It was night when I came to with an aching head in what I would later find to be a beautiful field of daisies.
I say later, because initially the moon was hidden by thick clouds, obscuring my sight. I could barely make out my hand before my face, the side of which felt warm and sticky. I could only assume it was blood. Was it mine?
I tried to recall through the throbbing pain. My last memory was at the duke’s manor. He had introduced me to a woman, whose name I cannot retrieve, and proceeded to offer me a drink…and then there’s a gap.
I don’t recall the drink itself, but immediately after his offer there was a bright flash across my vision. I think it’s safe to assume his butler cracked my skull with the Malacca cane I handed him mere seconds prior.
No matter that now, I told myself. More pressing was my missing locket. I had found it among an inheritance from my Great-Uncle. He’d left me books mostly, but the fascinating necklace was part of the lot.
My Great-Uncle always had a penchant for the odd and occult, and the aforementioned books fit the bill. The duke, having learned of my recent gain, requested to borrow the volumes some time ago and I obliged, having no interest in such trivial hoodoo. But the locket was…different.
I’d pocketed it upon discovery, impulsively, and carried it with me ever since. I did so because somehow having it in my possession made me feel…powerful, incredible. But in that moment, sensing the negative space in my vest pocket, I felt lost.
“Relent!” It was faint, a whisper from nowhere.
“Relent!” It came again, louder now, as a command.
Try as I might, straining my eyes, I could not see the source of the voice in the pitch-dark. As fate would have it, the clouds chose that moment to break for the moon…and that’s when I saw.
The knife held fast in my hand, poised to open my throat. A fresh brand on my forearm. And blood. It was hers. The woman lay before me like a sacrifice to some unknown deity.
Beyond her, the ever-present butler lay twisted and slashed. I then saw the duke, a few paces to my right. His hands raised in exaltation, my missing locket around his neck.
“Relent!” yelled the duke. In a panic I tried to drop the blade, but my hand would not release. The brand glowed brightly as I forced my grip open against its will, the knife falling free to the matted grass.
“Relent!” I ran from his awful cries. As I fled with my heart fit to burst, head aching, and legs unsure, darkness began to race across the field before me.
I glanced up and saw the clouds starting to reclaim the moon. As I looked, a vertical slit of some great eye manifested upon the surface before it slipped behind the blanketing stratocumulus.
I tripped and tumbled into dewy growth. Something snapped within my leg, forcing a cry from my lips. Unable to move I watched the dark invade, slowly overtaking the world.
In that moment I found a brief, odd respite when I noticed I was in a beautiful field of daisies. They swayed lazily in a slight breeze. Without a care, they welcomed the inevitable night that enveloped them, one by one.
I envied them, hated them. I longed for such dispassion as theirs. How could they affect such a state in a situation so dire, so bleak?
I realized they were making a choice. A choice to be apathetic. It was far less burdensome than the alternative. It was then that I, too, chose apathy.
The pitch finally washed over me. I felt the blade returned to my grasp as the brand resumed its bright glow. The duke whispered in my ear “Relent.” So I did.
It was effortless.