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Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross “What Comes Back”
Night after night I come for her. Every time she closes her eyes, its my icy touch which greets, just to remind her that her safe place is no longer quite so secure. Should she wake up screaming in the dead of night, then it is my job to ensure that not a solitary soul discerns her cries. I steal away the sound before she can make it as I bid to make certain our masquerade remains intimate. She may spend her waking hours trying desperately to forget me but the very second she re-enters my dark realm, remembrance is a given. What kind of host would I be if I left her guessing? Granted, she may not be over-enamored by my pressing, but we all have our demons and I just so happen to be her cross to bear. And, what’s more, I only ever have eyes for she.
I’m inside her right now, coursing through each vein and throbbing just beneath the surface of her skin in blackened pockets which swell each time I choose to taunt. Subtlety is not my strong suit as I much prefer the thought of her knowing precisely where I am at all times. After all, she should feel privileged to entertain such distinguished company. One who is never anything less than attentive, anally retentive about populating every breath which vacates her pale lips. My repertoire is extensive, and the methods with which I suffocate her every breath in her lungs, most comprehensive. Apprehension then gives way to overwhelming desire on her part, that being for tearing the skin straight from her bones of dust and scratch as she looks to expose her visitor once-and-for-all. Naturally, this only encourages me to dig in all the deeper. Which is precisely what I do.
At any given moment, I could snuff out her last remaining light, if I had any inclination to do so. However, it is that which fascinates me most. You see, my suggestions tend to be less than favorable, at least, to any girl looking for divine endings once her mortal run comes to an end. After all, I am the darkness which exists within her and the product of years and years of psychological scarring and emotional jarring. To her credit, she takes little issue with sparring, puffing out her chest and raising her chin whenever the red mist rolls in. Every time she clenches her knuckles, I make a hustle for the trenches. From here I can pick my shot, wait for her to commit, then strike when she is on the front foot. Forming a fist may be a specialty of hers, but shadow boxing is particularly challenging to master. And, for each left hook she throws, my southpaw is faster. Yet, it’s almost as though she gets a kick out of flirting with disaster. Like it excites her.
We have history. Indeed, I fondly recall her childhood and the part I played in it. Back then, fear seemed an alien concept to her and she could often be found indulging the kind of twisted fantasies that only tainted birthright caters for. Granted, there was a sense of sweet innocence about her, but it was tempered by an intense fascination for anything considered at all grotesque. The acid test came when she came of age as I decided it was high time she face the shadows head-on. Not one to be led on, it was left for me to force the issue so to speak and snatch away her chastity before she could make the decision herself. To be fair, I was little more than grateful spectator as her virginity was spirited away, without the vaguest hint of romance. Something in her eyes died that day. And I was swollen with pride that day. As, at long last, we became better acquainted. And my presence need no longer be quite so understated.
It was then, in that very moment, that I found fresh appreciation for the object of my proposed misdirection. No longer predisposed with sugar, spice and all things nice, she was now far more receptive to hearing of my intentions. No sense or feeling were spared, not to mention her deepest rooted fears, which were only heightened by the death of blissful ignorance. And for every last consternation she faced, I made sure to stare straight back so as not to leave her feeling neglected. This is not to suggest all of her wishes were respected, indeed, not a solitary one of her very worst fears was bested. Whatever is will if not to be tested? Furthermore, when I looked through the windows of her honey glazed eyes, their request became evidently clear. “Come inside” they suggested and whatever is a boy supposed to do when played at his very own game?
Once reality became little more than a distortion, all that remained was to follow this elusive white rabbit of mine down its hole. And I was already more than familiar with the layout. That being said, something felt different here. Almost as though I was being coerced into this warren on her own exclusive terms. Deeper and deeper I burrowed, until such time as a light beneath me became blinding. Of Crystalline dimensions no less. I have to confess, for the very first time since our association commenced, I felt somewhat vulnerable. My actions up until this point had been some way from condonable and I wasn’t looking to atone for them either. But I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling there was more to this rendezvous than she was revealing. So you see, while she no doubt thanks her lucky stars for me not snuffing out that one remaining light, I dared not even attempt it. And it was here that the path ended. Make no mistake, I had mastered the art of making my presence felt by all five of her senses. But I hadn’t banked on ten.
This isn’t to say she didn’t feel penned in and vulnerable herself; but there was nothing about her forthright stance which aligned to a victim’s mentality. In such bitterest eventualities, many would be inclined to fall back. She wasn’t. Fear is a most efficient killer of minds, should you offer it blessing – She didn’t. Others may concede defeat once retreat has been beaten – She wouldn’t. As while there was light in her soul and belief that she could – She couldn’t. Thus, for all the pain and suffering I knew damn well how to inflict, I was also more than aware that I couldn’t hope to fester in the real world without a vessel through which to manifest. In her own words – Where there’s darkness, there’s light. After blindness, comes sight. And you either concede or show the cold steel to fight. It was abundantly clear that she was prepared to do precisely that.
Since that night, our moonlit engagements have hinted at bloodshed on numerous occasions, and we have been known to waltz through nocturne, across a grand ballroom, thickly glossed with teeth and bones which crunch beneath the soles of our feet as we twist and turn. Ash smolders. Burns. And the amber flames around us form a symphony of despairing cries, each glancing our bare skin as we dance. But I remain ever respectful of the hand which grips her own the whole time. As I know deep in my blackened heart that she will never ever feel forsaken. Therefore, she would never conceive of being taken. Not by darkness. Not with ten active senses and a different kind of visitation going on. One which emanates from tremendous light. Luminescent. Ever present. And a gentleman would do well to respect that. Even one as tenebrous as I.
She’s a twin; one of a pair of dead ringers who bookend the very same essence of spirit. And not a step in life she takes which isn’t in tandem with her sister. Should either one of them veer too far into the void I employ, then the other will instinctively pull back, while geographical distance cannot separate them as they walk hand-in-hand the whole way. In my more curious moments, I listen in respectfully as the pair confer through unspoken tongue. Her twin knows all about this visitor of hers and, while it may appear a risky endeavor to dance with the devil inside, she is more than mindful that my intentions are pure. You see, I had been robbed of light for so long prior to primary visitation and accepted this as my lot. Indeed, I hadn’t the vaguest idea how to seek out its source. Now I do and would die back to life before compromising such a beautiful union. Blood is critical as they bleed in the very same hue and it happens to be the same color as my tears. So I weep freely and this is my blessing. We all only wish to be loved, after all. And darkness and light couldn’t be more vital to one another in that respect.
Night after night I come for her, and each visitation concludes the same way. I hold her close in my arms, with a touch no longer quite so icy, and rock her gently to sleep with a lullaby from my dark soul. Then I lay her down gently in her bed, kiss her no longer pale lips ever so delicately, and assume position above her, where I proceed to watch over this angel until daylight steals me away once more. And she slumbers so blissfully. As I have no intention of stealing her soul away on this or any other night; merely making it whole. After all, she is love she is light, not some mute acolyte, not a lamb fit for slaughter or a drudge to the night. Shades of grey serve us well, both heaven and hell, for there’s light and there’s darkness in our citadel.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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