Thanks to Sarah for naming Francis and Thomas.

A Vision of Beauty

A soft glow peeks over buildings. A bright, burning flare, cooled down for the evening. A figure casually leans against the wall of a balcony, an object in hand. All that can be seen is a dark outline, no light comes from within the building.

The flare, riding on a golden chariot, flies further and further away, creating colors not otherwise seen. It is cloaked elegantly in hues of pink and purple. Soft white balls of stretched cotton glow a gentle pink while dark blue invades the sky. The last reminder that day existed disappears. It sinks, sinks, not to be seen until tomorrow, should the next day arrive.

The little remaining light is caught on the silvery edge of a knife, gleaming, blinding white. The knife stills and on it, the sinking sun is seen in perfect miniature detail.

"The sunset is so lovely!"

A voice calls, "It really is, isn't it? I've never seen this kind of orange!"

The figure peeks over the balcony, his body extended a bit too far. Below him, a man in a black coat stands. His eyes are warm Atlantic waters, while his hair is sun-ripened wheat. The figure cocks his head and declares, "On the contrary, I would declare that the sunset is red!"

"Really? You're a strange one. Anyway, see you around!"

"Please, wait a moment! Have an apple! These are rather exquisite!"

The figure reaches into his pocket and the ball-like form of an apple sails in the air. The man on the street picks it up and replies, "Er, thank you. My name is Steve, yours?"

"I am called Francis C. Belmont."

"Well, then, Francis, see you around!"

"Indeed!"

Steve turns and continues walking.

Francis straightens and watches the man, Steve, moving away. Suddenly, the black overcoat appears to gains a fuzzy outline and black wisps of smoke secretly curl around the man. A black aura, whispering of ghosts and death surrounds him. The man blinks out of existence, vanishing for a time and reappears at the edge of the sidewalk. He stops and glances at Francis. The look is filled with uncertainty, suspicion, unease. He continues walking. The man appears to glance at the balcony two more times, before disappearing.

The knife in Francis' hand glints angrily. Francis bows his head, looking directly at a knife. A harsh voice chuckles, "Ha, I should have known, he's a demon! How rude of him to interrupt our conversation!"

Francis replies, "Indeed, my dear Thomas! Demons are such ugly beasts! If only I could destroy him!"

Thomas says, "He even believed that the sunset was orange! Bah! How typical of such beings!"

"Orange is such a distasteful color, is it not? The red of an apple," Francis' right arm gently lifts in the air, his hand cushioning an apple taken from his pocket, "is far more exquisite."

Thomas laughs, "Oh, no, I would say that it is red like blood! That shade is far more enchanting!"

The almost-round form of an apple hops into the air. It pops up once again, like popcorn. The figure's hands deftly catch it. It is toyed with like one would play with a tennis ball, throw, catch, throw, catch. The figure holds the apple and declares, "But, I must say, my good fellow, this apple is rather exquisite! It's smooth without any blemishes! So soft, but firm! The shape round, narrowing toward the bottom so elegantly! I perfectly adore the color! A very rich red is it not? A fine cloth of skin, not evenly colored. Indeed, how is it possible that there are many hues in one apple?"

"My good fellow! It is simply an apple! I must declare! I bet the discoloring came from people rubbing the color off!"

"Ah, your temper is so very cruel, my dear. May I please continue my speech?"

The knife in Francis' hand flashes irritably, and Thomas says, "Very well."

"An apple is beautiful, but how horrid an eaten one is! No perfection in any way! Misshapen and ugly! With such a distasteful, pale yellow color in the center! It doesn't fit the red skin at all!"

"That is why we must rid the world of ugliness!"

"Yes, it is my mission!."

Francis looks out to the night, the stars, pinpricks of whiteness, like light hitting a silver sequin. They twinkle and dance, laughing. The blueness, enchanting, deep, drawing, asks for attention, begging to be admired and adored. He extravagantly gestures to the gulf, "What a beautiful night!"

Thomas replies, "Indeed it is! However, don't you think there isn't enough light?"

Shocked, Francis asks, "Pardon me! Can you not see?"

"I am afraid to say that I cannot! Indeed, I am quite relieved that I have not yet hurt you!"

With a soft click, yellow light flickers to life. The figure is a man clothed in a purple trench coat. His hair, long and brown, is neatly braided into place. Green eyes, filled with streaks and scattered blots of brown are wide open. Francis looks to his left wrist. A silver watch stares back at him. The face is white with bold, black numbers.

Francis asks quietly, "My dear Clara, you have been so silent! Pray tell, what is the matter?"

A very feminine voice replies, "Nothing is the matter, my dear friend. I am simply contemplating about the demon. What purpose did he have in interrupting you? Particularly, when you are speaking with your best friends?"

"Ah, my dear, your pondering will only give you a painful headache!"

"You truly think so?"

The black minute hand on the watch suddenly grasps onto the five, not wanting time to pass. Fingers wrap around it, the force of gravity push it down, but it refuses to move. The hour hand points at the six, the pointer finger long and mocking. The second hand ticks along, ignoring the hour and the minute hands.

* * *

The haunting coldness of the night is absorbed in the concrete of the floor and walls of a narrow alley. It doesn't breathe, the air is still, nothing disturbs it at this time of night. A lone lamp, amber and strong, provides light, but shadows hang even there. A large wooden box, made of planks and a thick layer of dust, casts a long shadow. The squeaks and quiet skitter of rat paws do not destroy its stillness.

A man frantically crawls back, panting. His back hits the concrete wall and he stops, he has nowhere to go. His left arm bushes against the splintery box. Sweat rolls down his brow and roll down his cheeks, his eyes crying. Silky blond hair is plastered to a normally calm face. His eyes are wide open, out of proportion. The iris zooms in all directions, out of focus. His body trembles, a violent earthquake. A cruel laugh, round, echoing, dances in the darkness of the alley.

The man stutters, "Y-you're insane!"

"Indeed, I am! I can proudly declare that I pray to the gods of insanity daily!"

"Wh-why?"

The shadow of a figure, dark, emerges slightly. The eyes glint in the dim light, nothing but the two specks visible. An object shines by his side, silver, deadly. An unspoken warning to beware. The figure's arms outstretch, forming a "w" with his arms and head. As he speaks, his body echoes the words, extravagantly emphasizing everything.

"Why you ask?"

The figure laughs, his teeth a brilliant flash.

"Of course, Steve, it is because insanity is beautiful! With insanity comes freedom! It allows you to be cruel, inhumane! Claim the world, prattle about the most trifle things! Destroy lives, break the will of people! I can do anything I wish and no one can stop me! That's why it's so delightful! It's amazing is it not?"

Steve breathes deeply, he not sure whether a response would be wise. He quickly looks around, looking for a possible escape. There is only one possible route, past the insane man.

Instead of replying, he shakily stands up. His legs, hardly capable of holding his body up, hit the ground. Before he takes five strides, a hard hand pushes him down. The grip is firm, hard, unrelenting. It lets go and Steve hastily scoots back and hides in the shadow of the box. The amber light of the lamp flickers and dies, all light extinguished, all hope gone.

"Really, how shameful, disagreeing so quickly! I haven't even finished my argument!

"You see, insanity gives you the power to conquer countries, no the world! I must declare that one may dominate the universe with insanity! It opens your horizons to things to do, to see!"

The figure suddenly perks up, smiles and excitedly exclaims, "Now, my good sir, I must ask! What do you think of insane people? In all honesty, I've been told many times that I am, indeed, insane, but I don't believe them. Insanity is such a rare gift that rarely gets to perfection, a humble person like me surely cannot be insane! Pray tell, what you think? I would like to know your opinion before I neutralize you!"

A shiver ripples up Steve's spine. He stares at the ground, and doesn't reply. Fear rapidly builds in his chest. Desperation and pure helplessness envelopes him, the will to fight erased.

"Oh dear, has a cat taken your tongue? Or indeed, have you died before I could kill you? If you have that would be a trifle sad, since I was hoping on having the pleasure of doing so!

Steve yells, pleadingly, "Please, have mercy! Don't kill me! I have a family!"

The figure chuckles, "Ah, you're such a darling! I adore it when people beg for their lives! Such a desperate, fruitless battle! Since you are not answering my question, say goodbye to this world, for I am ending your life!"

The figure lunges forward and is suddenly by Steve's side. Steve shivers as the figure places a sharp point by his abdomen. Slowly, the figure gently slides it upward, until it just rests over Steve's heart. Steve's eyes stay focused on the bare outline of the knife, faintly gleaming.

"Hmm, what must I do? Shall I stab you here? Or…."

The knife slides to Steve's neck. The blade touches the tender skin and a small cut is formed. Steve shivers as a stream of blood rolls down his neck, chillingly warm.

" I believe I shall slit your throat! It shall be much more beautiful that way! Now my good sir, look up at me! I wish to see your eyes full of fear!"

Steve doesn't move, corpse-like before he is even dead.

"Come now!"

The figure forces Steve to look up. Steve's fearful eyes look into the lighted ones of the insane person. The figure's eyes are just as large as Steve's but, they are filled with immeasurable glee. The light from the moon is just enough to see the crooked smile on his face.

The knife crushes into Steve's neck. The cold steel invades his warm body. Pain, coldness, then nothing. Steve's body slumps and the flicker of life dissipates. The figure laughs, low and throaty. He exclaims, "My, how beautiful death can be! Now I must beautify him more!"

The figure deftly takes his knife and slices into the abdomen. Squelching and sucking noises break the stillness. The figure peels back the skin and muscle and peeks at Steve's innards.

"Oh dear, what's this! This man has eaten a snake! How cruel!"

The figure tugs on the intestines of the corpse, pulling them out. It appears to flicker its tongue and slither away, disappearing into the night. A large object is removed from the body cavity. It dimly shines in little light the moon provides.

"Ah, such a horrid form! Here, my dear friend, allow me to make you beautiful!"

Noises of a brutal hacking, nauseating squishes and blood splatters fill the small area of the alley. Pieces of the organ fly in all directions. The distinct sent of iron and salt hangs in the air. Like a sculptor, the figure cuts with careful precision, a clear goal in mind.

"Ahh…perfection!"

The figure holds a round glob to the light of the moon.

He looks around, "Lets see…what else may I do? How can I bring some more beauty to this ugly world? Oh, inside of him runs paint! I shall paint the walls!"

The figure plunges his hands into the empty cavity of the abdomen and begins his gruesome work.

* * *

Francis C. Belmont smiles brightly. His eyes are tightly closed and a grin that is ready to cleave his face in half expresses his joy.

"My good Clara, isn't this beautiful! What genius could have done this, do you think?"

"I'm afeard that I do not know."

"Of course only I could have done this! Look at this glorious painting! The careful swirls!"

"Of course, how could I have not known?"

Francis leans down and inspects a corpse on the ground. His liver, apart form a single blob, has been torn to sheds. The eyes are wide open fear.

"The moon aluminates it all so perfectly! If only moments like this could last forever! The death must have been gorgeous, his last breath, enchanting! Indeed, only I could have done such a perfect thing!"

Thomas's irritable voice breaks in, "Francis, if you keep standing there we shall miss the movie! Come now!"

" I apologize, let us go!"

Francis walks toward the exit of the alley, but before he leaves, he glances back at the masterful death, smiling.

"My friend, you must run, we are almost out of time!"

"Indeed Clara!"

He breaks out into a run, the streets zoom by, a unified blur. Panting, he stops at the movie theater, ticket in hand. The person at entrance tears the ticket and Francis strides in.

He exclaims happily, " I am soon to see a god!"

Francis enters the theater and sits down. The advertisements endlessly slide into each other, waiting for the moment to start the movie. Thomas' voice hisses, "When is it to start?! I have been waiting since time began!"

Clara replies, "Patience my dear, I believe it shall start soon!"

A man recognizable to all suddenly appears. His mustache is very square and a perpetual frown is etched on his face. His arm is stretched out in a salute. Adolf Hitler. The black-and-white screen tells his tale. The speeches, the camps, the war, everything. It ends telling of the end of his life.

The credits roll across the screen. Francis stands up, applauding.

"Bravo, my dear Hitler! It is a true shame that death stopped you. So much power, you could have conquered the world! Indeed, insanity can make you do anything! Even…fly…"

Thomas snaps, "What are you planning now?"

"Nothing my dear, shall we depart?"

Clara says, "Yes, we shall!"

Francis asks, "My friends, before we go home, I shall like to visit a pool, shall you join me?"

Clara replies solemnly, "I'm afraid not. I do not fare well in water."

Thomas adds, "Indeed, I shall like to be left behind as well."

Francis sighs and says, "Ah, very well. You might be missing my finest moment! Now, I shall drop you off!"

Francis speeds to his apartment. He hops up the stairs, three steps at a time, a small amount of lift helping him to the next. The clatter of keys accompany him all the way up to the second floor.

Francis swiftly opens the door. He gently puts a green folding knife on a dresser. The blade imbedded inside of itself. Francis says, "I shall see you later, my dear Thomas!"

Francis removes his watch and carefully places it next to the Thomas, the knife. He says softly, "I shall see you in the morning, Clara,"

The voices of Thomas and Clara blend as they say, "Very well."

He exclaims merrily, "Now my friends, I must be off! Since I have done that glorious murder and have seen Hilter, I must try something!"

Francis doesn't even bother to lock the door. He speeds down the stairs, falling more then running. Past the stairs, into the courtyard of the apartment complex, a pool sits in the center, waiting for Francis' arrival.

All of the lights have been turned off to save energy, even the ones in the pool. The waters lap against the edges, the little crests forming under the gentle breeze in the air. The moon is the single and only spotlight available, casting quiet shadows that lurk at the edges. The silver moon is surrounded with a halo of white. The pale creators and abbesses of the moon are easily visible, giving it a ghostly feel. The air has a quiet chill, cold enough to feel it, but not enough to freeze.

Hanging over the pool is a diving board. It stands with its chin up, head high above the water. The moonlight illuminates it, the light blue color fading, leaving a blinding white.

Francis cautiously approaches the diving board. It watches Francis' approach, unflinchingly, like a predator waiting for its prey to walk into its empty jaws. Francis gracefully bows to it and asks politely, "My good friend, please, allow me to jump on you!"

A resonant voice replies, "You are welcome to. Simply do not bounce too much or jump too hard."

"Of course, I shall be outstandingly careful!"

Francis cautiously steps upon it. It jumps up slightly, balancing his weight. It wiggles and he freezes. It stills and he shuffles forward. The diving board beneath him doesn't move. Gaining confidence, Francis moves to the very edge of it. He looks up, taking confidence in the starry sky above. He yells, "Hitler and I can fly!"

He cushions his knees and springs form the diving board.

Time seems to stop. Francis spreads his arms, like bird wings. Feathers sprout from his fingertips. The long flight feathers burst from his trench coat, bright purple. They elongate, his arm suddenly a yard wide. The stiff feathers keep him aloft. Fluffy feathers blanket him, giving heat. Francis is engulfed in feathers, warmth radiates from his body, clothed in bright feathers. The wings are light weight, able to carry him over the water. The vast sky is suddenly too small for the wings. These wings can take him around the world in a matter of seconds. The stars, not so distant, within reach.

The moment is destroyed when Francis hits the dark water with a harsh slap. He curls up from the impact. He slowly uncurls himself. From bird to fish. A flurry of bubbles rise to the surface, silvery, rushing to reach the air. The cool water insulates his body. Francis' feet gently tap the concrete bottom.

His eyes look upward to the surface of the water. Wrinkles of light shine above him. Silver and azure mix together. Perfect for each other, meant to be. His eyes are drawn to a bright flare of light. It gently breaths and ripples. It wiggles and dances as wind in the above world play on the surface. Its intensity, power, allures Francis. He reaches up to it, to caress it, but he cannot reach. Air escapes from Francis' lungs as he expels a gentle sigh. The large bubbles gurgle and rush to the surface.

How beautiful the moon is! So perfect, so white, so blinding! More outstanding than anything else the world has! Pristine, pure, shining like a diamond in the sky! His strokes the image above his head. How it dances! Shifting and moving, jittery, as if it is laughing! The blue streaks across it that break it, blue and silver, amazingly contrasting. Francis' chest burns with his passion for the moon. It burns harsher then a flame in his chest. Finally, he has found the most perfect thing imaginable. With one last contented sigh, Francis closes his eyes, eternally happy.