The Silver Reckoning
"My fairytale book says if you drink the moonbeams, you'll live forever," Evania commented in a far-off voice.
"Huh?" Silvester dropped the rock he'd been examining and rolled over in the dewey grass to look at his friend. Little Eva was propped up on her elbows, head thrown back to take in all the night's splendor. With her shimmery white dress and ivory skin, she was almost like a moonbeam herself.
"Moonbeams," Eva repeated dreamily.
Silvester rolled his eyes and turned back to his rock. There was a spider on it somewhere, he was sure, and he wanted to catch it for his collection. "Why would you want to live forever? Then you'd never get to go to heaven and see the angels." Eva pretended not to hear him, and remained staring up at the mosaic of stars drenched in the light of the moon.
"Silvester Aloysius Rutherford! What are you doing up so late?" The haughty voice of Mrs. Rutherford interrupted the peaceful chirping of crickets.
Eva giggled. "She used your full name, Silvie. You're in trouble now!"
"Oh, hush," Silvester scowled, standing up and brushing the dirt and grass off of his clothes. "You'd better get back home too. Your parents will worry."
"I don't care," Eva said lightly, turning her attention back to the moon. Silvester stood staring down at his friend for a few moments, puzzled at her behavior, before another warning was called across the lawn.
"Coming, Mother," he replied hastily, dropping his rock and hurrying to the porch of his home. With a last glance back at the door, he could still see Eva, sprawled across the damp grass and gazing up at the night.
Silvester opened his eyes with startling calm. Ever since his transformation, he'd been plagued by the memories in his sleep. It was as if his own subconscious hated what he was about to do—what he had to do. But after years of pursuit around the world, the game of cat-and-mouse was drawing to a close. Silvester was fueled by hatred and regret, while his quarry had grown tired of his persistence. She knew her time on Earth was coming to a close.
Silvester sprung up from his crouch on the forest floor—surprisingly full of energy for a man who looked as old as he did. His hands were mottled with liver spots and his hair had changed from a coppery brown to light pewter. He looked old, but he had the strength of twenty young men.
The sun was just beginning to set as Silvester started out through the trees, towards the town. In the growing darkness, the most apparent trail to follow was the scent of lavender that wafted through the air. The smell led him through a maze of twists and turns through the trees before finally leading out of the forest. Silvester stopped, then, just for a moment, and set his jaw in resolve before continuing onward. The dying light would not be the only thing coming to an end that day.
"Silvie! Psst! Silvie!" Someone was calling outside Silvester's window. He gave a half-conscious grunt and rolled over, pushing a pillow over his head.
"Gwah?" Silvester suddenly bolted upright, finally acknowledging that someone was calling his name. Despite the humidity in the air, the polished wooden floor still managed to be cold against his bare feet as he inched out of bed and shuffled over to the open window.
"Eva? What are you doing?" Silvester hissed two stories down at his childhood friend standing in the front yard of the Victorian mansion. Eva had grown into a beautiful young woman with bright hazel eyes, an angular nose, and long ebony hair that tumbled down to the middle of her back. She was wearing the latest style of Edwardian dress: light blue, with black tulle lining the cuffs and hem. Even though he was still groggy from sleep, Silvester couldn't help but admire her.
"I've come to tell you my secret!" Eva giggled excitedly.
"Shh! You'll wake the entire house!" Silvester shushed fearfully.
"Oh, codswallop. Do you want me to tell you or not?"
Silvester hesitated. "I'll be down in a moment," he said. He paused at the window a moment longer, and then dashed back over to his bed, snatching his robe off the back of a chair and trying to put it on while hurrying downstairs. In the process, he managed to get his left arm in the right sleeve, stub his toe on a table, and nearly knock over a crystal vase of flowers situated in the center of a doily on the parlor table. It was a miracle no one woke up.
When he finally managed to get the door open, Eva was waiting on the doorstep with a small, secretive smile playing at the corner of her mouth.
"What? What is it?" Silvester asked breathlessly.
"Oh, Silvie," Eva laughed. "It's the most wonderful thing."
"What?" he pressed.
"I've caught a moonbeam," Eva sighed.
Silvester's shoulders slumped forward. "That's why you wanted me to come down? That's your secret? It couldn't have waited till the morning?"
"Moonbeams don't last till the morning," Eva said.
"I'm not crazy, Silvester. Look." She pulled a glass jam jar out of her embroidered handbag and held it up to him. Inside, suspended in midair, hung a drop of shimmery silver liquid, pulsing softly.
"How—but…I don't understand," Silvester sputtered.
"Remember how when we were children, and I had that fairytale book with the story about moonbeams?"
"Vaguely, yes," Silvester responded slowly.
"Well, you live forever if you catch one and drink it. Silvie, we could live forever!"
"No," Silvester shook his head and took a few steps back. "Eva, no. That's not right. It's not the right order of things."
"What are you talking about? Do you mean to tell me that you actually want to get old and die?"
"I don't want to get old, but it's not right to stay alive forever," Silvester responded.
"Well, why not?"
"It seems a bit…a bit sacrilegious, doesn't it? Unnatural? There's just something wrong about it, like it shouldn't ever happen."
Eva laughed. "What, are you still stuck on the whole 'die and go to heaven' thing? Please. This is so much better." She gazed into the glass jar with a fierce pride. "Eternal life."
"Never dying, never growing old…"
Silvester licked his lips nervously. "Eva!"
"What?" she responded irritably, looking up from the moonbeam.
"Promise me you won't ever—" he paused, trying to word his statement so that Eva wouldn't grow angry with him. "That you won't drink one until…until I'm ready."
Eva smiled, but her eyes were hard and fierce. "Of course. But you'd better come to terms with it soon. I don't want to be stuck as an old maid for eternity."
A cold mist was seeping across the old cemetery as Silvester walked down the old cobblestone street. He could see the tall stained obelisk where his mother and father were buried, and, further away, the crumbling stone angel that marked the tombs of his wife and daughter. The street, much like the cemetery, was deathly silent. There were a few black-cloaked people outside running errands, but most were indoors, away from the cold.
Silvester enjoyed the cold. It was the one sensation he could still feel after his transformation. Before, he'd hated the cold as much as anyone else. But now, it made him feel more alert and ready to take on the task he had put upon himself. She had to be stopped, and he was the only one who could do it.
The silver letter opener in his coat pocket thumped against his chest as Silvester came to an intersection and turned down a different street. This place had once been so familiar to him, but now it seemed like a dream. The large houses, once full of grandeur and refinement, now slumped dejectedly all along the street. Some were still inhabited, but Silvester came to stop in front of a boarded up mansion with peeling white paint that had turned gray over the years. One of the green shutters on an upstairs window had come loose and now tilted at an angle from the remaining bottom hinge, threatening to drop onto the rotting front porch below. The grass was overgrown with weeds and knee-high grass, and a rosebush had almost completely taken over the path to the door.
Silvester clenched his fists as the memories once again resurfaced, hating her for choosing this place as their final confrontation. She had taken everything from him, and this was her way of rubbing salt in the wound. He would make her pay dearly.
Silvester followed the sound of the tinkling piano music to its source, where he found Eva sitting regally at the piano bench, back straight and fingers flying across the keys. Her playing faltered for only a moment when Silvester came to stand beside her and watch as she practiced her music.
"Well?" Eva glanced up at him with a small smile when she hit another wrong note. "Are you purposely trying to ruin my practice?"
Silvester smiled back in return and reached out to brush back a strand of hair that had fallen over her face. "No, I'm admiring your musical talent," he responded. Eva's lip quirked up and she turned back to her sheet music, but she stopped only a few moments later when she had difficulty with the next chord. "Something's bothering you," she said finally, turning to face Silvester. He sighed in defeat and sat down next to her on the piano bench.
"I was thinking…" Silvester began.
"About?" she prompted.
"About us," he said.
Silvester bit his lip. "Well, Eva, I've known you for a long time, and—"
"And I want to stay with you for an even longer time," Eva leaned against his shoulder. "Have you finally—"
Silvester stood up and turned to face her. "No! Eva, no. I wish you would stop bringing it up. You keep going on about this eternal life-moonbeam thing and can't even—"
"How long have you made me wait?" Eva snapped. "It's been five years, Silvester. I believe I've been very patient."
"Marry me," Silvester interrupted. "Will you marry me?"
Eva gave him a long, silent look. "Only if you'll drink a moonbeam."
"No, Silvester! I'm tired of your excuses. If you want to marry me, you want to be with me forever. So what's stopping you?"
"It's not right. We can't live a normal life," Silvester protested.
"Who says? Why do you think we couldn't be just as happy as a mortal couple?"
Silvester inhaled sharply. "We don't know for sure what it would do to us. Would we still have souls? Still have morals? Still be us? Or would we be monsters? We don't know, and I'm not taking that risk."
"Then I won't marry you, Silvester Rutherford." Eva stood up and flounced out of the room.
She had been so sure he would come to see her way of thinking eventually, especially now that he had proposed to her. But he hadn't. He couldn't. And so he had moved on with his life, found someone else—young Camille Grover, whom he loved very much. They had a beautiful daughter, Victoria, a year into their marriage. All that time, he never heard a word from Eva. He missed her, but figured it was just as well he didn't know what she was up to.
And suddenly she came back. It was a late spring night, and Camille was downstairs in the sitting room with their daughter while Silvester was upstairs in his study. He remembered the windows flying open with a heart-stopping bang, and the subsequent rush of cold air blew out the candles he had been working with.
Eva stood in the study, bathed in a halo of white light from the full moon. She looked exactly the same as when he had last seen her, yet she also looked entirely different. Cold, cruel, and entirely unlike the Eva he knew.
"What are you doing here?" Silvester managed to rasp. He slowly reached for the letter opener on his desk, but in a movement faster than his eyes could follow, she had lifted him out of his chair and slammed him into the wall, the letter opener glinting at his throat.
"It's no use fighting me, Silvie," she hissed, grinning wickedly. "Oh, Silvie, Silvie. You've been a bad boy while I've been away."
"What…do you…mean?" Silvester choked, pulling at the cold white hand that was closed around his neck.
"Hush," Eva said, slapping the flat side of the letter opener across his lips for silence. "I must think of a way to punish you." It was only a few moments before her eyes lit up and she gave a small giggle. Silvester squirmed in her grasp, not liking the fiendish look in the deep black orbs. "Ah, yes. How rude of me. I must go meet the rest of your family. No need to introduce me—I can do it myself."
"Don't you dare hurt them!" Silvester gasped, but in a blink, she had let go of him and run downstairs.
"Camille! Eva, no!" Silvester ran after her, coming to a dead stop when he reached the sitting room. Camille was sitting on the sofa with her back to him, head slumped to one side, and Eva was standing before her. Victoria was nowhere to be seen.
"Shh, she's sleeping," Eva hissed, putting a porcelain finger to her lips. But her eyes were laughing at him.
"Where's Victoria?" Silvester demanded quietly, not wanting to wake his wife.
"Here," Eva pointed at Camille's lap. Silvester gave a sigh of relief.
"You know," Eva said. "I've never really liked Camille."
"Don't you dare!" Silvester shouted.
Camille awoke and raised her head at the noise. "Silvester? What's wrong? Who's she—"
Before Camille could say another word, Eva bared her teeth and lashed out with the letter opener. Scarlet drops scattered across the room, and Camille dropped back with an angry gash gracing her throat. Silvester rushed over to her, only to find that Victoria was also dead, strangled while Camille had been sleeping and while he had still been hurrying downstairs.
"No," Silvester gasped. "No. No, no, no!" He lunged at Eva, but she threw out an arm and effortlessly sent him flying across the room, to crash into the grand piano with a clash of splintering wood and broken keys.
Through blurry vision, Silvester could see something bright and orange flickering across the room. Soon after, the smell of burning wood and carpet filled the air. He cried out in anguish and rolled off the piano, trying to get to the fire and stop it in time. He could feel that his wrist was broken, and he most likely had a concussion.
"Rutherford? My God, man, what happened?" A multiple shadows stormed into his vision, and Silvester found himself hoisted off his huddle on the floor to face Gregor Landry, the next-door neighbor. Other men were putting out the fire in the corner, and some were checking on Camille and Victoria.
Silvester tried to say something, but all he could manage was a strangled sob.
"We saw something crashing through the window—looked like a demon," Gregor said.
"That," Silvester finally managed to say, spitting blood out of his mouth as he did so, "was Evania Peterson."
As an immortal with no sense of pain and superhuman strength, the rosebush was fairly easy to rip out of Silvester's way as he walked up the path towards the old mansion. When he finally reached the porch, he noticed that the door handle had been knocked out, allowing the front door to creak open effortlessly and expose the dusty blackness within.
Even after all these years, the sitting room still smelled like smoke, and as Silvester made his way further into his old home, he couldn't help but glance over at the blackened corner by the tea table and regard the smashed grand piano that both Eva and Camille had played so beautifully. Even the shards of glass from the window Eva had broken so long ago still patterned the floor.
Before he even realized what he was doing, Silvester found himself standing in front of the sofa, a mottled brown hand reaching out to reverently touch the bloodstains that had seeped into the embroidery. It had been so long since he had been back. Ever since that night, he had been searching for a way to kill Eva. And after long years of searching, he had finally come to realize that the only way would be to drink a moonbeam as well in order to match her strength and have a chance at finally killing her. By the time he had finally become immortal, he was an old man. But the effects of the moonbeam were still the same—strength, speed, no pain.
The smell of lavender interrupted his thoughts, and in a flash Silvester was up and across the room, slamming Eva into the wall. While she had been waiting for him, she had sewn her lips shut, and even though Silvester knew it hadn't hurt her one bit, he couldn't help but feel sickened at the sight of the blood-soaked threads emerging from punctured flesh. He tightened his hands around her throat, readying himself to kill her.
It took only a second for him to realize that he actually wanted an explanation before he killed her, and she raised her chin defiantly at his hesitation, knowing what he wanted and that in order to get it he would have to let go of her.
"Oh ho ho," Silvester chuckled humorlessly. "You're good. If I want you to talk, I have to let you go, is that it? I see how it is." He leaned down to whisper in her ear. "But you're weak. I learned every trick in that fairy book of yours. And then I burned it."
He muttered an incantation under his breath and then took his hands away. Eva remained where he had left her, struggling against an invisible force that continued to hold her against the wall by her throat.
Silvester reached inside his coat to take out the sharp letter opener he had kept all these years. In a swift motion, he brought it across Eva's face, severing the threads that held her lips together and prevented her from talking. Almost immediately, the moonbeam inside her worked its magic, healing the wounds to leave only small streaks of blood behind.
"Now," Silvester said, spinning the sharp object in his hand. "If you tell me why you were so hell-bent on ruining my entire life, I might decide to kill you quickly."
Despite her discomfort with the invisible chokehold Silvester had put on her, Eva let out a laugh.
"You're so dense, Silvie," she spat.
"Tell me," Silvester growled dangerously.
"Or what, you'll kill me?" she scoffed. "Well, since you're going to do that anyway, I don't really see why I should…"
"Now," he demanded.
"Fine," she growled. "But at least ask nicely."
"You killed my wife and child, led me on a fifty-year chase around the world, caused me to spend the rest of my existence coming up with a way to stop you, and you want me to ask nicely? No. You'll tell me because I demanded, not because I asked. Why did you do it?"
"Isn't it obvious?" she said, straining her neck to escape the invisible hands around it. "Because I loved you."
"Love? You call that love?" he mocked her. "I'd hate to see what you call hate."
"You left me," she said. "If you hadn't been so weak, if you had just agreed to become immortal in the first place, and not wait sixty years later, none of this would have happened. I thought maybe, if you saw that I was immortal and nothing was wrong, that you would give in. But instead you replaced me."
"But everything was wrong," Silvester said. "You turned into a monster."
"You made me what I am," Eva replied flatly. "I was immortal the day you proposed to me—I couldn't wait any longer. And I wasn't a monster then."
"No." Silvester shook his head, refusing to believe her. "All of this is your fault. You destroyed everything!" he shouted.
"So do it, then," Eva said quietly, growing still. "If I'm the source of your misery, then go ahead and put an end to it. Go on. You know how to kill me. You've come all this way. Don't back out now." Her voice was hard and cold. "But you can't deny that it was you who started this whole thing. Your fear of 'upsetting the balance' led you to this. We were supposed to be together, not you and Camille. It was your choice that led you to this."
Silvester could stand it no longer. With an angry yell, he stabbed the letter opener into her chest, piercing her heart. Eva gave a shocked gasp as she finally felt pain again for the first time in years. Blood, stained silver from the moonbeam that resided in her heart, dripped out over her dress and onto the floor.
"Goodbye, Silvie," Eva whispered with her dying breath. In the silence that followed, Silvester released the spell he had placed to hold her against the wall, and she slumped to his feet, empty hazel eyes staring up at him.
"Goodbye, Eva," he said quietly.
A/N: Lots of flashbacks. Hehe. This is for Maranwe Telrunya's weekly writing challenge, although I'm a little late submitting thanks to finals and work. Ah well. C'est la vie. :)