Chapter 1 – Sylvain

Vain & Glory header image

Sylvain was seven when she first saw the creature that would haunt her. 

She was walking with her mother and sister outside a Seven Eleven, all three of them sipping blue slurpees when the creature walked passed her. Its hair was long and green and its eyes were purple and its skin was so pale Sylvain thought she could see the spidery network of veins on her arms. A pair of shimmering gold wings brushed Sylvain’s skin. They were as cold and as soft as silk. 

“Look, Glory, look! She looks like a butterfly!” Sylvain said, looking back into the same blue eyes as her own. Glory squinted her same black eyebrows and wiped blue slurpee from the same heart shaped mouth. 

“I don’t see anything,” Glory said, pronouncing every word perfectly. 

“But-” 

Their mother squeezed Sylvain’s arm. 

“That’s enough, Sylvain, Glory. Let’s get in the car.” 

Sylvain looked back at the woman with the gold, silken wings. She was smiling at her, the edges of her lips drawn up severely on her cheeks. A shiver ran down Sylvain’s spine. She got in the car and slumped down in her seat. Her twin sister sat on the seat next to her with perfect posture, not a spot of blue on her white summer dress. 

They got home and changed out of their dresses and into their home clothes. Glory chased their dog, Peppermint, in a polka dot sundress. Sylvain sat in a lawn chair in ripped overalls and a Hercules t-shirt. 

“Sylvain saw a fairy today,” Glory told Fiona, a neighbor girl. The girl giggled at the revelation. 

“There’s no such thing as fairies, stupid,” she said. 

“Yeah, stupid,” Glory said. 

Sylvain scowled at the name. 

“Jerk,” Sylvain said as she hit her sister in the arm. 

“Mom, Vain hit me!”

Their mother looked up from her perch beside the pool and pursed her lips. 

“Vain, what have we said about hitting your sister?” 

“Glory was being a jerk and told Fiona that I saw a fairy today.” 

“Which she didn’t because fairies don’t exist.” 

“I know what I saw, Glory,” Sylvain replied. 

“No, you don’t, because fairies don’t exist.” 

“Shut up, Glory!” 

Sylvain lunged at her sister. Their mother yelled for her to stop. She simply pointed toward the house and Sylvain knew she was to go into her room for the rest of the evening. 

That night, their mother tucked them into bed. As she hovered over Sylvain, her brown waves cascading over her left shoulder, she whispered something to her daughter. 

“I saw her, too.” 

I saw her, too. The admission made Sylvain’s stomach knot. Relief washed over her as she realized she wasn’t alone in seeing the magical woman walking into a convenience store at four in the afternoon. But then Sylvain scowled. 

“Why didn’t you say anything when Glory and Fiona called me stupid?” Sylvain whispered back. Her mother looked over at Glory, who was already fast asleep. 

“It’s complicated,” her mother replied. 

“uh-huh,” Sylvain replied. “You let them make fun of me.” 

She rolled over on her side, her back facing her mother. 

“Sylvain -” her mother said. Sylvain could feel her mother’s long fingers running across her back, but she didn’t turn around. After several moments her mother sighed and stood. She walked out of the room. Sylvain closed her eyes and when she opened them again, the room was illuminated by the light of the moon. Sometime in her sleep she had rolled onto her other side facing her sister, and the window that separated their two beds. 

Their curtain was gauzy and in her half asleep state, Sylvain thought she saw something, no, someone outside her window. 

Get a grip, she thought. It’s just your imagination. 

But then the figure turned away from the window, the shape of its wings causing Sylvain to stifle a scream. She tossed and turned the rest of the night. When she woke in the morning, she told herself that it had been a nightmare. Of course no one had been outside her window. How could they be? Their room was on the second floor, after all.

Glory rolled out of bed and opened the curtains, the first thing she did each morning. Sylvain rubbed at her eyes as she kicked off her blankets and stood. 

Her gaze traveled to the window. 

What she saw there made her heart drop. 

A fully formed handprint rested on the other side of the glass. The palm of the hand was small compared to the fingers, which looked to be long, longer than even her mother’s. Next to the handprint was a word that Sylvain didn’t know. 

Danuat

Now, as she stood in her own apartment, 28-year-old Sylvain saw the word once again written on window. It was also written in blood on her walls and in sugar on her grey marble counters. 

Her apartment was a wreck – her paintings were punched through and tossed onto the ground. Pictures and tchotchkes were broken, leaving glass in nonsensical trails along the fake wooden floors. 

Sylvain tried to control her breath as she crept down her hallway, where the wrought iron decor she hung on the wall was bent into spikes. 

Her bedroom door was closed over. 

She stopped before it, closing her eyes and repeating the mantra her mother taught her in her head. 

“I control the Sight, the Sight does not control me. I control the Sight, the Sight does not control me. I control-“ 

She heard a rustling sound, like feet tracking across plastic. The door knob was cold beneath her hand. She pushed open the door, thinking she’d come face to face with whatever creature destroyed her apartment while she’d been at her studio. 

But the only creature in her room was her Husky, Nebula. 

Sylvain sighed and leaned against the door frame. 

“Come here, girl,” she said. Her dog groaned and ran toward her, standing on her hind legs and pressing into Sylvain’s stomach.

She looked around the room, her heartbeat slowing. This room hadn’t been as ransacked as the others, and she was thankful that she didn’t have as much to clean. 

She looked down at her dog, Nebula’s tail wagging and her blue eyes wide. 

“What we are gonna do about this mess?” Sylvain asked. She brought a hand down and ran  it through Nebula’s coat. 

Before her eyes a second hand appeared beside her own on her dog’s neck. The skin was orange and white stripes, the pattern continuing up the arm. Sylvain gasped as she turned to her left just as the face of a Nautilus materialized on top of the gaunt, striped body. Nebula barked and jumped at the creature, who still kept its grip on her scruff. 

The Nautilus craned its neck toward Sylvain until its angular face and lidless white eyes were mere inches from her own.

“Unga thramine yote, Danuat,” the creature breathed. It brought its other hand to Sylvain’s cheek, its skin like sandpaper as moved. 

“Leave me alone,” Sylvain said. 

“Unga thramine yote, Danuat,” the creature repeated. It stuck out a tongue and licked her cheek. Sylvain groaned. Nebula barked. Sylvain slowly slid a hand along the edge of her door frame until her fingers brushed the iron pipe she kept beside the door. 

With a grunt she brought the bar down on the Nautilus’ head. It screeched and let go of Nebula, who lunged at the creature, sending it across the hall into the bathroom. Sylvain whipped the pipe back and forth, hitting the creature in the arm and chest. It mewed as it stepped into the bathroom and in one motion exploded into a fine mist. 

Nebula barked two more times before stepping into the bathroom and sniffing at the mist. 

“Nebula, no,” Sylvain said, pulling the dog back by the collar. She closed the bathroom door, though she knew it wouldn’t do much good. The Nautilus was a water fey, and their ability to shift into water or mist allowed them to bypass most barriers. 

Sylvain walked her dog back into her bedroom and into her crate. 

“Just for a moment, baby,” she said. 

Then she pulled out her phone and began to record. 

 

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