Sara’s last memory, her last thoughts, were those of terror and fear; a chalk-white demon swimming within the shadows of the night had hunted her, stalked her like a wounded deer. He had even played with her, as if her life was so measly a thing that he could make light of it.
And then he had killed her, tearing into her chest with his shark-like mouth, singing some old song she had heard played on the radio every Halloween. She had been powerless, completely and utterly unable to do anything to prevent it. Just as she was now, as she somehow found herself standing over her own body, her chest looking like raw hamburger, her skin grey and cold as the stone beneath it. Her murderer, as inhuman as she remembered, turned to look up from his position on one knee over her body, a slow smile creeping across his features.
“Why?” She asked, not entirely sure what to say. Her hands were at her side, but she could feel the cold wind blowing into her open wound, somehow bloodless and stiff. It confused her, as there was no way she could be alive. But on some level she knew she wasn’t.
“Why?” He repeated, mouthing the words slowly as if he had never heard them before. “Why my dear girl, why not? I heard you as I was on my way home, singing with such a sweet voice, and knew that I had to add you to my choir.”
“Choir?” She asked, still too shaken from the surreal experience to even question the crowd of girls standing around them, all sporting similar wounds across their abdomens and legs, their dead eyes and featureless faces not doing much to ease her nerves.
“Why yes, my choir!” He cried, high and loud, waving at the surrounding girls as if they were explanation enough. “I gather those with talent and make certain their talent need not go to waste due to the ravages of age, or sickness. I preserve their greatness, and entertain those walking this great masterpiece we call Earth for all eternity.”
“Masterpiece of Earth? What kind of nut are you! You freak, why in the Hell did you do this!” Sara cried, the shock of it all sinking in finally.
“I know my dear, the transition can be somewhat difficult, but it really is for the best. It would be a crime to allow your dulcet chords go the wayside in the next few years due to something as silly as hormones. Now you can forever sing, sing like my own personal songbird!” He crowed, standing to his full height, practically skipping with joy at the thought. “Girls, be dearies and take my newest instrument home for me, I still have work to do before the concert!”
Sara couldn’t even protest at such a command as her world seemed to melt around her, the darkness of the night giving way to something far more enveloping, a soul-wrenching void that she could barely even begin to contemplate before she found herself thrust from it just as suddenly. She now stood in a well-lit ballroom that, perhaps years ago, was made to entertain a crowd of hundreds. Now it was old and worn, vast stretches of masonry cracked, paint peeling in wide stripes. A large stage sat against the far wall, near a pair of double doors, while the rest of the room was filled with old wooden tables, covered in worn silken tablecloths.
Two girls, a small Asian child and an older teen with glassy eyes and a gaping throat wound stood close by, motionless. The Asian girl bounded over to her, skipping as she went a wide smile on her face.
“You just be the new performer! Are you excited?” She asked, her blood soaked shirt and large torn streaks marring her face a tad unnerving to look upon.
“Perform? Why the hell should I perform anything for that monster!”
“He’s saved you! Saved you from age and disease, from losing what talents you have! The Maestro has been saving us all for the past three hundred years!” The little girl stomped, her brow furrowed in what would be a cute fashion had her side not been sliced open.
“Don’t mind Mimi, she’s still fresh, like you.” Interrupted the taller girl, seeming to merely appear next to her rather than walk. “After a few years, as your blood thins out, you’ll calm down like the rest of us.”
The girl’s flat, featureless tone was almost a breath of fresh air when compared to the demented cries of the smaller girl, who was now merely pouting at Sara angrily.
“Angela, she needs to understand what we’re here for!” Mimi said with a low whine.
Angela waved away her concern with a small smile. “I’ll show her Mimi, we don’t need you throwing a tantrum right now. We just got all of the tables set, and we’ll need the room to appear at its best if we want Maestro to be pleased with us.”
That seemed to cheer the tiny specter up significantly, allowing Sara to breathe a sigh of relief. Mimi gave one final glare to Sara (which was only met with a bewildered blink) before vanishing without as much as a puff of smoke. “Don’t mind her; she seems to be in love with Maestro… it can happen to you, if you convince yourself that all of this was your choice.” Angela deadpanned.
“We’re ghosts, as I’m sure you’ve realized by now.” Angela continued, turning to begin sorting sets of polished silver tableware about the room, plates and knives and forks floating about her head as they slowly drifted to the numerous tables, getting set into proper position. “We are bound to the Unseelie that killed us, so long as our blood flows through his veins. It takes an average of ten to fifteen years for one of us to fade away to nothingness, less if our beloved Maestro sustains some substantial injuries. It takes blood to heal one of them you know.”
“How can you be so calm about all of this?” Sara asked, eyes glued to the floating steak knife, drifting lazily in the air as Angela decided where it was needed.
“I’ve been bound to Maestro for about six years, give or take. My blood is thinning within him, growing more and more diluted as he takes more in. This is allowing my spirit to slowly ease away from this limbo into the great beyond that awaits us all.” Angela explained matter-of-factly, flipping the knife through the air and sending it through the double doors with a sudden flourish. “We’re bound to him, cursed to roam the world as unnatural spirits until he either is slain, or our blood is used up within him. Until then we serve him without question.”
“Why?” Sara asked, walking slowly around one of the finished tables, eyes looking anywhere but at the dead woman before her.
“Because we have no choice. Any wish he has, no matter how perverse, we must follow through with it. For example, I helped shatter the lights tonight as he was moving in for the kill.” Angela said with a careless shrug.
“You helped him kill me?” Sara asked, not knowing how to feel at that thought.
Angela shrugged once more truly disinterested in the conversation. “I and a few others, the older ones. We have far better control than a fresh one like you, so we get the joy of helping him hunt.”
“So… we’re ghosts then,” Sara asked, waving her hand through a close by table for emphasis.
“The best term is poltergeist, as we can still manipulate the material world if given the proper motivation, but for now, yes. You’re a ghost, a vassal to a greater unnatural creature that requires the flesh and blood of the still living to power his very existence.” She answered her flat tone and bored expression etched across her comely features. “Maestro is virtually at the top of the food chain in the supernatural world, what most people would call a vampire; he hunts the living, creates servants and thralls from those willing to be bent to his will, and enslaves those he has slain in grotesque ways to provide him entertainment.”
“Entertainment? Mimi said the same thing a moment ago, what are we going to do, strip for him and his pervy little friends?” Sara asked, a bit of trepidation seeping into her voice.
“Nothing so simple actually. Maestro is called such because he exclusively hunts and feeds on performers.” Angela said, snapping her fingers to whip back a drawn set of curtains, allowing a flood of moonlight to shine into the room. “Unlike us, he truly is what he eats.”
“What? Why can’t you say anything that makes sense?” Sara asked, jumping back as a trio of mops swished past her, cleaning the floor without any visible direction.
“We’re merely echoes of what we once were, memories given form by the lingering fluids once taken from our physical selves. As those fluids thin out, they’re mixed with the fluids of others, altering us until we are merely a shadow of several different people; their skills, their memories, their personalities… all one rough amalgamation crammed into spectral form.” Angela sighed, shoulders slumping at the very idea. “That’s why the older we are, the more… detached we feel. We can feel our minds being eroded away by foreign thoughts and desires, hopes and dreams. I can’t even remember where I was born, let alone where and how I died. All I really know is what the Maestro allows me to.”