Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Amulet XII: Soul Stealing

Joe sat back heavily on his butt and let out a wet, desperate sob. Angel was gone, as he'd always known she would be; one day sooner or later, he knew she'd breathe her last and so would end an ordeal in both love and terror.
He sat in the grass for a while longer, staring through eyes like wet church glass and just inhaled steadily while his heart beat; a broken and worthless instrument.
Joe sat up on his knees, smiled and mouthed his undying love for his long suffering bride, and stood with a moment of vertigo. It was time to go home. Time to go back to the house that was now an empty, cavernous shell, just like his own life, now. Angel was gone, and Joe had one thing left to do.

In 1997, Joe Porter met Silvia Angel at a bar. Often meetings based around mutual love for alcohol and pool rarely got beyond one night stands, but somehow, some way, the two had clicked. Time soared for the next two years and before they knew it the couple were shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond for wedding gifts. The wedding itself was a stunning, unforgettable affair with a royal air and everything lovers of the Medieval enjoy: costumes, period-specific food, horses, swans, crowns... regal to say the least. The nuptials and reception party lasted well into the following day until everyone finally succumbed to weariness and went their separate ways. Joe and 'Angel' (she hated Silvia and took to being called to her now former surname) went home and spent the evening opening gifts and consummating their new relationship.

The gifts were all unwrapped, save one. It was neither the biggest nor the most unusual, but, at the same time, it seemed to be the one they collectively avoided without really realizing it until the very end. It was round, roughly the size of a tea saucer, and tightly wrapped in nondescript, white paper. Yet, even with all the commonality about it, it resonated with something neither could quite explain. And they didn't. No one spoke, but Joe held it up, rolled it over in his hands with a quizzical expression, and shrugged as he began to separate the tape from its moorings. Angle stayed his hand with a look of fearful dismay and quickly shook her head. Joe smiled, and gave her a solemn cock-eyed glance and removed the remainder of the paper. In his hands lay the most unusual piece of (what, artwork?) that he'd ever seen. Angel then seemed to physically pull away from the disc-shaped object as an invisible cloak of fear enveloped her.

It wasn't precisely ugly, but it surely wasn't something either would consider beautiful or even very cool, but it was a gift from -well, this was the odd part: neither could find an attached tag or card announcing from whom it came. Despite that fact, they still decided to display it lest the giver come over at some point and ask about it with undesirable results. It was given a small stand like a picture and set over the fireplace on the mantle. They stared at it longingly yet fought to tear themselves away. It's etched runes that ran the circumference of the disc seemed to thrum and pulsate with a deep, horrible red; a red that nothing of this Earth should rightly be hued. It was a dull, unpolished pewter elsewhere and had an almost unkempt, filthy quality about it that, for all intents and purposes, made the casual viewer feel ill and dizzy and not right at all. Yet, they were prodded -somehow- to keep it. And so they did.

As with many lucky couples, Joe and Angel fell even deeper in love. They spent as much time together as they conceivably could. They were able to find jobs with matching schedules, 9-5, and never let an evening conclude without love making and sharing of one another. They stole long, passionate kisses in public places as they coyly darted their glances at those not nearly in as deep of love as they. They began to skirt danger by having sex in locations where it was even a little more than just taboo: airliners, restaurant washrooms, friends bathrooms and bedrooms, public parks, and darkened bars in corners where no one could see them. They were rebellious, but neither cared and they began thriving off the thrill of the spot. Joe seemed to be the most adept at securing a location that seemed just out of the views of prying eyes. But even so, they still enjoyed the simple fact that they could, at any time, be caught. And so it continued, as often as it could, the sex where shadows only dwell. And little by little, things began to change.

Angel began getting sick a fair bit more often than, say, a normal person of her typical health. She felt weak, drained, older... she took to far longer stays in bed when she wasn't at work. A chore in and of itself. Angel made several trips to her OBGYN and was told that there was nothing discernibly wrong with her. The only thing she was told was to change her diet and pick up her exercise routine. But nothing helped and her failing health and rising ills turned her into but a shell of her formal self. Her and Joe's sex life began to slowly fade. It was too uncomfortable. Even their kisses seemed lifeless and drab. Especially those offered by Joe in the candle light of the family room. Especially those felt by the disc above the fireplace. The disc that pulsated with the rapidly declining heartbeat of Angel.

Yet, there was another change going on, and it was within Joe. Just as Angel was aging and slowly succumbing to the ravages of her failing health, Joe seemed to be something of a 'Super Hero'. He had begun a standard, low-impact workout routine to be there with Angel as she attempted to fix herself. But as her results only sided with the worse, Joe began to bulk up, add muscle mass, and generally become a guy he'd never in a million years suspect he'd become. His health was just as impressive: lower cholesterol, little to no fat, and the cleanest bill hes ever seen. He was stronger, faster, and felt years younger. But it was all useless and just as meaningless as he could do little more than watch as his beloved soul mate, Angel, became a ghastly husk. Joe still loved kissing his wonderful wife, and often, as he did in front of a crackling fire made to keep Angel warm -even in the summer- he swore he saw, from the corner of his eye, the strange disc vibrate and glow with that sickly, bloody red.

It became all too obvious to Joe and Angel as he held her in his arms and gently, softly pecked her lips. Joe knew, now where this evil had originated. Joe knew, now that the gift, the amulet, in their family room was responsible. But Joe was defiant if he was anything else, and Joe had no intention of letting the amulet win without a sucker punch.
Angel was thin -better to say she was emaciated. Her illness had leached every useful bit of muscle from her weakening body. Her skin had gone ghostly pale and as thin and fragile as rice paper. Even at its surface, the blood that still, barely, scarcely, pumped through her dying veins could be seen in hues of purplish blue. Her lips sloughed away from her rotting gums that still held onto the last of her diseased teeth. Her arms and legs hung limply from her atrophied form as they spilled like limp jelly from her nicest dress; a dress Joe had long since given up on seeing her in again regardless of just how much he loved her in it... so very long ago. And now Joe intended to make love to his wife one final time. He could feel her slight heart giving up, giving in to him. For it was Joe; Joe and his kisses, his love, his sex, that stole from her. Joe robbed Angel of her very life.

And the Amulet was the catalyst. The evil. The pure, horrible evil that dwelt within the amulet made Joe its slave. Each and every time Joe professed his love for his bride physically, and even mentally, he would unwittingly steal from that which kept her alive. He would steal from an Angel's soul.

Joe and Angel -against their most basic emotions- fought the devil that dwelt inside the amulet and they made love. They bonded together for the very last time. As Joe came, and as he felt Angel give all that was left of her once beautiful form, the repugnant disc flashed a ghastly red, and then shone nothing but the deepest gray. Angle died in her husband's arms just as it was meant to be... though it was far, far too soon.