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 that seemed to stir a primal terror inside him. As the air thickened, she began to descend the stairs toward them, her fingers sliding along the railing in a manner that seemed 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. He carefully slid his hand into his pocket 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 it came from three mouths–two of which seemed to originate from somewhere beside her head. It was 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,” she said, “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 iron into steel to make weapons for almost a 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 and skyscrapers humans erect wherever they go. Your species is capable of such complex and independent thought that you can outright ignore your 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 one man might consider to be abhorrent could be outright honorable to someone else. Because of that, no two humans taste the same.” She turned to face her father, who flinched. “Daddy, I bet you’ll taste like strawberries.”

     Then she turned away, moving toward the radio and placing her hand on its side. There was a spark and a puff of smoke, and the radio came to life. It shuffled randomly between stations, shifting from one song to the next so rapidly that barely a syllable could be heard before the next. All the while it seemed to accelerate, until nothing but a jumble of sounds barely recognizable as human could be heard, followed by a quick screech as the search came to a halt. And then, they heard a familiar tune–the sound of clanging percussion, almost like clockwork with its precision and consistency. Both Ash and Roderigo recognized it as 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 quickly drew his revolver and aimed it at her skull.

     Twitch turned to him and stared into his eyes, her gaze piercing through flesh and bone to penetrate his soul. As she lifted her hand from the radio, it spewed smoke and died. “Such a beautiful song,” Twitch said. “I would have loved to taste her, but she escaped me.”

     Without thinking, Roderigo pulled the trigger. The bullet seemed to pass through Twitch as if she weren’t even there–she didn’t react, and Roderigo would have thought that he had missed if not for the hole in the wall just behind her head.

     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 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, seemingly boring holes into their skulls.

     “I was just going to grab a bite to eat,” Twitch said. “I guess I should eat out instead.”

     What happened next tested Roderigo’s confidence in his sanity. Twitch’s body began to distort. Her features collapsed into themselves, pulling her through her body and into the air, as if she was being sucked through an opening in space. She broke into fragments–small particles like blackening soot and ash–that ripped away from her as they were drawn into nothing, until finally not a hint of her presence remained, not even a hair.

     It had taken less than 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 horror began to take hold. Sabbath was remarkably calm. As Roderigo and Ash tried to process what had happened, she took their silence as a cue to fiddle with the stereo. To Roderigo’s astonishment, that same old song began to play, picking up right where it had left off.

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