“Sai, kneel low, kneel slow. Look her naught in the eyes, sai, bow,” the hooded man next to me said hushed and rapt as the progression of the necro-mother approached. I saw a hundred, a thousand citizens kneeling as she walked, that dead vessel with eyes like Nietzsche’s abyss and a gait that reverberated terror in the hearts of onlookers, newcomers alike.

And yet, I did not kneel low nor slow. I had come to kill her. And when her sight, so dead and strong, spotted me from the far end of the Hemwick Charnel Lane, I knew it that she knew it. For it was then that she hissed, bared her fangs, shook her hands such that claws came out–scissor claws–, and commanded in that language of the dead her viceroys and lieutenants, the dreadful menaces with faces sunken, faces drunken, to wipe me off the face of Carnaqas.

“Bewitcher, bewitcher, come to your death, come to kill her?” she crooned, that mother maiden of morbid beauty and macabre danger.

“Come to kill her, nay, if I can talk sense in to her, say,” I said, bold in the face of the oncoming opponents, my staff unquavering, my resolve unwavering. The crowd, however, had retracted to the silhouettes, to the dark alleyways that bifurcated off the main lane. Thousands there were crowding it a moment ago, now there were none.

Such fear.

I killed them all, the lieutenants and the viceroys, and when I reached the mother, I saw that look in her eye: that faint glimmer of life amidst darkness. I was ready to talk, aye, I was going to bargain, but she clawed at my throat, and had it not been for the protection of the Qul I would have died.

That chucked negotiating out the window. My staff, I used it to cleave that mother in two, taking no pleasure in it but knowing that it was necessary. Upon her scream, upon her death, the sky so black ripped free of its shroud, and sunlight, harsh and unfiltered, shone upon the lane, seething away all shadow and influence of the necro-mother. The crowd came back, like cockroaches by the hundreds, seeping back in from the nooks and crannies they had taken refuge in. They looked dazed, they looked confused, but they looked free.

I did not take up contractual jobs, but here I had to make an exception. She was bewitching the crowds, making them do her biding, siphoning strength and blood from them, using religious mania

There can only be one Crowd Bewitcher.

  ***

 

They begin!

The perfections are sharpened.

The flower spreads its colored petals,

Wide in the sun.

But the tongue of the bee.

Misses them.

They sink back into the loam.

Crying out.

You may call it a cry,

That creeps over them, a shiver.

As they wilt and disappear…

William Carlos Williams

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