Latest Light of Day, Copyright © 2013 by Kara Ashley Dey. All rights reserved. Cover by Ann De Carrasco, stock from depositphotos
An “Omen’s War” Short Story
by Kara Ashley Dey
Weak, Antigone shuffled forward in ankle shackles. The top layer of her skin flaked off with each step, the pain making her movements stiff, but she forced her expression blank. Without comment, she scanned the dim interior of Creon’s crib.
Either lounging on velvet chairs or standing behind them, the “finest” senators of Ghetto Greece appraised her equally. Impressive scum. She had a full audience.
The barrios’ representatives adjusted their weights, nervously shifting from foot to foot or from rusty chair spring to threadbare cushion. Their tongues touched their canines and licked their dry lips. It wasn’t every day one witnessed a royal’s dismemberment. Antigone stopped a shudder. She might not escape, but she refused to surrender.
While the senators watched her with curiosity, Creon gazed upon her with dread darkening his eyes. Truly, he looked devastated. If she yet felt something for this new king, she might have suffered a pang of guilt, a prick of indecision. But she was no longer human. He’d made certain of that. And she certainly didn’t care for him.
The guards led her to the center of the room and departed. Creon spoke from his throne. “Antigone.”
She inclined her head toward the kingpin of Thebes. The crisp, bronzed flesh upon her neck crackled. “Uncle.”
“So, it’s true. Brown as a nut, your skin… breaks apart like desert mud…” His eyes began to tear redness. He blinked furiously as he lifted his hand emphatically toward her.
“Ice the bitch,” one senator growled. “Sever her head.”
“Traitor,” several added. “Off her.”
The senators’ chanting echoed in the room, and Antigone watched them with her level gaze. She noted their expressions—some of greed and others of horror over her disfigurement. It kept her mind from the scene she’d witnessed in the desert that morning: two overturned trucks, their carriages ripped open, their human cargo strewn out onto the ancient interstate highway, a potholed path of crumbling blacktop long abandoned by a dead civilization, though used more recently in the war against the flesh-eating mongrels of Little Persia.
But the image of her brother, Polynices, haunted her and pushed past the present moment. Her body stiffened with memory and the physical and emotional pain she’d endured in order to see his broken body with her own eyes and to make certain that, even in death, his corpse was safe from those vengeful thugs now chanting before her. There was nothing worse they could do to her that Creon hadn’t already done. Her lip twitched painfully. She looked back to her uncle. Their eyes met. He flinched.
Though visibly angered by her open insolence, Creon silenced his loyalists with one word, instead. “Enough!” His sigh that followed was soft. “Guard, what did you find?”
The guard stepped forward and cleared his throat. “After some travel on the Interstate, we came upon the two trucks.”
As he spoke, Antigone remembered. She’d both rejoiced and wept upon finding the overturned cargo—twenty men in each truck. Her fingers traced the ridges of the torn metal and the graffiti that adorned the open sides. “Death is Yours” was spray-painted in bold blue and green. Thebes had sent these rebellious humans as a token gift to the defeated Persians, a little conciliatory dinner, because no “honorable” Greek would feast on rebel blood.
Her stomach lurched. She placed her trembling hands over it and prayed the guard was not long-winded. She didn’t know how much time she had left. She swallowed down the pain that cut like rose thorns below her ribcage. The desert had a flower called the ice rose. Its poisonous blue petals opened at dawn. Her brother’s body had been surrounded by them, a bed that hadn’t cushioned his fatal fall. She’d knelt to touch his shattered brow. Then the sun rose.
“The men? Gone. We dug. No bodies. In their places, two large markers stood.” The guard glanced at her, then forward. “Crosses, my king.”
Not one cough—not even one foot shuffle—interrupted the heavy stillness that settled over the room. “Niece, show me your hands.”
Antigone lifted them palm upward. The senators gasped. The crosses had completely burned away the flesh of her palms. Silently, Creon gazed upon her visible bones.
Antigone moistened her dry lips, then bit down on the lower as a spasm of pain shuddered through her torso. “I’ve only asked of you one thing: a marker to prove my brother existed. As a man.”
Creon shook his head. “Why, Antigone?” He placed his face in his palms and wept.
“Uncle, when you turned me, I was too young. The blush had barely faded from my face when your action against me brought forth this fight between my brothers—most certainly a calculated move to secure your own designs on gaining the crown.”
“Against you?” Creon sat back on his throne. His shoulders sagged.
“Heresy. Blasphemer,” the senators howled.
Antigone whirled around to glare at the crowd. “I’ve heard your words before. They do not scare me!” As one, they shrank backward into the shadows as if her face was the sun.
“I offered Polynices the same, but he refused,” Creon said. “He turned his back upon the gods.”
“Offered the same? What choice?” She blinked rapidly. Her vision swam. The candlelight grew into long shimmering star-points. “I wished you’d given me one. To remain mortal, defying you. You’ve no gods but yourselves. The unturned aren’t heretics but humans—sad, frightened workers who bend like oxen to the yoke. These so-called heathens become the help and then the herd. Your reasoning disgusts me.”
“I’ve heard your words,” Creon lifted from his throne and stalked toward her. His face proved he was past regret. He had no more tears for her. “And by those words, I must make my choice—indeed, no choice. You’ve taken it from me. Perhaps now, we are even.”
Summoning the remaining shreds of bravery, she lifted her chin. We’re not yet even, Uncle.
She lifted her wrist to him. “Then sink in, King.”
He batted her hand away and went for her throat. As his fangs sank into her neck, she felt his mind invade hers. She pushed down her thoughts until the right time, even as other men’s hungry mouths seized upon her wrists, her arms and behind her knees.
When her eyelids fluttered uncontrollably and her eyes rolled backward into her skull, she let Creon inside her mind to see what he desired. He saw the love she had for him—saw it as a mere fraction of what it had been when she was young and easily fooled. Hate now overwhelmed her heart’s remaining portion. When the pain from teeth and tongues had dulled to an icy numbness, she revealed to him what she had done with her brother’s body and the blue roses that had made his bed. She’d consumed their poisonous petals, and in retaliation, they now consumed her flesh, tainting the blood thrumming through her body.
With a moan, Creon pulled away from her and fell to his knees, just as the senators jumped back from her deteriorating body as if she were some angel of death. And for them, she was.
If you enjoyed this short story, look for my books, “Stealing Sky” (sci-fi) and “Vampire’s Fortune, Fortune Teller’s Curse” (urban fantasy) at Books2Read and Amazon.