Author's note: This piece was written hastily as a class assignment and I'm still proud of it. I intend to... Show full author's note »
The Killer Bathes in Blood and RichesRolling eyes, gaping mouth, flailing arms. The poor, wretched sight offers a perfect target, unable to defend herself as she writhes beneath the rusty fire escape. Her baby blue silk blouse rides up her petite frame, exposing tanned skin and a small rose tattoo. Any gasps she makes die away in the car horns and sirens. Brown hair tangles in a drain, blood oozes from pink petal lips, bronzed skin bruises from lack of oxygen. Her pinstriped skirt creeps up her waist, receiving tear after tear, revealing white lace for underwear. After a few never ending minutes, her body relaxes.
Not hesitating, I search the corpse, discovering a silver credit card and some petty cash. Stripping the body of its clothes and lifting it off the ground, I make my way towards the dumpster, avoiding discarded crates and toppled trash cans. Even as her head lolls back, I sense the dead doll gaze radiating from her dilated yet piercing eyes. Setting her next to the dumpster, I drag cans and bags from around the alley to where she lay. After a good kick between her glass eyes, I throw her body into the dumpster, cover it with rotted sushi and shredded paper, and walk away praying the Mother will approve of my findings…
My name is Vulture. I find treasures in the trash so we can survive; I steal from the surface by night to feed the Family; I rape and torture and kill to please the Mother. I owe the Family my life, for though I possess no memories of my past, I know they rescued me from it. I serve the Family in exchange for protection, I serve the Mother in exchange for love, and they will have my loyalty for as long as I live. My life belongs to the Family and the Mother…
Hours later, after avoiding mindless drones and Council Guards, I reach it: the drain pipe. I struggle to lift the iron lid and enter the solitary world of filth and sewage. The tunneling labyrinth guides my feet through the underbelly of the city to the Family’s hideout.
Once, several large tunnels next to each other were closed off by the city, then a Mother from eighty years ago demanded the Family move here and destroyed the walls dividing the tunnels. Now, the tunnels are leveled out and close to two hundred grimy beings inhabit tents made from pipes and ratted blankets. Food and water are scarce, whereas Silver Devil is freely injected into even the youngest of veins. Dim firelight dances along the walls, mingling with the distinctive moans and screams in the distance, tell-tale signs of an initiation. My own dreaded torture floods into my memory, overwhelming my senses…
The foul odor of burning flesh scorched my nostrils as they pressed the red hot iron to my thigh; the world went white as I struggled to remain conscious; the salty taste of blood filled my mouth as I bit down on the gag to silence my screams. They removed the iron from my skin and pressed salt to my fresh wound, then stepped back to watch me writhe in pain. Two hours to go, and I could already see Heaven’s gates. The Mother motioned for the others to sit, then stepped forward with the knife in hand and her blind protégé by her side. As she skillfully sliced away, intense pain caused me to rip one blood-soaked hand free from its bonds and instinctively swat the knife away. The blind protégé caught the knife with skill, approached me, and slowly dragged the blade across my cheek. She giggled at my muffled screams…
I shudder as my hand impulsively strokes the scar on my cheek, a painful reminder of my loyalty to the Family. Young children scatter as I make my way through the rudimentary camp, whereas those more familiar with my presence nod out of respect then return to their needles and self-mutilation. At the back of the camp, I breathe deeply before peeling back the blanket covering the entrance to the Mother’s tent. The Mother sits on the only chair allowed in the camp, her dreaded knife in hand; her blind gaze is fixed on a figure huddled on the floor. Maggot and Leech, two grimy creatures who possess the Mother’s respect as well, cackle as the figure shudders and wriggles away from their every touch. His frail naked form is bruised and bleeding, his platinum-honey hair a matted mess, his hands bound behind his back. The Mother lifts her head and regards me with her visionless gaze and a vicious smile.
“Vulture, my pet, you return successful?”
I toss a bag in the corner, “Credit cards, clothes, jewelry, the usual.”
“Eleven. The alleys are becoming deserted, Mother. We’ll have to move to the streets if we want to continue. Signs are covering the streets warning people against night travel. The Council is doing everything to oppose us.”
“Of course they will, my dearest Mother. They fear anything that will reveal the truth about them, and we now the truth, don’t we, Leech?” Maggot giggles as she fills a needle with Silver Devil.
“Oh, yes, the truth. Those Council members think they can control everyone by blinding them from it, but we know it, and it’s ours to tell, ours to share,” Leech repositions their unfortunate prisoner, revealing his face, his beautiful face. He unties the boy’s hands and prepares an arm, “Are you almost ready with that? He still has some fight in him no matter what I do to him, the precious little doll.”
“Vulture,” the Mother’s voice draws my eyes away from the cruel yet fascinating spectacle, “Come with me.”
I follow the Mother into one of the back rooms of the spacious tent, glancing over my shoulder once more to see the boy looking helpless in the hands of Maggot and Leech.
The Mother sits on her cushioned bed, patting the spot next to her. Unsure of her intentions, I take her offer, afraid to defy her. After a moment of silence, she takes my hand and gazes into my eyes as if searching for a weakness. Faint giggles and cries infiltrate the room as the silence between us swells. She places a hand on my cheek, caressing it softly for a moment, then breaks the silence.
“Time has come for a new Mother to be born. I must choose a member of the Family, one whose loyalty remains unquestionable, who serves my every whim without question, to be tested. If they pass, they will be mine and mine alone, and we will create the next Mother. We will raise her to be one of the Family, and one day lead it as I do now,” the Mother leans in close and whispers in my ear. “I choose you.”
My mind and heart stops, unable to comprehend this knowledge. The fabled honor of becoming the Mother’s lover is often spoken of as a way to inspire men to better themselves, to impress the Mother; now, I sit in her tent as she offers this mark of respect to me. Speechless, I look away, incapable of continuing such an intense conversation while gazing at the Mother.
“However, there is the matter of your test. Though you have proved yourself worthy on countless occasions by turning in spies, conducting initiations, and feeding the Family, you are not exempt from this tradition. Maggot and Leech are entertaining a very special guest. High Councilman Ryder’s son sought us out and asked to become a member of the Family, but I see a much better use for him. His death would devastate his father and force him to resign; this will present us with the opportunity we have waited for. Your task is to kill him and deliver his body to his father, along with this note,” the Mother handed me a scrap of paper folded and waxed shut. “Take him deep into the tunnel and make him suffer. The message will run deep with Ryder only if his son suffered up until the very end. Return successful and you shall possess the honor of my love,” releasing my hand, the Mother joins Maggot and Leech to observe their actions.