Song: “Run (I’m a Natural Disaster)” by Gnarls Barkley from The Odd Couple
The tale seemed so far-fetched at first, I have to admit. When Shirley approached me at the Davanfort party, breathe and tongue thickened by drink, I wrote off her bizarre behavior as the joke of drunk too far to the wind to be able to build to a cogent punchline.
But then, there she was this morning, ringing my bell with an almost religious dedication until I answered.
“Have you given any thought to what I told you last night, Vivian?” she said immediately, brushing past me and entering my home without so much as a “please” from me.
“Only to consider how blurry you must have been to share that yarn with me,” I replied, a little cheekily, I confess. Still, it was bloody early and I was perfectly content to stay in bed much longer rather than sit with this barking lunatic in my front room, shivering in my—I admit—rather limited night clothes.
She chuckled, but her eyes seemed alight with something different than humor, “Yes, yes, I suppose I was a bit moved by the grape last night. But I assure you that alcohol only moves me to confession, not to fabulism.”
I let her statement wash over me a moment. Did she actually expect me to believe that she, the original good time girl, was also a blood thirsty monster under the flesh? How ridiculously ludicrous.
Still, her family was one of tremendous wealth and influence and as one a bit more on the noveau side of the wealth equator who did little to quell rumors about my rather, shall we say, frank expressions of sexuality, I needed more people like her on my side, not less. No harm, I thought, in indulging her barmy chatter.
“Oh,” I replied, reaching for some suitable truism and instead settling on a question, “So…shall I change my clothes and we can discuss this more in-depth then?”
She nodded, solemnly. “Yes, change. Into something warm. Your clothes now are quite dear and no doubt appreciated by Lord Bonzi, Dr. Lester, Gregory, and the viceroy, but they are not really suitable to our journey.”
“Journey?” I called to her from my bedroom as I began to undress and dress.
“Yes, yes. I have to take you somewhere so you can really understand.”
Odd that, I thought, but did nothing to act on those thoughts. Social graces, I suppose.
So then we were heading across the still dewy hills to a ramshackle white brick wall.
“This seems unsound,” I called out to her as she scrabbled over the rubble to disappear behind it.
“Oh come on now dearie” she responded, “There are stairs here that we must go down.”
With shrug I followed after her. As we walked, she spoke of family curses, blackouts, shredded clothes, blood, and a mounting sense that she was not in control.
With each step, I more and more accepted her premise. She seemed to become increasingly more concerned about helping me understand who she was and who she became. She spoke with rising intensity as we traveled down weaving staircases and through torchlight dank stone halls.
When I finally begged for a moment of rest, she agreed and we stood in that dripping hallway, shoulder to shoulder.
“What can I do to help?” I finally asked, “If you are what you claim, I want to help, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how I can. What can I do to save you from your own monster, from the beast you carry with you?”
Shirley sat quietly in the darkness, almost as if she had not heard me. She rocked, slowly, almost imperceptibly back and forth. Perhaps she was lost in thought, I considered and then repeated myself, my offer.
She stopped moving and rotated to face me. Slowly. Impossibly slowly.
“Vivian, my dear, I fear you maybe misunderstand my purpose in bringing you here.”
I could only stare at her, frozen in place as if I were a tree. The sounds of nature, so ubiquitous before, went silent.
“I didn’t bring you here to save me from my monstrousness. I brought you here to be its next victim.”