A young woman becomes cursed and changes into a demon
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The bus screeched to a stop with a hiss that went unnoticed by the unruly children riding in their seats. Waves of laughter echoed through the vehicle along with the muted sounds of videos playing on phones.
Fatma slipped her arm through her backpack’s strap while stepping into the aisle. She carefully made her way through the chaos, moving around splayed legs and bags until she reached the driver.
“Thank you,” she told the driver with a smile, as she had every day. It was a substitute today, an older woman she didn’t recognize but the other woman smiled and nodded back at her.
Holding onto the thin metal railing, the young girl stepped onto the street and then up to the sidewalk. The bus’ door closed behind her before it pulled away onto the empty street. As she walked down the block, she adjusted her hijab around the straps of her backpack. Her scarf was black today to match her black trousers and the slate gray blouse she wore.
Habit forced the girl to glance up at the yellow house adjacent to her own. Her father, a baker with his own modest shop, often gave food to the elderly in the neighborhood and he took her with him whenever he could. Ms. Maiben was their neighbor and she was old enough to have trouble getting around by herself. The woman was her father’s special project; he made extra time to care for her grounds as well as bring her food.
The old woman’s curtains covered her windows, as they usually did – even during the day. She was odd. Quiet, seemingly resentful of the attention but unwilling to turn away the extra help.
As she took the first step to her front door, it opened and her father stood in the doorway.
“Fatma!” he said, bending to gently kiss her forehead. His dark beard tickled her exposed forehead.
“Papa, why are you home?” she asked in confusion. Her father worked late, despite having several employees who could run the business without him.
“Bah,” he told her, taking her hand gently to lead her inside. “I haven’t been home to greet you in a while and a I thought to myself, I am the shepherd to my own little flock and-”
“You forgot your laptop again, didn’t you?” she chided him as she removed her shoes.
“I forgot my laptop again,” he agreed. “I brought dinner for you. And Nora? Is she visiting with you today? I have extra for her if she wants it.”
“She’ll be here soon,” Fatma said. “If you fatten me up so much, I’ll never find a husband, papa.”
“La samah Allah!” he told her as he followed her through the living room and into the kitchen. “How was school today?”
“It was fine,” she sighed. It was not fine. She’d not done well on her calculus exam. She’d told herself she would study for it but had lost herself in the short story she was writing for English composition.
“And your – math, wasn’t it?” He asked, standing respectfully at her bedroom door. “You had a test today? Or is that tomorrow?”
“Today,” she answered, laying her backpack against her bed.
“Ahh, not so good?” he asked in sympathy.
“I’ll find out Friday. I should’ve studied more.”
“You’re a smart girl,” he told her. “Perhaps you’ll be surprised.”
The doorbell rang, interrupting both of them.
“That will be our Nora. I’ll let her in.”
Fatma watched her father go before digging through her backpack to find her composition book. She set it aside on her nightstand.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Amin,” her childhood friend said.
“Nora, good to see you!” came the reply. “And it’s just ‘Faizan’, please. You’re like family.”
“Forgot your laptop?”
“Yes, yes! I forgot my laptop. Go. On with you. Fatma is waiting in her room. I’ll set out food for the both of you.”
“I have no idea how your father runs a business,” Nora said as she stepped into her friend’s bedroom. She turned her head to settle a few strands of loose black hair behind her as she threw herself down onto the other girl’s bed.
As always, Fatma felt envious of her friend. Nora wore blue jeans and a black t-shirt with the word “Badlands” emblazoned along the top and skeletal hand covered in roses in the middle. Her hair was uncovered and loose.
“I’m sure he’s waiting for you to finish school so you can help him,” Nora continued. “I’m jealous, to be honest. You can stay here, take some classes at community college and inherit his business. I’ll have to go to college and find a rich boyfriend.”
“Oh, stop,” Fatma said, rolling her eyes at the conversation. It’d been repeated in some form or another over the past two years. “You know I’m applying for colleges out of state.”
“Your father would d- waste away without you,” Nora said. “He’d never stop you but he’d be so sad. What’s wrong with community college, anyway? You have a good job waiting for you.”
“I’ve lived here my whole life!”
“Okay, I don’t care about your job. I just want you to stay because I want to see you and Duncan married.”
“That will never happen,” Fatma said, blushing as she toyed with her hijab. “Papa wouldn’t-”
“I think your father would steal the moon for you,” Nora interrupted. “And have you seen the way Duncan looks after you?”
“No,” she lied.
“You’re blind,” her friend said, throwing her hands up in exasperation. “He’s been after you since our Freshman year. Do you know Elina asked him out to prom. Again! And he said no. Elina, Fatma. He’s going to ask you out. He’s stubborn. And handsome. I should ask him out.”
“You wouldn’t!” Fatma said, suddenly upset.
“Why not?” the other girl said, her expression serious. “If you won’t, why should I let him get away? You’re so stupid sometimes, seriously. I was talking- just talking! – with Matt. Last month Duncan was applying Stanford, UCLA and, well, somewhere else in California. Until he heard you talking about east coast colleges. Guess where he’s applying to now?”
Fatma sighed. The boy was handsome with his dark skin and brilliant smile. But, it was more than that. He was always kind. He wouldn’t graduate at the top of his class and was mediocre, if not enthusiastic, in sports. But, he volunteered at the soup kitchen on the weekends and was a Big Brother as well. And tall. With the smoothest voice. And his dimples every time he smiled.
“Hello?” Nora asked, waving her hand in front of Fatma’s face. “Anyone there?”
“I don’t know where he’s applying,” she answered.
“Girls?” Faizan called out from the kitchen.
“Yes, papa?” Fatma asked, grateful for the distraction. She pushed herself out of her bed to go to her father.
“I need to go back to work,” he said, scratching at his beard with his lips turned up at the corner. He looked concerned. “Ms. Maiben hasn’t answered her door the past few days. I’m worried about her. Would you take the time to check on her, please? If she’s home, I have a dish covered in the fridge that you can take to her.”
“Now?” Fatma asked, turning to look at the woman’s house through their windows.
“Yes, please,” her father answered. He kissed her forehead again. “I’ll be back late tonight. Your food has your name on it. Just warm it up. Study well.”
She watched him go while clutching her right arm with her left.
“I’m not-” Nora called from the bedroom.
“You’re coming with me!” Fatma interrupted, ignoring the groaning of her friend. “Let’s just do it now. I don’t want to go there when it’s dark.”
“You owe me for this,” her friend said as she stomped loudly on the hardwood flooring.
They stepped into their trainers, bending to tie their shoelaces.
“Do you have any more kanafeh?” Nora asked as she knotted the strings. “I’ll take some of that as payment.”
“Yes, you cow,” Fatma said, poking her friend’s side. The other girl batted away her hand. It was a joke as Nora was embarrassingly perfect. She was still growing into her figure but her narrow waist curved into firm hips and she’d already had to buy a new, larger bra this school year. “Let’s just go.”
Tapping her back pocket to make sure her old phone was there, she grabbed a set of house keys from a dish by the door, closing and locking it behind the both of them.
“She’s just so old, you know?” Nora said as she followed her friend to the house next door. “My grandmother was horrible to my mom but turned into the sweetest old lady. That’s just natural. Ms. Maiben – she’s mean.”
“No she’s not. She’s just not used to people being nice to her.”
“Mean,” the girl reaffirmed.
They both stopped in front of the woman’s door. It’d been red at some point but the paint had almost all chipped away. Shaking her head, Fatma adjusted her hijab before knocking.
Although she didn’t knock hard, the door opened on surprisingly quiet hinges.
The two girls shared a look but Fatma’s hand reached to push the door open.
“Don’t,” Nora said, grabbing her friend’s wrist.
“She could be hurt,” she said, pushing through to step over the threshold.
The house was as dark as she remembered with a strong scent of myrrh permeating everything.
“Ms. Maiben?” Fatma called out. “D- Dorothy?”
“I’ve never been inside,” Nora said, looking around the living room. An old paisley couch faced a fireplace and a stained mantelpiece. A single, faceted vial was centered on the shelf. Light flickered within the vial, drawing the young girl’s attention. “What is that?”
“Don’t touch anything!” her Fatma whispered. “Help me look for her.”
Ignoring the other girl’s advice, Nora gently took the glass bottle, turning it to observe the bouncing light. It glowed red before fading to dark yellow and back again.
“Ssst! Put it down!” Fatma said from the other end of the living room. “That’s disrespectful! She could- Ms. Maiben!”
The old woman was stretched out in her hallway. She feebly reached for the young, hooded girl with her right hand. As she grew near, Fatma realized that the left side of her face was drooping. Spittle lined the old woman’s lips but her throat moved as she tried to speak. Yet all that came through was a stuttered ‘k- k- k-‘ sound.
“Lie still! I’ll call for help.” She grabbed her smartphone from her pocket, waking it with her fingerprint while pulling up the dialer. “Nora! Get in here!”
“Coming!” Nora said. She set the bottle on the mantel and walked away.
The light inside the bottle slammed against the side. The little vial lay precariously on the edge of the shelf, already rocking slightly in the still air. Again and again, the light pounded on the glass, pulsing with each strike.
Poised as it was, the bottle tipped over. It landed heavily on the floor but the smokey lead glass held as the slim stopper began to slip free.
“I’m here,” Nora said, crouching to touch the old woman’s left arm. “Is she alright?”
“I think she had a stroke,” Fatma said before leaning into her phone. “Yes? Yes, I’m calling from 320- umm, 3203 Swallow Lane. It’s my neighbor’s house and I think she had a stroke. Yes, I’m with her, yes.”
The old woman’s glazed, distant eyes focused with a sudden intensity. She stared past the two girls as her mouth opened in a silent scream. She convulsed, eyes rolling back in her head. The frozen side of her face moved glacially to match her right side until it became of rictus of horror.
A raspy wheeze escaped the woman’s lips as her hand fell to the floor beside her.
“I don’t- wait,” Fatma said. “How do I-? I think- I think she’s not breathing! How do I tell if she’s breathing?!”
Nora placed two fingers against the woman’s wrist while leaning in until her cheek was an inch away from the woman’s mouth.
“Fatma-” she said quietly while sitting back. “Fatma, she’s dead.”
“But, she was just- I was just-”
“Give me the phone, it’s okay. Just give me the phone.”
The girl took the phone from her friend’s hand. “Yes, hello. I checked for a pulse at her wrist but there’s nothing. And I can’t feel her breathing. At her temple? Okay.”
Fatma sat back, staring sightlessly as the emergency operator ran Nora through a few simple tests. Just blocks away, the blaring sound of an approaching medic unit cut off as they received the updated call. She eventually felt hands around her as one of the responders led her away from the body. They sat with her, checking to ensure she was alright until she heard a familiar voice.
“Fatma!” her father called out, rushing to her side.
He spoke to her gently, soothing her as he walked her out of the house and into their own. She leaned against him until he brought her to her bed. They sat together and she cried into his chest while he patted her back, his hand rubbing in little circles until she was exhausted from crying. He pulled her blanket back as she lay down and then brought it up to her shoulders before kissing her forehead.
The young girl stared at the ceiling. She saw her face in the flat, white paint. The way she looked at the end – terrified as she breathed her last gasp.
it’s your fault
She shivered, blinking away tears. It felt like her fault. If she’d just been faster when calling emergency services. If she’d taken the first aid workshop her school had offered.
she died because of you
Her conscience tugged at her insecurities, taunting her as the worm of self doubt began to gnaw on her mind. The old woman’s visage was lodge into her mind’s eye. Never, in all of her eighteen years, had she seen anyone look like that beyond some melodramatic actress in a horror movie she’d watched through the gaps in her fingers with Nora laughing next to her.
Whether the woman felt her end drawing near and the realization frightened her or she caught sight of the gates before the abyss of Jahannam, she’d been terrified.
fire and eternal slow torture pain until they dream of it welcome it to feel alive
I seek refuge in Allah, she intoned mentally, closing her eyes while touching the tip of her pointer finger with her thumb on her right hand. She was alive and she hated the feeling of relief that it was Ms. Maiben dead but not her. The thought tortured her as an image began to form from the fragments of her dreams.
The visualization of Hell felt incredibly real to her. She could see Maalik roaring at her, the fiery winds stripping away her flesh to reveal bloody red muscle beneath. Behind him, the heads hanging from Zaqqum turned to see her. And they nodded as if recognizing her.
Her thumb pressed against her index finger as she continued her litany, tapping each finger in sequence. I seek forgiveness from Allah. I seek refuge in Allah.
As she repeated the small prayers, a headache formed behind her eyes. It began as an annoyance but grew in intensity until she stumbled with her prayers, forgetting the words. The relief was almost instant. She sighed, pressing her palms against her temples, rubbing them in slow circles.
consumed her soul sent below to what she deserves trapped but free now free
Despite the lessening, the pain consumed her and she knew she deserved it. Her guilt trapped her and she knew she wouldn’t be free until she could clear the black mark on her soul.
A flickering red flame appeared above and behind her head as she nestled her face into her pillow. It cast no light and made no shadows as it descending.
blessed blessed blessed blessed blessed blessed
It lowered until it rest less than an inch over the middle of her forehead. She sighed, stilling herself while it flattened against her, spreading to cover her brow. Her headache faded and she sighed once again at the relief. As the fog cleared, she realized how blessed she was. Alive, safe, loved.
She rubbed the sore tips of the fingers on her right hand as she finally opened her eyes.
The veins stood out in the sclera of her eyes until the white held a red tint. They twitched as if tiny tentacles, pushing and pulling against her iris. The pressure compressed her pupils, crushing it until they were subtly ovoid.
Sweat welled from her skin. She felt feverish and weak with her head still throbbing and her joints aching. Worse, she felt empty. The girl thought back, realizing that she hadn’t eaten since her light lunch. She remembered her father saving food for her but the thought of eating food made her nauseous. Tossing back her blanket, she lay in the cool air with her fist against her stomach. Her hunger confused her.
Turning her head, she opened her mouth, nearly panting as she overheated.
The rounded circumvallate papillae at the back of her tongue quivered. They lengthened into rough points that massaged the roof of her mouth when she swallowed. Dark violet coloring tipped each of the new papillae. The color streaked down like miniature lightning strikes until it coated the small, previously pink flesh.
Sleep took her. She twisted and mewled with her dreams. They were formless. Primordial things existing as flashes of color (red, so many shades of red, muscle and blood and fire and-) and emotions (anger and hate and guilt and shame and-) and desires (lust and power and pleasure and violence and-) that left her groaning and clawing at her stomach.
“Are you sure you’re feeling okay?” Nora asked, her eyes darting over Fatma’s exposed face. “Your eyes are still really red.”
“I’m fine,” Fatma said, rubbing at her eyes. She hadn’t believed her friend until she looked at herself in the girl’s bathroom. Her eyes were bloodshot and she’d received a few strange looks as well as snickering jokes about her hotboxing marijuana. But she felt fine. In fact, she felt great. Rested and alert.
lie hide hungry too hungry yet
Just hungry. She rubbed at the roof of her mouth with her tongue, relishing the odd scratching at the back of her throat. Her jaw was sore, from the roots of her teeth to the joints beneath her cheeks.
“I wish you’d stop mentioning it. I was just restless last night,” she lied, rubbing the sleeves of her arms. She carried the brown bag her father had made for her for lunch while they hunted for a free seat in the crowded lunchroom.
They sat far in the back and Fatma tugged at her hijab to hide her irritated eyes. She opened her bag, taking out the food one-by-one until she found a small folded note in the bottom.
Her father’s neat handwriting covered the scrap of paper: Daughter, I wish you’d stayed home but I admire your courage for going. La Hawla Wala Quwwata Illla Billah!
As she finished reading, her hand cramped, crumbling the paper in her fist as pain formed behind her eyes.
lies simpering excuses
La Hawla Wala Quwwata Illla Billah! There is no might nor power except with Allah.
She felt herself bristle at the sentence. It felt weak, as if to excuse her own strength in dealing with Ms. Maiben’s death. A lie told as a crutch to deal with the emotional pain of the situation.
Nearly invisible wisps of smoke curled between her fingers as the edges of the paper within her hand turned black before flaking away under the pressure of her grip.
No, she told herself, pinching the bridge of her nose with her eyes squeezed shut. It’s just this headache that keeps coming back. Papa means well.
Nora chatted while Fatma picked at her food. Her father’s home cooked meal was excessive and rich but she found she had no appetite for it, despite the angry void growing within her body.
“Oh. Eh-hem,” Nora said, glancing up before studiously looking back down at her food.
“Hey, Fatma,” came a deep, smooth voice from behind her. “I heard what happened. Are you okay?”
She turned to find Duncan to her side. His face oozed concern as he held his lunch tray. She admired him as he stood there, from his trim body, his large hands and his wide shoulders.
And the- her eyes dilated as more blood vessels burst within her sclera.
hunger so very hungry
A gray haze radiated from his body, vanishing before reappearing. Over and over. It almost appeared to be a trick of the light or a problem with her eyes as the gray light – no, white now and almost completely transparent. It faded but she found herself inhaling deeply as if tasting him. The void inside of her shifted, seemingly attaching itself to her spine so that she felt the ache throughout her entire body from between her thighs to the back of her neck. It was a numb, thrilling pain that made her wriggle in her seat as hairs stood up on the nape of her neck.
want need devour
“I wish everyone would stop asking me that,” she told him, searching for the aura that had surrounded him. She wrapped her arms around her chest, subconsciously pushing her breasts out as she scratched her elbows and the backs of her arms.
A fractured sequence of images filled her mind. His zipper. Her hands on him. On his dick. Her mouth. Wet. Hardness.
The girl’s eyes shrunk to vertical slits as she pressed her nails hard into the tingling skin above her elbow. Spit filled her mouth and she found herself swirling her tongue against the inside of her mouth. The angry violet coloring crept forward from the back of her tongue in striated lines, halting before spreading too far.
“I’m sorry,” the boy said, fidgeting in his spot. He opened his mouth to say something before frowning and looking down at his shoes. “I- I’ve gotta go sit with Jason. But, if you want to talk about anything, I’m here. And the counselor is good. The school counselor. I talked with him when my mom left a couple years ago. And I- I’m sorry. I’ll just be over there. If you need anything.”
“Poor boy,” Nora said with a sigh as Duncan left. “He has it bad for you. Why won’t you go to prom with him?”
“Papa wouldn’t accept it,” she answered, returning to pick at her food. Her arms throbbed from the tips of her fingers to her shoulders.
“Because he’s black?” her friend asked.
“No,” Fatma said. “Well, I don’t know. Maybe. But he’s an atheist.”
fool fool fool fool
“He lets you hang out with me,” the other girl replied. “And I don’t believe.”
“Your parents do,” Fatma said, finally spearing a piece of meat. “And I know you do, too. At least a little. He’d think Duncan was a fool for not believing.”
“Psh,” Nora snorted. “Your father loves you more than anything. He’d want you to be happy more than anything else. As long as you kept your faith, I think he’d be fine. Prom is tomorrow night! Even if you didn’t start dating, you could at least just go with him. He’d be happy to dance with you whatever you’re wearing.”
Fatma opened her left hand, absentmindedly flicking the pile of black ash away from her table. She pushed around her food as her friend ate until a bell chimed and they got ready for their next class.
The noise from the bus rattled Fatma as she lay her head against the slim window next to her. She’d woken with energy but, as the day progressed, found herself growing weary.
food so many so young taste them draw from them
She closed her eyes, trying to rouse herself but the exhaustion held her down like weights. Yet, all around her the other teenagers burst with energy, rattling her nerves with their loud voices and shouts. She could almost taste the hormones flooding the bus and she found herself drawing it in. Drawing from their youthful vigor to remind herself that she was fine. That she was strong and young. Oddly enough, it seemed to work. And even better, the raucous noise quieted slightly around her.
The girl’s hijab shifted as she sat up straighter. She opened her jaw, pushing it forward as pressure filled her temples. Her ears slowly tilted back in a slight angle while the ridges beneath the rounded tops flowed outward, pulling at the skin. The scarf moved around her as the sharp tips of her ears slid through her hair.
Fatma scratched at her cheek before pressing her thumb against the joint of her jaw. The pressure subsided as she massaged her face. She hummed to herself and then stretched, raising her hands above her head. The exhaustion was gone, not completely but she felt awake again.
Tiny flecks of black coloring emerged beneath the skin of her nostrils. She rubbed her nose and then pressed a finger against her mouth as similar dots appeared in the cracks of her lips. They swelled at her touch, the thin, pink skin becoming full as they bulged outward. Her short canines, rounded and dull and flush with the incisors next to them, grew to thin, sharp points. The enamel reshaped until the tips jutted beneath the surrounding teeth.
She smiled, lightly scratching at the sensitive side of her belly. Ever since Duncan spoke with her in the lunchroom, she’d found herself distracted. Odd touches made her jump as she felt her body become more sensitive.
Reaching back, she scratched along her spine while biting into her full lips. She couldn’t stop herself from writhing with her forehead pressed against the seat in front of her as the feel of her nails sent hot pulses down her body. It was a welcome change from the lethargy she felt earlier.
Beneath her blouse, dry, dead skin flaked away. The more the scratched, the more came free until, pressing hard while hissing in pleasure, she cut deep beneath her flesh.
A ridged, black protrusion lay exposed in the small tear of her skin.
“Duncan,” she whispered.
The girl was chaste; her seclusion, religion and shyness kept her from the moral corruptions that existed on the Internet and among the small group of her friends. She knew what a naked man looked like, had rough ideas of how it all worked but seldom imagined it. It had always seemed wrong. Her nightly routine was established years and years ago with her father. The Isha and Dhikr prayers at bedtime made the rare, sexually curious thought feel wrong.
Fatma shivered, digging her nails into the backs of her arms as she moaned quietly in her seat. She lay against the window again as Duncan came to mind. Again. He would be warm. Gentle and kind with her.
rough slapping choking forcing taking
Guiding her, showing her what he wanted. Pushing her hand down to his zipper until she freed his manhood. She imagined it as dark as he was. And large. Large enough to choke on.
Choke on it? She wondered as she pressed her thighs together. She felt warm between the legs and, as she tensed, the muscles of her pussy clenched and slipped, wet with her arousal. Would I kiss it? Taking it in my mouth as he forced my head down.
Her breath was hot and fast as she struggled with the image. Imagining herself not going to her knees. It felt wrong. And dirty. To put her mouth on his penis.
In her mind, he slapped her and she gasped, clawing at her right elbow while thrusting her hand between her thighs. Duncan’s face was twisted with absurd need as he slapped her again. The rough treatment forced a moan from her lips as she pictured herself being forced down.
Blood suffused her tanned cheeks until they were reddened in shame, guilt and the desire for more. The blood appeared to leech into her cheeks until her very skin was tinted crimson. It spread along the bridge of her nose and down her jaw, reaching halfway down her throat.
She felt drained again, her mouth dry as she rubbed the edge of her hand between her lips. Her pants were wet and she shuddered each time the sawing motion rubbed her clit. She could feel Duncan’s hand in her hair, clutching her painfully tight.
The light red coloring covering her sclera began to leak into her brown irises.
But that started to feel wrong. She frowned with her eyes closed. Her inexperience had her picturing herself kissing his cock but she suddenly saw herself digging her claws into his belly, forcing him down as she wrested control away from him.
The bus screeched to a stop, forcing Fatma out of her reverie. Her thoughts vanished in smoke, leaving her confused.
She was- she thought- She rubbed her eyes as she spread her legs. A scent wafted to her nose. Pulling her hand away, she inhaled and brought it closer. A light fog formed in her brain as she smelled the heady, sweet scent covering her hand. She blinked slowly until the bus driver called her name, pulling her back once again.
The girl grabbed her backpack in a rush as she barreled through the bus and outside. Her heart pounded as she hefted her backpack to walk down the sidewalk with her head bowed. She remembered most of the ride but-
Oh, was I really thinking of Duncan in that way? she could see him again, guiding her hand and the shame of her excitement made her clutch her backpack harder.
Electricity coursed through her body. She froze and looked up to find herself standing outside Ms. Maiben’s home. Fatma licked her lips, taking a half-step towards the concrete stairs leading up to the front door. The void clinging to her spine trembled and she snarled without realizing it. She could almost hear the old woman, far in the distance at the back of her mind. Screaming in agony to match the expression she died with.
free consumed and owned ours now
Fatma’s tongue slipped free from her pouty lips. It narrowed as it slid forth and the tip flicked as the purple coloring continued to spread like ink spilled in a cup of water. Swirling and racing and curling along her narrow, long tongue until not a single spot of pink remained.
She played and replayed the final moments of the woman’s death and the faint, echoing screams continued. The memory of the night before, lying in bed while feeling guilty was alien to her now. She’d done what she could and the woman had deserved it. She was old. Past her time. Taking up space the younger generation needed. That she needed. The the hunger demanded. Holding her back. Restraining her. Bottling her up until she broke free to take her payment.
Anger flared within her as she struggled to understand why. She stared at the door, feeling the unnatural emptiness beyond. She’d visited the old woman many times with her father but, overlaid on that was decades of time. She couldn’t shake the oddness of it, the double echo of the times she’d brought food with the strange feeling of raging restraint. The girl snarled, opening her mouth to show her small fangs as her tongue flicked out.
The soft, tanned skin of her neck burned bright red as the coloring spread to her shoulders.
Finally, the young girl continued on, lightly jumping up the steps to her own home as she hummed a tune to drown out the nearly inaudible howling.
Once past the threshold of her own home, a weak headache bloomed at the center of her brain. She ground her sharp teeth but forced herself onward. There was time for her to work on her homework before the Maghrib prayer and she needed to focus. Her teacher had sent her home with her calculus test to revise for extra credit.
After more than two hours of sitting in her bed, working slowly through her test, Fatma slammed her book shut with a cry of frustration. Her headache beat a nasty rhythm in her brain and she found herself distracted. Uneasy.
Her back was sore. She reached around to press her fingertips beneath the band of her pants to massage herself. It felt inflamed and sore at her touch.
Her anxiety built until she glanced at her windows. Had she missed pra-
distract resist pain pain feed need to feed
The girl grunted, pressing the palm of her hand against her temple as the void growled in her stomach. Wavy clear lines vibrated in her eyesight until she squeezed her eyes closed. Beneath her eyelids, brown vanished to leave nothing but the black slits of her pupils centered in pure, deep red.
She swung her legs over the bed, wobbling to her feet as she made her way to the bathroom. They kept bottles of headache pills in the medicine cabinet and she knew she’d need them if she were going to keep studying.
The light flicked on and she screamed as she caught her own reflection. Her lips were jet black, full and soft against a face the shade of pure blood. Sharp little fangs protruded and her tongue, a pearlescent purple, writhed behind them. She covered her mouth and her eyes widened, the vertical slits opening to full ovals.
“Who’s there?!” Fatma yelled, slamming herself back against the wall as the strange voice filled her head.
we are one
Blood welled at the edge of the girl’s eyes, falling against her cheeks as she lowered herself. An uncomfortable pressure stabbed into her lower back and the band of her trousers bulged to contain the rounded nub of her tail.
feed we hunger
“Go away! Go away!” she screamed, pressing her palms against her ears. It was impossible to block the sound but she pulled her knees up to press her face against them with her hands firmly against her ears. “What did you do to me?!”
host we are one soon
“No, please, no,” she sobbed, blood dotting her dark blouse as she cried. “I’m- I’m good. Allah-”
Pain exploded behind her eyes, cutting her off.
not his tainted blessed forever
“No,” she whimpered.
The girl’s mind swam as she felt the wall moving against her back. It knew she sat stationary on the ground but the sensation confused it until tiny, invisible hooks dug deeper into her soul. It knew, then, that she still sat and it was simply her tail moving against the wall. Growing.
Fatma gasped, reaching back to grab it. It was slick, slimy and thick in her hand and she yelped before releasing it. It felt warm and strong. Worse, the tip was sliding against her bare back. Bumping against-
She stood, sniffling as she turned and raised her shirt. Her short tail pulled free. The tip bulged at the sides like a club but she focused on her back. On the tears in her skin over her spine. On the black ridges that those gouges exposed.
“La hawla wala quwwata -” she spoke out loud, the pain in her head increasing with each word until she couldn’t bear it. She collapsed to her knees, her hands tearing at her hijab as she bent forward with her short tail flailing behind her.
She screamed, flinging the scarf as anger filled her. She hadn’t asked for this. It had started when her father sent her to Ms. Maiben’s house. The doubt and guilt filling her. Everything was fine until then. She hadn’t wanted to go.
An image of the bottle was forced into her mind’s eye.
Nora! she snarled in rage. That bitch did this to me! Cursed me! And that old hag! Kept the- the fucking thing trapped! The flame in the bottle. The demon! I can’t live like this! I can’t be seen like this!
hide conceal yourself
“How?! How, damn you?!” she yelled, panting on her hands and knees. She could feel the muscles and skin moving on her lower back as the tail pulled at her.
Another image. Her father. Asleep with her standing over him.
Dark pink filled her red cheeks.
“No,” she whispered. “No, I won’t.”
Another image, her hiding as a mob chased her. As her father cursed her name. But, suddenly, it shifted. Her father, telling her to go to Ms. Maiben’s house. His face was knowing. Smirking. Sending her to her doom.
“It wasn’t-” she struggled. “It wasn’t like that.”
She clutched at her stomach, snarling. Her fangs lengthened. She was hungry. Weak. She could feel it now, the difference of it.
Keys jingled in the doorway of the living room. Fatma’s red eyes widened.
“Papa!” she gasped. In a blur of speed, she leapt for her scarf, snatching it from the ground before running to her room and closing the door.
“Fatma?” Faizan called out. “Are you home?”
She turned, her back to the door until she felt her tail sliding against the cool sheets. The girl panicked, grabbing it and pulling it between her thighs. It resisted but she clamped her legs together, trapping it. As short as it was, the tip lay against her sex. She held it with one arm while starting at the wall next to her bed.
“Fatma?” her father asked gently, knocking on her door. “Will you join me for evening prayer?”
lust desire sin
Her tail calmed and she breathed a sigh of relief until the head began rocking slightly back and forth. She gasped, biting her lips painfully as the thick head pressed into her clit and between her lips.
“Nooo,” Fatma moaned. Duncan, on his back. Waiting for her command. His cock huge and erect. Blood pounded between her thighs and her ass moved. She clawed the bed with her free hand as her hips rocked back and forth in time to the movement of her tail.
Her slick, pink pussy lips darkened as they became engorged. Her wrist pushed at her restrained tail, guiding it to press where it felt best.
“Are you still- does her-” her father said, uncertain of what to ask. “I’ll prepare some food for you before I go to bed. I love you, Fatma.”
“Yessss,” the girl groaned, biting at her blanket.
lust pleasure lust pleasure lustlustlustlust
She clawed at her pants as her suddenly freed tail arched back. She unzipped herself before shoving her pants down to expose her throbbing, aching sex. Muscle flexed in her back as the dark hooks sunk deeper. She turned, laying on her stomach while she brought her tail between her legs. It obeyed her command as she found the fine motor control needed to move it properly.
Fatma could feel the burning heat from her pussy against the smooth skin of her tail. It slipped between her wet lips and she buried her face into her pillow to hide her moans. Her long ears vibrated as strong muscles forced the tail to grind against her.
profane fuck inhibitions
In her eyes, she lay astride Duncan, his cock pinned against her body as she slid against his thickness.
Yet it wasn’t enough. Not fully grown, her tail couldn’t flex enough to enter her. She reached back, grabbing the slick head. Without hesitation, she shoved it inside, screaming as she took her own virginity.
Grunting, groaning and growling, she worked the bulbous tip in and out of her tight pussy, feeling the growing pressure build.
Smoke issued from her black nose. She turned her face to breathe and her lust-filled mouth opened wide to expose her tongue. It lengthened further, the tip growing to a sharp point as rough bumps formed along the top.
Fatma bit into her pillow, shaking her head like a predator taking down its prey as her first orgasm exploded through her body. She kicked her aching feet while lifting her hips and screaming through clenching teeth.
more joined more need more lust unfulfilled tainted more tainted
we need more
“Yessss!” Fatma gasped in agreement. She released her hand as her tail grew longer and it plunged deep inside of her as she raised herself to her hands and knees with her head bowed, lost in the depths of her own pleasure.
Silence filled the house.
Fatma shook her head against the voice. She lay exhausted, her bed sheets soaked with her juices. Burn marks dotted the sheets beneath her.
conceal feed hunger
“I- I can’t,” she gasped. The pain of the void was nearly intolerable. Her feet ached and her forehead throbbed while her joints flared in agony.
The demon wanted her to feed from her father but the thought sickened her. She sickened herself, laying in the remains of her sin. Brought low by lust and using her own profane body to do it.
A spark of anger ignited.
A body she wouldn’t have if she hadn’t gone to visit the old whore. The door had been open.
The spark fanned into flames.
Her father sent her on purpose!
She growled, pushing herself up. She was bare from the waist down but the cool night air didn’t touch her. Her crotch and legs were covered with her own dried juices but he pussy was still wet. Ready. Aching. Hungry.
He knew, she told herself. And he’d sent me in his stead. Abandoning his charity because he knew what would happen. Instead, he sent me as sacrifice. The pain is his fault!
Fatma sat up. Her tail lashed angrily behind her, thumping against the bed. The movement split the skin just above the base of her tail. A single drop of blood coursed down her ass as a shiny black lump began to harden in the cool air.
The girl walked through her room, her long, wine-reddened tail hung low behind her. The mace-like tip waved as her hips rocked. She opened her door, listened for her father’s snores and stepped into the hallway. His door was ajar.
She snarled at the sight of him, sleeping peacefully. His dark black beard and short black hair framed against his olive skin. From his doorway, she could see him outlined in pure white. The light hovered from his body.
pure unlike us his fault
The voice filled her and the flames of anger roared. Smoke rose from around her feet. Her fangs grinded together as the red bridge of her nose wrinkled in distaste. She would never be clean again. Not after what happened to her. Not after what he did to her.
With a step, she crossed into his bedroom and her head throbbed in pain. The faint silhouette of a footprint was burned into the floor where she’d stood. She took another step, leaving yet another ghost of a footprint until she was by his bedside. The second footprint showed two large fused toes as her big toe merged with the thin toe next to it and the three beside it joined together.
Her head pounded until she felt nauseous.
The voice was powerful and commanding but, as she raised her hand, she hesitated. Her father turned fitfully, his brow crinkling as his dreams took a sudden, dark turn.
Her outthrust hand shook as the light began to pull towards her. It touched her fingertips and she gasped, eyes wide. Her earlier masturbation paled in comparison as she began to consume her father’s soul. It filled every pore, lighting every nerve ending as she was forced to the tips of her toes.
The bottom of Fatma’s shirt slid against her smooth, flat stomach. It pulled up as her slim breasts began to fill out. They swelled, pushing against the blouse until gravity pulled them down. She could feel the smooth skin sliding against her chest. Red descended from her shoulders, the taint of her body flowing to cover her still-growing tits.
She groaned as liquid welled between her pussy lips. It fell, attaching to her thigh in a clear string as more began to form. Smoke wafted from her body as the crimson coloring reached her hips. She moaned, her violet tongue flicking out as her ass began to expand, the skin over her waist stretching.
Her father gasped, arching his back as he scrabbled at the air above him.
Fatma stumbled backwards, panting. Crackling gray light surrounded him now. The voice within was silent. Sated. She swallowed and turned, leaning against the doorframe before going to her own room.
As she reached her door, thick lumps formed over her shoulder blades. They itched with an insane intensity but the girl ignored them as she slammed her door shut and collapsed into her bed. Her fused toes began to harden into hooves as she dug them into the bedding.
She burned from within. Her fingernails darkened as keratin formed and grew from the tips of her fingers until her dense, curved claws tore into her bed. Every touch of the sheets drove her wild. Her tail wrapped around her thick thigh but she grabbed at it, pulling it until it came free.
“Fuck me!” she cursed, shoving the bulbous head into her waiting, dripping cunt. “Fuck!”
She pushed her hips upward by digging her heels into the bed. Her huge breasts pulled down toward her face as she screamed out in pleasure. With a swipe of her claws, she tore her shirt open to expose her breasts. She squeezed one of them, pulling it closer as her tongue wrapped around her fat, erect nipple. Her areola darkened over her bright red skin until it was a dusty black that began to leech into the nipple itself.
Skin ripped over her shoulder blades and along her brow. She hissed and then screeched as her tail plunged deeper than ever. Hardened bone stood out from two points on her skull but she rolled as wet, dark flesh pushed out from the large slits along her back.
Turned to the side, her tail still pumping furiously into her hungry, needy sex, her new wings spread weakly with a single flap.
“Tch,” Faizan said as he sat at the breakfast table.
Fatma glanced at him while she ate her food. Gray hairs mixed with the black of his beard and along his temples and deep wrinkles lay against his eyes.
The girl’s clothes clung to her. Late in the night, she’d found how to change her form but she’d decided to keep her hips and breasts how they were. It wasn’t exactly shape shifting, she’d found.
To her, she felt her wings pressed against her back with her tail laying quietly behind her. That was one reality and the one she felt. But in this reality, she appeared how she wanted. As Fatma to all who saw her and to everything that existed in the world. Her clothes only knew that she was larger now. Her midriff showed beneath her blouse and her nipples pressed against the blouse. She wore no bra.
“Problems, papa?” she asked. Beneath it all, she seethed with anger that wouldn’t go away.
“I’m sore this morning,” he said, rubbing his knuckles.
You deserve it, she thought at him. This and more.
“I hope it passes,” she lied, pushing back from the table. “I’m full.”
Her father looked at her and his eyes narrowed in concern.
“Fatma,” he said, squeezing his hands together. He noted her shirt and his jaw muscles flared. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” she lied again. Her lips trembled as she forced back a snarl. His soul still coursed through her but she could already feel it fading and the energy it provided dissipating. She studied him for a moment, licking her lips quickly as she wondered how many more times she could feed from him. Not many. Maybe two. His fault. “I have to go.”
He stood, reaching for a hug and a forehead kiss. She moaned as the shredded soul within her touched the remnants he held. Grabbing his head, she opened her mouth and her purple tongue licked his cheek. She closed her mouth over his. He froze until she stepped back, wiping her lips with a smile.
The man’s eyes were glazed. He fell to the floor, his back against the wall. Fatma sighed happily as the bit she’d taken from him spread through her body. Her nipples pressed against her blouse as she grabbed her backpack to walk to her stop.
Classes were dull. She found herself ignoring the lesson while focusing inward.
The voice no longer spoke to her. That had frightened her at first. And moreso when she realized why: it was her now. Its knowledge lay at the edges of her mind, waiting for her to touch and remember them. She’d learned how to control her form from that wide pool of knowledge.
And so much more.
A thrill tickled her side. She turned to find James staring at her. Staring at her breasts and the bumps her nipples made. She smiled at him while casually caressing herself. His lust flowed to her. It was small but enough and she arched her back as it pooled between her thighs.
The bell chimed and students grabbed their books to rush to their next period. Fatma left hers and, instead, turned to her friend behind her.
“Nora, I need help,” she said with the most pleading expression she could conjure. “Will you come to the bathroom with me?”
“Of course,” the girl said. “Let me just grab-”
“No,” Fatma said, caressing the girl’s jaw. “No.”
“O-okay,” Nora said, blinking away the haze that had filled her. She followed her friend as they walked out of the bathroom, through the busy hallway and towards the bathroom.
Fatma fed from the students as she walked. Jealousy from female students, lust from most of the male students and some of the females until she was nearly full from it.
Jennifer stood alone in the bathroom as the two girls entered. Fatma touched her.
“Leave,” she said.
The blonde girl dropped her makeup kit and left, leaving her purse and backpack behind. After the door closed, The hooded girl pressed her palm against it, sealing in a flash of red light.
“What’s wrong?” Nora asked, rubbing her arms in the middle of the bathroom.
“I didn’t sleep last night,” Fatma said. “I couldn’t. I was learning. And thinking.”
“You’ve killed me, Nora,” she continued. Her friend’s eyes widened in alarm. “And cursed me. I’m damned for eternity. And I’ve seen it. I’ve seen what the abyss looks like. The multitudes of it. A great clash of realities. A Christian demon rides my soul. We are one now. Because of you.”
“The bottle,” she said as she began unwrapping her hijab from her head. Nora backed away at Fatma’s approach. “I told you to leave it alone. I told you. It’s too late. It’s too late now. I’m-”
Smoke escaped Fatma’s lips. She flickered between human and demon before resting on her larger demon form. Hard muscle in her thighs flexed her bent knees and her cloven hooves clacked loudly on the linoleum. Her hardened abs tensed as her heavy, rounded breasts shook from the impact.
“I’m still learning,” she moaned. “Where was- Ah. I’m not sure I’d change it, to be honest. But, Nora, I can’t just let it go. There has to be a punishment.”
“P-p-p-please,” Nora moaned, the whites showing in her eyes. “I- I- I-”
Fatma’s violet tongue flickered, tasting the girl’s panic. Savoring it. She balled up her hijab in her hands, bringing it over the girl’s head. She crossed her arms and Nora grabbed at the scarf. Muscles bulged beneath dark red skin as the scarf tightened.
“Kek-” the panicked girl said, grabbing and pulling at the fabric.
Fatma leaned in, her mouth opening over her friend’s lips. She forced the other girl’s lips apart and her tongue wrapped around her friend’s tongue. Smoke rose around both of them as Nora screamed.
The other girl’s struggles lessened as a flame flickered fitfully to life over her brow. She wrapped her arms around Fatma’s neck, leaning into her until Fatma pushed her gently back. A line of spit connected them briefly.
Flame-red hairs sprouted around Nora’s belly button. She groaned, rolling her head with a huff.
“I need you awake for this part,” Fatma said, touching the girl’s forehead. “I need you to feel this happening.”
Nora blinked as awareness took hold.
“F- Fatma?” the girl said. “What’s- Augh!”
She collapsed to her knees on the bathroom floor.
“I thought of draining you completely,” Fatma told her. “Or just killing you. I don’t mind it now. I see Ms. Maiben’s face and I laugh. Old and weak and stupid. Bottling me. Caging me. I still hear her screams and I laugh.”
Flame jetted from Nora’s mouth. The girl roared, clawing at her neck as thick veins stood out against her skin. Sweat sizzled from her body as she tore at her shirt.
Fatma changed once more to her demon form. Her huge wings spread as she sat back against one of the sinks. The girl’s thick claws toyed with her clit slowly while she enjoyed the show.
“I decided, mmmm,” the demoness moaned as her claw entered her sex. “I would keep you as a pet instead.”
Nora pulled, tearing her shirt from the collar down. Black and red fur grew in a line down her stomach. With a grunt, the girl snapped her bra one-handed. Already the skin over her bicep was tight and hard from thick muscle. Her breasts shook as her hands roamed her body.
“What are youuuu doing to meee?!” Nora groaned. Her ears began to travel along her head, flowing along with the skin as her black hair fell around her. The ears lengthened as they rose and thickened, flattening against her skull.
A loud crack filled the air, forcing Nora to her hands and knees. She arched her back as her spine pressed against her skin in a wave. Her torso stretched as thick red hairs sprouted from her skin. She growled, shoving her face forward as her jaw broke.
Teeth clattered to the floor to make space for her canines. They thickened as her jaw pushed forward.
“H-h-hurts,” Nora gasped.
“I know,” Fatma replied as her fingers quickened their pace between her thighs.
The changing girl fell to her side with a grunt before rolling and pushing her hips up in a bridge. Her breasts pulled to her face, the skin stretching as red fur began to emerge to cover them. Flame shot from the girl’s mouth and the smell of sulphur filled the room.
Small dark spots appeared appeared in two lines down the girl’s stomach. Ducts and tissue formed as her teats grew erect.
“S-s-stop! Please!” Nora begged.
No answer came for her as her pants strained to contain her bulk. Her shoes bulged and then exploded, separating from the soles to show swollen toes. She pawed at the ground and her toenails came free. Beneath the nails, the flesh hardened into sheaths. Still her feet widened and lengthened as fur began to spread over them.
The screams stopped when her heat took root. The seams of her pants split to reveal hard lines of muscle. She clawed at her crotch.
“Stooop,” Nora groaned as she clawed at herself. Her tongue lolled from between huge, sabertooth-like fangs. “I- I don’t want this.”
“Yes,” Fatma moaned, her head back. “You do. And you always will, Nora. Always. Until I allow you to die.”
The changing girl roared as her jeans erupted into flames. Her thick hand plunged between her furred thighs. She pressed the leathery pads beneath her fingers into her clit as her other hand squeezed her breast.
The tip of her naked tail emerged over her swelling, straining ass. Bones broke and re-formed in her hips to accommodate the growth and her still-lengthening body. Her tail grow wolf-like, thick and bushy with red and black fur. Tiles blackened beneath the girl as she roared sulfurish flame, her legs kicking and taking out a chunk of the wall as a powerful orgasm rocked her body.
Nora’s pink labia, hidden behind thick black fur, turned bright red. The lips pressed together before folding and bulging away from her body. She grunted, muscles straining as she ached for another release. The bones beneath her mound clicked and moved and her pussy raised while her clit slid forward to press against the labia.
Fatma came as Nora’s transformation completed. She groaned, raising her claws to her full lips to suckle at them. When her pet raised herself to two feet, the demoness frowned. The other girl towered over her, a jet of blue flame pulsing with each exhalation. Her sheathed, cat claws were a strange counterpoint to her wolf’s body. The girl’s tail whipped behind her and the tip ignited into black flame that filled the room with a powerful stench that made Fatma moan.
“Down,” she commanded and her friend whimpered, lowering herself to hands and feet. The hellhound shoved her ass back against the edge of the wall behind her while rocking her hips.
“Can’t. Get. Enough,” Nora rumbled.
“You’ll stay down until I order otherwise,” Fatma said. “If you please me.”
“Yessss,” the hellhound said, licking her wide muzzle. “I- I can please you, Fatma.”
“Now, come with me.”
Fatma walked ahead of Nora. The other girl fingered the thick black studded collar at her neck before her hand strayed to her crotch.
“P- please,” Nora begged. “C-can it- can it stop- when I- I’m human?”
“You’re not human,” Fatma told her. “You just look it. And, no. It never will. Be thankful for that.”
“Yes!” Nora cried out before grabbing her own breast. A large wet patch spread from the girl’s crotch. “Yes, I’m thankful! Yes!”
Cars parked around them as they made their way to the school’s gym. People followed, glancing at the pair before heading into the school.
“Nora!” a young boy called. “Nora, hey! I’ve been looking for you!”
“Oh god, no,” Nora moaned. “Please, no, no, no.”
“Take him,” Fatma commanded.
The girl dropped to her hands and feet with a growl and then stood to run on two feet. She tackled the boy, dragging him away from the crowd. Fatma followed.
He was unconscious as Nora licked his face. She kissed him while her fingers pulled at his jeans to expose his cock. The girl groaned and quickly slipped out of her own pants.
“Take him, whore,” Fatma said.
“Yes! Yes mistress!” Nora yelled, shoving her sopping wet pussy against the boy’s cock. He groaned, clawing at the ground as he grew hard. She didn’t wait for him. As soon as he was hard enough, she grabbed him to shove him inside her folded cunt. She frantically bounced on his dick while kissing him, leaning back to growl and pull her shirt off.
Red hairs sprouted from the boy’s chest. He coughed and sputtered as a flame erupted from his mouth.
“Join me when you’re finished,” Fatma said, releasing the girl’s true form.
The demoness walked to the entrance of the gym. She spied Duncan standing by the doors and he smiled when he saw her.
“Fatma!” he called out, waving. White shined along his body and she felt a brief stab of pain until she focused on her own power. He walked over to her and she smiled at him.
“Follow me,” she purred.
Emotions fled the boy’s face until it was a mask. He followed behind her, closing the gym doors as she entered.
Music blared from loudspeakers as seniors danced on the floor. Teachers and parents stood at the sides, talking while watching the kids.
Fatma drank it in until her body roared with power. The lust. The hormones. Everything.
It didn’t take much. A push. An exertion of power.
A bearded father slammed his drink before letting the cup fall. He walked into the crowd to shove a boy away from the class president – brunette with long, curly hair. He grabbed the girl’s skirt, pulling it free while shoving her to the ground. She screamed until Fatma’s power hit her and then she taunted him, raising her bare ass while spreading her pink pussy open for him with two fingers. The father slapped her ass and guided himself into her.
Another boy slammed his date against the wall as she struggled with him. He lifted her dress to shove his fingers inside of her and she rolled her head back with a moan of encouragement.
An Asian girl grabbed a boy’s partner and the two girls began to kiss while shedding their clothes.
The wife of the bearded father grabbed at a man next to her. She unzipped him, pulling his cock free before shoving her mouth down on his dick, bobbing up and down while the man’s wife kneeled behind the woman, pulling her pants down to suck on her pussy.
The room devolved into an orgy that fed Fatma. She turned to Duncan and he opened his lips to her kiss as her form changed. She wrapped her wings around him.
“No slave to me, Duncan,” she purred as she burned his clothes free. “But my mate. I know the spell of summoning and you’ll make a beautiful host. Not these lessers. Not these thralls.”
A bulge appeared on the bearded father’s ass as he skin darkened to red. Beside him, a young black girl screamed for god to save her as horns pierced the skin over her skull. She tore her dress to show huge breasts and her scream turned to a snarl as she shoved herself against a frantic boy next to her.
Two beasts entered the gym, a male on two legs with a female on hands and feet next to him. They scented the scene before them before the female offered herself to the male with a shuddering groan.
“Join me,” Fatma whispered to Duncan as a flame took shape over the young man’s forehead.