THE SCUM DIED the usual way, gibbering nonsense at her calves.
The few final moments it had clutched at her ankles, spitting out words and gurgling up syrupy gore on her feet. It had begged with dying breaths for mercy, promising specially pathetic gifts for swift release. Visually, verbally, with its nails raking across her skin – and if she must have suffering, then at least make it quick. A human may be placated by such crying, but there was something in its prayers which set her stomach to turning. Then it died.
She wiped the slobber from her feet in a patch of its clothes. The ground sucked on her toes when she stepped over the kill, moist with spilled viscera. The Moon – the cold milk Moon, full in its face – winked through the twisting treetop, her pastel features shining in the light. A pair of eyes as big as walnuts watched in still awe as she approached majestically through the blood-sprayed grass. How the same blood dripped from her long fingers, blood yet warm not minutes before. She muted a laugh at its stunned reaction.
The small thing buckled and curled on the ground, its instincts returning to it at the last. It locked its hands around the back of its neck, hands so like hers, yet different – gnarled and clumsy. Hands which had haunted her too long. She strummed her fingers on the air, and the thing quietened, its wailing sliced through with sudden silence. When she whispered, it rolled over, its gaze once more drinking in the beauty of her existence. She was tall and magnificent, at once sweet and graceful. Her skin shone pearly in the moonlight, its pale sublimity reflected in her eyes. Her hair was the smoothest silk; her legs – long and slim beneath the gossamer dress. Her lips were as full and red as the blood under her nails. Her voice was the music of bells stalking among graves.
She leaned, levelling her eyes with the little thing’s own.
There. That’s with an ‘H.’ Whatever you need it for, it’s yours. There isn’t much you can buy with that name you don’t have anyway.
Ah. More, want you? Very well; my name is David Hoyer, Master of Biomedical Physics. Continent-born, graduate of the Unification University at twenty-and-two, head of Astel Pharmaceuticals board since thirty, husband and a father to two. My family is well-fed and my taxes paid. My hands have not known any stain my entire life; my mind belongs to my work and my wife, my heart... My heart wishes many medically inadvisable things for you, but that, I suspect, comes beside the point.
How about my social security number then? My debit card PIN? It’s 2662. My wife’s name comes up in my phone if you punch in the same number. That’s how I remember it. Funny, no? You can change it if you’d like; I can’t feature I’ll care a whole lot. It’s your card now. You can do whatever you please with it.
Why are you frowning? Where have I wronged? The whole spectacle was for this, wasn’t it? The chloroform? The car and the sack, the threats? Am I mistaken? You are shaking your head. What is it, then, captain? You can tell me. Don’t worry – I’m a doctor.
Ah. So even a U-U graduate can be wrong. Our critics would have a field day. Well, I suppose you wouldn’t be after money after all – not with these floors, this furniture. Where are we? I can feel the touch of wind on my back. Is there an open window? You’ll want to close that; you might catch a cold, you know.
Screwing with you? I do not think so. I am a doctor, I do not— OK, maybe I do. You’re right; kids don’t come out of cabbage, right? That’s just a fairy tale. We have proven it isn’t true, I think. You needn’t get angry, captain. I assure you I am as lost as you are. Only less comfortable. And still waiting.
Ah. So it is that after all. The cat is out of the bag. Someone cracked, didn’t they? Well, but whatever it is they told you, you’ll have to be satisfied with it. I won’t say a thing. She is gone now, and that’s it.
Wherever, captain. Can’t you see that? It doesn’t matter where she went. She’s no longer in this world and that’s the end of the story. You won’t find her. No one can find her now.
They are moving. I can see them, you know? – behind that smoked glass. Are those your employers? You’ve got a bead in your ear. They’re listening in on us, aren’t they? Would you mind terribly if you could pass them a hello from me? Also, tell them it’s no use. We’re all wasting our time here. This topic is over.
Threats? Is that all you have to offer me? You’d have done that already if you’d really planned making good on it. You forget, I am a politician as well as doctor; I can see through lies five times thicker than yours.
My family?... Captain, my family would have done the same for me. Ask them, if you’re so keen – be my guest. You’ll have to locate them first, of course; but I am sure those precious resources you say you have can more than take care of that. The you’ll find none of us – who remains of us – are very enthusiastic to have her back so soon. Not so soon, no...
Covering up for her? Me? Captain... You don’t mind if I call you that, right? You do not understand, captain. This is the thing about her. You can’t understand her. None of us can. When our forefathers burned the books and forbade the myth, decades ago, they sentenced her – and those of her like – to obscurity. Only they do not forget, captain. This is what we didn’t realise. She can understand us, but we... We cannot understand her. Humanity, as it is now, has fallen behind of those who came to us in the night...
Ah, now I remember. What? Oh, nothing. Just remembered where I had seen those symbols on your robes before. You are that... church, if you’ll excuse the term – yes? Organisation, right. What do you preach? Active rationalism? Your sect has been on the news before. Well, let me tell you, “father,” you’re getting no confession tonight. My lips are sealed.
Why? Because we released her, I suppose. From imprisonment first, then from ruin, in many ways... No, I will not be drawn to name her. The less you remember of her – the less I remember – the more chance she won’t come back. You wish to study her, don’t you? To “rationalise” ones such as she. Is that it, captain? That’s what you’re after.
Ah, so therein hangs the tale, huh?... Well, tough luck, captain. As I told you, we have long lost the ability to understand those... monsters, damn it.
Hear me out, captain. I’ll put it simply for you. You can’t find her. You can’t understand her. And even if you could, you wouldn’t reach her where she is now. Worse horrors lurk beyond that veil, and if you upset it, you’ll stand a fair chance of unleashing unspeakable things upon this earth – things you can’t even dream of existing. All right? This won’t work. This simply won’t. Work. Because I tell you it won’t. You can trust me – I’m a doc—
Urrrk... Ghhh... Cough... Ahhh...
Ah. Guhhh... Oh, yes. Now you think of that. Snrrffff... Very well. Let’s—Let’s play.
THE WOMAN DIED pleading for her life with the monster’s calves.
The few final moments she had clutched at its ankles, spitting out words and hacking up globules of sticky gore on the ground. She had prayed with despairing breaths for mercy, promising respect and care and love in exchange for sweet forgiveness. Visually, verbally, with her fingertips stroking pleadingly along its skin – and if it must have revenge, then at least not on him. A human may be touched to tears by such compassion, but there was no shiver of pity in the bloodied figure watching her life slip away. Then, finally, she died.
The monster wiped its foot in her shredded clothes. Wet, squelching sounds followed its turning, and it stepped over the mutilated corpse of the woman, thrilling with the memory of her cries. The Moon – cold, unforgiving – painted its flushing face in a pale grey film. A pair of eyes as big as walnuts watched in utter horror as the monster approached unflinchingly through the blood-sprayed grass. How the same blood dripped from its warm fingers, blood yet warm not minutes before. It twitched sickeningly at the boy’s reaction.
The boy’s knees buckled when she came near, and he curled on the ground, tears gushing out of his eyes. He covered his neck with his hands, hands so like this monster’s, yet gentle, human. Hands which had bled for changing its broken strings. The monster swiped at empty air, and the boy’s voice stuck in his throat. A hand seized him – an invisible, clawed hand – and like a cut of meat on a stove he was flipped over, the monster drinking the fear from his revealed face. It had the shape of a human, but there was no humanity in its maddened gaze. The blood on its hands shone in the cruel moonlight, the shine reflected in its eyes. Its hair was knotted; it wore clothes like a woman’s, but they were rags not skirts, and blood all over. Its lips were split and ground between jagged teeth, a red trickle running down the side of its chin. Its voice was the rasp of a body dragged through a forest.
The monster crouched, levelling its blood-shot eyes with the boy’s own.
A warped red smirk opened in the night.
“Now then,” said the lute, Benben. “What shall we do with you, master?”