I’ve forgotten how to breathe. What seemed so simple yesterday, feels foreign, like this body belongs to someone else now. Eating, drinking, sleeping, are distant animals on the sun-baked Serengeti waiting for the carnivore to come and strengthen the herd. Come, then, cleanse me; free me from these base functions, that I may walk again with ibis and ibex.
As the formic acid coursed through his veins, his skin burst into flames of agony; every nerve jolted into an uncontrollable scream of crawling itching overload. The straps on held him in place, restrained him from scratching himself to death, but did nothing to prevent the transmutation from twisting his flesh into a chitinous shell.
There is much to express, doubts, regrets, words that can’t be unsaid. I asked you to forgive my excesses, both the darkness and the bright lights. We shared a wall that grew up between us, gave us safety and separation, a reality for our excuses.
Book is like any other small town, too many people feel like they’re entitled to know your business, think they know everything there is to know about you, and, in a way, they’re right on both counts. What separates Book from other small towns, besides the brick wall that hides inner Book from the outside world, are the secrets we keep. Book is enveloped by the city state of Haven, a bustling metropolis of 10 million or so known for its agricultural exports, especially wine. Haven has its gleaming glass and metal spires, but is also has older, less used sections. It’s in one of those, a rundown neglected neighborhood close to abandoned manufactories, where Book remains hidden. All of the properties, town homes, brownstones, two and three story brick buildings that help comprise the wall, are owned by the people of Book, are passed down through the generations. There are old family names on the titles, but we all know, the properties belong to Book. No one outside of family knows what’s on the other side, on the inside of the wall, and we protect the inner Book as if our lives depended on it, for good reason: Our lives do depend on it. See, there’s this one secret about us, one that the rest of Haven would freak about. We steal parts of their souls, cutting off bits and distilling those energies into a drug which we sell back to them. If they knew, or even suspected, this drug came from their own souls, they’d be right to want to kill us.
In the company of other women he often spoke of his wife as if invoking her name protected him from impure thoughts and actions. “My wife has pretty hands like yours,” he might say. Or “My wife also wears glasses. She is nearsighted.” If the other women smiled but remained silent, he felt nervous as though he had insulted them. If they spoke to him, he would again mention his wife, in the hope of inoculating himself.
And if the women laughed, that would devastate him, send him spiraling into a pit of recrimination and regret. “My wife reads mystery novels.” The words with their garlic-esque magic to ward off evil. “But she reads the last chapter first and then starts from the beginning to see how he character figures out the crime.”
Plus he hates the sound of his voice, which becomes high pitched and too fast to correct himself as he talks. “My wife,” he says. “My wife is parking the car and will be here any minute.” He tries not to smile in the company of other women, and desperate that they do not smile at him.