The Books of Darkness
by Robert N. Stephenson
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Diana Arlyn is an author of gothic fiction best-sellers. A hard drinker with bipolar disorder, she falls in love with a mysterious woman, and the turbulent relationship draws Diana unwillingly into a legend.
Diana is haunted by questions: why did the woman pick her, of all people, and how can the Ta’ibah, the hunter of darkness, know so much about her? She is also haunted by the ghost of a dead author. She must find out what he wants, recover a lost book that belongs to someone who wants to kill her, and ultimately survive the darkness.
He emerged from a stone wall, an ooze that coalesced into a human shape of darkness. The walk through the graves was meant to keep him focused. I doubted he would be happy with my news.
We strolled together in silence, letting the spirits shift about our feet like a low mist. They called to him with reaching hands, pleading to be freed from his pit. Once inside the darkness there was no way out. With the Devil you had a chance, but he was not the Devil; he had existed before such idols were made by the human domain. Even God would have to bow to his will.
“You won’t go against Sarina?” he said, walking over graves. “I can see it in your face.”
I could have, through Diana. Used her emotions against her and drawn upon the one weakness Uttukes have. Not that I didn’t want to: no emotion existed between us; it was just that I didn’t see the need. We would get the horse, eventually; I would get the book. The wasting of energy on her would distract me from other tasks I had planned.
“Bela,” he said, “if you can’t do it, I have others who can.”
I knew who he meant. Sarina would be a match in strength and cunning, but I knew what would happen to her. I’d done enough to darken her life.
“There is no need, “ I said.
“He has turned a Uttuke before,” The Dark One said. “He has a way you don’t have access to.”
“How will you benefit?” I sat on the ground, merging with the soil above a grave. I could sense the presence of an unclaimed one. Did he?
“Not me,” he said. He hovered above, blanking out the stars, the light of the moon. “He will, it would make him stronger.”
“Stronger than me?” Ta’ibahs where, on the whole, equal. Contact with The Dark One did increase our reach into the light.
I knew he would be darker, and I knew how dark he could be to Sarina. History existed between them. She would remember; he wouldn’t.
“I will not turn her,” I said. “I will get what we need and be done with it.”
“He will be waiting, Bela. Don’t make me bring him.”
The stars returned, the moon’s light shone on the headstones, revealed the names of those who had been claimed before and after death. I had never seen my own grave, read the inscription. No desire pulled me to its stone. Bela Lugosi, the man, the actor, husband and father no longer inhabited the world of the living. I inhabited everything he represented in film. I was Legend and he was dead.
I thought of the new Ta’ibah. The Dark One never made threats, never asked permission. I expected the Ta’ibah would already be here, working deeper in the background somewhere. The attack on the women in the car park, that could have been his doing, it fit his profile, his manner. To search him out could bring more danger. He believed in himself too much to be convinced there were other ways to get what we wanted.
I will not turn Sarina. I had no ego to turn her for. I could not protect Diana.
Copyright © 2009 by Robert N. Stephenson