amātya's shoulder was eight hundred pounds and fused to its fucking chair by the time that shit was over. When he wasn't depopulating Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, he was home with Helaine practicing facial expressions. It was a perfect perverted storm, if you were a bloodthirsty pervert."
“When are you going to tell them about all this?”
“When I stand still it sounds like you said something about just letting sleeping logs lie.”
“It's sleeping dogs.”
“The sleeping dog that rips your arm off when you tell it things it doesn’t want to hear."
"Who is that calling you all the time?" Susan sighed, reaching down and extracting his phone from his pocket.
“Avi'ashān...” he said quietly. “Bede." She read a few of his plaintive messages; her expression prompted him to sigh an explanation. "He fucking knew about Rana being here... they might have even brought her with them."
Her mouth dropped open.
"It's his wife, Nyāti... she’d love nothing more than to padlock me to Rana’s arm because divorce plays havoc with her seating plan.”
“Are you close?”
William held up two adjacent fingers.
“Like this. Always... always. But he knew she was here all along, and I asked him, and he said nothing.”
They passed through the checkout and walked down through the car park, sitting together in the humming silence, the glowing signs over the bunker's exits painting the mottled slab walls a sickly, dream-like shade of green. When she looked at him again he was made to wonder if he had ever seen her face more clearly, despite the gloom, her person limned entirely within it as though by the hand of a determined artist.
"So... you're the last to know?"
"Looks like it." he sighed.
"How does it feel?"
William stared up at the concrete ceiling, its ponderous suspension conspiring with the ineluctable nature of her logic.
"It feels like I should be talking to Frost about something important." he conceded.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
Though they may not be literally similar, Heat Wave has stuff in common with one of my all-time favourites, MAC Ruffian Red. The latter is stronger, deeper and more opaque but has that same killer sideways twist and vintage soul that really elevates it into classic territory.
Situational lighting doesn't seem to have too much effect on Heat Wave, which should recommend it to those forced to labour in unflattering conditions. Wear time is great for something non-stodgy and the fade is slow and even. Its opacity is really peculiar, the Nars formula going on like dilute velvet, incredibly smooth and virtually sheenless, building and altering slowly with every micron's worth of thickness. You can definitely achieve full opacity and reproduce the colour in the swatches, but that's almost missing the point of this shade; its delightfully mutable translucence is something worth playing with.
About that omnisuitability: whilst Heat Wave is a good match with many faces in an objective sense, a lot of people will hell-no it on a subjective level because it's not a traditional, easily relatable look- neither truly red nor coral nor orange. But we shouldn't be basic and reactionary like that; some risks are worth taking and I would suggest that this shade is one of them. Always give yourself time to like something new and unexpected, especially if it's a wee bit more than what you're used to.
Below: the swatches. Heat Wave isn't as close to Lady Danger as a first glance might imply. Let your gaze settle on them for a while and the differences become clear, particularly in the top half of these swatches. LD is flatter, more explicitly orange and a lot less flattering; the effect is quite different so don't be put off trying HW if you just can't with the notorious Lady. Tenor Voice is a really clean pin-up red with a fractional blue lean, for contrast.
(L2R All MAC unless stated) Russian Red, Nars Heatwave, Lady Danger, Tenor Voice (LE), UD F-Bomb, So Chaud, Ruffian Red (LE)
a lot of cool stuff is emerging from using aged film. see more here
Alcohol suspended in generic cola slapped against Susan’s green dress from the cup in her hand and she scowled at the man seated before her; he sank from the noisy demonstration that had startled her, thick arms clenched in associative triumph. Beyond him, some few metres distant in a tall, octagonal, chain-link pound, a toothless parolee with gang insignia tattooed on his battered head saluted the crowd while his unconscious victim was dragged from it by his ankles. White light bleached the fight cage floor and made its neighbour colours vivid beyond toleration, the red and orange trunks favoured by the string of warm-up fighters glowing like the sun through cathedral glass. She handed her cup to Lilian and wrung the soda from her clothing. They sat close enough to experience the thudding reverberation and shots of red-laced saliva that flew out through the wire mesh, and more than close enough to dampen her palms and fill her chest with hammering anticipation. The mothballed ice-rink stunk of vinyl and armpits, split beer and cigarette smoke, senior members of the ruling gangster tribe enjoying the spectacle while their subordinates monitored the undercard and watched the crowd for trouble. Three rows down from their lofty seclusion, a lone woman sat amongst an assortment of professional gamblers and seedy, murine agents, her ash-blonde pony tail tucked beneath the collar of her puffer vest. Josephine lifted her private phone and took pictures of the women seated beneath her, the shots concealed amid those directed at the cage.
Petrouchka had disappeared two fights previously, secretive and sinister in a dress of murky Tyrian crépe and a little belle epoque brooch of dead white diamonds, but she made her way back toward their tier alone, ignoring the flesh banked on either side. She smoothed her skirt beneath her and sat down beside Lilian, falling to gazing at the latter's profile, her grey stare fixed and brilliant, as though wiped clean. Susan had already succumbed to the same wondering scrutiny. Lilian's nails were painted sombre rosewood brown, matching the discolouration encircling her wrists, if not the pink abrasions on the right side of her throat and running down beneath the neck of her black dress, powdered over, though still apparent to the particular observer. There was a darkness, half-suggested and half apparent, about her mouth, disguised by the deep shade of her lipstick. She seemed either weary or preoccupied. Petrouchka leaned over and dug a finger into Susan's ribs.
“Look...” the vampyre exclaimed down at the cage. “I think I recognize!”
On the floor of the pen stood the protagonists they had awaited, the first an enormous Chechen exile with close-combat scars recorded on his elephantine limbs and a light brown crop so flat it seemed to have taken the dome of his skull along with his hair. He stood in the midst of the ring and roared like a hormonal stag, forming his great arms into a sarcous arc from which the vessels bulged as though attempting to escape his lobster-coloured skin. The second wore a silver gimp hood perforated at the crown to expose a haughty hoplite plume of scarlet hair and decorated with thunderbolt appliqués. Framed within a martial context, William’s proportions found a sudden and unmistaken raison d'être, all the more intimidating for the white strobe that rendered him arrantly radiant, his variance redoubled by both the flushed and sweating density of the neighbouring flesh and the swimming disparity posed by his own lamp-black tattoo. Its restless, almost painful contrast shifted against his back when he turned. His bare chest was emblazoned with her first name in huge black letters, some awkwardly inverted during their mirrored application. Petrouchka cackled, delighted.
“Lucky he put on chest.”
“Oh god..." Susan groaned. "That had better be magic marker." Through her hands she allowed herself another taste of William's flagrant, almost dizzying otherness while he stoked the crowd’s enmity with a circuit of the wire, careful to provide those ringside with a view of the insulting fingers he held up to their faces. A bloc of intoxicated Chechens chanted football songs and smashed their fists against the chain link as he drew closer; standing before them, he dragged the zip across his mouth, releasing a disturbing length of tongue and using it in an even more provocative manner between his fingers than the uncomplimentary gesture he had already offered. His contumely greatly amused Petrouchka, who stood up to catcall imperialist slogans.
The notional referee called William back and motioned to the bunny-eared card girl; she swayed into the ring in a glittering green bustier so tight that her breasts almost met her pancaked chin. On her exit, the match was declared and the veteran lurched forward, shooting a massive fist at William’s gloved head. He took it glancingly and roped his opponent’s neck with an arm, raising thick wrinkles with the lock exerted on his jowls and nape until its victim began to paw at him frantically; William let him go, eyes bright as he watched him stumble backward, a deep, throttled colour darkening his head. When the man lumbered again toward him he weathered the blows swung at his mask with his arms by his sides, inviting more. Petrouchka shrieked at him, small fists balled against her throat in an attitude of fierce elation. Susan clutched the hem of her dress and compelled herself to breathe, blinking away the sight of the impacts, tasting the brutality that displaced the air around them like exhaust fumes. The behemoth snapped William’s head back over his shoulder, snarling in ursine fury as it rolled forward again to stare at him; beside her, Lilian lay one leg over the other as she gazed down at the cage, William's opponent trailing him as the latter walked in reverse, conducting them both past the man’s compatriots where he came to a halt and lay prone against the wire. The Chechen fell on him in an impressive flurry, thudding his fists into his midriff with grunting dedication but in the midst of the assault the masked figure lifted his arms and leapt up, catching hold of the links and swinging out to loop both legs around the man's neck, dragging him against the mesh. Blinded by the black silk groin that had taken possession of his face, the contender flailed while his supporters heaved the cage wall en mass to shake William loose, until his head twisted toward them in a manner so startlingly demonic that some of them let go and stumbled back. Planting his feet on the man’s shoulders, he kicked the Chechen backward, slamming him into the ground and splattering the canvas with his sweat.
William dropped, smoothing back the tail of hair that crowned him and circling the man who climbed slowly to his knees, seizing his head suddenly and sinking his teeth into his bawling victim's cheek. With a mouthfull of blood he turned to spray the howling supporters like an expectorating fire eater, splattering red into their rage-flushed faces until the bleeding man wiped blindly at his leg and brought him down; Susan stood up, slapping her hand to her mouth as William was pinned to the mat and pounded with a mortar-like fist until his hooded head should have given way into a fractured pulp. She shouted at the men who bayed against the wire and threw her cup of ice and cola on them while her favourite tired of the beating and butted his opponent viciously, hurling him sideways and flipping back onto his feet. The knee he swung into the Chechen’s features flattened his nose across the side of his face and snapped his peg-like teeth; Susan felt it in the base of her spine, the vampyre rejoicing, whistling through her fingers. Lilian leant forward to light a cigarette even as Susan swore to herself.
“You wouldn't want it so bad if it didn’t flip off half of fucking Grozny.” the former assured her, standing and making her way toward the bookmaker that had accepted their wagers along with those other punters versed in William’s technique.
The latter concluded his performance with a showboating roundhouse kick, whipped from a turn into the staggering Chechen's profile, felling him as though he were a rotten cedar. Blood polished the lower half of his silver mask and ran into the black letters smeared across his chest, gleaming on his pointed teeth when took the card girl’s bunny ears and placed them on his head to walk a victory lap of the cage. Lilian returned with their winnings, frowning behind her cigarette and apportioning the money between them.
Small throngs of groupies and sweating, pink-faced fans crowded the corridors as they made their way through the battered backstage stalls. Lilian hived off without explanation, phone against her ear, leaving Susan and Petrouchka to locate William. They found him in a stainless steel cubical performing primitive ablutions with a black, patched hose, aiming the water into his face and spitting at the drain. Susan stood against the wall with his fresh clothes folded on her arm, her stare wide and unblinking while he chuckled in Russian with the vampyre. Emerging, he punted Petrouchka a portion of his elastic-banded winnings; she drew a note to hand to Susan.
“Kotik... buy new dress.” she urged. “Really, you are pretty girl... why do you wear these thing, like babushka?” The little vampyre handed her another and patted her hand sympathetically. William sucked back a smile, though Susan's stare grew wider still as she beheld the left side of his face, prompting him to consult the shard of mirror glued to the wall beside him. The eye had been fixed in that state provoked by violence, lurid chartreuse green around a sliver of pupil while the other had returned to a more equable appearance.
"Whoops." he murmured, flicking at the lid. "Monster eye... stays like that if I take too many on one side." He glanced at her sideways, stepping into his trousers. "Ça va, Christabel?"
"No, I... yes..." Susan replied, both arms clutching the winnings secreted in her handbag, her concerns clumping together in her throat. "How can you just... walk out there like that? Everyone can see you..."
"I think the take would drop if I made them turn the lights off."
"But... you look so... obvious, god... it does my head in. I thought you had another fight...”
“The guy bailed.”
“He probably didn’t want to get battered into intensive care by a masked fruitcake.”
“It was good enough for Ramzan.”
“I think you've still got Ramzan stuck in your teeth.”
He ran his tongue over them as he buttoned his green shirt then leant over the sink, sucking a draught of hand sanitizer from the plastic bottle.
“Where’s Frost?” he inquired through a mouthful of suds. Susan shrugged and glanced behind them. “Shit... we're supposed to be keeping an eye on her...”
“I don’t think she’d let us tie her up.” she muttered. "But while we actually have money we should go to the shops... we're out of almost everything." When she turned to question Petrouchka the vampyre was as absent as the subject of his query, having melted back into the heavily-fleshed darkness outside the changing room.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
another good detail shot by R.
I take these lovely blue (only the extreme centre has this pink flush) flowers for granted because they are so easy to grow, split up and move around. They're one of the first things to flower here in early spring along with the Persicaria knotweeds. They have a fucking peculiar smell which is quite pervasive on a still day; crushed strawberry + juiced violets + household bleach + foxy, animalic musk as per Lilium pyrenaicum.
It smells medium blue, if that's any help to you.
“I thought you were joking.” Susan confessed as she gathered her hair and tied it back from her face. William glanced at her from behind the steering wheel. “Well... I don’t think of you as a rural person.” she laughed.
"Hillbilly snakeface." he reminded her. "I'm so rural I feel like pulling over every time I see three goats in one place."
"I'm scared to ask why."
"It makes you feel like... you know... something's going on..." he explained earnestly, if unsuccessfully. Susan turned her smile back to the damp olive-green and saturate black of the old growth wood enclosing them, its darkness pierced by lemon-pale sunlight where the red oaks had succumbed, their slender descendants yearning toward the canopy which otherwise permitted no such intrusion. Ponderous branches almost met over the dirt road. The smell of rain-soaked soil, the deep mounded litter beneath the boles and even its unseen strata of stone rose, cool and pond-like, about them in the open car, counteracting the somnolent influence of both the shade and the sound of the engine. Furtive birds stooped across the way before them and vanished into the gloom on either side, emitting single-note alarms. The jagged, high-key stripe of light falling between the branches overhead bisected the road and flashed up over the bonnet.
She handed him a banana from her mirrored bag, pausing in the midst of peeling her own to watch him bite through the thick yellow skin and consume the stalk as though it were no less delectable than the rest. The violence with which he stamped down the brake forced her nose into the fruit and she exclaimed while William leapt the door, jumping the tiny stream that had cut into the verge and wading no small distance into the trees where she lost sight of him. He returned some minutes later with a T-shirt full of toadstools, their slick ruby caps spotted icing-sugar white.
“Isshûk.” he explained as he shook them into the plastic bag she held out with a dubious expression. “Viking sulphate.”
"Poisonous." she told him.
"C'est égal... everything good is poisonous. They’re fucking potent around here, I can tell you that much... dogboys go through sackfulls of them before Savhain.” She looked at him blankly. “Halloween, cloudcheeks. It's always sooner than you think.” William assured her with an anticipatory smile, rubbing his hands together. “We’ll light fires and get fucked up."
“There seems to be a lot of that.”
He crossed himself emphatically at her lack of enthusiasm.
"Are you suggesting we do otherwise... what next, poupée? Harpoon Father Claus? Spit-roast his sparkly trolls?”
"I don't really do that holiday stuff." she sighed.
"Yes you do..." he grinned, patting her back as she frowned at him.
There was nothing to herald the location of the gates at which he braked again, their silvered shape set so far back from the road that Susan would have driven past them though their dead-wood arch towered into the living branches. The horse chains that had raised them were still lashed around their union, wound slackly about each bole where they rusted slowly into the wood. The great plank gate itself, as tall as William, had been secured with an enormous heart-shaped lock, hand-forged from native iron and as plain in its intent as in its function. Leaving the car on the road, they stood together before the cyclopian construction, Susan waving away the midges that whined by her ears while William climbed up onto the gate and aimed a piercing whistle into the woods beyond. Though she did not perceive it he received an answer, caught an overhanging branch and pulled himself up into a sugar maple, reaching into its fork to retrieve a key as imposing as the lock below. She frowned up at the apex of the arch as he let himself down; something rusted and metallic had been recently removed or determinedly effaced from a peg, leaving only an ocherous stain on the wood.
"What was that?" she inquired, intrigued by the reluctance that delayed his reply; William kept his voice low while he heaved the gate across the trail.
“You and your beady eyes. It was an îve, a symbol... this is a hahdri... alujha land... they all used to have their own sign, but they take them down now. Makes you too easy to find.”
“Do they know I'm coming?” she whispered from behind the wheel as the Jaguar chugged beneath the arch.
“I told Cay the deal and he doesn’t have a problem with it. But...” He twisted around to look back at the road while they continued on down the drive, which was little more than two dark wheel tracks pressed into the undergrowth by infrequent vehicles. “We’re three days out from a full moon, so there'll be a lot of fucking itches that need scratching... and someone’s just been through here so I’m guessing there’ll be dralna... ignore their bullshit, and don’t, er, look in their handbags.” He smiled again at her uncertainty. “Caleb’s crew lives here, off the grid... they rest horses, breed a few for beer money. He wants me to look at a mare he’s buying. Have a look around... it’s nice.”
Susan murmured to herself as they drove by the shambolic remains of a stone hut, some abandoned, rudimentary edifice almost abolished by the trees. The vast, hand-cut stumps of original forest spoke of Sisyphean colonial labours even as they mouldered back into the earth, the wilderness having eaten of the doomed pilgrim flesh it had starved and defeated. That they were entering a valley was only vaguely communicated through the surrounding trees, which ended abruptly in a cleared circle of habitation soaked in the drowsy colours of a clement afternoon. Four modest weatherboard cottages raised at the start of the previous century squatted at a respectful distance from each other around a huge barn of the same vintage, all five buildings rendered in similar shades of steel and shady river blue by thick milk paint, sharing an open yard crossed by foot-beaten paths. A weathered company of caravans hunched at the edge of the cleared land where the trees reached over to drop leaves on their tin roofs, the stone hearths and wooden beer crates arranged nearby speaking for their erstwhile occupants. They left the Jaguar beside three other cars in the shade at the head of the clearing. Susan caught a glimpse of further open ground beyond the buildings, a lengthy avenue of paddocks flanked on either side by forest. The barn itself seemed to grow as they approached it, spreading out to occupy the clearing with its gabled enormity, roof curved like a boat’s hull and studded with tiny windows. Behind its skirt of seeding grass she saw a neat footing of boulders buried to their shoulders about the foundations. To the west, a long elliptical yard was laid out and floored with sawdust; the vast hangar-like darkness behind the plank door housed a company of horses dozing in their stalls, nodding and swinging their lazy tails against the flies.
She wandered up to the railing with William and smiled at the only figure that she recognized, his green mohawk rendered less distinct by the growth of his dark hair. He drew a shrewd gaze from her feet to her forehead and reached under the rail to shake her hand, turning with William toward the warmblood mare he had been called to examine. It stood with its great hindquarters twitching against the biting flies, composed of varying shades of fumed oak bay that darkened to a bitter coffee black at its extremities. The polish of its summer coat drew each vessel and plane in soft relief upon its roman nose; Susan stood with her chin on the railing, enjoying its sweet, malted scent.
William took long steps back from the horse, consulting his own almost infinite mnemonic catalogue of merit and defect. Caleb sat down on a block of wood by the door of the barn and lit a cigarette, letting the hand fall between his knees.
“I mean, she looks fuckin great, but I can't get her much outta second gear, be fucked if I can say why...” he suggested. “Can’t do a prix if she can’t step out right. Gonna rain tomorrow, truck’s coming for her if I go cold.” Susan’s attention was drawn past the railing by the approach of a small knot of men from the distant field, shirtless, sunburnt and sweat-stained, chain saws and hatchets swinging from their dirty hands. Two carried shotguns slung across their shoulders on makeshift straps of gaffing tape. They did not interrupt William's observations but banked in a drift against the railing on either side of her as they set down their tools and swore at the heat of the day. She felt the weight of more than casual vulgarity in their interest; the men had brought the forest with them in the stares that regarded her so deliberately, their imagined usage of her body as they considered its attractions plainly written. The darkness of her own responding glare seemed to feed rather than deter the attention, nor was their host entirely immune to the phenomenon, though he seemed more conscious of its effect.
“We brought you some isshûk.” William observed, his voice drifting around the back of the horse; she remembered the plastic bag of mushrooms in her hand. Nodding, Caleb turned his gaze on the miscreants before directing her around the southern corner of the barn.
“Annick’s back there with the goats. You might wanna...”
Grateful, she followed the narrow little path past the main door. A lock, as stout as the one securing the gate, hung from the woodwork, which was itself reinforced with straps of iron nailed across the lower panels; the thick blue paint was younger than the wind-worn colour on the walls, roughly daubed over long, hatched gouges in the planks, some of which had been cracked through, and reinforced on the opposite side. The yard itself was devoid of the fowl and smaller animals she might have expected and the belled beasts mentioned by her host were easy to locate at the edge of the clearing, tall, lop-eared nannies tethered in a row before a pen containing their prancing offspring. A woman looked over her shoulder from the bucket on which she sat, lean and smoothly inornate in a plain T-shirt of faded khaki and jeans, milking the largest goat into a steel pail. Her copper-black hair was braided tightly back from her broad, grave face, crow’s feet gathered at the corners of her eyes. Two little girls sat in the grass flattened by the bleating kids, playing with a bowl of water and battered coffee cups, their dark, whisping hair tied in knots upon their heads.
“I’m Susan..." the latter offered. "I came out with William.”
The woman wiped her hand on her thigh and offered it to her.
“Annick... that’s Frida, and the little one, she’s just Girl for now.” she said, nodding in turn toward the children.
"We brought mushrooms..." The woman smiled to herself knowingly against the soft flank of the goat as she considered what must have driven her visitor from the yard while Susan sat down in the grass, feeling it compress beneath her legs, and inspected one of the amanita, intrigued by its confectionary perfection. “It’s lovely here.” she remarked, turning to look back through the barn. As she did so she glimpsed the small black pistol strapped beneath the denim over her hostess's ankle.
“Can’t come out of the Five Nations and not like the sight of trees.”
“Is it all yours?”
Annick smiled again.
“Don’t so much own a hahdri as it owns you.” She moved on to the next nanny with her pail, the warm, damp smell of the beasts and their milk sitting heavy in the air around them. The girls crawled under the little fence, the eldest in a caramel corduroy pinafore; the younger wore a Barbie T-shirt and shorts and leant against a goat, directing sidelong gazes at the stranger from a round face faintly shaded with a fade of darker colour on her nose and forehead, a pattern at once ghostly and striking. The sound of feminine conversation turned them back toward the barn; a handful of women in shoulder-baring dresses, skinny, low-slung jeans and charm-laden jewellery walked out of the wood behind the caravans, clutching flour and oatmeal sacks tied off tightly and bulging with some hidden weight. A trio of younger girls, barely into their second decade but already wistful doppelgängers, trailed behind them dressed in careful imitation of their elders, who shooed flies from their faces with maple switches and seemed to agree on something as they approached, chuckling amongst themselves. Susan had seen some of them at the party attended by Caleb; they wore artful lipstick and spiky eyes in defiance of the rustic nature of their errand.
“Annick... are you doing that by hand? Get a thrall.” one of them called, shaking her head as they strolled by and hooking a thumb toward the barn. “Are Cay and Lamb back here?” The contents of her sack slid in a restless circle against the woven plastic.
“They’re all back there...” Annick replied. “Don’t you keep them waiting.”
The witches glanced at one another.
“We never do.” they laughed, setting off. Susan looked to her hostess while in the yard the womens' silhouettes cast their purposive familiarity with its inhabitants in a somewhat theatrical light.
“You’re not... with them?” she asked, reaching out to pluck a twig from the nearest girl’s hair. Annick shrugged.
“Kind of half-way, I guess... I'd let it all go, if things weren't like they are. Too hard, these days, too hard on your family... I don’t want it for my girls.” Once more she sat back from the goat and picked up her stool, moving to the next and muttering to herself. “Running with all that, finding someone like their father... then losing him, losing their land to dead meat, ending up on the spike in the city. Better they meet a lawyer, find a nice condo, stay out of the dralna.” She laughed. “Damn, but I hate it when I sound like my mother.” she added, nodding toward William through the shade of the building. “Rough ride you picked there.” Feminine laughter drifted their way on the breeze as two witches told a joke between them, their hands on his arms and gazes on his face as he indulged them. Susan shook her head.
“He’s much easier than he looks.” she smiled. Annick glanced up at her misunderstanding.
“Sweeter than treacle, no doubt. Aint why the Black Ops want to bag him up, though. And it aint why the dead meat are on his brother.” The blunt force of her language struck Susan unexpectedly. “Tie that lead for me? She’s going to step back into this.”
"You don't like Edward either?"
"Didn't drive all the way to his show for the pictures." The woman shook her head. "Less said about some things, the better."
“I was thinking, if... I mean, if anyone really wanted to get them, they could have done it by now.” The sound of Susan's own naivety embarrassed her and she looked down at the grass. The eldest child arranged the coffee cups beside the pail, watching her mother fill them halfway before taking one to their visitor. “Thank you Frida, that’s lovely manners.” she told her, setting aside her disquiet. Not to be outdone, the nameless toddler forsook her caprine support and lurched forward to lean against her knee with a look of doubtful inquiry into her unfamiliar features, the puzzling colour of her hair, and finally the pendant that hung from her neck. Susan handed it to her, and the little girl dropped down onto her haunches to examine the jade at length.
“Guess you can look at it that way, but Girl there... she doesn’t have a name because her parents didn’t get round to giving her one. Got pulled out of their car by a bag van. Caleb’s brother and his old lady... a year ago now.” She shrugged back her plait before resuming her chore. “We’re not all the way out here for the great schools.”
“Don't you worry?” Susan asked over the child’s head.
“Everyone should worry.” Annick spoke with a stoicism that darkened as her testimony concluded, sliding the pail out from under the nanny as she stood up and tipped her head toward the barn once more. “We’ll be okay, til someone gives us up and they come out with enough heat to take us in. We’ll all be like your friend there, one day. Last ones standing.”
From the yard, the witches quit the men and wandered back toward their vehicles, calling cajoling farewells and invitations to William and Caleb that brought Susan’s teeth together in her frown, arranging their sacks in the trunks and trading cars as they negotiated their various destinations. Two members of the cutting gang broke rank and begged passage, leaning over the doors of the cars and attempting licentious persuasion that was ridiculed and rebuffed. They were left behind in a blue cloud of exhaust fumes while Annick penned the goats and hoisted her youngest ward onto her hip, committing Frida’s hand to Susan’s. Together they made their way toward the yard, pausing to pour the milk out to a stall busy with spotted calves.
The bay mare carried William in a circle between the railing, his pale face expressionless as he assayed its gait. It threw out its lacquered hooves in taut, collected deliberation, mane lofting and falling against its neck as it passed them by, listening as closely to his murmured requests for change of pace and lead as he did to its footfalls. Satisfied, he let the mare halt before the barn door where it dropped its head, its breath scattering the sawdust as it nosed the small puddle of milk the child had poured for it.
“She's short on this one.” he said, patting the animal’s right shoulder while Caleb scratched his neck and shook his head.
"There you go." he shrugged.
“Got a pick?”
Heaving himself off the stump, their host went in search of the implement while the unnamed infant squirmed and reached for William, jogging impatiently; he accepted his admirer with both hands, forestalling a less equable demonstration by sitting her in the crook of his elbow. The child lifted Susan’s pendant from her chest and showed it to him, cackling as he allowed her to place it on his nose, then in his mouth. He took the pack of cigarettes that she extracted from his pocket from her, spitting out the pendant while the horse began to doze beneath them.
“When you're twelve I’ll buy you your own.” he laughed. “Don’t tell your aunt and uncle. How’s it hanging, Annick?” he added, nodding down at Susan, who leant against the doorframe. “Christabel been telling you about my nasty h-o-e s-h-i-t?” He spelt the last two words out in deference to his fellow passenger.
“You said shit.” Frida informed him, returning with her father.
“Young lady, you go to a much better school than I did.” William replied. He slid down from the horse’s back, eyes suddenly wide. “Look out, the baby’s going for the jugular!” he exclaimed, lurching backward and passing the girl over his shoulder, bending to roll her across his back and catch her as she fell, shrieking with exhilaration. Susan stared in bemusement while Girl bitterly resisted his attempts to hand her over, grasping his shirt with both fists. “They can fly unassisted until they’re four years old...” he added, turning as though to toss his burden over the railing.
“We’re four hours from a fuckin defibrillator, so quit giving your girlfriend a fuckin heart attack.” Caleb smirked.
Extracting himself from the child's clutches William bent to pick up the horse's hoof, knocking the sawdust from its figured arc and drawing the tacks from the horn, running his fingers around it slowly in search of the pathology he suspected. He used the hooked tip of his nail to remove a piece of road metal and looked up as the animal flicked her heavy tail.
“There's a pissy little abscess, right up there along the bone.” he related, letting her foot down. “She's good everywhere else. Clean that up and you've got a twenty grand ride for eight K.”
The figures grouped about the railing shook their heads and murmured at his prognosis.
“You’d pay that for her as she is?” Caleb frowned, handing him a can of beer.
“I’ll swap the jag for that horse and this crazy baby.” he replied as the girl was returned to him. His host shook his head.
“You’d have yourself a fuckin deal if I wanted any blood of mine living under the same roof’s your Judas fuckin brother.”
“Not this again.”
“Yeah it’s this again... fuckin dirty bastard...”
“Who’s been putting it around this time? Starts with S, ends with a tuck?”
Drawing himself up, the lycanthrope hooked a thumb in his jeans and spat over the railing, leaning an elbow on the wood.
“It aint like I like Siobhan, but it’s comin in from all points... Ed took a neckfucker payout, now he’s just waiting on word to start in on the rest of us... you know he’s mean enough to do it too, so don’t fuckin look like that.” Caleb related. The idlers behind them voiced their agreement.
"We all fuckin know he is." one of them asserted, his statement like something shot from a shaken bottle; he was broad, overalled and ponderously-formed, heavily-countershaded by the intensity of the tan on the upper portions of his arms and shoulders. A gap between his lower teeth formed a berth for his drooping cigarette.
"Mallet, how about you sit the fuck down before I kick your asshole outta your ear? If anyone's gonna chew this pasty fuck a new one, it'll be me, thanks all the fuckin same." Still shaped by the tensile strength of the convictions they visibly stowed in the face of their leader's displeasure, Caleb's subordinates raised dust with their boots as they straightened up off the railing, Mallet favouring the discretion recommended to him.
“Honestly, I don’t think Edward's involved with anything like that.” Susan ventured. “He sacked Opal the other day... they've had a huge falling out.” Her remark drew every surrounding gaze toward her, and she coloured slowly while Caleb shook his head.
“That’s real nice of you to say, but this shit goes way past Opal. She’s just the bitch of a bitch of another bitch.” he replied. His eyes stayed with her, their deep green enclosed in vivid, lamp-black circles, the muscles in his jaw and bare arms flexing at the prospect he expounded. “And old Ed’s what you might call an evil fuckin genius... he got a tongue of his own for refuting this shit, so you tell him we're all fuckin ears.”
William finished his beer and crushed the can in his hand with a mimed, eye-rolling roar to amuse the child on his arm.
“I don’t think he hears too well these days.” he admitted. “He's solid, though, and I don't say that for my health. But I'm happy to discuss it further, if anyone else is.” The expression he offered around the yard did not ease his companions' scowls, but Susan watched the potential coiling behind them fade as none of them were tempted to accept the invitation implied.
“Then I suggest you pull him off that hooker and get him to fuckin clarify.” murmured Caleb.
“What’s a hooker?” Frida inquired.
“Never mind, sweetheart.”
"I've been trying." William admitted, patting the horse's flank. "Was this everything? We've got to get back."
Girl flung herself face down into the grass and wailed passionately upon discovering she could not catch him up as he sat down behind the wheel of the Jaguar. The dramaturgical ardour of her demonstration caused him to sigh and rise once more, stuffing the bag of dope into the glovebox while Susan shook her head at him from the passenger seat.
“Remember... no, not try again.” she told him. He grimaced at the ascending volume of the child’s entreaties and walked back across the yard to hoist her from the ground; she climbed onto his shoulders in order to avoid Annick’s patient attempts at retrieval as the sun flared and dipped below the roof of the barn. William let her down into his arms and pressed a kiss to both her ears, stroking the fox-brown lick of hair back on her head while she allowed herself to be consoled, and eventually transferred into the woman’s charge.
Susan’s eyes stayed with him all the way down the meandering trail. He smiled down at her questioningly from the gate as he replaced its key.
“Nothing...” she replied, though she continued her inscrutable observation. Finale sunlight, swimming with dust and miniature fauna decanted from the overhanging branches laid itself across the lane in stripes of bronze and secret purple; he slowed the car in appreciation of both the evening and her regard until she leant across, stepping her foot down on the brake and drawing them into a halt in the midst of the way. Removing the glasses from his head, Susan set them on the dash and turned to kiss him, reflecting on the strange, privileged intimacy of the act itself, at once symbolic and intrinsic. The light shifted, darkening her skin and turning her into a subtle, private version of herself, her warm arm curling around his shoulder. "I heard you the other night, out on the balcony. I don't think you weak, just because you're not mean or hard..." she told him. "I think you soft, and I think you kind, and... I am in love with you... I just... didn't realize." She watched his eyes darken as she spoke. "I'm that baby... when you leave, all I want to do is lie down on the grass and scream." He smiled, inviting her into his lap, and she sat back against him, taking the wheel as the Jaguar rolled forward. William retrieved his glasses and arranged them on her head while she steered in a leisurely meander.
"You might want to think twice about getting down like that with an ethnic minority, Christabel... I smell troubled times, and I'm pretty sure I saw pointy white hoods back there."
"I don't care. Use your ghetto powers on them."
"You don't care now. You might, one day."
"Don't worry." she smiled. "If anything happens, I'll protect you."
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
Dear readers, I just put my fucking back out packing up my mother's house and that crunch was the sound of a final straw snapping so it's looking like I'll have to go on blog hiatus or post minimally for a few more weeks. Just while this blizzard of real life fuckery subsides into something more manageable. I can't write to any standard right now and since titty shots won't sustain your interest, it's best for everyone if I just let us all off the hook for a while.
Cross my heart I will be fully back once we have gotten over this hump of highly textural situationism with construction money shots and procedural remarks. And lipstick reviews. Darksided shit. Complaining, etc.
Cheers for your understanding. Will still drop the odd thing as I get the chance.
“And like that, Kala'amātya was who he had been before we left the mountains, as though nothing good had ever happened, and I was not his brother. When he stood up, Rana saw him coming and climbed over her chair to get away. He went after her and didn’t stop.” William related. “He bought Helaine's body from the midden-keepers and carried her back to her house that night..." He saw her blind eyes as he closed his own, her stained, drowned shape in his brother's arms, the shadows of the branches sliding slowly across her dead face under an unfinished moon. "When we got there, the dralna were already going through her things, taking all her books away. It felt like I was burying him with her. We left for Paris, and he’s never been back. He won’t even fly over it.”
Nausea rolled over Susan and she sat up on the bed, pulling the quilt around herself.
“Why didn’t you do something?”
“She knew a long time before we did... months before the militia came, she made me promise if she was arrested I wouldn’t let him intervene, that it would play out in its own way. Helaine was not someone you went against... I don't know how to explain it... armies marched for weeks around her hood. You did not say no to her.” he sighed. “It was easier for her to go, because she knew he couldn't. All this time I’ve asked myself... what would have happened if I’d gone against her wishes? I couldn’t do it then, and I don’t know if I can now.”
She watched him stand up and reach into the chest at the end of the bed, its bronze handles chiming against the escutcheons as he removed something from it. Susan accepted the parcel he handed her almost warily, unravelling from yellowed linen a miniature portrait on a smooth-grained disc of ivory, full of deft and germane detail recorded by a faithful hand. At first its loveliness disarmed her and she enjoyed it, lifting it to the light to obtain a better view, but as the features spoke she let her hands fall into her lap, lips parted in an expression of abiding dread. Though the subject’s shoulders were robed in the porcelain-blue silk reserved for a woman of high station, her face was neither possessed of bland, titled conceit nor was it unfamiliar. Silver-blonde hair strayed from her simple crowning braid; the woman's pale stare caused Susan to lift a hand to her own cheek in a failed attempt to say her name.
“I couldn't see it until they were together.” said William quietly. “It's coming back to Frost in pieces, so she thinks she’s going crazy... it’s the way she knows him, but can’t help herself, just like Helaine. He can’t see it at all, or won’t... I don't know which it is."
“Petrouchka knew her...”
“I met Pet at Helaine’s place... they were tight, before my brother. She used to eat the pervs and freeloaders who overstayed at their house parties. The witches say birth cleans the slate... you’re not supposed to know the ones you’ve met before... it's like looking into the sun, but Pet was dead when they met... it must've bent the needle. She knew her straight away.”
Susan considered the perverse immortality of love and loss, how both might willfully persist, ignoring the petty order ruling union and division. She bowed her head beneath the quilt, drawing it into a cowl.
“Why?” she whispered.
“The dragon loves the pearl.” he sighed. "They can only see each other."
They sat together in the silence, both grateful for it.
“William... you have to tell her. If I was Lilian and I found out that you knew, I’d hate you.”
“I promised Helaine... you don’t fuck with the dralna, Christabel, christ... I don’t know if I can.”
“Then tell your brother.”
William lay down on the bed with his hands over his face.
The small glowing screen of his telephone flashed repeatedly, relating the pre-dawn hour and the caller's tenacity. William rose, taking care not to disturb his companion from the troubled sleep that had curled her legs and pushed her fists beneath her pillow. Out on the balcony he obliged his own need to escape the enclosure of the building, the feeling of its weight on the back of his neck and of not being able to see beyond walls. The darkness had brought the trees much closer to the house and turned the grass into a cordon against their vast, untended presence. He did not know how he had come to be staring at such wilderness from within a static pile, remembering its inverse, descrying the dusty stone and mud brick shapes crouched around good water from the shimmering wastes that were to him the essence and the locus of existence. Thoughts of Lilian and her predecessor merged, twisted into union by the wind that blew eternally against them; how he was to speak to her of Helaine bewildered him with its torturous complexity, and William let the prospect sink back into the deep corpus of matters he was able to ignore. The blinking telephone was more difficult to disregard. Bede's name flashed again, petitioning him mutely, while beneath him on the grass a figure stepped from the corner of the house with the poise of an actor intent upon an audience, walking to the edge of the stonework around the swimming pool. Rana looked up at him through the darkness with an expression that might have seemed exultant, if her face had not begun to wear the dissolution that was suffered by the rest of her. The dress she had lived in had fallen victim to the same attrition, torn around its hem where she had dragged it over walls and vegetation. In spite of it he thought there was something faintly luminous about her, though her image was deeply contaminated by the weight of his perceptions.
She walked back to the wall beneath the balcony and grasped the heavy copper piping, exerting all the strength and fidelity remaining to her to effect an ascent. William watched her obliquely as she rolled over the railing, sought to compose herself, then moved behind him, her gaze enjoying him without requiring consent; when she spoke, the sound rasped like metal over ice, an ugly, toneless babel.
"She... gone, before you know. I come for you. What..." She shook a hand at the door in her frustration, unable to birth the words. When he looked at her directly he found the impression he had gathered from a distance was correct; her fingers were stained a deep translucent blue beneath their skin, like dying flesh around a wound, the colour creeping in narrow strokes along her arms like the rills bleeding from her eyes, darkened to the chill hue of their blood. “Lost, without my hand..." she croaked.
"Avi'ashān?" he asked finally. She smirked in reply as she came around him to examine his expression, scouring it for cues that might betray him; he caught her arm and swung her back when she started for the French doors, stationing himself so that she could make no further attempt in their direction. The nature of the dissuasion seemed to astound her and Rana struggled once more for words, spitting them out piecemeal.
“She thinks you... strong... for you both?”
“No..." he admitted. "She thinks me weak, but doesn’t mind, and I don't mind, because I love her, tellement... beaucoup." Her lips slid back further over her disarrayed teeth. "I'd give everything you ever were for a single word from her, so go away. Sis’thle nya'n si el’yeh.” William recommended, heading back into the bedroom.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce