Read Poppy Z. Brite - 1992 - Lost Souls Online
Authors: Poppy Z. Brite
felt that touch in the depths of him,
his backbone, turning his intestines shuddery. He began to choke.
said a voice from the dark doorway. A weary voice, a voice for speaking long
after midnight, a voice to be used when all paths are blocked, when castles
have fallen to ruin, when morning will not come again.
eyes swept the darkness. “Steve?” For the voice was Steve’s, and the smell was
Steve’s too, the clothes stiff with drinking-sweat. But the smell of lonely
desperation was gone.
was exhaustion, and fear, and the damp secret scent of sorrow. But beneath
those was something new, something Ghost hadn’t caught from Steve for a long
time. A vibration more than a scent. A tremor that thrummed the air between
them, turned it electric, webbed it with white crackling lines of energy.
was anger. Good old pissed-off Steve Finn anger.
hissed air in through his teeth. “You.”
your hands off him,” said Steve. He gripped either side of the doorjamb,
holding himself up. His hair stood up in crazy dark tufts and wings, shoved
messily behind his ears, a week dirty. “Let him go, motherfucker,” he told
Arkady again. “I don’t care what kind of badass juju guy you are. Right now I
could reach down your throat and tear your foul black heart out.
let go of Ghost.
on,” said Steve. He jerked a thumb toward the staircase. “We’re leaving.
getting in the goddamn T-bird and going home. Ann can get torn apart from
inside out if that’s what has to happen. If that’s what she wants.
make yourself into a whore for her.
for anybody. You’re too good for that, Ghost. You’re too goddamn fine.”
eyes shone crystal-bright in the dark. Two wet lines glistened their way down
his cheeks. Tear-tracks. But he stood straight, and though his hands still
gripped the doorjamb and his clothes hung from him like rags on a scarecrow, he
vibrated from him. He had made a decision, and he would abide by it. But not
went to him. After a moment Steve let his arms drop onto Ghost’s shoulders, and
Steve’s tears fell into Ghost’s hair and were lost there, palely tangled. They
stood leaning on each other, strength passing between them.
go,” Steve said at last.
called Arkady when they were halfway down the hall.
stopped but did not turn. His grip on Ghost’s arm tightened. Ghost looked back
over his shoulder, drawing closer to Steve, afraid to meet Arkady’s eyes.
are too fine, Ghost,” said Arkady, and though his voice was only a moth-whisper
in the dusty hallway, they heard him. “I did not lie when I said you were
brave—dreadfully, achingly brave. You shared none of my lust, but to save your
friends you would have given yourself to me. And I would have let you.
you are too fine. We must band together against the eternal night. The vampires
took my brother, and I will not let them take another beautiful young life. I
will help you. Lord help me, I will help you.”
Arkady Raventon crossed himself twice. First upside down, then right side up.
said Arkady, holding a packet of dried leaves up to the light.
had come downstairs and lit the candles in the shop, calling up the spirits of
cinnamon, nutmeg, licorice. Arkady had arranged his materials on the glass
countertop: vials and encrusted bottles, a mortar and pestle, a bundle of
crumbling envelopes. Now he picked through them, sifting, pinching, sniffing
slouched against the opposite wall, scowling but surreptitiously interested.
Ghost watched with his chin prepped in his hands, horribly rapt. He did not
want to watch the making of the poison that would scour Ann’s womb, but he had
to. This was too familiar. This awakened memories of his grandmother and
Catlin, or his grandmother alone, hunched over some
candlelit table with an assortment of packets and tiny shining bottles dose at
hand. Ghost would creep out and hide in the shadow of the bookcase or the
doorway, and sometimes his grandmother would sense his presence and call him
over to watch. Then she would tell him what fragrant oils and leaves she was
will bring luck to someone’s door, she would explain, or This will ease a
woman’s monthly pains. But sometimes the concoctions did not smell sweet at
all. Sometimes they smelled brown and fetid, and vapors curled up from her
mortar. When his grandmother was mixing that kind of concoction, Ghost always
got sent back to bed.
said Arkady. “Bay leaf.”
shifted, slumped further. “Shit, we could have gone to the A&P for this.”
said Arkady, lowering his eyelids at Steve. “Yarrow, brooklime. And garlic.” A
small secret smile crooked his lips. “It won’t like all this garlic.” With a
flourish he uncorked a small blue bottle and poured a few drops of cloudy
liquid into the mortar. Herbs hissed coldly. A twist of vapor wafted up.
pushed himself up. “What the fuck was that?”
smiled. “The crucial ingredient. Without it, this would be a mere salad.”
scowled; Arkady might as well have said Wouldn’t you like to know?
watched Arkady scrape the paste from the mortar onto a square of waxed paper.
It was a bright organic green, and it seemed to seethe on the paper. Made from
a thousand herbs, made from altars, Ghost thought; this stuff would surely burn
Ann’s throat when they forced her to swallow it.
least, he hoped she only had to swallow it.
folded the square of paper in half and twisted the ends. “That,” he said,
that. Now you must find the girl and bring her to me.”
and Ghost started speaking at once:
the fuck are we supposed to do that?” said Steve.
can do that,” said Ghost.
upstairs, Ghost looked out the window at the landscape of wedding-cake
buildings iced with intricate scrolls of wrought iron. Far to his left, beyond
his line of vision, the lights of Bourbon Street glittered; the crowds still
staggered; the very stars in the sky swam—bright round stars, great glowing
ones, hallucinatory stars.
the end of the hall Arkady slipped into bed, and Ghost caught one dry lonely
thought: He is too pale, too fragile; my love would surely have shattered him.
it all, above Ghost and Steve and Arkady and the rest of the gaudy town, a
small cold moon hung. A moon like a sliver of frosted bone, a moon to bring
turned away from the window.
was already in bed, his arms wrapped around his pillow. The moonlight smudged
crescents of shadow beneath his eyes. With his fingers he had combed most of
the tangles out of his hair, and now it lay along his cheeks and forehead, limp
with the dirt of the French Quarter, with the sweat of a long road trip. He
looked terribly young, younger than the first time Ghost had laid eyes on him,
walking through those sun-dappled autumn woods. Back when things were simple.
on to bed,” Steve said. “It’s almost morning. Tomorrow we’ll figure out how to
find Ann and make her swallow that shit. It’ll probably kill her!”
sensed unsaid words hanging in the air like river-mist. He slid under the
covers, into the comforting pool of Steve’s warmth, and waited.
last Steve said, “But I guess that’s better than letting the vampires kill
believe it,” said Ghost, softly enough that Steve could pretend not to have
Steve rolled onto his back and answered. “Yeah. I guess I do. I saw Zillah’s
face that night, outside the club—I know that now. I saw it, and it was all
sick of lying to myself. You don’t lie to yourself. You’re not scared of what
your heart knows.
believe something bad is going to happen to Ann. I believe it because you
believe it so much. You think Ann will die if nobody helps her. You believe it
so hard that you were ready to sell yourself to Arkady. To save her, if you
could. And I guess to save me, too.
anything that you believe in that strongly, Ghost, I’m not
in a million years.” Under the covers, Steve’s hand found Ghost’s and gripped
it hard, almost painfully. Ghost heard the rest of the thought: Because I trust
and nobody else—and if you believe it, then damn, I guess I believe it too. The
Easter Bunny didn’t come through; neither did God or the Haircut Fairy, but
you’re still magic.
…” Ghost whispered the name. His heart was swelling in his chest, wanting to
join somehow with Steve’s heart and become one live pulsing thing. Siamese
twins joined at the heart, all the beats of their lives measured out together,
their blood running through the same miles of veins.
rested his hand on Steve’s chest and found Steve’s heartbeat, even and strong.
the touch Steve seemed to loosen a little, to uncoil. Did the shadows beneath
his eyes grow paler? Ghost put his fingers out to touch those shadows, to try
to capture them under his fingernails, maybe put them in his mouth and swallow
them. Steve’s eyelashes flickered, but at the last moment his eyes stayed open.
He trusted Ghost that much. You are my oldest friend, you are my only brother….
touched the raw-silk skin beneath Steve’s eyes, the roughness of Steve’s cheeks
with their four-day stubble, the slowly melting tightness of Steve’s mouth. He
laid his head against that steady heartbeat. He felt Steve’s lips shape a word:
managed to make a small sound in his throat.
you ever leave me. Don’t you ever go, man—” Steve stopped, but Ghost heard the
sudden hoarseness in his voice.
said Ghost. “It won’t be me who goes.” He could say no more. Instead he would
swallow those shadows smudging Steve’s eyes; he would lick them away. He bent,
and instead of finding Steve’s eyes, his mouth met Steve’s mouth in a clumsy
both grew tense. Ghost thought, No, oh no, that wasn’t what I meant to do, and
Steve’s hands came up to push Ghost away.