And He Walked A Crooked Mile
by R.T. Allenson
The sound is from a beating, bleeding heart echoing across the halls like the resonating bell each morning on sunday. To him, the resonance is eternal – something he has known before and will continue to know until his time is up. The man has little time for pleasantries and he takes his knife, his only friend, and sets off to meet his lover.
The man’s name is Stan. He lives alone in a labyrinthine house of corridors filled with paintings and mirrors. There is little else to know about the house except the foundations are innately flawed, making the house itself stand slightly crooked to one side. A skeletal tree stands by its side; the branches, slightly tapping the window when the wind passes by. Stan tends to the tree sometimes, perhaps longingly in daydreams, believing that leaves and fruit will appear if he tends to it. But he knows these actions are futile; his touch is corruption, the essence of decay.
Hiding his knife, Stan takes his leave of his house and makes his way to the cobbled walkways that slither about the town he lives in. The sun is hot against his face but he holds his head up high in defiance to the pale radiance. He wore the crown of the sun above his head once, he reminds himself, and he would again so his defiance to the blistering pain is almost a requirement as it is a vigil. The houses and small buildings provide ample shade and this pleases him for his deed requires the attention not of the man with the amber-silver radiance, but of the one beneath his heart who crawls in darkness; his lover is near, he feels this but he bides his time. There, there, he calls to it again. The madness seeps into his mind like the cold, lapping of the sea as it draws inland. It isn’t anger of fury but something else, unbridled and unfurled like the beating of his heart. There, he sees his lover again, but he decides to wait and contemplate for a while. Within his mind is a tapestry of darkness.
If there was any metamorphosis from this state from his last, it was born of sadness not fury. There is loneliness in each bleeding heart, so they say, and the immortal heart of those who fancy themselves undying have no respite of death once the cut sets in. It is torturous and very hard to bear when the color has faded and all is left is the grey and unending quagmire of solitude. Such fancies and rhetoric are baseless when the void is eternal and how long, so long, is the span of eternity. For one bound to the earth, it is a lifetime, for the immortal it is ceaseless. Each day he sits alone in his room or, when the silence is already too unbearable, he crawls around the corridors of his house on the way down until his own strength decays fantastically and he falls several floors down on the hard marble floor. The paintings of his house, as he passes them by, look at him with solemnity and terror with a slight mixture of despairing like that of a mother to her dying child.
The call of darkness is clear but there is sympathy where there is anger and Stan, knife clutched in one hand, hesitates for a while and decides to linger on in the shadows while his lover passes by. He is unrecognizable in the shadows for the dark is a merciful creature who knows how to keep secrets unlike the proud and fickle light. Sometimes Stan wonders why he goes outside when everything he can possibly need is all in his crooked house by a crooked tree. He cannot see it but the death-tree bears fruit, albeit, of a different kind and far sinister to devour. Memories serve as tidings to him but for lack of a better word, his memory is craven and scratches at his person from time to time. The happy moments are there, with his lover, but they fall blindly into the paleness of that wretched abyss that is his bleeding heart. Night will come and day will pass but the hurt and the pain and all the time lost to love cannot be regained. No more than a thrall to the fickle and to those who would use him for some other purposes. There was love there, he surmises, but all from him and not from his lover who only loved him when his pockets were full and his wallet was fat. Stan has unraveled this secret from his memories, a sort of revelation that urges him to use the knife in his hand. The call of the god of madness is strong and it is the call of the dead. His mind is enflamed and the silence rings and rings at his ears until the whole world is nothing more but crimson and the sound of billions of years passing his eyes by with each blink and with each second. There! There! The knife finds its mark but it isn’t his lover but his own bleeding heart. There is terror somewhere in his mind but undying, the pain is no more but a formality of the deed. There is nothing there actually but a sense of distaste and weakness. He leaves the town and its serpent roads and heads back to his house, with head held up high and eyes towards the sun. The knife in his heart turns brittle and crumbles as he takes his taciturn strides towards his house and somewhere in the back of his mind, the empty hallways seem more welcoming than he’s ever seen them before.
He retreats to his room, lit only by the pale radiance outside that spill forth from small cracks on the walls and, acknowledging his failure, Stan lays himself to rest within the walls of solitude. And in his dreams, undisturbed and unknown to all save for him, he sees his lover again and at least there he has the sense and courage to carry out the deed. He knows his knifework is praised and his skill with the turning of one’s senses is peerless.
And with simple gestures and strokes, he carries on with the deed. The sundering of flesh from bone, the unraveling of tendons and muscle – these are his thoughts within his mind. And his mind is a tapestry of darkness.