Vicious Bliss: broken Chapter One

Estimated reading time: 40 – 66 minutes

CHAPTER ONE
“Looking into the Mirror”

Show whatever part of me you’d like.
I won’t say a word.
Because finally I am real and you are not.

Winter 2002
Northeastern United States

My name is Katherine Merror and I will not make the same mistakes as before.

Her silent words rang somberly throughout the confines of a world not defined by human rules and expectations.

Do you hear me, Mikhail DeMontier? Husband, lover or enemy, you can’t stop me. I WILL be a different woman.

An inaudible growl colored the air. Katherine watched the physician, Dr. Kelrich, take one slow slide backwards. His face paled to match his bleached collar. Fear suffocated the small room with noxious asphyxiation.

“Is something the matter, Dr. Kelrich?” She spoke softly, cautiously, as if trying to gentle a creature ready to bolt.

His neck moved with a marionette’s grace. The physician fumbled with his words but only managed to sputter nonsensically.

Katherine turned to face the man on her right in frustration. She stabbed him with a fiery glare.

What are you doing to make this doctor want to piss himself?

Mikhail DeMontier’s proud shoulders immediately slid into a petulant slump. However, his back straightened with a snap when he met her angry gaze. Shock made his stunning features slack. Mikhail’s mouth parted with a horrified breath.

“No.”

What’s wrong? She spoke to him with her mind, instinctually conscious of the need for discretion. What’s happening?

No answer came—telepathic or otherwise. Mikhail’s pupils continued to dilate and his terror dwarfed Dr. Kelrich’s.

Katherine whispered his name. She screamed it silently but Mikhail continued to stare at her in fascinated horror. Katherine’s back quickly slicked with sweat.

“Mikhail?”

The tiny thread masquerading as her voice finally spurred him into action.

“Dr. Kelrich.” Gentle yet uncompromising, Mikhail’s tone beckoned the other man’s attention. “Surely there are other patients to see.”

“Patients?”

The word obviously failed to elicit the appropriate response. Mikhail stepped forward. The muted hospital lighting burnished his hair with the patina of an old, gold coin. His jade gaze glowed eerily from a white face. “As you can see, my wife is fine. There’s nothing the matter here.”

Frozen, Dr. Kelrich stared up at the much larger man.

“You can go now.”

Normalcy jolted the physician’s limbs. He rocked back slightly before recovering. “Oh, of course. Yes. You’re right.” Dr. Kelrich kept his eyes averted. Questions sped across his brow, jerking and relaxing before seemingly giving way to safe, infallible logic.

“She’s perfectly, perfectly fine. It’s true. Well, ah, Ms. Merror…I mean Mrs. DeMontier…Katherine…I’ll be making my rounds now. A nurse will be by to check your vitals. Tomorrow you’ll be free to go with your husband—” His throat closed before he added hastily. “Or by yourself.”

Katherine watched in confusion as the slender physician began inching his way back to the door. Despite his words, Dr. Kelrich’s fear still clung to the membrane of her empathic psyche.

“Good bye. Thank you again for all your care.”

He paused, his calm expression melting by degrees. “By the way, most accidents that happen this time of the year on that mountain don’t usually have a happy ending. You’re a lucky girl.”

“So you’ve told her,” Mikhail reminded him gently. “When you first came in.”

“Mmm. So I did.” Flustered, he glanced down at Katherine’s chart. “Still, you truly are one of the lucky ones, Ms. Merror.” The statement surfaced like a buried curse, surprising Dr. Kelrich if his pink color was any indication.

“Lucky. That’s me.” Despite Katherine’s attempt at keeping surface humor, traces of her melancholy laid claim to those words.

The physician paused and looked up. An air of compassion lightened his gaze as well as wary curiosity. However, he couldn’t bear to look into her eyes. Fear of what was or wasn’t there robbed him of cold intellect. The man of science instantly loathed Katherine for that alone.

“Ah, well.” Crimson spots of rage stained his smooth cheeks. His voice trembled. “I’ll be by to check on you in the evening. As I mentioned before, the nurse will be here to take your vitals soon.”

“Thank you. See you tonight.”

Dr. Kelrich merely grimaced before turning away.

Watching her doctor make his harried retreat, Katherine turned her attention to the subdued male a few feet away.

“What the hell is going on? Why are both of you so scared, Mikhail?”

He reached into his pocket without a word. A tiny, silver compact lay within his palm.

“How…I thought I left that behind.”

“You did.” Sadness plucked the corners of his soft mouth. Flicking the lid open with his thumb, Mikhail instructed, “Look.”

Katherine’s gaze slinked to the pretty mirror in his hand. She blinked several times, not allowing her mind to comprehend the vicious unnaturalness staring back.

“No. This can’t be right. It’s just the lighting. You told Dr. Kelrich the truth. I’m fine.”

“Katherine…”

The helplessness in Mikhail shrouded Katherine’s denial, rendering it invisible. She thrust his hand away, severing the awful reflection. Her breath grew choppier with each spoken word.

“My eyes…it shouldn’t…it’s not right!”

He sank onto the bed before she finished speaking. His arms clung to Katherine tightly while she clawed to get even closer.

“Why are my eyes red? Why are there fucking flames in them?!”

“You were caught between worlds. It’s just a temporary side-effect.”

“Don’t lie to me, Mikhail! Nobody—”

“Katherine.” The growl passing as her name silenced her immediately. “Remember there’s much that lies beneath the world most humans live by. You know this,” his hand passed through the air with graceful fluidity, “is only one side.”

She nodded her head slowly, ready for him to continue.

“What was the last thing you saw, Katharina?”

His accented use of her name instantly calmed Katherine. “Azer…the door…fire.”

“Okay. You’ll be fine. It’ll wear off within a few hours…a few days at most. After all, it’s just a little fire in the eyes. Nothing else.” Even to his jaundiced ears, it all seemed too cavalier. Doubt touched him and sent Katherine back into a frenzied state.

“A little fire? Nothing else?” She shrieked low in her throat. “That’s all you have to say?!”

“Calm down!” Mikhail clasped her face in his hands. “You need to stay focused!”

“Dr. Kelrich saw this. That’s why he was so terrified. Oh, God. What if he tells?”

“He won’t talk. Not and keep his reputation.”

“But what if—”

“He won’t.” Mikhail forced her head back, refusing to allow Katherine to look away. “You don’t have time to worry about the good doctor.”

“Why?”

Mikhail’s mouth parted slightly. Indecision crawled across his brow. “I want you to come with me.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want to leave you alone.”

“Why?” The low growl made Mikhail tense. “You’re not telling me everything. What are you keeping from me?”

Seeing his stubborn discretion, she reached out. Her golden eyes narrowed in rage when Mikhail moved away. Katherine lunged forward and her fingers managed to cling to Mikhail’s wrists.

“If you won’t tell me, then I’ll find out MY way. Either way, you WILL tell me what I want to know!”

In one moment, an invisible cinder became an unforgiving inferno.

Katherine’s lips parted with a frightened cry. She tried to release him, but she couldn’t. It was as if her skin was fused with Mikhail’s. Katherine’s gaze ricocheted from her grip to his.

“Pull me off!”

“What do you mean? Just let go.” His face tightened and fear flowed through their connection. “What did you see, Katherine?”

She shook her head in answer. Her fingers flexed and injustice controlled Katherine’s mind. Every cruel thing this man had ever done to her sprang to life.


_________________________________________________________________________________________

“This isn’t going to work. I should’ve never jumped into our relationship.”

“You’re beneath me.”

“We’re not in grade school, Katherine. This just proves that it was a mistake getting involved with a child like you!”

“Do you really have to make this harder than it has to be? Don’t you have any fucking pride?”

“Stay out of my goddamned mind!”

“I’m not coming back for my things. Sell them, give them away—do whatever you want.”

“I WILL NOT GIVE UP WHO I AM FOR YOU!”

“Good-bye.”


_________________________________________________________________________________________

Katherine moaned from the terrible agony ripping her heart to shreds. Heat burned the back of Katherine’s lids. She watched Mikhail’s haunting features dissolve in a torrent of fire. Hatred whispered his name. Katherine clenched her eyes shut in fresh terror.

I want you dead for what you did to me. But I could never really…

YES, YOU CAN.

The voice came from within, startling Katherine with its molten venom.

“What’s happening to you?” Mikhail watched helplessly as his wife fell into chaos. “Please don’t shut me out. What’s wrong?”

He didn’t hear anything. Not her thoughts and not the other.

“Mikhail…”

Low agonized moans erupted in her throat. The monitors began screaming Katherine’s distress. She felt her veins boil as something foreign burst to life.

“IT WILL STOP IF HE’S GONE.”

Self-preservation forced Katherine to listen to the darkness.

My heart hurts so much. He’s the reason why. What if he wasn’t here?

Mikhail’s mouth suddenly whitened. His pulse accelerated to her dangerous rhythm as he suffered Katherine’s trauma through their emotional and physical connection.

“IT WILL BE OVER IN LESS THAN MINUTE. JUST KEEP YOUR HOLD ON HIM.”

“NO!”Somehow, Katherine managed to rip her hands away. However, satisfaction lasted only a moment when hatred poisoned her mind. Katherine’s chest heaved as she fought violently to draw in breath.

“I…I don’t want…I don’t want to feel this!”

Helpless yet anxious to soothe her, Mikhail whispered, “I’m here, Katharina. I’m not going to leave you.” Dry lips brushed over her closed lids. Mikhail recoiled instantly with a loud hiss. “Open your eyes!”

Katherine saw crimson flames blazing in the darkness within her. She shook her head frantically.

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m afraid of what will happen if I do.” And because I hate you so much right now. Katherine rocked back as Mikhail’s terror and hurt added to her own. “You heard me.”

“No…”

“Don’t lie.” Irrational anger blanketed any guilt she carried. “You heard me and now you’re afraid.”

“I’m not afraid of you.” He said the words in hoarse challenge, pitifully trying to convince them both. “I’m not.” I refuse to judge her. I refuse to fear my past. I’m in control. Not like before.

Mikhail’s silent words set off an inferno in Katherine’s soul. The tentative peace they had achieved in the hours before scattered like ashes. Overwhelmed by hatred, Katherine cut her unconscious connection with Mikhail.

“Judge me? What about judging yourself? And by the way, you are NOT in control, Mikhail. You never have been when you should be. At least not when it counted.” An evil grin spread across her face. “What do you see when you look in my eyes? Do you see yourself or what you fear?”

Mikhail’s features hardened. “I see fire.”

Her laughter cut through him. “You answered my question perfectly. It doesn’t burn. Did you know that? But I can feel something else. I can feel that whatever’s happened to me is unforgiving—just like the past. YOUR past. Isn’t that right?”

“No!”

“Go ahead and run, Mikhail. Run like you always do in every lifetime we’ve had the misfortune to spend together.”

“I didn’t—”

“Sure you did!” Katherine scrambled to her knees. Leaning forward, she taunted, “First as Lazai, then as Nikolaus, and now as Mikhail DeMontier—the coward wolf prince.”

His body tensed and rage transformed his eyes into something equally as frightening as Katherine’s. “I never ran from you then, Katharina. It was always YOU running from ME.”

“Always?”

Always.

“Mmm. It’s a relief knowing that maybe I wasn’t always so dumb. But then again it did take me three times to learn my lesson. Probably because you’re such a good goddamn liar.”

Mikhail slammed his hand against the bed railing. “I NEVER lied about who or what I was!”

“So offended!” Katherine’s mouth lifted in a rude smirk. “I’m just supposed to take that as gospel. I’m sorry but I can’t do that, darling. I didn’t even know who I was until yesterday—” Katherine shrugged her shoulder in a manner meant to be mocking and offensive. “But then again, I don’t need to know about THEN when I know so much about you NOW.”

Mikhail growled deep within his core. The rumble only charmed her spite.

“Did I touch a nerve?”

“You don’t know everything, Katherine.”

“Really? Hmm. But you never did give me a chance to know, did you? All you did was lie about everything.”

Defeat took him by the throat, bleeding Mikhail’s anger away along with his pride. “And I’ve regretted it everyday of my life since. I’ll regret it every day of my life from here on out.”

Katherine bit her lip hard, welcoming the pain instead of her constant confusion and shame. “You knew it couldn’t last.” The brittle statement dared him to lie.

Once more, Mikhail disappointed Katherine—this time with honesty.

“I didn’t want to think about it, but I knew it was a possibility.”

Katherine slammed her fist against the bed. “Goddamnit, Mikhail! If you knew, why the hell didn’t you just keep walking? Why did you fuck up my life?”

“Because I wanted you.” Mikhail’s fingers spread across the bridge of his nose and his tone deepened into notes of defiant disgrace. “Because I saw you and couldn’t say no.”

“To what?”

Mikhail struggled, opening his mouth several times. Nothing came out.

“TO WHAT?!” Crimson flames overtook her sight, promising hell if he continued his silence.

“To the dream your eyes said could be mine.” Mikhail heard the angry hiss of air and rushed to explain, “I saw it, Katharina. I swear I did. I saw the future…OUR future. I saw a lifetime of being together, building a life where who we were didn’t matter.”

Katherine’s gaze burned bright but for a different reason.

Emboldened by her tears, Mikhail’s hand reached out and pushed back the curls from her temple. “I saw you looking up at me with these eyes and I knew I was meant to be standing there on that sidewalk at that exact moment. How could I walk away from Fate?”

Her mouth tightened into an uneven slit. Her tears doused the terrifying flames, leaving a broken sadness behind.

“You can feel my touch, Katharina. If you read me now, you’ll know that I what I say is true.”

Katherine felt her heart lurch with regret. She was tempted to delve into his, but instead, she allowed herself to speak without censor.

“Nothing else mattered to me after that day. I wanted to grow old with you. I wanted to devote my entire life to you. I wanted to make you happy. I wanted to love you.”

“That’s what I wanted too.”

Katherine shook her head. “That’s not all you wanted.”

“No, I just wanted you.”

“Liar. You wanted something else. Something I couldn’t give you.”

“You’re wrong—”

“You’ve been lying to me from the beginning, Mikhail. Do you even know the truth anymore? You say things you don’t mean. You don’t do things even when you really want to. You’re as much a mess as I am. Were you always this weak, Mikhail? Why couldn’t I see it until now?” The last part was whispered in a small voice, making Katherine sound like a lost, little girl.

Mikhail murmured her name in an unfortunate plea.

She ignored him.

“You’re not American and neither is your family. You alone have millions of dollars to your name yet you lived like you were broke. Why?”

Mikhail drew back with an uncertain frown. “Money…I didn’t…” Even now he couldn’t discard centuries of breeding and secretive impulses.

“Stop.” Katherine refused to say another word until Mikhail finally folded.

“How did you know?”

“You’ve been my obsession for years,” she answered calmly. “Would you like to know more?”

His entire body vibrated wariness. Katherine took it as an affirmative answer.

“I know you own estates in France, Romania, Germany, China, and Japan. I know you’ve never owned any property in the United States until five years ago. I know that you hide the DeMontier name behind shell companies. I know you’ve built the bulk of your fortune in medical technology. I know that you’re NOT thirty-one. Should I go on?”

The even cadence of Katherine’s voice obviously unnerved Mikhail. His fingers jumped across the bed railing with anxious speed. “I never suspected…wait. What did you say about my age?”

“Don’t bother to lie to me, Mikhail. You’re at least a hundred and thirty.”

“There’s no way—”

“Wrong. There are at least two pictures of you in existence. One from Berlin in 1935 and the other from Paris circa 1895.”

He stilled, digesting her facts with an uneasy stare. “Maybe what you saw was one of my ancestors.”

Katherine whipped her hand through the air. “You’re still talking to me like I’m stupid! I know your fucking face, Mikhail. It’s all I know! It was YOU.”

Mikhail looked away. Softly, he stated, “It couldn’t have been easy to find.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“Then how?”

“There was very little I wasn’t willing to do to know more about you,” Katherine admitted with a sickly smile.

Mikhail drew his own conclusions with reasonable accuracy. His jaw twitched but he remained silent.

“I need to know one thing from you, Mikhail. Why would a werewolf break away from the only thing that he knows? Why did you leave your pack?”

Mikhail violently turned away from Katherine. His long legs ate the distance between her bed and the door. Instead of flinging it open, he just laid his forehead against the wood.

“Are you reading me?”

“No. I haven’t done that since Dr. Kelrich left. Are you going to make me do it?”

“No.” Mikhail sighed in defeat. “It was before I met you. It has nothing to do with you.”

“Wrong. It has everything to do with me. You left me because you couldn’t leave them. So why did you in the first place?”

Mikhail turned around. He dropped his head back against the door. “I wanted to be a normal man with you. I never wanted you to know about the DeMontiers.”

“That’s not true.” Katherine clarified her statement with a caustic arch of her brow. “You didn’t want them to know about me.”

Mikhail dropped his gaze. “No.”

“And when they found out, you just tossed me aside.”

“I didn’t want to.”

“But you did it anyway.”

He kept his eyes lowered and whispered, “It was wrong.”

“I was your wife!”

“You’re still my wife.”

Katherine closed her eyes, wishing she could find a way out of her frenzied emotions.

Why didn’t you keep me? Why did you come back? Why do I feel so sick?

She still loved this man.

She still hated him as well.

Especially when his possessive claim of her once more stirred up memories of his faithlessness.


_________________________________________________________________________________________
“Holed up in that steel castle of his, he was screwing any human woman that walked. When you started having pains and vomit was tearing up your throat, he was engaged in a foursome.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________
Katherine felt her eyes burn with a pain greater than those of tears. “Was I still your wife when you were fucking those other women? Was I still your wife when I lost our baby?”

Mikhail’s head whipped up. His already pale face whitened even further. He didn’t bother to blink back his tears. “You were always my wife. Those women meant nothing.”

“Just like me?”

“No. Never like you.” The softly spoken words begged for compassion. Katherine had none.

“You’re like a beaten dog, Mikhail. All it does is piss me off even more. Fucking werewolf scum.”

“Katharina, please don’t say that. I love you so much.”

Katherine loathed his utter lack of pride. “You still love someone who hates you?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t love me, Mikhail. You’re obsessed with a past that no longer exists. If you love anything, it’s a ghost.”

“That’s not true. Remember? I didn’t know who you were this time, Katherine.”

“Meaning you would’ve been different?”

“Katherine, don’t twist my words. You don’t understand…”

“No, I do! It was okay to lie because I was just a disposable human. Just a pet, right? You get tired of it and you just leave it on the side of the road—or in our case—a tiny, one bedroom apartment.”

Mikhail lowered his head until Katherine couldn’t see his face anymore. His voice became rough and guttural. “It was better for us both, Katharina, that I didn’t know.”

She glowered in disgust at her former lover. “If you knew I was your precious First Mother you’d have been a different person. That’s what you’re saying to me?”

Mikhail’s foot connected with the door. The explosion of noise fell beneath his restrained yells. “Yes, I would’ve been different! I would’ve married you, I would’ve fucked you until you whelped, then I would’ve locked you away until it was time to do it again.”

“Locked me away?” Katherine’s eyes shimmered with tears even as her pain threatened to burn right through them both. “That’s very bloodless, Mikhail. I would’ve never agreed to it. And you know what? I think you’re still lying to me.”

Stirred by feral rage, Mikhail’s inheritance finally broke through surface humanity. Gold smothered every bit of jade, transforming his eyes into a cold, animal stare. Lips curled over a wicked, deadly smile.

“Lying? I don’t have to lie about this.”

Mikhail stalked back to Katherine. He didn’t bother to hide his hands, instead displaying the dangerous claws with every stride. With lengthened ears, Mikhail heard Katherine’s blood rush faster through her veins long before he reached the bed.

“I would’ve made you do whatever I wanted. I would’ve created you into an image of my choosing. I’ve done it before. I’d do it again. Only this time I would’ve been different.”

“How?”

Mikhail leaned forward, long canines glinting in warning, until his lips hovered over hers. “I would have DIED before I let you into my heart.”

Pain lanced Katherine before fueling her awesome rage.

“You’re right. You did make me into an image of your choosing. I was barely more than a little girl and you ripped me apart without conscience.”

“Katherine, I already told you—”

“SHUT-UP! You ABANDONED me. You abandoned US!”

Mikhail visibly turned inward. All anger dissipated in a show of defeat. His features shifted into their human mask.

“I’m sorry.”

“Did you do it because I was pregnant?”

“NO! If I had known I would’ve never left your side!”

Katherine wound her fingers into the blankets. “But you did.”

Mikhail tried to contain his misery. “I promise I’m not going to run away from you again. Not ever again.”

“Even if it means I’ll kill you?” Menace ebbed and flowed in frightening waves. Katherine’s stare pinned Mikhail in place, much like a predator with her prey. “Even if it means that I want you dead more than anything else in the world?”

Mikhail’s heartbeat captured the pain her question boldly stirred. A melancholic pall dimmed his vivid green eyes. “If it’s your wish.”

Katherine’s lips trembled. She swallowed several times before letting her spitefulness rule. “You’re so docile about it. Would this be the first time, Mikhail? Or did I already kill you before?”

Her observant gaze caught his imperceptible flinch.

“Which life was it—Mei Li or Adria?” Katherine watched his exquisite face tighten with stoic indifference. “Which one?”

“Just drop it, Katherine.”

“I’m not seventeen anymore. You’re not going to bully me into silence.”

Mikhail’s jaw flexed once. “I’m not trying to bully you.”

“But you won’t tell me.” Memory righted itself in the form of one name. “But you don’t have to because I already know.”

His eyes clouded in centuries-old pain. “Don’t say her name. Just don’t.”

Katherine recoiled. “My God. You still love her.”

“Stop. Don’t say her name.”

“Her name? Don’t you mean MY name?”

“You’re not the same!” he snarled. “You are not Adria.”

Katherine slammed her hands down on the bed. “ADRIA! ADRIA! ADRIA! ADRIA!” Her hateful screams dwindled into muted sobs. “I can’t believe it just clicked for me. Even after everything we’ve talked about I didn’t put the two together until right now. I remember how you whispered her name once. Right before you left. It ate me up inside to think you were cheating, that maybe you’d found someone else to love. Then later I thought maybe SHE was the reason why you left.”

He shook his head but remained quiet. This only spawned a dangerous reaction within Katherine.

“What’d she do, Mikhail? Did she eventually kill Nikolaus for being such a bastard? Huh?” His stubborn silence made her livid. Katherine clenched her teeth and hissed, “You’re a filthy fuck, Mikhail.”

“I know.”

“You’re a selfish, dirty bastard. The least you owe me is the truth.”

Mikhail’s breath caught in a soft sob of misery. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry. That’s all you can say? That’s supposed to make the silence and lies okay?” Madness flowed from the open wounds scattered across her psyche. “Why’d you even get with me, Mikhail?”

“Don’t you understand yet? I’ve loved you for centuries. Nothing can change that. Not even me.”

Suddenly, words from recent memory entangled Katherine within another’s obsessive embrace. Carmine locks, emerald eyes, and wings tipped in black composed a palette drenched in compassionate madness.


_________________________________________________________________________________________

“I’m not forgotten.”

“When you cried tears of pain, I cried blood. No matter the distance, no matter the years, your humiliation was mine.”

“When you stood over at the edge of that forsaken bridge, it was ME who called your name. Not Mikhail, me! When you were covered in blood in that filthy motel room, it was MY voice you heard, not his!”

“I’ve wanted you for thousands of years. I’ve dreamt about you in ways you can’t possibly imagine. I’ve hated you. I’ve cursed you. But I have never abandoned you because I love you.”

“I love you. I love you. I love you.”

“I love you because there can never be anyone to replace you in my heart. I love you because my greatest wish is to see your happiness.”

“What you don’t get is that I finally understand you, Precious.”

“Love. It’s been a curse for us both, hasn’t it? Whether we will it or not, we can’t seem to break free from its binds. No matter how much we hate it.”

“Your world only sees what it wants. Honorable men fall over themselves to court their angel, but never bother to look past the smile to see her empty eyes. And you never force them to see differently.”


_________________________________________________________________________________________

This time Mikhail heard the voice reverberating in her mind.

“Azer.”

Everything disintegrated from that point.

“Katharina, it’s HIM, isn’t it?”

Exorcising her fury left Katherine psychically battered and defiled. The magnitude of what had just transpired defeated her will. Two tears scored a path down her ashen cheeks.

“Yes.”

“Oh, Jesus. It’s not temporary then.” Animosity forgotten, Mikhail slumped forward, carrying Katherine with him. She was too tired to fight his touch. They lay entwined in a momentary repose of utter desolation. “Azer did this to you. He made you into something else.”

“I know.” Katherine wanted to wail and die from her grief. She escaped a dream and returned, taking hell with her. She had no idea what was going to happen to any of them now.

I can’t even recognize who I was a few minutes ago. I wanted Mikhail dead. I wanted to make him suffer. How can I start over and be a better person if I’m carrying all this hate? I thought I had moved past that already. I’m damned. I’m fucking damned and I always will be.

She felt her insides roiling with suppressed rage and chaos. In response, the secret fire immediately heated her skin, this time burning Mikhail if his choked whimpers were any indication.

Katherine gasped. His physical pain became hers. “Let me go.”

“No.” He tightened his grip on her wrists and folded his body over hers.

“Mikhail, stop! You have to stop touching me!”

“NO!” He gritted his teeth and dominated his instincts. “I’m not abandoning you again. Not when you need me!”

“I don’t want to hurt you. Not like this,” she begged while watching his hands turn red. “Please let go. Don’t keep making me hurt you.”

“I…you’re not. It’s…okay.”

“We don’t know exactly what’s happening to me, Mikhail. We don’t know what my body’s capable of.” She arched away, attempting to keep even her hair from brushing against him in accidental violence. “Damnit! I could kill you if you don’t let go!”

Katherine’s tortured pleas finally broke through his stubborn pride. He rolled away, powerful chest heaving as the agony continued its course. A few minutes passed before Mikhail reluctantly left her and the bed. His feet stumbled to an inelegant stop. He raised his hand. The marks on his palms were gone, leaving his beautiful skin unblemished in a way it never was before.

“There’s no lines or scars.”

Katherine raised her head and stared at him in sick awe. “What?”

“It’s perfect.” His mouth trembled as he let out a watery sigh. “So fucking perfect…”

Katherine’s body seemed to right itself with their distance. The awful heat melted away into normalcy. She felt her eyes fill with more tears and whispered, “I’m so sorry I did that. I didn’t mean to…”

“Which means I can’t touch you anymore.” Mikhail’s body became rigid. He looked brittle, vulnerable to shattering at any moment. “I couldn’t have done it better myself. The thing I fear is what you possess…” Bitter laughter swept the room before dissolving into his murmur of despair. “What am I going to do now?”

Katherine’s hand reached out before recoiling violently.

I can’t.

Hearing her thought, Mikhail bowed his head. “This is Azer’s perfect revenge, Katharina.”

“How can you be so sure?”

Mikhail’s expression became grim. “Because I know exactly what he’s done, Katharina.”

She blinked slowly, never expecting Mikhail to have the answer this quickly. Katherine leaned forward, hanging in dreadful anticipation. “You know?”

Mikhail jerked his head once.

“What is it?” She opened their connection, still not trusting him to be completely honest. Her emotional skin immediately paid the price as impotence, helplessness, and terror raked across Katherine.

“IT is something SO fucked, SO wicked IT could only from the gods themselves.”

The pained sarcasm in Mikhail’s voice made Katherine wince. The air continued to thicken with impotence, making it difficult to breathe. “I know you’re angry, but please stay with me.”

Mikhail scowled in answer.

“Your rage is suffocating me, Mikhail. You’re losing yourself.”

His jaw tightened repeatedly. Many minutes expired before his large body went limp. Mikhail ran an agitated hand through his hair. “I’m sorry, my love.”

Katherine experienced immediate relief along with extreme exhaustion. Combining their natural bond along with her empathic nature was draining her quickly. She blinked several times in an effort to dispel the insidious weakness. “It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not, Katharina. I know better than that.” Mikhail walked over to the empty carafe next to the bed. Taking it to the sink, he filled it with water.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. We haven’t exactly seen each other in seven years.”

“Which is proof of why I can’t afford to make any more mistakes with you. Especially now.” Mikhail returned, pitcher in hand, and poured her a cup of water. “Thirsty?”

“A little. Thank you.” Katherine took several small sips before passing the plastic tumbler back to him. “Mikhail?”

Satisfied that she looked less wilted, he responded to the unspoken question with one of his own. “Have you ever heard of Kundalini?” Mikhail waited until
Katherine shook her head. “It’s known as a divine fire. It can heal, change, and transform the body.”

Relief tinged her uncertain smile. “Then it’s good.”

“It can be. But right now your Kundalini is on a manic scale, one obviously not meant to be carried by any mortal.”

“How do you know? I mean, how do you know that this is Kundalini?”

“Because of this.” Mikhail held out his palms. “You couldn’t do this without Kundalini. What’s worse is your divine fire burns impurity away until it reaches perfection.”

“I don’t understand, Mikhail.”

“It means that with one quick touch you can cure physical flaws. Anything longer and you’ll melt the flesh away in order to free a soul.” Mikhail blew out a defeated puff of air. “This kind of divine fire burns through the imperfect shell of mortality so the perfect soul can fly free…like the phoenix.”

Katherine’s countenance crumbled. She shook her head in denial even while she fought to keep a never-ending scream locked inside. “No. I can’t believe Azer would purposely try to hurt me.”

“I told you he was a demon. What can you possibly expect from something so twisted? Honor? Affection? Selflessness?”

“You don’t understand what happened there. Azer let me go. He helped me come back—even though he knew it was probably to you.” Katherine dropped her gaze. The next mournful murmur admitted to uncomprehending betrayal. “He loved me…so very much.”

Mikhail’s jade eyes burned with unnatural splendor.

“This is what it means to be loved by one of us, Katharina. Forever apart, belonging to neither, and dying just to be loved again.” His words tumbled into one another. “Azer will continue to dog your every step, plotting and planning to find a way from his world into yours. He’ll never let you go—even if it destroys you.”

Time slid into hellish eternity. Katherine’s vision became a watery, white blur—a reminder of the unreal dimension she had shared with Azer.


_________________________________________________________________________________________
“So I should just hate everyone, even you, Katherine?”

“If it makes you happy.”

“And if my hate extends to wanting to hurt you, should I just make myself happy?”

“If you need it.”

“What do you get out of it?”

“Pleasure. Didn’t you know, Azer? I’m one of those masochist freaks. Pain makes me wet.”

“So I should just exorcise my demons on your willing body? Masochist? I don’t think so.”

“Then what would you call it?”

“I call it something far more disturbed. Martyrdom.”

“So the martyr makes her appearance—sacrificing herself for the greater good. So tell me—do you want my sacrifice or not?”

“Why are you like this?”

“Don’t try to understand something that already is. Just accept that it isn’t as it was.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I.”


_________________________________________________________________________________________
She’d spent years trying to numb her emotions. In destructive hedonism, Katherine turned away from the world’s kindness and sought only its filth.
All in the quest of destroying every trace of the girl she had been with Mikhail.

Like divine fire?

Katherine braved a glance from beneath wet lashes.

I can’t deny it. I don’t want him to go. And Azer knew that about me. He HATED that about me—more than he hated Mikhail.

She forced despair into submission. “Will you leave me again?”

In one moment of reckless resignation, Mikhail let his weakness rule him.

“I told you this is what it means to be loved by one of US.” The slash twisting Mikhail’s lips barely passed for a smile. He came closer, predatory in his fervor. “I’ve loved you for thousands of years. Strip away all my layers, my incarnations, and your soul is in the center of mine. I love you and I die for my love for you. And do you know what?”

Mikhail leaned forward, hands on either side of Katherine. His lips brushed hers and incandescent heat flared between them. With careful movements, his mouth feathered her skin, void of fear and hesitation despite the physical pain spiraling inside. His lips, red and raw from their testimony of devotion, stopped next to her ear.

“I’ll spend eternity dying if I can just be with you.”

Katherine understood that Mikhail was offering himself to her, beckoning with fatalistic glee to die in her embrace. Terrible desire threatened to consume Katherine’s conscience.

It was then that she knew what Azer had done and why.


_________________________________________________________________________________________
“How can you love me when you’re trying to turn me against Mikhail? How can you love me when you know how much I love him?!”

“You still love someone so cowardly and beneath contempt? Have you forgotten how he left you?”

“I’ll never forget but it doesn’t change my core. I know it’s sick, Azer. I know it’s fucked up. Goddamnit! Don’t you think I get that? But it doesn’t mean I want Mikhail back.”

“Liar. You won’t let him go.”

“Because I can’t right now.”

“Why?!”

“Because he taught me love! Even if I became corrupted by it! That’s not something I’ve been able to easily throw away!”

“I want your purity, Katherine. I want you to live a life without the disease of constant reincarnated pain!”


_________________________________________________________________________________________

Katherine’s gaze slid to meet Mikhail’s.

Azer thought I would fall back into his arms. He counted on it. So this is his punishment. I can’t touch Mikhail without hurting him. If we force it, Mikhail will die.

“I don’t care.”

The words slashed her faltering control, exposing horror and betrayal. “How can you say that?”

“Because it’s true.”

“No. Not you, Mikhail. You’re strong. You wouldn’t be Alpha if it wasn’t—”

“Katherine.”

The lifeless syllables silenced her. She sat there, arms limp and without grace.

“I’m a slave to my own genetics. My position isn’t due to strength or cunning or merit. I’m my family’s god because a random combination of DNA markers called my soul back into this body. It has nothing to do with nobility or worth.”

Katherine processed the words as if they belonged to a stranger. She had never seen Mikhail so despondent and without spirit. She probed his aura and found it to be as broken as hers.

“Why do you think I could forgive you for being a whore, Katharina?” Mikhail choked back a sob. “It’s because I know all about whoring yourself for comfort, safety, and greed.”

“That’s not why I did it.” The words fell hard with reproach. “I never did it for gain.”

“I know. You did it to escape life. I did it to cling to it. That’s why I’m a far more disgusting creature than you can ever think to be.” He coughed once. “I had hope when you came back to me. I thought we could start over again. But now…”

“Now…” she repeated numbly.

Mikhail’s eyes reflected hopeless insanity. “Consume me, Katharina. I’ve tried living without you for seven years and it’s been a slow death. After being with you now, I can’t go back to that again. If this is it, just let me die in your arms.”

Katherine suffered his weariness. It lay in direct contrast to what she heard only a day before when he had been fighting to keep her in this world. Now she understood his passion. He needed her alive. He needed her because Mikhail cared nothing for his own life.

She couldn’t allow that.

Just as she couldn’t allow anyone else to pull the strings guiding her fate.

So Katherine did what she did best. She pulled away.

“No.”

“Why not?” The feral challenge failed to hide its owner’s despair.

“Didn’t you just promise not to leave me ever again? What the hell do you think this is now? You’re willing to die. Why? Because it’s noble? It’s not! It’s selfish! Not only would I have to deal with this all by myself, but I’d have your death on my hands. What do you think that would do to me? First our son and now you?”

The truth forced Mikhail to fold into himself. He began to tremble violently with shame. “I’m sorry.”

“Look at me.”

He obeyed with reluctance. His eyes were liquid with remorse. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me…why I act this way. Everything I do only ends up hurting you, but I never see it until it’s too late.”

“I don’t want you to talk. I want you to listen. Can you do that?”

Mikhail swallowed once, quailing beneath her unforgiving glare. “I’m listening.”

“I swore not to make the same mistakes.” Katherine’s tone held neither softness nor compassion. “If you’re going to bail on me, Mikhail, then leave now and don’t ever come back. But don’t use me to make you into a martyr.”

Mikhail flinched. Each word was designed to flay open his frailty. “I didn’t know that was what I was doing. I’m sorry. I won’t let it happen again.”

Satisfied with his honesty, Katherine gentled his voice into one he was familiar with. “I want you to remember something, Mikhail. The martyr never saved anyone—least of all himself. Don’t ever be one.”

Mikhail’s features shuddered with loathing. “Sometimes it’s all I know.” He stepped back, regal grace transforming his posture. The weakness had passed, hiding away behind centuries of superior breeding.

Just as she didn’t recognize the recent side of her husband, Katherine didn’t recognize this one either. Mikhail appeared to be untouchable, above mortal concern. She picked at her blanket with nervous fingers.

Is he still going to stay?

“I’m not leaving. I’m going to stand by your side and be the man I should’ve been seven years ago.”

Katherine’s throat fluttered with emotion. “Thank you.”

“Can I ask you something?” Mikhail waited until she nodded her head. “What does this mean for us? You told me today you didn’t come back to be the same person. That you didn’t want to be with me. Do you still feel the same?”

Katherine paused several moments before replying. “Does my answer influence the amount of help you’re willing to give me?”

His imperial demeanor vanished. “No! I wasn’t trying to imply…” Mikhail took a deep breath before letting it out in exasperation. “Why do I lose all eloquence and meaning when I talk to you? I can’t seem to say anything right.”

Katherine laughed softly. “Mikhail, I think it’s just called being a man.”

He nodded his head in consternation before a rueful grin tugged at his lips. “I think you’re right. Let me start over.”

“No, it’s okay. I know what you’re trying to ask.” Katherine fought her impulse to cover his hand with hers. “My feelings are different than what they were fifteen minutes ago, but in some ways they’re still the same.”

“In what way?”

“It means we’re going to face this together. What happens afterwards…we’ll face together as well.”

While not exactly the answer he hoped for, Mikhail somehow managed to accept it with dignity. “All right, Katharina. It’s what a relationship is supposed to be, isn’t it? You make the decisions together because it belongs to you both.”

“Yes.”

Companionable silence encompassed them briefly before Mikhail cleared his throat and awkwardly admitted, “But I’ve never done it.”

“Neither have I.”

They smiled together, clinging to any bit of humor to make their present circumstances more bearable. The mood deepened when Mikhail reached out to brush her hair back only to let his hand fall.

“I don’t know where to go from here.”

“I do.” Katherine answered his unspoken question swiftly. “We have to find Azer.”

Mikhail’s posture radiated primitive rage as he sprang backwards. “I don’t want you anywhere near him!”

“We have to find Azer, Mikhail. He did this to me—there has to be a way for him to undo it.”

Mikhail came forward and dropped to his knees beside her bed. He visibly fought a battle to restrain his desperate anger. “Impossible, Katharina. No one can change this.”

“That’s where you’re wrong.” She ghosted her fingers over the melancholic lines bracketing his mouth. “There’s at least one person who can.”

“Who? Azer?” Mikhail spat the name like poison.

“No.”

“Then who?”

Katherine smiled brilliantly, despite the shadows in her future.

“Me.”

Image Credit: lunar @ Stock.Xchng

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Vicious Bliss: broken Prologue

Estimated reading time: 3 – 5 minutes

PROLOGUE
“The Journey Must Go On”

Letting you go leaves me without many things

Comfort, joy, and companionship.

But never the one thing I treasure above all others.

Winter 2012

Himalayan Mountains

“Did you know it’d end like this?”

“No. Did you?”

“How would I have known?”

Her tart reply brought a smile to his rosy lips. “Because you’ve been able to read my heart—long before I knew what it was like to have one.”

Laughter drifted like the snowflakes surrounding them.

“I think we would’ve saved ourselves a lot of time if only I had understood what I was reading.”

“And if only I had stopped fighting myself and you.”

His quiet admission encouraged her to ask, “Do you think we’ve gotten smarter this time?”

“Yes.” He paused, curious and calm, as had been his wont recently. “Do you think we’ll do better?”

“They say the third time’s the charm. I think they’re wrong.”

He continued his walk, gait graceful and measured. “The fourth then?”

“Maybe.” She yawned and laid her head on his shoulder. Eventually they reached their destination. Hidden away, far from the snows, she whispered, “Are we here?”

“Yes.”

The cold leeched away all residual fear. “I don’t have much longer, do I?”

“No.”

“I don’t think I ever told you, but I’m glad. I’m grateful that we went through what we did.”

“I know.” He leaned forward and pressed his lips hard against hers, eager and hungry for one last kiss, one last caress to take with him. Many minutes later he asked, “Do you mind if I keep holding you?”

“I would like that very much.” Her small hand crept out to play with several of his loose tendrils. “Will you be lonely without me?”

“Yes. But I’ve waited hundreds of lifetimes for you. I can wait another eternity as long as I know you’ll be waiting for me.”

“I’ll always wait for you.”

She smiled and then silence reigned.

The wind continued its brutal assault.

The world died.

Again.

But it was now they understood what love could really be. There was something greater than their lust, rage, pride, and fear. Something more than either of them could ever truly appreciate but something they always understood even with madness clouding their minds.

Holding one another when all was gone.

Knowing one end was simply the beginning of another.

Believing in one emotion beyond all others.

LOVE.

Image Credit: xymonau @ Stock.Xchng

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Vicious Bliss: broken Copyright

Estimated reading time: 1 – 2 minutes

Copyright © 2009 by Claudia D. Christian


All rights reserved. No part of this book shall be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from DelSin Publishing, LLC. DelSin Publishing, LLC and the author assume no liability assumed for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published by:

DelSin Publishing, LLC

www.delsin-books.com

Image Credit: dimitri_c @ Stock.Xchng

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Vicious Bliss: broken – Cast of Fools

Estimated reading time: 1 – 2 minutes

“It was my fault. All of it. I know this. So does she. Her hatred burns. But Katherine wasn’t always like this. She still scorched, but I gladly suffered because she was my sun. Katherine made the past fade. She made me feel like I was more than what I am. But then she broke. Why? Because I kept her too close.”

—Mikhail DeMontier

“I loved Mikhail more than life itself. I needed him, craved every piece of him, and wanted him just for me. I thought Mikhail perfect. Then he betrayed me, not by his unnaturalness, but his inhumanity. He tossed me aside like garbage. Just when I didn’t think my agony could be any greater I found my Hell had just begun. I frolicked there for seven long years before almost dying. Set free from my self-hatred, I find that my love for Mikhail burns ever brighter. But things are different now and I cannot go back to be the same girl…no matter how much I sometimes wish it.”

—Katherine Merror

I am not forgotten.
—Azer
Image Credit: hugenot @ Stock.Xchng

Vicious Bliss: broken

Estimated reading time: < 1 minute

Sequel to Vicious Bliss: fallen.

Katherine Merror finds herself on the other side, broken but not defeated. Her entire world has changed but she’s determined to wrest control from those who would keep her as a pawn. Mikhail’s desperate love seeks to entrap as strongly as Azer’s obsession sought to free.

However, to go forward she must go back again.

Caught in the memories of the past will she fall prey to her passion for Mikhail?

Or will Mikhail’s obsession force the DeMontiers to murder once again?

Next

Suicide Doll

Estimated reading time: 1 – 2 minutes

Narcissus was once given a little doll named Lisette. He enjoyed playing with her, making her do depraved things for his selfish amusement. Darling little Lisette lived for his attention, falling into a tangle of useless limbs when he forgot her for other pretty toys.

One day Narcissus’ play pushed his little Lisette too far and he found her dangling from a cord.

He tried to fix what he had broken but Lisette no longer belonged to him. His toy had been taken away.

Narcissus stubbornly kept after this doll, chasing it through the centuries, feverishly begging to put all the pieces back together.

Will Narcissus ever earn her forgiveness or will Lisette keep breaking for his punishment?

SUICIDE DOLL IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE.

Grim Alice – Chapter Two

Estimated reading time: 40 – 66 minutes

Image Credit: jadey919 @ Stock.Xchng

Chapter Two
“Brand New”

Five Years RT Prior

The day was a perfect cliché—overcast, cold, dreary. To Alice Brown it was glorious.

She stood on the steps of the last home she’d ever have to know. The Gardners had been relatively decent to their foster child. No outward abuse, physical or verbal, but they seemed to know on some level their home was simply a rest stop for young Alice.

She slung a brand new book bag over her shoulder and smiled.

The Gardners wouldn’t miss her. Not because they were unfeeling. Never that but simply because they’d never even remember a girl named Alice Brown.

A sensible import pulled up in the drive. The taupe color matched nearly every vehicle parked up and down the street. Small cars to match small houses with neat tidy yards.

Alice forced herself to walk with steady, measured steps when all she really wanted to do was hop, skip, and dance her way to anonymous freedom.

A young man with a smile to match her mood got out. His sensible trench coat matched his dark slacks. Alice wondered if she’d get to dress like him too. She always wanted to wear suits and ties. On the days when her imagination ventured into that mysterious grown-up world, Alice always pictured herself as being a cutthroat businesswoman who eschewed dresses for the confidence that only comes from power suits.

“Are you ready, Alice?”

“Yes, Director H.”

His eyes flashed red. The brief wash of violent color comforted Alice. It proved she really was going to leave this world.

“Have you already said your goodbyes?”

“Don’t need to,” she answered breezily while walking to the other side of the car.

“Okay then.” He slid back into the driver’s seat. “Buckle up.”

Alice did as requested and let out a sigh. Nervous energy crackled off her skin. She bit her lip to hold back a snort of laughter.

Director H. looked over at her. “I’m glad to see your joy.” He slid his attention back to the road. “It usually takes most of our new recruits several weeks to get to where you are right now.”

She wrinkled her nose in disbelief. “Why?”

“Well, it’s rather hard for most humans to believe much less understand. There’s also the matter of attachments that many find hard to overcome.”

“I thought you said recruits are almost always orphans. By choice on our spiritual journey.”

“True, but it doesn’t mean you don’t build up connections with others on this side.”

“Sounds overrated to me,” Alice stated with dismissive arrogance.

“I don’t doubt you believe so.” Director H. turned on the radio. Oldies from the fifties filled the comfortable silence. Alice turned her attention to the scenery passing them by. Suburban normalcy faded to highway hypnotism before jolting to inner-city chaos.

Alice thought back on the strangeness of her life. Abandoned at birth, passed over from house to house, some bad, others worse, before landing at the Gardners. By all rights she should be bitter, troubled, and thirsty for vengeance on an uncaring world.

Alice felt nothing.

Her attitude bordered between pragmatic and indifference. Some part of her wondered if her present attitude would eventually deteriorate into a massive meltdown of emotion. She doubted it.

“Director H.?”

“Yes?”

“What would’ve happened if I hadn’t gone to the hospital that day? Would you have still found me?” She looked over at him, noting how fine and light a color his hair was.

“Of course.”

“Really? How?”

“Dear Alice, you were never lost.”

She blinked. “Never?”

“Of course not. We knew the moment you were conceived.”

“Then how come…”

“How come we didn’t come sooner?”

“Yes.”

Amusement played at the corners of his mouth like a mischievous child. “You weren’t ready.”

“But I am now.”

“You are.”

Alice remembered the night in question from the week before. She had been hospitalized for severe dehydration courtesy of a nasty case of flu. Director H. had been Dr. Olson then. Handsome, friendly, not-so-easily dismissed.

He had come to her room, smile the same as now, kind and caring to a fault. He had sat by her bed and held her hand. Then with just a few words, Dr. Olson had become Director H. and nothing was ever the same.


Update for May 14, 2009 (One day late—sorry!)

“How are you feeling, Alice?”

“Okay.” She scooted up and leaned forward when Dr. Olson helped adjust the pillows. Alice murmured her thanks before asking, “Can I leave soon?”

“Tomorrow.” He pulled a chair by the bed and sat down. “Alice, I see that you’re fifteen. Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

He clasped her hand in his. “It also says you’re living with foster parents.”

“Yeah.” She kept her answer soft, breathy, and innocent. Inside, she watched him with a wary, suspicious eye. It wouldn’t be the first time a man sought to use her orphan status for sexual gratification.

‘Can’t trust anybody too much. They always fail themselves.’

“That’s not necessarily true, Alice.”

“What?”

“They don’t always fail themselves. Sometimes they perform a great service by being who they are. They give you the opportunity to become stronger. I can already see you’ve learned those lessons very well.” He released her with a final squeeze of his fingers.

Alice repeated the word inanely. She eyed the plastic carafe as a possible weapon.

“There’s no need to hit me.” Dr. Olsen crossed his leg and linked both hands across the knee. “Although, if it would make you feel better you can scream. No one will be able to hear you.” His laughter reminded Alice of chimes. “That didn’t come out nearly as reassuring as it should have.”

“You can read my mind. You have ESP.” She stated it calmly, without fear or curiosity.

“You can compare it to ESP.”

“But it’s not.”

“No.”

“What do you describe it as?”

“The connection that comes from like-minded individuals who share the same space while at different levels of consciousness and form.”

“Symbiotic.”

“Exactly.” Dr. Olsen smiled at her with an emotion akin to pride.

Alice turned to him, eyes narrowed in acute study. Something tickled her brain. It pressured her to look without eyes.

“You’re in my mind.”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“Symbiotic, Alice.”

She stilled her body, easily forcing it to go outside the present. Hers was a skill honed through years in the foster care system. Alice found the familiar, steady rhythm of inhaling and exhaling. Her gaze remained on Dr. Olsen.

Soon, she saw.

“You’re not human.” The words slipped from her mouth with deliberate purpose.

“Tell me what you see.”

Alice complied, calm as ever. “Your eyes are red. Your skin is whiter than a corpse. Your hair is just as white.”

“Do I look like a monster to you?”

“No.” She allowed a tiny smile to soften her mouth. “You’re beautiful.”

He kept his hands clasped but motioned with a pointer finger. “Are you scared?”

“No.”

“Why?”

She took her time in answering. “Symbiosis.”

The word transmuted, serving many different versions of the same answer. Both man and girl had no problem understanding.

“Have you ever allowed yourself to see until now?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“I wasn’t ready?” This time she replied with a questioning lilt.

“Correct.”

“What am I ready for?”

“For the rest of your life, Alice.”

She looked away. The sterile hospital room fit her very well. Alice didn’t feel any fear nor did she question the veracity of what was happening. She always knew she was odd. Alice just never knew the extent of it until now.

“Tell me.”

The being known as Dr. Olsen started. “My name is Director H. and I am to be your mentor. I help run a program called Genesis.”

“Is it with the government?”

“A government.”

“Not mine.”

“No.” Director H. welcomed the interruption and encouraged Alice to do so at anytime she had a question.

“What is Genesis for?”

“It’s a program designed to take specific humans and pair them up with their appropriate partners.”

“They’re not human, are they?”

“Mostly, no.”

Alice folded her hands neatly in her lap. She straightened her back and looked at the door. “Can anyone else see you?”

“For the moment. After you check-out their memories will be modified to ignore my presence.”

“Does my partner know I exist?”

“Yes.”

“We’ll work together for what goal?”

“Peace. Strength. Symbiosis. The rest of the goals will be those of your joint making.”


Update for May 20, 2009

“Is my partner like you?”

“Meaning?”

“Does he look like you? Or she?”

Director H. nodded his head with just a fraction of effort. “He is a he. We are not of the same line but there are similarities.”

She inhaled before letting out a cleansing breath. Her mind sped through the possibilities with careful, methodical motions.

“Alice, why aren’t you afraid? Why do you believe me so easily?”

“Because I always knew I didn’t belong here.” She answered with conviction bred from years of careful indifference. “You are proof that God exists.”

“I see.” Director H. found humor in her statement. “Genesis can be your salvation, Alice. What you are given you are expected to return. Remember that.”

Alice nodded. Her gaze flickered over his shoulder, seeing a nurse walk by with efficient quickness. “What happens next?” Her gaze returned to meet his. They were clear and steady, unmarred by intimidation or nervousness.

“You go home. Spend the next week preparing to say goodbye. Then you come to Genesis.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

Alice agreed with the proposed method. It lacked ambivalence. She liked it.

“Can I ever come back?”

“In some ways.”

“What does that mean?”

“Once you complete the program you will have a few choices to make. Dependant on those, you will reside back in this world if you choose. You can live elsewhere. It’s really again a matter of free will.”

“Are my choices permanent?”

“Only as permanent as you make them.”

Alice turned away. The blanket across her lap vied for attention. “What if I say no?”

The enigmatic creature replied without hesitation. “You can’t.”

“What if I refused to go?”

“You will.”

“What if I fail at Genesis?”

“Failure is only a matter of quitting. You can’t quit so you can’t fail.”

“Has anybody ever tried to run away from you after you’ve come for them?” The cotton knitting had held up to many washes. Alice wondered what happened to the blankets that eventually unraveled. Where they disposed or repurposed? Did they go on to live at a shelter or somewhere else?

“Yes.”

“Why do you think they did it?”

“Fear. The very emotion you can’t recognize, Alice.”

“It’s my strength,” she concurred.

“It can be.” Director H. stood up. He patted her on the hand and murmured, “Next Wednesday is the 27th. I’ll be at the Gardners at ten in the morning. Be sure you’re ready.”

“I will.” She tilted her head back. “Will you modify everyone’s memory of me?”

“Of course.”

“Will they forget I existed?”

“Yes.”

Her shoulders slipped back. “Good.”

Director H. nodded in understanding. “I think you will really thrive at Genesis, Alice. In more ways that you can comprehend right now.” He walked away before pausing at the open door. “You never asked what happened to the ones who refused. Aren’t you the least bit curious?”

“No. I’m not refusing.”

His smile revealed very sharp fangs. “Welcome to Genesis, Alice.”


Update for June 3, 2009

The car came to a stop. Alice gave Director H. a questioning look.

“You can get out.”

Alice got out of the car and looked around. They were alone in the parking deck of a rather large building. She followed her mentor while casting surreptitious glances all along the way.

Director H. seemed to know what Alice was doing despite her position behind him. When they stopped at the elevator he asked, “Having regrets, Alice?”

“Hmm? Oh, no. No. I’m just…”

“Just wondering if I’ve been a hundred percent honest with you?”

“Oh, I already know the answer to that.”

“Which is?”

“No.”

Low laughter tickled her ears. “You’re very wise.” The doors opened with efficient fanfare. They stepped in at the same time. Director H. pushed a button and they ascended.

Alice stared ahead, eyes fixated on the shiny silvered door. She did wonder if perhaps she had been too hasty to go off with the creature next to her. “If you were going to eat me, would you tell me?”

“No.”

“Would you kill me fast?”

“It depends.”

“On what?”

“If that’s what you had planned.”

Alice turned her head to look up into his amused bloody gaze. A flash of fang and a wicked smile calmed the wild thumping in her chest. “You’re a mean man, Director H.”

“So I’ve been told.” He reached around and pressed the emergency button. A serene, cultured voice asked, “Emergency Response Station. Please state your emergency.”

“The world.”

“Sequence?”

“110000100101100011101000.”

Alice heard a short burst of air. She felt something rush into her lungs. “Sequence accepted. Energy pattern accepted. Human DNA pattern accepted. You may proceed, Director H.”

She touched her throat while opening and closing her mouth repeatedly. “What was that?”

“Neurotoxin.”

“Oh…I’m sorry. Can’t you repeat that?”

“Neurotoxin.”

Alice’s breathing sped up. “Is this where you’re going to eat me?”

“Your fascination with being eaten provides marvelous insight into your psyche, Alice. No, my dear. That neurotoxin was designed specifically to work on anyone who wasn’t you.”

Alice locked her legs against the instinctual urge to bash his brains in and run without rational thought. She slid her hand into her pocket. Her fingers crept into the slots of the stealth knuckles. She fisted her hand. Alice didn’t have much of a plan, but she would improvise as needed.

“Oh dear.”

Alice kept quiet.

“Somewhere along the way I’ve lost your faith. I didn’t quite see that coming. This definitely calls for me to reevaluate my methods.”

The doors opened. Director H. walked out first before turning around to face the much smaller girl. He raised his hand and kept the elevator from closing. “Alice, I’d much rather you come with me willingly.”

She shifted her stance but didn’t reply.

“I want you to walk with me on your own. If not, I’m going to take my hand off these doors and let you make your way back to the Gardners.”

“And then what?”

“You can forget today ever happened.”

“You said no one has the right to refuse.”

“No. I said no one ever quits.”

“Same thing.”

“Not even close.”

Alice whispered, “I’m scared.”

“I know.” His exquisite face softened with compassion. “Just because you’re extraordinary doesn’t mean you can’t suffer from ordinary feelings. They don’t cheapen you, Alice. Not here. Never here.”

Director H. beckoned with an outstretched hand. “Will you trust me not to eat you?”

“What about others?”

“Hmm?”

“You won’t eat me but will you feed me to the others?”

Director H. processed her question before answering carefully. “You think you mean literally but you don’t. Your instincts are correct to a point, Alice. You can and will get eaten alive here if you allow yourself to slip. And you will slip. You will feel like quitting. You will feel like there’s no way you can survive another moment much less another day. Those times will come. It’s up to you on how long you’ll lay there and be someone’s feast.”

Alice tightened her fist.

“You won’t need that here, my dear. You can keep it if it’ll make your feel safer.”

She tilted her head slightly. She only saw a long, colorless corridor over Director H.’s shoulder.

“Are you ready?”


Update for June 24, 2009

Alice swallowed a mouthful of air. She let it out slowly. Her eyes darted even as her mobile face attempted to become an expressionless mask. Her fingers clenched into a hidden fist. She recognized the belated foolishness of feeling fear now when she should’ve felt it then.

“Alice?”

“Director H?”

They both spoke simultaneously. He nodded his head and answered, “Yes?”

“If you or anyone tries to kill me I swear I’ll make you suffer as much as I possibly can.”

“I would be disappointed in you otherwise.” Director H. held his other hand out. “Come, my dear. Show me what you’re capable of being.”

Alice placed the tips of her fingers in his palm. They were damp and trembling. She expected him to crush the weak digits. Instead, Director H. cradled them with tender care.

He kept his steps small to match her pace. When Alice realized this she tipped her chin up in a conscious display of strength and aggression. She lengthened her stride. Her stare hardened, eyes darting to and fro, waiting for anything to come out and attack. They met no one.

Seconds passed into minutes.

Alice’s guard never slipped but eventually her physical agitation did. Shoulders slumped. Fingers became dry. Eyes lost their fanatical glint. Breathing subsided into long, even draws of air.

The white corridor took on infinite proportions. Director H.’s glide never fell out of step with hers. She risked a glance at his profile. The relaxed expression gave no clue to anything abnormal.

Minutes turned into hours.

Fatigue pulled at her limbs. Alice’s feet ached. Her fingers, still clasped in his, hung limply. Her pocketed fist was stiff from clenching the resin knuckles. She trudged silently all the while wondering when this was going to end.

Hours turned into many more hours.

Alice stumbled to her knees. She kept her hold onto Director H. Head bowed, mouth open in undignified pants, Alice fixated on the brilliantly white linoleum.

What am I doing here? This doesn’t make any sense.

“Alice.”

The gentle, melodic tone beckoned her to set aside her mortal pains and look to him. She refused. Humiliated by her lack of control, she blinked back wayward tears.

I’m not this weak. I’m not going to break. I won’t.

“Alice?”

She tightened her grip on his. Alice pinched her mouth shut and carefully looked upwards. Her eyes, now dry and without expression, met his. “Yes, Director H.?”

“Do you think you’re fully committed to what lays ahead of you? Be honest with me.”

“I don’t lie.”

His elegant mouth curled into an appeasing smile. “I know you do not make lying a habit, Alice. Forgive me if it appeared that I implied otherwise. However, I already know the answer. I’m just curious if you do.”

She frowned in confusion. “I don’t understand what you mean.”

“Look behind you.”

Alice did as instructed. She surged to her feet in disbelief. “That’s not possible! How can the elevator be right there? We’ve been walking for hours!” She dropped into a crouch and studied the floor. “There’s no conveyor belt. We’ve been walking. I know we have!”

“We have been walking. We’re not going anywhere though.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Why didn’t you notice?” he countered softly.

“Because I was too scared of what was going to happen to really pay attention or care.”

“And there’s your answer.”


Update for July 1, 2009

Alice shook her head in disbelief. “This isn’t real. It can’t be. Am I still in the hospital?”

“Do you want to be?”

“What?”

“In the hospital. Will going back to that time make this decision any easier? Or would you take that opportunity to never come here at all?”

Director H. came closer, walking Alice into a wall. She sank into it, body molding into cool liquid. She fought to free her limbs but they remained stuck as part of the structure. He noted her panicked stare but continued his interrogation.

“Answer me, Alice.”

She choked on her cries, refusing to give voice to the animal terror roiling inside.

“Answer me.”

She pulled with all her strength but kept sinking deeper into the hellish white wall. Soon the viscous liquid threatened to sink into her mouth. Alice strangled on her words.

“With enunciation if you please.” He ducked his head until his red eyes were on level with hers. “What do you want, Alice? Take away everything you think you know, or you feel like you should know, what do you want?”

“I-I want to be better.” She gagged in reflex but tasted nothing.

“Better how?”

“Strong.”

“Why?”

“Because.”

“That’s not an answer. Why do you want to be strong?”

Alice struggled to move her body. She arched with all her strength but couldn’t move. Her lungs seemed to contract on itself. Air became difficult to come by.

“Alice!” Director H.’s voice broke its gentle cadence for the first time. It cut into her panic, neatly slicing it away from her diminishing logic. “Why do you want to be strong? Out of all the things you could’ve mentioned—power, wealth, fame, adoration, respect—you chose strength. I want you to tell me why.”

“C-Can’t…c-can’t breathe.”

“Yes, you can.”

“N-No.”

“Yes. You. Can.”

Alice’s present terror ratcheted to new levels. Getting sucked into a wall no longer seemed as scary as having Director H. stare her down. His unnatural beauty morphed. The perfect human features shifted, remaining much the same but taking on an immortal cast. His eyes promised retribution to match its bloodied sheen if Alice didn’t comply.

Self-preservation demanded she force air into her lungs and coherency into her thoughts.

In and out. Think. In and out. Think.

Eventually her breath evened out. So did her coloring. Alice stopped sinking yet remained stuck like the proverbial butterfly against a board.

“Good. You’re listening. Now answer me before I lose all patience with you.”

Alice gave a broken, shuddering breath. “I w-want to be strong b-because I want complete control over my future.”

“Impossible.”

“No. I can do it.”

Director H. briefly smiled. “You can’t. Your life isn’t your own you know. It touches so many others. It’s promised to many more. You can’t completely control it because it’s not yours to control.” He tapped the wall once. Alice collapsed against him. Director H. patted her back with light, comforting motions.

She rested against him, eyes hard as glass. “You said I have free will.”

“You do. You just don’t have omnipotence.”

“I’m going to be different.”

“Ah, Alice. I do so look forward to seeing you try.” He stroked her hair. “Are you ready to meet your partner?”

She pulled away slightly. His features were familiar once more. Fear didn’t subside; it only shifted to a new focus. “I have to see him so soon?”

“We can continue our walk, Alice. We’ve already been here for a month. I’m sure he won’t mind waiting.”

“You’re joking.”

“If it pleases you to think so.” He slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out a very fine piece of antiquity. After consulting the time, Director H. closed it with a soft snap. “What shall it be, Alice?”

She showed the first piece of wisdom since falling in with this strange beautiful creature. She didn’t allow herself to question the impossibility of how and why. She simply accepted it and moved forward.

“I want to see him. Let’s go.”


Update for July 20, 2009

Director H. held out his arm and waited for her to entwine hers with his. “Your life will be very much like our arms here, Alice. You will lean on your partner for support, even when you don’t want to. He, in turn, will support you, even when he doesn’t want to. You will move forward together.”

“What does he know about me?”

“Only that you exist.”

“Is that typical?”

“Yes. The less you know about one another, the less prejudices you can form.”

Alice picked her next words carefully. “Is he dangerous to me?”

“Of course.” He peeled his lips back into a sly smirk. “We’re all dangerous to you, my dear.”

Her heart skittered; unsure if it wanted to stay in its home or fly out and become a disgusting pile of tissue and blood. Alice’s legs resembled jelly. She found it increasingly impossible to rescind the fear wanting to consume her.

Am I making it too easy for these monsters?

“That’s not very nice, Alice.”

She quelled the frown threatening to take control of her expression. “Please stop going into my mind. It’s very rude.”

“Maybe. But your thoughts are infinitely fascinating.” Director H. didn’t have a shred of remorse for his actions. “You can be faced with the same situation a million times and I still cannot accurately predict how you’ll react.”

Alice stopped their infinite walk. She studied his bloodied stare, trying to see the message embedded in his words. Alice sensed his humor, even his indulgence. Suddenly, a whirl of images filtered into her.

She saw herself running away from Director H. She saw herself at the Gardners. She saw herself walking into the street and being plowed by a truck. She saw her obituary. Many, many times. She saw herself fighting him. She saw him pulling out her heart.

Alice gasped. Her skin turned chalky. Her eyes resembled the sky, open and limitless. Blood seeped from her nose.

She saw herself slitting her wrists with a proffered knife. She saw herself running down the corridor until she dropped. She saw herself slamming her head into the wall repeatedly. She saw herself hanging from the ceiling with his tie as the garrote.

Alice whispered nonsensical words of fury.

She saw herself sitting in his lap. She saw herself crying into his neck. She saw herself bringing her fist up over and over again. She saw Director H. holding her wrists down while he ripped her throat out.

“That’s enough, Alice.”

She turned away and retched. The sounds of vomit splattering over her shoes and pants made her moan in embarrassment. She flinched from the hand rubbing her back in empathetic circles. “Don’t touch me!”

“We’ve made so much progress, Alice. Do you really want to start over again?” He spoke to her with regret, as if she were a small child.

“Did all that happen? Did it?”

He considered her flushed, downturned  face for a moment. His gaze crawled over her, assessing and noting every minute bit of emotion she showed and the plethora she hid behind a rigid façade.

“All that and more.”

“More?”

The whisper fell between them like an anvil.

“Yes. Much, much more.”

“How many times did you kill me?” She stood up.

Director H. tilted his head. A curtain of white fell over his face, shielding half of it from her view. “You’re still here, Alice. What does it matter?”

“It matters to me!” Her feet slithered back. Tiny, mincing steps become much large, aggressive acts of defiance. She turned her back and sprinted away.

Everything went black for a moment.

Alice found herself blinking. Her mouth formed the words she believed hadn’t been spoken before. “What does he know about me?”

“Only that you exist.”

“Is that typical?”

“Yes. The less you know about one another, the less prejudices you can form.”

Alice picked her next words carefully. “Will he hurt me?”

“Most likely.” He spurred forward without giving her a chance for rebuttal. “You will also have the ability to hurt him as well. You’re not without your own defenses.”

She stared at him, eyes skittering away from his. “Will he like me?”

Director H. smiled and patted her hand once. “Alice, you’re truly delicious. How can anyone not like you?”

“Delicious?”

“Oh, yes. Very delicious.” He picked up speed. Alice’s feet trotted to keep up with his lengthy stride. “We must hurry, my dear. We’ve wasted more time than expected. Our young Yukio must be going out of his mind with boredom.”

“Yukio.” Her tongue traced the word. “Yukio. That’s his name?”

“Yes. Come now!”

Alice noticed the hallway narrowing as they went along. She wondered at the lack of pain in her legs. She realized she was running full tilt—all while holding onto Director H.’s arm. Her attention swung back to the then of the hall. The tiny door, which should have gotten larger, seemed to shrink even further.

I’m going to bash my brains in. I’m sure of it. There’s no way I can fit. There’s no way he can fit. Right?

Her sight flickered.

Black. White. Door.

Alice sucked in a mouthful of air and squared her jaw. Logic didn’t fit. Not size. Not ability. Never logic. Never here. The sooner she got it the better.

“Good girl.”

Alice felt something press against her and then it was gone. “Oh my…”

The world had definitely taken a turn on its head. Streams of beings walked in orderly chaos. They flickered in and out, ephemeral as ghosts. She looked up. The dark walls circled up to a tiny pinpoint of light. Voices thrummed like insects. Continuous and indecipherable.

“It’s off to the baths for you, my girl.”

“I thought we were going to see Yukio…I mean my partner.” Pink stole her cheeks. She fidgeted beneath Director H.’s knowing glance.

“You’ll see him soon enough, Alice. However, first impressions mean everything for certain families and he holds a stricter standard than even they do.”

“Do I stink?”

Director H. tilted his head. “Do you think you do?”

She looked down. Her clothes still looked as fresh as they did when she pulled them out of the dryer that morning. A tiny frown scurried across her face. She blinked in thought, her mind stuck on flypaper trap of impossible memory.

“How long did it take to get here again?”

Director H. patted her shoulder with a smile. “Time doesn’t matter here, Alice. Come. You’re wasting time with these questions.”

“You just said time doesn’t matter so how am I wasting it?”

“You smell ghastly.”

“What? I do?”

“Yes. Now off to the baths with you, my girl.” A doorway appeared before them. It flickered twice before she stepped forward. “How will I get back?”

“I’ll find you. Don’t be afraid. It’s just water this time.”

Update 11-5-09

Alice looked at him, frown hanging from her lips. “You are so strange, Director H.”

“As are you. Go on now.” His elegant hand chased her away, albeit slowly.

Alice shook her head and turned away with a shrug. She studied the door before drawing in on her near-limitless reserves of courage. Alice walked through boldly. A curious sensation of falling drew her eyes downwards. Her feet tingled as the floor rushed up to meet her with dizzying precision.

Was I falling up or down?

Alice glanced behind her only to see the doorway had vanished. A cavernous chamber stretched into infinity. Steam floated, coyly showing glimpses of earthen pillars and walls tiled to match the floors.

Silence punctuated only by the irregular sounds of dripping water stuffed her ears to the brim. She easily could believe she was the only creature alive in this odd world.

It felt marvelous.

Alice moved deeper into the chamber. Devoid of fear, but tempered by caution, she allowed curiosity to govern her. The moist air parted to give way to an enormous bathing pool. Alice knew an invitation when it appeared. Her shirt joined shoes and pants in economic fashion. Soon she stood nude. Alice peered into the manufactured pond. She imagined she could fall in and never been found again.

It did not feel marvelous.

Diminutive height aside, Alice had never learned how to swim. Very few things frightened her (somehow Alice’s instinct to feel fear wasn’t reliable) and drowning ranked rather high on this personal footnote.

Come on, Alice. It’s nothing to be afraid of. You’re not going to drown. Only bathe. Director H. wouldn’t go through the trouble of bringing you here if he meant for you to die, right? You’re being silly. Stop it.

Embarrassment dotted her cheeks. She forced her body to stillness. The anxiety evaporated as if it had never been. Stoicism replaced indecision. Alice entered the pool with girlish grace, swaying slightly in a bid for balance, before sinking to her chin.

The water warmed her skin right to the edge of perspiration.  Eyes bluer than the veins in her fragile wrists slit in contentment.  Alice exhaled in smug relief. Everything was fine. Reckless emotions were for those without vision. If she couldn’t control her environment she could at least control herself.

A thick bar of soap appeared with a splash. Alice looked up, expecting to see an intruder. Instead, a beam from an unnoticed dome encircled her. Before she could study the light source, a tiny bottle of viscous liquid dropped in front of her. Alice plucked it from the water with an interested frown.

I guess it’s shampoo. But why so small? It’s worse than what you find at the local shelters.

She set it on the ledge behind her. Alice used the soap with brisk intent. Satisfied with her cleanliness, she ducked her head under for the briefest time possible. Alice’s heart quivered a few disconsolate notes before resuming its normal cadence. She opened the bottle and slathered her long brown hair with the contents. Piling the heavy mass on top of her head, Alice let her senses fall under the exotic scents.

It smells so good. I feel like a rich girl. Or better yet…I feel like I’m in a dream. No problems. No worries.

The enormity of the pool beckoned, testing her spirited conviction. Alice reached out with a foot. She defied physical limitation by clinging to the predetermined “safe” end while commanding her leg to stretch several feet away.

“It’s only water this time. What did he mean by that?” Alice muttered while carefully creeping forward. She somewhat expected to sink into an abyss and was most pleased when it didn’t occur. Alice jumped up once and landed with a splash. A stingy giggle manifested.

Alice dipped her head back, spread her arms wide, and imagined herself to be alone in a friendly sea. If only all water could be so polite and managed. The light continued its monocle stare. She closed her eyes against it and let herself sway in pleasure.

High above the girl, hidden safely in the lighted tower, two sets of eyes studied their newest addition while another set refused to look down.

“She’s magnificent, isn’t she? The constant pull between fear and fearlessness is exquisite.”

“Director H. you are to be commended in your choice of young Alice. She’s a perfect foil for the Yamagatas emissary.” The child voice and matching appearance didn’t reflect the ageless knowledge of the speaker.

“She will doubtlessly be pleased with young Yukio.”

“Really? How can you be so sure?”

Director H. spared his distant relative a mocking glance. “She thinks my eyes are pretty. And my hair. I imagine if I had bunny ears she would enjoy those as well.”

“Are you interested? It’s not too late to change the pairings.”

“Too kind you are but no. I’ve tired of the details that comes with pairings long ago. I’d much rather watch.” Director H. propped his chin on white-gloved hand. “They’re so delicious though, aren’t they?”

“Hmm. Yes. They are.” Brilliantly violet eyes turned away from the splashing pseudo-nymph and addressed the young man standing a hostile distance away. “What do you think of her Lord Yukio?”

“She’s adequate.”

“Really? How can you be so sure? You haven’t even looked at her.”

“I don’t need to, Director K. I trust you and Director H. with the choice.”

Update 11-8-09

“Yukio,” Director H. remained fixated on Alice. “I would have a word with you if you please.”

The younger male bowed his head and obeyed the dazzling creature whose intricately layered white suit threatened to outstrip the room of color. Yukio’s resentment presented itself only through his overly graceful movements. Director H. smiled and gestured, “She’s perfect for you. She followed me with only minimal slaughter.”

“Minimal? How minimal Director H.?”

He shifted from one leg to the other before addressing his diminutive colleague. “I only had to kill her seventy-one times.”

“Violently?”

“Mostly.”

“And she never hesitated in coming back for more?”

“No. In fact, Alice dared me to employ even nastier methods. The blood would’ve sickened even you, Director K.”

A blissful smile touched his rosebud mouth. “Exhilarating.”

Yukio remained unmoved by their morbid conversation.

Director H. waved the young man closer. He waited until Yukio reached his side. “Alice is strong enough even for your demons. You won’t be able to scare her away. She’ll keep coming after you until you have no choice but to give into her charms.”

“As you say, Sir.”

“I do say. I say very well. Look at her.” Director H. slid over, making room for his recalcitrant charge. Yukio joined him. Posture erect, virgin-colored robe not close enough to touch the metal rail, Yukio obeyed with minimal effort. His gaze flicked down and away with insulting indifference.

“She’s terrified of being eaten.”

“Really?” Director K. tapped his tiny gloved fingers against the railing in consideration. “She must be sensing it from previous incarnations.” He observed Yukio with sly amusement. “You made quite an impression there, Lord Yamagata. Obviously, you couldn’t contain yourself.”

“It wasn’t me.”

“If you say so. No, actually don’t.” Director K. swiveled his chair and faced the adolescent. His miniature black suit and matching tie contrasted aggressively against the carmine seat and even more so against the blindingly white room. “Our little Alice here has met your acquaintance more than once. I do hope you don’t kill her too quickly, Yamagata-sama. It’s such an effort to procreate these days. If you are tempted to allow your temper to dictate, at least remember that you must ensure your line survives. I can only reorder Time so often before it puts me in wretched mood.”

Yukio’s silvered stare darkened with menace. He pivoted on his heel and faced the child-like being. Yukio bowed low before his elevated chair. “You are my elder, Director K. so I beg pardon if my words are given with disrespect, but I cannot believe I have ever met this human in any incarnation.”

Director K. pursed his rosy mouth. “Is that so?”

“Yes.”

“Foolish boy.” His wide smile revealed perfect fangs. “Why do you think you already hate her so?”

Yukio held Director K.’s mocking gaze for a vulgar amount of time. Helpless rage caused the ends of his knee-length hair to rise. His face whitened past the color of ice. The room’s temperature instantly dropped to freezing.

“And there, my arrogant Yamagata-sama, is all the proof we would ever need.” Director K. sliced the air with his hand. The room became unbearably hot. Yukio dropped to his knees.

Update January 11, 2010

Director H. tutted. “Children are ever so determined to have their own way and dispose of their elders’ good councel. Were we ever this pig-headed?”

“No, I can’t possibly believe so.”

Both men watched as Yukio fought to keep his composure even in the face of bodily harm. His body quaked, swaying from one side to the other in stingy degrees.

“All you have to do is relent, Yamagata-sama, and I will stop this.”

Yukio bowed his head further, lips mute but pride screaming what he thought of the tiny creature’s enmity swathed in dulcet tones.

“Do you suppose I’ll have to kill him and start over again?”

Director H. smiled and crouched down. “No. Young Yukio is stubborn, arrogant, willful, but he is a fool. Death would do nothing but teach him to dig his heels in further.”

Yukio’s mottled skin had gone past the point of cherry and had sunk into full plum. He wanted to leave this place, to run away and never come back. Only the shame it would bring to his line kept him in place. His presence had done enough damage to the Yamagatas. He refused to add to it.

Even if meant the flesh would fall off his bones.

“My patience is beyond tested, Director H. I would prefer to kill him and rewind.”

“You are too quick to lose patience, dear man. You would do better to let things progress naturally.”

“If I did that the families would’ve gone extinct millenniums ago and we’d be left with nothing but the humans.”

“True. Don’t forget they have their worth too, Director K. Without the humans, there would be no use for us.” Director H. lifted Yukio’s chin with one gloved finger. He smiled at the weak display of fang. “You would bite me if you could, wouldn’t you? You feel this instinct? It is good, Yukio. Do you know why? Because you cannot control it.” He acknowledged the rage his words created. “You cannot control everything. You cannot. Just as you cannot control this. Don’t forget it.”

He stood up, as graceful as ever, and addressed his watchful colleague. “I believe my wayward relative has learned his lesson. You may leave off.”

“If you wish.”

All moisture in the air instantly froze. Yukio drew in the bitterly cold air with relish. He would not forget this lesson. Nor would he forget why he had to suffer it. Once his throat released him, Yukio fought to find stable footing and asked, “When do I get to meet Alice?”

“You see, Director H.? A little pain never failed anyone as a teaching tool. Now Yamagata-sama is eager to meet his partner.”

“I believe that’s menace you hear, not welcome.”

“I care little for what it is as long as their functionality results in children.” Director K. pointed one miniature finger in uncompromising threat. “Now you go down there and meet your human bride.”

“Partner.”

“Bride, partner, pet, I care not for what it’s now called, Director H.!”

“Right.” His smile turned its voltage towards Yukio. “She is finishing her feminine toilette as we speak. Come, lets go meet our wonderful Alice.”

Update February 1, 2010

Yukio followed his elder through the wall. It dissolved around them before snapping back into place. The floor vanished, leaving Director H. and Yukio to float down.

Director H. assumed a comfortable position. He predicted this journey would take a bit of time. He observed his young charge with a benevolent smile. One which Yukio refused to reflect, causing Director H. to chide. “I hope you show a little more effort than this. It’s not as if we’re tying you to an unattractive girl, Yukio.”

“I wouldn’t care.” He inhaled sharply. “I don’t expect you to understand. After all, everything is of humor to you.”

“True. The tragedy of existing leaves two choices—madness of pain or madness of laughter. I choose the latter. You are stupidly choosing the first.”

As expected, the younger man drew up, limbs stiff like knives. “There is no stupidity in honoring the Yamagatas.”

“You do honor them to a fault. Duty is an unforgiving mistress, isn’t she?”

Yukio didn’t react overtly to the subtle barb. “I am here because of duty. I am going to dishonor my beliefs for this duty. I am going to submit my life to your disgusting program. I will bed that girl as many times as it takes to produce issue. The only stupidity here is not on my part.”

“Very passionate for a man of your honor. I am heartened to see you only control ice but are not entirely made of it.” Director H. reached out and touched Yukio’s colorless hair. “It’s too bad we’ll have to cut this. It seems so long ago since I had hair like yours. Seeing it makes me remember.”

Moments elapsed. “Remember what?” The question, although grudging, required the politeness of a response.

Director H. laughed and withdrew his hand. “It makes me remember why I choose the latter.” He clapped once. “All right, young Yukio. We must first cut off all this beautiful hair. It wouldn’t do for our Alice to see you with it, especially since it can’t stay. She’ll only mourn its loss and how would that be fair?”

He unfolded his legs precisely when the floor reappeared. His walk bounced with excitement. “Let us hurry!” Director H. swept his arm out with a flourish. A door appeared, suspended from nothing and leading to everywhere. He waited until Yukio stepped through before following. “Ana, my darling, how have you been?”

She leaned down from her considerable height and kissed his cheek. “Absolute.” Statuesque and willowy, Ana possessed a complexion so fair it made Yukio’s appear flushed. She motioned him to sit on her chair. The gorgeous pink cushion matched her tightly curled locks. “The regular?”

“High and tight.”

“Has he been collared yet?”

“No.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“How long before his hair grows back?”

Director H. considered for a moment. “No less than an hour and seven minutes.”

“Will he be collared by then?”

“Perhaps.”

Ana’s inhumanely long fingers caressed Yukio’s scalp. “If not then you’ll have to bring him back?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, I hope so.”

“Yukio, there’s nothing to fear here. Ana has quite a love affair with hair, that’s all.”

“I feared nothing.” He didn’t acknowledge the friendly pat to his arm.

“Good. Then you won’t fear knowing she will be able to fashion a doppelganger from your locks—one that looks exactly like you?”

Revulsion flickered. “For what purpose?”

“Many. Isn’t that right, Ana?”

“I’ll only keep one for myself, Yamagata-sama, just one. Then I’ll kill it after I’m done. You’ll only feel the tiniest bit of pain. Very, very tiny.”

“See? Very tiny.” Director H.’s brilliant grin widened. “Now off with the hair. He must hurry to see Alice before she drowns.”

Update 2-17-10

Ana flowed about Yukio; her movements jarred in their liquidity. He fixed on a point unseen to all except him. Hair hit the floor with whispered protestations. Yukio’s mind flickered with the fear his head would just float away. It felt that insubstantial without the physical weight he had carried for as long as remembered.

“I would tell you to stop frowning or you’ll develop wrinkles but that just doesn’t apply to people like us.”
Yukio’s face slackened. He heard Director H. sigh melodramatically. What he said next made him start forward.

“Ana, take a care not to decapitate him in your bliss.”

“Sorry, sorry. I can’t help it. His hair is so…beautiful.” She brought her nose forward to nuzzle the air above Yukio’s scalp. “I’m not sure if I’m happy to do this or if it makes me sad.”

“Neither, dear. It just makes you a bit crazed. That’s all. Once our Yukio leaves you can play with as many of him as you can take.”

Ana brought her thin blades to his neck. Yukio stopped moving. “Really? Five?”

“More if you can handle it.”

Her color exploded into rose. “I can handle this one.” Ana’s neck stretched with an inhuman angle to bring her face in front of Yukio. “You are going to bring me so much pleasure tonight.”

“Not me.”

“If you say so.” She smiled. Needle teeth shined silver like the instruments in her hand. “But you’d be wrong.”

“Quit teasing him, Ana.”

“I can’t help it. He’s so delicious. I love the way he tastes.”

Yukio quivered. Defiance demanded he forget his honor and kill the despicable creature in front of him.

“Be a dear and don’t do it. I’d so hate to have my suit sullied by blood. It was enough I had to walk around with your intended’s on me for a month.”

“Was he going to kill me, Director H.?”

“Hmm. I believe so.”

Ana drew back with a pout. “After I was this nice to him? How rude! No, no, no. This is unacceptable. I demand you let me cut his hair a second time. Before it grows back.”

Yukio’s muscles tightened, hovering on the edge between self-defense and aggressive slaughter.

Director H. hopped between the miffed stylist and rattled demigod. “Now, now. Let us all calm down. Ana, my darling, you know you were entirely too naughty in teasing him.”

“What is a little teasing between lovers?”

The air crystallized. Director H. hazarded a glance behind him. Yukio’s mercurial gaze crackled. “She doesn’t mean it literally. Only your doppelgangers.”

“Disgusting.” He skewered Ana with his stare before settling it on Director H. “Everything about you is disgusting. You play with us, giving no consideration to our position. Change Time, make copies, set us in opposition and then do it all over again. Disgusting.”

“Err…all right then.” Director H. clapped his hands. “Ana, divine as always. Have fun tonight.”

“Oh. I will. You can count on that.” Her sinister smile left very little room for speculation.

“Yukio, come. It’s all right. Ana won’t hurt you. There, there. Come now.” He patiently waited for Yukio to slide out of the chair without giving his back to either of them.

The door appeared. Yukio stepped through after Director H. He turned to see Ana wiggle her blades at him before the portal slammed shut.

“You probably shouldn’t have antagonized her like that.”

“I did nothing of the sort.”

“I disagree.”

“That woman is perverse. She shouldn’t be allowed to live.”

“Yes, well, you shouldn’t have antagonized her.” Director H. paused in his steps. The hallway darkened immediately, leaving enough light to illuminate the two. “You’re going to feel some…pain…off and on for the next few days. Don’t be alarmed. You’re not dying. That’ll just be Ana.”

Update 3-4-10

Yukio regarded him with a lifeless stare. “How do you live with yourself?”

“Who says I do?” Director H. tapped his pocket twice. “At the risk of repetition, we really must go. Alice is bound to be up to her pretty nose in water. The poor thing has probably drowned ten times by now.”

Yukio’s indifference caused the older man to shake his head.

“You ask how I live with myself. I ask the very same. You have no idea how pitiful Alice is when shock has her flopping this way and that way. It’s horrible. You don’t even care, Sir!”

“I have not harmed her, Director H. You have.”

“Petty details. Hardly inconsequential.”

“Agreed. So it makes no difference whether she drowns or not. It’s not real.”

“Oh, it is very real to her. Alice feels everything. Whether she’ll be allowed to remember is the question.”

Yukio’s stare flicked away. Immobile. Haughty.

“Ah, well perhaps you will feel differently after you’ve had the pleasure of tasting her.”

“Have you?”

Director H. hummed. Little jealousy. Definitely possession. So tiny, almost to be nonexistent, but there nonetheless. An ignoble start but one all the same. He had to take care with how he proceeded. The Yamagatas rigid morals were not going to be easy to overcome.

Especially Yukio.

“I’ve only had the pleasure of a few of Alice’s kisses. The first is when I slit her throat.” He blissful sigh underscored the heinous telling. “Her mouth, so pretty with blood, fit mine so beautifully. Even I was moved. I wanted to eat her right then. There was also a time right before I hung her—I couldn’t help myself. The last was when I ripped out her heart. Mmm…rest assured you will have a mate worthy of your line, Yukio.”

“As long as she fulfills her obligations I will fulfill mine.”

The hallway buzzed white like bleached bone. Director H. grinned. It set the other man on edge. “Would we all have such darling obligations to fill.”

“You may have her if you so desire. I would not stand in your way.”

“Bartering Alice as if she were a whore? No, no, no. That will never do, Young Yukio.” Director H. stalked him, grin bursting that he refused to give an inch. “She is yours until, oh I’d say, forever. Accept it. There is no changing this.”

“I am to be married, Director H. to Elise. I would not dishonor her this way.”

“There is no dishonor here. Elise is in the same predicament as you. However, unlike you, she’s found peace with it.”

Yukio’s mouth flattened. “I would not dishonor her.”

Director H. shook his head in pity. “Alice will have her hands full with you. I hope she gets the chance to stab you in your sleep. Or at the very least, cook you in a pot.”

Update 3-19-10

Yukio’s attention flicked away with insulting indifference.

“Are you ready to meet her?”

“I am.” The words pulled out of him like teeth, rotted and resigned to a shameful demise.

“Goody.” Director H. clapped his hands once in glee. “Well, there she is.” The hallway vanished, leaving them both suspended over a large pool presently occupied by a floating girl.

Yukio wilted beneath the steam. His body itched and burned with discomfort. Something else to place on her unwanted doorstep. He thought to ask on what was expected of him before killing that idea. Yukio would not be party to his own disgrace anymore than he already had.

“Oh, as I expected. The poor dear has allowed herself to drown.” Director H.’s casual tut sounded as mournful as a baby’s laugh. “Yukio, please help me get her out. Director K.?”

“Have they met?” The tiny shrill came from everywhere.

“In a matter of speaking.”

“What matter?”

“She’s dead.”

“Dead, Director H.? Did Yamagata-sama kill her already? Couldn’t he have waited until tonight?”

“No, I’m afraid he is the innocent party in this case.” Yukio carried only half of her weight, touching Alice no more than necessary. His repulsion of her heavy in his blank face.  Director H. shouldered Alice. Unnecessary for the task but his compassion demanded more care than the one finger Yukio used.

“If Yamagata-sama didn’t do it, did you?”

“No. I’ve already performed my share of slaughter.”

“Then how did she die?”

“She drowned.” Director H. placed her limp body on the tiled floor. He disliked the marble sheen of corpse flesh. He checked his watch. Apparently, he had taken far too long indulging the prideful demigod standing with back turned to them both. “Alice has been dead for thirteen hours, twelve minutes, and fifty-two seconds.”

“And I suppose you’d like me to turn back time?”

“It is your specialty, my dear director.”

“Hmph! These two are taking far more of my precious attention than I would like.”

“I do sincerely apologize. Your brilliance is so underappreciated by the likes of this world.”

“Hush. No one likes a suck-up.”

“Of course not.”

“Fine. Fine. I will bring the Alice back to life. Again. When would you like it to happen?”

“One moment.” Director H. turned to his silent companion. “Alice, my dear, would you like to be brought back on the verge? So your handsome, priggish, but sensitive father of your future babies can breathe his kiss into your mouth?”

Yukio strangled on his ire, his silence was so void of warmth.

“Ah, I take it that would not suit you?”

“No. I would not.”

“Too bad. You both could’ve started so smoothly. The hard way it is.”

“Director K.?”

“Yes? Have you decided?”

“Mmm. Bring Alice back to the point of safety. I will ensure she doesn’t venture too far into the Styxian Realm. Whoever designed it to share bathing space should be scalped.”

“That would be you, Director H. Would you like to visit Ana?”

“Oh, yes. It was me.” He smiled in wonderment. “Yukio? Please exit the chamber. I will bring your darling girl to you as soon as she’s presentable. Is that agreeable?”

Yukio barely dropped his head in a nod. He pivoted on his heel and walked away. Alice appeared more animated than he did.

“The more you love, the more you hate. Your passion will definitely be the death of you, Yukio.”

The snow god remained liquid in stride.


TBC…


Previous | Next

Grim Alice – Review I

Estimated reading time: 2 – 3 minutes

Image Credit: Claudia Meyer , sxc, Paris

Scenario 1 Review 1

“Fail.” The disembodied voice continued. “Unacceptable. You two will redo this again.”

Yukio’s large body lifted off the much smaller girl. He stood by the bed, swaying with a marionette’s grace. Alice sat up, her eyes regaining focus while her neck straightened itself with a loud snap. She joined Yukio and waited.

“Although we’re not surprised at the outcome of this scenario, please explain your actions. You may begin first, Yukio.”

His head snapped up. The words were dull, hollow, and conscious but not. “She wouldn’t listen. She was going to leave me. I couldn’t allow that to happen.”

“Noted. Now, your turn, Alice. What provided the motivation to submit to Yukio’s violation and subsequent murder?”

Alice’s tone mimicked Yukio. She spoke without inflection or emotion. “I’d rather be dead than allow Yukio to have us both.”

“If so why did you seal him?”

“I didn’t want him to have her either.”

“Noted. My review is this—Yukio?”

“Sir?”

“Your stubbornness and unwillingness to be honest with yourself and your partner contributed to this outcome. You had many opportunities to express your love for Alice but you chose to cling to your pride.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Alice.”

“Sir?”

“Your pride became your ruin. While you did attempt to rely upon your reason, you allowed your pride to overrule your judgment. Your inability to try to understand Yukio’s familial position drove you to put vengeance above all.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Do you both understand this review?”

“Sir.”

“Sir.”

“You will both return back to your places and begin this exercise again. You will continue to do this until you reach a satisfactory moving point. From there the cycle repeats. You will not remember the outcomes of your failures, our reviews, or how many times you’ve failed. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Director H.” Alice and Yukio replied in unison.

“Begin.”


Previous | Next

Grim Alice – Chapter One

Estimated reading time: 22 – 37 minutes

Chapter One
“A Love That Couldn’t Last…”

The morning had already been too long, but Alice clung to the frenetic orderliness. After Yukio’s predictably inspiring speech, she left his side and melted into the dispersing crowd. She lost herself to duty, directing several Cells to the appropriate doorway. Directors H. and K. headed the Ambers and took complete care of their inexperienced charges. This left Alice, Yukio, and the other Alphas to direct their Cells.

“Alice, the Alpha meeting will take place at 16:00 R-Time, correct?”

“Yes, Alpha Cardinal. The others are aware as well.”

“See you then.”

Alice nodded, not acknowledging the pity in Sebastien’s electric blue gaze. She turned away, leaving the lovely Draconian to his legendary perceptiveness and fickle generosity.

Dragon’s blood is dangerous to secrets. They see everything all too clearly.

Alice kept her poise, smiling when necessary and perfectly in control. She nodded in farewell to old companions and to new faces. She noted more than a few smirks but the searing gazes couldn’t penetrate her walls.

She refused to bleed.

Alice occasionally suffered a chill when Yukio passed close by. It doesn’t matter she chanted silently, wishing she could be anywhere else.

Wishing she could take back her heart, wishing her lover was hers once more, wishing Alpha Blanc Elise had never been able to become Yukio’s bride.

He’s going to marry her. As soon as he leaves here he’s going to marry her and have tons of baby snow demons. And everyone knew but me…until today.

Once the five lines were formed and ready, Alice took her place at the head of Noir. She kept her gaze steady and sure, even when Yukio stood a fraction of an inch closer than normal. She didn’t move away or acknowledge him. Instead, Alice ignored the cold burn sliding down her throat. She watched the lecture hall empty as each cell disappeared into their exclusive world.

I’m tied to this place with only one way out and right now I just don’t wanna do it. Knowing it’ll mean that he marries Elise that much sooner. God, I’m so stupid! Let that bastard marry her and live centuries with someone just like him. See how fun that can be!

Yellow, green, red, and white lights burst in cyclical order across the mammoth hall, painting it in philosophical shades of enlightenment, futility, and duty.

Why didn’t I see this coming? Why did I think I was different? Why did I think HE was different?

Only Noir was left in the hall. Alice pivoted in unison with Yukio. The doorway pulsed once, signifying the stone key was ready for their imprint. Alice waited as it transfigured from the astrological symbol of Mercury into Zaltu, the Assyrian goddess of strife. She didn’t bother to look over to see what Yukio’s key had become.

If it’s Ishtar I know I’ll freakin’ lose it and belt him across the mouth.

She placed her left palm on the warm stone while Yukio reflected her movements on the opposite side. Darkness flooded the hall and the world disappeared in an instance.

Time stopped when the Noir Group entered their realm. Alice couldn’t deny the excited curiosity curling inside her mind.

What am I going to see this time? A chateau? Tent by the river? Skyscraper penthouse? Private beach? Tree house in the Amazon? What?

The tiny smile tugging at her soft mouth disintegrated. A total absence of color blinded Alice. She blinked several times trying to make sense of the world while snow continuously pelted her face.

“Beta Noir Jasmine, what do you see?”

“Sunny skies on the Riviera.” She arched brown arms above her head before slipping a hand in her partner’s. Their standard issue black military gear wavered beneath Alice’s squint. She caught the glimpse of a bikini and surfing shorts as the two strolled away to presumably a beach.

The eleven other couples detached from their line. As with Beta Noir Jasmine and Eric, they all experienced a different landscape with their clothes as reflection.

Power suits, rugged jeans, formal wear, paint-spattered smocks, and business casual drifted by until only Alice and Yukio were left.

Soft fur fluttered about her cheeks. She touched the parka hood with one hand before looking down. Her gear had transformed into a white winter ensemble guaranteed to make her blend into the snow-covered mountains.

“Alice.”

She blinked once, her only sign of agitation. “Yes?”

Yukio’s clothing had become much lighter than hers. His coat had become a robe, much like those worn in Christian art. The thin garment wouldn’t do much to protect his skin from the elements. However, Yukio didn’t need it. Snow storms were his playground.

Apparently as a Noir he had all the advantages over her, emotionally and physically.

“Our quarters are up ahead.”

She squinted again. The shape of a building flirted with her vision, but refused to become substantial in this hostile world of ice and wind. Frustrated, she fished in her pocket until she found a pair of snow glasses. Slamming them on her nose, Alice enjoyed temporary relief but her mood immediately soured when she saw just how tiny their quarters were.

How am I supposed to avoid him if he’s living on top of me? That’s the probably the point. I can’t avoid him and get the hell out of this fucked up Genesis program. All I want is my Purifier tattoo and I’m outta here. If I never see Yukio again it’ll still be too soon.

Alice held in her hiss of dismay and started walking ahead. The combined sounds of howling wind and crunching snow did nothing to deaden her senses. She couldn’t hear Yukio’s echoing steps but she could feel the ripples of his glide. In contrast, her steps were slow, clumsy, and faltering.

“Do you need help?”

The whisper insinuated itself inside her frozen brain, igniting Alice’s precarious rage.

“Absolutely not.” The words were without inflection of emotion.

“I can carry you. It’s not a burden at all.”

“You don’t have to accompany me. This is your domain, Yukio. Feel free to evanesce to quarters.”

“We’re partners.”

“Obviously.” Alice noted his glide had stopped. She kept walking.

“Nothing’s changed.”

Alice gritted her teeth, clipping the hateful words ready to fly from her throat.

“Sebastien spoke to you. What did he say?”

Alice’s mouth pursed into an unflattering mesh of fury, hurt, and shameful relief that Yukio had noticed—not that she gave a damn to acknowledge the last bit.

“He asked me if I was free to finally give his ten inches a try. I told him I’d pencil him in for next week R-Time. So the faster we get through this the faster I can get to Real Time. So move your ass, Yukio, and let’s go.”

The wind rose into a deafening screech before disappearing completely. The snow froze in place, hanging indefinitely upon a piqued god’s will.

“If I believed that for one moment I’d keep us here forever.”

Alice smiled with venomous joy and continued walking.

The snow descended again, gently, brushing against her reddened cheeks and lips in apology. Yukio kept pace with Alice. His silence mimicked hers.

Alice loathed the crunching sound each of her steps made. She despised the cold greedily latching onto her skin, beginning with her feet and spreading outwards. The chill wrested control of her lungs, making it difficult to draw breath without suffering its nasty bite.

I’m so tired already and I’ve only been here forever.

She ducked her head down. Concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, Alice trudged along in silence. Her movements bespoke of determination and focus but her mind whirled with liquid resentment.

I hate winter. I hate snow. I hate white. I hate Yukio. I hate Elise. I hate everybody. I hate it all.

The mantra repeated itself. Begin. Hate winter. End. Hate it all. Over and over it spun inside her mind, slinking into her until Alice’s entire body seethed with resentment and hatred.

Alice’s feet finally reached wood, jarring her from the endless loop of rage. She looked up to see Yukio waiting at the top of the stairs. Alice battled to keep her expression a blank slate. Inside, she keened in despair.

His beauty hurt. Brilliantly white, from his hair to his skin down to his robes. Yukio’s silver gaze burnt through Alice’s maddened pain. It spoke to her, promising to love her despite his betrayal.

It promised a lie.

Alice swallowed down her tears. Feigning a confidence she couldn’t possibly feel, she walked up the stairs to meet him. Yukio didn’t allow her to pass. “I’m cold and tired, Alpha Noir. Move.”

His supple mouth twitched. Alice scored a hit by dismissing any personal connection with him. Sadly, she was too heart sore to revel in a miniscule victory.

Yukio moved aside. He opened the door and ushered her in with a courteous wave. Alice brushed past him, took off her glasses, and studied the prison she’d been assigned. As blinding as the world was outside, the inside was every clean freak’s worst nightmare and most inspiring challenge. Countless variations of white were present in the dispassionately modern room.

What’s my goal here? Figure out how to keep this place clean? I can imagine it now—Purifier tattoo miraculously appears after I’ve battled dirt and grime with every cleaning product known and unknown to man!

Alice smothered the beginnings of hysterical laughter. She kicked out one foot. Muddy snow clung to the top. She didn’t need to lift her leg to know dirt was embedded beneath. She toed off each boot with a bit of struggle. Alice plucked them off the floor and turned them upside down. Careful not trail dirt across the floor, she went in search of a shower.

Yukio had remained in the tiny foyer, silent and courteous as always. Always perfect, always an exquisite example of Pureblood breeding.

Always except for this morning.


“Alice, you have to stop.” Yukio pried her clever fingers from his belt buckle.

“Why?” she breathed against his neck. Alice lost herself to the intoxicating pleasure that came with caressing her lover. “Initiation is two hours away.” She nuzzled him before nipping his chin.

Yukio dipped his head and tasted the mouth she offered. His tongue swirled against hers greedily. He didn’t protest when Alice led him across the room and onto their bed.

Minutes later after a vigorous fucking, and while still in his lover, Yukio whispered, “I’m marrying Elise after Genesis.”


Once, they would’ve immediately tumbled into bed. Eagerly, they would’ve put their mark on every room until Yukio cried out in exhaustion, leaving Alice to coax him for one more round.

I’m not going to survive this. Every second with him is killing me. Soon it’s going to kill him. I know it. I’ll find a way to throw him in the Amazon. Bye-bye.

Halfway across the room, she threw over her shoulder, “I take it you don’t care which room I get.”

“There’s only one bedroom.”

His words jerked her. Alice stopped in the middle of the living room and slung her head towards him. “How do you know?”

Yukio lifted his chin, appearing implacable and supple at once. “There is only one.”

Blue clashed with silver, neither willing to back down. “You had something to do with it.”

“We’ve always slept in the same room.” The monotonous tone belied the storm brewing in his mercurial stare.

“Now we don’t.”

“I disagree.”

“There’s nothing to disagree about, Yukio. I’m taking that bedroom. You can either conjure up another one or you can sleep in the living room. I don’t really care.”

“I won’t do either. You will sleep with me in that bed just as you’ve done since Jade Cell.”

Alice’s logic whispered soft words of, “Calm down. Don’t let your humanity take over. Show him you’re just as bloodless.” Her rage only shouted two words, “Fuck that.”

Alice chose the better of the two emotions.

“You arrogant, egotistical, worthless excuse for a man. How dare you think to tell me where and who I’ll be sleeping with?” Alice flung her boots at him, taking petty satisfaction when they slapped against his immaculate chest. “How dare you think I’ll ever let you touch me again?”


Yukio took her abuse without an outward murmur of protest. However, his stare bored into Alice, more inflamed than she had ever seen before. “You belong to me and nothing you say or think you feel will change that.”

“You think?” she growled in a clotted voice. “You are clearly delusional and entrenched in a deep state of stupidity to think that load is even close to being true.”

Yukio bristled. Liquid flame swirled within his dangerous stare. “You always knew I couldn’t be bound solely to you, Alice.”

“Correction—you choose not to be bound solely to me.”

“I cannot make decisions based on whims.”

“Whims? Loving me and being faithful to me is a whim?” Bitterness laced her caustic laugh. She held up her hand and sneered, “No! Don’t answer that—I already know.”

“I’m the heir, Alice. My life is not my own. I owe it to the Yamagata clan to continue the line. Both sides of them, Alice, not just the Pureblood side. I want you to be the mother of my human children. I want it more than anything else.”

Alice honed in on the softened lines of his proud face. Yearning for him threatened to decimate her rage. “No! You’re not going to do this. You are NOT going to play the victim here!”

“If we’re victims we are because of you. I want to marry you as well. You know it’s quite common for there to be two marriages, Alice.” Her stony silence forced him to hiss, “You know it! Right now scores of weddings will be taking place soon. Nephilim promotes this for a reason.”

“They may promote but it doesn’t mean I’ll ever accept it.”

All weakness melted from his countenance. He drew away from her, untouchable and remote. “Then I don’t have a choice.”

“You have a choice, Yukio. You’re choosing to cling to Pureblood supremacy rather than to lose your pristine reputation.”

“You’re a hypocrite, Alice. You claim to understand this world but you still don’t get it. I have a duty to my family. I have a duty to Elise.”

Alice’s fingers curled, biting deep into her palms. “You have a duty to me.”

“I’ve been betrothed to Elise longer than you’ve been alive. I could never shame her by tossing her aside.”

“Oh, but you can shame me? You can humiliate me in front of Genesis? Why? Oh, I know. Because I’m just a dirty human, right? Offspring of Eve, like you by the way, but just on the wrong side. My feelings can’t possibly compare to precious Elise’s because I’m no better than a dumb animal who can talk. Right? Right?! Well you know what—fuck you, Yukio.”

“Don’t use that language with me!” he snarled. “You will conduct yourself in a manner befitting your station, Alice. Do not make me remind you again!”

“Suck it, Yukio,” she shot back crudely.

The room’s temperature instantly dropped by several degrees.

“I’ll forgive your impertinence because of what’s happened. Don’t seek to push my generosity.”

Alice was possessed by the very real urge to throw herself on the ground and cry. Betraying her with a secret engagement was bad enough but to not even care for what it was doing to her? Unforgiveable.

“Generosity? Well, I would hate to hear what you’re like when you’re not being generous, Yukio. Or should I start calling you Yamagata-sama? Is that’s what expected of me now?”

“I will not apologize for this, Alice. You should’ve known.”

Disgust drew her lips back in a snarl. “I should’ve known. You’re right. I should’ve known what a low-born bastard you are.”

Yukio drew himself up further. His gaze, the only sign of emotion from his impassive expression, crackled with rage. “I should kill you for that.”

“You should but you won’t.” Alice’s smug smile, meant to provoke, was doing a marvelous job. “Just like I should seal you away for betraying me, Yamagata-sama. I know how to do it and it wouldn’t take much time or effort considering what I feel for you right now.”

“Seal me and you’ll be stuck here as long as I am.”

“Maybe but you’d still be sealed. I think it’s a rather good idea, Yamagata-sama.”

“Stop calling me that.”

Alice cocked her head. “No. I only call my friends by their first name. You no longer fit that category.”

“Childish to the very end, aren’t you?” Yukio stepped closer, attempting to crowd and intimidate the much smaller girl. “I had hoped you would see reason, Alice. I see now that it’s quite beyond you. Your humanity is much to blame for this otherwise you’d see the logic in this solution.”

“Keep insulting me. I welcome it. After all, it just reminds me of what a worthless individual I’ve had the misfortune to be paired with.”

“It doesn’t have to be this way. I understand your pride is wounded but don’t dismiss the last five years of your life with me.”

“We’re far beyond wounded pride here. I loved you. I trusted you with my entire being and you betrayed me. You knew how I felt about dual marriages. You knew how I would feel to know about Elise.”

“You still love me.” Yukio touched a lock of her hair. “My affection for you is still the same as well.”

Alice slapped his hand from her. “Would you listen to yourself? You show about as much emotion as the icicles you control. Once it was amusing.”

Yukio’s hard mouth softened into an enigmatic smile. “My life is not my own, Alice. If it was perhaps I would choose differently. However, I owe it to my family to continue to sire Pureblood children. I cannot allow emotions to cloud my duty. I will marry Elise. That is what I’m going to do.”

“Fine. You do just that, Yukio. I’m not going to try to stop you nor will I interfere.” Alice drew back into herself, anger frozen in stasis. “We both have a mission to complete before we can leave. I suggest we work together to finish that much faster.” She turned on her heel and quickly walked away.

Yukio blocked the entrance to the bedroom. “Is it only Elise that angers you?”

“We already covered this. Now move.”

“She doesn’t hate you.”

“I don’t want to hear it.”

“Elise. She doesn’t hate you. She pities you.”

Tears scalded her eyes. Alice finally broke. Tripping over her words, she warbled, “You…you..what kind of man…how can you say that to me?”

“She’s not your enemy.”

Alice wiped a few renegade tears with the back of her hands. She took a deep cleansing breath. Resignation laced her words. “No, she’s not. You are.”

He shifted, bridging the physical space between them by the merest fraction of an inch. It spoke volumes but Alice was beyond listening to his subtlety and restraint. “I’ve given you everything I can possibly give.”

“Everything but I what I wanted.” Her mouth became a living wound, oozing with pain and misery. “You could’ve waited, Yukio. You could’ve waited to marry her after I was dead. You didn’t have to do it now.”

The air shifted. “Then when you reincarnated I’d still be married to her. What would change?”

“Logic, logic, logic. It’s all you ever want to acknowledge or feel.” Alice studied his porcelain face, looking for any cracks—no matter how tiny—to prove there was a soul beneath. She found none. “All right, how’s this for logic? We were paired because a random combination of DNA markers suggested we’d be a complimentary breeding couple.”

Yukio inclined his head in answer. Looming over her, he looked alien in his still perfection. His beauty, once so fascinating now was empty and useless. Alice shuddered, cold to the core and knowing it would never be warm again.

“Your touch couldn’t freeze me to death like it would any other human. I’d be strong enough to bear your children. Many if we were lucky. They would have our strengths and very few of our weaknesses. Given enough time they might transmute into their own Nephilim line.”

“It can still be, Alice.”

“No. It can’t. Logic can account for every reason, but emotions—my emotions—cannot account for this. There’s a reason why Nephilim created Genesis. You know centuries ago I wouldn’t have had a choice. I’d just be given to you, like a doll, for you to do with as you pleased. You have no idea how much I’ve thanked God since this morning that it’s different. Now, I have a choice.”

“What choice did you think is worth destroying the life we can have?” His contempt scalded.

“I can choose to watch you go between Elise and me. I can choose to watch you leave me to have children with her. I can choose to exist in the background, content with living a human lie. I can choose to have my children culled away from your lineage, hidden and paired off with Purebloods until their humanity is virtually gone. I can choose to be a dark, dirty burden until your line weakens again and I reincarnate back into this mess.”

“Or?” His whisper foretold of Alice’s dangerous will.

“Or I can refuse. I can refuse having my pride destroyed while you run from my bed to hers. I can refuse to allow my husband give his seed to another woman. I can refuse to be treated as a secret and live in truth. I can refuse to have my children turn their back on their human heritage. I can refuse to be seen as inferior and I can refuse it all over again in the next life.”

Alice threw down the gauntlet and dared him to pick it up. She didn’t have to wait long.

“You’re merciless, Alice.” In a movement too fast for her eyes to follow, Yukio’s elegant fingers cupped the back of her head. He clenched them, ceasing her struggles with one fist. “Now you force me to be so as well.”

With those ominous words, Yukio picked Alice up and threw her on the bed. She fell hard before he joined her in a tangle of limbs. Alice delivered several blows to his cheek, mouth, and throat. Whereas they were once matched equally, now Yukio held her in complete control.

Alice’s adrenaline kicked it up another notch. Fear pressed into her, making it difficult to keep her focus. Yukio had never touched her in this kind of violence. The differences between their species aggressively outweighed the similarities.

She punched, kicked, and clawed but he was too entrenched to be swayed. “Get off me! You bastard—don’t touch me!”

Yukio covered her outraged screams with his lips. They plundered, nipping and licking with no purpose other than domination. His fingers scrabbled at her collar. They traced the crest signifying his possession of her. “Mine. You. Belong. To. Me.” Each word branded by a hard press of his mouth against hers.

Alice’s bottom lip split beneath the pressure. Blood dribbled down her chin. She tried to twist her face away from him, failing that she bit his tongue, but Yukio tightened his hand around her neck. Alice gasped for air, giving him the in he needed to steal his tongue back into her mouth.

Tears gathered. They spilled onto her cheeks. His messy mop of white hair fell into her eyes. Alice’s legs ceased their mad kicking to the backs of his thighs. They fell limply on either side of him. Yukio’s hand kept its steady pressure. She knew he’d keep going until she lost consciousness or until she was dead. Static filled her ears, making it near impossible to head his maddened whispers.

“You’re the first human I’ve ever been able to touch, to hold, to love.”

Alice remembered with hazy recollection his story of coming across a human girl hundreds of years prior. He hadn’t known then his touch could freeze instantly. She’d always carried the imagined image of a peasant girl frozen in mid-kiss, glistening in the sunlight like a perfectly-carved ice sculpture.

Is that what’s going to happen to me? My skin hurts. Is it my bruises or his touch?

Yukio nuzzled her lips, lapping the blood until her wound healed. He raised his head and pinned her with a feral glare. “I’ve always adored you, Alice—even when I thought I hated you. I won’t let you destroy what we have. You will love me back.”

He eased the pressure on her throat. Alice rasped one word. “No.”

Yukio tightened his grip again. “Remember—you brought this on yourself.” Ominous statement spoke, he methodically removed her clothing. He froze each piece, turning it into ice, before shattering it. Alice soon lay naked before him, body shivering with fear, rage, and cold.

“Do this and I swear I’ll find a way to kill you.”

His expression rippled, recycling through love, hate, pity, and indifference. “Perhaps. Or perhaps you’ll realize this is for the better.”

Alice shook her head. Her mouth twisted pitifully. “I don’t even know who you are right now. I probably never did.”

Yukio’s hair fell over his face, shadowing it like a veil. Bent over her form with expression hidden far from her tortured sight, he confessed, “I do love you.”

Alice released a broken sigh. She swallowed against his palm, hating the exorbitant price she had paid for his virgin declaration. “If you love me then why are you doing this?”

“I don’t like hurting you, Alice. I swear I don’t. I wish…I wish it didn’t hurt you like this. I wish you could be like the others. I wish you weren’t who you are but what I wish for would change you from the person I love above all others. I’m at my limits and I don’t know what to do.”

Alice placed her palm over the living flesh encircling her neck like a manacle. “You have to let me go.”

He considered her order. “Will you leave me?”

Alice wavered. She also had wishes. She wished Yukio was different. She wished his bastardy had been enough to keep him out of an arranged marriage. She wished he could belong solely to her. She wished she had never allowed herself to fall so deeply in love with Yukio that she couldn’t entertain the idea of breathing without him by her side.

“Alice, please answer me.” No longer proud, he begged her with those four words. His pleas did not fall on deaf ears. They were simply disregarded.

The young girl lay on a white bed, in a white room, covered by a white man, and stared at a soaring white ceiling. Her tormented gaze shifted. Tiny snowflakes fell ever-so-slowly to the ground. She reached out with one hand and waited for one particular flake. It swayed left to right, up and down. Her palm stayed in place, patient in the knowledge of no matter how much the flake undulated in its own world, it would have no chance but to fall and die.

The maudlin correlations between them were perfect.

Alice ignored the familiar stranger above her. His words melded into frantic kisses—caresses she couldn’t return. She crooked her head to the right. Her crystalline gaze fixated on the one snowflake with unreasonable fervor. She prayed for it to drift further to the right or left. It approached closer and closer, oblivious to its destruction.

Alice felt Yukio pull back. She registered the bare flesh against hers. She felt his cock press against her dry tissues. She didn’t even wince when he plowed forward. Her stare remained constant. Yukio’s hand cut off her air. Moments flew with him violating the one woman he loved. Moments crawled with her dying by the one man she loved. In the recesses of her mind, Alice realized Yukio’s intent, knowing hers as well.

She reached out, no longer patient for the flake to rest in her palm. Instead, she grabbed for it. Alice wanted to destroy it. She needed for it to disappear.
Yukio’s thrusts quickened. He squeezed his hand as tightly as she reached with hers. Alice’s world shrunk down to one flake. She couldn’t die until it did.

It won’t hurt. I promise. I’ll kill you quickly. I’ll set you free and you’ll never have to wander again.

Alice couldn’t hear Yukio anymore. She couldn’t feel his hips grinding against hers. The snowflake, just out of reach, continued its death waltz. Alice awaited it with a mottled face and a blue smile.

Yukio stiffened. Euphoric pleasure surged through him in spite of his brutality, or perhaps because of it. He rested his head next to hers.

Alice strained; neck tilted back for the symbolic blade. Irrationally, she tied her existence with the flake’s. As long as it existed, so did she.

And existing was not on the top of Alice’s priority list.

Yukio whispered nonsensical murmurs of fidelity and devotion. He promised to love her for eternity, to seek her out when she came back, to make it so she’d never know of Elise.

He spoke of forgiveness.

He spoke of many stupid things.

Alice’s last moments weren’t filled with visions of past love, vengeance, or even murderous desperation.

She just wanted to kill that one fucking flake.

Fingers splayed so wide they quivered, Alice finally succeeded.

The poor snowflake was as dead as they were.

Yukio rocked his hips against hers one last time, greedy to prolong his selfish pleasure, when all physical ecstasy died. His crystalline stare mirrored the resigned horror in hers. Alice used their final moments to prove a point.

There were worse things in life than to murder the one you loved.

Yukio shuddered. Spasms possessed his delicate hand and just like that—he broke Alice’s neck. He groaned, incoherent and apoplectic with spittle running down his chin.

Her tongue lolled, swollen and ugly in her mouth. Eyes glassy with the sheen only a corpse could ever attain.

Yukio keened inside. Sanity vied to turn his mind into a pile of loathsome mush. His adored girl lay dead by his hand. It was worse than the killing her with one touch. It was far, far worse than what he had done to Yukiko so many years ago.

He slumped over her, locked inside his mind, never realizing his body had stilled the moment hers did. Never knowing Alice had sealed him with her death.

The snow stopped. Countless flakes hung indefinitely suspended in mid-air. Death permeated their sterile environment. It reflected them all too well.

Alice and Yukio failed to no one’s surprise—least of all themselves.

Image Credit: pdufour @ Stock.Xchng

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Grim Alice – Prologue

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Prologue

“Waiting to Break”

“You know this is going to get much worse.”

“I know.” The two words rasped with numb acceptance. Her eyes reflected their tone.

“You sure you want to go through with this? Yukio will never need to know you declined.”

She inhaled quickly. “Director H., I’m Alpha Noir for a reason. I can perform.” And you could never keep it from him. He’ll know because he knows me. He’s expecting me to fall apart and I’ll see him in hell before I let that happen.
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