CHAPTER FIVE: JESSICA
It still did not seem real. How could it. This was not any kind of real world. But it was not a dream either. Somewhere between the two was an intersection of experience where none of the verities of reality could be assumed, but the utter chaos of dream was somehow still held at bay.
It happened as she walked to the throne. She felt the rightness of it as if some deep part of herself was nodding agreement with her actions. It was as if a flow of wisdom welled up in her psyche.
“I can do this,” she thought, mouthing the words as she took her seat on the throne. The strange sense of self-and-yet-other, intensified and she realised it was almost as if two of her was seated on the throne. One herself, wearing the flared jeans and purple polo-neck and the other wearing long skirts, a mantle and a cloak, the fabric pooling at her feet.
There was no sense of separation or dissonance, just the flowing of one into the other, like two tributaries of a river joining to flow on together to the sea. But Jessica had no time to consider the significance of it, or even to question what she felt about it. As her hands curled over the serpent heads of the throne, the serpents writhed beneath her touch and cast coils around her arms, acknowledging her right to be there, embracing her not restraining her.
From where she sat it was as if every part of this strange catacombic underworld was visible to her. She could cast her thoughts up and see Annis, arms round her cats, watching and wondering. She could reach out and sense the shifting depths of darkness where the Old Ones moved beneath the earth. She saw the pinioned vampire and as if at her unspoken command, the creatures around him slithered back into gloom.
No longer restrained Roald, pushed himself up from the slab of dark stone and stood staring at her, something of both yearning and desperation in his eyes. Jessica watched as he seemed to flicker between the handsome human form and the bone-grey near skeletal one she had seen in the fair. She realised then that was why Annis had taken her from the safety of the Sanctuary. In the midst of the fair he could not hold his human form against the powers of life and death which met there. She had needed to see it, see him as he really was, if she had not then she would still see him only in his gorgeous human form.
The other part of her knew only the viking Roald, clad in fine furs and wool, his braided beard and golden, on bended knee. Beguiling and beautiful. Telling her how the gulls themselves saluted her as they wheeled over the headland. The high headland where he tried to…
The sunken cheeks and cold-burning eyes filled her vision. He was impossibly fast, impossibly strong, impossibly no longer on the other side of the cavern, but there infront of her, black withered lips pulled back from the row of shark teeth, jaw impossibly wide to close on her throat.
The shots sounded like thunder, booming across a charged summer night and the grotesque head flung back and away, old blood, dark and slow as if in part congealed, fell in liquid clots onto the stone and deep within the core of the earth itself, something sighed in delight.
Part 15 of Maybe will be here next week…