The Child was not a child, yet she was. She was also an old woman; a large, black creature with leathery wings; a horned serpent, a young woman with a large, pregnant belly; and a feathered being surrounded by blinding light. In the midst of all of these flickering images that jostled for dominance, Xia saw her mother’s face, smiling and beckoning to her.
“Come to me,” her mother crooned.
“Stop it,” Xia whimpered. Her brain, which could not process the impossible event happening in front of her, began to hurt. The runes on her arm flared to life, bathing her in soft blue light. She turned her head, and tried to avert her gaze, but The Childlike Thing was everywhere. There seemed to be no escape.
A tingling in Xia’s limbs broadcast to her that she had full control of them again. She lifted her arms, and covered her face with her hands. She gagged reflexively, her stomach lurching and rolling. Through her fingers, she viewed the crowd and attempted to get a better grasp of where she was and who was there with her.
She was astounded by the sheer number of people. All of them lay prostrate on the floor, covering their faces. She heard moans, soft cheers and prayers from the gathered men and women. All wore white, and the tips of their fingers appeared to have been dyed purple. They filled what seemed to be a large chamber, perhaps a temple of some sort. But, Xia thought, if the people were prostrate facing her and The Childlike Thing in a temple, that would mean that the two of them were on some sort of.. altar?
Gasping, Xia dared to look again.
Her mother beckoned. “Come to me!” she whispered urgently. “Let me in.”
“Mama?” she whispered. She knew that the thing was not her mother, yet she could not help but hope that she was wrong.
“Let me in, sweet girl, let me in. Come to me and let me in!”
Against her will, Xia felt herself rise from the soft couch she had been lying on. “No,” she said, but it did not matter. Her feet were moving toward her mother/The Childlike Thing on their own. “No!” she tried again.
The Thing hissed, “Yes, you see? It is the destiny of you to become me to complete the cycle. We must continue and continue and never fall. Now let us in, sweet girl, let us in!”
The pain in Xia’s head intensified; she felt something warm and wet trickling down the sides of her face and from her nose. Astonished, she swiped at the wetness with her hand, and looked. It was blood. She moaned, but her feet did not stop moving. She was almost to the monster.
“Stop it!” she cried. “Stop it! Get out of my head. GET OUT OF MY HEAD!” Xia’s eyes blazed, and a crackling sound filled the air. She lifted her arm and pointed at the monster child. “Don’t make me do this,” she pleaded.
“Do you think you can hurt me with the powers I gifted to you, sweet girl, hmm?” The Child tauted.
“Powers that you.. what?” Her arm trembled, sending sparks sprinkling to the floor.
“I am The One, the true Power, and you are my child and Blessed by Me, you see? I Marked you, I protected you, and I will have you to complete the cycle of my rebirth, yes. You are mine and I am yours-”
“That will be quite enough of that,” The Other said loudly.