Mario fell in love with the goddess of war. Of course, he knew her as Alice Lois, the green-eyed woman trapped at Lake View Sanatorium since the courts deemed her insane at aged seventeen. He had been sticking pills on her tongue for a decade. Two months ago, she had looked at him for the first time. It shook him to his core.
He snuck into her records, finding a yellowed spiral notebook with crude drawings and symbols etched in the cover. He stuffed it into the waistband of his scrubs and took it home, violating all the laws of his personal ethics. He had to drink three Lagers before he could bring himself to open it.
When he finally did, her words made him want to take up a sword and protect her, fight whatever demon was harassing her:
‘My fears are winter wolves charging through the snow, tongues wagging, murderous eyes locked onto me. I don’t know why she has chosen me to destroy but I am the damned. Bitten by a darkness so black, it has seeped into my soul like an oil spill.’
He flipped forward, sinking deeper into her story, his heart being kneaded like dough:
‘I can feel her possession of me. My body is now just a furnace with an angry goddess burning within. She wants revenge, freedom from the chains of anonymity, to not be lost, forgotten or laughed off as a myth. She is hungry for bloodshed.’
He read until stars replaced dusk, until his eyes tired and his heart softened.
Morning found him standing over her, eyeing the pale curve of her cheek, a colorless mouth, the impossibly thin frame, the wide straps holding down this ghost of a woman.
She did not belong here. As if she could read his mind, her eyes opened. The brilliant life within her almost blinded him.
“My name is Kali.” The only words she would ever speak to him.
He carefully released her, lifted her, placed her waiflike body folded into a laundry carrier, stripped her sheets and lay them atop her, being mindful to leave an air pocket for breathing.
The basement door was not monitored.
It took twenty four hours for the Asenapine to wear off. He fed her oxtail soup, bathed her without removing her underwear, washed her hair on the couch from a bowl and wrapped her in his grandmother’s blanket. He played her an awkward song he was writing on a second hand guitar. He wondered what their kids would look like. Would they have her blinding green eyes?
Two days later, he awoke from his post on the living room floor and she was gone. He scoured the streets for hours then days then weeks. He forgot to shave and change his clothes. Sometimes he remembered to eat. Mostly he wept and tried to hold her image in his mind. It was slipping with his weight, his hygiene and his sanity.
“Breaking news from Washington. The President of the United States is dead.”
Mario froze in front of the portable radio, the centerpiece of people gathered on the apartment stairs. They shushed him when he approached. Shock twisted their mouths and eyes.
“Treaties have broken down in the past few weeks between the President’s special Peace for Progress Council and the terrorists who held four major US cities hostage just twelve months ago. Details are still coming in…” the voice paused. “We also have reports of coordinated attacks in Atlanta, Chicago and Austin. Thousands are believed perished.” More dead air and then an ear piercing siren.
“This is an emergency message from Homeland Security. Please stay calm and walk to nearest terrorist shelter for further instructions.”
As the message repeated itself–echoing from car radios, shops and bars—Mario sat down on the sidewalk curb and watched the scampering, the screaming, the panic. He began to chuckle, to laugh in loud, manic bursts until he was holding his stomach. What else was there to do but watch and listen?
It was a symphony. And his beautiful goddess was the conductor.