There's been so much happening, it's hard to begin. I've been meeting and recording with some awesome people for the podcast, and I'm going to start edits for episode 4 this weekend. Should be ready to mix by next week.
I'm also working on some more in-depth writing than I'm used to. Those of you keen enough to notice have pointed out that of all the stories I've managed to revise and re-post over the last year, 'A Beautiful Nightmare' is still untouched. Well, there's a method to my madness. Later this week it will be re-posted. When I originally wrote it it was going to be a chapter serial like 'The Churning Black', but it took a life of it's own and now it's a short novel. I'm nearly a third through the rough edits now. Slow, careful work...
But all the tight focus is enough to drive me insane, so I take breaks and work on other smaller projects, like this one... This post is also going to be added to the tab page of the same title so anyone who wants to can read them together in order without tabbing back and forth.
Thank you all for your kind emails and encouragements. Here's part two of the blog series 'The Churning Black.'
The Churning Black: II
The Park off of 37th street was bathed in the shadows from the towers on the west side. Right before sunset, the last rays of sunlight reflect off of the Peyton Natural History Museum. The light dances across the reflection pool like a Russian ballet on fire. Most days I’m the only one who notices. Today, I had company.
He wore a weathered trench coat that covered a mismatched suit. His face was hidden under a mask of five o’clock shadow and bangs that needed a trim. He also knotted his tie wrong. It looked like he started with a Windsor that ended in a slipknot.
He appeared at the water’s edge right before the sun hit the glass and just stood there, waiting. I’ll be the first to admit it bothered me, but then the light hit the pool, and the flames of the sun touched the water. No one ever stopped to listen to the music. Of all the times I choreographed the movements, no one ever looked to see where the sound came from. Today, I chose strings. Yesterday, it was woodwinds, and the day before, it was overcast.
The light passed over the pool and moved to my music, almost striking the water in time to the arpeggios. When it reached the low wall at the man’s feet, the light warmed the concrete for almost a full minute before it faded. He looked up and smiled at me when he caught me staring. His face cracked along the edges like a dry riverbed. He clapped as the music faded.
“And who are you supposed to be?” I said as I circled the edge of the pool. The evening rush hour was just starting to hit, and the noise of the city was like a plague of locusts awakening. The man cocked his head at me, and his smile widened. I waited for it to split wide open to reveal rows of shark’s teeth, but it didn’t. His eyes darted at me, each on an independent axis. It was always the eyes that they never seemed to master. They were always the wrong color, or they glowed, or they spun in circles…
“That was quite a trick. Nice little bit or orchestration you’ve managed to put together.” It wasn’t just his eyes-- his voice was wrong, too. British, with a hint of Jamaican.
“I like to keep my arrangements simple. I don’t do subtle well.” He glanced down at my hands and shifted as if he expected a weapon to appear. “And you didn’t answer my question.”
“My name is Deteo, your Lordship,” he said, straightening up so he was easily a full head taller than me. “Syra is roasting like pig because of you. Rumor has it the Queen almost lost her mind with rage.”
A flash of Angelica ran through my mind. Her simple beauty among the horde of the Queen's court. It must be priceless. “Syra is her own worst enemy. And she reaps what she sows.”
He held up his hands, “I’m just a messenger, Lordship, I don’t hold for any of that. What you all do in the privacy of your little rooms is on you. Per’sonly, I can’t stand the smell of any of you.”
“And yet, here you are. So by all means, Deteo, indulge my curiosity.”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small locket suspended from a thin gold chain. “This was found in the tunnels by Acrux. Don’t ask how Chimesa got his hands on it-- hell, he might have eaten some poor bastard and shit it out for all I know…”
I held out my hand, and Deteo dropped it in my palm. It felt heavier than I remembered. “Chimesa?”
“He brought it to Lord Kael when he recognized your scent. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna to go burn this skin-- it’s starting to itch.”
I waved him off and held the locket up to the fading light. The engraving on the back was almost worn smooth. The last time I held it in my hand was almost two hundred years ago. I was haunting France in those days, sifting my way through the aristocracy and generally causing chaos at every turn. For nearly three months straight there was hardly a man or woman of means who didn’t have my charm for at least one night. Some were just entertaining enough to visit a few times.
Blanche Fournier was as charming as she was beautiful. She was petite for an aristocrat with long golden hair, and the shyness of a Catholic nun. I met her during one of the massive riots that kept sweeping back and forth across the city. Something was working the place into a frenzy, and I was bored to tears enough to watch it all play out.
Every night when darkness fell, the aristocrats all gathered among the chateaus on the hillsides and watched the city burn. The working class and the poor were just kindling. The gentlemen were in the habit of taking bets on the casualties and then marking entire sections of the ruin for sale the next morning. The ladies would gather and talk about how the desperately the poor deserved their fates.
I worked through them slowly, starting with Renoir. He had the largest chateau, and most gatherings happened there. I used him to seduce Anne, the undisputedly wealthiest among them. Under the orange glow of the city’s flames, I walked her to the rose garden and sat her on a small stone bench. I stood over her and kissed her. I put everything I had into that kiss, pressing my lips gently against hers patiently until she yielded. Once she opened her mouth to accept the tip of my tongue, her whispered moan became her undoing. I encouraged the strings to blow on the breeze, and it muffled the distant screams. Her clothes fell in pieces on the lawn, her skin coming into view in layers until her only adornments were in her hair. She spread herself easily for me, and I kneaded her milky white breasts under the stars and embers.
I left her with Renoir still inside her. I laughed myself hoarse as he awoke with his cock buried in her to his balls, her clamping down on him as he came. He recovered fast enough and seemed no worse for the experience. The next night I possessed Genevieve, and through her, I led Pierre to the basement where Renoir kept his finest reserves. He was tall, broad shouldered, and I led him on, teasing him mercilessly with whispered fantasies and gentle caresses. I brought him to the boiling point and then turned to flee, racing for the stairs. Pierre grabbed my wrist and pulled me back down. I fought him off, but only enough to make things interesting.
We didn’t waste time removing our clothes, we just revealed what we needed to. Pierre buried his cock in her time and again, making her drip with anticipation. When I left her, she was crying out so loud I thought the world was ending. Every night, I switched between them, and some nights, it was impossible to choose which soulless husk I wanted to parade to my will. The revolution broiling throughout the city was getting closer, but thanks to me, no one saw it coming. At least, most of them didn’t see it.
Blanche first appeared in Renoir’s garden two days before it all went to hell. I was in Margot, teasing Pierre by riding Genevieve’s fingers. I caught sight of Blanche at the edge of the garden, watching. I felt a wild exhibitionist thrill shoot through me, and I put on a show that was just as hot as the city burning behind us. Blanche watched, transfixed while Genevieve went down on Margot, and Pierre settled onto his knees to sample Genevieve’s wetness, driving her face up against the junction between Margot’s thighs.
When Pierre climaxed, Blanche ducked back behind the hedgerows, and I left my puppets to fend for themselves. It wasn’t hard to follow her. I found her sitting near the front doors of the Chateau. She had her head cradled in her arms while the embers drifted closer. I stayed near her all night, watching her mourn her city.
The next day, everyone gathered at Renoir’s estate again. The mansions along the edge of the city were falling one by one. Blanche was the last to arrive and stayed as far away from everyone as she could without appearing ungrateful. The whirlwind of lust I helped churn was so ripe that within minutes, the idle chatter was thinning as couples paired off toward different sections of the house and the grounds. I watched Blanche fade into the background without a second glance from the others. Once she was sure they’d gone, she went back to sit vigil over the front gates.
I watched her sit there until dark, alone. I’m still not sure why, but I left her there to find one of the servants in the lower halls. I took him while he watched Margot and Pierre through a gap in the parlor door. I walked him up back up to the front steps and sat down next to Blanche as if I’d known her forever. Through his ears, I could hear the crackle of the flames. The apocalypse was closing in. In hours, everything would be overrun. “They’re coming, you know.”
Blanche looked up and glanced at me. Her eyes lingered on my black linen suit while I took off the gloves and tossed them into the bushes.
“Wh-who are you?” she asked, then looked up over the gates and shook her head. “Never mind, it doesn’t matter. They’ve destroyed the bridge last week, and the roads are being watched. We’re all going to die here…”
“You don’t think you could slip past the mobs? They’re hungry and savage, but they’re also blind. Lose your finery and you could escape.”
“And then what? My family’s estate is in ashes. My family…is gone.”
“So why are you here?” I pointed out at the riot. “Why not let them have you when you had the chance?”
“Because I don’t want to die?” she sighed. “But it's going to happen anyway, isn’t it.”
“Of course. Everyone dies, someday.”
“Everyone else seems to be taking this like some kind of excuse to welcome the gates of hell, but I won’t, I can’t!”
I held her hand and felt a tremor course through it. There were too many things happening, too many forces at work to stop it. It was too far gone for me to intervene. I just sat with her and squeezed her hand gently.
I sat with her in silence until it was almost midnight, thinking. It was rare that a mortal gave me pause, but Blanche felt different somehow. I couldn’t stop the rampage, and I was bound to the Queen’s rule, but maybe there was something I could do. It could kill her, but like she said, she was dying anyway.
“Blanche, can I ask you something?”
She took a deep breath and watched the embers reach for the stars. “You might as well.”
“What is your favorite song?”
She laughed and looked sideways at me, her eyes glistening at the corners. “It’s apiece by Revel, but I can never remember the name, it has a beautiful melody and—“
I knew the song. I played it. It carried on the breeze, and the moment it touched her ears, she gasped, and her hand tightened on mine. A chorus of screams reached the front gate, and she didn’t even notice. Her eyes held mine, and she squinted as if to catch a glimpse of me beneath the mask. “You have to run. They’ll kill you if you stay. If not before, surely now.”
“I can’t run. I have nowhere to run to…”
“Then I’ll carry you.” She almost laughed. Almost. I stood up and let her hand fall away. The church bells were long shattered, but I felt its ghost echo in my soul. The first chime doubled me over like a punch to the stomach, and I willed the trees and shrubs at the gates to burst with wild growth that masked us from view. The mob screamed and torches started flying. They hit the chateau, the lawn, and the path under my feet. The second bell dropped me to my knees. My host begged to die because the pain coursing through us was so intense.
On the third bell, he did. Life fled from him in the face of what was coming. Blanche stood, her eyes wide with terror. Her song was louder on the wind, enough to drown out the screams and mad cries of the mob. The fourth bell started to strip away my façade. The fifth, sixth and seventh revealed my true shape taking hold. On the eighth, my nec lengthened and broadened; on the ninth, my skin turned to a black so velvety deep that it sucked light into it. On the tenth, my arms and legs turned into stalks tipped in golden hooves. On the eleventh, my body swelled to more than two thousand pounds. By the twelfth bell The golden horn burst from the center of my head in a splash of liquid gold. The remains of the man I possessed lay beneath my hooves, and I could see a perilous shock play across her face.
She looked over me, a unicorn spawned from the deepest pits of Hell silhouetted against the burning gates, the trees and shrubs, from golden horn to obsidian mane and flank to golden veins dripping down to my golden hooves. Her song was still in the air, but I couldn’t do any more, I couldn’t speak again in my true form even if I wanted to. The choice was hers now, and hers alone.
I waited for her to breathe, and when the gate shattered, and the mob poured in, she saw the faces in the crowd, the ones that weren’t flesh and bone, but fire and blood. She leapt onto my back and tightened her fists into my mane. I ran for her. Her legs gripped my sides, and I ran faster than I even had in my life. The chateau, and everyone in it suffered for it, more than they would have otherwise, but Blanche survived.
Or so I thought. I left her worlds away from the brutality of France on the shores of New York. There was a man I met once who I trusted to do what was right. I left her in his care, and took my leave of her. There was nothing that could ever be said to explain. I thought that was the end of it.
And now her locket was in my hand. It was hers, I had no doubt. But how did it find it’s way to a cave in the bowels of hell, in the possession of a beast that made Cerberus look like a hood ornament? I closed it in my fist and looked up at the darkening sky. And they said Hell was painful.