The Books of Darkness
by Robert N. Stephenson
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Diana Arlyn is an author of gothic fiction best-sellers. A hard drinker with bipolar disorder, she falls in love with a mysterious woman, and the turbulent relationship draws Diana unwillingly into a legend.
Diana is haunted by questions: why did the woman pick her, of all people, and how can the Ta’ibah, the hunter of darkness, know so much about her? She is also haunted by the ghost of a dead author. She must find out what he wants, recover a lost book that belongs to someone who wants to kill her, and ultimately survive the darkness.
I sat, back to the wall, waiting for him to reform into the shape he preferred. A man. He could be anything and everything; he chose the male representation of the world, said it held the greatest essence of darkness. Our room had been chosen for its collection of human bones, skulls fractured by hammer blows. A killing room, a dark room.
“It is time to move against her,” The Dark One said, solidifying before me. He sat on a mound of bones, the room’s dull candle light sinking into his blackness.
“She is strong,” I said. I had over one hundred years to plan, but still I stalled. “There are others she could call on.”
The Dark One, or Night, for that was all he was known by, picked up a femur, his gleaming blue eyes the only feature against his blackness. He applied pressure. The sound cracked in the silence.
“The longer she has the symbol of their past, the stronger and more confident they will grow.” I didn’t like his tone, it grated like a shovel under bones. “I have been patient with you, Ta’ibah .” He always called me Ta’ibah when his mood ventured into human emotions. I am a hunter.
“Sarina cannot be taken,” I chose my words carefully. “She must be tricked into tipping her balance.” The Dark One nodded, a slight up and down of glowing eyes. “I have planned, set in motion a way that may get what we need back with little penetration into the light.”
He stood, making himself tall, head touching the sagging ceiling. I had to deliver, if he knew I had something to do with its loss I would be consumed into the pit of his will, sucked into the darkest of darks. ‘Abad’, the eternal without end.
“There is something you are not telling me.” He reached forward, extending his fingers like snakes to touch my brow. The cold bit, then faded. “I see.”
“I will get this back as well,” I said, not really knowing how. “Uri is dead.”
“And what do the words say, Ta’ibah?”
“They are about me and the darkness, the world of eternal night.”
The room froze. Black ice crackled over every thing, turned the white and grey bones onyx. The cold pressed down, in and though me, even my great coat of wool stiffened with the wall of ice. The Dark One was angry.
“Do you know who has it?”
It was a mistake to write down those words, a bigger mistake to entrust them to someone who was not one of my kind. The Dark One had made me, taken me from what I once was and formed me into a creature of both night and day, more darkness than light. I could go places he could not. Only I, and others like me, could get what he desired.
“Do a casting, find this book or you will be flung like a stone into Abad.”
I stood, feet frozen to the dirt floor. I would need to wait for him to calm and leave before I could go about my business. He fractured like a sheet of ice and dropped into the bones, a crash like glass on stone. The cold lifted, drew back like the a shadow shifts across a wall. I had followed Sarina since the day I was resurrected into the dark, but now I had her and the book to act upon. Castings were not perfect, or were they ideal; too much can go wrong or be misleading. I had little choice. He knew of the lost work, he was not patient.
Pacing the room I built a dream, thick with promise, glowing with light. It would find who I wanted, the problem came in me finding them. I cast, let it flow into the skeins of night. It would take time, perhaps more time than I deserved.
Copyright © 2009 by Robert N. Stephenson