Sep drove home. Pausing as he entered the house, listening carefully for a second in case his grandmother was with a customer. Before he had quite satisfied himself she was alone, his grandmother had called out his name. Despite her age, her instincts were keener. She had honed her craft to perfection. Dark magic.
‘I think she has gone there.’ He smiled, awaiting her approval.
‘You think?’ She fired back at him.
‘I am going there now, I’m here for the cards.’
The old woman shuffled to her mahogany dresser, pulled open a dainty draw and retrieved a little green silk parcel.
He drove for a couple of hours along the black lonely motorway and arrived when dawn was little more than a distant threat in the sky. The sound of gravel crunched under his wheels as he pulled up outside the house. It stood with its shoulders against the night sky, flanked on both sides by the woods. There were no lights on and an air of abandonment shrouded the house.
He crept close to the wall, safely within it’s shadow, around the perimeter to the garden. Listening hard he heard the sound of heavy, desperate breathing. He smiled. She wheezed. He squinted against the dark and made out the jerking shape on the lawn. He broke away from the cover of the walls and stroke out to her pale body, shivering in the blue moonlight amongst the gentle blades of grass.
Her clothes had been torn away in patches by the branches, a ragged flap of fabric exposing a bare shoulder. Sep dropped to his haunches and watched her fit and spasm for a while, locked in a terrible nightmare. He ran his fingers along the small of her back where her top had shifted and left naked flesh. He could feel the clamminess of her skin, sweat from fear and excitement, he had driven her mind into frenzy all he had to do now is make himself the answer to all her problems.
He took the green satin parcel from his pocket and dropped it onto her back, pressing it into Christina’s skin, and even in the moonlight he could see parts of the satin turn almost black as spots of moisture absorbed into the fibres. She rolled around under his touch until eventually the small parcel was tossed off her body and ground into the dirt, the cards coming loose. The red of the magicians jacket was gradually lost under particles of dirt and soil and the blue gown of the high priestess glimmered in the moonlight only partially obscured.
He looked on, his satisfied sideways grin fixing itself on his face. Dirt hung in clumps to her damp hair as he brushed it off her cheek, small pieces breaking loose and crumbling to the floor.
‘Christina.’ He whispered as she responded in some remote way to his touch, still in the grips of her tortured dreams.
He manoeuvred his arms underneath her and lifted her off the ground, she continued to shiver and jerk in his arms but he had no difficulty carrying her. He kicked the back door open with the sole of his boot and carried Christina through into the lightless kitchen. He lay her flat on her back across the tabletop, her shivering calming slowly. She looked like a struggling sacrifice slowly accepting her fate and giving up the fight.
Sep pulled a clipper lighter out of his pocket and igniting it he started to inspect the shadowy cupboard interiors. The cupboard under the sink opened easily with a quick tug and a fousty, damp smell crept out to greet him, then he saw the huge box of candles. Jackpot. He dragged it out and started to stand the candles up on the worktop. They were all shapes and sizes, several opaque white pillar candles of different sizes, some new, some with the wicks a tell tale black. He distributed them about the room, lighting each one as he found a place for it, some up high on shelves and some low on chairs, until the whole room was shot through with a warm orange glow and near the flames a thousand tiny details glared out of the nooks and crannies of the kitchen.
The drama of the lighting pleased Sep. The way Christina was splayed across the table, shadows flung dancing across her dishevelled hair and clothes. Still it wasn’t enough. He opened the grate of the ancient looking stove and poked around, not too many ashes and a considerable stack of dry firewood near the side. He set about lighting the fire and built it up so that the entire inside of the stove was alight like a furnace. Sep opened the doors as wide as they would go and stood back to admire his efforts. The whole room roared with fire and yellow light. He was ready to begin.
He pulled a small switchblade from his pocket and flicked it open while prowling around Christina, circling her like prey. He expertly sliced through what remained of her outfit until it lay in tatters about the table. Delving the knife into his finger, a pebble of blood gushed out and began to run down his knuckle, he pointed it downwards and reversed the flow of blood so that it dripped off his finger and splashed into little puddles on Christina’s stomach. He ran it along her skin, smearing the blood into strange, cryptic symbols in dark crimson. Working quickly he stroked his way up and down her limbs and torso, covering her in intricate, old looking signs. Sep took her hair in both his hands and smoothed it back so that it hung over the edge of the table. He ran his bloody finger over her open lips and smeared the stain across her cheek, bending in close so that his mouth was almost touching Christina’s ear.
‘Solvet Saeclum in favilla, Quantos tremor est futurus, Quantos tremor est venturus, Cuncta stricte discussurus.’ He mumbled into her ear, occasionally brushing her earlobe with his bottom lip.
Over and over again, until her lips too began to move along, wordlessly tracing the sounds, the room obscured by the growing smoke from the stove.