Secrets Unfurled

Paul Tupman

Melbourne, United Kingdom

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This is a collaboration between myself and Empress for WitheringMoons’ competition Secret Place I want to thank Kate for accepting the challenge of writing a new piece and to congratulate her on such a wonderful result, Dear Diary all written in a day! I only put her up to the challenge less than a day ago.. time zones mean nothing! Thanks also to WitheringMoon for such an inspiring Competition. Anyway, enough of me, over to Kate…

Dear Diary

Angel crouches atop the pillar, still as the monument she mimics. A sigh escapes her lips and her wings furl in a dark embrace as soft footfalls dance closer. ‘Sapphira. Don’t.’

Partway between the light and the dark, Sapphira spins. She’s a lily of a woman, a shining young thing with pearls and baby’s breath crowning ebony ringlets that spill down to tickle the book she holds. Her fingers tighten, clutching the volume close to her heart.

‘Once it’s gone, it’s dust and there’s no getting it back.’ Angel lands lightly on the Lane, boots soundless on the lush grass. ‘Not even a legendary love.’
Sapphire stands proud, her shoulder back, steel infusing her spine. ‘I can. I will.’
‘No. I’m sorry, Sapphira.’ Angel’s regret is genuine and it colours her voice in shades of mauve. ‘I’m probably one of the few who knows that Lovers Lane is really a corruption of Lover Slain, and one of even less who knows who’s buried beneath out feet. And who you really are.’

‘Congratulations.’ Sapphira’s smile is brief, a momentary quirk of plum-dark lips that fails to reach her midnight eyes.
‘I know all that.’ Angel steps closer. ‘But I don’t know how you found the book.’
Sapphira’s pale hand caresses the book which seems to arch into the stroke like a cat. ‘It found me. Eventually. It is my diary, after all.’
‘Ah, yes. A record of a young woman’s hopes and dreams, her wishes and secrets.’
‘Don’t forget potential blackmail material.’
Angel folds her arms and nods thoughtfully. ‘Which is rather why I thought it was burnt with all your other belongings.’
‘Like heroes, books never die. They just go elsewhere.’
‘Have we covered the banter and cryptic taunts yet? Or are you done?’
Sapphira glances up at the quarter moon riding low in the sky above Siren’s Gate. The pure light illuminates her face and her resolve. ‘I’m done. Done with waiting and for conditions to be met. I have the key to unlock Destiny’s Door and there is nothing left for me to lose.’
Angel hums skeptically. ‘That’s what they all say until they’re proved wrong. Usually in some horribly messy fashion guaranteed to stain the brickwork.’
‘It doesn’t matter.’ Sapphira flicks the latch apart and skims through pages. The gold talisman ring on her left hand winks.
‘It does if you have to clean up the mess,’ Angel points out.
Sapphira slices a sharp fingernail across her palm, cups her hand as the blood wells. A delicate frown distorts her brow. ‘The turning of the year, midway between Above and Below, between Before and After…’
Angel wrinkles her nose as mists coalesce. For a popular nightspot Lovers Lane is lonely tonight, rife with aversions and small mercies. The mists cloud the boundaries, hiding the buildings, muffling the streetlights… and shifting the Lane to another plane.
Straight as a stiletto, green as a fairway, the Lovers Lane becomes the entire world. Mists hem its edges and frame the endpoints. Even mists don’t dare occlude the Deco Dinner or the gothic slendour of the Fata Morgana Tea Palace although they can reduce them to ghosts.
Sapphira shivers and the ruby liquid in the cup of her hand threatens to spill. ‘Almost.’
‘Hallow ground. Interesting.’ Angel’s wings retain the full rich colours of midnight, impervious to the half-tones that dominate this version of reality. Except for the verdant turf, herself, and the woman with book. ‘What exactly is your party trick, Sapphira?’
Sapphira turns another page. She checks over her shoulder, compares behind with ahead and moves until she stands in the middle of the Lane. She drags the tip of her shoe across the ground and the grass unzips. ‘It won’t be a secret much longer.’
‘Yes, that’s what I’m concerned about.’
Sapphira isn’t listening. Her focus is on the well of blood in her hand. Brighter than glory, precious as love, red as rage, it seeps from the slash across her heart and fate lines, closing in on the moment when it will overflow. She brings her hand in line with the break in the ground, starts to angle the outside edge down—
Angel catches Sapphira’s hand and forces it into a fist.
‘That’s what I tried to tell you,’ Angels says. ‘Whatever you call up won’t be him. Just like you’re not you anymore.’
Sapphira struggles. Angel grabs her other hand, tugs Sapphira round and up on to her toes. Angel’s hold is implacable, her expression gentle. ‘Sapphira. You’ve been dead for decades.’
Sapphira’s lashes flutter. ‘Pardon?’
‘Denial and Belief are powerful forces and when you combine them…’ Angel winces. ‘Sorry.’
Angel catches the diary as Sapphira dissolves. The weight of the book is a surprise, drags her arm down. The snap of Angel’s wings flaring for balance is one bruise too many and brings the Lane back into phase with Siren’s Gate.
The moon continues its serene journey and music escapes from the twelve bars between the Diner and the Palace, perhaps a little bluer than normal.
This time Angel’s sigh is heavy as regret in winter. She shakes her head. ‘The Forbidden Book Vault is getting close to full.’

© kate smith

Artwork Comments

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