The Silence & The Howl (§.31)

CHAPTER 31

Upon returning from his stroll by the coal breaker, Harmon found the house empty and a manuscript laying upon the table. A hastily scrawled note on yellow paper lay beside it, written in Harold’s chicken-scratch hand.

Found my old unfinished novel when I was cleaning out the attic. You’d said you wanted to read it whenever I fished it out. So here it is. See you later. —Harold. P.S. help yourself to the beers in the fridge.

Harold’s telephone rang.

Pressing the device to his ear, he cleared his throat and answered.

“Hello?”

“This is Maria, from St. Lucian’s Hospital. Is this the La’Far residence?”

“Yes. Did something happen?”

“He told us someone was staying with him. A one Harmon Kessel.”

“That’s me. He’s been letting his spare room. What happened?”

“Are you a family member?”

“No. I’m his friend.”

“Harold has… passed. I’m sorry.”

“What? What happened?”

She paused, falling completely silent, laying bare the busy buzzing of coworkers conversating in the short distance.

“He was… attacked… in the street. I don’t know the details. I’m sorry. That’s all I know.”

“I appreciate your forthrightness.”

Harmon shut the phone, slowly lowered it from his ear and stared at the manuscript on the table as a gentle breeze rapt the shutters.

Then and there, bereft of bonds, Harmon decided to leave town.

*

The Silence & The Howl (§.25)

§.25


Harmon begin typing as soon as he returned from his encounter with the literate watchman. A new story occurred to him, and, inspired by the day’s events and the memory of the thriller Andy had played when Lyla had come over, he set himself to the task of its completion. A dull, irregular clacking emanated from his keyboard until the light crept over the edges of the world and eschewed the darkness for a magnificent plume of solar irridescence.

After seven hours without a break, Harmon paused, shifted in his chair, lit up a cigarette, smoked a moment and then withdrew to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of ice water and another cup of coffee as Marla came ambling clumsily down the thick-carpeted stairs. Her hair was wild and rabbit slippers obscured her slender, shuffling feet.

“Mornin.”

“G’morning,” she groaned, rubbing sleep from her puffy eyes, “You been up all night?”

“Yeah. Writing.”

“Sheesh, don’t you ever sleep?”

“Couldn’t.”

“You aren’t a vampire, are you?”

“Not last time I checked.”

She chuckled and leaned against the kitchen counter.

“Andy told me you were a writer. Fiction, right?”

He nodded and handed the foggy woman a cup of coffee, which she readily accepted with a broad smile and a mumble of thanks. For a long moment they stood staring at each other before the sound of Andy’s footsteps reverberated on the linoleum above. They both turned to greet him, confused by his furrowed brow and the cloudy expression in his eyes and mouth.

“Sonsofbitches.” He muttered leaning against the wall.

“What is it?”

Andy worked his jaw and then looked towards his guest.

“We’re outta work.”

“What’d Swain say?” Harmon inquired without emotion, crossing his arms and leaning against the counter as Marla.

“Just said we were fired—excuse me—’let go.’ I hate that bullshit. Fucking weasel words. ‘Let go.’ ‘Passed on.’ Bullshit. Fucking bullshit.”

“Sorry baby,” Marla replied, with a pout. She massaged Andy’s shoulder as the man shook his head and glared at the scuffed linoleum of the floor.

Harmon reached up to the cabinet and withdrew a coffee cup and then slid it across the counter to Andy who nodded back in thanks.

“No point complaining about what we can’t change. Other jobs to do.”

“Hell – like what?”

“Well, what are you good at?”

“Ain’t good at nothing.”

“That’s not true,” Marla chided sadly.

Harmon inhaled deeply and then moved off of the counter and looked out the window. Not a single soul stirred upon the barren street, now covered in a thin skin of dead leaves that skittered with the wind like hollow bugs beneath the swaying skeletal boughs.

“Its a lovely day. We should go out. We can go to the cafe I was telling you about and stop by the river.”

Marla smiled and nodded, “That’s sounds nice.”

“Alright,” Andy intoned sullenly.

Harmon turned back to the window and sipped his coffee, watching as a flock of crows tore a red-stained eagle from the sky.

*

The Silence & The Howl | Part 17

§.17


They descended the stairs as thunder ranged beyond the ambit of the creaking tumbledown. Lyla wanted to watch a movie. Inquiries concerning the cinematic acumen of all present were made, with Andy judged most-knowledgeable, they settled into the massive, tattered and musty couch as their host plopped in a old VHS titled ‘Fractured Mirror.’ The story revolved around a down-on-his luck writer, well past his prime, whose wife had cheated on him with his publicist. The film charted his slow and painful mental deterioration and eventual self-reformation through murderer. Purity through violence.

As the writer bludgeoned his former lover to death with a shovel, Bluebird recoil and buried her head in Harmon’s chest.

“Too much for you?”

“Its my head. You know how sensitive I am with this kind of stuff.”

Lyla was prone to headaches and enjoyed playing up the fact. Harmon had long-induced she thought it cute and quirky. It proved, more often than not, merely affected and annoying.

He said nothing.

“Damn.” Muttered Marla, here eyes wide, fixed to the screen.

Andy chortled and downed some of his beer. After the murder scene the protagonist looked directly into the camera as an eerie cue played. Cut to black. Credits.

“Whadidya think?” Andy inquired, lighting up a cigarette.

“I thought it was really good.” Marla affirmed with a smile, stroking Andy’s arm and squeaking a, “You’ve such good taste in movies, babe.”

Andy smiled and turned to his others guests expectantly.

“Well whats the verdict?”

“I didn’t really care for it. I didn’t think it was going to be so violent.”

Andy rolled his eyes then looked to Harmon whose faraway eyes were fixed upon a small insect on the ceiling.

“She got what she deserved.”

“But they were in love!” Lyla protested.

“‘Were’ is the operative word.”

She looked up into his face and was greeted only with impassivity and resolve. She slowly shifted off of him and asked Andy if he would mind sparing one of his tall boys. He happily obliged and shortly the two trekked off to acquired some beers from the old, magenta fridge, leaving Marla and Harmon to their own devices.

Marla played with her softly jangling bracelets a moment an then leaned towards Harmon inquisitively.

“How long you two been together?”

“Since high school.”

“Oh! That’s wonderful. I didn’t take relationships seriously then.”

“Few do.”

“Yeah. Hey, I’m sorry I yelled at you earlier. Was having a bad day.”

“Its no trouble at all.”

She smiled, “Were you serious?”

“About?”

“About the movie. I mean, you think she deserved what she got?”

“Yes.”

“Yeah. I don’t disagree. I used to date this guy named Tanner. Hot, wealthy – comparatively speaking – nice car. Seemed perfect.”

“But there was a snag.”

“Yeah.”

“He cheated on you.”

“Yup. He said he was sorry. That he was drunk, that he didn’t know what he was doing. He was a terrible liar. But even still I forgave him. Not two months later he’d left his phone lying on the counter of my kitchen – it rings and I check the messages. Some bitch asking what she should wear for him tonight.”

She shook her head and took a swig of beer and tapped out her half smoked menthol in the peach can Andy used as a makeshift ashtray.

“That’s unfortunate. What’d you do?”

“I told him to explain. I was ready to forgive him again. If he was honest.”

“Given you’re here, with Andy, I’m assuming he wasn’t.”

“Nope. Told me – get this – she was a ‘business associate’ and that’s why she was asking him what to wear. I told him business associates don’t tend to refer to each other as ‘babe’ and ‘darling’ – he didn’t have anything to say to that so I told him to leave. And that was that.”

“But now you’ve met Andy.”

“But now I’ve met Andy.”

She smiled widely and leaned back in her chair and took a puff of her cigarette. Shortly thereafter, Andy and Lyla returned from the kitchen bearing a six pack and a bag of off-brand nachos. They watched another film about a evil AI in a far-flung future where everyone used floppy disks and then decided to hit the sack. Andy implored Lyla to stay the night and then headed upstairs with Marla. When they were completely out of earshot, Lyla turned to Harmon dourly.

“Did you mean what you said?”

“Bout?”

“Bout her ‘getting what she deserves.’

“Yeah.”

“How can you say that?”

“Can say it because I believe it.”

*

The Silence & The Howl | Part 10

§.10


Harmon stood within the melting hall once more. The light in the distance so bright he couldn’t bring himself to look at it. The man from which the centipede had emerged stood once more, bathed in albescent resplendence. Fear quickened Harmon’s pulse as he shaded his eyes and pressed down the hall, compelled by desires he did not understand. When he stood within ten feet of the man he realized that it was not a man at all but a statue of a androgynous human, cast of obsidian or some like substance and it seven feet tall and smooth hewn by impossible skill. The statue’s left arm was elevated, palm facing up, its right arm declined, palm facing down, as if it were pushing in equal measure against the welkin and the earth. Where the obsidian creature’s stomach would have been was a gaping black hole and from it issued forth a ominous skittering that began as a whisper and increased in volume with every step towards it Harmon took. When he stood directly before the statue, within distance of embrace, the sound blared like a war-siren and he fell to his knees with the force of it, screaming as a million voices swarmed upon him, speaking forth in dreadful unison, their words indiscernible.

Loathsome legs, insectal and countless poured from the hole as ears gushed from Harmon’s eyes.

*

“Harmon. Harmon?”

Harmon’s eyes flew open as Lyla shook him. He rolled over in his bed to face the naked woman where she lay, her supple curves blue neath the light of the moon.

“You were making noises in your sleep.”

“I hope I didn’t wake you.”

“Bad dream?”

“Yeah. Keep… having a similar one. Same thing keeps happening over and over again… there are these voices and…”

Lyla leaned against Harmon and gently caressed his still heaving chest, teasing about his nipples and the small patch of hair between them. He pressed her to his breast and kissed her crown whereupon she looked up at him and kissed him upon the lips and slid her hand slowly down his chest and stomach to his slowly swelling cock. Harmon groaned and gripped her right breast in his rough and calloused hand, prompting a little gasp to escape Lyla’s thick, red lips and her eyes to roll and her body to sway gainst his own. Shortly the duo were swept up in passionate embrace and as the woman’s body shuddered neath his own, Harmon kissed her upon her nose and pulled slightly away.

“I love you, Bluebird.”

She said nothing and looked away and drew him closer to her body, forcing him deeper inside. Moaning. Moaning. Moaning. Digging her nails into his back until he bled.

*

The Silence & The Howl | Part 3

CHAPTER THREE


The art gallery buzzed like a nest of agitated hornets. Harmon, dressed in his finest dirty T and sun-eaten jeans and moving from the entrance to stand before the gala proper, found the chatter irksome and the low, odd-filtered light disorienting. He liked the dark and quiet.

Despite his proclivities he had agreed to attend Bluebird’s gala opening. Her first. She moved up beside him, breathless and beautiful, supple curves ill-contained by a tight, black sweater and revealing leggings over which she wore a similarly tight, black mini-shirt neath which shined newly polished leather boots with small, silver buckles. Harmon found the whole get-up to be a bit too form-fitting but he said nothing and mock-saluted as she approached.

“Hey.”

“Thanks for coming, Harmon.”

“I’m surprised you thought to invite me.”

An expression of irritation palled her well-plied face.

“Why?”

“Been almost a month since we last met. Been last four weeks since we last talked.”

“That’s not true. I called you last week.”

He paused and furrowed his brows before responding, “You didn’t.”

“I swear I did. I’ve been so busy…”

“S’all right. I’m not complaining. Say. Which one is yours?” Harmon inquired placidly as he cast his sharp, green eyes out over the art school’s gleaming marble floor; so clean and shimmering he could make out the stark reflections of all who there stood upon it. Bluebird pointed to a series of paintings upon a silvery panel installation in the very center of the wide, rectangular onyx-colored hall.

As he followed her gesturing hand he caught the reflection of a curious figure from out the corner of his eye, to the immediate left. Thin and trim and garbed in a albescent coat, tipped at the collar with similarly milky fur. When he followed the reflection to its source he noticed that the ivory man was watching him. The man raised a glass of red wine, smirking slight. Harmon hollowly reciprocated the gesture. He felt suddenly strange. As if a liquid had settled within the core of his being.

Bluebird sighed melodramatically and folded her arms.

“You aren’t even paying attention.”

“Sorry. Got distracted. Who is that?”

“Oh my god. He’s looking at us! He’s coming over. He’s coming over.”

“Friend of yours?”

“That’s Lynder Partridge.”

“Never heard of him.”

“He flew in from the city just to attend this gala. He’s scouting for permanent additions to his museum. You’ve really never heard of him?”

“Nope.”

Lynder Partridge strode up to the odd couple, his sharp, bloodless face opaque, luminous oceanic eyes masque’d by circular green-tinted sunglasses that made the iris appear as gold, his pose cordial and restrained.

“Salutations. I’m Lynder Partridge.”

Bluebird was so star-struck that it took her two seconds entire before she responded, and then, only shakily.

“L-lyla Couldry. I’m… I’m such a big fan, Mr. Partridge. What you’ve done with those library renovations in the city and her, in our little town, its just wonderful.”

“Why thank you, Lyla. And your friend?”

Harmon step forward, extending his rough and calloused hand. He didn’t expect Lynder to take it, yet shortly, the elegant ivory man did, extending one of his leather-gloved hands and grasping Harmon’s own, firmly and without hesitation.

“Harmon Kessel.”

“So pleased to meet you, Mr. Kessel. I’m pleased to see a roofer involved in the arts – architects have a long-standing history of interdisciplinary interest, as their own trade demands it, yet the actual builders who bring their creations into being and those who maintain them, are considerably less intrigued by graphic demonstrations such as those which garner the walls of this venerable establishment.”

“Why do you think I’m a roofer?”

“Skin is tan. Burnt about the neck. Your jeans are roughly worn at the knees, shirt, faded about the shoulders and back. Means you spend a lot of time in the sun, shorn of shade and a lot of time on your hands and knees. The only trade wherein that would occur in this town is roofing.”

“That’s clever.”

Lynder remained wholly impassive save for the slightest trace of a smirk which vanished as quickly as it appeared. Momentarily, Serena walked up to the trio and greeted Lyla and then looked to Lynder and Harmon.

“Who are your friends, Ly?”

“This is Harmon Kessel and this is Mr. Lynder Partridge.”

“THE Lynder Partridge?”

“Indeed.” He responded flatly before turning and half-bowing to the woman whose eyes went momentarily wide with surprise. Lynder then cast his gaze out to the installation directly beside Lyla’s, “Is that your work?”

“Y-yes. I’m so nervous. Its my first gallery showing.”

“I shall have to take a closer look.”

Shortly, Serena and Lyla moved off a pace. It appeared to Harmon as if Serena had some important information to convey. He was mildly irritated that Serena hadn’t even so much as said, “Hi.”

“Looks as if the ladies are conferring. Shall we peruse the works together?”

“Sure.”

The duo moved to stand before the center panel installation which harbored Lyla’s works. Paintings. Her centerpiece was a massive colorful oil painting of a large swan in mid-flight, gliding over the top of a pristine, azure pond, surrounded by reeds and cherry blossoms; petals dancing in the wind.

Lynder studied the piece a moment and shook his head before finishing off his wine and handing it to one of the school volunteers who took the crystal goblet with a smile and moved on to the next group.

“What do you think?”

Harmon studied the picture, “I think its pretty.”

“Indeed it is. That’s the problem. Its pretty and only pretty. Nothing but pretty.”

“I don’t think its that bad. Besides, art is subjective.”

Lynder spoke without turning, eyes to the swan, hands clasped gingerly behind his back.

“Subjectivity is objective. If it seems otherwise it is only due a lack of apprehension.”

“Not sure I follow.”

“I mean that those conditions which undergird subjectivity are themselves objective, even if one does not know what those are. To say otherwise is to say that the foundations of subjectivity are themselves subjectively determined. Now that is hardly plausible is it?”

“Well, put like that, I guess not. But why don’t you like the painting?”

“To answer I would pose a question in return.”

“Ok.”

“Of what use is the art which does not seek to force life to imitate it?”

“Well, she’s not trying to force life to imitate anything. She’s trying to imitate life.”

“Precisely. She imitates life and in so doing, presents to the audience – us – an idyll of splendor with which we can do… what precisely with?”

“Appreciate.”

“To appreciate escapism is degrade life itself. It is the act of a coward.”

Harmon wanted to respond. To defend Bluebird’s work, but words failed him. He had never met anyone who was so filled with such quiet passion and lacking the same, knew not how to meet it.

“You think that I’m being too harsh, don’t you?”

“A little.”

“Given your relationship to the author, that is understandable. Understandable but mistaken.”

“Seems kinda snobbish to me.”

“There is a marked distinction between snobbery and elitism.”

“You saying you’re an elite?”

“I said there is a distinction between snobbery and elitism. I did not say I was a member of an elite; that is another important distinction.”

“Lyla likes to say, ‘Art isn’t about being good.'”

“That would explain why her’s is so bad. Think of the trouble that ethos would cause if it were applied to other professions.”

“Whole lot, I imagine.”

“When one is in need of an electrician, what kind does one seek out?”

“The best. What does that have to do with painting?”

“When one selects a friend does one undiscriminatingly accept all, or does one critically discern the trustworthy?”

“The latter.”

“Exactly. So if one holds such standards for electricians and friends, why not for art?”

“Good question. Don’t think many round here would be keen to answer it.”

Lynder briefly looked over his shoulder at the bright-eyed and youthful denizens of the school, mingling with their teachers and journalists and a couple of well-known local artists.

“Gird yourself. The vultures have arrived,” Lynder half-whispered to Harmon with amusement.

“You mean the journalists. I take it you don’t like um?”

“They have no appreciation for art. Their kind doesn’t belong here.”

“You’re awfully opinionated on art. You do any yourself?”

“I do. What about you, Mr. Kessel?”

“Well, sorta. I like to write. Fancy I’m decent enough. Never gotten anything properly published though.”

Lynder removed a small business card from his pocket and handed it to Harmon.

“If you ever wish to send my publishing house one of your manuscripts, give me a call and I’ll personally white-list it.”

“Thanks. Very kind of you. But uh, you haven’t read anything I’ve done.”

“It is refreshing to converse with one who is so unceasingly forthright.”

“Well, I appreciate that. I figure there’s enough lying and obscuring to go around. No need to add to it.”

Lynder turned and moved to Serena’s installation.

“Your friend’s girlfriend’s work is much more interesting.”

“She’s not Lyla’s girlfriend.”

“Oh? Could have fooled me. Once they walked off they moved together rather, how shall I put it… intimately.”

Harmon felt a sudden unease overtake him and shortly thereafter, anger. It was not incited by Lynder’s words, but by a consideration of the prospect that his word’s might be correct. He slowly turned and scanned the crowd. He couldn’t see Lyla or Serena. He ground his teeth and fractionally shook his head. No. It was ridiculous. Unthinkable. She’d never betray me. Certainly not in so deviant a fashion. She loves me, he thought determinedly. Breaking from his reverie, he refocused his attention on the spot where Lynder had stood.

He was gone.

*