A random thought I had.
Beatrice and her two sisters, Ernestine and Stella, sat on wicker chairs on the lawn. Light surrounded them. Sounds of chirping and squeaking surrounded them, along with the scent of newly born flowers.
“Beatrice, dear, will you do this knot for me?” Ernestine asked.
“In a minute,” Beatrice said. She stuck her tongue out as she completed the last stitch of her row. Some might not notice a stitch or two out of place, but Beatrice would.
“Honestly, Ernestine, how many of these have you made? Surely you can make your own knot,” Stella said without looking up from her own project.
“Of course I can.” Ernestine sniffed. “It’s just that Beatrice’s are better, and after I mussed up the last one, I thought it would be better to be safe rather than sorry.
Beatrice finished her stitch, looped the thread over on itself a few times, tied a little knot and clipped the string with her tiny scissors. A smile broke out as she studied her work. The seam looked, well, seamless. The joints met in a pleasing manner, and the colors were fit for a king.
“Are you finished?” Stella asked. She’d stopped to stare.
“Almost,” Beatrice said. She set her project down and held her hands out to Ernestine. “Here, let me.”
Ernestine’s often stricken expression melted into a smile. “Thank you.”
Beatrice took the bundle of parts and looked it over. “You are much better at the inner stitching than I am.”
“The innards just have to stay together. It doesn’t matter what they look like,” Ernestine said.
“The better the inner stitching the longer the finished product will last,” Stella said with almost automatic rhythm.
“Well, I’m tired of having good insides and ugly outsides,” Ernestine said.
“Then I shall make your knots.” Beatrice reached for the threaded needle Ernestine held in her smooth fingers. Before she took it, she stopped and looked into her sister’s bottomless eyes. “If you’ll make sure my innards look good this time.”
“What?” Beatrice asked.
“Of course,” Ernestine said.
“You two are going to get into trouble,” Stella said.
“Why? He never said we had to work on each one all by ourselves.”
Stella pursed her lips as she continued to stitch. “It was implied.”
“Implied doesn’t mean it’s a rule,” Ernestine said as she took Beatrice’s project and turned it inside-out to study her work.
“I agree,” Beatrice said.
“Just don’t come crying to me when you have to start over,” Stella said.
Beatrice ignored her sister and quickly made two knots out of the most beautiful, crystal blue thread that she’d ever seen.
They worked in silence for a few minutes as Beatrice finished the knots and Ernestine added some reinforcement to Beatrice’s work. Beatrice found herself humming.
A shadow approached, and a chill floated through the air. Beatrice’s breath sped up. “Quick. Trade back.” She Ernestine’s project out to her with a needle halfway through a knot.
Ernestine didn’t argue. She shoved Beatrice’s work at her and a moment later they sat as if nothing had happened. Stella eyed them, snorted again and went back to her work.
Beatrice caught Ernestine giving Stella a dark glare—a warning to keep her mouth shut.
The shadow grew, blocking out the light around them, and the chill settled into Beatrice’s bones.
“Ladies,” a deep, alluring voice said.
“Master,” Stella said a moment before the other two gave the same greeting.
The shadows around them swirled together into a mass that then resolved into a humanoid shape. The sisters stood and bowed to their master.
Beatrice still didn’t like speaking to their master. While in a general sense he looked like them, his limbs were much longer than they should be, and his broad shoulders hunched. Red eyes glowed at them.
“Are you finished?” he asked around fangs.
“Nearly,” Beatrice said.
He raised an eyebrow.
“Just a few more minutes,” Ernestine said, indicating the knot she was about to finish.
“Yes, a few more stitches.” Beatrice nodded.
Stella shrugged. “I am looking over mine, master, you can take it if you want.”
The red eyes moved between the sisters. “No. Finish your work, then send them along. But be quick. This batch goes down as soon as I have your contribution.”
“Yes master,” Beatrice said with a bow. Her sisters followed suit.
“Be quick. Do not displease me.”
Beatrice found her heart pounding and her breathing coming in shallow gasps. She fought to keep control as she stood straight and waited for their master to leave.
He glared at them, as if suspecting them of small-child shenanigans.
Stella cleared her throat.
Beatrice shot her a glare.
“Your next deadline has not changed. Get back on schedule.”
“Yes, master,” they all said.
The shadows dispersed, and the light returned.
Ernestine let out a breath. “We’re going to have to hurry.”
“We’re going to have to put out sub-par bodies next time,” Stella said.
Beatrice hated that her sister was right. Demons didn’t much like getting stuck in sub-par bodies, but their time frame was tight, and even the act of switching like she and Ernestine had, had cost them.
Ernestine shook her head. “He can’t expect perfection when we have to work this fast.”
“If we can’t do it, he’ll send us back to the underworld and find someone else,” Stella said.
Beatrice swallowed hard. “Well then, I guess we get to learn to sew faster.”