Saturday, 8 November 2014

The prince of darkness



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“Gabrielle, you have to come inside with me,” my friend begged. We stood at the bottom of an old narrow set of stairs, squeezed in between a Greek restaurant and a sex shop. It was that kind of area of the city.
“It’s a nightclub, Kris. What are you worried about?”
“No, it’s not that. I’ve never been here alone. And I need you to come with me. You always tell me to cool it. You drag me home before I do something risky. You’re my conscience.”
I rolled my eyes. “That’s wonderful. The only reason you want me to come with you is ‘coz I’m Jiminy Cricket.”
“Who’s Jiminy Cricket?”
“You are sad.”
She grabbed my arm and dragged me towards the stairs. “I’ll pay your door fee.”
“Gosh. Thanks.” She missed the sarcasm. I was interested now. What was she so worried about? It was already late; maybe after 2am. I was ready to go home but something about her excitement appealed to me.
While she paid the door fees to a woman at the top of the stairs who looked like she could do with a good feed from the restaurant next door, I had a look around. “Good Lord, it looks like the contents of a time capsule.” The woman stamped the inside of my wrist.
“What do you mean?”
“1960’s velvet cocktail lounge.” Tiny round tables grouped around a handkerchief sized dance floor.
“It’s brilliantly done, isn’t it?”
I wanted to agree with her, but I had an odd suspicion that it wasn’t a reproduction, but the real thing. And I couldn’t say why I felt that.
“We get a free drink.”
We collected our drinks and took up a position at a table in, Kris assured me, the best position.
“Is there a show?”
“Oh my gaaaawd,” she breathed. “He’s amaaazing.”
“Who is?”
“His name is Guy.”
I sipped my drink, watched with amusement as she bounced on the velvet bench and waited for the appearance of Guy. I assumed he was some kind of stripper. Fine, I’d watch the stripper and then I’d go home.
The lights dimmed, the music changed and, the announcer crooned in a low voice that the prince of darkness was in the house. Kris actually emitted a tiny squeal. I snorted derisively and tried to swallow my drink. After a suitable interval, a man stepped out from the back of the room and arranged himself on a large throne-like chair. He didn’t do anything else, but the crowd was silent. The music playing was some kind of instrumental and sounded a bit like that stuff they called ‘world music’; almost like a very slow old folk dance. But nobody was dancing.
My eyes returned to him. He was thin and leanly muscled, his skin very pale, his hair dark and long. He wore jeans and a button up shirt that hung open and showed an expanse of flat stomach and a hairless chest. He moved in curious way; as if he was moving to slower music than I could hear. He lifted his head and glanced around the room. He gazed at each person in turn. I heard Kris let out a breathy sigh and then his gaze fell on me.
It was literally breathtaking. I suddenly found it hard to breathe. My head spun and I could not pull my gaze away from his. Those eyes.
But I did... I shut my eyes with a force of will and I made my head turn down to look at the floor. When I looked up again, he had moved on.
A hand lifted and made a gesture to an attendant. They spoke quietly. The attendant nodded and moved away, and the gaze of the prince of darkness moved to others in the small bar.
“Isn’t he dreamy?” Kris whispered.
I wasn’t so sure. He was attractive, but it was too much; too dreamy, if that was possible. “I suppose,” I muttered.
The attendant frightened me when he leaned down and spoke in my ear. “He wants to meet you.” He placed two more drinks on the table. Kris looked excited until she realised what he had said.
I shook my head.
“It’s not open to negotiation. You have five minutes,” he added before he walked away.
Kris looked uneasy. “I’ve never seen him ask to meet someone.” She looked torn between jealous and nervous. “What are you going to do?”
I shrugged but I was attracted. We sipped at our drinks and I tried to look around to see how others were affected by him. A few looked as if they were having a religious experience. When my time was up, the attendant returned and just stood next to my chair.
I nervously ran fingers through my hair, checked my lipstick and got ready for my royal interview. As Kris had said, I was her conscience, she could be mine. “Come get me if I look like I need rescuing.”
“Sure.”
I stepped across the dance floor to him and he watched me come. He indicated that I should perch on the arm of his chair.
“No,” I said, but it felt hard to deny him. I clutched my handbag to my chest.
He tilted his head; intrigued by my refusal. The attendant didn’t fetch another chair until he was given a signal to do so. I sat. I tried to remember how to breathe. I was starting to wonder if my drink had been drugged.
We sat in silence. I listened to the music and watched my nervous friend. I saw a man lean down to chat to her. He looked up at us before he sat down at her table. I got the idea that he was a plant. She looked pleased to chat. And being distracted, she wasn’t watching me for my signal.
“Did you arrange that?” I asked him.
His mouth twitched into an almost smile.
“My friend says your name is Guy,” I tried.
“Yes. Yours?”
“Gabrielle.”
He repeated it and it sounded so different when he said it. It rolled off his tongue with a European inflexion. Rolled r’s. I shivered. He noticed.
“You will tell your friend that you are going to stay,” he said with an odd intensity.
God, that was hard to resist, but I was determined. “N-no.”
“Gabrielle.” I felt chastised.
“I have to work tomorrow. I will miss the last train.”
He laughed and I swear I felt heat brush down my spine. I noticed people watching us.
“I get what I want,” he said.
“I am not a what.”
You are a rare beast.” He put so much emphasis on the first word that it felt personal.
“I am not a beast, either.”
He smiled at me and that was almost more terrifying. When I had his full attention it was mesmerising.
“W-why... me?” I struggled to ask.
“Because you deny me.” He twisted in his throne to face me.
Well that was honest. Scary, but honest. “You frighten me.” It sounded like the confession it was. I glanced at Kris but she was severely distracted; leaning in to her guest.
“That is as it should be.” He waved a careless hand at the audience. “They want what they think I am, but if I was that, they would be screaming.”
I took a deep breath. “B-but... you are.”
That delighted laugh rang out again.
“Stop that.”
A languid hand reached out and stroked down my arm. I almost screamed.
“Oh, you are delicious,” he told me. The lightest brush of fingertips left trails down my flesh. He lifted my hand to his mouth and placed a kiss in the centre of my palm.
I looked into his eyes... and that was a mistake. They were so dark and so very old. Older than they had a right to be.
I tried to blink but couldn’t. I felt that heated touch on my body, again; as if by holding my hand it was stronger. The heat brushed down my neck, and lower to caress my breasts. I gasped.
“Imagine, Gabrielle,” he whispered to me. “Imagine what I could do to you.” The heat started to move lower.
“I’ll die,” I whimpered.
He stood, and still holding my hand, he pulled me up to standing. Our eyes were locked. I was aware of no-one else in the room. He stepped backwards gracefully and tugged me after him.
And I went.
But something itched at me.
“My bag,” I said.
“Leave it.”
“I’ll lose my yearly rail pass.”
He chortled. “Gabrielle, you are a delight.” Heat stroked me again. “You may not need it again.”
May? What did he mean?
Another step backwards.
I wanted to say his name. “Guy?”
“Spend twenty four hours with me and then you can decide.”
~~~~~~
I didn’t go to work the next day. My bag was found by the side of the railway line. Kris swore she had last seen me before she went to the club. She remembered me saying I had to catch the last train home.
My body was never found.
~~~~
© AM Gray 2014