#1890

“Ah, the ice prince returneth,”

Daren doesn’t reply as he turns to lock the door behind himself. He can feel the weight of Tanim’s gaze as the man watches his every movement, calculating each second in which he neither speaks nor raises his eyes. “Silence,” Tanim’s voice feigns lightness to veil bitterness, but doesn’t succeed. “Of course.” Daren hears the soft ring of crystal on polished stone as Tanim sets down his drink. When he speaks again, his voice is much closer; Daren can smell the alcohol on his breath. “Do you want me at all? In any way? Do you even love me, in whatever fucked up way you can?”

“Stop before you make a fool of yourself,” Daren cautions wearily, moving sideways to put Tanim in his periphery. Undaunted, Tanim mirrors the movement so they face one another. “No,” he replies, half refusal, half entreaty. “No. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of hoping you’ll throw me a scrap of what passes for affection from you.” His voice rises, edged with desperation and fueled by drink. “I’m tired of wondering what keeps you here, and whether the next time you leave will be the last time I ever see you. You give me nothing to hold onto, nothing to make me think I even exist to you most of the time, but then you…” he gestures helplessly, “you flip and suddenly I’m worth something, or at least there’s something I can offer that you actually want. But I can’t predict it and I can’t rely on it, and in between I ache for what I can’t ask for from you, even though there are nights when you give it freely.”

“Tanim, don’t–” Daren’s words are cut off as Tanim interrupts, closing the distance between them, “I don’t forget, you know. I can’t just divorce the person you are every other second of the day from the person you are for just a moment when you admit you want me. Don’t you want me? I’m not crazy. I didn’t make those moments up.” He takes hold of Daren’s wrist with both hands, not painfully but with an intensity he wouldn’t normally dare. His eyes are at once too dull and too bright. “Some part of you wants me. I know it. You know it. Why do you deny it? Why do you deny me?”

“Tanim, stop,” Daren tries to pull his arm away but Tanim’s grip only tightens. Then his hands are locked around both of Daren’s arms, and as he pulls his lover closer his words rush out with a fervor bordering on hysteria. “Some part of you isn’t dead or frozen, I know it, and I know I can reach it if you’d just let me, if you’d just let me in I can–”

Daren doesn’t need to say anything this time; the knife says it for him, pressed point first into the center of Tanim’s chest. He uses its thin, honed edge to force the man back, a wet red stain blossoming through the cloth of Tanim’s shirt. Tanim’s arms fall away as he looks down to the tiny blade buried an inch into his flesh, his expression moving with inebriated delay through confusion, surprise, and understanding. Either the pain or the shock, or perhaps both, serve to clear his head a bit and when he looks back up, his eyes are focused and filled with fear. “Darling,” he lifts one hand as if to touch Daren, a gesture of guilt and regret, but lets it fall just as quickly, “I didn’t- you know I would never-”

“Get out,” Daren’s voice holds none of the trembling emotion of Tanim’s; his words are as cold and precise as the blade in his hand. “Don’t come back until you’re sober.” For a moment Tanim seems to consider arguing, or perhaps pleading for forgiveness, but the dark wall of Daren’s eyes warns him to obey. So instead he takes a step back, leaving the knife between them as if hanging in space, blood dripping from its point to stain the white carpet, and leaves without another word.

Only once the door is closed and Tanim’s footsteps have receded does Daren lower his arm.

#1889

“Tell me where he is!”

“No,”

The fist breaks Daren’s nose this time and smashes the back of his head against the pavement once more. Through the blood streaming down his lips, he smiles up at his interrogator. The man swears impatiently and pulls a hunting knife from his belt.

“Tell me where he is or I’ll gut you,”

“No,”

Daren clenches his teeth as the knife plunges into his stomach, but his smile remains.

“Daren! Daren, wake up… Jonathan, hurry!”

He is still alive when Tanim finds him, but barely. Tanim’s voice rouses him from near-unconsciousness and he offers a paler, much more pained smile to his lover.

“Good, you made it,”

“Only thanks to you. Daren, I told you not to do that! You promised, you said–”

“I lied. What did you expect?”

Daren laughs, not unkindly, at the expression of sorrow and horror on Tanim’s face; the laugh turns into a wet cough, blood bubbling at the corners of his mouth. Tanim has one hand pressed to the knife wound, but even he knows it’s futile. Tanim bows his head.

“I won’t forgive you for this,”

“I didn’t apologize for it,”

By the time Jonathan arrives with the medical supplies, it is too late to do any good.

#1886

Tanim wonders, chasing the fleeting shadow down the long hallway, if Daren even knows where he’s going. The asylum is a multi-floored compound of brightly lit hallways that to the unfamiliar eye all look the same. Can Daren have any idea where the front doors are, when patients are kept shut away so deep within the maze? And even if he does still remember the way out, how will he get past the locked doors on each level and the employees who guard them? Surely he knows escape is impossible. Mad Daren might be, but he isn’t stupid.

Rounding a corner just as Daren flies through an unlocked door and into the stairwell beyond, Tanim stumbles to a stop and stands gasping for breath. He never imagined Daren could run so fast; though then again, he’s never had cause to chase after him, at least not literally. He gives himself a few seconds to catch his breath and check for security guards – none are following as of yet – then resumes the chase. Up two flights of stairs, back into an identical hallway, through countless turns and turnarounds he follows Daren, who remains always a dark figure vanishing around a far corner.

Finally, Tanim turns and finds himself facing a dead-end hallway just as one of its doors slams shut. Straining to calm his racing heart and aching lungs, he begins checking the handles of each door. Most are locked; given the burned out fluorescent bulb in the ceiling, this particular section of the asylum seems to be rarely in use. The doors on the right side of the hall are all locked. On the left side, Tanim meets locked door after locked door until he is almost to the end. The second-to-last handle moves under his hand and he hesitates, certain Daren is inside but uncertain of what the man might do when cornered.

Tanim pulls the door open slowly, expecting perhaps for Daren to rush him and continue his unpredictable flight, but nothing happens. The smell of blood hits him instead, and he pushes the door open wider to let in the hallway’s feeble light. It falls over Daren where he kneels in the shadows, glistening as it strikes the blood coating the man’s face and trickling in a steady waterfall down his neck, shoulder, and chest. In his hands he grips an open pair of scissors, their blades covered in blood; it is these, it seems, which he has used to make the oozing lacerations which crisscross his shaved head.

“I was trying to fix it,” Daren explains, his voice and eyes eerily calm. Tanim tries to speak but finds he has no words. Instead, he kneels down and gently lays his hands over Daren’s bloody fingers to extricate the scissors.

#1885

Lie to me. Say you love me; say you’ll stay. You are a beautiful liar. Lying is an art you have elevated and perfected, and to watch you in action is to listen to the greatest symphony ever written. I have lived all my life among the wealthiest, the most powerful, the most talented and privileged – and yet I have never seen a single person who has mastered their art to such a degree as you. Every lie you offer me is a gift more precious than anything I could give in return. Tell me you forgive me, darling, for being so disappointingly inferior to you. That can be your greatest lie yet.

#1884

To be honest, I, too, am an unreliable narrator. Not that the scribe lies, per se; but her truths are the truths of her subjects. I tell you what I am told. What I am not told, I do not tell. What falsehoods I suspect remain my own and are never uttered. It is not my place to make suppositions, to theorize, to bury certain claims or drag others into the light. We all have our own truths, our own realities; why should my subjects be less worthy in the keeping of theirs than anyone else? Besides, all good stories contain a certain amount of distortion. Where fact may slide into fiction is up to the reader to decide – and every reader has their own truths as well.

#1878

Conversely, there are rare times when he craves confinement, when nothing but the tightest, darkest space can contain the rising hysteria. Thus morning finds him in the unlit bathroom, hunched over on his knees between sink and toilet, hands pressed to his temples as if physically holding in his sanity. It doesn’t make sense for someone like him, who so fiercely guards his freedom and must always have an escape, and yet it does. Even the most crazed, feral beast recalls the safety of the den, even if that instinct is buried beneath years of madness. Like an animal knows to go to ground when injured, so he seeks a place to hide himself away when at his most vulnerable. If he cannot run, if he cannot fight, then he must have somewhere to hide where nothing can possibly reach him.

#1877

Your hunger astounds me, specter. Does it surprise you as well? In my dreams your hunger is bottomless, boundless, a trembling, ravenous craving, a wild thing which can neither be contained nor restrained. With mouth and hands and body you devour him, but no matter how many times you make him yours, it is never enough. You are never sated. You who want nothing, you who need no one, consume him with a desperation that betrays you. Does it frighten you, to learn of what you are capable? Your lover carries shame and guilt in equal burdens, but in you the hunger leaves no room for any other emotion or thought; instinct, the need to covet, to possess, supersedes all else. Worry not, dear ghost. You fear such desire makes you human, but in reality you are still the feral beast dominating and taking what is his.