When I was in high school, I used to hate that Sylvia Plath poem where she talked about knowing the bottom, that she knew it with her great taproot and that it was what everybody else feared, but she didn’t, because she’d been there.
I still hate it.
But I get it now.
Mac: 11:18 a. m. , November 1
Death. Pestilence. Famine.
They surround me, my lovers, the terrifying Unseelie Princes.
Who’d’ve thought destruction could be so beautiful? Seductive. Consuming.
My fourth lover—War? He ministers to me tenderly. Ironic for the bringer of Chaos, creator of Calamity, maker of Madness—if that is who he is. I cannot see his face, no matter how I try. Why does he hide?
He caresses my skin with hands of fire. I char, my skin blisters, bones fuse from sexual heat no human can endure. Lust consumes me. I arch my back and beg for more with parched tongue, cracked lips. As he fills my body, he quenches my thirst with drink. Liquid spills over my tongue, drips down my throat. I convulse. He moves inside me. I catch a glimpse of skin, muscle, a flash of tattoo. Still no face. He terrifies me, this one who keeps himself concealed.
In the distance, someone barks commands. I hear many things, understand none. I know that I have fallen into enemy hands. I know also, soon, I will no longer know even that. Pri-ya, a Fae sex addict, I will believe there is no place, nothing else I would rather be.
If my thoughts were coherent enough to form sentences, I would tell you that I used to think life unfolded in a linear fashion. That people were born and went to … what’s that human word? I dressed up for it every day. There were boys. Lots of cute boys. I thought the world revolved around them.
His tongue is in my mouth, and it’s tearing apart my soul. Helpmesomeonepleasehelpmemakehimstopmakethemgoaway.
School. That’s the word I’m looking for. After that, you get a job. Marry. Have … what are they? Fae can’t have them. Don’t understand them. Precious little lives. Babies! If you’re lucky, you live a good, full life and grow old with someone you love. Caskets then. Wood gleams. I weep. A sister? Bad! Memory hurts! Let it go!
They’re in my womb. They want my heart. Tear it open. Gorge on passion they can’t feel. Cold. How can fire be so cold?
Focus, Mac. Important. Find the words. Deep breath. Don’t think about what’s happening to you. See. Serve. Protect. Others at risk. So many died. Can’t be for nothing. Think of Dani. She’s you inside, beneath that adolescent thumbs-in-the-pockets, one hip cocked, thousand-yard stare.
I orgasm without ceasing. I become the orgasm. Pleasure-pain! Exquisite! Mind-melting, soul-shredding, the more they fill me the emptier I am. It’s slipping, all slipping, but before it goes, before it’s gone completely, I get a hateful moment of clarity and see that
Most of what I believed about myself, and life, I derived from modern media, without questioning any of it. If I wasn’t sure how to behave in a certain situation, I’d search my mind for a movie or TV show I’d seen, with a similar setup, and do whatever the actors had done. A sponge, I absorbed my environment, became a byproduct of it.
I don’t think I ever once looked up at the sky and wondered if there was sentient life in the universe besides the human race. I know I never looked down at the earth beneath my feet and contemplated my own mortality. I tunneled blithely through magnolia-drenched days, blind as a mole to everything but guys, fashion, power, sex, whatever would make me feel good right then.
But these are confessions I would make if I could speak, and I can’t. I’m ashamed. I’m so ashamed.
Who the fuck are you? Someone shouted that question at me recently—his name eludes me. Someone who frightens me. Excites me.
Life’s not linear at all.
It happens in lightning flashes. So fast you don’t see those lay-you-out-cold moments coming at you until you’re Wile E. Coyote, steamrolled flat as a pancake by the Road Runner, victim of your own elaborate schemes. A sister dead. A legacy of lies. An unwanted inheritance of ancient blood. An impossible mission. A book that is a beast that is ultimate power, and whoever gets their hands on it first decides the fate of the world. Maybe all the worlds.
Stupid sidhe-seer. So sure you had things headed in the right direction.
Here and now—not on some cartoon highway from which I can peel myself, stand up, and magically reinflate, but on the cold stone floor of a church, naked, lost, surrounded by death-by-sex Fae—I feel my most powerful weapon, the one I swore never to give up again—hope—slipping away. My spear is long gone. My will is … Page 2
Will? What’s will? Do I know the word? Did I ever?
Him. He’s here. The one who killed Alina. Please, please, please don’t let him touch me.
Is he touching me? Is he the fourth? Why conceal himself?
When the walls come tumbling, tumbling down, that’s the question that matters. Who are you?
I reek of sex and the scent of them—dark, drugging spices. I have no sense of time or place. They’re inside me and I can’t get them out, and how could I have been such a fool to believe that at the critical moment, when my world fell apart, some knight in shining armor was going to come thundering in on a white stallion, or arrive sleek and dark on an eerily silent Harley, or appear in a flash of golden salvation, summoned by a name embedded in my tongue, and rescue me? What was I raised on—fairy tales?
Not this kind. These are the fairy tales we were supposed to be teaching our daughters. A few thousand years ago, we did. But we got sloppy and complacent, and when the Old Ones seemed to go quietly, we allowed ourselves to forget the Old Ways. Enjoyed the distractions of modern technology and forgot the most important question of all.
Who the fuck are you?
Here on the floor, in my final moments—MacKayla Lane’s last grand hurrah—I see that the answer is all I’ve ever been.
Dani: 2:58 p. m. , November 1
Hey it’s me—Dani. I’m gonna be taking over for a while. Fecking good thing, too, ‘cause Mac’s in serious trouble. We all are. Last night everything changed. End-of-the-world stuff. Uh-huh, that bad. Fae and human worlds collided with the biggest bang since creation, and everything is a mess.
Fecking Shades loose in the fecking abbey. Ro through the roof with it, screaming that Mac betrayed us. Ordered us to hunt her. Bring her in dead or alive. Shut her up or shut her down, she said. Keep her away from the enemy, because she’s too powerful a weapon to be used against us. She’s the only one who can track the Sinsar Dubh. No way we can let her fall into the wrong hands, and Ro says any hands but hers are the wrong ones.
I know stuff about Mac that she’d kill me for, if she knew I knew. Good thing she doesn’t know. I never want to fight Mac.
But here I am, hunting her.
I don’t believe she spiked the Orb with Shades. Pretty much everyone else does, though. They don’t know Mac like I do. I know Mac like we’re sisters. No way she betrayed us.
Seven hundred thirteen of us alive at the abbey at five o’clock last night. Five hundred twenty-two sidhe-seers left at last count. Taking Dublin back. Hunting Mac. Kicking every bit of Fae ass we see along the way.
No sign of her yet. But we’re headed in the right direction. There’s an epicenter of power in the city, reeking stinking nasty Fae as toxic as the fallout plume from a nuclear explosion. We all feel it. Taste it. Practically see the mushroom cloud hanging in the air. We don’t even talk to one another. Don’t need to. If Mac’s still in Dublin, that’s where she is, straight ahead. No way any sidhe-seer could turn away from this kinda pu