I didn't mean to walk down this street. It's cold, it's late, it's a shortcut, but I don't belong here. Nobody will see me, because darkness is my natural element.
I entered darkness, and darkness entered me, on this street one night about 4 years ago now. Slipping into me like a lover's tongue, burning my soul away into acrid smoke, l knew true darkness first on this street. I was no virgin to the shadows, but this was not a consensual encounter.
They say there are black holes in the universe where gravity defies even light. Hell, I could probably ask someone to ask someone to ask some...thing who has travelled in space about black holes. How do you steer around them? Do you see them coming? Can you change your course once you see the darkness ahead of you, feel it reaching to grab you? Do you come out the other side? Or do you stay there, forever, forgetting light?
She would laugh at me, waxing on like this. Or maybe she wouldn't. I like to think she saw something special in me that nobody else ever had. Or ever will, now. Whatever I was, laughing, in her arms, as her red hair spilled over me, is now only darkness.
Please, don't remind me of the light.
You won't believe this but I met her in a bar. She was with a gabbling, giggling group of women, passing a pretty brunette gift many bags stuffed with tissue. I sat at the bar, snorting into my drink as bag after bag turned out to be naughty lingerie, bottles of love oil, and things the blushing girl wouldn't even take wholly out of the bag. The margarita glasses came and went in front of them, the giggles turned riotous, and the evening went on and on.
She was the brightest light there, of course, and not just because the garish neon beer signs glared off that amazing red hair. She laughed, not just with her voice but with her whole body. As she grinned and giggled, her head would make a little dance on her pretty, long, white neck, and her eyes would sweep around her. The second time she did this, she caught me looking at her, and thus I know the third and fourth times she did it, it was partly for me.
I slowed down on my drinks, content to watch the girls party. Such opportunities were rare in my then-new line of work. Oh, women I could have, make no mistake. Pretty and paid for, pretty and seeking my power or protection, pretty and oh so ignorant of, well, everything. Never pretty enough to remember. There have been men too, when I was driven by the hot desperate ache to forget the future, the past, the moment, and most of all the mouth swallowing me down. Man or woman, I would bat their hand away if they tried to pet me or talk to me. I was learning the hard ways of darkness then.
She glowed so bright in that Georgetown bar that winter night. It wasn't a rude light, like a flashlight in a cop's hands. Yes, it was bright, yes, it made us all sit up straighter, brush off our jackets, look closely at our fingernails. But she was so natural with it, wearing grace just as easily as that Irish fisherman's sweater. If someone had gone to her and said "You're extraordinary, you're bright and clean and fine and good," she would have blushed. But she would not have laughed.
More than once, she would touch her girlfriend's shoulder or hand, adding a sweet, serious, tender note to the conversation. A blonde hugged her close a few times, and a brown-haired girl kept heaping french fries on her plate imploring her to eat a little. Care was her natural element. She gave it, she inspired it, and it multiplied around her.
A man sat next to me at the bar, drinking a gin and tonic and smoking. I thought of night terrors I had as a boy, when my mother would come in, smelling of face cream and menthol cigarettes, to pat my sweaty back until I slept. I thought of my father and his gin-soaked breath as he would hug me and tell me stories that seemed to go nowhere. This was the care I had known -- less than some men, more than others.
I laughed at myself then, that a red-headed woman at a bridal shower behind me could make me think of light, love, care, innocence. I laughed aloud, amazed that the man I was becoming could still entertain a thought like this. I looked up in the bar mirror before me, watching myself laugh, my breath blowing away the smoke surrounding me. The laughter died in me because it simply wasn't funny anymore. I was drawn and quartered by my conflicting urges - to take her or talk to her, to tell her a lie or risk the truth, to fuck her or make love to her, to soil her with my darkness or to heal myself with her light.
"Need another drink, my friend?" the bartender asked, as I stopped laughing.
"Got any decent champagne?" I asked.
"Korbel?" he replied, shrugging.
"Send a bottle to those lovely women with my compliments," I said. I slapped a bill on the counter, and turned to look at the new fate I'd bought.
Of course, they asked me to come sit with them, and I had a glass of wine with them. The brunette bride-to-be blushed prettily at my toast to her, and all of them told me their names and what they did. None of them seemed to notice their questions about me bounced off and rolled away unanswered. The blonde girl to my left looked at me the hardest, and slipped her hand on my thigh more than once, but it was the girl with the brown hair and the hazel cat's eyes that cornered me in the back hallway outside the bathroom. Her kisses tasted of salt and ketchup, and another night, I would have found them very agreeable. I smiled and made some comment about closing time and everyone leaving soon.
Outside our breath made clouds in the air as there were various discussions of going to eat eggs and hash, who had to work tomorrow, who was too drunk to drive, and who would share a cab. And when it was all over, she turned to me, simply, and said, "I'm not far, I'm going to walk."
"May I walk you home?" I said.
She tilted her head at me a moment, sizing me up with her sharp eyes, and said, "Yes. Yes, thank you, uh....." She grimaced as she stumbled on my name.
I told her my real one.
We walked together in the cold, and after awhile she tucked her hand into my left elbow.
We got to her door and she opened it, then turned to me without entering.
"I'd like to call....." I started.
At the same time she said, "Would you like some tea?"
We both chuckled and smiled, then I followed her in.
I can remember her apartment to the last detail, and I think it is not all due to my training. Apples and pears on the coffee table, and a couple of browning cores in the wastepaper basket so it was not simply for show, like in a decorating magazine. Candles, all white, in all shapes and sizes, on every surface. Three bunches of flowers, one just withering. Floppy pillows, pictures, books, throws, rugs, and a haughty orange cat not about to budge from the best chair, not even after giving me a very dirty look.
Most of all I remember the smell. Twenty sweet scents wafted out of her cabinet as she called out name after name of herbal tea concoctions. I finally told her just to surprise me. Over her sink, a greenhouse window jutted out into the tiny back patio of her apartment, filled with herbs in clay pots.
"It must take a lot to keep those going in a Washington winter," I said.
"Yes, but it's so much better to have them fresh for cooking and things," she said, pouring hot water into a pot.
"Things?" I asked.
"Teas. Bath oil. Natural remedies," she explained. "Herbs have powerful properties we're just beginning to understand again. We forgot their value when we got modern medicines but they were here for us to turn back to." She let the tea steep and turned and opened a glass jelly jar filled with dried greens and blossoms. She held it under my nose and I breathed in the intoxicating scent, feeling it enter my body.
"This is for sweet dreams. You make a little cloth packet to put in your bed."
I wanted to blurt out something about her being enough to chase away nightmares, but I did not.
She turned and prepared the tea tray, then said, "Honey?"
"What?" I said, as if it were a name, one I had never been called, and not an offer relating to tea.
She caught the double meaning and laughed. I bit my lip when I saw a blush creep up the back of her neck.
I knew then what the night would come to. That beyond the words and the sips of tea and the music she put on softly, between talking of herbs and medicine, of her beliefs in light and darkness, that we would be man and woman together, one, before the sun rose.
She told me her cat's name was Finn MacCool, after a legendary Irish giant. The cat was enormous, as well as being long haired and fluffy. He deigned to come over, sniff my boots, then commandeered my lap and demanded petting. I had no great experience of cats and was alarmed into a yelp when he dug his claws into my thighs and groin.
"Naughty Finn!" she scolded, standing and crossing to me to remove the cat from my lap. As she bent forward her hair, fragrant and insubstantial, teased across my face and neck, and her lips were close to mine.
She detangled the cat's claws from my jeans and started to apologize, but I hushed her with a kiss.
She made a soft, startled noise and I pulled away, not wanting to frighten her. Then it was my turn to apologize, but I didn't get to finish either.
Her mouth was on mine, it was warm and sweet, feminine, sensual, a million things men have said about the joy of a woman's mouth. And the only word I could think of, to the extent I could think at all, was "light".
Light washed over me with the touch of her hands on my face and neck. Light bathed me as she sat in my lap, slim, warm, and kissing me back with increasing passion. Light poured off her creamy white skin as she let me slip off her sweater. Light enfolded me as she put her fingers through my hair, pulling my head closer to her lovely breasts. Light was warming me as she whispered that we should go upstairs to her bed.
The bed was like her, all soft places to fall and hide, and it took a moment to remove the lace pillows, the flowered shams and the ancient teddy bear. When she turned back to me, she was a bit shy.
"It'll be OK," I said, holding her and whispering into her hair. "Nothing bad will happen."
I didn't know then I was a liar.
I only knew her willingness as I helped her off with her skirt, tights and boots. She was losing her shyness as I began to undress, and she began to help. She responded warmly to the very slow approach I took, appreciating the time I took on her hands, shoulders, ears and secret places of pleasure I fancied that only I had discovered on her. Slowly, we both grew more urgent, and I was losing myself in each moan and shudder of excitement from her when she pulled away suddenly. It was only to get protection, and she helped smooth it down my length, nearly making it a moot point from the sensual, skilled touch of her hands.
Light entered me as I entered her. We created light as we moved, slow, then fast. Light illuminated her from within as she began to sweat and glow with pleasure. Light spilled out of her mouth in tiny, bright cries as my hands danced where we were joined. Light burst from me as I shouted, pouring myself into her, one with the light, and never to be dark again.
It was so light, there was no place to hide, and I feared what she would see in my eyes as I pulled out, and buried my head in her breasts. I didn't know where my gasps ended and my sobs began, but she soothed me with soft words until I found the courage to put my face on the pillow beside hers.
"It's OK. It's a natural thing. It's a life-force thing. Lovemaking is how we're created. It's beautiful and chases away the darkness."
I kissed her then, again, hard, because I couldn't stand to hear any more beautiful words from her mouth.
As I was falling asleep, I adjusted the pillow. and felt a small bundle underneath it. She slept as I pulled it out to look at it. A sweet-scented sachet was here to chase away my dreams. I tossed it onto the nightstand. For one night, I did not need it.
When I dressed the next morning, I probably made noise deliberately. She awoke, and rolled toward me.
She smiled and I wanted to peel off my jeans and take her again in the morning light.
"Have a shower, if you like. Or breakfast. Or anything," she said, softly.
'I can't," I said. "Work." That was true.
"I don't even know what work you do," she said, sitting up and looking cautiously at me.
"Would you believe it if I said I can't tell you?" I said, wanting her to believe me.
"In Washington, I'd believe it," she said. She looked at me harder, then added, "From you, I'd believe it."
I didn't know what to say to that. I couldn't pull out a badge and show her, I couldn't explain, I couldn't do anything but feel dirty.
She smoothed her hand over my back and chased away my day terrors. I wanted nothing but to lie back on the sheets that smelled of our loving and vanish under the covers and her red hair.
"I want to see you again," I said. "I want you to believe that too."
"I do," she said.
She gave me her card and I gave her kisses, not letting her pull away with protests that she tasted like the night before. I started to walk out the door but stopped, turned, and wrote my cell phone number down on a junk mail flyer.
She stood, watching me leave, and I told myself with every step that I was not one step further away from her, but one second closer to the time I would see her again.
I would learn her, know her, win her, love her. I would protect her from the evil I knew could and would come. When the time came, she would be safe with me.
I reached in my jacket pocket, to feel her card, and pulled it out to look at it again.
I noted for the first time her last name.
I stood on a street corner and cried until I laughed.
Twice, I called her number and hung up before I got an answer. Once, I listened to her machine and hung up. I think she called me once too. It's just a feeling I got from the click of the line on my voicemail.
I saw her one more time, not long after, in a deadly flash of light.
She fell and then all the light was gone out of my life, forever. I became darkness.
This is the street where that happened.
Her sister still lives where it happened. She is most likely asleep at this hour but my presence here, a block down and across the street, is wrong enough it could wake her from her slumber. One time I had occasion to say the words "your sister" to her. I looked at her bright blue eyes and wanted to tell her everything. I knew I would not be believed.
After the gun hit the ground, we ran, then we drove. I screamed at Cardinale several miles later to stop the car. I tumbled to the pavement and puked my guts out, and let him have the pleasure of thinking I was a weakling unsuited for our jobs.
Some time later, he knew I was very good at my job. He had botched another murder by then, but that man, another face woven into the filthy cloth of my life, was harder to kill than a beautiful woman whose hair was stained with blood. I sneaked into prison and showed Cardinal how well I kill. I taught him I could have art and pleasure in it. It was the last lesson he ever learned.
She lived perhaps four miles away, and a few nights after she died, I quietly broke into her house. I searched for my telephone number and found it in her bedside table, and noted the sheets were laundered and changed. The cat and his accoutrements were gone. I watered the herbs and noted their names. Parsley, fennel, rue, catnip, thyme, lemongrass, cilantro. Rosemary, for rememberance. And there was an herb, looking to flower, with her name. Melissa.
I stole the jar of herbs for sweet dreams.
They have never worked their magic on me.
I am forever in the nightmare. I live in the darkness.
Well, if you call this living.
It is an honor to hear back from readers. I appreciate feedback very much. My email: JourneyToX@aol.com.
I have never written a Krycek story before and I have read very, very few. If someone has written this theme before, it wouldn't surprise me. The "Oh No!" he moaned was heartbreaking and suggested this plot to me. So, if this story has been done before, and probably better, all I can say is the mistake is one of honest ignorance, and that 2 creators can have the same idea from the same inspiration (Edison/Marconi).
Thank you for reading.