The Silver Web page 46 & 47

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The Silver Web page 46 & 47

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"A Lesser Michaelangelo" fiction by T. Jackson King

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scored for violin, viola, oboe, flute, clarinet, trumpet, horn, kettledrum, cymbals and harpsichord, each in their orchestral arrangement measured, each perfec­ tion in themselves, but when joined together they form a symphony whose majesty is so ethereal, so visceral, so true, that all who hear her music feel she is lightning come to earth. Here to visit mortal man for but a mo­ ment, a presence like unto the moment between the in­ tent to blow out the flame, and the action taken which extinguishes it. In such brief moments lies music that breaks through all inhibitions, that flies to the heart of existence, that echoes against the inner bell so deftly that none who hear it can deny the power of her vision. Her gift is much akin to my own, to the words that, rarely, move the figure frozen in the stone. Like me, she knows it for the curse it is.
"Why do you still love me ... Michael?" she says
delicately, softly, holding a moment before she bends down to my ankles.
"I don't know. Some men would hate you."
She shakes her head, long brown tresses flying wildly, much the way her hips move when she is joined to me and we soar together on passion unbound. "Un­ truth! Speak the truth, Michael. Or ... should I write for you?"
I howl. I howl like the wolf in the mountain pass howls when the moon rises, pale and yellow and full of harvest intended. A harvest of blood and pain and agony and ecstasy indescribable. Almost, I kick at her.
She looks down at my waist, then my woolen breeches, then my booted feet. "That's for thinking you could compose for me." She squats down quickly, the ivory dress spreading its folds across the gray stone floor like milk spilled atop pond ice, something so sud­ denly white and pallid and solid that it shocks the senses. My ankles feel cold metal cuffs shut tight around them, then the clank of the chain as she takes up the slack. Standing, she steps back and inspects me, long slim fingers balled into fists that rest on her narrow hips, her look that of a conductor checking to be sure the podium is placed just right, just so, in the place neces­ sitated for control of the entire orchestra. The fact that I am now bound before her, arms lifted skyward and shoulders already aching with the pulling down weight as the ceiling stretches muscle fibers, while the stone floor anchors my spread apart feet, ensuring I am the compliant fly in the middle of her web, touches her not. This is, after all, her composition. My turn comes later.
"I love you for how you look now, Eppie. That is
why I still love you."

She looks startled, eyes going wide as my words echo against her inner bell. Her pale rose lips open mutely, almost speaking, her surprise that of a new­ born sparrow upon first feeling the warmth of her mother. "Michael." She licks her lips. I almost deflected it, her focus. She smiles wryly. "You will not make me angry."
"Then get on with it."
She steps forward, her demeanor businesslike as she unbuttons my shirt, rips open the weak seam from armpit to hip, then throws the much-used linen into the dark shadows of her chamber. My breeches come down, the slits along the outer edge peeling open-as designed. We wear special clothes, she and I. Our hunger de­ mands it. Finally, I shiver in the stone coldness, un­ clothed except for a linen loincloth that can, oh so eas­ ily, be removed without tearing anything. She steps back now, breathing hard and fast and flushed again, her pale ivory skin turned now a dark rouge in the shad­ owed night of her chamber of musical composition. Catching my eyes, she reaches behind her. Reaches to the table lying beside her orchestral scores. Reaches for the implements that lie there. She notices my invol­ untary shudder.
"Heat or cold first, my dear?" "Cold."
She blinks, then moves her hand swiftly. The cup of ice water splashes against my face. It is shocking. It is invigorating. Inside me, the stone-bound figure stirs. Outside me, she moves as a daemon unbound, as light­ ning come to earth, as the spirit of Athena fresh sprung from the brow of Zeus. Flame cries out.
The wood ember lands on my shoulder, searing the flesh.
"Sing for me, my dear Michael."
I howl.
Next comes the touch of ice gathered from the win­ try slope outside our castle. It burns. Did you know that ice burns?
The stone bowl of ruby red embers from the great hall's fireplace is uncovered next. The tongs she uses are pewter gray, exquisitely wrought, and they do not blemish from the touch of heat. Unlike human skin.
"Once more," she whispers. I sing for her.
My cries are what she needs, you know. The ex­ otic, the uncountable ways in which a throat screams out its pain, its horror, its astonishment that pain so familiar can feel so strangely new once more. Why, that scream is music to her ears.
From it she distills her notes, which she scores to


the appropriate instruments.
The cat-of-nine tails offers the perfect assemblage for harpsichord. The touch of fresh broken glass em­ bodies violin's perfection. The squeezing tonsure of knuckle-breakers bespeak the kettledrums. And so on.
The night ages.
Just before the false dawn, the one I cannot see from my tower window that is always blocked by a heavy black satin cloth, my throat grows hoarse. Too hoarse to offer up new arpeggios. New trills. Novel confabulations of grunts, groans and shrieks. Just as the human mind is a stygian grotto filled with a Cretan labyrinth endless and close-twining upon itself, just so the human throat is a wondrous instrument capable of near endless variations upon a theme, a pure note, a roaring waterfall of crescendo, tremolo, forte and move­ ment molte allegro. And the stone of her apsidiole chamber makes a perfect resonator, a domed audito­ rium in which her swift logos may flit like a morning dove unbound, unhinged, and lightning quick.
I call to her when she stops writing down the notes, her ivory-gowned back to me, her chestnut curls un­ loosed, her shoulders hunched forward with the force of her intent focus, the power of her vision long upon her.
"Ephigene?"
In the guttering tallow light, as pale yellow mixes with the brightening blue of false dawn seeping in through a high clerestory window, her back stiffens. She sighs. "Yes, Michael?"
"Is it done?"
She turns to look at me, her opal eyes luminous, her slim neck perfect in its arc. Her throat moves gen­ tly as she swallows. "The fourth movement? Yes, it's done." She blinks, gaze sober as the darkness lightens, her pale face wan and drawn and showing the drain of the energy that flowed into her pen and took form as notes incarnate. "Should I release you now?"
"Please."
She catches me as I fall to the floor, naked , blood­ streaked, crusty-skinned, and full of pain dulled. The edge is long gone. The intensity is distant. Only the memory is sharp as a razor. She kisses my neck, tongue licking up the sweat, the salt and the sodden blood where the whip edge caught my neck, just below my left ear. "Forgive me?" she whispers softly, so softly. Almost as softly as when she first said she loved me, that night we took each other in a cloakroom just off the Palladium's foyer.
"Forgiveness is for peasants."
Her tears wet my cheeks. "I know. Of course. Your


wish?"
I struggle to stand. "Help me upstairs. To my room. I must write."
She braces me, her arms strong under my armpits, her chin resting on my bare shoulder. "No bath first? No linaments? No ... wrappings?"
Often, days must pass after one of my visits to her chamber, days spent somnolently as flesh heals and knits itself back together. But tonight . .. tonight I feel elevated above the exhaustion. Above the pain. And beyond the weakness of flesh. Tonight I feel like stone.
"No. Take me upstairs. Now."
We have an understanding, we two. We do not ar­ gue. We understand each other in ways that few people understand one another, let alone those whom the world calls married dare understand another. The Church would call us unholy, demon-possessed, and an abomi­ nation, if the Church suspected what we do in our castle hidden away in the Alps, far from the petty maunderings of princes, kings, queens, ministers of war, and scions of commerce. But my publisher visits me not, and her concertmaster is quite willing to present her work ex cathedra, moved to false tears by her public absence.
Inside my beehive room, still half-supporting me
with one arm, she puts down the pewter candleholder, its taper nearly gone, on my wooden writing table. It teeters just beside my leather-bound writing journal. Turning to me, she sets me down in my chair, runs to my rumpled cot to fetch a blanket, and returns with it, laying it atop my scarred and red-welted skin delicately, gently, lovingly. Then she sits on the stool at my side, folds her hands in her lap, and waits. Waits with eyes wide and expectant, her ivory dress dust-streaked and wrinkled a bit. Her eyes fix on me. In the guttering yellow flame of a near dead taper, eyes can seem al­ most luminous. As if they glow from a flame within.
"Light a new candle, Eppie."
Her indrawn breath is quick and doe lively. "Yes Michael." A bright yellow nova flares, revealing spi­ dery age lines about her eyes, showing clearly the five years she leads me in the thing mortals call time.
I look to the window, checking to be sure the black
satin curtain is tight-fitted against the stone casement, shutting out all sunlight, all natural light, anything that would interfere with my . . . writing. All secure. I turn back to face her. To face my wife. My love. My light­ nmg.
"Remove your clothes."
She does so, matching my own state of undress.
Then she sits again on the hard wooden stool close by

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