The Books of Darkness
by Robert N. Stephenson
|Table of Contents|
Jacko’s death was eventually declared an accidental drowning and the investigation was closed. The police warned me to be more careful at night and not to venture near the river. Adelaide was notorious for mysterious deaths, and just about all of them happened by our one and only major city waterway.
I walked from the train station, across the small square, towards the GPO, its clock showing twelve-thirty. I’d decided to have lunch in Hindley street and meet up with Sarina mid-afternoon to discuss just how to, first, find the missing book, and then how to get it back. She was sure The Dark One and Orlando would leave us alone once they took possession of it again.
The afternoon heated up, and the walk warmed me enough to take off my jacket. I hadn’t been home in a week and was now wearing Sarina’s clothes. Black wasn’t really my colour and in the colder months; I found it quite depressing. That and yellow.
Efexor’s a wonderful drug. I had grown used to feeling down most of the time, so much so that it was pretty much a normal state for me. But after Steven’s death those dark times got darker, and I’d been driven to finally see my doctor and then a shrink. A little man with glasses whose no-fuss manner I appreciated. Drugs were prescribed.
I had accept the madness of the last few months. I was happy. I had other feelings as well, but no time to deal with them. I kept busy, found distraction as often as I could, and taken to spending more time with Sarina.
After two years I didn’t expect Samantha to have the book; I called her anyway. Her number was still in my phone. It rang. Women never change their numbers.
“What do you want?” Not the friendliest of welcomes. I was still in her phone’s directory as well.
“We need to talk.” Simple, direct.
“I don’t need to talk with you, Diana.”
“You will if you still have the book.” There, it was out.
“What book?” She didn’t hang up, so she knew what I was talking about.
“The one I left on your dining room table.”
“It was you...” Pause. “What makes you think I want to talk to you about it?” Defensive.
“Let’s just say a very nasty person is looking for it, and they will do anything to get it.” This time the pause was longer.
“Sam,” I said.
“Where are you now?”
“Thought I’d treat myself to gourmet food in Hindley street.”
“McDonalds.” She remembered. “I’ll be there in half an hour.”
I flipped the phone closed and felt pleased with myself. I hadn’t expected it to be so easy. Maybe Sam knew more than I thought.
I’d already eaten my turkey baguette by the time Samantha arrived. The place was alive with young people stuffing their faces with burgers and chips. It felt good to be in a place that sparkled with life and colour.
Samantha didn’t order, she pushed her way through people waiting at the counter and sat directly opposite me at the small table. She didn’t look happy, which suited me just fine.
“Not eating?” I said, taking a drink of my coffee.
“You’re kidding me, right?” I knew she hated fast food.
“Where’s the book?” I asked, the preamble over.
“The one I gave you, the one Steven and you used to win the SPA.”
Samantha toyed with her hair. I had her.
“How much?” she said, placing both hands flat on the table.
“I’m not wanting to buy it from you, Sam.”
“Then I don’t know what you are talking about.”
I should have expected greed. I did need the book, and my royalties had all come through for the quarter. Samantha wasn’t going to just give it to me, and I couldn’t tell her why I needed it.
“Fifty thousand,” I said. It was all I had. Not much for my life, I thought.
She laughed. Face hard, determined. I wondered what I’d seen in her: love had blinded me. This wasn’t the woman who’d invaded my desires, my fantasies for so long.
“You come up with five hundred thousand and I’ll gift-wrap it for you.” She stood, straightened her pink blouse.
The conversation was over. Even if I had that much cash there would be no way in hell I would hand it to her. “If you can’t offer, then I guess I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“But that’s ridiculous,” I said. “I don’t have that amount of money.”
“Someone died for this already,” she said. “And you are responsible. The amount is fair. How much for a life?” she said walking away.
I shrugged. She left. I had to find another way. I hadn’t expected her greed to be so unreasonable.
* * *
“I could pay what she wants,” Sarina said as she watched Orlando under the jetty. “Anything to get you out of harm’s way.”
I hid my surprise at her having such funds, then she would have had a lifetime, plus three, to save any amount she desired.
“No,” I said, pouring a scotch. “We’ll find another way to get it, now that I know she still has the book.” I sat, mind racing through what I could realistically do. “To think I actually loved her.”
Sarina turned from the window, arms folded. Her expression one of question.
“I slept with her,” I said, emptying my glass and pouring another. Sarina said nothing. “I thought I loved her, but after this morning I know I’d fallen in love with my fantasy and desires for her. For someone I knew I could never have. It wasn’t real, Sarina.” I sipped the scotch. “I suppose meeting you has helped me see my love for what it was.”
She understood the truth of what I’d said. Her love for Bela was equally tainted by desire over reason, but at least she had spent a life with the man; well, part of a life. She approached and sat on the arm of one of the chairs, her favourite spot. The room felt stuffy and a little tense. We both shared something in common, something that stood in the way of our emotional freedom.
“Do you have any music?” I asked. I hadn’t seen a sound system or a TV, and the furniture gave no indication of storing such devices. She pointed to a low cabinet along one wall. Above hung a black square in a black frame.
I left my drink on the coffee table and pressed the door of the cabinet. There were no handles so it had to be a magnetic lock. The door opened to reveal a black system with black buttons but no operational icons. I touched a corner square on its face, a panel lit up in red on black screen.
“Where are the CDs?” I asked.
“Press the panel beneath the system,” she said.
The panel popped open to reveal dozens of black CD cases. I took one out. The whole case was black, no writing. I opened the case to see a black CD, no writing, no indication of the artist or what might be on the disk.
“How do you know what to put on?” I asked, turning to her.
“I like it all.”
“And what would that be?” I liked to know what I was listening to before putting it on.
“Black Sabbath; AC/DC’s Back in Black, Fade to Black, by the Rolling Stones; Black Betty. She came over and knelt beside me in from of the system. “I have Black Night, Black Muddy River, by the Grateful Dead and some George Benson.”
“George Benson?” I frowned.
“He’s black,” she said.
She put the CD I was holding into the player, closed the cabinet door and went back to sitting on the arm of her chair. I sat and picked up my drink. With some idea of what to expect, I sat back and wondered what part of black I was about to hear. Alice Cooper’s Black Widow etched its way through the walls, the volume up, but not too loud as to discourage conversation.
“Met him backstage after a concert once,” Sarina said.
“Do you have anything that doesn’t deal with black?”
If she didn’t know then there was no point going there. I listened to the music, the black themes sometimes dark, sometimes light. It created a mix of emotions and styles, nothing really fitting together.
As I drank and watched Sarina I thought the music suited her and the life she had led. How do you deal with eternity? She had her black focus, a reminder of what had created her, and something she could always rely on, no matter what emotional content became attached.
For me it was writing, the creation of worlds with words, lives that were part me, part someone else and part imagination. No matter my mood, no matter who I was with or where I found myself, the words always kept me settled. Perhaps that was why writing Sarina’s book still remained a job to do. It was a constant, a familiar element of my being, my life.
The music took its time to wash around us like a pool of ink. I listened and drank. She listened and watched me drink. I didn’t mind.
The CD ended, and the soft wall of sound between us fell. I thought about putting another one on, filling the void. Sarina shook her head; we’d heard enough. Soon night would come, her time, her world. Sarina looked happy, happier than I’d seen her before. The music had brought something to her eyes. They glittered with expectancy, hope. I wanted some of that.
She moved from the arm of the chair to sit in my lap. I put down my glass, feeling more than a bit tipsy. Closing my eyes I enjoyed the feeling of her fingers through my hair, the gentle kiss upon my forehead. The madness stalled, took a step back to let a glimmer of light peek through the veil of black around us.
I craved the light, not the burning rays of the sun, the light created to hold off the night. I wanted to roam the yellow and white lights that spotted the evening hours, that became fuzzy orbs in fog, that offered a strange protection from the fingers of darkness and loss.
Warm breath touched my face, my cheek. Lips pressed tight and I kissed back, kissed letting myself fall into the sensation like I used to fall into the cooling depths of the sea. With a sigh, we broke apart, her head dropping to my shoulder and me stroking her back. This was how things were meant to be, the real feelings that I had so foolishly craved from an impossible desire. Comfort, warm acceptance drifted through me, raised me above the lows, the troubles and problems. Nothing seemed out of reach, everything became achievable. In the darkness I saw a tiny light, my light, her light, our light.
By the time I opened my eyes again we were sitting in complete darkness, our forms merged as one, our breathing in unison. We’d slept. I could see the light reaching into the sky from the jetty below, a hollow that occupied the left-hand corner of the window.
In the shadows the horse statue became a watching sentinel, our protector. I found I liked the idea of being protected in this symbolic way. Locked doors can’t create safety, bars on windows can’t truly protect you from those who would invade your life.
“It’s time to go,” Sarina said. The sound a whisper, airy and light.
“Can I shower?”
“Certainly,” she said, easing herself from my lap. “Tonight we’ll let our hair down, get away from the book and Orlando.”
“Strip club,” she said.
I’d never been to a strip club. I thought about women taking their clothes off for ogling men, the humiliation of the act, but then I took a double take. Naked women, Sarina and alcohol. I couldn’t get a bigger distraction if I tried.
I showered and dressed in a nice strapless dress and shoulder jacket. Sarina wore pants, a shimmering black-sequined blouse and half-jacket in silk. We applied makeup to each other, me red lipstick; her, black. We both avoided the heavy Goth eye makeup.
By the time we were ready I felt quite excited about the night at the Crazy Horse. Sarina had arranged for my car to be brought down to her place; it made sense as I wasn’t home much. She let me drive to the city, stating if I drank too much she was quite capable of driving us home.
Parking in a back street, much to Sarina’s protests, we walked hand in hand towards the club. Two beautiful women turned heads; we didn’t make the usual cliché gay couple, so we got a fair share of frowns and head shakes as well.
We arrived at the club just before midnight, paid our way in and found seats by the long central stage. Men gave us glances and I could almost hear the cogs of their minds turning, struggling with the image.
This close to stage meant up close and personal. I wasn’t sure I really wanted to get that close. I followed Sarina’s lead, ordering champagne cocktails and settling back for the show.
The place teemed with men. Business types, young men out for a thrill and the sleazy types that gave me the jitters just to look at them. It was a strip club after all, what did I expect?
The music fired up, the intro was made, all flowery talk and spin playing up to the crowd. I looked to Sarina, she smiled. Tonight was for me.
A young woman, she looked barely out of her teens, pranced the stage, occasionally swinging on the pole at the end. She started off in a small bra and even smaller panties, which I thought she looked quite good in; in a short time everything was off and she was showing off her vagina like it was a new Christmas present. Twice she splayed her legs before me and gave me a good look at her womanly bits.
Call me old school, call me what you like, I didn’t like the shaved look, it removed some of the imagination and allure. I didn’t find any of the acts titillating, or remotely sexual; for me they held more amusement than anything else. I found myself having fun in a place I would never have ventured before.
The night wore on with copious cocktails, cheering men and a bevy of naked women of the beautiful kind. It was fun, but nothing that would excite me as it seemed to excite the men. Late, as the crowed thinned, Sarina bought me a lap dance, which put me even more close and personal.
The woman was attractive, young and quite skilled in her moves, again I found I really wasn’t the type to find such things stimulating. By three I felt tired of the same routines and wriggling bits, and I think I’d seen enough vaginas to last me a lifetime.
Under the watchful eyes of the male audience Sarina and I called it a night. I knew what I preferred to be looking at anyway.
Copyright © 2009 by Robert N. Stephenson