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Chenxiang

Agarwood, Aloeswood

0 · 638 views · located in Censer

a character in “Censer”, as played by bethelit

Description

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TW: MURDER, DEATH, MENTIONS OF DRUG USE


                                          I FLAME INTO    
THE SOUND OF MY         
         OWN                 SHATTERS.


— ELIZABETH THERIOT
from “Briseis Dreams of Ships”




If the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin — Mary Alice Marrow had failed the moment she thrashed Ulric Steadman’s brains out with a flaming Chevy Impala. He dangled like a flaring hood ornament on her vehicle, rasping. His voice transformed by a vernacular of agony, resentment, suffocation, and blaze. She remembered sitting on that same hood in the first grade, kicking her legs up next to her brother, Cash, who at the time could still walk. For a moment, she couldn’t move. She felt as if the whole cornfield stretched impossibly on all sides beneath the early darkness. She could hear his labored breathing like that of an animal, as terror-struck as Cash might have been. Then, she said to herself: I am responsible for this. Burning, still burning, Ulric Steadman spat her name, and she ran him further into the mouth of her brother’s meth shack. The Impala remained lodged there in the brackish wreck –– a shiny black splinter, grief with nowhere left to go.

The night was humid still. The Impala swallowed the building and the corpse in one mass immolation. She watched Ulric’s body withering, his flesh charring, and his corpse collapsing within itself. There was no part of him in death that refused to burn. His image blurred in the heat and smoke. Five years later, she would still not be used to the rot. She could never be sure which was worse. The intense presence of death and absolution, or the absence of them. A low-decibel hiss resonated as she turned off the ignition beneath the evening’s awning of darkness. The girl lifted a fiery hand to her face, only to realize that there was a hole where her nose had been. And her eyes, too. Her fingers roamed across moon-bone teeth and sexless breast. She raised a second hand to her cheek. There was nothing about her new form that was soft or supple.

She stared unflinchingly at her reflection in the rearview mirror, reds and yellows flickering in an unholy dance across bony features. On principle, she did not consider herself a murderer. She couldn't be one. She was a Christian, generally indifferent, and smart enough to reconsider. It struck her later that if the Spirit had not killed Ulric, she would have gone and done it anyway. A gun. A lead pipe. A rock the size of her fist.

Flecks of fire licked the Impala's wheels and singed the corn that crowned them. She stepped out from the vehicle and stood where the furious immolation had been and looked around. Somehow, seconds before the Spirit made itself known to her, she knew she was not alone. Refusing to flee, she made the damning mistake of allowing violence to bring them closer together. She was too young when she became the Ghost Rider. How young, she could not remember. But the scribes did not bother to record how old Judith was when she slaughtered Holofernes. And so, quietly, in the back of her mind, Mary Alice conveniently forgot about the night she, nineteen-and-a-half and high on meth, avenged her brother. A flaming head behind the leather wheel. Soul sold to Satan. Yet, somehow, still, a woman created in the image of God.

The girl can only recall one thing for certain. There, standing in the cornfield, even though Miss Maggie had told her that in the presence of evil, never behold its form, Mary Alice warmed quickly to her bonded partner: the Spirit of Vengeance. A dormant presence bloomed inside her and she came to it like a child. For her, this divine darkness satisfied a deep, neglected loneliness she knew but could never share. In the daemon flash of a monstrous glow, the nameless abomination asked for a name, good company, and a voice to call its own. They shared a body now; the horrible and terror-crazed house of Mary Alice Marrow. The Spirit spoke in a woman's timbre; a cabalistic parody of the girl's late mother.

"Very well. My name is Lady Antebellum. The man is dead, my girl. Well done.”

In the distance, sirens sounded beyond the dying grass. The girl was relieved of her hellish form. Human again, her legs struggled to find purchase. She stumbled to the ground, retched, and wept.

So begins...

Chenxiang's Story