The Destruction of Beautiful Things

"They give our Master a crown of thorns, why do we hope for a crown of roses?" - Martin Luther

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2. Chapter One

Millicent stood in the town square when the massacre happened. It was so quick she barely had time to move away from the chaos, but then again, she expected nothing less. There were one hundred and sixteen people in the square when it happened, and now only twelve people remained. Some had fled quickly when the massacre began, and others were told to leave following the bloodshed. Millicent had stayed, mainly to see whether the Mayor's Protection Service had any clue as to who killed who, or if they would simply label the attackers as "Terrorists" and put a bounty on their heads. Probably the latter.

Now, Millicent stood beside the Mayor atop the dais and watched with crossed arms as the bodies were carted away. There was something rather sinister about this; the way the bodies were stacked on top of each other, causing the limbs of the dead to seemingly merge into one singular organism. Millicent shivered.

"Cold?" The Mayor chuckled, his belly moving in time with his laughter. Millicent only nodded. It was true; even the grey winter coat hanging over her shoulders did little to keep the chill winter breeze from getting to her. Sighing, Millicent drew out a pistol from her pocket and absently began picking the paint off it. It was a habit she'd picked up from when she'd first been given the pistol, and now what was once glossy and black was a patchwork of silver and wood. The Mayor, despite his obvious disapproval of the patchwork gun, did nothing to condemn her for it. He merely stared at her delicate hands holding the gun, and probably wandered what such an awfully young girl had to have been through to wind up holding a gun so easily, as if it were merely an extension of her arm. 

“Is everything okay over here, sir?” Asked Flint as he approached the Mayor. Millicent, having not noticed his presence in the town square until now, turned to him and scowled.

“Lady Millicent,” Flint flashed her a wicked grin and bowed.

“Flint, I will have you assured that all security protocols for this speech have already been dealt with by myself. If you are here again to try and take my position for yourself, I would suggest that you leave now.” Millicent said, her voice laced with annoyance.

Flint only looked at her and said, “Rest assured, I am not here to take your position Milady. I’m only here to observe the scene. Though having said that, there would be no scene to observe if your so called ‘security protocols’ were in place.”

Millicent opened her mouth to retort, but the Mayor held up his hand, declaring silence.

“That is quite enough. The pair of you bicker like children. Mister Garrett, could you please run an errand to the paper house and firmly explain that there shall be no reporting of this in the papers. We’ve got enough to worry about, let alone their retelling of this afternoons events. News is already travelling quickly around the city, and I do not need them to add to the chaos.”

“Of course, Sir.” Flint nodded and turned on his heel. He looked back once and winked. Millicent stuck her tongue out at him.

The Mayor turned to Millicent and smiled, “You do not realise that Mister Garrett has feelings for you. I don’t blame you. He is a hard character to understand, but after being in my Protection Service for the good part of fifteen years I assure you that I can read him better than a book.”

Millicent shook her head, “If that is so, then Mister Garrett does not know the way to a woman’s heart.”

The Mayor laughed and began to walk slowly towards the steps leading off the dais. Millicent trailed behind, her hand always within reach of her patchwork pistol. The town square was only small compared to the rest of the city, but was still admirably beautiful. The houses in the town square only belonged to the rich, and Millicent wondered what it would be like to have such a wonderful view just outside your window. Sunlight bounced off the water that sprouted from the fountain in the center of the square. Some were even sat on the steps, soaking in the last bit of sunshine the day had to offer. Millicent wondered what they were thinking about more; the beauty of the setting sun, or the massacre that had happened right beneath their feet only an hour ago. As for herself, Millicent was only thinking about returning home and running herself a hot bath. She swore she could feel the hands of the dead crawling along her skin, and was desperate to scrub that feeling away.

But first, to escort the mayor back to his private offices.

The sun was beginning to lower in the sky, which cast a brilliant glow over the cobblestones. On another occasion, Millicent would have waited until the sun ducked below the horizon before setting off, but she was eager to leave. The day had drained her, and it wouldn’t be long until the siren went off anyway, signaling people back into their homes to ride out the night. As if they had read her thoughts, the people gathered in the town square slowly began to file out and return to wherever it was that they came from. The Mayor, however, was taking his goddamn time.

“Tell me something Millicent.” said the Mayor.

Millicent glanced at him sideways and raised an eyebrow, “I don’t understand, Sir.”

The Mayor smiled warmly, “Tell me something new. Something interesting. Too many people in this City are filled with facts as interesting as my paperwork, but not you. So, tell me something.”

“There are more lifeforms living on your skin than there are people on the planet.” Millicent said, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear.

“Is that so?” The Mayor smiled, as if hearing this had been the best part of his day. Although, after nearly being assassinated, Millicent didn’t blame him.

The Mayor began ambling along with his walking stick in hand. Millicent followed, always watching their surroundings with a hand hovering over her patchwork pistol. It was unusual for the Mayor to be out this late, and would therefore be another perfect opportunity for an assassination. The Mayor, however, didn’t seem to be aware of this.

“Sir, we should start moving faster if we are to arrive at your offices before the siren.” Said Millicent.

The Mayor waved a hand, as if dismissing her comment, “My wellbeing is in constant danger, Millicent, and therefore when the siren goes off is not of any importance to me,” he motioned with his walking stick as though it would add to his point, “I am just as likely to be killed in my own offices then out on these streets at night.”

 

Millicent hardly thought this was true, but nodded anyway. There was no point in fighting a losing battle, and so she stuffed her hands into the pockets of her grey winter coat carried on walking without another word. That was, until, she heard a loud screeching noise that could only be one thing.

The siren.

The Mayor had stopped in his tracks, and was now looking at Millicent with a look that could only be saying I’m sorry. Without thinking, Millicent pulled out her pistol and flicked the safety off.

The Mayor shook his head and began to apologise, “If only I had-“

He barely had time to finish his sentence before Millicent’s hand clamped down over his mouth.

“Shh,” she whispered into his ear. In her other hand she steadied her pistol, ready to aim it (and more importantly shoot) at anything that moved in the shadows. She stood there, waiting, watching, listening, and then suddenly they were everywhere. Their appearance was marginally human, but whatever was once human about them was now gone. Their sickly yellow skin was stretched taut over muscles and veins and bone, and their hands were extended in front of them, clenching their fingers and then unclenching until it became a sadistic pattern. Where there would be eyes on humans were simple holes in these creatures. Their jaws were filled with two rows of razor sharp teeth. Millicent had heard stories that if they were truly desperate for food, they would dislocate their jaw to get a bigger bite.

They were called the Cracks.

Although she spent most of her time in the face of danger, Millicent drew in a sharp breath and turned to the Mayor.

“We need to go. Now.” She said urgently. The Mayor turned and looked at her before stumbling backwards, causing his walking stick to scrape against the cobblestones, making a horrific sound. Millicent winced and looked ahead of them. The Cracks bared their teeth and turned towards the noise, because of course they hunted by smell and sound.

And just like that, they were running.

Teeth and claws followed behind them, and Millicent gripped her pistol tight in her hand. They were running back towards the dais now, but before they reached it Millicent grabbed the Mayor by the arm and dragged him to the right down one of the many back alleys. Luckily for them, Millicent knew her way around the City better than she knew the back of her hand. She pushed the Mayor up against the wall and slid around next to him, holding her breath, biting her lip. Millicent watched from the corner of her eye as the Cracks ran past the alley and towards the dais, and when she was sure that they were gone Millicent took the Mayors arm again and put a lip up to her lips.

Quiet.

The Mayor nodded, and Millicent began to slowly lead him further into the alley. When they were far enough away from the town square, Millicent turned to the Mayor, anger radiating on her face.

“Next time you know that fucking siren is going to go off, how about walking faster?” She exclaimed, keeping her voice hushed.

The Mayor only shrugged apologetically, “The threat to my life is constant Millicent. Day or night, it makes no difference. I’m always in the face of death.”

She scowled, “That doesn’t mean I have to be. If you want to stay alive, I would highly recommend following me.”

Millicent began to stride away, and only stopped when she realised that the Mayor hadn’t been following. Irritation boiling in her gut, Millicent spun on her heel.

“Why aren’t you following?” she asked, “do you want to be eaten by those monsters?”

That was the only motivation the Mayor needed to keep close to her heel. As they walked, Millicent checked their surroundings and tried to think of the best way out of this. They were a good five blocks away from the town square, which meant that the Mayor’s offices were only two blocks away. If they kept walking straight forward, they should be able to reach one of the safe entrances at the back of the building.

They walked in silence, Millicent in the front and the Mayor just behind. Just as she thought everything was okay (which was seemingly never a good presumption to make), they turned the final corner and there it stood. The Crack was on its own, which stuck Millicent as bizarre. Usually they would hunt in packs, because that way there was a greater probability of them hearing a sound. For example, if you have one Crack like this one, it’s much less likely to hear. Whereas if there are twelve all hunting together, there are more ears to listen, therefore a higher chance they’re going to get an evening meal.

Millicent held up a hand, causing the Mayor to falter in his tracks. They stood still. Millicent swore she could hear her heart thumping in her chest, and prayed that the Crack couldn’t hear it too. There was no way that they could turn back now, and the office was right before them. Millicent could see the green light above the door ahead of them that signaled that the door was open. All they had to do was get past this bloody obstacle and the she would finally be able to take her bath.

And that was when the Mayor sneezed.

Millicent felt anger wrench her gut as the Crack turned towards them and charged. Without thinking, Millicent reached into her boot, grabbed one of her throwing knives and drove it through the air. The knife landed right between the Crack’s eyes, and it dropped right before them with a sickening crunch. Millicent strode over to the body and pulled the knife out of its head, scowling at the sickly black blood that now oozed off her once beautifully clean knife.

“Come on,” Millicent said. When she got to the door, she opened it and let the Mayor in first before going in herself and shutting it behind her. Right before them was a set of cold concrete stairs, and the Mayor was already heading up them. Millicent followed, sighing at the relief to be inside. When they reached the top of the stairs, the Mayor opened another door and then they were in his office. It wasn’t particularly impressive for a man that owned an entire city, but she expected that the Mayor bragged with his money in some other way. Closing the door behind her, Millicent wiped the blood off her knife and sheathed it back in her boot, walking towards the exit, but the Mayor stepped in front of her.

“Thank you,” he said, “for saving my life. Again.”

Millicent restrained from rolling her eyes, “No problem. See you tomorrow.”

With that, Millicent stalked away. The Mayor knew better than to try and follow her, as did most people. Out the door, down the stairs and out through the main entrance to the offices (making sure to lock up behind her. The Mayor didn’t need a third death scare today) Millicent made her way back home. In her wake, she left a trail of dead Cracks which the BodyBringers would clean up before the City awoke in the morning. But for now, all Millicent cared about was scrubbing the blood off her skin and climbing into her bed.

When she reached the converted warehouse that she called home, Millicent locked up the door behind her and pulled all her curtains closed. She didn’t bother with any defences other than the locks on her doors and the gun next to her bed. She ran herself a bath, scrubbed the blood off her skin and then dried herself. Her movements were slow, and after pulling on a slip to cover herself Millicent headed towards her bed. Climbing up the stairs, her hand tracing the tiny lights that wound up the railing, Millicent barely pulled the cover over herself before falling into a dark, dreamless sleep. 

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