Soul Carvings

© 2000 by Sofía 'Toffee' Francisco

This page was last modified: 2000/11/30


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Toffeenote:

Er....just a warning. This is the darkest most unsettling thing I have done so far...*shudders* I'm not even sure where it came from. I just hope at least the DM fans like it cause if not, then it's a lost cause! ^_^; (btw, it might be good to have read The Nightingale and the Rose before reading this one)


"At dawn the dews of Heaven dry away:
The seeds of Hell are sown again today."

-'The harvest of Suffering', by Issa-

We run, we always have and will continue to do so forever.

Maybe it is the fear of death, or the fierce longing for it; I do not care, never have. Some run from it, others -like me- thrust their arms forward in a desperate attempt to embrace it. But it flees.. this dream... It always flickers out when I can almost taste it, and I am left alone and there is only the stone and me.

Always, this stone and me.

In the beginning I had run from my life, run from myself... or whom I was to be. Born in a small nameless town in Italy, I knew very little of love when my mother died giving birth to my sister. Bianca. Pure and white and pale... a small thing never meant to come to this world. Much less at the expense of my mother. But perhaps the sad-eyed dancer that bore me to this world had longed for death too; and had stopped running.

There was little to be said of my father, or perhaps too much to be put in coherent words. Once a successful military officer, he became a depressive drunkard with little love for life, or those who lived it by him. So it was not surprising that my mother had preferred death over him, I held no grudge over that. What did still haunt me was how a mother could leave her children in the hands of such a man. Pure and small Bianca.. so sweet and perfect in her childhood oblivion, she never saw the world rush up to meet her.

But I did, and when I was six and heard my five year old sister crying in her room it was more instinct than worry that drew me to her. And there was little Bianca, hunched over herself in a corner, as my father gained on her, wanting... something.... I did not understand it then. But I knew it was wrong.

I tried to stop him, but it was to no use, he slapped me carelessly and did not even look back to see where I fell. I tried again but I was no match for my father's still finely toned body, as he ripped the pyjamas off his daughter in one savage jerk. What was I to do?

I ran down to the kitchen, and ran back up holding a butchering knife in my hands. My father looked up briefly and laughed a the image, of his six year old son holding a knife, a cold look in the baby-eyes. He dared me to do it, not expecting me to have the guts.

I did it, and had his guts as my proof.

I grabbed Bianca and ran out of the house, my father's screams echoing all over the streets, waking up the neighbours. But it did not matter, we ran - Bianca and I - we ran from the life we had been meant to live, in that broken down house that always smelled of liquor. She was crying softly, but I pressed us on.

Survive... always.

That is what we run for.

But as hours flew by it grew obvious that we had to stop, and Bianca could go no further. She stared at me with her huge blue eyes, tearstained cheeks glistening in the morning light. Where are we? - her eyes demanded of me, afraid. I did not know, but we were safe.. for now.

We lived off the streets, stealing from whomever passed by, in this huge city we did not even know by name. We only wanted to live, or to try and see why this world had not been destroyed yet, what was there left that made existing here worth the effort. We found nothing.

Until, a few months later, I made the mistake of trying to steal from a man who was far too self-aware to not notice my probing. I was caught, and so was Bianca. Yet he did not kill us, or hit us. He seemed to find a strange delight in my talent for prowling and stealing... and perhaps he saw the killer's edge in my eyes, and decided he liked it. Whatever it was, by the time I realised we had been well and caught we were travelling inside and expensive car through the cobbled streets, turning into darker alleys. Bianca stared out the window with a vague and lost expression on her face, the one she wore most of the time. The tall man had dark hair and olive coloured complexion, his smile was wide and unaffected, but his eyes were a cold grey shade that regarded me clinically, and with a strange predatory hunger when my sister shifted on her seat, her long blue hair tumbling over her shoulders.

This man - I would learn that day - was known as Luis, one of the greatest assassins alive. And one of the key members in the Italian Mafia. But that was no important, at least not to me and my sister. Luis took us to live in a large villa along with other... fellows. People would come and go intermittently, asking for favours, hiring the house's occupants to do unspeakable murders for large sums of money. Throughout all of this Luis took care of us, he gave no reason, and asked no questions. But his callous way of life horrified me, that death could be no more than a job to him, and it scared me to see how this aura of uncaring destruction clung to Bianca. She would often wander over the gardens, staring at the exotic display of Greek statues that were harmoniously strewn all over the ample estate. Gazing up into their frozen faces, her eyes would grow distant as she curled into her own reality and refused the blatant truth of that which we lived in. The days were sunny, the food was good and the people were kind... but never did their smiles reach their eyes, never did their voice reflect the cool masquerade of cheerfulness they tried to put up. I was taught how to read and write so I could help copying things, but not much more was asked from me, Bianca was contend with the statues.

"Do you like them?" Luis had asked her once, his flat grey eyes studying her. "A friend gave them to me long ago."

"They are all so serious.... like they felt nothing," her small whisper startled me, there was a hint of adoration in her voice.

"Stone has no feelings," Luis replied calmly, flashing that enigmatic sly grin of his; yet his eyes remained just as expressionless as before.

"It shouldn't be like that... they should say something more...."

"Say?" he had inquired, leaning down to gaze at her lost expression.

"If they are truly art.. they should say something... have meaning.. but they are empty," she struggled against her childish grasp of our language, yet it was evident to Luis and me that Bianca was considerably deeper than a normal girl of her age. Yet he seemed to take her wit for granted.

"You can't give stone a soul," he mocked her softly.

For a moment it seemed like she would answer back, but then she fell back into her introspective state, shutting us both out. Luis smiled at me and rolled his eyes...a times like this I was sure he was mad.

We were not the only children on the villa, I found this out a few weeks after arriving. There was another girl there, and she looked like nothing I had ever seen before. Her skin was pale, whiter than polished marble, or ivory, and her hair was a soft ash-blonde halo that fell around her shoulders. Even though she looked to be slightly older than me, she never ventured a step close. I sometimes hear her talking to Luis... or more accurately... Luis trying to talk to her in a strange flowing language that was both throaty and mellow. She never spoke back. Most of the time I could hear her singing in that odd language, flowing songs that made me want to cry. The girl mesmerised me, but I never tried to talk to her, I was too busy watching over Bianca.

"He said... you can't give stone a soul," she whispered one day, her eyes devouring the expressionless features that had been sculpted into a handsome face.

"It's just stone, Bianca... just stone."

"It should have more meaning.... sculptures are reflections of humans....but they are so empty."

"Bianca...." I put a hand on her small fragile shoulder, trying to draw her back from whatever thoughts she was drowning in.

"Would a soul turned to stone be just as... flat?"

I had no answer to her questions, and no way of fathoming the nature of her cool voiced questions. I should have seen it coming, but I was too absorbed in the cheerfully macabre life the villa lead. Slowly and surely Bianca began to darken, to change. She would spend most of the day among the statues, sometimes talking to them.

It was only two years later that Luis exacted his payment for his kindness to us.

"You want me to what!?" I cried when I heard him, my eyes wide.

"Become an assassin, like me. I will teach you all I know.. and someday you will take my place," the words made no sense. Take his place?

"Why me?"

"Because you have potential," he replied tossing his dark hair behind his ears with a flowing movement.

"Potential? For what? Any kid could be trained to.." he cut me off abruptly.

"Few kids would have the courage to kill their own father," I took a step back, feeling a trickle of cold sweat slide down my back.

"How did you...?"

"It doesn't matter how I know this... you will do this because you have potential, and because I have leverage over you."

"Leverage?" I blinked, feeling suddenly very aware and very afraid of what he would say next.

"Even if you don't want to thank me for saving you... I can think of plenty of things to do with your lovely half-mad sister."

"You bastard! I will kill you first!" I cried, balling my fists, aching to have his blood spilled on the floor.

"Ah yes... but for that, you need training," and he winked at me.

What was I to do? I accepted, not once suspecting the mayhem I had just bought myself into. Luis started with physical training, but very soon things took on a completely different angle, as I learned to control and feel with my mind.. and I realised that it was quite easy for me.

"It's all about detachment, " Luis told me one day. "And you are a master at that."

All the time, we forged the agreement that as long as I trained he would not hurt Bianca. But, every now and then, just as a warning, he would invite a group of men over, who would stare hungrily at her, occasionally reaching out to touch her, to taste her dark phantom beauty.

"You promised," I would glower at him at such times, infuriated by his unaffected smile and slicing eyes.

"Of course," and I would train all day long and go to bed early, too tired to even wonder about the stealthy movements of the house inhabitants. Killings were always done by night. Bianca, on the other hand, grew more and more distant as I lacked the time to be with her, confining herself for good to the garden where she would spend hours talking to the statues. The few times I spoke to her, she would no even turn to look at me.

"They are empty... I wish I could see what a soul would look like.. in stone."

"Bianca...."

"I'm sure it would be a face full of feeling..." and she would laugh then, her eyes never leaving the blank pits of the statue's carved gaze.

But I did not care, as long as she was all right. I would keep on learning from Luis and when I became strong enough I would kill him, and run away with her.

Run away....

When I was nine Luis took me on my first 'mission'. For the first time I could use my powers on another. I pulled my strange energy forth, wrapping it around the victim, feeling it's sudden fear and confusion, tasting the many faceted emotions that danced along each nerve ending, like a thousand mirror shards scattering his soul. I drank the sheer power I held over him, overcome by something that was greater than lust or greed or joy and pulled me into a spiral of black unlife. It was over all too soon, and I lay gasping on the floor, disgusted and yet entranced by what I had done. Luis smiled down at me.

"It's addictive after a while.. how you can taste all that they are, get drunk on their meagre little flames of a soul..."

I wanted to scream, to throw up, but all I could do was stare, transfixed by the agonised mask the victim's features had become.

"Ah... the more they suffer the more you have them, " and then he shivered, as if taken by some unspeakable delight. I knew all too well what it was.

But the man's face, frozen and locked into that contortion of unrecognisable similarity to his previous facade, did not move. His face remained like that, a human statue of flesh and bone. A statute of suffering.

And though I wanted to deny how much I had loved it, I could not.

I was heaven and hell.

After that killing became normal, a hellish pleasure I could not refuse as I held the dying souls and moaned softly as they tried to escape the inevitable, their struggles lighting sparks of icy fire through me. I did this for Bianca - I would tell myself every time -- for Bianca.

But even that became blurred as I tasted the shivering essence of their deaths, and saw them twist and turn, faces becoming a dead testimony to their highest feeling.

Things moved on smoothly, though I rarely saw Bianca now, and she would sleep most of the time anyway, talking to her statues as she twitched and trembled under the heavy sheets. I did not think further, until the day the strange man came.

I had learned to feel Luis' presence without having to be near him.. but this time something new registered. I stood up straighter, abandoning the book I was reading as I felt something.. no, someone... that was just as strong as Luis.

I had not thought that possible.

I rushed to the door, possessed by curiosity and... a growing hunger to know what it would fee like to have the soul of one such as this in my grasp. I licked my lips and opened the tall wooden door, hearing the audible creak of old wood and rusty hinges.

"Hello...I am looking for Pathos."

The man was tall, with startling pale blue eyes -- frozen, I realised -- and straight blonde hair that fell down his shoulders. His accent was very strange, and I could not shake the feeling that he looked vaguely familiar.

"There is no one by that name here."

He blinked, and narrowed his eyes. "Cancer Pathos is not here?"

I shook my head again. He frowned and then smiled, rolling his eyes. "Perhaps Luis then?"

This time I nodded, trying not to let my eyes wander over the man's fine lips and elfin features.. what emotion would they portray once I had taken his soul and drunken all the life out of him? He must have noticed my oddly desiring gaze for he smiled knowingly and shook his head.

"I knew he would take on a kid sooner or later..."

"Did you doubt it?" the voice of my teacher came from behind me, startling me out of my reverie. The pale man laughed cruelly and put both hand on his hips.

"Not really, I just wondered what kind of child could be tamed into this. By the way... I would have thought you would drop your birth-name, Pathos."

"Luis is more suitable for an Italian assassin, it calls less attention..." Luis smiled devilishly. "Magnus."

The other sighed and pressed his lips in annoyance. "I told you I am called 'Magus' now, not Magnus."

"Whatever, they both sound the same to me."

I stared at them, trying to grasp the meaning of their conversation. The pale man - Magus, it seemed - looked down at me and cocked his head to once side. "He looks fit for the job..."

"Certainly. And now, will you tell me why you came here?" Luis crossed his arms and glared at the man, one fine eyebrow raised.

"I am tired of having to chase Nicklas back every time he runs away... so I decided to put some, as you would say, leverage on him." A cruel smile spread over Magus' lips.

"Ah, you came to take Annika with you?" Luis sighed and nodded. "Come in."

He guided Magus in, and bid him to sit and wait in the living room. After a while he came back holding the pale girl's hand. It was then that I saw it... her face was almost the same as Magus'... they were related.

"Annika..." Luis murmured as he pushed her towards Magus.

She let out a sigh and spoke to him in that alien language I had hear Luis use with her. Magus answered fluently, his eyes never leaving hers as she fidgeted with her dress and sighed once again.

"Thank you for taking care of her.. but now it's better to put her to use."

"Ah yes..." Luis acknowledged. "If you drop by Sanctuary say hello to the Poet for me."

It was the last time I saw her. I did not understand what had happened... but I knew that it was somehow important.

I missed her song though.

The rest was only killings, as I perfected my technique... and somehow, at some point, I forgot about killing Luis. He taught me legends, and duties... none of these meant anything to me.. but the killings... those thrilled me despite the cruelty I knew I was committing. Each new death, each new soul... all of them etched lines of pure delight in me, and I could not have enough of them. All the rest was irrelevant... except Bianca.

"You can't give stone a soul... but can you turn a soul to stone...?"

She would laugh then, and go on murmuring to the statues.

On the few times that I saw her, I was content.. but I no longer craved to run away. She was safe, I was well.. why run?

I should have seen the truth... I should have never trusted Luis.

I was out on a particularly easy mission and finished early, opting to go back home immediately. I should have know.. really. All these years I had not once seen Bianca at night... only during the day.. after my first killing, only during the day, and she was sleeping most of the time.

But she was no sleeping as I crept in and stared in confusion at her empty bed.

"Bianca?"

No answer.

I walked out worriedly, trotting up to Luis' room, but he was not there either. It was only as I walked past the living room that I head voices. Male laughter, gasps... more laughter. I pushed the door open a nick, and looked inside. There were a few men, Luis standing at the centre, smiling in a vaguely satisfied way. Another gasp made me look to the other side... and I saw.

She was lying on the couch, blue eyes open and unseeing as a stranger lay over her, moving violently. Her face was calm and peaceful, as she stared beyond his shoulder into a statue that was placed at the other side of the room.

Everything went cold then.

I do not truly remember what happened, except that when all was over I was lying on the ground, my body aching all over, and Luis had the heel of his boot pressed against my temple.

"That was a very stupid thing to do," he informed me coolly.

The other men were strewn across the room, faces drawn into those comical masks of emotion. Numbly, I stared as Bianca walked up to one of them and crouched beside him, her tiny hands roving the contorted features, an empty smile on her face.

"Yes..." she whispered breathlessly. "Like this..."

I wanted to scream, to cry, but all I could manage was a weak gargle as Luis pressed his foot against my throat. The whole scene was too much; my innocent sister laughing joyfully over a dead man's agonised face, Luis' cold and joyless eyes as his lips smiled down at me, the corpses all around the room.

I fainted.

When I woke up I was back in my room, Bianca standing over my bed.

"Brother... she was right... the lady was right."

I glanced at her, not understanding a single word of what she said. "What..?"

Things were blurred... what had happened?

"The lady who sold flowers, the one with white hair... she said you could make souls into statues... " A delighted laugh broke forth from her lips and she bounced on the bed. I felt suddenly nauseated.

"Bianca..."

"They were so full of pain.. so much emotion... soul carvings into flesh!" her laugh echoed across the room, pounding into my head. I tried to reach out to her, to touch her, but she moved away and ran out the room.

I stayed there.. feeling the world dip unsteadily.

I couldn't run.... not now, not after what I had seen. Nor could I take Bianca anywhere.. she was happy here... crazy and emptied of all reason. But Luis... I would not forgive him for what he had done... for using her like that... for killing her..... it was his fault.

I got up and went to look for him, only dimly aware of the stupidity I was about to commit.

"Were you looking for me?" An amused voice coming from behind startle me, and I swivelled and stared at him, feeling a cold dread snake up my spine. His eyes... for the first time there was a recognisable emotion in them.... lust.

"You.... we had a deal!"

"Hm... you should learn that trust is stupid," he licked his lips and drew closer to me. And all of a sudden, I was no longer afraid. His catlike movements, the perfect features... the power that thundered all around him... it made me ache to have him....to kill him. To taste his soul and see him twist in agony or pleasure or whatever the dead felt. I wanted him.... dead.

He smiled as he saw my eyes grow hot, licking his lips predatorily. "Ah yes... I have longed for this moment."

I lunged at him, realising all of a sudden that I was not that much smaller anymore, that I might just win.... so I reached deep into me and drew all of my power over him, drowning his soul into mine and felt...

It was pleasure beyond the boundaries of the human body, and obscene holiness that shivered around me, drawing me higher into its arms. Luis did nothing to stop me, opening the barriers of his soul letting me have it all.....all... all! I saw the world, the hell, a Goddess, cloths, pain, fights, truth lies everything nothing souls temples shrines and death and life and heaven and hell and reality.

And then it was over.

Luis smiled, a cruel smile that was for once reflected in his eyes as he fell forward and gripped my shirt to steady himself, his face only inches away from mine.

"You.. didn't do it.. for her....." he whispered, eyes dimming. "You did.. it... because.. it is..... pleasure....." And died.

It was relatively quiet after that.. Bianca curled walked in and knelt before him, smiling at his cruel smile, and then she looked up at me, eyes empty. Her once shinny blue hair fell in tattered waves around her face, a twelve year old wraith that smiled lifelessly at the deaths of others. I stared at her, at her flat eyes, and did the only thing left.

And her face, frozen in death, was as calm and empty as a sculpture's.

What else was there? I had the knowledge and the power. The Cancer cloth came to me that night, glowing like a midnight sun. So full of like and bright colour, it reminded me of the sunny skies and green trees around the villa, so beautiful and yet so inexorably tied to death.

Macabre cheer.

I arrived at Sanctuary and presented myself before the Kyoko. He looked at me up and down and finally sighed. "I take it Cancer Pathos is dead?"

I nodded, saying nothing.

"And you name is?"

I blinked at that.. It had never occurred to me that I would have to give a name. I stared at the man, at the blue expressionless mask that he wore, and though vaguely of Bianca.

(soul carvings into flesh!)

And I remembered everything, the pleasure, the pain, the eternal nothingness and the faces of all whom I had killed... and then myself. Surely my face was just like Luis'... cynical, beautiful... dead. A mask of death.

I looked up at the gathered crowd and smiled coldly.

"I am Cancer Deathmask."

Nothing else was said.

I stayed at my temple and waited, to kill to die... to live. But never again to run, for I had reached the place I had been running to, and there was nowhere else to go. Only one thing did I do, that I had not expected, even of myself. But I owed it to Bianca at least.

To that poor child with no soul... a statue of flesh and bone, as empty as stone.

I concentrated my power, distorting reality between one world and another, and let it take over my temple. A thousand faces, agony and pleasure and horror and fear; all of it etched across the walls and the floor. A thousand sculptures of faces that screamed silently for something I had taken from them.

Souls turned to stone.

The End


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