Friday, May 29, 2009

A More Dangerous Kind of Love

So it turns out that story that I was writing in alternation with the dissertation wanted to be flash fiction. (Well, at least for now it does. I have the suspicion that this may be an idea I return to.)

I have been thinking a lot recently about the relationship between the artist and her fans, and the component parts of that relationship. And then something along the weird and creepy end of that spectrum happened to a friend of mine. I wrote this in response to that, and in a way, I suppose it's a thought experiment. But it's also a story. 


A More Dangerous Kind of Love

            I am a very subtle sort of vampire.

            Oh, I can bear the sunlight. I do not sublime into mist or shapeshift into wolf or bat. Should we meet, I will not seek your blood. But if you wish it, I will feed from you, all the same.

            The girl walks slowly through the bookstore, finger tracing the shelves as her dark eyes scan the new arrivals. Her gaze stutters and snaps back. The new Scarlett Thompson novel, on the shelf a few days before the official release. Eyes bright, cheeks flushed, the girl grabs the book, fingers smearing the slick cover, and makes her way to the cashier’s stand.

            I don’t write in public. The idea that someone might see a poorly executed phrase, read a sentence that still contains an infelicitous word feels like pins under my fingernails when I consider it. What I do may be smoke and mirrors, but I want to light the fire, set the angles of reflection. And there is nothing for me in those furtive glances.

            The girl opens the book as soon as she gets home, carefully separating the pages that hadn’t quite been cut, stroking her fingers over them as if she needs to absorb the words through her skin. As if she can. She brushes her hand over the tattoo on her shoulder – “Give space to those who dream dangerously” – her favorite Scarlett Thompson quotation, and begins to read.

            I do, however, quite enjoy seeing people read my books. It makes my blood effervesce. I’ll watch them from the corner of my eye, memorize the expressions flickering across their faces. On those days, when I go home to write, the words come more easily, the stories speak more clearly in my mind.

            The girl devours the novel in great gulps of text, letting Scarlett’s words – for that was how she thought of her, always, as Scarlett – wash over her like the waters of baptism. She gives herself over to the rhythm of the prose, sustaining herself on sentences and paragraphs rather than food or sleep. She feels as if Scarlett has written the story especially for her.

            I recognize them at signings. The ones whose eyes shine just a glimmer too brightly, whose pulse leaps if I shake their hand. They radiate desire like electrical fields.

            I love all my fans, but those, the radiant ones, they feed me.

            The girl closes the cover of the novel, with slow, reverent motions. She closes her eyes as well, breathes the story into her lungs, her bloodstream, her soul. She can still see the last, perfect sentence on the inside of her eyelids. She remains that way, motionless, absorbing, contemplative. An acolyte in the presence of a holy relic.

            The girl stands, goes to her computer, begins her ritual. She opens her files, reads the date of Scarlett’s birth, July 13, luck and its opposite in balance. She gazes at the dot on the map that represents the place where Scarlett lives. The place where someday the girl would go. She recites the bits she has transcribed from the rare short stories that Scarlett has never published, but reads from at signings. The girl has never spoken to Scarlett at a signing, but one day, one day soon, she will.

            I stand behind the podium, smooth my hands over the pages still warm from the printer, smudging the ink slightly. I close my eyes and let the longing of the audience fill me. It prickles my eyelids and I can taste it like a dark, rich wine when I breathe. Some might call it by a coarser name, but I call it love, what they offer, their eager faces and hushed anticipation. They crave pieces of me, and I am sustained by their craving.

            I sip from the convenient glass, and, refreshed, begin to read.


  1. Hurrah for Kat stories appearing, as if by magic (magic!), upon the internet. Makes me happy. Also, in this particular case, creeps me out.

    An aside: I kept thinking of Scarlett Thomas (who is quite fun).

  2. I'm well, glad, I suppose, that it creeped you out, as that was what I was going for.

    Also, I am glad I did not go with my first impulse and actually use Scarlett Thomas as the name.