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45 Years Earlier...

copyright 2003, by SamBarrachuda

Disclaimer:    These characters 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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He walked over the barren hillside, kicking dirt and occasionally looking up to stare at the brilliant sunset that hung in the sky like a Van Gogh painting before it faded forever into black. The light summer breeze gently licked against his pale skin, played with his hair, stirred up and dissolved the dust from his bootheels. In his right hand he held a book that had become his own personal bible. His Christian bible, the one his Grandmother had willed him when he was a child, was nothing more than a keepsake.

Anyone watching would have looked twice.

The boy, surely no more than 15, was immaculately dressed. He wore deep blue pants, neatly pressed. A pair of well polished black shoes poked out from under the up-turned cuffs. The shirt was pinstripe black and cream, the collar flipped up around his slender neck. In his left hand he held a black hat, wide rimmed and round, not at all the style of the day. He walked with gentle ease. His shoulders rolled with the delicate motions of his body which seemed to caress the breeze as much as it caressed him. His eyes (which were obscured by vulpine licks of long dark hair) only lit up when touching the horizon and drinking in the brilliant symphony of color. Otherwise they focused on the ground a step or two ahead of him. Otherwise they were dark.

He climbed a small slope, and sat down in the cool shade of a sprawling oak tree. He came here often. He wondered absently how old the oak might be, his mind flicking over the stored information he'd read on the subject. He ran a soft hand over the base of the trunk, enjoying the rough texture, imagining he could feel the life force flowing up through the wood, out through the leaves and dissipating into the ether like a dream.

The boy opened his leather bound book to the first page and took a pen from his shirt pocket. On the page (blank except for the publisher’s information in small Roman type) he wrote: Books of genius are only to be read while waiting for the stars.

The light was quickly fading and reading would be impossible soon. He needed only a few minutes. He again read over the passages that stirred his imagination:

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

Ah me! How hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern?
Which in the very thought renews the fear.

The boy read on. Inside he watched his thoughts stir and rise, take on some kind of coherent shape like spirits moving. Outside he remained calm and collected, the only movement, his fingers brushing down against the page. The wind had died down and the trees whispering leaves were silent. As he read he combined in his mind what he knew of Dante with the work the man had produced. Dante had fallen in love with a girl at the tender age of 8. He had dreamed of her often, usually sleeping, usually dreaming herself, but sometimes awake and alive. So alive! So very beautiful and so very alive. The songs of Innocence complete and shimmering like diamonds in the boy’s memory melted like God's fingers within his daydream vision. A heart on fire. The extended hand, benevolent but somehow cruel. The girl, eyes wide and frightened. I am your master, Behold your heart, And of this burning heart, Your heart, Obediently eats. The girl had taken Dantes heart and consumed it. Fire had licked around her small oval face. Her lips had turned red with blood.

The boy was amused to find that he himself had grown hungry and decided to help himself to some more of his mothers specialty dish when he got home. He loved fava beans and rum steak. Perhaps he could even sneak a glass of wine.

He looked from the book, gazed up at the sky (which had begun to bloom stars) and thought about love. He thought about the things he'd seen. He thought about husbands and wives he'd observed around him. He thought about blackened eyes and searching looks. About desire and pain. About control and human nature. Mostly he thought about his own dreams and the central figure therein. She was a girl his own age and for the past few nights he'd thought of her alot. She was different from the rest of the schoolkids he knew. As different as blood and water, you might say. She had come from far away, probably someplace like Italy going by her accent. He wondered if she had been born and raised in a small town or a city. He wondered what her childhood might have been like, growing up in a place he admired so much. He wondered what it would be like to touch her luxurious dark hair, her slender shoulders, the ruddy pink cap of her knee under the hem of her summer dress. She had a voice that floated in the air like musical notes. The first time he heard her laugh he felt his heart might burst. Even now he was flushing hotly and he looked shyly around to see if anyone might be watching. No one was of course- nothing but chirping crickets.

But there was someone watching.

He could sense it. Could feel it.

The boy stood up quickly, searching the swaying blanket of knee high grass for any sign of would be voyeurs.

Nothing.

He turned to cast dark, frowning eyes over the surrounding trees and undergrowth. More nothing. Nothing except a sliver of blue cloth seeming to grow against the side of a tree. No doubt that cloth was part of a shirt belonging to someone behind the pine. Now that he had pinpointed his victim

-victim?

he relaxed.

-come out, come out, whoever you are. Don't you want to dance with me under the stars?

"I can see you," He called out, his voice high and boyish. He felt a sudden urge to giggle but held it back.

A large man stepped out into whatever light was left. He was huge, easily 6 foot, and wider than anyone he knew. He was dressed in a blue suit and tie that looked decidedly ruffled and unkept. Shaggy red hair sprouted around his ears. The top of his head was bald. He began ambling forward with the loping gait of a bear. The breeze had begun to stir again and the boy wondered about the mechanics behind global weather patterns. As he formulated his own theories he reached inside his pants pocket and folded a calm hand over the pocket knife he kept there. The man was now no more than 20 feet away. His face opened into a wide smile, teeth glittering white within the dark shadow of his face.

"Hello boy!" the man said in a smooth, deep voice, his eyes hooded. He came closer and stood with hands on hips, looking over the young man that stood calmly before him. "A little late to be reading isn't it?" He gestured toward the book that lay on the ground.

The boy smiled back. "Well, sir, I like to read and I like the dark."

The man chuckled. It wasn't an all-together friendly noise. There was something underneath it that was very unpleasant. The boy remembered a passage he'd read in a magazine article the night before and wondered why he thought of it now. It had detailed a new theory evolving within the sketchy framework of modern psychology called fear inversion. Individuals studied were usually extremely anti-social people (some even rapists and murderers) who had lived through prolonged bouts of fear and doubt. Abusive parents were often involved, although not always. It seemed these people (with whom the boy felt a tender kind of empathy) turned the fear in on themselves, creating a very warped worldview and corrupting any form of genuine 'innocence' (a very speculative word, in the boy's opinion) the once 'normal' (another ill-defined term) person may have had. The concluding few paragraphs of the article had outlined various ways and means a subject may have delt with their own corrupted sense of self. Mainly the coping mechanism involved some form of violence. Murder in some cases. He had been very curious about the whole thing and had patiently clipped around the outside of the page, pasting it in his scrapbook.

"And your name, sir?" the boy asked, stepping foward. "What is it please?"

The man hesitated, seeming to shake off a momentary doubt, then smiled wider than ever. The smile never touched his eyes.

"My name, little man, is Daerren. John Daerren. Pleased to meet you. It's good to see another night owl out on such a beautiful evening."

"Yes, very" The boy responded coolly. There were dark spots on the mans hands. They might have been oil spots or they might have been blood. Dressed as the man was, the boy didn't think he was a mechanic.

He held out a hand. The boy stood motionless.

"You don't shake hands around these parts?" The man said,

-out of towner

a momentary flash of unmistakable anger passing over his face before that false smile flicked back on like a lightbulb. "Were I come from boys like you are taught manners." The man grinned wider. "Sometimes it's even beaten into them."

The boy frowned. The arctic wind theory he had been thinking about hit an intellectual brick wall. He'd have to go to the library and pick up more books on weather patterns.

The boy looked over to make sure his hat hadn't blown away then back at the mans massive outstretched hand. The one with the spots of blood on it. Suddenly he was curious about that blood. Where had it come from? From who? What had the man been doing before invading his own precious privacy? he thought about girls who ate flaming hearts and depictions of hell where dogs feasted on screaming bodies. He gently, almost lovingly slid the blade of his pocketknife out from its body and walked toward the massive stranger.

-Do you dance stranger? I want to see you dance. I want to see you dance until you scream.

"Of course we shake hands," The boy smiled. "My name is Hannibal Lecter, and it's very nice to meet you."


FIN

copyright 2003, by SamBarrachuda

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