I worry about making something that’ll be toxic. Or explosive. I mean, the safety standards are there, and we tinker in increments, but still, I worry about making something dangerous. Some substance that seems harmless but seeps into our daily lives and destroys humanity, maybe even decades after I’m dead. So I’m vigilant.
She wandered through the halls of the empty manor, the portraits of the past gazing down at her, following her. They were beautiful and ghastly, the women in the portraits. And she avoided looking at them. At their paleness. It was not the soft paleness of life. It was the unsettling paleness of dying. She had never noticed it before. It was a paleness she shared. She dragged the burden of her longing and anticipation and dread and hope as if they were heavy chains on her back and shoulders. She was close to achieving what she wanted. At last, after an eon and an age.
There were five great mages from the House of Frogs who mastered magic that they used to serve their fellow humans. Their House was named for the animal their founders chose as their totem. The reason was long forgotten by the time these five mages came to be. They too used totems to perform their magic sometimes. Sometimes they would even give the totems to people afterward as tokens of remembrance or good luck. And some believed a bit of magic remained in those totems.
“My husband was one of you,” the doctor said, smiling fondly. But her smile faded. “That’s why my mother killed him.”
Detective Penelope Locke let the first odd comment slide for the moment. She crossed her arms, a gesture she used to keep herself from rushing the interrogation now that she had gotten so much new and significant information. “So, it’s your mother we should be talking to.”
The doctor wiped tears away from red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes. She had been crying when they brought her in to the station and the slow but steady drip of tears had not stopped till just now.
“I wouldn’t dare it, detective.” She sniffed and straightened her back. “It seems I’ll have to pay for this crime. I’m ready to confess.”
At the base of the tower, I have grown vines studded with thorns as long as my arm. Not the dainty thorns of thistle or rose. But deadly thorns like skewers. Thorns that grow thorns of their own. There is no way to climb through them without getting tangled and pierced. Many a woodland creature have become mired. I cannot free them. I can only end their misery and watch as the vines devour them until only bones are left. It is useless to chop through the vines. For when they are culled, they grow back within a few heartbeats, thicker than before. I am protected. I feed the plant with my own blood. A drop a day suffices. For I am no woodland creature. My blood is full of nourishments beyond that known to beast or man. My body is a channel for greater powers. I was not told before I ran away to my tower what I am. I brought the knowledge with me. I gathered it as I wandered. I gathered herbs and I gathered books. I gathered leaves and dirt and rain. I gathered powders and tinctures and metals and stones. One day as a heavy rain fell outside and as my candles flickered, I read the word that my family tried to hide from me. The word that told me what I am.