Her gaze rolls over him as it would the map to the Fountain of Youth. He can feel her magic stir with the presence of death. Brown fingers twitch against white gauze and the door. All the lines soften around her. Aleister experiences a nauseating desire to bleed again. She makes it feel okay. His arm aches. His clothes are heavy.
Marisa slowly steps back and the gravity in her eyes pulls him forward. They are all intense connection and strange silence. Everything seems off about him. He is dirty and smudged, torn, injured. Her spirit calls out to him, urging him toward soft death. Hunger wraps around him like shadowy fingers from within her.
He finds himself stepping toward her, ushered across her threshold by a force both menacing and inviting. Their surroundings are a blur, her personal life smudged away by malevolent undertones radiating from her depths. A warmth envelops his tingling limbs, warmth with a certainty that she will help him leave everything forever. She will make pain and weakness pass from him. She will take away the dawn’s dominion over him and she will take him away from hell.
“Aleister,” she whispers in her way, rolling the last syllable into a subtle ebb and flow of tension. It is her nature to urge the souls she faces down her unearthly path, reserved for those who take their deaths and escape servitude. “What has happened to you?”
She stops, so he stops. He warily watches her, intrigued. She seems to be standing on needles as her body leans forward slightly. Her fingers reach toward him and then stall halfway, hanging in the humming air. Aleister notices her blood has soaked through the dressing on her hand. He steps away from her reach, though his body screams to yield to her touch. And he would reopen his veins and die.
“Would you grant me my own death, Marisa? Do you have a place to keep fellow crows?” he asks pointedly, muscles awakening with adrenaline. His instinct is to fight, though she’s supposed to be his ally. He has made a mistake, misjudged this force. He must still stink of death to her. She’s weak and he has tempted her.
An angry light splits the jungle sky in two. Violent winds pelt water droplets from a recent rain in all directions so that, suddenly, it stings against the delicate skin of his eyelids. He has been thoroughly entranced in her gravitational summons. There are no stars. There is no sky, only the drab haze of mist on a hot, humid night. He’s compelled to squint through the assault to meet her eyes.
She takes another step toward him, unaffected by the fury, and earnestly asks, “Do you want to die?”
Nighttime dances around her like dark smoke. Her feet are bare and brown against the lush green. He feels a rising certainty that the goddess in her would not be able to resist his suicide, if he would just consent.
“I came to bring you this,” he says.
He reaches the large wrapped-up leaf holding Izavel’s blood powder into the gap, doing his best to shut down his sensory responses to her power. He can almost ignore the sound of slow slithering.
Simultaneously, he attempts to grind his emotional response system to a halt. Emotion is a hole in his defense big enough for her finger, enough to shatter him with a touch. His goal is utter indifference toward her and the fact that, at the moment, she would like him dead. He achieves, rather, a gut-wrenching impulse to give in, to see if he can look death in the face and defeat it.
His fingers release the leaf and he jerks his hand away just as she reaches for him. The packet falls to the floor between them, unharmed. If she touches him, she’ll win. A familiar sluggishness is creeping over him. The sun is beginning to rise. He has to go, or dawn will drag him to sleep on her porch.
“It’s best brewed as a tea,” he says as he takes slow steps backward out of her door. She watches him leave her, hand outstretched in a failed attempt to let him die without a god.
Music has always been an integral part of my writing. It helps set the mood and represent the tone of a scene. Sometimes a song will fit a character perfectly. In this case, I did my best to reconstruct what I was listening to twelve years ago. These aren’t all the songs and albums that contributed to The Murder Meets at Dusk, but it’s a decent representation of where my head was. I will say Muse was the prominent band that played while I was writing. Like…several albums straight through on repeat. So a special shout out to Showbiz and Origin of Symmetry specifically and the band in general for, in fact, speaking to my muse. Hope you enjoy!
View playlist here: