That's how this began, and it's how this'll end: with the smell of honey.
I smelled it first that night a week and a lifetime ago, when the wind from my open door carried it in. I'd been working on my latest invention, but more than anything I'd been watching the night sky. It was clear, midnight-blue, and beautiful, with a waxing moon, which meant a full moon on Halloween. It was a good omen, I thought - and I didn't realize then just how right I was.
I was too distracted to hear the door opening, but it was impossible to miss the scent, thick and sweet and rotting. (Awful, I thought then; it's hard to believe that now.) The voice came after it: female, syrupy and harsh at once. "Got you."
The impact came before I could turn around, and all I heard was the faint crunch of the back of my head before pain painted the world black.
I awoke to that smell filling my nostrils again, sickly-sweet and stinking of decay heavily enough to nearly overwhelm the aching in my head; it filled the void as the remainder of my senses returned. First there was the faint whine of machinery... then the room around me, dark and metal-walled... then the rough feeling of rope binding my wrists to my chair.
"Ah," said the voice from the shadows. "You're awake."
That voice! It cut through the haze, and suddenly the whole night came back to me. My hands squirmed reflexively against their bindings, and I wanted desperately to look away, and yet I couldn't make myself turn from the figure approaching now. It was a woman, dressed in matte black; she was beautiful, or she had been. Her face glistened in the dim light, slick and softened like warm wax, and her thick blonde hair nearly stuck to her cheeks. She tipped down her dark glasses to look at me, and I couldn't help but meet her eyes, dark green with flecks of black.
"Apple Kid," she whispered, something between a coo and a hiss. "It's a pleasure to meet you properly at last."
The scent grew stronger as she grew closer, and soon it was hard to breathe; I bit down on the gag desperately, and she stared at me in what could only have been amusement. "All in due time, my friend. Right now, I need your silence." Where had I seen that face? It came to me in a flash: the paper, months ago now, under the headline THREED ZOMBIE ATTACKS INTENSIFY. She'd been prettier then, or maybe the picture'd just hidden the details.
She must have seen the recognition in my face, because she grinned at me ferally. "Are you putting it together now? Such a quick mind you've got, Apple Kid - not always quick enough, but useful.
"Useful?" The word came out muffled to nothing by the gag, and she didn't bother to even acknowledge me, beyond a simple smile. Her lips went far too far across her face, I realized, and I didn't want to think about the teeth underneath them.
"Extremely. The zombie paper was quite clever, after all... were it not for the catch. You didn't know much about zombies at the time, did you? I suppose you should be commended for making something that even halfway worked."
Halfway? But it had worked just as planned! The zombie problem in Threed had been solved in a single night! I'd been proud of that one, and if I'd been able to speak, I would have defended it. As if she'd known, her tone took on a tinge of the mocking. "Oh, it worked well enough on the lesser servitors - but that's as much then as you, my dear. It's a weakness of those zombies risen from their graves; they tire so easily, and they don't have the will to resist much. Of course your little toy worked against them... but our Master had stronger servants, and some of us have lingered. We have plans, Apple Kid, and you have much to atone for."
I cried out as best I could, struggling double-time against the bonds, but I got only rope burns for my trouble as she stalked closer to me. "First, though, we've got to ensure your loyalty... and soon you'll see just why my Master's servants are so loyal." She reached out with one thin-fingered hand and ripped my gag away, the moldering cloth giving way easily, and I gasped reflexively. At once, the smell was a taste in my mouth: stale perfume, rotting flowers, old meat, and that intoxicating honey.
And then her lips were on mine, her flesh the texture of overripe fruit, and her mouth opened to offer me the sacrament of her Master.
Honey filled my mouth - Fly Honey, I realized, in my last lucid thought of the night. The sweetness was overwhelming, but so was the taste of decay, as if the flies and flowers were dying together in my mouth. I swallowed by sheer reflex alone, and it burned all the way down. Still the honey flowed, death in my mouth and acid in my stomach, and I began to lose track of where it ended and I began. I was melting - my organs were melting into it, softening - like wax, like fruit - and still the sweet acid poured in... until, at last, she pulled away, leaving me at last to scream with what was left of my lungs.
The honey took hours to finish with me; it left me awake the whole time. I couldn't think, and yet I knew my mind remained, waiting only to be used.
When I returned to what was left of my senses, the room was flooded with the light of day, and the woman was standing over my prone form. "Do you see now?" she said, her voice a whisper, almost gentle. "Do you see why we serve him?"
I could still taste the Fly Honey in my mouth: the acid, the rot, the terrible joy. The sweet, perfect taste. I tried to stand, and my muscles only barely supported me; I felt spongy and soft. Overripe.
It was only right, though. Entropy would have taken me there anyway; I would have lost my usefulness in time, decayed to nothing, without even knowing it. The honey had merely accelerated the process, and it had left my mind intact to appreciate it. "Yes," I said, in my new voice of honey and gravel. "I do believe so."
I realize now that none of this must seem like me, or the person I was - the bumbling inventor, the boy who talked in probabilities. You have to understand, dear reader (and someone will read this, won't they?), that this week has changed me in more than body. I've come to understand the world in a way I never had before. I lived hand-to-mouth in Twoson, working only on my whims, and the ways I changed the world were more accident than anything. Can you blame me, really, for leaving that behind?
It's not at all surprising, really, that I've done the best work of my life this week. I'm not always flitting from idea to idea, and I'm rarely hungry anymore; when I am, a taste of Fly Honey sustains me and keeps me focused on our plans. And oh, we have plans. We've perfected them together, Nona and I; Nona - my captor, my mentor, the truest friend I've ever had - was right all along. They needed me for this.
Making the candy was Nona's idea, but I've been the one to perfect it. The trick is devising a flavoring formula that hides the rotting overtones while keeping the Fly Honey's sweetness; done right, it creates something delectable and indistinguishable from any other candy by taste alone. I perfected the formula two days ago, and since then we've already shipped cases to every supermarket and drugstore in Threed, often with repeat orders. Grapefruit Falls Old-Fashioned Taffy will be the hit of Halloween... tomorrow night, a beautiful full-moon Halloween. In every bag and bucket will be the sacrament of Master Belch, Lord of Corruption, and by the end of the night - by the time you've found this, dear reader, if indeed you ever do - Threed will be ours again.
And if that doesn't work, I've been working on something for the city reservoir...