The Other

With a steely-eyed gaze, she watches those far below performing their meaningless and menial tasks. Her clawed feet grip the head of the gargoyle she squats upon as the wind tunnels down the avenue. Her wings flutter slightly; she tries to hold them closed yet they begin to unfurl nonetheless. This one has no control. She caresses the stone creature she clings to. I see longing in her expression for the days when their corporeal brothers took flight with the likes of our kind.

Tasked with watching her movements, yet instructed not to intervene, I take a perverse pleasure knowing that she hunts so near the house of their current prevailing god. Glancing over, I survey the cathedral of this Saint Patrick. It’s a magnificent structure, shame it serves no purpose other than to collect lost, frightened sheep. This urban sprawl is no different from any other these humans have littered the ground with – houses of false worship, dens of inadequacy, squalor in the name of ownership. They do love their tenement housing and the riches it brings them to take advantage of the less fortunate. Even the well-to-do who buy into their own lie of opulence live like rats in a sinking cage. Some are enlightened and grateful for what is shared with them, but most – they display undignified arrogance, believing they’ve the right to divide the land among themselves.

Visually sorting the wriggling maggots below, she spots one that holds her eye longer than the rest. She scents the human while I watch her. Then I look down and immediately know what she is taken with. No, please no.

My gaze slowly rises to watch her once again; she is patting her stone companion on the head, scoring it with her talon and a smear of blood so others of our kind will know it belongs to her. Task complete, she sets off in steady yet slow pursuit of her prey.

The girl on the ground is not going far – I know exactly where she is going. A short taxi ride takes her to her chic-to-be-common Tribecca residence guarded by an ass in a ridiculous hat. Settling in a stone archway a short distance away, I wait for what will happen next, though in truth, I already know.

The girl enters her building. Minutes later, the entire top floor illuminates. I picture it in my mind’s eye: she removes her coat, hanging it on a hook as she pulls the clip from her hair, allowing her mane to fall freely about her shoulders. She kicks off her stilettos, sliding them to the side with a delicate bare foot. She drops her mail on the sideboard as she begins her evening ritual. Why was she on Madison Avenue today?

I watch as sly satisfaction crawls over the Other’s features. I’m sure she’s wondering if the advantage of enjoying the finer things in life will make the girl taste sweeter – I would wonder myself. Meanwhile, I nestle deeper into the cloaking mask of twilight as the shimmering refection of the Hudson glimmers in my eyes.

***

Night has fallen, her prey has settled comfortably in for the evening, or so the poor girl thinks. I feel regret, but like all other things, this too shall pass… Dropping to the ground, the Other opts to visit the door-monkey, an unnecessary cruelty. He rushes to grant her egress. Most of our kind hide their true nature from these humans. She prefers to flaunt it… let them see her shimmering wings, her clawed feet, her taloned hands; let them see all she has to offer – haughty bitch! Her hold over him masks his fear until she decides to let him feel it; I am guilty of wearing the same mask, but not for the same reason. As she walks past the door-monkey, I watch while she mockingly thanks him for opening the door. He bows in supplication; her left arm strikes out, crushing his head against the marbled wall of the foyer. Kneeling beside him, she removes the ring of keys attached to his belt and shakes the ichor from her hand at the same time.

She ascends the stairs, walks across the well-appointed lobby and calls for the elevator. It arrives and as she has guessed, the Penthouse unit requires key access for the lift. She inserts the key into the slot, smears a finger across the button labeled ‘P’, and the doors close behind her. I can see no more from where I am. I move to the building’s ledge, finding better vantage to watch what is to unfold.

The elevator doors open onto a comfortable yet highly privileged loft. The thought that the girl living here knows of her arrival must have crossed her mind by now, but to one like her who enjoys terror as much as flesh, the squealing pork is that much sweeter. My heart rises to choke me.

She begins to walk through the apartment; I see confusion on her face. There are antiques of great value here; stone carvings hang upon the walls that are far too reminiscent of our kind’s past. She runs a finger across a 17th century credenza in exquisite condition, a Celtic dragon carving hanging above it. She glances at my latest gift, a Victorian fainting chaise poised below the windows opposite the entry. Most Manhattanites, wealthy or not, don’t posses such things. Her interest is piqued… and the hostess in residence has still not come out to play. I swallow the sickening feeling in my gut.

The Other sniffs the air; I know what she smells. The scent of warm honey and jasmine coming from the left – it often greets me. She heads in that direction.

Following along pace by pace on the outer ledge of the building, I reach the room the scent is emanating from the same time she does. She slowly pushes the door open as I peer through the window. What I see confounds me for a moment. The girl, my girl, my pet, is lying placidly in a tub of warm water, steam rising from it, hair pinned atop her head, with a cloth resting across her eyes. I simply stare. She must know by now it isn’t me, why hasn’t she run?

My lovely pet begins to speak, the movement of her lips the only thing disturbing  this twisted diorama.

“She won’t like that you’ve come here. You should leave.” Even through the glass wall of the window and the vying sounds of the street below, I hear her taunting the Other. My eyes sting in the biting wind. Goodbye my beautiful pet.

Shock freezes the Other in place for a moment, indecision caused by the unexpected brazen nature of the creature resting in the water. Then realization dawns upon her; this human is already kept by another. As if sensing this comprehension, my pet lifts her arm from the water to display a small black feather inked on the inside of her left wrist. It is the mark I make upon my own.

Moving her hand to the edge of the cloth, my pet lifts it slowly from one eye; I see my own arrogance radiating from her gorgeous emerald lens. Lowering the cloth once more, her arm sinks back into the water, she waits. I am to blame for this.

The Other loses what little control she has maintained up to this point. She dives at my pet, ripping her throat open with snapping teeth. I watch as she tears apart tender flesh with raking talons and scratching claws. Honey and jasmine scented water splashes the room as my own vision tinges red. Within, I silently howl my rage. Throughout the encounter, my pet does not struggle… not once. She dies with dignity.

I slowly withdraw from the glass as the Other withdraws from the bathroom; she backs down the hallway. Sensing she is being watched, her head whips toward the bank of windows set into the exterior wall, her eyes narrow, nervously searching. There, in the darkness, I crouch.  Waiting…

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~ Nina D’Arcangela

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