This is Issue #42 of DeathWatch, Book II: tentatively called Heart Of Ilona, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find DeathWatch, the first in the series, or start from the beginning of Book II!
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Kieron’s body sat in front of the small mirror in its quarters, staring at itself, narrowing its eyes, frowning slightly. It smiled, then, staring out of and back into its pale blue eyes.
Then it pinched its cheeks, stuck out its tongue, stretched its lips, waggled its eyebrows.
It tested out its expressions, and even summoned up a welling of tears by digging its fingers against the stitches around its eye.
It forced a laugh, and tasted the thousands of words on its tongue that were familiar, and yet not.
When it looked at itself in the mirror again, it could see something else in its eyes. Something more familiar. Something regal. Something proud. Something hungry to the point of cruelty.
Something distinctly not Kieron.
The knock at the door was sudden, and for a moment, Kieron was nearly himself. He turned, his eyes widening, and he opened his mouth to shout, to scream, but then suddenly his body snapped his gaze back toward the mirror. “No,” its mouth snarled. “No, no, no. Not yet.”
The knock came again, “Brody?”
“Sha!?” Brody yelped.
“You all right in there?” she called. “You missed breakfast.”
“Not hungry,” he answered, through gritted teeth. He watched himself in the mirror as he pulled a knife from his pocket, and thumbed open the wide, curved, intensely sharp blade. He lifted the blade and pointed it just beneath his wounded eye, saying quietly, “Keep quiet, you wretched little abomination, or I’ll pop it out and make you eat it.”
Kieron closed his mouth, panting.
“I know this is hard, waiting,” came Sha’s answer. “And I know, I know you’re fine, but I have to ask.”
Silence, for a moment, while Kieron simply stared at himself in the mirror, panting.
“…I’m fine, Captain,” Kieron’s voice answered. “Everything’s fine.” He trembled, sitting there, staring at the knife, staring at himself, then staring at the knife again. Once there was silence from the hallway, he put down the knife and said, “That precious pirate bitch is a fine tease. She fights back. She’ll be perfect.”
“You can’t,” Kieron said to himself, looking sick. “Please. Please stop this–“
“I can do anything I want,” he answered, chuckling lowly. “You can’t stop me, you sorry excuse for a soldier.” The knife was set down, and Kieron looked at himself in the mirror, disdain and sneering contempt written all over his features.
He was startled to see how much like his father he looked, and his face flushed in shame and anger.
“Oh, what a disappointment you were to your father, hmm?” Kieron spat at himself, hatred shining in his eyes. “Couldn’t live up to his expectations, couldn’t–” Kieron’s voice cracked. The angry thing inside him, the horrorshow of death and fury that boiled behind his eyes quieted, examining Kieron’s thoughts, even as the young man struggled to push him away, to push him down, to crush him and keep him from finding out any more secrets.
“Disgusting,” Exosus hissed. “Foul thing.”
“Stop,” Kieron begged. “Please.”
Exosus tore through Kieron’s heart and mind, rifling through memories and secrets, leaving him feeling shredded, lost. “Liar. Betrayer. Filth,” he snarled, staring at himself. “You know you’re wrong. You know you’re disgusting. You can feel it. What you want of that boy? What you did with him? You deserve pain.” He leaned forward, close enough to the glass that his breath fogged it as he snarled. “Punishment.”
Tears rolled down Kieron’s cheeks, and he stared at himself in the mirror, feeling as though he were inside the mirror, looking out at a monster who wore his skin. “Get out of my head,” he begged. “Get out.”
“Can’t,” Exosus taunted. “Won’t.”
Furious, desperate, Kieron lunged at himself, fists crashing at the mirror, pounding it until it shattered, shards falling, flung everywhere. “GET OUT!” he shouted, grabbing up a shard. “You GET OUT.”
The knock at the door came back, and it had grown harder now. Sha banged at the door, pulling at the handle. “Brody?”
“GET OUT!” Kieron screamed, snapping the words off so forcefully he bit his own tongue, and the froth of his saliva began to turn red as he screamed. “GET OUT!”
In the mirror, the thing that wore Kieron’s face simply smiled at him, laughing.
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The door burst in, metal banging on metal, hinges squeaking, the giant gong sound of the latch striking the wall. Danival burst in, and he and Sha found Kieron in front of the broken mirror clutching his forearm, blood running between his fingers. He was already white-cheeked and greylipped as he moved to stand up out of the chair he was in. “I don’t know if it worked,” he said, in a voice that was both paper and wind. His whole body trembled, and his knees turned to water. His eyes rolled up into the back of his head and he dropped to the floor, boneless and cold.
“The fuck did you do, cadet–” Sha ran for him, tearing the sleeve off her shirt, immediately moving to press down on the wound, then tear off the other, to tie off a tourniquete.
Kieron uttered a low groan in her arms, and his eyes flickered open. He brayed a harsh, toneless laugh, and blood ran over his lips, from his bitten tongue. “That shut him up,” he slurred.
“Who?” Sha asked, hands working quickly, mind working quickly.
Danival moved to help, silent, asking no questions, moving to hold pressure to the wound as Sha tied off the tourniquet.
“It shouldn’t have happened like that. I don’t know–” Kieron whispered. “But he’s quiet now. At least he’s quiet. Couldn’t let him hurt you. “
“What? Who are you talking about?” Sha wondered, her heart knotted with worry. “Kieron, who’s quiet now? Who’s trying to hurt us?” Something caught Sha’s notice — out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw the blood on the floor move. When she turned, it simply laid there, black-red, cooling, spilled and smeared. It would have to be cleaned up later.
While Sha was looking at the blood, Danival simply picked Kieron up, saying, “The chiurgeon. Now. Is being the only way he might be saved. Too much blood. There are no real answers here, where there is panic and pain. Come now.”
She needed no other urge, and hurried to follow.
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