Their hand, an unworthy sack of fleshy scum. Each bulbous vein throbbed beneath the partially concealed skin, rough and calloused. She knew those scars were born out of the torment of others rather than this person’s own expense. The material weaved upon their knuckles rubbed against her smooth and innocent cheeks like sandpaper, muffling any thought of crying out. Muffling any thought bar one.
The ebony room lit up in a blaze, lights refracting off of the once darkened silhouette. A man, broad and muscled, but nothing significant. His hand moved off her face. The girl took in deep, rattling breaths, wincing every time the oxygen-deficient air whispered its cunning plans down into her throat, pouring like acid into the pores that stung the most. She wiggled her hands, feeling the tug of rope splintering and digging into her raw wrists.
“Get up.” His voice was like a metal grate being dragged over concrete, a bundle of rocks sloshing around in the empty contents of his heart. What lay there but blood? This man had no soul to occupy such an abyss. Her hands, fragile and timid, clenched at her sides. She was weak, but what did it matter? She had a will of wrought iron, and no furnace on the face of Earth could ever melt her down, no blacksmith’s hammer could sway her from her course. She knew what she must do.
Her fingers tip tapped the precious jewel that lay within the folds of her cloak; and she stood, glaring into the face of her captor. She received a snarl in return, his face contorting into that of monsters they don’t care to warn you about when you’re younger. The world is not a kind place.
But she had learnt that.
He stood close, ensuring she could not make a wild dash for freedom. She tut-tutted, shaking her head with slow ease, watching the blond curls cascade over her shoulders like a waterfall turned golden by the sunlight— that is if the waterfall had the blood of mankind flowing freely in its currents. There was something he did not know, that she did.
The rope fell to the ground.
Camryn’s foot connected with the giant brute’s jaw, shattering the brittle bones. The palm of her hand followed quickly after, as she darted around, calculating his vulnerabilities. And there were many, a man that size wasn’t used to having to use brains over brawl. He swept his arm wide, going in for a chokehold, but Camryn was there, catching his arm with her own and bending it backwards. The joints popped as his elbow came out of place. His scream was hollow with pain and absolute rage.
She let out a melodic laugh, pouring gasoline all over his beautiful anger. He swung his arm again, and she easily ducked, swooping in to grab the unkempt dagger from his belt.
There was no need to end this man, no need to waste time. She could feel the weight of the tome, calling to her from its place of concealment.
It’s okay it murmured into her mind.
She let her plump, rosy lips curve into a wicked smile.
He stared into those eyes, recognising a piece of himself. The pitch-black roots burying themselves over the whites of this small girl’s eyes, an overwhelming sense of wrong replacing the soul of a girl who should have been pure. He stared at her milk-white off the shoulder dress, the slit running from her thigh to the floor. Her cloak, a deep dark blue, flowing like a whirlpool. Accompanied by the ever brightening azure glow emanating from the insides of her cloak, the item he had been after. A hoax, he realised now. All a display, a facade for him to fall under the lure of security. This woman had no humanity in her eyes. He had been lied to, told that Camryn was an easy target, that this payday would be a walk in the park. No. She was no more human than the Gods. She was more than anyone would ever comprehend. She was a fierce Goddess, and he was at her mercy.
It was then he let out a whimper, dropping to the floor and crab crawling backwards. To be slaughtered by such an enchanting figure… Not a bad way to go. But he just wasn't ready. A tear slipped down his face. This wasn’t meant to happen.
She sat down beside him, her dress falling into place like an angel’s. Inside she felt the bubbling black cauldron of tar, she let it show in her eyes, a void in the place of irises, but somehow still radiating colour. A black hole. Alluring but deadly.
She let him squirm. A man who would have no sooner slit her throat, who had drugged and abducted her, he deserved this. Humans cannot change.
The dagger plunged cleanly into his jugular, cleaving the flimsy fabric of his life into a jagged trench.
She stared at him, choking and spluttering on his own blood, eyes wide and frightened.
“Do you have any family?” She yanked out the blade, wiping off the haemorrhaged surface.
He was letting out horrible little gurgling sounds. He nodded slightly, his hand going to the band around his wrist.
She waited, crouching like an apex predator, when it seemed like he was about to abandon us, she muttered casually “I think I’ll pay them a visit too.”
The man’s eyes shot wide open, screaming in newfound terror and pleading with every ounce of energy he had left.
And then he died.
Camryn smiled affectionately, moving away from the expanding pool of blood. She took out that precious jewel from her cloak, staring at its dusty covers. “The silly man thought we cared enough about him to go after his family!”
The book glowed brighter, purring its encouragement. She stared up at the stars and moon, definitely past midnight. She was meant to be back by now.
“We have to be getting back, you’re overdue, my dear.” She let her sniggering die upon her tongue, returning to the task at hand.
Camryn let her hood fall onto her shoulders, thunking the heavy tome onto the librarian’s desk. She flashed her most angelic smile, “my apologies, I am a bit late. Got held up.”
The librarian went to grab the book but Camryn did not release her grip. A look of puzzlement wandered across her face.
Don’t let me go
The librarian tried again and Camryn yanked it away, smacking it across the other woman’s face.
Good, now leave.
She didn’t want to hurt the woman, she was her friend, they were friends. What was she doing?
You’re not friends with her, you don’t know her.
She stepped away. It was time to go. She turned and saw another girl standing there.
“We thought this might happen.” Sofia’s voice was velvet, a smooth, swirling symphony that Camryn could listen to for days on end, she could live off the breath this girl fed into her lungs.
She’s stopping you from leaving.
“Cam, baby, look at me. Do you remember how this started?”
No, she didn’t. She didn’t know these people. People? Where had they all come from, there was only two before. But she did know them, she knew this girl’s name. Sofia looked at her with such familiarity, saw the blood staining a more congealed red wine over her dress and tainting her soul. She looked through it all and saw the cobalt blue that was consuming Camryn, spreading tendrils over her body, curling its grasp over her legs and waist. Latched on.
Sofia stepped forward, “You took the book out because they needed it, remember? You were very noble, the book is dangerous and you offered to take it.”
She stepped forward again. “It’s time to put it back.”
She was still walking forward, speaking in calm tones.
She’s treating you like a scared animal.
No, she’s treating me like she loves me. Camryn went to step closer, but something made her stop, made her hovering foot plant itself back on the ground. A wrenching in her brain made her hiss and put her hand to her head. Her neurons were on fire, burning up before they could make any trips around her brain, preventing her from forming any thoughts.
You can’t give me to them.
Sof— that girl, what was her name? Was still walking closer.
“Seven weeks ago, you came to this library, you come here all the time. You love it here.”
“Yea, I do love it here.”
No. You don’t. You hate it here.
“People have tried to steal this book off of you, haven’t they? Did they hurt you?” She was so close, the distance somehow got painful and Camryn stayed rooted to the ground, observing the blood all over her hands for the first time.
“I hurt them.”
Tell her how you didn’t care, how it even felt good to have someone scream for help and not be heard. Tell her and watch her run away from you.
“Pass me the book, Camryn.”
Camryn shook her head violently.
Sofia took a final step, closing the space between them. She wrapped a gentle hand on the back of Camryn’s head and kissed her. The other girl let her, feeling a rush of warmth and remembrance and happiness. Love.
Get her off!!! GET HER OFF! Go away go away go away. GET OFF!!!
The book let out a blood-curdling screech, Camryn went to push her away but it was too late, she looked down and saw the syringe sticking out of her waist. Before she could hit the ground, Sofia had caught her. And then everything went dark and quiet.
Camryn Chambers awoke with a start. Eyes blurry and full of sleep.
She no longer wore bloody clothes, someone had cleaned her up.
Sofia sat beside her, cold flannel to Cam’s forehead. “Hey, hunny. How are you feeling?” She whispered.
She responded in incoherent mumbling, sitting up, feeling the silence fill up her mind. “Did it work?”
“You delivered the book to the kingdom and they got the information they needed, but it latched onto you on the way back.”
“Did I hurt someone?” Her voice was small and thin, memories were rushing back.
“A bad man tried to get the book, you stopped that from happening and made sure the book got back safely.”
“But what did I do?” The panic began to climb its way up, up, up and out of her throat. She felt sick.
“You killed him, in self-defence. It was the book, not you.”
Camryn began to shake wildly, tears flowing freely over her face, loud, cursed sobs echoing in the room as she curled into Sofia’s chest, feeling the unbearable burden of carrying the insinuations of having killed a man. Even if it wasn’t her fault, it was still a part of her history. She let Sof pepper her head with kisses and soothing words as she drew circles along her spine. She had killed a man. She had killed a living, breathing person. One day she would learn to live with that.