ars moriendi


His hand clamped over her mouth, and the look in her eyes was nothing but fear as he dragged her onto the roof.

And I followed behind.

I propped open the heavy gray door that led to the roof and continued to play with the camera in my hands. Fidgeted with it. It was an older style. Non-digital. Wind, like fingers, combed through my hair. Brown strands seemed to float. I pushed it out of my eyes and watched.

"Shane," I said, catching the girl's attention. Her normally pale cheeks were flushed, dampened with sweat. She struggled in his arms, but it wasn't accomplishing anything. She'd probably used up all of her strength earlier, when we'd found her in the hall. "Don't leave marks," I finished quickly, focused on the camera again.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him nod vaguely, then mumble something in reply.

And I watched. I watched as he finally wrestled her to the ground, pinning her, and tears streamed from her eyes but no sound came.

"Take off her shoes," was Shane's lone command.

I took a few steps towards the girl, set the camera aside, crouched, and began to undo the laces on her Mary Janes. The same as my own. She kicked and flailed, but I got the shoes off anyhow, then lined them up at the decorative border of the roof. No need for her to scuff the newly laid cement on the front sidewalk of the school. That would dirty it, make it impure and unclean. It would ruin the ambiance.

He had her up now, her back to the roof's edge, and she was practically lifeless. He just held her at the shoulders, and I absentmindedly reached for the camera and got to my feet.

Christine. I think that was her name. She was a sophomore, maybe. Or a freshman. It didn't matter, really. Age didn't matter in things like this.

Art was ageless.

A jolt pulsed through me, swimming through my veins. Fingers tip-tapped against the camera and I watched as he got her to step one foot onto the short railing of the roof. She was shaking her head, sobbing, half-coherent words spewed from between her lips that carried away in the wind.

Then, the other foot.

Shane mumbled something to her, still keeping a steady hold on her, and she began to shake uncontrollably.

A breeze swept over the roof, and my heartbeat quickened. She lingered there for a moment, and then he pushed her.

There was a silence; not even a scream, and then it came. A sharp crack - the crescendo - coupled with a thud that burned into my ears. They were simultaenous and Shane was watching over the edge. A moment passed and, still trifling with the camera, I took my place beside him.

The girl was laid squarely in front of where the main entrance was, pale skin laced with a deep crimson that wrapped ribbons in her long blonde hair. And no scuff marks to ruin it. I particularly liked that part.

It was just how I'd imagined it.

I felt a small smile tempt my lips, but I resisted it until I saw that Shane was satisfied with it. He shrugged, almost indifferently, but I knew what the action meant.

"Her hair's covering her face," I said, handing the camera to him. He took it. "It's really pretty."

- blood curling twists and waves and fading into a stark white that blended with skin -

"It is."

My eyes fixed on the girl as he readied the camera. Blood seeped out, slowly, pooling. It ate at the sidewalk, edged towards the grass. "Make sure you get a good one."

There was a click, and there was the sound of the picture ejecting from the camera. It reeled, spat it out, and he took it in his hands, lowered the camera. I moved closer, leaned my head against his shoulder as it developed. Minutes passed and white gradually faded to an orchestra of shades and figures, pristine and she was positioned as with a meticulous touch, yet so effortlessly at the same time. The scene from down below came to life, sprung with vivid colors and it was all so ethereal - so surreal and perfect and just the way I'd pictured it in my mind for weeks.

I smiled, feeling the sense of pride blossom from my chest and Shane handed the photo to me. The finishing touches were being made, finally surfacing, and then there it was, complete and recorded, set in stone for forever. Another masterpiece that only the two of us would ever lay eyes on.

The warning bell shrilled, broke us from the reverie, and I slipped the photo into the pocket of my blazer. Shane was already heading for the door and I caught up with him. He opened it and I stepped inside, where the warm air was stale and stifling. The stairway was empty and our footsteps echoed. Silently, the door closed behind us, and we both stood there for a moment.

"That went well," I said, raising my brow a bit. Looking to him for a response. He gave a nod - one of those vague, boyish ones - and his fingers wrapped around my wrist like vines and he lead me down the stairway and back into the belly of the school.

"It did."