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Gloom lingered like fog between the trees and in the hills and valleys of the woods surrounding Black Lake. Veronica Littway struggled within the confines of the burlap sack, kicking, lashing out, screaming with all her might.
"Joseph! My father will give you money - anything you want - just let me go!"
Her captor responded by pulling faster.
"Joseph, please! I won't tell anybody! Let me out of here!"
Her pleas disintegrated into wretched sobs. She hadn't garnered a response because Joseph wasn't actually Joseph but Crystal Taylor, a young woman and society acquaintance of Miss Littway. Crystal had pinned up most of her skirt in order to move through the muck of the woods more easily. Locks of hair kept falling out of place, but she pushed on. She had bigger concerns than that of her appearance, and it was only a little further to the lake...
Veronica started screaming again, flailing spastically, alternating between cries of "Joseph" and "Help me!"
Crystal nearly ran the length of the path and finally broke through the clearing, dragging the sack along behind her. The sun was blotted out by heavy grey clouds, rain just beginning to fall. Mist clung to the glossy black surface of the lake. She inhaled the scent of the earth, trying to enjoy this moment of connection.
"Let me out of here!" Veronica wailed.
Having finally lost her cool, Crystal kicked the bag and snapped, "Shut your mouth."
She felt for the weapon hid beneath her skirt, held in place by the top of her stocking, and then bent to untie the knot clasping the sack shut. Veronica was revealed, her eye black and bruised, her lips bloody. Realization slowly dawned on her when she met her captor face to face. "... Crystal? Crystal Taylor?"
"Yes, petal. It's me."
Veronica looked down at her wrists, bound together with rope, and then back up to her captor. "Why?"
"You wouldn't understand."
"Wha - does this have to do with William, is that it?"
Now it was Crystal's turn to be shocked. "You really think it's about your boyfriend? Think I want to steal your man, petal? This ain't got nothing to do with your Prince Charming. You're sorely mistaken... And who the hell is Joseph, anyway?"
"He... He wanted my hand in marriage. I rejected him - because of William, see - and he threatened me... I thought for sure you were him."
Crystal paused for a moment, processing this information, and then shook her head as if exhausted. "Well. No matter. I've got plans for you, petal. Big plans."
Crystal held open the book she had been carrying and slowly circled Veronica like a shark closing in on its prey. A strong gust of wind fluttered the ancient pages as a tiny smile played at the corners of her mouth.
"What are you going on about?" Veronica said.
Crystal suddenly lunged in, grabbed a fistful of hair and forced her to kneel at the water's edge. She pressed the barrel of the gun she'd been hiding against the back of Veronica's head. "If you move, petal, I'll blow your pretty face off."
"Crystal," she begged. "Tell me... Just tell me why. Whatever I did, maybe I can make it right-"
"Shut up," Crystal snapped. Then she looked down at the pages of her book and smiled lovingly. "My beautiful God... Soon you'll be where you belong..."
Veronica tried to think of what she could possibly do to escape. Was there any way out? She glanced to the left and right. There was nothing but wilderness for miles around.
Crystal, reading from the book she held, started to chant.
"Yeshu r'lyea ka amun der dan..."
In the distance, a peal of thunder. The sky swirled grey and black.
"Kenclar tek il amune-"
Wind like the winter's breath encircled the two women by the lake and held them there in its icy grasp.
"-Ilstan de zendo damun."
An eerie silence settled over the forest. Then came a bellowing roar that shook the very depths of the earth. The water shimmered, trembling violently as a fat white tentacle broke the surface.
"Crystal, what is that?" Veronica said.
Another tentacle appeared. Then another. The wind picked up, colder now. Crystal started to read again, this time much faster and more fervent than before.
"Crystal, what the hell is it?!"
Another beastly roar rocked the earth as some massive white creature appeared in the center of the lake.
"No," Veronica wailed. "No, what are you doing? What is that thing?!"
Crystal fell silent, gawking in fear and awe at the beast rising from the depths of Black Lake. "Oh, petal," she said, her voice a breathless whisper. "You get a great honor. You get to be a sacrifice."
Veronica screamed. There was a crack of gunfire smothered out by the roar of the beast. She fell forward, moaning, beneath her a swelling pool of blood. Beside Veronica, Crystal dropped to her knees, holding her hands to the sky. As soon as blood mixed with water, the beast surged forth with renewed energy. Rising above the treetops, casting impossible shadows dark and deep, blacking out the sun was a terrible thing with great sucking mouths and rows of tiny, gleaming teeth.
Weak and trembling, Veronica stared into that great maw. Even as death closed in around her, pulling her beneath the rippling black waves of the lake, she vehemently denied her fate. "No, no, no..."
Crystal screamed with joy and love for her god, kissing the sand, laughing. The wind blew cold and long. Rain fell faster from the heavens. Yes, he was back where he belonged. She had successfully continued the line of her father's research; she had successfully given her god a blood sacrifice; she had successfully brought him back to the mortal realm.
The churning black waters of the lake were beginning to turn red. Crystal knew that his bloodlust was only temporarily satisfied. Soon he would require more, and no matter what, she would be there for him. Even if it meant killing more of the innocent. Even if it meant killing herself in the end.
The god was hers. She was the god's...
Soon she was dancing.