The Lane Of Memories
Tam Linn waves a hand before the official. There is a flash of light, and the expression on the official goes from annoyed to slack.”You will let me pass”, Linn intones. “I will let you pass”, the official repeats. “You will not remember me”, Linn reiterates. “I will not remember the hobo”, the official repeats.
The small white kitten, whom Linn has named Yowl, meows at him. He picks her up, and places her on his shoulder as he boards the boat from London to Calais.
A woman in a suit glares at his downtrodden appearance. A second burst of light illuminates the deck. “You should throw yourself off the boat”, Tam Linn retorts. Yowl’s meow seem to be filled with a certain reapproach, so he stops her halfway. “Do you know how to swim?”
The woman, nods, dully. He nods and then glances at Yowl, who shakes her tiny head before jumping down. The woman makes a splash in the cold water as Tam Linn slowly but surely glamours the rest of the boat’s occupants to leave, except for the captain of course.
He grabs a hut and sinks down on a feathery bed. The tension in his muscles loosens up, the red handprint on his face aches a tad less and he feels calmer, more relaxed. How long has it been since he last slept? The day the Council decided to send him to Fallowfell?
He scowls at the bed, blaming it for his need to sleep, a need that he won’t give in to, can’t give in to. He nods off, once. In a desperate attempt to stay awake, he stabs himself in the knee with a dagger made from solid light. The pain causes him to focus. Yes, he mustn’t sleep. Sleep brings the memories, and the memories brings the madness.
Tam Linn sits on the bed, bleeding from his knee, focused on the pain. But between thoughts of pain he slips.
He watches himself, a younger Tam Linn walk through a forest in the clothes of what later historians will call the Tudor-style. “Run away”, he calls to the younger man. But the young man cannot hear him; it is always like this in his dreams, soundless and void.The younger man pauses, listening to something. He crouches–
— and a deer being ridden by woman breaks out of the undergrowth. The young Tam Linn wheels back, afraid. The deer stands taller than even a warhorse, but it is the woman that is frightening. Hair the color of sunset frames a face that is angular and forbidding. Lightning-blue eyes track Tam Linn, categorizing his every movement. She sweeps a hand through her red hair, revealing ears that tapers to a point.
It is the ears that causes the moment to shatter. The younger Tam Linn says something, something the older Tam Linn can’t remember. The woman response is to extend a toned arm. “Don’t take it”, the older Tam Linn growls. “For all that is dear in this world, don’t take it”, he pleads. But of course the younger Tam Linn accepts. The older Tam Linn can’t remember what was said, but he can certainly remember the feelings. Wonder. Amazement. To hunt in a world so few had seen.
He blinks, and when he opens his eyes again, his younger self and the woman dances in a meadow. The Court watches them, chatting about the gossip. How long have they danced? The older Tam Linn can’t remember. A minute. A day. A year. “A year and a day”, he mutters to himself.
He watches as his younger self falls on the wet forest-floor of the meadow, parched and starved beyond imagination. She walks up to a table, her back turned against him. She mixes something. With slow, ponderous steps She approaches him, approaches him with his doom. She offers him a plate. And like in a fairytale, he turns Her offer down three times. You don’t eat things in Faery- everybody knows this. And yet he accepts, on Her fourth offering.
He closes his eyes, and the third time proves its charm. He is driven back through a shadowy forests by dogs with midnight coats and red eyes. Knights in armor of bones and scales with heads of elk clasp him in copper. They bring him before Her. Her expression… Her expression is an earthquake; Her expression is the sea in a storm; Her expression is rage and betrayal. Betrayal, because why would you ever want to leave Fairy?
She strides down a throne of oak and slaps him, palm open. The mark She leaves is one of ownership. Signifying that this one less than human. A thing owned, and bought. The younger Tam Linn starts to cry, but the older Tam Linn known that the worst is yet to come.
He opens his eyes a fourth time, now back in the hut. His hands are shining brighter than the sun, and the light in the room is fluctuating. With a mighty heave he slams his hands down in the floor. “I am not a slave!” His hands sink down in the metal. “I am free! Free!” The metal turns red and start to bubble around his hands. He digs with his nails, splattering molten slag across the walls. “I.Am.Free!”
The first thing Tam Linn realizes as he regains his bearings is that the boat is sinking. The second is that he has sunk beneath several floors in what must be one of his episodes. He glances up, seeing four holes, one for each level. He looks around; storage, he’s in a storage room. He levels the door open with a blast of light and starts to make his way up.
“Dammit, I am not leaving without you, you stupid flea-” “Meow”. He looks down. Yowl is sitting there, looking right as rain. He lifts her by the scruff of her neck. “Let’s go find a lifeboat”, he says, relieved that he has found her.
Yowl gives him an accusing look and meows. “Yes, yes, I’ll talk to the captain”, he says, exasperated. He peers through the metal of the boat, quickly locating the captain and lifeboats in short order. With a burst of supernatural speed he reaches the captain in seconds. The woman, old enough to be his grandmother had he been human, stares at him with the dull look of one of the glamoured.
“You will jump into a lifeboat and make for Calais”, he intones. “I will make for the nearest safe port”, she repeats.
“Are you happy now-” Tam Linn’s diatribe is cut short as the boat shudders. He runs towards the lifeboats, grabbing one and flinging it towards the dark waters. He puts Yowl, despite her squirming protests inside a pocket and jumps.
He absorbs the impact with his knees and starts to row towards what he thinks is Calais.
On a final whim he raises a hand. Light gathers once again around his hand. The following lance of light neatly bisects the sinking boat in two, ending its slow struggle to stay buoyant.