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Inside the Iron Maiden

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                Carmilla wakes up naked in a pool of blood. It isn’t the first time this has happened, although she has a distinct feeling that this time the blood is hers. The stone floor is new too. She can’t sleep in anything but good Transylvanian soil. And yet there’s a blank spot in her memory.

                She’s been dead then. Her memories of her honeymoon with the Marquis are hazy and tinged with red. She remembers her body penetrated by shafts of cold iron, which burned her flesh and held her fast, arched and in agony.

                The blood must have revitalised her twisted corpse.  Carmilla can feel her muscles repair themselves, her skin knit together, her ruined face regain its beauty. Even assuming one of the iron stakes had penetrated her heart, Carmilla wouldn’t truly have expired unless she had been decapitated and dismembered, her remains burnt and buried under separate coffins at crossroads or under rowan trees. You can never truly kill something that is dead already, but with enough persistence you can stop it from coming back.

She would have expected her latest suitor to have known this. A man such as he would surely have relished the slow process of dismemberment, the ritual burning, the marriage of blood. Perhaps he’s been distracted, she muses. He didn’t seem like the type to leave his desires unsated for long. And a new bride wandering the castle would explain the open door of the Iron Maiden.

Carmilla gets unsteadily to her feet and licks the blood from her lips. She’ll need clothes and food before she’s ready to face the world. She might drag the Marquis through the courts for bigamy, or else return home to lick her wounds. Lick someone’s wounds, anyway. Both courses of actions have their merits. She’ll decide after she’d eaten.

Carmilla wrenches the door out of its frame and pads soundlessly up the stone steps, wondering idly whether she’ll find her husband or his new bride first. Either way, it doesn’t really matter.