For those of us who cannot die, there is no greater horror than the thought of being unbodied. Our bodies do not age and they will not die naturally, but they are not indestructible. When we first arrived in this world, perhaps even before humans began counting years, we soon discovered that time had became our prison.
There was a woman then named Nelin who could not bear the idea of this eternal confinement. After several years here, she walked into the fire one day and we looked into her eyes, and she back at us, as her body was consumed. But still, she did not die. We heard her anguished cried for years afterwards with that sense that we later discovered humans did not share. Some had the talent to speak with her and learn the ultimate horror of her new state: undying but rendered impotent by being robbed of her body. Now we know that, no matter how much we tire of this earthly form, it is better than the alternative.
And that is why the man named Ram is trying to kill my daughter, Theresa. Because of that and a rabbit hole.
“What is a rabbit hole?” Theresa asks me. I am sitting with her in Terc’s library, trying to explain why Ram—the man she knows as Mr. Rudolph—may be trying to kill her.
“Your mother was human, so you can sleep,” I say, “but Terc and Ram and I and those like us, cannot. Sometimes we drink poison to die for a few moments, and if we go deep enough, we sometimes see flashes of the future. We call them rabbit holes, because if you pursue them, you can go and go until you do not know what is what. The man known as Ram had a vision that a woman would kill him, or at least unbody him. He has been trying to find that woman for almost a century.”
“But I am only a girl,” she says and for a moment, even her eyes look it. “And why would I want to kill him, or unbody him, as you say?”
“I do not know, but I know that he thinks of nothing else except this idea. If he has been visiting you, then he must think you are involved.”
Terc is my dear friend, but she will not suffer my daughter by another woman to stay in her library, her sanctum, so we go to a hotel and Theresa whiles away the hours and days immersed in the plastic world of TV. I begin to itch for the poison shop, but I do not dare leave her alone for long. Finally, I slip out while she is sleeping. I just need to die for a few hours.
“Nightclaw,” I say, ordering the poison and getting it and a syringe. I sit at a table and am about to inject myself, when a figure slips in next to me. It is Ram.
A pain runs through me as if I have already injected the poison. He looks the same as the last time I saw him, 83 years before, but his eyes are those of a hunting beast now. They bear down on me and I ready the needle to stab, if necessary.
“Nightclaw,” he says, with a small sneer of disdain. “I’m surprised you still trifle with the weak stuff.”
“I tried Talon-4 last time,” I said. His expression changes to reluctant respect.
“It seems your body survived the experience. No rigor mortis or decomposition?”
“I saw something. A rabbit hole.” The muscles in his face spasm and clench. The banter drains away, leaving gaunt hatred.
“Where is she?” he says, almost spitting. “I do not know how you found her, but the nuns at the orphanage described you as the one who took her.”
“How is it you found her?” I ask. “She is my daughter, I know now. She will not hurt you, I swear. Why do you pursue her?”
He reaches over and grasps the syringe and for a moment, I think he will stab me. But instead, he squirts a little poison on his finger and licks it with a spasmodic shudder.
“I saw her in my vision,” he says. “It was her who pushed me into the blazing inferno. Her face was the last thing I saw before my body was consumed.” He reaches for the syringe again, but I pull it away.
“Stop this madness,” I say. “You know what Rami says, that following a rabbit hole could lead to it coming true, when ignoring it may stop it.”
“Could! May!” He spits out the words. “That is easy to say when I am tormented every moment but that vision of her face. I will never have peace until she is dead.”
“She may not be able to die at all,” I say. “She is half like us and already over two centuries old. Would you unbody an innocent soul for your own peace of mind?”
The answer is shouting from his eyes and in a moment of clarity, I act. I stab the syringe of fatal fluid into his neck, plunging it deep. He claws at it, but by the time it is out, it is already working on his system. In less than a minute, he collapses, dead.
I have several hours before he revives. I cannot unbody him; that is too cruel, but I must contain him. Terc would know how. I will ask her.
(to be continued)