I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.


    **Coney Island Tomfoolery

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    Tariq
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    Join date : 2012-05-13

    **Coney Island Tomfoolery

    Post  Tariq on Fri Sep 09, 2016 2:40 am

    The dying streak of orange that heralded the setting sun seemed watery and weak in contrast to the harsh sting of artificial lights that twinkled merrily through the cold, brittle air. They filled the sky, blurring in one’s vision like a host of drunken fireflies.

    “One million lights,” the boy said breathlessly. His eyes were bright, chatoyant, glittering with the reflection of the electric wonders. “It is like morning.”

    His companion was decidedly less taken with the spectacle and it was not difficult to understand why – the dark-tinted glasses shielding his white eyes and the dark wood of a cane held easily in his hand marked him as sightless. However, he appeared to be enjoying the boy’s soft narration in an unwieldy pidgin language composed haphazardly of brisk French and careful English that, despite his fluency rivaling that of those chattering away around him, felt clunky on his tongue. His own comments were sparing and dry.

    The boy sensed rather than saw his companion willing himself to go unnoticed by the cheerful crowd that pressed around them, and he felt a momentary pang of irritation. He quickened his pace to dart into the seething throng. He was swift as a fox and navigated the dense knots of people with careless ease. The taste of powdered sugar lingered in the air, becoming trapped in the space between his lip and his tongue.

    A plume of fire burnt the sky orange. The boy joined the clamoring group leaning against the railing to watch as the simulated building fire was extinguished with a theatrical aplomb that he could appreciate. The heat washed over his face. As the fire shrank away into blackened soot he cheered and clapped with the rest of the crowd, snatching at a handful of ash that drifted lazily from the sky. He took the opportunity to sneak his fingers into the pocket of the man beside him who was distracted in superciliously explaining to two disinterested women how the spectacle worked. The fine leather wallet he withdrew and surreptitiously smuggled away was enough of a consolation to coax him back to his companion’s side, led through the disorder as surely as if he had left a trail of string.

    “They are nervous,” his companion said upon his return without breaking stride or glancing down at him. He inclined his head to a watchful pair of police officers, arms crossed in front of them as they grimly surveyed the crowd. “A missing child.” The words were honey on his lips. His white eyes were muddled with the whirl of coloured lights. “The mother flew into hysterics and caused quite a stir. They will be pleased to be rid of the both of them.”

    Oui,” the boy replied absently, having become distracted by a painted advertisement that depicted a man’s head between the teeth of a lion. He studied those gleaming fangs with rapt interest and idly wondered how the blood of such a beast would taste.  

    His companion was sharp and lean with hunger and the boy realized a second too late how thin his patience had become. The hand at the back of his slender neck was laced with bones like iron.

    “I have humoured your suggestion and we are here.” The words were so soft that passersby would have been hard-pressed to catch them even if they had leaned in close, but to the boy’s sharp ears they were sharp as the scratch of a quill on his skin. “Now be good and do what you must.” A shiver trembled through the boy’s thin limbs.  

    Oui, Monsieur,” he said delicately and the hand at the back of his neck was abruptly just a memory that he cast away with a shake of his head. His fingertips brushed against the back of his companion’s hand – a silent contrition for his inattention, assurance to return faithfully – and he slipped away.

    His own teeth began to feel heavy in his mouth. However, the hunger tugging at his veins did little to dampen the disappointment when the prowl led him further from the warmth of the screaming, laughing crowds and the dapple of manic lights that his heart beat so sorely to rejoin. Instead, he dejectedly lurked on the abandoned beach, the shrieks and rattles of mechanized joy receding behind him.

    It was cold and grey here. Winter’s hand had throttled the colour and joy from the beach. The hoary sea poured lifeless water over the sand with a hissing whisper that set his nerves on edge.  

    He had been following his intuition, some partial scent or predatory instinct, but now he heard what he had come for. Tickling against his ear like the humming of a moth’s wings were the muffled cries of a child.  

    The boy picked his way down the rocks porous with salt, his feet light beneath him. The sobs grew louder. The child was tired, her throat raw with hours of crying. He soon found her wedged in a grimy drainpipe. The only part of her that was visible was the desolate mat of her hair that looked like a half-drowned creature curled up in attempt to find shelter.

    “Hello,” he said pleasantly and the girl’s body jerked. She lifted her head with a gasp and the boy could see the dull brass of her eyes gleaming wetly in the shadows. He smiled at her, his mouth full of sharp teeth like a cat, and the child’s own lips curled upward into a grin. She sniffled and spoke and he realized with a jolt of delight that it was his own mother tongue in her mouth – albeit provincial, far removed from his city, and modern enough to sound sharp and new to his old ears.

    “Are you cold, chérie?” he asked softly, kneeling on sharp knees to better meet her gaze. The girl shivered as though only just becoming aware of the impending winter chill. “Maman?” she asked doubtfully. Her breath puffed as a wisp of vapor in a way his did not.

    Non, not yet,” he said with an exaggerated furrow of his brow. “But, ah, look.” He reached, palm open, into the mouth of the pipe and the girl shrank back. Gently, he reached behind her ear and opened his hand to reveal the coin inside. “Voila!”

    The child’s eyes sparkled and she clapped her hands together as much as the pipe would allow. “Again!” she demanded and the boy cheerfully complied. He rolled the coin nimbly over the back of his knuckles before depositing it in his palm. He showed it to her, his glittering eyes on her, and then vanished it with a wave of his hand, brandishing his empty palm as though for alms. Her shriek of delight echoed in the pipe. He reached for her ear again and this time the girl did not cower from him as he once more revealed the coin from behind her ear.

    “Mine.” The girl pointed a finger at the coin in his hand and the boy looked down at it. “Yes,” he agreed. “You can have it. But only if you come with me. Would you like to come with me?” She nodded agreeably, having been thoroughly charmed by this strange, spry child, and he passed the coin he had pilfered from the bloviating man’s pocket to her before helping her out of the drainpipe.

    She was barefoot, her clothes ragged and caked with dirt. The boy hesitated when he saw her. Something darkened the brilliance of his eyes. He considered leaving her there, returning to his companion empty-handed, his tongue prepared with cunning lies. But then he took her small hand in his and the thrum of warm blood pulsing in her wrist filled his mouth with water.

    Suis-moi,” he sang encouragingly, and the pair began their trek back to the roaring crowd.

    His companion was waiting for him at an empty table at an abandoned café, long legs crossed easily beneath him.  The girl took an immediate dislike to him and drew back, pressing her face into the boy’s hip. His companion stirred and the boy could sense the powers of persuasion coiling up inside him hypnotic and mesmerizing as a cobra’s sway.

    “Come here, little one.” It was nearly a purr as he reached out an inviting hand. The girl glanced up at the boy who smiled his sharp smile and stepped forward, the coin clutched tightly in her fist. The man drew her close and something in the way his shadow enveloped her sent a pulse of excitement racing down the boy’s throat.

    He turned his corpse-pale eyes to the boy who unthinkingly offered his hand. Tenderly, his companion pressed his lips to his palm, the praise faint but tangible, and mouthed words that only he could hear in the shape of cool lips against his skin, “And now the other.”

    His second quarry was as easy to track down as the first. But this time he took an indirect route, meandering through the giddy hordes of warm bodies that smelled of tobacco and sugar, perfume and sweat, beer and mothballs and hot, pounding blood. Hunger sharpened his teeth but he – they – had all the time in the world.

    A swarm of painted demons with spiraling horns and eyes that glowed red with the burn of electric light gibbered at him from the side of a tent and he delightedly bared his eye-teeth at them. He coaxed a dull orange tabby cat from his prowl underneath an unoccupied bench and stroked his knobby spine as the cat purred a deep grumble of contentment. A group of children, grubby despite their nice clothes, were gawking anxiously at the outside of a stall promising a ten-in-one freak show, and he distracted them from their indecision with another round of coin tricks, each more elaborate than the last. Their mother, mistaking him for a carny huckster, sternly interrupted to shoo them away. He obligingly slunk off, nearly beaming with the compliment.

    He was aware that his winding path was leading him nearer and nearer to his goal but was taken by surprise when he abruptly came up on it and he halted. She was on the ground in a dark corner where the people streaming past could politely pretend not to notice her. Empty bottles littered the ground around her. Her breath was sharp with the scent of spirits. The boy idly thought how pleased his companion would be.

    He approached quietly and she did not notice him until he had knelt before her. Her sobs were silent now, her hysterics worn down to mute weeping. Her hazy gaze unsuccessfully tried to focus on him. Her hair had fallen out of her hairclip in ringlets.

    He wanted this to be over. There were no theatrics now, no attempts to win her over. His voice was low and direct, hoarse even to his own ears.

    “I know where your daughter is.”

    Her head jolted upright and she clutched his arm. The relief in her eyes was enough to light a dull flame of guilt in his chest, but it was nothing to the hunger it kindled in his throat. He stretched out his hand.  

    "Let's reunite you with your daughter, Madame.”

    She accepted his hand and he helped her stand, sorrow and joy and drink making her unsteady, wobbly as a baby bird. Together, they hobbled down the path. The leering gaze of a grinning devil caught his eye and he had just enough time to read the burning words on the arched sign before they passed beneath them; “Welcome to the Gates of Hell.”

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