Inspired by White Wolf CCP’s Changeling: The Lost game.
Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match. Find me a find, catch me a catch!
What if you had an exact match? Something – no, someone – who looked just like you, is you in every respect? They aren’t just you; they are the you that you wish you could be. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
She had never intended to find it. Hell no! And she didn’t. It found her. Of course, by Arcadia’s curse, one was older, the other still young. They hardly looked alike anymore; rather like mismatched twins from different species.
If you could See, that is.
She seemed perfectly content, working in a chocolate shop on the swanky side of town. She didn’t live there, of course, but it wasn’t a bad job. Everyone needs money these days.
Christmas-time. Busy season as always. Parties to attend; hosts to impress; meaningless presents to be given.
She stood at the end of the counter, wrapping gift boxes. She had a way with paper, ribbon and scissors that was just short of magic, the shop owner liked to say. Her wrapping was the best in town; people came just to watch her make her creations. The shiny paper, the sparkling ribbons, the little decorative touches that she added: a curl here, a twist there, a double bow for flair.
It was Christmas Eve when it found her.
Six years old with eyes like shards of blue glass, sunken into a pale face devoid of emotion or expression.
The au pair left her at the wrapping table. “Stay here. I’ll be just a second.”
It was like something had turned her spine to ice inside her body. She saw that girl standing there, and it was then that she felt like her glamour shields were savagely ripped away. She stood there, a Changeling, naked before this child monster.
“I know what you are.” That was all it said, but that was enough.
The store was crowded, full to capacity. Surely it wouldn’t try here. That would give her time to run away. Start again. Somewhere, anywhere.
No. Her shears were gone.
“No second chances,” came the acidic hiss.
The shears sliced into her side, through flesh and blood, with nary a sound at all. She felt a chink inside her and stumbled back, blood pouring from the wound now vacated as it yanked back the scissors. Red streamed through her fingers as she grasped at her side. But resistance is futile.
The monster-child’s hand and dress were covered in her blood, making pink velvet ugly.
Somewhere there was a shriek; it sounded muffled, far away. The first sign that you are dying. Still holding her side, she blinked slowly. Once. Twice. It was still there, over her, ignoring the screams of her au pair. It pushed the woman away fiercely, violently. It only had one goal, after all. It wasn’t going to let her come back; it wasn’t going to let her exist.
“No second chances.”
It was going to watch her die, make sure she was gone. Already the store owner was calling 911, and people were shielding their children from the spilling blood when all the little ones wanted was to watch with rapt attention. The au pair, gutless woman that she was, cowered from the thing with the bloody shears.
She tried to make herself aware, call on her defenses, her abilities, but it just smiled.
“Anything you can do, I can do better…” Wretched song.
She was dying, she knew it. The blood was pooling on the floor now, staining white marble. Ouch! Something behind her pricked her fingers, something sharp.
A chocolate knife? Good enough.
It was less than pleased and screeched with all the rage of a 6-year-old as it pulled the small blade out of its shoulder. Loss of blood makes you dizzy, throws off your aim.
It became even angrier when a child-voice, like its own should have been, cried out. “Leave her alone, freak!”
“Stupid changeling. Stupid humans. Fine. Didn’t like it here anyway.”
The world went blurry along its edges; she was almost gone. It had won, no denying that.
Just as she was fading, it turned to her and grabbed her hair. “Not yet. You need to see this.”
Even amidst her blurred fading, it was like a nightmare. The kind that you see and feel, clearly and crisply. The very seams of the store tore away, the world turedn on its side, and a great horned beast, more terrifying than any horse, dragon, or chimera that can be imagined thundered through the break. The creature that sat atop it was infinitely more beautiful and infinitely more terrifying.
People screamed, children keened, humanity swooned.
It ran to him and he scooped it up with a look one part affection and one part disgust. It threw its arms around his neck and then gestured around.
“Merry Christmas, Daddy!”
Instead, he turned his eyes on her. “Time to go home, my pretty.”
She had been right. It was like someone lowering a curtain. No hope, no peace, no heaven. No second chances.