Love and Obsession II

Faith taught many lessons.

They were void, those whispers of knowledge and salvation. The sun had gone dark, the sky a blazing barrier  forever denying him paradise. Would God forsake him, cast him away for the sin that was his tainted, unholy obsession? Eros felt his throat catch, at that thought. To be denied for something he could barely control…

‘No,’ Eros shoved a student out of his way, almost blind. His eyes burned, his heart thundered in his chest. His mouth was dry. He felt warmer than normal, his skin a blanket of unnatural heat. He could not shake the sensation of being watched, of countless eyes judging him. ‘Stop thinking about it. Hide. Find someplace to hide.’

He turned into an empty hallway. He sagged against the wall, knees weak as a distant voice called out his knees. Eros’s eyes widened, his blood running cold. He shot a quick glance at his surroundings, eyed the overhead sign bearing only a picture of a flight of stairs.

Eros shouldered his way through the door into the unused stairwell. He dropped to the ground in the shadows, palms flat against the floor. He drew in sharp breaths, his body trembled.

‘I’m hyperventilating,’ Eros pressed his forehead to his knees, clamped his mouth shut, and dragged a breath through his nose. He forced himself to hold his breath for a count of six, then released it. When he drew in another breath, on a count of five, his heart wasn’t beating as frantically as before. 

Eros kept his eyes shut, tried to breath as he shuddered and rasped for breath. He exhaled, slow. His heart calmed more, not as frantic.

Above him, the stairs became a shelter that wrapped him in its shadows. The dark fell over him, a comforting presence that didn’t whisper hurtful things.

A tear dribbled out from under closed eyes. Eros had fallen, his wings torn and black. He pressed his forehead to the ground, breathed in the chill rising from the concrete into his body.

He didn’t know how long he rested there kneeling, his forehead against the ground. His body relaxed, the muscles loose as he sat up. He blinked, eyes adjusting to the dark.

He left the stairwell to find the school dark and empty, the doors closed and lights off. Eros stood there, silent and not quite sure what was going on. Surely he hadn’t hidden in the stairwell the entire day. Or had he?

Eros wasn’t sure. He made his way down the hall after a moment of hesitation. He eyed the darkness glaring back at him from the other side of a window, his heart skipping a beat.

“I am so late.” 

Eros found the stairs leading downstairs, the open space daunting compared to the abandoned inner stairwell. He took the stairs two at a time, gaze flickering back to the dark windows and looming darkness.

He slowed. Eros stilled in the middle of the second floor hallway, brow furrowed. There, a sound! He turned, listening for the faint whisper of sound.

It came again, a low metallic hiss that teased his senses. There was a distant echo, like pipes knocking together. Eros eased backwards, a need to get out of the school lighting a fire in his veins. Again the sound came, a low hiss closer than before.

Eros fled, feet carrying him to the first floor. A single light burned, a beacon that called silently. As he neared, he realized the overhead light belonged to the school bulletin board. It was empty of flyers and club invites, devoid of all but one long, off-white poster.

‘A lifestyle is a tool for survival,’ the sign read. Eros stared at the bold letters, certain it hadn’t said as such that morning. Stepping away, gaze lingering for but a moment, the teen shook his head.

As he turned away, he couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. He felt exposed

Eros didn’t look back as he left, the school a looming presence that shadowed his retreat.

Wanderer

It started to rain.

Eve trudged through the forest, cold but undeterred. A steady downpour slowed her, mud clinging to her legs as she waded through pools of dark, earthen water. As she adjusted her pack over a shoulder, she peered through the dreary haze.

Overhead, thunder roared. Lightning flashed, hundreds of bolts slashing through the sky. Eve shielded her eyes, blinded by the storm’s brilliance. After a moment, she began to pick her way through the shadowed forest as the wind started to howl.

When a bolt of white fire slapped the earth in front of her, Eve cried out in alarm. Panicked, she backed up. She pressed one hand over her chest, exhaling as her heart beat a frantic pace under the palm of her hand.

She took off to the left when wood splintered, the struck tree groaning as it began to sag. Eve ran. Behind, the tree toppled and the earth shook. 

Eve was cast off the path into the hills beyond. She rolled, sharp rocks biting at her skin until she came to a full stop. She laid there, sides heaving as she blinked rapidly.

Eve climbed to her feet, skin bruised and stinging. She shook herself off, wiped the rain from her eyes as she looked around.

Exhaling into her hands, Eve shuddered. It was colder, the forest an unfamiliar blur. She dug out her compus, staring as the needle spun in rapid circles.

She was lost, the trail gone and the heavens dark. None were the wiser, a deep hush having fallen over the forest as she stumbled her way through the wet growth. 

She wasn’t expecting the drop-off or the blood. The incline was steep and slick with mud, twisted roots jutting from the ground. A trail of crimson glowed, the light intense as she slid along the path.

When she found the body, she could only stare. A chill cut deeper than the rain, her gaze wide as she stared at the crumpled form on the ground. 

And she wasn’t alone. A man stood off to the side, his back resting against a tree. His gaze was on her, expression devoid of emotion. She swallowed.

Control is but one measure to gain power, to gain independence,” the man stood within feet of her, an easy smile spreading across his face. How could he smile when looking over the body of a dead boy? It was almost as if he knew her thoughts when he said, “This isn’t as bad as the others I’ve seen. It is tragic, all deaths are…but this is tame. Almost gentle.”

Eve eyed the boy’s still form, stomach churning. The body’s glazed eyes stared vacantly ahead as she asked, “How is getting torn apart gentle? And who are you?”

“Call me Sal. Everyone does,” this man stepped around the body, shadowed eyes scanning the wet ground around the dead boy. Sal was silent for a time. After a while, he continued, “It was far from gentle. He didn’t die here, either. Dropped off. Only one set of prints on the ground.”

‘And how do you know that?’ The question begged an answer, but Eve’s mouth was dry. This man, Sal, he looked at her. It was almost as if he knew her thoughts as he stepped towards her. He smiled, the expression all but nice before he said, “I keep an eye on these things. It’s my job. And who might you be, wandering the forest in this weather?”

“Just a wanderer.”

Sal rose a brow, but chuckled nonetheless. After a moment, he stood directly in front of her. When she tried to withdraw, he caught her wrist and held her fast.

“You really should have stayed home, missy,” Sal murmured as he turned her hand palm up. He pressed his thumb into the skin, gaze on her face as he whispered, “There’s a monster about. Is it here? Maybe. Should you have stayed away? Certainly. The question remains, however…

“Why are you here, Eve Turner, and what shall I do with you?”

Dreams of a Marionette

Salvadore hunched over his desk, chin tucked against his palm. He drummed his fingers across the desk as he eyed the paperwork before him, eyed the lines of dark ink running down the pages. For a time he stared at the weeping trail bleeding through the sheets. 

Along the edge of his vision, a flicker of bending light and color shifted. Bloodshot eyes flickered to the photographs tacked to the corkboard, the edges fluttering as a gentle breeze swept through the room. The distorted images drew his attention from the reports at hand, each photo a dark stain against humanity. The one at the center was shadowed, a dead child’s gaze unyielding.

Across the room, the office voicemail beeped. Sal rose to his feet and stretched, wincing as his back popped. Cracking his neck, he made his way across the room and through the open door. Behind him, the voicemail beeped once more. He ignored the beckoning call as he rubbed a hand over his tired face.

The phone rang. After a moment, the voicemail cut in: “Sal, I know you’re there. Answer the damn phone, man. We need to talk…”

Sal opened the mini-fridge and swipped a can of cola. He popped the lid, a light frown pulling at the corners of his mouth. The metallic taste wet his dry mouth as surely as it soothed his throat.

The phone rang again. The answering machine came again, the same message as before. Sal ran a hand through his hair as he made his way back into the office. As he passed the machine, he hit the speaker and said, “I’m here, Brett. Talk to me.”

“About time, Sal,” Brett went quiet for a moment, the sound of shuffling papers carrying between the lines. Brett swore and then said, “Another body was found. Chief wants you on the scene, Sal. Dry Creek. Be there in sixty.”

The line went dead before he could answer. Sal sat at the desk, his gaze shifting to the sketch resting innocently on the table. 

A murder, a girl held high by silk and string. Was this it? Was this the “Dreams of a Marionette” he had once seen? Sal rose, grabbed his bag and left his home with a sense of unease.

He was no apprentice, not now. In the shadows of the town, the light of lit lamps casting shadows, Sal walked. In the back of his mind was a girl, body pale and shroud in veils of light as she swung by silk and thread.