Moonsilver Transfusion Chapter 2
Flicking through the channels of my emergency scanner revealed nothing out of the ordinary, really nothing at all. The city seemed to be sleeping peacefully, but as I crossed Powell Boulevard and drove deeper into the neighborhood, I slowly realized the nightmare brewing beneath it.
It started with an awful, gritty sensation on my tongue, as if I’d caught a mouthful of sand. The scent of hot tar filled the car. Coughing and sputtering, I grabbed a bottle of water from my bag, popped the cap and took a swallow. The water was cool and clean as I swallowed it down. Yet it did nothing to wash the terrible sensation away. I took another drink of water and held it in my mouth. In that moment I had two mouths. One full of water and the other choked on sand.
After swallowing, the sensation of two mouths continued. With every revolution of my tires, the discomfort grew. The grit in that mouth grew to pebble-sized stones that filled it, forced it open, and their heat seared the tongue and gums. A force drove the stones further into the mouth, so they crowded down into the throat, preventing a scream from escaping. I couldn’t breathe. Lungs burned, hot sticky fluid dripped down my throat.
I pulled over, gripped the steering wheel and focused on breathing. Air filled my lungs without effort. The sensations, the choking, they weren’t mine. They had nothing to do with my body. They came from somewhere, and something, else. I had to find out where.
Opening the door, I swung my feet out of the car and screamed as electric pain shot up my legs. Jerking myself back, the muscles of my legs twitched hard. I glared at my legs, half expecting to see my sneakers in flames, but they didn’t even smolder. Checking the ground, I didn’t see any live wire I could have stepped on.
Nothing but the sidewalk.
Cautiously I poked it with the toe of my shoe. The pain ripped up my leg. Prepared this time, I steeled myself against it, mentally gripped it. Agony, the burning of a breath held too long, sharp as a knife drawn across skin. Same flavor as the asphalt-packed mouth. Both coming from something beneath the road.
I pushed the agony back along the paths of my bones. It wasn’t mine, it didn’t belong in my body.
Scream for us! A voice demanded from the very pavement. Scream for us.
Had Joy left something behind? I smelled no glamor of the Dream or the decay of the Twilight.
I staggered, shaking the presence out of my head.
A sharp shriek of surprise and pain split the night somewhere ahead of me, along with the snap of wood and the squeal of metal.
“Help! Let go!”
I sprinted toward the voices, hurdled over a low fence, ran around the first house and into its backyard. The house shared a wooded lot with several other residences. There, a massive hand had reached up from the ground and torn the wall off the nearest house. From two of its fingers, tendrils extended into the house’s interior. I ran towards it with zero plan.
Scream for us, the thing demanded again as the tendrils, twists of rusting cables and roots, streamed inside the house.
“It’s got me! Sarah ru-AHHHHHHHH!” The man’s cry of agony stretched on as my legs carried me closer. I had no time to shift; only the barest trickle of Luna’s power flowed through me. I channeled it into the silver bracelet that she had made me. The metal reshaped into a curved dagger that glowed in my hand. By its light I saw the hand’s composition; pipes served as bones, cables as tendons, a network of roots mimicked blood vessels, and a patchwork of earth stood in for flesh. It towered over me, large enough to touch the roof of a two-story house.
“In Luna’s name! I command you to stop!” I swiped the blade across the fattest root vessel within reach. The wood split as easily as flesh, a dark ichor fountaining from the severed halves. The enormous hand paused its movement and I felt the crushing weight of the entity’s attention. The screaming stopped.
You. Moon-touched woman. We suckled the fire heart from your breast. You awoke us into this agony and left us.
I finally recognized it, the spirit of the neighborhood that I had bargained with to fight the salamanders that Queen Titania had unleashed onto the city. It had caused all the hydrants in the neighborhood to erupt into geysers. The fine mist allowed the CERF firefighters to save the majority of the houses. I thought it simply went back to sleep but clearly, I was wrong.
“I woke you to help save the people who live here. Why are you attacking them?” I called up at it.
The hand’s tendrils retracted beneath nails of asphalt as it closed into a fist. The structure twisted, two street lamps extended from the top like the eyes of a snail, the fingers curling in a way to suggest a face. The lamps lit with a pop, casting me in the glare of a spotlight.
Groggy then. Remember now. Remember all.
That electric pain shot up into my legs, seared up my spine and exploded into my mind. Heavy machinery roared in my ears as steel teeth bit into every square inch of my skin. I screamed as my very bones were pulled from my body, my wandering streams encased in unyielding iron, and human filth pushed through every hollow space. Trenches cut into my flesh and filled with a river of choking hot tar. All without permission, all without tribute to soothe the agony. I growled guttural curse words, “Holy Fucking Shitbags!” On repeat as I gathered my shattered wits and hurled all of Luna’s power I could muster at the spirit.
The pain shattered, the sheer relief at its end left me falling to my knees. I opened my eyes to find I had stabbed the dagger into the very ground. A small circle of moonlight bathed my body. One of the spirit’s street lamp eyes had shattered. I’d hurt it. A little. Maybe.
“I am sorry for your pain,” I gasped, wrenching the dagger from the earth. “But do not do that again.”
You do not claim us. We bear no marks of yours, Moon-Touched Woman. If you will not sing our pain then leave us. We must scream. Those who live upon us shall voice our pain. The light of its busted eye started flickering back to life.
Could I destroy this thing? I wondered. If it were possible, I doubted my little moon dagger would cut it. I’d need Victoria and the power of the full moon at the very least. Its anger seethed beneath my feet, swirling and rippling like a vast lake beneath the soil.
You can’t conquer a lake or land. Not with teeth and claws. The city had conquered it while it slumbered, and now it had woken up to demand its due. Perhaps with a larger pack I could tame it, but not with just Victoria and I. We needed another option.
Hushed conversation drifted from the interior of the house. A woman’s voice.
“It just attacked us. My husband is still bleeding. I’ve got my hands on the wound but he’s still bleeding.”
That I could do something about, if I could just get there. I took a breath.
“Spirit, if you allow me past to help those people you’ve hurt, to get them to safety, and you promise not to slake your rage on the residents of your domain, then I will scream for you until the dawn.”
One voice, one dawn is not enough to express the multitude of agonies that fogs the time before pain.
“That is all I am offering. Surely the voice of the Moon-Touched Woman, given freely, is worth more than the screams of a few terror-filled humans.” I said in my sternest “you better be good” voice.
The spirit’s body rumbled, several eyes opened across its surface, each containing a clock for an iris. The hands spun until the hour hands made a complete rotation. The eyes closed. For your screaming dawn we give one day. Then we will harvest the screams we desire as we have been harvested.
“Deal,” I said, better than nothing. Perhaps I could find a different way to make it happy. Maybe Renata or Cindy would have an idea.
Cross us, Moon-Touched Woman, and your children will never find rest within us.
“I keep my bargains,” I growled at it. Unlike with a Fey promise, I felt nothing loop around my heart. Apparently the magical residents of the crossroads had no magical enforcement of their promises. Interesting. The spirit didn’t retract down into the ground, but instead pivoted to watch me as I circled around it to enter the house. Its street lamp eye kept me in a cone of light.
“Hello?” I called out. “I’m a paramedic, here to help.”
“We’re here! In the kitchen,” that same woman answered.
I followed the voice to find a small family of four huddled behind a counter island. A woman with bloody hands struggled with a makeshift tourniquet around a man’s mangled leg. Two girls, one Secret’s age and the other a couple years older, stared at me, glassy-eyed with shock.
Springing into action, I jumped down beside the woman and opened my medical bag. “Good job with the belt; keep it tight for now.” Whipping out an automatic tourniquet, I slapped it around his leg and twisted it tight. The man groaned as it squeezed.
“Sir, it's going to be alright,” I assured him. Below the knee his leg looked like something had corkscrewed through it. The tourniquet likely doomed the leg, but gave him a chance to actually get to the hospital. I heard sirens, not far.
“Wha-what was that thing?” His voice croaked like an old smoker’s but he couldn’t be more than ten years my senior.
“It's a, uh, spirit. Spirit of the land, specifically Mill Park, I think,” I said, checking his vitals and glancing at the others. No one else had been injured as far as I could see or smell.
“Oh. That makes sense.” He let his head fall to the floor.
“No it doesn’t! Nothing about this makes sense. What are you talking about?!” Her words climbed up to a near-hysterical shriek. She’d held it together while she’d needed to, but now her rubber bands were coming apart. “First the firebugs, then those weird drugged-out people and now this?! We should have sold the house while we could!”
“It showed me things, babe. It just tracks, ya know. It will be fine. It's gone now.” He smiled easily at her, eyes squinting with pain.
“It's…” I hesitated but they needed to know. “Not gone. I bought you some time. Until the next dawn.” The sirens were approaching now, from multiple directions. “During that time you’ll have to figure out how to appease it.”
“Appease it?!” The woman squeaked. “It attacked us! While we were in bed. You’re that werewolf lady, aren't you?! Kill it. Go out there and rip it to pieces. Please!”
“Ma’am, I apologize, but that’d be like picking a fight with Mount Helen. It's the land you live on. It’s not something that can even be killed.” And it's not in my territory so I can’t make it listen to me. I didn’t add that last part. The sirens were almost on us. I slipped an IV into the man’s hand and taped it to his skin. One less thing for the on-duty paramedics to do.
“That doesn’t make any sense! We didn’t do anything! We just live here.” She grabbed at my arm, pulling at my jacket. “You have to do something!”
Instinctively, I twisted out of her grip and shoved her back. Had the moon been a sliver more full, I wouldn’t have been able to contain a snarl.
Still, I bared my teeth at her, “Do not touch me, Ma’am. I am doing what I can. I have bought you a day to figure this out. I am only one person, who cannot be everywhere or fix every problem.”
She stared back at me. Trembling, flooding the air with acrid panic, wet eyes leaking tears. I couldn’t be sure if I wanted to hug her or slap her.
The taller of the girls spoke up. “What does it want?”
“Screams.” Both me and the man spoke at once. We shared a small laugh.
I checked the time, two hours till sunrise.
“It has no way to voice its pain without help. So that's what I will be doing for the next two hours. Screaming its pain.” I said, taking a deep breath and trying not to think about how unpleasant this would be. The sirens had stopped.
Someone pounded on the front door and shouted, “Paramedics!”
Since nobody else moved, I rose to let them in.
“Oh wow, if you’re here. It really is a code W,” one of them commented. Did everyone in the city know what I looked like as a human now? Still, they were polite and professional as I filled them in. They set the husband on a stretcher and wheeled him out. His wife told him she’d follow with the kids.
I went out back. The massive pile of underground debris sat there, perfectly still, waiting. Its lights flickered to life as I approached but the mound did not move. I considered shifting but dismissed it. People are less inclined to shoot a screaming woman than a wolf who wouldn’t shut up.
Standing in front of the mound, I took a deep breath before extending my hands toward it. A creak sounded behind me. I paused and turned to see the older daughter standing on the remnants of their porch. Her face sober and determined.
“Could I scream for it too? Would that make it go away?” She asked.
“Yes, but no. It's always been here. Magic went away for a bit and it went to sleep. Now it's awake but it doesn’t recognize itself. It’s hurt and it wants everyone to know.” No that wasn’t quite it. In my mind’s eye, the image of a sea of seething shades, giggling as they waited for a sudden influx of souls to rip a hole in the barrier between life and death, rose. Regardless of precisely what the spirit wanted, I had to prevent its murder spree. Either the residents of Mill Park appeased the spirit somehow or evacuated the neighborhood. That decision would be up to someone else.
“Sadie!” The mother called. “Come on! We’re leaving.”
The girl nodded to herself and hurried back through the house. I doubted any of them would return to the property.
I touched the mound.
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