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Close Contriver of all Harms

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Sit. Drink. Picture this.

She comes to you on the street. Says she knows your future. There’s something at her feet, but it’s not important. A should-be-normal suitcase, just a little too sharp and shiny to be comfortable. She flicks it open and death spills out. This is your fate, or your father’s or your lover’s . . . Never hers.

Pay her, and maybe death will pass you by tonight.

She’s very convincing.

They call her a goddess. This isn’t a word you spend easily. No wax and chocolate candy coin you’ve tossed, melting, onto the lap of the next woman you want to fuck. I worship you is not that kind of a cliche, even if it sounds the same. Yes there’s a chorus mouths that itch for the voluptuous red core of her, and oh how she knows it. But when they sing her praises they mean more than that.

Divinity. Witchcraft. She sees the hidden and raises the dead— and puts them back to bed as well, all snug in their graves with a grimy white winding sheet and a mother’s kiss burning hot on their forehead.

Fortune-teller. Truth-spinner. Sets you on the path.

But here’s the thing: the card-sharp’s trick of it.

The world might not know all the work that goes into her, but I do. I’m the one who has to manage it all.

She opens a suitcase, and death spills out. Who dug up that unmarked grave dirt with nothing but his bare hands? Who lives that aftermath? A war is an ugly thing; even when it’s locked up in one room, blood gets everywhere. I’m the one who roots it back out of the earth. I stick stinking, soft clods into boxes for her, garnished with a threat.

See, I’m not angry because I’m innocent. Just because I’ve been used.

I steal trinkets too. Precious memories the living planned to bury with the dearly departed. Not much to brag about. It's an easy job, and no one guards the doors at a morgue. I wrap corpse-trimming up like presents, and she hands gifts to mourners with a feral smile.

The goriest prizes she keeps for herself. She’s a carrion-crow, mother of her beautiful brood and well able to provide for herself when she wants to.

She didn’t ask me to steal the child, to touch that pre-bloated flesh. Small favors. But she’s laughed to make me look that babe in the face. She saw me realize that whatever we're doing, it’s gone far beyond fleecing a few fools who believe in the afterlife. The lady dropped her mask then. I saw her for the cold-hearted creature under all that extravagant padding.

I think she enjoyed it . . . watching that chill take me. Both of us learning for sure and certain that nothing I could see, nothing she could do, would matter. She had already poured her poison down my throat, and I knew that I would follow her to hell.

Then again, who in all the wide world wouldn't?

You sat. You drank.

Your turn.