Dr. Most turns off the juice. Connie’s body goes into spasms. Her legs and arms twitch violently. Drool runs out of the corners of her mouth. Her piercing blue eyes are filled with madness, menace, and loathing.
Ann Constance Smith, a Darque patient trustee who is no relation to Connie, walks up to the table. Decades ago, the wacked-out baglady was a rich socialite who owned most of the city. Now, all of her worldly possessions fit into a shopping cart. Wave-permed into shredded wheat by her Embrace, and bleached honey blonde, the color of raw wheat, down to her scalp when said Embrace turned Crimson; Ann’s golden sauerkraut is unkempt-looking, matted, and matte. Its extreme wildness is an expected manifestation of her prolonged unsanity. Her tits, which went south long before she was Saved, have been the expected delicious-Ds, perky bullet bumpers, ever since her Embrace.
She has been obsessed with Connie ever since she first laid eyes on the girl; that’s one thing her Embrace hasn’t changed. Forty years ago, while she was still mortal, she killed her twelve-year-old daughter, who was also named Connie, during a botched rape attempt. And, humans call Infernals, monsters. Go figure.
Mildred leaves the make-believe daughter to the pretend-mother’s sick machinations and makes a phone call from the sanctum of her adjacent office.
“It’s done. Now we wait.”
“Should I be expecting that niece you promised me in the mail, soon?”
“No. If I were you, I wouldn’t expect anything at all.”
“Well, worry wart, I have a feeling. Like the kind I use to get just before combat. Back in the good ole days of spit shine-n-glory. We’re gonna kick some big bad ass on this one, Millie my dear.”
“My gut says the same thing. But, female intuition isn’t infallible, especially when it comes to saving humans.”
“Oh, well. She was only human, after all. Even if that twisted little cunt never progresses beyond being a ghoul, at least that’s an improvement over what she was.”
“Ha. Ha. Ha. Being dead is an improvement over that.”
“You mean there’s a difference? Jeez, you learn something, everyday.”
“Without a doubt, dear little sister, without a doubt.”
“General Maxims. A general is not easily overcome, who can form a true judgment of his own and the enemy’s forces.”
Vegetius, the Roman military sage
Week eight. It’s now or never. Wearing a filthy T-shirt and nothing else, Connie is crotched over the putrid remains of a pregnant woman and her fetus, finishing them off, leaving nothing for the red-eyed sewer rats who watch-n-wait. Down here, nothin’ challenges the supremacy of a ghoul, including a pack of yard-long rodents.
For some reason, she doesn’t go after the vermin for dessert, even though they’re a delicacy to her kind. Instead, she chooses to make her egress through a manhole into the alley behind an apartment building, as if driven by some invisible force. With a belly bloated by her kills, she climbs the fire escape to a bathroom window, forces the window open, and drops onto the floor.
Suddenly disoriented, Smith staggers backward into the bathtub, which doubles as a shower. After uttering a blood-curdling shriek, her very last bestial, she just lies there. Finally we get a bingo at her table! Those tattoos appear, signaling that the Crimson Embrace cometh, only it’s Blonde (Dark Elf), instead of Brunette (Vampire).
On her back, a black dahlia, dripping purple blood, inks her left shoulder blade, and a black pentagram, dripping red blood, inks her right shoulder blade. A pair of pouting red lips inks her right buttock. Said inkings are luridly detailed, brightly colored, and so vivid you’d swear they were alive, which they are.
Redo your sums and smile again. She’s got lurid inkings, that are alive; a generous pubic beard with a “neatness” that’s not born of a wax job, but looks it; “cosmetically perfect” looks, whorishly hard and haughty, that beauty-by-scalpel, exalted by adoring fans, maligned by envious cows; and hype hair, a shock of acid-dipped plumage, that’s bleached down-to-the-scalp, disheveled and shagged and overteased, draping some pretty big hooters. Fair-haired, tight-ass bitch. Of course, from the git-go, she had a limber body with curves everywhere, a body that was firm, ripe, and built to please; she had the face; and she had that frown of a mouth, the requisite pout.
Connie looks like The Platinum Powerhouse, Frederique “Mamie” van Doren, did when that Dutch-treat headlined Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” the 1960 Broadway show with Great White Way attendance records that stand unchallenged to this day; of course, the movie version of the same year starred Janet Leigh in the leading role as Marion Crane. Connie looks like WWF Diva Miss Debra McMichael, did in that diva’s prime, circa 1998. Connie looks like June Wilkinson, “The Perfect Pair,” did in her prime when she graced the pages of men’s magazines like Adam Magazine in the 1960s and Playboy Magazine in the 1950s and 1970s. Connie looks like The Irrepressible Jenny, Jenny “Candies” McCarthy, did when that Southside Chicago native starred in last summer’s cinematic blockbuster, “Nurse Psycho-Nasty Does the Fuckin’ Mad Scientist.” Connie looks like Miss Madness, Gorgeous George, does whenever the pro-wrestling beauty cameos in the “The Catfight Diaries.” Connie looks like actress Jayne Heitmeyer, did in her bleach blonde prime as the star of “Earth: Final Conflict.” Connie looks like actress Edy Williams did in her bleach blonde prime as the star of “Hellhole” and other Russ Meyer classics. Connie looks like actress Edie Adams did in her bleach blonde prime as the star of films like “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” Connie looks like Mistress Gen, Gen Vincent, infamous founder of Genitorturers, the fetish rock band; Mistress Gen, South Florida’s Albuquerque, New Mexico transplant, who never fails to wow standing-room-only audiences in London’s “Torture Garden.” Connie looks like Danni Ashe, the most downloaded woman on the Internet. Connie looks like Shirley Eaton did in her bleach blonde prime playing Jill Masterson in “Goldfinger” and playing Dr. Margaret E. “Maggie” Hanford in “Around the World under the Sea.” Connie looks like Julie Fairlane the undisputed queen of fetish models and pin-ups in the retro subculture of rat rods and Kustom Kulture. Connie looks like Kelli Summers (aka Suzi Lorraine) did in “Cold Blonded Murders,” “Torment,” and “Crucifier.” Connie looks like Elizabeth Shue did in “Palmetto,” “Leaving Las Vegas,” and “Hollow Man.” Connie looks like Elizabeth Mitchell did in “Gia,” “Hollywood Palms,” and “Lost.” Succinctly put, Connie looks flashy, trashy, and good enough to eat.
In other words, Connie looks like what she is: Dark Elf. This Vampyric Smith has a Nobel Prize winning scientist for a mother, a war hero for a living aunt, and an assassin, more genocidal than the Butcher of Bohn, as her mother’s dead wife.
Her war hero aunt is that Agnus B Miller. General Miller, USCMC-retired, former CMC and COC, is the police captain over the precinct in which the State Hospital is located. Dr. Most is the older of the two sisters by several millennia. How many millennia, you ask? You got the brass-balls-billy, you go ask The Saint.
The nursing student is more than just another pretty face. As a ghoul, she was someone to be reckoned with. Which Junior, Queenie, Judy, and countless others can give mute testimony to. Now, she’s even deadlier. She’s Elf and Vampire; a duality which makes her a formidable opponent for anyone, even a god.
Jenny stands in the doorway of the bathroom and witnesses the final stages of Smith’s transformation from ghoul to Dark.
“Welcome to the family, couz.”
Miller walks over to Smith, kneels down beside the bathtub, and kisses the bleached-blonde full on the lips. While tasting the big girl’s fresh and recent kills, she cops a feel. Smith is aware of everything that is going on, but can do nothing to stop it, having lost control of all voluntary movement. So, looking very blonde and very tortured doesn’t even give a ghost as to what’s going on in Smith’s head.
Well. It’s no use crying over spilt milk; even though I’m gonna. You play with fire and you’re bound to get brunt. Knowing that beforehand hasn’t cushioned the blow one little bit. Gotta blame myself for that Most bitch being able to blind-side me like a rookie. I never saw that Embrace coming, and I should’ve. She got close; I got careless: something you should never let happen with faerie. Now, I’ve got my best friend groping me. Jeez. What’s a girl to do?
Hating Infernal because you were rooked is pointless. It does you no good, and it’s a real no-win situation. You end up either eaten up by hate or dead. That’s what the head says. The heart says, “Hate all these fuckin’ monsters and hate that Most bitch most of all. She’s the perpetrator who robbed you of your precious virginity and your even more precious humanity!” And, right now, the heart is winning. Surprise, surprise, not.
Of course, I’m gonna have to get over being raped and took. Which is easier said than done. You can get mad about it. You can hate them, especially the rook, the one who raped and took you. That’s allowed. They’ll tolerate that type of perverse behavior for the short term; chalking it up to bad habits you’re gonna shake. Just forget about gettin’ even, unless you want to end up being food for the fishes. Which I don’t.
“Fuckin’ bitch! You helped them do this to me! We’re best friends!” Connie screams out, remaining defiant.
Smith should be doubled over from after-spasms, clutching her again-flat stomach. But she isn’t! There’s no arcane doings afoot. Remember: She has the de Sade affliction. It’s why she aced BUD/S (pronounced: buds).
“Tisk, tisk, tisk. Where do you get these pathetic human notions from? You’re inhuman, now. It’s the priceless gift you’ve been given. And, I’m proud to say that I was instrumental in its bequest. As for that best friend’s bullshit of yours, you know you’ve always been closer than that to me. I love you like a sister, couz.”
“Oh. That’s right. We’re first cousins, now.” There’s a bite to the word “cousins,” when Connie pronounces it.
“Yes, beloved. Still want to kill me? I’ve helped those who robbed you of your humanity. I’ve felt you up when you were helpless to resist. That’s enough human cause to want me dead, isn’t it?” Miller taunts.
But, all of the pain-mojo and stroke in the world can’t negate the fact that Connie’s body is in dire straits. She’s incapable of mounting the kind of fierce onslaught needed to overpower her roommate. Miller knows it. And, Smith damn-sure knows it!
“I can’t fight you like I am now, and you know it!”
“Good answer. Now, you’re talking like an Elfling.”
“And, if I had given the wrong answer; the human one?”
“Why ask a question you already know the answer to?”
“’Cause I want to hear it out of your mouth.”
“That’s very inhuman of you.”
“Answer the question, bitch!”
“I would’ve killed you.”
“Without hesitation, couz.”
Connie takes a wild swing at Jenny, connecting only with air. Smith does succeed in losing her balance and falling into Jenny’s loving arms.
“Good show, squirt.”
“You’ve already called me that, once. Mustn’t be redundant.”
Connie begins shaking violently. Delirium tremors rack her body as she goes beta! Miller sits her down gently on the toilet seat, just as Dr. Most makes an entrance.
“Looks like I got here in the nick. We must get her flushed out or she’ll die.”
“Wow. You made good time getting here.”
“Left the lab as soon as you called. After all, she’s my daughter, now.”
“Thank you. I just bought it, Saturday.”
“Bill Blass, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is. Never can find an Armani that will fit me.”
“Yesss! God! Yesss! More pain! Twist my guts inside out! Please don’t stop! Pleassse! Don’t stop!” Connie screams out.
She’s getting off on escalating beta pain that would cause a sexually normal person, either Infernal or Mundane, to black out.
“Oh my, there we girls go talking clothes and forgetting about poor little misguided Connie, our resident paingirl. Only a painster would have screamed out like that. Invoking the name of God simply because you’re getting off on a little pain. Shame on you. Well, I guess it’s back to business. This is too bad. ‘Cause I so like to talk clothes.”
“What do I need to do?”
“I like this tox gig, already.”
“I figured you would.”
While Jenny peels off Connie’s shirt, Dr. Most runs the big girl’s steaming hot bath water and slowly empties in a jug of what looks like Tang. It’s actually urine crystals mixed with that powdered stuff and that goo! Tox is only necessary when a ghoul re-creation goes Dark.
Of course, tox has its other uses. Dr. Most, for example, uses it extensively in her XOM experiments; those lurid experiments she carries out on her patients!
“Jeez, so am I. Looks like it’s a tie, Jenn.”
Dr. Most looks Smith straight in the eyes, eyes with fixed dilated pupils.
“Your tox solution is ready. The choice is yours, die or live as one of us.”
“I know the drill, monster!”
“Choose. Your putrid is destroying you.”
Connie looks like she’s at death’s door, which she is: runny nose, drooling, pallid complexion, and a pulse that’s weak and irregular.
Mildred gives Smith a kiss on her cold, clammy forehead.
“You continue to prove yourself worthy of being my daughter. I’m sure you’ll never disappoint me.”
Smith shoves Miller and Dr. Most clear across the room. They end up on the floor after smacking into the wall.
“Time to die.”
“You’d rather be dead than be inhuman?” A completely bewildered Miller asks, as she picks herself off of the marble tiles.
“You misunderstood her. Look.”
Smith rolls off the head and drags her body over to the bathtub. She has no feeling below her waist.
“God forgive me,” Connie pleads, as she hauls herself into the tub, submerging herself in the cleansing concoction.
She breathes the florescent liquid in deeply through her mouth and nose without fear of drowning.
You can’t drown in tox. Be that as it may, though, even faerie youngest are most adaptive. And, excluding MOEs (magically oppressive environments), her kind who are old enough to be gods, can assimilate very disparate environments; from the super-heated daylight of ternary suns to the eternally cold, hard vacuum night of outer space! And, being Children of God, albeit God’s so-called faire children, nothing holy or blessed or silver or iron or lead or garlic is faerie bane.
Tox flows through every orifice and pore of Connie’s body, leaving only well scrubbed inhumanity in its wake. Although conversion was forced upon her, she had the chance to reject the gift and embrace death. She chose life, even though the choice meant the blasphemy of being a fiend.
A passage from the Dark Scriptures of the Middle Testament and a Dark Times’ limerick come to mind as she lies in the bathtub being baptized by tox.
“Before the Light, there was the Darkness. After the Light, there will only be Darkness. Monsters, we are to you humans, because food and drink and sex, you be to us. You’re food to satiate our Hunger, drink to satiate our Thirst, and sex to satiate our Rapture.”
“Life is a bitch with too many twists. I gain a daughter and lose a git. Well. There’s always the Times ghoul-wanted classifieds.”
The girl’s mind drifts.
I’m still submerged in the bathtub, breathing tox, backside resting up against the tub’s enamel bottom. But. Jessica Priest! My mind is elsewhere. It’s that fuckin’ esper construct of hers again. And, it’s always the same inquisition.
The room is blacker than black, as black as the total blackness of Black MAX exoskeleton in combat mode. We’re seated in nondescript chairs, facing each other. The chairs are crude and wooden, fashioned from roughhewn slates. She’s not strapped down and I am, which is no surprise. I’m talking about the whole sha-bang: forehead, chin, neck, chest, waist, elbow, wrist, knee, and ankle restraints. Wait a minute. Not the whole kit-n-caboodle. There’s no ball-gag. Which means the old blood bag wants to chat.
Here, nothing of the real world really matters. Here, Dr. Most creates the rules that I must play by. Here, all the questions are trick, only one set of answers are right, and there’s absolutely no way to cheat. I pass; I live. I fail; I die. Jen and Dr. Most will make it look like death by misadventure. And, except for my mortal family, none will choose to be the wiser.
“I’ve never seen her like this. She came at me like a mad dog. I thought I was goin’ to have to put her down. She acts like she hates me.”
“Do you expect understanding from someone who still burdens herself with the leftover affectations of her previous mortal incarnation?”
Jenny shrugs her shoulders. Her eyes get moist, but somehow she manages to hold back the tears.
“You’re right. I just thought. Hoped. That it was goin’ to be different with her. She’s been around our kind all of her life. She knows the score. Hell, she’s been touched since conception. It’s written all over her.”
“Although blood is, as blood does, she’s still of a fundamentally human mindset, and acts accordingly.”
Jenny reluctantly shakes her head in agreement.
“Good. Now you’re being rational.”
“It’s just that I love her so much. But, you’re right.”
“Of course, I’m right.”
“You’re her mother, and you know best. The ball’s in her court, now.”
“Yes. It’s all up to her. Either she becomes a productive member of inhuman society or she lets her hate get its way. Hating Infernal ‘cause she was rooked is pointless, and she knows it. Yet, thinking human, she pursues this foolhardiness, which can only prove to be self-destructive. It does her no good and it’s a real no-win situation. She’ll end up either eaten up by hate or dead.”
“So, she hates you, me, all of us.”
“And that’s allowed, at least for the time being. We’ll tolerate such perverse behavior, and chalk it up to bad habits she’s gonna shake.”
“And, if she doesn’t, and tries to get even, she’ll be fish food.”
“Exactly. She’s Lost begot by Lost, now. Either she learns to live with that, or she will be killed.”
“This is as it should be.”
My mind is back from elsewhere. The tox is stimulating my memory centers. I rekall my two months of homicidal bliss as a ghoul. And, I’m reliving it in random sequence!
Yep. You heard me right. I said, “Homicidal bliss.” My rooking and the sexual transgressions I was made party to in the aftermath of that heinous act, notwithstanding, that revenant scene was a blast. I really dug all of the killing I got to do on my murder spree as a ghoul. Killing makes me wet. Always has. Always will. ‘Cause for bent such as I, taking a life is how the ultimate orgasm is had. Torture is foreplay; killing is sex.
It’s two days ago. I make short work of an eight-year-old boy. The feeding will help me heal faster. I got hurt, hurt real bad, in an altercation with his street gang. Some days you eat the bear. Some days the bear eat you.
He was the last of the Mundane thug-bangers still stalking me. He had a gun, but he got too close. Plus, he just couldn’t do the math, just like his dumb-ass buddies couldn’t. Now he’s dead, just like the rest of his crew. And he never saw it coming. His kind always figures you for easy pickings when you’re homeless and nuts, even when they cipher you as inhuman.
Being homeless and nuts is the norm for us ghouls. And neither condition makes us any less of a faerie menace. If anything, they should make us seem even deadlier, because they imply we’re unpredictable.
I destroy his gun, a spanking brand-new Heckler & Koch MP5K-PDW with a suppressor attached for silent running. I have no use for this premier 9mm SMG, because most of the time I’m just too crazy to manage anything better than a club or a piece of pipe.
Then, out of the blue, it’s that fateful night; the one that changed the course of my destiny, forever. Jen and I are having a parting conversation, the significance of which I can only see, now. In a few minutes I’ll be off to work. It’ll be the last time I leave the apartment as a human being.
“Remember our first meeting?”
“Yes. It was.”
“The first day of kindergarten. Everybody in class was afraid to come near me, because I was faerie; everybody, that is, except for you.”
“Ha. Ha. Ha. The teacher, Miss Parsons, told mom I was like a moth drawn to a flame. We became inseparable.”
“Do we remember when we really bonded that day?”
“Yes. I’ll never forget it, either. We were playing. Got away from the others at recess. Me and the class’ faerie menace. I lost my footing when we were running down a steep hill. I tumbled for what seemed like forever. I ended up at the bottom of a deep ravine, my forehead split open like a ripe watermelon. I was bleeding. You went jagged. I thought I was a goner.”
“For some reason I wasn’t afraid. You sniffed, and then licked my blood. And then you said the funniest thing. You said, ‘Sorry my faerie sister for not recognizing my own kind reincarnated in a Mundane’s fragile body.’”
“Then, I blunted my teeth and we had a good laugh.”
“I still love to trace that scar and relive recess on that first day of school when we bonded as best friends, forever and ever. What would’ve happened if you hadn’t given me a passover when you mistook my blood for faerie?”
“The obvious. I would’ve ate and drunk you to death, silly girl, or at least tried. But. Miss Parsons would’ve stopped me in time. She was on us like white on rice, beating us to the bottom of the hill. And, by the by, like I’ve told you over and over before, I may have been only three at the time, but, I was not some runny-nosed kid making an infantile mistake. Your blood is faerie in every way that really matters. Physically, it’s Mundane hemo all right. But, metaphysically, it’s ours. You see, blood reflects the soul and yours reflects a faerie one.”
“Three-years-old, my ass. This isn’t your first shell.”
“Don’t even go there.”
“Priss my ass. How old I really am is none of your business.”
“Bet you a fin I can cipher your yarns.”
“Supreme excellence in warfare consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without engaging in combat. Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans.”
Sun Tzu, Chinese general and military philosopher
(From his “The Art of War”)
Where Light hath extinguished, Darkness always rules.