...but we lost power for about 20 hours (because this is Kenya and that's what happens) so I *just* got back on my computer and I'm totally behind in today's writing...
...so I'm just going to put this up.
It's from day 2 of NaNoWriMo...and it's just over 2,000 words:
Corinth was in the basement. She was sat upon the floor cross-legged, a single lit candle in front of her. She was alone, as she preferred it, except for her husband, of course; but ghosts seldom count, so she ignored him.
She stared into the flame and concentrated until she felt the confines of the room around her melt away, then she relaxed – both her body and her mind. She felt her muscles loosening and she leaned forward until her forehead rested on the flagstones before her, her arms folded in her lap. Her breathing became shallow. Her mind slowly unfocused and started to drift.
Her husband nattered away uselessly in her ear. Warning her of the danger and trying to get her to stop, to come back to her body and stay with him. Reminding her of his own failures and how they resulted in his death.
She cast a stray thought in his direction, and he fell silent. His continued existence on the human plane was solely at her sufferance and she would brook no interference with her plans. He withdrew sullenly. He wished, not for the first time, that he had never introduced her to any of this. Yet he knew that, with or without him, she would have found her way to it. His sole consolation being that his guidance and counsel had at least made her initial journeys somewhat safe.
She drifted out and away from her body and into the void, extending her senses in all directions, searching. She heard a small cry and turned her attention upon it, latching onto it and following it back to its source. It led her to a young girl, no more than twelve years in age. The girl sat in the corner of her room, on the floor, sobbing. Corinth deftly slipped into her mind.
Inside the girl she found a maelstrom. She stood upon a flat, barren rock – a massive plateau – whipped by icy winds and surrounded by what first appeared to be the blackest of water, but turned out to be shadows: shadows that churned and boiled like an ocean in a hurricane; shadows that leapt and danced like heretics being burned alive; shadows that hungered. She recognized where she was. She looked about and saw the little girl a ways behind her, curled up on the ground and shivering. Fighting against the wind, she walked over to her and knelt by her side.
The girl looked up at her, tears running down her face. She sat up, stretched out her hand, and opened her mouth as if to as if to ask for help. A piercing shriek issued forth, instead, knocking Corinth on her back and sending her skidding and rolling towards the edge of the plateau. She barely managed to stop herself before she went flying off into the shadows.
Slowly she got to her feet, keeping a wary eye on the girl. She approached again, more cautiously this time, muttering under her breath. The sounds she made did not quite approximate words, but they served her purpose and, by the time she reached the girl again, the girl was subdued. She remained on her guard, slowly circling the girl, searching for weaknesses. The girl watched her venomously, struggling to move, clearly wanting to attack again, yet unable.
Certain that she was safe, for the moment at least, she again knelt by the girl. She reached out and put her hand on top of the girl’s head – the girl now shaking, desperate in her effort to move – and closed her eyes, concentrating. After a moment, she opened her eyes, removed her hand and nodded to herself, as if confirming an unspoken question.
She sat back and clasped her hands before her face as in prayer. When she opened them, she held a pendant in her right hand, its chain snaking between her fingers. The poison in the girl’s stare rapidly changed to fear. She held the chain above the girl’s head, breathing out quiet words while swaying back and forth, repeating the words over and over, getting louder each time. Black tears started to fall from the girl’s while a similar yet thicker substance leaked out of her ears.
The girl was practically vibrating by now, and little by little, her mouth started to open. Corinth noticed this and, just as the girl’s mouth was about to open wide enough to let loose another shriek – this one no doubt fatal – she thrust the chain over the girl’s head and around her neck. The girl screamed, but the sound was simply that of a human in great pain; it held no power. Her scream was quickly cut off by choking noises as a viscous black fluid came bubbling out of her throat. Corinth leapt back, making sure none of it touched her.
The fluid crept down the girl’s chin and flowed across her cheeks to the back of her head and down her neck. It quickly enveloped the chain and streamed down towards the pendant. As soon as it touched the pendant, however, it started to steam and evaporate. Like a thing alive, it recoiled from the pendant and uncurled itself from the chain. It began slithering back up towards her face, redirecting itself – and the now sluggish stream that still poured out of the girl’s mouth – into a twisting, sinuous course that encircled her head. In a few moments, her entire head was a pulsating, rotating mass of darkness.
Corinth watched dispassionately, waiting. She knew the substance was desperately trying to re-enter the girl’s body, while at the same time searching for a way to destroy the pendant; it could do neither. Slowly it began to rise, revealing more and more of the girl’s face, until it was hovering directly over her head like sinister black cloud.
It hung there for a moment, quivering, then shot out a tendril in Corinth’s direction. She twitched her fingers – just barely – and the thing stopped, as it if had hit a wall. It started growing as more and more of the substance flowed down the tendril to get at her. She whispered a word and the thing shrieked. The tendril shot backwards and the entire mass jerked away from above the girl’s head, as if buffeted by the now increasing winds.
The girl’s body collapsed.
Corinth walked up, gave her one last look-over and picked the girl’s body up. Holding her tightly, as a mother with a newborn, she closed her eyes and gently withdrew from the girl’s mind. When she opened her eyes, she was once again in the girl’s room. The girl had ceased crying and was staring at her, mouth agape.
“How…? How did you -?” She brought her finger up to her own lips to silence the girl. She smiled and knelt by the girl, stroking her head while the girl wept, gratefully. Then she grabbed the girl by the arm and yanked. The girl screamed and passed out.
When the girl awoke, she found herself lying on a cold, stone floor in a dark, cavernous room. There was a single candle on the floor next to her, its flame guttering. On the other side of the candle sat the strange woman from her room – from her dream!
She scrambled to her knees and wrapped her arms around herself. “Who…who are you? Why have you brought me here? Where is this place?”
The woman stared at her, for a long while unblinking. The girl’s questions petering out as fear settled in. Finally, as the girl felt tears start to well, the woman spoke.
“Your lack of gratitude is beginning to make me regret saving you.”
“Gratitude?” The girl was confused. “But, but it was just a dream. I don’t understand –”
The woman cut her off. “It was not a dream, I assure you. There are…places, places that exist solely in the collective unconsciousness of humankind. They appear to be dreams – indeed, most people can only get there whilst asleep – but they are quite real. And some of them are quite dangerous, as well.”
The girl shuddered and looked about in the darkness. “I still…I still don’t understand. I was having a nightmare. And, and you were there! And you saved me from…from something, I…can’t remember what. But then, then I woke up and I was in my room and you were there too…in my room with me...and you were being kind to me, and then…and then…” The girl trailed off, unsure of what she was saying, or if she was even making sense.
The woman rose and the girl stared up at her.
“Why am I here?” her voice was barely audible.
The woman smiled and said nothing. Then, abruptly, she turned and walked away from the girl, her swift motion sending a small gust of air that blew out the candle’s flame. The girl was instantly swallowed by the darkness and she froze in fear.
She screamed, then cried out, “Wait!” At least she tried. The tiniest croak escaped her lips. Somewhere off in the darkness, she heard the woman’s footsteps echoing. She crawled forward on her hands and knees, determined to follow the sound, to find the woman. She stopped after only a few feet. Lost in the pitch dark, she had no way of knowing what dangers surrounded her. She curled up on the floor, bereft of hope, and wept.
Corinth stood in the dark and watched the girl as she lay on the floor crying. She was waiting for the girl to stop, waiting for the silence. Eventually, her tears subsided and quiet descended on the room. That was when Corinth heard it. She crossed her arms and smiled.
Exhausted from her strange ordeal, the girl finally stopped crying. She was still terrified, but she knew that crying was doing her no good. She needed to figure out where she was and try to find a way out. She sat up on her knees and closed her eyes – even though she was in the dark and couldn’t see – in order to focus on her hearing. She wasn’t sure what she expected to hear – maybe the woman hadn’t left yet? – but any kind of hope was better than none at all.
She heard nothing at first, apart from her own shallow breathing and her pounding heartbeat. Then, faintly, she heard a noise. She wasn’t sure what it was, but it seemed to be slowly growing louder. She held hear breath so she could hear better. It seemed to be a scratching, or scrabbling noise, like something was crawling towards her. But she couldn’t tell where it was coming from. The noise grew in increments, and she started to get nervous. She almost called out, to ask who was there – to see if the woman was still nearby – but she changed her mind at the last minute.
Alone in the dark with whatever was crawling around, she decided that staying silent was the wiser thing to do. Then something brushed her foot.
She shrieked and jumped forward, landing hard on her left side, her arm underneath her. As soon as she screamed, the noises stopped. They started up again almost immediately, this time twice as loud and much closer.
She cradled her left arm, crying from the pain, trying to be as quiet as possible while looking all around her frantically, desperate to see. Then she heard something else, familiar yet at the same time frightening. It took her a moment to realize she was hearing laughter.
She turned towards it. She was scared of whoever might be making such an uncanny sound, yet she was terrified of whatever it was that was making the other noises.
She was staring so intently in the direction of the laughter that she was unprepared for the light that struck her face when a door suddenly opened. She blinked furiously and had to squint, but was able to see that it was the strange woman who had been laughing and that she was standing by an open door with light flooding through it.
Then she looked around her and saw what had been making all the other noises. This time her screams came out loud and strong. She screamed and screamed and screamed…
…and then she was stopped.