The nurse said Pat was free to go.
They drove home without incident.
They both fell asleep within minutes, somewhat to Matthew’s surprise.
And then Pat had to run to work, after the unplanned extra week off, before having any chance to ask Matthew about his strange behavior the previous night. Matthew was left with a fading kiss on the cheek. He looked out the window, but Pat was already gone.
When he turned back, Lady Erica was sitting on the couch.
Matthew had taken two steps forward before he caught himself, a hot rush of anger surprising him with its intensity. “You—”
You may call me Lady Erica.
“No,” Matthew cut her off. “No more of this. Get out of our lives.” He refused to use either her name or her self-styled title. His hands clenched.
“Regardless of what you may think—” she began again, closing her eyes.
“No,” he repeated. I’m not interested in your denials. “All along, you didn’t need my permission. You didn’t need to ask anything from me. It’s been you all along. I don’t know why you’re doing it, but it’s you.”
The witch was silent, and Matthew continued. “I’ve figured it out, see? You haven’t been saving me, us, from these accidents. You’ve been causing them, and making sure that nothing truly bad happens to us. It’s no ‘miracle’, just a cheap trick.”
I am a witch. The witch of Miracles.
The witch opened her eyes and looked at him. “Is that really what you Believe, Matthew Li?”
There was something odd about her intonation, and a shadowy feeling cut through Matthew’s taut anger to make him shudder.
It is understandable that you might think that…
He squared his shoulders. “Yes. Stay away from us. Get out of my life!” His voice rose involuntarily.
The witch continued to look at him, and there was a momentary panic as the more logical part of Matthew’s mind asserted itself. This being wasn’t a storybook vampire; she didn’t need his permission. She had come unbidden into his home, and had already demonstrated both the ability and the inclination to put Matthew’s life in peril to serve her own ends. What was he doing provoking her?
O God, help me, he prayed silently.
But the witch just stood there, as if he had made a polite request. Then, slowly, a disturbing, satisfied smile appeared on her face. “Very well,” she said, her eyes gleaming, and vanished in a single instant.
Matthew shuddered again. For a moment he had seen the face of “Lady Erica” peeled back, a powerful and monstrous intelligence peering out from within. His hands were shaking.
His hands wouldn’t stop shaking.
He fumbled his way to the house phone, dialed Pat’s cell number. Ring. Ring.
Matthew took a breath. “Remember when we talked about moving to the suburbs?”
Last time was one of the longer sections of the story, and today we have what’s probably the shortest, at under 500 words! I’m once again a little frustrated at the characters, because while Matthew’s pretty sure about the conclusion he’s drawn there’s a bit more to it than that, and Erica decided to not even bother correcting him. She has what she wants. I’m worried that I’m going to have to write an epilogue explaining the whole conceit that made me want to write the story in the first place.
This is a bit of a cheat as a NaCreSoMo entry because I wrote the first draft of this along with part 8 last week, but I’m busy for almost the whole rest of the day, and not sure I’d get the chance to post anything otherwise. In particular, tonight I’m going to the EP release show for LEX, the alter ego of past NaCreSoMo participant Alex and a big inspiration for my own song “Colorless Sneer”. It’s super cool to see friends like Lex actually turning their creative dreams into creative realities.
Part of NaCreSoMo 2017. Join us!