Chapter the 15th: Dangerous Liaisons
You approach perfection. I shall take you under my wing so that your beauty may be preserved forever--Carravagio
David stared at Sheri as if she were a child and he the disappointed father. “Well? Will you kill me, or are you not that far gone just yet?”
“I…” Sheri tensed, but it was so hard to pull the trigger. Just shoot him. He’s hideous. How could my Mikey ever stand someone that looked like that?
David turned his back to her and started to unload his groceries onto the table. “How did he find you? Are you a poet, like me, or perhaps an artist? Or maybe just a girl who’s face appealed to his fickle tastes this week?”
“Shut up.” She narrowed her eyes.
“It’s scary, isn’t it? To realize that you are not the first one.”
“What are you talking about?”
He cleared his throat, and slowly sat down. “My names David. What’s yours?”
“I don’t have to tell you that!”
He sighed. “I was his muse once. That’s what he told me. I thought he would show me heaven. Now I live in hell.” He rested his head on his hand. “Well, if you’re not gonna shoot me right off, maybe you’d like to hear the story. Consider it my confession. Everyone needs to give a confession before they die, right?”
“What did you do with him? Why does he want you dead?” Sheri couldn’t help her curiosity.
“I loved him. That was my first crime.”
“Do you come here often?” Trent winced at the cliché nature of his own line.
The girl he was talking seemed enthused regardless of this. “Here? A couple of times. The Masquerade is a cool club!” She giggled.
“Hey… would you like a drink?”
“Got one, slick.” She laughed and held up her drink to point out what he had so obviously overlooked.
“Oh, right. Um, but later…” Seduction was proving to be something that was a bit odd to Trent, who was used to casual relationships. That and the added pressure of what he was thinking of doing if he got alone with this girl… This is crazy. I shouldn’t be doing this. If I do this, there is no going back. I can’t reclaim my innocence.
“How about now we have some fun?”
“Huh?” She had startled him out of his thoughts. He didn’t realize that she was being subliminally coerced by his mere presence.
The corners of her mouth turned up as if full of private jokes. “I like you. Maybe I’m drunker than I thought, but there is something…” She slowly scanned over his body with her eyes. “….About you. I just can’t help myself.”
Trent glanced to the bar, where Belle was watching him with her ever-predatory eyes. She gave no signal that would help him. Did he want to become like her? A strange and alien thing that viewed humans as just another means to an end? If I do this… I’ll become everything I stand against…
The girl pouted her lips--oh what soft lips they must be!--and whined, “Come on. Don’t you like me?”
“You’re lovely! Um, I just don’t know if I should… uh…” Oh, how I want this. To taste what’s inside of her would be such ecstasy.
“Come on, don’t be such a good boy!” She pulled in close, gazing at him intently. “I know there is a beast inside of you. Let it out…” She drew near to his ear and whispered a request. Her breath was warm and pleasant inside his ear.
“Okay. Let’s go outside.” he said in resignation. This was inevitable. This was natural. Who wouldn’t do it?
He led her by the hand out of the club and into the very same alleyway that he had been shot in not too long ago. It seemed appropriate. This is where his horrid genesis had started; this is where he would take it to the next level.
“I used write poems.” Began Daniel. “I couldn’t stop. If I had a minute, I would pull out my notebook and jot down a verse or two.” He patted his shirt pocket, as if out of habit or memory, but Suzan did not perceive any notebook in that pocket now. “If I didn’t have my notebook, I would grab whatever scrap was necessary. I have many ornate boxes full of fragments of poems. Little rhymes. Iambic arrangements. Written on paper. On vellum. On grocery bags. On shop receipts. On the unused sides of valentines cards. On Japanese pulpy-paper. On one dollar bills. On 100% recycled and on expensive, watermarked paper. There was even a clothes label or two. All in a very small script.
“It was… how I breathed. How I recorded my life. How I analyzed it. Ironically, viewing life through the lens of poetry serves to distance one’s self from it. You think of things in terms of beatitudes, of metaphor, of analogy and hyperbole. You think about what it signifies, and how to beautifully express that. Towards the end of my… natural life, I was so… jilted by my own perspective. The meaning in life had been obscured by my journey to find meaning. I was so lost. That’s when my angel came.
“I was at a gallery, very exclusive. I was there because of a friend that has very good connections. I haven’t seen him nor anyone else from my old life in months. Are you going to point the gun at me the whole time?”
Sheri tensed a little. Then, without a word she slowly let it down. She realized that she really had to use the bathroom. How long had she been waiting in that closet?
David continued. “So I was at the gallery. I it was a small gathering. I remember the smell of saffron, the strange Germanic curator, and a conversation about Milton’s Paradise lost. I remember the clinical way in which I filed these bits of information in the back of my mind. I remember thinking about how I would remember it; meta-cognition, like looking down a set of infinite reflections between two mirrors. I was contemplating the secret lives that might be lived by the people that are just out of view in such a mirror setup that one might look into when he came into the room. The Artist. The whispered legend that was on everyone’s thoughts, just below the surface. When I spied him it was like--”
“All these unconscious thoughts and clues came together for you, and your realized at that moment how important he was?” Sheri saw that David was quite startled by this, her interjection into his monologue.
“Why, yes. That’s more or less my thoughts exactly. I was going to use a fancy metaphor about how it was like ice-flows coming together in some sort of odd reversal of time that was in actuality like memories you didn’t know you had solidifying and convalescing… but you put it much more succinctly. Are you a wordsmith as well?”
“I’m an artist.”
“Well, anyway. There he was. Many people use the phrase ‘larger than life’ when they have the courage to mention him within the private sanctity of their own homes. But I found then, and confirmed later, that he wasn’t larger than life; he was its antithesis. He was pure cunning, enshrouding a core of innocuous-seeming chaos. Did he give you the entropy speech. I bet he did. You would think an immortal entity such as him would get bored of telling the same stories time and again. But no. No they relish reshaping the world and history with their words. He who writes history has the true power. Why else do you think people would be so interested in disproving the holocaust or other historical atrocities? But I digress. I meant to warn whoever I was talking to--given the near eventuality that I told this story--I meant to tell from the beginning that I get off on a lot of tangents. Life is chaotic and so are my thoughts. I think that’s why Michael took such a liking to me. He recognized that I loved chaos. One of the first things he ever said to me was that he would remove my ever-present boredom.
“I mentioned my detached, albeit poetic view of the world. I believe now that I was probably depressed, and had been for a long time, but I failed to admit this to myself because it seemed such an utterly droll cliché. Don’t you think so? Well anyways, long story short, once upon a time, there was a poet, and there was a vampire. And let’s not get confused, this was not the vampire of the stories--one that fears garlic and sunlight-- but a vampire in the purest sense of the word. He feeds off people.” Sheri raised the gun again. “Easy. I may sound bitter. Well really, I am, but I still love him. You see, that is the most horrid part of what he did to me. He’s like a drug, and even now I‘d love a taste.”
For a long time he and she were silent. Finally, she lowered the gun again. “I love him more,” Sheri whispered at last.
David smiled a weak, knowing smile.
Trent wretched, propping himself against the grimy brick wall of the alleyway. Belle merely observed the scene with a clinical detachment. Between gasps, Trent uttered, “I couldn’t help myself.”
“She’s dying,” Belle proclaimed as simply as one could.
Trent looked up from the blood--how much had he regurgitated? Gross as it was, he felt the urge to lap up what lay before him-- in horror. “What?!”
“You got greedy, Trent. The darkness overtook you, didn’t it? Well, it happens.”
Trent staggered to his feet. I couldn’t stop! I wanted to do just a little… She was so beautiful, but not in a sexual way. I-I wanted to consume her! I--” Trent dropped to his knees to observe the woman he had seduced. She was breathing shallowly, and barely conscious. As he approached, she glanced at him with a hurt and confused expression. “I was set, I was going in. I was only going to drink a little. Then I was in Rome again, and I was bleeding a prostitute; not knowing why. But I relished in it. I relished it…” Trent broke into sobs, and blood spilled from his eyes and mouth in a spectacularly pitiful manner. He took the girl’s head in to hands, gently. “Help me! Someone! Help--” He couldn’t continue, the sobbing overtook him.
Belle folded her arms and waited.
After some time Trent’s sobbing subsided. “She’s dead. I can’t hear her heart anymore. I killed her. There is no doubt now. I am a monster.”
Belle knelt down and for the first time deigned to touch Trent, albeit lightly, on the shoulder. Trent looked up to see an expression not unlike sympathy on her face. “Yes, you killed her,” she stated. “But you’re not the only one. They killed her too. The ones that made you this way. Their evil was in you. They forced you. The hatred; the despair that you feel right now… turn it outward. Focus it on them. On bringing them down. Trent, kill the ones that did this to you; make things right. Don’t let this woman’s death have been in vain.”
Trent looked back down upon the girl. He tried to brush the blood-matted hair off her forehead. “You’re right. I have to get him. I have to get them all. It starts with the man that shot me. He’ll be the first. I will not rest until I’ve bled them all dry.”
He stood up. “You know, when I was a kid… I didn’t want to be an astronaut or a fireman. I wanted to be one of those people I could see on tv, helping starving children in third world countries. Guess my mother rubbed off on me that way. Anyways. Well… I guess that dream is over now, huh? I mean, I wouldn’t trust me around children now, or any humans for that matter. I’m not human anymore. I’m a monster.”
“Yes,” confirmed Belle. “Exactly. Best to accept it. Embrace it. Life is anything but beautiful. I’m glad you were able to realize this at long last.”
“Well…” Trent let his senses flow out, absorbing the scene. His perceptions expanded beyond what humans could imagine. The blood. It was everywhere. Yes, he was gone; he was going to savor it. And he was going to get the man that had shot him. “Let the monsters deal with the monsters then.”
“So where was I in my little fairy tale? Ah yes, eternal love.” David suddenly erupted into coughing, startling Sheri. “Oh… aha… sorry. My health just isn’t what it used to be. Sometimes it itches profusely,” David pointed to the mangles part of his face. “As if it is really the human remnant of me, and I the freak, and it wants to get away from me. Well… that is what I deserve I suppose. No, to be honest it’s the least of what I deserve. Anyways, to cut the fairy tale short, I soon realized I would do anything for this… being we know as Michelangelo or Caravaggio or whatever he would like to believe he is. That anything included killing. I even hoped he would give me his dark, vampiric condition. In truth, I don’t think he ever intended to do such a thing for me, but the mere hint of a promise was enough for me. So the time came. He asked, and I did ever so willingly….”
David choked up for a good thirty seconds, covering his face with his hands. Sheri waited, her heart full of doubt. Don’t believe him. These are all lies! she tried to tell herself.
“And you know how he rewarded me?” David made a circular gesture about his face. “He gave me this… he said he wanted to sculpt my flesh… to make me into something the world had never seen before. To reward me for… for taking that model’s life. He… He took parts of me… Took them away and he put them--” At this point , Sheri startled David with a sudden scream.
“Ahh! Huge!” She yelled, pointing her gun at the floor to the right of the table.
David realized that it was a huge cockroach that was alarming her. “What? The bug?
“I hate bugs!” Sheri pulled the trigger, blasting a small hole in the floor, and missing the bug quite completely.
“Whoa!” David started to stand, his survival instinct activated. Sheri pulled another shot.
Sudden warmth made David realize that something was very wrong. But this whole situation is very wrong, isn’t it. “Sheri,” He panted, slouching back into his chair. “You have to calm down…”
“Don’t tell me--”
“Sheri, listen. I’m hurt bad. You need to call the doctor, or I’m pretty sure I’m going to die.” The wound was growing in heat. He fumbled blindly to try and stanch the flow of blood, not daring to take his eyes off Sheri. “Sheri, listen to me. I am a wretched being, I deserve to die. I’ve realized that. But you know why I haven’t taken my own life at this point? Sheri… No one is beyond redemption. We are still humans, capable of doing good in this world. We can still… You can still walk away. You don’t have to do this. No one is beyond sav--”
One more shot rang out in that vacuous and dirty apartment. David’s head slouched down, the new wound’s sanguine emission running out his forehead and over his facial deformity. The sign of his sin, baptized in his own blood.