It’s really simple.
Through the dark twine of the weirwood, the indigo sky is cool and brilliant under both moons. I’m awfully aware of how far one could fall up there. Just prffffft and….well….. Oh God. Out here there would be nothing to stop me going higher and higher and…I feel myself clench against the new rules and the sudden tightness in my clothes.
“The rules are for your protection” says The Demon in my head, suddenly.
Yeah, I’m possessed by a Demon too. It’s going to get me killed.
Keep moving; they will be looking for me soon. Heh. Not much for the eye to seize before tonight. And now… well…more than a handful. God, I hope those go back down. My dress is too frokkin’ small now. So self conscious; even though I’m probably the only person for miles.
I was slim, and pretty enough, in a way I suppose; blue eyes to count a rarity, the strawberry-blond hair to make men whisper; a nose, turned up to curiosity, catching at the wind. But something in my manner; withdrawn, wilful, diffident; the gaunt awkwardness of a girl who would not fit in. I spent too much time out alone, out by the haunted wreckage.
“Not dead.” says The Demon, heedless of when it invaded my thoughts. “I survived. Well, just the core, some spatial folding and the pneumo-gravetics. But the sentient bit. The bit that matters.”
The penetration had made it more talkative. I shudder to recall how its black mass touched – poured – into me. The horrible buoyancy plucking me from the steely well as if I was a cinder on the great fire. The smooth walls sliding by as my feet retraced the earlier fall, trackless. My eyes wider than saucers; my body, swollen like a watermelon in a summer field, rebounding against the blue-grey metal roof of the broken vault.
“Emergency protocol.” The Demon intones. “Being lighter-than-air saved your life.”
It probably did too; and now I have to run to keep it. I overheard the whispers to the Squire; my unlikely excuses at the hour, my torn clothes, my body….Jevers rode post-sunset for Riverton amidst murmurings of compacts and demons. He’d bring the sniffers by morning. I really try not to think about what they do to a girl who harbours a demon.
“You gave permission.” The Demon says. “Protocol requires assent for interface. And I did get you out of that hole, as promised. Now I simply require assistance to relocate to an intact vessel.”
“You tricked me, Demon.” I hissed, though I’d established it could hear me just as well silent. Trapped in its centuries-old lair, it had told me to think about boys, a boy, in the first instance. (‘cortical anchorage requires an emotional response…’)
“I was designed to interface with Pilots. Not hormonal teenagers. Your emotional responses corrupted control protocols.” replies The Demon calmly. “So we’re stuck together.”
The funny thing is, when I was little, I used to dream about flying. Back before I knew it was a sin; from the Age of Knowing. Now I think flying and falling and floating are very much alike; the wind outside; the wind within. (‘….Do you know what a balloon is?’ the Demon had asked, conversationally) – A word from a time of Demons and the silver men.
“I am not a Demon.” says The Demon. “I am a transtellar rated demiurgical construct. I was quickened at Hyundai-Xaoi yards in Thirty…look; the point is if you hadn’t been so emotional, we could have got down much quicker and none of your dirtgrubbing peasant elders would be any wiser.”
I was stuck there for hours, wild and lost to myself. Far too long. The tightness of my swollen breasts and buttocks; a prison for the flushing heat within me (‘shear stress’ declared the Demon, unapologetic). By the time I calmed down – drifted down – the curfew of twilight was past. I ran all the way back through the valley cleft by the Demonegg’s impact as my body struggled to regain its slender weight.
Once home, I knew I couldn’t stay. In the end I took Samuel’s key and stole two loaves of bread, an orange, and a skin of wine. I hope Samuel won’t get in trouble for that. The only other things with me were a score of sous I had saved and the robe they found me in all those years ago.
The trail falls down through a spray of scree towards the river, but I know my way here better than most in daylight. I have to lose my scent; Fear. Arousal. The secret stain curdled between my legs where the air cupped and lifted me. Memory. My life washed away.
“For what its worth,” says The Demon, “Given your mean density, you probably can’t drown at the moment.”
I think about Samuel, teaching me to swim; holding me as I kick against the currents; the scent of sandalwood and leather from his workshop. My body weightless in his arms. There’s the edge of swelling. I rise almost unconscious to the balls of my feet as if in preparation for what must follow. Down. Down. I think. Please. Not again.
“Please, please, please try not to think about boys. Especially not Samuel” says The Demon. “You are triggering the proto-helium again.”
Yes. Can’t get angry. Can’t get scared. Can’t think about boys. The rules that bind me, hold me down from the cold and gasping death above.
“OK, Demon” I whisper through gritted teeth. “Let’s go.”
“I’m sure we’ll work fabulously together.” says The Demon. It seemed quite pleased with itself. The path opens up through the brambles and the witching hour. Run river – down your stony course to ruin; me and my haunting out into the world.