Heartweed: Chapter 25

This is the beta version of my novel. If you are a new reader – welcome. You can read from the start here.

New sections are released every Tuesday and Friday. Please let me know your opinion in the comments section. Thank you for reading.

Chapter 25

Artie lay in the low camp bed, drifting. The vaulted stone ceiling of the cellar Gorth had brought her to spun in and out of focus. She was coming apart. Whatever Gorth had injected her with was causing her to decohere. Her mind was spreading out through the room like a mist.
Artie struggled to concentrate, to hold herself in one piece. So difficult. If she let go, would she just keep on dissipating, through the walls, through the streets of York. Stretching further and becoming more thinly spread.
She saw a bright flash in the dim light of the cellar. A knife – the blade so often sharpened that it curved inwards. Gorth brough the knife down to her chest. He moved the blade through her skin – quick and deep. She howled, except that she didn’t, couldn’t. Her body was frozen. Her dispersed consciousness howled and screamed and battered itself against the walls.
She felt her dry lips peel away from each other and fall apart. Gorth had said that the pain would be excruciating. It was. Her heart raced. Every breath in brought sharp pain. Every breath out gurgled wet and brought the taste of blood onto her tongue.
He was killing her.
Gorth was killing her.
She stared up at him. His face looked carved from pale wood and a smear of blood crossed his jawline. His eyes were intent. He glanced up; saw her  looking.
“Almost over,” he said.
The sound of footsteps clattered on the stairs. Gorth turned to the doorway. The black-eyed man Gorth had sent out to keep watch lurched into the room.
“We’ve got company.”
Gorth’s face contorted into an angry snarl. “Stall them.” He turned back to Artie. How had she thought that face kind and handsome? It was cold – all business. The black-eyed man darted back through the door way.
He reached into her and the pain wracked her again. Her heart sped to the frequency of a hummingbird’s wings. Then the feeling was gone. So was the pain. A rough, ice-cold sensation hunkered at the centre of her. Her consciousness drained from the room back into the receptacle of her body.
Gorth loomed above her. His arms were drenched to the elbows in blood. In his hands a hunk of flesh trembled and fluttered. Her heart. The fluttering turned into a thump; spurts of blood squeezed out. It thumped again. The heart was still beating.
The black-eyed man fell heavily backwards through the door. A large dog sprang through after him and landed on the man’s chest; its muzzle peeled back from sharp teeth. The dog, or was it a wolf,  snapped at the man’s flailing arms. Gorth stood up, his face twisted in annoyance.
Artie was fading or the world was fading around her. She raised her head and blinked rapidly, trying to stay conscious. A man came through the door; he leapt nimbly over the struggling flesh and fur. It was the disapproving businessman from the bar, carrying a long, thin sword. He glanced between her and Gorth, his eyes widening as he saw her looking back at him.
He turned his attention back to Gorth and the sword point with it. The suited man stepped forwards. Dark shapes rushed from all over the room towards Gorth and enveloped him. He vanished away like March and Alex had. This time Artie could see the ripples in reality that he left behind. Not radiating, but awkward and fractal. Tantalising. She wanted to reach out with her hand – not her hand – and tear them wider.
A different kind of darkness rushed towards Artie. The last thing she saw was the suited man stepping towards her, then the world flickered out like a blown candle.

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