The tube shudders and shrieks as it pulls into Camden. Ondine watches the flickering panels of color reverse-fade into the familiar ads and posters lining the platform.
She checks her texts, seeing if Jamie might have replied as the reception kicks in again. A new one beeps in.
Gotta work tonight, promise it’s the last weekend. Xxx
She glances up to the person across the carriage. Not a person, not really, although his disguise gives some clues to his fantastic heritage.
The redcap across smiles and taps his hat. He snickers and leaps to his feet as the tube draws to a stop. The passengers stand and mill at the doors and the redcap shimmies closer to Ondine, although she ignores him as best she can, staring at the doors, willing them to open.
The train purrs and the lights flash a moment before the buzzing peal shakes the silence.
“Safe journey with the Hunt, pristine one,” whispers the redcap, and he skips out to the stairs.
Ondine steps out, feeling the heat rushing up the corridor, fetid and dry, caked with soot and grime. She shakes her head, but half-heartedly. Although they’re worlds away from the Royal Courts, a redcap should not speak to a pristine like her. It’s only because the Hunt draws near that he has the audacity to try. She could kill him if she wanted. She could sap the glimmer from his body, wither his soul out and carry his raw hotness for the rest of the day.
She texts Jamie. She met him at the last Hunt, almost eleven years ago, in some sketchy warehouse up in Islington. That was the way the pristine traveled between times, in the liminal spaces connected with pulsing music, sweat, and lust. The energy from hundreds of dancing bodies helped them on their journey. It was always an epic night, one that everyone who came would remember, even if the mortals didn’t know the true nature of the occasion. To them, The Hunt was simply a club event that took place periodically around the world.
Ok babe. So… what did you think about Wednesday? The Hunt’s coming to town, it’s been forever. The club fiends are in town. Would love it if we can all go together.
She follows the crowd to the escalators, holding onto the side, peering at the ceiling and the walls around her. She could make her way out of this tube station with her eyes closed. She’s been here a million times, scurrying up the escalators with a smile as a banger night began, or drifting downward, loved up on glimmer, making her way along the map to one of her cousin’s homes – Aryalaan always threw massive after parties at his apartment in the Docklands.
Is this the last time she’ll come this way? She shakes the thought away, tired of the heaviness that’s weighed in her heart for so long. She follows the throng, moving along the High Street, blinking away the cool rain that settles all around. A leaden grey sky hangs low above, and she shivers. It’s cold for April. One of those miserable days that’s painted in lead.
The hawkers shout and yell as she passes by the stalls and stores.
She savors the smells of food all around. Of curry and jerk chicken, falafels and pierogis. Her mouth waters and she almost stops to grab something, but it’s getting late and she has a place to be.
She drifts through the diverse mass of people, the waft of weed hanging in the wet air. She passes by a pub she’d spent many hours in before or after epic club nights. Even these pubs have a smell, a melange of lager and sweat and curry-doused chips masked by decades of cigarette smoke. Jamie loved this smell – even though he didn’t smoke – and he used to say he wished some corporation would bottle it up and sell it. “Proper Geezer” was his suggested name, and Ondine smiles at the memory.
She follows the laneways, looking as school kids gawk and joke with each other. She moves down the narrow walkways, dodging raindrops that plop around her. She slips left, then right, then left again as the pathway narrows, the old stone walls leaning in above, cutting out the weak daylight.
Soon the stalls are selling more exotic goods than crystal bongs and piles of silver rings. There are now runes packed tight with magic and books ready to read themselves to life.
“Pristine, blessed are we, the stalwart, for your presence.”
Ondine peers at the hag before her. The sluagh looks ancient. Long hair, silver-black and ragged, hangs around a pale face carved with deep lines, as if cut from clay. She stands before a table lined with rings and necklaces, charms and brooches.
“Your vassal shell remains wondrous, pristine, pray be that your next shell is more wondrous still.”
“Enough with the fawning,” sighs Ondine and the hag offers a wry smile of blackened teeth.
“I have a question for you,” says Ondine.
“And how may I help thee?”
“The Hunt returns,” says Ondine, then pauses, her words falling from her thoughts.
“Indeed. And with it, your time here ends. Hath thou chosen the life you’ll live next?”
Ondine thinks about Aryalaan’s words, fresh in her mind. He’d decided where the kith would traverse next. With the Hunt’s return they would slip out of this time and move to their next. There had been talk of living in Goa in the late sixties, or Berlin in the nineties, or even a return to Ibiza in 1973 for the umpteenth time.
“Detroit,” she says. “1981. Techno scene.”
The sluagh sniffs loudly and looks around.
“What is your question?”
“You have remained here long?” asks Ondine.
“Oh yes,” says the sluagh with a smile that reveals teeth far too long and jagged to be human. “Centuries. I was here when this city burned to ash. The dying shrieked to me as they parted.”
“How…” says Ondine, then pauses. “Hath any Pristine ever remained behind the hunt?
“Remain they might,” says the sluagh, spitting to the cobbled street. “Fooled by love or lust or arrogance.”
“Could… they survive here?”
“Aye, they could. Were it not for the Kaezalgith that comes with the Hunt. But you know this, Pristine. It seeks out kin such as you. Bound by ancient duty. It is its reason for existence. It must slay kin, as many as it can, as quickly as it can.”
“Can the Kaezalgith be vanquished?”
The sluagh laughs, a guttural choke that leaves small pearls of spit on her lips. She squints and sniffs.
“Not by one such as you. It is the hunter, you are the prey.”
The sluagh turns her head side on to squint. She opens her mouth and her tongue slips out, long and narrow, grey and covered in pustules. It probes outward, at least a foot long, tickling the air, and Ondine takes a step back. The tongue is drawn in slowly, a subtle sucking noise as the sluagh closes her mouth.
“I can taste this place on you. It’s infected you. Stained you. Pristine one, you do not belong here. Ride with the Hunt to your next life.”
The glimmer burns within Ondine. She was foolish to come here, to be lectured by a servile thing.
“What’s led one such as you to wish to remain?” asks the Sluagh.
Ondine doesn’t answer. The rain has picked up and with it a cold wind surges through the alleyway. She turns and moves away.
“Remain if you will, but you wish death upon yourself!”
Ondine opens the door to her apartment, basking in the glow of glimmer. It courses in her veins, hot and sticky, sprinkled with a scent new and fresh, of cookies and the chemical smell of cheap plastic toys. Even after eleven years in this place, she still finds ways to surprise herself.
On the tube home she watched a father and a little boy. A beautiful boy with deep dark eyes and dusky skin like Aryalaan had on their last hunt in Oakland. The boy had been playing peekaboo with his father on the tube, and Ondine had smiled, tasting the glimmer as it seeped from his smiles and giggles.
He’d looked at her, briefly, and his smile folded into a cheeky pout. Ondine lifted her newspaper up, then lowered it slowly so that her eyes caught his. He’d burst out in a peal of giggles and his father shushed him, but he smiled at Ondine.
She’d lapped up the glimmer, feeling it sink within her skin.
She’d taken away some of his smile, and for the rest of the time they were together on the tube he was quieter. The boy’s father had stared at Ondine. What would he do if he could see through her disguise? She could slip free of it if she wished, she could have done so at any time these past eleven years. It would be quite a shock for the father and the boy, as well as the other commuters.
To see a being made of light sitting across from them with a newspaper in her lap.
Ondine drops her keys on the table by the door, next to the photo of her and Jamie. A note waits there, and she unfolds the paper. He’s such an old soul, writing notes, but she loves it.
Will be late babe, they had to re-shoot, so I’ll be in edit all night. Let me get back to you about Wednesday? X
She sets the note down and in doing so knocks a pile of dance music magazines onto the floor. Addressed to James Stelter, they’re still in their plastic wrapping, waiting to be read – or more likely, tossed eventually into the recycling bin.
Beneath the magazines are papers and documents from his work, notebooks and crumpled up pieces of paper as well as piles of cassettes and tapes containing countless footage from shoots he’s done. Underneath it all are his decks.
She tidies up a little, moving the papers into a single pile and throwing out the obvious rubbish. She organizes the tapes and looks at the decks, dusty now. There were many times when he’d be there at the apartment, playing records as they drank wine and ate cheese and talked about the future and everything that lay ahead until the dawn nudged them into bed.
Ondine walks through the kitchen and opens the door to the balcony. The air is cool and washed clean, London’s smog drained and distilled around. She listens as kids play in the courtyard below their flat and she gazes west, watching planes drift in, heading to Heathrow. The sun is hidden behind a patchwork mess of clouds, pockets of yellow and pink blazing out behind.
Many times, she and Jamie sat out here, snuggled under a blanket, buzzing as the club fever ended, watching the days come to life. They’d kiss and shiver and joke and giggle.
“Would you love me, no matter what?” she would ask, playing a game where they would make silly propositions.
“Of course, love, you know I would,” he answered.
“What if I was a puffer fish?”
“Ondine, you would be an amazing puffer fish! The best puffer fish in the world, I’m certain.”
“You’d flush me down the toilet.” She nudged his side.
“Nonsense.” He bit her lip. “You’d be the pièce de résistance of the home.”
“You’d eat me? Don’t you know what that means! I’m poisonous, don’t you know?”
“No, sorry love. No, I promise I would never eat you. I’d give you a huge tank. One of those marvelous ones with pebbles and a little castle for you to swim in. All our friends would come over and you’d do loop-de-loops to entertain us,”
“I’m skeptical,” she said, kissing his nose. “Ok, my turn.”
He pulled her body close, making exaggerated motions with his head as he thought of his proposition.
“Okay. Got it,” he said. “What if I was one inch tall?”
“It’s completely acceptable for the man to be shorter.”
“Would we still go clubbing? How would that work?”
Ondine reached over and pulled a soggy matchbox off the deck.
“I’d keep you in a matchbox. I’d find a good spot for us and you could sit in that.”
“You’d forget about me and go dance. Some big guy would sit on me and squish me. He’d probably fart on me too – the audacity! That’d be it. Poor teensy-tinsy squished Jamie!”
“Well, I’d still keep you forever. I’d press you between the pages of a book, like a beautiful rose.”
“A dead rose! You’re rather morbid, do you know?”
“Yes,” she said, a serious look on her face. “I think you’d be better as a fish.”
He made fishlike sucking motions with his mouth and covered her face and neck with kisses.
High above a jet flies over on its way to Heathrow, interrupting Ondine’s thoughts. Its lights flash as it traces the way west.
She sips her cold tea, watching the last day fade.
Jamie comes home late and wakes Ondine although she doesn’t let him know. He’s being as quiet as he can, padding from the hallway to the bathroom, then back again, then back to the bathroom. She hears him brush his teeth and she glances at the time. 3:22.
He settles into bed, lifting the blankets tenderly. Ondine listens as he settles in place, shifting about once or twice before settling still. Then he stiffens up.
“You up?” he murmurs.
“Yes, love.” She turns around.
“Did I wake you? Sorry.”
“No.” She rubs his chest. “It’s fine. I was half-awake.”
“How was the market?”
He yawns and turns around.
“Yeah. Sort of. Well, no. This job is a nightmare. Might have to shoot again.”
She stares at the ceiling, watching beams glow in and out with the car headlights reflected from the street below.
“Do you ever think you’ll play your decks again?”
He shuffles a bit.
“Your decks. It’s been ages since you’ve played.”
He’s silent for a moment. What’s going on inside his thoughts?
“I don’t know. It’s been so long. I probably can’t even remember how.”
“I loved to listen to you play.”
He kisses her and yawns. “Maybe soon. When all these gigs are done. And if we can hire some new people for edit.”
“Sounds perfect,” she says, although her voice quakes.
Soon his breathing slows to a rhythmic rise and she reaches out, connecting with his glimmer.
Its tenderness and scent are familiar, a trace of cologne on a favorite shirt. She takes a little, just the smallest amount, but she holds it within her, like sand picked up from a beach. She infuses it with glimmer that she’s held onto throughout the day and she passes this to him.
She wonders if his dreams have changed, become miraculous or bizarre. She turns around and snuggles close, spooning his body with hers. He’s hot and large and heavy and she reaches her fingers up and around his shoulders, placing one hand on his chest.
She feels his heart beat and she listens to his breathing and she waits to fall asleep.
Aryalaan is drunk, swaggering about the apartment. He sings along to the vocals of the track as he reaches the kitchen. Amara averts her eyes and sips at her wine. Others are there. All the cousins, the group that’s dubbed itself the Club Fiends.
“All right,” slurs Aryalaan. “Time for the big guns,”
He returns with a dark bottle, plonking it down on the table and falling awkwardly into his chair.
Ondine considers him, noticing how much he’s changed.
It’s been a while since she’s seen him, three or so years, given he’d been touring clubs and parties around the world.
There’s still that remarkable look that he chose for this life. Piercing blue eyes and white-blonde hair, the prominent brow and long narrow nose. The rest of him though, seems unrecognizable. In this hunt, Aryalaan stuck to his playbook, creating and living a life of success. Peak physical condition and of course, another DJ. His stage name was Kaeralla, a foolish play on the Kaezalgith, but one that resonated with the period.
He’d stopped touring a year or so ago, and from what she could imagine, he’d spent that time indulging in every way possible. Whereas before Aryalaan looked like the quintessential stereotypical Greek god physique, he now was haggard and pale, his skin loose and splotchy.
“This wine cost four thousand pounds.” He pops the cork, pausing a moment before lifting the tip to his lips. He takes a sip.
Ondine sips at her own wine and checks the time, anxious to get away. It’s almost midnight and the tubes will stop soon. She wonders if she can slip away, but then Aryalaan catches her looking.
“Ondine!” he yells, pouring a glass. “Another goblet, come on, don’t be coy.
“Stick around,” purrs Amara. “It’s our second last night here.”
Ondine takes a drink and enjoys the flavour. It’s incredible, but then, she’s had so many incredible wines before she’s not even sure she cares anymore.
She tries to listen as the others talk, bragging about the debauchery and wildness they’ve enjoyed, especially these last few years. Eventually, the conversation shifts to the return of the hunt, and the plans for the next ride.
“It’s got to be something to mean something.” Aryalaan swigs a thousand pounds of wine in one go, half of it staining his beard and chin.
“And what… exactly does that mean?” asks Ondine. She checks her phone. 12:12. No messages from Jamie, but it’s too late for the tube now. She sips more wine.
“Next time round, I’m all work,” says Aryalaan. “Not like this time. I wasted half of this ride.”
The bathroom door opens and Edosio steps out, sniffing loudly and wiping his nose and mouth. He moves awkwardly to the table and downs his wine. He flashes a big smile at his cousins.
“Well,” he whispers. “I’m going to get in one last kill,”
The others shout and jeer and he holds his hands up, like a comedian calming an audience.
“Relax, relax. I stick to my mantra. Killers. Rapists. Creeps. I only drain the bad ones.”
“You’re starting to make the news good sir! How many have you slain?” laughs Aryalaan as Edosio opens the door, but no answer comes.
Ondine curses herself, chiding herself for missing the last tube. She flips open her phone and sends a text to the minicab service. Why did she stick around, on this, so near the end? Jamie might be home. She moves to the window and stares out at the London skyline, looking out at the newly constructed Gherkin tower, still seeming so out of place.
She opens the door to the balcony and steps out, amazed to find that it’s warm. Typical London weather.
“Hey,” comes Amara’s voice and she steps outside with a crystal pipe.
She lights up, some mixture of drugs within blazing into a thick smoke. Amara swallows it and looks at her cousin, her eyelids half shut over black orbs.
“Have you said goodbye?” asks Amara.
Ondine blinks, tears welling in her eyes.
“How can I leave him?” she asks.
Amara places the pipe on the balcony edge and reaches out to hug Ondine. She opens her spirit and Ondine feels her cousin’s glimmer, silver-bright, ancient and pure. She’s known this longer than anything, and yet she finds herself imagining this might be the last time she’ll know it.
Her phone buzzes and she wipes her eyes.
“You will remain?” asks Amara.
“I don’t know.”
“It will destroy you! And if it does not, how will you survive? We’re not from this place.”
“I have to go,” she says, moving inside to grab her coat. “I’ll see you at the Hunt.”
Amara follows her to the front door as the rest of the cousins remain distracted by the opulence of their feast.
“See you tomorrow,” says Amara, “Be safe, cousin.”
Ondine takes the elevator down and crosses the small park to where the minicab awaits. She’s astounded by the scent of jasmine all around. The flowers on the trellises have bloomed and she steps closer, breathing in the thick fragrance.
She places her headphones on in the car, plays one of her favorite mixes. She skips through tracks, fiddling around, trying to find a song that will make her feel the way she wants to feel. It’s one of her favorite CDs, but every song seems wrong.
Nothing seems right.
She’s sure the music is fine. It’s her that isn’t right.
The sound of the rave shakes the streets as Ondine draws near. It’s almost midnight and a few stragglers hang outside. Their glimmer glistens, amplified by drugs and excitement. She sips a little as she passes, stifling a laugh at the odd expressions they make as she moves by them.
She goes through the doors, nodding briefly at a burly man who might be security or might just be a burly man. Inside the music is pulsing, jittery beats smashing through speakers positioned all over the place.
It’s hot inside, and the place is going off already. Aryalaan is here somewhere, and it’s probably him up on the decks, working the crowd up for one last time before he leaves this world forever.
Ondine passes by a group of young lads, barely more than teens as they flash beady-eyed looks around them. One of them catches her eye and turns away, then whispers something to the others. They look too young to be selling, but he approaches her anyway.
“All right, luv.”
Ondine smiles “How are you, dear?”
“Good, luv, good. Err, me mates and I was wonderin’, if you, erm, if you got any pills?”
Ondine shakes her head and reaches out, touching him on the cheek, letting a little glimmer pass from her to him. His cheeky smile disappears, and he starts nodding his head, and moving his arms in time with the music. His friends scurry over to him, but Ondine moves on, slipping away.
The music is louder here, layered beats driving electronic rhythms through the floorboards and up her legs. She senses it within, a coiled energy strobing bright. She opens herself up, reaching out to taste the glimmer of the bodies around her.
It was like this that first night here. It’s like this every night in every time and place they’ve lived. The Hunt sending the cousins spilling out into some smoky band hall, a pulsing club or even a wild outdoor feast lit by fire. Every time, a new adventure, a new chance for the cousins to live a hedonic new life.
And yet… this time had been different. She had of course had lovers before, and had been in love many times, yet when the time came for the Hunt to return, Ondine had always found herself able to cast free and leave with her cousins.
There’s a pulsing blare and a moment of silence as the DJ leaves the energy hanging. Then it slams into place with a thundering bass line that sets the throng around her roaring with passion.
Ondine looks at her watch. It’s almost midnight. She goes to the stage, where she knows the others will be.
She spots them off to the side, where a corridor leads away, half filled with smoke and buzzing lights. She senses a difference in the air, a tension that marks the threading of two times.
Her cousins notice her and beckon her over.
“I know you know I think you’re making a stupid mistake,” says Aryalaan, glancing from Amara to Ondine as he simultaneously saps glimmer from a young woman dancing nearby.
“It’s not like the other times,” she answers.
“He best be worth it.”
Ondine takes a deep breath. A song has come on, a familiar electronic melody that lilts and sighs, glimmering around her.
Aryalaan stares a moment and then nods, taking her hand and leaning in close.
“Farewell cousin,” he says.
“Farewell Aryalaan.” Ondine leans in to kiss his cheek.
“Be careful,” he whispers, then touches her chin.
She gasps as she feels the rush of glimmer pouring from his hand to her, as fast as a river current. It causes her to tremble, her knees weak a moment until she holds onto it, guides the energy within her, ripe with the scent of her cousin.
“You’ll need everything you’ve got – and more – to have any chance against the monster.”
He turns away, disappearing in the smoke.
“You’re sure about this?” asks Amara, placing her hands in Ondine’s.
A new feeling fills the air around them, something that makes Ondine tense up. A presence, or the feeling of absence before something.
“I’m sure,” she says.
“What will you do” asks Edosio. “When it comes?”
“I’ll fight, I guess,” says Ondine, but her heart shakes and trembles.
“But even if you slay it… what happens then? You’re not mortal. You’re not even human. We don’t age on our rides. We don’t even know if we can age! What if you live forever? You’ll lose him then. Is this what you want?”
She swallows and nods, although she has no knowledge of what will happen next. Even if she defeats the Kaezalgith, she’s not sure what could happen. If she’ll just wink out of existence one day, if she’ll have to watch Jamie grow old and die, or even if the whole world simply ends once the Hunt has departed.
Amara breaks the silence.
“Hey, she’s made her choice. Let’s support that.”
One by one, her cousins kiss her cheeks, pouring their glimmer to her until she’s filled with so much that she’s sure she must be glowing. She watches as they move down the corridor. Amara goes last, holding Ondine’s hands tightly for a moment.
“Be well,” she whispers, the words clear on her lips although the sound is lost in the music.
Then she’s gone and Ondine begins to shake, lost in a sea of ravers.
The music’s shifted with a new DJ on decks. Staccato drums kick their way through driving bass that comes and goes in gradually rising notes before cutting away. The crowd is focused, and quiet, heads down and feet shuffling, dancing in concentration, waiting for the beat to drop.
Ondine moves closer to the stage, giddy with the glimmer within her. It’s too hot, too viscous. She feels it spilling from her hands and fingers, she senses traces of it left in the footsteps behind her. Some of it passes from her to the ravers around her and as the music shifts with beams of melody she senses the vibe shift, a positivity and energy that lifts her up.
Come to watch me die, no doubt.
She checks her phone, but there’s no reception inside this old building. She begins to make her way to the entry again, to see if she picks up any bars. She passes by a group of redcaps who snigger and point to her. She glares at them and moves closer.
Come to watch a pristine die.
“Got any glimmer to give?” she hisses, and they scatter away, moving through the throng.
As she gets closer to the door her phone vibrates and she checks it. A message sent an hour ago, but she’s only just received it. It’s from Jamie.
Almost there babe, come find me?
She types a text and hits send, but the reception has gone again and the message hangs on pending. She’s so focused on the phone that she doesn’t realize at first that the temperature has dropped. Her skin shudders with goosebumps and she turns.
Across the sea of moving bodies floats a bulbous shape, hovering half above the crowd. She’s certain that mortals cannot see it, or if they can it would perhaps seem little more than the intersection of shadow and light. If they could see it, they’d likely think they’d indulged a little too much in chemicals or alcohol.
The Kaezalgith glares at her, its many eyes small pits of darkness, deep as wells. Staring at them makes Ondine’s body tighten up, shivers jolting her as if she’d fallen into a cold lake. Pulses flare along its bulbous crown, and she catches a glimpse of the parts that hang beneath it. Snaking tendrils hooked with barbs and claws.
A wave of energy smacks her, stinging her face. The Kaezalgith makes no sound, but its rage and hunger are recognizable. It draws closer and Ondine turns this way and that.
She reaches out, drawing on the glimmer. She’s been pooling it all night, and it’s coiled up tight inside, hot and bright.
She sends a spear of light flying. It passes through the dancers – causing them no harm – and strikes the Kaezalgith. The monster’s eyes flare ember red for a moment and it collapses upwards, inverting up to the roof. She sees that its shape is like a jellyfish, the tendrils lead to a ragged maw, lined with row upon row of jagged teeth.
It rights itself and flares bright again. The dancers can sense that something isn’t right although they can’t possibly understand what. They begin to shout and jeer, pushing and moving, sensing the presence that now has a clear path to Ondine. She grits her jaw and begins to form a new spear of light when the Kaezalgith quivers and collapses in on itself. She catches a glimpse of its shape elongating, stretching out into something roughly humanoid before it drops and disappears into the throng.
Ondine readies herself, her eyes finding the spaces in the bodies that heave around her. Goosebumps tickle her skin and she holds the glimmer tight, a terrible sinking sensation in her stomach growing.
Then a hand reaches through, its skin pale white and marked by spiderwebs of red, a mesh of blood vessels almost set to burst. It shoves a dancer roughly and another hand appears, then another and another still. Many hands, porcelain white and too narrow, too long, tipped with bony fingers and sharp claws. The Kaezalgith forces its way closer. Its face too long, more a dog’s maw than a man’s, foul yellow eyes filled with hate.
Ondine pulls her arm high, the glimmer tightly packed in her fist. As the monster emerges she throws her hand forward.
Everything happens in an instant. From the corner of her eye she sees Jamie pushing his way toward her, unaware of the monster before them. Ondine shrieks as the jostling crowd moves and she is knocked off balance, falling forward to the concrete floor. Feet step on her, sending bolts of pain as she scrambles to get up.
The Kaezalgith falls upon Jamie, its hands wrapped around his body and neck. He gasps in shock, his eyes widening such that the whites are visible.
“You right, mate?” asks a woman, her hands reaching through the Kaezalgith to grab Jamie’s shoulder as his eyes roll back and he lets out an awful croaking groan.
Ondine shrieks, pulling in a pool of glimmer, then unleashing it.
The Kaezalgith’s hands sweep up and it drops Jamie, who slumps to his knees, coughing and retching. The monster hisses, and its eyes flash, a myriad of color, the stench of its rage and hunger clouding the hall.
I can’t stop it alone.
Fear wracks Ondine. Why did she bring Jamie here? Will it slay her, then kill everyone else? She can’t let that happen, even if it means the end for her.
As the Kaezelgith lashes out she opens her spirit and lets the glimmer surge outward, a force that flares from her finger tips. The crowd roars and shouts as the glimmer fuses and meshes with the bodies and spirits around her, building upon itself, creating a cascading wave.
Beams of color smash into the Kaezalgith, violet and gold, ombre and emerald. Whoops and cries echo in time with the music, the dancers sensing something incredible happening in this moment. The monster’s eyes flashing red then yellow then black. It gazes at Ondine with a hatred so powerful it makes her gasp, the last of the glimmer falling from her.
Sparkling lines appear on its side, tears in its skin that widen in brilliant gaps. A final roar of rage bursts from it and then it explodes, glimmer flooding outward.
Ondine falls to her knees by Jamie who’s being looked at by a man and a woman. They’re helping him stand and the man gives Jamie a drink of water.
“He seems okay, he might have had too much,” says the woman.
“He’s with me, I’ll look after him,” says Ondine, reaching her arms around Jamie’s shoulders. She leads him to the sheltered spot where she said farewell to her cousins. She helps him up onto a throbbing speaker and places her hands on his face, peering into his eyes, rubbing his cheeks.
“Love,” says Jamie, slowly focusing on her. “There was… what happened?”
“Sshh,” she says. “I think you just got too hot in there. You’re okay, you’re okay now, love.”
She checks him over, touching his face, his arms, his neck. There’s no sign of injury, at least nothing she can see.
“Man, I’m too old for this, I guess,” he says, running a hand through his hair then clapping his thighs.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” he says. “Where’s Amara and the others?”
Ondine looks to the corridor where her friends departed. The smoke has faded now, and she knows there’s nothing that way anymore.
“They’ve… gone,” she says.
“Oh really? They left early. That’s not like them.”
She smiles and blinks, tears welling up.
“Hey,” he says, and looks at her, his eyes darting between hers. “Hey. You okay?
Ondine smiles, and she kisses him on the lips.
“I’m okay,” she says and reaches forward.
“Wanna jet? We can go home. We’re too old for this place anyway. I’ll dust off the decks, play you something. Maybe we can watch the sunrise?”
She smiles and leans into him, taking his hands, twines her fingers between his. They’re warm, hot even, against the chill of the club. They’re his, and they’re hers and that’s something.
This story previously appeared in Smashwords 2019.
Edited by Marie Ginga