from the forthcoming novel
JESUS and MARY
by Wade Murphy
As smoke may dissipate outside with the freedom of open air, so did the fog about Mary. Thus, inside, amongst the dark of the wood which dominated the architecture and felt like a blanket of sorts, the heat of her intensity kept flowing about me, unable to escape. I felt faint and cold yet warm, like sweating out a fever. She walked a short distance ahead of me, which felt like no distance at all, as we entered a sunken living room, with books on and off of shelves and with candles almost burnt to their ends. The fireplace was grand and wooden and looked as if it were a leftover from the set of Citizen Kane or Sunset Boulevard, and the fire inside of it was not so much a fire anymore, but rather was an orange glow – a deep, raw, orange glow. I wondered if fires experienced old age – were their gray hairs replaced with ashes and their wrinkles with embers? It once raged and jumped over its fuel, and now lies in it like a death bed. Instead of reaching out into the world, instead of escaping, it now only exists inside of that which once only fed its whims, like an elderly man trapped in life but unable to live it any longer.
“I'm sorry; the fire is pitiful, isn't it?” she said, startling me in her usual way.
“No, not at all. It is calming in a way, I think. In fact, this whole place is; it seems, I don't know, lived in.” This was the truth but not completely. Yes, the room definitely did not seem new, but did not seem merely old, either. It was as if not a life was lived in it, but several, all at once. The floors bore the tread of not two in its charge, but two hundred. The wall had voices bouncing off it I could hear that seemed of boys and girls, women and men. I felt as if I were in a museum of mankind without artifacts and art (though they were also here – a painting in a corner, a pipe on a shelf) but with a record of souls flying about my head. From stepping through the front door, I felt older in experience, but younger relatively. I saw a man move in the far corner of my left eye.
“I do have another apology to make; Jesus could not be here this evening. He's been called away on business.” She pulled an already uncorked bottle from a cabinet and poured herself a glass of wine, “Would you like a drink?”
“No, thank you, though. And I'm sorry I'm not able to meet him tonight; I was looking forward.” I was, of course, relieved. I looked back to the fireplace, and the ember had died. It would receive no funeral in my presence. I glanced back toward Mary. The pipe on the shelf was no longer there.
“Shall we go downstairs? Jesus has kind of a showroom for it.” She began descending steps just outside the doorway to the room, and I followed. As she walked past a light, it seemed to reach for her like plants to the sun, and I more than once almost stumbled in my short descent as I was intensely watching, trying to figure out if this was just a trick of my eyes. She switched on a light as we reached the floor below, and there it was, just a few feet away from me.
“The Prado museum believes they have the original.” As she said this, I had no intention of disagreeing. She continued, “I think it is amazing. It's understated, you know. It's death understated in an overstatement. A lot of scholars say that Goya painted this with Saturn as merely crazy, merely deranged. They think it says less or means less or is less – I'm not sure. Ruben painted a version of this which they say is more disturbing, because his Saturn seems intent on his power and unapologetic, and they call this version 'quiet'. But, you see, I don't see this Saturn as crazed at all.”
He seemed crazed enough to me, as his orange skin became tan and his hair white as the drained from the painting and seemed to collect above it. Mary's voice became quieter, more distant and haunting, as she continued just behind me, “I see him as devastated. I see him as destroyed. In this version, he is intent on power, and I think that intent is obvious here,” she pointed to his hands, “but in his eyes, in his eyes there is a different story. Here is his remorse; here is his sadness. He has two devotions. Though he is a god and has been painted as strong and emotionless, he is very organic in true nature. He has a son because he is moved to have a son. He destroys his son because he is, in a certain essence, above having one. His torture in this is forgotten or never acknowledged, except here. So I find this one much more disturbing, because a god can do an evil for himself though his heart beats against it. A god is subject to the ills of human nature and must live with it, not unto his grave, but forever.”
The baby's head grew back, and he was not a baby nor a he, but a young woman. Her hair re-grew to her feet, and Saturn grew younger and into a man. His hair was black, and hers was brown. They kissed, and she pulled away and leaned back into his arms, laughing with her eyes closed. He smiled and laughed as his head fell back, and his face encountered the sky. I did not blink as this unfolded before me. Then he looked at me, and his face transformed. Nostrils overtook him, and smoke flew from his nose. His eyes grew red, red, red. Hair grew from his arms and wrapped around them and caught fire. His fingernails lengthened and pierced the woman through the torso. He pulled his arms wide, rendering the woman to shreds which fell on the wind as leaves to the ground. Pain encircled his face as he cried with his arms still outstretched. He looked back at me and began to charge. So, I turned quickly and ran. I ran to the door, tripped, and knocked my head on the stair. The orange glow was replaced with black.
Wade Murphy is an author, actor, vocalist, and internet media personality (you may recognize him from the viral YouTube hit "Shit Southern Gay Guys Say") residing in Memphis, Tennessee. Inspired by the history and culture of his hometown, his work is highly influenced by the Southern Gothic tradition - his writing includes surrealism with a foundation in the traditions and culture from below the Mason-Dixon line. Religious imagery, blood ties, and folklorish mysticism blend to form a thrilling story that grips the reader with its haunting, otherworldly tone. Follow Wade Murphy by visiting his various presences: YouTube.com/hellohappytime, Twitter.com/hellohappytime or Hellohappytime.tumblr.com. An excerpt from Wade’s forthcoming novel, Jesus and Mary, appears in the January 2013 issue of HelloHorror.
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