Chapter 1 : Moth
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She hides in a part of the house unknown to the others. It is her secret place and she won't share it. She comes here often to play games, not the kind that her sister plays. These are special games.
Her legs are curled beneath her; the rich fabric of her robe is sprawled carelessly across the mildew floor. She doesn't mind about things like that, though. She likes the darkness in here, the fine cobwebs that line the walls like drapery. She likes the musty smell, the scent of age and death.
She is playing a new game today. And she has company.
A small moth, emerged from the dusty surroundings to flutter around her head, is dancing with quivering wings. They lap a gentle breeze across her face. She watches it, enraptured.
It flaps its wings, paper thin, and soars and soars in high and swooping circles. The light that bursts from the glowing wand is a beacon to its hungry eyes.
Little moth, little moth, I'll fly on your back one day. She croons. She whispers and gestures and welcomes. The insect's wings unfurl and sweep a high once more.
She is mesmerised. Not a thought is spared for the musty surroundings, the dirty floor and smudged windows that filter out the violet light of dusk. The girl doesn't spare a thought for anything. Not for her mother, who would shriek in horror if she knew how the girl had stolen her wand again. Not for her sisters: the elder who is playing in the yard, the younger who is listening and watching with wide impressionable eyes to all surrounding.
She is different to her sisters. She is special.
The yellow light from the wand warbles as the little creature flitters in its glorious ray. She inches her hand closer to touch it, to stroke it. She wants to be its friend. You can trust me, little moth, she whispers gently, sweetly. It twitches slightly and rewards her many moments of stillness by landing softly on her pale arm.
Its little feet tickle the fine hairs upon her skin so that she feels skittish. But, still, she remains. Nor does she move as it flutters and quivers and moves its way along her arm. It moves closer, closer.
She whispers soft words of encouragement in the cool, still air. Words for her new friend, such a small friend. And it believes. It trusts.
Trust. They always do eventually, she knows.
A burble of laughter thrums against the passage of her throat, threatening to spill out from her lips. She contains it, though. She needs to be patient. She's good at being patient.
Come now moth, little moth.
It pauses in the very centre of her palm and she watches the fine fabric of its wings rest upon the translucent skin. Feathery blue veins pulse underfoot, thrumming with the rush of her adrenaline. The creature can feel it too and twitches with the instinct to take flight.
She tells it not to worry. She tells it that it's safe.
And as she lifts her palm that cradles the small insect higher in the light and closer to her face, she can almost imagine its wary eyes watching her too. Waiting.
She feels the laughter curdle within her once more, only this time she does not contain it.
A flick of her wrist, a fast reflexive clenching of her fist, and a life is gone. She feels that giddiness bubbling in the pit of her stomach again, the tickling sensation she always craves.
Glancing at her now open palm, she feels a momentary sorrow for her friend. She smiles to remember.
And then she laughs. Loud and clear and long.
She keeps laughing as she crawls out of the small opening to her hidden alcove in the ceiling. She laughs as she dusts off her robes and skips down the long and elegant hallway. She laughs until she can scarcely draw breath.
And when she stops and breathes and calms, she smiles contentedly. A secret smile.
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