written by Katharina Laukner. Kat (she/her) is an avid reader, writer, and green-tea-drinker. She comes from Berlin, Germany, and has recently moved to Dublin to study English with Creative Writing at University College Dublin. Her favourite genre to both read and write is fantasy, particularly, but she enjoys experimenting wherever she can. She especially loves creating stories that either draw the reader into magical worlds or unnerve them immensely. Lately, she’s been trying to branch out more and share her work with others, so she hopes you enjoy this piece of hers!

The night I killed my mother was a beautiful midsummer’s eve.

With the humid air sticky on my skin and the bite of gasoline in my hair, I watched as her body went up in flames in our backyard. My mother’s blood coated my fingers like scarlet opera gloves, all the way up to my elbows. I didn’t want to wipe it off.

As morning came and only ashes floated in the breeze, I turned around and strode over the freshly mowed lawn, back to the estate. Despite my stiff limbs, I felt happy- for her. If she knew why I’d killed her, my mother would have been proud of me.  

“It’s a new dawn,” I hummed as I slid the patio door open and stepped inside. “It’s a new day.” I ripped the cord from the stereo, cutting the music short. 

With a sharp motion of my arm, the bloodied knife sunk into the doorframe. A trail of red oozed down the cracked white paint- the last trace of my mother. 

“And I’m feeling,” I finished the lyrics, “good.”

“I’m here to kill you.”

I wave my glass of scotch in the air with a bored sigh. “What’s new?”

“Aren’t you going to ask who sent me?” The girl in the doorway to my office looks confused and a little disappointed. They always do. In one hand she is holding a sword I am not sure she knows how to use, in the other she grips a silver key. My key, I realize with annoyance.  

Black curls are plastered to the arch of her warm bronze throat, which bobs as she swallows.

“You don’t seem scared,” the girl says quietly. 

“That’s because I’m not,” I reply, taking another sip of my drink. “Please, take a seat.” 

Her golden eyes muster me from over the broad maple desk as she sinks into a chair. Warily she takes in the splendor around her, the high arched walls, the dark wooden bookshelves, the candles flickering in their metal sconces.  

“Would you care for a drink?”

The girl whips her head back towards me, blushing as if she were caught stealing- and quickly shakes her head. With a shrug, I pour more of the honey-colored liquid from the crystal decanter into my own glass and muster her with cool interest. She can’t be much older than I am, I realize with a frown. They get younger every year. 

“What’s your name?” I ask finally.  

“Odette.” 

“Odette,” I repeat. She looks uncomfortable hearing her own name on my lips. 

I click my tongue. “I believe an introduction on my part is unnecessary. I’m sure you already know everything about me.”

The girl sits up straighter. “Your name is Lilith Clay, you are twenty-two years old and five-foot-seven tall.”

“Impressive,” I sneer. That’s hardly more than common knowledge. 

Her eagerness morphs into determination. “You’re a serial killer.” Her eyes harden. “There’s not much else I need to know.”

I lean forward, a grueling smile spreading on my lips. “Aren’t you worried I’ll kill you?” I purr, eyeing her bejeweled sword, now leaning against the side of my desk. 

“No,” Odette says simply. “It wouldn’t be your style.” She folds her hands in her lap and looks at me critically. This resembles a business meeting in every way but one- we’re discussing which one of us will die first.

“I’ve been informed that you enjoy getting to know your victims before killing them.”

“Ah, so why don’t you tell me a little about yourself?” I croon.

“I’d love to.” Odette smirks, and for a second, I feel a twinge of something akin to emotion in the dark pit where my heart should be.

“Once you get to know me, you’ll be begging for death.”

“Do your worst, Lilith Clay.”

I only raise my glass in salute. 

“You know we’re the good guys,” Odette says, before tearing into her waffle. The park is crowded at this time- no one is paying any attention to us. I chuck a piece of my own waffle to the malicious pigeon at my feet, rolling my eyes as it ruffles its wings in surprise, then clucks and pecks at my boot, demanding more. I bare my teeth, and the pigeon wisely saunters away, minding its own business. 

“Who decided which side was good and which was evil?” I ask Odette. 

She gives me an incredulous look. “Have you ever heard of morals?” she shoots back. “Unlike you, we actually stick to them.” 

My chest tightens as images leap into my mind. “I’m sure you do,” I say, voice dangerously low. “Things like these are always a matter of perspective.”

Odette pretends not to hear. “We protect people,” she insists. “That’s more than you’ve ever even thought about.”

I don’t answer. She wouldn’t understand that protecting the ones I love has been the only thing on my mind since I was old enough to understand the politics of this horrid world. 

Since I was old enough to take matters- or blades- into my own hands and send my friends and family to a better place. Only in the afterworld can they ever find peace. 

“What I’m saying is that killing you would be the right thing to do.” Odette winks at me, then brushes the icing sugar off her frilly coat. She hasn’t bothered taking her sword today. “It would be a mercy.”

“Perhaps for me,” I answer, idly dissecting the remaining waffle with my pocket knife. “Never for you.”

Odette frowns. “For the entire world.” But a flicker of doubt sparks in her eyes.

“You brought mail.” I set down my book and cross the office, to where Odette is struggling with a large metal case. A glance down the hall shows me three more standing in the entryway. 

Crows bicker outside the open window, heralding the twilight. Or are they cawing in warning? 

“What big presents you have,” I mock. “Is it my birthday?”

“Don’t play dumb,” Odette grunts, heaving the shiny box further into my office. “You know exactly what these are.”

My smile widens, so much that it hurts. “I never liked this house anyways.” 

I grab the crystal decanter from the table and saunter out the door, leaving Odette where she stands breathless on the rug.

“I was told separating you from this house would be much harder.”

“Don’t play dumb,” I echo. It’s not the belongings I care about- it’s the people. 

On my way out, my gaze falls on the inscription on one of the boxes- a lightning bolt on a dark blue background. I glance up at the thunderclouds amassing over my doorstep. 

“Nice try,” I whisper.  

Rain pours through the blown-out skylight in the entrance hall. It’s the only part of the house that hasn’t entirely collapsed. I lay underneath the broken remains of the stairway, cradling the half-empty decanter to my chest as if it were a teddy bear. 

The patter of water sounds like bullets in my ears. I grit my teeth, and with all my heart, curse the gods, wherever they sit on their gilded thrones. For the games they play. 

For the things they make me do.  

That is how Odette finds me in the middle of the night- a shivering mess, drenched to the bone. 

“Hello, little swan,” I giggle. “What brings you to these cursed ruins?”

“Are you drunk?”

No.” I offer her the decanter. As Odette takes the bottle, her fingers brush against mine. They feel like fire. 

“You’re freezing,” she says and places the alcohol far outside my reach. I pout- or try to, past the shivers racking my body. 

“Here.” She slips out of her jacket and carefully drapes it over my shoulders, making sure I’m at least half-warm. 

“Why are you here, anyway?” Odette asks, casting a worried glance at the ceiling, as if she believes it will collapse right on top of us. 

Perhaps that would make things easier. 

I shake my head, not willing to answer the question. I don’t want to admit that I have nowhere else to go. Not to her

“It’s not too late to run away, you know.”

“I’ve got a job,” I slur, hating every word coming out of my mouth. “It’s very… important.”

“You mean killing?”

I wave her off. “Plus, I’ve got a lovely house and a great friend- enemy. Frenemy,” I correct. “What are you, really? ‘Cause I don’t have a clue.” I chuckle, reaching for the decanter before realizing it’s gone. 

Odette doesn’t answer. After what feels like ages, she presses a hard piece of plastic into my hand and stands up. 

“What’s this?”

“A keycard, idiot,” she says. “In case you feel like sleeping in a ‘lovelier house’ than this.”

Before I can respond, she disappears into the night. 

The hotel bed is immaculate- I regret drenching it with blood. The towels too. And the floor. 

But what’s done is done, and I don’t regret that. I sit in the dark for a long time, waiting for Odette to come home, and watch the crimson dripping from her sword. 

As dawn breaks, the door opens, and a slim figure darts into the room. She moves like a shadow, yet it’s impossible to miss the wet gleam of tears sliding down her cheeks, illuminated briefly by the harsh hallway light. 

I know what happened. And I curse myself for not being able to stop it. Of having missed someone- again.

“Who?” I ask quietly. 

Odette whirls around, slamming the light switch on so hard the lamps flicker in their sconces. “I didn’t realize you were here,” she stammers, wiping away the traces of her grief. 

“You invited me.” An understatement. It was this, or freeze to death. “Who did they take?”

“My grandmother.” The words are flat. Defeated. 

Grandmother. I should have known. 

“They won’t release her until I’ve finished the job.” Her throat bobs as she swallows. 

“Kill me, then,” I say simply.

Something breaks within her at the words. Odette slides to the floor, balling her trembling hands into fists. “I can’t,” she forces out. “Believe me, I’ve tried but I just- can’t. It’s not right.”

“Let me make this easier for you.” I toss her sword onto the carpet. 

Odette freezes. Then her eyes widen as they dart from the blade to the bedsheets- and to my hands. The blood is like a red thread. 

“Holy gods,” she breathes. 

“They’re not as holy as you thought,” I note. “Here’s one more name you can add to their ledger.”

Liam?” Fresh tears spill down her face. “Did you do this?”

I sit up straighter on the bed. “They would have found your brother eventually,” I say. “Freeing him from this world was a mercy.”

A light goes out in her eyes. 

“Who do you think they would have gone to next, once you failed and they disposed of you? I’m only trying to help- to protect you-”

“You’re insane.” 

I can’t hide my smile. “In a world like this, can you blame me?”

“We’re a result of our choices, not our circumstances.” Odette rises to her feet, gripping the bloodied sword in her hands. 

“Prove it, little swan,” I croon. “Prove you’re your own person- not a puppet in this game. Prove how good you really are.”

She stalks towards me, until we are less than a hairsbreadth apart, and her blade is angled at my heart. I laugh as she digs it into my chest.

“I wish I could have saved you.”

“I don’t need saving,” Odette spits. Hovering over me, she is a maelstrom of rage and fear, and fire. Despite everything, she’s beautiful.

My last thought is that it’s fine if she kills me. The room is bloodied already. 

I am the hero,” she whispers, as the blade meets its mark. “I am the hero.”

I cry as death’s kiss claims me. 

Because I know she believes it.


Image: Tankardstown House, 27/7/23 by Sean McKervey

Seán McKervey (he/him), is a 3rd year college student studying Geography in UCD. One of his favourite hobbies he had recently gotten into is film photography. This summer, Sean had the chance to visit South Korea, in which he had many opportunities to take film photos.

CategoriesFiction Issue VII