If you read yesterday’s post you know the predicament I’m in. Yesterday I posted the prologue to La Tiers Du Cylindre, now you can read the prologue to Dream City. You can either read it here or download the PDF here.
Inside her gold cage, the woman sang.
Around her a few candles exhaled a sick, broken light that lingered on the walls, and shadows danced and quivered and mixed with the numbing miasma of sweat, blood and cigars. The air felt dry, harsh, and every time she had to breathe it was as if she rubbed sand paper against the inside of her throat.
A couple of feet away from the cage, the Greek was painting. His hands were numb, his eyes sore, and greasy sweat trickled down his cheeks and neck. In his right hand he held a brush and with every gentle stroke the canvas that faced him slowly turned to life.
Behind him stood the one they called the Baron; one hand on his waist and the other curled on a whip that twisted around his legs like a snake. In the feeble light of the candles, it was as if the whip had turned to life.
The Greek dipped the tip of the brush in his mouth. He realized that his teeth were rattling inside his mouth as if possessed by a consciousness of their own. He gulped, then he pressed the tip of his tongue against some of his teeth and he knew by the way they wobbled that they were going to fall soon. At least some of them. For a moment he glanced at the woman inside the cage, her lips dancing slowly; her curly black hair brushed against her naked shoulders, her red dress wrapped around her body, her sweaty chocolate skin seemed to trap the sick light of the candles and released such a gentle warmth, such a passionate embrace… if only her hands would stop shaking against the bars.
The whip clunked against the floor, shattering the silence.
The woman stepped back until she felt the coolness of the bars on the other side piercing through her skin. She was breathing fast and brokenly, like a fish out of water. Her hands through the bars, she touched the wall behind her. A prison within a prison within a prison. Touching each and every piece of stone, she knew she was safe, she knew that the Baron’s wrath could not touch her there – where her world ended.
“Damn it, woman, sing! Sing!” The Baron sneered. “This is why you’re here.”
The melody once more filled the void inside the room.
“And you, Greek, damn your sick eyes.” The whip curled around the painter’s back. “Paint, damn it, paint!”
The painter fell on his knees.
“Art is born out of suffering,” The Baron said as fresh blood dripped down the painter’s skin. “Cry, my friend, cry, because your tears are going to save the world one day.”
The tears of those who suffer bring comfort to those who can’t, thought the Baron as the Greek groped in the dark for brushes and paints. His hands shaking over the canvas, the Greek began to paint once more. And sluggishly a stifled, bizarre dream sipped into his soul. His life was playing inside his mind, back and forth, back and forth, and he would stop over a certain moment, a tragedy or a little bit of joy, and he would study it intensely. Memories that he thought he had forgotten now appeared to be more vivid than ever. More real than the pain that covered his back. When he was done with the study of his own past, the memories would start to flow once more; a sinuous river of colors, emotions, places and people. And he put paint to canvas, humming the same song as the woman, and thought about his Crete, that distant rock surrounded by water. He could hear the struggling waves, the moon’s luster sending silvery echoes across that infinite expanse of water, fires burning on the beach. Men and women dancing, singing, clapping their hands.
Suspended inside that blurry vision, pain slowly began to dissipate, covered by the waves that embraced the shores of his Crete.
The Baron lulled the same song, his plucky lips moved slowly. He was almost smiling. And he would have smiled, only if it weren’t for the pain in his right leg. A pain that moved from his knee to his waist and then back again, a pain like a strip of fire, a pain that he had grown used to, that he longed for in the moments that it left his body. He and the insidious pain were one. But now it was stronger than ever, he could feel the fire going up and down, faster and faster, eating him whole, devouring his chest in a cascade of rapid heartbeats. Gasping for air, he headed for the stairs. A demon was rattling inside his body, a demon he knew he shouldn’t provoke.
Inside the aching fire that ran across his leg, he could only hear his heart beating, pumping blood through his veins. His eyes darted around the room.
Nothing had changed.
He climbed up the stairs.
Walking down a poorly lit corridor, the Baron resembled an old and lonely bear. His footsteps resonated within walls covered in paintings. From the marbled floor all the way up to the ceiling, beautiful art covered every inch of space. And the light that came in through the small windows spread an insecure mist over all the stifled beauty that covered the walls. The Baron stopped in front of a painting. His favorite, the Dutchman’s best work. A starry night, a frightening moon. With his index finger he touched the Dutchman’s signature and smiled. The more he stared at that painting, at the milky galaxies that curled against the dark sky, the more he hated the night.
He couldn’t remember when exactly, but one day he began to hate himself. He began to hate his destiny. But he knew that all we need to do in order to hate something is to look at it up close. That was why there were no more mirrors inside his house.
Things are never going to be as beautiful as we can imagine them.
The Baron shook his head.
All that is great and precious in this world is not meant to last forever, he thought, but he wanted to cry. He wanted to scream, he wanted to break the small windows that couldn’t stop the night’s insipid glow from infecting the house. Instead, he turned around and walked away.
Once outside, he pressed his hand against his chest and closed his eyes. The freezing air pierced through his black shirt and made him shiver. Gasping for air like a frightened animal, he took a look around: somewhere in the distance tall buildings rose from the darkness, lights punctured the thin veil of the mourning night. Far away, the yellowish tint of artificial light begged for the sun to rise from his grave.
Someone opened and closed the front door. A hideous creature, thin and tall, with elongated limbs, walked around the Baron and stopped in front of him. He was carrying a violin.
“Can’t sleep?” The Baron said and smiled.
The man grinned, revealing bloody gums and a few crooked teeth. Dark rings covered his black as tar eyes. He ran his fingers through his curly, grey hair. “I can never sleep when the moon is missing,” he said.
“Is that so?” The Baron asked incredulously. He took a few steps back and sat on the stairs. He looked at the stars that glittered harsh and cold against the dark sky.
“Let me sing you something! ” The man pleaded and glanced at the Baron with his wolf eyes.
“Sing, Niccolo, sing if this is what pleases you. Sing like you never sang before.”
I will be posting a new chapter of La Tiers Du Cylindre every Friday and a new chapter of Dream City every Saturday for the duration of the campaign.
If you enjoyed this chapter and want to pre-order it or you just want to help a fellow writer out, you can go here.