TO COME: 5.2 BEING WORKED ON R/N OMGZ
Von Hechten sent a delivery man the next day, leaving Anselm to
hunt around the studio for what pieces the vague notes were referring to.
A month passed with minimal contact. Anselm worked on a few new pieces, had guests over, had a drawing exhibited alongside his classmates in
a group show. One night, a call roused him from bed.
“The first proof is in. You should come see it.”
The voice was uncomfortably neutral.
“Oh, great,” Anselm said, “I’d love to.”
“Come to my house.”
“Sure uh— When?”
“Now. If you would.”
“Really? It’s so late?”
“The nights are long this time of year. Come now.”
It was compelling in a disturbing way. Maybe something about how that order was phrased. The Zurisch accent.
“Take a shower first. Here is the address, I look forward to
Anselm hardly got it written down before the line disconnected. He had the strange urge to just get his coat and leave, not even bothering with pants. How could he want, and not want to go somewhere so badly at the same time?
“You are invited into my home.”
Von Hechten lived in the old town, where the buildings were more than a century old,
some not even habitable without modern plumbing and electricity. Each of them stately and grand with evenly laid brickwork, ancient wood floors and layers of detailed trim anywhere they could fit. And they were very, very expensive. So expensive, that the bus didn’t pass through and Anselm had to walk for a half an hour down the elegant streets. Von Hechten’s house was tall and thin, more like two or three luxury condos all for himself. The extra rooms were surely meant for children and nurseries, instead filled with collections. Though it had working electricity, it had never been outfitted with proper lighting, so it was dim as a romantic restaurant. The pungent scent of antique furniture
and wood polish washed over Anselm as he stepped inside. Paintings and sculptures littered any surface that could hold them, all sprinkled with a fine powder of dust.
“Excuse the state,” Von Hechten said, “I don’t care for the exploitation of servants
in this modern day. So it’s a bit ‘lived-in.’ ”
‘Lived-in’ as an unpopular museum, perhaps.
Anselm followed him through the cavernous rooms, lamps with out-of-date wiring buzzed on ancient tables. They came to a library with wall-height bookshelves looming around the edges. Half were stuffed with leather-bound tomes, the others with the garish design of modern art annuals. One book sat alone on an imposing mahogany desk. Anselm recognized the stark imagery on the front cover and his throat tightened. He felt that he was in a sadistic headmaster’s office as Von Hechten stepped behind the desk and steepled his fingers.
“The moment of truth,” Headmaster Von Hechten said, “Print is one’s legacy.
What will that legacy be…?”
He wore an inscrutable smile and opened the cover.
This wasn’t a simple art magazine, this was high-end printing, thick weight paper and rich dark ink. Inset beside a two page spread of one of his images was a pencil portrait of Anselm.
Maybe by a fellow student in his life drawing class. Von Hechten had moved behind him, reaching around to turn the page. More luxurious renditions of his art, some small details framed and expanded.
“Wow…” Anselm murmured.
“Mn, what do you think?”
Von Hechten turned another page, leaning so close his chin touched Anselm’s shoulder. The print was perfect, so clear as
to show tiny imperfections in the drawings themselves, a bit of ink-bleed on the edge of a line, the hint of a pencil sketch showing through. Anselm felt a pang of discomfort, but
the overall look was so rich it may as well have been the real thing cut up and made into a book.
“It’s wonderful… the book.”
Von Hechten put a bony hand on Anselm’s arm. “Don’t discount yourself. These are mere copies of something far greater.”
“Well, shall we drink to your success?”
“I haven’t succeeded yet… but sure.”
Von Hechten clicked his tongue in disapproval and rubbed Anselm’s arm up and down.
“Come, drink a bucketful of wine and we’ll see if you won’t congratulate yourself then.”
He didn’t quite shove Anselm along, but firmly directed him
to the next room.
“I’ll get you two copies and we can arrange discounted editions
for friends and family. How many do you suppose you’d like?”
Anselm took another drink, the wine was putrid, but he needed to kill his brain to live through this.
“Mn, I don’t know. No thank you.”
“None? Mother and father? Siblings? Boyfriend? Girlfriend?”
“It’s fine. If someone wants one, they can get it for themselves.”
“Are you certain they wouldn’t want it, or are you assuming? Your work is beautiful, anyone should be glad to own a little piece of it.”
Anselm shook his head slowly and took another drink. Von Hechten topped the glass off.
“You said you had friends."
“I do. I guess.”
“I’m not really close to anyone. I don’t think anyone wants to
be close to me, and that’s alright.”
“Close as in emotional intimacy. Certainly you’re not foolish enough to imagine that no one seeks physical intimacy with you.”
“We all have our uses for each another, but no need to push it further. It’s just trouble, they get annoyed that
you don’t do what they want you to, and you begin to expect things as well.”
“It depends on what you get out of the arrangement.”
“I guess there’s not much to get, for me. I have no idea what they want, or what they’re thinking and when I find out, it’s usually that they are upset with me. I guess you wouldn’t feel that way, Mister Charisma.”
Von Hechten raised his eyebrows for a micro-second.
“People are upset with me from time to time. But when you swim in society, you become accustomed to those pains. I make sure to get more out of interactions than I give.”
“It must be a talent. What do you get out of interactions?”
“Whatever I want. Secrets, items of interest, or just entertainment.”
"Secrets? What secrets do you have?"
"...I'm not a natural blonde."
Anselm rolled his eyes at the blatant lie, "That's commitment to a look." He took a larger drink. Vile. But he was beginning to feel the effects.
“This wine is very old, isn’t it? It must cost a fortune.”
Von Hechten sipped delicately at his modest serving. “Oh, it was just around. I’m not that fond of wine anyway. But back to the topic at hand— I’ve discovered that each is truly alone inside themselves.
So at the end of the day I have as much company as you do. Does that feel on some level that you’re more bothered by this isolation than you pretend?
Anselm watched the dark flakes of detritus floating in the murky wine.
“It doesn’t bother me when I’m alone, but you can’t be alone,
can you? There’s always a reason you must be around other people. Imagine if the pigeons on the street were upset you didn’t go to their party, or return their phone call. When you were a child, didn’t you ever dream you could run into the forest and live among the animals?
Never see another human again?”
“No, and I’ve found that animals don’t care for my company.”
“An animal doesn’t care who you are. You throw it bread crumbs, and it loves you for that moment.”
“Hm, if you say so. But I find your perspective interesting.”
“Why isn’t it interesting to hear of someone far different from yourself? Ah… Unless they are scary pigeons.”
“Ha. I guess so. Maybe I give up too easily and assume things are beyond my understanding. Hm, like you. How should I understand you?”
Von Hechten slouched provocatively. “Don’t like me just yet. I have wicked intentions.”
“Oh, a scary pigeon after all? Or something else?”
“I’ve never been shy about telling you how attractive you are. While this business venture has been a legitimate exercise in making money and an aesthetic artifact, seducing you was certainly a motivation as well.”
“Ah… Yes…” All hope of further witty banter had drained from Anselm in a fit of bashfulness.
Von Hechten stood and put his palms flat on the table and caught his gaze. Without understanding the reason, Anselm got up from his seat and approached the man. Von Hechten swooped his arms around him like the tentacles of a sea creature.
The man’s cold body pressed against him, and Anselm was surprised for
a moment at the tenderness. Before he could relax into the embrace,
Von Hechten bent down to whisper in his ear.
“Don’t waste my time.”
Somewhere an old-fashioned bell chimed— an anachronistic telephone.
“Excuse me, won’t you. Take a seat.”
He moved with a strange, speedy fluidity into another room.
Anselm did as he was told, finding a stiff-seated armchair to perch upon. Von Hechten’s voice echoed in the distance, speaking an unknown language. He couldn't wait around like this. Sitting in the chair was far too much like the waiting room at a posh therapist, so he stood and strolled around the room. Any given item here would pay his rent for a month. More. A year.
‘Take a shower first.’ My end of the bargain. Anselm leaned on a table to examine a tiny marble statuette of two wrestling nudes. How odd, not quite erotic but perhaps telling of the man’s interests. A squarish shape stood out next to them, something adhered to the table under a thick pad of dust. Anselm pressed
it with his fingernail, and the object lifted, leaving a bare patch of wood beneath it. A tiny slip of paper. He unfolded it, and it nearly crumbled in his hands. An ancient receipt, hand-written in brown ink. Three mint twists and a chocolate bar, the price in an antiquated currency. How long had it been there, tucked away
by some long dead person? He sneezed into his shoulder, and
Von Hechten’s footsteps approached. He tucked the receipt in
his pocket and went back to his chair.
“That was a sneeze,” Von Hechten said, “Oh it’s too dusty, that makes people sneeze doesn’t it?”
“It’s fine… Um, how long have you lived here?”
“A century by now, I believe. I’d have to do the math.”
“Ha. Your family.”
Von Hechten shrugged and stepped closer, closer.
Anselm’s intellectual curiosity slipped away. “I didn’t know they had…
robots back then.”
“Possibly my mechanical aspect was exaggerated.” Von Hechten dropped his jacket to the floor.
Anselm smiled bashfully, but didn’t lower his eyes. “Hm, I see. You aren’t a pigeon either, but are you scary?”
“We should find out how scary I am.” Von Hechten took off his shirt. His torso was slim, but lightly muscled. “Now you. Let’s make sure there are no pigeon feathers under there.”
“Oh that would be a horrible twist, I was the scary one all along.”
Anselm tugged on the hem of his shirt to look at his belly. “Don’t see anything, do you?”
“All the way off, you avian.” Von Hechten undressed completely.
Anselm pulled his shirt off, no more silly quips as he looked on, wide-eyed. Von Hechten approached until he was within arm's reach, his crotch at
eye-height. His package was considerable, and Anselm considered it.
Von Hechten crossed his arms and stared expectantly.
“Should I… uh…” Anselm extended a timid hand.
They moved between sex acts in an orderly way, as though on a schedule. Not even
a progression that made sense to Anselm, kissing was item five or six on the agenda.
And kissing someone you had mixed feelings about was stranger than any sex act.
But it didn’t stop him, and he got into it.
He wasn’t a teenager anymore; he was a college graduate and he hadn’t been exactly chaste in his time there. Cute goths and punk-rockers to clumsily fondle and kiss until they downgraded their relationships to ‘school chums.’ This experience, was the strangest of his short life. The eerie environment, being of interest to the leering wolf, even if for a fleeting moment. He knew better than to not think too much of it, he’d be dumped to make way for the next lithe creature, one less depressing than himself. But it was good enough for now, to be ordered around by a stern Zurischer, to touch and be touched among the dusty antiques.
The old lamps flickered like hazy beacons, Anselm’s lungs filled with the acrid rot of old upholstery and decaying dust. A disused attic, a tomb. A withered corpse would be sitting on the other side of that bench. He felt small, fragile. He was short, underdeveloped, a life of poverty and illness. Von Hechten was half a head taller, and while still narrow at the wrists and waist, his broad shoulders and solid muscles made Anselm feel like a childish elf. And he did feel like a child. Von Hechten asked a few times, 'What do you want to do? Anything you've secretly wanted to try?' But he couldn't think of anything. They didn’t do anything too exotic, but at least a few things he had never done before with a man.
Von Hechten was good at what he did,
if inexpressive. He seemed to breathe through his eyeballs and balance so perfectly as to weigh nothing when he sat on top. Anselm suddenly felt like asking him how old he was, but thought it would sound babyish. But he wanted to know, would he be that good when he was that age?
He reigned in his own emotions, saying little other than encouraging noises and gentle requests. In their final act, he wished he was with someone he could be more effusive with, even if just for a moment. When Von Hechten ordered him to finish inside him, Anselm did with a quiet “fuck…” and Von Hechten finished without a word at all. Anselm collapsed, fighting to stay conscious as the physical exertion of the long night caught up to him. He was still inside the unearthly man, who leaned forward, and opened his permanently half-lidded eyes.
Anselm woke gradually to see a fully clothed Von Hechten in a chair nearby with a book. How long had passed? He shivered, uncovered in the drafty room. Only a towel on his crotch covered his nakedness.
God damn… He sat up, muscles stiff as rubber cords.
“Not at all. It makes me feel accomplished.”
“Ha. You don’t need me for that.”
Von Hechten turned a page, “As you’ve said, this is all inherited, so the contents of your condom of are indeed an accomplishment, by my standards.”
Anselm ran a hand over his uncovered chest. Someone had to clean up his condom and wipe him off while
he was passed out? Damn… His head dipped and
the room spun as he tried to stand.
“Ah, well then. May I have a glass of water?” Ugh, he sounded like a schoolboy.
“Yes… I’ll get that.” Von Hechten stood and left Anselm alone with his thoughts and nudity.
The room was windowless, it was surely still night, but the sickly lamps and gloomy ambiance made it a place out of time. Eternal dark wood and stiff velvet. He steadied himself on the sofa, and then on the tall backed settee and the mahogany console table before he found his discarded underwear. It looked so sad, crumpled alone on the polished floor. He’d steeled himself for the coming
‘ok now get out’ part of the evening but it was still striking him melancholy.
Von Hechten returned with the water, then settled back into his chair.
“…So. You may stay as long as you like, though I do warn you, I’m quite boring in my way.”
“No, it’s fine. I appreciate it.” Anselm drank half the glass in one go and finished dressing. As he pulled on his shirt, he felt a streak of dried matter on
the side of his belly. “Do you mind if I use the restroom?”
Von Hechten didn’t look up from his book, “Go ahead. Around the corner there.”
Anselm followed the direction, chuckling quietly at a vision of the man reading
an upside-down book to avoid conversation.
The restroom was like a disused compartment of an old train car, pipes more elegantly designed than those in the studio, but about the same age. He ran a hand around his bony torso, shivering at the cold water. Dust ringed the edges of the counter-top, but it was otherwise spotless. Free of signs of life— floss, hair mousse, a toothbrush. Only an electric razor lay on the counter, askew and still plugged in. A sprinkling of short pale hair hadn’t quite made it down the sink drain, and Anselm saw more littering the top of the wastebasket. Had Von Hechten grown and shaved a beard since they’d last seen each other? It was an amusing image and he snorted with laughter— Von Hechten with a big white beard, dressed up
in Worshipper Klarenz drag. He clapped a hand over his mouth, but couldn’t help himself, and let out shaky giggles.
He finished washing and combed back his hair, still giggling uncontrollably. What would it be like to be a strange person like this, living in a bizarre antique showroom and driving a comically expensive car? He always knew there were people like this in the world, he’d seen them in galleries, stingy patrons and the relatives of his most popular classmates. But in the flesh, in their home…
They were some other type of creature entirely. Anselm made eye contact with his mirror twin. Cheap denim vest with an ink stain on the left collar. Imperfect teeth and pock marks from an untreated malady as a child. Hair he raggedly cut with paper shears, circles under his eyes from sleeping on a lumpy floor mattress. Poverty shaped him, and maybe he seemed as alien as this man seemed to him.
He patted himself down, glad to see he hadn’t lost the pills from his pocket.
The new anti-psychotic was especially precious, and if he lost any, the program wouldn’t replace them. He’d already learned that lesson and missing even a day was nightmarish. He checked his wallet, he was out of condoms— Von Hechten’s package of cocaine was still there, wadded in the corner next to his last two Graumarks. He tucked it into his palm, he’d be kind and return it. It was the polite thing to do, even if he could trade it for a burger or two. He stifled the last dregs of his mirth and stepped back outside.
Von Hechten was still at his book. It was not upside down. It seemed to be an antique Litani romance. A romance! That was the funniest thing of all, but Anselm didn’t dare mention it. An unseen clock ticked insistently, echoing in the quiet room. This was not a place a human inhabited. Perhaps a ninety year old who shuffled between their bed and the breakfast table, but not a young person with a life of working, partying, or doing… anything. But it wasn’t for Anselm to know, obviously. He stooped over and laced his boots, glancing over at Von Hechten who turned a page daintily. Was this an act? He didn’t need to broadcast his disinterest, it could be taken as read. Why even bother?
Anselm took a breath. “Are there any late night diners here? I’d like to get some food on my way home.”
“Oh? Ah… I haven’t noticed. Too much cocaine, you know,
my appetite just…”
“Wow, I’d better not do that myself or I’ll waste away like little Georg and his cursed spoon… ah well, I know one in the Stadtmitte.”
If he was going to be ignored, why not have another wander around the room?
It would be the last time he’d ever step into a room like this. He noticed the tiny wrestling men, sprinkled with the pale dust of disuse. The clean square next to them was glaring. He pressed the cocaine packet onto the spot, and it fit perfectly. Thank me later.
He hoisted his bookbag and cast an appraising look at the strange man.
Why go through the effort for a fuck? All that emotional energy, winding conversations and needling for information. Just to get laid one time? Was it really worth it?
Von Hechten looked up.
“Ah. I should give you a ride. Let’s go.”
Anselm raised his eyebrows, speechless for a moment, “Oh! Sure. Thank you.”
“It’s nothing,” Von Hechten held out a copy of Anselm’s newly-printed book. “It’s been a banner evening.”
“Yes, print a banner next.” Anselm smiled stiffly and accepted the heavy book.
“Don’t annoy me with delusions of inferiority.”
Von Hechten started toward the door. Anselm followed, wishing that he’d just slipped away and taken the bus.
The uncomfortably quiet ride confirmed to Anselm that he was being used, rather than desired. But in whatever altered state he’d fallen into, he allowed his thoughts to turn to idle fancy. Von Hechten’s long-dead ancestors in waistcoats, gorging on mint twists and squirreling the receipt by the nude wrestlers, forced to grapple in downy pillows of dust for all time. Von Hechten reading tales of bosomy Litani ladies while snorting cocaine from his pinky nail. Was his nose hair as pale as the rest? Was that what was clogging the sink? Anselm stifled a giggle into his shoulder and looked knowingly at the hollow-eyed boy in his window reflection. You understand, he thought, we’re in it together. Just you and me, and no one else.
Von Hechten bid him an empty good night, which Anselm returned with similarly blank courtesy. As he stepped out of the car, he imagined Von Hechten as a giant, pale pigeon in the driver’s seat. Wings tucked in to hold the wheel,
orange feet mashing the pedals. Shaving off his feathers in the bathroom.
He covered his perverse smile until he shut the alley door behind him and released a gale of bitter laughter. He collapsed against the door and slid to the ground. He laughed until his ribs hurt and his already aching jaw thrummed with pain. He wiped his bleary eyes, caught his breath and stared up at the
water-stained ceiling. Back home, back where you belong. All the lead paint you can eat. He staggered up and jingled his keys to an improvised tune as he walked away.
♪♫ O traurig, traurig Taube Mann,
Allein, allein mit seinem Wahn… ♪♫
Somewhere, someone heard the boy laugh again. For someone with less pride, it might be wounding, certainly after a sexual encounter. Obviously that was not the case. And besides, there was a rich darkness to the unhinged laugh, dripping with acid and black bile. How charming. The boy with the polluted blood, hopeless in the best ways. Ways that could be very useful.
The river Blauzweig flowed in a sludgy stream, lapping its cracked brick retaining walls. It had risen over time, filling up with so much garbage that on rainy days it sluiced over the top, and left all kinds of interesting things on the concrete sidewalks. Here late at night, no one would dare ride their bikes down these scrubby trash-covered paths. Riff-raff gathered in the dark to do whatever they liked away from human morality.
Three ghouls walked along, enjoying the same rights. Von Hechten and his two friends, Regen and Otumbo. Regen dressed in her finest sportswear, and Otumbo in a fetching blazer designed for a child.
“I saw the funniest corpse last week,” Otumbo gestured vaguely ahead at the river, “All swollen up. Looked like it was playing the trumpet. Stuck on an old tree root like it was holding on for dear life. Too late! Haha!”
Regen groaned, “Ugh, distasteful.”
Von Hechten laughed, and looked off thoughtfully, “Ha, the trumpet. I can imagine.”
Humans moved in the distance, a car parked on the road, headlights pointed toward the river. They looked at the approaching vampires, and re-boarded their car, driving off in the opposite direction.
Regen said, “You’d think they knew,”
“They never do,” said Von Hechten, “It’s strange that within some of them lurks
a nature like unto our own, and they will become vampires upon dying.”
Otumbo clapped. “The lucky ones! Like me!”
“Quite…” Von Hechten turned his head in thought.
Regen eyed the back of his head, “Are you back on that kick again?”
“Your experiment?” Otumbo asked, “It’s an appealing idea, we could always use
new lords in town, but can it really work?”
“Certainly it can,” said Von Hechten.
Regen waved off a fat fly that buzzed in her face, “It’s like predicting a lightning strike.
You can know that it’s going to happen, but there’s no lightning rod for this situation.”
“Perhaps not,” said Von Hechten, “—But I was put in mind of it just the other night by a fairly unusual lad. Hopeless, socially isolated, fanciful sort of imagination. Maybe… Maybe.”
“More importantly,” Otumbo raised a stubby finger, “My type of friend?”
“Why, he could be.”
Regen sighed and tossed back her long hair, “This can only work with a large sample size. I’d say at least fifty people at once. And even if we could, it’s not the sort of thing someone can sweep under the bridge.”
The vampires were momentarily distracted by two filthy human lovers on the far side of
“It can be done,” Otumbo said, “Fifty humans may die at any time. But why not
a test run? Just get a few, and if it works out, great! If not, no big loss other than a little time and effort.”
Regen shook her head, “No, you need far more. Even with just a few, it would be far too much work to cover it up.”
Von Hechten sighed. “You’re too conservative. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
“What possible gain is there in this experiment?”
“A friend for me, at the very least!” Otumbo shook a tiny fist, bangles clattering,
“But you have us…” Regen said.
“Oh I do, but you know, someone to share a common experience with. We have
a unique view on life, lovely as you lot are. To be a naturally born vampire, is very different. And it’s so fascinating to see the odd magic of a new lord, what skills may develop. It’s been ages since I’ve met a fresh progenitor, they’re always these dusty old creatures. I’d like to know a child of this era, what new madnesses do they possess?”
“All the more reason for this candidate,” said Von Hechten, “He’s on some kind of dreadful medicine for the head. I can only imagine what he’s holding back.”
“It isn’t enough…” said Regen. "We don't know what it takes."
“Oh you’ve got me too interested,” said Otumbo, eyes glinting in the darkness,
“What is the key factor? I have my own theory, but I want to hear yours first.”
“Slain by those they trusted,” said Von Hechten, “A certain amount of social remove. Someone who suspected that it might come to pass. That the betrayal is hurtful, but unsurprising.”
“Hmmm,” Otumbo folded his arms, “I don’t remember my feelings that long ago. See, I think one must be in a position of power and fall to disgrace. Consider how many kings, queens, warlords there are in our number.”
Regen raised her eyebrows. “Was your subject a king, Von Hechten?”
“No, but that’s not part of my hypothesis.”
“I was considering it,” said Otumbo, “It would be hard to find an obscure land with true royalty. My idea is— Oh I shouldn’t tell you or you’ll steal it!”
“Fair enough,” said Von Hechten, “In the spirit of science, we should try different methods.”
Regen asked, “What would you even do with this progenitor once you’ve created him?”
“A friend for Otumbo,” said Von Hechten.
“Hah, right!” said Otumbo.
Regen narrowed her eyes, “And a friend for you, Von Hechten?”
“Of course. There will be a measure of cruelty in this experiment, but I can’t imagine that one would hold a grudge for long in the face of the gift of immortality and power.”
“Uh huh,” Regen gazed off at the sludgy water. “You have a lot of time to think until the next opportunity to do anything about it.”
“The next fete?” asked Otumbo.
Von Hechten got a faraway look, “I wonder if he’ll live that long…”
Weeks and months went by. Anselm kept his last copy of the book on the bottom of the shelf where he wouldn’t have to see it. He lent it to a friend and never saw it again. The initial paycheck was enough to eat well for a couple months and he sold two pieces to the book’s readers. In the subsequent months, the paychecks dwindled to nothing. He let his studio-mates pull him into parties, and into their favorite vices. A year went by, and the studios were condemned. It took another
half a year of the place falling apart, the plumbing going out, spotty electricity and finally after a roof collapse, they were evicted.
He moved in with a girl named Edi and her friends. They spent their evenings in a little pack, playing music, sharing a cigarette or whatever other drugs they found. He shared a mattress with Edi and they fell in a forlorn kind of love. Everything was okay for a while, living as well
as casual drug addicts could. But times could always get worse, and they did.
Anselm walked under an overpass sometime after midnight. The food bank wouldn’t give him anything without papers, and he couldn’t get his papers while
he was using. So he just met with Lili and Benno who gave him their unappealing cast-offs. They gave him a can opener, so he and Edi could eat cold green beans and expired corn. But it was a five mile walk from where they parked at night, and they didn’t have enough gas to make the trip.
The couple always offered him H when he came over, and
he’d been in a poor mood lately. He’d accepted and they’d all laid in a druggy torpor all day. Now it was dark, the roads empty. Edi would be sleeping, he hoped she remembered to get the blankets out of the trunk. Too often he’d found her shuddering in the darkness, uncovered. She couldn’t take care of herself, but he couldn’t take care of himself either. At least being outside like this, on his feet and moving, he wasn’t as bothered by his thoughts. If he sat too long,
the demons came in and pinched and poked and chanted in his ears. So he moved, he kept moving and didn’t stop.
On the way to the car he stopped at a disused ice cream shop and took a stack of napkins for Edi to blow her nose. He washed up in the bathroom, refilled his jug of water and slipped away before anyone noticed him. He was good at that, the invisible boy. Outside, someone had left a smoldering cigarette on the lip of a trashcan, and he gratefully savored its last offerings as he trekked. He shivered, should get a thicker top, this thin sweater wasn’t cutting it as fall drew on.
A big rumbly car pulled to a stop nearby. Ugh, someone after a boy prostitute again. He kept walking.
“Hellooo…” said a man, “You can’t think that highly of yourself.”
“Go down to Rotmarkt,” Anselm said without turning, “You’ll find something to your liking.” He flicked away the last nub of the cigarette.
“Don’t you need money? Everyone needs money.”
Anselm rolled his eyes to the darkness, “Not as much as you need your dick sucked.”
Don’t let it be a violent rapist. He scoped the embankment. He could slide down there, there was a path just past the brambles and might be worth getting scratched if it came to it. He got a lot of walking in these days,
he could probably outrun a horny fuckface if he had to.
The stranger laughed liltingly, “It is I, Von Hechten, and I kid. But you don’t seem to be doing too well.”
Anselm took one faltering step and froze.
“—Not in the mood to talk?”
He turned slowly. Von Hechten leaned out the window like a cartoon wolf, not dispelling the impression of a sleazy john in the slightest. Awuouuuu! He’s come to eat me but
I’m too skinny now. He’ll choke on my bones. Or vice versa! Only if he has a new contract. Ha ha ha…
Anselm approached warily. The man looked the same as before, the hedonist lifestyle agreeing well with him. Apparently cocaine was better for the complexion.
“So,” Von Hechten said, “What has befallen you?”
“Mn, everything,” Anselm pulled a can of nutritional milk from his goodie bag and cracked it open. “You know the life of an artist. Or, I guess you don’t.”
“I have heard the story before. I like my stories,
I suppose someone must suffer to create them.”
Anselm took a drink of the chalky milk, “I should get back to my suffering lest I leave you storyless.”
“What is it, though? What has you in its grip at the moment?”
“Ah, same as before, less a place to live or medication. At least, the kind a doctor would prefer me to have.”
“So you compensate for lack of medical treatment,
as opposed to recreational usage?”
“Most people do. It isn’t fun. It’s not the kind you adhere to a business card.”
“Hahaha… I stopped doing that. Well, not the drug. Just giving it away.”
“Less generous in this chilly economy. It’s not uncommon.” Anselm took another drink of his daily calories. “Maybe someday I will have a home and electricity and we can have a big conversation about this thrilling time in my life.”
“I hope so. Oh— but I did want an answer to my question. More specific. Smells like an opiate.”
“God, why aren’t you working for the police?”
“Hm? They wouldn’t approve of my ways, and I of theirs.”
Anselm widened his eyes in disbelief and finished off the can,
“Well, I think you can guess then. I’m not returning from an opium den.”
“Tsk tsk. They say it’s the king of drugs.”
“Yes, my royal majesty.” He dropped the can and crushed it underfoot to join the many others, a popular beverage with the local pedestrians.
“I hope this story goes over well at your next fete.”
“It’s an interesting choice of words. I appreciate it. You are appreciated.”
“How kind,” Anselm put a hand over his heart, “I cherish the sentiment. I won’t hold you up any longer. Good evening.”
“I will see you again. Good night.”
Anselm watched him drive off. It was a different car, newer of course.
Why wouldn’t it be? Why keep anything around? He continued walking,
it was a couple more miles still. He wished he could drink the other can of milk, but Edi had a cold so she needed it more than he did.
Years passed, as they are wont to do. Druggie friends ODed or were imprisoned, cleaned up or left the country. Edi got pregnant by someone else, and she moved in with her parents. She left Anselm the car, and he slept in it alone for a few months. He couldn’t bear another winter outside, and probably couldn’t survive another violent attack. He sold the car for a pittance and sent the proceeds to Edi.
He found short-term lovers who would let him stay and moved from person to person as they grew sick of him. In time, a gentle older woman he forgot the name of convinced him to go back to his social worker. He did, grudgingly, and the following year was
a nightmare of paperwork and methadone. But in time he was settled with
low-income housing and even reconnected with old art friends that had not already died or become office workers.
It took a long while to get back to drawing; he hadn’t done it
in years save for doodling designs in steamed-up windows and in patches of spilled salt. But his friends encouraged him, and now that surviving wasn’t an all day, every day activity, he found the time
to do it. Cosette pushed him into submitting some new pieces for
a show. They didn’t sell, and he didn’t go to see them, but she told him that people had said nice things.
His phone rang sometime after dark. He pulled himself away from the easel.
The ringer always set him on edge, shouting at him, demanding his attention. Anselm! Anselm! Listen to me! His finches complained about the noise, hopping around their wicker cage indignantly. Glad to see they were all on the same page. Oh well. He picked up the receiver and sat on his bed.
“Anselm… You have a phone.”
“I do. Who is this?”
“A man who went to much effort to find your phone number.”
Had to be someone from school. He’d already given the number out to everyone he talked to regularly.
“What can I do for you?”
“I’m thinking instead of what I can do for you. I promised we would meet again, but I have not yet kept that promise.”
The voice was maddeningly familiar, and his mind turned in search of
“Well, mystery man, you would like to meet me?”
“Very much so. In fact, I have an occasion for you to attend.”
“My schedule is free, what’s the occasion?”
“A fete, as you said once. I need that thrilling story from you.”
“Ah, no longer a mystery.”
“That’s right. And you, no longer ruled by your cruel king?”
“Yeah, and what a jolly time that revolt was. So, why now? It must be a special event after all these years.”
“It is. A once in a lifetime event, and I’d like you to be there.”
“I don’t know that anyone has ever said that to me. How intriguing.”
“Most people do not have once in a lifetime events to invite you to, otherwise they surely would.”
Anselm snorted and said nothing.
“—Is it safe to say you feel you are the man apart?”
“Well, I said I had a free schedule. It’s fine, though.”
“Oh? Why is that?”
“I’m almost thirty now, you get used to things. What was that I said back then— the pigeons? They’re in their coop and I’m in mine. There are
far worse fates, I’m not getting beaten or huddling outside in the snow.
I feel okay.”
“Do you think that that has altered your art in any way? They say madness and creativity go hand in hand. Oh, but you had an opinion about creativity didn’t you, I don’t remember anymore, what was it?”
“Ha, somehow, with your preternatural abilities I doubt you really forgot. Well, it’s true. When I was most mad I sold all my art supplies for heroin and hamburgers.”
“So now that you’re feeling better, you’ve become more creative?”
“I’d say so, to the extent that’s a thing, and to the extent that
I ever was. It’s some sort of art meet-up?”
“There should be luminaries from the art community in attendance, perhaps. It’s a celebration, perhaps of our ability to celebrate.”
“I guess I appreciate being thought of. When is this celebration?”
“We’re still hammering out the specifics, but I’ll contact you. It’s good that you’re alive. I’d hate to be made a liar. Death has a way of doing that with promises.”
“Dead men aren’t too bothered about broken promises.”
“You’d be surprised. I’ll see you soon, stay alive until then.”
Anselm furrowed his brow, “I planned on it.”
They ended the call and Anselm stared at the inert phone for a few moments before he sat back at the canvas. That overgrown pigeon, pecking around
his feet again. Der Taube Mann… Anselm laughed a little, forgetting why
he thought that was so funny.
Von Hechten finished the call, the confirmation of his suspicions bringing
a smile to his face. It was all working out.
“Everything is in order,” he said to Regen as they lounged about her apartment. “L'artiste is secured. And your guest?”
“No no no. It’s too soon,” she flopped back on the sofa. “It’s not going to work!”
“You’re just saying that because you’re going to lose.”
“And what does it mean to win? Are you certain this is a good idea?”
“Of course! No one else has thought of it, therefore it must
She rolled her eyes. “You should be glad you inherited your business with that kind of thinking. There are a million unique bits of trash out there,
it doesn’t make them special.”
“Well I never—”
“Don’t mind me,” she let her long hair fall in her face, “Maybe I’m just trying to psych you out to give myself a better chance.”
“That’s what I like about you, Regen. I have centuries of life on you, but you can still surprise me.”
“Surprise you with my win anyway, ha ha.” She picked up the phone again to call the airport, did that little brat miss another flight?
Von Hechten rocked on his heels, imagining his future success. It would
be the talk of the town— historic! A scientific wonder! No mere dilettante,
he was a great thinker, and everyone would know it.
THE END - THE UNLUCKY BOY
| July 12th, 2016
| By: Kelly
I hope you guys liked this prequel to Anselm's story, and are not suffering too much in this blight called 'summer.' I've re-written and updated the graphics for the original story that was on the site before, and that will be soon to come. Love you guys a lot and thanks for continuing to read over all these years. <3
TRANSCRIPT: This is visual description of the illustrations, for purposes such as accessibility and internet searches.
(Von Hechten welcomes the viewer to his not so humble abode. We see crown molding, a fancy clock, art, a fancy staircase,
and antique furnishings. The style of most of these illustrations will be strong line and shadow, with just a few grey tones.)
(Anselm seated looks over a large illustrated book while standing Von Hechten turns pages and is up in the guy's personal space.)
(Von Hechten is looming above Anselm again, arms nearly embracing him, while he slides a large wine glass in front of
him. Both are inscrutable in expression as ever, Von Hechten with his eyelids weighed down by heavy lashes as usual.)
(Von Hechten has wrapped an alarmed looking Anselm in a tight vampish embrace,
the art and background elements swirl to reflect the chaos in the human's emotions.)
(Anselm is seated alone in the antique furniture, looking a bit disconsolate or
weirded out. His t-shirt is a cartoon rabbit with X eyes and the word HASE beneath.)
(The men are naked standing close to each other, using hands on each other's business.)
(Von Hechten reads a book while in the foreground naked Anselm awakens with just a towel over his naughty bits.)
(The first of the interstitial art pieces, all to be rendered in stark white on black. In this one, a pigeon flies.)
(The dirty river at night, humans across the way and up on a bridge in dark silhouette. In the fore-
ground, glowing eyed vampires stroll. Regen looks neutral, Otumbo and Von Hechten look cheerful.)
(More interstitial art, this an image of a trumpet.)
(Anselm lurches along in a dark void, unhealthy with heroin mode,
laden with objects and a thin sweater, hair grody, bit of cigarette in hand.)
(Anselm looks down at Von Hechten near an underpass. The vampire is sporting sunglasses Corey Hart style in his sports car.)
(Interstitial art of a dramatic wolf, snarling and twisting as it leaps.)
(Anselm is startled at the phone's ring, while he works on a large illustration of trees. He wears a tank top and barrettes in his hair.)
(Last interstitial image, a fancy crown.)
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