Aly held Eva in the corner—for she had blacked out again. Now the longer Eva remained under consciousness—the stronger the flames burning Seven became—with every passing second.
“Leave me!” Seven begged Olin, matching his gaze of helpless horror.
Olin stood up, dumbstruck as to what to do. He tensed in determination.
It turned his stomach to think of leaving his brother there, but he was noble enough to grant Seven’s wish.
He started to back away, as Seven buckled and convulsed in the final spasms of a life force leaving a corpse-elect—until his body finally became limp and lifeless.
Eva resurfaced then—and seeing that Olin was leaving Seven to die—she then cried out in a loud sudden dismay:
“What the Hell are you doing?!?”
Aly held her back, but Eva’s love was so strong, she would not relent without a fight before abandoning Seven.
She soon broke free from Aly’s grip—and tried to dash past Olin. But he was too fast—caught her up—and carried her away. Aly followed behind—all the way down to the first floor—even as Seven continued to scream for help behind them.
Eva beat Olin’s chest, breaking into tears, wondering how they could betray.
“YOU MONSTERS!!! MONSTERS!”
“Nothing we can do for him now.”
“God damn you!!! LET GO OF ME!”
“Eva, please …” Olin growled, setting her down—but he underestimated her—and she kneed him between the legs as hard as she could—buckling him to his knees. Her aim was true and force swift.
He could have used his otherworldy strength—and she would have been unable to escape—barring crushing her bones—but part of him knew she was right—despite Seven’s wishes. It was only then that he thought of the River Payne.
Eva quickly dashed back upstairs.
“Seven I’m coming!” she called out, but she did not know what she would do when she got there—and when she hit the next landing, Seven’s screams stopped altogether—as if it were over for him.
Her heart skipped and scratched.
She burst into the bathroom, over to the tub, only to find all that remained of Seven was a skeleton submerged in a pool of his semi-undead blood—clung to by the odd globs of flesh still melting under crackling blue flames—with his heart still beating afire behind his bare rib cage.
She cupped her mouth—suppressing vomit. It was not the way to see him last.
Someone grabbed her and she screamed. This was not the way to end it.
But it was only Olin—and he handed her over to Aly again—as she whimpered in despair for her love. Seven was hers.
But Olin had an idea, one last chance for Seven. It was a long shot.
He stepped over Seven’s fiery bones—leaned down and carefully picked the skeleton up in his arms. It stayed intact.
Seven’s spirit remained moored by a string. His soul held on by a thread to what once was his mortal body corporeal.
Olin turned—and with a steely glint in his bottomless red eyes—he started off into a steady trot—down the stairs—out from the front door, to the walk beyond.
He shifted into a sprint now—full tilt—summoning his supernatural speed—racing for that dark night water’s edge.
“Where is … he taking … him?” Eva asked Aly, barely able to form words—having lost all hope. It was all so surreal.
“To the Payne,” Aly responded grimly. “For its fabled healing power—the one place where the Silverskin never goes—and perhaps, the one place where these flames may be doused—and Seven may be reborn. Eva … I think you should know, Seven may be under the spell of the Silverskin. This is just Her type of thing.”
As Olin raced for the water, he heard Faye’s voice in his head, turning him back.
‘Olin, why would you spare a man’s life, who stands in the way of the One you truly love? Why not choose Me instead?’
Grimacing—Olin shook his head—and he kept on moving—putting Her out of mind. He knew how devious she could be.
‘Olin … You know I know you … You know I know you only ever wanted to be with Me, Olin … Olin, don’t do this … Olin … Let your brother die in the brush, like the worm he is—and come with Me, Olin, so we can be together in love at last …’
Olin faltered, for Her words were exactly what he had always wanted to hear. This was his one weakness to bear.
In his darkest moments, from the cauldron of his most needful desires, he had even wished death upon his brother—if it would just pave his heart into Hers.
He set Seven’s bones down by the side of the road, taking a breath, where the path to the Payne opened up nearby.
Except for the final beats of Seven’s heart, there was little left to distinguish him from the grave—and Olin was sure any moment now would surely be his last.
A callousness washed over Olin—as he gave in to that old disdain for things like feelings and honor—in exchange for the gut instinct to just be Hers—no matter who stood in his way—no matter the price.
“I cannot not let you die by your own request, dear brother,” he said in a grim resolution. “But perchance just perhaps I can instead let you die by Hers.”
So seeing that his brother would betray him, in a final show of will over his body, Seven began to let go, wishing it all were over now, rather than to be laying there at the end of the tunnel of existence, without even dear Eva by his side to send him off. He prayed for death come early.
‘That’s right, Olin. Such a good boy, doing as you’re told … Come to Me now … Through the trees you will see a light … Follow it and there you will find Me, where we will share eternity together at last.’
So Olin started to march toward the trees and the light beyond, more under the influence now of his basic motor functions, than of his higher faculties.
In the back of his heart, he knew it was wrong what he was doing, but his soul had lost its clarity of voice in the sudden onrush of Faye’s influence upon his heart.
It was these moments of decision that could ruin common man’s soul for all redemption, but Olin was already a tainted scripture, never to lose eternity twice.
If he betrayed his brother for all of time, he could be Hers for the same. However, in the back of his mind, he knew, he was not truly her kind at all.
There was a second level chess game going on in the depths of his deliberation between whether he were more being played or in love with betrayal.
(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)