Thursday, July 24, 2014

Intus Opaca, Part Nine


She turned, slack-jawed, sweaty and smiling. "You're back!" 

Libby dashed across their cabin, delivering a swift (but light) punch to Dragomir's jaw. Her hug was much fiercer, and Dragomir felt as though his eyes might pop out of their sockets and rattle about the room like a pair of dice.

Dragomir stroked her hair. It smelled of engine grease. And fire. And badly-baked pie. He loved it. "Thank gods. I'm back. Did you miss me?"

She kissed him. That was answer enough. Their embrace lasted for a long time. Dragomir was home. The Dauphine, Pubton, their house back at the castle, their dinky apartment, it didn't matter. Libby was home.

She pulled away. Her smile faltered a tiny bit as she brushed away a tear. "I... I wasn't... I didn't know if you'd... ah, you smell like shit. Welcome back."

He kissed her. "It's good to be back."

Libby's nose wrinkled. "What did he tell you?"

Dragomir rubbed his hands, looking at the ceiling. "He... uh... nothing. He didn't tell me anything. It was a waste of time."

Libby frowned. Her hands fell to her hips. "What do you mean, 'A waste of time?' We came across the entire fucking world! He must have told you something! And where's everyone who went with you? Is Traveller outside somewhere?"

Traveller. Dragomir swallowed. "Uh, see - "

Libby brushed past him. Her eyes lingered on Dragomir a moment longer, teeth showing, cheeks scrunched up. She looked like she'd walked past a dirty toilet. "What's wrong with you? Did you go swimmin' in a swamp? Cripes."

"Libby? Hey! Wait up!" 

"Get away from me! You smell!"

Dragomir tailed Libby into the hallway. She stomped into the Neo Neo Beefiary, searching, finding. Traveller was standing at the bar, chatting happily with Morris. Libby made a beeline for him, and Dragomir followed.

Only this wasn't the Traveller Dragomir knew. This Traveller had shorter hair. This Traveller was wearing a wide-brimmed, straw hat. This Traveller was properly clothed, like a farmer, with a nice pair of boots on his feet. This Traveller had both eyes, and when he turned to greet Libby, he winked at her. He held out one arm, and she slid easily into his embrace.

Dragomir stopped short. "Libby...?"

She didn't turn around. "There you are. I thought something was wrong. Who's this?"

Traveller laughed, kissing Libby on her cheek. "Oh, just some guy. Looks a lot like me, doesn't he? Kinda uncanny, like."

Laughing, Libby shook her head. "Yeah, I thought so at first. But he stinks like piss, and you never do."

Dragomir fell to his knees. He reached for Libby, his arm too long, far too long. His skin reeked of drying tar.

Traveller swatted the arm away. "Do you want me to get rid of it? Wifey?"

Libby shook her head again. Giving Traveller one last, long, lingering kiss on the lips, she spun around. Her knuckles clicked as she cracked her fingers. "No. I'll do it."

The world shifted. Suddenly they were back in their cabin, only Libby and only Dragomir, and Libby was slamming her fists into Dragomir, smashing his oily black body over and over and over. Her punches left deep imprints in his chest, the skin popping back into proper pectorals a few seconds later. Green blood spilled from his mouth. Libby's eyes glittered, and in their violent reflection Dragomir saw his own eyes as two globs of shining emerald.


Dragomir collapsed. She punched him in the face. Dragomir huddled into a ball and begged for mercy. She kicked him in the side. Dragomir tried to crawl away, ribs broken. She stomped on the back of his neck. Dragomir gave up. She didn't. Eventually, she killed him.

They left Dragomir's corpse to rot in the desert sun as the Dauphine rolled back to Pubton. The buzzards refused to pick at his flesh.

When Dragomir opened his eyes again, the Catastrophe was back in his hand. It blazed more brightly than ever, its square edges hungry for blood.

"You can't tell her," he whispered. "No one can tell her."

Iko smiled. He lowered his head.

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