405: Secrets And Survival

on August 18, 2009 in Book 14

In Which Analogies Run Out Of Control

Silence stretched on following my pronouncement. Ian was waiting for me to say something, and so was I… if I hadn’t already had so many stark examples in my life of how you can want something and not want it at the same time, this might have crystallized the concept for me.

I wanted Ian to know what had happened with my pitchfork on the day of my big date with Steff, but I also didn’t want him to ever find out.

I knew it had to be said, though… I could tell him everything else that was going on in my life, everything else that had happened to me, and it would mean nothing if I kept that from him.

“You haven’t killed anyone, have you?” he asked.

“No!” I said quickly.

“Okay, I didn’t figure,” he said. “But I just wanted to point out… when I first met you, I mean, when I found out who you were and even after I got to know you a little, I still kind of assumed you might have, at some point, lost control… and I still stuck around long enough to get to know you better than that, so whatever it is that’s eating at you… okay, poor choice of words, but…”

“Wait, you were okay with that?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t say I was thrilled about it,” he said. “I figured it would kind of be like someone who’d… I don’t know, lost control of a carriage and ran someone down?”

“Carriages don’t work that way,” I said.

“Well, imagine that they did, because that would make this analogy a lot easier to construct,” Ian said. “Imagine it’s an old-fashioned one with actual horses, okay? And an inexperienced and immature driver has them basically under control but she something happens and she slips, and somebody dies… it’s horrible and maybe it haunts her, but even though she’s responsible for it… well, it’s still not the same thing as being a murderer.”

“I think there’s a difference between that and actually killing someone,” I said. “I mean, killing someone yourself and not hitting them with carriages or horses on accident.”

“But it’s the ‘on accident’ part that matters,” Ian said. “If you ran somebody down with a carriage on purpose, it’s still murder, right? So if you take the carriage out of the picture…”

“Then you don’t have something big and potentially lethal to lose control of,” I said. “Unless you’re someone like me.”

“Right,” Ian said. “But why should the ‘big and potentially lethal thing’ that you have to control be treated differently?”

“Are you saying that demons should be able to just chomp on people without penalty?” I asked.

“No, actually, I’m pretty much saying that this logic held up enough for me when I was applying it to a kind of hot girl I kind of wanted to bone,” Ian said. “And I still think there’s something to it, I’m not saying it excuses anything… I’m just drawing a distinction between a crime and an accident.”

“Yeah, well, how big a distinction is it?” I asked. “What’s the appropriate punishment for someone who has that kind of ‘accident’? What kind of safety precautions are necessary to make sure it doesn’t happen again?”

“Well… I think I can guess what the law says on the subject,” Ian said. “But you said it’s not the case. The only reason I’m bringing this up is to tell you that whatever it is you’re struggling with, it can’t be that big a deal, comparatively.”

“It… it kind of can, actually,” I said. There was no sense dancing around it for the rest of the night, arguing about semantics and similes. Ian was trying to tell me that he’d be understanding no matter how horrible it was. I didn’t think he was in a position to know if that was true or not yet, but I couldn’t do anything more than take him at his word. “Ian, do you remember my pitchfork?”

“Uh, yeah?” he said.

“Don’t you ever wonder… what happened to it?”

“I guess I thought you got tired of carrying it around,” he said. “Or that you lost it.”

“I kind of did,” I said. “It’s how I lost it that’s the story.”

“Maybe you should just tell me it, then,” Ian said.

“Well, that’s kind of the end of the story, so far,” I said. “You know that it was supposed to be cursed, right?”

“Yeah, that’s why I didn’t really question it,” he said. “I thought maybe you thought better of it.”

“Yeah, I wish,” I said. “The thing is, it wasn’t just cursed… I mean, in the strictest sense of the word. What it had definitely wasn’t a fun bonus.” I closed my eyes and tried to figure out how to explain what had happened… and I found, to my very surprising relief, that Ian’s earlier simile was actually kind of apt. It gave me a framework to explain what had happened… and maybe to process it. “The important thing… the important thing in all this is that somebody did die.”

“The pitchfork killed them?”

“Kind of,” I said. “It’s a long story, but I wanted to get that out at the beginning so I can’t back away from telling it. It’s kind of like your example of a runaway carriage, or maybe like I had a weapon in my hands… well, I did have a weapon, but let’s say it’s a crossbow and I didn’t realize it was loaded…”

“How do you not realize a crossbow is loaded?”

“We’re both allowed one terrible analogy a night!” I said. “Please let me tell you this, Ian.” I realized I was probably leading his mind in the wrong direction, so I clarified. “I didn’t, like, take the pitchfork and stab someone… accidentally or otherwise. But it turned out the ‘curse’ was actually masking a demonic entity, or part of one, inside the pitchfork.”

“It got out?”

“In a manner of speaking,” I said. “It got into me.”

“How is that even possible?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Apparently, anything with a soul can be possessed, part-demon or not. Dee verified it… first by examining my aura, and then in kind of an extreme fashion by getting possessed herself.”

“So… while you were possessed, or while she was… one of you killed someone?” He said it so matter-of-factly, but then, he’d already told me he’d once suspected the worst, and I’d outright told him that someone had been killed.

“Not exactly,” I said.

“So… someone’s not exactly dead?”

“No,” I said. “That’s just not how it happened. You know… well, obviously you know… there are races that eat other intelligent beings, and diabolists and necromancers that need… parts… and stuff, but legally?”

“Yeah, I suppose,” Ian said. “But don’t they have to kind of buy them, uh, ready-made for that?”

“Mostly,” I said. “But… there’s a way to get… that… fresh and on demand.”

“Not legally,” Ian said.

“Yeah,” I said. “There is.”

“That’s crazy,” he said. “Unless you mean some of the less cuddly races… if you’re talking about humans, the Imperium would never stand for it.”

“I’m talking about humans,” I said. “Human slaves.”.

“What… oh,” he said. “I guess I didn’t think of that. So wait. You… or possessed-you… actually managed to buy a slave, and then…”

“I… we… it just placed an order,” I said. “With the same slaver who wants to breed me, actually… that’s kind of how I ended up in her sights. Someone… a woman… died because of it.”

Ian didn’t say anything. He sat down on the other bed, across from me.

“You can see… I hope you can see why I didn’t want to tell you,” I said. “But also why I had to. You deserved to know…”

“Mackenzie, you’re not responsible for what a demon-thing… another demon-thing, I mean… not that you’re a thing… you’re not responsible for whatever happened when you were possessed,” he said. “And you’re certainly not responsible for the fact that places like that exist, or for the plight of one slave who was there when the order was placed… it’s horrible, but it’s not your fault.”

“It still happened!” I said. “Even if I didn’t do it… I could have done something to stop it.”

“Did you know it was possessed?” he asked. “Did anyone know it was possessed?”

“No… but if I had been more careful…”

“What? What would you have done?” he asked. “You got dumped straight from a healing bed into a dungeon that’s a deadly challenge for delving students, and you got out of it with only one thing to show for it, and as far as I know you had no reason to think it might be dangerous for you.”

“I might have checked,” I said. “I meant to… Amaranth wanted to get it checked out.”

“Why didn’t she?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“You know, I know you’re the enchantment nerd and I’m not, but if an item’s strong enough to take over someone’s mind completely, isn’t it usually strong enough to affect it in other ways?” Ian asked. “More subtle ones? Like, encouraging you to carry it around, making you forget about things?”

I sniffed and reached up reflexively to dry my cheek, and that was the moment I realized I’d been quietly crying.

“I don’t usually need help with that,” I said.

“You know, I kind of wish you hadn’t told me this,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Do you want me to go?”

“No,” he said. “Mackenzie, I’m… I think you do need to talk to somebody about this, but I don’t think I can give you what you really need here. I’m not strong enough. I think you should be talking to a healer.”

“Healers got me into this mess,” I said.

“You know what I mean,” he said. “Um, you know… mental. If the place you’re talking about exists…”

“It exists,” I said. “I might need to talk to a mental healer, but I’m not that crazy.”

“Sorry, poor wording,” he said. “Given that places like that exist… given that there’s slavery at all… there are going to be people who are suffering and dying. You just got your face rubbed in it.”

“That doesn’t make it better,” I said.

“It doesn’t make it your fault, either. You’ve got your own problems, Mackenzie,” Ian said.

“Yeah, but they kind of pale in comparison,” I said.

“So don’t compare them,” Ian said. “Your problems are your problems, and you can’t do anything for anyone else if you can’t handle them.”

“I didn’t actually tell you all this to try to fix my problems,” I said. “I just… I wanted you to know, so you could… make a decision about whether or not you could be with me.”

“I make that decision every day,” he said. “And some days it’s easier than others. Knowing that something horrible happened and it affected you…”

“I’m not the victim,” I said.

“You’re not responsible,” Ian said. “Slavery’s all kinds of messed up to begin with… I mean, whatever reasons people used to justify it before haven’t even mattered for a hundred years. The kinds of people who still have slaves… they’re either living in the past or they’re seriously messed up, or both. It’s a horrible… it’s a fucking twisted… situation, but one you didn’t create and can’t do anything about.”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“You think you can do something about it?”

“No, I mean… I just don’t know about anything right now,” I said. I’d put it out there in the open and it didn’t feel like anything had changed. Ian hadn’t left… he was being his usual supportive self, but I didn’t feel all that supported. I was outwardly calm, but inside… inside I was somewhere between flailing and empty. Flailing around in emptiness, maybe. “I think you’re right. I can’t expect to handle this on my own, and I shouldn’t expect you to handle it for me.”

“You’re paying for the healing services even if you never use them,” Ian said.

“Yeah, I guess,” I said.

“So, anyway… what’s the end of the story?” he said. “You said you lost the pitchfork.”

“Yeah, it kind of… wandered away,” I said. “It’s out there somewhere. That’s one of the things my father showed up to talk about.”

“In your dream?”

“Yeah,” I said. “He… kind of insinuated that he had it, without actually saying so. I think he was trying to tempt me with it.”

“Do you think he might have had something to do with… the whole thing?” Ian asked.

“I guess it’s possible,” I said. “I can’t really see how, though.” I shrugged. We were past the things I hadn’t wanted to tell Ian about and now getting into things I just plain didn’t want to talk about. “I’d really rather not dwell on it… I’ve got kind of a big day tomorrow, you know?”

“Yeah,” Ian said. “I know.”

With the emotion passed, I was starting to feel very cold, sitting naked on the bed. I didn’t exactly have anything to put on, though, so I just shifted myself so I could swing my legs up and get them underneath the blanket. Ian turned off the light and came over to join me, pushing me in closer to the wall. I pressed up against him, hungry for his warmth.

“Uh, I should probably have told you that it gets really cold in here at night,” he said.

“I’ll survive,” I said, snuggling as closely with him as I could.

“Mackenzie?”

“Yeah?”

“What are the chances that… I mean, you’re pretty sure you can do this thing tomorrow without a problem, right?” he asked.

“Pretty sure,” I said. “Amaranth has made sure we can get to the club. Once there… well, it’s not like there’s going to be scorecards. Well, I don’t know. Maybe there will be. But our deal’s not contingent on anything more than showing up and performing.”

“And that’s it?”

“That’s it,” I said.

“But… if something goes wrong…”

“I don’t know,” I said. “My father suggested he might step in, though I have to imagine there’d be a price for that. I’m not thinking about what I’ll do if I screw up… I’m planning on not screwing up… which actually mostly means relying on Amaranth and Two, it seems.” I sighed. “You know you’re dating a complete and total fuck-up, right?”

“Yeah,” he said, pressing in against me as he kissed me on the cheek. His dick was half-hard, but it didn’t seem to be moving very quickly in either direction. It was just kind of there… comfortably, comfortingly there. “I’ll survive.”


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4 Responses to “405: Secrets And Survival”

  1. Christy says:

    There’s no 404. Is that a pun on purpose?

    Current score: 9
  2. MackSffrs says:

    “has them basically under control but she [?] something happens and she slips”

    Current score: 1
  3. Reader says:

    And I just realized the “infernal interference” that dumped Mackenzie in the maze conveniently close to the farm could very well have been daddy dearest.

    Current score: 10
  4. lol lolington the third says:

    it was a pretty serious pukachevs gun, her father setting her up has been an idea at the back of my mind since dee revelaled the thing in the pitchfork was a ‘piece of a demon’, thought Macks dad probably planned the whole thing from the beginning to try and turn her more evil

    Current score: 1