Saturday night, 19 March 2016, AM
Celia: There’s a cat on the side of the road near the border of the Mid-City. It’s a pretty cat. Gray fur, bright eyes, a cute little black nose. There’s no collar on the cat’s neck, but it looks well cared for; it clearly belongs to someone, and the bag sitting half-hidden in shrubbery beside it suggests that this person is nearby.
Only there’s no one around but the cat.
The cat waits for her boy, tail flicking beneath the pale moonlight, eyes on the road. She searches for his car.
GM: The cat doesn’t wait long.
The boy’s car arrives soon. The boy gets out.
“Hello, puss,” he smiles, getting onto his haunches to scratch her ears.
Celia: The cat purrs at her boy, rubbing her face against his palm and winding herself around his ankles. She shows him the bag, then rolls onto her back to expose her belly.
While the cat might not want the petting to end, the girl inside of her knows that she has things to discuss with the boy and they can’t spend all their time here on the side of the road. She can’t hide in this form tonight and avoid conversation. So it isn’t too long before she paws at the car, leaping inside once he opens the door and moves to his lap as soon as he starts the car so they can leave. She kneads his thighs with her paws, turns in a circle, and settles down with her limbs tucked beneath her for the drive to his place.
GM: Roderick smiles and rubs the cat’s belly for a while. He lets her inside and brings the bag with him.
Then he picks up an old-fashioned cat carrier with a caged door, opens it, and gently but forcefully pushes the feline inside. He closes the cage door after her.
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” he says as he starts the ignition. “This is better for the Masquerade.”
Celia: The cat doesn’t take kindly to being shoved inside the cage. It twists, trying to get around his hand, but he’s stronger and bigger than her feline form and he closes the door on her before she can escape. She yowls in distress, scratching at the box with her claws.
GM: “Bad,” the boy says firmly as they drive. “You will be corrected if you cannot stay good as a cat, Celia.”
Celia: Her answering meow is distraught. But she’s quiet after that.
GM: “Good cat,” says Roderick, his eyes remaining on the road.
Celia: She settles eventually, curling up on the floor of the crate with her head on her paws. There’s little else she can do given the situation.
GM: The cat waits for a while. Roderick eventually parks the car in the garage, takes the bag and the cat carrier, and gets out. He takes the stairs up to his apartment.
Luna doesn’t see the man from last night.
Celia: She wonders if he’s dead. Or if he just broke a bunch of things falling down the stairs.
She sniffs for blood.
GM: Roderick doesn’t say either way.
The cat smells none.
He takes her into his new apartment. It feels similar to the old one, but less personal. It’s clean and well-maintained, and decorated with the same modern and relatively minimalist aesthetic. Grays, whites, and beiges predominate. Much of the wall space used for art seems to have gone to bookshelves instead. The baseball pennant for the New Orleans Pelicans is gone, though. So is the John F. Kennedy election poster. The three family photos of the Garrisons are gone as well. His grandmother’s mirror has already been shattered. The framed degrees from Tulane University and Tulane Law are still present, though. There’s also two new additions: one is a statue of a tall and proud-looking woman in an imperious pose, fist raised high above her head. There’s an inscription at the base in what looks like Greek, which Celia cannot read. There’s also a mosaic of Alexander the Great on his horse.
Roderick sets down the bag, then puts down the cat carrier next to it. He opens the barred metal door for the cat inside to leave.
Celia: Luna darts out of the cage, streaking past Roderick to dive beneath the couch, crawling across the carpet on her belly to fit into the snug space.
GM: She hears a frown in Roderick’s voice.
“Enough of that, Celia. You are not a cat.”
Celia: She is a cat. Her answering meow is plaintive.
GM: The couch is suddenly gone. Roderick lifts it over his head in one hand. There’s a stern look on his face as he grabs for the cat.
Celia: Oh. The cat starts to flatten herself against the ground, then catches sight of his face and thinks better of it. She doesn’t move when he reaches for her.
GM: He picks her up by the scruff of her neck, lowers the couch enough that it doesn’t make too much impact when he drops it, then stuffs the cat back inside the carrier.
The barred metal door locks closed again with another click.
Celia: She could twist. Hiss. Scratch his arm.
But she doesn’t. She hangs limply from his hand, goes quietly into the carrier, and doesn’t make a peep once she’s inside.
GM: He looks at her for several moments.
“You will remain in the carrier until you show me you are in control of yourself.”
“Shake your head if you are not a cat. Cats do not shake their heads.”
Celia: The cat meows at him. But she shakes her head.
GM: “No meows,” he says.
“Shake your head twice if you are not a cat.”
Celia: What sort of cat doesn’t meow?
The cat shakes her head. She pauses. Then shakes it again.
GM: “Good,” says Roderick.
“I am going to let you out. You will immediately turn back into a human. Nod your head if you understand.”
Celia: The cat nods her head.
GM: Roderick opens the cage door.
Celia: There was a cat once. Now there’s just a girl, sitting on the floor where the cat had been while she looks up at her boyfriend with large eyes. She’s dressed down from Elysium and her meetings, in yoga pants and an off-the-shoulder sweater that exposes her neck and collarbone on one side, hair pulled back off her face in a low tie that twists in and around itself to lend some elegance to the typical “pony” look.
She looks younger and more vulnerable than her years suggest. There’s no trace of Jade in her face despite the mask she wears. No trace of the slutty Toreador. No trace of Savoy’s lapcat or Veronica’s childe, the killer or the chameleon.
There’s no trace of her sire when she looks up at Roderick, wringing her hands in front of her.
She looks like his college girlfriend again. Casual. Uncertain. Timid.
“Y-you pu… you put me in a—a cage.”
GM: “It’s better for the Masquerade,” Roderick says simply.
She’s making such a big deal about this.
He hangs up his coat, then sits down on the couch. He’s also dressed down from Elysium, albeit slightly. Button-up navy shirt. Black slacks. Oxfords.
“You seemed fairly intent on selling me that you belonged in a cage.”
Celia: “I just—I just wanted you to p-pet me.”
She doesn’t point out how many people put their animals inside their cars without cages or boxes or leashes.
GM: “I did pet you. Multiple times. Do you not recall that, Celia?” he asks, seated above her on the couch.
Celia: “What if there was an accident? What if there was a fire? What if you got jumped?”
How could he do that to her? She doesn’t ask. Her eyes find the floor. Her shoulders lift, as if to protect herself from his anger and disappointment.
Where’s the boy who wants a cat? Where’s the boy who will cuddle and pet her all night because it’s cute and adorable?
Dead and gone.
“R-Roderick?” She can’t shake the stammer. She breathes. The hesitance is there in her eyes when she lifts them from the ground to find his face, wide and imploring.
“I… I think I…”
She trails off, eyes dropping to the ground again. She’s not going to cry. She’s not going to cry. She’s not going to cry. She’s not afraid, she tells herself. He could have hurt her earlier and he didn’t. He’s not going to hurt her. He’s not going to kill her. He loves her. He’ll help her. It’s better this way. He’s smarter. Stronger. Faster. She’s lost without him, floundering. He’ll put her back on the proper path. It’s for her. For them.
She takes another breath. They should do this first. Before anything else.
“I n-need… I need to be corrected,” she finishes in a whisper.
GM: Roderick leans down from his seat to touch Celia, who’s still sitting below him on the ground, and places a hand on her shoulder.
“For questioning my judgment over the cage, Celia, or for something else?” he asks, understandingly.
Celia: She can’t help but lean into his touch. She closes her eyes. She breathes again, but it does nothing for her.
The uncertainty makes it a question. Is he going to correct her about the cage? She’d stopped. She had.
GM: “Why both?” he asks, still patiently.
Celia: “I… I shouldn’t question you? It’s better. Better for the Masquerade. I should—I shouldn’t play. I’m not a cat. I’m a per… I’m a person. You told me to stop but I didn’t. I wanted to play. It was…. it was wrong. You said stop.”
GM: “Correct,” Roderick answers. “We did play, when I first arrived to pick you up. We enjoyed that. But you got too ‘into character.’ I’ve heard it’s something that Gangrel can do while shapeshifted. They can lose their rationality and higher faculties. They can truly become animals.”
“I don’t need to say that neither of us wants you to ‘actually become’ an animal.”
Celia: Celia nods her head.
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t… I wasn’t lost. I know who I am. I’m Celia. I just… I wanted… cuddling. More of it.”
She tries not to think about the prop she’d bought for them sitting at the top of her bag.
GM: “Then you need to ask for that as a person, or you need to find a way to intelligently communicate your desires while shapeshifted,” Roderick explains. “You are not actually a cat, Celia. You can enjoy ‘play’ as a cat. But that is as far as it should go.”
Celia: “You seemed happier last time when we played,” Celia says quietly. “I just… wanted you to be happier.”
GM: “Do you think it makes me happy to discipline a misbehaving cat?”
GM: “Do you think it makes me happy to explain to my carmilla that she is not actually a cat?”
“I’m sorry,” she says again. “I misjudged. I won’t do it again.”
“I’ll go in the cage when I need to. I won’t… meow.”
GM: “Good,” says Roderick.
He rubs her shoulder.
“We can play when you’re a cat. But when I make clear that playtime is over, it’s over. Understood?”
Celia: “Yes.” There’s a pause, like she’s debating saying “sir.”
GM: “Good,” he repeats.
He rubs her shoulder again.
It’s good she understands.
“I don’t like yoga pants, Celia,” he then says. “Please change into something else. You can keep the top if you’d still like to.”
Celia: “Oh. I didn’t know. I’m… I’m sorry, Roderick, I didn’t know. I’ll change.”
She’s on her feet quickly, moving towards her bag to find something else. She had brought everything she’d need for the evening, for the day, for tomorrow as well. The prop she’d ordered for the pair of them is moved aside as she shifts through her bag, searching for something more suitable.
“Are… are pajamas okay?”
GM: Roderick gets out his phone and scrolls through it while she looks through her things.
“Pajamas are okay,” he answers.
“You also don’t need to be sorry for this,” he smiles. “I hadn’t told you I don’t like them. But no more yoga pants around me in the future. Okay?”
Celia: Has he always disliked them?
“Do… do you have a preference on what I wear around you? More formal?”
GM: “No, I generally like your clothing styles,” he answers. “If something else comes up that I don’t like, I’ll let you know. You won’t be corrected for it.”
Celia: “Yes, Roderick. Thank you.”
She doesn’t know if he wants her to change in front of him. She excuses herself from the room to do so, moving back in only once she has donned her nightie: a sheer teddy with a bow off to one side and matching panties.
She hesitates on the threshold of the room, as if to ask him if this is okay.
GM: Roderick smiles at her and nods.
“You look lovely, Celia.”
Celia: She’s not immune to compliments. Her cheeks turn pink. She smiles shyly, dipping her head, and puts the offending clothing back into her bag. A small pink box is displaced when she does; she reaches for it to tuck it back away.
GM: Roderick watches her do so.
“Do your employees at Flawless still wear yoga pants?”
“And tennis shoes?”
Celia: “Y… yes?”
“They’re easy to move in.”
“And they’re on their feet all day.”
GM: “You can draw up a uniform proposal and run it past me. I’m fine if they wear comfortable footwear, but I don’t like tennis shoes, either.”
Celia: She wants to argue with him. It’s her business.
But she nods instead.
“Are… are you going to be coming by the spa, Roderick? It’s usually only me at night.”
GM: “Good,” he says. “Uniforms will help your employees look more professional. That will help draw important clients to your business.”
“And I’d had the thought to do so more frequently, now that I’m going to be spending more time in the Quarter. Do you like that thought?”
Celia: “For services?”
GM: “For services, to simply spend time together, and to assess how your business can be used to advance our interests.”
Someone breathing down her neck. Telling her how to run things.
Making the tough decisions so she doesn’t need to.
GM: “I’ll come by when your employees are no longer wearing tennis shoes and yoga pants.”
Celia: “Yes, Roderick.”
GM: “Good,” Roderick says. “Sit down, Celia. You’d said there was something I needed to correct you for?”
Celia: Celia takes a seat beside him. Half of her had hoped he’d forgotten. The rest of her knows he’s too smart for that.
GM: He turns to fully face her.
“Tell me about it.”
Celia: At least he hadn’t put her on the floor, right? She tries to take that as a good sign. He loves her. He respects her. He wants to listen to her.
But he’s in charge.
“I… I did a… I p-put our rel-relationship at—at risk. I be… I be…” She cuts off. She can’t breathe. She doesn’t need to breathe but she still can’t; the air traps itself like a bubble in her throat. It burns. She blinks back the red, unable to stand his disappointment.
Not scared. She’s not scared. He’s not going to hurt her. He’s only going to correct her.
“I be-betrayed y-you. Us. I betrayed us.”
She can’t look at him. She can’t. One night in and she’d already messed up.
Stupid, he says inside her head.
She nods. She is. She’s stupid. He’s smart. He’ll make it better. He’ll fix it.
Pathetic, someone sneers.
Crafty, a lick with green eyes says.
He loves her, the blonde sighs.
“Stop it,” she whispers.
GM: She hears the frown in Roderick’s voice.
“How did you betray us, Celia?” he asks.
He’ll know what to do.
All she needs to do is tell him.
Celia: “I… I… I…”
She looks up. She meets his eyes. She looks away again. Swallows.
“I me—I met with… with a contact. I have… I have a lot of contacts,” she explains in a whisper.
He’s going to hurt her.
He’s going to kill her.
He’s going to leave her.
“He’s not,” she whispers. She puts her hands over her ears, as if that will make it stop. “He’s not. He’s not. Stop it! Stop. Please stop.”
GM: Celia can’t see his face. But she hears a deeper frown in her lover’s voice.
“Who are you talking to, Celia?” he asks.
Leilani. Jade. Someone Else.
Crazy, one of them giggles.
They might not understand, the masked man says.
Slowly, Celia uncovers her ears. He won’t understand. Not yet. It’s too much for right now. She needs to be corrected first.
“No… no one. Sorry. No one.” Everyone. She changes the subject as delicately as she can. “I have… I have a lot of—of contacts. Friends, some. They tell… they tell me things.”
“But that’s… that’s Jade. Pretty. Whore.”
“He touched me.”
“I let him. I let him touch me.”
GM: Roderick frowns.
Perhaps at both statements.
But he lets the first one drop for now.
“Who touched you, Celia?” he asks.
Celia: “The Brujah. The Greek. Duke. Duke. It was Duke.”
“I went to Tulane.”
He’s going to hurt her.
He’s going to correct her.
“I got a brochure,” she says to him, as if that makes up for what she’d done.
Sneaking into his frat house. Letting him touch her. Touching him. The stolen brochure—one of his “brothers” must be undecided—doesn’t make up for it.
She knows that. But she says it.
GM: “I see,” Roderick says.
“I need to speak with him about this. You’re going to bring him someplace where I can do so.”
Celia: Celia bobs her head up and down.
“We talked about things,” she says.
An offering, if he wants it.
GM: “Good,” says Roderick when she nods. He puts a hand down over hers.
“You can do that soon, and you can do that on your own?”
Celia: “I usually go to him,” she admits.
GM: “I see. Do you think you can’t?”
Celia: “I’ll make it work. I’ll do that. For you. For us. I’ll bring him.”
GM: “Good,” Roderick smiles, patting her hand again.
“Would you like to sit on my lap?”
Celia: She nods again.
GM: He pats it.
Celia: Celia clambers onto his lap. She shivers, as if expecting the worst, then settles against him.
GM: He wraps his arms around her and hugs her against him.
“You did good, Celia, telling me like this. You don’t need to be corrected when you tell the truth.”
“Telling the truth is good.”
“Telling the truth is virtuous.”
Celia: She can’t help the sob. The way she clings to him. The red that runs down her cheeks after she’d spent the past few hours fearing the worst. She presses herself against him, nodding her head as he talks to show she understands but crying in relief all the same.
GM: “Shhh. It’s okay, Celia. I’ve got you,” says Roderick, hugging her close.
“I’m proud of you for telling the truth.”
Celia: She apologizes anyway, stammering out a handful of _sorry_s and I didn’t mean tos.
“I w—I went for, for you,” she finally gets out. “Be-because you said you wanted to-to kill him.”
GM: “Yes, I still do,” answers Roderick. “So why did you go there?”
Celia: Celia tries to breathe. The tears slow as Roderick holds her close. She curls against him in her sheer teddy, legs drawn up almost to her chest.
“Information,” she finally says. “We talked about… about a few things. I thought if… I thought I could leverage our friendship if he were made a hound, and keep you updated.”
“And I found out… something else.”
GM: “What did you find out?” Roderick asks.
Celia: Celia leans in close to whisper in his ear.
“I found out the truth about Caroline.”
GM: Roderick raises an eyebrow.
Celia: “Vidal’s childe,” Celia whispers.
GM: His eyebrow raises further.
Celia: “No one knows.”
GM: “If you do it’s a sure bet that other licks do too, Celia.”
Celia: She huffs.
“Savoy knows. And Lebeaux. And some others, probably.”
“But she’s in his way.”
“And she hurt my mom.”
“And I hate her.”
“And she threatened me.”
GM: “What makes you believe she’s the prince’s childe?”
Celia: “I got a sample of her blood and had Lebeaux test it.”
GM: “And Lebeaux told you that she was Vidal’s childe.”
Celia: Celia looks sure of herself for the first time since Roderick let her out of the cage.
“I’m a spy, Roderick. That’s what I do.”
“I find out things. And I tell Lord Savoy. Or my sire. And we plan around them.”
“I can change my face. I can become an animal. I can go anywhere.”
GM: “You obtained a blood sample that you tendered to Peter Lebeaux, and he told you that Caroline was Vidal’s childe,” Roderick repeats.
Celia: “He tested it in front of me.”
“You don’t believe me?”
GM: “It’s his magic. He controls what you see.”
“I don’t see any reason why the prince would’ve Embraced Caroline Malveaux-Devillers. The evidence you’ve cited, ‘Peter Lebeaux told me’, is not especially compelling.”
Celia: “I slept with her, Roderick. Before you and I were together. I went to her house and I slept with her. I tasted her blood. I tasted his blood inside of her.”
“She knows me as Celia, so I went to her as Celia. And she told me, too.”
GM: “Have you tasted Vidal’s blood?” Roderick asks.
Celia: “Savoy and I talked about it.”
“No,” Celia admits, “but the blood in her was thicker than Savoy’s, and Ventrue, and he’s both.”
GM: “I’ll ask Lord Savoy about this when I see him next,” says Roderick. “Until then, the subject of Caroline’s alleged sire is closed.”
“Please. Listen. He didn’t tell me I could tell you. He’ll know it was me if you bring it up.”
GM: “All right,” Roderick considers. “Ask him if you can tell me. Tell me his response either way.”
Celia: “I’m meeting with him tomorrow night,” Celia offers. “But… Roderick, that wasn’t… I had other sources…”
“But she’s… she’s in his way. If he wants the throne. She’s in his way.”
GM: “Caroline isn’t a threat to Savoy.”
“Whoever her sire is.”
Celia: “She is if she’s announced as the prince’s heir.”
GM: “She’s not even a year dead, Celia. Even if that happens, the best she could hope to be is a figurehead.”
Celia: “That’s the point.”
“Someone else uses her to spearhead their campaign.”
“Maldonato. Or another elder.”
GM: “Who are still threats, whether Vidal has a childe or not.”
Celia: “But she makes their claim legitimate.”
GM: “Celia, you know less about these things than I do,” Roderick says frankly.
Celia: She looks as if he slapped her. Her face falls.
“Yes, Roderick,” she murmurs.
GM: He runs a hand along her cheek.
“You need to remember that,” he says softly. “When you get worked up over these things.”
“Who is the smart one?”
Celia: “I’m… I’m sorry,” she stammers again. She presses her cheek into his hand. “I’m sorry. You’re the smart one. You’ll tell me what to worry about. When to worry. I’m sorry.”
GM: He hugs her.
“This is still new for you.”
Celia: Celia slowly nods her head.
GM: “You remembered where things stood when I reminded you. So that’s good.”
Celia: “I… I didn’t mean to overstep. I want… I wanted to tell you. To tell you ev—everything.”
GM: He rubs her back.
“I know you did. I’m glad you did. You should tell me everything. This was worth telling me.”
“You just got caught up and forgot who the smart one was.”
Celia: “Thank you. For… for reminding me.”
“For running the ship.”
“For handling it.”
GM: “You’re welcome. I will handle it. I’ll always take care of you.”
“As far as Caroline, any childe of Vidal’s would make a useful political prop to Maldonato or any number of other actors. She could be dangerous to Savoy, but only as a weapon wielded in their hands.”
“And when you fight someone, Celia, you don’t fight the weapon attacking you.”
“You fight the person attacking you with it.”
Celia: She’s a monster, Celia wants to say. A soul devouring monster. But she nods instead, latching on to his words.
“How? How do we fight Maldonato? And the others? I have… had… I gave him intel, but I don’t… I’m still working on it..?”
GM: Roderick gives Celia a humorous look.
“You certainly don’t fight the seneschal, Celia. He’s far above your pay grade.”
“Mine too, at least for now.”
“He’s Savoy’s problem.”
Celia: “But we help Savoy?”
GM: “Because it serves us.”
“What… what do you want?”
“In the future?”
“You… you said earlier… Alexander…” She looks towards the painting.
GM: “That’s a conversation for another time,” Roderick answers. “In the meanwhile, dealing with the seneschal isn’t your problem. What would you say if the junior-most girl at Flawless was worrying about your business’ long-term profit margins?”
Celia: “Am… Am I the junior most girl?”
“I just… I had a… I had a vision…” Celia trails off.
GM: “No, those are the Quarter Rats. The comparison was not exact, Celia. So tell me what you would think if one of the junior girls at Flawless was worrying about big picture questions that only you, the owner, have to concern yourself with?”
Celia: “I… I guess I’d tell them it’s… above their pay grade? But… but you’re my… we’re together, I thought. I want to help. To get you where you want. To support.”
“Because I love you.”
GM: “Of course. Just as I love you. And if you’d discovered, say, a weakness of the seneschal’s, that would be something I’d very much want to hear. But right you simply seem to be worrying yourself over a great deal of nothing.”
Celia: “Oh,” she says. “I’m… I’m sorry.”
“I’ll stop. Worrying.”
GM: “Good,” says Roderick.
“You said Caroline threatened you and hurt your mom. Tell me about that.”
Celia: Celia does so. She mentions her trip to the Garden District. Caroline wiping her mother’s memories. Her mother’s distress. Throwing her off the roof to use her as punishment. Caroline’s threat against Jade.
She doesn’t mention the threat because of Celia.
Or the sheriff’s intervention.
She tells him, too, how she thinks Caroline is responsible for her sister’s death.
How she’s taken out the entire krewe.
Fed them to her sire.
GM: “I told you to stop talking about Caroline’s alleged sire,” Roderick frowns.
Celia: Celia abruptly shuts her mouth.
GM: “I’ll let that slide for now, but showing me you can’t follow instructions tells me you need correction.”
Celia: “I’m… I’m sorry,” she whispers. “I’m trying. Please… please cor… correct me. If. If I need it. I don’t want to disappoint you.”
GM: “I know you don’t,” says Roderick. “Now, please clarify for me. You said Caroline threw your mother off a roof?”
Celia: “Punishment. Trespassing.”
GM: “Where was this?”
Celia: “My haven. When you came. And she was there.”
GM: “So Caroline came to the French Quarter, and threw your mother off your haven’s roof?”
Celia: She’s caught.
In her own lie.
Slowly, Celia shakes her head.
GM: “No?” Roderick asks. “What detail am I getting wrong, Celia?”
Celia: “I… I don’t…” Celia shakes her head.
GM: Roderick grabs Celia’s hair, makes a fist in it and yanks it back hard, splaying her throat.
“I don’t like where this conversation is going, Celia.”
Celia: Celia becomes absolutely, perfectly still.
GM: “Why don’t you tell me the full story of what happened to your mother at the roof.”
Celia: She blinks back red tears.
“Sh… she… the shuh… the… sheriff. The sheriff. Catch. Stupid. Catch her. Catch. Threw her. Threw her. He threw her. Catch. Said catch.”
GM: “Ah, the sheriff,” says Roderick, nodding thoughtfully.
“I suppose that makes more sense.”
“There was a lot about the ‘Caroline threw my mother off a roof’ story that didn’t make sense to me.”
He looks down at Celia and sneers.
“You’re so disgustingly dishonest, Celia.”
“You wouldn’t know the truth if it bent you over this couch and fucked you.”
Celia: That’s not how it’s supposed to go.
This isn’t how it goes.
She stays quiet. She’s already dug herself deep enough.
GM: Roderick abruptly dumps Celia off his lap and rises to his feet. He stares down at the prone woman on the floor with a cool expression.
“What do you have to say about what a liar you are?”
Celia: “I’m… I…”
Celia blinks up at him. Then she lowers her gaze, dropping her eyes to the floor. She kneels, bending, and presses her palms against the ground with her head bowed, supplicating herself before him in a pose that is pure submission and exposes the back of her neck.
“I don’t want to lie anymore. I don’t want to lie. I don’t want to. Please. Please help me. Please make me better. Please correct me. I want to tell you. Tell you everything. I don’t want to lie.”
GM: “I am going to give you three choices now, Celia.”
“One, we can end our relationship here, and you can tell as many lies as you like.”
Her face spasms in pain at the thought. She shakes her head frantically from side to side.
GM: “No? And yet you keep telling me lies, even though you know how much truth means to me. Is it unreasonable of me to think you value lying more than you value our relationship?”
Celia: “I don’t. I don’t. I swear. I don’t. There’s… just… there’s so much that… I’m afraid, Roderick. I’m afraid you won’t accept me. Won’t want me. Won’t love me.”
She can’t hold back the tears. She tries. She knows he doesn’t like her like this so she tries. She wipes at her eyes as if that will hide it.
“I d-don’t wa-want to, to lie anymore.”
GM: “The second option,” Roderick continues impassively, without so much as a trace of sympathy in his voice, “is that you leave my haven and sleep by yourself tonight. You will write a testament for me. Of your lies. All of your lies. One of your ghouls will deliver it to me. I will call you when I have finished reading it. We will not see each other until then.”
Leave and go where?
There’s more to say. More to tell him. More to discuss.
Celia doesn’t say anything. She waits for the final option.
GM: “The third option is that you turn into a cat, and I put you in the microwave for several minutes.”
“You may then spend the night with me.”
“You will still give me a full accounting of all of your lies.”
Celia: “Won’t… won’t that kill me?”
GM: “You are a vampire, Celia,” Roderick explains patiently.
“A microwave cannot kill you.”
“It will cause you considerable pain and injury, however.”
“If you don’t want to go through that discomfort, you can spend the night somewhere else.”
Celia: Humans explode in a microwave. She’d seen it once. In a movie.
“I… I want the… the microwave, please.”
She doesn’t want to leave him. He hates her. Thinks she’s stupid. And she still clings to him.
GM: “Okay, Celia,” says Roderick.
“Turn into a cat.”
Celia: Celia needs no further encouragement. She disappears, the cat in her place. The cat doesn’t try to cuddle the boy. She doesn’t flick her tail or wash her whiskers or purr. She’s just still.
Saturday night, 19 March 2016, AM
GM: Roderick picks up the cat and carries her to the kitchen. It’s a clean- and modern-looking kitchen, though there’s no food out.
He sets the cat down on the countertop.
He opens the door to a black microwave.
Celia: The cat doesn’t need him to place her inside. She walks in on her own once he opens the door.
*GM:* The cat has a clear ceramic dish to sit down on. Roderick closes the door. The cat hears him pressing buttons.
Almost instantly, the cat’s vision blurs and she begins to feel dizzy. Like someone is shaking her eyeballs. The dish underneath the cat starts to spin like a perverse merry-go-round.
Almost instantly, it gets hot.
The cat can feel every cell in its body vibrating at grotesquely high frequency. All of the water in the cat’s body—all of the blood—starts to boil. Eyes, mouth, skin, the cat’s entire body feels like exploding as the animal is cooked alive from the inside. Around and around goes the microwave dish. The Beast screams in the cat’s ears.
Roderick’s arm moves over the microwave door, holding it firmly shut.
That’s the cat’s last sight before she sees pure red.
Celia: She’s dying.
He’s killing her.
She’s going to boil.
The cat yowls in pain. She hisses. She claws at the sides of the microwave. She launches herself at the door, but her lover is outside holding it shut. There’s nowhere to run.
Around and around and around she goes.
The red haze descends. She escapes the pain. Escapes the heat. Escapes the stupid.
The Beast is furious. It comes out of the girl-turned-cat to find itself trapped in a box. It doesn’t like boxes. It doesn’t like heat. It doesn’t like pain.
And it doesn’t like the boy holding it in here. Keeping it here. Trapping it.
Like it’s not a deadly thing in its own right.
The Beast launches its body at the door. It scratches with its claws, howling and spitting while it cooks from the inside out. Its organs, if it had any, would fail. Its fat melts from its very bones, turning its muscles sluggish. It trips. Falters. Falls.
It tears at its own burning flesh, raking its claws down its body to rid itself of the fur that seeks to trap it. Muscle and skin peels away with every scrape. Anything to escape. Anything to get free.
Just like that.
The red haze clears. The pain ends. Absolute heat plunges into room temperature, or something that might feel like room temperature. The microwave door opens with a light chk. Smoke wafts out.
The door seems taller now. The cat is lying flat on her belly. She feels like she’s been cooked from the inside. She has been cooked from the inside. Everything burns. Everything hurts. Part of the cat just wants to curl up and die.
“I’m going to pour cold water over you,” sounds Roderick’s almost warbling voice. It’s hard to hear. He’s holding a tall glass in his hand.
“Make a sign if you don’t want me to.”
Celia: There’s no sign of anything from the cat. No sign it’s even alive anymore.
Maybe he killed it.
GM: But the cat is a vampire.
A microwave wouldn’t be enough to kill it.
Or maybe he’s testing now, to see if he has.
The boy is smart.
Ice-cold water pours all over the cat’s body.
That’s a mild way to put it.
The cat remembers how to scream when the water touches its body.
Lukewarm for burns.
The girl was always better at medical stuff than the boy.
GM: The boy’s hands approach. The dish lifts up from the microwave.
“There we go, Celia,” sounds his voice.
The cat feels a sensation like movement. Gray approaches in its blurred vision. Then more gray, from all sides.
It must be in the sink.
“I’m going to turn on the cold water. Make a sign if you don’t want me to.”
Celia: The cat slumps in the sink. It doesn’t bother making a sound. All of the “warm water for burns” probably only applies to humans anyway.
She’s never been burned this badly before.
Maybe if it’s cold enough it’ll finish her off. He can dump the cat’s carcass in the garbage.
She won’t be able to disappoint anyone anymore.
GM: Just like that, cold water floods over the cat from all sides. Steadily rises. The drain must be plugged. Maybe the boy did that ahead of time.
The cold water hurts.
But it’s colder.
And gets colder still as the water level rises.
So she can’t get flushed down the drain.
Just float around and dirty someone else’s water.
Celia: She doesn’t need to breathe. Which means she doesn’t need to swim. So she doesn’t bother keeping her head above the water, just lets it cover her until she’s a gray blur beneath the surface.
Death might feel better than this.
GM: She feels hot. She feels cold. She feels like she’s melting. She feels like she’s freezing.
Mostly she just feels like shit.
Celia: Burning in Hell can’t be this agonizing.
GM: Time passes.
The boy doesn’t say anything.
The cat just lies there in the cold water.
Lies there, burns inside, and suffers.
But steadily, the burning subsides.
Celia: Her sire has beaten her. But he’s never tortured her. She wonders where she went wrong that the boy who loves her could fathom doing this to her.
GM: She never hurt her sire like she hurt the boy.
Can anyone even hurt her sire?
Celia: Maybe she doesn’t want to know.
Maybe one night she’ll go too far and he’ll just… snap her.
Like a twig.
Or a piece of glass.
Isn’t she already shattered?
He broke her.
She was his and he broke her.
She was her sire’s and he broke her too.
GM: She broke him, too.
They’re perfect for each other.
Celia: No. Love doesn’t hurt this much.
She was made for someone else.
But he’ll never love her.