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A Villain (Short Story)
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Let it be known that I am a liar, a coward, a lecher, a thief, a scoundrel, a wretch, and a thousand other such titles befitting a man such as I. I am a plague! But I tell you, it was not always so. Or, at least, I had not always been aware of it. This, perhaps, merely makes me all the more the wretch for being so willfully unaware. So judge me, tear me, prosecute me with all your might! Perhaps this is why I tell you, so that more than just I know of the wickedness of which I am capable.
But it may be prudent, I daresay, for you to perhaps know the man who you judge. Yes, yes I think that should be best. I should start at the beginning. Not mine of course. But the beginning of my revelation that I am a villain.
Oh I was a proud man once. How I remember it well. The height before the fall. But, then, perhaps I was never on high, and only now do I look down and realize the pit I have always resided within. Bah! Pride. The most cardinal of sins. Yes, I was proud, and why should I not have been? I had money, I had position, I had women. Yes, even then I knew I was a lecher, though I called it something else. I called myself a romantic. A lover of beauty. I would devote myself to them, and when I grew bored or, ‘distant’ as I termed it, I broke it off with fewest tears shed possible. Of money there were no questions, I had it in abundance thanks to a helpful allowance, and a lengthy and the seeming eternity of youth with which to spend it. I had moved to the town my fall occurred within several years ago, eager to escape the watchful gaze of my parents to one of their smaller homes. Independence? Rubbish! I brought my own valet, hired a cook, anything I so required, I bought.
Such as respect.
How amusing I find it now, to be able to purchase respect. Like it was a commodity. I wonder if even then, deep down, when I had given my first coin to a friend in need, I knew I was buying respectability with my charity. I dare say I do not doubt it. Or perhaps I merely enjoyed their suffering, knowing I stood above them? Most likely both, such was my pride.
Yes, it was my pride she wounded first. All the more so because it bothered me so, and it by rights should not have! We had met at a party hosted by a friend of mine, Peter Chekov. This was not to say I had never seen her before, for I was rather well respected in town, and never without invitation to such events. I had seen her about on occasion, in the corner of the ballrooms and parties, and I had always been preoccupied. This was the first time we met properly.
I should describe her to you, I think. Yes, I should. If I describe myself, than best she as well. She was a young, sprightly woman, with large innocent eyes shadowed by thick lashes; her cheeks seeming to retain a perpetual flush of embarrassment no matter who spoke to her or of what. Her name was Katyusha. I can still see that dress she wore that night, damn her. It was her best, but out of place in the party even so. It had the look of great care being taken in its maintenance, every stitch painfully preserved, every lace so carefully pressed, but the effort done still marked it as her only clothes for company such as this. She was the daughter of a retired colonel, a local man. She was very well received wherever she went, and trained to be a seamstress, as I came to learn. She did so for a small profit, and was regarded very well. I, of course, knew none of this, and greeted her pleasantly, but she paid me little heed. She demurred, not disrespectfully understand, yet paid me little interest.
It…bothered me. It shouldn’t have, this I know. But yes…Yes it did. She, the daughter of a colonel, had treated me so coolly? Why I asked myself? Why, the very question. Why did I care? Why should I bother? There were more attractive women there, to be sure. More pliable, and certainly wealthier than she. Yet her simple act of not recognising made me feel slighted.
I made inquiries of her from Peter. He was a fairly good man, but as gossipy as an old woman, and it took some time to bring him around to the subject.
“Ah! Katyusha!” he began once I managed to turn the conversation to her. “Yes, she’s the daughter of that colonel you know. A decent fellow, I should think. Somewhat poor, I understand. Hardly hold it against her though, I should know. Not her fault. Do you know, her father’s been having some financial problems?”
I confessed I did not. This seemed to make Peter even more eager to speak, for he bobbed his head like a duck upon seeing some scraps of bread.
“Oh yes, yes. Seems he’s something of a gambler, you know. And a drunk to boot! Who’d have thought it! With three daughters and a wife to care for. Such a shame. But it’s the truth, Light as my witness, you know. Don’t spread it around though.”
I assured him I would not.
“Good, good. Can’t have too many people talking about it. Oh, but they do, you know? Not exactly state secrets this. He can be seen around the taverns at odd hours. Gambling halls too. Fairly reputable but don’t spread it around. Not exactly honourable that. Still, we all must have our vices, eh?” he winked slyly.
At this point I felt a stirring. A spiteful, cruel feeling began to claw at me. I know what it was now. I feel it still, urging me, though now I know what it truly is. But I convinced myself it was but pity at the time, pity for that girl who had slighted me. I laughed and told Peter, I told him willingly that I would happily have given her three thousand gold if she would come to me and but ask. I told him in confidence, knowing he would not keep it. Peter was the sort of man who believed himself private, but was all too public. By the end of the week, perhaps even the end of the night, Katyusha would know all about my offer.
So I waited. I waited, with cruel charity for the time to come. And it was only a matter of time, you understand. A gambler and a drunk? On a colonel’s salary? She would be at my door within the month, I assured myself. And I would gift her the money, gift it to her magnanimously, and tell no one I had done so. But everyone would know, of course. Such things have a way of getting out. Yes, they would know, and I would be all the more honourable for saying nothing of it. Honourable, I thought! What honour is there in such a scheme? You see how I deluded myself! Wretch that I am and my accursed plans!
But it did not go as planned. It was beginning to take too long. The debts must have piled up, but that colonel must have had some rich relatives, for though he was constantly losing money, he made do. It began to itch and gnaw at me that she had not yet come. As if she had slighted me by not being party to my little scheme. Light! How I poisoned myself waiting for her! I nearly retreated into hermitage. I received no visitors anymore; I cloistered myself in my office. The only times I ever left was to enjoy dinners or parties, for there was always a chance I would meet her there. And whenever I saw her, I would glare at her the entire time from across the room, as if urging her to notice my impatience. Each time I looked upon her I did so with cruelty. Just you wait, I told myself. I’ll see you grateful, prostrate, and begging for my favour. I began to think she mocked me, laughing at my offer of charity. As if she didn’t need it. As if her cool behaviour was to scorn me. I would have none of it!
There was a single instance in which I truly spoke with her. It was at a dinner, I remember it well. I had maneuvered myself to be seated beside her. Yet I bided my time at first. Throughout much of the meal she spoke to a young gentleman across from her, less than a face in the crowd to me. I only saw her. And as their conversation faded into silence, I pounced. Looking to Katyusha, I greeted her amiably, tipping my drink slightly in greeting. Speaking to her as if we were equals, even.
She introduced herself, smiled politely, and went back to her meal. I’m frankly surprised the drink I held did not shatter, I gripped it so hard in sudden rage. Why I demanded of myself? Why did she not pay me even the slightest attention? She had given it so freely to the youth across from us, why not to me? My fury must have betrayed me at some point, for her father quickly excused them, casting a suspicious look at me as they departed. How I loathed that old man.
It was then I then turned from the cruelty of watching, to working upon her misery myself. And how much more vile it is to force fate’s hand! It is cruel to watch, but to take part? That is when the wheels of hell do turn. I discovered which of his family had been providing the colonel with money, a sister, who had a small fortune she had hoarded away.
Well, I put a swift end to that! I wrote to her. I remember it well. I took such savage joy in sprinkling it with accolades of her character, praise for her generosity, her kindness, all of which lead to me describing how her dear nephew spent her money. How it was my ‘duty’ to inform her. And I was such a ‘respectable’ gentleman too. I took particular pleasure in writing that word at the time.
I received no reply, but evidently Peter had. He had been visiting the colonel, who was apparently an acquaintance (between myself and the colonel, I have begun to wonder of Peter’s taste in friends). Peter described it to me, in the utmost confidence of course.
“It was the strangest thing,” my old friend began wistfully, gently rocking a glass of brandy. “He received this letter from his sister, a kindly woman you know. Met her a few times while she was in town with her husband visiting. Such good people.” He went on to describe their last visit for a good five minutes -- absentminded fool I cursed as I gripped the arms of the chair I sat in -- before I could turn the conversation back to the letter.
“Anyway, he received the letter and sat down with such a pleased expression. I rose to leave, but he wouldn’t have it. ‘Please, stay, it won’t take but a moment,’ he had said with a beaming face. I decided to, and watched him slit it open with such a happy look. He kept it as he began to read, but to my astonishment, yes, astonishment you know, his whole face seemed to fall as he went on. I had never seen such a look of loss and hopelessness. I didn’t want to pry you know, but I asked what the matter was.
‘It’s all over,’ he murmured. Then, all of a sudden his hands on the note started to shake and he rose from his chair. His eyes had a certain pale desperation to them. Somewhat like how a dog might when starved and desperate for food. At least, such I imagine it to be, at any rate. Not that I would know, you know.”
I assured him I did.
“Yes, anyway then he seemed to become increasingly desperate. He jumped out of his chair, only to sit back down again, then got back up and began to pace the room. I’d never seen anything like it. I asked him whatever was the matter, and he looked at me with the most heart wrenching look I’d ever seen! ‘What am I going to do!’ he wailed. He rushed to me and showed me the letter. His sister had apparently had enough, and refused to send him anymore more money. She must have heard he was wasting it at the tables. I always told him it would end this way, you know. To get a grip on himself. Ah, but,” here Peter had shrugged helplessly, “what could I do? Ahem, keep it under your hat, though. Terrible thing that. A pity.”
I could barely keep my voice level as I agreed, it was indeed a pity. Such wretched delight I felt at this tale of woes. The iron was hot, and it was time to strike! I approached loan sharks that the colonel went to. I encouraged them to lend him more. To pile on his debt. I paid them pittances in his name. I cared not for that wretched man. That colonel. Even now, when I recognize my own depravity and sin, I hold nothing but contempt for how he carried himself. How he rejoiced in the increasing money lent to him as he squandered it, thinking nothing of his family. But it was well enough for me that he did.
Then, it occurred. Her father, the colonel, died. Cruel twist of fate that it was. He became holed up, avoiding creditors like a plague. Then, he died. They said he fell suddenly ill, but to be felled in a single night? No matter, that he was dead was all that mattered to me. I heard it from the doctor himself, a wretched rat-like little fellow. How I rejoiced! Can you believe it? I rejoiced! I was in ecstasy at such providence! I could have kissed the doctor for this news, but I held it in, coveted it like a miser. I was blind, even then, to my own monstrousness. How did I come to terms with that joy? I don’t believe I ever even thought of it, lost in the throes of ecstasy. For now! Now she would come, she had to.
But she did not. No, she stayed in that small home she lived in all her life. The only other thing she inherited from her father were his debts and her sisters and mother. I heard form Peter that her aunt, the one who had been supplying the colonel with the money in fact, had suggested she send her sisters to her, but Katyusha had declined, too proud to accept such assistance. Doubly proud, it seemed to me. She stayed, making those damned dresses, selling them, spending her odd time mending, whatever she could do to support her family. She even sold her families silver to a pawnshop! I ground my teeth at the sight. Still she refused my offer? Was I that deplorable that she would not even come to me?
Well, so be it! I spurred her creditors on. Take her house I told them! Take it, settle those debts at least. And so they did. Evicted her, put her out on the street, at the mercy of the bitter cold and bitterer men. Men like me. For now, if not for herself, but for her family, she would have to come.
And so, she did. All alone, she came to my home. My valet, a kindly old man, informed me of her presence. I rejoiced! I bid him to show her to the foyer, and that I would be down shortly. Let her wait, I told myself. Let her squirm. My hour of triumph was nigh! She would know who was the better, would know I stood above her. I dressed in my best even though it was so late. Slowly. If I took the whole night to put on my coat she would still be down there in the foyer, I knew. And I tell you, it amused me so to have her wait there. For in a small desk in the very same room as she was, a bank note sat. One on which I had written on the very day I had told Peter I would, I wrote it out for three thousand gold, signed over to her. I cackled at the thought of the money and her being in the same room, so close to her, that it was there for the taking, and that if she felt so inclined she could well take it and be gone. I half hoped she would. Take it, show who the nobler of us two was. But I knew she wouldn’t. She was a good woman. Oh how that amused me, knowing she would not.
At last I finished dressing and entered the foyer, and there I paused. Here she was, dressed in her very best dress, the very same as at that party so long ago, worn thing that it was. Her hands were clasped before her, head bowed meekly. She only raised it when I entered the room, then lowered it immediately afterwards with a slight flush of embarrassment. I was elated, and encouraged her to step inside where it was warmer. I told her she must be freezing. As if I hadn’t put her out into such frigid snow! I had checked the temperature all day like the cretin I was, just to be reassured the winds were still biting. I asked why she had come, as if I didn’t know. Hah!
She looked down at her hands, and slowly raised her head, not looking me in the eyes, looking anywhere but there. The humiliation she suffered from. I reveled in it! I fed on it like a leech. Now she will be grateful, I said to myself. Now, she would see me as her knight in shining armour!
“I…” she began, only to pause. How I shivered in joy at her embarrassment. “…I do not know if you have heard. But, we lost our house the other day. The…it was owed…” I smiled like a snake comforting its prey while thinking of devouring it. I told her in a soothing, empathic tone that I had no idea. She smiled at me and continued. “I…had heard that you…may have had some money, for me. That…you might be willing to give it to me, if I asked. Well…I…” and here she flushed and looked down at her hands.
I felt my whole body tingle in such wretched, hideous joy. I smiled as a sudden cruelty washed over me, coming from that dark pit within my soul in which I had indulged in, had drawn from to punish her. Why did I go that extra step? Why! I asked her, yes I! I asked her what she would do if I was not willing to give her the money!
Do you know what she did? Do you! I’ll tell you blast it! She stiffened first in shock, and I grabbed the desk with the bank note within until my knuckles turned white. I listened eagerly, waiting for her to crumble before me. I leaned forward. Now! The moment was now! Now she would submit to me! Beg me!
I watched as she looked up at me. Her eyes were large, but they were dry. There were no tears, there was no weakness. She merely smiled sadly and told me…she told me: “Then, I am sorry I wasted your time.”
And, what do you presume I felt at that moment? When all had come together, when that young, willful thing stood in my foyer, a sad smile upon her face? Beaten. Was it ecstasy? Joy?
No! I felt only rage! At that very moment, I realized how much nobler she was than I. She had come to me, looking for money! Money I had promised her, money I had no need of. She had come, and when I refused, she would leave? She would just…leave! She would not weep, she would not beg, she would not throw herself at my feet, admit I was better than her, that I was a generous soul! That she was wrong to…to…I do not even know! She would not try to pull my heart strings, though I doubt I had a heart to move anymore.
My face twisted into something horrible. Don’t you understand? She had beaten me! She was the victor! She had nothing! She had no money, no home, the baggage of a mother and a sister bearing upon her! Yet she still had dignity! And I? I had debased myself! I was lower than a worm, I was an insect, a monster. I had damned myself, damned myself to drag her down with me! Yet she still stood above me! Even higher in her suffering, for then she showed the true mettle of who she was. She was the victor! She, was better than me! She was too good for me!
I flew into a fury. I stamped my feet. I tore at my hair, I began to rant and scream. And what was worse? She looked shocked. Shocked! She drew back in fear, afraid! She had made me realize what a foul, despicable creature I was! And she didn’t even know it! I had destroyed her, and she had not the slightest clue. How was she to know? She had done nothing to me, I realized then. Nothing! Why? Why then did I do it?
I tore open the cabinet, sending papers flying about the room. My fingers which found the banknote were more claws than anything else, and I flung it at her. I screamed for her to take it, take it and get out! Get out, or I would beat her with my cane! She was terrified, hesitant, confused. I laughed hideously as she stared at me with those wide, innocent eyes. Innocence I could never have! And only then did she take the money and flee, leaving me to wallow in my own hideousness.
The curtain had come crashing down, revealing to me the facts hidden behind my every act. I was a hideous, spiteful creature. An insect! A parasite! My charity, my philandering, it was all vice! I had not a single redeeming quality. I rejoiced in charity for its reflection on myself, I used women and tossed them away when done. I had not a single moral or compunction. I was a beast, and a coward for never seeing it. I was a thief, who tried to rob Katyusha of her dignity, as if to clothe myself in it. I came to grips with every good act I had performed, and saw the twisted and cruel motivation behind it. The knight’s shining armour was made of dross painted gold!
I thundered through the house, ordering my valet out! He fearfully complied, leaving me with my darkness. I raged throughout the night, hating myself far more than I ever thought of being capable of.
I spent all of the night in this state, stomping about the house in impotent fury even as the morning rays pierced the windows. Eventually, there was a knock upon my door. I flung it open, still garbed in my ruined clothes from the night before.
And there…There stood Katyusha. She trembled all over, fear etched in her face as she struggled to meet my feverish eyes, shifting uneasily from one foot to another, as if considering whether to flee. She was wringing her hands in worry. Worry for me, I knew.
I slammed the door on her face without exchanging a word.
I waited until she was gone. When at last, I saw her pass the gate of my estate, taking far longer than necessary due to constantly pausing to look back, I donned my coat and shoes, grabbed my cane and hat, and left for town.
It was a remarkable thing, you know? This crime against humanity and decency I had committed. For man’s laws would not punish me. For certain I would be disliked, detested should I confess to my hand sin such a misery, if anyone would even believe me. More likely they thought me mad… But no, I wasn’t mad. I was far saner than ever before.
I spent all that first day clearing her of any debts. It was far more than the measly three thousand I had offered her. Of course she hadn’t asked for more, I thought. I smiled viciously at the speed with which I cleared her account. After all, I knew every man her father had owed money to. The colonel’s sister had been surprised indeed when she received funds from me for her niece’s benefit. In one of several letters she said she held me in the highest esteem. Old fool.
Next, I went to Peter. He met me garbed in a bedclothes and slippers, still rubbing sleep from his eyes as he smiled in blissful ignorance at me. I asked him to take in Katyusha and her family for a time, as a personal favour to me. As servants. Boarders. I cared not. A startling request, and he said so, but he acceded to it all the same.
“But, my good fellow, might I ask you why?”
I said he might, but did not give him an answer. I merely took up my hat once more, and departed.
It took some time to finish putting everything back to a state which might be called order. Some time, and more than a little money. Far too much. I ruined myself rebuilding her. My father must have heard how I had been spending my monthly stipends, or perhaps he had simply grown tired of me. He cut me off. I was ordered to vacate the house within a month. I could do little more than watch as my life began to dissolve about me. All of this I sailed through listlessly, often falling into long bouts of numb melancholy which clung to me like blackened pitch, as if I were detached from the material world and the energy drained from me. I still occasioned the odd parties and dinners, but my bouts of depression merely seemed exacerbated at such social occasions, and I almost always ended shunning others with frigid silence, though so many wished to speak to me. Praising me for my works in bringing Katyusha back out of poverty. I didn’t know how they knew, though I suspect Peter and Katyusha’s aunt had a hand in it. Whatever, I no longer cared.
I suspect I should take a slight interlude to mention Katyusha here, as it was at such functions that we would occasionally meet. The very first time I saw her following the incident which does not bear repeating, I had been at a party hosted by Peter. I had finally gained a moments peace and was drifting about one of the unused rooms when I noted Katyusha’s approach. She flounced right up to me, looked me hard in the face, then slapped me quite harshly.
“Stop this at once!” she had ordered me fiercely. I recall idly reaching up and stroking the place she had struck while I asked what she meant, not at all fazed by the strike. I say this not from any sort of bravado, please understand, but merely a disinterest in the world about me of which I have already mentioned, compounded by the knowledge of what I had done to her.
Katyusha had flared back up. “This…Charity! Stop it at once! I don’t need it! Nor do I want it! I can take care of my sisters and I myself! I don’t want your pity,” she had seethed, her cheeks a crimson glow from the humiliation and rage she felt at that moment.
As I took a sip of my drink, I lazily wondered if she had spent long working up the courage to make this confrontation. Lowering the glass, I had shrugged carelessly. I informed her that I understood, but that I would not, for neither her nor her sisters were the reasons I did this.
“Then for who? For yourself? For their praise?” she had demanded, gesturing at the room we had vacated.
I looked away thoughtfully. Then, with a shrug, acceded she must be right. She evidently didn’t know what to make of this, for she stared at me with a sort of muted shock and bafflement, before flushing again and turning on her heel. Leaving me on my own. Strange as it is to say, and I reflected upon at that very moment as I took another drink, but I felt no the slightest impact from that encounter. Such a meeting with the object of my obsession would have sent me into a frenzy before, but now I merely felt empty and numb, as if the conversation had never occurred.
Thus it was whenever I would see her, which was infrequently. She would occasionally shoot me glances from across the room, and on a rare occasion she would go so far as attempt to speak to me. Yet I felt nothing when encountering her, no more or less than anyone else. Thus our conversations were always short, with I treating her coldly as I did everyone else who I spoke to.
It was such a melancholic and lackluster mood which I found myself in, sitting within the living room of my soon to be abandoned home when Peter came to call. I considered merely ignoring him, but he had done me no small favour in taking in Katyusha for a time. Therefore, I mustered the effort to rise and let him inside.
“Glad to see you old man!” Peter declared as he entered. “You hadn’t been accepting my invitations anymore! I hadn’t a clue what to do, you know. Good heavens!” Peter exclaimed as I led him carelessly into the study. “It’s so dusty in here! And the fire! Why isn’t it lit? It’s far too cold to go without. No, no, you sit down. Here, I’ll get it…there we are, that’s a start. But I say, I should give that valet of yours a piece of my mind! Letting the place get to such a state. A disgrace!” Peter harrumphed.
I slouched heavily on a sofa as I informed Peter I had to fire my cook and valet, no longer able to afford their salaries.
“Oh!...Hmm…Yes, that’s unfortunate.” Peter fell into the seat across from mine. “I had heard of your…misfortune. I must admit, I came here to find out how you’ve been getting along. You hardly go out anymore, you never speak to anyone, I worry! I mean, what are you going to do old man?”
Strange to say, I hardly felt the motivation to maintain any charade of obliviousness or misdirection with Peter. Oh I knew that with his earnestness and faith in me, he would believe whatever lie I might choose to feed him. But, I had no desire to do so. Thus, I confessed of my current straits. That I was to be evicted from my home at the end of the week. That I had pawned what few possessions of mine yet remained to pay for the ticket, and that I did not know what to do once I arrived.
“What! Evicted!” Peter cried in sudden emotion, leaping from his seat. “Surely not! That is,” he continued, regaining control and taking his seat, “I had heard things, these sorts get around you know, but the end of the week? That’s…that’s so soon! Tell me, what are you to do? Oh do tell me, do you have any plans? I’m so worried you see. Oh! But perhaps you don’t want anyone to know! I understand, of course I do. Yes, but I should know! Of course, I might be able to help. But you would have thought of that, perhaps. Would you ask? I don’t know. Oh. But you simply must tell me! Where will you go? What will you do?”
In that moment in which Peter paused to take a break I calmly interjected that I was going to Stormwind. No, I did not know what I would do when I arrived. Yes, I had little money to do so. No I didn’t have a job there to occupy me.
“But, surely you cannot leave just like that! You can stay with me! At least, until you get back on your feet!”
I smiled darkly to myself, cradling my head in my hand. Ah, that was exactly it. I could see it oh so clearly at that moment. The true meaning behind his offer. Yes, take me on as a charity case. You would look oh so good, wouldn’t you Peter? To be the bearer of my burden, putting yourself out in such a way as to help a friend in need. Wouldn’t they just heap the praise upon you, for aiding your good and charitable friend when he had fallen on hard times.
I assured him I did not require his assistance, a familiar bubble of pleasure worming its way into a smile upon my face. Oh yes, how perfect it would be for him, I thought.
“Hullo? Why are you smiling? Never mind. But you simply must! I cannot leave a friend of mine out in the cold like this! At least let me help you somehow!”
He was frustratingly insistent. I informed him of how…unfortunate, it would be should I, a bachelor, stay in the same home as an unwed lady such as Katyusha, who I was well aware still stayed with Peter.
“Ah, yes. You’re right of course. Oh dear…” Peter fell forward into a slouch, a saddened expression painting his foolish face. He looked up at me with a slight smile.
“You know, my good man.” I had to hold back a snicker at that, I recall. “Katyusha has been asking an awful lot about you.” I leaned back in my seat again, melancholy overtaking me once more and smothering those dark pleasures which had begun to surface. I made a noise of understanding, which Peter took to heart as interest. Strange man.
“Oh yes!” he exclaimed, bobbing his head. “She’s been quite anxious about how you’ve been. She’s even been writing letters to your family. She won’t say so, though, keep it under your hat won’t you?” I waved the comment wearily away. Peter bobbed his head eagerly. “Yes! She’s been most anxious to hear about your condition, and appreciated all you’ve done. Of course, she’d never say so, but I’ve seen her when she thinks I’m not looking. Oh! She’s always so busy! You know, she’s quite the fastidious little thing. She’s talked to your cook and valet I hear, and has been keeping a careful eye on all those debts you’ve paid off. Best watch out old man, I think she just might have her eye on you.”
Something stirred within me. Not the dark pleasure I had grown so used to when thoughts of her came before that fateful night, nor the oppressive weight of realization which had burdened me in recent weeks. It was something subtle, something tantalizing out of reach. It was an incomplete thought, as if the brain had recognized something, but the mind had yet to piece it together. I showed an increased interest, leaning forward somewhat and informing Peter I was unaware of that.
Peter, of course, upon the tidbit eagerly. “Oh yes! You’re all she seems to talk about. Good Light, if I had a copper for every time she asked me about you, I dare say I’d be the richest man in town! She’s got her eye on you, mark my words old fellow. In fact, just a few days ago, she told me something of great interest. Would you like to know?”
I confessed I did.
“Well, you know, I did promise I would tell not a soul,” Peter said coyly. I felt a sudden chill hand clench my heart at those words, but the meaning yet escaped me. I could feel a cold sweat bead my forehead, regardless of the flame which burned in the grate. I nearly begged him to tell me.
“Ah, well, since you seem so eager to know I’ll tell you,” Peter said, fairly basking in the attention. “Now, you didn’t hear it from me, but according to her, she is simply so grateful for your aid! Though she feels embarrassed to admit it, and feels simply awful for being in part the cause for your plight, that she told me, in confidence of course, that if you were to but ask her, she would give you all her savings! A good three thousand gold! Imagine that!”
His words struck me like a blow. My throat seemed to constrict like an adder, as a sickening feeling fell upon me. I slowly leaned forward, clasping my head in my hands while I stared unseeing. My mind raced as the pieces fell into place, and I began to understand. Yes, I began to understand. This existence I had built for her, rebuilt for her after I had shattered her life, she came forth now, came forth to destroy me with the very weapon I had attempted to use against her. I wondered then, would the banknote -- for I had no doubt it would be a banknote -- be in a cabinet as well?
I dismissed Peter, saying I felt unwell. He hesitantly acceded to leave, but begged me to see him and Katyusha before I did.
“Remember! Don’t leave without saying goodbye!” he exclaimed as I fairly forced him outside. I gave him no answer, merely shutting the door.
I was in ecstasy! The possibility! I felt that familiar rush of pleasure course through me at the thought. The idea of destroying her as she did me, of finishing the work I had done. Of descending to that new low, and drag her down with me. What a thrilling prospect! To rip away the veil as I had done to myself, plunge her into the choking darkness of realization of our own existence. The thought not to do this deplorable and hideous act never even crossed my mind.
When Peter was at last gone, I did not retire immediately. The exultant joy that I had felt had petered off somewhat, and my head began to ache. I paced about the house, feeling oddly hot as if with a fever. I threw opened a window, but immediately found it too cold so closed it again. I crossed the room, then doubled back. Strange as it is to say, at the time I felt as if I were not alone. It was foolish. Peter was gone, my valet and cook had been fired, yet an inexplicable presence seemed to effuse the house. A strange anxiousness fell over me. It had been here. Here! This was where it had taken place. What had been a certainty suddenly seemed questionable. Why must I go to see her? To see her fall, of course. But why must I? Oh I was certain of how it would proceed. I was convinced, convinced I say! That she would befoul herself before me. But why should I want that? Why should I desire to see her fall, now that I knew the reason why? Should I go, I would only feel self-loathing or the rest of my days, knowing I had been responsible for her final fall. But, would living in ignorance truly be preferable?
I decided to retreat to the solace of my bed for a time. Sadly, contrary to my expectations, my sleep that night did not dispel my concerns. It was a fitful, conflicting thing. A thousand different thoughts plagued me, translating into my dreams. I have no recollection of what visions cursed me that night, only that I awoke frequently in a cold sweat, the sheets curled in my claw-like fingers tightly as if to anchor me to reality.
The day fared little better. My feelings tore me in two. It occurred to me that I mustn’t go to Peter’s home. Yes, how much easier it would be to simply depart. Never see Peter, or Katyusha. But my baser pleasure, it demanded it! Pride seemed to swell within me. Should I do so, then would I not be validated in my pride? Would she not be any better than me? My hands shook, my curiosity piqued. But why, I asked myself. I knew what she would do. Yet, what if she did not? I clutched a table, a hand upon my forehead. The house was stifling, oppressive. I had to leave. I grabbed my coat and hat and flew out the door.
The wind was chill and biting, clasping at my clothes as if to drag me back as I wandered aimlessly through the streets. Flakes danced about the snow choked avenues and alleys I stalked. I pulled my coat tighter to shield myself. My steps were wild and aimless. My thoughts remained a jumble of incoherent and conflicting feelings. Should I try to grasp at an idea, it would only slip through my fingers to drift with the others once more, leaving me with only a distant sense of unease and dissatisfaction.
When I finally came to myself, I realized precisely where I was. I was before Peter’s home, drawn there against my own accord. I stared at the large building, its windows dark and its roof capped with snow. I approached the door as if in a dream; a detached yearned pulling me forth like a sled to a horse. When I reached the door I glanced at the brass doorknob. A final barrier to my coming end. I clasped the knob and turned, and fairly sobbed in helplessness when the door opened with ease. Unlocked.
The foyer was void of both light and habitation. I closed the door behind me, unaware I had even done so. I slowly walked into the middle of the room. At a loss, I peered about myself. A staircase near the back of the room spiraled upwards to a second floor, while two doors flanked me on either side. A few tables and dressers flocked near the walls, a vase with some flowers wilting from lack of water atop one. I found a strange sort of interest in those flowers, and stared at them until I heard the soft patter of footsteps from the next room. Peter slowly entered the foyer, pausing when our eyes met.
“Good gracious man! Whatever are you doing here?”
“I…stopped by...The door. It was…unlocked,” I replied, still befuddled and not quite myself. Strange, the vividness which I remember what transpired that night. As if I were an observer to a tragic play, merely able to watch as the scene unfolded.
“What on earth is the matter? Here, let me-Light! You’re cold as a corpse! How long have you been out there? Here, come with me. There’s a fire in the study, just came down to grab a book. Left it in the study. You know how it is. Come on, come on. It’s just through here, stop standing there like a statue.”
“It…I have to be here. The foyer. It has to happen…here…”
“What does? Are you quite well? What did…Ah,” peter exclaimed with a knowing look. “I know what you’re here for. Damnable to time for you to come, though. She’s already in bed. Ah ah! Don’t say a thing! I’ll go wake her for you. Please, just a moment. Be right back. Don’t go anywhere!”
And with that Peter rushed upstairs.
He was gone for some time. I wasn’t sure how long precisely. I could have gone home while Peter was upstairs. There are, at times, certain compulsions which the mind has. When some disguised will forces the body to some act which it knows would be against the conscious interest. Such a will told me I needed to be here. I needed to see this to the end. As I waited downstairs, I tried to straighten those wilting flowers. Pushing them back up, moving them together. But it was of no use. No use…
After a time, I was in no state to determine how long, Katyusha eventually descended the steps. She had clearly changed beforehand, arriving into a pleasant white dress trimmed with blue. A small blue ribbon was tied lightly about her neck, and I instantly likened it to the hangman’s noose.
“Oh,” she remarked in surprise. “You came. I was beginning to wonder.”
“Yes…I did,” I replied, watching her warily, like a cornered beast.
“Good. Good. I had something for you. Yes…Give me a moment…” she wandered towards the desk, the one with the wilting flowers, and pulled open a drawer. I held my breath, watching as she produced a bank note.
She turned to me, looking away slightly as she stepped forward. “I…wanted to pay you back. For what you did for me. I…heard, you were in some…straights. Here,” she said, holding the banknote towards me.
I stared at the money. I had a need for it, I knew. But I had no desire for it. It was a piece of paper to me. But the reaction rejecting it would have, proving that it was not only I. She was also able to descend to such lows as well. It clawed from me, urging me to refuse her kindness. Her cruelty. To show her my world, rip the veil away as she had me.
I reached out and took the banknote. I thanked her for her time, and for the money. She smiled, a beautiful aesthetic look. But I felt no affection. It was as if I was looking at a statue of a woman, rather than one who had inspired me to inflict all the tortures of the furies upon her.
I left, an oppressive weight upon my soul. Walking down the snow choked streets; I took one look at the note in my hand, and tossed it aside to be carried far away by the wind. Tomorrow, I would board the train to Stormwind, and there begin my new life. And regardless of what happened there, at least now I knew the sort of man I was.
Hey look! Money wrote a story!
Seriously though, if you made it through the whole thing, bravo. As you may have noticed, this wasn't necessarily written specifically for Wow, lacking the usual sword and sorcery schtick. But, be that as it may, should you manage to finish it completely, I would be very grateful for some feedback regarding it.
This was originally about half as long as it is now. Originally ending after the narrators freak out in his home. But the theme interested me, so i went a bit beyond that to what would happen after. This was a challenge to write, no mistake. But I'm glad I did it. Easily my most introspective piece I've written yet.
The ending was not easy. I'm...relatively satisfied with it. That was where I believed it should finish, anyway. As to whether I did it justice, I'm not sure. But some feedback on that specifically would be well received.
I'd say for certain your strength is consistency here. You picked a tone and stuck with it throughout the entire the entire story. I'd even be willing to say your writing a level above mine, as I'm not only having trouble picking out flaws, but quality portions. While there are certainly factors that can be picked apart for strength and weakness, I'm not quite able to perceive them, and in the end I'm left saying: "yeah, it was good."
Thanks. The tone was kind of hard to get right, as I would loose it between sittings to write. I think I may have lost it here and there anyway, particularly whenever Peter showed up as he always threw me for a bit. Writing in the first person really made it more difficult, but gave it more of a steady current I think.
Thanks for the input.
It is going to take me until at least 2013 to finish this. But I will, sometime tomorrow.
It is going to take me until at least 2013 to finish this. But I will, sometime tomorrow.
I approve of your new year resolution.
Just finished. I like it!
The style is great. Somehow it reminded me of 'The Black Cat', but that matters little. Interesting throughout, no particular dull parts. Only very few typos/errors as well.
Regarding the ending, I can see why you wonder if you did it justice. I would think it's possibly the weakest part of the story - not saying it's bad. Perhaps expectations were a bit too high on my part after such a piece?
There you have my humble opinion. I'm not a particularly good writer, but I do consider myself a good reader. Let me know if you want me to elaborate.
Thanks for your thoughts. I always want to hear the opinions on my pieces, so if you want to expand on them feel free.
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