By Lizzie Arroyo, TIWP Student
Caelia kept her head down and her legs together, just like she was told. That just seemed like the easiest thing to do. Why bother telling her father she hated all the dresses he picked out for her, because they covered up too much of her? Why bother telling the boys to shut up about how hard school was and appreciate that they could actually go to school? Caelia had figured out quite early that the best way to live was to do what the adults said, keep her head down and her mouth shut, and be a good little girl. She’d be fine if she just did that.
The one thing that marred her search to be the perfect girl was the blue veins webbing her back along the shoulder blades. They were ugly. Abnormal. They were what her father called “Demon marks.” They were a daily reminder of Caelia’s mother, the one her father had “rescued” her from. Her father called her delusional every time, so eventually she just dropped the subject and accepted his version of it: her mother was a monster, and she was a monster’s daughter. She was lucky he’d kept her at all.
For a while, everything was perfect.
And then it wasn’t.
One day while she was walking home from the well, Joshua, the scourge of the neighborhood, walked up to her and said, “Hey, Caelia, how about you give me that bucket back?” Caelia blinked.
“You already have a bucket,” she said, pointing to the one in his hand. Joshua brushed it off.
“Yeah, but I like that one. So, give it to me.” Caelia backed up. This was the only water bucket her family had. Her father would definitely give her a beating if she came back to the house without it.
“Uh, um, I, uh-” she stuttered. Joshua stepped closer. His shadow was long and swallowed her up like an ant in the shadow of a boot.
“Come on, be a good girl and hand it over. Don’t be so greedy.” Caelia felt like she was being stepped over. This was wrong in too many ways, but the only thing she could focus on was that here, now, she didn’t want to be called greedy and didn’t want to be a burden.
She broke and handed him the bucket.
“Now give me yours,” she said, reaching for some consolation that this was not unfair. Joshua yanked his bucket away and scoffed like she was being ridiculous.
“Don’t be stupid. Go get your own!” He swung the wooden bucket at her head and a starburst of pain exploded in her temple when it knocked her down in the dirt. Then he leisurely walked away, whistling.
For some reason, it was at that exact moment Caelia remembered the first time, when she was thirteen, a boy had groped her, and then screamed as soon as he touched her skin—like his soul was being sucked out. Caelia had looked down and seen that the blue veins which marred her shoulder blades had grown like vines around her sides to web her chest. And Caelia had felt so energized, like she was soaking in something the boy was losing. It felt so wonderful that the whipping she’d suffered from her father couldn’t stop her from dreaming about it years later. She could’ve taken more, and become stronger, if she’d wanted.
Why hadn’t she?
Caelia reached a hand to her forehead, and her fingers came away dark red. The sight of her own blood was like the spark on a barrel of oil that had been welling up, suppressed in the dark, for years. Igniting a Hellfire of rage within her.
Screw this, she thought, I try my best to be sweet, to be obedient so that I don’t scare anyone, and I get knocked in the dirt for it. I’m done with trying to please people.
She forced herself to get up, back on her feet. The bleeding from her head dripped into her left eye and made her feel dizzy. She could sense Joshua nearby, his worthless sack of flesh pulsing with energy, energy that could make her strong again. All she had to do was TAKE IT.
She heard her own feet pounding the ground, felt the rush of wind in her long hair, willed her body faster and faster so she could reach her prey as soon as possible. Then she found herself bending over Joshua’s cold, lifeless body, her lips still locked over his. The last squib of—”life force” was what she decided to call it—flowed from him to her. No, she took it. Because she wanted to.
In that moment, Caelia finally accepted what she was: first and foremost, something new, the first of a powerful new species.
She would name herself.
“I am a Succubus!” she screamed for the world to hear, “And my descendents will be called the Succubi Corps!” The life force she’d stolen and made into her own made her skin blaze. Her eyes cleared, her head stopped ringing, and she felt like she’d become the raging warrior she’d always wanted to be. With beautiful blue veins webbing her pale skin.
Caelia heard the sound of her power ripping a hole in reality behind her. She turned to face it with a chin held high for the first time in her life. But as soon as she saw the swirling black hole, she knew she had nothing to be afraid of. The hole sang to her like a heartbeat, calling her home. She chose to step through and see what was waiting for her.
After a few seconds of motion and darkness, she found herself in a world unknown. Purple volcanic rock crunched under her feet, and huge columns of lava and flame licked the air. Ahead of her was a patchwork of wildly different landscapes. A field of bones, an enormous graveyard, a sapphire-colored ocean that stretched to the horizon, a forest of black, leafless trees. Hell, she knew instinctively.
A Demoness with lovely black veins webbing her pale skin and eyes that glowed warmer and more brilliant than the surrounding Hellfires held out her arms to Caelia. She smiled so happily, and Caelia knew who she was.
“Welcome home,” her mother said.