Elizabeth Braddock, on the American leg of her recuperative world tour with her boyfriend Peter (at least he calls himself Peter now, they’ve all become angels, angels with dirty hands, dripping with the blood of sacrifices, dripping with her blood, holding up her eyes so that their dark cause of order can see, and she rejoices in it) is dreaming. Or can’t you tell? Dreaming of things as they are, but for the fact they are unspoken. But there’s an interloper in this old familiar dream of sacrifice and love and nightmarish darkness.
She’s dreaming that she’s shaking a wild ravening thing between her teeth, shaking it like her old cat Theodopolous (she should never have let Brian, her twin, name it, even if he promised, but never gave, his conker collection for the privilege) would shake voles and mice and god knows what that he’s found out on the Estate. Or isn’t it her shaking at all, but rather the vile, rank, sweet thing trying to struggle free?
She clamps her jaw more tightly about its throat, holding it tighter in her arms. Her grip feels strange, alien, as if she’s wearing gloves with two fingers too few. For a moment she thinks of her days modelling for Vogue (London, Paris, Milan, a brief side-trip to Moscow for STRIKE) and wonders if that’s what they’re wearing this season, and almost laughs; and then she is dragged down again, into the current. She feels strangely cold, there are pins and needles in her limbs (she hears a distant voice whisper Kribbeln). It’s as if she were swimming out at sea, and only now has realised that she’s been out too long, and the chill’s beginning to pull the energy from her bones, beginning to pull her under.
The details of her new surroundings fade out, cease to be important. Why should she worry anyway? Why should she worry about the altar in front of her, dark and terrible and stained with something that she smells (knows) is human blood, or the circle behind her inscribed onto the barn floor with an admixture of chalk and rabbit blood? (how does she know? It smells.) It all smells yet it pales to insignificance against the smell of this vile dead thing, the smell of its blood, the smell of it’s life as it thrashes, its throat trapped between her teeth.
And she can taste blood. But this is sweet, not the sickly taste half remembered from burst lips and childhood scrapes (and blood, flowing down her face, flowing slickly as she screams, swallowing the essence of her loss), but sweet, not sweet like Blackpool rock, but sweet like strawberries perhaps, slightly overripe and oozing with dark red juice. It is as if life is flowing into her, yet she knows that this flailing, growling, reekingly sweet thing between her teeth (fangs! Oh, how impossible it is to get a discrete dentist…) isn’t alive at all, and marvels at the properties of that rust sweet, berry sweet liquid.
And part of her knows she isn’t alive either, that’s she’s like the stilling thing growing heavy in her arms as she feels its legs give way, it’s neck pulling at her jaw.
The whole time she tries to ignore how much this reminds her of a girl, a girl with white-blonde hair.
Or as tremors shake her body, and a breath that isn’t tries to escape her chest, she tries to ignore how much this reminds her of sex. Not love, sex, wild caught in the moment sex that will dissipate by morning (she’s a nice girl, she doesn’t give her favours lightly), of being between a pair of silk soft legs and thrusting blindly (hang on… ah… good grief). She tries to ignore this, just as she tries to ignore how this reminds her of a man with dark eyes and wild hair, brooding amongst the woods, catching rabbits and laughing under a blood-red harvest moon.
She clings to that image like a drowning man.
When Peter comes back from the bathroom, woozy yet satisfied, he finds her folded in on her self, coiled like a child in the womb, her hands clutching at the sheets so tightly that they go pale with lack of blood. She’s crying, he tries to comfort her, but she won’t tell him what’s the matter, a sick unwanted anger begins to grow in his belly.
How could she tell him? When that quaking, shaking monstrously thrilling thing trapped between her too sharp teeth had the same dusty brown hair as her lover? When she could see this strange omen, totem, but can never see him again?
Never again, never him, never again, never anyone, never anything, never again.
And then she stills again, in his arms and falls into familiar dreams of pride, needles and eternal darkness.