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Aquarum Cicutae

It’s amazing to me how much freedom one has on a college campus. It is, in fact, one of my favorite places to hunt. Toss on a hoodie with the team colors, and sling a messenger bag over a shoulder and no one ever gives you a second look. There are so many splendid victims to choose from at universities—young, vital, still so invincible and with no concept of their own mortality.

The coin winked in the sunlight and sang for her on the way down. Amanda, but she told me to call her Mandy. She was a big girl with a pretty face, long, dark hair and darker eyes. She might have been stunning if she'd ever met a calorie she didn’t like, or perhaps a treadmill that she did.

I courted Mandy for a few weeks before she invited me to her apartment just off campus. Of course, I already knew where it was—the security, the kinds of patterns her neighbors kept, even the floor plan. I arrived with the ingredients for dinner, and before the door was even fully closed, her tongue was in my mouth, and her hands worked feverishly at my belt.

Generally speaking, I much prefer a substantial helping of suffering with my arousal. I suppose I could have tapped into a few of my favorite memories and given her what she wanted, but I am ever the gentleman. And ever cautious. I convinced her to wait until after dinner.

I poured her a Sauvignon Blanc and relegated her to the living room with chocolates while I cooked. The meal required meticulous preparation. The cicutoxin in the root of water hemlock is so potent it can kill by mere absorption into the skin. It also has a rather interesting property—it smells and apparently even tastes a bit like parsnip. My plate was prepared first, sans the water hemlock. Hers next, with the utmost care. Asparagus and parsnip pasta tossed in a garlic cream sauce.

I toasted, “To the magical hours still to come.” She looked at me hungrily and clinked my glass. I watched as she took the first bite. Something I’ve learned about the human body—it seems to sense danger instinctively. Her eyes narrowed and widened for the slightest of split seconds as the hemlock touched her tongue. Then her brow smoothed and she smiled at me. I believe she used the word “magnificent.” And it was.

Mandy finished the entire plate before the symptoms took her. She looked startled for a second and began to retch. Her hands first trembled, then clenched into tight fists. She tried to stand but instead fell face-up on the floor as all of the muscles in her body contracted at once. Her lips pulled back and her teeth clenched in a grotesque grimace. Frothy saliva dripped down her cheeks. Her eyelids snapped open as far as anatomy would allow, and her eyes rolled so far back in her head, they were nothing but whites.

This lasted only a few seconds, then the real convulsions began—ferocious things that seemed intent on breaking her into pieces. Her eyelids fluttered like a moth’s wings. Beneath them her eyes jumped and jerked. Her body was caught between the retching and the seizures, contorting in ways both beautiful and horrible.

For a brief moment she seemed to regain focus and turned her eyes to me for help while she thrashed. I smiled, gave her a tiny wave, and nodded for her to go on.

The vomit was impressive, her body emptying with all the violence it could muster. It launched straight up and splashed back down onto her face, mingling with tears and snot and spit. It pooled in her eyes and mouth; drops flung from her as she writhed. A low, choked moan gurgled from her throat. Bubbles of foamy puke dribbled from the corners of her mouth.

Then the most incredible thing happened. Her back arched impossibly high. Her head wrenched to one side. The cords in her neck stood out like they'd been carved from stone. Still seizing, she rose off the ground until only her cheek, shoulders, and heels were touching the floor. It was like a bizarre magic trick. And still Mandy rose. Her arms alternated between hanging limp at her sides and flipping about wildly. Then even her shoulders came off the floor. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

The snap was audible and awful. It came just before I did. A foul smell filled the room as her bowels released. Mandy’s eyes widened again, and her body crashed back to the floor. She was still seizing—her eyeballs jumped and rolled, and her jaw clenched and released, but every other part of her stilled instantly. The violence of her throes had broken her back and severed her spinal cord.

I watched her suffocate. The movements of her eyes slowed a bit at a time, and her facial contortions relaxed as her brain lost the oxygen to send the accelerated signals to the muscles it still had control of. Then all movement stopped, and pretty Mandy crossed into the Else.

I finished my pasta. It was a bit cold by then, but still delicious.

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