Madam Sinclaire, also known as The Beast by the children, ran the Blackthorn Orphanage with an iron fist. Everything had it’s place and if her order was compromised, there was hell to pay. The children feared her more than any bogeyman they could dream up in their worst nightmares, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hated children. All of them. Even the most well behaved. But they had their benefits. It just so happened that they provided the best nourishment for one such as her, and no one would ever suspect her in a place like Blackthorn. These castoffs had no one. No friends. No family. In other words, no one would miss them when they were gone. Yes, there were the orderlies and the teachers, but no one questioned when the occasional sickly one died. In fact, it was expected. Then there were the older, healthier ones. She saved those delicacies for special occasions. When one of the older ones disappeared it was assumed they’d ran away. There were no searches conducted, no questions asked, and the bodies were easy enough to dispose of in the mountains surrounding Blackthorn. There were plenty of caves, lakes, and ravines to toss them into.
Yes… Blackthorn was perfect, in spite of the annoyance of the children (at least the ones that weren’t dinner), and she planned on sticking around for as long as her food source lasted.
Charlotte was brought to Blackthorn on a cold, rainy day. She had been found shivering in an alleyway, weak and malnourished. She was a very small girl who appeared no older than six years old, with long blonde hair, and skin as pale as snow. Though she appeared sickly, Madam Sinclaire could sense the spirit within the girl. Oh, she would savor this one! Her body quivered with anticipation of the meal that was being presented to her. It had been far too long since she had feasted. She would give the tiny thing a few days to recuperate, and then she would... mysteriously... pass in the night. No one would wonder why, the child looked half dead already.
The Beast approached the girl, looming over her and glaring down. Standing over 6 feet tall, she was a terrifying sight to a thing as small as Charlotte. The child shocked her, however. She smiled up at her and rushed to grip her legs in a pathetically weak hug. The Beast could hardly contain herself as hungry as she was.
“Oh thank you! Thank you ma’am! I think I might have perished if you hadn’t agreed to take me in! You’ve saved me!” She proclaimed in a sing-song voice, like a tinkling bell. Madam Sinclaire shook her off with a sniff of irritation.
“Nonsense, girl!” She spat with disgust. “Blackthorn takes in all refuse the authorities find on the streets!” The Beast glared down at her with a sneer, expressing her hatred. “While I am certain you have no manners and no sense of order, we will have no mischief here! One of the older children will explain Blackthorn’s rules to you, and rest assured, if any are disobeyed, you will be swiftly and severely punished.” She made sure to emphasize the word “severely.” With that, she turned, her long black gown swirling around her, and stalked away. “You!” She barked at one of the older children. “Take this girl to the dining hall and tell the cook to feed her.” The older child quickly rushed forward to take Charlotte’s hand, and they departed for the dining hall.
Madam Sinclaire watched the girl closely for the next several days. In spite of the bleakness of Blackthorn, Charlotte was cheerful and friendly. The teachers, orderlies, and all of the children… Even the older ones…. Instantly took to her. The Beast’s first impression of her meal’s spirit was an apt one, and it made her mouth water. She could almost taste it… The despair that would permeate Blackthorn after the girl passed would sustain her for months to come.
For the first time in quite awhile, Charlotte found herself feeling happy. Yes, Blackthorn was vast, cold, and dark, but she had already made several friends, and the adults (most of them) treated her with kindness. She felt in her heart that this would be a good home for her, at least for a little while. While she hadn’t gained her strength back yet, she was sure it would return soon. With a little food and rest, she knew she would be back to her old self again. She sighed with contentment, laid her head back on her pillow, and closed her eyes.
Tonight was the night. The child had had four nights of regular meals, warmth, and rest, and The Beast could wait no longer. At the stroke of midnight, she quietly snuck down the long hall leading to the infirmary. She peered into the room, lit by a bright, full moon shining through the large open window, resting on the girls face, making her pale skin appear even paler. A cool wind blew in, billowing the curtains. While the girl could certainly use a few more days of rest, Madam Sinclaire could wait no longer. The sweet smell of food was everywhere, in the halls, in all of the classrooms, even in her own office, and she couldn’t stand it. She must feed. She moved to the opposite side of the bed, hoping to block out the light to further the girls disorientation, and loomed menacingly over her. The Beast’s arms slowly stretching towards her prey, elongated, clawed, fingers wiggling with excitement. Suddenly the girl opened her bright blue eyes and looked up into The Beasts face.
What Charlotte saw when she opened her eyes made her gasp in surprise. It was Madam Sinclaire, hovering over bed.
“Hello Madam! Is everything alright?” She said in her tinkling cadence. The Beast just stared down at her, emitting a breathy hiss, like that of a snake preparing to strike. She opened her mouth to reveal long, vicious looking fangs, dripping with venom. The girl gasped again and leapt from her bed, running through the open door. The Beast cursed under her breath in irritation, and quickly…. quietly… Sailed after her, seeming to float above the ground.
Charlotte wanted to cry out, but she dared not. She didn’t want to reveal her location to the monster that stalked closely behind her. She ran down the long, dark halls, and down a set of stairs in her bare feet, trying to be as quiet as possible. She didn’t want to wake anyone and expose them to the menace that was Madam Sinclaire. She stopped at the top of the black stairwell that led to the basement and looked over her shoulder. She could see the wraithlike figure of Madam Sinclaire headed her way, her black gown trailing behind her like wings. Charlotte took a deep breath, and went down the stairs.
The Beast saw the child run down the stairs into the basement and smiled. The foolish thing had no idea that she was providing her the perfect place to dine. She followed her down and called her named in a whispery voice.
“Charloooootte! Come out dear! I won’t hurt you.” The child let out a squeak and ran into a large crack that had formed in the far wall. She would have to remember to hire someone to take a look at that when the mourning period for the little, lost girl had passed, but for now she had more pressing matters to attend to. She ducked low and followed the girl into the darkness. Inside a trail led downwards for several minutes into a large cavern. She didn’t know how she was unaware of this place’s existence. It was absolutely massive. It was completely black inside, and she couldn’t imagine Charlotte would be able to see anything. All the better for The Beast! She had excellent night vision.
“Charlotte dear. Come out. It’s not safe in here.” She said in a kind, motherly voice. She could hear shuffling echoing about the cave, making it hard to discern where the child was hiding. “Where are you sweetie?” She asked. Her voice dripped like honey, and it made her sick to employe it in this fashion.
“Here I am.” The girl said, stepping out from behind a large rock, smiling warmly up at her. She must know she’s doomed. She’s given up! The Beast thought, chuckling to herself. But the girl didn’t appear to be afraid. A strange sense of confusion suddenly overtook The Beast, while at the same time a sly look seemed to cross the girls face, her smile broadening even more. In fact, it seemed to keep stretching until her face began to distort and tear. Two large pincers, dripping with saliva began to protrude from her mouth, and all of the sudden The Beast knew the predicament she was in. Fear gripped her, and she turned back to run the way she had come, but she ran face first into a sticky, stringy substance that now blocked the exit. She could hear a liquid tearing sound, joined with slimy crackles and pops behind her, making the Beast struggle with desperation. She was caught, barely able to move.
“Where are you off to little fly?” Said a voice, no longer even remotely human, yet that tinkling bell of a voice could still be heard underneath. Madam Sinclaire let out a shriek of terror and struggled more fiercely to peel herself off of the goo that trapped her, only managing to turn around to face Charlotte. She wished she hadn’t looked… Where the girl had stood before, all that remained now was a vision ripped from The Beast’s nightmares. A massive, glistening white spider, as big as a large shed, slowly walked towards Sinclaire, it’s spindly legs clicking on the rocky surface. The Beast couldn’t catch her breath as she was too busy screaming. She wished she had shut up…
One of the spiders sharp legs shot into The Beast’s mouth, speared her lower jaw, tore it from her head, and placed it delicately into it's maw with a sigh of pure joy; chewing with a sickening, wet, crunching noise.
“Shhhhh! We’ll have none of that noise now!” The Spider said like a nanny scolding her ward once she’d finished chewing. “We wouldn’t want to wake any of the children, now would we?” The Spider almost purred in that hideous voice it had. “Oh my! Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve eaten?” It asked Sinclaire as if they were long lost girlfriends enjoying a bit of gossip. “It’s been ages!” The Spider looked into The Beasts face with it’s many, glossy red eyes and caressed the remains of her cheek fondly with the pointed end of one of her legs. “Your kind are so very hard to come by these days!” And with a raspy chuckle, The Spider pulled The Beast from her web and began her meal. The Beast could do nothing but sob lamely, blood pouring from her ruined face, as she was slowly devoured.
The next day the orderlies found Charlotte sitting up in her bed. Her skin was no longer pale, and her cheeks were rosy with color.
“Charlotte, dear, you appear to be a new girl!” One of the orderlies told her cheerfully, cupping Charlottes cheek in her hand. The little girl just smiled brightly up at her. “It’s amazing what a little rest and a warm meal will do for a child, isn’t it?” The orderly said, matter-of-factly.
“It sure is ma’am.” Charlotte responded happily, climbing out of her bed to get dressed for the day. Yes… The Spider thought. This is going to be a wonderful home! At least for a little while…
For some reason no one knew, Madam Sinclaire left abruptly. There was a brief search conducted, but she left no note and no forwarding address. She had no family… No friends… After her departure, everyone began to feel as if a new life had been breathed into Blackthorn. The children were happier, the orderlies more friendly, even the halls seemed warmer. All agreed, wherever she’d gone to, there was not a single person in Blackthorn that would miss Madam Sinclaire...
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