by Hope Evey
She stands in the top chamber. It’s too open to call it a room. The decorative swirls that give the minaret shape define the space. From a distance, it’s beautiful. Closer, horror creeps over you. No one element stands out as wrong, but the sense of wrongness builds. Beautiful, yes; and as unnatural as the woman standing in its summit.
“I hear you behind me. You know the cost of my turning.”
“All who see your face, Lady, die. It’s a risk worth taking.”
“I wear no veil. Should I but turn, your life is forfeit.”
“Are you so sure? What if my knife strikes before you turn? There are no guards to stop me. They say you are old. Perhaps you are slow… and necromancy does not touch the quick.”
He froze there, knife raised, unable to draw back or to strike.
“You began dying the day you were born. And I rule all that is dead. But I am surprised at how fully I can control you. I wonder…” her voice trailed off as the would-be assassin’s eyes went wild. Her mouth twitched at the corners as he fell to the floor gasping. “Be glad I only stopped your breath. Fill your lungs, child.” She paused, but drew no breath. “Does the wind carry the scent of flowers tonight?”
“What does it matter!?” he spat at her, gasping for breath as he rose.
The sound had to be a laugh. It couldn’t be anything else. Her dry cackle would curdle milk in the breast.
“That is why I can control you.” She turned then, faster than anything should move. In a blink she stood lover-close to him. “I cannot smell the breeze, nor even feel it. I gave that up for power.”
“You gave it up for vengeance. But neither of us can smell the flowers.”
He ran, then. Even after he shot past the edge of the floor, he still ran, racing to shatter his empty shell.