Short Story
                                         Mistress of Night
                                                                   By Antoinette McCormick


   I no longer know where my skin ends and stone begins.  Overtaken by cold, obdurate and infernal, its
fetid chill turns my blood to sludge and gutters the fire that once raged inside my heart.

   This was not supposed to happen.  Not like this.  Not to me.

   It wasn't supposed to have a soul.

   My soul, to put a finer point on it.  Things like that didn't have souls.  They couldn't have them: it wasn't
allowed.  Even Hell, the biggest free-for-all of all, was supposed to have rules about these things.  Specific
rules, ironclad...

   So, I'd always thought.  So, I'd been told.  But then, I'd been told lots of things.  Too many things and
most of them, I now realized, untrue.  Demons, like ghosts, didn't follow the rules.

   How stupid of me.

   Because I'd believed those rules, believed in them enough at one time, but now, when all I had was time,
fathoms of it, rippling before me like an illimitable ocean, wine dark and sky deep—

   Time to think, to freeze and burn, and weep.  Time to curse my own stupidity.

   I'd believed in them, in Him, Him most of all.  But, when I needed Him most, had He believed in me?  I
could no longer feel His light in me.

   I knew what the fly in the web must feel like, life force draining, bit by bit.  Broken, and as with all broken
things, soon discarded.  A shattered crucifix, a broken rosary...

   Oh, but I love broken things!  Broken things often have such sharp edges.  Wonderfully keen to cut and
nick—

   The voice rises through my shattered consciousness like mist on standing water—through me, with me,
in me, in the union of a most unholy spirit.  Though I rail against it, the soft sting of each syllable lands like
an uninvited caress against my lips and cheeks.

   —or rip and tear and suck and lick!

   No longer a child's this voice; and now, one no longer recognizable as mine.

   Drip...

   Drip...

   Drip...

   My stomach roils.  I turn away, knowing I cannot shut it out, this voice of the Other.  The sound of a new
soul, however soulless, mine/not mine: undead, unborn.  Without a soul, what am I but an empty vessel, a
dark star hovering on a cusp of twilit horizon, teetering on the edge of space—what is there beyond it?

   Embrace your edges, Angelina, each glittering shard, each shattered splinter... Remember, you made a
deal...

   A deal, hastily brokered to save myself, now nothingness is my sole reward.  Do I dare to embrace it,
this nothingness, this life of endless night?  I used to navigate by the stars, finding in every constellation a
sure path to my destination, vocation, home.  There used to be roads, so many roads, but I'm not sure how
to find them anymore.

   Feed me, Angelina—feed!

   I've lain here for three days, my room, cold and windowless.  Three days, I've resisted.  Rain trickles
through cracks in the ceiling and wind screams through the iron vents at each cobwebbed peak.  
Darkness swarms around me.  Bearing down, it enters like a thief, its blackness so impenetrable, so
impossibly deep, shadows flee and night itself fears its presence.

   It came in the night.  It came as things of its nature always come.  Unbidden, usurping the form of an
innocent—a child with flaxen hair and cat-green eyes—it lay its insurmountable challenge at my feet.

   God is Love; GOD is Light…  Believing faith alone could dispel so tenebrous a thing, I staked my
immortal soul on second-hand theosophy—rites and words of men long-dead—but could not unseat the
ungodly parasite.

   Light strikes only the surface of that which it illuminates; darkness penetrates.

   Permeates.

   Drip...

   Drip...

   Drip...

   I cannot starve it out or will it away, and when I raise a trembling hand, the only sign I am capable of
making—down, up, right, left—mocks the Creator I once served so faithfully.  And when I raise my voice in
plea, in prayer, whisper only abominations: “In nomine lucem resistis, magistri tenebris, canis et serpens,
potestas in tenebris et fames et sanguine, pollutum duxerit, in societate spirituum—”

   All hope is lost.  All light will end.

   "In nomin—in nomine patris lucem—"

   What has HE ever offered you, but a life of poverty, servitude and ignominious death?  Turn to me,
child.  Transcend.  You will never age, never grow infirm, and you will never die.  Embrace your descent,
Sister Angelina.  Cast off your veil, oh, Mistress of Night!

   Cloaked in my voice, its hollow laughter swells, ringing off walls of stone.  Fire rages in my throat.  I throw
back my head and scream.

   A tooth, overlong, pierces my lip.

   Drip...

   Drip...

   Lick...

   Copper and oil and cloves and myrrh, tears and time and salt and ash.         It is like water—the unholiest
of waters—the finest of wines, this elixir of life, and I—I—

   I am the vessel of its deceit.

   My word is my bond. I cannot break this pact.

   Embrace your hunger, Angelina...

   I cannot renege and I...I can no longer fight.  Why struggle, ever a fly in the web, when I can become the
spider?

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About Antoinette
McCormick

Antoinette McCormick's
stories have appeared in
numerous publications,
including Mad Scientist
Journal, Blood Moon
Rising Magazine, and The
Vermont Literary Review.
Her debut horror novel,
Ghost Music: The
Haunting of Sky Hollow
(August 2019), is available
on Amazon.
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.