She would appear without notice, her eyes like new black flint. I would bump into her in the street, or I would find her on a website or on a page in a book. She would interrupt me in mid-sentence.
She glides up close behind me, her heavy black locks cascading over a black velvet cloak like lava solidifying under the sea. I taste her breath first; a sour vapour hovering in my mouth. It makes me think of bold ideas which never again occur to me. I try in vain to convince myself it’s a fume on the wind or a remembered flavour.
I know she’s really there. I attempt resistance by keeping her at my back. She blows on my neck. She’s made of white lead. Her breath tastes of a promise of torture. I would tell her anything but it wouldn’t make any difference.
Her pale, irresistible fingers lift the hem of her cloak and she brushes it onto my fingertips for an icy minute. She smirks briefly as she hears me saying to myself that it’s not happening, that it’s a false alarm. She pushes a fold of the thick velvet in between my thumb and my index finger and makes me hold it. Numbness grows where I touch the velvet. Taking another handful of her cloak, she wraps it around my other fingers and twists the fabric in her fist. This poor, dense, crushed, black hand. Smothered and numbing.
Holding my velvet-clad hand in hers from behind my back, her free hand takes one of her long, curled strands of hair. She drags it mockingly over my ear, across my cheek and holds it in the corner of my mouth. My lips fizz with the absence of sensation. There’s a dark empty patch in space where my lips usually meet.
Her cheek is against the nape of my neck. My blood draws away from her; the emptying muscles become dusty old oak, my neck a dead trunk. A dull brittleness grows into the base of my skull. She pulls the dead corner of my mouth with a hooked finger to twist back my head towards her.
Into my ear she whispers intolerable descriptions of impending nausea. A transparent worm drops from her nose and wriggles into my eye through the pupil. I see its jagged glass body flex at the edge of my vision, writhing and refracting the world behind it like a string of diamond prisms. I close my eyes and the worm undulates in purple and red and black ripples. A tormented rainbow against the black.
Two iron moons orbit my right hand in its velvet casket. Tides and weight revolve and impart their sheer magnitude. There are no spaces between the atoms in this hand. It is only dense and orbited now by a dozen iron moons.
Her finger tears open the gap at the corner of my mouth and the empty space arcs onto my tongue like a slow spark of syrup. My numb cheeks surround a tongue that isn’t even dark. I am more gap than substance and a glass worm swims in my eyeball, radiating its inscrutable purpose across my vision.
She puts me face down on the floor and kneels on my back. The cloak is pulled away from my right hand. The gigantic weight lifts. The moons recede into space. Her left finger slips from the space in my face.
The refracting worm finally passes from my eyeball and bores into my brain. I didn’t notice it happening but a passing fellow has lanced the worm dead where it lay and is now leaning heavily on his sword - the point of which he has yet to remove from my head.
The cloaked lady rises from my back. She looks down at my prone form for a moment, then steps over me and walks away. When I'm recovered, she'll catch up with me somewhere.