LION'S THORN

Payne stared up at the moon passively. Another night had come; time for another deplorably easy victim.

She stepped back inside from the balcony, and ran her hands down the smooth flesh of her bare abdomen and hips. Lights from outside filled the spacious room, and catered to the shadowplay on her naked form. Time was no enemy tonight, or any night for that matter. Prey came to her on a silver platter, like some cruel gift from the gods.

"My kingdom for a challenge..."

The desert -- there was a thought. To slither in its malevolent sands like the snake; eyes as frigid as the nights and blistering spirit like the vagrant sun. To lie, cruciform, before mighty Horus and cry out for his treacherous gifts. How she would laugh! Knowing, at last, she had won; the tether by which she was bound, subconsciously, to the "will to live" had been severed clean.

But there were no gods to hear her insane pleas, only her mind working against her.

" 'My kingdom for a horse...' "

Piercings twinkled across the tattoo-mottled form as it passed through the window's glow. In lurking shadow she padded, feeling the Tiger stalk within her. The need to scream boiled inside her, and, as agility became her suitor, Payne bounded across the room. Snatching up her knife, she halted between the French doors of the balcony, bathing her pallid skin in Evening's light. With celerity, Payne carved snake-like trenches down the lengths of her arms' underbellies.

"My kingdom..."

Blood surged forth, and she threw her arms above her head, issuing forth a scream that even Horus, on the opposite end of the earth, would turn to hear.