Day 8: Companion
“I don’ need your spells. I can do this on my own. I know th’way back.”
She is squirming on the table. She doesn’t know the way back, but she keeps insisting that she does.
“We will see what you know when we are finished. I am not about to send you off into the forest Wilde without being prepared.” Maggie keeps stirring at the sweating pot, her silvery hair slipping out of her pins.
The forest Wilde is a scary place. Some people say it is haunted. Of course, as most idle gossip contains seeds of truth, this tale is no exception. The forest is haunted, though not by what people conjure up in their boring imaginations. There are no ghosts or ghouls or wraiths laying in wait to drag them to Hades. It is haunted by me.
Or so the stories go. I, personally, do not venture into such gloomy and depressing places more than is necessary on principle, and necessity does not seem to beckon often. When it does, I do my civil duty and leave small traces of destruction to provide fodder for the ever growing wild-fire that is my reputation.
It is beneficial to us for the forest Wilde to remain a hedge of protection from the village, as we are best left to ourselves.
Maggie needs more Life, which is why this unfortunate girl has found her way onto our kitchen table. I have an inexhaustible supply of life. My, ah, condition, as Maggie likes to call it, ensures that Life does not run dry in my veins. But Maggie does not have my good fortune and the resultant effect of mortality requires that she “borrow” Life, a little here and there, from unsuspecting townsfolk.
Please understand–we are not barbarians, my friends. On the contrary, we are rather sophisticated.
We generally leave our unsuspecting contributors better off than we found them, though I do admit this is largely at Maggie’s request, with her tender, caring heart and doe-eyes. I find it difficult to deny her as she has sacrificed so much for my marred existence.
We give our contributors new memories, better lives. It is not hard to do, for what is elusive to general human intuition is not elusive to me: most people seem to wear their deepest desires on the outer sheen of the frontal lobe, in an easy to find and unprotected place. Once accessed, it is nearly effortless to coax them towards slipping into the new skin of their desires. Unfortunately for the world, I have found that many minds are really just foul-mouthed trolls hunkering down in the caves of men’s skulls. On these occasions I do a bit of Erasing and Re-working, and the resulting new specimen of human is much more pleasant. I really am doing the world a service. They should be thanking me rather than fearing my unscrupulous imminence. Besides, a few lives here and there in exchange for a human purification system is a bargain if I ever saw one.
I watch Maggie from the shadows and I can feel the girls pulse in my fingertips. It is nice to feel a pulse this vivacious. It has been a while.
The girl, whose name is Maia–a delicious round name that rolls off the tongue–squirms harder. Maggie pushes up her sleeves, stirring more vigorously than before.
“Let me go,” Maia moans, but her fight is slowly seeping out as Maggie mixes faster and thin strands of color are being sapped from Maia’s hair. Her fear is palpable in the air, it’s scent is licking at my taste buds and filling my nostrils. There are times when I find the fear refreshing, but today is not one of them. Beneath her fear is fierceness and dedication, hard work and loyalty. She is rather soft and caring underneath her calloused veneer, like violets and lilacs growing in volcanic ash.
Maggie does not know I have been watching Maia for some time now. Her mop of red hair spills over the table and I remember days when the sun would glint off the crown of her head and cast rainbows. Typical human eyes could not see this, of course, but there are certain advantages that come with being considered “undead.” I have seen Maia give food to beggars and welcome the dead and dying into her home to ease the pain of their passing. She is truly a saint among men.
It was I who fetched her, I who brought her here to give Maggie a drop of her life. A few years can easily be returned to Maia, should I grant it. In fact, she can have eternity if she wishes. I am of a certain age where companionship is becoming desirable, and Maia seems to be the kind of soul who sees beauty where others see abomination. Is it so wrong to think she may find it within herself to love me?
I have not told Maggie of my plan, but she cannot be a thief of Life forever. Her time is coming soon and I need to be ready.
Maia stills on the table and her eyes cross lazily. Her hands go limp and her legs stop moving. Maggie’s hair is blonde again, but there are still streaks of grey threaded through her bun. She knows as well as I that time is taking its toll.
Wiping the back of her hand on her forehead she looks at me.
“It is done,” she pants, smiling weakly. “What future are you going to paint for this brave woman? She is Good. I can feel it in my blood.” She frowns for a moment and touches Maia’s arm softly, concern etched in her pretty features. “I am truly sorry, dear. But my brother needs me.”
Maggie’s face is full and beautiful. Her eyes have always been deep pools of unknowable grace and acceptance, galaxies hidden behind their warm, blue gaze. She looks back up at me, expecting an answer.
I emerge from the shadows and smile. “I will give her eternity.” My voice is liquid charm, sure and smooth.
Maggie’s eyes widen in confusion and terror.
“What? No! No, you must not do this! She has a life! You cannot take from her what was stolen from you! We promised, Godwin. Remember our vow!” Maggie’s eyes light up with that ferocity we share when we are convinced we are unshakably correct. I feel for her, and I do remember our vow. The bonds of our twin-ship were not severed when I was cursed. But she does not understand what awaits me when she slips from the fingers of this world.
“My darling sister, that was before the clutch of thousands of years made themselves apparent to me. I need a companion. I cannot be alone. Surely, you know this.” I cup my hand around her face and smooth away the worry lines that have formed in the corners of her eyes. Her hurt and panic are bleeding into my palm, fluttering butterflies in my hollowed joints.
Her lips quiver tremulously.
“Do you want me to be happy?” I ask softly. Painfully, she nods.
“Then let me have this chance.” Maggie closes her eyes and grabs my hand, closing her fingers over my own.
“Be careful,” she shudders, clenching her fists around the fabric of her skirts. I leave her rooted to the spot. Lifting Maia into my arms gently, I feel the edges of emotions begin to form in my heart that have long escaped my senses. Is it care? I have not cared for anyone but my sister in so long I am not sure. Shadows gather in the hollow of Maia’s porcelain neck and I can taste the salt and brine of ocean water on her dress. Hugging her warmth to my cold chest I step into the sunlight.
As I walk towards the forest Wilde with my future in my arms, I sense Maggie’s gaze on the back of my neck. I do not turn to see her sorrow chasing after me.