She walked down the empty street, her head swinging from side to side, her legs wobbling left and right. She teetered on her eight inch heels, the bottle of whiskey swinging in her hands. She was walking her walk of fame, just like the one she walked down the catwalk. Deranged laughter escaped her lips, as the darkness seemed to slowly suck her humanity away.
She was icy pale. Her skirt, black taffeta, fluttered above mid-thigh and her corset shifted from side to side. Only her coat, edged in fur, hung askew on her neatly dressed person. Her left shoulder was exposed beneath that black slowly unplaiting hair. The effort that she had put in pinning her hair up came undone so easily.
She laughed, her laugh slipped so easily from her lips, like liquid gas, combining with the damp cold air around her.
She threw the bottle to the slick wet ground and slumped against the pole. What had she done to deserve this? Where was this darkness coming from?
It covered her, suffocated her, took over every inch of her bare skin.
She had been drunk on the catwalk. Her selfishness too much for her. She had to succumb, to drown her sorrows in that bottle of vodka. So much ecstasy, so much alcohol, so much want. And it all disappeared, everything, all her emotions, all her fears, all sense of thought. It was all gone.
But that stupid voice remained in her head. That voice that nagged her now, telling her to think again. But she’d still walked down that catwalk because she had everything to lose. Without that walk, that look, that particular charisma, she would be nothing, nothing but what she’d been made to be.
Her arms shook as she pushed off the pole. Her eyes, unfocussed, blurry as she twisted her head left and right. She was on some street. She was some place alone. It was dark, very dark, and despite her heritage she felt afraid.
Was it possible for the darkness to become even darker? She stumbled against the pole, the fear so very clear as the chills crept up her arm. No! Her mind rage as the alcohol faded from her eyes, and her head cleared in the icy coldness. Her hair stood on end, not just on her arms but up the back of her neck as well. Her skin felt cold, colder than ice, and her legs, bare and stork-like, though elegant, wouldn’t move beneath that black taffeta.
“Reap what you sow!” The shadows screeched in her ear.
The shadows came, a darkness of her past, from every corner of the dilapidated street. They crept from the cracks in the asphalt and slithered over the buildings passing over windows, blocking off the moonlight, and ruffled her taffeta skirt. She shivered and wrapped her shaking hands in her skirt. From habit the words slipped from her mouth.
“Esthmet, esthmet…” Go away, Go away, “Tavisham, Tavisham.” Find home, find home. “Esthmet, esthmet, tavisham, tavisham.”
Since she was a child, the elders had trained her to be the shadow returner. She had many names, among which some of her more famously known, the grim reaper and the angel of death belonged. But in all essence, she had the power over the shadows, one part of her job, the lost souls must be returned to that space in between so that the mortal world can continue living. She has trained all her life for this, and yet, she had thrown it away for a mortal life.
The shadows screeched under her mantra, they writhed and shivered until they retreated. But as they shrunk back they hissed their warning to her. She was near mortal now, having stayed so long acting as a mortal. Her power had weakened, but she was still strong.
“Black taffeta? Charming.”
She spun at the sound of his voice. Michael stood there leaning against the wall, inseparable from the darkness in his high collared black coat and black slacks. Wrapped around his wrists were strips of taffeta.
Infuriated, her hands unwillingly clenching into fists, she spun away from him and once again walked down that street. She should have known. For someone like her, she couldn’t be lost. And for that, the elders would do anything to ensure she continued down her rightful path.
“Don’t walk away from me,” he demanded taking her arm and jerking her back. She stumbled against him, a move that worsened her fate, and made it easier for him. He held tightly to her arms. “You belong with us, always, not here with mortals.”
He looked down at her skirt once again. “You even still wear our mark.”
“It was a part of the costume.”
“Do you really expect me to believe that?” His finger pushed her chin up. The icy wind returned, stronger than before, it gusted passed them, ruffling her taffeta and his coat. “Yet you still respond with the knowledge of the elders, something given to you only for the purpose of using your powers as they should.”
She pulled back with all her might. Control, that was what they all wanted. She wanted freedom, but she never said she would disappear forever. She knew exactly how long she could remain in this mortal world before she began completely mortal. “I’ll come back, I always will, but I’m still only a girl, only seventeen. I’m not immortal yet.”
And she walked away. For a long time, the bonds of her future had bound her where someone like Michael could not. They held and cut and sliced her into an incomprehensible mess. But she had continued training, training until her voice was hoarse and the backs of her hands were scarred from the cane used against her when she failed. But still they remained with her, everything she learnt and she knew, they remained because she was the soul returner, even Michael knew the significance of the black taffeta. Always, no matter how hard she ran.