Cepheus dismisses my feelings for other individuals as fraud. He regards me as heartless and says I don't care. Cepheus is wrong about me. I do care, but it's startling. What I feel is something never felt before by me. Held fondness and even jealousy, but never love. This isn't love for a person, but love for an idea, the idea I'm not alone. Cepheus entered my life with such aggression, but Belladonna has been welcomed into my life with open arms. Belladonna and I have danced with lunacy in heaps of blood, and I feel more alive because of it. I took a leap of faith.
Something I have never done before.
“Do you ever think about the future?” Belladonna asks softly, a dreamy smile spread on her face. Belladonna moves up on the bed and sits indian-style, leaning against her bedroom wall. “Pardon the cliché, but there's just no other way to ask it.”
After our encounter, we cleaned up some of the little spots from our altercation, anything that points a finger in our direction, and made way to her apartment.
Unlike Cepheus' apartment, Belladonna's has a certain liveliness, one that mine is also without. Not too immaculate, not something you'd expect to see behind the bus on a television show, but you could at least tell it is her home. The room, with a bittersweet shimmer shading of orange on the walls, looks like she actually lives within it. A scattering of books rest upon a wooden coffee-table, and laying with them are a variety of scented candles. A good-sized flat-screen television sat on the floor near the table. The floor is white-carpeting, and under the coffee table, there's a large rug with varying colors of dark-purple and black. Almost like an optical illusion. Tacky. But unique. My room does not feel nearly as homely, probably because I don't truly live within it. I could never appreciate my little sector for the world, because the only sanctum I ever really had is where bodies are dismembered and lives are concluded.
Nonetheless, here, Belladonna lives, and survives, but how? Beneath her mask, Belladonna has chestnut-colored hair with slight curls that descend downward, hanging past her shoulders. She has pale skin and a demeanor that comes across as genuinely friendly. I'd buy into the disguise if I had not already seen past it. But yet, it doesn't feel like a disguise. Belladonna is from another language and means “beautiful woman,” but it's also a deadly poison capable of provoking the body to shake uncontrollably before suffocating to death. How fitting.
“What do you mean exactly?” I retort casually. I still haven't fully awoke yet, and even though I knew exactly what she meant, I needed the time to find an answer. And then, immediately I had one.
“I mean, do you ever think about, well, does the idea of ever, you know, getting caught cross your mind? Where do you see all of this ending, if you don't mind me asking?” She explains, sort-of, and seems like she has asked herself the question countless times and failed countless times at finding an answer.
“I never allow for the idea of being caught to creep into my head or accept it as a possibility. I don't see this ever ending, either. Don't see these feelings going away. Don't think the motive will ever cease to exist. But I've covered my tracks well and if they ever manage to glue enough pieces to connect me to any of the murders that I've committed then they'd deserve my head on a silver platter,” I grumble seriously.
“Making out with a stranger, next to a severed head proves that,” Belladonna retorts.
After seconds of my eyes looking around her room, they bring themselves back to her, and I find myself taken by her words. Her acknowledgment to a mistake I do not wish to take responsibility for.
“I make exceptions,” a waving motion followed, meant to symbolize me brushing off the whole thing, “Besides, we didn't leave even the littlest follicle of evidence near the body,” I respond, wondering whether I am trying to convince myself or her. Part of me knows I am coming across defensive, but am so out of my element that I can't find the strength to change it.
“I don't doubt your ability to destroy evidence,” She says with a slight grin. “You said earlier there was a motive to what you do, out of curiosity, what is it?”
“I was sad about my parents being murdered by some thug as we were coming home from a movie, so my butler knitted me a costume and one thing sort-of went to another.”
“I'm serious,” Belladonna reciprocates, now with more sternness in her voice.
“I don't know.” I reply. “I don't know why I do what I do.” My eyes wander off to her bed sheets. Everything is so nice and wonderful about her room. “I can't provide any real reason for it, nor am I sure I can even try to justify it anymore. I just don't know. I do know that I have either done what I did or thought about doing it for as long as I can remember, but it has gotten worse. It is still getting worse.” My voice trembled. “I wish I could say that I have begun and will bid farewell with what I am, but I've always been this way. I've always been what I am. It feels almost as if I am dependent on this, what I do, and without it I'll cease to exist.” My words make me feel uncomfortable, my throat becomes dry, and I realize that it's because I forgot to stop and breathe between words.
I stare into the eyes of Belladonna, she isn't judgmental or anything of the sort, she seems to understand.
“Ever since I was a child, I felt this curtain, this brick-wall that looks over me,” I stop, searching for the words to explain, the words I feel like I've said a million times, but never once said them right. “Before an alcoholic can become an alcoholic, they must first consume alcohol for the addiction to overcome their better judgment, right? I mean, that makes sense. You can't be an alcoholic if you've never sipped it. But, they say you can be born with the gene, and it can cause you to feel withdraw or desire for something. Something unbeknownst to yourself. The addiction is there without ever happening, the begin begins without a beginning, and after time, you give in and you take your first drink. That's how I feel. And at least that's what they say in the books, so that's how I explain it. But, honestly, taking a drink didn't help me. It made me more frustrated, I didn't know what I was supposed to be addicted to, but I just knew that I was.” I fidgeted with my hair without much thought about it. “I was useless to its power. I was angry, and I made my first kill in-response, and the feeling afterward. That was truly intoxicating. It had a beauty that I couldn't even fully appreciate afterward. It made me feel alive and made life feel like it was worth experiencing.”
I stop once again, looking for her response, expecting something. For her to be disturbed or frightened. But nothing happens. I don't know why I'm surprised. She did just recently decapitate someone.
“Then,” I begin with hesitance, “there are the people,” I continue on; comfortable. “They didn't bother me as much before but it's now as if I can't function around them. The paranoia I am going to say the wrong thing is something I can't stomach. This changes when I'm the one in control, because they know that if they say the wrong things their lives are the ones that will end.”
“Sometimes I feel like I am going crazy, other times, I think I already am.” I end, looking down at the floor and away from Belladonna once more. I can feel myself shaking, and I faintly wonder whether or not Belladonna can tell.
I glance up at Belladonna before redirecting my eyes away from her. I bring my hands to my face and stroll my fingers through my hair. I have always found enjoyment from spilling the guts of my prey in the past, but this time, ...
“You don't have to be alone. I'm here and I'm not going anywhere.” Belladonna replies with a sincerity in her voice. She looks at me with a sensitivity that couldn't simply pretend to exist. Her genuine friendliness isn't a disguise. I provide her with no reaction, but I can see she knows what her words mean to me. I continue to stare away from her, as always, directionless. Belladonna leans forward and kisses me on the cheek, a smile and warmth.
“Why do you do this?” I ask, now looking back up at her with thoughtfulness in my expression.
The smile on Belladonna remains existent, but now, it seems forced. She sighs softly to herself before beginning. “I hate to tell the generic story. The one everybody tells when they do something wrong. I hate to tell it, but that's exactly what I feel like. I've always felt like an outcast,” her voice is sweet as she speaks. In the same way mine seems robotic, hers seems careless and free, “Times when I wondered, 'hey, why is everything so easy for them?'. I felt like everybody else had this ambition, you know, something they wanted to do. To be. To stand for. But all I ever really wanted,”
“Was to feel accepted and to feel loved. To belong.” I finish for her, understanding exactly what she has been going through.
“I remember there was this one girl, Sydney Williams. She always used to fuck with me.” A nervous laugh came next, but Belladonna regained herself. “It started off as teasing, and maybe for the most part, it was always that way, but it stressed the hell out of me and evolved to something more. After a year, she finally went as far as driving to my house and screaming my name. She was drunk. She was always drunk. I went out to see what was going on, she shoved me, and I think that is when the switch finally flipped,” she says before taking a breather and concluding, “I killed her. I tackled her to the ground, I muffled her screams and I killed her. As I look back, I wish I could have taken back what I had done, but I'd be lying if I said that it didn't feel good. That is when my, uh, my addiction began, and I began to become more and more like this.”
“How have you gotten past it?”
“I started drinking for a while and I think I liked that too. And then, I heard about you. I began to realize the thrill that killing Sydney Williams had given me was something I couldn't live without. I decided my killing would continue, but I couldn't let myself become entirely too dependent, I couldn't let myself become a monster. So, I decided to refuse to let it take control, and I refuse to take the life of an innocent.”
“Who was the man that you beheaded?”
“The man's name was Eric Jones.”
“Why does that name sound so familiar?”
“You've probably seen him on the news in the last couple months. He murdered his ex-girlfriend's daughter and buried her in the backyard of her house. They found her throat cut, and she had been ... raped beforehand. Even with the evidence that pointed in his direction, the judge found him innocent. I did a little bit of detective work of my own which included breaking into his house and finding items that confirmed his guilt.” A pause. And after that, I saw something else radiate in her. Something powerful. What was it? “Those are the individuals that humanize what we do, those are the people that not only make what we do okay, but make it the right thing to do,” she says, showing passion with every word that left her mouth.
There is something beneath the passion though, something I don't think I've ever really shown.
She has pride in what she is doing and who she is. I've never had that. She has found a way to really justify what she does, and not only that, she believes it. I can't fathom anything to do aside from nod with absentmindedness. Nothing restrains me from becoming lost in my thoughts. This is the beginning of something.
There was a difference between Belladonna and Cepheus. Besides the obvious.
Belladonna is here.
Cepheus wants to have a game on his terms, but Belladonna is willing to play as equals.
“We should kill something!” Belladonna exclaims with a sadistic smirk on her face, “Poison.”
Apparently, there is, in-fact, something that can restrain me from becoming lost in my thoughts, and Belladonna is the keeper of it.
“Right now? It's barely noon,” I respond skeptically, shrugging off her referring to me by that name.
“Well, aren't you a stick in the sand. Fine, we don't have to actually kill anything, but we can at least find someone to kill, right?”
“We're going to be killing together?” I ask.
She blushes. “I'm sorry, is that weird? I thought it would be something interesting to try. Is that alright?”
“Of course,” I lie.
There are two sides to every coin, and what people are isn't always what they appear to be. Belladonna has had the opportunity to see the side of me that has been hidden forever, but is that enough? She is able to not only look past what I am but relate to what I am, but this is different. The ending of lives is something sacred to me, something I take vast enjoyment in. Can I share that?
“How do you usually find your, uh, prey?” Belladonna asks, a little nervously.
“Well, uh, there isn't a written method, but I've made a habit out of waiting for the person to provide proof it deserves to die. If I am targeting them for a crime I think they got away with then breaking into their house and searching for proof is not put past me. I sometimes follow them too, and try to catch them in the act. I help select my prey in a couple of different ways, seeing their story on television, reading it in a paper, whatever I'm provided with at that moment.”
“Okay, so let's do it,” Belladonna exclaims with enthusiasm.
“The only thing to do now is find who we're targeting.” I return, albeit disingenuously.