Safe and Sound


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Lying on the cold ground surrounded by crisp leaves in shades of yellow, orange, and crimson Alice watches while the bright fluffy clouds above her are pushed to the east by the dark thundering storm clouds her mother warned her were coming. She can still hear the words ringing in her head from this morning when she ran from the apartment. Just as the winds pushed the clouds across the sky the words in her head carry the memory of the morning’s events to the front of her mind to be played out again.

Stopping only to pull on her shoe Alice charges out of her room, her long hair flying behind her and her wool coat has become a cape. She heads straight for the kitchen, today is a big day, and she will need lots of snacks to keep up her strength for the adventure ahead. Pulling her stool from under the counter she climbs up then pulls the cookie jar to the edge. She fills her pockets before sliding the jar back and climbing down. Forgetting in her excitement to put the stool away she turns on her heel and runs from the room. Checking her reflection in the living room mirror, her long brown hair shines in the morning light; she adjusts her blood red bow and gives herself a wicked little smile of approval.  Before running to the apartment door she paused only once more. Where was Obour? Stopping in the hall she feels the beat of her heart in her ears as panic surges through her, where has she left him, she can't go on an adventure without him. Quickly turning as she does on the heel of her shoe she ran to her room.

He isn't on the bed.

He isn't waiting in her chair.

He isn't even hiding under the bed.

  “Mommy! Obour is lost” she screams in only a pitch a 6 year old can reach while running from her room choking back tears and gasping for breath.

Her mother Abigail, a stunning beauty of 27 with long red hair steps out of the nursery at the end of the hall. She has just put Alice's baby brother down for a nap and in one seemingly effortless motion closes the door, crosses the hall and scoops up Alice.

Wiping stray hair from her eyes her mother asks “What is the matter Alice my love?”

Alice recounts her search while still fighting the tears and adding “I have to find him or it will be too late!”

“Too late for what?” her mother asks.

Growing more upset with the delay in her search Alice began to squirm till she was put down.

  “Now Alice! If you don't calm down it will only take longer to find Obour, and I really don't see why you're in such a rush today” her mother exclaims as she leads her back into the kitchen.

Abigail moves across the kitchen almost as if she is floating and as Alice watches her fill a glass of water she can't help but wonder if she will look like that when she was all grown up. Her mother hands the glass of water to her then as if by magic Obour appears in her other hand. Alice greedily takes him from her mother with a squeal of delight and flings her arms around her before quickly spinning on her heel and runs out the door.

“Be sure to come straight home as soon as you see the storm clouds, I don't want you to get caught in the confusion” Abigail calls out to her.

A strong wind blows leaves into Alice's face snapping her from the vision of this morning. As it fades into the back of her mind and the chill of the air once again begins to creep over her skin she reaches into her pocket and begins to munch on a cookie. Sitting up on her elbows she turns to Obour laying in the leaves next to her and chatters away that the storm doesn't look scary at all and she thinks they should stay a while longer. Obour moans, turning to face to her, he has changed from the tattered, loved, abused, stuffed bunny always kept close by into something much darker. His fake fur now real is matted and dirty, his teeth are sharp, his eyes become something beyond human and there is the odor of death about him.

 “Why stay here, when there are far better places for us to go play?” he replies, his voice deep, tortured and known to inspire fear.

Alice haws, kicking at the leaves as she finishes her cookie. It never frightens her when Obour changes or speaks but she knows if anyone else ever found out he would be taken from her so she is always sure to keep to the woods where no one will see what either of them truly are.

“Where do you want to go today?” she asked him full of curiosity.

With a sinister giggle he raises his paw and points towards the trail leading down the hill and much further away from the apartment complex. As Alice follows with her eyes to the path he points out, the wind begins to pick up, swirling leaves all round them, the clouds move at a faster pace and the trees begin to creak and groan in the wind. Jumping up Alice grabs Obour by the arm as if he were still just a stuffed toy.

“What are you going to teach me today? I'm oh so excited!” she asks running towards the trail.

“Patience my sweet” he purrs bobbing along in sync with her running. “You're progressing faster than expected but I fear if you progress too fast you might get lost and not survive, you are young. Much younger than any other I have embraced before.” He adds, then as if more to himself or someone else entirely he whispers “Maybe her youth will be the strength she needs to survive and afford her the time to hone her craft”.

Reaching the trail Obour pointed out she slows to a walk pulling him up into her arms, squeezing him tightly then presses on. The forest steadily grows thicker as she makes her way along the trail. Her steps echoing the rustle of dry leaves and snapping twigs through the bare trees are accompanied by the steady howl of the wind. On and on she walks chattering away as little girls do, talking about the trees, the leaves, the shapes she sees following them and how excited she is that he is going to teach her something new today. Only once does she ask about the shadows, as he is quite adapt at providing her the technical answers her highly active brain craves. He tells her the truth.

“My sweet, they are not shadows, they are egregors. Beings born from the pain and anguish of suffering to watch as torments are reaped upon the souls of man.” He pauses thinking for a moment causing Alice to also pause.

She turns him around, looking deep into his eyes and asks “Are they here to watch my lesson today?”

Obour's lips curl into an evil smile and he replies “Yes, this is a monumental occasion. After today's lesson we will see if you're ready.”

Alice squeezes him tight and begins to hum then once again continues on. Lightning shoots across the sky, briefly bathing the woods in white. Alice can smell the electricity on the wind and reaches for the dark sky with her left hand as thunder booms and rolls through the clouds. Finding a boulder to rest on, she places Obour next to her and takes another cookie from her pocket, this time breaking it in two and giving him half.  Wiggling her legs and hitting her shoes together she keeps the rhythm of the song she had been humming while she chews. Once finished she hops down from the boulder.

Scooping up Obour and asks “Obour? Is it much further? I really want to play now.”

“No my sweet, we are quite close now. Remember you must have patience and not to end it too quickly. You must learn to savor all the moment has to offer. In time you will master the art and with just one movement of your wrist will inspire fear and the most beautiful screams you can imagine.” he replies with both the air of a gentleman and the thirst of a maniac.

Alice giggles with delight.

They were now deep within the forest with no sign of the apartment complex and no risk of being discovered. Yet Alice presses further on, following each twist and turn of the path, climbing over branches and fallen trees blocking the trail. She begins to notice the trees are much larger in this part of the forest, some of them had ancient symbols carved into their bark, and others looked as if they had once been something else only now to be trapped, tortured and twisted for eternity. Ahead of them on the trail is another curve however it disappears into darkest part of the forest Obour had yet taken Alice to in all of their adventures. She isn't scared in fact her whole body is alive with the anticipation of what is yet to come but still she slows her pace. As she had been taught now is the time to prepare herself for her lesson. She breaths in deep through her nose, slowly exhaling out through her mouth, again and again until she can feel her pulse, and her thoughts slow as if thickened with mud.  Just as she reaches the start of the curve Obour looks up at her, gently placing his paw on her arm.

 “It’s time, put me down here. I have shown you many things, this is your last lesson and you must do this alone! There is no guarantee you will survive if you fail, if you do survive the rest of your life may be spent locked within your own mind, no chance of escape, no one will be able to reach you. Your mind will be your prison, your world, your hell. If you succeed you will be rewarded and shown what lies within. Now it is up to you to go in there and use what you've learned. Do not hesitate but do not rush. Once your task is complete, come back here to me.” Obour instructs her, his voice so deep it resonates through her soul.

Alice gently places Obour on the ground, sitting him next to a log so he could watch her until the curve takes her from sight. As she begins to walk the path alone she unbuttons her coat, reaching into an inside pocket she withdraws a butterfly knife with a white wooden handle. Flipping the clasp at the end and with a look of pure evil in her eyes, she fluidly flips of her wrist opening the blade, holding it out in front of her with her palm turned up she begins to skip down the path and around the curve. Just before she is out of sight she glances back at Obour, giving him the most sinister of winks.


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Heather Bauder

So far do you love or hate my sweet little Alice? How far have you read to come to that decision?


Obour watches as she disappears from view then climbs to his awkward paws raising his arms above his head he chants in an ancient dialect not known to humans. His body begins to writher and writhe, growing and changing from the twisted bunny familiar of a little girl into something not quite human.  His shoulders are slumped forward as he twists and contorts with the pain of changing.  His agonizing screams penetrate the forest silencing every living creature for miles.  Although this is not his true form, it is the shape he uses the most when on a mission. He is now close to 6 feet tall, his hair is short and dark hair, his are piercing and black, his skin a deep tan. He is dressed in jeans, boots, a dark t-shirt and a long weathered leather duster.  Rubbing his head he thinks to himself, if Alice is as promising a student as foretold she will be busy for some time, this allows him time to report in on her progress.

Obour holds out his right hand and recites another incantation, seconds later a doorway appears before him on the trail. He opens the door and steps within, before closing the door he turns and looks back.

“I know you're here!” his voice booms.  “You've been with us since the child was watching the clouds. She isn't strong enough yet to know of your presence but she will be. If you feel you can handle watching continue to do so but know this, only a few humans know of what lies within, they were tested and trained just as Alice is being tested and trained right now. Not all have survived, not all have been able to handle the full truth. Those who have, have gone on to wreak such horrific havoc in the human world their names continue to invoke fear centuries after their deaths. Do not attempt to interfere, do not call out to the child, do not try to sway her thoughts or actions. She won't hear you but WE will. You cannot keep us out no matter how you try, no religion, spells, charms, or trinkets will keep you safe for we are those you fear, worship and pray to. We are all around you.”

Looking forward Obour begins closes the door behind him. The hallway is tall, wide, lit with wooden torches placed in iron braces, the floor is moist earth and the scent of decay lays heavy in the damp air. As he proceeds down the path there is the occasional sound of discarded bones and other rubbish crunching under his feet. The walls of the hallway are made of carved stone with the same ancient symbols from the trees painted at various intervals. The hallway twists and turns, there are stairs leading in almost every direction. Obour continues on passing several doors and passages, one of which stands out, it is a large wooden door with rusty iron hinges. The door is gouged with deep claw marks and stained with blood but he passes by without even a glance. Obour continues down several steps and around another corner until finally he comes to a set of double wooden doors with a guard outside. Although the guard knows who stands before him, his muscles tense as he bars the way. Obour nods, recites the password in their ancient tongue then waits. A moment later the doors swing open to reveal a large hall filled with demons, shades, and all other manner of Ahriman. As he enters the room he once again transforms, he is no longer a stuffed bunny, a child's familiar nor not quite human.

As he foot crosses the threshold into the hall it’s as if his former shape sloughs off him like dead skin, flaking to the floor to reveal his true self.  Obour is a demon. If he were to appear before Alice in his true state he would tower over her at 9 feet tall, his eye are large with irises like a serpent, he has rows of sharp teeth and fangs as thick as a man's arm. Scars cover much of his chest and arms and his wings are black as night. To only look at them reminds you of newspaper that has been burnt, fragile so delicate that the slightest touch would make the very skin crumble. Oh how wrong you are. He is strong, one of the strongest. Within strength is power, Obour was not always so strong, he had to fight, torture, suffer, and kill for every drop of strength he possess. Making his way through the crowded room is easy as a path opens up before him and closes behind him. There are few others who command such respect from such a volatile gathering or even draw such attention. It doesn’t escape Obour’s attention that as the crowd parts for him to pass it also grows denser. There isn't a being present today who doesn't draw near for a glimpse of the great Obour.

An ancient being born from the primordial fire that created this world. Over the ages he has raised his spawn on the tears, screams, and evil deeds man has committed against man, he suckled them on the blood and nightmares of Kings. He and others of his kind have always been among man.  They were here long before man was born and will be here long after he is dead.  For now they are watching, listening, and searching for those worthy of being shown what lies within the very fabric of this world humans foolishly think they control. When such a human is found, word is sent to the council. Great discussions are held concerning every aspect of their nature, spirit, and mind. If the council finds potential within an individual they then summon the Oracle asking only one question. Once the Oracle has spoken, the prediction is inscribed upon a scroll and awarded to a demon. This demon is now charged with nurturing this individual, feeding their soul everything it craves until it is as twisted and black as night, then their training begins.


Alice continues on her path, unhindered by the lightning and thunder dancing across the sky above her head. She is actually very excited by today's weather, if she were of age she would be quite turned on by the symphony playing for her task at hand.  Even at her tender age she feels a heat growing between her legs.  Regardless of her age she knows with every fiber of her being that she is ready for this. The trail begins to straighten out again ahead of her, no longer skipping now she steadies her pace, lowering her chin so to look up with pleading eyes, and effortlessly slips the butterfly knife up the sleeve of her coat.

Ahead of her she sees something or rather someone leaning against the base of a tree off to the left of the path. Slowly she approaches projecting upon the sleeping man the impression she has wandered too far into the wood and is unsure of her way home. She implants in his mind that she is crying, cold, and has fallen scrapping her hands and knees. The man stirs without fright believing he heard this poor child before him in tears asking for help. Watching him clamber to his feet Alice notices he is younger in years than his current state would imply, this entices her to say the least.

Her projected self begins to sniff and rubs her eyes as she looks up at him then meek as a mouse she utters “I can't find my way home”.

The man looks about him, cautiously to ensure no one else is near, scratches his chin and with an excited spark in his eye bends down to look Alice in the eye.

“Well, my dear it looks as though you're quite lost. Where do you live? I know these woods quite well and am sure I can help you find your way” he said, his voice as greasy as his hair.

Both Alice and the stranger are full of anticipation as to what would happen next, she will allow him to lead. For now.

“Don't be shy little one, come on tell me where you live. I can't take you there until I know” he coos.

The projected Alice peers up at him, her eyes red and swollen, silently pleading for him to protect her while the real Alice giggles with glee.


Obour was awarded Alice's scroll when she was only three days old. With each step through the hall towards the council the memory of that day sweeps over him.

Returning to his apartment in the city after spending a week watching a potential, Obour closes the door and crosses the room to open a window. Only the window is already open, he turns to find Anzu lurking in the shadows.

“What is it?” Obour demands.

“Something you will enjoy, I'm sure. But if you don't want it there are many others who will take your place.” Anzu said with great desire as the scroll he carried was coveted most highly and any demon that possessed it would be instantly elevated in status.

Growing in height with his impatience for Anzu's games Obour began to take his natural form.

“OK! OK! Hahahaha, you know me Obour, I was only joking. ONE has been found! The council has already met and the Oracle has made her prediction.” said Anzu in a jovial yet frightened manner. “Here, here is the scroll. The council has selected you.”

As Obour crosses the room he shrinks back into his assumed form, grabbing the scroll from Anzu a surge passes through his whole body linking him to his new charge. Sitting down on the bare hardwood floor of his apartment, he leans against the wall, as he began to unroll the scroll Anzu laughs nervously from the far corner of the room.

“What is it? Obour demands.

“Nnnnoothinng, really” Anzu nervously replied, “It has just been so long since ONE has been found and we all knew you would be the one awarded with this charge. I guess I just expected a bit more to the surge. More of an explosion really.”

Obour laughs. It’s a deep rumbling laugh which scares Anzu even more than when Obour began to change into his natural form. Obour unrolls the scroll, as he does the room is bathed in light as if a large fire were burning in his hands. Anzu gasps but the sound is stolen from his lips before it’s heard, he drops to his knees as the Oracle's vision plays out in the middle of the room.

Once the vision is complete Obour rolls the scroll back up and places it in the hall closet, then walking over to Anzu, he snaps his fingers in front of his face bringing him back from the trance he was lost in once the vision ended. Anzu, confused and momentarily stunned climbs to his feet shaking his head.

“Kinda hard to wrap your mind around that one, huh Anzu” Obour gently asked. “Why don't we get something to eat?” he added as he ushered his guest out the door.

Now 6 human years later he is already returning to the council. There isn’t a doubt in his mind the time is right, that she is ready, or that she will exceed their desires. Taking his place before them, the council is seated upon their thrones, the primordial fire burning in the center of their circle and in their eyes. Without a word, Obour steps into the fire, conjures the scroll from his apartment and begins to unroll it.  He recalls to them the charge he was awarded with.

“I have come before you today with word on the status of Alice, ONE that was born and within moments of her birth this great council began to discuss. Before you I have brought the Oracle's vision of her foretold talents. Please join with me in watching through the egregors as she begins her final lesson” Obour's voice is strong and confident.

None in the council move to question him as all are eager to see what ONE so young may accomplish. Obour conjured the scroll back to his apartment and with one more incantation each of the council members and himself are looking through the eyes of one of the egregors following Alice, leaving the rest of those in attendance to wait impatiently.


Looking up at the stranger Alice begins to cry as she projected more thoughts into his mind intensifying her level of fear.

She chokes back her tears to tell him “I live on Tully Street”. Having to be given no other direction, he reached out and grabbed her small hand.

“Hmm, Tully Street. Oh, yes it is this way.” He tells her as he points towards the hills to his right.

Alice allows him to lead her towards her doom while still projecting the impression of her fear, chill, and now that she had ceased crying she adds some soft muffled whimpering into his vision. As they reach the top of the hill she allows him to feel she is beginning to trust him. The stranger keeps looking around, nervous yet excited to his core. His scent growing more intoxicating with each new twisted thought playing out in his mind. Alice knows he is not familiar with these woods and uses his fear of being discovered stealing a child to mask her own desire to get this party started. She occasionally turns to look behind her making him think she is still frightened of the forest. What he isn’t seeing are the egregors following them, peering from behind the trees or how Alice stretches out her other arm to them offering them her hand as they trail behind.


As Obour and the council watch Alice, it becomes clear that her ability to ignite the deepest passions and desires of man would only be one tool in her arsenal. Her skill of projecting visions unto her victims minds while allowing them to still interact with their surroundings is bar non genius. They remain focused on watching him, continuing to lead Alice through the woods.  He stiffens slightly, noticing the landscape is once again sloping downhill. Then ever so gradually at first that he believes Alice is unaware he begins to lead her back towards the place in the woods where he first took her hand. She isn't unaware, she is now leading him. She is also sending her thoughts to Obour and the council

“I know you're there, watching from within the egregors. His mind is easily manipulated and his thoughts are wicked. Do you know what he is plotting to do to me? It won't be pretty, he is looking for a hiding spot where he can bind my hands to keep me from scratching him while he tortures and forces himself on me. Again and again. Can you not see how his body quivers with the thought of slowly draining the life from me while he satisfies his lust for young flesh? It seems he is hoping this will take several weeks. Unfortunately my current status does not allow me the time to treat him to such a lengthy course of the treatment that I'm planning.” She purrs.

Turning once again to the egregors, Alice dips her chin and raises her eyes as she licks her lips, pausing before drawing her tongue back behind her ruby lips she bites down piercing her bottom lip with her teeth and letting a small trickle of blood run down her chin.


Quickening his pace the stranger looks down at Alice, seeing the fresh blood on her plump red lips and ivory flesh, his need to find a hiding place is exponentially intensified and he fights the urge to kiss her, licking the blood as he pulls away. That will have to wait until she is securely in his grasp. Alice watches his thoughts, suddenly realizing she can feel the energy from all the emotions he is feeling are flowing into her.  She will use them against him, they will provide the strength she needs for what is to come. She has felt it all the while he has been leading her yet she didn't realize it was his emotional surges she was sensing. The stronger his passion the more alive she feels. Now she fully understands what an emotional vampire is. She wonders to herself how many others there are like her and if she is as strong as or stronger than any of them were at 6 years old. She would have to remember later to ask Obour because there was not time now, now it is time to play.

Looking over her shoulder she once again winks at Obour. Shyly turning to look back at the stranger she squeezes his hand and pulls her body closer to him. Alice knows their destination is very close and begins to project the image of a small shack hidden among a tight group of trees at the bottom of the hill. The path is again in view and is only 100 feet or so away. The stranger hastily pulls Alice along, quickening his pace once he notices the shack.

The moment he has so longed for is here, he feels as if he is on the edge of a cliff looking thousands of feet down but seeing nothing but clouds.

“Little One, look over there. Do you see the shack? We can stop there for a rest, maybe find you something to eat and warm those frozen fingers of yours. Then I'll take you home.” he said in a tone much higher and syrupy sweet than his true intentions. “I promise” he adds.

His anticipation ripples through his body, setting his blood on fire. This new surge of emotion, heat, and the sensations from the physical changes in his body also send a surge through Alice. The irises of her eyes growing so large you can no longer see her pupils, all color drains from her skin except for her lips which are now a deep bruised red and her nails are beginning to grow. She realizes her hunger is also growing, the kills she has made for past lessons were only appetizers for this final test.  The heat she felt between her legs earlier has now spread to her thighs and torso, leaving her feeling as if her whole being is about to ignite into flames.

Walking up to the door the stranger is still holding Alice's hand, guiding her in front of him.

Bending down to whisper into her ear “Don't be afraid, I'm here with you” then pushes the door open.

As he straightens up he takes a deep breath in through his nose, breathing in the candy sweetness of her shampoo and becoming ultimately aroused by it. Stepping through the door Alice gives a little scream.

“I can't see! I don't like the dark!” she cries out.

 “Ssshhhh, shhhh my sweet, let me find a lantern.” the stranger says.

He tries to distract her so she does not hear him while he bars the door with boards and boxes then hastily removes his clothes. Once undressed he again takes several deep breaths, rubbing his hands over his chest, down his abdomen to his genitals. He is close to the peak of excited arousal now and needs relief now but first he must make sure she can't get away. He reaches out into the darkness, feeling around him when he stumbles into a chair.

“Little One, sit here while I get the light” he calls out to Alice.

After placing her upon the chair he feels around and locates a book shelf of which the top shelf is cluttered with candles and a lantern. He has no intention just yet of lighting them, instead he returns to the door where he has left his clothes and pack. Alice remains quiet while he retrieves a length of rope from his pack and returns to her. Without saying a word he takes both of her wrists, wraps the rope around them securely then raises her arms above her and loops the rope around one of the logs in the ceiling. Alice kicks and screams while biting at the air giving him the impression she is scared and willing to fight while she has the strength. She knows his plan is to leave her there for now while he pleasures himself close enough in front of her she can feel his passion but not see what is happening just yet. She also knows he wants her to struggle, kick, scream, and cry all to wear herself out so she is like a rag doll the first time he takes her. The stranger approaches Alice, reaching his hand out to stroke her hair and rub his hand over her porcelain skin, tracking the lines of her screaming lips, her tear soaked eyes and the flood of tears running down the length of her flawless neck all while he squeezes, massages and abuses himself.

Holding back the urge to bite as he moves his fingers over her mouth Alice presses her tongue into the back of her teeth and begins to work her way out the rope tied around her wrists. Focusing on the butterfly knife in her sleeve she pushes it with her mind up towards her cuff until the end of it emerges into the darkness. Although he believes her hands are tied above her head they are simply bound before her. Grabbing the rope taught with her right hand and the wooden handle of the knife with her left, Alice slowly pulls the knife free from her sleeve and slips the blade between her skin and the rope. She projects a vision of herself squirming and crying, fearful of the noises he is making, what he is doing in the dark and wails each time he moves his hand further under the hem of her skirt into the stranger's mind so that in the stifling darkness he won't hear the blade cutting through the rope. She leads him away from her through the vision, towards the back wall of the shack. Then with a muffled snap the last fiber of the rope gives way and she lets the rope fall to the floor. The vision she has implanted into his mind slowly begins to change. The child he sees before him is no longer afraid and begins to giggle drawing him back to her. Tilting his head to one side he strains to make out her shape in the dark.


“Now isn't a time for laughter! You will be QUIET little one, you will, or you will die” spit flying from his mouth with the rage that has momentarily squashed his desire.

Alice silently moves to the right of where he had securely tied her up and watches him as he stumbles through the dark reaching out ahead of him, feeling the air with the tips of his fingers for any trace of her hair, clothes, or the chair. In his vision, the stranger's sight is slowly becoming accustomed to the dark and he can now make out just ahead Alice in her chair. She is looking down, swinging her feet and begins to hum.

“Are you amused little one?” he asks as he reaches the chair, his emotions are a cesspit of lust, rage, excitement, and malice coursing through his every muscle.

Alice takes a deep breath, breathing in the perfume of his emotions, she lets the power flow through her then takes over in his vision. Standing to his right Alice is silent as she watches the confusion crash into him when he reaches out and finds the chair empty.

“What the! Where the hell did you go little one? I didn't give you permission to get out of you chair and am by far not done with you yet.” he hissed as he spun around trying to refocus his eyes to the blackness still surrounding him.


Knowing the fight is far from fair Alice allows the stranger to see a bit more clearly but keeps herself hidden from his sight for now. She walks behind him as he spins in circles searching the shack for any sign of her. His passion having now left him and his anger at the lost climax quickly becomes confusion and he stranger stumbles around the shack naked and shivering. The stranger screams and jumps as Alice reached out her left hand, running her fingers down his arm, the warmth of her touch lingers on his cold flesh for a heartbeat then began to crawl over him as if it were countless spiders on a web. Jumping and wiping his arm repeatedly the stranger falls back into Alice's chair with a crash. Alice quickly moves and stands directly in front of him while dust and debris rain down on them, he puts his hands in his hair, shaking them wildly. After dusting himself off he looks up, just as he did, Alice makes herself visible to him.

It was only for a moment that she appeared but the sight of her was enough. With her chin dipped down, her eyes looking straight forward, she was licking her ruby lips and raising her right arm, butterfly knife in hand. In the dark her blood red bow is like a lightning bolt to the stranger making the sight of her even more terrifying. He lost the ability to speak and is now sitting in a warm puddle of his own urine. Alice knows she is still being watched and that excites her, she wants someone to be witness to her debut. Once again hidden from his sight she whispers into his ear.

“Hush now little one, the more you struggle the messier this will be.” her tone was sweet, seductive and her breath hot and moist against his bitter cold skin.

The stranger rolls his head to the side trying to get her voice out of his ear as she moved to his other side and whispered again.

“Now just what was it you planned to do with me once you got me someplace hidden?” she paused while he rolled his head again this time to the right trying to erase the feeling of her breath.

Panic welling up inside of him, he tries to move but is bound to the chair just as he had bound her. She doesn't use much in the vision just him being bound, unable to speak, and the sensation of more spiders waiting to crawl on to his skin at her command.  Too much would distract him and she wants his focus on her.

Standing now at the back of the shack she becomes visible to him once again. Seeing her, squirming with terror in his eyes dart from her face to the knife and back. Dancing towards him, Alice hums her little tune, looking down at the ground and dragging her blade across everything to her right. The closer to him she gets more he strains to free himself from his bonds and causing the ropes to cut into his flesh, blood trickles down his arms, drip by drip falling on to his face and chest.

Alice now only inches away grabs one of his arms with her left hand, then swinging her right arm her blade leaves a gash in his flesh. His blood no longer flows through the vein now runs down his arm, just as in his vision. Leaning into him, she looks into his eyes, she parts her lips, and he can feel the heat of her breath on his cheek.  Without the skill of seduction she clumsily licks the blood that has dripped onto his lips and into his mouth. Only a short time before the thought of this act in reverse had excited him instead now his fear flows into Alice making her even stronger as she sucks the last drop off his tongue.

Momentarily leaving him bound in his vision she looks around and seeing his pack lying in the leaves knows there will be plenty of rope so she rummages through it. Finding what she needs she cuts the rope into 5 sections then shoves the naked stranger to the ground.  Standing over him she commands the ropes with her mind.  Each section slithers through the dry leaves to a hand, foot.  All except for one. Then tightly wrap themselves around and around the limb until she hears the rope straining against itself as the free ends slither out towards the encircling group of trees.  The ropes have little give left once they have finished wrapping around the trees, removing any slack and lifting his hands and feet to hover inches off the ground.  Projecting into his vision she stands next to him, pushing his knees wide apart effortlessly against every bit of strength his strength has left to fight her with, then slowly she steps up between his legs. Reaching down, she runs her small hand over his brow, down the side of his face and along his jaw, as she does she is also running the edge of her butterfly knife's blade along the outside of his left leg then slowly snaking it up along his ribcage. In the bat of an eye while leaning in and kissing the stranger she effortlessly slips her blade into the soft flesh of his armpit and slices towards his back.  Nicking bone as she pulls it out again. Still locked inside his vision the stranger is unable to scream but his whole body quivers with the pain before shock takes hold of him. Now that she has his attention and before he becomes delirious, she snaps her fingers and his projected vision disappears as if a light were just turned on revealing a darker horror.

The stranger’s eyes dart back and forth, searching for a way out only to find he is bound tightly.  Not willing to die like this he strains against the ropes, biting at the air he moans and growls.  Spit flying from his mouth, he pulls his arms and legs, twisting his wrists causing the ropes to dig deeper into his flesh.  Unable break his bond, his head falls to the ground and the horror of his current state strikes home. The stranger's pulse sky rocketed during his struggle and peaks again as he finds the energy to scream until his breath escapes him, his face turning red, eyes bulging and tears streaming down his face.  The veins throbbing in his forehead and neck are almost intoxicating to Alice. She glances down, watching his face twist as he screams, twirling the point of the blade on her left palm as she slowly walks around him, outlining his body. 

When she reaches the highest point between his thighs, she takes one more step forward, crushing his scrotum under her patent leather Mary Jane’s. Each unintelligible syllable that now pours from his mouth feeds directly into the pressure she applies. Only when he grows too weak to scream do the surges flowing from him to her cease to empower her. If she uses her strength wisely she will enjoy the reserves from his sacrifice for several weeks to come.

Continuing now to outline his body, she slowly moves from his groin up his side to his head, kneeling down she looks deep into his eyes, letting slip a sinisterly twisted giggle. She rises and without hesitation stomps and kicks at his head. Throwing back her head, Alice laughs and laughs, the ripples of her laughter echoes through the forest.  Her attack has broken his nose, cut open his left eye and ripped open his upper lip.  Kneeling back down Alice kisses him on the forehead.

“Awe, poor baby has gotten a boo boo. What can Alice do to make it all better? I'm here to take care of you” she says in a tone both deadly and sweet as she wipes his blood from her chin.

“I was never going to hurt you. I was only taking you home.” the stranger whimpers, begging for her to stop.

“Taking me home you say, let me refresh your memory as to what you planned to do...” she replies, her voice exhibiting her measure of control as she projects the vision of his fantasy into his mind.

Crying out, the stranger pulls at the ropes, straining to keep the tears back he turns his head trying to block it out. Climbing onto the stranger's chest Alice sits with her back to his face, placing one leg on each side of his ribs she begins to carve the ancient symbols from the trees on to his body. First his stomach, then his thighs, she spins around and continues to carve the symbols into his chest, his arms, and finally his face. Blood runs from the stranger's wounds, pooling up on the dry leaves and hard earth under him. He continues to scream, cry and pull against his restraints as

Alice stands upon his chest and turns slowly in a circle to admire her attention to detail. She takes a step down, now standing above his head looking at him upside down, humming once more she raises her left hand and focusing on the last section of rope she calls it to her. Slowly it slithers through the leaves.  Rising as if it were a cobra it comes to rest in her out stretched hand. She continues to focus her energies on the rope as she wraps it around his neck several times and secures it to the closet tree she pulls the rope tight, savoring each creak as it too strains against itself as it constricts around the stranger's neck tighter and tighter.

Just barely able to breath let alone scream, the stranger tries to pull himself closer to the newest tree for even slightest bit of relief only to fortify his bondage. His only desire now is for anything to relieve the pressure and pain but the ropes about his ankles allow only the slightest give and his muscles have little strength left for the struggle. Letting his body go limp the stranger watches in terror.  Alice begins to spin while dancing around him, her laughter echoing off the bare trees mixes with the booming thunder. She pauses at his feet with her back to him then spinning on her heals with her arms out stretched she turns to face him, butterfly knife still in her right hand. She looks from him to the knife, then tilting her head she looks directly into his eyes.

Forcing the stranger to maintain eye contact, Alice kneels down and begins to crawl closer to him. Placing her hands on his legs, she moves slowly dragging her blade along his skin.  She stops and sits between his knees for a moment, her tiny body feels flushed, her blood thunders through her veins, a tiny gasp of pleasure escapes her plump red lips as her own excitement is at its peak.

Looking towards the sky, a smile spreads across her face, she reaches out taking his penis in her left hand.  She can feel his pulse quicken and the organ begin to stiffen with each movement of her hand as she examines it.  Pointing it towards the clouds.  She then flips her right wrist flourishing the blade, a lightning strike reflects off its surface. The stranger screams once more just as thunder follows and Alice swings her blade severing the appendage.  Swooning from the pain and horrific shock the stranger passes out as Alice’s small body shudders with pleasure.

“Wake up sleepy head” Alice calls to him as she steps over his leg and moves to stand next to him.

Setting her butterfly knife to the side, she kneels down, Alice begins sliding her fingers into the wound she inflicted earlier in his armpit. Savoring the feeling of the muscles and heat of his body she begins to claw her way deeper until her fingers are no longer visible. Being dragged back into consciousness by the intense pain she is now administering, the stranger turns his eyes to Alice. Pleading with her in his mind to stop and to let him go.

“Don't fret, I'm almost done with you but letting you go was never an option. You see you were mine from the moment you stepped into the forest. Think back and try to remember how you originally found this place.” she whispers, leaning forward.

Pulling her fingers from his wounds she wipes the fresh blood across his forehead. He doesn’t want to remember as he knew it would only lead him back to where he is now.

Alice stands up, picking up her blade she takes a few steps back to survey her work. She once again gazes over her shoulder at the egregors.

“I believe this lesson is over” she purrs with an air of poise and deep satisfaction she moves to walk away.

Humming her tune again Alice bends down, picking up a leaf and uses it to clean the last of the stranger's blood off the blade. She opens her coat, slipping the butterfly knife back into her inside pocket.  After ten or so paces outside the group of trees she raises her right hand, snapping her fingers. It was as if a bomb explodes.  The trees are blow out and the stranger's body is pulled apart so violently all that remains is a fine mist of blood lingering as if a cloud. Alice paused for a moment breathing in the metallic sweetness of the blood in the air just as the storm intensifies, the winds swept in.  Lightning illuminates the sky while the thunder shakes the earth and the clouds threaten to open up letting loose the rain to wash away the pools of blood the leaves collected.


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Turning to the council, Obour severs the connection to the egregors and waits for their compte-rendu of Alice's final lesson. If she failed to accomplish the tasks the council required of her she will be rejected and doomed to live out her mortal life where the changes are high she be among the insane. However, if she achieved their goal she will be rewarded and shown what lies within. Once within she will be immersed into the oldest and most vilely beautiful of worlds. In time she will be free to pass from her world to within as she pleases. For now her future is uncertain, it could take the council several days to decide her fate.

“Go now, return to the child as her familiar and instruct her to maintain the position she currently holds. Once our decision has been made we will summon you.” The council announces, speaking as one.

Obour steps from within the fire and begins to make his way out of the hall. As before the crowd parts before him and closes behind allowing him to pass. He hears a murmur among the horde slightly more than a whisper but audible enough for him to make it out.

“The girl is strong, her blood will run black and her power will be legendary.” it flows from the crowd as if spoken in a thousand hushed breaths.

Upon leaving the hall Obour once again assumes his standard form, the doors close behind him filling the hallway with the reverberation of their thud then deafening silence surrounds him. Alice will be waiting for him so he proceeds back through the passage at a quickened pace. Moments later he emerges from the door on the path, turning towards the door he recites another incantation to close the portal.

Obour changes back into Alice's bunny familiar just as she comes into view. Ecstatic and still high from all of the stranger's emotions she will need to learn to reserve, Alice squeals with delight when she sees Obour waiting for her. Her hair flying behind her, she runs up the path, a large smile across her face and her laughter echoing off the trees, Alice scoops up Obour. Giving him a big kiss while twirling around, she holds him out before her.

“I know you were watching, that is something new! Have you watched before? Because today was the first time I sensed it or saw those shadow creatures. Oh, it was so nice to have you all there to watch as I used my tricks to play with that man. Did you like what you saw? When will you know if I passed my final lesson? I so want to go where you go, Mommy never lets me go anywhere except for the hilltop.” She rambles looking deep into his eyes.

Just then she realizes how late it was “Oh! We have been gone so long” she yells, breaking into a run back towards the apartment complex.

Pulling Obour tight to her chest she taps into some of the energy she drained from the stranger, she feels as if she is running as fast as the wind.  Moments later they emerge from the forest, with the hilltop in sight.

“Thank you for today no matter how mad Mommy is that I didn't come home when the clouds came.” Alice whispers into Obour's ear.

Running the rest of the way at her normal pace Alice takes the last cookie from her pocket and cramming it into her mouth she chews it just enough to get it down and double checks to make sure Obour has changed back into the stuffed bunny always kept close by. Alice follows the stone path that leads from the complex to the hilltop stopping now only to check her shoes and rinse her hands and face in the water fountain by the pool then runs to the back door of the building. Pulling open the door Alice wonders just how long she has been gone then stepping just inside she turns looking through the glass as the door swings closed. 

She quietly surveys the grounds and the sky. The storm had not made it here yet.  Maybe her mother won’t be mad after all.  Dipping her chin she looks up with a broad smile on her ruby lips, Alice starts humming her tune then turns on her heels she makes her way to the elevator. She presses the button, seconds later the large heavy doors slid open and she glides inside. Alice isn’t quite tall enough yet to reach the button for the 7th floor so she has to jump. Having hit the button on her first try she steps to the back of the elevator and begins to hum along with the tune flowing from the speaker in the ceiling. The tune is instrumental but not classical yet dark and lovely and she loves the way the violin sounds so twisted and beautiful at the same time. The elevator dings and the doors slide open, in half a heartbeat Alice is in the hall, skipping her way to the apartment door continuing to hum the elevator tune.

Upon reaching her apartment, she bounds in as though there were a party awaiting her on the other side of the door. Hearing the door Abigail looks up from her task, smiling when she sees Alice bursting into the room.

“So how was your big adventure? Were you on time? I see you beat the storm. So, tell me what did you do today my love?” Abigail asks with a smile.

With as much care as if he were made of china, Alice places Obour on the couch then climbs up into her mother's lap.

“Oh, Mommy! Today was such a grand adventure but I can't tell you about it, you know that. A girl has to have some secrets.” Alice replies with the distinction of a true Georgia Peach.

Alice and her mother both scrunch up their noses laughing then Abigail slides Alice off her lap and stands up. Reaching out for Alice's hand Abigail began to lead her to the kitchen.

“Would you like a snack before dinner? Daddy will be home a little late tonight so we are not eating until close to 7.” she asks.

“What time is it Mommy?” Alice asked.

Walking back to the kitchen door her mother looks at the clock in the living room and replies “Nearly 5:30. Already! OK, let’s get you a snack and then if you like you can help me cook dinner. Did you decide on what you wanted yet?” now sounding a little rushed for time.

Alice thinks for a second “A Gingerbread Man” she exclaims jumping in the air with her arms and legs out.

Laughing at her daughter's enthusiasm Abigail takes a gingerbread man cookie from a metal tin next to the cookie jar Alice has raided earlier.

Before letting Alice have the cookie she says “Get your stool out and come wash your hands. Who knows where your hands have been or just what you've been playing with. Make sure to clean under your nails.” in a motherly tone that suggests prompt action.

Dragging her feet Alice pulls the stool over to the sink. Climbing up she surveys her hands and time stands still for a moment while she takes in the amount of dried blood and flesh still caked around her nails and under them. The memory dances before her, enticing her to follow it, it begins to warm her body to relive the adventure but her mother's voice kept it at bay. She began to scrub away any dirt or bits of the stranger that remained after her hurried rinse in the fountain downstairs.  After drying her hands on the towel draped over the edge of the sink, Alice jumps down from the stool.

“Don't forget to put it back” her mother says from the other side of the kitchen where she was looking in the pantry.

Rolling her eyes, Alice slides the stool back underneath the counter and turning on her heels asks “May I have my cookie now?” with a hint of anger in her voice.

Arms full of ingredients her mother walks over to the counter and as she places them down replies “OK, let me see those fingers of yours.”

Alice places her hands into her mother's for inspection. While her mother turns them over and inspects her nails Alice can't help but notice how soft her mother's hands are and wishes for a moment that she would never let go. But these moments always pass to quickly and can never be held on to other than as a memory. Abigail reaches into the pocket of her apron, handing Alice her cookie she bends down giving her a kiss on her forehead.  Alice runs from the kitchen with her mother called behind her.

“Don't leave your coat on the floor Alice!”

Running into her room Alice sets her gingerbread man on her drawing table, kicks off her shoes and unbuttons her coat and sits down in her big comfy reading chair. She sits there for a moment, running some of the day’s events through her mind, smiling and giggling to herself satisfied with her performance. Having been inside for sometime now she is now too hot with her coat on so she rises slides off her coat and hangs it on a peg behind her door. Picking up her gingerbread man cookie she spins in the middle of her room humming the tune from this morning.  Drunk with dizziness she falls to the floor laughing. Climbing to her feet a moment later Alice dances into the living room, retrieves Obour from the couch, crosses the room and climbs up onto the window seat where she devours the gingerbread man.

From here she can see almost everything there is to see at the apartment complex, which is very little. The complex is located just inside the forest, several miles down the local highway from the center of town. In fact it’s just three miles within the town’s border, what some might call the outskirts. Her family has lived here for close to six months and she remembers overhearing a conversation between her parents in the car the day they moved in.

“You and Alice will love it out here Abigail. The complex is situated just off the highway far enough that you won't be bothered by the sound of traffic or have to worry about Alice or Andrew getting into it.” Alice heard her father Randal say trying to reassure her mother this was a good move.

“It is just so far from town Dear! Do you really want to drive so far to work?” her mother pleads.

“Wait until you see the apartment Abigail, you will love it!” he replies turning to look at Alice and her brother over the back of the seat he gave them his big salesman's you can trust me grin.

As the conversation fades back into memory Alice shifts a few of the pillows around and scooches closer to the window. Pressing her forehead against the glass she surveys the grounds, watching as the wind blows leaves through the fence and onto the pool cover. Today was the first day that she didn't see the other children who live in the building playing in the small playground at the opposite end of the building, yet the swings blow in the breeze as if being pumped by their little legs trying to reach the sky. Alice's mind wanders back to the curve in the path deep within the forest.

Pulling Obour close she whispers into his ear “Today was so much fun!” 

As she said this, a bolt of lightning explodes from the sky striking a large tree.  Flames and wood explode from within the tree sending splinters and debris crashing down onto the swing set. Sparks fly in all directions as the flames blazed close to 8 feet high. The crash rebounds through the building and Abigail barrels from the kitchen with her mixing bowl and spoon still in hand.

“Alice! Are you alright, what was that” she exclaims before her words trailed off into utter silence and her brain tries to understand the scene playing out before her.

Hearing the mixing bowl crash to the floor and the shards scatter across the room Alice turns to her mother instinctively hiding the smile that tried to spread over her face and jumping to her feet she began to cry.

“Mommy! Lightening just hit that tree!” as tears streamed down her cheeks.

In a fog Abigail sits on the window seat next to Alice, pulling her into her lap.

“Shhh, shhh my love. You are safe and sound, nothing will hurt you. Do you know if there were any children playing down there when it happened?” she asks while she holds her tight, mindlessly stroking her hair.

“No, there wasn't anyone there.” Alice replies with disappointment in her voice that went unnoticed by her mother in her state of shock.

Sliding Alice off of her lap Abigail crosses the living room, and just as she reaches for the telephone another bolt of lightning streaks across the sky, followed by deep long rolling thunder. Startled, Abigail jumps, her startled scream pierces the room.  Alice having turned back to the window, sits watching the flames smiling and wishing she could smell the smoke and feel the fire’s heat upon her skin.

Trying not to shake as she dials the fire department, Abigail breaths deep and waits for the operator to pick up. She is certain other tenants will have already called but she needs the reassurance of the voice on the other end of the line if nothing else.

The operator answers “Fire & Rescue. What is your emergency?” her tone professional yet concerned.

Momentarily at a loss for words Abigail utters only sounds then stutters “Tttthhhee llllliihttttning..” taking a deep breath she gained her composure “Sorry, lightning struck a tree behind our apartment complex, it caught fire and fell over on to the swing set in the playground.” the operator could still hear the fear in her voice.

“What is your location Ma'am?” the operator asked.

“We are in the River Glen Apartments out north of town” Abigail replied.

“Oh yes, I know the complex. Do you know if anyone has been hurt? Crushed by the tree, struck by lightning or hurt in the fire?” the operator asked still cool and calm.

Her voice is just what Abigail needs to hear, it is almost as if she is numb to the horrific event but the coldness is just detachment over miles of telephone line.

“A Fire truck and the Police have been routed to the scene Ma'am and should arrive in a few moments. What apartment are you in so they can make sure you and your family are OK? Also, would you like me to remain on the line with you until they arrive?” her voice now full of compassion.

“No, thank you Miss you don't have to do that. We are in apartment 7C. I just wanted to make sure someone called in and was I certain one of the other tenants would also have called but it is early yet so maybe not that many people are home.” Abigail replied rambling.

“No other calls have come in yet from this location Ma'am. The officers will be there shortly, is there anything else you need?” the operator asks once again cool and professional.

“No, we are fine. Thank You!” Abigail said as she hangs up the phone.

Another bolt of lightning cracks through the sky quickly followed by thunder with such force she feels the vibrations through her whole body. Panic threatens to close in on her from deep inside and she wrings her hands together. She glances around the room aimlessly then notices the broken bowl. Running her hands through her hair she sighs deeply,   covering her mouth with one hand and trying to choke back the tears that are welling up in her throat. She has never been good with stress or fear and knows her husband couldn't come home fast enough tonight. Until then she just needs to occupy herself, anything to keep her mind off the blazing tree and the storm raging outside.

  Going to the hall closet she takes out the broom and dust pan and says to Alice “Alice, stay where you are until I get all the glass swept up. I don't want you to get cut” her voice still slightly quivering.


Coming back into the room she began sweeping and looked at Alice who seemed to be in a daze.


  “Did you hear me sweetie? Stay there!” she commands.

  “U huh” Alice replies, her eyes still fixed upon the gold, red, and yellow flames dancing in the wind and rain.

Abigail grabs the trash can from underneath the hall table and throws the larger pieces of the bowl into it, then unties her apron she used it to wipe up the egg and oil mixture she was mixing for the chocolate cake. Glancing at Alice again as she sweeps the smaller pieces from under the living room furniture.

“Ok, all cleaned up. You can get down now. What do you say we make dinner together tonight? I'd really love your help, I'll even let you frost the cake.” Abigail says in an attempt to get Alice's attention away from the fire.

She knows it’s also a feeble attempt to keep herself company as her nerves were still quite shaken. She dumps the dust pan into the trash.  Not knowing what to do with her hands she wipes them on her pants, her shirt and runs them through her hair.

“Alice, please take these and put them back into the closet for me” she finally asks holding out the broom and dust pan.

Alice moans but slides off the window seat, propping Obour up against the pillows, turning on her heals, she then takes the broom and dust pan from her mother and skips to the closet. Humming her tune as she places them inside and follows her mother into the kitchen.

“What is for dinner tonight Mommy?” Alice asks pulling out her stool and climbing up.

“Well, I thought we would grind up some of the fresh beef and make a meatloaf. We have plenty of new potatoes and fresh peas and of course we will need to start another chocolate cake.” her mother replies sounding much more herself.

Full of excitement Alice squeals “May I help grind the meat?”

“We will see my love. First why don't you start to wash the potatoes while I mix the cake, then once it's in the oven we can get out the grinder?”

For several minutes the kitchen is full of noises, water running and splashing as potatoes are being scrubbed then dropped back into the sink, the crack of egg shells and splash of oil into a new mixing bowl and the sound of the wooden spoon beating against the sides as the ingredients were combined. Placing the bowl on the counter and reaching for the dry ingredients for the cake Abigail is once again startled as the door bell rings.

“Oh, that must be the fire department. Stay here Alice, I'll only be a moment.” she says with a quiver in her voice, she quickly dumped the remaining ingredients into the bowl before going answer the door.

As she walked through the living room Abigail can't help but look out the window. There is a fire truck parked behind the building, several fire fighters are attempting to put out the blaze while another was getting the chainsaw from the truck. Red and blue lights dance across everything in sight from the light bars of the police cars and the fire truck, they are even reflecting on the drops of the heavily falling rain. Upon reaching the door Abigail wipes her face with her hands, smooths her hair and clothes then opens the door.

 No sooner has it opened than the fire fighter on the other side began to speak “Miss, are you the one who called in the blaze?” his voice deep and powerful with an eastern accent.

“Yes, I was the one who called” Abigail replies as she steps back into the room “Would you like to come in?” she asks him. Pointing towards the living room window she said “My little girl was sitting on the window seat when it happened and I was in the kitchen, as soon as I heard the noise I came to see what the commotion was about and couldn't believe my eyes”.

The fire fighter thanked her as he walked over to the window seat “You can see everything from here. It really is a good thing your little girl was inside and not playing out there this afternoon. Things could have gone very badly.” he said then walked back to the door.

He thanked Abigail again reassuring her everything would be taken care of then walked back towards the elevator. Abigail closed the door and paused for a moment looking out the window she watched as a fire fighter begin to cut the fallen tree free from the melted tangled mess that was once the swing set.

Returning to her senses Abigail remembered that Alice was waiting for her in the kitchen. Once again wiping her face with her hands trying to erase the signs of worry she finds her way back into the kitchen. Alice has finished cleaning the potatoes and is waiting for her next task.

“Well, you're pretty quick at that now aren't you” her mother praises as she moves the mixing bowl to the counter next to Alice

“Here, take the spoon and keep stirring while I add in the secret ingredient” she smiles.

Alice peers up at her mother, giggling through her smile, she begins to stir “Mhmm, I love chocolate cake! Can we put strawberry jam in between the layers again?” she asks.

“Oh, that does sound delicious. Before we frost the cake we can check the cupboard to see if we have enough. You finish up there and I'll quickly get the pans ready.” her mother says as she turns the oven on and set the temp to 350° then dumps in the coco powder.

Moments later they pour the cake batter into two pans and set them to the side until the oven is ready. While they wait Abigail searches in one of the lower cupboards until she finds an old wooden box with two leather handles and large latch on the front. Alice's eyes opened wide, inside this box is the meat grinder, she has only seen it used three or four times before but each time to her was a special occasion. She watches with baited breath as her mother secures the grinder to the end of the counter. Alice jumps down from the stool running to the fridge, she wanted to help so much, she pulls the large paper package from the bottom shelf then lifts it as high as she can till her mother takes it from her. Grabbing a knife from a drawer her mother cuts the strings keeping the package closed, unfolds the paper revealing the beautiful marbling and fresh scent of the beef.   Smiling at Alice, Abigail gracefully plunges the knife into the meat over and over, cutting it into large chunks.

While she works Alice perches herself on edge of the stool, leaning on her elbows she watches as the knife slices through the thick cut of beef.  Her body quivers at the sight of her mother’s beautiful fingers covered in blood.  Alice relishes the sound of the blade as it tears through the meat and the thud of the knife upon the counter each time her mother makes a cut.

Breathing deeply she savors the smell the blood, it takes great care not to lick her lips as she waits. Once all the meat is cut up her mother rinses her hands and the knife then heads to the pantry. She brings out a large onion, bundles of dried rosemary, thyme, and sage. Then opening the cabinet above the stove she pulls out a large container of salt and the pepper mill. Grabbing a pot holder and a toothpick from the container on the back of the stove Abigail opens the oven to check the cake.

“Are they ready to come out?” Alice asks.

Looking over her shoulder while she pushes the rack back and closes the oven Abigail replies “Not quite yet, they are still a bit gewy in the middle.”

“Eewww!” Alice squeals.

“While I peel the onion, will you grab the ketchup, and mustard out of the fridge for me? Ohh, I forgot to see if there is a can of cream of mushroom soup in the pantry, could you bring me one of those also sweetie?” her mother says as she chops the onion into small chunks.

“Sure Mommy, I'll get them.” said Alice jumping down from her stool.

Spinning and humming her way around the kitchen Alice retrieves the condiments from the fridge and hands them to her mother, then heads to the pantry. She rummages for a moment until she finds the can of soup. She places it on the counter next to the stove and watches as Abigail finishes chopping the onion. Next she takes some of the herbs from each bundle and chops them up as well. After rinsing her hands Abigail gets another large mixing bowl from the cupboard.  She sprinkles in salt, fresh ground pepper, ketchup and the mustard.

Then smiling at Alice says “Alright my love, wash your hands then pull your stool up so you can help me grind the meat.”

Overjoyed Alice jump around in circles before quickly washing her hands. While pulling her stool up to the grinder she can't keep her excitement contained and a large smile spreads over her face, she is quite beautiful with an air of danger about her.

“What do I get to do Mommy” Alice asks eagerly.

“You will do the grinding but you are NEVER to put your hand into the grinder. Do you understand?”

“Uh huh” Alice replies.

Abigail places the mixing bowl underneath the spout of the grinder and places two chunks of beef into the mouth at the top.

“Alright, you may begin to grind my dear” her mother said smiling too.

This is a big job for someone so small, Alice needs to put all of her weight into pushing down the handle then pulling it up again in such a large circle. As she pushes and pulls the handle her mother uses a wooden spoon to push the meat down into the grinder. Abigail adds in some of the chopped onion, herbs and more beef. They talk very little while they work as Alice is intrigued that with each turn of the handle more meat is pulled down into the auger to be chewed up and pushed out of the spout mixed with the onion and herbs. Abigail places more chunks of meat and a handful of onions into the grinder then turns her back for a few moments to open the can of soup.

Alice watches her mother for a second, certain she is preoccupies Alice learns her way around the workings of the grinder. Her focus completely on the how the auger works she wants to know what would happen if she worked at different paces. So she turns the handle as fast as she can, the meat seems to slip easier and need more pressure to push it into the grinder. Then as slow as she can, now the meat is pulled by its connective tissues down into the auger as she works. She even tries to turn it backwards just to see what would happen but as she does her mother turns back to place the last piece of meat into the grinder. Annoyed at being interrupted hums her tune as she grinds this last bit of beef.

“What a lovely song Alice, where did you learn it?” her mother asks kneading the mixture in the bowl, ground beef and ketchup sticking to her fingers.

Alice tries to remember just where she heard it, she tilts her head and watches the last bit of meat get pulled into the auger. “I guess I don't know where I heard it, seems almost as if it just came to me one day while playing in the woods.” Alice replies dreamily.

Abigail looks at her daughter and can't help but feel proud of how creative, adventurous, and loving she is. As she finishes needing the mixture she pats it into a large ball and wondered what Andrew will grow up to be like.

“OK, Alice. Let's wash our hands again real quick then I'll check the cake and hopefully we can get the meatloaf into the oven.” Abigail says as she uses her elbow to turn on the faucet.

Alice slipped under her mother’s arm and stands in front of her at the sink. She loves this part of helping her mother cook, her small hands all covered with suds lost in her mother's hands. As they rinse their fingers Alice's mind wandered to when she was rinsing her hands in the water fountain.

“Whacha thinking about?” her mother asked as she hands over the towel.

“Nothing, just thinking is all.” Alice replies.

Her mother quickly checks the cakes, poling each in the center before pulling them out to cool on the counter.  Moments later the meatloaf has been expertly shaped, seasoned and placed in the oven.

“Looks like there isn't much left to do thanks to all your help. Why don't you go play in your room until Daddy gets home.” her mother says as she wipes down the counter, and begins to straighten the kitchen up. “I'm just going to get the dishes started and put the potatoes on to boil.” her mother adds.

 “Ok” Alice replies smiling, humming she runs into the living room.

She climbed up on to the window seat next to Obour and looking out the window tries to see what is left of the blazing tree but evening is coming on strong and with the storm it’s already too dark outside to see anything. She hears the wind as it tears through the trees and placing her hand on the glass she feels the power of the rain as it beats down on everything under the sky.

Picking up Obour, Alice squeezes him tight and whispers “I have found something new to try next time we play, but I'll need your help.”

More lightning illuminates up the sky as she walks to her bedroom followed by earth shaking thunder that makes Andrew wale for comfort. Alice stops at her door, closed her eyes and tilts her head back while she listens for a moment to the sounds of the storm, her mother in the kitchen and her brother crying. She turns on her heals and walks to the end of the hall. Placing her ear against the nursery door she listens to Andrew crying and gasp for breath between each belt. She places her hand against the door, the painted wood cool to the touch and hums, she projects her song through the door and into the nursery, then listens as Andrew grows calmer. At first his cries soften, then his gasps become less pronounced and soon he only sniffles. Alice opens the door as another bolt of lightning strikes this time causing the power to flicker as she stands in the doorway. Upon seeing Alice, Andrew smiles, raising his arms. More lightning lights up the sky as thunder booms and shakes every inch of the apartment. Andrew screams in terror, still raising his arms to Alice for protection. She is finding this storm very educational, not only had she learned earlier in the day she could inspire fear and gain power from the negative emotions of others she is now learning that she could do the same by inspiring comfort into her brother, by doing nothing at all, and what she found most intriguing by denying it. She now knows as long as there are people around her she can feed off every emotion, she will never have to worry about being weak again.

Alice walks up to the crib still humming her tune while she lowers the side, she places Obour down to pick up Andrew who with his chubby little hand snatches him up and begins to chew on one of his ears.

“Obour” he chirps as Alice carries them into her room.

She places them down on the rug at the foot of her bed and walks back towards the door to turn the light on. As she flips the switch a bolt of lightning flashes light everywhere, making it seem as if it is broad daylight. Seconds later another bolt hits the transformer for the complex and the entire building is plunged into darkness. Alice jumps up and down giggling and clapping her hands as Andrew, who continues to chew on Obour's ear looks behind him towards the window.

Abigail calls from the kitchen “Alice are you alright? Can you check on Andrew for me please? I just have to get the lamps lit and I'll be right there.”

“We are OK, Mommy! Andrew is in my room.” Alice calls back to her down the hall.

She can see a tiny bit of light growing in the kitchen and knows her mother will be here soon so she sits on the floor with Andrew, humming, she reaches over to her toy box and for the building blocks for him to play with.

Alice loves the darkness of the apartment during the storm, the only light is a faint glow from the oil lamps down the hall, the darkness barely yields to them but it retreats to the corners of the room with each bolt of lightning then comes crashing back seconds later. Getting to her feet, she steps over her brother and walks to the bedroom window, she stands there watching the trees sway in the wind and the rain stream down the glass. She wonders what time it is as it seems quite late yet with the storm time feels as if it is both standing still and rushing past. Turning her back to the window Alice kicks off her shoes and pounces on her bed. She leans over the foot of it and with Andrew distracted by the blocks grabs Obour by an ear. Rolling over onto her back Alice tucks Obour into the crook of her left arm so they both can watch the storm rage through its performance. Occasionally she looks over the end of the bed and checks on Andrew, then after another violent roll of thunder he begins to cry again so she swings her feet off the bed and picks him up. He is quite an armful for her but she manages to prop him on her hip instead of carrying him in front of her as she usually does. She decides to see what their mother is doing since it has been quite some time and she still hasn't brought in a lamp.

Finding her way down the hall with the aid of the lightening still cracking outside, Alice calls out “Mommy, where are you?”

She listens for what feel like minutes with no answer, the only sounds she hears are the wind, thunder and she and Andrew's breathing. His eyes are large as he looks around them, trying to understand what is going on. Moving into the living room Alice places Andrew down in his playpen, she scans the room for any sign of her mother she hears a scratching noise coming from the kitchen.

“Mommy? Are you alright?” she calls out ahead announcing herself to whoever may be in the room.

There are no windows in the kitchen to let in the light from the storm so she fumbles on the table to find the box of matches and one of the oil lamps. She takes the globe off the lamp, places it on the table and strikes the match. As it blazes into life she lights the wick and blows the match out. After replacing the globe she adjusts the wick then picks up the lamp with both hands to get a better view of the kitchen. She can still hear the noise, its faint and seems to be coming from the pantry.  She makes her way to the corner of the kitchen she can smell the meatloaf cooking in the oven and realizes that her mother never started the potatoes to cook. Reaching the pantry she raises her small hand and places it on the door, she leans in to press her ear against it. Inside she hears something scratching at the wall. Slowly she takes a large step back as the she opens the door and shoves the lamp forward.

“Mommy! Why are you sitting in the closet peeling potatoes? You were supposed to bring a lamp into Andrew and me but you never came!” Alice scolded her mother.

 Abigail put down the vegetable peeler, dropped the potato from her hand into the pot and looked up at Alice with large blank eyes. Waiving her hand in front of her mother's face Alice wondered if she even recognized her, it was as if her mother wasn't even there. Alice moved back to the table, placing the lamp in the middle she turned up the flame. She then went to the sink and got a glass of water that she also placed on the table.

Slowly walking back towards the pantry she asked “Mommy, why don't we put the potatoes in the sink then you can sit at the table and rest for a while? Daddy should be home any minute then he can take care of you. You've had such a rough day.” with a disposition of someone much older.

Alice cautiously stretches out her hand to her mother and reaching with the other pulls the pot out of the pantry and slides it closer to the sink with her foot. Abigail still looking at Alice with large blank eyes gingerly takes her hand and stands. Alice slowly walks her over to the table, pulling out a chair for her to rest on, then goes back to the pantry. She cleans up the mess on the floor, placing everything in the sink. 

Alice moves back to the table and lights a second lamp, then as she placed her hand on her mother's shoulder said “Wait right here, I'll be right back.”

Alice picks up the lamp and the box of matches and walks slowly into the living room so she doesn't drop the globe of the lamp. She carefully slides the lamp onto the mantle, then slowly as she makes her way around the room she lights all of the other lamps giving the room a warm comforting glow. As the storm rages on the lightening steals the warmth from the room with each strike, plunging it into frigid white light. 

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