(Beta read by Deniz Pekin)
Kali stretched her muscular legs under the table and tried to keep herself from rolling her eyes. The meeting was taking forever and all she wanted to do was go back home and watch her girls dance. Owning a strip club wasn’t just a great cover, it was also very entertaining. At least to Kali. She barely listened as her associates drivelled on and on and on.
“Well, gentlemen.” She stood up. “I think that our business is concluded.” She didn’t wait for them to answer, she was the boss after all. She didn’t have to wait.
It had been three years since Kali and her kind had taken over human lands and completely disintegrated the Concord of humanoids from the inside out. To Kali it made no difference, she wasn’t really into politics. The only thing that had changed in Kali’s world was that she now had a wider mix of dancers. Not just her own kind, but humans and other humanoids too.
She walked through her club, going towards the rooms at the end. She was looking forward to pouring herself a drink and calling in a couple of dancers for a private show in her living room. She needed to clear her mind. Stop thinking about the one thing she wanted and the one thing she could never have.
“Donna Kali! Please! Donna.” Kali turned around with a purple eyebrow raised. It was one of her human dancers. Róisín’s friend. Kali shook her head. She needed to forget about Róisín, if she didn’t it would probably drive her insane.
“What is it?” She asked.
The human in front of her fidgeted, her eyes wide and seemingly scared to start talking. Kali was quickly losing her patience.
“Spit it out, human,” she growled, “I’m not in the mood.”
The human swallowed.
“It’s Róisín,” she said, “she’s been… poisoned or something. The human medic don’t know what to do.”
Fear gripped Kali’s heart.
“What kind of poison?”
The human seemed reluctant to speak again and Kali dug her nails into her palms. She wanted to push the human into the nearest wall, put a gun to her head and force her to speak faster. But she needed to prove that she wasn’t a monster. Both to herself and Róisín.
“She was sad,” the human squeaked, “so she went for a drink. When she came home we first thought she was drunk but then she started getting a fever. I think it was something that others… I mean, your kind, eh.” She seemed to gather her thoughts. “We thought you could help. We don’t want her to die.”
Kali closed her eyes and groaned. So it was her fault. They had fought, so Róisín had gotten drunk and probably poisoned. Some humanoids had bad tolerance to alcohol drank by Kali’s kind, especially humans.
“Take me to her.” She knew that Róisín had forbidden her from ever going to their house, from touching her again, from going near her again but it didn’t matter. Kali rather have Róisín alive and hating her than dead. If she could help her, she would. She just didn’t have a choice.
Róisín and her friends lived in a little shack not far from Kali’s club. They were part of a reason wave of young humanoid women who didn’t have anywhere else to turn. It was either find work with Kali’s kind or join the resistance and meet an early death. Kali had profited from their misfortunate, but she hadn’t cared until Róisín.
When they arrived at Róisín’s home, Kali didn’t bother knocking but simply pushed the door open. She was the queen on this island after all. When she opened the door and took a few steps forward, the girls inside whimpered and went away from the doors. Stupid humans. Kali was glad that they were scared, it was proper, she was several hundred years older than them after all.
“Where is Róisín?” She demanded.
“Kali?” Kali had thought that she would feel better once she had laid eyes on Róisín but she didn’t. The anguish didn’t go away, instead it was increased ten-fold. Róisín’s skin was flushed red and her eyes were watery. She smiled when she saw Kali, another sign that something was very wrong.
* * *
“Don’t you ever touch me again!”
Kali couldn’t say anything in her defense as Róisín stormed from one side in the room to the other. She never had this much problem with any of her other dancers. No one else placed so much demands on her. Demands to be… good.
“How do you think I can let you touch me after you do that, huh? Róisín eyes were full of anguish and Kali was dying to reach out and touch her.
“This is my job,” she tried, “what I’ve been doing for several hundred years before you were born. You think I’m going to stop just because a being just a couple of decades old comes and tell me too?”
“Your kind killed my family” Róisín stopped in the middle of the room. “Your kind destroyed our cities, killed thousands of us and now I find out you sent money to them? Money for weapons? For their food? You might as well have fired the shots yourself. And that you still send money to your military. How do you think that should make me feel?”
Kali sighed. She supposed that she could understand Róisín anger, but the whole discussion was also making her annoyed.
“What is the definition of humanoid?”
“What is the definition of humanoid?” Kali continued, “because that’s what marks me as an other, right? What makes my kind so different from all the other humanoids?”
“Looking human.” Róisín visibly swallowed.
“Looking human,” she repeated, “why do you get to set the definition? Your blessed president who started the Concord of Humanoids wasn’t even thought of when I was born.” She was spitting out the words now. She did hate humans, just not the human in front of her. “So your president is born and decides that he gets to decide who is “other”. And pretty soon we are named others.” She laughed cruelly. “Whatever they taught you in school little girl, we are not the ones who fired the first shot. We simply believe that offence is the best defense. We simply shackled you, before you could shackle us.” Róisín looked like she wanted to say something else but instead she just stormed out.
* * *
They hadn’t seen each other since that fight and Róisín should not have been smiling. Yet here she was, walking towards Kali on wobbly steps.
“Kali,” she cooed, “I missed you.”
“Have you given her anything?” Kali moved forward and quickly caught Róisín as she fell forward.
“Just some water,” one of the girls said, “I tried to make her something to eat but she didn’t want to eat and then her temperature just rose.”
Kali cradled Róisín against her body with one arm and put her other hand to her forehead. It was hot and moist against her hand.
“Have you called a doctor?” She slapped Róisín gently on the cheek. “Róisín! Wake up.” She didn’t want her to slip into a coma.
“We called the human medic,” a girl said, “she just said there was nothing we could do. Just that she should sleep it off but then her fever rose and…” The girl stopped talking.
Kali wanted to growl. Stupid humans.
“Go back to my club,” she said, forcing her voice to be calm, “go to the bar and ask for Utilado, say it’s for me. Then bring him here.”
She stood up, carrying Róisín. She wanted to keep trying to wake her up but not in front of the others. If people got a whiff of the fact that Donna Kali made housecalls and took personally care of her dancers she wouldn’t just loose face, her enemies might come knocking again if they thought she was going soft. Or they might think that Róisín meant something to her and come after her.
“Where is Róisín’s room?”
* * *
Kali sat back on her sofa and watched as the group of new humans danced in front of her. Most of the time she let other people handle auditions but since humans were still new to her club she wanted to oversee it herself. She had been a dancer once herself after all, she knew how it was supposed to look. She really didn’t like how the humans looked though. All that hair. It was just strange. But they did know how to move and Kali nodded to one of her people by the door. Yes, they can stay.
The music stopped playing and the dancers stood still, wating for Kali to speak.
“You’re hired,” she said.
“Thank you,” one of them said, “oh thank you so much.” Kali looked at her face and wanted to laugh at the desire she could read in her eyes. Most people feared her kind and for some this fear turned into wanting. Maybe it was time for Kali to let a human try out for more than her dancer.
“What’s your name?” She asked.
“Anna,” the girl replied and giggled.
Kali almost rolled her eyes at the sound. Silly humans.
“Come on,” another girl said and pulled at Anna’s arm, “let’s go back.” She was a tall thing, almost as tall as Kali with long legs and smooth-looking, coffee coloured skin.
“What’s your name?” Kali inquired, honestly curious.
“Róisín Ancelet,” the girl replied, “and thank you so much, Donna Kali. But we really must go now.” She seemed eager to get away from Kali. It was normal and Kali didn’t mind. Róisín pulled at Anna’s arm and the group of girls left.
* * *
It was the first time Kali had ever entered any of her dancers’ homes. She had never before taken a personal interest before Róisín, therefore she had never seen the poverty that they lived in. Róisín had her own room but it was bare with only a small bed, a mirror and a small night stand which had Róisín’s dance clothes strewn over it.
She went and put Róisín on the bed. She stroke a couple of hairs from her forehead and then stretched her back. Without really meaning too she looked straight into the mirror above Róisín’s bed.
Humanoid. According to some snotty faced, younger-than-a-century humans Kali wasn’t human looking enough to be treated as such. Kali kept looking in the mirror. Her skin was dark blue and her eyes were shaped like a humans but completely black. She supposed it might look scary, but to her it was normal. And she didn’t care. She never had cared about it before. Not before Róisín.
“Kali.” The whimpering voice made Kali focus on Róisín again. She kneeled next to the bed.
“You’re not supposed to be here,” Róisín said. She leaned up and pulled on one of Kali’s ears. “I like your ears.”
Kali couldn’t help but press her lips briefly to the shivering wrist next to her face. Róisín was under the influence and as much as she enjoyed the touch she wanted Róisín to be herself.
“I’m here to help you,” she said and laid Róisín’s arm down on the bed. “You’re burning up.”
“For you baby.” Róisín’s eyes were shining with unshed tears and beads of sweat was forming on her forehead. Kali put her much cooler palm on Róisín’s forehead.
A knock on the door made her look up. She pulled her hand from Róisín’s skin like she’d been burned, she stood up and took a step backwards. When she felt her face looked aloof enough she called out.
Her old friend and the best medic she knew, Utilado, came through the door. She sighed in relief when none of Róisín’s roomates followed.
“What took you so long?” She watched as Utilado sat down in front of Róisín and took some things out of his bag.
“That human, Orleanna,” Utilado said quickly, “she and her lover keep nagging me for more vaccine. She seems to think that my main goal in life is to tend to the evergrowing human population. They are some mix between cockroaches and rabbits, resistant and overpopulating in the same time. Fucking creatures.”
“I’ll send them off my island if you save this one,” Kali said with determination.
“I’ll do what I can,” Utilado said calmly, “but I don’t know what she drank and with how high her fever is…” He checked the thermometer. “…she’s on the verge of slipping into a coma.”
Kali felt fear lodge itself in her chest.
“I’ll give her something anti-inflammatory that will take down the fever but otherwise…”
“Otherwise what?” Kali couldn’t help how clouds of electric energy flowed around her arms, centering around her hands. She looked at herself in the mirror. Not humanoid. Monster. Electricity was crackling around her like lighting and her otherwise black eyes were sparkling like diamonds. That was why. This is what made her other.
“You can just put that away,” Utilado continued as he injected something in Róisín’s arm. “You are not going to fight me. I’m doing the best I can.” Kali took a deep breath and let her electricity die off. As much as she wanted to electrocute someone, anyone, she wasn’t about to kill the only person who could help Róisín.
Utilado stood up.
“I have to get back before Orleanna steals what’s left of my provisions.” He handed Kali a small bottle of pills. “If she wakes up give her a pill every three hours.”
“And if she doesn’t wake up?” Kali took the bottle and shook it gently.
“If she doesn’t wake up.” Utilado took his glasses off and cleaned them on his coat. “If she doesn’t wake up, she won’t. You bury her.”
Kali grit her teeth. Electricity was flowing up and down her arms and she was dying to unleash hell on the whole building. It was almost painful.
“She’ll live,” she said with more surety than she felt.
Utilado left and Kali sat down on the bed again. She put her hand on Róisín’s flushed cheek.
“You have to wake up again,” she said, “if you don’t I don’t know what I’ll do.” She laid down next to Róisín and put her arm around her. It was a little bit too warm but she didn’t care. As she closed her eyes and tried to relax she started counting all the ways she was going to hurt whoever it was that had sold Róisín that drink. If she died, the whole world would burn. Kali would see to that.
* * *
“I want to kiss you.” Kali had to say it even though it was. She had Róisín pressed up against the wall in her home. Finally. The human had been teasing her for weeks.
“I can see that,” Róisín said with a small smile. Her breath was coming a little bit quickly.
Kali leaned down to capture Róisín’s lips with her own but Róisín laughed and put her face to the side. Kali’s lips landed on a sweet smelling cheek.
“What?” She said, her eyes turning dark with what Kali hoped was desire. “You think I’m that easy?”
“No.” Nothing about Róisín was easy.
“Take me out on a date, then.” Róisín laughed again and it infuriated Kali as much as it tugged on the side of her lips. She was being mocked by a tiny human but she didn’t care. She just wanted Róisín to let her kiss her.
“A date?” She leaned down and nibbled on the side of Róisín’s neck.
“Yes.” Róisín’s voice was breathless. “A date. Take me dancing.” She snorted. “In a modest dress rather than bikini. And let me eat something nice.” She put her arms around Kali’s shoulder and one hand came to rest on the back of Kali’s head. She pushed Kali closer to her.
“A meal?” Kali whispered against her skin. “What do humans even eat?”
Róisín chuckled gently and this time the sound vibrated through Kali. She bit down on the muscle in front of her again, eliciting an excited whimper from her captive.
“I like bubble-and-squeak,” Róisín said, “bangers and mash. Shepherd’s pie.”
“These words mean nothing to me.” Kali leaned back and once again tried to capture Róisín’s lips with her own. This time it worked and Kali groaned as their lips molded against each other’s. If one of her enemies had attacked right then she doubted she would have hurt them.
* * *
Her head was hurting and she had no idea where she was. What had happened last night? The argument. Fucking Kali. Róisín had really thought she was different than the others of her kind. Kinder. Gentler. But no, she was a fucking human-hater like the rest of them. Róisín had to get another job. Move. Something. Rather join the resistance than dance in front of that blackeyed, blueskinned jerk, she was going to… Where was she?
Róisín opened her eyes and was met by the familiar vision of her ceiling. But there was an arm strewn across her middle and that was definitely not familiar.
“Róisín!” The relief was so evident in Kali’s voice and yet Róisín couldn’t come up with a single positive feeling from waking up next her. And then suddenly she felt tired. She felt tired with herself, with her anger. With Kali.
“What are you doing here?” She asked in a small voice.
“You drank something.” Kali stood up, leaving Róisín feeling strangely cold. “It poisoned you.”
Kali rubbed her eyes with her knuckles. When she looked back at Róisín there was fury in her eyes.
“Why did you do that?” Her voice was low, dangerous. Like a tiger having been stuck in her cage for too long. “Did you want to die?”
“Of course not,” Róisín said but Kali wasn’t listening.
“How far away did you go to get that drink? What little dangerous hole did you find where someone would serve you? Are you stupid? Anything could have happened! You could have been hurt. Raped. Kidnapped, I…” Róisín didn’t know if Kali was aware of it, but electricity was flowing up and down her arms. The first time that had happened, it had scared her but now she knew, it only happened when Kali was experiencing strong emotions. Anger. Fear. Lust. Róisín looked into Kali’s face and for the first time noticed how terrified Kali looked.
She sat up and reached to grasp Kali’s hand. The electricity was uncomfortable, making her skin prickle, but it was manageable.
“What did you do?”
Kali sighed and looked like she wanted to run away.
“Your friends came and got me…”
Róisín laughed out, interuppting Kali.
“Really?” She said. “Gosh, I can’t believe they dared to talk to you.”
“They did look terrified.”
“Sorry for interuppting.” Róisín patted the mattress next to her. “Come and sit down. Tell me what happened next.”
Kali sat down next to her and told her what had happened.
“Do I still have a fever?” Róisín asked. She felt fine, strange enough and she smiled as Kali reached up and put a hand on her forehead.
“You seem okay.” Kali removed her hand. “I’ll get my medic later, he should probably check on you again.”
Róisín laid down and with a hand on Kali’s shoulder, urged her to lay down next her. They looked at each other and Róisín started to run her fingers up and down Kali’s arm.
“I don’t want you here,” Róisín said, “but I don’t want you to go either.”
“You seem a bit conflicted.” Kali’s smile was teasing but her eyes was gentle. Róisín couldn’t help the smile that played on her lips.
“I love your eyes.” Kali’s eyebrows shot up and Róisín was dying to nibble on them. So much like a humanoid but in the same time so different.
“I have to leave.” Kali sat up suddenly.
“What?” Róisín watched as Kali got up from the bed and grabbed her abandoned jacket off of the floor. “You’re leaving? Now?”
“I have to.”
“I’ll see you later?”
Kali turned to look at her.
“You know that you won’t,” Kali said, “you are not going to work for me anymore.” Róisín wanted to complain, to argue but she also knew that Kali was right. Working together didn’t work. It would rip them apart. Or kill them. Kali couldn’t leave her club, but Róisín could.
“I know,” she said eventually and blinked back tears. Kali couldn’t have somebody she cared about so close. It might cloud her judgement or be used against her.
“Will I see you again?”
“Darling,” Kali said, “for both our sake I hope not. I’ll send you some money, enough to let you move somewhere. If you want enough to have your friends move with you, that can be arranged.”
“Maybe I’ll join the resistance,” Róisín said with a cruel smile, wanting to hurt. She looked up at Kali, her heart breaking at the anguish that was reflected back at her.
“That’s your prerogative,” Kali said.
Róisín stood up and reached for Kali’s hand. Even if she joined the resistance she would never ever believe that all others were mindless and soulless beings. Without thinking she tightened her grip on Kali’s arm and crashed their bodies and lips together.
Part of Róisín couldn’t believe that they were kissing. That those were Kali’s lips next to hers, that it was Kali’s strong arms under her fingers and that she was the reason for Kali’s wanton groan. Kali tasted better than Róisín remembered and she couldn’t help deepening the kiss.
“Oh Róisín,” Kali said when they came apart from air, “if you continue kissing me like that I can’t be held responsible for my actions.” Róisín giggled like a little girl. She placed a last peck on the side of Kali’s lips and then leaned back. Her smiled faltered.
“I thought you were leaving.”
Kali flashed her a sad smile.
“Utilado will visit you later,” Kali said, “he’ll bring the money as well. Do you regret coming to work for me?” She stroked a hand over Róisín’s hair.
“Never,” Róisín said, “I don’t regret a single moment.”
“That makes me happy.” Kali’s voice was a murmur that sent shivers down Róisín’s spine, making goosebumps break out over her arms. It made her want to get closer to Kali again. Kiss her. Be with her. Pull Kali on the bed and use her own body to convince her to never leave. Róisín felt that if Kali left now, they would both regret it for the rest of their lives. Lives. Róisín wanted to cry when she realised that they would never work. Kali had lived for several hundred years before Róisín was born, and Kali would live for several hundred more when Róisín was gone. They were doomed. A hundred years of Róisín was not worth enough for Kali to ruin her whole life for.
Róisín held out her hand.
“Not to be a cliche,” she said with a smile, “but don’t forget me, okay?” She continued to smile even as she was crying a river on the inside. She wanted their good bye to be a positive experience. She would cry afterwards.
“I will never forget you,” Kali said, “I will remember you until the day I die.”
“That’s a very long time from now.”
“And it’s the truth, nevertheless.” Kali leaned down and kissed her again. It was slow, gentle and it melted Róisín from the inside out. Róisín closed her eyes, wanting to never forget the scent and taste of her. She didn’t open them when Kali stopped kissing her. And she didn’t open them when she heard the door opened and closing. She didn’t opened them as she started crying or when she sank to her knees out of sheer emotional pain. She didn’t want to open them and see for herself that Kali was gone. She couldn’t bear it.
(this is sort of a sequel too Not a monster)