One glance was all I’d needed. Stray strands of obsidian hair clinging to her face in the humid air. Flawless sapphires encased in pristine pearls glistening in the torchlight as she watched the performance unfold. A figure of ravishing beauty, to even the most particular of connoisseurs, her captivated smile beamed toward the stage. I knew in that moment she had to be the one, she would be my masterpiece. She must be. I hurried behind the curtain, my mind completely aflutter. I strived to push the thoughts to the back of my mind, for the show must go on. Despite my efforts, however, my mind wandered to her constantly throughout the night.
When I had but a moment to myself, I snuck off and sat before the troupe leader’s desk. Parchment lay there, barren, begging for the gift of words. I dipped the quill twice into the inkwell, moving to the paper with eagerness. Wait- something felt off. I dipped the quill twice more. That’s better. The lie nearly wrote itself, laced in our troupe leader's unforgettably self righteous tone. For all his time on stage, a begged-for tryst was not out of character. A press of his seal set everything into motion and I was on my feet once more.
Too many were in the crowd that evening, it was difficult to track her down as the curtain fell. I clutched the letter, feeling the my heartbeat in my fingertips. Its beating accelerated my footfalls as I feverishly searched the crowd. Bu-bum, bu-bum, bu-bum, bu-bum. Panic set in. What if she’d already gone? How could an artist exist without his muse? I must find her. I MUST-
“Oh, sorry I didn’t see you there!” Her voice blew across my ears as a crisp autumn breeze in the sweltering heat of summer. I’d been so distracted that I’d run straight into her. “Were you in the play?” She giggled, her eyes running across my curious style. To say that I wasn’t in vogue would have been a fair assessment, as I hadn’t thought to remove my working attire. I was at a loss for words. After all, what do you say before such majesty? I merely nodded my affirmation.
“It was brilliant! Best performance in ages.”
I bowed graciously, and from the folds of my golden garment I produced the letter, presenting the wax that would seal her fate. She took it, her porcelain cheeks flushing crimson.
“Is this-” She began, but I simply nodded and turned to disappear into the night, leaving her with the enchanting words of my misdirection.
Three minutes passed the time I’d mentioned in the letter, she was late. My heart raced once more, not knowing if she was merely delayed or if I’d never see her again. Surely I’d botched the delivery and she was onto me. What relief painted itself across my face as I heard a knock on the door to backstage. I stood, straightening the mask on my face, and marched towards the door. Hurriedly I returned errant instruments and props to their homes along the path. Places everyone, please! The show was about to begin.
“Oh, it’s you!” The chorus of angels that composed her every syllable rang out once more as I opened the door. Curse my quivering tongue though! I could not find the confidence or strength to make any meaningful response and so I bowed low, again, and motioned for her to enter, maintaining the poise of the finest troubadour. She laughed, smiling again, “Do you ever speak? Oh! You musn’t be allowed to break character, is that it?” Without response I turned, leading her to our final destination.
The curtain began to rise, ushering us to centerstage. Empty chairs lay before us, our true audience high above in the stars that dotted the sky. A full moon marked the night, drawing a spotlight upon our meeting. A wave of my hand set the instruments of the theater alight with a grand overture. She walked out into the stage, taking in the majesty of the moment. Her feet took over and began to dance in the pale moonlight, like leaves carelessly caught in the twirling wind. My hand fidgeted with the handle vigorously, eager to get started. My head twitched, sending a spark of reason down to my hand. So I released the handle and joined her, taking her hand in dance. Our feet fell in time with the music; One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. She looked at me, looked into the eyes behind the mask,
“Who are you? Why do all this for me?”
Forwardness had never truly been my strength, yet in that picturesque scene where my obsession could finally come to fruition, I spoke to her, “I am going to make you, beautiful.” Her perfect features contorted in confusion as the bells rang for midnight. One. Confusion blended so perfectly into fear as the dagger sank into her stomach. Crimson paint began to pool across my canvas, glistening in the moonlight. Two. The feeling of flesh unzipping as my brush slid from her waist to her supple breast sent shivers up my spine. Paint splashed across the stage, across us, drawing the whole scene into the masterpiece. She screamed, boldly, harmonizing her heavenly voice with the clanging of the bells. Three! A slice across her back as she turned to flee. Her poise mangled by the wounds, she fell to the ground and began to whimper,
“No please! I beg of you...” Tears streaming down her face. I knelt down, pressing my finger to her lips, to comfort her.
“Shh.” I helped her face the empty audience once more, embracing her warmly. Everyone was watching, they deserved to see the finale. The knife slid to her throat, teasing the flesh. She wept, eyes closed in prayer. It was far too late for that. Four.
I stood, marveling my work. The splatters of blood, flesh torn asunder, beauty defiled. How lovely.