When a man invites the demon into his home freely, he does so to escape his inability to transfigure the visions and aspirations of his mind into the world of the senses; to cut off that tantalizing glow of light and escape want, to realize his ambitions, then give himself gladly to his demise. He trades his future for a momentary taste of heaven and pays for his impatience. Now he can hold God in the palm of his hand and gaze upon his own frightening likeness; this time, he can experience in their solid forms, the joy and anguish which for years he could have imagined only from the lines of yellowing scripture, studied years over into dizzyingly idle recursion. But the truth of his choice, glimmering unseen behind the dark resolve of action, is that the man only submits to the hell of his choice, but a hell nonetheless. Now he has made the choice to hand his will over to Fate, and can no longer choose but to remain loyal to his desired nightmare.
Hidden away in the dark fog of London’s shadow there lies a manor tucked away behind miles of gray woodland. Across from the towering stone colossus is its dilapidated mirror; the charred ruins of an identical estate. Ashes pour out from the old mansion’s wounds, its crumbling walls almost disappearing into the blue-gray glow of the forest’s murky vapors. The house seems to be sinking into the omniscience of the wood’s suffocating gloom, but on closer inspection, one can see it stands cemented by slack and sludge. Across the river, the old house faces its mirror like a faint image of the past, always in sight but never seen.
Inside the manor’s master bedroom, a black-clad servant dresses a beautiful young boy. He is lithe and boned like some elegant woman, though there is a subtle masculinity in the way he forcibly dignifies himself. He sits on the edge of the bed, while his butler kneels; he first dresses the boy into his undershirt, buttoning it to the middle of his neck. The boy stares back at his infernal servant carelessly with the look of a spoilt child, but the way the lid curves coldly over his only eye gives the impression he has lived much longer, long enough to have grown frigid to all the transient and tender feelings youth brings.
His lowered eyelid wears a round blue orb and folds over in rippling lines like cloth, decorated in a regal trim of finely feathered hairs. The boy’s deceptively innocent epicenity, betrayed by its morbid complexion and lips drawn in with subdued condescension, makes his servant’s fingers grow cold when they graze his neck. He shudders at the apparent permanence of this young child's gaze; he can find no hint of warmth in his blue-gray and ivory-sick visage. Every look he throws to him is a biting pain.
What vision! What clear sight! The servant’s heart ecstatically reels to himself, Beauty is ruled by pettiness, it could not exist otherwise.
Next, he slides his waistcoat on, buttoning it neatly upward before throwing a long, double-breasted coat over it. The boy lifts his cat-like hands for the butler to button his cuffs, lowering them just as gently. The butler’s fingers lightly brush his tiny wrist; green, snaking veins easily visible beneath the paper-thin drape of his skin. He raises a foot, and his attendant takes a moment to admire its most graceful structure before sliding over the length of his pale calves a black nylon sock. How the black fabric swallows the white of his legs and conforms to their shape gives him a shudder not unlike biting into a chip of ice. The boy steps into the other sock while the butler runs his fingers over the black buttons of the tall white spats his master will wear. The white leather will curve into his ankle, and he will stand mounted on two pointed heels. His delicate feet disappear into the shoes, and the leather squeaks as it binds to his restless toes. Thinly knuckled hands give way to chameleon-like fingers, their color sinking into and being neutralized by the black leather that pulls the boy’s fingers tightly into place. The outline of his knuckles glisten, barely enclosed under a thin skin of glove. The servant moves to find the blue silk ribbon he will tie around his master’s collar, but his body can't seem to lift itself from the steady gaze of this strange child, and he is fixed below it.
“How strange,” the boy thinks, mouthing the words, “to overshadow and look down upon from on high, the eternally uniform, stony smile of one who is immortal.”
One who has lived long enough to have watched the days and nights spiral from circle to tighter circle like a dappled, billion-petalled flower unfurls through infinity, each round of petals mechanically being cinched tighter and tighter as inhales and exhales of the sun and moon grow shorter, tensing and rippling with increasing speed towards the unblinking eye at their center.
It has endured long enough to stare like a stone mask into the faceless, thousand-faced capriciousness of nature’s cycles and men's hearts. To watch young people become naively enthralled by the intrigue and beauty of daemonic power and fall at its feet as willing students of its colorful and sensual craft; only to watch the order of their vaporous dreams be laid languidly to waste under the spell of closed eyes. Ashes turn to ashes in the pale mirrored surface of this strange servant’s gaze, like the frozen waters of a once swiftly coursing fountain of youth. The equalizing white reflection pulls the boy toward it like a demon to a sighing monk, or an animal drawn to the curious state of its ravaged friend.
With fevered eyes the servant swallows each inch of his master’s form like a glove fits a hand and stirs beneath it, desperately encoding every movement of his meticulously clothed body. Blinded by the spell of Eros and led by Thanatos’ hand, he leans in to steal a breath from the boy’s tightly drawn lips. Like white skin disappears into black cloth, he is worn by him, his reflection swims in his master’s visage, as he makes holes where there once were surfaces, fractalizes what was once whole, and fogs every mirror.
“Who is this unseemly wretch who kneels before me and hesitates?” The boy asks, crossing his grave-white leg at the knee as the butler drinks in every syllable of his effete voice. His eyes slowly move downward as the boy’s translucent skin bends and settles on the shapes of each angular bone wedged between the hem of his shorts and sock suspenders. His clothing, his skin, he can just barely see through them, into something further beneath, something deliciously hidden behind thin curtains of flesh. He does not hurry to lift his gaze.
“My apologies, master.”
With a shallow breath of life huffed back into him, the servant’s hands again reach for the blue ribbon. It will be the finishing touch on what already looks like a florid Christmas ornament reclining lavishly above him. Indeed, his master looked like an object; a porcelain doll, or a taxidermied animal that had been polished, pampered and taken careful maintenance of. The garish style and colors of his attire, adorned on a waxen, grayish body, made him appear like a freshly decorated corpse at an open-casket funeral. How sad, how lovely, that when a child of his age should bear the rosy cheeks and vital expression of youth, this boy stands like a finely crafted gargoyle looking down on the world with eyes of stone.
The servant steadies his trembling hands as he lays the ribbon about the master’s neck. His little throat jumps slightly as it is pulled in close against his windpipe. The boy’s gaze, listless and distant only a moment before, suddenly narrows and drops to level with the servant. His limp mouth curves into a smile.
“Don’t you wish you could pull it even tighter?” He asks mischievously. His dark rimmed eyes cradle the color of a swirling current that passes through the butler with a chill.
The servant’s hands pause in its position around his nape for a moment, before shifting his head solemnly downward.
“Not just yet, my lord.” He says simply, slowly removing his hands and standing up.
Leaving the boy to sit vainly on the velvet-canopied bed, he moves to gather a bone China tea set placed on the master’s nightstand. Casting aside the hourglass set beside it, he notices that each grain of dust must have collected at the bottom quite a while ago.
“I have prepared your tea, master. This morning we have New Moon Drop.” He bows to hand the seated boy an ornate tea cup.
“What is my schedule for today?” The boy does not make eye contact as he speaks, instead staring blankly out the window.
“Today you have a meeting with Mr. Wotton, an authority on the Roman Empire. This evening, Mr. Damian of the Poseidon Company will be paying you a visit.”
The boy reaches for an eyepatch settled on the nightstand beside him, tying it tightly around his head.
“Oh. Is that the man I have in charge of my factory in India?”
The butler bows politely. “Yes. I am told he is coming up from Italy; of course we will offer him all the hospitality the estate can provide.”
The boy glides his delicate nose around the rim of the teacup like a kitten inspecting a bowl of milk, his rook-feathered eyelid closed and hugging the top of his cheek.
“It has a nice aroma to it.”
He leans to sample the tea’s fumes, pantomiming the process of sipping and swallowing with an elegant precision that comes artlessly to his nature. Unable to taste the flavor of human food, the servant watches his performance with fevered curiosity.
The boy disconnects his thin violet lips from the cup’s edge and opens his one eye, regal black fur grazing the underside of his thin brow. A stream of foggy morning light breaks through from an opening in the curtains; chiffony pieces of charcoal-colored hair catch it and shine an ethereal blue. His face gives the butler a sense that he is unaware of the power of his own beauty, and for a moment, the youth glows with endearing innocence; although he is certain it must only be a facade. Even still, this boy’s ice-gilded silhouette sitting before him seemed lit aflame by unholy lights, an undercurrent of living fire within him, resurfacing further but brighter with each blink like a hungry vision dreamt to life by desert sands.
Incredible nervous state, trepidation beyond words; to be this impassioned is to be sick, the servant thinks, and I love to be sick.
Deep in a lulling trance and drunk with shallow aestheticism, the butler does not even hear the Maid’s light rapping on the bedroom door.
“Come in.” The boy was obviously more lucid than he; his master’s sharp ears and biting eye did not succumb to the weaknesses he did.
The young Maid pushes her form through the opened crack of the door, faintly trembling at her lord’s presence. “Pardon, Master. The Lady Elizabeth has requested to make a visit to the manor.” Her crass, low-class voice molested the sanctity of the butler’s thoughts of his master.
“Very well.” the boy pulls himself off the bed, his slight body balancing on tall and narrow shoes. He hands the tea cup to the butler without meeting his eye. The Maid scurries away as the butler bows and heads toward the door with the empty tea set.
“I shall wait for you at the dining table, master.”
Just as his servant’s white gloved hands grope the doorknob, the boy reaches for a case of darts on his nightstand. His hurried fingers select a particularly menacing feathered specimen, and he launches the dart with impeccable aim at the butler’s head. In his mischievously well-thought practice, the boy’s success would be without question were he aiming at anyone else.
Still turned away from his master, the butler catches the dart, perfectly and delicately wedging it between the two fingers of his free hand.
“Well thrown, my lord,” he turns to face his master with a smirk, “even so, let’s save the games for later.”
The boy glares at the butler with a petulant scowl before tilting his head to the side.
“Yes, I suppose you’re right, Sebastian.”
After a few quiet moments in his bedchamber, the boy steps out regally into the hall, his frail body mounted on two elaborate heels. He stands like a preening peacock in the mansion he alone inhabits. On his way out he had seized a custom-made walking stick, although the sleek black cane is comically short due to his stature. His gloved knuckles sit tightly on the cane’s head, perched atop a silver orb forming the shape of a black jewel-eyed skull. As he makes his way down the carpeted double staircase of the foyer, he pauses to glance up at a massive painting at its center. Within its baroque frame stands two figures stretched like long evening shadows; a man with lead-colored hair in a dark suit, behind him a serene woman with mordant blue eyes.
“Laertes, was your father dear to you? Or are you like the painting of a sorrow, a face without a heart?” The boy sings the line to himself with amused irony before narrowing his gaze contemptuously, its single lid like black velvet draped over a reflective crystal ball. With a quiet grunt he continues down the stairs, his tiny walking stick trailing before him.
He sits alone at a massive banquet table, opulent food lavishly displayed across its length. Three of the boy’s other servants, the gardener, cook and maid, fidget impatiently in the corner. Suddenly, a sharp, feathery bolt hurls across the room, piercing through the gardener’s straw hat and snagging onto a piece of unkempt blond hair underneath.
“What was that for, master? What did I do?” The young gardener wails, wiping a faint drop of blood from the top of his ear.
“Nothing. I don’t need to justify my actions.” The boy closes his eye as he bites into a scone from his intemperately piled plate.
“There you are! Have you finished weeding the courtyard?” The butler abruptly storms in through the basement door, his voice brittle and austere with irritation.
The slim gardener tries to squirm away before resigning to stand straight, his hands obediently at his sides.
“Have you washed all the bedding?” Sebastian turns to glare at the Maid, who had been gazing dreamily at him a moment before.
“Ah, um, well…” She looks down at her shoes.
“Shouldn’t you be preparing for tonight’s dinner?”
The cook scratches the back of his head with a nervous smile.
“All of you, we have no time for thumb-twiddling this morning.” The three stare listlessly at him for a moment.
“So get to work!” he raises his voice slightly.
“Yes, sir!” The three servants nearly push each other over as they scuttle away frantically.
Sebastian takes off one of his gloves to wipe a dash of sweat from his forehead. “Simply hopeless.”
The butler turns to face his master, who is glaring up at him from above a pile of sweets with his usual sulking countenance.
“About the portrait in the hallway.”
“Take it down.”
Somewhat taken aback, Sebastian furls his brow in acquiescence but does not protest.
The master stands up in his chair, turning away from the butler and placing his hand on a dark blue and silver ring held loosely around his gloved thumb; as a family heirloom, his fingers were too small for it to fit anywhere else.
“I am head of the Phantomhive house now.”
Sebastian’s mouth curves into a bemused smirk at his master’s presumptuousness.
“Consider it done, my lord.”
“Cieeeeel!” A shrill voice suddenly echoes through the foyer and down to the dining hall, getting closer with each piping syllable.
The boy and his butler glance up from their conversation to see a young girl in a mint green ball gown bouncing toward them eminently. Upon reaching the dining table, she flings herself at the young master, the impact of her taller frame pushing him to the floor.
Ciel pries himself delicately from her arms and squirms out from under several frilled petticoats before standing to brush off the dust from his newly tailored clothes.
“Lady Elizabeth, you’ve come earlier than expected.” The master glances around the foyer, “Where are your parents?”
“How many times do I have to tell you, Ciel? Call me Lizzy!” she beams, “and I snuck out of the manor just to see you; you are my betrothed after all.”
Elizabeth turns to seize a scone from the barely dented breakfast display. Although she is no older than Ciel, she stands inches above the underdeveloped boy. Her golden hair falls in loose curls about ripe shoulders, framing her like a breezy nymph one might find cavorting through a pre-raphaelite painting. Her face bears the ineffably warm glow of one who had been cherished dearly all her life, and her beautiful eyes flush with the innocent nakedness of an open green moor bathed in unobstructed sunlight.
Turning around, she examines Ciel’s attire with comically exaggerated concentration, her mouth still half-stuffed with scones. “Come now, Ciel, that outfit isn’t cute at all. Why don’t you ever wear the clothes I pick out for you?” She pauses and swallows, and her gaze meets his earnestly, “but more than that, I wish you would smile now and then.”
The young master’s mouth twists into a wooden grin that sits poorly on his sallow face. “Perhaps you’re right; maybe I’ll change then, I have done it before.”
“I don’t understand what you mean. What is it, Ciel?” She stares at his vacant eyes and unnatural smile worriedly, “I’m confused.”
“Will you give me the honor of a dance, my Lady?” He says abruptly, reaching out his hand in a courteous gesture.
“I’d like that…” Elizabeth pipes, taken aback by her usually awkward fiance’s sudden geniality.
The butler winds up the gramophone and the boy begins to stumble through a waltz with the Lady at his shoulder.
As they circle around the foyer, Elizabeth glances down at Ciel’s hand clasped in hers. “Say, Ciel, where’s the ring I got you?”
The boy does not seem to hear her, and continues to politely gaze into her eyes with an empty smile. His pallid face seems frozen, the deep blue of his single eye chilling the warmth she is used to feeling for this unfortunate child. As she turns to spin around him, the side of her head tilts to graze his eyepatch, and she glimpses a lurid violet hue emitting from behind it.
As she circles around to face him again, the strange color is no longer visible behind the tightly held patch.
As the boy’s agreeable expression looks as if nothing is wrong, Elizabeth begins to think that perhaps she was imagining it; after all, his eye was injured in the fire that killed his parents in the former Phantomhive estate. Behind that eyepatch is merely a scar where his eye once was; but she could not help feeling disconcerted.
“Whatever’s the matter?” Ciel asks amicably, but even his voice sounds alien to her now.
“Oh...nothing,” she turns away from him with a feigned smile, shaking off the wary feeling growing on her; such paranoia was unbecoming for a Lady of her caliber. She had known Ciel since they were infants, and he had always been a strange and somewhat unsightly child; there was nothing for her to worry about other than that perhaps he was being more polite than normal.
Elizabeth was so occupied with her thoughts that she only just started to notice that the waltz they were dancing to had slowed into a minor-key drawl, the bass beginning to transfigure into a woeful moan, the high notes shrill like a whimpering dog.
“This music sounds strange...” she finds it difficult to conceal the worry in her breaking voice.
“The gramophone must be broken.” Ciel replies flatly, retaining a rigid smile over his faintly twitching brow. He glances to the side as his butler, who Elizabeth now realizes had been standing near the doorway all along, makes his way across the foyer to stand high above his master.
“I’m terribly sorry my Lady, but the master has an important appointment awaiting him shortly—regrettably it seems we will need to cut this visit short.”
Ciel looks up at his servant sneeringly and turns to his fiance with a curt bow, breaking the waltz but keeping their hands clasped. “Until next time, Lizzy.”
The boy sits alone in his study, mulling over a stack of papers reporting on the East India branch’s recent transactions. However, his mind remains occupied, and, succumbing to his irritation, rings the bell to call for his butler.
Sebastian appears almost instantly, striding stiffly through the doorway.
“I’m a bit hungry. Get me something sweet to eat.” Ciel leans his elbows against the desk, and the butler cannot help but muse over how tiny this young earl looks perched in such an authoritative position.
“You shouldn’t eat now, Master. You don’t want to spoil your appetite for dinner with your guest this evening.”
“I don’t care about that. Make me a parfait.”
“I’m sorry, sir.”
Ciel’s face contorts into a sour grimace before lifting himself from the large armchair and turning to face the window behind it.
“I noticed that someone must have been fiddling with the gramophone. It is brand new, after all.”
“How unfortunate Master, I shall have it repaired at once.”
The boy turns to face his butler with an angry glout.
“I don’t see why it’s necessary for you to play such silly games, Sebastian. Elizabeth is my cousin, and our parents arranged our marriage as infants. Showing her courtesy is part of upholding the standards of my family.” The boy’s mouth stretches to form a nymphish smile, “It’s almost funny how jealous you can be; after all, she is only my betrothed in life.”
Ciel sidles around his giant desk and inches toward the servant goadingly until they stand only a centimeter apart, the boy barely reaching his butler’s shoulder.
“It is rather greedy of you to desire to possess me in both life and death. For an immortal demon you are quite impatient.”
Sebastian’s face stiffens as his eyes slowly creep down to meet the youth's. The stately, composed butler seems to dissolve in his master’s close proximity, and he gazes down at the boy with barely contained desire. His infernal countenance turns white as a corpse, as if any trace of color had been funneled out of his pallid form and fed into his brightly illuminated eyes, now glowing blood red, his pupils tightening into vertical slits. Betraying his usual rigidly controlled posture, he desperately grasps onto the petulant child who had been glaring up at him with haughty condescension. Gripping the boy’s hair, he pulls his face to stare into his craving red gaze, and Ciel’s eye flickers for a moment with honest fear, like a helpless fly ensnared in the web of a twitchy spider inflated with stolen blood.
“You couldn’t fathom how I hunger for your soul; it tears me apart to see you looked upon by another even for a moment. I can sense its irresistible quality in everything you do; every subtle, unconscious movement you make enraptures me.”
Sebastian leans over the boy, the angular shape of his silhouette hunched over like a prowling vulture, the ends of his tailcoat sticking out like black feathers.The demon's eyes sear into his prey’s weakening gaze, and Ciel almost goes limp in his ubiquitous presence.
“Have pity; I long only for a taste,” the demon’s cold breath drips tremulously down the tunnels of the boy’s ear.
At once Ciel could feel each cell pregnant with hot blood, once moving and stirring under his skin, grow cold and still. He feels transfixed on something he cannot understand, his consciousness clouding and his mind being pulled apart by madness. His round eyes, once heavily beaded and glinting with opacity, appear hollow and eerily transparent, as if they had been peeled open by command of some unnaturally radiant light. He is rendered paralyzed by a mysterious ecstasy when he feels his ego slipping away. As his whole being is forcibly spilled out from him beneath this strange figure, his desire to die seems to overthrow all other desires. Yes, he would gladly be rid of this damaged soul, marred by self pity and frivolous lies. To surrender it, and join the superior power of this creature, whatever it may be, through humiliation, even through death, yes, for that he would give everything!
Looking into his eyes, Sebastian can sense the child’s strange rapture at being momentarily released from the trappings of his consciousness.
The need to go astray, to be destroyed, is an extremely private, distant, passionate, turbulent truth, the servant thinks to himself with amusement.
Softer than a shadow and quicker than a fly, the demon’s lips graze over the boy’s, and a moment later Ciel feels a sinuous tongue flickering across his widely opened eye. He feels his spirit being slowly drained away, and he welcomes its departure as each chamber of his mind is gently closed off; the only remaining aspect of his baser self chasing the sensations of the demon’s touch.
As he is pulled closer toward this vacuous, all-consuming figure with fervid, clawing hands, he feels himself standing at the edge of a bottomless rift that tempts him irresistibly toward it. He seems to desire this fall, looking down, down, into an omniscient blackness, feeling the dark power moving inside him like an ocean current, his self-will, once so strong, now a stranger to the greater monster before him; deep sea wonder, dread night monarch astir in its cave, moving him slowly towards his voluntary tumble with fate. But while he is dragged further into its tepid warmth, he feels as though something is challenging his descent, lodged like a stone interrupting a free-flowing current— a feeling of hateful determination stubbornly anchoring him to reality.
“Don’t presume to touch me,” Ciel suddenly twists himself from Sebastian’s grasp, slapping the butler’s hand away from his face, mouth shriveled in disgust, “You’re a fool if you think I’ll abandon my hatred so easily, you sickening leech. What occurs in the world beyond does not concern me. I am your master now, and you are bound by a contract to obey me! I will do as I like, and I will not tolerate such ridiculous behavior from a servant.”
The boy torridly grabs onto his eyepatch and throws it off, revealing a violet Faustian seal branding his iris. Etched within the iridescent orb is a tilted pentagram, radiating sharp lines that cut at the rim of his pupil. Sprouting between each line are ancient runes and unholy geometric talismans that blaze a blinding white light.
“After I have avenged my family and restored honor to our name, you can have my soul; whatever’s left of it, anyway. Until then, I will use you as a pawn through which I will win this game. You are to be my loyal dog— that is an order.”
Sebastian steps back and bows to the arrogant child, a wicked smirk hidden by his chin-length black hair. He turns his back on the light without hesitation; that figure that charges into the abyss at a dignified pace. What value does honor have when one’s own immortal soul is at stake? How beautiful and foolish. Yes, just like that, Young Master. Use me. That is the soul I wish to consume.
“Yes, you are absolutely right, my Lord. Please forgive me.”
Alas, master, you are the spider, Sebastian thinks, laughing impishly to himself, But you are the fly too. You did seek truth, the light, the sunshine; you only wanted to reach the open air, the broad daylight of eternal truth. But while darting toward the dazzling window, which opens into the other world, blind fly, silly boy, you did not perceive that subtle spider's web, spread by Fate between the light and you.
"That’s what I thought. After all, the hungrier one is, the more satisfying one's dinner, wouldn’t you agree?” Ciel asks with a wolfish grin, the anger in his face subsiding.
His hunger is so great, Sebastian claws at his palms, drawing blood in order to distract himself from the unbearable sensation. He cannot name this desire; it is unlike hunger, thirst, or Eros, yet at once it had qualities of all three and more. It was like the force behind his matter had been spent; the breath from his mouth lifted. Yes, I am at your mercy, master; I am entrapped by your whims; and time for me stands still or moves at your will. You use my hunger for you as a weapon against me. But it will not always be this way. Soon you and I will be one.
“Without a doubt, my Lord.”
The butler, still standing dizzyingly close to his young master, was able to hear the boy’s heart beating heavily in his small body. Such a tiny, delicate body containing so much ardent hatred. He suppressed another gnawing wave of hunger washing over him.
“Have you ever found it surprising, master, that while human life seems so complex and intricate on the surface, it is sustained by nothing more than this simple, fist-sized pump?” Utilizing this excuse to grace his master’s frame, Sebastian places a gloved hand on the boy’s chest. “I have one, too. On the day you summoned me, this entire body was created only to serve you. It has been difficult maintaining this human shape for so long; I am not used to serving my masters in such a fragile form.”
Sebastian slowly raises his gaze from his hand to meet the young master’s eyes.
“But you won't be burdened by such inane limitations soon enough. By the end of this day our hearts will beat as one.”
“What do you mean?”
Ciel’s eyes fix onto Sebastian’s with curious vulnerability; for a moment he is entranced by the demon’s hypnotic gaze. Watching the boy’s spellbound eyes widen— unaware that the light that spurred such inspiration would be the light that would end his life—that was a unique pleasure the demon never tired of. How he wished to leach at the base of his master’s brain, and suck out all the intoxicating ambrosia that coursed through his veins; how he wished to breathe into him a foul purple dust and replace the blue of his eyes with the green fires of the underworld.
Beauty is desired in order that it may be befouled; the demon muses, not for its own sake, but for the joy brought by the certainty of profaning it.
“Each soul I consume becomes a part of me; I devour their essence and knowledge until the walls of our individuality are no longer discernible—you will be mine for eternity.”
Some work must be done on his soul before I can allow him to become a part of me, however, Sebastian thinks to himself, I must wring out every drop of purity within him, until I have re-baptised his conscience to be as black and tarred as my own. I will drive him into the abyss if he does not fall into it himself.
“Ours is a union which will rouse the dead lovers of the world to envy, stir their dust to consciousness, and wake them into torment.”
Ciel gazes at the demon wildly for a few moments longer, before snapping out of it, turning his head to the side with a snobbish glower. “Like I said, Sebastian, I do not care what lies in the world beyond. Speaking of which, have you prepared accommodations for our visitor this evening?”
Sebastian’s eyes return to their regular hue, and straightening his tailcoat, he assumes a stoic position. All that remains of his former state is his devilish grin, flushed the color of wine, of overripe fruit leaking intoxicating poison.
“Well, considering that the gardener utterly wrecked the garden by dousing it with extra strength weed killer, the maid pushed over the cabinet with the china we use for guests, and the chef used his flamethrower to cook the meat I picked out for dinner, perhaps I will need to make more hasty preparations than usual.”
“Well, that shouldn’t be a problem for someone like you.” Ciel looks up from above clasped hands with a smirk.
Sebastian bows. “Yes, if I couldn’t prepare a four-course meal, replace our dinnerware and re-landscape the garden in less than thirty minutes, what kind of butler would I be?”
The master sits at a small table in the drawing room across from his guest, a bearded middle-aged man in a sharp brown suit and burgundy ascot. The man idly glances at his pocket watch while Ciel is occupied with the board game they are playing; he reaches for his piece, a gargoyle figure, and places it onto the board beside a game piece that resembles a chapel.
The man waits for Ciel to look up from the game before announcing in his thick Italian accent, “the progress we’ve been making at the East Phantomhive Factory is quite astonishing. We already have the makings of a top-notch staff.”
“Bewitched by the eyes of the dead...what terrible luck; it appears I lose a turn.” The boy says abruptly, looking down at his game piece as he reads the card he drew.
Mr. Damian brushes off Ciel’s comment and continues his discussion, shifting into an obsequious smile, “Right now is the perfect time. We should begin expanding the company by building a strong labor force...”
Ciel lies back in his chair, clasping his hands together. His calm features are betrayed by eyes that seem to bulge with seething vitality out from his sickly body. “Go on, it’s your turn,” he mumbles from behind tightly clenched teeth.
Mr. Damian’s smile freezes as he wearily looks down at the board. “Oh... yes. I just spin this thing then?” He pauses to roll the game wheel, laughing uncomfortably, “Okay, there. Five spaces. Now, what I wanted to ask you: perhaps you could contribute another twelve thousand pounds to support our expansion?”
Ciel remains with his hands clasped and closes his eyes, leaning back in his chair. His brow twitches faintly, forming a dark crease below his forehead.
The man continues, “I believe it would be quite a profitable venture for you, my lord. And I would consider it an honor to help expand the Phantomhive Company in…”
“Lose a leg in the enchanted forest.”
Mr. Damian, who had been invested in his speech, looks up at the boy’s sudden outburst.
“And it’s your turn again. I lost a turn, remember?”
Realizing he was being ignored, the visitor’s jaw tightens. He looks down at the board game to see the card the boy had been holding; it depicted an illustration of a man falling in a misty blue-green forest, the grim reaper slicing off his right leg with a scythe.
“Ah. I see…” Mr. Damian reluctantly reaches down to spin the wheel again, “Right. I move six.”
“You don’t. That’s three.”
“You lost a leg, if you’ll recall. Now you only move half the number of spaces.”
The visitor blinks before putting on a nervous smile, “Oh my, this is a gruesome board game, isn’t it? Is there no way for me to restore my leg, then?”
“I am afraid that when something is truly lost, sir, that one can never hope to get it back again.” The boy reaches down to snatch his guest’s game piece, a stone falcon figure, right from his outstretched hand.
Mr. Damian is exasperated by his host’s unseemly manners, looking down at the insolent boy in shock. Ciel ignores the man’s reaction, and instead hunches over to stare absorbedly at the board game. As he leans slowly toward the card he drew, his face is engulfed in the shadow of his taller guest, while his single blue eye gleams brightly with mischievous pleasure.
“Your body is burnt by raging flames.”
Ciel’s piercing gaze turns to fix on his guest, who furrows his brow at the boy before glancing down at the board. He tugs at his collar uneasily as he flips over the card passed to him from the boy’s pale, damp hands. It contains the colorful illustration of a screaming man bound to a wooden stake, fire creeping up his bottom half as a hooded mob surround him.
“Well, it certainly seems I’m done for in this game,” Mr. Damian says in a light-hearted attempt to shake off his growing discomfort. “Now then, about the contract…”
“Before we discuss that we must finish the game.”
Mr. Damian feels less and less able to contain his frustration. “Yes, of course... I do have a pressing appointment. Perhaps another time--”
“Children can be very demanding about their games. Surely you wouldn’t want me to get upset?” Ciel’s burning eyes narrow slightly as his mouth curls into a wry smirk.
Mr. Pertrarch’s frustration quickly turns into anger, and his face twists into a scowl before he catches himself, quickly forming a smile.
“N-no, of course not... perhaps you would permit me to use your telephone?”
As he stands up and walks hurriedly toward the doorway, he bumps into Sebastian who is pushing a small cart.
“I’ve brought some tea for you and my lord.”
“I’ll be right back,” Damian growls as he shoves past the butler.
Sebastian pours the tea and hands his master a cup, smiling coyly. “So you’re still a child when it’s convenient, hm?”
Ciel shoots his butler a bitter look before lifting the teacup to his nose. His face suddenly contorts with disgust and he drops the cup onto the table.
“What is this? It smells terribly weak.”
“Out of consideration for our guest I brought some Italian tea.”
“Italians drink more coffee than tea, sir, so finding high-quality Italian tea can be difficult. This particular selection is not to your liking, master?”
The butler watches his master’s wan face reflected in the teacup, the rippling liquid twisting and obscuring it; all that he could recognize was the boy’s downturned eye draped over in unmistakable contempt.
“No, it is not. I don’t like it at all.”
The butler nods in understanding. “I will see to the dessert preparations then.”
“Good. We must show him every available hospitality,” Ciel looks up at his butler with a knowing grin, contempt still lingering in his eye, “the Phantomhive family is known for its courtesy.”
“Yes, my young lord.” The butler dips into a bow, and Ciel glimpses the red glow of his eyes for a moment before they are eclipsed by polished black hair.
Mr. Damian is huddled in a small room within the dark basement of the manor, a telephone pressed against his face, half-lit by fading candlelight. Thin blue wreaths of smoke curl up in fanciful whorls throughout the room from a heavily opium-tainted cigarette.
“I’m tired of babysitting this child earl...yes, I’ve already sold off the factory. Now all that’s left is to pocket the extra cash; I’m trying to squeeze more out of the brat right now.”
A single crack in the door is left open to the inky blackness outside of the basement’s inner room. Damian hears something behind him and notices a flash of movement from the corner of his eye, nearly forming the shape of a hollowed gray face. He feels a rush of fear for a moment and pauses stiffly in his conversation.
He jerks back to the phone, “Nevermind. The rest of the formalities are for you to deal with...No, it’ll be easy…Come on, he’s only a child...”
As the conversation continues, he begins to feel the blackness in the crack behind him as an omniscient creature leaning over his shoulder and biting at his heels. With the creeping feeling he is being watched, Damian quickly decides to conclude his discussion and makes his way from the basement up to the foyer. Thinly stretched ovular windows draped by silk curtains cast shafts of blue moonlight across the expanse of the floor. The massive entrance hall, with its dizzyingly high ceiling and black and white checkered tile spread out endlessly, made him feel like an infinitesimal game piece on top of a sprawling, labyrinthine chess-board.
Damian glances behind him nervously as a dark shape skids past him, but turning around, he realizes it was only his shadow, cast opaquely black against a stream of iridescent blue mist drifting in from a window behind him. He thinks he can almost see the faint outline of a dark building hidden across a river. Standing below the towering window, he wonders how the moon could reflect such a bright light when it seemed to be clouded by a thick miasma of vapors saturating the forest around the manor. Not even the stars were visible, for the fog of London’s heavy industry must have drifted downwind and concentrated here, miles away; but the shivering effervescence of the forest seemed to breathe a strange color into their choking fumes.
He turns to walk up the staircase, each of his steps clicking and echoing loudly in the silent hall. Damian clears his mind, not knowing himself to be frightened easily, but as he reaches the staircases’ carpeted epicenter, he thinks he notices something as he passes through. Turning around, he realizes that on the wall behind him is a massive painting; in his fevered state, he perceives the same ghostly face within its frames that he imagined earlier in the basement. It seems to tilt its long gray face and black jeweled eyes downward to gaze at him with infinite despair, and he feels a pang of guilt for some unknown transgression.
A cold sweat begins to form on the back of his neck, and his shoulders tense, as if he had been turned to stone by the face’s uncanny stare. He lifts his gloved hand to rub his eyes in bewilderment. When he removes his hand, all he sees is the simple portrait of a young nobleman and his seated wife; no doubt the former heads of the Phantomhive earldom.
“Impossible...I’m seeing things,” He assures himself, but it does little to assuage his impending sense of dread. As he turns to continue his walk up the staircase, he stops rigidly in his path as he remembers a card the child earl had drawn earlier that night, picturing a cluster of hollowed skulls with glowing eyes.
“Bewitched by the eyes of the dead.”
His mouth twitches into a faint smile, but the cold sweat lingers on his neck. “That’s ridiculous,” he mutters to himself. That Ciel Phantomhive was just an idiotic child obsessed with a morbid board game, there’s no way the boy could have figured out that he had already sold off a branch of his family’s company. His mind was simply playing tricks on him; perhaps he was just feeling a little guilty about taking advantage of an orphaned child’s heady inheritance—but it was just too easy. No, there was something else; it was as though this gnawing feeling had clawed its way up from a from a long-suppressed reservoir of memory. Glancing hesitantly back at the portrait of the couple, he was assaulted with a memory from many years ago—a particular job he had called for involving two blue-blooded aristocrats heavily involved in London’s underground opium trade. Images of masked revelry and violent looting sprang to mind, but every trace of memory was veiled over with the gauze of heavy intoxication. He sighed in relief as he pieced together the memory: their young child had been killed along with the couple, and the manor was burned to the ground. There was no way this could be the same family, he was just being paranoid. He would simply return to the drawing room, finish his job, and quickly leave to receive his payment in London.
Finally reaching the top of the stairs, Damian stares down a darkened hallway narrowly stretched between the wall’s mahogany trim gleaming a purple hue in the dim lamplight. As far as he could see down the half-lit hall, there seemed to be an endless row of identical doors on each side, the occasional potted plant or painting sparsely placed between each one. The air felt colder up here, emptier; and it did not help that he had no idea what room he had left the earl in, or whether he was even headed in the right direction. He did not even perceive which staircase he had gone down on his way to the basement, or what the door to the drawing room looked like; he had been too frustrated with the child’s stupidity and drunk on the prospect of cashing out on it.
One by one, he tries opening the army of doors lined up before him. But each room revealed itself to be empty, unlit and unfamiliar— a darkened parlor with a pool table seemingly abandoned mid game, a room containing a sullen congregation of sofas and chairs arranged in a circle, another which held only wall-to-wall shelves of books and strange bottled specimens. Turning the corner of the hall in frustration, Damian was only met with a seemingly identical hallway.
After passing through another slew of strange and empty rooms, he scrunches his face in bewildered anger; “This manor is like a giant maze. I can’t even find the drawing room!”
Damian turns to glance at the many portraits that line the swampy green walls, each ornate gold frame entrapping another sullen-faced aristocrat adorned in ridiculous plumage. Just as he is reminded of that haunting, jeweled gaze within the former earl’s portrait, Damian perceives a faint creaking sound emanating from the dim end of the hallway. As the sound grows louder and closer, Damian realizes that emerging from the blackness was that same ghostly figure from within the painting that had disturbed him only minutes before; it now took on a phantasmic quality as its haunting visage floated with ardent purpose toward him.
“S-stay away from me!”
All of his burgeoning fears reaching an explosive crescendo, Damian dashes around the corner of the hallway, almost tripping as he hurriedly makes his way toward the staircase.
“That was odd. Was that our guest I heard just now?” The gardener peaks out from behind the frame of a colossal family portrait he is carrying across the end of the hallway.
“Hey, we need to move this or Sebastian will start yelling again,” another voice responds gruffly from behind the corner as the portrait slowly shifts to the right.
All that Damian can think about as he sprints down the hallway is the earl’s shrill, devious voice; “you lose one turn…”
Staring straight ahead, Damian turns another blind corner before he realizes his feet are no longer touching the ground and he crashes headlong down the double staircase, a loud cracking sound resonating through the empty foyer as he tumbles down its marble steps. His vision goes black for a moment, and he tries to focus on what happened to the child on the night those criminal aristocrats were targeted. He recalls Venetian masks, but his syndicate would never dress up so gaudily for a sacking. Standing outside the flaming manor, he remembers his colleagues speaking to a cloaked group of people who bore strange symbols and talismans.
A sharp pain reverberates throughout his leg, and when he opens his eyes, Damian sees that he is laying upside down at the base of the staircase, his right leg twisted in an unnatural position.
“Sir! Are you alright? What’s happened to your leg?” the gardener's high voice shrieks from Damian’s blind spot in front of the staircase.
“What’s wrong?” the cook grunts angrily as he holds onto the end of the portrait.
Damian turns toward the voices to glimpse again the face of the former earl, staring down at him with hollow black eyes that brim over with violent accusation.
“Lose a leg in the enchanted forest.”
Possessed by craven fear, Damian raises himself off the floor with his arms and crawls on his hands and knees towards the entrance to the basement, dragging his misshapen leg behind him.
“Sir! Um, sir...Come back!” The gardener yells helplessly after the writhing guest, but Damian cannot hear him as he stares obliviously into the magnetic blackness of the basement.
As Damian drags himself across the basement’s concrete floor, he searches desperately for the room where he had used the telephone to call his accomplice. It was all he could think of to do; he’d be wolf’s food if he tried escaping the manor alone, stranded in the midnight wilderness miles away from London with a broken leg.
Suddenly he feels his head crash into something, and Damian looks up in horror as he glimpses the Phantomhive butler’s slender, black-clad figure towering expectantly over him. Strands of raven hair obscure his face which harbors an unnatural smile plastered below two glinting red eyes that stare down on Damian’s prostrated form with serene condescension.
“Surely you aren’t leaving the manor yet, sir,” the butler says with courteous merriment as he leans over the visitor.
Damian falls backward with a hoarse gasp as he attempts to briskly crawl away with his arms.
“We haven’t given you the full Phantomhive treatment yet. We still have to serve dessert."
Damian throws himself back on all fours and drags himself across the hallway as fast as possible, whimpering breathlessly. The butler follows close behind his guest’s slow, crippled movements calmly as they make their way to the end of the hallway.
“You’ve lost a leg, remember? Now you can only move half the number of spaces, so why not just relax a bit and make yourself at home?”
Damian turns around in horror at the butler, whose eyes are closed with tranquil gentility as he effortlessly trails his guest’s increasingly hurried movements. Damian uses every last ounce of his upper body strength to push himself faster across the hall and through the crack of a darkened doorway. He leans against the door for a moment, catching his breath.
“Damn, it’s too dark,” he whispers to himself as he tries to adjust his eyes to the room and make out any possible objects to hide behind. He hears the butler’s footsteps tapping at a steady pace outside of the door, not changing his slow, deliberate pace from when he was tailing him a moment ago.
Damian flinches as he hears the footsteps get closer, and his back hits what feels like a cupboard behind him. He reaches out to grope the compartment before feeling out the handle of a cupboard door and opening it. Propelled with mindless terror, he quickly crawls inside the conveniently sized box and closes it behind him.
With the uncanny way the butler is acting, seemingly reading his thoughts, it began to dawn on him that the haunting feelings he had about that couple’s portrait was no mere product of hallucinatory paranoia; this had to be the same manor that was burned down so many years ago. He did not know how, but it looked almost the same now as it did in his memories. Straining to piece together the details of that night in the darkness of the tight chamber, he focuses on those strange masked people he remembers standing outside the mansion. It suddenly hit him; the image of an incapacitated young boy being handed over like a sacrificial lamb to the cloaked men. The syndicate had sold him to some wealthy hermetic cult of Dionysus they had been in contact with. That cult must have been why they had come to England in the first place. In fact, he remembers that sacking being much more debauched and revelrous than most others; that must have been why he had trouble recalling it; they had caroused for days in the empty manor before burning it to the ground. Then he remembers the boy’s eyepatch; how could he have overlooked that? He must have sustained that injury during his capture... does that mean the boy had survived and escaped? But how?
Damian shudders as he hears the door to the room creak open slowly, followed by the butler’s continuous footsteps. He feels around the tight space he is crunched into. The walls of the cupboard, oddly, seem to be made of stone, and as his hand brushes its floor it gets coated in a frosty substance. Lifting the stained glove to his face, he sniffs the curious powder. Smells like sugar…
Suddenly the darkness of the small compartment is blighted by a slowly growing red and orange light that creeps gradually upward from the floor. Before long, a bright, flaming light illuminates the entire box, and Damian looks over his shoulder to see an iron door glinting silver in the firelight. A scraping noise echoes through the warming chamber as a rectangular peephole is unsheathed above the door where the butler’s unearthly red eyes peer through at his guest with feigned pity.
“My, what an impatient guest we have; you couldn’t even restrain yourself until dessert was out of the oven.”
Damian turns to face the disembodied eyes with a breathless scream. “The oven?! No, please open the door!” He bangs against the walls of the iron compartment, singing his gloves as he feels the growing heat swell around him.
The butler steps back in exasperation as the banging and screaming continue within the oven below him.
“Perhaps the Italians aren’t familiar with our customs,” the butler says to himself, placing a hand against his forehead thoughtfully, “there’s plum pudding, minced meat pie...We have plenty of traditional desserts here in England that make use of meat. I find them all quite tasty.”
Damian’s bulging eyes stare in horror through the rectangular opening as his grunts and screams continue. Sebastian slowly slides the metal sheath of the peephole closed over them. The heat soon becomes unbearable for Damian as he is suffocated in the heavy fumes of his own cooking flesh, and he lets out one last blood-curdling scream before passing out.
"Your body is burnt by raging flames."
“What was that? Sounds like someone screamed,” the cook glances over at the gardener as he idly pokes at the fireplace.
The gardener yawns and leans against the wall, stretching his arms. “I dunno,” he sighs. Just before closing his eyes he suddenly jumps up stiffly and slaps the cook across the back.
“Oh, hi Sebastian,” he exclaims, making himself look busy.
The elegant butler ascends the basement stairs with a good-natured smile, carrying a porcelain tray that holds three dishes.
“Thank you for your hard work today. As a reward, how would you like some minced meat pie? I’m afraid there’s simply too much to go around.”
The two servants glance at each other in shock before quickly grabbing the dishes and hungrily devouring the pies, spouting eager expressions of gratitude between mouthfuls. Sebastian leaves them to feast, but before turning to make his way up the staircase toward the drawing room, he pauses.
“By the way, a workman will be coming in the morning. When he arrives, kindly let him know we will be needing our oven thoroughly cleaned.”
Ciel is jerked awake by the sound of an ear-shattering squeal emanating from the floorboards beneath him. He must have fallen asleep while awaiting his butler’s return with the guest, but it had been a long, turbulent day and he felt himself desiring to experience even a shadow of the liminal darkness he had felt earlier in Sebastian’s grasp. He knows it would not be long before Sebastian returned with dessert, and he chuckles coldly as he flicks over Damian’s game piece that still stood intact on the table in front of him. Leaning back in his chair with a catlike yawn, he allows himself to be swallowed by the fuzzy blackness at the edges of his vision.
Ciel finds himself standing in a city square, butterscotch streams of evening light casting a warm glow onto the familiar buildings around him. The air was chilled with the breath of winter, and as he glances around he notices Christmas wreaths and evergreens in the windows of the small, frost-dusted stores at his sides. He is walking behind a tall man with lead-colored hair who is leading him, leather glove to mittened hand, and Ciel realizes that he is much younger now. He can hear the distant sounds of carnival music flooding in from behind the shops. The tall man leads Ciel between two of the shops in pursuit of the music, and he stares in wonder at sparkling clumps of snow that cling to the darkened stone walls on either side of them. Just as Ciel hears the faint sound of an accordian grow livelier, the tall man stops halfway through the alley.
“What’s wrong, father? I thought we were going to the carnival,” Ciel heard himself say in a high, disappointed voice.
Ciel peers out from behind his father’s standing figure to see what is holding his attention. Leaning against the frosty wall is a man in battered candy-striped suspenders and a ruffled collar, his balding face painted in white makeup with black triangles beneath his downcast eyes. Ciel’s father shuffles through his coat pockets, pulling out a fistful of silver coins and hands it to the melancholy stranger. The man thanks him tearfully and limps to a bakery around the corner.
Ciel’s father turns to look down at the scarfed boy below him with a warm smile, “You see, Ciel, even if someone’s in a dark place now, there’s always a chance for things to turn around; all it takes is a little help to give someone the strength to turn on the light.”
The gold-tinged city square around them begins to darken until Ciel can no longer tell where they are; the world outside of him and his father had seemed to crumble away completely. The man turns to Ciel, who is no longer as short as he was only a moment ago, and looks down at him absorbedly.
“You do have a chance, Ciel; to move forward and build a brand new future for yourself. Don’t ever forget that. Promise me you won’t?”
He reaches down to lovingly caress his son’s face, lugubrious and cold from years of nursing his self-destruction. Although he can no longer piece together the details of his father’s face, Ciel finds the man’s touch gives him a warm, nostalgic feeling. As his fingers brush over the boy’s eyepatch, it falls off from his head, uncovering the violet seal it hid.
“But there is no future for me, because I gave it away.”
The dream gets blurry and he feels himself being pulled further away from the muddied depths of his consciousness. He holds onto his father’s hand as long as possible until he is no longer able to feel the sensation of his grip. Then he finds himself thrown back violently into the cold.
He thought his contract with Sebastian had delivered him from sacrifice, but as he began to discover, it had only delayed it—altering his anger from righteous martyrdom to a sickly stain of long-festering rot. His savior had come to him as a deceptively familiar and inviting voice rising from beneath the cold Pagan altar with an unearthly warmth, lingering inside him like an ever-present flame burning just below skin level. He recalls with a chilling throb, the image of a snake devouring itself etched onto the surface of the altar becoming visible as it was filled with his own befouled blood, mixing and running together. Behind him, masked faces whispered rhythmically, reeling with drunken delight. It was in this desperate hour that he had hungrily reached for the chance to seal himself away forever in a liminal twilight, and take back a will he wrongly believed to be his own. He remembers, rising up in bubbling, inky black tendrils from the bloodied altar, the thousand-eyed, ever-expanding face of hell staring down before him.
“Who has summoned me? Where is the fool who spits on God?”
Sebastian enters the moonlit drawing room, still holding the tray, one large pie remaining covered by a gleaming silver cloche. He is met with his master’s sleeping form, motionless and peaceful as he lays back in an over-sized armchair. The boy stirs in half-lucid alarm by the sound of the door opening.
Ciel blinks his dampened eyes open, a single tear barely marking the side of his cheek, the reflective drop catching a glimmer of distant starlight. He looks up to see an indistinct black figure standing over him.
His vision clears to see two downcast red eyes scouring his limp body with the gaze of a hawk examining the helpless wriggling of a snake between its claws. He looks down at the silver tray held by the demon, and realizes at once that the job must be over.
He feels for the first time the vast future whirling before him like a cold, blighting tempest, within it all familiar pieces of himself being torn apart; unknown, endless, devoid of comfort. He thinks of the things he would never do; how a wish he reached for in a single, anguished moment had damned his soul for eternity. He thinks of the manor burned and destroyed once again, the Phantomhive Company and family name that he had fought so hard to untarnish fallen into obscurity. He imagines Lady Elizabeth in her finest white gown, standing alone at an altar.
Sebastian pretends not to hear the boy’s faint sobs, but Ciel can tell from his sardonic grin that he was reveling in every ounce of suffering that the boy allowed himself to express unguarded. To him, every tear the boy shed was only a spice to flavor his deliciously defiled soul.
Human dreams; such fertile ground for sowing the seeds of torment...
Just as Sebastian is starting to feel disappointed in his master’s reaction, he hears the boy’s breathy sighs transform into rapid chokes of laughter. Glancing up quickly, he sees the boy doubled over in his chair, shoulders wracking in a spasmic paroxysm of hilarity.
“I know they say revenge is a dish best served cold, but I think you've put that line to shame,” Ciel pauses to catch his breath before suddenly turning to glare at his butler stonily, “Well, what are you waiting for? Bring me that dish.”
Sebastian gracefully bows to set the glinting silver plate onto the game table in front of his master’s armchair. He removes a small bone-china tea set from the understory of his cart and pours it delicately as he announces, “For tonight’s dessert we have a fresh brown sugar and apple minced-meat pie served with earl gray.” He sets the tea cup onto the master’s table.
Ciel’s fingers splay outward to examine the hot, domed lid reverently before lifting it open and whiffing the warm fumes pouring out from underneath. He places the cloche back on Sebastian’s tray and eyes the large, steaming pie sitting before him absorbedly, its curling vapors seemingly caught in the lunar orbit of his swirling blue gaze. Without taking his fascinated eyes off the dessert which seemed to seethe, half-alive with smoldering vitality, his white fingers slowly close around a polished fork near the side of the plate. He catches a glimpse of his own tempestuous eyes in its reflective silver surface but barely registers the strangely lurid color as coming from his own face. Digging into the texture of the pie’s soft crust, he almost throws his head back in ecstasy as he feels the surface of his fork effortlessly gliding through the meticulously cooked, meaty tendons held within. Taking a small, rapturous bite, Ciel closes his eyes as he swallows and chuckles with satisfied victory.
“What presumption,” he says smugly, his predatory gaze still fixed on the thick red liquid seeping out from the pie’s delicate crust, “He dares to show his face in this manor, thinking I would not remember what he did all those years ago? And to ask for money after having his cronies sell off the East India factory without telling me, no less.”
Sebastian stares coldly down at the boy’s performance as he twirls his fork around another string of dripping meat and takes a complacent bite.
The boy devours the pie, his ravenous, smacking lips exploring every dimension of its flavor. After finishing the last few stringy red scraps, he turns slowly toward the butler, keeping his head down and pausing to place a hand lightly over his eyepatch.
“So, will it hurt?”
The demon bows slightly. “It will a bit...I’m sorry. I will endeavor to be gentle, though.”
“No,” The boy looks abruptly up to face the demon, “Be as brutal as you like. I want to suffer the full force of your hunger tearing through me—to feel your untethered enjoyment— it’s proof I had a life worth living.”
The demon’s eyes widen for a moment, their red color becoming more lurid with excitement as he steps backward in a low bow.
“Yes, my young lord.”
Ciel hesitates, looking down at the stone floor with melancholy resignation. He reaches his hand up toward the high window, watching as the blue and silver ring around his thumb is lit ablaze by brilliant yellow-green moonlight. Then he leans his head back in his chair, submitting passively to a future that would come to annihilate him.
The boy’s single blue eye quivers with quiet fear as the demon removes a glove to caress the side of his pale face. The gentleness of his touch reminds Ciel for a moment of the way his father would stroke his head as a child, and he relaxes as Sebastian sweeps his hand over his eyepatch, allowing it to tumble to the floor and expose the violet contract seal within.
The demon sees in the boy’s wide, trembling eyes, his own reflection growing larger and larger until he is only a centimeter away from Ciel’s face.
Pausing to savor the appearance of his master in this final, vulnerable state, Sebastian recalls a night not so long ago: the boy, turned away from him, was curled fetally in his silken duvet as blue moonlight spilled over his coiled form. He looked as though he believed that if his body was scrunched tightly enough, he would somehow return to the tranquil oblivion of the womb. Sebastian stood at the foot of the grand, canopied bed, his towering black shadow draped over the nestled boy like a blanket. He held a many-armed candlestick in his gloved hand, its warm glow revealing only the bottom half of his face in the woolly darkness. As he quietly turned to leave the bedroom, his long shadow followed.
“Sebastian. Stay with me... until I fall asleep,” the boy had murmured suddenly.
Sebastian turned away from the door, a mocking smile strewn across his lower face. “Goodness. Are you displaying weakness in front of me now?”
The boy twitched slightly beneath the duvet. “Just a simple order.”
The demon let out a bemused sigh. He gently made his way to the side of the bed where he crouched before it, the candlestick at level with his master’s buried head.
“I will stay here. I am by your side forever, master—until the end.”
The boy’s body relaxed beneath the covers, and before long his breathing became steady with the stupor of sleep. The butler silently stepped out into the hallway, pausing as he locked the bedroom door behind him. He placed a gloved hand over his face as he thought of his master’s deceptive arrogance; declarations of power and vengeance juxtaposed by images of a fetally curled child begging a demon to chase away his nightmares. Sebastian’s half-lit smile parted to release a cold, faint chuckle. The thought occurred to him that his master’s fear of being alone in the darkness was the true motivation for his contract, and that he only sought to replace the unity of family with the protection of a demon. Don’t worry, master; I will see to it that you are never again alone...for all of eternity.
As he turned down the darkened hallway to make preparations for the day to come, all that was visible of the butler’s face was his cheshire cat grin, half illuminated by waning candlelight.