Flicker. As early morning sunlight flooded in, and Luke felt himself pulled toward the land of the Waking, there were dream-like splashes of colour cascading along the insides of his eyelids like this and this and this: Ravencroft (so pretty so perfect with hair that isn't really hair but feathers plucked from the wings of ravens and rammed right into her scalp without pain) stepping lightly down a hallway that has no smell, hips swaying and eyes like big black pools (and he is seeing the world from Ravencroft's eyes and is perhaps Ravencroft herself). And Ravencroft (Luke) reaches a mirror and sink at the end of this long hallway, regarding herself (himself) in the mirror. Ravencroft is in control. She knows the score. She doesn't need the mirror. She doesn't need the sink. She maintains herself with ease. And she smiles a smile like light off of razor blades in the middle of spring (and in the haze Luke doesn't remember ever smiling like this himself), but then the image gets kind of smudged like somebody has run fingers across the film and distorted things. And then there are cracks in the image. Ravencroft (Luke) is gone. The reflection in the mirror (Luke) is a goth boy squinting at himself sharply, mascara running down his cheeks, black hair in need of a comb. This goth boy (Luke) is squinting at the pimple forming on his forehead, because his pores are all clogged up from the pale greasepaint he's been keeping on his face for far too long. He scratches at his cheeks, but feels nothing. And so very carefully, this goth boy (Luke) leans over the sink, hands grasping around the handles of scissors, long and silver. He begins to cut his (his) hair, and the hair (not feathers) is bleeding red. But this isn't the red of blood or roses, this is the red of electric punk rockers and four colour heroes. Red hair that spikes itself up with each snip, leaving this goth boy (Luke) to ponder the droplets of makeup which have hurled themselves from his (his) face to disappear down the drain, and there are cracks in the mirror like cracks in the dream. Someone is standing behind this boy (who is goth no longer / who is Luke). And the boy (Luke) pirouettes around to face his foe, failing to notice the black-and-white visual vibration which has snaked across his (his) shirt. Look at the someone's smile. The kind of someone that the boy (Luke) wished he could have been like, back in high school. Before running off to the big city. Hair like a weeds of some speckled platinum plant, eyes like nobody's business. Silk. Silk pulled from one thousand silkworms when they weren't looking. And for the first time, there is a voice: "Hi." The kind of voice from someone who is more well fed than he looks. A sleek word, punched with emphasis. "Are you her gentlemen caller?" The voice of a someone copying a British accent, but doing it far better than the boy (Luke) can ever hope to do. This someone runs fingers through the boy's (Luke's) hair, without even asking; streaks of platinum are left, woven into the red of electric punk rockers and four colour heroes, twisting through the spikes like snakes in the grass. There is a crash... Blankets went everywhere, Luke suddenly sitting in his bed, a bright sunbeam screaming into his eyes. His hand went up immediately and he gave a slight cough, feeling his heart beat away inside his chest. His forehead was damp with sweat, and he coughed again. Fingers ran through his hair - black as pitch, not as ravens. "A dream," he gaped, hand rubbing across his face. And then Luke stared across the room, the mirror wedged between some boxes he hadn't unpacked yet. The glass, so cool, so clear - he closed his eyes tightly to the room, begging his brain to not let him open those eyes and look in that mirror. "Emily. I should call Emily," he said grimly, pulling himself from the bed and staggering over to the desk, eyes still shut tightly. He only stubbed his toe once on the way. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= blue light productions presents: TEENS IN TRENCHCOATS episode eight, "Waiting to Shrivel," by Ben Rawluk, with help from Jen Whitson Soundtrack: Portishead's "Portishead," Scooter's "Rough, Tough, and Dangerous." =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From the "Trevor Blount School of Trenchcoating and Shoe Repair" brochure: The forces of darkness, much like the forces of light, will often wander around making pointed statements. These are the kind of statements that always show up on quotation webpages run by pale-faced necro-nerds who maybe quiver a bit more than they should, and look slightly underfed. You'll find that you honestly can't tell whether evil or good flows from the speaker, but you'll definitely learn to like the quieter occultists - they, at least, don't sound like a fortune cookie waiting to happen. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= "Why don't you come with me, little girl," he said, "On a magic carpet ride?" Emily stared at the puckish youth, eyes widened with disbelief. He was not lanky; lean, that was the word - like after you've been in the hospital for a few weeks, and the disinfectants and the hospital food have gotten to you, left an indelible mark on you. His hair was platinum, and was perhaps a little too vine-like for Emily's tastes. And his eyes were hidden behind mirror shades - all she saw was herself, twice over. "Let me guess? That was a pick-up line, right? Or you're really crappy at the 'incarnation of evil' routine. You're her brother." "Perceptive as ever. And so /strong/." Thin fingers curled into a vaguely-defined fist, and the figure craned his neck to look at Emily from a better angle. "Most people would crumble as soon as I'd said one word. Sister Wicked always had taste, I suppose." "Sister Wicked? Fits, I suppose." Emily narrowed her eyes. "You're Winterthorne, yes?" "You remember, of course. Most dreamers forget their dreams. Especially the prophetic ones. The people who run the show," Winterthorne coughed, pointedly, "Don't like it when just anyone knows what's going to happen, you see." "What do /you/ want from me? What does Ravencroft want? Do the two of you spend /all/ day making cryptic and nevertheless patronizing aphorisms and such?" "A failing." Winterthorne bowed his head, and then regarded Emily with laughing eyes. Emily squinted, vaguely. "Don't even bother, I think we've established that glamour stuff doesn't work for me." "True, true. If you must know, I plan to use you and your soul and leave you a shriveled husk, devoid of substance and certainly devoid of style. I can't speak for my sister, she's not what you'd call a 'communicator,' you see." "Uh-huh." Emily frowned slightly, and brushed some auburn hair away from her face. "I should probably warn you, the direct approach isn't going to work either. Don't be devious," she added, "By trying /not/ to be devious." "Ah! You wound me, Emily." "After admitting you're out to steal my essence or whatever, cuteness won't work either." Emily stepped forward, lightly, until her nose was inches away from the Winterthorne's. "Even if you two aren't demonic, I'm certainly willing to try and banish you, so don't try anything." "I'm afraid, /girl/," dripped Winterthorne, "We're quite beyond you. I'm quite beyond you. The Wicked are not pathetic demonbreed, dear child. We could 'steal your essence' in a second. If we chose. If /I/ chose, anyway." He stared with large eyes through the mirrors, Emily could feel them beating down upon her face, invisibly. Emily drew slightly closer: "It took me a whole week to get those damned roses out of my bathroom. Bastard." "You didn't appreciate my gift?" "Ultimate Ninja made me retile the floor myself." Ravencroft knew how to lounge; she sat on the couch, back stretched out and hair like raven feathers cascading down to her shoulders as she held a black grape up, gently. She regarded it; a slight shine to it. And then she thought: eyeball, freshly plucked from a corpse on the battle field. She licked her black lips in anticipation, except that there was a lengthy pause in the word "anticipation." The grape looked so perfect, and Ravencroft was ready. Ready to plunge it into the gaping abyss of her mouth, to taste the idea of wine held within that grape. Gently, her hand lowered. And lowered. And... "Hi." Single syllable, but enough to throw off the entire world. The hand was brought down to Ravencroft's side, and she stared across at the new arrival: auburn hair pulled back into a ponytail, decently ordinary-looking clothes concealed by what looked like a trenchcoat - after it had been attacked by a pair of scissors and a mid-Eighties fashion magazine. "Met your brother," growled Emily, and she plopped down beside Ravencroft unceremoniously. "Bastard, isn't he?" "You said it. Which fits, because he's your brother." "Now, Emily - perhaps that's a little harsh?" A thin, shadowy smile fell across Ravencroft's face. She leaned forward, eyes intent to lock on those of Emily. "I just finished telling him to quit with the mojo, don't you start." For a split second: a scowl, unfolding across Ravencroft's face, lines on her forehead. And then: all smiles and sweetwater. "Very well. You know, /you/ could be so much help to me - making him go away and everything. My brother is tedious. Did he use the mirror shades, or the cocaine eyes?" "Er?" Emily stared. "He had sunglasses on. What the hell do you mean?" "Family thing." Ravencroft looked away. "So." "So." "Says he wants to leave me a shriveled husk, or something." "Sounds like my brother." "So." "So." "Sister Wicked, huh?" "Don't call me that," scowled Ravencroft. She oozed irritation. A pause; Ravencroft glanced with a slight smile at Emily. "Mind you, it is rather lovely for you to call me sister." A smile, cast in shadows, crossed Ravencroft's lips. "Don't even try /that/ routine." Ravencroft's smile froze. "Whatever do you mean?" "The glamours. The magic, or whatever it is. That you do. That your brother does. I'm not about to let it work, okay? Don't bother." "Very well." "Pfft." Emily looked away. "So. My brother a shriveled husk, yet?" "Not the last time I checked." The black feathers quivered. "If you hate him so much, why don't you just make him go away?" "Luke?" "Winterthorne." "Ah. Well. It's complicated." "You guys have parents, right?" Emily shot a glance across at the girl with vanilla skin and raven colour scheme. "Or did we step out of the primordial ooze by ourselves?" "Parents?" Ravencroft stared at a mote of dust, hovering in the air. "I suppose. Yes." "So call up Daddy Dearest and be a tattletale." Ravencroft shifted her focus; there was the grape, lying on the floor in the dust. She had dropped it. A long, lingering look. "Perhaps that's good advice, Emily dearest." "Doesn't mean I don't hate your guts." "In /my/ family," breathed Ravencroft haughtily, "That means we're practically sisters." Occultism Kid drifted through vast cities of dust and ancient creatures that spoke in mute symbols and held no care for mankind. But beneath it all, like an ancient drumming of shamans beating up through his bones, from the past held in his blood, in his history, came the broken emptiness of lost things. There were lost things like car keys and wallets and slips of paper with phone numbers on them that were all right. They would be found, or not found, and the universe would onward turn. But there were things lost that should not be, ever, and yet were. A book linked to demons and darkness, each page a key to a thousand thousand hells, a thing of such pristine evil that only the greatest sorcerers could be trusted to lay their hands upon it. It was a thing that should not be gone from him, from a protected place, under any circumstances. Stolen by a boy for a girl, a step in that most ancient of human dances. A concussion echoed through him, ripples from a pebble thrown into the water and sinking fast. Then another, even as he began to struggle upward into Wakening. Someone was knocking. Annoyed and still blurry, Occultism Kid rose and stalked toward the door. He growled and did his best to shake off the last vestiges of his dreams. After the great mess with the sheep, he didn't want to be bothered any longer. He didn't think to check who was knocking until it was too late, with the door already half-open. A sense of power hit him the same time he saw the girl with the ram's horns curling out of her head, her eyes alight with neon green. The air around her smelled of death and sacrifice, not only from her actions but growing from deep within, a poisoned vine that that was already choking off her life, her soul, dragging her down moment by moment, toward an inevitable end, tightening even as he watched. And around her, beating in the background like her own set of patterned drums, within her eyes and somehow within the vine and holding it up, existing in spite of its twining growth, or perhaps because of it, a defiant sort of joy. "Thanks," she said. "Needed this." She plunked the Net.crominicon straight into his hands. "I left her in the lounge." Ravencroft regarded the gothboy with a keen delight, her eyes lit up at his presence in the winding corridor. Perhaps it was a bit much, but she was /trying/, after all. Luke smiled weakly, and nodded. "You two were actually, like, hanging out? She doesn't trust you." "Oh, sillyboy!" Ravencroft rubbed Luke's arm through his trenchcoat, and giggled - a strange, echoed sound that filled Luke's ears and almost threw him off balance. "It's /all/ peaches and cream, now. We're /sisters/. I was going to get popcorn, we were going to watch a movie." Luke stared. This was insane, this was a farce, he'd obviously appeared in some strange, alternate universe - it was the dream. It was some kind of portal into another reality... Darkness fell across his face. The horns cast a mean shadow, and for a second Luke was completely out of it - the girl walking towards him, silhouetted in the darkened corridor, eyes glowing ever so slightly with neon green. His breath caught. His head was full of nothing, strands of black hair matted across his forehead. Emily wasn't around, but he wasn't thinking about his sister anymore. He wasn't thinking about Ravencroft, a look of bland disdain across her face as she stood beside him. All was - Paytan. "Hi," he croaked. "Hey," said Paytan, her voice slightly hoarse and awkward. "I've been looking for you. I'd like to say forever and a day, but more like, since this morning." She coughed, and smiled - but Luke could see, could recognize it: a smile of exhaustion, a smile because there wasn't nothing else to do. It was the smile of the nasty, evil counterpart to not having a care in the world. When he smiled, he was always trying to get that effect. He heard Ravencroft mumble something. Something like "this ought to be good." "I just wanted to apologize." A rough, unpracticed attempt at a sincere smile. "You know, for getting you to get me that book. I hear you got in trouble with - what?" Her eyes were away from him, looking over at Ravencroft. Ravencroft's face was, for a brief moment, contorted into a frown. This didn't last, her features smoothed themselves like water like magic, the muscles barely seeming to move. Almost like she hadn't changed her expression, but merely - changed. "I don't believe we've had the pleasure," Ravencroft muttered. "This," said Luke, "Er. This is Perdition. Paytan. Um. Paytan, this is my friend - Ravencroft." His eyes moved to stare intently at the floor. Ravencroft's smile was not laboured, but even, and she regarded Paytan with a narrow look; her eyes then darted back and forth, regarding both Paytan and Luke. The way he looked at her. And with some purpose, she shifted her attention back to Paytan. "Do you want to hear your fortune?" asked Ravencroft softly. She glided forward, taking Paytan's hand in her own before the horned girl could do anything. By then it was too late, the glamour too strong, the world twisting through Ravencroft's gaze in candy-colored shards. She opened Paytan's palm and traced her nails down the lines, smiling just a little when Paytan shivered. She told Paytan's fortune. The bones. The taste of blood in her mouth, the searing heat against her cheek. It was a vortex, a whirlpool dragging her down. Paytan's face didn't change as Ravencroft spoke, not even for a second. The power of it soared into the girl... and met no resistance. Nothing shattered. The fortune simply sank in, as if it were part of the landscape. Ravencroft narrowed her eyes and kept talking, let the words do the work. She felt Paytan's hand gently cover her own, the other girl leaning in until they were only inches apart. "Yeah," smiled Paytan. "I know. Wanna hear yours?" Neon green whiplashed around them. Ravencroft's entire right arm went numb, and she almost screamed. Almost. Time slowed, ideas moved and shifted inside their heads - the future, fortunes told and there was no escape: bones screaming / intestines pulled out / stolen time / stolen memories / her eyes, forgotten by everyone / who was she? / nothing / empty torsos / the silence / the rumbling / other horns, curled and sharp / the end of her dreams... She could hear Paytan whispering in her ear, through the rush of pain and sight. "You think I care about my dreams dying? You think I ever believed there was any way out of this? I /deserve/ what's coming, you little feather-haired bitch. But it doesn't matter because I already /won/." Paytan laughed, bitter and full of pride at the same time. forgotten / who are you / who am I? / screaming / a fade to black / a fade to black. It stopped. Ravencroft stared, her hair quivering in the cool draft of the corridor. The shine had dissolved from her eyes, her shoulders seemed bony and disjointed. Silently, Ravencroft brushed her hair back - it didn't contort on its own, couldn't it seemed. A few, shallow breathes. And then she regarded Paytan again. "You're crying," she said flatly. Paytan turned her back on her. "Of course. I'm going to die, aren't I?" Suddenly a riot of color burst through the door and into the room. "Hello!" it caroled. "We're all going to lunch wanna come?" It was a girl, dressed in pink jeans, a blazing blue tank top and a lime green baby trenchcoat with fur trim. Completely human. Nothing out of the ordinary about her except for her incredibly bad fashion sense. "No, she doesn't want to come," said Paytan evenly. "Did you ask Luke?" "Yeah. He's out in the Lobby with Savannah, Bryan, and this guy who refuses to admit he's from the IRS." She cocked her head at Ravencroft. "Sure you don't want to? Pizza." "Not going to happen, dear," said Ravencroft, smoothly - her eyes stayed on Paytan. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Luke, Emily, Winterthorne and Ravencroft are (c) Ben Rawluk, in the year 2000. Paytan and Brittany are (c) Jen Whitson, also 2000. Whee! Occultism Kid is (c) Josh Geurink, 2000.Back to the Index.