Monday, July 18, 2011


Sword-dancing is a good thing to learn, but it's not much good against a sharp-fanged, red-eyed sadist who can move so fast you can only see the vapor trail. And what's with the oversized steak knife? What, claws that can shred cinderblock aren't enough for you? Ooooh, fuck!

My arm is numb from elbow to wrist, the result of my blade rattling up and down all those damn curves over and over again; sweat is running into my eyes, despite my ever-so-cool headband, and then Nick grins and does a twisty thing with his wrist. My blade goes spinning gracefully away and I fall gracelessly on my butt. Before I can react, Nick's point is hovering at my throat, his red eyes glinting with amusement.

We're frozen like that for a second, then his blade vanishes with an audible pop. He offers me a hand, I take it and he hauls me to my feet like a sweat-sodden, somewhat stinky teddy bear.

"Lesson of the hour, grasshopper. There's always going to be someone better than you are. When you find yourself facing that person, your priorities have to shift from winning to simple survival."

"How would you deal with someone like that?"

"If you can't outfight them, you have to out-think them. Make them follow you onto ground of your choosing, or lead them into an ambush. If worst comes to worst, shift and run like hell. With few exceptions" - he sketches a bow with a mocking grin - "dead people don't win wars." He winks, his voice goes rough and gravelly and suddenly he's channeling George C. Scott. "No one ever won a war by dying for his country; he won it by making the other poor dumb sonofabitch die for his country."

I giggle, then wince. "My butt hurts," I say, putting a hand to the offended area.

"Could be worse," Nick says cheerfully. "If I'd been a ghoul, I'd be eating your guts about now" -

"Eeeeew, gross!"

 - "maybe without killing you first," he finishes calmly.

"Can we please talk about something else?," I plead.

"You're the one who wanted to play with the big boys, darlin'," Nick points out with remorseless logic. "The bad guys aren't going to go easy on you. Every mistake you make, they're gonna exploit, and they'll kill you if they can." I look up and meet his eyes and they're cold - gods, so cold! - and for just a second it's like looking into an open grave.

My grave.

The reality, the finality of death crashes over me then, buries me like a cold dark wave, sucks the breath from my lungs. For a long frozen minute I forget how to breathe, caught between the last breath and the next. Death. Not-being, forever and ever, trapped in that cold dark that no light can ever pierce... it drops me to my knees; the next breath is a painful whoop that scorches my lungs; my heart gives a painful jerk, like a cold stone in my chest and I'm crying suddenly, terrified of the forever-dark, my whole body trembling, and then Nick's there, pulling me close, tight, impossibly warm... I hear him as if from a vast distance... "You okay, kid?"

Senses and sensations come back with a rush, my breathing and pulse leveling out... "It's okay, darlin'... it's okay. Just relax... breathe deep and hold it... Count to three and let it out... Good girl. Again."

Somewhere along the line Gareth replaces Nick and if the vampire was warm before, the elf is hot, hot as a day at the beach under a cloudless sky with the sun beating down....

I don't know how long I was like that, but when I came out the other end I was calm, ready.

I've faced my fear - a fear I didn't even know I had - and I've mastered it. It can't control me now.

I'm free.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments... we get comments....