My #WedPeeks post for this week is chapter nine of my new novella, release date is Monday (10/20/14). For the week of 10/20 – 10/27 both Magicless and Desiderium will be only $.99!
Desiderium is a dark fantasy/horror and is for mature readers. *Warning: There is violence, sex, and a lot of profanity in these pages.
~ NINE ~
She never came.
Despite my crushing disappointment, the city was spectacular tonight. It was cold and a light, misting rain was falling. I was entranced by the way the raindrops flashed in the puddles of light streaming from the streetlights and largely abandoned buildings. The alternating pattern of light and dark as I stalked through the streets transfixed me. I lost all sense of place or time. My world shrank down to nothing more than the next patch of light or the next patch of dark. My worries about my brother and concern about Sophie shattered into bits smaller than the glittery drops of illumination dancing with the rain. So small now, they ceased to matter overmuch to me. How could they matter, when there was a patch of light just a dozen steps ahead, and another patch of dark another dozen after that?
Many years ago Sophie and I took a trip to France and stumbled into the Chartres Cathedral on a day folks were walking the labyrinth. There were a half-dozen people slowly shuffling along the worn pathways, their faces glowing pink from the sunlight gleaming through the rose window. It was cool inside the cathedral despite the warm summer day outside, and very quiet. You could hear nothing beyond the murmuring of hushed voices and the soft shuffle of steps.
Those walking the maze seemed mesmerized. Their eyes firmly on the pathways before them, oblivious to the handful of folks standing or sitting on the sidelines watching. Sophie wanted to give it a try, but I was disinterested. A cynic, she’d called me.
I took a seat in a folding chair and stared up at that rose window while Sophie took her turn in the labyrinth. I found the patterns and contours in the stained glass far more mesmerizing than the lines on the floor.
They say labyrinths have a long spiritual history, and the unicursal pathway, with no alleys or dead ends to concern yourself with, allows you to lose yourself, to open your mind to creativity and intuition. A metaphor for the journey deep into yourself and then out again. Returning a bit wiser, perhaps. At least when it comes to knowing thyself.
After walking it Sophie was a firm believer. Hokey is what I called it. But tonight I felt what she must have felt that day in the cathedral. The mindlessness that comes with losing yourself in some gently repeating pattern with no apparent beginning or end.
I snapped out of it only when I realized that as I was walking I was repeating a phrase out loud. Truth is coming to me, easily and effortlessly, truth is coming to me. I don’t know how long I’d been repeating it, but I had been walking most of the night once it became apparent I wasn’t going to see her. It creeped me out that I could have been wandering the streets for so many hours straight, mumbling these words repeatedly as I went. People must have definitely thought I was a cracked nut.
Regardless, in my distraction, I had lost track of time, and I realized I would barely make it home before Sophie’s alarm went off. I couldn’t go another day without dealing with her. She’d call the police if she hadn’t done already. I didn’t need that kind of trouble. I cut through an alley to shortcut back to my car, stepping on a homeless guy lying in the gutter in my haste. He didn’t make a sound even though I had trod right on his leg. The feeling of something soft and squishy rolling under my foot scared the shit out of me. But worse, the guy was just lying there, staring up at me with wide unblinking eyes. I couldn’t tell if he was alive or dead, but either way I couldn’t leave him there, so I hunted down the nearest pay phone to call 911. Turns out pay phones are tough to find these days, but I didn’t want to use my cell to make the call. I didn’t want anyone knowing where I was that time of the day.
I was already cutting it short, and by the time I walked in the door Sophie had the coffee brewing and was in the shower. I had hoped I could sneak in and lay down on the couch, acting as if I’d slept there all night, but no luck. I was caught. There was no sense in trying to lie my way out of it. Sophie knew me too well, and I never could lie to her anyway. I just couldn’t tell her about the other woman. I poured a cup of coffee, sat down at the dining table, and waited for Sophie to get out of the shower.
The look on her face spoke volumes. Her lips were a tight thin line, not from anger, but from the effort of not showing their shaking. And though her beautiful blue eyes were shiny with unshed tears, they were also flat and hard. The look of a woman trying desperately to distance herself from the man she’s losing. She poured herself a cup of coffee in silence, stirred in cream with intense focus, took her first sip, crossed her arms, and then looked me squarely in the eyes. I couldn’t help but notice the way her crossed arms pulled her robe askew ever so slightly, exposing the soft curve of her breast. How I loved that woman. My heart broke a little and waves of guilt crashed over me. What the fuck had I been thinking the last two nights? But I said nothing.
Truth be told she didn’t have to say a word—I knew what she was thinking. Why are you doing this to me, Terryn? Why are you doing this to yourself? Why can’t you just let it go? He’s gone, there is nothing you can do to change that. You need some help, Baby, let me help you, please. We’ll go together.
We’ve had these sorts of conversations so many times now I’ve lost count, and the message is burned into my mind like a brand. In the beginning I tried to explain my behavior. I told her about my certainty that someone had killed Blake, and that they were out there still. I tried to tell her how haunted I felt, and how helpless I had become, and how I despised myself for all of it. She was supportive then, back before the nightmares began and the all-night wanderings became so commonplace. For five years she’s put up with it, and loved me just the same despite it. But it’s wearing on her, has been for a long while. I am not being fair to her, I know that. Images of me with another woman flashed before my eyes, and I couldn’t look Sophie in the face.
“I’ve tried, Terryn. I really have. I love you, you know that. I want to spend my life with you. But you’re leaving me behind. I don’t understand why, but this…”
She gestured to the kitchen around us.
“… this seems to have lost any meaning it had to you once. I would have gone with you, Terryn, I would still if you would only let me. But you’re determined to do this alone, and I sure as hell don’t understand.” She paused, took another couple of sips of coffee.
“So, wander. Wander as you’re compelled to do. Spend your nights alone, going wherever the hell you go, doing whatever the hell you do. But I can’t stay here and watch you self-destruct this way. I’m moving out. I’ll be gone by the time you get home from work today.”
My guts turned to ice. Some part of me—a big part, even—still did not want to lose her. Some part of me believed that she was the one thing that had allowed me any level of focus, the one thing that had kept me attached to this daytime world. I realized in that instant that not all of me wanted to drift away and embrace the darker side of myself. At least one small part wanted to retain my humanity. But I had driven away the one thing that allowed that small piece of me to survive.
A thought came suddenly, almost from outside of me. If I drove away that last little piece, I was free. I was free to become the beast.
I felt at war with myself. I stared at her, saying nothing. I wanted to tell her so many things, things to keep her and things to drive her away, but none of them held any real meaning. I knew in my bones that I could not stop searching, and that I would not stop seeing the dark-haired woman. This was the only sane thing she could do, the only choice I was giving her. I wanted to scream, I wanted to tell her about fucking the stranger two nights back and watch the pain spread across her features, I wanted to beg her to stay, but in the end I said nothing.
“Just promise me one thing, Terryn. As you wander through those dark streets, to wherever they take you and for however long it takes; think of me. Think only of me. Don’t get lost, don’t forget. See my face, feel my embrace, and remember always that I love you. I love you still. And when you finish this…this thing… when you come out on the other side, I’ll be waiting for you.”
She stepped across the short distance between us and pulled me into her softness. She kissed me then, long and gently, and the conflict I’d been feeling since yesterday morning expanded exponentially inside of me. I wanted to lash out in frustration and confusion. I loved her, and I also felt I couldn’t live without the dark-haired woman. How could two such conflicting emotions exist within one man? Then she pulled away, grabbed her mug, and went back upstairs.
I fell into a chair at the table, exhausted and confused. I sat at the table we had shared so many meals at. I could hear the echo of laughter from family dinners, and the intense debates with friends, a smattering of empty wine bottles scattered along the center of the table. It had all seemed so bright once. So filled with promise and potential. Now it was all in shadow and tasted like dust. It was all ending. And once again I was helpless to stop it or change it.
No. That isn’t the truth of it. I chose this path. I could have taken the path that Sophie had laid out before me, and maybe in time things would have worked out that way. But night after night I chose the isolated path instead. I knew as soon as I saw her sitting on the ledge that woman was trouble. And she warned me of it, too. I can show you, but only if you want to see she had said. She had made it clear, I had to choose, I had to want to go with her. I chose the shadow, I chose to follow in Blake’s footsteps once again and try to solve the mystery of his death.
I got up and went to work.
If you’d like to read more from Desiderium you can find it here: