David, a smile pinning the width of his face, galloped a cheery gait down the high school corridor. With his head held high, his vision lightly skipped across the hundreds of faces that scrutinized him daily. His hair, a mop of burgundy tresses, swayed with his movement. Heavy denim bell bottoms and a baggy flannel shirt added to the oddity of his demeanor.
"David!" a female voice called from behind. "David, wait up." David turned about to see Morgana rushing down the hallway.
"Hola," responded David, poorly faking an accent.
They stopped in front of the auditorium doors, their drama class awaiting them. She looked up at him. His bewitching gaze affixed to hers, beckoning her to peer back. This she did with great pleasure. She had found him.
She had memorized his schedule. Every day she looked for him, flushed with insecurity. She didn't obsess about finding him, but casually walked in the direction of his upcoming class. She avoided appearing too anxious, but she needed the security he offered her. They shared a secret, and no one else could dare fathom how the two felt.
One day not long ago, when the thin dry air smelled of orange, red, and yellow leaves toasting in the sunlight, Morgana spoke to David in art class. Their acquaintance was not new; they had been friends for two years, but neither could dismantle the other's pretense.
The memorized lines were spoken. "Did you have a good weekend?"
"Not bad. How 'bout you?"
And a simple conversation turned deep. The trembling words fell, tumbled from Morgana's stone lips. "But I'm not 'normal'... I'm...." She paused. Could she trust him? "Ah you," she spoke slowly, tilting her head to one side. She smiled, laughed. His reaction was not to be feared.
"Odd, to put it kindly," He spoke, brushing his hair to one side. "Kinda like me."
David seemed the stronger one, despite his dependence. Forever needing a fix, he would use pretty much anything he could get his hands on. This was certainly the reason his dad made him leave home, but David handled it okay. He relished his madness rather than resented it.
Melancholy and timidity, however, were inborn into Morgana's disposition. Their neighbors and peers mocked them both. Morgana despised what they spoke about her, whispers behind her back, and was often quiet vulnerable to the gossip. She feared her madness, and this made her weak. So often David took care of her.
The bell rang and they were late. David withdrew his gaze from hers. Smiling, he pulled open the heavy blue doors and they sauntered inside.
* * *
On a frigid night, when the new moon hid in shadows, the phone rang at Morgana's house, disturbing her from a near nap. "Hello," she spoke.
A repressed and detached voice responded. "Please come to me," David begged through the receiver. The phone clicked.
Morgana climbed from her father's recliner and wrapped herself in her winter jacket. She grabbed her keys from the kitchen counter and hastened to David's apartment.
Upon arrival, she hurried for the porch. The moist night air tasted sweet like black licorice. She rang the door bell and waited. Syrupy, slothful music dripped from the stereo in David's bedroom, oozing out through the cracks around the doorway. David did not answer. She pounded on the door with her fist. Still no answer. She tried the door. Unlocked. She pushed the door against the oppressive melody and went inside.
A sliver of lamp light slid from beneath the door to David's room and directed Morgana through the darkness. "David," she called. No answer. As she approached the door she shivered. The song played unnaturally slow, the record player dragging it at a misadjusted speed. Everything moved slowly, almost stopping, straggling with the song. The door to David's bedroom seemed larger and more oblong than before. It was white, too white, clean as if coated with fresh paint. As she pushed the door it felt heavier than before; she actually had difficulty getting the door to move.
Across the threshold, David, his right side towards the ceiling; his eyes lightly closed, lay naked atop white sheets stained red. His hand gripped tightly a bit of notebook paper.
A torrent of emotion overtook her. Horrified, despondent, and abandoned, a cry plunged from Morgana's lips, and she ran to the edge of the bed. "David, my David!" she wailed in shallow breath. She ran her hand down his arm and clutched his hand in hers, looking for some response across his face. "Please open your eyes, David. I need you."
Upon hearing her voice his eyes fluttered open.
He was alive. Adrenaline jutted through her body, urging her to get help, but his dark stare pulled her. She didn't want to leave his gaze, so warm and protecting, ever melting reality. It was her sanctuary. But she must look away. His life...he will die! Die!
"No!" she screeched in jerky spurts. "No. No. No!" She lunged for the phone on the nightstand behind him.
With a trembling hand, David shoved the paper, all stained with blood, into her face, streaking the red liquid across her cheekbone. She would understand.
She took the crimson paper from his hand and read. I must die. You feel my pain, you know my torture. You think me to be so strong, but I need you. I can't die alone. Please hold me. I am afraid.
Morgana returned the receiver to its cradle. The song invaded her, disturbed her, and she knew what must be done. She lay down beside him, facing him, staring into his eyes. She stroked back the matted tresses from his face, traced his perfect visage with her fingers, retaining every detail of her David.
She picked up his right wrist and examined the lengthwise gash, then noted the red laceration above it. She didn't need to see the other, for she knew a rusty nail punctured it. He had been unable to complete the task. She would help him. She would help her David. She loved him, more than anything. She would please him.
He was beautiful, despite his paling complexion. His languid lips compelled her to kiss him. He responded, entangling his tongue with hers. She desired to be with him, one more time, her beautiful man. She pulled his shivering form close, burying him in her bosom. "My David, I'll care for you," she mumbled, pulling a heavy quilt from the bottom of the bed up about them both.
His eyes closed, then opened, closed again, the weight of his lids too much for him. Hot, so hot, then cold, hot again, cold. His chest was heavy, pressing on his lungs, making breathing difficult. His fingers, toes, then arms and legs tingled, numbing. Time. Time slowly passing. Fleeting hotness. Dizziness. Increasing numbness.
The record skipped, repeating itself, repeating itself, repea...numbness, weakness, his breath increasingly shallow. Numbness. Blackness. Death.
He was fascinating and handsome in his death, like a stillborn baby to a mourning, new mother. She released her embrace and yanked the stereo cord from the outlet. The song slowed to a stop. She curled up close to him, forgetting his death. She closed her eyes and held him, trying to ignoring the tick, ticking of the clock.
The promise, she must fulfill it. She opened her eyes, pushed back the covers, stood up, and gently rolled his body onto its back, spreading his arms out wide and pulling his feet close together. She picked up the hammer from beside the bed and took a nail from the nearby mason jar. Morgana fixed the rusty point of the nail tightly against his sticky flesh. Hauling the hammer back, she drove the metal into the flesh and bone. With continuing blows she forced it through the marrow and out the other side.
She stood back, stared at him, and then spoke calmly, "I can't leave his nakedness exposed."
She shrouded him from waist down with a sheet, and then opened his closed eyes wide. She walked to his antique dresser, and picked up a Polaroid camera. "You look beautiful," she muttered and snapped a series of shots.
With a metallic silver pen Morgana printed unrecognizable gibberish across them. The final photo, however, was incomplete in its development. As she pushed the photos into an inner pocket of her jacket, the ink reacted to the process and vicious black lines burned into David's perfect form, a cruel joke.
She turned from the cadaver and ambled through David's heavy doorway and out the apartment entrance. The edifice loomed against the night sky, as if it might very well fall on her and crush her. She climbed into her vehicle and turned the key; the old car didn't want to start. "Come on," she encouraged her motor and tried again with success. She turned the radio to a local station and drove towards home. As she came to a stop sign at the end of the road a blue Pinto sped by. David's roommate, she noted. She watched in the mirror as the taillights grew smaller and then disappeared. The radio whispered the first notes to David's song. She had grown tired of it. She fumbled for the small black knob and turned the station.