My dream and my nightmare are one. A coin thrown by fate to the wind for me to catch with outstretch arms and open palms. My eyes were once forthright and knowing, I was wise beyond seeing, aware of all paths men followed including my own. I knew of the shadows we all cast in daylight and the ones we hide in at night. I toyed with them, my heart full of dreams of summer and youth, pride my shield and my cloak. I was a fool in bliss, my arrogance creating the storm that would follow blinding me until only darkness prevailed. So I slept and my nightmare, born of my indifference, born of my scorn, walked in the sunlight cursing all men with a smile.
She moved through the small crowd like cream while the rest of them sank to the bottom. If they were the sun, she was the moon with the night sky her ocean. She stood against the rail, away from the other women on the sun deck drinking colourful cocktails and wearing decadent pieces of cloth and cord. She watched the ocean but saw nothing of it, her translucent dress of cloud formed patterns in the sea air, hinting at a body that would cost any man dear. I watched her from the top deck, her dark hair coiling against the breeze, her eyes holding nothing but enchantment, green, enthralling, with flashes of odium upon their web. She spoke to the ocean, ‘”In love, if love be love, if love be ours…’”, and let the words float toward setting sun.
I answered from the shadows but did not let my words loose for fear they would ignite what was once lit and burned in the glow of age. ‘”Faith and unfaith can ne’er be equal powers.”’
I too turned toward the sun that hung like a bleeding heart on the horizon. Was it hers or was it mine? I closed my eyes and prayed to the stars with a reverence that only the fallen know. I breathed out and on opening my eyes I caught my reflection on polished glass; I smiled and touched its coldness wishing it warmth and a beating heart. A heart capable of love.
Daylight turned its cloak to night and the ‘Yasha’ anchored off some barren island to await our host.
For this she had come.
So we waited for his grand entrance in a flurry of excess and extravagance. She walked among the living like a domestic serval in a dress that was fashioned from the dreams we weave when asleep. I followed her path woven with hips that rocked like a lullaby that would cast a man to his death; it was then she caught me. She followed my gaze like a spider on silk and walked over and stood before me. Her pale fingers reached out and stroked my dusky skin. “Blue eyes, how extraordinary,” she said in a borrowed New Orleans accent.
Did she see me? Did she see me as I once stood in the sunlight in a time lost to men? Did I hide myself deep enough as our eyes duelled, as her fiery lips ghosted mine searching my soul for its key?
Time melted and I felt the presence of her motionless heart. A heart I had once grasped without holding and for a second time stretched, almost full circle, almost touching until the ocean broke to the sound of a motor launch. She turned to watch the rush to greet our host and then turned back to me with a smile in those eyes she kissed my cheek and glided back to her cabin.
Dare I follow, as once she followed me under the oak?
“Dear mirror, how good you are to me, you do not judge me.”
She sighed softly picking up a leather bound book of poetry on the dresser and turning slowly as if studying the cabin for eavesdroppers. “No, you do not judge me, not like the mighty lord poets with pens to brand us harlot in such black and white verse. To spike our words and turn them against us like webs of dark writings to cut us bloody in eyes of men.”
A soft laugh tripped from her lips and she opened the book reciting to her reflection, ‘”for men at most differ as Heaven and earth, but women, worst and best, as Heaven and Hell.”’
She threw the book to the floor, angered. “Was it not man who made me so wretched? Was it not love that used me unkind? Love that made me tear my beating heart from my body and give it, bloody, unto gentle hands for safekeeping? Oh foolish maid was I to kiss his feet with tender lips and speak of sweethearts to meadow flowers. In tempest arms our passion raged turning summer to autumn, winter to spring until the forest’s heart beat within me and I was slave to his master. Old man, I danced for you but you just listen to the music. How cruel you were, you, with the universe in your hands lost my heart leaving it for the ravens to feed upon.”
“Did you not think of me, seer, was I not in your dreams, naked, with full breasts and round hips? You drank of my body, feasted on my passion yet you were so ignorant of love, so above emotion, so cold?
“Indifference, breeds indifference, so you just let me weave, cast out and broken on the rocks of emotion. A smile would have saved us, a tender look, a touch, a kiss but you turned your back and made me monster.
“Who’s the master now, old man? You who is lost to the world, fabled in time, or I who walk on the backs of men in high heels? I am what you made me, hatred, with no tears to cry, no heart to beat and yet…..”
She touched her reflection, closing her eyes and resting her head in her hands. “Sweet mirror, were they not rainbows at the start? Colours, oh, glorious colours, gilded in gold that painted life in the sweetest music? Now there are only reds and the violence that tears the sky. Where once I dreamt of stars and wished on soft waters I now find relief in pain and the colours reflected in tears.”
She opened her eyes and watched a lone tear streak her cheek. “What game is this? A marbled heart grazed by sentimentality, what thoughts to haunt. Banish! Away! Leave my mind and let me breathe with a dispassionate heart. What futile spell makes me thus? What charm?”
She looked deep into the eyes of her reflections. “The boy. The boy does haunt me with these thoughts. Why?”
“Are we twined souls, maybe, cast from the same stone? Did he once love as I did?”
She picked up a lipstick and began to apply it. “Oh, but what a boy to trouble a woman’s mind with skin coloured like the late honey and eyes, eyes like mountain pools, deep and old.
“I could taste sweet mead on the lure of those youthful lips and what pleasures awaits those who wish more than sip?”
She pressed her lips together. “Would he love me, dear mirror? Love me like I loved once on a forest floor? Or could we use him? Use him in the hunt for bigger prey?”
There was a knock on the cabin door. “Ms Cooleridge, Mr Morava request the pleasure of your company at dinner”.
“Please send my apologies to Monsieur Morava, but I regret I am unable to attend.”
Yves Morava studied the night in his mind, playing out the events like a chess master. He sat behind a desk relaxing in a heavy leather chair, eyes shut listening to music. In one hand he held a cut crystal glass leaden with malt and ice which he slowly swirled. He brought the glass to his nose and inhaled then placed it back on a silver coaster.
He pick up a small remote from the desk and a giant screen on the wall yawned into life. He watched the party upstairs on the sun deck, zooming in on certain individuals who caught his eye. He flicked from camera to camera, which were positioned through out his boat, trying to find her. He smiled. Never had a woman occupied his mind like she. Never had a woman made him feel, so alive? He was cold, he knew that, almost clinical, almost dead, but she, she stimulated him and this entranced him. He hadn’t ‘felt’ in a long time.
He flicked the screen again and the camera in her cabin blinked. She stood there, disrobed, her body like fine china that he needed to dine off. He touched the screen and felt its coldness kissing her softly so as not to break her. She was not alone. He stepped back from the image and watched the boy move toward her. He took her in his arms and they melted into one like raindrops on an ocean. She was like marble against his nakedness, he like sand against her footprints and together they were flame and fire. Then she turned and looked directly into the lens, as if she knew it was there, as if she knew he was watching and smiled.
There was a knock at the door, he flicked the screen and music off. “Enter”.
His purser entered with a tall, red headed woman whose name he’d forgotten three days ago. He picked up the whiskey glass, the ice had dissolved a while ago so he gave it to the purser and ushered him out.
He watched the girl’s lips move but the words floated past his brain. At least this one wasn’t blonde, he thought, there were too many blondes, they swarmed around his boat like an infestation of insipid clones. God he was fed up. Frustrated and fed up. He watched the girl breathe, her breasts high and tight against the pink of her dress. Not real, his brain screamed, implants. He smiled, “are you a virgin?”
The girl was silent not sure how to answer. It’s a simple question, he thought, a yes or no answer. Why do they hesitate? He watched her lick her lips seductively while looking though lowered lashes.
Oh God here we go.
“No,” she replied.
Oh well, tonight had Lambrusco written all over it. He turned the music back on and got up from the chair taking her hand in a gentlemanly gesture. She took it and rose to meet him. They began to dance.
“I’ve been dying to meet you for a long time,” she whispered in his ear.
Well, he was only too glad to oblige.
He was disappointed the girl was more ginger beer than sparkling wine. Her perfume and blood mingled heavily on his lips leaving a bitter taste in his mouth. He let her body fall to the floor and went back to the desk to turn the view screen on once more. The woman was now alone and lay like a Michelangelo virgin on the satin sheets. He watched her light a cigarette and bring it to her lips with serene glamour before dressing with all the celebration of a performance.
She came to him almost an hour later. By then the body had been disposed and Yves was ready to play with this seductive creature. She sat before him her eyes matching his in sentences unspoken. He offered her a drink but she refused sitting back in the chair and lighting a cigarette. She watched him through the smoke and he found himself ill at ease. He poured himself a drink.
She laughed. “Why do you go through the pretence?”
“I’m sorry?” he replied.
“Surely it’s a waste of good whisky if you’re not going to drink it?” She flicked ash onto the carpet, his carpet.
“I’ve never taken a vampire before, I think it might hurt.” She stood and the cabin suddenly grew very small.
She moved before him and he saw flashes of himself belch up into the air. Something inside of him was trying to escape, it tore at his rib cage like a breath of sharp steel, pushing at the skin and bloating the flesh. The power that was his forced its way out and she drank it in, her eyes closed, her body twitching with pleasure, until Yves Morava was a small pile of dirt on the carpet.
I watched her leave upon the wind. A storm she fashioned for her own use. Her power grows and soon I will have to use all magic against her. Oh, but my heart grows heavy with the deed, for hate I have none, only sadness. Maybe the years have made me thus, for I am old, just as I was old back then or maybe it was the pleasure I stole tonight, a pleasure that I should have given more freely when vanity staid my selfish heart.
Maybe there is hope for love but I think not. It is too long ago and we danced to different strings on our hearts. Our time has gone and all that is left is what could have been.
Copyright RMC Dec 2017
BY ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON