Copyright © 2013 by Michael Litzky
The empty room was cold and still. A moan seeped into the chill, a moan of horror. Something malefic pulsed beneath that scratched wood floor. Sally knew that it would ignore her if she just kept still but she found herself walking around the room, stomping with crazed recklessness. Dread filled her belly like dark wine.
That ancient surface began to thrum and vibrate. She tensed herself to leap in the best direction, feeling the danger already inside her defenses. From everywhere, the moan of horror rang. “No, no, no-o-o…” Lavinia’s voice.
She had to ignore these illusions. Lavinia was in her arms, she could still feel her body, faint as a ghost but warm.
Lavinia’s ghostly mouth was moving like a lamprey toward Sally’s neck.
This was the danger, already inside her defenses. She held it in her very arms.
She could feel shaking in the body she held. Did that mean that Lavinia was fighting with everything she had?
Warm lips fastened into a sucker ring on her neck. The tickle of sharp teeth touched her skin. The body she held thrummed with power. The more Sally fought, the stronger the body in her arms became.
Iron arms encircled her and a needle-thin icicle of sugary pain danced like a deadly whispered promise across that sensitive place on her neck, that place which had felt strange when she woke yesterday.
She realized that she must stop fighting physically. Ignoring the horror which was inches from her neck, she let herself be in that vast empty room with the malefic presence below. Out of the room she ran, calling, “Lavinia! I’m coming to find you! I’m coming!”
Down oddly curving tunnels she went until she realized that she was being herded, always to the right, to the right. Her neck was bending slowly to the right.
Instantly she whirled to her left and smashed at a section of thin wavering wall. It crunched open beneath her fist. When she leaped through, she faced a round wall like the door of a bank safe.
Yowling massive tiger screams, she tore at that door with claws of fire. And now she was inside – or had she actually broken out? The illusion world was crumbling. In dim light she saw her Lavinia, struggling in the grip of formless things.
But she was a tiger; with one heart-stirring leap she reached Lavinia at last and swept her up in brightly shining arms. She breathed into her beloved’s mouth. The words she’d spoken ages ago arrived cascading through the empty air like golden sun fire.
Wake up, my Lavinia, my welcome Lavinia, my wife. I’m Sally Yan, your tiger, your wife, and I call you back to me. Your home is here with me.
Or was she simply a cat-sized fairy saying, “Welcome. Come in?”
Lavinia’s eyes blazed and she put her hand in Sally’s.
In their solid, homely camper house, with an ordinary morning around them, Lavinia exploded from Sally’s arms and surged upright like a jet from a fountain. The blankets were rumpled and Sally’s neck felt strange.
She was too disoriented to scream, “You’re welcome in my home!” as she’d intended.
But Lavinia was not pulled to a door.
With no hint of paralysis, she threw her arms around Sally and kissed her like their very first kiss. Sally trembled with desire as she kissed back but she fought to stay in control.
But Lavinia picked Sally up like a baby. Sally felt dawning excitement: she could see the joy in Lavinia’s eyes. Lavinia carried her to the rear door, stooping when she was out from under the tent pop-top. “Open the door, babe,” she cried, “I’m not agile enough to do it with my foot.”
“What are you doing!?” Sally laughed and cried, but she did what Lavinia asked. Sunlight and cold, fresh air spilled in, reaching nearly to Lavinia’s boots.
“You said it. My home is wherever you are. I’m carrying you across the threshold to our home!” On Lavinia’s face was the old confidence. Still holding Sally in her arms, not like a baby but like a bride, she moved to the edge and jumped out into the full bright late-morning sun.
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