It was three in the morning and my eyes were so full of blood that it took a moment to register that the taxi I called for had just pulled up in front of me. I collapsed into the back seat and told the driver to take me to the Weston Estate on the south end of town. He complied and soon we were rocketing between the early morning traffic making our way down to where the river cut the city in half like a scalpel. We crossed the old one lane bridge and soon the dark Southern Forest swallowed up any remnants leftover from the city and my mind began to relax a little. This was my country we were in now. We had about an hour to go before reaching the Estate and I should have used this time to catch up on some sleep but I knew sleep would not come easy this night as it hadn't come for me the last several nights. I was too close, had come too far, the endgame would soon begin and by this time tomorrow the answer to the question that has plagued me for years would be mine. For better or for worse.

Everything has been leading up to this moment.

Only, that moment never arrived...yet. The driver, instead of taking the correct route for the estate, turned on a different country road, much to my surprise. I asked the driver what was going on, but he just gave a nervous response, as if he were hiding something. As the rode disappeared, I began to get really frightened. I felt like opening up the door and jumping out, but that was to no avail, as I had always been a coward. So, in the end, I sat in the back of a "taxi" with a stranger I had never had the pleasure of meeting, on a road that I had never traveled, going to some destination I had never heard of. I dared not fall asleep. Finally, after what seemed like ages, we turned into a hidden driveway, clearing a path through a small wood. I asked many questions of the driver, but he never responded. I thought about phoning the police, but then I remembered that I had left my cell phone at my house. I thought that even if I didn't turn up, the other people that would arrive at the manner would notice my disappearance and notify someone of some importance.

A wooden cabin emerged into my view, almost invisible to a random wanderer of the wood, though I have no idea who would wander that dreadful place. It was close pressed up to three trees, the trees collapsed around it. The entrance was basically a clearing in the collapsed branches. The driver opened the cab door, and pressed a sharp knife to my throat, and I felt a drop of ruby-red blood run down my throat. He told me to obey, and my blood would not be spilled. Not yet, anyways. He gagged me, and led me into the cabin. To my demise, I saw them on the wall...

They were human once. Little could be said of them now. As servants to the late Madame, they gave their blood in Her name and now had little to show for it except for scarred, hallow bodies. It was a mystery to me how they could function with no internal machines, but I was forbidden to question HER art. We all were.

In the interior of that ramshackle hut, the remnants of Her previous client remained. Shoveling the scraps in to a ziploc was Her lover, coated in blood like dew dropped roses.

At the sight of him, I could feel a tension in my stomach, then my throat, then a foul taste in my mouth. Stuffing the scraps in the pocket of his once white polo shirt, he turned toward me.

''Allo, Johnny," he said with his fairy voice "you've certainly made a mess of things?"

The Madame had begun her "painting" on him and had already removed all the testosterone from his body. In a few weeks he would be just like those miserable things pinned to the outside wall.

"You," I said "I should have known."

"Me. Heheheheheheh." He continued to laugh like that until he broke into a coughing fit and spit blood on the floor.

"Looking good." I said. "You know what she's doing to you will eventually kill you?"

He circled slowly around the chair I was tied to. "Perhaps, but until then I will have discovered the greatest secret imaginable and will have my own power to halt the wicked hand of death."

"God you talk like a ."

He slapped me hard enough to draw blood from my mouth. "Stupid ! I never knew what she saw in you. She gave you power men only dream of and you threw it back in her face. And now, I suppose, you were on your way to kill her."

No use lying now. "That was the plan."

"Yes, well, the best laid plans etc. et.c etc. The ritual will commence at the estate tonight and you will be dead." He produced a curved ornamented knife from his belt.. "Do you have any last words?"

"Yes." I said. "Sicterius delou!"

His hands burst into flames causing him to drop the knife. The fire quickly raged up his arms soon engulfing his entire body. His eyes exploded with an audible POP and milky fluid shot out in twin geysers. His body fell to the ground and emitted a sickening gurgle of sound no human ear was ever meant to hear. He was trying to cast but his fried vocal chords prevented from him enunciating the words properly. He died.

I said a quick word and the ropes dropped from my hands. I spit once on the corpse and exited the now burning cabin.

With that detour behind me, I walked back to the taxi, I wondered what other kinds of sorcery and violence would pop up in my life. Soon, the small, haunted wood was left behind, and I was all alone on a road that wasn't there. The taxi cab was in bad condition, seeing as it had to clear through branch and brush on the way to the cabin. Then, my worst fear in my imagination became reality; I felt the back of the cab rise, and the front of the cab slouch. I slammed my fist into the dashboard, and jumped out of the front seat to inspect the damage. Good, I thought. Out in the cold, darkness all around me, and an evil woman trying to kill me. The damage was irreversible. No spare tire was to be found, and even if it could have been found, there was no jack or the light needed to change the tire. Thus forth, I began the journey back to the interstate, where I could hopefully hitchhike or have some sense of direction as to where I needed to go.

My legs were stumbling and tripping over each other after thirty minutes. Funny. I didn't remember the cab ride taking more than ten minutes. My heart felt as if it were straining to burst, and my brow was thick with sweat. Also funny. It was a cold, cold night up in the north part of the country. But my will was greater than my strength, and I continued on. Well, until the blizzard at least. The dark sky darkened, I noticed. The slim crescent moon was blocked out by clouds. I wondered if this pain that I was going through was some sort of Her work. Then the snow fell. Then more snow fell. Next the wind. After all of this, I found myself in knee deep snow. This time, instead of continuing through the pain, I lay down in the snow, and soon my mind went blank.