*This one is a bit out of left field*
When one creature spoke, the other immediately answered. I could not bear to look at them—their stench and the feel of their loose, moist skin was too much sensation for me— but I had gleaned the wide spherical shape of them, the make of their long limbs and the thin texture of their skin.
My descent slowed and I found myself wrapped in their embrace, unable to move my legs or even shrug my shoulders. Their grip was like a slack-fitted vice, not constricting but confining enough that I had no chance of escape.
Both creature slid up my body and rubbed their long noses against my temples and I could tell that they were naked. One female, one clearly male.
“So much promise…”
“So much doubt…”
I felt the cool lick of them pressing on my mind. There came a shudder of my breath and the rasp of my voice sticking in my throat before their grip tightened and I struggled to breathe.
I tried to plead, to mutter “please, stop,” but the only sound I heard was the forced gurgle of air leaking past my lips.
“Is to die…”
“Is to choose...”
With another squeeze around my chest and the pump of their tongues on my mind, my eyes opened, but I did not see gray, wet well brick or even the queer green lewd figure gyrating in their perversion. I saw, through a mist of white fog my life set present and real. Every sin open to be discovered, every shameful thought tangible.
I watched, horrified, as a younger version of myself lifted three gold coins from my dead grandmother’s jewelry box. That bounty had bought three bobbins of red and pink ribbons despite the winter’s harshness and my parents struggle to keep us fed.
Then I saw an only moderately aged version of myself hiding beneath the cellar doors to spy on William Hunter as he stripped himself completely of muddy clothes near the horse trough. The baker’s coach had overturned, the horses spooked by a painted black rope fashioned to mimic a snake, tied beneath their reins. One horse had to be put down and William lost his job delivering the baker’s orders that summer.
Then, the Blythe Matthews from just two summers ago, holding her father’s whiskey under her arm, already flirting near drunkenness, racing into the Hollows to meet Riley Cormac past a secluded field of heather. Never mind that her father had forbid her from ever seeing Riley. No matter that he was promised to Elisabeth Hillson.
More flashes came, more retellings of all my wrong doings until I felt I could no longer bear the weight of my shame— until I thought I may burst from the heartache I caused and, heartache there was, right before me: my mother crying into my father’s chest, worried at how thin we’d grown; William shielding his face from his father’s fists as he explained he could no longer return to the baker’s shop; Elisabeth staring over the railings of Dunleery Bridge, her belly round, no ring on her finger and a damp letter from Riley telling her he’d fallen in love with a dancer from London.
The voices sounded proud, indulgent in the reflections laid before me, as though all I had done, all the horrors I had breathed life into, were meant to be praised. I shuddered and pulled my neck away from their embrace, fought despite the guilt I felt to rid myself of their touch. They resisted, gripping me tighter.
“No,” I said. I tugged against the slick surface of their skin and shook my arms until my fingers were free, until I found the rough texture of the rope once more. I lowered my eyes and squeezed them tight, repeated “no, not ever. I will not,” until I felt their embrace linger and fade.
It was moments— minutes, perhaps hours before I dared to open my eyes again, hopeful that the past’s retellings had finally vanished. When I let my shut lids open, lifting them fractions at a time, the past had disappeared, the earlier versions of my sins vacant from my sight. The future, however, was sure to follow, ushered in by the pale young man that stood before me.
“Hello, Miss Matthews.”