Illumination 6.2: Knives Like Chains

Jehane woke from a deep and dreamless sleep to a buzzing from the walls. As soon as her eyelids fluttered, Elian said, “Please wake up, Jehane. You’re needed. At Seth’s home. He’s acting dangerous.”

Barely awake, head still fogged by painkillers, Jehane rolled out of bed and scrambled into the nearest clothing she could find. She was sore, but everything seemed to work all right. The doctor had sent her home the night before after giving her a bill of ‘healthy enough’, and returning his attention to the more seriously injured. She ran through the halls of the Tower on automatic, without really processing why Elian had woken her, until she reached the door to Seth’s home. Then, she hesitated.

“Dangerous how?”

“Every way somebody can be dangerous,” said Elian.

“Why do you want me, then?”

“Because Natalie is gone.”

Oh. Jehane knocked on the door.

“The door’s open.” Valeria stood in the kitchen, punching some bread dough. There was nobody else around, and the house was quiet. “Hello, Jehane. Jake took the children out. If Seth doesn’t calm down soon, I’m going to borrow a tranquilizer gun from the Prowlers.” She shook her head. “Doctor Pepperman drugged him hard last night. He said Seth would be out a lot longer than this.” A grim, horrible little smile touched her face. “But he doesn’t know my son.”

“Why—”

Valeria glanced up at Jehane for the first time. “He misses his sister. He was always very close to her.” Her voice was flat, and Jehane realized that as much as Natalie was her friend, Seth’s sister, she was Valeria’s daughter. Maybe more. She couldn’t imagine.

She hesitated, then said, “He— Hatherly— wants to convert people. So… she may not be gone.”

Valeria looked down at the dough again. “I hope not.”

Jehane looked around. “It seems very quiet now?”

“It wasn’t earlier. And he’s injured, and his wounds need tending and he won’t let anybody do it.” Valeria sliced a piece of dough in half viciously.

“I’m not very good at talking to people.”

“Elian thought you could help.”

It’s just Elian, not Kentigern, Jehane wanted to argue. He doesn’t have a thousand years of wisdom.

“I’ll try,” she said. She went to Seth’s door. It was closed and locked.

“Seth? I came to see how you’re doing.” There was no answer. She was really not very good at words, so she sat down outside his door, pressed her head against the wood, and closed her eyes instead. Seth’s shadow music enveloped her. What had once been careless and playful was now hard-edged and snarled with jagged bits, like a meadow littered with shrapnel. She leaned into it, until the sound itself painted a shadowy picture for her.

He sat on the floor, on the other side of the door, a dim and sparkling darkness. His knives were out, and they glowed as they shimmered and flowed across his hands. Sometimes he moved his hands while the knives seemed to stay still, and sometimes the knives danced across hands that didn’t move, appearing and disappearing and crawling like living things, until they seemed like a chain binding his hands together.

Then the dance of the knives stopped, mid-tumble, and one balanced briefly on its edge before falling over. Seth cursed and flung the knife away from him. It faded out of existence as it flew.

Jehane remembered when she first met him, when he first became more than another face in a world too full of faces. It was two years ago, after she’d made the decision to start attending school, but before she’d found a way to talk to anybody other than the doctor and her teachers. He’d caught her moving between class and her room, after hiding in class all day. He always smiled, even then, but he looked at her before touching her arm. “Come eat with us. It must be awfully lonely in there.”

He wasn’t the first person to try and pull her out of her shell. But something in the way he smiled at her reached her, as if he saw her and thought she was funny, rather than strange or worrisome. It was acceptance. It was value. She thought if she went with him, she might remember how to smile, too.

“Please,” she whispered to the door. “Please see me again.”

The shadow music shifted, and Jehane stopped leaning on the door just as Seth threw it open.

“One last time,” he rasped. He crouched down again, looking at Jehane. “Hasn’t anybody else noticed? The way one half of a partnership vanishes and then the other side falls? You can come in and wait with me if you want.” He was smiling, smiling still. But it was the most twisted smile Jehane had ever seen.

Cold and frightened in a way she hadn’t been the day before, Jehane stood up and slowly stepped into Seth’s room.

One thought on “Illumination 6.2: Knives Like Chains

  1. The audience noticed! Though, at least this particular audience member was slightly too thick to make the connection to Seth until it was pointed out.

    Dark days ahead.

    I also want to say, I love what you’ve done to make it so that the most recent episode is on top, but only for the current Illumination. Very convenient, best of both worlds sort of thing.

    Like

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