Sometimes I scare myself!
When this particular scene came to me, I was a little taken aback. I've always had a difficult time with Charlotte. She's not a very nice person. She's vengeful, malicious, homicidal, and dangerous. Not someone you want to spend hours with, I would avoid her at all cost. But when I saw this scene play out in my head, I kinda felt sorry for her. I had so much fun writing this, like I got a good dose of fairy dust sprinkled on my noggin that day.
Here is my favorite chapter from The Last Inheritance.
Chapter 6 - Rattled Bones
No one heard her scream. The pained howl was half past primal and well past human. The heat of it shook her bones until they rattled in the coffin. She kicked and punched until her pine roof splintered. The cold earth filled her mouth and she sucked on its nitrogen, fueling her manic need to escape. She clawed, snapping nails and bones. The weight of six feet of ground was too much for her frame, forcing her to settle.
It had been so long since Charlotte had been back to square one. To the beginning.
She rubbed the moist dirt into her eyes, filling the empty sockets until she wept tiny pebbles from the creek bed. Combing her hair with her remaining digits, she braided and wove until she had a coarse crown, all the while calling out from her prison. Wind carried her siren song across the acres of dead until it caught onto the river’s tide and wove through the countryside into the gothic-spired college town. Why would no one answer her?
James had not been lost. Had he?
The American. That foreign contagion.
Fire roared through Charlotte’s memory.
After a fortnight of calling, screaming, and cursing, she heard the piercing scrape of a shovel. The sound was as soothing as a mother’s lullaby, a balm to her burning rage. It fed her with anticipation, the best kind of nourishment. There was no virtue in patience, but she would wait this time. She wanted the blood and pain shed to be a seven-course meal—savored and remembered.
Freedom hit her knees first, jolting a chill through her remains. She pulled the threads of her frayed silk gown around her hollow chest, to properly receive her guest. They didn’t construct clothing this sturdy any longer. James had brought her dress to the gallows, wanting her to hang with her dignity. She had lost everything else—her title, her reputation, her house. The snap of her neck had been as quiet as shucking an oyster. The melody of her silk gown as it had billowed in the breeze brought no comfort. Nor the pulse of the rope creaking as she’d swayed to and fro.
It was that last act of grace that had pulled her back from the dead—his act of forgiveness. But he had never found her remains, the only advantage to being tossed in an unmarked grave. Cheap pine was brittle, and industrial development was so very unsentimental. As a revenant, she’d slither free, steal her way into another’s body. Always recently dead. Always beautiful. And she had always found her way back to him. Only to be cast out again.
But it was paradise for a little while.
There was a grunt and blood seeped through the dirt, warming her tightly-packed frame. The perfume of days lost, the haunting memory of his touch, his cold passion wove through her frayed skin.
Earth gathered around, cementing her form. Ropes of muscle took shape, veins popped open, organs began beating, breathing, circulating—life began again. Pain and misery registered through every cell, making her moan and wail. The evening tasted of sun-toasted clover blossoms and bitterness. There were no comforting words, no strong hands to help her stand. Emptiness sank into her renewed constitution, lending her the weight to get up.
Someone tossed a blanket onto the ground. Charlotte hissed. Her tongue had not fully formed enough to make words. She brushed the loose new strands of hair from her face, but she couldn’t focus on the shadow moving in front of her. Her eyes had not returned.
She reached out, sensing the shuffle of quick feet. Whoever it was, they were afraid and disgusted. Disappointed by the pang in her chest, she wrapped the blanket around her shoulders, pulling tight. Shame had never been a part of her wardrobe.
The sweet perfume of old blood and desperation hit her palate. Her savior was in no better shape than herself. Before she could form words, they placed a hood over her face, and she struggled against her new bindings. But there was no point in running anyway. Constraints were navigable, boundless loss was not. She felt the pull of frantic hands.
The ground was cold and barbed, snapping under her forming feet. They were cutting through fields of brambles, moving north to the spired city, her home—her best nightmare. The walk was long and absent of conversation. Which suited Charlotte, she wanted to feel every lovely moment of her rebirth. She would remember every scent, every scratch, the taste of every curse on her tongue. The pain of despair would stitch her new armor. She would weaponize it. Her nails pinched and hardened. She dug them into her palms, and pleasure pulsed across her raw skin.
Her savior came to a sudden stop. She managed to not topple and stood her ground. The hood was yanked off. Eyes now fully formed, she sharpened her sight on the man standing four feet in front of her. Shock slithered in her empty stomach.
“I watched you die.” Her tongue struggled to say the words.
The man said nothing, just stared at her with hollow, haunted black eyes.
The dark pitch of his hunger shook her confidence. On the verge of panic, she took in her surroundings and felt the sick weight of miscalculation. The mist rose from the tombstones in Lazarus Cemetery. Shadows wrapped and wove across marble, cement, and loss. She smelled the bitter cold of the river. They were taking shape and closing in. The rattle of their bones shook her own.
She pleaded with the man to let her go, weaving her malformed fingers together. He shook his head and pointed to his right. A few feet from where he stood was an open mausoleum door ready to swallow her whole. The darkness reached out and instead of its caress, she felt its confinement.
“I’m not going in there.” She staggered back. She couldn’t be this close to their remains. The noise would be deafening.
He didn’t come after her. Just waited and pointed.
The dawn whispered and moaned, carrying the curses of her victims. Her skin split and cracked against their lashes. She had endured over a century of faithful requited misery. The threat of pain only fastened her fortitude, and she turned on them.
“I would do it all again,” she spat. Her chin tipped to the sky, proud and resolute. “Every one of your deaths. I savor your misery. All of your unheard cries. It steels my bones.” She pounded her chest. The wails and rattles swelled. “You only exist for my sustenance. I will consume all of you. Do you hear me? All of you.”
The man wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled.
“Your pain is nothing to me!” She screamed over and over as he yanked her towards the darkness. Her fingers snapped as he broke her grip from the door. He tossed her below, deep back into the cold motherless earth.
The sharp, piercing chatter of the dead pounded against the doors of the mausoleum. Charlotte covered her ears, roiling against the walls. Her new skin frayed. Her hair clumped in her hands. And her voice drowned in her collapsing throat.
The man shoved her to the ground and pulled the earth over them as the sun crept along the walls of the mausoleum, quieting the chorus of victims. As she drank in the dirt, she heard him whisper, “You’re welcome.”