How we think the fight will go
The U.S. government had thought the lead-walled Faraday prison cell would contain Carrie White, and it did—for a while. But they missed an important fact—telekinetic energy, when confined in such an enclosed space, increases in pressure like gas from an unattended stove building up inside a house. All it needs is the tiniest spark.
That spark was an especially bad sandwich and a cup of cold prison soup.
When Carrie emerged from the smoking wreckage of her cell, she found herself in a bizarre, high tech laboratory. In the center of the lab, surrounded by the dazed and unconscious technicians and armed guards in pools of blood, stood a rectangular frame connected to an elaborate bank of computers. It looked like a doorway, but inside the frame azure light crackled and swirled. It was beautiful in there.
And then she heard the heavy footsteps and buzzing radios from outside the lab. Shouts. Hammering at the door. They were coming for her.
“Never again,” she said. She’d rather die than live in another lonely, wretched prison cell. The blue energy vortex beckoned her. If walking into it killed her, so be it. She was done with this world, anyway. Maybe the door led to Heaven. In Heaven, maybe she’d be forgiven for all the people she’d killed in her short, miserable life.
Carrie leapt through the doorway into the electric blue unkown.
* * *
3 Years Later
Anya Stark dismounted her horse at the entrance to a grove of gnarled, pallid trees. The Kindly Man had told her to be cautious—the witch woman who lived within was a wild one, with magic of the sort no one had ever seen. “Magic from another world,” he had said. “And three men who have attempted to slay her never returned. But a young girl . . . may be able to gain her trust. Long enough to sink in a blade.”
Arya shivered. She still disliked killing, but this witch had laid waste to the nearby town and all of its inhabitants. All because the butcher’s unruly children had thrown a bucket of pig’s blood on her in the market. So last night, Arya had added another name to her prayer: Carrie White. Valar Morghulis.
Her hand rested on the dagger concealed within her cloak. Walking in with Needle at her side would be folly, so she buried it in leaves beside a nearby boulder. She wiped her dirty hands on her face. A lost, poor girl might gather the witch’s sympathy. She preferred not to think what might happen if her ruse didn’t work.
The path into the woods wound like a serpent through more of the ugly, warped trees and thorny thickets. It ended at a small house with a mossy roof and smoke rising from a crude rock chimney. The warped door looked like it had been cut from one of the twisted trees, and bowed out from the inside. The entire house, in truth, appeared to be swollen from the inside, like a water bladder filled to bursting.
“Hello?” Arya called out. “Hello, is anyone at home?”
The door opened, scraping against its frame. A pale face emerged from the darkness. “Who are you?” the witch whispered.
“Cat. My mother called me that. But then she died, and my father left me in these woods all alone. I’ve been eating nothing but bugs and nettles and I am terribly hungry. Can you please help me?”
Carrie’s eyes narrowed. “Do you know who I am?”
Arya shook her head. The witch had a strange accent Arya couldn’t place. “No, my lady. But your house seems warm and I ask only for a bit to eat and maybe a place to rest by a fire before I try to find my way to the city.” She forced tears from her eyes. It wasn’t hard—just thinking of her father and her dead family did the trick. “But I don’t really have a home anymore. Just one night, if you could be so kind.”
Carrie’s face remained stony. “You’re alone? No men with you?”
Arya wiped at the tears. “Just me. I don’t have any friends, and especially no men. I don’t want to let any men near me.”
Carrie stared. “Okay. One night.”
Arya smiled. “Oh, thank you,” she said, ignoring the dagger’s haft pressing against her bare flesh.
* * *
After a supper of wild mushrooms, rabbit stew, and black bread (which Arya gobbled up quickly; she really was quite hungry), Carrie sat with her by the fire. The witch woman wasn’t scary at all. In fact, she seemed rather meek. Arya felt a twinge of guilt, but shoveled it aside. This was her job. This witch had flattened an entire village—quite literally, as when Arya had ridden through it every piece of timber and every stone had been shattered or burned to ash.
“Where do you come from, Cat?” Carrie asked.
Arya told her the story she had rehearsed. Midway through, when she was talking about how she had had to hunt for rats and pigeons for dinner on the streets of Flea Bottom, Carrie stopped her with a lifted finger. “You’re not telling me everything. You’re hiding something.”
The Kindly Man had warned her that this witch had the power to see hidden thoughts. “Nothing, my lady. “
“You’re not who you claim to be,” Carrie said quietly. The flames from the fire reflected in her pupils like dancing snakes. “I will ask you one time, Cat, or whatever your name is—who sent you and why are you here?”
Arya’s hand tightened around the dagger, which she’d transferred to her boot. She put on her most sincere smile. “I suppose it was the wind that sent me,” she said, removing the dagger. “When my father abandoned me—”
“Liar!” Carrie hissed. She stood.
Arya pushed herself from the table, pulled her hand behind her back and flung the dagger straight at Carrie’s heart. Syrio Forel had taught her well, and her aim was true.
But the dagger stopped. In mid-air. Just hung there, then clattered to the table.
Arya slid beneath the table just as Carrie’s plate whipped past her head and smashed against the wall. She grabbed the witch’s ankle and bit down hard. Carrie screamed and kicked. She was surprisingly strong, and Arya flew backward as if she were a tiny dog. Her head smacked against the chair, and motes of light swirled about her vision.
The table rose from the ground, then flew and shattered against the far wall. Carrie loomed over her now, eyes wide, mouth drawn in an angry snarl. Arya felt like a mouse cowering beneath The Hound’s boot. There was nowhere to hide. How terrible it would be, after all she had been through, to die like an insect at the hands of this witch.
In the corner of her vision she saw the dagger, lying amid pieces of the shattered table.
Arya stood. She wasn’t going to die like a frightened child. Carrie shrieked, and Arya jumped and rolled. And just in time, because the heavy pot of rabbit stew barely missed her. Instead, it smacked into Carrie’s head, upending on her. Carrie screamed as the thick, hot broth ran down her head, her neck, her shoulders. In any other situation Arya would have laughed.
Arya reached for the dagger.
The entire house filled with a pressure that made Arya feel like three men were standing on her chest. Carrie’s scream rose in pitch. Ceramic pots exploded. The pressure increased, and Arya could barely lift the dagger—it felt as if strong hands were pulling her arm down. What mad magic this witch commanded! She hadn’t felt this small and insignificant since she had been a child roaming inside the walls of Winterfell.
And then something faltered in the witch’s rage. Carrie’s eyes softened, just the tiniest bit. She was peering into Arya’s mind, riffling through her past. Images flashed through her mind, vivid and real. Sansa laughing at her dirty face. The boys of Winterfell mocking her—Arya Horseface, skinny as a stick, long-faced, and filthy as a pig. She felt the shame and rage rising within her as the memories flicked by.
And then the atmosphere of the cabin changed. Carrie blinked. Tears ran from her eyes. “Arya, little girl—why didn’t you tell me? You’re just like me.”
Arya dropped the dagger. Tears ran from her eyes. She sobbed. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. They asked me to do it. They said I didn’t have any choice.” She crawled across the floor to Carrie. “Please forgive me, lady.”
Carrie, still dripping with the rabbit stew, held Arya tightly and ran her greasy fingers through the girl’s hair. “You can stay with me,” she said. “No one can hurt us here.”
* * *
Later that night, as Carrie the witch lay sleeping, Arya crept quietly to her bedside. She touched the blade of the dagger with her thumb. Felt the blood rise from the razor-thin nick.
When it was finished, she cleaned herself up but left the blade buried deep in Carrie’s chest. For anyone who found her to see. “Carrie White. Valar Morghulis,” she whispered. Outside a crow cackled, then fluttered into the air.
Predicted Winner: Arya Stark
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON Monday, March 24, 2014, AT 12:00 PM, EST
Editor’s Note: Michael M. Hughes writes both fiction and nonfiction. His book Blackwater Lights is based on a short story that first appeared in Legends of the Mountain State: Ghostly Tales from the State of West Virginia. When he’s not writing, Hughes lectures on paranormal and Fortean topics and performs as a mentalist. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife and two daughters.
Cage Match fans: We are looking forward to hearing your responses! If possible, please abstain from including potential spoilers about the books in your comments (and if you need spoilers to make your case, start your comments with: “SPOILER ALERT!”