Letting Life Lead
This scene I wrote to occur just before the scene found in the exerpt “The Whole Megillah”
Inez surfaced from dark memories curled on her side and clutching the edge of the bed nearly tearing the fabric. Moonlight illuminated Troy’s form beneath the blankets. She slipped out of bed and sat upon the floor in a shaft of light cross-legged to meditate away the lump of fear in the pit of her stomach. Peace stayed elusive and Inez clutched the empty necklace chain, plucking the links with two fingers. Her thoughts drifted from thick mud and earth and choking to the first days after the darkness when the adolescent hunger was new and innocent. So vivid the memories that a familiar sound or smell could call them up with precise detail that rivaled the chasm gaps in her memories of the time between her youngest years and the beginning of her adolescence. Tonight the full moon, impossibly high in the sky, dredged them up like an old movie reel.
Her feet had taken her far until they could take her no further and she collapsed in the wood near train tracks. Grinding metal, rumbling ground, shrill whistles, great puff-puffings, and the stench of burning coal so clear in her recollections as she lay huddled among the brambles and dry pine needles. People she wanted to avoid, yet she felt drawn to them. She kept herself away, however, from even the children and she sought the cover of darkness while waiting for ripe opportunities. A woman who smelled of cinnamon and yeast, she followed for a time, but chose not reveal herself and entice the woman to take her in. Pity could be a powerful play, but instincts would not let her take such a risk. Instead, she prowled near the trains seeking vagabonds.
In time she happened across a solitary young man asleep in a small tent. His companion mutt stood stiff legged to confront her, but she soothed the animal with offerings of food she had liberated or foraged along the way. Not until the mangy beast rolled over on its back to reveal its warm belly did she dare enter the dwelling. A bite to an exposed ankle ensured that her prize would not awaken too soon, though exhaustion had done most of the work for her. She pierced an arm vein with his own knife. She had no desires to kill him and did not drain him enough to weaken. The lack of food in his camp was apparent to her senses and she tucked the few coins she had in his trousers–enough for one good meal or several small ones if he was wise. She did not generally find money hard to come by. People were easily distracted and you needed only to take advantage of opportunities that arose if you were patient and watched. The trick was to not take more than they would miss right away. Pickpocketing, while profitable, could be risky. Though she found that a finder’s fee was far more lucrative and lessened the cast of angry, suspicious eyes. A lady reunited with her lost bracelet intact or a gentleman presented with his untouched wallet were usually generous with a reward especially if a girl walked away not expecting compensation. If the person to whom the item belonged did not offer, usually a bystander would. A lucky find of a drunken gentleman who legitimately dropped his coins allowed her this generosity. She was too dirty and frightened to attempt more daring interactions. People tended to look more kindly if one didn’t look dragged through the gutters.
The mutt lay with her in the brush warming her body with its body heat until dawn started to brighten the sky and she moved on into the wood away from the population after sending the dog back to its owner. She could not recall how long she had trod when she came upon the lake and the old fishing shack. The voices inside were of no interest to her, but the night breeze wafted through the old planks and brought with it scents that piqued her interest. Fresh blood from one man was the first thing she noticed, but it was the smell on the other two that made her heart race and her lips curl back over her teeth. Even over the malodorous mixings of old fish guts and lake scum, she detected rot and poison and a sourness that made her insides heave and a hate burn in the bowels of her being. She did not know why they made her feel so, for her mind holes did not allow her to know it.
The compulsion to kill them grew stronger as she approached the building and listened to their conversation. The third man groaned, slumped, and tied to a chair. Blood dripped from a scalp wound. Peering through the corner pane of a filthy window, she spied two men huddled in a deep discussion concerning how to dispatch the third. Fairly large men, but one clearly younger and lankier just out of boyhood. The knife she kept from her last feed found its way into her dirty left hand. The clean blade caught some of the light and she turned it in her palm to hide it better. Melting into the darkness she searched for the door. The shack was small with just one entrance. Their distraction of each other and surprise were on her side, but she hung back to center herself against the rage and the taste for the kill.
When she regained her civility slowly, the wild still remained in her posture and stare. The big one lay on his back with two puncture wounds at this eye and the smaller lay face down, his hobbled leg bloodied and punctures swelled at the back of his neck. The younger she took first from a deep, aggressive wound that let blood and life flow in a gush that left both the floor and the taker awash in red. She spat upon the cold face before she descended upon the older male. Her feeding she repeated, but could not take all that the body offered. It choked her and gore rose up her nose and flowed out. Sitting upon her heels with arms crossed over her knees and the knife gripped tight in a fist, she watched the long slow breaths of the older prey become shallow and slow until they stopped altogether. Blood drained through the gaps in the floor and plopped into the gently lapping water below the shack. When the vestiges of the fevered rage waned, she began to shake and sob. The third man caught her feral gaze.
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