The hissing of her serpents echoed in the stone chamber. He’d followed all the clues: the puzzle games on the open internet, the more difficult tests that came first through the dark web, and then, later, through the mail.
The mail! Seriously! Who even used the postal service anymore? Well, other than Amazon and politicians, anyway.
But after months – years – of Facebook friendship, Discord chats, and late-night text marathons, he’d worn her down.
“I want to meet you,” he’d said for the seventy-millionth time.
“Find me if you can,” she’d challenged.
And he had.
The legends said people froze because she was hideous. But she wasn’t. She was power embodied: sinuous beauty, with eyes that could penetrate your soul, legs that were long, toned, and tanned, and a voice that coiled itself around you almost as tangibly as a warm scarf.
He couldn’t help but stare.
“What, forgotten how to use your words?” she teased.
He could only nod dumbly.
She rolled her eyes. All of them. Not just those on her face. “It’s not polite to stare,” she said, a note of sadness coloring her tone. “Didn’t your grandmother ever warn you that your face would freeze that way?”
A drop of drool pooled in the corner of his mouth.
“She was right.”