This is a birthday dedication to one of my best friends. Thank you for introducing me to such a beautiful book. Happy Eighteenth Birthday, Tia.
Disclamer: I do NOT own Nevermore. Period.
Trick or Treat
Light flickered over the pavement, reflecting brilliantly as it caught on moist patches on the street. Isobel shivered, wrapping her arms around herself as a gust of chilled wind bit into her skin. Leaves crunched under her feet as she treaded down the sidewalk.
Singular splotches of illumination lit her steps from the lampposts overhead. It was sufficient in warding off the shadows around her, and in some way, she clung onto that knowledge. Just a little bit more, and she'd reach her house.
Houses along the street were adorned with filmy webs and rubber skeletons. A jack-o-lantern on one of the porches grinned at her through sharp, mismatched teeth.
October wasn't quite what she expected it to be. It was true that Halloween was one of her favorite holidays. There was something about the masked faces now that drew anxiety through her, however.
The library had been just as dull as it always was without him. She had grown to detest projects that required studying outside of school. The drafty halls and stuffy books felt suffocating, and she couldn't bear to force herself to stay too long. He had always managed to make every visit different and better than the last. He painted a picture of literature in her mind that tainted her perspective of nearly everything now.
Most of the trick-or-treaters had made their rounds, and only a few children wandered through the neighborhood. A small child dressed as a ghost ran past her, giggling as they dragged a bag full of candy behind them.
Another breeze billowed up to nip at her face. Isobel squeezed her eyes shut, lifting her arm up to block the onslaught. She paused mid-step to reach for her scarf. Isobel curled it around her neck tightly, pulling the front up and over her nose. A hushed crackle of snow made her jump, and she spun around, her eyes searching. There was nothing there under the streetlights, and
Isobel mentally chided herself for being so jumpy. It was the dark, and the fact that it was winter wasn't helping her imagination.
She strode forward with purpose, shoving her hands into her pockets as she rounded a street corner. A stray cat trotted across the ice-slick road, and she watched it in silent amusement. The poor thing probably was freezing, and she could only imagine what it was like to sleep out in this weather. Her gaze continued to follow it until it was swallowed into the darkness.
She lifted her eyes, only to be met with the sight of her own home a few houses down. A sense of relief flooded through her, and she smiled softly at the thought of her warm, clean sheets.
Cheerleading had been monotonous work in the last week. Since she had been on her own in her most recent essay project, she had to cram in practice as well as regular visits to the library after school. The thought of food and sleep was enough to stir her feet to quicken their pace.
A high-pitched yowl caused Isobel to start, and she swiveled her head in the direction of the sound. It raked down her back, and the hairs on her arms and neck stood erect.
The street fell into an eerie silence so profound that her pulse began to throb in her ears. Puffs of air curled in front of her face as she attempted at controlling her ragged breathing. Fear coiled in her stomach, and it was so abrupt that all she could do was stand in a state of attentive astonishment.
A pillar of cold air assaulted her face as it swept by, carrying a voice that sent alarm through her entire body.
"Isobel…" It whispered.
She knew that voice from somewhere, but not from this time. Almost as though it were from a dream she had forgotten.
Isobel kicked at the ground, pumping her arms as she raced across the space separating her from her house. A small shadow glided over the street, and she sucked in a breath, willing herself to ignore the presence that was causing the hairs on the back of her neck to stand at attention.
"Go away." She murmured.
He was faster than her, as he always had been. It had never been in his interest to catch, but only to chase. Isobel slowed to a standstill, her heart racing. She reached out, grabbing onto a tree for support as she gulped deep breaths of air. Her vision was splotchy, a little hazy on the edges, but somehow she managed to plaster an aggravated expression on her features.
"What do you want?"
She could make out his tall, lanky figure leaning against the fence a few feet away from her. His porcelain features were shadowed, however, much to her disdain. He let out a low chuckle, taking an idle step in her direction.
"What is it that I've always wanted, Isobel? Only what he desires. Unfortunately, what we want doesn't always return the sentiment."
She swallowed, her heart slowing leisurely to a manageable pace.
"Do you know anything about him?"
Pinfeathers shrugged, "Maybe. But that isn't the true question you want to ask, is it?"
Isobel pursed her lips. It had been two months, and somehow he still managed to be exactly as she remembered him.
"How is he?"
Pinfeathers took another step towards her, and a small sliver of light illuminated the lower half of his porcelain face. Rows of sharp, crimson teeth caught her eyes, gripping her stomach into a sickly knot.
"Mooning over lost memories. Even though he's already a lost memory himself."
Isobel let out a slow breath, "What are you doing here?"
"I think the more logical question is how I'm here, isn't it?"
"Don't play games with me." She said softly.
A smile curved his porcelain lips, and it grasped onto her stomach, sending a quiver down her spine.
"Everyone knows that the veil between worlds is thinner on Hallow's night."
Isobel caught her lip between her teeth, worrying it. If Pinfeathers was able to come here, then why couldn't Varen?
As though reading her thoughts, he smiled wickedly, answering her.
"The Lady doesn't wish for him to leave, quite simply."
Realization rushed over Isobel, and she narrowed her eyes suspiciously. Pinfeathers' expression shifted to curiosity.
"She doesn't know you're here. You came here without her knowledge."
Irritation flashed in his eyes, but it disappeared as soon as it came. He didn't respond, instead choosing to turn on his heel and start down the sidewalk.
"More importantly, why are you the only one that came? You could have told the others, but you came on your own." She continued, prodding as she fell into step behind him.
"Does it matter?" He bit.
"If it has to do with him, then yes."
The next movement was a blur, and Isobel caught her breath as the world tilted for a moment. Her back connected with the metal fence with force. The cool wire bit into her skin, and she flinched in pain as it caught on her clothes and hair. Flawed, pearl skin filled her vision. His gaze caught her, holding her captive until she couldn't breathe. Blood, no, crimson met her in his face. He was like a mirror, beautiful and dangerous, shattered and broken. Was it possible that he had always been like this? Had he been eternally punished from the start, condemned to be this ugly, twisted thing? Was he born from the grotesque, dark pieces of Varen? He was a broken mirror, reflecting only Varen's distorted image. But a reflection does not feel. It relies on only the existence of the being that owns its image.
"It is always him, isn't it? It always has been, and it always will be."
Isobel swallowed, resisting the urge to shudder. A strong scent emitted from him. A scent imbedded in memories of a dream, a place where death was the substance of all things seen. It curdled her resolve, sending her thought pattern into a spiraled mess. She couldn't think, she couldn't breathe.
"I feel, Isobel. But everything I feel is only an echo. It's a faint impression of his emotions."
"What are you talking about?" She whispered.
"He wants you. It is an eternity of hell in being his shadow. He longs for you, and therefore I do as well. Do you have any idea the torture that I withstand in his presence?"
Isobel's eyes widened, her breath escaping her lungs in a rush.
"You didn't want them to know."
Pinfeathers considered her in silence, his gaze hardening.
"You didn't want them to know that you were coming here," She repeated, "Because you were ashamed of it. You came here for him."
"So you think you're smart?" He muttered darkly.
"I know I'm right!" She raised her voice, "It really must be humiliating. Following orders from someone that your existence depends on, even though you loathe them. She would probably kill you if she knew you came, wouldn't she? I bet she doesn't even know that it's possible."
"Be quiet." He warned.
"No! I'm right, aren't I? They don't know, and you didn't tell them because you came here for Varen. You came here because he wanted you to."
"You're a stupid girl, cheerleader!" He growled, "It would be in your best interest if you remained silent."
"Was it only because you were humiliated that you didn't tell them, or was it because you didn't want them to stop you? Either way, you'll have to go back."
His grip on her wrists grew taut as he held them over her head. Isobel let out a yelp as he squeezed, pinching her skin cruelly. But he didn't looked pleased or satisfied, in fact, he looked angry.
Pinfeathers let out a hiss, crushing her into the fence until their bodies were flush against each other. He looked like a predator, dark and menacing, preparing to devour his prey. Isobel sucked in a breath, wincing as he leaned in. His cool, calculating gaze pierced into her, now burning with something she couldn't quite place. He was only a doll, lifeless and fueled by Varen's emotions. So, how was it that she felt as though he was able to look inside of her?
"You're treading in murky water, cheerleader. Be wary of the steps you take."
Isobel trembled, her previous audacity draining under the sharp eyes that held her pinned in place.
"Why are you here, if not for him?" She murmured.
Pinfeathers laughed shortly, his voice bitter. She would have kicked him if he hadn't had her pinned down so tightly. Biting seemed out of the question since he didn't exactly feel pain.
"I already told you, stupid girl. He craves for your presence, and as a shadow, can I do anything but feel the same?"
"You honestly don't expect me to believe you went through all that trouble just to pay me a visit?"
He didn't respond, and Isobel felt her insides twist in disbelief. About a yard away two kids dressed in superhero costumes had stopped to look, pausing to whisper to each other. Isobel silently prayed that they would come over to investigate. Apparently they had taken the lesson of avoiding strangers. After a moment of curious glances they scurried away.
"Believe what suits your interest, cheerleader. But for all you say, and all you think you know, let me assure you that your intuition is unsightly in accuracy."
He grinned, his dark mood shifting only slightly to reveal the snarky nature underneath. Isobel opened her mouth to say something hateful, only to jerk in surprise as he brought his porcelain lips down over hers. She let out a sound that was meant to be an irritated growl, but it died in her throat and came out as whimper. She didn't want this.
She couldn't struggle, and she couldn't move. It was all she could do to press her lips into a thin line, attempting at blocking him out in every way. He hadn't closed his eyes, and they bore into her face, ripping apart her pride and bleeding her heart into her chest.
The Grim Façade. The memory overwhelmed her in images, as fresh as though she were reliving it now. And in a way, she was. His lips had been soft, pliable as they gently urged her response. She could almost feel the cool bite of the metal loops hugging his bottom lip, pressing into her mouth as he kissed her carefully. It had only been once, and yet it had left an imprint deep in her memory.
Pinfeathers pulled back for a moment, allowing her to fill her lungs with the air that had been denied to her. Isobel coughed, gasping as she struggled to clear her head. The taste of ash was on her lips, reminding her of the cruel reality of this moment. It was Pinfeathers here, and not Varen.
"Are you thinking of him right now?" He whispered lowly.
She restrained the urge to spit in his face. If she made him angry, in spite he'd do more than just kiss her. This was just a game to him.
"Is that you asking or your inferiority complex? Are you worried your kiss wasn't good enough?"
"On the contrary, cheerleader, I find myself in a marvelous position."
Isobel coughed, swiping at her eyes with the heels of her hands. She wouldn't let him see how upset he was making her. That would only spur his pleasure in tormenting her.
Pinfeathers chuckled hoarsely, most of his previous anger gone in a passing mist. He was unpredictable in his shifts of moods, and she found his presence like that of tossing waves in a storm. For now they were calm, but in the next moment he could be thrown into another fit of rage.
"I am here, while he is off in a dark hole, sulking over the wasteland he has been banished to in his own twisted conscious. For the moment, even so brief, I have been granted freedom by some unseen force. Don't you find this rather enjoyable, cheerleader?"
"You must go back." She snapped.
Pinfeathers' eyes darkened only for a split moment. He flashed a wicked grin, granting her a glimpse of crimson before he caught her wrist in a light but firm grip. Isobel watched in silent astonishment as he lifted her hand to his flawed, porcelain lips. He pressed a cold kiss to her skin, stirring a chill that went not only through her hand but into her heart. She felt transfixed, perplexed even.
"I find your customs simply delightful," He gestured absently to the darkened street, lit by the malevolent gazes of jack-o-lanterns, "I do wish I could spend a little more time here. Perhaps next year I'll idle a few moments to scare some kiddies and steal a bag of candy or two."
"If you stay you'll disappear. Hallow's Night doesn't last forever, and when it's over, you'll be stuck here. Being permanently separated from Varen for an extended amount of time would mean the end of your existence." She said.
He barked a short, bitter laugh. It was obvious he was already well-aware of this, and all too possible that the thought alone was a silent, gnawing torture.
"I never claimed that I would press my fortune, cheerleader. But I'll be back. Trust that."
"I will save him far before that even comes."
Pinfeathers stared into the darkness that stretched across the neighboring streets. A few specks of light shone in the distance, assuring that even in the night there was something waiting for the approach of daylight. The street was barren, children having finished their rounds over two hours before. She was remarkably late, and it was dangerous to be out for so long on a night such as this.
Even so, the prospect of a random hobo or mugger paled in comparison to the noc that stood in front of her. His slight frame stood out, framed against the dim light available. He turned then, his eyes settling on her face. There was something there that she couldn't quite understand. Something out of reach, and something that nestled in her throat like a lump.
There was possibly nothing else in existence that could be as still as Pinfeathers. He was motionless, in a way that only an unearthly being could be. Every part of her screamed at her in urgency that she take this chance to run. But there was some other part that remained curious and silent, observing in fearful anticipation. The same part of her that was fascinated by everything in relation to Varen.
He smirked after a pause, turning to dip forward and place a chaste, cool kiss against her lips. He brushed slender, delicate fingers over her palm briefly as he pulled away.
"Trick or Treat, cheerleader. I will be back."
Isobel stood there for a moment, staring blankly at the spot where he had been standing only seconds before. He had disappeared, just as quickly as he had come.
Something crackled when she shifted her fingers, and she lifted her hand, palm up. A single, Hershey's kiss rested quietly there, unopened and silvery.
She didn't even bother wondering how Pinfeathers had obtained the sweet, nor whom had been harmed in his amusement. However, it was more than apparent that he had expected to be here tonight. There was no doubt now that he had intended on coming to see her, though for what reason and why he had made the effort to attain a piece of candy for her was a mystery.
Still, there was no certainty in the future.