some fall in love. i shatter.

A Bitter Taste (#27)

In Stories Volume 2 on October 29, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Tomorrow, the local assistants you’ve hired will learn exactly what happened inside my pyramid. Sixteen of them will flee the site, the city, the country; they will disappear. Two of them will take their own lives by slitting their necks with the knives that hang from their belts. The remaining two will tell you to leave, implore you, do all they can to force you to leave. They will return to the city with you and tell everyone what has happened inside the pyramid; you will watch as everyone’s eyes change and they suddenly look at you differently before turning their backs and shutting their doors. Nobody will aid you and you will have no choice but to leave for even the restaurants, cafés, and grocers refuse to serve you. They all understand the possible implications of contact.

 

Your foreign colleagues will not understand what the locals speak of but will recognize that no work will be completed with you at the site. All twenty-two of them will convince you to leave for a spell until they can work this thing out. It will bother you as much as it will inconvenience me, but you will agree to move on until hearing word to return. You will leave that day on a flight to Istanbul, followed by a connection to Phnom Penh, where an old friend is wasting away.

 

The following day, I will dispatch all twenty-two of your colleagues; plucking their wide, incredulous eyes from their fearful faces before dragging them into my hidden chambers, where they will waste away. I will find those two remaining assistants. I will carve out their hearts and leave them as warning.

 

Then I will leave Egypt to find you.

 

 

You will enter your Cambodian hotel room to find a single square of tattered linen, discolored from resin and the ravages of time. The meaning will not come together in your mind. You will think it is but a bit of trash blown in through the windows on a gust of the damp breeze. You will discount the unnatural scent and attribute it to rain that will not come.

 

Days will pass as you lose yourself in the lights of the bars and restaurants, how they turn hazy in the diesel air. In the night, whispers will slip into your room under the doorframe and dance about your ears before dissipating in the circling vortex of the palm frond-ceiling fan. The morning will come and you will have recollections of nightmares but know that I send them to you as love sonnets. You merely misconstrue them. You will also believe that the whispers were part of the dreams but that will not be the case. The truth is that I will be growing closer minute by minute.

 

Your colleague, Hart, will continue warning you though every vacillation and every bit of uncertainty he admits will cause you to discount what he is saying as legend. You recall how much you used to trust him, even when everything was stacked against him. You wonder why you don’t listen to him now, why you now claim that too many years amongst the prostitutes and narcotics of Phnom Penh have left him paranoid and anxious. You used to trust him despite these things but you will choose to distrust when he describes what you don’t want to believe. He will implore you to flee Cambodia, to leave Southeast Asia, to find a major metropolitan area where there will be some measure of safety in the numbers, and then to leave that city behind after no more than a few days. You will always be on the run, he will say, for fear that I will reach you and do to you the terrible, terrible things that I must do. His words, not mine. He will drink too much. You will have made him nervous.

 

Two days later, you will meet Hart again. He’ll look thinner, paler, and his sweat will be pushing through the linen suit he wears. A revolver will be concealed in the fold of the newspaper he carries. He’ll insist on going to the Bengali Bar, sitting on the balcony overlooking the water and the edge of the city. He will order a gin and tonic for you and a double whiskey for himself. He’ll barely make eye contact. He’ll suggest Paris and a friend who manages short-term rentals. He’ll keep his eyes on the masses below, his fingers tapping constantly. The night will end with Hart shouting; drunk, blaming you for whatever shall befall him. He will frighten you more than I have, but that will soon change.

 

You’ll never be aware of this, but two days after you leave Phnom Penh, I will arrive on your scent. Miraculously, many of these Cambodians do not see me as they grapple towards modernity. Only the older ones realize what I am. Those who mask it better than others I will allow to live, the others will meet terrible fates behind thin concrete walls. Your scent will take me to Hart. As drunk as he will be, he’ll fire six shots and they will all lodge in the place where my withered heart sits but he and I both know this does no good. As difficult as it is without a tongue, I will question him as to your whereabouts and he will crumble so, so quickly; his courage eroded by morphine, fear, and a misguided attempt to save his own soul. I will tear his eyes from his face and when he’s worn out his vocal chords from screaming, I’ll bury him alive along the banks of the Mekong River. Such a beautiful river.

 

 

The moaning that you will hear from your apartment during the hours when Paris has briefly silenced it’s gaiety will be I, seeking you through the uneven curves of your arrondissement. I will be that close to you. You will only then begin to realize the extent of my reach, the limit of my devotion, the insatiability of my need, and the inevitability of the Curse.

 

You will begin to feel my presence even when I am not yet before you. My fingers, crooked and crackling with absence, discover the skin of your neck; a sigh escapes my bandaged mouth, all dust and rot and longing.

 

Fleeing Paris will not be an option. The transit strike will have entered its fifth day. Planes, trains, buses; all decommissioned. In a surprising sign of intent, supporters will have parked and overturned trucks and buses along the major roadways in and out of the city. Mobs, sometimes peaceful and sometimes less so, will be patrolling the perimeters. They will be quite serious, blocking the exit of even the sick and infirm; so when you try to disguise yourself as a leper, you will be refused exit. These will be cold men that believe they are fighting for their families, their wives and their children, so they will have no sympathy for you. They will push you away. Hours, or perhaps days later, I will pass through that same checkpoint, for while exit is forbidden during the strike, entrance is encouraged; it adds to the mayhem. Your scent will still be in the air, becoming my guide.

 

You will not know how to expect me. Restaurants and cafes will accommodate your request to sit in corners, your back to two walls and your eyes on the entrances. You first amuse them, then concern them with your increasingly jittery orders of ‘un autre café au lait.’ You begin to fear the old comfort of sleep for all the unguarded moments it compiles together.

 

You’ll begin to exist in a haze, a world full of half-visions and half-imagined sounds. All the while, I grow closer. During the day, I will find refuge and rejuvenation in those streets that no respectable person ventures into and where the unrespectable know to leave certain individuals unmolested. I will be shocked by how many Parisians realize my presence – there is mysticism in the water here – and by how many of them leave well enough alone. At night, I lurch onward and know that I near you as the trails of your scent begin to circle in on one another. You won’t know how perceptive my senses are; if you did, you would have given yourself to me so much sooner.

 

In your ears will grow an unraveling sound and you will attribute it to the sea even though we are hundreds of kilometers away. We. It is your destiny you hear, the unraveling of my tattered strips of linen, the freeing of my form, our coming together, the culmination of what you call Curse and I call love.

 

Your paranoia will become worse and you will trust nobody. No longer will you linger in the same cafés for hours, content from what you consider a safe perch and I consider a pedestal. You will move from location to location, never lingering more than thirty minutes, afraid of how I will hone in on your stagnation. It shocks me how quickly you will have become a believer. I will be thankful that your fear prevents you from seeking shelter with others for you will not believe that you can trust anyone.

 

One night, I will find you. After what seems an insufferable eternity, my crooked legs will drag my twisted body past the Trocadéro and the Cimetière de Passy, hanging on just a few moments to smile upon those lost souls. My dusty form will lumber onward until eventually twisting and contorting through the iron gate defending the residential Rue Herran. It will be late. I will follow your scent and at such an obscene hour, I will know that your ground floor apartment, chosen should you need to run quickly, will be the only one on the street with lights burning from behind the curtain.

 

You will hear my bandaged fingers slide across your windows. Your head will jerk upwards from the book you’re trying to read, your shoulders will tense, your breath will falter. You will be close. The sound of my forehead tapping against the window. The air will be cool and the way your curtains hang, you will just barely see the condensation my breath forms on the glass.

 

Your scream will be so very loud. As I move towards the front door of your building, pandemonium will be erupting from your apartment. The sounds you produce will suddenly halt as I turn to splinters the heavy wooden door from the street. A stillness in the antechamber. A clear view into the building’s courtyard shows that nobody has turned on any lights. You will be left to fend for yourself.

 

Your bravery is admirable. As I silently begin my shuffle towards your front door, you will open it just a crack to see if I am truly there. You will have begun to doubt your sanity quite earnestly; I already find this endearing. Once you see me through that sliver of space, though, you will lose yourself. You drop the butcher’s knife that you’re holding and slam the door; neither the knife nor the door mean much to me.

 

I will break your door as systematically as I broke the street door. I will lurch into the tiny apartment to find you struggling to open the window where I announced myself to you. But it is winter. And you sought security. So you never opened the windows and you’re unaware of the two latches at the top, nearly ten feet off the floor. I will never understand how you were unable to smash the glass; perhaps your body was weakening from a sense of the inevitable.

 

Your apartment will be so small, there will be precious little space for you to escape towards. You still punch against the window frame in that tiny living room. As my foot steps onto the blue carpet, a thin layer of sand settling down in the shape of my foot, you will suddenly cease your screaming and run up the ladder to the small loft where the bed lies. I will hear your guttural sounds, like a pig, embroiled in passionate anger or stuck with a knife.

 

It will not be easy for me to climb that loft ladder but I will advance. Nothing could stop me now that we will be so close. Slowly, my palms planting on each step as I walk like some wretched beast, I will ascend. Your limbs will flail and strike out over the landing as you attempt to fight me back. But just one brush against my supplicant frame and you will recoil in odd revulsion, dumbly seeking salvation backed into a corner. Your eyes will grow wider as I come closer, precious inch by precious inch, until it seems they will burst from your skull. Finally, they roll back into your head as my groaning hand reaches out for you.

 

As I bring my mouth close to yours, you will understand how the Curse of the Mummy is love; enduring, timeless, unrelenting, and unwavering love that pushes forward no matter the boundaries. No matter what those who have studied us believe, this is the truth. We knew the strength of love, the grips and hooks that can pull one through eternity even when the legs drain of all stamina. The Underworld was not the destination for those of us preserved, merely a stop upon the voyage. We never knew the destination. No one has and perhaps still none of us do.

 

But you, my dear, my companion, my liberator, my love. You will be my future. My key to what comes next. And we will do so together as I take you with me into the new room that only you can open the door to.

 

You call it the Curse for your society does not understand the depth of the implications and the actions. But perhaps you and I, together, will bring swift truth to their undeserving minds.

 

 

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