Crossroads: Immolate

Chapter 1
Their Souls To Take

A transfixing intensity captivated the crowd whenever Sapphire Rayne sang. The bewitching artist’s earnest, whiskey-stained tone resonated with her audience like an impassioned plea. It was as if Sapphires’ very soul had been wagered on her every note.

Regrettably, that was not far from the truth.

Sapphire adjusted her lithe frame to assume a slightly more comfortable and decisively more feminine pose on the tall, unsteady stool. She was seated in front of a duct-taped microphone on a tiny stage that was nestled like a cobweb in the corner of Earl’s Last Chance Saloon. One hastily fastened, code-violating, harshly bright spotlight hung from the ceiling — bare wires exposed — directly above the crowd. Focused on Sapphire, its shine bathed the artist in an unnatural white that made her appear as a pristine, angelic savior amidst the surrounding filth and gloom of the establishment. Rayne’s subtle, hip-shifting wiggle received catcalls, whistles, and bellowed lewd remarks from her predominantly male audience. In response, the enigmatic woman’s brilliant blue eyes seemed to crackle with electricity as one side of her Russian Red coated lips lifted slightly. Part smile; part sneer.

Sapphire’s right leg was provocatively crossed atop her left and the narrowed waist of her acoustic guitar rested comfortably upon her lean thigh as those piercing blue eyes narrowed, scrutinizing the crowd. She was feeling particularly wicked this evening, which meant that things could quickly escalate if she wasn’t careful. Unfortunately, Rayne was in deep and she was desperate, so she was in no mood for playing it safe tonight.

The spellbinding artist leaned closer to the microphone, close enough that her lips brushed lightly against the wire windscreen and left behind a delicate whisper of brilliant red. She lightly shook her head, loosening the cascade of feral curls, deep brown with golden highlights, which framed her immaculate features. With an alluringly raspy, smoke-seasoned voice that contained as much breath and sultry gravel as it did words, Sapphire declared, “This ain’t no fairy tale, people, there are no happy endings in perdition!”

Her audience, both the male and the female portions this time, cheered enthusiastically in response. They raised beer bottles and pumped fists — many leathered — high into the air, obliviously reveling at the prospect of dooming their souls for all eternity.

The abundance of maleficence swirling within the artist’s soul sparked a sinister grin of pure self-indulgence as she readied her hand for the first chord. Her eyes were lit by an impure spark. From far too much experience, she knew that the morality of a crowd was inversely proportionate to its size, which meant, the larger her audience was, the easier it was to lead their souls astray. Also, from her time spent in servitude, Rayne had learned that the virtuous resolve of a group mentality was hardly ever an admirable trait to begin with.

Two of the fingers of Sapphire’s left hand pinched down on the second frets of both the A and D strings to form an open E minor chord as her right hand launched into a vigorous strumming pattern. Almost immediately, she felt tiny wisps of the blackness that was ever-entrenched within her soul start to curl off like smoke being pulled by a breeze. The toxin rolled out over everyone in the bar, seeping into their very being and transforming who they were. Her power was absolute, she already held their fate in the palm of her hand. And tonight, Sapphire decided that for her to be cleansed, the crowd would have to be sacrificed.

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