- Vol. 05
- Chapter 02
The floor of the Grunewald was covered in leaves, curled and brown as incorrupt hands. Klotilde crunched them into the ground. She told herself that she’d come by foot to avoid the depressing X-Bahn. All those perfect ‘children’, customised down to the earlobe. Not a tantrum amongst them to scent the air with delicious, irrational fury. Not a single scab or a broken limb to arouse the salivary glands. But really, she’d hoped a foolish hope that a spark of luck would come. A bright-coloured flash between the birch trunks heralding hunger’s end.
By the great oak she paused and said the old word, and the house revealed to her. In the Glory-Grimm Days – that plentiful age – it had been a renowned marvel. Now the panels were shrunken and the frosting was cracked and chimney smoked only with cinders. No feast would be waiting, as it had in past times. Just loosening teeth in dried-out mouths.
The kitchen was crazed with discontent and bile that sat on the tongue. Klotilde loosened her cloak and plucked off her hat and wished she’d never come.
The matriarch stood by the well-fuelled hearth. ‘You’re a quarter-mark late,’ she said.
Murmuring pardons, Klotilde squeezed through the room and perched herself on the sill.
‘Nordmark Coven,’ the matriarch said, ‘this is a time of crisis.’
And with her words the grief-dam broke.
‘Seven full moons and not a rind…’
‘The supplier in Klíny absconded…’
‘Sisters, please,’ said the matriarch. ‘We survived the Trials, the Nachbarschaftswache…’
‘Mother,’ said Friedegard, clutching her cat, ‘this is not a phase that will pass.’
But the matriarch boomed, ‘Laws and governments change!’
The sisters hushed. Klotilde gripped the sill. The cauldron rolled its boil.
The matriarch said, ‘We need only endure until the folk rebel.’
‘How long might that be?’ Sister Filiberta said.
‘Just a wink on the scale,’ said the matriarch. ‘Men-folk must rut. Women-folk must cluck. Science cannot withstand nature for long.’
‘But until that time?’ Sister Jadwiga said.
‘We must bend just a touch,’ the matriarch said, her hand flicking the air. The door bolt slid and latched itself. A room full of lean muscles tensed.
‘I’ll not eat my own,’ Klotilde managed to say, ‘and I’ll not be foodstuffs either.’
The matriarch laughed. ‘Oh Klotilde,’ she said. ‘You were always the oddest of crones.’
She kicked at the pantry. The slat-door swung wide. The matriarch yanked out her prize. It thrashed and shrieked with pre-programmed fear. Sister Filiberta cursed and spat.
‘A BioTechKidTM?’ Sister Gertraut said.
‘The new model’s good, the flesh humanoid. And there’s still the thrill of the hunt.’ The matriarch loosened her hold. The android scurried but the gingerbread walls held fast.
Sister Jadwiga said, ‘The smell is not right.’ And all the sisters concurred. But Klotilde’s knotted guts out-groaned everyone.
‘I’ll try it,’ she said as she slid off the sill. Her hands were quick. With a snap, the child’s neck was broken.