There's something in the shadows, in the corner of your room. A dark heart is beating and waiting for you...
"I am in bed, now. I can feel the linen sheets beneath me, warmed to body temperature, slightly rumpled. There is no one in bed with me. My chest no longer hurts. I feel nothing at all. I feel just fine.
My dreams are vanishing as I wake, overexposed by the glare of the morning sun through my bedroom window, and are being replaced, slowly, by memories; and now, with only a purple flower and the scent of her still on the pillow, my memories are all of Becky, and fifteen years drifts away like confetti or falling blossom through my hands.
She was just twenty. I was by far the older man, almost twenty-seven, with a wife, and a career, and twin little girls. And I was ready to give them all up for her.
We met at a conference, in Hamburg, in Germany. I had seen her performing in a presentation on the future of interactive entertainment, and had found her attractive and amusing. Her hair was long and dark, her eyes were a greenish blue. At first, I was certain that she reminded me of someone I knew, and then I realized that I had never actually met the person she reminded me of: it was Emma Peel, Diana Rigg’s character in The Avengers television series. I had loved her and longed for her in black-and-white, before I ever reached my tenth birthday.
That evening, passing her in a corridor, on my way to some software vendor’s party, I congratulated her upon her performance. She told me that she was an actress, hired for the presentation (“after all, we can’t all be in the West End, can we?”) and that her name was Rebecca.
Later, I kissed her in a doorway, and she sighed as she pressed against me.
Becky slept in my hotel room for the rest of the conference. I was, head-over-heels, in love, and so, I liked to think, was she. Our affair continued when we returned to England: fizzy, funny, utterly delightful. It was love, I knew, and it tasted like champagne in my mind.
I spent all my free time with her, told my wife I was working late, needed in London, busy. Instead I was in Becky’s Battersea flat with Becky.
I took joy in her body, the golden litheness of her skin, her blue-green eyes. She found it hard to relax during sex-she seemed to like the idea of it, but to be less impressed by the physical practicalities. She found oral sex faintly disgusting, giving or receiving it, and liked the sexual act best when it was over fastest. I hardly cared: the way she looked was enough for me, and the speed of her wit. I liked the way she made little doll-faces out of modeling clay, and the way the Plasticine crept in dark crescents under her fingernails. She had a beautiful voice, and sometimes, spontaneously, would begin to sing-popular songs, folk songs, snatches of opera, television jingles, whatever came into her mind. My wife did not sing, not even nursery rhymes to our girls.
Colors seemed brighter because Becky was there. I began to notice parts of life I had never seen before: I saw the elegant intricacy of flowers, because Becky loved flowers; I became a fan of silent movies, because Becky loved silent movies, and I watched The Thief of Baghdad and Sherlock Junior over and over; I began to accumulate CDs and tapes, because Becky loved music, and I loved her, and I loved to love what she loved. I had never heard music before; never understood the black-and-white grace of a silent clown before; never touched or smelled or properly looked at a flower, before I met her.
She told me that she needed to stop acting and to do something that would make her more money, and would bring that money in regularly. I put her in touch with a friend in the music business, and she became his personal assistant. I wondered, sometimes, if they were sleeping together, but I said nothing about it-I did not dare, although I brooded on it. I did not want to endanger what we had together, and I knew that I had no cause to reproach her.
“How do you think I feel?” she asked. We were walking back to her flat from the Thai restaurant around the corner. We ate there whenever I could be with her. “Knowing that you are going back to your wife, every night? How do you think it feels for me?”
I knew she was right. I did not want to hurt anyone, yet I felt as if I were tearing myself apart. My work, at the small computer company I owned, suffered. I began to nerve myself to tell my wife that I was leaving her. I envisioned Becky’s joy at learning that I was to be only hers forevermore; it would be hard and hurtful to Caroline, my wife, and harder on the twins, but it would have to be done.
Each time I played with the twins, my two almost-identical girls (clue: look for the tiny mole above Amanda’s lip, the rounder line of Jessica’s jaw), their hair a lighter shade of Caroline’s dark honey color, every time I took them to the park or bathed them or tucked them in at night, it hurt me inside. But I knew what I had to do; that the pain I was feeling would soon be replaced with the perfect joy that living with Becky, loving Becky, spending every waking moment with Becky, would bring me.
It was less than a week before Christmas, and the days were as short as they were going to get. I took Becky out to the Thai place for dinner, and, as she licked the peanut sauce from a stick of chicken satay, I told her that I would soon be leaving my wife and children for her. I expected to see a smile on her face, but she said nothing, and she did not smile.
In her flat, that night, she refused to sleep with me. Instead, she told me it was over between us. I drank too much, cried for the last time as an adult, begged and pleaded with her to change her mind.
“You aren’t any fun anymore,” she said, simply and flatly, as I sat, forlorn, on the floor of her living room, my back resting against the side of her battered sofa. “You used to be fun, and funny. Now you just mope around all the time.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, pathetically. “Really, I’m sorry. I can change.”
“See?” she said. “Absolutely no fun at all.”
Then she opened the door to her bedroom, and went inside, closing it and locking it, finally, behind her; and I sat on the floor and finished a bottle of whiskey, all on my own, and then, maudlin drunk, I wandered about her flat, touching her things and sniveling. I read her diary. I went into the bathroom and pulled her soiled panties from the laundry basket, and buried my face in them, breathing her scents. At one point I banged on her bedroom door, calling her name, but she did not respond, and she did not open the door.
I made the gargoyle for myself in the small hours of the morning, out of gray modeling clay.
I remember doing it. I was naked. I had found a large lump of Plasticine on the mantelpiece, and I thumbed and kneaded it until it was soft and pliable, then, in a place of drunken, horny, angry madness, I masturbated into it, and kneaded my milky seed into the gray, shapeless mess.
I have never been a sculptor, but something took shape beneath my fingers that night: blocky hands and grinning head, stumpy wings and twisted legs: I made it of my lust and self-pity and hatred, then I baptized it with the last drops of Johnnie Walker Black Label and placed it over my heart, my own little gargoyle, to protect me from beautiful women with blue-green eyes and from ever feeling anything again.
I lay on the floor, with the gargoyle upon my chest; and, in moments, I slept.
When I woke up, a few hours later, her door was still locked, and it was still dark. I crawled to the bathroom, and threw up all over the toilet bowl and the floor and the scattered mess I had left of her underwear. And then I went home.
I do not remember what I told my wife, when I got home. Perhaps there were things she did not wish to know. Don’t ask, don’t tell, all that. Perhaps Caroline teased me about Christmas drinking. I can barely remember.
I did not ever return to the flat in Battersea.
I saw Becky every couple of years, in passing, on the tube, or in the City, never comfortably. She seemed brittle and awkward around me, as I was, I am sure, around her. We would say hello, and she would congratulate me on whatever my latest achievements were, for I had taken my energies and channeled them into my work, building something that was, if it was not (as it was often called) an entertainment empire, at least a small principality of music and drama and interactive adventure.
Sometimes I would meet girls, smart, beautiful, wonderful girls and, as time went on, women for whom I could have fallen; people I could have loved. But I did not love them. I did not love anybody.
Heads and hearts: and in my head I tried not to think about Becky, assured myself I did not love her, did not need her, did not think about her. But when I did think of her, memories of her smile, or of her eyes, then I felt pain. A sharp hurt inside my rib-cage, a perceptible, actual pain inside me, as if something were squeezing sharp fingers into my heart.
And it was at these times that I imagined that I could feel the little gargoyle in my chest. It would wrap itself, stone-cold, about my heart, protecting me, until I felt nothing at all; and I would return to my work.
Years passed: the twins grew up, and eventually they left home to go to college (one in the North of England, one in the South, my not-so-identical twins), and I left home too, leaving it with Caroline, and I moved into a large flat in Chelsea and lived on my own, and was, if not happy, then, at least content.
And then it was yesterday afternoon. Becky saw me first, in Hyde Park, where I was sitting on a bench, reading a paperback book in the springtime sun, and she ran over to me and touched my hand.
“Don’t you remember your old friends?” she asked.
I looked up. “Hello, Becky.”
“You haven’t changed.”
“Neither have you,” I told her. I had silver-gray in my thick beard, and had lost most of my hair on the top, and she was a trim woman in her mid-thirties. I was not lying, though, and neither was she.
“You are doing very well,” she said. “I read about you in the papers all the time.”
“Just means that my publicity people are earning their keep. What are you doing these days?”
She was running the press office of an independent television network. She wished, she said, that she had stuck with acting, certain that she would, by now, have been on the West End stage. She ran her hand through her long, dark hair and smiled like Emma Peel, and I would have followed her anywhere. I closed my book and put it into the pocket of my jacket.
We walked through the park, hand in hand. The spring flowers nodded their heads at us, yellow and orange and white, as we passed.
“Like Wordsworth,” I told her. “Daffodils.”
“Those are narcissi,” she said. “Daffodils are a kind of narcissus.”
It was spring in Hyde Park, and we were almost able to forget the city surrounding us. We stopped at an ice cream stand and bought two violently colored frozen ice cream confections.
“Was there someone else?” I asked her, eventually, as casually as I could, licking my ice cream. “Someone you left me for?”
She shook her head. “You were getting too serious,” she said. “That was all. And I wasn’t a homewrecker.”
Later that night, much later, she repeated it. “I wasn’t a homewrecker,” she said, and she stretched, languorously, and added, “-then. Now, I don’t care.”
I had not actually told her that I was divorced. We had eaten sushi and sashimi in a restaurant in Greek Street, drunk enough sake to warm us and to cast a rice-wine glow over the evening. We took a golden-painted taxi back to my flat in Chelsea.
The wine was warm in my chest. In my bedroom we kissed and hugged and giggled. Becky examined my CD collection carefully, and then she put on the Cowboy Junkies’ The Trinity Sessions, singing along in a quiet voice. This was only a few hours ago, but I cannot remember the point at which she removed her clothes. I remember her breasts, however, still beautiful, although they had lost the firmness and shape they had when she was little more than a girl: her nipples were deep red and pronounced.
I had put on some weight. She had not.
“Will you go down on me?” she whispered, when we reached my bed, and I did. Her labia were engorged, purple, full and long, and they opened like a flower to my mouth when I began to lick her. Her clitoris swelled beneath my tongue and the salty taste of her filled my world, and I licked and teased and sucked and nibbled at her sex for what felt like hours.
She came, once, spasmodically, under my tongue, and then she pulled my head up to hers, and we kissed some more, and then, finally, she guided me inside her.
“Was your cock that big fifteen years ago?” she asked.
“I think so,” I told her.
“Mmm.”
After a while she said, “I want you to come in my mouth.” And, soon after, I did.
We lay in silence, side by side, and she said, “Do you hate me?”
“No,” I said, sleepily. “I used to. I hated you for years. And I loved you, too.”
“And now?”
“No, I don’t hate you anymore. It’s gone away. Floated off into the night, like a balloon.” I realized as I said it that I was speaking the truth.
She snuggled closer to me, pressed her warm skin against my skin. “I can’t believe I ever let you go. I won’t make that mistake twice. I do love you.”
“Thank you.”
“Not, thank you, idiot. Try I love you too.”
“I love you too,” I echoed, and, sleepily, I kissed her still sticky lips.
And then I slept.
In my dream, I felt something uncurling inside me, something moving and changing. The cold of stone, a lifetime of darkness. A rending, and a ripping, as if my heart were breaking; a moment of utter pain. Blackness and strangeness and blood.
I must have dreamed the gray dawn as well. I opened my eyes, moving away from one dream but not entirely coming awake. My chest was open, a dark split that ran from my navel to my neck, and a huge, misshapen hand, Plasticine-gray, was pulling back into my chest. There was long dark hair caught between the stone fingers. The hand retreated into my chest as I watched, as an insect will vanish into a crack when the lights are turned on. And, as I squinted sleepily down at it, my acceptance of the strangeness of it all my only clue that this was truly another dream, the crack in my chest healed, knit and mended, and the cold hand vanished for good. I felt my eyes closing once more. I was tired, and I swam back into the comforting, sake-flavored dark.
I slept once more, but the rest of the dreams are now lost to me.
I awoke, completely, a few moments ago, the morning sun full on my face. There was nothing beside me in the bed but a purple flower on the pillow. I am holding it now. It reminds me of an orchid, although I know little enough of flowers, and its scent is strange, salty and female.
Becky must have placed it here for me to find when she left, while I slept.
Pretty soon now I shall have to get up. I shall get out of this bed and resume my life.
I wonder if I shall ever see her again, and I realize that I scarcely care. I can feel the sheets beneath me, and the cold air on my chest. I feel fine. I feel absolutely fine.
I feel nothing at all."
— HOW DO YOU THINK IT FEELS? - Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things II

I see beauty.
I see endless, divine perfection.
I see into your soul, Doctor. I see beauty. I see divinity. I see… hatred.
ordopraedicatorum:

Cristóbal de Villalpando, - Saint Rose attacked by the Devil