Hello. Hello? Is anyone still out there? It’s been over a month, and liliaeth and I have finally come up with the next chapter of Beloved. We’re just about a week or so shy of six months into William’s captivity. Please follow the Warning Alert System.
2014 - November
William is ten and a half years old.
Sh-boom, sh-boom. Yada da yada da yada da yada da! Anyone been wondering what’s happening with William? Have a read and you just might find out. Or come away more confused. Step right up and take your chances. **grins**
Please, as always, read and comment! We had to hire a private detective to find our missing muse. liliaeth and I dug out the heavy manacles… we’re not letting the little beastling free again. She can give us all the pouty lip she wants – we refuse to waver! **steels myself to her whimpering** Feedback is always welcomed.
Goddess bless willa_writes - my heartlight and beta-supreme, and gillo, for the use of her fine brain, and last but not least, just_sue, for putting up with my “Will you look at this please?” neuroticism every five words or so.
To read Beloved from the beginning, go Here.
Full-sized banner by liliaeth beneath the cut.
Beloved – Chapter 19 – Restless Echoes
5 ¾ Months Post William’s Kidnapping
William sat at his desk in the stifling tent, absently rubbing his neck where the rope irritated the delicate flesh.
Being forced to wear the sign was humiliating and a constant reminder that he was a freak. Being subjected once more to the pointing fingers and hushed whispers took what little joy he’d found in his studies and turned it to ash. But Mr. Chalmers said it was part of his training, so he’d just have to deal with it.
Disheartened, the boy donned his glasses and stared at the stacks of books in front of him. English, French, Latin, Italian, Russian… How was he expected to get through all the assignments in one sitting?
“What’s a word means glowing?” he mumbled, reaching for an Italian text. “Scintillare.” Will shook his head in annoyance and pulled out a French book from the bottom of the pile. “Luire, maybe?” He threw the book down in frustration and watched as it flew off the desk from the force of his effort.
“Hey! Watch where you’re throwing your words around, kiddo.”
Will looked up into a pair of sparking green eyes.
“Are you talking to me?” he asked, not wanting to be disrespectful. After all, he’d probably come close to hurting the girl with his carelessness.
“Yup!” she chirped, eyes sparkling with mischief. “Who cares what word you’re looking for? Come play with me?”
He shook his head, delving into Latin, next. “Effulgere… I can use that. See?”
“Who cares what the word is? Time to go play.”
“I can’t,” Will insisted. “Mr. Chalmers says I have to finish my homework before I have free time.”
“Are you at home?”
He could barely hear her over the din in the tent.
“C’mon, kid! The sun is out. Can’t you hear it calling? Kids play. That’s our job… our mission. That’s all that matters. Not those silly words.”
“They’re not silly,” Will defended, removing his glasses. “Mr. Chalmers said…”
“Mr. Chalmers can take a flying leap.”
The girl grabbed his hand, pulling Will off his seat.
“Have some fun. We can get cotton candy, and candied apples and ice cream… yum!”
Glancing down at his chest, Will pointed to the sign. “But I’m supposed to stay here. I have to know my place.”
The little girl hung her head, seemingly at a loss. “Oh! I know,” she said, trailing her fingers over the sign. “Will you still be a human vampire if you leave your desk?”
Will nodded, curious as to what she had in mind.
“And what if you go outside the tent? Even then?”
“So you don’t need this silly thing anymore.” She giggled, yanking the sign over his head and tossing it onto the desk and grabbed his hand again. “C’mon. I don’t want to miss anything.”
The tent was bigger than he’d imagined and it stretched farther than his eyes could see in every direction. Weaving their way through the crowd, Will allowed himself to be strong-armed by the smiling girl. He happily accepted her gift – a giant yellow puff of cotton candy – pulling handfuls of the sweet confection from the stick and laughing as it dissolved on his tongue. She busied herself with a blue puff that was bigger than his.
“Let’s go see the real freak show,” the girl said, once more tugging Will along. “They keep the scary ones behind bars.”
Her pull was unexpected and he stumbled, mashing his treat into hers.
“Eeew,” she cried, a moue of disgust on her face. “Look at the mess… oh, cool! See where they meet?” She pointed to where one wet cotton candy melted into the other. “Now we got green!”
Will just smiled, happy to be away from his desk. Happy to have company closer to his age. Entranced, he watched the girl’s blonde hair swing back and forth like one of the mares' tails at Mr. Chalmers’ stable.
They barreled through the milling crowd until they came to a row of barred cages. People were lined up three and four deep, but a little discreet elbowing procured a front row viewing space.
“Look!” Will pointed to the hourglass at the corner of the cage. “It’s almost curtain time.”
His friend nodded. “Shhh,” she said, covering his sugary lips with her sticky fingers. “You’ll want to see this. I’ve heard all about it.”
The audience hushed as music blasted from a pair of speakers and a red-skinned man began to tap-dance. His red suit flashed and turned blue.
“His mouth is moving, but I can’t hear a word he’s singing,” Will complained. “The music is loud, and everyone’s making too much noise.
“It’s okay. The words aren’t important,” the girl soothed, motioning to the action in front of them. “The dance is what matters.”
After a few minutes, the clickity-clack of the taps and the blaring music lost their novelty, and Will found himself yanked away and towards the next cage.
“I thought you said the dance was important?”
“It is,” she insisted. “And we’ll see it again.”
They walked right up to the exhibit; nobody looked anxious to get too close.
Will shuddered. “What a scary-looking guy. He looks like a puzzle.”
“Yeah. Put together with pieces from lots of different puzzles.”
The creature walked up to the bars of his cage and stared at Will, making him jump back in fear as the monster grabbed one of the bars.
“You. Boy. How do you work?”
In response, Will yelped. This time it was him dragging his friend away.
“What a scaredy-cat you are!” she laughed, bending over as she clutched her tummy. “You’re safe… Mr. Bits is behind the bars.”
He remained unconvinced. “What if he gets out? Or if we get in?”
“Shyeah… like that’s gonna happen.”
“But he’s a monster. Monsters can never be contained.” The boy closed his eyes before launching into the litany he’d been taught. “There is no such thing as a good monster. The only good monster is a dead monster. Monsters are inferior. Monsters…”
He shook his head as if to clear it.
“Where did you go?”
“I didn’t go anywhere,” Will insisted. “We haven’t moved.”
“You were yelling something about monsters and you wouldn’t answer me.” She gently patted his shoulder. “We’re safe. The bars’ll hold. Pinky promise.”
Will tentatively entwined his little finger with hers, and met her worried eyes with his own.
“Maybe I should just go back… Mr. Chalmers will be looking for me soon.”
The little girl stamped her foot in disappointment. “But there’s so much more to see,” she whined, pointing to the next cage in the row. “That’s the boy who turns into a god. See?”
In-between the other fairgoers, Will caught glimpses of a young brown-haired boy sitting on the floor, playing with blocks. Just as he completed his tower, the boy screamed and turned into a little girl who kicked the structure down.
“And there’s a really old vampire that sits in a nest and broods,” she continued, blithely unaware of her friend’s continued distress. “His hair sticks up real funny, and I want to see it.”
“Please,” she wheedled, her bottom lip quivering into a pout.
“Nonono! I don’t want to see any more,” Will whimpered, backing further away from the exhibits. “This isn’t fun, and I feel funny.”
“Are you sick?”
“Not sick… sorta tingly all over.”
She stood on tip-toes, and pressed her lips to his forehead, just like his mom used to do. “You don’t feel hot. Maybe you ate too much cotton candy?
Will tried to find the words… to explain the uneasiness he felt, as if he weren’t alone in his body… and failed. Best just to go along with her and hope things turn out okay, he thought.
With one last pout, the girl held up her hands up in surrender. “Okay, then. What can we do that’s not scary? I know!” she said, her eyes gleaming with inspiration. “Nothing scary – just the funhouse mirrors. Sound good?”
He nodded, relieved to get away from the caged freaks.
Taking her hand, Will allowed himself to be led once more, weaving through the noisy crowd. By the time they got to the funhouse mirrors, they’d left most everybody behind. The ticket-taker wasn’t at his post, and once again, Will slowed his steps.
“Maybe… maybe we shouldn’t go in. It looks closed.”
He shut his eyes; the feeling that he wasn’t alone was back stronger than ever.
“Oh, don’t tell me you’re gonna get all weepy on me now.”
The little girl stood in front of the entrance, hands on her hips. For the first time, she seemed angry with him.
“I’m not crying,” Will mumbled, surreptitiously dashing the tears from his eyes as he shuffled his feet closer to the exhibit. “It feels wrong. Like I hear someone in my head warning me… just not with words.”
“They’re just mirrors, silly. No monsters… just us!”
They walked towards the first mirror hand in hand, Will trying hard to conceal his fears and still his trembling.
“See?” the girl laughed, pointing to the distorted image. “We look squashed! Let’s try the next one.”
“How can it be so different? We look ten feet tall in this one!”
She snickered as she pivoted around. “Yeah, and we look flat as paper dolls if we turn sideways.”
Her enthusiasm catching, Will seemed eager to try out another mirror. Unfortunately, his joy was short-lived as he stared into the shiny surface and saw…
“Okay, this isn’t funny. Where did I go?” he demanded, slapping at the empty surface.
“Stop it!” she hissed, pulling Will away. “Don’t you know it’s seven years of bad luck if you break a mirror?”
“I think it’s already broken. It doesn’t show me at all. Just…”
As he stared into the surface, a fuzzy image began to form.
“It’s him! I know him!” he cried, pointing to the man in the mirror. Taller than he was, and thin, sporting the recognizable leather duster, bleached hair and cocky leer he’d been forced to study and associate with himself for months.
“You’re afraid of him?” the girl snorted, shoving Will out of the way. “Watch this.”
As he stared into the mirror, another image began to form. A woman this time; gentle curves, long blonde hair… flashing hazel eyes.
“What took you so long, Buffy? Why didn’t you come to see me before?”
“You’ve always seen me,” little Buffy said, removing a familiar pair of glasses from her pocket and placing them on her nose. “I just needed time to see you.”
The images of grown-up Buffy and Spike drifted towards each other before fading out completely, leaving Will and little Buffy in their wake.
“See, Will? No need to be afraid. Not slayer and vampire. Not champion and monster. Just us,” she said, pointing at their reflection. “A girl and a boy who look like they want to go outside and play.”
“Lies! Lies! All lies!” Agitated, Will grabbed the glasses from Buffy’s face and flung them to the ground, grinding the lenses to dust under his heel. “Mr. Chalmers said I can’t believe what I see. That I can’t trust anyone. Just him! He said…”
Buffy grabbed him by the shoulders and he stilled.
Oh no! Not the lip.
“Please, Buffy,” he begged. “I’ll go outside with you if you really want to. But wouldn’t you rather stay here? In the dark, with me?” We can even go see the freaks again, and I promise not to be afraid.”
He swallowed, hard, all the while feeling that uncomfortable stir in his belly that urged him away from the tent flap.
She shook her head slowly, lower lip still pouting. “Is that what you really want for me, Will? Shadows and darkness?”
“You should go by yourself, then,” he said, knowing he’d be heartbroken to be alone again. She’d shown him how to have fun…that he didn’t have to be stuck to a desk, Or kept behind bars like all the other monsters.
“I’m not gonna leave you behind,” she insisted, all the while edging them closer to the exit. “I don’t belong in the dark, and neither do you.”
The sunlight glinted off her hair, enticing him towards a place he knew he didn’t belong, but he knew he’d follow her anywhere. Grabbing for her hand, Will struggled to keep pace with her rapid steps. He took a deep breath and crossed the tent’s threshold.
It started as a tingle, a sense of warmth under his skin, spreading from his gut to his fingertips. As he looked into Buffy’s horrified face, the first flames ignited on his arms, rapidly spreading to encompass him fully, until all that was left were his screams as he turned…
… over in his bed, blinking owlishly at the flashing overhead light that signified it was time to wake up.
He patted down his body as if he were unsure what he would find. The flesh on his arms was unburnt – whole and unblemished.
“A dream,” he muttered. “Just a freakin’ dream.”
Will let his head drop back on his pillow. “Why does she keep haunting me?”
With a grunt, he rolled over and sat up at the edge of the bed. By the time he headed to the shower, he’d forgotten his dream, just like he did every morning.
Showered, dressed and breakfast out of the way, Will fastened the watch Mr. Chalmers had given him for his good behavior on his right wrist. 9:45 and he stood ready and waiting for the knock on his door.
Sure enough, right on the dot – he opened the door to EJ’s smiling presence – Miss Emma Jane Wheldon, if you please – his training buddy of the past few weeks.