Memento Mori

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22

We waited in a vacant lot across the street from the historian's bungalow. Viola and I hid behind some debris and trash containers.
"What's that noise," I asked.
"The cicadas. They're singing."
The noise sounded like a high speed buzzing and rhythmic shakes of a maraca.
"It's a serenade made by the males. The various species sing different songs to attract females of its kind. Romantic, isn't it?"
I openly gawked at Viola.
"What?" She asked.
"Can you transform into, like, a bat or whatever?"
"No — but we do have 'abilities'. It's a result of genetic mutation when we turn."
"Like superpowers?"
"I suppose."
"Like what?"
What can I say? I was fascinated.
"Have you ever heard of Mary Thomas?"
"No."
"Mary Thomas was found burned to death in her apartment in the early 1950s. Her landlord came to collect rent and discovered the apartment's door knob was blisteringly hot. He notified the police, and upon entering the apartment, they found Mary's charred remains. Her body was a large pile of ash, with the exception of her right ring finger.
The temperature of her remains was an unimaginable 13 million degrees; half of the sun's core temperature. Inspectors were baffled. Not only by the temperature of the remains, but because nothing else in the apartment was damaged.
Investigators eventually wrote Mary's death as a result of natural; or accidental because Mary was an avid smoker. They completely took no notice of the extreme hot temperature.
What they didn't know was that Mary was one of us. Her genetic mutation was to generate flame and psionically control it. Mary Thomas committed suicide. For us, suicide is an act of blasphemy. It means we're selfish and ungrateful for what we've been given. Punishment is an endless nightmare of torment."
"Isn't that what religion wants everyone to believe?"
"Yes, but for us, some of us live so long — the real suffering is existence."
V labored her attention elsewhere. She carefully observed the area.
"What can you do? What's your superpower?"
She clenched her jaw and made intense eye contact with me.
"I can't tell you, not yet. You might get mad at me."
"Now I'm really curious."
"I'll tell you when the time's right. I promise."
V's eyebrows pulled upward and she looked to the ground. "I have to tell you something else." Her lips pushed forward expressing displeasure.
"I didn't die from tuberculosis. I'm sorry I mislead you."
We sat quietly for a few seconds as the cicadas continued to sing. She looked up at me, her eyes large with compassion.
"Michel Landru, daddy's bricklayer — he raped and murdered me." Viola gazed into the darkness of the eve. "Death isn't painful, but what leads up to it is," she said.

I asked her how she turned.

"After death, blood flow and respiration stop. The body has no way of getting oxygen or removing wastes. Our bodies become toxic, and force membranes to release enzymes that begin eating cells. Landru was a Satanist. His Maestru nourished on the toxicity of my death. In exchange, he fed me his blackened essence."
"What is a Maestru?" I asked.
"An Angajat's Master."

She spoke more of Landru.

He had other victims and they were always children of clients. Viola followed him to a rural property in France. It was an old farmhouse that sat on 5 acres of land. It was quiet and seemingly peaceful in the middle of nowhere.
At the center of the property was a half acre pond, and on a small island in the pond was a makeshift fire pit. It was constructed from cement wall blocks laid in a bed of sand.
A bonfire can reach temperatures as hot as 1,100 degrees Celsius, which is hot enough to melt some metals. This is where he would burn the bodies.
After the bodies were cremated, the ashes were hidden inside an outbuilding. The building was constructed of stone and block. Inside, in the far south corner, behind a pile of pavestone and masonry tools, was a wall made from clay bricks and lime mortar.
He would hide the remains behind this wall.

Before Viola could go after Landru, she had to deal with the Maestru.

The Maestru was called Jean-Baptiste de Funès. He was known as a life-death-rebirth deity. He had a strong affection for diseases such as smallpox, and the bubonic plague. But his dearest illness was death.
He was popular among worshippers in the nineteenth century. Creative methods of human sacrifice were used to honour him. Boils and lesions from infected bodies were cut from the skin. Some even offered whole limbs.
Jean-Baptiste de Funès was an ancient Revenant. He was hideous. He had a ruddy complexion and his body was swollen. His skin was covered with clusters of red lumps, some ruptured with draining pus. He hid his vileness beneath a black shroud. He was darkness, invisible under the blackness of the night.
It took Viola years to track him. A fat, old hag spoke of an early ritual used to find ancient Revenants. Viola had to influence a virgin boy to ride a virgin horse. The horse's color needed to be like the sickly pallor of a corpse, and led through the diety's burial site. If successful, the ground would erode, and reveal the path to the ancient one's sleeping soil. Viola followed the ghostly stallion for weeks. The boy she had influenced had died from pneumonia. She survived the journey by drinking his vital fluid. The horse continued to follow the path, eating what little grass and brush it had found.
Eventually, the horse stopped. It stopped at the end of the path. It threw its head back and loudly snorted. It looked at Viola with it's large, pale green eyes and keeled over and died. She surveyed the landscape. The earth was ash-colored, littered with dead bovine. Jean-Baptiste de Funès was sleeping in the soil right beneath her feet. Viola scattered wild rose petals on the ground. She removed a trench shovel from the horse's saddle bag and strenuously dug into the dirt. She found him, resting less than a meter below the topsoil. The Maestru was immobilized because of the rose petals. Viola ripped open the dead horse's chest, snapping it's ribs. The broken bones were rough and pointed. She drove a rib into his kidneys. One into his liver. She impaled his lungs, his arms, and his legs. She thrusted all 18 ribs into him. The final one pierced his heart, and deflated his swollen structure. The Maestru could hardly catch his breath. He had a loud gurgling in his chest. He looked at Viola, and sneered. She pounced on him and ripped his head clean off. She placed it behind his buttocks, in hopes to hasten the departure of his soul. He was yet to be killed, but his death was inescapable. She had crippled him, leaving him vulnerable to the first sight of morning light.

Now that the Maestru was taken care of, Viola visited Michel Landru at his stonemason yard. She carried with her an old gunny sack.
"You're lookin' good, doll." Landru welcomed her. "You're lookin' just as sweet as ever, given me a toothache!"
Viola sniggered.
She dropped the gunny sack to the ground and kicked it towards him. He looked inside. What he saw, made him so frightened, he couldn't move.
"I'm not going to kill you," Viola told him. "Not today, but someday. I want you to have to look over your shoulder for the rest of your pathetic life."

Viola walked off.

Landru changed after that day.

He never returned to the farmhouse.
He moved to a picturesque village to the south. It was nature's paradise, nestled next to the sea. The streets were cobblestone, lined with brightly colored houses and shops. It had charming hilltops, sunflower fields, and vineyards. The quaint scenery was the definition of calm.
He met a woman. A baker from Vézelay. They fell madly in love and got married. They bought a stone Chateau home. Landru was impressed by its heavy masonry construction and elaborate carved stone decorations. The roof was hipped and steeply pitched, and decorative detailing wrapped all the way around the impressive structure.
The following years, Michel and his wife lived a jovial, simple life. She opened a pastry shop and sold the best brioches in the village. He worked as a rat catcher to prevent damage to the village's food supply. His skills became so effective and high in demand, he decided to make his own poison and sell it to local markets.
The couple became financially secure and wanted to start a family.

Their first born died from influenza.
Their second born died from pneumonia.
Their third attempt was a miscarriage.
Mrs. Landru got a bacterial infection in her uterus. The disease caused blood clots and septic shock, ultimately becoming her unexpected demise.

Michel believed his nefarious past had caught up with him.

He prayed. He prayed day and night. He talked to Him. He communicated whenever possible to strengthen his relationship with Him. He obeyed Him and His commandments and studied His scriptures. He listened for Him, and if he heard Him, he expressed great gratitude. Eventually, he believed he revived his love for Him.

Landru grew older. He fell in love again. He married again. He had a child. Two children. Three children. His children had children. Michel Landru felt completely satisfied for the first time in his life.

Back then, the life expectancy for white men was to live up to the mid forties. Only twelve percent of those would make it past sixty.
Michel Landru was 58 years old. He had just returned home with his family from church service on Christmas morning. The family sat around the Christmas tree anxious to open presents, when suddenly a group of patrol officers and detectives abruptly stormed in the front door.
"What is this!?" Mrs. Landru exclaimed.
A detective wearing an Italian blue suit and a brown fedora explained, "Michel Landru is wanted for multiple accounts of kidnapping and murder."
"That's impossible! Michel is a good man."
"The murders happened twenty years ago. We have a significant amount of evidence that indicts your husband for the murders."
The family was in disbelief. Michel's wife began sobbing. "This must be some misunderstanding."
Michel's bottom lip quivered, and tears welled up in his eyes. His voice started to tremble. "How?" He asked.
An officer approached Michel and began to handcuff him.
"We were tipped off about an abandoned farmhouse. You're registered as the property owner."
Michel cried loudly, "it was such a long time ago! That's not me anymore! That's not me!"
Officers began to pull him away from his family. His children cried. His grandchildren cried.
"You've got the wrong man! You've got the wrong man!" His wife screamed.
"Remember me for who I am and not for who I was!" Michel yelled as he was forced from his home."

Viola visited Michel while he was incarcerated. Her presence made him feel a sense of impending doom. He began trembling and shaking.
"Please no! This is all wrong! I have received Him as my Savior. He has forgiven me of my sins and cleansed me of all unrighteousness!"
"Do you know what isn't forgiving?" Viola asked. She rolled her fingers along the steel jail cell bars. "The abrasions on my wrists, the bruises on my breasts, the lacerations on my thighs. He may have cleansed you, but I haven't."
Michel began to weep uncontrollably.
"Your first born didn't die from influenza. The arsenic in your rat poison stopped his little heart. Your second born didn't die from pneumonia. The arsenic in your rat poison drowned his little lungs."
Michel began screaming, "Help me! Somebody help me!"
"Shhh. It's almost over," Viola said. "You're going to die as a monster, Michel. You're going to die as a monster, and your family will now remember you as one."
Michel was completely defeated. He dropped to his knees and let out a blood curdling scream.

Later that evening, officers found Landru dead. He was lying on the floor in a puddle of bloody vomit. Beside him was an empty bottle of rat poison.

Take Mr. Exterminator and…
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