Uninformed/mistaken references to dissociative identity disorder/plurality
Amina hadn’t told the other girls about the knife.
She took comfort in that while the fighting was going on — in the weight and pressure of the blade: six inches of smooth, unblemished black steel. Amina had never known a knife so beautiful. Perhaps blades like this belonged only in hell. She kept it contained inside the strange stiff sheath, wrapped in an extra shirt beneath her clothes, pressed against the bare skin of her ribs and belly. Her hidden claw.
She took comfort in the secret itself, too. The secret knife felt familiar — though her illicit lethality was hardly remarkable among all the other damned and demons and devils. If she told the others about the knife they would probably consider it a sensible precaution.
So why not tell them? Her own demon was gone, at long last. Since awakening in that metal coffin, Amina had not felt the urge, not once. In damnation, in hell, she was finally free.
But still, she hid the knife.
Amina focused on the sensation of the knife against her ribs as she cowered inside that dirty stone house, tucked deep down in the shadows, her body wrapped in that oversized coat. She was trying not to listen. Gunshots and explosions floated across the road outdoors, through the rainstorm, penetrating the walls of the concrete bunker; Ilyusha had taught her those words — ‘concrete’ and ‘bunker’ — along with dozens of others, like ‘firearm’, ‘bullet’, and ‘bitch’. Amina didn’t like any of those words, but she liked Ilyusha, so she had listened and learned, though she had struggled to understand. She knew that she lacked proper context, but that did not help. Amina had always thought of herself as quite clever; she read better than all five of her elder sisters, and father had encouraged her to write down her few attempts at poetry. But reading was not knowing. Hell was teaching her that.
Vicky and Kagami crouched in the doorway, up the little flight of stairs. Stinking rain pounded the concrete beyond the doorway. Vicky tried to offer some words of encouragement, because Vicky was very kind, but they were both quickly distracted by Kagami’s running commentary on the fight. Kagami’s magic seeing-glass allowed her to look through the walls. Amina didn’t understand most of the terminology — “Fucking mobile drone bombs!”, “Pincer movement, smart, smart, good, I agree,” “She’s right on top of you, look up! Look up! Argh!” — but she could follow the flow. She wished she could stop listening.
She wasn’t afraid for Ilyusha. She had been at first, when Illy had left the bunker to fight the revenant with the big gun. Without Illy, Amina would be alone. Illy was the only one similar to her. The only one with a demon. Amina could not take another death, not so soon. Not after her sisters. Not after the pile of corpses in Qarya’s central square.
But the angel was at Illy’s side. And the angel was invincible.
Amina didn’t want to listen — because Illy and the angel were about to make another corpse. Even without her demon, Amina wanted to see that corpse. She’d always thought that fascination belonged to the demon. But it was her own.
As the gunshots and explosions raged and Kagami hissed and winced, Amina pressed her hand to the knife beneath her clothes. She wormed her fingers in deep and held the strange smooth grip. Amina wasn’t sure if Kagami had seen the knife, but Kagami hadn’t said anything.
A couple of minutes of tense silence passed, filled only with rain, then Kagami snapped: “They’re letting her go!” Her voice echoed in the confined space of the bunker’s single room. “They’re letting her fucking go! What the hell do they think they’re doing?!”
Vicky was panting as she said: “But it’s over. It’s over, right? I’m sure Elpi had a good reason. Maybe this was all a mistake.”
Kagami was furious. “That little fucking borged-up weasel had the sniper literally on the floor! Gun in her face! And what, this is the one time she holds back?!”
Amina spoke up, surprising herself: “But nobody died? Nobody got … nobody died … ”
Kagami hissed between her teeth. She didn’t look at Amina. “Yes, yes. They’re both intact. A bit bruised, I expect, but nothing major. The sniper’s leaving — fuck me, but she’s fast. She’ll be out of range in a moment. Here they come, slinking back home. Pair of morons. I’m going to have some fucking questions for your little friend.”
When Ilyusha and the angel returned to the bunker, they were more than a ‘bit bruised’, in both body and soul.
They entered with rainwater streaming from their coats, laden down with equipment. Amina stayed back as the door was closed and barred; she would only get in the way if she tried to help — and she recognised the undirected anger in Ilyusha’s slumped shoulders. Undirected anger always made her afraid. As soon as the pair were down the steps and safe, Vicky and Kagami showered them with questions.
“Are you hurt? You got wounded, we saw—”
“What the hell did you think you were doing? You fucking moron—”
“Here, put your weapons down, get that coat—”
“That thing was threatening to murder us all, and you—”
“Elpi, slow, go slow, take it easy—”
But Ilyusha was sad and bitter. She shrugged off the words and her coats alike. Blood was drying all over her face and matted in the front of her blonde hair, sticky and hot and crimson. Her own blood. Smeared across her lips.
Illy, covered in her own blood. Amina’s heart strained at the beauty.
Amina tried very hard not to show how she felt as she hurried to Ilyusha’s side — those thoughts were demon thoughts, the same as the corpse-love. Ilyusha folded toward her, tucked into the soft meat of her body, none the wiser. Amina took her hand and inspected the cut on her scalp. She wished she had needle and thread, and something to use as antiseptic.
She whispered: “Illy. You’re wounded. You’re all bloody.”
But Ilyusha ignored her. Ilyusha was part of the argument. Amina wanted to slip away into the corner, but Ilyusha wanted her, so she stayed very still and very silent and prayed to go unnoticed.
“—on our side,” Ilyusha grunted.
Kagami snapped: “What do you mean, our ‘side’? What sides are there out here? There’s no sides left to fucking take, you moron!”
The angel spoke, firm and clear, despite the pain around her eyes: “Kagami, you’re not listening. It was a mistake. A bad one, but an honest one. As far as I can tell, Serin hunts the ‘death’s head’ people we saw back at the tomb. And Necromancers. She wasn’t really after us.”
Kagami scoffed. “Shooting you in the gut, blowing up this little idiot here, using a dozen explosive drones, and then blasting your skull with a gravitic weapon. What was all that, then? Flirting?”
“The gravitic weapon only works on Necromancers. And I’m fine. She was genuinely mistaken. I do not believe she was lying to us.”
Ilyusha hissed: “Fucking shit cunt bitch. Stupid fuck. Should’a shouted to me.”
Vicky laughed awkwardly, and said, “Sounds like she should have checked her targets.”
Kagami snapped at the angel, “And you bought that? You believed that? You let her go, because she sold you some grade-A bullshit.”
The angel shook her head. “I suspect we never actually had Serin at a disadvantage, even when Ilyusha had her pinned. She was heavily modified beneath her robes. Likely armoured. If she had truly wanted to kill us then, I believe she could have done so. She wasn’t even afraid of getting shot.”
Ilyusha hissed, sarcastic: “Immune to bullets. Fuck.”
The angel was wounded too, weary and in pain. She was tensed up around some kind of stomach wound. She kept spitting and drooling dark red arterial blood. Her right index finger was purple and swollen. Vicky fussed over her, handing her a shirt to mop up the blood. The angel thanked her. Amina could barely look, the angel was too beautiful.
The angel raised her broken finger and said: “I’ve already snapped it back into place. I think there’s two distinct fractures, but I can’t be sure. I’m going to let it heal naturally. It’ll be fine.”
Kagami grumbled: “Oh, great, yes, we’ll just wait for our only competent shooter’s trigger finger to heal. Great plan.”
The angel said: “I would prefer to conserve our nanomachine supply.”
Vicky said, “Elpi, come on, you’ve got internal bleeding and you’ve got it bad. You’re ready to drop. You’re barely standing. Drink a mouthful of blue gunk. Just one swig. Please.”
Kagami said, “She could dunk her finger in the raw nanos. Maybe that would work. Who knows?”
Ilyusha snorted. The angel said, “I’m fine. I’ll be fine. I’m more considerably robust than a baseline human being.”
Vicky sighed heavily; the sigh reminded Amina of her mother. She tried not to think about her mother. Vicky said: “Elpi, for fuck’s sake. Yeah you’re real big and strong, super-soldier girl, we all know that, but you’re not invincible. You’ve got nothing to prove.”
Amina knew better; the angel was both immortal and invincible.
Elpida was an angel. Amina had suspected this since before they’d escaped from the pyramid. The fight with the terrible monster had only reinforced her suspicions — what damned soul would throw herself at a demon of hell for others trapped in this place?
But when Elpida came back to life, suspicion became certainty. Amina had pretended to be asleep as Elpida had choked and spluttered and clawed her way back up from hell’s deeper reaches. The others — including Elpida herself — spoke about nanomachines and resurrection and heart muscles, about being animated by tiny invisible clockwork. Ilyusha had whispered to Amina about those things, but Amina knew the truth. Pira had helped by smearing the blue stuff inside Elpida’s wounds, which confused Amina because Pira was terrifying; perhaps Pira knew the truth as well, and wanted to keep the angel alongside them for her own ends.
Elpida was taller than any woman Amina had ever seen, irrespective of breeding or class or diet. Taller than any man, too. Taller even than the armoured Frankish knights who loomed so large in Amina’s waking nightmares of her own death. Elpida moved a little bit like those knights, frightening in her confidence and her economy of motion — but without the swagger and the aggression. Elpida led them where no other could find the right words. She was strong, muscled beneath her clothes like nothing Amina had ever imagined. She was clever, and kind, and impossibly beautiful; that long white hair was not natural, the angles of her face were too perfect to be human, and her voice was like a baited hook, dusky and smooth and honeyed. The angel was so beautiful that Amina could barely look at her without burning inside.
And now she was wounded, and bloodied, and aching — and all the more beautiful for it, just as she had been in death. When the angel had been laid out on the floor of the bunker, Amina had crept forward to touch her face while all the others were sleeping or distracted, just once.
Those were demon thoughts too. Amina had not expected them.
At first, Amina had assumed that Elpida must have done something very terrible to be cast into hell. Had she disobeyed God? Had she turned against other angels? Had she led a rebellion?
God must be wrong, God must be mad, to cast out such an angel.
Amina could not extend such charity to herself. She knew she was meant to be here, in hell, with all the other monsters.
As Vicky helped Elpida drink a small, carefully measured mouthful of the glowing blue magical potion, Amina realised: not all of the blood around Elpida’s lips was from her own internal bleeding. The crimson was smeared across her mouth like a kiss. Ilyusha’s lips and mouth were smeared in a similar fashion.
A blessing! The angel had blessed Ilyusha during combat, with a kiss, because Illy was worthy. Amina felt herself smile, felt her eyes grow moist with pleasure, but then—
A tremble of desire.
Where had the blood come from? Did the angel bite Illy? Did Illy bite the angel? Would Amina ever be worthy of a kiss like that? She doubted, but she wanted. Her lips trembled, her chest fluttered; she barely felt when Ilyusha detached herself from Amina’s side and clicked off toward the doorway to the rest of the bunker. She didn’t notice her own hand touching the knife beneath her clothes. Vicky happened to glance at her; that brought her back to herself. She let go of the knife.
She turned and whispered: “Illy?”
Elpida was peeling off her coat and lifting her shirt to inspect the massive bruise across her stomach. Vicky was helping, actually touching the angel’s ribs and stomach; Amina had to look away from that, or she would freeze up. Kagami was grumbling, pulling her magic seeing-glass off her head. And Ilyusha wanted to wash her face, in the other room with the cistern full of water. Amina fetched the one empty cannister, so as not to contaminate their drinking supply. She hurried to join Ilyusha in the relative privacy of the cistern room. Amina caught Ilyusha about to dunk her whole head and face into the trough of water.
“Illy!” she whispered. “Let me help. Please, Illy, Illy, let me … let me … ”
Ilyusha snorted. Amina knew it was not for her, but she flinched anyway. But then Ilyusha straightened up and stepped back, waiting.
Amina filled the cannister and gently washed Ilyusha’s face. She poured cold, clear water over the shallow head wound, cleaning out fragments of dry clot. She rinsed Ilyusha’s hair. She dabbed at the bloody mess of Ilyusha’s face with a spare shirt from their rapidly dwindling supply. Ilyusha endured the attention with folded arms, grey eyes turned away, her metal tail lashing the air.
Amina knew that her lethal friend was humiliated and frustrated somehow. She knew she should stay quiet, so as not to draw that anger down upon herself. But temptation danced on her tongue.
Every second alongside Ilyusha presented a paradox Amina had never felt in life: fear of anger was transmuted by the beauty of that red-spike tail-tip, by the shiver of Illy’s claws going shick-shick in and out of her fingertips, by the tip-tap of her metal feet on the concrete floor.
Amina thought it would be a beautiful thing to be pierced by those claws.
Which was why she said, in a tiny whisper: “Illy, please don’t be angry.”
touch me rake me penetrate my skin
“Mm?” Ilyusha turned those slate-grey eyes toward her. Amina shivered inside. She wiped a streak of blood from Ilyusha’s jawbone. She longed to suck on the bloodstained shirt. She forced herself to resist.
“Please don’t be angry,” she murmured. “I feel … complicated, when you’re angry. Clean anger is okay. But this … makes me … ”
touch me touch me touch me touch me
“Ehhhh.” Ilyusha unfolded her arms and reached out to hold Amina’s flank with one hand, gentle and comforting. She looped her tail around Amina’s back, the sharp spike inches from Amina’s shoulder. Amina could barely breathe; she tried not to show it. “Not angry,” Ilyusha grunted. “Not with you, Ami. World’s a fuck.”
please God please merciful God tell her to open my belly and spill me upon the floor please God please
Amina waited, praying silently for those claws to cut into her flesh. But Ilyusha was gentle and God was not listening. Ilyusha was not God’s creature, after all.
“ … okay,” Amina whispered eventually. She resumed tending to her friend.
Was this what she was reduced to, without her demon?
Amina had been drawn to Ilyusha by urges she did not understand. She had justified it to herself with the fact that Ilyusha was short and young, like her. The others were all taller, older, and far more frightening.
But that wasn’t the truth; Ilyusha excited her in a way she’d never felt before. Ilyusha was like her. Ilyusha was sharp and vicious and violent — things Amina would never have loved in life. At first she had worried it was her demon, staying silent and unseen, guiding her to new perversions.
Amina had not told Ilyusha about the knife, but she was certain that Ilyusha knew. During all their time cuddled up beneath the spare coats over the last two days, Ilyusha must have felt the hard steel secret against Amina’s belly. Surely she knew.
Besides, Illy must know, because Illy had a demon too.
Ilyusha’s demon was on the outside, in her beautiful metal limbs and her impossible tail and her incredible violence. Or rather, Ilyusha was the demon, and the other girl who sometimes whispered to Amina, she was the host. Ilyusha’s demon was clever and strong and protective. Ilyusha had found a good use for her demon, had made friends with it, and given it free reign.
Amina had often wished she could do the same.
Over the following couple of hours, the others all managed to return to sleep, or at least to lie down and rest. Kagami had an argument with Elpida, using a lot of words and phrases which Amina didn’t understand — “strategic vulnerability”, “hoodwinked”, “trolling” — but Amina could tell that it wasn’t a real argument. The tones told the truth. Kagami was afraid and trying to hide it; she vented for a while, then lay down in a huff and dragged a coat over her head. Elpida and Vicky vanished into the other room for about twenty minutes, beyond Amina’s earshot. She was afraid Elpida would cry and scream again. The angel’s grief had been so terrible to overhear, full of rage and sorrow; Amina was certain she would be flayed alive and reduced to ash if she witnessed it up close. She wondered what Vicky was made of, to endure that pain at such close proximity. But there was no crying or screaming. Vicky and Elpida returned shortly. Vicky had to help Elpida lie down, even though she only had one working arm. Elpida’s stomach was obviously causing her a lot of pain, the muscles going stiff with deep bruises and organ damage.
It was beautiful to watch the angel struggle with her pain.
Ilyusha burrowed down inside their makeshift bed of coats, snuggling into Amina’s flank. Amina liked that. Her body was not pretty or slender or graceful, like her older sisters had been; she was pudgy and thick around the middle, clumsy with her footsteps and her fingers alike. But she was good for cuddling. Illy used her like a pillow.
The first time they had slept in the bunker was after they had fled from the terrible battle with the monster. Amina didn’t understand the city they’d fled through — the impossibly tall buildings, the smooth black surfaces of ancient roads, the fake stone and the black sky and the angel’s corpse in Pira’s arms. She’d understood even less when Pira had gone to work on the angel’s unbreathing meat. She’d retreated, buried herself, been ready to scream, taking comfort only in the knife.
But Ilyusha had spent a long time whispering to Amina beneath the nest of coats. Illy had taught her words, gossiped about the others, asked her questions about herself. Amina had told her all about Qarya and her five elder sisters, and her father, who was very smart and very clever with words and very quick with the merchants. She told Ilyusha about the beauty of her father’s olive groves, and shared one of the poems she had once written, one about the taste of olives in sunlight. It helped to focus on life before the end, before the Franks had built a pile of corpses in Qarya’s burned out remains.
This time, as they snuggled down for sleep, Ilyusha was too exhausted and too sore for much whispering.
Head beneath the covers, Amina murmured: “Illy?”
Ilyusha’s eyes were already closed, her warm metal limbs wrapped around Amina’s torso, her tail looped through Amina’s legs. She grunted. “Mm?”
“The … ‘sniper’, was she very strong and very terrible?”
Ilyusha was silent for a long moment. Amina thought her sharp friend had already fallen asleep. But then Illy said: “Big moron. Don’t worry. Safe with me, Ami. Safe.”
Illy fell asleep after that. Amina struggled to follow.
She didn’t mind sleeping on the floor. In her family house in Qarya she’d had a proper bed, though shared with two of her sisters. She didn’t mind the omnipresent sound of soft, shallow breathing which filled the bunker, nor the static drumming of the rainstorm on the concrete roof as it slowly trailed off. She didn’t even mind when the angel turned on her side to spit and cough blood into a spare shirt. She considered creeping out of her nest to touch that blood. The thought of tasting it made her quiver inside.
Demon thoughts. Bad thoughts. Who tasted blood? Not her. Not anymore.
Amina couldn’t sleep because she hadn’t prayed.
She hadn’t thought about prayer since she’d woken up inside that metal box. For the last few days — the days since her mortal death — she had not prayed even once. It was the first time in her life she had not prayed daily, since she was old enough to remember. True, she had offered up improvised pleas to God, begging really, but she had not sat and prayed, not properly. How could she? She didn’t even know which way to face; if what the others said about the shape of the world was true, then Mecca could be anywhere. If she was correct, if she was in hell, then what use were prayers?
God was great and God was merciful. But God was not here. God did not love Amina.
Her hand found the knife again, safe beneath her clothes. The knife was here. Ilyusha was here.
Amina had taken the knife from the room full of weapons inside the pyramid. She had slipped it inside her clothes when nobody was looking. Back then, she had not understood what ‘guns’ were, but she knew knives all too well. She had worried that the impulse to conceal the knife was the demon working through her, lurking inside her heart. But she had not felt it stirring. She had not felt the urge.
The others all had metal parts. Even Vicky did, hidden inside her body. If the metal parts were gifts from God, then perhaps the part of her which had played host to the demon was gone. Perhaps it had been replaced with metal.
In the shared darkness of the concrete bunker, in place of prayer, Amina cried a few silent tears of relief. The demon was dead. Her own end had robbed it of any more victims.
Ilyusha snuggled against her side. A single red claw pressed against Amina’s shoulder, twitching in and out. She shivered and gasped.
Maybe hell was not so bad after all, with a friend, and no demon.
In the shared darkness, she stared at the angel’s beauty, a few feet away on the floor. She stared at Elpida’s white hair curled around her neck, at her elegant muscles, at the secret wounds beneath her clothes. She saw in her mind’s eye the blood-smeared kiss on Elpida’s lips, from Illy to the angel — or the other way around?
Amina’s palm was clammy on her hidden knife. Her hand was shaking.
Her demon was gone. She did not feel the urge.
She did not feel the urge.
She did not feel-
A knife for comfort, pressed to skin; a knife for a claw, ready to be bloodied. But on whom, or what?
Surprise! It’s a POV shift! And it’s Amina! And she’s probably not quite what you were expecting, yes? Turns out our quiet little revenant has got some deep currents below her surface, and some … difficult needs to feed. She’s also out of her depth, compared to those from more informed ages. But she’s doing her best. We may stay with her for a few chapters, or jump back and forth over the course of this arc. Depends on a few things about how it unfolds. Hope you’re all enjoying!
If you want more Necroepilogos right away, there is a tier for it on my patreon:
Right now this only offers a single chapter ahead, about 4k words. Please, do feel free to wait until there’s plenty more to read! I’m still trying to somehow put out more chapters ahead, maybe soon!
There’s also a TopWebFiction entry, for voting. Voting makes the story go up the rankings, which helps more people see it!
And thank you so much for reading my story. I dearly hope you are enjoying it as much as I am. More next chapter! More Amina, for now.
Aww, Ami, I love you too, you freaky lil lesbian 💜
I love her so much and I’ve been so excited to finally get her POV on the page. Hooray!
Well, well, well, isn’t Amina a cute little creature.
Can’t wait to see how the others react when they find out. Even better can’t wait to see if they (mostly Elpida and Ilyusha) can help Amina with her fetishes. Hope she comes to terms with who she is. Hahaha, the world isn’t ready for her if she does.
Is she Middle Eastern? 300 – 600 A.D.?
Thank you for the chapter.
Later, given the references to Mecca and to Franks
Yah, that’s correct.
Damn and thanks, I was far off.
She is cute! Perfect!
The others discovering what she’s really like might be a bit shocking, but considering everything else they’ve seen so far, probably not very upsetting. Ilyusha … well, she might be able to help, indeed!
She is Middle Eastern! Context clues place her probably 11th or 12th century, somewhere in the Levant.
And you are very welcome indeed! Glad you enjoyed it!
Ha, can’t wait. Nice job Author.
Thank you for replying.
You’re very welcome! And thank you!
Well, I certainly didn’t see that one coming, congratulations on thoroughly subverting a few clichés. Every demure Muslim girl in fiction deserves to be a secret lesbian serial killer.
On a separate note, we now know Amina lived and died (and killed?) in an unspecified settlement (qiryat) somewhere in the Levant during the Crusades era, hence she presumably comes between Atyle and Vicky on the timeline. For a while I thought Amina might be the last one before Elpida, living in a society that had lost all knowledge of advanced tech.
I am very very glad to subvert the expected clichés. I’ve been really looking forward to showing there’s more to Amina than demure Muslim girl. She is great and I love her.
And well done, well deduced, that is correct! Amina’s era is pretty easy to pinpoint now, considering her cultural context.
Ooooh. A POV shift. Fun. But since it’s the first one featuring a shift to one of the group that means it will be totally innocent. After all, nothing crazy happens in the apocalypse. Wait, what do mean character shifting revelations. I see nothing alarming here. Anyway, thanks for the chapter!
Nothing happening here, nope! Just a normal girl lost in the post-post-post-apocalypse! Doot dee doo!
And thank you for reading it! I’ve been really looking forward to reaching this part, so I’m glad you enjoyed!
Amina’s worldview makes as much sense as any in this place.
She is making what sense she can of all this, in her own way. Perhaps understanding the technical, scientific aspects of this world is not so important as understanding the meaning behind it all.