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Dave ST

Chosen 2d: The After Party [Maya]

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Maybe drinks wasn't a good idea, but those invited her had been so kind she decided to stay and enjoy some conversation and a few (too many) cocktails after the Gala. They paid for her Uber, so that was nice and now as her keys jingled in the door and she stepped inside she was looking forward to nothing more than a hot shower and to fall into her warm bed.

The windows of the apartment allowed the brightness of the New York street lights to shine through. Even with every light in the place turned off the apartment was bathed in a circus of gray light and dancing shadows made all the more blacker by the trapped glare mingling black on black in some corners of the apartment.

Maya's shadow stretched up the wall as the street's light stopped at her and pushed darkness up the wall. From that darkness stepped a woman, like she were born from it.

“Cozy place, dear.” she whispered over Maya's shoulder expelling chilly breath on the nape of Maya's neck.

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Startled, Maya spun on her heel, instinctively swinging at-

Nothing. There was no one there, just the empty rectangle of her doorway and the dim hall beyond, keys still glinting dully in the lock. Flustered and unreasonably embarrassed, she hoped Sully hadn't just seen that- she could imagine his big, lantern-yellow eyes peering at her from his usual spot on the bookshelf, narrowed in what she could only assume was laughter. The keys jingled again as she retrieved them, then closed and bolted the door with a smooth, satisfying click of the well-worn brass latch. Sighing, she rubbed her face with her free hand, dropping the keys into a small dish on the counter nearby. Something about the D'Sombra woman, or something she said, must have gotten stuck in her brain, or else Maya wouldn't be hearing her voice right now. What was it? She mulled it over as she moved through the apartment, the pleasant fog of inebriation lifting by millimeters. So much had happened during the evening, with the drinks and meeting up with Coleen and her husband, and before that the crazy woman and Mr. Horatio Mourne, and the painting...

Maya looked up suddenly, staring at her reflection in the mirror above the bathroom sink. Small, frothy rivulets of lather dripped down her cheeks, and warm water gushed unheeded into the basin where she was washing her face.

The painting. She'd seen something in it, hadn't she? A story... and D'Sombra had laughed. Taken her side. But... they didn't even know each other. The only people at the party she'd ever met before were Coleen, and the woman in the white dress, from the coffee shop-

Oh.

"Oh, fuck," Maya whispered to her reflection, as awareness suddenly dawned. The angry woman trying to talk to Mourne, the barista, was the one she'd seen in her dream. The one who fell out a window with that dark thing, that awful shape after her, and died. The one Mourne had died trying to protect. She hadn't known him at the time, but then she'd met him, and... Now his face was overlaid over the vague one she'd seen at the library, and the other woman's features snapped into place in her memory. Why hadn't she remembered it at the party?! With a quick splash of water on her cheeks to rinse off the rest of the soap, Maya grabbed the hand towel from the ring on the wall and swiped it briskly over her face. She felt sober now, or mostly so, and cold.

Mason. Mourne had said the other woman's last name. Miss Mason.

"Fuck." The word was an angry exhalation- angry that she was going to have to deal with the crazy woman again, angry that she hadn't remembered until now, and angry that all of this kept resurfacing with uncomfortable regularity. She was really looking forward to the warm, welcoming embrace of sleep as she turned away from the mirror to go to bed.

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...and there was Ravenna.  Leaning in the door, smirking deviously as the poor girl tried to get a grasp on the world after a night of drinking.  Maya clutched her chest and stepped back, twisting her neck to the mirror then back to guest, then back to the mirror, then back to her.  She cast no reflection!

"Sorry, dear, did I startle you?"  She possessed an accent now, the one she had well hidden at the party earlier.  Spanish, perhaps?  "I'll give you a moment to collect your thoughts,"  she stepped away from the door and walked into the apartments proper, where the kitchen, living and dining area all met.  Her designer heels clacked on the hard floor as she moved about, swiveling her head to take in all of Maya's kingdom.  "Dear Lord, how do you live like this?  Don't you find yourself... wanting more?"

The moonlight and dim colors of the streets outside lent some shimmer and haze to the dark apartment in the middle of the evening, but the shadows... the darkest parts of her home seemed to dance and sway and reach out.  Slithering across the walls and floors like obsidian serpents always there and always swaying just out of reach and always at the very corner of Maya's perception.

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What?

A switch in her brain flipped from annoyance to complete confusion; the calm voice of Maya's rational self reminded her that she was smart, she was educated, and this? This was not normal. Sure, she acknowledged, it wasn't "Shrek and the talking rabbit in the library" not normal, but she knew she'd locked the door when she came in. How on Earth did D'Sombra find out where she lived, much less get into the place, and so soon after the party?

Something wasn't right- something more than the fact that the gorgeous, predatory woman had very clearly had no reflection. That... It could have been an optical illusion, something to do with angles and the way light could be distorted. Not her field, maybe she could find a book on the subject. ...But that was for later. At the moment, the best-dressed velociraptor she'd ever seen in her life was re-enacting the kitchen scene from Jurassic Park right there in Christian Louboutin heels in her apartment. She couldn't remember getting into her pajamas, but she did suddenly feel woefully under-dressed. In her own home. How did that even make sense?

...As if any of this does, she sighed inwardly.

"Sorry, Ms. D'Sombra, you seem to have caught me at a bad time," she began, bare feet quiet on the cool floor. "I hadn't really planned on having guests once I got home." Despite that, though, and despite knowing she should politely but firmly see her visitor to the door, Maya was curious. How? Why? There had to be a reason D'Sombra was here, instead of wining and dining some foreign dignitary, counting her warehouses of money, or bathing in the blood of a lovely young virgin to preserve her beauty. Sure, the scene at the gallery had been a little unusual, but surely not so unusual to a glamorous socialite that she'd track a person down and just waltz into their home to chat.

Glancing around the small studio apartment that seemed somehow alien and not a little ominous at the present- otherwise a fairly typical furnished offering for the area, and within a reasonable distance of work- Maya considered the question she'd been asked, and the comment that preceded it.

"To answer your question, though, since you've come all this way... Sure, almost everyone wants more. That's why we work, try to build relationships with people and get an education. We'd just sit around and do nothing, otherwise." She paused for a moment, and then added, "Although, if you're asking about the apartment, really the only thing I'd change is my upstairs neighbor." And maybe the security, for crying out loud.

 

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"Good time," D'Sombra replied.  The shadows slithered across the floor and slithered up her legs, under her evening down like ink washing away from her body, but in reverse.  It was impossible, wasn't it?  It licked her skin devouring her dress and before her eyes the shadow wove itself into new clothing, sleek and tight  black vinyl pants and a stylish black turtleneck.  Her belt buckle was a matte black... like the shadows simply solidified themselves into her new attire.  "Bad time.  I assure you dear, I'm a bit of an expert on the subject and there no such thing as either, there is only time."

The moonlight now shined a reflection off her new glossy second skin.  Maya noted she kept the heels, which was a good call because they were just stunning.  "Yet here you are, working your ass off feeling lost and confused.  Unappreciated and uncomfortable..."

Maya jumped, startled as she felt D'Sombra's finger tips gently slide from Maya's shoulder down her arm.  The ancient Spaniard's whisper was a seducing tone in her prey's ears.  "...in your own skin."  Maya slipped away, twisting to face her uninvited guest and looking over her shoulder to where she stood a breath ago and pondering how she had gotten behind her.  No one moved that fast.  It was a blink, a breath, it was...

"Allow me to share with you my expertise, Maya, love.  Time is neither good nor bad, it's all relative.  What you see as good, I may see as bad, and so on, and so on... let the philosophers debate until the end of it for all I care,  Lord knows I'll still be here.  For you though, time is fleeting.  Days tick by and they become weeks, into months, into years... and what, Maya?"

Her apartment crumbled about her, it was melting away like a black candle.  The furniture, the counter tops, the fridge... her cat! Then there was nothing.  Despite the awful blackness that consumed her Maya could still D'Sombra clear as a well lit room.  The puddles of inky blackness that were apartment flowed in reverse now, moving upward and forming shapes as it did, solidifying and gaining color.  Walls with art, obsidian mannequins who took on color and began to move and walk about on their own and then Maya realized... she was back at the Gala.

She took a step back as a strange dizziness came over her as the absurdity of what was happening and her heels clacked on the hardwood floor.  Clacked?  She looked down and she was no longer in her pajamas.  Now she was in designer heels in a flowing black evening gown that exposed far more than her modesty ever would have permitted.  She caught her reflection in the window and she was all made up, and... she was gorgeous.

D'Sombra stepped towards her, moving past a server and slithering around a lawyer or accountant, or something.  "And I'll tell you what.  Time simply is.  It can be used wisely, or it can be wasted.  So I ask you: why are you wasting yours?  You know you were meant for something more.  You can feel it, like a pull, like a dream just on the end of your perceptions but you can never make it out.  Every time it takes form it slips away."

She stood before Maya now, close as a dance partner or a lover.  Ho long had it been since Maya had one of those?  Either of those?  Days, weeks, months... a year?  D'sombra had a power about her, an attraction a presence that lure Maya's attention in and held it there in rapt fascination, hanging on her every word.  "Look at you.  You are beautiful, powerful, and you squander your days being meek and content." her lips were close to Maya's, every word a whispered seduction as her black talon acrylics gently tickled down her cheek.  There she was, lips practically brushing against D'Sombra she was so close... yet in the window, still, there was only Maya.  She looked beautiful, in fact, she'd never seen herself so lovely, but now she saw it... the meek, the scared... the content little Maya...

"I can make you so much more..." The words entered her ears like a promise of a trusted friend or lover and seemed to echo in her mind.

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That stung. Meek. Scared. Content. Maya bristled internally: she wasn't those things, wasn't content, wasn't satisfied with the course her life had taken. ...But, a tiny voice reminded her, she had accepted it, hadn't she? And wasn't that basically the same thing as not being bold enough, or brave enough, or even resolute enough to do anything about it?

And here was a Machiavellian goddess in the flesh,  offering to make her more, somehow, than she was.

Even in the midst of all the fearful strangeness, that part rang true. It had weight, meaning, beyond what sounded like an extremely eloquent sales pitch, or the gilded and engraved invitation to a Faustian bargain... Which, Maya reflected for a moment, it probably was. And yet, knowing that- that something was very wrong, that she couldn't possibly trust what she was seeing or hearing, that these kinds of offers in books always ended badly for the protagonist who succumbed to temptation- made her no less inclined to listen. A more resolute hero would politely refuse the beautiful, black-taloned harpy now and bear the burden of the potential consequences. A braver one, certain of his own ability, may laugh and tell her where to go, and where to find him if she had a problem with it. A bolder one might use his own irresistible presence try to turn the tables, seducing the seductress for his own amusement and edification.

Maya... wasn't a hero. Which begged the question: What am I, then, that she wants to change me?

"I believe you," she replied softly, studying the empty space where D'Sombra's reflection should be next to hers. "You're a woman with the wealth and the will to do almost anything- I realized it the moment I met you at the party. And now you've come all this way to meet me, to use your own time in order to speak with me. So, why?" the young bibliophile asked quietly, turning back to the raven-haired, dark-eyed temptress before her. "Why would you offer to do this for me?"

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