This sample is an excerpt of one chapter of a work in progress.
A new texture touched her body, somewhere between the paste and water. She cracked an eye open, horrified at what she might find, but this time, she saw the blue of woad upon her upper arm. She closed her eyes, content that the worst had passed. The guides smoothed the woad across her body, turning the effort into a full body massage that, strangely, successfully brought her some semblance of relaxation. She felt the last of the paint smeared across her face and then the touch of human hands was gone.
“Open your eyes,” one guide said, and Caravaggia did.
“Rise,” said the other, and Caravaggia stood.
“Follow,” said the first, and then they walked.
Llyr was gone. To where, Caravaggia knew not. At this point, she just followed the women, having dialed herself into the role of automaton, mentally exhausted, emotionally drained, driven solely by a purpose she barely recalled, a course she had decided upon well before this ordeal. They crossed a mudflat, their feet sinking into the muck, until the two guides stopped at a patch of tall grass.
“Here,” one said.
“To your knees,” said the other.
Caravaggia hesitated, then dropped to her knees, sinking into the mud. The women flanked her, each cupping one of her cheeks with a hand and holding the other to her chest. She felt her heartbeat pound against the press of one of the hands.
“She is a newborn,” one said, “fresh from the womb.”
“She is a sapling,” the other answered, “beneath the sun’s gleam.”
“She is a vessel, empty and wanting.”
“She is a jar, to be filled by the stream.”
“She is a canvas, blank for the artist.”
“She greets the pen, and she is the ream.”
“She is the mother of futures untold.”
“She is the consort, to be fed by the dream.”
The hands of each woman pressed upon her cheeks, and they pushed her backward, guiding her back into the mud until it engulfed her.
Then she felt nothing.
Floating on a sea of nothingness.
A wash of cool water across her frame.
Her lips slowly parting.
Hair adrift and swaying with the tide.
Liquid sliding into her nostrils.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe!
Caravaggia’s eyes shot open, but she saw nothing but darkness. She fought for air, but there was none. She felt her windpipe choked off, and she desperately reached for her throat. Where was she? Where was Llyr?
Then everything fell out from beneath her, and she plummeted.
The pit in the gut.
The ground rose.
A terror welled within her.
Caravaggia hit the ground.
A sky full of stars greeted her. She wafted among the heavens, detritus adrift. And she was not alone, for space was no vacuum. A belt of stones lay in the distance. Nearer, a large metallic device tumbled end over end. A group of stars shaped like a bowtie grew legs and galloped away, taking the form of a rabbit, while two other sets of stars pursued, akin to dogs. Beyond them, the sun flared, shooting bursts outward.
Her drift took her toward a pink cloud lit with flares of various colors, and she entered seamlessly. The cloud smelled like flowers, and she closed her eyes and let it fill her nose, washing away the last remnants of the Catatonian defilement. She felt petals brush her skin, and when she opened her eyes, she was in a field of carnations, hovering inches off the ground as she skimmed through the flowers and long grass. Eventually, she settled to the ground upon a bed of blossoms, where she closed her eyes and basked in the sun rays upon her skin. Soon, she felt a soft touch of fingertips running up and down her skin, finding all the right spots, exploring and lingering, moving on and returning. The tingles that coursed through her body grew more potent until they became waves of sensation overwhelming her senses, too much for her to handle, and while part of her wanted it to stop, the rest of her wished it to never end. In the end, she heard her own scream, and it was bliss.
She passed out, content.