Dust Baby

D.M. Rowland

Editor's note: The following story contains adult language and situations.

It was a hot night.

The windows were open but still there was no air, just damp, fetid smoke everywhere. The girls all had their cigarettes, but it wasn't that. It was all around us these days, inside the houses and out.

"Turn the fucking fan on."

One of the girls -- I think it was Becky -- got up and flicked the switch, but it made no difference. It just moved the heat around. We all sat around, listening to nothing. It was always like that, quiet, before we opened.

"Is there any more liquor?"

Of course there was more liquor -- we never ran out. That was one of my jobs. Every night I had to make sure that there was a goatskin of spirit in each of the rooms, plus plenty more in the lounge.

"I hope you're not going to drink all this yourself."

The guy who sold it to us made the same joke every day when I went to pick it up. I just smiled. If I smiled real nice then he'd load it onto the donkey for me. That way I could get back faster.

I hated being outside in the summer.

Within minutes the thin cotton shift I wore would be clinging to me as the sweat covered my body and ran down my back. I had no shoes, and the hard-baked mud of the roads hurt my feet. The streets were filled with shit and at that time of year the stench was nauseating. More nauseating than usual, I should say.


I handed over a skin of the warm spirit and waited my turn as the girls passed it around. The taste was foul; the bitter liquid burned my throat and the inside of my cheeks. I don't know what he distilled to make that crap, but whatever it was, it was bad. I can't imagine the other girls liked it much either, but it did its job. It dulled things a bit.

"Is it time yet?"

Ada wasn't much older than me, but she was always impatient to get going. I swear she enjoyed that fucking freak show. I went and stood by the open window, watching the street. It wasn't time yet. The only people out there were the regular girls, wandering up and down in their tight skirts and tighter smiles. Regular girls, who fucked regular men.

"No," I said. "Not yet."

I stayed by the window. It wasn't really any cooler there but I told myself that I could feel a breeze. I'd been to the sea once, when I was younger, and there had been a breeze. Salty and crisp, it had clung to my hair for days after I'd left. I told myself that I was there now, although in truth I don't suppose it would have been any cooler. Everywhere was hot and dark these days.

We always waited in the kitchen until we opened, then we'd move into the lounge. I suppose there must have been about eight girls there that night, sitting around the table.

I know that Leah was there.

I loved Leah. She had red hair and a great laugh. A real party girl.

She was the one who'd brought me in.

She'd found me one day, in the street, dying.

Up until then I'd been living at Low's Laundry, carrying and this and that to earn my keep. It wasn't a bad job -- it was clean, and I always smelt of the jasmine from the soap. It was going okay but they were short-handed so they'd asked me if I'd work some extra shifts. I didn't mind. I got paid in food so I wasn't going to say no. I'm a scrawny little thing.

Then there was an accident.

I was helping with the pressing, working the material with a hot iron, but I left it on too long and burned one of the Dom's garments by mistake.

It was just an accident.

I said I'd mend it myself, or at least try and explain when he came in, but Madame Low was furious.

"You stupid girl," she yelled at me, "look what you've done!" She'd screamed and ranted like a crazy woman, and then given me a proper beating. Not just a slap or two -- she did that often enough anyway -- but pulling my hair and kicking me all around the place. I didn't understand what her problem was at the time, but looking back I think she was scared. Scared of what the Dom might do to her. Anyhow, she really let loose on me, and I guess she must have hit me around the head with the flat iron. I didn't see it coming. Knocked me out cold.

Then she left me in the street. In amongst the camel shit and piss and all the rotting garbage, she just left me there to die.

I think I'd been there for a couple of days when Leah found me.

"Are you ok?"

I was still bleeding so she knew I wasn't dead, but I wasn't moving either. She took me home and fixed me up. Leah knew about that kind of stuff. She knew what herbs made good medicine.

"One of the perks of the job," she'd winked at me.

That was Raphael's thing. He used to teach the girls that stuff in return for cheap tricks.

It was months before my bones healed, but that’s what normal bones are like.

I was just a dust baby.

No angel blood in me.

I was never the same afterwards though. Leah said that the iron must have done some damage inside my head that we couldn't fix from the outside. She said that's why I was always a bit slow after that.

We knew when it was time to open.

First it would go quiet, when the regular houses shut for the night. Then we would open our doors, and turn on the neon signs, and wait for the noise to begin again.

Angelista it said above our house, to show that we did Dom.

Okay, so it wasn't very subtle, but it was in bright fucking neon blue. I think we were already beyond subtle.

By then the girls were drinking heavily. By then they didn't want dull, they wanted numb; some of these guys were into some fucking weird shit.

I had to go around the rooms, checking that everything was ok and that the girls had what they needed. They didn't want to be running out of towels or lube or something in the middle of a job. Fuck, we got through a lot of lube. And if the girl ran out, these guys wouldn't wait. They just carried on.

Considering they were supposed to be angels they weren't very angelic.

We called them Dom because they were Dominion.

"Good evening, ladies," Zophiel smiled as he came into the room. "I've missed you all."

That was his pet joke; he was here every night, and usually the first to arrive.

Physically, he was a typical Dom.

Over seven feet tall, dark wavy hair, with the kind of smile that made the girls wet in their pants. Regular angel material. But he treated the girls well, so he was cool. He even talked to me sometimes. I liked that.

The pure-bred Dominion weren't all bad. They were good-looking, educated, and if I'd had to pick someone to fuck it would have been one of them. Most of the girls harboured a dream that one of them was going to fall in love with her and carry her off to be his wife, but it didn't happen often.

That’s just the stuff of fairy tales.

If they were going to pick an earthly wife it was going to be some virginal holier-than-thou type, not some low-life Babylonian whore.

Most of our clients were half-breeds, and they were the ones that did all the damage. Fucking perverts, they were. And that was just the good ones.

Zadkiel was next to arrive.

Another Dom. And another one we could count on seeing most nights.

He was already drunk. He grinned at Rachel, and lurched towards her.

Rachel had been sweet on him for a while, so she took him off to her room. Not that he was any good to her -- I stood outside and listened for a while, and no matter how much she coaxed and pleaded and sucked and licked, he wasn't going to play.

In the end she left him to sleep and came back down to join the rest of the girls in the lounge. She didn't say anything though. I think she wanted them to believe that her feelings about Zad were reciprocated so that they would back off.

I didn't blame her.

She thought he was her ticket out of there, so she was going to hang on to him.

Zophiel didn't have a favourite -- he was a regular player.

He liked to hang around the lounge, chat with all the girls, and just generally have fun. He knew that all the girls were dying to go down on him, and he milked it.

That was another Dom trait -- they knew what we were thinking, and could talk to each other without saying a word.

Spooked me out at first.

I'd try and think about nothing but it's harder to do than it sounds, even for someone like me. I'd sit there thinking 'nothing nothing nothing--' and then one of them would laugh, because they knew.

I gave up trying in the end.

It wasn't something they could teach us like the medicine. You had to be one, or at least part.

The half-breeds had it.

That was one of the things that made them dangerous.

They had the abilities, but not the morals.

There were a few half-breeds in that night, so things were already a bit tense. One of the girls came running out of her room screaming, blood going everywhere

"Bastard bit me," she was sobbing. "Fucking bastard bit be. Animal!" He had put his teeth right through her shoulder. They got off on that kind of thing.

"Don't panic." Zophiel was still in the lounge, so he worked his mojo on it and she was ok, just shaken up. She sat in the corner with her smokes and a skin for ages after that, threatening to go and work in a normal house.

Plenty of girls refused to work the Dom houses, because it was riskier -- it's hard to argue with an eight-foot guy who knows what you're thinking -- but that’s why these girls got paid more.

One of the tricks had been in the lounge for a while, watching me running about and pouring drinks. I knew he was looking but I just tried to ignore it. I just figured he was new to this game, so he was probably trying to work out the set-up. I stood out from the other girls -- I had my clothes on for a start -- and I didn't bother with all that make-up and shit. He must have known what was in my head, the fact I'd never done it before, because he said he'd pay extra for me.

"Pay extra for me to do what?" I asked. I've already said that I was a bit slow.

"Fuck me," he grinned.

I laughed -- I thought he was joking. I was just a slip of a thing, whereas the girls who actually worked the house were substantially built, with good solid hips and voluptuous breasts. That wasn't by chance. There was a saying in the houses -- "Girls can fuck men but only real women can fuck Dom." Those well-developed women were the only ones who could do this work.

"I'm serious," he continued. "How much for the new girl?"

I was getting scared now, and looking around for Leah. I'd heard the stories, rumours, whatever they were, about a Dom who'd tried to fuck a petite thing like me and had practically split her in two with his monstrous cock.

He heard me thinking about it and he laughed.

"Ha! I'll be gentle with you, I promise." He winked at me, and I felt sick.

"Leah! Leah!" The more frightened I was, the more he laughed.

"Come on, just one time." He took me by the arm but I pulled back so he lifted me up over his shoulder. By then I was screaming and beating on his back but it made no difference. I was a child compared to him.

My yelling roused Zadkiel who came down into the lounge. He'd sobered up by then, and wondered what all the noise was about. As soon as he saw what was going on he was angry. He spoke out loud so I could hear.

"Put her down, you ignorant fool."

"What's your problem?" The half-breed was making towards the stairs, still carrying me. "If she works in a whorehouse, she's a whore. Or do you want first go? Is that it?" He sneered at Zadkiel, who lifted his right hand towards us. A new power I hadn't seen before; the half-breed's head snapped back. His free hand went immediately to his throat, trying to pull away something unseen that was choking him. He dropped me immediately and I scurried into the corner, sobbing and shaking. Zadkiel went on.

"Don't we have enough of the daughters of men to choose from without you wanting what you can't have? You think that because you are a giant amongst men you can defile whomever you wish? Not every living thing is your meat, half-breed."

Zadkiel was furious, and the whole house shook with the power of his voice. He dropped his hand and my attacker caught his breath.

"Get out of here." The half-breed left by the front door, cursing and swearing, still holding his neck.

Like I said before, Zad wasn't a bad guy. But in the end it wouldn't be enough to save him.

I went outside into the yard at the back of the house after that. The girls said they could cope without me for a bit and I needed a smoke.

I sat on the wall and listened to the noise coming from the streets. There was always fighting going on; sometimes between men, sometimes with the others. That night I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance, but I knew that the weather wasn't the Dominion's work. Some other choir must have been listening.

I'd been out there for a while when Japheth came along the alley. Iliked Japheth. He was sweet, and real homely. We'd been friends forever.

"How's it going?" he asked. I didn't tell him about what had happened. He got embarrassed if I talked about what went on in the house.

"Okay," I said. "What's up with you?"

"Nothing really," he shrugged. "I just couldn't sleep." I knew he must have something on his mind to be out at that time of night. I offered him a cigarette and he took one.

"It's a nice night." I looked at the sky -- heavy and black, and cloudless for a change. Japheth scrambled up and sat down on the wall next to me. He looked at his feet.

"It's my dad..." he started. Everyone knew Japheth's dad was a bit weird. He was white, all white, like he'd been bleached by the desert sun. Except for his eyes, which were the palest grey; almost silver. Japheth used to take a lot of stick about his dad. I think that's probably why we got on -- we were both a bit different, kind of outcasts.

"Oh yeah?" I said casually.

"Yeah." He still looked at his feet. "He's building this boat..." He trailed off.

"Fuck, Japheth, that's a bit out there, even for your dad." We were miles from the ocean.

"I know. And it's not some little boat that we can hide in the shed. It's enormous." He spread his arms wide in front of him to demonstrate the size of the vessel. I couldn't help myself, I had to laugh.

"Come on," I said, "you have to admit it's funny."

Japheth smiled.

"I suppose so." Then his face fell and he looked all serious again. "Although from what my dad says..."

We sat in silence then, until I heard Becky calling me back into the house.

"I have to go," I told Japheth. He put his arms around me and held me really tight.

"Goodbye," he said. And then quietly, "Please take care of yourself."

"Hey," I grinned, "you know me. Indestructible." Becky called again so I broke away and jumped down.

I could have sworn that Japheth was crying.

I ran back up the yard.

When I got inside the house I remembered that he didn't smoke.

Becky had sent for me because one of the tricks had puked on the floor in her room. I went back and forth to the kitchen with as much clean water as we could spare, but the smell was still there.

"I'll stay here for a while." Becky sat with me in the lounge, supping from a skin as I brushed her hair. She was the oldest in the house and I enjoyed listening to the stories she told. She remembered what it was like before, when the Dom kept themselves to themselves.

"There were no half-breeds then," she said, "and none of the violence that there is today." She always got a bit maudlin when she was drunk, so I took most of what she said with a pinch of salt. "All there is these days is sex and money, sex and money. It’s a wicked world we live in."

By then a couple of new clients had arrived and she was bringing the party down so I helped her to my room, to let her sleep it off.

I walked back into the lounge just as Leah and Rachel were coming down the stairs.

That’s when the front door burst open and Hell broke loose in the house.

I counted six half-breeds, dragging four goats in with them. The horns of the goats were painted gold so we knew that they were from the Temple, kept there ready to be sacrificed at the next festival.

"Come on then, you fucking whores. Look after your new customers!" I recognised a half-breed as the one who'd grabbed me earlier. They must have been watching the place for a while, to know that there were no Dom's in now.

"If we're not good enough for you, you can fuck your own idols!" they spat at us.

The goats were free now, the poor animals terrified. They were running around the place, bleating and shitting, and the girls were screaming which just made them worse.

"Come on then!" The half-breeds were yelling and laughing, pushing the animals around. "It's all you worthless cunts are good for!"

The goats started to squeal. I'd never heard anything like it before. It was louder than the pigs, much louder. Almost human but not quite.

I tried putting my hands over my ears but I could still hear everything.

By then the other girls had come running to see what the uproar was about.

Rachel was yelling at us to catch the fucking goats but most of us were too scared to be of any help, just wailing and trying to get out of the way. Leah tried to get hold of one of the animals as it ran past her, catching it by the horns. One of the half-breeds grabbed her hair and smashed her face down onto the creature's back.

"That's right, bitch. Suck it!" he screamed. There was a crunching sound as Leah's nose broke and then blood, streaming over her mouth and across the goat's hide. I wanted to get to her, to help her, but there were three half-breeds between us. I'd never have made it past them.

I was closer to the door.

I thought that if I could make it out into the street I might be able to find Zadkiel or Zophiel, or one of the others who might help us. I started to edge my way around the room.

That’s when He walked in.

He was Dom, but not one I'd ever seen before. I didn't know his name.

He walked around slowly, through all the chaos and the destruction, smiling.

He must have known what I was thinking because He stopped right in front of me, reaching out and stroking my hair. I tried to keep my head down but He lifted my chin, forcing me to look right at Him.

I thought I was going to faint, but something kept me upright. I looked Him straight in the eyes. They weren't blue like the rest of the Dom.

They were black.

He leaned down close to me and whispered in my ear.

"My name is Azazel," He said, "and this is only the beginning."

He turned then, and left the house, but the rest of the commotion still went on. Some of the half-breeds from up the street heard all the noise and came down. They actually tried to help us, hauling their brothers out of our house and away. One of them tripped over a goat and its neck was broken instantly, the wretched animal lying unnaturally twisted where it fell.

Eventually things started to calm down. Rachel managed to push one of the goats through the front door, and I helped to pull two of them past the kitchen into the yard. Becky was still drunk so it didn't upset her to carry the dead beast out and dump it in the street.

I tended to Leah's nose as best as I could.

We locked the front door, and drunk the rest of the skins. Everyone was relieved when dawn finally broke.

At a reasonable hour I offered to walk the two goats in our yard back to the Temple. It was daunting, going out on my own, but the girls in the house were winding me up, twittering and fussing. I made a collar and a leash out of some rope for each of the goats, and walked them slowly home. As it was, the streets were quiet.

By the time I got back it had started raining. Just spitting.

After that I collected the donkey and went to get the skins refilled.

"I hope you're not going to drink all this yourself," the guy who sold it to me laughed. I didn't bother smiling. I loaded the donkey myself.

On the way back to the house the heavens opened and the rain poured down. I didn't mind; it was refreshing, as though it was washing away some of the muck from the night before.

That was a month ago.

It's been raining ever since.

Eventually we had to come to the roof.

After a while we started seeing the bodies drift past -- animals; people; half-breeds; Dom. Leah screamed and screamed and then she just jumped into the water. She swam at first but the rain was too heavy, the current too strong. And there was nowhere to swim to anymore, no dust anywhere.

I watched her float away.

I'm the only one left now.

The others hung on for as long as they could but in the end it didn't do them any good.

They knew, as I know, that the waters will prevail.