Incubus of Fire
Disclaimer: The characters belong to me, as does the story. If you like what you’ve read, or would like to make a comment (constructive criticism only) then please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
“There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy”
William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Ever since the night she had used the Ouija; the night her friends had somehow convinced her that it was only a silly game, and that you couldn’t possibly summon up the dead on it. Ever since that night Katherine Anders found her nighttime world haunted by visions of a girl she had never met before. Now it seemed every time she closed her eyes this girl surfaced from the abyss her mind had become, intent on driving her mad.
It had gotten so bad that she had developed an acute fear of falling asleep… but then you can’t stay awake forever… she had told herself, sooner or later the exhaustion would work its way in, and then the dream would come crashing back without her even realizing it…but who was this girl?
She asked herself that very question every minute of every hour of the day, and each time she had found herself at a complete blank. It was like having a puzzle box with most of the pieces missing, she had tried more than once to replay the memories through, but the twisted tape of her mind refused to cooperate. Trapped inside a circular wall, she could feel herself going round and round with no obvious way out.
Her attempts to punch a hole through the amnesia, which seemed to envelope everything was futile. It was like a mist had formed in her mind, a mist that threatened to immerse all memories of that night; like a smeared windscreen they remained vague, out of her grasp, and no matter how hard she tried, she just couldn’t remember.
It was as though her subconscious had been scattered to the winds, she didn’t know which road to take, she didn’t know which path to choose, and that scared her…after all there is nothing worse then feeling that all control is slipping through your fingers like the wheel of a car in the sweat slicked hands of a drunk driver.
What she could recall was fragmented, she could remember the party, could remember the drinking, and the dancing. Could even remember what her girlfriend Jenny had been wearing. How beautiful she had looked with her long blonde hair cascading like a silken waterfall down her back, and across her shoulders. Her black velvet dress clinging to her figure in all the right places, her deep green eyes which almost seemed to glow, fixed on her and her alone.
It had been one of those nights when they had both felt like pushing back a few borders, breaking a few boundaries; so that they could really let their hair down, most of the people who had been there had pretty much the same idea, but then it had been a party, and parties like this where as good as an excuse as any to get totally incoherent.
You’re drunk, you’re merry, you open up a little bit more, you let go of your inhibitions. You feel an invisible bond between your fellow man, united in celebration you feel as if you can take on and conquer the world, but the effect is like rose tinted glasses to a lover who refuses to see the truth, in the case of the drinker he or she simply ignores the fact that they’re going to have one hell of a hangover in the morning.
Looking back on it all with fresh eyes, and a clear head, both Katherine and Jenny had to admit that perhaps they had both overindulged a little more then they should. Both drunk a little too much of the wine, bathed a little too long in the warmth of wild abandonment, throwing all modesty, all doubt, and all fear of consequence to the winds
It was a regular thing they would do; their own way of relieving the pressures of college life. At the end of every month she, Jenny and a small group of friends would gather together, and organize a party with a specific theme in mind. This month’s theme was Halloween, and for once it appeared to be more of a success then the disasters they had had to contend with last month, and every month before that. The band sounded far better then any of the other bands they had previously hired. The décor had for the first time not been completely laughable, and people had actually bothered to dress up this time.
It had been at a party like this that she and Jenny had met, many moons ago, the birth of the new winter bringing with it the first snow the city had seen for quite some time. She had been a different person back then, so unsure of herself in matters of the heart, yet so overly confident in everything else.
She could still remember it all as clearly as if it had happened yesterday and the memory was like a close friend to her, comforting her whenever she felt scared, or nervous about anything, and over the past few weeks it had kept her from falling into the darkness of her nightmares.
To this day she could still replay the events that had followed after she had walked through those tavern doors so many years ago; the music in the background playing in the background, a popular tune at the time called ‘Angel in the night’ by the chart topping band at the time Heart of Darkness. It was then, in the space of a few seconds rather like the build up to a scene from some grand romantic movie like ‘Gone With the wind’ or ‘Wuthering Heights’ her gaze had became instantly fixed on the young woman standing at the bar, so near, yet so far away. So unreachable to her that she felt as if she may as well have come from another planet.
She had been so nervous that night, so very nervous, so much so that the air around her had seemed to form a kind of invisible force field between the two of them, keeping her from the idea, or even the slightest unconscious suggestion of walking over to her.
If she closed her eyes she could picture it all like a vivid painting before her. She could still hear her heart beating fast mimicking the sound of the clock on the wall. Counting down the seconds, the minutes and the hours, as a thought, a question sprang to mind…should she make the first move? Should she go over to her? then if she did then what would she say?
Her mind was at conflict with her heart…. Go on…it said…you’ll never know unless you try…but the fear of failure was also there, secretly tearing into her, taunting her like a jealous rival, and she knew deep down that she couldn’t handle another rejection.
What could she say? What could she do? The intensity emanating from those glorious green eyes was beginning to make her feel light in the head.
Finally recovering the use of her voice, and somehow her senses she managed to summon up the courage to walk over to where she was standing, and ask her in a slightly quavering voice if she would like a drink. Her mind in a kind of foggy faraway fantasy as she began to lose herself in those eyes again, barely hearing the woman when she quietly whispered …yes she would love to join her.
An age seemed to have passed between them, as they stood there, unsure of what to do or say, then finally they managed to locate some vacant chairs, after their initial doubt of each other had been resolved with a smile, and by striking up a conversation which somehow managed to go on till they where both carried out on a cloud of ecstasy as they made their separate ways home at about Six in the morning.
Neither one could ignore the connection there had been between them, or the feeling that they had met before, somewhere, some when despite the fact they had both come from very different backgrounds. Katherine had come from a poor lower class, always struggling, always trying to keep a finical balance, whereas Jenny had wanted for nothing.
To the outsider it read like the typical love story of poor girl meets rich stranger, in the hopes of bettering her future, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Katherine loved Jenny…she loved her so very much, that she didn’t care if she had stupendous amounts of money, and would have loved her just as equally if he had been as poor as herself.
Real love like came without conditions, and without prejudice, not even the generation of at least six years between them could keep them apart, not that you would have been able to tell as Katherine’s ridiculously youthful appearance made her age impossible to asses, she was like ‘Titania’ The queen of the fairies from Shakespeare’s Twelfth night, eternally youthful in appearance, but far more worldly wise then half the people her own age.
The fact that Katherine would soon be approaching her thirty first birthday, or that Jenny hadn’t really experienced enough of the world, and was still quite youthful and idealistic really didn’t matter, the way they both saw it was that if you cared about someone as much as the cared about Each other then such superficial issues such as age etc just didn't come into it.
The more time they spent together, the closer they grew, and the stronger the bond between them became. In fact it had gotten to the stage that few relationships do where sometimes without even thinking about it they could finish each other’s sentences off. It was almost as though they had become as one person, one shared entity, perfectly in tune with the other.
For Katherine, Jenny was the only person in the world who she knew would never let her down, and she had been the only one who had been there when the nightmares began. The rest of her so-called friends, who had been there that night, hadn’t even given her the time of day. Instead they had simply moved on with their lives burying all traces of what had happened that night in the dark where they felt it belonged. It seemed the more she tried to recall what had happened, the more the memory became like a long and winding road, always curving away from her, always beyond her reach. Always seemingly beyond her grasp, the last conversation that she could remember having that night was with her friends Dean and Rachael, after she had convinced them all to indulge in a quiet little session of ghost stories rounds the open fire.
Everyone had left by then, so there was only the four of them left, each one staring into the flickering flames trying to conjure up a particular ghost story that had scared them as a child; Katherine surprising even herself when she had actually remembered a decent enough ghost story to tell. Stories were not one of her strong points, not really something she had a particular interest in. She had trudged through the creative writing part of English at school, had never really enjoyed it, but then again she was always one to try something new, even if she wasn't very good at it, and it was Halloween after all. Who was she to break the tradition of trying to out scare each other with terrifying and occasionally grisly tales of the paranormal?
"Hey" she said her voice barely a whisper, her blue eyes as dark and daunting as the room around them “Have any of you heard of the legend of Mary Worth...” pausing for dramatic effect, she looked around, and once convinced that no one had heard of her she continued “Well, apparently she was a woman who dealt in the black arts. No one knows exactly how she died, some say it was in a car crash, some say she was a witch who was burned at the stake...but no one knows for sure.
Legend says that the only way you can summon her is by standing in front of a bathroom mirror at midnight and repeating her name thirteen times. Sororities call it the Bloody Mary ritual because every time you summon her, her face is covered in blood..."
"Oh c’mon” said Dean once again living up to his established reputation as a skeptic "Everyone tries to scare each other with ghost stories like that…I say we try something a little bit different”
“Like what?” asked Jenny wearily
“Well” said Dean “Have any of you ever using a Ouija board before”
“NO” interjected Jenny “and I’m taking no part in that”
“Oh come on Jen” Sneered Dean “Don’t be such a baby…everyone knows it’s only a game…”
Yet to Jennifer it wasn’t just a game as Dean had so childishly put it. It was far more then that…but what could she do…if Katherine wanted to play around with the matches then she wouldn’t have anyone to blame but herself if she got burnt.
In many ways Jenny was naïve, but when it came to things like this, than She was no fool, and refused to be one, and she knew that you should never mess around with things that you don’t understand. It was a piece of advice that her late parents had passed on to her; a piece of advice that to this day she still believed with all her heart.
She couldn’t believe that Katherine could be so naive as to follow the crowd, normally she was the sensible one, but then she did have a lot to drink, and because of that was more inclined, to do something this irresponsible.
But she couldn’t leave Katherine alone here, no matter how angry she was at her. She was her only real friend, her only real family, everything inside him cried to get her out of there, but it wasn’t her decision to make.
She would have to let her make this mistake by herself, no matter how much she didn’t want it to happen, and then when it backfired on her, she would be there to tell her that even though she was right, that even though she had told her that no good would come from this, she still loved her.
“Come on Jen” she pleaded her eyes huge and imploring “Don’t go I promise you nothing bad will happen from this…”
“Okay I’ll stay,”s he said wearily giving in to her, her heart thumping from the adrenaline rushing through her, her head banging from far too much alcohol. “But don’t expect me to join in, I’ll just sit here, and watch. If you all want to mess around with fire then you’ll have no one to blame but yourself if you get burnt”
Taking a seat opposite the small group Jenny took a few deep breaths to clear her head, and to calm her down, taking a quick sip of her beer, wincing at its warm flat taste. Then with a heavy thud he sat back to watch the rest of the charade unfold.
Lowering herself down on the floor Katherine glanced quickly and guiltily over at Jenny, she regretted hurting her; usually she was so placid, so easy to get on with. Her behavior tonight was so unlike her. In fact tonight had been the first time she had actually lost her cool around her. Questions of why she wanted to leave, and why she wanted to take no part in what they were about to do plagued her like an irritating rash she couldn’t quite itch.
Questions that were instantly pushed aside like so much unnecessary clutter by something Dean had said which struck a chord with her because she knew he was right. From past experience Jenny did have the tendency to take things like this far too seriously.
There was after all nothing too be worried about, this was all just a bit of harmless fun. There was no need for panic, no need for worry…no need to afraid… or so they all thought… and that was where the memory ended for her; like a car without fuel it had no means to carry on. So it remained locked in the shadows, forever out of sight.
The dream, continuing to taunt her, by cloaking itself in eternal mystery, the mystery of this nameless girl, who continued to haunt her dreams night after night, the scratches she had found on her face the morning after the Halloween party, deep indentations, which looked as though someone had dragged a rake from the violet hue of her eyes to her perfectly sculpted model’s cheekbones. At first she had panicked, worried that the scars that would form there would make her stand out. Make her an outsider, someone to be pitied, and frowned upon.
She had only just managed of late to fit in again, to finally believe in herself, so the idea of going back to all that was a fate worse than death itself, much to her relief the scars hadn’t been a problem, hadn’t been as bad as she had originally thought they would be, and had healed fairly quickly, leaving only emotional scarring which was harder to see.
Not so easy to dispose of, and not so quick to heal. Couldn’t heal until her memories came back, until she finally pulled herself out of the abyss she had managed to fall into…but what had really shaken her, the impending thought that she couldn’t shut out of her mind, no matter how hard she tried, was that she didn’t know how the hell she had got them in the first place…or who…or what had put them there….
She’s running, running through the forest, dressed in a long flowing gown of deep blood red, a stark contrast to the porcelain whiteness of her skin, a huge black cape draped over her dress, which falls to her feet. It’s hood pulled up masking her face in proverbial shadow.
Through the blackness, the silence spreads itself like a choking hand across the moors. It always seems dark here, and no light seems to penetrate the shadows that linger like echoes from some distant time. Looking through her eyes Katherine can see the branches of the trees reaching out to this tiny figure. Catching her mane of flame red hair; drawing a thin line of blood down the left hand side of her face as she makes her way through the grass that towers over her head.
She stops running and stands still, her breath caught in her throat; somewhere she can hear the sound of distant footsteps getting nearer and nearer. She sits down to hide behind the bushes, hoping, praying that the people making those footsteps won’t find her.
Yet at the same time she knows that they won’t stop until they find her, she is already weak from trying to outrun them, her head weary from the events which have led her to this, her friend’s betrayal still fresh in her mind, how did it happen? Why did it happen? Carrie had been like a sister to her; they had grown up together, had shared their lives, and their problems…Had always been there for each other, no matter what…. How could Carrie have changed so much from the girl she would race down Lewen Hill with as a child, to the embittered woman who had accused her of witchcraft the night before?
She realised that a lot had of bad things had happened to Carrie since their idealistic childhood, Carrie had gone through an illness of the mind…due to losing someone who was dear to her, but she had thought her friend had recovered from that, and left it far behind her. Perhaps she hadn’t fully recovered, it had been that, that had changed Carrie, made her feel like the world was against her, and that no one could possibly understand what she was going through. She felt as if she were being punished, but punished for what she wasn’t wicked or evil or even cruel, so why had this happened to her?
Contrary to belief though bad things don’t always happen to evil people; in fact it is the evil people in the world who usually get away with murder, while the good, honest and hardworking people of the world are left to suffer. Carrie knew this, but blinded by anger she couldn’t see through her pain, and the pain only got worse, as did the slow deterioration of her mind.
She couldn’t cope with this, couldn’t bear seeing her friend fade before her eyes, She couldn’t handle the truth, in her mind the illusion she had built up that Carrie was getting better, that she was finally recovering, and would go back to being the same person she had been before all of this had happened was something she preferred to believe, instead of the harsh reality that Carrie would never get better, that she was beyond help, and beyond hope, that no matter how hard she wanted her friend back, merely wishing for it would not make it so.
Each day she became more, and more distant, and more and more detached from the people she loved, if there was anything left of her friend then it was clinging on by a desperate thread, but one day that had too had gone, and the kind girl she had known was lost forever in the swirling mists of time, and in her place stood the woman who had accused her of being a witch. Who had led the witch hunters to her house with no sign of emotion or regret whatsoever at what she had done, a soulless entity who bore her friend’s gentle features.
The Carrie she knew would never have done this to her, would have known that she was only a healer, not a witch as she had so callously stated, and certainly not someone who would cause anyone any harm, all she did was help people, she would never intentionally hurt anyone.
Arguing this point across was trivial, she knew better then anyone that once an accusation was made it had to be followed up, and dealt with in the appropriate manner. So she ran, she ran from the town, with its tiny houses, and curtain shifting residents, ran from her friend, and ran from the accusations still ringing fresh in her ears.
She had to get away…somehow she had to get away, but she didn’t know where she could go. Her family had moved on, hadn’t written to her in years. Had forgotten about her; running aimlessly through the forest, she knew that there was nowhere to go, but the panic, and the terrifying thought of what might happen to her if the people chasing her find her made her run all the faster. Tears forming in her eyes bringing her crashing back to the moment, the sound of the footsteps in the distance getting nearer, and nearer, now almost upon her, fear cankering, creeping into the corners of her soul.
Suddenly she is pulled from her hiding place by a group of hooded figures, she cannot escape, and she barely has time to register what has happened as two of the men have grabbed her. Dragging her over to a nearby oak tree they proceed to tie her to it, so there is now possible way for her to escape. The ropes are so tight they leave imprints on her wrists.
From out of the darkness, she can make out the light of a torch, heading towards her. Growing brighter as the woman who is holding draws nearer, her face masked in shadow, which soon disperses, and she finds herself staring straight into her friend’s ice blue eyes, a single question going over and over again in her mind why? Why? She can’t believe that Carrie is doing this; she can’t believe she wants to kill her.
She is still refusing to believe what is unfolding before her, even after Carrie lets go of the torch she is holding, everything seeming to go in slow motion as the torch lands at the hem of her dress, and ignites, the flames shoot up her body. The skin on her face, and arms begins to blister, her skin pulling back like plastic. Her whole miserable existence seeming to dwindle to this one point, this one space in time, the figure Katherine can see before her is trapped between two worlds of consciousness and oblivion. She doesn’t seem to realise she’s dying. She is one tiny point of light, then one part of a flickering chain of lights that burst through a final twilight.
Is there any way out of this nightmare? Is there any hope of sanctuary?
WAKE UP! I WANT TO WAKE UP!
Don’t want to see her die again, don’t want to see her skin blistering, her friend’s face twisted into dark malevolence the last thing she sees, her insane laughter following her into the eternal darkness. Her last thought, her last feeling one of utter contempt. The hatred wells with the pain that swells inside, as the love she had for her friend turns to an all consuming hate which eats its way into her soul.
She despises her, despises them all for what they have done to her. She will spit in Hell’s fire, and take the devil to her heart, and the flames of her fury are far more tempestuous then the fury of the flames that wash over her.
The light has flickered from her eyes, the overwhelming beauty she once bore in life is gone, leaving behind the hallow husk of a chrysalis that hangs bleeding and burning, and it is then Katherine flings herself up off the mattress, her screams echoing all around the small bedroom, Jenny sleeping on beside her oblivious to the unnatural sound of her screams.
The smell of smoke still lingering in the air, mixing with overpowering stench of burning flesh, her eyes snapping open, as the girl’s last moments flash like lightning through her mind, her dry ulcerated lips moving to form her name. “Katherine”…. Her eyes are on her…she can feel her acrid breath on her face… can’t run…Her blistered hands are reaching out for her… “Katherine”…. Can’t get away… “Katherine! … Can’t stop her…
The new dawn brought with it more problems, it made Katherine wonder just how bad things could get, at the moment everything seemed to be mounting up on top of her, she felt like someone forced to walk a gauntlet with barely enough strength to get her through to the other side, the burden of all that had happened over the past few weeks becoming more and more impossible for her to bear.
Already her college work was beginning to suffer, her parapsychology tutor was quickly beginning to tire of her continuing excuses. Her increasing insomnia was slowly beginning to overtake her usually well-ordered life; taking no prisoners, it threatened to pull her world apart. She felt sick to the stomach; she couldn’t focus properly on anything, too many thoughts running through her head, too many shadows to draw out her fears.
The general strain of trying to get through each day was beginning to show in her face, in the dark circles under her eyes, and in the sluggish way she carried herself. She felt like the girl in her dream, no matter how hard she tried to outrun the fear, it always seemed to catch up with her.
Jenny had tried her best to help her, but all she could do was give her false hope, and endless promises that everything would turn out all right in the end “Don’t worry,” she said as she ran her fingers through Katherine’s wildly curly auburn hair. “We’ll get through this…believe me we will”
She had been so very convincing at the time that Katherine had to admit that for a moment, but only for a moment she had actually believed her. Then the walls of reality had come crashing down again, and she knew that no matter how reassuring Jenny tried to be...that what he said was never likely to happen. "It'll never go away Jen” she had said "Every time I close my eyes it comes crashing back. I just don't know what to do...What do I do…tell me what I should do?"
She wished to God that she could help, but the truth was she couldn’t come up with an answer for her, beaten back by helplessness, she felt like someone with their hands tied behind their back. There was something terribly wrong with the woman she loved, something had been terribly wrong with her ever since Halloween night, but Nothing she came up with, no matter how rational it appeared to be seemed to do any good.
She really didn’t understand, because it was only a dream after all; just like any other dream… it couldn’t hurt her, not really, se had told Katherine this over and over again, but it didn’t seem to work. The situation was spiraling out of control, and there was nothing se could do to stop it from happening, so in the end she had given up on helping her, and now all she wanted to do now was forge.
Forget about the dreams, forget about the night of the party, and pretend that this mess could be swept away like so much dust under a carpet. Ignorance is bliss sometimes that’s what Jenny’s sister always said, but it can also be just as harmful as remembering, blocking off things doesn’t make the memory go away she knew that, like a bad omen it would always remain to haunt her…just waiting for the moment to leap out from the shadows.
It was already too late for her; the damage of her actions was slowly beginning to show. The impact of her pretending that Halloween night had never happened had caused a rift to form between herself, and Katherine. A rift which grew in size the more she insisted on total denial. Until one day, a day which should never have come, when she and Katherine had found themselves standing on either side of a great chasm with no way back over to each other; blinkered by their own pain, they had failed to see how much they had drifted apart.
They where now like two strangers living under the same roof, Katherine felt alienated from Jenny, and Jenny felt alienated from her; A terrible wall of silence had built up between them without them even noticing it. To make matters worse… it wasn’t just the dream they didn’t talk about. They no longer discussed any of their problems anymore. The lines of communication had fallen down, and there seemed to be no way back for them…and things looked as if they could only get worse…
To be continued…
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