( wE're gOiNg on An adVENtuRe, cHaRliiiEe.
away, todash chimes sounding through her head like crystalline splinters, unsane laughter ringing in her ears, the world -- all
worlds -- falling behind ... and the thin thread of the kythe still with her, stretching, trembling with the strain but holding, holding.
She knew from the moment she (we they)
saw the dark globe: Michael Copeland was right, all those months ago, with his theory about the new short story collection and the implications of one story in particular. She'd refused to agree with his conclusion, that the fallen towers hadn't taken Black Thirteen with them after all; not out of any knowledge of the breaking strain of Maerlyn's crystal, but out of a heart-deep conviction that if Stephen King was going to invoke September 11th, it had to be for some reason. Some purpose. Evil destroying evil.
Michael was right.
But maybe, just maybe, so was she. That red wound in the ball's side, that's new since it was last described; and with the ball itself pulsing between her hands, even shielded by the coat wrapped around it, she can feel something, some arrhythmia. Some weakness.
They've come to a stop. Well, maybe; that rushing sensation is gone, but they could still be moving and there would be no way to tell. There is no light anywhere, not even a dim foxfire exhalation to lend depth to the darkness, not even the suppurating red glow from the crack in the ball.This
, she realizes dimly, this is what the house was practice for.
( chaAaarLie. cHaRY-kA. daddy's BEST giRl.
) The gloating spite in Black Thirteen's voice is like cold trickling slime. ( yoU'rE in myyy houSe nOw, chaRlie, aNd oh wHat FUN wE're gOinG to --
)( that's right )
she says. ( we're in your house. you brought me here. i knew you would )
Silence. Startled, she hopes.( you let me in )
( you can't possibly.
)( bets? )
( yOu cAn'T pOssIBly --
spark-a-dark, who's my sire?
will I lay me? will I stay me?
bless this camp with fire
as white fire blazes outward from Charlie's hands.
Michael Copeland's coat is incinerated in a blink, not even ash remaining. The sphere doesn't fall, though, held in midair by the energies coiling around it; its sickly-slick surface coruscates with reflected brilliance, the red glow of its wound washed out to a feeble wisp as flame channels directly into the cleft.
Slowly the fire expands into the void, like a star being born. The things in the todash darkness, half-formed half-beings like the sinktrap leavings of creation, thrash away from the burning; those that don't move fast enough curl like cinders in the blaze.
The fire surrounds her as it once did
in Room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel, but oh this fire is so much stronger. A fire this strong would have reduced the entire hotel to ashes in seconds, possibly the entire city block. Possibly the entire city. Definitely her own body ... but that was before Boetia, before the change.
Through the kythe, the goodmind is still with her; she can hear Charles Wallace's voice in her head, chanting the fire with all the strength it hath
(and half a beat behind him, as though in counterpoint, Zillah's: the strength so strong mere force seems feebleness
And Black Thirteen is sagging, melting, shrieking in her hands like -- oh, let's take a moment to love the irony, why not -- like a thing possessed.
( NO, you mUsTn't! you dAreN't!
)( i've heard that one before )
( buT yOu'lL diE toO,
) it wails. ( yoU'll Die TOO --
)( maybe. maybe not. think of all the fun we could have, finding out )
She pushes harder. It's something beyond fire now, the apotheosis of fire, ravening energy like the heart of a sun, a burning so fierce that it shines effortlessly through bone and flesh; so bright that it makes no difference whether one's eyes are open or closed. Charlie keeps hers open and fixed on Black Thirteen, almost entirely liquefied by this time and now going translucent, going dim
, taking on a strange doomed beauty as the lethal light refracts through its molten core.A little more. Just a little more --
The final burst of power is everything she has; close to everything she is
. Her head snaps back with the force of it, her hair streaming in the billowing heat, in the shockwave of annihilating light.Evil may destroy evil, sometimes.
But the will of Gan
I am become death
(oh, say hallelujah)
destroyer of worlds
is the victory of the white.
The darkness closes back in.
Silent, unmoving, a half-fetal human shape floats alone in a lightless void.