This is my latest prose poem, one of my Gothic Vignettes, if you will. It started off as a fluff piece but turned dark fast, so I changed the name of the character to Azraelle, a feminization of Azrael, the angel of death. I have used this character before in my poem “Black Hymeneal”, which also started off as a harmless fluff piece then turned dark. Recently I recalled a version of the character appearing in a very vivid dream back in the 90’s. Below is a rendition of Life-in-Death from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by author / illustrator Mervin Peake (of “Gormenghast” fame), which is a close approximation of how she appeared in the dream. The Azraelle of my poem and the following story has darker hair and more flesh, sort of like Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, only not so cute.
And so, without further ado, I give you “The Toilette of Azraelle the Litch Queen”…
Azraelle rises with the sunset and performs her nightly ablutions using a lachrymal vase, brimful of tears culled from the doleful eyes of children she has orphaned. Steeping in her sitz-bath, she moons over abattoirs and scaffolds as she drifts off again to the cacophony of pain and horror which wafts through the vents from the dungeons below.
A tugging at her mane breaks her reverie as a vodou zombie haltingly drags a comb through her ebon locks; with a forcefulness that belies her cadaverous appearance, the zombie grips and pulls the osseous comb fashioned from the phalanges of a minikin hand.
Her undead eyes peer into the inky lustre of Azraelle’s tresses while her ghastly noggin slowly bobs as if hovering at the pulling vortex of the black hole that is the quintessence of Azraelle’s edacious anima. Otherwise catatonic, she does not even register a wince as she is buffeted with an oath and a handful of salt by her grim mistress for clumsily forging through a snag in the sable cascade before her.
As the zombie lumbers back to her cell, licking and snapping her chops like a dog with peanut butter in its mouth, Azraelle saunters over to her vanity to “put her face on”. The maintenance of her awesome visage is of the utmost concern for our vainglorious Litch Queen. Her routine involves a poultice of mixt martyr’s blood and ashes to blanch her ashen face. The latter of which she oft times uses like kohl around her large black eyes to give her that hollow haunted look; the former of which she also mixes with a tallow wax made from the rendered offal from her evening’s slaughter to color her livid lips, the remainder she then has her minions employ in the fabrication of the candles which illuminate her tenebrous chamber.
Seated in her velvet cushioned bench, she reaches for a vial with long bloodless fingers, her rubicund talons clinking on the adjacent mirror glass as her bony digits close around the tiny bottle. Scooping a few droplets within her sharpened ruby nails, she dabs a masking fragrance onto her long pale throat, suggestive less of a swan than the stretched gullet of the hanged man.
Catching a glimpse of herself in the reflective surface, she pauses to smile, large red lips retracting to reveal what the philosopher Seneca called her “eager teeth”. For she whom the poet Horace once referred to as pallida Mors is the reason your grandsires used to cover mirrors in the death room. Woe betide the unwary soul which flew to the uncovered looking glass, for it is she whom they would find looking back from the other side, hungry Azraelle and her gaping maw of eternity.
Painted and perfumed, she moves on to her armoir to select the evening’s cerements. Thumbing past the dresses in her closet, she muses “Black for dark deeds? Red for bloody? Nay, let it be white, for I shall turn it red by the end of this night!”
And so ends the toilette of Azraelle the Litch Queen, and thus begins her nightly hunt for a hapless soul to swallow.