Chapter 48.4


When I regained control, the reaction from Elmiryn was almost immediate.

I could see her body tighten before she sat up and whipped her head around to look at me.

I gazed back at her, my forehead creased with concern. “Hello, Elmiryn.”

She just stared at me, her lips pressing thin.

Slowly, I started to advance back toward the containment circle. “You made Kali very uncomfortable. Please tell me you didn’t mean to.”

Elmiryn’s shoulders twitched up in the briefest of shrugs. “I didn’t mean to, but I can’t say I dislike the results.”

I frowned at her. Softly, I asked, “Why do you want them to stay afraid of you?”

Elmiryn’s brow tightened. “Why do you think?”

I sighed as I came to a stop near the edge of the circle. “I think part of you is feeling peevish. You resent their freedom.” 

My eyes tensed, and much quieter I murmured, “I think the other part of you still remembers how you lost control. You don’t want the others to let their guard down again.”

Elmiryn’s lip sneered. “Is that why I tried to trick Lethy into the circle with me?”

I smiled softly. “‘Lethy’…” I looked down at my shoes. “You care about her. I think you’re very sorry you resorted to that scheme.”

When my gaze lifted up again, Elmiryn’s face had twisted into one of deep anger.

“Oh I feel sorry, Nyx?” Elmiryn spat. 

I nodded. “Yes.” I held up a hand. “Because after the first six days, when the fevers and chest pains left you, you regained enough clarity to regret it all.”

I hugged myself around the stomach, my chin tucking in. “I’ve been watching. All this time. I could see your anguish. Your frustration.”

“So then you can see how much I hate myself, then?” Elmiryn snarled, jumping to her feet with clenched fists. 

She came right up to the containment line and glared down at me. “Do you see how much I hate the upside-downers, and the dream-eaters, and the Far Away Lady?”

Elmiryn struck her chest with her fists and yelled, “They laugh at me! They never let me forget!”

“So you don’t want anyone else to forget either,” I whispered.

“Because they’re fucking gullible!” she screamed at me, her shoulders coiling.

I shook my head slowly. “Because you care. You care what happens.”

“And do you care?” She hissed, tears streaming down her face. “If you do, you have a funny way of showing it.”

I didn’t shrink away. My lower lip pushed up, but I held Elmiryn’s eyes.

Then I did something that made Kali yell incoherently in my head.

I stepped over the line.

Continue ReadingChapter 48.4

Chapter 48.5


Elmiryn backed away from me quickly, the white of her eyes showing all around.

“The fuck are you doing?” she snarled at me.

“Getting closer,” I told her.

Getting us killed, more like! Kali shrieked at me.

I could feel my twin pushing forward, all panic and outrage. I resisted her, even as I felt my head ache and my skin burn. I felt bad. It was her turn in the world. She had every right to wrest back control.

I just needed her to hear one thing, and then I would let her flee–

Elmiryn is backing away from us.

White as a sheet, Elmiryn did not step closer. She stepped away. Haltingly, yes. But away.

Sweat beaded on her skin. Her body shook.

“Don’t be stupid,” Elmiryn spat. “Get back over the line!”

I could feel Kali’s efforts to take over again slip away. Her suspicion and fear lingered, but she had gone still, and she watched intently through my eyes. If at any point she feared the situation lost, she would take over again… and I would let her.

I shook my head slowly. “I think I’ve been on the other side long enough, Elle,” I murmured.

Elmiryn balled her hands. Her lips pinched so hard, the blood fled from them.

“I could kill you,” she pointed out.

I smiled. It felt weary, even to me. “You won’t.”

Elmiryn bared her teeth. “Even if I didn’t, I could use your body to break the containment line!”

I shrugged. “I’d have the shadows take me before you ever could.”

“Not if I knock you out first.”

I chuckled humorlessly. “You could try.”

Elmiryn glared at me, the muscles in her neck cording.

Slowly, very slowly, she crouched down, one hand resting on the floor. Her gaze pierced through me. Hunger shadowed her eyes.

“I want to,” she whispered hoarsely. Her hand tensed, and the dirt around her fingers stirred…

Grief grabbed me by the throat, and for a moment I couldn’t speak. I was a fool if I thought I could do this without letting my emotions escape me. Still, I held her gaze.

“I know you do,” I breathed. My brow creased. “But you’re trying not to, and I have faith you won’t give in.”

“I almost hurt Lethia, why do you think you’re fucking safe? Hmm?” She cocked her head to the side. “What’s left for us, Nyx? You’ve hid from me for so long. What’s left?

“If you want to hurt me, I’ll let you,” I said quietly, kneeling down and holding out my arms. “I hurt you, too. I broke my promise. I said I’d be there for you, no matter what.” 

My vision blurred as tears clouded Elmiryn’s angry face. I went on, fighting as grief’s hold on my voice tightened, “I’d let you do anything you want. I just want you back. I just want–”

But I didn’t get to finish. Elmiryn exploded to her feet, yelling.

“Gods! SHUT UP!

Dust rained on me from the ceiling. I swallowed hard as I watched Elmiryn pace in a tight line in front of me.

Her hands were curled before her as she ranted, her slitted eyes trained on me, “Do anything that I want? Do anything that I want?! You are not that fucking foolish!”

She pounded a fist into her chest and screamed, spit flying from her lips, “I would gut you for a drink! Do you understand?? Your sacrifice would mean nothing to me! Just another fucking chapter in the long-running series of your fucking self-absorbed martyrdom, Nyx! It’s shit! I don’t want that! I hate it! HATE IT!

She stopped her pacing and bowed down to look into my tear-streaked face with arms held wide in question. “You broke your promise?” she asked with false sweetness.

The vicious rage was swift to return as she roared down at me, “SO DID I!” 

She jabbed a finger and sneered, “It isn’t just about you! You’re in my containment circle, remember?

I bowed my head.

This was the mask removed. The anger that bubbled deep inside of Elmiryn had always been there, but hidden, like my Twin… Like my darkness. I’d sensed it, but never really knew how to address it. It was easier to wrestle with the symptoms of it.

What business did I have pointing out other people’s hidden issues, anyway? Me, the perverted family annihilator whose anathemic existence indebted her to Harmony in such a way that redemption could only be found through carrying out the will of a forgotten god?

Elmiryn had learned to channel her anger as a warrior. To drown it as a drunkard. To laugh it off and forget about it as a mischievous trickster. But none of those coping methods worked anymore.

Now here it was naked before me, pulsing white hot and threatening to swallow us whole.

I hadn’t meant to make this about me. I hadn’t meant to discount whatever it was Elmiryn had to say with some ill-fated gesture. But I did. I’d been feeling guilty, and in my skewed perception, giving the woman license to hurt me in retaliation seemed justified. Now it was easy to see that it was… well…


Trust my sister to strike to the heart of the matter.

But she didn’t move to take control yet. In fact, she moved back further into the shadows.

 I lifted my face. Elmiryn had stepped away from me again, her back to me, both hands on her head as she breathed raggedly.

“I’m sorry,” I murmured.

My offer to hurt me had ignored her desire not to. My failure to ask for her side of things in favor of relieving my anguish, showed how selfish I still was.

If I could finally stop thinking about my needs… what would address Elmiryn’s?

“How do you feel… About us?” I asked her hoarsely.

Elmiryn’s hands slid from the sides of her head to her face and her shoulders hitched up. I could see the muscles in her back and triceps tightening.

Many seconds ticked by.

Then gradually, she relaxed.

Her hands fell to her sides, unclenched.

She turned to me.

Continue ReadingChapter 48.5

Chapter 48.6


She felt so many things.

Elmiryn wanted to say them all at once, but the words clashed and fought with each other, and so none of them made it to the air.

She stared.

Stared so long, the time to reply felt long departed.

Only, who the fuck cared about etiquette anymore?

What did any of that matter to her when her reality was disintegrating around her? She had lengthy arguments with beings cut in half—entities that lived in the corners of eyes, reaching long from places unseen into her animal thoughts. The dream-eaters.

They giggled and flickered. They were half-beings who only partially existed in their realm, like phantoms, and they were just tickled by the sight of the half-breed.

The human-fae…thing.

From her mind they plucked her fears of losing herself. Fears of vanishing like a ghost, not only from the life she knew, but from the world that had cradled her existence.

In contrast, the inverted ones, the upside-downers, did not laugh at her plight. But they nettled her with sharp remarks. Sometimes even promises.

“You waste away in this place,” they remarked coldly.

“Do not worry.”

Oh, but she did. Very much.

“We will come, when your twilight arrives.”

She didn’t know what they meant, but every time their heavy eyes were on her, she’d gaze back with tense vigilance.

These spirits could see her through rips in their reality. Never could they come through completely, but she could hear them. Sometimes she even saw them. Seeing never made it better.

And then there was the Far Away Lady…

“I feel tired,” Elmiryn finally murmured.

Her low voice was raked through from all her hollering, and phlegmy from disuse. She disliked hearing it. It didn’t sound like her. 

Inasmuch as she could remember her true self, anyway.

Her eyes focused on the shape before her. The shape said it was Nyx. Elmiryn could only see self-pity at first. A Self-Pity-Nyx-Shape.

Now it looked like Sadness. A truer anguish.

Elmiryn could feel the wrath in her go dormant. The Sadness… she could sit with this. It felt like regret. She had that. Could share that.

She looked down at her bare feet. They were dirty. A large straw of hay was between her right toes. She squeezed the golden piece in them before half-heartedly kicking it away from her.

“I feel tired about us, Nyx,” she went on, not looking at the Sad-Nyx-Shape. She was afraid it would change and become a new Nyx-Shape. 

She was tired of things fucking changing all the time. 

“At first, I thought I was angry. But now I just feel… Tired.”

Her eyes tensed, but she still refused to look up. “And I don’t mean that I’m sick of you. Just… that I don’t know what to do. I feel powerless. My anger isn’t really for you. Or entirely for you, I guess. It’s for everything. Every gods’ damned thing!

The Nyx-Shape spoke. “I don’t know what to do either, Elle. I want to know. I wish I did.”

Elmiryn’s mouth pulled to the side, the corner of it digging harshly into her cheek with disgruntled energy.

“Don’t be ridiculous. You’re already doing what you need to do,” the woman snapped.

“And what’s that?”

“Talking to me! It’s all I ever wanted from you!” Elmiryn’s face twisted, and she allowed herself to lift her gaze.

“But is it really you, Nyx? I’ve been calling you her name, but for all I know you’re just another spirit playing tricks on me. I can’t tell anymore! She’s been gone so long that I honestly can’t tell!”

Elmiryn clenched her teeth, making them audibly squeak. Her gums ached. “Do you know how much that hurts?!”

Continue ReadingChapter 48.6

Chapter 48.7


Tears filled her eyes, and she tilted her chin up, trying to keep them from falling. The Nyx-Shape became less distinct. But who was she fooling? Nothing in her life was distinct.

“Even when all I could see were the gods’ art, she was beautiful to me. Nyx. And I could always find her thanks to her Meaning. Her voice was sincere. In it I thought I could hear…” her chin crumpled, and she turned away, wiping harshly at her eyes.

She looked up.

In the fabric of existence, she could see the Far Away Lady was listening.

Her eyes narrowed.

Loudly, almost defiantly, she cried out, “Nyx, if you’re here, then I’m sorry I pushed you to tell me. I was stupid. You weren’t ready to say it, and I wasn’t ready to listen.”

She turned just enough to peer sideways at the Nyx-Shape. “The fact of the matter was, I never needed you to tell me you loved me.”

Elmiryn swallowed. Or tried. All of a sudden it became quite difficult to do.

She went to her hay bed and collapsed onto it, her body on her side and facing away from the stairs. With effort, she managed not to curl up.

“So if you’re real, then just… tell me something. Anything.” 

Elmiryn watched the thread of the Lady grow brighter in the air. Wherever she looked it was there. Like it was re-threading itself into the fabric of existence just to hold her attention hostage.

“And when you start, just keep talking,” Elmiryn urged, her voice quieter, but tight with need. “Drown out the spirits.”

The Lady’s thread vibrated with her distant laughter.

Bug scared. SCARED! Stupid bug! the entity taunted. Want to be eaten?

Elmiryn squeezed her eyes shut. “Nyx—!”

She heard someone sit behind her.

“Elmiryn, did I ever tell you about the time Atalo learned how to climb fences?”

The question was so straightforward that the woman actually forgot what she was going to say. Her eyes ticked to the side as a response formed slowly on her tongue.

“Er, no?” she replied. Unable to resist, she let her knees bend like she was about to hug them, but she stopped them getting past her stomach.

The Far Away Lady’s thread vibrated harder as she spoke again. A low hiss filled the air.

Elle-Bug… This one saved you… Not dumb cat. Remember?

The real voice went on. “Oh, well, funny thing… You see, he didn’t just climb our fence. He liked to climb our neighbors too. It started to become problematic when he figured out how to climb back the way he came with whatever vegetables he’d stolen from their gardens.”

Elmiryn’s lips twitched up a little. “Sneak-thievery runs through the family, does it?”

She heard a brusque laugh. It sounded distinctly familiar. “Hardly! He was caught every time!”

This one can wait, The Lady pressed. Her thread hummed with irritation.

“So what did your mother do?” Elmiryn asked with a raised voice.

The Lady could go fuck herself. ‘Saved her’? The woman didn’t owe her anything! Certainly not for her so-called help!

Elmiryn heard the real voice say amidst her indignant thoughts, “A-Ma tied a rope to his belt loop to keep Atalo from leaving our yard!”

Wait… Is it really…?

There was another laugh, this time long and throaty. Elmiryn felt her skin flush hot and her throat clench with joy.

“And?” she asked with a thick voice. She smiled so hard it hurt her cheeks.

The pretty voice only laughed harder. “She forgot that Atalo had no problem taking off his pants in full view of everyone!”

Elmiryn rolled onto her back, and tears leaked from her eyes, streaking through the dirt on her face. 

She looked at Nyx. The real Nyx.

“There you are,” she whispered happily.

The Lady snorted from far away. Her thread dimmed in the weave above them.

And still her broken words eked through.

Can wait… Elle-Bug…

Can wait for…ever…




Continue ReadingChapter 48.7