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 He dwells inside the moistened candle-lit basement beneath his mother's bedroom. Thick black ink drips from his quill onto damp parchment like hot tar poured upon bleached flesh. His heavy printed runes run straight and even—a text comprehensible only by himself and few others. Slowly he writes, speaking aloud with hissing consonants—hollowed vowels.
 
"My dearest love Mera,
 
May you never so drearily decompose. My limbs loosen and my mind liquefies inside this inhuman hive. Still alive, yes—I have managed to survive. But the worms appear less often than before and some days not even one will crawl onto my yellow dinner plate. Now so emaciated and anemic, my meals appear not like earthworms but as tendrils, insipid; as if plucked from some ripening cave-bound corpse.
 
Winter approaches and as the food thins, so do I thin. You would recognize me, but who else? Perhaps Mother, were she to ever free me—for now that I am enfeebled, I have become nearly identical to my memory of her. Though unknowingly, she glances upon my own haggard face at her every reflection. The witch would loath me all the more for that!
 
Eternally yours,
 
Mendax"
 
A cold breath sets the ink. Mendax mutters a final soft incantation and hangs the page between two fingers above his candle flame. Fiery blue tongues consume the message in an instant. After a disappointed glance around his cave to check for recently emerged worms, his head falls dully to the wooden desktop. The quiet wheeze of his atrophied lungs grows softer as drowsiness overcomes him.
 
* * *
 
 
"Mendax, awaken."
 
His eyes snap open and he turns, raving, to pronounce a spell with hands clawing the air before him. 
 
"Stop" and he stops mid-syllable. "Sit" and he sits stiffly cross-legged on the cold ground. "Your mother has missed you, Mendax. You should greet her with love and affection, not thin curses to set her ablaze."
 
Furious rage; his eyes smolder and yet he remains still, unable to combust--frozen by his mother's gripping magic.
 
"Ah, amusing--you still exhibit no control over your primal emotions. I birthed a wild beast!" The grin is dark like cheated death. "Tell me, is your mother beautiful? Go ahead, I'll allow you to speak this once."
 
By a foreign volition his voice activates. "You are more beautiful even than the wild moon, Mother." Silent horror reverberates inside his head. Her high laughter is nauseating.
 
"How you flatter me, my charming boy. Perhaps you wonder why I have come to visit you this glorious day, after two years of your solitary confinement? It was love that brought me here, mostly--and to tell you the wonderful news. I have finally met young Mera: stunning, absolutely stunning young woman. Do you know, she attempted the very same curse that you did just now when she saw me herself? It seems you told her of my weakness to fire, in those long hours you spent studying the arcane with her. Darling son, I forgive you, I forgive you—it's all behind us. We can devote all our love to each other now, as it should be; as it always should have been. Do you want me to tell you what I did to your Mera, Mendax? Do you want to know how she screamed when I pulled her eyes out of both orbits with a single word? And how pitifully she did scream, Mendax; how pitiful and weak she was." She turns her back to him, and lifts her arm to open the door atop the staircase which led to her bedroom. Blinding light shines through the threshold, silhouetted by a girl's figure. 
 
Mera! He strains with all his will against the forces tying him down; struggles with all his love to stand and run up to her. Shrill crow laughter smothers him. He can only watch as the figure sways alarmingly, and then topples forward down the staircase. Brutal thuds sound as skull and limbs crash down each step. Billowing in the wake of the body, hundreds of pages float downwards--Mendax's letters. Only when her body finally reaches the bottom of the staircase does his mother free him from bondage.
 
In an instant, he reaches Mera and kneels to hold her soft body, brushing off the scattered pages, hoping that life still could exist, even dimly, within her. He turns his lover over to see—
 
"Mendax! I stole her face, Mendax—all her beauty, mine!" Hysterical cackles echo around him. Too mortified to even summon the words for a spell, he turns to his mother and looks upon a new face: a face with youthful, vibrant cheeks and full lips and crystalline clear eyes--a face he had yearned for each day spent alone in this basement--Mera's face. He returns again to the cold corpse in his arms, and sees an unrecognizable visage: red, gory muscles glistening where supple white skin once had been; horrifying jagged cuts made under her chin, around her jaw, all the way up to hollow eye sockets.
 
"Beloved son, I ask a favor before I depart. You are looking rather thin lately. It would comfort your mother for you to eat that girl's corpse, before it begins to rot. The flesh should provide more than satisfactory sustenance for several days." One final shriek of laughter. "And I worry so for your health that if you don't do it soon, I would simply force you to eat her myself!" She disappears. The basement door slams shut above him, locked by his mother's icy magic. Mendax weeps, trapped below his mother's bedroom once more.
 
Then both eyes fall upon Mera.

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