Episode Thirty Three
It is utterly beyond our power to measure the changes of things by time. Quite the contrary, time is an abstraction at which we arrive by means of the changes of things.
Twilight painted the room in the fading light of a rainy day. It should have been her room. Every fiber of her being was certain it should have been her room, but that certainty solidified in the fact it wasn't. It wasn't her room. Her room wasn't blank and empty save the quickly draining light trickling in from windows she couldn't see from a source that couldn't exist. There was no radiation of light, no hint of where the light was coming from. Just a lighter color painted against the black the way an artist would create the essence of light without the natural reality of it. She wasn't sitting in her chair. Not her chair. She didn't own anything as roughly made and badly sanded as the twisted thing she sat in. And even as she reassured herself the stark white walls, the blank floor and even the fading light itself wasn't real the insistence of the wrongness of it all welded up, threatening to overtake her carefully manufactured calm.
She forced her breathing to remain slow and steady, even as slats of muddy gold slanted, skewed and seemed to run against the white walls. Darkness crept up, overtaking the room in inky lines like knurled fingers and Esther gripped her knees as all luminance winked out.
As perfectly white as the room had been was how darkly black it was not. And quiet. It was so very quiet. She could hear herself breathing as if wearing a mask underwater; the sound reverberating in her head and feeling louder and more awkward and out of place then it should be. She hadn't been here before. Not here in this exact place, but the feelings and certainty on its otherness was all too familiar. Something would come. For her, something would slither or rattle or skitter across the floor she could no longer see. She slid her heel up against her thighs, bare toes dangling on the edge of the chair. She waited.
Soft rustling in the dark. Scraping and fluttering. Esther wrapped her arms around her legs, burying her head against her knees. The darkness pulsed and pushed in.
Then, with the subtly of a blooming rose, a gentle light shimmered in the gloom. It made no sound, but Esther lifted her head to search for it. Blue and wafting in an unfelt breeze, the light danced closer in the dark. A flutter grew from the light, somehow calm against the raging blackness. As Esther focused, another light appeared. Then another. Soothing whispered accompanied the wings.
The light drew closer and a strange form materialized from under its glow. The light emanated from large butterfly wings, about the size of Esther’s palm. She could see tiny veins beneath the light as they fluttered nearer. The wings attached to the shoulder blade of small human like creatures with all manner of hair style and dress, but all seemingly made from plants or flowers. One wore a dress of browning leaves tied with twine, another a shirt of dried petals. Their bodies were impossibly thin, their legs and arms reminding Esther of toothpicks. They swirled around her, the soft whispers and giggles growing.
Esther raised her hand. The soft blue shimmered. Her finger lifted. The color drained into a fiery red. Esther barely hand time to yank away before long needle like talons sprang from the tiny fingers and racked the air where her hand had been. The room filled with a dark susurrus and a red glow spread out among the creatures, the flutter turning to more a buzz of an angry swarm. A wall of red pulsed through the room and the darkness receded with an overwhelming squeeze to the air. The glowed filled with furious hissings on the verge of hearing, just barely being able to be heard but very definite in their malicious intent. Esther felt pieces of her hair lift and yank back. She batted her hands over her head and a cold claw slashes across her arm. The flurry increased and swirled up, a tornado of angry whispers and blinding light. Esther clung to her chair, covering her head with her arms. The faeries descended and a rush covering her in red and pain. Esther felt the chair tip, her hair pulled and fell. She screamed. The light changed from bright red even through her eye lids to a yellow. The defending flutter of ragged wings vanished just as Esther hit, not the stark floor of the room that never was, but the icy floor of--
A breathless pause gave birth to a sudden laugh. Then more. Esther opened her eyes.
"Miss St. Clair! Miss St. Clair!"
Esther blinked and looked up. The bleary form of Aulder stared down at her.
"Are you alright?"
"I...I..." She looked up passed the professor and saw Holon gazing down at her as well.
"She just fell asleep." He met her eyes and nodded.
"Miss St. Clair?"
"I guess so. I'm sorry..."
The art teacher sighed with relief but looked annoyed. "Back in your seat. And try to stay awake."
"Yes ma'am, I'm sorry."
"I don't want your apologies, Miss St. Claire." Art stood and headed back to the front of the class. "I want your attention."
Esther slunk back in her chair.
"Now I want no more interruptions and please finish your sketches for the day."
Esther reached for her charcoal and winced. She slowly pulled back her sweater. Her lip slid between her teeth. Two long lines with dots of blood along the scratches that vanished up her sleeve, over the nearly healed lines. Panic synched her chest and she clenched her sleeve so tightly over the marks the pain redoubled.