“M” by Russell Hemmell
(Originally published in Not One of Us.)
We look like them, Christian thought, admiring the fresco in the charnel house and its ghastly figures, scary and eerily beautiful. He adjusted the heavy cloak over his shoulders. The evening was damp and cold, and he was tired after a whole day on the move. But he could not avoid that feeling of elation. He had followed her for too long, and days had become months. Years. Winters, summers, clear starry nights of patient stalking. Across desolate lands and overcrowded cities, poverty and luxury, holy retreats and dangerous havens. And now he was back to square one, where all had started. Incidentally, his birthplace, that glittering Paris so cherished and hated. Isn’t fate… ironic? Because God, for sure, has no business here. Or has He? Christian was sure about one thing, though: the place he was standing on at that precise moment was not a surprise. Where else could that creature ever find a better sanctuary? He kneeled down, covering his face with a perfumed handkerchief. The Cemetery of the Innocents, also known as Les Champeaux, was the same infamous location it had been since centuries, since Roman times. The mass graves were yet to come, and so the Black Death, and war, but the character of the place and its morbid allure were already there, near that market of Les Halles where they had remained for centuries. Conquerors and lords had passed by and ruled, different yet equally unflinching in front of massacres, diseases, famine and blood. Nationality didn’t matter a lot in the business of taking lives. Even less in trading them. The market stopped during the night, but business was florid as usual—with some of its unique perks for the Court of Miracles’ night owls. Christian had arrived just after closing and walked across the walled area, passing the fountain and heading toward the charnel houses. Quietly, he had found a suitable observation point and, hidden beneath the Danse Macabre fresco, had begun waiting for what he knew in advance would follow. He didn’t have to wait for long.
Russell Hemmell is a statistician and social scientist from the UK, passionate about astrophysics and speculative fiction. Stories in PerihelionSF, SQ Mag, and others. Russell can be found online at earthianhivemind.net and on Twitter via @SPBianchini.
About the Narrator:
Geoffrey Welchman writes, produces, and voices The Reigning Lunatic podcast, a medieval sitcom (and 2016 Parsec Awards finalist). He lives in Baltimore, Maryland. You can find him online at geoffreywelchman.com.