Prologue

"And the Fairy of Dreams with moth-wings furled
Plays soft on her flute to the drowsy world."

--Ida Rentoul Outhwaite


My eyelashes stick together, all gluey half-crystallized molasses when I try to open my eyes. The thick syrupy feeling has gotten deep into the center of my head, slowing it down nearly to a halt like freezing the tumultuous churning of the center of the world. My lips cling together too, and the peeling sensation tickles. I'm all bundled up in some heavy fabric, thick and fuzzy like the kind my little brother has in his crib back home. I try to push it off of me, but the molasses in my arms weigh them down, and it's too much effort.

It's then that I hear the hissing in my ears. My sleep-filled eyes still haven't adjusted to the near pitch black of the room and they claw for the shattered and piece-meal puzzle pieces of light sifting in from who knows where. But my ears, they've already woken, and so has my mouth. When I try to speak air just cools my lips and the back of my throat is raw as if I've been screaming for hours and hours and hours, like I did that one time when Nanny wouldn't let me go out and play in the rain. I can hear my own breathing, the soft and familiar whoosh, whoosh of it a bit dampened by the heavy folds of suffocating fabric. The hissing noises grow louder and more rushed, and then my lazy eyes pick up on dark shapes moving all around me in the bizarre room, and although the lava in my brain is moving slower than Josef-- who is Josef, anyway, and why do I remember his name?-- the half-crusty frozen mass of thought budges enough to tell me that those hissing noises are actually people (well, something, anyway) speaking. I don't recognize the language but it sounds angry and a little scared and worried and like the words are longing to come over and gobble me up.

There's a tingling in my body as everything wakes up; I had slept a long time without moving at all. There's stiff, crisp fabric clinging to me, rustling underneath the hot velvet blanket, and I manage to lift the covers enough to see a blood red gown of taffeta on my tiny body. The bouffant skirt is all tangled in my legs like a maze of waterfalls. Ice pierces the molasses in my heart and I panic, tears welling in my eyes.

The gown is familiar. It crinkles against my smooth pale skin in the dark, caressing me. I begin to cry, the tears hot and debilitating, paralyzing me. I feel trapped, drowning in the steam-hot blanket swaddling me. The hissing language quiets down and shadows flicker through the haphazard pieces of light, the only clue to my helpless eyes that anything else is alive in here. Round oval faces as blank and black and featureless as the dark approach, attached on bodies no bigger than my own, looking a bit to big for their torsos. They hiss something at me and I try to scream, releasing nothing more than a vulnerable frog croak. Their words attack the hot tears on my face, hurling sentences at me as one would sharpen knives on a board. One pokes and prods me with its pointy too-long fingers: first my stomach, then my face, the side of my head, my calf, my ribs.

Just as I begin to wiggle helplessly in my cradle, there's a massive cracking sound, like the cracking of tree bark, and the wall to my left splinters and is annihilated by a sharp, painful yellow light. Sunlight fights it way through and silhouettes two slight figures, one distinctively female that hovers a few feet off of the debris and various bodies scattered around the ground at her feet. The other holds an odd rectangle in his hand and holds it up, shouting something in a language I recognize but can't make sense of with the velvet muffling. I try to scream again yet nothing but a liquid ice breath soothes the cracked chapped crevices of my lips, drying the tears that had pooled in the shallow cuts. I'm thirsty enough to drink my own blood, ravenous for water while the thought of food makes my stomach grimace, had they even fed me here--?

"Don't move!" the male voice shouts, breathing hard as he leaned over my black cradle, sweat falling off his brow and onto the expensive fabric. I couldn't move if I tried, anyway, and his words throw me from one tired and aimless train of thought to another; how his face looks as familiar as my dress, but he isn't Josef, no, but that rectangle seems important, too, and he and the girl are fighting the shadow-things, now thrown in full light and they are in fact very pale, with little blue and red veins like marks on a map over their skin and features like knives, one screaming in that fissure language of theirs so hard it slices at my ear drums cutting right through the cradle-cocoon, my eyes are beginning to close again, heavy and tired, as a voice above and behind me speaks backwards over my head in that silver tongue, waving his hands over me, my eyes overtaken by them, their patterns and curves, too-long fingers, slipping, slipping, slipping-- shut.

Glimmers and sparkles settle down behind my eyelids, urging me to sleep, to sleep, to sleep.

And so I slept.