Chapter 46

The Reclusive Writer

The three boys roared like wild beasts as they chased Shelley down the alleyway, scattering bags of rubbish beneath their feet. Not that they cared. They never did. They wanted blood.

Shelley’s blood.

“Witch!” they screamed. “Demon! Freak!”

But Shelley was faster than they were. She always was. Sophist boys spent too much time riding horses to know how to run. Books clutched to her chest, she vaulted the broken wall at the end of the alleyway and barrelled into the ruins.

The boys reached the wall and stopped. Only their voices dared cross into the wasteland. “Get back here!” they cried. “Come and get what’s coming to you!”

Shelley stuck her tongue out at them. “Maybe ye oughtae get ye arses over here and give it tae me!” she called back. “Or are ye scared the ghosties’ll come after yers?”

The lead boy, cheeks flushed with rage, shook a fist in her direction. “One of these days, Egghead, we’ll string you up and cut you open and send you back to the hell you came from. You and your mother!”

“It’s Eoghan,” she shot back. “Shelley Eoghan! And I’ll have ye know me mam could have the lot of yers, and yer dads and your whole stinking freak cult!”

Faces so red they looked ready to pop, the boys spat another flurry of insults Shelley’s way. Turning her backs to them, she continued into the ruins. She knew they wouldn’t follow her. They never did. They were too afraid their fathers would brand them cursed for taking so much as a single step into the Torsten’s haunted wasteland.

But Shelley knew better than they did. She knew that the ghosts who haunted the Scar weren’t evil or malicious or cruel — they were just lost, lonely, different. Just like her.

“People are weird,” she said, imagining her friend Shuck walking beside her. “They’re the real monsters in this world.”

~*~

Of all her creations, the Aquatic Armoured Weapon COCYTUS MA637  is surely the most monstrous,’ read the file. ‘Adamant that he should suffer beyond death for his betrayal, our illustrious Matriarch transmigrated Morgan Penfold’s soul into its new body along with the souls of a man executed for the vilest of vulgarities, and the boy his actions drove into the Erebus. The resulting torment should, she believe, hasten the corruption’s growth, leaving us with a perfect, if volatile, means of tracking Aliza Adel.

Shelley reached for her glass of water to wash away the acid taste of bile in the back of her throat. Never in her worst nightmares had she envisioned anything so sickening that it would make the cultists of Alastor look positively humane by comparison, yet here it was in all its stomach-churning detail. Hopefully, Emily’s intel would help Seelie put this ‘Matriarch’ down for good.

She was about to swipe over to the next page in Jonas Mireille’s diary when Alonie slunk across the kitchen and crashed into the nearest sofa with a sleepless groan. It was the first time Shelley had seen her since Phoenix Rogan delivered Emily’s message the night before.

“What time is it?” she asked.

Reincarnation is all fun and games when it’s about star-crossed lovers, not so much the rest of the time.