I attempt to answer, but I pass out. When I wake, I am in my bed, in my cabin in the Underworld. My mother busies herself in my kitchen, Nem sits at the foot of my bed, and Ky’Elli, the small beast, lays across my legs asleep and snoring. Nem is holding a silver canister with Mrs. Hestia’s handwriting on it.
I run my fingers through my hair and give it a little pull as I cry out my frustrations. This piece has been hard enough to write as is without distractions. I am having trouble connecting with Thanatos lately. Where the hell was he, anyway? Wasn’t I still his scribe? Didn’t he pick me to create his new-age mythology?
I laughed more in an attempt to lighten the mood than because I found her brand of honesty humorous. I needed her help, after all. “I’m back for good this time, and I’m going to make amends for my absence. I’ve been an ass to my family, and I want to change that.”
He reaches out with lightning speed, grabbing the side of my head and squeezing. Black ooze rains down on my face, then springs to life, crawling like worms pulled from the dirt as it moves over my face. It leaves cold slimy trails on my skin as it forces its way into my eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. I let out a gargled scream to the blue sky as the blackness of the ooze pulls me down into new nightmares.
I touched it with the tip of my finger and knew it wasn’t right. Mekon had a soft, silky feel about it. This was grittier. I took just a taste and knew what it was. “Colchicum,” I whispered. Someone had added a powdered form of autumn crocus to my blend. It wouldn’t kill me, but it could cause me to spin out of control in the right doses.
Lana gave me all the details she’d been given over the phone, most of which only made me more curious as to Thanatos’s whereabouts. As I listened, I got the feeling that I was about to head off on a journey that I might not return from.
In the center of the room, under a brilliantly white spot of light, is the inventor himself. Behind him is a massive circular stained glass window. He sits inside a metal box with two oxygen-pumping apparatuses on either side, forming some sort of iron lung. A tube leads from the pumps into his nostrils. His faded blue eyes are full of life and intelligence. They focus on us, filling with contempt as a sneer breaks out on his ancient face.
The magic contained within Emma was ancient and familiar, yet it held a foreignness that made it clear it was not wholly of this world. I latched onto the bit that belonged to the witch queen, the hot gold ichor that had become contaminated power, filled with rage, hatred, and despair at a life stolen. It was the catalyst that had created this monster. The final act of vengeance cast by extraordinary primal magic. But vengeance belonged to me. I was the source and balance of it. I pulled at it, plucking at the abscessed kernel of goodness walled off from the corrupted soul of the little girl.
Thanatos sat on the other side of his desk smoking his pipe in his office at Mr. T’s in Chicago. I recognized the location after a few moments, but only because Thanatos had described his office to me in the past. I smiled, hoping I hadn’t surprised him, and bowed my head slightly.
“Hello, Thanatos, I hope this isn’t a bad time.”
I slipped by him and entered first, going preternaturally still as I stepped into the entryway. Where golden light usually filled the castle, today there was a putrid green cast to the air. Dust motes swirled past, seeming to glow in the murky light.