The last offering

The constant flashing of the nauseatingly pink neon flamingo was giving Jedidiah a massively pounding headache. He tried desperately to look away, searching for a dark place to rest his streaming blue eyes, but tubes of the gaseous light were everywhere, in all the colors of the rainbow, with even a few colors that were totally unnatural.

“Frink, are you sure we gotta go in there?” Jed’s voice was full of irritated anger. His friend and associate simply grunted in reply, so Jed clenched his teeth against the vile rant that threatened to emerge and followed the gargantuan man into the dark interior of the Flamingo dance hall.

The sudden swap from near-midday levels of colorful light to the muted, starlit darkness of a winter’s night caused Jed’s head to shriek in confused pain and outrage. But, since Frink didn’t even pause at the door, the small, mousy man had no choice but to rush ahead.

The monstrous bulk of the man ahead of him blocked Jed’s view of most of the interior of the hall. He assumed it would be like all the others, full of sweaty, stinking bodies in various states of gyrating frenzy, smoky haze in the air and the stench of stale alcohol wafting along on unnatural breezes of air from some hidden source.

Jed’s surprise when the bulk in front of him moved aside squeezed the excruciating pain from his head, because instead of the writhing bodies he’d expected to see, there was only one person, waiting rather impatiently on the ancient hardwood dance floor.

“Talia,” Jed heard Frink chuckle, “glad to see you’ve cleared the place out for us.”

The raven-haired woman cocked an eyebrow at the hulking man’s joviality. The ankle-length, wrist-thick braid of hair that fell from her topknot flicked sharply from side to side, seemingly with a life of its own. The delicate hands on her full hips twitched at the thinly veiled insult of Frink’s predatory smile.

“Well, Bartholomew,” the woman purred, causing Frink’s hands to clench in impotent anger, “I wouldn’t want you to look the fool in front of an audience. I’m generous that way.”

Jedidiah shrank backward, away from the boiling volcano of rage he felt bubbling up inside the larger man. No one called Frink by his given name. At least, no one that lived to tell the tale.

“Why don’t you introduce me to your friend, Bartholomew,” the petite woman smiled, daringly, at the silently spewing hulk. “I’m certain he’s someone I need to know.”

Without waiting for Fink to introduce them, Talia approached Jed, completely ignoring the danger of passing within arm’s length of the raging Frink. Her delicate hand, with elegantly long, scarlet painted fingernails, stretched toward Jed’s trembling arm.

“Jedidiah.” His name fell from her full, crimson lips before he could utter a word. The touch of her fingers on his arm sent millions of tiny electrical pulses racing throughout his body. Jed felt the static build and multiply, sending crashing bolts of lightning through his entire being.

Frink moved so fast that Jed had no time to warn the beautiful woman. But she needed no words from him, as the meaty fist that tried to wrap itself around her swan neck grasped nothing but coldly rushing air.

Jedidiah stared, his blue eyes stinging from the freeze of her sudden absence, at the space Talia had only just vacated, Frink’s presence looming beside him. The huge man, enraged beyond humanity, stalked toward the corner of the dance floor, where Jed could just make out the shape of the comely woman, standing calmly, waiting for the giant to reach her.

“Did you think to bring me another offering to postpone your own demise? Poor, sad Bartholomew. Perhaps your ploy would have worked, one more time, if only you’d brought someone else,” Talia’s voice echoed in the deserted dance hall. “But Jedidiah, he’s special. Could you not feel it when you chose him? I felt his soul when you entered the boundaries of my demesne. He will be mine, but not as your replacement.”

The woman’s words bounced off of the massive man, swirling and dancing their way to Jedidiah. The small man had no idea what they meant, other than that he was Talia’s, now. And that, he didn’t mind.

Wrapped in the silky, mesmerizing words, Jed watched, enthralled, as Bartholomew Frink fell to his knees, his blood spurting in choreographed arcs of crimson. The cruel, sharpened steel hooks he could now see in Talia’s braid, glimmered in the pale light of the cavernous room as it twirled and whirled around the prone body of Jed’s once-friend.

Talia stalked toward Jed, her braid quiet and dripping, her eyes sparking with lightning. “Jedidiah, at long last. Come, we have much to discuss.”

The binding words slipped from Jed’s body and he followed the dark goddess from the room. He paused only once, to gaze, unfazed, at the empty husk of Bartholomew Frink.


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