I sit here sipping from my glass, a fine glass at that; delicate in nature, with spinning hues of barest midnight blue drawn through its perfect surface, creating an undulating wave of confused beauty. Beauty; I look at the cavern around me, the carved seat I rest upon, my enclave, my domain; my perfect world. Things of beauty surround me, but only at my beck and call. True, some have come crawling, but I find I’ve no use for such sniveling. They are no longer amongst us. Is there not one worthy of my attentiveness? This isolation grows tiresome. Ordering one of the grovlings to fetch me a new pet, I wait with little patience.
Finally, she is brought before me. “Kneel.” There is no question she will do as I instruct, they all do. I toss a collar onto the floor, it attaches to a leash fastened to the arm of my perch. “Put it on,” I instruct as she attempts to speak.
“I do not recall telling you to open your lips. When I wish them to perform, I will demand it. Now, put it on, and do so with your mouth shut!” She scrambles to do as ordered, but the idiot grovling has yet to release her from the crude looped choker used to drag her here. I glance at the grovling and he realizes his folly. He apologizes profusely, trying to loosen the choker as she desperately tries to fasten the collar around her bleeding neck with hands that shake. I let him babble, his stupidity is quite amusing, then I bore of hearing it. Standing, I descend the two steps that separate myself from the others. She shivers uncontrollably as I pass by. He drops to a knee while still begging forgiveness for his lack of foresight. Foolish, that. The assumption that he’s been given the right to foreshadow my thoughts or wishes, a mistake I would not have made had I been in his position. Crouching in front of him, my wing tips curl against the stone floor. I order him to lift his chin. As he does so, he pisses himself. I glace down at the growing puddle beneath him and gently tap the edge of the glass against the floor. It fractures magnificently.
“Do you recall when this glass was made for me, grovling?” Desperately, he tries to hold my eye, but cannot. His own orbs flick quickly to the glass; I smile. He opens his mouth to respond and I hush him with a gentle garnet-tipped finger upon his lips. “My question did not require an answer, or did your foresight fail you yet again?” Trembling with indecision, he is unsure if a response is expected. I’m of the opinion it is not, but I’ll allow his inner torment to continue a bit longer. The jingling to my right finally stops; she has managed to fasten the collar around her neck. I hear the slightest tinkling – the sound of the metal chain leading from the collar back to my seat quivering; she is frightened, but doing admirably well. So far.
Waiting is the sweetest torture, one my many eons in this festering shithole has taught me well how to exploit. The grovling on the other hand, is finding the wait – arduous. I can sense his overwhelming desire to speak; I can see the thoughts flick through his feeble little mind. Dragging the now jagged edge of the glass through his own urine, I provoke him. “It must be so difficult kneeling before me, wanting to speak your mind, but knowing you probably should not.” The sound of glass scraping stone must be maddening. “I almost feel compassion for you, honestly, I almost do. Was being obedient and keeping your mouth shut so very hard that you simply found yourself incapable of the task?” His lips part; the bait is taken. If I were a sport fisherman, this is the point at which I would yank the line, one swift hard pull to set my hook. In what is a blink in his world, I ram the piss covered broken glass through his eye socket clean into his brain cavity. The ickor that oozes into the glass is proof enough that his brief squeal will be his final utterance.
With the same finger that earlier sent him into a quaking fit of terror, I push his useless body to the ground. There are other grovlings lurking in the shadows, there always are – putrescent little beasts. With a dismissive nod of my head, several rush forward to dispose of the lifeless meat littering the chamber floor.
I turn to the captive beside me, realizing that the grovling’s piss has spread beneath her knees. She still trembles, but only mildly. Admirable that. Kneeling in a dead thing’s piss and still she does not flinch. I stare at her for a moment, perhaps two, then rise and retrieve the handle of her new life. A grovling attempts to capture my eye, he clearly wishes to tell me that the deceased has been removed. Presuming me too stupid to recognize this fact on my own would be another mistake for his kind this day. Best that he should simply go about his business, leaving me to mine. Somehow, he senses this and begins to back away.
Standing atop the dais from which I have retrieved the leash, I issue an order to all who are lurking. “Leave us.”
Is that a small intake of breath I hear from my new treasure? Oh, and she has been doing so well up to this point. Descending the steps a second time, I bend forward, placing one hand on my knees, the other gouging a fingernail into the flesh below her chin. I force her gaze to meet mine. “Did I frighten you?” I ask with mock patience, patience I have not felt in a decade or more.
She stares back true and steady for several heartbeats, licks her lips – a gesture of fear, or simply to moisten them? Her eyes say the latter. In a whispered voice that carries more strength than I would have imagined, she replies, “No, not frightened. Startled.”
“I don’t frighten you? I find that hard to believe. Please don’t tell me you are some ignorant field peasant the grovlings dragged in here because your curves will suit me.” Exasperation and a growing anger fill me as my fingernail draws blood from the soft hollow where it resides.
This is not the distraction I hoped for; yet another useless mongrel, I look away. Just as I am ready to release her from the burden of breathing, her hand gently wraps around mine, forcing my nail in deeper. I turn back, ready to dispatch the second disrespectful whelp of the day. “No, I was not dragged here by those hideous little creatures. I came of my own accord.” Staring directly into my eyes, she continues, “I have seen you, in the glade. Warming yourself in the sunlight. I have seen you soar above the cliffs that house this cave. I have seen you caress your lover to death near the water’s edge. I have watched you for some time now, and I wish to be like you. To…”
“To be like me?” I snort. “How exactly do you propose to be like me? I am unlike anything your minute mind can comprehend. You say you have watched me soar, shall we take you to the top of the cliff, toss you off, see if you soar as well? I suppose if by some chance of fate you do manage to soar a few feet, you might be like me… until you hit the ground.”
Hesitation; confusion creeps into her gaze. Her grip weakens. Now we shall see what gumption you truly posses, my little dove. Locked in our repose, she still stares unwaveringly, perhaps not quite as sure, but devout nonetheless. An admirable trait, and quite the beauty at that.
Long wavy chestnut hair, soft supple cinnamon lips, eyes blazing the deepest amber, glittering with crystal specks. Her form does not disappoint either, my eyes lick over her more than adequate body.
“May I speak again?” she inquires.
“I believe you already have. Continue.”
“If I cannot be like you, then allow me to be for you. I have no wish to be tossed off the cliff, but if that is what you will do with me, then so be it.”
She truly has the audacity to mean what she proffers. The scent of the single drop of perspiration mixed with blood beading at the base of her throat is intoxicating. My lip quirks upward; I do intend to enjoy this one immensely.
Rising, I gently coax her to her feet. Her legs run with the dead grovling’s piss, her bare feet and body filthy. Removing the leash from the D-ring attached to her collar, I guide her to the hot spring welling in the far corner of the cavern. “Come, let’s clean you, then we shall figure out what purpose you might serve.”
As we move towards the pool of water, I hear, “Am I still free to speak?”
A ripple of annoyance slams through me. “Clearly, as you are still speaking, and still breathing.” Removing the doeskin sack the grovlings clad her in, my mind flashes with thoughts of the creature whose skin she wears. I mutter under my breath, “No, it is not fair. That much is true.”
As I drop the garment to the floor, she inquires, “Pardon me?”
“Pardon you for what? I gave you permission to speak, I offered no pardon. What is it you are prattling about?” A look of shock and pain crosses her beautiful features. Well, isn’t she in for a surprise? I adjust my tone and address her again. “What is it you would like to say?” She stares at me blankly. Perhaps she is more feeble than I initially thought.
With a sigh, I remove my own garments as well, laying them by the side of the water. Stepping onto the generous ledge three feet below the surface, I see fright in her eyes. I glance downward. She finally speaks what is on her mind. “It is much larger than it seems from the other side of the cavern. Are those eyes I see at the bottom?”
“Yes, they are. The spring is deceptive. Come,” I reach my hand out for her to join me. “The water appears shallow, but step one leg off this ledge and it is an eighty-five foot plummet to the bottom where the creature belonging to those eyes waits. This water offers no buoyancy; the creature bears you no good will. You’ll be safe with me. Come, I won’t tell you again.”
Hesitantly she reaches forward taking my hand and slips into the steaming water. A swarm of Garra rufa immediately begin cleaning her. Terrified, she tries to flee, but breaking my grip is not so easy. “What are they?”
“They will clean you. If you’re to be my pet, I’ll not have you filthy. Lean back, let them wash over your face and comb through your hair.” Doing as she is told, the Garra rufa clean every morsel of foulness from her. She looks magnificent splayed in the water. I imagine the fish will not be the only thing roaming her body this day.
She lifts herself to a seated position, and laughs – a deep-throated chuckle. “They feel oddly wonderful. It tingles all over.” Glancing up from the thinning swarm in the water, she wonders, “Why do they not feast on you as well?”
Looking to the water and waving a hand to send them back to the crevasses they reside in, I consider the truth of my answer. “My taste would poison them. Like most natural creatures, they instinctively know to avoid one such as me. Why is it that you don’t have the same inherent fear?”
Her smile falters for a moment, then, “May I touch them?” She reaches forward, I grasp her wrist, perhaps harder than I meant to, perhaps not. “I only want to touch your wings. They gleam iridescent in this water. May I touch one, please?”
“No. You may not touch one, and do not be too eager for one to touch you either. For the day they do without my consent, you will draw your last breath.” I consider the defiant stare in her eyes. This answer will not satisfy her. I see the contemplation dancing through their caramel tint as she weighs her odds. From bellow, I hear a chuckle. In my mind, words resonate from the bottom of the spring, ‘I suppose this one will be failing the second trial as well… Gooooood, I’m hungry! And I’ve feed on nothing but those foul little balls of flesh for too long.’
She withdraws her hand; I allow it. She leans backward; one leg slips to dangle over the ledge. I move forward and swiftly pull her leg back onto the submerged rock. Wrapping a hand around her throat, I growl, “What did I tell you about straying over the edge? Are you fool enough to throw your life away so easily?”
Gaining confidence, or unmasking what she had hidden so well, her head snaps up, her hand darts out – she now holds one black feather. Our eyes lock, I think to myself yet another one. The transformation begins. The creature in the spring calls to me.
My pet smiles in triumph and glee, “It’s so soft, so delicate. Holding just this single feather feels as though I am holding a world in my hands!” Her bliss apparent on her face, no doubt the effect of the treasure she has snatched. I allow her the briefest moment to run the feather across her magnificently formed breasts, her closed eyes, her plump lips. Her eyes flick open, still filled with the gleam of childlike ecstasy.
“Yes, it does,” I respond with no mirth. “Imagine hundreds of them carried upon your back.” My smile now cold, though she mistakes it for engaging.
She smiles back, “I wouldn’t know how to begin imagining such a thing.”
Amid her laughter, my talon slashes up from the water and rends her neck useless to her body. “No, you wouldn’t.”
I watch as her form slips over the ledge and is drawn through the barely verdant water into its depths. The creature that resides below feasts on tender flesh that was meant for me. It is not grateful. I haven’t a care to be bothered.
Summoning the grovlings back to the cavern, I wriggle a finger at one and draw it near. “You will wash me, but do not make the mistake of touching my wings. Is that clear?” From the shaking of its hands, I’m fairly certain the spring will be receiving a second course.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
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