I’m happy to announce that I did not freeze to death, no thanks to the situation in which I found myself in the last instalment of my interview with the Guardian. The truth is, as this strange interview unfolded, as I spent more time with the Guardian, I can’t tell you that I felt safer with him. I’m not even sure I could tell you that I knew him better or that I understood him better. But between him, Susan Innes, and the rest of the gang, by the time I was shivering in the Guardian’s prison, I realised I was most definitely a captive audience.
If you’ve missed any of the interview so far, please follow the links below this instalment.
Interview with a Demon Part 5: The Confusing Semantics of Humanity
“Susan, I am sorry,” the Guardian said.
“I don’t care that you’re sorry. Annie’s story is not yours to tell,” she replied, and then she yelled into the frigid air, “Goddamn it, Talia, I said pull K D out.”
By the time it became clear Talia had no intention of obliging, I was pretty sure I was developing frostbite.
“Susan, you must stop this.” In spite of the raging wind, I could hear the Guardian as though he spoke right into my head. “Clearly the succubus is not listening, and our little scribe should not suffer for your anger. I won’t proceed if it upsets you so, only consider what you’re doing.”
Those were the last words I heard before I woke up in the big bed with a jerk, and the bones in my neck popped as though I had been falling. Talia was sitting next to me with her hand on my shoulder. In spite of the blizzard I’d just come out of, I was drenched in sweat and desperately thirsty.
Susan was pacing at the side of the bed like a caged lion and the air around her crackled with the same electricity I’d been feeling when I was pulled from the dream. Before I could reorient myself, she turned on Talia, yanking her off the bed with a hand fisted in the collar of her shirt. “I told you to pull her out!”
I had never feared Susan Innes until now. Though I knew well what she had become, she had never exuded that same threat factor I felt around Alonso Darlington. But in that instant, I was fully aware Darlington had most definitely not cornered the market on being terrifying. Heart racing, I shoved myself up and crab walked to the other side of the mattress, all but falling out on the floor before I caught hold of the bedpost. That I suddenly found myself fearing for the safety of a succubus said something about just how scary an angry Scribe turned vampire, turned prison for a demon could be. Susan paid no attention to me, as her other hand settled around the woman’s throat. “If you can’t keep her safe, what good are you?”
Talia went deadly still. If anything her calm was as frightening as Susan’s rage. “Take your hands of me, girl, or shall I show you why I could hold a demon in thrall while you were whimpering and dying in Alonso’s arms?
And then I did fall off the bed. I’m not proud of it. I would have run and not stopped until I was back at JFK and safely on the next plane home. But my legs wouldn’t stop shaking enough to support me.
The two jumped apart, and the tension was suddenly broken. Susan, once more herself, came to my aid, but the last thing I wanted was her help, and I found my legs worked just fine when properly motivated. The look on her face, as I shrugged away from her touch was wounded and pained, and I didn’t much care at the moment. “I’m sorry,” she said softly. Then she spoke to Talia with a voice still laced in the ice of the blizzard she’d caused. “What the hell took you so long to pull her out?”
“I didn’t pull her out,” the Succubus said. “I wouldn’t have pulled her out. Not just because you had a tantrum. “Your prisoner cast her out. Seems he was a lot more concerned for her than he was for your wounded pride. Though really, Susan, I never figured you for a coward.”
“I don’t give a damn what you figured me for, Talia, and what’s between me and the Guardian is none of your business.”
To this, Talia only laughed. “None of my business, is it? You brought this whole shit show to my door, to my home, and Alonso’s — you and Michael and good old Magda fucking Gardener. You made it my business, all of our business.” She sat back in the chair and folded her arms across her chest. “I didn’t volunteer for transportation duty,” she said nodding to me. “You dragged me back in, lest we forget. I don’t like your damn demon and he sure as hell doesn’t like me. Still you asked me to get KD to him for the interview. That, I did.” She stood and slipped into her shoes next to the bed. “Now, I’m out of here. If the demon’s your prisoner, then he’s your prisoner, but if he’s something else, then maybe you’d both better agree on what that is before you drag other people into your mess. You’re the one who promised him his voice for this interview. Maybe you should have made it clear to him that what you really want is for him to parrot your voice.”
Suddenly the bedroom door burst open and Michael blew in, nearly shoving Talia off her feet. With his focus so clearly on Susan, it was as though he hadn’t even noticed the succubus. He filled the room with his presence in the way only an angel could. His blond hair was wind blown, and crisp clean mountain air was the wild scent he exuded in spite of the carbon and heat smell of the city. He wore faded jeans and a plain black tee shirt along with an old pair of Conversehigh tops. He completely ignored the rest of us and went straight to Susan, scooping her into his arms. “He said you needed me. I came as soon as I could.”
“The demon?” Talia asked. “The demon sent for you?”
Michael only nodded as Susan all but collapsed against his chest. Whatever he whispered into her ear as he smoothed her hair and stroked her back, was too quiet for the rest of us to hear. But the shudder that ran up her spine and the sob that followed was impossible to miss. For a long moment, they stood freeze framed against the backdrop of the open door, clinging to each other desperately, Michael speaking softly in her ear.
At last she pulled away, took a deep breath, then turned to face us, still clinging tightly to Michael’s hand. “Don’t go, Talia. I’m sorry, but I need you to send her back in if you would please. And if you would, K D.”
The succubus studied her silently for a minute, then looked up at Michael, who gave her a reassuring nod, to which she only shrugged and turned back to me. “Shall we,” she said with the twitch of a dry smile, as she nodded to the bed. After two very large glasses of water, I settled beneath the duvet once more, and within minutes, I was again in the Guardian’s fell-side prison staring at his back, while he stood on the edge of the cliff looking down into the beck. It was still high summer, not a snowflake remained, and the owl still trilled somewhere nearby.
I was too disoriented and exasperated by this point to be cautious. “What just happened?” I blurted out.
For a moment he didn’t answer, and then he sighed. “I reminded Susan that what I did to Annie was not her fault.” Once again the wingback chair appeared and I all but fell into it, as he began to pace back and forth along the cliff top. “You see she blames herself. That is the real root of the problem — not that I was about to tell you my version of the events that unfolded at Chapel House, but that she believes those events could only occur because she released me from my prison.”
“Well?” I could certainly understand why she thought that.
All at once I felt the giddy sensation of falling, and then of soaring above the beck in an embrace that was most definitely not human. Then a cool wind swept over me and the Guardian’s presence surrounded me as though he were guiding me down onto the warm grass, as though he mantled me with the body I knew he didn’t have. And then he was moving inside of me. I don’t mean sex. I mean something deeper, as though it were no longer Susan’s heart he existed beneath, but it was my own. In the odd mix of terror and arousal, of losing myself in something I was sure I could never come back from, I was more than a little bit shocked to discover that arousal was winning the battle. Then just as quickly as he had approached me, he backed off, and I was once again seated and watching as he settled into the chair next to me.
He waited for a moment, waited until I could gather enough presence of mind to focus on his words and not what I had just experienced. Then he said quietly, “you see, she believes that she had a choice in the matter.”
“Jesus.” I chafed at the goose bumps on my arms and shifted in my chair trying not to think of how willing I would have been to let him do to me whatever he wanted. If he had forced the issue, I wondered if I would have made any attempt at all to call out to Talia for help.
“You would not have,” he answered my question for me, and I felt his reply like a punch in the gut.
“Please don’t do that again.” My words came out breathless and shaky with way less authority than I would have liked. “Don’t read my thoughts.” There were too many suppositions and fantasies I myself had had about him for me to want him wandering around inside my grey matter.
“Oh I didn’t have to read your thoughts, K D. I read only your body. And your face. I would never betray Susan’s trust by going where I’m not welcome.” Then his voice softened like velvet brushing against my ear. “But I would have been welcome, wouldn’t I?” He didn’t give me long to squirm with the truth of the matter we both knew only too well, but continued — this time at a more polite distance. “You see how the semantics of humanity confuse me at times.” He raised a hand as though he could wipe away that disturbing thought. “My point is, that while Susan’s first visit to my crypt prison was a complete coincidence, once I realized who she was, what she was, she had no more choice in the matter of giving up Annie to me, than if it had been her fondest wish to do so. In fact by the time she left my crypt, she was completely convinced that to free me was the deepest desire of her heart. And of this fact, K D, she was not even aware. You see, I gave her no choice. And I daresay you would view my actions somewhat more sympathetically had it been you Magda Gardener had held imprisoned in stone for so very, very long.”
Interview with a Demon – the interview so far: