Previously: Flashback, Part One
One small white unlit candle had been placed on a silver saucer on the floor in the middle of the dining room. Automatons bustled about, removing what was left of the furniture. The buffet in particular seemed to be giving them fits, not out of heaviness per se but due to the awkward distribution of what weight it had. They tried three-walking-backwards, two-in-front, then switched positions, then switched them again. They kept running into walls. Eventually one of them rode on top of the thing as though it were a horse, directing the others underneath by way of hand gestures and hip movements. Then they seemed to realize the clownish pointlessness of their behavior, stopping all at once, shrugging. They, and the buffet, melted into the floor.
“Now then,” said The Great Hunter, when they had finally gone. “You’ll sit here,” pointing at the floor beside the candle.
Snake-Boy sat, pulling his knees to his chin.
“Cross-legged, if you please,” said The Great Hunter. “Good. Here.” He picked up the greasy candle, handed it to Snake-Boy.
Snake-Boy flicked out his tongue to smell. It smelled funny. It smelled like cats and illness.
The Great Hunter said, “Hold it in your lap. Don’t look directly at it.”
The candle sputtered into flame as Snake-Boy looked at it. The flame turned purple. It took the shape of a lady’s head. She had a pointy flame-like hairdo. She grew a bit larger.
“I said, don’t look directly at it,” said the Great Hunter.
Snake-Boy watched out of the corner of his eyes.
“This one says greetings,” intoned the flame lady. Her voice sounded strangely similar to The Great Hunter’s. She grew a bit larger still. She floated up from the top of the candle, but not far from it.
“Madame Blavatsky,” said The Great Hunter. “I am so happy you could join us.”
“The journey takes much out of this one,” said Blavatsky. Snake-Boy looked at The Great Hunter’s lips while she spoke. They were not moving. Maybe they were moving a little bit.
Madame Blavatsky’s face rose higher. It was level with his own face now. It was as large as his own. It didn’t seem to be connected to the candle anymore. Snake-Boy wondered if he could put the candle down. He did not put it down. Madame Blavatsky’s flame-face turned on its axis to regard Snake-Boy. He looked down and away. She kept getting brighter and larger. Snake-Boy shut his eyes.
“Yes,” said Madame Blavatsky. “I see what you mean.”
Snake-Boy opened his eyes, because the light he had been seeing through his eyelids, all of a sudden, dimmed. The reason for this was that she had risen above his head now. She continued to grow larger and brighter, but she wasn’t directly in front of him anymore. He figured it was okay to look around.
He looked around.
“What, er …” said The Great Hunter, stepping forward a bit, looking anxious. “What do I mean? I mean, what do you see?”
“This one is different,” she said. “This one will cause the destruction of the world. Of everything you are. And you will thank this one for it.”
Snake-Boy set the candle down.
“When you say, ‘this one,'” said The Great Hunter, “… do you mean yourself, or do you mean …”
“Don’t be an ass, Isabel,” said Blavatsky. “This one means that one.”
“Please. The Great Hunter,” said the Great Hunter. “Isabel died many years ago. Nobody knows about Isabel.”
Blavatsky laughed. “This one remembers Isabel. Poor, sad little thing. She did not want to be what she had to become, did she? This one wonders how she feels about her situation now. Eh?”
“Please,” said the Great Hunter. “The case at hand?” He gestured toward Snake-Boy. He cleared his throat. “The Snake-Boy?”
Snake-Boy stood up. He just felt like he needed to.
Blavatsky said, “Ah yes. This one.”
She lowered her flame-head until it covered Snake-Boy’s.
She said, “This one will be your redemption, The Great Hunter, if you allow it to be. This one will be your redemption, Isabella, if you allow it to be. This one,” and Snake-Boy realized at this point that Blavatsky was using his own lips, not The Great Hunter’s, to speak, now — and, what was more surprising, she sounded shocked and appalled — “this one will. Wait. What?” She floated her head away from Snake-Boy’s. “Tisk tisk.”
She grew larger and brighter still. She screamed, out of Snake-Boy’s mouth, and also out of The Great Hunter’s mouth, as she continued to grow larger, brighter, less purple, whiter.
The doorbell rang.
The doorbell rang again. The Great Hunter clapped for his automatons. None of them came. He went to answer the doorbell himself.
Snake-Boy sat back down on the floor. His head hurt. He was also very happy, but he did not know why. His shoulder-snakes writhed and whipped above his head like dog’s tails.
“Yes?” he heard the Great Hunter say, in the foyer.
Then Lady Dogface’s voice: “Can Snake-Boy come out to play?”
Next: Flashback, Part Three