The Disappearance of Mara Treves – Horror Short Story 3/10

Mara opened her eyes and darkness rushed in as eager as the tide.

She blinked to break through the cobwebs of black that hid the Deep to her sight, taking in a long breath and allowing the wrinkles of the world to get used to her presence, to her shape, lest they impose their shape into her. Her hands held onto something slick, an umbilical cord that reached up and up in the blind sky above, skin glistening with amniotic wetness as a milk-like glow began to spread from below.

Always like this, she mused. She tugged at the cord, sprouting from where her belly-button used to be, tugging her scar into a distorted shape, but it held fast and clear and no pain rose from her pulled skin, which meant that for the time being at the very least she was safe.

Thus began her descent; palm by palm she pulled her dead weight down into the bowels of the Deep, past the lactose clouds breaking now into the high ceiling of a ballroom as drunken echoes of music broke upon the shore of her hearing, on and off and on and off again. The floor pressed up against her foot – Mara let go of the cord and she stood up in the suffuse twilight. Then she reached for her chest and carved out her pulsating heart, glowing in waves of red and crimson; she coiled her arteries around the umbilical cord and she was settled. Under the light of her inside organs, she could see through the mists of the Deep, spanning for a few hundred steps in every direction.

The distorted music bubbled higher; Mara stepped forward on the floor, a chess-pattern that lost itself to oblivion. Ahead, turning upon itself under the throbbing light of her heart, two figures danced like an eel twisting around a hook. Mara frowned. She was already so close. When she told Caterina she was out of practice, it was not just to oversell her services.

The Deep pressed against her blood with all the strength of an encroaching sea – just as capricious. It was a bit strange to find her quarry so quickly.

A reason for alarm?
Mara stopped. Her gaze wandered towards the hem of her shirt. No.
There was no reason for fear.

On she went. Music grating in yowls against her ears by now – it might have sounded sweet to the owner of this blood, but to hers it more like drowning bells and by now it ought to be just a burning memory. The couple was blurred, as if seen through a wet window. Him wearing a white dress, her a black one. Dancing against each other, to a time out of tune and out of reach. Such was the nature of the Deep. Shriveled skin hung from their faces, flapping and brushing one hem with the other. They kissed, if rubbing flesh against flesh was a kiss.

She shook her head. Such a pointless thing, really. She let go of her umbilical cord – it hung alone in the darkness. With her free hand she reached for his body, dragging away red filaments out of the blurred man.

Let’s see where you met me, she thought. The red danced on her palm, but after a bit it got used to her touch and it twinned itself into a crimson string. She followed it, bringing her away from the dancing couple and down, down, down. The music dulled, turning into a dusty echo, then to a faint ghost at the edge of her ears, then to nothing. Marble and obsidian tassels twisted into a spiraling stair that gobbled her shivering heartlight. Just to make sure, she tugged on her umbilical cord. Still taut.

Just to make sure.

It had been a few months since she has last seen… her. She winced as her stomach twisted in ache and her scar knotted with memories of her impromptu abortion.

But so far so good.

The stairs unfurled into a lower hall, one full of people dressed in black and white clothes. Their faces and figures far crisper than the apparition of the lovers – as it was to be expected. The man that, a few levels above, was lying in his endless torpor on his deathbed stood now amidst the others, tied to the red string just as Mara was to her umbilical cord.

She walked amidst the figures in the hall, all of them raising their hands to the ceiling or maybe to the unseen sky, praying for something, to something. With each step the smoky echoes parted and reformed – it was like walking in a field of reeds. Caterina’s father stood next to another, smaller person. Through his mask and cloak looked far greyer and more wrinkled than he was now.

She frowned. No wonder he was pulled under.

Mara pushed her heart back into her body. She needed both hands and far less light for this; the glow of her heartbeat still scattered shadows through her ribcage and it was thanks to that she caught movement at the end of the hall.

Not again, she scowled, lifting one hand to push the scene away.
Once more the crowd parted like reeds – not thanks to her arrival, but to her coming.

A tall man wearing red robes walked in front of six others clad in white. He lifted his arms.

No voice caught to her ears, only the faint echoes of the music from the upper level. The face of the Master was just as sharp as ever, in his eyes the same tenderness she used to see every day when he turned to welcome her in to a further Communion.

On a bed of flowers and seashells, the six carriers offered her closer.

Mara watched her own body, insensate like flotsam waltzed off in a current. Her hair used to be much longer, touching the tip of her ankles and surrounding her in a brown halo. Her olive eyes looked up, vitreous and opaque. Her arms had already been prepared, lying lightly spread at her sides, thin IVs sprouting from them in a mockery of roots, each of them already crimson with her pure, throbbing Rubedo.

The crowd kneeled. Their hands lifted upwards, held in a cup, flowers ready to receive their nectar. Her stomach churned.
The Master smiled and passed a finger down her cheek. He was probably praising her.
Or her blood.

Which was the same.

She had no memories of Communions, and only since the accident had been able to reach them through the Deep, but it did her little good.

Among the first figures in line for their precious drop was Caterina’s father. The Master took one of the IVs and gently opened the faucet at its end just enough to place a single vermillion drop upon his skin. The man turned for a moment to the figure to his left, brought his hands to his lips.

Mara did not waste time to see the effects – hair turning from grey to black, skin ironing to youth – she knew them far too well. Even through the barrier of dream and memory, something thrummed inside her as the man drank her. An attunement, echoing from one time to another. She lifted the red string and spread the fingers of her other hand like a pair of scissors.

Good riddance. Caterina would not be happy to see the effects, as he would give back his stolen years, with interests. But he would be free.

She snipped the thread. Its twin tails snaked to the floor. There.
It was over.
Now she could just climb back.

And again, no sight of the thing she had excised from her womb.

She could consider this a success.

But then Mara turned to glance at a shorter figure next to the man she had just cut from the Deep – and she froze.

“Caterina?” She whispered.


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