Sucked from the incoherent roar of the streets, the steamy interior of Randall’s is quiet as breath, enfolds Moe gently as arms. The musky scent of books is a balm to soothe the pounding of his heart, to ease the tension from his shoulders and back. Either side of his spine are the faint, smouldering embers left by the beast’s gaze. He tries to shudder them away, secure now between shelves of books strong as pillars.
Ahead, tucked in the round belly of the shop, stands Margo’s desk, a nod to the modern in sweeping mahogany, but there’s no Margo sat behind it. Instead her boss, Barry, leans flicking through a magazine, his face set with the cement of boredom. Moe walks slowly toward him. The shelves drift past as though the world moves whilst he stands still: unsettling, disorienting, illusive.
The gentle tap of his approach on battered wood flooring fails to rouse Barry’s attention so Moe clears his throat; it resonates loud as door chimes, vibrates his bones, sets his teeth on edge like biting tinfoil.
Barry raises his eyes, super slow, dragging them through the liquid thickness of his own ennui. His voice is a barely contained hiss of impatience. ‘Yes?’
‘Margo and Rolf?’
Barry sighs, flips the magazine shut and rises up just a little to reach over and point to the back of the shop. ‘In back. Slacking off and talking shit about me.’
Moe refuses to dignify the retort with a response. He knows the truth of it. Bland Barry is clueless. Lifeless. All but a facsimile dressed in beige. Margo and Rolf’s revilement of the man is based in the solid evidence of cardboard cutout personality, the only vague emotion a thinly veiled contempt for all other living beings.
Moe takes leave of the man, not bothering to disguise his relief. Makes his way through teetering piles of books and narrow corridors of shelves toward the little room at the back, transformed many years ago by Barry’s predecessor into a mini staff kitchen. It’s damp and smells of good coffee, bad intentions, the sneaking sexy waft of musk identifiable as Margo’s perfume.
Margo herself is perched by the sink, a ragged bird of prey dressed incongruously fine in corseted rose-covered velvet. Legs shod in scarlet nylon and killer blood-red heels. Moe stops for a moment just to bathe in her glow, because the darkness is momentarily hidden in delight. She’s a roman candle of sparking mischief, shining new-sun bright as she rags Rolf about the garish pair of glittered apple-green creepers adorning his feet.
‘I’m just saying that if you painted a shamrock on the toes your feet would be Leprechauns. All they’d need is a stereotypical ginger beard, a clay pipe and an insane attraction to bling.’
Rolf’s delicious blue eyes spark malicious glee. ‘Cease insulting, bitch, at least I’m not wearing the feet of an shemale.’
Margo shrieks, yanks one dangerously shod foot to her breast with both hands, crooning at her dagger-sharp heel, ‘it’s okay, baby, the nasty homo didn’t mean it, he’s just raw because no one loves him enough to stick their cock in his arse.’ She sees Moe then. ‘Speaking of arses, here’s the one that has a ‘No Entry Rolf’ sign bolted to it.’
A wet, cold teabag slaps Margo right between the tits, sits there, leaking amber rivulets down a creamy cleavage. She launches across the counter, yodelling, lands on Rolf’s back, pummelling with wild fists; teeth bared, a she-bitch on a mission to punish, damn the consequences or the prettiness of the face. Rolf howls, hurt and laughter mixed together, grabs more cold teabags from the sink and, yanking up her skirt, shoves them into the back of her panties. She pings off his back, popcorn off a hotplate; dances around the tiny kitchen trying to fish teabags from the crack of her arse. The unending stream of her fury paints the walls lurid turquoise.
Moe steps into the kitchen, across rivers of azure seeping over the floor. Grins at Rolf, ‘I see Margo’s channelling Minnie again.’
Rolf’s smile is beautiful, crackles bolts of electricity across the room. Sharp pulses grab at Moe’s ribs, his groin, remind him that to respond to this man is danger. Defcon 1. Sirens whirling red. Destruction imminent. But he can’t stop staring. There’s pallor on that glorious face, rings beneath those periwinkle eyes, but Rolf’s all-fire fuckable beauty, head to toe, even in those ridiculous shoes.
Moe’s balls throb, his cock’s heavy, aching. He grits teeth to ward it away only there’s no holding back the tide when this man is in touching distance; body like a beacon in the darkness, in the storm, pulling Moe toward jagged rocks, to smash him to smithereens.
And he wants to be destroyed, would throw himself rather than wait to be pulled. Moe’s met his hetero kryptonite, knew it a long time ago. Has only managed to resist this long because Rolf’s taken incomprehensible steps back, waiting for him to make the move. It’s a sort of torture, because he’s trapped, insect-like, in the glutinous amber of his own resistance, desperate to break free.
Rolf strolls across the kitchen. His walk near enough a dance as he moves past Margo–twisted, pretzel-like, to dab a towel at the wet silk of her panties–to stand right in front of Moe, not enough space between them to shove a decent sized piece of paper.
‘Hello, gorgeous.’ Cool, clipped tones pluck Moe’s muscles like strings, an aria of attraction.
Reluctant but helpless to stop, Moe fights the urge to ram hands into those cowlicks of glossy black, draw that face to his and spend the next few hours finding out exactly what that mouth tastes like. Can’t hold back the involuntary swipe of his tongue across his lower lip, the inward groan as Rolf’s eyes, dark with desire, follow the movement.
Moe manages to suck in enough air to speak, but with it comes the unmistakeable scent of Rolf, spicy and sensual as cinnamon. It makes him rock hard. Aching. He has no idea how his voice exits his body with such calm. No idea why he’s still standing here, wanting, rather than taking what he wants.
‘Hi.’ His voice is husky and he hates himself for the show of weakness at the same time as hoping weakness becomes giving in.
Shocking as cold water, Margo’s voice scythes between them, words dripping sarcasm like cold tea, ‘And that’s the mating call of the sexually confused hetero bird.’ She lights up a fag, casual as blinking, and grins at them. ‘Seriously, just fuck each other; get it over and done with. I’m getting sick of the stench of desperation.’
‘Don’t be a bitch, Margo pet,’ Rolf drawls, gaze catching Moe like flames, a slow conflagration across his flesh, burning his resistance. It curls up and blackens, drifts away to ash, but again, unbelievable and unwanted, Rolf hands him an escape route. ‘Moe needs our help. He’s lost someone, haven’t you, gorgeous? Now, show Rolf and Margo the note, there’s a good homo in training.’
Green edges of thin fabric flutter like wings, play a peep show of pink flesh, stippled with goose bumps. Unmoving in the cold breezes of an eyrie high above the city, she stands, patient as the stone beneath her bare feet, all as unfeeling. Eyes blue, blank, and bright as summer sky sear the horizon, but she’s not looking. Her mind, stretched out to the edges of the world and beyond, hunts for the familiar.
Nothing here is familiar to her except the delight in pain, both curious and unbelievably satisfying. The agony of the nurse, delectable as the memory of candy, is held comforting as a water bottle, warming the chill within. Tendrils of hunger flicker at its edges, like poisonous snakes, tongues fleeting out to taste, to savour. Little mouthfuls. She desires to swallow it whole again, but the nurse is gone, consumed. Not a morsel left.
Compelling, calling, pulling at her, the urge to find more minds to devour, to horde more memory of glorious pain, is unbearable, deranges half her mind with need, but she is unbending. She is a statue built of instinct, determination, will. For out in the heedless spaces, locked in the membranes, there are traces. Vestiges. Clues that will build to a full picture. Tell her what she is, why she wants. She needs to find them, hunt them out.
She needs to remember.
Her mind reels, formless and half-broken without a tether, her skin burns under cold as if it were sun, no less painful were it stripped clean off her bones. The awareness of being lost is sharp as sulphur in the nostrils, biting, stinging, stripping the senses. Anchors are required. Answers. Keys to unlock the mystery she represents to herself, to lock her into this body, into this world. Irina is a nothing, means nothing, holds no significance.
The name is but a collection of letters, meaningless. An aggravation. But like needles buried in muscle, shrouded in veins, the Irina that was hides, uses the letters of her name as tethers to hold on to some form of life. Refuses to let go of this vessel, to abandon it to another. A will-o-the-wisp of soul, is Irina, afraid that this is all there is. That, once gone, she will never be again.
For such as Irina, less than a blink in the eye of time, that much may be true, but this vessel is not for sharing with wisps. It is hers now, and she will build from shadows the memory of who she was, drive Irina into her oblivion. Because of all the things she does not know, there is one thing that she knows for certain, a bright, gleaming kernel of knowledge. It tells her there are others like her, hidden amongst the fringes, the veils, the membranes.
And they, too, have lost their mother.
© Ren Warom 2012