Read the full story here: Group Novel 2017-2018
There was a thing behind us. There was no other word that I could think of. Its basic shape was human but it was as if someone who had never seen a human tried to build one out of spare animal parts. Even the head was made up of different pieces. The piece with the mouth smiled at us.
I felt arms catching me before I even knew I was falling. Arms I knew so well, yet much stronger than I had ever known them,
“There, there, now. It’s alright. I won’t let him harm you.”
Marie’s voice was wrong. Hollow, melodic, and echoing. There was a sibilance to it. Like the rustle of leaves. Or the hiss of a snake. I turned to face her and what I saw made me squirm away from those too-strong arms. It was Marie’s face. Her body. Her clothes. But those eyes – they were solid gold. No pupil. No iris. Just gold.
“Marie?” I asked, fearing the answer.
“Is that what her name is? Hardly regal, but one mustn’t fuss.”
“Mistress?” garbled the patchwork creature, “The transference worked?”
“It would seem so, my dear Hagar. I must thank you for bringing her to me,” said the woman – or whatever she was that spoke through Marie’s mouth. Struck dumb and frozen by confusion and fear, I could do little more than stand there as she nodded at me and the woman with the axe, “If you would.”
Something between a paw and a hand grabbed my shoulder and threw me to the ground. The axe-woman fell hard beside me.
“Bow before the Queen,” gurgled the thing that Hagar was.
“I will bow to no such creature as she!” The axe-woman spat, struggling back to her feet.
“Take care, Evangeline. I have been merciful so far.”
“Merciful? You stole away my family, demon! You kept me your prisoner!”
“My guest, my dear.”
“Guests are free to leave.” Marie’s lip curled in a way I had never seen before,
“If you wish to be a prisoner, Evangeline, then by all means. Hagar, take her back to the fort.”
Faster than I could see, Hagar had grabbed Evangeline, twisting her arms behind her back.
“Let me go, foul creature. Let me go!” Evangeline fought and struggled against the hold of mismatched arms. And then, in a swirl of leaves, the two were gone. And I was left with her.
“And now for you, my dear,” the Queen said with Marie’s lips, “Alice, isn’t it? Yes. This body knows you, doesn’t it?”
“Let her go,” I said in barely more than a whisper.
“I’m sorry, sweet Alice, I didn’t catch that.” I got to my feet, glaring into those cold, golden eyes.
“Let her go!”
The Queen laughed. It echoed through the clearing and the trees and it sounded like the flute music,
“Oh my dear, sweet girl. I can’t do that. It’s taken me so very long to find a compatible host.”
“I don’t care! Give her back!”
I ran at the Queen and there was a burst of light that knocked us both back. I was the first to my feet and ran to Marie’s side.
“Marie! Marie! Please, please wake up. Please be ok.” Her eyelids opened and her eyes were blue, “Marie—”
“Get out of her! Run! Run!” Marie’s eyes shut and she started convulsing.
Then she went still. Gold eyes opened and the Queen sat up,
“Ooh. She’s a fighter, this one. Now,” she smiled, fluttering those terrifying eyes at me, “where were we?”