[SS] The Final Performance
Why do they always scream? Why can’t they understand? Why can’t they just accept my blessing? Why? Why? Why?
I tap the heel of my boot thrice, then once more. The sound echoes between the alley walls. Behind and twenty paces to the left of me is a bustling street of merchants and vendors. I hear the familiar sounds of bargaining, horse hooves, laughter, and that one bard that sings on the corner near the council halls. His song is of a time long ago, before factions divided the land, when legends were just warriors, and when art was limited to illustrations on inanimate objects. It was a time that preceded me; I had yet to enlighten this world and elevate its understanding of beauty. Those noises behind and twenty paces to the left of me are just that, noises, produced by laymen. There is nothing comforting nor enticing about them. They are dull and uninspired, dissonant and unrefined, insects of the animal kingdom.
And I am the lion.
I return my attention to my unfinished work. Today it’s a young woman, beautiful by most standards, with a face as symmetric as a blank canvas. She’d seen me in the shadows, the glint of my gun catching her eye as it reflected the flickering alley light. A scream had barely passed her lips when Whisper’s muzzle flashed, and my bullet’s voice silenced hers. She’d fallen backwards into the dirty alley water, and her blonde hair had become muddied and filthy.
Her arms are still at her side; she’d had no time to react to my bullet as it pierced her heart, and her body had collapsed where she stood. Her symmetric face was unchanged. The fall hadn’t impacted her visage. This was a problem. I kneel next to her, carefully, as not to taint my outfit with the dirt and smut of the alley. A rat scurries nearby, threatening to splash rainwater on my gloves. A quick decapitation from my blade ends that hazard and adds a splatter of red to the garbage can close by. An unintentional, but convenient, improvement to my stage.
I look back at the woman. Her face truly is in dire need of an adjustment. She was a leading official of an old religion, the one from the Eastern Isles, the one that worshipped a god of life and ocean storms. I look up at the receding storm clouds and revel in the irony, a thin smile creeping across my face. Where is your god now? Perhaps a religious symbol on her guise will aid her in the afterlife when she faces her deity, undoubtedly disappointed in her failure in life. I draw a second steel blade from beneath my cloak and set to work. Tattoos are commonplace in that religion, but they’re so dreary. Black ink on skin makes for too harmonious of a color palette; why not add some contrast? I let out an audible sigh. This would be easier if blood came in more colors.
I apply the finishing touches to her face and stand, admiring my handiwork. Her right cheek is now graced with my artistic vision. The tentacle is curled in a circle, spiraling inward towards the point at the center of her cheek. I slide my knife underneath the tip and lift, the curved flaps of her face revealing bloody and beautiful tissue. It’s sublime. It’s also only the beginning, of course. I’m satisfied with her face, but the play is far from its final act.
Meticulous incisions are necessary. It’s standard practice. Why even become an artist if you don’t put forth your greatest effort for every new artwork? Four cuts across the torso, four holes through the hands and feet, four dislocations of the wrists and ankles, and four lacerations of the forearms and legs. This will be my masterpiece, my final performance. A perfect, symbolic death awaited this woman.
I lift her from the ground and prop her against the side of the chapel she’d just left. Two posters of a depiction of her God are plastered on both wooden double doors. Symmetry again...boring. I rip the left poster off the door and toss it aside. Only part of it comes off. After a calculated three more tears, the tattered remnants of the picture are on the ground. I draw four new blades and prepare for my final act. With satisfying thuds, I nail her hands to the wooden door, her arms bent to resemble two of the four tentacles of her God— a characteristic I appreciate greatly. I bend her legs and prepare the final two— wait. I’m unable to bend her legs far enough to satisfy the imitation.
Frustration fills me as I realize my preparation was flawed. I cannot be good. I must be perfection. Every element must be in place. I must— deep breaths return me to my natural calmness. This is nothing a little improvisation won’t fix, and who doesn’t love improv? I dislocate her hips and turn them inward, so her legs match her arms. Finally, I nail her feet to the door, and her head hangs down, unsupported.
Her body is a flawless recreation of her God, arms and legs bent like tentacles, her hair messy and wet like tendrils. There is one last thing, however. The composition needs something, a final piece. It clicks for me. I pull out four flowers, carefully arranged steel blades, and place them on her head. It’s a perfect finishing stroke to my magnum opus. The depiction of her God does have five points to the headdress, but it’s not my fault it has a poor choice of aesthetic.
I turn and walk away. Tomorrow, the masses will look upon my work. They’ll see my art, they’ll understand my genius, and they’ll never forget the horror. The image will be seared into their minds forever in the same way my art is embedded in every fiber of my being. I swore this performance would be my last, but I lie every time.