Archive | November 2012

As the Fire Burns

The flames are hypnotic.

Fingers of light play against the night in contrast like a calico kitten beneath a massive ball of black nylon thread. Its harmonious colors of red, yellow, and orange blend and battle in a dance that never ceases to lose its novelty.

Fire is damn fascinating—the breath of dragons and gods and other mythical beings bent on destruction. Yet, its beauty is beyond compare. One could lose his soul gazing into its fiery maw. It’s not predictable and monotonous like most would think after a cursory glance; it’s more fluid, impulsive, opportunistic. After all, it is a living thing. It breathes. It consumes. And, at times, it even appears to fear and hate.

The heat warms my prickled skin with the friendly itch of a wool blanket. Despite the outer comfort, it chills my heart—my leadened chest now burdened with an irreparable chunk of ice. I’m not here for recreation. My childhood memories of joyful campfires with toasted treats, spooky yarns, and hickory-smoke aromas are irrelevant tonight and I struggle to keep them at bay. The nature of flames may be intriguing, but I hate this fire.

I hate it and it knows.

When my glare falters and my focus succumbs to the rhythm, easing into a hypnotized gaze, the burning creature stokes my hatred anew with a taunting flare streaked in blue or green like it’s flipping me off.

I try to rationalize the event—must’ve scorched its way to a copper pipe or pocket of propane—but, I’m not buying what I’m shoveling. It knows it’s in control now, too strong to quash. Its hungry fingers claw up past the second floor windows and reach for more.

Those were the kids’ rooms.

When we moved from D.C. to West Chester fifteen months ago, we got more space for less cost and the twins gained their own rooms for the first time. Their playful argument over the larger room nearly killed me… literally. I was choking on inhaled chunks of soft pretzel from an ill-timed bout of laughter. Karen, my loving wife, was too busy to help. She was leaning sideways in her own giggling fit while struggling to keep Caleb and Rachel within the eye of her phone’s camera.

They fired up the competition with a spirited debate. Their deductive reasoning and good-natured mudslinging is what almost got me to perform the self-Heimlich Maneuver and what, ironically, aided in coughing my airways to freedom.

With the debate too close to call a clear winner, they took the next logical step—who could eat their lunch the fastest.

Rachel was chewing her last bite of sandwich when she noticed her mother’s phone held in their direction. “Recording this? Oh, now you’ve done it,” she crowed spitting food particles.

“I don’t know about you, Sis, but I’m still hungry,” Caleb said, grinning at their mother. Rachel matched his smile and added, “Yes, me too and Mom looks awfully tasty!”

They both lunged at Karen, grappled for the phone and pretending to devour her while I moved our drinks to safety.

After catching his breath, Caleb realized the dispute was still unresolved. He stole two tomato slices from his mother’s hoagie and smashed them against the nearest window; the last slice clinging would earn its designated owner the bigger room.

That very window was now engulfed in flames. They’ll never have the chance to play in those rooms again. The house was beyond rescue and repair. Karen’s phone and that memory’s video were now lost forever, along with the rest of our belongings.

I shouldn’t have left without grabbing a few things, but the damned flames spread so fast. With a gasoline drenched carpet, I guess the sprinkling of whiskey was overkill—not to mention a waste of good drinking.

I could barely hear the roar of the blaze over the pulsing blood in my head, droning on like a swarm of salacious cicadas.

The flames taunt, trying to drive me mad with guilt, but I had no choice. Fire was the only recourse—it all had to burn.

They had to burn.

My sweet children, my true love, may they rest in peace and walk through Heaven’s Gates together. Please God take them in!

Reflecting the fire’s light, tears tumble from my eyes like orange diamonds, melting as they slide down my warmed skin.

They didn’t deserve this. This fate of fire was not meant for them. They were so innocent and pure… until tainted by the infection.

Who would’ve guessed that it would originate from something in plain sight, something long thought benign? It didn’t come from an overzealous lab with lax security measures. It was from a fuckin’ museum in eastern Pennsylvania!

God, this house… we moved right next to ground zero. 

Some poor sap accidentally broke open a pickled punk or some other fermented mutation at the Mütter Museum a few miles from here. He sliced open his hand trying to clean up the mess and contracted the wrong bacteria.

It spread from person to person faster than this goddamn fire. We didn’t have time to doubt or panic before it struck our community.

One of those things barged onto the twins’ school bus when the driver opened the doors at a railroad crossing. Their terror must have been unbearable as they watched the rancid thing chew its way toward them—the kids never got the emergency door open, they were trapped morsels like sardines in a can.

My children, corrupt and infested, made their way home. By the time I arrived they had torn their mother into three gnawed-open pieces. The twins attacked and Karen’s parts slunk their way toward me with the same vicious intent. I will never forget that sight or what I did next.

Their warm, healthy flesh had putrefied. As I pushed and pulled them away from my body, their skin slid from the meat of their limbs, further amplifying the eye-watering smell of roses and rotting roadkill.

Were they still in there or were they empty corpses? I couldn’t take the chance that they were suffering. I ripped my ornamental sword off the wall, finalized their death march, and set a cleansing fire to work.

Sirens wail in the distance now, and I finally notice the chaos around me. Other homes were in flames too. Cars were left abandoned in the middle of the street. Gun shots echo in the distance and screams stop short every few minutes.

It won’t be long now.

My time is dwindling.

I probably won’t see my loved ones in the hereafter—the crimes of taking their… lives may have stolen that right from me.

Guilt weighs heavily on my will to live, like the crushing stones of a Salem death sentence.

The night is filled with fire. Such a beautiful creature it is, fluttering plumage as it climbs higher and higher.

The flames are hypnotic aren’t they?

One could certainly lose his soul staring at them too long…

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2012 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.

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Diseased

I’m infected.  Chewed up by an army of secrets, I’ve felt a thousand sets of viral teeth feasting on me over the years. I shouldn’t have let it happen, but there really wasn’t much I could do.

The noise surrounding me is deafening. It’s a tremendous ringing in my ears that pushes the memories of the many things I’ve done first into, and then out of, focus.  At times, it seems almost a blessing that remembering has become difficult.

From somewhere far away, a woman’s voice calls out.

“Gaaaaaaabrieeeeeelllll…!”

The veil of clarity parts, and I realize who I am.

My name’s Gabriel  Merchant — of Hastings, Nebraska.  I was a small-town, farm boy who once played wide receiver for the Kenesaw High Blue Devils.  On the outside, I was popular — at least for all those things I allowed people to see.  But on the inside, I couldn’t have been any more alone.

“Gaaaaaabe! C’mon in! Supper’s on the table…”

I see Mama. She’s standing on the back porch. A grease-spattered apron tied around her waist covers the house dress she’s worn most days since Daddy’s departure.  Her sad eyes search the yard and periodically gaze into the cornfields as she nervously dries her hands on the filthy dish towel she keeps by the sink.

At my feet, the body of the dying calf convulses, belching its fluids onto the dirt floor of the barn. The slit I’ve opened in its belly is a jagged line connecting groin to gullet. Blood, bile and bits of undigested food create a stew of filth on the ground, while layers of exposed flesh, splayed open, begs me.  It will need to wait. Mama’s calling…

I drop the still-warm carcass into the hole I’ve dug. It lands with a heavy thud atop the pile of rotting animal skins and maggot-scavenged bones of the others. Anticipation stirs my groin, promising more pleasure than any unfulfilled romance I’ve contemplated. And my insides quiver with the knowledge of what’s to come, feeding my illness.

Mama’s urgent calls echo in my head as I drop the cover on my secret grave. Before the plywood slams shut,  I reflexively avoid the empty gaze of the human skull that stares up at me.

With Rusty my Pointer at my side, his tail battering my leg, I leave the barn. The mare in the corner stall snorts her approval of our departure.

Mama’s face fades. Rusty’s no longer there.  Instead, I’m lying in the mud.  It’s dark. It’s still raining.  I’m back on the island. And there’s so much blood on my hands…

The clouds have been open for hours. And a cold wind blows across the field. The frayed leather chinstrap on my helmet tickles my right ear as heavy droplets of rain fall from the sky.  They slap at my face and bounce off my helmet – a tinny metal drum that beats inside my mind.

Tap…tap…tap…

Bullets whiz past my head. Incoming artillery fire spits mud into the air. It splashes in great chunks around me as I listen to the roar of the propeller-driven engines on a squadron of planes flying overhead. The earth rumbles, shaken by the impact of the payload dropping through the night sky. In the distance, explosions draw a hellish orange line that stretches across the horizon as far as my good eye can see.

My situation’s clear. I remember who I am. I’m Private First Class Gabriel Merchant, 4th Marine Division. It’s Wednesday, March 7, 1945. I’m on Iwo Jima. And I’m dying.

Tap…tap…tap…goes the drumbeat of rain on my helmeted skull.

My left eye looks out into a hazy world of liquid red.

There’s so much blood on my face…

I know its blood — I’ve tasted it so many times.  What most people don’t know is that’s quite different depending upon how it’s drawn.  Mine is warm and oily on my tongue, laced with the familiar notes of fear.  It streams into my throat, and I feel it dripping out again through the hole in the back of my skull.

My disease is killing me.

This isn’t how I’d imagined my end would come. Not that I ever gave it much thought. But it never crossed my mind that I’d die alone, lying in the mud, in a place I’d never heard of, somewhere in the middle of ocean I’d never seen, and with my right arm holding my stomach tight to keep my bowels from escaping their rightful place inside my gut.

Tap…tap…tap…

I didn’t see him coming. His first strike entered my body just beneath my right eye and continued on until it shattered bone at the back of my head.  As he withdrew his weapon, my spine shuddered, his blade scraping against bone much like fingernails on a chalkboard.  He offered only a momentary pause, before plunging it in again, this time deep into my abdomen.

Slamming me onto my back, he drove me into the mud with a force that ripped the M1 from my shoulder, shearing its leather strap in two. Now, my only weapon lay somewhere off in the darkness out of reach.

Amid the barrage of gunfire and the shouts of the others in my platoon frantically barking orders back and forth, a familiar odor assaults my nostrils. It’s the smell of cinnamon, or what I know to be the scent of death.

For the first time in my life, I realize how they must have felt.

Tap…tap…tap…

There’s so much blood on my hands.

Back home, I was always the predator. Without much else to do, hunting was my life.  I never tired of the comfort of a trigger or the satisfying kick into my shoulder as the bullet left its chamber. Maybe the only thing better was the heft of a knife and the satisfaction as it cut life short, shearing off the fingers that, inevitably, tried to fight back.

Tap…tap…tap…

He stabbed at me with a fury I hadn’t thought possible. The speed and precision of his attacks were almost painless as he stabbed through layers of my flesh and into bone. The missing fingers on my left hand ache, having been sliced off, reducing my arm to a leaking stub that now spilled blood onto my chest.

Even through the din on the battlefield, I hear him breathing. While I haven’t seen his face, I imagine the look in his eyes.  I sense his accomplishment as it oozes from his pores and slickens the skin beneath his clothing. Oh, the satisfaction. I know it all too well.

Tap…tap…tap…

I became infected at the age of 10. It all began, innocently enough, with a rabbit in a trap. While only a few months old, it had so much zest for life that it nearly chewed through its own leg to escape. And, once released, it was barely able to move. But I followed it for nearly an hour as it dragged itself around the pasture. I’ll never forget the brightness in its eyes as I lowered my axe on its neck. I watched, intently, until its lights went out.

Afterwards, my disease quickly spread — my actions growing worse as each day passed.  If Daddy had been basic training, the Marine Corps was my proving ground.

Tap…tap…tap…

The bringer of my own death stands quiet. As he moves to my side, I see the outline of his body for the first time.

A criss-crossing pattern of tracer bullets strafe the night sky, cutting through the smoke from anti-aircraft fire. The shape of Death strobes in and out of focus.  I find it hard to believe what I’m seeing. He’s much larger than expected. And he smells of shit.

The odor fouls the air. It takes a moment, but I realize it’s the smell of my own bowels as they evacuate my body for the last time.

In his left hand, Death carries multiple blades. They glisten with a mixture of blood, viscera and rain that courses off their impossibly sharp points.

Funny, I think, I’m left-handed too.

Thump… Thump… Thump…

My heart slows.

The rain falls harder. The bombers continue past.

How long has it been?  Two minutes?  Five?

Time no longer has meaning, but it’s the only thing left.

Breathing heavily, Death closes in, lowering his head toward whatever is left of mine. I can barely see him, but I smell his diseased breath. It’s sour with the same infection that feeds on me.

Thump……. Thump……. Thump…….

As my lungs drown in blood, Death kneels at my side. Rainwater streams off his contorted head and batters my face as he brings his nose close to mine.  I see his eyes for the first time. They’re blue, like mine.

Thump……………… Thump……………. Thump……………..

Blood rushes into my throat. I spit it from my mouth. It splashes onto Death’s chin.  An impossibly long tongue slithers from between his thick lips and licks it away.

Thump………….…………………..…. Thump………..…………..…………..

His jaws open, revealing a maw of sharp, yellowed teeth. Their tips glitter in the darkness as long tendrils of saliva slip from his gums. The face of Death isn’t at all what I’d expected.  Death wasn’t a man at all…

Thump….…………..…………..

My heart stops. The final beat ends the symphony of rain, gunfire and battlefield shouts. Now there is only silence; and the blue eyes of Death staring into mine.

Then come the screams. They were the anguished howls and the cries of all the souls whose lives I’d ended. They pummeled me. Daddy’s was the loudest.

I’m no longer inside my body, but instead somewhere above, peering down at the wreckage of the life I’ve created.

Death calls me.  I go.

Drawn into him, I’m instantly no longer alone.  His eyes became mine. The talons on his hands move as my own.  And he shares all of his memories with me, and I with him.  There was a sense of communion unlike anything I had felt before.

Death had been the source of my disease. He was also my cure.

Looking down at my old self now, I watch as filthy raindrops baptize my broken body in the mud.  I lean in closer, inspecting my farm-boy face.  And with a new set of razors in my mouth, I strip the skin that was my mask from my one-time skull.

Bombs explode in the distance, ending uncounted lives and sending the fires of my new Heaven mushrooming into the night sky. With the flames dancing around me, I place upon my head the last remnants of the old me.  And from behind my new, contorted features of shaved flesh and pure hatred, I howl at the rising moon.

I’d always thought I’d been infected.  But after a lifetime of searching for a cure for my disease, I now realize I was always as I should have been.

I, Gabriel Merchant, am home. And along with all those who came before me, I’ve become Death. And together, we are the destroyer of worlds.

~ Daemonwulf

© Copyright 2012 DaemonwulfTM. All Rights Reserved.

The Enforcer

He stands before the large bay window, looking down upon the streets below, not really needing to see the evil happening. The visuals, courtesy of all his sensory perceptions, attack his mind.

And yet, The Committee condones such sadistic behavior as this. “Let them do as they will. It will all be sorted out later,” they say. “Their feeble minds can not grasp the concepts of good or evil: not enough for them to advance to an elevated status at any rate.”

“Elevated, my ass!” he thinks. “All of us on The Committee were once like these weaklings. We found it difficult to reason, to discard depravity and debauchery for the less than obvious elements of good inherent in humans and the world surrounding them.”

Pacing back and forth, the raw energy of evil present in this city sickens him. Someone in his position should distance himself from what is present here. After all, it has taken him many lifetimes to achieve his elevated status. Yes, he has evolved beyond the rabble scratching around to make ends meet, to find a reason for existence, and perhaps…just perhaps, to find at least some happiness from the filth which is ever-present here.

But through it all, he remembers. How can he possibly forget the times when he was beaten down by those wanting to keep him, and many others, in a state of abject slavery? Maybe the absence of freedom wasn’t slavery as many envision it to be, but when one’s soul is torn from the physical embodiment of humanity, what else would it be? One becomes nothing more than a Zombie, a dancing, unthinking, undead persona manipulated by a necromancer concerned only for his own welfare. And, his own power.

He laughs. Now the power belongs to him, an advanced being capable of an existence beyond human understanding. Yes, to those like him, the ones who have reached the “most perfect” stage of development, a utopian society exists, one in which Heaven is a state of glory residing within the minds of those fortunate enough to have reached the pinnacle of all that is.

Truth be known? They are Gods. And yet, should Gods look the other way when the unfortunate ones wallow around in ineptitude and suffer at the hands of the evil ones?

Ah, the Gods might have lost any semblance of previous humanity when their ultimate tableau was achieved.

Selchor, on the other hand, still retains compassion within his soul. It pains him when the unfortunate ones suffer as he once did. There is no reason for this. Those who can help, should help.

He dresses for the evening, donning the clothing of the time, and grabbing his walking stick when he leaves the apartment. Once he reaches the streets, he blends in with everyone else around him.

His cane beats a staccato along the sidewalk as he walks towards the place of supreme evil manifestations. For too long, this street has been a sinister one, hiding secrets, exposing pain . . . pain shoved upon those much too young to experience it.

A large man, easily 300 pounds, bald, and wearing an expensive suit, embroidered shirt, and fancy wing-tips, comes out of the adjoining alleyway and motions for him to stop.

“I take it you’re here for the young girls,’ he says. “Name your age, and we can fulfill your fantasy and allow you to live life to the fullest, doing what so few are able to experience.”

Selchor smiles at the man. “Yes, my good man. I am here for the children. Your fame has spread farther than you can imagine.”

The pimp gives the stranger a funny look, wondering exactly what this man is talking about. “And exactly what are you looking for, might I ask?”

“I would like to have all the young ladies assembled before me so I can choose.”

“All of them?”

“Yes, all of them. I will gladly pay you up front if you are concerned about my intent.”

The big guy salivates at the thought of his entire assemblage being paid for. “Of course. Whatever you wish, sir.”

He grabs a cell phone out of his pocket and makes a couple of quick calls. Within minutes, a dozen young women of differing ages are paraded before him.

Selchor laughs and says, “I’ll take them all.”

“All of them?” the pimp asks.

Handing him the money, Selchor says, “Yes, all of them.”

The girls are shoved towards him, and Selchor says, “I am setting you free. Go and never return. There is nothing left for you here, and you need not worry about anything. I’m giving you your freedom.”

They are reluctant to leave at first, but something about the calm exterior of their benefactor soothes them, and they scramble away.

The procurer is upset and attempts to shove the cane-bearing man out of the way so he can retrieve the girls, but Selchor holds him, and his henchmen, back. In no time at all the former slaves are gone.

“But . . . but this is not what you asked for,” the bald man says, anger shoved from every pore in his body. “I thought . . .”

“You think far too much, I must say,” Selchor says. “I never said what I wanted the girls for. You merely assumed. You and your henchmen are evil people and should have your eyes opened to the truth of who you really are.”

The fancy-dressed pimp laughs now. “I don’t believe a man carrying a cane will be able to do much damage to the six of us.”

“Do not be deceived by me or my cane. Your time of reckoning has come.”

They charge en-mass, but Selchor touches a button on the cane’s handle, and a knife blade, easily a foot long, comes out from the end. “Looky what I have here, me lads. Guess what? I know how to use it too.”

The fight is brutal: blood, guts, and chunks of flesh fly everywhere. One by one, Selchor deftly removes their hearts, impales them on the blade, and places them in the hands of their owners.

Selchor watches as the spirits rise from the fallen bodies and stare down at what is now nothing more than food for the rats. He laughs, a most unsettling one, and says, “It appears that the time has come for you to go to Heaven or Hell. Which one is it?”

Confusion runs through the souls. This was not expected. Heaven or Hell is a choice left to them? How can this be?

“Yes, you have this choice,” Selchor tells them. “Tell me: which path are you taking?”

Even before they have the chance to say that Heaven is the obvious choice, thoughts jump into their minds, talking to them of all the evil they have perpetrated in their lives. How many times were people, some very young, subjected to pain to supply them with pleasure and a fulfillment of power? Too many times. They grab their heads and cry out in pain, trying to exorcise the demons present within them.

It doesn’t work.

All of them are dragged away to Hell. But…but there is not “one” Hell. For them, there are six Hells, and no two are the same. Selchor smiles as he watches their twisting, convoluted efforts to escape the grasp of the demons pulling them into the darkness.

Silence. The sweet sound of nothing takes over. The pimp and his crew are gone, taken into Hell on the wings of their own guilt. Justice has been served.

Selchor surveys the scene and his former humanity becomes more dominant. He loses none of the knowledge he has gained over time. If anything, he is more advanced than the others on The Committee. Knowledge, power, and humanity all belong to him.

Heaven and Hell are abstracts and reside within the minds and souls of those going to one or the other. If a person believes they have done good during their past life, they will advance to the next level of humanity, or they can happily exist in Heaven as they are. But those who are tormented by the guilt of the past evils they have committed will send themselves to Hell.

How sweet is this? Heaven and Hell reside within one’s self.

Selchor knows now he can not return to the lofty enclave of others of his kind. It is wrong to look the other way.

The world needs an enforcer. Selchor is perfect for the job . . .

~ Blaze McRob

© Copyright 2012 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved.

The Giver Pt.1

Grace ran her fingers over the small silver box. It was a beautiful trinket chest, one that she’d spent many hours admiring as a small child. A small thrill raced down her spine knowing it was hers now.

The intricate carvings had always beckoned to her: the wavy lines, antiquated script, and Maltese-like cross had glinted beneath the noonday sun in the display window for months, calling to her, taunting her, but no more.

She turned the chest over in her hands, relishing the cool press of metal against her flesh. Something close to desire surged through her veins and came to rest in a low coil near the pit of her stomach. Closing her eyes, she moaned, delighting in the first forceful throb. True pleasure held no price.

Shame colored her cheeks, suffusing them with an unpleasant burn. She tried to tamp down the savage impulses rocking her body, but to no avail. The small voice of reason in the back of her mind started to scream, railing that this was not how she was raised. Good girls didn’t desire shiny things. They only sought to be closer to God. Proper girls didn’t desire at all. They clung to virtue above all else and remained innocent and pure.

We all have our moments of weakness, my love.”

The box tumbled from her hands and clattered against the wooden floor. Whirling, Grace searched for the source of the breathless whisper. Her wide gaze darted around her bedroom, glancing off the antique dresser and veiled canopy bed, but she found nothing. Sheer lace curtains fluttered in the late autumn breeze wafting through the open window. They billowed outward, reaching for her before they intertwined and melded like two spectral lovers engaging in a primal dance.

“Who’s there?” she whispered. The burn in her face deepened as embarrassment crawled over her. Cold silence loomed in hushed reply.

Weeks had passed, but her obsession with the box had grown no less. Grace shifted, squirming against the hard wooden pew. The preacher’s voice droned in her ears, but her mind was a million miles away. Her mother’s bony elbow gouged her ribs, threatening to pull her back. Gritting her teeth, she rebelled, the pain driving her deeper into the fantasies that enveloped her.

Candlelight flickered, casting a dim golden glow through the room. Thin tendrils of smoke twisted from the fiery tips where it drifted to meld with the shadows. A strange, but not unpleasant smell flooded her nostrils. It was heavy and sweet, reminiscent of damp earth and the dry, brittle leaves that lined the streets.

Grace tensed. Her eyes tried to probe the darkness cloaking the far reaches of the room. Her skin tingled, the small hairs on the nape of her neck lifting with a keen sense of danger and a thrill of excitement. She was not alone.

A tall figure emerged from the blackness. For a moment, the two appeared one, until it stepped forward on soundless feet.

“You have come to me.”

She shuddered at the deep voice. The dulcet tones seemed to wash over her, caressing her body in ways she’d never dreamed possible. Grace teetered, sensing her body hovering on the brink of some delicious precipice. Her eyes drifted shut and she trembled with savage pleasure.

“Yes.”

A fathomless chuckle rumbled in her ears, the figure amused by her breathless confession.

“Do you not find it ironic that you pick this exact moment to supplicate yourself at my feet?”

Her eyes snapped open, and Grace blinked in confusion. “What do you mean?”

He stepped closer and she strained to decipher his face in the shadows. They seemed to drift with him, cloaking him in their obscurity despite the candle’s attempts to light the room.

“Nevermind, my sweet. It is unimportant. All that matters now is your happiness. I am here to serve you.”

“Who are you?” she asked, forcing a swallow past her tightening throat.

“Me?” he said, pressing closer. She jumped as long fingers threaded through her hair and stroked her head in a gentle brush. “I am a giver.”

“A giver of what?”

Grace’s heart slammed against the walls of her chest as the figure leaned over her and his face became clear. A long, straight nose loomed above full and sensuous lips. Eyes the color of illuminated whiskey peered back at her, unblinking.  She fought the urge to recoil in her chair, feeling them probe clear down to the depths of her soul. It was an unnerving sensation—one that left her feeling robbed of all defenses, stripped down naked and exposed.

“The giver of all that your heart desires,” he whispered. She shivered as his warm breath caressed her skin. “And perhaps something more.”

“What if I asked for riches?” She swallowed against the fear blossoming in her throat.

“Then you shall have them, my sweet. All that you could imagine is yours for the taking.”

That shrill voice rose in the back of her mind. It was frantic, pleading, insistent that whatever this was wasn’t human—that she turn away from the madness before it drew her in any deeper. The hot, almost scalding brush of his fingers beckoned her away from her worries, and she fought a smile.

There was tenderness in his touch, a reverence she had not felt since she was a child and her grandfather would stroke her curls. She’d never known the love of a father, but somehow, she sensed this could be better.

Her gaze lifted once again to lock with his. “What are you?”

The figure leaned over her, pressing his soft lips against her cheek. White teeth flashed with the knowing smile he bestowed. “Consider me an angel if you must, love. I am but a humble servant here at your command. My only purpose is to satisfy your longings, whatever they may be.”

Grace’s eyes drifted shut. She found herself titling to the side, her face upraised, longing for his touch.  It was a brutal slap from her mother’s gloved hand that greeted her instead. Stunned, it took her a minute to readjust to her surroundings. The preacher’s voice continued to drone on in the distance. Cold ire flashed dangerously in her mother’s iron stare.

“You will uphold yourself and behave properly in the house of the Lord!” she hissed.

Grace couldn’t help but liken her to a venomous serpent. In that moment, her mother’s eyes were every bit as lethal and assessing as a snake’s. Sighing, she slumped back against the pew. The heady scent of incense hung in the air, mingling with the cloying mixture of sweat and perfume riding the crowd. She tensed as a warm breeze swirled past, one not carried by the slow churning of the ceiling fans overhead. It brushed her cheek leaving a pleasant tingle in its wake, and the tantalizing smell of earth teased her senses.

A small smile curved her lips, despite her mother’s scrutinizing stare. Even the preacher faltered in his sermon, his eyes seemingly searching out hers through the crowd.

Grace didn’t care. All that mattered was the sultry whisper she heard as the invisible fingers touching her face slid free. A lone word cloaked in promise, assuring all would be okay:

“Mine…”

To be continued…

~ Adriana Noir

© Copyright 2012 Adriana Noir. All Rights Reserved.

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