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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4. Chapter Three

Millicent awoke to the sound of rain on her roof. Sighing, she sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes before realising that the clothes she’d fallen asleep in were caked in black blood. Millicent grimaced as she stood up and peeled off her clothes, leaving them in a heap on the floor before walking down the stairs and across to her bathroom.

Millicent’s house, which was only accessible via a tiny street off one of the main roads, was small. It had once been a warehouse that stored furniture, and five years ago after saving up the money to do so, she’d bought it off the owners and converted it into what she now called home.

The front door was painted a bright yellow, which added to the eccentric colour scheme she had picked out. On the right side of the first floor was a wooden dining table and a handful of kitchen cabinets above a stove. Hung on a rack beside one of the cabinets were all her various pots and pans, all in the same shade of bright orange. On the left side of the of the first floor was a set stairs that led up to an open balcony where her bed was. Underneath the balcony was a purple sofa, and stacked beside the sofa were books. Although Millicent once owned a bookshelf, it had been replaced by her dining table which she thought was a necessity after the Mayor had unexpectedly invited himself over for dinner one night to find that there was nowhere in her house to eat. The stairs that led up to her bed were made from the same oak wood as her dining table, and tiny lights ran up the banister. Millicent walked past the kitchen (although it was too small to be considered an actual kitchen) and pushed open the door to the bathroom. In the center of the tiled room sat a copper tub, glinting in the morning light. Millicent turned the faucet and watched as the tub filled with steaming water.

Completely naked, Millicent stepped into the tub and sunk down until her lips were barely above the surface of the water. It had been a long night, and Millicent felt anger boiling in her gut.

Why would the Mayor stay out after the siren?

She hadn’t even had time to ponder over this, and as she scrubbed her body she told herself that it was nothing. He was old, probably a lot closer to his dying years than she would like to admit. But the question still lingered in the back of her mind as she massaged shampoo into her hair and rinsed.

I’m always in the face of death.

That’s what he had said to her in the midst of running for their lives. Even if he wasn’t bothered about dying, surely he wouldn’t put her life on the line. Would he?

Millicent stepped out of the tub and watched as the water fell from her body and onto the tiles. She walked out of the bathroom, leaving a trail of wet footprints behind her, and grabbed a towel from the closet. It was built right beside the bathroom, and it housed at least 100 separate pieces of clothing. The Mayor, of course, funded every single piece of clothing she bought. She owned countless dresses from balls and masquerades, and she owned countless pairs of trousers that were worn for killing.

She chose out some black, lacey underwear (because after all, you never know who might end up seeing you in it) and then pulled on some black tightfitting jeans and a navy blue t-shirt. Millicent picked out an umbrella from the bottom of the closet. She grabbed her keys, put her umbrella up and then stepped outside, closing the door behind her. It was a quick start to the morning, but despite what happened last night the Mayor would still expect her in his offices at 10.  

Millicent walked for about five minutes on the main road. It was busy, and despite the terrors of last night everything seemed rather normal. People turned a blind eye to the blood stains on the pavement and smiled as if they knew nothing about the monstrosities that roamed their city at night. Shalom, the city, was safe if you followed the rules. ‘Don’t stay out after the siren’, for example, had been one that at first people weren’t so keen on. Having said that, after only two nights of trying to break the strict curfew, people soon realised that the rules were put in place for a reason. As Millicent wandered down the main road that ran through Shalom, she passed the Temple. Obviously, it wasn’t an actual temple, but it adopted the name over a century ago, and for some reason it stuck. Outside the Temple, the preachers wove flyers in the air and shouted their crazed religion to passers by:

 

“Eidolon, King of Kings , Emperor of the land and sea and all above! Hail! Hail!”

 

Millicent walked slowly down the pavement, which was quieter now that she’d turned off the main road, and stood rather disappointedly outside The Raven and the Ring upon noticing the ‘closed’ sign hanging forlorn on the doorframe. Raising her hand, Millicent rapped on the door with her knuckles insistently, until footsteps sounded from inside the pub. She stood elegantly, with her hands folded in front of her and one foot behind the other (which was rather ironic for a trained killer), as the keys rattled around in the door lock and all of a sudden the door flung open, revealing an aged man with thinning white hair and a stained white apron. Benjamin smiled down at Millicent, his silver tooth flashing in the light.

 

“You’re early today,” Ben said in a way of greeting, and that was the only invitation that Millicent needed to hurry into the warmly lit pub behind him. She shivered against the sudden rush of heat from the freshly burning fire, and proceeded unlace her boots leave them near the fire to dry. Inside, the smell of freshly baked bread and homemade cinnamon rolls wafted through the air, and a small smile tugged at her lips as Millicent claimed a seat on one of the bar stalls. Benjamin came around to the other side of the bar and began preparing a cinnamon bun for her.

“Early because of the Mayor and his death wish,” She huffed.

Benjamin looked up at her with an eyebrow raised. Millicent went on to explain last night, and how the Mayor had stayed out after curfew. She even told him about what the Mayor had said to her, earning a grunt from Benjamin.

“Ungrateful bastard,” he said as he pushed a plate across the counter. On the plate sat a warmed cinnamon bun. It had been cut through the middle, and right on the side of the plate was a huge dollop of chocolate sauce. Millicent beamed, and began to spread the sweet chocolate over the two halves of the bun whilst she talked.

“Why?”

I’m always in the face of death,” Benjamin mimicked, “Oh, please. I bet he doesn’t take a shit without a bloody battalion there to protect him. And besides, why risk the life of the best bodyguard he’s got in his service?”

Millicent chewed the cinnamon roll and said in between mouthfuls, “The only reason I’m there is because I’m the best. He probably hates my guts, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he sacked me and gave Flint the job instead.”

Benjamin shook his head, “Just because he hates Kane, doesn’t mean he hates you.”

Millicent gulped at the sound of her brother’s name. Kane, the man who had raised her when her parents were too drunk to do so. Who had taken her away from the Continent and promised her a better life in Shalom. Kane, who had been involved with the militia who’d killed the Mayor’s daughter, and was now spending a lifetime in prison for his terrorist acts against the Mayor and his government. Millicent always suspected that he had his reasons for rising up against the Mayor, but for as long as she can remember she had never heard why.           

“Kane murdered his daughter.” Millicent said.

“Aye, but you didn’t.”

She sighed and pushed the plate across the counter, only crumbs remaining. Kane was a monster, a murderer and now a prisoner, but despite all of this Millicent still loved him. She knew he had his reasons for rebelling, and Millicent was certain that she would find out what exactly those reasons were.

“Any news from the prisons?” Asked Millicent.

Benjamin took her plate and washed it in the basin, “Nothing unusual. I told you I’d let you know if something had happened to him.”

Millicent shrugged, “Just asking.”

There was silence.

“I need to find him, you know.”

Benjamin turned to face her. Lips pursed, eyes narrowed, “It’s dangerous Beyond Shalom. I’m not underestimating your ability to survive, but there’s a reason the prisons are in the desert. And right now, when all is quiet in the prisons, you’ve got no chance of getting him out.”

Millicent stood to leave, retrieving her boots from beside the fire and lacing them up again. Just before she got to the door, she felt a hand on her shoulder, and turned to see Benjamin smiling.

“Give it six weeks. If all is still quiet in the prisons, then go. Just make sure you’re not alone out there. It’s not the monsters you have to worry about.”

After her encounter with Benjamin, Millicent stepped outside to find that the rain had stopped. She left her umbrella down and walked quickly, afraid she might be late, to find Flint waiting outside the offices for her.

Crap.

Millicent flashed him her most pleasant smile along with the most vulgar gesture she could muster.

“Good morning gorgeous,” Flint said as she breezed past him. Today, like every other day, he smelt of cigarette smoke and candy apples. Millicent wrinkled her nose, trying to lose him in the crowd of people in the foyer of the office building.

Flint caught up in an instant and smiled at her, “Don’t ignore me, you love me really.”

“If loving you meant stabbing you repeatedly with your own daggers, then yes.” Millicent replied.

“Someone’s in a bad mood today. What’s wrong?” He asked as she ascended the stairs towards the Mayor’s office.

“You.”

“Ouch.”

“Leave me alone, Flint.” She said.

Millicent reached the doors to the Mayor’s office, opened them without knocking and then slammed them in Flint’s face. She heard a muffled cry from the other side and grinned. The Mayor, who was sat behind his desk, looked up behind a newspaper.

“He deserved it.” She told him.

The Mayor nodded, “I agree. The press has become very aware of yesterday’s events, and despite me sending Mister Garrett to sort it out and tell the paper house to not report the events, they did so anyway.”

Millicent changed the subject, “So what work do I have today?”

The Mayor put his newspaper down and beckoned her over, “Actually, none. I’ve been sent a letter for you.”

Millicent strode over to his desk and took the paper from his aged hands. On the front of the envelope she was barely able to read her name, which was scrawled in black ink. When she tore open the envelope, she pulled out a singular sheet of paper. It said the following:

Appointment time: 1100hr

Consultant: Doctor A. Ellsworth

Please bring this to your appointment, as we do not permit access to patients that arrive without of appointment.

“I don’t mean to pry,” said the Mayor, “but I do hope you are in good health, Millicent.”

Millicent slipped the paper into her pocket and looked at him, “Thanks.”

She didn’t say anything else before leaving the office, miraculously avoiding Flint on her way out. She headed towards the port, and in no time she was there. She was the travellers boat and hopped on board. This boat was used for crossing to the Continent, although not many people deemed to do that. Most of the people on the travellers boat worked between Shalom and the Continent, and therefore had no other choice. Millicent strode along the deck and tapped the captain on the shoulder. He was a thin, aged man, and was several inches taller than her.

“Excuse me,” she said politely, “could you please make a stop at that island?”

She pointed to the island a couple of miles away from the port. The captain looked at her as if she’d just killed a cat, but nodded anyway. The island belonging to Doctor Ellsworth rarely had any visitors other than the BodyBringers, and she hoped that the captain didn’t try to report her for trespasser on the Doctor’s island. Maybe she should have shown him her appointment slip.

The boat set off into the open water, and Millicent took a seat right at the back of the boat. She watched the city grow smaller and smaller, until finally the boat stopped. Millicent stood, smoothed down her hair which had gone frizzy, and stepped off onto the docks on the island. She could feel people’s eyes as the boat took off again.

Why is she going to visit the oh-so-famous Doctor?

Millicent walked around the island. There were many entrances to the massive manor house, and when Millicent found the “Patients and Outpatients” entrance, she slipped inside to find a small reception. The floor was pure white, and as she walked she felt self conscious about her muddy shoes treading on the immaculate surface. The lights were dimly lit, which was a relief to her oncoming headache, and a lady sat behind a desk in front of her. Millicent approached the lady and handed her the slip.

“That way,” the lady pointed towards a set of double doors next to her desk. Millicent held out her hand for the slip again, but the lady took it and put it in a pile with the others. Every wall, ceiling and floor in this place was pristine white. There were no paintings on the walls, no marks on the floor from people’s shoes either. Millicent walked down the hallway until she reached the door right at the end. The door was the same colour as everything else, apart from a small plaque underneath the door handle.

DOCTOR A. ELLSWORTH

After a deep breath, Millicent knocked on the door and stepped back. A familiar voice sounded from inside.

“Enter!”

She turned the door handle and walked into the room. The walls were painted a subtle grey, and there was a large oak desk that took up most the room. Apart from that and a few bookshelves, the room was rather plain. Millicent took her usual seat across the desk and waited with her hands folded in her lap.

“Millicent,” Doctor Ellsworth looked at her through rimmed spectacles, “how lovely to see you. I trust that you are well?”

He leaned over to shake her hand, and she took it. His hair was white like everything else she’d seen so far, and it was thinning. He had a long, wrinkled face and was cleanly shaven. Millicent sat back down.

“How have you been feeling recently?” The Doctor asked.

“Okay, I guess. The head pains have been frequent, as usual. But they have neither got worse nor better.”

“Right. Are there any other symptoms you are experiencing, or is it simply the head pains?”

“Just the head pains. Sometimes they are so painful they wake me from sleep.”

Doctor Ellsworth jotted all of this down in a notepad and then looked up at her.

“Now, following your recent visit, I have decided to do some blood tests. However, what I would find to be easier for you is if you stay overnight, and therefore will have your results the next day. It will save you a journey back to the mainland.” Doctor Ellsworth winked.

Millicent said, “I’m afraid I am unprepared for your offer. I have come with nothing but the clothes on my back, but if you would like me to stay tonight I can go back and pack a bag.”

The Doctor shook his head, “Nonsense. I require to see you again tomorrow. You needn’t come until the afternoon. I know Holland has you doing all sorts of errands these days. Bring a bag, and tomorrow I shall show you to our guest rooms. The Mayor covers the cost of healthcare, correct?”

Millicent nodded. The Doctor then got her to stand up as he ran the usual tests on her. Height, weight, pulse, hair length (though she did not know why) and a tissue sample from the neck. Once he had finished, Doctor Ellsworth shook her hand again.  

“It was very lovely to see you again,” he said, “and I’ll expect your arrival here tomorrow at 1400 hours.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Millicent said as she closed the door behind her. As she walked back out onto the docks, Millicent found that there was already a little boat waiting to take her back to the mainland. She hopped onboard and took a seat again. Millicent hadn’t slept in another bed since buying her house, and the thought of sleeping under the surveillance of the Doctor unnerved her. But nevertheless, if it stopped the head pains, it was worth it. All she had to do was spend 24 hours there, and then hopefully she would have her results and be gone again.

Millicent looked back at the manor house, and in one of the many windows of the massive building, was a figure. It was slim, tall, and yet it was not Doctor Ellsworth. She was about to turn back towards the city, but then the figure raised its hand.

A farewell.

Millicent raised her hand back at the mysterious figure, and they watched each other until they were both smudges against the horizon. 

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