Chapter Twenty-One: Wretched
Dull brown eyes shifted toward Mariabelle. They weren't really seeing her. Not really.
He stared in silence, wordlessly asking what it was she wanted. The irritated look on his face told her that he still didn't feel like talking.
"Are you hungry?" she asked him nervously.
He looked away from her. His eyes landed on the window and stayed there.
"I'll take that as a no..." she said. She walked to the door of guest bedroom. "You've healed physically; you know that, don't you? I understand that you need time to recover, but I can't fix emotional wounds. You've been here for a month and haven't said a word. I eventually have to let my family back in here. I'm sorry. Just remember that you can leave any time you want." She shut the door behind her.
Seon heard her. He heard her say those words many times already. However, he felt too exhausted to move. It felt like a bother just to sit himself up. He was sure that he wouldn't be able to stand, much less walk.
He resisted the urge, no, the need, to lay back and go to sleep. He was scared to. He hadn't had a proper night's rest since he first woke up. His eyes constantly stung with tiredness as a result.
Mariabelle came back into the room with a bottle in her hand. A bottle of sleeping potion that Seon was beginning to loathe. He shook his head and tried to scoot himself away from the approaching healer.
"You have to go to sleep sometime," she said firmly, "or you're never going to feel better. You'll burn yourself out."
He wanted to snap back that he'd rather burn out than have to see his dreams again. But he couldn't find the nerve to. He weakly pushed her away from him, but she was much stronger than he was. She forced his mouth open and poured the potion in. He tried to spit it back out, but she forced him to swallow it.
The instant it slithered down his throat, his head hit the pillow.
Once again, he was in the lab of his tower. He was watching everything happen again. The Stone of Life falling into that wretched potion. The liquid bubble angrily like lava.
He was watching himself just stand there. Oblivious as to what was going to happen next. He wanted to throttle the elf who was just allowing it to happen. He wanted to shove that elf into the boiling potion. He wanted that elf to die, not Leon.
However, like always, Leon ran forward. His expression at the beginning of the dreams had been more accurate as to what had really happened. When the dreams began, his expression was of fear, worry, and desperation. As they went on, they morphed into twisted faces that Leon would never make. Frustration, exasperation, and annoyance were the only things present now.
He pushed Seon out of the way and they locked eyes.
Accusation. Leon's blue eyes were filled with it.
"Why did you kill me, Seon?"
Then he burst into a pile of meat and blood. Seon felt the warmth of the flesh splatter against his skin. The blood dripping down to the floor. Even if it were simply a dream, he could feel everything.
"You did this to me," Leon's voice hissed at him. It was gurgled, as if his mouth were submerged somewhere in the blood.
"No!" he protested back. "I didn't do this!"
"It was your potion," Leon spat at him. "It was your stone. It was all your fault!"
"No, it wasn't!" Seon croaked."It wasn't my fault! I swear! You pushed me!"
"I saved your sorry ass and you're blaming me? Why didn't you move? Why did you let this happen?"
"I didn't mean to! It was an accident!"
"You killed me."
Seon put his face in hands. "I didn't mean to..." he sobbed.
"So you admit it?"
"It's your fault."
"Why did you kill me?"
"I don't know..."
He woke up with a gasp. His chest felt tight and his heart was pounding against his ribs. He felt like his throat was closing up as he tried to breathe.
He yanked himself out of bed and leaned against the wall for support. It only made his head dizzy. Tears were streaming down his face and he held back his screams of panic. He felt like he was dying.
"He's going to kill me," Seon thought. "He's getting his revenge on me! He's trying to kill me!"
He stopped himself there. He knew that he had to relax. He tried to think of how the real Leon had acted, not the sadistic Leon of his nightmares. The Leon who watched out for him. The Leon who wouldn't blame him for what had happened. The Leon who would've comforted him if he were still alive.
He took a deep breath and flopped back onto the bed. He pressed his face into the pillow. His heart was finally calming down.
The door to the room opened slowly. Seon sat himself up and turned his head to look. Standing in the doorway was a pudgy girl with ginger hair. There was a blue bag at her side. She looked at him curiously then ran forward.
"You look like Leon!" she said loudly.
He felt his throat tighten. He looked away from her and to his lap.
"You're Leon's big brother, aren't you?" she asked.
He twitched his head in a nod.
"He talks about you lots."
He lifted his head to her again. His dull eyes seemed to get the slightest spark of life in them for a moment.
"When is Leon coming over, anyways?"
The spark was gone. He looked to the wall instead of the little girl's face.
"He won't." It was the first time he had spoken in a month. His voice sounded groggy and older than usual.
The little girl pouted. "Awww! How come?"
"He... He d... He left."
"Without saying goodbye?"
"That dummy!" she huffed. "You're always supposed to say bye! He left his big brother all sad!"
"Yeah, he did."
The girl reached into her bag and pulled out a small ragdoll. She held it out to him and nudged him with it. He looked at the doll blankly and took it in his hand.
It was a simple, crudely made ragdoll. The stitches were obnoxiously present on the body, making it feel like most of it was made of the black threads. The black button eyes weren't aligned on its face and the long ears on its head were uneven. Still, he figured the doll was supposed to be a white rabbit.
"Wanna play with Lappy?" she asked him. "I play with him whenever I feel sad! Maybe he'll make you feel better about Leon leaving!"
Seon boredly turned it over in his hand. He gently tugged one of the ears. The threads keeping it attached snapped, leaving the ear dangling in his hand.
"Sorry," he said dumbly.
"Lappy! Not again!" she scolded. She pulled out a pincushion full of needles and a spool of black thread. "Give him here. I got him, just hold his ear."
He obediently held out the ear. She threaded the needle and jabbed it into its ear and head. She quickly and smoothly reattached the ear. She gave it a firm and nodded with satisfaction when it stayed on.
"Don't worry about getting his ear off," she said coolly. "I made him myself, so I can put him back together."
"Is that so..." He looked over the rabbit. "Can you show me how to?" He asked for no other reason beyond wanting to do something with his hands.
The little girl's lit up in a great big smile. She grabbed his hand and pulled him off the bed. She ignored the stumble of his steps and led him out of the guest room.
Mariabelle's face was painted with surprise when she saw him out of the room. The little girl just giggled at the silly expression.
"Auntie Mariabelle, do you have stuff to sew with?" she asked.
Her eyebrows only went up further, nearly disappearing into her greying hair. She slipped some fabric and thread off of a shelf. She handed it to him with a questioning look.
"Mister Leon's Brother asked me to teach him how to sew!" the little girl explained. "I'm going to show him how to sew a snail into fabric first!"
"Oh, well... Have fun, Clara," Mariabelle said confusedly. "You too, Seon."
It took Seon several minutes to attach his first strand of thread to the needle. Clara guided his hands through the process until they were sewing automatically. However, the snail he was supposed to make came out more like an uneven spiral. For once, his thoughts weren't solely occupied with the scene that had been repeating itself in his head for a month.
In a week's time, Clara had promoted him from sewing patterns to sewing toys together. He thought it was much easier than before, so soon he was surrounded by plush toys.
"Seon, can I have the fox?" Clara asked as she held up the most recently made brown fox.
"Sure." He handed the fox over with blank face. He continued sewing into his new human-shaped ragdoll. The only thing missing were the eyes.
Eddie was standing against the wall, glaring at Seon all the while. Her thin arms were crossed over her chest.
"Oy," she said gruffly. "Seon, let me speak to you in private."
Seon got up from his stool. Clara looked after him but then shrugged, merely returning to petting her new fox. Eddie led him outside then around to the back of the cottage. Seon gave her a questioning look to ask what this was about.
"You're healed," she stated bluntly. "So you don't have to be here anymore. Leave."
Seon narrowed his eyes at her. "Why?"
"You aren't needed here." She jabbed him in the chest with her finger. "The only thing you've been doing is eating our food and wasting our fabric! So isn't it about time that you go back to that creepy little tower outside of town?"
He looked down to the ground. "I can't. Leon..."
"That's another thing..." Eddie's eyes filled with a jealousy that made Seon step back. "You need to stay the fuck away from Clara."
"You know why," she snarled. "Don't think that I can't see what you're doing. Look, I know you just lost your brother; everyone feels like shit about it. But just because you lost your family doesn't mean you can steal mine."
Seon looked at her as if she had slapped him in the face. "I... I wouldn't replace Leon."
"Then pull yourself together and leave Clara alone."
Eddie left him standing there in a daze. Minutes passed by and he was still standing there alone. He almost let the ragdoll still in his hand fall to the ground, but at the last minute he tightened his grip.
He looked to the doll. It was merely a pile of fabric a few hours ago yet now it was a small person. The black hair reminded him of Leon.
That's when he got an idea.
An illegal, reckless, impossible idea.
The tower was still sullied with blood, flesh and snow. The nightmarish scene was still spread out before him and yet he was relieved that Reese didn't clean it. He was glad the spell that froze the tower was still in effect; it meant that the body parts would stay preserved enough to keep their shape. He bent down to the snow and started digging through it.
His hands turned grubby and sticky by the first hour. They were stained red by the second but he didn't care. His face lit up with glee whenever he found another piece of skin in the red slush.
He placed the pieces onto the table trying to distinguish which pieces of skin went where. Once cleaned up, they started looking the same to him. The hair, he realized, had become permanently white due to the shock, magic, and physical stress of dying. The face was the easiest to pick out; the back was the hardest. He still felt as if pieces were missing by the time a week had passed, so he finally decided to mop up the blood.
When all the pieces were found, he got about to sewing some of them together. He tried different types of threads, though the first dozen had failed. They rotted or snapped by the time he moved on to the next piece. At last, he decided fusing the thread with a strength spell would work in his favor. It worked beautifully; the threads withstanding the moisture and the skin it was sewn into became all but invincible.
The bones, he found, were trickier to deal with. Healing them outside of the body made him realize that he would often get his anatomy wrong. He would keep mending the wrong bone pieces together, forcing him to have to break them afterward.
The stuffing for this ragdoll of his was the easiest part. He scooped all the meat back into the body once he sewed the skin back together and placed the bones. The amount of damage to the insides was enough to cause anything resembling organs to disintegrate into red mush.
It was disgusting work. Every time he rinsed his hands, they would instantly become filthy once again. He always felt grimy. He always felt moist. Sticky. Bloody. Most of his vision was red. It felt like the work of a gravekeeper.
But no. He had to keep one thing in mind. He was doing the opposite of grave work.
He was creating life. Creating Leon.