Blood-blessed feathers. Algimantas Romanauskas

Algimantas Romanauskas. Prologue

Prologue (15 years ago)

I

Artūras loved to do his girlfriend from behind as she was standing leaning against the closet. Her breasts would seductively flatten themselves against the mirror, and their breath would fog the door, creating the impression of them being in an exotic sauna.

Vita was the first to reach the climax of their love dance, and Artūras caught up a few seconds later. They collapsed on the cool bed. They watched the white ceiling of the room, breathing heavily and slowly relaxing. Artūras turned to his girl, rose slightly above her, and gave her a mischievous look, leaning on his elbow. He saw her blue eyes, black hair, and lips, red with passion. He noticed the veins pulsing in her long neck, and her hardened nipples.

The man liked what he was seeing and didn’t want to lose the moment, but he yearned to show her the present he found at the antique shop. So he gathered all his strength and got up, leaving Vita alone in the bed for a brief moment, even though he would have done her again with great pleasure.

Already by the door, Artūras turned to her, “Don’t go anywhere, beauty.” Vita’s eyes widened with a playful spark, as if to say – yes, I’m just going to jump out the window now, or maybe someone is going to kidnap me.

“I’ll be waiting…”

He quickly disappeared behind the door, and rushed down the stairs.

“Damn steps”, he grumbled.

He ran, two and sometimes three steps at a time. At the bottom of the stairs he turned left into his study.

As he looked at the table, he was suddenly taken aback. A snake was slithering between the piles of papers.

A water snake, Artūras guessed, seeing the yellow dots on the side of its head.

He brought a long-handled broom from the kitchen and calmly touched the cold-blooded creature with its tip. Having provoked no threatening reaction, he lifted the snake using the flat part of the broom and brought it outside so that the creature could return to the nearby forest.

He went back and tried to reach the cabinet.

Behind it, he found a revolver. He felt a force, compelling him to take the gun… He knew what he had to do. He heard the urges…

His hand trembled upon touching the cold metal. He imagined himself aiming, pulling the trigger, the lead bullet piercing Vita’s skull all the way through, the body of the woman he loves collapsed to the floor… Her hair stained with warm red blood, a hint of iron in its smell.

Such visions scared him. He did not want to see them, but those voices… It seemed they were whispering in his brain, convincing him to return to his love with the revolver in his hand, open the bedroom door, aim, and, ignoring Vita’s screams and tears, pull the trigger…

And afterwards the smell of burning gunpowder, after that iron, and finally: sweat.

Artūras loved her greatly. Love gave him the strength to resist the temptation of the voices; to disobey them. That was what he believed in…

Yet each time it became harder to deny the voices . Each time they were more persistent. He felt the moment when he would be unable to defy them getting closer. Artūras wasn’t even sure he was hearing them anymore; he had started to believe that the voices were his own thoughts, plotting everything.

He would not be able to repel these demons for long. A tragedy was about to happen…

He held the revolver in his hand a little while longer, and then put it back in the cabinet.

Pushing his hand further, he found what he came for – an elongated red box with a white bow.

He hoped his lover would like his present, dedicated to the opening of her boutique.

Having climbed back up the stairs, Artūras focused, trying to hear whether the voices were still there. They were gone.. Hoping that his ordeal might be over for good, he contentedly opened the door…

***

 What he saw after that felt like a mace smashing him over the head. His legs went numb. He staggered so hard he almost fell down the stairs backwards. Barely able to breathe, Artūras stumbled over Vita’s corpse.

The murder was more terrifying than he had imagined. He hoped more than anything that it was not him who had done this …

A sharp sound thundered across the room – the red box with the white bow hit the floor, rolled across, and stopped in the pool of blood.

Vita sat slumped in the corner of the room, her head down, and her long, blood-drenched hair covered her face and breasts.

With eyes full of tears, Artūras approached his love, tried looking for a pulse, and became even more anxious when that failed. Realising Vita was dead, he started sobbing loudly.

“My girl, my beauty,” he touched her hair, heavy with blood, and lifted it, trying to see her face.

He saw her bloodshot, widened eyes and the old scissors stuck in her neck, not used for a very long time – the same ones he intended to give her, packaged in the red box with a white bow…

The gift was deep in the pool of blood. Slipping and falling, Artūras grabbed the box, tore off the bow and opened the case. He collapsed, refusing to believe it was empty. Someone had stolen the scissors.

His mind became foggy. Artūras stood up – barely – and, stepping with great difficulty, walked towards the stairs. Without even thinking, he went down into the study and took the revolver.

Lifting his hand, he was startled by the cold metal touching his temple.

Someone had killed Vita. Artūras did not remember doing it. He could not grasp what had happened. The voices no longer tortured him. Everyone has left him. He was alone. Such pain is too hard for his pathetic life. Everything is too hard…

A shot echoed through the house…

  II

           “I’d fuck her.” Screaming over the booming music, a man in a tracksuit snorted a line of white powder off of the table stacked with bottles. “That’s a nice little whore, eh?”

       Vidas’s friends ignored him. Needless to say, they at least glanced at the girl dancing in the middle of the room. The sleek dress barely covered her thighs. A perfectly curved body. Her long dark hair was swinging to the rhythm. She had plunged into her own little world and cared only about the music.

As the heroin kicked in, Vidas got more comfortable in his chair and leaned his head back. He turned his eyes to the ceiling, forgot about the dancing girl and let the oh-so-sweet visions flow.

       The man saw pleasant hallucinations that complemented the music: as the rhythm got faster they changed and twirled, as if in a tango, when it got slower – the imagination was taken over by a waltz of visuals.

       The nightclub was a place to escape from all your worries. Everyone here felt safe, knowing law enforcement would never check this place – this was a spot for the filthy-rich.

       Vidas regained consciousness. He looked at the whore he had already paid for and owned till the morning. The man loved deals like this: you tell your desires to the right people, pay the bill, and have 24 hours to enjoy your chosen one – be it a woman or a man.

       The most important guarantee is that the goods are healthy, hadn’t contracted any nasty illnesses, so the buyers always felt confident. It would only take one client to catch something for it to be the end of the club.

       The girl noticed Vidas’s eyes, picked up her shoes that lay by the wall and headed towards the table. When she twisted and turned her way through

intoxicated men and stood before her client, he could smell her Chanel perfume, mixed with the unimaginably pleasant scent of her sweat.

       Vidas touched the girl’s naked legs with his fingers and slowly moved up, until they touched her lacy underwear. He was hard. This made him happy – recently it hadn’t been happening as often as he would have liked.

       The girl straddled his legs and leaned towards him. She touched his nose with her lips.

       “Boy, I had fun dancing,” the goddess whispered.

       “I could see that.”

       “Have I turned you on?” – she grabbed his penis while smiling.

The man didn’t answer.

         “I can see I have… I’d like to drink something cool,” she continued.

       “And I want something totally different,” – Vidas also smiled and waved to the waiter – “A cold and refreshing cocktail! Whatever you think is good!”

       “You’re so sweet,” she pressed her red, hot wet lips to his.

The passionate kisses made the man tremble with the desire to take her right there, but his last remaining grain of sense prevailed.

       A few more minutes and the whole company was back in this world. The evening continued, the music played on. The girl was happy there wasn’t much left before the agreement ended. This time around she was satisfied with her client – he carried himself like a gentleman and looked really handsome. Tonight she was lucky: they had paid her well, even though this was the kind of man she would have slept with for free.

       She turned to Vidas and smiled. This was the last sincere eye contact with Vidas that night – before he died.

       Just after going outside, Vidas lit a cigarette. The club’s doors slammed shut behind them. The girl stood by his side and watched the sky, coloured by a summerly dawn. The man inhaled the smoke deeply into his lungs, held it for a bit, then blew it out. He enjoyed smoking. Most likely he enjoyed everything: power, money, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and of course – sex, when he could get hard. And this was exactly one of those special mornings, when… He eagerly awaited the last moments with his purchase.

       Vidas finished smoking and turned to the girl, signaling it was time to go. Having quickly walked to the club’s yard, he found his car in a few minutes.

Suddenly, two hooded silhouettes approached them. Vidas could’ve sworn they weren’t there when he was looking around for the car. Where have they come from? He knew that the heroin had worn off hours ago. How could he not have seen them as soon as he walked into the parking lot?

       “What can I help you with, fellas?” Vidas asked.

       “D…o… y…o…u… s…m…e…l…l… h…e…r?” one of the silhouettes gurgled. They paid no attention to Vidas.

       “Hey! I’m talking to you!” – Vidas shouted, worried. He grabbed the girl’s wrist and pulled her closer – “Who are you?!”

       “T…h…e… w…i…t…c…h… i…s…  h…e…r…e…,  d…o… y…o…u… s…m…e…l…l… h…e…r?” The shape looked around, still gurgling.

       When Vidas saw the figure’s eyes, shivers ran down his spine: the pupils were alit and the whites were bright red, as if the eyes housed the flames of hell.

       But that was not the scary part. They seemed to be looking for something, unaware of both Vidas and his escort.

“Who are they?” – the girl was now trembling uncontrollably – “Did you see their eyes?”

       Vidas didn’t bother to answer. Now he was certain this wasn’t one of dumb the hallucination caused by heroin – he wasn’t the only one seeing it.

       “I… c…a…n… s…m…e…l…l… h…e…r” – the shape gurgled and turned its eyes straight towards the shaking girl – “S…h…e…  c…a…m…e… h…e…r…s…e…l…f.”

       “I… c…a…n… s…m…e…l…l… h…e…r… t…o…o” – the second one nodded – “I… t…h…i…n…k… s…h…e… c…a…n… s…e…e…  u…s…”.

       The girl couldn’t stop quivering. Her teeth were chattering as if it were cold outside.

       His brain was no longer processing what was happening, as both shadows approached them. Vision became blurry – like asphalt does on a hot summer day. One shape phased through a parked car – it looked as if two worlds merged for a moment.

       They drew closer and closer, yet Vidas couldn’t move and the girl looked just as transfixed. He gathered all his strength and held her head in his hands:

“Karina, get out of here. I’ll try to stop them.”

       It seemed like his words didn’t reach the girl’s ears. She didn’t react, her stare was blank. Vidas could feel the shapes closing in with all his body. It was as if the air became electrified – so much so, that sparks started to fly. He couldn’t come up with anything better than to slap her. Miscalculating his strength. Karina burst into tears, her lip starting to bleed.

       “What are you do‒‒…” – then she fell silent.

       Finally, she broke through the trance. She heard the sounds of the city waking up, felt the warmth of a summer morning, sensed the electricity around her and was well aware of those closing in.

       “Run, beauty, and do not look back!” – Vidas turned to her – “Run! Or I’ll do it again!”

       “But…” and then he hit her so hard, like he was taking revenge on her for everything that had ever happened to him.

       Or maybe because he was not going to have sex that morning, though he had been hard all night. Or was it the necessity to sacrifice himself to save the girl. He slapped her so hard, she almost fell over. Her lights went out for a moment. Once back to her senses, she bolted for her life. The girl ran as hard as

she could, saving herself from the devils of hell – at least she thought so. She ran from the executioners, death’s grim reapers. Karina kept running and didn’t look back, even when she heard Vidas screaming. Tears clouded her eyes, but she didn’t stop. There was a taste of blood in her mouth. Her face would be swollen tomorrow, but she didn’t think about that. She kept running and couldn’t understand – what were those shapes? Why did they appear? Or had she gone mad? Maybe they didn’t exist? For that matter – maybe she was not actually where she thought she was. Maybe she was strapped to a hospital bed and everything happened just in her head. Karina was short of breath and was gasping, but kept running away from the club, where she saw Vidas for the last time. She ran from the place where a client saved her life.

 ***

           “T…h…e… w…i…t…c…h… g…o…t… a…w…a…y” – a shape burbled, holding Vidas up by his neck. – “S…t…a…r…t… s…c…h…m…e…l…l…i…n…g… t…r…a…c…k…e…r” – the shape opened its long alien-like fingers and released the body, which slumped like a sack.

“I… w…o…n…d…e…r… w…h…y… h…e… c…o…u…l…d… s…e…e… u…s…?” grumbled the second one.

       “H…e… h…a…d… f…e…e…l…i…n…g…s… f…o…r… h…e…r” – the shape’s eyes turned towards the direction Karina ran off to. It seemed like it pierced through all the houses, parks and buildings of the city. – “W…e… m…u…s…t…  f…i…n…d…  h…e…r…”

       In a few more seconds, the silhouettes vanished and the surrounding electricity immediately dissipated. Vidas’s dead body lay in the yard of the club. It was dawn, as the sun crept over the horizon.

[1] Lithuanian goddess of death, the Grim Reaper’s maid 

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