KW 2: Cast Away
Her house is large enough that rather than pace around in it when you have a lot on your mind, you can take walks, lengthy walks that wind and climb and descend again, hardly ever doubling back over a trail you’ve already blazed. And like any proper nature hike, there are inviting forks and high roads and low roads and narrow paths that open unexpectedly into glades and a canopy that sometimes soars four stories high above you, a crystal chandelier sparkling above like white sun rays through a screen of foliage. And outside there are the chirps and squeaks and hoots of impossible animals hidden in the garden, which itself is impossible. And every so often a lurking ghoul checking on me, or standing silently in front of doors I’m probably not permitted to enter.
There’s no question that the Embrace has wiped away most of my former personality, completing a wipe begun by the ghouling. I don’t behave like I once did; I don’t speak like I once did; I don’t react to certain subjects like I once did. While the new identity I’m trying to form is undoubtedly more suited to this life than the old one I had, I can’t help but wonder whether the Embrace has broken me in some irrevocable way.
Except in a few instances, I don’t feel as much as I did before, not as intensely or as richly. I still feel as though my body is a thick glove I wear, well articulated and under my complete control, but insulating me from my environment, physically and psychologically. Psychologically, because even my eyes feel like a false extension, relaying images from outer space to where I sit inside my capsule. Carcosa, the secret Carcosa I know now, is a slow, stately pageant of beautiful women who murmur and caress and promise and play with my hand, and it’s all very nice, but my enthusiasm, which used to be meteoric, is now more like a tide, pooling up almost imperceptibly, then ebbing out again before I bother to harness it, and long after Madame has given up.
Who am I kidding? Emily still has her hooks in me. They found purchase in me when I was the most vulnerable, the most lost and needy, and her talons are as sharp as they are shapely, and they don’t retract. Struggle and the barbs sink deeper. Thanks to the blood again, which we shared and slithered in, and which fooled some stupid part of me into thinking we were united in some way, both witting hostages to the same situation, both drinking from the same well. So it’s a blessing that my body is partially numb. It’s better now than when I drew breath, when it was impossible to close my eyes without seeing either Zack’s face or hers.
Besides, now it is James Mazon’s face I see when I close my eyes. I see him slick with brine, wild in the face, shouting and clawing at the ocean to take him away. We may as well have been on the ledge of a building high above the street, he the jumper, I the rescuer. For a moment we held each other, and I thought then that I had broken through, that he could finally hear my voice, oozing out to him with all the blood-fueled charisma I could muster, inviting him to crouch down beneath the surface for the span of one held breath, and sit there, letting the bay take his horrible guilt and his misplaced and maladjusted compassion.
But Tusk came and did his Lord eyes, and took him away to his death, which seemed to be what everyone, including James, wanted.
So I was left there, waist-deep in the bitter surf, and I faced the bay, the lights of Hawthorn Point beading on the horizon like rain on a neon rod, and the waves rocked the buoys and swelled past me, threatening to lift me off the sand, and I curled up beneath them at their coaxing, down to where the only sound is a timeless muffled roar and burble, the music of the spheres, and darkness without end, and the body is buffeted by invisible currents, and one listens, and one gives something to the ocean, something one isn’t ready to give, but gives anyway, and when one stands again, the world is new and unformed, still dripping with primordial mist, every shape a volcanic thing thrust up from the Earth’s black bowels, never seen before.
And I came ashore.