Carson Grey, whoremonger and landlord of the desired, shuffled from his desk and stood behind his girls, a soiled hand grazing the coat hanger shoulder of a slender cadaver that was once a pretty woman known as, Gloria.
â€śWhich it be?â€ť slinked the words from his mouth, each sounding like a snake spilling from a hollow log. The man delivered a long and muted wail, sucking the air from the room until Carson had no option to speak again. â€śEach of them here girls have all a man needs. A man like you. Take two, if you like. Three if you can keep up. A bird in the hand and two in the bush.â€ť
A perfunctory grin lifted Carsonâ€™s lips, baring yellowy fangs that hung down like bars in a prison. From the chair the man arose to the sound of a thousand ice cubes cracking. To the ear of Carson he leant.
â€śAlexandra,â€ť was all he said. The name came to Carson with wings, fluttering around the grand expanse of his empty skull where it unfurled its mighty span and beat out her name once more; Alexandra.
Carson ushered the girls back through the doorway and guided the man to a small room. Suppressed by cleaving shadows, a single bed rested on four stumpy legs, its flat and unblemished landscape no different than the beach beyond the window that kissed the Pacific Ocean. The man lowered himself to the mattress, the fists of each spring whimpering under his weight. He loosened the grip of the noose around his neck, undid the first few buttons of a blood-stained cotton shirt, closed his eyes and remembered the birth of the world, the darkness and the light, fire and the ice. Raised his crooked hands before his face and saw the battles and all the men he had slain, their blood forevermore staining his skin black. A mist of salt from the ocean covered his lips, and the gristle and sinew he ripped from angelâ€™s wings festered upon his tongue. Within him neither bone or flesh nor blood resided. His heart: a cell of beating fists, all dammed by God. Where he walked death followed panting at his heels. Flowers cowered in his shadow and trees lamented the loss of their leaves when he passed. He was cursed and bereft of life, and what he had become to know as life was death and carnage. And yet, from the pall of nightly and Hellish delirium a name came to him, Alexandra, and she was life and hope pooled: flaxen tresses, ashen skin and the death of every autumn leaf in her eyes.
Air ached. A lone housefly drank the remnants of semen from the bedpost. A patina of sweat gathered on nicotine walls. The room where he awaited was a waste basket of impiety, littered with transient tenants bent by dejection. The crooked little figures that swamped the boardwalk and the alleyways wearing shadows like robes, kings of the sluice gate, the man could smell their sullied breath trapped within the pillow, could hear their demands and requests echoing through the mattress. And as he thought of her cloven body breached by each, her delicate fingers navigating their beastly backs in the dim hue of a curious moon, the man delivered his anger by drying up the neighbouring oil wells and cracking the skies in two with lightening.
Her hand upon the door brought the clocks to a standstill.
A fine mist of talc and lavender drifted under the divide, germinating the polluted air like a potion. Rusty hinges announced her arrival, and in the doorway she hesitated, her figure like a miasma of pale smoke rising from a burning pyre.
â€śCome sit with me,â€ť he said, and she skulked toward him just as fog prowls the ocean.
At the foot post she remained, a web of sheer cotton fashioned by a thousand tiny spiders hiding her fragile body from his eyes.
â€śAlexandra,â€ť he said, and from that webbed dress her heart blazed in shadows of scarlet and cerise.
Her words flew to him like moths, â€śYou came for me.â€ť
â€śWhat is it I seek in you?â€ť he asked.
Alexandra drifted to his side, her hand touching his.
â€śTo be put back together.â€ť
Her touch thawed his skin, stirring an abyss behind his chest. Each button upon his shirt she removed, drawing back the lapels where beneath lay a map of deep scar tissue. The tip of her finger plotted a route to the area above his heart. Her smile shattered the windows as her finger penetrated his skin until only the knuckle was visible. An inferno engulfed his chest and the man drew in all the air from room. Alexandra cast her leg over his waist and settled her weight upon him. Took her free hand and placed it upon her stomach.
â€śSlake the hunger that burns within,â€ť she said. â€śFurnish me with child.â€ť
â€śI have only evil to give,â€ť said the man. â€śA bastard would be your brood, malformed and bereft of flesh and joy. Its life would be fleeting and yours would end just as quickly as the infantâ€™s.â€ť
â€śThen make me the same. Exchange my blood for silt. Turn my flesh into rock and fill my heart with mire, for I am already numb of life.â€ť
The man removed Alexandraâ€™s finger from his heart, her skin smeared with peat and the sweet smell of shellac. His face came upon hers and the chill of winter, the death of autumn and the promise of spring poured from her eyes. He surrendered a kiss as the veil of night was thrown over a wounded sun. Stars shattered and fell into the ocean, bejewelling the scales of every fish until each shimmered in shades of blue and green.
â€śPromise me,â€ť she whispered, lifting her dress, â€śthat death not be the end of him. Give our child life if life is not his to own; allow one moment for the sun to warm his body, the birdsong be the music that awakes him. Let him know he is loved. And for all I have lost, let him be the keeper of my heart.â€ť
â€śI promise,â€ť he said.
His first and last.