Well I actually did it. Chapter 6 was a big challenge for my writing. If I didn't pull this off well, it would basically sabotage the upcoming chapters. I didn't want it to sound too rushed, yet I didn't want it to be overloaded with pointless details, so of course I was met with many, many rewrites. Finally I have the draft of the chapter and though it is not perfect I think that I am happy as I will ever be with it.
Sorry ahout the wait, I guess I should warn now that I am a perfectionist and this is typical of me.
Chapter 6: Mystic Memories
My eyes felt stitched closed as I tried to open them. The phone was ringing next to me on the table beside the chaise in the parlor. It sounded like it was coming from far away, but really it was just inches from my head. I groaned and sat up, peeling myself off of the dark green velvet covering the chaise and blindly reached for the telephone. I answered it on the fourth of fifth ring after clearing my throat.
"Hello?" I rasped nonetheless.
"Why hello Ash." purred a syrupy- smooth voice from the other end of the line. At first I jumped at the sound of someone using my pseudonym, but figured out who it was quickly from there.
"Hello Adam." I finally said, "I'm sorry, I almost didn't recognize your voice." A pause, "So why are you calling anyway?"
"Because there is now a big, fat cheque for you in the mail," He replied, "I just sold your last work I had in stock for thirteen- thousand dollars." I raised both eyebrows in surprise.
Painting had never been something I thought I had a particular talent, or eye for. I never thought that one day it would be partially responsible for my comfortable lifestyle. One day, after donating a painting that I didn't even acknowledge as my own to a gallery in the city, I set off a chain of events on myself. I had signed the painting "A.E" with no real thought about it, until I was contacted by a young and pretentious art dealer named Adam Dyson.
From there Adam and I formed a relationship as dealer and artist. Adam's going rate for selling and distributing my work was ten percent of the selling price of the painting. I offered him an additional five percent to keep Ash Ellision's real identity a secret, and being a smart businessman, Adam took an extra ten percent and adjusted the numbers to make it only look like five. I didn't mind, just as long as I remained anonymous.
"So now I ask, what would you like?" I replied, tapping my foot absently against the leg of the chaise as I waited for him to enlighten me.
"Gavin, I am in dire need of just one or two more of your works. All that I had in my stock has sold." Adam barely paused to take a breath, "I have collectors willing- no scrambling to pay thousands. Do you understand what this means?" There was another pause in which Adam gasped, like he was hyperventilating, for breath, "If I release just one or two more of your works this year we are talking up to twenty- thousand dollars- each, maybe more depending on when I release them, and to whom."
Adam seemed to enjoy this feeling of being one of the youngest and most successful art dealers around. He liked to brag a lot about having a talent for finding unusual and unknown artists with previously "unrecognized" talent. It was one of his key selling points. Often he held onto the artists work for several months before releasing it to the public, in order to make as much profit as possible by building hype, a reputation within the elite art community he served.
"That sounds fine." I agreed. I could almost see the greedy little glint in his impish grey eyes.
"Okay, well I'll leave you to your own devices. Create at will, just try and get them done before December." Adam said eagerly.
"All right, well until then, you know where to find me." I replied into the receiver casually.
"Yes, yes I do." Adam said in a way that suggested that if I was ever to do something to displease him that the information about my identity would slip, "Until December I will just have to consult some of my less lucrative prospects." I smiled to myself and shook my head at Adam before we both hung up.
I hadn't really taken the chance and looked at the state of the parlor, fearing the worst about what I had done the night before. I had taken to drinking a lot more in the past month; since he had slipped from my grasp. The first week had nearly driven me insane. I had been so consumed with trying to find him that I didn't give myself time to do anything else that was normally deemed necessary for survival, including searching for an alternative. As the week turned into weeks, and I kept coming up with nothing at all, it got worse. I started to dream of him at night. At first I saw him in the light I had always fantasized; innocent, submissive, and beautiful. Then the dreams started to change; He became constantly just out of reach. When the dreams finally evolved to their worst he became a malicious creature, intent on destroying me. So I had stopped sleeping, challenging my mind and body to stay awake for as long as I could. Instead, I ended up resorting to finding the bottom of a bottle of wine every night.
I would stumble around my home in a stupor, destroying things sometimes as they got in my way, until I passed out and got a few hours of sleep. In the morning or afternoon as the case may be, I would wake up to my disaster, feeling the buzzing of the alcohol still in my system. I would then get up, and clean up the mess I made before starting the cycle all over again.
The parlor looked to be in surprisingly good shape today. There were a few glasses knocked over on top of the liquor cabinet, their reflections only slight in the dimly lit room. The shades of course, were drawn closed, making the entire room look dark. The lamp opposite the chaise was knocked over, it's shade some three feet away from it's base, the light bulb in pieces on the intricate rug. Overall I hadn't done too badly. I sighed and stood up, picking up the pieces of the map and glasses and then headed to the kitchen to wash them.
Once in the kitchen out of habit I went straight to the refrigerator. The only things there were some frozen organ meats, an expired container of milk, and some random condiments, but I was afraid. The last time I had been out was to a grocery store was after a week of no rest. Everywhere I turned, around every corner, every face was his face. Even the pimple-faced checkout clerk resembled him for a brief moment. By the time I reached the checkout's end I was so frazzled that the clerk had to give me back an extra fifteen dollars I had handed to him by mistake because I was so out of it. I couldn't even look at him as I took the soft, worn bills from his clammy, sweaty palm. As soon as my groceries were bagged I hastily gathered them up, went to my car, and drove home. I had been living on those groceries ever since, and now had run out.
I shut the refrigerator door and turned around to face the kitchen and whatever disaster I had created in this room. Surprisingly enough, I hadn't created too much of a mess at all. There was a broken glass out on the counter; pooled around it was a small crimson puddle of wine. I could only assume that I had gotten frustrated and slammed the glass on the counter before starting to just take swigs from the bottle. Other than that the kitchen looked like I hadn't done anything outside of the norm. There were a few dishes on the counter, waiting to be deposited in the dishwasher and there was a tea towel sitting out on the counter rather than hanging from the towel bar on the stove. I picked the towel up to sweep the glass off the edge of the counter and into the garbage can, then shook out the towel and used it to wipe up the wine. I hadn't found the offending bottle yet, but I was sure that I would when looking around the rest of the house.
I took the back staircase in the kitchen to get upstairs so that I would avoid having to go up the same stairs that Scott and I had dragged our friend up. Even then, that small recollection of why made me falter a step and I was forced to refocus before continuing my ascent. Once there I ignored the room at the end of the hall that I was closest to and checked each room from the opposite end of the hall. When I reached my room the door was slightly ajar but that was nothing unusual. I felt gravitated to the room at the end of the hall though, like it held something. Every time I went to open this door I could not help but think that maybe there was a fleeting chance that he may be behind it. He never was though, and today would be no different.
I felt drawn by some magnetic force to open that door, but feared touching the handle, like one would fear touching a hot coal. I reached out and finally made contact with the cool metal and twisted it to the side gently, slowly opening the door and revealing the interior of the room. I thought the room would have been dark and was surprised the see a pale glow coming from the lamp on the bedside table, and next to it, the missing bottle of wine from the kitchen. I crossed the threshold into the room and a buzzing feeling began in my stomach, extending out to my fingers. I always felt this way lately whenever I stumbled across something that I could not remember doing, and so I started to look around the room for something to jog my memory with.
The bed was unmade, its deep blue, suede comforter was roughly pulled back to reveal ivory, striped sheets. Small droplets of wine, dried to a brownish rust colour, stained the satin pillowcases. I deduced that I had probably been drinking in here and, at some point, had moved downstairs to the chaise. My mind would have to make due with that theory.
I sighed and stripped the bed of its linens, creating a pile in the middle of the bed on the now bare mattress. As I picked up the sheets I walked around to the other side of the bed and grabbed the neck of the bottle, which was warm from the heat of the lamp. I could smell the pungent mixture of Christina Maria delicately aged with absinthe and blood. I resisted taking a swig, deterred only by the fact that it was too warm. Beside that, once I took a sip, I knew I wouldn't stop and it was far too early for that. I had too much to get done.
After sleeping most of the day away, I got up at six o'clock in the evening and opened the blinds. It had slowly started to get dark earlier. Right now the sky was grey and streaked with a few stripes of red, orange and purple. It was going to rain after the sun set, it was in the air. I avoided looking at myself in the mirror opposite the bed as I walked past, even if I would only see a shadow against the background of the setting sun. I didn't have to look to know that something about me had changed and I wasn't sure if I liked it. Barefoot, I crossed the room, lit only by the setting sun, just visible behind the clouds.
I immediately went to my computer in the corner, picking up the half bottle of wine on my dresser on the way by. I roused my computer from its slumber in stand- by waving the mouse across its pad gently. Tonight I would try and find him again.
The screen was blurred and contorted. I closed my eyes tight for a moment before opening them again, blinking slowly. I felt like I was going blind. Beside the little icon and notation that read "status" was the word "online."
I woke with a start when someone tapped me on the shoulder. My eyes were filled with grains leftover from sleep. My temples throbbed. I felt like anyone who looked at me would be able to see the pulse steadily beating at the sides of my head. I peeled myself off of the chaise. Had the entire day been a dream? No, it couldn't have been. I was drunk; I could feel the intoxicants coursing through me. It was then that I remembered how I had been awoken. I lived alone. I swiveled around so quickly I was surprised that I didn't put a kink in my neck. I choked on my own breath seeing him standing behind me, where my head had been resting only a moment ago. The figure was Sebastian Woods; the first.
"What are you doing here?" I tried to ask, but all that seemed to come out was incoherent mumbling, almost drowned out by the sound of rain pattering against the windows and roof outside. He could not be here, in my house. This wasn't right. This made no sense. Sebastian was dead; killed by my own hands.
He was walking now, around to the front of the chaise, those brown eyes set on me, coaxing me to follow him as he headed to the doorway. I blinked hard once again and when I opened my eyes, Sebastian was gazing intently at me from the doorway. Once sure that he had my gaze, he took a step away from the doorway and headed to the hall. I had no choice but to stand up and follow him, my vision wavering in the moonlit room.
I followed Sebastian across the hall to the double doors that separated the dinning room from the front hallway. My throat scratched as I tried to speak once again and managed only a few, sparse, mumbled words.
"What is going on?"
His smile was like that of the Mona Lisa, but unlike the famed painting, he did reveal something. His eyes rested on the handles of the pull doors that lead into the room. He clearly wanted me to open the doors and see what was inside. I inhaled deeply, shrugged the buzzing from my limbs and pulled the heavy wooden doors to the side.
My dining room opened into view before me, different than usual. The candelabra that normally hung low from the ceiling, dark and unused was full of softly glowing, buttermilk coloured candles, but the candles did little to keep my eyes from falling to the mahogany table in front of me. The table was ornately set for a formal dinner on top of the white linen table cloth. Each place was untouched and perfect, the silver cutlery gleaming in the light of the candles. The table that seated twenty was empty as usual and a twinge of unhappiness pinched at my heart. Was this some sort of cruel joke that someone had plotted against me? Did they do it knowing exactly what I needed most?
A choking sensation tickled at my throat, made it feel like it was rising up towards my temples. My vision blurred and I looked to Sebastian for help, I feared that he too would be gone. In fact, it was expected, but he was there. He stood in the doorway, gazing at me expectantly, hungrily. He looked different, wiser than he should have at only sixteen years old. His eyes alone challenged every rational thought that told me that he could not possibly be here.
I took one cautious step across the threshold, finally entering the room from my spot as an observer in the hall. The spot at the head of the table had the chair pulled out, waiting for me. The indent of where I used to sit calling out for me to return. As if walking on thin glass, I walked the length of the table. As I came to the chair I sat slowly, deliberately, like an old man with arthritis would do, calculating his movements to execute only the ones that would pain him the least. Just as I was about to look to Sebastian, my master for the night, my eyes caught the most delectable scene in front of me.
Down the length of the table on either side was every one of my boys that I had known, and consequently killed. Sebastian was already on my right, Walker on my left. The boys continued down in rows until the end of the table where there was nobody occupying the seat opposite me. Every one of them was perfect; not a scratch, nor bruise, nor single sign of decay. In fact, they were all involved in animated discussion with one another. It was odd, I knew that they were speaking, yet couldn't hear what they were saying. It was like watching television with the sound turned off. The hum of activity filled the room like the soft glow from the candles above our heads. My heart felt swollen with enough emotion that I felt like it was a balloon blowing up inside of my throat and I was waiting for the inevitable pop. They had call come back to me to stay forever this time, and this was their welcome from me.
Porcelain platters lined the centre of the table, covered with silver lids and serving covers, undisturbed, waiting for me to begin by pouring the wine. So in honor of my guests, I reached out in front of me, careful not to disturb my glass, and plucked the black-lacquered corkscrew from the table, then grasped the neck of the bottle of wine and brought it closer to me. As the screw dug into the tender cork, the feeling was even more satisfying than that first stab into a boys gut.
As the screw popped off the cork of the bottle all conversation ceased. London brushed her long, fair hair out of her eyes as she stepped away from her brother's chair and went to sit at the vacant seat opposite me at the end of the table.
Everyone stared at me expectantly as I filled my glass. The gush of red wine filled my glass in sultry, whispering waves. I passed the bottle to Sebastian. Though almost all of my guests were under the legal drinking age, they could be afforded a drink for this very special occasion. Once everyone was served they sat, staring expectantly at me. That was when I realized that I was expected to give some sort of toast.
I looked around, not just the table, but the entire room, savoring the moment, holding it as a memory forever in my mind. The light sparkled off of the hair of all my guests, creating halos on their innocent heads. The room seemed to glow with ethereal light in the otherwise dark house. I closed my eyes and turned my face up towards the light of the chandelier, feeling the glow overtake me before I looked back to my guests.
London, with her fair, almost white hair and sapphire eyes was staring straight at me, almost expressionless. She had her glass raised in her thin, spindle like fingers, three quarters full. Her lips parted as she gazed down the length of the table at me. She felt like she was far closer to me, sitting at arms reach even though she was almost on the other side of the room. I could feel her breath against my cheek as she leaned in towards me. The smell of violets filled my nostrils, she smelt so alive. She was leaning until her lashes, which cloaked her eyes like a delicate Japanese folding fan, grazed my cheek.
"Give him to us Mannick." She beckoned almost seductively. This was wrong. She had never known my real name. I jolted and sat back right away and the entire room twisted and distorted in response. London was violently pulled away from me, back to the other end of the table, and she was every bit as terrifying as she was up close. Everyone was in view again, and they were all glaring, and they were all so un-human, unreal, no person could ever look so malicious. I felt a horrible tightening in my chest. They were all going to leave me.
"I've tried." I choked out, trying to shake the feeling deep in my chest. I put down my glass wearily. London's sapphire eyes burned. She slammed the glass down on the table, shattering it, the wine spilling and staining the table cloth.
They were all looking at me expectantly. Then in a single, sickening gesture, they all opened their mouths and what came out was in a high reedy voice;
"Bring him to us," their combined voices called. My chest tightened until I couldn't breathe. This is what it felt like to die. London had slithered up to me again, inches from my face, hand on my neck, holding me with unbelievable power and strength.
"I- I've tried." I choked out, my hands clasping not at London's hands, but at the sides of my head. They were going to leave me. I couldn't go through the loss of them too. They had to stay with me, I knew what I had to do. London's steely fingers gripped harder before starting to release. She knew of my epiphany. My hands slid from the sides of my head to the surface of the table, making sure at least it was still there.
"Find him Mannick," they chanted, "find him." I gripped the sharpened knife next to my plate.
"We will leave you here." They whispered and I acted, quickly rising from my seat in a fury.
Everything in the room spun, twisted and distorted like the mirrors in a fun house. Their faces peered back at me instead of my own and they kept speaking the same voice.
"We'll find you. We'll get you."
In an instant I was standing atop the table, slashing blindly, madly around me. I could feel the knife ripping into their flesh; one, two, three at a time. Sometimes the blade would slide through them like butter, and others it would catch and rip the skin, like heavy burlap. I could not stop thrashing until the voices started to die. One by one, the damned choir went mute until there was only one voice left to sing his curses, the one who lead me astray; Sebastian.
"Failure." He spat in an eerie whisper, a voice not his own, making the skin on my back feel like it was bubbling up away from my vertebrate. I turned slowly. He was still sitting in the high-back chair, back straight. Smatters of blood matted his hair. He looked like a child attending a picnic in the midst of a battlefield.
"What?" I said hoarsely. I did not believe such a word would tumble from his mouth; my first. I watch as the line of perfect teeth, straight and white, which line his upper jaw press down lightly into his lower lip.
"Failure Mannick, you are a failure." He breathes and the knife in my hand drives towards him. I can't stop myself from crying as I kill everything I could have had all over again.