A year had passed, almost exactly to the day, since the goddess of love had visited the Desert Fox.
She dreamed of Anaïs every night, dreams of wavy platinum hair that shone like gunmetal, dreams of gray-green eyes which spoke of untold and silent longings. She dreamed of long hands which reached out to caress, to have, to hold and to keep. She dreamed of that one sharing her bed, sharing her laughter, and promenades on Parisienne walkways. And in her deeper sleeps, she dreamed of dancing all night for Anaïs until she fell back exhausted, and welcomed Anaïs and her hungry tongue.
And so the dancer ground her way through endless nights of neon, dry ice, itchy eyes and sore feet, waiting for the woman who had carved her name into her heart, and her left arm. The tattoo had been done in a hurry across the road one afternoon and hadn’t been inked properly, and instead of being red the heart was purple. It was speared through not with a Cupid arrow but a female biological symbol. She had never considered her own sexuality to be so elastic, but now it all made perfect sense. Anaïs had unlocked what she really was, what she had always been. It was all so simple, it was magnificent.
And so she danced and she stripped for the lonely, the bored, the hysterical and the crude, but Anaïs did not return. The nights became weeks, mentally ticked off like 5-bar gates on a prison wall until they melted and dimmed – like her eyes when she raised them to the peering spotlights above her, staring into her, through her, miniature suns which turned supernova inside her head and bounced around on her retinae like fiery pinballs.
She asked the bar staff, she asked the management; she asked the regulars and she asked the passers-through, but none had seen the platinum blonde, and few could even understand the name; such a strange name, a foreign name, an unusual name. No, they shook their heads as one; they would have remembered that name had they ever heard it before. And no, they would definitely remember a platinum blonde fitting that description.
The last night, she had decided to wear black leather and her favourite tight crop top, not so tight now as it had once been, slack and lazy much like her silicone implants which barely stirred beneath it now, stern and hard where everything else had begun to wobble a little more than it ought to.
She knew Anaïs would not come as she twisted idly around the corner pole, but she had to play the game to the end nonetheless, showing her best moves in case she was being watched from a distance, in the crowd disguised, or lurking behind a two-way mirror. After all, it had been exactly a year now, again the run-up to another religious festival she would stubbornly abstain from. In her heart, she knew she wouldn’t make it that far, even if she wanted to. Anaïs had killed her; it was that simple, though far from magnificent. Better to have loved and lost etcetera didn’t even enter into it. Her life was still a broken-down, rusted heap. All Anaïs had done was scrape off one square inch of tarnished blackness and show her a glimmer of gold peeking out from beneath. The love had not died, though it had festered; it had withered, shrunk; it still lingered but skeletal now, stripped bare and teased by its own memories, tormented by its endless thoughts of if only, and forced to watch the midwinter sun recede again over the black horizon.
The empty shift over, she walked out, out into the night. Snow had come earlier than predicted, a thin carpet which sparkled like an inverted starscape under her feet as the freeze set in. It felt much like the moment, the moment so long ago now, that had led to this – debating how to end it all that night: razor blades or the full contents of the paracetamol jar? She had spent so long waiting, longing, hungering – it had to end, it had to, now. There was no point, no purpose any more. The one flash of light she had seen in the darkness had long since flickered out. Not even a candle – a burnt-out 99 cent cigarette lighter on its last drop of fuel. She had hung on, she had waited. She had kept her promise, she had done her bit. Anaïs had cursed her – she had been right about that.
After all, Anaïs could be dead for all she knew, killed by a car on her way to the club the night after they had first met. Who would know? A stranger in town – who would care? Just a Jane Doe on a slab downtown, and another one walking, cavorting, in the bar half a mile back. Dead woman dancing. Heh.
Then a shape burst out of the sidestreet in front of her, steel-tipped heels ringing out on stone. The shadows unfurled under flickering neon and she staggered to a halt, terrified, disbelieving, ecstatic all at once. A wave of gunmetal hair broke over the black leather coat and the gray-green eyes of Anaïs stared down into her own.
“Oh…my God. Anaïs? Jesus…You scared the life out of me.”
Anaïs didn’t move, hands deep in coat pockets. “I thought you said you would wait.”
“I did…hell, I did, Anaïs, I waited a year. I asked about you every night…I looked for you everywhere. I couldn’t take it any longer. All I wanted was to see you again. That was all. Do you hear me? I waited.”
Gloved fingers stretched over her head, smoothing back hair, thumb caressing her forehead.
“You gave up.”
“No, no I didn’t. I waited. Listen to me.”
“You ungrateful bitch. I rescued you that night. You were hours away from leaving this world forever. Beer bottle, razor blades, pills – what’s it gonna be?”
She shook her head, fear gnawing at her nerves, at her gut.
“How can you know that?”
“I gave you life.” The tears in Anaïs’ eyes screamed in their pain. “And you – you threw it away. Don’t you understand? The minute you surrendered – you gave up your soul. Your life. Everything.”
“But I had nothing. All I had was you. All I wanted was you – again – and forever.”
“So you say. Yet, you couldn’t wait. You promised.”
“Yeah…okay. But how long was I supposed to wait for you, Anaïs? Ten years? ’til I was forty, fifty?” Scarred with wrinkles and everything sagging, propped up by silicone and surgery – was that really how Anaïs wanted her?
“That last year you spent in there – I gave you that year. That time was whatever you wanted to make of it. A year to live – or a year to die. The choice was yours. I told you we’re all cursed. Did I place so dreadful a burden upon you in order to break that curse – that twisted thread that brought us together – to just live?
“That was all I asked for – one year of your time alone, for an eternity together. Was it really such a big – god-damned – commitment?” Her voice wavered with the threat of tears, but the striking woman with the platinum hair was stronger than that. She straightened herself, stood accusing, still seeking answers. “You tasted heaven – and you spat it out.”
“I don’t understand.”
“That year I gave you – I’m taking it back. With interest.” The long open razor unfolded in Anaïs’ hand. “I’m sorry.”
The steel flashed faster than stunned senses could follow, cutting a jagged crescent of crimson across the dancer’s throat. Spots of red rain dappled the other woman’s coat and dropped to make pink petals on the white ground. Clawing hands grabbed at Anaïs’ collar as she sank toward the sparkling white pockmarks of the pavement, snapping fingernails in the thick black leather. As she fell, sucking shocked squeaks of air through the widening, bubbling gap in her neck, she saw Anaïs’ eyes shift colour from gray-green to black, a trick of the light surely. She didn’t understand, she had done nothing wrong. She had waited. She had done what she had been told.
Anaïs stooped by the body and dragged it off the pavement into the alleyway. She shook the blood from the blade and folded it back out of sight. In the distance, bells rang out to celebrate Christmas Eve, a clamour which sent a shudder through her body.
She hated this time of year.
How much longer would she be cursed to walk, seeking just one who could devote herself to her – just one – one who could wait, one who was worthy of her? Once, a nation had bowed its head before her, had sacrificed in her name, held rituals and festivals to appease her. The goddess of love and rebirth was also the goddess of death, and where one was lost, she would find the other. It was simply that love – true, unconditional, undying love – had proved impossible to find again since the good ancient days, and death so easy. And in these strange days, nobody wanted to be reborn any more, as though oblivion had itself become a new god, a new paradise to be sought by the weak and terminally unmotivated.
She wondered, as she wandered, how many more of the old gods – similarly banished to earthly obscurity by the coming of the new – stalked the streets as she did, looking for love, scratching their stubble in front of daytime soaps, seeking disciples in cheap bars. Forgotten, or relegated to the realm of comic books and fantasy films in garish caricatures. Or names stolen for days of the week, months, military aircraft or venomous spiders.
And as she walked, a dark smile broke on her lips.
One day, those bells would be silent for ever. And He too would join the ranks of the divinely unemployed.
One day. If she waited long enough.
Find more fiction from author Chaz Wood at Fenriswulf Books.