Day 5: The Firestorm Chronicle

Onyx Path’s Month of Nightmares features games, stories, and more to celebrate the spirit of Halloween. Count down the days with us by reading our excerpts, participating in the discussion, or by taking advantage of our special offers leading up to a haunted Halloween.

firestorm chronicle anthologyThis is from “Some Running Night,” by Tanya Cohen-Diaz, which is one of my favorite stories in the anthology. Tanya’s prose has a poetic quality to it; it actually reminds me a lot of Poe, one of my favorite authors. One of the things I really like about this excerpt is that it exemplifies the “glimpses of the grotesque” mood that we shoot for with Promethean. It’s not about out-and-out body horror, it’s the skulls in the cases, or the beetles on the pins. Promethean is a constant journey towards the promise of the Humanity, but that also means constant little reminders that you aren’t there yet. This story encapsulates the game beautifully.

Here, close to the earth, in the dark, was her favorite part of the house. Cold, the earth perpetually a little damp, the root cellar was chilly enough to keep the prizes her creator’s maid brought back from the market fresh for days. He called it morbid, for her to enjoy this place. The worms were close. The bones of the house were even closer. The heartbeat of the residence above echoed and rebounded through the cavern of the dark basement, the wooden support of ribs falling off into what felt like the void where the light of the lamp did not entirely reach. She had taken to cleaning the cellar out, when embroidery or painting did not suit her. She similarly treated the attic, with its shroud-wrapped pieces of old furniture or the scattered statuary of her maker’s long-dead relatives. To explore those remnants of his history was to imagine other worlds. Other people to populate her life with.

When he cared to he would tell her about them, or point to portraits in the salon that cluttered up the walls. He would show her the treasures of his curio collection: jewel-like beetles from foreign climes, luscious red coral the same hue as her lips. Skulls, smooth and white, or stuffed animals trapped forever in their dioramas beneath glass. Wondrous things. A gentleman’s hoard. He would show her anatomical renderings, or Venus, trapped in wax and made into a reference for surgeons such as he. Bring her flowers as though he were courting her, and lavish her with necklaces laden with jewels, or dresses more confection than proper garment. Beautiful things. Feminine things. He never entirely understood why she only seemed half-interested in them.   But this was one portrait she had yet to see. A gilded edge of a frame peaked out beyond the shroud of wrapping, and she could not entirely help herself. She knew all of the portraits and landscapes in the house as intimately as though they were friends. Her hand peeled the paper away, slowly, slowly. She unwrapped it like she imagined a bride being unwrapped on her wedding night. Hands trembled with the anticipation of discovery, of finding a truth once obscured. The tickle of memory, or some song half-forgotten. The paper slid out of her hands in the end anyway, crackled as it fell at her feet. She barely heard it.

For a handful of moments, she thought that perhaps she had a sister, once. Perhaps that was why the paintings were sequestered away, wrapped in their paper that crinkled and sighed when moved from one corner of the basement to another to clean it out properly. The muscles of the woman trapped within the painting were held differently than her own. Her cheekbones were fine, pale skin stretched taut and flushed with life. Eyes bright with the fever of youth, her smile gentle and curving and knowing.

Nepenthe could find parts of herself in that painting, in who she was supposed to be, who she might have been, once. But this woman, this half-stranger, was an ideal. Who she was now stretched ragged between the two: porcelain-skinned opus, not yet achieved; and that facsimile formed in pigment. Sealed away under lacquer forever. Not like her. No, Nepenthe would always be who she was. And for all his attempts, her maker could never transform her into this stranger.

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