Krsnik in Lisboa

#

Hot light from Spanish land spread over the pastel-white buildings and the churches and the marketplace, making the 47 bodies of Lisboans killed that day look like idle sunbathers.

No one bothered to move them as if they did there’d be 48.

Instead the locals played their guitars.

And talked about the weather.

And drank

at eleven o clock in the morning.

A stranger with no luggage or purse walked into the main plaza, almost tripping over two of the 47 bodies, both women. He glanced at the slash marks on their necks, the blood tails creeping toward the church steps…then at the man sitting on the same steps, strumming a tune about the glorious coastline of La Coruna.

‘The waves are large, the sand is clean…

The rocks are smooth, unless you’re mean…

In La Coruna…La Coruna…’

The stranger listened up to the ‘mean’ part, muttered something non-Spanish then continued walking. He got to the far corner of the plaza, ignored the Moroccans selling baking powder as cocaine, and turned right onto a narrower street. It wasn’t much quieter, the place was too close to the city centre for that, but there were no more corpses. He moved quietly past the guitars, past the guitar shops, past the hawkers selling fake guitars from Sevilla, and up onto the hill by the castle.

Outside the gate, sitting on a wall with a quill and paper, was a young woman. She wasn’t particularly pretty [her face was too narrow, her eyes not sharp enough], but was definitely a step up from the guards standing nearby scratching their thighs.

The stranger moved closer, taking a leaf from a nearby tree and folding it in two. “Ona je ostal z mano…”

Some locals came up the hill speaking Portuguese, noticed the guards and the swords, switched to Spanish for a few seconds then, ten yards distant, went back to Portuguese.

“Fucking wretches,” muttered one of the guards, watching the bi-linguals disappear into the chapel on the corner. “They’re lucky that damn language ain’t banned.”

“Look at that,” said another, pointing at the woman, “the matchstick, she’s scribbling something…”

The muttering guard spat on the ground and said it was probably pictures of flowers or sunsets.

“Maybe she’s scribbling us…”

The guard grunted.

“Or maybe it’s only one of us…she has been sitting there for a while…maybe she’s attracted to the armour.”

“God, you’re more deluded than Pedro…wait here.”

“What…you can’t leave the post. Where are you going?”

The bolder guard ignored his colleague [the kid from Galicia who’d never even licked a girl before] and walked to within a metre of the woman. Actually, she was closer to girl than woman, probably no more than seventeen.

He stared at the top of her head for a minute and got no response, so he bent down and tried to look at the paper.

The woman noticed the shadow on the ground and instinctively pulled the paper to her chest.

“What you doing there?”

“Nothing,” said the woman.

“Nothing isn’t an answer. What is that?”

“It’s…a flower picture.”

“Why are there words?”

“I’m making notes. Descriptions.”

The guard said something in Spanish then straightened up and put one hand on his sheath. “Scribbling is not permitted here, little miss Rabelais. Take your crayons someplace else.”

The woman didn’t answer.

“You hear me?”

The woman put the paper back on the wall and resumed writing.

The guard stepped forward, grabbed the paper and threw it on the ground. “Get out of here before I cut off your damn hands.”

The woman calmly got to her feet, picked up the paper and walked down the hill.

The stranger dropped the leaf and stared at the guard, who casually returned to his post and resumed rubbing his thigh.

Bividic dec ne mores…

#

The stranger sat the woman down in the archway and asked her what she’d been writing by the castle.

“I’m not a writer,” she said.

“Not true.”

“I draw pictures of flowers.”

“No, you don’t.”

“I do. Sunsets too. Really, I’m not a writer. I don’t even know how to read. Please, you may ask my father if you doubt it.”

“You don’t need to struggle, meu Camilla. You can speak it to me.”

“Camilla?”

“The demon maid, its hair wrapped around the poet, bewitching him so.”

“I don’t understand.”

The stranger tilted his head slightly and placed two fingers against his wrist. “How long have you been writing, Camilla?”

“Why do you persist with this? I’m a girl, how can I be a writer? It’s ludicrous…”

“You can tell me.”

“Girls can’t write, the authorities would never…tell you what? What are you doing to your wrist?”

The stranger pulled his fingers away and put them gently on her shoulder.

“Please, don’t touch me.”

The stranger pulled his fingers back. “Really, I hate to repeat myself, but I am sincere in what I say, Camilla. You can tell me anything.”

The woman looked around. There were no guards because there were no people, only the two of them, the arch and the faded mural of Mary Magdalene.

“I draw flowers,” she said, looking back at the stranger. “And sunsets. That’s all.”

“Sim, claro.”

“And my name is not Camilla.”

#

The stranger left her to go to Braga and Porto and other cities. He met other women, Bragan women, Porto women, women of the north, women of the south, women of the…

#

Weeks later, he stood over the body of a Spanish soldier, wiping his mouth, wondering if Denmark could really be as liberal as he’d heard.

The last time he’d been there it’d been Norwegian.

Now it was Danish again.

Old king, new king…would there really be a difference?

He picked up the dead soldier’s arms and dragged him further into the alley.

No, forget Denmark, he thought. Tetro’s the explorer, not me.

He let go of the body and walked out of the alley, heading towards the main plaza. All the lights in the houses were out due to the curfew and, even when he got to the Moroccans on the plaza corner, there weren’t as many people as expected. Ah well, a party’s still a party, even if there are only a few.

He stuck close to the edges, passing guards every twenty metres or so, keeping his eyes on the guitar players in the plaza.

There was nothing much going on, not enough for him to…

He stopped…too abruptly…a nearby guard glanced over at him, hand on sheath, prompting the stranger down onto the ground to tie his bootlace.

He tied slowly, carefully.

The guard went back to staring at women and the stranger turned his head until the breeze was blowing into his face.

The woman…she was nearby, he could smell her. And she was writing. Well, that or she was eating octopus.

An image of a giant octopus being stabbed by a dozen soldiers slotted into his head.

No…only the Spanish ate octopus nowadays…it was ink, it had to be.

She was writing again.

He figured out the direction then stood up and headed to the narrow street nearby, passing a local man on the corner, dressed up in stockings, pretending to be a prostitute.

#

“I write angry,” the woman said.

“I see. Is there a plot?”

“There is none.”

“Love?”

“Some.”

“Between who and whom?”

The woman looked at him and asked why his eyes were purple sometimes and brown other times.

“It’s genetic.”

The woman looked confused.

“Genetic…” continued the stranger, “it means I had it when I was…”

“…when you were born. Sim, I know what it means. I just don’t understand why it would be so.”

“Well, it is.”

“Have you seen a doctor?”

“Many.”

“A Spanish doctor?”

The stranger shook his head. “Look…forget about genetics, I want to read your story.”

“Are you Spanish?”

“I am not.”

“And you are not Portuguese…”

“No.”

“I cannot place your accent. It seems…I do not know what it seems.”

“It is irrelevant. May I read your story?”

“I don’t know…”

“I will return it tomorrow…”

“…it’s very…”

“…I promise.”

#

The stranger read the pages in the house that would one day belong to Pessoa, who was also a Krsnik [he never really died, he just moved to Slovenia and started again] and when he was done he waited and smoked until the early hours then sprang up and raced at inhuman speeds to the woman’s house, climbed in through her window, grabbed her, kissed her on the neck and…

“Don’t,” she said, pushing him away. “…my father.”

“It’s okay,” the stranger said. “I cannot give you children.”

“I don’t understand…”

“It’s genetic.”

“Genetic again. What do you mean by that? How can it prevent you from having children?”

“It’s too much to explain.”

“Try.”

“Not now. Later.”

The stranger kissed her again on the neck, on the shoulders, down onto her breast. The woman neither stopped nor encouraged it.

“What about my story?” she asked, as he reached her stomach.

“That’s why I’m here.”

“You finished it?”

“Ja.”

“It was unrealistic, wasn’t it? Women don’t have that kind of agency here, my character was too…”

“Later.”

The woman gripped his hair and pushed him back. He didn’t move very far.

“What?”

“Your eyes…”

“I told you, it’s genetic.”

“But they’re so purple.”

“Yes…”

“It cannot be natural…genetic…”

“It is. They are.”

“But…they can’t be…it can’t…”

The stranger moved forward, running his hand down her arm. “Do you not want this?”

“No…”

He bent down and kissed her waist, her hips, her thighs…

“I said no…”

The stranger’s hand froze on the hem of the woman’s nightgown and…

#

…pulled it up, telling her how dirty the Portuguese were and how the only thing a good Almerian like him should do is fuck ’em in the alleyways.

The woman tried to scream, but the guard had his hand over her mouth.

“You’ll like it…” he said.

“No…”

“You’ll like it or I’ll cut your fucking tits off, whore.”

#

When it was done, the soldier picked up his sword, told the woman she was a nice fit and if he weren’t going back to Sevilla the next day he might’ve kept her on tap…but as he was leaving…

#

The stranger wiped the blood from the woman’s neck and worked out how long it would take until she bled out…the knife hadn’t gone deep, but it’d done enough.

Spike…or no spike…

Use it and she’d either live for a hundred more years or die from shock.

Not use it and…

#

…there was no need for spikes or self-debate as

the doctors were Spanish and ahead of their time

and the lead doctor was

ahead of

them all

with his amazing green medicine.

#

The woman recovered and her

throat mended and looked kind of

like a throat again and

the stranger visited her and felt glad he

didn’t have to use the spike

after all

thanks to the amazing green medicine.

#

A month later, the woman went outside again and, during her walk, saw two soldiers with two long, sharp swords and, as she passed by, one of them looked at her chest and rubbed his thigh and…

#

It was difficult for the woman…every time she saw a guard she felt…

#

…angry that he wasn’t there and couldn’t stop it, and worse…couldn’t find out who’d done it…which of those dirty Spanish orcs had done it to her because he was gone and the only way he could ever find him was if she pointed him out and said, that’s him, that’s the guy…

Without this knowledge, the only other thing he could do was kill them all…every last orc in the whole fucking city.

#

To say that the woman was sane one year and mad the next seems like a cheat, but it’s true, it happened that way.

#

The authorities pre-1580 had a good way of dealing with mad people.

You cut them, bleed out all the madness and then patch them up.

If the madness remained, you simply kept on cutting.

It seemed severe, but it worked.

#

The Spanish authorities reviewed the methodology of the Portuguese and shook their heads. What barbarism was this?

Much better to simply lock the madman up and wait till the mind fixed itself.

#

The woman was taken to one of these new asylums and shown around. The doctors told her father that nothing untoward would happen to his daughter while she was there.

When the tour was done, the woman’s father signed her away.

As he left, one of the guards looked at the woman and rubbed his thigh.

“You’re pretty…” he said, taking her to a room with a bed and nothing else.

#

The woman ran her finger through the blood on the floor and then smeared it over the guard’s face.

“Can he feel this?” she asked the stranger.

“He’s dead.”

“But can he still feel this?”

“No.”

“His chest looks funny…”

“We better go…”

“Where’s his heart?”

“Gone.”

“What did you do with it?”

“I don’t think you’d like to know…”

“I would.”

“Ne vem…we must go”

“Tell me.”

“I can’t.”

“Are you a vampyr?”

“No.”

“A witch?”

“No.”

“What are you then?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Tell me.”

“We have to go.”

He tried to take her hand, but she pulled away.

“I know what you are…” she said, now with a sterner tone.

“We really have to go…please…”

“You’re a man.”

The stranger tried to pick her up and carry her out of there, but she shrugged him off and said she could find her own way out.

“You don’t understand,” he said. “I can help…”

“No.”

“Please…”

“You’re a man. Leave me alone…man.”

#

The woman went back to her home and watched as the guards took away her father. She followed them a few streets before the guards got bored, threw the man on the ground and stabbed him in the throat.

The woman didn’t make a sound. Why should she? This was the man who’d given her away to the hospital. The man who’d let her mother rot in the…

#

“What does a man deserve but a stabbed throat?” the woman told herself days later, in the basement of a nearby church.

He never even read my stories.

#

The stranger sat by the castle, watching the four soldiers rub their thighs. It seemed that was all they did.

When they went off-duty, he followed one of them, the ugliest one, and when it was dark enough and quiet enough he took the grim-faced little orc by the collar, slashed at his neck, ripped open his chest and slowly, methodically took out his heart.

#

Over the next few nights, he hunted the other three.

All of them cursed him at first, saying boldly he couldn’t do this to them [“I’m Spanish, you fool”], but they were all begging by the time he got to their heart.

“Please…”

“I’m too young.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“I’ll give you gold. Lots of gold.”

“Man, I’ve got five kids to feed.”

But it wasn’t enough.

#

“Ha, you’re a sentimental one, aren’t you, Sila?”

“I must…”

“How old is the girl?”

“Ne vem.”

“How old?”

“I said I don’t know…twenty, nineteen maybe…”

“Ah, a teenager…”

“It’s different…she’s not…she’s special.”

“Specially out of her mind…”

“No…only troubled…which is why I must help her.”

“Claro. And if she’s still mad after it?”

“She won’t be.”

“And if she dies from shock…”

“I know what I’m doing…”

“It won’t be pretty…”

“Tetro…”

“Ja?”

“I’m doing it.”

“Ha, of course you are.”

#

The theory had been written a few hundred years earlier, by one of them who thought only of the mind [actually, the krsnik who wrote it later invented the term ‘psycholetchology’ in Croatia during the seventeenth century. Look it up.]

‘The madness of the mind is eradicated once the venom is administered. The exact process is impossible to sketch, but it seems to be a corrective act performed by information contained within our venom.

In terms of transparency, there are people who believe the opposite of what I theorise, but forget about them, they’re bastards.’

#

The stranger told the woman who he really was.

why his eyes were purple.

why he could never give her children.

She nodded and twirled the ends of her hair.

“You understand what I am?”

“Krsnik.”

“But…do you know what that is?”

“Sim.”

The stranger didn’t believe her, but there was no use pursuing the point, not with this one. He leaned forward and tried to kiss her.

The woman scratched his face and told him to stay away.

“I thought I explained it,” he said. “I can help…”

The woman kept her nails raised.

“Okay…okay. I shall go.”

The stranger turned to leave, but the woman pulled him back towards her chest.

“Are you certain you want it?” he asked.

The woman rolled up her sleeve. “You may stick me once, father…but never again.”

By ‘stick’, the man figured she meant ‘turn.’

“Are you certain?”

She nodded.

“Very well, meu Camilla.”

#

The vein opened, the spike and the venom went in…new information spread and old information surrendered…muscles became tighter, stronger, bones became…

#

When it was done, the woman asked how long she had.

“A hundred and fifty, two hundred years…”

“What about you?”

“I’m ninety-six years old. With luck I shall reach two hundred.”

“What is our purpose?”

“It is ill-defined. The old ways tell us to create, to explore, to make things, but not all follow these traditions”

The woman stretched out her arm, twisting it a little. She looked up and grabbed hold of a wooden beam, lifting herself up.

“You’re twice as strong as you were before.”

“I like it.”

“Though it is unwise to display it openly. In front of them, I mean. Better to focus on creative pursuits…your writing for example.”

The woman lowered herself back down. “I don’t want to write anymore.”

“Sorry?”

“I’m strong…I wish to use my body. Test myself physically.”

“No, it is better if you write.”

“I won’t.”

The woman walked over to the window and tried to climb outside onto the ledge. The stranger pulled her back in, catching her wrist as she lashed out at his face.

“Get off…”

“Careful, meu Camilla. There are still limits…”

“I want to go outside.”

“No…”

“Get off me.”

“It is too soon to go out…please, you have to trust me.”

She wriggled a few more times then, making no progress, stopped and stood there like a mannequin.

“You’re forbidding me to leave…”

He let go of her arm and kept his place in front of the window.

“No.”

“Then move aside…”

“I can’t do that, meu Camilla.”

The woman looked at the door, but didn’t make a move. “I do not like to be called that name…”

“Then take another.”

“Like what?”

“You may choose,” said the stranger, stepping away from the window.

“I do not know many names.”

“There is no rush…”

“No, I don’t know. You choose for me.”

“But I don’t know what you like…”

“It’s okay, father. I insist.” She moved in close and stroked the hairs on his forearm. “Whatever you choose, I shall use it.”

“Are you certain?”

“Sim.”

“Very well.”

The stranger looked at one of the books on the shelf in her room. It was written by a man. He looked at the rest of them. Damn, they were all written by men.

“It’s fine,” she said, watching him. “A man’s name, a woman’s…it doesn’t matter.”

 

THE [Shisuko] END[O]

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