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Black sackcloth ripples in the wind, leaving a trail of fear in its wake, the snap of the cloth on my body the only indication I have passed.

No one sees my approach.

No one expects to see me.

No one notices me until I want them to, and then it’s too late.

I fly through the night air, not touching the ground, as I can only stand on the earth to perform my duty.  Those who have reached their time to die surrender their lives to me, their souls going to my master.

The night’s chill air against the exposed bones of my body is blissful, akin to the touch of a woman.  I remember my time in life, how a woman’s touch brought sensations.  As the ragged flesh caresses the smooth bone, I can feel it again, the intimate caress of flesh on flesh.  I shiver, but from pleasure rather than cold.

Yes, I crave that sensation.

I have always been death, even when I was a living being.  That was long ago, before I came into the service of my master.

In another life, I killed without prejudice, without discrimination - an assassin.  I dedicated my life to killing for money, or in a few cases, pleasure.  Kings, queens, and nobles fell to my blade.  I relished in the flow of warm sticky blood, down my blade, and across my fingers.  I laughed as the dying breath escaped my quarry, and they realized their end had come.

I was a god.

Still, I wish to return to life, so I may feel a woman again, to experience the life draining away from my prey.  I know I can’t return to life, but I yearn for it more.

I died one night when I became a victim of deception.  A man hired me to carry out a job, but he set me up, and I didn’t realize it until too late.  As I entered a castle, a guard caught me unawares, felling me with his blade.  The look of glee on his face told me he was not what he seemed.  His eyes blazed with orange intensity, like the fires of hell itself, and his smile betrayed razor sharp teeth.  He stank of sulfur and decay, and an aura of evil surrounded him, the air around him chilled with his malice as dark laughter filled the air.

He was death.

When I reflect back to that time, I know my killer served my master much like I do now.  My master wishes to take over the world, and he needs an army of the world’s most ruthless killers to help him gain dominion.  My death served to add another to his ranks, another assassin to assist him in his plans.

My master taught me everyone gets their due.  Karma, he calls it.  He said, he who kills is destined to be killed.  Karma caught up to me on that night, when a being disguised as a guard took me down.  Despite the embarrassment of being defeated, it taught me even the mouse can defeat the cat, and I should remain vigilant.

My destination comes into view as I pass through a fog bank, a chateau nestled in the countryside of France.  The chateau looks familiar, but I visited so many chateaux in my time as an assassin they all have started to look the same.

My task is simple - to kill someone.  An assignment my master said I should handle personally.  So I passed back through time to collect this soul for him, without question.

I set down just inside the castle wall, and change my form into a castle guard.  My sackcloth reforms itself into armor, clothing, and skin.  My scythe changes into a sword, a bit large for my tastes, but guards didn’t carry the smaller blades I preferred, and my disguise must be perfect.  I take a moment to look myself over, pleased with the work I have done.

Hiding near the back gate, I find a good position to snare my quarry as he enters.  My target is a fellow assassin, but then again, my targets are always assassins.  I always enjoy a chance to meet someone in the profession, even if I have to kill them.

My prey approaches, the thrill of the kill energizing me.  I move closer, and wait.  He walks past me, and I size him up before striking.  I cannot help but feel a kinship to this man.  Bumping him on the leg with my boot, I get his attention.  His gaze turns to me and the rank smell of sweat rises, carrying with it his fear.

I bring down my blade, slicing him through the left shoulder, stopping just past his heart.  Blood flows down his chest, and I can feel his life vanishing, gushing from the wound.

I grin at my prey and laugh.  Pleasure runs through me as his blood washes over my hands, his life draining away into the ground.  I allow my pointed fangs to be seen, and my eyes burn.

I hear a dark laughter behind me, a sound I recognize.  I turn, and in a deep shadow I find the man who hired me on that fateful night.  His form changes, and reveals my master, now smiling and drinking in the irony of what he had done.

I look down and realize my prey is not just anyone.  The chateau, the very night itself is familiar, and now I know why.

My own eyes look back at me, and I watch as the life inside them goes out.


Bio: Joseph is a steam engineer trapped in a future world where the closest thing he can find to difference engines are computers. He's managed to make a living off of them, but misses the days of proper manners, dastardly villains, and stylish bowlers. He can be found in Winterville, NC, writing stories and spending time with his wife, son, and two cats.

The Clockwork Pen (my writing blog)


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