Saturday, November 04, 2006

Fiery Drool

Fog was crawling through the small arteries of the center of Paris. In a dark corner of a clouded street a horse was foaming. Thick dots of snow were melting around its mug and heavy drops of saliva slowly dripped on the wet cobbles. In the upper darkness of this starless night Notre Dame's chimes moaned grievously the second hour past midnight. A lonely lantern creaked under the cold wind which swallowed the brick walls and the filthy mud. A fine silhouette lighted a cigarette in the carriage guarded by the dribbling horse. An ivory puff of smoke danced for a second in a sparkle of light and then disappeared in a gulp of shadows. Suddenly, a gigue of steps echoed in the silence and a short, stiff man appeared. He was dressed in a black doublet which trapped his deformed and crippled body and his face was hidden by a large hat. He limped towards the carriage and kneeled down in a puddle of sludge.

-Is he here ?, asked the man in the carriage
-Master, he is not far away from here, faltered the little man
-Good, good. I need him Gabriel. He cannot die tonight. Find him, make him speak and do not fail me.

As the horse rushed in the gloom of an abandoned alley, Gabriel hurried down towards the river. He was sweating and out of breath as he passed the Louvre's squared courtyard and tipped over the Cocytus's bank. A few meters above him he could barely distinguish the form of a flabby body. He peered at it as he saw a tall and noble figure, dressed in a long scarlet coat and wrapped in a thin velvet scarf. He cursed when the shape of a ball and chain embodied itself, closely tight to the man's foot. He yelled into the night.

-Hey ! You there ! What are you doing ?

The man turned his head in a slow and gentle move and for a instant all that Gabriel could see was the flaming glow of two sick and yellow eyes.

-I am attempting to kill myself as you can see.
-Please do not do so! Why a young and handsome man like you would do such a thing ? asked Gabriel

The man sighed as he started walking down into the river. Little hazy waves were banging against his thin legs and tongues of dross licked his hands. He looked back and stared at the two towers of Notre Dame, hardly brushed by the snowy blast of a thousand flakes. Gabriel jumped into the Cocytus and followed the fragile shape which was already getting caught by the furious water. He grabbed his arm and pulled him back to the shore where he collapsed in a loud splash.

-What were you thinking ? Life is precious !
-Funny, replied the man, you sound a bit like the priest.
-What priest ?
-Ah. That is the question my unknown friend. You care about me I see, I feel pleased. Perhaps I could tell you my story, I'll leave my testimony between your ears then.
-Tell me tell me, pressed Gabriel.
-All right, I've got the entire night. My name is Samhain and I used to be the greatest poet of this holy city. I chanted the muses of Paris and amused the enchanted cherubs of goddess Isis. Unfortunately golden does not rime with omen and I was running out of money. My wife Lilith and I were poor people Sir, leaving in the darkest dreary courters of Paris, sharing our meals with all beggars that this beautiful city has. I wrote quatrains and triplets and sang for the princes but all my teeth could chew was empty air. Until the priest arrived. He told how the artist was a scourge for society and how he destroyed its order. He could not stand the word poet, he hated it. It only led to destruction and chaos. That's when he started to bargain. He offered me gold, pyramids and castles of gold, if and only if I accepted to give him in exchange the most precious thing I ever had. And I accepted. What was prose in comparison ? Did I ever make my wife live a decent life with a good rime ? Did a fine and subtle word ever make a good diner or a perfumed wine ? So I left him my lyre as we made a pact in drops of blood and walked away, soothed with thoughts of silver and emerald. When I finally reached my shivering house I heard Lilith screaming. I ran through the door and felt into the priest who was grabbing my wife's hairs. He laughed when he saw me, and it was too late when I finally understood the real nature of our bargain. What a fool I was ! I traded my Lilith for a few crowns, I sold my heart for a few pieces of copper ! You should have seen his face, it was hideous. He could not stop laughing as he dragged her on the floor. In a moment of despair I stretched my hand to my gun and shot him. Would you believe Sir that the bullets had no effects on him ? They went through his black cowl and exploded in chunks of plaster. A monster I tell you ! And now my wife was bouncing on the pavement as he pushed her in his carriage. I reloaded and closing my eyes I shot one last time. When I opened them again I saw Lilith's corpse lying down the street. A pound of blood embraced her lips. He killed my wife. And now my time has come.

Gabriel sighed. He scraped his large forehead with his hairy hand and pulled Samhain back on the shore. The young man was crying on the ground and Gabriel looked at him from the top of his hunchbacked stature. He opened his jacket and took out what seemed to be an old parchment.

-Read, he said as he passed to Samhain the stale piece of paper.
-“New-Amsterdam”, started the poet, “eleventh of September, eight o'clock Search for the tallest tower-Look at the signature now, ordered Gabriel.

Samhain's face began to grow in a ghastly and wretched grimace which was slowly breaking all the nice and smooth curves and shapes of his delicate cheeks and his harmonious mouth. His nose was bending in a twisted and miserable way as his teeth were drawing a grinning chuckle. A pale blue vein was lashing his temple and showed the panel of emotions that were devouring themselves in a nervous and desperate feast.

-Do you know him?, he barked
-Meet him there. On the eleventh of September. And you will find the answers you are looking for.

Gabriel turned back and walked towards the closest dock a few feet away. A little boat was waiting for him, only lightened by a candle of dark tallow. The sails shivered in a burst of snow as the crippled man pushed out the boat on the billows.

-Remember, remember...

As Samhain's eyes followed him in the freezing and white swirls the candle's flame melted down in a last gleam.


New-Amsterdam popped in the corner of his eye as an owl squawked above his head, turning around the frigate's mast. The white sails fidgeted and flowed in the morning wind that twitched the dark blades of foam which crashed against the boat's cockle. Samhain could see the tall shapes of the huge towers that started to invade the scenery of this lump of ground that abruptly grew out in front of his eyes. He trembled in a quiver of sweat. Despite the shining sun it was rather cold for those first days of September and Samhain was feeling strangely exhausted. Perhaps it was because of the journey itself and the weight of all those days spent with gulls and wales, or maybe it was only the impression that his heart was pondering all the time against his chest in a painful groan. Nevertheless New-Amsterdam was displaying its silver and luxuriant arms and glittered in flashes of gold and ivory as the frigate entered the harbor. On the docks carriages of pearls and gems were driving along tattooed seamen holding nets of blazing fishes. A stinking and rotten smell swirled around his nostrils, an odor of dried salt and wet ice that caught him as soon as his foot landed on corpses of cods and salmons.

He hurried down the pier, passing by closed stores and yawning faces and headed towards the south. He could see in the first lights of the rising sun the shadows of the two towers, silently curled in a pale ray of brightness. He checked his watch and ran down the narrow streets full of lunatic contours and erratic faces. He could feel the gun's bump in his pocket, solidly attached to a flask of powder. He bought it to an odd man back there in Paris who pretended to be an alchemist, but who in reality was closer to a sorcerer than any decent scientist. He also provided him a sharp dagger in case of any unexpected twist. Even if Samhain was no warrior he could admire the beauty of the carved pommel and the patterns of the gun's crosier, gently sculpted with symbols of bronze. Moreover he felt reassured by the hidden object that stuck between the heaps of clothes he was wearing and which stood fiercely under his shirt and his vest. His mind was agitated by thoughts of vengeance and balloted by contrasted emotions upon which his life was the ultimate claim. As he chewed this panel of Siamese ideas he noticed that he had arrived in front of the two towers' entrance. He stopped. And with a sight passed the glass doors.

A butler bent over and greeted him. He then lead him towards an elevator that stood in a corner of the marbled hall. The doors whistled and they began to climb to the top of the first tower. Samhain peeped at the man who looked like an old-fashioned lackey with his gray beard and his short silver hairs. When the door opened again he left Samhain alone in a huge room with a panoramic view of the entire city. A cough made him look forward, behind a corridor where he could catch a glimpse of light. He walked down, passing by ancient tapestries and ended in a dining hall where the priest was eating his breakfast, accompanied by a beautiful and pallid young lady. Gabriel was serving him a plate of bacon and hot potatoes with a cup of boiling tea. As he put back the golden teapot on the table and began cutting small dices of cheese, Samhain erupted.

-At last I find you!

The priest giggled and his long black hairs swirled around his shoulders. He scraped his crystal glass with his yellow nails and opened his mouth showing two sharp canines.

-I made you found me I believe. Am I wrong ?

Samhain turned pale.

-This thing... is working for you ?
-Of course he is.
-And who is he ? A sort of altar boy ?
-Actually is more than that. I don't really do in clerical business.
-What do you do then priest, asked Samhain as his hands reached for his gun.
-Many things, many things my child... But stop calling me priest, I find this word painful for my ears, even if sometimes it can be useful as a disguise. Funny how a bit of black and a pinch of wisdom can impress people. My name is Mr. G and I would be pleased if you could sit down and share with me a cup of tea. It comes from India and it is exquisite.

Mr. G's last sentence lashed down Samhain's movement and immobilized him with great fear. More than vengeance it was now fear that pumped through his nerves, sending alarmed signals of sweat to his skin. The man was sitting right in front of him in a luxurious three-piece suit, gently enjoying his meal and more than ever he had trapped him using his pain against his will. He was swallowing oysters and between two mouthfuls he showed him a chair next to him. Samhain's almost crashed on it as a bashing tiredness suddenly slapped him.

-Now, started Mr. G while he grabbed the teapot, let us talk my boy. Do you care for some milk ? I see, I see. You'll have a bit of milk I believe. Did you know that it is good for the bones ? And trust me you want to have good and solid bones Jack.
-My name is Samhain.
-You thought I was a priest. I will call you Jack, Jack. Oh. By the way this is my wife, Eve. Eve, this is Jack.

Eve's eyes turned away from Samhain's livid look but she managed a polite smile. For a second he thought that in those blue eyes he had seen Lilith, from her smile to her caress and a tear rolled down his cheek. Mr. G however was still pouring milk in Samhain's cup and dropped a square of sugar in the ruby beverage.

-There you go. As you may know tea is...

The smile of a gun cut Mr. G's sentence with a metallic grimace. Samhain pushed it against Mr. G's forehead who lighted a cigar.

-Ah. A gun. And a nice one Jack. I was expecting the same one that killed your wife. But I'm a bit too melodramatic am I not ? You would have looked like an Athenian hero. I don't like heroes. They are like artists, they bring disorder, chaos, and lead to riots. I don't like it. You are a brave one. Fool but brave. Isn't a brave in a way very foolish ? Hum... Anyway, I killed your wife you want to kill me. Justice ? Revenge ? Does not really matters if you want to know. What matters Jack is that you've been asking yourself a question: why did he kill my wife ? From that question you thought you could define all the answers. This is why you didn't sink in the bottom of the Cocytus. Because you wanted to know. It was so strong that it blinded your own despair. And now you really think that you will shoot me right between my two eyes without a word or explanation ?

Samhain's hand collapsed on the bread basket as he began to cry. Memories were invading his mind, images of blood and pain, sensations of cold and fear were crawling down his back as he sobbed. Somewhere, very far away in the depth of his mind Lilith was singing, a song of joy that echoed like a melody and knocked down all his strength as a bolt of despair lightened in his heart.

-Indeed indeed, tears are very welcomed, continued Mr. G. Do I own this world Jack ? Everything is mine you know. So are you my boy. A poet. Did you want to challenge me ? Were you really believing you could reach the sacred ? You want to know the truth Jack ? You killed your wife. You and you only pressed the trigger of that bullet that exploded inside her head. You have blood on your hands you dirty kid. I wanted you to suffer her loss by taking her away from you, I wanted you to be in pain every second that I made. And you want to know why ? For fun Jack. For the pleasure of tricking and playing with you. You couldn't die that night, it was far too early for that. That's why I brought you here, to watch you being beat up by suffering.

Samhain felt down his chair and a red apple rolled out of his pocket down to Mr. G's foot. He looked surprised as he took it. He was contemplating its carmine robe and laughed.

-Ah Jack, Jack, Jack. That is what I like about poets, they are full of surprises. Who would have expected to find an apple in your jacket today ? And such a beautiful one. It is almost too pure to be eaten by someone like me. Look at this color, it is fabulous. Eve my dear, would you accept this modest gift of a loving man ?

Samhain was stunned. He could not take his eyes off the fruit that Eve's fingers caught. He watched the slow move of the arm that bent carefully above the table and the lips that began to opened and the teeth that pierced through the apple's skin with a fade noise. She crashed on the floor with a cry of agony. Mr. G understood what had just happened when a strong smell of arsenic started to float in the air. Samhain was already pulling the gun out of the napkin and shot him right in his belly. As before the bullets had no effect on him. He seized the dagger and stabbed him. Mr. G punched him in the noose and kicked him in the head as he was rolling down at his feet.

-You miserable worm... The apple was for me! The apple was for me! You will suffer Jack, yes you will... until the end of the world. I am done playing with you! You will be marked by your burden. You wanted to die but it will never happen. Hell's gates are closed for you. It is too late do you hear ? Can't you hear this noise ? It is the sound of your curse Jack.

A loud hissing was falling down the room when Jack looked by the window and saw a gigantic plane turning around one of the building's angle. It's fuselage was burning under the sun's rays of azure. Mr. G had vanished, carrying away his wife's dead body. Samhain felt calm because death was waving at him by the plane's portholes. Despite Mr. G's last words he felt relieved and serene. The man could not be killed but his own greed and confidence had reestablish the balance. The plane smashed the windows and scraps of glass and metals flew around him in a burst of flames. His skin burned as his body was cut by the blades of the left wing's reactor. He last thought was for Lilith, who vanished behind a cloud of gasoline.


Cold raindrops wake him up. His whole body was a yell of pain. He stood up and looked around him. Night had fallen on the forest where he is standing, embracing the stars and the moon with its velvet and dark blanket. He walks down to the lake because thirst was drying out his throat and he catches his own reflection. He screams as he sees his deformed head that looks like a pumpkin with two burning holes instead of the eyes and a monstrous mouth spitting out orange sparks. And Mr. G's voice echoes in his mind, “ You will be marked by your burden. You wanted to die but it will never happen. Hell's gates are closed for you”. It is Samhain's day and he is now Jack O'Lantern, endlessly wandering the Earth for a resting place.

Canterbury, Novembre 2006