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New Hire

By Mystique Meredith, Virginia State University





I am Matthew Payne, an Anglo Saxon from millennia ago. Standing at a modest six foot, two inches, with chestnut brown hair and a matching full beard and pure blue eyes, I am 225 lbs. of muscle, honed from years on the battlefield, conquering the land that is now called Wales. My right eye has a long, jagged scar running from forehead to cheek. I have deeply tanned skin, am covered head-to-toe in scars, tattoos adorning my skin from shoulder blades to fingertips; inky-black designs whose meanings are lost to time. 


Having once been a great warrior and conqueror, I must admit the sorry state in which I currently exist disgusts me. All I can recall of my boyhood is the loss of my family to disease and famine before the age of 10. Left to fend for myself, I became a thief and a vagabond until the age of 16, when some pitiable fool took mercy on me and brought me away from the mainland, to lands unexplored. 


It was on these shores that I awoke. 


Battle after battle, I grew ever more savage in my appearance and in my state of mind. I didn’t care about the lives of those around me–neither friend nor foe mattered. All that mattered was the rush of adrenaline coursing through my veins as my ax cut through the flesh of the man in front of me, his dark red blood splattering onto my face and dripping into my mouth, coating it in sweet taste of iron as I rejoice in the glory of combat. 


I built my castle from the bodies of those that fell before me, a massive stonework structure that loomed on top of the hill, casting a dark shadow over the land below. I ruled with an iron fist and bloody ax. My reign of terror left me paranoid, though: every person, every animal, every shadow and bump in the night was an enemy lying in wait. I boasted that I didn’t fear Death, that I wanted to beat Death, to conquer it, to have Death kneeling at my feet, cowering at my greatness. 


That life held no meaning off the battlefield, but even back then, I feared Death–what sensible man wouldn’t? In my delusions of grandeur, I began to delve into the mystic arts, in search of some way to stave off my greatest enemy, Death. I sent scores of men out to scour the land for a spell, a potion, a remedy–anything to ward off the cold grasp of the Grim Reaper. Every dead end, every failure, every man that returned to my castle empty-handed fell to my blade. I had no more use for them. 


I had all but given up my search when I awoke one day to a strange book, a grimoire, waiting for me: twenty inches tall, eighteen inches wide and six inches deep, the binding and pages made of a mishmash of human skin, all in different states of decay, the text written in blood–the moans of the damned echoed in my head. My solace, my savior, my damnation. It called to me, a siren’s song wailing from its inky depths. 


My madness consumed me, then. Frantic, I opened the grimoire, turning each leathery page with reverence, the moans getting louder and louder in my ears. I lay the book flat and there it was: the ritual that would give me dominion over Death. It called for sacrifices, a lot of them. It was no matter. The lives I considered lesser than mine were easily offered. 

I summoned my servants to the Great Hall, usually reserved for balls, but now used for my ascension beyond the constraints of man. A strange symbol was drawn on the floor in horse blood, and over two hundred unknowing lambs to slaughter milled about, curious but unquestioning. 


I looked down upon them, a cruel and empty smile etched across my face. Once the last lamb entered, I had my men close and bar the doors. They knew what was coming and were pleased to die for my ascension. 


I opened the grimoire and chanted the words written on flesh, black smoke rose from the floor and the lambs began to panic. I ignored them and continued. Smoke filled the hall and the lambs began to suffocate as the acrid smoke filled their lungs and they were set ablaze, screams of agony briefly echoing throughout the room, then falling quiet as the lambs were quickly incinerated to ash. 


My men did not utter a word or let out a single scream of pain as they too were consumed by the ritual, standing in stoic silence and dogmatic loyalty, their ashes joined the rest. 

The ritual gathered the ashes in a whirlwind, spewing upwards to the ceiling of the great hall, a form began to take shape in the whirlwind; long spindly arms with skeletal hands appeared, a lipless mouth full of teeth from various carnivorous animals appeared next, blood red eyes with all-black pupils formed last and stared at me with a mixture of contempt, malice, and amusement. Looking into the eyes of the ancient entity I felt something I had never felt before: inferior. It smiled, showing me its endless rows of sharp teeth, in various stages of rot. 


“Ydych chi eisiau bywyd tragwyddol?” it asked in a multitude of voices, a deep bass, an eerie whisper, light jingle almost like a child’s.

(Do you want eternal life?)


I swallowed the bile rising in my throat. The moment I worked so hard for was finally here and yet I felt no joy. I didn’t feel greatness or power. I felt weak, like an insect to be stepped on. There was no turning back now; I had come too far and too much had been lost.


“Oes.” I stated firmly.

(Yes.)


“Yna byddwch yn ei gael.” it declared, smile widening wickedly on its face.

(Then you shall have it.)


The entity raised its arms, eyes fully blackening as it began to chant in a language not of this world, the whirlwind of ashes spinning faster as the chanting increased in volume. The entity reached the apex of the chant, leveling its pitch black eyes with mine, then it pierced my heart with its bony hand, and a pain unlike any other overwhelmed me, my veins bursting and blood leaking from every orifice until it was eventually replaced with black ichor, made of the ashes of my dead subordinates and servants. My eyes, my hair and my bones were all turned black and a dark malevolent magic settled in my core.


“Eich bywydau chi nawr.” it said.

(Their lives are now yours.)


“Ydw i nawr yn anfarwol?” I asked.

(Am I now immortal?)


“Nage” 

(No)


“Yna sut y diancaf Angau?”  I responded petulantly.

(Then how will I escape Death?)


“Nid yw marwolaeth yn rhywbeth y gallwch chi feidrolion ddianc ohono,” it stated.

(Death is not something you mortals can escape.)


The entity then returned to wherever it came from in a wisp of smoke, leaving me standing in a dark room with only the smell of ash and blood to fill my nose.


I wandered for centuries before deciding to seal myself in the cellar of my castle, to let time pass me by. At some point, my castle was torn down and this office was built over it, and now I’m the Unit Manager. It is a little weird working from home but at least the commute is easy. 



“Um, what does that have to do with the forms I asked you to sign?” Alex, the new employee asks.


“Oh, I’m sorry. It’s been centuries since I had someone to talk to. I’ll get those papers signed right away!” I cheerfully respond, “I’m glad you took the time to speak to me, most others are too afraid. I hope this is the start of a beautiful friendship. And don’t worry, I’m not going to kill you… yet.”


About the Author

Mystique Meredith, Virginia State University


Mystique Meredith is an English and Creative Writing major at Virginia State University. Born and raised in Ettrick, Virginia, Mystique is all about diving into different worlds through reading, writing, anime, video games, and comic books. As a fat, Black, fem, nonbinary bisexual person, they pour their heart into creating diverse and inclusive fiction across all genres, from fantasy to cyberpunk, and they invite you to journey to new worlds together!

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