Part Five: She is Unbound
Reader, you’re probably wondering. So what of him? Yes, Lukas, what of Lukas? To pick up from the last, Ophelia had trudged back to her apartment after the encounter, ultimately dejected, but ready, at last, to move on with her own soul on her side.
The note on the door kept her from getting too far away from the past.
“Liebling, I’m gone to the cabin in the woods. Come find me, and let’s have some fun. I miss your-“
She ripped the note from the door and burnt it to ash in her grasp before she could read farther.
Reader, here’s the trick to moving on from the past that one ever quite fully understands. You can’t forget it because it’s always there, and for Ophelia, Lukas was always looking over her somewhere in the background. But there’s some unexplainable trick about acknowledging it as being covered, forgiving yourself for what you have done and let be done to you. There’s some happy place in the middle between disguising the dark beast as simply another pink part of your brain and wallowing in the pity of it, forcing yourself to rely on other means.
The sins are chains, and only once one acknowledges they are there can he find himself free.
Ophelia needed to do just that. In all the pieces of the mystery, she still didn’t understand, but one thing was glaringly obvious. Her past and terrifying evil -Lukas himself the ultimate embodiment- had to be addressed. Perhaps he’d make it easier and turn to good with her. Perhaps he’d realize the error of his ways and ask her forgiveness for all he’d clearly done.
She dug her hand in her bag, turning back towards the stairs as she felt for the keys to the Cadillac she shared with Andromeda. Her finger brushed up against that blade, heat filling her with the thrumming energy of magic galore.
Well, if things did go ary- she’d know just what to do.
She’d pulled up to the little log cabin with her heart thundering in her ears. The cabin was small, and she’d been there only once before with Lukas, but she’d remembered the way. She’d taken the winding road up the mountain, and each mile had made her feel as if there were truly no turning back.
She sat in the seat, key still dancing in the ignition although the engine had been turned off. She swallowed a deep breath, and summoning her courage, she climbed out of the seat and headed for the door.
As if he had sensed her near, the door flew open before she was even a yard within the door. Lukas stood before her, a wicked grin tearing into his cheeks. She offered him no smile.
“I knew I’d get you here some way or another.” He sauntered over to her. His white shirt was unbuttoned loosely, revealing inches of pale chest. Her body reveled in it, but her mind was repulsed.
She couldn’t speak.
He mistook her silence for seduction. “Come inside. It’s freezing out here.” He pressed a hand to her back, pushing her toward the door. She held her tongue for just a moment, just as long as she could patiently wait until she heard the door click and she was in that stifling one room cabin where they’d committed carnal sin, but at the memory, she spared no more semantics.
“You lied to me.” She hissed. She could feel the power thrumming within her all to be staunched by his nearness.
Lukas looked shocked for one moment before his brows knitted together and he laughed. “About what?”
“I made the knife, Lukas.” She let herself smile, at last proud to wave the wicked accomplishment about like some pirate flag. “I made it and went to use it and the box was empty.”
“Oh dear.” He said flatly. He pranced over to the counter, unbothered, where he poured himself a glass of liquor. She was reminded of that day where it had all started. Despite her anger, the darkness teeming about her like some ominous mist setting in before a storm, he seemed unbothered. “I knew it was only a matter of time.”
“I’ve seen him, too.” She grinned fully.
He nearly choked on his drink. That had surprised him. “You’ve found Frank?” He thought she was bluffing.
“Oh, yes, Lukas. I’ve seen him. Breathing, smiling, talking. Doesn’t seem like much of a corpse, does he?” For once, she let herself darkly enjoy the panic that creeped over him. “You want to tell me what you did.”
Lukas laughed, shaking his head. He was caught, but he figured he could find some other means to win. “The jig is up, huh? You know, you’re rather treacherous sounding for someone who’s forever indebted.”
She shivered. It had been the one thing she couldn’t forget. How could she rid herself of her evil side when she was tethered to this demon? She summoned her courage once more despite the ache.
“Tell me what you did.” She muttered.
“You want the truth? Fine, I’ll give it to you.” He leaned against the counter, slamming his glass down. “I did what was best for you, Ophelia. I made all of your stories true. Frank was boring; he didn’t understand that there was something more.”
Tears at last spilled over and even the deep, strong years of practice with her power couldn’t keep them away or even dry them and glamour them from view. “This is about the stories? You made me believe he was dead, Lukas.”
“Was it so wrong?” He squinted at her. “He didn’t deserve you, and you didn’t deserve to keep living in the dark. So I convinced you he was dead, and I spent the next few weeks gathering what I needed to make it real. I sent him back overseas brokenhearted with a divorce paper you’d signed without second thought. You really should read that which you place your signature on, meine Süsse.” He looked down at her like she was a child, and paused for a moment before going on. “To you, I needed to make things seem real, too. I forged that death certificate, printed that program. Dark magic is quite perfect for deception. I purchased a plot and buried an empty coffin. To my excitement, you never thought to visit. The dagger, though, was a longshot. No one’s ever made it because it doesn’t exist.”
She resisted the urge to tell him. Lukas had truly undermined her, but that was for later. She still had questions lingering in her tear laden eyes. “But- how? How did you-”
“I glamoured the veil. You saw what I wanted, what I needed you to see.” Lukas whispered.
She felt like she was choking. All this time they’d told her that night hadn’t been real, but she’d sworn it hadn’t felt real. This whole time it had been true. She hadn’t really seen the funeral, the casket, Frank’s dead body. It had all been an illusion by Lukas’s power. None of it had been real.
“I couldn’t let you be wasted on him. Not when you had so much potential- so much power.” He beamed at her wildly.
Something switched inside her to pure revulsion. She was covered in sickly cold sweat. Her stomach turned, and she was sure she would retch. All this time, she’d been drowning in the darkness and she hadn’t even glimpsed the pitch black of his plan. Lukas hadn’t ever wanted to help her. He’d wanted her selfishly for himself. He’d turned her into what- some monstrous witch all because he wanted her for himself? The realization of it brewed fresh tears down her cheeks.
“All I ever wanted was you, Ophelia.” He stepped near her, timid. She was shaking, trembling, and he was so near. He reached out a hand and trailed a finger to her cheek. “You must understand why I did it. I was completely alone in this world.”
Ophelia tried to speak but failed. He trailed his finger over her lips.
“I never wanted to hurt you, Liebling.” He said. “Join me. Together we can rule on top of the past, do as we please. I can make you my dark queen.”
This was the true moment of her conversion. This was the moment in which Ophelia decided. Would she continue to live for the darkness? Would she drown in it? Wasn’t it tempting to join Lukas, to embrace all the darker things that offered temporary satisfaction. She thought about Frank, what he’d said. Darkness was tempting. It was easier than the opposite path, but Reader, it was empty.
Sure, Lukas could make her some earthly queen but what did that matter when the darkness always lost? Wasn’t that exactly what the stories always said? Reader, comforting as the darkness may seem to be, it always loses. The light will prevail, and as she peered into his eyes, his dirty fingers still touching her face and lighting up the skin like wildfire, she realized that the darkness had to end.
“No.” She spat.
He pushed her against the wall so abruptly the breath was knocked out of her lungs with a strange gurgle. She heaved for more air, but he pressed his palm down on the back of her neck. Her cheeks were pressed harder and harder down into that fresh hardwood. She could smell the maple. She could taste the sap. She could feel the splinters easing their way into her skin.
“Admit it.” He growled into her ear. “You need me.”
The statement filled her heart with rage. She tried to push against him, but he was too big. He pushed her shoulders back to the door with a low chuckle, lips still hovering near her ear so she shivered.
“I don’t need anyone. Least of all you.” She spat.
Now, this angered Lukas very much. Reader, the most broken people are often the most self conscious. They may put on a facade of fake self confidence and may even seem like the most powerful, but deep down, Lukas was as fragile as Ophelia had once been. Of course, freed from her chains metaphorically, Ophelia had nothing more to lose, having found her strength from within. The girl had realized, there was nothing earthy she truly needed. Lukas had yet to figure that out.
So, filled with blinding white-hot rage, he forcefully tugged her to him with a large hand to her stomach. She yelped as he tore her to him, terrified of what he might do. He simply held her there for a while, smelling her dark hair like he could make her do his bidding if only he caressed her harder. He trembled for her darkness, longing to see once more that beast he’d created, but finding her nowhere.
His hold on Ophelia made him feel powerful. He liked to pretend he was a god, that he was a king worth worshipping. We’ve already established, Reader, there can only be one, and Lukas, broken and wretched and dark as he was, is not the one. He was a puny earthly king. He talked himself up, he did what he wanted to do, he sinned and came and went when he pleased, but what was always left was a fragile emptiness to make any man feel weak.
In his trials to become something more, he’d simply revealed he was simply smaller and smaller. And worse, he’d revealed to himself that no matter the dark power that was allowed in him to run rampant, he was always going to lose.
It made him furious.
He squeezed her tightly, and she yelped, tears at last soaking her cheeks. She was terrified.
“Last chance.” He muttered, lips lingering in that magic spot behind her ear that never failed to always thrill her. Tonight, though, it only disgusted her more, a painful, searing scream tearing from her at the feel of his dirty lips on her skin.
At her revulsion, he angrily pulled at the tether in him and took out from that dark pit of his power as much as he could carry. Under his hand, the magic within him all but tore Ophelia clean open.
She felt it all. It felt as if someone was cutting her out and turning her inside out like a pair of worn pants or gloves. Every piece of her ripped, every muscle tearing and every bone cracking.
She screeched like the last moment before death, and red was all she saw.
She wasn’t dead though. He released her and she clattered to the floor in a heap, holding her stomach from which blood oozed. She felt viscera and thin membranous, buoyant organs touch her fingertips, and she dry heaved, startled at the feeling of her organs contracting in her very palms. She cradled them close, holding them inside her.
Any human would be dead by now, but not our heroine. Ophelia had transcended beyond that which she had known. With shaky feet, she stood, blood dripping at her feet and seeping through her sweater and coating her hands.
Lukas was grinning at her, for that was all the wicked man knew to do. Reader, what else is there when you know you’re always going to lose?
And Ophelia knew just this. She understood we keep on living because there is goodness in this world and infinitely more, and it’s so much more worth it than any tiny shred of satisfaction in the darkness. She also knew she had that dagger still in her possession.
She’d removed it from her purse before she’d entered the cabin and had stuck it into her pants. Even now, it thrummed against her skin, warm itself but nearly on fire because it was pressed up to her naked skin. She smiled freely down at it, and reached for the hilt.
Lukas realized he was caught. The look on his face was priceless, but she didn’t take it in too long. She was too ready to stamp out the darkness and embrace the light. She hadn’t wanted to completely rid herself of him, partly because she wanted that lingering darkness here with her, but she realized she couldn’t move on without removing the temptation. She wouldn’t forget it, but rather, she’d grow in spite of it.
She threw the dagger, and in all it’s magic, it struck true.
It embedded itself right in the center of his chest. She didn’t have to think twice as to if it pierced his heart. He coughed once, and blood spattered his lips. The stain blossomed from his chest like a strange flower. She shivered at the sight of it, the loss of it.
Reader, sometimes it’s easier to cling to the sins of the past because at least they can fill the silence and hide the emptiness of a broken soul. Silence is threatening, but silence is healing. Part of Ophelia felt comfortable remaining in the dark pit she’d dug for herself, but then she remembered the light. The change may be painful, but that white light is always worth it.
She watched the living breathing devil before her cascade into death. The knife glowed from where it protruded from his chest. He was a demon. He was some evil spawn who couldn’t be redeemed. She felt the magic hum from the knife, begging the question of what it should do next, beconing its master, this broken but mending little woman-child holding her insides to her body.
It whispered to her, and she pondered once the look of tempting darkness before her before she willed it not so. There was a burst of massive sunshine, the screeching howl of the man beside her, and when she opened her eyes once more-
Vanished. Lukas was vanished, and the knife with him. She didn’t think such a thing like that deserved to remain in the world. Ophelia had learned that the pursuit of life and death was rather not up to her to decide. She was no god, no perfect goddess, but what was the fun in being faultless anyway.
Despite the pain in her insides, she smiled. In a million different worlds, anything was infinitely possible, and she felt in massive catharsis, a release of the tensions of sins past, for she’d just slain the beast hovering over her constantly, and in place of the pain before her sat a tiny, precious calling.
It was a tiny inkling within her that made her walk, trembling with blood seeping into her clothes and through her fingers, out of that cabin and into the dark forest beyond.
Something called to her, a fresh start, a beacon of hope amidst the hell battle that had just been won. It was a tiny flicker, and had she pondered her sins one last moment, she’d have missed it.
She glanced around frantically, searching for it, hoping for it, dreaming of it.
And before her, amidst the trees and fallen leaves and all the nature around her- there stood, like a bright blazing star, a door. It wasn’t any door. No, this wasn’t a door that opened up to another house or another room or another haunted place, this was a door that opened up to someplace new. This was a door that only some had seen and few would enter.
She stumbled toward that glowing Door -no doubt a Door with a capital “D.” Yes, this was no ordinary Door. It glimmered like sunshine and offered an escape.
She glanced down at the seeping wound in her side, holding inside whatever organ threatened to fall out. She risked a glimpse down and peered at the bloodied wound, blackening with whatever Lukas had used in his mad dash of power. Or perhaps it was the fact her maker was dead. Could she live apart from him? She didn’t know, but she’d surely try to keep living.
She raised one hand to the handle of the Door, blood caked under her fingernails and dirtying up the intricacy of it. Some called it the “Door Between Worlds,” and she’d only heard that name twice. Once from some flitting sprite in the woods near her family’s little cabin in the woods and second when Lukas had said too much, but she’d always known the stories were true.
Her fingers pushed down on that handle, shaped like an intricate tree branch. With her immortal sight, she could see the wild carvings of nymphs, naiads, mermaids, and monsters alike all carved into its mahogany wood. Taking a deep breath, lungs squealing with what she was afraid was blood, she pushed open the Door and felt her power waken.
Whatever Lukas had put inside her shimmered at the mere touch of this Door, transforming from something dark into something pure as a trembling ray of sunshine, but as she crossed the threshold, it ceased being what he’d made her and it became deliciously-