Written By MB Wolfe | Published by Pure Sleeze Press, 2022 | Tickets to Midnight, Volume 1

She moves across the room, drinking in the hotel suite while running her delicate fingers along naked surfaces. The room smells of luxury, of lavender and eucalyptus and the lights are dimmed to a warm glow that’s meant to be relaxing, disarming. 

Her stomach clenches.

He watches her as he liberates the silk noose from around his neck and discards it. 

“You got a name, honey?” He asks lowering onto the edge of the bed. He pulls off his oxfords and sighs in relief, balling up and flexing his toes against the carpet.

“They call me Orchid,” she answers. Her voice is both sweet and sultry, melodic and languid. It washes across him like the tide, luring him in so it can drag him out to sea. 

His pulse quickens.

She brushes the curtains aside and peers out at the city. It stretches below them, gleaming and endless. He studies her reflection in the glass. Her face, too young for the curves of her body. Her doll-eyes, deep and inhospitable amethysts. Her heart-shaped mouth, small and girlish, dressed in a smear of hot pink. All of it, stirring and twisting his desire into a monstrous thing, a thing he should cower from, a thing he embraces.

He repeats her name to himself. He thinks about his wife and her age-spotted hands, how they fuss over her beloved orchids, fragile with their soft pink and white petals. 

He begins to swell.

He reaches into his pocket and produces a bankroll, setting it on the nightstand beside him with a soft thunk. She glances at it over her shoulder, lowers her gaze to the floor, then pulls away from the window.

She moves closer and sweeps her hair to one side, pink like the flowers of her namesake, and begins to unzip her dress. She doesn’t look at him, but she can feel his hungry eyes on her. 

Dread claws up her spine.

He unbuttons his shirt, slowly because of the arthritis in his fingers. He watches her dress puddle to her feet, the body beneath revealed. Her skin is like the moon, silvery and luminescing from within. To him, she is exquisite. She sees herself as an abhorrent thing, though, reflected in the desire of men’s eyes.

“What would you like me to do?” She has been trained to ask this; words spoken so often they’ve become worn against her tongue. She waits along the razor-edge of silence, knowing as long as it lingers between them, her body remains hers. 

Tears sting at her eyes.

She turns her head and sucks in a breath. She is unable to remember the last time she cried. Unable to remember exactly when emotion was beaten out of her.

He begins to speak, but she cannot hear him over the sudden buzzing in her ears. She glances toward the door. The shadows pacing underneath remind her that her keepers are waiting, a reminder that there’s another man waiting for her. And another. And another.

Her chest tightens and she begins to tremble.

She wants to scream. To run. To leap from the window. To shrink down. To disappear. She squeezes her eyes shut and tries to wish herself into oblivion. To wish herself into anything else.

They call her Orchid. Burning anger and rage begins to ignite through her body. Orchid. Thin arms crack and snap, transforming into forelegs, dangerous and spiked. Orchid. Soft skin hardens into a thick exoskeleton. Orchid. The brand on her lower back, marking her as their property, gives birth to two sets of wings. Orchid. Pink petals bloom along her knees. Orchid. Her face is the last to change, slowly morphing into an angular insectoid shape. Mantis.

She fixes him in her hungry gaze, chittering as she looms over him. He opens his mouth to scream, but is instead, devoured.