This is a fragment I wrote as a character study between two of the protagonists of my planned work Stranders, that’s set in the same world as that of the three robots, but a few centuries in the future. Here another piece in the same venue.
This wall holds two girls apart, each of them has a side.
It’s winter and soft snow is raining down from the dark heavens. A torch scatters light between the dashes of snow and the stones and the patches of blood. The wind carries a twin set of heaving breaths.
One of the girl holds a spear. She hangs onto it like you hold on to truth. The other one has no weapon in her hand but there’s a barbed whip limp by her side.
The first girl opens her mouth and at the light of the torch her breath jumps out like an eager cloud.
She closes her lips.
Opens them again.
“Are you trying to say something stupid now?” The other one asks. She sighs and stands up, her head rises above the wall. She’s tall and thin and yet not frail, her body is half-covered in ragged veils of clothes and fur. What can be seen beneath is olive skin marred by many scars, not all of them new, so that most of her body looks like a pattern left by drunken spiders, trying to reconcile their different views on how to build a web.
Most prominent, a pair of deer-like horns rise from her forehead.
She raises a hand to part a few locks of jet-black hair and then brushes against the base of her horns. It’s a habit by now.
“I was thinking about…” the first girl says. Her voice is half-broken. She rises as well. She takes off her tall silver helm, showing red hair and olive eyes, a dash of freckles still visible. “I wanted you back, Isa.”
“We can’t all… It’s not something that can happen. You should stick with your own, Dana.”
“I can’t! Not when I know you are out there… alone and among savages.”
“I am leading those savages. To victory, if good luck and a better plan serve. And you are asking me to let it all go now. How very convenient.”
“It’s not that. It’s not that and you know it, don’t twist my words! I miss you. Why can’t the world be just like it used to be back home? Why can’t it be the three of us once again?”
“Do you have functioning eyes?” Isa points at her horns, then growls and jumps over the wall with one swift movement. Her boots explode snow all around her feet as she lands right in front of her. “Can you see where we are, in some other place from home? So far we had to all learn a different language? These are the first words in Italian I can share with you after all this time and I hate it because they are stupid!”
She pokes at her breastplate with one of her fingers. Her hardened nail tinkles against hardened steel.
“All you want is to play hero while you say up there coddled in that tower of yours, and then when you get down on my level, between the snow and the blood, that’s when you demand to run my life? After… after you disappeared? After you left me alone? I was supposed to protect you, Dana! Wasn’t that what I always said?”
Dana stumbles back. Her armor scratches against the wall, scattering snowflakes. She holds her spear, and Isa is so close, and so apparently unarmored. It would be so easy to keep her at distance, to threaten her with a bite of steel. But she’s not sure simple steel can pass through Isa’s skin and bones, not after what she did to herself.
The horns are new. The eyes, black sclerae with golden pupils rolling in them like poodles of molten gold, are new as well. This is definitely not the same girl she shared years in the orphanage with.
But the tone, the tension in her voice, the hurt in her eyes… those are the same.
And all her strength poofs away under that gaze.
“I didn’t… I had no idea you were still alive! And when I did found you were, you had chosen to side with the enemy!”
“Listen to yourself!” She cups her cheeks and it’s the first time in months she has felt that touch, and oh… oh it’s so soothing even if her hands are cold and her skin is so coarse from all the ritual scarring and there’s a literal devil talking to her, she’s still her best friend in the world. “Listen to what you are saying? You have no right to come here and tell me what to do or how to live my life! Not after you have been coddled like a princes for all this time! Come live with me in the taiga for a few weeks and you will understand why we are trying to gather fresher crops!
“We? We? Look at you! You have become a monster! A scarred terror that kills soldiers with her dark arts! Is that your version of ‘your life’? I will not allow you to destroy it! You have to come back with me! We will find a way to cure you! To make you whole again.”
Doubt flashes over the feral features of the horned girl.
Her face distends.
Something like a grin displays sharp canines and an even sharper mind.
“By that, did you mean you don’t like me anymore?”
“Huh?” Dana is taken by surprise. She can’t reply, her armor scratches against the wall. Isa chuckles and imprisons her between her arms. They are white and thin lines of reconstructed skin hold her like steel beams.
Speaking of which, her spear is forgotten, a simple line of metal that cannot protect her. Not from that smile.
It never did, actually.
Not when they were all still back at the orphanage, not when they used to still be friends, in a simples life, the three of them. Eve and Dana and… and Isa.
“Because I thought you could be persuaded…” a long finger trails down her cheek. Dana shudders. It’s been such a long time… a part of her really would wish to peer through the deformed skin that holds her old friend back.
Another part knows that there’s nothing to take back. This is Isa now. This is her true form. The new world has just given her a better chance to become what she had always wanted to be, this monster all teeth and skin and bones and dangerously tingly smiles that draw her breath straight out of her lungs.
“N-no,” Dana whispers.
“Good,” the other replies and brushes her lips with her own.
It’s not a kiss. Not really. It’s a sharing of breath. Their eyes are upon each other, normal healthy olive and supernatural golden in an ocean of black. This is the transformed, twisted form of her friend. And yet she smells like home.
The same feeling of cutting grass, of lying down under the shadow of trees to hear the echoes of her heart.
And the blood reflected upon her cuirass is not entirely her own.
It stops mattering when Isa’s other hand cups her cheek. It looks like she’s looking for something in her eyes, like she’s the monster.
“It’s you,” she says at last, withdrawing her lips just about enough to say so. “Come with me. Come with me into the winter, Dana. Become who you were always supposed to be. Together we will run free. Together we will find Eve. Together we will swallow the sun.”
Her heart tugs towards the creature in front of her.
It’s being pulled apart.
Her lips open. Isa’s head tilts. Her breath smells like iron.
“I don’t think I am big enough for that,” she purses her lips in a sad smile.
Author’s notes: I still feel like a bit of an ass. I really like this dynamic and I am a sucker for lovers on opposite sides of a conflict, it’s one of my favorite tropes. I hope I will be able to work with these characters soon enough… I hope you liked this little foray. Thanks for reading!