Bartok Alone

Fan Content

Written on 2018-09-05 by Laurent Duhamel

It’s raining outside the window. I’m sitting alone with a half-finished cup of coffee that is now cold and a danish I have not touched, in a small coffee place in the heart of some city that I force myself to remember.

I’m not the same when I’m alone. Truly alone. There’s not a pointed ear in sight, not one magical animal, no thrilling heroics here, in this moment, in this place. I’m awake, I’m not dreaming… but am I living?

No. I’m not. I’m not dead either. Just… taking a break. Waiting. In between.

We grow apart sometimes, we scatter to the winds, so no one will catch all of us at the same time. Strength in numbers, they say. But when your numbers are small, even when it’s the few and the proud, numbers are not a strength, they are a weakness. But it’s not that, not for me anyways. It’s the longing, the filling of the emptiness in a specific way, with specific people. Not just anyone can walk in here and make things right, whatever their specific intentions. I’m a specific kind of animal. My standards don’t have values. They have names. Names like Cassandra and Longstride and Francine and Bernadette.

And Lisette.

The waitress can tell I’m a bit out of it. She’s given more coffee to keep the cup warm about six times since I arrived earlier this morning. I have a pen and some paper. I haven’t written anything. I have a guitar in a case laying under the small table at which I’m sitting. It lays there silent and will remain so.

I don’t need money, I have enough. I don’t need glamour, I have enough. Sometimes, a man simply needs to look nothing in the face until something emerges. Unless something’s already there, slithering and festering under the surface. It is no hunger this time, no.

I haven’t answered the last text message I was sent. I have had no answers to the last ten I have sent. Somehow, I remember written letters being easier to construct, they made more sense in terms of time and effort. Instantaneous things tend to vanish just as instantaneously as they were conceived and thrown at a specific alias on a device.

I’m laying low for a while. Waiting. For something. For anything. For the next thing. For someone, most likely, with words expressing… I don’t know. I want something. It is in my nature as a changeling. I think it was in my nature as a mortal too. It makes sense that I’m a Redcap, really. But I don’t… hunger.

Well, I do. But the way you might think. I do… much, much worse than that. Not to others, probably, hopefully. No no no… I do all that to myself.

My hunger is called longing. And longing is a dangerous, dangerous path to walk on. When you long for something it’s easy to fix: get that thing. That’s why I’m an Outlaw in my world: I long for something, I get it. Justice, equity, adventure… vengeance. I just go out there, be the best me I can be and I get it.

I’m stuck with the other kind of longing. The longing for someone. That’s the poison, right there. Because it is so precise in nature that as long as you don’t fix it… nothing else will do. You can’t enjoy anything else, you can’t even perceive anything or anyone. It becomes like… a fucking laser or something.

Necessities. Realities. All an elaborate juggling act that most people really don’t think about.

I’m thinking about it. All the time. I’ve adopted a cause and I give myself to it with great abandon. But in the meantime, myself and my companions have to eat, sleep, recharge the batteries, escape the enemy… and sometimes people need monsters to be killed. And they need another monster to do it.

My phone vibrates.

I resist the urge to throw it. It’s just telling me It is bellow 15% on its battery. I pull the charger out of my pocket, plug the device in the socket on the wall next to me, plug the other end in the phone itself.

Half my messages have been seen. Oh that hellishly vile seen notification. It is meant to be a confirmation. It’s just another fucking question on top of everything else. So simple yet so invasive. Like a blade stuck in a lung.

Have you ever been stabbed in the lung? That shit HURTS. And yet the knife is physically there. Cause and effect. You know what’s going on. The seen notification is just… there. And you’re left alone to figure out why it’s just… sitting there. And why you’re having trouble breathing.

Alright. Let’s focus on something else. Let’s revisit the museum of the mind. Like… the whole thing. It’ll pass the time, if nothing else. Like watching a movie you’ve watched a million times already. Hey, maybe I’ll find something new. You never know until you try, right?

Yeah you keep telling yourself that, Bartok the motherfucking Balladeer. Ain’t nothin’ new about you.

You’re still that Redcap that chrysalised way too early because some arrogant changeling, a Sidhe acting all high and mighty as they are prone to do, thought it would be a good idea to push it all through and get the new blood at the very beginning, forge the next generation of changeling from the get go. The change messed up your family life, messes it up still, to this day. The Sidhe left quickly, too, when she realized she had failed. But in her mind, it was because YOU were not worthy. Not because she had done anything wrong.

Recurring them with these people, really.

There was music, thank the Dreaming. Music to express and feed off of. Music to focus on. Words sung and notes played on the guitar. That got you scholarships and College way too early. I thought I’d die in College. Not kill myself, no, just… one morning, can’t take it anymore, boom. Dead. If it hadn’t been for my buddy Claude I might have.

I miss Claude. Wonder what he’s up to these days.

Being good, hell, being excellent at something gave me purpose, gave me ambition. It helped with the hunger. It helped on both sides of my life. It helped make me into one being with a foot in both worlds rather than two halves fighting for control. Some were inspired by that. Some got to that point too at about the same time, they had figured certain things out.

Lisette came along and everything was just… everything. I felt invincible when she was around. Whatever she said was largely bullshit, being Pooka and all, but she always… I don’t know… she always made sense to me. She used to make all the efforts to make sure I understood her. I never asked why. It just was like that. It clicked.

Does it still click? Sometimes maybe, sometimes no. But I can’t change the fact that she’s part of all this. All this… me. I have to be honest, sometimes I think she doesn’t like me that much anymore. Then again, she’s always been hard to decipher. Both so very, very close and impossibly far at the same time.

We rose up, together. Others joined. Our ideas got bigger, more powerful. People were talking. Commoners mainly, but some nobles as well. We met all kinds. We were invited places. People listened. We were doing good, I felt, we were making things better, in our own way. We inspired.

And some powerful people got afraid. They challenged us. We challenged them back. It was largely rhetoric, at the beginning. We won most of those fights. It’s easy to be popular when you’re the new champ taking on all challenges and keeping your title. Plus the math is simple when you look at it this way: The Houses lead us, the High King holding all together. As a species, we’re fucked. We’ve been fucked for quite some time now. For a multitude of reasons, really. But the easy part is this: when it’s time to adapt, to change, to incorporate new ideas into your culture, it has to come from the leadership for all that to happen smoothly and in a way in which everyone wins. But that’s not what happened.

Of all the Houses, guess how many are led by Sidhe?

All but one.

As leaders, the Sidhe have failed us. And we let them. Seelie and Unseelie both. A lot of us think it. I said it and I sung it. Often. Persuasively. It’s easy, really, once you have even the remote of grasps on the truth.

They took my voice then. I became ugly, then. Cursed. Everyone got afraid again. There was silence on our stage again… or so they hoped.

We didn’t stop. We were still hungry. I may be ugly as sin, I can’t sing a lick and my voice is gone… but… I swear on the color of blood that Curse was like throwing gasoline on a roaring fire. We got more clever, more aggressive. The price to pay was higher… the consequences more dire. But we were still us. We were still doing good.

And we must keep on doing so. We have to keep up with the Sidhe, every step of the way. We have to make sure that every time they look at that place they’re afraid of, that they see us looking right back at them. Some of them might get it at some point. Some of them are good folk that truly deserve greatness, that are truly able to lead us as was intended. That's an important thing people usually don't get about me: I don't hate the Sidhe. I just can't stand for whatever it is they've become.

But I have to be honest with myself. This is all… great purpose and grand design. To know that the High King is full of shit, the Nobles don’t know what to do to make our society work anymore and that things cannot remain the way they have been all this time. To know that change must happen and that we have to be the architects of it.
But there are times. Times like this moment, right now.

This moment in which I don’t give a fuck about all that. I just don’t want to be alone. I can’t stand it. Not anymore. But all I can do is wait. Wait for a door to open and a known and hoped for face to walk in.

Or just… someone to validate who I am. To tell me that I made the right choices. To tell me that I was right. That I’m not a monster. Not really. That I matter. To them. That I’m not just another Redcap making some noise about some nonsense and breaking things.

The waitress comes over for the seventh time. She smiles. “Do you need something?” She says. I look up at her and it’s obvious that my eyes are going to answer something else than what my mouth’s about to say.

Well. My mouth really doesn’t say anything when mortals are around. My voice is too monstrous to make any sense even in their reality. That's how fucked I am by the Curse. I sign language to her that I’m alright, that I’ll be leaving soon.


She said “something” rather than “anything”. That’s… weird. Waitresses never say “something”. They always say “anything” as in “do you need anything?”. She said "anything" all day so far. I look at her and I frown. She keeps on smiling. Not that cute shit cute girls do. No no no. She smiles like… a porcelain doll.

I have one very, very useful talent in life: I always know when I’m in serious trouble.

My phone vibrates urgently on the table.

And that’s when I notice the rain outside. How slowly it falls now. How it barely falls at all. Everything is slowed down to a crawl: The rain, the people walking, the cars passing by, even the waitress blinking her big porcelain doll eyes.

Only the phone and myself seem to have escaped these strange and frankly quite terrifying circumstances. I mean… I’ve seen some weeeeeeeeeeird shit in my life, creatures of all shapes and intents, traveled the Dreaming, fought all sorts, befriended all sorts. But this? This is new.

And I don’t like it.

I finally pick up the device and press the touch screen to accept the call before putting it to my ear. I don’t say a word.

“Good morning, Eugene.”

Motherfucker knows my mortal first name. Cute. The voice is somewhat metallic, with barely an emotion to it. It sounds precise, polite… prepared. What in the blue hell am I dealing with here?

“I very much wanted to talk to you. I have wanted to talk to you for a very long time. You are a hard man to find, a harder man still to pin down for a conversation without your express consent. I am unfortunately limited in my capacity to move, but I do have very unusual means at my disposition when it comes to isolate individuals within a certain location and a certain… moment.”

I keep the phone to my ear and I discretely look around. I don’t what to look for, exactly, but something, anything to regain the high ground, a better place to manage this situation from, possibly to fight from.

“I wouldn’t move too much if I were you. Your perception and the world’s perception are currently quite different. I do so appreciate your efforts to communicate in sign language to the mundane around you as to respect the rules of our society and would refrain from talking during the entirety of our conversation, to keep up appearances. I’m sure you understand.”

Conversation requires two participants in equal measure, jackass. You’re forcing a monologue on me. Of course, I don’t say anything… but I’m thinking really, really fucking hard.

“I will now observe the conversational conventions of politeness. I am, as you can see, unable to extend a hand in order to shake yours. I would, however, be glad to if it were possible.”

What the actual fuck.

“I am known as the Metal Man, and I represent interests that are heavily invested in the status quo. That things should remain as they are as much as possible.”

I know what status quo means you dumb sack of shit.

“You have, unfortunately, become an agent of change. And change, to these parties, is definitely not good.”

Points for using changeling verbiage against me.

“It has been observed by many that violence, it seems, is somewhat inefficient against you. Especially since you appear to be rather highly proficient at it.”

Dude. Stop it. You’re gonna make me blush.

“This is where my professional capabilities come into play. I have been amply compensated for making sure you are contained as much as possible. As limited as I am in the physical realm, I will endeavour to use the means at my disposal to intervene whenever possible. I am, however, an educated man. And as such, I believe you have the right to know who your enemies are and how further confrontations with them will take place. The when must remain a mystery. Surprise is an important element of any battle, wouldn’t you agree?”

There’s a long pause. Things start moving a bit faster, gradually. The rain resumes falling, people start walking, cars start moving, along with all the noises that should accompany it. For once, I’m suddenly really happy that Banality steps back into things.

“And there we are. The proverbial glove has been thrown. It will be a pleasure to be your opponent, when circumstances lend themselves to this.”

Everything’s speed is back to normal. The waitress is now just a normal waitress. But rather than sigh in relief, I clench my teeth. There’s a backlash of some sort, a kind of… I don’t know. It’s weird. It’s like a pain in the chest and my legs feel all… wobbly. Plus I’m angry that I can’t figure this out yet. I’ve spent my entire career being a step or two further than my opponents and my competition (Oh yeah, there’s competition among Outlaws, big time) and this took me all completely by surprise… and I had to sit on my ass and take it.

That is NOT what I’m about.

“Goodbye for now, Eugene.”

My phone turns off by itself. I hear a slight crunch from the device.

What the hell was that all about? Who’s this “Metal Man” fella? Which “interests” and “parties” is he referring to?

I need to get in touch with Longstride, asap. I try to turn the phone back on.

What the…

There’s a bit of smoke coming out from the touch screen.

*angry sigh*



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