Roderigo gazed up at the child standing on the stairway. Her eyes held a sinister gleam as her smile widened. There was something sadistic about the look on her face–something cold that caused primal terror to well up inside him. As the atmosphere thickened, she began to descend the stairs toward them, her fingers sliding along the railing in a carefree manner that seemed far more sinister than it should have. Even Ash, who moments ago had refused to believe him, was clearly frightened.

     “I eat people… well, that’s not really fair. I eat a lot of things. Humans are just my current favorite.” She paused at the foot of the stairs, turning to face Roderigo. “Do you know why?”

     Roderigo positioned himself between her and Ash. “Tell me,” he said, as he slid his hand into his pocket, ready to grab his revolver. He knew it wouldn’t do him any good, but he felt it was better than nothing.

     “Humans are animals,” Twitch said. Her voice had a distinctive trill, as if she was not one but a legion, a devil that growled its threats from a triad of sadistic, childlike tongues. “They are instinctive–driven by genes, by impulses, by eons of built-in programming, most of which they share with every other animal alive today.”

     And then she smiled. “However, humans are by far the smartest animals in the world. They pull things off that no animal has ever done before. You see, give a chimpanzee enough time, and he might grab a stick and gather termites for a snack. Humans have been smelting raw iron into steel for almost three thousand years. African termites can build giant mounds on the savanna, but they fall so short of the simple house, to say nothing of the cities humans erect wherever they go. Your species is capable of such complex and independent thought that you can outright ignore your own biological imperatives, and some of you are even hardwired to outright ignore your more… primal impulses. In a sense, nothing is truly normal for your species–given enough time and distance from where you stand, what you might consider to be abhorrent could be outright honorable to another. Because of that, no two humans taste the same.” She turned to face her father, who flinched.

     The world around them began to blur and shift, and Ash found himself standing on his own stairway. Although the lights were out, enough came from behind the curtains for him to see in the darkened room. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and turned to see Anne, who smiled at him. “I’m sure it’ll be fine,” she said. “My guess, is you’ll taste like strawberries. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” And then she grabbed the ring on her left hand, and twisted hard. Ash heard a sickening squelch, then a pop, followed by the coppery scent of blood. He looked down as Anne handed him her own finger–her ring still attached. He stood in shock as she finished climbing the stairs and pulled the bed sheet around her neck. “Remember, honey,” she said as she climbed the railing. “I did it for her.” To his horror, she smiled once more, and as she let herself fall back he lunged to grab her, only to hear the dry crack of her neck snapping from her own weight.

     They were in the living room again. Nothing remained of what he’d just seen. It was night. He and Roderigo stood motionless, watching as Twitch placed her hand on the top of the television. The lights flickered and the socket sparked; with a puff of smoke, the sound of a radio shuffling between stations could be heard coming from the set, shifting from song to song so rapidly that barely a syllable from any of them could be heard. It began to accelerate, until he could hear nothing but a jumble of noises barely recognizable as human. Finally a harsh, electric squeal filled the house as the search came to a halt.

     And then, they heard a familiar tune–a clanging, rhythmic percussion, almost like clockwork with its precision and consistency, with an all too personal voice singing along in a near chant. Both of them recognized it immediately–Prayers to Vulgar Gods, an old song from Princess’ short-lived garage band back in college.

     You bitch, Roderigo thought. You sadistic bitch–it was you. This whole time, it was you…. Roderigo drew his revolver and aimed it at the back of her skull.

     Twitch turned to him and stared into his eyes, her gaze seeming to bypass flesh and bone to penetrate his soul. As she lifted her hand from the television, it spewed smoke and died. “Don’t be so shocked,” Twitch said. “That song was about me, after all. I would have loved to have her. I almost did–but she escaped me, so long ago. I wonder, will you two share her misfortune, or will you fulfill your own purpose? I guess we’ll see.”

     She took a step toward them, and without hesitation Roderigo pulled the trigger. The deafening pop filled the room, but while the wall behind her splintered with the impact, she failed to react at all, as if the bullet had passed through her no different than if she were made of air. Figured it wouldn’t be so simple, he thought.

     Twitch’s eyes cut through him, focusing on her father. As she approached, a strange glint filled her eye, and Roderigo imagined a drop of drool forming at the corner of her mouth. At that moment, he realized that trying to rescue Ash was pointless. Before Dheania, all was lost–he stood no chance against a god.

     “Twitch?” Sabbath’s voice echoed through the living room. Both Roderigo and Ash glanced at the top of the stairs, where Sabbath now stood staring down at them.

     Twitch almost seemed to recoil at the sound of her voice, and her head snapped up in response. She flashed that same cold smile as before and said, “Well, sis, you caught me at a bad time.”

     “What are you guys doing?” Sabbath asked. She moved down the stairs, her eyes shifting from Twitch to Roderigo, apparently ignoring the gun he held in his hands.

     “I was just going to grab a bite to eat,” Twitch said. “It’s a bit of a bother, but guess I should eat out instead.”

     What happened next tested Roderigo’s confidence in his sanity. Twitch’s body began to distort. Her form collapsed into itself, tearing into countless cinder-like granules that pulled themselves through the rest her body and into the air behind her, until nothing was left, not even a hair.

     It had taken a mere fraction of a second for her to disappear.

     Sabbath stared at the empty spot where her sister once stood, her face showing no sign of surprise or concern. After a moment, she turned to Roderigo as if nothing had happened, and she flashed an innocent smile that–under the circumstances–seemed all too unnerving. Roderigo barely hesitated before reaching up for her hand and beckoning her to follow. She descended the stairs in a joyful run before following Roderigo and her father out of the house.

     As they entered Roderigo’s car, an air of collective dread began to take hold. As Ash leaned back in his seat, he let his hand fall open, and he felt something fall into his lap. He gazed down in horror at what now lay there–a single finger, covered in white fur flecked with black, and just above the nub of bone and tattered flesh a golden ring studded with diamonds surrounding an opulent crimson ruby.

     He was looking at Anne’s wedding ring.

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