Maeve Barry





Abla’s strangely seductive, tittering laugh, could not be heard outside the chain link fence that surrounded the decrepit warehouse near the pier - the signs on the link warning that the property was decrepit and dangerous, closed by legal order. It could not be heard from just outside the broken windows, or outside the inside perimeter of small glow lamps used to illuminate just enough of the structure’s outline to help those who knew find their way.

But inside that, it echoed. It covered the darkness, and the walls. “Maeve,” Abla said, in-between titters, “come here.”

A surge of guilt washed over Maeve, and as she went to Abla she wondered: *’What did I do?’* A hasty review of the recent past yielded no insights. It might be nothing at all. She hoped it was nothing. She put on a smile. “What is it?”

Abla was holding on to a long link of chain extending down from one of the open stairwell’s above. She smiled back at Maeve, but it wasn’t the same kind of smile. “I …” she said, holding on to the chain and twirling around it, “... have … something … to show you.”

Her long, limber, limbs seemed to slither along the rope and suddenly she grabbed hold tight and pulled herself up it, the short skirt of her faux corset revealing her pale thighs and legs down to her combat boots, which dug into the chain links.

She seemed to somehow slide up the chain, moving uncannily fast. “You can climb, right?” she called down. “If you can’t, you’ll have to walk …”

Maeve rubbed her hands against her dirty jeans. The long way around would be… long, and Abla would laugh at her for it. She climbed, much more clumsily than the ghoul, trying not to wince at the way the chain dug into her palms.

Abla climbed and twirled around the chain for two floors, nearly to the top of the building, then hopped over the railing the chain was tied to, and waited. Stroking the chain, shaking it, kicking it sometimes, making it harder to climb while offering words of encouragement. “That’s it … almost there … just another floor …”

Maeve laughed, the sound coming out high-pitched and breathless. Abla was such a kidder. She was shaking by the time she reached the railing.

Abla grabbed her wrists as Maeve grabbed on to the railing, helped lift her up … but only half-way over. Held her there, by her wrists, balanced on the railing, and leaned forward. Leaned her long torso into Maeve’s. Put her mouth over to her ear. “Good job,” she whispered. “You seem all out of breath.”

Maeve nodded, and found herself holding her breath. She inhaled and tried to shift herself into a less precarious position. “Long climb for me,” she said.

“Glad you made it,” Abla said, so closely, and gently scraped her teeth along Maeve’s ear. “I’ve got a surprise for you. A big surprise. You want to see it?”

Maeve nodded. The touch of Abla’s teeth had sent tingles down her neck and made her breath hitch again. And her arms were getting tired. “Show me,” she said.

Abla tugged on her wrists, sending Maeve forward, off balance, and the only thing to grab on too to keep from hitting the floor was … Abla. She wrapped her long arms around Maeve, holding her close, in the air, suspended from gravity for a moment. “This might be a little shocking for you,” she said, slowly letting her grip on Maeve slip.

Maeve answered with one more shaky laugh. “What is it?”

Abla gave Maeve a look as she set her on the floor. “Sometimes, I don’t know if you’re really having any fun at all.”

Maeve reached for Abla’s hand and leaned close to kiss her cheek. “You’re always fun,” she said, still breathless.

Abla smiled and ran her fingers down Maeve’s back. “Do you mean it?”

“Of course.” She gave Abla another kiss, then asked, “So what’s this surprise?”

Abla gave Maeve a look, up and down. “Strip,” she said.

Maeve hesitated just long enough to realize that hesitating was a bad idea. She started to wriggle out of her t-shirt, which had seen better days and possibly better years.

“That’s it,” Abla said, grinning with her teeth. “Because I’m always fun. We’re gonna enjoy this.”

Maeve smiled back, but with some confusion. “Are you gonna…?” She gestured to Abla’s corset.

Abla tsk-tsked. “Gotta trust me.”

Maeve ditched her bra and grubby jeans, then stood shivering, arms folded. “Got a blanket stashed up here, baby?”

Abla gave her another look over. “Yep,” she said, gesturing down a small hallways with a closed door at the end. “Over here.” She reached down and swatted Maeve’s ass. “This way. Let’s see what’s behind door number 1!”

Obediently, Maeve went to the door, glancing behind her to see if Abla had followed. She turned the handle and stepped cautiously inside.

It was lit with candles on one side of the decrepit room. There was a blanket, a green one, spread out on the floor. There was a naked filipina woman lying on it, hog-tied and gagged.

Abla shut the door behind them.

Maeve stopped a step from the door, staring, then dragged her gaze away. “What…? What the hell?”

Abla reached around Maeve to hug her from behind, pressing them close together. “Well babe, you know how I’m always telling you you’re so special? Because you are? You’re just the tastiest treat? Well … we found someone else special, too. And she was spying on us. Which means we prrrrrrrobably have to go underground again for a while. You know? Just to be safe. Because there aren’t that many special people in the city and, when they’re spying on you, that’s a bad sign.”

She reached a hand up to stroke Maeve’s cheek. “But there’s good news, too. We get to have one blow-out party before we go. And since now there’s two special guests, that means I don’t have to share you. Not even one bit.”

Three other long-limbed ghouls stepped out of the darkness, into the candle light, and onto the blanket. Two women, one man. They knelt down by the bound and struggling woman, licked their lips, and gently put their hands on her.

Maeve flinched away from the sight and from Abla’s hand on her cheek. And she was going to pay for that, she knew. “I can’t--can we go somewhere else? If you’re not sharing me, I mean?” She grabbed Abla’s hand again, leaning toward her with the sweetest, most pleading puppy eyes she could muster. “Please?”

“That,” Abla said gently, “is so disappointing. I thought you trusted me? Didn’t you just say you trusted me?” She gave Maeve a sad look. “Don’t I get to have fun, too?”

The bound woman screamed through the gag, for a few moments, as they ran their hands along her. Screamed, then gurgled, then - as they put their mouths on her, not quite kissing, not quite biting, gave out a sigh … defeated, drained, as though the feeling of having your spirit torn in three directions could be pleasant if you just gave in.

Maeve tried to swallow a cry of her own and stumbled a step back toward the door. “Baby, this is--this isn’t--I don’t--”

“Shhhhhh shhhh shhhh shhhh shhhhhhhhhhhh,” Abla whispered. She wrapped her arms back around Maeve. She was all skin, completely vulnerable, and Abla’s hands were cold - she ran her hand along Maeve, leaving the cold behind in the trail of her fingers. “Ohhhhhhhhhhh,” she moaned. “You are so delicious. Do that thing that you do, show me your soul - let’s go all the way.”

The words chilled Maeve as badly as Abla’s touch did. ’Run.’ But there was no running from a ghoul, let alone four.

Give her what she wants. And then run.’

Maeve turned toward Abla’s touch with a smile that she hoped looked trusting. She leaned against the ghoul--and shoved.

Abla stumbled back, but the same legs that had climbed up the chain so easily did not buckle under her. Her smile was wide. Her eyes were sad. “You know this makes you a bad girlfriend. Am I going to have to hit you over the head and tie you up now? If I do, it will be your fault.”

Maeve choked on an answer. She’d won hardly any space. It had to be enough. She yanked open the door and darted back down the hall.

“You know,” Abla said sadly, “this is why I usually eat men. Bitches be crazy.” With a seductive tittering laugh, she leaped past the door and after Maeve.

Maeve sprinted toward the stairwell, dread welling up in her. The stairs were too slow. Abla could unfasten the chain. She was already dead. And her stupid useless clothes were on the floor--she wished she was wearing them--like it would help. Here was the railing. Maeve went over.


Liana’s disappearance did not go unnoticed.

Before the ghouls had ripped off her pendant, she had reported a suspicious situation back to HQ and asked for backup...but mobilizing, even with an organization like S&M, took time.

When she went silent, the women of the extraction team grew uneasy, and the ride over to Oakland was tense and quiet. The implications of an agent going dark were none of them positive.

All they could do is drive and hope they arrived in time.


The chain was slick under Maeve’s fingers. She slid as fast as she dared, not fast enough, while above her ghouls hit the stairwell and started down after her.

“She’s MINE!” Abla leaped down the stairs, from one floor at a time, shouted behind her. “I found her! I spent all this time tenderizing her! That’s why I gave you the other one! So BACK OFF!”

Land and hide.

The voice returned from nowhere, this time stronger - a warm, female voice with a thick, southern accent.

Ghouls like the chase. Find a dark corner and hide!

Maeve hit the floor too hard and couldn’t hold back a yelp, but there was no time to stop. Staggering, panting, she took one step toward the door--but that was across a long stretch of open floor, where Abla cold catch her in seconds. She swerved back toward the wall, toward a dark doorway. She had never been through it. She stumbled in and tried to shut it behind her, but the hinges were rusted in place.

Abla landed on the ground floor a moment later and looked around. “Maeve,” she called out, “what have I told you about being a tease? Nobody likes it. If you want people to like you, you have to do group activities.”

She straightened up, sure that Maeve couldn’t have left the warehouse … pleased that the other ghouls had returned to their meal upstairs.

“If you don’t come out now,” she said sternly, “I’m going to torture you. I’ll do the tickling thing you hate. I will.”

In the dark office, under the remains of a collapsed desk, Maeve squeezed herself into an even smaller ball and tried to silence her breathing. It was no good. Abla was going to hear her, was going to find her, and there were no other doors in here.

You c’n make yourself invisible to her,” the voice commented, calm and collected - reassuring in and of itself. An’ I c’n show you how, if you’ll let me…

Maeve stifled a sob. They’d been right, back at the house. She was crazy. Now she was hearing voices. Abla probably wasn’t even there. Just one hallucination offering protection from another.

Somehow, she was no less terrified.

Show me, she begged.

Take a breath, girl, the voice said, soothing despite the circumstances. Close your eyes an’ let go… Let me in…

It took two gasping, panting tries, but Maeve breathed in and relaxed enough to let the presence take over. At once, everything was both warmer and more distant. Her fear tapered to a tickle of apprehension. The woman with her was calm and confident and assured--Maeve felt a twinge of envy before that too subsided.

Good girl. Now, we goin’ to make it seem like you dead to them, yeah? You got command of the power of life, an’ that means the power of death, too. Maeve’s driver began to focus the girl’s own power, gathering it quietly, slowly - a stream rather than a rush. Just like in that play girls be crazy about...that girl Juliet? She take a potion that make her seem like she dead. You ain’t needin’ any potion, that’s all…

The power that the spirit had gathered now began to flow through Maeve’s veins - slowing her heartbeat and her breathing to just a trickle of effort, lowering her body temperature until the girl was almost in a trance-like state, a hibernation of sorts. Even the production of hormones, the pheremones that creatures like Abla could scent out, slowed down. Bit by bit, step by step, Maeve’s imprint in the living world faded away, down to almost nothing at all.

There. The voice seemed quite satisfied. Neither she nor her friends c’n see you, smell you, feel you...not whilst you’re in this state… Just stay still, and you’ll be safe…

’You aren’t leaving, are you?’ Maeve asked, though the urgency of the question was dulled by the dreamlike distance she felt.

Ain’t goin’ nowhere...just goin’ to fade a bit so’s no one notices me here, girl.**

A crash came from the main area of the warehouse. The sound of something being thrown into a metal wall. “WHAT the hell just happened?” Abla shouted. “Do you think you’re being funny? Do you think this is a JOKE to me? I took you in when NOBODY else would! And now you’re, what, hiding from me? From ME? After all this time! What does that make you, Maeve! WHAT DOES THAT MAKE YOU!”

If she hadn’t been so detached, Maeve might have winced, and probably would have given herself away. As it was, she remained still. ’She’s not usually like this,’ she assured the spirit, and then noted with interest that that was a lie.


This time Maeve did flinch, and forced her uncooperative hands up to her ears.


From out in the main room, Abla caught her breath - it had a slight taste of Maeve on it. “See? What you’re doing now? This is what you DO!” Alba went on. “You convince everybody to just give you a chance, and then when they do - when we invite you into our homes and take care of you - then suddenly we’re not good enough for you! You’ve got to be the special one, who has to do her own separate thing that nobody else gets to be part of! You’ve got to push everybody else a way! And that HURTS, Maeve! After everything we do for you - I LOVED YOU, Maeve! And you’re just hiding! Hiding from me! Screwing around when it’s IMPORTANT TO ME!”

More furniture crashed. Something shattered. Something broke.

“This is going to KEEP HAPPENING to you until you listen to me! Change your life! This is going to keep happening OVER AND OVER!”

Maeve shifted. Was Abla getting closer, or just louder? The urge to run wasn’t coming from the spirit this time. Almost without thought, she got her feet under her; and whatever her power had been doing, the motion disrupted it. She took a real breath again and tried not to let it out on a whimper.

“GOT YOU!” With a laugh Abla stepped past the rusted door and saw Maeve, naked and shivering, behind the desk. “Now Maeve,” she said, stepping closer, “what did I say I was going to do if you hid?”

Maeve didn’t answer, but tried to dart past Abla to the door.

Virgin’s tits, girl! I told you to stay STILL! The voice was not quite as calm now. There was, in fact, a hint of a growl in it. Help’s on the way, but you had to damned well move…

A mental sigh came through, then, Try not to let her catch you for a few more minutes…? I’ll do as I can to help.

Alba moved quickly to block Maeve’s escape. Shook her head. Tsk-tsked. Looked down at her. “WHAT,” she repeated, “did I tell you I was going to do?”

Play ‘possum, girl**, the voice suggested. **Stop, drop and whimper…

That was easy advice to follow. Maeve sagged to her knees. “Don’t,” she begged.

Abla smiled and leaned over the girl. “Don’t WHAT!” she demanded.

Maeve shook her head, choking on the answer Abla wanted to hear.

Abla sighed. “You see? Now you want me to be nice to you. Now you want me to think about your needs.” She grabbed Maeve’s hair and pulled her head back. “It’s all about YOU YOU YOU! When I needed something you just RAN AWAY! Well, I TOLD you there would be consequences! Didn’t I! I warned you! And that’s only fair, isn’t it! That when we misbehave there are consequences! Especially when you are as unfair, as CRUEL, to your friends as you are! I warned you! I told you! This is all your fault! Do you understand!”

Maeve grabbed Abla’s wrist, trying to stop the yanking on her hair.

Play ‘possum, girl.** Now the voice was insistent, stern. Let the bitch vent, get it out of her system. She yelling at you, she ain’t eatinyou!

Well if the spirit wanted Abla to yell... “Let go, you crazy bitch.” It came out with perhaps a quarter of the force she’d intended, an octave higher.

Abla’s face twisted. “What … did … you … call … me?” She took a deep breath. “WHAT DID YOU CALL ME?” Her other hand lashed out, striking Maeve across the face, sending her sprawling to the floor. “YOU are SUCH a DISAPPOINTMENT!” She stood over Maeve. Put a combat-booted foot on her pelvis. “Give me ONE GOOD REASON why I should make this nice now, and not just hurt you. After everything I’ve done!”

Maeve took a breath--and let it out. Didn’t move, didn’t speak. She wasn’t sure it counted as playing ‘possum if you were just too scared to do anything more--but maybe that would be enough.

Abla shook her head. Muttered “No fun at all,” and dropped down to her knees. Pinned Maeve to the ground, held her wrists in her hands, and dropped her head down towards her.

Stay STILL, the voice hissed. If you antagonize her, she’s just goin’ to eat you, ‘stead of playin’ with you first. Help’s almost here...just stay still…

She’s going to eat me anyway when she gets bored in about two seconds.’ But Maeve kept still.

Abla’s head dipped down, and licked a long trail from Maeve’s breasts up her neck to her lips. The touch, the saliva, the trail, seemed to sizzle in a way that hovered between hot and cold, pleasure and pain. “This could have been so. much. fun,” she whispered. She leaned back in and bit Maeve’s lip. “Oh well.”


As Abla moved to begin her feast, a stunning boom rang through the warehouse, rattling the walls, knocking off decades of settled dirt and debris, and breaking up rotting wood. No voices, only the thud of boots pounding through the door and bodies on the move.

“FUCK!” Abla hissed, and leapt to her feet. She looked around, whirling on her feet. “You,” she hissed. “Were not worth my pack.”

She looked left, she looked right, and then, gathering her strength, ran straight into, and through, the wall opposite the door, into the next room, which had an outside exit.

With a whimper, Maeve rolled to her hands and knees and crawled back toward the space under the desk.

As the figures, dressed in black, form-fitting body armor swarmed up the warehouse, climbing on anything that came to hand, one called out, “Rescue squad...anyone here? Still alive? We’re here to help…”

There. The voice was rather overtly self-satisfied. I told you help would come.

’Just leave me alone.’ Maeve curled up again under the desk, her trembling hands over her head.

Huh uh. That woman you saw up there gave her life to protect you. Least you can do is give her the respect of hearin’ out what these women got to say to you.

“A gift you didn’t ask for always comes with a price tag," Maeve mumbled.

An’ how much, exactly, the voice asked, curious, is your life worth? ‘Cause that’s what you payin’ for, if cost there be.

Thought I was paying for the woman upstairs?’ But slowly, she poked her head out of her hiding place. Once more, she became acutely aware that she was naked. There was nothing in here that was going to help with that. Screw it. She climbed shakily to her feet and limped to the door.