Physician, Heal Thyself
Join Date: Sep 2005
Current Game: Skyrim
A heavy sound of metal against metal filled the room as the door was unlocked, and a small, dim chink of pale gold light carved itself a path through the blackness of Memoria's apartment. Memoria herself stepped quickly over the threshold and pushed the door closed behind her, re-locking the door and sliding the deadbolt across before reaching into her jacket pocket for a box of matches. She marched across the room, deftly stepping around the short wooden table in her path towards the windowsill, on which rested a single candle silhouetted against the faint light coming through the window. She struck one of the matches on the side of the box and lit it before raising it to shoulder height and casting her gaze about the room.
The apartment's single room was sparsely furnished and had the air of a space that was abandoned most of the time. In the corner furthest from the door stood a small bed with a thin mattress and one raggedy blanket. Directly to the right of the bed's head was a small table, on which rested the second of the room's three candles. In the middle of the room was a small wooden table, bare apart from the room's third candle and a yellowed newspaper almost three months out of date. There was no other furniture in the room, and the walls were bare.
She ignited the two unlit candles, bathing the room in gently flickering light. She warmed her hands briefly around one of them before stripping off her leather jacket and tossing it across onto the bed. It was soon joined by her belt, to which her swords were still clipped. Then, without really thinking about it, she bent down next to the nightstand and reached under the bed, pawing at the ground in search of something.
A moment later she found it: a small box, starkly at odds with the simplicity of the rest of the room because of the delicately carved floral pattern across the lid and around the sides. She fingered the carvings gently, her eyes unfocussed and an all-too-familiar deadened sensation sinking into her chest. She felt tears well up in her eyes, and was amazed at how easily they still flowed after almost fifteen years.
She slid open the small metal latch and lifted the lid, slowly because of the cracked dowel in the hinge. Inside rest a number of assorted objects: two identical iron rings, the gold paint that once encased them chipped completely away but for a few flakes along the inside; a small bundle of thin waxy paper, through which she could see a strand of black hair mingled with another of blonde; and a single small reddish brown stone, incredibly smooth and with a lustre that made it look as if it were enamelled.
A knock at the door made her jump, nearly dropping the box. She managed to keep a hold on it, though; she snapped it closed and clutched it tight in her hand, throwing a cautious look towards the door. It was well after midnight - who had reason to call on her at this time of night?
She remained crouched on the floor, her hand reaching slowly across the bed towards her swords. "Who is it?" she called, her own voice sounding unnaturally loud in the cold still silence of the apartment.
The reply was a rough and gravelly male voice. "Benton," it growled.
Benton was the landlord. He lived in the large apartment on the ground floor, specifically and unabashedly so that everyone coming into and going out of the building would have to pass his front door, and therefore within earshot of either himself or his grumpy old bulldog, Gus.
Memoria rose from her crouching position next to the bed and moved towards the door. She slid open the deadbolt slowly and deliberately, then unlocked the door. She pulled it open a few inches, peering out through the crack with one eye.
"Good evening, Mr. Benton," she said.
"Don't you 'good evening' me, bitch," he grumbled scornfully. "Just what in the hell kind of time do you call this?" he asked, pushing against the door in an effort to force it open.
She put her foot firmly behind the door, which stopped with a dull thud. Her foot was bare, so it hurt; but she ignored the pain and stared at Benton evenly as she replied: "Well, sir, when the sun sets and the gas lamps come on, it's called night. I think they're still on, but I can check if you'd like."
He gave her an ugly look, half glare and half sneer, shaking with mock laughter. "Hahahahah-- **** you," he spat. "Where do you get off crashing into the building and banging about up here at this time of night?"
She rolled her eyes. She had gone to great pains to be as quiet as possible coming into the building, and her apartment was two floors above his. There was no way he'd heard her moving around, and it was unlikely he'd been disturbed when she came in. He was simply looking to pick a fight to satisfy his fragile ego.
She knew from experience that giving him such a fight only served to make him more belligerent, so she merely gave a false, sickeningly sweet smile and said: "I'm very sorry, Mr. Benton. I'll keep it down. It won't happen again."
He continued to glare at her for a moment, his shoulders sagging slightly. She saw his eyes flicker down to her hand, which still clutched the sealed box from under her bed. After a moment he puffed out his chest and grunted, meeting her eyes once more. "See that it doesn't," he said shortly.
With that, he turned on his heel and stalked down the hallway towards the stairs, muttering and cursing under his breath as he went.
Memoria snapped the door shut, then relocked and bolted it. She cast a mournful look around the depressingly spartan apartment, her eyes lingering on the occasional burn mark on the floor where previous tenants had tipped over candles; the narrow window was framed by a pair of thin, ragged curtains that had lost their colour many tenants ago. She felt the familiar wave of self-pity and -loathing that she always felt when she spent the night at "home", accompanied as always with a wave of anger.
Her knuckles grew white as she balled her hands into fists, the carved wooden box in her right hand making a faint cracking sound. But she didn't hear it. Her breathing came in ragged gasps, and her eyes burned with tears of shame and misery. She lashed out in frustration, throwing the ornately carved box across the room with a cry of anguish.
Her cry echoed inside her head, stretching into several second that should have been silent. The box arched gracefully across the room as if through water rather than air. She rushed across the room, her hand outstretched, panic rising in her chest.
By the time it had reached the other end of the window, she was there; she felt the corner of it dig into her palm, where it drew a small line of blood as it slid from her grasp. She scrambled for a moment, her concentration slipping and her surroundings snapping back to reality. She clutched the box to her chest, closing her eyes and letting the tears pour steadily down her face.