Chapter 15: Sans Merci
Blue-green flickers edged with gold formed eyes, then a soft glow became a face. It was Stella. A quavering brilliance lit her skin; lightning coursed through her veins. She was holding him up, or her energy… or something… was.
"Clay, can you see me?" The flickers grew into flames; they wheeled and flared, bursting like skyrockets.
"Stella…what's happening…?" Whirlwinds cycled up his thighs and encircled his chest. "What are you… What's happening to you?"
"It's happening to us, to you." Hailstones rained in reverse, spiraling skyward around them, flashing like diamonds as they wove through her streaming tresses.
He looked at his arms where she held his elbows. His flesh was afire just like hers. The light ran through him, out to his fingers, down his calves. He glimpsed his feet, dangling in mid-air while the deck rolled and pitched below. "God… Stella…" Pulsing currents shot up his spine. "I feel it…"
"We're doing this. We're causing the storm."
"I don't understand."
"The energy…" The flow surged. Her skin, her eyes blazed brighter. "It's you and me… You..doing it to me. You set off sparks… inside. Since I first saw you."
"Madame Garnier's class? The lights?" The wind shrieked. Clay's sight blurred as it threw him and Stella into a spin.
"Now it's stronger. I knew it was too much at Hildy's in the water. That's why I left. Anthony warned me, he said I should stay away, he said you would get hurt… I don't want to hurt you!"
"I'm not hurt, Stella." Reeling gusts blew harder, tearing through his hair.
"Clay, listen to me! The motor's gone," friction shredded her voice. "The helm's been hit!"
Clay glanced down. Sinews of black smoke coiled out from the engine hatch.
"There's only one way to stop it," she said.
He pulled her closer. "I don't want to stop it." They spun faster.
"Je ne… I can't… I can't control this!" Waves crashed over the side and shattered into shimmering spheres. "I have to leave! I have to go!"
"What are you saying?" Clay's eyes darted to her waist. She untied her safety line! "Go where? There's nowhere to go!"
"It's too much–"
He held on as she tried to break away, her long tendrils thrashing his face and neck. "You can't leave, Stella. I won't let you. Not alone!" He unclipped the tether from his harness and swung it around the two of them; then he pulled it in, cinching her so close he felt the heat between her legs. "If you want to throw yourself off this ship into the ocean, I'm going with you."
Beads of sea spray wound into glittering helixes.
"Clay, the next strike could kill you."
"It could kill us both! It will kill us if we go out there. The first rule of sailing is stay with the ship." He yanked on the twisting tether and kicked open the hatchway to the main cabin. "We're going to ride this out." Mercy tossed high on the waves as his fingers caught the trim of the doorframe. "Stella, ride this with me… Come inside." He drew her head to his chest and raised his arm to shield her.
The ship slammed down; the force flung them through the hatchway into the cabin. Clay grabbed the railing along the port lights and halted their momentum. How can this be happening? blinked his thoughts as Stella's hair slapped the ceiling. The air was dense like water, an invisible convulsing sea, heaving, surging, crushing them together. He smelled sparks.
"It's coming." Her breath carried salt and fire.
"Let it come." He pressed his mouth to hers and parted her lips with his tongue as blinding light burst through the windows. The energy rushed into him, exploded in his head, like plasma erupting at the core of the sun, burning inside, outside, everywhere. Rays shot through his limbs, lighting him up.
The light flowed between them. Neural signals fused together. He felt her desire, amplified by his own. Their hearts beat in synch, slower, and deeper, each pulse shining through skin. The tether unwound as they turned and twisted, their backs grazing the fiberglass roof.
"Are you all right?" Her hair spread out, a pool of red running over the dips and bevels of the ceiling.
"I'm alive." The power within him ebbed and swelled. "Really alive." He unclasped her top; black wings fluttered as the thin material drifted away. He kissed her naked breasts, tracing circles with his tongue over her hot skin, just as he had in the shower the night before. She was there… She was with me… Shocks cascaded, firing his nerves, boiling his blood.
"There's more I need to tell you." She lifted his chin. Her eyes beamed bright gold. "If we do this, it's forever."
"What do you mean?" Forces enveloped them. His blood, her blood drummed a rhythm, rippling through every cell.
"Like the osprey, mate for life."
"No one else. You will never love another." Her words billowed, rising and falling, half speaking, half singing. "Do you understand?"
"Stella, I've never loved anybody, not for a second, until I saw you at Hildy's."
"Only death can separate us. Do you want this that much?"
"You know I do. I love you. Do you want it? Do you love me?"
"I love you, Clayton Berkeley." Her fingertips spread over his chest, then lifted into a tight circle over his heart. "Now, touch me."
He touched her breast and pulled his fingers into a small ring. "Okay."
"We have to give each other our names." She pressed into his skin. "I'll begin. I give you my name, Stella, Estella–" silver shafts pierced his flesh. "Now you."
"I give you my name, Clay, Clayton."
"Mon seul amour…" She exhaled and inhaled, her chest rising as her lungs filled. She removed his hand and pulled back hers. "See." Shining threads laced and curved where he'd touched her, a band of interlocking symbols. They seemed strange at first, like a lost ancient alphabet, then they changed; he saw the letters of his name melding with hers. He looked down at his chest; the same silver design was forming.
"What is it?"
"It's a blason. It will last until you die."
"I get it. It's like a ring, a wedding ring."
She smiled while she guided his hand back to her heart and again touched his. "Say the rest."
"Wexler… Berkeley…" His fingers were burning. "That's it."
"I have a lot more names. My mother's name, my grandmother's, the women who came before me." Spinning stars orbited her pupils. "Alix, Alisia, Kate, Katrine, Katherine, Vi, Vivienne…"
The sounds began to overlap, one name folded into the next, syllables blended, becoming a choir. Tones entangled, shimmering as they mixed. He had no idea what she saying. It was music, the song of the angels.
The letters cut deeper, molten lines branched out, carving channels, flowing, circulating.
"Marchand." The voices narrowed; the chorus faded away. Nusa suma an An–a. He wasn't sure if she was speaking aloud or only in his head. "Say it with me."
"Nusa suma an An–a," they said together.
"What did I say?"
Her fingertips glissed his face. "We are one, joined in love, together with the Holy Spirit… with An…" The blason over her heart glimmered. The interlacing lines were rivulets of light, living circuitry.
Their lips locked as they drifted into the sleeping cabin in the bow. The sheets on the bed rustled, disturbed by the charged air. She undid the cord tying his swimsuit as he peeled off her bikini.
Energy crackled and flashed. Tiny flames flickered along his skin. His back bumped something. Was he pinned to the bed or pressed to the ceiling? He could no longer tell up from down.
He felt her mouth on his chest, kissing the blason over his heart, making his flesh glow hot. Silver shapes gleamed as she moved to his stomach.
She stopped and looked at him, stars whirled and sparked in her eyes. She bent her head between his legs.
"Stella!" The energy flowed hard and fast. "Oh god… Fuck!" He reached for her. "Please…wait. I feel like… like I'm going to blow apart…into a billion pieces…"
"You don't like that?"
"I love it, more than anything I've ever… Ever… But you're going to make me come… I don't want to yet… I want us to come together. I want to be inside you so much… Please, let me touch you… Let me kiss you."
He kissed her neck as they rotated, slowly shifting position, one above, the other below, reversing. He caressed her, running his fingers along her ribs, her stomach and the inside of her thighs.
Mon seul amour…
Her breaths quickened as he opened her, tiny waves, whirls with his fingertips, gently, slowly. Filigree, swirling silver, flickering, melting into veins of light.
"You want me to…" half sung, half whispered, she was breathing fast, "blow apart…?"
Now he used his tongue, tidal waves, cresting, curling, circles, revolution after revolution, rising, falling–
A chorus came from within her. He felt the trilling notes before he heard them. The vibrations radiated out. The sheets furled around them, twisting like ribbons, forming a wreath.
"I want it, I want you," she said, pulling him up as her head hit the fiberglass.
"Don't we need protection?"
He touched her heat, light rippled through him. "There's fire inside you."
He couldn't stop. "Don't…want to hurt you…"
"Hurt me…Love me…"
Wings of flame spread out, burning, blinding, nuclei exploded, shooting electrons to the edges of the universe. The cosmic ocean opened, the light of a billion billion stars…
Gravel crunched under the tires of the Mercedes as Hildy navigated the serpentine path he believed led to the Castle. The barrage of hailstones trickled to isolated dings as long dark limbs from the dense overgrowth flanking the road snapped against the side of the car. Hoping to avoid detection, he switched off the primary headlights and used only the fog lamps. As he drove further the canopy grew heavier, misty darkness thickened. All he could see was gray vapor; he was driving blind.
Gently… No rush, no hurry.
He rolled the car on and checked the dashboard. There was no information. He had no maps, no cell reception, not even GPS.
Is it the tree cover? I can't believe it's thick enough to block the cell signal and GPS. It's got to be the storm… Could they be doing it? No way… The Wydevilles don't use electricity… How could they set up wide-spectrum frequency jamming?
A barrel-sized tree trunk jumped out of the void. The horn bleeped as his face and arms smacked the wheel and the dashboard. There was no damage, thankfully. The Mercedes' sensor-activated brakes had kicked in seconds before impact.
"Fuck!" Hildy shouted. They could have heard the horn. At least the airbag didn't deploy. Maybe I should drop this whole covert thing. Just present myself… 'Hi, I was in the hood, thought I would stop by and see my friend Stella.' He took a breath, then reversed a few yards. It's a fork. I have no idea which way to go. Might be best to just turn around and go home… He pulled out his phone. But if the compass in this thing works… It appeared to be functioning. He chose the left option, east, towards the medieval keep and the bay.
Gnarled branches and vines scratched the mirrors, the windows and the doors. The overgrowth was closing in, swallowing the car. Then the forest receded. Hildy glimpsed a clearing up ahead, an open court, and beyond a towering iron gate.
He parked and slid out. Hail assaulted his head. Pellets lodged in his hair. He didn't bother shaking them out. He was on a mission. He didn't care what his hair looked like, or his soaked clothes. Cold wet mud caked his special limited edition Aizul sneakers. And that kind of sucked…
Fuck the sneakers! He could get another pair. There was only one Clay, one Gwen, and whatever was happening to them right now had something to do with the people who owned the estate on the other side of the massive rain-slicked metal barrier in front of him.
The gate was huge. Has to be twenty feet tall… Lightning flashed, illuminating an iron wrought phantasmagoria – snake-bodied man-faced monsters, bug-eyed with dragon nostrils ensnarled anchors, giant seahorses reared and bucked, at the crown a two-tailed bare-breasted mermaid wielded a trident and a sword. Over her head arching arabesque letters spelled 'Taratha'.
The question is, should I climb it?
His mother's voice came to him, "You know you have to be the good kid. You know that, right?"
He hadn't always been 'the good kid'. In fact he'd often been the opposite, leading his friends into the vast unknown world of 'bad'. But that stuff was all about getting into clubs underage, making party connections, acquiring necessary mind-altering, character-broadening substances. This was breaking into a place, trespassing, the kind of shit that fills the nightmares of rich people ensconced in their master suites.
"Mom, don't worry, I'm not going to do anything stupid," he had answered.
"You don't even have to be the stupid one. If you are with some stupid kids doing stupid things, they'll get away with it, and you'll get in trouble. Understand? Most of your friends, and I like a lot of them, don't look like you, so they don't have to be careful like you do. You hear me?"
"I get it, Mom. Chill, okay. Look, if anything did happen, and I promise it won't, I know what to do, I won't say anything, I'll wait for Dad to show up–"
He could see her now, in the hail ridden darkness, biting her lip, shaking her head.
"What? Dad's like the best lawyer on the East Coast. He wouldn't let me get locked up at Rikers or wherever for years. He'd get me out–"
"Dad might not get the chance. Some cop gets word your stupid friends are throwing beer bottles at taxi cabs, you might be trying to stop them, but that cop's not even going to see those other boys, his eye and his gun will train on you, and he'll shoot first and find out who the hell you were later."
Hildy grabbed the iron bars. They were freezing. Doesn't seem like Wydeville style to shoot an intruder, or call the cops. They don't even have a telephone. And if they did get the authorities, would the local clowns really fire on me without warning?
Another flash of lightning froze Hildy in place. An ancient, drained white face stared at him from the other side of the gate. Hildy jumped, but then he recognized it. It was the old chauffeur who used to drive Stella to and from St. Andrews. He had a large black umbrella and held it steady, defying the ferocious gusts.
"Hi. I'm Hildy Rathbon, Stella's friend," he started. "She, um, asked me to come by so...here I am." He tried to sound pleasant, casual, as if he'd arrived for tea on a sunny afternoon, and hailstones weren't pinging his nose. Lanterns atop tentacle strangled gate posts came on, casting an eerie, paste-green glow.
In the pallid light, the old man's head looked like a bleached walnut. His eyes were so sunken in his skull, Hildy couldn't be sure if they were open or shut.
"Donasèla Marchand is not at home."
Gwen cracked the caramel shell of her crème brûlée. With her spoon halfway to her mouth she looked up. Anthony was staring at her over the flickering candelabrum/light sculpture in the center of the table. The piece was as curious as the lanterns above deck. Though it seemed solid, a ring of glass spikes, Gwen saw dynamic phenomena frozen in time, a microsecond flicker of a crown of flames, a crystallized splash. The intensity built and dimmed as the colors fluctuated, a soft silver-blue turned bright aquamarine then blazing gold. Anthony's irises reflected the changes, blue-green burned away, leaving only pale gilt, shifting, pulsing.
"Are you watching me eat?" she asked.
"I'm simply curious. You haven't said anything about the food. Ricard is quite proud of his coisina."
"It's good. The fish…what was it?"
"Haddock. Pau reeled it in just before he called for you."
"Yeah, the haddock was amazing. I'm just feeling…" the dark world outside the portholes went blazing white; thunder broke as the wind rattled the hatch above their heads. The cabin floor rose, lifted her chair and thrust her thighs against the underside of the bolted table. "Just feeling kinda weird…"
Anthony vanished from his seat. She turned to find him at her side, smiling. "You don't have your sea legs yet." He offered his hand. "Please."
Tingles leapt up her arms and fizzled in her head as he led her a few steps to the rose velvet couch on the starboard side.
"Give me one moment," he said. The sconces on the walls burned warm pink. "I know of a technique that might help." He moved to a tall cabinet by his captain's desk.
Gwen heard crackles and hisses from an old vinyl record, which dissolved into an infectious beat, and gorgeous sixties' soul.
"Why don't you stop? And look me over… Am I the same girl you used to know?" sang a female voice.
Anthony reached for her hand. Shocks zinged through her, sparking flames inside.
"This is going to help me?" As he pulled her into a turn she felt more disoriented than ever. Heat swirled around her. She could barely feel the boards beneath her feet.
"Best way to get your sea legs, dance on the waves."
"I'm the one you want. And I'm the one you need…"
"How can you play music? You said there's no electricity on this ship."
"It's a purely mechanical device."
"What about the lights, the candelabra thing?" Gwen sensed her hair rising. Energy coming off his fingers coursed through her arms, her chest.
"Bioluminescent enzyme. There are other ways to do things. And keep in mind, this vessel does not need to be wired for standard electric current to have abundant electricity. Electro-magnetism is one of the fundamental forces of the universe, or the multiverse, whichever, whatever it turns out to be. Electricity exists everywhere. Inside us. Our heart muscles couldn't beat…we couldn't think without it. We are electric."
The song went on, "Am I the same girl? Yes I am, yes I am. Am I the same girl? Yes I am, yes I am…"
She kicked her feet. The floor had dropped, her toes touched air.
"Some of us are more electric than others."
© 2013–2015 m. b. whitlock
All Rights Reserved
A/N: Please let me know what you think. :D If you are enjoying this story you may add it to your favorites/follows to receive updates when new chapters are posted. Again, feedback is greatly appreciated and really motivates me. Thank you! m.b.w.