Jezebel looked behind her a moment too late; it was just her, the colorful guide, and the little creature. She sat her hands on her hips. “Just great.”
“We’ve been expecting you,” said a high-pitched childlike voice.
Jezebel looked around, but only saw the rainbow wheel and the little miasmic fox creature. She frowned. “Let me guess: you can talk?” she asked, staring down at the little creature. It blinked and nodded at her. Jezebel sighed and rolled her eyes up. “Of course you can…” She shook her head and turned her head to the rainbow wheel in front of her.
Upon closer inspection, she saw that the rainbow colors themselves weren’t wheels at all, but rather each a rose of the corresponding colors on the spectrum arranged in a circle on a wheel with eight spokes; on the cardinal spokes lay a gem, each one representing the four elements—yellow (for air) at the top, purple (for earth) at the bottom, red (for fire) to the right, and green (for water) to the left. In the center was a white gem, to represent the spirit element. Three creatures also adorned the wheel: on the top sat a sphinxlike creature; on the left, a serpentine vampyre creature; and on the right, a half-panther vampyre creature, each seeming to be moving slightly and breathing.
“This way please,” said the little creature spoke again in its childlike voice, flicking its tail as it raised its haunches and turned to lead the way. The wheel began to turn slowly and follow the little creature; however, the creatures on the wheel stayed in their spots, each extending an arm and turning the spokes.
Jezebel started to follow, but then held up her hands. “Hold on. Before I go anywhere, are you going to tell me what you are and what that is?” She asked, pointing to the wheel.
The miasmatic creature looked back at her. “I am Infeon. That is the Vampyre, Fortune.” Infeon blinked its mint-turquoise eyes at Jezebel, waiting to see if she would say anything back. Jezebel, however, was now eyeing Infeon.
“What’s that on your back?” She craned her neck to eye a mint turquoise symbol on the creature’s back. Jezebel raised an eyebrow and snorted when she recognized what it was. “Tch. Well, whaddya know.” She looked at Infeon’s face. “Gemini. Like me.”
Infeon flicked its tail again, turning and continuing down the path, the Fortune vampyre following just ahead of the creature. “Yes. Like you. We will guide you through what is to come.”
“What is to come?” Jezebel echoed. “What’s that supposed to mean?” She ducked her head to avoid a low hanging branch. “Just what is this place, Infeon?”
Infeon was silent for a little while before it answered her. “The Dark Wood. It shows you what you try so hard to hide and deny, forces you to face them.” The shadows grew restless on either side of them, roiling and swarming. Jezebel followed Infeon and Fortune quietly after that, watching the shadows.
Up ahead, the path seemed to widen and lighten a bit. Whispers began to drift to her from all around them. She strained her ears to discern what they were saying, but she didn’t want to fall behind. The whispers grew louder, forming words as they walked on. The creatures on Fortune’s wheel had changed their positions: the serpentine vampyre creature was now on top, the half-panther vampyre creature on the left, and the sphinxlike creature on the right.
“Infeon, the wheel changed,” Jezebel said quietly. Infeon nodded, walking a little slower.
“Just do this for me. Marry my brother so that he can get his flight quals…”
“You and your obsessions….”
“My family back home can’t know about you. So, when they come to visit, you’ll have to pretend that you’re in love with my brother….”
“Are you cutting again? What are you, stupid? Don’t do that mess. You’ll just have to clean it up when you clean the house…”
As if by some unseen force, her arms were thrust out, and slashes appeared all over them, bleeding. “What the hell?”
“You’re too pale. You should go outside more. Maybe go to the beach…”
“You should lose some weight. The women I work with don’t look like you….”
Jezebel’s eyes grew wide, looking around wildly. “That’s…that’s not possible…” Her voice was barely above a whisper. The voices steadily grew louder, continuing to insults, until they were yelling at her; she cringed from it all and hunched her shoulders forward.
“Infeon, what’s going on?” Blood continued to drip from the cuts.
The little creature walked a little further and then sat back on haunches, the Fortune Vampyre wheel hovering just in front of it. A tall and lanky figure was walking towards them slowly, loose dark curls bouncing softly. Behind the figure came a dark green fog floating in, going around the figure, Fortune, and Infeon, and settling around Jezebel. She gasped and took a step back, the fog followed her.
“What is this?” she cried out, covering her mouth with the back of her hand. The figure came to stand before Fortune and Infeon, his eyes sneering maliciously at Jezebel. The voices in the Wood continued their verbal onslaught, but that wasn’t what caused her to gasp.
“Asim?” she asked the figure, recognizing him.
Infeon’s tiny voice came to her through the yelling. “Not really. Just a shade of the man. Of why you are here.”
Jezebel looked for Infeon, but she couldn’t see past the fog; she couldn’t even see her feet anymore. “A shade? But why?” The fog crawled up, now at her waist. She could still see Fortune and the Asim shade.
Shade Asim took another step forward and shoved her hard, making her fall down into the fog. Jezebel landed hard on her back, coughing from the fog and getting a little lightheaded.
I…I know this fog…I remember this, she thought, squinting through her eyelids as the fog thickened and darkened. Her surrounding changed, and she was at the bottom of a flight of stairs. The Asim shade was standing at the top of the stairs, glaring down at her. She was in the basement of her lover’s house.
“If you want to stay down there, I don’t care. Kill yourself, along with the rats down there,” he snapped, slamming the door and leaving Jezebel in darkness, surrounded by rat poison.
She pushed herself up into a sitting position, the blood still spilling from her arms. “I..re…me…mber…this…” she panted, the rat poison starting to fill her lungs. “When I lived here…we…we had a rat problem. And I had found out…that Asim.. *cough* Asim was already married to some woman…back in Pakistan….*cough* He told me that I had to pretend to be in love with his brother Khurrum…because…because their parents were…flying in…soon…And after they left…he….he insulted me…every chance he got…” Her arms quivered and gave out, making her collapse back down onto the ground. “He…he told me to kill myself….” A tear rolled down her face, but she didn’t have it in her to follow through with more. “You don’t tell…someone you love…to go…kill themselves….”
A pair of mint turquoise eyes became the only source of light, peering down at Jezebel’s face. “That’s right. If only you’d realized it sooner…”
Jezebel opened her mouth to say something and lost consciousness, her head rolling to the side. Infeon stepped forward and gently nosed her forehead, her Fate sigil starting to glow and three more curves adding to it. It stared at her a little while longer, sitting back on its haunches as the fog of rat poison slowly started to dissipate. The vampyre Fortune came into view a little while longer, and the Wood reemerged around them: they were still in the same spot as before. On the wheel, the creatures slowly moved positions again, this time the half-panther vampyre creature on top, the sphinxlike creature to the left, and the serpentine vampyre creature to the right. Infeon looked up at Fortune.
“We still have a ways to go…”