This is a short story arranged to fit the music from the album “LP4” by Ratatat (Spotify Album).
– Bilar –
Foggy morning in December. All is quiet on the surface of the water, the towering beam of light in the distance conducting the parade of ships as they sail into the harbor.
From within the embrace of the shadows a lowly mast emerges, non-menacingly caressing the sea as it glides into its dock.
A dark and mysterious figure exits the vessel, whimsically flaunting his stride left and right, carelessly serenading the wind with a chorus of his own whistling. The keys on his hip jingle along, clinking against the metal plate on his pants and a loaded six shooter shimmering and reflecting the light of the streetlamps he passes when walking onto the lonely pierside road. He enters a dimly lit tavern with intent and persuades the bar keeper to give him a drink on a wish and a promise. He has been waiting for this night and travelled a great distance to meet her. He had imagined it differently, all different with the exception of the coquette smirk welcoming him across the bar. Quickly he finishes his drink, turning his glass upside down onto the stained wood surface and adding his ring to the many.
This night is his night, there are no second chances, no act twos, no intermission and no option to fail. Not tonight. He pays no heed to the chatter of the bar flies, permanently perched upon the proverbial fountain of youth, sucking down the sweet nectar that will soon kill them from inside.
– Drugs –
In his younger days he would have taken it much slower. He would have flirted with the girl with his eyes before a sound crossed the threshold of his lips. But tonight was not about the game, but the endgame. The boards under his feet creak and cry with every one of his perfectly placed steps. Swiftly he bobs and weaves between tables and stools and sits himself next to her.
He didn’t need to say anything. She was expecting him. With one hand she brushes her hair away from her face and with the other grabs his. Her touch was intoxicating and he became entranced in the mind altering euphoria of his expectations. A rush of adrenaline shoots across his veins until the surge was palpable. He firmly grasps her hand and pulls her away form the flies and the keeper, saving her from the inexplicably dull live she had so craftily created for herself since she left her husband’s home.
Into the night they go, he in front of her guiding her through the unknown and the mundane. They make their way through the cobblestoned streets, stumbling upon a horse that had been tied to a post by the postmaster’s station. He lifts her in one fell swoop and together they ride into the woods at the edge of town. Behind them they leave their inhibitions, scattered among the clouds of dust being kicked up by the powerful gallop of their beast.
– Neckbrace –
As romantic as the encounter may have seemed, the intentions of the man with the plan were anything but. With the most carefully orchestrated charade he had made promises of love and passion to more than one, and tonight one had answered his call. With this one he rode through the woods down a winding path kicking up the dead leaves that posthumously provided precious nutrients to the flora and fauna of the forest floor.
In what seemed like no time at all they arrive at the doorstep of a cabin at the edge of the mountainside. He throws open the clumsily hinged door, nearly undoing the shoddy craftsmanship. He carries her to the bedroom and instructs her to wait while he gathers wood for the fireplace which sat covered in soot in the corner of the room.
As he exits the cabin alone, another rush of adrenaline bursts through the floodgates of his brain, bathing it, forcefully fueling his fire for violence. From behind his back he draws a meticulously cleaned dagger. He makes eye contact with himself in the reflection of the blade. He indulges himself in his skill and his craft. Were there any loose ends? No. There couldn’t be. This was not his first time, and if history repeats itself he would get away with it again.
When he returns inside, the shriek that bursts through the chimney is carried by the birds that explode from the tree tops. In their wake a wave of blood splatters the windows of the cabin. A bellowing gust invites a blanket of snow as it descends upon the canopy of evergreens.
– We Can’t Be Stopped –
The smoldering fire crackles through the wood and illuminates the room, it’s light soon dwarfed by the morning sun creeping through the branches and bathing the forest. The man basks in his prize, making sure that no drop goes to waste. This creature, more animal than man, engorges himself in the essence of the young maiden. Her blood hastily painted upon his grin. Her remains charred by the consuming flames. He goes on to live another day.
Since the curse fell upon him he has not had a moment of rest. In his younger days he gambled with his soul, and in his desire for life he traded it to the damned for a taste of eternity. Soon he found himself feeble and weak, unable to enjoy the everlasting life he had been given. Through an act of misfortune he found that the blood of an innocent would thwart his agony, and although the intentions of the curse were to deter the man from immortality and for him to wish death upon himself, thereby making an example of him to any who likewise sought eternal life, he grew to find delight in his pursuit for sustenance.
When his desire to live overcame his desire for life, the voices in his head fell silent, and he killed so that he may not die.
– Bob Ghandi –
A sudden pounding in his chest shakes the man from his trance. A pounding much unlike the kind he gets before a feast, it is the kind the comes before a storm. Not a pounding of expectation but of fear. Never did he think he would feel this way again.
Quickly he draws his revolver and checks the contents of the chambers. All are loaded, all are ready. A thunderous boom unhinges the door and hurls it against the back wall. Had the man known who the woman was whose blood he had consumed, he would have rather chosen death. Alas the deed was done and through the doorway burst the ruler of the damned, armed to the teeth with precious metals.
“Where is she?” he roared at the man, “where is Persephone?”
The man had never been too good with words and rather than attempt a swift escape he pulled the trigger thrice, each bullet cut through the crisp winter air like a hot knife through butter. They attempted to pierce the armor of the metalclad fiend but to no avail, his armor absorbing each hit and repurposing the silver as medals on his chest plate.
“It would not be wise for you to try to run away Bilar, it seems as though you’ve feasted one last time at my table.”
Paying little attention to his adversary the man called Bilar musters every ounce of force in his being and propels himself through the ceiling and the roof of the cabin sending splinters across the forest. His descent is met by tangling vines of muck sprouting from the ground like tentacles. The vines absorb him and pull him into a gaping black hole in the ground, and Bilar falls into a deep slumber. Darkness.
– Mandi –
Bilar batted his eyelids at the intense light that shined through into his eyes. He had no recollection of what had occurred and in a haze of confusion he focused in on a familiar setting. A tavern not unlike the one he had been in the night before materialized before him, and across the bar a young maiden sat, sipping at a half drank chalice.
“Excuse me miss,” he found himself asking her “can you tell me where I can find an inn for the night?” Before she could open her lips to reply their eyes met and for an instant they exchanged more than words could say, a moment still, discontinuing the continuum of space and time. Like flint to iron the sparks flew in a colorful array, splashing onto open glasses and closed minds.
He hadn’t much experience then in the ways of courting a lady but with her it was different, with her it was easy. “Miss, if you don’t mind me asking, could I sit with you a while?” It was as though he knew everything she was going to say before she said it, so he spoke through her responses without waiting. Every word felt like an embrace in her ears, gently holding her with each new syllable. In total disbelief she accepted his advances and together they spent the evening, exchanging stories by the light of a kerosene lamp in a dusty tavern.
– Mahalo –
As the years went by Bilar grew bored. Bored of his job, his love and his life. Outraged by the lackluster plaster façade of his being, he burned bridges with friends and became a daredevil of sorts. Some may have confused his endeavors with adventure but to him it was simply the possibility of death that fueled his passion for mischief. One fateful night some equally bored but half as intrepid men of wealth dared him to jump from atop of a bridge into the freezing cold waters of a merciless river. The bet was simple, if he lived he would receive his weight in gold and if he died they would raise a statue in his name with a plaque that read: “The Most Fearless Man That Ever Lived and Died.”
It was a win-win. Had he died he would be remembered not as a bore, but a hero. But he didn’t die. Upon his decent he knew his fate. He could almost feel his vertebrae collapsing within his spine and his limbs being torn from their sockets by the pounding pressure of the water. With all intent he wished that he may live, no matter the price.
His mind went dark. A pillar of salt erupted from the blackness and perched on top was a vulture. It’s eyes gleaming bright red and its beak oozing with gore. From underneath its tattered wing a hand stretched out, holding out its palm. An amorphous blue plasma pooled on its palm and it rose as an orb hovering above. It opened its beak and from within came an ominous hum, oscillating slowly, then rapidly, slowly, then rapidly. Bilar knew what it wanted. It wanted his soul, and considering his fate he took its offer and reached out for the orb. Just then a could rush of water threw him into consciousness and he sank deep until he reached the riverbed. He could see the water rushing past him above, branches and rocks whizzing by nearly striking him. He could hear the men by the shore laughing at his misfortune.
He didn’t surface to claim his gold. Instead he wandered along the riverbed, treading through forests of algae. Slowly he made his way home.
– Party With Children –
Mandi knew her husband had changed. He had not said a word but his stare had grown cold and his embrace just the same. His words were more of a strike than a hug, and his mind always elsewhere. “Perhaps sickness,” she thought,” was the cause of his illness.” He felt impotent and powerless, not being able to eat daily or go to sleep nightly. He became angry and passionless, constantly exploding in rage at poor Mandi, constantly leaving her battered and bruised.
One day, Mandi could take his offenses no more. She knew if she stayed with him he would soon kill her, but would rather not stay to find out if she was right. She packed a small satchel with food and some clothes, but hardly made it to the door before being confronted by him. The love that once burned as bright as the sun was nothing but embers now, and in its death a black hole had replaced the star, consuming the very depths of the empty vessel that was once occupied by his soul. He grabbed her by the neck, perfectly molding his fingers around her flesh, and lifted her. “This will teach you not to run from me,” he wailed, and although his intentions were simply to frighten her, a sudden snap of her neck put her to rest at last.
Sorrow overcame him. Whatever light was still within him dimly lit his heart like the kerosene lamp of the old dusty tavern. He knew he had become a monster since the day he traded his soul for his life. Yet suddenly a festering feeling trampled over his remorse and in his head he only felt one thing, hunger. And so he feasted. For the first time since that night in the river he felt alive again. The bags under his eyes stretched out and the flailing muscles on his limbs grew bulk. He loved it.
Had he not been a monster before, he was one now. Then, darkness.
– SunBlocks –
Bilar batted his eyelids once more at the intense light that shined through into his eyes. Back in the tavern he was, staring into the glass. Everything was too familiar. “Excuse me sir,” a young lady asked, “do you mind if I sit with you a while?” “Mandi,” he thought, “but how do I know her name?” Despite his confusion Bilar and Mandi sat once more and exchanged the same stories. And because history repeats itself, they fell in love again.
Through the years Bilar noticed himself mechanically conforming to an idea of himself that he had somehow expected. He grew bored again. Bored of his job, his love and his life. He found himself at the ledge of a bridge one night while a crowd of sharply dressed men waved by the shore of the river running underneath. He had no idea how his life had summed up to this moment, but he didn’t care. With one step into the nothingness he fell and in his suspension he felt a rush of adrenaline fill his veins, the kind of rush you feel before a storm. He was afraid of death, but a sudden realization prevented him from wishing to live at whatever cost. Suddenly he remembered, remembered it all. The deal, the fall, the afterlife, the sound of Mandi’s neck as it broke, the warmth of her blood as it flowed down his throat. He realized that for some reason he had been given a second chance, a chance to do it all over again and do it right.
He let himself fall into the water and the current ripped through him, thrashing him against the rocks. He welcomed each strike knowing that he would not let himself become the monster that would claim the life of his love. Then, darkness.
– Bare Feast –
This time when Bilar batted his eyelids, he wasn’t in the tavern. There was no drink, and there was no bar. He was lying in a bed, staring at the wood panels of a ceiling he didn’t recognize. Beside him was Mandi, sleeping on a chair by the bed. “Mandi,” he cried out.
“You’re awake!” she replied with a sigh of relief. She had not moved from his side since he had been found along the shores of the river. He had been mangled by the river, completely battered and bruised beyond recognition. She tended to him day and night and finally he broke through the coma.
They lived happily for many years and they had many children. He never grew bored again and was constantly reminded of the fact that he didn’t deserve this second chance. Instead he grew old and eventually Mandi fell ill to consumption and was buried in a field on the outskirts of town. Like some cruel joke, Bilar outlived his children as well and buried them all next to their mother. With each of their deaths Bilar buried himself deeper and deeper into depression until it crippled him to the point of catatonia.
He wished nothing more than to die to finally be with his wife and his children, but he couldn’t. He laid on his bed, an old feeble man, staring up at the wood panels, and sobbed until his eyes were raw and his throat was dry. Then, darkness.
– Grape Juice City –
Looking down onto his hand Bilar realizes he had not aged at all. “Had it all been a dream?”
The night was foggy and cold and he stood on a dock by a sailboat. He began to walk but could not see ahead through the clouds. It was as though the dock went on forever. Bilar picks up the pace and starts running down the dock, almost snapping the boards beneath him with the intensity of his stride. He dares not dive into the water, fearing that he would not be able to resurface given his experience with water.
As he is running he hears the chirping of birds in every direction. Winged shadows emerge through the fog and pelt Bilar as they pass, each one slicing through his clothes and cutting through his skin. Bilar tries to bat them but to no avail, then suddenly he draws his blade from behind his back and the birds grow silent. With one forceful flap of their wings, the birds clear the air around Bilar, revealing their true number. Hundreds of birds perched in the emptiness of the air, look down at Bilar with judging eyes.
Bilar stares back into their eyes, almost recognizing each bird he sees. Their eyes are warm unlike the eyes of a bird. The eyes belong to the many Bilar has consumed. He knows this and so the adrenaline strikes again. The storm. The birds swarm around bilar, closing in, hoping to catch a glimpse of the fear on his face. Slowly they tear at his flesh, shredding him from head to toe. Blood pools beneath him and his jaw, no longer supported by his face, hinges from one end. His bones slowly give up under him and he collapses on the dock. “I’m sorry! I am so sorry! Please, make it stop! I don’t want this anymore!” cries Bilar in defeat.
But the birds do not stop. Then, darkness.
– Alps –
Bilar is standing at the edge of a mountainside in front of a door to a cabin in the woods. He is staring at his dagger that he had meticulously cleaned for this night. Feeding nights are hard to come by since word spread of his existence. Many families have locked their daughters in their homes so that they do not succumb to his rampage.
This time when Bilar awakes he sees his reflection in the blade and he is shaken by the thing staring back at him. He is not the man he used to be, if man at all. He is a monster, a creature of the night. The bridge. The birds. He didn’t know what was real anymore. Does history repeat itself? If he consumes the woman in the cabin will he have to endure it all once more?
Before his feeling of hunger could overcome him once more, he swiftly draws his revolver.
“I wish to die, no matter the price.”
He pulls the trigger thrice, painting the door red. The birds in the trees stay put, witnessing the spectacle. From above the night sky, a single bird hovers over Bilar, a dark vulture waiting for his dinner.
And so the curse is finished.