For Better or Worse

“For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…”

I run through vows through my head every time it gets hard. I twist my wedding ring round and around on my finger as I wait in my parked car, waiting for my chance to make things better.  

We only met because I didn’t want to be alone on Valentine’s Day six years ago. One of my friends said she knew a guy named Corey who was single and ready to mingle. I figured at worst it’d be a great story- my horrible blind date on Valentine’s day.  

Corey arrived almost ten minutes late, nearly tripped over his shoes and ended up spilling my wine all over the front of my dress, and apologized a dozen times while I fled to the bathroom to dab up the worst of it. But after I managed to clean myself up and before I could make an excuse to get out of there, he explained he was late because he’d gotten distracted by a busker down the street playing his guitar, and the music was so nice he just had to stop and listen. 

We ended up ditching the restaurant right then to go check out the busker out. Corey loaned me his jacket to cover up the worst of the wine stain. Thankfully the older man was still performing, and as he strummed away some old love song, I found my hand intertwined with Corey’s.  

We stayed up past midnight, strolling through the park, talking about everything we could think of under the moon. There was a natural chemistry I just could not deny. We talked about college, places we wanted to see, what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives, our favorite movies and songs… it was like I’d known him for my entire life. By the end of it we were at his apartment and ended up falling asleep on the couch to whatever we were binging on Netflix. I can’t remember. But I remember hearing his soft breathing and never feeling more content.  

That dress was completely ruined, I was never able to get the stain completely out, but I still have it. It’s a good memory.  

We’ll be married for two years come August. Lived together for four. Corey and I… are just meant to be.  

Someone passes by my van, doesn’t even take a second look. Ten minutes later, when the sun’s going down, that’s when someone stops.  

“Hey, you all right, miss?”

The man who comes too close ends up being middle aged, tall, probably worked too long at the office and was just on his home now. I smiled and replied the lie that I’d gotten down pat-

“I think I’m lost. My phone’s out of battery, can I use yours? I need to call my husband to have him give me directions.”  

He takes another step closer, like a fly buzzing too close to a spider’s web, and I move fast. The first hit over the head stuns him, enough for me to get out and drag him into the backseat. Another hit and he’s floating in and out of it while I duct tape shut his mouth and hog tie his wrists and ankles. It takes less than a minute, and the street’s empty so no one sees my evil act. People are finishing up dinner with their families, getting ready to put the young kids to bed and convincing the older ones to help clear the table.  

I would be doing that too, at least the finishing up dinner part. Corey and I hadn’t had kids before it happened. We were trying though. I want two, Corey wants… wanted, as many as we could have until we’d have to be airlifted supplies from the grocery store.  

Corey never got to know his birth family, he was adopted when he was just a few weeks old by two people who loved him to pieces. He never bothered to look into them until I brought it up a little over a year ago. After all, we do want kids. It’d be important to know your family medical history for that, and if there’s a chance to figure that out, you should take it. It took less time than we thought, Corey’s birth mother still lived in the area. I offered to go with him that day, but he declined. Said this was something he wanted to do himself.

When he came home, Corey was a different man. He didn’t even say anything to me, just locked himself in his study. I heard him crying. He wouldn’t tell me what his mother told him, only that if I chose to leave him now, he’d understand.  

I now have a secret staircase that leads from the garage to the basement. I dragged my newest victim down there, who was now awake and did his best to ask what I was doing through his gag. I stopped learning their names after the third one. It’s so much easier when I don’t know who they were, what their lives were like, who their family was, who is going to be on the news pleading for any scrap of information about their lost loved ones. I did take off his gag though, so I could hear his answer when I asked him this:

“Do you want me to finish you off now?”

God, I wish for once they’d say yes. Only one did, an elderly woman. I think she knew what was coming and didn’t want to live through it. But this one didn’t, he just shook his head and started babbling about his family and to just let him go, that he wouldn’t tell anyone.

But I couldn’t. I just sawed him free from his bondage before going to the cage. By the time I undid the lock, the man was on his feet, inching back towards the staircase, ready to make a break for it.

He froze when he heard the thump of the beast falling down from the ceiling. He crawled out of the cage not a moment later, bright red eyes trained on his victim. There was no hope now. I just slipped into that cage and closed my eyes. I don’t have the stomach to watch, when he kills it’s not quick. Like a kid pulling the wings off a butterfly, the beast pulls off each of the man’s limbs first with a snap and a pop. The screaming goes on for so long my ears start to ring. It’s still going on while the beast crunches on the detached limbs, swallowing them with gusto before going to the next one. The screaming still goes on until he’s pulled in half, then all I hear is the tearing of flesh and spilling of blood on the cement floor.

Corey didn’t change overnight after his thirtieth birthday. It was slow. He first stopped going outside, which is why I thought he was so pale all the time. Then the fur started sprouting along his spine, I found teeth in the bathroom sink but saw he wasn’t missing any in his mouth, just that they were so much sharper now. He was covered in fur when he finally cracked told me, told me of his family’s curse that falls on the men. Women can be carriers, which is how his mother knew and gave him up. She couldn’t make herself care for something that would soon become the bloodthirsty beast of her worst nightmares.  

He grew so tall he hit the ceiling. His back sprouted leathery wings that span several feet, grew claws from his feet and hands that can hook into the walls so he can clamber about. His maw was filled with those horrifying teeth, and his eyes… they’re no longer his eyes, always full of sensitivity and light. They’re the eyes of the devil.  

My heart broke when I filed his missing person’s report last year, claiming he went for a walk at the local park and never came back. My mother’s trying to find the right way to ask if I’m going to declare him dead, but I won’t.  

Because Corey’s not dead. He’s the beast in my basement, locked up to protect him.

After he finished devouring his newest meal, he ambled up to me, rumbling like a cat’s purr and resting his head in my lap. After a good meal, he’s more of himself. I run my hands through his furry head, stroking his leathery ears and placing a kiss on his blood stained snout. Many times Corey sunk his teeth into me and left scars, I can’t leave the house without long sleeves and I certainly can’t wear a bathing suit. Strangers would probably assume I was attacked by a dog, but family and friends would know I don’t own a dog. It would bring up too many questions.  

Corey doesn’t bite me anymore though. He knows who I am.

He noses at my stomach, which is just starting to grow. I can wear loose fitting clothing for a bit more before I start having to answer uncomfortable questions, but most of me just doesn’t care what people will think.  

“I think it’s going to be a girl, Corey, I can just feel it,” I said as I knelt on the floor, letting him wrap his wings around me like a cozy blanket, “How does Lacey sound for a name?” He hums pleasantly, his claws carefully combing through my hair. His way of telling me he agrees.

I miss Corey’s voice, and I miss being able to walk through the park with him, and I definitely miss being able to cuddle with him without having to scrub the bloodstains out of my clothes afterwards. 

But when I said ‘for better or for worse’ during our vows, I meant it.  

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