Soul-Searching

Perhaps I had always known I would eventually return here, to this place rife with the stench of decaying bodies and rotting flesh. Once, I called the catacombs beneath this graveyard "home." That word now carries a strange connotation, though I will forever owe a debt to those who dwell below...my adopted family who took me in when I was but a naive fledgling, newly-emerged with feathers untried and untested from the nest.

What a glorious night that had been. The hour of rebirth.

He had fascinated me from the first moment I saw him. Darkly mysterious with an enigmatic presence and melancholy expression. I was drawn like a hapless moth, oblivious and indifferent to the knowledge that fluttering too close to such an all-consuming flame could mean only destruction of life as I knew it to be. Had I been aware then of what would transpire...had I known the consequences before it was all too late...I still would change nothing.

Captivated by the froth of ivory lace at his throat melding into the pallor of his exquisite skin, I desired nothing more than to reach out and embrace that creamy flesh...shower kisses upon those blue-veined lids, thin as aged parchment, which veiled his languishing eyes. He had smiled, recognizing my willing, even deliberate, surrender to his power. And yet, he had turned me away. For years, I followed him. Continent to continent...city to city. From the delirious masquerades of a sinister New Orleans to the romantic canals of a moon-drenched Venice. From the ravenous streets of squalid Hong Kong to the distressing ruins of the countryside outside the Bulgarian port of Varna. From the splendors of Amsterdam's late nights, where youth never sleeps, to the sophistication and elegance of Paris...the ultimate Metropolis of Enlightenment.

Initially, I believe he perceived my pursuit as something of a game as, again and again, he tested my endurance and determination. Famished, I watched enviously as he took Creole women in the drunken aftermath of Mardi Gras and agonized over the fact that he deemed me unpalatable. But still, I courted the dream. I also believe, at that time, he considered me something of an oddity, finding amusement in the tables that had been turned and perhaps delighting a little in the hunt which had transformed the predator into the prey.

Nevertheless, I will always cherish that cloudless night I finally intercepted him here, in the Cimetiere des Innocents. He was vulnerable and consumed by bloodlust. It had been many weeks since he had fed. I know now that he would have brushed me aside, as he had on countless occasions, if such had not been the case. It is mortifying to realize that he had come to regard me as a no more than an irritation...an insufferable gadfly who shadowed his every move and afforded him no peace.

Happily, I was unaware of his true feelings...or I do fear it would have broken my heart.

My capitulation was absolute. There was nothing he could ask that I would not willfully give. Drained, I drank deeply and gratefully of the rich, life-giving crimson wine he drizzled over my parched lips. I had waited for an eternity it seemed...endured so much and yearned so completely.

I had hoped he would now allow me to accompany him, that we would be associates...colleagues...lovers...whatever he wished, so long as I could remain in attendance, but it was not to be.

He delivered me into the labyrinth below des Innocents, leading me past skulls picked clean by vermin and corpses which imitated the illusion of existence, while tattered remnants of clothing still clung to their decomposing bodies. There, he abandoned me to those who would teach me the arts of survival. They were kind, even doting, but I could not stay there forever...not without him.

And so, again I sought him out. The weeks became months, months turned into years...years into decades...until, weary and jaded, I returned to my City of Becoming, discovering to my ecstasy that he was here in the Quarter, wandering among the whores who frequented the nearby marketplace.

It was with elation that I greeted him, all the while fretful that he would not recollect, dreading that I had faded to nothingness within his memory. But he remembered...remembered with loathing and repulsion. The disgust which ravaged his adored face pierced like a dagger and yet, I welcomed the ruthless brutality of his cruel grip upon my shoulders.

"Let me be," he hissed. "Go soul-searching and look there for your answer." Pushing me aside, he melded into the crowd and vanished from my tear-drenched eyes. Despairing, I fled toward the comfort and tranquility offered by my birthplace.

The enveloping mantle of darkness will shortly be chased into oblivion by the dawn and I will do as he asks. "Go soul-searching," he commanded but, lost within the depths of my agony, I misheard...misinterpreted. Thankfully, I finally understand. The implication of the demand warped by a trick of his native Spanish tongue.

It is fitting for it to happen here among the tombstones of the centuries. I will wait. Wait for the sunshine of a day which brings warmth and light...and death. My chase has reached its conclusion. How I shall embrace the excruciating pain which brings an end to my torment.

Perhaps, when the moon rises again, he will come in search of me this time, and know that I have obeyed.

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