Content warning for violence, sexual references.
“You must understand, of course, I had not intended to kill you today.”
She stared at me with glassy eyes, cold and void of life. I had never been one for shuttering the gaze of the dead. Tradition be damned, it was an act of cowardice. The emptiness there was a prick to my heart, reminding me of the sacrifice I had made. For I only kill that which I love.
It seemed a fitting penance that we should suffer together, that something of me should die alongside everything of them. But in truth, I had become addicted to the pain. The darkness that had suckled my soul had given me a certain immunity to moral virtues. With that immunity came an apathy that only intense pleasure and intense pain could overcome.
Her body swayed gently from the rafters. With her arms tied wide and her head lolling on her chest, she looked like a gender-bent Christos, though I could not bring myself to pierce her perfect hands or crown her with thorns. Those I had saved for her neck, her ankles. The metal claws tipping my thumbs still bore traces of her blood, a crimson patina that had settled into the grooves and dried there.
“Charity. I always liked your name. You lived up to it, right to the end.”
I could still taste her on my lips, sweet in her ignorance. Once they saw their death in my eyes, the flavor changed. Too much fear ruins the meat as much as the moment. And this one had given me everything. Four blissful weeks felt like an endless summer with her golden hair twined around my thighs. And then this morning…
“Why do you talk to them, Mistress?”
Carmen’s voice carved a jagged path through my reverie. It was clumsily done. The bitch knew better. I stared into the copper basin brimming with Charity’s last offering and no room for more. Fortunately for Carmen, I was equally full and wolves do not kill when sated.
I waited for the blood ripples to still before answering. “Death deafens, first for a moment, then forever. Do you think they hear me when I tell them they are beautiful? That they are so beautiful, it would be cruel to let them wither even a moment more?”
Carmen stepped up beside me, pulling on a pair of nitrile gloves. “No, Mistress, I am sure they hear nothing but their own screams.”
The wicked smile summoned by her humor reminded me why I’d let her live so long. I stood and walked over to my sacrificial lamb. Tracing the cold arc of Charity’s hip with my hand, I marveled at how much her flesh resembled soft marble now. Only this morning, it was warm and pink and flushed with desire.
Flesh and stone. Blood and bone. Both for me. All for me.
I frowned at the rustle of plastic, harsh and out of place in such a reverential moment. But I could not fault Carmen for her efficiency. She knew there was a small window of time between the Bottle and the Bleed. Miss it, and the alchemical enchantment that kept the blood viscous would not work, making Charity’s death needless, base, profane.
Sitting back down, I watched Carmen work. She was beautiful in action, even sheathed in plastic for my protection. Why hadn’t I killed her? It was a question I asked every time I sat in this chair. What made her special? Or was she not special enough?
Oh, no… she was special, I thought, admiring the curve of Carmen’s ass as she knelt in front of the basin. I was already imagining the evening ahead.
Her. On her knees. Me. In lace. Black, of course. I’m in mourning.
Carmen rocked back on her heels and stood, thumbing Charity’s perfect ankle. She turned and walked toward me, the pad of her gloved thumb dark with blood. Well-trained, she held it out to me.
“One last taste?” she murmured.
I smiled indulgently. “Go on. Consider it an apology for never letting you have her.”
Carmen looked at her hand, considering, then shook her head. “I think I’d rather not know what I was missing.”
Argument made, I leaned forward and wrapped my mouth around Carmen’s thumb, savoring Charity one last time. Bitter. Sweet. Carmen’s brown eyes darkened with a desire I would feed later.
She slid her thumb from my mouth and went back to her tasks, readying the amphora that would hold Charity’s essence for later use. The girl had a lovely mix of traits: a fair amount of psychic ability, a quick mind, a certain innocent air that I found difficult to emulate without a little aid. Yes, she was a fine addition to my collection.
“Will you talk to me, Mistress? After I have bled my last for you?”
Carmen’s question took me off-guard. Head half-turned, she did not look at me. I afforded her the same courtesy and stared up into Charity’s iconic face. I felt myself smile, as real as the taste of blood on my tongue.
“You deserve better, Carmen,” I whispered. “You I will kill slowly, gently. Telling you right to the end just how much I loved you.”
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