Finish that thought 2-22


As quickly as she appeared, the woman in the red dress vanished into the woods. I’d tried to follow her in the past, but in the ruddy light of early autumn sunsets, she was naught but a sprite in the leaves. This year, I had something different in mind.

The snap and the squeal came sooner than I’d expected, followed by a string of curses which made my cheeks turned florid with shame. Faeries weren’t meant to be caged, and I’d pay a price for what I’d done – and what I had yet to do – tonight. For a moment I considered freeing her, wondering if she’d forgive me, but as I set off toward the trap, I fingered the knife in my pocket and knew that hope was in vain.

I’d paid a pretty penny for enchanted rope, and it had done its job, binding her tightly to the oak. She looked like the avatar of all things autumnal, her feet kicking through piles of spent leaves, scattering bits of ochre to the winds. The world died in the fall, though.

There was hate in her eyes, feral and visceral, but she stopped yelling when I entered the grove. It was clear that her reputation for cunning hadn’t been spun out of whole cloth. Her breathing slowed, and gradually, the scarlet left her face, until she looked like no more than what she was – the most beautiful woman in the world. We considered each other, her and I, for more than a few heartbeats, and I ran through my options once again.

Unless I was prepared to give up, there weren’t any, and that wasn’t going to happen. My choice, to be sure, but I’d spent too long getting ready for this to stop now. When I drew the knife from the pocket, the blade glinted crimson, as if it was already slick with her blood, and all doubt left me.

Her eyes filled with fear at the sight of the weapon, and she tried to twist away from me. But the rope held her tight. I reached out and touched the tip of the blade to her swollen belly, and she stopped squirming. The panic was emanating from her in waves, her faerie nature magnifying the maternal instinct common to everything from insects to humans. It was almost enough to rattle me. Almost.

I knew she’d try to stop me, somehow, but I didn’t give her the chance. I knew where her child was, and as she started to mouth the word why, I made the first incision. Vermilion cascaded over my hands, and she screamed, shrill into what now was night. My fate was sealed as soon as I’d pierced her skin, and the time would come soon when the gates of hell would welcome me. But with her babe by my side, I’d be entering as a conqueror.


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