For a strange moment I feel like taking a long drink from the pond to quench my parched throat. The potion I drank and all of the throwing up has made me fairly thirsty and left a vile taste in my mouth. As I am splashing around however, watching the ripples shoot through the water I remember the fairy woman sitting down beneath the surface and I decide against it. Wouldn’t it be weird to drink the water she’s been floating in? I mean she’s a fairy, I assume they’re pretty good on hygiene but… it just seems weird now, you know? I’ll pass this time around. There are other ponds here, or I’ll just die soon anyways; that’s always a good option too. But I don’t think I can stomach fairy-bathwater just yet, I haven’t sunk that low so far, have I?
Splashing around the pond with my hands I opt to instead poke around with the duller end of my shoddy spear, trying to get the fairy to notice me hoping she hasn’t already drifted back to sleep. The end of the long wooden branch pokes something beneath the water and is shifted sideways as a force is applied to it from beneath the surface. Something grabbing it and pushing it away. A moment later the water bubbles up again together with my hopes and the blood rushing through my hopeful, wildly beating heart. As the familiar motion of the surface of the water comes to life and a familiar silhouette rises upward slowly out of it, I feel a tinge of relief. She’s awake. Finally, someone to talk to. Finally someone I can ask something! Finally! Someone who sees me!
I could cry again out of joy, but I opt not to because I don’t want her to see me do it. It would be embarrassing after all. She already saw the inside of my box when I was a mimic. No, that’s not a metaphor. Just the thought makes me want to die even now I think to myself, holding my wet palms against my warmly flushing cheeks. That was really embarrassing, okay? As I think that I look down to my front and adjust the leather bag to cover my exposed bare skin. Humans are pretty puritanical about body parts being exposed like this. I don’t know if fairies are too, but still. The water shifts as the silhouette rises higher and I see the first gold locks breach the surface, followed by a pair of annoyed, sleepy eyes that stop rising just as soon as they leave the water.
The top half of her head, bobbing upward with her hair flowing around like an algae sits there as her eyes adjust to the darkness to catch sight of me before her. I can’t help but feel that she looks a little different, a little… wilder, not like the composed awkward woman but more like a feral water creature staring out at the bank at a rabbit wandering just a little too close to the edge. Her wide, round eyes gaze out of the dark water staring into mine; unblinking and transfixed like that of a predator under the full moon. But then they soften. Her expression changes to a calmer, more familiar face and I can’t help but feel a little relieved, for a second there I was getting ready to jump away because I thought she was about to lunge at me.
She rises a little further out of the water and yawns, finally letting go of my spear. “Oh, it’s you again,” she says mid-yawn, her arms stretched wide and tall. Finishing her motions she smiles a tired smile and continues, “Are you here to cause trouble again, little mimic?” My heart stops as she says those words. She remembers. She remembers. Just like with the hero-party coming by each time, she remembers my respawns. How? I open my mouth to speak, to ask. I don’t know what to ask first. What to say first. It’s been so long since I’ve talked to anyone like this. I don’t… my face feels warm and I can’t help but feel my shoulders tighten and my posture grow stiff. Am I standing right? What do I say? She looks at me curiously, tilting her head.
“H- HI!” I shout, stammering; my voice clearly too loud. Shit. I blew it. She’s going to think I’m weird now. She just smiles and gives me a faint nod, though maybe that’s just her head bobbing sleepily; it’s hard to say. My first real words in maybe hundreds of lives and I blew it. Ugh. Shaking my head and doing my best to focus, I ask her how she remembers me? “Hmm? Why wouldn’t I remember you?” I blink somewhat confused and then, for a lack of words to answer her, gesture to broadly everything. To the forest. To my half-spider body, to just… everything. She looks confused, rubbing her eye sleepily. “Oh.” She places her finger in the water and flicks a single droplet of it towards me; it lands just below my neck.
“I’m a fairy matriarch, don’t you know? I don’t just see the outside of things anymore. I see the inside of them too. Your inside is the same as it was last time even if your outside isn’t. You know? I mean-” she looks closer, squinting. I can see the deep bags beneath her eyes. “A little worse for the wear, but the same. Squishy. Squirmy. Tattered. A little love hungry. You’re very purple, you know? Your aura. It’s a melancholic color. Not like a bright rich tone but more… mellow. Moody. You should get some sleep, you’ll feel better,” she says finishing with a wave of her hand and another yawn as if for emphasis. “Speaking of-” she lowers herself into the water. Wait! I shout at the woman already mostly gone beneath the blue.
She looks up, her head already half-submerged. I see bubbles escape her lips as she is clearly blowing into the water, pouting in agitation like a child. Fairies can be moody I guess. I ask as directly as I can. The respawns. The time shifting. Does she know? Does she know anything about this whole dungeon life thing? About why I’m… why we’re stuck in this place like this? I notice my voice is raised in pitch, I feel my hands clenching tightly. The wet wood of the spear groaning beneath the force of my grip and the bones of my fingers clamped so deeply that I almost feel like they won’t open again. My breath is still, my heart racing, I wait for an answer to come.
Her tired face staring out of the water has a shift in expression I can’t quite put to words as she raises her head out of the pond one final time. “It is what it is.” Huh? “I just sleep in my water, then somebody wakes me and I do my part and then I go back to sleep. Sometime later somebody wakes me and I come out of the water and do my part and then I go to sleep. Day in, day out. Sometimes I wake up in a different water than what I went to sleep in, but… that’s just what it is. If you’re asking for the meaning of life then I can’t tell you that.” It is what it is? That’s it? I repeat the thought somewhat bewildered at her rather accepting tone of the statement.
Her head sinks away down below the water, a few final bubbles rising upward carrying her blasé last words to me. “Sorry I was too tired to play today little mimic, we’ll take a walk next time, okay?” Okay? Play? My eye twitches and I feel a crack shoot through the wood of the spear as my already tightly bound hand clamps down like a vice. It is what it is? I clench my teeth feeling the vibration in my skull as they grind against each other. I yell now for the first time ever in words, “THAT’S EASY FOR YOU TO SAY! You just sit there beneath the water and sleep! You aren’t killing, you aren’t getting killed! It’s all I do!” I swing my arm back, holding the spear at the ready like a javelin about to be thrown. My blood is boiling and my heart is now more distraught than satisfied with the conversation. I want to throw it into the water. At her, but everything in my sight is blurry now. She just sleeps. She doesn’t get it. She doesn’t know.
My arm held high and my eyes wide and furious. I stop in that moment, not sure what to do anymore. Dissatisfied. Disappointed. She was supposed to know. She was supposed to know. She doesn’t know anything. No, she doesn’t care. She doesn’t have to care. She doesn’t have any problems, just sleeping away down there. Just sleeping… I feel so tired, guy. So t-
A whistle shines through the air like the singing of a crystal voice in that time-frozen moment. My body shifts as the weight of something presses into me. It feels hot. I turn my head and look. I look at the red, at the arrow sitting in the raised arm holding the spear. It hurts. Shit. My instincts take over and my legs shoot out beneath me, jumping to the side just as another arrow strikes where I was only a fraction of a second ago. My sense of time returns to normal and I gaze out into the darkness just in time to see the shine of the silver arrowhead glinting from the darkness. Another jump to the side and another arrow misses me, I feel it fly through my hair tearing a strand of it out in passing. Her again.
I yell out into the forest, “What is your problem?!” For my trouble I receive another arrow now aimed just at my chest that I just barely manage to dodge. I suppose even if she was inclined to answer me, she can’t speak spider-kin which makes sense I guess. It isn’t really human anymore. It’s a lot more… uh… spidery. Lots of clicks and hisses, you know? I duck away into the forest, running through the trees now not the hunter but the prey. Funny how life can change like that on you, guy.
The howl of a dozen arrows winding through the trees screeching around branches and bushes as if powered by some magic pursues me like a ghost in the night. Dropping down I slide and reach out only barely managing to swing around a large tree with my right arm. Not a second after, I hear a baker’s dozen thunks as the arrows penetrate the other side of the rough bark. Clenching my teeth I tear the arrow out of my left bicep, the barbed head ripping out a chunk of meat with it. Red. Hurt. The rustle of the forest shifting and shaking in the motions of the night send my senses on high alert as I look out into the darkness for her shifting shadow. Billowing leaves and shaking branches all sway with a gentle rhythm, with a natural pulse of life and motion. One branch swings out of tune with the forest song and I take my shot.
Switching my spear over to my good hand I swing around the tree and toss it forward as hard and as fast as I can into the darkness. Into the one spot where the world doesn’t move as it should. I hear a yelp and a thud as she falls down. I hear the crunch of a bush as she lands on its thorny briars. Good I think to myself. I need a weapon. I look down. The arrow? No. That’s useless. Oh, right. I reach into my bag taking out the swill the dungeon-master gave me. I still feel sick, but looking at it I feel worse all of the sudden. Holding the bottle by the neck I smash the bottom end against the tree and break the glass in half. Purple drips down over my hands, over the tree staining everything.
I rush out of my cover, my jagged makeshift weapon in hand and skitter forward towards my opponent. I see her. I see the thin, hooded silhouette rising up just barely managing to stand upright. I see her leg, I see the deep red dripping down it, out of the deep, fresh wound she has already torn my spear out of. That’s some willpower you have there, thief-girl, I think as I charge towards her. She sees me, turning towards the large ambling form rushing her from the darkness. A glint of silver and for a moment I think another arrow is about to find me, but no, she has drawn a blade. A short curved dagger. One I have felt many times. Your leg is hurt thief-girl. I rush. I feel it now. The blood. My spider heart pumping, shooting fresh adrenaline through me. Fresh hunger through me as I smell the blood. Mine. Hers. Red. Red!
I screech some wet spider screech, my hair flying wildly around my rabid eyes as I leap. RED! My bottle and her dagger meet as we block each other's blows. Half of the half of the bottle breaks off from impact, shattering in a glistening explosion. But I don’t worry about that. I am looking at her face. At her eyes beneath the shadowy hood. Hunger. Hunger. I scream. She screams. Again we swing around in a dance as I advance towards her with feral intent, as she backs off avoiding my blows as best she can with her limp; her left leg is out of action like my left arm. How’s that for balance I think to myself. The bottle shatters again as I counter another blow that rings out like the strike of a hammer forging steel. I screech again at her. She swipes down to the left and our weapons meet again one final time. The bottle breaks through entirely and I feel something hot in my hand as her blade cuts through between my thumb and index finger, sinking in an inch. It doesn’t matter. I have her now.
Lunging forward, red in my hands, red in my eyes I slam directly against her meager silhouette from the front. My bloody hand grabs the thin wrist holding her dagger, my lame arm is of little use but my front left leg presses against her left shoulder in that same instant and I smash her down to the ground, pinning her beneath my massive weight as she lets out a pained yelp. Something cracks, a rib maybe. I feel it shoot through my body, the little vibration sending an ecstatic tingle to my heart. Hunger. Red. I feel a happy flutter as she is squirming, kicking beneath me. Screaming. Screaming. My face feels hot, my skin, my breath. Her breath.
I lower my face to look at her, my eyes just inches from hers. To look at her scream my long white hair falls down sideways past her covered head, trapping us together in this deathly embrace. I am hungry. Hungry. My mouth feels wet, I feel wet drip down my lips. I see wet drip down onto her face. Our eyes meet as mine are just inches above hers. I hear a voice, it's making an ecstatic sound. Just a long, extended outward breath that is filled with joy, with delight. She smells sweet, sweaty. I’m so hungry. The feeling of her squirming beneath me, wiggling, writhing, fighting, thrashing. So hungry. Red.
I want red.
I pull my head back. I want to bite. I want to eat. I want. Want. Want. WANT.
She screams and I feel an elation at the sound, a joy I have never felt before. It is divine. Erotic. I lunge. Meat. MEAT.
My fangs bared, my body pressed against hers, I stop as I see it. The little thing that has slipped out of my bag. The slip of paper. The eye, stuck to her chest, stuck between us. Looking up and watching me. Watching me. Watching me?
I look down at the fragile elf-girl pinned down beneath me. At the contortion of her face in pain, of her eyes in pain. Her hood falls as I pull myself back a little and I see the wet. The tears running down her sharp features mixing in with the pools of my animal drool on her cheeks, her tired eyes wrenched open in a feral fear. In exhaustion. In desperation. In loneliness. In hatred. In upset.
What am I doing?
What am I doing? I look down to the eye of the dungeon-master. I look down to the thief-girl I have hurt.
What am I doing?
Everyone is watching me.