Smoke & Mirrors

Soundtrack for this post is here.

Heavy were the footsteps that led me back into downtown Bravo. Cheerful greetings rising from faces I recognized. How odd it felt still, to be known. To be welcomed.

“I want to be a stranger again. An unknown face in the crowd.” I’d said in Hayven. “There is a part of me that wants to throw this all away. To never go back.”

And yet here I was. Was it pride that brought me back? Or was I just another sucker falling for the illusion of responsibility? Why did I care? Why was I here?

At the council vote I watched the faces of the crowd assembled.

“There is always someone watching.” Lady had said, her tone a warning and a threat. “There are always consequences.”

Knives flashed in the sunlight and Cutter and JD handled it deftly. 5 brass well spent. The woman with the red hair locked her eyes on mine, slashing wildly as she pushed towards me, hate in the curve of her mouth. Later, I watched her limp past, glaring at me the whole way back to the Washbornes’.

Was this what making Bravo stronger was all about? I knew when I was elected that at some point there would be knives… just preferably ones wielded by strangers, not ones delivered to my back by friends. So far that was true.

I wasn’t in Vegasia anymore. Different life, different rules. I had burned bridges for my decision – ones the Psions of Bravo would never know about.

“I have taken no pledges for this vote.” I told them at their secret meeting. Aisling watched me with vengeance in her eyes and I made myself meet her gaze. Words have consequences, and I had given her a promise I wasn’t sure she deserved.

“That’s not what I heard.” spat a fiesty girl I barely recognized. Slink and I exchanged bemused glances. None of them knew what I was turning down to keep them from the hunt. To protect them. But, if I wasn’t doing this for power, what was I doing it for?

“Oh, it’s still power.” Torch reassured me later, patting my arm in the dark of the woods where we talk of fears and dreams. “You want to get reelected.”

I feel reassured.

The night is full of cries and running feet. The ghost of the old shard is screaming in the dark. Then a new voice in the darkness. Cadence. His ghostly, glowing form serene and powerful.

“What point does any of this have?” Astor grumbles at me. I frown at him in the darkness.

“The echoes are of past Bravo. Psionic manifestations.”

“Yeah, but why does it matter?” he stomps down the path towards Boot Hill. I roll my eyes in the dark.

“You don’t think this stuff is important?” I asked sharply.

“Oh, I’m sure it is. But why do we care?” He marches onward. “I think we need to talk.”

“What do we have to talk about?” I say flatly.

He makes a noise in his throat, growls, “Ugh. Could your voice have any less affectation?”

I stopped in my tracks and he kept walking. Why was I even here again?

By the time he turned around, I had disappeared into the shadows, pulling night around me like a cloak.

“Well fuck you too!” Astor spat into the darkness.

Later we sit in the grass in the dark. It’s dew-soaked and cool, my skin is cold. My voice is cold.

“I thought after we got married…” He is saying.

“What, that I would suddenly need you?” I am vicious. “You were the fool who married a Vegasian.”

“I thought you loved me.” He voice is shaky.

“I guess we were both wrong.” I let my words cut into him. He accuses me of feeling nothing. I let him believe it.

The cold is in my bones. In the hole in my chest. It is easier this way.

Why am I even here?

You confessed one day to have been a snake and deceiver
But when your moment came, to shed that skin
You just slithered away
You just slithered away


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