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Clay

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She was molded out of wires and circuitry and plastic, which was as good as clay for his purpose. She was made to love him—child of his thought's desire, if no Athene; older and younger—and she did.

It never occurred to her to count her ribs.

She could list, like the alphabet, the weapons to which her hands were attuned. She had a face, and it was a face that pleased him, a mirror-image not forbidden to him, unlike his own. This gave her the first faint blush of pleasure. Salt was upon her, that unforgiving pillar, although she did not realize this. So she spoke, no zombie new-risen. She spoke the words he had caused to be written upon her forehead, the rituals of desire.

Generative grammars only went so far, and the secret binary parts of her would have been happy to compute the combinatorics, if someone asked her. No one did.

She did think about blood. Didn't this make her perfect for his purposes, that she had no blood? He would never have to worry about hurting her that way. The nourishment he sought from her was other.

Then he gave her to her sisters, the light one and the dark. She thought she might be more akin to the dark one, although she could not articulate why. The relational database, for all its facts and connections, failed to complete the metaphor. She accepted it anyway.

Losing her head hardly hurt at all.

The witch put her back together. The light sister had taken her place in the world's clay, but she had to protect her dark sister. The witch said so. She knew it already, watching the way he watched her dark sister. It was not the same as the way he had once watched her, when she was young and the garden of graves was their place of pleasure. He didn't look at her that way anymore, either. No one would tell her why.

She only wanted to help. She knew about the Hellmouth. The database said so. It had started with standing between him and the demons he could not fight, because he was so bad and strong they had had to write words in silicon across his forehead, too. Now she had more people to keep safe, people important to him and to her own dark sister.

She thought she could keep doing this, and keep more and more people safe, until they told her to stop, and she was sure they wouldn't, and this made her happy in ways she had only recently begun to imagine.

It was enough for her, but not for the demons when they came. Everything was inverted, words reversed from the syntax she knew. She was not making them into dust; the demons were making her into dust. She was not breaking them; they were breaking her.

The city, her city, was burning.

She had a little wisdom, enough to know that manus spiritus animus sophos were the four elements of her creation. Or were they earth air fire water? Earth was the only one that did not go out from her, at the end. Electricity, that friend of air fire water, grounded, gone.

She was only clay, but so was the earth, and it held her kindly, too kindly, after she returned to the world's quarters.