The small creature pulsated with a gentle reddish-pink warmth as the White Lady came to embrace it. Or was it to embrace it … him?
She was confused. The night air throbbed around her, flowed inside her, making her feel as fluid and shapeless as that strange time when the orange fire was dowsed by purple over her head and the tiny doll’s houses set around her as she escaped her smooth grey estate among the stones.
The creature stirred against her silent breast and the emptiness grew inside her in unison with its increasing red fervour. The White Lady glided through the mists with its eddies and whorls dancing around strange metal trees with hissing luminous fey lights–will-o-wisps her old nurse used to call them–moving in barbed cages.
In her dream, because she was asleep after all, she just had to be asleep, the patterns were like a painting from a man who hated shrill noises so much so that he cut his ear and blood flowed among golden cornstalks and blackbird wings in the subdued skies … those black wings devouring the heavens forever …
She doesn’t think long on this. She doesn’t like to think on that, or the fact that she will be going back to her pretty alabaster fairy castle–her cold, silent house–by herself again and this pretty creature would not be able to join her as he is.
Because she was the white lady. She remembered, vaguely, talking about herself–or was it herself she was talking about?–to someone once. A white lady haunted a tiny coast, an island of sleeping dreams, because she was long dead and didn’t know it and didn’t want to because she had so much to live for, so much to feel, so much …
The creature writhed against her cold white breast and began to shine a bright red as it cried. It lulled her back into her dream: where she glided effortlessly through the fog and brick, back to her house and its ring of old faerie stones. The creature stopped crying as she crooned to it in the long-lost language of darkness and the moon. The flow of the creature–of its being–became less erratic and jagged. It flowed smoothly again.
The White Lady felt herself become even more drawn to the poor thing: this creature she found abandoned and alone on the streets of metal trees and stagnant cavern-tunnels. She wanted to protect it, to hold it … to possess it … to fill that missing part that she would never really find within the dream.
Moonlight glittered in her dirty-blonde hair and the stained white dress that clothed her body. Her lips were parted like soft and luscious fruit. Somehow, she knew that under the moon’s light, her deep, dark blue eyes made her look like an angel. The angel of the house … the darling: singing, longing, flowing between the cracks of space and time.
She gave the red thing a kiss and somehow saw herself as it saw her: her hair transfigured into a glittering red-gold halo, her dirty dress a heavenly robe and her eyes glimmering pools of night longing for a house, for a doctor, for a New World, for a lord, for a room of one’s own, for Lucy in the sky with diamonds, diamond eyes … diamond teeth …
The dream moved her: about to tear her away back into the darkness … to leave her pet alone and uncared for. Her long white pointed teeth plunged into the creature: holding onto it, holding to her as the red warm salty-sweetness rushed into her. She succoured her pet with her bite and held it: her anchor in the writhing Night … until the red waxed and ebbed …
And she was alone again.
Then there was no creature–moving or still–in her hands. She felt herself get pulled back into her house–her doll’s house–beginning to shrink like Alice after drinking the bottle that said “Drink me” and she wanted to laugh because it was funny somehow. It was so funny …
A dark shadow waited for her.
“A second childhood, another infancy.”
The voice hissed and boomed querulously. She felt herself stop moving. The Shadow swirled around her broodingly: consideringly.
“Is this what happens when you turn a somnambulist? Or was there too little blood? A broken brain?”
The Shadow sounded like an old man to the White Lady: a deep, brittle, harshly derisive voice. She did not like it. It swirled around her again … and closer.
“An experiment …” a bat seems to screech in the distance, blackwings, blackwings, “the brain broken from the strain?”
Stay away, she wanted to say, but she remembered that ghosts did not have voices.
“Perhaps a little more blood,” it growled, becoming large and bestial as she felt it loom over her–the Wolf–and her white dress was stained red and she was Little Red Riding Hood without her bundle, where was her bundle, lost in the Wood?
“At the end of his life Dante found himself lost in a dark wood …”
She couldn’t tell if the voice was the monster’s or her own. The White Lady tried to move past it, to run away, back into her room of cold marble, back away from the darkness, from the fire-sky that would make her as slow and heavy as a stone. Red eyes glittered down on her as a long talon caressed her face.
“Only a drop of blood between imbecility and the divine,” it mused, “I wonder what you will see … when you fully awaken.”
The White Lady snarled. Her hands found themselves becoming claws. Her face twisted into a wolf’s rage and she knew her eyes–her beautiful eyes–flashed tinctures of red crimson hate. Violence rippled through her as she grappled desperately with the darkness laughing at her laughing and laughing just as it had every night in the garden, in her room, and the wood and pungent smell of garlic, mould and grave-soil failed to keep it away. She was drowning again like a Siren, like the Lady of the Lake with a sword inches away from her heart …
“I am the Red King that awakens when the lights go out.”
No, she thought, no no no no …
“And I am the Red Prince,” it grumbled as it suffocated her, “Ready to kiss my Sleeping Beauty awake.”
No no no, she thought frantically, the Shadow’s thoughts a violation of her own: of her dreams. It was an old man, a dark-bearded prince, a wolf, a bat, dark mist and red eyes and her mouth in a fury closed around something cold and bitter and she thought of the men as she wished they could have been … as she felt something begin to well up inside of her again.
“White Lady, Lambton Worm, I release you from constraint. From your time. From your marble and your doll’s house. Your appetites are yours. I grant you permission.”
She writhed as the red dream-hunger burned down her gullet and she drank.
“Drink me, drink me …” the Shadow mocked lustily, “Awaken little ghost. Little doll. Awaken.”
And when the cold empty core of her filled up again, Lucy’s eyes flashed open. And revealed it all. And all she could do was scream.