A Selkie's Tale

Part 3

GM: Kira breaks the surface. Air she’s not tasted in years burns like fire in her lungs. Something hard and table- or wall-shaped rams against her pelvis. Her vision swings madly downwards before another hard surface slams against her face. It hurts. Her ankles ache too.

She blinks, clearing her eyes of water. Her surroundings materialize.

Her bare feet dangle off the edges of an overturned tank. Rocks and algae lie strewn across the now-wet PVC floor. The formerly sterile-smelling room is utterly silent save for the hum-hum-hum of lab equipment. Kira’s also soaked to the bone and naked as the day she was born. A drenched seal pelt lies squished under her elbow.

Kira: “What the fuck?”

GM: Hum-hum-hum responds the lab equipment.

Kira: She struggles to sit up, and it seems almost like she doesn’t remember how to use her hands, her elbows, like… she looks underneath her. “Oh my god, what…?!” Empty eye-sockets gaze back up at her.

GM: Tiny little dots are spotted across her bare flesh. Goosebumps? It’s… rather cold, being naked and drenched in a sterile lab room.

Kira: “Shit…” She looks up her arm… and down at her chest. Her naked chest. Awkwardly, she scrambles to her feet, looking around for something to wear. Anything will do, even one of those stupid… a lab coat? Is there a wetsuit around?

GM: No clothes to speak of whatsoever. Just a bunch of machinery and tanks full of plants and rocks. Sans the overturned one. Someone wouldn’t be happy to find that.

A noise sounds outside the lab door.

Tap.

Tap.

Louder.

Tap. Tap.

Kira: “Fuck!” she hisses, looking around with wild eyes. She looks now for a place to hide. Is that someone else coming in? Her labmates? Did she have labmates?

GM: There are, for what small comfort it may be, numerous tables, tanks, and articles of maintenance equipment present. The sound continues to grow in volume.

Tap. Tap.

Closer.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

A tall, shadowy form materializes against the door’s fogged glass.

Kira: “Shit, shit, shit…” She runs behind a shelf of maintenance equipment, trying not to knock anything over. Okay, trying not to knock anything else over.

GM: The door swings open. A roll-roll-roll noise sounds. And something that smells vaguely of… lemon.

splorsh sh-shk sh-shk sh-shk

Kira: “What the fuck is that sme… the janitor?” She’s whispering to herself now, talking out loud, like it’s difficult for her to tell when she’s actualy speaking and when she’s not.

GM: Tap. Tap. Tap.

An old man with a bushy drooping moustache stares down at Kira. He wears a blue-gray jumpsuit and carries a mop and wheeled water bucket. The smell of disinfectant soap follows in his wake. He looks her over blandly. “Naked students I find on campus usually come in twos. Sometimes threes, depending on how daring.”

Kira: “Shit, I’m sorry…” She hangs on to the rungs of the shelving like she might fall down… or maybe float away. “I just… I…” Yeah, there was really no explaining this. Especially the dumped-over-fishtank-and-I’m-soaking-wet.

GM: The janitor unzips and steps out of his coveralls, extending them towards Kira. He wears a black polo shirt and gray slacks underneath.

Kira: “Th… thanks,” she stutters, taking them and slipping them on. They’re baggy, and they do smell a bit… disinfectanty. But it’s better than wandering around naked.

GM: “Phone’s in the left pocket if you need to call anyone.”

Kira: She reaches into the left pocket of the coveralls for the phone, thinking to call her parents. That’ll work right? They can come and pick her up.

GM: The ‘phone’ is a palm-sized flat screen without any numbers pad to dial from, and Kira has to ask the janitor how to use it. The line rings several times. “We’re sorry; you have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service,” comes an automated female voice. “If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please check the number and try your call again.”

Kira: “What the… dammit, I know that was right…” Why was the number wrong? It doesn’t add up.

GM: “Things don’t seem to be going your way,” the janitor remarks. His mouth hardly seems to move under that thick moustache.

Kira: “No shit,” she says, looking up at him. She sighs and reaches out to hand the phone back to him. She sighs, wrapping her arms ar ound her own waist which is mostly obscured by the coveralls. “There a bus running near here?”

GM: “Something like that.” He sticks the phone in his pocket. “Follow me.” He turns and pushes open the lab door, not looking back.

Kira: She follows along, across the lab with a few light quick steps so that she doesn’t get left behind. God knows, this was the only human being she knew for sure still existed aside from herself right now. She wasn’t going to get left behind.

GM: It’s evidently late afternoon or early evening out, as the school’s hallways stand wide and largely deserted. A few clusters of students talk quietly among themselves, dressed in the oddest clothes.

That’s what makes it all the more surprising to spot a short boy with dark gray skin and wide, pitch-black eyes that lack any whites or irises. He wears a cardigan, scarf, tight jeans, and thick 50s-ish glasses. His fingers end in dull yellow talons about the length of someone’s nails. The hallway’s other occupants don’t appear overly concerned by his appearance.

Kira: Sweet Jesus, those were horrible pants. What the… she pauses, turning to gawp at those… leggings? Ew. And then she sees him. She gasps audibly, her own eyes going wide. “You…” Her voice trails off, any other words choked out before they can form.

GM: “Hey, Amy! There you are!” the black-eyed boy exclaims.

Kira: “Amy?! I’m not her…” Who the hell was Amy?

GM: The boy laughs nervously, his pitch-black eyes bobbing. “Haha—oh man, she’s, uh, really tripped out. Thanks so much for finding her when you did, ah…”

“Al,” the janitor supplies.

“Al. Thank you so much for finding her, I’ll, ah, get her back to her dorm. Okay, Amy?”

Kira: She shakes her head vehemently. “My name is not fucking Amy!” Water droplets splash on the floor. Something trips off an alarm, and a frisson of fear runs through her.

GM: “Ah—uh—like I said, Mister, ah, Al, she’s really messed up!” the boy explains unconvincingly. “I’ll-I’ll take care of her, really. You won’t say anything about this?”

Kira: “Don’t go, please! I don’t know this guy!” Her eyes are wide now. If she’s making a scene, she doesn’t care.

GM: Other students begin staring and murmuring. The gray-skinned boy takes a step closer to Kira, nervously reaches out a hand, pauses, and retracts it. “Uh, look, Amy. I know you’re… uh… confused right now. Really confused. But I promise I can make things better.”

Al the janitor’s face is a mask of… blandness? Blaseness? The cleaning man at least seems to be keeping calm.

Kira: “How can you make things better if you don’t even know who I am?” she hisses under her breath. Now she’s aware of the eyes. All those eyes watching.

GM: “I’m like you, Amy,” the boy pleads. “I got just as, uh… tripped out once, and some friends… helped me out. Really. Just let me help you. Please?”

Kira: Like her, those eyes… the seal pelt… something inside of her twists and aches. She closes her eyes. “I… I… okay, fine!” He was like her… the rest of them weren’t. She knew that now.

GM: The boy breathes a sigh of relief. “Thanks, Amy. Things’ll all, uh make sense once we get you sobered up.” He turns to look at all the staring faces. A frat boy and his sorority girlfriend. Two Asian girls yammering in their own language and taking pictures. A few hispters in flannel shirts trying to look too cool to care.

“There’s, uh. Um. Nothing to see here. She gets like this all the time. Don’t do drugs! Stay in school and don’t do drugs!” He laughs weakly.

The crowd just stares.

Kira: “Are we going or not?” All those stares. All those eyes watching, reminding her of eyes watching her every move. It feels as though the wind is in her feet, urging her to go. Go. Run.

GM: “Show’s over, folks,” the janitor speaks up. “You’ve taken your pictures and have a funny story to tell your friends. Move along. Two until one if you don’t want to be late for class.”

He meets with a few stares, but the crowd slowly disperses, loudly gossiping among themselves. “Oh my god, did you see that…” “What’s she doing in a janitor suit?” “I bet she’s…”

Kira: Red burns in her cheeks. She doesn’t have to see it, she can feel it. Shame. Her mother and father would never forgive her if she embarrassed them… she looks at the seal boy’s eyes. Is he a seal boy? Maybe. It’s easy enough to call him that, and calling him that makes her feel marginally more comfortable going… wherever it is they’re going.

GM: The janitor looks Kira steadily in the eye. “Good luck, ‘Amy.’”

Kira: She looks up at the janitor again, her eyes wide. “Thanks…” she answers weakly.

GM: Al turns and walks back the way they came, presumably to clean up the mess Kira made. The boy takes her by the arm and briskly walks off with her. “Thank god for that guy,” he mutters, “I don’t DO public speaking! Little more subtlety, maybe, next time? You make too big a scene and one of them might notice you.”

Kira: She yelps and tags along—she has to. She looks at the boy, shaking her head and starting to shake. “Them? What do you mean ‘them’, aren’t you…?”

GM:Huntsmen,” he breathes. “They do what the name fucking sounds like… hunt down escapees like us and drag us back.”

Kira: “Oh fuck…” She says, her eyes widening. Something about that name brings a fear ringing through her. “I remember him…” That thing. That thing that had brought Velvet…

GM: “So keep a lid on things around the norms. Yeah, the Mask keeps them from staring at you ‘cuz you’ve got horns or flaming hair, but what comes out of your mouth is all you. God, Lady Blacksmile’s gonna chew me out… I just hope those Asian girls don’t post it on their fucking Facebooks.”

Kira: She bites down on her bottom lip, taking in what he’s just said. Mask… norms… horns. Gods, what did she actually look like to other people? What had she looked like before? What the fuck was Facebook? “What’s a fucking Facebook?”

GM: “Oh who am I kidding, Asian girls spend half their waking lives on Faceb-” He blinks at Kira’s question. “Have you been living under a rock, or – ah, wait, you’re one of those ones. What year was it when you got nabbed?”

Kira: She blinks. “199… 8? Why are you asking me that?”

GM: “Right, as of three months ago it’s 2015. Welcome to the 21st century, sorry you missed the ’99 party. Not that I went, I was in grade school when that happened…”

Kira: “The fu-…” She pauses. “But I’m…” She remembers being 18, 19, maybe not much more than that. “When were you born?!”

GM: “1996.” He pauses. “Actually, no, I wasn’t even in kindergarten then. Anyway, highlights thus far include us invading a bunch of countries for oil, fat cats getting paid to crash the global economy, and a black President. Oh, and the internet’s gotten really big.”

Kira: “Internet? Like the computer nerd… thing?” Her dad had played with it occasionally. She’d never been terribly interested in it aside from making a Backstreet Boys-themed e-mail account once.

GM: The boy snorts laughter. “Haha, oh my god! Was the internet really just for nerds back then?”

Kira: “Back then…” She rolls her eyes. “Christ. How is it even possible that… I mean, why am I here at the U-dub if I’m so… old?”

GM: “Time passes, uh. Let’s just say differently in Arcadia. Like the story of Rip van Winkle, but for real.”

Kira: “Shit… so it’s really 2015…” She tries the year out. It feels weird even coming out of her mouth.

GM: “Boggles the mind, right? You’re like… as old as me biologically, but an old fart chronologically. Anyways, uh. So you know, we’re all naked when we fall out of the Hedge ‘cuz the Thorns tear apart anything you’re wearing. You can borrow clothes from another spook if your nemo’s stolen yours, they’re bastards that way. We’ve been talking about creating a hedgefresh clothing bank for years now, but fat chance of that happening with the courts all giving each other the cold shoulder.”

Kira: She glances to the side, her expression slowly growing less and less pleased. “Spook? Nemo? …Hedgefresh?! Slow down, dude, what are you talking about?”

GM: “Ugh, right, you’re new at this. Spook. Member of the Autumn Court. We’re…” he takes a breath. “Look, uh. I’m not really the guy to explain all this stuff. Lady Blacksmile can clear things up for you. She’s right here on campus.”

Kira: “Lady Blacksmile… really?” What in the hell was she getting into? This whole thing sounds like some weird cult initiation.

GM: The boy shrugs his hands. “She’s one of the older ones. She escaped in, like, the ’40s. They tend to go for the weirder names. Barely anyone left to remember their original ones.”

Kira: “That’s not very inconspicuous,” she mutters. “So… how were you in just the right place at just the right time?”

GM: “Hey, I was going to class, which I’ll add I’m now MISSING thanks to you, and the professor’s already given me shit for being absent too many days. Who was the janitor that found you and brought you right to me instead of, I don’t know, calling the cops on a probably schizophrenic nutjob who’d just fallen out of the Hedge?”

Kira: “The fuck do you mean who was he?” she asks, running her fingers through her damp hair. “I don’t know him, he just showed up and handed me his coveralls.”

GM: “Oh, and didn’t say anything about my lameass ‘I know this girl!’ act. Couldn’t you have at least played along there? Well, whatever. The Wyrd works in mysterious ways. Or just plain weird ones.”

Kira: “Played along,” she hmphs. “If I HAD just fallen out of the Hedg-” She stops, closes her eyes, and takes a deep breath. She wasn’t going to continue this conversation. She falls silent, walking alongside the boy.


GM: The dimly lit room is abuzz with conversations and clinking glasses, though unlike the college bars Kira had frequented, no one is drunk enough to be, well, drunk. Youngest age in the crowd is old enough to wear a buttoned-up shirt outside of work; oldest is a full head of gray hair. How work is going and that recent trip to Europe are common topics of conversation. This isn’t the kind of place you go to get hammered.

Kira sits perched on a stool at the counter’s far edge, nursing a drink and surreptiously watching her target: a short, middle-aged woman with shoulder length reddish-brown hair, hazel eyes, and mixed Asian-Caucasian features. She laughs and sips from her margarita as a second woman who bears a noticeable familal resemblance continues,

“…so, I tell the kid’s dad, ’I’ve got your wife on the phone.’ And he goes, ‘which one?’ I ask, ‘Which one what?’ Then he says, get this, ‘which wife, I have two at the moment. She didn’t say her name?’”

The first woman laughs. “Wait, what? ‘Which wife?’ You’ve gotta be kidding.”

The second woman grins and shakes her head, continuing, “Now, I’m struggling to keep a straight face, and I tell him, ‘no, sir. She just said she was your wife.’ He gives me this flat look and just says ‘damn.’ In this totally monotone voice. You can hear the period.”

Kira: Kira narrows her eyes and watches like a hawk. This was… unbelievable. It was hard to put the pieces together. That other woman… she wasn’t right, though. How was she going to get her alone to confront her?

GM: She holds up her hands. “So, you know, I just tell him, straight as I can, ‘well, at least ONE of your wives is worried about you, sir.’ Not my place to judge!’”

The first woman laughs again for some time before managing, “Oh my god, polygamy… I know you get people from every walk of life in hospitals, but that’s gotta be a first.”

“You’ve had to’ve run into some weird ones yourself after ten years of teaching.”

“Oh lord. Well, there was this one time that…”

The evening rolls on. The two women laugh over anecdotes from their jobs at the U.W. and Children’s Hospital, reminisce over their time growing up together (“You wouldn’t believe how jealous I used to be of you…”), and regret how they don’t have time for these get-togethers more than once or twice a month (“Work just keeps me so busy…” “Don’t I know how that is…”).

Kira: Even thinking about what that OTHER woman does for work is stomach-churning, anxiety-inducing… Kira can’t help but feel angry. All this was supposed to be hers – the job, the happiness, the fucking reconciliation with her sister… she scowls into the drink she’s nursing.

GM: After some time, a middle-aged and bearded man dressed in business casual approaches the two ladies and exchanges hugs and warm greetings with each one. Minus that flop of brown hair which always fell into Jace’s eyes, the newcomer looks like he could be the father or uncle of Kira’s old boyfriend.

“Okay Jace, looks like time for everyone to head home if you’re off work. Early bedtime for me and the wee one.”

“Give June her uncle’s best.”

“Her aunt’s too. We should do this again, sis. How’s the 28th?”

“Ah, I’ll be out of town on a conference then. What about the 3rd?”

“I’ll be busy grading finals until at least the 5th… they don’t tell you how the professor gets as much homework as her students.”

The sisters eventually agree to call each other once they find an opening in their busy adult lives. The three exchange hugs again and head out the door. Gold glints off ring fingers.

Kira: Kira’s eyes widen. This… was Jace? Married. To her. To her fucking impostor. She downs the rest of the drink in a long gulp. Fuck this shit. How was she even going to explain? How was she going to fit into her old life when her old life had moved on without her? She leans over the bar and orders a double, curling one leg underneath her. The feeling of not belonging was starting to come on strong. This was going to be a long night.

GM: The bartender gives Kira brief skeptical look, but mixes and slides over the drink. “No, the lyrics go like this,” the woman next seat over corrects her friend. “All the love we made can never be erased… and I promise you that you’ll never be replaced…”

“You’re right, that’s it. ‘Never be placed.’”

Kira: “God,” Kira says, quite audibly, rolling her eyes. This was just her luck – to be around the sentimental drunks. She takes another huge sip of her drink.


GM: The woman’s face is white as milk save for midnight-black lips contorted into a permanent rictus grin. Her gown is woven from threads of darkness and strands of shadow, its edges fading into the surrounding gloom like a half-remembered nightmare. A hulking brute with bulging tusks and ham-sized fists quietly looms beside her.

Next to him, a blonde, long-haired girl in a black leather jacket excitedly rubs together fingertips that end in gleaming knives. A stooped old man with sunken eyes and a cobwb beard (replete with at least one nesting spider), stands to her left, his skeletally thin frame making him resemble a scarecrow under that white lab coat.

Even the gray-skinned, black-eyed boy who awkwardly greeted Kira appears menacing in such company. He stands utterly motionless, yet his eyes loudly call and beckon to some subconscious part of her, great black pits of void ready to swallow someone whole.

All told, perhaps two dozen figures out of a child’s bad dream stand in a circle around the darkened grove. Blue-green ghostfire lamps cast long shadows over solemn faces. Dry, red-brown leaves rustle as they flit about about the forestscape, forming into arcane symbols and glyphs before sobbing winds blow them apart. Autumn’s dominion was unmistakable in this corner of the Hedge.

Lady Blacksmile leans back on a small throne of gnarled roots, twisting thorns, and impaled red fruits that resemble human hearts. A larger throne sits empty beside hers.

“…owing to our king’s present disposition, Kira O’Macey, I shall hear and accept your oath to the Leaden Mirror in his place… as well as your new name. If you intend to remain in close proximity to your fetch, so obvious a link to your old identity is unacceptable.”

The knife-fingered girl holds out a mostly-human skull for Kira to swear her oath upon. Human but for the pointed teeth and flowing mane of auburn hair somehow attached to solid bone.

Kira: “Of course,” Kira says, reaching her hand out to rest palm-down on the skull. “In mystic rite, I swear on this token to the Court of Autumn, the Leaden Mirror. My gifts are now Autumn’s gifts, my skills Autumn’s skills. Should I be called to fight for Autumn, I will fight without hesitation and without fear. Should I betray my words, let my blood water the wintering seeds, and the shadows of the lengthening days devour me whole.” Her voice is steady, even if a bit quiet.

GM: As Kira speaks her words, the skull twists in place and snaps its teeth down over her fingers. A slow trickle of red pat-pat-pats down onto the forest floor.

Lady Blacksmile continues to grin her ceaseless grin, though her voice is utterly solmen. “A fitting choice of words. I hear and accept your oath in Autumn’s name. May Autumn guard you from the terrors of worlds both waking and dreaming. May your knowledge and power grow under the auspice of your oath, and may you share the fate of the one you swore it upon should your loyalty prove false. By what name shall you be known to your brothers and sisters of the Leaden Mirror?”

Kira: Kira flinches slightly as the teeth snap into her skin, then nods as her oath is accepted. She quickly responds to the lady’s question. “Aislin Namara is my chosen name, Lady Blacksmile.”

GM: The elder changeling’s black grin continues to stare at Aislin unrelentingly. “Aislin Namara. So let it be known.”


GM: The woman that is and isn’t Kira pulls up her minivan outside the school’s playground. A small freckled boy with red hair and a Star Wars backpack jogs up to it as Aislin watches from the shadows.

“Hey, you! How was school today?”

“Hey mom, it was okay,” the kid answers as he climbs onto the passenger seat.

Aislin: Mom. The word hits Aislin like a hammer-blow. She hadn’t even been sure she loved Jace in college, OR that she wanted kids. And this… THING… had made those decisions for her.

GM: “Just okay? C’mon, tell me something new you learned.”

“Well, my science teacher said that seals give birth on land.”

“Oh, seals, they’re fun. You know that the northern elephant ones migrate over 13,000 miles each year? All the way from Mexico to Alaska.”

“Really? Why do they do that?”

“Well, seasons change and their food supply disappears. Their home isn’t right for them anymore, so they have to leave and find a new one.”

Aislin: Aislin clenches her teeth, hard, so hard they feel like they’re grinding into powder. Every word she can hear is like a knife. Every planned confrontation had seemed to start ending like this – with something that absolutely gutted her and forced her into inaction.

GM: “I wouldn’t wanna swim that far. I’d order pizza.”

Kira-not-Kira laughs. “If only they were as smart as you. Now c’mon and buckle up, grandma’s coming over today. You can impress her with all the science you’ve learned.”

“I’m glad you’ve had the chance to go on this trip, Kira. The ocean’s been your passion for as long as I can remember,” ‘grandma’ had said sixteen years ago.

A door slams shut and the minivan speeds off.

Aislin: Aislin doesn’t cry. What would be the point?


GM: “Iz lucky you’z a student, z’all I’m sayin’,” grunts Max, the hulking ogre with tusks the size of Aislin fingers as he hauls the box into her new dorm room. “La’y Blacksmile didn’ hafta pull many strings to get youz someplace to stay. I hearz in th’ Spring Court they jus’ crash on each otha’s couches.”

Aislin: Aislin rolls her eyes. “Seriously, Max? Do I seem like the kind of person who would want a snuggle-buddy relationship with some random Jack I barely know? I don’t think Lady Blacksmile wants to have to try to cover up a murder the first time somebody tries to get huggy with me.”

GM: “That’s why he’s saying you’re lucky. We all know how smart Max is,” comments the black-eyed, gray-skinned, yellow-clawed boy whose name turned out to be Dexter. He pats the top of the box as Max sets it down on the bed. “Rule goes, everyone in the court buys or donates a piece of clothing for new members. Hope you like hipster fashion, ‘cuz there was no way of ensuring ANY of the stuff in there goes together. Or that it’s not from thrift stores.”

Aislin: Aislin raises an eyebrow. “I still don’t even get this whole hipster thing… the fuck does it MEAN?” She sighs. “I’m gonna look like an idiot. How the hell did you deal with this?” The question is almost rhetorical.

GM: “Shut up, Dexter. But Max is right, Aislin. Not all changelings have it as good as you,” remarks Kira’s roommate, a rail-thin girl with stick-like limbs, skin the texture and color of yellow parchment, and curly black hair. She wears an extremely thick pair of bug-eye black sunglasses that take up at least half her face. An ironic choice in eyewear for someone known as Seeing Sara.

Aislin: Aislin blinks. “Good… that’s a funny way to describe it. I mean, I’m grateful to be here, don’t get me wrong, but…” It felt like only yesterday that she’d fallen out of the Thorns, as she knew they were called now. “Fuck, I can hardly wrap my head around all this right now.” She shakes her head. “I remember starting here as a freshman before…”

GM: Seeing Sara flips up her glasses, revealing two gouged-out holes crisscrossed with purple-black scar tissue.

“Oh, GROSS! Sara, I HATE it when you do that!” Dexter protests, averting his gaze.

Aislin: Aislin rolls her eyes again. “Don’t flip out, Jesus.”

GM: “All you have to do is go through this part of your life again. At least you get to do it with all your parts.”

Aislin: Aislin flicks a strand of turquoise-and-white hair out of her eyes. “Have you ever tried showering with water-repellant skin?” She had at least gotten mostly used to looking in the mirror and seeing something that looked like some kind of weird Japanese cartoon character, luminous yellow eyes and all, but there were a few things that had rapidy become… annoyances… about her selkie side.

GM: “I think you’z da only one with ’at, Aislin,” the ogre grunts back. “It don’ feel good? Selkies from water, right?”

Aislin: Aislin nods. “Yeah. I mean, it’s not like I wouldn’t rather be swimming than just about anything. But by the time I actually get the water through my skin, and then get it… you know, nevermind, it’s really not that interesting.” She was really getting tired of having to explain to everyone why she ‘used up all the hot water’.

GM: Max gives another bovine grunt of agreement. “Lez getcha settled in. Where we gonna put…”


GM: Aislin sits in the lecture the hall, one student among a sea of faces. The hard plastic seat was, in some ways, probably going to be one of the less uncomfortable parts of the class.

“…and do we have an Aislin Namara?” calls out… her fetch, her double, her replacement… Kira… as she goes through the attendance sheet.

Aislin: Aislin raises her hand, her eyes pointedly watching the teacher. Make eye contact, I dare you bitch… “Here.”

GM: Kira smiles as she spots Aislin in the crowd. “Vision of the sea, isn’t that the meaning? Your parents had creative taste in names.”

Aislin: She reddens slightly in the cheeks. Dammit. “Yeah, I guess so,” she says. She wants to say more, but the words die before she can put them together.

GM: Kira smiles kindly in response to Aislin’s blushing, as if to say there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, and continues down the attendance sheet. “Tiffany Matthews… Samuel Shepherd… Ran Jong Su…”

Aislin: Aislin opens her notebook and starts doodling on the first page. God, how was she going to make it through this?

GM: A weighty question indeed, and the scribblings of Aislin’s pencil do little to answer it. Still, however things turned out with her doppelganger, one point is undeniable. Marine Biology 101 is going to be an interesting course.

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Part 2

GM: Now it’s blue. All blue.

GM: Blue.

GM: Just a bit closer now.

GM: Clear.

GM: No, that’s not it. It’s really-

Kira: Panic and wonder clash. I should breathe. I can’t breathe!

GM: Wait.

GM: Blink.

GM: “Shh. If this one gazes too closely, her eyes shall depart her.”

Her. The mistress. The Great One. The Fisher Queen.

GM: That wasn’t how she-

Kira: Gasp at the words.

Kira: Gasp at that face-

GM: A prism. Several sides of an incomprehensibly large glass.

GM: “Help me help me please help me-”

:: HEED NOT THE DECOR ::

Kira: Snatch back that hand reaching to touch. Urge to jam the spear in further. Screaming. Mine.

GM: “Is it time yet, great mistress? Is it time?”

:: SOON ::

GM: “Girl! Soon, She says! Hear Her words and obey! Soon! SOON!”

Kira: The voices make no sense. “No, I won’t!” Mine again. Pain. Feels like water in my lungs, burning.

GM: “No?”

GM: “Surely this one desires a taste?”

Kira: Beauty. Beautiful. I reach to touch again.

GM: Oh, it feels like – tastes like -

GM: Exploding on her tongue and buds like a conquering army, blood rushing to her face -

“Another, My pet?”

Kira: “Yes, more, more…” my voice trails off, sinking into near-babble. Begging.

GM: Marching delicacies down her mouth, cream and syrup and sugar and crumbs screaming their blue glee over her teeth and mouth and gums and tasting like

Kira: Her pet, yes, hers. Tasting all that she wishes to give me.

GM: “Hers, mongrel, Hers-”

“Ssshhh.”

A fucking room.

Kira: Shimmers in my eyes, golden everything, shimmers under the water where no light penetrates. Hypnotizing. I follow.

GM: Her lover takes her.

Her lover is forceful.

GM: Her lover is hungry.

Kira: Yes… NO! Oh god, I can’t… I’ve never felt it like this, so hopelessly needy.

GM: Her lover is blissful.

Kira: Yes, I’ll beg, please… please.

GM: Her lover is transformative.

Kira: She gives to me this gift. I have never felt, seen, tasted so fine. This gift is everything.

GM: Her lover is transcendant.

Kira: The only gift I can remember.

GM: Her lover is tempestuous.

GM: Her lover is secretive.

GM: Her lover is pure.

GM: Her lover is a contradiction.

Kira: Her depths will crush me. They are beautiful. They are everything.

GM: Her lover is always hungry.

Kira: I cannot breathe under this surface, but I breathe deep.

GM: Her lover is cruel.

Kira: Devouring mouths tear at my skin, sucking at the blood.

GM: Her lover is kind.

GM: Her lover is piercing.

Kira: I hurt so badly… no… this is not hurt. It is bliss. I love so deeply. I bleed so much.

GM: Her lover is unreachable.

Kira: Not yet… Not while I’m still lost. Aren’t you hungry too? I starve.

GM: Her lover is finished.

GM: Lips encrusted in stone and barnacles clamp over Kira’s most intimate places and when she opens her mouth they’re the jaws of a clam leading into a bottomless black pit and kelp strends pull Kira in and it’s dark and black and cold and she’s got goosebumps and the bumps are growing and writhing and shuddering and crusted in barnacles and seaweed and erupting into dead rotting seals

Kira: “No! No! NO!” No one hears, cares, it doesn’t matter.

GM: And the rotting dead seals suckle her breasts and lick her clit with their mouldering black sandpaper tongues and Kira’s gnawing off their flesh and it’s foul and the vomit’s rising in her throat but she has to keep eating or else

GM: Finally all done and she’s got their skins now their skins now their skins now their skins now

Kira: Their fur, their beautiful fur, I remember their fur… so hungry, is it me? Or is it them? It’s us. We’re hungry.

GM: And the clam vomits and wretches and splurges her onto the throne again and her lover takes her again and they’re coated in blood and bile and shit and they’re seals and they’re fucking like seals and they’re snorting and honking and yowling in the throes of their mating and it’s glorious glorious GLORIOUS

Kira: I scream too, I scream along. I am theirs now too. Not mine.

GM: And Kira’s human so full of bliss she could explode and her lover’s ten jaws shred the meat off her seal bones and feed it back to her-

GM: “It’s happening again, dear!”

GM: “Confound it all. The worst guest is an uninvited one.”

Kira: That voice, it feels like jagged ice, jagged blade, cutting in, boring deep, until I can’t get it out of my head. Uninvited, Uninvited, Uninvited.

GM: Glub glub.

GM: Her Keeper’s palace is full of treasures.

GM: Usually.

Kira: I can’t watch, I can’t watch, but they make me. Who? She makes me. No, She wouldn’t…

GM: :: HUNTSMAN ::

GM: “Presssenttt/hheerreee/aattending, Mmiisstresss/Gggreat One/Your Raddianncee.” Clack-clack-clack go the chest-teeth.

:: WHAT DO YOU BRING ME ::

GM: “Nnewww ssllaves/ffuucckssss/ssselkies/toyysss, Yyour Magnificence/Luminesscence/Sssovereignity.”

GM: Flippers/barnacles/tentacles/fingers stroking Kira’s cheek. :: MY PET WILL NAME ONE ::

Kira: The one that’s hiding, I like her… call her Velvet, her hair looks like it.

GM: :: THAT ONE ::

:: COME ::

GM: “Please please please oh god oh god please -”

“Whhat off fffiirrssst twwoo, Misstresss/Yoour Majjesty/Supremacy/Higghness?”

:: UNSATISFACTORY ::

GM: “OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD

Kira: That one, that one, shut her up. She’s crying like you’re a monster, that one. Doesn’t deserve you.

GM: :: SILENCE ::

GM: “OH GOD OH MY GOD WHAT DID -”

Kira: Nothing, nothing, nothing, they all become nothing. Becomg nothing.

GM: “Ssssiillleenncce, wwrrettch/detritus/flotsssam/inconsequential!”

:: TAKE YOUR PAYMENT AND GO, HUNTSMAN ::

“Yyoourr ssslightest whimm isss the marrow of my bonessss, Misstresss/Queen/Lord/Ruler/God.”

:: BRING THE VELVET PET CLOSER, PET ::

Kira: Grab her hair. I pull her if she won’t come. My Queen says, and I will follow.

GM: “Oh god oh god no please, please, I’ll do anything -” Crying and shuddering and great big choking sobs -

Kira: Anything she says. Out of my hands.

GM: :: YES ::

PLEASE I-”

GM: “Oh!”

GM: “Ohhh!”

GM: “Ooohhhhhhh…!”

Kira: No, no, no, I don’t want her to see what I’ve seen. My Queen gave it to ME… Tears. Are they tears or water?

GM: “Oohhhhh that’s – that’s – just righ -”

GM:OOOHHHHHHHH!!!”

“My pet would never wish to leave My realm, would it?”

“No! NO! Never! God, you’re -”

Kira: Screaming. Gasping great lungfuls of water that never choke. I wish I could choke.

GM: “The other pet! I hear her – is she-”

:: NOTHING ::

Kira floats empty

GM: Alone

Kira: There is nothing. Nothing is what I am. Nothing, floating alone with more nothing, blending into the waves like one droplet after another.

GM: Unwanted

GM: Irrelevant

GM: Forgotten

Kira: There is no color, not even blue.

GM: The other girl

Like her

She must have…

Kira: No, no, nononononono, it’s mine, she’s mine, all mine, I had something, finally, all mine… velvetbitch, want her blood, her blood like the flesh I was fed.

GM: Take it take it take it take it take it take it take it take

Kira: I will gnaw it off her bones, succulent, sweet, my bloodredvelvet symphony

GM: “Ohhhhh! Ooohhhhh!”

Kira: Mine, it’s mine, I will free it from your bones, wrap it round my shoulders slick blood and flesh on the inside, against my skin. My skin. It’s my skin.

GM: “God, You’re -”

GM: “I understand…”

“Back soon?”

Kira: Back? I quicken. Is there a leave-taking?

GM: “I’m so lonely without You…”

GM: Without Her

“I’ll be the fairest of them all when She’s back.”

GM: “A little to the left, so I can see myself better.”

Kira: She won’t forget me, not now, now I am beautiful, just as beautiful.

GM: “Yes, yes, I want those too -”

GM: “And one of those – I’ll be perfect.”

Kira: Soft scent of water lilies in my hair, the push and pull of the currents against my skin making it smooth like water-touched stone. Perfect. Yes, perfect.

GM: “What’s that? Who’s there! I know you are!”

Kira: What is it? Something wrong… sounds like. Is it Her?

GM: Hands seizing throat, pulling, straining, screaming. “SHE FAVORS ME! ME! YOU CAN’T HAVE HER YOU CAN’T HAVE HER-”

Kira: Oh, oh god, the want cuts so bone deep. Mine, mine… it’s my favor. My reward, I EARNED her.

GM: “YOU’RE NOTHING NOW NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING!”

Kira: I can’t, I can’t be nothing, not when I was everything, or was she everything? She was everything. Always everything.

GM: Her!

GM: “The OLD one, Mistress, the useless one, the one You don’t -”

Kira: Everything… everything! I want this feeling to devour me, never to leave again.

GM: :: BEGONE ::

GM: Back to where she started.

Kira: Gray, gray, is it gray again? Please not gray.

GM: “Come along, dearest. We musn’t be late for the Fisher Queen’s ball.”

Kira: That queen, THE Queen, MY Queen. The only pearl in the ocean.

GM: The pearl’s ballroom is packed to bursting with jewels.

A radiantly beautiful young man, the very icon of a Greek god, dressed in an Edwardian gentleman’s dapper fashions and conjoined at the waist with a naked leprous wrinkled hag whose open wounds leak pus and vomit, but when the crone speaks her voice is like silk and velvet to the ears, and when the gentleman opens his mouth swarms of wasps and beetles buzz out -

A six-fingered Indian man swathed in luxuriant silks every color of the rainbow, with three yowling and growling tiger’s heads sprouting from his meaty neck, their fangs carved from emeralds, their eyes set with blazing rubies -

A mouthless, noseless, earless, androgynous figure with glowing white skin. Two tiny mouths where eyes would be, gnashing and clacking their tiny rotting black teeth. Three pairs of moth-like wings unfurling from its back, their edges razor-sharp and slick with blood -

A suburban housewife from the 1950s with curly hair, a polka dot dress, pearl necklace and fluffy apron, but it’s slathered with blood – arm in arm with the perfect 50’s husband with his Chevron moustache, smoking jacket, newspaper in one hand and pipe in the other, but when he takes a puff it’s vomit that oozes out -

A gigantic centipede scuttling through the gala with hundreds of click-click-clickering legs, with three smiling women’s faces where the eyes and mouth would be on a human head -

A mannequin in the elaborate flowing dress of a 17th century French noblewoman, with an elaborately coifed and powdered white wig as tall as her own head, empty vacant eyes, a crudely carved mouth with endless rows of glistening shark’s teeth that gnash and rend the empty air -

They dance. They babble. They eat. They scream. They fuck. They laugh.

Kira: Should one scream, or should one simply serve? They like the screaming, but they also like the serving.

GM: Tables and tables heaped high with food, roasted pigs and grapes and hams and wines and pineapples and sausages and jellies and cakes and pies and reds and pinks and greens and blues and mouth-watering scents that smell so good and human slaves for table legs sweating and straining to keep the tables held up their stomachs growling and rumbling their eyes longingly fixed on the feast they musn’t have or else -

Scream or serve. Scream or serve.

Fire-breathers and sword-swallowers and musicians and jugglers and ballerinas and lion tamers and magicians and acrobats and strong men and puppeteers performing their best tricks, eyes feverish, desperately eager to please -

Scream or serve. Scream or serve.

Luxuriant four-postered beds with silken sheets and pillows and cages full of painted whores blowing desperate rose-scented kisses in case any guests want to have a mid-ball fuck, which many do, or even two or three or twelve dozen -

Scream or serve. Scream or serve.

And the dancers, the revelers, the beauties and the nightmares, the Gentry, the Lords and Ladies of Faerie, the Good Folk, the Kindly Ones, the Others, spinning round and round with their partners on a floor of frozen waves and stolen moonlight beneath a chandelier of stars and pearls and rose petals, trading dances and longing looks and blown kisses and globs of phlegm with -

Kira: Serve, serve and don’t look. No scream- what’s just touched me? OH GOD! Serve… SERVE!

GM: The Fisher Queen, the hostess and mistress of the estate flitting about her many guests, dancing with some, eating chunks of others, partaking in sexual congress with a few, laughing uproariously, her pink-red sea kelp hair lazily rippling through the water.

Scream or serve. Scream or serve?

Serve?

Scream?

Kira: Serve, SERVE! Scream, falling, flailing, oh god, scream, SERVE!

GM: “Love me!” shrieks the conjoined crone, pressing Kira’s mouth over her sagging rotting teat. But the orange-pink milk that squirts out tastes like champagne and caviar and distilled bliss.

Kira: Do not vomit, She’ll be mad. Don’t insult Her guests, oh god, it’s disgusting, it’s beautiful, oh god, oh god.

GM: “Love me!” the handsome man tries to thunder, but he can’t speak without expelling a buzzing cloud of beetles and flies, so the insects form themselves into the words, and when he presses his mouth to her lips, it fills up with bugs -

Kira: I can’t, it’s too much, I want him, them, her, who? Her! She could be watching… will She be angry? They’re stinging my throat, I can’t breathe, I can never breathe.

GM: Scream or serve. Scream or serve. Scream or serve.

Kira: Serve, just serve them, just shut up, weak bitch, serve, serve, serve, it’s what you have to do to get Her back.

GM: Moonbeams and pearls and roses slamming up to meet her cheek, crone and gentleman slaking their conjoined lusts on a six-headed – but not her. Not her. Not her. Not now. Not now. Not now.

Kira: I can’t do this, I can’t, it’ll tear me apart. It’s already tearing me apart, I feel like nothing, I feel nothing. She’s all I want to feel.

GM: Laughing and spinning and eating and fucking and wanted by them all.

Kira: All. All? Is she here, does she see me?

GM: “A river a thousand paces wide sickens Me, Fisher Queen.”

“A river a thousand paces wide is not enough, Nightmare Lord.”

Kira: Queen, yes My Queen, MY, MINE. I want to touch Her seaweed slicked skin. I hear Her, does She see?

GM: “Tranquility does not make any sense, Fisher Queen.”

“An axe always strikes for the heart, Maharaja.”

“Silence goes both ways, Fisher Queen.”

Kira: The heart yes, take my heart, my heart’s blood. You own it already, Queen of sapphire, emerald, diamond.

GM: “Nothingness sickens Me, Broken King.”

“Tomorrow is coming, Fisher Queen.”

“Sounds are storytellers without equals, Your Eminence.”

Kira: Is that why? Is that why She forsakes? Am I nothing now? Nothing, the gray, am I nothing?

GM: “Awe is always a pleasure, Fisher Queen.”

“Ideas beg questions, Your Excellency.”

Kira: I am good enough, good enough for Her. I am not gray, I am an iridescent explosion, droplets in the sunlight. See, My Queen? See how I take Your delicacies and use them like You use me? Look how amusingly Your pet has been taught!

GM: Freezing. Burning. Reddening. Spilling. Melting. "Please, you musn’t so – I’ll dissolve – " Icewater flowing across her skin.

Kira: Dissolve and scream, scream your pain and your pleasure. Spill your blood, your flesh.

GM: “Mmm. See there!” “Water and ice.” “Contradiction in terms.”

“Aahh-! Ahhhh! Aahhh—hhhhhggg!!” Icewater across her skin, so cold it’s hot -

Kira: Destroy it, destroy it for her pleasure. Devour the essence of its pleasure, take it into yourself, bathe in it, ah god it burns!

GM: Sculpted ice breasts melting, shrinking, dissolving, running across faces – hands grasping her lover’s thighs, grasping through, seizing the running ice, holding it fast -

“What if?” “The Southern Lord.” “No.”

Kira: Break it-toys are for breaking, break it BREAK IT! Drench them all.

GM:AAAAAAAAAAAAGGHHHHH STTTOOPP” Sizziling, hissing, burning -

Kira: Rip it to shreds. Is it my blood or hers? The cold, does it come from me? Devour her, fangs ripping through flesh, hissing hot against flesh.

GM: Hhhhiiiiiiissssssssssssss

Steam and heat and running through her hands laughing, shrieking, calling, begging, moaning -

Kira: Crimson, is it crimson is it? I want it splayed across my hands, my face, my thighs, dirtying my silk-white-blue skin.

GM: A woman’s ideal husband stepped right out from the 1950’s, smoking jacket, perfect moustache, thick square glasses, hand resting on her shoulder. “Son, we need to have ourselves a talk. A long and serious talk.”

Kira: Talking? No talking. I don’t want to talk!

GM: Polka dot dress, pearl necklace, curled hair, dainty white gloves slapping her across the cheek – “Don’t contradict your father, boy.”

Kira: I’m not a boy! Don’t you see? I’m Hers, Her beautiful maiden, Her… they don’t see. Do they see? Me? Her?

GM: Roaring. Screaming. Bellowing. Red. Red. Red. Smoking pipe falling to the ground. Husband’s hands slamming her back-down onto the dining tible. Spilling soups and meats and wines over the floor.

:: IT—DARES— ::

:: IIIIIIIITTTTTTTTTTT— ::

Kira: Strangled scream. I can’t! I can’t breathe!

:: DDDAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRREEEEEEEESSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ::

GM: Teeth flash. Claws rend. Red flecks across the mannequin’s powdered win, trickles down her fine dress. Shreds of gore dangle from the tiger’s gleaming emerald fangs. The centipede’s three faces scream bloody murder at each other as they tug a piece of meat between their mouths.

Kira: I dared, I dared, please, take it, please don’t oh god…

GM: The suburban housewife rudely belches, coughing bone splinters onto the floor. The husband pats her back as he picks at his teeth. His eyes burn with hate. Kira remains impossibly conscious as her flesh feeds the guests, helpless to do anything but dwell upon that most primal of terrors: I’m being eaten.

Kira: I scream, I scream, My Queen, no, do you see? Do you see what they do to me? Destroy Your pretty pet! Your inventive, intelligent… oh GOD IT HURTS!

GM: She’s copulating with the enraged husband, her own gore slick against her back, guests screaming wagers and that they bet ten changeling slaves and her abdomen feels like it’s about to explode and her water breaks and she’s giving birth only it’s slimy flopping eels crawling out of her womb and why does each one have her mother’s face -

“Hush little baby, don’t say a word, mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird…”

Kira: For You, My Queen, for You My Queen, for You, these horrors, these beautiful horrors, don’t You want?

GM: And the husband cuts off Kira’s head and pulls out her brains and it’s not fair because she needs those and she reaches out to grab her head back but he’s pulling her face’s skin over his head like a mask -

Kira: Desperation, terror, I’m going to vomit, I feel it deep in my bones, where are my bones.

GM: “If that mockingbird don’t sing, mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring…”

Kira: Justkillme, justkillme, justkillme, justkillme…

GM: And Kira’s running through her parents’ house for dear life and the walls are cracking open and countless hands are reaching out to yank her by the hair and legs and arms and shoulders and toes and tongue -

“If that diamond turns to brass, mama’s gonna buy you a looking glass…”

And they’re pulling out her hair strand by strand -

“If that looking glass gets broke, mama’s gonna buy you a billy goat…”

And they’re pulling out her teeth and tearing out her tongue and there’s blood spraying all over her sister’s report cards what will mom say -

“If that billy goat don’t pull, mama’s gonna buy you a cart and a bull…”

Kira: A mirror? A mirror, no, NO, not a mirror, oh god, no, thank god, OH GOD it hurts, no, please, I didn’t mean to make such a mess…

GM: Kira writhes and suffocates on the grass, her mouth and throat full of dirt, and the tree is sprouting in her lungs, roots comingling with her intestines, branches stabbing through her ribs, and leaves are growing and red ripe apples are sprouting and each one has the enraged screaming face of the perfect husband who -

“If that cart and bull tip over, mama’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover…”

Kira: I love dogs, I want to tell them that I love dogs, but I can’t speak, the roots are squeezing so hard, and I can’t…

GM: The husband is wearing a doctor’s coat and calmly assures her how it’s for her own good as he stitches her eyelids shut, plunging and plunging his needle through the tender pink flesh just below her whites, over and over, stab stab stab -

“If that dog named Rover don’t bark, mama’s gonna buy you a horse and a cart…”

Kira: I can’t see, I just wanted to see Her. Who? HER. Where is She now? Where?! Oh god my eyes, my eyes, he’s going to feed them to Rover. Rover’s hungry because I forgot to feed him. My sister never does.

GM: Kira’s eating an apple full of writhing worms and now her flesh is twisting and writhing and bubbling with worms and she’s kissing the perfect husband and worms crawl through her lips into his and now he’s infected and his flesh is wrippling and twisting and full of worms but he just grins and laughs – and kisses her again and worms crawl down her throat and through it over her neck -

“If that horse and cart fall down, you’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town…”

Kira: The tree, they’ll eat the tree, and then the garden will be bare, and that will be my fault too. No flowers for her in spring, oh god, no flowers.

GM: The Fisher Queen reclines on a coral reef with moonlight cushions, stroking Kira’s hair. “Oh, My old pet, My old pet drew My guest’s ire, the Perfect Husband’s ire, how could it possibly do that to Me? To Me!”

Kira: So you would see, so you would see how clever! Please… oh her fingertips, they’re heaven.

GM: “Stupid,”

GM: “Foolish,”

GM: “Presumptive,”

GM: “Thing!”

Kira: NO, My Queen, PLEASE My Queen, understand! See! For You! For You!

GM: “Get rid of it, Mistress, expel it, Mistress, its devotion is nothing beside Your velvet pet’s, Mistress! Your velvet pet loves You, Mistress, Your velvet pet would never do anything to displease You, Mistress.”

Kira: Velvet is the usurper, she is inferior, you CHOSE me, you CHOSE ME, remember? My skill, my devotion. You did not choose her!

GM: “Yes, My new pet has such a soft velvet pelt.” Fingertips dancing over the velvet one, a seal yowling, screaming, crying in the ecstasy only She could give -

Kira: Teeth gnashing, grinding down into one another. Her blood, I want her blood, howling for it, I want to see her suffer like I do, but all I can do is howl.

GM: Purring, shuddering, licking, screaming, oh the Mistress favors her!

Kira: Thrash and thrash, let me free, I can please you better My Queen, she is nothing, nothing, nothing.

GM: Laughter comingled with weeping fits of ecstacy, how OOOHHHHhh how your devotion is nothing before MMMIIINNNEE OOOHhhh you have NOTHING! Nothing to offer! My pelt is unmatched, my pet is soft as satin, soft as velvet, soft as -

Kira: KILL ME, I can’t listen any more, I want the gray, I want the black and the white, no more emeralds, no more, no more, no more.

GM: Gray. Gray. All too easy. Forgotten forever. Lost. Alone. Irrelevant. The velvet one’s pelt tastes best, nothing she can -

Kira: Rip it off, take it from my skin, leave me bones, nothing but bones, dry, brittle, even the sea will not seep in.

GM: :: THIS ONE OFFERSITS FLESH? HaAHAaHhaAaHAaHAhHaaahhAHA ::

Kira: My flesh, my flesh, what does it mean if it tastes so rotten now. I was the sweet one once, I was. I babble, there is nothing in these words, they mean nothing, I mean nothing.

GM: Snorts and splits apart into hundreds of smiling grinning biting laughing rainbow fish that swim away without so much as a backwards glance. Scales streaked velvet. Scales blue. Scales gone. Kira floats adrift, alone, forsaken.

Kira: This gray is all I want, she will never love, believe, crave me. Velvet bitch has taken everything, and it’s only me now. Only me always.

GM: Only her. Only her. Only her.

But?


GM: The water is black as tar and feels nearly as thick. An overpowering smell of brine assaults Kira’s nostrils, worms up her skull and writhes around in her brain like the kelp forest that seems to stretch on for miles. Strands lash at her wrists and ankles, hungrily trying to pull her back.

:: This is not what she wants. ::

Kira: No dear god, let me go, let me go, let me go! They feel like a hundred tiny mouths tearing, devouring me. Let. Me. GO!

GM: She pulls and thrashes, kelp ripping soundlessly in her wake, weeping tears of yellow joy.

Barnacles slash a dozen razor-sharp tongues across Kira’s skin. The water mists with red.

:: I cannot protect her here, beyond the borders of My realm. ::

A grinning clam snaps shut across Kira’s knee, its toothy edges slicing all the way down to bone. Jace shrieks as the seal that knocked him on his ass sprouts fangs and lunges for his throat.

:: The way ahead shall only bring her more pain. ::

Kira: She wants out. It’s all she can think of. Out of the waters, out of the distorted, fucked up fantasy-world… Away. Anywhere else is fine. She howls in pain, and there’s an echo of the inhuman in it. N

GM: The spidery crabs stab spear-like apendages through Kira’s throat, stomach, thighs, breasts, everywhere, skewering her up like a pig for slaughter. Her marine biology professor hands back a final exam graded ‘F’ with a cold expression.

:: Only pain. ::

Kira: Yes, only pain. That’s what she repeats to herself as she pushes. Pushes forward insistently, shoving and screaming, damn the plants, the creatures, and all the rest.

GM: They envelop her.

Dozens of tiny jaws gnash, clench, and tear. The swarm is barely visible through all the red. They gnaw a gaping hole through Kira’s stomach that spills out her parents’ and sister’s smiling faces, spills out a framed diploma, spills out an alarm clock, spills out a toy sail boat, spills out something innate and intrinsic that leaves only terrible, undefinable emptiness behind, an amputee’s phantom limb flailing in denial.

:: Stay. ::

Kira: She can’t stay, not undone and unloved, discarded like a bored child’s old toy. She would have rather incinerated, been shredded to piece, a thousand deaths just to get free than to stay here.

GM: Light shines down from above.

Nearly there, within reach, just a bit closer…

:: My pet shall return to My realm, as I know she will yearn, as I know she must, and as I know she will. ::

Kira: She can see it now. A memory of wind passing over her skin is sharp and cool and crisp. Or is it a warm breath? The voice bears down, and it seems so close that it seems right over her shoulder. Never…

GM: :: …as I know she will yearn, as I know she must, as I know she will… ::

View
Part 1

GM: It’s 1999. The smell of surf is thick in Kira’s nostrils as the boat cuts through the water, leaving a spray of white foam and steady chum-chum-chum sound in its wake. A chill November wind hungrily nips her cheeks and the edges of her thick jacket. The San Juan Islands and its marine research facility lay some 60 miles north of Seattle, but one would think there was no city anywhere for thousands.

Day passes into evening. Kira’s boyfriend Jace stares out over the sunset. He needed the lab credits, and between his pick of the scientific fields, figured he might as well learn more about the one his girlfriend was clearly into.

A buzzing sound from his pants interrupts the tranquility. “Hello? Oh hey Mom. Yeah, it’s been great. We’ve seen orcas and everything. I’ll take some pictures of the sunsets for you, they’re unbelievable.”

“Tomorrow we’re… uh-huh. Yeah, Kira’s here with me.”

Kira: Kira smiles, listening to Jace talk to his mother. There was something oddly charming about the way he never seemed to lose his patience with her calling at random just to chat. It was the same sort of way that his slightly crooked smile managed to look boyish and cute, and that one flop of brown hair that always fell into his eyes. Kira didn’t have that problem – she kept her long, wavy hair tied back on trips like these. Hers was brown too, only more reddish than Jace’s, and her eyes were a clear hazel. She glances back at Jace, a little smile coming over her lips – not chapped, she’d remembered her chapstick this time. “Hi momma Jace!” she says, almost shyly.

GM: Kira hears something indistinct come back from the cell phone. A look of utter disbelief strikes Jace’s face, then a growing blush. “Goodbye, Mother, I am hanging up now,” he states with exaggerated formality as he flips the phone shut. His face is noticeably red.

Kira: Kira starts laughing. Her laugh is rich and sincere, but not terribly loud. “What did she say?” she asks, poking Jace in the ribs. Not that he’d feel it much through that hideous windbreaker.

GM: Jace winces, though whether it’s at Kira’s poke or what his mother said is hard to tell. “She told me I should propose to you. Because it would be romantic over the water at sunset.” The red hue coloring his face deepens.

Kira: At that, Kira turns about the same red – it’s not just the wind whipping at her cheeks anymore. “Uh… well, she is right about that…” She tries to stifle her laughter, but Jace’s face…

GM: “She also said she… no. No, sorry, I shouldn’t even mention it.” Jace presses his palm against his face.

Kira: “Am I that repulsive?” she asks teasingly, biting her lower lip. Before Jace can answer the question, she raises an eyebrow. “Oh no, mister… not now that you started off like that. She also said what??”

GM: Jace takes a breath, massaging his temple. “She also says she put my grandma’s engagement ring in my backpack so I wouldn’t have to do it empty-handed. And then there was… something about grandkids.” His face is red enough to heat the boat for its entire journey back home.

Kira: At that, Kira bursts out laughing. “Oh my god! Seriously? We’re not even out of college yet!” She knew Jace’s mother was a bit… excited… about their relationship, but this was jumping the gun, wasn’t it?

GM: Jace chuckles weakly. “Yeah. I’m sorry, she can be… overeager. I’ve told her a million times, I’m not even going to think about marriage until I’m done with college.”

Kira: Kira leans a little closer to him and looks up at him through her black lashes. She bats them a few times, quickly, a little expression she gives him when she’s trying to lighten the mood. “Are you suuuuuure? What if you fall in looooove?” She grins, then looks out over the horizon for a moment, seeing which way the boat is bearing before she looks back at him. “You don’t have to apologize, you know. I like your mom.”

GM: “Just not her ideas. Unless you also liked the one about popping out her grandkids before graduating?”

Kira: She pushes him gently with the flat of her hand. “Ugh, don’t be nasty about it. I don’t want kids right now, if ever… I mean, god only knows how long I’ll be in school…” She shrugs. “I dunno, maybe I’ll change my mind when I’m pulling my hair out writing a dissertation.”

GM: Jace nods. “Well, we’re of two minds there. They wake you up bawling in the middle of the night when they’re young, they smoke and give you lip when they’re old… and that’s even before overpopulation. I dunno what gets my mom so excited.”

Kira: “You did, apparently,” Kira says, smirking. “I guess somehow all that screaming and smoking and smart-assing didn’t bother her too much, or else she’d’ve thrown you in the Sound by now. But I’m sure you were never an aggravating child.”

GM: “I never smoked!” Jace mock-protests. “Can’t claim innocence from the smart-assing, but… seriously, slipping in my grandma’s engagement ring…? If I EVER have kids, that’s one thing I won’t put them through.”

Kira: Kira shakes her head. “She’s… determined, I’ll give her that much. But yeah, little much.” She glances up at Jace for a moment, squinting into the wind. It wasn’t too long ago that they’d been thinking about a break and decided against it.

GM: “Yeah. C’mon, let’s head belowdecks. It’s getting cold.”


GM: The next few days pass eventfully. Jace and the other class members on their boat excitedly snap pictures of the islands’ marine life.

Kira: Kira’s absolutely in heaven. The weather is good, the sea-life is friendly and photogenic, and she’s so close she can touch some of it. It’s quite plain that she’s in her element.

GM: “All right everyone, now here comes the really fun part,” announces Dr. Rivera, the visiting scientist from WSDE (Washington State Department of Ecology). The brown-haired, 40-something woman wears the thick jacket, gloves, and rubber boots ubiquitous to everyone on the trip. “Normally, when scientists tag seals, we use nets to haul in the entire pod like commericial fishers do. But this population’s already been tagged and they look pretty happy out there in the sun, don’t they?”

Kira: Kira perks up as Dr. Rivera speaks. She’d been paying rapt attention to the woman for the entire trip, partly because Dr. Rivera had like… her dream job. She tugs at the end of her long braid, narrowing her almond-shaped eyes slightly to squint out at the seals, and then look back at the biologist. She had no idea what was coming next.

GM: Meanwhile, the rest of the class vocally expresses their agreement over the seals’ apparent contentment.

“I thought so! It’s been a year since we last did this pod, though, and it’ll have some new pups now. So, I need some brave volunteers to pick their way through the seals and plant these,” the biologist holds up a numbered plastic tag, “on the sleeping pups. Do I have any takers?”

Kira: Kira raises her hand, standing on tiptoes. She was near the middle of the group, but she was short. She wanted to go so badly… to be so close to them…

GM: The scientist smiles. “Girl in the middle with the braided hair, very good!” Other hands quickly shoot up, including Jace’s. “Guy in the back left, guy with the orange jacket, girls with the fur parkas… ok, that’s plenty.”

A dozen rubber boots crunch against sand and rocks as volunteers climb out of the lifeboat. The seals, however, continue to bask contentedly under the cold November sun. Kira can already spot a few pups snuggled up against their mothers as she scans the pod.

Kira: Kira could hardly contain herself as she climbs out of the boat, walking carefully so that she doesn’t disturb the rocks too much. “Oooh look at that one!” she says, pointing out the fattest little seal she sees, content snuggled against mom’s side.

GM: Dr. Rivera nods, smiling. “I don’t see a tag on it either. There’s your mark.”

Kira: Kira picks her way carefully over, scanning to make sure that none of the animals seem disturbed. Holding a tag in her hand, she creeps along, moving with slow, sure movements, trying just as hard to impress Dr. Rivera as she is trying to not get flopped on by an angry seal mommy.

GM: Seal mommy looks pretty out it, whiskers twitching in its sleep. Kira read in her textbook that meant it was in the REM stage… or was that with cats? The fat little pup snores loudly, a steady whz-whz-whz. It’s too young to have much in the way of its own whiskers yet.

Kira: Kira moves slowly up to it, the clip trembling in her hands. All of a sudden, up this close, it’s real. It’s her first chance to really do something like this, and that only makes the moment all the more important. “Hey there little guy…” she murmurs softly, moving around to the back. She’s not paying attention to anyone else in the class. She’s not paying attention to anything but the clamp and the flippers, the tiny little flippers in front of her. She squats slowly, leaning down to clamp the tag on.

GM: And just like that, the plastic tag’s on without a hitch. The seal’s skin feels slippery and wet under Kira’s hand. The pup snorts and tosses in its sleep, burrowing its face against its mother’s flank.

Her classmates aren’t as fortunate. Jace wakes up his seal, which grunts and rolls away from him. When he persists in trying to attach the tag, its mother idignantly smacks a flipper across his knees. Kira’s boyfriend yelps in surprise and falls flat on his ass. The seal haughtily ambles off with its young.

Kira: There’s a sudden rush, and a big grin comes over Kira’s face. She barely resists the urge to jump up and down, at least until she notices Jace get slapped by the seal. She crunches over to him to offer him a hand, her cupid’s bow lips an ‘o’ of surprise. “Shit, Jace, are you okay?”

GM: Jace laughs as he takes her hand. “Just a sandy behind. Guess I should stick to video games.”

The rest of the class isn’t having much better luck. The other boy chickens out after seeing what happened to Jace. The two girls laugh loudly at his cowardice, and in so doing, irritate their own seals enough into swimming off.

Dr. Rivera sighs. “Really, everyone? Is this girl the only one the seals don’t hate?”

In their defense, though, the cuddly, smiling animals don’t look capable of hate.

Kira: Kira beams with pride, but also flushes. She got enough shit about being the professor’s pet from some of her classmates- she didn’t want to it to start up again here. “Maybe I just got lucky.”

GM: “Either way, that’s all the untagged pups. Come on, everyone. Back to the boat.”


GM: “…so everything with your other classes is taken care of? You won’t fall behind on your coursework?” Kira’s mother Hannah asks over the hotel’s phone.

Kira: Kira sighs. “No, mom, I told you! I mean, this is like the most important thing as far as setting me up for the major, and I made sure my other professors would work with me…” It was still a little too early to tell if it was going to be one of THOSE talks.

GM: “And you doublechecked with each of the professors in person? Not all of them use the email accounts the school gives them.”

Kira: “Mom, I double-checked. You know, I DO actually go to class, and I had to get them to sign a form for this trip. It’s school-sanctioned, so they have to let me make up my work.” Okay, so she hadn’t actually checked with her lit professor.

GM: “Good. Your sister says hi, by the way. She’s still doing that internship at the Children’s Hospital, working retail, volunteering at the clinic, and maintaining a 4.0.” A man’s indistinct voice sounds. Kira’s mother snorts. “Your father thinks I should’ve just told you she’s still Supergirl.”

Kira: “Might as well have,” Kira responds, before she can even stop herself. Sometimes she got so damned sick and tired of hearing about her sister.

GM: “Your sister works hard, Kira, and I expect just as much from you. Now, schoolwork and Ling aside. How’s the voyage been? Have you seen any orcas?”

Kira: “Mom, really? I do work hard, but I don’t get internships until I’m actually like… last four semesters before graduation. I’m probably going to make Dean’s List this semester too.” Kira’s voice is quite clearly resentful. And she wasn’t going to make Dean’s List at all with that C in literature.

She pauses, and takes a deep breath. “Yeah… we saw some orcas.” She tries to let her anger simmer down. This wasn’t a competition, she found herself constantly telling herself that whenever her sister was brought up. “I got to tag a seal pup today… off the boat. It was amazing!”

GM: “Oh my. It just let you?”

Kira: “It was asleep next to its mother,” Kira says, her voice suddenly lighting with excitement as she describes the memory. “Everybody else’s seals pretty much ran off, but mine let me tag it nice and easy… didn’t even wake up.”

GM: “Sounds like you’re the one with the special touch. I’m glad you’ve had the chance to go on this trip, Kira. The ocean’s been your passion for as long as I can remember.”

Kira: “Aw, mom…” Kira blushes, suddenly ashamed of having shot her mouth off. “I… that really means a lot to me. And so does this trip. I know I’m doing the right thing.” Maybe it wasn’t law or nursing school. But it was her dream.

GM: “Any field that requires you to work hard and earn a PhD is hard to go wrong with, Kira. Anyways, you’ve got a big day tomorrow. Get some sleep, have a blast with the rest of the voyage, and know that I love you.”

Kira: “I love you too, mom,” Kira says, unable to keep the smile out of her voice as she hangs the phone back up in its cradle and tucks her calling card back into her purse.


GM: “…as I’ve said, you’re a promising student, Kira,” Dr. Rivera says as they stroll down the San Juan harbor. “Your professor’s had very good things to say about your work, but even just looking at how the others did in the field…. couldn’t even tag a seal without scaring the whole pod off. Almost makes me wonder if oceanography’s a dying career choice.”

Kira: Kira beams at the praise, but shakes her head. “No… I don’t think it is. But I do think it takes a special type of person to really make it into a passion and not just a career,” she says, brushing some of her hair out of her face. It was coming loose from its long braid, and the strands were kinked from being held that way most of the day.

GM: “Yes. That passion’s what makes all the difference. It’s wh… oh my goodness, don’t make any sudden movements, would you believe that’s an actual…” The scientist points at the water.

Kira: Kira stands on her tiptoes, looking where Dr. Rivera’s pointing. She tries to follow the line of her finger. “What is it…?” she breathes quietly.

GM: Kira suddenly feels Dr. Rivera’s body pressed against her back. A cloth soaked in something pungent-smelling clamps over her mouth and nose. Kira immediately begins to feel light-headed.

Kira: She barely has a chance to react, and her tiny body is not much of a match for even a larger woman. She’s dizzy, her eyes rolling back as the pungent scent soaks into her lungs.

GM: The older woman doesn’t seem to be a trained ninjitsu, but she has size, the element of surprise, and isn’t the one inhaling chemical fumes. Everything goes black.


GM: Kira wakes up. She’s on a boat, her legs and arms tightly duct-taped together. She can’t tell how far out they are. It’s night and far too pitch dark to see anything.

Dr. Rivera sits a few feet away, reading a book under flashlight.

Kira: “Wh…” Kira tries to get out, but her mouth feels like it’s full of cotton. She squints. That doesn’t make the details any clearer, and her head still feels fogged from… she suddenly remembers that quick feeling, the nauseating scent…

GM: The scientist looks up. “Ah, you’re awake. Sorry for the rough treatment. You’d think I was crazy if I said why I needed you here, though.”

Kira: Kira lets her head drop. “That sounds like you want me to ask you why.” Her tongue feels thick too, and her voice comes out slightly slurred.

GM: “No, actually, as you’ll get to see with your own eyes in a bit. It’s only a little while until midnight. The witching hour is the most efficacious time. Then or twilight, anyways.”

Kira: “What the fuck,” Kira mutters. It’s almost like she’s still knocked out, the way she’s hearing these things that make no sense.

GM: “It’s a concept present in mythologies throughout the world,” Dr. Rivera continues. “The significance of divides and barriers. Boundaries between one state of being and the next. They assist us in crossing our own boundaries.”

Kira: Earlier on the trip, Kira would have raptly listened to Dr. Rivera talked. Now, she’d give anything for her to shut the hell up. “If you’re gonna dump me overboard, can we just get it over with?” she says. She’s not entirely sure what makes her say something so stupidly brash, aside from the fact that… well, there’s not much she can do out here over the water, with no real clue where she is.

GM: “I suppose I’m not making much sense,” Dr. Rivera shrugs. “If you’re thirsty, I have Capri Sun.” She holds up a juice packet. “I’m not dumping you overboard, though. What on earth would be the point to that?”

Kira: She suddenly realizes just how thirsty she is, and sighs. “Yeah… I am thirsty…” She pauses, then looks towards Dr. Rivera with one eyebrow raised. “I have no idea what the point of being out here duct-taped up in a boat is, but here I am. Anything’s possible.”

GM: The scientist sticks a straw in the packet and holds it under Kira’s lips. “You’re more correct there than you realize. I worked for WSDE for twenty-some years. It’s amazing how much they don’t know about the ways our world works. How little a PhD prepares you for what’s out there.”

Kira: Kira sips from the juice packet eagerly. For a moment, she feels like a four-year-old being helped out by their mom, but she gets over that pretty fast, given how much clearer-headed having a little juice is making her feel. She struggles slightly, realizing now that her bonds are cutting off the circulation in her wrists just slightly enough for them to tingle. “Oh, that’s good news. Glad I’ve planned on wasting my time with one.”

GM: Dr. Rivera shakes her head. “No, that isn’t something you’re likely to do now.” She looks down at her watch. “Ah, time’s just about here. I need seven tears. Do you think you can make yourself cry?”

Kira: Kira looks at her like she’s just asked for a crack rock. “Make myself cry? For what?!”

GM: “No time to explain, sorry. Can you or not?”

Kira: It would appear that she can… although not on purpose. It’s just the ridiculousness of the situation and the fear piling up together. She sniffles at first, then tears well over the rims of her eyes. She sure as hell doesn’t stop to count to seven, though.

GM: “Good, we won’t have to use red tears. Those never work as well.” Kira spots a gleaming surgical knife just a ways off. Dr. Rivera takes away the juice packet and holds Kira’s head over the boat’s edge, letting her tears fall into the inky black water below.

Kira: Hanging like this over that black water… it doesn’t matter how familiar the water is, Kira doesn’t dare move, doesn’t dare tempt her… apparent captor… to go back on her promise not to throw her in. She’s frozen like a rabbit who’s been spotted by a predator.

GM: “One…”

Plop.

“Two…”

Plop. Kira can see her breath steaming in the cold.

“Three… four…”

Plop. Plop. Wetness against Kira’s cheek. It’s raining.

Kira: She shudders, and it only seems to make her cry harder – this helplessness is not something she’s used to. Not Kira, the woman who’s always been taught by both mother and father to control her own destiny.

GM: “Five… six…” Dr. Rivera’s breath is short.

Plop-plop. Dud-dud-dud-dud. The steady pattering of raindrops against the boat, against the ocean. Water trickles down Kira’s neck, soaks her hair. It’s raining hard.

SEVEN!” Dr. Rivera yells.

Plop.

Rumble. Black clouds circling overhead, playing catch with the moon, there one moment and gone the next. Mad shadows race formless inky black feet across the water. Dr. Rivera’s eyes are as bright as the night is dark. Her breath is hoarse and ragged.

Kira: Kira’s violently shivering in the rain, the whites of her eyes showing as they roll with fear, taking in the positively unnatural looking storm.

GM: The ocean explodes with a defeaning roar and spray of surf, like a land mine detonated underwater. The boat rocks and groans. A massive seal the size of a rhinocerous, the size of a fucking giraffe, imperiously stares down at the two humans. Its coat is the purest milk-white save for seven bloody red stains atop its head.

The thing lurches to its hind flippers, something that Kira’s biology textbook told her was anatomically impossible. Dr. Rivera falls to knees and prostrates herself, mouthing praises. “Great One… you’ve come… my life and soul are yours…”

Kira: It’s all Kira can do not to scream bloody murder. Her mouth makes the motions, but the only sound that comes out is a squeak… then another… another… Her long hair is matted down to her face, and all she can do is stare.

GM: The ambulatory seal shudders and sloughs off its skin with a wet slurch. ‘Red’ is Kira’s first impression of what lies underbeneath. The pink-red of sea kelp, spilling down slender shoulders in majestic waves. Glistening and wet, lazily rippling as if underwater, adorned with gleaming pearls and kelp strands from every color of the rainbow. The willowy figure wears her magnificent hair like a royal mantle, but otherwise stands unabashadly naked. Her perfect breasts rise and fall in exact concert with the ocean waves. Her unblemished skin is the color of white sand. Most remarkable of all, however, are the figure’s pitch-blue eyes. They contain no whites, no pupils, no irises. Just undiluted pools of total azure that someone could drown staring into.

Kira: Kira’s transfixed. “I… I… this can’t be real…” she whispers, her breath hoarse, even when she strains to make it louder to convince herself of the truth of her words.

GM: Dr. Rivera bows low. “Great One, I come bearing the most promising…”

The figure strokes Kira’s cheek, a sensation like lightning coursing through water. “Yes. This one’s hands are nimblest, her face fairest, her devotion truest.”

“A maiden procured, a promise kept, a bargain fulfilled. It may go as it wills.” The figure tosses Dr. Rivera a seal pelt that wasn’t there a moment before. The middle-aged scientist catches it with an addict’s trembling fingers and fevered eyes, all but ripping off her clothes in her haste to don the pelt. The new seal yowls to the storm-tossed sky in a throaty voice and disappears into the waves.

Kira: Kira shudders uncontrollably, like she’s standing in the midst of a blizzard. Her teeth chatter together. “Wh-at the f-f-f-fuck…” She can’t even wrap her arms around herself for warmth. “This can’t be real… this can’t be real… it can’t…” She’s repeating it over and over again like a mantra suddenly.

GM: The figure runs a delicate finger along Kira’s cheek. Her tight duct tape bonds are loose strips of seaweed, easily shrugged off. “This one need not fear for herself. My realm holds such wonders and pleasures as she has never known.”

Kira: As hard as she’s shivering, the bonds fall off almost on their own. As she finds herself free to move again, she tries to stumble to her feet, not thinking of anything but to get away. “Your realm… I… this is fuckin’ crazy, what did she do to me?” She can’t make sense of it, but that touch… that soft fingertip running along her skin seems to compel her closer even when she wants to go… swim… fly… as fast as she can in the other direction.

GM: “It fulfilled its part of the bargain,” the figure repeats, her voice a gentle coo, like bubbles rising from the sea floor. “A maiden procured, a promise kept, a pelt returned.”

Kira: “A pelt returned?” Kira’s eyes register recognition, then confusion. “How could she be… I don’t understand…” Her voice is nearly a high-pitched whine of fear at this point, and she’s still standing there soaking wet and shaking with the cold.

GM: “A pelt returned. Freedom granted. The oceans her domain to roam.” Water leaks from the figure’s nose and mouth with every word she utters, trickling down her breasts, pooling over her feet.

Kira: “How the fuck can a woman be a seal?” Kira’s voice bursts out suddenly, higher pitched than she means for it to be. She explodes into laughter almost immediately. Nervous laughter.

GM: The figure calmly strides towards Kira, her kelp-red hair continuing to lazily wave in place. Not like Kira’s, whipped and tossed about by the storm.

Kira: “Who are you?” she asks, her voice going soft, tears beginning to fall again. “Why am I her, what do you want from me?”

GM: The figure pulls Kira into a kiss. Hungrily, ravenously, like a tsunami blasting through everything in its path. Kira’s head spins, her knees buckling under her. The wind screams in her ears. The rain pounds in her eyes. The boat moans and rocks beneath the waves.

Kira: The questions that were going to fall from her lips are gone, gone utterly. She feels the kiss in the same elemental way she feels the storm. The woman’s lips are as cool as rain, and she can taste the soft salt of the sea. A warmth floods her, a NEED.

GM: “My realm holds such pleasures and wonders as this one has never known,” the figure repeats, cupping Kira’s face in moist hands. “For she whose hands are nimblest, whose face is fairest, whose devotion is truest.”

Kira: “Devotion…” Kira murmurs, then nods. Her eyes suddenly feel moist again, but it’s not fear this time. “Yes, yes,” she murmurs, agreeing to something, though she hardly knows what. Anything this woman said.

GM: The figure pulls Kira into a second kiss that shatters her world. She feels her lungs fill with water, but impossibly, she can breathe. Storm clouds shriek and wail overheard amidst the rain’s belligerent pounding. The boat rocks and lurches. Out of the corner of her eye, Kira sees a whirlpool forming in the inky black waters, a phenomena all but unheard of in Puget Sound.

Kira: Somehow, in this moment, it makes sense… it matches the way she feels, like her spirit is slowly being split in two, ripped away from whatever meager understanding of reality she might have thought she had before. It was nothing compared to this.

GM: Lightning flashes through the sky. The smell of burning cloth wafts up Kira’s nostrils. The sails are on fire. The boat madly spins and bucks, like a toy in a hyperactive three-year-old’s bathtub. The beauteous figure stares grinning at the sky. A plankton crawls out of the corner of her mouth.

Kira: That’s when Kira finally finds the voice to scream.

GM: The figure pulls Kira against her breasts with soft but mercilessly strong arms. Waves hungrily engulf the boat. Kira’s world is plunged into silence and near-darkness. Water races across her bare skin. They spin around and around and around… and it all goes black.

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