She smoothed her skirt and sank beneath the fibers, watching the way that her hands trembled against the colorful layers of fabric almost violently with a sense of being a spectator. Warmth still radiated from her wings. She could feel it. For a moment, if only a few seconds, she remembered what it was to blossom again, to mirror those giant landing pads in the world beyond the barn.

God, it seemed like so long ago, but she supposed that an hour was an eternity if you had only been born a day ago.

She tilted her head back, her eyes focusing on the familiar sights of the day, so far away. She heard skittering and giggling and remembered the children. Planks of wood fell against each other, and a kind carpenter sprang before her mind’s eye. Her wings twitched carefully, relaxing in the suffocating and dusty darkness, though it no longer caught her eye as vividly now that half of the colorful spots were missing. But as she glanced toward the corner, taking in the faintest sparks of light from where she rather messily shoved the box back into place, she felt the greatest swelling of her heart. The two emotions were in such conflict: anger toward one cheater and affection toward the greatest insect she had ever met in the entirety of her life.

The air seemed to split behind her as the fibers danced, and she knew. She slid her eyes shut and ducked her chin, fingertips tightly gripping her skirt. She was here. This was her decision, no one else’s. And yet there was not a single trace of regrets. “Hello.”

~~~

She was here? Why in God’s name was she here? He furrowed his brow deeply and wrapped two of his hands around the shimmering silver fibers that he had so lovingly laid out in such an intricate pattern. He’d not patched a single hole where she ruined it so much earlier. He stared through one of them, grinding his sharp teeth together quizzically, and found himself rather taken aback when she spoke.

Such a strange creature. She’d grown a lot in the past few hours. It gleamed off of her like the way that darkness clung to him, creating an even more visible separation between their two worlds that his extremely sensitive eyes flinched at.

Why was she here? He leaned into his patchwork, tilting his head as he did so, and snarled softly. “Hello.”

She did not even tremble at his voice. Things had changed quite a bit now. Tears no longer dripped down her face, she no longer shook, and – What in the…? “What happened to you?” he sneered, eyes sweeping down over her back and taking in the mess that remained there. Spots were visibly removed from her wings, leaving in some places the remnants of blood where the fibers peeled back so roughly, until he could nearly look through the holes left behind. Her hair, earlier so beautifully coiffed, spilled down her back in a manner that suggested pulling, prodding, anything that might do damage. Her feet were bare, and they were bruised as black and blue as the hands that gripped her tattered skirts tightly.

Immediately, a strange sense of protectiveness welled up in the pit of his empty stomach, a wave of amusement following it without a pause. Worrying about silly things like butterflies, those creatures that lived to mock him with their glorious nature. How silly. She stiffened a bit, as if she could feel his eyes raking down her back, and she sucked in a breath before answering. “What do you mean?”

He frowned again, slipping through a hole of his masterpiece to examine her closer. Did she mock him? One of his many hands toyed with the thought of reaching out, feeling the tendons in her neck, pulling him against him and lashing out with his many fangs, but he couldn’t. He was too curious now. He hovered above her, looking her over with every one of his many eyes. “Your hair’s all messed up. And your dress, it’s torn! Your wings…” He reached out with two hands, only barely brushing along the edges of the torn and broken wings, so fragile now that he was surprised that she somehow managed to fly here, if she had.

A shiver crept down her spine, and he pulled back as if he’d hit her. Perhaps she was more sensitive than he thought. “I-I’m sorry…” she whispered, ducking her head down as she did so. He watched her hands grip and ungrip her dress, a constant process, as steady as a heartbeat, and felt confusion well deeper in his mind. She was afraid…and yet she came back. No creature should ever return to him. She couldn’t honestly be that naïve, could she?

“You’re sorry?” he growled out, the muscles in his legs aching to crouch to her level but his demeanor much too prideful. He had the power here. Not her. “Your shoes are gone! Your hands and feet are bruised black and blue! And your wings!”

“I’m sorry!” She jumped to her feet, hands immediately rippling down her dress, and he snarled again as she made to run away. “I-I can tidy myself up!”

He moved in a flash, standing before her, and she shrank back with a gasp, staring at him. “Why…?” She slowly, very gradually, her hands pressing flat against her legs as a blade of straw, stood straight and tall again, though her wee frame still stood dwarfed by his. “Why would you even do this? Your wings, they were so beautiful, so…”

Silence hovered between them, though it nearly quaked from tension. His eyes traced the paths of her wings, and they shifted slightly, as if they were just as conscious of him as their owner was. “I-I’m…I’m sorry. I must have scraped them as I flew in the rafters. I-I couldn’t see, and-”

“You came back.” He snapped his gaze back to her own, and she promptly looked down at the dust and dirt littering the front of his home. God, why had she came back? He let her go! But she was here now, and he could barely think straight, and…he let out a long sigh, forcing his muscles to relax slightly as he did so. The back of his mind snarled and screamed, scraping its nails against the walls he tried so desperately to imprison it in, and he knew he would never be able to truly relax while it was there. “I sent you away, to get me food, and-”

“And here I am.”

She lifted her chin slightly, her eyes slowly following their progress until they stared at him again, and he took in the vague amethyst glimmering of them with another grind of his teeth. A creature such as her was not made for a realm such as this. Even with her appearance in such tatters as compared to how gloriously she stood before, she still stood head and shoulders above the rest of them.

“…here you are,” he drawled, shifting to grip the tendrils behind him and to hoist himself into the air, dangling above her with a steady frown, fueled constantly by the remnants of confusion that lingered. “But why. I believe that is the question here.”

“I-”

“I’ve been watching you, you see.” A slow smirk crept across his lips as her eyes grew wide. He could practically read her thoughts as they danced behind her jeweled gaze: “He KNOWS!” He pushed himself into movement, his arms and legs behind him plucking expertly across the strands to pull him to hover above her, dipping down his head in a semblance of confidence between them. “Every little step you took, my dear. I’ve been watching you, from there.” Her eyes danced to the rafters where he pointed, and an expression of such panic crossed her face that he felt every ounce of hunger in his gut well up into a single threnody of cacophony as he sprang from his standing place. She fell to the ground with a squeak, lifting a hand as if he meant to strike her.

“I’m sorry! I-I couldn’t-”

“NO, my dear!” he roared, lashing out and grabbing a few locks of her hair, ripping her head back to look at him again even as she cried out in terror. “You most definitely could have!”

“But I couldn’t!” She cried, her eyes begging with him, full of tears and panic, and he drank it all it as if he could feel it materialize against his tongue, coppery and delicious, before he released her, pushing her lightly for good measure so that she fell at his feet.

He felt his heart pounding and realized that he was breathing harder, that his fangs were exposed in a daring snarl, and fell back lightly against his masterpiece as he did so. God. What had this creature done to him? He wrapped his hands around the strands that supported him, feeling the prickly hairs covering his flesh stab ruthlessly at his black skin as he did so. “And so you have come.”

The shaking that covered her in waves gradually began to subside in the seconds of silence before she nodded, drawing in a deep and no doubt courageous breath. “I…suppose I am nothing more than a silly butterfly.”

Her words so closely mirrored his earlier thoughts that he quirked a brow, scowling at her as he rose onto his feet again, crossing two pairs of arms over his chest. “…do you want to take their place, then?”

She stared at him solemnly, now reaching such a point that she seemed to dance on the silence easily, like she might begin spinning gracefully at any moment. She seemed to have no need to respond.

Oh, he’d give her a reason. He took careful steps toward her, calculated and languid with the grace of someone who had been a predator for many weeks, if not months. “Do you know how I’d kill you, little one?” he drawled, extending a hand to trace carefully over the edge of her wing, starting at the far edge and journeying toward her neck. “First…I would tear every piece of you to shreds.” Her eyes grew wider as he pressed a claw against her pulse, which sped under his attention. “Next, I would rip your head off.” His hand extended, fingers dancing around the smooth, velvety flesh beneath them in order to wrap around her throat warningly. Her own hands twitched as if she wished to grab his hand, to push it away. “Third, I would suck out every drop of your blood!” He flew toward her neck at only a fraction of his possible speed, but she suddenly turned rapidly to put her back to him and he froze at the soft pronouncement of two words.

“I’m ready.”

Who did this creature think she was? Did she think she could soften him? That she was better than him? No one should be capable of this. Familiar judgmental anger scorched his veins as he growled and leaned in closer to her, his hand releasing her neck and ghosting over it until it cupped her jaw. The way that she shivered in fear satisfied him in a way that words never could. “You, my lovely…are very good.” She turned her head, just enough for him to catch the gleaming of her amethyst eyes as they appeared. “Too good to be devoured by an old creature like me.”

When his fangs suddenly pierced her flesh, every muscle went limp and he caught her lithe form easily as it collapsed against her. Her eyes grew wide, her breath shivering as he injected his toxins into her bloodstream. Not a moment of her expression escaped him. His gaze hovered on her hungrily, taking it all in as her pupils gradually grew wider and wider, dilating as her heart began to slow. As he pulled his head back, his sharp row of teeth emerging with an audible pop, he breathed a few words into her ear. “I believe…that you had an appointment with the sun, my dear.”

Though her breaths had slowed, there was still a certain urgency to the way that she gripped the arm that held her securely around the waist. “God…b-but I…that dance you showed me.” His eyes traced along her profile, so void of fear, and confusion overtook him again. What was she seeing? “The dance of hunger and of death…you’ll die.”

He shifted his grip, being sure that the hairs along his arm didn’t stab her any deeper than they should. If only she knew. But the toxin reached her brain quickly, corroding away at the centers that served to see. She was receiving a show like no other right now. “I can live for months without food, my pretty.” The lie came easily off of his tongue, and he lapped out to take in a bit of the blood that pooled to the surface over the ten or so even cuts into her neck. His heart pounded furiously as his hands tightened around her waist and her arm. “I’ll be just fine. But you…you have that appointment. That banquet. That party.”

A sob collected in her throat, one he wasn’t even sure if she knew that she made. “I…I can’t just leave you here. You are so good, so kind…”

He pressed his forehead against her cheek, listening to the way that her pulse pounded, hard but slow. “You will find the sun…there. Go. Leave me here, my little one.”

The sob turned into soft laughter, and he pressed his teeth into her neck again, tearing away at the surface of the flesh just enough to draw more blood to the surface. “There…yes. Yes! It’s so beautiful! Oh, thank you!” Her laughter turned louder, growing with every rip that he made, with every lick of delicious blood that he sucked away, until a loud buzzing sounded off in the distance. He ripped his head back, turning to press his prey against his sticky home and to shield her vibrant body with his black carcass. No light would be reflected if he had anything to say about it.

“Hello? Are you there?” The unfamiliar male voice danced through the air, and he felt every inch of his skin stand at attention, desperate to defend this creature that he claimed as his so very long ago.

“Yes! Oh, thank God I found you!” She cried out with such joy that he felt a wee stab of jealousy somewhere deep within him, a faint reminder that perhaps he didn’t always used to be so cruel, and he frowned into her vacant gaze as he dug his hands into her arms. “Quick! Please! I’ve found the sun! You must come with me!”

“Shh,” he soothed, burying his head into the crook of her neck again to speed the process before he could be discovered. If she drew every creature here to him, he would only be as strong as his web.

The buzzing grew louder, and he cursed softly into her veins before diving into the very veins there. “Where are you? I can’t find you!”

As he dragged his teeth through the tissue, the veins, heading toward the most vulnerable that her very lifeforce dripped through constantly on a path straight to her heart, she threw her head back. “Please! I can feel it! It’s so warm!” The crunch reverberated through every one of his teeth as she suddenly fell limp against the tendrils, a delirious smile on her face when he pulled back.

Rest now, he thought, scowling heavily as he reached toward her amethyst eyes and pulled soft eyelids over them. Her body lay there, his stomach reminded him, merely waiting for him to devour her, but the buzzing behind him quieted suddenly and he turned his head to see what was the cause.

A brilliantly yellow-and-black striped creature hovered there, eyes wide and mouth agape, staring at the sight before him that he no doubt took as macabre and vile, the herbivore. He didn’t understand how it felt to have something so close that you couldn’t touch, to feel their blood dancing beneath the surface, to…

The creature’s eyes sparked with fire then, and he smirked, hoisting himself onto his creation above the hovering corpse of his victim. “Come and play.”

Advertisements