let me tell you a story:
once upon a time, there was a girl named anya.
but that is not my story to tell. i can only tell what happened tonight.
it was like she wrote: we set the trap and when the time came, i pulled the lever and let the tar loose on them. it's an old punishment: tar and feathers. we were just adding the tar.
i didn't mean to set them on fire. it was, like so many other things, an accident. but it doesn't really matter. i can consider them evil and still mourn them, can't i?
i pulled anya away from the blaze, her laughter and tears intermingling. it made me realize something: that there is only so much a person can go through without breaking down completely. anya was on the edge, i knew. if this hasn't tipped her over...i was afraid that she would break completely. would i have turned out like her without paul? i hugged her and pulled her up and together we walked away.
we had walked several blocks before we stopped. we did not stop voluntarily. there was something blocking our way:
tigris. the ebon hound, as anya called it.
it was bigger than it was before. taller than we were. i remember what my brother had said: so large that it was nine feet between its lungs. its eyes were blood-red and it stared at us, not menacing, but knowing. it knew what we did, it knew everything we did. it was our punishment for our secrets.
so i stepped forward. i let go of anya and stepped forward and i put out my hands and i said, "i killed my brother. it was inadvertent, but i did it. and every day i remember him and i am sorry. and those people at the diner, we left them behind. we might not have been able to save them, but we could have tried. i could have tried. but i didn't."
i looked back at anya and then at tigris and said, "and i killed a mother and child tonight. i killed them and i accept the responsibility for that." i had no more secrets to tell. i was stripped bare, like inanna in the underworld.
and then tigris looked at anya. and i turned to look at her, too.
and anya slowly said, "i could have saved her, but i was too afraid."
tigris still looked at us with blood-red eyes, but i could see it growing smaller, until it was the size of a dog. it came forward and i put out my hand.
it bit off a piece of flesh and i gasped. then, it did the same with anya.
it had marked us. it had our flesh now. it would not kill us, not tonight, but perhaps at the end of our lives, it would return to take us away. but not now.
its eyes were the last thing to go as its body turned to wisps of smoke. i held anya's hand and together we went back to our room.
once upon a time, there were two girls named cheryl and anya.
once upon a time.