Penance
Part Five
Reese
By: Stephanie J. Bardy

The ride back to the house was silent save for the radio. Reese had made Chris turn off his music and just let the radio play in the background.

She stared out the window and watched the tree's whip by in a blur of green. She was angry at Chris, at the thought that he had actually disobeyed her. She had no mind control over him, and that caused her concern. If she could not control him with fear, then he would have to be eliminated and another guide would have to be chosen. The fact that she could not control him intrigued her, but she was beyond the mild curiosity it stirred at the moment. Reese needed to calm her anger and quiet her mind. She let herself actually listen to the words that the woman on the radio was singing. The beat had caught her attention.

"Blurring and stirring the truth and the lies (So I don't know what's real)

(So I don't know what's real and what's not)
(Don't know what's real and what's not)
Always confusing the thoughts in my head
So I can't trust myself anymore"

The words hit her like a wave, crashing into the last of her defences. She took a deep breath and fought the images that raced behind her eyes.

She let her hair fall forward hiding her face from Chris. Although, he was totally focused on the road and doing his best to not look at Reese or meet Marlon's eyes in the rear-view mirror. Marlon on the other hand had caught the sudden change in Reese's energy. It was darker, colder. He knew where the song was taking her.

"So go on and scream, scream at me

I'm so far away (So far away)
I won't be broken again (Again)
I've got to breathe
I can't keep going under

I'm dying again
I'm going under (Going under)
Drowning in you (Drowning in you)
I'm falling forever (Falling forever)
I've got to break through
I'm going under (Going under)
Going under (Drowning in you)
I'm going under"

He watched the side mirror. He had realized that he could see Reese's face in the mirror on the door. He watched her eyes close and knew she was reliving the pain. He didn't know the full scope of what she had endured before she had come to him, but he knew what she had suffered since. He was amazed that she had managed to hold onto any shred of her humanity. He pushed his energy at her, trying to surround her, to let her know she was not alone, but the song had done its damage. She was too far to reach now and all he could do was wait for her to come back.

They arrived at the house and the three entered.

"How do I make the little box in my room play that song?" she asked Chris, not meeting his eyes.

"You can't." he said simply.

Her eyes flashed with anger. "Make it play that song."

Chris swallowed hard and turned into the living room, he took his iPod out, punched a few buttons, and handed it to her along with headphones.

"Its on repeat. If you want to turn it off, just push this button." He turned and went to his room leaving Marlon and Reese alone.

Marlon moved towards her, and she recoiled.

"I only want to help." He said quietly.

"You can't. Not right now. I just need to be alone, with this song. These words have taken me to a time that I had long forgotten, a pain I no longer wished to feel." She replied. She had turned her back on him, which she didn't do unless she was hiding her feelings. He was always able to read her eyes. They never lied to him. He touched her shoulder and she jerked away.

"Don't." was all she managed before she fled.

Marlon stood riveted to his spot. The heat, the rage he had felt in that one touch had rocked him. The absolute despair that had overwhelmed the rage had almost brought him to his knees. He heard her door upstairs close and knew he would not see her again until morning. If even, then. She had never fled from him. She had never had that wild frightened look in her eyes before. Had never felt so broken.

Reese collapsed against the door as she shut it softly. Her heart still raced and that long ago fear coursed through her. She swallowed a few times before attempting to move. It had consumed her with a few simple lines of a song. That had never happened before. Not in any of the time she had been listening to music. The words had never touched her, never made her feel, never made her remember.

She sat on the bed and looked at the little square device in her hand. Faintly she could hear sound coming from the pieces she had seen Chris put in his ears when he wanted to block out her and Marlon. She placed one in her ear and the music poured into her. She put the other one in and lay back on her bed.

She stared at the ceiling and listened.

The urge to scream welled up inside her and she knew she had to get out of the house. She grabbed her coat, pulled on the boots that Chris had picked up for her and headed down the stairs. Marlon was sitting in a chair by the fire and immediately stood.

"Where are you going?" he asked nervously.

"Out." Was all she said before she bolted out the back door. She had reached a full run by the time she reached the tree line and when Marlon reached the kitchen she was nowhere to be seen.

She ran until she ran out of ground to run on. She stopped just short of the edge of the cliff. The wind whipped her hair around her face and buffeted against her. The song, that damnable song, still played in her ears.

She opened her mouth and what she thought was going to be a scream came out as a wounded wail. She drew a breath and again the sound came. Over and over until she fell to her knees. She clawed the ground, she pounded her legs and howled at the powers that be. Every pain she had ever felt, every hurt, every piece that had been ripped from her escaped in that wail. She had put sound to the broken pieces inside her.

Her voice had gone hoarse, and her face was streaked with dirt and tears. She sat, legs hanging over the edge of the cliff, hair still blowing about her face. Her soul felt a bit calmer now. She looked at the sky above her, the land below her and spoke.

"How? How could you let me survive? Have I been so bad, so evil, so ugly, that I must continue to pay the penance you have laid out for me?"

No answer came, only the shriek of an eagle as it flew over.

She could think rationally now, the pain had been pushed back down. Think back to the worst of the pain.

The night had been like any other, and it was unlike any before. For she had no recollection of anything before that night. She had been walking, along a riverbank, but her memory tended to cloud that part so it could have been the shores of a lake. She had felt a hand, on her shoulder, maybe on her arm, and she had fallen.

When she had come too, she had been laid out on a marble table, hand and feet tied so she was spread eagle. Naked. She was surrounded by cloaks. By ominous faceless black holes. All chanting and moving around her.

The Mother of All Creatures they had called her. She had screamed that they were wrong, that she was nothing, nobody. They didn't listen.

The cloaks had parted and 6 had stepped forward. One wore the head of a wolf, one had blood smeared across his face, another wore the skin of a human, knit with the skin of an animal. A woman stepped forth with strange symbols carved into her skin. Another carried fire, and the last was painted with blue designs.

Each carried a curved blade. They glistened in the firelight. Hands caressed her body, and she begged them to stop. Her pleas fell on deaf ears as they no longer saw her as human but as a means to further their own power. She was the catalyst they needed, the human sacrifice that would appease their Master and grant them the powers of the immortals they had only heard whispers about.

Werewolf, Vampire, Shapeshifter, Witch, Phoenix and Jinn. Each held certain powers, and each was desired by one of the six. They had hoped to retain all the powers within themselves but knew that one could not hold such greatness without succumbing to madness. They had researched and knew that little pieces would allow them a small taste of that magic. If ingested correctly, then they would become immortal and that which they sought.

Reese writhed and strained against the ties that bound her. She begged, bargained, and pleaded but to no avail.

The men took their turn with her, marking her with their seed, bruising her flesh in their intensity. The woman stood at Reese's head and stroked her hair the entire time. Encouraging the men, kissing Reese from time to time, laughing at her pain. Eventually Reese had just shut down. Mentally she was broken, her body having been broken long before that. When she no longer fought, no longer pulled at the ropes, they stopped. They needed her complete surrender.

They needed the absolute breaking of her spirit. The loss of her faith was the last piece, the remaining ingredient that they needed.

The woman turned Reese's face to look up at her.

"Open your eyes." She demanded.

Reese did as she was told. She looked up at the woman but didn't see her. She was no longer there.

The woman looked up at the men. "She is ready."

Each of the six removed their blades and each, in unison, cut a piece of Reese's flesh. Perfect circles about the size of a cherry.

Reese shrieked in pain. Her blood ran and dripped off the edge of the marble slab. She fought again. This time she knew she was fighting for her life. Her body began to glow and burn as they touched her. Each fell back, A shock wave blasted out from her as she screamed.

The ropes broke and she rose above them all. The wounds slowly reknit themselves and the blood that poured from them stopped. She lay, in the air, above them all, floating.

Gently she was laid back onto the slab as if invisible arms had held her. She opened her eyes and sat up.

Most of the cloaks had fled when she began to glow. Only the 6 remained.

She slid off the altar and walked around each of them.

She stopped in front of the one with the wolf head.

"You will retain the power, the strength of the wolf, you will carry his speed, his strength, but you will also retain his hunger. That hunger will haunt you, but you may only feed that hunger on the full of the moon." She touched the snout of the wolf, and the man immediately began to writhe, and his bones began to break and reshape into the form of a giant wolf. Fur flowed at a speed faster than the eye could see.

"The transformation will be absolute, but it will be excruciating. You will forever bare the pain you have caused me, on every moon that rises in its fullness, shall you feel the agony that you marked my body with."

She walked to the one with blood smeared on his face. Some of it was now hers. She smiled, but it did not reach her eyes.

"You will hunger for that which you can not have. Blood will feed your body, but your soul will forever yearn for the one you will never find. You will seek me, you will hunger for me, but you will never again have that again. That taste in your mouth, that feeling coursing through your veins, will never come again. You will succumb to the hunger, to the ravenous ache for it, and you will destroy all that you hold dear trying to find it. You will be weakened by the sun that you worship, you will be sickened by the food you love, and you will never know the flush of heat from a life coursing through you. You will remain dead to all who know you. You will remain dead to yourself."

She looked at the shapeshifter. She sniffed in disdain. "You will have nothing but the ability to change your outer appearance. You may be a mouse, you may be a lion, but you will possess nothing more than what they carry. You will shed your skin and carry the skin of another and shed that to retain your own. Like the snake you are, you will be nothing but a husk, a shell, a pitiful duplicate of the real thing."

She then turned to the Witch and the Jinn. "You have the ultimate power, but you will remain in human form. Weak and vulnerable. You will also bear the marks of your choice. The scars will identify you to others and you will pay the price for that. You will burn, you will drown, and you will break. Only to be reborn again to suffer as you have caused me to suffer."

She walked back to the altar and with a thought she stood upon it. Looking down at the 6 she laughed.

"You thought you would break me? You thought you could destroy you? You freed me. I am forever, I am unending. You have taken the last of the human ties that bound me, that kept me small, and broke them. I will forever be here. Forever hunting you. Never rest my children, for yes, that is what you are. My children. You were created by and from my flesh. The Master you sought did not come for you, he came for me. I am your Master now, and you will never run far enough where I can not find you."

Reese opened her mouth and let an inhuman sound resonate from deep within her. The 6 shattered, and their pieces scattered with the four winds that blew through the cavern. When she was alone again, she gathered her clothes, bathed the blood from her body and left the dim cave. She came back to the water's edge and collapsed.

Reese's thoughts came back to her, and she stared up at the sky. She remembered now. She had never remembered fully the moment she had become what she is now. Never knew fully what had caused this unquenchable anger inside of her. Now she knew.

Again, she stared at the sky.

"You were there." She said accusingly. "You spoke to me. You lied."

She stood and turned her back to the cliff and the ever-expansive sky.

"You said I wasn't alone."

She headed back towards the house.

"You are not." The wind whispered back.

-

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