It Takes Seven (Three Crow Press Fiction)
It Takes Seven by Anne Abad
She wondered why he had to keep saying that—‘tsk’. What did that even mean?
Or was it just a general feeling of resignation at the possibility that his sister would never count for anything in the world of banal instinct?
Daemon hated to be chided, hated that grating sound that bounced in her ears like cymbals, and hated how such a three-letter non-word could carry so much weight and meaning.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk!”
“Baen! Stop it already!” she felt invisible claws running up and down her spine, her body’s negative reaction to the unpleasant sound.
“Stop what? Tsk? Tsk, tsk, tsk?” he clicked on and on anyway, tilting his narrow head from side to side, slapping his gecko tongue against his palate. His woody irises seemed to crack, a piece of parched earth that somehow gained the gift of sight. He ran his trident of a hand through his wormy mane, giving her a mocking look.
He was a bastard, which in his case was a good thing since his mother was a very notorious busaw that could cause people to crave flesh. Human flesh. Few demons could mix pheromones like that nowadays, but whatever it was she used to make victims see a leg as a burger, she was downright cool.
But that was before she got exorcised. Crank back time two centuries into the past and they would have been able to meet the renowned flesh-eating demon that gave birth to the cannibalistic nations. Daemon could only heave a huge sigh, for she was but a Level E depravity. A level lower and she would be thrown back into the Inferno. The Abyss. Gehenna. Hell—call it whatever—but no one wanted to be there. Someone else held the keys now, the bossy Prince who had zero tolerance for failures.
“You’re becoming bad for business. Have you any plans of moving up from Kleptomania?” Baen folded his trident hands together like an intent psychotherapist. They were in a run-down bar with charred walls and screaming ghosts. If Daemon’s memory served her right, the name of the bar was Sin City. Baen flicked his head and screamed back at the ghosts, “You angry spirits don’t shut your pie holes and I’ll have a bunch’o pyromaniacs bring down this whole shack.”
And there was silence. Although they were the same souls who had perished here in the rabble that Baen had also caused five years ago, none of them wanted this place to go up in smoke—at least not again. Oh no, they couldn’t have that. If Sin City were destroyed, they would end up wandering the streets and sewers like rats. And there was nothing worse for an angry spirit than to become a wandering one.
“Maybe I…” Daemon never finished.
“Maybe, maybe, maybe!”
“Why do you keep repeating what I say?!” She clenched her fists, all six of them, and bit her line of a lip until they bled. She always did that whenever she got really angry.
“Look, Daemon, you gotta get out of your comfort zone. How many times do I have to tell you? Tell me, what can you gain from a bunch’o klepto’s? What can you prove?”
“Now stop there. If I remember correctly, you started with making little boys watch porn,” she sneered, snorting harshly with her pig snout, her bristled brow meeting. “What would your flesh-eating mama say?”
Baen leapfrogged onto the counter, shards of cheap wine glasses getting caught between the folds of his paws. “That was fifty years ago, Daemon! We were both fresh outta the pit; copulins were all I got. But hey, I’ve moved up to arson—complete with rage and deception. I’m on a Level A roll, sister!”
Dismayed, she placed her hands—all six of them—on top of her roundish head. She bit her line of a lip again, as she also always did when she was really frustrated. She needed to think of something fast. She had always been given to avariciousness, and considering how she had so many hands, no one could blame her for being so caught up in such a lovely but lowly sin.
“So you get inspiration yet?”
“No!” And following her urges, she stormed away, jabbing whatever remained of the door with her fists so that it almost flew off its hinges. I’ll show you, Baen. It’ll be something so dark you’d wanna gouge those woody eyes of yours right outta your head.
Daemon slouched against a wall that was now sodden with rainwater. It was a good thing she had finished licking off the pheromone-rich urine before the downpour came. How many men (and women) had relieved themselves on these walls? She was tempted to try it out on passersby, inject her tongue into an ear, or a nostril, or some other orifice, see if it would stimulate the urge to violate the wall even further. However, she didn’t harvest the androstenone for petty things like that. She wanted to cause something ultimately denigrating, something that was rooted down so deep in the circuitry of the human brain that if she could draw it out, she would not only win a name for herself but also sentence the humans to eternal damnation…who knew? Perhaps she could even bring them a step closer to the Apocalypse!
Murder, of course, she thought to herself, for that one was a Level A depravity—a possible fulfillment of wrath, which of course, was a Deadly Sin. Plus she knew the blend by heart: quite simply, a dash of sex hormones here, anger hormones there, and there you have it.
She exhaled sharply, her breath befouling the air with her wicked intent. Murder it is…
Slipping out of the corner alley, invisible in the midst of the shadows that blanketed everything like the ashfall of Pinatubo, she stalked a dignified-looking woman wearing a power suit, black nylon stockings that mottled her skin cow-like, and fanged stilettos. Daemon had made the choice at first glance, for this woman already had a lot of wrath inside her. In fact, the urinary scent of her anger was practically leaking out of her system, like dog’s drool. Aside from that artificial smile, the power-suit woman hid it beneath a layer of talcum, a dollop of rouge on her puckers, and a little finger’s worth of blue shimmer on her eyelids. Not to mention the irreverent swing of her hips. This one was just raring to go.
Na-ahhh…you can’t hide from me, little lady, Daemon sang it as a tune. Who’s the target of so much fury? Is it your boss? Husband? Kids? She was becoming thrilled. Then she stopped herself short.
This was so not original.
Baen would laugh his ass off once he found out. Yet, what could be better, more satisfying and diabolical than murder? Avarice notwithstanding…she could think of nothing else.
The power-suit woman with the fanged stilettos disappeared into the crowd as Daemon’s mind raced.
“Psh…” she spat in dissatisfaction, trudging back to the pungent-smelling wall, her hooves clattering on the ground, inciting puzzled stares among the crowd. The power-suit woman was no challenge. She might kill someone even without Daemon tampering with her pheromones. She might even end up feeling guilty, and eventually, repent for what she’d done. That would defeat the purpose altogether. Daemon needed to tap an instinct that was deeply embedded, like an encrypted file, not something born out of a temporary state of consciousness. As insidious as a virus, she would hack that dark nature out mercilessly.
Her piggish face became taut with a demonic grin. It would take time, but she had an idea.
Ysabella del Mundo kissed Sable, her four-year old son, goodbye before the lady at the daycare center took him away to watch Barney, that purple-and-green dinosaur that Sable loathed with his life.
“It’ll be just a while,” Ysabella would assure him, but the child would only scowl, deeply, forlornly, piteously, to the point that she just wanted to change her mind. He didn’t pry his large, foal’s eyes away from her until he and the daycare lady disappeared into the boxy building that Ysabella had only once bothered to explore.
But there was work ahead, and Sable would have to learn to do things without his mommy. Ysabella shrugged. Next year, he would go to pre-school, and these mom-don’t-leave-me-in-this-daycare days would be over. Hopefully.
She walked back to the car, a black sedan. Her husband’s, actually. But he was far away, on a business trip to Guam. A smile tugged at the edges of her lip, an expectant smile. She missed him. Tomorrow night, he would be back and she could hardly wait. She wanted to feel him, his balmy lips and inhale his musty breath. His large, dry hands that embraced hers…how she wanted him, wanted to just drown in his arms and eyes.
The smile still on her face, she turned the keys and the car came to life like a sleepy beast. She hesitated a moment. The car had a funny smell, like…urine. No, vanilla. Or was it musk? She couldn’t decide, but funny, it reminded her of childhood, of exploring sandboxes, of having her first taste of chocolate.
Exploration. Alas for that. In a pensive mood, she started to drive. She felt relaxed. Her life was pretty much everything she could have asked for. Sometimes, she felt vaguely guilty about it. She always seemed to have it good. Why was that?
A hundred meters away was the intersection. Twenty or so pedestrians crossed the street in undisturbed procession. The question continued to tug at her mind as she neared. The traffic light seemed to glare at her—red. “Stop,” said the red traffic light. Red turned to a blinking yellow that spelled “warning.” And the question continued to tug at her mind. A lone pedestrian was chasing the light before it could change, a tall man wearing faded jeans and a collared black shirt.
What if I…? Curious, Ysabella stepped on the gas and the car lurched forward.
Like a frightened cat, the tall man froze just before a black sedan rammed against his body, sending him flying to the opposite direction and bouncing off the roof of another car that had been following close by.
Ysabella stepped out of her car. She heard horrified screams everywhere, could feel the weight of people’s stares bear down on her like a mudslide.
Oddly enough, she didn’t care.
The Big Boss clapped his twiggy hands together once. “Gotta hand it to you, Daemon.” He became speechless, so he just lowered them on his lap again. “What can I say? I’m impressed.”
The waitress served each of them a large platter of still-steaming tapsilog, positioning the spoons and forks on the wrong side. She smelled of grease, just like the rest of the carinderia . Rather hurriedly, she poured for them both a glass of cool orange juice before she darted away to the bussing area. Daemon wondered what her problem was.
“So does that make me a Level A?” Daemon swelled with pride.
“Hell yeah! You’ve even surpassed Baen. I really liked this…this, what do you call it again?”
“The Gratuitous Act.”
“Oh, oh…” the Big Boss’ hillock of a stomach was wracked with spasms. “This is good. What did that woman say to the authorities?”
“Nothing much really. She was curious about how it feels like to run over someone. You should have seen their faces, those horrified looks. Hah!” Daemon crinkled her nose. She felt a sneeze coming. “As if they couldn’t do such a thing themselves. Just they wait.”
The Big Boss nodded in approval, taking a spoonful of garlic rice and skewering a slice of tapa with his fork. “No guilt, eh?” He became thoughtful. The tapa fell off the fork, momentarily forgotten. “We should add this to the list! How much ya sellin’ the mix?”
“Oh…” Baen smirked. “It’s not for sale.”
He blinked. “What?”
“I don’t want to be generic, you know. Look what happened to the Seven Deadly Sins. No one even knows who made them.”
“Not even a hint?” The Big Boss winked at her.
Baen cringed at the blatant come-on. “Like I said, she got curious.”
“Okay, I get it. Just don’t come crying back to me when you need more lives. How’s Baen doin’ by the way? Haven’t heard from him in a while.”
Draining the glass of orange juice, she waved him off with five of her free hands. She coughed out the sugary sediments that had silted at the bottom of the glass. Even the juice is crappy, she thought to herself. “You won’t wanna see Baen for a while, Boss.”
“Yeah? And why’s that?”
Daemon stood up. “He gouged his eyes out, so now he’s blind.”
“I see…Hey, where ya goin’?”
“Sin City. I need to comfort Baen. He’s still my brother, after all.”
“Suit yourself. Guess I’ll have to finish your breakfast for you. Waste not, want not, that’s what my mama used to say…” The Big Boss noisily sucked the sunny-side up, and the yellow dripped down the side of his sunken face so that it was as if he had sucked-in his own flesh. His yellow snake eyes twinkled with pleasure.
Disgusted, Daemon left a few bills for the tab before plodding out of the greasy carinderia.
Anne is about to graduate from the Ateneo de Manila University with a degree in a business course that has a long name.
She has been to two national writing workshops and wishes to attend more. You may find her in the October issue of Deadman’s Tome ezine for “The Vision of Sakti.” She will also come out in the Feb. 2010 issue of Expanded Horizons. She has a blog at http://the-sword-that-speaks.blogspot.com/