Fiction: Fingerprints

In which, fic for a song that is basically all Hekate’s fault. Written for the Spook Me 2016 Hallowe’en Ficathon. The fic itself is inspired by ‘Fingerprints’, but as I’ve listened to nothing but Sparkadia for the past three months or so, the backstory is drawn from a bunch of their other songs as well; it’s arguably got more from ‘The Great Impression’ than ‘Postcards’, but both albums are there to a certain degree. Written from Hekate’s POV, speaking to the protagonist, who is intersex and genderfluid. -text- is protag’s thoughts, because italics was taken. This is where this year’s NaNo is going to jump off from.

Prompts used: Ghost (creature prompt), image prompt 1, image prompt 2

Word Count Number Sequence: A073240 – Decimal expansion of (1/Pi)^(1/Pi) (x10, to get usable word counts) (because I am a nerd). 0s are treated as new lines/scene breaks, though I couldn’t quite get them to translate as well on WP as I could get them to translate on AO3. Boo

Summary: Someone once told you that Hekate is the catalyst for stripping your life of all the things you should’ve dealt with by now, whether you’ve asked her to or not. You didn’t believe them until it happened to you, when you were trying to run from a mess only partly of your own making, and I decided it was time for you to face your demons at last and chase away the ghosts you can’t seem to banish from your life.

The only sound comes from your slow breathing, accompanied by the rise and fall of your chest. Everything is still, except for the hand slowly counting each breath with a bead. The movements are so familiar to you that you don’t even have to think about them anymore. Breathe in four, hold four, breathe out four, hold four. Breathe deep.

Your body moves with your breath, with the movement of the breath, with your fingers counting the beads. Everything is automatic. Outside, a raven caws, and you hear the beating of its wings as it flies off. Someone drops their keys. A car door slams. None of these sounds are unusual anymore. Silence is never present. Yet, you never have trouble hiding your demons away, pretending everything is fine. Everything isn’t fine, but meditation is a mask you are willing to take on if it means they leave you alone.

Mixed in with the soft smell of incense are the unfamiliar smells of the room you’re in. In the end, running away hadn’t been your first choice, but it had brought you sanity. Perhaps that’s all it would ever offer.

You hadn’t slept well. This didn’t surprise you. You accepted it as your punishment for letting her get to you so badly. You let her haunt your dreams, giving in to her rage. You relived everything she did to you, remembered every day you spent together. It seemed easier than fighting when you woke again with bruises all over you.

That first moment, where you saw her across a room. She glanced at you as if she knew you completely.

Breathe in, breathe out. Count the beads. Let the memories fade away, slipping into the mindstream to float away into the aether. Forget the marks she left all over you that you can’t scrub out, that won’t heal, that mark you as hers. The collar that still sits around your neck, even though it hurts you, even though you would refuse to bow to her if she ever found you.

One. Two. Three. Four. You don’t even need to count anymore, but you find your lips breathing the numbers anyway, if for no other reason than it’s a distraction from the things threatening to find you if you ever dared to turn your attention to them. Every now and then, you swear you can feel the ghost of her touch on your cheek, but perhaps it’s just the wind. It has to be. To think of it as anything else would be madness. You’d open yourself up to her again.

This place could have just as easily been any other. Every town began to look the same after a while as you drove as far away from the city as possible. You didn’t know exactly where you would stop, and whether stopping was even what you wanted to do, but this place would do, for now. It was out in the middle of nowhere, and that was fine. No one knew you out here, no one recognised your face, or had watched you grow up. Out here, you were anonymous.

It had a pub, a shop, a bakery, a park, and the motel. Anything else, you felt, would feel ostentatious.

You’d paid for two weeks, because you needed to stop after all the driving, but that was two weeks ago.

You’d counted your cash last night, just to see if you would waste it on another week because you weren’t ready to move on yet. Would you ever be ready? You weren’t sure. You didn’t like to ask that question.

You’ve grown so good at meditation that you can merely toss those unpleasant thoughts into the mindstream and let them float away, untouched, unbothered, unquestioned. You would rather not deal with the trauma she left you with. But these things always find a way of breaking through. To suppress them only leads to destruction. I won’t watch you destroy yourself.

You prayed at my shrine, sat with me for hours, but you never saw what I was trying to show you. You didn’t want to see her heart for what it really was, that this wasn’t normal, that you needed to get out. In the end, I forced your hand. If you wouldn’t run, I would make you run. She had to hurt the thing you cared about the most in order to make you see. So she hurt me.

There was always something dangerous about her that made you hesitate. And yet, she captivated you completely. She was different.

She used to make you smile. The way she would run to you when you’d been away, to bring you home and make you feel welcome. For a while, she cared. She would own you, and bring you pleasure, and you would curl up beside her at night, blissfully tired. They were the moments you liked to remember the most.

If it’d stayed that way, perhaps you would have, too.

You were scared of me when you first met me in ritual. A lost little goth looking for family, you found my priests, and they took you in. You almost didn’t come to that first circle, but you found your courage. You didn’t really know what you were looking for.

They took you before my altar, before the statue that stood before you. Touch the face of our goddess, they said. Touch her, and meet her. Let her know you.

You touched my foot. Hesitated. I saw into your soul.

I sent you a dream that night. I watched you puzzle over it, how you glanced at me in circle.

You were forever unsure about me, and the people I’d led you to. It went against your upbringing, against everything you felt you knew. But I knew you. You belonged to me. I would claim you once you knew your real strength.

My children have many names for me. Nyx, Queen of the Witches, Soteira, Torchbearer, Creatrix, Kleidouchos, Bitch Queen, Night-Wanderer, Crone. You called me mother, when you stopped running from me.

You built a shrine for me, tucked away in a place where no one could see. It became your haven. When the world turned against you, that’s where you came. I took you into my arms, offering comfort. When the world was at its best, you couldn’t help sharing the news. Perhaps, to some, you were mad. You never seemed to care. Things were better then, so what was the point in going back to how things used to be?

The collar was your idea, inspired by an old boyfriend who bowed to you and no one else. You didn’t understand their real power until he wore one for you.

It never left your throat, once you’d given yourself to me. Under a dark moon, full of dark spirits and my torchlight, you came to me. You gave yourself to me, cut your hand, let the blood spill in offering into the earth, vowed you would serve me until you died. I warned you, be careful what you vow to me. It would cause problems that you could never imagine.

You think about that now, I can tell. You left my collar behind a long time ago because she asked you to. But you never renounced me, and I never let you go, and you came to me with her power around your throat, and I saw it for what it was. It is never easy to serve two masters.

It had only been a month. It felt like years.

You’ve learnt your discipline well, I can see it. You sit there on this saggy mattress that smells faintly of nicotine and sex, and your eyes are closed to the world. You breathe. You count the beads. It is enough.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Another bead. One. Two. Three. Four.

 

An Interlude
You dream. Do you? She comes to you again, her hands claiming you entirely. You sigh, give in, give up. She ties you up. You don’t protest. You feel her kiss you. She is cold. Her fingers are cold on your skin, and you shiver as she grasps your arm hard. You forget her grip when she bites your neck. Bites your shoulder. Holds you down. Scratches your skin with her nails. It feels like punishment. Is it?

You wake. Do you? The muskiness of the room confuses you. The sunlight floods in, giving you a headache. Everything aches. You sit up. You glance at the mirror opposite.

You dream. Do you? She bleeds you. You gasp in pain, in shock, and she licks it up as she fucks you, until the pleasure makes you forget about the pain. You taste your blood on your tongue as she kisses you, bites your lips, owns you completely. She grasps your collar, rides you like a dog, seeking nothing but pleasure. It all feels so familiar. You’re so lost in your memories you can’t figure out if this is real.

You wake. Do you? You remember. That was how she always did it. You see the bruises that have appeared overnight. The cuts she left on you. How aroused you still are, even though you feel utterly violated. Later that night, in the still darkness, perhaps, you thought, perhaps you never consented to most of the sex she gave you.

It’s this thought that leaves you awake all night, afraid.

 

 

You seek solace from what you don’t want to remember. It’s the way your shoulders tense, how you carry more than you need to because it’s a good distraction. You bury them in your heart, and pretend you’re fine. You’re fine. You’ve spent a long time keeping secrets, some with good reason. There’s no reason to change that now.

You look for her in shadows. Has she found you?

No. You were careful. You slipped away in the dead of night, in a car you bought the day before, leaving nothing behind. You gradually withdrew all the money you had, smashed your phone under your tires, told no one you were going. All you wanted was to disappear. To finally escape from her. You were brave enough to end it, but she never believed you. You needed to leave.

She offered to teach you many things; all she asked was the collar. To wear it for her. Forever. -No.-

Your resistance is fleeting. The collar is still around your neck. Only the tags of ownership are gone. And yet. And yet. It is meaningless to you. It always was. You wore it into my space, before my shrine. You never had the courage to wear mine. She never let you. She was your only master. Jealousy devoured her heart.

She accused you of cheating. Of course you cheated. You were apart too much. Your loneliness craved any touch you could find. You lied about it to save yourself. I knew the moment you stopped loving her. I saw how you struggled to stay, how you knew what you needed to do, and yet, you kept silent. When you tried to leave, she brought you back. She found you, hunted you down, and took you home with her. You stayed. She held you too tightly, used your vows against you.

She only needed a week to break your soul’s spirit.

There. Your muscles tense. The memories are less easy to discard. You throw them upriver, against the current, where they only flow back to you, demanding your attention. You breathe again, counting the beads, fighting them away. You don’t want to remember, not now. But you can’t fight the current. It will always return them to you. I wish I could say I’d warned you about her, but you never listened to your friends, why would you listen to me?

She hated the collar you wore for me, how you always wore it under hers before she put a stop to that. She never believed in me, not the way you did, but there was no path to understanding. She had closed the door to that long ago. And so you did as she asked, and took it off. You promised to bow only to her. She whipped your back as you made your vow, penance as much as promise. You offered me your tears. You never wore it again.

Even now, my collar sits on your small shrine, forgotten.

 

An Interlude
You dream. Do you? Lying in the dark, you can’t move. If you hadn’t grown used to it, perhaps you’d have panicked. The sodium light outside reflects on the mirror, casting a strange light through the room. Out of the corner of your eyes, you see shadows all around you. The floor is black. You turn your head slightly to see fingers begin to grasp the side of the mattress, slinking slowly towards you. It grabs your leg; its touch is icy. It is the first of many.

They creep up so slowly it’s hard to keep track of them. First there is one, then two, then there are fingers everywhere, hands grasping on to you, holding you down. Everything inside you is screaming to escape, but you can’t move. Nothing seems attached to these phantom hands, except for the scarce flickering diamonds you catch in your peripheral vision that might just be the light on the mirror.

You can’t scream; a hand slowly covers your mouth, and you begin to feel suffocated. -Oh, Gods, let me go.-

They cover your eyes, and then you are drowning, you know it. You are falling, being dragged down to Hades, and no one comes to your aid. You can’t breathe, can’t scream, can’t even move. Your heart fills with terror.

You wake. Do you? Surrounded by darkness, it’s hard to tell. Your body is hot and clammy, and it takes an effort to sit up, and convince yourself you can still move. Turning the lamp on, you look at your reflection. There are bruises, fingerprints, a red, raw line around your throat, just underneath the collar you refuse to remove.

 

You breathe deeply. You’re sure you’ve never been this tired.

You push all those intrusive thoughts away and simply breathe. You’ve lost count of how many times you’ve been around your beads, but it doesn’t matter. You make a conscious effort to slow your breath, and your heartrate, counting in whispers again, just to keep your mind focused on something that’s not painful. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. Your fingers move without thought, your eyes still closed to the world. You shiver, and bring a blanket over your shoulders.

Did you sleep last night? You can’t remember. Perhaps this is your sleep. I can feel you sinking down that far, chasing the futile sanctuary of sleep. She’s exhausted you, and she haunts your dreams, and nothing seems to keep her away. You pray to me, you make offerings of blood and wine, and it does nothing to appease her. You cover your forearm, knowing there is a bruise there that you don’t remember getting. You always wake up damaged.

It wasn’t as if you hadn’t ever loved her, right?

You keep breathing. So far, you’re winning. You’re not sure how much longer you can sustain this. One day, she’ll wear you down so far you break completely, and maybe that’s when she’ll find you. It wouldn’t take much. You still wear her collar. If she found you, would you really resist her? Would you run again from her? Or would she just have to break you in the right place, and watch as you bow down before her? Your will is only as strong as your mind can sustain.

She shouldn’t have this much power over you. You’ve tried before to banish her, to use the magic I taught you to cut ties with her forever, but it never seems to work. You wonder whether I’ve lied to you, or if you just didn’t want to be left alone.

I’m not sure your heart really knows anymore. It became too much of a mess to make sense of, and you weren’t built for that sort of emotional turmoil. She brought out the worst in you, so you keep telling yourself. It wasn’t your fault. She made you do it. But that’s a hollow lie, and your heart knows it.

You chased love in all the wrong places, gave your heart to people you shouldn’t have. You chose that. You know this. In the darkness of the night, when you listen to the honesty of your heart, you know this.

You withdraw from me, I can feel it. I’m bringing those memories back to you, to force you to deal with them. The longer they stay buried, the worse the pain will be. Your heart won’t cope with that. You weren’t blameless, but whether you deserve this much torment, you’re not sure. Someone else might tell you to just let her go, but you’ve tried that so many times already. It hasn’t worked. Your strength to resist her is fading. I can’t stop her when you keep letting her in.

This lonely isolation is going to kill you one day.

Chains bite your skin, leaving bruises. She was never happy unless she could see the results of her work. She always knew how to wound, to pick her way into the crack that would shatter the rest of your psyche.

You shiver again. I feel you wince at the memory. You wish you had relationships that had mostly happy memories. Instead, all you have is the mess you made, and the pain you can’t escape from. You never thought she’d hurt you that way, but she did. You still weren’t sure when it had stopped being fun, but for a while, you had enjoyed it. You loved the way she would whip you into a trance, like you would get in circle, and everything felt incredible. You loved that high.

You never thought you’d like wearing a collar, either. Before that, all your partners had bowed to you, if they had bowed at all. You were never sure why. You never thought you were particularly dominant, not in that way anyway. But no one seemed to mind, and you did enjoy the love in the eyes of your partners when they gazed up at you as they knelt at your feet. They were precious moments you cherished above all else.

You know it was your initiation that changed it. When you were brought naked before me and cleansed with the scourge and made into one of my beautiful, powerful children.

You didn’t know pain could be so powerful until that moment. Every stroke against your back brought you closer to me. You found ecstasy, trance, and my love for you.

You prostrated before my altar, understanding what submission really meant. You felt it in your bones, in your heart, in your soul, as I claimed you. You gave your name, your life, to me. You now belonged to me alone.

No one could understand why you took no name at your initiation. You renounced all your names. You only lived for me. What did you need a name for? No name could encompass your devotion. You were always the obsessive type when love was offered. You were just like her.

But then she came into your life, and you found yourself with a new master. You gave yourself to her completely, like you did to everyone you were ever with. She loved you, and you responded. Eventually, she had you bowing at her feet. She was your new goddess who took your offerings of blood and pain. It was never a problem until you both took it too far, and your heart began to stray, looking for a way out.

It took a lot longer than you would have expected to break up. You left. She begged you to stay. You asked to be friends. She wouldn’t let you. You came back. She kept you close. You came to me, came before my shrine, and asked for my keys to open the way out. I showed you the way. I watched you cry as you realised how trapped you were.

When she was away, you dared to touch my collar. Sometimes, you even wore it, just for a moment, before guilt set in and you put it back. You kept looking for a way out, planning, trying to prepare in secret so she wouldn’t ever find out. You kept your secrets close to your heart. Not even your friends knew.

The day you came home to find my shrine destroyed was the day you knew you had to leave. A line had been crossed. She wasn’t even home when you arrived, but the damage had been done. There wasn’t much left to salvage. At least she hadn’t found the money you’d been stashing away. But everything else had been broken.

You packed in an hour, taking everything you owned. You’d moved in with her, so deserting wouldn’t be a problem. There wasn’t much left to take. You didn’t talk to your friends. You spoke to no one. You bought a different car, drove home, packed up, and left for good.

Everything’s fine, you kept saying. Everything’s going to be fine.

 

An Interlude
You dream. Do you? You actually see her before you now, eyes filled with rage. She looks terrifying, her flesh rotting away as if she’s been dead for centuries. The very thought of it terrifies you as she walks towards your bed. She comes from the mirror. She scowls at you. You try to move away, but there’s nowhere to go. She climbs onto the bed, onto you. Her skin is freezing. She takes your wrist in hand.

She pulls you towards her, and you can see the mirror shift. It’s not a mirror now, but a portal. You have only ever glimpsed the horrors of Hades; it’s all I will ever let you see. Still, you recognise the place. She won’t let you go. She drags you towards it. You try to escape, but she’s too strong. She leads you through, and you feel the savage fires burn your skin. You cross the rivers in despair. You wish you could scream, but your voice has been silenced.

Everything you know about this place tells you it is real. She’s taken you here, killed you, and you’ll never escape. The abject despondency of the place offers no hope. If she is powerful enough to take you here, what hope do you have of leaving? You try to find my lampades, my servants, anyone who might help you, but you find no one. She would take you on the deipnon, when I am not there. When the restless dead walk the earth in sorrow. You must do this alone.

The gates approach. No one leaves once they pass them.

I feel your struggle, I can see you try to escape. You throw all the curses I have taught you at her, and yet she does not leave you alone.

The gates approach. Hades will swallow you. You must flee.

 

 

It took you three days to sleep after she took you to Hades. You would not have escaped if Hermes had not found you before the gates swallowed you. The deep growl of Kerberos was upon you, and the gates nearly opened for you. She almost won. If you had given up at that moment, perhaps she might have. It has marked your soul, just like she has marked your body. Dead, and yet alive. Unwillingly taken below the earth, the cries of the rivers will never leave you alone.

You shudder again at the memory. The wounds still feel fresh, as if she had whipped you again and left welts all over you. Your skin still burns hot, no matter how much you cool your body. There are shadows, still, flickering in the corner of your vision, and you wonder. A dog barking startles you. The fan lazily spinning above you on the ceiling sends you running from ghosts.

She comes to you, gently touching your cheek. She asks for your submission. You smile, eyes full of love, yes.

Her voice haunts your mind, whispering all kinds of horror. The soft breeze against your skin is enought to make you shiver, to feel her lingering touch where none exists. You’re hot. You’re cold. You kick the sheets away, strip off to nothing, mutter a banishing spell to be free from her. Nothing works. She still haunts your fragile mind.

You feel her hands on your shoulder, feel the pain of her nails digging into your skin. She presses harder, trying to draw blood. Her breath is hot against your neck, and you shiver. Has she found you this time? Her arms wrap around your body. She claims you. She pushes you down onto your stomach. The pain inevitably follows. The whip is harsher than you remember. It bites into your skin. Are you still dreaming? You can’t tell anymore.

You weep. You can’t move. She lies on top of you, her hands caressing your skin, and you’re both disgusted and turned on at the same time. Her hands slip between your legs, moving over your skin, touching you in all the places you love best. And yet, you just want her to leave. That’s all you want. She kisses your cheek, as if it’s enough to make you come back to her. You feel nauseous. You are mine forever.

Your spirit is breaking apart again. She might just win.

I won’t let her, not this time. This has gone on long enough. You won’t survive if I don’t banish her now. The bite of my whip and my command to leave are finally enough. She leaves you alone. She lingers, still, looking through windows, before I finally sever all the energetic ties between you. She screams into the night, banished, eyes filled with rage. Let Hades deal with her.

You shiver at my touch, as my hands try to offer comfort. Your heart has been terrorised, broken, and abused.

You don’t believe that she’s gone. You stand, beads falling to the floor, eyes open. You strip off, trying to see if the wounds are real. The mirror doesn’t lie.

You’re almost afraid to look. You can feel the wounds on your body, the bruises, the cuts, the pain that stings and aches. It looks real. In the mirror, it looks real, too. You touch them, wondering how she could have done this to you. She had never been into magic, not like you. She had no supernatural power. She wasn’t dead when you left. Was she? She was still alive when you left, right? That you don’t know for certain will trouble you for the rest of your life.

A car pulls up outside, headlights casting light and shadow.

You turn the light on, desperate to be rid of the shadows. A shot of whiskey doesn’t quite settle your nerves, but it does stop your hands shaking. You look for your ritual knife, seeing it on the altar where you left it. You finally cut her collar off and throw it away, out of the room, never wanting to see it again. You sit on the bed with some more whiskey but you don’t drink it. Nothing makes sense.

Eventually, you turn to my collar, once your nerves have settled down. It holds all the vows you made to me. You stare at it, wondering if you still want to wear it. I don’t demand it. Perhaps a collar is too traumatic for you. You still put it on.

-It’s defintely time to go.- Your decision is forceful, final, unwavering. You won’t wait until the morning. To stay in that room any longer would be madness.  You waste no time dressing, packing, tidying, cleansing. You leave a note on the dresser for the manager, with $50 for their trouble.

 

Dawn arrives as you finally drive off, leaving the town behind. Where you’re going next, you don’t know. But your heart is finally unburdened, and you smile with joy. She might have left marks on you that will never leave, but she didn’t break you. You never ran back to her. Before you left, I offered you another key to another pathway, another way to peace. Perhaps you might take it one day, when you’re ready to find yourself again.

 

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One comment on “Fiction: Fingerprints

  1. […] was where all the Hekate writing came to a head. I wrote two stories: Waiting for the Night; and Fingerprints. Waiting for the Night was written in March, and finished enough to be submitted to Askei Kataskei. […]

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