Friday, April 22, 2016

No Fate in Twilight

The world passed in bits and flashes: a dark suburban street here, then far behind him; a flash of dirt road, trees on either side, then gone; two footfalls on someone's front porch, before it was lost. Reality surged and flowed around him, and he navigated from island to island in its stream. It was a dangerous way to travel: one misstep, and he could be lost beyond any hope of salvation or retrieval. It was also very, very fast...

...And whatever, wherever it was, this path was also familiar to the things that hunted. He kept catching glimpses of them, sliding and bounding. They avoided the islands but slithered darkly through the stream. Or maybe it wasn't familiar to them. Maybe they were only following him, in the way that seemed most natural to them. Vilisant was suddenly afraid that he'd shown them how to do something that they hadn't known before.

He was inside a warehouse, then gone. He was in a field of high grasses, then gone. He took four steps down an office hallway, then launched himself again.

They were still behind, and he thought they were starting to wind around him. It felt dangerously as if they were becoming part of his path; as if the wild flow of places and spaces around him might suddenly reach up to pull him down, and that it would be them when it did.

His foot touched down in a parking lot, and he pivoted and changed directions completely. He had the brief impression of a dark blot spreading out over the pavement around him, but he was moving entirely in the physical world now. They might still be hunting him, but they couldn't pull him down. He put on a burst of speed, and moved clear of the area before they could emerge. He was spending his energy too fast; he needed blood to replenish it. He wouldn't tire, exactly, and he wouldn't slow; but when the blood ran out, he would stop. And he could feel his body contracting, the flesh withering as he burned through the blood it held.

The parking lot had been out on the edge of a city -- which city, he wasn't sure. He'd been trying to reach Twilight, and Twilight wasn't a city that aligned well with the geography of the real world. Still... having a city nearby was good. The lore of his clan said that once, long ago, the darkness had kept outposts and forts beneath every city and town, and the light had held their corresponding outposts just above them. The struggle between them had been steady, with raids and brawls often erupting into the mortal world. Then one of the Powers had intervened, pulling all those almost-places into a single, labyrinthine city, contiguous and coterminous with the real world but not quite a part of it. After the initial bloodshed, the intrusions of light and dark alike had given way to control by the half-human, once-human species that were and weren't part of the middle world, that were and weren't allied with either side. The city of Twilight, as unsettled and unruly as it might to be, was a balancing point between darkness and light, and a buffer that held them back from direct incursions into the mortal world.

Vilisant hated the place. But it would keep his pursuers off him, and it was easiest to reach from the heart of a city. It didn't matter which one.

Should he try to feed, or try to push through? If he could reach Twilight, he would be safe. Even if he couldn't feed there -- and he probably could -- his clan would find him, and provide for him. But he was hovering at the edge of his strength; if he needed anything extra, if he had to force his way past them, he would falter and fall.

I'll risk it, he decided. He would be in as much danger, or more, if they caught him while he was trying to feed. Better to get to safety first, and worry about feeding later. Damn that woman. If she'd come with me, we could have been gone and back to the citadel before those things ever arrived. He was already moving when another thought struck him, and he chuckled: Wouldn't the Oracle Shiran be surprised if he died on his way to Twilight, before ever marrying his destined bride?

He launched himself over a wall, landed softly on the other side, and remembered what the woman had intended for him. Maybe that would be for the better. The road ahead of him led towards the center of town, and he sprinted along it. For the dead travel fast, he thought. I just hope the dark don't travel any faster...

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