Topic 5: Fear is the Heart of Love
The streetlight flickered yellow light as the Shadow passed under its waning circle of comfort. Briefly, he wondered if an observer would see him go transparent under its sickly cast. As quickly as the thought surfaced, it fled a moot existence and the Shadow's mind settled on the deserted sidewalk. Cracked, uneven, neglected... a tight laugh bubbled to his lips. Metaphors everywhere, he thought.
Hurrying through the chilly night, a dim recognition of the neighborhood glimmered momentarily. He brushed it away as the hunger took hold. The need of her broke through every surface thought, every deeper fact... it thrummed in his spirit in waves of barely contained anticipation. The glorious pain was only minutes away now. Soon he would arrive and be given leave to suffer for her pleasure. It was his most hated privilege.
He hadn't always been this focused. Occasionally, he vaguely recalled being an artist, full of passion and always flitting from task to task on whim. This memory usually surfaced when he pushed for the Before, when he hadn't known the world had more layers than the mundane eye could see... when he was a Normal... when he was whole... before he knew her love. In the Before, he had a name. It was irrelevant now. Now, he was the Shadow.
He hadn't renamed himself. The other sycophants writhing around her throne had dubbed him so. Even Herself had picked it up when she noted how he hung on her every word and followed her steps whenever allowed. It makes me special from the others, he thought proudly, and was immediately sickened by his own conditioning. The shame left as quickly as it came. It didn't linger anymore. At least there was that.
Still, there was something to that 'specialness'. The Mistress had spoken before of how he had succumbed. He had hung on every word, on one hand struggling with her Eastern European pronunciation and on the other, not even caring what the words were as long as he could bask in the shameful pain she had just inflicted.
“I'm not sure, my Shadow, why you take to me so well. Perhaps it is your own weak will that allows it. Or a curse laid on your family from when they still lived in the Old Country. My Gift usually doesn't take so thoroughly and quickly. But you... you seem to thrive on my attentions. How interesting.”
As he rounded the last corner of his journey and quickened his steps toward the darkened house at the end of the block, he could still recall the flush of pride he had gotten at her comment. He had attempted to reply to her with how it must be destiny for him to serve her, but she had begun by then to inflict her love on him for another round... and he had screamed in agony instead.
He walked briskly on the deserted street, clutching the garbage bag he carried to him and keeping his eyes locked on the gate toward which he was practically sprinting. She would be pleased with his service today. Her ghouls required meat and he had been tasked with its retrieval. This neighborhood had scarce pet activity since her arrival last Autumn, so he had to go further and further afield to find what they needed. A brief flicker of the Before attempted to surface, when the Other him had walked in a group, holding signs and chanting slogans to call attention to the plight of pets. It slipped away so quickly he hardly noted it.
Hardly anything could be noted anymore. He knew, vaguely, that he had a mother and a brother... a niece. He hadn't been back to his apartment since... he couldn't even hold the thought long enough to calculate the time. He just knew it had been hot then, the smell of oil paints thick in the one room space, oppressive and overwhelming. When he had walked out that last day, he had left his phone, his wallet, his keys... his whole life behind. The Shadow hadn't touched a brush since, hadn't bothered to return. The empty spaces left by paintings unpainted and family unseen were filled by her poisonous attentions. When he had, in the beginning, brought up the Before, asked permission to have a piece of it here and there, she had been frightening.
“Is my love not enough for you? You wish to be rid of me? How dare you take the love I offer you and cast it away like so much rubbish! I will leave you to your sad life then, shall I? Take away the love I offer and see how cold you feel as others gain what you lost! Shall I?”
She had raged and threatened until he had cast himself crying at her feet. Even now, the thought of losing her love sent a physical shock of fear and anxiety through him. NO! No, no no. I can't live without her. I can't go back. I'm hers now. Forever. The thoughts boiled over and he realized he was clutching the bag so tightly, his hands ached.
Reaching the gate, his hands let go only enough to open it. Stepping through, closing it tightly behind, he headed up the path, body thrumming with anticipation of his reward. Mistress, I come. Mistress, I love you. Mistress, reward me. Mistress, I'm yours. His mind chanted and his heart sang. Soon, soon. Here I go.
Once considered a mansion, now an eyesore from an almost forgotten time, the overgrown gardens of the old house provided a thick cover as he entered at the service entrance, at the back of the darkened manse. Briskly, he wound around to the staircase and past the ancient conservatory. His steps quickened even more until he practically burst through the archway and into the derelict ballroom. Ghouls eyes lit up bright red and they clamored around him, grasping at the bag. His eyes stayed on the throne, barely registering their clawed, clutching hands.
She was radiant and hateful, spite personified. Scowling, dangerous malice in a red dress. Meeting her gaze caused a lurching orgasm that drove him to his knees. The ghouls ripped the bag away, fighting over the carcasses inside, rending and guttering as they devoured his offering. The Shadow ignored it all, crawling and mewling toward his Mistress.
“Good service, my Shadow. For this you shall receive my love again.”
The Shadow howled his pleasure, ripping open his shirt and casting himself upon her lap like a child to its mother. Cradled in her alabaster arms, he shuddered as she fed. Ecstasy ripped through him. When he was discarded, he lay at her feet weeping for joy. This time, he didn't even think of the Before at all.