Suspiria De Profundis
Covered with flies, drenched in black
You're dripping with burning oil
Twisting limbs, burnt, decayed
Alone you stand in barren soil
The roots go deep
And through them flows ancient continuity
Here are the secrets of becoming
And the doors to immortality...
* * *
- part 01: -
I take my final bow.
The energy from the crowd is explosive, and I let their pulsing cries of jubilee wash over me like a cleansing rain, giving me strength for the grand finale they'll never see. I touch their hands, see their faces for what feels like the first time in ages, and my gratitude is as genuine as the pain that hides behind my painted clown smile, a third face concealed beneath flesh and bone, just begging to be destoyed.
I can feel the threat of tears as I reluctantly leave the stage with my bandmates, my mind drifting in the exchange of habitual congratulatory banter that comes at the end of a lengthy tour. They feel like nothing more than empty platitudes, their laughter hollow and disappating as a heavy fog sets in once more in the clown's absence
I feel a hand drop to my shoulder, and I'm hurtled back to reality by John's voice, his grin wide as he offers me a shot of Jäger. I force a smile, far different from the mad showman that makes the audience scream in both fear and joy, and I know he sees through them both as I politely decline.
He nods in understanding, but I can see the wheels in his head turning behind his jade eyes as I tell him I need to forego the ritual after-tour festivities and get some rest. The others are already on their second or third drinks, celebrating yet another sold out show. The venue is beautiful, and I admire every detail of the classic architecture from its velvet curtains and crystal chandeliers befitting of royalty, knowing very well that I'll never see it again.
I can feel Kungen's eyes on me from across the room, peering up from his game at the billiard table. I feel the tension building with the questions on his lips, panic suffocating me as I slink away towards the showers.
The December air bites my face as I trudge along the slick New York streets, the tall buildings like monoliths closing in on me with every step. I pull my hood tighter around my head, hair still damp as I manage to find the hotel in the thick flurry of snow.
‘Mom always said to leave a good looking corpse…’ I tilt my head curiously at my reflection, no longer recognizing the man staring back at me without the black and scarlet war paint. My hands tremble as I finish buttoning my shirt, and I turn to the two bottles waiting for me on the night stand, complete with its complementary hotel edition of the Holy Bible inside.
I can't help but chuckle, the sound a foreign echo in my ears as I snatch up the pills I'd been prescribed for a muscle injury months before. It was nothing that couldn't be repaired naturally, the way I'd lived this life until now, but after some considerable thought, I realize it's the easiest way out.
I pour myself a glass of rosé, always her favorite, and peer out the window into the snowy abyss outside. I shove a handful of pills in my mouth, their bitter taste soothed by the sweet tang of wine and melodies of kings dreaming of snow.
As I ruminate over what was never meant to be, I can sense the opiates creeping up on my consciousness, the alcohol providing a false sense of warmth, comforting me as I feel my senses begin to dull. I close my eyes, biting back the pang of regret that tethers me to my shell and set it free. I know there is no afterlife, no promise of angels or the incendiary punishment of eternal damnation, just a dark and dreamless sleep. I just want to sleep…
I feel myself drifting, but I want to make sure I do the deed right this time. The scars on my arms are faded and old, but with my inhibitions down, I know that the pain will be brief as I flick the knife open, its freshly sharpened edges glinting dangerously in the cozy light of my room.
There is an intense sting of pain, and I barely hear the sharp gasp that escapes my lips, but I dig deep and fast with the blade. Tears flow freely as I feel the wet tear of my own flesh, every haunted memory of trauma and loss fueling my desperate escape. Blood flows quickly, seeping down my arm and soaking into the black silken fabric of my dress shirt. I know that this is the point of no return, crimson droplets spilling copiously onto the white satin sheets beneath me.
The room begins to shift and fade around the edges, the rapid thrum of my heart gradually slowing in my chest. I'm fading, the bloody blade slipping from my hand, my muscles too weak to do anything but fall back against the mattress. Coppery wamth pools around me, filling my nostrils with its acrid stench. The bed is so soft, and I feel myself sinking deeper into death's embrace.
There is a lull, a strange sense of peace as the muffled city sounds around me cease, my final labored breaths no longer my concern while the world around me melts into darkness. There is no light waiting for me at the end of the tunnel, and yet I still hear music somewhere within the coils of oblivion as I'm pulled down by the final undertow.
I don't know how long I drift, weightless in an abyss. I feel nothing, no longer constrained by the wheel of time or the laws of nature, and yet I still remain aware of my body lying somewhere beyond my perception. I try to let go and will the emptiness to take me home, but I slowly become aware of something else stalling my descent.
I am completely immobile, unable to move my body, or rather the essence of it, much less see anything beyond the nothingness. I can feel movement from somewhere, a presence entering the room where I left my prison of skin and bone. I begin to panic, but have no voice besides the one that guided my thoughts.
'This isn't right… What is this? Who's there?!’
The light is dim, barely illuminating the dark figure in a faint silhouette as I see it approach me slowly. The light is emenating from the visitor's eyes, and every last vestige of me wants to run as I sense it beside my corpse.
“Trying to check out early, are we?” A voice purrs, airy and resonant. I can feel his hands, aetherial against my cold skin, clawed fingertips gently turning my face to meet his own. If I could blink or move my lips, I might have screamed, but the skelatal visage that hovers above me wears a benevolent smile.
Curved horns grow amidst a shock of raven black hair and his eyes glow a spectral light like the glow of stars in the night sky. I wonder if this is the reaper, here to free my soul, or perhaps something far worse… I feel a tremor in the cold emptiness I've become.
'I don't want this…’ I can't speak, can't remember the sound of my own voice, but fear is alive and well. He seems to hear me from inside my shell, and I see him lift the corpse’s mutilated arm, my arm, to carefully inspect the damage.
“Down the road, not across the street… You sliced into that artery, all right…” His tone isn't patronizing despite the cavalier way in which he maneuvers my limbs, the underlying growl carrying a note of sadness as he spies the older cutting attempts of my youth. There is something oddly familiar about him, and he seems almost exasperated as if we've had this conversation before.
‘Please… Just let me die in peace.’
“My dear child, death is not for you… Not yet.” He lifts my head, and my dead eyes can see the richly embroidered papal vestments, black and gold with an inverted cross hanging proudly around his neck.
'What are you?’
“Merely a humble servant to the great discord, darling. Your suffering has not gone unnoticed, as you've been fighting this war with yourself for many moons. My master simply will not permit you to waste away in a mediocre hotel room before housekeeping takes note of the smell…”
He turns my head again, still lifeless yet always seeing. In the vast expanse of perfect dark, I see a window, suspended in the void, something shifting beneath the glass surface blacker than the emptiness engulfing us.
Beyond the window, I see the result of my actions days later, before the bustling coroners and forensic anylists sweep in. I see Henrik, John, and Tim circled around Jonas, desperately trying to console him, failing to reach him while he buries his face into his hands and curses my name.
“Your King won't fare much better in the aftermath, and in a few years, he'll be lucky if he can hold a guitar in the right direction… You don't want that for your mates, dear boy… Do you?”
‘N-no… I didn't think-”
“Most individuals in your position can't see past their burden long enough to think of what might become of those closest to them, perhaps set in their delusion that they'll be better off. Rest assured, they will not and your soul will merely rot along with your flesh, and it will feel like an eternity before you cease to exist…”
'But… I can't go back. I can't keep living under the tower's shadow, hiding my face behind the clown... I don't even know who I am anymore!’
I can almost fill his grip on my arm, black taloned fingers brushing the torn flesh running down my ashen forearm, the blood already dried to a filthy burgandy. I feel like I'm drifting further away, even with him beside me, gently reprimanding me for taking my own life, the remnants he holds in his arms now.
“Your voice is a gift, dear boy… Your words inspire so many, lost and afraid like you. Let that sorrow and anger give you life, breathe life into your lungs once more.” He whispers, and I suddenly want to feel his touch in my hair instead of this empty cold chasm. “The starlight waits for you yet, and you will not be without suffering, but we have far greater plans for you first.”
I feel it then, sharp claws tearing into my dead flesh, opening the wound I'd created further. I feel a flicker of life, followed by searing pain as nerves and tendons are meticulously reconstructed one by one.
“I know it hurts…” He hisses, grimly listening to my silent screams, no air to push past my lips, blue and slightly parted as if ready to mouth a question to an unobtainable answer. “There is a reason you creatures do not remember your own birth. It is far more painful than death itself. And to think that wasn't even the hard part...”
The procedure seems to stretch on forever as my dark savior carefully stitches my flesh with perfect precision, clasping my hand gently in his while my dying mind is engulfed in flames of suffering. My fingers twitch and I feel it, no more than a cadavaric spasm, but I can feel it… I can feel the cold shell of death engulf me, and the pain only intensifies.
'It hurts… Please. I'm suffocating in here.’
“A natural response to a severed soul being rudely reunited with its vessel after an unplanned evacuation…” The vestment-clad creature muses matter-of-factly. “It is an ancient practice that can go quite awry, resulting in the body simply wasting away with the soul trapped inside. That is what you are feeling right now.”
‘I just wanted it all to stop… the fame, the money, the following... it became more and more insignificant every time I put on that fucking face, I lost my identity… I couldn't take it anymore!”
“You and I both know there's more to that story, dear boy… It's time to stop fearing what you are.”
His hands rest on either side of my face for a brief moment, a curved thumb nail caressing my cheek tenderly. I can see a tear slide down the distinguished curves of his face, glittering silver from the otherworldly light within him.
Without warning, he applies pressure to either side of my jaw, forcing my mouth open further and thrusts a taloned hand down my throat. I possess no means of stopping him, my arms still limp on either side of my prone form. I can feel him digging, spider tendrils working their way down my cold insides, curling around my organs and worming their way through me like the insects after my funeral.
“In Lucifer's name, purge yourself of this poison and live again...”
An explosion like a supernova burns through every dormant nerve of my body at once, my every sense ignited in a fiery, agonizing rebirth. There a blinding light, but I can see amidst the starfire, and the black mirror waits for me ahead. He stands there beside it, a stark contrast to the shimmering light in his black and gold vestments, a tall mitre adorned with the inverted cross rested on his head.
‘Why would you do this for me? What could I possibly have to offer you?’ I ask him, my thoughts disjointed, and yet I move towards him on my own accord, my spirit form no longer prisoner to the hungry void.
He isn't alone, the plasmatic bursts of shifting light brilliantly reflected in the metallic horned masks of his clergy, wearing black cassocks bearing elemental sigils. I cannot see behind their false faces, but they regard me with respect as they stand watch on either side of the mirror.
“That is the mystery of life, Johannes, of which you will discover soon enough… Now, let's take you back home.”
He extends a hand, and to my shock, I see my own as I reach to clasp his clawed fingers tightly. Red sigils and runes twist and snare up my arms, a faint glow like hot embers emenating from the tribal striations that now cover my body. Frowning, I touch my hair, feel its softness as if for the first time, the black stands reflecting a wide spectrum of colors in the astral fire of the Morningstar.
‘What is your name?’ I ask him. I know enough about him to know that he has no association with angels or the divine, a mediator between the veil of life and death, time and space. I don't care about what he is, and my gratitude overwhelms me as I embrace him.
“Just call me Papa…” He chuckles, returning the gesture without hesitation. I am still aware of him beside me in the hotel room, manipulating my corpse as I now study his face before me, simultaneously existing in this realm as my guardian, perhaps for much longer than I'd been aware while alive.
He kisses me and it feels real. I feel alive, I feel... loved for the first time, since before succumbing to my own weakness. His hands slide from around my elaborately branded shoulders to the back of my head as we drift closer to the rift, his protective embrace keeping me close.
“Now, I'm afraid resurrection will be a bit of a shock….”
There is a moment of sheer disbodimemt and I am without form, surging through the black glass like currents in the wind. I can feel him with me, nothing more than a massive shadow encircling my light.
I shoot upright in the bed and he's still there, holding back my hair as a viscous concentration of fetid wine, pills, and the oily black ichor of certain death pours out of my mouth. Every nerve is screaming, a resounding chill in my bones even as my blood is pumped through my veins once more.
I gasp for air, managing to turn my head, trying to focus on his features, his silvery, spectral eyes regarding me with concern. There's a flicker to his form like old VHS footage. It seems he belongs in this world as much as I belonged in his, but he is completely, undeniably real beside me.
“Everything hurts…” I croak, my throat parched and burning like I've been inhaling glass. He moves away for a moment, taking the trash bin with him and returning with a cup of water.
“I feel it's safe to assume that you'll be staying away from the mini-bar, sharp objects and illicit pharmaceuticals after our business transaction here.” He smiles, a glinting fang visible beneath his curled lip, and yet I still can't bring myself to fear the strange being called Papa.
“Don't be an asshole…” I mutter and drink greedily, knowing I'll need more than water to remedy this hangover. I finally look around me and feel sickened, the dried blood caking my clothing and bedsheets already beginning to smell of decay. The thermostat is running hot, the room sweltering with the crisp December weather outside, and I wonder how long I've been dead.
“About two days before I found you…” Papa said mildly, frowning in recollection of what must have been an unpleasant sight. “Rest assured, your companions are quite concerned and are on their way up here as we speak. It's best that you answer the door lest you want to incur any involvement from the boys in blue…”
I've almost forgotten I'm even in the United States, finishing up the final leg of a very successful tour with four men I've practically grown up with, all of whom I tried to abandon. I realize I've been speaking to the phantom pope in Swedish this entire time, as if death wasn't disorienting enough. I feel overly embarrassed now, feeling a twinge of dread at the thought of the others seeing me now. I begin wrestling off my filthy dress shirt, once a pristine black satin, and toss it in the trash.
“What happens now?” I ask wearily, and his expression is grim before I can broach the question. I examine my wrist, seeing only a faint red line, instead of a gaping wound. “...What's the catch?”
“What do you take me for, a loan shark of souls?” Papa laughs, the sound unusually calming the way it seemed to resonate through me. “It's not like taking out a second mortgage on your body, dear boy. I have my alterior motives, but your gifts come with great suffering, and I will be here to guide you from now on… You will understand soon enough.”
I feel compelled to kiss him again, maybe punch him once for good measure, but a pounding on the door interrupts me before I can carry out the former.
My heart is pounding, making me dizzy after the overload as I hear Kungen's voice outside, his tone bordering on hysterics. I remember Papa's warning and look to him in panic, only to see he's no longer there. However, there is a hollow click as the door’s lock disengages from the inside on its own accord.
Before I can open my mouth to utter an apology, the guitarist throws his arms around me, relief in his voice as he calls me every foul word in three languages, holding me tight. John is in the doorway, respectfully silent as he steps past the threshold and quickly closes the door behind him.
Their confusion is warranted, but the anger and scrutiny I anticipated isn't there, especially when I feel Kungen's hand idly tracing the outline of something on my flesh. The smell of rotting blood and sick doesn't seem to derail their attention from the scarlet tattoos permanently scared into my flesh, particularly the jagged wings that curve in tribal striations down the pale flesh of my back...
To be continued???