I

I. BLEEDING MAN, SLEEPING WOMAN

From chains in a brown dank cellar a man bleeding. He is dark tan and might have been handsome once and his hands were removed hours ago. The wrists are bandaged over. Only sputtering torches light the dirt-floored room. From above a form descends the stairs and with each footfall the stairs do not creak so much as groan. Another man but naturally grotesque in a sad way. He is shy of five foot ten and wears a black suit with a black tie and a white shirt and brown leather boots up to his knees his hair combed neatly. His complexion is almost washed out.

He caresses the shackled man's face and bites lightly at his neck without breaking flesh. The motive is not necessity but the fulfillment of perverse fantasy. Dominance over a lesser entity. The conquered prodded by the Conqueror. He procures from an internal pocket in his suit jacket a scalpel and begins to cut the shackled man along his back. The shackled man does not have energy left to scream but curses his oppressor's forefathers. He cannot resist and falls in and out of some place that is not sleep. Some woman might have lead up to this.

After toying with the shackled man for a short time the Conqueror tells him all the why's and how's of his story. The story is at times engaging and at others tedious. But the story is mostly pitiable. The Conqueror whispers in the shackled man's ear that to covet any good of a neighbor is sin against God but to covet a neighbor's wife is one of the single most serious sins a man may commit in his heart. And the shackled man told him he had done nothing wrong and that he would have done the same. And the Conqueror frowned on him and with his scalpel cut open the shackled man's neck and he bled him until he died. The Conqueror sank his own hands into the opening and his hands were bloodied and he tasted the metallic flavor of his enemy's vital essence.

The Conqueror arose from out the chamber to the world above and to his own dominion again. The house was late Georgian and had three main floors above the cellar. Hard wood flooring throughout the high-ceilinged rooms. Mostly sparingly decorated but bright in a lighter but not quite bright shade of yellow paint above the wooden molding that rose up to waist-level.

From his private Hell the Conqueror rose to his own Valhalla. In the bedroom a king-sized bed outfitted with red eight hundred thread-count sheets and a tall canopy. On top of the red covers lay a woman drugged and naked. This trophy the Conqueror lay claim to and would man in due time. But the Conqueror only sat beside the near-comatose woman and stroked her hair. Her hair was brilliant blonde. She was younger than him. Most people he knew were younger than him but he wasn't old. And he still knew plenty of older folk. He moved his still-bloody hand from her hair to her face and he felt her lips and they were warm.

Purity required until the night discharged him he left the bedroom and entered a bathroom and washed his hands in a tub in hot water that scalded him. He turned off the water and wiped his hands on a towel until they were dry. He checked his face in the mirror and he washed his face with hot water from the sink below until the blood was gone. He combed his hair and then he brushed it and then he combed it again. He ran his hands through his hair and tussled it and then he combed it. He turned off the water.

He went down to the first floor. There the Conqueror pulled off his brown boots and slipped into black patent leather moccasin-like creations by Bruno Magli. He left the house for another realm.