The insides of my eyelids hold the afterimages of the horror. But they are still preferable to the current reality outside them.
The slick ooze of my new Master’s skin was comforting after the dry, cracked visage of the one He was beholden to.
Routine is relief. Never knowing when the slap is coming was worse. Now it’s every day after Master’s tea. It has become almost affectionate.
I’m training the new girl. I’m ashamed to say I’m jealous of her. I’m tempted to let her slip up, but Master would rightly punish me.
Master and his cronies held their ritual tonight. I hope they don’t find out I was watching. But I think they let me. I’m still shaking.
Master called for the new girl tonight. The curve and swirl of her fresh wound are beautiful. What did she do to earn it?
The beggar abruptly ran away, raving and scared, mid-meal. I’d become blind, numb to the horror of this place. I wish he’d left my eyes glazed.
Music tonight. Eerie, frantic. Throttled from the throats of Master’s pets. I huddled in the kitchen, transfixed, unable to skin the meat.
Master called for me after the concert. I rubbed foul-smelling goo on His wounded flippered hands. He trusts me. He gurgled with relief.
Master seems worried. I’m not sure, though, with His alien emotions. But a fear of His…should I welcome it or go mad from it?
I waited for Master’s summons. It never came.
From His room I hear only scritch-scritching. I see flickering lamplight coming from under the door. Despite Master’s silence, I keep the house warm and humid.
Master’s Master, the UberMaster, is here. It has eaten all the food, including that which was not yet slaughtered. I perform my duties as invisibly as I can.
I desperately need the new girl to help with our guest’s demands. I cannot find her. I hear her, I think, whimpering. Or is that in my head?
UberMaster doesn’t summon me, but comes to me Itself. I keep my eyes on Its talons, trying to not comprehend Its hideous demands.
I bathe UberMaster with oils and sopping rags. I am thankful for my empty stomach. I wash the new girl’s blood off Its eyelids. UberMaster takes the rag and bathes me next. My mind escapes. Were there ever sunbeams and mother’s hands? It’s claws are nothing like hers.
It dresses me. My skin recoils at the fabric’s softness in this perverse ritual. I’d rather be rough, naked, than the beauty I see reflected in the polished metal of the kitchen.
UberMaster carries me to Master’s chamber. He is naked. He looks blank, dry, spent. I see Him as a fellow victim, not my usual tyrant. I spy the new girl’s slipper, forgotten in the corner. Master shakes His head. Her fate is not to be mine. This does not allay my dread.
In my peripheral vision, the walls shimmer with mirrors and newly drawn pictographs animated by lamplight. Reality slips away. UberMaster slaps me back to this terrible truth.
As commanded, I tie Master to bolts in the wall, The rope grabs onto His dehydrated skin. I tighten a knot, watching it bite His flesh. Seeing Him helpless, at the will of UberMaster, unnerves me. Thrills me. I pour the hot liquid UberMaster gives me into Master’s mouth. Cup after cup, I force liquid into Master. He gasps for air, but UberMaster keeps filling the cup, from where I dare not look or ask.
Master mumbles, UberMaster chants, both in strange syllables, Master’s guttural, UberMaster’s hissing. I keep my mind on my task. Master bucks in his restraints. He drools, still mumbling. UberMaster puts a sharp, curved tool in my hand. It fits my small hand perfectly.
UberMaster engulfs my hand with his, guides my blade into Master’s skin. We draw a line, simple, beautiful, meaningful. Master screams. Or is it a laugh? The line is the length of chest, abdomen, both. Purple-red blooms from the line.
My ears, eyes, nose, all fill completely. I am consumed by UberMaster’s chanting and the sight and smell of Master’s blood. I am the ritual.
UberMaster removes my gown. It lifts me up, holds my naked body against Master’s wound. Master’s black eyes stare into mine, our breath mingling. UberMaster’s arms are untiring. Master puts His mouth over mine, filling me with cold. I fill up, with what I don’t know. Master regurgitates into my open mouth wave after wave of cold. My toes, fingers, belly fill. I shudder violently. UberMaster holds on.
Alien images project onto my mind. Strange landscapes, architecture, beings. Images of violence, blood, sex. Truths, lies, gods. I can’t take it in, but I must. I can’t extract meaning, but I want more. I’m on the precipice of understanding. The precipice of insanity.
Tears freezing on my cold cheeks, I see mother, brother, grandfather, struck down, hauled up and struck down again. Images I’d hidden away returning. Cruel memories, brought fresh, searing, to my mind’s eye. Mother pleading, brother skinnned, grandfather limp. I struggle but can’t move. My fingers and toes burn as cold seeps out of them. I kick my feet, they hit Master’s unyielding legs and UberMaster’s scaly talons.
Unrelenting images of my family’s suffering. I see…they aren’t mine! This mother has flippered hands! Grandfather is shiny and wet! I am seeing Master’s family, His story. I fall still. UberMaster lays me on a soft mat. It then unties Master to the sounds of my sobbing.
Master, bloody and weak, kneels next to me on the mat. I fly at Him, fists pounding his chest. He is stoic. I crawl away from Him and retrieve the fallen blade.
How could you! How could you do the same thing to me! I scream and scream. Master eyes the curved, bloody blade in my flailing hand. I slash at Master’s dulled eyes. He avoids my thrust. I attack again, drawing blood from His leg. UberMaster looks on quietly.
Master wrenches the blade away from my hand. I try to run, but He grabs my waist, throws me to the mat. UberMaster continues to watch. Master pins me down. His wound releases a drop that falls to my breast, darkening the red of my nipple. I see UberMaster above me, too. I struggle to find a weakness, a limb to bite, to kick. I find none. Master’s breath is icy on my neck.
UberMaster ties me down: wrists, ankles, throat. I hyperventilate with fear. My body thrums with adrenaline. They will not be gentle.
The tip of the blade pierces the skin on my belly. I almost don’t feel it. Master draws shapes I cannot see. I gulp for air. I feel blood running down the sides of my waist. I squeeze my eyes shut, willing my mind away, willing to go numb, unconscious. Master lowers Himself onto me, torso to torso, wound to wound. I open my eyes, find His staring into mine. I swear I feel his blood enter me.
I become aware of UberMaster’s continued chanting. My blood seems to rise up to meet Master’s. I am entering Him, too. I find I understand UberMaster’s words:
This blood binds us.
This blood revokes solitude.
This blood is ancient.
This blood renews, seeks new life.
This blood experiences through us.
This blood wishes to see all.
I feel new. Confident and powerful. My weakness is gone and already I pity who I was moments ago. Master unties me. UberMaster is puny to me now. Worthless and unnecessary. I hate It. It is responsible. It killed Master’s family, made Him kill mine. It started this nightmare.
I step to UberMaster. Though It towers over me, I reach up, through, into a soft spot in Its skull. I squeeze. As It convulses, I see…
…A table, a family around it, the children squabbling over the last bit of food. Behind them, a window with a view of a rocky, hilly landscape, a trail of dust in the distance. The family ignores it. Strange creatures come bearing down on the village. The creatures seem angry, possessed, out for blood. The family, in sudden, screaming chaos, unwillingly gives theirs up.
Only young UberMaster remains, condemned to live, to suffer, to serve these creatures that reek still with the smell of Its family’s blood.
Still I squeeze UberMaster’s mind, Its brain flowing between my fingers. I feel Its relief, thanking me for freedom. We both fall, I, weeping.
Who am I slated to slaughter? And what will compel me to? I suck in dank air and, from my core, unleash all the pain, fear, frustration. My scream is silent. No voice, no will to utter a sound. I am a shed carapace. Empty. But not resigned. I feel a touch on my brow.
Master brushes my hair off my face. I snicker at the gesture; I am naked, red with gore, only some of which is my own. He steps away from me. I giggle. Master looks at UberMaster’s body, back at me. I laugh. Fresh tears find the courses of the previous.
I am wild with new power, stronger than before I killed UberMaster. I kick UberMaster’s body. I’m surprised it scuttles across the floor! I pick it up, hurl it into the wall. I feel amazing!
Master grabs me from behind, pinning my arms. I wriggle, then try my new strength. I slam my head back into his bloody chest. Master staggers backwards, taking me with him to the floor. I turn around on top of him, dig my fingers into the cut on his leg. He picks me up, stands too easily and slams me against the wall. I gnash at him but He avoids my every bite. I lean my back into the wall and leverage my legs around his waist and squeeze. He lets go, I fall. I scrabble on all fours for the rope on the floor. I see movement in front of me. I see myself, naked with a look of alien determination on my face. It’s a mirror leaning against the wall.
I see Master approaching. I lunge to the mirror, twist around and break the mirror over Master’s back. I stand, crouching, waiting for his move. Master shakes off the glass, circles me. He goes for a shard. I knock him down. Master grabs the rope. He rolls over, rope in flipper. I fall on him, nails out. I scratch his face, his chest, his stomach, opening new and old wounds. He smacks me across my face. I taste blood. He smacks me again, blood sprays the wall. He throws the looped rope over my head and jumps up. From behind me, Master pulls the rope taut. I choke, my vision going dark. Through the blood rushing past my eardrums I can hear him sobbing. I still have a little fight left in me, but I have what I want. Then, through my oxygen-deprived brain, I realize my death alone may not end the cycle.
I grope for a mirror shard, grab it, feel it slice into my skin. I fight to stay conscious long enough. Just long enough. Master sees the glass in my bloody hand, eases up the rope, then too late yanks harder. But I already have the shard thrust deep in his gut.
My throat and lungs are on fire, the rope sawing into my skin, crushing my windpipe. The sound of Master’s bloody gurgle sounds far away. I’m aware of Master falling behind me. The room goes silent, dark. The pressure of the rope, Master and the alien blood’s demands, gone.
My world becomes softness and light. I am satisfied.