I was practically an invalid for the rest of the day. I lay aimlessly on the bed where Raphael had deposited me, unable to touch food or water.
When I finally fell into some kind of fitful sleep, I had a vivid nightmare.
I was in full costume as Odile, a black corset and tutu with raven’s feathers lining them, and streaks of black in my pale hair. Vera was dressed as Odette, in a white version of my costume.
We were both on some kind of stage, but there was nothing but an empty void beyond the black floors where we were. She and I were locked in a dance, as if she was my reflection, or I was hers.
I was angry. I didn’t know why, but I was filled with an anger that had no end. I sped up, and Vera did too.
Faster. Faster. Movement for movement. It was almost like being locked in some kind of battle.
Vera looked tired. Her movements were slowing, and she started to let out noises of effort.
I was tireless. I was invincible. I danced on, even as she let out a cry of pain and I saw the blood streaming down her face like tears. Blood trickled down my face too, but I felt nothing.
Eventually she let out a choked gasp and fell, shaking.
I kept dancing, stopping only when the scene ended. I felt myself bow to the silence before walking calmly to Vera and, taking her hands, started to drag her towards the edge of the stage.
She was begging me to stop, in a weak voice that provoked no response.
“Please...stop....don’t hurt me...I don’t want to die...Please, Katnernina-”
“That. Isn’t. My. Name.” I said with a cold malice, kicking her with each word to punctuate my point.
She looked into my eyes, her gaze wide and afraid like that of prey facing predator.
“What do you want from me? I’ll give you anything! Anything!”
“I want you dead.”
Vera let out a wailing cry, and I kicked her in disgust before continuing to drag her to the void. I pushed her over, finally, but she grappled at the edge with her fingers.
“Please!” she begged, “You don’t have to do this.”
I danced across her fingers, watching as each one slipped.
“You took everything from me, Vera. You took Odette from me.”
She screamed before she disappeared, and I bowed again to the roaring invisible applause.
Voices were whispering into my head, growing louder and more insistent. I covered my ears before collapsing, and jolted awake covered in sweat.
On a sudden impulse I ran my hand through my hair, and pulled out, to my shock, a tiny, battered white feather.