In that office in that building in that city in that country in this whole damn godforsaken world, Luke closed his eyes, and he screamed. The sound ripped from his throat, cascading out of him. It was like he was Kronos- but instead of swallowing his children, he’d swallowed swaddled up pain after swaddled up bundle of pain.
Vera sank to the floor, her back still pressed against the wall. “Luke…” she whispered, staring at her poor, broken lover, discarded on the floor in front of her.
Slowly, his forearms trembling, Luke pushed himself upright. Cassandra kicked the knife across the room to him, and he took it in his wobbling fingers. “Vera,” said Luke, his voice the subdued tunnel of ground under every mountain. “Vera, you’ve got to let me kill you.”
And that was the most heartrending request any person on earth had ever made of her.
Vera would have done nearly anything, for Luke. Anything. She would have flown to the moon and carried it home in souvenir gift bags, piece by piece, if that was what Luke had wanted. She would have forsaken the sight of the sun, lived her life by the cool frosted glow of the stars and the night time.
But Vera did not want to die.
The fact is, so many love stories are based on a passion deeper than the lust for life. This is often not the case, even for the truest of lovers. Rule number one of human instinct is self-preservation- you could say, I suppose, that the real immortal love story is the one you have with yourself.
And Vera looked at Luke, and the knife in his hands as he stumbled towards her. She looked at Cassandra, sitting behind her desk again and typing frantically on a little mobile phone. Vera looked at Cassandra and hated her, and looked at Luke and loved him, but the love she felt the strongest - then, there, as she saw death advancing?
Vera’s greatest love was for herself.
I’ll say it again: she did not want to die, at least not so soon.
“Luke,” she said, her voice stiff as she coaxed it from the back of her throat. “Luke, don’t.”
He stared at her- and in his dark, dark eyes she saw reflected an abyss strung across with all the hopeless futility of our existence. “I’m sorry, Vera. “ He looked away, a hound that had fallen in love with the tortured fox. “There isn’t another choice here.”
His legs faltered as he walked towards her, his shoulders hunching under the weight of what he was about to do. Raising the knife above his head with the jolting movement of a puppet on a string, he brought it down softly against Vera’s neck, tracing a silent, scarlet ribbon. He cried, silently, and the blood red mixed with his tears. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry. I promise you, I’ll make it quick.”
Luke pressed deeper with the knife just as Vera shoved him roughly away. He wheeled backwards, emotion and shock rendering him unbalanced.
Cassandra looked up from her phone, raising an eyebrow. “Do hurry it up, my darling.”
Vera shook her head, ignoring the dull throbbing at her neck, her necklace of blood. “I told you,” she said to Luke, panting slightly. “I told you, I don’t want to die!” She ran at him, knocking the knife from his hands and taking it and naming it her own.
Frantically, Luke grabbed at Vera’s hand, tears warm like hot acid staining his face like blotting paper. “Vera, Vera, you can’t, Vera, if I don’t kill you then she will and it’ll hurt so much more, and-“ He broke off, his free hand wrapping round her throat. “I want you to die with me,” I fancy he murmured, though in reality his mumble was punctuated with gasps and breaths and thus largely indistinguishable. “If you’re going to die, I want you to be happy in my arms.”
Of course, Vera was never going to be happy with death.
Luke squeezed the air from her throat, her lungs pulling and constricting like some god or other had attempted to slot the universe into a box. She squirmed wildly, kicking at his legs- and it was then that she remembered the knife in her hand.
Begging for Luke’s forgiveness, Vera twisted and plunged the knife deep into his side.
He fell away from her almost at once, crumpling in a heap on the floor. The look on his face- it was almost as agonising for Vera to see as if she’d been the one in his place. That look was an end-of-everything kind of look, like the world had gone up in flames and left no one to bear witness.
Cassandra murmured in annoyance. “He’s bleeding all over the carpet, you know? Do you realise how long it’s going to take for the cleaners to get that up?”
Vera didn’t answer, hiding her face in her hands and weeping for the loss of her love.
Tutting softly, Cassandra looked critically at the softly moaning Luke. “He’s going to die, darling. Probably dead in the next few minutes- I don’t have the time or frankly effort to get him to the nearest hospital. Do you kill people like this a lot?”
Vera turned. “I didn’t kill him. You did.”
“You were the hands behind the knife, sweetheart. Don’t worry- the first kill’s always bad.”
“Shut up.” Vera walked forwards slowly, each footstep sending an electric charge of pain through her body. “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” Still holding the knife, she thrust it up against Cassandra’s neck. Her hands were coated in dark red up to the wrist, an ironic sort of evening glove.
Taken aback, Cassandra dropped the phone she’d been clutching. She cleared her throat. “I’m warning you- if you make a move against me, darling-“
Vera laughed, a cold, harsh sound that was empty of any brand of mirth. “Darling? My darling’s dead.” She spat the word out, casting her gaze over to the Luke’s lip body in the corner of the room.
“Everyone dies eventually, darl- girl,” said Cassandra, her eyes widening as Vera dug in the knife. She tensed, her voice rising. “Listen, you’re not thinking straight, you’re not- “ She swallowed nervously. “If you dare-“
“If I dare?” said Vera. “If I dare?” She smiled. “Oh, I dare alright.”
With a great, overwhelming ease of the sort that belied her inexperience, Vera carved the knife’s kisses into Cassandra’s throat. The skin tore and shredded – skin is fragile, that way, like paper – and when she’d finished and Cassandra’s body slumped beneath her desk, Vera cried some more.
Not for the woman she’d killed, but for the deed of killing in such cold blood.
The tears racked and scraped and clawed at her body, but that was how she liked it. Every time she cried, Vera decided, it would be a reminder of the boy she’d loved, and lost along with her humanity.
And that’s the end of the story, really. That’s how Vera killed her very first person, her very first lover. I think the funny thing is, instead of moving on with her life and leaving things there, she took things further.
Vera kills every lover she’s ever with, now, and her reason is revenge. It’s not fair, she thinks, that she ended up killing Luke. It’s not fair. What she hopes is that one day, one of her lovers will kill her. Take her place, so to speak, and deliver her from the evils of living. It’ll be Luke’s revenge, his payment for what she did to him, and Vera will finally be able to rest in relative peace.
Simple, right? Except it’s not, because Vera’s just too good at killing for anyone to cut her down. She’s not just a star in the sky – she’s an entire constellation. And even if she wasn’t so merciless, so calculating, so miraculously perfect at everything she does including death… Even then, I still don’t think any of her lovers would ever be able to kill her. Me included.
We’re in love with her, see. She’s not in love with us, and we know that, of course we do- but oh, how we all love the idea of our love. If there’s a moral you should take away from all this, it’s this one thing only:
Love overwhelms. It conquers and overpowers and overrides rational thought. It doesn’t matter if the love’s for yourself or for someone else. Love is the brightest star in the vortex of our lives, the black hole of our lies.
We love it, I think, purely because it is. Love.