Hello my pretty darlings! We’re here – the last installment of this run of The Strife. Are you ready?
Desire and Rava were standing in the vast office, and seemed to be discussing something though neither was speaking. When She saw him, the Strife Lord gave one of her conditioned smiles and clapped her hands together once. Without seeming to move, the three were now in a stone chamber. Torches lit the space and a large platform stood in the middle of the room, between the two gods and Zhevicra. He wanted to speak, to ask what was going on, but something told him that it would be best to keep silent.
“It is time to perform the rite.” Desire’s voice filled the space. Without a word, Rava turned to Zhev and his breath died somewhere in his throat. Her lightning-amber eyes shone in the torch light and her skin absorbed the warmth of the room, glowing in all its many changing shades. He watched the light reflect within her, following the waves of her skin as it took on every shade of humanity, and some shades between and outside. His feet carried him slowly forward, but he was unaware of the movement.
Her compulsion was less overwhelming than Desire’s had been. More insidious and familiar… it felt like his own need.
Even as Zhev climbed the carved stairs onto the platform, his eyes remained fixed on Rava’s changing skin. Something about her was everyone. He stared, and saw the faces of all the people he’d ever known.
He saw his mother’s hardened eyes and his father’s lying smile. He saw all the siblings he had hated so long, and the faces of all the women and men he’d ever thought to want. He saw Desire, and the receptionist; strangers on the street and neighbours to whom he’d never spoken. The more the light fell into her, the more Rava looked to him like everyone under the Sun.
There, poor, dead Cilla; then, free Oyi. Flayed traitors, revered leaders, Fiends and outlaws all. More light. More faces, and he wanted to join them all, under the glowing of her skin.
For a moment, everyone who’d ever lived hesitated before him.
“Go.” Desire’s compulsion forced Rava into motion and She moved to join Zhevicra on the platform. She looked into his eyes, and saw Herself reflected back. Rava blinked and looked again, this time seeing only the shining of his eyes.
This is not… The thought almost found purchase. “Go.” Came the Strife Lord’s compulsion. Go, concluded the thought.
Desire began a slow and rhythmic chant, Her voice flowing through the walls and flames on into Zhev’s skin and into his bones. He didn’t know when he began to chant along, nor when Rava had joined their chorus but soon all three were lost.
They chanted and swayed, and deeper and deeper into his body the sound dove, and dug out pieces of soul; and Zhevicra could not remember when he had begun to speak these words:
There is chaos before you
There is chaos after you
he said, his voice and his body floating in the power of the rite.
You are morning and you are night
You are darkness and you are light
You move all to wake and still all to sleep
On and on he spoke words he could not remember speaking, all the while conscious of nothing but Rava and the every being that flowed beneath her skin. She floated with him, in that chamber; holding onto him by a force he could not see, flowing into and out of him, taking more and more of him into herself.
Zhevicra wanted to understand what was happening but all his mind could fathom was that he knew Rava in a manner so profound it seemed that they had always been this way. His mouth continued to move, saying words he wouldn’t later remember; and his eyes were now transfixed on the colour of her eyes. Familiar, like…
You are the rising of the tide
and the phases of the moon
He remembered abyss and conquest, as Rava placed her hand on his chest, and felt his beating heart. Slow. Life’s dawning. Soft. Starlight over new species. Rava almost couldn’t tell that it was there. They looked at each other, and were connected by eons of slumber.
You are the waking, She whispered,
And the sleeping, He boomed,
Of this world.
Zhevicra collapsed, lifeless, to the stone floor.