Home > Monsters Burning Bright

Monsters Burning Bright
Author: Cari Silverwood









I crawled, then levered myself upright, limping the last few feet to the car. I reached the Dodge and put my hand to the roof. It wasn’t the pain that made me sob. Loss, unbearable loss drowned me.

Something squished between the metal and my palm. Val’s discarded teddy bear.

When did I pick that up? My mind felt scoured, a wasteland of filth.

A smear of red stained the fur.

I need to kill the Nightmare King. I made a slow fist in the soft toy, crushing it. Or not. Saving Val was a better aim. Val was a back-seat driver in his own body, with the Nightmare King in charge.

I’d barely saved myself.

Police sirens wailed in nearby streets then faded.

Weary yellow light slunk over the bear, brightening tendrils of damp fur. Morning had come. The sun shone over the toy and the dew-spotted roof, and I raised my head and noted the dark, skeletal limbs of distant cranes and masts. Houston’s port.

My knees almost gave way as I shivered, but I caught myself, found I was at eye level with the opened passenger door.

The Nightmare King had left my handbag on the seat.

The bag sprawled open, gutted. He must have rifled through the contents. His hands had touched it. Hands that had whipped me and torn me open.

Recognizing who had last touched my stuff was a seismic shock.

The knife of the Cucitrice lay on the ground at my feet. My navy-blue gym shoes peeked up at me. I still wore shoes, even if my clothes were shredded.

He’d not taken the knife? Why?

I thought I could smell him, but then he was in Val’s body—of course I could smell him. Except there was an extra scent, a sickly lemon tang.

Val was the man I might easily tag the Love of my Life, and the Nightmare King had walked away, still wearing his body…after doing what he’d done to me. They are not the same man. Disconnecting one from the other was necessary for my sanity.

Gingerly, I touched my bare stomach where a bruising laceration wept blood. My fingertips slid on the wet skin.

I’d woken to find the cord strangling me and tying me to a sagging fence, beside a murky channel of water. Choking, I had freed myself, my nails fraying as I plucked at the knot.

My tears weren’t dry yet. The cuts on my back pulsed pain with every rise and fall of my chest. My legs were streaked white from the rivers of cum.

And the precious eyeglasses lay on the floor, below the handbag. It was an object, as was the Cucitrice’s knife. My brain kicked up a notch and reminded me of how important those could be. It could be a pivotal weapon, if I went after the King.

When I went after him.

Maybe I could track him? Do something. Anything. Leaving here should be my priority.

Grimacing, I used the top of the door as a crutch. The cool metal grounded me.

I had to get moving. I needed clothes. I couldn’t drive out of here naked and bloody. Except I also needed a few more breaths…a few more through a throat raw from being crushed by his hand and the cord.

A few…more…

I closed my eyes.

Memories crashed in.

The Nightmare King lashing me and fucking me against the wire fence, with some tentacled freak-thing holding me to the wire. At his command, it had wriggled from the water, sneaked its limbs through the wire and around my wrists, my head, my eyes.

Big, teeth-clattering shakes took hold of me until I clamped down and made myself settle.

My left eye was half-blinded by blood or bruising, but I scanned my surrounds. No creatures of dream or nightmare were visible.

I had enough of the Sight to tell, though that might fade.

Get a grip. No one else is here to help me, and if anyone does find me, the cops will ID me as sneaking a patient out of the hospital, then they’ll be watching me. I cannot swap bodies like an immortal.

I needed freedom if I was going to…to track down the King and kill him, somehow? The immortals had been trying to do that for centuries.

The Cucitrice had almost succeeded, and I was partly the Cucitrice, though lacking most of her memories. Lately, it had seemed as if I was growing more and more like her.

Which meant less and less like myself. Scary as fuck, that was.

I’d learnt to use the knife, had stitched a faery into Val and into my own arm, had remembered how to use a sword, a gun, and also to use those fucking eyeglasses. Those had, in a way, brought about this cruel situation.

I straightened and inhaled deeply, held onto that breath. The movement hurt, but it helped me feed the steel of determination into my spine.

No one was nearby, though that would soon change. The dock workers would be arriving for their shifts or whatever it was they did at dawn. Normal things would happen, and I was naked and looked like I’d been raped by Freddy Krueger. Funny that.

It would have been my actions that had awakened the King from where he’d been trapped inside Val. I…had…awakened Him and given him power.

The violent energy from the nighttime lesser evils on the streets of Houston, those had fed and energized the King, even as they cured Val of his injuries.

I hoped Val was still alive, somewhere deep in his own body, even if the Nightmare King had ascended and taken over.

The King had managed it, so it was possible Val could do the same. There was a problem—Val was not an immortal.

And maybe I had already killed him.

Fresh tears welled.

“Fuck that. Be guilty later.” Much, much later. This guilt would never fade, not unless I did something to save Val—to save him, again.

That was okay, I didn’t mind trying, just I would prefer not to be tortured by the Nightmare King if he trapped me. Next time I needed an out. Like fucking what? Cyanide pills?

“An atomic bomb would be nice,” I croaked. My throat felt as if something clawed it, and I cradled it in the V of my hand.

The keys were in the ignition. After closing the passenger door, I hobbled around the car to the other side and opened the driver’s side door.

Bracing myself for the pain of bending, I stopped myself at a crucial realization.

Driving tits-out was a great way to get noticed.

Clothes! Forgetting was becoming a habit. If I had concussion, that could wait its turn to be fixed.

Once I’d grabbed my bag from the back seat, I pulled out the dress from inside, yanked it over my head and into place, then straightened the hem. The mess on my body was mostly concealed.

I sat, started the car, said a few calming words, a few fucks to start the day on the right note, then sedately pulled away.

Something small and round glistened on the road as I turned, and I stopped to eye it from the safety of the car. The musket ball. I’d crawled past it earlier. It might be best to keep it with me. Might be if it weren’t so gruesome.

The clots of blood beside it signaled its origin—from inside Val. On the surface facing me, inscribed symbols pulsed violet. A creature that could pull that from its guts and walk away was godlike.

Yet that ball had defeated him for a hundred years and more.

What was I going to do with it? Shove it back inside him…or shoot it inside him—assuming I could find a musket or a pistol that could take that plump piece of lead—and hope for the best?



I feared the Nightmare King finding me before I could figure out how to deal with him. That fear made me drive south from Houston. I fled until I found a deserted boatshed by the shore, then I ditched the car in some trees and retrieved what I needed—bag stuffed full of useful things, handbag, the Taurus, and the ammunition. The Gulf of Mexico was my only witness when I broke the door-lock on the shed and hid in there. The blood and the other crap on my skin came off with sea water the first night, with sea water and hisses of pain as I scrubbed myself with a soaked cloth, until what he had done to me was gone.

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