Chapter Twenty-Seven: Monster (7)Mature

Fiona was reading, and Henry was listening—not to what she was saying, per se, but rather to the sound of her voice.  It was a relaxing voice, and relaxation, after all, was what he needed.  As long as he concentrated on her voice, he could forget the other things, the things that kept him awake all night, the things that made him feel poorly, the things that would make him cry if he let them. 

            At some point, Raif nosed its way into the room and jumped up on the bed to lie down between them.  Neither minded particularly.  Raif, it was understood, was one of them.  One of the Six.  Raif could listen to the story, too.

            The fire flickered in the hearth, warming Henry’s closed eyelids.  He did not notice when Fiona stopped reading.  He had fallen fast asleep.

            He dreamt that he was somewhere cool and dark, a tunnel of some sort.  Although he couldn’t see anything, he could sense that the walls were curved to form an almost perfect tube, that he was standing between a set of parallel metal rails that ran along the floor, and that he was in danger.  He could hear a distant rumbling, a howling, really, and knew it was growing closer.  In his mind, the thing speeding toward him was a great, steel snake, and it wanted him dead.

            And then there was light, and the snake was there, glaring at him with a single, burning white eye.

            He awoke abruptly, heart pounding, covered in sweat.

            “Shh…there, there,” Fiona was saying, stroking his head.  “’Twas only a nightmare.  Ye’re alright, Henry.”

            Henry realized that he had been whimpering, and stopped.  He turned his head to see Raif beside him, regarding him with a look of concern in its large brown eyes.  Upon being noticed, the creature nosed towards Henry and licked his face.

            “Ugh!” he complained, wiping the drool off of himself with his forearm.

            Fiona laughed.  “Come here, Henry,” she ordered, setting the book down and getting off the bed.  “On second thought, wash yer face, an’ then come here.”

            Using the washbasin located by the window, he cleansed himself of essence of Raif, dried his face with a towel, and then, somewhat timidly, approached Fiona.  She took him by the hands and began to sway back and forth, humming gently.

            “What are we doing?” Henry inquired.

            “Dancin’,” she replied.

            “I can’t dance.”

            “Yes you can,” she informed him.  “You just ha’e ta move yer feet.”

            Henry moved his feet.  “Why are we dancing?”

            She shrugged.  “Because I thought we should.  Keep you frae thinkin’ aboot what you dinna want ta think aboot.”

            And so they danced in a room lit by fire, in a world without music, both deeply aware of the enormous, one-eyed monster barreling towards them down a dark tunnel in the approximate shape of a tube.  They danced slowly through the madness and despair of dusk, moving their feet in time with the clock, while outside of the castle, the forest came alive with a shadowy and ancient evil.  It, too, began to dance then, unnoticed by mortal eyes, swaying to and fro with the rhythm of silence.

The End

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