THEY TOOK EVERYTHING…
The doctor shivered as they stepped down the quiet hallway. He'd been a psychiatrist for twenty years; he'd seen every stereotype horror movies could throw at him. If it were any other time, he'd have scoffed at the cliche, shrugging it off and going about his business. But today the silence was unnerving, the far-off muttering of the other patients making the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. At the end of the corridor, faint strains of classical piano danced on the still air.
The doctor shook his head. It was far too cliche.
Finally the doctor and his young associate stopped at the door where the music was coming from. It was a familiar tune, but the old man couldn't place what it was or where he had heard it. He turned to the nurse, a quizzical eyebrow raised.
"It's the only thing that calms him down, sir," the younger man said. His skin was pale and damp with sweat.
Steeling himself, the doctor clutched the doorknob and turned it. He was something of an expert when it came to violently unstable patients, but he was nervous to examine this one. When the resident doctor had called she was hysterical, and none of the nurses had wanted to accompany him here. They called the patient demonic.
The two men stepped into the viewing room. There was a desk and two chairs in the middle of the room, and a water fountain in the back corner. The desk faced a large window that looked down into the padded cell. The doctor knew it was one way glass, and the patient on the other side would only see a darkened surface, too high up to reach. Over the PA system, the classical piano lilted on, slightly louder now.
The nurse shrank against the door, as if he was staring down a monster rather than an empty room. His eyes were wide with fear. Still, the doctor took a deep breath and resolutely to the window. Gathering his courage again, he peered within.
Two things immediately caught the doctor off guard. The first was just how incredibly pretty the patient was. The doctor almost mistook him for a woman. The man seemed to be in his mid twenties, with a delicate oval face and pale gossamer skin. His shoulder length hair was jet black and fell in soft waves, and his long limbs were slender and willowy. He sat in a corner with his knees to his chest, his head tilted down and his face concealed.
That was the other thing that surprised and the doctor. The patient was so calm. Every doctor, nurse, staff member who'd been near this room told him that the patient was vicious, unstable. They all genuinely feared for their lives when they came here, despite the impenetrable walls and the patient's straitjacket. But the young man merely sat in the corner, still but not frozen. Every now and then, he'd tap his foot absently to the beat of the song. The doctor didn't sense the usual creeping unease that warned him that a patient was unstable. In fact, even with the straitjacket and the padded walls, the doctor was having a hard time believing the patient even belonged in this facility.
A faint sound wafted up to the doctor then, and despite himself, he took a fearful step back. It had come from inside the cell.
The voice was deep and rich, though raspy from lack of use. It was the tune of the song, but strangely off-beat and came to jarring ends before starting up again. It left the doctor feeling oddly skewed, as though the earth had tilted a little more on its axis. He peered more intently at the patient.
"The Goldberg Variations by Bach… lovely piece isn't it?"
It took a long moment before the doctor realised that the voice had come from inside the cell. He glanced at the nurse, who was staring in shock at the window. The resident doctor had said the patient never spoke, only laughed, screamed, or remained deadly silent. A chilly finger crept up the doctor's spine as he turned back to the window.
The patient went on. "They say he was mad, you know… Well, perhaps not mad as such. He lost his parents young… was raped by sadists as a boy… one trauma after another… surely that is enough to turn a man insane isn't it? Yet people saw him as a genius. I suppose it's only fitting then that he took my name…" the deep voice trailed off, as though the patient was lost in thought.
The doctor found his voice. Touching the intercom, he spoke, his voice drowning out the strains of the Goldberg Variations. "Your name is Bach, then?"
The patient raised his head slowly at this new sound, and once again the doctor was struck by his unnatural beauty. The chin was pointed, the lips full and rosy pink. The eyelashes fanned against ivory cheekbones were long and dark, and the eyebrows were thick and bone straight. The patient opened his eyes and the doctor recoiled.
The dark haired man was staring at him right in the eye. Even though there was no way he could see through the darkened glass. His eyes were an odd blue-purple colour, and the left one was bloodshot, as though he'd been punched squarely in the face.
Frozen in horror, the doctor stared at the patient, who stared right back. For the longest moment the two remained like this, as though they were stuck in a place beyond time. Finally, the patient cocked his head, a small frown wrinkling his brow.
"Is it my name? I can't remember… It's so hard to remember now…" he said in a small voice.
"And… and what do you remember?"
A hellish smile broke out on the patient's face. The look in his eyes was brutal, animalistic. "Would you like to see what I remember?"
Before the doctor could even draw a breath, a crippling pain seized him. He screamed, clawing at his head, his face.
It didn't stop the things he was seeing, hearing, feeling.
He stood in the corner of a small room, watching the pregnant woman stroke her belly lovingly. His vision seemed fuzzy and the world sounded far away, as though He were underwater, and He felt like He was floating. A womb, He registered idly. There was an odd moment of darkness, as though the scene was playing out on a warped tape, and then a woman's scream, broken and guttural. The vision righted itself and the woman was being engulfed in flames.
The fire didn't touch Him, but it pierced His very soul.
The sound of a blade going through flesh filled the air and a white light blinded Him. Squinting His eyes, He watched the baby being pulled out of his mother's corpse. It was too soon, far too soon for the baby to be born. He tried to shut his eyes against it, but the image of the mother's charred remains burned into His vision, her face twisted in anguish and horror.
The baby was being pushed somewhere dark and wet, and He felt everything it was feeling. It was hot and cramped here, and He felt a thick liquid filled his mouth and lungs. He was choking on it, drowning. His heart constricted as the world went black.
Years had gone by, and the baby – now grown into a young boy – had been taken in by a man and a woman, and their two boys. They were a loving family, with smiling faces and warm hugs always ready. He watched how they cared for him, and their love was almost enough to heal the pain from his early childhood. Almost. But his was a cursed life, and the peace never lasted long. Just as he thought that, the peace came to end.
It was like He was watching the warped tape again. He stared in mute horror as the man he called his father stumbled around, seeing things that weren't there. The man picked up a bow and arrow. With a scream, the oldest son fell, an arrow through his heart. The younger boy was held down in a vat of boiling water by his mother. He never found out what it was they thought they were doing.
Then… faces twisted with terror and anguish as mother and father realised what they'd done. The screaming started again – so piercing He thought His eardrums would burst – as they tore at their hair and faces, and then ran headlong off a cliff.
Their screams rangs in His ears, long after the faint thump that told Him they'd hit the bottom. And then the world went black once more. There was another respite, this one long enough to make him believe that the suffering was over.
But he knew better.
He met a boy. A boy with the brightest blue-purple eyes and a wicked smile. A boy who was closer than a brother; who he loved more than he loved himself; who he'd lay his pathetic life down for. A boy who finally made him feel happy.
He watched them taking a walk through the forest, laughing as they played games and dashed in out of the cover of trees. The trees blurred at the edges, but the purple-eyed boy was in the sharpest focus.
There would be no screaming, and perhaps that was worse.
He'd pulled his friend to the tree lines and dared him to swing from the branches. The purple-eyed boy seemed apprehensive, but he had just scoffed. He swung one handed from a branch to show how safe it was, and when the boy still hesitated, he teased him until his friend was convinced. The boy climbed a tree to swing from a vine, when there was an ominous snap. The branch the boy stood on broke, and He watched with frozen horror as the boy fell. There was a sickening crack as his skull met stone.
And then… and then…
The world seemed to move in slow motion as he – wait, was it really Him? – rushed forward. He clasped his brother, his best friend, but… nothing. His eyes were almost black, as if someone had put the light out behind them. Blood coated His hands, His lap, the earth beneath them.
No screaming, but so much agony. So much pain.
And it was his fault.
He covered his face and wept, the blood on his fingers mingling with his tears and slipping into his mouth. The blood, bitter and metallic, swirled and morphed into something sweet. It slid down his throat and made his vision blurry.
Maybe it was desperation, or maybe it was madness, but he dipped his fingers into his friend's blood and brought them up to his lips. The liquid it turned into when it touched his tongue made everything feel like a dream. It dulled the sharp edge of the pain that consumed him, until he felt nothing. Until he didn't know which way was up or down.
Still he drank, until there was nothing left. Until his brother's blood shared space in his veins. And there it would stay. Whatever this drink was, he'd keep it, and make more of it so that his beloved friend's memory would stay alive.
Fruit bloomed on thick vines around him, the colour of blood. He'd make the drink out of these fruits, so he would never forget.
It was all his fault.
Everything from there on out played like highlight reel on burnt film. He could almost smell the acrid chemicals burning.
The world was grey, and playing in fast motion.
There was a robe on His shoulders. A procession. He would be king – no, a god.
The people led Him into a city to meet the king.
A king with a whip.
And an army.
He watched helplessly as the woman he'd come to know as his mother fell dead at his feet. She bore the same tortured expression as the previous two women who'd held that position in his life.
And then something shifted. It was like He was looking at the world through a funhouse mirror. The sky was below his feet and the earth above; grassy clouds dotted the ceiling and inverted mountains were made of flesh. The bodies of his people, his family, were littered on the ground around him. The king, the murderous king, was before him, sitting with his son on his right hand. Oh, but his son was not his son at all, no, but a pillar of writhing grape vines. He stared at the thing that had replaced the young boy.
A smile lifted the corner of his lips.
The king seemed to see the funhouse mirror world too, and blinked in astonishment as he looked around. His eyes fell on what had once been his son and screamed. The smile that had just touched His mouth became a full blown grin, and He burst out laughing. And when the pillar of vines approached its father, the man screamed again and took an axe to it. Over and over.
And then the funhouse filter dropped.
The world never really lost its funhouse filter after that. The sounds of screaming, agony, laughter and madness followed Him wherever He went too. He was broken a little more every time, lost a little more every time He heard it. It became the soundtrack and the theme of His life, until He craved it. Until He longed to see faces twisted with horror and covered in blood.
The doctor vomited. His whole body convulsed. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get the images out of his head. The screaming, the murder, the scent – the taste – of blood. He dropped to the floor.
Below, in the padded cell, the patient was on his feet, the unhinged grin still plastered on his face. He teetered forward, almost toppling over himself as the doctor fell, taking one shaky step then another. He stumbled to where he knew the door was, concealed by padding. As he approached it an entire panel of the wall just disappeared, revealing a staircase leading to the viewing room. The patient took a deep breath and started to ascend.
The nurse was going crazy, that was the only possible explanation. He'd watched in mute horror as the doctor had hallucinated, then crumpled into a heap in his own sick. He stared at the door that led down to the cell, his terror mounting as the footsteps got closer. He wanted to get up and run, but he was frozen, hunched in this corner –
The door opened.
The patient was more beautiful up close, even with two bloodshot eyes. He looked at the doctor with something almost like pride before turning to the young nurse. He said nothing for a long moment, only smiled. A chill gripped the nurse.
"Y-you really are… a d-demon," the frightened man choked out.
Immediately, the patient's face twisted. His brows knitted in rage and he bared his too-sharp teeth in an animalistic snarl. The nurse felt something pushing up out of his throat. Before he could even draw breath to scream, a thick vine burst from his mouth, and then two more.
His insides burned. Vines were creeping out of his mouth and nose as though they had a mind of their own. He was suffocating; he could feel his lungs constrict as the air slowly left. What felt like hours passed, but he did not lose consciousness. No, his punishment was to endure the feeling of suffocating without the relief of passing out. Tears seared his eyes as he fell to the floor, but the vines would not let up. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched the patient step out of the room.
The purple-eyed man scowled as he walked down the hallway, his steps more sure now. The straitjacket melted away, morphing into a purple cloak that swept the floor. Beneath it, he wore a plain white T-shirt and black jeans. He shook his wrists out; they'd been restrained for far too long.
How long had it been since he'd been locked up here? Months? Years? He'd done it for her, promised her he'd stay until she came back for him. But she never did, and he'd gotten the sickening feeling that something had happened to her. He'd endured test after test, probing needles, and invasive men like the doctor and his nurse.
Impudent boy. To have the nerve to insult a god by calling him a demon! Making vines grow from his insides seemed too lenient a punishment. Yes, he'd do far worse to anyone else who insulted him or stood in his way. And he'd do something much, much worse if someone had done hurt her. For he knew she wouldn't have abandoned him unless something had happened.
He'd reached the end of the hallway. From behind him, the faint strains of the Goldberg Variations floated to his ears. It was soft, sweet, almost innocent given that two men were suffering unspeakable horrors inside that room. Dionysus smiled as he turned away from the hallway.
Yes it was very fitting that Bach had taken his name.