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LUST| GREED| ENVY
If you’re just joining us; my name is Nelle Lockwood, I’m The Last Sin Eater and I’m about to meet my next inmate, a person steeped in negligence, self-righteousness and laziness. You can find out more about me here
. Before them was a lustrous woman who liquified her victims into a “cure all” tonic for love, including her daughter, a pair of twins so besotted by greed that they were willing to stitch their family together to get what they wanted and a man filled with such envious rage that he brutally took the lives of people who had things he wished he did.
Now, I am preparing to stare down a woman who is synonymous with the kind of negligence and abhorrence of kindness that’d make anyone’s stomach turn.
But before we get to that, we have to address the elephant in the room; The Warden. Some of you have mentioned, rather alarmingly, that he isn’t to be trusted. You mentioned his namesake, the way Edgar behaved around him and the way in which he was happy to pull the plug on the whole operation when I didn’t wake up.
I aimed to confront him, requesting permission to go to his office from one of the guards after a short nap and time to decompress. I didn’t talk to Buck, Nestor or anyone about how the grief of losing my mother bubbled to the surface after finishing the last meal. There was no point when it was written all over my face, tears running down my face as we finished up and left the room. Buck simply hugged me as I sobbed before leaving me time to heal as he went off to “explore the prison and gain intel” while Nestor went topside to give Edgar some room to fly, not wanting him to be cooped up too long.
After riding the lengthy elevator for a solid 15 minutes, I came to a long marble hallway with huge portraits of greek gods doing battle, Saturn eating his own son, the imprisonment of titans in tartarus and the violent affairs that occured on Earth before Zeus flooded the planes. Every portrait was more macabre in nature as I ventured closer to the large chamber doors that housed The Warden’s office.
No receptionist to ask me to wait, I simply knocked and waited for a response, hearing frantic murmuring from behind the door and a soft song playing, I knocked again and cracked the door ajar to try and call a little louder but within acceptable noise, not wanting to cause offence if he was in a meeting.
And when I looked in, I could tell he most certainly was in a meeting.
Just not the kind I’d have expected.
In the centre of a grand room was a prisoner, chained inside a large barrel and submerged up to the waist in murky waters, a pool that stretched to 50ft in diameter, small critters of all shapes and sizes sloshing about underneath the obscured surface. Two high-ranking officials stood on either side of the barrel, taking notes and observing The Warden, now without his trench coat on and revealing a gilded silver waistcoat, black and gold sigils across it with a white shirt underneath, sleeves rolled up to reveal lengthy verses written in what I assumed was Germanic, his tall frame leaner than I anticipated, not an ounce of fat on his arms or his torso. The man clearly took care of himself.
“Now, inmate #855, you have been with mein establishment for quite some time, yes? I have done mein best to keep you comfortable, respect du and ensure no harm befell you. I have done mein job as einen Warden to keep you safe and you repay me mit… this?”
He brandishes a shank in front of the man, crafted from toothbrushes and a carving knife, dipped in a poison and sharp to the touch. The man thrashed in his barrel, but didn’t respond.
“You know, I take great pride in this prison, for we only house der worst of der worst. Die prisoners that nobody else wants. Ein OUTCASTS!” He throws the shank at the wall and it sticks out, shaking as a grin flashes across his face, leaning in close and cocking his head to the side as he lightly slaps the prisoner’s face. “Du. Are. Nicht. Wanted…. Und Du. Are. Nicht. Loved.” He turns his back, arms crossed behind him and staring out of his bay window; a grand view over the general population of his expansive prison, so many types of individuals roaming the floors that were clearly not human; lycanthropes, ursine warriors, wendigos, haired apes and regular humans all cavorting as if it were normal. He sighs and continues talking as his two associates begin walking around, pouring something into the slots, I could smell the sickly scent of milk and honey, mellified man rising to the surface and making me want to retch. But, I resisted, my horror rooting me to the spot.
They were slathering him up as bait.
“Does du know about Schaphism, 855? It is one of sie worst ways to be taken out of this world. You are offered up into dirty water rife with parasites, insects, carnivorous fish and mammals that are attracted to your soft, delicious flesh. They will eat you bit by bit, piece by piece, and you will rot for days before death comes up to claim your sorry soul.”
The inmate finally broke their silence to protest.
“I was trying to defend myself! Those blacks… you know what they’re like on the outside… you MUST understand my safety! The safety of our race!”
But The Warden held up his hand and shook his head.
“Let us get something correct, Herr Roofedge. I may be German, but I took this job to capture and eliminate people like you. I have no interest in your ideas of racial purity and your appeal to my skin colour insults us both. Overstepping my absolute ruling is a slight ich cannot ignore, I have more self respect than that. Besides…” He turned and looked at me, smiling.
“You offended our sin eater. If you weren’t a dead man before, you are now.”
He clicked his fingers and the two assistants submerged the barrel in the water, leaving only the head exposed and covered by a bag to muffle the inmate’s pleas for clemency. The structure was then wheeled out of the room and past me; The Warden smiling warmly as I shuffled awkwardly inside his study.
“I hope this shows that despite mein cold exterior, I do have a moral compass, Frau Lockwood.” He gestured to the window, and I walked over to join him. “We house all manner of social offenders here, from those who harm people on racial and gender prejudices to child harmers and so forth. Nobody escapes our grasp and nobody ever will. But, I feel I have lost your trust and so must be candid…”
He points to a cell at the bottom of gen-pop where a large hole resided, every single inmate avoiding it like the plague as they congregated. I picked up the scent of wildflowers, the taste of elderberries and a sensation of pure unadulterated hatred emanating from that point.
Something lurked in there. Something old and powerful. Eyes unseen pierced through the darkness and tore into me, shaking my resolve to its core.
“You sense it too, ja? That will be Prisoner 001, our first inmate. Some would say Der Fahter of this prison, if you exclude me, of course. He’s been here since the earliest days and you will meet him when the time is right.”
“He’s… not on death row?” I asked, swallowing and feeling the lump in my throat, his aura was overwhelming and I had to turn away.
“Not exactly. But that’s not the question you came here to ask, is it Frau Lockwood?” He walked over to his drinks cabinet and picked out a bottle, black and in a casket, chains wrapped around the structure in a ceremonial manner, the front reading “The Hunter’s Dream; For when your rest is nowhere in sight.” He poured two whiskey glasses full of the red and black liquid, dropping a white circular block of ice into the centre, almost like pure moonlight amid the cloak of night in the drink.
“Why do we need to eat the sins of these fucking monsters?” I asked, a bead of sweat rushing down my temple as I turned away and reached for the glass, The Warden sitting in his recliner, sloshing the drink around wistfully before he answered.
“And so comes the time where I must be candid, Frau Lockwood; there is a greater reason for your work here. One that will determine so many things beyond you, me, this prison and the outside world. When I say you are doing the work of the gods, I mean it.” I down the drink in one, the burning sensation lining my throat and waking me from a fear-addled malaise immediately. Before I could ask, he held up a hand.
“Ah, not for now. I must ask you to trust me on this, but you will learn in due time. However, I know trust must be regained and so I offer you this.”
He pulls a document from his desk and slides it over. A headshot of a young woman with flowing black hair, obscuring half her face and a scowl written across it as pierced lips and gritted teeth glare up at me.
“Prisoner #6626, Luciana Maria DeSantos, 21-year-old head of the Church Of The Duskwalkers, responsible for the Sturgeon Day Of Reckoning.”
He slid a newspaper in front of me, the headline reading; “MASSACRE AT STURGEON UTALITARIAN CHURCH; HUNDREDS DEAD IN MASS SUICIDE."
A photo accompanying it showcasing a sea of bodies hidden over tarps, sneakers and shoes sticking out from the bottom as a crowd gathered outside, frozen in screams of bloody murder.
So many of the shoes were child sizes.
Among them would be an old friend from when I moved to Sturgeon, someone I lost contact with so long ago.
The first friend I made in the city.
“I am to understand that you know of this individual? Someone du ist familiar with back home?” He asked, my expression clearly betraying my desire to show stoicism, I nodded. “Well, then, I wish for you to know something. You will get very little out of her. She is the most uncooperative of our death row inmates. Only when you show her this… will you get the response you need and a relatively painless experience.”
He slid me a note, sealed with the prison sigil and a note attached to the front, stipulating not to open unless necessary.
“I hope this can mend bridges and assuage concern, Frau Lockwood. I carry great pride in this prison, I wish for its reputation to stay intact… whatever the case.”
Heading back downstairs, I was escorted by the guards straight to the visitation area, despite not being with Buck or Nestor. I protested, but the guards simply shook their head, saying it was time for the interview.
I packed myself down and felt a small lump in the inside pocket of my jacket. The totem perhaps? Maybe that… thing didn’t get it after all. Either way, I had little time to deliberate as I was taken to the main interview room, bathed in blue light and soft piano playing, the scent of gouda cheese and wine wafting through the cracks of the door.
As I stepped in, feeling remarkably vulnerable for the first time without my trusted friends and guides, but confident in my knowledge that of all the people we’d faced thus far, this one was someone I could handle.
After all, I at least knew her.
And what she did.
Luciana came into Sturgeon, a penniless, destitute and drug-addled woman from the slums. No Mother to speak of and the less said of her Father, the better. When she was 14, she ran away from home and began giving street corner sermons, trying to help people see what she saw in the world; a flood of people lost in the shuffle, going about their days without cause for concern or a direction. So many lying to themselves about their beliefs; saying one thing and doing another, praying their way into heaven while rapidly crawling into the tight crevasse that was the gateway to limbo with their deeds.
She offered them a question; what if you were just HONEST with yourself? If you lived life the way you were supposed to, saw the things you eschewed, what wonders would open up to you?
Luciana spoke of visions from her youth, as so many prophets do, declaring Belphegor sat on his throne of municipal waste. While so many describe him as being on the toilet, Luciana said he sat on the gateway to a better life, only letting those truly embody his ideals and that of the greater gods through to meet them. He was a gatekeeper.
In her first town, she was cast out. Many saw her as blasphemous, heretical, and saw no place for a woman to speak her mind on religious ideals. But her story truly came alive once she stepped foot into Sturgeon some 2 years later at just 16 years old. She said a man who stood where air could do naught but fester and smells dulled to a point of absence offered her a check, an establishment and a new title; Mother Accumulator.
So, the church flourished in a building steeped in twilight at all times; St. Martin’s Utilitarian Church. Every member that joined would go indoors, be given a thick robe and taken, while blindfolded, through a cavern to a small area steeped in twilight. Revellers and fanatics said the sun was hidden behind a black moon, the entire congregation bathed in a twilight glow that invigorated them, emboldened them to do things they’d never do, to reject their old traditions and gods.
Still, to think this woman was responsible for The Day Of Reckoning… it was shocking.
Looking at her now, laying in a softly swaying hammock and wrapped up in a fluffy blanket, softly drinking wine and looking like a normal millennial, it was almost a total dichotomy from the person printed in the papers. I took my seat and rolled up my sleeves, tying my locs back into a bun and ensuring I was prepared, I had a feeling this would test me.
“Ms. DeSantos, my name is Miss Lockwood, you called upon my services in order to eat your sins before your end. I must apologise that my colleagues are not with me, they appear to be engaged elsewhere. But, I feel we know one another well enough to proceed without them. Is that okay?”
Silence. She glanced over once before swirling her wine and downing it in one go; the glass filling up again as she set it down. Unseen hands catering to her every whim. I sighed.
“You also go by the name Mother Accumulator, do you not? Head of The Church Of The Duskwalkers, an organisation I am, unfortunately, most familiar with.” I paused, thinking of that first friend, almost like an aunt to me, her door always open when I needed advice, the coffee shop she owned forever bustling with happy guests, would be artists and philosophers who debated until closing time. Abigail Priestley was a gifted orator, expert coffee brewer and lover of all animals, her bearded dragon Montgomery always on her shoulder and crawling under her thick blonde hair whenever he got scared.
But, in time, she would come to face financial woes as Sturgeon faced an economic downturn and took to wandering the streets at night, hoping for answers to her problems. When a local outreach member of the church hailed her down, that was that. She became Duskwalker Abbie and within 6 months, she would be…
No, I had to focus.
“Ms. DeSantos, this procedure cannot work without your cooperation. The other inmates di-”
She waved a hand at me, twirling finely manicured fingers in a far less subdued manner than Mr. Blaznik’s condescending finger wag. She merely didn’t want me to continue for the sake of it.
“I’m not them. They’re not me. We’re all different in this place and while I did call you, I had a change of heart. The gods say you’re not the one, and I follow their behest. If you cannot prove your importance, then I’ll simply have to fail at my task and die here, unfulfilled.”
My eyebrows raised at that. Failed at her task? A small stream of blue smoke began to pile in from the top of her enclosure. Certainly not enough to manifest anything, but it was a start.
“But… your followers all died at your behest. Wasn’t that your great task? Getting them all to ascension?”
She scoffed, taking a delicate bite of some tiramisu and wiping her lips with a napkin, breathing softly and letting her slender frame sink further into the hammock, not even bothering to lift her head to look up at me.
“That’s what the media assumed. Maybe that’s what some of the newbies assumed, those just looking for a cause to die for. But no, every initiated follower knew exactly what we were doing. We were preparing ME. Preparing MY body for the next stage. I simply had to lift a hand, and they did as I asked. The laziest mass murderer this world has ever seen. My numbers do not simply exist within the halls of St. Martin’s. No, we had cells all over and they will continue to wake up and do what is written until the number is sufficiently high enough. I have nothing to do now but wait for the next step. Wait for my rightful throne in the stars.”
The mist began to pool around the back corner, forming a large seat, something shaking on top of it and small spindly hands clasping at the bottom as if trying to reach up to the seat.
“You say you’re different to the others, but I sense similarities in you all. Each of you having a guide, a purpose, a chance to ascend… there’s more going on here than simply letting you die, isn’t there?” I sat up, preparing to walk to the door. “I will not be a pawn in someone else’s game, even if The Warden says otherwise. You can rot here for all I care.”
As I took steps to the door, her lackadaisical voice cooed after me.
“Do you know where you go when you die? I do. I know where everyone goes.”
Something made my hand freeze on the door handle, luminous eyes rushed into my mind as if something else was watching me. I felt compelled to turn around and continue, sitting back down with a sigh.
“I’m listening, go on.” I replied, the smell of gouda beginning to overwhelm my nostrils and eradicate my love of cheese. She smiled and leaned her head up for the first time.
“That’s not how it works. Make an offering to me, to the church. If it’s good enough, I’ll consider it.” She took another bite and swallowed a large helping of wine. I sighed.
I was either going to be her soundboard or get this done, unsure of what I could even ask to progress beyond her sermons.
Then I remembered the note The Warden had given me.
Giving pause for just a moment, I grabbed it and heeded the words on top “Let her read it first.” Unsealed it and, as the instructions stipulated, held it up to the plexiglass for her to read without seeing what the contents were.
Within moments, her demeanour changed. She dropped the cheese and wine, hopping out of her hammock and rushing over to read it carefully, tracing each line with her finger and then gazing at what I assumed was a picture at the bottom. Tears filled her eyes and the corners of her mouth curled into a wide smile of uproarious joy as she leaned back, wiping her eyes and straightening her back.
“Your offering is most acceptable, Madame Lockwood. I will tell you everything and impart some advice to you before the end.” She walked over to the wall opposite her hammock and began painting, materials simply appearing out of nowhere as deft hands swiped across a plain canvas, her elegance never faltering when she spoke.
“When did your lord appear to you?” I asked, trying to cast my mind back to what Buck had taught me about tulpas and their embodiments of our sins.
“I was just a little girl when he appeared in front of me on a throne made of bone, sinew and the bodies of so many trying to hold his frame up and comfortable. Countless little bodies, hands and legs straining to make him happy, his body hovering over the portal to the better place. They wanted SO badly to be let in, to gain favour, but he offered that only to me. Said I carried greatness within me and must go out, follow his instructions and stay on the path. Being charismatic and beautiful certainly helped, as well as meeting one of my lords who offered sanctuary and financial security. Our following grew exponentially after that, especially when we could talk the talk and walk the walk.”
She paused, grabbing a deep shade of red and chuckling.
“When we first showed the new initiates the stars and what devoured them, their joy was rare and magnificent. It was an understanding of their placement in this world and the realisation that all they had to do in order to see the next step… was serve me.”
The blue mist had crawled up the entire back wall, huge and scaling to nearly the full 12ft in height. More bodies piled at the base of this metallic seat, their faces permanently frozen in absolute agony under the crushing weight.
“So you put things in place for Sturgeons Day Of Reckoning. A cool summer day in August when the sun set and the moon had not yet risen. The city would wake up to a sight that would be felt across the world. We all know this and I know this isn’t your sin to confess, so let’s get right to it; what is it THEY don’t know? What happened to the congregation? To my friend Abbie?” I regretted saying it the moment her name left my lips, but I couldn’t help myself. Luciana’s face fell for a moment and she picked up a yellow, bright and warm like Abbie’s hair.
“Ah, Duskwalker Abbie, one of our trusted priestesses. She was so dedicated to the group after her life took a turn. I’m… sorry that she couldn’t say goodbye before the end. But, you were an outsider. You were not to know. If I have one regret, it’s that I inadvertently slighted someone of your stature and lineage. We prepared a concoction in line with Lord Belphegor’s teachings; a poison that would steadily dim the light inside to that of a twilight, in time with the last etches of light on the horizon. They would go to sleep and within minutes… be gone.”
A large horned figure took shape on the throne, a hand resting under its chin while the other pushed on its legs, a scowl across its face not dissimilar to that of Luciana’s mugshot. She began to paint faster, with more purpose and less elegance.
“The poison was willingly ingested by every member of our group. Over 700 souls willing to go with the sun and leave before the moon realised they’d departed. Deep underground where the Twilight shone, we basked in the light and I watched from my throne as they all praised me, praised Belphegor, praised our all-mother and the unnameable ones. They fell into a deep sleep and I was left to watch and wait, knowing this would be my final home. But…”
“Wait, aren’t YOU Mother Accumulator?” I asked, not wishing to interject but unable to ignore such an admission. She threw a stroke with her brush across the obscured canvas, the colours practically glowing from it and bathing her in a strange hue.
“I am. But she is Omnium Matrem. The woman who founded our movement and was there on the first day of operations at the behest of our lord. She was no longer with us by the time that I took over, but her spirit was always an influence. Of course, there were complications… the poison did not react the same with everyone. I would guess a third of the congregation did slumber. Another third were quiet, but visibly unable to find any respite, and the last simply screamed, writhing and gurgling as the poison wreaked havoc on their bodies. I was… uncomfortable at first, but Belphegor told me this was my own test. He instructed me to do something that would cement my legacy as the church’s finest ruler.”
The mist had finished forming. A red-horned ogre sat atop a bone throne with countless damned souls either trying to hold him up, escape or get into the black hole his body hovered over. It was easy to see how it was misinterpreted as a toilet, but all I saw was a throne literally built on the labors of those who had worked for him.
At the same time, my plate started to fill up, and my stomach growled. The sins we eat do not ever add onto our actual diet and we never retain the food, but for the time we smell, taste, touch and eat it, it’s real. And my stomach could not have been happier as eyes met the growing plate;
The most succulent feast, bacon-wrapped filet mignon with a French Cabernet, a wheel of various brie, gouda and blue cheese, potatoes au gratin with a molten chocolate cake for dessert. I knew there had to be something to it, but my hunger did not care. The job was not quite done, however, and I was determined to see this one through.
“What did you do, Luciana? What did you do that truly put you in this place and with this sin of Sloth?”
She finished her painting, tying her matted black hair back in a bun and placing her hands on her hips, turning it towards me and temporarily blinding me with its brilliance and the sheer light from the bioluminescent paint.
“I walked amid the sea of the dead. I saw so many at peace, but so many more still struggling to reach that goal. Children and babies were screaming out for their mothers, for me… but I simply looked down at them with pity and did nothing but observe as they struggled. All children of the dusk must walk that path on their own. I watched SO many pass over that threshold and did not leave until I knew each member of my flock had transcended. That is true godlihood. That is the legacy of Luciana Maria DeSantos, Mother Accumulator of The Church Of The Duskwalkers, bringer of The Day Of Reckoning and, most importantly…”
My eyes adjusted to the painting as an alarm began ringing out, sirens blaring throughout the facility and The Wardens panicked voice calling over the tannoy. “ACHTUNG! ATTENTION! INMATE #9400 HAS CAPTURED TWO OF OUR GUESTS. THIS FACILITY IST IN LOCKDOWN. FRAU LOCKWOOD, PLEASE REPORT TO CENTRAL WING IMMEDIATELY, THEY WILL NOT SPEAK WITH US!”
Buck, Nestor… that’s why they hadn’t turned up.
I wish I could have reacted in that moment. Gotten up to rush to their aid, but my eyes were adjusting to the painting in front of me and the image of Luciana walking, without any reservations, to the back of the room where Belphegor sat; still towering over her petite frame even when sat down.
“It was the utmost pleasure that I got to find out who you truly were, where you came from, Madame Lockwood. Your mother did great things for us… truly great things. A word of advice; if you let it in, it will take everything. Good luck, we’ll see one another again. Maybe in a bar between spaces.”
I could not take my eyes off of the painting, my hands shovelling the food into my mouth mechanically without pause for thought or concern. The sounds of Luciana being pulled apart and shoved into the hole in the seat filling my ears with naught a scream or groan from her. She truly accepted her fate as an observer, sick as she may be.
The painting was that of my mother. Young and beautiful as I remembered her, her afro large and with a pink comb embedded in the side that I constantly used to play with. She was laughing with a pair of dungarees on and holding a younger me on her shoulder. Around her neck was a large pendant with a keyhole over a locket, a sigil synonymous with the Church Of The Duskwalkers and a title engraved in the top; “To Omnium Matrem; E Dolore Magnia Gloria…”
I knew that phrase; it was the same one both my Mother and Grandmother repeatedly drilled into me when things got tough. A phrase the Lockwood family kept close and was not known outside of that context. How did she know?
The food began to turn to rot in my mouth. Looking down at the leftovers of the food, I saw creatures crawling through the remnants. Festering, pulsing rot infused with the popping maggots and fungus. The fetid stench reminding me it was the result of one’s laziness and the efforts of others.
Tears in my eyes from the horrific food, the overwhelming fear of my friends’ safety pushing me to rush and the horrific realisation my mother… my idol… was not what she seemed, I spoke the Latin phrase aloud in English and tearfully swallowed the last bite before rushing to save my friends;
- Inmate #6626:
Luciana Maria DeSantos aka "Mother Accumulator" for The Church Of The Duskwalkers Sin:
A gourmet of delights rotted due to negligence and inaction. Built off the back of the others. “Through great pain comes glory.”
- NEXT SIN: GLUTTONY.