Gabriel stepped back, and the shadow moved with him. He turned to run, but the thought of him fleeing into the night, heart pounding, body trembling and breathless, made him decide otherwise. Better to stay and face it—whatever it was.
“Go on. Show yourself,” he whispered, voice so soft he thought only he could hear it.
The black hole, denser than darkness and shadows, yet strangely comprising these, rose and shaped into a standing figure inches away from him.
“Who are you? What do you want?” He stared at the hooded figure.
It reached out to him with two long-fingered hands and reached for his face, but he side-stepped just out of reach. The hood fell back to reveal a painfully familiar face. It resembled his face if he had been born a girl: fine-boned and fair, but narrower at the chin where his was more angular.
“Abigail?” he asked, blinking hard. Seeing her, vague memories washed over him, drowning him, leaving him delirious like a lost child.
“I’ve missed you, Gabriel.” She reached out her pale hands to him again, and he didn’t step back to avoid her touch. Her fingers were warm—warm with life. His heart trembled. Bloody hell—had someone given her the fruit? Had someone brought her back to life? But why? Why?
To mock him.
“I was scared and so alone. It made sense to come and find you.”
“Abigail … “You’re dead.”
Her lips peeled back in a hard smile that showed her strong, ivory teeth. “Silly brother, you know better than anyone that death is a lie. Come, take me by the hands and we shall be together forevermore.”
He brought up a warning hand to slash the air between them. “No! You’re dead! You died! I remember you in the tree—”
She laughed then in her pretty, musical way. “Oh. You mean this?” she asked, pulling down the high collar of the cloak to reveal the awful scars around her neck. “Don’t fret. They’re not as painful as they appear.”
For a moment, a veil of clouds draped over the full moon, darkening the alley further, but when it lifted, he and Abigail were no longer standing there.
An oak tree’s heavy branches swayed ominously overhead. He knew that on the lower part of its trunk, lovers had carved their initials. An illusion. Covering his eyes with a spread hand, he released a shaky sigh. He knew of no Chosen who had the power to bend reality at his or her will. He sensed something vibrating through the air and ripple over his skin. Magic?
Abigail’s creamy skin glowed in contrast against the black cloak. Powerful magic had transformed the night into an illusion of daytime. The sunlight heated her red hair so that it looked as if it were on fire. “It’s been so long since you’ve held me. Why do you hesitate? Didn’t you miss me?”
“You’re not real. You’re not alive! You’re dead. Dead!”
“Oh Gabriel,” she said in a high-pitched, singsong voice. “You’re so cruel.” She skipped toward him, long wavy hair streaming behind, hands clasped in front of her. “If you had loved me as much as I loved you, I wouldn’t have died.” She pirouetted on the balls of her feet until she stood behind him, laughing. “Murderer. You’re nothing but a bloody murderer.”
This couldn’t be his sister. No. “Whoever you are, you’ve gone too far,” he declared, the words sharp as a sword, past angry, verging into rage. He swung around, drawing his hands back and against his body, taking the surrounding energy in the air into himself and releasing it against her. Like a solid pillar, it thrust her back several feet, where she landed in a sprawling heap. He stalked toward her, but before he could reach, she disappeared.
He heard laughter that couldn’t have come from the throat of a human but rather something otherworldly. The sound set the hair on the back of his neck on edge. “What do you want, Lilith?” He hissed the name like a curse.
She pulled the hood back to reveal her oval face framed by black hair inset with blacker eyes shining with interest. With lightning speed, she grabbed him by the throat.
He sighed. “Release me.” He tried to move, but her hold grew more constricting. She leaned forward and kissed his mouth.
Gabriel felt his lips being pried open with her tongue. The more he struggled, the tighter her grip became.
“I can taste your fear, fair prince,” she said. “And it is oh so delicious.” Her black eyes bored into him and suddenly became fluid, like dark, treacherous waters.
He felt himself falling into the pools of blackness. His body paralyzed. Helpless and unable to move, he couldn’t fight as she sucked his life away, his essence. A blue light emanated from his lips and into Lilith’s open mouth. A sudden fatigue deluged over him, drowning him. His knees buckled under him and he fell to the ground.
Lilith had released him.
He managed to raise his eyes to her.
She loomed over him, a peculiar look on her face. Was it fear? Fear from the Lady who drank it? Her eyes glanced past him, into a distance that he couldn’t see. She turned around and began to walk away.
Over her shoulder, she threw him an indifferent glance. “That little bit with your sister was a demonstration of my power. What came afterward is simply a taste of what I can do to you. Sweet dreams.” Then she vanished.
Gabriel’s eyes grew heavy, losing consciousness. Farcical. If he had the strength, he would laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation. He, who didn’t need sleep and never tired; he, who knew the secret of immortality (supposedly—a sardonic voice reminded him) had fallen in a dirty alley unable to move, while his senses surrendered to oblivion. Gabriel would’ve laughed if he had the strength.
Sweet dreams, indeed.