Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Deathly Compromise--Excerpt #4

“Dee, Dee, listen to this one,” Aria is whispering to me, handing me an ear phone bud. We are both squeezed onto her small hospital bed, each of us wearing a pair of headphones. Only a few more days until they cut her open and stick their hands into her red filled cavity. I licked my lips in a Pavlovian response. My eyes flickered open from her incessant tapping and I removed my own bud. I listened to the flowing melody, the moving soul flowing from the trumpet, and felt my feet tapping over the edge of the bed.

“Louis? You’ve certainly upgraded, kid. I’m quite proud. That happens to be one of my favorite songs of all time.” She smiled satisfied, popping the bud back into her ear and wriggling back under the covers. She let out a wicked cough and my knuckles tightened with each grasp of air she took. There were only three more days until her surgery and while she tried not to show it, the worry covered her face like a smothering pillow.

“It’s really pretty, like flowers after the rain,” she whispers.

“I think of rain, too. But I always see a couple running through an empty street, trying to catch a train.” Aria let out another cough, but perked up, letting an ear bud drop from her lobe. She nudged my arm, afraid to ask for more but certainly not letting the curiosity evade her. “Well, if you must know…There’s always this man and this woman. They’ve just finished dinner…”

Paris, 1949

The rain was coming down. I looked over at him, laughing as the storm came down around us. The dinner had been perfect, the time passed so slow; and in that rain we saw each other in a way that seemed endless. He came towards me, his black coat covered in rivulets of rain passing through the creases like pulsing veins. His hand reached out towards me, his fingers slightly bent as if asking for permission. His face never dropped the smile, but there was a wrinkle of doubt in his laugh lines. He was searching for the world in my face; an answer that he would never receive. The faint sound of a phonograph in the cafe nearby playing La Vie En Rose whispered through the torrents. There were so many words, so many moments yet to steal, but I knew I could not take anymore. “You’re going to miss your train,” I yell, rain water dripping into my mouth.

“Then I’ll miss it,” was his only response.

“You can’t stay.”

“Why not? Why, when I have so much here?” He walks closer until our coat buttons are touching each other. “Give me one reason.”

“Because if you stay, you’ll regret it, and…I’m not prepared for that guilt.”

“You can’t see the future, nor can you decide it. I decide my own fate.” He lightly pounded a fist to his chest to emphasize his point.

My lips smirked up at his naivete, but it immediately turned into a frown. The rain would eventually mask my own tears. “Please Henry, please…”

“If I didn’t know any better, I would say that you were trying to get rid of me so you would never have to see me again.”

“I swear to you, my intentions are pure, and I am incapable of lying.” If only he knew the whole story, I thought. If only I could tell him everything. Harboring a secret for millions of years is something that could wear a person down, even the most immortal of souls. I put my hands on his chest, feeling the wet tweed of his coat between my fingers and wondering how long this guilt would last. I had to say something. For him. After this long, after lifetimes of loneliness, I would have to deal with the repercussions. “Henry, I don’t know how to tell you this…” The whistle of a train blew nearby, and he was sure to miss it. If he missed it, I would surely lose him forever. The distant light from the train began to creep up on the tracks, the sheets of rain becoming visible. The air became so heavy, that it took every effort to bring words to my lips. “You really would stay with me? Forever? Until the end of time?”
“Until there is no more breath in my lungs,” he yelled happily over the noise. I let out a shaky breath and smiled. I held his coat in my hands tighter and rested my head on his chest. I heard his heartbeat pound heavy and beautiful in my ears. I felt the train vibrate, shaking the small pebbles on the ground. And through the rain, the cold, the undeniable tightness in my dark chest—it was a truly perfect moment. I felt his hand lift my chin, then both hands cupping my face bringing it to his. His lips were warm and like satin, pausing briefly to catch his breath. I felt the roar of the train pass through our mouths and when it was silenced, I felt a smile come through out of selfish happiness. Had I truly tricked Fate and been allowed this one joy? I embraced him tightly, feeling him shiver from the cold settling in. The rain through his coat, the chill in his bones, my mouth to his…

“And so they went inside and planned the rest of their lives together.” Aria’s face was wide eyed and attentive. Her short eyelashes fluttered as she smiled, her square teeth glistening in the whiteness of the luminescent bulbs.

“Yes,” she whispered softly, then leaned back onto her pillow. “I knew it.” She let out another cough and I felt the life starting to leave her. I looked at her sadly, thinking of this dream and the awful truth of it all. “Dee, will you be here for my surgery?”

“Yes, of course. I will be waiting on the other side for you.”

“Good.” I silenced myself with a concrete lump in my throat. “I’m scared, Dee. What if I don’t wake up?”

“People always wake up Aria. There’s way too much life out there to enjoy and too much waiting for you. When you wake up, you’ll be much happier than you were before you went to sleep. You know, you should listen to something really good and powerful right before. It’ll make you feel strong.”

“Can you pick it out for me?”

“Of course, kid. I’ll get only the best.” She smiled again, closing her eyelids softly like falling petals. Her breathing slowed and I felt her mind ease into the land of dreams. I got off of the bed and walked to the door, leaning in the door frame, watching her drift further away from the present.

Paris, 1949

I felt Henry take a gasp of air. For a naive moment, I thought it was in joy, but reality set in quite quickly. His hand gripped my own, trying to hold onto me as his body toppled to the floor. “No, no, no,” I uttered, more loud with each word. “Please, Kay, Fate, anyone…” I put his hand to his face as his eyes widened in choking despair and his skin turned purple from tightening veins. The rain had stopped, but the tears continued. “I tried to save you. Forgive me, please.” Something in my face frightened him. He swallowed all he had in his throat but I never got that resolution. I brushed back the hairs falling into his eyes and apologized with every spirit I had left.

He began to speak, softly muttering in my ear but I couldn’t understand. It wasn’t until his breathing nearly stopped when I heard him clearly say, “Monstre.”

I dropped him at that moment like something I couldn’t afford to touch any longer. His eyes were still open, but now empty. I closed his lids and apologized once more, softly and genuinely. I sat in the street, a wet monster blowing the cold air from my nostrils, feeling the fire burn inside me. My mind raced a mile a minute to the point that I couldn’t think coherently. I didn’t want to think anymore.

My hands began to burn.
I watched his body begin to sag onto the stone.
My face itched; the flakes of smoky ash beginning to fall from it. Wispy clouds of air still leaving my nose and mouth.
His hair fell back into his face.
My fingers snapped and stretched into dark talons as they reached out to tuck them back behind his ear.
The phonograph had long stopped, the scratch of the vinyl skipping endlessly in the dimly lit window. No one to be found.
I felt a little bit of life in him, lingering, wanting to fight off his destiny.

The fire in my eyes sensed it and beckoned it out. A dark hand touched his own once more, releasing the life like a gold ribbon in the air. I wrapped it around my talons like a piece of silk. The last of my tears evaporated. My free hand touched the pocket watch hanging from my neck, clicking it open. The life left my talons and into the watch, leaving it glow for a flicker of a moment until I clasped it shut. The lamp posts flickered in and out down the dark road, and as passersby began to come out after the storm, the mutterings began.

One voice questions, points.
Two check the body for a pulse.
A third shouts, screams.
More crowd the flooded street, puddles splashing across their legs as they all walk right past me.
I am invisible.
I am infuriated.
I know nothing of rational thought, longing, or remorse.
I only know the dark of night, the hunger for flesh and bone, and the thirst for souls to quench me.
Faces scour the area, looking for a culprit where no visible one can be found.
They will find me when they are ready.
They all do.

My cheeks felt flushed and wet. I brushed the tears away with the sleeve of my jacket and swallowed it down; put it on the back burner. Aria was asleep now, nestled away somewhere safe and away from me. “Take me with you,” I whisper. I clutched my pendant tight enough to sear my skin. I deserved every moment of pain. Another heart to break, another life to take.