The Abominable Dr. Phibes // A.A. de Levine


[Threnody for London]


I need beauty to be malignant. Beauty as a violent and mutating thing, a mask that pulls too tight.

The beauty of a name, my name, that sounds like a song and a spreading wetness, a name that makes people aware of their mouths, covering them.

That is why I took the job.

Here, I thought, is a chance to fill this city’s wounds with beauty.

I see gray men smile with browning teeth and I am moved to pack their abscesses full with light. I see loss all around me: town homes with cracked foundations, split nails on jewel-clad fingers.

How beautiful, turning pain into art, filling the bellies of little creatures. How beautiful to have a plan and a purpose, like nature, like God, who knows very well the pleasures of destruction.

A true artist. Not like man, not like those who claim to heal or build.

I cannot abide ugliness, the vulgarity of imprisoning thoughts in alphabet. I won’t bear it. I love to wear beautiful things, see them, become them.

I love to peer into mirrors and know the things I’ve done.

I love the beauty of scar tissue, the sweet ache of all those reds and yellows, and carriages split open like ripe fruit.

This world could be so beautiful!

We could have music and dancing; we could wear our silks and furs and waltz in the warm pink glow of the neon-lit organ, together, in an electric London cast in resin.

We could sway to sweet white violins, drenched in green syrup.

We could let the locusts feast and know, hands clasped, that we will remain together long after the world is plunged into darkness.

Death has no end, beloved, and neither do we.

That is why I took the job.

Here, a chance to fill these wounds with beauty. Clockwork hands and faces melting beneath a fluorescent sun, London choking on purple silk, its poison blood on display.

How beautiful, death! How beautiful, this life. Place me in a velvet box with you.

How beautiful, how beautiful. A violent and mutating thing, a mask that pulls too tight.

– V


A.A. de Levine is a writer and a short story editor for Coffin Bell Journal. Her work has appeared in New Gothic Review, Goodnight Sweet Prince, Bear Creek Gazette, and Taco Bell Quarterly.

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