A Heart of Darkness

Venom is slow. It drags the blood to a crawl, leaving lead in your limbs, and a hot stone in your skull. Everywhere feels like the ground pulling you closer, and the breath in your lungs is a cough thick with cotton and the scratch of paper down your throat.

Looking up at two silvery fangs, drawing upward and away from the apple red lips, Sabrina couldn't help but feel that ichor in her skin, that thickness in her movement, that coldness in her chest. The pedepalps dangled in her proximity, glinting at the firelight.

"Your choice was not without consequence," it spoke in a voice only vaguely like her mistress now, half choked on the limbs that grew from her throat, "You must remind us why you came back, and why we should let you stay. Remind me, child, why I must resist this urge to drink you whole."

Sabrina shivered, and her weak knees finally gave way. She did not mean to bow, to cower, but her fear had the better of her now, and she felt the sticky warmth of the venom as it dripped on the back of her neck…"Please, please, mistress." It was all she could whisper.

"You are so clean, Sabrina, my child. Tell me, did they let you bath at the Bureau?" her keeper lumbered closer, the black mass of her lower half now eclipsing the fire's light. Only the grapevine of glimmering red eyes could be seen in the dark shape. Even the fangs had vanished. "Did they clean you?" It lowered, the hairy legs scratching the lush carpet, "Do you feel clean?"

"Yes," for only a moment Sabrina faltered, for only a moment she recalled the strange warmth of those halls. The warmth of a promise from one that could be no older than she.

"Harlot!" her mistress reminded her of the here and now by lashing one leg, as large as a lampost, into her cowtowing side. Sabrina could only yelp as the force tossed her limp across the bedroom and into a shelf of glass. Tiny trinkets of crystal and finely shaped metals showered down on her, a pool of red growing on the carpet below her. "You are a whore, girl. And that makes you worth only the dirt you are to me and those who can afford you. You cannot polish a corpse. And, believe me, dear girl, you are so very close to being naught but a corpse."

"Yes..Mistress…" Sabrina did not look up, her hands were screaming, here head was throbbing, and she almost prayed for death, would it come more quickly than the venom.

"Now, girl," the giant spider began to shrink, the gurgling of organs and the twisting of skin making a sickly sound to match the gentle roar of the fire, "What did you tell them?"

Sabrina's eyes filled with tears…


Madam Belgrady moved like a wraith, her black gowns liquid over her porcelain skin. Her eyes seemed to flicker with the gaslight of each passing chamber, the moans and screams of her servant girls at work bringing a smile to her face.

"Anestia," the Madam descended to the lush foyer.

Belgrady's most faithful, a waif of a girl so diluted by Belgrady's venom her body barely outweighed a skeleton, removed the veil from her face and bowed to her mistress' service, "I am here, my mistress."

"Sabrina claims she was foolish enough to bring a visitor here with her, tonight. Is this the truth?"

"Indeed," Anestia bowed low again, "Our sister's foolish endeavor with the Bureau has merited only a single visitor. He awaits in yonder quarters, quite bemused with a handful of our finest selections."

A strange smile parted Belgrady's lips, "He means to sample, then?"

Anestia held her tongue in thought, "I cannot say, my most exalted mistress, he does not seem at first interested."

"He is searching for answers, then? What have you told him?"

"With all due respect," Anestia bowed again, her eyes never leaving the floor at her mistress' feet, "Our guest has not asked but one question."

"Speak," Belgrady was confused and growing angry.

"He…" the girl searched for words, "Asked if we knew how to dance."

Belgrady squinted at her whore. "So an agent of the Bureau is in my parlor, dancing with my slaves?"

"…Yes. Mistress."

"What an interesting night this has become," Belgrady snapped her fingers, "Do not service him. Any of you. Bring him to the garden. I will speak with him. May he pray it is not the last conversation he shares."

"Yes, mistress."


Only the light of a high decresent moon lit the glass and silvered the steel of the atrium. The broad leaves and throttling vines that Belgrady had kept in lush overgrowth had all but depleted what little soil there was here. As it stood now, in a warm summer, the plants all had just the slightest limp of withering to their life. As if they, too, had been forced to feign appearance by the threat of forced opiate.

The gateway creaked, and heavy boots slowly clodded over the stones.

"Greetings on this eve, stranger," Belgrady played at the blossom of a black lilly that had just opened to the moon.

"Greetings in return, fair lady."

Belgrady spun around at the sound of his voice, "You are …Russian? Ukraine?"

His silhouette had not fallen under the light, but two round lenses caught the glare of the moon just barely. He bowed.

"How I miss it there, at times," she heard him step closer, her eyes half closing as she gently let out a deep breath, trying hard to control the writhing thing in her back and abdomen, straining to appear at ease, and not lusting for his blood in near madness.

"You could not return?"

Belgrady's jaw cinched shut. After a moment, she smiled at him again, "You, then, are an agent of the Bureau of Justice?"

"Indeed," put one hand to his hat, tipping it's brim, and she could feel his smile, hidden as it was in a darkness the moon could not seem to lift.

"And my girls? They have…entertained you?"

"They have great potential. Dance is an easy talent for them."

"We have many talents here."

"So it would seem," the stranger took one step closer, the moon now pouring down onto his hat and shoulders, yet unable to reveal his face.

"If you would step closer, young man, I would show you one of my… greatest gifts…"

There was a lingering moment, before the young man, slowly, one step at a time, drew close to her. He reached out, taking her hand to help her stand from the bench she had waited for him upon, and with a gentle breath over her lips, kissed her deeply.

In that gesture she released the thickest of her toxins into only a slickness on her tongue, a moistness on her lips. It would be enough to cripple an ox.

The stranger leaned back, and she waited for his gasp, the convulsions, the vomiting of blood and liquid entrails…

Instead, her guest only sighed, as if charmed, and swept her in a half dance step to the moonlight.

"How…" Belgrady's eyes, now wide, began to boil and pimple into a grapevine of red dots, each glossy with slime. Her back started to hunch, and her blouse split where the spider-legs tore free for footing. "How did you live?…"

"Just another of mother's gifts, I would only assume. She used to poison my meals. Said it would make water taste all the better…And I suppose it came to my aid here, as well."

"Deciever!" Madam Belgrady, growing to twice her size, destended her lower jaw to gag up a pair of spider-fangs. "If one kiss will not undo you then I will tear out your heart and eat it!"

"Not again, Miche," the stranger, standing at the center of the atrium, finally took away his hat. He peeled off his glasses, and looked at her with a pair of solid black eyes. "You took my heart once, and used such a curse to replace your own with a heart of darkness."

"No…" Belgrady whispered, then whimpered, her body cracking and spitting ichor onto the pavement. Her extra legs snapped like dried treetrunks, her hair began to fall out, and the thick venom in her veins started to ooze from the skin and smoulder to a black haze.

Arkady Dragonovitch, gypsy prince, bowed low once, never taking his blackened gaze away from Miche Belgrady, and half smiled, "It's a wonder, really, that no one would think the counter to that spell be only marginally protected by the venom of a kiss. I suppose old tragedy's have a way of exacting poetic justice with meanings that escape me. I however, am not a poet. But rather an Agent of Justice. And so such irony is wasted. You have been kissed by an old lover, Miche Belgrady, and so your powers are broken. It's a shame such a short rekindling of our romance would be so one-sided. But then again, you left me for dead once. So I suppose this is just…balance."

"Dragonovitch!" the woman's skin was cracking with the toxins as they hissed and burned into the night sky. She coughed blood, and bile, and clawed at the stones. "You've taken it from me! My most sacred secrets…you've..destroyed me…"

"You destroyed yourself, Miche. I only came here to help." Dragonovitch squatted down beside his lost love, "The pains you are going through I would not dare to imagine. But that does not mean you are beyond aid. In three hours the sun will rise, the first light of day you've seen in, what? Ten years? By that time the last of the curse will have lifted. And you will be what you were when you last broke my heart. A monster only on the inside."

Her screams echoed through the atrium, and into the metropolis. But no one came to her aid. Only the Bogatyr, ever patient, held her hand as the last of the shadows lifted from her body, and her heart of darkness was ceded once again to the oldest of humanity's greatest blessing and greatest burden.


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License