xi. The Spiders That Spare Us
When they hit the river, Eva grabbed Seven and held him close to her body.
“What is going on with me? My dark visions are getting worse now I think …”
“No … It’s just these woods. You will be better when we are far away from here. Once we get back to New London.”
“Do you really think so? That’s all?”
“It has to do with the ley lines around these parts. Electromagnetic tracks run all over these woods you see.”
“Wow … How do you even know?”
“I grew up here, remember … It’s no lie I’ve seen more than what’s imaginable. I didn’t want to tell you, but French’s Forest really is truly haunted.”
She made him kiss her suddenly.
Several long seconds later―he finally tore himself away―begging her to stop. He was so torn up inside about it all.
“What is wrong?” she whined. “Why have you been acting so distant lately? Last night you would not even look at me. I felt so insulted.” She felt better venting.
He wanted to tell her it was only because he loved her—because he did not want to draw Faye’s jealous ire down upon them. But he sensed that it was now well passed the time or place for that kind of revelation. It was his fate to find Faye.
“It was a long day … That’s all … Plus I’m tense around the family. I’d rather just get the weekend over with―you know. Get this shit on with it.”
“Well I still don’t feel too well, do you think we could stop for a minute, maybe eat some of that food we packed?”
“Of course babe, but not too long.”
Sitting on a log by a field fecund in giant sunflowers―listening to rapids slip steadily by—they made a quick picnic.
Seven struggled to act natural—still dealing with his own ‘visions’ of Hellbear. But he was ultimately able to put on airs of calm—which aided Eva in feeling more at ease. Last she needed was to worry.
So they relaxed and helped themselves to apples and cheese―hard boiled eggs and deli slices. They sipped from a thermos of Marietta’s dragon blend tea, which they thought tasted like weed.
Then Eva washed her hands in the stream, when she saw her reflection morph into a green-eyed face of molten silver—with horns and long black lashing locks. It was a wicked visage of horror.
She fainted—collapsing into the River Payne—her paper frame crumbling.
Seven pulled her free. “What happened?” He slapped her face sharply.
“Nothing,” she said—choking and coughing. “Just, nevermind … Everything’s fine … I’m fine … I mean …”
While denial did not do much to fade down the visions—sometimes she felt the least she could do was spare him the displeasure of hearing about every one.
He held her close—sensing she was hiding something―deeply frustrated with Faye’s intrusions, wishing he had never brought Eva here at all. It was sabotage.
He stroked her soft red hair, as she looked up into his eyes—and he could not help himself just then from abandoning all caution and kissing her strongly on lips.
She breathed in sharply, kissing him back—sucking his soul out his mouth—drawing his heart into her―as their spirits soared off, forever entwined together.
He pulled away gasping—but dove in for more—when from behind a cloud bank, the full moon came out—and they felt a tremendous rumbling rise up underfoot.
“What the Hell was that? My God.”
“Miramar gets restless …” he said, pulling her toward him again, to keep her from looking up―while he kept his own eyes on the sky. This was no place to be.
Faye’s face floated in the clouds, glowering down—Her expression raging at sight of their union. She blazed jealously.
Lightning flashed across the southern sky. The stars shimmered off.
“It’s cold all of a sudden―” Eva said, breaking moment. “It must have dropped ten degrees.” She sensed old evil.
“We should go,” Seven said huskily.
He draped his jacket across her shoulders—and then quickly packed up their lunch, as the sound of thunder and lightning intensified around the horizon.
Clouds blotted out the moon again.
“Weather turns in a snap here …”
“The wind is the worst, when it wends through the trees—squealing like a stuck pig. It’s enough to make your bones ache and your soul shudder. We go now.”
“It was like Eden just an hour ago.”
“Let’s not linger here any longer.”
But the rains rolled in fast—and they were caught in a sudden downpour—forcing them to stop in at Old Den Morrissey’s cabin—to wait out the heart of the tumult. His was a wilderness waystation for all travelers who passed by.
Morrissey was a reclusive, long-time Bane family friend, who remembered Seven immediately. He rushed them in.
He invited them to sit—glad to see a new face in Eva—for he always relished the opportunity to show off his gun collection to someone new—and to tell a few tales too. He was a big talker alright.
So when Seven went upstairs to dry himself down—and Eva asked Den if he had any interesting Forest stories to tell—Morrissey was eager to please. But being privy to the Bane family secret—he was conservative in his conversation―unsure how much the human girl actually knew.
He decided the Legend Of The Silverskin was fair game—since everyone in those parts had heard of Her before.
“The long dead ghost of a silver elf named Lady Faye haunts these parts—with skin of molten silver, piercing green eyes—and horns and hair raven black.
“She swims through the air between the trees, with Her supernatural companion anaconda Draca ever flying at Her side. The two make a ghoulish pair indeed, as many have seen on night high.”
Eva covered her mouth to hide a nervous, yet incredulous smile—shifting uncomfortably in her seat. It disturbed.
“It was not nine years ago now,” he went on. “In the hottest August on record —when She first started coming down out of the deepest trees of Miramar. She was a ‘Spirit Lady Scorned’, out for death.”
“Have you ever seen Her yourself?”
He nodded. “It was noon—and I was out checking up on the crops. The day was proving most routine before I came upon the highway. A cold chill fell.
“Back toward the Old Mill, looking diagonally across the field, I spotted a silver sphere hovering in the air—high above the treetops. It was a ball bearing.
“For a second I saw a balloon—but it was much bigger than that—and too perfectly round—so high up in the sky …
“Then it swiftly descended to the ground—into a copse of trees by Byron’s Creek―when from out of the reeds—She strode into view, looking into my eyes.
“I could feel Her reading my mind.
“I tried to break Her gaze, but She would not let me go—until finally a pick-up slowed on the highway, to make sure that I was okay. She retreated back into the copse—from where the sphere re-emerged—floating above the treetops once more.
“I ran across the field, trying to keep it in sight as it continued to climb higher―when on my mother’s grave―it suddenly changed course then—darting way off far out of sight behind Miramar …
“For the rest of the day I had to remind myself of what I saw. Then I found out afterward that others had seen silver spheres in the same area—and by talking to them, we eventually determined as a group that whatever we saw … It was definitely real. We weren’t all crazy.”
“Ever afterward I occasionally wondered if any of it had really happened at all—but I always knew deep down that all of it full well did. I felt it. We knew it.”
“Wow—that is sooo so creepy … ”
“I’ve never been the same since.”
“So did you ever see Her again?”
“Yes—but before I did, I spent months and months studying everything I could find out about Her. I went deep.
“I found a dusty old book in the basement of French’s Forest Library, called The Legend of the Silverskin: The Lost History of Lady Faye of French’s Forest by an eccentric psychic-historian named Dylan Raine from the late 18th century.
“According to Raine’s account, She has haunted these woods three times before, in the thousand years since She originally died. Between each a reprieve.
“Each time, She haunted the woods by parasitically possessing the mind of a girl—projecting a twisted version of that girl’s darkest thoughts and visions into the fearsome manifestation, the formidable phantom, that was the fabled Silverskin.
“It was as if she needed the living force of the girl’s soul to fuel her materialization on this plane, and in so doing she fused their distinct personalities into one toxic evil supernatural monstrosity that ran off rampant amok.
“Now, the hauntings were intermittent, so much so, with stories referring to Her disappearing as quickly as appearing to such a common degree, that Raine hypothesized that while She was awake, the girl of Her host spirit’s body alternatively slept—and vice versa. It was as if body rested to empower the witch.
“What was Lady Faye like?” Eva interjected. “I mean, the original one.”
“She was a victim of abuse, having been enslaved and raped ten thousand times by an evil demonic suitor called Ill.”
“Jesus Christ,” Eva exclaimed aghast. She had suffered an abusive boyfriend herself once, when she was eighteen. The memories flooded back in.
“Indeed, which explains her rage.
“Now Raine describes how back in the Dark Ages, She had ruled the North woods. She was the Monarch of Darkness.
“She developed a tyrant’s reputation by blocking passage of the ‘pale ones’ or ‘long tooths’ through to New London—for She was the greatest of all vampire-killers—since it was in Her blood, in the Silver.
“‘Pale ones … … …’” Eva said slowly.
Den nodded gravely, clearing throat.
“Sounds like She was something of a protector of the Forest?” Eva offered now.
“Perhaps in the way a spider spares us of flies—before it bites us in the night.”
“No vampire would traverse the North Forest, for fear of Faye’s menace. But that is not to say humans were safe there either—for She was well known at times to be indiscriminately sadistic toward whichever party She wished—vampire or otherwise. Her taste for pain and suffering did not know bounds or prejudice—nor was it ever glutted for long.
“Anyway―only if one were fleeing a vampire, would one ever dare pass through the North Forest in those times.
“According to the book, you see, French’s Forest was only free in the South—where the sun elf Solana—Faye’s innocent half-sister—guarded over all with love. She was some kind of Savior Saint.”
“In his epilogue, Raine suggests that in order to exorcise French’s Forest of the Silverskin—Lady Faye must somehow be reminded of the mortal life she once led—and why She deserved now to finally rest in peace. She must be shown home.”
“Okay—hold on now,” Eva interrupted. “You have to tell me: Do you really, honestly, truly believe any of this?”
Den shrugged casually—calculating his response. He poured himself another glass, stirring it calmly with a slow swirl.
“Elves and vampires crop up in ancient writings on every continent—dear. It’s hard to say one way or another what actually walked these lands long ago—now isn’t it? Especially when we do not even seem to know what stalks among us in the here and now.” His eyes danced all about.
She nodded reservedly, mystified.
“Call them what you will …” he went on. “Asanbosam, Peuchen, Strigoi, Nhang, Nosferatu, Nephilim … They are all of the same blood-line that has slithered over Earth for so many millenia.
“Every culture refers to them—in one form or another—plaguing humankind. Why should we be different?
“So at least keep an open mind. But if you really want to know what I think—I believe they are as real as you or I―for I have seen them with my own two eyes.”
Eva gasped short under her breath.
“Some of my best friends—whom I have known all my life—have turned out to be closer in blood to them than to us.”
“That is a scary thought for sure.”
“Just be so very careful out there.”
Seven returned then—and the conversation now sharply veered into lighter topics. They three needed to relax.
Seven filled Den in on the ups and downs of being a starving artist in Old York—and how he often wondered if he would have been better off sticking to his drugstore delivery job back in New London. They spoke of art and love.
Toward dusk, the storm turned.
After giving their good-bye’s and thank-you’s—they made their way back toward Bane House, sticking to the path, propelled by a healthy zip in their heels.
They felt refreshed somehow, like Den had reset them, with his stories and his disarming demeanour. Perhaps they had been spending too much time together and just needed a third voice of reason in somewhere in the stormy mix.
Also, Eva had felt a shift inside her, as if Den’s tales so held some deeper knowledge that had awakened from way within, which may harbor secret clues.
It sort of put her at ease well enough to keep her chin up and her heels on the path ahead with Seven arm-in-arm.
For one precious half of an hour, on that walk home from Den’s waystation, in the eye of the storm, they were blissfully unware of impending doom, just stepping in time with the frosted puffs of their quick breaths on the crest of a chill night’s air.
(Author’s Note: If you are enjoying The Silverskin, you can buy the full 400 page Revised & Expanded 10th Anniversary edition paperback here. Forever Yours In French’s Forest, Rian Torr)