Chapter 32c

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Dedicated to RRobynThompson: enjoy! 

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The catwalk lurched with a great squeal that cut across the music. It dropped a half a foot. The abrupt movement knocked the bottle from my hands. It crashed to the floor of the catwalk, dark liquid splashing on my dress and the wood boards. 

The catwalk shuddered again and screeched downward. The bottle rolled crazily, tipping off the edge of the board and disappearing into the air. 

Wallace and Creston staggered, trying to keep their balance. I leaned against the rail for support. 

Wallace pointed to stage left. “Creston, go! I’ll finish here.”

Creston hesitated a moment, but the catwalk had sunk so that the fly gallery was already at his shoulders. He sprinted to the end of the catwalk and leaped at the floor of the fly gallery. He scrambled onto the catwalk railing to claw his way back up to the surface. 

I watched the rope in front of me uncoil. The end was still attached to the batten, now overhead. We were dropping away from it quicker now, and it occurred to me if the catwalk continued to lower, eventually I would be hung even without jumping.

Wallace backed away from me, stage right, eyeing the black wing curtain the edge of the catwalk was brushing behind. “You will jump from the railing, now.

The force of his command propelled me. I climbed on the lower rail.

The catwalk sunk into the glare of the spotlight. 

The spotlight meant for my entrance. How ironic.

As I came into view on the catwalk, the audience gasped. Gasps turned to screams. 

I put one boot on the flat iron surface of the top rail.

The music and noise died. 

The catwalk halted.

“Minx!” Dietrich ran on stage, skidding to a stop below me. Terror and grief contorted his face. “Don’t! Shift! Just like we practiced!”

“You will hang.” Wallace’s firm command crashed through me. 

I have to.

Please, Gia! “Stop it!” He wasn’t screaming at me. He was yelling at Wallace, pleading.

Wallace didn’t reply. But the force of his order shook my body. I couldn’t hesitate any longer. I put my hands on the railing to hoist myself up.

Dietrich’s body glowed with anguish. I will do whatever I must to keep you alive.

Power exploded inside me. Pain rocked my body. My hands gave way and I slumped over the railing. The noose dug roughly into my skin.

I sensed Dietrich’s magic, but also Thea’s and Raymond’s. But it didn’t feel like it had before. There was no safety, no compassion. 

This was brutal, dark, as if they’d all been possessed by an evil force beyond anyone’s control. The power tore through my mind, invading my memories, my thoughts, my soul. It wrestled my magic, twisting it. At last, it consumed my power, exploding back on itself into a black inferno. Nothing remained untouched by its ferocious storm.

“By the name of the Sacred Master, I command you to hang yourself!” Wallace’s compulsion battered me.

It was like a knife slicing my skull in two. I had to obey him.

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