Quick Disclaimer: I do not own these characters or the world they inhabit. They were created by the fabulous people at Zombie Orpheus for their equally fabulous RPG, Masters of the Metaverse! Be sure to tune in to Twitch.TV/zombieorpheus every Monday at 6PM PST to see more!
Settling herself into a comfortable seated position, Aquamarine took a deep cleansing breath and closed her eyes. She allowed her mind to slow and open, her heart to beat and pause, her lungs to fill and empty. She found herself in a space between wakefulness and sleep, a place where she could rest and recharge. In her mind a mantra began to repeat as she became more relaxed and present. Her daily meditation was so important to her, to her mental and physical well being. As she sat, she could feel stress leaving her body and mind. She could feel her inner strength returning as she allowed herself to disconnect and remember.
From behind her left shoulder a soft voice began to hum a lullaby and Aquamarine smiled. She opened her eyes without opening them, remaining in the dream space she had created, and saw her Grandmother beside her. The old woman was sitting in a comfortable chair, painting on a canvas. She saw Aquamarine looking at her and smiled before returning to her work. Aquamarine sighed happily and prepared to return to her mediation, unfazed by the watchful spirit. It was then that she smelled it, acrid and sharp as a knife. A haze of cigarette smoke wafted over the scene.
“Hmph. Stupid waste of time.” the terse voice pushed itself into her ears, “Worthless. What do you think you’re doing, huh?”
Aquamarine stood and turned to face the newcomer, a thin and hard woman with a face like ashes and hair matted with dirt and sweat. Her body was wasted just as it had been when she was sick at the end, too drugged or too apathetic to get up off the couch, but her voice was strong and fierce. It was the voice she had heard all her life, the voice that still held residence in her mind, the voice that told her she was wrong, stupid, useless.
Her mother sneered, “Hello? That’s all you can say to me? Hello? You really are stupid aren’t you?”
“Renee. Please. Leave her be, she isn’t doing anything -“, her grandmother pleaded softly.
“No! You’re right mother, she isn’t doing anything!” her mother cut in, “She’s hiding. Like she always does. She did it when she was a child and she’s doing it now. More worried about what people think about her than what she actually needs to do to live in this world. More worried about everyone else instead of herself, of her dignity!”
Aquamarine crossed her arms, “I did what I had to, Mama. You don’t have to like it.”
“I don’t.” her mother spat, “I never did. I knew what you thought of me. I could always see it, looking at me with those eyes. Judging me! You thought you were so much better than I was didn’t you? You thought you were meant to be more important than just my daughter. So you lied to everyone, to all the kids in the neighborhood, the school, everyone! You think I didn’t hear you at night? Hear you sneaking out? I knew. I always knew. Let me tell you something niña, I never wanted to be a mother. I never wanted a child!”
“Oh? A reminder of the man you had? The life you didn’t?”
Aquamarine turned toward this new voice as her mother gave a sharp intake of breath, her grandmother moaning softly, head in her hands. A lithe woman with long black hair approached from the shadows. Her mouth was smiling but her eyes flashed thunder, her fingers like taloned claws.
“What would you know about it, Sonya?” her mother shrieked, “I did my job. I kept her, gave her food, clothes. What would you have liked me to do? Given her to you?”
Sonya chuckled, “God forbid. I was more careful than that. You ought to have just given her to mother then she would have finally had the daughter she always wished for.”
Aquamarine glanced over at her grandmother who rose to stand on her crooked legs. The old woman raised her hand in a gesture of peace, “Please Sonya. It was never like that. I loved both my girls very much. Aquamarine was just so like you, I couldn’t help but see your face in hers.”
“Too much like Sonya.” snorted her mother.
“Really, my dear sister? And what would you have preferred she be like? You? Going through job after job, never being good enough to stick. Floating through life like a ghost so that no one even noticed when you were gone?” Sonya asked.
“It wasn’t my fault!” her mother screamed, “The doctors never understood my pain! They never gave me the medicine I needed, never gave me enough!”
“No sister, no one could.”
Sonya turned now and gave Aquamarine her most seductive smile, a smile that she had seen enough times before to know the poison behind it. Her aunt approached and stroked the side of her face with one long finger.
“And look at what your little baby has become. More like me than any of you want to admit. More like me than she wants to realize.”
Aquamarine pulled back instinctively, “I’m not like you.”
Sonya laughed, “Please, let’s not fall into tropes. It’s beneath you. I taught you to be more clever than that.”
“You taught me nothing! I learned everything I had to on my own!” Aquamarine looked toward her mother, “While you were working or lying on the couch disappearing, how did you think I survived? Or did you even think? All those months when you didn’t have a job or did but couldn’t be bothered to turn up, how do you think we kept the apartment? Because of me. Because I went out and got us what we needed.”
She rounded on Sonya, “But I never went as far as you. I never lost my soul. You taught me nothing except what I didn’t want to become.”
Sonya glared, “But you did become me didn’t you? At the end. You took my life’s work from me, turned into that ridiculous day spa cult. What did you think would happen to me then? What did you think would happen to me once you cut me off from everything I had worked for? What did you think would happen to me when you removed all those protections I had in place for myself?”
Aquamarine looked down at her hands as Sonya approached and whispered in her ear, “You destroyed me sobrina just as surely as if you had used the knife yourself.”
“You had to be stopped. You’d gone too far.”
“And that was for you to decide? That was your choice? Face it sweetheart, you’re me and that terrifies you.”
Aquamarine’s head snapped up, “You betrayed me! Time and time again. I trusted you. I believed you! I thought that you would be the person to keep me safe, to care for me. Instead you just used me like a thing.”
Sonya shrugged, “I guess in that respect my sister and I have something in common after all.”
“Mi hermosa nieta.”
A soft voice at her side caused Aquamarine to turn, finding her grandmother standing there with tears running down her face. She reached out and cradled the old woman’s features, wiping them dry.
“I am sorry, Aquamarine.” she said in a voice that rattled like dry leaves, “I had hoped to keep you safe from my legacy, from the poison of my touch. I thought I could save you, that I could save myself if only for a moment.”
“Grandmother”, said Aquamarine, “You’ve done your best. Now I must do mine.”
“What does that mean?” demanded her mother.
“It means I brought you all here for a reason.” Aquamarine straightened and turned to face the two women.
Sonya sneered, “Bueno. Then let’s begin.”
“It’s time for you to go.”
Sonya laughed out loud, “You can’t make me leave. You don’t want to, we’re too much alike. You want to be me more than you care to admit.”
Aquamarine shook her head, “I would never be you. You have no soul, no heart. You’re just a void, sucking in everything light and good. I can be better than that, I already am.”
“Oh really?” her aunt sneered, “What are you going to do? Save the world?”
“Maybe. Maybe not. But I’m not your pawn”, she turned to her mother, “I’m not your excuse.”
Bending down she whispered to her grandmother, “And I’m not your redemption.”
The three women stared at her as she stood, “I am mine and my own. It’s time that I clean house.”
Sonya hissed like a cat, “You’ll miss me. You need me, need me to show you how to be strong in this world.”
“I am strong.” Aquamarine said and raised her hand.
A flash of gold, a peal of triumphant laughter and Sonya was gone, nothing remaining save a small shadow that curled up and sped away. Aquamarine turned toward her grandmother and gently kissed her forehead.
“Thank you”, she said softly and wrapped the old woman in an embrace. Her clothes billowed out like sails, enveloping them both in a cocoon. The cloth twisted and swirled before collapsing to the ground once again. Aquamarine stood alone to face her mother.
“I am your mother.” the ghost hissed, “Your blood is my blood. Your bones are my bones. You can’t get rid of me that easily.”
“No”, agreed Aquamarine, “But I can let you rest. I don’t need to carry you so heavily.”
Her mother staggered back, scrambling to get away, “You want them to see you so badly! To take you seriously! But whether you like it or not, you are my daugher!”
“Whether you like it or not, you are my mother.”
“No! I won’t go! I won’t let this be the end!” her mother shrieked.
From the corner of her eye, Aquamarine caught a flash of blue. She raised her hand to reveal an open pocket watch. The face of the watch was intricately engraved with dozens of tiny circles intersecting each other, all originating from one large central shape. She smiled and looked at her mother one last time.
“This isn’t the end. It’s just a time shift.”
She closed the watch.
Aquamarine opened her eyes.