by Mike Brandish
“Here it is, as ordered, Mister Drake. I’m sure you’ll find it to your satisfaction.” The clerk handed the carefully wrapped manila package to the young gentleman on the other side of the counter, that in turn made an embarrassing squeaking sound, that was politely ignored by the salesman. The lad’s eye sparked as he watched the box with a peculiar interest for someone that knew its content. In fact, the old clerk couldn’t grasp what use such artifact could have to a nobleman, especially in such a hurry.
Drake Harper held the box with both hands, feeling its weight with some relief. Passed it to the right hand, sheltering it next to his chest and deposited a generous amount on the count. “I thank your services and I suppose I can count on your discretion.”
Upon verifying the smile of satisfaction in the clerk’s face, the young man turned to the door and went on his way. He barely could wait to arrive at his room. Being of a family of means and status in the city, at each corner he found a familiar face, upon which he nodded or greeted with a few words, or a tip in the hat for the ladies, but kept his conversation short and feet hasty. There was something important to be done and his family name was at stake.
He walked steadily through the square, too focused to pay attention to the children running in circles around the fountain square, laughing and yelling in their play. Until a familiar voice caught his attention.
It was soothing and warm as the vespertine sun that caressed his face, but a thousand times sweeter. In a flash, he turned his head to face her, her alb face covered by a lace veil. He felt his heart beating cheerfully and as full of energy as the kids around her. She illuminated the place and he felt unworthy of admiring her.
Once again the voice floated and he approached. Drake held the small hand covered by a white satin that was offered to him and kissed it, before staring the lady’s emerald eyes. “My dear Felicia, it is always a pleasure to meet you.”
“I must say the same monsieur Drake, although it is a pleasure that becomes scarcest by the day. I would be displeasing you in any way?”
For a moment, the young man forgot all his problems and laughed gladly. “Nothing about you could displease me, madam. Your presence fills me with joy. I’ve just been… weary.” The man really looked pale and bore deep dark rings under his eyes, well covered, but evident to an observant watcher.
“What do you bring over there? I thought only the servants in your house tended the housework. “She said, more curious than inquisitive.
Drake hid the box behind his body with a grin. He wasn’t expecting such question, but could not be indelicate with the lady. She always had genuine interest in him, taking her time in phatic speech, with Drake, who was usually reticent, but seemed to be able to talk for hours with her. Except now.
“Is it a gift?
He did not want to lie, not to her. Neither could he tell the truth. “You could say so.” He finally said, without expressing any happiness. “An appropriate one.”
Felicia’s face glowed with excitement. Her eyes sparking even brighter. “Edward Drake, I didn’t knew you were so mysterious! Can you show me? Promise me you will.”
“If everything goes as planned, I won’t need to.” He sighed.
“I’m sure you won’t be unsettled to walk a lady on her morning stroll.
Drake smiled awkwardly and nodded, offering his arm to the woman. They entwined their arms and started walking towards the noble district. The lady smiled, while Drake only blushed.
“I do like the commercial center, life flows from it in colors, smells and tastes. I specially adore the children, I hope one day to have some of my own. Do they please you, sir?
“Children. Would you like some?
Drake was lost in thought for a moment. “I never thought about them. I don’t think it is possible, in my condition… I think I… must bid you farewell. Thank you for the stroll, milady Felicia.
The lady’s lips opened in an “oh”, but she did not speak, while the lad quickly kissed her hand and went away.
He ran home, now back in his mission. Still holding the mysterious box, he locked himself in the chamber farther away from everyone, ordering his servants to not come close to the door and keep from interrupting him for whatever reason. Only when he found himself certain that his only company was his own image in the mirror on the wall, he placed the package in the solid wooden table in the center of the room.
He noticed a small envelope on the table, engraved with the symbol of his friend’s family, the Doctor Albert Sepherus. He wondered if he should open it. The good doctor was the only man he had confided his secret and still, was incapable to help him. Albert said the procedure was too dangerous and could not live with his friend’s blood on his hand. That he should find another way. The doctor didn’t understand the horror he lived in. No one would. Drake knew he should do it by himself.
He pushed the missive aside and opened the box. He pulled the metallic object from it, holding it with both hands, and started examining it, uncertain of how to proceed. Touching the cold metal with his finger, he felt an acute pain and pulled it back, licking the wound by instinct. The surgical blade was small, but extremely sharp. It felt heavy in his shaking hands.
He knew he should do it somehow. He needed to. He took his hat, alighting it onto the table and breathed heavily. His stomach fell at thinking on what would soon come. He needed to do it. He pulled the tight wig, exposing the wry scalp in an unconceivable shape. Through the mirror on the wall, he saw the deformed face with raging expression looking at him. Never would he get used to such grotesque sighting. There was a malicious intelligence on those squinted eyes, evil expressed by the bizarre childish mouth in the back of his head.
“Da… da.. damned. Dr… Drake.”
The shrill voice was irritating and mismatching, faltering by the difficult breathing of the malformed organs. Each word spilled odious sarcasm, completely aberrative to Harper’s compassionate nature.
In his whole life, he was accompanied by the distorted utterance of the parasite. Yes, for the only function of the abominable being in his body was to make him suffer. The darned cackled at his faults. Screamed and drooled when all he needed was repose. He did not bother dying if it rid the world from such beast. The tormented lad held the scalpel, guiding it menacingly to the thing in his head that flinched at the touch of metal. The gruff voice interposed. “No… you can’t… silence me. If you try… you’ll rem… mooorse.
“Hush, demon. You tormented me for far too long.”
How to excise the iniquity that inhabited his skull? Should he pierce it? Maybe shave the corrupted skin or shred it to pieces?
Drake neared the blade once again and felt the gnarled teeth bite his wrist with full force. A roar escaped his lungs while he hustled his arm away. He managed to get loose and with a mixture of pain and anger, he lunged the knife into the eye of the aberration, who groaned inhumanly. Drake raised the blade again and again he stabbed, and again, and again. Fury blinded his eyes, while blood spurted in a crimson fountain.
Drake couldn’t hear the knocks on the door over the moaning of the he-thing and his own choleric grunting. His arm continued the dreadful work while his senses faded by the loss of blood. Until there was only darkness.
When his eyes opened, hands stained by time were cleaning his face from perspiration. It ached to think and even the faintest light from the candles in the headboard hurt his eyes like the summer sun. The diffuse figure that now stared at him with a relieved smile, motioned to a servant at the door, who went away hastily.
“We thought you’d never wake up again, sir. I’m glad to see you well.”
“How long have I been bedded?”
“I recognized the signs of suicide’s despair in your last letter and came as swith as possible. When I arrived, your servants told me about your orders and I feared for the worst. The door endured several blows before yielding, and I found you ensanguined on the floor with a weak pulse. Luckily the Lord was on your side and I managed to stanch the hemorrhage, but I’m afraid there may be permanent damage hereat.
The doctor’s countenance was harsh, strained by the many years of work as a war field doctor. He had seen greater horrors than aught who passed by his litter. There was no man better qualified to save Drake. The apothecary examined the eyes of his patient, moving his head to the left and to the right.
Drake leaned in the bed, trying to stand, but the pain forced his head down to the pillow again. “Doctor, did anyone learn of my condition? Felicia…”
“No, sir.” He whispered. “I assured myself to not let any menial find out the nature of your illness, and kept her away from your bed, promising you would visit her as soon as your wellness was restored.” The doctor turned his head to Drake and applied gauze soaked with a greenish brown liquid in his wounds. It burned like hellfire. Drake Bit his lips and shut his eyes, not before seeing gaiety in the doctor’s eyes.
“Good. You’re double-taking and I’m afraid you’ll lose your peripheral vision, but I believe you are out of danger. Now rest, my friend.”
The physician gathered his contraptions, thither to the doorstep and stood, turning to the sickly man on the bed. “Mister Harper…”
“Please call me Drake… we are way past formalities.”
“Mister Drake, in all my years, I’ve seen the face of death countless times and danced with her. I’ve seen dismembered man, maimed with bullet holes bigger than a cricket ball in their gut, barely holding their entrails. Cadavers swollen by clots of poisoning, and other atrocities. Took grown men, strong ones, in tears, from the hands of the reaper. I have seen hanged men and suicidals slashing their pulses. These last one, had faces frightened by what expected them in the afterlife, bitter by their weaknesses and sometimes sad by their failures. Bu you, however, seems… happy.”
“Yes, I’m happy. For the first time in my life, I’m free.”
The doctor, who lived in a harbor city a few miles away, came to visit him several times a week. At first, to help him with his sequelaes. In time, consultations became just friendly idle chat with a quick checkup.
With each passing day, Drake’s fear of his malison returning to haunt him became smaller, until it became a belittled shadow, and then, a distant memory, that seemed foolish under the sunlight. The nightmares were constant, always followed by the maniacal laughter and overflowing with blood. However, they were just that, nightmares. His recovery was quick and even though there were nasty scars, regular headaches followed by collapses and pain when he moved his neck too fast, he felt great. Even the constant light sensibility that was challenged daily, never being a reason for Drake to waste a day in the sun.
The encounters with Felicia became more frequent. Strolls in the park soon turned into picnics and nights at the theatre. Arm in arm, and kindness repaid with gracious movements of the fan. Each day, they got more enamored, until their wills could not be veiled.
It was in a picnic in a day of July with a perfectly blue sky that Drake professed his love. The damsel’s eyes could not contain the emotion that overflowed on her delicate face. “Yes.” She answered.
Drake could barely believe it. He decided to tell his friend, the good doctor that saved his life, personally, and ask him to godfather the relation. On that night, the plans danced on Drake’s mind, until he was immersed into deep slumber. At dawn, his servants prepared the chariot. He left before breakfast.
Arriving at his friend’s house, Drake knocked three times. A few seconds passed, slow as eternity for the young man, then the door opened slightly and the face of the doctor appeared. His eyes wide with greater consternation than surprise.
“Hello doctor Albert, I bring good news.
The old man kept the door from opening completely, incapable of moving. “Avaunt, cursed one. We have no business.
“What could I have done to deserve such treatment? At least tell me.”
“This.” The doctor reached his pocket in the coat for a letter and handed it to the young one. The handwriting was hasty and misshapen, with thick awry traces, but still unmistakable. Somehow, he knew it was written by his very own fist. In big letters it spelled:
“I warned idiot Drake not do it. Now, I killed the bitch. You next.
Drake felt the world spin and his sight grew dim. He pushed the door aside with unknown strength, tossing the old man to the ground. In the surgery table in the center of the room, lays a feminine figure with deep knife carvings, her angelical face totally disfigured. Drake held onto her, weeping for his lost love.
His eyes filled with blood. He turned around to find the doctor holding a gun trained at his chest. Drake smirked. His hands moved faster than the doctor could react. He teared the weapon from the doctor’s hand, almost breaking his arm. The doctor felt the pain of the gunshot before hearing the sound and tumbled to the ground like a ragdoll.
Drake heard the sinister voice on the back of his head mocking his agony. The Damned. The demon.
Drake watched cackling while the blood of his friend drained, paired with his sanity.
With a macabre grin, he cocked the gun again, and blew his own head.
Published by Mike Brandish at Shakespir
Copyright 2013 Mike Brandish
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A secret has kept Drake Harper away from 19th century high society and human contact for all his life. Tired of the self imposed isolation, he decides to solve his problem once and for all, even it means his life. But the consequences end up being more macabre than he could imagine.