The slippery slipper slipped from my hands. The glass leaving its bloody traces; a path of dark red leading to absolutely nowhere. Straight into silent nothingness. How fitting! My vision blurred, my skin scarred and my life shattered into tiny pieces. Every time I tried to pick them up, to put them back together, they cut me again and I could hear the devil’s familiar laugh paralyzing my everything. My life rejecting me. Still, I was weirdly proud that I did this all to myself. All by myself. I didn’t need a Prince Charming to do the shattering. I was perfectly capable of ruining my own life.
I hate that eleventh step. It’s the darkest one. It always has been. I remember noticing it when I was around twelve years old but I couldn’t say anything, not to my parents.
I blamed them. I thought when they died it would leave me alone. It didn’t.
I’ve suffered that step for forty years now. But I don’t think I’ll need to for much longer.
“Step right up step right over, behind this curtain is the most fascinating farm animal you’ve ever witnessed.”
I didn’t buy it. Every carnie on the fairgrounds regurgitated that same hook, pointing around with their canes and blinding us with their red striped suits.
And so the night sparked the beginning of something reckless and dangerous.
He wanted to show me the city after a drink or two. Shotgun, wondering why I dated a policeman. I sat cozily in his car as he drove around in the moonlight. I had the time of my life and he seemed to notice that. It’s a pity I had to kill him before sunrise. He perceived almost everything about me just by looking into my eyes. He spent the whole night explaining to me everything he saw in me. And he was right – mostly – which is creepy if you consider it was only our first date.
Here! Follow my voice! Over here, I say! For God’s sake, man, come over to the fire. What in heaven’s name are you doing, out in such a storm? Come and warm yourself before you freeze where you stand. There, it is only a whistling nook amidst the snow and the cruel wind, but it affords us some small respite and the luxury of civilised conversation. Here we will wait for a break in the weather. I would share with you a morsel, but I have none. Rest and talk must serve as our sustenance. I note that you are hardly dressed for being so deep in the mountains. A light jacket? Such flimsy trousers? I know I must look a fright, unkempt and unshaven, but I am something of an exception. Those who linger in these hills generally know the value of good boots and a winter coat.
I was somewhere I had no business being, doing something that I shouldn’t, when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
Gerald glanced at the hitchhiker staring out the passenger side of his truck. “Did ya’ hear me, son?”
“I said, if you’re looking for mercy out that window, you won’t find it there. This world ain’t for giving mercy and when it does, it comes with a price.”
Slouched against the worn leather seat, the hitchhiker pulled his gaze away from the barren landscape, eyes drawn to the anomaly marring the desert sky. He inhaled a sharp breath and slid further into his seat, hands grasping the dashboard.
“It’s getting bigger,” he mumbled.
I burned a witch to death last night. She was a standard specimen: long nose, black hair, broomstick, pointy hat. I looked for a cat but couldn’t find one, which is not unusual. In my experience, few witches travel with their cats. Ditto for cauldrons, wands, crystal balls, and any other magical items you can think of: Witches travel light.
The castle ruin was the only shelter Famine could see for miles, a shadow cast on withered land, on mud, bracken and brittle heather. And on bones. Beyond was the sea, and snow clouds on the horizon. The gatehouse, its great rounded towers broken and jagged at the tops, stood defiant in the desolation, like an old, wounded knight after a battle. Wind, sea-salt, and even War had not defeated it, and as Famine traced the silhouette against the sky, he could have believed the castle would withstand time itself, if such a thing were possible.
It was cold enough to freeze your balls off; he wanted nothing more than to be back at home, sitting in his big green recliner and sipping a hot cup of cocoa with little marshmallows floating in it. But no, the little bastards needed their toys. That was bad; worse was that those toys had gotten more complicated (and more expensive to make) over the years. Once upon a time, a little red truck or a simple rag doll would have been enough. Hell, even the days of the Etch A Sketch and Easy-Bake Ovens hadn’t been so bad. A few brats burned themselves with those ovens, but was that his fault? No, siree; they’d asked for ‘em, and they’d gotten ‘em.