Tuesday, April 22, 2014
A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 97
"You try my patience, Ellen." The specter growled--its rigid countenance inches from Lennie's.
In fact, Lennie was unsure exactly what she herself was. She was keenly aware that she was unable to move. Much like the visions she'd had of her late mother, she felt that she was just a mask-like face unattached to a proper body of any sort. When she spoke, she could not feel her lips move, nor her eyes blink, her tongue in her mouth, her... She felt nothing really. Nothing physical. Where was she? What was she?
What had happened?
Lennie did her best to remain as present as possible.
The last she could recall, she'd been scratched, or cut. They were in the crypt. She'd been with Violet and Maude and Ethel. They'd spotted Jackson and challenged him. He'd offered her a jeweled comb which had fallen to the floor of the crypt--likely from the wig which he'd used to dress the corpse of her mother. The teeth of the comb had been somehow poisoned--probably by the very preservatives he'd used to keep the corpse.
Lennie replayed these events in her thoughts--over and over again. She did so to drown out the insidious chatter of her mother's spirit.
What was going on outside of their shared limbo? Surely, by now, Punch and Robert had come to her aid--Matthew, too. They'd carried her back to the Hall. Yes, that's surely what had happened. Likely, Robert was working on some means of restoring her to health. She tried to convince herself that this would pass like waking from a nightmare. She would soon realize that it was just...just...
When Lennie was a little girl, in fact, well into her adolescent and young adult years, she suffered from a nightmare wherein she felt as though she could not move. She was paralyzed as if a horrible goblin or hag were sitting upon her chest. She could not scream or do anything and thought she would surely die. Of course, eventually, she would awaken. When she did, she told the woman who raised her--her aunt, though, at the time, Lennie thought her to be her mother.
"Aye, Mara--the hag. She sucks the breath from your wee body, Mara does." Mrs. Barrett replied. "That's what she'll do to ye. She'll take the breath from yer body. And, there's nothin' ye can do 'bou' it."
That didn't help.
This--this was no different than "Mara."
This--this situation, whatever it was. This confusion.
This was just a trick of her mind, Lennie thought. There was no "hag" who sat upon Lennie's chest to suck the life from her whilst she slept as a child. Mara, the sleep hag did not exist, then, and she did not exist now.
Lennie kept thinking. "I have been wounded. Likely I have been poisoned. This poison is making my thoughts play tricks on me, and I am unable to have clarity. My brother and Robert are helping me, and soon I shall awaken and be well. Whatever I hear--this voice which calls itself my mother--is no more danger to me than 'Mara' was to me as a child."
"What makes you think that?" The Duchess laughed.
Lennie tried to ignore the voice.
"Ellen, I know all about Mara. Mara was just one more part of me." Pauline continued.
"How could she have been?" Lennie replied finally. "When I had those dreams, you were very much alive. You only died last year. I had those dreams when a child."
"Mara...whatever you liked to call her...and all those like her--all powerful feminine beings. We are all part of the same being. You don't think she was some simple goblin? Some 'sleep hag' meant to tease a little girl? Do you want to know what she really was, Ellen?"
"Why do you..."
"Bother you? Why do I know what you're thinking?" Pauline laughed. "Ellen, you have no private thought. Not now. The longer you are away from life, the more of you I take. The more of you I possess. Let me help you, Ellen. At present, you are nothing. You can be one of those great women. You can be like Mara."
"And torture and tease children?" Lennie scoffed. "I think not."
"You make it seem so silly. She was not some foolish fairy. Mara was a succubus, as am I...as you shall be. We shall be all powerful."
"Your desperation is palpable." Lennie answered. "If you are all powerful, then, why do you require me? Furthermore, why do you wish to be reborn in a human body?"
The light around the duchess' face faded slightly.
"You are pathetic." Lennie continued.
"I was once like you." The duchess continued. "With the exception that I was exquisitely beautiful."
"I'd much rather be intelligent."
"I possessed both intelligence and beauty."
"Release me from this nightmare." Lennie demanded.
"I have already told you that I cannot. I cannot until you give me the promise that I need. You are correct, my power is not as great as I insist, but it is still great enough that I can hold you to me until I get what I want or until you are dead, and, then, we shall both be lost."
"I would rather be lost than offer you any assistance." Lennie responded.
"Then, lost you shall be." Pauline answered. "Yet, you do not even know the nature of the promise."
"There is no promise I could make to you that would not be too much."
"So be it." The duchess shrieked--her face engulfed in flames which burned quickly and brightly in a hideous flash. "I leave you here, then--in nothingness!"
With that, Lennie was alone in her limbo. She could not quite decide if it was worse.
Did you miss Chapters 1-96 of A Recipe for Punch? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 98.