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Opening the Gate

copyright 2003, by Natasha Von Lecter

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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Clarice Starling sits on the couch in the living room of her unassuming house. To call it a home would imply a happy, lived-in warmth, an attachment that goes beyond plaster, ceiling beams, and brick. This house is not a home, any more than her job is a career. All her sacrifices, and still she butts her head painfully against the glass above her, a promising young agent now tainted in their eyes because she danced with the monster and lived to dance again. Clarice Starling does not dance. She sits on her couch, clutching a small, paper-wrapped parcel, running her fingertip over the rich copperplate that bears her name.

The Lemony tang of disinfectant wafts into the living room, evincing the ardor with which she cleans in an attempt to at least order something, if not her life. The dishes in her immaculate cupboards are stacked neatly atop each other, in a precision that cannot be matched in the subtle nuances of human life. And yet she knows this is a lie. She has felt the gentle click of two souls aligning, fitting as snuggly and perfectly as the lip of one porcelain dish in another. She fights the urge to lurch from the couch and rip the shelves out from the cupboards. To shatter the mocking geometry of plates and bowls against the cold, flat wall.

Schooling her thoughts she returns her attention to the brown paper package nestled in the curve of her khaki-clad thigh. A deft flick of her fingers and she has pulled a small folding knife from her pocket. She is drawn to sharp things now. On a few unguarded occasions they have mysteriously found their way into her skin, leaving a tiny trail of red in their wake. With a measure of reverence she slips the knifes point under the paper-wrapper, cleaving it from the small box, watching it float to the floor. An envelope sits inside a mahogany box. The Mahogany is almost the deep rich red of his eyes. But not quite. She draws the envelope open, her breath hitching in her throat, her thoughts racing back to a subterranean cell, a barred cage, the cold enamel of a humming refrigerator pressed to her back, the cold snick of steel closing around a wrist, a failed attempt at aligning the geometry of her life.

She reads, and in her head, his warm, rich baritone guides her:

Good Evening, Clarice,
I would like to say that I trust that this letter finds you well, but I have little patience for such cowardly literary devices. I do trust, however that before you attempted to read this you first purged your kitchen of any real or imagined grit that might be seeping into the countertops. I imagine that the sticky sweet smell of disinfectant still clings to the puffy skin of your cuticles, just above the nail beds. It is an ugly smell Clarice, all nerves, and anxiety, and futile yearning. You belong in almonds and cream Clarice, not your mother’s lingering lemon acidity.

I have followed, as I have always followed, the twisted lines of your “career” and once more I see you stalled and alone among a snarling pack of wolves who do not count you among their own. Do you know, Clarice that in the wilds wolves most often scavenge, rather than hunt? When they cannot procure their own food, they feed off the carcasses of the starving, the sick, the diseased. Is that why they snap at your heels, do you think? Because they see you as diseased? Because you have come face to face with me and must now be tainted? Dear Clarice, they see you unfairly. It is not because you are diseased that they harry you. It is because you refuse to scavenge. It is because your purity of purpose does not belong in the pack. You are a lamb Clarice, and the wolves fear you.

We both know the problems inherent in lambs, Clarice. When the time comes to save themselves, they freeze, they bleat helplessly, they run to their kitchen and clean till their skin is red and raw with chemical burns. I opened the door for you Clarice, and you refused to be set free. An extraordinary and authentic life looms before you, but I will not carry you. When you are ready, Clarice, you have but to step out from your pen and follow.

Ta,
Hannibal Lecter, M.D.


Clarice Starling’s eyes are bright with tears as his voice dies away in her head. She folds the letter and slips it back into its envelope. And in her mind, the gate swings free on its hinges.


FIN

copyright 2003, by Natasha Von Lecter

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