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Seven gnarled creatures ringed around her, watching. She smiled sweetly at each of them in turn, as if to reassure. “You must promise,” she said as she took the first bite. “Promise me you won’t leave a drop.”

They nodded solemnly.

She ate the core and all, even the seeds. To make sure she was all the way asleep when it happened. So she wouldn’t feel a thing.

Then she closed her eyes. The poison was already taking hold; she shuddered and then lay still as death. The seven twisted figures knelt around her, reverent.

When their teeth vised and ground her flesh, she realized she’d misunderstood the enchantment. She wasn’t asleep, only frozen. She could feel everything: every peel of flesh, every rummaging finger.

It was better this way, though. Even with the pain, it was better to feel. Better to be present as she became them, as they became her. Near the end, when they’d gnawed down to the frame, she thought she could feel them through her bones. The shudders of teeth, traveling from ribcage up spine to skull. It was almost pleasant. If she’d still had her ruby lips, she would have smiled.