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Rated: E · Serial · Supernatural · #1614482
Lilac & Lakmei are disturbingly similar. The light from their window never goes out.
The shad­ows that fell from the hol­lows of Trinity Church grew longer as autumn announced her arrival. The days were grow­ing shorter, and the sun­light that sat­u­rated the town dur­ing the day grew thin­ner and more des­per­ate as it drained as much color from cur­tains and wooden side­boards as it could hold, ready­ing the small desert town for the dull gray of winter.

Candles flick­ered in their amber glasses on the makeshift altar inside the Trinity Church office. Their light threw danc­ing shad­ows on the walls — shad­ows which, under dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances, might have been cause for some con­cern. Lilac and Lakmei * knew there was a Prime of Darkness in their midst, and they knew all too well the kind of pow­ers his kind pos­sessed, the magic they held. Allowing shad­ows to play across their walls, to numb them to what quickly mov­ing shad­ows could mean, could have harkened the snuff­ing out of their ancient existence.

But Lilac and Lakmei were not con­cerned tonight. This par­tic­u­lar Prime of Darkness was more inter­ested in the pie woman than he was in them or their games. This put them at ease. For now.

They sat at oppo­site ends of the over­stuffed couch in their wait­ing room, feet curled up under them as they sipped pinot gri­gio from iden­ti­cal crys­tal glasses and read iden­ti­cal nov­els, hummed iden­ti­cal melodies, and thought iden­ti­cal thoughts. In fact, nearly every­thing about them was iden­ti­cal, from their white, heart-shaped faces to the tim­bre of their lilt­ing voices. The only per­cep­ti­ble dif­fer­ence between them was their hair – both wore their hair long and board straight, but where Lilac’s was black as death with a curi­ous vio­let sheen, Lakmei’s was gleam­ing white.

It was the crackle of thun­der that made them look up from their books and catch the other’s eyes, invit­ing each to recall that the other was present.

“It’s going to rain soon.” Lilac spoke the words aloud, though she needn’t have done so. She’d been com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Lakmei in other ways for mil­lenia, but for some rea­son she enjoyed, even after all this time, the sound of her voice. She liked the way speak­ing felt, the way the vibra­tions in her chest and throat became sound, the way her voice sounded dif­fer­ent to her than it did to oth­ers. She enjoyed the phys­i­cal­ity of speak­ing and lis­ten­ing. It was one of the perks of corporeality.

Lakmei leaned her head back and breathed in, smelling the air for rain. “It’s com­ing from the east,” she said. “Should be here in twenty min­utes or so. Some tea?”

“Yes, please,” Lilac purred, snug­gling deeper into the cor­ner of the couch. It was a rare October night in west Texas where the tem­per­a­ture hadn’t climbed above 60 and the wind howled through the nar­row coun­try lanes. Love & War didn’t have much in the way of tum­ble­weed, but if it had, this would be the kind of night to see them per­form­ing their name­sake action down the road.

Lakmei filled two iden­ti­cal cof­fee mugs with water from the cooler and put them in the microwave. “Something has arrived that shouldn’t be here,” she said.

Lilac sighed, mark­ing the page she was read­ing before set­ting it down beside her. “I know, I felt it, too. Not our con­cern, though,” she said, her voice stern.

Lakmei shrugged, rum­mag­ing through their col­lec­tion of tea boxes. “I don’t know, it could be,” she said. “Whatever it is, it – ”

“Human,” Lilac said. “It’s not a what, it’s a who, and you know that. It’s a ghost. This is not our domain. Stay out of it.”

Lakmei chose two tea bags and set them out. “Do you sup­pose it’s still a ghost if it has a phys­i­cal body?”

Lilac cocked her head to the side, thought­ful. “The Prime of Darkness has a phys­i­cal body. We have phys­i­cal bod­ies. And we three of us are still what we are.”

The microwave beeped, and Lakmei retrieved the two steam­ing mugs and dunked the tea bags inside. The cor­ners of her mouth quirked up into some­thing like a smile, and with­out quite look­ing directly at her coun­ter­part, said, “Strange to hear you speak of us like that. The three of us. Together.”

Lilac winced, her cha­grined expres­sion mim­ic­k­ing Lakmei’s almost-smile. “A fine trin­ity we make,” she said.

“Mmm.” Lakmei wrapped her hands around the hot mug. “What do you think the ghost wants?”

Lilac shrugged; the ques­tion was clearly of small import to her. “They usu­ally want the same things. To see loved ones. To recall their too-short lives. To seek jus­tice for wrongs done against them.”

“Or revenge.”

“That, too.”

They sat with­out speak­ing while their tea steeped, lis­ten­ing and smelling for the com­ing rain. Lakmei closed her eyes, could hear music play­ing in her head. It wasn’t com­ing from her, though, not from her own thoughts or her own mem­ory, but from Lilac, who was remem­ber­ing another time when they sat in a room not too dif­fer­ent from this one, in a town very dif­fer­ent from this one, lis­ten­ing to Alexei Dombrovski make love with his vio­lin. His music set the very air a-quiver, his notes danc­ing like elec­tric­ity along the skin. Hairs stood on end to be nearer to his melody; the body ached to hear him play, to be filled with his emo­tion, to be flu­ent in his lan­guage. To be present with Alexei Dombrovski’s play­ing was to sit at the feet of God.

His music would never be stud­ied by eager vio­lin pupils with more wish than earnest­ness, never praised by crit­ics with more ego than tal­ent, his name never writ­ten in the annals of music’s long his­tory, for Alexei’s music died long before he did, as tal­ent so often does amidst the hus­tle and bus­tle of every­day life. So much of the world’s tal­ent went undis­cov­ered, shared only with a hand­ful of friends and fam­ily who inevitably envied and hated the tal­ent more than they appre­ci­ated it. This was humanity’s way. They loved, even wor­shiped, what they could not them­selves do but only if the genius belonged to a stranger. The genius of loved ones was too rich a pain to bear.

Lilac and Lakmei knew this per­haps bet­ter than anyone.

When the tea was ready, they drank it. When the rain began, they lis­tened to it. When the can­dles burned out, they relighted them. When all was done, they sat in still­ness, Alexei Dombrovski’s last impromptu recital on a vir­tual loop inside both their heads. The rain, with its fat splashes against the office win­dows, pro­vided the per­fect coun­ter­point to the dole­ful melody Alexei played. When the sun rose over the edge of town, they put their night­time things away and pre­pared to greet the new day.

*Author’s note: Lakmei is pro­nounced LOCK-may, like the title char­ac­ter in the opera Lakmé.


See all the stories from Tales from Love and War, Texas at http://www.loveandwartx.com
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