Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Violinist (and the Luthier): Part III

Oscar felt dizzy as his eyes glanced around, searching for some point of reference to focus on, but there was only white light shining from every direction. He closed his eyes, but the light still shone through his eyelids. His feet kicked in every direction, searching for something to stand on. There was nothing. He moved his left hand, and realized he was still holding the neck of his violin. That was something, at least. Abby squeezed his right hand, and he turned his head toward her, relieved to see something other than himself. He wondered how long it had been since they had jumped through the trapdoor, whether it was minutes or hours, and how much further it was till they would emerge. He couldn't even tell how fast they were moving, or if they were moving at all.

Without warning, everything went dark. There was a soft thud as he landed on something solid, and relief swept over him. He stood still for several minutes, adjusting to the dark and recovering from the journey. Travel by violin was definitely better than that! Abby walked forward toward a thin strip of light near the ground. He realized it was the bottom of a door as she swung it open to reveal that they were standing in a broom closet. Oscar followed Abby through the door into a large office.

Sitting casually on a desk across the room was a man wearing only jeans and covered with hideous tattoos. They were similar to the ones on the man he had just fought, though it was plain that these were drawn with considerably more skill and artistry. The design swirled and twisted about itself in a way that made Oscar sick if he tried understanding the pattern.

At his side was a middle aged woman. Her wrists and feet were tied, and there was duct tape across her mouth. Her left eye was bruised and there was dried blood encrusted on her face. She was missing both her pinkie fingers, and her shirt was splattered with red.

The man was holding a knife to her face.

He threw something small toward Abby. "I meant to do that when you could see her wriggle and writhe, but I got impatient," he said calmly. Oscar looked at what he had thrown. It was a finger.

"Hello, Rook," Abby nearly whispered.

Rook's face contorted into a sarcastic smile. "Hello, Abby. Nice to see you again. I've been getting to know 'mom' real well. You always ragged on me to spend more time with her, right?" He glanced toward Oscar. "And hello there, stranger. Are you Abby's new man-whore?"

Anger ran through Oscar, and he lunged forward.

"Don't come any closer!" Rook shouted, plunging the knife into her cheek.

Oscar stopped short as he heard her muffled scream. She writhed in pain, and Abby gasped.

"I wouldn't do that, friend," Rook began again. "This is my game, my rules."

Oscar froze in place, but his heart continued to beat quickly, and every muscle in his body tensed.

Abby took a step forward and leaned down to pick up the finger. She fumbled through her backpack, took out a small ziplock filled with ice, and placed the finger inside.

"Rook," she said, "Please don't hurt my mom. She hasn't done anything to deserve this."

Rook laughed. "What does it matter what she's done? It's just too much fun to see you try to stay cool and collected while your mom suffers for your sins."

Before Rook could react, Abby pulled out a glass bottle of clear liquid and threw it at him. He put out a hand to catch it, but it broke on contact, and the liquid splattered over his hand.

He screamed, and his skin began steaming as the liquid crept up his arm, onto his chest, and down his stomach. Wherever it touched, the tattoos began disappearing. Rook dropped to the floor, moaning in pain. Oscar watched in fascination as all the tattoos vanished. Finally, it was over, and Rook lay moaning on the ground. Slowly, he stood up, his head bowed, his skin still steaming.

"What was that for?" he asked quietly, lifting his head to reveal his blood red eyes. "Did you think you could 'cure' me?"

His mouth curled into a mocking smile. "You cannot cure what isn't sick. These tattoos you gave me merely brought out what was already inside me."

Oscar looked at Abby in alarm. Rook saw his surprise, and his eyes danced with delight.

"Doesn't he know, Abby?" When she remained silent, he continued with a cruel smile, "Abby's good at drawing tattoos that make people feel things. She can make people feel love, happiness, joy, whatever they want. She found out I had cheated on her, and was jealous for some strange reason." His face contorted into an even wider smile. "So while I was sleeping, she came and drew this beautiful design. I guess she was trying to give me the same jealousy she felt."

Rook walked over to Oscar, his smile disappearing. "But I think she poured in a lot of hatred as well. I hate her now, more than anything," he said with such passion that Oscar took a step backward. "I wish she was dead. No, that's not true, I suppose—I wish she was in hell."

He smiled as if at some hidden joke and walked to Abby. "Are you?" he asked.

Oscar looked over at Abby. She said nothing, but her eyes gave away her pain. Anger rushed through him and without a thought, he aimed a kick at Rook. Instantly Rook disappeared, and Oscar's foot met only air.

Abby ran to the office door and looked out. Oscar looked over at the desk. Abby's mother was gone.

"Where are they?" he yelled.

Suddenly they heard someone scream in the distance. Abby and Oscar raced down the hallway toward the sound. The hallway ended in a lounge area, and there on a couch sat Rook, holding his knife to the woman, fresh blood coming from her arm. He looked up at them, then disappeared once again. Abby raced to the couch anyway. She kicked it in frustration.

"He's killing my mom!" she shouted. She ran up to Oscar and put her hands on his shoulders. "Quick, play a song! Find him again!"

Oscar put the violin up to his shoulder and began to play the same tune he had used to find the house. This time there was a darkness to it that matched the hatred in Rook's heart. Behind them, the hallway lit up, and they ran back up it until they reached a large door. Abby threw it open, and Oscar gasped at the sight facing him.

An enormous factory stood before them. Rows and rows of robots worked tirelessly assembling parts of something Oscar did not quite recognize. The path lit by the song led toward the right, and then down one of the many aisles. They ran to the start of the aisle, and saw Rook about a hundred yards away, holding a kinfe to the throat of Abby's mother. They ran toward him, but when they were within a few feet of him, he disappeared, reappearing further down the aisle.

Abby started running toward him again, but Oscar grabbed her hand.

"Wait," he said. "I have an idea." He put the violin to his chin and began to play a slow, sweet-sounding melody. Each note rang distinct and clear as it left the violin. Time itself seemed to stop; and as Abby looked around at the machines, she realized it really had stopped. Not a sound came from them; they had simply stopped moving. She looked with excitement at Oscar, who had already begun to walk toward Rook. As they drew nearer, Abby saw that Rook also was frozen in place, staring intently at the spot they had been standing a minute ago. She opened her bag and drew out a knife sheathed in leather. Drawing it, she walked up to Rook, but hesitated as she looked into Rook's eyes.

"I'm so sorry, Rook," she said softly. "I wish I could have done the right thing, but it's too late now." Then she thrust the knife into his heart and stepped away.

Oscar stopped playing, and Rook looked with surprise and shock, first at Oscar and Abby, then down at the knife in his chest. He staggered, then fell to his knees, then on his face, and moved no more.

* * *

"I don't deserve to live."

They were sitting in the hospital, outside the room where doctors tended the many wounds Abby's mother had sustained.

"What do you mean?" asked Oscar. "Of course you do."

"No." She closed her eyes, and tears began falling down her face. "I'm the one who killed my dad and Rook, and nearly killed my own mom. Just for an act of petty revenge."

Oscar put his arm around her. "Don't think like that. He said it himself; the evil was already inside of him. You can't be responsible for his actions."

"No," she disagreed firmly, "The only way I was able to make that tattoo was by looking inside my own soul. That's how I make things, it's how I always make things. All the hatred he had, I have as much. Or more."

Oscar tensed as her words hung in the air. But finally he hugged her tightly. "That's only true because deep down, all of us are evil. We're all capable of murder, or worse. I am too, just as much as you."

Abby smiled slightly, "That's very nice of you, but I'm the one that let it get the best of me."

Oscar didn't know what to say to this. He opened his mouth to reply, then thought better of it. Finally, he said, "You make so many wonderful things, Abby. Just keep on making things that will help the world be a brighter place. If you let your guilt stop you from doing that, then the evil inside you has already won."

They sat silently for a while. Abby cried softly into Oscar, and Oscar comforted her as best he could. It had been a long couple of days, and he wondered whether it would ever really be over, but he thought he'd like to stick around to find out.

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