Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

Once upon a moonstruck hour, a newborn baby was stolen. Snatched from the cold place upon which she lay swaddled and still and stashed with leather hands beneath the wet warmth of an old man’s beading oilskin poncho.

Pools of shed torrent on the hospital floor the only trace of his ever being there at all. Sole evidence that this poor wee soul hadn’t been taken by some malevolent supernatural entity. Proof, scant as it was, that this horror was surely the work of a very much human flavour of fiend.

The fact that said child was already dead did not ease in the least the pain of parents already slumped beneath the heft of this most abject and distilling loss. Time heals all they say but with no body to lay beneath the inscription time only agitates…

Time pulls the stitches apart.

This was no random act of perversion, as twenty other lifeless babies were likewise denied the chance to eternally rest that very same night. Blessed be those early hours in which unripe and all but rotting fruits were so purposefully plucked and claimed.

Years later, I had chance to meet the operative charged with gleaning my remains from that slab drawer onto which I had been so lovingly laid. He was old and smiled as he showed me the crook of his trigger finger, its tendons long ago slashed into the most ready and perfect of stances. He was a lovely man, but hard. The deep plunge of his eyes screaming with the spark that only manifests in the knowledge that it was he whom held sway over who lives and who it is that does not.

“I’d never felt it. Not before you…”, the elder had muttered massaging at the swell of his knuckles. “Never felt the weight of existence. But, as I scooped you up and my grasp pulled against your barely formed sinew and it shifted and lolled within your shroud, I felt… no, I tasted… death. The living death, that which coils inside when hearts do stop. I knew it existed, its eradication is what we’re for. But I’d never felt it so magnificently radiant. Until you.”
Praise me?

I was chosen for my potential aesthetic and a genetic anomaly that allowed me to be resuscitated, of a fashion, and brought back into this realm of the living. My ancestry leaked into the data-stream so, as close as might be possible, it could be determined that I’d blossom into a beauty that transcended even the word itself. Our looks are a bullet you see, one of many that we employ in the entrapment of dark souls that require putting to final and unequivocal rest.

The theoretical aspect of my training ended today as the Teacher instructed Tau to lay down upon the gurney that had been wheeled beneath the room’s huge chalkboard.

She spoke, and her words were wet upon the air and from where I sat I could just see the shimmers as they ran down bare legs to the contraction and fidget of Tau’s nervously grasping toes.

I was transfixed and yet, my hearing did wander. I took in the others as their chairs creaked in unison and every one of us tightened and sought to reign in the inflamed swell that gripped within of our skin.

“Rho Kestrel, make your way to the front of the class. Today we lay waste to your purity. Today you will all sample your raison d’être. Praise be to be taught.”

The Teacher carefully unbuttons Rho’s kestrel-crested uniform and we all stifle a collective giggle as it momentarily catches and then drops over the jut of my classmate’s strikingly excited self to the floor.

Tau moves on the gurney and I move too as for the very first time I see private things other than my own. I wish I could say that my vivid imagination had prepared me for it, but I can barely swallow as awkwardly positioned flesh seeks to find its rhythm.

“Tau please encapsulate Rho and feel as this procurement radiates. Do you sense how you illicit responses from each other? If not, as the term progresses, there’ll be ample opportunity to uncover just where the weaponising of your gender leads. And now… pause and… withdraw.”

“Who noticed the beading liquid that appeared at the beginning of the lesson? This is a clear pre-ejaculate, also known as Cowper’s fluid. It functions as a lubricant and an acid neutraliser. The receptacle is normally acidic, so its deposit before full emission can change the internal environment and promote survival of the emitted discharge, which is not an issue you’ll need to bother with. This fluid also acts as a lubricant during interaction, which will help in the retrieval and destruction of the target’s soul residue. Eta Kestrel! Your attention, perhaps? There will, I assure you, be a test!”

I’m not a good student. I struggle with mathematics, numerals fly on the page like flurries of black ash above the driven snow and languages are just plain foreign. But this I can feel as it connects and stumbles and gropes through every little last cell of my being.

“You’ll become elite in ending those so smugly believing themselves exempt from final judgement. Olisbokollikes — look it up! You’ll find even a well-placed snack can afford you the access you require to take out your target.”

If befuddled frowns could be heard then the classroom’s collective confusion would’ve blown out every one of the ornate archer’s windows that slit the walls of this our mountaintop lair.

All hail the almighty loaf!
I know about dirty stuff… I do, I do.

The Teachers words blur as do my eyes and I listen to her breath as it twists into me and, in turn, swirls into the thud that pulses down and thumps on the chair between my legs.

The moment suspends and elongates and my shoulders drop forward and my head whips back and I can smell them all. Every last one of this world’s trapped and stranded lost and dirty fouled pneuma.

“Praise be — to be me,” I sigh into a broadening smile. “Praise now that I know, most exactly, what it is that I am for.”