- by Mackenzie O'Rear
Chapter 28 - Cursed
Edited by Brien Bigelow
Illustrations by Lucas Marra
Finn found a small room to hide in and think. His head was positively swimming with everything that had happened, and he wasn’t sure he could contain it all. Worst of, the lack of a moon hanging in the sky meant if he wanted to help his companions, there was no way to do it. In his own mind, he was dead weight, useless to them, save for some exceptional senses, which he seemed to share with the pale bloke.
He paced nervously in the room, occasionally sending a nervous glance out the window, as though he expected to see their pursuers out there. The ever-present wolf was pawing at the back of his head, distracting his thoughts, and pulling him away from it all.
‘Damn you,’ Finn whispered to it. ‘Why can’t you leave me be.?’ As his emotions grew, he sat down on the floor and held his legs to his chest. All he seemed to be able to do was feel like that silly little child again, waiting for his father to come in with the belt, while his sister laughed. She was out there somewhere, guiding their foes to their doorstep and it was all his fault.
If he had died, and his sister had lived, Sarah and the others would all be safe, away from the real monsters of the world. As he thought this, Sarah walked into the room.
‘There you are,’ she said, sitting down next to him. ‘What’s wrong?’ He looked up at her to see her emotionless eyes staring at him. He looked away, knowing lying would be impossible.
He stared. ’Even if I wanted to help, I’m not sure I’d want to. I’m not the wolf, Sarah.’ She placed a hand on his shoulder.
‘What difference does it make?’ she asked. ‘Wolf or man, you’re still Finn. Isn’t that enough?’ He shook her hand up and walked away, heading for the window.
‘It’s not enough,’ he said. ‘You saw what I did. You’ve seen what I can do. Even if I did become the wolf, what do you want, for it to kill your enemies, would you?’ ‘Huh?’
‘That would be helpful, yes,’ she said, calmly. ‘Even as normal humans, they are quite formidable.’ Finn sighed and looked at her, desperate to make her feel, even without a heart.
‘You just don’t get it,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘That’s the whole problem. The wolf is a killer. I’m not. I don’t want to be.’
‘What do you want, Finn?’ she asked. Maybe he was fooling himself, but for a second he thought he could feel a bit of something quivering in her voice.
‘I…I want…’ He thought for a second, and it occurred to him he really didn’t know what he wanted. He had been so preoccupied with helping Sarah and getting all the way here, he wasn’t sure what drove him, other than a fondness for his surrogate sister and contempt for the wolf. His thoughts travelled far across the ocean, back all the way to his home in Ireland, where he swore he could see the face of his father, and beyond that the wild lands of green his mother had owned. He remembered what his grandmother had said, and it filled him with a longing he didn’t recognise.
Before he could answer to Sarah’s question, she had walked over to him and hugged him. He looked down at her and thought, wondering if this is what a family was supposed to be like. He, Sarah, and Maria. Even the stitched-up lady seemed nice, and the pale bloke Vincent seemed like people he could share a pint with. He put his hand on Sarah’s head, and she looked up at him.
‘Rags,’ he said, softly. They both looked at one another, until he felt a soft thump coming from where Sarah’s chest lay against his own. She winced. ‘What was that?’ asked Finn, but before they could get an answer, Vincent, Maria and Corrine entered the room, followed by Flamel.
‘They’re here,’ said Vincent, looking a little paler then he was before. ‘We need to hurry.’ They all looked at Flamel to explain it, but before he could say anything, Sarah interrupted him.
‘My father,’ she said, and Flamel nodded. She turned to Finn. ‘I wasn’t sure, but now I am. He did something. A spell to seal the castle.’
‘Wonderful,’ said Finn. ‘It’s only a matter of time then.’
‘Now you’re starting to sound like Vincent,’ said Maria. ‘I didn’t take it from him, and I certainly won’t take it from you, Mr Wolf.’
‘Don’t call me that,’ said Finn, hating himself. ‘I hate that.’
‘Why?’ asked Maria. But Vincent put a hand onto her shoulder to stop her, before approaching Finn.
‘It’s inside you, right?’ said Vincent. ‘Like a hunger you can’t get rid of. Like it’s clawing at the back of your head trying to take control.’
‘Yeah,’ said Finn, stunned. ‘How do you…’
‘You’re not the only one that feels that way,’ he said. ‘Every day, my hunger grows, and it courses through my very veins.’
‘Like something trying to get out,’ finished Finn, staring in awe at Vincent. ‘Like you’re burning hotter than you should.’ Vincent nodded. ‘How do you deal with it?’
‘I don’t,’ replied Vincent. ‘It’s a part of me, and I have no say in the matter. I’ve lived with it. Even thrived with it.’
‘How?’ asked Finn. ‘How could you live like this? Cursed?’ Vincent looked at Maria, love in his eyes.
‘I found something worth living for,’ he said, before turning back to Finn. ‘Something that makes me feel like what I am doesn’t matter, but what I do does matter. I will never be human again. And I’m just fine with that now.’
‘Vincent,’ said Maria and Corrine together, who looked as though their very hearts had been pierced. Corrine’s own eyes drifted down to the wedding band she had on her right hand. As they sat there in contemplation, wind picked up in the room, and the temperature dropped significantly. Something pushed past Flamel, as wax and smoke gathered into the centre of the room. Slowly but surely, it began to take shape, and a figure emerged that made Finn’s heart nearly stop. He stood face to face with Martha.
‘Found you,’ she sang out loud. ‘How is my baby brother?’ She threw her head back and laughed, as the others stared at her.
‘Is that the spirit?’ asked Maria. ‘The one Sarah warned us about?’
‘Can you see her?’ asked Finn, astonished. Martha giggled.
‘Of course they can,’ she said slyly. ‘I’ve learned a few more tricks since we last spoke.’ She approached Finn, but before she could reach him, Sarah stood between them.
‘Begone,’ she said. ‘Leave this place.’ Sarah stared daggers at her, but nothing seemed to happen. Martha laughed again.
‘What’s wrong?’ asked Martha. ‘Your little spell not working? You won’t be banishing me again.’ Martha shot her hand out in front of her, and grabbed Sarah by the mouth. She tried to move away, but Martha seemed to shift with smoke and wax as she tried.
‘Leave her alone!’ cried Finn, attempting to stand his tallest. Martha seemed to pay him no attention. She looked over at Vincent.
‘Before I forget,’ she started. ‘Richard wanted me to say hello, and that you should all be quite worried. You’re probably all going to die.’ Sarah swung her fist at Martha, but they seemed to pass right through her. ‘Right. Let’s deal with you.’ As she said that, red wax began to spread from where he was touching Sarah. It began to spread across her face as Martha’s legs began to disappear. ‘Can’t suffocate you, but I can still wrap you up in a nice little package.’
She smiled sinisterly as the was wax began to cover Sarah’s eyes. The others began to try their best to attack Sarah, but nothing seemed to make contact. Even Flamel stared at her with terror, as Sarah became bound.
‘Stop,’ said Finn. ‘It’s me you want!’ Martha looked at him.
’It’s true,’ she said. ‘I’d love to watch you struggle as you suffocated, but you’re too resilient for that. This one, though.’ She turned back to Sarah, whose head was now completely covered. ‘All that strength, and you can’t do a thing to save her.’ Finn’s mind raced. He couldn’t let Martha take Sarah. He refused.
Deep inside, the wolf agreed, and time seemed to stop. He opened his eyes and realized he was no longer in the room. He was back home in Ireland, in the forest, not far from his house.
‘What?’ asked Finn. ‘How? ’As he spoke, the tall grass in front of him began to rustle. He braced himself against the tree, as an impossibly large, black-furred wolf emerged from the forest. It inched closer to him, as he attempted to flatten himself against the tree, but just before it could reach him, it stopped.
Finn waited for it to pounce on him, but nothing came. Was it playing with him? Waiting for him to run, so it could have some jolly game of chase? He looked up into its eyes when something dawned on him.
He wasn’t looking into the eyes of any old wolf. What he saw were his own emerald green eyes he had gotten from his mother staring back at him. They even had the flecks of gold his had. As he stared into his own eyes, more wolves began to emerge from the forest. One by one, they made their way to him, and sat beside the one with his eyes.
Finn looked round, aghast at the size of the pack. There seemed to be hundreds of them in the forest, all looking at him with their lowing, yet eerily human, eyes. There was one wolf in particular he was sure that only had the eyes of Neasa, but was staring at him with that same self-satisfied look she seemed to regard him within the company of the Romanian. He stood and walked towards the black-furred wolf, when Sarah’s words echoed in his head.
‘Wolf or man, you’re still Finn,’ she said. Then Vincent’s voice felt the need to chime in with ‘Something that makes me feel like what I am doesn’t matter, but what I do does matter.’ It all hit Finn like a steam engine going full speed right into his gut, and he laughed. What did it matter if he was a monster? Sarah was out there, and in trouble. They all were, and he had spent months moping around the world. He approached the black-furred wolf and starred into its eyes. His eyes.
‘You and me,’ Finn said. ‘No. Just me.’ He placed his hand onto the wolf’s head, and the forest dissolved. The room took shape once more, with Martha still spreading her wax. Finn stepped forward.
‘Stop,’ he said, so forcefully Martha broke out of her mad trance and looked up at him.
She laughed. ‘What am I?’
‘I said,’ started Finn, walking forward and changing into the wolf. ‘STOP!’ Martha backed away and looked at him in astonishment.
‘How?’ she said. ‘There’s no moon.’
‘I don’t need it anymore,’ said Finn, turning back, before he ripped his clothes out. He continued to advance on Martha, who backed into the hall, fear overcoming her. It seemed her death at the hands of the wolf had affected her more than she let on. This pleased Finn.
‘You can’t hurt me,’ she said. ‘I’m just a ghost, remember?’
‘And?’replied Finn, striking her hard in her waxen chest, seeing her crashing into the wall. Wax splattered all against the wall.
‘You can’t do that,’ she said, desperately. ‘It’s impossible.’
‘I’m impossible,’ replied Finn. ‘You were just a test. Something that clung to me like a parasite, until I became strong enough to pass the test. And here I am, ready to move on.’
‘You can’t,’ she whimpered. ‘I’m your sister, Finn. You can’t hurt me.’
‘All my life, you’ve hurt me,’ said Finn. ‘You and father both. How many times have you tried to kill me?’ Martha’s smokey eyes went wide. ‘Was that some sort of secret? You didn’t think I heard you that nigh in the forest? Leveling your gun at me?’
‘It was an accident,’ cried Martha. ‘I would never…’
‘The wolves knew,’ said Finn. ‘It saved me that day.’
‘Finn…’ whispered Martha as his fangs began to grow again. ‘Please…’
‘It’s time to let go,’ he said. ‘Good-bye, Martha.’ Finn inhaled before blowing out a stream of air at Martha, whose screams fell into silence, as the smoke dissipated. As soon as she was gone, Finn turned around and ran to Sarah, who had collapsed on the floor. He peeled away the wax, only to see her smiling at him.
‘I knew you could do it,’ she said as he helped her up. ‘Lord Anubis you would.’
‘That old dog?’ said Flamel. ‘No wonder the lad could do that.’ Finn smiled.
‘She’s gone,’ said Finn. ‘At least I think so.’ Sarah nodded.
‘Dragged away to be judged,’ she said. ‘A special request from the lord of the dead.’ There was little time to celebrate, as Vincent held up a hand.
‘I hear voices,’ he said. ‘The Russian…and another one I don’t recognise.’
‘Father,’ whispered Sarah. ‘It is time…I shall deal with him.’ Before she could leave, Finn grabbed her in a bear hug.
‘Thank you,’ he whispered. ‘But you’re not going alone.’
‘We should split up,’ said Flamel. ‘If we can separate them…’
‘Divide and conquer,’ said Vincent. ‘It’s our best bet, I guess.’They all nodded.
‘You might take the warlord’s name yet,’ said Flamel. ‘Let’s hurry. Vincent and Maria, come with me, please. We have something to discuss.’ He turned to Finn, Sarah, and Corrine. ‘Will you three be all right without us?’
‘Course,’ said Finn, with new confidence. ‘I can take on anything after that., Maria turned to Flamel.
‘What about Jack?’ she asked. ‘Will he help?’
‘I’m afraid not, my dear,’ said Flamel. ‘At least not directly. He prefers to watch these kinds of things from the best view possible.’ Corrine walked forward.
‘Then I suppose we should put on a good show,’ she said. They all nodded in agreement and headed into the hallway, where they separated. A new battle was awaiting all of them.
Presented by Lake Arrowhead Repertory Theatre Company
Victorian Nightmares 2018
All Rights Reserved