A fork. A fork?
No: The fork that Sebastian had given me. A piece of essence that I could manipulate. Faerie essence, that I could manipulate. Giddy with relief, I started to pull it toward myself. Then I hesitated as the doubts crashed through my hasty plan. One fork. One faerie glamour with which to shore up a shard of essence that was stretching out like an inflating balloon. Would one fork be enough? Would it just be too little, too late?
It would. Maybe it was the depression, or the paranoia, or an instinctive understanding of how these bits of my soul worked, but I knew consuming that essence wouldn’t be enough. I needed more. I needed to feed, but I needed that essence to bypass my curse. I couldn’t feed like a vampire.
I needed to feed like a faerie. To use what little remained intact at the center of my shard of Megan’s soul to pull essence to me. But without any awareness of who was around me, how was I supposed to do that? I was only aware of what the fork I’d grabbed was because it was already tied directly to my aura. Without the strength to reach down ley lines, how was I supposed to find essence I could draw upon?
Depression rose through the pain of my curse gradually stretching the borders of my faerie crystal, saturating it. Pain and despair. I wanted to take that worthless fork and fling it away.
Isn’t it strange how sometimes hope comes out of despair?
I grabbed a hold of Sebastian’s gift. Gripped it as solidly as I could with my enfeebled soul — and cast it away from me.
Without any perception of the real world to guide my aim, I had to rely on intention. I wanted to throw my line toward the most frightened person near me. Fear was supposed to be an easy emotion for faeries to feed from. I had to hope that my intention and the weave’s response would guide the bit of aura I flung out from myself toward the someone who was terrified. I mean: we’d been fighting ghost zombies for god’s sake! I knew there were people who qualified as terrified near by.
But I was still gambling. Literally gambling with my soul, since the fork was a part of it and the rest of it was what I stood to lose if my gamble failed. And yet, it was a measured gamble. When the fork had been a knife; when I’d used it to fight: my aura had stretched. My focus had followed with it. Maybe I could use it as a lifeline, to extend my reach. To find someone I could pull essence from safely.
That was the plan, anyway. As much as I’d been able to form one.
And it worked, sort of. My awareness stretched in the direction of the toss — not that I was aware of anything beyond my soul stretching more. And that was as far as it worked. I lost my grip on the glamour as the effort strained the intact core of my shard anew. I was still connected to it, but it was like I was simply laying a finger upon it. I could feel it, but I couldn’t do anything to or with it. My awareness ended at the psychic existence of the glamour.
I wished I had a body so I could cry: as it was, my wail of renewed despair was trapped in the confines of my own mind, echoing against the agony of a soul that was slowly pulling itself apart from the inside out.
I didn’t have the strength to reach for anyone. Maybe my ‘plan’ had worked, and there was someone nearby — but I didn’t have the strength to reach out and draw from them.
It didn’t occur to me that they might have the strength to reach out for me before it was too late.
It started with a chill. Then a sense of fear, panic; terror — only they weren’t mine. I wasn’t afraid of being attacked. At least, not right now. I wasn’t angry about being betrayed. I wasn’t…
The slithering chill sunk into my stretched out aura. Pins and needles danced along my strained, tentative connection to Sebastian’s silverware, trying to pick it apart. Trying to find a way in.
It was a ghost zombie. I’d thrown out a last grasp for help, and it had turned into a lure for a fucking ghost zombie?! Fuck! I must have thrown my glamour back across the circle of wards, into the clearing. No one else would even be aware of it, and there was no way in fuck anyone was going back in there and the goddamn ghosts were drawn to injured souls and….
I tried, instinctively, to pull away. I didn’t have the strength for it. What awareness I had flared with jabbing needles, all along my connection to Sebastian’s damn fork. Only each needle was a maw: the ‘fuzzy’ auras of the ghosts were made up of bits of the weave that had been ripped away, and severed leylines seeking a connection. The pinpricks were those bits of weave trying to bind to something and entangling themselves in my connection to the fork. The needles were severed leylines, jabbing into me to draw essence for the ghosts.
I wanted to laugh. It would have been the perfect expression of hysteria, but I didn’t have a functional body.
I could see the ghosts — they were interconnected, bound together by those same strands of ripped leylines and torn weave. By attracting one I’d gotten the attention of all of them, just like at the hospital before. And this time, there was no one else there to distract them; no one to intercede on my behalf. All of them were bearing down on me. Grasping onto whatever part of my soul had stretched into their domain. Threads of their souls clawing at Sebastian’s glamour, trying to find a breach through which they could rip away what was left of my aura.
Only, it wasn’t working the way they intended, was it? It wasn’t my aura that was exposed to them. It wasn’t my reservoir of essence. It was my soul. Specifically, the faerie part of my soul that I used to control glamours. And faerie souls were simply structured differently than mortal ones. The tendrils of the weave that the ghosts had torn away would have anchored to a mortal’s soul by being frozen against its outer shell. But where a mortal’s soul was best described as fluid, a faerie’s was a lattice work of threads. And so the ghost’s tendrils slipped into the gaps in my lattice, only anchoring when they struck another cord.
Even the torn leylines — needles to the tendrils’ pinpricks — could only jab into my connection again and again without finding sustenance to drain. It was like they were trying to use a needle to draw blood from a sponge: there just wasn’t enough surface for something that was meant to draw liquid to successfully pull anything out of that part of me. All they did was get stuck in pockets of ‘air.’
I could see the ghosts. That realization sank through the pain somehow. I could only see them on a metaphorical level. It was like I could see into that ‘inbetween’ world of faeries, but couldn’t see the real world.
But I could see them because they were filling in that stretched out part of me; giving it back the structure it had lost when I’d over strained it. Not… not exactly that structure, but giving it some structure. I didn’t have the strength to pull essence from them, but that didn’t stop them from shoving it into me!
I just needed to be able to pull that essence back to my core. I needed to be able to use it to shore up my faerie shard before my curse ripped it open. The only problem, then, was that all those strands and leylines they were jabbing into me were still attached to them. I didn’t have any kind of direct control over them. Not any more than I had direct control over the emotions of someone else when I drank their blood. At least, not without a strong enough faerie core to exert that control.
I almost succumbed to despair. I was in pain. I was being torn apart from the inside, and the arm I’d thrown out to grasp for help was being riddled with needles and impotent fangs. Worse: fear and anger and hate were supposed to be the easiest emotions for a faerie to consume, but even though they were right there being shoved into an extension of me, I had no way to pull them back while they remained anchored to their owners.
I still only had a fucking….
A fork. A tool used for eating. A tool that was directly tied to me; that I did have control over if only I had the strength to exert it. But I didn’t have a choice except to find that strength. I flexed the essence in my core, trying to draw enough together to do the deed. My soul screamed in agony as part of the shard ripped away, too firmly anchored to my curse and too badly stretched already to withstand the strain.
Fork. How I held onto that thought, I didn’t know. But I had enough strength to pull it back.
The glamour snapped back into it’s intended place at my side. I couldn’t see it move, but I felt it. Maybe the weave helped it on its way, somehow supporting it in its execution of its true purpose: bringing food to the mouths of the hungry. All of the essence that had been stabbed into it and my connection to it came with. But the ghosts were shorn away by the wards around the clearing. Their cries of agony and despair and fear and hate and betrayal were cut off. The essence left behind, sunk into my own, unraveled slightly, seeking new anchors for the freshly separated ends.
I grabbed those threads.
I could only manage one at a time — worse even than when I had been stitching up my soul, even though right now I was working entirely within the part of me that was defined as ‘faerie.’ But still, I did it. I pulled first one, then another, and then another, into place: weaving supports along the outer edge of my shard. Putting in enough strands to prevent the pull of my curse from being strong enough to shift the threads it was anchored to further away from the core. Stopping the curse from pulling me apart.
I did that first. Then I wove more into the center of my shard, so that it had the strength to manipulate those bits of ley lines I’d unceremoniously wrenched off of the ghost zombies. They were thicker, stronger: made up of dozens of strands of fae essence already woven around a capillary of human soul stuff. I used them as struts to fix the torn part of my shard in place; to keep it from being pulled away by my curse like some sort of flotsam seized by a flailing tentacle. Then I focused on tying each ripped strand back together.
My curse grew while I worked. It spread slowly over the newly reinforced faerie shard, then faster as its size grew and the remaining shard vanished under it.
Shard. That wasn’t entirely accurate, anymore. What I had now was more like a geode: a reinforced orb of interwoven strands making a crust thick enough to support the curse’s weight. And inside that was an anemic mantle where I hadn’t had the essence available to do more than keep things connected with the occasional bursts of knotted together essence. Some had the beginnings of a crystalline structure, but most were more like a spurt of spider’s web — far more gap than structure.
And in the center of all of that was suspended a solid, hard working crystal. That crystal was my core, now. The core of my core, if that made any sense. It was what I’d used to do the repairs, reinforced further with the bits of essence that hadn’t been long enough for me to use anywhere else.
Technically, the whole sphere was interconnected. In time, maybe the whole thing would become uniform again. Even as I watched, the strands I’d woven in shifted subtly, merging into the structure; becoming mine and not just a patchwork jammed into place. But that didn’t fill them out further. Didn’t fill in the gaps where I’d had to pull out threads that threatened to snap so that I could splice them in elsewhere to relieve the pressure on another part of the structure.
So for now, that little crystal was the only part that I could use to manipulate essence. It was smaller than the shard had been when I’d first become aware of it, but maybe a little denser, too. And I could use it to manipulate essence while being safe with the knowledge that if it stretched out of shape it would still be safe in the cocoon I’d made of it’s outer surface. Safe from my own curse, until it could pull itself back together.
With that knowledge came relief. I still hurt, but not as much. New strain wasn’t being put on top of the damage I’d already done myself: I ached, but I wasn’t in agony. I didn’t know how long I’d spent working in the world of my soul, but I was ready to acknowledge that the rest of reality existed again. And yet, before I could put a tentative effort into turning my attention outward, my curse closed the last gap over my faerie sphere.
My soul snapped back into place in my body and my eyes shot open.