Hers are a sorceress’ hands, all silver rings and long white fingers. The left wields a saber or a stiletto or a pistol, whichever the moment calls for. The right once held a hook, but now arm and metal have melded into something black and many-clawed. Her hands are a book of shadows made flesh; they raise whirlwinds, call forth lightning, summon rain and ravens and monstrous things from the deep. Just as easily, though, do they steer a ship or climb rigging, lower sails and raise anchors, get dirty and bloody. Her hands weren’t meant for an exile’s life – they should know only the touch of silk and velvet, they should be adorned with delicate jewels – yet they serve her admirably. With her right hand she tears the light from the sky, and with the left she raises herself up a queen of wrath and ruin.
His are a sick man’s hands, slender and pale. In another life they might have belonged to a pianist or a violinist, but instead they belong to someone who cares not for beauty or creation. His hands prefer knives, small and sharp, though broken glass or shards of metal will do; it is the edge that counts, and speed. His hands make every movement a dance, whether lighting a cigarette or wiping blood from his mouth, and they might be beautiful if they did not seem so strangely menacing. After all, these hands remember IVs and wrist restraints, locked doors and starched sheets. These hands remember forced captivity and are ready always to attack or defend, fight or flee, to do what they must to retain precious freedom. His hands might shake with cold or ache from old wounds, but they know where and how to plunge the blade and they will be steady when the time comes.
His are a rich man’s hands, smooth and strong. His fingers could knot a tie in the dark and discern Armani from Prada from Dolce and Gabbana with just a touch. Crystal decanters, gold watches, diamond cufflinks, his hands have held and discarded more fortunes than most will see in a lifetime. These hands served him well in the world of blue blood and white teeth, where a firm handshake might speak more clearly than words. Having left that world behind, these steady, capable hands have learned to wield a syringe with care and how to make a stranger climax in a dirty restroom. His hands never cared for the money and riches that passed through them, but they strip clothing and grasp flesh with the hungry strength of the addict. So, too, do they twist hair in misery, hurl glasses in anger, light cigarette after cigarette until the ashtray is full and the bottle is empty.
I fight the desire to find some hidden hole in which to die, but it becomes harder every day. I made that choice once and he found me anyway, just this side of in-time, and look what that got me. He’d turn the whole city upside down searching for me if I did it again, and so would do me no good. But still my animal instincts urge me to hide somewhere, anywhere; in the closet or the bathroom, beneath the bed, on the roof, in the fucking walls if possible. Death is a private thing, and having been born alone and lived alone, I would prefer to go out the same way. There is nothing romantic about dying in your lover’s arms, of that I can assure you. Better to die alone and save them the misery of the aftermath, and yourself the guilt of leaving.
I pray you never know what your lover looks like curled up on the bathroom tile, trembling and covered in a cold sweat. I pray you never know what his voice sounds like scraped raw and coated in blood. I pray you never know what his cracked lips taste like or how erratically his heart beats beneath his pale skin. I pray you never know the urge to cut out your tongue and eyes, scrape off your skin and mutilate your ears, anything to stop seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling the end as it approaches.
I have swallowed you down so many times, it is a wonder your seed has not taken root within me. I can almost feel it buried within the meat of my left breast, though, nestled safely behind the wall of my ribcage where it may grow in peace. Perhaps that strange twisting sensation I sometimes feel is the first little tendril breaking forth from its shell, tasting and testing the red soil of its birth. Soon its vines will go creeping through my flesh and wind around my ribs like ivy on a trellis. I wonder what manner of night-blooming flowers will push their buds out my eyes, or strange fruits ripen alongside my warm organs? I hope, should that day come, you will cut me open and reap your beautiful harvest.
They have forgotten much about her since she first came to the island. How she did not wash up on the beach, like so many others, but walked straight out of the waves like a queen from her throne. How when she arrived her hair had been so long it trailed on the ground, and she cut it only later when she took up ship and hook. How she told them what she was called, in other lands, but they gave her the name she bears now. How she had never been young, there on that island of perpetual youth, and thus had never truly belonged. How she had not needed the island – not its promises of friendship and family, safety and solace, redemption and rebirth – and therefore she saw through its glamours to the bare bones beneath. They have forgotten these things, and imagine her story to be like all the others’. Yet she needed no home, she wanted no king, and if any had asked the cards they would have foretold her arrival in crumbling towers and falling swords.