Scratch

The tick, the itch.

Like the tick of a clock

Then the following itch.

Resemblance was dignified.

Couldn’t miss it,

Even if you tried to.

There was no escape.

The skin seared,

A flickering,

Snakes and slugs crawling

Out of reach from your

Broken fingertips.

If you scratched enough,

It ceases,

But only a moment.

Then it would be back,

Full-blown force

Distinguished from the other feelings of

Your body.

Hair bulged in pores,

Pressing on the surface

To be released,

Only the slow metamorphose

Could relieve the pressure.

It beat upon the blood streams,

Insanely unnerving migraine,

Compelling you to lie still and

Do nothing.

Nothing but scratch

Flaking, clotted blood,

Stuck under the nails.

It pierced the skin.

Wounds appeared

Where wounds

Had not been

Moments ago.

The smell dug

Into nostrils.

Old cow.

Dead pig.

Wet dog.

Heavy and sultry,

The smell of rain

And moist soil.

But also blood.

The stench was inconceivable,

All-time present

Reminder of what was happening.

Mud and blood

Mingled with gun-powder,

Sulphur poured into the

Open cracks

Contaminated

The water-supply of the body.

Veins turned ashen

Blue and black,

Stalled old pipes.

Barbed-wire cut lesions

As deep as trenches

Surrounding you,

Pouring out puss of

Inflamed holes.

The tick, the itch.

Scratch

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Serial Number

NSFL. Reader discretion advised. Hannibal-inspired.

Warm and thick it squirted onto his face and trickled down; lashes lumped and the corner of his mouth had a tainted taste all of a sudden. To some it would be metallic, like licking too long on a spoonful of yoghurt. To him it was sweet, like a ripe cherry burnt by a warm summer’s sun, the taste of love, of the soul. With a finger he stemmed the trickle. It was difficult not to avoid the vein, but gradually, at each attempt, he had gotten better at handling its edge. The skin parted quickly now, faster than before, and with precision like a surgeon’s. In the beginning the veins had taken damage as well, causing death way too quickly. But as he acquired a flair for shearing and slicing perfectly, he was now perfectly skilled.

Then again, it was not Annie Lorenzo, who was his prime target. No, she could do with some damage, which was the intention. It was her husband, Leonard Lorenzo, who was supposed to live. At least for a while.

And this he was, writhing and struggling against the restraints around his wrists, eyes terrified as he watched Emmanuel straddling his wife under the bloody bed-covers. Her death cramps and moist coughing sprayed the white sheets with ruby drops of blood. He had severed the sinews of the neck and cut open the trachea, which now filled with blood from the surrounding, damages tissue. His hands rested around her throat, not strangling her but cupping the blood as it slipped over his white, surgical gloves and into the bed; his fingertips caressed her skin soothingly. He could see the fear in her eyes as each cramp gradually stilled and she drew her last breath. Her shoulders slumped; each muscle in her body relaxed and he let go of her neck, releasing the blood into the pillow like a halo of death crowning her.

He straightened up and tossed a strand of his dark hair away from the face before he turned to look at Leonard, a wolfish grin on his thin lips and his grey eyes lusting for more. The blood adorned his face, gems of gory jewels. He grabbed the scalpel from the bedside table, where it had stained the white, laced tablecloth, and moved across the bed to Leonard, straddling him down as well; the bedcovers rustled and mingled with Leonard’s muffled moans of plea through the saliva-drenched cloth in his mouth.

“Are we having fun?” Emmanuel sneered and flicked the scalpel in his fingers. Leonard’s eyes widened, focusing on the scalpel, which sliced into his cheek producing a long, red line, a Cherokee’s war-paint. A drop trickled down the fear-pale skin like a lonesome tear of sorrow. A cry was stilled in the cloth and Leonard closed his eyes, the cold sweat hailed from his furrowed brow.

“No, no, no! You have to look, Leonard,” Emmanuel pinched his eyes open with his left hand. “You have to see, have to watch,” he glanced sideways to the corpse of Leonard’s wife, motionless and soaked in blood. “She will be delicious. A treat. Like candy to your eyes. But first,” he looked back down at Leonard and uncovered his throat and chest, “we have to prepare you. To be quiet. A silent audience for the spectacle you’re about to witness.” He reached down to the bag by the bed, which he had placed silently as he had entered the bedroom. Intrusion had been easy with no children living in their house anymore, and no animals to wake up and alarm the residents. Their evening routine had become his as he had observed them from a distance for a month, preparing the final, building the crescendo as every fiber in his body yearned to be released, yearned for the savage, brutal slaughtering and the delicious aftermath in which he would ascend to divine beauty, taking the virginity of his own career. And he wouldn’t stop once the first act had been finished. No, there would be plenty more to come.

A symphony of Hell.

When the two victims had been properly restrained to their bed, he had covered what he could with plastic and commenced the ordeal. He was baffled at how strong he had become from working out, a physical preparation in accordance with his mental state of being. Both had to be strong to endure the act. And they were. He was flying, a heavenly breeze held his wings aloft and guided him towards the climax.

He punctured Leonard’s trachea with a crude awl from his workshop and forced a hard but thin plastic tube into it, enabling him to breathe, although it would take some time to find the right method to do so. Meanwhile he would remain light-headed and dizzy and Emmanuel could move on back to Annie. He stood by the bed and produced a set of quality butcher knives which he used to slowly cut off the meatier parts of the dead woman’s body. He worked with incredible precision, having practised on animals and the like before, and once in a while he looked up to Leonard.

“No, no. Don’t look away, Leo,” he pleaded softly, put down the knives and went to turn Leonard’s head towards the gory scenery. “See? She will be delicious now, much more than before.” He knew that Leonard would soon pass out from fear and from the loss of blood. It didn’t matter much. He had seen what he needed.

Annie’s corpse lay partly dissected, bones exposed here and there. With a sturdy wire cutter he snapped open her ribcage and pressed the bones apart, exposing her lungs and heart. A few slices were all that was needed to loosen them from their confinement. When he had finished he went into the adjoining bathroom to wash up, taking a look in the mirror and admiring himself. He was glad he had chosen the black uniform that night. He left the bathroom, put on his shoes and went down into the kitchen where he found bowls of this and that size. Whatever could be used for storage he brought with him back upstairs where he began ordering the lumps of meat and put them into their respective containers. Leonard was still alive, barely though, and the tears that streamed down his temples indicated desperate crying. No sound came through the cloth anymore, and Emmanuel grinned at him. He took the heart, which he had put in a silver bowl, sliced off a piece the size of a coin, and went to Leonard, gently removing the now blood-stained cloth.

“Now, you can be whole,” he whispered as he forced the lips apart and placed the meat on Leonard’s tongue before closing the jaws upon it again and again, making him chew and with much difficulty, swallow the piece of Annie’s raw heart. Leonard tried to protest, but blood pumped up from the opening in his throat and all he could conjure was a wet gurgling as he stared at Emmanuel, tears still spilling from the corner of his eyes.

“There, there,” Emmanuel patted his bleeding cheek and straightened. “Sleep soundly while I, too, become whole.”

He went to the bowls and loaded them onto trays, which he carried down into the kitchen. The peace and quiet filled his body as he cooked the meat with various spices and ate it for himself. He continued until there was no more, each container empty, still bloody. He loaded it all in the dishwasher and turned it on, cleaning the kitchen to the last spot, even cleaner than it had been when he had arrived. Finally he went upstairs and to Annie’s bedside table where he opened a drawer and found her jewels. He took them all out and carried them to Leonard who was struggling now visibly with lack of air, although the plastic tube did keep him from being choked right away.

“A funeral for a prince awaits you,” Emmanuel said quietly, and one by one he slid thin chain necklaces and bracelets as well as smaller rings into the plastic tube, slowly blocking the airways completely. He kept his eyes on Leonard’s face, never blinking, observing each change in colour as he was slowly bereft of life. Muscles began cramping, his fingers twitched and spasms made his legs thrash against the mattress. Emmanuel rose and waited. It took five minutes for the last muscles to relax and a kind smile lingered on his lips before he cleaned the room of the plastic wrap and everything that could be traced back to him.

With the bag packed and slumped over his shoulder, he went back down into the kitchen. Upon the counter lay a list with twelve difference numbers, each with eight digits. He picked it up along with a ball-point pen, striking out the first sequence of digits, and smiling to himself, he left the house to set out to his car, disappearing into the night.

Prologue

This is where I ought to put all that bullshit crap about what this story is really about. I could write you an essay about the world’s biggest flaws and yell at you “stop posting your sympathy on Twitter or Facebook and do something about it instead”. But I won’t. I could write you the story of my life, the many facial surgeries I’ve had since I was 2-3 months old and how it fucked up my identity and sexuality. But I won’t.

Instead I wan to talk to you about pigeons.

You probably know them. They sit at every major plaza in historical cities all around the world. They’re grey, eternally hungry for bread crumbs or whatever suits their beak, and they are not afraid of humans. Seriously, they don’t know the term fear like kittens, who hear the vacuum cleaner turned on or a dog seeing the sparkle of fireworks just waiting for the crack to snap in its ears. That’s what fear is.

Fearless is the title of a Jet Li movie, but you might already know that. A fierce man battling his own pride in the search for revenge when in the end it turns out to be himself he is battling.

Inner struggles are often difficult to depict. They cause commotion in your self-perception, affecting your social skills negatively. Lack of discipline makes you an indecisive person in other people’s eyes, not strong enough to withstand the lurking temptations of this world. But what’s worst about inner struggle is that it resembles your own personality disorder and often contains division and doubt. About who you are, what your opinions are and what your actions should be. Either you chose to let society decide for you, losing your integrity to the values stated by others and not yourself. Or you develop opinions slowly, by each and every event that you encounter on your path in life, which you have to make a stand for in some way. However way you chose to act, you will always encounter doubt. Even when you think the inner struggle is over. Even when you think you did something right which in the end proves to be wrong.

But if you suddenly feel it, that surge in your guts, that shows you’re not indifferent, and you actually take a stand displaying your opinions, you stand your ground, no longer doubting yourself. Inner struggle or not, when that surge comes to you, you have found yourself. You have found what you live for and what you sense is the definite truth. Even when people dishonour you for your courage to say what you mean and feel, even when everyone turn their backs on you, you must stay strong and believe in yourself. The greatest revelation cannot be ignored, be it scientific, religious or some other sort of revelation.

The inner struggle is your first step to opposing the world and implement what you believe upon it. Who gives a flying swagger what everyone else says as long as you feel right, as long as you are happy; as long as you’ve made your peace with your demons. Then the struggle against the outside world begins. But not even the world can get you down. You are part of it, like a cancer cell transforming rapidly, and you can change it by making the right decisions. Whatever your motives, be they good or bad, you can succeed.

And you will succeed.

This is a story about opposition, about inner struggle as well as fight for justice and love. Not one person is identical, not one person fights with the same intentions. But they all succeed. In one way or the other. No one is the villain, or the hero.

No one will ever win, but they will all succeed.

Such is my story, and everyone else’s. There are no enemies in the world, only opposition and differences in the perception of values. And only when you chose to fight them, because they are different from your own beliefs, then you become the villain yourself, and not the hero that you might believe you are.

Such is my story.

Cloudy

Anonimity,

Enemies

And dank, dense

Divinity.

 

Angry,

Disguise

And volatile, violent

Pastry.

 

Through smog

Pouring rainbow window

Thick hazel-thicket

Prickling thorns

Impaling the cricket;

A cotton-dusty daisy

Shimmering in the sun.

 

Blanket widows

Bathing blissfully bare

Bereft of fallen fantasies

And powder burns

On their skin;

Lasting love

Likely to be destroyed.

 

I lost my will to live

In the horizon

Beyond time,

Where trees wither and die

And the point of no return

Greets a mourning son.

 

Absentee

Elevated

And dreamy, dancing

Gravity.

 

Sugar-topping

Candy-cup

And flowery, unfolded

Cotton.

Chapter 1: Destruction

In the dark, no one hears you. In the dark, no one sees you. You are all alone, you are on your own. No hand extended to help you up from the ground, no soothing voices to guide you in the right direction, no friendly encouraging words to still the hot tears on your burning cheeks.

In the dark, no one can find you and no one can discover you. No one can heal the wounds but no one can inflict new ones upon you. You are safe with your pain, as the suffocating darkness envelops you, embraces you and chokes you.

In the dark, you become part of the black, thick air. It fills you up, takes away your memories, and lulls you into a dreamless slumber. It keeps you warm and cold, keeps you steady and keeps you breathing. Your body is numb and your thoughts are far away, although you are awake. Your eyelids flutter but you see nothing. You lie on your back, accepting the numbness, knowing that this is your only escape.

Voices from a distant reality reaches you, but the darkness distorts them, turns them into dull sounds, the deep, slow purring of a contented cat. It brushes your cheek and fades away again as the darkness shields you. Somewhere above you there is movement, a window to a different world, a mosaic displaying reality. But you are safe in the dark. The voices are calling you but the darkness sings you a lullaby, and you remain down there, in the dark, while your small body is tormented for hours and finally left alone among blood sheets.

Your eyes are open, but you don’t see the room you’re in. You only see the darkness around you, and you welcome it gladly. You love it, and it loves you. Your only friend. Your darkness.

Chapter 2: Communication

It was the first time he actually had to visit him in the office. Strangely enough, he found that it was precisely the same as in the academy where-from he had just graduated, the much famed Axis Academy. Precisely the same interior, the massive mahogany desk, the bookcases along the right hand wall, the marble fireplace with the silver grey wolf skin and the two leather armchairs with the table between them in front. Everything straight out of the Victorian era. The thick, red carpet muffled even high-heeled shoes.

Aenriques had the feeling that the office in the academy and the mansion were practically the same. The only difference was the corridor outside and the view through the panoramic windows behind the tall chair on the other side of the desk. In the corner there was a cabinet with fine crystal goblets and pitchers, and a door was almost invisible to the left, beyond the fireplace. Above the mantelpiece hung a family portrait. The lord of the house, and of the entire Darklighter family, seated with his elder brother and sister, and his son, the heir to the empire, surrounding him.

There could be no doubt that the genes of this family were matched with precision. The portrait was dated ten years back, and as far as Aenriques was concerned, the faces on the canvas looked just like the faces he met in real life.

The eldest of the three, had silvery white hair, drawn behind his stout neck in a short tail. His eyes were keen and grey. The clothing reminded Aenriques of those of a rich aristocrat of the 18th century, from the silver medallion with the green emerald around his neck to the brocade of his dark green vest and the black cane with the silver knob. He was placed furthest to the left.

Next to him stood the only woman in the portrait. She looked more like a pin-up model from the 20’s or 30’s. She had curly, long auburn hair, her red dress matched the lipstick, nail polish and high-heels. A fox fur was draped around her shoulders and from her neck hung a curtain of diamonds draped softly against her bosom. All of her jewelry consisted of diamonds and silver. Her eyes were dark green, her skin olive and her curvy body well-shaped. Her face showed kindness but determination, unlike her elder brother whose face seemed cut in cold stone.

Seated in the middle of the picture sat their youngest brother, the head of the family, and curiously enough, he exuded far more authority. His face was lean and noble, marble-like, framed by waist-long black hair. He smiled a Mona Lisa smile, subtle and oddly foreboding. The only indication of age were lines of grief and experience by the icy blue eyes, his body was well kept in shape and build. He was clad in a black, simple tuxedo, a glass of red wine clenched between the long, slender fingers. Aenriques had seen him countless times and had been personally tutored by him. He would never have the courage to look the man straight in the eye.

Last but not least, stood the heir of the family. A blond, young man with emerald eyes, a face like an angel, his chin adorned by golden downs and clad in a creamy white suit. He was tall, taller than the rest, and his shape suggested a certain amount of vanity and a high level of self-preservation. His face was not unknown to Aenriques. He saw him often on magazine covers and advertisements for whatever the heart desired, not only the face but the rest of the body as well. Either he posed for a photo-shoot or he was caught red-handed in a drug bust, in a night-club. He was a careless brat, and his reputation affected the rest of the family, although Aenriques had heard from reliable sources that times were changing. On the other hand, it was not only the young-spirited heir of the family, who sullied the reputation of the Darklighters. But that was, of course, only rumours as well.

As for now he was waiting. Waiting for the lord of the house, the head of the family, Matthew James Darklighter. There were many reasons for his visit, some more obscure and secret than he could admit to his master. He threw one last glance at the portrait and was brought back to reality as the office double-door opened behind him and Matthew entered. Tall and slender as a tree, he strode in past Aenriques.

“I apologize for the delay, Aenriques, I had some arrangements to see to,” he said as he settled down by the desk and buttoned up the jacket before he looked at Aenriques, who naturally darted eye-contact.

“I heard you’re leaving the next few days, my lord, whereto?” Aenriques asked. He knew better than to ignore his master’s duties abroad. Taking an interest in them meant that his master would reciprocate the gesture.

“New Orleans, then Osaka,” Matthew replied as he piled a few documents and shoved them aside on the table before finding a small notepad and one of the golden-tipped ink pens. He gestured for Aenriques to sit in one of the chairs in front of the desk. “Family business is always tiresome when you have to go half-way around the world to solve it,” he added as Aenriques sat down.

“I see,” he said and flattened the tie. “You called for me?”

“I did. I want you to come with us,” Matthew looked sharply at Aenriques, who had a hard time deciding whether to look puzzled, surprised or flattered. He could not lie to his master, but the problem was that he did not actually know what to feel about the decision.

“I’m honoured, my lord, but am I not still too newly-educated to be given such a task?” he asked politely, folding his hands in front of him.

“If you were, you’d still be in the academy,” Matthew said, a black eyebrow curled upwards, and he rose. “I trust you know that you received the diploma for a reason and not just to please you and your ego?”

Aenriques bowed his head. “Yes, my lord,” he replied quietly before looking up at Matthew, who had walked around the desk and leant against the table-top, his hands folded as he surveyed Aenriques’ reactions carefully.

“That was always your weakness, my boy,” he said smiling thinly. Aenriques had never liked it. It was the grin of a wolf staring at its prey.

“I trust your decision to be the right one, my lord,” he said firmly. “When do we leave?”

“This afternoon,” Matthew replied. “Zacharias and Gabriel are coming as well.”

“I’ll be ready when you call for me again,” Aenriques assured Matthew. “It’s truly an honour, my lord. I don’t deserve your kindness.”

“I hope you’ll take the chance to show me that it was not a wrong decision to let you graduate.”

“I won’t disappoint you.”

“Good. Get packed. We leave at 3 o’clock from Heathrow.”

Aenriques rose and parted with the compulsory farewell-kiss on Matthew’s cheek before he left. Outside, in the darkened corridor of the mansion, he grabbed his phone, hit speed dial as he strode down the carpeted floor and finally got hold on his assailant as he reached the grand stair leading down to the entrance hall. His footsteps echoed loudly, breaking the silence mercilessly.

“We have to talk today.”

What’s happened?

“I’ve been put on close watch.”

Meet me at National in forty.

“Affirmative. See you.”

And the line died. Aenriques swore and cursed under his breath as he strode out of the mansion and got into the black Audi parked in front of the main building. He looked up the façade and sighed heavily before he drove away. Back in the office Matthew had reached for his own phone and dialled a number to one of the offices in the west wing.

“Adam? I need you to check up on Lynne. Send Thomas at her heels while I’m abroad, and make sure the lake is secure ground if they want to investigate it.”

He put down the phone in its stand, slipped a hand through his hair and took down a few notes for Isobel and Vladimir to stick to. Just in case. The pen clattered onto the table-top beside the note pad and he walked to the windows and looked out. The waving grassy plains of the garden stretched all the way to the lake, and beyond that, to the ring of trees, the massive, natural fence against the world, caging in what needed to be shielded from the public. The leaden clouds hung heavily overhead, reflecting his emotions very conveniently. It was the beginning of the descend down the ladder, and as high as he had climbed, he would fall just as far. But it would not be without a struggle.

Chapter 3: Obscurity

Aenriques ascended the stairs to the grandiose building of London’s National Gallery. The buzzing of Trafalgar Square slipped in with him but as the doors closed he found himself in the hushed silence of the museum. How come this was one of the places most sought out to make business exchanges between Agents, he had no clue yet, but he had been told that the place was common ground, enemy or ally. Most historical buildings were, apparently. The collective agreement on keeping the mortals out of the business of the supernatural society still held its sway. Aenriques did not complain.

He headed to the Sainsbury Wing and settled on one of the benches admiring the pieces of art surrounding him as he waited for his accomplice to show up. It did not take long until a shadow in the corner of his eye caught his attention. He turned and saw the man approach with well-calculated steps, a mechanical doll or machine of sorts, made to imitate the living. His hair was a military cut and his suit neatly pressed. Silently, he sat down beside Aenriques, who corrected his tie nervously. He hated that man.

“So, we have ourselves a situation,” he said quietly. The man nodded slowly, acknowledging his statement.

“Indeed,” he replied with a light French intonation.

“Where’s she at it on this?” Aenriques asked.

“Thinking. Contemplating.” The man turned his head and looked Aenriques straight in the eye. Compared to Matthew, Aenriques did not avert eye-contact, but not because he felt equal to him, no, he felt nothing. The man was as a matter of fact not a human in his opinion, and Aenriques regarded him as a lesser being, thus enabling him to repel the gaze with some superiority, although the man gave him chills. They called themselves Crusaders; a clean-shaven business man without wares for sale. Maybe souls. It wouldn’t surprise Aenriques if that were his trade.

“Well, I need something to go on. Should I drag Petyr into this or not?” he asked.

“No. The time is not come just yet. An opportunity will be given and you will be able to strike, thanks to the humans,” the man said airily and looked away again to the painting in front of them. A group of tourists passed them by, audio devices pressed to their ears. The man looked back at Aenriques.

“You will need to stay in line for as long as possible. Until she is ready. Until the necessary arrangements have been made,” he said.

“And when is that?” Aenriques asked sourly and folded his hands.

“She’ll tell you. Trust in her ways, monsieur Darklighter. Trust and wait. You’ll be rewarded when your time has come.” The man rose with a thin smile. It reminded Aenriques about Matthew’s smile. Aenriques imitated his gesture.

“I’ll wait for your call. Just let me know in due time.”

“I will. All Her Blessings,” the man answered and he was off. Aenriques sighed heavily and left. This would be harder than expected.