Servant of the Enemy Part III
Updated: Dec 25, 2019
Written By R.M. Garino
Rose saw she stood in the center of the street. Heading back or continuing forward would take as long. There were no alleys to turn down, only one long road, dark and silent.
Rose did not like it.
Oh no, not a lick.
People were dying lately. And not from what they usually die of in a poor coastal town.
Not sickness that, not like the little mouths at all.
Folks are dying, and they're found chopped up. They say it's the same fella who does it every time. Every chopped body cut in different ways, but always the same fella.
Folks whisper. Things are missing from them bodies. Not possessions. Parts.
Why did you go and walk this way, Rose?
The man on the corner yesterday, shouting there was a demon loose in the streets. Remember him? He said it was feasting and growing and eating people.
The Lethen'al were coming for them all.
Some already left, heading out to the countryside, hoping to get out before it was too late.
The mages and priests never say a word about what's going on. Strange that. No one's seen any of 'em trying to stop it.
It's the cold, not the bloody Chopper!
I'm no ninny.
I know how to handle meself. Know what to do and where to go. Why, Corin's tailor shop is around a few more corners.
She had a key to let herself in, so she could be waiting the way he liked on certain days. Rose blushed, her face heating in the cold nocturnal air.
The sound of metal grating on stone made her turn.
The empty street hovered around her.
She paused, wondering if anyone was there. As with all cities, gangs of thieves and hoodlums abounded. Not that Rose was afraid of them.
None but the young ones.
The young ones knew her as 'Old Rosy' despite not a single gray hair on her head. They never reached the compromise their older peers had with her.
Older ones value my services. Young ones don't want an old woman. Harrumph! Old woman, my arse.
Takin' chances with the young ones.
A fragment of laughter drifted on the wind, sudden, mad and alone.
There was no accompanying response to give it purpose or reason, and it was gone in the second it took her to register the sound.
Rose replaced a stray strand of her golden hair into the scarf covering her head. She was not enjoying this.
Damned funny-funny trick.
"Ha, Ha, Ha," she laughed to show she got the joke. No one appreciated a good joke like old Rosy.
There's a bloody time and place for such things.
This was only making her mad, so much the worse for the jokers. Rose was no slouch in the scolding ...
The sound of her name spoken on the empty street popped a squeak from her mouth. The speed with which she turned was born of panic, as was flailing her arms so her mind thought she was doing something.
Rose expected to see the Chopper, a drooling killer hunched over with the weight of his crimes on his shoulders, a dull knife glistening in the shadows.
The vision she met, however, was born more from the daydreams of the girl she once was, rather than the fears of the woman she became. Before her, not more than twenty steps away, stood the most beautiful being she ever beheld. A soft glow surrounded the entity and gave the suggestion of wings behind it. The androgynous creature regarded her and exuded a radiance of benign tranquility.
Rose moved closer, her blue eyes wide with rapture. Here was an angel; here was one of the Aesari, the voice of God. The being spread its arms in invitation, welcoming Rose home with an embrace. She moved forward, caught in the euphoria of the moment.
The Sharikeen were right after all!
She was chosen. She was to transcend this mortal plane and bask in the divine light of creation, purified in the embracing fires that did not burn.
Rose beheld the fulfillment of every scripture she heard as a child. Every promise the Sharakeen made, every story they told of the last days came to life before her eyes. The catechisms she learned by rote in her youth sprang into her mind. The Lethen'al fell from Heaven as per God's plan. Humans were created to replace them. Those who were pure, who achieved perfection were chosen to ascend.
She regretted the way she shunned the teachings of her faith and walked out of the temples. She regretted the angry words that forced her to leave and the selfish thoughts of embarrassment that kept her away.
The arms held out before her signaled her forgiveness.
Here was her proof.
The Aesari smiled when Rose approached, though she saw no mouth. It was the hint of a smile, a suggestion of mirth around the eyes and the shimmering aura encircling it.
I always knew this would happen. I always prayed. I split with the Sharikeen, not the faith. Never the faith.
She knew if she refrained from the decadence and pitfalls of the low quarter she would be called home. The understandings she had reached with the old ones did not count. She had done what was necessary to survive. The little mouths needed her. Her life, meager as it was, was never truly hers. In truth, Rose did not consider herself poor, although she rarely had enough to eat and shivered through the winters in rags.
T'was all a test to see if I'm worthy.
Rose stepped into the creature's embrace, basking in the warmth of a new life.
"Welcome, my child," it cooed. Its arms encircled her body. Rose was happy, finally truly happy. Confident in her virtue, she smiled at the creature in return.
The doubts of the dark, which castigated the concessions she made of her body and spirit in the name of survival, were now put to rest. If the Aesari were here, then she was pure; if she was pure, she would soar to Heaven.
Rose never felt the knife which parted her clothing and the flesh of her abdomen.
She did not feel the warm spreading flow when her blood rushed out to greet the cold night air and assail the intruder. Her smile was transfixed upon her face, her eyes far away dancing in fields of her own devising. Rose frowned when the blade turned in her belly, puzzled by the strange sensation. The knife was drawn upward, and the glamour held before her was ripped away with an irreverent tug. The Aesari darkened, its inner light dimmed and its features became more succinct. As the sickening crunch of her sternum announced the opening of her chest cavity, the angel reverted to its true form.
At first Rose failed to comprehend the change, though her lips trembled at the loss.
Where did it go? My Aesari?
When the realization dawned that the Chopper had skewered her, her mind was still reluctant to let go of the fantasy.
The man's pox marked face was but a breath away. His taut pallid skin was drawn tight over the head and stretched in a smile. Wings of white adorned his temples and lent his otherwise dull brown hair an air of elegance. He was taller than she by far and Rose was never a short woman. His eyes, however, held Rose captive, entranced by the deep, piercing blue of the iris. Those eyes glittered with pleasure and burned into her mind; the glint, the color, the erotic passion they expressed. The world around her dimmed, yet those eyes stayed bright.
Her body was numb and floated on the very air itself. She drifted toward the only spark of brightness in the world that increased in its gloom. The shimmer of the moonlight in the man's eyes pulled her forward.
The sensation grew and expanded.
She noticed the blues of the iris were swirls of color, shaped in an odd way, almost like people, twisted against each other. As his eyes grew, Rose felt like she was falling into their depths. A final thought occurred to her before she collapsed lifeless in his arms; she was trapped.
Rose Witcon screamed, though only a select few in the world were able to hear her now.
She was gone and the man laid the body properly on the cobblestone street. He arranged her 'just so,' for the ritual had to be complete.
It's hard work, he said to himself, hard work indeed, but well worth the effort.
A small chuckle escaped his lips when he finished.
He knelt down and inserted his right hand into the blood soaked cavity that was once Rose. His left hand wiped the sweat from his upper lip.
He knew things about her now, things she never told another living soul.
She lived four blocks away at the back of house number twelve, second story. She had a lover of sorts, the married tailor on Accen Street who satisfied her body and then ravaged her soul. The poor dear was devastated; she loved him madly, but could not have him to herself. He refused to acknowledge her in public, but kept her fed on a continual diet of "ifs" and "when's", accompanied by the occasional dessert of "someday."
The Chopper's smile deepened when his hands closed upon what he sought, a gland at the base of the woman's neck. His knife made easy work trimming the meat, and he held it to the light of the moons for a moment. He chuckled and popped it into his mouth. He sighed while he chewed.
A blinding flash of light seared his eyes, and a spasm of agony rampaged through his body. Above Rose's lifeless shell he reeled, stricken like a drunken marionette, his arms clutched to the sides of his head, and he swayed about blind. It was all he could do not to cry out while his nerves passed the threshold of pain incapacitating to an ordinary man.
But his training ensured he was no ordinary man.
Not any longer.
Besides, to exclaim his agony only served to draw attention to this place, even as deserted and forlorn as it was. He was not ready for scrutiny now. Not yet.
In slow, pulsing increments the pain subsided, and he sat before Rose's cooling corpse. His vision cleared, and he was able to breathe again. Sucking a large lungful of moist air, he smiled.
Now the ritual was complete, her soul was truly his, as the demon Aenir promised.
He felt alive again, powerful.
Tiny sparks of energy raced through his body and across his field of vision while he watched Rose's life unfold before his mind. He knew everything about her. Maybe tomorrow he would pay a visit to the little shop on Accen Street and say "hi" to Corin the Tailor. That would be fun; he always liked to tie up the loose ends his sacrifices left behind. It was easier for them to rest when they knew their business was being tended to. They were more likely to offer up the secrets they kept. Rose would like that. The love she bore the tailor bordered on hate. How many times did she toy with the idea of killing Corin for leading her along? And the shrew, his wife? Those fantasies were dark indeed. How the dear girl hated herself for thinking such things.
If nothing else, he thought, I provide a service to my victims. I bring to life their darkest desires.
In death, he allowed them to experience what they denied themselves in life. His feet led the way to the tailor's shop on Accen Street. He bounced a key in his hand and whistled a jaunty tune.
Truly, I am generous.
And he asked so little in return.
Just their flesh.
Just their power.
Just their knowledge.
He would need all three to free the demon from its prison.
Thank you for reading this short tale. Look for more flash fiction in the future.