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Naked City Grand Guignol
To some a doll represents a token of comfort; muted ally for infants and source of intense fascination for collectors of all that is ornate. Having one of these puppets perched at the foot of your bedstead is regarded as benign and something to clutch onto when the storms roll in at the dead of night. The one thing conspicuously absent is a heart; their intricate design template never included the ability to live or to breathe. It isn’t the lack of one such organ that gives them their edge but the possibility that these diminutive delicacies may actually be in possession of a soul. This is far harder to locate, you could fashion a cavity and reach inside but will invariably find nothing of discernment.
Monsieur Heureux and DeAnnah Grimm were two such collectibles; being dead behind the eyes is one thing but it is the reflection of imminent woe which they captured so eloquently. Both were imported to the States from Brașov, Romania at the close of the second world war and the latter ended up collecting cobwebs on a dime store shelf for a number of years while Heureux found himself a home. Inexplicably they relocated one other many years later and the curtain was raised once more, although they had no intention of playing in the fields of the lord and, instead, the devil’s playground provided their watering hole. There had been no cease to their impish trail of destruction and their last engagement left a bloodbath but, after the crime scene was cleared and the apartment resold at a premium, they were both consigned to taped-up boxes in the musky attic purlieu where they had remained ever since.
Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol was actually located in Paris where Gustav Popescu was born around the time of the Second Balkan War in 1913. As a child he became fascinated with its naturalistic performances and macabre connotation; choosing to commit his life’s work to crafting these marionettes and breathing life into each of them through his extraordinary attention to detail and gifted hand. Popescu was a tormented soul, he never remarried after his first wife’s tragic death and neither did he ever fully recover. He was besotted with Narcisa and she passed after contracting a spiteful strain of Pellagra, which left him perpetually fragmented. He designed both Heureux and Grimm at the peak of his creative flurry and admitted openly to modeling them on himself and his sleeping bride.
Soon after docking in the land of the free he was brutally murdered and his wares pilfered by vagabonds. Popescu had been intrigued particularly by Native American and African folklore which suggested that an effigy could be utilized to perform a spell on someone or place a curse. His death was witnessed that night; both by Heureux and Grimm, as their porcelain eyes gazed upon his denouement. Neither flinched, they were purely dolls after all, but beyond their baroque wax casings something augmented that evening in Jacksonville, Alabama. He was found clutching both figurines with his throat spitefully removed and a dead stare which suggested occupancy had entirely vanquished. It had; only not as far as one’s soul would ordinarily travel, his reunion with beloved Narcisa was settled by the transference of his ebbing lustre into his minikin associate.
Too many marriages dissolve at the first sight of snag. That piece of parchment paper appears to many to be just that, just urbane scribing which holds no real weight. Gustav and Narcisa were the exception to that rule and their nuptials were undertaken with vehemence and an unshakable love for one another which transcended their deaths. Indeed both marionettes were crafted the precise night that he received shattering news of his spouse’s passing and their design echoed his raw emotion and disarray beautifully. With eyes like beads of coal and as blackened as her soul, Grimm told a desolate tale to all but Popescu, who found warmth where there was an apparent dearth. Heureux, while clearly stunted, was a majestic vessel for his heartbreak to reside within.
These walls witnessed something truly disconcerting months back when the deaths of a couple of local teens blighted the tranquility this town had been known for. Since that fateful evening the premises had remained unfacilitated. It must have appeared quite the steal to its new owners at the time, selling for half the going rate, although the estate agent negated to make mention of the heinous crime which befell its previous tenant. All evidence of their existence had been whitewashed away with crass emulsion. This presented just the challenge young lovers Franz and Etta were necessitating and they snapped it up the very next day to its introduction on the market. This would mark the beginning of their chosen life together, their first taste of cohabitation and the next logical step for their relationship.
Franz was of Austrian origin and had lived in the states for all of his adult life. He met African-American beauty Etta at an art exhibition and the pair had been inseparable ever since. They shared a fascination for the macabre and both were distinguished artists in their own right, although he preferred prose to the application of paint and was halfway through his second memoir Inertia. This pallid lodging presented just the blank canvas to hush the cacophonous cries of city life and allow him to focus his attention into his pivotal second dissertation. Less than five minutes after he delivered the last storage box and poured himself a coffee in the hemmed in kitchen, the drop-down attic hatch had made itself known to him. He clocked it and stored it, while he joined his fiancé for a brew and to marvel at their new domicile’s simplistic charm.
“I can see a future here Ets” he said as he took his first sip of filtered coffee. “I know right? This couldn’t be more ideal. Our own home.” Etta wore a contented smile as she returned to unpacking the crockery. “You think you can write here?” she asked. “Fuck yes I can, have you seen this place? It’s like the white noise has lifted. I hate city life, it’s such a rat race. This my dearest is pure nirvana.” She turned and planted a lingering kiss on his lips “Good. I think we’re going to be happy here” she replied. “Storage may be a little bit of an issue” he observed “We don’t exactly travel light do we?” Etta chuckled and gave his ass an impertinent squeeze. “You mean you don’t travel light lover. You are a touch obsessive”. She was being playful of course but he had been accommodating a course of cognitive behavioral therapy to help him overcome his excessive OCD.
“Sky parlor to the rescue Ets. There’s an attic room above the hallway. I’m all over that.” She leaned out the doorway and glanced her eye over the ceiling hatchway. “Please tell me this means that filthy Buddha is going to be put to rest” Etta despised the eye sore and had been dropping hints for weeks over her abhorrence. “No way José, The Buddha stays. I’ve already found the perfect spot for Fudoki.” The name Fudoki represented immovable and unmoving wisdom and Etta didn’t appreciate the irony.
“I can’t wait to poke around up there and find something of character, this place seems muted and clinical don’t ‘cha think? Not a criticism, just an observation. Tell you what though Ets. If we can find anything up there to take the place of my chubby friend on the mantle then I’ll consign him to the bench. Deal?” Etta widened eyes and grin spoke volumes. “You got yourself a deal mister. Let me finish my coffee and we’ll get to work.” Despite her apparent exuberance she couldn’t shake the slight feeling of discontentment rising from her gut.
Coming soon: Iniquitous
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
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Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2014