Annette was too afraid to even move as The Builder proceeded to take a step at a time before her. She remained on her knees until they were close enough to her.
Then, The Builder lifted up one of their feet, and placed it on her face. Within seconds, they roughly pushed her to the ground.
With a yelp, Annette hit the floor for at least the third time. As she turned to her side, their knife was shoved in front of her face.
“There’s a hell of an explanation for what’s wrong with me, Netty-kins,” they hissed at her. “But tell me: How old are you?”
This seemingly random question made Annette even more confused than ever. “Not that it’s any of your business, but I’m over four hundred years old.”
“Only four hundred?” The Builder snorted as they began to gradually walk around her. “That’s pathetic.”
“Like you’ve lived longer than I have? Fat chance.” Annette was trying her best to retain her composure, but her deranged spouse seemed to take humor in her words.
Once again, The Builder pushed her down to the ground when she tried to get up. Annette was disgusted at how sharp and jagged their toenails were.
They gave another dark chuckle. “Well, now isn’t this going to be a hell of a mindfuck for you.” Here they gestured to their bandaged form, as if they were showing it off.
“This here? This body? I’ll admit it, I’ve probably only had it for a little while by your standards. But I myself? That which I embody?”
The Builder lifted their knife up, licking any blood left on it. The way they did this made Annette shudder, knowing what that blade had been used for.
“So? What the hell do you embody? Cheap booze and menthol?” Her answer was delayed by them sucking their knife clean. Then, The Builder crouched down to her eye level.
“No. Something better. I embody something which has existed since the beginning of time itself. I’ve existed since the moment that one hungry bitch ate that apple!”
Annette’s facial expression indicated she still didn’t get it. To this, The Builder pressed their hand to their forehead, and shook their head in a bizarre mix of amusement and disappointment.
“Let’s see the best way I can put this…Oh, dear, where to begin with you, and when I came into your life.”
After about a second or two, they pulled their hand back and snapped their fingers, declaring, “Oh, I know!” Once more, they bent down to get a closer look at her.
“Remember that crusty old bastard who used to live with you? The one who offed himself with Valium and booze?” Annette just nodded. “…I was there.”
“What?!” Annette remembered that day well, remembering when she found the corpse in the atelier. “No, you weren’t.”
“Not getting it, are you? Oh, what is else is there in that pitiful cesspool you call a life? Oh!”
This time, they seemed even more gleeful in speaking. “The time your nephew slept with another man? A man who was with that disease-riddled Korean skank under the delusion of ‘love’? I was there.
“When that steroid-abusing fag hung himself in the basement, I was there. When your fat bastard of a husband blew his brains out, I was there! When your hubby after him died in a shootout, you guessed it, I was there!”
Now Annette really didn’t know what to make of all this. Still, she grit her teeth and tried to retort back at them.
“If I had my ring with me right now, I would-” But she was quickly silenced by their knife again.
“You’ll what? Banish me to some fancy-schmancy dimension? Make me deal with an army of Diamandas? Like that’s going to intimidate me. I’ve encountered much worse than them.”
She was about to ask what they meant, before they turned back and outstretched their arms.
“I was there for all of it, my dear. I was there for the Crusades. I was there for the Salem Witch trials. I was there for the Nanjing Massacre, and the World Wars! I’ve been there for it all, baby!”
Here they bent down again, and let out a low, menacing giggle. Then they snapped their head back to face in her direction, before the rest of their body followed.
“Every war, every murder, every robbery, every rape…I’ve been there for it all. And if you were wondering, yes. I do know about Mister Chou.”
Immediately after the name left their mouth, Annette began to shiver uncontrollably. She tried to get to her feet again, but barely did so before they stalked over and shoved her down again.
“I know it all. And you damn well better cooperate, otherwise…Well, let’s just say things will be even harder for you in this place.”
Annette watched through blurring eyesight as The Builder’s head snapped into a ninety-degree angle, accompanied with a sickening crack. She tried to gather whatever courage she had left, and finally stood to her feet in a confident pose.
“There’s no way you can make it any harder for me! I’ve been through more than you can imagine!”
Her declaration didn’t seem to deter them the least bit. They just crossed their arms and stood firm.
“Don’t you get cocky with me, sugar tits. What could you, a puny mixed-blood hybrid, do against the likes of me?”
They turned to face her properly now. Lifting their foot up, Annette caught sight of two letters carved in the sole. They repeated with the other, revealing two different letters.
“…’in se’? You’re going to have to clarify. My Latin’s a bit rusty.”
Now The Builder no longer appeared to be amused. “Not a fast learner, are you, dear? Oh sure, you’ve dealt with crooked cops, and criminal gangs, and everything in between!
“But those were simply watered-down versions of what I am. What could you possibly do against the real thing? How could you possibly get away with destroying me?”
Now they uncrossed their arms, and twirled their knife in between their fingers. “You’ve dealt with such insignificant versions of evil, that it’s laughable. What then, now that you’re the wife of the real thing?”
“‘The real thing’? I’d ask what you were on, but I already have a feeling what it is.” Annette tried walking backwards towards the bedroom door, but The Builder wasn’t having any of it. Flinging their knife, they somehow managed to close the door with it.
“Quite simple, honey,” they said to her as they now wiggled their freed fingers. “What you’re not understanding is…What you’re married to?”
They paused once more. “‘Malum in se’. Evil in itself.” The Builder then registered Annette’s new, aghast facial expression.
“Ohhh, you get it now! Yes, my dear! Your spousey-wousey is evil itself! Isn’t that marvelous?”
Now The Builder put their hands behind their back, striking a coy pose. Annette was speechless as she began shaking her head no repeatedly. She reached back behind her, and pushed the door open.
Strangely, The Builder didn’t go after her, choosing instead to taunt her from where they stood.
“Go ahead, sweetie! Run away! Just run away from your problems like you always have! I’m just gonna come find you again, like I always have!”
Annette tried to cover her ears to block out their jeering. She ran up a flight of stairs and hoped they didn’t see her.
She kept running until she was certain they were out of earshot. To her relief, she was close by to a hidden passage.
As quietly as she could, Annette opened the door, and slipped inside.