Lila Lovely strolled into Ellistown at 7:00 p.m. on a dismal Friday night. By the time she left Sunday morning 10 people were annihilated, the church razed and the jail burned.
Her first stop was Wagner’s Bar & Grill. Narrowed eyes and a fake grin hid her thoughts as she stepped from the dark street into the darker bar.
Pretending to sip her drink, Lila watched the patrons reflected in the mirror behind the bar. A satisfied smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as The Reverend Thomas Greenway approached. This might be easier than she thought.
Reverend Greenway put his hand on the bar. Lila touched it with her little finger. Startled he looked at her. “My Daddy wants to meet you,” she said.
She shuddered in pleasure as he looked down, horrified to see a black spot crawling from under her finger and spreading across his hand. In a panic Greenway rushed outside.
As Lila finished her drink the squeal of truck tires from the street emptied the bar. She smiled at her reflection in the bar mirror. “Hellloooo Daddy,” she said; then licked the finger that had touched Greenway. She sucked in her breath. Time for a little more hunting.
Three laps around it counter-clockwise – and one clockwise – deactivated The Reverend Greenway’s wards on the church. Lila gazed eagerly up at the bell tower. Later someone would remember seeing nothing more than a sliver of blackness slithering up its smooth, white sides.
Word had reached the congregation. Greenway’s followers – all 35 of them – moaned and wailed. Lila swayed in ecstasy from her perch in the rafters. The tip of her tongue touched her upper lip as Daddy’s next appointment stepped forward.
“My husband,” Amalia Greenway raised her hands for silence. “My husband was a good man!” Lila’s lips curled in a dead smile. She so loved liars. They had a spice all their own, like a light dusting of cinnamon on an eggnog latte.
The wailing mourners weren’t aware of Lila until she stood next to Amalia. “Your husband,” she breathed into the woman’s ear, “tasted gooooood.”
She breathed on Amalia again. “You taste good too.” A black spot, where Lila’s breath touched her, expanded down from, and into, the woman’s ear. The church doors blasted open. Lila snarled and leapt.
Behind her Amalia screamed, but Lila ignored the now convulsing woman. Her leap took her past the startled Chief of Police and out into the darkness. Hiding behind a headstone in the churchyard cemetery she licked the taste of her brief closeness with Amalia off her upper lip and shivered in glee.
Lila walked casually into the police station and up to the front desk. The clerk – a large and unhappy looking man – blinked at her, his eyes never wavering from her face. She liked that as so few people could do it. “My wallet was stolen.” She leaned across the desk to touch him. He slowly withdrew his unmarked hand.
Sgt. Connors was enamored with her. Lila knew the look. “Can you help me?” Her smile had genuine kindness in it. After all, he wasn’t the appointment her Daddy wanted kept.
The Chief’s heavy tread stopped just behind her. She didn’t look around. He wouldn’t recognize her in this form. Sgt. Connors shifted behind his desk. “Young lady’s had her wallet lifted, Chief. Down at Wagner’s, during the ruckus.”
“In my office.” The man grunted and motioned her to follow.
The Chief of Police looked across his desk at her. She noticed how impeccably pressed his clothing was, and relished how it would look when she was done with him. “So, little lady, your wallet was stolen.” She smiled her best false smile and leaned forward, hand outstretched.
The Chief’s breath was hard, and labored, as if he’d run a marathon. His black spot was internal, he wouldn’t really know about it for hours; until the pain and the rot took him from within. But he shouldn’t have tried to touch Lila; that was her job.
Lila tilted her head, first left, then right, a mock concern on her face. “Maybe you should see a doctor, or a nurse. You don’t look well.”
“I…what happened here?” He asked.
She smiled that dark smile again. “Nothing that shouldn’t have, don’t you agree? There’s nothing to tell anyone, is there?”
He nodded his head, agreeing, but not wanting to. Before she left his office the man choked out a question. “Where, where do you come from?”
She didn’t smile this time. “I’m here for the little girl in the blue dress.”
He frowned, pressing his hand to his stomach as if he had bad heartburn. “But…she’s dead,” he said.
Her smile was a slit promising horrors to come. “I know.” And she left him.
Someone in the police station lobby was whispering, “That Reverend’s wife…they’re saying she just lit up, like a firecracker!”
Sgt. Connors turned to see Lila standing at the desk. “Sorry, uh, there’s a fire at the end of town. I, I thought the Chief was talking to you.”
Her smile touched her eyes this time. “He’s done.”
Talk of the church fire was making its rounds at the hotel lobby. It would have to come down. Five people dead. Lila ignored it as she paid for her room and got her key. She was tired and needed to sleep; Saturday was going to be a big day.
She looked down at the street from her hotel room window. At the edge of town tarry smoke curled in black ribbons from the dead church. Four there plus the Reverend. Her tongue ran delicately along the inside of her upper lip and her eyes drooped half closed. She’d had only a lick of them as she’d leapt out of the place. The untouched had survived, as well they should. Behind a car a flash of blue disappeared.
She would sleep now.
In the morning it was easy to slide past the officials examining the church. Very little of the structure was actually burned. After all, it was a holy place, even if the people in it hadn’t been. Every time a policeman or fireman turned to catch what the movement was he’d seen in the corner of her eye, Lila slid away. She didn’t like avoiding Sgt. Connors. But he was an innocent.
A quick sniff of the black globules on the floor told her where the people had been standing. She breathed deeply. There was just enough left of them hidden under the ooze to alleviate, a little, her hunger.
“What are you doing here?” She stood to face Connors, tilted her head and gave a smile that touched her eyes.
“Curiosity?” She said.
She hated coffee; it did nothing for her hunger. But the diner was nice and Connors was sweet so she sipped it as if she enjoyed it, for his sake.
“Seriously,” Connors frowned at her, “why were you at the church?”
“I was looking for someone.” This time he tilted his head.
“On your hands and knees?”
She stopped her half-hearted sip of the coffee and gave a vague shrug.
“They’re all dead,” he said and then gazed out the window. Softy, “leastwise, the ones that should be.”
Lila walked through town. A pleasant place, but not very ripe. Four people melted at the church, the Reverend hit by a car, the Chief with internal problems. She needed four more for, dare she giggle at her own joke, par. She could smell them. They were here. But in what corner of “here” had they found refuge? And why did Connors think the people in the church deserved to die?
A flash of blue caught her eye. She tracked it down the street as it wove through the pedestrians and vaporized in front of a hair salon. There! A faint whiff; it was all she needed. Her eyes fixed on the salon as she ran her hands through her already short hair. Time for a trim and feed.
Lila surveyed her hair. Best haircut she’d had in eons. Home could use a stylist like this. The woman looked down her nose at her. She didn’t like a Mohawk on a female and her expression showed it. The expression changed when Lila handed her three times the price of the cut and said, “Keep the change.” The hairdresser shook her hand.
As Daddy says, “duty before pleasure”. Lila left the salon still hungry. Only three left now. But where? She breathed deeply. The school? On Sunday? Noticeable Mohawk or not, no one on the street saw her disappear; but someone was immediately aware of her arrival at school.
The Teacher at her desk frowned, “You’re not a student here.” That wicked non-smile again.
The Teacher blinked, she could have sworn a woman with a chilling smile was sitting in the front row of her classroom. She looked at the papers she was grading and decided to take them home. A last careful tug to a locked drawer and she left. But there was that unmistakable feeling of being prey. Lila slithered forward to the desk.
Here. Yes, here.
Oh, the files locked in the back of the drawer! Revealing, so revealing. It was evident the Teacher was soon to stalk her own prey, but Lila would get there first. A noise outside. She absorbed the files and melted into the background.
Through the halls, up the stairs, through more halls. Into the principal’s office to smell pure fear. Silence. But faintly, so far away… Back to the halls, quietly quietly. Down the stairs and halls again to the first room. Scraping, scratching, metal on metal. Two teachers at the first Teacher’s desk forcing the drawer open.
“Looking for these?” Lila whispered holding up the files she’d taken.
One of them snarled. “Who the hell are you?”
“Your mirror,” she answered.
The woman leapt at her. Lila sidestepped. Her essence flowed through the file’s paper as a piece sliced into the woman’s arm. The wound turned black and started to spread. Lila sucked in her breath in rapture.
The male teacher threw a heavy book at her. But where Lila had been, she was no more. He stepped backward into her embrace as she crooned to him, “you’re mine, all mine, all mine,” and absorbed him fully while his lover and co-conspirator watched; and died.
“One more. One more.” The words pounded through her; a primitive, pulsing force. Her diaphragm contracted and expanded with every gasping breath. There was no more fear to smell! No evil to taste! She howled in frustration. The papers fluttered on the floor as a flash of blue passed beyond the room’s door. She followed as the dead body behind her burst into flame.
This couldn’t be true. Had her instincts failed her? She looked at Sgt. Connors as he leaned across the desk to her.
“You need to leave. I don’t know what you did, but the Chief’s in a bad way. You need to go. Please.”
A low moan came from the Chief’s office.
“What about my wallet?” She asked.
Connors shook his head. “It was never stolen.”
Now a scream from behind the office door.
She pushed into the room. The Chief writhed on the floor. Blackness slithered out his mouth, eyes and ears to the cowering man in the corner with a stethoscope. Her instincts were right. The last one WAS here. A full meal with dessert, and no time to breathe it.
Black smoke ribboned from the Chief’s mouth. The Burn had started. “Run!” She screamed. “Everyone out, NOW!”
Fire trucks circled the building. Those who should be saved were. The school fire, contained only in one room, was out. The jail would burn until consumed.
Connors looked down at her. “Who are you?”
Her smile was in her eyes. “Go,” she said as she touched his face. A soft golden spot slipped from her fingers to him. “Go. Be good.”
A child in blue skipped past.
Lila walked out of town; destruction behind her. Farther down the road he rose from the shadows surrounding a rusting Volvo by the side of the road. An impossibly tall, thin figure he held out his hand to Lila.
“You did well.” He said.
She smiled. But it was a sad smile. “I’m still hungry, Daddy.”
“I know,” he crooned to her. “Next town, I promise.” The little girl in the blue dress danced from the same shadows and dissipated into the wind.