Monday, November 19, 2012

Chapter 98: Kvornan Faces A More Appropriate Homecoming

Sat, December 12, 2074 12:40 am—88 Wilkins Ave.; Camden, Pleasantview

Elise entered the living room to the sound of a late night studio audience exploding with applause. The host threw his arm around tonight’s musical guest, all handshakes and plastic smiles. Kvornan slid over to make room and as she settled onto the couch, the host thanked everyone for being here tonight. Out of the corner of his eye, Kvornan could see Elise fretfully wringing the hem of her t-shirt. She stared at the screen but was not seeing it.

The closer they came to leaving Pleasantview, the more she sulked. He was familiar with her anxiety, not only because he could feel it but because he had lived through it long ago, when he was not so much older than Elise herself. Sometimes, he still thought about the three days that he spent on the train to Pleasantview, watching his home drift away until it vanished. He remembered passing the time by tugging at his waistcoat to ease the foreign tightness around his chest and mashing his much-too-short hair against his head to block the cold air from his scalp. On the first day of the journey, he ordered chicken salad for lunch, having assumed that “chicken salad” could have only referred to salad greens topped with chicken. When it arrived as a mixture of chicken and mayonnaise, he remembered simply staring at it. Fae dietary laws forbid him from consuming meat prepared with egg, and so he just stared. He wanted to ring for the steward, but he did not have enough of the language to say what was wrong. It seemed ridiculous now, but he could have burst into tears at that moment. He had never felt more alone, and perhaps Elise would feel the same. The world that he was dragging her into was so obscure that he could have told her they were going to the moon to the same effect.

“Can’t sleep?” Elise shook her head, face forward into the glow of the television set.

“You watch a lot of TV,” she remarked. Kvornan placed his hand on top of hers to stop her agitated twisting.

“I can turn it down.”

“No, it’s fine. Just a lot of TV.” Kvornan flipped her observation over upon its belly, searching for its hidden meaning like an animal foraging for insects beneath a stone. He thought, perhaps, that her mind would not rest until his did.

“If I start going to bed earlier, will that help you get to sleep?” Elise gave him a noncommittal grunt. He noted that she had not looked at him once. “Talk to me, Elise.”

“We are talking.”

“Then what do you need from me right now?” Elise drew a sharp breath and groaned.

“Why is it that I have to need something? Can’t I just sit here with you?”

“What do you think?” Kvornan realized too late that he was rising to the level of her annoyance, and that it would do neither of them any good. He opened his mouth to say something—anything—when she cut him off.

“It isn’t that I don’t want to leave. I know that we can’t stay here, so whatever. I mean Ermengarde is sick, this place is a crap-hole, and there are psychos lurking around every corner who would love to kidnap me. I get all of that. It’s just that Pleasantview is our home. We’ve never been anywhere else. This is what we know, and we can’t even keep that anymore. And what if we’re out of the kettle and into the fire or whatever? Plenty of psychos are probably right there at Ethelden, you said so yourself. I feel like-- I feel like if anything happens to the others, it would be my fault.” Kvornan switched off the television. It was not worth it to say that her family’s safety was not her sole responsibility, and that he was a lot more scary that anyone who would try to harm her or her siblings. A sizeable part of her was screaming just that. But what her limited experience could not teach her—that was what Kvornan was for. Homes could be remade.

Elise gathered her legs onto the couch, pulling the t-shirt taut over her knees, then scooted up into his lap. Kvornan wrapped his arms around her. She was so thin.

“Are you cold?” Asking was a silly gesture. He knew that she was cold. Kvornan rubbed her back with his palm. Elise yawned, covering her mouth with her first.

“This should be happier, you know. I mean, now that we’re together. We should be just glowing, shouldn’t we?” Kvornan paused his rubbing to smooth stray wisps of hair away from her face.

“We’ve never truly been apart, Elise.” Elise planted her head upon her knees and threaded her fingers between her toes.

“This is different,” she whispered. There was a pause during which her mood plummeted until he could feel her shoulders heaving. He had not seen this outburst of emotion coming.

“Elise?” She scrambled to her feet, pushing him at the center of his chest. He caught up with her just a few feet away from the couch and she crumpled, more rag doll than child. Kvornan hoisted her to her feet as she struggled.

“Mom and Dad are gone, and you weren’t even there! I can’t—” The sentence fell apart but he knew what she intended to say. I can’t forgive you for that. Kvornan held her tighter in part to provide support and in part to reassure himself of her permanence. There were other words that she could not force, but he heard them just the same. Coward, she thought. Monster. Murderer.

December 12, 1998 12:40 am-- Ethelden Palace; Amhurst, Veronaville (Seventy-Six Years earlier)

The water around him was black and growing blacker. Kvornan watched as the dirt lifted from his skin and circulated all around him. He followed it with his eyes. Gentle hands ran a washcloth over the back of his neck. How had he gotten here? He peered over the ceramic edge of the tub. A small pile of discarded towels had collected on the floor, so caked with blood and grime that it might have turned another man’s stomach. His mother was humming as she dampened his hair. Her voice and her touch were so familiar that they seemed out of place amongst his otherwise broken existence. He was a child again in this apartment. Maybe he had never left it. Maybe he had only dreamed the past twelve years. This new possibility washed over him and drained away without cleansing. If he were comatose then Fricorith had never been, and it changed nothing in Kvornan’s heart. He refused to allow even the delusion of his son to pass from him without grief or recognition. Perhaps this was the most indisputable proof of his existence.

There was no comfort for Fricorith in his death throes. That the universe had deemed Kvornan deserving of his mother’s love on the cusp of insanity was infuriating to him. Weakly, he removed her hands from his hair, where she had been combing the gore loose with her fingers. He would have done the same for his own son under the same circumstances, he knew. It was not a matter of what Kvornan deserved. This task was a parent’s responsibility alone.

Kvornan met her eyes, perhaps to tell her off or perhaps to thank her. Her lips quivered though her hands held steady. She too had lost her only child. All that remained for her was this vacant likeness of her son, naked and wading in the blood of the two women that he had slaughtered.

“Mata?” It was the first word that he had spoken in days. His voice was hoarse, unrecognizable. The creases in her brow deepened.

“Kvornan!” There was an urgency to the sound of his name as the last leg of her composure disintegrated beneath her. She cupped his face with her hands and moaned. Kvornan did not have it in him to feel sorry for her sake. He had reached the point where he could take on no more.

The door flew open just then and there was shouting. He recognized his father’s voice, but did not bother to move until he felt himself hauled from the tub. His mother was calling out his father’s name, and Kvornan was tripping across the tile, face-to-face with a far more appropriate homecoming.

His back hit the wall first, then his head. The impact sent his vision swimming. Magenta floaters rained down before his eyes, glowing against the backdrop of his father’s livid face.

“How dare you come back here after what you’ve done?” Kvornan averted his gaze, both unable and unwilling to respond. His mother raised her voice above the commotion.

“He’s just a boy!” Kvornan’s father closed in on him, pinning him to the spot.

“Your ‘just a boy’ is by his own free will the lowest, most depraved sort of abomination,” Here, Kvornan’s father struck the wall with his closed fist so hard that the mirror shook. Kvornan had a feeling that he had done it to keep from committing violence in front of his mother. “Goddamn it, look at me!”

His mother was wailing in the opposite corner of the room. Kvornan picked up his head to find that his father was so close that their noses were nearly brushing.

“I knew, I knew, what was in your nature the day they placed you in my arms and by God, I nearly gave you back. Just see what what you’ve done to her!” Kvornan’s father made a swooping motion behind him without turning around. “What happened to your wife will not happen to mine. Make no mistake; you are to blame for that as well. Just a boy? You are the festering root of all evil.” Kvornan’s father punctuated that last by spitting on the floor. “I have reached and exceeded the limit of my forgiveness. Kvornan Tricou, you and I are done.”


  1. I don't have a preview for the next chapter yet. Sorryyyy. :\

    PS: Happy Thanksgiving! :)

  2. Hmm. I'm not sure what to make of the flashback. Obviously, I can see why Kvornan's father would be pissed in this instance, but I can also see, just as obviously, why his mother would pretty much instantly forgive him. Different personalities and different ways of thinking and different capacities for affection, I guess. I do seem to remember you saying Kvornan's dad was a jackass.

    At least Elise and her siblings will be better protected in Veronaville? From people who aren't working from the inside, at least. And Elise can learn exactly what she is and what that means and what to do about it, and Ermengarde can get the kind of care she needs, and someone can figure out just what's up with Arnaud.

  3. There are a million reasons to go, and almost none to stay. But as a very young girl who has had several major life changes and tragedies over the span of just a few months, Elise is not eager to let go of one of the last familiar things that she has-- Her home. Other than that, I think there was something a lot deeper nagging her that she had been suppressing for who knows how long now. She knew that Kvornan knew when her mother in particular was dying, and he intentionally stayed away (mostly because he had been told to stay away, but also because he didn't think that he could handle it). Then there's all the time that Elise has had to spend grappling with the idea that Kvornan is a killer.

    The flashback went here for two reasons. The first was Elise's own mourning of her mother. Kvornan understood the deep attachment that she lost when she lost her mother. The second was Elise's final accusation (Coward, monster, murderer). The last person who was close to him who rained that heap of finger-pointing at him was... Alexei but also Krishna, Kvornan's father. Both of those two washed their hands of him in the end. The possibility that Elise might never forgive him as well scared him pretty thoroughly:

    “Mom and Dad are gone, and you weren’t even there! I can’t—” The sentence fell apart but he knew what she intended to say. I can’t forgive you for that. Kvornan held her tighter in part to provide support and in part to reassure himself of her permanence.

    Kvornan was not 100% lucid when that this flashback took place, but I have to imagine that it effected him for a long time after. Though he agreed with his father in a defeatist kind of a way, it must have hurt just the same. Kvornan's father didn't do bravado. If he indicated that Kvornan was dead to him, then Kvornan was dead to him.

  4. Ach, when I wrote the above, I forgot to mention the idea of home that runs throughout the chapter, hence the title. *facepalm* It must not have been at the forefront of my brain at the time I posted last night.