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Minna Korobo

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In the darkness, the nameless creature dons the mask that turns it from demon to doctor. It smiles, behind the plaster beak.

It had quickly tired of feeding off the souls of those buried in mass graves. To go after the living side-steps the Reapers’ paperwork and, with the church’s condemnation of the afflicted, the rules governing collecting souls were much more lax. A spoken contract will do, and words have always been its specialty. Let the feeders too weak to change form feed on the rotting souls in the graves; it desires a fresher harvest.

The guards who accompany it through town when it is dressed in its doctor gear leave it at the front stoop of an old man; the last in his family alive, and not for long, now. His neck is swollen, and he is sallow, breathing strained.

"You said," he says, labored, once the creature dressed as a doctor is standing alone in the room with him, "that you could sell me peace, doctor."

"I can make it so that you no longer suffer this torment," it agrees. "I have practiced since the first outbreaks in Messina, and perfected my art."

There is silence while the old man thinks about this, alone in the filth of a house that hasn’t been cleaned since its inhabitants first started falling ill; the man is well enough off, but that doesn’t matter to him now. He starts a nod, breathes a deep startled breath at the pain, and says, "Yes."

It removes its hood, and then the mask, taking off the thick gloves it wears as a doctor.

The man glances at it, and his eyes widen.

"Good," it says, fixing its cuffs. "I'll be happy to oblige." It nods, red eyes flashing.

The man pales. "Wh – what are you?"

It gently runs a pale hand over the blistering skin of the old man’s face, and smirks. The man flinches, and its smirk broadens into a grin.

There’s a blandness to souls that have not been cultivated, whose owners’ moral quandaries are those shared by most mortals. But it cannot complain; bringing the plague to Europe has cemented its reputation and bought it the loyalty of the bottom-feeders, otherwise unable to prey on Earth. Loyalty is one of its favorite tools.

"I’m merely one hell of a doctor," it whispers, tasting the words with pleasure, before it feeds.