pay me here
What great beauty is the night to me. To lose the sun is no great sacrifice, its harsh judgment burning down on me. And now, here is this beautiful tableau before me, a sleepy village hugging the Mediterranean coast with the lights of man showing the way. And the sky above me not as magnificent as it used to be but still inspiring, maybe more so, in defiance of modernity. The stars yet gleam despite the electric man-fires ignited to outshine them.
Here we are in a van. Whose van is it? I don't even know, but all our friends are here. We're just cruising around having a good time, teenagers just glad to be out in the world, no parents, no teachers, just ourselves and how novel is that? All the world is in spring. What a goddess she is, as if the light of the whole world comes from inside her. Best friends for a year, and now more, what a lucky man am I. Our friends don't know yet. Well, they know now. It doesn't matter, they don't matter, all that matters is this beautiful creature on my lap.
She teases my leg with her finger, tracing out designs on my knee. My mind is lost in a blurry dream that is not a dream. Needing her closer yet, I clutch her tightly to me and she smiles. It's so easy, so right, both of us together leaning in to each other; and there is the kiss, you know the one I mean, the one that makes all other kisses, before or after, just shadow and smoke. The rest of the world fades away, and all that is left is the heat of our bodies intertwining, and the flesh of our lips touching.
The whole sky on fire just for me, it was like that, life with her. Aphrodite and Helen of Troy, that was her, not just a spark but a radiant burning sun. All the others were just dull grey shadows with no shine, and I had never noticed before her. How could even the sun compare to her eyes shining bright, her flesh electric, her heart unyielding. When we embraced there was just us two and nothing else in the world. She moved over me, light and graceful, her lips willing, we clutched to each other as if the world would split in two without our love to bind it.
The air is sweet with smoke. Wispy grey trails curl and spin in the air over their cigarettes. She is near the stage, holding her cigarette high, elbow on the table with her palm up like a forties starlet. Even after all these years together, I am startled at how stunning she is. Always we say we will stay apart for a while sharing the same room but separate and always I find this impossible.
I pick up the drinks on my table, mine and hers, and slowly walk towards her table. The place has a classy warmth to it, deep reds and dark mahogany expertly carved. Angels and devils and victorious priests, all with faces pointing up or away, play out their grand stories on the walls and ceilings. She smiles as I approach. She is facing away from me, yet still I know she is smiling. The drink I hold for her is still chilled, how weak my resolve to stay apart from her. I place it on the table next to her empty glass and sit in the chair beside her. The table is small and partially in an alcove, hidden from the eyes of the others. My arm wraps around her shoulders and rests on the chair. I lean in and kiss her neck, softly, barely touching, how glorious she smells, how glorious she tastes.
She acts aloof, but I can see the hairs on her neck rise, and her hand shakes just so slightly. She takes a drag of her cigarette and instantly exhales the smoke, watching it rise in a misty cloud. She only smokes during these soiree's of ours. The stage is empty but we stare at it anyway. Whether empty or not, the stage is irrelevant, there is only her and me, here in this place, in this time. I lean in once more and whisper to her.
The smoke and red walls and the quiet class drag us into a world that only exists once and for a short time. A world that no one else will experience but us. A blur descends over us both and we lean in towards each other, the warmth of each other's skin enveloping us both. We hear rythmatic chanting, low, off in the distance, faintly pleading in the night meant only for us. There is no other world than this, just her and me and the blur and the soft music that only we hear.
Music filled the space between them. A once empty room warmed with the first vibration. Sharp notes intertwined with the rhythmic blur of thicker strings. Self faded away, the voice was a disembodied creature of its own, the fingers moved unwilled, both minds played only the music and not the instruments. It was as if the song drove them on and not the reverse. There was the music atomic, a merging of two together into a whole thing, beautiful and complete. Time became not a thing that passes but a tempo. Emotion drove the sound from low to crescendo then low again, fast then slow. Here there was a transition often missed, a finger tripping between strings, a note on the edge of vocal range. They both knew it was coming, and the world had fingers and breath again, the audience existed and time again passed like for mortals. Then the dangerous part was over, the voice did not crack, the fingers were nimble enough and a chill rushed through their spines together like a runaway mare and the audience melted away again. An epiphany meant just for the two of them, but they must carry on, ever on, always the music and not the notes. Now the song was a river flowing downstream, and they smiled as they played on.
Bursting from the ground, fire rose impossibly fast into the sky. There was a glow before, a wide orange band across the horizon fading to blue-green then dark night. Darkness fled from the sun leaving the sky blue and bright, hiding the infinite stars. Sky-fire's light burned warm across the earth, giving food to forests and fields.
"Such a tragedy, no one will see this sunrise but me." The black haired beauty wore dark glasses to stare into the sun.
"Millions are watching this sunrise." Similar dark glasses hid the jade eyes of her lady love, red hair in curls across her shoulders.
"Not the same sunrise, their sun rises over a different field, a different sea and in a different sky." Black hair said.
"You could video it." Red hair said.
"Missing color, depth, sharpness; every recording is imperfect." Black hair said.
"I am here. I see it." Red hair moved closer as she spoke.
"What you see is different. Different viewpoint, different context, maybe even different colors. It's the brain that sees, not the eyes, the eyes are merely lenses. Just because we both call it orange, doesn't mean we see the same color." Black hair said.
"Still beautiful to us both right here right now, that's close enough." Red hair clutched tightly to her, letting their warmth combine.
"Yes, close enough."
I can see us there in the future on the porch swinging in the bench watching the moon huge in the sky over the cornfields, a dull orange blur. Someone is burning something, it is acrid and sweet and makes it feel all the more like autumn. It is just cold enough for the blanket, but not so cold for discomfort. The crickets chirp love songs in the tall grass still green but covered in the first auburn leaves gently tumbling in the late evening breeze.
The sun blinds my soul. When it finally sets, the evil thing, my spirit awakens. The moon is its mockery, cool and comforting, singing sweet silence through the sky. She does not drown out the stars like her jealous brother, but lets them share her sky along with sister Venus and bloody Mars. And so I awaken with them, reaching my waving wheat skyward, embracing them and mother darkness without the sun's deadly burning cloak assaulting.
That horrible unspoken hell, my heart breaks from it, that which makes death a sweet hope, an end to the pain. Walk long enough, with each new footstep burning virgin flesh, and eventually the world fades away. It means nothing, there is only the pain, and the anticipation of further pain, and memories without sound, without color, without taste. You say it with such softness, such practiced sincerity, that word I dare not speak, lest my ears upon hearing it will refuse to hear again, falls from your lips with such ease. Nothing is so obscene as the lie that is not love.
Fate's hand writes my future. My lung is a ruin and I am on the ground trying to make my one good lung work for me. The bullet has torn its deadly path through soft tissue and bone. More bullets are on their way towards me, but all I can think about is oxygen. I roll, despite the fear and pain, death is worse. Bullets fly above me, blood is everywhere, fuck it, I will not be beaten, just need to take some of them with me. Fire fills my chest, my head blurs and my breath spits blood. Again and again, bullets tear through me. Those bullets hit organs that do not matter, not now. There is no more pain, my brain is on fire, I hate, like I have never hated in my life. I hate this one creature. He has taken everything from me, so I hate him.
With every day now, I feel entropy all around me. The universe is dying, this world is dying, and I am dying. Do you feel my malevolence? My hatred of this world? It consumes me now. I hate this base creature I have become. I remember the man I was, young and in love, carefree and without pretense or malice. But here I am, this foul creature now. It isn't by my will, the world makes me the wretched thing I am. Fate took my true love from me, and now there is only darkness.
My life flows through my fingers like dust. The world is breaking down. Planes fall from the sky, lories crash into crowds, strange and deadly diseases proliferate. Even the sky grows darker every day. Somewhere out there is a monster, devouring all life in turn, spinning the whole galaxy down into its embrace while we patiently wait our turn.
They take my energy from me. It is a slow draw, hard to notice, devious and silent. Do they even know what they do? Smiling but tormented inside, everything tight, muscles burning fuel fast, the exit beckons me always ever urgently. At the end, they go home satiated, and I go home empty, nearly soulless. But home, at least, there is calm and quiet, sweet empty insides now relax. Eventually the energy will return again.
That's how I roll up on that shit man. I want life raw and unfiltered. Like fuck that nasty ass whore bareback. I want to feel every canker up in that cooch.
The narrator looks at the man's girlfriend nearly comatose next to him.
You ok with that?
The girlfriend in a haze answers.
I mean, (shrug) what am I gonna do? Look at me.
Just-say-no looks at her sadly.
No baby, you are beautiful, you know that...that's what you are...beautiful...the most beautiful lady in the world.
Just-say-no wraps his arms around her and holds her closer and she sighs baby and they melt into each others arms.
My arms are weary. The sword is heavy in my hand, finally, light as a feather for hours. My time draws near, there are too many. A thousand tiny cuts bleed crimson red, my armor is broken and full of holes. This is no surprise, a legion of men in armor with spears and swords and shields, their standards flapping in the wind, Roman scum. They rape the villages and burn them, leaving behind them nothing but char and death. Too many from the start, but running was not an option, for I am Preteni. I will stand before this glorious host in their shining armor and I will teach them what it means to be afraid. Now I stand, weary with killing and a hundred and more are dead by my hand and I can see the fear in their eyes. They wonder if I am a god, sent by Mars, to punish them. They wonder if I can be defeated. They do not see how the wounds have made me weak.
They pause, a dozen paces away from me, their centurions whipping them, cursing them, driving them towards me, but they still pause, fear in their eyes. I bellow at them, cursing them for cowards and mocking them for their weakness. I laugh, I am full of mirth. Here I am, standing upon a mountain of their dead, a glorious victory, no matter if I meet defeat now.
Then they come on, and I raise my sword and bury it in the first man and see his eyes go dark. But I am too weary to pull it out, and they stab me and it is over. I fall, and all the pain is gone in an instant. They keep stabbing in a rage over their fallen comrades, but I do not feel it. I am beyond their rage now. I look up at the sky, at the clouds, highlighted in orange by the setting sun. It is so beautiful, how did I not notice until now?
Sleep on the hard ground, dig in the rain, smell the wet earth and the sweet scent of summer's end, today is the last day. No more digging, no more toil preparing the camp, no more taking the watch at night, the enemy has taken the field and they are many with armor shining in the afternoon sun and spears pointing skyward, sharp edges out. But my spear is just as sharp, and my heart pounds in my chest, my eyesight has never been keener, and my armor feels as light as fine silk. Today is my day. Tales will be told to children over smoldering fires about my deeds today.
This anticipation, waiting, just before the charge, it is such a sweet torture. I enjoy the last quiet breeze on my face, but I crave the noise, and the fear, the smell of panic and blood. They will fear me once they see me coming. I have been here before, and each time I expected to die. Once my spear takes the first one, they will see me and be afraid. They are bigger and better armed and better organized, but I am quicker, and I know where their armor is weak. I will kill many, then I will die.
We run, each trying to be the first to die on the enemy's shield wall. The distance passes in only a second. It is so quiet. There is yelling, screaming, spears pounding on shields, brassy horns bellowing, but I do not hear any of it. The world has focused to a pin's point. I see my enemy, I have chosen him, because he is the biggest. I leap, his spear is down, and comes up too late. My hand pulls down his shield and my spear pierces his eye socket. Then I am among them, slicing and stabbing, my spear is broken before I hit the ground, but my sword is just as sharp. Then it is over, and there is only darkness.
To see the one you love fading away, what a horror. In your mind is, like yesterday, the young fresh thing full of life and innocence. If only a life can be lived over again. That's my own personal heaven, the same beautiful life with her repeating endlessly. Instead I am forced to see her wither and fade. How cruel fate is to mortals. The ticking clock that never stops, slows or falters, like a dripping faucet in a quiet house. Memories of young love burn bitter like the difference between caressing the skin of the one you love, or the dead thing skin once was.
Old, weak, frail, here I am. I want to be young again, to have her young again and to fall in love together, again. But she is cold and dead now, here, next to me, in that box. We did not have enough time together, thirty years feels like merely a night. I stand and shake the hands of people I barely know, and those I do know, they hurry on by, neither of us wanting to be here in this horrible place, in this horrible time.
God, I want this horrible shit to end. I don't want to live in a world in which she does not exist. I just want to wander out into the cold darkness and let the world take my life. I regret every minute since I found her in our bed, cold and lifeless.
How could I not see that every minute from that horrible minute to now was just a waste of time. Her eyes, her lips, her magnificent mind, that was her best feature. The way she spoke, they way she moved, the marvelous things she said. Never once did I regret falling in love with her. She was always the best part of us.
Now here I am, old, weak, and frail; and the best part of what we were is now cold and dead and lying next to me in a box. I cannot look at her, not at the thing her body has become. It does not shine as she did. It does not glow as she did. This pile of fetid meat is not my true love, it is an abomination. It is the thing that only pretends to be the end of that magnificent goddess. The glorious thing she was, is gone now forever. I no longer belong in this world.
I walk out. I can stand it no longer. These others, these creatures that do not matter to me, they look at me as I walk by, judging me, thinking to themselves their petty thoughts. I don't care what they think of me. I have had enough of this world. I will join my true love, wherever she is. I walk out into the world, the daylight blinding, the sun an evil in the sky that mocks me, the ground covered in fresh white snow. I walk until my body fails me and I fall, and as the life finally leaves my body, I smile.
The storm is coming. I can hear it in the distance, bellowing and gnashing, god, I love storms; that smell, the power in the air, electricity tingling the hairs as the wind tears over my body in quick gusts. I hate being inside when it hits, when the dangerous ones come, better to be out in it, watching the glory of its power unleash on the earth. A giant is stirring in the west this time, coming down off the mountains gaining strength and ferocity, sucking moisture from the gulf and feeding off the hot ground of the plains. By the time it hits the Mississippi it will tear towns down to foundations, murder dozens of people; fathers, mothers, children all will die because of this monster, yet its thirst will remain, onward it will roar over cornfields and woods. It will not hurt me, I am a blade of grass, meek and insignificant, but no storm can harm me.
No one goes to the cemetary at night. It's not difficult, dig fast, make sure you are done by morning, leave the coffin, just take the important parts, the bones. For true love, there is no limit. No human, surely, had shined so bright, no human was as beautiful, only a goddess could light up the world as she did, as if the light of the whole world came from inside her. It has taken so many years, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, a hundred tiny hamlets in the Mississippi delta, so much time to get the information I need. If it works, will she be only animated bones? I hope not. I hope that she will be that glorious creature again; but if she is not, if she is that other thing, then having her at all will be enough. There is no life without her, just dull grey time passing.
What use is a soul? To enter heaven? I am no believer, give me facts and science, show me, make it work, then I will believe. She believed. When the voices started, she thought them devils and angels, but she could not tell one voice from another. Was it an angel saying to hurt yourself? or was it a devil? That was her nightmare, her horror. If only I could have helped her. Have you known that helplessness? Have you seen the one you loved most in this world in pain and be powerless to help them? That was my nightmare, and my horror. If she was correct and a christian god ruled over eternity, then she was doomed to hell for taking her own life, even though she suffered through so much. Even though she tried to be righteous, it was too much for her, and that horrible day came when she could take it no longer. Fuck any god that would damn her for that act. I am bound for hell anyway. What I do tonight won't make any difference. And if she is in hell, then that is where I want to go. Even if I can't see her, just to know that I share her fate will be enough. I will be immune to the tortures of that place just knowing that my true love is close. My soul is a small price indeed to pay for just the slightest chance to see her again.
The storm draws near. The sacrifice is ready, a goat with two feet, frightened, struggling, but the rope binds it to the earth. It fears the coming storm, and me. Everything is ready, her bones, the horror that is left of her, stretched out. I cannot live in a world were she is only bones, but there she is. I cannot look at her. I see in my mind only the glorious thing she once was. The pentagram is drawn, the candles are placed, they have paper hoods to protect the flame from the wind. The flame is important, if the fire goes out all is lost. I will not allow it. The storm is a monster, full of power, a good sign.
It all comes on at once. The wind is a tornado, the rain falls in torrents, the candles, protected by dirt walls and paper umbrellas, stay alight despite the onslaught of wind and water. Lightning crashes down and thunder roars over me like a god itself. I say the words, those horrible words, to me just syllables and consonants, they mean nothing to me. But I know they mean something horrible somewhere. There are creatures that are not human that know the meaning of those words. Maybe they don't exist at all, it matters not, all that matters is true love. She must live again, if the price of her new life is the rest of humanity must die, then so be it. She must live, let her be reborn in fire and blood, and be free from her demons. Let it come, whatever price fate demands.
And then lightning crashes down upon me, burning through me straight to my bones, burning flesh, boiling blood, cooking my organs, burning away all that I am. The pain only lasts a second, but the burning lingers on. She will not live again, I have failed her. The goat, the words, all the time I have spent trying to bring her back, just a waste of time. I have failed her again. My eyes have burned away, but the light of the world taunts me still. I curse this world that has let such a glorious creature as her die and not be remembered. Darkness descends upon me and my last thoughts are of her.