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by Angela Slatter

In this kingdom, even beggars can become something better.

It is a promise that has led us all to this long line of supplicants, waiting for a hot meal and the opportunity to be chosen. I stand among the stinking hordes, darkly-hooded, hunched, ignored.

A small man walks the line, making a selection. He reaches me; I straighten, pull the hood back a little; my eyes remain shadowed. He picks up the glimmer of skin, full lips, a finely-boned face.

‘You. Follow.’

And I do, passing those envious unchosen, through bronze doors, into the great hall, empty as a skeleton’s ribcage but for the triple throne. The little man leads me to a small dark door. He ushers me through, does not follow. The door closes with the scratching of a key in the lock, and I am alone in a dimly lit room; alone with the Three.

‘Beggar-maid. Now is your chance to become part of us, something new,’ whispers the male. He is well-made, but his skin is puffy. The women are pale, frayed. Obeying the lore, they have not ventured into the sun for a long time. This is no harem; they control him, this whole spectacle was their idea.

Trying to infect themselves with gluttonous feasting on cattle-blooded peasants; committing pointless murders when the only thing that will make them like me is a bloodline, is evolution. It was false piety, foolish games – they didn’t think the Blood Mother would rise. But their prayers woke me and rise I did, painfully, unwillingly. I came.

‘No,’ I say. ‘But it’s your chance to become something other.’

My cloak falls back and my wings shake loose. The Three see the full glory of my face, luminous as the moon and framed by black hair, with white-as-snow fangs, red-as-blood lips. The face painted on temple walls; they’ve seen it so often they’ve forgotten to fear.

‘Stolen blood will not lengthen your lives.’ My shadow grows, engulfs them.

Their blood is flat, diluted. But it is enough after my centuries of sleep.

The little man enters, later; he heard too many screams. He eyes the finely-dressed husks. He is pragmatic, clever, sees an advantage for himself.

‘There will be but one ruler here,’ I tell him.

He nods. ‘Yes, my Queen.’

‘Then bring them to me and choose carefully.’


I like the reversal of expectations. At first I thought it would be like that story about the people waiting for generations in a long line. Finally the protagonist gets to the checkpoint and goes through and there is absolutely nothing to do or see. So he gets back in the line. But this was a completely different story. I ended up wondering what was going to happen. Is the nonhuman Queen killable? Will she take so many victims that people want to try? Maybe this story could become a longer piece someday

Posted by: David | January 19, 2009 2:26 PM

Cool one, Angela. I love the angle this brings to vampire lore. The lust for immortality and the futility really comes through.

Posted by: Daniel | January 20, 2009 3:19 AM

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