(c) 2012 by Robert Perry
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Table of Contents
Prologue: The Tale Must Be Told
Part 1: Necessity Begets Invention
Part 2: The First Kill
Part 3: This Cup Runneth Over
Part 4: Disillusionment
Part 5: Cacciare's Last
Part 6: The End of All Things
Epilogue: The Blessed Speaks
Prologue: The Tale Must Be Told
I do not expect you to believe me; I only expect you to listen. This is not my story or the story of anyone dear to me. It is a story conveyed to me on the direst of nights, under the most torrential of circumstances. I have an obligation to speak, a solemn obligation to transmit what I know. I will not be held accountable if my lips are silent, and no harm will befall anyone if what I speak resides forever in the realm of isolation. I do feel, however, a certain prodding in my being which compels me to vocalize that which was given…
Part 1: Necessity Begets Invention
My name, if ever I were called by such, is Richard Cacciare. I am an employee at Hartford College, and what I speak now is the truth as best I can relate it. I was not always as I am now: a man of lowly means and income, living off of the miniscule salary the school offers to all its facilities members. I was once educated, intelligent and in control of the events surrounding my life. All of that, however, came to a close, and when the dust of the fallout settled, I found myself at the sour end of a mop, clearing the debris for others to pass. For several years I dreamed of regaining all I had lost, but as time dripped through the veins of my existence, I realized that my age and infirmities were slowly gaining on me, and the dawn of my being was drawing to a close. It took only a visit to my practitioner to confirm such; I was dying of Thalassemia, a rare blood disorder found in Mediterranean men. My family hailed from southern Italy, and with them traveled this most devastating disease. Anemia is a common side effect, but more commonly there is an underproduction of the normal globin proteins. In very, very rare cases it is fatal. I was just such a case.
I may sound medically proficient in this manner, but let me assert now that my knowledge was not gained in medical training, but rather in the library computer at the college. I found it prudent to research as best as I could the nature of this beast, believing, like most Americans, that an informed patient makes for the best of medical situations. My studies further educated my mind, but brought despair to my heart. I saw in my body and nature very little hope. All of that changed one night when I was attending a free musical concert performed by the school orchestra.
The lofty and voluminous halls of the chapel were always resounding with the melodious tones of young musical artists. I frequented these events for their amusement and financial availability. I found joy in them all, whether modern jazz or Bach’s sonatas. On this particular night, the School of Music was performing a medley of John Williams’ best movie scores, one of two concerts a year when the students would relax and have fun with their talents. Although the mood was light in the audience, I felt beyond the limits of sobriety. I ached with a pain few in the world would recognize to be the pain of one suffering from a diminished existence. I had only recently received the news that my life, already painfully sore from years of mistreatment, would come to a quiet and subtle end. I tried to focus on the Chords, tried in vain to focus on anything save the thoughts passing through my mind, but I could not escape the horrid feelings that swelled within me.
Life, I thought, seemed so unbalanced. The stakes were always in favor of those with the upper hand; those same people who held all the cards also always had their boot upon my neck. I lived a life of trepidation and travail. My existence was meaningless, and now my death would only bring out the culmination of all past miseries. On these things I tried not to focus, but a wandering mind is always prone to search the darker recesses of the psyche. A sharp string from one of the instruments brought me back to the chapel and the concert. They were still playing; the crowd was still listening; I was still sitting, half in the darkness caused by a misplaced lamp, running the sword into my mental wound over and over again. Tears welled in my eyes as the “Imperial March” resounded across the ears of the audience. I remembered fonder times, times lost in the fading fabric of years. Now I was older and fading as well, occupying a pew to myself in a far corner of the chapel.
My heart was only mildly entertained by the tunes, yet I watched the students as their nimble bodies conformed to the demands of the instruments on which they played. I tapped my fingers on my leg, keeping beat with the trumpeters. The chapel allowed seating on three sides of the stage, and I was naturally on the farthest side, disappearing into the shadows. I enjoyed the nature of my self-imposed isolation; it allowed me a freedom seldom expressed in any other form of my existence.
I looked at some of the other attendees and wondered if their lives were slowly pulling into the train station of death? I had long pondered the question of personal demise and had taken an interest in the subject when it was roughly thrust upon me. Death had been brought to my door, and medical science -my bastion of hope- failed me terribly. There was little left for me in the sciences, and my mind, in an effort to salvage its body, conjured the idea of alternative sources. Was there any hope for me in the medical efforts of the Asian arts? Could acupuncture bring relief and salvation, or herbal remedies? I searched, but found nothing.
By degrees, I became engrossed in the movements of the students as their gentle swaying seemed to rock me into a lulled state. I stared for some time, moving from one musical piece to another, when suddenly an idea pressed itself upon me. Startled, I sat back in the pew and shook my head, thinking I would awaken my slumbering mind. The notion, so strongly making an impression on me, was bold, and yet grotesque. It fluttered before my eyes, hovering just over the heads of the students on stage. I thought through it for a moment, then shuddered at the reality and gravity it presented. I briskly stood and quietly removed myself from the darker shadows of the chapel and went to the restroom.
It was quiet in the bathroom, with only the softly falling notes of the orchestra wafting their way into the room. I splashed water on my face and stared at my soaked countenance in the mirror. The idea, still pressing and still forming, was ever before my eyes. I could not shake the thought, try as I might. I knew it was too bizarre and disgusting to even comprehend. The laws of humanity dictate that such notions be separated from the realm of logical reasoning and be suspended in a cell of forgotten knowledge; there is no place among the populace for such an action as the one that floated in my soul.
I pulled back from the mirror and dried my face, wiping away the droplets still clinging to my brow. My mind reeled from the images that flowed with rapidity across its screen. I could not succumb to its precepts; to do so would be to risk what life I had remaining in me. I threw the towel away and returned to my seat.
The show progressed with steadiness and I moved along with each piece, rising and sinking according to the individual Chords. Vestiges of the notion still lingered within me, but I pushed them as far away as my mental power would allow. I thought I had finally freed myself from its confines, when a voice sounded from behind.
The Voice echoed my name softly, and I turned to see who was present; a va
Another piece concluded, and the intermission began. The chapel, noiseless as it was from the stillness of the audience, erupted in loud thuds as the people congregated to the doors. I remained sitting and watching as the crowd dispersed. With the last remnants of the audience disappearing behind the wooden doors, I heard my name again. The sound was so clear that few ears would be able to mistake its pronunciation. I turned, this time more quickly, but again found no one present.
To state I was puzzled would accurately convey my feelings at the moment. I looked all around hoping to find the person or culprit, if indeed this was a practical joke at my expense. Finding no one, I sat back in my pew again, this time keeping a watchful eye for any sign of the individual who sought me.
The crowd returned in waves, and the noise slowly rose to a crescendo as the final surge filled the pews again. I kept waiting and watching, but nothing else occurred. The stage was filled, and the conductor, retaking his position, resumed the music. I listened, but not to the orchestra. My ears were tuned to the silence which hung just behind me. Every so often I would turn to look back, and always I found nothing.
It was the final piece that now played and all the stage was alive with excitement as the Chords of the main theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark reverberated across the chapel. The song was triumphant, powerful, even alive with an energy that conveyed all the strength of the universe into our inner ears. I was ecstatically moved when, from behind me once more, the voice resounded. This time, however, it not only made itself audible but shouted with the might of a chorus, killing all the sounds which echoed around me. My name was bellowed first, followed by the idea I tried so arduously to restrain. It shouted, and I shook, for the Voice was angry in tone; like a meek child to an infuriated father, I cowered until I felt I had all but collapsed from view. I covered my ears so as to drown out its Chords and pressed my head tightly. It shouted once more, and then a third time. This Voice was both a foreigner and native to me. I knew its’ sound, but had no familiarity with its pitch.
I could feel the pressure of its weight upon my head as I tried to protect myself from its sharp tones. Like knives, it pierced into my flesh, cutting away at my exterior while trying to reach my mind. I kept up my protective posture until, like that cresting wave, the Voice died away abruptly. The thundering Chords of the stage reverberated loudly, and I slowly, with great care and caution, opened my eyes to the world around me. When my pupils focused, it was as if my vision had been heightened. I stared not at the greater picture of the stage and the orchestra, but at minute details of hair molecules and pumping veins, or twitching fingers and flaring nostrils. I could see the performers as if I were standing before them, even on the stage with them!
I focused on the veins, on the surging, pulsating veins that carried their life-source through their person. Each was a living being because of the liquid gushing through the heart and circulating through the avenues of their ligaments. Life, blessed of all existence, nay the very ground of all that is, rushed with a freedom that bespoke of vivacity.
Everything around me was enlarged, pressing into my field of view. I tried closing my eyes and opening them again, but my enhanced vision would not cease. I rubbed them, but still I focused on the smallest of items, and deep in the background, I heard the Voice speaking softly and soothingly, detailing the plan which had only recently appeared in my mind. My hearing, once attuned to the musical notes of the assembly, redirected its attention to the faintest of noises; I heard heartbeats, pulsing veins and heaving lungs. These sounds bellowed loudly as I stared, in a kind of stupor, at all that was transpiring.
The crowd stood to cheer, and the images and noise shook my head and heart so greatly that I quickly removed myself from the chapel and rushed into the quad area of the school. Outside, I paced like a madman with wild thoughts converging on me at one. The Voice, ever following me, spoke of the plan, a most singular plan to revitalize my body and bring new health to my weakened system. It spoke in great detail, outlining every item subsequently. The course, as outlined, was clear. The plan called for the consumption of blood to replace what mine was lacking!
I debated outside, my mind waging a war with the stubborn insistence of the Voice. “Life is sacred, special and unique. Laws are in place to preserve the sanctity of life, and one cannot freely take it at will,” I said. “Human existence is above primal killing, above rudimentary survival. I cannot simply feed on others like some beast.”
“But what is life and existence?” asked the Voice from the recesses of my mind. “Is not existence dependent upon non-existence? Can one thing live without killing another? Can humans live without taking the lives of all existence? Look at the world around you; look at all of human creation. Every aspect of what you know is bent on destroying all that is seen.”
“No!” I shouted aloud. Some around me stared, but I quickly moved past them. “Life is not meant to destroy. We do not merely feed on others. What we eat is for sustenance, for the nourishment of our bodies.” I walked beyond the fountain, and the moon, a thin sliver in the sky, cast its lonesome rays upon the scene. I turned to pacing quickly, my mind and body trying to reach a destination which was vague and hidden.
“But, my friend,” began the Voice, “look deeply at your world. You dwell in a house, you work in these buildings, you eat food. The ground on which you walk screams out in agony, pain caused by your steps. What of the animals that once inhabited this place? Think of your dinner, meager though it was; was it not meat and vegetables, things that once lived? The building you just exited, was it not once a forest housing an abundance of life? You humans cannot live without taking the lives of creation in your quest for self-preservation. Try as you may, your whole being is wrapped in destruction, from the food you devour to the place you call your home. Every aspect in the fiber of your being only seeks survival, and your survival depends on death!”
I was silent and stopped my pacing. My eyes, already dizzy from the blurred images that sped past, looked closely and slowly at the campus. The Voice was right. The campus was once a forest and the buildings of framed wood once trees. My meal, the very food that gave me energy, cost something else so dearly. I killed so I could live; my hands were bloodied from many acts of sustenance that brought health to my frame. With all I did, I killed so I might live.
I remained standing beside the library, a massive building of stone and brick. My mind, unlike the repository I stood beside, was not nearly as organized and compact. So many thoughts fluttered and vanished, each appearing for a moment. I could catch only a very few of them.
“Well…” prompted the Voice.
“I don’t know,” I began. “How can right be determined by soundness of argument alone? What of the laws of morality?”
“You speak of morality? You, who have faced the woes of life unshielded? When has morality ever smiled upon you so graciously? When has it protected you from the many terrors that accompany the human experiment? You have been left to fend for yourself, a sailor in a sea of sharks. Your life is perishing within you, and if you do not act, you will die. There is a way, my friend, a way that can sustain you once more, if only you are willing to feed. You must eat for nutrients’ sake. You must consume with all your being life in its rawest and unfiltered form.”
“But I cannot!” I shouted, my Voice interrupting the monologue.
“Yes, you can!” it retorted. “You already eat to live, so where lies the difference?”
“Eating food is one matter. Drinking blood is another!”
“Do not think of it as such, but rather as preserving your life. Do you not want to live? Do you not want a second chance
“Good God, no!” I shouted angrily. “I am no killer.”
“But you kill everyday!” it shouted back. “You kill whenever you eat, and sleep and live and breathe. Everything, mark me, everything is about death and life. One must die so the other lives, whether tree, or plant or animal. It is how the system is designed and it is how it works.”
I was silent, my mind sipping the cup thrust before it. There was reason and truth to the spoken words, a truth which almost seemed haunting…a truth that rang with honesty. Life always comes out of death, that immortal abyss to which all are destined. Life is short, transitory and weak; death, however, is always forever, always present and ever at the threshold of humanity and all creation. What is life if not death in the waiting?
“You see,” the Voice began, “the two, life and death, cannot be so easily separated. You cannot live without simultaneously dying or killing all that is around you. Humanity may consider murder to exist only between humans, but murders occur every day and in every shape, from houses built to pesticides used. You are a killer, and so are those people over there, and that boy by the fountain, and the lady sitting on the lawn. Creation yearns to live, but we perpetually smash it down to the grave in the name of human existence.
“Now,” the Voice continued, “consider your own predicament. What will you do? Allow your life to slip from your weary fingers without a struggle, or push ahead and secure for yourself posterity? Your blood is tainted, poisoned even; but there is blood in abundance, blood for the taking, and it will preserve. These students will be your life.”
“I don’t know. What do I do?”
“It is easy. Follow my guidance and I will show you. I am here to help you. The first thing we need to do is educate ourselves. Begin inside.”
After that, the Voice fell silent and I was left alone before the library. I entered slowly and cautiously, my body reacting to every noise I heard. I felt out of place, as if every ear was attuned to the conversation I just had and all knew my deeds. Suspicious and nervous, I quickly took a seat before a computer, one located in the farthest reaches of the library, and began to explore the notions rummaging through my mind. My fingers typed out blood transfusions, blood type, hematological diseases, my own disease, blood rituals, blood consumption, blood composition, etc. I searched for hours until the closing of the library closed my research operation. While doing all of this, I could not help but revisit the conversation in my mind. The Voice, I reasoned at last, was correct: life must come out of death. My blood was indeed tainted beyond the point of repair. If left to its own devices, I could simply fade away into obscurity. There was, however, hope for me yet.
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