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She's been trying to summon me again.

It's been years. Almost a decade since I saw her last, and then last week, out of the blue, I felt it. The tell-tale tug. The clawing, burning call that strikes at the core and tells me, in no uncertain terms, that I have to go. I have to be there, and neither hell nor high water can stand in the way. That I'm needed. She needs me.

It happens sporadically, through out the day. I'll be in a meeting, or having lunch, or driving, and wham! I have to leave, have to find her. Have to go back. After all these years, she wants me back.

I don't know why, and it scares me. I don't know what she wants, but I know it can't be good, and it terrifies me.

The dreams I have now are always the same.

I open my eyes and I'm in a hall. One of their halls. The walls are alabaster white. The ceiling is high and arched. There are no windows, just mirrors. Long, silver lined mirrors that hang mid-wall and are frosted along the edges. The floor is composed of dove-gray tiles, inlaid with small, white flowers.

The air is cold and dead, with the faintest hints of magic.

Music is playing somewhere. There's always music. She brings people here specifically to play it. In the back of my head I know that they're poor bastards just like me, picked up out of anywhere and everywhere and forced to play, but the thought is always layers and layers deep, muddled under smoke and sound and colors too bright to be real and the only thought that rises to the surface through the clutter is,

My, what a lovely sound.

And then I remember; all the sounds are lovely there. The laughter, the singing, the chirping and cheering and-

Screaming. Crying. Begging.

And then the foods and smells and sights of Them, all dressed up or dressed down or not dressed at all, sometimes.

They're not here in the hall, here I am alone, but I know where they are. And now I need to find Them.

I walk towards the music, towards the light and life I know will be waiting for me. Out of the corner of my eyes, I see my reflection. He’s smiling stupidly ahead, a hopeful glint in his eyes. It takes me a moment to realize that, while I'm looking straight at him, he's still looking ahead. He turns suddenly to wink at me, then hurries on ahead. I have to run to keep up with him.

After ages and ages of walking, I finally catch him at the end of the hall, standing before two great oak doors, carved intricately with vines and leaves and small animals. He can’t open the door on his own: I have to do that bit. I turn to him, and we share a smile, before I let us in. We enter the room together, in sync once more.

Unlike the snow white, dove gray hall, this room is resplendent with colors and light and life and music. There is no blank space on the walls. What bit isn’t covered with tapestry is covered in plant. Strung ivy and rose vines and jasmine, twining up to the ceiling, seemingly holding on to nothing at all. There are people. Hundreds of people, all decadently dressed in gowns and suits in all shapes and sizes, twirling around the room. They’re all dancing politely with one another. This is one of her ballroom days, then. A day where she wants everyone to be civilized.

And she’s there, sitting up on her throne, itself on a raised platform so she can see everything and everyone. Beside her is an attendant, whispering something in her ear. On the other side of her is another throne. This one is empty.

I can't help but stare at her. I remember that mildly amused smile. I remember that gleam in her eye. I remember that face and that hair and those hands and the skin and-

Then she turns her head and sees me. She smiles, and it all floods back.

It returns. The love I'd told myself I'd gotten over, the mindless and senseless adoration I was so sure that, outside of here, couldn't exist. Must have been faked, like everything else here. Glamour, a spell, something.

But, no. Here and now, in this place, it's as real and as painful as ever. Full to the brim and running raw and deep, down to the core. It's sick. I know it is. An overripe fruit, going from a healthy shade of red, past crimson, into a sweet, succulent black.

The longing is there, and it hurts.

All that in a smile.

She knows what's happening, even if I don't, not really. And the smile gets a little wider for it. Then, after all these years, she says,

"Come here."

A cold chill runs up my spine. Her voice carries across the room, and all the politely dancing civilized people stop to look. They're cold. All of them are. On other days, there is warmth, there is laughter and a wild, hysterical recklessness. But today there is ice. They remember me, and are unsure as to why I'm here again.

Again, she says, "Come here."

The ice in the room melts. The lights get a little brighter, the colors, more vibrant. Their faces relax. They're all smiling at me, now. Welcoming me back, like they hadn’t been the ones to throw me away in the first place. Like they hadn’t gotten bored of me, hadn’t tossed me into the cold fifty years after I’d gone in. They want me back. They want me to join them again.

And I want to. Like the pathetic, trusting, easily manipulated dog I once was, I want to. To return to this world of glitter-

gaudy

Of light

garish

Love

fake

Magic

It's all just a trick

But I can't. Because by then, the little voice that’s been nagging me all night, the little voice that has no business being here, in this dream, has made itself too loud to ignore. I can’t unhear it, can’t pretend it isn’t there, and the accompanying fear washes back.

What does she want?

She’d cast me out once before. I can’t do that again. I can’t bear to go through that again. I turn my eyes away and, without a word, I go back down the hall, breaking into a run a few feet down.

She shouts something- in anger? Pain? I don’t know. I continue running down the hall, the endless mirrored hall, until my lungs and legs are burning and every inch of me is screaming to stop, to just give up and stop when-

I shoot up, gasping. Freezing. Drenched in sweat, and back in the safety of my own bed. There’s a small, warm spot by my feet. It’s the dog, still fast asleep. I listen to his breathing for a while, grateful for the calm of it. Grateful for the small grain of normality, of security it represents. I wait for my heart to stop pounding, for the blood rushing in my ears to silence.

The dream is over, I tell myself. It’s not real.

Yet

And, wound tighter than a spring and still shaking from the sudden loss of adrenaline, I squirm out of bed. I skulk through my own house like a criminal, like a thief, heading for the down stairs. I pass by the munchkin’s room, careful not to wake her as I peek in. She’s asleep, serene as ever save for the light snoring. For this, too, I am grateful.

I continue on, creeping downstairs, into the kitchen, I set up a few weak lights and then I do the only thing I can think to do. I pull out a bottle and glass, and pour myself a drink. And there, in the light of half a dozen burning candles, I try to forget about her.

It can’t last. She always gets what she wants.
But for now, I am blessedly alone.

Part of the Secret Santa Summer Nodeshell Challenge 2011
Also, disjointed, Non-Bri-Centric part of the demon stories.

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