SMALL SINS – DELICATE FIRE (PART 3 OF 3)

Delicate Fire is a work of fiction (copyright © 2015 Teresa Wymore)
Part 1Part 2Part 3


delicate-fire-1-strange-flesh-press-lesbian-eroticaTommi gazed coreward toward the fuzzy mass of stars. A stellar telescope orbiting near the core projected the same image in detail to stations across the galaxy, and a satellite picked up the view and projected it onto a screen where all Marksdawn’s station personnel watched.

Tommi looked from the sky to the view screen as the senior officer began the countdown and the room stilled with an anxious silence.

“…three…two…one.” A spot in the middle of the screen grew white, a slow circular flash that rolled from a central blackness and faded out, a mouth gaping and then closing. Left behind was a shadow, a tiny black spot dark enough to hide coreward stars that had once shone from behind the pulsars. The bright view of galactic core now possessed a pinhole.

The station erupted with cheers.

Tommi glanced at the sky through the dome, wondering how many years it would take that darkness to be seen from Marksdawn without satellite telescopes. Gazing into space was gazing back into time, a marvel that her years in service had not managed to trivialize. Time, she thought vaguely, had not yet caught up to her. She had outrun it with technology and rationalization, so that her past became her future, a haunting visitor she would meet up with on some lazy day, not recognizing, perhaps, the body thinned from unsatisfied hunger or the eyes passionate with memories.

Standing still as the room seethed with astounded and excited voices, Tommi looked back to the steady scene of the galactic starfield and thought again of the silent swamps of Macenia, a magical world of color that no longer existed. Amira was trapped, as was everyone who stayed. Perhaps they existed behind the event horizon — a haven, a dream of immortality they would share as they journeyed together into madness.

Tommi raised her glass and swallowed half the amber liquid. The questions that frustrated her when she said goodbye to Amira for the last time had less to do with the workings of space than with herself. She thought then she might see Amira again one day, a dream or not, beyond the event horizon.

After finishing the vintage black label she had saved since Macenia, Tommi returned to her quarters. She put away the book of poetry lying on her desk, sat before her view screen, and entered the network. Her six weeks on Marksdawn were about over. Tommi put in late hours that evening on her report.

The face of a raven-haired researcher with wild eyes gazed back from the screen. Tommi studied the portrait, concerned about the lucidity of shining blue eyes, where intemperate passions played like children splashing joyfully through a pool in summer.

Tommi recalled the gentle invasion of personal space when she had spoken with the woman that afternoon, and then the woman’s step back and eyes darting as if fearful of exposure. The wild eyes still held hers as she stared at the view screen, at a woman profound with insights into particle physics and also guilty of espionage and murder. Tommi sighed. Another case solved. And she thought back to her last time with Amira.

***

In the swamp alone with Amira, Tommi had watched Macenia in the midst of a storm. A waxy green sheet of lightning sizzled across the swamp, slipping around the trees and brush and blinding her momentarily before oozing off. When it passed, Tommi asked Amira where those murdered on Macenia might be.

Amira shook her head, her brown strands dripped from the rain, and she gazed upward at the roiling sky, fiercely blinking away the water from her eyes. Rain streamed from her lips, and Tommi watched them part slightly for a breath, watched liquid spray with her words. “Sometimes I imagine that’s where the storm energy comes from. All those souls.”

“Like you?”

Amira smiled as another sheet of lightning flowed around them. “Not like me. They wander. They don’t want to be like the living.”

Tommi leaned against a tree and sighed, trying to relax but not yet able. “I’m not convinced the raja’s gone.”

“Null gravity forced it into the heleuropium you had put under your bed. Now it will remain in a null-gravity field forever, buried half-a-kilometer under the station,” Amira emphasized the last.

“Was that paranoid of me?”

“Mythic.” Amira winked. “Like your books. Isn’t that what Zeus did to Cronus after he stole heaven?”

“My books,” Tommi said with surprise. “I didn’t think you’d read them.”

“Some.”

The rain sparkled on Amira’s face, and Tommi reached her gloved hand toward her wet lips. “I used to believe you were a delusion. I’m still not sure what you are.”

“What was once impossible.”

“Immortality.”

“It’s not nearly so freeing as anyone would imagine it would be.”

“What if this works? This area of space could be separated from Earth inside the event horizon.”

“We’d be here together.”

“We’d be dead.” Tommi took hold of Amira’s hand. “You’ve had seventy years to think about this. You’ve already died. Do you really expect me to have the sort of faith — or desperation — to join a suicide pact?”

“It’s not a fantasy. Release gravity, movement stops and time stops. And our experience of three dimensions end. Time that has an end is linear time, and linear time with its passage from past to present to future is what we experience in our spacetime, what we call the Confluence.”

“You’re saying your research here is to find a way to destroy space?”

“Without gravity to generate different dimensions through its control of spatial movement, space is uniform, and that experience has been described as ‘narrow.’ This is because without the correct dimensions and without mass, there is no physicality, as we know it. The galaxy will indeed be different if we release gravity here. We’d experience conscious transcendence in that moment when all the dimensions spring loose and coil with unimaginable energy, like stretched rubber bands. What’s left behind is a mystery still. Will ‘Narrow Space’ encompass the local area as a black hole, surrounded by an event horizon those on Earth can’t see beyond?”

“But a black hole is infinite gravity.”

“No,” Amira said smiling with satisfication. “It’s the absence of gravity. Scientists are wrong, and we’ll prove it. We’re trying to control gravity, to change space. Try to understand, Tommi. We’re on the verge of creating immortality.”

Tommy shook her head, wondering more than ever if Amira were not simply dead but also mad. “So you’ve convinced them.”

Amira turned away and began walking again, but Tommi caught up to her. “Did you tell them sometimes consciousness remains intact, sometimes it merges with others, but that sometimes it goes mad?” She gripped Amira’s arm, pulling her to a stop. “Did you tell them how unpredictable the loss of duality is? They may lose their lives and not gain what you have. They may just be dead.”

“They want immortality. I’m giving it to them.”

“They’ve seen you. They have that and their fantasies driving them.”

“And their science. They’ve come here on their own. They began this on their own. If they can create the event horizon, then I’ll be free, too.”

“And confined still.”

“As you are to the surface, separated by your body from everyone else. What difference–”

“The difference, Amira, is my separation isn’t forever, and yours is. The difference is what it does to you and not to me.”

Amira slipped from Tommi’s grasp and walked away, disappearing into the gray mist.

Amira returned that evening, fresh from the heat and wet as she crawled into Tommi’s bed. Half asleep, Tommi took her into her arms, kissed her, felt the length of her body slide against hers.

“Yes,” muttered Tommi as Amira wrapped herself around her. Amira’s nipples slipped against Tommi’s cheeks, and she drew one between her lips. The full, soft flesh pressed against her face, and Tommi tightened her arms around Amira. Running her hands along Amira’s back, Tommi traced the smooth skin of her hips and reached between her legs. She brushed her fingers through the hair and warm moisture until Amira moved down, her breasts against Tommi’s.

“You’re leaving tomorrow,” Amira said.

Tommi’s hands ached, her stomach tightened, and then the pounding in her ears slowed the moment until it seemed to stop. She touched the phantom, squeezed her skin, traced the lines of her face, tasted her breath, and wondered at the reality of an impossibility.

“I finished it,” Amira said into her ear, then watched for a reaction. “The book. The gods were worse than men, weren’t they? Immortal but petty, powerful but selfish. It’s strange, don’t you think?”

“Why shouldn’t the gods be petty? They need no faith.” Tommi wondered at Amira, at her turning only now to the books she had been given months ago. Tommi kissed her shoulder, began to lose herself to the bitter taste of sweat, but curiosity at Amira’s intent drew her back. “When you have an end to imagine, moments become distinct and those you meet become giants. That’s why I’ll carry you with me the rest of my life. But I’ll probably fade into your long, unrecollected past.”

“My poet, my storyteller, my creator,” mumbled Amira.

Tommi rested her head against Amira’s shoulder, wondering whether Amira had found a haven from her past and whether she herself had yet begun to build a future. Amira’s journey through death would draw her inward toward the core, inward toward hope, inward toward forever. Tommi’s journey would draw her to a world from where the core was a blur in the sky, from where the past was a lost haven, a tattered cage, not forgotten, no longer confining. Tommi rolled onto her back, and they discussed Homer and gods and life far into the morning.

Tommi rose late the following morning. The station commander greeted her when she arrived at the lab. He gestured toward another chair across from him, but Tommi declined the offer. She spent nearly an hour explaining that Amira was insane.

After she finished, he remained carefully observing her across steepled fingers, like a priest accepting the inconsequential confessions of a child.

Amira appeared behind him then at his office door, and as Tommi glanced from him to her, she realized she had already spoken to him, seducing him with her siren song.

Amira’s eyes held hers, and Tommi smiled at the sleek, emerald hunters loose and roaming the world. Tommi imagined the desire and hope that must have seduced the researchers toward Amira’s shore, and Tommi envied them, envied their surrender.

“When you destroy the pulsars,” Tommi told her later, “there’ll be nothing left here, except you, alive or dead, imprisoned as Amira is on Macenia. I only hope you go mad in that instant, so you don’t find your way there slowly like her.”

“Stay with us, Tommi,” said the commander rising from his chair.

“Tommi’s made her choice,” said Amira as she walked up behind him.

“I want what’s real, what’s sane.”

“Your ambition is enormous, Tommi. Most people never expect to possess both.”

Amira’s sarcasm forced a smile from Tommi. “And I still can’t figure out which you have. In another seventy years, your new prison will have grown too small, Amira, and how will you convince your conscience to allow deception and murder then, and who will you find to release you?”

“You’ll be long dead by then, Tommi. I’ll never know when or where. But I’ll remember you here, at twenty-seven. Ferocious, passionate, terrified.”

***

On Marksdawn station, Tommi’s headache was not soothed with the scotch, as strands of consciousness unraveled her in three directions. From across the room, a half-filled bottle stared back at her. Tommi went to it and tossed it in the trash. Then she took another bottle from the cabinet, peeled away the seal, and poured the foul-smelling liquor into a glass.

“Whiskey,” she mumbled, uneasy as she swished the liquid around in the glass at eye level. But one sip swelled a pleasant fire through her chest, a new fire, but not an unfamiliar one. After another drink, she returned to her memory, her dream, her future. The distinction seemed unimportant.

THE END

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SMALL SINS – DELICATE FIRE (PART 2 OF 3)

Delicate Fire is a work of fiction (copyright © 2015 Teresa Wymore)
Part 1Part 2Part 3


delicate-fire-1-strange-flesh-press-lesbian-erotica

Tommi glanced back from her desk after downing a shot. The burn enticed her toward an illusion of clarity, but she didn’t fool herself about feelings, feelings that a moment’s hesitation decided were not yet numb enough. She returned to the bed and handed Amira a glass of scotch.

The humidity of Macenia seeped into Tommi’s room, unrestrained by preference. Sweat covered their bodies, the wet air refusing to release them from the oppressive heat by evaporating it. As if wrestling a wall of water, their lungs struggled to breathe what free oxygen they found.

Amira finished the amber liquid and whispered, “You’ve made your choice, haven’t you, Tommi?”

Amira’s hands caressed Tommi’s breasts and then reached between her legs, but Tommi held her back and said haltingly, “I can’t stand this. I can’t think. I can’t even breathe.”

“Why are you afraid?”

“You’re not a woman. You’re some apparition, an illusion. You think you’re Orpheus coming to save me from death. Damn, Amira. You’re not even alive.”

Dead. The word struck Tommi as it had not before. In breaking waves, Amira’s image reached Tommi with the surrealism of the word, the powdered smoothness of her skin made smoother by luminous eyes, radiating a green clarity, an inexplicable calm shining from the unlined face of a woman who died seventy years ago. Amira had been one of the first researchers to arrive on Macenia. She had died in an accident a few Earth months later.

Dead. The weight of the word, heavy with finality, oppressive with distance, forced the air from Tommi’s chest so that she sighed involuntarily. Frantic breaths grasped at the scattered wind.

Dead. A sluggish seduction, tender in its expression, circled her shoulders, stroked her back one finger at a time, coaxing heat to mingle with heat. Amira’s fingers tugged at the flesh of Tommi’s cheek and chin as their lips and tongues tasted each other. What Amira touched always became the focus of Tommi’s attention, so as Amira’s hand slipped into the tangle of wet hair at her neck and their mouths again struggled against each other, Tommi abandoned her fear.

Amira lay spread out at the edge of the bed, an offering Tommi would breathe and taste and worship, a promise they would both keep as long as they were joined. Tommi’s tongue slipped into the folds of her wet flesh, and Amira moaned and closed her legs around Tommi’s head. Amira’s hips rolled. Her hands struggled with Tommi as she writhed. Her breathing rose and fell, ragged, voiceless.

Amira was salt, bitter, rich and deep. Climbing onto the bed, Tommi leaned over her. Arousal weakened her, forced her to plant both hands on the bed as she kissed Amira’s breasts, but then she fell onto her back and let her trembling arms rest.

“Touch me,” Tommi whispered.

“You need water.”

“Touch me,” Tommi insisted.

Amira lifted the sheet from the floor and wiped Tommi’s face with it. “I can only give you immortality. I can’t save you.” Amira brought her a glass of water. “Drink this.”

“Black lines,” Tommi muttered. “Lines, boundaries. Borders built from fear. You’re just like him.”

“You left him a long time ago, Tommi.”

Tommi’s idle attempt to hurt Amira became Amira’s tool of analysis. Shaking her head tiredly, no energy to resist Amira’s retaliation, Tommi replied, “I think more often about her.”

“You left her a long time ago, too.”

The alcohol finally began to blur the room. Closing her eyes, Tommi spun, thinking happily that scotch could clarify what no analysis could: the path of one’s life, the boundaries of one’s passion, the borders of one’s reality.

It was as clear to her as it was five years ago when she still accepted the boundaries, when she had not yet considered the borders, when she had not yet read the lines. But she did read her words, and then he read them, too, the night he found the letters and burned them, the night he forced Tommi to tell him about her, to explain why.

That was the night love became something obscene, his jealousy attempting to destroy a feeling as tender and desperate as Tommi had ever known. His passions had hard borders, limitations beyond which he wouldn’t go, limits on what he’d accept from her. Tommi had come to understand that he didn’t want her. He wanted a physical reflection of some private image he had created, and she’d grown tired of sharing only what he wanted. She’d grown tired of giving only what he would accept. She had grown tired of calling that love.

Amira crawled on top of her, skin sticking to skin. She rested so that her arms raised her shoulders above Tommi. She pressed her hips against Tommi’s, and despite the pleasure that prowled under her skin, Tommi pushed the hips away. Amira explored her face. Her nostrils flared, her jaw flexed, and then she kissed Tommi until she couldn’t breathe.

Tongue soft, lips yielding. Amira always left Tommi wanting more, to taste more, touch more, feel more, a fire never hot enough, never close enough until it consumes. Desire for Amira brought passion to her throat, a desire she had known before only between her legs, but now the need was deeper, a need not only to take in but to take over. “If you’re not real, then why do I feel you, and why,” Tommi asked, pausing to catch her breath, “…why do you feel me?”

“You still think I’m an illusion?”

“My concern,” Tommi decided as she lay back on the bed, “is stopping the raja. I think I know how.”

Amira’s expression hardened.

“I’ve spent enough time with the researchers. Consciousness is a product of the space it inhabits; there’s nothing intrinsic to it, as there would be to, say, a star or a person’s body. Objects are composed of particles, and the four forces of physics are the result of particle interactions. But the fifth force – consciousness — has no particle associated with it; it’s pure wave. Consciousness is a product of the space it inhabits, so it can grow or shrink depending on that space. Our hands, eyes, brain, are three-dimensional and function only in three dimensions, but we can experience other-dimensional space with our minds, something shown through experiments with people close to galactic core.”

Amira nodded and her gaze drifted. “Gravity and null gravity have some predictable effects, like separating light into wave and particle, and some unpredictable effects, like making people go mad. People experience hallucinations and even the inability to distinguish whether they’re awake or asleep, whether they’re moving or standing still. If they were on Earth, we’d call them insane. Near high gravity, we call them ‘confluent anemic,’ meaning they lack the dimensions to clarify their consciousnesses.”

“But I don’t understand. I thought without the movement of space, there wouldn’t be consciousness. Consciousness needs movement to exist.”

Amira brushed a finger across Tommi’s chin again and sat on the bed. “The way we know things is by difference, a conversation between two things — this is not that — but not all consciousness may be that way. Consciousness in Narrow Space wouldn’t be separate, wouldn’t be a conversation; it would be a single consciousness, a this is.”

“You mean the researchers believe if they destroy themselves, they’ll find god? Suicide’s always had that outcome.” Tommi tossed her hands up in disgust. “I’ve been sent to a world with a group of suicidal theorists so I can prevent them from getting murdered? This is fantasy. Do you believe you’ll find god out here?”

“I didn’t think you were such a cynic. Don’t you think god is out here to find?”

“I’m not a cynic. I’ve had faith enough to give you everything you’ve asked for, despite what little I know about you.” Tommi waited, expecting, perhaps, a look of gratitude or agreement, but Amira peered back placidly. Tommi continued, “This would mean the deaths of everyone here, wouldn’t it?”

“I died already.”

“So you have nothing to lose.” Tommi knew her insight was not the idea Amira meant to give.

“On Macenia you exist as separate parts, Tommi. Your consciousness as wave and your body as particle don’t need to remain together. High gravity allows your separation by drawing the particle in and releasing the wave energy. In the same way, low gravity pushes the particle away and the wave goes with it. Imagine in one place, a ball rolling into a hole, and in another, a ball rolling off a hill, and you can see how high and low gravity effect particles. The theory is that three-dimensional space with its supporting gravity is the flat terrain, the perfect balance of wave and particle.”

Tommi watched Amira as she listened, and she saw the hesitancy, as if Amira stood at the edge of a great pool of water, unsure whether the plunge would freeze her. “How does that connect to you?”

Ashira studied that phantom pool and then her brow flexed. She was irritated. “You know about gravity generating spatial movement, but that movement is all associated with particles. When you have no particles to focus your consciousness toward, then gravity can be your enemy. Low gravity feels like a fist closing around me, because without high gravity to draw away particles, that draw of matter to energy becomes crushing. Whatever particle is near would be forced onto me, and so what was me would become some new composition of wave and particle.” Amira took a breath and said with more intensity. “It’s not safe for you to be talking about this.”

Tommi laughed. “The demon’s awake, is it? Five researchers dead, and now the investigator? I know. The raja doesn’t want this to happen. Whoever the raja once was is insane, but not you. You do want this to happen.”

Amira offered no reply. Words failed thoughts; thoughts failed conscience; conscience failed desire. After a long moment of silence, Amira grew anxious and seized Tommi’s arm. “You’re in danger. It knows about you.”

Tommi stood unsteadily, the alcohol clouding her vision, but anxiousness helped her remember the plan she had made. Despite the power Amira held over her, Tommi had prepared.

She lifted her uniform from the floor and dressed. “That’s why you stay away from the researchers, isn’t it, Amira?” Tommi said. She sealed the magnetic opening on the front of her navy jumpsuit, running her thumb and forefinger up the seam until she bumped her yellow name patch. “The raja knows because it learns through you, because you can’t stay separate from it. That’s how it knows about me now.” After a pause, Tommi asked, “Do you trust me?”

“No!” Amira screamed, but her shout was for the appearance of the raja.

Tommi pushed Amira away and hit the call switch on her comlink. She rolled to the other side of the bed. She fell to her knees before she found her feet again and continued to push Amira back as the raja came near, its orange flesh swelling to twice her height as it straightened itself.

Amira seemed entranced by the monster, never taking her gaze from it. The raja stepped onto the bed, eyes hot like pools of red acid, its massive body blocking the room’s lighting so that its shadowed skin appeared nearly black.

Amira would not move, so Tommi dragged her toward the door. “Amira, go!” she ordered her again. “Get out of here.”

When the raja seized Tommi, she found herself staring into the station’s gray ceiling again. The raja wound its other tentacle arm around Amira, whose groan sounded as if she were being crushed. After slamming Amira against the wall, the raja dropped her.

Tommi watched the monster’s feeding tentacle erupt from its chest. She felt a wild, an irrational glee at the edge of terror. Electric tendrils of anticipation reached her nerves far ahead of the raja, and a loud sigh of laughter escaped from her as she braced herself for the cut, the intrusion, the loss of every bone in her body.

Before the feeding tentacle sliced into Tommi, Amira intervened. The raja’s feeding arm raced toward Amira. The tentacle slid into Amira, but she didn’t scream. She made no sound at all.

Shots of blue fire sizzled in the air. Agents had arrived, their rifle barrels thrusting across the line of the open door. With strength unknown to Tommi before, Amira pried both herself and Tommi from the monster’s grip. Once free, Tommi spun, kicking the raja in the chest and sending it stumbling backwards.

Tommi clutched onto Amira, and they fell into the hall at the feet of the agents. Just ahead of the closing door, Tommi shouted orders into her comlink. The sound of static and a dip in the lights followed as a containment field was engaged. The monster squealed, stretched, thinned, and then vanished.

Amira stared at the door. Tommi stared at Amira.

When the station engineer engaged the containment field, he had also created a pocket of null gravity. The raja, comprised of light particles like Amira herself, needed the presence of gravity to remain particle. The raja was a permanent wave. At least, that’s what Tommi was counting on.

Part 1Part 2Part 3

Small Sins – Delicate Fire (Part 1 of 3)

Delicate Fire is a work of fiction (copyright © 2015 Teresa Wymore)

When Tommi arrives on Macenia to investigate the most recent of a series of murders, she succumbs to the seduction of Amira, a darkly exciting woman offering passion in exchange for capsules of the dust studied at the station. To stop the horrifying murders, Tommi must unravel the mystery of Amira, a woman who died seventy years earlier.


delicate-fire-1-strange-flesh-press-lesbian-eroticaTommi left the station in the bulky confinement of an environmental suit. Macenia’s landscape presented an eerie fog, an atmosphere thick with red haze.

A swamp settled into a valley where no breeze, no movement, no voice stirred. Tommi came to the swamp often, spending hours in the solitude. The swamp once calmed her, but anxiety returned the day Amira first appeared, emerging like an extension of the fog, a mist breathed from the primeval land. Amira had been there a lifetime, a phantom — deceptively alive like the tragic world that bore her, mysteriously immune like the hunter that shadowed her.

Tommi swung the pack from her side to her shoulder. The pack contained one of Macenia’s mysteries: light that lived as particle. One of the researchers called it “dust” and said it had many unique properties, including a tendency to gather into piles of silvery powder underneath station beds, “as if the Sandman had spilled some.”

The unusual particles had interested the agency enough to equip and transport a research team thousands of light years toward the galaxy’s core. The particles also interested Amira enough to request Tommi bring some to her. No, Amira had pleaded, expressing a need she refused to explain. The mysteries of the woman did not matter. Amira. Thinking her name, as feeling her touch, stopped the breath in Tommi.

An image of Amira — lips parted, hands parted, flesh parted — ached in her mind. She sighed, struggling for air, for clarity, and she wiped condensation from her goggles, though the tickle of sweat beneath her mask remained. As she walked, she heard again the name that whispered in her mind, the name that, like a gentle kiss brushed across her neck, sending shivers rippling down her spine. Amira. It whispered again, and Tommi knew she was near.

Amira was sitting on a rock blocking her path, a gray silhouette, barely distinguishable from the low-lying plants in the fog. As Tommi drew near, the silhouette rose, its features sharpening out of the mist, a nymph emerging from the sea.

“You’re here, Tommi.”

“You knew I’d come.”

Amira wore no bulky environmental suit, but a soaked yellow dress that clung to her body in folds, guiding small rivulets from her shoulders to her soft breasts and leaving her nipples tugging at the drenched linen. Her brown hair hung in strings down her cheeks, and she continually blinked away raindrops. Tommi wondered how Amira could exist without protection against the gravity and radiation, but she didn’t ask. She had watched Amira do many things that seemed impossible, and Amira’s explanations had never satisfied her.

“I need to know,” Tommi said as Amira glanced at the container.

Amira took a deep breath of the steamy air. “They’re particles. Light particles.”

“This is light?”

“You know that light lives with wave-particle duality. Here, it can live as one or the other.”

Raindrops ran from Amira’s breasts to her hips, to the contour inviting Tommi’s eyes down between her legs, but Tommi gazed upward into the sky peeking through the swamp’s canopy. A rainbow mixture of coreward stars spotted the emerald fog like lighthouses seducing travelers toward the crushing gravity of a million suns. Except for the cyclical storms, Macenia’s sky maintained a hazy window on galactic core, and the word “night” had no meaning here. As there was no night, there was no evening, no dusk, no “rosy-fingered Dawn.”

But there was nothing rosy about the planet, except the leaves as they lay dead in the mud, their shiny crimson fullness having bled from them. Tommi thought of epithets for gods other than Dawn, and she considered how Homer might have described Amira, like “Silver-footed Thetis” or “Hera of the white arms.” No, it was her green eyes, like polished malachite, swirled with dark veins, bubbling with faded clouds — a healing stone, a myth. The eyes like malachite were stone, were myth, were beautiful. “Athena, terrible eyes shining.” Yes, that was it.

Sweat dropped from Tommi’s eyebrow to her nose and rolled toward her cheek. Unable to reach her face through the mask, the frustrating tickle raced along with the drop unstopped, and she broke the hush. “Why?” The question was not about only the dust.

With liquid warmth, Amira’s gaze held hers, and the voice sighed in Tommi’s mind. Amira.

“Why the light, Amira? What do you do with it? Is the dust why the raja is here, too? Does it need it, too?”

Smiling, Amira dropped her head, glanced from the ground to the distant center of the swamp and replied, “I need nothing.”

“I know. You walk around in that yellow dress as if you were caught in a spring shower when the radiation should have seared off your skin.”

Amira waited expectantly, as if Tommi should understand something. “Dreams,” answered Amira to the unspoken question.

“You’re not a dream,” Tommi said emphatically, reaching her gloved hand to touch Amira’s bare fingers.

“No, sweet Tommi.”

“Do you believe dreams can become real?” asked Amira. “That your mind creates reality?”

Tommi denied the implication. “I’m real.”

“Of course you are. But how can you exist as a duality? How can a divided life be anything but confusing? Without unity, there is no life. When you understand that, you’ll catch your killer because you’ll understand it.”

“What do you know about the raja? You’ve denied knowing anything.”

Amira reached for the container, but Tommi stepped away, her boot breaking the glassiness of the brown swamp water.

A dark shadow flickered through Amira’s eyes, and her face seemed to blur and reform as someone — something — else. Tommi blinked, and Amira’s crisp features returned.

Tommi thought again of nights watching Amira remove her clothes in the faint station lighting. The body moving in the darkness was athletic, its movements feline, feminine, but Tommi felt as if the form was not Amira. Seeing the dark shadow wash across her now, she felt as she had then, that Amira was something more or less than she appeared.

What did Tommi know about her, after all? Her name. She knew her name and not much else…other than the warmth of her slender body, the strength of her arms, the wet heat her tongue stroked into her flesh, the rush of a moment’s ecstasy. Amira.

“No.” Tommi shook off the grip of erotic memories. “Tell me why. Why do you need the dust?” Tommi held the cylinder humming in her hands. “You seem to shift and shimmer, appearing now as you are but somehow changing those times when we’ve been alone in the night.” The last part Tommi spoke slowly, not wanting to think about those nights alone with Amira, fearing her own weakness, her own desire to surrender to the beauty before her, to the weeks of memories behind her. Amira. Delicate as a caress, the word rushed through her.

“Open it, Tommi.”

Tommi stepped away.

“Trust me.”

Tommi pulled it close and stumbled backward a few more steps. Fear raced through her. She had never feared Amira. In all the dark nights, for all the eerie appearances of shadowy shimmers, she had never before feared her.

“Open the container.” Amira stepped nearer, and Tommi fled.


This story is reblogged fro the Strange Flesh Press blog. You can read parts 2 and 3 at Strange Flesh Press.

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