The sound from the others is like the chattering of birds, millions of birds. It etches itself into one’s soul with each individual voice growing a seed of their own, and I quickly long for silence, thinking of the way I can shout your name and how the silence afterwards always feels more tangible, without a stain or strain. We’re in tethers, and I often do shout your name over the ocean of people. You stand so still, like a ghost in the crowd, except somehow you seem clearer than all the others. Tangible, while the others aren’t.
Time confuses me.
And you can’t hear me. You have your back turned, and you are probably talking to someone more interesting. I turn away, wondering why the vision of the flower in your hair seems so sad, almost hostile. The hotel is my home, but I’ll never get used to it. Never feel as if I belong. I never feel safe.
The elevator is particular. You have to push the fourth-floor button extra hard and hold it in for a little while before it will take. When it does, the thing seems to shift slightly, and then the elevator starts to crawl upwards.
At the fourth floor, I exit the elevator and head to my room. The beast we call The Leviathan is sleeping softly. I can hear the trickle, the sick murky sound of it shifting slightly before it settles again. I lie down on my bed. The gulls are flying outside the window, but they, too, are silent. A slumber comes over me, and I fall asleep with your silhouette burned on my retinas.
It seems to belong there.
When I wake up, I feel a strong urge to urinate. The darkness is thick, but I find my way to the bathroom, open the door, and sit down, relieved to let go. When I’m finished, I get up, flush, and wash my hands. I’ve almost made it to the bed again when it starts.
The rumbling. The noise. The loud roar of the beast.
I cover my ears.
“Good lord, I’ve awoken it,” I find myself muttering. I wonder if I’ll find you if I leave my room to search, but I know it’s hopeless because it’s late, and you’re fast asleep somewhere in the hotel, and I don’t know where.
Even if I did know where you are, I wouldn’t want to wake you, because that’s not how this works. Instead, I make sure the bed covers are tucked tightly around the mattress, and then I slip beneath them and hide.
The noise is unbearable while it lasts, but then the beast groans one final time, and it’s quiet again. Dormant, but on its guard. It’s always on guard. Always has been. Always will be. It’s watching me. Keeping track of us.
The Leviathan. The monstrosity. The unknown eldritch abomination.
When the first rays of the sun start to show themselves, I get dressed quickly and go outside. It’s the best part of the day, the time when I can freely roam about town, walk down the slope to the beach and follow it until I can climb up the hill towards the castle.
I’ve seen many things on the hill. Spooks both alive and dead, doing questionable things. They linger in the shadows in the early morning, and I can pass by and pretend I don’t see them. Just like I pretended not to see you that morning when the seagulls raged in the sky, chasing a bird away that wasn’t one of their own. You were looking at the view, the sea, and at the Ferris wheel, and I wondered what you were thinking, what you feared, what you longed for, and I wondered, even then, what it would be like to be a part of your life, have a place in that soul of yours that glows, still to this day, fiercer than any soul I’ve ever seen before.
It wasn’t until later that you saw me. It wasn’t until later that I realized you could see me. The whiteness of my hair, the redness of my eyes, the grayness of my skin, and you didn’t fear me, not like the others. Instead, you reached out to touch me, and when your finger brushing away a strand of hair that had fallen into my eye, I felt it starting.
I felt everything change.
You reached forward and touched me that day, fearless, pitiless, as if you found me interesting, not hideous, and maybe even slightly human. You didn’t look at my sharp teeth, my shifty, shapeless nature. Instead, you saw the softness of my skin and the brightness in my eyes.
You, with the tousled black hair and dark, prying eyes. I felt the soft rhythm of your heart and the gentle hesitation in your body language, as if you were bursting to ask me who I was and where I’d been all your life but didn’t know how to force the words from your mouth.
And I don’t know how to tell you what you did for me then, when the murky hardened bit of my soul softened, became tar, and started, ever so slowly, to dissolve, its dark remains oozing into the walls, going into the floors, the carpet, the chairs, and everything else around me.
The castle isn’t free from The Leviathan. Neither is the hotel, and I wonder as I pass the castle how many buildings in town are infested with it, this dark beast that’s gigantic but can also penetrate the smallest spaces, like the inner corners of your soul—my soul.
I start zigzagging through the streets, slowly finding my way back, content to linger in the early hours when no one else is around. I look through the windows and contemplate the decorations they leave in their yards, the dissolving houses and the light that changes once the sun is high.
Back at the hotel, a few people are prowling the premises, quietly invading. They find their spots and do their best to ignore the world around them while their brains reacclimate to the eternity of hollowness the hotel forces upon its guests. I hear someone complain about the gulls. Another one agrees, but then the silence is broken by a squawk from outside.
It makes me laugh.
I usually know my place during the day, hiding in my room on the fourth floor, biding my time, but whenever the guests start to make too much noise, I leave my room and head down to the lounge, or to the bar, or even into the old ballroom, where I sometimes sneak a peek into the cellar and descend quietly into the cave-like underground. I roam the subterranean maze and try not to remember the many disturbing parties that played out down there in that hideaway—the vile behavior, the orgies, the cult rituals that seemed never to end. They let The Leviathan in, called for it, yearned for it, longed to merge with it, and now…
I shouldn’t be here. I can see through the walls and into its innards. I can see the destruction, the depravity, the defecation.
I venture into the lounge and sit down one of the soft sofas, let the sun warm my hands as I look out the old windows at the sea, at the horizon, at the “not-here.” I watch the sun arc slowly across the sky until the chatter in the room suddenly gets louder. The empty room is now filled with dinner guests, all holding glasses of alcohol and leaning forward to hear one another above the din. The faces around me beam, thrilled by the excitement in the room, but I just feel exhausted. I’m rattled by the way these people sneak up on me, and I find myself wanting to melt into the floor. I want to become one with the furniture, never be seen again.
I want to vanish.
Which is an odd thing to want, I guess, considering that I’m already invisible to them. They might feel an immediate sense of displeasure when near me, but they can’t actually see me. No one can, except you.
I’m reminded of the night we first met, and how you looked at me from across this same room, a shy smile on your face. Our eyes met, and I could tell it was me you were looking at and not someone else. It was not just a case of you looking through me at the person standing behind me. There was only the window behind me, the view, and the sea. You walked across the floor to me, stopping only once to acknowledge someone who wanted to greet you. It was someone you knew and for a sad second, I feared you were going to get stuck there, that you would never get away, and that we would be standing at different ends of the room forever, never to actually meet.
But then you bowed your head to the person, and you continued your way across the room toward me. A bubbling, tar-like substance appeared beneath your footsteps then, tried to grab a hold of you, tried to stop you, but your stride was perfectly timed, perfectly executed, the perfect speed.
And then you were here.
You are here. Looking me in the eyes in a way I haven’t been looked at for what feels like centuries. I saw, and I see, the tar vanish from the floor, and though I know it’ll be back, because it just needs to gather its strength, I find I don’t care. It can devour me whole, finally, after all this time. It will be worth it for this moment of staring into your eyes, listening to your voice as you start talking to me as if we already know each other.
And we do. Because of course we do. Because we have done this all before. We stood here before and stared into each other’s eyes.
I pull the Forget-Me-Nots from my dress and place them gently in your hair. The others can smell the flowers, but they can’t see them.
These charms have protected me for so long, this never-ending beauty that blossoms into exploding blue stars. They’ve protected me from this place, from The Leviathan and from the darkness that has threatened to overtake me. But now they’re yours, all yours, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I feel myself fading away, but you grab my hand.
“Where are you going?” you ask, and I cock my head at you.
“Nowhere,” I tell you. “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.” I whisper the words, half hoping you’ll hear me, fearing you won’t. I see the tar appearing in the corners of the room, the blackness spreading across the tapestries and along the painted walls. It’ll soon get us, but you’ll be safe because I’ve kept you safe. Because of the flowers.
“Will you go somewhere quiet with me?” you ask, and I nod.
You take my hand and together we traipse out of the room as if there is no tomorrow. As if we haven’t already played out this part of our journey a thousand times before. It’s as if you, too, see the darkness spreading, see The Leviathan’s immense anger manifest in response to someone seeing me, to you seeing me, seeing my faded figure. You pull me along the corridor and down the red-carpeted stairs that smell of urine and something else I’ve never been able to identify. Then we push open the doors and we’re in the cave cellar.
It’s the most dangerous place in the building. Why are you pulling me in here? But the thought vanishes as I feel your light and your hands touching my skin. You push me to the wall by the door and gently put your lips on mine. It’s the most intimate sensation, and it takes my breath away, steals it from my lungs, and all I can do is answer your thirst, your hunger, with my own. I remember the flowers and that you are protected, even down here you are protected, and so I pull you closer, wanting you, wanting your body pressed against mine. Sturdy, hungry, and…
…The tremble isn’t just from the hunger I feel for you. It’s something else, the memory of this place plaguing my bones, the old, infested grounds seeping into my soul, overtaking what’s left of me. I remember the rituals, the sacrifices we made. This beast will get into you as well, will get you if I let it. I try to pull away, but it’s too tempting to keep you close just a little longer, and soon I’m pulling at your clothes, pulling at your pants, the thrill of your touch doing things to me I didn’t know were possible. The white in my hair washes away to reveal a youthful brown beneath. I can see it in the strands of hair falling into my eyes. You kiss them shut, and then primal instinct takes over. The Leviathan may be controlling us, but I don’t care. I want more. More of you. More of your touch.
Afterwards, when I’m lying in your arms on the floor, I see the black tar everywhere. I lean forward and kiss you again. This time there is less hunger. Gentleness. And I see The Leviathan’s footprints recede somewhat.
“It’ll get us eventually,” I whisper. “You have to get away from this place. You can still leave.”
“I don’t want to leave,” you whisper, softly stroking my hair. The white turns brown again beneath your fingers. It is as if your touch colors my skin, colors my hair, colors all the things I wear. And I know you see the fear in my eyes because you smile.
“You’re here still, aren’t you?”
I touch your cheek, place the palm of my hand softly on your skin and stroke you. “Why would you stay when there’s a world out there? A world of beautiful creatures, more beautiful than myself? Places safer than this one? Why would you stay?”
You don’t say anything, just kiss me again and shake your head as if I’m the one who doesn’t understand. The sound of footsteps alerts us, but neither of us moves from the spot on the floor.
“Is it a spook or a troop?” you ask, and I listen more carefully.
“Not a spook,” I whisper back. “They don’t make sounds like these.”
“But you do,” you tell me, and I feel the tar quickly retreating, as if it’s scurrying away from something very unpleasant.
“I’m so happy that I found you,” you tell me.
“I’m so happy you found me. And I’m sorry you’re going to be stuck here because of it.”
“I’m not,” you say.
In my room on the fourth floor, we sometimes sleep like the dead. The sound of The Leviathan still stirs in the walls and in the floors—loud, angry, agitated—but the noise is not as disturbing as it used to be. When I awaken, there is a gull outside the windowsill, pecking at the glass. A tap, tap, tapping sound emanates from the window, but you sleep through it, tired from last night’s ordeal, tired from wading through all the corruption and filth inside the cave.
I watch you sleep for a while and wonder to myself how long it will take before you resent me for being stuck here, unable to leave. Because The Leviathan will never let us leave, not now.
You pull the Forget-Me-Nots from of your hair and hand me one but keep the other. The flowers won’t grant us the power to leave, but they’re strong enough to keep the darkness away, maybe forever.
The Leviathan screams, shakes in its hiding place so the entire floor rumbles. You stir slightly in your sleep but continue breathing peacefully. You sleep so beautifully.
One day, the monster will become more awake than ever before, and when it finally awakens completely and devours the entire shore, leaves nothing but the seagulls in the sky, at least I will know I had been seen.
And when that time comes, I will pull the Forget-Me-Not from my hair, the beautiful flower that’s been keeping me safe, the twin flowers that are supposed to be keeping us both safe, and I’ll place mine behind your ear, and I will wish you away, just as I wished you with all my heart into being.
You, who saw all my flaws and loved me anyway. You, who defy my darkness with a smile that would light up the sun. You, who were made by The Leviathan and can be undone by The Leviathan.
I stir, jealous in my slumber. I will never let you go.
Copyright © 2023 Eygló Karlsdóttir