All the Devil's Greed

“By trying to convince himself I was a devil by nature, my father made me a devil by nurture.”

Mary-Ann Lansfield’s outbursts cause strange happenings in their house, prayers and church visits seem to stir unbearable pain inside her, and her hunger is so insatiable she’s forced to raid the pantry every night just to keep it at bay. It’s no wonder, really, that everyone believes she’s possessed by the Devil.

The more she’s hurt and berated by those around her, the wickeder Mary-Ann feels, and the more she longs for the freedom she’s been denied all her life- the freedom to live however, love whoever, and eat whatever she chooses. Even after everything she’s been told about the evil in the world, what she really wants is to become every inch the monster she’s feared to be.

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Author's note

Hello! I'd just like to stress that this book contains a lot of blood, guts, violence, abuse, and religious themes. My protagonist is extremely morally skewed and her opinions are most definitely not my own. I never killed anyone, honest! Never!
AA

19. Greed

The Lansfields are all anyone in this damn town has been able to talk about for the past fortnight, and I don’t blame them- it’s not every day a nobleman’s daughter burns to death in a kitchen fire. I never realised how rampant the commoners’ beliefs in our curse were till I started living amongst them- they believe Mary-Ann’s tragic death was a result of angry spirits, of Satan trying to drag the whole wretched house down to Hell. I haven’t met a single person who believes the official story- that it was an accident, caused by a fault in the oven- nor the controversial but logical theory that it was set by her insane father. For the first few days I spent living in this inn, a hundred miles away from Lansfield Hall, having caught a ride in a carriage, I even dared to extend these theories in conversation. They were rejected. There’s nothing the public likes more than a good ghost story. And who the hell am I to ruin their fun?

I hear that Henry Lansfield has gone mad. Of course, the people I’m surrounded by believe he’s mad with grief for his poor beloved daughter. The very day of the fire, before our had even been scraped from the damn ground, he got busy firing every last one of his servants. He was out of the house when the tragedy occurred, apparently, and those servants were damn lucky to have gotten away with such gross negligence. I know that he didn’t fire them in anger, though. He only wanted to be left alone to brood. I wonder what he did to them- threatened or bribed or begged or lied- to keep his secret safe. It’s funny. The people who only know scrapings of the story believe he was a sane man, a Godly man, who lost his mind. Only I know that he has always been mad, and that the only thing the fire changed was that it ate away the mask, cracked his skin, baring the monster within him to the world.

The memories of the fire come back in force whenever I’m alone. I was unable to pass out, and so I felt everything, and so I remember everything. How it burned me away to black bones and then regrew me, how I screamed and screamed at the pain and yet still found the room to feel impatient. My fingers, in their bindings, itched for the world outside. It was less like a burning and more like a drowning, I thought- the flames filled the room and pressed deep into my skin, forcing me to swallow them, and when they reached down into my core, they felt cold. Destroyed and healed. Destroyed and healed. Over and over again, until my ropes snapped and I managed to get free, in my rags, leaving enough remains behind to fill a coffin. Then, I ran. Not to the forest, but the beach.

They did have enough remains to fill a coffin. And they had a funeral, too- less than a week after my death. Apparently, my mother gave a lovely speech about me, and my father cried. I wished I’d seen it, but even I am not that boldly stupid. I think, after all this time, my family deserves a break from me. I don’t think they’re destined to grow old and die peacefully; they’re destined for infamy. Something great. I want to be the figurehead of our downfall.

The most astounding rumours start to swirl. Namely, that my ghost has joined those of Lansfield Hall. That my father is going mad because I torment him nightly. After I heard that I wondered, not for the first time- has my soul gone? Did I leave it behind, when I fled from that house? Or is that ghost not me at all?

I think of Catty. Imagine her trapped in black limbo, lonely, angry, unfulfilled.

I feel sick.

She’s the only one of us who didn’t deserve her fate.

One of the things I find most amusing about this situation is how many layers there are to it. The police say it was an accident, but everyone knows that it was really a family curse. The fired servants, wherever they are, doubtless believe it was murder, but my father knows that it was really a necessary act to vanquish a witch, finally understanding all these years that I was not, as he had thought, a demon. But none of those versions are the truth, of course, and only I know the truth. It is, by far, the most ridiculous theory.

Vampire. Bloodsucker. Life-devouring monster. Still alive. Unkillable.

God, I’m hungry.

I have been sitting, for the past two weeks, in my room in the White Horse Inn, nursing my greed. Nursing, I say, because I feel it growing and growing inside me and want to nurture it, not satiate it just yet. I am only a little afraid to kill. Only a little. I started shaking nearly the moment I arrived in this town- fingers twitching, eyelids fluttering, lip quivering- and it all built and built in severity till I could scarce move without exacerbating it. I know that the longer I leave it before devouring my first human, the more I will lose control of my body. I want the blood with a vicious passion I have never felt before in my life- want to tighten myself, as I did with my drink from Geoffrey, and then explode. Want to burn so hot I can’t see again, want to shine so blindingly bright I can’t speak again. Want to drink so much I can’t move again. I want. I want. I want. I know, somehow, that I do not need. But I do not care.

I do not need to sleep anymore. My nights are my brightest times of all- I lie on my bed, hands folded on my stomach, picturing the other patrons at this inn. There are five tonight, plus Jack and Sandy, the owners. There’s Roger, the young man living opposite me, who arrived yesterday and tried to chat me up tonight as we headed to our rooms. I am beginning to think that my father was lying about my weight being a detriment to my desirability. Or perhaps commoners’ priorities are more relaxed. I want to get him alone, want to get over him on his bed and want to tear his throat out. But that is not because I hate him; I want to do the same to them all. I want them all to know who I am; want to pull the hood from my face for the first time, to wipe away the mud that masks my immaculately healed marble-white skin, to show them the black singed ends and the missing chunks of my hair. The four gaps in my teeth, the latter two of which I forced to burst out at the end of the carriage journey, hiding the blood that ran down my chin with my hand. I am sure I look different now, but I blend in with the people at the White Horse. They all have messy hair and ragged clothes. They all have missing teeth.

I know that it is insane of me to let this hunger fester- to let it take me over, when I not only ought to feed it, but want to. But I want to see how bad I can let it get. I’m not really afraid of killing; I am simply scarce left alone with anyone. That’s all. I started hallucinating last night, bucking on my bed as the world flashed a million different colours before settling on red. Human blood had better be better than Geoffrey’s was. It had better not disappoint me. I am not hard to please.

I’m sitting in my room. Not on the bed- in the corner, on the floor, my legs drawn up to my chest. The bodice of my dress is undone- it doesn’t fit me anyway. Was made for someone skinnier than me, as most dresses were. It’s at moments like this, when another night has passed without sleep, another day without food or drink or basic needs, I look up at the sky and let the madness course through me. It’s getting easier, too, what with my hot heavy hunger and the frustration in my head that comes with it. I imagine killing everyone that comes into my head. But especially my mother and father. Why? I have no need for it- I am free. I have wronged them as much as they me.

The inn is always full of noise- it’s roaring with drunks from midday till midnight and Sandy and Jack let loose their arguments wherever and whenever they please, throwing glasses and plates and screaming. And so, nobody really notices the madwoman on the first floor, even when she screams with laughter. The laughter comes easier now, and easier and easier still as the days wear on. One drink of blood would dissolve these sensations like dust in the wind, and I have never, ever hungered for something more. I look up at the sky, growling a little with laughter as I imagine the people on the streets. The loners. The criminals. The lowlifes. And how I could crawl out of a mouth of shadow and paint the city red with them. God, this world won’t know what’s hit it. Just as soon as I get out of this room, as soon as I pay my rent, as soon as I manage to stop laughing and talking to myself. As soon as.

“Come on,” I say to myself, moaning as I try to force myself to get up. I don’t know where I think I’m going. Somewhere, at long last. “Come on.”

I don’t move.

“No.” I whisper back. “Make me. You don’t have control.”

“Yes, I do.”

“Oh, just a few minutes more.” I slide further down the wall, chunks of lead in my head and stomach weighing me down. Even though I’m empty, I feel painfully full. “Just a few. And then I’ll go eat. I swear. I swear I will.”

My head tells me I’m lying. I don’t reply.

As the sun starts to rise, I look out, up at the sky outside. It’s blue. If I ever come back from this limbo state, this strange purgatory between my old life and new, I guess I’ll remember these days for their blue skies. I hate the colour blue. It’s so noncommittal.

There’s a knock on the door, but I don’t even have time to grant or deny access before a key turns in the lock. The sound jolts a thousand memories through me. I decide that, for the next few minutes, I will pretend Sandy is my father.

“It’s unlocked.” I say, but she’s figured it out for herself. The door swings open with its ugly creak, and she pokes her head through, raising an eyebrow when she sees me sitting in the corner.

“Been sitting there since I last was in here, Helen?” She asks.

I look up at her, grinning a little. It’s not my grin, but Helen’s. She’s an orphan, I decided as I was introducing myself to the landlords- mother killed in childbirth, Father in a wood-chopping accident. Fell on his axe. She’s on the run from the workhouse, trying to find a job, and only needs her room for a few nights. A week. Two. Just a couple more days.

“Yeah.” I say.

She shakes her head slowly, shutting the door and planting her hands on her hips.

“Are you leaving today, then?”

I look over her. She shut the door this time. Nobody else is up. And I’m sick of the way she speaks to me about my money.

“No.” I say, getting to my feet.

“You need to pay for spending more nights, child- you’re filling up space.”

And so are you. “Just one more night.”

“No, Helen. That’s it. Get out. Come on; I’m not a childminder. Get out.”

“Please. I don’t have any money.” I say.

She raises an eyebrow. “That’s a lie.”

“No, it’s not.”

“What’s in the envelope, then?”

I look over at my dresser, at the little white envelope open next to the lamp.

“It’s near empty.” I lie, injecting tears into my voice. “It’s all I have.”

“Well, then, what about that trinket?”

Sandy jabs a plump finger at the dresser again. The knife is clean of blood now. I am not intending to give it up, nor another penny of that eleven thousand pounds.

“It’s not worth anything.”

“It’s solid silver. There’s a hallmark.”

“You’ll not touch my knife.” I growl at her. I’ve had enough of the pain the hunger gives me. She’d better hope she leaves soon. But at the same time, I hope she winds me up further.  

“Well, fine. If you can’t pay, you’d better pack your empty envelope and your cheap knife and get out of my inn.”

“Please; I’m penniless!” I sob at her. “Please. Let me stay. I won’t be any bother.”

“No. I’ve got no sympathy for wretches like you.”

I dissolve my tears. She seems startled. “I don’t want your sympathy.” I say. I go to my dresser and pick up the heavy envelope, and silver knife, shoving them down my dress as she wrinkles her nose at me. I throw my hair back behind my shoulders as I pass her, putting one hand on the doorknob.

“Good. Get out.” She says to my back.

I stop.

There’s a long silence, during which time I swear I feel my dead heart starting to pulse with guilty longing. I’m afraid. Not of the killing, but of the way it’ll feel- whatever those five vampires warned me about in the clearing, and whatever Geoffrey was babbling before he died, still haunts me. Even though I don’t believe it for a second. I imagine becoming hooked. A slave. To blood. To murder. It’ll surely be a while before I feel any consequences. And I’d rather kill than live another second in pain.

And besides, she was rude to me.

“Sandy?” I say softly, taking my hand off the door-handle.

She sighs. “Yes?”

“I, um… I’ve got a long journey ahead of me.” I say. “To find my next town, since I’ve had no luck in this one. And I’m going to be hungry.”

“You should’ve eaten more whilst you were here.”

I smile to myself slightly. We’re back-to-back now; I crane my head to the ceiling, licking my teeth. There’s little resistance or pain as the fangs come out. I’ve been practicing with them these past two weeks.

“Please.” I say, noticing the way my voice slurs a little. “I’m going to be hungry. I’m not asking much.”

She sighs, and then lets us fall into silence. I turn to her, and take the final step to close the gap between us. Then, she turns, and starts when she sees me there. I close my mouth, but it’s still twisted out of shape.

“I’ll find something for you.” She says, perhaps defeated by guilt or intimidation. I’m taller than her, and I guess my intentions leak onto my face a little.

I open my jagged mouth and smile tiredly. “Thank you for your kindness,” I say. Then, I lunge for her.

I’d love to tell you the move was fuelled by nothing more than raw desperation and followed by an incomprehensible blur, after which I came around covered in blood and confused, but that would have been a dirty lie.

My teeth sink into Sandy’s soft pink neck and my hands go up her arms to grip her shoulders and there’s a scream and a sigh, and then an indescribable sort of silence. We seem to rise a few inches together, her in my arms, and stay suspended in the air for a second or two before the life rushes from her and we both collapse with a heavy thump. Me on my knees, my full cheeks bulging, her slumped in my lap, eyes wide, sightless, glassy.

She’s spewing red onto the floor, all over her white frilly apron, and God, I’d be lying too if I told you I felt bad for her. If I told you I never smiled down at her, never exalted in the sweet, delicious rush in my veins as I felt her dying against me. Turning on those who underestimate me is something I don’t think I will ever, ever have enough of. Never. And even before I’ve swallowed my first mouthful, before I’ve tasted a single drop of her, I want to do it again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

But I start small. I strain my neck up, swallow, and push Sandy from my lap. Thump-crack.

I close my eyes on the ceiling and feel the hot blood rushing down me, flooding every pore right down to my achingly cold centre. It’s gorgeously warming, but chemical- a sensual poison. Something in its sharp fizz is warning me against drinking more, is calling me stupid for letting it into my body.

Even before the pain within me has dissolved, I feel myself growing lighter, tiny shivers rippling over my back. I sigh, but don’t sink. Licking around my mouth and swallowing sends a tight jump of pleasure through me, arching my back just a fraction and constricting my muscles. I am suspended.

The sensation makes me desperately afraid- makes me want to push back, stop drinking and run before it grows too much- but it also makes me want more. More. More. Give me more.

I raise a blood-soaked hand to my face and, eyes still closed, plunge my fingers one-by-one into my mouth. With my fingertips I draw up the dregs on my chin and cheeks and force them in as well. I swallow it, and my core winds a little tighter, and when I sigh, I shiver with pleasure again. My shoulders want to heave up and down, even though I’m not breathing.

More. Give me more. Give me more.

Every inch focused on the growing, lengthening sensation in my gut, I drag both my hands across the wooden floor and raise them to my mouth to lap from them voraciously. Hot red lines run down my face and throat; I want them to suffocate me. My body now is so rigid I swear I can’t move, but I’m still shivering all over and God, I want more, I want more. I bend over my knees and I drink and I drink till my arms ache from lifting. Inside, I grow warmer and warmer and tighter and tighter and lighter and lighter till I no longer feel what I’m doing. I feel nothing. Nothing. And the numbness is perfect- the best thing I’ve ever felt.

That is, until I explode.

I freeze, one bloody hand on my bloody cheek, and cry out as a solid pulse of white-hot pleasure seizes me from all sides and arches my back and flings my head back and opens my eyes too wide. Every last cell inside me releases its tightness at once and the world goes black as everything around me shatters. My body keeps singing and singing as I struggle and fail to hold back my groans and gasps of relief. It’s so sweet, so deliciously sweet I never want to speak another word, nor take another step- just live in this sensation for the rest of eternity.

As the bouts of shaking subside and my vision slowly returns, and I’m gently laid back to earth, I feel fit to melt. My hair’s plastered in a grid to my face and I’m grinding my snaggleteeth hard in my mouth, so desperate to hold onto that ebbing pleasure that I want to cry. I’m still on my knees, back still arched, head still back, neck stretched, both hands clamped in my lap. I want to stay frozen, but I shatter my composure to stoop to the ground. I immediately need- with a vicious, potent greediness I’ve never felt before- to feel what I just felt again.

God- nearly straight away, as I start to drink again, I feel that rising within me, that thrill of cold turning into warm turning into seething hot, the slow bubbling that churns harder and harder till it’s brutal and solid as metal in my veins. I feel my mind drifting farther and farther away, my eyes rolling out of focus as the shivers build and crawl and crawl like spiders under my skin. This time, the climax comes over me so hard and so suddenly my spine judders all the way down and I shriek, clamping my hands to my chest. God. God. God. God. This is Heaven. It is. It is. This is what Heaven feels like. Inside, even once the hysterical crescendo- wave after wave after wave after wave- has ended, I’m glittering like fire and water.

I’m burning. My gut’s twisting and curling and uncurling and my head’s spinning and dancing and singing. The puddle of blood around me now is six feet wide or more. I want it all. I want it all inside me but I’m too drunk- drunk and floppy like a rag doll without stuffing- to move. For the moment.

Soon, I think as I slowly force myself to move, somebody will come for me. They will come in search for the poor landlady, or perhaps the source of the screams and moans they heard coming from little orphan Helen’s room. I should run, but I want the world to see me. I want God on his cloud to see me and tremble, and Satan on his black throne of broken bones too. I want to crack the Heavens and tear up the ground. There’s nothing I don’t want. And I will have it all. All. All.

I straighten my back, and as I do, I’m grinning achingly wide, crawling my hands up my chest, thumbing past the lacing and the bare skin to reach the white softness of my throat. I roll my tongue across my gums and cough out a syllable of laughter to see how it tastes. I like it, so I laugh again, harder. Soon, it’s pouring from my mouth in choking bouts and I can’t control it- at least, I don’t think I can. I wonder whether I’ve gone mad. Whether I’m destined to spend all of eternity laughing like this as I tear through city after city, a raging hurricane of bloodlust and black-hearted evil. A beautiful disaster. It sounds good. Looks good. Everything is beautiful now. Thanks to the blood, the whole of my mind is yellow-tinted, like the sunlight after a rainstorm.

I’m laughing so hard now my sides and my cheeks are aching. All my crazy noise is echoing in the dusty room, spilling out into the brightening sky. This morning’s too light for my liking. I wish there was a thunderstorm.

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