I had the radical idea that maybe if I was a little more measured with the Grace story it might be better.
I’ve done probably just a terrible job of setting up a blood cult in the guise of a female empowerment group.
Maybe there was a third incident too or maybe I just thought about another time and never actually did it. I’m a good writer.
I figured I should come up with some background on what this actually is about. And I figured I should post it for whatever the reason is I post everything else.
During Desert Storm women did not serve in units with missions involving direct combat with the enemy, nevertheless four Marine women received the Combat Action Ribbon for being engaged by and returning fire against Iraqi troops.
One of those four women is Catherine Stoynoff. She was medically discharged after an accident in which she broke her arm and refused medical treatment. Her arm never properly healed and she was deemed unfit for duty.
After her discharge Catherine became active in and founded several support groups for female veterans returning from Iraq. Over 40,000 women were deployed during Desert Storm and many of them found the existing veteran’s support infrastructure to be unsuited to their needs – misguided at best and actively exclusionary at worst. How could men talk about their feelings with all those boobs flopping around, you understand right little lady?
Working with these groups Catherine began a pattern in some people’s stories of suspiciously vague details that sounded like supernatural events. She heard the phrase “I know this is crazy but what I thought I saw was” more times than she could count.
The health care professionals working with her dismissed these accounts as classic signs of PTSD but Catherine started to wonder. What if they were wrong? What if something was going on?
After several women all reported periods of “missing time” and blackouts without any sign of brain trauma or other medical explanation Catherine started looking more closely at similar reports at college campuses, incidents with all the earmarks of sexual assault by drugging without any physical signs to go along with them.
After spending several weeks trailing one of these women Catherine saw it – an elderly woman with a long flexible neck like a snake and fangs to match. She seemed to enchant her victim and then bite her on the neck like a vampire. Afterwards she waved her hands and the victim forgot had had just happened. Catherine followed this woman to a derelict apartment complex where she disappeared.
It was months of doubt and additional sightings, subjecting herself to a battery of medical and psychological tests before Catherine believed what she had seen. More months before she did anything about it.
In her day job running skip traces Catherine knew a number of bond agents who owed her a favor or two. Guys just out of the service and not sure what to do, bouncers looking for some action, private investigators tired of trailing cheating spouses, and weekend warriors with their Kevlar vests and laser sights.
Six men walked into the building with Catherine under the pretense of clearing out some local dealers for a friend. Only Catherine walked out. Sometimes Catherine wonders if things would have been different if she had told them the truth about what they faced. Mostly she’s able to forget about it though.
The old woman didn’t have much in the way of possessions but she had books. Old books with browning paper and crude hand drawn illustrations. Books with bloody fingerprints and cracked spines.
Catherine watched six men fight and die against something impossible. She saw a woman or something in the shape of a woman take shotgun blasts to the chest at short range like they were punches. She was impossible things and she saw death in its worst form. Catherine knew what she should feel. Remorse, anger, denial, sadness.
What she felt though was elation. She had found her true calling. The books. The books contained the truth.
For three years she struggled to crack the code. Most of it was beyond her, but eventually hit the right combination. She carved the symbols into her flesh and she willed it into being – her palms flashed with sigils of searing white light and the man she was focusing on screamed in agony. Magic.
Catherine realized though that she had been going about it all wrong. Many hands make light work.
Throughout the late 90s and 00s Catherine had some success with pyramid schemes and personal development programs but it wasn’t until the rise of social media that her plan really took off.
Her hand-picked “self-made” success stories, all young and pretty and blonde, tells a huge online audience about Catherine’s program to millions of Likes every time. This system is an admixture of bland feel good advice and brainless hustle culture designed to inspire an endless cycle of recruitment and superficial displays of wealth.
Her social media following exists to funnel the most desperate to her private, very expensive, ultra-secret high achiever group. As with any such program, it’s all about moving people from level to level, expert to expert, until the ‘top girlbosses’ end up in her one-on-one advancement seminars.
Once you’re face to face with Catherine, she has only one question “what are you willing to sacrifice to become the best version of yourself?” Whatever the answer is it’s not enough. But that’s okay because Catherine has the answer, what you need to do, what you really need to get ahead.
Nothing worthwhile comes without sacrifice.