We took a month without meeting up and assigned homework instead: everyone was supposed to choose a picture from their own Pinterest boards and write about it. Because we're all mature adults who are responsible about homework, only two of us followed through: Ronnie and Patrick. So hurrah for them! And enjoy their work from this month.
Ronnie's Musings: "Sounds of Silence"
The endless circles of a fan overhead.
The quiet hum of the refrigerator.
The ringing sound in my ear signaling something, but I’m unable to determine what.
The slow inhales and exhales of my own breath.
Even the silence isn’t silent.
There is a beat that slowly, almost imperceptibly, pounds on.
There! The leaves of the Monstera shift ever so slightly with the manufactured breeze and tap, tap, tap against the window blinds. There: a satisfied sigh from the pup at my side. Quiet snores.
In the absence of noise, other sounds emerge finally free to make themselves known.
A creak as gravity wages war against the furniture.
A bubble of carbonation irritably rising to the top of the sparkling water.
Each noise somehow loud in the quiet moments. But not abrasive.
Each noise in it’s noisiness somehow contributes to the peace.
And I wonder:
While we may be able to achieve peace, can we ever truly achieve quiet?
And if I do achieve quiet, will it truly be peaceful?
For wouldn’t the absence of sound also be the absence of life?
And so the tip tap of the neighbor’s dog’s paws in the next unit no longer seems a nuisance and the closet door opening on the opposite wall becomes, unexpectedly, a comfort.
Quiet can never be truly silent because silence is void and empty. As long as there is sound within the silence, there can be peace.
Patrick's Seven Deadly Sins Scene:
A storm was raging along the coast of New Haven. A solitary home made of dark brick and wrought iron stood near the edge of a cliff overlooking the city. The wind and rain were fierce that night, but it wasn't anything the tired, old walls of the Hawthorne estate hadn't endure before.
A tall figure walked across the garden toward the great oak doors that marked the entrance to the main home. It wove through hedges and shrubs unaided by any lantern or moonlight on that dark, overcast evening. Long hair and a heavy overcoat whipped wildly in the wind, but there was no other obvious indication that the character was otherwise affected by the overly oppressive weather.
Upon reaching the door, a pale hand reached from somewhere within a mass of weathered dark leather folds to knock, but the doors, seemingly aware of the intent, open on their own accord. Stepping quickly inside, the figure - a man in his mid to late thirties - looked up from under a wide-brimmed and unusually tall top hat to examine the front entrance. The hand that would have knocked slowly lifted and adjusted a thickly set, brass monocle. The device shifted and two cylinders, each set inside the other and slightly smaller than the previous, silently extended from the frame. A lifeless grin stretched the corners of his mouth.
He muttered bemusedly to himself, "Well then, isn't that something," and trailed off.
The man turned a full circle taking in every detail from the marble floor to the vaulted ceiling covered in baroque styled paintings of pseudo-religious and historical peoples and events.
"Who's this then?" the man mused giving another small adjustment to his eyepiece. "Equilateral arches. Rococo style columns. Ooh, and this...no. Gherman Dühran oil scenes!" A subtle shiver sloughed off a few lingering droplets from his edges of his coat. "Looks like old man Hawthorne has been getting along just fine without us." He reached up and gently patted the side of his hat.
Another minute or more of curious exploration led the man to the bottom of a grand staircase which twisted its way several stories above him. The handrail at the bottom was elaborately carved but was roughed up with claw marks along its entire length. The man bent over to more closely examine the abrasions. He reached out and delicately plucked a dark, coarse hair wedged between splinters in the damaged wood. The side of the man's nose twitched involuntarily in disgust at the texture between his fingers. He sniffed it gently but immediately let out a violent cough.
"Blood and oil," he sighed heavily. "I suppose they're all here then."
* * *
Five individuals sat or stood dispersed throughout the hallway just outside Fletcher Hawthorne's study. Two were sitting on a long, low bench leaning into each other; their heads drooping and bouncing up only just keeping from falling asleep. One was leaning against a wall staring aimlessly at a blank spot between two portraits on the opposite side while another paced back and forth in an agitated manner. The last was a hulking mass pressed back into a dark corner far away from the lone wall candelabra a good twenty paces away.
The impatient one, a fair, young man not yet in his twenties, stopped in front of a clock ticking monotonously on the wall and tried to catch his reflection in the glass face covering. He tugged at an immaculate fur collar adorning a rather ostentatious outfit of checkered, puffed sleeves, a cape bordered with striped edging, and topped with a riveted leather and brass headpiece much resembling goat horns.
"Wouldn't it be splendid if we could all show up on time?" He pulled at some strands of hair making sure they fell just right and were not coming loose from the tight braids pulled tightly across the side of his head.
One of the two characters on the brink of sleep, an ancient, wrinkled old hag of a woman with pointed ears and white, wiry hair cackled to herself. She sat up a little straighter and used the back of her wrist to rub the last bit of sleep clinging to the lidless, black pits where her eyes should have been. "Impatient?" Her question was simple, but clear.
The impatient one sneered derisively.
The other weary bench dweller was a young girl in her mid-teens wearing a black and red checkered top. She nuzzled her head against the hag's shoulder and muttered only half-awake, "He's just mad that he wasn't the last one here. He didn’t get his grand entrance."
"That is entirely untrue!" the impatient one rebutted. "We were all summoned here this evening, and it's discourteous to keep others waiting."
The staring one shifted uncomfortably. A guttural sound not unlike a dog's growl came from under a skeletal breathing apparatus strapped up against its lower face. Its platinum blonde hair was shaved close to the scalp all around the sides and back to avoid tangles with the straps. Leather belts encased almost its entire body from shoulders to knees which made its gender not immediately clear. The belts squeaked and stretched every time it moved.
"Oh, shut up. No one can understand what you're saying." The impatient one was craning his head to adjust the four silver hoop piercings in its left ear.
"I can." The old hag grinned slyly. "Says it makes sense. Says he hurt your..."
"Quiet, you fool!" The impatient one barged in with a shout.
The young girl jolted awake at the outburst and gave a disingenuous moan of pity. The giant in the corner finally stepped forward and took an offensive stance between the hag and the impudent youngster. It was covered head to foot in thick, matted hair that had the stench of a diesel engine mixed with human decay. Its face was covered in a rusted metal mask that stretched out like the beak of some giant, malevolent bird of prey. Valves and tubes erupted at random throughout its fur and let out an occasional hiss of steam or smoke as the beast moved. Two horns adorned the top of its head and would have kept it from traversing even the lofty halls of the estate if they weren't twisted back so as to be parallel to the ceiling. It stood twice the height of the impatient one and had easily twice the mass. It spoke in a deep rumble that could be heard and felt by all present. "Speak so again, and I will end you."
The impatient one tried best he could to maintain his air of superiority but took a step back out of a suddenly heightened sense of self preservation and nodded consent.
"Calm yourself." The voice of the hag came from somewhere behind the beast. "We have not survived from the death of the second son, you and I, to be bothered by one such as this." The beast stood a moment longer to ensure its point was made before returning to its shadowed corner. The impatient one, having nothing more to say – partially out of fear of being further demeaned – returned to his pacing.
* * *
The tall man meandered his way down the dimly lit hallway, his long, light brown hair trailing gently behind him. His eyes drifted wonderingly from one of the many lavishly framed pictures to the next as his hand, almost of its own accord, brushed the tops of high backed lounging chairs and overcrowded table stands. His fingers stopped at one such table and tugged at the rest of his body, trying to draw his attention to what they had discovered. He glanced down to find a pristine silver and ivory letter opener sitting rather obviously in the middle of the table. His eyes grew wide as they took in the intricate yet subtle carvings along the off-white handle and the meticulous engraving along the dulled blade in some forgotten far-eastern script. Something inside his hat twitched agitatedly.
"No, no. Hawthorne is a friend," the man tried to explain, or rather convince himself. Neither his eyes nor his fingers flinched but rather stayed fixated on the undeniably expensive and pocket-able trinket. "We are guests. It would be considered rude to..."
Again, his hat shifted into what must have been a rather uncomfortable position. The man winced slightly and glanced upward. He shook his head setting the hat back in place.
"Point taken," he conceded. "As if he would notice." He removed his hat gently turning it upside-down and placed it on a small open space on the table. He then silently slid the letter opener off the edge of the table and held it just above the hole of the hat as if roasting some newly caught game over a fire. A half-dozen or so wispy, bone-white hands drifted up from somewhere within the hat and clutched eagerly at the edges of the ivory handle. The man tugged at it playfully teasing the spectral limbs before finally releasing it with a warm, paternal chuckle.
"You've waited patiently enough, I suppose," he mused as the hands and the opener disappeared into the darkness of the hat.
With the satisfaction of having just scratched a persistent ich, the tall man continued down the hall whistling a tune he himself didn’t recognize. Progressing a few paces further and around a corner, he caught sight of a handful of figures huddled around a poorly lit doorway. One of them had been pacing but stopped abruptly at his appearance.
“Well, it’s about time,” the young man whined impatiently.
“Ah, Superbia,” the tall man bent low and tilted his hat, “I wish I could say it was a pleasure, but…”
“Oh, stop it. Just don’t. I told you I hate it when you use our Latin names. You sound so…pretentious.”
“Ah, I suppose that would be taking your role, wouldn’t it?” He reached down and patted the impatient one’s cheek once before being swatted away. “Jealous much? I would know.” He knelt down so the two were eye to eye. “Now who’s taking whose role?” The tall man’s eyes grew wide as a crooked smile broke across his face.
The door burst open suddenly to reveal a slender, pale individual with a straight jaw and soft features.
“Inside,” it commanded in a wispy monotone. It withdrew into the room beyond without waiting for a response. The others followed silently one by one. The tall one eyed the impatient one and gestured with a flamboyant flick of the wrist toward the door. The second consented as the first watched, the excited expression finally beginning to fade.
The group filed through the door into an oversized study full of dark wood, oiled leather, and dust. Inky shadows stretched away from the only window on the far side of the room. At the center, framed by the opened window, was a massive mahogany executive desk. Behind it sat a decrepit old man in a wheelchair entangled in a web of medical tubes and wires connecting him to various fluids and monitors. He wheezed a feeble moan and leaned as if magnetically drawn toward the androgynous one as it took its position beside him.
“We have the location of the tetragrammaton,” it spoke flatly.
The young girl paused mid-yawn, now fully at attention. The others stared in stunned silence.
A dark rasp rattled through the mask of the leather clad one, one eyebrow raised inquisitively.
“Samael’s report is here.” Long fingers slid a manila folder across the surface of the desk toward the others. The young, masked man leather opened it and began scanning through the loose paper inside. “We don’t have much time. We need to move first thing in the morning. Have your things ready.”
The androgynous one wove through the others toward the door as they tried to process the information.
The tall man tapped the androgynous one as it passed. “What do we do with old Hawthorne here? I don’t suppose he’ll make it long on his own.”
“We don’t need him anymore,” it responded without turning or stopping.
The hag took hold of the girl’s hand and led her to the door past the others as the large beast took a step forward. It let out a low rumble as trudged across the room.
“Understood.” A steam hissed from between pieces of the creature’s mechanical components as a clawed, metal hand encompassed the old man’s entire head. With a dull crunch, the man’s body went limp in the monster’s grasp.
The impatient one grimaced and followed out the door back into the dark hallway behind the hag and girl. The leather-clad one turned slowly, automatically, its eyes still taking in the report. The tall one waited for the beast to lumber past before reaching out and palming the nearest pocket-sized object off the desk and followed.