Note: My darkest piece yet. Well, maybe excluding Venus's Poison, 'cause suicide and abusive relationships are pretty dark, too…but yeah.
Disclaimer: I own nothing worth owning.
"Angel of Death"
From the beginning, I have been nothing but a shadow. Nothing but a mere figment lurking in children's minds; the monster hiding in the closet of their nightmares; the wicked mistress of the world's fears. The wrath of my rage can cause the courage of even the most head-strong youth to crumble. My very name reeks of death, despair, and longing. It is no longer spoken. It is no longer remembered. And yet, it is feared.
I am the Witch Princess.
And I regret nothing.
The sun rises and falls countless times over this small plot of land: this village, this Mineral Town of ours. Come dawn, and she greets the day with her dazzling smile and her finger's delicate touch of life. Plants fruition at her fingertips; smiles spread at her laughter. She is the Harvest Goddess, and she is beauty itself forced into a vaguely human form. She thinks nothing of her allure, and yet it has always existed, just as my terror always has. She is a deity of Heaven, and I of Hell. This is how it has always been and how it shall always be. Our destinies have been written in stone since our creation. We are to be rivals, she and I.
My hands close into identical fists as the first star appears in the sky. The angry red sun lowers like a heavy weight, reluctant to fall and turn a blind eye to this world. It has no power over night. Its warmth and love have no reign in the darkness.
"I suppose you'll be leaving, soon."
Her melodious voice carries towards my ears and I shut my eyes to its regal tenor. "This is how we are. It'd kill us not to do as we were created, wouldn't it?"
The Goddess hesitates just enough before replying (always, always she hesitates). "Perhaps so. And yet…yet is it truly necessary? I cannot bear it when I awake, Sister, I cannot. It seems terribly cruel."
I shrug as she shivers; the sun's reflection is half-way gone from the lake. Like an executioner's axe, the sun releases from the heavens and her body begins to writhe and twist within the lake. She is hesitating longer than usual today. She, once again, is trying to stop Fate. Futile. "Your heart is different than mine," I remind her.
"I don't believe that." Even her sighs are lovely—dewdrops of concern falling like rain upon a drought. "Don't you ever think that…people can change? That people can overcome their instincts, perhaps?"
This argument, too, has always existed. My eyes stare at hers—fire challenging ice—and I pull my cloak tighter about my shoulders. Little stars are breaking through the sky, little eyes offering just enough light to trick mortals into believing themselves protected and safe. I know better. I know they should fear the night.
For I am the villain, aren't I?
"We both started this fool's game knowing the stakes," I answer as the lake bubbles over beneath the moon's rise. "I have my pieces, and you have yours. It's my move, Goddess."
The water bursts from the lake with alarming ferocity, climbing to engulf this Venus with its watery tendrils. They drag her down, these claws of nature, and I catch a single plea from those perfectly sculpted eyes before they become submerged beneath water. The wind is howling; the sky has blacked out completely but for the moon and its eyes, all bestowing my powers upon me. I raise my arms to its light and laugh: the emotion is liberating, releasing, empowering.
It is fire, not water, that engulfs me.
This blazing sensation crawls within my hollow soulless body; I can feel it swelling with anticipation, with power. I uncurl my fingers to watch a slight spark release from my palm, warping and distorting itself into my beautiful little horror.
Smiling, I watch the black matter shift and turn into a hulking shadow, bulbous and red-eyed. Sin seeps like ink from its sides, and a single drop transforms into a second nightmare, then a third, until finally my precious army of Seven has appeared before my delighted eyes.
The most ready to arrive is Greed: its hooked, needy fingers clawing at the world. Then comes the ever lovely Lust: two figures twisted into one winged being. Beside it comes my precious Pride: fork-tongued, slender, and sharp. No shape can remain a part of Wrath for long: restless, ever-changing, and unquenchable. Envy scowls: she needs attention, anything, to nurse her empty heart. Gluttony has no such problems: plump, oozing, and mouth yawning wide with desire. Sloth lies sprawled on the ground, slowly and surely screwing a little knife into its heart. "Well. We haven't much time."
Then I, the mistress of peccadilloes, set the course for each of my minions with a wave of my hand. Where I should have a heart I instead have expectation—and it burns far, far stronger than any silly mortal's blood could within me.
"Let the hunt begin."
It is an accident outside his control. The orders, it seems, have gotten confused: it's an innocent little mishap, no doubt. Zack, the fool, isn't even aware the package has arrived.
Won knows better.
The fresh smell of city air slips through the cracks of the parcel, FRAGILE scribbled furiously over the top along with URGENT DELIVERY, HIGH PRIORITY MAIL, and other fervent warnings that make Won's heart beat faster, faster, faster…
This is wrong.
Well, of course it's wrong. No one said it isn't. The merchant steals a glance towards his sleeping roommate—lazy bastard—and pulls back the flaps just to drink in the scent once more. Ah, he'd been wrong; the smell is far too exotic for city air, far more enticing to the senses. Where has this come from again? He rereads the address. Africa. Quite a distance.
Quite an opportunity.
Destiny has placed this gift in his hands, and Won would be a fool not to take advantage of it. A complete, total, absolutely spineless fool not to read the letter within and know all he could achieve with this one product.
EXPIRES BY THE END OF SUMMER.
Think of the cruises, the caviar, the champagne, the luxuries. Think of how that stupid bitch never did anything to help you; think of how she'd get this all for nothing. She should be kissing your ass for even considering selling it back to her.
She'll owe you her life.
Won read the name written on the address once more. Then again, and again, and again, until finally the guilt had subsided with the grandeurs of glory and riches. Blinded. "Should've brought it back in person, Rod," Won chuckles to himself with glee. "This whole town'll be run dry trying to afford the damn medicine, now won't they?"
Lillia's flower droops in its cage, and Greed hooks its fingers deeper and deeper into Won's back—my creature's victim all too willing to hold on for the ride.
She's arrived by her own free will, and she's been crying.
Beautiful faces are not to be marred by tear streaks; blood-red lips are not to be trembling on a pale-white visage such as hers. He's wrapped his arms about her, and she begins to tremble—how warm her skin feels, how soft—as she tells him such sad music, such sad, sad tales. "Mother's dying," she says. "We can't afford the cure," she says.
Keep talking, just keep talking in that beautiful, silky voice…
"Ricky isn't himself anymore, and I…I…"
The melody has stilted with the sobs, and he cannot stand this discrepancy in her loveliness, so he presses his mouth, hard, against hers. At first she is startled, afraid; then her body relaxes, feeling comfort instead of fear. He is stealing everything he can grasp with his tongue as his hands trace across her full, blossoming figure with burning curiosity—but she is not the first, of course not, she is just today's treat—and it takes her a few seconds to see that his hand is working at her clasp.
"Kai? Wh-what are you…?"
"I'm taking you away from it all, baby," he purrs into her ear; God, how many days and nights alone on the sea has he had this last season alone? Such a lonely life. This could be so much simpler than finding love, so much easier…it could be Muffy; it could be Eve; it could be this sweet vulnerable girl, tonight, on his kitchen floor.
Who the hell does it matter anymore?
"But, Kai…I haven't, I mean…"
Stop whining, dammit.
Once again, he kisses her roughly and this time leans into her, flashing her that winning smile. Traces of alcohol still lie on his lips, but he's been wanting this so long…needing this so desperately…aching, burning, for this moment.
"Just trust me," Kai whispers. Then the lie: "Just love me back, Popuri. Love me, and I won't leave you like everyone else."
"You can't," she sobs. "Y-you're all I have left, Kai! Please…d-don't…I'll do anything…!"
Lust wraps its wings about incubus and succubus, and Kai breathes in the intoxicating taste of the girl's purity as it lies open for the taking—and Good God, stop struggling, stop whining.
Someone is knocking on the door, but Doctor Trent refuses to answer.
He shuts his ears against the begging, the pleading, the insisting—"She's dying, dammit, dying!"—because he is already occupied, and this one operation cannot be ignored. What can he do, Trent wants to shout, to prevent the inevitable? What can he do to stop a sick woman from dying?
"Darling, what is it?" his nurse calls, but he waves her away, tells her to go to sleep. She, too, cannot interrupt. No one can. He can't afford this, not now, not ever…
You're the damn doctor. You have a reputation.
"Work. Don't trouble yourself, my love."
His patient smiles up at him from her bed as the Doctor's wife could be heard trotting back upstairs; "You're a stunning liar, Trent."
Trent's reply is absolute: "I am not lying."
Adverse to arguing, she shrugs and leans back on the cold surface; his hands snap on gloves, and her face flushes with anticipation. "Will this hurt?"
"I'm not sure. I've never gone through it, obviously."
She tries to laugh at that, but fails miserably. Her beautiful locks spill behind her head as she lies down, but this angel is sweating, panicking. "A-and of course it's necessary."
"Because it was a mistake."
"A fluke," she repeats, as if having a love-affair with words. "A one time fling. A lapse in judgment. An accident. This would complicate things far, far too much."
He swallows; even this simple nod is hurting him now, as if his head might snap off his wretched body and spare himself his misery. "We never meant for things to get this far," he murmurs more to himself than her. "We're just erasing our mistake."
No one can know. I have a wife, I have a career, I have too much to lose…
Yet he's crying, and he can't let her see. Crying isn't what he needs now. "What anesthesia would you prefer? W-we have several scents."
"Surprise me." She straightens out and grins, barely. "It doesn't really matter, does it? Whatever it takes to make us happy again."
"…Happy. Yes." He bows his head, and his hands fumble with the tools—but I can't fumble, this is the most important operation of my life—and he finally settles on one, bringing it to her lips. "Strawberry," he whispers into her ear. "I hope that's alright."
"S'fine." Her eyes stare into his lovingly, and he can't help but kiss that forehead before watching this frightened, determined woman collapse into slumber. He kisses her once more, then again, and again before returning to his tools—damn, damn it for getting this far—in order to extinguish the life of his firstborn child.
His reputation, and hers, are far more important than any bastard child could be. And who better than he, Pride taunts, to purge the world of his folly?
He doesn't have to look to know she's gone.
Beside him, the decrepit body he once knew so well has become foreign, monstrous, terrifying. Her eyes are closed, but even when they'd been open, they'd been this serene, hadn't they? "It's alright, don't trouble yourselves," she'd said. "I can accept it."
He'd have done anything. He'd sell his father's farm; he'd work till he died; he'd take on the damn disease himself if he could. Yet the sad truth of the matter was that Rick, a mere poultry farmer, could do nothing.
And he knows that, deep down inside.
Popuri has run off—God knows where—but Rick can't blame her. "It's not fair!" he'd cried over and over again as he threw his weight against the wall, the door, anything at all. Bleeding had distracted him; it helped him forget that here he was, watching his mother die, and he couldn't obtain a cure less than an hour away. He has frightened her off, the doctor isn't home, and he's helpless, helpless, helpless…
Now, he runs his hand over his mother's forehead lovingly, fingers catching on sweat and tracing the outline of her wrinkles. Two: one for each child. She'd always been so selfless, so pure. But…
I've let her die.
He cries, and once again he is the little boy whom Rod left in charge of his family, all those years and years ago. He'd grown up fast, and yet he is still finding himself helpless in this bizarre, cruel world.
I'm not losing her.
The resolve rekindles with that one thought, and Rick's gaze hardens as he pulls himself upright from the floor. Of course. That sneaky bastard still had the cure, didn't he? To hell with prices.
I'm saving her.
The sickle is slick, sharp, deadly. Like an agent of death he holds it high, eyes wild, and stalks to Zack's home, Wrath keeping stride with his shadow.
In her dreams, Karen is flying.
There are no clouds, as she'd expect, but instead she is escaping a tidal wave behind her, approaching closer and closer with more speed each time. She dodges what she can, but something always tries to pull her back: a scream, a sob, a plea. Finally, she has learned to ignore it all to survive. She can't feel anything; she must be numb.
Then there's laughter.
Up ahead, she can see it: three figures, smiling, in the darkness. One is a woman, that much is clear—short, rather petite, far less curved than herself. Beside her is a strong man, the source of the laughter, and he is holding her hand with all the reverence in the world. Between them, Karen's heart stops, for she can see a little child tugging the woman's leg.
His child. Hers.
She has stopped gliding long enough for the wave to swallow her whole, but she can't seem to escape, no matter how she kicks and flails and cries. Yet the family doesn't move; they remain fine despite the elements, swapping smiles and hugs like some sort of movie: unrealistically perfect.
No one's like that. No one.
She's choking; she can sense that now. This whirlpool isn't built of water, but words, and they ring over and over again in her ears: "Dammit, Jeff, why did I marry a man like you," "Karen's lucky to get a good kid like Rick interested in her," "To hell with love, to hell with everything," "Nothing's real anymore, she's dying, dying…"
This one real phrase wakes her from her stupor, and Karen blinks to see a fuzzy outline before her eyes. He beams at her with tear-streaked cheeks, and Karen looks up at the father from her dream to hear him say, "It's all fixed now. We're fine."
We. Since when was this about "we," and not "you"?
"It…our baby was a she?" Karen stammers out.
His smile wavers a bit; he can't follow her words. "It's not important, Karen. We've made the best decision—albeit, the hardest—of our lives." He takes her hands in his own, and Karen wrinkles her nose; she can smell blood, and she hates blood, oh she thinks she just might…
Her body shudders and she retches over the side of the bed, causing Trent to panic and flurry about. "Good God, Karen, do you want my wife to be anymore suspicious than she already is?" he hollers. "Oh, let me find a mop, Elli keeps it somewhere around here…"
She watches him as she wipes the bile from her lips and, strangely, she's finding this man to be far from the savior he'd seemed: strong, reliable, honest, and good. He begins to scrub her mess from the floor with renewed vigor; Karen, meanwhile, wonders at how calm they both have become. Hasn't their lovechild been cut from existence? So why, she wants to know, are they worrying about a puddle of vomit on the floor?
"Nothing's changed," she mutters under her breath. Her hands fly to her face, and she laughs—oh shit, oh shit, nothing's changed. It's not so much this man Karen wants, but the freedom he possesses; now, as Envy strokes her empty belly, she has neither.
It's not important now, but Gray can't remember what he said exactly that night.
The deep red liquid before him both makes his stomach cry and his mouth water all at once; it's a strange, unusual sensation, and usually a sign that he should stop drinking before it gets worse.
"Another round, Ann."
The waitress is looking kinda cute tonight, and (hic) maybe she's not so flat-chested as he thought before, maybe not. Not like Mary, huh, no, not like her. Damn librarian with her (hic) ridiculous ideas.
"Gray, you're teetering."
"Dammit, I am not."
God, what had he said, anyway? He scratches his head and groans; his head felt heavy or somethin'. It had been important, maybe. He thought it had been. But then again…
"What? Gray, you are being insane."
He bangs his fist against the table and growls. "Another one! Dammit, can't you hear?" The blacksmith turns to Duke beside him and grins wolfishly. "I'm on my (hic) eighth. Beat that."
Duke laughs and lifts his hand for another as well, and they begin a competition…a competition like…oh, God, what had it been about…?
"I can out-drink you," she'd said.
His head buzzes with the memory; yes, it had been here, in this very place. She'd tossed her long hair at him and smirked, challenging him. "I can win," Karen had said. Had he been a drinker then? Not like now. Not every night, or every morning and night if he could pull some strings.
That was the night Mary had finished it, hadn't she?
"If things are so terrible, then why don't you do something about it?" she'd challenged him.
Something. What the hell is a "something"?
So his grandfather hit him. Big deal. So he got thrown around from time to time. Burned himself. So what. He could take a few punches.
Mary can take a few when it happens, right?
What made her so damn special that he couldn't do to her what his family had done to him? It wasn't fun. Obviously. It sucked. But it wasn't intentional. He always apologized. He made it up for her every time. So what made her so high-and-mighty (hic) that she had to just go and…and say some shit about…respect, and all that crap?
"I can out-drink you," Karen had said.
He'd never really overdone it before. Not 'till that night. But with Mary out of his life, Gray had drunk, and drunk, and drunk, until all that pain had vanished. Who the hell was this Mary person? What the hell did she matter?
I don't need nobody. I…I'm jus' fine.
He'd beaten Karen that day. Gotten her so plastered she could barely move. What a good time it'd been, though, seeing her throw her arms on every guy, haha! Thank God the doctor had shown up, right?
Gray rubs his temples as he moans again; how long ago had that been again? Nine months, give or take a few?
"One more drink. One more." His shaking hand wraps itself around the glass, and Gluttony toasts as they both drink themselves to death.
It'd be hasty to jump to conclusions.
Cliff leans against the lamppost and watches the silhouette leaving the bridge. Maybe, if you squinted, the light was casting off something shiny (not important, of course, not dangerous), and maybe, if you thought about it, there was something strange about the fellow's gait. Urgent, maybe. (Certainly not vicious.)
None of his business, of course. Just a simple traveler in a simple world.
He'd thought the same when the girl had dashed down the shore to the Snack Shack, crying and crying like the sky's gonna fall. Who knows, maybe it is. Her mother's dying, isn't she? Cliff doesn't exactly know. He doesn't like to butt in. Better to leave it to her boyfriend, of course. Kai, isn't that his name? His roommate.
"Everything happens for a reason," the pastor had said. Cliff isn't about to challenge it.
So maybe, when the screams began from that restaurant, most people would have done something and called the police. (I can't interfere.) Maybe, when the shrieks and the sound of metal against wood echoed through the night, he should've run to the nearest armed villager for help. (It's not my place.)
He isn't a gossip, like Manna, so who should care if he saw Karen slinking into the Doctor's bedroom door for the past few months? (Do what you want to do.) And once, admittedly, he could see Won stealing mail. But it was of little importance. (Doesn't matter to me.)
In fact, even now, as Rick exits the building with blood-stained hands and dashes homeward with a flower in hand, Cliff wonders whether or not it's worth it to tell him it's too late: Lillia is dead. The doctor has finally arrived, and according to him, she's been dead for the past hour. (Not that you asked.)
Cliff stares upward at the sky, the sunlight making its first strides to dawn. Kinda nice to see it from outside, isn't it? (Can't afford a room at the inn, oh well.) Kinda nice to know nature doesn't need money, or a job, or a girlfriend to be appreciated. (And I'm shooting three-to-none.)
The girl has finally exited the Snack Shack, her legs shaking beneath her and her hair a right mess by any standards. Eyes red and wide, she glances about to see red marks upon the sand and footprints leading to her house. She gives him a piteous look, but Cliff shrugs. No need to get involved.
Nor does he care when the doctor comes to see Won barely alive in Zack's house, when the grown man bursts into tears about something that had kept him away from that poor man, when Trent says he should've been more careful. (I don't care about what.) His philosophy didn't have room for pity.
If the world gave up on me, might as well give up on it.
Cliff sits himself down, and Sloth joins him, fists anchoring the traveler's ankles down in chains of boredom and apathy.
All seven sit before me now, shielding their eyes against the oncoming day. Our moves have been made on the chessboard; queens have fallen, some pawns been spared. The adrenaline rush is subsiding, and the lake shimmers in the sunlight, a lovely nymph breaking through her watery cage. Her green braids toss towards my followers, and my shadows fade into fiery nothing before she turns to gaze upon me. "Well. Have you had your fun?"
The tone is bitter, accusing, cruel, and once again, I shrug at her accusals. "I'm certain you'll do whatever you can to reverse it. The game is certainly not over."
"The game." She spits out the word like a disease. "A woman has died, and you call this a game?"
"Everyone dies," I reply. "Even the people you protect."
Pain contorts her beautiful features as she bites her lip, tears forming in her eyes. "I just don't understand. I can't believe that this is how we must be. Can't things just be…?"
"Perfect? No." I can't help it; I laugh. "Life itself isn't perfect. You and I have witnessed enough of them to know."
"…You don't have to be chaos, Sister. I truly believe that."
I don't have an answer to that. Looking below me, I can see flames licking the heels of my cloak; they are impudent, hungry, and terrifyingly stunning. "You don't know anything about what I am," I say finally, and the flames yawn about me, confining me to a place beyond this simple little wood. It is a place with no name, a home belonging to no one. In the darkness, there is nothing but me, and I cannot even conjure my little friends to keep me company.
For you see, they are all me.
I am Greed.
I am the thief who is never satisfied, never temperate. I long for all the world's pain to be my own; I wish to have all the misery I can unfolded unto me, for then I can never be alone.
I am Lust.
I am the woman who wishes more than anything else for the opportunity of the flesh, to feel hurt, pain, happiness, joy, and love. I want to touch more than fire with these hands; I want a body with a soul.
I am Pride.
I am the queen who cannot admit her sins to be just that—sins. These are my treasures, my duties, the one lousy purpose I have in this world. I cannot trade it. I can only cherish it as my own.
I am Wrath.
I am the demon who has never released enough fire from her heart. I cannot be held down. I cannot be calm. I cannot live a life without chaos.
I am Envy.
I am the vessel of misery, not the goddess of fertility and virtue. I can never be. I can only be her opposite, and to be her opposite is to be her shadow, blotted out by the sun and all its goodness. I can never be sunlight. I can never be virtue.
I am Gluttony.
I am the drunkard high on sin; I need more, and more, and more, until I can accept that I am not the only fool here. Join me in my folly; for I cannot be alone, or I shall shrivel up and waste.
I am Sloth.
I am the prisoner smothered by ennui. Here I lie, alone, and I am unable to do anything more than conjure sins, all impacting a world far more interesting than my own. I am me, and I regret nothing.
Who made the sun outshine the moon? Who deemed light the vanquisher of darkness? Who pitted these two forces against each other, locked by destiny until the end of time? And why must they continue to struggle, each claiming to be superior?
Why does it seem to matter so damn much?
My eyes close, and somewhere, a little girl is crying, "Isn't it a shame, isn't it a shame things had to be this way?" Someone's singing a lullaby, and my seven beasts are quiet within me, dreaming, for once, of a day of peace.
I am the Witch Princess, Angel of Death.
And I regret nothing…
(but, through nothing, everything.)
End Note: I'm actually really proud of this. It was a true joy to write, even though it's so depressing. xD I'm very happy that everyone so far has different uses for the seven deadly sins for the Village Square Contest, too, because I feel that they're all so wonderfully unique for such a white-and-black theme. I highly recommend you read 'em all, and thank you for bothering to read mine. :)