I’m going to go ahead and start posting previews of my latest novel Relic here for my own personal reference and for anyone browsing the world wide web to enjoy. All text is © me, this blog, S.Rae Meisinger, and cannot be copied, redistributed, or utilized in any way without my permission. Hit my “Contact Me” page if you would like to use the work for any reason. Above all else, don’t claim it as your own.
Thank you, and enjoy!
Constructive criticism always welcome.
“Relic,” she said, the inflection leading to the question capturing my interest. Part of me wanted to laugh at the sweet way she used my title to address me while another part wanted to burst into tears. “If I were pure enough,” she hesitated and sucked her lip into her mouth, turning the pink flesh white with the pressure of her teeth, “do you think you could see into my memories?”
I’d seen the mess of remembrances accumulated by the human mind once before– a sludgy substance of grey and noise, faces hardly capable of being called such, feelings so confused and muddled one could barely be differentiated from the other. But in order to answer truthfully, I nodded. If anyone were pure enough, comfortable enough with the life the way they witnessed it each day, I could tap into those memories just as well as those of something wholly organic. Probably even better.
“Relic,” she asked again, this time leaning forward to close the gap between us but averting her eyes to stare at her hands which were wrapped calmly around her crossed ankles. “If I asked you to,” suddenly she gawked at me with cool doe eyes, “would you try?”
Something in the energy around us sparked into a flame. I felt electrically charged and completely numb at the same time. I hadn’t the slightest inclination as to why anyone would want another to probe through their personal recollections, but I wasn’t opposed to the idea. Clearing my throat, I nodded then swallowed the strange feeling building up underneath my heart. Immediately, Pia stood in her spot and I followed her lead. She dusted the dirt from her backside and legs and looked into my eyes with the most honest of appeals, reaching out for my hand. In response, I simply lifted my hands to cradle her cheeks and pressed forward into her mind.
Abruptly, a scream flooded my senses. My hands flew from the girl’s face and my eyelids snapped open, my gaze meeting her narrowed pupils in a flurry of confusion. She was searching me for an answer just as well and it was then that I grasped it– the scream hadn’t come from her or from within; it was echoing through the cavern. Time passed too quickly, or perhaps just painfully slow, and when Pia’s expression widened in terror she grabbed my hand and pulled me deeper into the caves, into the darkness. I pulled my arm back, trying to free myself. Going toward the sound seemed like the last thing we should be doing, especially with the whole island mere feet away from us.
Pia released me momentarily, but then grabbed me by the wrist for a better grip.
“Listen, we need to go this way,” she all but begged, standing still and pleading at me from her eyes. We stood frozen in the center of the cave’s mouth, but Pia’s fingers had no intention of letting up, instead boring into my skin with renewed fervor. “We need to find Damara. Now.”
The memories evoked at that name weren’t comfort enough to ease my hesitations. I shook my head again, remembering the man aboard The Discordia, the pendant around his neck, the reason I had come to the island. I continued to deny her prompt and touched my fingers to the hand she held at my wrist, an aching plea of my own. Pia looked frantically over her shoulder, then over mine, combatting within herself the possible consequences of my petition against her own. When her grip loosened, I immediately switched roles and threaded my fingers through hers before leading the way back out onto the hill-face.
The calm was surprising given the circumstances and the previous onslaught of rain and suddenly I found myself wishing the torrent would begin again. The way Pia herself had hesitated at fleeing from the source of the scream made me question whether or not she understood it as a danger at all. It was possible that it was custom for these people, or as she put it, “ritual”, to bring the dead back to life, but the implication of it seemed too inherently evil for me to blindly accept.
I led us swiftly down the treacherous mound, throwing all caution to the wind. The sand so thoroughly soaked with rain felt good on my feet, but the relief was fleeting. As we neared the forest line again, I caught of flash of something between the trees, moving rapid and foreign. Pia’s fingernails dug into the back of my hand and when I looked back at her, I saw nothing more than a fearful warning of danger. Her silence was enough to convince me– whatever it was out there, shuffling through the underbrush, it was a death trap. I let my hand go limp, let her take control, wanting her to lead me once again to safety.
But Pia didn’t take control. Instead she stood as dead-still as I had, both of us waiting for something to make sense and set us back on a rational timeline. The split-second decision took hold of me, tightening its grip in my chest and I pulled Pia forcefully into the maze of trees. As we went, I touched bark and branch just long enough to seek through their immediate memories, mimicking Pia’s tactic. I had never been prompted to use my gift in such a harried way before, always serving a more far-sighted purpose, but the flashes were more than enough. Often, heading back the way we came almost precisely, I saw the recollections of us as perceived by the forest, dawdling through the foliage, me following Pia like a lost dog.
Other touches gave way to memories significantly more sinister: a dark figure moving quickly and fluidly through the vegetation, seldom standing still long enough for a memory to form in the slow-feeling trees. Those memories I learned from, following them as a guide to stray from our path just slightly, avoiding any sign of the recent threat.
She must have understood the method of my madness. She held my hand firmly in her own and watched patiently, following diligently and without any question. As intrigued as she had appeared to be back in the cave when she found out about my origins, her silent admiration was almost palpable in the way she conducted herself on our trek back to the waterlogged village. She was reverent, something I was entirely unaccustomed to. Standing in that position of leadership, however, having someone follow me and rely on my better judgment without threatening harm or death felt extraordinary. In that fleeting, cognizant understanding, I almost appreciated why power-hungry men existed the way they did.
And then I fell.
Hit with a running force, I toppled forward, at first pulling Pia with me but quickly having enough sense to let go of her hand so as not to drag her along. She let out a gasp loud enough for me to hear over the din generated by our crashing through the brush. In the seconds that followed, I felt hands prodding and groping my body, heard the sound of jaws snapping. Had I been capable of a scream, one surely would have burst forth from my lungs. My heart pounded hard, resonating in my ears so I could count each beat.
I grappled with my assailant, jutting the butt of my palm forward to make contact with a thud against the man’s ribcage. Influenced by the blunt trauma, he fell backwards, tripping over his own legs, and slammed with the full force of his body against the thick trunk of a tree. While he struggled to regain control, Pia stood between us, blocking my line of sight. In the next moment, he was slumped forward, lifeless and still.
Pia turned to me, her chest heaving with gulping breaths, face rosy.
In her hand was another necklace, another pendant. Viatite.