Fenrir didn’t ask to be born a monster. He didn’t ask to be feared because he bore claws and fangs and a hunger deep as the sea. He did not bite the hand that fed him; he bit the hand that betrayed him. If you are told from the womb that you are a beast, how can they expect you to grow to be anything else?
Tell me, my fickle gods of ink and steel, are you satisfied with this offering? Have I bled enough to please you, wavered on the edge of unconsciousness long enough to appease you? Are you honored by the brands, unalterable and permanent, that mark me as yours? Tears are precious, and plenty have I shed for you, but blood is the stuff of life. You know blood. You respect blood. That’s your language, after all. See? I can learn to speak it, too. I will become your Rosetta Stone written in red and black.
The scene opens on a dim yet inviting bar. There are several other patrons and parties, though they keep to themselves in booths or tables on the periphery. No one yet sits at the bar counter, behind which a handsome young man polishes glasses in between taking drink orders. The shared single gender of the clientele reveals the theme of the bar, though nothing else about the tasteful yet understated room betrays their common preference.
Tanim enters and makes his way straight to the bar, slumping down on a stool with his chin propped on one hand. With a self-deprecating eye roll, he grumbles, “If there’s a prize for rotten judgement, I guess I’ve already won that. No man is worth the aggravation; that’s ancient history, been there, done that.”
The bartender sets a glass of whiskey down in front of Tanim with a disbelieving raise of his eyebrows. He’s heard this from Tanim before, for weeks in fact; the man’s a broken record. “Who do you think you’re kidding?” he replies with a hand to his hip for emphasis. “He’s the earth and heaven to you. Try to keep it hidden? Honey, I can see right through you! You can’t conceal it. I know how you feel and who you’re thinking of.”
Tanim grabs his drink and turns on the stool to avoid the bartender’s knowing smile. “No chance, no way, I won’t say it, no.” He sips the drink with a grimace and stubbornly avoids the others eyes. The bartender shrugs and goes back to polishing glasses, pretending not to notice Tanim’s brooding. Over the polishing cloth he prods, “You swoon, you sigh, why deny it?”
“It’s too cliche! I won’t say I’m in love,” Tanim sighs and stares down into his glass. “I thought my heart had learned its lesson. It feels so good when you start out. My head is screaming ‘get a grip, man, unless you’re dying to cry your heart out!’” He slams the glass onto the counter, causing amber liquid to slosh up the sides.
“You keep on denying who you are and how you’re feeling – baby, I’m not buying,” The bartender leans over the counter, ostensibly to wipe up the spilled drops, but instead keeps pestering Tanim with a grin. “I saw you hit the ceiling. Face it like a grown-up; when are you going to own up that you’ve got it bad?”
“No chance, no way,” Tanim throws up his hand to block the bartender’s obnoxious smile. “I won’t say it.”
“Give up, give in, check the grin,” the other man pulls Tanim’s arm down, “you’re in love.” Tanim yanks his arm free with a scowl, growling, “This scene won’t play.” He swallows down the remains of his drink and shakes his head vehemently. “I won’t say I’m in love.”
“You’re doing flips. Read my lips,” the bartender cups his hands around his mouth like a megaphone, “you’re in love!”
“You’re way off base, I won’t say it,” Seeing the bartender start to open his mouth to reply, Tanim snaps, “Get off my case, I won’t say it!” The bartender chuckles and holds up his hands in mock defeat. They both shut up and glance over as the door opens on a slender man dressed all in black, his white hair sparkling with raindrops. Tanim pales, then blushes profusely and turns away before the man can catch him staring. “Don’t be proud, it’s okay,” the bartender stage-whispers as he pours Tanim another drink, “you’re in love.”
“Oh…” Tanim heaves a weary sigh as he accepts the drink and gives in with the smallest of smiles. He tries his best not to look around for the other man. “At least out loud, I won’t say I’m in… love.”
[ Remember the time I wrote a Tanim/Daren scene using lyrics from a Muppet Treasure Island song? Yeah, had to do another since I’ve been listening to the Hercules soundtrack so much… ]
Some writers, I suppose, are like servants; silently observing the scene, forgotten by the players yet privy to every word, every gesture, every glance. Others, I think, must be like cherished confidants, offered secrets and motives in tidbits, gossip passed behind cupped hands. Still others, possibly, are like detectives, piecing together a story based on clues left behind; or like interviewers, prompting with leading questions a whole life to unfold in exposition. What, then, am I, who am none of those things? I am allowed entry to the innermost chambers, my presence noted yet never acknowledged, to stand as silent witness – or is it silent accomplice? I do not interfere; I do not persuade or dissuade; I do not approve or disapprove. Yet I am there, the necessary third, eyes wide, ears open, mouth closed. I am the scribe, who writes yet cannot alter the story. I am the scribe, who witnesses and records all.
[ The video opens on a well-dressed Tanim slumped in a computer chair, a tumbler of whiskey held loosely in one hand and a half-burned cigarette sitting on an ashtray on the desk in front of him. His chin rests in his other hand, elbow propped up on the arm of the chair. The room behind him is opulently bland with undecorated walls and dark wood furniture. ]
This is a waste of time. God, I’m pathetic. (lifts head to look at camera) Really? I’m so lonely I’m trying to take comfort from the impossible chance that someone somewhere might someday watch this video? (shakes head and looks away again) Fuck.
(is silent for a moment, then resumes speaking in a softer tone)
It’s just… it’s weird, you know, realizing you haven’t spoken out loud in hours or days. (glances back to camera, smiling wryly) It’s not like the men I meet are exactly the chatty type, or like we’re doing the kind of things that encourage small talk. Everything you need to communicate can be done so through eye contact or gestures or physical force. Words are meaningless. (grimaces) Unwanted, really.
(sipping his drink, he stares at the cigarette but doesn’t touch it)
It’s enough to make you go crazy after a while. You feel like you’re mute; you forget you even have a voice. (looks to camera) Are you still human if you don’t have a voice? If you don’t use language? (snorts bitterly) I don’t feel human. I just feel like a beast.
(another pause, another sip, eyes on the half empty glass)
I don’t know what I expected. I guess I didn’t think it would be this hard. I spent so much of my life parroting words I didn’t give a shit about, I thought the freedom to be silent would be a relief. (flashes camera a sad smile) And it was, for a while. For years. But now it’s silence that’s starting to feel like a cage, not speech. (laughs and shakes head) I think if Death Himself showed up here, I’d pour Him a drink and ask if He didn’t mind sitting and talking a while before we left. (shrugs and sloshes the liquid around in his glass) I don’t know. Maybe I should get a cat or something. Something demanding and aloof to pour all my useless affection into.
(throws back the last of his drink and scowls at the camera)
Right. Fuck. Whatever.
[ Tanim rises wearily to his feet, grinds the cigarette into the ashtray, and shuts off the webcam. ]
[ The video opens on a room so dark nothing can be seen outside the harsh glow of the computer screen. Sitting in that glow, Daren seems another part of the darkness in the black shirt which covers him to the neck and wrists. Set against that darkness, his skin glows ghostly white. He stares absently off to the side as if he has not noticed the webcam records him. ]
I know what you’re doing. (speaking softly, as if to himself) I told you not to, and yet you persist. You are truly a foolish man.
(sighs and turns to face the screen, looking directly into the camera)
I know you’re here. I can feel you, somewhere in this city. I wonder what you do to pass the time? Do you wander these foreign streets in the hopes of sighting me in the crowd, or finding me in some back alley? Or do you lose yourself in drink and danger, hoping I’ll come to collect you before one of your nightly paramours goes too far?
(lifts his right hand into view, dropping his eyes to watch the little silver blade he weaves between his fingers)
I won’t come, you know. Not tonight, not tomorrow night, or any other night after those. I am not coming. You can’t seem to grasp that concept, which is a pity. You know me. You know I don’t change my mind once I have decided. And this is decided. I am not coming
(turns his eyes back to the camera, lips thinned in the barest scowl)
So instead, you came to me. That wasn’t the agreement. That’s not how this works. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough on our parting? But your scars should serve as a reminder if your memory fails. (thoughtfully, eyes on the blade again) Not that you can forget me, can you? I’m not an unkind man, though, so I’ll give you one more warning.
(snaps the blade shut and leans toward the camera)
Go home, Tanim. I am not yours to pursue. I left you alive once; I will not again. It would be best to remember that. After all, I keep my promises – even if you do not.
[ Daren rises to his feet and one white hand moves to shut off the webcam. The video ends. ]
[ The video opens on a smiling Mage seated in a computer chair, her feet propped up on the desk in front of her, fingers steepled beneath her chin. She sits too close to the computer screen for much of the dark room behind her to be glimpsed, but the shadowed items resemble the expected; weapons, armor, occult objects, and monsters that may or may not really be there. ]
Hello, friends. (wiggling fingers at the screen in greeting) You are, I expect, surprised to see me here. It’s true I usually favor more…indirect… means of communication, but this seems best for the task at hand. You see, (frowning) I believe there have been some misconceptions as to my motives in our past interactions, though I of course (placing hand on heart) take all the blame for the confusion.
(lowers legs and leans closer to the screen)
It’s not that we aren’t friends, or that I don’t like you. I do, really. You’re good people, even if you do have awful taste in music. It’s just… (gesturing vaguely at the computer screen) all this? It’s not tenable. I mean, Peter Pan, really? Is that really the fairy tale you want to emulate? The one with the gang of emotionally-stunted anarchist children lead by a predator who brainwashes kids into leaving their loving families to go die for the sake of his personal vendetta?
(mouths “wow” with clear skepticism, then sighs abruptly and gives the screen a sympathetic look)
Look, I get it. I had family problems too. Mother out of the picture, father who just didn’t understand me… it’s practically a cliche. But do you see me whining about how I never got a real childhood and was thrown out into the cold, harsh wilderness to fend for myself? No, (jabbing her finger at the screen) because I’m not a pussy. I didn’t wallow in misfortune, I used it to my advantage! I struck out on my own and made something of myself. A pretty impressive something, too (pointing with both hands to her body appreciatively). So don’t think I don’t understand. I’ve been there, too. I’m not doing this because I hate you. I’m doing this because, well…
(shrugs and throws up her hands as if helpless)
Your little fantasy world has to be destroyed. It’s nothing personal, that’s just the way things are. (waves hand at the computer screen, shaking her head) This world full of fairy dust and fireworks and free hugs and shit, it can’t be allowed to remain. (pointing offscreen) There’s a real world out there that you have to face one day, one full of concrete and pain and growing up–
–and I’ve been chosen to show you that world. To plunge you kicking and screaming into it, if I have to. But no hard feelings, right? After all, every story has to have a villain. Aren’t you lucky I’m yours?
[ Mage winks and leans forward to switch off the webcam. The video ends. ]