Spiegel Im Spiegel
--- Part One: The Key Inhuman ---
She was so beautiful and small.
Like a glowing speck in the distance of his vision.
A glowing brilliant light flowed from her like water. Crystalline, perfect
water pouring over river stones in the long-ago sunlight.
He remembered it perfectly, but distantly. He'd gone over it a thousand
times in his mind, and as if it were made of old, delicate paper, each time
wore at the edges, creased and softened it. It was a million miles away
and immediately, ever-present at the same time.
And forever, forever the soft current of that shining figure was pulling
and calling and straining so softly in the mist of his memory.
The world went quiet and the sunrise, just hinting at the corners of the
sky, seemed to freeze in place. And ever since, the light had never grown
brighter in the sky than at that moment-- the eternal, twisting moment that
lived with him and inside him like a virus.
It was as if time, as he had understood it, stopped in that second, when
all the worlds converged together, breaking and shattering in the impact
with forceful, terrible power.
And she had been so beautiful in that moment, the moment before she
dissolved into that flowing glow, falling from her like trails of water
into the air.
She was so high above him, that when he came to himself, lying on the
pavement, all he could see was that beautiful light that ended the world
they had known forever. Ended an innocence he had come to know with a
tentative sort of intimacy. That he had discovered to be strangely,
perfectly beautiful. Sometimes, when he woke, he couldn't admit to himself
that she was dead. It ached within him, sometimes, dull and silent, and
the weight of his responsibility, of his failures to her broke his heart
It wasn't what happened afterwards that did it. Deaths couldn't mean much
to him, after everything he'd been. But she was small, and innocent, and
he knew her. That meant everything.
And he could remember lying beneath the tower. He was transfixed by that
tiny glowing shape so high above him, and, dazed from his fall, didn't
entirely understand its import-- he didn't see the mad god's horror rending
the very fabric of the dull world around him-- of the sober, asphalt and
concrete reality around him.
His vision was clouded from the impact of his fall, and he felt himself
moving, twisting and shifting. He thought it was the spinning, swimming
pain in his head. Not the asphalt beneath him.
But it had really happened.
And the little glowing figure stood on its tower entirely alone. The
creature that had cut her vanished, his task complete. Her skin glowed
pale and bright, the faintly green hue spilling out into the sky around
her, falling in glowing green trails down her ankles and down, down into
the air below her, ripping the space apart beneath her feet.
And the pavement beneath him began to buck and thrash violently, and he was
suddenly thrown from where he lay in an eruption of earth, thrown across
the pavement to land against the iron leg of the tower. He tried to move,
and his broken ribs screamed agony as he shifted, ignoring the pain. And
in that moment, he saw a small, familiar figure on the roughly made stairs
just above his head. Crumpled and unconscious, breathing shallow gasps,
her blonde hair strewn out around her in her empty sleep. Her forehead was
bruised and bloody.
And then the world blurred again, the pain overcoming him. And as the
world darkened around him, the dull certainty of what had happened fell on
him, suddenly, like that darkness.
"No..." he whispered, desperately. Painfully, as if what he said mattered.
It was all he thought before he faded, fell away into the darkness of his
The memory hung over him like a heavy fog as he walked across the dull
Spike walked across a grassy plain, its earth smoothed into gently sloping
hills by the constant, harsh wind. The long, tedious years-- or what would
have been years before-- had worn the space down, filled in some of the
sickly rifts with rubble and earth and sand. It was dry and cold, and
fitful snowflakes hit his cheeks in the gusty breeze. Frost clung to the
tall grass at his feet.
He could instinctually feel the soft, supernatural hum in the air, the
quiet reverberations of arcane power, unnatural to this world in which he
walked. His innate, vampiric senses burned strongly in his veins, making
him aware of the rifts and fissures in his world, sewn together by
impersonal, green light. Bound by supernatural force that called to the
forces within himself. He was stronger since it happened, that same
supernatural power doubling the strength of his body and his instinct. It
was the same power that made the feeble grass grow without sunlight. That
hung the earth in its suspended animation.
As the grass waved thin and strange and brown, moving against his legs in
the cold wind as he walked, he let that instinct wash over him, let himself
feel the presence of that energy. Sadly, he let it flow over his mind with
the memories of how it was released, and who had held it close once. Who
had bound it together in human form for a brief time. And then was gone.
The cold night was breaking, and the sun began to rise. But only just
began. It hung in place, softly, where it stood in the sky. Time froze at
that moment, and would reverse itself to blackness at the day's close, and
again cycle back to the halfling-dark of the eternal, early-morning gloom.
The physical laws of their world were assailed, encroached upon by a
thousand thousand different dimensions and different laws.
A ruined world. And the unwavering strength of the Key Inhuman was
incorporeal-- hovering in power over it all.
It created a shaky equilibrium, a pale shadow of a world, in which none
truly lived, but a small few had the strength to survive.
They had failed.
And he survived. He walked through the plain, his crossbow strapped to his
back with his quiver of arrows. His knife in his boot, a scabbard at his
side. The tired leather of his duster moved against his ankles as he
walked, rustling smoothly in among the dry grasses.
He had a purpose, a purpose he'd learned long ago. From her. From her
He headed towards the next settlement, a small disturbance in the grass,
insignificant in its vast, silent movement. Set adrift in the dry, dancing
waves of a golden ocean.
All alone, a dark figure in the faint, diffuse light.
Continued in Part Two: Traitor's Gate