Seth looked so weak then: a pathetic insult to his former glory. He had lost too much blood. He struggled furiously against the restraints of his uncomfortable bleach white hospital bed. It was to no avail. They held him unwavering. Nurses and doctors anxiously gathered around him, whispering to one another. He waited for them to siphon off into the corridors, leaving him alone with the clinical psychologist assigned to assess his mental state.
"Hello Seth, my name is Arthur, why don't we begin with you telling me a little about yourself?" Prompted by those words Seth appeared to curve his dismal mood, calm himself, shut his eye lids, and drift back to other times, immersing himself in a narrated past.
"Why don't we begin with me telling you a lot about myself" Arthur nodded, uncapped his pen and began to compulsively scribble down each and every detail that Seth recounted in a slow, even, well articulated monotone. This is the story that he recorded:
My entire wretched existence is one of seemingly inconsolable paradox. It is split into two lives: dual components, intrinsically opposed and starkly contrasted, amounting to one immeasurable entity. One life is lived in the sunlight, engaged in superficial mirth, entrenched by the hypocrisy of synthetic smiles and pleasant courtesies. Resentfully I entwine with the mediocrity of normal living and become just another bland brush stroke on a canvas of frenzied humanity. I go to work, enslave myself within the wasted hours of nine to five, mindlessly. I sit passively in the sparsely padded seats of contemporary cinemas beside cosmetic, faceless "friends" that I keep at a necessary distance. I laugh, gasp and shout obscenities at rehearsed intervals signaled by the behavior of those around me. I become alike to the flickering screen there to service their amusement, entirely dislocated from the mapped out paths of routine responses and rehearsed reciprocation. All of this is fake and mockery: a charade: layers upon layers of pretension and diurnal attention. This life is a mask: a clever illusion: the trickery and deceit of a well practiced magician: an attentively composed sobriquet that conceals my true nature. I do, of course, have my reasons for maintaining this elaborate masquerade but like all respectable magicians I shall unveil them in due time.
My other life: my true life is lived consorting with the lecherous shadows, night-bound and heavy hearted. I cut through the darkness like the razor edge of a glimmering blade, a river of blood and retribution spilling out before me. My soul, if one's still bound to this immortal form, is a dense, darkened labyrinth, of tunnels that turn, twist, entwine, and never end. It is a macabre, disturbing amusement park of perpetual rides: riddles without answers and answers without riddles. Accompanied perfectly by the symphonic carnival-music beat of my carefully controlled, cold and deeply distilled heart. A heart that has been numbed by the innumerable procession of victims whose blood will never wash from my pale hands. I haunt the darkened alleys where even sunlight fears to tread, shifting through the city's tarmac veins; a vengeful spirit never laid to rest: now to be a written wraith of ink and paper. This life is lived in the esoteric and elegantly poetic deathly domain of nightmares: the void that opens up on the underside of your eye lids. I am the reason you fear the dark. You might call me a vampire, but that label fails to adequately define.
I am a monster with insatiable thirst beneath clean white skin, a six foot stature, and stark but alluring features haloed with waves of short, neatly combed oil black hair. During the daylight hours lies roll off the corrosively textured surface of my disdainful tongue fluidly and eloquently, spanning out into an ever more entangled yet perfectly sustainable web of thoughtful deceit. The passing years have endowed me with the irreplaceable skills required to mold my exterior into the perfect illusion. I am the type you see sitting in the back seat of a passing taxi reading some nondescript volume, and think nothing of; my opulent concentration occasionally disrupted by the seemingly violent but scripted banging of my head against the tinted glass panes of a window it rests upon. I might smile at you mechanically if you so happen to pass me on the street. I might engage you in conversation: the countenance of small talk, responding to prompts in your demeanor and pushing subjects that most retain relevance for you. Or I might engage you in some other banal act of common courtesy to reinforce your distorted belief that we are all at our core the same: just a semblance of conjoined humanity. And it's understandable that you feel this way since I become little more than an imperfect mirror, reflecting back to you everything that you output, in a manner artfully infused with my surrounds. I am indistinguishable to you: a chameleon in this dense, leafy forest of money and masquerades. In essence during the daylight hours I am a gapping abyss: a blank page waiting to be inked: a hollow cavity. The numbness of repetition suffocates my every birthing emotion before it reaches screaming infancy. I await respectfully for you to insert whatever significance you deem appropriate. That is until the sun revokes its heavy head and the dark becomes me.
I walk down the side walk beside my mortal companion: my work mate: Zack Lamron. Arrangements of shadows span out from my form and dance fluidly. I have always been bound to the shadows: the void where struggling light breaks and dissipates. Their dark symphony of agile movement is the single attribute of this constructed identity liable to unveil me for what I am.
"Well I'm glad that's over. Bring on the weekend. Woot" Zack comments and I merely smile sympathetically in reply. The moon rises in the distance, still suffocated by residual sun light. He buttons the front of his casual, dark orange suede jacket as a gust of cold wind breezes by us.
I sleep walk through these dislocated daylight hours, my mind absent, my soul uncommitted, a state of cold, clinical detachment, reflexively playing the role I was assigned in this dreary theatre, biding my time until darkness hails. Everything is out of focus, the night's sharpness distorted by asphyxiating sun light and painted in drab monotones. All of it is made of the same bland, listless, indistinct matter like the faded print of yesterday's newspaper, or obscure, cryptic metaphors that cease to symbolism anything stable. My feet move beneath me along the dreary pavement, doing as I would have them do before I think to request.
"What are your plans this fall?" he says to me in an attempt to disrupt the descending shroud of discontenting silence. Like most of humanity he seeks to fill in every void, unable to suffer through the endless stretch of emptiness that lingers beneath the surface of every word. What plans? What fall? The falling of angels or minds? Of thoughts, like rain?
"I have nothing planned, but there will most certainly be drinking involved. And yourself?" I respond, failing a paltry attempt to imbue each syllable with something resembling a passing commitment. Instead the empty, acerbic sentiment entangles upon my languid tongue, passes dryly through my lips, and exits my mouth a cold dead wind. But he isn't paying enough attention so this minor flaw in my veil fades into irrelevance, conjoining with the imposing static of a thousand voices speaking at once.
He steps a little closer to me as, side by side, we follow the gray pavement. At this relatively insignificant moment of volatile reality: of deceptively stable materiality, he believes he sees me for what I truly am as he stares only into the mirror I hold before him. While he bores me with the details of his plans I feel the darkness beckoning, whispering enticingly into my ear as twilight: the impasse between worlds gradually approaches, alighting the horizon with a signifying orange-red glow. The pressing gloom seductively speaks to me like a old lover trying to persuade me back into the soft, silky folds of her bed. I lust after her, I crave her careful touch, want her to violate my cold frame again and again, moving elegantly inside me: softly devouring me beneath the dying light. My lips moisten at the thought of her timely advance. Zack and I continue to follow the sidewalk until we arrive at the designated crossing. He presses the button and then, ignoring the cautionary light, crosses anyway. I follow closely behind.
"Thanks for walking me to my car. I'll see ya next week." he says to me; his words infused with sincere gratitude for my playing the prescribed part of protector as we arrive at the vast expanse of an almost vacant parking lot. His battered, light-blue car seems a sole beacon afloat in the ocean of black tarmac.
"You're welcome" I counter with a synthetic grin. He smiles back.
"Have a good weekend"
"And you. Goodbye Zack" I reply with a slight nod before he extends his arms and I move respectfully into the embrace. His blood sings to me in a delicate ballad of interwoven notes: a tingling symphony of repressed desire, as I feel his carotid artery pulse softly beneath my icy chin. He shivers a little, the hairs of his neck briefly bristling with the sharp sensation of flesh against flesh: cold against warmth.
"Love ya man" he says shamefully. Love? He does not love me, nor does his naive idealistic mind understand the dense implications of the intangible term "love" itself. His amity is directed only to that which I offer him and so represent: acceptance without condition, indiscrimination, protection from the oppressive. After all who would dare stand against me when, as soon as night falls, I become the corporeal embodiment of death itself?
He unlocks and opens the door slowly, giving me ample time to reciprocate the sentiment. I don't. I am an adept craftsman in the trade of deceit yet I cannot bring myself to say "I love you too", the idea of doing so up heaves my dormant stomach, inducing sickening nausea; its bile taste stirring inside my tightly sealed mouth. Soon he abandons the wait, climbs into the driver's seat and keys the ignition. The engine of his car sputters to life and soon the sultry, sweltering smell of burnt rubber devourers the polluted air. He makes a hard turn, re-aligns the vehicle and then darts off into the distance. Finally the sun has withdrawn its spitefully head from view and the streets are mine again. I weave through them quickly to my intended destination: the pot of rusted gold at the end of a black rainbow.
I listen to the rhythmic thud of a remembered heart beat as I wrap my pale knuckles on the worn hardwood door of Jacob Epar's decaying home, wait patently for a moment and then repeat the action. I could of course simply tear the door from its metal hinges with little effort. However, the noise caused by such rash behavior would undoubtedly attract unwanted attention so instead I adhere to the requirements of stealth: I wait and wait. After all what are a few wasted moments when you have eternity to contend with? The amorous scent of his warm blood is already cloying in the otherwise insipid air and clouds my senses with the promise of euphoria. Finally I hear someone stir behind the brick and plaster walls: the soft brushing of cloth against cloth, the slow scamper of human feet. Latches click and unlock.
"wha tha fuck you wan?" before the last syllable leaves the owners wet lips, projected with a grotesque spray of saliva that falls just short of my porcelain profile, I effortlessly force the door ajar. The impact of wood against his stunned face knocks him backwards onto the filthy carpet floor.
"Hello Jacob" I greet him politely as the left corner of my mouth curves slowly upwards into a crooked but charming half smile: an honest smile. Somewhere deep within the lurid contours of my soul I find it greatly satisfying and even amusing to see this victimizer instantly reduced to the status of victim. I attentively close the door behind me then, in an icy blur of black clothing and porcelain skin, I shift instantly across the room.
I look down at my victim as I draw an antique straight razor from the chest pocket of my formal black shirt. It is a necessary tool when teeth marks leave too much suspicion. The polished sliver blade, which is the only remnant of my mortal life, quivers with refracted light, pulsing with thirst that matches my own. We are two adjoined workers of retribution both craving the touch of mortal skin. Still too disorientated to speak, Jacob pries a small crucifix tarnished with the sweat of desperate pleas from beneath his partially drenched singlet and holds it defensively out before him. To his astonishment I tear the silver ornament from his neck and fasten it to my own. With my free hand I grasp the soft, pliable flesh of Jacob's shoulder blade and lift him to his feet. I open the welcoming artery pulsing in his throat and watch as the rush of death plays upon the surface of wet eyes, making sure to cover his mouth with my free hand to inhibit the screams that might otherwise alert any voyeuristic neighbors to my presence. I lock my mouth to the wound and drink deep of him. His heart works against him as it quickens with panic, pushing the warm blood faster and faster into my cold mouth, morphing into a symphony of textures upon my tongue, and flowing fluently down my throat, then through the ashes of internal organs. It enlivens every muscle; every tendon and bone; every deadened cell in the entirety of my reticent body. I studiously suckle at the ample breast of his long distilled hatred and intolerance. I drain almost every drop of malignant life from its receptacle of meat and bone. No spills and no remorse.
The lasting breath of easy death
Hearts that die and then bequeath
This blade of lust in waiting hand
This city swims a wretched soul
That fallen angels won't console
I haunt the fringe of all that's sane
Beneath this sky that bleeds in vain
Disdainful in its righteous stand
The murdered dreams of dying words:
The smudged ink of screaming birds
I hunt within its crystal walls,
My victims marked by silent calls
And hastened falls
Indifferently I wipe the blood from my straight razor on Jacob's soiled white singlet with two subsequent swipes. I let the pale blue, livid corpse slide absently from my grip and fall down amongst the empty beer bottles and other assorted trash sprinkled across the beige carpet floor in a seemingly random, thoughtless pattern. It becomes just another marker of the former occupant's unseemly habits. I plan to return later, dowse the body in gasoline or some equally potent accelerant and burn it to ash and bone. It is harder to discern mass blood loss from ash and bone. But for now I have a more pressing social engagement to attend. I take the front door key from upon the rack and lock it firmly behind me as I leave. I return to the darkened streets and set off against the harsh blow of an opposing wind.
I am not devoid of compassion or empathy as the indifference of my cold, blasé actions, or the pleasure that I derive from them, might imply. In fact there was a time when I felt these things in excess. I simply have to feed; the thirst demands it, pulls at every nerve ending in my cold body, compelling me to act with commands in a base, indefinable language that precedes language itself. I am simply incapable of denying it. I am the most detestable kind of addict: one that can not be redeemed. However, instead of pretty pills and powders my preferred poison comes colored crimson and packaged in the transparency of living forms. The thirst is like an uncommunicative but never silent voice deep inside my head that rises in volume every moment of diversion until it becomes an intolerable screaming that blots out the possibility of all other thoughts. It tears me apart from the inside out and its affliction, at its worst points, literally manifests as an indescribable, searing pain.
As a compromise between these two conflicting states, in ages long since passed, I developed my own personal, twisted, distorted code of morality, to appease the screeching wail of my bereaved conscience; to partly alleviate the guilt that haunts me. I choose my victims carefully, meticulously, ensuring they meet my un-compromising standards. In short I hunt those who harbor monsters almost equal to my own. Jacob for example was a repeat rapist with a taste for eleven year old children. There is however one significant difference between us: my victims are never innocent. I have never tasted innocent blood.
Of course I know now, and have done for some time, that this is just an archaic delusion that I cling to in order to justify my morbid, preternatural existence. I know that the lines between guilty and innocent are blurred and indistinct, that we are all guilty and we are all innocent. But it seems as fitting for me to wield this wooden gavel and dispense distorted justice and burning revenge as I please, as for anyone else. Aside from my oldest friend Gabriel: the black hand of god I am, as to my knowledge, the only immortal to congeal to the outdated ethics of such a creaking code.
I weave my way through the sleeping city, following its tangled web of asphalt veins and cutting through desolate alley ways and vacant lots when it pleases me to do so. As I move through the silent streets of lower class suburbia I began to fray and unravel like the buildings around me; fighting it with every needless breath. All I can think of is her: Alice. Yes I am aware how depressingly predictable it is that love compels and commands me: that even when night reigns the ambivalent strings affixed to my porcelain limbs are wound tightly and unknowingly around her mortal fingers. Like all great tragic lovers my heart pounds unrequited. Still she courses painfully through my veins like honey poison, a sweet euphoric sickness. I try desperately to push away the cruelty of empty hope as it insidiously slithers up my spine and coils itself around my thoughts. I fail miserably.
She teethes on the fringe of my sanity, nudging me further from lucidity, persistently demanding the full weight of my thoughts. And so I think of her: a single flower of untainted, vibrant white, edged in yellow, rising through the cracks of a dusty concrete world, reaching hopefully towards the sun's gentle embrace, with open arms and an open mind. I so desperately long to fall into her completely, to have her breath me in like the air in an act of loving desecration and empty me of all that I am. I would offer her my cold, black heart skewered on cupid's rusted arrow if I thought she would yield to such a simplistic gesture. If a soul still lingers in this immortal body then it belongs solely and esoterically to her. I soon pass the quite residential suburbs and emerge into the thriving city centre.
A small crowd of tall, well-built young mortal men, spinning instantly from egotistic self-assurance to instinctual caution, span out and make way for me as I pass the neon lit entrance of a contemporary club. Their routine response to my presence still, after all these years, amuses me briefly and the invisible lines of my pale impassive face become animate with a warped half smile. Their reverence and fear is justly appointed; I am after all their mythic vampire; made of legend and lore. The nightclub is a mainstream venue of great popularity, packed with devotees like the faithful at their local church in past times; devotees that quickly twist their faith at the orders of a human hierarchy in place of god. The thump of mind numbingly repetitive music suffocates the sound of conversation within, as wasted bodies writhe in time, and ritual colored lights squeeze through the gaps of boarded up windows. It is exactly the kind of place I'd sooner burn to the ground than step foot inside, if my code permitted it. My eyes flash over a party of three young women of relative physical attraction. They wear a façade of the latest fashion trends and queue impatiently at the door. They all stare at me with hopeful grins, fluttering eye lashes over dilated pupils, flicked hair and open postures as I pass them. I have long been endowed with an other-worldly charm, as were most of my kind, reinforced by what I'm told are visually appealing features, but I will speak more of them later.
"No need. I can see that you were once an attractive young man" Arthur interrupted. Seth glared at him without so much as a smile in reply and then continued to narrate.
I focus back on the renewed chatter of these women through the clutter and brick walls of buildings that have passed me by in the great expanse of a labored mortal breath: a considerable distance since once outside the bounds of human visibility I move at supernatural speed. This diversion is a pitiful attempt not to dwell on thoughts of Alice.
"We're gonna have fun to-night!" the young girl pronounces the last word of her statement with excessive emphasis; slowly sounding out each syllable as though it might anchor the passing sentiment.
"I'm happy long as I find a hot guy to hook up wit" Her friend replies and then all three simultaneously emit in a frenzied chorus the same rehearsed, school girl giggle.
"Do ya ----- ---- shade of lip----- -- still in?" forgive the pauses and gaps in my tongue but that is all I retain. Unconsciously I void words as my attention drifts, but feel free to fill in the blanks with dashes or underscores if you're beset to regard them as anything more than mindless babble.
My concentration proceeds to taper off on a steep incline until I register their exchange as nothing more than static noise: the hum of hypocrisy. Although my sharply tuned hearing does not falter my mind simply glazes over their quaint pre-occupation with superficial matters. They are just more faceless, happy young people, entrenched in peripheral gaiety, cloaked in the conformity of fashion, masquerading insipidly about the city with empty minds and easy hearts. They live in a "sugar coated" world where whatever semblance of hard "reality" that might have existed is watered down into an easily palatable and aesthetically pleasing form. Their narcissistic indulgence in naught but personal gratification is built on stable foundations of apathy and ignorance. This part of the world is brimming with their kind, each as un-appealing to me as the next. In some respects they are similar to what I pretend to be during the daylight hours, and I do not fail to see the irony in this. Still, especially now when darkness reigns, I find them, and all their pretensions, as suffocating as poison gas stealing through the clean air of isolation; a minor annoyance in the greater atmosphere but a deadly instrument of genocide when compressed within the confines of a tight chamber aptly labeled "intimacy". It might be the instrument of my undoing were I still human and I was, for point of reference, once human. I overcame this affliction.
Swiftly but gracefully I continue to move through the city, slowing to an even stride as I pass more excited mortals lingering impatiently at the door steps of other night clubs, bars and alike liquor dispensing institutions. This mélange of intermingled humanity appears with the softness of a blurred photograph, captured in sepia tones of faded color. I quickly reach my destination and stop deathly still in the alley across from a familiar restaurant, coalesced with the darkness around me. My black trench coat blows up behind me and waves in the raging wind like the burnt wings of a fallen angel. Alice's lavender and rose pedal scent, borne on the breeze, heralds her approach. Then she appears in vibrant color like a vision, a sudden irrefutable epiphany, a ray of gentle light, not conducive with imposing sunlight, illuminating a new expanse of darkness with every forward movement. I watch her approach and stop outside the entry door. Suddenly the rest of the world seems to dissolve, dispel, to pale, become duller, and burn with static like bad reception on a cheap television. The hypnotic beat of her heart drowns all the noises of urban life: the sounds of people, rats scurrying through trash, the howling wind and the sound of everything light enough to be moved by it, the struggling flutter of a dying moth's wings as it passes by my ear. All of it is suddenly silenced. Is she a hallucination? A vivid dream? Am I asleep deep beneath the earth, finally finding repose from my permanent insomnia, mixing memory with imagination? Is this merely an affliction gnawing hungrily at the edges of my sanity? Or has sanity left me all together and madness finally taken rightful reign in its absence? Do I even care? If insanity has beset me in a dream-like state then I wish to never awaken.
She wears tight faded black jeans that lavishly accentuate the natural curves of her small, thin frame, supported by a slightly frayed grey belt. She also adorns a short sleeved, pale blue blouse and worn sneakers that are cloaked in a collage of multi-colored acrylic paint stains. Her slightly chewed finger nails are painted a glossy black, her right wrist is decorated with a modest silver name bracelet and her left a cheap metallic watch. Every curve of her face is perfectly proportioned as if she were an angel fashion by god's hands. Her thick plush lips are lacquered with glimmering pink lip gloss that I long to taste. Her burning green eyes are exquisitely piercing and possessive of an ethereal yet organic, earthly beauty that cannot be rivaled. They open worlds unto themselves; worlds infinitely more appealing than our own. I become mesmerized by them as they dart about the place superstitiously, squinting to see through the night's protective veil. Her body involuntarily shivers as a fresh burst of wind licks the exposed flesh of her arms while she glances down at the slow winding hands of her watch, attentively noting the tick, tick, tick of transient time. She looks around again, and then folds her arms defensively.
I watch her a while longer; her dearly devoted stalker. Her fingertips gently brush back shoulder length hair as it blows in her face with non-compliance. Her hair is a light brunette in color, dyed with streaks of fire-hydrant red which, despite their contrast, seems perfectly suited to her blue blouse. Her foot taps nervously against the dreary pavement. The soft fluttering of her heart is steady and rhythmic. It is unique to her and unlike any other I've chanced to hear before, defined by a slight alteration in pitch and speed, each beat separate yet entwinedwiththenext. And it is still yet possessive of some indefinable quality that I can only describe as mystical, pre-linguistic alliteration. Finally I approach, casually with heavy human footsteps. She welcomes me with a warm, sincere smile and a wave of...
"Okay, wait. You do realize that much of what you're telling me now cannot possibly be real?" the psychologist interjected.
"Who are you to say what is real and what is not?" Seth replied.
"I am a trained professional with three years of tertiary education behind me" Arthur spat out defensively.
"I specifically requested you for that reason, the hospital's nursing staff, in a fit of casual banter, unwittingly revealed that your lack of real-world experience often led you to record every detail that a patient disclosed and, being that you are fresh out of a lecture theatre, I knew you would be capable of scribing at a reasonable pace. Tell me, does it not disturb you that all of your education presently accounts for little more than this?" Seth calmly countered.
"I think I'll be the judge of exactly what my education accounts for, and after we are done here I will be having a stern word with the nurses" said Arthur. A moment of silence passed between the two, broken by Seth's submissive readdress
"Forgive me, I mean not to insult you. You must understand, right now I'm in desperate need of you" Arthur sighed heavily before speaking again
"Well that is what I am here for, but it is completely irrational of me to believe you are what you say you are. I think you are a very confused young man, crying out fo…"
"You wear a crucifix around your neck. Is it not reasonable to assume then that you believe in God and Christ?"
"Yes of course but…"
"As do I" Seth reassured him by gesturing with his head to the tarnished silver of the stolen crucifix still fastened to his own neck "So then is it really such a grand leap of insurmountable faith that you believe in me?"
"Well actually…" Arthur began but stopped himself short and stammered a while "That's different I know that you're not… Well there is no proof…You're not a god and look, we're not here today to talk about me, we're here to talk about you"
"Is that not what I have been doing thus far?" Seth smiled.
"Yes well during my time at university I often heard of patients with this type of delu… Okay… Well… Yes." Arthur breathed in deeply and exhaled with a sigh "why don't you continue your story and I will take what I can from it"
"As you wish"