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Fiamme Mortali


Sinister Urges

Darkness fills your vision. The sound of your hollow footsteps beat off the sides of the silent houses. Rats scurry alongside you as they race through the alleyway. Your face is caressed by the bittersweet cold. Ears perked, you listen to the distinct sound filling your head. Rain. You don’t care though; you have almost reached your destination. Your deep blue eyes stop on a pitiful electric sign, your feet follow suit. A few letters refuse to glow, but you can still make out the words. The Happy Hooker. You smile the smallest of smiles as you realize you’ve reached the place of your intention.

You take the leather glove off your hand and pull at the handle of an immense wrought iron door. You take a gallant step inside and the door crashes closed behind you. Laughter surrounds you, along with harsh metal music coming from the bar. Intoxicating smoke fills your lungs and you can smell the foulest of smells; the smell of smoky old furniture mixed with vomit. A jeery old fellow bumps you from behind. “Sorry about that…” He mutters raucously, spilling some of his foul drink down your front. You can hear a group of portly men singing drunkenly, “Row, row, row your boat…” Turning away in disgust, your eyes land upon a dyslexic blonde drag queen with far too much make-up on. She is on the stage singing a bitter tune in a language you think to be German. “Ja! Ja! Ja! Ja! Weist nicht wie gut ich der bin.” She sings on nonchalantly, knowing full well that no one was listening.

You stride over to the bar and a fairly young, dangerous-looking man gives you the eye. “What do ye be wantin’?” He looks at you suspiciously. Giving him a short look, you reply, “I would like to be directed to Miss Tress Maihne.” A sharp dirty fingernail points to a darkened corner with a large mahogany table and blood red velvet armchairs. You stroll over, being pushed and jeered at from all angles. The disgusting smell becomes faint and you whiff a trace of lavender and almond. You curse lightly as you stare into the most interested eyes you are ever to see.

Blink once. Blink twice. You watch in awe as a slow bored smile creeps up on her lips. So adorable she seems, in her worn black cloak with its hood pulled low over her head. Hazel eyes, almost the color of her skin, screams of pain and suffering. On such a beautiful face, such a shame. You can just barely see these eyes, for everything above light lashes seek the security of the dark hood. You watch in wonder as her rosy lips give way to a pearly necklace of a smile. Her eyes continue to watch you with much interest. A sudden urge comes over you, the urge to demolish the eyes that stare so willingly into your soul. You hang your head in self-pity, guilty of such a sinister urge.

Golden spectacles are gently pulled from her eyes. Pale hands, long-fingered and finely defined, fold up the metal arms and place the glasses on top of a thick black book. Your hand itches to expose the secrets beheld. Beside this book are many more, all black, with silver-lined pages. Some dustier than others; pre-consumed and now neglected. You receive a foreboding glance as she notices where your interests lie. Once again, your eyes meet hers.

Clearing her throat slightly, and standing to a towering height of six feet and eleven inches, she addresses you. “Stranger, why do you stand before me?” There are no sweet words of welcome or greet, but her eyes confess no danger to you. A simple courage sweeps over you, it fuels you and eggs you on. You take, in your degloved hand, her dainty fingertips and press your mouth to her knuckles lightly. Her eyes continue to stare at you questioningly, but alas, she allows her hand to fall graciously back to her side and is seated once more.

She offers you a seat in the fine Italian styled armchair across from her, and you take the profferance. It is stiff and sprinkled in a light coat of dust. Company obviously does not come to her often. Knowing this, you feel unbelonging in her presence. Your curiosity is too great for your uncomfortability to take over. She raises her crystal goblet in slight salute, and downs the tonic contained. With soft eyes, she continues to watch you. You smile helplessly, thankful, to the gaze from the eyes that keep you.

You now realize, you are sitting face to face with a legendary woman. Impeccable beauty; almost to the point of forgetting your purpose. This woman, the beholder of ancient secrets, or so you think, is the reason you are here in the famous city of Los Angeles. And it is one hell of a city; nothing like back home.

“Stranger, what is it you seek?” So straight to the point, you love it. She is on the trail to knowing all you could possibly tell, without you saying a word. You had better get a move on then, a woman with amazing knowledge and utter beauty will not wait around for answers.

“My name is Caleb Moragan. I have come to you from Dublin.” You then watch her expression. Marvelous! Completely unreadable, her expression does not change. Puzzling.

“I know, your name, where you have come from. I have been waiting since your plane first landed here in L.A. Now, what is it that you want?” She says it so coolly, like it would come to no surprise, but it does. You’re baffled. This woman must really know ancient secrets. You are more than determined to find them out. You refuse to let your boyish cowardice show through. You press on.

“This does not surprise me. You are a very knowledgeable woman. But, tell me this. Do you long for your brother?” You could almost laugh out in glee, seeing the rage emanate from her eyes! Her eyes portrayed flames, fierce and dancing.

“That is not what you are here to learn. You want to know other things. You want to see what I have seen. Oh, and don’t worry, because you will.” She had waited a while before saying this, waited until her rage had subsided. So, you realize, she knows exactly what you want.

“Alright then, what do you know? What have you seen?” You whisper, half serious yet just being a stupid prat, as per usual. Being a history major, you tend to be bigheaded. She gives you a scolding look, and you are swept over with an angry emotion. This woman is good at pissing you off. “Well, get on with it then. You said you would tell me!” Another frown of discord.

“Child, I could get on with it, but only if you would shut your mouth.” A strong tone in her voice, not wavering in the slightest, you feel even more like a child now. “Now that I have your attention, and it had better be your full attention, for you will be lost if you miss the slightest detail. Waiter! Bring this boy a pint of Raven Elixir.” She hollers at the bar. A man wastes no time in hurrying over with your tonic. He receives a sweet smile from her, which disappears the moment she looks back at you.

“Miss, I do not care for this drink. Please, continue.” You coo softly. You receive a curt nod and she pulls down her hood. Ah, a high forehead and thick curls the color of double double coffee. You look her straight in the eyes, and urge her to hurry with her continuance.

“My name is Tress Maihne. There is no long form, and it has no meaning. My father and mother are born Athenians. I was born here. My family life is not important for this conversation, and my brother is not to be mentioned. You are a history major, thus present affairs are not to be dealt with. Are you sure you do not want that drink?” She is looking at you, head cocked to the side and her features soft yet unanimated.

“I am positive, miss, now do continue.” You really have caught on to this no small talk style. As you watch her, you see conflict in her eyes. Maybe she thinks you cannot handle the truth. You know you can. Eventually, she decides to go on.

“Truth. It is such a powerful thing. Some seek it through justice, others in religious belief. This truth will always contain lie and uncertainty. The only thing that is purely true is the entity of life. But to seek truth through life may very well still produce lie. I was born with truth, deep and drumming in my soul. It is an emotional truth, found only though situation. A history major. Do you seek truth?”

“Yes. Show me truth.”

“Look around Caleb. Do you see it in here?” You look to the bar. To the rowdy people. To the stage. No longer occupied by the woman. A very young boy, no more than eight, now stands upon the platform. Parted short brown hair, gelled to the sides. He is dressed in suit pants and a blue dress shirt, black tie. He holds his chin high, and raises to it a small mahogany violin. The bow plucks furiously at the innocent strings. Such passion and beauty created in noise!

“I see truth in him. Just like I see truth in you. Show me truth. Please, show me truth.” You are filling with adrenalin; you know it is because of the violin.

“As you wish. Follow me.” She says it so solemnly. She raises her hood up over her head and slips on a pair of worn black gloves. So feminine, fitting her hand so perfectly. She gives you a hard glance as she rises from her chair. As she walks through the room, the rowdy men stop singing, and people part to create a path. The violinist boy continues in a somber tune. The iron doors are held open for her and she gives them no sign of gratitude.

Her shoes echo much more beautifully than yours in the alleyway. You wonder where all the rats have gone. You silently follow her to a dark dandelion filled field far from the alleys. You are being lead right through the middle of the field, and the dew from the grass adheres to the bottoms of your pant legs. “Where are we going?”

“Quiet.” You can’t help but smile. The darkness seems so friendly, compared to her.

Field after field. To this one, then that one. You arrive at an old food plot, definitely corn. Ravished stalks; assaulted by fire in the past. It seems dreamlike, to walk through this cornfield with no wind to greet you, only this beautiful woman’s demon-like black silhouette. You know she must know exactly where she is going. Bitter thoughts fill your head. Why won’t she just tell me?!

Busy staring at the mesmerizing full moon, you don’t notice your feet and hers have stopped. You are standing before the remnants of an old burnt down farmhouse. Huge in its size and integrity, through the fierce flames it managed to stand. You look to the empty stables, which are, in fact empty. But then, why can you hear the sound of horses moving in their restless sleep?

Tress is already upon the deck, opening the front door. It makes such a harsh whining sound and is only held on by one of its hinges. You rush up to the deck and follow her in. These halls hold echoes so perfectly. It is as if they are made of the purest essence of security. The walls are dried out completely and blackened to a crisp. Why are you here?

She leads you through hallways and rooms of all shapes and sizes. What happens next is a fantastical feat. The house is filling with paintings, furniture and light fixtures. The walls are new, not burnt. You turn around to the place where you saw the remnants of flame, but it is all furnished, beautiful and new. Tress has stopped walking, you can tell by the complete silence. You turn to face her, finally animation is set upon her face! You notice something, in the way she turns; so predator-like.

Flames emanate from her eyes again, but this time, she is smiling. A maniacal smile, so like the mad hatter. You wish you had the courage to beg her to stop and take you back to the Happy Hooker. “Time for a history lesson, Caleb, you young, ignorant boy!” Flames burst from every corner. The walls appear to be melting and the doors to the room have taken up absence. Boxed in, with the flames, and the madman.

“Thirty years ago, I was five, such a know it all! I had read any and all history books I could. I was smarter than anyone! But not smart enough. This is my grandparent’s old farmhouse. I was visiting the night it caught flame.” She stops to breathe, and to look at you with menace. You want to cry as the flames lick at your elbows. The fire explodes like dynamite in a room not too far off. The horses out in the stables cry out in merciless pain and panic. The eerie sound runs a chill down your spine, more so than the look you receive from Tress.

“Make this stop!” You scream out in human fear. A whizzing sound fills your ears; a sound you know to be the propane heating. You can still hear the horses, that horrible screech of death. She shakes her head no wildly, throwing her shiny brown locks free as the hood falls.

“You wanted truth! Here! This is the only pure essence of truth! Your mother should have taught you to mind your business. Look what you found, death! You’re going to die and suffer, just for truth!” She had long since stopped smiling. She turns on her heel, and strides out through the wall. You try desperately to follow, running headlong into it. You fall down on your knees, sobbing through choking breaths. You know she won’t return, and you will not get out. Screaming in hot rage and throwing yourself around the room, you die. Listening to death – yours, the houses and the horses. This is your last history lesson. In your last frantic scream, you cry out, Hallelujah!

Oh, fall on your knees! And hear the angels calling!

 Stata Mater. The Deadly Flames.

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