14.8 Visions Seen in Dreams

by Matt P.

Antigone Richards had never been someone who strode boldly forward. That was Siobhan’s role; hers was the consideration and calculation, weighing different options to see which was best. They worked well together, but they also re-enforced one another’s predispositions. So when the time came for boldness she was frequently nervous and shaky.

Especially when she was going to have to tell her father that he had to die.

She watched him on the ground, contorting in pain, and she knew that she was right. He arched his back and cried out, his hands clenching in to tight fists of agony. He was fighting it because that is what he did, and every time he pushed himself against it she could see what it did to him. She swallowed against the bile rising in her throat, and reached out to put her hand on her father’s shoulder.

“Daddy, you have to let go,” she said softly, squeezing his shoulder to make sure he was paying attention to her. “It’s killing you, and you have to let it go or it is going to kill you. And it is going to feel like you’re dying, but that’s why I’m here—to help.” She said it with a conviction that belied the shaking in her other hand, and the spidery terror dancing up and down her spine.

“WHAT?” Siobhan, predictably, exploded at the suggestion. “Annie, what are you saying…look at him!” Siobhan gestured to Walter. His eyes were wide, but they were focused on Antigone with a laser intensity. “If he stops fighting it, then it’ll burn him up! He feels like he’s a million degrees already,” she insisted. Sweat did bead his brow, and his face was flushed.

“You’re seeing it backward, Bonnie…it’s burning him up because he’s fighting it,” Antigone responded more calmly than she felt. “It’s the dreams, Bonnie. The dreams we’ve had together. You know what I’m supposed to do.”

Morgan pushed herself in between the two girls, her face confused but determined. “What dreams?” She demanded. “We know you had them but what exactly were your dreams?” Her tone made it clear that it was not a question, and that she would put up with very little prevarication.

Antigone sighed, flushing a bit at the intensity of Morgan’s look. She ran a hand back through her hair, which was lank with her own sweat from fear and exertion and then a great deal more fear again. “In our dreams…we’ve seen what we are, and when we wake up we don’t understand what it means. But we know. Siobhan kills—but more than that she moves people on to whatever is next.” She swallowed a lump in her throat as she remembered waking up crying from the next part. “I…help him die. Help Dad die, I mean.”

“And you think that is now? You have the sense that this is the time when you do that?” Morgan’s voice was not one iota less intense, but her eyes moved back to Walter and softened at the sight of him in his agony.

Antigone didn’t answer directly. “Why can’t you just give up your power?” She asked instead. Morgan glanced back at her, but she looked thoughtful rather than questioning the conversation change. “What stops you from just making me the Winter Queen, or Siobhan?”

Morgan did look like she wanted to resist the topic change, but she bit her lip and shrugged. “Our power is a part of us, bound to our soul. When new power is introduced it mixes with that existing power and bonds to us. When you take power through a ritual or a black knife, it fuses with your existing magic. It can’t be separated afterword, anymore than you could cut out a piece of your own soul and give it away.”

Antigone nodded eagerly. “But Dad doesn’t have any power for it to cling to. I think that is what’s killing him—it keeps trying to fuse to him. He pushes it away but there’s too much of it and it keeps pounding against his body to try to stick. You’re a cup, because you can take the power,” she explained, cupping her hand together. “Or maybe a sponge. But he’s a pipe—if he lets it go then it’ll run right through him, but if he fights it then it’ll get stopped up and explode. That’s what is happening, he’s a stopped up pipe that’s going to burst!” As she spoke her words came more quickly but also more confidently, as she convinced herself she wasn’t mad.

Morgan stared at the contorting Walter for a long moment as she thought about it. “No human has ever managed to take in that much power before. I don’t know if you’re right,” she admitted, her voice rough with emotion. “And I hate that. I hate it!” She shouted, and ice crystals formed on her eyelashes and cheeks where tears had begun to roll. They melted a moment later as she blinked it away, and she shook her head in frustration. “But he can’t be any more dead if you’re wrong.”

Antigone nodded, and leaned over to look directly in to her father’s eyes. “Daddy, I know that it goes against every part of who you are, every bit of you, but you have to stop. Fighting.”

**** ****

Walter stared in to his daughter’s eyes. He could hear her, but she was faint over the rushing of his own blood. It was as if his agony had a sound of its own, even more than the shuffling and scraping of his body as it contorted and twisted largely on its own. But if he focused he could hear what she was saying, and lip reading filled in the rest.

“…but you have to stop. Fighting. Stop fighting right now, and let it run through you. You have to, or you will die.” Antigone kept talking for a bit, and he lost her in the pounding in his own head. He was so hot, so maddeningly hot—but then in waves cold rushed through his body as well, and he felt like his skin should be freezing. The two warred in him and left him sweating and freezing because of it. He knew that she was trying to reassure him, to convince him that he should trust her.

Her voice was calming, even as he was wracked by pain. She’d always been able to cut to the heart of a matter, when she put her mind to it.

And I’m dying and avoiding the point, he told himself around mental screaming. He felt his nails digging in to his own palms and knew his breathing was growing ragged. That moment that the others feared was coming crashing down on him with every passing second, and he didn’t have much time left. His mind drifted with the pain.

“You don’t have much quit in you, do you Walt,” his father said. His father was so unhappy, anger etched in to the lines of his face as Walter told him that he planned to join the Army.

“No, Sir. And you don’t have much trust in you.” He regretted the words, but not the sentiment. Why didn’t his father trust him?

Antigone was still pleading with him. Begging him to let go, and Walter wanted to make those tears in her eyes disappear. And the ones running down Morgan’s face and drifting away as little snowflakes as she pulled on her power. She would try to contain him if he literally exploded, he knew.

“Walter, I don’t know…what if I’m a terrible mother?” Rhiannon asked softly. “I’m…I’m afraid of being a mother. Isn’t that terrible?”

“Trust me, Annie…you’ll be great,” Walter reassured. He leaned in to kiss her gently on the lips, his hands moving to caress her still flat stomach. “I know you, and your heart. Trust me…”

“Daddy, you have to trust me!” Antigone was saying, her voice hoarse and the tears flowing in rivers now. He looked in to her eyes, those lovely summer green and hazel eyes, and knew that she was right.

She didn’t need to doubt. He did trust her, and resolved that if he survived this he would tell her that more. She always doubted herself, but she had a wonderful mind for analysis and consideration, and…

And it’s time, Walter.

He didn’t know if it was his voice, or him imagining someone else’s words in his own voice. His ears weren’t working properly, all he could hear was Antigone. But he knew the voice was right, and it was now or never.

Walter did not have much quit in him, his father had been right on that account. It wasn’t easy, but he slowly made himself quit. Even in the face of the pounding torment he made himself unclench every muscle, stop grinding his teeth, and lay his hands flat on the ground. He stopped fighting for one second.

And in that eternal second, buffeted by the roiling waters of stolen power, Walter Richard died.