Copyright: Characters in this story may not belong to me but to fellow writers here on fictionpress. Should you like to use these characters, you must first ask permission of the rightful owner(s)
Notes: Thankyou to DirtyMindedHo and ReLiC AnGeL who submitted two characters mentioned here; Tyler and Hana. I deeply apologize that they didn't get their own chapters each but I wanted to finish this story and my ideas weren't good enough in my eyes to create a story worthy of the characters. I hope you can understand. Without further ado, here is the final chapter of PHOBIA. I hope you enjoy it~!
The dark haired boy's eyes are downcast and they deliberately pull away from any female member of the audience surrounding him. Matercula especially. He stands and lacking the hesitation he held before telling his story, he darts to his position beside the tall man once again. Perhaps the light has changed, or you aren't focusing so much on the boy now because you catch the profile of the man. His hair is a dark auburn colour and teal eyes have been tainted by the fire and your mind softens them and places them underneath natural light. Tousled amber hair and soft jade eyes. You reason with much evidence that this is the man from Jason's story and your heart swells for him. Was he now the teen's constant guardian? Or even his friend? Either way, this man had formed a bond with the teen when Jason had run into him and is still protecting him even now. This fills your being with a strange happiness that overwhelms the feeling of sympathy and sorrow left behind with Jason's story.
The old crone sitting in her chair now slips the silver ball from it's pouch and once again tosses it through the air where it hovers and casts its light over the guests. You notice how the light seems to draw in all means of illumination surrounding it, creating a solitary beam of silver that flits over the occasional pale face. Some flinch away from it, some regard it with curiosity and some fail to notice it at all. Yet all are silent as it decides.
The silver beam halts and falls upon a woman.
This woman has a look of danger about her. She is slim and small, with dark, sharp eyes flitting across the room almost anxiously. She sits upon her knees in the familiar spot and her eyes search her audience before settling. Matercula's voice creaks out from the silence to the woman.
"We are neither friend nor foe here, yet none shall speak of another should that be held desirable. Tell us your name child. Tell us your tale."
The woman nods slowly and she speaks calmly, "My name is Tyler." Her voice is confident and strong, "My story is one of my fears. I cannot persuade you to feel sorry for me if this leaves the idea that I am selfish, but I assure you my reasons are clear...
When I was a young child, I lived with my parents in a small house way out in the country. Naturally there was a huge variety of wildlife to observe and my parents often encouraged me to go out and see what creatures I could find lurking in the grasses and hedges. It was always a thrill to find something new, something beautiful or colourful and I would often catch them in glass jars to show to my father so he could help me identify them.
"Naturally I understand much about insects and the like. However there was always something I was afraid of. Seem it strange; but I was always scared of butterflies. If one fluttered by my head I would scream and run from it or beat at it with whatever I could find. The same happened with moths. Many people cannot sleep if they know there is a spider in their bedroom, I cannot sleep if there is a moth in my room. I wasn't so sure why I was afraid of them back when I was young. I just knew that the wings and antennae disturbed me; twitching and curling with bulging eyes staring in every direction. Their tongues licked my eyes in my dreams and they laid their eggs in my ears whilst I slept, letting their children swarm from my ears, nose and mouth when they hatched.
"Those dreams terrified me.
"Now that I am older I am no longer plagued by such dreams. Instead I am haunted with the fear of becoming something as ugly as a moth.
"Do not think me vain. Beauty is nothing I crave - the ugliness I fear is that of the mind. I fear my thoughts becoming distorted and mutilated so much that I am unrecognizable as myself anymore. I fear that my mind will become a place of nightmares, where nobody dares to tread. I care not about my physical appearance. I am not so vain that I fear for the loss of any handsome feature I may possess. My occupation is one that keeps me in the shadows and well hidden at any cost, so I am not even required to look beautiful.
"What is this occupation? Well, I am an assassin. One of stealth and strength. So you see now how my fear could come true. If you do not.. perhaps I can share with you my own experience..."
Her tale brings chills down your spine. She tells her audience of a time she was needed to rescue a fellow assassin. The assassin's blood ran cold with madness and a sick new delight in bringing pain upon others. The reason? His occupation. It had required him to kill many people and he had managed to shoot other innocent victims too, whether by accident or by sheer lack of interest in their pleas of mercy for his target.
The result had sent him mad.
Due to the circumstances, Tyler had had to shoot her comrade dead. He had fallen with a resounding fuhlumpinto a heap on the wooden flooring and his blood encouraged tendrils of steam to curl up into the air like a pale clouded fire. The chill had bitten her arms, cheeks and fingers but she stood numb and stared at her reflection in a darkened shard of glass.
She had caught her reflection as she had shot the man and it had caught her off-guard entirely.
After listening to the man's frantic raving about how good it felt to shoot someone; how therapeutic it felt to watch their blood soak through their shirts, blouses and ties; how instinctive it was to completely shut down and focus on the killing that made him feel so good inside after having completed a mission, she saw him reflected in herself. When she looked into the mirror, she saw herself in his position. He wasn't so much older than her. She could already be in the same position as him.
She looked down at his body and felt no remorse, no pain or guilt. What was this but duty? She had thought. But then.. was duty right?
She could imagine herself inside a thinly wrapped cocoon, covered in a slick and gloopy clouded mucus that burned her skin like acid. It distorted her features as she crawled out from the walls of her chamber and she laughed a screeching laugh that provoked no implications of hope, just utter despair. She saw herself unleashing barrages of bullets onto walls of bodies that screamed and bled helplessly, showering her with scarlet.
Yet she felt nothing. She smiled.
This is what she fears.
Your mind is full of life when she returns to her place. You are thinking over Tyler's tale, thinking of how close she is to becoming a monster and how easy it must be for her now. Because she is in the line of work that can create such a person unintentionally. You start to wonder how many other occupations out in the world can do such horrific damage to the mind and your own mind wanders out to far regions of the earth, pulling together possibilities and somewhere a mental note is made to never apply for such a horrible job.
So engrossed in your thoughts you are only pulled out of them at the sound of Matercula's crumbling tones meeting your ears once more. You notice that there is someone else now in Tyler's place.
She has been replaced by another woman. This woman is entirely different. She is dark of hair and pale of face with a blank look about her that suggests that she is not one of the living. The only way to recognize her life is through her steady breathing. Her clothes are black and worn and a pair of fake white wings almost comically protrude from her shoulders, the contrast drawing attention to her.
She places a hand upon a small white dog sitting beside her. The dog is a silvery white and sits loyally to her side. It holds in it's mouth a book of sorts and this the woman takes with a loving care. She opens the book and produces a thick marker from within the folds of her dark coat and begins to scrawl on the page. When she finishes she holds up the book and shows it to her audience. 'My name is Hana. I am a mute' it reads. You hear a ghostly voice repeat the words in your mind as your eyes trace the thick, shaky handwriting which is not quite feminine but also not quite masculine.
Drawing your attention from the echoes pounding in your mind, you find yourself watching Hana write once again. You have never witnessed a mute's storytelling before and this excites you. The anxiety of waiting for her to finish writing fills up within you and you find your eyes cannot be drawn from the swift movements of her pen.
Her tale is one of loneliness, it depicts her struggle to understand the world around her causing her to scream endlessly for attention that she had failed to recognize as being all around her. Her fear of being left alone became her only means of clinging to the distorted vision of a life she thought she lived. She fought to be loved and noticed but failed to see that this was only pushing her away from those she loved, therefore making her even more lonely in the end. She recognizes this now and she feels ashamed, but she cannot go back.
You feel a small but recognizable sense of confusion, but her guilt at being so cruel to the world around her spreads through your being and you cannot help but feel sympathy for the dark haired woman. You sense her embarrassment and sorrow as she treads back to her seat, returning the book to her loyal pet that you have learnt from her tale is named Rue. Faithful as ever, he padded across the floor with her and sat close to her when she too seated herself.
You take a sip from your mug and the warmth of the liquid within it fills your body once again.
The night, you can tell, is drawing to a close. Your mug is finally refusing to refill itself and it's warmth in your hands begins to fade. However, it's effect is clear as ever.
As the minutes turn to hours, you see more people stand and move across to the section on the mat where all others have been seated. They are all shapes and sizes; male and female; children and adults, and each tale grips you and sends your mind out onto further planes of thought than you thought you could imagine. All the while the fire continues to crackle and snap - comforting, powerful and warm.
You watch Matercula's eyes throughout the night and they never fail to catch your gaze, twinkling with mischief and wisdom of ages. They are sunken eyes and the skin surrounding them is freckled and withered, lying in folds below the twinkling dark eyes. They appear almost amused but never lose their vitality as any other old woman's may do with age.
As the night grows old and the evening now draws to an end, the crone stands and slowly shuffles to the space in which everyone has told their tale throughout the night. Her layers of thick skirts, crumpled from being seated, fall from her hips and trail along the floor and her bag bumps across her thighs lightly as she treads and turns into the space.
Her eyes track through her audience, meeting the gaze of each person in turn. She meets your own and you can't help but flinch away from it almost instantly. You see the hint of a smirk as her eyes move away from you and your own eyes meet the floor. When her eyes finish their wandering she dips her withered hand into the pouch at her thigh. A sense of recognition and anticipation washes over you as her fingers, clenched and covered with a murky dust, emerge from the fabric bag and she raises it to her mouth. You are very familiar with this ritual but it never fails to excite you. Your mug sits discarded beside your knee, having emptied itself of it's contents at some point in the night.
Matercula inhales slowly and simultaneously opens her clenched hand. Slowly she exhales and the dust scatters like ash in the wind, shimmering in the golden firelight and spreading through the air like a fine mist. You hear Matercula's crackling voice speaking as the dust floats down around you.
"We end our night of tales, my children. I bid you farewell and I offer my thanks for helping us all to try to understand the mysteries surrounding one and other. I expect your return in due time. For now, good night."
The dust begins to settle and you feel it on your skin and in your eyelashes. Your eyes grow hot and sticky and they blur with a fine film of mucus that welds your eyelids shut. It is uncomfortable but you have felt this before. You anticipate the next feelings and hear the confused murmurs and shrieks around you as newcomers experience their first encounter with the ritual of farewell.
Suddenly a sharp pull drags you back as though a rope has encircled your waist and is yanking you back. You hear yourself yelp and hear more shouts and screams from everyone around you but they melt together and become a buzz in your ears like a demented bee circling your ear, flying around and around with no reason to stop. The pulling around your waist jars and jerks roughly whilst the air around you rushes and bites at your skin, switching from the warm familiarity of the library to a harsh and bitter cold that relentlessly nibbles at your flesh-
Then it's over.
Your vision is clear and focused and all that is left is a light sting upon your eyes as though they have had little oxygen in a long time. The hot liquid you have been drinking all night is still sweet on your lips and as you stare up at the mouldy house behind a pair of locked and rust-stained old gates you hear the old crone's voice ring in your ears.
"Til next we meet, child."
A/N: I'd like to say an absolutely huge thankyou to all of my readers and reviewers and to everyone who submitted a character. I really hope you enjoyed reading this story and I hope you'll give my others a glance, but if not I wish you luck and give you all my deepest thanks!