The Silence & The Howl: Book Two, Chapter Six

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CHAPTER SIX

When Ariadne and Harmon arrived in the study they were greeted by the sound of a lively valse and the jubilant clacking of soles on wood. The divan and photographic equipment, which had previously occupied the center of the space, had been removed for a Steinway and Sons palor baby grand piano and a considerable number of people, most of whom were foreign to Harmon’s recollection. Celik lounged with a cigar upon an ancient armchair near the plangent instrument, while the fencer Anders, and the model Monica, twirled together, spirit-touched and zestful, across the polished hardwood floor.

The pianist who so artfully manipulated the keys of the rich umber instrument appeared as a silhouette due the high, sparse, intense amber lights. His face cloaked in shadow; his attention fixed upon the keys. He appeared, to Harmon, to be playing wholly from memory, or improvisation, or some combination thereupon, for no sheets lay before him. Only when the tenebrous pianist straightened did Harmon realize the maestro was Lynder Partridge.

“Just going to stand there staring?” Ariadne queried suddenly, extending her hand with a broad, bedazzling smile.

“You want me to dance?”

“I do.”

“I’d rather not.”

“No spine beneath all those muscles?”

“Lynder wanted to talk.”

“He won’t mind, Flapjack. Look how rapt he is in his performance.”

“Flapjack?”

“The octopus, not the food.”

“Never heard of a flapjack octopus.”

“They’re red and gelatinous, like your face and constitution.”

Without waiting for a response, she took his arm and playfully tugged the man to the center of the festal floor. She wasn’t wrong, Harmon thought, for he could feel the blush in his pallid cheeks. Despite his embarrassment, he straightened and took her right hand high, securing her slender waist with his left, awkwardly box stepping toward her.

One-two-three. One-two-three. One-two—

He stepped on her foot and turned several different shades of scarlet.

“Sorry.”

She turned from where she had been looking over his shoulder, to stare into his eyes, smiling like a sphynx.

“Oh no,” she gasped with feigned solicitude, raising her hand to his forehead, as if checking for a fever, “Two left feet syndrome.”

“Incurable, I’m afraid,” he replied, redoubling his efforts at acclimatization with a sheepish half-grin.

“Hardly!”

Riant they twirled, the forms of the other dancers fading to insubstantiality amidst the bony fatigues of their terpsichoric union. Keeping pace with the crystalline rhythm of the piano, they danced til the moon fell from the sky and the keys sounded no more.

PDF & EPUB Editions Of The Silence & The Howl (Book I) Revised

Both the PDF and EPUB editions of the novella The Silence & The Howl (Book I) have been revised and updated to correct for minor spelling errors and improper line breaks present in the previous EPUB version.

Additionally, a new original composition titled Synnefo Isle (a soft, ethereal waltz piece) has been added to the download archive.

The Silence & The Howl: Book Two, Chapter Five

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CHAPTER FIVE

Ariadne and Harmon resumed their stolid silence after their conversation for a brief moment until a look of swelling curiosity overtook the woman’s face. She turned, to stare at the man, her bob-cut locks flapping like the wings of a crow, dark eyes piercing his soma as a surgeon’s blade the flesh of a cadaver.

“Well?”

“Well what?”

“I told you a little something about me, aren’t you going to tell me about yourself?”

“Nothing much to tell.”

“Tit for tat.”

“Don’t have no tats.”

“I gave the tat. You’re to give the tit.”

“Think you’re better equipped to fullfil that demand.”

She rolled her eyes at the raillery, smiling despite an overt show of disapproval. Shortly, Harmon held up his hands in acquiescence.

“Alright. I used to work construction. Roofing mainly. Got to taking my writing serious and decided I’d try publishing a book. Lynder offered. Seemed foolish to refuse.”

“Is that why you moved, to get closer to the art world?”

“No.”

“I thought not; you strike me more Abbaye de Créteil than Neo-Pop.”

“Nothing there for me.”

“Friends, family?”

“No friends that stayed around. No family above the ground.”

 

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Circular 1/22/20

PROSE

From Fictive Dream: Delirium by John C. Mannone.

“The brick-lumps sifted through the black morph into swarms of fire ants with glassy-grit teeth.” (Delirium)

From Spelk: Letters to Dead People by Foster Trecost.

“I sometimes write letters to my father, but he doesn’t read them.”

“How do you know?”

“Because dead people can’t read letters.” (Letters to Dead People)

From The Drabble: Dreams of Unspecified Crimes by Howie Good.

“I think it was Freud who said dreams are the day’s dark residue.” (Dreams of Unspecified Crimes)


VERSE

From Caliath: To Taste of Salt by João-Maria.

“What’s it like to bow up?, that rotten soliphsism of yours by which suns dawn merely to candle your rooms…” (To Taste of Salt)


ESSAYS

From Art & Crit: “The Death of the Author” Debunked by Eric Wayne.

The belief that “the author is dead” is one of the unquestioned bad ideas that has become gospel in the art world. It’s usually just asserted — along with its companion notions that originality is impossible, and the artist’s intent is irrelevant — as if to deny it is as hopelessly naive as denying evolution. (Wayne)

From New Pop Lit: Do Awards Matter? by Karl Wenclas.

Awards ceremonies, like hall of fames– sports, music, and otherwise– are in reality highly successful PR appendages to their particular industry. (Wenclas)


 

Greetings From The Idea Fairy

By Dan Klefstad

Happy New Year, Creative Person!

Be not alarmed by the strange notebook sitting on your breakfast table. After twelve months of watching you struggle to produce anything meaningful, I’ve decided to give you some ideas. How do I know it’s been that long? You have a brand-new calendar, and once again it’s filling up with things that have nothing to do with your art.

I wonder if you realize how poisonous this document of chores, appointments, and deadlines truly is. All those obligations to other people — interlopers who decimate your attention and reorder it to fit their needs. How could you create anything after surrendering precious hours to them? If only you could see time through my eyes, as something I own, a “dream river” that flows to the horizon, delivering the oar to my outstretched hands, changing course with me, revealing its shallows and depths, murmuring words of encouragement whether I steer clear of the rapids or plow right toward them. This languorous space between now and now is where creativity lives. Not the noisy tyranny of someone else’s present.

You like that? Go ahead, borrow it. You’ll find many other gems in these pages. You don’t have to credit me, thank me, or acknowledge me in interviews. Just take what you want and leave the rest for the next person. And do have enough faith in my magic, and yours, to finish what you started. There’s nothing worse than accepting a gift only to waste it. What’s that?

Silly question. I’m able to help, so if a person wants it, I should help.

Ah, better question. Since you bothered to ask the real why, what motivates me to visit people like you, I will bare myself a little more. I am so, so tired of bad art. By bad, of course, I mean unfinished. Not living up to its full potential. And I’m right there, offering support, but fewer and fewer creators bother to listen. It’s as if some famous critic announced Byron’s “Farewell to the Muse” should be taken literally. The results speak for themselves: aborted art, miscarried metaphors, stillborn symphonies – the detritus of those who dared and then defeated themselves. A onetime genius on his knees, dirty and drunk, is ripe for exploitation. This is usually when an “entrepreneur” introduces himself, sees the half-baked projects, and announces there’s a market for them. I’m sure you know plenty of examples, and the names attached to that “art” are anathema to you. I swear, if one more businessman promises riches at the expense of reputation, I will strangle him with his necktie. The only thing holding me back is, I’m not entirely sure who’s the villain in these cases.

Ach, more questions. What do I get from this? I don’t know — can’t an ethereal spirit indulge in a bit of hero-play? I’m giving you something. Learn to accept. All I ask is that you finish the work. And burn your calendar.

I should be clear this is a one-time opportunity. If you ignore my help, or fail to complete your masterpiece, I will never return. And don’t bother stumbling through some meadow or forest, crying after me. I am relentless in my flight from those too stupid to accept my help. Just ask Miley Cyrus.

Have fun creating. When you’re done, just close my notebook and I’ll retrieve it when, at last, you fall into bed for that much-deserved rest. And if you dream of further help from yours truly, I might accept your invitation. But only if you really want it. And only after I return from another sojourn down my own river of inspiration.

Cheerio,

—Muse

 

 

The Silence & The Howl: Book Two, Chapter Four

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CHAPTER FOUR

After the bout with Lynder, Ariadne showed Harmon to the guest quarters which lay to the immediate right of the study and fencing chamber. The room was spacious, consisting of a bedroom, a bathroom and a walk-in closet, all dimly lit by faintly flickering green wall lights. An antique gramophone stood upon a ornate wooden-and-bronze table beside the bed, beneath which lay a trove of recordings in a thick leather case. He bent to a knee and rifled through the collection, finding a ’35 recording of Anything Goes, which he slotted into the machine. As the dulcet tunes washed over him, he undressed, showered, and found, upon exiting, a fresh set of cloths and a cream-colored letter laying upon the bed. He unfurled the paper and read the note:

The clothes are for you. When you’ve freshed up, meet me in the study.

– Lynder

He refolded the note and placed it beside the clothes, dressed and stared at himself in the mirror which stood before the bed. It was the first time he’d assessed his visage since he gazed upon the old mirror in his former abode. He tried to recall the amount of time which had elapsed since then. Months like weeks. He could not remember how many. He turned off the gramophone and opened the door to find Ariadne waiting outside.

“Ah, finally finished. The clothes fit well?

“Yeah. Fit fine.”

“Good. Follow me.”

He nodded and together they tread the brass-crowned halls in heavy silence, broken only by their rhythmic footfalls reverberating off marble and the gramophonic whirring of waltz music coming from the omnipresent speaker system.

After several paces, Harmon broke the hush.

“So, how do I look?”

“Like a crab that desperately needs to molt.”

“I’m not used to suits.”

She was silent a moment and then cast him an amused look.

“That was quite a performance.”

“A somewhat botched one. Still, I’m glad I could provide you some amusement.”

“Why’d you accept?”

“I like to try new things.”

“I suspect that wasn’t the only reason.”

For a moment he said nothing, watching the delicate lines of the woman’s gelid face, red-lit by the wall-bound lanterns.

“I’m not without hubris.”

“Hubris is the midwife of folly.”

“You come up with that yourself?”

“Its something Mr. Partridge once said.”

“So whats your story?”

“Long and largely boring.”

“Alright. Don’t mean to pry.”

“Course you meant to pry, that’s why you asked. I don’t mind. I’m not being dismissive. I just find autobiographies dreadfully boring. Even my own.”

“Bore me.”

“If you insist. As you likely already surmised, I’m a photographer. Started taking pictures in my teens. In my youthful arrogance, I fancied myself a new Bourke-White. So I decided a glorious career lay before me and went to art school, which was largely a waste of time, and, like almost everyone else, graduated without fanfare and found menial work in the city, shooting weddings, birthdays and political meetings; all whilst living in a glorified shoebox I could barely afford.”

“How’d you end up here?”

“When I got my first exhibit, Lynder was there, showing off his latest pieces, a series of monochrome illustrations. We ended up quarreling over whose work was better. I told him he was overrated. In retort, he called me a ‘documentarian.'”

“Doesn’t sound like a very happy first encounter.”

“Oh, no, not at all. Back then I hated him.”

“Why?”

“He never lied to me.”

*

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The Silence & The Howl: Book Two, Chapter Three

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CHAPTER THREE

Harmon faced Lynder Partridge upon the piste. The crisp white fencing jacket crinkling strangely against his skin, the wire mesh mask obscuring his vision, the sabre’s handle clutched with such nervous force that sweat gathered in his right palm. He felt trapped and desperate and simultaneously compelled to challenge the stygian swordsman.

Ariadne and Anders watched from the sideline, the latter turning to Harmon with a raised brow.

“Let me know when you’re ready, gentlemen.”

Lynder nodded, and extended his chalcedonic swept-hilt rapier. Harmon adjusted his collar guard and nodded in kind.

“Then,” Anders gestured dramatically into the air, “Allez!”

Lynder bowed theatrically and assumed a loose stance, his body turned to the side, his guard low. Harmon, remembering his time boxing, began shifting from foot to foot, bobbing and weaving on and offline, slashing the air once before extending his blade on-point.

“What on earth is he doing?” Anders muttered aloud.

Lynder tilted his head, holding his ground, “Are you familiar with Spilomyia longicornis, Mr. Kessel?”

“What’s that?”

“A insect closely resembling a vespid wasp.”

“Sounds scary.” He bounded forward and directed a cut at Lynder’s arm, but was stymied by a swift girata that nearly connected. Harmon wildly parried the counter and pressed his assault as Lynder continued speaking with an air of supreme insouciance.

“Indeed they are. But scary and dangerous are two very different things.”

Harmon lunged suddenly, attempting to take advantage of Lynder’s momentary insectal absorption, but his foe simply bent out of range as the blade swept air.

“You see, while it might bear the black and yellow of a common wasp, Spilomyia longicornis is a fly, and so conducts a most elaborate performance to convince its would-be predators it is otherwise; moving its forelegs about its head and bending antenna and abdomen with vespidic fervor, and, if all else fails, it will even buzz at a different frequency. And yet…”

Harmon took a step forward, feinted right and lunged again, this time aiming for Lynder’s chest. Lynder stepped into the thrust and circle-parried Harmon’s blade out of line, and, with the momentum of the swing, brought the tip of his own brand to rest gingerly, yet firmly, against Harmon’s throat.

“No matter how hard the flower fly tries, it will never be a wasp.”

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The Silence & The Howl: Book Two, Chapter Two

Previous chapter

CHAPTER TWO

Harmon arrived in the city with little more than the clothes on his back and the female secretary’s words echoing in his head. With the last dregs of his savings he rented a studio in a unusually quiet tenement just beyond the business district which occupied the center of the sprawl and took up work at a nearby butchery.

A month later he recieved a package in the mail. A small square box, addressed From: Partridge Publishing. To: Harmon Kessel. He removed a recently purchased scaling knife and pared the container, opened it and found a small book with his initials upon the cover and a note on a sheet of bone-white paper, written in tar-colored ink, which read:

Let me know if the design meets your satisfaction.
—Lynder

He set the book upon the small, square wooden kitchen table, pride swelling in his breast.

Two months later he recieved another missive, inviting him to Synnefo Isle, an artificial island several miles to the east of the port, Lynder’s primary residence.

The gleaming towers of the corporate district shaded his passage to the docks, where steam-strewn air and humming neon illuminated the salt-smattered dusk, and from there to the ferry that led to a small, artificial isle to the north-east.

After disembarking, he traversed a smooth drive that let out before a elegant manse of considerable size and no familiar style.

He rapt upon the ornate and well-polished door and waited.

No sound save the roiling of the wind and the gulls turning pirouettes above the spray.

Shortly, a eye-level latch slid open, unveiling amber eyes surrounded by olive skin.

“Name?”

“Harmon Kessel. I’m expected.”

“Obviously. Otherwise you’d not be here. One moment, please.”

The latch slid shut. Half a minute later there came the sound of a keyhole’s turning.

The door swung open.

The monolith’s gloam beckoned.

*

The dapper, olive-skinned doorman beckoned Harmon into a spacious, well-lit foyer, sparsely furnished with dynamic metal sculptures of men and machines and two divans to the immediate left and right of the doorway. Harmon was taken with the aluminous idols, which looked, when taken together, like the relevatory tableau of some future religion, and strode to the middle of the checker-floored vestibule, appraising the singular creations.

“Who made these?”

“Mr. Partridge.”

“I’d no idea he was a sculptor.”

“That and many things besides. Ah, how rude of me, I’ve not introduced myself,” the man extended his hand to the new arrival, “Luka Celik.”

Harmon straightened and firmly shook Celik’s thick and calloused hand, “Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Celik.”

“This way, sir.”

The doorman lead Harmon down the foyer, up the left side of a U-shaped double stairway that let out to a red-carpeted landing where three hallways diverged left, right and straight ahead and polished wall-speakers of jagged brass effused the chamber with a chimerical waltz. The duo moved through the main corridor, lined to the left with various works of art; paintings, photographs and sketches; to the right, portraits of various individuals, young and old, male and female.

“Who’re they?” Harmon asked above the low whir of the speaker-spawned gramophone recording, nodding towards the portraiture.

“Alumni of Mr. Partridge’s galleries. Its a memorial wall, to commemorate their endeavours.”

The area at the end of the hall upon the right-hand wall was bare, save a empty silver frame which hung at eye level.

“Expecting a new inductee?” Harmon queried, gesturing to the picture frame.

“You’ll have to speak with Mr. Partridge about that.”

From the hallway they turned right and strode into a spacious study that seemed like an archived compression of a hundred disparate centuries. The walls were replete with ornate mahogany bookshelves and ancient seaxs, rapiers, foils, sabres, epees and messers and mail in glass cases and elaborate city maps and architectural plans in a hundred different styles, from a hundred different decades. All manner of artifice arrayed the adjacent space; plaster busts of men and women of varying ages, a meticulously detailed globe, a gilded bronze astrolabe, and a nude woman lounging upon a garish white divan, who sat so still that Harmon, for the briefest of moments, thought her a part of the surrounding statuary. Harmon averted his eyes from the woman and turned his head left, sighting another woman standing but twelve feet before him, lounging in the corner, a Leica M4-P raised in her pale and delicate hands. The photographer smiled, snapped a shot and lowered the camera.

“You must be Harmon Kessel.”

“Must I be?”

“I’m afraid so.”

He smiled faintly and gestured to the woman’s face, “I remember your voice. We spoke on the phone. Ariadne Campbell, right?”

“That’s me. And that’s Monica, one of our in-house models,” she replied, motioning with her camera to the woman on the divan in the middle of the room. Monica languidly waved and then slid into a thin, scarlet-silk robe and rose, tying back glossy hair with a similarly sanguine strand.

“Where is Mr. Partridge?” Harmon wondered aloud.

Campbell gestured to the doorway at the far side of the room, opposite the memorial hall.

“Practicing with Anders.”

“Practicing?”

“Come, I’ll show you. Thank you, Mr. Celik, Monica, that will be all.”

Celik bowed to the woman and left off abruptly; Monica following shortly thereafter.

Campbell and Kessel made for the opposite doorway and passed through it into a large room, curiously unfurnished save for a series of antique French and German fencing illustrations which adorned the walls. In the middle of the expanse, two men clashed, one of middling height, garbed in a form-fitting obsidian gambeson, the other taller and broader, garbed in white. The white duelist, after a short absence of blade, lunged powerfully, but was swiftly feinted into blocking air by the black swordsman who closed the match with a sudden and decisive thrust to his opponent’s chest. The white fencer paused and looked down at what would have been a mortal wound, save for his gambeson and the flexile dullness of his foe’s blade, and laughed, stepping back and bowing in defeat.

“You win again, sir.”

The obsidian swordsman curtly bowed in respect, straightened and removed his wire-mesh helm to reveal a sharp, keen, alabaster visage.

Lynder Partridge.

The triumphant fencer turned to his guest and smiled broadly.

“Ah! Mr. Kessel. So pleased to see you could make it.”

“Evening, Mr. Partridge. I appreciate the invitation.”

“Think nothing of it. Tell me, do you fence?”

“No.”

“Would you like to?”

“Sure.”

“Its settled then. Anders, bring our guest a blade.”

Alarm registered on the white fencer’s face. Campbell smirked. Harmon looked from the woman to the tall blond and then back to his host with perplexity.

“You mean now?”

“I do.”

When Harmon did not respond, Lynder spoke up pointedly, a subtle mockery ringing in his dulcet tones.

“To the uninitiated, the sport can be quite intimidating. No shame in backing out.”

Harmon was quiet for several seconds and then turned to the man in the white gambeson.

“Anders, was it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Bring me a sabre.”

 

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