The door whispers. A woman speaks, ‘Ethan is so busy building his empire, he forgets his manners,’ The crow circles. Darkness between the couple. She takes the young woman’s arm, ‘Come my dear, I have something to show you.’
He is young again. Hesitant. His face hidden behind soft ribbons of hair.
‘Hurry up child!’
He remembers her hands. Rough on his. Lifetimes. Mapped out, drawn, painted, sealed beneath the yellowed varnish of this hallway. Just one word. An oath sworn.
A soft hiss of tapestry on oak. A dagger through his thoughts. He runs at her, taking her shoulders. Forcing her back against the wall, ‘I told you never to follow me.’
‘But you were gone so long,’ she moves her body into his anger, ‘and I got tired of waiting,’
‘I’m sorry,’ he tempers his strength, steering her towards the concealed door. Guiding her way back. Holding the leash of his rage tight.
But she slips away from him. Dancing. Pirouetting into the long room, ‘I thought you had a dungeon or something hidden back here,’ the tips of her fingers are curling a smile around her mouth, ‘but it’s just a gallery, that’s nothing to be ashamed of.’
‘Did I say I was ashamed?’ He grabs at her. Playfully. Deliberately. And she folds into his body.
‘Are they all paintings of your family?’
‘No and Yes? You drive me wild with your enigma, Ethan.’
‘Yes, they are my family.’
‘They are all so…’ she tilts against his chest, ‘I mean usually there’s something like a massive nose or receding chin in common, some blood born connection. But these look more like a bunch of random strangers that someone pulled off the street. That’s so weird.’
Frozen in time. Another. Another. Unmoved. Untouched by her words.
‘Weird and dead, that’s my family all over.’ He wraps his arms tight around her, ‘Come on, let’s go make some noise in the music room.’
‘Except for the peacock blue of their eyes,’ her smile lights slowly, ‘and I thought you were the only one.’
The first wave of panic. Biting. Breaking across his chest, ‘No,’ he whispers, ‘I won’t let this happen.’
‘So strange…’ she pulls away, caught by the shimmer. Blue to green. Green to blue. And she sighs.
‘Sarah, I mean it, we need to leave before it’s too late.’
‘What do you mean, too late?’ Her fingers still held to her mouth.
And he feels it. Bite in him. Drag in him. Burn in him. Ropes. Chains through his blood. Just one word. An oath. The last to rot here is the first to rot here. The culmination and the destruction. It curls in his throat. Growls at the moon. The sum of it all. Just one word.
‘Too late to leave,’ he says.
But his words come late.
The door whispers.