Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My fame is GROWING! – or – Fifty Shades of 'Huh'?



So! I've got GREAT news and I can't wait to share it!!! I've been offered a really cool opportunity that, God/Goddess/Allah/Buddha/FSM-willing will be the first official step on my path to Internationally Renowned Blogger™-hood.



But...before I begin, a bit of background:

A number of years ago a Mormon housewife by the name of Stephenie Meyer decided to publish what was essentially a written record of her personal erotic fantasies (well, at least what passes for ‘erotic’ in the Land of the Mormons) and thus was Twilight born.

Most people know Twilight as an engaging YA paranormal romance, wherein a young girl (Bella Swan) falls in love with a ‘good’ vampire (Edward Cullen) and they have many and various adventures on their path to eventual matrimony and parenthood.

In truth, it is a poorly written screed – about a somewhat selfish and shallow girl and the ‘mysterious and enigmatic’ guy she falls for – that details the many and various ways a man can stalk and abuse a woman while convincing her that his actions indicate love.

Ick.

To give you some insight to my own character, while I found the stalking and abuser behaviour awful and unacceptable, my biggest issue was with the horrible writing and the poorly done editing. I only managed to get through the first book and that was…painful.

Millions of people, however, did not agree with me, as the book became an international bestseller and spawned several sequels, all of which – with the original – have been turned into movies.

In addition to their invasion of Hollywood, the books – or at least their characters – also found a home in the land of fanfic.

Fanfic (as defined by the Urban Dictionary):

Fanfics are fictional stories written about pre-existing books/films/animes/mangas/etc by fans of this work. A Disclaimer is included as standard, stating in some way or another that they do not own the characters they are writing about.

Some authors (e.g. J.K. Rowling) have encouraged fanfics on the grounds that publishing is not attempted (this will always result in a law suit, something the authors of fanfics have generally accepted). However, other authors (e.g. Anne Rice) have requested that fanfics based around their stories (etc) are not posted on fanfiction sites. These such authors are more commonly known as Kill Joys (see bitching).

A whole slew of Twilight fanfics came into being, most of them content to stay on the pages of their fanfic sites. But then the unthinkable happened: one got published.

As far as I know it was originally self-published, but soon gained immense popularity and was picked up by a mainstream publishing house. I’m speaking, of course, of Fifty Shades of Grey.

In this story, Bella and Edward are re-imagined as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, who are, respectively, a virginal, sexually na├»ve (almost to the point of complete ignorance) recent college graduate, and a BDSM Dominant, multi-millionaire business magnate. He falls for her and wants her to be his sexual submissive. And, staying true to the nature of the ‘romance’ on which the characters are based, he exhibits abusive controlling behavior, all in the name of his love/need for her. (Full disclosure: I have only read the first chapter of the first book, but I have read many in-depth, critical-yet-humorous essays about the entire series).

Surprisingly, this book, too, became a huge success and it spawned sequels (and apparently movies are in the works as well). Unsurprisingly, the book also inspired a number of critiques and parodies, and that brings us back to the point of this post.

I was recently perusing Amazon.com – okay, that’s not true. I never casually search Amazon. I go there to ‘buy’ free books for my kindle, about which I am alerted by four daily e-mails.

One of the e-mails I received featured a book titled – and I poop you not – Fifty Shades of Jungle Fever. Now, my first thought was, “Has Spike Lee lost his mind?” But I quickly realized that he, in fact, had nothing to do with it. Rather, an…enterprising author by the name of L.V. Lewis decided to write and publish her own version of FSoG (I’m assuming it was self-published, as the ‘publisher’ is listed as Jungle Fever Press, Georgia).

Of course, I had to have it. I mean, I knew FSoG sucked, but a fanfic of a fanfic? How much worse could things possibly get? I couldn’t wait to read it!

Now, here’s where we get to the part about my GROWING fame…=’)

Because I have an endless love of horribly executed fiction, I routinely search the internet for critiques of, and essays on, awful books/series, mostly for their comedic value. (here are some links to some of my faves:




seriously, check them out. They’re awesome!!!)

The last link is the most relevant, as the author, Jennifer Armintrout, and I have been chatting occasionally via twitter. She has done an amazing chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the first book of FSoG (and I believe is working on the other two) and contributed an essay to the book, “Fifty Writers on ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’”. When I saw the ‘Jungle Fever’ version, I had to send her a ‘tweet’ and let her know about it.

Her response? She asked if I would be willing to write a guest post for her blog reviewing the book.

Seriously.

A published author asked me – a soon-to-be-burgeoning Internationally Renowned Blogger™ – to write a guest post for her blog. I am SO jizzing excited right now!

So, uh yeah. I am in the process of writing the review and then I will send it to her for…uh…review… and posting. Since she has been so gracious in inviting me to write for her blog*, I will not be posting my review here, but rather only on her site. I will post a link to it here when she puts it up.






*by the way, while I’m sure this is just biz-as-usual for well-known published author like her, it’s kind of a pretty big deal for me…and I’m super excited about it!!!

=’)

Friday, November 9, 2012

So it's my birthday!!!!

And in honor of that, I've decided to give *you* a gift!!!

Eh, it's just today's NaNo piece.

Uh...it's disturbing, like most things I write, but I suppose I should put a small trigger warning because there's a scene w/ a heavily implied sexual assault...='(

Anyway, enjoy otherwise!

Oh! And in keeping w/ NaNo 'rules', it hasn't been proofed/edited...so it's *really* rough...







Rick picked up his glass and held it out to Mike, “A toast. A toast to us and to ‘this’ and to wherever all of it’s going.” He smiled and waited for Mike to clink his glass and complete the toast. Mike simply stared at him, frowning slightly. “What’s wrong?” Rick’s smile faltered.

Mike sighed and picked up his glass, taking a sip without finishing Rick’s toast. “Nothing. Everything. I don’t know.” He shrugged and shook his head, pausing to take another sip before changing his mind mid-motion and tipping his head back to empty the glass. He grabbed the bottle to give himself a refill.

“I told you this is all new to me. I’m still figuring everything out. And I told you that I’m not comfortable with…with –”

“With what?” Rick cut him off. “Public displays of affection? Flaunting who and what we are? I get that, man. I really do. But making a quiet, vaguely- and politely-worded toast in a nearly-deserted restaurant in a town where no one knows us is hardly flaunting anything.” Rick smiled again and raised his glass, silently this time. He waited. Slowly, almost grudgingly, Mike lifted his glass and toasted with him.

“Okay, okay, point taken.” He looked down at the table, cradling his glass with both hands. He sighed and took another sip before he spoke again. “How do you do it? Aren’t you ever anxious, or…afraid?” He glanced up at Rick, then looked away quickly, suddenly shy, feeling exposed.

Rick chuckled and reached across the table to take Mike’s hand. “Why should I be scared? I’ve got the captain of the varsity football team here to protect me.” Mike blushed at that. Rick continued. “Seriously, I used to be scared, quite a lot actually. Then I realized all the people that hated me and were judging me? They were scared too; scared of their own feelings; scared of their own fears and vulnerabilities.” He paused to take a sip of his wine. “But little by little, I would talk to them, not as an activist or an agitator, just as a person. They would see that I was just like them: I worked and went to school and paid my bills – mostly on time.” Mike chuckled at that.

Rick continued. “I went grocery shopping, did my laundry, hung out with friends when I had the time. I was just a guy, a normal, everyday guy, like everyone else. And I wanted a normal, everyday life, just like everyone else. Once people realized how much we had in common, a lot of the fear just went away.” Mike looked into his eyes.

“You’ve been very lucky,” he said quietly, almost sadly. “I envy you that.”

“Of course I’ve been lucky.” Rick put down his glass and grabbed Mike’s other hand. He brought Mike’s hands up and kissed his fingers. “I met you, didn’t I? You’re one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.”

Mike looked at him earnestly. “You mean that? Seriously?”

Rick clasped Mike’s hands in his. “More than you can imagine.” He kissed Mike’s palms and cradled his face in Mike’s hands. “I love you.”

Mike smiled. He jerked himself back from Rick, jumped up out his chair and shouted, “BAM! Nailed it! Time to pay up, you loser motherfuckers.”

Rick started and stared at Mike. “What…what’s going on?” He looked around frantically as voices filtered into the room. The previously empty restaurant started filling up – with football players. “Mike? Mike?” Rick’s voice was shaking. “Mike, what is this?” Mike ignored him, greeting his teammates with laughter and high fives.

“I told you!” he crowed. “I told you I could get the dumb pansy to fall for me and to say he loved me. Each one of you bastards owes me fifty bucks!” Mike started to do his famous ‘touchdown dance’. The other players were grumbling, but they all started reaching into pockets for money-clips and wallets. In addition to his voice, Rick himself started shaking; he’d realized, too late, that he was completely surrounded and that all of the guys were much bigger than him.

“Mike,” his throat had dried up and he was whispering. “Mike, this…this isn’t funny.”

“Shut up!” one of the players shouted, hitting him in the back of the head hard enough to make his forehead smack the table. The others laughed. Rick was scared now – really scared – his eyes welling up from fear and pain. Mike sat back down at the table and took his hand.

“Rick, Rick, come on.” His voice was steady. “It’s a joke man. It’s just a joke.” He smiled. Rick’s whole body sagged with relief. He was still a bit wary – the blow to the back of his head had hurt, but he knew football players were a rough sort. He smiled weakly, cautiously, eyes questioning.

Mike’s grip on Rick’s hand tightened. “Of course it’s a joke. This whole stupid ‘relationship’ is a huge fucking joke!” Rick’s face fell. “What, did you think I meant I was joking about my boys here?” He laughed cruelly, jerking Rick forward and slapping him hard across the face. Rick fell to the floor, stunned, too shocked to cry out. The circle of football players around him tightened. He could no longer see Mike, but he certainly heard him.

“Thanks for the money boys, he’s all yours.” He started to walk away laughing but then stopped. “By the way, stop by the bar when you’re done and I’ll buy a round. I’m sure you’ll be exhausted and in need of refreshment.” His laughter followed him out of the room.

Rick didn’t see the fist that broke his nose and knocked him onto his back. Nor did he see the foot that broke the first of his ribs. Hands were all over him. His shirt was yanked over his head, blinding him and trapping his arms. He couldn’t properly grasp what was happening to him; his mind was a jumble of shock and pain and fear.

The fear was crystallized to needle sharpness, however, when he was picked up, slammed facedown onto a table and felt hands tugging at his pants.

He opened his mouth wide – a scream ready to tear itself out of his throat – when a hand clamped down, covering his mouth, smothering his scream. His eyes shot open and he sat up and he saw Mike. He gasped and frantically pushed himself backwards, away from his tormentor. Mike sat there unmoving, a look of desperation in his eyes.

Rick only made it a few feet until the back of his head slammed into a piece of metal. Dazedly, he looked behind himself; he’d hit bars. He stared at Mike in disbelief as he flipped onto his knees and took in his surroundings: they were locked in a cage. He opened his mouth to say something – anything – but no words came out; only confused, animal-like noises.

Mike crawled over to him. Rick flinched as Mike raised a hand to place on his cheek, vividly remembering his recent nightmare. Mike paused, confused at his reaction. Rick grabbed his hand and finished the movement, placing against his face. He whispered, “What happened? I don’t remember…”

Mike smiled faintly, leaning in and placing his hand on the back of Rick’s neck. He pulled Rick forward until their foreheads touched. “I’m so sorry, 'Hansa'.” A tear slid down his face. “It looks like the witch caught us.”

“Now that’s not a very nice thing to say!” The voice came from just on the other side of the bars. They jumped and shouted out in surprise, falling over each other in their haste to crawl backwards, away from the voice and into the relative safety of the back of the cage.

“Hello dear grandson.” Rick could feel her eyes on him in the gloom. “I’m so glad you decided to come for a visit.” Her eyes shifted to Mike. He began to sweat. “And you brought a little friend with you. How sweet.” Her voice deepened into a growl. “How very, very sweet”.

Both boys started gasping and near-retching.

She laughed, her voice changing again; this time a light and airy tinkling. “It’s always so refreshing, seeing the effects of darkfear on your kind. It’s quite debilitating, yes?” They were now shaking as if with fever; Rick sweating as badly as Mike.

“Far, far worse than the simple anxiety inspired by that thing that tried to eat you earlier, yes?” She squatted down, looking at them through the bars. They could see her face clearly; their bodies reacting instinctively, they pushed themselves harder against the bars behind them, as if trying to force themselves through.

She walked around the cage, coming closer to their corner. They scrambled to the middle, holding on to each other desperately.

“You realize this is all your fault, yes?” She ran her hand along the top of the cage as she circled. “That thing was supposed to kill and eat you – both of you! Granted it would have been horribly unpleasant. And it would have lasted quite some time.” She stopped and looked off into the dark, as if thinking.

“It would have been satisfied with your deaths, however, and it would have left when it was done. But that didn’t happen, did it?” She glared at them as if expecting a response.

“Oh, no! You just had to hop into your car like a pair of frightened schoolgirls and drive away, screaming. Leaving that thing behind. Leaving it to attack me!” Her voice had risen to a shriek. Again she squatted down and they saw her face clearly; it had changed. Rick’s eyes grew wide as memory slammed into him and he recalled the face that had been staring in his window. Mike leaned over behind Rick and vomited.

The face that stared at them opened its mouth – cavernously wide – and started cackling. Then a voice issued forth; it sounded like nothing they’d ever heard before. They prayed they’d never hear it again.

“Don’t worry my dears. Don’t worry at all. The thing – that thing that should have eaten you – is dead. Quite, quite dead. It managed to hurt me, though. It hurt me quite badly. And that, my dears, that is your fault. But, like I said, don’t worry. You’ll make it up to me.”

The mouth opened wider and tendrils of darkness snaked out, creeping along the floor of the cage towards the boys. They shrieked and fled backwards. The darkness kept coming. Thick and inky, it poured out of the ever widening mouth, larger and larger tendrils questing about the room.

Rick and Mike squeezed each other tighter and tighter as the darkness finally engulfed them.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day 3 of NaNoWriMo

Here's my latest. It's a *bit* of a rushed piece (at least, towards the end) because the power was out for about 20 hours, and my laptop's battery SUCKS, so I didn't get started until WAY later than I'd planned...

...and there's NO WAY I'm doing any writing longhand...*that* would take forever...

So, here it is. Hopefully I'll be able to do MUCH more tomorrow.





Arthur opened his eyes and rolled over. He propped himself up on his elbow, head resting in his hand and stared down at his new bride. He could see her features clearly in the moonlight streaming through the open balcony doors. He watched her sleeping and thought about what a lucky man he was.

He never dreamed he’d meet a girl so beautiful; and the fact that she’d shown any interest in him at all – much less eventually agreeing to be his wife! – he felt himself the luckiest man in the world.

He knew his family would be angry, his grandmother most of all – what a terror she was – but he didn’t care. He loved his beautiful Corinth and nothing was going to keep them apart.

She opened her eyes and saw him watching her. She quirked an eyebrow in unspoken question.

“My darling,” he breathed. You have made me the happiest man alive. I still don’t know how I convinced you to marry me – or why you said yes – but I don’t care. Today was the best day of my life and, as impossible as it sounds, I know things are only going to get better.”

She looked up at him and smiled. For the briefest moment, the smile looked sinister, but he convinced himself it was simply a trick of the moonlight. She said nothing.

“Ah, my sweet, I cannot wait until we return to my father’s estates as man and wife. Once my father sees that we are lawfully wed, there will be nothing he can do, no way he can keep us apart. And my grandmother, that harridan, she too will learn that all of her contrivances and machinations have been for naught. She will rage and shriek and cry foul, but even she cannot undo what the Holy Church has done. Our future is secured, my beloved.”

He reached under the sheets and took her hand, pulling it to his lips for the gentlest of kisses. He held it there, kissing her fingertips and caressing his lips along her palm. He saw a slight blush rising in her cheeks as she turned her head away from him.

Ah, the modesty of a new bride. Clearly my family are fools! They cannot see how blessed I am to have been allowed to pluck this most precious jewel from the heavens. He rolled onto his back, her hand still clutched in his grasp. Truly the gods have smiled upon me. This I swear to you my darling, his thoughts became fierce, nothing – nothing I say! – will ever take me from you. As I vowed in the church so again I say, yet with even greater vehemence, not even death itself shall tear me from your tender embrace.

Unbeknownst to him, Corinth heard his thoughts. And she smiled.

***

Corinth stood on the balcony looking out over the sea. The doors were open behind her, the drapes billowing in the breeze, and she could hear Arthur’s gentle snoring. She looked down at her hand, amazed at herself; amazed that she had allowed his touch for so long. No one had ever dared such before. No one would.

She took a quick glance inside, to make sure he was well and truly asleep – he was; his mind was weak and he was easily susceptible to her will – then took a seat at the balcony table. Taking a few deep breaths, she centered herself, then, muttering three short words under her breath – to ensure her body’s safety – she cast her mind out. She drifted up and away, pausing only long enough to make sure her wards were properly set.

She aligned herself with the energies of the planet as it turned beneath her, ‘catching’ a wind and letting it carry her south and east, in the direction of her new father-in-law’s estate. She emptied herself of conscious thought, content to drift with the currents knowing that, in addition to letting her save her own energy, this method of transport would also render her invisible to any prying eyes, specifically those of Arturo’s grandmother. (She did allow herself one small thought. How she hated that he called himself ‘Arthur’. The fool came from a grand and ancient bloodline and, if he were at all wise, he could potentially gain so much – both earthly and otherwise, especially since he’d wed her – but his ambitions were as lacking as the love he held for his true name. He would come to regret his decisions…) But enough! She had greater concerns to attend to.

The winds carried her to her destination, and she expended just the slightest bit of energy – hardly noticeable…except it was noticed – in disentangling herself from its stream. She allowed gravity to take her and drifted downwards gently, still eschewing thought in order to remain undetected.

As she neared her new estate – she had, in her mind, already accepted that everything Arturo and his family owned would soon be hers – she sent out the tiniest tendril of thought, seeking to discover the whereabouts of Arturo’s family, especially the hated grandmother. It was a mistake. And it nearly cost her everything.

A blast of hatred, stronger than a hurricane wind, slammed into her incorporeal form and sent her reeling. Impossibly, she felt herself slammed up against a wall; and she found herself stuck.

As she regained her wits, she saw – quite unbelievably – that she was trapped in what appeared to be an enormous spider-web. She immediately set about the task of freeing herself.

A shrill voice called out. “Struggle all you want, little thing. You cannot free yourself. Nothing escapes my web.”

She looked about and saw a creature that, had she been anyone else, would have scared her witless. It looked like a spider – a giant, malformed beast of a spider – with far more than eight eyes and twice again as many legs. It regarded her intently, with those many eyes, and slowly – so very, very slowly – began to advance upon her.

Though she wasn’t terrified, she should at the very least have been scared – never in her life (her very long life) had she some across a being powerful enough to trap her so quickly. She had, however, two things working in her favor. The first: this creature, this fell and hideous beast – which she knew to be Arturo’s grandmother – had not, for some Darkness-blessed reason, recognized her; it must have assumed she was just some haphazard traveler, regrettably (for her) caught in its web. The second: Arturo, love-blinded fool that he was, had unwittingly divulged all manner of ancient and obscure secrets about his family – from his original royal ancestor, to his soon-to-be-departed grandmother, to his as-yet-unborn nephew; secrets that would ensure both their downfall and her unstoppable ascension.

She would deal with grandma.

***

Arthur opened his eyes and rolled over. He propped himself up on his elbow, head resting in his hand and stared down at his new bride. She wasn’t there! He jerked back in shock and looked around the room, confused.

“Darling,” he called, softly. He didn’t see her. Taking a deep breath to quell his rising panic, he sat up, rubbed his eyes and looked around again, a little more frantically. He called out again, a little louder this time.

“Yes, my love?” Her voice floated in from the balcony. It may as well have been carried on the backs of angels, his relief was so great. She swept into the room, her sleeping gown floating around her, clinging here, draping there, the whole of her backlit by the moon. She was a vision and she took his breath away.

He exhaled and smiled weakly, relief at her appearing warring with excitement at her appearance. He chose to focus on the excitement.

“I awoke and found you gone,” he chastised, gently. “I feared you’d come to your senses whilst I slept and left me.” He chuckled lightly at his own joke. Then, noticing the look on her face, he stopped. “My darling, what is it? You look as though something is the matter. You must tell me.”

She came over to the bed – he could’ve sworn she was gliding on the air; his angel! – and sat by his side, in the space he had assumed she’d been asleep in.

“I couldn’t sleep,” she spoke quietly, her eyes downcast. “I tried, but whenever I would close my eyes…”

“Please, my beloved, whatever it is that troubles you, it cannot possibly stand against the strength of our love. I am your husband now and I am pledged to protect you until my last breath.” Her face looking down, he didn’t see the smile that spread across her face at that last. “Tell me quickly, that I can put your fears to rest and we may return to our marriage bed.” Her smile dropped at that.

She glanced at him sidewise. “I tried to sleep, but my dreams would not let me.” He took up her hand and gave her an encouraging nod. “At first they were gentle and serene, then…” She faltered and began anew, “I was walking unmolested through endless fields of blossoms. The sky, the air was crisp, fresh. The softest of breezes caressed my face and arms, the perfume of the flowers all around.” She sighed heavily. He squeezed her hand, requesting her to continue.

“Of a sudden, the sky darkened and the wind picked up. It seemed normal, at first. A spring storm, maybe; rare, but not unheard of. But it rapidly worsened. The sky turned a sickly dark green – like the bile of a pestilent. The wind grew and grew…I could barely stand…and it razed the blossoms to the earth. Then it ate away at the earth itself until only the bare rock remained.” Her breath hitched and she turned away. He leaned forward and encircled her in his arms. From behind her, he was unable to see that her eyes had started glowing.

“I could not move. I was frozen to the spot as in fear. The ground started to tremble and quake. As I watched, it fell away in great chunks, until I was left, stranded and alone, on a massive plateau.” He buried his face in her hair, kissing her neck and whispering his love in her ear.

“I gathered my will and forced myself to move. Bit by bit, I was able to advance until I was at the edge of the plateau. I looked over, and what I saw very nearly made me lose my wits.” He stroked her arms and caressed her back, imagining that he was comforting her.

“I looked over the edge and saw naught but darkness. But it was a darkness with form and shape; it was a darkness that moved. And, I swear, I saw it looking back at me!”

Day 2's piece for NaNoWriMo

So, I was *super* excited yesterday, because I was going to post an excerpt from the piece I'm working on for NaNoWriMo (nanowrimo.org) and preface it with something witty, as per usual...

...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.