"The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible."
- Oscar Wilde


2. _




Today the snaps are tight, clanging, metallic. Today they are only the sound of a hammer being bludgeoned along the wall as Num circles his way around me. Yesterday the snaps were a symphony of blood-red glass, shattered over my hands as punishment for something I didn't do. Take me literally - for something I did not do. I'm stubborn. 

Num stops. I imagine he is staring at me, but as he is nothing more than black formless shadow, I am unsure. Num. My shortened term for Umbraque Quae Numquam Desinat; or, in more common language, "Shadow that never ends". That's how all their names are here - strange, calculated, long, and literal. 

He - it is more correct, but thinking of these things as having some sense of humanity makes this all easier to bear - is still stopped, staring. I stare back, and I imagine that time ticks by, no matter how pressing the fact is that it does not in this place. There is no time, or at least not any time that matters. These beings have all the "time" in the world to do their deeds, and if you give them opportunity, they have the time after that, too. 

Suddenly, he stops banging the hammer against the wall. The sounds end, and there is full silence except for the sound of my shaky breathing. Num floats towards me, wraps what I suppose would be arms around me. Bites me, I could swear, on my arms and somehow at the same time on my legs and feet and fingers. Hard, and it hurts, so I try to think of something else. My mind and eyes wander to the hammer that now rests on the ground before me, and I realize how ornamental it is. Crimson symbols outline the smooth crystal handle, while the tool's head itself seems to be in the shape of an odd little bronze skull. The biting stops, and Num recaptures the hammer. He begins to Sound. I refuse to say they speak, because this is no normal communication. It's like their thoughts invade yours, prey on yours, turn your head inside out. You can feel what they're saying, without it making any more actual noise than the whisper of the wind. But Num is perfectly clear when he talks to me. My eyes force shut, my skin feels as if it's freezing and burning off at the same time, and an eerie howl stirs my hair, and through it all my mind picks up the words.

Today you will choose.


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