“That hairdo took a long time,” [Shahin] told [Baram], sounding blandly irritated, “and you’ve messed it all up.” It gave her time to peel off a glove – the long sleeves of her widow’s weeds would still cover her wrists – and rest her hand on his forearm.
The images came to her in a flood, a mess of blood and violence, of death and near-death and painful oblivion, a splash of red and brown over white skin and golden grain.
“Interesting.” The images moved not only forwards, as they had before she came to Addergoole, but into the past. She grabbed the closest, and let a note of glee creep into her voice, hoping she wouldn’t alienate Alya and Vee entirely. Hoping Emrys was enjoying the show. She’d worry about the implications of what she was seeing later. “You’ve died before, haven’t you?”
“What?” In surprise, his grip on her loosened, but she didn’t move yet. She wasn’t done with him yet.
“Mmm. Yes, maybe fifty years ago.” The clothing in the images she’d seen had that post-World-War-II-era feel to it. “In a field at the end of a gravel road, where no-one who cared could hear your cries. Of course,” she added with sweet poison, “no one cared, did they? They called you a monster, laid crimes at your door that were not yours, and they ripped you apart. With hooks and with pitchforks, they pulled out your entrails and left them strewn across the field.” Her voice dripped with it, the viscera of his death. “You still dream of it, don’t you?”
His hands had fallen limp at his sides; she turned to smile at him, trailing her bare fingers down his arm. “And you know the worst thing? All that pain in your nightmares? It was nothing compared to what you’re going to go through… oh, tomorrow.” She pulled her glove back on, deliberately turning her back on him. “Have a nice day.”
and now our story
He died like he had in his dreams, bloody and violently. They pulled him apart, the mob, and, although the details were different, the pain was the same. The shouting was the same. The blood splattering everywhere, his blood, his entrails, his life.
"Why?" he managed, before the farmer hit him in the throat with the pitchfork. He knew why, deep in his cold heart. Monster, they'd screamed. Monster, beast, demon. Demon, they shouted, as the pitchfork pierced his heart.
That wouldn't be enough to kill him, not on its own, but they had come prepared. They doused him in oil, pinned him to the crossroads with wooden stakes, his heart still pumping blood out of his body, his lungs still trying to push air. They lit him on fire and then, by some luck, then, as his pants began to burn, he lost consciousness.
Robert woke screaming, not for the first time, rolled over and stifled the scream in his pillow before anyone could hear him. He could still feel the fire licking over his skin, although a quick, surreptitious pat-down told him that no, he wasn't on fire. He wasn't dying. Not this time, not right now.
He wouldn't be able to get back to sleep tonight. He slipped on a shirt over his sweats, checked to make sure he hadn't woken anyone, and headed out for a walk.
The dreams weren't always the same, but they always ended badly, in blood and fire; they always ended with or near death. And they'd been getting worse. They'd been getting more and more vibrant, lately, seeming to take over even when he was awake.
His ankle twisted, snapped, seemed to stretch out of shape, and he grunted, swallowing another scream. Now even the pain was following him into the waking hours. Was he never going to have a moment of peace, a moment - thought and complaint were cut off by a feeling like his skin splitting, as if everything inside was too big to be contained anymore.
A woman screamed, loud and terrified. "A monster!" Mrs. Colburn, from down the street. She sat behind them in church. "A monster!" she repeated, "a demon from hell! Kill it, KILL IT!"
He woke in a field, in pain and stinking of smoke, with no memory of how he'd gotten there, no memory of what it was like to not be in pain... no memory, he realized, at all.