“[…] He raised a skinny hand, fingers round up in a fist and knocked four times. He always knocked four times. Five would have been too much, while three was a number he always preferred eluding. A silent weep came from the other side, growing stronger and stronger with each knock. It was the sobbing of a young woman. She was suffering, as if she had recently lost someone close. […]”
“I invoke thee, Borÿs, destroyer of beauty, protector of the broken and the damned! Rise… Rise and unveil your relentless story before the eyes of mankind. Breathe once again, kill once again, feast on the blood of the beautiful and the perfect! As you have in the past, so shall you kill in the future.”
There was a sunny day on Roosevelt Avenue in Los Angeles. On the radio, the forecaster was announcing mild wind conditions, 77°F and no chance of precipitation. Borÿs Vendemeev was already sweating like a pig in the desert. Although the air conditioning was fully on, this Russian man raised on the outskirts of the Siberian tundra had a hard time coping with the weather in L.A. He reached out his slimy hand to change the station, while violently turning the wheel with the other one. Parking in the same spot as always, Borÿs got out of the car and walked to his art studio right across the street from Rosedale Cemetery.
Borÿs was a painter. A darn good one, to be honest. Thirty years of age, a little over five foot nine, this artist wasn’t exactly what women looked for in a man. God gave him a wild imagination and a sharp mind, but let’s just say the Maker stopped there, completely forgetting about his looks. Yes, Borÿs was ugly and he knew that very well. He could see it each time he studied his reflection in the bathroom mirror. Although he was pretty fit thanks to his daily gym sessions, his face didn’t preserve much of those smooth body features. His expression was more of a conglomeration of rough lines converging right beneath the edge of his nose.
The art studio was his only permanent concern, his only reason to stay on the floating line, the only medicine to mend his loneliness. It all started ten years ago in his upper-east apartment in Manhattan, as a hobby. After a couple of unsuccessful exhibitions and a dose of harsh criticism, Borÿs decided New York was a waste of time and money. So he moved to L.A. with the money he got from selling some of his paintings, where he rented a cheap, insalubrious apartment and the abandoned gift shop which he turned into the “Fleurs du Mal” Art Studio. Think about it… An appalling man like Borÿs, living in the city of angels, running an art studio called “Fleurs du Mal”. Hilarious, isn’t it?
“But hold your amusement for a second, you ignorant mortals. My Borÿs is far from being your average outcast. As the action unravels, so does his unconscious need to avenge his inner suffering. If you consider beauty to be your main attribute, I say you think again…”
There was a man standing outside the art studio. Back against the wall, arms crossed over his chest, shabby cowboy hat covering everything but a clean-shaved chin, he was patiently waiting for Borÿs. Who he was our artist did not know. He was working alone, as you can probably imagine and he wasn’t expecting anyone that morning. As he approached, the young man took his hat off, revealing his serene blue eyes. Borÿs stopped as struck by lightning. That man clearly reminded him of someone. Someone who belonged to the distant past. Someone who he had been desperately trying to forget.
[Good morning! Are you…]
The stranger took a piece of paper out of the inner pocket of his denim jacket, stared at it for a moment and then continued.
[Borÿs Ven… Vende… Vendemeev, the painter?]
[Yeah, that would be me. Can I help you?]
Borÿs replied while pulling the keys out of his backpack.
[Uhm… Listen, Mr. Borÿs, I heard you’re a pretty good painter and I… Oh, forget it!]
The stranger wanted to leave, but Borÿs instinctively grabbed his arm and pulled him back.
[It’s kind of impolite to interrupt my morning and walk away without giving me a good reason for it, don’t ya’ think?]
Despite being pissed off, Borÿs couldn’t help noticing the subject of his annoyance was a young, handsome man. He must’ve been about twenty judging by his smooth, perfect skin and sleek, modern haircut. His blond hair perfectly matched his blue eyes and his light skin complexion. Who did this stranger reminded him of? Borÿs was about to find out, as the strangers’ soft lips mumbled a name which ravaged him on the inside, opening old wounds and applying an alcohol soaked bandage over the bleeding cuts.
[Brandon. Name’s Brandon.]
Borÿs lost grip and the young man evened his jacket, disgustingly glancing back at his aggressor. So that was it… Brandon! So many years have passed since he last heard that name whispered over and over in his head. And now he was standing right before his eyes. He touched him. He was real. But… how could this be?
“Yeesss… That’s right, Borÿs. It’s Brandon. It’s your imaginary childhood friend. The perfect one, the beautiful one, the one who wanted you no more. It’s the ideal projection of yourself. It’s the one you tried to get rid of for so long. Well, my dear child, you now have the chance to get rid of him for real. And you, wretched mortals, you’ll be spectators to the show. Grab the front seats and the popcorn, cause you’ll be in for a treat!”
[You’re ugly, Borÿs. You’re ugly… I want you no more.]
[Stop it… Ssstop it, Brandon!]
[NO! I’ve had enough of you, you grotesque animal! You’re on your own now, scum!]
[N… No! NO! Pleaaase!]
[You’re on your own…]
[No, no, no! Don’t leave! Brandon… Brandon?!]
In his bedroom, ten years old Borÿs was at the edge of reason. Face against the floor, he stood still, weeping and listening to the echo he will never come to hear again. Brandon’s voice dissipated as easily as it appeared a couple years ago, while he was playing alone in the sandbox. Poor little Borÿs… Thanks to his appearance, all he could get was an imaginary friend, who left him in the end. More than ever, he was feeling empty on the inside. A hole has been dug deep inside his tormented soul, a hole which will soon be filled with hate, resentment and the urge for revenge. It was then when he swore to find Brandon and punish him for his betrayal.
[I just wanted you to paint my portrait.] the real Brandon mumbled.
Borÿs snapped out of his day-dream, feeling disoriented and scared. His knees were shaking real hard and his heart was slowly and painfully climbing along his chest and reaching his throat.
[Huh? Wh… What?]
[My girlfriend’s birthday is a week away from now and… And I wanted to surprise her. Thought you could maybe paint my portrait or something…]
Our Russian artist was notably confused, trying to make all the pieces of the puzzle come together. Somehow, he couldn’t believe that after all these years Brandon decided to come back to him. But how come he didn’t remember anything? And what was all that about his girlfriend? To all these daunting questions, Borÿs had to find some answers.
[How did you find me?]
[Uhm… It was quite a coincidence, actually. I grabbed a newspaper this morning and your address was the first to come up. So I rushed here to reach you in time.]
[What did you say you want from me?]
[A portrait, sir. I want you to paint my portrait. It’s my girlfriend’s birthday next week and…]
Borÿs interrupted him, raising his right hand in the air and placing it just a couple of inches away from Brandon’s chest. He was too confused to listen to the young man’s story all over again. So he wanted a portrait… What kind of sick joke was that? Could it be possible for Brandon to have absolutely no memory about the past? Questions were breaching into his mind again, faster and faster and faster. This was going nowhere. He had two options; either finish this once and for all or play Brandon’s twisted game and finish him later. Borÿs had plenty of time, especially now he faced the shadows of his past, so he thought a fun little game would only add some spice to the foreplay. So he played along with the attitude of an Oscar nominee.
[Well, why didn’t you say that in the beginning, boy? Come on in. We’ll work on it right away!]
This time, it was Brandon who was feeling confused. The painter’s sudden change and his hand placed on his back, pushing him inside the studio were making this young man feel uncomfortable. He was beginning to have doubts about his stupid idea, but it was already too late to leave now. And besides, that ugly man already stopped him once.
The studio smelled like fish oil. There was no sign of air conditioning and the heat was already starting to take over the whole building. While Borÿs was heavily sweating, Brandon showed no signs of perspiration. The main chamber was humongous. There were all kinds of painting tools on the floor, from brushes to buckets and color tubes of all sorts. In the middle of the room there was a dusty old chair, where the artist invited Brandon to sit while he prepared. Hesitant at first, Brandon took his jacket off, threw it somewhere near the wall on his left and sat on the creaky chair. After placing a white canvas on the easel, Borÿs took his shirt off, revealing a pumped, sweaty chest. Brandon was curiously staring at him from the other side of the room, so the artist explained:
[I work better like this. Hope you don’t mind!]
[No, not at all, sir. Actually, I was wondering if I could take my shirt off as well.]
[Hmm… I don’t think that would be a good idea, boy. Maybe you could just unbutton it and let it slide along your shoulders. Here, allow me…]
When the painter approached, a strong scent of sweat invaded Brandon’s nose. He turned his head the other way, allowing the rough, edgy fingers unbutton his shirt and pull it down, revealing a big part of his chest. Small drops of clear sweat started piercing Brandon’s soft skin. In a blink of an eye, Borÿs was already sketching some lines on his canvas.
[So tell me ’bout this girlfriend of yours… She cute?]
[Oh, she’s the cutest thing alive, sir. And I love her. I love her from the bottom of my heart.]
The artist lost control of his hand for a second and applied too much pressure on the graphite crayon, breaking it in half. He grabbed another one from his pocket and continued sketching the delicate lines of Brandon’s nose.
[So… you say you love her very much, huh?]
[Yes, sir. I do. She… She’s everything to me.]
[You know, you’re really great at faking it. You should’ve become a fuckin’ actor, Brandon!]
[I’m afraid I don’t understand, sir…]
Brandon was really confused now. Not only he took the Russian artist for mad from the very beginning, but now, his assumption was materializing. Borÿs smashed the crayon against the easel and grabbed a piece of thick rope from the floor. Slowly but determined, he was now walking towards the young man who couldn’t understand what was happening to him. Astonished and scared, all he could do is grab the chair’s wooden frame and hold on tight while the ugly beast was slowly approaching.
[You gon’ listen to me and you gon’ listen to me good, Brandon!]
[Sir, are you alright? Sir?]
[Don’t be afraid, old friend. Just relax while I tie your beautiful little hands to this chair.]
Brandon had a final warning, but he was incapable of moving. It was like his whole body ceased to respond. He simply sat there, allowing the beast to tie his hands behind his back. The rope hurt him. His fingers were getting numb. No blood could surpass the rope’s tight grip. He was in pain… Fear of the unknown quickly stacked with the pain caused by that cursed rope. He did not know what that mad man would do to him, but he could sure imagine it wasn’t a pleasant thing. Suddenly, the ugly beast started touching him. He could not move a muscle while those gross sleazy fingers felt every inch of his body. Quietly crying, he tried to beg his aggressor to leave him alone. But nothing came out of his mouth, but an imperceptible groan.
[Yes… Suffer! Suffer just like I did when you left me. Do you have any idea what you did to me? Hm, Brandon? Do you? No, of course you don’t!]
For a short moment, Borÿs left his victim alone. He left the room and reappeared, this time carrying a small knife used for sharpening graphite crayons. The sight of the small glowing razor shook Brandon from his grounds. He knew… He knew where his fate was going. And there was nothing he could do to change it. Borÿs approached and knelt before him, holding the hand with the knife on the young man’s knee. Losing all control over his trembling body, Brandon peed himself, triggering a smile on the animal’s face. And as if the situation wasn’t embarrassing enough, Borÿs reached out his hand and touched the soaked material between Brandon’s legs then smelled his hand like a hunter smelling the tracks of his pray.
[You fear me, don’t you? Well, you’d better. After what you did to me, I made an oath to find you and make you pay for all the suffering you’ve put me through. Where is your beauty now, Brandon? Can you use it to save yourself? Can your beauty do anything to stop me? Hm, Brandon? Can it? Nooo, of course it can’t!]
For the first time in his life, Brandon felt his cerebral membrane pulsating. Pain came to visit his brains just like a nasty old mother-in-law pays an unexpected house call. There was so much tension trapped between the walls of his head, he felt his eyes were about to pop up. Instead, his nose started bleeding and his jaw dropped wide open, allowing the thick red liquid to go down his throat. Slipping into madness, crossing to the other side of sanity, young Brandon was about to be no more. His eyes perished somewhere beneath the eyelids and his tongue vainly fought to keep the blood from choking him. In a blink of an eye, his EKG went from Himalaya to the Western Plains. He was done… No pulse, no heartbeat, no breath. Nothing more than a lifeless body, an innocent soul lost too soon on the verge of mental breakdown.
[Well, will you look at that?]
Borÿs was somehow disappointed he hadn’t had the chance to finish Brandon himself. But now he could find some rest. Or at least that’s what he thought. Because it’s true Brandon was no longer there with him, but something else, a much more powerful force took over the weakened limbs of the young man’s body. Brandon’s eyes came into place, turning black in a matter of seconds. His jaw snapped back and a pointy tongue lustily licked the blood off the upper lip. The entity then spoke in a hellish tone:
“Borÿs, Borÿs, Borÿs… You never learn, my dear child… And that’s exactly what I love about you. Your hell means repetition. You’re sentenced to kill Brandon over and over again, until you learn to let go of the past and accept yourself as the ugly beast you are. Only then your soul will find its rest and return to that warm, cozy grave right across the street,”
Revenge is only for the weak, they say. And Borÿs was starting to realize how weak he was. He fled in terror, leaving Brandon’s corpse behind. He could still hear the insane laughter coming from the art studio. Running like a mad man, our artist crossed the street without paying any attention to the traffic lights. He ran and he ran and he ran, until his legs couldn’t carry his weight anymore. Borÿs dropped to his knees and placed his hands on one of the funeral stones inside the Rosedale Cemetery. Glaring down to the inscription, his heart almost melt with astonishment.
Somehow, it was all starting to make sense. Borÿs felt his eyes becoming heavier and heavier by the minute. A good sleep will help, yes… So he laid down before the corroded tombstone, listening to his lungs inhaling and exhaling till there was no sound. Just silence.
There was a sunny day on Roosevelt Avenue in Los Angeles. On the radio, the forecaster was announcing mild wind conditions, 77°F and no chance of precipitation. Borÿs Vendemeev was already sweating like a pig in the desert. Something smelled familiar…