The ladies walk through the moonbeams with their hands laced together, rose-cheeked, rose-lipped, their gossamer gowns floating all round them. Their eyes are dark with secrets, their smiles sharp-toothed, knowing.
A rawboned shadow dances after them, catlike, twitching and pulling at the ladies’ drifting sleeves. “Listen – uh – I’m sorry, but –”
She is a gaunt and pale-faced thing, with stubble growing in along the square line of her jaw, her skirt and blouse well-tattered beneath the grime. The ladies barely deign to glance at her. Beneath their radiance she is nothing, less than nothing: still she follows after them, nimble-footed, a fool’s last hope still shining in her eyes.
At last they turn to her, and speak in voices like shattered starlight in glass:
“Who are you, then, who calls us from behind?
Know you not who stands before you now?
Have you no fear of death? of sharp-toothed smiles?
No wariness of shining in the night?”
The shadow shrinks back, but soon rallies. “I’m sorry,” she says again. “Can you spare some change for gas? I – I need to get out of here. Fast. You get that, right?” Her eyes linger on their fastened hands.
But the ladies’ smiles are unwavering, and full of secrets.
“So does the mouse seek shelter from the wolf.
Poor frightened mouse: we ate this day before.
What use have we for more? Go, run:
a nimble mouse may live to see the dawn.”
“Right,” says the beggar. “Okay. I get it. You’re a pair of creepy motherfuckers who want to eat me or whatever. Vampire fairies, or something. I don’t care. Here’s the thing: I can’t run. Because, like I said, I’m broke. And if you guys won’t help me…” She stops, takes a deep breath, and faces them down. “What do I need to do for you to help me?”
The ladies smile at each other, and their eyes speak loudly in the silence.
“We pity you, O girl without a home.
We have no coin to give you; hearken still:
we’ll take you far from this unhappy land
if you’ll but come with us, and have no fear.”
Their teeth are sharp and glinting. She thinks for a moment of tricking them, or robbing them, or running: but in the end she casts trickery aside, and makes the sacrifice willingly.
She steps into the ladies’ glow without fear, and as they devour her she flies away to freedom.