Novel: Poisoned Vintage
Excerpt: From pages 49-51
The following excerpt has been taken from a novel not seen by me in at least five years. It has been rewritten for my web site but faces many more edits and will undoubtedly change as the master forms itself. It's with this I ask of your patience. Thank you for reading. Jan 2004 SVR
The Year 1857
"The time comes when every good vintage of wine must be allowed to breathe and be consumed for the beauty contained within. For the historian, moments like these never last. Centuries and centuries have eluded themselves and it's to us that this truly rare wine has bequeathed itself in a riddle of mystery. A piece of history once to be delivered to James the 1st of Spain, wound up here in England three centuries later, found by us. The bottle's intact with no leakage; and even the label is in good condition with the exception of a few blood stains. A seal of wax on the side, stamped with the Royal Coat of arms will make this bottle worth a small fortune, full or empty. I asked you here tonight to partake of this wine of kings, once held by the Royal Guards of Spain. You're my mentor and without you, I'd be nowhere. It's for the reason two connoisseurs, world-renown, like ourselves end up here in my cellar before this great myth. God bless you." spoke Robert Thickstone with sincerity.
"Touching Robert, now please take care in opening that bottle. The cork must be brittle, but must remain intact for auction. We may have to apply some water to let it soak." Phillip Sherwood said gently as if his words might damage the fragile find.
As Robert applied pressure to break the cork free, an eerie sense of power crawled through the cork into his hand. It forced his hand to remain at the stem of the bottle. The veins in his arm bulged. His grip got tighter. His nails clawed the wax of the ancient bottle, until the expression on his mouth pulled back like some evil fiend. Instantaneously, sweat poured down his forehead before his mentor.
Phillip spoke with concern, "Robert, I believe you're getting carried away in the excitement of things."
Possessed, Robert shouted, "Shut up old man!!!" He bit his lip and restrained himself. His tone changed like a two headed Cyclops, "I'm sorry Phillip, I don't know what's happening!?"
Robert's face changed. His eyebrows formed small rainbows of fur, a sinister grin lit his face, and the veins from his eyes pulsated as if to warn his eyes to hold on to the sockets. His face grew maroon as it filled with blood. He was choked of air; he gasped and pounded the table. He laughed with an evil that made Phillips skin crawl.
Phillip leapt at Robert and tried to thrust the cork back into its home. Robert's fist connected his jaw with a fury that threw the man across the room.
Phillip shouted, plead with Robert. He leapt to his feet, grabbed Robert's collar, but even the hard slaps across his face weren't enough to bring reality back. Robert's face reddened under the softly lit candles that surrounded them. He slid down an eternal slide of evil. Robert released the cork under the light of a full moon.
A mist flowed from the bottle, like a fire bellowing smoke. Robert sucked it in one devouring breath. The muscles in his body throbbed, grew, until he stood twice the size of his normal body mass. His veins thumped with blood. They pumped like thirsty fire hydrants waiting to extinguish the life of his friend. He desperately inhaled for the oxygen that helped his muscles grow. He stretched, and bared his teeth in anger. The gums decayed rapidly. The first tooth that fell was from the front of the top gum. Phillip watched the foam ooze from his mouth and his teeth yellow over. The holes formed as quickly as termites infest a rotting piece of wood. A stale, putrid odor sprung from his mouth: one like the manure laid in a freshly planted garden. No one would have believed this ever so kind man, could be the transformed brute before him now. Robert was a beast.
Short Story: The Growth
Do you think my hairs too flat, Jonathan?
No, Wilemina. Your hair is perfect.
It needs more teasing.
Wilemina, were 20 minutes late already. We have to go!
Jonathan, arent I beautiful?
Am I not number one?
Then they can wait. Im Wilemina!
This could be your most important shoot, darling.
Wilemina continued to tease her hair while her publicist, Jonathan Eaker fidgeted in his chair. Jonathan stood up, paced, took a drag on his cigarette, then pulled his sleeve up. It was almost 9:30. He could barely contain himself when she said,
Im ready. Lets go.
Itll only take 10 minutes to walk there from here.
You should have a limousine waiting for me.
There was no time. The appointment came up too quickly. I needed to spend time updating your portfolio, besides I heard there was an accident tying up Broadway.
Youre my agent. I pay you well and you damn well better make sure everything is perfect! I could pay a thousand other men half the amount you work for! Remember that!
Yes, Miss Wilemina.
Well walk this time, but dont let it happen again!
Yes, Miss Wilemina.
Dont patronize me! I dont need to spend my time arguing with you. Were late, she said. Jonathan rolled his eyes as they quickly exited the door.
Wilemina strode the
concrete sidewalks with the confidence. Her 62 stature and long
vivacious frame made eyes appear from every wall. The stiletto heels of her
Veragamo shoes tapped the pavement like a metronome. She wore a black French
hat and a dark pair of Yve Saint Laurant sunglasses. The slinky black dress
hugged her hips while her fishnet stockings emphasized her long thighs. A red
jacket draped over her shoulder, held by one finger. They walked quickly and
elegantly to La Noir- an agency for elite supermodels.
Jonathan, are you dreaming or something? Youre supposed to be leading the way clearing people from my path. Youre not doing your job. Your head is in the clouds. Earth to Jonathan. Get with it.
Sorry baby. I just had to see you from behind and what a wonderful one it is!
As if you had interest in a womans behind, she snarled. Her face was driven with frustration but in a flash, her lips pouted and she said with baby talk, Sorry honey, your so cute. She brushed up against him as he ran to lead her way.
Stand back! She needs space. Were on a shoot. Move, please. Out of the way, he repeated, shoving people to the side.
was held high, emphasizing her complete control over her surroundings. Look
at these mindless idiots turn to look at me. I bet they are thinking how
wonderful it would be to bed me. Men are so weak it disgusts me. She
watched the men closely, as many glimpsed.
Jonathan led the way around the corner of 54th. Some photographers on the opposite corner momentarily distracted him. A homeless woman appeared from behind the support of St. Stephens Church. She startled the supermodel.
Miss, could you spare a dime? Please, I beg of you.
Who are you street trash?
Street trash?! Who the hell are you calling street trash you, bitch!
Jonathan quickly noticed the altercation. He moved in quickly grabbing the shoulders of the homeless woman, Please move on. Go, he said. He whispered to her and pulled a $5.00 bill from his pocket. He shoved it in her hand.
Is this some street urchin trying to get my money which I work so hard for? Doesnt she know people have to work for money. These people make me sick!
Hey you, bitch! Listen to me and listen good. If you had any inkling on the reality of life, youd know life deals its own hand.
Jonathan, whats this crazy woman talking about?
Ignore her Wilemina, said Jonathan.
I think you should remember beautys not permanent. It can change at the drop of a dime.
Nonsense, old woman. Some people were just born to be beautiful. Im one of them and that will never change.
So you shall with the words I speak, listen to the master speak. Youre playing a game with me. Its me wholl curse your monopoly. Crawling out the back door, beauty will be no more. The growth will grow with haste- disgusting, inexcusably adorning your face. A model no more, you will be.
Jonathan pushed the woman aside after she waved her hand. He watched Marys eyes pierce Wileminas shell like a tidal wave reaching a barren shore. Wilemina discontinued her stare and bowed her eyes to the homeless woman. Wilemina hid her wallowing soul beneath the red coat she held behind her back.
This womans crazy. Lets go. Im late.
Jonathan pushed the homeless woman back and took his position in front of the supermodel once again. Out of the way, move. Dont you know this incredible woman? Move, please! Thank you.
The old woman spit at
the ground as she walked away hitting part of Wileminas shoe. It was all
she needed before the strange effect took place. Wilemina felt a strange
sensation on her face. She dismissed it in her hurry to get to the agency.
Wilemina arrived at the agency 45 minutes late. The Vice President of Marketing sat impatiently at the end of the table. He watched her arrive and was captivated by her beauty.
Wilemina. Ive heard so much about you. I must admit, I was skeptical on your reputation. Its rare, Im moved so quickly by a womans beauty, the vice president said. He winked.
I hope you like what you see, she said.
Very much so, he said.
She pulled up her stockings revealing a supple cheek that showed itself beneath the skintight mini she wore. She watched the vice presidents mouth open, then sigh. Youre mine.
Wilemina, you look like you have a blemish below your right eye. stated the vice president.
What? I dont know what your talking about, said the supermodel, Jonathan, get me a mirror! I know I look perfect. They need their eyes examined. Every hair on my head was teased, my skin has been exfoliated twice at 5:30 and 8:30, and there is no possible way.
Jonathan came back with the mirror. She indeed saw a blemish before her. I must have been bitten by a bug. Im sorry. Jonathan, get me some concealer. Ill make your ads sell!
Jonathan handed the concealer to Wilemina. She covered the small blemish and turned on her magical smile for the camera. She was a natural. Her relaxed and daring moves turned the photographer to jelly. They finished 1 hour from the start.
Thank you. said the Director. I think it was one of my best shoots.
honey. She slipped into her coat and walked out more confidant then
It was 11:30 and the rest of the day was open for suggestion.
They went to Zips coffeehouse, around the corner from the agency, and ordered a double latte and a French cappuccino.
Jonathan, lets go to the Guggenheim. Theres a fantastic exhibit on surrealism Ive wanted to see.
Sorry, hon. I have appointments at 1:00 and 3:00. Its going to be a long day for me. I heard the exhibit was phenomenal. You should go there, then take a walk through the park. Have you ever been by Belvadier castle?
No. she said.
Its too hard to explain its location. The paths lead you all over the place and things start to look the same after awhile. You have to go! I should be on my way. Ill call you tomorrow.
honey, said Wilemina. She gave Jonathan a small kiss on the side of each
cheek before he exited.
Wilemina finished her double latte and decided to walk to 77th. She ignored the whistles she was use to hearing, and simply smiled as she strode down the street. She entered the Guggenheim.
Ill take one adult. How much?
The clerk gave her a strange look, thatll be $12.00.
Wilemina pulled out the cash and paid the clerk. She removed her sunglasses for the first time since the shoot, and began to walk the spiral to higher levels, passing over some incredible masterpieces. She analyzed many of the paintings stopping on the third tier. A Salvador Dali piece demanded her attention. She stepped back and studied it.
An old English couple stood to the side studying the same painting. The man stood back slightly farther then his wife and eyed Wilemina. He shook his head at the same time his wife turned around.
Alfred, what the hell do you think your doing?
Studying this incredible painting.
Doesnt look like thats the only thing youre studying, she said, then swung a hard right hook.
Madge, I dont know what your talking about!
Dont play that game with me! she said. Wilemina turned around and smiled at the old man. She giggled slightly.
Oh, excuse me love, said the old woman, it looks like you have something on your face. You may want to wipe it off.
Its there, near your nose. Wilemina pulled a handkerchief from her purse and wiped the spot, clearing her concealer. Eww, said the woman.
Is it off, now? asked Wilemina.
No, sweet. You should go to the ladies room.
Wileminas horrified look made the old woman smile. She made a leap for the bathroom, practically braking the door from its hinges.
My God, what is it? Its hideous! She eyed the raisin shaped boil that appeared on her face. One of the pores had opened and leaked a white fluid repulsive enough to make a maggot sigh. It was red and raw. I have to get something on it! Jonathan, where are you when I need you! In a panic, Wilemina spilt the contents of her purse on the counter. She covered her reflection in the mirror with her right hand, while she sorted the materials with the other. Where is my concealer! It wasnt there. She looked at her reflection and in a moment of frustration, scribbled over her reflection with cherry red lipstick.
Wilemina took her scarf and wrapped her face like a Middle Eastern woman. She proceeded out of the ladies room and to the front of the museum.. She ignored the odd looks many of the tourists gave her on her exit from the building. I must get home. Ill call Dr. Lilenquist about it. If anyone can help me, he can. She picked up her cellular and hit speed dial 3: her emergency dermatologist.
Doctor Lilenquists office, may I help you?
Yes, this is Wilemina.
Good afternoon, Wilemina. How are you!
Not so good. I need an emergency appointment. I must see the doctor today about a blemish. Its growing very quickly. I have an important shoot tomorrow.
I dont know, were booked solid.
I dont give a damn! You tell Dr. Lilenquist I need to see him today, or youll have no job tomorrow! she screamed.
Silence was heard, then a voice said, One moment.
Wileminas patience was running thin. She sped down the sidewalks like a sidewinder, dodging in and out people. She approached her home quickly.
Yes, Wilemina. Doctor Lilenquist here.
Doctor, its hideous, she said then began to weep.
I dont know what it is, you have to help me.
Take it easy. Come over now and well look at it. Nothing the doctor cant fix.
there shortly, she said and hung up the phone.
She entered the office 7 minutes later. Would you tell the doctor Wileminas here. she boldly said to the receptionist. The scarf still protected her face.
The receptionist smirked and stared at her, Whats you last name Maam?
Maam?! How dare you call me, Maam! The insolence! Its Wilemina, and Wilemina only! Do you live in a cave? Everyone knows me!
Sorry Maam, it must have been the scarf, she said sarcastically.
Doctor Lilenquist, Wilmas here! She watched the supermodels face redden with anger.
Wilemina, how are you? He gave her a kiss on the cheek. Please, come with me.
She walked with the doctor, eyeing the receptionist with an arrogant look. That woman insulted me, and was extremely rude also!
Shes got a strange sense of humor, but shes a damn hard worker and the best at what she does. I like her, so Im afraid I have to disappoint you and keep her.
Uhmm, she said.
So why dont you show me the blemish we spoke about, said the doctor.
Wilemina carefully unwrapped her face for the dermatologist. The last wrap stuck to her face by dried puss. She pulled it and opened a small scab that had formed. The raisin boil had grown to the size of a dime. The doctors face flinched, it looks like a boil, not a big deal. Ill drain it well put some Neosporin on it, and it will be gone in about 2-3 days.
I havent got 2 or 3 days! I have a shoot tomorrow! You have to get me done so I can shoot tomorrow.
Youll have to cancel your shoot.
I cant, she said.
Then youll have to cover it up. Ill drain it, shoot some antiseptic into it, and give you a cover up ointment, used to help heal it faster. I can give it to you in skin tones but its expensive.
I dont care. Do what you have to do, then I can go home and rest. Forget about this mess.
said the doctor.
The doctor went to work on the boil. He drained an extraordinary amount of fluid. The doctor was surprised to see it hadnt sucked her face dry.
Under no circumstances do you remove this bandage before tomorrow," said the dermatologist before prescribing the cover-up and sending her on her way. She wrapped her face with another scarf she found in her pocketbook and left the office in a hurry.
The photographers dream of shots like this. No body will recognize me. She arrived at her apartment and went directly to her bathroom. She carefully unwound her scarf revealing a bandage that seemed to take up half of her face, half of the mirror.
My skins always been perfect. I never would have been able to participate in those beauty pageants as a child. Thank god, Mom made me see a dermatologist back then. I never would have reached my fame if it werent for her. Its a shame they couldnt have a skin tone bandage.
After staring into
the mirror, she decided to watch a movie. She sat in front of the entertainment
center and pressed a button on her remote. Two large cabinet doors began to
slide revealing a 40 TV. She pushed in her favorite comedy, Arthur, and
began to relax. She poured herself a glass of cabernet sauvignon and before she
knew it, the bottle was gone. She passed out.
Wileminas mind was like a speeding train falling into a dream, almost instantly. In the dream, she ran on a high mountaintop in a spandex running suit. There was snow everywhere on the jagged terrain and she sprinted unaffected by any of it. Her running was smooth like the soft tires of a race bike on heated pavement. She ran at a steady pace, even as she approached a sheer cliff. She ran full speed over the edge and began to fall into oblivion. Her arms flapped frantically and grew into wings, which saved her from her fall. She soared above the ocean, when she felt a crippling pain shoot through her left wing. Her head turned and saw a steady steam of blood shooting from it. The wings movement seized. She lost altitude.
She looked over the ocean and back on the land. She saw the homeless woman from the morning holding a gun. The woman laughed as Wileminas body plunged helplessly towards the ocean. The laugh grew louder and louder as she fell closer to earth. It pierced her eardrums, causing bleeding to erupt from her ear. Her injured wing changed back into a human arm and her healthy wing remained a wing which flapped uselessly without its mate. She arched her feet seconds before hitting the water like a torpedo.
Her body submerged quickly. She kicked and struggled to ascend the murky water. A net pulled her from the depths before she lost consciousness. Coughing and gagging, she thanked her savior- a mirror image of herself as a homeless woman. The image held Wilemina in a fishing net and recited to her over and over, life deals its own hand. Wilemina began to laugh and the woman put her slowly back into the water submerging her face.
No, No! Wilemina yelled, as she woke herself from her nightmare. She felt a strange sensation like a torrent of blood, circulating under her bandage. Under no circumstances should you remove the bandage until tomorrow. She placed her hand over the bandage and felt a bump. Somethings wrong. I have to look! I cant wait. She repeated the phrase the doctor told her, Do not under any circumstances remove the bandage until tomorrow.
Where are those
Valium? she said to herself. She began to scout around the medicine
cabinet for the little orange bottle,Ah- Valium. Do not take with
Alcohol? Screw that! A few hallucinations could be good for me. She
popped 3 pills on top of the bottle she had. With in an hour she felt great but
extremely tired. She passed out, oblivious of the time or the growth on her
Wilemina woke the next morning in a daze. Her memory was a blur, but when she stroked her fingers across her face, she felt the gauze. Oh my god! My face- the shoot! She ran for the mirror in a panic. She touched the corners of her bandage carefully, and counted. One, two, three! She ripped the bandage from her face. AAAAHHHH! she cried.
It was a deformity that grew during the night. One worse then she had ever seen. Oh my stomach. The growth had grown to the size of a half-dollar. There were 5 heads filled with puss and the red color had deepened to a purple hue. She couldnt bear to see her reflection. Her hand shook as she grabbed the phone.
Dr Lilenquist. I listened to you. I took off my bandage. I want to die. You have to remove it. Take the scalpel and remove it.
Wilemina?! Now, dont get insane. I think youre blowing it out of proportion.
Im coming down, you be the judge! she yelled. She slammed the phone
on its receiver.
Wilemina found herself bursting through the door of Dr. Lilenquists office, unscheduled for an appointment. She walked directly to a private room reserved for people of status. Isolated from the rest of the patients, Dr. Lilenquist greeted her immediately.
Wilemina, let me look at this thing. He expected her to over exaggerate but as he slowly pulled down the corners of the bandage, he realized his mistake.
Uhh. He said under his breath. The putrid boil began to smell. He exited the room to speak softly to the receptionist,
Ill need the next few hours free, cancel my appointments.
The doctor came back and spoke to Wilemina in a strong manner.
Wilemina. I have no clue what we have here. I sucked this dry yesterday. It could be a sac, like some people get in their earlobes. Im going to contact a friend of mine. Upon his consultation, Ill do surgery. Youll have to cancel any appointments you have for the next week.
All right, she said reluctantly,
its only a phase, right?
Dr. Lilenquist paged Dr. Dare at County General Hospital. They spoke on a private line next to Wileminas room. She pressed her ear to the door in an attempt to listen. Not a thing. He finished his conversation and walked back into the room.
Im going to do this, but you have to be patient. Itll take a week to heal.
I have no time for patience, she said.
You have to
have time for patience.
He put her under a local anesthetic and removed the abscess. He bandaged it up carefully.
You cant touch this for 2 days. After that, you must change the gauze twice daily. Use Neosporin to help it heal.
Thank you, doctor, she said. She exited the office.
She arrived home and
went right for a steel strong box that she hid behind the blue jeans in the top
of her closet. It contained a sandwich bag full of cocaine. For emergencies!
This will help me feel better! She snorted a few lines and everything felt
it was going to be good.
The next few days,
she spent most of her time painting, but her mind raced with activity. A sea of
reporters appeared the beginning of the second day speculating on her absence
from the worlds most important fashion show, the European Spring Review.
Jonathan stated to the press that she was prescribed bed rest, due to a severe
form of the flu and he continued to give his undivided attention to a new model
with a lot of notoriety- Felicity Forrester.
Wilemina maintained her private surroundings. Her peek from behind the shades of the window gathered a thousand flashes, as photographers tried to break the stories of her disappearance.
Its been two days, today. I think its time to remove this bulky bandage. She hadnt stroked or felt any sensation on her face in days. She stood in front of the mirror boldly. One, two, three, she said. She felt the glue from the bandage instantly rip her skin. Her eyes bulged. It never left.
I refuse to believe this is still active, she said to herself. She pressed her face close to the mirror and got her fingertips on both sides of the boil. She squeezed it into a stream, which catapulted from the mirror. After it depleted the boil, she covered it with antiseptic and a fresh bandage. A day later, it hadnt changed. She continued this for days with no affect.
The fourth day came and she re-supplied her cocaine. She had depleted the first bag, which should have lasted a month. She decided to celebrate the moment by ordering pizza. She picked up the receiver and hit speed dial 5.
Hello, is this
Vinnies? Could you deliver me a large pie with mozzarella and vegetables?
she asked. She paused for a moment, this is Wilemina. How long will that
take? A few minutes? Good. Ill be waiting. She said then hung up
Rap, Rap, rap.
Who is it? she asked.
Come in, she said.
Please put it in the kitchen. She covered her face with her right hand. The man came in and put the pizza down.
Thanks. What do I owe you?
Twelve dollars, he said.
She handed him the money with her left hand. He wasnt receptive and dropped two bills to the ground.
Im so sorry, he said.
She bent over spontaneously uncovering her face to pick up the bills. The man reached in his pocket and pulled a camera, which he flashed quickly and accurately, as she got back up. The camera went mad under the finger of the paparazzi.
No! Please! she yelled and tried desperately to hide her face, with no success.
The photographer left
the room as quickly as he appeared, with shots that would make him famous. He
met the pizza deliveryman at the bottom of the stairs with a $50.00 bill. He
ran the pictures to Star magazine for an exclusive. The information hit the
stands within the next 48 hours. Every supermodel jockeyed to take
Wileminas position in this time of desperation for her. Wilemina sank to
an all time low.
Jonathan? This is Wilemina. The dermatologist has no diagnosis for the strange behavior of my growth. No matter whats done, it grows back constantly, can you help me? she asked with sympathy.
Wilemina? Wilemina who? Are you still keeping the monster?
Jonathan, whats happened to you? You use to be my best friend.
Do you still kick your best friends, Wilemina? Ive moved on. Maybe you should too.
But its been two months. I cant get any work anywhere. My money isnt coming in. Im suffering.
Dont you deserve that? Isnt that what you made people do, suffer? spouted Jonathan.
No, I mean yes, I mean no. Im sorry if I made you feel inferior, she said.
Youre too late. Felicity Forrester has taken your place. Shes the hottest woman in town. She pays me much more than your peasant pockets. Its been nice working with you! he said. He slammed down the phone.
hung up the phone and went to her steel strong box. It had been replenished
just two days ago and she was on her last line. Her habit compounded daily
while her ego dwindled. It ate away her savings.
Another month of not paying the rent went by. Wilemina was thrown into the street. Her dealer confiscated all her valuables for her cocaine. She walked the street and found the half way house. After a near rape, she hit the streets again. Her clothes had been given to charities and over the course of the next 6 months, she had become her own charity. Her boil remained a permanent reminder on her face.
She stole a shopping cart to keep what remainders she had. She begged desperately for a place to stay, but all she would get was some dirty nickels thrown in a cup.
She stood outside a church one cold morning when she heard a familiar voice,
Its Jonathan. The man walked from around the corner.
Jonathan, Its me, Wilemina! You look so beautiful. she said. She was so happy to see him.
Jonathan, who is this beggar?
Its no one, Felicity. Just someone I toss dimes to every so often.
Dimes! Jonathan, I-
Wilemina, listen to me carefully and repeat the following words if you want to get back at everyone who ever turned you wrong, Jonathan whispered quickly as he held her head. She nodded.
So you shall with the words I speak, listen to the master speak. Youre playing a game with me. Its me wholl curse your monopoly. Crawling out the back door, beauty will be no more. The growth will grow with haste- disgusting, inexcusably adorning your face. A model no more, you will be. Thats it, then you have to spit on her for it to work. Do it, cause now is the only chance youll have.
Jonathan returned to the front of the supermodel and started to recite, Move. Please move. I have the most incredible woman in the world here.
Wilemina started to quickly recite the curse Jonathan spoke to her. Her eyes gazed at the supermodel. It was him! He did this to me! Look at him, all smug. He must think Im a fool. She finished the curse-bearing sentence and ran in front of the supermodel. She stood between the two people staring at Felicity. At a moments notice, she turned around and spit in Jonathans face.
You bitch! Jonathan said, then smacked her face. He wiped his face clean and carried on clearing the path for Felicity.
Jonathan and Felicity arrived at the agency 15 minutes later.
Felicity, let me see your beautiful face, he said. He carefully studied her face, but felt a strange sensation on his own.
Honey, it looks like you have a bite on your face, she said.
It was an overcast day, much like most days before, overlooking the once powerful port of Liverpool and its infamous river -the Mersey. The rundown mansion, which once belonged to an industrial millionaire, remained three hundred feet from the shore. The paint pealed from its decaying walls and the porches broken planks could be seen from the street. The windows and doors were sealed with plywood, with the exception of a piece of plywood that swung on a one inch wide nail above a second story window. It provided a view of the industrial water coolers, smokestacks and old warehouses on the opposite side of the river.
A supernatural power emanated from this spot, close to the river. Its presence was undeniable from the squatters who resided there, but its voice called to a woman from across town, like a beacon, warning ships of their approach. She came by taxi to the dilapidated building like a modern day Joan of Arc going to war. Her face, permanently tattooed blue, had two large gold chain tattoos laid vertically down her face. They crossed over her eyes and mouth then disappeared below her druidical gown. Two others lay horizontally from ear to ear, across the length of her face. She slammed the door of the taxi.
"Do you hear that Michael? It sounded like a car."
"Johnny J., you're tripping again," said Michael.
"I'm tellin ya, I heard a car. I'm checkin," he said. The drug induced junkie stumbled across the floor to the boarded window. He lifted the corner and saw the woman. "Aaggggggggggghhhhhhh."
Michael leapt at his friend, covering his mouth. "What the hell's wrong with you? Do you want us found out?"
"It's the reaper! The reaper's comin for me!"
"Calm down," Michael said.
The woman pulled down the hood of her robe and looked towards the boarded window. She watched the wood sway back and forth on the nail as fingers stopped it mid-swing. Michael pulled it back. He stared at her mysteriously tattooed face for five seconds before she turned her head and returned her hood to its place.
"It's just a woman, J, a very interesting woman." Michael watched her in fascination, "I'm gonna check her out. Stay here." he said.
He crept down the dust-ridden stairway to a broken window at the back of the mansion. Michael saw her approach the river. He maneuvered his way through the broken window sill, and jumped to the yard. He whistled to get her attention.
"Please don't interrupt my destiny," she said with sympathy. She turned her head and wiped a tear.
"What's your destiny, lady?"
"To sacrifice everything worth sacrificing; to take my life."
"You're talkin nonsense, lady! I can't let you do that!"
"If only you understood. It's why I was born the night of a full moon. The reason, I wake at the setting of the sun."
Michael watched her breathe in a trance, as they moved closer to the water.
"Lady, be reasonable. No man's worth takin your own life. We all endure some incredibly hard shit, but that which we endure, makes us stronger."
She looked across the water at the old chimneys of the munition works. She stopped only feet from the water, to avoid small crashing waves. She tuned him out in meditation then pulled the hood from her head. Michael stepped back. She was albino.
"Please, lady, listen to me. You don't have to do this! Think how much you could do for the world alive!"
She stopped, turned, reached for him, and French kissed him. Her colorless eyes pierced his.
"I value that true sense of kindness in you, but nothing you can do, can keep me from my fate." She leapt from his arms into a foot of the river's water. Her mind took over. The tattooed chains tightened around her body. She watched herself from above being pulled beneath the water, by heavy stones attached to her chains. Bubbles poured from her mouth, as she sank through the murky waters. The light that appeared from the surface got dimmer and dimmer. Her hands grabbed, reached, and clawed, but not one muscle moved above the one foot of water in which she stood. Her mind buckled.
Michael shouted to no acknowledgment. He watched her mouth form small puffs and blows.
"Lady!" he screamed. Her eyes twitched blindly, when suddenly her pupils disappeared.
Michael picked her from the water and ran her to the beach. He lifted her neck, gave her mouth to mouth. He slid his hand beneath her robe and discovered her naked body. The robe fell to the side and revealed the continuation of tattooed chains which covered every inch of her body. Her skin swelled around each tattoo of chains, as if they'd been pulled with all their might.
"Jesus," he said.
Red blemishes appeared on her face mysteriously before his eyes; again, to the sides of each tattoo. He desperately tried to revive her, till minutes later, he let her body go limp. His hand checked her pulse. She was dead.
Michael sat on the shore for hours with her body. He stroked her hair. She's so beautiful. His hands caressed her face. Why would she do this? No one's worth taking her life. Why'd she pick me! Why couldn't I help her? He noticed a beautiful old English script tattoo at the nape of her neck.
"Olivia," Michael said.
If I go to the police, and they see my record, they'll be sure to arrest me for murder. The only other person who saw her was Johnny J., but he was on mescaline. I'll be condemned to death with no trial, which leaves me only one option: I'll bury her. I'll give my blessings and bury her here. I'll be the only one present and the only one to know. It'll be our secret and Olivia, I promise I'll make you live, at least the length of my life.
He threw her body over his shoulder and laid her body by the backdoor. He found a shovel and dug a deep trench under the shadow of a tree. He finished two hours later under the darkness of night. Michael dragged his feet into the house exhausted and fell into a deep depression before he fell asleep that night.
The following day, he hopped on the M3 bus and went into the town center. His blank mind struggled in grief, while he watched the industrial architecture and decrepit buildings pass. He arrived at a soot faced building that had a neon light in the window. It said- Tattoo's. He entered.
"What can I do for ya, friend?" asked the artisan.
"I want the face of a woman tattooed here on my arm. Her expression should be painted in sorrow. It should be painful and I want a single tear to fall down her cheek. Her face should be cobalt blue with chains of gold running horizontally and vertically across her face."
The artisan looked at him strangely, "this wouldn't be a local woman would it? A friend of mine worked on an albino woman who's too's like this."
"Can I talk to your friend?" asked Michael.
"I work in Weary Traveler, a shelter on the other side of town. She's got AIDS and I gotta talk with him, about the needles he used. I need to find her too. She disappeared a few days ago," Michael slyly said.
"Alright, 241 Penny road. His name's Willy. I'm sure he'll give you her address considerin the circumstances."
"Thanks," said Michael, "but first, my tattoo. She's my secret love."
The artisan worked from Michael's description, his hands guided by some unknown external force. Painting like Rembrandt, the artisan finished with a mirror image of Olivia. The man taped a gauze pad over the tattoo and collected his money. Michael ran out the door to 241 Penny Road.
The manager of Will's Tattoo, distinctively remembered the woman. He immediately gave Michael her name, Olivia Pentingham, and her address, 40-15 Farthing Ave., Birkenhead. The tattoo parlor was told to notify Jeanie Willard, Olivia's roommate, in case of an emergency.
Michael located the area on the map, hopped on the bus, and arrived in a dilapidated neighborhood. Penniless vagrants wandered the streets. Trash blew in the breeze and the smell was putrid. He arrived at a building much like his own. How can I tell Jeanie Willard of Olivia's death? He rapped the knocker on the door. A few seconds later, a very plain looking woman opened the door. Her mouth dropped.
"Oh my God, your name's Michael. Please come in." Michael looked at her in astonishment. He cautiously walked in to the railroad apartment. Jeanie stood behind the door, as he walked into the main room. "Olivia's dead isn't she?"
Without emotion, Jeanie shook her head. "Let me show you to Olivia's room. It might explain some things."
Michael followed Jeanie through an old rickety doorway which separated the back of the apartment. They met a closed door. When Michael stepped in front of it, Jeanie pushed it open.
The walls were covered in sketches. Michael pulled a sketch titled Michael from the wall. The likeness was amazing.
"It's me!" He looked around, "My house! My roommate! What the hell!" he said. He waved it at her. "What's the meaning of this?" he said in an angry tone.
"She saw you for the past two years."
"She followed me? Why didn't I notice her, with a face like that-
-She did that only a month ago, but she never followed you or even met you. Until now, I had no notion you actually existed! She made money as a psychic, and within the past two years she dreamt of you many times. She was quite an artist, wouldn't you agree?"
"She started acting very peculiar within the last three months. After she did the tattoo, I really thought she had made some sort of crossover. It took her days to get it. Did you see the entire thing?"
Michael looked at her with guilt, "Yea, I saw the chains wrapped around her body and her face, but why?"
"I couldn't tell you. She told me not to worry about it, and one day I'd see the big picture. She only told me you'd know the deeper meaning of her tattoo in the future. I think she fell for you."
Michael sighed. He pulled up his sleeve, revealing a bandage over his upper arm. He ripped it off in front of Jeanie and revealed the tattoo of Olivia's face.
"I'm more than a little upset by this. Can I come back and would you mind if I took a couple of these sketches with me?" Michael asked.
"Of course, you can come back. I'm sure she'd be really happy that you took some pictures."
"Can I come back tomorrow?" Michael said.
"Certainly," she said, "I'll leave you alone."
Michael picked a few sketches from the wall which included his portrait, a picture of the mansion, an unusual sketch of light peering through murky water and the industrial machinery that lay across the river from the mansion. He rummaged through the papers on her desk and found amongst her supplies a sketch.
"It's not possible," he said with denial. He put his hand over his mouth, clutching the sketch with the other. "This is my tattoo!" He read the title on the bottom right hand corner. "Love".
The trip home was difficult. He looked into the haze of an overcast day, finally he reached his house before sundown. The sun's streams of light shimmered through grey clouds on his yard. The mansion had an eerie stillness.
"Johnny J! Vinny B! Where are you guys?" shouted Michael. He heard nothing. Probably out for a pint downtown. He climbed the stairs, opened the door and was met with a flying fist from behind the door. It nailed his cheek and threw him backwards. Sketches flew everywhere.
Two thugs walked out from behind the door.
"We're here to collect your debt, Mikey. You owe us £10,000 with interest accumulated."
"But I only borrowed £5000 six months ago!"
"You know the deal. It was spelled out in simple English. You understand English don't you?"
"Wait, you don't understand! My friends should have it. I invested, my friends dealt, the drugs should have paid off by now. I just put the money out."
"We had a talk with your friends. After a little coercing, they told us most of the money went back up their noses. We left one of 'em to go out and collect our debt. The other's still here. " He opened up the closet door and his friend, Johnny J. fell out dead.
"No!!!" Michael yelled. He looked at his friend's dead body. "You can't! I told you, I just arranged the deal!"
"This means you're responsible. Do you have the money or not? We need it NOW!"
"No, I don't have it! But please " Michael begged.
"Then it's your turn to face the responsibility of your actions!"
The men threw a barrage of fists and kicks, and severely beat him to unconsciousness. One man threw him over his massive shoulder, and carried him downstairs to the living room.
"Z, get those chains."
Michael regained consciousness. He said in a soft shaky voice, "What chains?"
"We're taking a payment for your debt."
The men wrapped Michael in heavy steel chains. The chains placed precisely where the tattoos were on Olivia. Michael curled in a ball, horrified. He struggled.
"Put his lights out," one ruffian said to the other.
"It'd be my pleasure!" He grabbed a two-by-four and smashed it on his head. Michael went unconscious.
The thugs grabbed him under the arms and feet and carried his body out to a rowboat. They threw him in and rowed to the center of the river.
Michael's eyes blinked in and out of focus as the small waves rocked the boat. He tried to make sense of his situation.
"It should be deep enough here, Z. The silt has to be six feet thick on the bottom. He'll disappear like the invisible man." They picked him up again under the arms and legs and counted.
"One two three!" They released his body into the water.
After hitting the water, Michael's body came to life with an adrenaline rush. He reached and clawed at the water, sinking rapidly with the weight of the chains. He struggled to try and free himself, but was helpless. The light through the water faded fast.
In an instant, it all made sense to him! It was the sketch he had taken from Olivia's room. The chains were his own. He saw her vision.
Olivia, you're coming for me.
He squinted at the appearance of a ghostly white figure which wore a flowing white gown.
She gazed into his terrified eyes, and then stroked his face. She smiled and he felt his pandemonium disappear. She touched her lips to his and pulled his spirit from his last bubbles. His lifeless body disappeared fathoms below and the tattoos which scared their bodies were gone.
The mansion was where they would die, together.