A secret scene from Fickle as Mobius, even though it might never make its way into the book. So many things happen in that novel that I don’t highlight.
Characters: Letter, Hirauko, Sterling
Summary: It wasn’t as if a long corridor was creepy. It was the overdose of senses that convinced Letter something wasn’t right.
His steps faltered with each and every stairstep.
The descent into darkness felt wrong to him. He couldn’t fathom it in his own mind; there was something off-kilter about the entire thing. It could have been the running water rushing beyond the brick walls. It could have been the steep staircase with its rough, stone carvings. Perhaps it was the whispers that brushed past his ears, clinging to the wind and flying away with it. His fingers slid across the damp brick wall to his left, using it as a guide.
Letter found flat flooring, walking forward. The staircase ceased.
A glowing orb of light drifted into existence, floating and bobbing into view as it grew brighter and brighter. It illuminated Letter’s path in the hallway. He brought his fingers up to touch it; sensing no warmth, he eased his palm onto it. The orb felt cold under his touch, and it made no move against him.
Letter put his hand down, and the orb floated away, beckoning him to follow the light.
He glanced over his shoulder, at the staircase from where he came. He couldn’t see the entrance from his position, and maybe the steep staircase had been deliberate in being endlessly long.
Letter stepped forward and followed the light. The orb drifted just below his shoulder level, floating a few feet to the right in order to avoid blinding Letter.
“Hello?” Letter called out. He rubbed his eyes, yawning. “Friederich? Kevlin? Are any of you there?”
No reply. Letter had expected such.
The aroma of brick and water drifted into his nose, but it smelled more refined as Letter prolonged his stay in the corridor. With a finger trailing over the dents in the brick, he felt each and every single crumb that flew from under his touch. Each crumb shattered as it hit the floor. The stench of river water filled his nose, the scent overwhelming when placed in direct unison with the rustic odor of the bricks.
Wait, he thought.
Letter squinted, staring further into the length of the corridor. Darkness met his gaze, the orb beside him unable to illuminate the path for more than a few yards.
He stopped, resting a palm on the brick wall again. Letter closed his eyes, concentrating on the rough terrain of the brick, the crumbs and the cement contrasting with the smoothness of his skin.
And there it was. Flashing images roaring through his head, depicting the corridor being built. No one had ever laid a finger on it. Rather, the wind had molded pebbles and rocks together to craft the corridor, gluing it together somehow. The rushing river was actually an ocean, so it seemed. The images in his mind pointed out that the stench hailed from the seaweed, long trails of it that hugged the outer membrane of the brick walls.
He was in a lake. In a corridor. In the lake, which was in a castle.
Letter opened his eyes, pushing his pajama sleeves upward. The metal cuffs remained taut on his wrists, preventing any of his abilities from being used.
Or so it was explained.
But what if it just looked that way?
Letter sniffed again. Sure enough, the aroma of seaweed called out to him, as did the foul stench of the fish that swam beside the brick corridor that ran along the length of the enormous lake.
It had to be Hyperesthesia. Nothing else could provoke the visual images he knew nothing about. Nothing else could overexaggerate the senses as that ability did.
Letter let his eyelids lower as he thought about halting the ability. He didn’t name it himself; Sterling had, and it seemed to make all the difference, as if he couldn’t control it, as if it had a voice of its own, a mind to challenge Letter with as he fought against such a destructive power—
There are more destructive things than that, a voice rang aloud in his mind. A chill clawed through Letter’s spine, holding him hostage for that brief moment.
Letter opened his eyes, looking at the path in front of him. A figure walked forward. The cloak rang familiar memories, as did the pale face and the dark, styled hair. But the figure’s eyes brought full recognition. They were a brilliant color, a glassy grey-blue that penetrated his soul and dug into his mind. The eyes drilled through his subconscious, investigating unknown depths, digging into parts of Letter’s mind that he himself hadn’t gone through before.
His head throbbed, and Letter rubbed his temple. “Stop that,” he said.
The figure didn’t reply. Letter searched his memories for a name. He had learned it before, hadn’t he? His conversation with Borya was so recent, but the name escaped him, flitting away before Letter could even prod it.
“Strange how the little things matter the most,” the stranger said, walking forward with his hands clasped behind his back.
Letter’s heart pounded, head throbbing and threatening to burst. He rubbed his temples, trying to alleviate the pain.
Images flew in his mind’s eye. Nails, the ones used to connect wood. Knives, the ones smeared with blood. Nights, the ones in the cabin when the snow fell outside.
The light-eyed young man gazed at Letter, a frown curling his lips. “You don’t seem to remember much prior to the Repilst,” he said. “For such a tiny device, it’s ruined so much of your memory.”
“I remember plenty,” Letter snapped. “Get out of my head.”
“Oh, but Letter…” He sighed.
The throbbing stopped, and Letter ran his fingers through his hair. “Thank you.”
“If you do not accept help, what good is it to live at all?” The young man shook his head. “I’m trying to see if I can solve the problem Sterling created,” he explained. “My name is Hirauko, just to remind you,” he added.
“Wait, what problem?” Letter asked.
“Which one do you want me to help you with?” Hirauko smiled. “I had a specific one in mind, but I think you’re not human enough for me to delve into it too far.”
“I’m human!” Letter cried. He cleared his throat. “For the most part, nevertheless.”
Hirauko shook his head. “Did Aeri never get a chance to talk with you about that? About the folder’s contents?”
“Everyone’s determined to keep that from me,” Letter replied. “Do you know what was in there?”
“All sorts of things. Hopes. Truth. Your past.”
“I remember my childhood. That’s not something I don’t know.”
“No, the real one,” Hirauko said. “The one concerning your—”
“Nuh uh uh!”
Letter and Hirauko looked to their right as the glowing orb moved to the side. Sterling phased out of the wall, a smirk plastered on his face.
“How convenient,” Hirauko said.
“Why, yes, very much so, Hira,” Sterling said. The blond turned to look at Letter. “You aren’t supposed to be down here.”
“Why not?” Letter asked. “It’s a castle. Big enough to explore.”
“No, it’s a room,” Sterling said. “And you’ve no right to be in this particular hallway.”
“Marine life and plant life make it more difficult to spy on you,” Hirauko explained.
“No, shh, Hira,” Sterling said, bringing a finger to his own lips. In the strange lighting, he looked a good deal more pink than Hirauko, despite the fact that the lighting had the same hue.
Hirauko glanced around, his gaze eventually resting on Letter. “I suppose I’ll find another time to escape Sterling and find you,” he said.
“No, you won’t,” Sterling said. He sounded more annoyed, and he met Hirauko’s defiant gaze with his own determined one.
Letter looked to the both of them, wondering what their voiceless conversation implied. “Is this the part where I walk away?”
“No, this is the part where we do,” Sterling said. He waved an arm toward the dark corridor. “There. It’ll bring you somewhere else.”
Hirauko let out a sigh. “To the greenhouse, then,” he said as he walked into the brick wall. He phased through and disappeared from view.
“Just run along, now,” Sterling said to Letter, following Hirauko into the brick wall.
Only the glowing orb kept Letter company.