“Miriaaaaam,” small whisper of an echo passes through the room. Miriam’s wide-eyed gaze scans the room cautiously. If she had been with anyone she would not have heard it. But it came clear as day. “Miriaam,” the whisper comes again reassuring her that it is there. She lays beneath the sheets petrified by the sound of her name being whispered by who knows what.
She looks around the room clutching at the sheet for dear life. She knows these are tricks she would normally pull on any of her servants if she wished. Now someone was doing it to her. She giggles at the thought. At any rate she would know who it is soon enough. She knew where each of her servants were at any given moment, and could easily detect anyone using black magic to actually try and oust her. If it were one of them she would send that person straight to the dungeon for a few days. She calms herself and lets her mind wander, and sees all the servants about their duties. Other than them there is nothing she can see.
“Miriam,” the whisper is forceful and blunt. It sounds as if it emanated from every single conceivable direction in the castle.
She sits up straightway still clutching the sheets to her chin. She narrows her eyes looking around the room and allowing her mind to feel about for anything. “Who dares?” She demands when she comes up empty. Anyone who has just heard her tone will know the game is finished and any further antagonizing will end in severe pain. She is chilled by the sound of a child’s laughter emanating from various directions. “Show yourself!” her temper flares. Yet, she is mortified because the child’s voice sounds very familiar.
Feet clamoring against concrete breaks the silence. They are coming from outside the room. She listens intently with eyes wide as the feet come closer and closer, and still she senses nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, she feels the presence of every servant and none are in the upstairs portion of her home. The footsteps halt abruptly at the door. It swings open slowly; a slight crack at first, pausing for a moment, and then a bit wider. The head of a small smiling girl peeks in; she looks to be four to six years old. Chills run down Miriam’s spine, she loses her breath, and then clasps her hands over her mouth ogling the child. “I dare,” the child says and laughs.
“Kiren!” manages to finally get the words out. She looks on trying to rationalize what she’s seeing.
“You remember.” The child sets her mouth in an eerie grin and starts giggling. In one smooth motion Miriam darts from the bed pulling on her red silken nightgown and running to her. The child vanishes from the door. Running footsteps clamor through the hallways.
“Kiren!” Miriam runs to the door and opens it wide looking out into the empty hallway. She looks left, right, and straight ahead and sees nothing but an empty corridor. A soft giggle comes in low undertones. She hears clapping footsteps and sees the child run into the hallway directly ahead. “Kiren,” she comes out into the corridor but stops herself. Emotions ripple through her body and she needs to get a handle on them.
“I have something for you,” the little girl taunts in a thick English dialect. “Don’t you want it?”
“Kiren, wait!” Her better judgment is abandoned, she takes off running after the child. Kiren takes off leaving only the sound of footsteps as evidence she was there. Miriam get to the end and stands intently staring down the empty corridor. A low giggle echoes all around. “Kiren!” She shouts down the hallway.
Eerie giggling is her only response. “I have much to show you.” The footsteps cease. “What you have learned is nothing; do you wish to know the truth?” The voice comes again as a whisper.
“Who are you?” Miriam does not know whether to be terrified or angry. “Why are you doing this?”
“Do you wish the truth Miriam?” The little girl repeats the question. It comes from directly ahead of her.
“Who are you?” Miriam roars.
“I am who I am.” The child asks patiently and waits. Miriam tries to find her. “Do you wish the truth, Abbi?”
Terror fills her sending a wave of nausea through her body. No one knows that name; not one person alive knows the name but him. She knows she had not told the child her name either. She regains herself and looks on intently. “I know truth! I know all truth!” Tears sting her eyes at what she now knows. Miriam sobs holding the sleeve of her robe to her eyes.
“Do you truly believe that?” A small session of laughter erupts. “Why would a liar actually tell the truth?” the girl says teasing her. “Come let me show you what you’ve done.”
Light shines from a corridor Miriam, starts walking toward it without hesitation. “I will have your head for this!” she shouts.
“Will you?” The voice comes from several directions, Miriam continues on toward the corridor ahead. A child snickering echoes in all directions.
Miriam gets to the end of the corridor only to be greeted by walls and faux torch lights. She starts to walk but stops when she notices the lights begin to go out in all directions. She gasps at the sight of blackness coming toward her. “Who are you?” She screams.
“This again?” She answers the question with an indignant question. “I am myself!” The sound of running footsteps echo around Miriam; she turns in place trying to get a general location as the lights continue to flicker out condensing the light. “Do you know who you are?”
“What game are you playing?” Miriam demands. She turns in place, peering into the darkness.
“The same game you’ve played.” The child snickers. “Isn’t it delightful?”
Miriam stops moving and peers into the pitch-black hallway. More lights are turned off so she is in an almost perfect square at the center of the hallway. She becomes fully aware of her predicament as even more lights fade. She feels her heart pounding in fright and starts panicking. “What games have I played with you?”
“Not with me directly per say,” the voice comes close behind Miriam, she turns to see nothing but darkness. “With the children, you’ve been very bad.”
“Have I?” Miriam flicks her wrist sending a ball of light into the blackness. The light vanishes into pitch black directly ahead of her, she gasps. There is more laughter. She backs about turning so she could see the darkness and keep from touching it. The advance of darkness halts when they get within two spaces. “Come out and face me!” Miriam demands in a shrill voice.
“I am here!” The child is standing directly behind her looking up.
Miriam spins at once, she sees nothing and quickly realizes her gaze is too high. She looks down at the eerie smile on the child she once loved. Her first impulse is to grab the thing and pummel it. She resists and thinks better of it as she still senses nothing. She leers through small slits. “Bold are we not?”
“Aye!” Kiren shoots back grinning.
“How dare you take the form of my beloved child?” Miriam sneers and takes one step toward the child.
“Why not take this form?” the child asks giggling. “I did take her from you.” She stands gazing up at the astonished woman. “I see you did not know; how then can you possibly claim to know truth?”
Miriam loses equilibrium both mentally and physically at the words of the child. Her mind goes numb. “W-What do you mean,” she babbles looking down into a smiling face. “You took her?” She lifts her eyes and breathes. Then she lowers her gaze from the corner of her eyes at the child.
“I took her!” The child’s composure remains immaculate even as it speaks. “Are those words so hard to understand?” They stand glowering at each other. “Besides, what she would have done I would not have allowed.”
Miriam breaks out into roaring laughter. “What she would have done?” She gives the child a stern gaze. “Now you know the future too, little troll?” The child now breaks out laughing. “What?” Miriam demands.
“Irony: A troll that knows all, and a wise woman that knows naught.” Kiren fills the hallway with laughter at her own joke.
Miriam’s rage flares up and she makes one false step toward the child who does not budge or even acknowledges it. “What could you possibly know that I do not?” She leers at the little monster.
“Are you daft woman?” The child looks at her indifferently. “Did you not hear me?” Miriam is startled by the child’s candid answer and stare. “I know everything!” She barks at the older woman.
“What are you dammit?” Miriam takes one angry step forward but is frozen by the smug smile that sneaks across the child’s face.
“I am all things!” The child takes one step forward, her smiles fades into an emotionless expression; forcing Miriam to retract her step.
Miriam holds up her head again, tilting, leering down at the child from the corner of her eyes, and thinking. “I see! What is your name?” She inquires in a snooty voice.
“A name is a name, is a name,” the child shoots back. “What is a name to me?” She looks at the woman and sighs at her confounded thoughts. “All names are mine, chose which you would that I have.”
“What’s all this,” Miriam says angrily. “I simply need to know what name to call you when I throttle your little ass.” She stands red-faced by the child’s words and putrid gaze. She puts her hands on her hips showing her she means business. She is greeted by an indifferent stare
“You throttle me?” Kiren says sneering. “I simply would not allow it.” She lets out a loud sigh, turns, and starts walking toward the darkness. “I grow weary of this.”
“Grow weary?” Miriam’s voice comes like a rusty piece of metal scraping sound. “You come into my castle,” the child stops. “Take the shape of that child, my child, torment me, and think to just walk away.” She notices the child has stopped and is glaring at her from the corner of her eyes. She does not care she is angry. “Who the hell do you think you are?”
“I am The Truth!” Kiren says and starts walking away again. “Your ignorance tires me.”
“The hell you say!” Miriam’s anger burns white hot. “You are nothing, nothing at all do you hear me. I will teach you manners if no one else has ever done so.” She starts after the child, which is now stopped and is sneering at her.
“How imbecilic,” she taunts the woman with a wry smile. “You still fail to understand?”
“Little twit!” Miriam reaches her and is enraged, she bends down grasping the child violently by the shoulders. “First I will make you understand who I am. Then I will make you tell me who you are before I put an end your pathetic life.”
“How utterly disheartening you are Abbi,” Kiren says calmly. “I know full well who you are. It is you who fail to understand who and what I am.” She slaps the woman’s hands from her person. “Now off with you, as sure as I live your mere presence displeases me.”
“How do you come by that name?” Miriam asks gruffly.
“As long as I live I shall not tell you,” the child says defiantly and is about to leave and makes a disgusted sound. “I am fully vexed by you, I shall recluse myself and return when I am ready to deal with you.” She feels a hand on her shoulder. She turns and is face to face with the woman.
“As I live,” Miriam collars her. “You will not live to take this form again.” Miriam screams and shakes her violently. The little girl grins all the more.
“I shall take whatever form causes you to tremble the most when I come to you.” She giggles at the woman. “In fact, I have another.” Kiren morphs into the man that had left her bed earlier. Miriam falls on her butt and starts backing away by paddling her hands and feet. “Pathetic.”
“What the bloody hell are y…?” Before she could even finish she starts wheezing. Her body begins to feel like dead weight and she becomes completely paralyzed; unable to move even her head. Her eyes are focused solely on the man before her as it slowly begins to disintegrate into something invisible, floating, a gaseous form.
“Can you not see?” It hovers gliding closer and closer to her. It surrounds her head in a fog-like substance. The voice of the man comes from inside the shift of air. “I am the very air you breathe!” The pocket of air surrounding her head begins slowly moving into her mouth. The air makes its way down her throat and she struggles against breathing it in, fighting until…