Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Acknowledgement: Thanks go to my dear friends - The White Lily and Gus - for betaing.
To The Plebes, our plebes
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
--Phillip K. Dick
The streets of the city were always murky. They were dark and unfriendly – grim with industrialism: serious people working hard to achieve mediocrity. No one cared for anyone except those whole it was their duty to care for or those who they got drunk with after toiling. Some people forgot what the city was called; it was just the city.
…The breeding ground for the recluse.
He wrote often. Always about the figure sitting the other side of the second window.
The first window had become obsolete within days of him moving in. It was just plain and dull and lifeless – like the rest of the room, with its scarlet carpet and light mauve walls. A bin sat in the corner; the rest of the room was bare except for a few fitted cupboards, a sink, a battered armchair, and the careless litter of a bachelor.
The second window, however, was the point of his deepest admiration. It was an odd place to put a window, and it somewhat conflicted with the dimensions of the tower. But that didn't matter; what mattered was what he could see through it.
The figure was ugly. His hair was black, thin and messy, and his body pale and decrepit. He lied about that. Not in terms of the template, but the conclusion.
After all, what was the difference? A black haired, beauty with pale skin; black haired and ugly with skin whitened by the absence of daylight. There was no difference. All the reader took from the passage was that the character had a light complexion and dark hair, surely.
Besides, the reader was not being lied to. Or rather, he was not being lied to so callously as the writer.
His early lies were not devious enough and did not fool him – and, though some were foolishly published, he discarded them inwardly as soulless fiction. They told of the figure's great athleticism, or charm, or good looks. The figure beyond the window was not athletic, or charming, or good-looking,
Then, one winter's morning, as the colourless rain (only noticeable against the city by its sound) pattered against his first window, he struck upon the truth.
He spoke at last of the figure's great intellect and cunning and cruelty. The truth leapt from his heart, to his mind, to the page, and then reverberated back through his eyes. He wrapped the truth in lies, of course – lies about mythical creatures, friends and foes, gold, and above all, the thing he supposed the figure probably desired most of all: purpose.
It sold well in civilisation, he heard. He tried to ignore that at first, for they were lapping up the lies, and that made his heart feel like lead. Some pathetic Irish man with a fake, toothy grin took credit for it. He didn't care. The publishers could present it as written by whomever they pleased, as long as he was sent enough money to survive on.
But – over time – he became engrossed in the lies. And in still more time, he became more infatuated with them than the truth they surrounded.
Although the figure appeared no less frosty and unfeeling than before – for how could a figure of such intelligence even in the wildest dreams of a madman become naive with the wonder of the world? – the novel's character developed a sense of feeling and love and generosity and, occasionally, irrationality.
He didn't notice his errors; on the contrary, as he watched the figure, he started to see the lies of his works superimposed on his subject. And soon after – though rarely – he started to see places and characters and themes from his stories in the background, and the figure would interact with the lies.
Eventually temptation became too much and he would watch and record these interactions as the basis for his novels.
At times, he could have sworn, he saw his skin grow darker and softer and smoother, and his hair fairer. But at others, the same man who had sat with him for years stood, watching him back just as intently, and with fondness.
It was in the afternoon; he was unpacking his shopping – which was always delivered in so as not to increase his plunges into society. He caught sight of the window. The figure was as he had originally seen him – or not far from it. Oddly, it was holding bags laden with food and other basic supplies; as usual, he was gazing intently at him, as if the fascination was mutual and even equal.
It occurred to him – perhaps randomly, perhaps not – that the second window would have been an appropriate place to put a mirror.
Returning his attention to the figure and his surroundings, he was struck for the first time by his blood red carpet, identical to his own. All at once, he was hit… the walls were lilac, the surfaces brown, a cupboard, a bin, the bags, the clothes, the raven hair, the pallid skin, the piercing blue eyes of insanity…
"HOLLY!" the madman screamed in epiphany. But she did not come.
Heh. There's a reasonable chance you didn't understand that. It's quite complex, and is more than a little bit AU! If you didn't, and you have the time, try reading again, and see if it clicks into place. If not, drop a review and I'll try to explain.
In any case, thanks for reading. As always, reviews of all kinds are very much appreciated, and I do my very best to reply to them all.