Ghost

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So overjoyed by the news of his estranged daughter’s return that Lord William Bloodworth failed to ask the reason for Helen’s sudden change of heart. It had been almost a year since that fateful evening, after which he had not gotten a single word from his beloved daughter. Only recently had he received a telegraph saying that she had returned to London and wanted to stay for a while, perhaps a few months. William was more than pleased to receive her; this was, after all, the house where she had grown up. After his death, which he suspected would come in a few years’ time, perhaps even less, this manor would lawfully belong to her, together with his lands and title.

And so overjoyed by her presence that William could not bring himself to question the father of the child in her womb, soon to be brought to this world. Whosever it was, he reminded himself again and again in the silence of the evenings, watching Helen reading a book or dozing on the rocking chair by the fireplace, it was his daughter’s flesh and blood and thus, his own flesh and blood. He would give it the world once it was born, as he had given its mother. Helen would forgive him eventually, speak to him, and they would be a happy family, the three of them, once again.

Her child’s birth was due a week after her return, on a stormy night. Lord William Bloodworth paced anxiously outside the room, lighting cigarette after cigarette as he listened to Helen’s heart-wrenching cries on the other side of the wall. Time seemed to turn back to the night Helen had arrived to this world, also a stormy and thunderous like this night. For the second time in his long life the relatively atheistic nobleman sent a prayer to God.

The wails of the baby were heavenly music in William’s ears. Outside the room, the old man burst into tears.

It was a boy, a beautiful boy with large, black eyes like polished obsidian. William felt love for this little angel the moment he saw his image reflected in those mirror-like eyes.

He had come up with a thousand names for his lovely grandson; however, the one that Helen chose was never on that list. He had thought he would never hear that name again in the rest of his life. How devastatingly wrong he was.

“Adrian Augustine,” Helen nonchalantly uttered the name as she hugged her wailing son to her bosoms, “his name is Adrian Augustine Bloodworth.”

These were also the first words she had spoken to him upon her return. His beautiful Helen, cold and mute as the idol of Mary in the church.

“Ad–Adrian Augustine?” William stammered, holding onto a sliver of hope that his old ears had deceived him.

“Yes, Adrian Augustine.” Unabashed, she opened her blouse, baring her round, full breasts to her father’s eyes. The baby’s little mouth instantly latched on her, hungry for the sweet milk she had to offer.

William averted his gaze.

“Why, Helen? Why such a name? Certainly there’s a plethora of names–”

“Because ‘Adrian Augustine’ is my son’s father’s name.”

The ground beneath Lord William Bloodworth’s feet crumpled.

The next time Lord William Bloodworth got to see his daughter and grandson, it was six years later.

Five months after the child’s birth, Helen left the manor no matter how William had begged her to stay. “He isn’t welcomed here,” said Helen, standing at the door. How picturesque they were, the beautiful young mother holding her beautiful baby in her arms. How pale they looked under the electric light, pale like marble and just as cold. Each of her words a painful stab to his aging heart. Her voice speaking to him in their scarce conversations was never less than cold, her eyes regarding him colder still. They only became softer, affectionate, and loving when laying upon her son, a truth William soon learned with bitterness. Her son with Adrian Augustine.

Even in death did that depraved fiend torture him. Snatched away what he loved more than life.

“I will love him,” he promised. “I will love him with all my heart. If only you give me a chance…”

“No, you won’t.” She shook her head. “The only thing you can give him will be hatred and contempt.”

And they both knew her curt words were the truth while his was only a lie. Had Lord William never known the child’s father, or had he been someone else’s son, a lawyer’s, a soldier’s, a merchant’s, even a thief’s, he would love his grandson dearly. Give him the world if he could. Perhaps God was punishing him for his life-long practice of atheism, and what was a more cruel punishment than making his grandson the child of Adrian Augustine?

Deep down inside, Lord William Bloodworth had always known. He had suspected, of course, the moment he saw her stepping down the coach, her voluminous clothes failing to hide her maternal figure. He was old, not stupid, and he had been there to witness their disastrous romance. Risked all he could have to destroy it. Still he had placed his hope on a thin chance that Helen’s child had been some other man’s other than the one whose name caused him constant pain and wrath. Having his daughter admitted to him only had proven his foolishness.

Helen and the baby were gone the next morning, and Lord William Bloodworth’s manor was cold and empty once more. Cold and empty as the tomb in his heart.

Throughout the years he had been hearing news about his daughter. She had come to the New World they said – hadn’t she always wanted to fly there and leave the Old World behind? New Orleans, he heard from his many friends and acquaintances, a beautiful French city where she had settled and might have married the current Governor. Perhaps not. Perhaps she had established her own business and thrived. Such a successful young woman. All rumors and never a letter, never a word from her.

That summer his sister Agatha passed away, and thanks to that (he was not delighted by her death in the least), he had a chance to see Helen again. Before her marriage to a duke half a country away, Agatha had always been close to her niece, and remained close after. Every summer she would have come to London to pay her brother a visit, bearing all sorts of country presents for her favorite and only niece. Half the globe away (if the rumor about her living in New Orleans was true) and somehow Helen had got the news and returned just in time to bid farewell to deer old Agatha. She looked young, possibly younger than he remembered her – an obvious sign of his failing memory – and extremely gorgeous even in the high-collar grim black dress and black veil. Motherhood had become her. Glued to her side was a beautiful little boy that arose many a question from those attending the funeral.

How time flew, Lord William thought, watching the mother and son from afar – something blocked him from coming to her and hugging her so tightly she would feel his ache for her. All the years passed only deepened the wedge between them, already too late to try to fix. He heard the guests speak to one another.

“Don’t they make a most charming picture?” one lady asked.

“Lord Bloodworth’s daughter, isn’t it? God, it is as if time has never touched her!” another remarked.

“She hasn’t got married, has she? That would make the boy illegitimate. A bastard!”

“Shush, lower your voice, they might hear! I heard due to this the father and daughter have been estranged for years. She was even willing to forfeit her title and inheritance! Lord Bloodworth must have been furious.”

“I wonder who fathered that son of hers. What sort of man was he to be able to turn her against Lord Bloodworth?”

“The boy’s father passed away years ago. Adrian Augustine or so I heard.”

A few audible gasps.

“It couldn’t have been that ‘Adrian Augustine’!”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, there was a prodigal violinist by that name about ten years ago. His music was so godly they said he had bargained his soul to the devil. Could he have begot Lord Bloodworth’s grandson?”

“Now that you talk about it, I do remember seeing that man once or twice. God forbid such a face! Who could blame her for falling for a man with the face of Adonis?”

“A shame Adrian Augustine died before the boy was born. Got his throat slit by a madman during his farewell performance. Caused a real ruckus back then…”

“God, that’s awful! No wonder Helen Bloodworth never speaks a word about her child’s father. Poor thing…”

Anger of an unknown cause swelled in his heart, threatening to burst his chest open. He wanted to scream at them to shut the bloody up, all their seemingly harmless gossips that felt like buzzing bees with tiny pricks in his ears. They hurt his head, made tears hot on his cloudy eyes. They tormented him, reminded him of the hideous truth about the boy’s parentage. An abomination. An unforgivable sin. He wanted to lash out at them with his sharp-witted sarcasm and cruel words like Lord William Bloodworth-minus-”the old” used to. Shamed them until their heavily powdered faces turned scarlet, their lips sewn and they scattered away like scared ducks. How good it would feel. But he did neither scream nor lash out, because if somehow the years had not sapped his courage, his ceaseless coughs surely had. So he stood with his back against the stone wall, his cane in hand, chest heaving heavily as he tried to swallow his rage in silence like every other old man of his age. How time flew…

It took much persuasion from the relatives and friends for Helen to change her mind and agreed to stay with her father – the poor, lonely old man who missed his daughter sickly – until she returned to America. That was her home now, she added while her eyes were focus on him as though the words were meant for him alone. Just when his daughter had learn of cruelty? Had the New World taught her so?

The boy’s black eyes sparked with joyous warm upon the idea, a stark contrast to his mother’s cold ones.

It was when the three of them were seated on the dining table, him on one side while Helen and the boy on the other, that Lord William Bloodworth had the chance and courage to study the face of his grandson. On first look one would not doubt the boy was Helen’s: the resemblance was seeable in their raven hair, delicate features and milky skin. In her green adolescence Helen used to pride herself on her look. “Gives me an air of mystique,” she said, like the moon while around her there was abundance of sun in golden hair and rosy cheeks. She was one of a few who possessed pale complexion but never gave a sickly impression, and this trait was inherited in her child.

But…

When he dared look closer, there were certain nuances that distinguished the boy from Helen. His eyes, for instance, were so dark that they reflected light while Helen’s were a pale blue. The mole under his right eye like a small tear. The particular curve of his lips when he smiled. All were pieces of a picture that once William finished putting together would present a familiar portrait. The face of the devil which haunted him day and night. Once he had come to such realization, he could not help seeing the boy at none other than the fiend that had spawned him. Like father, like son. Before he even noticed, the boy would reach adulthood and become the second Adrian Augustine. Such toxic thoughts poisoned him, worn him out, and he felt acutely the effect of time in every marrow of his old bones.

“Let’s retire for the evening,” he told Helen. “I had the servants prepared the rooms for you. Your original room at the east wing and–”

“Adrian will sleep in my room.”

“He’s old enough to sleep in his own room, Helen. You can’t coddle him like a baby forever.”

Helen caressed the top of her son’s head. “Can I?”

He tried to quench the uneasy feeling in his throat by the ever-growing affection in the way she looked at the boy. Something was not right. “He’s growing up, Helen, and sooner or later you have to let him out of your wing. Allow him to decide on his own for a chance.”

“Do you not want to sleep with me tonight, Adrian darling?” She asked teasingly.

“I want to sleep with Helen,” said the boy.

And the queasiness in William’s stomach grew tenfold at the particular manner in which the boy articulated Helen’s name. Adrian Augustine used to pronounce her name precisely the same, with the first vowel slightly longer and more stressed than usual. How that demon had loved to taunt him using his daughter’s name.

“Why is he not talking to me? Is he angry with me?” the boy asked.

“No, he is not. He is just bone-tired by all the things today. No one is angry with you, darling.”

“Should we call a doctor then?”

“That’s not necessary,” William said, waving his hands. “I only need a rest. Goodnight to the both of you.”

He swore he could feel the boy’s eyes on him even as Helen led him out of the dining room.

Lord William Bloodworth feared that he was going insane. Everything about Helen’s son reminded him of Adrian Augustine, his cockney accent even though he was living in America, his mannerisms, his countenance, as though he was not only the child of Adrian Augustine, he was Adrian Augustine. Atheistic as he was, William had never believed in God and Devil, in soul and reincarnation. Yet Adrian had proven otherwise. He had proven to him that the devil existed amongst humans – the myriad sins of his debauched lifestyle manifested in a bloody, devastating tornado that swept in those he had had eyes on – men and women – ravaged them until there was nothing left of those poor unfortunate souls but an empty, tarnished self. He might have proven to William that the devil was not so easily vanquished and that he might have already returned.

For what purpose? To relive his sinful life? To take revenge on William, torment him? To destroy him? Or to execute a grander, more sinister scheme?

Every night since Helen’s return he lay awake on his bed, thinking about Adrian Augustine, past, present and future. Fear grew in his senile heart, gnawing him like the great vulture that ever fed on the undying Prometheus’s liver. Fear bred paranoia and every time his eyes laid on the boy, the ‘Adrian Augustine’ of this life, he could not help visualizing those small hands wrapping around his throats, or holding a gleaming knife. He could not help imagining his throat slit by that same knife, his blood flowing like a fountain while the little angelic face retained its pure, innocent smile.

Thus, the deeper Lord William delved into his paranoia and many a scenario of Adrian Augustine’s taking his vengeance, the more slippery his promise to Helen became. How could he find in his heart a sliver of love for one who could have been the cause of his doom? Who had already robbed him of Helen’s love, and replaced it with cool animosity?

Lord William’s torments did not last long however, because roughly a month later, Helen took her son back to America, leaving him a lonely old man, who perhaps was finally at peace. Their leave would happen after a few sporadic events that had happened in their stay, which served to further cement William’s belief that there was something awfully wrong with the boy ‘Adrian Augustine’.

I.  Cigarette from Cairo

It was one of the lazy afternoons when William loved to spend on his favorite armchair in his library, perhaps reading a book, contemplating the time gone by or simply dozing. Helen had departed early in the morning to pay a visit to her friend, leaving her son at home. When William stepped in, he found the boy sitting in a far corner, absorbed in some book he had taken from one of the many shelves. He seemed to be quite bookish, such was William’s observation and though being in the same room with Adrian Augustine’s child was not the most pleasant, William also did his best to not appear that he was avoiding the boy. He found small comfort in the fact that the child was a silent company; he did not think he could handle a naughty one running around the manor screaming and causing all sorts of mayhem. Perhaps years ago he might fancy a livelier child, but the William of present was, in his own description, a pitiful bag of old bones that loved nothing more than peace and quietness. Not the best of grandfather, he knew, and could not help it.

If there was one thing old age had not robbed from him, it was his long-term affair with the nicotine. Even when he was young, he did not have the best of lungs; when time weighted on him, so it did his lungs. William could not recall how many times his doctor had advised him to give up smoking, and how many times he had deliberately ignored such thoughtful advice when reaching into his pocket for his silver cigarette case. He remembered giving Adrian Augustine one such case, with his name beautifully engraved on it. They had found that case inside his jacket the night he was murdered. He had kept it all this time even when their relationship had taken a stale turn. An ironic memento.

Nicotine was poison, and the first inhale never failed to result in a string of painful coughs. His face dyed scarlet as tears cornered around his eyes.

“Are you alright, William? Shall I ring Frances?”

The boy’s face was blurry through a veil of tear, constructing an illusion of a young man’s. Of Adrian Augustine’s. His heart skipped a beat.

The boy had abandoned his book and crawled next to his legs.

“It’s ‘grandfather’,” he weakly chided the boy. His wrinkled hand went to his chest, trying to sooth the pain as well as his frantic heart. “Also, call your mother ‘mother’, not her name.”

The boy stared at him with huge, black eyes as though trying to process what he had been told, and failed. “Why can I not call her by her name, and you by yours?”

“Because it’s not appropriate!” William said, exasperated. What were they educating children in America?

“They are imported from Cairo, are they not?”

“What?”

“These,” the boy said, pointing at the cigarettes in the case.

William’s bushy eyebrows furrowed. “How could you know?” he stammered, baffled. Never did he imagine a six-year-old could tell the origin of a cigarette brand by look and smell alone. He serious doubted his daughter would ever teach her son such matter.

“But it is true, right? That they are from Cairo?”

His beaming face seemed to gather all the sunlight of the late summer afternoon outside the library. Its shine hurt William’s eyes.

Lord William Bloodworth nodded, mechanically. His withering memory remembered hearing the same question years ago, spoken in a sonorous voice. The voice of Adrian Augustine.

Adrian Augustine’s admirers only knew his violin was heavenly; not many knew his singing was not any less.

“What’s from Cairo? Care to tell me?” A female voice was heard by the entrance. Helen had returned, and she was leaning against the window, basking in the sun. William found himself not blinking. So beautiful was she that wherever she stood, everything else, including the bouquet of red roses in her arms, seemed dull, monotonic while she became the most vivid color in the picture, the same as her son’s smile would gather all the afternoon’s sun to himself. Perhaps it was her make-up, perhaps it was her voguish black dress that closely hugged her form, or the manner in which she carried herself that no one could imagine she were already in her thirties, and mother to a six-year-old. Soon as she was back to London, her suitors had been lining up outside their manor and filling their chambers with exquisite flowers and expensive gifts. Still, at times when he looked at her, Lord William could hardly recognize his daughter, his Helen whom had raised from birth. A stranger, though mesmerizing, remained a stranger still.

This was one such occasion.

“Helen!” the boy cried with excitement. He rushed to her side, squeezing her body with all the strange a six-year-old could muster. Helen’s ice mask thawed instantly as she kneeled down and kissed his pale cheeks until they turned cherry. “Were you a good boy when I was out?”

The boy nodded. “William’s cigarettes come from Cairo.”

“Precisely,” Helen drawled. “Cairo has the best cigarettes in the world.”

“Did you teach him about cigarette brand?”

“No. I no longer smoke, as you see. But my boy–”

She paused midway to caress her son’s head. “–he seems to know a lot of things on his own. He surprises me sometimes.”

“Does it not strike you as… strange?”

“’Strange’ isn’t a nice word for a child, father. Besides, aren’t we all proud to have an intelligent child of our flesh and blood?”

“Flesh and blood” the two words struck William hard. Helen’s flesh and blood. Adrian Augustine’s flesh and blood.

What could a monster have created but another monster under beautiful skin?

“Helen, William has a beautiful silver case. Can I have one, too? With my name engraved on it?”

Helen’s laughter was like silver bell. “So that you can smoke at the age of six?”

The boy’s cherry lips pursed in an indignant line. “But it is beautiful,” he insisted, “please, Helen.”

“If you are a good boy and ask your grandfather nicely, maybe, just maybe you can have one.” Turning to William, she asked, “Can he, father?”

“Please, Wil… no, grandfather,” the boy pled. “I will be a good boy. Very, very good.”

His huge, expressive black eyes of Adrian Augustine would be the dead of William. Could he ever say ‘no’ to them?

Before long, the nobleman found himself handing his grandson a silver case with the name ‘Adrian Augustine’ carved on it. The boy beamed happily at him when he received the gift and William could not deny he had seen the former Adrian Augustine smiling at him.

How, in the depth of his cold, lonely nights, had he had wished to see that particular smile again, even just once.

II. For My Beloved Helen

Lord William Bloodworth was walking through a long corridor. His feet were bare, and his sleeping robe clung slickly to his skin as a result of a nightmare. Of jumbled images of a gleaming knife, a slit throat and the maniac laughter of a madman. The music had broken the dream’s spell, and once he was done catching his breath and steadying his heartbeat, he left his bed to find its source.

The music came from the room at the end of the long corridor. It was the Music Chamber, the name having come to being by a seven-year-old Helen, where the nobleman stored the grand piano and other musical instruments he had gathered over the years. Helen used to play the piano there every Sunday morning and sometimes in the afternoon, before she turned sixteen and decided to spread her wings. This was the thirteenth year since she had left this manor and during that time although Lord William Bloodworth had always instructed the maids to keep the chamber free of dust, he himself had not stepped inside it. He barely remembered how it looked now.

The wall of the corridor was ornamented with various paintings. William was an ardent collector in his younger days – from musical instruments to sculptures and paintings… If he had even the slightest interest in them, he would get them at all cost. This vast manor was the house to his treasured collections and this was where he showcased his paintings, the majority of which were portraits of countless people. Some of them were well-known historical figures while others were mere obscure faces of the stern Londoners from all walks of life. As he took slow, barefooted steps down the length of the corridor, he had a distinct feeling that all the visages painted from colored pigments became real. Not just their faces though, soon their bodies gathered flesh and they crawled out of their framed canvases to crowd the empty corridor. Gentlemen and ladies in elaborate wigs and fancy frills engaged in conversations – the gentlemen debating politics in boisterous loud voices while the ladies whispering gossips to one another behind their fans, their raucous laughter filling the space as their cigarette and brandy filling Lord William Bloodworth’s nose. The deserted corridor in a lord’s manor became the waiting parlor in a common theater house, he thought. Such a place reminded him of one particular man. Talented as he had been, Adrian Augustine had never fancied the large orchestral houses. It was in common theater houses such as this, where the aristocrats mingled indiscriminately with the folks, that he thrived, playing his demonic music and enchanting many a tender heart in a single night and trampling then when the twilight came. How William had watched the cycle repeat.

The moment William put his hand on the handle and twisted the knob, all chattering and laughter was vanquished by the song behind the door. He briefly closed his eyes and opened them again, expecting to witness a lean figure clad in pristine white. His raven hair fell to his shoulders in tendrils like ink on white cloth, his obsidian eyes half-closed, thick lashes like dark butterfly wings casting two faint shadows on pale cheeks, and he was swaying gently to the divine music from his violin. A devil at heart, but an angel in his looks and his art, that was the paradox of Adrian Augustine. Tonight he was playing a new piece that he had claimed to write in his smoldering passion for his ‘beloved’; he had pronounced neither the name of the music nor his lover’s, making a promise to divulge them both at the end of his performance. He had never managed to fulfill his promise, because when the music was reaching a crescendo, a madman leapt from the front row and slashed his throat with a well-whetted knife.

Lord William Bloodworth had been there to witness the death of Adrian Augustine, seated on a few seats from the madman’s. He had even had Augustine’s blood on his suit.

Now in the Music Chamber, he was listening to that unfinished, nameless piece again.

He did not see the devil in pure white when he opened his eyes; he only saw his beloved Helen in a simple teal gown and the boy sitting on the grand piano, basking in the final breaths of the sun before it died in the west. It was the boy that was sliding his little fingers skillfully on the ivory keys and Helen’s eyes on her son were filled with warm pride.

This time William got to hear the ending.

“Have you ever listened to this one, father?” Helen suddenly asked. She straightened her back and let her nimble fingers run through her son’s soft hair.

To her question Lord William Bloodworth nodded. “Is it alright to teach a child such sensual music?”

Helen let out a soft laugh. “Oh father, music is beauty and there are no beauties that shouldn’t be taught to a child.”

“Is that how things are in America?” His voice was hoarse with emotions evoked by the music, though William himself did not realize.

“That is how things are in my home, father,” Helen replied coolly. “They said this was the music he was playing when that madman murdered him. Do you happen to know its name?”

“I don’t.”

For My Beloved Helen, that was the name. He wrote this piece for me. Yet I only found it when scavenging his notes, scattered around the flat he called his home. Oh the irony, father, can you imagine its bitter taste?”

He turned his head away to avoid her piercing gaze, brimmed with tears. He could never bring himself to tell her that he had been there, and could have had the chance to hear Adrian Augustine’s piece to the end had it not for the madman’s intervention. It would only fuel her wrath for him.

“I’m fine, darling,” Helen’s tear-choked voice said to her son as his small hand came up to wipe away her tears. “Thank you.” She caught his hand, kissing his palm.

“I don’t like this piano. A violin would sound much better.”

“When we come back to New Orleans, you will play the violin for me, promise?”

The boy nodded frantically, causing his mother to burst into laughter.

Helen kissed the top of his head. “Now, one more time before dinner, shall we? Do you care to join us father? Or would you rather retire to your room and get changed for dinner? Viktor is coming tonight. He invited me to the theater on Tuesday night so I thought it was only courteous to invite him to dinner.”

“I think I should go change,” William said, looking briefly at his open robe and bare feet. As he made his way out of the room, he heard Helen. “I remember we had a violin in this Music Chamber – the precious Stradivarius I always begged you to try but you never allowed me to touch. Where is it now?”

“Burnt,” he replied curtly, “in an accident,” and closed the door.

The various figures had returned to their respective places on the canvases, though he could still feel their eyes on him as he slowly made his way to his room.

III. Ghost of the Photograph

Lord William Bloodworth was having a very peculiar dream.

In this dream he was not an old man, having to be extra-careful with his every step so as not to cause unnecessary damage to his old bones; in this dream he was in a much younger body, with strong and swift legs to skip up and down the stairs like a happy little squirrel.

He strode through corridor, eyes sweeping over the portraits. He could feel the muscles around his lips shifted every time he passed a particularly interesting one. That gentleman has such funny whiskers, I wonder if he was called ‘Lord Whisker’. He heard the boy’s thought. Ha, this lady has such a tall wig that takes up two-third of the canvas. Poor her old neck. This body that hosted him was a boy’s, with all a boy’s curiosity and carefree attitude.

The boy had reached the landing where the stairs could lead to the chambers upstairs or the basement deep in the earth. Upstairs it was bright and sunny – it was in the early afternoon when the sun was very strong – while downstairs was dark and ominous. The boy was weighing his fear of the dark and his childish yearning to explore this part of the manor. Go up! William heard himself whisper. The boy had one foot on the tread. Be a good boy and go up! There is nothing down there for you, he told the boy again, putting a little more force behind his command. He could feel the clockwork turning inside the boy’s head. Hesitantly, he put his foot down. Good boy. Now go back to your room or the library, anywhere but here. A sudden spark, and then all his fear and hesitance vaporized, replaced with a fierce determination. The boy rushed up the flight of stairs, got himself a candle and then down again; William’s commands were pitiably lost among the noises of soles on the wooden steps and petulant enthusiasm. A child’s love for discovery was strong, and all an old man could do to subdue it were absolutely nothing.

Through the boy’s eyes he saw the wallpaper on the wall, the patterns of which had faded to non-recognizable and there were holes that revealed the brick wall underneath, courtesy of years of negligence and rodents. The stench of dust and mold grew stronger as the daylight grew weaker with the boy’s each careful step down, until the candle was the primary source of light. No more of the careless running, he had learnt to be caution when venturing into the dark.

At the end of the stairs was a door. William remembered it used to be red, but time had stripped away most of the pretty coat, leaving the rough brown skin. The boy tried opening the door, and found it locked. A surge of disappointment was transferred from him to William. Go back upstairs, before your mother starts searching for you. Once again he whispered, and once again he was unheard. The boy stared at the moldy walls, his small hands running over the wallpaper as if hoping to find something hidden in the myriad of tears. He looked to his feet, where he was standing on a doormat so ancient its original color was indefinable.No. William felt his heart throbbing – how strange it was, to able to feel in his dream, how alarming. Dust rose as the boy turned it over, causing him a string of sneezes. He touched the floor beneath, knocking his fingers on the wooden planks. Again, nothing. Not giving up, he began examining the doormat, pulling at every stray thread. God no. William’s chest hurt. A fire burning in there, cooking him from the inside. The boy let out a startled cry when he found a tear at the seam, in which a small, cool object answered to his searching hand. No. He held it up to his eyes: it was a bronze, unadorned, simple key that would never made it to the set of elaborately carved keys for the luxurious chambers upstairs. Yet it was just what he needed for the “Open Sesame” spell. He beamed with triumph as the lock gave a dry click and the door was opened.  God help us. The boy gingerly stepped inside.

The room housed a motley group of objects, big and small, modern and ancient, under a coat of dust. Nonetheless, they did not disappoint the boy; rather, he was intrigued by them as though he had just unearthed a buried treasure ground. His big eyes scanned the room, his heart beating in sync with his excitement when he founded something that appealed to him. So many things that he did not know where to start. Then a small chest, much older than the boy and worn at the edge, caught his best interest. He retrieved it from the low shelf, placed it near the candle on the ground and flicked open the lid. William’s pain morphed into agony; were he in his own body and able to control it, he would scream for the boy not to bring what was inside the chest out to light. He were not, so with horror he had to watch the boy empty the chest’s contents to the ground. A soft thud, and a stack of yellow paper tied together by a red cord rolled over to his feet. Small hands untied the knot and picked up the first paper. His eyes, also William’s eyes, skimmed over the words of the unaddressed letter; the script was not the neatest, but the handwriting was strong and bold enough to give hints to the writer’s personality. Perhaps bored with all the characters, the boy abandoned the first letter to reach for the second, which he soon did the same for the third, the forth, until he found a black and white photograph of a young man amongst the papers. With hair as black as ink, pallid skin and exquisite bones for his face, he possessed a dark beauty that was both unnerving and alluring – a fallen angel made to ruin, now dozing on the armchair like a harmless babe. One look and you would not be able to avert your eyes, your very soul captured by the elegant line of his jaw, the tiny crease between his eyebrows, probably caused by a troubled dream. William felt the boy’s lips stretching into a smile, not the innocuous one he often showed William and his mother but one that was not unlike a smirk, which was mirrored by the pair of lips in the photograph. The eyes shot open, black like midnight, like their owner’s soul, and their stare penetrated the boy to reach the old man. The surface of the photograph simmered and melted like being held under a fire, and the beautiful young man, rather than burning, emerged from the frame that kept him imprisoned, and grabbed the boy, his eyes never leaving William.

Lord William Bloodworth was awaken by his own screams.

With the last image of his dream imprinted in his mind, the old man swung open the door of his chamber. Down the stairs he ran, not giving half a mind to his brittle bones, until he reached the red door at the end. He did not need the key for it was already open. Inside he found the boy holding a black and white photograph in his hands, his large, obsidian eyes opening wide in surprise. The candlelight was on the ground, around which the yellow letters were strewn.

“OUT!” William shouted. His shadow was looming over the little boy, threatening. His face pallid, sweated, his eyes red with tiny veins and the hand that was holding onto the wall was shaking violently. “OUT!” he repeated, louder, with menacing when the boy had not moved from his spot. The old man stalked closer and it was without a shadow of a doubt that he would strike the child if he refused to obey.

Fear finally registered to the young mind and tears started swelling in his eyes.

“Father,” called a voice from inside the room, from where the boy ran to. It was an ice-cold bucket dumping on Lord William Bloodworth, deflating his rage in millisecond and searing a way for terror to settle in. His body sagged instantly as though a torn bag of rice, and the rice had flooded out.

It was not the same as his dream: in his dream, the boy had been all by himself. In reality, Helen was with him.

She stood up from an old chair and let the boy hid his tear-stained face behind her back, shielding him from William. “Father, do you intend to kill my son, too?” she sounded calm, but instead of the mildly cool voice she usually spoke to him, this time it was frigid.

“No, I d–didn’t–I don’t…”

“Like you killed his father seven years ago?”

“What? I didn’t–”

“No more lies, father,” she said. “I have had enough with your lies.”

“Who told you such cruel lie? I didn’t kill him! Adrian Augustine was murdered by madman, everyone there saw that!”

William could hear his teeth clattering as he defended himself from Helen’s accusations; the effect of her chilling stare on him was devastating. His hand gripped the wall until his knuckles turned white, trying to keep himself from collapsing.

“Peter Browning was never a madman. He was only mad on the account of his wife’s consumption and a wealthy man, probably a lord, offered him money to cure her. In exchange for that hefty sum of money, he dressed up, booked a seat in Adrian Augustine’s final performance, and killed the leading star. Little did he know that after the murder, his ‘reimbursement’ for his service were a quick hanging and curses that lasted until today. Did I miss anything, father?”

“I didn’t know any man by the name Peter Browning,” he denied. “Nor did I pay him to kill Adrian Augustine.”

“Oh, don’t disgrace the hard-labor fruits of my six years, father.”

“What are you saying, Helen?”

The boy’s cry had quieted. Helen stroked his soft hair tenderly before sending him upstairs. “Go to our room and play with the new toys I bought you, darling. Mummy will soon join you. If you are hungry, ask Frances to prepare you some snacks.”

“Can I have a lemon cake, Helen? And a blueberry muffin, too?”

“Anything you like, sweetheart. Now, go!”

The boy nodded and proceeded to leave his mother’s side. He glanced nervously at William, afraid that the old man might strike him, as he passed through the door.

“After Adrian’s birth, I didn’t leave London like you, or anyone thought,” she continued. “I traveled to New Orleans often for business but my base was right here, just a few streets from you, father. Can’t you imagine the price I paid for the truth? A much higher than the one you paid for your lies.”

Tears brimmed hotly around his eyes. The Helen in front of him was blurred and flickering like an apparition.

“When did you know?”

Helen went on. “I knew you had him killed the day his death reached me, have always known in my heart. But a part of me, tiny as it was, stubbornly denied the blatant truth. It screamed for evidence, for a blinded faith that you, my father, was guiltless, then the truth crushed it, and burned it to ash.”

“He was devil-incarnate, Helen. An abomination! The filthy breathing proof of his mother’s adultery in her husband’s absence!” he cried. “And you, you were so pure, so innocent. He seduced you, corrupted you for the sake of his vengeance. Didn’t he tell me? He would break your heart, rip it out and trample it under his soles. I had seen him doing so to countless before you, all broken, ruined beyond fix. All ended up in a pool of shame, never to get out. I feared you would be next. I tried to warn you, but you never listened, enchanted by the devil’s silver tongue. I knew you would die once he discarded you. I had to prevent that nightmare. You, my beautiful, darling only daughter!”

Her piercing eyes softened with moisture and for a moment, it seemed his words had managed to touch her cold heart. It was only a moment though: her eyes regained their sharpness and she broke into a peal of laughter. “Did you think I hadn’t an idea of who he was? Did you really kill him to protect me, your helpless ignorant daughter? Oh, you truly make me laugh!”

Lord William Bloodworth stared at her, puzzled.

Helen leisurely walked to a corner, where she took an old violin case in her hands. Blowing softly the layer of dust, she opened the lid and held out a violin. Light from the candle danced on it finely lacquered skin. She sawed a few notes, testing the sound. “Burnt, father? The precious Stradivarius I used to suspect you loved more than your child?”

“I…”

“The Stradivarius, those unsent letters, his photograph… You really built a shrine for him here, didn’t you? But you could have chosen some place… less dark and cramped. You know he always preferred light…”

Lord William Bloodworth was about to open his lips.

“Please, don’t sully the truth, father,” she denied his unvoiced defense. “I have always known. You were attending his debut concert the night mother died, abandoning her on her deathbed as a punishment for her slip of the heart. My poor mother, tormented till her last moments. Yet for all the hatred you had for her, you couldn’t hate him. You gave the Stradivarius to him. You bought his small flat by the south bank. You were his generous patron, who thought you had bought not only his art but his person as well.”

She picked up the scattered letters and the photograph.

“How did I know when you kept those secrets so well? He told me himself, everything there was to know, confessed to me the night we planned our leave.”

“Liar…” he muttered, weakly, “all lies.”

“We were going to leave for America, you see, New Orleans, the French city we both loved. We would settle in the French Quarter, open a small pub, and every evening he would play for our patrons. That beautiful dream of ours. Somehow you learned of it, and you couldn’t stand it. You would have it destroyed at all cost. Was that a lie, too, father?”

“If you have always known, if you despise me so, why did you come back?”

There she laughed again, each sound a silvery stab to his chest.”Has it not occurred to you that I have been planning for revenge?”

He could not tell if it was his legs trembling or the ground was quaking.

“Why didn’t you denounce me to the police? You’ve had all the evidence.”

She stalked closer to him and looked at him in the eyes she spoke, word by word. “I would never betray you, father, despise you as I do for having robbed my first, and only love. Adrian never broke my heart; you did. You tore it out, you smashed it to a bloody pulp. I wanted to torment you but once I stepped inside this manor, I realized that I didn’t have to; you had been doing it yourself very well already, with all your guilt and paranoia. How you were freaked out by the slightest thing my son did! Isn’t he a spitting image of his father? Do you feel haunted looking at his face?”

She cradled his head in her arms, whispering to him, “What date is it today, can you tell me?”

“The day he died…”

“Right, it was today that he was murdered. That I died. Do you have any idea how I have been waiting for this chance to tell you my hatred, my wrath, my pains…”

She kissed him, her lips like snow on his forehead.

“… Then I will leave. I will take Adrian and disappear from your sight forever. Until the day you die, father, remember that I will never forgive you, that I will not shed tears in your funeral.”

The yellow-papered letters and photographs left her hands, fluttered in the mid-air like doves, and landed by her feet.

“Keep them, father, however long you wish in this damned shrine you built, for I have the real Adrian by my side. Trade my soul for it I did.”

Helen did not spare a look at him when she spun on her heels and left.

Left alone in the basement, Lord William Bloodworth’s knees finally gave in.

True to her words, when William finally peeled himself off the floor and ascended the stairs, Frances told him that the lady and her son had long gone.

***

Epilogue

Adrian Augustine’s was the last face Lord William Bloodworth wanted to see in this word. It was also the last face he saw at the final moments of his guilt-stricken existence.

Adrian Augustine stepped in the chamber a beautiful young man. He was precisely the same as the image imprinted on William’s memory: hair and eyes as dark as the starless night sky, a face so otherworldly it inspired only awe and profound affection. He dresses all in white, as such was his beloved color, with a single black pearl adorned his cravat of the finest silk. He took off his hat and bowed deeply to William’s doctor, all polite and fastidious manners, but his eyes were on the dying old man on the bed the moment he entered. A shadow of a smile lingered at the corner of his lips.

“Look, my lord,” the doctor cried. “Your only grandson has come back!”

Oh, how the irony cut deep. If only he were not bone-tied to his deathbed, if only he had a sliver of strength, he would tip his head back and laugh so loud the sound of his laughter would shake the manor. Had he not already known this was how it would turn out?

“Could I be allowed a moment alone with my grandfather, please, doctor?”

“But of course,” said the doctor, taking Adrian’s hands in his and giving an enthusiastic squeeze. “Thanks God you have made it in time. I was so worried that you could have been hindered by transportation, or the telegraph failed to reach you. Your mother–”

The young man placed a finger on his lips.

“I see… Please stay with him, comfort him. He has been suffering great pain recently.”

“That I must do. Thank you, doctor.”

Once the doctor was gone, Adrian took a seat beside Lord William Bloodworth’s bed. He lifted William’s hand, lay beside his body, and placed a kiss on the wrinkled skin.

“I can imagine that I am not the face you wish to see at the moment.”

“H…Helen…my Helen…”

“She, no, we came back together. But she does not want to come in. She made a vow, you see, that she would never again appear in front of you. That day I did not go upstairs as Helen asked. I stayed on the stairs, and I heard all.”

“You…devil…”

Adrian looked genuinely stricken by Lord William’s curse. “Am I the devil, you said?” he asked. “How so? It was not I who murdered a man and robbed away his daughter’s love? Do tell me, is that truly the devil’s work?”

Though he spoke of accusations, his voice was soft, his tone calm, relaxed even. It would not be a surprise if he talked about London’s weather in this voice, or whispered honey into a lover’s ears.

How like Adrian Augustine, William thought. Always smiling even when the world around him shook and crumbled. Always smiling even when all around him screamed and suffered. Only a slit throat could have snubbed out that smile.

“…abomination,” hissed William weakly. Anger cost him a feat of agonizing coughs. He wondered if the flame of Hell could burn stronger than the one in his chest?

Adrian’s eyes were so mellow and gentle they could fool a dying man with spurious affection. Could have almost fooled William.

“Helen may not forgive you but I do. I forgive your cruel words and crueler acts…”

He lowered his head and kissed the spot between the old man’s eyes. “…grandfather,” he whispered at last. “That is why I will not let you pass on with a menacing lie. Helen did not come back to London. She could not, for she was buried beneath the soil of Lafayette Cemetery in the French Quarter. Has been there for two years. Tuberculosis, the same killer that had taken her mother.”

It seemed all the remaining air had been burnt out in Lord William Bloodworth’s ailing lungs. He could not breathe, his face turned ashen, and his bloodshot eyes, sunken deep in his sockets, were nailed on Adrian’s face. Both of his hands gripped the young man’s arm.

“It was her wish that I would tell you a lie and that I would hide the truth about her death from you. In the end I betrayed her will. You are, after all, my grandfather…”

William’s grip grew stronger, and stronger as though he wanted to break his grandson’s arm while Adrian’s words flowed, his serene expression perfectly concealing the pain. His hands slackened and finally dropped on the mattress when the young man was silent.

Adrian’s eyes spoke of profound sadness and loss as he closed Lord William’s Bloodworth’s eyes.

Music was playing when Adrian entered the Music Chamber. Sitting at the piano with her back to the door was a raven-haired woman, her long, black dress flowing down to the white-tiled floor like ink.

Adrian leaned against the door frame, keeping silent until her music ended.

“It’s been so many years since I touched the keys,” the woman said, turning around to face Adrian. “Do you think it sounds awful?”

The green youth of a girl had gone from her, yet what she might have lost was well compensated for by the breathtaking charms of a mature woman at the prime of her life. Her beauty fiercely absorbed the luster of everything around her, making them dull in her presence.

“It cannot be more awful than I was at four.”

He stepped forward and placed a butterfly kiss on her lips.

“He’s gone, isn’t he?”

“It was not a peaceful death,” he confessed. “What pained him more, I can’t tell, that his daughter had died before him or that she had refused to see him out of hatred.”

“Either was better than the truth,” she said, touching her sempiternally youthful face. “Can you imagine what he would have said if he had seen me as I am now?”

“Breathtaking,” he replied.

Her laughter was silvery bells. “That wouldn’t have done well to his condition, right?”

He lowered his head in attempt to hide a sheepish smile.

“What shall we do about this manor, Adrian? Oh, excuse me, Mr. Bloodworth?”

“You have not spoken of that last name since I was three years old,” he teased.

“You are the master of this manor now. The title and land will soon be yours also. I had better get used to hearing your last name.”

Our last name, you mean?” He cocked a fine eyebrow.

“Yes, ours. How will you introduce me to the folks since we share the same last name? Your sister?” She laughed, shaking her head. “Everyone here knows you are an only child. Your cousin? You have no cousin that they do not know. How about our wife? ‘Mrs. Bloodworth’ does have a nice ring to it.”

“Too young to get married.”

“Too old to get married.” She laughed.

He rested his hand on her small waist and spun her into a waltz. Sun beams landed on their lustrous raven hair, their youthful countenance. Stark black contrasted with pure white, her black and his white, so that they seemed an uncanny pair of demon and angel. The beautiful angel and gorgeous demon, dancing with the world’s sorrows beneath their soles.

“Anything you wish,” he whispered into her ears, “my darling Helen.”

End


Note: Anyone caught the incest subtext? *cough*

OK. here’s a cover (or whatever you’d like to call it) I made for the story. Amateurish at best, I know.
So…

Ghost
Ghost
  • Natalie Dormer as Helen Bloodworth
  • Ben Barnes as Adrian Augustine (Bloodworth)
  • Timothy Dalton as Lord William Bloodword

[Cherik] Bolito – 01

1 – Counselor

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The very first time Wesley had seen that man, he had not looked like this.

If ‘this’ was to be put into words (which Wesley really didn’t want to), it would be ‘like a dog’.

A stray dog, dirty, drunken and hunted.

“Counselor,” Sloan spoke to him. “He has shown up in the Loom.”

The Loom weaved the names that would cause deaths to others. Preventing that was their duty.

Killing one to save thousands, killing thousands to save millions – the Fraternity’s code.

Wesley supposed he was a Fraternity now.

“The fuck with that name?”

Sloan was unfazed, being too used to the boy’s snarls and swears. He continues, tone ever serene, as if he was merely discussing dinners.

“Not his real name. Everyone calls him that though.”

“I thought the Loom would show true names, not aliases.”

“Not always. It shows the name everyone around him gets by.”

“Great,” Wesley snorted, “who knows how many fucking ‘Counselors’ there are in this country.”

There were thousands counselors, but ‘Counselor’ – only one.

It turned out finding Counselor wasn’t as hard as Wesley had imagined. Wherever he was, the man stood out from the crowd. The center of attention. The ladies’ choice. The men’s envy.

Wesley did envy him, yes. For even a pair of sunglasses Counselor was donning probably cost twice his monthly paid as an accountant manager. And that was only when he hadn’t taken any sick leave. Nor enraged Janice.

No wonder the Loom had spoken his name. Just the way he’d thrown a pool party this luxurious was big enough a crime.

To envy him was easy, to kill him was hard…

…especially when the man had smiled at Wesley – a wide smile, kind of shark-like – and crossed half the pool to offer him a drink. Scotch – Wesley’s favorite.

…especially when Wesley had grabbed the collar of his polo shirt and pulled him into a rough, bloody smash of lips and teeth, stunning him for a good minute before the man punched Wesley square in the face and stomped off. Gazing at his retreating figure, Wesley licked his split lips and smirked. Counselor had tasted like Scotch – strong and sweet, perfection with only a hint of nicotine to mar.

…especially when that night, Wesley had dreamed about pinning the taller man to the wall, making him moan in all variations of obscenity, and woken up in the middle of the night with a damp patch in his crotch. It was bullshit, Wesley admitted, but Counselor had turned him on more than Cathy or Fox ever had.

To kill him would be extra-hard, especially when Wesley didn’t want to kill him at all.

He would return to the textile mill empty-handed and make up some lie. Sloan would probably see through him and take the cue, sending Fox or someone else instead – he was too wild a card to offend, at least not before he destroyed Cross. As for Wesley, so long as it wasn’t his bullets pulverizing Counselor’s skull he was cool. He wasn’t that sick, thank you; having the desire to fuck and to kill the same man at the same time was definitely not his thing.

Sloan saw through him, as expected; and Wesley could not careless about who the old bastard had sent after Counselor’s head because not long after, Wesley buried the Fraternity with his own hands.

The second time Wesley had seen him, it had occurred on a street of Argentina, a whole year and four months after the first. Though no longer a Fraternity, Wesley could not have returned to his former job as an accountant manager (not after his grandeur ‘farewell party’ on the day he’d quitted). Changing career was a big ‘no’, because Wesley Adam Gibson, besides accounting and killing, had no other degrees that could give him a decent job to survive his ass in Chicago. Fortunately, before he’d downed to his last penny, Pekwarsky had asked him if he would want to ‘succeed’ his father. Wesley had shrugged and sure, why not; he hadn’t had many choices, had he?

So that was how Wesley had ended up in a freelance assassin career and for fuck’s sake, his business was booming.

Wesley’s target this time was an Argentinean drug-dealing mob boss and he’d gain a handsome sum just to load the cartridges into his brain – something Wesley would enjoy even without the pay. Money made it all the more pleasant.

Counselor stood out among the parading crowd like a sore thumb – a solid Caucasian in a sea of colors. Wesley spotted him at once, mildly surprised and thoroughly excited; it seemed a lucky day for him indeed. After forfeiting his ‘mission’, Wesley had never thought he would one day see him again – the man who had had the taste of Scotch. He was certain Counselor had been executed by the Fraternity, probably by Fox or the Butcher; yet here he was, all well despite looking a bit disheveled.

Counselor stood out among the parading crowd like a sore thumb – a solid Caucasian in a sea of colors.

Compared to the first time Wesley had seen in the pool party, Counselor was looking less than his best: his hair tousled, his designer cream-colored suit spotted and there was some grime and dirt on his cheeks, greasy with sweats – the heat in this country was even worse than Chicago at its worst. However, instead of the flush, Counselor was looking unusually pale.

Had he not already on a rented R1 running at insane speed with a covered sniper rifle too conspicuous on his back, Wesley would have come up to him and said hello just to test whether Counselor still remembered the man who had given him probably his first man-kiss. Would he punch him again and run off like a shrinking violet like he had one year and four months ago? Or would Wesley grasp him, ravish his lips and make his own wet dream a reality?

The thought brought a devious grin to Wesley’s face hidden behind the helmet. Maybe next time, thought the assassin with a hint of hope. If there was a second time, the chance of the third wouldn’t be unlikely, would it? And even if there wouldn’t be the third, then Wesley would just make it. If he had been able to hunt down Sloan – with his wits and slyness of an old fox – Wesley didn’t see how he was unable to find a man who didn’t even know he was being tracked.

Indeed third time came, as Wesley had expected. What had him surprised instead was the state he found Counselor in.

Like a dog. The words were a sudden lump of bile clotted in his throat, turning the taste of fine Scotch vile and bitter.

A dimly lit bar at a deserted corner of some street was where Nam had picked for their ‘rendezvous’. The talk had been brief since his Asian-rooted handler wasn’t the loquacious type; he had left almost immediately after placing a thick brown envelope in Wesley’s lap. “Enjoy yourself,” the words left his thin lips in haste and the man hurried out of the entrance, his lanky figure quickly melted into the late afternoon’s orange hue.

Enjoyed himself he had, for a man whose pockets stuffed with dollar bills was always a content man. And the Scotch in this dingy looking bar wasn’t half bad at all, which was a plus. Wesley knew he could always trust Nam to have good taste in booze.

He was savoring his Scotch in the least noticed spot when his acute hearing picked up the yelps of the barmaid and the distinctive sound of flesh being punched and kicked – he was too used to mistake it for any other, being the receiver countless times during his training. Normally he would mind his own ass and ignore whatever was occurring in the bar if his too acute hearing (again) did not recognize the soft, barely audible whimpers as acquainted. He jerked his torso around, nearly knocking his Scotch, and was greeted with a overly familiar figure. The cream-colored suit also helped, despite its terribly discolored state, the once expensive fabric smeared with dirt, sweats and a few blotches of brownish stains – others’ or his own Wesley couldn’t tell.

The bulky middle-aged bar owner yelled something in Spanish and raised his hairy arm. Like a bullet Wesley sprang up from his seat and dashed forward barely in time to stop another blow to Counselor’s guts. The barmaid gasped. The man glared at him and jerked his arm forcefully to break free of Wesley’s grip. However, Wesley’s hold was unyielding as his blue eyes bored into the older man’s, a gaze sharp and cold as a killer’s should be. It was only when the older man’s panic and fear were reflected in his own eyes and the bulky wrist in his hand became slick with perspiration did he loosen his grip. Wesley asked the bar owner what had happened for him to start beating the crap out of his customer, to which the man replied in rapid-fire Spanish rendering his own shitty Spanish useless as best. His gaze shifted to the young barmaid, silently demanding an explanation; he had seen her speaking English with a few Western patrons earlier and he knew she was able to manage simple conversations.

“He… he suddenly grab me,” her tone heavily accented and shaking, the brunet was on the verge of tears and Wesley softened his eyes in a pang of guilt for scaring her unnecessarily. “He grab me and call me Laura. Papa saw and got angry…”

Wesley glanced at Counselor, who had curled up in fetal position, saliva mixed with blood formed a little pool on the floor. He winced slightly and looked up to meet the barmaid’s eyes.

“He’s just drunk, that’s all. Here,” Wesley pulled out a wad of dollar notes from his jeans pocket and placed them in the young barmaid’s trembling hand. “For his purchases and mine and your troubles. Sorry about that.”

Apologizing even when it wasn’t really his fault – old habit died hard.

“Not enough?”

The brunet and her father both shook their heads so violently Wesley was briefly afraid they might snap their necks and erupted in a stream of Spanish that he could only pick out “gracias”. Guess that’s settled then, thought Wesley as he bended down to hook his arms under Counselor’s and lift him up. At close distance, Wesley could tell the man was reeking, a mixture of sweats, dirt, alcohol and puke that burned his nose. He ignored it as he walked them both, slowly, out of the bar.

That was when it hit him that he had no idea where Counselor was staying. Though he doubted Counselor would hear it, Wesley muttered an apology when he let the wall supported his weight while his hand dived into the man’s breast and trousers pockets in a slight hope that he might find something useful, a cell phone, a hotel card, anything to give him a clue. Instead, the only thing he found was a crumpled photo in Counselor’s left breast pocket. The woman in the photo looked comely and nice; Wesley wondered what relationship the woman and Counselor were sharing for him to treat her photo in such contradictive manner.

Wesley smoothed a few creases out of habit before folding it up and returning the photo to its place. Great, he spoke to himself, Wesley Allan Gibson, with his shitty Spanish and a stone-drunk man he’d barely known, out in the middle of an Argentinean street as the night sank in, entirely clueless about where he should go next. Fox would definitely be laughing at him for making a fool out of himself  if she was here to witness.

He briefly pondered if Counselor had any acquaintance in this city but when he glanced at the man’s dirtied face, he dismissed the thought. If he had, he would not have been in this bar drunk as a skunk and have had his ass beaten out. And even if he had, which number on Earth should Wesley call?

On the other hand, Wesley could just take Counselor back to his apartment/safe house left to him by his late father. The man could use a rest, maybe a little wash and a change of clothes – though Wesley doubted their sizes matched – until he was sober enough to find his way back on his own. Wesley could not help but laugh a little too loud at his own out-of-the-blue kindness. Saving the guy’s ass was already out of his character; now he even brought him home and intended to take care of him. Who was Counselor to Wesley Gibson after all?

Well, consider it ‘return the favor’.

The walk from the bar to his apartment wasn’t awfully long and Wesley could make it in less than fifteen minutes on foot. Yet today it took him twice the time as he was supporting a dead-drunk grown man. Counselor wasn’t heavy, to be fair; the man was almost skinny and Wesley winced slightly every time his bones accidentally jabbed his side. Weight Wesley didn’t mind but height difference was another problem. The man was fairly taller than Wesley and it took the assassin great effort to keep them both balanced and not tumbling over. Wesley was considering shouldering him like a sack of potatoes for the rest of the way when he heard a retching noise from his side. He reacted quickly and helped the man to a trash heap – thanks God there was one nearby – where he emptied the content of his stomach in a noisy manner. As Wesley half expected, the man probably hadn’t had any proper food for the last forty-eight hours, only burning alcohol to fill up his empty stomach. What had caused him to torture himself so, Wesley wondered while patting Counselor’s hunched back in an awkward fashion. That was when he felt it, a surge so forceful that almost had him off-balanced.

Wesley Gibson couldn’t mind-read; such was his estranged uncle’s ability. It was a piece of information he’d only learnt after Sloan’s death, that he still had a living relative and said living relative was – what the media called it nowadays – a mutant. The man was currently running a private school full of mutants in Westchester and much as Wesley had been impressed by it, he had to admit school life, with superpower teachers and superpower teenagers to boost, wouldn’t suit him. He had turned down the offer the moment it had been projected into his mind. To be honest, he was a little scared to be close to a person who would, literally, read others like a book. Not to mention his current ‘partner’, a man who grazed his nerves as much as Sloan, who could bend bullets far more effortlessly than any Fraternity members ever could; Wesley didn’t want a taste of his medicine, thank you very much.

Though Wesley couldn’t read minds, he was able to catch murderous intents right at the moment they entered his vicinity. The scenario played out in his mind like a video footage fast forwarding at highest speed, showing him how the assailant in question would approach, what sorts of weapon he would use, what moves he would pull and whether Wesley could react fast enough to counter or not. He wasn’t sure if it was a by-product of his training or a hidden factor in his DNAs recently awakened – family legacy and such – yet it had saved his ass a few handful times. Had it not for this mutation, Fox would have blown a hole in his brain that day on the train.

But this time was tad different; it wasn’t his own scenario that came to his vision. In fact, he was watching everything from a third person’s point of view, like a specter removed from reality – their reality. In his vision he saw a man in black hoodie carefully crept out from the dark of the trash-littered alleyway they were standing. He had no guns, knives or anything that came remotely close to a weapon except a small bizarre device Wesley had neither seen or gotten a hold of how it functioned. The hooded man sneaked behind Counselor easily enough, considering how drunken, weak and defenseless the latter was, and looped the funny-looking device around Counselor’s neck with abundant efficiency that Wesley couldn’t think it was his first time. He fled the scene as fast as he had shown up; no further effort was need; the device did its job beautifully.

The sound of clock ticking. Wesley counted.

At first second, the electric motor started.

At third, the noose tightened.

At fourth, the man started feeling something was wrong, despite his intoxicated state. He brought both hands to his neck, frantically trying to loosen the noose.

In vain.

At sixth, he fell to the muddy ground, rolling wildly while yelling.

At eleventh, his yells turned to chocked noises in sync with the motor’s.

At sixteenth, his fingers left him. Blood gushed out like broken pipes, from both his hands and his neck.

At twenty-third, the noose reached zero.

At forty-second, a stray dog went into the scene, sniffing at the motionless body. With a slight nudge of his muzzle, the head left the body. The vision went blank and dissipated.

The 'Vision'
The ‘Vision’

Whoever had invented this device had to be a genius, a fucking sick one. When Wesley rubbed his eyes – sore from the vision – he wasn’t surprised by the dampness on his fingers. Without much of a second thought, he wiped out his gun from his bell, aimed at the dark and emptied the chamber of its content. The bullets curved around the lamppost before they found their target. He felt the steel penetrate flesh and bones the same time Counselor collapsed. Wesley caught him and finally gave up the thought of walking the unconscious man the rest of the way. He piggybacked the man in a rather ungraceful fashion (unconscious man had no right to complain) and walked over to his victim. He founded the hooded man lying face down under the shadow of the lamppost, paid him only a quarter a second and picked up the strange device in his hand. Nam might know something about it, maybe even able to trace its origin. Wesley’s blood raged at the thought of the device’s inventor, of putting bullets into him and whoever had assisted him.

This was not saving the world or exacting justice or anything. This was just his own aching on the vehement urge of killing. Maybe he had been wrong about it. Maybe killing also had to do with the right person after all.

First thing first, he had to get Counselor to his place. The thought of taking the man back to his own place vanished like smoke; he would be dead the very moment Wesley left him on his own.

Strangely, Wesley didn’t question how Counselor’s safety had become his business.

Note:

1) Wesley is a mutant and he’s Charles Xavier’s distant nephew.

2) Nam is my original character.

[Cherik] Bolito – Prologue

0 – Killer

Wesley

Killing aroused Wesley as much as sex.

Perhaps, even more. Sex had to be with the right people – Wesley admitted deep down he was rather old-fashioned – but killing… well, killing didn’t.

Wesley wouldn’t deny he was every bit a psychopath.

Born to be a killer – bad. Born to enjoy being a killer – worse.

With a playful smirk that didn’t quite match his boyish features, Wesley gave a nudge to the gun in his right hand. The gesture was fairly teasing in nature, except the muzzle of his gun was kissing the other man’s left temple.

The man didn’t flinch, bracing himself against Wesley’s deliberate taunt. He had guts; Wesley was pretty fond of him.

“Why do you want to kill him?”

Perhaps he took Wesley’s sudden interest in conversing as a chance to escape with his life, the man swallowed dryly and opened his mouth.

“Someone wants him dead.”

His answer was brief and to the point. Wesley nodded.

A hired killer. Much like himself. The only difference was…

“Do you like killing?”

“What?”

“Do you like killing him?”

Wesley was barely able to contain his laughter at the look the other man was giving him.

“That means no, right? Well, too bad, I’ll have to kill you and I’ll fucking enjoy it.”

“Have we met before?”

“Nope,” Wesley grinned, giving the man a show of his perfect white teeth. “First time seeing your unattractive face.”

“Did I kill someone you knew?”

“Nope,” his grin became wry chuckles. “I killed most those I knew.”

He was satisfied when he felt the man flinch.

“Does someone want me dead?”

The man was being rational, Wesley could tell. Unfortunately he was dealing with some sort of a maniac.

“Wrong again. In fact I’ll get no penny out of ganking your sorry ass.”

The other assassin had but a moment to stare at Wesley with disbelief before he swiftly removed the muzzle from the man’s temple to press it into his mouth.

Blood and brain matter splashed over the horrible graffiti on the wall. It could be a good thing now that they would have a reason to erase it, the eyesore. Wesley amused himself with the thought while cleaning bits of blood and brain off his hands and face. He didn’t mind the persistent odor; the stickiness was what really bugged him – one of the two reasons why he loathed jelly. The other was his eavesdropping two cops joking how his mother’s face looked like ‘bad jelly’ after she had had acid poured over it.

Once he was done, Wesley glanced down at the corpse at his feet. His face, or what was remained of it, kind of looked liked jelly now – bad jelly.

“I killed you because I wanted you dead. Simple as that.”

He spared the corpse no other glance as he sauntered leisurely out of the dark alleyway.

“…and because I want him to live.”

This was the third. He wondered how many more would come.

Not that he minded blowing a few more asses to hell.

Hair

English version of “Tóc”: https://joel7th.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/toc/

He used to imagine how ravishing that one would look with hair past his waist.

Not anymore.

Because his sole wish, his most flaming wish, was granted at last.

He was combing that one’s hair.

That one was a careless one who could not manage even the mundane daily tasks. So he took upon himself the responsibility to take good care of him.

It was something he was doing with a solemnity equal to that of performing a mystical and holy ritual.

How much caution was never enough, for even the loss of a strand was heartbroken to him.

His fingers gently dug into the hair, feeling each strand smoothly flowing through like water, like silk.

Unsatisfied, he pressed his face to the hair and greedily inhaled the exotic lingering scent absorbed by each strand.

No words of any languages was able to express his affection to the hair. He would not trade a single strand for all the treasures in the world.

How about its owner?

Of course, he loved him even more.

The hair was so precious him since it was a part of that one, the part that remained.

If it wasn’t because his love for him was too great, he would not have had him hidden from the rest of the world.

Even if he had had to detain him, to break him.

Without legs he couldn’t run. Without arms he couldn’t crawl.

And, without body, he couldn’t move an inch. Not without his help.

Fragile and completely dependent. And he was most adorable that way.

Carefully and tenderly, he placed him on the marble pedestal like he had done so a hundred, thousand times before. The pedestal was high enough to impede the lowly vermin from infesting him, high enough to allow his hair to stream down like a sleek black spring.

He kissed him, his kisses burning as his sins. The kiss on his forehead, on his eyelids, on his cheeks, the kiss of a brother. The kiss on his lips, the kiss of lover.

He belonged to him and him alone.

End

This was another result of a grumbling stomach and not-so-good pizza at 10 P.M and listening to Rotten Girl, Grotesque Romance.

 

Tóc

Hắn từng vụng trộm tưởng tượng y với mái tóc dài quá thắt lưng sẽ mất hồn đến mức nào.

Nhưng bây giờ không cần tưởng tượng nữa.

Bởi vì ước nguyện duy nhất của hắn, ước nguyện cháy bỏng nhất, sau cùng đã thành hiện thực.

Hắn đang chải tóc cho y.

Y vốn là người vô tâm, ngay đến bản thân mình cũng không biết chăm sóc. Vì vậy, hắn giành lấy trách nhiệm chăm sóc y thật chu đáo.

Hắn chải tóc với một sự trân trọng và thành kính như thể đang thực hiện một nghi thức thần bí mà trang nghiêm.

Cẩn thận bao nhiêu vẫn chưa đủ, chỉ một sợi mất đi cũng khiến tâm hắn hứng chịu trăm giày ngàn xéo.

Ngón tay hắn luồn vào mái tóc, từng sợi, từng sợi trượt qua kẽ tay như tơ, như nước.

Chưa đủ, hắn áp mặt vào mái tóc, tham lam hít vào hương thơm tinh tế kỳ lạ thấm đẫm mỗi sợi tóc.

Không từ ngữ nào diễn tả hết tình yêu hắn dành cho nó. Cho dù lấy hết mọi trân bảo trên thế gian này cũng chẳng đổi lấy nổi một sợi.

Còn chủ nhân mái tóc?

Dĩ nhiên, hắn yêu y còn sâu đậm hơn mái tóc.

Mái tóc sở dĩ quý giá như vậy cũng chỉ vì nó là một phần của y, phần duy nhất còn lại.

Nếu không phải vì yêu quá sâu đậm, hắn hà tất phải chia cắt y hoàn toàn với nhân thế?

Thậm chí là cầm giữ y, hủy hoại y.

Không có chân, y không thể chạy. Không có tay, y không thể bò.

Và, không có thân thể, y không thể di chuyển lấy nửa phân. Nếu không có hắn giúp.

Yếu ớt, hoàn toàn phụ thuộc. Như vậy không phải khả ái nhất sao?

Thận trọng và ôn nhu, hắn đặt y lên một bệ đá hoa cương như đã thực hiện hàng trăm, hàng ngàn lần trước đó. Bệ đá đủ cao để lũ chuột bọ không thể xâm phạm y, cũng đủ cao để mái tóc y buông xuống như một dòng thác đen óng.

Hắn hôn y, nụ hôn cháy bỏng như tội lỗi hắn đã gây ra. Hôn lên trán, lên mi mắt, lên má, nụ hôn của tình thân. Hôn lên môi, nụ hôn của tình nhân.

Y thuộc về hắn, chỉ mình hắn mà thôi.

Hết

Tiếp tục thành quả (hay hậu quả) của bụng đói, pizza không ngon lắm lúc 10 giờ tối và nghe lại Rotten Girl, Grotesque Romance lần thứ n.

 

Perfume

Source: tumblr.com

Dora left a deep impression on him the very first time he met her.

Was it her emerald eyes that seemed to always speak her mind before her lips ever opened?

Was it her lips which were pale and thin as cherry blossom petals?

Was it her womanly curves which were soft as the ocean waves?

None of those traits impressed him.

It was no denial that Dora was a gorgeous woman who could sweep any man’s heart at first glance.

Any man’s, not his.

Her precious charms did not move his heart; what did instead was something subtle as a scent.

Dora always had a lingering sweet scent on her body whenever she met him. As he asked her one day about the kind of perfume she was wearing, Dora just smiled meekly and told him she never wore perfume.

He was startled.

He met her that day in her flower shop. Amidst a sea of fragrance, he was able to clearly pick out her scent.

He knew that scent too well not to recognize it. He knew it because it was the scent of Vanessa.

Vanessa was his wife, or used to be. They had been leading a happy married life for five years and though they had no children, he had been convinced they would be together like this until time turned them old and withered.

Wrong. Deeply wrong.

Five years ago, Vanessa disappeared like a puff of smoke. No matter how he had exhausted his resources to find her, all he got were bits of clue which led to nowhere. No one knew where she’d gone or the reason for her sudden disappearance. It seemed as if a mysterious hand had reached down and Vanessa’s existence had been swept away from Earth.

It was the time of darkness and despair for him, for his love was too great and he couldn’t bear the thought of losing Vanessa to whatever had taken her. Sometimes he imagined she’d gotten into a tragic accident and perished in a faraway place. Sometimes he imagined she’d run away with another man and was having a happier life than the previous one with him.

His imaginations did little to ease his soul. When he gave up his last ray of hope of finding her, Dora came into his life.

Dora was carrying the scent of Vanessa, the scent he loved and missed so much. In spite of their vast differences in appearance, when he looked at Dora, he always saw Vanessa.

Not only was Dora a great beauty, she was generous far beyond a woman’s heart could ever be. Even if she knew he was only took her for his missing wife, she accepted the situation.

Love was her simple reason.

Naturally as the way fate had led him to Dora, it came a day when he asked for her hand in marriage.

For the sake of their married life, he never spoke a word about the missing Vanessa. Still, in the deepest corner of his consciousness, the lingering scent on Dora’s body only spelled “Vanessa”.

He thought he had been doing a good job at hiding such thought from Dora’s knowledge for years. Not once had it occurred to him that Dora’s ignorance had also been pretentious.

Everyone had their little secrets.

He had one. So did Dora.

Unlike her, his ignorance wasn’t feigned.

Her secret lied in the basement of her flower shop, a place he had never visited.

Dora went there on a regular basis.

As soon as she entered the basement, her exotic scent melted into the overwhelming scent here.

Dora lit a small candle and made her way through the pitch-black basement. Where the light didn’t reach, darkness reigned like a tyrannical warlord. At the end, she found what she’d come for.

A handful of strange-colored flowers Dora picked from the strange-colored vines were what she needed. She hold them in front of her nostrils, softly inhaled the scent and smiled.

The flowers emitted the scent that lingered on her body.

The scent of Vanessa.

It was no coincidence these flowers which could not be found anywhere else in the world possessed Vanessa’s scent. Dora had been painstakingly cultivating them for five years.

With a unique nourishment.

The candlelight in her hand casted an orange-yellow sheen on her fair countenance as she sat down to check the root.

Her pretty eyes narrowed sharply and her manicured fingers caught a small white worm.

A maggot.

The maggot wriggled helplessly in her grip before she threw it to the ground and mercilessly crushed it with her sole.

“My my, I was careless for only a few days and these insolent worms had tried to infest you? Don’t be afraid, darling. You’re my treasure. I won’t lose you to them.”

Her lips curved up joyfully as she took a black bottle from the corner.

“Time for medicine.”

If you listen very carefully, you could pick a faint whimper as Dora emptied the bottle’s content.

[Diệp Phó] Camera

img_1853

My Immortal (Evanescence)

I’m so tired of being here
Suppressed by all my childish fears
And if you have to leave
I wish that you would just leave
‘Cause your presence still lingers here
And it won’t leave me alone

These wounds won’t seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There’s just too much that time cannot erase

When you cried I’d wipe away all of your tears
When you’d scream I’d fight away all of your fears
And I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have all of me

You used to captivate me by your resonating light
Now I’m bound by the life you left behind
Your face—it haunts my once pleasant dreams
Your voice—it chased away all the sanity in me

These wounds won’t seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There’s just too much that time cannot erase

I’ve tried so hard to tell myself that you’re gone
But though you’re still with me
I’ve been alone all along

…me, me, me.

Ở khoa thần kinh trường đại học Y, không ai không biết cái tên Phó Hồng Tuyết.

Thủ khoa đầu vào, năm nào cũng đứng đầu khoa, đạt không biết bao nhiêu học bổng cả trong lẫn ngoài nước, từng được mời đi tu nghiệp ở Pháp và hiện tại là giáo sư trẻ tuổi nhất ngành, Phó Hồng Tuyết là một thiên tài dù người khắt khe nhất cũng phải công nhận

Một người nổi tiếng trong khoa, thu hút bao sự tò mò của sinh viên, nhất là những “tân binh” thế nhưng Phó Hồng Tuyết lại rất lạnh lùng, khép kín. Công việc và nghiên cứu dường như đã chiếm hết cả ngày của Phó Hồng Tuyết, khiến anh chẳng còn bao nhiêu thời gian cho các mối quan hệ cá nhân. Trong khi các bạn đồng khóa đều đã yên bề gia thất, thậm chí đã có đứa thứ hai, thứ ba thì Phó Hồng Tuyết vẫn một thân một mình. Ngoài những mối quan hệ với đồng nghiệp và sinh viên, quan hệ cá nhân của Phó Hồng Tuyết gần như một con số 0 tròn trĩnh. Người mới gặp có thể cho rằng Phó Hồng Tuyết mắc bệnh ngôi sao, nhưng làm việc với anh rồi mới nhận ra Phó Hồng Tuyết chưa từng có thái độ kiêu căng, hách dịch, dù với sinh viên hay cấp dưới. Có điều, bất kể là ai muốn kết thân với anh, Phó Hồng Tuyết đều tìm cách lịch sự từ chối. Những bữa tiệc tổ chức ở khoa rất hiếm khi có sự tham gia của Phó Hồng Tuyết, mà nếu có, anh cũng chỉ tìm một góc khuất rồi ngồi đó một mình đến giờ ra về.

Dường như có một bức tường vô hình luôn luôn chắn giữa thế giới riêng tư của Phó Hồng Tuyết và bên ngoài; nếu anh không tự mình bước ra thì bất cứ ai cũng không thể lọt vào.

Mà Phó Hồng Tuyết lại chẳng bao giờ tự mình bước ra.

Sinh viên kháo nhau rằng Phó Hồng Tuyết ngay từ nhỏ tính tình đã không bình thường. Thậm chí còn có lời đồn Phó Hồng Tuyết mắc chứng nói chuyện một mình.

Tất nhiên những lời đồn này đều chỉ dám nói sau lưng anh mà thôi. Phó Hồng Tuyết bình thường rất bình tĩnh, chưa từng to tiếng vì bất cứ chuyện gì nhưng ai mà biết được khi nổi giận anh sẽ như thế nào, mấy ai thích thú với những lời đồn chẳng hay ho gì về mình chứ?

Dù tính cách có phần lập dị, Phó Hồng Tuyết vẫn là đối tượng hâm mộ của rất nhiều nữ sinh viên và đồng nghiệp. Không nói đến tài năng xuất chúng, diện mạo Phó Hồng Tuyết không tệ, thậm chí còn rất anh tuấn. Nhưng hâm mộ thì hâm mộ, tất cả đều chỉ dám đứng từ xa ngắm nhìn thần tượng của mình bởi họ đều biết bản thân không bao giờ có cơ hội chiếm được trái tim Phó Hồng Tuyết.

Chu Đình là một trong số đó. Đối với Phó Hồng Tuyết, ngoài ngưỡng mộ giống như những sinh viên khác, cô còn đem lòng yêu mến anh. Cô vẫn nhớ như in giây phút Phó Hồng Tuyết cứu cô thoát khỏi bọn lưu manh khi cô mới chân ướt chân ráo lên thành phố nhập học. Sau khi biết Phó Hồng Tuyết chủ nhiệm lớp mình, Chu Đình khấp khởi mừng thầm, những tưởng từ đây có nhiều cơ hội tiếp cận người trong mộng.

Đáng tiếc, Phó Hồng Tuyết đối với cô cũng như với bất kỳ sinh viên nào khác: nghiêm khắc và lạnh lùng. Chu Đình lại không phải tuýp con gái chủ động; suốt sáu năm ở đại học Y, điều duy nhất cô làm được là lặng ngắm bóng lưng anh, hy vọng một lúc nào đó Phó Hồng Tuyết sẽ quay đầu lại.

Người thân lẫn bạn bè biết cô thầm yêu Phó Hồng Tuyết đã hết lời khuyên can, không chỉ do khoảng cách tuổi tác mà còn vì họ nhìn ra được Chu Đình không có chút cơ hội nào với một người như anh. Bỏ ngoài tai hết thảy, Chu Đình vẫn một mực ôm lấy tình yêu đơn phương của mình, chờ một ngày nó đơm hoa kết trái.

Tuy là sinh viên trường Y, Chu Đình lại có sở thích nhiếp ảnh, hầu như đi đâu cô cũng mang theo chiếc camera cá nhân mẹ cô đã tặng nhân sinh nhật thứ mười tám. Từ khi lên đại học, chiếc camera của cô hầu như chỉ chụp duy nhất một người.

Nhờ vậy, cô phát hiện một hiện tượng kỳ lạ.

Những tấm hình cô chụp Phó Hồng Tuyết đều bị nhòe một cách bất thường. Nếu cả tấm hình bị nhòe thì cô còn có thể cho rằng mình run tay (dù với một người đã quen chụp như cô thì chuyện đó gần như không thể) hay chiếc camera đã quá tuổi; đằng này, khung cảnh xung quanh vẫn rõ nét, thứ duy nhất nhìn không rõ là hình ảnh Phó Hồng Tuyết. Thậm chí có những lúc anh chỉ là một khối màu đen lờ mờ, không nói thì chẳng ai nhận ra đó là hình chụp một con người.

Tuy nhiên, đó vẫn chưa phải chuyện lạ duy nhất. Ngoài chuyện bị nhòe, những tấm hình chụp Phó Hồng Tuyết, dù là file hay Chu Đình cẩn thận in ra giấy, thì sớm muộn đều biến mất một cách bí ẩn.

Cô khéo léo dò hỏi nhiều sinh viên khác và nhận ra, hiện tượng này không chỉ xảy ra với cô mà với hầu hết những ai từng chụp hình Phó Hồng Tuyết. Cho đến giờ, vẫn chưa ai đưa ra được lời giải thích hợp lý và khoa học.

Buổi tiệc của khoa năm đó là một trong số ít những buổi tiệc có sự xuất hiện của Phó Hồng Tuyết.

Như thường lệ, sau khi hoàn thành bài phát biểu bắt buộc đối với vị giáo sư trẻ tuổi nhất khoa, Phó Hồng Tuyết nhanh chóng lẩn vào một góc khuất trong lúc bữa tiệc đang cao trào.

Chu Đình tình cờ nhìn thấy Phó Hồng Tuyết đang dựa lưng vào một gốc cây hạnh. Quên mất bữa tiệc, cô nép mình vào góc tường, say mê nhìn anh.

Bề ngoài Phó Hồng Tuyết trẻ hơn tuổi thật rất nhiều. Người không biết chắc sẽ nghĩ anh không quá hai mươi lăm trong khi anh năm nay đã bước vào tuổi ba mươi bảy. Nhớ lần đầu gặp anh, Chu Đình còn tưởng anh là một sinh viên chứ không phải giáo sư đã đứng lớp gần mười năm. Theo lời các giáo sư cao niên thì Phó Hồng Tuyết gần như chẳng thay đổi bao nhiêu so với ngày đầu tiên anh bước chân vào trường.

Đó lại là một bí ẩn chưa ai giải thích được.

Quan sát anh một lúc, Chu Đình mới phát hiện một điều kỳ lạ: môi anh mấp máy giống như đang nói chuyện, thậm chí thỉnh thoảng anh còn gật đầu rồi mỉm cười rất nhẹ.

Chu Đình ngạc nhiên nhìn quanh, rõ ràng Phó Hồng Tuyết đang đứng một mình, trong tay còn không cầm điện thoại hay bất cứ thiết bị liên lạc nào khác. Nhìn sao cũng giống như Phó Hồng Tuyết đang độc thoại.

Cô từng nghe những lời đồn sinh viên kháo nhau. Chẳng lẽ đó đều là sự thật ?

Chu Đình hồi hộp hướng camera trong tay về phía Phó Hồng Tuyết, thu lại hiện tượng này.

Mãi đến lúc về nhà, ngồi một mình trong phòng, tim Chu Đình mới thôi đập thình thịch. Suốt lúc quay, tay cô không ngừng đổ mồ hôi lạnh. Khoảng cách giữa hai người họ không quá xa, Phó Hồng Tuyết lúc nào cũng có thể phát hiện Chu Đình đang quay lén anh. Nếu thực sự để anh biết, cô phải giải thích cho hành động bất nhã của mình như thế nào ?

Bàn tay cô run run khi gắn thẻ nhớ của camera vào laptop, trong lòng thầm mong nó không bị nhòe hay biến mất như những tấm hình trước.

Hình ảnh rõ nét ngoài mong đợi của Chu Đình. Cô chưa từng biết chiếc camera cũ của mình lại thu được những hình ảnh chất lượng cao như thế.

Ơn trời, Chu Đình nhịn không nổi mà thốt lên, hình ảnh Phó Hồng Tuyết rất sắc nét, không hề bị nhòe. Tiếc là Chu Đình không mừng được lâu ; cô đã nhìn thấy Phó Hồng Tuyết không hề đứng một mình.

Suýt chút nữa Chu Đình làm rơi cả chiếc laptop xuống đất. Không phải lỗi khúc xạ, rõ ràng bên cạnh Phó Hồng Tuyết còn có một người, một thanh niên trạc tuổi cô. Thậm chí Chu Đình còn nhìn rõ gương mặt anh ta.

Gương mặt đẹp đẽ hiếm thấy, trên viền môi còn treo một nụ cười ấm áp như gió xuân tháng ba khiến Chu Đình bất giác đỏ mặt, tạm thời quên mất kinh ngạc và hoảng sợ khi trông thấy một người không-tồn-tại.

Anh ta cùng Phó Hồng Tuyết chuyện trò, dường như không phát hiện sự tồn tại của người thứ ba là cô.

Chỉ còn hai mươi mấy giây nữa là hết, người thanh niên đó đột ngột rời khỏi Phó Hồng Tuyết.

Chu Đình giật mình nhìn anh ta càng lúc càng lại gần màn hình. Nụ cười ấm áp đã thay bằng một nụ cười yêu mỵ, khuôn miệng người thanh niên mấp máy:

“Đừng quay lén Hồng Tuyết của tôi nữa nhé.”

Giọng nói hòa nhã, lễ độ bao nhiêu cũng không khiến Chu Đình thôi ớn lạnh. Cô nhận ra tiếng nói đó không phát ra từ loa laptop mà giống như một lời thì thầm ngay bên tai cô.

Rõ mồn một.

Phụt, màn hình tối đen. Khi Chu Đình đủ can đảm khởi động lại máy thì đoạn phim khi nãy đã biến mất không tung tích.

Hết

Có một chút kinh dị ở đây ^^.

Moral of the story (just kidding ^^): Đừng làm những chuyện dại dột như quay lén hay chụp hình lén người khác, biết đâu lại nhìn thấy những điều không-nên-thấy lol.

[Diệp Phó] Ký Sinh

Parasite (original lyrics: KISS)

*lời bài hát đã chỉnh sửa

He’ll always be there trying to grab a hold
He thought he knew me, but he didn’t know
That I was sad and wanted him to go
Parasite boy
Parasite eyes
Parasite boy
No need to cry
I didn’t want to have to get away
I told him things I didn’t want to say
I need him and I hope he’ll understand
Parasite boy
Parasite eyes
Parasite boy
No need to cry

Hắn đang mắc phải một căn bệnh kỳ lạ.

Nói là bệnh cũng không hẳn bởi ngoại trừ một số biến đối trên cơ thể, hắn chẳng hề đau đớn hay khó chịu gì.

Nhưng chính những biến đổi đó mới càng kỳ lạ, càng đáng sợ hơn bất cứ đau đớn, khó chịu nào khác.

Thay đổi đầu tiên là đôi mắt.

Đôi mắt hắn vốn màu hổ phách thuần—đặc trưng của gia đình bên ngoại hắn, đột nhiên một sáng thức dậy đã trở thành màu đen.

Đen đến mức phản chiếu ánh sáng.

Hắn ngắm nhìn đôi con ngươi đen nhánh trong gương, tưởng như cả linh hồn bị kéo vào vực sâu thăm thẳm không lối thoát.

Kế tiếp là màu da.

Da hắn vốn màu lúa mì khỏe mạnh, giờ càng lúc càng tái nhợt như người đã lâu giam mình trong bóng tối. Thậm chí, bất kể hắn đứng hàng giờ dưới cái nắng tháng tám chói chang, màu da vẫn không sậm đi chút nào.

Đinh Linh Lâm trêu đùa rằng da hắn trắng gần như tuyết.

Tuyết.

Một từ đơn giản nhưng cứ ám ảnh hắn mãi như một bùa phép cổ xưa thần bí.

Cả gương mặt hắn cũng không thoát khỏi hiện tượng kỳ lạ này. Những thay đổi bé nhỏ âm thầm diễn ra trên gương mặt đã vô cùng quen thuộc với hắn suốt hơn hai mươi năm qua ngầm nói rằng hắn đang biến thành một người khác.

Không, nói đúng hơn, có một thứ ký sinh bí ẩn nào đó đang từ từ ăn mòn nhân dạng hắn, nhân dạng được biết đến với cái tên “Diệp Khai”.

Hắn còn sống, nhưng “Diệp Khai” thì đang dần chết đi.

Hắn có thể làm gì?

Hắn chẳng biết làm gì hơn ngoài chờ đợi, chờ đợi kết cục sau cùng.

Vì ngay đến những bác sĩ hàng đầu, đầy kinh nghiệm cũng chịu thua, không tìm được bất kỳ bệnh chứng gì; thậm chí một bác sĩ còn nói, bệnh chứng duy nhất của hắn chính là ở bộ não.

Hắn biết hắn không điên. Những người quen biết hắn, Đinh Linh Lâm, Lộ Tiểu Giai, Quách Định đều biết hắn không điên.

Nhưng ngay đến họ cũng không sao chứng minh được lời hắn nói là thật.

Một sáng thức dậy, trong gương là một gương mặt hoàn toàn xa lạ.

Bàn tay hắn run lên nhè nhẹ khi chạm vào gương mặt mới của mình.

“Diệp Khai” đã hoàn toàn biến mất rồi!

Đáng lẽ hắn nên đau khổ, nên tuyệt vọng, đằng này, hắn lại thấy vô cùng bình tĩnh.

Hắn không chán ghét nó, thậm chí còn yêu thích.

Tiếc là những người xung quanh hắn không có chung cảm nhận.

Mẹ hắn nhìn trân trân gương mặt mới của con mình. Dù bàkhông nói tiếng nào nhưng hắn đọc được trong mắt bà một nỗi oán độc xen lẫn hoảng sợ không phải của một người mẹ khi thấy gương mặt con mình đã biến thành một người khác.

Như thể bà từng biết chủ nhân của gương mặt này.

Mấy lần hắn dò hỏi, Hoa Bạch Phượng vẫn một mực im lặng.

Hắn không thể bắt ép bà, người mẹ đã một tay nuôi lớn hắn. Hắn đành giấu những thắc mắc vào đáy lòng.

Không biết từ lúc nào, hắn tách rời chính mình và gương mặt hiện tại giống như hắn và nó là hai cá thể hoàn toàn khác biệt.

Vì nếu không làm thế, hắn không thể lý giải nổi cảm xúc kỳ lạ nảy sinh khi lần đầu chứng kiến nó.

Đinh Linh Lâm cay đắng nói với hắn, không chỉ riêng dung mạo, ngay đến tính cách của hắn cũng không còn là Diệp Khai.

Hắn im lặng, không phủ nhận. Chính hắn cũng lờ mờ nhận ra điều đó.

Đinh Linh Lâm nói lời chia tay, hắn cũng chẳng có bất kỳ cảm giác gì, tựa như nàng chỉ là một người hắn tình cờ trông thấy trên xe điện, quán ăn hay bất cứ nơi nào khác. Khi đó, hắn đã biết.

Nàng, cô gái từng là tình yêu của đời hắn.

Đó là trước khi hắn biết “Tuyết”.

“Tuyết” là cái tên hắn đặt cho dung mạo mới của mình.

Có lẽ, hắn yêu “Tuyết” thật rồi.

Hắn đứng trước gương, mỉm cười—“Tuyết” đang cười với hắn.

Nụ cười của “Tuyết” đẹp mê hồn.

Hắn đứng trước gương, nói chuyện—“Tuyết” đang cùng hắn trò chuyện.

Không, là hắn nói, “Tuyết” nghe.

“Tuyết” không thích mở miệng nhiều nhưng lời hắn nói, “Tuyết” một chữ cũng không bỏ sót.

Thậm chí, những đêm cô đơn, hắn còn thể hình dung “Tuyết” ở bên hắn, cùng hắn trầm mê trong khoái hoạt.

Cứ như vậy, hắn sống cùng “Tuyết”.

Nhiều năm sau, Hoa Bạch Phượng qua đời. Trong lúc thu dọn những vật dụng cá nhân của bà, hắn tìm được một lá thư.

“Con của mẹ,

Con là tất cả của mẹ, là điều duy nhất giữ mẹ tồn tại sau khi cha con qua đời.

Có một bí mật này mẹ đã chôn giấu suốt hai mươi mấy năm, dự định sẽ mang nó cùng xuống mồ. Nhưng mẹ thấy thật không công bằng nếu con không được biết, bởi nó liên quan mật thiết đến con và dung mạo con đang sở hữu.

Mẹ biết con coi nó như một cá thể tồn tại độc lập; người khác có thể nghĩ con mất trí, mẹ thì không vì mẹ biết sự thực đúng là vậy.

Mẹ biết gương mặt đó. Mẹ chưa bao giờ quên.

Con sinh ra với một trái tim dị tật. Là một bác sĩ, mẹ biết rằng nếu không được ghép tim, con nhất định sẽ chết khi chưa đầy một tuổi.

Lúc ấy, tìm được một người hiến tim đã khó, tìm một trái tim phù hợp còn khó hơn.

Lúc mẹ tuyệt vọng nhất, trời đã cho mẹ một cơ hội, hoặc giả muốn nguyền rủa mẹ.

Ở khoa sản có một phụ nữ trẻ đã qua đời ngay sau khi hạ sinh một đứa bé trai. Ngoài một chữ “Tuyết” trong tên gọi, thân phận, xuất xứ, gia đình, tuổi tác của cô ta đều là một dấu hỏi lớn.

Người phụ nữ đó có nước da trắng tái và đôi mắt đen dị thường, đen đến mức phản chiếu ánh sáng. Chỉ nhìn một lần, gương mặt đó đã khắc sâu trong tâm trí mẹ.

Đứa con sinh ra giống hệt người mẹ đoản mệnh của nó. Các bác sĩ và y tá trong bệnh viện thống nhất gọi nó là “Tuyết”.

Cô ta được bệnh viện mai táng, đứa bé được gửi vào cô nhi viện.

Mẹ giấu tất cả mọi người, nhận nuôi nó rồi chuyển đến một địa phương xa lạ, không ai quen biết.

Không phải vì tình thương hay lòng trắc ẩn, mẹ mang nó về chỉ vì con ruột của mẹ cần một trái tim khỏe mạnh.

Mẹ đã có một lựa chọn tàn nhẫn nhất, độc ác nhất. Nhưng mẹ không hối hận. Vì con, mẹ không hề hối hận.

Con thường hỏi mẹ vì sao mẹ hay tỉnh dậy giữa đêm rồi thức luôn đến sáng. Mẹ không dám nói với con mẹ gặp ác mộng.

Một cơn ác mộng lặp đi lặp lại. Mẹ thấy gương mặt con dần dần biến thành đứa trẻ đã chết kia. Thậm chí mẹ còn nghe nó gọi “mẹ”.

Nếu đó là hình phạt dành cho tội ác mẹ đã gây ra, mẹ tình nguyện gánh hết. Chỉ cần con được sống tốt.

Mẹ không dám nghĩ sẽ có ngày ác mộng đó thành sự thật.

Mẹ xin lỗi…”

“Thì ra… tất cả đều là số phận…”

Hắn đưa một tay sờ nhẹ lên gương mặt, một tay đặt lên ngực trái.

Gương mặt của “Tuyết”, trái tim của “Tuyết”.

Sinh mạng của “Tuyết”.

Nếu không vì hắn, người đứng ở đây, lúc này là “Tuyết” chứ không phải “Diệp Khai”.

“Không sao đâu mẹ, con sẽ thay mẹ chăm sóc Tuyết thật tốt.”

Hết

[Diệp Phó] Phòng tối – Cái kết khác

Một cái kết khác (Alternate Ending) của Phòng tối

img_1843

Dark Room (Valley’s Eve)

In the darkness where your soul shivers at night
Together with the dust of time
The lie – your heart desires
Gives you wings
The only one who wants it
To return one day

In a dark room we watch alone
In a world of sin and pain
In a dark room we watch alone
You and I
In a world of sin we die

Gain back everything by force
Give a part of it to me
And think about nothing
The deep fall will be my pain
My past will be my future
I have to leave it behind me
Submerged in time
With the burning fire of yesterday
If the believe will die
You’ll be a human – without a heart
Then truth has no sense any longer

In a dark room we watch alone
In a world of sin and pain
In a dark room we watch alone
You and I
In a world of sin we die

—-

Đám tang Diệp Khai có rất nhiều người đến dự. Đám tang của một minh tinh đang ở đỉnh danh vọng chắc chắn có nhiều người đến dự.

Người trên mặt lộ rõ vẻ tiếc thương, người thỉnh thoảng rút khăn chấm nước mắt. Trong số đó, có bao nhiêu người thực sự vì hắn mà đau lòng, nhỏ lệ?

Ít nhất cũng có một người.

Nàng ngồi một mình trên hàng ghế dành cho người thân. Không nhỏ một giọt nước mắt nào suốt buổi lễ, nàng lặng lẽ như một chiếc bóng, cự tuyệt mở miệng với bất cứ ai hỏi thăm về Diệp Khai.

Nàng là Đinh Linh Lâm, tình nhân của Diệp Khai, cũng là người phát hiện xác hắn.

Ngày hôm đó, Diệp Khai nói chia tay nàng, thản nhiên kết thúc mối tình kéo dài suốt bốn năm. Tự ái của một tiểu thư thế gia không cho phép nàng níu kéo, hơn nữa, nàng cảm thấy hắn đã thay đổi quá nhiều, hắn không còn yêu nàng như trước nữa.

Từ nửa năm trước, hắn bắt đầu lạnh nhạt, hờ hững với nàng.

Có lẽ lâu hơn nữa, hoặc là, ngay từ đầu, tất cả yêu thương, ngọt ngào chỉ là ảo tưởng của riêng mình nàng.

Quản lý đã hai ngày không liên lạc được với hắn. Biết tính khí Diệp Khai quái dị thất thường, đặc biệt rất chú trọng tự do cá nhân, gã chần chừ mãi mới tìm đến Đinh Linh Lâm nhờ giúp đỡ. Linh cảm bất an khiến nàng bỏ qua kiêu ngạo mà tìm đến nhà hắn. Khi cảnh sát phá cửa ra, trên sàn nhà vương vãi những viên thuốc.

Cảnh sát kết luận, hắn vì sốc thuốc mà qua đời ở tuổi hai mươi sáu. Nhiều tờ báo lá cải bóng gió rằng hắn vì nàng mà chết.

Đinh Linh Lâm biết, tất cả đều là dối trá.

Hai năm trước, nàng bắt đầu nhận thấy sự thay đổi đầu tiên ở hắn.

Có một khoảng thời gian Diệp Khai xin nghỉ phép rồi biến mất không tăm tích. Ngay đến nàng và trợ lý thân cận nhất của hắn cũng không thể liên lạc được.

Khi trở về, hắn chỉ nói một câu bâng quơ cho xong rồi tiếp tục công việc như chưa có chuyện gì xảy ra.

Mà cũng có chuyện gì xảy ra đâu? Hắn vẫn là Diệp Khai, là minh tinh màn bạc, là tình nhân của Đinh Linh Lâm. Thay đổi ở hắn rất nhỏ, ngoài nàng, chẳng ai có thể nhận ra.

Từ đó, hắn thỉnh thoảng vẫn biến mất vào cuối tuần. Hắn chưa từng kể với nàng hắn đi đâu, làm gì hay gặp ai, nàng cũng không tiện hỏi.

Ngày đầu chính thức quen nhau, nàng đã hứa tôn trọng tự do cá nhân của hắn.

Dù vậy, tính hiếu kỳ cuối cùng đã chiến thắng, Đinh Linh Lâm làm một chuyện trước giờ nàng chưa từng làm: nàng xem trộm điện thoại và máy tính của Diệp Khai.

Không có bất kỳ dấu hiệu lạ nào. Đương lúc định bỏ cuộc thì nàng trông thấy chiếc máy ảnh cá nhân của hắn.

Gần trăm tấm hình chỉ chụp một người duy nhất, nói chính xác là chụp một bóng lưng duy nhất.

Người trong hình ngồi giữa thảm cỏ xanh mướt, quay lưng về phía ống kính, không rõ vì Diệp Khai không thể chụp được đằng trước hay vì hắn thích góc chụp như vậy. Mãi đến tấm gần đây nhất mới có sự thay đổi.

Trong hình là một thanh niên trạc tuổi Diệp Khai, khuôn mặt tuấn tú không kém hắn. Chỉ có điều, càng nhìn người đó, Đinh Linh Lâm càng có cảm giác lạnh lẽo.

Làn da trắng tái như người mắc chứng bạch tạng cùng mái tóc đen như màn đêm, hai màu sắc tương phản gay gắt khiến anh ta thoạt nhìn không giống một người đang sống. Nhưng Đinh Linh Lâm chú ý nhất không phải dung mạo mà là đôi mắt. Bức hình chụp khá gần, đôi mắt như đang “nhìn” thẳng vào Đinh Linh Lâm.

Sâu thẳm mà trống rỗng.

Nàng cất máy ảnh vào chỗ cũ mà tim đập thình thịch.

Giấu Diệp Khai, Đinh Linh Lâm tự mình tìm kiếm những thông tin về người thanh niên trong máy ảnh. Những gì nàng có được chỉ là một địa danh xa xôi cùng một cái tên “Tuyết”.

“Tuyết” sống ở một ngôi làng hẻo lánh giáp một ngọn núi. Nàng tự hỏi liệu những lần “mất tích” của Diệp Khai phải chăng đều vì “Tuyết”?

Ngoài mặt, nàng vẫn làm như không hay biết chuyện gì nhưng trong tâm đã nhen lên một ngọn lửa.

Nửa năm trước, Diệp Khai dừng hẳn những lần “mất tích” vào cuối tuần. Nàng chưa kịp mừng vì hắn chấm dứt dây dưa không rõ nguyên do với “Tuyết” thì đã nhận ra những thay đổi ở hắn, những thay đổi đáng sợ.

Mặc nàng tra vấn, hắn vẫn không hé nửa lời. Khi nàng buột miệng nhắc đến “Tuyết”, nàng thấy mắt hắn vằn lên những tia máu.

Hắn chia tay nàng. Rồi ba hôm sau, hắn chết.

Lúc nhìn thấy xác hắn trên nền nhà, nàng đột nhiên nghĩ đến “Tuyết”.

“Tuyết” sẽ phản ứng thế nào khi biết tin hắn chết? Cặp mắt trống rỗng đáng sợ của anh ta có nhỏ được giọt lệ nào không?

Nàng không biết quan hệ giữa hai người họ là gì, cớ sao lại đinh ninh “Tuyết” sẽ rơi nước mắt vì Diệp Khai qua đời, Đinh Linh Lâm không rõ.

Trong đầu nàng chợt nảy lên một ý tưởng tàn nhẫn.

Diệp Khai không còn người thân, Đinh Linh Lâm đứng ra lo liệu chu toàn đám tang và chôn cất hắn, bỏ ngoài tai những lời đàm tiếu.

Một tuần sau, Đinh Linh Lâm một mình lên chuyến xe lửa tới một vùng xa xôi, trong tay ôm chặt một hũ sứ trắng.

Trưởng thôn già mù lòa bình thản nói với nàng rằng người thanh niên gọi “Tuyết” đã qua đời hơn nửa năm.

Toàn thân Đinh Linh Lâm chợt lạnh run như bị rớt xuống hồ nước đá. Mất một lúc, nàng mới lắp bắp hỏi chỗ chôn “Tuyết”. Trưởng thôn “nhìn” nàng bằng cặp mắt mờ đục một hồi—có lẽ đang thắc mắc về mối quan hệ giữa cô gái thành thị này với đứa trẻ vắn số kia—rồi thở dài, đáp gọn:

“Anh trai cậu ta đưa đi rồi.”

Đinh Linh Lâm trở về thành phố trong hoang mang.

Cảnh sát trả cho nàng những món đồ cá nhân của Diệp Khai, trong đó có chiếc máy ảnh mà lúc trước nàng đã nhìn thấy hình “Tuyết”.

Không có thẻ nhớ.

Đinh Linh Lâm đến căn hộ của hắn, bỏ cả ngày lục tìm từng ngõ ngách. Thẻ nhớ tìm không thấy, nàng lại khám phá một căn phòng bí mật trong phòng ngủ Diệp Khai.

Nó không thể gọi là “phòng”, nói cho đúng, nó chỉ là một hốc tối lớn hơn thân người một chút.

Máu nàng như đóng băng. Nàng nghĩ nàng đã tìm thấy “Tuyết”.

Hết

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Cái kết chính thức cho Phòng tối nhé^^.

Lúc đầu, bạn phân vân không biết có nên cho cái ending này vào hay cứ để cái truyện kết thúc ở đoạn kia. Nhưng vì không muốn lãng phí ý tưởng (ý tưởng nó đến tùy hứng lắm, không dùng nó chạy mất TAT) nên kết quả là đây.

[Diệp Phó] Phòng tối

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Dark Room (Valley’s Eve)

In the darkness where your soul shivers at night
Together with the dust of time
The lie – your heart desires
Gives you wings
The only one who wants it
To return one day

In a dark room we watch alone
In a world of sin and pain
In a dark room we watch alone
You and I
In a world of sin we die

Gain back everything by force
Give a part of it to me
And think about nothing
The deep fall will be my pain
My past will be my future
I have to leave it behind me
Submerged in time
With the burning fire of yesterday
If the believe will die
You’ll be a human – without a heart
Then truth has no sense any longer

In a dark room we watch alone
In a world of sin and pain
In a dark room we watch alone
You and I
In a world of sin we die

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Chiếc Bentley hai màu trắng đen sang trọng từ từ tiến vào bãi. Diệp Khai mở cửa xe, đưa chìa khóa cho người bảo vệ trực đêm rồi uể oải tiến thẳng về phía dãy nhà. Nếu là bình thường, có lẽ hắn sẽ cố nặn ra vài lời chào hỏi xã giao—Diệp công tử vốn nổi tiếng hòa đồng, dễ gần cơ mà, có điều, hắn hiện tại chẳng còn chút hơi sức nào để đeo lớp mặt nạ đó lên nữa.

Thang máy trống không, giờ này ngoài hắn ra thì những người sống ở khu chung cư cao cấp này đều đã yên giấc cả rồi. Hắn che miệng, ngáp dài rồi bấm nút. Bữa tiệc tẻ ngắt kéo dài quá nửa đêm, hắn đã mấy lần muốn bỏ về nhưng gã quản lý nhất định giữ hắn lại đến lúc tàn cuộc. Kết quả, nửa buổi tiệc còn lại, nếu ai tinh ý sẽ phát hiện trên môi hắn một nụ cười đầy mai mỉa.

Đó là nếu như có người đủ tinh ý.

Diệp Khai sống ở chung cư này đã được bốn năm chẵn. Tài sản của hắn dư sức mua một căn biệt thự trên đồi—kiểu nhà ở những người có thân phận như hắn thường chọn để chứng tỏ đẳng cấp và bảo đảm sự riêng tư. Tuy nhiên, bỏ ngoài tai những lời lải nhải của trợ lý, Diệp Khai kiên quyết chọn mua một căn hộ chung cư, không, là mua hẳn một tầng mười ba, phá bỏ tất cả rồi xây lại một khu cho riêng hắn. Không ai biết Diệp Khai thích cảm giác có người xung quanh hơn là lẻ loi một mình, làm vậy vừa đáp ứng được nhu cầu của hắn, vừa bảo toàn một khoảng cách tương đối với những người khác cùng sống trong dãy nhà.

Ánh đèn neon trong thang máy sáng đến lạnh lẽo. Diệp Khai nhàm chán ngắm nghía hình phản chiếu của mình trong gương. Vầng thâm nhàn nhạt vòng quanh cặp mắt đã nổi lên những sợi tơ máu li ti, màu da trắng tái dưới ánh đèn càng không thể che dấu sự tiều tụy. Da hắn cách đây nửa năm vẫn còn màu lúa mì khỏe mạnh, giờ hệt như kẻ lâu năm không thấy mặt trời. Nghĩ đến mà buồn cười, hôm nay quản lý còn nói không chừng màu da như vậy sẽ trở thành xu hướng mới trong giới trẻ.

Khóe môi hắn khẽ nhếch lên. Phải rồi, bất kỳ thứ gì thuộc về hắn mà chẳng trở thành xu hướng?

Bởi vì hắn là Diệp Khai.

Bởi vì mọi người quanh hắn đều ưa thích gương mặt này, đều phát cuồng vì gương mặt này đến mức không ngần ngại chạy theo những chiêu trò moi tiền mà giám đốc công ty hắn bày ra.

Chỉ riêng Diệp Khai biết hắn chán ghét gương mặt này như thế nào, chán ghét cuộc sống này như thế nào, chán ghét bản thân mình như thế nào.

Hắn đang tự vui với ý nghĩ gương mặt mình cũng sẽ vỡ nát giống như tấm kính khi tiếp xúc với nắm đấm của hắn thì cửa thang máy mở ra.

Ngay khi bước ra khỏi thang máy, đặt chân ở tầng mười ba, Diệp Khai có cảm tưởng mình đã đến một thế giới khác, một thế giới của riêng hắn.

Hành lang im lặng như ngôi mộ chỉ vang lên những tiếng đế giày ma sát với nền gạch.

Bóng tối ngự trị trong phòng, Diệp Khai cất tiếng gọi.

“Anh về rồi.”

Cả đèn cũng không bật lên, hắn gọi ai cơ chứ?

Một đôi tay từ bóng tối vươn ra ôm lấy Diệp Khai, đẩy hắn ngã xuống trường kỷ.

Không bất ngờ, không sợ hãi, giọng nói của hắn thản nhiên lạ lùng.

“Từ từ nào.”

Thậm chí còn nghe ra một chút ấm áp, một chút âu yếm.

Hắn tháo khăn lụa trên cổ. Khi thứ phụ kiện quá mức vướng víu này mãi vẫn chưa cởi được, hắn dứt khoát giật phăng đi, kéo theo mấy cái nút mạ vàng trên chiếc áo đắt tiền.

Cổ, yết hầu, ngực liền lộ ra.

Như chỉ chờ có thế, hai vật sắc nhọn liền cắm xuống.

Yên tĩnh.

“Sinh vật” đè nghiến hắn trên trường kỷ đang tham lam mút lấy từng giọt sự sống của hắn.

Diệp Khai khẽ thở dài. Thị giác vì mất máu mà trở nên mơ hồ, bù lại, những giác quan khác trở nên mẫn cảm hơn. Diệp Khai thậm chí nghe được tiếng máu trong mạch đang thoát dần đi cùng cảm giác ẩm ướt trên cổ. Đồng thời, một thứ gần như khoái cảm theo xương sống lan khắp toàn thân. Hắn đưa bàn tay xuyên qua đám tóc mềm mại, xoa nắn da thịt trên cơ thể đang đè lên người mình.

Trong bóng tối, Diệp Khai khẽ cười. Trái với khi nãy, làn da đã dần có hơi ấm.

Nhờ vào máu của hắn.

Hắn rất muốn cho thêm nữa nhưng cơ thể có giới hạn và hắn vẫn chưa muốn chết.

“Đủ rồi Tuyết!”

“Tuyết” dường như không nghe thấy, bờ môi càng ấn sâu xuống cổ. Diệp Khai buộc phải dùng hai tay đẩy “Tuyết” ra.

Vài giọt máu rơi xuống ngực hắn. “Tuyết” vội cúi đầu, mò mẫm một chút rồi đưa lưỡi ra liếm sạch.

Nhìn “Tuyết” tham luyến từng giọt máu của hắn như vậy, trong lòng Diệp Khai dâng lên cảm giác vô cùng thỏa mãn.

Thậm chí là hạnh phúc.

Hắn muốn nhìn rõ “Tuyết”.

Ánh đèn nhanh chóng xua đi bóng tối trong căn phòng. “Tuyết” như bị điện giật, rụt người lại, cổ họng phát ra những tiếng rên khe khẽ như dã thú.

“Không sao. Không phải mặt trời đâu, chỉ là ánh đèn thôi.”

Lòng ngập tràn hối hận, Diệp Khai ôm lấy “Tuyết”, nhẹ giọng vỗ về.

“Đừng sợ. Đừng sợ. Có anh đây rồi.”

Co rúm trong lòng Diệp Khai là một thân hình gầy ốm cơ hồ nhìn rõ từng chiếc xương bên dưới lớp da mỏng, trắng xóa như tờ giấy. Mái tóc đen như mực xõa dài như những con rắn đen quấn lấy cả hai. Dù vậy, nếu nhìn kỹ vẫn có thể nhận ra đó là cơ thể nam giới.

Là một thiếu niên!

Diệp Khai vén lọn tóc lòa xòa trước mặt thiếu niên, lộ ra một khuôn mặt với những đường nét vô cùng sắc xảo, không hề thua kém Diệp Khai.

Chỉ là khuôn mặt Diệp Khai khiến người người say mê thì khuôn mặt này sẽ khiến phần lớn ớn lạnh.

Bởi vì đôi cửa sổ tâm hồn này có thể khiến người đối diện như chìm vào vực sâu tận cùng.

Sâu thẳm mà trống rỗng.

Rất lâu, rất lâu rồi, hai con ngươi đen đến mức phản chiếu ánh sáng này đã không còn trông thấy ánh sáng.

Không nhìn thấy ánh sáng nhưng “Tuyết” lại có một bản năng kỳ lạ để nhận biết ánh sáng.

Diệp Khai âu yếm hôn lên trán và sống mũi “Tuyết”. Hắn thấy trong mắt “Tuyết” khuôn mặt thật sự của mình, không bị bất cứ lớp mặt nạ nào che đậy.

Chỉ trước mặt “Tuyết”, hắn mới có thể lộ ra con người thật của mình.

Cũng chỉ có “Tuyết” mới cần hắn, cần một Diệp Khai chân chính chứ không phải khuôn mặt đẹp đẽ mà giả dối kia.

Hắn ghì chặt lấy cơ thể “Tuyết” bằng sức mạnh của một kẻ sắp chết đuối vớ được phao, ngấu nghiến đôi môi ‘Tuyết’.

Mùi máu quyện trên đầu lưỡi.

Diệp Khai có thể mất tất cả, tiền bạc, danh tiếng, thậm chí cả tính mạng, chỉ không thể mất “Tuyết”.

Hết ( ?)

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Note:

Có ai cảm thấy nó đen tối không ^^’? Nếu chưa thì vẫn còn một đoạn Ending phía sau nữa ^^

Mấy bữa nay ngồi chuẩn bị bài để bảo vệ luận văn mà trong đầu tự dưng nảy ra ý định viết mấy đoản văn Diệp Phó hiện đại mang màu sắc tăm tối một chút. Cái này là Oneshot mở đầu cho series đoản xoay quanh cp Diệp Phó. Hiện tại đã có ý tưởng cho 3 truyện; nếu con số vượt qua 4 thì sẽ trở thành series^^.

Khi viết cái này, bạn đã liên tưởng đến phim Marebito, một phim kinh dị của Nhật (thật ra bạn thấy nó weird hơn là kinh dị) có cốt truyện khá khó hiểu và có thể diễn giải theo nhiều hướng khác nhau. Nếu ai chưa xem thì cũng nên coi thử ^^

Theo mọi người “Tuyết” ở đây là “sinh vật” gì?

Poster Marebito (2004)