A scream went up which penetrated soul-deep, the sound shaking the very foundations of the underworld and the roof of the cavern began to fall. Stones, dropping around her and the low rumble that presaged its final collapse. Then Annis was there, gripping her wrist..
“How did you know?”
Something was gone from her, as if a horror had passed and she looked more child again than feral being. Jessica pulled her close into an embrace, as if her own weak flesh could protect the child from the collapsing cavern. Eyes closed they clung together.
“It’s alright,” Annis was saying, her voice almost happy.
The rumble faded like summer thunder and Jessica became aware of a slight breeze on her face. She was standing with Annis and the two huge cats in an empty field, under the fading stars as dawn was breaking. Her car was pulled up nearby, beside an open gate. Jessica’s phone played a few bars from Dvorak’s ‘New World’ and she reached to answer it without thinking.
“Jess, I’ve been worried about you.” Uncle David’s voice sounded as if it belonged to another life, in another galaxy.
“It’s – it’s alright. I’m alright,”
“Your Aunt was sure you were in trouble, you know how she is. Ever since that Roald didn’t show up for dinner.”
“Yes, Look, I’m coming home. I had engine trouble. I’ll be back soon.”
“Long as you’re alright, lass.”
She put the phone away and looked back at Annis. The girl was bending down, grabbing at something gleaming in the grass.
“I think you should keep this,” she said, holding out the necklace of silver ammonites.
Jessica took it and for a moment she had the fleeting sense of Hild, smiling and she realised she felt whole again at last, more fully herself than she had done for a long, long time. She undid the catch and slipped the necklace around her neck to lie on her breasts, Then she turned her attention back to Annis, her indomitable young friend.
“Thank you, I don’t know how you got us out of there.”
Annis shook her head.
“You not understand, we not there. Never. It never happen. You – unmade it.” She reached out and kissed Jessica quickly on the cheek.
“I thank you. You take demon from me – free me. Make it never happen.”
“I – I am not sure I understand,” Jessica said, but then she was not sure she understood any of it. “What happens to you now?”
Annis smiled and it was the saddest thing Jessica had ever seen,
“Nothing happens to us Jess. We died before we were born. Only we never knew we was dead…I am just a dream of hope in the darkness.”
As Jessica watched, Annis and her cats grew more and more insubstantial until she could see them no longer. She thought she felt small fingers and a rough tongue on her cheek until the morning breeze blew even that away.
There will be a new Sunday Serial on the Working Title Blog from next week…