Nit: the God of Blood
Clark N. Hobbie
Copyright (c) by Clark Hobbie, all rights reserved
Anais wondered if she had it in herself to kill Claris. Anais stood over the other woman, a large and rather cheap sacrificial dagger in hand, and weighed her options.
Gladys, the High Priestess of Nit, was making stabbing motions in the air. At least she didn’t have any compunction against taking human life if you would gain buy it.
It wasn’t that Anais felt any empathy for her rival, it was just when the time came to finish the job, something kept her from following through.
Anais thought back to the day this had all started.
* * *
Anais glared at Claris.
“You need to get these reports done ASAP. Oh, and how’s the love life?”
By Anais’s reckoning, Claris was an insult to the karma system. Claris had the looks, the job, the car, the apartment, the boyfriend…and she didn’t deserve any of it. As if reading her mind, Claris glanced back over her shoulder at Anais and smiled. Bitch.
Anais, on the other hand, tipped the scales at 315lbs, had a dead end job, drove a used Hyundai, and lived in a crappy apartment…alone.
“Having another one of ‘those days?’”
Sheryl stood over her desk. Anais looked up and smiled. “More like one of those weeks or one of those years.”
For most of Anais’s life, Sheryl had been like a sister to her. They were both large, or morbidly obese as the health classes in high school put it, but during the last year Sheryl had bloomed. She had lost weight and now rivaled Claris in terms of beauty. What’s more, she had gotten a promotion and a new boyfriend while Anais languished at her current job.
“What about you?” Anais asked.
“Oh, things are going well. You should come by for Scrabble some time.”
Anais smiled, “that would be nice.” Anais moved a little closer to Sheryl “How did you do it, really? It’s like you made a deal with the devil or something.”
Sheryl gave her a long, searching stare. So long that Anais became uncomfortable. Finally Sheryl grabbed a pad of paper off Anais’s desk. She scribbled something down.
“I didn’t make a deal exactly, I just woke up.”
Sheryl tore off the sheet of paper and handed it to Anais. “So can you.”
As she was turning to leave she said “Just remember: most people who say they want blood will settle for something else…”
* * *
The door opened and Anais scuttled in nervously. Looking around, she found herself in a spacious area – she heard it used to be a bank – hung with tapestries and spotted with braziers. The room was dominated by a statue of a pig-headed humanoid. Directly in front of the statue was a stone altar.
As her eyes became accustomed to the gloom, she noticed that there was a woman seated to the side of the statue. She was reading a magazine.
“Er…um…hello?” Anais tried as she came closer.
The woman looked up. There was the sound of popping gum, then chewing.
“Hi, I’m Gladys, high priestess of Nit.”
The silence stretched out uncomfortably. Anais finally stuck out a beefy hand. “Pleased to meet you.”
Gladys stared at Anais’s hand for a second then got to her feet with a sigh. She shook Anais’s hand and said “So…what can I do for you?” Anais couldn’t help noticing that Gladys was very attractive: slim, and dressed in a scanty dress that bordered on a robe.
Anais shifted from one foot to the other. “I heard from a friend that you can help people like me.”
Gladys put her head to one side “How do you mean?”
“Well, you know, people who are a little…”
“Fat?” Gladys said rather loudly. Anais stared at her for a few seconds, and then nodded her head.
“The great god Nit demands blood!” Gladys intoned.
“Yeah, about that, my friend said…”
Gladys looked to the side and her shoulders slumped.
“OK, ok, so he’ll take fat instead.”
“So, how does this…work?”
“Well, first we put a tap on you, then, every day…”
Gladys rolled her eyes then turned sideways. She moved aside the fabric of her dress and Anais could see a small plastic bag taped to Gladys’s side.
“You put one of these on your side.”
“What’s that for?”
“To collect the fat, you idiot!”
“Erm…oh…so what then?”
Gladys spoke through gritted teeth. “As I was saying before you interrupted…”here she paused as if daring Anais to interrupt again “…then, every day you pour the fat you’ve accumulated into the altar.”
“What? I have to come here every day?”
Gladys glared at her and gestured to her left, where on a table were a collection of miniature statues of Nit. Each one had a small bowl in front of it.
“Then you light it on fire and speak the prayer.”
“I’ll teach you the prayer if you shut up long enough.”
A little while later Anais found herself being shoved out of the temple with a small altar to Nit. “But what if I…” Anais began as she turned back to the door but found it locked.
* * *
Anais winced as she peeled the plastic pouch away from her skin. She put another one in place at the site of her “tap.” She nervously approached the altar on her dresser.
Feeling silly, she poured the contents of the pouch, a colorless, oily substance, into the bowl in front of the little altar. She stared at the statue for a while until she seemed to realize something, and she ran to get a book of matches.
Lighting one, she approached the statue and intoned “In the name of Nit, I sacrifice unto three.” She tossed the match into the bowl and the fluid ignited. “I mean thee! Unto thee!”
Anais looked around guiltily but nothing seemed to have changed. She looked at the bowl, which was burning with a blue flame now. She watched until it consumed the liquid and fizzled out.
* * *
Gladys was reading a copy of Cosmopolitan when the door to the temple burst open. Anais’s dumpy figure stood in the doorway.
“I want my money back!” Anais growled.
Gladys frowned. “I didn’t take any money from you, did I?”
Anais regarded her for a second. “Well, I want something back; this thing doesn’t work!”
It was two weeks after Anais had first come through the door. Gladys stood up and approached her. “Have you been making the offerings every day?”
“And you’ve been saying the prayer?” Gladys held out her hands, palm first, towards Anais as if she were warming them in front of a fire. She moved her hands up and down.
Anais shifted from one leg to the other. “OK, so the first time I may have screwed it up a bit, but since then…”
“Well, Nit’s mark is definitely on you. What have you been praying for?”
Anais stared at Gladys as if she had grown another head.
“I’m 300lbs if I’m an ounce and you ask what I’m praying for? I want to be thin!”
“Wow…300lbs…you can go for a long time before…”
“Oh, nothing…nothing. Have you been weighing yourself every day?”
Anais broke eye contact.
“Well, maybe not every day…” Anais shuffled about again.
Gladys’s lip curled “Let me guess: you just weighed yourself today and you didn’t notice any change.”
“With your highly accurate bathroom scale!”
“It’s a relatively nice model…”
“You idiot! You probably weren’t even weighing yourself before you came here. You don’t have any idea how much you may have lost!”
But Gladys was beyond that, the priestess stepped up until her face was inches from Anais’s face. “Be a priestess they said! Meet all kind of interesting people they said! You probably think that losing a few pounds is the whole point!”
Anais glared at her.
“OK, so maybe more than a few pounds…but the point is not to lose weight, the point is power!”
Despite herself, Anais was interested. “What sort of power?”
“Would you like a body like Angelina Jolie when you’re done losing all that weight?”
“Weeeell yes, actually, that would be nice.”
“How about a better paying job?” Gladys continued.
“That would be good too.”
“And a boyfriend? How about a hottie as a boy-toy?”
“Come to think of it, that would be good too.” Anais’s face hardened “but one thing that would be really nice is to see that Claris get what she deserves.”
Gladys stopped and considered this. “You know, normally, people don’t get to that point for a while, but yeah, you could get that too.”
“So what do I have to do?”
“Just keep sacrificing and saying your prayers like a good girl.” Gladys took Anais’s arm and guided her towards the door. “Before you know it things will change.”
* * *
“Congratulations to our new manager!”
A slimmer Anais clasped her hands and smiled. There was general applause, except for Claris, in the back, who had just lost her job to Anais.
Anais smiled sweetly at the crowd, though she was looking at Claris when she did it. After the general hubbub died down, Anais made her way to Claris.
“So, how’s the love-life?” Claris had broken up with her boyfriend less than a week earlier. She scowled at Anais.
“Enjoy the promotion – it won’t last once they see how worthless as a manager!” Claris stalked off.
* * *
When Anais came into the temple this time, Gladys was up on a stool holding a towel to the statue of nit. There was a strange sound, as if someone were blowing their nose. Gladys looked disgusted and tossed the towel, which was now covered in some sort of green goo, into a nearby urn.
“What are you doing?” Anais asked, curious despite herself.
Gladys jumped a bit, became unsteady, then fell off the stool with a muffled “oof.” She hastily got to her feet and replied, “Oh, nothing…nothing…just polishing the old statue of Nit!”
Anais heard the sound of people talking and noticed that there was a TV on top of the altar. She tried to walk up to it, but Gladys ran to interpose herself between Anais and the set.
“I think you missed a spot,” Anais said, pointing to the statue.
“What?” Gladys turned to look.
Anais darted around Gladys and noticed a DVD player. She hit the eject button just as Gladys was turning around. “Hey!”
Anais looked at the DVD.
“’Terms of Endearment?’ I wouldn’t have thought you were the type.”
Just then there was a muffled imprecation, as if a child had just had a favorite toy taken from it.
Gladys sighed and pointed to the statue. “It’s not for me, it’s for him.” A muffled sob could be heard.
“Nit the god of blood likes to watch…chick flicks?!” Anais asked.
“Was there something you wanted?” Gladys asked angrily.
“What?” Anais responded.
“Why did you come here?” Gladys said.
“I’m running out of fat,” Anais said.
“How am I going to keep all these projects going when I don’t have anything to sacrifice?”
“Oh…” Gladys got up. “I’ve been waiting for this day…when you finally realize that all the stuff you’ve been getting isn’t free. The great god Nit wants blood!” Gladys leveled an imperious finger at Anais.
“Yeah, yeah, you said that the first time. Can I use someone else’s fat?”
Gladys looked impatient. “No. Nit will only take fat from you. And before you ask, the answer is no: you can’t use vegetable oil or chicken fat or anything else like that. It has to be from you from your body for Nit to accept it.”
“Couldn’t I just eat more?”
“You can try.”
Anais looked thoughtful.
“Look: sooner or later you are going to have to choose: either give up the perks you’ve been getting or start offering blood; but I do have some good news!”
Anais looked hopeful. “What’s that?”
“The blood doesn’t have to be yours!”
“Just what are you suggesting?”
“What does it sound like, genius? You can sacrifice people to Nit!” Before Anais could say anything Gladys added “and when you do a person, it means a lot of blood. It can last you for a whole month!”
“Couldn’t I just use my own blood?” Anais said weakly.
“You can try, but everyone else seems to use other people.”
“That’s an awful lot of people…”
Gladys looked thoughtful “Well, not when you compare it to the total population.”
“Haven’t you had some people say no?”
“Every now and then…come on. You must know someone you want to get rid of.”
Anais immediately thought of Claris.
“Aren’t the police on your case?”
“For some strange reason, no, they aren’t. Maybe it has something to do with freedom of religion.”
“What would I do with the body?”
“Oh, you can just bring it by the temple, toss it on the altar and voila! Taken care of!”
“Do you do this a lot?”
“Not a whole lot: maybe twice a week. Three times a week tops!”
“Fine!” Gladys threw up her hands. “Don’t listen to me. I don’t know why I bother!” Gladys popped her gum and sat back down with her magazine. Anais stared at her.
“Don’t you feel, you know, guilty about all this?”
“Why? I’m not the one going around killing people!”
Anais stormed out of the temple.
* * *
Gladys looked up, truly surprised by this latest development. Anais was leading a full sized cow into the temple.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“You said Nit wanted blood and that it didn’t have to be mine.”
“I meant human blood!”
“You didn’t say it had to be human.”
Gladys reluctantly helped Anais lead the cow to the altar.
“Here, put this on.” Gladys said, handing Anais a red robe.
“Is that really necessary?”
“Sacrifices go better with mumbo-jumbo,” she said haughtily. Anais sighed and put the robe on over her clothes. Gladys looked like she was going to say something when she shrugged and handed Anais a dagger. Anais got a ‘deer in the headlights look’ and Gladys said “it’s your sacrifice…”
Anais gripped the dagger uncertainly and looked at the cow. The animal looked back with bland indifference.
“Don’t forget to say the words.” Gladys prompted.
Closing her eyes, Anais intoned “In the name of Nit, I sacrifice unto thee!” Anais brought down the dagger. There was a loud clang. Anais opened one eye.
“How could you miss?!” Gladys said in an exasperated voice.
“Moo” the cow interjected.
“And if you broke that dagger, you’re buying me a new one!”
Grasping the weapon with both hands, Anais raised the blade above her head.
“In the name of Nit, I sacrifice unto thee!”
She brought the blade down and managed to connect this time. Anais and Gladys were showered with blood.
“Isn’t it supposed to disappear in a burst of green flame or something?” Anais said turning to Gladys.
“I think Nit rejected the sacrifice.” Gladys said flatly.
“So how do we clean this up?”
“What’s this we stuff?” Gladys stomped off.
* * *
“You missed a spot.”
Anais looked around and located the stain. She walked over, carrying a bucket and brought a sponge out to wipe up the spill.
“So, ummm, what does this mean?” Anais asked in a resigned voice.
Gladys popped her gum and responded sweetly, “What do you think, Einstein?”
Anais dropped the sponge into the bucket, “We need to use human blood.”
“You – you need to use human blood in your sacrifices!”
Anais stared glumly at the bloody water in the bucket.
* * *
To be or not to be, that was the question. Put another way: could Anais kill another human being?
She remembered reading somewhere how even soldiers during a battle would shoot over the heads of the enemy: homicide did not come naturally. Of course, Anais had a much more personal grudge. The thing was that fantasizing about killing someone was one thing, but actually doing it was another.
When Anais looked at her old and new lives there was no question that she should 86 Claris. Before, her apartment overlooked the dumpster for the complex. Now, it had a wonderful view of the city. Before, she had a dead-end job, now she had a career. Before, she was alone in the world, now she had a beautiful lover who, while not smart, was very caring and dutiful.
And then there was Claris. She felt like she could give up all the other perks that Nit had gotten her except for having to go back to being Claris’s punching bag. The thought of the woman’s sneer or verbal jabs made her want to throw up while her heart thundered in her ear. Imagining Claris’s grin was enough to make Anais start pacing back and forth.
But could she kill her?
* * *
Anais was out trying to build up the gumption to capture Claris, when she passed a coffee shop. Looking through the window she saw Sheryl, who was studying something intently on the table in front of her. Anais wandered into the shop and approached the table. At that moment, Sheryl cried out triumphantly, “Triple word score!”
The man who was sitting across from her said “’flurndebits’ is not a real word!”
Narrowing her eyes, Sheryl asked “Is that an official challenge?”
“Well then, be my guest!” Sheryl pushed a dictionary towards the guy. He leafed through it then looked up angrily.
“This can’t be right!”
“It’s Webster’s, read it and weep.”
The guy got angrily to his feet and left. Sheryl sniggered.
“What was that all about?” Anais inquired.
Sheryl looked up “Oh, hi Anais!” Sheryl looked over at the guy who had been playing scrabble with her. “Him? Just some sore loser.”
Anais sat down across from Sheryl “I need to talk to you about Nit.”
“What about Nit?” Sheryl said, narrowing her eyes and placing her hand lightly on the dictionary.
“When you told me about him, you never mentioned having to sacrifice people!” Anais whispered angrily.
“Oh that.” Sheryl looked relieved. “Well, it’s just the price you have to pay for power.” Sheryl absentmindedly starting putting away the scrabble tiles.
“But where do you find…you know…” Anais hissed “…your sacrifices?”
“Oh, those…you know, that never seems to be a problem.” Sheryl said lightly. The man who had lost the game of scrabble was glaring at her over a cup of coffee.
“But don’t you…you know…feel guilty?”
“No, why should I?” Sheryl said, looking up quizzically at Anais.
“Well, who gave you the right to choose who will live and who will die?”
“The same people that decreed that I couldn’t spell: no one.” Sheryl said.
“And you’re OK with that answer?” Anais said, her mouth hanging open in surprise.
“Sure, why wouldn’t I be?” Sheryl asked.
“For one thing, how do you decide who to sacrifice?”
“Oh, that’s easy! Anybody who challenges me…I mean, anyone that’s unworthy!” Sheryl had the decency to shift her eyes as she said this.
“But how do you figure out who is worthy? I mean everyone is unworthy to somebody.”
“Ah, but they’re not me!” Sheryl sat back as if she had scored a point.
“That’s it? That’s your justification for ending someone’s life? They’re not you?” Anais implored.
“Pretty much.” Sheryl said.
“Isn’t that a pretty shallow answer?”
“Look, people die all the time, so they may as well die for me.”
Anais opened and shut her mouth twice then managed “That’s pretty selfish.”
“I didn’t see any of them coming to help me when I was having problems!” Before Anais could say anything more, Sheryl got up “Now, if you will excuse me.” Sheryl left.
Anais sat staring at the chair that Sheryl had left. After a time, the guy who had been playing Sheryl came over and said “Would you like to play a game of scrabble?” Just then, Sheryl came back and scooped up the scrabble set.
“Oh…nuts” the man said then turned to leave. Anais left a few minutes later, dragging her monkey wrench.
* * *
Anais hefted the monkey wrench as she watched Claris get out of her car. She was trying to figure out a way to get close enough to use the thing when the other woman headed for the elevator. Sticking to the shadows, Anais waited for Claris to get into the elevator.
With the wrench dragging on the ground behind her, Anais went up to the bank of elevators and hit the call key. When the door opened an elderly couple left the elevator and gave her monkey wrench an odd look, but Anais ignored them and hit the button for Claris’s floor.
When she got to the right floor, she trudged over to Claris’s door and rang the bell. Brandishing the wrench for a strike, the door opened.
“Are you here to fix the sink?” asked the woman who answered the door.
“Erm, no,I was looking for Claris Martin.”
“Oh, she’s in 6C, this is 6B.”
Anais trudged down along to 6C and rang the doorbell.
A muffled “just a minute” came from the other side of the door. Anais raised the wrench again. The door opened.
“Anais! I knew you must have gotten a second job to afford that car! But I think you want Rose down in 6B – she’s the one with the broken sink.”
Anais swung the wrench, but Claris stepped out of the way. This resulted in Anais tumbling into Claris’s apartment. “What ugly drapes!” The swing had left Anais a bit winded.
“Yeah, I’ll bet your place is featured in ‘Better Homes and Gardens.’ What are you doing here? Have you finally snapped under all the pressure?”
“No, I need to sacrifice for a cult I joined. It’s to ensure that my good fortune continues.” Anais hefted the wrench again and advanced towards Claris.
“I knew there was no way you had lost that weight on your own! And that promotion was totally bogus! Fortunately for me I am versed in the martial arts as part of my mean bitch persona!”
Anais swung the wrench but only managed to connect with a table lamp. Claris responded with an axe kick but hit a coffee table. Claris jumped up and down on one foot, holding the wounded one in her hands.
“Would you please hold still? I’m having enough problems with the whole morality of the situation!” Anais hefted the big wrench again.
“Yeah, right, blob! I’m sure you spent a good 5 seconds thinking it over and 5 minutes trying to pick out the right wrench!”
“You are so mean!” Anais said, managing to clip Claris’s head with another swing from the wrench. With a crash, Claris fell to the floor, stunned.
“That wasn’t so hard.” Anais surveyed the living room. There were broken lamps and various items on the floor. “Nothing to it!”
* * *
Anais stepped out into the hallway of the apartment building, lifting Claris in a fireman’s carry. As she was passing 6B the door opened and the woman from before peered out. Startled, Anais stopped and looked back.
“She was always playing her music too loud.” The woman shut the door to her apartment. Anais shrugged and continued.
Getting onto the elevator she pushed the button for the garage. When the door opened, there were already three people in the elevator. Anais clumsily shuffled in with her burden.
To allay the suspicions of the other passengers Anais supplied “She’s had a bit too much to drink.”
The elevator arrived at the garage and Anais got out. She shuffled over to where her car was parked. Setting Claris down, Anais rummaged for her keys. She got some curious looks from people as they passed on their way to the elevators.
Finally Anais found her car keys, opened the trunk, and heaved Claris in.
It was then that she realized that she had left her monkey wrench in Claris’s apartment.
Shaking Claris a bit Anais asked “Where are your keys?” Claris groaned a bit but did not respond. Anais was reduced to going through her pockets.
Claris chose that moment to wake up.
“What are you doing with your hands in my pants?”
“Trying to find your keys. I left my monkey wrench in your apartment.”
“Oh, well, you could have just asked.” Claris regarded Anais with crossed eyes. “You’re not one of –those- are you?”
“No! I’m just trying to sacrifice you to a blood god so I can keep my ill-gotten material possessions!”
“Oh…OK then.” Claris collapsed back and started snoring. Anais slammed the trunk closed.
* * *
“This better be good…” Gladys started then noticed that Anais was carrying a body. “Oh…” Anais pushed past her, Claris over her shoulder.
“On the altar?” Anais asked.
“Well, duh! Yes, on the altar!”
Anais shuffled into the temple proper and dumped Claris. The statue of the god Nit seemed hungry.
“When did you add those?” Anais asked, pointing to two flaming urns.
“Nice touch, aren’t they?” Gladys smiled. “I picked them up at Home Depot.”
Claris groaned and Gladys looked over at her. “I’ll get the robes.”
“Where…am I?” Claris moaned from the altar. Anais shuffled over to her.
“This doesn’t…look…like a hospital.” Claris complained.
“Er…it’s one of those religious establishments.”
“A…hospital…wouldn’t have those…cheap…urns…”
“I heard that!” Gladys stood in the doorway, a robe in one hand, a dagger gripped in her other. “They weren’t that cheap!”
“No…” Claris whispered “…taste.”
“Here, stab her before I do!” Gladys shoved the robe and dagger towards Anais.
Anais donned the robe and took the dagger.
“What…cheap…robes.” Claris said, struggling to get to her elbows.
“Here dear, lie down and rest!” Gladys swept Claris’s arms out from under her. Gladys glared at Anais and mouthed a “hurry up!”
Anais moved forward, clutching the dagger. Claris’s eyes fluttered. With some effort she spoke: “I’ll get your job…and your little dog too…”
Anais blinked. “I don’t have a dog.”
Claris started snoring. For such a petite woman, she was surprisingly loud. Anais raised the dagger.
“In the name of Nit, I sacrifice unto thee!”
The moment stretched on. Claris continued to snore.
* * *
Which was how Anais found herself back where she had started, holding a dagger over a bound Claris; trying to decide if she could take a life.
“Well?!” Gladys demanded.
“Are you sure there’s nothing else I could sacrifice?” Anais whined.
“No! Absolutely not!” Gladys began to hop on one foot in frustration.
“Have you guys seen…Titanic?”
* * *
Anais sat on one end of the couch, with Gladys on the other side and the statue of Nit in the middle. They passed around a bag of microwave popcorn. Though Anais never saw Nit take any, the bag seemed to have less popcorn after coming from Nit. Occasionally, Anais could hear a muffled “boo hoo!” from the statue.
“What are you going to do about Claris?” Gladys asked, her arms crossed.
“I’m sure Nit will take care of it…if he wants to see Twilight: New Moon.” There was an otherworldly grunt of agreement. Gladys glared at Nit for moment, then shifted about in her seat.
“At some point you’ll run out of movies!”
“Fine, I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it. In the meantime, pass the popcorn.”