The Books of Darkness
by Robert N. Stephenson
|Table of Contents|
part 1 of 2
Almost a week had passed before I managed to go outside the apartment. Sarina had fed on me daily, trying to draw away the horror of the attack. It worked, along with my medication and three bottles of Chivas Regal. The black had closed around me, sheltered as well as entrapped me. This was my mood, my view of the world.
I took the lift down. The reflection in the lift’s glass back wall showed just how dowdy I’d made myself, how unattractive I looked. Sarina was out, doing whatever she did during the day and I had grown anxious about being trapped. A man entered the lift on the third floor. I backed into the corner, ever watchful, feeling tense at his presence. I needed to see Beth, get her hard view of things, feel ignored yet accepted at the same time.
The walk to the car took an age. I kept slowing when passing men. I tried slow breathing. Positive thinking, even running a mantra over in my mind. Nothing worked. The fear sat real on my chest. I gasped, shook, felt weary and empty.
I sat for several long minutes in the car before turning the ignition. It would be a thirty minute drive to Beth’s place. Midday traffic I could handle generally, but edgy, uptight.I didn’t know if I could make it. Would I get half way and freeze up? Have to call Sarina to come and get me? I had to do this. I had to.
Out on Anzac Highway and into the flow of traffic, driving helped steady my concentration. It gave my mind something to do other than feel sorry for myself. I’d driven through the city without even noticing, which would have usually bothered me, but for now I counted it as a blessing. Ten minutes of red lights and holdup had me pulling into Beth’s driveway. A blue Audi sat in the drive. Beth had a visitor. I didn’t want to leave. I’d made it all this way, I wasn’t leaving without talking to her.
Beth opened the door. “What?” she said.
“Can I come in?” She turned away and walked further into the house. That was a yes.
I followed her down into the kitchen and into the mess of her life. Sitting at the table was the young woman who’d given me the lap dance at the strip club. She looked up at me, recognition in her face.
“Diana, isn’t it?” she said.
I looked to Beth. She shrugged and reached for the drinks cupboard. A bottle of whisky was thumped onto the table and a chair dragged out for me to sit.
“Clare,” Beth said, fishing a glass from the sink.
“Ah, we met last Saturday night,” I said, sitting. Clare didn’t take her eyes off me.
“You at a strip club, then?” Beth poured a full measure for me. “With Sarina, I guess.”
“How’d you know?” This was getting weird. I downed the drink, shuddered and poured another.
“Ask Sarina,” Clare said.
“Why you here?” Beth sat, her chubby features wobbling as her rear hit the chair.
“I was attacked after the... near the strip club after the show,” I blubbered. “I was nearly raped.”
Clare touched my arm. Beth stared as normal. I didn’t think she understood, or just didn’t care. I needed that uncaring look of hers, the ‘big deal’ look that said just get on with it. Clare pulled a newspaper from the pile on the table and dropped it in front of me. The headline said it all.
GANG MEMBERS MURDERED IN CAR PARK
This wasn’t a coincidence. Sarina had blacked them out, but she hadn’t killed them. I read the first paragraph. The six men had been cut to pieces. The bloodied knife found at the scene.
“Damn men,” Beth said.
“You’ve got some pretty impressive friends,” Clare said. The way she said it sounded like she knew who had killed the gang.
Another whisky stopped my hands from trembling. I immediately thought of Orlando, but Sarina had said he didn’t kill, only took the life energy. Did he butcher the men because of what they tried to do?
I told them what had happened, Clare listening intently, Beth grunting when she felt the need. I didn’t mention Sarina had been stabbed, only that she’d fought them off.
Beth didn’t explain how she knew Sarina and I didn’t push it. Two hours of crying and blabbering about the attack gave me a sense of release. Sarina had helped me, but she was too close, was involved and for some reason I just needed to tell someone who didn’t care. Beth didn’t care one bit. Shrugged it off as if I’d just told her a traffic light had changed to green.
I asked Clare how she knew Beth. All she would say was that they were old friends. Clare didn’t do the Goth thing, was too busy dancing and stripping to attend the parties and gatherings. I found myself liking her, but did feel a little odd at having had my face between her breasts and vagina thrust into my private space. How do you see eye to eye with someone you have seen in positions better left in bedrooms?
“You done?” Beth said.
“Yea, I suppose I am.”
Beth looked at her watch, a bulky, black studded band with an ornate face. We sat in silence as they waited for something. I poured another drink and thought about leaving. I’d said my bit and the non-caring from Beth helped put everything into some kind of skewed perspective. The death of the gang, though shocking, felt good. I don’t know how the law would view it, but it was right they should get what they deserved.
I drank my glass, gave Beth a thank you look and readied to leave. I heard the front door open and close, the click of heels echoed down the hallway towards us. Did Beth have a live-in lover? It would be surprising considering how much of a disorganized slob she was.
I watched the doorway. Sarina walked into the room.
“Ladies,” she said. I didn’t know what to say, or think.
Sarina walked around Clare, bent slightly and kissed me on the cheek. I mouthed ‘what’s going on’. She moved to Beth and kissed her on the cheek as well.
“It is good to have us all together for a change,” she said, “I know you and Beth are familiar, but Clare you’ve only just met, briefly and, well, in a different light, last week.” She stood behind me, both hands on my shoulders, a calming action. I wasn’t feeling all that calm.
“How do you know each other?” I manged to say, wishing my glass was filled.
“We’re all Uttukes,” Beth said. “I told you she wasn’t bright,” she said to Sarina.
“Beth is really Bethina Uber, who I met in Germany in 1918. She usually travels with me and keeps her ear to the ground through the Goth and subculture networks.”
“Whatever.” Beth shrugged.
I looked to Clare, pretty and young. She smiled and blushed.
“Clare of course is of noble birth,” Sarina said. “We met in France in 1773 and became close friends.”
Clare didn’t look any older than twenty-five, like Sarina her flawless skin and bright eyes were a vision of youth. Sarina moved to Clare and bent down to kiss her cheeks.
“This, Diana, is Marie Antoinette.”
“Let them eat cake,” Clare laughed as she slapped Sarina on the backside.
“In joke,” Sarina said. “Paris had no bread, if the truth be known.”
“Quit unfortunate. Luckily Sarina and I baked loaves in secret so the servants could deliver them to those who supported Louis.” Clare cringed. “What a complete French wanker he was.”
They all laughed, but I didn’t get it. Things were getting weirder, so this time I drank the whisky straight from the bottle. Who could think about what might have happened last week to what was happening now. I blinked away the burning sensation in my throat and looked straight at Sarina. She knew what I was thinking.
“She was beheaded,” Sarina said. Clare made a cutting motion across her throat. “I had some friends gather up her remains and get them to me quickly.”
“Fortunately the blade was sharp,” Clare said. “What a mess it made of my dress.”
Sarina put her hand on the young woman’s shoulder. “I cut my wrist, and while holding her head where it was meant to be, I dribbled blood over the wound. Two hours I stood there, by the time she opened her eyes I was ready to drop.”
“But people saw you die, they buried you?” I’d studied a little French history at school. I took another swig. I must have been plastered. Here I was talking to Marie Antoinette, who worked as a stripper at the Crazy Horse. What next.
“I had doubles,” Clare said. “Once your head was off no one really looked too closely.” She gripped Sarina’s hand. “I owe this girl my life.”
Sarina took the last chair in the room, shoving everything off the table and onto the floor, including my bottle and glass. Beth didn’t move to pick it up and I felt a little too woozy to reach down.
“Diana has a problem,” Sarina said.
“Obviously,” Beth grunted. “A piss-head if you ask me.”
I’d thought of Beth as a kind of friend; after that comment I didn’t know what to think.
“The Dark One?” Clare said.
“Oh, him.” Beth chuckled. “My mistake.”
“If he’s after you, then I can’t see what we can do.” Clare said.
“It might not be her specifically,” Sarina said with a frown. “He wants a book, a book Diana once had.”
“Not that thing again.” Sarina looked at Beth. “She told me about it. I didn’t really listen. Back then I thought it a typical dumb human thing to do.”
I hadn’t told Sarina I’d spoken to Beth about the book’s return to Steven’s place. She raised her eyebrows. It was clear luck had been on my side. I hated to think what might happen if somebody I’d told wasn’t an Uttuke.
Copyright © 2009 by Robert N. Stephenson