When I woke up, I felt a terrible numbness that followed a bitter cold. I was held in limbo where none of my senses worked. Slowly, my senses returned, one at a time, as I ascended from oblivion to reality.
The first was my sense of hearing, which came back to me with a mechanical scream. It was like one of those late-night prison movies where the guard opens a cell with that terrible ranking sound, and you discover the TV is far too loud.
The violent sound made my head ring, and I wanted to grab onto something to steady myself. Anything to stop my body from vibrating like a tuning fork.
I tried to open my eyes to get a sense of where I was, but I felt fabric pressed hard against them.
A blindfold. Great.
Whoever tied this piece of fabric really knew what they were doing, too. It was latched on so tight, I could feel my pulse running through it.
As soon as I tried to move my arms, I felt myself hugging my own body. I wondered why I would do this. Then I felt it. Sleeves of fabric covered my arms. With a few struggles, I tried to free myself from my own embrace.
I heard the clinking of buckles just behind me. Metal on metal. With the sudden contraction of leather on metal, it was clear: I was in a straitjacket.
Soon, my attention was pulled toward my temples as they throbbed.
"You're awake," a young woman's voice rang.
It was a somber voice. One I recognized all too well.
The sound of this woman's heels began to click click click.
It didn't resonate through the room like a marble floor. But it wasn't a short click like a wooden floor. It was crisp, cold, to the point. Concrete.
"Nobody else has gotten this far," she added, "maybe because they only saw part of the picture."
A metallic shing sounded, and I felt the boa constrictor of the blindfold slowly release from my head. I looked around. At first, everything was hazy. All I could see was grey, yellow, red. All of it in a horrendous, nauseating blur.
I looked to the ground and saw concrete. A short victory, as I saw the source of the other two colors follow right after. It scared the hell out of me. My heart started racing.
Beatrice stood before me. I hoped there would be a glimmer of remorse in her welcoming, blue eyes. Remorse was there, but these weren't her eyes anymore. These eyes were a devastating crimson.
She had long hair that went to the middle of her back. Her skin was white as a sheet, courtesy of spending far too much time inside. Too much time hiding from people that were hunting her.
Spending so much time in the shadows made her look like an eerie porcelain doll. Her dress was red and sleeveless. It was like the dress from Beetlejuice, gothic in form and extravagant in its color. I blinked my eyes. I saw blood dripping down her arms. And a splash of blood across her face.
She wore extremely high heels with a point so sharp they could be (and likely already have been) used as murder weapons.
Looking up, there was a large fluorescent bulb burning down on the two of us.
To Beatrice, this was like walking through dawn's first rays. To me, it was like being an ant under a magnifying glass. It seemed to brighten all shades of red. The red of Beatrice's daring dress and the red of her eyes.
I didn't dare look into her demonic eyes. While I knew they couldn't hurt me, it felt like they could stare into my soul.
I tried to say something, but I was stopped by another piece of cloth tied around my mouth.
"What?" she asked. "You gonna say something clever?"
Her eyes held a glimmer of hope as she strode toward me. She reached behind her, and I saw a blade flash into view. She made a slight cut. I closed my eyes and flinched.
When I found my courage again, I opened my eyes. I looked harder and saw Beatrice holding a switchblade in her hand. Behind her, there was darkness. The world was reduced to a pale circle of light surrounding us.
"Is that why you approached me early on?" I attempted. "You were hoping I wouldn't see what you were doing?"
"I had no idea who you were back then. I was just trying to be friendly. But things got...complicated."
"Yeah, they did," I agreed.
"Probably not how you thought this night would end up."
"I might have pictured it differently."
"This was the best I could do on short notice," she offered.
"It could have been a lot worse, given the circumstances."
"Nobody's going to find us here. I think that's a good place to start. Not even you know where this place is."
"Have you been hiding here this whole time?" I asked.
"It's where I got started. Took a lot of trial and error before I could really master the spells. It's hard learning this magic on your own."
"I actually see more than you think," I commented.
"I know," Beatrice smiled weakly. "I still don't know how you do it. Magic?"
"Only the best kind," I answered.
"And what's that?" Beatrice asked.
"Intuition," I whispered.
Beatrice smiled, and a tear fell from her eye.
"I'm going to miss this. The two of us talking like there's nothing else in the world but us."
"Right now, there is nobody else. Beatrice, you can tell me what's really going on."
"I think you have a good grasp on the important pieces. I'm the one killing people. You're the one chasing me. And now we're at a...what would you call it?"
"Crossroads," I offered.
"You know, if I wasn't supposed to kill you now, I'd keep you around just so we could talk every day."
"What would we talk about?"
"Things we don't tell anybody else. Like we always do."
"How did you do it?" I asked.
"Kill all those people and not get caught?" she said. "I think you know the answer to that."
"Just saying 'magic' is never a satisfying answer," I clarified.
"Like I said, you're the only one who sees the whole picture. Cops always look for stories they've heard before. Watchmen always look for traces of magic they've seen before. The key is to use something neither of them is expecting."
"From that book? The Necronomicon?"
"Books are where mages put all their dirty little secrets. But this one's special. I'm the only one who can use it."
"And now you're going to use it on me?"
"I wish it didn't have to be this way. But you've forced my hand. If you weren't so clever, we might have had more options."
I heard a phone go off. The ringtone was Marilyn Manson singing This is Halloween.
Beatrice looked annoyed.
"I wish I didn't have to do this. Be right back."
She left my small world for a moment and returned with a metal chair and her favorite red and black satchel. It had Jack Skellington's face on it, another haunting homage to The Nightmare Before Christmas.
The chair screeched into place as she dragged it across the floor. She sat down and met me at eye level.
"I did my best to hide what happened. But somehow, you were able to track us down. How is it a kid knows what to look for when cops and Watchmen don't?" Beatrice asked.
"Like you said, I was looking at the entire picture," I asked. "And I'm not telling you how I tracked you down. Once you know how to cover your tracks properly, you'll kill me and disappear again."
"Maybe. Or there's a chance that you'll be seen as useful once you talk," Beatrice pointed out, "You could help me get away with it."
"You're saying that it's not up to you," I said. "Who was that on the phone?"
"Someone of consequence. Someone who wants the answers a lot more than I do," she warned.
"How do I know you're not going to kill me? Or he won't the minute I tell you how I found you?"
"You don't know. That's what makes it fun. But he expects me to have answers for him the minute he shows up. He's not a patient man."
"Just say something. Anything that could help me," Beatrice pleaded.
She looked down after she made the request.
"We knew that demons had something to do with it," I said, “but we were looking at it all from the wrong angle. You were clever enough to steal the drugs so the cops would be looking for the wrong people. And then the Watchmen would be looking for the wrong people."
"I thought I had you for a minute," she smiled.
"You almost did," I admitted. "You almost got me killed. And you would have had an even bigger advantage than you had before. Putting your friend in charge of finding you? That was clever. But it didn't end well for him."
"I would say 'thanks,' but you really fucked it up," Beatrice lamented.
"You get used to it after a while," I smiled.
Beatrice smiled back at me. The crimson cooled in her eyes, if only for a second.
"I just don't understand why you'd go to all this trouble."
"Because I lost something. I lost someone."
"But is it really worth all of the lives you took?"
"Was Edmond's revenge worth all the lives he took?" Beatrice asked.
"If I say 'no,' would you let me go?" I attempted.
Beatrice faintly smiled at that.
"'Now the God of Vengeance yields to me his power to punish the wicked,'" Beatrice recited.
"I should have known there was a reason you liked that book so much," I admitted.
"That's because it's the truth. When you survive something so horrible, you are given that duty and power for a reason," she smiled.
"You don't have to do any of this. I know the book belongs to you, but—"
"I'm the only one who can use the book this way. And I want to use it this way. Nobody's going to stop me. Nobody! Especially not you."
The Marilyn Manson phone sang again.
She gave me a look of fake embarrassment and shoved the cloth back into my mouth to keep me quiet. She turned her back, and I struggled as best I could to get out of my restraints. With my arms bound and my mouth gagged, there was no way I could use magic.
After several swift and unsuccessful attempts to break free, Beatrice held a hand over the phone and looked back at me.
"Hold on, sweetie, I'm on the phone," she insisted in a condescending tone.
She swayed gently, making the slight black lining at the end of her scarlet dress fray from side to side. Whoever was calling had a lot to report.
I struggled again. I searched frantically for anything that could help, but there was nothing inside this circle of white light. But I did see a gleam on the floor. The gleam of wax symbols. I realized I was standing in the middle of a ritual. A big one.
I looked up. Her back was to me.
"What? Now? But I thought…" she started. Her voice was laced with bitter disappointment.
"That's not fair! You promised I could keep him alive if I..."
It seemed that with every stand Beatrice took, the person on the other end of the call cut her off even quicker. All the while, her posture of stubbornness melted more into defeat. Finally, she just listened for a solid sixty seconds and then turned to me, looking thoroughly upset.
"It looks like we're done. I'm just going to have to kill you now," she whispered.
She had a look of satisfaction that she was finally removing an obstacle from her path. But I also saw tears fall from her eyes.
All I could hear was my own heartbeat, rising to insane heights. What once were steady beats sounded more like the frequency of a hummingbird's wings.
I thought my heart would give out. But the whole time, Beatrice just looked at me with tearful, crimson eyes.
She withdrew the switchblade.
My heart rate finally began to slow down to a brutal, steady tempo. Like the ticking of a giant clock.
Beatrice reached inside her gothic bag and rummaged through several items. I assumed it was a pile of cosmetics that could be traded for someone's car. Finally, the rummaging stopped. The entire world seemed to hold still.
The result of my investigation was at hand. What I'd been searching for these last months was finally going to be seen. Granted, I'd rather see this instrument of murder put into a plastic evidence bag instead of pulled out of Beatrice's bag. But that hardly mattered now.
Finally, a black leather book protruded from Beatrice's bag. It made no sound as it came into view, but it held an entirely new presence in its own right.
On the front of the book, there was a circle of runes set into human teeth, which surrounded a cracked skull. I looked closely and saw that the teeth and skull were genuine. Normally, I would have discounted this as another one of Beatrice's gothic items, but something about the book sent shivers up my spine.
The book also had a human spine that ran along the binding and seemed to crack and slither. I wasn't sure if it was really moving or if my mind was playing tricks on me. But whenever those horrible sounds appeared, they were closely followed by the smell of rot. But the worst part of the book was the skull adorning the front.
This wasn't a cartoonish skull; it was a horrifying visage that seemed to pierce through my soul, leaving no trace of anything other than despair as it passed through the air. This was it.
Beatrice offered a very soft shh. I couldn't believe she was comfortable holding it, let alone using it for whatever purpose she had in mind.
With that, she bit into her fingertip.
Then she smeared her own blood across a corner of the book. A wave of crimson spread from the bloody fingerprint and made the eyes and the runes turn crimson. The circle of human teeth chattered as they were met with red light, and an unseen lock opened with an eerie clatch. The skull’s mandible opened, and the circle of teeth shifted. The eye sockets of the skull were glowing like candles.
She opened the book to the final page, and it was filled with crimson text. The smell of rot circled through the air as she scanned it morosely.
She let a weak smile grow across her face, but soon let it subside. She realized that it would be my name that she was adding to the incantation.
"It's all right. I won't make you suffer," she promised.
With a pinch of hesitation and an extended gaze into my eyes, she started reading.
"Beatrice…" I pleaded.
“Interficere Martin Blackbriar.”
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