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Twelve Past Entropy
12 Hours in Three Parts

Part One
The End of the Hunt

copyright 2001, by Nyx Fixx

Disclaimer:    The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling were created by Thomas Harris.  They are used herein without permission, but in the spirit of admiration and respect.  No infringement of copyright is intended, and no profit, of any kind, is made by the creator, maintainer or contributors to this site.

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Twelve Past Entropy
12 Hours in Three Parts

Part One
The End of the Hunt

Part Two
Another Step Through the Looking Glass
1 of 3 | 2 of 3 | 3 of 3

Part Three
Orion's Belt
1 of 2 | 2 of 2


Part One

Early Morning

Clarice Starling was sitting on the porch of a rented house on the Chesapeake, looking out over the bay and considering her options. The morning was beautiful, all the air soft and crisp at the same time, the sun bright and warm. She was irritated and restless, and unhappy with herself for harboring such emotions.

Time had been passing, slowly, slowly, and she had been flitting aimlessly around this dark old house outside of time for what seemed an age. There were decisions to be made here, questions that would have to be answered.  And all possible answers seemed as though they must turn out to be bad news, the worst news.

What was she doing here? That was an important question, wasn't it? One that she assiduously avoided, the same way one might tiptoe around the white elephant in the room that no one was supposed to notice.

I'm a prisoner. He intends to kill me

Uh-huh. Now there was a chicken-hearted answer. Strange how the thought of being his enemy seemed more comfortable than any of the alternatives. But it was nonsense, she could not realistically entertain it. Whatever Dr. Lecter's intentions were, she was somehow aware, with total clarity, that they did not now include murder. At some point during the dreamlike unfolding of last night's party, his course, whatever it may have been, had changed. She was armed with a .45 and a set of car keys, and the master of the house had been invisible all morning. What more did a girl need?

She'd been sitting out here, nursing what felt like a massive hangover, for over an hour. That was one thing she was doing. But she was clear, oh, yes, no lingering fog in the old noodle today. If only there were.

Here was something else she was doing: cringing inwardly as she remembered the previous nights' events. It was like the way you felt the morning after a wild party where you'd gotten hammered and done things you could hardly recognize as your own actions.

The Mad Hatter and his tea party. So glad you could join us, Alice. Just hand me that autopsy saw, would you? This won't take a minute.

Um-hmm. Murdering and eating your boss wasn't exactly like wearing a lampshade and singing "Wild Thing" at the top of your lungs, was it? It wasn't a matter of having embarrassed herself. It was more like totally obliterating whatever identity she'd imagined she had.

Which left her, in the final analysis, with nothing. Except some painfully clear memories and an ugly sense of absolute glee over certain actions that, as everyone in the entire world knew, were unspeakable.

She couldn't think of last night's dinner without a loathsome impulse to laugh and laugh and laugh.

She couldn't think of dessert and coffee afterward without an equally loathsome impulse to fly into the house and find the Goblin King who was lurking, she knew, just inside. She'd find him and part that cloak of shadows he'd woven around himself and take what she wanted, take everything she wanted, over and over and over. But what was it that she wanted? Perhaps that was better left unanswered too.

But I was drugged. I'm not responsible

How exquisitely polite he was, to have left her such an out. It was like deliberately playing a bit below your game for the comfort of a lesser opponent. How sweet! And how derisive. Every little thing he did had an edge to it, didn't it? Every caress could also sting. She could go home and believe she'd been victimized for the rest of her life, if she wanted. If she could stomach adding self-delusion to her growing list of crimes.

Home? Where's that? Are you drugged now, Missy?

Who's voice was that? She'd been hearing too many unrecognizable voices, lately.

Who said that? Who are you?

"I don't know," she answered aloud.

A step behind her, uncharacteristically audible. He ordinarily crept around his house like a cat, silent and quick. Another courteous gesture, then.

"Good morning, Clarice. How lovely to find you here. I notice you skipped breakfast. Are you sure that's wise?"

She didn't turn around. It was hard to know why.

After a time, he folded himself up and took a seat on the porch steps beside her. Along came a spider. A mannerly two-and-a-half foot empty space between them.  She took herself in hand and found the steel to look at him. He was gazing out at the light on the water.

"What a pretty day. I'll be sorry to leave this place."

Ah, it was time to talk about the future. That would be hard, but maybe not quite so difficult as talking about the past.

"When will that be?" she finally asked. He'd never leave her alone until she did.

"It all depends. Soon, I think. What are your plans, Clarice?"

"You tell me," she fired back, a barbed dart that, she saw, did sting.

"Poor little Starling. Lost in the wood, having strayed so far from the path. You can go home, you know. That's what I'd like to talk about today."

"Home. Sure. I'll be taking some fancy new baggage with me, won't I?"

"And leaving some behind. You'll find, Clarice, that it's much easier to live with even the most outlandish things than you think it is. It's a bit frightening what extremes we can process within ourselves, how little they truly trouble us in the end. The nice, orderly world you imagine would never take you back will welcome you. I've seen it happen."

"There are consensus standards. You spent eight years locked in a display case because of them."

"Touché. Nevertheless, it's still all largely illusion. You know that. Think on the things you've seen."

She did. He was right. Doors would open for her. But did she want to return to the cramped rooms beyond them?

"I'll help," he said. "If that's what you want. Krendler will be credited to my slate, not yours. You'll become a rare survivor. I have some light anesthetics inside. I can give a you a few superficial marks and send you back as an escapee. You could be a media darling. Publishers will throw money at your feet, producers will beg you to appear on television shows; you'd never have to worry about making a living again," he waved a casual hand in the air. "I'll write some nasty letters. We can start today, if you like."

"And I'll never be able to tell the truth, is that right? Not without incriminating myself? Spend the rest of my life lying for a living?"

"Agent Starling, you are a danger to me.  I'm doing the best I can."

"You think I'll go back," she remarked, surprised at the accusing edge in her voice. "To the FBI."

He sighed, tired and frustrated. Then he caught her gaze and bored in as he spoke.

"If I thought I could stop you from rejoining the FBI by begging, believe me, I would. Wherever you go, I'd ask, please, please, be sure it's not there. I dread the prospect of knowing you're there, say, five years from now. Though I don't honestly think you could survive that long. Don't you realize that they were trying to kill you? Whether they knew it or not is immaterial. And debatable, in my opinion, at least. Do you really think it will all stop, now that Krendler is gone? That no one new will come to take his place?"

"Nobody was trying to kill me," she argued stubbornly. There was  a vague shape of such monstrous malice here she that she could not bear to look at it.

"Consult your memory, please. Refresh your recollection of my case file. You can, you know it very well, don't you? You remember the details, the crime scenes, the atrocity, do you not? Who am I? And who abandoned you to me, Clarice?"

It was all true. A sudden flash of such vengeful rage whipped through her that she was tempted to go find Paul Krendler wherever he'd been hidden and drag his dead carcass out into the sun and kill him again.

But Krendler had not been an isolated phenomenon, had he? He hadn't set her out as live bait for the Bogeyman all by himself, had he? Hadn't put her in Dr. Lecter's hands without some necessary compliance up and down the line. She'd been there, she knew how things worked. Was anyone out there now, desperately scouring the earth to find her, hoping beyond hope to rescue her from a nightmare fate? Nope, not likely. She would be officially listed as missing, unofficially presumed dead. One more Lecter victim. Too bad, so sad, good fucking riddance.

"Goddamn," she barked aloud. "What did I ever do to earn such ill-will? Why in hell would anyone hate me that much?"

"I have some theories, Clarice, but that's something we can discuss another time. If there is another time."

An uneasy joint silence fell between them. He had the bad habit of never modifying the truth. In some ways, he lacked even the most rudimentary social skills. Or disdained them, more likely.

"I've been an inattentive host," he added, with an ugly smile. "I've done you the grave disservice of failing to kill you according to plan. Perhaps you'll accept my apologies."

Oh, his little jokes could cut. But they often drew his blood too, she'd learned.

There was an option here somewhere, a faint outline of a possible path she might take, perhaps an invitation, suggested ever so obliquely in her thoughts on his remarks, not in the remarks themselves. She was presumed dead. She could always stay that way. She could stay. She could stay.

Did she want to? Stay and do what? How did he see her? As a human falcon he could train to perch on his arm?

"You haven't said what you want," she reminded him. "Why don't you take a turn on the dissecting table, Dr. Lecter. What are your plans?"

He hated to be examined in such a way, she knew. She felt giddy with the risk; he'd killed people for less.

No answer.

"Dr. Lecter? What do you want? Will you follow me if I go? Will you haunt me like a ghost? What do you want?"

Finally, a cold hard voice: "I might take an interest in your affairs from time to time. If I saw a pitfall in your path I thought you'd overlook, I might eliminate it. Problem people might sometimes disappear, but you'd never know why. You'd never know if it was me.  You'd never see my face or hear my voice again. Are you satisfied?"

There was a clear warning in his tone. She'd engaged his anger; there were some boundaries he would never relinquish easily. But she needed answers, even if she had to fight him to secure them.

"You aren't answering my questions.  I need to know where I am. What do you want?"

"I'm not making any more decisions for you, Clarice. Not one more," he stopped and turned to her, letting her see the vicious intent in his eyes before he voiced it. Using the same derisive cornball accent he'd pierced her with on other occasions.

"Stop playing games with me and axe yourself.  Ah aint your Daddy.  Ah jest aint the type."

It still sliced and diced, all right, no doubt about that. But she'd heard this voice before, she'd developed some immunity.  Nice try, pal. An incongruous thought struck her and she surprised them both with a sudden peal of laughter.

"Tell you what - you sound like Foghorn Leghorn when you do that, you know it? It's the worst dang accent I ever heard, hoss." 

He stared at her, comically shocked. For a moment he teetered on the edge of some cutting rejoinder, then gave it up. It was no use trying to think of acid things to say; he was laughing too hard.

"Oh -  oh, ah -  really, I had no idea! You should have mentioned it to me sooner, I'd have worked a little harder on perfecting it."  He went on laughing; he seemed to relish it. She supposed such moments were a rarity with him.  But she could wait.

"Ah, Clarice," he finally said,  the lunar cold in his voice completely thawed, as though it had never been there. "You really are good for me. I need . . . pruning, from time to time, like an unruly hedge. Cutting back. What do I want, was that the question? Let me ask you this. What makes you think I ever really know?"

"Well, you want the world to reorder itself to reflect your subjective aesthetic, you want the laws of space and time to turn inside out, and you want your sister back. That's what I know so far. Don't you have any quests that aren't doomed?"

"I really don't think so. But then, I'm insane. Ask anyone."

"The recognized authorities can't even agree on that," she sighed. "Please. You're making me tired. I can't dance with you, I'm not quick enough to keep up. Tell me what you want. Tell me what you don't want. Tell me something, anyway."

"The capital of Bolivia is Bogotá. Principal exports - "

"Stop! Just stop. God Almighty, have you ever thought of just irritating people to death?"

"Certainly," he answered promptly. "A mutual acquaintance of ours, in fact, met his end in just such a way. Oh, I made a suggestion or two, but in the end, it was just that he couldn't stand listening to me anymore. Don't tell me you don't remember, Clarice. You'll hurt my feelings."

Oh, the fine art of biting without biting.  I ought to just shoot him, she thought. Do us both a favor. 

He'd been watching her intently, making sure his latest barb had hit its mark. Apparently he must have caught the hardening of her face as she'd entertained a moment of murder, because he'd started laughing at her again  Objective accomplished! What a scream.

Fine. She hunched down into a self protective little ball, and turned her head toward the east, a direction that was directly opposite to his position. What she didn't want to think about was how much fun all this was, in its way. This verbal fencing, this easy rhythm they could fall into together, this had been their way from the first. Her ability to spot the absurd in the monstrous had grown like a fungus since she'd been a guest at this house.

"You really are, you know," he remarked, softly. "Quick enough to keep up."

Don't say that. I'm so afraid it's true . 

She struck back, the ever ready malign alchemy in the human soul converting her fear to anger, the better to envenom her tongue.

"MMM. What a nice compliment. Thanks a million. Maybe you can show me how to fetch a little later."

A frozen silence blew in from the west.

"Is that what you've been thinking?" he finally demanded, no cruel play animating his voice now. "That I see you as a . . . what? As a pet?"

She raised her head and leveled her gaze at him. No compromise. Fire at will.

"Why not? I'm clean and well trained and dogs probably don't like you."

He stared at her for a full minute,  anger and more than anger coalescing in his face and eyes like a silent explosion,  red sparks beginning to fly, a faint trembling throughout the compact body like a malignant electrical current.

This is the face I don't want to remember , she thought, terror and a terrible black enchantment mingling in her heart in equal measure. This was the hellish vision that had been the last thing others she knew of had ever seen.

Then he was on her, a series of moves too fast and too complex to follow, hands gripping, fearfully apt fingers digging into her flesh, terrifying strength, the lethal mouth so close, too close, to her ear, whispering, hissing, cold and hot, lips moving against her unprotected skin, pressure of the teeth behind them, shaking her, shaking, shaken, a burst of fear through her so keen that it was like an orgasm - -what was he saying, what --

"Do you know what will happen to you if you don't leave? While you can?" the insinuating, metallic voice, intrusive and urgent, all the world reduced to this moment, this voice.

"Clarice? Do you? It'd cost you everything, every single thing you've ever valued or known, all your choices gone, every road closed but one, all your past life lost, irretrievable. You're presumed dead now: you'd have to tend that illusion for the rest of your life, change your hair, change your face, cease to exist as yourself, and still, one day, perhaps one day soon, you'd be seen, you'd be identified. With me."

He was shaking her again, as a savage teacher might shake a maddeningly thick student. Rocking her back and forth and hissing, hissing like a serpent in her ear.

"I'm a 'monster', Clarice, I'm notorious, people whisper about me and the things I've done;  people positively gloat on my story,  they shake their empty sheep's heads in counterfeit horror and secretly slaver over the blood I've spilled. Haven't you seen it? Think of your fellows in the FBI.  The questions? The rumors? The thrill ? I've skated on it for years, trust me."

Biting on her earlobe, because, perhaps, it was there, a light touch, not painful, not yet, then releasing the morsel of flesh to whisper some more, more poison pouring into her ear, ah, GOD, that had felt so good -

"But you, Clarice - what would the world say of you? Would that 'consensus standards' world of love and light you've spoken of ever forgive you for wanting me? Never in a thousand years. You'd be the Devil's Whore. Can you imagine the insults, the vile jokes, the clever little nicknames? Can you? Your superiors in the FBI despised you to begin with, without any real provocation at all. Think what abuse would be heaped on you if there was a reason. The vilification would never stop, not ever. Your name would continue to be blackened long after you were dead and gone. We know what I am. What does that make you?"

Tears spilled from her eyes, this hurt, this was pain, so true she couldn't bear it, couldn't stand it, but she didn't flinch, would not look away. No.

His mouth left her ear for a moment and he darted the pointed tip of his tongue to her cheek and captured a tear, swallowing the tiny drop of her essence with a frank shudder of pleasure. Then, the hungry voice in her ear again - ah -

"Stop asking me what I want," he murmured, voice gentler now, the worst over perhaps, or perhaps yet to come. His grip on her had loosened, she could move away now if she wanted, his hands moving and seeking on her body, the implacable voice interrupting itself to kiss - ah - now the hollow of her temple, now the pulse in her throat, now the juncture of her jaw and neck, each spot a kill zone, none chosen at random.

"Stop now, Clarice. If you don't stop asking . . . I'll tell you." 

A immense internal clarion sounded within her, seldom heard before, harsh and piercing as the peal of a brazen trumpet:


On and on. But this voice, this relentless voice within, she recognized.

It was hers.

Ah, love was a blade. Only a fool would deny it. Love would cut you to ribbons.

So. Here it was. Now she, like Will Graham before her, had unwittingly found the way to capture Hannibal Lecter. He was prepared to surrender. He would put his fiend's spotted heart in her custody. But he would warn her in advance, because he was a prisoner she could never take without incurring a most terrible price, and he knew it. A bit of mercy that was rare and wonderful, for him. Graham had come to grief. She could choose not to.

What a stunning achievement to add to her law enforcement resume. How ever did you catch him, Agent Starling? Why, thank you for asking, it's simple, really. All you have to do is shed your heart's blood. All you have to do is pay and pay and pay and pay.

Simple, really, yes. The trick was . . . once you had him, what would you do with him? It was like capturing a unicorn or a griffin, some fearful mythical beast it was not safe to detain.

This is no myth. This is real. Be sure of that

He'd released her, taken his hands off her and eased back, only a touch, softening the threat of proximity just enough to let her think straight. But his eyes were close upon her, the color of ancient blood. The deep red gaze had not retreated by a micron, and she was caught in it. Yes or no. Go or stay.  Decide.

It was as though there had never been a time when he hadn't known her, as though they'd been here on this sunstruck porch together since the beginning of the world . She could not remember when she had ever been regarded as intently. Observed as closely. Seen as clearly.  

Recognized.  Recognition. I know you. I've always known you

Clarice Starling, who had once been accurately characterized as a deep roller, put caution aside and cast her net. Madness. She swiftly closed the fragile remaining gap between them and sought her quarry. One kiss. That would be all that was needed to complete the hunt.

Had such a thing ever happened to him before? With a knowing partner?  She could feel the last shreds of resistance in him, the adamantine will to freedom, in the minute stiffening of his body caught in her hands, the momentary hardening of his lips pinned beneath hers, a trace of frigid coldness, there and gone too quickly, almost, to be distinguished -  ah - now -  there, ah, GOD, - now she had him, melting at last into her, hungrily invading the warm space inside her with the pointed tongue, far too besotted with desire to ever refuse such an unhoped-for invitation, however disastrous, whatever the cost, as ferocious in passion as he was in everything else. Devouring and devoured.

Mine. You're mine. God help us both

One kiss. Irrevocable.

No calamity that had ever befallen her had ever been so wrenchingly sweet.

The wickedly strong arms around her then,  hands on her again,  pressing her closer, closer than, it seemed, could be naturally possible, as though the flesh of his body had the supernatural ability to swarm over her like a tide. She could feel the beat of his heart against her, fluttering now in a crazed rhythm, a heart that, up until now, had rarely deviated from its slow, unvarying and relentless pace. Lips at her ear again, a voice in her head, her heart, everywhere -


"Stay, then. Stay. Never leave. I want you with me. Always. That's what I want."

"Yes. I want to. I will."

"We're finished, you and I, you do realize that?. Things like this don't happen. God does not permit such happiness. This will finish us. In time."

"Yes. I think that's right. But maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow."

"Will that be enough, do you think? A few hours? Maybe some few days?"

"It'll never be enough, not even if it was eternity. But we can make do. You'll stretch it out - if anyone can, it's you. We might even have a year or two."

He was smiling, a sight that had not been lucky for others, and might not be for them. But it was still a welcome sight, for her, for all that. She hoped to see him smile like that often, for however long she could.

It's cracked hope, yes. But it's the only hope we've got

The voices inside her fell silent.  She was home.


Part One

copyright 2001, by Nyx Fixx

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Twelve Past Entropy
12 Hours in Three Parts

Part One
The End of the Hunt

Part Two
Another Step Through the Looking Glass
1 of 3 | 2 of 3 | 3 of 3

Part Three
Orion's Belt
1 of 2 | 2 of 2


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