What is personal reinvention to one who is already damned?
She had torn the prosthetic skin from him face. To add insult to a false injury, she had torn his music and attempted to dispose of it.
Didn't she know that the music was more than scratches of ink on a page? More that 0s and 1s on a computer? The music, his music, erupted from bowels of hell, from the soul he had sold. It was immortal.
He was immortal. If only to act as a siphon for those compositions which mankind should be blessed enough to hear.
It had taken a century, but Erik Destler had come to realize that he was nothing in the wake of his purpose. His body was the vehicle. Don Juan Triumphant was only the beginning. His Muse demanded so much more.
Christine had crumbled in the wake of his genius; she was, ultimately, unworthy. He'd become distracted by her body, her flesh…who could blame him? he reasoned feverishly. The conquest of flesh, in one form or another, preoccupied his waking thoughts to the point of distraction. He was tempted and weakened by the flesh that encased her glorious voice.
He would never make the same mistake again.
Erik felt a new work under the surface of his patchwork skin, pushing and pulling, ready to be born. And he needed to find a safe place to give this one life.
The body before him quivered, the lung puncture making a sucking noise as Erik bent down and lifted the blade to the young man's face.
"I should cut out your tongue so that your screams can be your own," he whispered, and went to work.
Three hours later, Erik stepped into the bus station and bought a ticket. Careful to keep his black wool scarf high about his freshly sewn face, he gave the woman two crisp one hundred dollar bills, so generously donated by his earlier kill. The iPod now safely tucked in his pocket had come from a man who carried a guitar case. Erik hoped that the poor fool's taste in music was worth his life.
What was a life worth, if not the music?
The close contact with people was going to be most irritating, but Erik had concluded that this would be the least offensive mode of travel. He could hide: he could tuck himself down into the seat and drift off to the music in his ears and in the dark folds of him mind. And should he have his hand forced, he could disembark and get away.
It would take days to reach his new home, but that would give him time to strategize his new life. A new life, he considered, or just another refrain attached to the same damned chorus?
He slipped the earphones into his "ears," and closed his eyes.
The station in New Orleans was just outside the French Quarter; as Erik stepped off the reeking bus, his senses were further assaulted by a wall of humidity and the stench of urine. Muffling curses under breath, he clutched his violin case to his chest and searched for a bathroom to check his handiwork.
After checking the stalls for occupants, Erik set his violin on the grimy floor and gingerly lowered his covering.
The harsh, raw light deepened the gnarled red lines, and even Erik had to grimace. Without heavy stage makeup—or better still—the prosthetic faces he'd created in New York, his crafted face was unseemly. Erik's aesthetic sensibilities demanded a more perfect visage, and he would have to procure better materials.
He heard a moan from behind him, and turned to see a man crumpled in a far dark corner. Hiking the dark fabric up to his mouth again, he stepped forward to bend over the shuddering form.
"Did you see?" Erik hissed.
The man's eyes rolled back, and a trickle of vomit clung to his chin.
Erik turned on his heel, collected his case, and made his way out into the light.
The weather was still cold—it was January, after all—but the wetness of the air made the cold wrap around Erik's body and he shivered lightly. He lowered the brim of his fedora and kept his eyes low. Crossing the bustling Canal Boulevard, he watched people board and descend from green streetcars, their hands full of shopping bags and voices loud. He watched a crowd of particularly obnoxious creatures step off onto the thoroughfare and head north on one of the cross streets.
He'd follow them.
He'd kill at least one for money, skin, and a spot of fun.
The party moved north on a street called Rue Decatur. Erik grinned at the self-consciousness of the title. This was a city clinging wildly to its past.
Perfect for a monster who cannot escape his.
Erik moved silently behind them, tipping his head up only to appreciate the soft gray light of the afternoon. He knew that he needed to find a place—a private space to compose and to collect his hides—but for the moment he was content to follow this group and enjoy the wind on his mottled face. They crossed the sidewalk and continued pressing forward, laughing and drinking from gaudy plastic cups.
Intoxication would make this even easier, he mused.
He stopped walking when they continued past the protective barrier of shop fronts to carouse past a large plaza of greenery encased within an iron fence. He did not want to put himself out in the open, so public and vulnerable. He'd hoped to cling for a while to the uneven shadows created by the canopies and overhangs. Erik tucked himself close to the wall in between a souvenir shop and a restaurant and took a deep breath.
His silence was defeated by the blast of a pipe organ.
He was further shocked to hear a song being rendered from the instrument. Emerging reluctantly from his darkened spot, he followed the racket, sidestepping people as they hurried past him. The farther he strode, the closer the retched notes seemed, until he found himself standing at the foot of a large levee embankment. Climbing the grassy hill, he stood transfixed at the top.
The Mississippi River was wide—wider than any river he could ever remember seeing. Deep brown and moving quickly, he could make out fierce and violent currents farther out in the flow of water. The riverboat Natchez had finally finished its trilling tune, and was departing the dock. Erik's duster whipped about him; the wind off the river was strong.
Violence, depravity, wonder.
He was right to have chosen this city. He could hide here; he could build a new life here, and his music could thrive in the dank, sweaty air with glorious results. This was indeed a City of the Dead.
And he was Death. His poetry would meld nicely with the decaying earth.
Setting his violin case down, he reverently unlatched it and withdrew the instrument. His pet, this violin—so perfect and yielding to his gentle touch.
Tucking it under his chin, Erik began to pull and tease his music from the violin, consecrating his homecoming to this strangely welcoming place.
People strolling along the walkway stopped at his song. Several stepped up to the open case and tossed in bills and coins. He offered a soft nod, never making eye contact. Only in these moments of peace, when the music spoke for him, did Erik forget any sense of bloodlust or frenzy. These were the only moments of human interaction that made sense to him. For a second, he could speak to another soul, and have that soul understand.
And after a few hours, he'd possibly have enough money for a bit a food and some wine.
For now, however, Erik Destler felt some semblance of contentment. Tomorrow, he would begin bringing the world to its knees.
Or, at least, the City that Care Forgot.