Sari took the stage as a hush fell over the crowd. She smiled to herself. It was the year of Midas. The year that would bring famine to the land, terror to the people’s hearts. No, not the year of the king of long ago but close enough. Her gold dusted skin brought ohhs and ahhs from the crowd just as her king knew it would. For who could afford such luxury, such elegance in the face of a year gone horribly wrong?
She saw a woman beg for water in the crowd as she neared a fountain, only to be brought up short from guards. Glancing to her left, she watched him take the stage. His skin was dyed as velvet white as the moon. The crowd murmured amongst themselves and threw offerings at his feet. Her smile grew wider. They really were daft. He calmed their excitement with a raise of his hands and Sari crossed her legs over one another, her copper clothing a second “skin” to her body.
“I am pleased that you are all here,” he said.
A skeletal-looking man hollered out what most in the crowd wanted to know.
“When do we get our families back?”
“How about more food? Water?” a woman in vagrant clothing asked.
He held his hands out to still their outpouring of rage. “Soon, my friends. Soon. But you must pay a price first.”
“Haven’t we paid enough?” a teenage girl, no more than Sari’s seventeen, cried.
“People, people. It was not I who exiled your families. Drove you from your homes. Barred you from water and food. Caused crime to breed along with filth and destruction.”
“All I know,” a tall, gaunt-looking man called, “is I used to have a life. A wife. Kids. A ranch house and a four-wheel-drive pickup.” He looked down at his hands as if he could find the answers there. “Now everything’s gone. There’s nothing here to work for, to hope for.”
There were nods and more murmurings among the crowd.
Again, he raised his hands. “As your President, I’ve told you time and again we will fix this.”
“How?” the bag lady screamed.
The President motioned for his bodyguards to take her aside. “Now then. Have you your offerings? File in a straight line and bring them here.”
Sari stood as the president put out a hand to her. He pulled her close, kissing her cheek as though he hadn’t seen her only moments ago.
“They’re getting a bit more cheekier, aren’t they?” she said.
“Soon, they will be begging for us to take their lives.” Sari surveyed the crowd. Her teeth gleamed in the moonlight. “It will not be a problem for me.”
He laughed. “Nor me, my sweet.” His nostrils flaring, he breathed deep. “Ah, can you smell that? The fear? The desperation? The willingness to bring back the dead?”
She quirked an eyebrow. “And if they ever do find out their families are dust?”
“They are a broken nation, just as we wished. Al-Lucent is now free to reign over it.” He clenched her hand. “We will teach them to fear much in the days ahead.”
“You are greater than Stalin. Hitler. Anyone else from history, Mr. President,” Sari said.
“Flattery will get you everywhere, my dear.”
She sighed. “I’ve already been everywhere.”
“What is it then that you want?” he said.
Smiling, she curled her index finger at a couple of guards who approached with the rags and filth woman. “Do you have a name?” Sari asked her.
Sari smiled and ran a finger down the woman’s face to her neckline. “Well, Deloras. Tonight we celebrate a new era. We have fasted long enough.”
The woman nodded. “A bite to eat, that would be heavenly.”
Sari asked for a washcloth and wiped the woman’s face and neck clean with soap and water. When she was finished, she patted Deloras’ head. “The life of the blood, the life of the body,” Sari said in a gentle tone.
The woman flinched at what she saw in Sari’s face. “Wh-at are you?”
Sari waved a hand. “The sun. The moon and stars.” Her smile widened. “Your people’s grave dust.”
Deloras tried to back but the guard’s held her fast. Sari opened up the woman’s jugular vein with one swipe of her fingernail and bent to feed. The crowd fell back from the stage with screams and sobbing. When Sari finished, she motioned for the guards to take the bones away. Wiping a drop of blood from her mouth the president savored it on his lips. “Aw, my little vixen. So untamed. So monstrous.”
She laughed. “It is the year of Midas, dear, as you said yourself.” Turning to the crowd who pulled back in terror, she said, “Anyone here who wishes to be reunited with your family, step forward.”
“What do we have to do?” the teenage girl asked.
Sari smiled. “Why nothing much. Just open your mouth to a kiss.”
Beside her, the President laughed.
Copyright 2010, July 9, tlc.