You are reading Fiddleblack #8
Stanis, don’t try to look for me. For the love of everything, just let me be. I am alive, yes, and in this take comfort, because for reasons beyond that which I cannot communicate here in words, it is impossible for us to see each other ever again. You are my brother, and I love you endlessly. Always have. The love an older brother has for that little version of himself goes beyond sibling affection and into something more robust and akin to the love of a father. But please, banish your desire here and now to find me, to help me. Much more is at stake here than the life of one miserable essayist and his homely wife. So read carefully. Words are mere. Words are hollow, and I tell you, what happened to Nina and me is a thing that goes beyond any reasoning we, as mortals, have ever formulated for the sake of our own sanity. What I seek to do here is to give shape to lives entwined, a marriage, and in so doing, somehow substantiate the strangeness to which we were so unfairly subjected.
It was only two weeks ago that I came home from a class to Nina sitting at our kitchen table, surfing the Internet on her tablet computer. She didn’t know I’d arrived, and even as I stood there under the arch she continued to focus on the tablet screen, the contents of which, as I moved closer, I caught a glimpse of. It was only a moment, but what I saw was chilling enough that for the rest of the night I would question if my wife ever was the woman I fell in love with some eleven years ago. When she finally turned to face me, startled, her fingers found the sleep button on the spine of the device rather quickly, and she stood, took my face into her cold, damp hands and kissed me with cracked lips. Despite these indications that perhaps she had been out in the cold for some time, her face was flushed red and there was a thin drool come down from her bottom lip to the tip of her elfin little chin. Are you okay, were my initial words, followed immediately by a general inquiry as to what she was up to tonight—a typical husband’s attempt to address the issue at hand, while not being completely convinced that he wanted an answer to this question in the first place. Nothing, she said in that sing-song voice she so often used to greet me in the evening. And I looked at her. I studied her eyes, saw no indication that she wanted to reveal to me what she was looking at. Boosting up on her toes to peck me on the lips again, she asked how my day at work was and I said it was fine. My new evening classes were hardly ideal, but rush hour traffic was no longer a nuisance.
Silver linings, she said. There’s always one. Such as the breakfast I made for dinner today—pork sausages, eggs, and waffles. Sound good?
Yes, I said. That sounds delightful.
Well, why don’t you go take a hot shower and I’ll warm it up.
Now, men of contemporary society are indeed fools. One only has to admit that to achieve some semblance of intellectual freedom. But we aren’t fools because we were born stupid. We are fools because in an age where our women run rampant with newfound freedom, newfound power in sex and employment, we choose ignorance. In the presence of such giddiness and wild abandon, one would be wise to find a comfortable corner in cool darkness to live out his days peacefully. And this most assuredly is what I aimed to do that night, but the content of what I saw, the very baseness and brutality of it, was simply too searing to endure. I sat down to a very late breakfast with her, which was, as always, delicious, and she stood behind me and rubbed my shoulders as I watched a new episode of Dr. Who on our kitchen television, and all the while that moving image, that kinetic burst of violent energy, raved and rewound in the film projector of my mind.
We engaged in our usual bedtime ritual. Stripped off our day clothes and slipped into our pajamas. She always brushed her teeth before bed, and now she scolded me when I tried to sneak under the covers without doing as much. And I loved her for it. I loved her for looking out for me as only a woman could, and for chiding me when I damn well knew better, so it was without much trouble that I drifted off to sleep in her arms that night rather comfortably.
I awoke at three in the morning to her hand massaging my shoulder.
To my surprise, I was already aroused, quite possibly before I had even emerged from whatever blissful reverie had me tumbling within its folds. This would not be so strange to many married couples, but for us, going on eleven months without having engaged in any form of sexual relations, it was quite a surprise.
Her fingers were suntouched by the thrill of a new horizon, exploring my back and hips and thighs as though they were new territory. I turned to her before long and we embraced, but something wasn’t quite right. She kissed me, and when her tongue slipped into my mouth, it did not feel like the tongue of my wife. This might sound queer, but a man knows the intimate parts of his wife rather well, and I knew then that the wet, hot flesh exploring my mouth was not my dear Nina’s. It was the way it moved. It was the way it felt, full of life and purpose, as if my carnal satisfaction was the sole function for which it was designed. She moaned as the kiss went on, and her hand clutched my manhood, engorged as it was, and began to tug. She accomplished this rhythm not without breathing hard and at times grunting, and the pleasurable pain sent waves through me, to which I succumbed immediately and thoroughly. She tugged, and she tugged, and she writhed in the bed as I had never seen her do. Indeed, she was most assuredly not herself, the other slender hand moving through her black hair damp with sweat, smoothing it back, the better to see what she was doing. I tried to look into her eyes, to spy some glimpse of whatever force had taken the body of my modest, well-to-do wife, my dearest companion, and found nothing. There was no ocean of blue there in her irises, nor the green to which they were disposed on cloudy days or in dim light. We left a small lamp on in the hallway bathroom in the event that we would go out there in the middle of the night. It was a formidable source, and yet, there was no indication of it in Nina’s eyes as she looked into mine, her arm still flexing, still working me over, slick fingers employed by that same industrious efficiency with which a farmer’s hand milks a cow.
It didn’t last very long. Whether or not this was due largely to our eleven month celibacy or the change to which she was clearly subject, I don’t know. But I would discover in the two nights following what the source of that change was.
And it was not favorable.
Stanis, there are things I have to describe now, and be assured, I will fail. There is no sentence, no syntax that can bring to life what we have experienced, nor what I suspect. Leave it to your subconscious mind to reveal what lies between these lines. Through meditation or in dreams you will see what needs to be seen, or hear what needs to be heard. I see this inability to express the mystery in its entirety as a blessing, for there must be some higher power deep in contemplation now as to whether or not you should know more. Truth be told, this letter should not exist. Better for all of us that the happening fade into obscurity within the minds of myself and my wife, but given that we will never again truly join the ranks of the civilized, I feel through some paternal desire that what I have learned should be passed on, if even to give mankind a fighting chance when the fateful day arrives.
Strange as it may seem, the essay I have been working on for the past three months has been one of cosmic importance, the contents of which have helped greatly in my research of this new predicament. It involves a simplified meditation on the true origin of mankind through direct application of safe assumption and proven fact. Educated guesses, Stanis, are the foundation of scientific analysis. Why, then, should a religious scholar not apply that same protocol in search of truth? As a lifelong student of science and religion, always exploring, never denying that cross-section where they intersect, I have put this simple practice to good use.
But there are no hypotheses formable by the human mind to estimate this depth of extraterrestrial psychologies. How conceited we are, and limited in our frame of thought, to conceive for a moment that any life form not of this planet might communicate the way we do, or understand the ways of the mortal universe as we do. The only laws that remain consistent across this plane, this dimension, are the laws of physics, and even so, certain aspects of alien physiology could easily force us to rewrite those laws. Nothing is permanent. Nothing is set in stone, except through our own limited patterns of thought. We repeatedly set our own boundaries, Stanis, to keep ourselves sane, and we alter them as we see fit, allowing for indulgences of the flesh as they evolve and are borne in on us.
As you might expect, on the morning after our first tryst in the better part of a year, we were a changed couple. Nina was awake before I was and there was a new vigor in my veins that made sleeping in quite the chore. She was cooking breakfast for me, and I came around to the combined aromas of bacon and eggs, toast and juice and gourmet hazelnut coffee. I watched her from the third-story landing as she moved between the stove, the toaster oven, and the cupboards, smiling all the time. She bade me good morning without sparing an upward glance—such was her level of concentration—and I padded down to the warm kitchen tiles with her, embracing her and kissing my favorite dimple on her cheek. She looked up at me for but a moment, and inside I exhaled, relieved that her eyes were once again the ocean worlds in which I had time and again lost myself. Whatever it was that had overtaken her last night had departed, or perhaps it had never been there. Perhaps, which I deduced was more likely the case, I had been a victim of my own primal and repressed desires.
But there is a reason for that repression, Stanis. There is a reason that primal sexual urge between two people dissipates over time.
I watched her scoop eggs out of a skillet and lay them most carefully on two oval plates, taking great joy in this, just as she always did, and in my mind I obsessively reviewed the horror I’d witnessed on her tablet screen the evening before. What could possess her to be interested in seeing such a thing occur? I feared quite suddenly for her mental well-being. We had no children, and I’d always wondered why she never felt that maternal urge as many women do at her age, or even regret that she had not taken advantage of her own period of fertility. What was it? What was it tapping at the corner of my mind that shed a bit of light on her oddness, those idiosyncrasies I had lived with for so many years? I never felt inclined to ask. But now, sitting at the kitchen island on a bar stool, unfolding the newspaper to some random inner page before me, I watched her and wondered like I never had in all our years together. I wondered if something in her past could have opened her up to such a taboo.
We ate together and watched the morning news and weather. When I rose to take my leave, her cell phone rang. It was her mother. Hand frozen in mid-reach for the front door, I listened for a while to make sure she wasn’t faking it.
They were talking about recipes.
Pulling into the driveway later that evening, headlights off, my stomach churned at the thought of stumbling upon her continued perusal of things forbidden. Once again the house was immersed in darkness. What was she doing in there?
I’d thought about calling ahead to give fair warning of my arrival, but part of me wanted to catch her in the act. It would serve as a segue. I imagine some husbands are part of marriages where the communication is free-spirited, but I certainly wasn’t. Nina and I did what I call keeping up appearances. We played along with the rest of our happily married friends and family, babbling accordingly. We maintained the marriage in such a way that the façade we projected was not only for the sake of friends and family and fitting in, but for ourselves. There were times when fissures began to show, but we sealed them up rather quickly and out of shame, as if in revealing the source of our insecurities we were akin to Adam and Eve plucking away that final fig leaf. This was key to our happiness; paramount to our matrimonial success. What else is a couple to do in the face of the current horrors of our world? Bills, home ownership, a mortgage; Facebook accounts; teenagers skulking around dangerously in the dark, infuriated at something too sprawling for their undeveloped minds to define; cell phones ringing and pinging updates of every correspondence, no matter how trivial, ultimately making tranquility within one’s life virtually impossible.
I stepped out of the car and made my way to the front door, which was slightly ajar. There was a curious glow inside that prompted me to push the door open in haste, suddenly aware that there could be a fire. I called out for my beloved, but before I could finish, my eyes found the trail of tea lights and candles winding through the front hallway to the kitchen. Setting my case down, I followed this trail to the arch leading to our cherry wood kitchen and, rounding the corner reluctantly, called out for Nina again.
She was there.
The table and chairs had been moved out of the room, and the tea lights had continued their serpentine trail inside, lining the base of each wall. She stood in the center of the room holding an egg-shaped candle of black wax and she wore the sheer white teddy I’d gifted her for our second anniversary, back when our sexual activity had noticeably waned and I had sought to rekindle some semblance of it. She smiled at me with red lips and I approached.
Her eyes were black again. Gone were the oceans I loved, and gone was my wife I soon realized. She tilted her head to one side as if to inquire about my reluctance. So glum, she said. You have me. Will you not hold me?
I walked around to her rear and held her. I kissed the top of her head and whispered to her. I saw what you were watching yesterday, I said. Nina, we need to talk about it.
It’s okay. Really, I’m not upset. Everyone has a taboo to which they feel themselves lured. Some more than others, but I won’t leave you because of it.
She startled me with a shriek and titter. It was raucous and somehow musical. It was not my wife’s laugh. She turned to me with an amused sigh and looked up into my eyes, and upon those obsidian spheres I saw the flames of the tea lights coalesced. And as I watched that single flame, Stanis, I began to lose myself.
Do you see, she said, and indeed I saw.
Something was there in her eyes, behind the flames, wholly separate from her irises and pupils. It was the vague, flesh-colored outline of an egg, and immediately I made the connection between this shadow of a thing to the candle egg she held in her girlish hands. I studied its form, focusing as my gaze gradually penetrated whatever film lay there to protect it from our reality, and more and more it revealed itself to me; the color of it, black and crimson, as of coagulated blood, and an intricate network of auburn veins slightly raised above the paper-thin skin of the oval, which now appeared to be a membrane, yes, and there at the center, some manner of nucleus turning ever slowly on its own axis, not perfect and smooth, but rather inexact, with a myriad serrated grooves and separations. I watched as it turned, and soon realized that this was somehow a living, breathing thing-in-her-eyes or, rather, a dual reflection of something deep inside. Eyes are windows, I knew. They are portholes into the soul. The thing had turned ever more so that I recognized the fetal position, and soon it was facing me, the tiny cavernous eyes glaring up at me from a downturned, diamond-shaped face. It froze in this phase through its rotation as if to connect with me, and indeed it did, for the very nature of my thoughts had altogether begun to change. My fear was supplanted by comfort, my concern for Nina usurped by envy, and the more intensely I stared, the more it became requisite that I should form a nexus with the being germinating inside her.
The candlelight in the kitchen intensified. Nina smirked at me. It was not my wife’s smirk.
A low, guttural groan spilled out from her painted lips. Now, she said. Wrap your hands around my neck.
I looked at her; not at the thing inside her, but at the body that used to belong to Nina Helena Rabinovich. Go on, she said, and I felt my hands begin to uncontrollably twitch, as if a series of electrical currents had alighted them. Soon they lay flat on her chest above her breasts, and before long the thumbs and forefingers of each were coming together loosely around her slender neck.
She closed her eyes and moaned.
Now, she said. Choke me.
I did. My hands flexed, and with evenly-distributed pressure around the circumference of her neck, I began to choke my wife. It was a calculated pursuit, not at all malicious or even in attempt to suffocate her, but merely to do as she demanded. My thoughts lay firmly upon the command and my body executed the motions, careful not to apply too much force with any one finger or palm. It was as though my hands had conjoined, as though it were one massive, unfaltering hand come down from some place where human beings were inconsequential; where intellects far exceeding the collective ambition of mankind attended to affairs infinitely more principal and meaningful than our own frivolous search for a reason to exist. Her knees buckled slightly, and she rolled her eyes to look at me, always smiling, the lustful moan wheezing out of her like a thin ribbon of air from the pinched orifice of a balloon.
When her knees did give out, she looked up at me with pleading eyes, asking for more, more pressure, more of this pulverizing demand upon her biological faculties as an ocean of tears welled up on her eyes and spilled down her purpling cheeks, and the flame in her night-eyes danced, frenzied like a fire nymph, the horizon out of which that alien fetus seemed to pulse to each thrum of her now black and inconsolable heart, and its eyes on me, revealing every insecurity I ever had as a boy, as a man, and obliterating them all with the promise of more of this ecstasy we shared there in the kitchen, there in our marriage, suppressed as we had been for too long, far too long in the dull electric feed of man’s insistence on maintaining order, and skirting the edge of that slapdash wall dividing the will of man and the simple urges of baser animals.
When the tears streaming from her eyes became blood, some faint memory of seeing her in pain for the first time brought me out of petrifaction, and my grip loosened. As if in response to this, she lunged forward, knocking me immediately and with no resistance to the white tiled floor. She moved my arms to my sides and pressed her knees upon them and leaned forward, face gone red and streaked with blood, and yet beautifully sinister. The superheated fetus in her eyes vibrated and spun on its hidden axis and she kissed me, lips against mine, her front teeth catching my gums and we exchanged blood and I kissed her back. I wanted to. More than ever I wanted to feel her mouth and her tongue, and so I kissed her back with comparable fervor. Deep moans came out of her and into my mouth, and I heard a new voice there, mingling with our own, a new presence, recognizably female. Soon the voice had peeled itself away from ours, and now it said, Yes. Yes. And this word was repeated again and again, until it seemed our hearts could bear no more of this rapture.
She wrenched her mouth away from mine and sat up straight. I had only regained awareness of where we were and who I was when her hand slammed across my face. The pain was flaring and sharp and there came another blow, and another, each one harder than the one before, and I lay there at the mercy of the altered strength of her arms. I seem to remember craning my neck as much as I could under her weight, leaning into the barrage of her tiny white-knuckled fists to receive this punishment as the blessing it had become in the halls of my recalibrated mind. I saw my own blood on her knuckles, and I saw the vacancy of madness behind the flames in her eyes and when her fists became blurs of motion, my vision began to fade.
I awoke on the cool kitchen tiles with her in my arms. We were both fetal, spooned together, and she snored the way she did when in our best years of physical intimacy we were both drained of primal urge and desire.
I eased myself away from her sleeping form, stood and stretched. Pain ricocheted throughout my body; pain in places I had never felt such agony, and yet, it was all deliciously pure and refreshing—inviting. Stanis, I wanted more, and though I stood there in the warm afterglow of a climax surpassing any amplitude of pleasure I had heretofore felt, it became obvious to me very suddenly that the moment we lost the spark in our marriage, our chosen paths had led inevitably to this outpour; this… Whatever it was.
The clock on the stove glared at me. Three o’clock in the morning. I looked around at the tea lights, dim in their little pools of wax, and then I looked down at my sleeping wife, her butterscotch hair splayed beautifully on the tile. But something was wrong with my vision. It was blurry and intermittent, as if there lay a film upon my eyes. I blinked rapidly, closed them tightly to ward off this confusion. When I opened them again, Nina’s hair was wet and black, the locks thick and matted like pustular tendrils, and her skin was ghastly pale; not that careful porcelain of a girl from the North, but chalk-white as of a girl dead some hours, still warm, but given to that impending stillness and rigidity of the muscles and joints. She visibly breathed, and so I left her there, afraid to disturb her, afraid that if she did wake, the woman who addressed me would be even more unlike my dear wife than she had become in the last two days.
It was in this moment, as I looked over the sprightly body of my better half, that my surroundings began to change. Rather, in hindsight, I am now aware that this was the effect of my senses attuning to the strangeness in our home, for every stimulus to be plucked from the environment proper had become known to me despite man’s natural inability to hear certain frequencies or probe certain colors, certain energies. I heard wildlife outside, their muffled pounding through the grass, and in the wake of their scampering I heard the very shifting of those blades of grass not by the tiny legs of creatures going about their nocturnal habits, but by a ubiquitous night wind. Inside, the miniscule dying flames in the aluminum tea light discs were not auburn at all, but a cold blue, and indeed they were not dying at all, but burned evenly, with no indication that they should ever extinguish. The ticking of the clock on the stove was acute, keeping tally not of seconds, but of some unorthodox and erratic measure of time akin to the clicking of a creature’s claws on glass, or mandibles grinding stone, and it seemed I could will the volume of these sounds to fade into the background or foreground by silent command.
Nevertheless, this new perspective was wholly disconcerting, and now I emerged from the kitchen to explore the rest of the house with these newfound abilities. The landing overlooking the living room was glowing with blue light, and the living room and adjoining dining room were pulsing with a hue not unlike charcoal, but too vaporous to be black. While the blue was emanating from the tea lights, the vaporous grey appeared to be descending from the ceiling, and as I looked up to assess this dispersal, I became gradually violently ill, the source of these energies prompting me to double over in distress, stricken by that sensation affiliated with a biological failure to digest rotten meat, that utter refusal of the body to perform an action you would have it do. In this case, that action appeared to be simple intake of oxygen, for each time my lungs took in a breath, my glands would produce an excess of saliva and I would cough and retch, expelling the clear fluid from my mouth in a hot deluge.
Below us, the ajar front door moved with the breeze, gently rapping against the wall behind it at regular intervals. This was of no concern, I determined through some preternatural instinct, for the true danger as it was, did not lurk outside in our front yard or even the suburban streets and adjacent houses, but somewhere above us in the remaining rooms of the house. Taking in shallow breaths, I turned to the main staircase spiraled up to the fourth floor of our abode and noted the deeper, phosphorescent hues of blue, red, and utter creeping blackness that flushed the walls and ceiling. Indeed, these colors churned, and as if in response to my gaze, I was presented with a low droning sound, as of a baritone voice in a chamber of echoes, haunted by a chromatic scale too low for human ears to interpret. But I heard the aria in this bedlam, powerful in its expression of unease. It was fear that crept over me as I heard it, an insidious thing lurking up there somewhere, and I knew suddenly that to find it, all I had to do was use my terror as a sort of compass, which I now ventured to do.
I paused on the staircase to glance back at Nina’s sleeping form. Her chest rose and fell most comfortably, and the tendrils her hair had become twitched and wriggled on the glossy white tiles, smearing droplets of some clear, viscous substance and our own blood. I turned away and took to the stairs slowly, anticipating some change in the aria’s urgency, but there was none, only that same rolling consistency of lament as I made my ascent, the smoldering amalgam casting my shadow long and fretful against the wall.
At the top of the landing I felt an inexorable pull at the center of my chest, as if there lay a hand upon it, clutching some indent therein, and spurring me through the hall. Pausing every few steps to lurch and vomit, I soon found myself standing before the closet in Nina’s office. I saw my hand reach forward, seeming to move of its own accord, opening the closet door, pushing it aside. The shades and hues had coalesced here magnificently, and gone was my sickness, giving way to an undeniable urge to peer up at the attic door. I took Nina’s office chair and set it under the door and stood upon it. My hand reached out for the transparent knob affixed to the cord that would lower the ladder, paused for a moment as if to deliberate this action, then resolved to tug hard.
Stanis, a veritable orgy of saturations spilled out of the attic proper, and the bedlam aria was louder, rising from the floor now, the voice flooding my mind with all manner of primal sensations until it seemed unbearable that I should listen any further, but I did. I let it fill me. I let the voice take my body entire, my limbs moving of their own volition, taking me up the ladder to the attic floor where at the far end of the room there lay a curious arrangement of symbols comprehensively alien to me. Each time they pulsed, white in the surrounding kaleidoscope, I saw the circular composition of shapes and etchings reach out from the wall upon which it had been scrawled, expanding as if to comprise a new dimension in its totality. And indeed, this is what it was, a fourth dimension of actuality, because now it hovered there against the wall, fully realized, fully immersed in our own province of man.
The aria became a hush. I moved toward the four dimensional glyphs, pausing when finally there lay only an arm’s length between myself and it. As I began to reach up, perhaps to touch it, perhaps to better engage the glowing, animate substance out of which it was forged, I was afflicted by a hot, unyielding pinch in my left shoulder.
I stumbled in a half turn to face in the opposite direction, only to find myself nose to nose with Nina, grinning, her bloodied hands clutching the fillet knife she had thrust hilt-deep into my deltoid. Her eyes were glazed over into the flesh color of the fetus that once spun there, and her hair squirmed and whipped in the air like tethered, starving eels. She chortled, reached over me to pluck the knife free, raised it glistening in her fist, and sunk the blade into my left side, catching the ribs there and throwing herself off-balance. I turned with the momentum of her blow, came around and struck her across the face, but this was as much an affliction to me as it was to her, sending ripples through my wounded shoulder. I reeled, stumbled over my own feet, and landed on my back, the impact impressively unyielding. Disoriented, tumbling headlong in my mind through a phantasmagoric landscape of bewilderment, I looked around me, trying to steady the view and failing miserably.
The aria—it was now acoustic. The source of it was there in my midst.
I maneuvered myself onto all fours, lifted my head and did my utmost to focus on the cluster of shapes and swirls ahead. A male figure stood there. Enormous. He must have been twelve feet tall, of considerable girth, muscles honed to physical perfection; broad shoulders, tapered waist, bulbous thighs. His skin was orange, and he was naked save for a black garment covering his loins, and he wore a helmet of that same loincloth material, an abyssal darkness that winked and shifted ever so slightly, such as the cosmos on the eye of a telescope. The helmet was a curious contraption, shaped like the head of a mantis, but with a long, ribbed appendage, such as the trunk of an elephant. The song went out of him with a steadiness of the wind, even as he took a step forward and curled a massive, eight-fingered hand around the cresting rail of an intricate white throne.
Though weak, I stood, and only then did I realize that the floor in this new place was transparent. It was crystal. And all through it there stretched a grand tessellation of arteries, capillaries, and veins, feeding a quickened black liquid to the throne where a slender, writhing black mass had been seated, vaguely defined by the tender, voluptuous curves of a woman, but sublimely threatening as it glared at me with a pair of eyes emerging from the amorphous composition of a visage I recognized immediately as the face of my own dear Nina. Its eyes were bright white, as of the distinct opposite of an absence of light, and the scowl that etched itself into her ephemeral flesh had also belonged to my wife. Each time I blinked, her expression was different, and the eyes were mere pinpricks, out of which the absolute whiteness had emerged and expanded most vehemently. A word came to me then. Or rather, a name, cleanly debouched from the aria—D’endrrah—and as I uttered it, in a flash this being had revealed a myriad black tentacles that caressed and embraced the throne, each appendage moving ever onward to make room for the next, like a dance, a languid, sensual dance where each movement, highly intentional, serves to indulge the repressed voyeur in all of us.
When I couldn’t regard this insidious force any longer, I looked away, instead committing myself to a quick survey of my surroundings. I was in what looked like a ballroom, with sparse articles of furniture scattered throughout, of what appeared to be Victorian influence, but as I looked on, these chairs, tables, and vanities flickered and faltered, revealing their true architecture, that of a design I had never seen, nor could have imagined. What might have functioned as a chair was not molded to cradle the posture of a sitting human being, and the harshness of the lines, the angles, was certainly not conducive to comfort as man understands it. The tables and desks appeared not to be surfaces upon which to eat or work, but slabs of some living, breathing element whereupon one would be strapped down and tortured by another, and in peering attentively at the mirrors affixed to the vanities, I was made aware of the myriad walls, layer upon layer of mirror rows until it was unclear as to how many there could be, the outlines of their reflective surfaces blurred in the constant whirl of colors and reverberations of the giant’s choral lament.
There was another sound then. A vibration, constant and barely noticeable. The closest sound to which I can compare it would be a cat’s purr. I knew it to come from D’endrrah herself, for now she stood as if to address me, the tentacles reaching out to either side, tensed and waiting. Nina’s visage faded, replaced by the androgynous face of the fetus reflected in her eyes. There was no mouth, no ears, no nose, only a pair of rigid, white-hot gashes for eyes, and yet I knew without a doubt that it was smiling at me. And it spoke, Stanis. Not aloud, but to that sense of hearing we cultivate inside. It re-enacted moments Nina and I shared, as far back as our first encounter, when I found her reading Dostoyevsky in that used bookstore near the campus. It whispered arguments, discussions, and confessions of love. It showed me the precise moment when I knew our relationship had begun its descent into a cycle of miscellaneous trivialities and empty motivations. As it continued with this diatribe, I became suddenly aware of an alarming multilayered truth: We were fine as we were, Nina and I. And the details supporting that truth came to me as clearly as words spoken aloud: Stanis, there is a reason for the waning of a couple’s sexual activity. It is not only necessary for survival of the relationship itself, but for the good of mankind. If people in a union never repress their desire for each other, they continually evolve sexually. And what matters here is not the evolution of a single individual, but the bound couple. Left to their continued sexual ripening, the bound couple will always look for more, always look for a better, more intense high, and upon that zenith they will find this realm, the domain of this creature with motives yet still beyond by understanding.
My own wife had inadvertently opened such a gateway to her dominion, likely through continued, progressive fantasizing leading to what I saw on her tablet that evening, and I had unwittingly participated in her descent by suppressing my emotions all those years. While one half of the marriage delved into the horror of violence and sex in secret, the other half facilitated her exploration through an insistence to hide his yearning. Marriage, therefore, can be seen as a very dangerous thing in which to get involved, but man’s tendency to require companionship is an unavoidable constituent.
Stanis, I was dizzy with truths. I was not meant to be there. She had not been expecting me. And the aria began finally to change, the hulking minstrel looking skyward, massive hands at his sides now crushing into fists. The black veins in his body had raised up to the surface of his sunset skin, and they pulsed and hummed as his voice ascended an octave, prompting the very walls to sing with him. The dark goddess was bracing herself against the throne, and as her eyes narrowed, as if to taunt me, I was made privy to what would follow: She would come for me. She would push off from the white stone throne, moving through the air faster than I could gauge, and she would have me once and for all. But therein lies a weakness in the superior psychology of my hunter, for all I required to access that reservoir we ransack for survival was the image of her many arms folding around me and tearing me apart. So horrific was the drama of it that in my desperation for a solution, I looked down at my body and noticed the fillet knife protruding from my side. The beauty of this tool was its custom design. No plastic, no rubber. It was itself entirely steel, and now I plucked it free and hurled it at the closest object I knew I could affect: A mirror.
The knife went through the first mirror, the one behind it, and commenced some reaction amid the color kaleidoscope that set row upon row of them to shatter, one by one, as in a row of dominoes inaugurated to fall. The resulting chaos prompted the goddess to scream an unholy assemblage of screams, loud among them my dear Nina. And before I turned to lunge blindly in that direction from whence I had unexpectedly emerged, I saw the black-clad giant reach out for her with both hands, his arms like great monoliths, pulling her out of harm’s way as color and glass fused into a cyclone that blinded us all.
Stanis, I made it out alive. But be assured, I left something there in that great hall—my true sanity. It bleeds out as I type this, as if every moment I spend here in our own realm slackens the cord that links my mind to rational thought. Back in the house, I scrambled to collect Nina in my arms, refusing to spare a glance at the glyphs as they seethed, wheeling about in a whispering fury. I managed to gather a few articles of clothing and our wallets, along with my own tablet computer, from which I send this. Nina is well. She recalls her actions as if having witnessed them from afar, and we have made love several times most vigorously, sincere in our attempt to find that balance all couples should strive to achieve.
But our lives will never be normal, my dear brother. By day, we move from one hotel room to the next. And as I write this, an unseen scribe etches D’endrrah’s glyphs into the ceiling of our hotel room, right above our bed.
We have taken to sleeping on the floor.
Copper Sloane Levy was born in Canada but grew up in the Midwest and Southern United States. He lives in Toronto.