13.1 – Pulling the thread
The stage is empty, barely lit by two thick candles, one on each side of a door at the farther end of the platform (the shape of which reminds Brittle of a halfway moon). Brittle heads over and pulls the handle without hesitation. A hallway beckons. As she enters, a sliver of a thought incises itself into her Deepheart. This place seems oddly familiar. Didn’t that cat lead her through here once, in a shadow of a dream? The two main differences, of course, being that her current surroundings are neither shaking nor stretching into infinity. This corridor bends, turning sharply to the left. The corner seems to be made of a darker shade of wood, until Brittle notices that the giant splotch of a more subdued shade is actually a knot of unprecedented size. That’s curious, she thinks. The fact that the knot runs seamlessly across the angle of the walls, even more so. Not to mention that it’s warm to the touch, which would have caused her unease if she wasn’t so inundated with the strange and the unforeseen as of late. „Maybe the Wayhouse is one of those places,“ she mutters to herself, „closer to dream than most.“
„Or maybe it is alive.“ Turning around with the speed of a prey animal caught unawares, Brittle spies no figure to account for that sudden voice. But she does see an open door on the left hand side of the continuing hallway, the unseen room beyond emanating a dull, flickering, amber glow. Channeling her great-grandmother Brave, she represses any inclination to hesitate, and heads right on in.
The room is filled with hair. Murmurs of furniture are possible to discern beneath the black, ever-present waves. The locks on the floor close to the door retract when she enters to give space for her feet. A massive firefly lantern hangs from the ceiling, complete with internal vegetation; a self-contained bubble of life. And the face and arms of the tale singer are visible, too. She is sitting (or standing? Brittle really can’t tell) in the opposite side of the space, long fingers gently combing through the dark.
„How do you know of that story, the one which you requested?“ The tale singer’s face is expressionless, it’s hard to tell if her question is laced with malice, curiosity or just sheer indifference. Brittle tries to mirror her, face still as a mask, not betraying anything. „Because you mentioned her in your tale, the one about the City.“ „Though I have woven that weave a thousand times and more, no one has ever been able to recall the warp and weft of it. This,“ she says, punctuating that last word by pulling sharply on one of her strands, yanking it out from her scalp, „is by design.“ „I can imagine,“ says Brittle in a knowing fashion, though in truth she can’t. She watches the single hair fizzle out of existence in an instant, reminding Brittle of that time Brash threw her head back in laughter a bit too close to the bonfire during the firewalk of the trees, and singed part of her mane.
Hummmmmmm.The heartbone of her second self, nested beneath the soiled fabric of her dress, starts thrumming vigourously, as if wanting to make a point. Hummmmmm. It does not relent, but rather doubles down in intensity, sending waves of vibration through Brittle’s bones. Hummmmmm.
„It seems someone wants to join the conversation,“ says the tale singer, raising a thin eyebrow, „It would be impolite not to offer an invitation.“ A serpentine lock of hair slides up towards Brittle’s chest. It waits expectantly, close to her core. Brittle, not trying to show her confusion, tries to find a superior perch by ignoring the tale singer’s request and keep staring coldly at her. It’s hard to keep a straight face, though, as the heartbone goes:HUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMM
making her skin tingle, her hands tremble and her attemptedly unfazed face twitch. The pale woman smiles then. She twirls pieces of hair close to both sides of her face, producing a soft melodic tune to counterpoint the reverberating base line that has gripped Brittle’s very form. „Just like the story. Stubborn and unmoving like an ass.“
„The one you so desperately wanted to hear. The one I refused to tell.“
Brittle feels a sharp, sudden pain underneath her chin. What in the Seven Hardships?
„Which is why you snuck in to find me, I wager. To strong-arm or persuade me to share my wisdom with you, to twist knowledge from my hoary shape meant for no ears, no minds, no hearts.“
Brittle claws at her throat. Has the tale singer attacked her? Are her suspicions true? Is her massive hair a nest of fearrows in disguise?
„But the amusing part of this narrative thread that both you and I find ourselves in, interwoven, at this moment…“
Brittle pulls the offending object from her neck. It has left the slightest of puncture wounds.
„…is that the real reason I will not tell you that tale, is because, in this constellation of bodies, it is not my story to tell.“
It’s…her heartbone. Unbeknownst to her, it had pushed itself up out of its hiding place, to sting her. A single drop of blood falls from the underside of her face.
„It is yours.“
Just before the drop touches the floor, the lock of hair close by catches it, absorbing it.
„Why ask others for understanding, when you can go straight to the source?“
The lock ascends towards her face. It reminds Brittle of a snake with an eagle’s beak, its tip wet, glistening and darker than the rest of its form. Said tip taps her lips. Against her own better judgement, she opens her mouth. Just barely. The slick tuft of hair slides in and places itself on her tongue.
„So, Bloodweaver. Spin me a yarn.“