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A Bit from Nothing
There's a knock at the door.
The woman listens intently, head bowed, eyes closed, rocking back and forth in time with the crackle of her fire place, and in her expression you can just detect a hint of something like acknowledgement. She smiles privately to herself, as if considering who has come to pay such an old soul visit, but does not stir.
I knock again.
I am watching through the curtains of her front window, dark red like fine wine, stretched thin against the bottom of the glass. Everything moves as shadows, and blurs- but I know. I have seen her before. She is coming.
She nods her response, politely. She doesn't like me, never much has. Not since her son brought me home long ago, cold and shivering and up to no good, surely. A poor child. Vermin. Someone she, herself, would never have considered on the disease-ridden streets outside. Come, with her only son, a fine lad of just twenty, to beg bread on her stoop. There was contempt in her eyes, when I was around. Contempt for the beggar boy, and admiration for her generous son. It worsened as the companionship progressed.
I have come to share news of your kin.
He is dead.
It is stated so bluntly, without warning, that shock registers her face uninhibited. It is only a second. She has regained composure in less time than that in which it had been lost. As if she had never faltered in the first.
"I believe-" there is a slight, strangled choking noise that erupts from the back of her throat. Her voice cracks just as the next words are spoken, "I believed my son to be in good health."
Is that so?
"Quite," she says, and monitors my expression with indignation. Searching, I can tell, for fault. For guilt, for shame, for anything at all, but finds nothing behind my sheepish grin and half-lidded eyes.
"We were close," I admit, and it isn't entirely the truth, but I have never been one for perfection, and it is almost true, not entirely a lie, "very close, to your... home."
The last word is full of such disgust, such hatred. It hardly sounds a word at all, but more a chord from the devil's fiddle itself.
Johnny, and the devil of Georgia.
Ironic, fitting. Almost- the best there's ever been.
How I amuse myself so.
"Home," she echoes. It is not so much a welcoming as a repent. I am not welcome. This is clear. Her wrath twists to me.
"You." Accusation. Her eyes bore into mine, but there is nothing to see, nothing to prove. There are demons dancing behind the irises, just out of sight. Inklings of something not all there. They easily could be mistaken for shadows from the firelight. She knows me better. She sees them. Another flash of recognition.
She is stumbling backwards, tripping, gasping. Shock. Falls into the same rocking chair as before, but the rhythm isn't easy. It isn't right. "You killed him. My son. Dead."
I say, and I smirk at her, eyes glittering with something overtly malicious. How could I keep the demon from peeking through, just a bit, to stare her in the eyes? There was always something cold that lay in wait behind my expression, something she was looking for, but could never place. I allow him to reveal himself for just a moment, a singular crack in my solid mask of empathy.
"You know, just before he died, he told me you might figure it out."
I have just closed the door as the first syllables of response tumble from between her lips.