Part Three: She is Bound
She slammed the bloodied sack down onto his desk and crossed her arms. “Don’t ever make me do that again.”
Lukas lifted only his eyes to look up at Ophelia. She was dressed in the leathers she normally wore whenever she was forced to go on her seasonal errands for Lukas. Almost all of them involved wrecking, stealing, or killing someone, and they all ended up in her coated with either her own blood or someone else’s. Leather was simply much easier to clean blood off of than cotton.
He tilted his lips in a wicked smile and sat the papers down on his desk.
“I take that as a sign you were successful?” He peeked into the bag once and chuckled. “You reek of blood and not just your own.”
She’d never gotten used to that keen sense of smell of his. Andromeda had told her it was a faerie thing. He could smell either of them a mile away, and blood, it seemed, was characteristic from person to person.
Ophelia had learned many things about the fae in her time since being transformed into a witch. She’d seen what he could do with his power -move things by the flick of a finger, force someone into his bidding with a shift in the tone of his voice, control the elements without another blink of his eyes. Lukas never used his power on her, though.
The first time he’d asked her to do one of these tasks, she’d stared at him incredulously. Surely the lonely creatures of the unknown didn’t kill each other. But he’d simply cocked his head at her, squinting his eyes like he couldn’t believe she’d question what he’d asked of her. She was his charge, and she was to obey. He’d never used his voice to persuade her even still, as she’d seen in that moment the dark magic teeming under his skin, and had immediately vanished to complete her task.
It was the biggest lesson our heroine had learned since we left her last. The magic she’d dreamed up in her head as something pure and exciting, the hidden aspects of creation she so adored and mused on and on about- they’d fallen miserably flat. Ophelia removed that pining of some vivid magical fairytale and in its place plopped down a cynical view of the world and the unknown she’d so longed to be a part of.
The kindness she’d oozed from the passion she’d seen of the Creator in the things she wasn’t yet blessed to see- it was smothered with the jealousy that filled her heart at the sight of a happy couple stalking down the street, hands blissfully entwined. The wonder at an art pure and hopeful like her stories of magic- it was quashed at the realization that the thing she’d so long to be a part of turned out to be dark, dark, dark. The very creatures she’d campaigned as pure of heart because of the nature of their creation turned out to be more vile than those she’d kept company with before. Lukas, who should have been some faerie prince, seemed to be dark and cynical and a killer of the creation she’d longed to see.
Life seemed to spin wildly out of control. She missed the fascination with the unknown. She missed the blissful astonishment at things not yet meant for her to understand. She missed the veil that covered her from the bleak parts of the transcendent evil around her. Most of all, she missed Frank.
To her, he was always good. She had built him a golden statue in her heart. Ophelia longed so much to be held by him, and smothered with the goodness of him. But around her, everything was bleak. Everything was darkness so deep she couldn’t see. In stepping into one of her stories she’d revealed the nature of tragedy.
Reader, to our heroine, it seemed everything was bad.
And it began to viciously suck the life out of everything in her. After Lukas had dubbed her his newest witchling, things began to slowly fall apart. Even after she’d begun to experiment the day after her vivid, dream fulfilling transformation, she’d felt things beginning to slowly untether despite her gift.
After ten more years, she quit her job at the university. It was that past year she’d gotten the first harmful look of wonder at how she hadn’t aged. Lukas told her she could make herself appear older, and was willing to teach her the incantation to do it, as it was what he did to protect himself, but Ophelia decided against it. After Frank, there had been very little joy in teaching. The spark she’d adored to see at someone excelling at what he loved had been quashed at the sight of his corpse in the coffin, and she’d become one of those professors in response.
Instead, she deemed not to leave the city, for if she had any success in her laboratory rousing a dead mouse or frog, she wanted to have Frank’s remains perfectly ready for use. So, she’d simply altered her hair, the golden strands now flowing from her scalp a dark black that hung to her collarbones. Her eyes she’d made to match.
“You look positively haunting, dear.” Lukas had said.
She’d ignored him.
She ignored him much like she did at that present moment. It was the best way to ruffle his feathers, she’d discovered. The old Ophelia would keep talking to try and coax some smile out of him. She’d have waved a white flag when it came to her wonderings just to get him to seem pleased, but in this darker version of herself, she found it much more pleasing to tease.
And Lukas made it too terribly easy.
“Dinner tonight?” He cocked a pale brow. He was glamoured in his skinny, sickly form, aged ten years and nearly completely bald. She, of course, saw through it all. The faerie man hadn’t aged a day, and neither had she. “I’ll swing by the lab at six?”
She gave a dry laugh and turned to the door of his office, pushing open the door. She could feel his power pulsing near her, caressing her, peering underneath her clothes, touching her, making her feel filthy, and she pressed hers farther back -for, she’d gotten fairly good at wielding this dark art (Reader, once the pursuit of the light has been abandoned, the darkness just gets darker). Hers was more of a gauzy dark tulle compared to the pitch of Lukas’s, but she let it envelop the room, wrapping scratchy tendrils around his wrists and holding him to his chair. She let it whisper into his ears in that language of the unknown, and he hissed as she let it squeeze just hard enough to send a twinge of pain down his old injured spine. Only until she could feel his darkness a few centimeters from her skin did she let her own coil back up inside her as would a snake, and she slammed the door on her way out, silencing the sound of Lukas’s wicked laughter behind her.
The university hadn’t changed that much in a decade. Styles had. Women wore their hair up and didn’t wear hats too much any more. Ankles were no longer taboo, and she found she could wear pants. Men wore skinnier ties and didn’t favor hats and greatcoats too much any more. Frank would have believed it a travesty.
Ophelia slipped in and out of the back doors at the university, blending in with the students in her still young, slender form. Her dark hair was pulled back off her shoulders in a ponytail, and she’d slid her large sunglasses over her face, completely concealing herself from recognition. Her ankle boots clicked on the pavement once she’d exited the back stairwell.
Change came more suddenly when you yourself didn’t change. Technology had shaped the city into a sparkling silver place. Buildings got taller and sharper, trees steadily disappeared, the skies got grayer. The city around her had sprouted more crime than she liked, but the darkness swirling just under her skin had protected her from that. She’d also tailored her appearance to turn some of her soft approachable features into sharper, scarier ones. Andromeda had helped her heal her eyes so she no longer wore her wired glasses.
She was still Ophelia, though. She found there were parts of her she couldn’t change. The mole right above her lip she’d left. Her weight, however much she’d complained about it before, she let remain as it is. Every once in a while, she’d let one of her hairs grow gray and pretended in her head she wasn’t in the nightmare. It always returned to black somehow or the other.
Lukas liked things the way they were, too. His lab hadn’t changed one bit save for the adoption of a few new flasks and beakers to replace the broken ones. She and Andromeda worked there during the week, trying hard as they might to forge that dagger of life and death.
They’d had little success. Ophelia was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen. Of course, Reader, this fed into that new, cynical nature of hers. The longer she pondered it, the darker she became.
As she rounded that staircase into the building of Lukas’s flat and the one she’d purchased adjacent to it, she was thinking of exactly that. She turned the key in the lock to his apartment, and her mind was elsewhere. Upon entry, she was shocked by a flaming knife coming right towards her face.
She ducked at the last minute, sending upwards a cooling winter breeze to extinguish the flame as the knife wedged itself into the wall behind her.
“Dromeda!” She screeched, standing up and resuming her composure.
The little girl had a soiled apron over her dress, hands covered up to her elbows in yellow mits. Her gray hair was braided back from her face, which revealed much of her unenthused expression.
“Not my fault you didn’t knock.” She muttered, then went back to her work.
Ophelia sighed and pulled the knife free of the wall before entering Lukas’s flat. She pitied the neighbors who happened to live in this building with the three of them.
The whole flat smelled like sulfur. Ophelia had categorized the smell with failure, as most of the failed concoctions rubbed on any dagger forged for their trials ended up smelling like it somehow. They never worked, but they kept trying.
“God, you stink.” Andromeda said, looking at the leather pants and jacket on Ophelia, now free of her glamour and coated in blood. Ophelia had a rather nasty gash at her forehead, too. It had dripped blood all down her cheek, which had dried cakey to her skin. It crackled as she smiled at the little witch.
“Likewise.” Ophelia muttered. Something soft brushed against her ankle and she looked down to see her friendly cat slinking her way in between her feet. “Twila!” She assumed her usual high pitched animal and baby voice and scooped the little creature up, the dark thing purring as it touched her face.
She’d adopted the cat in another means to darken herself. Only a witch would have a black cat, she thought, and since it seemed perfect, she’d brought the poor skinny little thing home. It was sickly, and in truth, she’d pitied it. Andromeda had laughed at it, claiming Ophelia really did have a touch for the dramatics.
Ophelia had grown fangs and hissed at her in response.
She’d become quite touchous in her endeavours to bring Frank back, it was true. She’d have bought a hearse to drive around to prove her point, a pointed black hat, too. The problem was that Dromeda and Lukas had known her before the change. Lukas embraced her changes. He loved her for it. Andromeda saw through her shroud of darkness as a veil of falsified self confidence. She knew deep down Ophelia was just as disgusted with her evil, darkened self as Andromeda was with her own blacked heart.
She didn’t know much about how the little girl had become a witch under Lukas, but in ten years, she’d gleaned that Lukas treated Dromeda more like a slave than he did Ophelia. The girl had been stolen from some world other than theirs. Andromeda didn’t speak of it often, but when she did, she always mentioned that technology was more advanced there. She was a science student or nursing student of some sort -it was how she was so fluent in the medical jargon that came in handy with performing the healing acts of the dark art. She’d stumbled into Lukas somehow and he’d taken her here, now for eternal servitude as Andromeda liked to say.
She said he’d taken her through a Door, and from the stories, Ophelia knew it wasn’t just any door. No, this was an important door. Sometimes it appeared in regular places and sometimes it appeared for those who needed it most in their hearts. Lukas had called it once the “Door Between Worlds.” And from the fragmented stories the dreamer could wedge from them, all Ophelia knew was there were many other worlds other than her own.
Reader, had Ophelia not been consumed in her grief (oh, the monstrous beast it was), she might have realized our own, but instead she’d lost her wonder and settled on what she did know and see to believe. Lukas came from Faerie, land of the Seelie and Unseelie fae. Nymphs lived in Nysa. Andromeda’s stories, however, forced her into that odd yet familiar feeling of wonder about what other worlds there might be. The short answer, Reader, is too many to count.
Ophelia still knew better than to ask questions, so she swallowed that peeping thought again and sat across from the short woman, watching her titrate some foul smelling liquid into a beaker.
“You’re just in time to watch me screw it up.” Andromeda said.
Ophelia giggled and set her cat onto the floor. Andromeda had before her a dead frog, pinned out on a rubber mat. Ophelia almost felt sorry for it- the pins looked awfully uncomfortable, and his tongue was peeping out of his mouth, but then she realized- he couldn’t feel anything. He was dead.
Andromeda took a sponge and soaked up the dark material in the beaker. As she let it drink up the concoction, she tilted her eyes up to Ophelia, sitting with her hand on her chin, watching.
“You’ve got a terrible bruise coming.” Andromeda said. It was these moments Ophelia could never understand. Despite her darkness, Andromeda, the best healer among them, seemed to be able to feel another’s pain. Under normal circumstances, her evil soul relished in the feeling of someone else’s suffering, but sometimes, like just now, something flickered behind her irises and seemed like torture for her fellow sister.
“He clocked me before I had a chance to lop his head off.” Ophelia muttered. The killing never got easier as Lukas had suggested. The shiver of sinful deeds snuck down her spine, and she had to look away.
Andromeda padded over to her on bare feet, and before Ophelia could stop her, she seized her chin and ran a hand down her cheek.
It was a funny feeling. Healing felt like feathers dusting your internal organs. Here, the sensation almost ticked as Andromeda’s power mended the skin on Ophelia’s face, healing the cut and bruise under dried blood. Ophelia didn’t like to ask her to do it- she felt it necessary to remember the crimes she’d done out of Lukas’s rule over her- but Andromeda, sometimes, would take it upon herself.
Once she was satisfied with how it looked, the witch stepped back to the beaker and lifted up a new dagger, rubbing the solution onto the metal. Ophelia had the urge to cover her nose. It already reeked of failure.
She reached for the box of matches and cigarettes in her front pocket, but Andromeda stopped her.
“Not. Yet.” She said through gritted teeth. Lifting the knife, they both saw the glitter in the reflection of light, but it instantly dimmed as she lowered it to the frog’s chest. Sure enough, as she pierced the skin, the rancid smell rang out into the room, and all that remained was a dead frog simply more cut up than before.
Had it worked, the frog would have sprung up back to life because Andromeda had willed it so. Texts suggested it would bring forth a burst of light also, illuminating the life lost. Then again, Andromeda and Ophelia wouldn’t know. They’d always come up short.
“I’ll take that cigarette now.” Andromeda huffed, holding out a graceful hand.
Ophelia and Andromeda had made a ritual of smoking a cigarette after each failure (as you can imagine, Reader, they’d smoked more cigarettes than they could count). The striking of a match dissipated some of the rancid smell, and they’d always open a window to let in some fresh air when they did it, too.
They abandoned the frog and failed knife on the table and stalked to the nearest window. Andromeda flung it open, revealing treacherous height but a night-waking city beyond. Ophelia struck a match, and using her power, kept the flame aloft amidst the incoming breeze and clouds of the tall building. She handed Andromeda a cigarette, which she posed between her bright red lips, freshly glamored in the evening sun, and held out for Ophelia to light. She did and then lit her own, taking a long and full drag. It pinched her lungs until she let it out, smoke taking the tightness in her muscles away with a cloud of gray.
“Wanna go somewhere tonight?” Andromeda asked, flicking her cigarette.
Ophelia always knew the added question behind that question. “Want to find someone to play with? Want to trip your cares away?” The answer for her was always no. After the first time she’d gone on a wild trip on acid, she knew she preferred the isolation and her dark depression to the vivid stars and colors she saw and, believe it or not, tasted when she visited the illegal places downtown.
Andromeda knew the answer to her question, but nevertheless she always asked.
Seeing the unchanging expression on Ophelia’s face, the girl put out her cigarette on the wall outside the building and let it flitter to the ground, burning it to ash with her power as it flew. She untied her apron and trudged to the door, leaving Ophelia to nurse her cigarette alone.
“Take a shower. You stink.” She grabbed her keys and handbag, hissing at Twila as she opened the door. “And give him hell tonight, please.” She half smiled. “For me.”
“Always.” Ophelia muttered, and the girl left.
The truth is, Ophelia didn’t know what had blossomed between her and her brother-in-law. In her darkening, she’d done things she wasn’t proud of. She’d killed, lied, cheated, stolen, done all these nasty things for the man who’d offered her power to save her husband.
And he’d shared with her in the most intimate acts.
She’d cried the first time, weeping for what she had done. She was a married woman. With each little kiss, she abandoned her fairytale prince, still slumbering eternal in his glass coffin in the woods, waiting for her to rouse him from sleep. Lukas had licked her tears away and sat in silence.
Every time she saw him, she was reminded of broken promises, but like everything dark, she couldn’t stay away. She’d missed the passions of the flesh so much in those five painful years, only herself and her grief to pleasure her when she was lonely and trying to fall asleep at night. The cat and mouse game between her and the faerie man had become just too much to bear. It had erupted in passion in his office, and the adulterous affair had persisted on and off ever since.
She spun the ring on her finger still. It was caked in blood, but she never took it off. Even when she was with him, she never took it off, and she felt as if it pulsed with heat, burning her always.
You’ve forgotten me. Hurry up! Find me! Find me! It always called, a constant voice. A constant wondering of what he’d think of his fairy queen now.
She rubbed her arms, trying to rub away the dirtiness and grime covering her soul, and always failing. Despite the fact she couldn’t cleanse her soul, she could the grime of the season’s task, and so she walked to Lukas’s bathroom, stripping off her clothes as she went. She peeled the tight clothes off inside out like pulling off tight gloves, and she stepped into the shower, littered with Lukas’s things she was too familiar with for comfort, turning the water onto full heat and letting it openly scald her naked flesh.
Self-torture had become an aspect of daily life. Even in the most mundane of moments, she still got the feeling that hadn’t faded over ten years that this was all a dream. The result was clenching herself with her long fingernails, hard nails teetering on the edge of breaking the tender flesh of her arms or thighs. Several times, she had broken skin, sure if she pressed hard enough she’d wake up and be found in Frank’s arms.
It never worked.
As she let the hot water burn away the dried blood, she massaged her scalp, trying to ease the anxiousness away, but it persisted. After what felt like a millenia, she finally decided to get out, wrapping her body in the large bath sheet hanging on the back of the door. She didn’t bother to wrap up her hair, letting the strands patter water onto the hardwood floor of Lukas’s apartment.
Her reflection seemed a bit gaunt in the mirror even after Andromeda’s work, so she swept a few power laden fingers under her eyes to mask the dark circles just a bit. She tried to smile, but the dark haired, dark eyed monster reflected back at her, a caricature of her old self. Her eyes seemed impossibly big and haunted. Angry, she turned away, flinging open the bathroom door with a restrained howl.
“Liebling.” Lukas smiled with one side of his mouth, reclined against the countertop of the lab. The failed experiment rested behind him, and her treacherous heart leapt at the sight of him, his natural form oh so exact to that terrible day so many years ago.
Like usual, she acted like it was normal, however still her power was close at hand.
“When a girl doesn’t answer, Lukas, I think you can take it as a ‘no.’” She held the towel closed at her breast, acutely aware of her nakedness underneath.
“You’re the one in my apartment, Ophie.”
At the sound of the nickname, she heard Frank’s voice, and bile rose up in her throat. It was always too much but it was too, too much today.
She brushed it aside and considered his words. He was right. And she wished she’d actually taken the few moments to walk the few paces across the hall and use her own shower rather than his. It was the fact that she even would use his that brought forward that dread once more.
“Dromeda made me bathe. She said I stunk.” Ophelia stood painfully still, back rigid as her wet hair plip-plopped bathwater onto the floor.
Lukas loved the chase.
He looked about himself “Not as bad as this place. I take it this afternoon’s trial was another failure.”
She snickered. “Like I’d still be here if it had worked.”
The words had been thoughtless, careless. Lukas’s brow tilted upward at them. She was always cynical now because of the darkness looming so close at hand, but today she was in rare form. She braced herself for the darkness of his power approaching, but stopped short when she felt it, rather, retreat.
He took a few slow steps toward her, timid like he might startle her like a doe in the forest if he was too daring. “If this is about the task…”
She flicked her black eyes across his face, scanning for danger. The fae man was prone to outbursts, but not usually with her. Always, though, Ophelia was cautions, and almost always, she gave him what he wanted.
He walked a few steps closer, close enough that he could reach out and grab her pinkie finger, tugging it up and toward him. She felt the thrum underneath his skin, and the sting in her throat resurfaced, too many nights playing in her mind’s eye.
“It was too much. I’ll send Dromeda next time.” He murmured, inching closer still.
Lukas never said he was sorry. Reader, the most evil of the world rarely are, but Ophelia realized this much remorse was rare for the man. It was, at least, the closest Lukas got to sorry.
She still said nothing, not trusting herself after her outburst. Lukas seized her silence as his for the taking, and he positioned himself closer and closer.
She had every moment to object. She had second upon second to say no, but she didn’t. He inched a cold hand under her wet hair and she shivered. He always enjoyed her humanness. He moved his face slowly above hers, lips hovering above her own.
She could feel his warm breath on her shower-softened skin. She could feel the steady dark hum behind his hand at the base of her skull. She hated that she wanted.
He brushed his lips softly across hers, and she let him. He didn’t kiss like Frank, who was gentle like a first lover’s caress. Lukas was violent, smashing his lips so hard on top of hers she was afraid she’d bruise.
The disgust crept up like usual, ring burning at her left hand, but he kept going. When she felt his fingers reach the edge of the towel, the only thing between her sinning ultimate once more, she gasped. He laughed.
“Lukas, stop.” She said, pushing him away only slightly. They’d done this a million times before and each time she left feeling dirtier than she had before.
He tsked. He always did when he didn’t get his way.
But, thankfully, this once, he backed away. “Fine, I understand, you’re hungry. Food first.” He walked over to the counter, reclining back once more and placing his hands across his broad chest. “Where are we going?”
For once, the darkness pushed instinctually against him. He assumed so much. Was she just a toy to play with and discard? She bit the inside of her lip and tried and failed to restrain humorless laughter.
“Get out.” She said flatly.
Lukas thought this was funny, too. He thought a lot of things were. “Phie this is my apartment.”
“So? Use the key to mine.” She pointed to the door. “Get. Out.”
He stared at her with a comical look on his face, sure she was joking. Lukas was used to getting his way. Perhaps that was what always enchanted him about Ophelia- she was always so close out of reach but sometimes willing to dance with him between what he could and couldn’t have.
At his pausing, however, the anger grew. She felt a hot halo form about her. Sometimes, Ophelia’s power, having been utilized and strengthened by so much work in trying to make the dagger, had a mind of its own. Here, it formed a fiery hot bordering of flames around her skin, beginning to dry her hair and evaporating the remaining dampness of the towel.
Lukas chuckled lowly. “Just this once, witchling.” He headed for the door, swagger in every step. “Don’t come knocking too soon.”
She lunged for him, power flashing her so near to him her outstretched hand barely touched the hem of his shirt before the door slammed shut with a bout of his dark, evil laughter.
She slumped against the door, angry tears littering her cheeks.
She wanted the past back. She wanted that pure, unadulterated love. She wanted Frank. She wanted him to hold her and tell her it would all be all right, that she wasn’t the monster she thought she was.
The ache that had become constant filled her up and she wept, trying to force it out but always failing. She rubbed at her chest, trying to will that hurt out. It never worked. She’d tried spell after tincture and potion, but nothing staunched the flow of grief that burned her like a thousand fires. The spells she crafted came up short, always shrouding her in a numb cloud of gray but never removing the black stain of death from within her memory.
It was true there were spells that everyone who was a witch or faerie master knew. But spells were not limited. One could create new ones by speaking from the heart or working tirelessly on ingredients for the perfect tincture or potion. Witchery wasn’t to be performed by the book, it was a fluid moving thing. It was dark, and each time she tugged at the power that Lukas had given her, she felt her heart get two shades closer to pitch.
Sometimes she wondered what Frank would think of his Professorin now. She wasn’t the girl she used to be. Consumed in the stories she knew to be true, it had become an obsession to know everything there was to be known about the monster she’d signed herself up to be.
But, again, no amount of knowledge could save her from the pain.
She stood finally on shaky legs. The tears that fell were still painful but they were at least silent now. She stumbled to the dresser and swiped up one of the nightgowns she kept at Lukas’s, tearing it across her reddened skin and abandoning the towel on the floor. Lukas could clean up after her later.
The shower hadn’t helped the dirty feeling, and the panic was still lingering somewhere nearby. She looked down at the floor through her blurry tears to look for the black cat, seeking any tiny shred of comfort.
The floor was empty, and Ophelia tiptoed around, looking for the little creature. She saw her resting in the corner beside her little bowl of water, and Ophelia trembled, walking over and sitting down beside her, stroking her soft fur between her fingers only to be shocked.
She was cold.
Ophelia grimaced somehow deeper than before and nudged the cat with the round part of her palm. The cat made no movement. Ophelia rolled over the limp body and pulled back the cat’s eyes, still and unmoving in her head. She held her finger against the cat’s nose and felt no whisper of breath.
Twila was dead.
At this, anger sparkled beneath her skin. Reader, Ophelia was just about ready to give it all up. She could have nothing nice, and all of her dreams had been realized as truly nightmares. Taking a deep, furious and shaky breath, she snatched up Twila’s dead body and stomped to the lab table.
The Ophelia before the transformation hadn’t been prone to manic rages, but something about the dark magic within prompted fits of intense passion. She paid no attention to what had been tried before and threw random things together, frantic to at last make her discovery.
She dropped Twila’s body onto the countertop and heaved a deep frantic sob, a high pitched sound cutting through the air. As usual in these moments, she swiped up random ingredients and added them into beakers.
She scanned the table for an already opened jar of blood. Like almost every spell, it always began with taking something from the living that couldn’t be returned. For all magic had a price. Nothing of that evil art was free. She turned over a few glasses in her trembling, opening bags and containers in her search. Ophelia hated having to use her own, so she giggled excitedly when she found a sealed mason jar filled with the dark red stuff. On the metal lid, Lukas had scrawled his name in his chicken scratch handwriting.
Fresh tears tracked down her cheeks as she opened it up, popping the seal. He must have dropped it off when he came by to torment her, and she couldn’t think of anything better to use. She dumped half of the jar’s contents into a heating beaker on a hot plate.
She then tried her usual assortment of herbs. Lukas had once taught her what they meant, but she didn’t care anymore. She knew they were the basis of any workable concoction she devised. Halfway through cutting up some rosemary on a cutting board, she accidentally sliced off the end of her finger, blood spurting all over the board, the rosemary, and the warming beaker.
She cursed, putting the finger in her mouth before she frantically wrapped it up in a cloth.
The pain tore her back to the present, and her mind consumed itself with logical thought. What was she doing? The smell of warming blood swarmed in her nose, and her finger burned.
Was she really doing this? Was she really wasting her time simply throwing things together? She ran her uninjured hand through her damp hair and forced herself to think.
She and Andromeda had worked forever and ever on trying to make this dagger, and they’d tried nearly everything that grew from the ground. They’d tried each and every type of blood, all their own, and had even stolen some from hospitals nearby. Options seemed to have run out.
Of course there was one thing she hadn’t yet tried. There always was. Her eyes darted to her purse at the edge of the counter, acutely aware of what was inside. That silver locket she’d purchased a few days after she’d been transformed in that little flat. It was what rested inside that she wanted, though. Coiled inside, pale and pure in all of its softness, was one last lock of Frank’s hair. Lukas had gotten it for her, sure after the funeral it was something she would have wanted.
She bit her lip, new tears brimming at the thought of using it, wasting it, but curiosity beat at her brain. She snatched up her bag, pulling the locket out, and she stroked the hair only briefly before dropping it into the beaker.
She was struck at the sweet smell of it. It didn’t smell sulfurous. Yet.
Taking her sponge, she soaked up the red mixture and retrieved a fresh blade. It glittered under the lamp light, but she didn’t think about it for very long before she brought it back to her workspace.
She swiped it across the blade and it glowed. A smell like cinnamon filled the air, and she admonished herself for getting excited again.
Reader, you might think that the bitterness in her blood was what made it work. You might think it was the love in Frank’s hair that made it work. Someone might even suggest it was the dark magic in Lukas’s blood that propelled the spell to at last work, but as the dagger tore up Twila’s body, the wound instantly resealed itself, and light blinded Ophelia so that she had to step backwards.
When she finally opened her eyes again, she saw the petite cat blink her eyes a few times before standing up and stretching as if she’d simply just woken from a nap. She blinked at Ophelia’s gaping mouth and tilted her head at her, confused at the human before her.
After a few seconds, the cat jumped down from the table as normal, mewed, and headed for her water bowl as if nothing had happened.
She let out a broken gasp of excitement.
Her discovery meant one thing.
Realizing it was at last time, Ophelia snatched one of Lukas’s coats off of the back of the door, tearing her arms into the holes and ripping the sleeve with the new dagger in the process. She tore up her bag and keys, sliding her sunglasses over her eyes despite the fact it was nearly midnight outside the apartment. She ran her fingers to straighten her damp black hair, and with one loud slam of the door, she set off to do the one thing she’d been waiting an eternity to finally do.
The graveyard was aptly dead silent.
Despite the fact it lied a little bit outside of the city, the minute distance from the bright lighted loud place was enough to leave the place dark and silent. It was mournful, perfect for the place it was.
She’d always hated the places. With the darkness teeming within her so close at hand, she felt now more than ever the presence of the corpses buried in boxes beneath her feet. Headstones of all shapes and sizes jutted out like fledgling trees from the ground, and she walked in between them, dragging a shovel behind her.
She didn’t even know where he was buried. After all the horrors of what happened at her wedding, she’d never ventured to the place. Lukas had given her the death certificate. He’d given her the program from the funeral, a dapper photo on the back. He’d even told her where he was buried, but she’d never gone to visit.
She rubbed up and down her arms as she searched the plots with frantic eyes. In no order, she was sure she’d never glimpse it. That was until she saw a decayed old flag waving it’s shredded ends in the soft evening breeze. She tiptoed close and peered down at the stone, eyes shimmering with new and unshed tears.
FRANK GUSTAVE RICHTER
Soldier, Brother, Son
She felt an unpleasant feeling of longing rise up within her at the fact they hadn’t put husband on the stone. She felt morose at the fact there wasn’t an empty vault beside his for her body to rest after she passed.
She gulped up the tears, saltiness invading her throat and stomach. She shouldn’t dwell on that. Not when her beloved was so close to being hers again.
She set off to work. Reader, for a woman of Ophelia’s size and stature, this was perhaps an impossible task. One doesn’t simply unearth the dead and buried six feet under within one night. But Ophelia, perhaps not even human any longer but rather something in-between, beat at that dirt and shovel like it had killed her husband itself. With the magic swarming behind her navel, she was able to move quickly, casting an odd misty cloud throughout the entire cemetery to ward off any other unwanted visitors.
Tears and sobs continued to wrack her as she tried to unearth him. She could feel the dirt and grime covering her and she longed for a bath, but oh, not yet. Anger and shame and guilt and grief all wrapped into one, made her oblivious to the painful blisters forming on her palms and the aching muscles at her back and arms.
And all at once, she hit something hard.
She yelped, excitement taking over. Reader, it’s all she’d wanted for ten whole years! The man who completed her, here he was. She dug quickly and carefully around the coffin, unearthing the sides and stooping to scoop and throw chunks of it away, too excited to wait.
Before her stood the black box. Once glossy, now it was matte from the dirt it had resided in for so very long. She swiped some dirt from the weathered lid, fingers aching from all of the shoveling, and she bit her lip to staunch an approaching sob. After all these years, here he was. The other piece of her soul. For so long she’d been going, feeling like something, some part of her was missing and here it was. Breathing shakily, she grabbed the lid with a trembling hand and heaved the coffin open. She braced herself for years of decomposition, that beautiful face inside was sure to be unrecognizable, but what made her gasp and nearly faint wasn’t anything she had expected.
Reader, it was empty.