Laura had been missing for six weeks when the private detective brought her father a thumb drive with footage of her uncovered from the internet. Footage from an expensive porn site: a hundred-and-fifty bucks just for membership plus a ten-dollar-a-minute streaming charge. A site called fifty bucks just for membership plus a ten-dol.

“Frank, I don’t suggest you watch this,” the detective said, sliding the small, black and deceptively innocuous looking device across the desk. “It’s graphic.”

“I’ll take your advice under consideration,” Frank said, secreting the drive into his jacket’s inside pocket.

Afterwards, trembling and sick to his stomach, Frank wished he had taken the detective’s advice and not watched the video; though in his heart, he knew there was no way he possibly could have. He’d had to watch it. Had to see what horrors his little girl was involved in. His little princess. How could he have not watched?

It began with a shaky, hand-held-camera shot revealing three girls dancing in the flashing bursts of a strobe light, surrounded by animal skulls and carved pumpkins filled with candles, the walls and floor covered with sheets of black plastic. His little girl was in the middle, jet-black hair shimmering in the pulsing light, eyes made-up into sharp slashes of ebony, swaying to the music. The girl on her left was a platinum blonde, the one on the right a redhead. All three were dressed in lingerie. His little angel, his little princess, in fishnet stockings held up against her pale thighs by a garter belt, gyrating and kissing the other girls as the naked man with the long blonde hair approached her with a straight razor.

Frank had forced himself to keep watching as the man cut the lingerie from his daughter, slicing slowly through the bra straps and sawing into the garter belts, bits of lace and cloth falling away to reveal her naked body as the music droned on: some early-eighties, pop-Goth band—The Cure—blaring in the background with a pounding of drums and a dark cacophony of guitar and synth noise.

Gently, the man slid the razor over Laura’s collar bone and she threw back her head with an ecstatic moan as a small trickle of blood began to flow down her chest and over her breasts. The other girls were quick to find it and lapped at it with their tongues. Then the tall blonde man began to cut the other girls, too, the many tiny rivulets of blood now creating a flood, a dark-red river which lacquered all their bodies as they began to stroke each other.

And when the blonde man on the screen finally turned the razor to himself, slicing open his chest, the girls fell upon him, entwining themselves body and mouth, gorging on his blood, a thousand jack-a-lanterns grinning dementedly in the background.

Now, still shaky from what he has seen, Frank thumbs through a stack of photographs of his daughter when she was just a little girl. Birthdays, Christmas, camping trips. She was still Daddy’s little princess, always would be. She was only seventeen, just two weeks short of her eighteenth birthday. Just a little girl in so many ways with her Katy Perry posters, the My Little Pony figurines she kept on her shelf.

The sounds of his wife weeping in the other room fill his mind like static from a broken radio and he begins to shake and tremor, fingers clenching the old, stained photos, angry tears slipping down his cheeks.

He would find his little girl. Find her and bring her home. And, if at all possible, kill the man who had taken her.

A life slips into the flowers . . .

He said I was beautiful.

I had never been the beautiful one, that was my best friend Alyssa. She was the beautiful, blonde cheerleader; I was the nerdy, black-haired sidekick. The one who studied and made sure we passed our tests, the one who wrote her reports for her, the one who showed her how to download all that porn, put Credence’s face on it, and spread it everywhere anonymously. Yeah, Alyssa was the pretty one. But now she’s dead. Her daddy found her cold in the bathtub, wrists slit and covered in blood. Then he went crazy and shot that poor boy Evan for no reason at all.

After the suicides, the murder, it was chaos for a while. School closed for a month-long state of mourning. I never went back. There were news crews and interviews. I had to see a shrink twice a week and talk about my feelings. But I didn’t feel like talking and stopped going after a few months. I couldn’t stand to be with my mother. She seemed to think she was psychic and would prophesize all day, shouting out weird predictions, seeing scenes and faces in soap bubbles and shadows.

I did what I always do: retreated into books, where ghosts couldn’t find me. Big, dusty, old books, as dry as possible, on ancient history or philosophy, losing myself in their musty, yellow pages. I was supposed to start taking classes at College of the Redwoods and get my GED but instead I got a job at The Booklegger, that huge used-book store down in Eureka. I don’t know if they hired me out of pity over what had happened or just to have someone young working in the store, but they never complained when they found me in a dark corner reading when I was supposed to be stocking the shelves.

It was there he found me, hunched over a philosophical tome in the far room, seemingly safe in the shadows of the towering shelves.

“Nietzsche?” he asked.

Startled, I looked up, surprised at the darkness outside the tall windows, that the sun had already set, how long had I been reading? Then I remembered the book in my lap and his question. I smiled and nodded my head. “Yeah, Nietzsche. The Science of Joy. Are you familiar with it?”

He stepped forward and it was then that I noticed his eyes, as gray and sparkling as ice. He was gorgeous, tall, with golden hair falling down across his shoulders, in a fashionable black suit, like he had stepped out of one of those European fashion magazines Alyssa had read before she offed herself. When he spoke my heart flitted like a tiny bird in my chest.

“’God is dead,’” he said with a smile. “’What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?’”

“Whoa. Guess you know it. What are you? Some kind of philosopher?”

“Well, while I certainly enjoy philosophy, I mostly consider myself an artist.”

“Yeah? What kinda artist?”

“Oh, I work in a variety of fields, oil, charcoal, clay. But mainly I work with a camera. I am a filmmaker.”

“Really? Make anything I’d of seen?”

“Most likely not. My films are very unusual, made for a particular audience.”

“What’re they about?”

“Sex. Sex and blood.” I shivered when he said that, and looked away, noticing again how dark it had gotten.

“Does that scare you?” he asked, kneeling down beside me.

“No, but it’s kind of creepy.”

“Not at all. Sex is life. Blood is life. You could call me a worshipper of life.” He inched closer, took the book from my hands, peered into my eyes. “My God, you are beautiful. What is your name?”

My ears went hot and with sweaty palms I pulled the book back from him, stood, and started stocking the shelves. “Laura,” I said, not daring to look at him. “My name is Laura.”

“Is everything all right, Laura? I didn’t mean to upset you.”

I paused, a Dostoyevsky novel poised before the shelf. “It’s just that . . . well, no one’s ever said that to me before. Called me beautiful, that is. Except my father.”

“I see. Well, my name is Lars. Perhaps we could carry this conversation on somewhere else. Next door, over coffee?”

Seriously? I thought. Just who does he think he is? Only a crazy person would go out with this strange guy with all his talk about blood and sex. I glanced over at him to tell him, “No way,” and he stood and held my gaze with those icy eyes, the Nietzsche book somehow back in his hands. He held the book out toward me, tentatively, like an offering of some sort. Trembling, I grasped the book and said, “Sure, I’d love to get some coffee.”

In an electric glare the old man cracks . . .

“The house is so quiet without her, Frank. I can’t take the quiet. Can’t take it.”

Frank was losing his mind and the ramblings of his insane wife Florence were not making matters any easier.

They were sitting at the kitchen table, Florence hunched over a cup of coffee, her sallow, skull-like face peering from the shadows of her thick, curly hair, while Frank pretended to look at his iPad but really just sat there with his eyes clenched shut, visions of his little girl covered in blood and fucking—reverse cowgirl with her back arched and mouth hanging open—running over and over in his mind.

“And I’m seeing things again, Frank. Visions in the shadows. Jack-a-lanterns, razor blades. And I’m seeing you. You, Frank! I see you in the ashes of a fire!”

Frank glanced up from his tablet, lines of irritation carved into his face. “Honey, have you taken your pills today?”

“And our sweet Laura is there on a sweating bed, sour yellow sounds. A man in the darkness. Who is this man, Frank? Tell me who the man is!” She lashed out with her hand and grasped his wrist. “Who is the fat man and why are you there?”

“Honey, you’re upsetting yourself. You have to calm down.”

“Oh, Frank, where is our baby? Where’s our baby gone?”

Frank shook his arm free, sighed deeply, and stood up. He walked behind her, gently stroked her hair as her head fell weeping into her hands. “Florence, I’m going to find her. I swear to you: I’m going to bring our baby back home.”

We all look so perfect as we all fall down . . .

Those first days he treated me like a queen and I needed that. Needed it so badly that the want of it ached in my soul like a petulant black brick. After the tragedy—that’s what they always called it: “The Tragedy”—I was so alone. I felt so ugly and compromised. My father was distant, obsessed with work. My mother was crazy. My best friend dead.

He took me shopping, bought me dresses: beautiful, black, Victorian gowns and lacy corsets, silk slips. He took me to get my hair cut and styled, just like that pin-up girl from the fifties that did all that fetish stuff—Bettie Page—with the perfect bangs, and it looked so good, like my hair was meant to be that way. He created a new me. A beautiful me. He taught me that instead of trying to cover up my pale skin with foundation, I should highlight it by using black lipstick and dark eye makeup.

People began to notice us when we walked around the streets at night, on our way to parties and raves. I was the beautiful one now. Me.

He took me to night clubs and all the heads turned to watch us strut by.

One night, under flashing strobes and neon, he sprinkled powder into our glasses of Dom Perignon, a lascivious grin upon his handsome face.

“What’s that?” I asked timidly.

“Ecstasy. The finest MDMA known to man. Manufactured by chemists that are world renowned. It’ll make the champagne taste not so sweet.” He raised his glass for a toast and fixed those gray eyes upon me. "As your beloved Nietzsche once said, 'For art to exist a certain physiological precondition is indispensable: intoxication.' Cheers.”

And did I question him about it? That he was drugging me? Did I stop to wonder about any of it? No. No! I drank it down, and we danced and I clutched him as he held me tight and we spun through the night, the lights shimmering in an electric glare and when the music played it was always that same song. That same old Cure song again and again: Pornography.

And we kissed and we got a room at the Eagle House and we grasped each other as if to save ourselves from drowning in some vast ocean. And it was beautiful and I was beautiful and I was high and rushing and peaking and when he showed me the syringe I knew I would do anything he asked me to. Anything.

In books, and films, and in life, and in heaven . . .

“Yes, I can get your daughter back for you,” the detective told Frank over the phone. “But there is something you have to understand. She is in a cult. Simply getting her back will not be enough.”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s compromised.”


“Yeah, she’s not the little girl you knew before. If you just bring her home, in all likelihood, she’ll only run away again.”

“Well, what do I do?”

“She must be deprogrammed.”


“Deprogrammed, yes. I know an expert in the field. If you are interested, I can have him meet us on Tuesday. Say, at the Red Lion Hotel in Eureka.”

“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get my little girl home.”

“One thing I should tell you, Frank: it’s not going to be cheap. You understand that, right?”

“Yes, yes. I understand.”

“Good. We’ll shoot for Tuesday then.”

An image of the queen . . .

And then he took me north to Oregon.

Portland was a strange land of wondrous flowers and weird perfumes and I wasn’t jealous of the other girls at all. Angelica and Desdemona were my sisters. “The piece that we’ve been missing!” they exclaimed over my coal-black hair when Lars brought me to his mansion and presented me to them.

“Look at it glimmer!”

“Do you dye it or is it natural?”

“It’s natural,” I said, feeling my cheeks go rosy as I playfully twisted a strand around my finger.

“Only one way to find out,” Desdemona laughed, licking her lips.

We were a family. They were my sisters and they were beautiful and in many ways I loved them just as much as I loved him. Angelica was platinum blonde, smart and cultured, choosing only the classiest restaurants and the finest wines. Desdemona was a redheaded wild child, leading the way as we bar hopped and skipped from club to club. We had a blast together, cheering each other on. They would encourage me to leap onto the bar and recite passages of Thoreau and Emerson I had memorized.

“But now I see I was not plucked for naught!” I screamed as the crowd cheered and clapped. “And after, in life’s vase of glass set while I might survive, but by a kind hand brought alive to a strange place!”

But in the end it all came back to him, for he was our sun, our fiery sphere and source of light, and around him we rotated and spun like dancing dazzled planets.

And one night, after shopping at all the most fashionable stores, having dinner at extravagant restaurants, and reveling till dawn in the hippest clubs, we went back to the mansion, where, sitting before the fire, he drew his blood up into syringes for us to shoot.

“For this is my blood, and whoever partake of it shall have eternal life,” he said, passing Desdemona a syringe.

“Oh, a black mass. How naughty!” she laughed, licking the length of the needle before she pressed it into her arm. He handed me a blood filled syringe and I slipped that sharp point into my vein and pressed the plunger down, and nirvana came crashing down over me like a titanic ocean wave of utter bliss. I tell you what, his ancient blood was the greatest rush I have ever known: my eyes drooping shut and my body falling, falling, forever falling limp against the sofa, enraptured, stoned and perfect.

And when he gently kissed my cheek and whispered in my ear that I would soon be acting in my first film I was nothing but ecstatic.

Pushing my life through your open eyes . . .

“Frank,” the detective said, gesturing to an incredibly obese man squeezed into an armchair in the corner of the motel room. “I’d like you to meet Lionel.”

He was balding, with a thick, greasy-brown mustache, and wearing a rumpled and ill-fitting maroon suit. He had trouble pushing himself up from his chair to shake Frank’s hand and the effort left him panting. His huge hand was soft, wet and cold; Frank forced himself not to grimace when he shook it.

“Lionel here is an expert in deprogramming cult members. He’s one of the top specialists in mind control and cult organizations. He’s worked with Unification Church followers, Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate members, hell, he even had a girl under the sway of the Charlie Manson Family back in the nineties when that group had a big upswing, with that character Marilyn Manson and that band Guns and Roses singing Charlie songs and all. Isn’t that right, Lionel?”

“Yes, yes. I’ve seen all types, including pornography cults like the one your daughter has gotten herself involved with,” the fat deprogrammer said, sinking back into his chair with a grunt and pulling a crumpled pack of Kools from his front pocket. “Anyone mind if I smoke?” Frank and the detective shook their heads and Lionel lit a cigarette, wheezing and coughing as he exhaled a large cloud of smoke. “Before I start explaining the deprogramming process to you I’d like to discuss the concept of brainwashing. You are familiar with the term brainwashing, right?”

“I’ve heard the expression, yes.”

“Well, brainwashing is a forced, systematic and radical change of belief that eliminates free will. Now, like I said, I’ve seen other pornography rings like this one. A guy finds these girls, puts them all up in a mansion, creates a new family unit with a strong bond, isolating the girls, giving them new names and identities. He breaks down their beliefs and they become incredibly loyal. But this one is even more extreme. They’re terribly secretive. While most of these organizations, like Burning Angel and Pornhub are constantly promoting themselves online and going to bars and conventions, hawking T-shirts and giving out DVDs, is the opposite. They rely on a fairly small but very wealthy clientele. We also believe they may be involved in some sort of witchcraft.”


“Well, it’s nothing we can pinpoint. No allegiance with the Church of Satan, no links to voodoo. But we have seen signs of the occult.”

“Like what?”

“Well, there’s the jack-a-lanterns, the bloodletting and obviously the numbers 666. We also noticed several pentagrams, as well as a few other things I’d rather not get into now. The point is, I just want you to understand that your daughter has been brainwashed. They’ve corrupted her core values, and getting them back, getting her back, is going to be a difficult process. In some respects, deprogramming can be very much like an exorcism.”

The fat man was beginning to upset Frank, who grew flustered and started rubbing his hands against his thighs agitatedly, leaning forward and breathing heavily. “An exorcism? I don’t understand, what’re you talking about?”

“We have to rid her of the ideology that she has been exposed to. It’s not unlike trying to rid someone of a demon. And she will fight our efforts as strongly as a demon might.”

The room grew silent, the only sound Lionel sucking on a cigarette. The P.I. cleared his throat and spoke. “I believe we should move on to the exiting performance now.”

Lionel retrieved another Kool from the pack in his pocket, and lit the new one off the old one’s cherry before pounding it into the ashtray. “Yes. The exiting performance.” He pulled out a handkerchief and began dabbing at the beads of sweat that had gathered on his round face, wiping at the glistening rolls of fat under his chin and around his neck. “Well, in this instance the law is on our side, in that she is still a minor and won’t be eighteen for a few more weeks. This is the perfect window for the exiting performance. There is still a bit of a legal gray area, though, being as there will be breaking and entering, trespassing, and an abduction. Also, things could get rough.”

“Rough?” Frank said. “What do you mean by rough?”

“That depends on how hard she fights the exiting performance. And if others become involved. But don’t worry, I have men who are very skilled in this type of thing. Experts in abduction.”

“Experts in abduction?” Frank looked from the detective to Lionel and quickly back to the detective again. “Just what does that mean? Who will we be dealing with here?”

The detective put a hand on Frank’s thigh, gave it a friendly pat. “Now listen, Frank, if you want your daughter back, and I mean, really want your daughter back, you have to ask yourself, ‘How far am I willing to go?’ Groups like this can be horrible. Remember Jim Jones? You wouldn’t want her dead from cyanide Kool Aid like those poor folks in Guinea. Would you?”

“No. No, of course not. I’m just trying to wrap my head around what’s going on here.”

“That’s why we’re here, Frank. To help you do just that. Now, I think we should move on to the actual deprogramming process.”

“Frank,” Lionel said, his beady eyes squinting through the smoke, “there are two identities to those who have been brainwashed: the before identity, and the cult identity. The next step is a big one. We will have captured your daughter’s body, but not her mind. Her free will has been compromised. We start by taking her far away, where she won’t know where she is, but most importantly where others do not know where she is. There is a warehouse out in the desert, very isolated. There I will begin the process, forcing her to question the group’s beliefs and their innate contradictions, freeing her mind from their spell. But there is another contingency we must be prepared for.”

“And what’s that?”

“Drugs. We believe your daughter is on drugs. From the videos we’ve seen she appears to have track marks—needle scars—running down the inside of her arms. If she is addicted to a narcotic, most likely heroin, we are going to have to detox her. This can be a laborious process, but in the end it could possibly have its benefits.”

“And what are those?”

“For one, when her mind becomes clear, she will see things in a new light. Also, the process of going cold turkey can be so traumatic that she will forever associate that pain with the cult.”

“What if she associates the pain with us? With me?”

“We need to make sure that does not happen. Don’t worry, this is not my first rodeo.”

Frank found it very disconcerting that this fat man was comparing the abduction and deprogramming of his possibly drug addicted daughter to a rodeo, but kept his silence, nodding and gazing down at his shoes.

“One last thing that you need to understand, Frank: this is going to be expensive. The help we need to hire for the exiting process is not cheap. Then there is the warehouse space, a van. Are you ready to commit both physically and monetarily to this? With all your heart? And not question our methods?”

“Yes. As long as I get my little girl back. Yes, I am. Whatever it takes.”

“Good. Let’s do this thing.”

The sound of slaughter as your body turns . . .

When those thugs kidnapped me I was at the mansion with Angelica and Desdemona.

Lars had just made a deal with a blood mobile and we had so much of the precious stuff, more than we knew what to do with. The girls and I were just getting high, high, high.

Lars had some sort of business or other to attend to and left us to our own devices.

Angelica and Desdemona were in the upstairs bedroom, lying in the huge round bed, sleeping the rest of the wicked. They had hung bags of plasma onto an IV drip and were lost in blood, blissed out of their minds. I decided to take a bath. We had so much of the stuff, how could I resist? It took fifty-eight quarts to fill the tub. Ah, the silky wet feel of it. I was slipping off into delirium when the commotion started. The door was kicked open and five masked men stormed in. I was so out of it on blood I didn’t even know what was going on, and before I knew it they had slapped handcuffs on me, threw a blanket over me, and as three of them rushed me out, another was busy wrapping me in duct tape. I tried to fight, tried to find that hidden strength Lars had told me so much about, but it was too late. They had me.

One more day like this and I will kill you . . .

Laura paced back and forth in the far corner of the empty warehouse, the rusty chain that ran from her ankle to a huge bolt in the floor clanging along behind her. The chain was fifteen feet in length, giving her access to a bed, a toilet, and a sink. Lionel sat in a folding chair, right outside of the chain’s limit, watching her intently, wiping sweat off the rolls of fat on his neck with a handkerchief and eating fried chicken from a large cardboard bucket.

“Do you mind telling me how long you plan on keeping me chained up here?” she asked.

“Not long,” he replied, sucking the gristle off a drumstick and tossing the bone aside. “The restraint is for your safety as well as mine. We don’t want anyone getting hurt. I can unshackle you as soon as we have established some trust. When you trust me and I trust you.”

“You can trust me. I’m a good girl.”

“My employees tell me they found you soaking in a tub full of blood. Would you like to tell me about that?”

“Your employees? Those fucking thugs kidnapped me! And you want me to trust you? How is any of this even legal?”

“Well, you are still a minor and I am working under your father’s consent.”

“My father’s consent. This is fucked.”

Lionel lit a cigarette and offered her the pack. “Wanna smoke?”

“I don’t smoke and if I did it wouldn’t be Kools, you disgusting, fat asshole.”

Lionel laughed, “Flattery will get you nowhere. You seem like a very intelligent and charming young lady. How did you get involved in pornography?”

“It’s not pornography. It’s art, and you are a fool.”

He grabbed a chicken breast and held it out to her. “Hungry?”

“I wouldn’t eat that crap if you paid me.”

“I’ve seen what you’ll do when you’re paid.”

“I was never paid anything. I did what I did out of love.”

“So, you love him.”

“With a strength you couldn’t even comprehend.”

“Charlie Manson convinced his followers that, ‘In love there is no wrong.’ Did Lars say that to you?”

“Lars said a lot of things. But he never said that. You can’t know him. You can’t understand him, because you’ll never even be close to his level of being. He is on a higher plane than you. I’m surprised you can even see him with your little rodent eyes.”

“This Lars, don’t you see what he has done? He made you an object. Took your humanity and made you something lesser. He tried to make you something less than human. Something subhuman.”

“You’re wrong. He made me something stronger than human. Something better. Something greater and more beautiful.”

“Now, you can go on filling your mind with nonsense or face the fact that this man has exploited you and used you as a commodity. A piece of meat. He pimped you, darling. Just like a cheap whore.”

“Fuck you. He loves me.”

“Oh, sweetie, that man never loved you.”

“Yes, he did! He loved me and he’s going to come and get me.”

“Honey, that man is never coming for you. You’re not even eighteen. You’re jail bait, baby! My best bet is that he is running and hiding. And from what I can determine from my Intel, yes, he’s closed down shop and gone underground.”


“Do you wanna tell me about those track marks on your arm?”

“It’s not what you think.”

“What isn’t?”

“I’m not a junkie. I’m not on drugs. I’m clean. As clean as can be.”

“Oh, yeah? You’re not acting very clean.”

Laura tugged on the chain, then started pacing back and forth again. She hated this loathsome, disgusting man who sat before her getting chicken grease and cigarette ash all over his cheap suit. She determined she was going to kill him. She tried to summon the mind power Lars had told her she was capable of.

“I’m not a bad girl,” she said, batting her eyes at him. “Come closer. Don’t you think I’m pretty?” She cocked her head, tried to smile. “Don’t you want to touch me? Want me to touch you? I can do that for you: touch you and let you touch me. Come here.”

“Sorry. But that doesn’t work on me. I’m not attracted to women.”

She let out a terrible howl and began to pull on the chain, trying desperately to break it free from the heavy bolt.

“I will kill you. You fat, fucking faggot,” she screamed. “I will kill you. Mark my words. For what you have done I will kill you and have your blood.”

I’ll watch you drown . . .

“Frank, I think I’m going to need you to come on down here.”

“Is everything all right?”

“Honestly, no. I’ve never encountered a client quite like this. She is incredibly resistant to the deprogramming. Violently so. And the detoxing is going alarmingly bad. The withdrawal symptoms are quite severe. She’s become very, very sick. We may need to take her to the hospital. This is not something I want to do. There’s going to be a lot of questions. The police may get involved and there could even be an investigation. But in this case I think it may be the best thing. She’s ill, Frank. Very ill and seems to be growing worse. She hasn’t eaten or even drank water in days.”

“What? Well for God’s sake, man, take her to the hospital! Do it now and I will meet you there.”

“I’m going to need your help. I’m afraid of her. She’s tried to attack me several times. She’s restrained right now, and I’m hoping your presence will calm her. Also, if the police do get involved . . . I want you there.”

“I’m coming. I’ll leave right now. Where are you?”

“I’m in the desert, Frank. In the desert.”

A desire for flesh and real blood . . .

Frank couldn’t believe what he was seeing, what had become of Laura. She was a skeleton of herself, a hollow-eyed sack of bones reminding him of photos he has seen of Nazi concentration camp survivors.

“How could you let this happen to my baby?” Frank yelled, rushing to his daughter who lay prostrate on the bare mattress, moaning softly and trembling.

“Daddy, oh, Daddy. Thank God you are here.”

“Watch out,” Lionel called out to him. “She’s dangerous.”

“Bullshit. She’s my little girl. I’m not scared of her.”

“I’m sick, Daddy. Help me, please.”

“It’s okay. We’re going to get you to a doctor right away.”

“Oh, Daddy, a doctor can’t help me. I need something. I need . . .”

“What? What is it? Tell me what you need. I’ll get it. I’ll get you anything.”

“Blood, Daddy. I need blood. The fat man. Just bring him to me and I can do the rest. I need him, Daddy. I need his blood.”


“The fat man, bring him to me.” She locked eyes with her father, desperately trying to will him to do what she said.

“I couldn’t do that. I . . . I just couldn’t.”

“He did things to me, Daddy. Did things to me while I was all tied up. Bad things. He touched me. While I was strapped and bound and gagged. You wouldn’t let him get away with that, would you?”

Frank looked into his daughter’s eyes and something strange happened. The pupils dilated until her corneas were nothing but darkness, then quickly constricted, shrinking down into tiny pinpoints. Something clicked inside him. He would do what she asked. Of course he would, he would do whatever his little princess asked of him.

He shambled over to Lionel who was nervously smoking and fidgeting with a handkerchief. “She wants to talk to you.”

“What is it? What did she say to you?”

“She says she’ll be a good girl. Just go talk to her.”

Lionel gaped at him a moment, tossed his cigarette butt down and crushed it with his foot, and then sauntered over towards Laura. “What is it?” he asked. “What do you want?"

From the bed she began to mumble and as Lionel leaned over to better hear what she was saying Frank came running up behind him, and tucking his head down, slammed his shoulder square into Lionel’s back, knocking him to the ground beside the bed. Laura was on him instantly, straddling his back, grabbing a fistful of hair and smashing his face into the concrete. Over and over she slammed his forehead on the ground while he struggled beneath her until his skull cracked open and his brains spilled out. She dipped her hands into the gore and brought them up to her mouth, lapping at the blood and smearing it over her face, moaning in ecstasy. Then she stopped and looked to her father.

Frank wondered what he had done. How had she convinced him to do that? Was it that thing she had done with her eyes?

“Daddy, go to the pharmacy and get me some syringes.”

Frank stared wordlessly.

“Please, Daddy?”

He would do what she asked. Just this one more time.

I must fight this sickness . . .

He was scared to let her go, to unlatch her chain. In truth, he was scared to even get too close to her. He knew that she was trying to convince him to release her, trying to do that weird trick with her eyes on him again, and when he sensed her doing it he looked away.

When she was finished with the fat man, when she had drained every last bit of blood from him and shot it into her arm, Frank dragged his body to the desert and buried him.

Exhausted, he staggered back in the cold, icy dawn like a somnambulist, the infinity of stars giving way to sunrise colors of spilled flax and rusty water. He found himself in the remains of a great fire, a circle of ash. He remembered Florence’s predictions, her visions. She had seen him here that day at the kitchen table.

He fell to his knees, but he did not weep. He tried to pray but couldn’t remember how, and wondered what kind of God would even answer prayers so far from righteousness.

He started giving her his own blood.

Filling up syringes from his bruised arm for her to inject.

But it was never enough and after a few days he started feeling weak, lightheaded and nauseous.

If he was going to keep this up, he needed to find another source of blood.

There was a large shopping mall not too far away, in Reno. It wouldn’t be too hard to grab someone there. Someone to feed his baby with. He needed to find a cure and fight this sickness. But most importantly he had to do what he had to do to keep his little girl alive.

His little princess.

Daddy’s little princess.


Written by HumboldtLycanthrope
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