Redemption for the Dead
The next day, true to Lilith’s word, any trace of the three were removed. Not a scale nor feather nor even skin cell was left. Anywhere in the entirety of the Black Halls. Their rooms were stripped clean, left standing open, with only memories remaining of any of them –the one thing the succubus could not scrub away.
Minos never did show up, leaving Samantha very much alone in that slaughterhouse. Norman left after Lilith, leaving the witch to wail, which gave to retching, to begging that it was all a dream, that she would wake up and be preparing for a wedding that would never come. She prayed in the blood, metal tinkling around her, going with each accursed song that dared to mock the severity, the gravitas the room demanded. How could it try to give such cheer at a time like this? Thankfully, Carol of the Bells did not repeat. Not while she was in there.
How long had she been in there, though? How long had she marinated in the scent of death, putrescence, and despair? How long did she allow that morbid effervescence to worm its way into her soul, knowing she could have stopped it. She had the power; it had burst from her fingertips at the start... yet... why didn’t she use it? Why didn’t she save Buffy? Why didn’t she stop Marcy, either attacking her or Junmei? Why did she simply freeze and let it all go down... And yet she called Lilith the soulless one.
“H-hey,” Norman whispered, nudging her. Samantha grumbled, coming back to some sense of herself. She had lied down in the carnage at some point, wrapped herself in a tight, little ball, listening to the music thump, thump, thump under the metal. It soothed her mind, but also her stomach. Metal still glistened, cradling her, a thin, silver sliver attached far above, as if a fetus in a womb. Norman pushed her more, helping her sit up, and rubbed her back, smoothing out her dress. “Come on, Sam. You can’t stay here. Not all night.”
“Why not?” She grumbled. “With any luck, maybe the cleaners will remove me, too.”
“Don’t be like that. We lost three friends today.”
Well one and a half, depending on Marcy’s mood, she thought, shuddering at even mentioning that... thing as a friend... before remembering that Norman could read minds. And was hit by another question, which must have stung. He winced, sniffling, and collapsed onto her shoulders, hugging her tight.
“I did see it. I saw the whole scheme unfurl in Marcy’s head,” he said. “It was... It was horrible, Sam! I wanted to say something, wanted to stop it, but it was far too late. She was already on her, and all I could do was sit and wait and watch as Buffy’s mind became a scrambled, drunken mess. I wanted to tell her to wish it to stop, to be safe. To live... I wanted to tell Junmei to save her, but the pure rage that coursed through Marcy... I couldn’t. If I had, it would have turned on me- and I’m a coward, Sam. I’m such a coward!”
He bawled the last words out, sobbing hard against her nape. Samantha shushed him and pulled him into her arms. She assured him that he was no such thing, again and again. It had happened so fast, after all- and he had jumped into the middle of it. At least, at the start... Marcy had been clear-headed most of the time. She never let any of her emotions truly through; how did they know she would snap? What could they have done with a... thing that angry?
She... she bit back some of her thoughts, hoping Norman would simply overlook them, and the pair finally left the ghosts, heading to their respective rooms. Samantha opened the door, and saw a sight far more scarring than the one burned into her mind. One that would be there until the end of time. In fact, this would be the frame for it, the backdrop, seeing Ayn’s legs splayed and her hand rubbing fast along her folds, just in time to catch her squirt onto her bed with a throaty growl. There was already a nice, dark splotch on the blankets and sheets from previous climaxes, getting another in while already in the cusp of that one. Ayn’s mouth was stuffed with her left breast, teeth bared as she sucked hard on the burgeoning bosom. The right was left for all to see, its dusky red tip perked and throbbing.
Ayn slowly came down from her high, and set the tablet aside... seeing Samantha there. Her tit popped and flopped as her jaw dropped. The blush once in her cheeks was gone, reduced to almost a chalky white. And green. So much green, seeing the amount of blood and bile caked on Samantha.
Samantha... simply chuckled, turned into full cackling as she lumbered over and crawled into bed beside, laughing herself to sleep. Her dreams resonated with her laughter, echoing from Junmei’s, Marcy’s, and Buffy’s faces. Not even when they were pretty, skewing the line between fantasy and reality. In fact, she thought she saw the witches there, too. Their faces had seen better days, too, twisted, mangled, formed anew around metal shrapnel. Tanya had the gear shift in her eye, spurting blood as she giggled and tittered and deepened to the demonic guffaw. Bridget had no face to speak of; the skin was shredded away, matching what was left of her red hair. Her teeth had been charred, cracked and splintering out of rotting flesh, while Lola only suffered from metal bits and glass. And her arms blown off. Looked like she would have to learn to use her feet, but that’s where the fun began, what with them fused in with the axle of the back of the car. She was wheelie in a hard time now!
Ah, and so morning came. And so another day down in the Black Halls was to commence. And so Samantha found herself in the bath, in cold, almost icy water, still laughing! Laughing, they say! With Ayn sitting beside her, face creased with something other than scorn –but not laughing. Can’t she see how... big a joke this all was? This wasn’t real; none of it was. It was all one huge show... It was momentary, however. The cold water finally washed away the last of what was in that room, and Samantha was actually able to focus, sneering at her. She wrung the washrag over Samantha’s head, dousing her in a wash of the frigid scourge, then smacked her head with it.
“You were burning up all night,” she grumbled, smacking her again with the rag. “If I end up sick because of you-”
“I’m not sick.”
“Could’ve fooled me... So, going to tell me why Lilith’s cleaners were here?”
“You saw them?”
“Heard, more like. They must have had a recruitment drive not long ago. Chatty bunch; they tried to fill the Hall with sleeping gas, but the cold water made it stay above the ground.”
“Wouldn’t hot water do that moreso than cold? Heat rises and all.”
“Nigga, do I look like a scientist? The cold water worked. That’s that. So what happened in there? From the look of you, I would say you had a Carrie moment.”
“It wasn’t me. Marcy went nuts on Buffy, then Junmei. He... took it upon himself to stop her, and then Lilith put him down.”
“Lilith was here? Actually here?”
“Why is that surprising? She left everyone gifts.”
“She sends out Fangs to deliver those. Faster, more efficient. The fact she visited... and you are going to tell me you saw nobody else.”
“No. No one.” Samantha sat up in the tub, regretting the simple movement. Her back, her spine cracked, as if turned to ice. Her arms shivered so hard as she reached out and touched Ayn, finding her unbelievably hot. But Ayn didn’t react to the sudden touch of death. She didn’t budge, lost in thought, her brow twitching.“ “What is it?”
“Why would she... Lover is...” She mumbled, bits, pieces, rising above the rest of her constant stream of coherent relics of her mind, all forgotten, snapped back as Ayn gave her a dark look. “She wouldn’t, which means it would have to be someone inside.”
Ayn wrenched her hands off, looming over the tub. She reached out and clawed at Samantha’s chest, spreading it over her front, pressing softly. For now.
“Tell me why you’re really down here.” She demanded. “Tell me right fucking now.”
“It was a proposal from Lilith. I tutor down here for a time, then I could be a full-time teacher in Vereor Nox... That IS the whole truth, Ayn, I swear. She didn’t tell me how long I would be down here at all, didn’t give me anything to work with aside a basic curriculum, and continues to be a right pain in my ass... Now, unless you plan to hold me under until the bubbles stop or I show you heavy metal again, get your hands off me.”
Ayn did, and even helped Samantha to her feet. She pulled the plug in the bath, and allowed Samantha to lean on her before standing fully, though still wary. Samantha managed to reach the sink, taking a hard, brisk drink from it, and splashed her face, staring at that wretch in the mi-
“Why do you want to be a teacher, anyways?” Ayn blurted.
“My mother was one. At this academy.”
Ayn took a step closer, the wheels turning behind her gaze again, those crimsons burning.
“She was here? At the Academy?”
“From what the other witches told me, she was even close to Lilith for a time.”
“But you didn’t know? At all?”
“During that time, ma stayed out of my life. And I stayed out of hers.”
“And where is she now?”
“Gone, or dead?” Ayn grabbed her shoulder, growling when she didn’t answer right away. “Hey! Gone or dead?”
“Does it matter? She’s not here anymore.”
“It kind of does if she can fuck up my life!.”
“Trust me when I say that is not looking to be the case.” Samantha shrugged her off, and returned to the bedroom. The bed had been stripped down, replaced with a pair of fresh, orange sheets, complemented by soft, cream cases and blankets, all tucked, primp and proper. At the foot of the bed was a pair of orange cream panties and a pad, as well as a white tee-shirt, hanging incredibly loose on Samantha as she donned them. She looked back at Ayn at the door. The cogs could be seen still chugging away behind her eyes, her face creased with worry once again. And a touch of pride. “Did you make the bed?”
She scoffed, averting her gaze. “Yeah... Thought it was only fair. I did sort of stain them. I got them from Norman-”
Samantha lurched towards her, taking her hands. “Is he all right? How is he?”
“He’s okay? Wait. Don’t tell me he was mixed up with all this shit you’re spewing!” Ayn gripped her shoulders, rage coursing through her. Even her breath had grown hotter, washing over Samantha. “Nigga, you tell me now if he was, and you better tell me he wasn’t harmed or I’mma beat a motherfucker RIGHT HERE AND N-”
“He wasn’t. For the most part. Marcy had kicked him when he tried to intervene, but he’s fine otherwise.”
“Oh, that cunt! Where is that harpy bitch now? I’m going to curb stomp that fluffy ass cracka right into the steel and won’t stop until brain seeps out of the cracks in the floor. I’ll sodomize her with a butcher knife; I’ll use two to spread her fucking cunt and remove her fucking ovaries!”
“She’s dead... Junmei crushed her.”
“Too good a fate. You don’t hurt my- No... you don’t hurt Norman.”
Samantha gasped, her heart racing, remembering something else that had transpired. Rather, what had been given to her.
“Ayn, where’s my card?”
“Your card? Oh! You mean that blue card?” She walked passed Samantha and opened the nightstand, handing it to her. Though Ayn said it was blue, it had been stained purple. And brown. Samantha scraped away the dried blood along the edge, and hurried out the room, heading for the end of the Hall, for the door. She swiped it... and heaved a heavy sigh as it beeped and opened. Fresh, cool air washed over her, taking with it a weight she didn’t realize had settled upon her, a burden, a worry that almost seemed intangible until she felt it remove.
She had freedom again.
She took a wary step out into the undercroft, pulling back thrice, expecting it to be a joke, that it would shut any moment, a snap that would break her in its metallic maw. But it didn’t, not when she let it set out there for a minute, two minutes, four. Only then did she let the rest of her join, feeling the stone on her feet, the dust, the mist around her middle. She wandered the halls at her leisure, not fully free but free from those dark, sterilized walls. Freed from the shackles, and from that horrible buzzing. In fact, it felt like an emptiness in her mind, white noise trying its best to take its place, but it simply wouldn’t fill the void the buzzing had left inside.
However, she did not want to press her luck too much. She had a taste; that was enough... for now. She returned to the Black Halls, the buzzing enveloping her again, and lumbered back to her room.
Stopped by Minos at the bend.
He whistled as he looked over her, his new, gray jeans rising a bit in front, but the fabric did a good job hiding any outline, almost incognito if Samantha wasn’t looking.
“Man, if you went to the wedding dressed like that, I’m sorry I missed,” he said. Which made Samantha see red. Metal shrieked from her hand, wind tearing after, swirling, spiraling towards the minotaur as the wall beside clawed out for him. “W-whoa- he-”
“Why weren’t you there?” She whispered, tears renewed in her eyes. “Do you realize what you could have prevented if you were there? Do you!”
“You wanted me to stop the wedding? Let’s rewind a bit. What happene-”
He winced as a large chunk of metal slashed across his chest- only for the next surge to rip at the hand that covered it- and again, cleaving all the way to bone.
“Why weren’t you there, Minos?” Samantha repeated, the wind giving her voice an eerie lilt. “Well!”
“Look, I like Junmei. I didn’t want to lie, so I said I would run a touch late. I thought if I waited long enough he’d be back in his room with Marcy banging away and forget about little old me.”
“Well, your lie cost them their lives! They’re dead. All of them.”
“Buffy, Marcy, and Junmei. Buffy drunk into a stupor and crashed the wedding, and Marcy flipped her shit. She tore Buffy apart then tried to do it to Junmei, whom constricted her to death. Then Lilith came in and popped him in the fucking head- and it has already been far too many times today I had to tell that!” She sniffed, and the metal faded away... but Samantha didn’t need it to smack his cheek. “If you were there, you could have at least saved Buffy... If you had fucking bothered to show up at all, you could have saved me!”
She choked on the last sentence, and tried to push by Minos. He remained resolute, a solid blockade. No matter how much she clawed and punched and slapped and lashed out, he did not budge. The halls rung with her tirade, with her assault, until she broke down into a sobbing fit, muffled in his arms.
He sat down on the steps, holding her tight against, shushing her until her sobs were soft gulps. She looked up into his deep, red eyes, sparkling with such compassion, with such warmth, with understanding she never knew he had, locked behind his ego and arrogance.
And kissed him.
She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, holding him tight as he did so, the pair locked together in sorrow. Neither dared to break that kiss, nor did any more than kiss. He rubbed her thigh, groped it gently, but never did anything more, simply holding her. It wasn’t long before it was considered a draw, and Minos rested his head on top of hers, still nestled, cradled in his arms... until she pulled free. She glowered at him, grimacing at the weakness she showed, and stormed up the steps, slamming the door behind. She collapsed into bed beside Ayn, her cheeks warmed at last, and drifted off to sleep.
New Years. A fresh, bright start for all, and a somber end to the old. A time of silence and solitude for Samantha and the rest in the Black Halls. But she didn’t want to stay down there. She couldn’t stay down there. Every day after the events that took place she ventured into the halls. Slowly, steadily, she found her way to the entrance, and through it the Academy. She ventured through it with haste, and was out, feeling the fresh air at last, the final breezes of the old year.
She hurried to the cafe, the wind howling at her neck, biting at her nape, untouched by her black jacket. Her legs, too, the white leggings almost blue in the moonlight and doing very little to stay Winter’s nip. She still wore the white tee, but had no shoes on, “making” a pair before she entered the cafe.
The place was “packed”, considering. Nine officers were lined on the stools; a handful of day workers took the tables, but none of the booths were taken, which left Samantha spoiled for choice. She took the back right, the one she and Mahna had sat at, and waved towards “mom”. She gave Samantha an odd look as she approached.
“What can I get you?”
“A beer,” Samantha said, seeing a mini TV on the bar. “What’s that doing there?”
“Eh? Oh. That. We’re watching the ball drop.”
“It’s New Year’s Eve?”
“I’m not so sure you need to be drinking. Anymore, at least.”
“I haven’t had a drink yet, though. Please? I could really use it.”
“Mom” rolled her eyes, and there was an unknown spark in them that made Samantha feel a bit unsettled.
“Fine. What kind? We carry domestic and some imports. None of that microbrew crap.”
“Any will do.”
She hummed, and was off, leaving Samantha to creep up behind the officers. It was ten minutes until midnight; some band was playing a rather forgettable cover while the cameras faded to others, showing the crowd. Some were wearing glasses for the new year, which only confused Samantha. How could it only have been a year? It had felt so much longer.
Maybe Junmei was r- She cut herself off, thankful when “Mom” returned with the first beer. It was down and done in no time, the second before seven, turning everything into a blur. Her stomach grumbled, counting down the clock faster, but forced her to run at one, welcoming the porcelain throne to its old job in the new year.
She didn’t remember how she got home, but, when she finally did stir, when she finally did brave that cyclone of color and smells and lumbered to the bathroom to kneel before her true God again, Ayn gave her such a dirty look. As she had to spread her legs further, allowing her to throw up in between. Ayn retched a little, and started to unwind the toilet paper, covering herself in it as Samantha gave another wave, splashing up against those legs.
The third, and final, round dinged in, but it finally tapped out, allowing her to sit back, gasping. Her eyes were bloodshot, new tears rolling down. She looked up at Ayn, both women shaking their heads.
“Are you finally done grieving,” Ayn asked, wiping her legs clean, her dark, smooth lips seen again. “You know, for someone who knew them for only a short time, you’re taking their loss way too hard.”
“I’ve always been sensitive to death, okay?” She grumbled, and leaned to the side, opening the cabinet under the sink. She pulled out a bottle of mouthwash... and water. “Especially when they are killed right in front of me.”
“And how many have been? In front of you, I mean.”
Samantha swished a few times, gargled, and let it rest in her cheek again. Still not content... It wouldn’t be the first time she drank mouthwash.
“Those three raise the number to six.”
“Oh? And who were the other three?”
“My ex, for starters... and his lover.”
“Ooh! A cheater. Ouch.”
“Yeah. Good thing I never let him have my virginity.”
“Sounds like that might have been the reason for cheating.”
“You really taking his si-”
“I’m just saying that could easily have been his reasoning. Not taking a pig’s side. Who was the last, then?”
… She stood, and spat into the sink. She wiped her face with the towel on the back of the door –the one on the right, to be specific. Ayn scoffed at her, glared as Samantha let the succubus’ towel go, and trudged out to the computer. She sat, then opened her email, finally seeing if Lilith had prepared a new torture regimen for the bloody new year... but there was no new roster in sight. No hints, no instruction from everyone’s favorite succubus and boss.
Samantha closed it, and stood once more, opening the door-
To find Minos on the other side.
He blew into a party kazoo. Its end smacked Samantha right in the nose, while the rest of him was generally an insult and assault on all the other senses. What made him think that foray of color was a good thing... any time? Even then, he was wearing the wrong year shades: 2020 was a long ways away, and, even though she was an awful teacher, hopefully she didn’t have to explain that hindsight didn’t mean looking at ass.
“Happy new year, Sam,” he said, and barged his way in. He sat in her chair, keeping his left arm behind it, beaming at her. “Man, you look like shit.”
“What do you want?” She grumbled.
“Can’t a minotaur see his favorite teacher?”
“Don’t you mean favorite cock sucker?”
“I mean, you haven’t done that yet. You said it yourself. Isn’t that right, Ayn?”
“Just do whatever you came to do,” the succubus muttered, grabbing her tablet and going back into the restroom.
Minos pushed his tongue against his cheek, snapping his lips shut as he shook his head, and cleared his throat.
“Come here,” he said, tugging on Samantha’s hand. “Come sit in Father Christmas’ lap-”
“A bit late for that, don’t you think? Fuck Christmas.”
“I mean, if you are finally feeling up to it. Goodness knows that was on my wishlist-”
“Just fuck off!”
“Fine. Sorry. Eesh... I’ve got something for you.”
“Minos... I am in no mood for your shit. I’m still on my period, for fuck’s sake. So... if you will j-”
She squeaked as he pulled her onto his lap, chortling at her squeak. He stuck out his tongue, and finally brandished his other arm. Placing a long, thin black box on her lap.
“Surprise. I got in contact with Lilith earlier in the week,” he said, and rubbed his nose. “Wanted to get you something nice. I know I’m a bit late, but I thought I’d give you a few days. And, also, something beautiful to start off the new year.”
We’ll see about t- She thought... lost, staring at that pendant. Gems, colors swirled in that hourglass, bright stones tinkling away into each other as she turned it over. It washed her face in such light as she held it up, cascading around her like a river of color, trickling in the sands of time. Its leather cord was soft, letting that silver hourglass rest easy on her chest, moving a little as she kissed him, tearing up a little.
“It’s... thank you, Minos... Thank you.”
He shrugged... and gave her rear a small squeeze.
“Don’t mention it. Though, if you want to repay it n-”
“And you had to ruin the mood, didn’t you?”
He winked at her, and kissed her again, simply holding each other, a whole new year ahead for the two of them... and those who remained.