Sunday, August 10, 2014



*Story contains M/M sexual suggestions, fantasy, elements of horror,and violence.*

Twenty-two days. For twenty-two days Abel had stared at the image that waited to come to life. At once it had been mere canvas, stark white linen stretched over a wood frame. Faint charcoal lines had started the process; the individual drawn from the corners of Abel's mind. At least, in the beginning Abel had assumed it had been his mind that created the man he'd had come to know, amusedly, as Cain. His nemesis, his rival – the sketch had fought its own creation and had refused to come easily to fruition. Frustration had danced with any attempt to beautify, annoyance with any stroke that attempted to form as background. Yet Abel's desire to bring it to completion fought stoically against the blockades. Let the charcoal refuse to mark. Let the image refuse to bend. Abel would not—had not—stopped until the shape of the man in his mind had stared back.

Not even when the dreams started.

It hadn't happened until the last line of the sketch had met the first – when the random lines that could have been mere swoops and swirls took on the resonance of form. That night Abel had dreamt of something landing on his shoulder. "Be forewarned," it whispered, "of the beasts you bear. Be sure they can be kept in chains before you give them life."

That had been enough to wake Abel, shaking and nervous, mouth dry and nerves twitching. There was no sense in his body's reaction; it had been a harmless dream, nothing more. Nothing that should have had Abel standing in front of the six by four canvas the next day wondering if he should still the hand that wished to nudge sable hair over lines. It was a fruitless pause though. Abel knew that even as he stood and questioned continuing. Something about the painting insisted Abel keep going, assured him that conclusion was not only desirable, but absolutely necessary. And so the paint was introduced: long swatches of almost indistinguishable note, swept as background, cut in as skin and hair and clothing.

If the sketch itself had been difficult, the colouring was almost impossible. It wasn't so much that colour refused to settle on the canvas. It just refused in general: to blend, to mark, to look right. The blacks and whites, they laid down frustratingly fine, but a yellow placed to mark a highlight, a green to brighten clothing, became a squiggle of insufferable disaster. And as much as Abel loved the use of colour, he was damned if he'd let the painting look wrong. If gray tone the image wanted to be, then gray scale Abel would use.

It was an odd style for him, definitely a break from the norm. Most of Abel's paintings were rich in colour and vibrancy; reviewed as 'visual pleasure for the soul' and 'joy immortalized with pigment'. Art that made folks feel good, that inspired sensuality and smiles – that was the art Abel fought for. There was enough gloom, petulance, and brooding in reality, it didn't need to fall from Abel's brush as well. He'd leave those prints for the college kids and the bohemians marketing their angst-ridden, pain-twisted portraits on street corners.

This dark man that was looking back at Abel however, bore no resemblance to the usual. Sexy as all fuck, striking even – but no pleasure for the soul, certainly no joy.


The image came at night, following the arrival of the whispering entity, and offering bits of itself tediously. Abel hadn't realised at first, what exactly he followed, or who was calling until the shape had formed and recognition began to fall into place. Nor could he understand why he couldn't quite figure out if the picture manifested from the dream, or the dream from the image. They seemed co dependant; without the dream Abel had no details to draw from, and without the advancement of the picture, on the days Abel couldn't get back to it to continue the work, the dream didn't move forward.

It was still a mere ghost of a being that managed to draw Abel. Through corridor and web; a puppeteer, with his deep, hollow chuckles and unspoken, intriguing promises, the image... Cain... teased him. Time and again Abel sought to surge after it, to grasp the whispery shapes forming as clothing, or a hand as yet undefined, but for the whisper in his ear: "Caution, beware the beasts you bear..."

When his eyes opened to black ceiling and twisted blankets, Abel would release a weak breath and turn towards the canvas across the studio. It got so the smell of thinner and paints, so long a symbol or normalcy and comfort, made him feel nauseas and lightheaded.

Finally, on shaky legs bed and with trembling hands, Abel grasped one of the spattered tarps that flumped about the space. He wasn't sure if was a sigh of relief that left his lips when he flung the heavy fabric over the canvas, or one of disappointment.


No visitors in the studio – it was a rule Abel did his best to enforce. More so now that the new piece was taking so much time. He didn't intend it to, but every line and every stroke insisted on utmost perfection. From the single strands of hair, to the shading of the most infinite light infraction, realism was the key, excellence the end game. It was hard however, to insist on solitude when the guest at the door was one's mother. With soup. And that annoying cocked eyebrow. And the what-you-can't-even-call-your-own-mother-now? litany on her tongue. He tried the so-very-busy response, had the I-meant-to-call-you-later-this-afternoon fall on deaf ears, her own rebuttals sarcastic and cold, but only until she saw the painting.

"Good, God," she said, spellbound. "It's magnificent, Abel."

"It's not done," he rushed to add, wanting to bite back the obvious words the moment they'd left his lips.

"Who is he?" she asked.

"Cain," he told her. "A man I met in a dream." His mother had merely nodded. As if she understood completely.

Then they simply stood and stared in mutual silence. Even in the monotone, colour intention was obvious: thick black hair that threatened to curl at the ends, wild and casual, flirting with collar-length; skin reminiscent of something that could love the sun, but chose not to; clothing from an era long past, rich enough to be velvet, of enough sheen to be silk. A black tailcoat with similarly dark, almost indistinguishable brocade topped well-shaped shoulders and hugged a defined chest. White gleamed below it, complete with tiny shell buttons and stiff wing-tip collar. A metallic vest, silver Abel assumed from the suggested shine and shade, peeked here and there and matched the patterned cravat circling the image's elegant neck. High-waisted trousers completed the look, and though they could not be seen, Abel knew the shoes – black and white spats buffed to brilliance.

It was the hands that fascinated Abel most though. Gloves—fine deerskin that fit as though a second-skin borne to the man himself—wrapped around perfectly shaped long fingers. One lay pressed to the man's hip as though reaching for the chain that had to mark a pocket watch, perhaps a monocle even. But the other hand, it reached – out towards the viewer, fingers lightly tweaked, palm up, as though to say, "Take my hand. Come this way."

"You must finish the face," Abel's mother said finally, shaking her head as if coming up from an unexpected nap. Abel couldn't find the word to tell her that he couldn't. After all, he hadn't seen it yet.

When he'd taken the soup from his mother's hands, ushered her back to the door with his thanks, kissed her cheek, and turned back after her departure to toss the soup in the trash, he had to stop and stare in amazement at the clock on his desk. Over an hour. They'd stood and stared together, speechless and lost in thought, for over an hour.


The air was cold, the dark extreme, but the glow Abel advanced towards was warm – shimmering waves of heat that silently professed comfort and visibility. The corridor seemed to pulse in time, moving as if with heartbeat; a living tomb that drew Abel's steps forward with every beat. The walls were lined with artwork, dripping, moulding canvases with heavy rotting frames and it took him too long to realise they were his own. He stopped, tilted his head and marvelled at a painting that had once been a meadow resplendent in afternoon sunshine and blooms, now laden with damp, grey dust. Slick, puss-coloured oil leeched from split and flaking membranes, stalks of summer grass limp and fetid, brilliant blooms rotted and fallen.

Abel turned slowly, approached another frame, and saw the eyes of a once-regal hawk, spreading wing in a dusk-falling sky, but, akin to that of the previous, dusk had bleached to smoke, intricate feather to cracked and peeling flakes, eyes sliding from the bird's skull to track into pools of waste along defining ridges. What had once been a beak calling triumphantly, now withered and faltered into the last strangled cries of death.

Only the names remained intact, perfect in their scrawled black script; the proud scribbles of an artist marking completion: Abel.

"Wake, and step away," a voice fluttered in Abel's ear.

Abel was sure he should pay more attention; certain that he should heed the words whispered into his mind. A dangerous dream, this. Somehow. In some way. Regardless, when he saw the door, a thick wooden thing with a roughly painted symbol slashed across the surface that Abel couldn't identify, and the voice on Abel's shoulder began its now familiar prayer, "Beware the creatures…", it did not stop him from reaching out to grasp the knob and force the door open.

The first thing Abel noticed was the smell of spice, something rich and old that reminded him of Egyptian princes or gypsy markets. He breathed it in, trying to place it, certain he'd smelled it somewhere in his past, before thought was stolen from him. Black eyes, as deep as the wells of folklore, as cold as a spent coal, found Abel's own from across the room... and how? In the darkness, in a room as black as pitch, did Abel see such brutal magnificence radiate from a set of eyes? Abel's heart began to race.

The weight on Abel's shoulder grew, as if calling his attention. "Shut the door and run." With the final word, as though mocking the demand, Cain began to lift his hand. No words were spoken from the figure and Abel had a panicked moment of hysteria when he understood that no mouth was available for speech to form.

"Go now," Abel was urged. "Before it is too late." But if Cain was the flame then Abel was, indeed, the moth. Had it not been for the sudden gust of wind that rushed through the door and disturbed the space around them, Abel would have continued moving in to the room. The disturbance set to life a thousand unseen insects. They scuttled and squealed, hard shells clacking in a sickening maraca-rich dance of legs and antennae that made Abel choke on bile. Abel stepped back quickly, almost stumbling over the landing before he found his feet and began to run.

With a jerk Abel woke. Beside him curtains billowed like angel wings, folding out, pulling in, folding out again, as the weather beyond threatened. Abel rose, walked slowly to the window and yanked the glass down. Shifting fabric fell to flat as Abel studied the sky. Grey clouds tossed each other for space under the blanket of midnight. Tree tops bowed, leaves released tentative holds from bark. The street below was alive with debris of both environmental and human design.

Abel leaned his forehead against the glass and closed his eyes. For the life of him he could not understand why the only thing that kept crossing his mind was: I forgot to close the door.


They should have been next to impossible to paint. Seen only through crypt-like darkness, bearing no similarity to anything Abel had seen in either man or nature, Cain's eyes should have been the obstacle that stumbled Abel's progress. The paint however—charcoal, grey, black and white—flew from Abel's brush with vigour. It clung to the canvas, gripping, caressing: former lovers long since lost, newly reunited and desperate to hold one another.

Abel didn't realise he was sweating until he heard a drop hit the tin that held his paint thinner. One quick glance at the paint-spattered mirror that stood to his left had Abel heading for the bathroom on trembling legs to check his temperature. A sheen of perspiration covered Abel head to toe, his hair was wet from it. His hand shook when we he reached for the thermometer, muscle exhaustion fuelling the tremor. The handle of his paintbrush had dug a deep, bruising runnel against his second finger and the meat of Abel's fist; his fingertips were numb from pressure. He'd been clutching the brush with a death-grip, too hard, for too long, and hadn't even realised he'd been doing it.

He grabbed a towel, raked it through his hair and swiped it over neck and face before tossing the thermometer back in the medicine cabinet. There was no fever. He had just worked himself to the point of shutdown. He let the towel fall to the floor, wandered to the kitchenette to dig for a bottle of water, and then sat and stared at the painting.

Perfect. The eyes had turned out fucking perfect. Stories could be told from the glint in the black beauties, sonnets written – choirs could manifest to sing hymns of worship. Abel grinned at the image, "Cain, you gorgeous beast, you."

The phone stole Abel's attention and he reached for the annoyance with a frown. Had it been anyone other than his manager, Fisher, Abel would have ignored the pealing plea for consideration. He moved away from the painting, pressed the button to connect, and a shiver went up his spine as he heard a low chuckle from behind him. Stunned, confused, Abel whipped back around. Not even a breeze disturbed the perfect silence of the empty space.

"Abel? Abel?" the handset called into his ear. "Did I lose you? ... Fucking cell phones and their fucking crap coverage..."

Abel found his voice. "I'm here. Sorry, I-I..." Abel shook his head to dispel what had to be nothing more than the games of a tired mind. "Sorry I just dropped the phone. What's up?"


It was no longer the death place of all things evil that Abel's sleeping mind travelled but his own studio—damp though, dank—thick with the odour of mould and rot, and he frowned at the olfactory assault. He sought out the only visible light: a soft glow: dark, muted, smoke-like in colour and form.

To the almost finished Cain he was drawn. To the grey square of cloth, to the image of the man, and saw that it was no canvas in his dream, rather a surface, mirroresque in shine but with neither solidity nor reflection. He could see the man as Cain had stood so many days now, still in tails, still with palm reaching, but Cain was whole. An eyebrow lifted as Abel got closer, a small smile played at the corners of Cain's lips... and, My God but he had the most fantastic mouth! Abel had to hold back a shudder... a shiver... of dread... of anticipation... as he stepped forward.

"Aaay-buuull..." Cain's voice was husky, playful and positively rich with sensuality.

A drop of weight landed on Abel's shoulders. "Caution..." Abel shut the voice down and reached for the extended hand through a surface that moved like water and offered not an ounce of resistance. "Beware..." Fingertips touched fingertips and Abel's lips fell slack, breath rushing past them. "The beasts..." Hands laced and Abel was sure he'd never felt anything more pleasant in his life. The heat coming off Cain's palm, even through the soft-skinned gloves, was so soothing Abel almost moaned. "That you create."

Abel stepped forward, ignoring the grip tightening on his shoulder. The only thing that mattered was getting closer, letting Cain lead him in. "Abel," Cain's voice was so quiet that Abel could barely register it. Surely if he just stepped through, followed Cain's gentle tug, then he would be able to hear the man better. He wondered if the rest of Cain would feel as warm as Cain's hands did. The aroma of spice began to circle in the air.

"Caution," the voice began again and Abel sighed.

"Hush," he told it. "Go away."

A flump-flump caught Abel's attention. Underneath the open studio window, with eyes wide and ears perked to full alert, stood the neighbourhood cat. No one could call ownership of the animal; Moo visited at whim, demanding dinner or attention or shelter as it chose. Many nights Abel had woken to find the small animal curled beside him on the bed. Or stepped in a preoccupied manner and suddenly found a startled grey form rushing to get out of the way with an angry swish of tail and an expression of contempt.

The cat swayed, almost tipped, its eyes never leaving the painting. It walked as through drugged until it reached Abel's ankles and, in a dizzying, almost impossible slink, began to wind around Abel's ankles again and again. "Moo?" Abel asked, the picture all but forgotten, the gloved hand abandoned, and stepped back to lift and cradle the animal in his arms. "What are you doing in my dream, Moo?"

Moo turned its head, its eyes caught the gleam of something that flashed outside the window and for a moment they were blazing – red lasers that streaked through the darkness. A strangled roar shot out from the other side of the painting and its surface began to waver and weaken. With a fury that Abel had never seen before the cat arched and the sound that rose from its throat could have been likened to a hoard of shrieking children. Moo launched from Abel's arms, claws ripping into the skin of chest and forearm, and Abel finished the round of exclamatory cries with a holler of his own.

He shouted so loud he woke himself from sleep. He lay still for a moment, willing his blood to pound at sane levels, praying his heart wouldn't just up and quit on him right then and there.

"Fucking dreams," he said, feigning confidence, belying it with the quiver in his voice. He cursed the time he found on the clock, sat up and let his head fall forward. If he didn't start getting some sleep he didn't know what he was going to do. The art show he and Fisher had discussed on the phone was less than two weeks away and he still hadn't finished Cain – worse, he was exhausted to the point of body aches.

He lifted his arms to drag his hands over his face, stubble rasping, fingertips scratching pleasantly and stopped dead. One by one he stretched his arms out in front of him, the softer, smoother underbelly of his forearms up. Long, jagged, and obviously fresh gouges marred flesh that had been whole when Abel went to sleep. He traced one with his finger and then leapt from bed. He flew to the open window whereby Moo had both arrived and departed during the dream and wasn't shocked in the least to find the cat on the sill, the hair on its haunches still on end, a look of utter disdain on its perturbed face.

"Moo," Abel whispered and the cat turned away as though offended. "Jesus, Moo." Abel pulled back into the studio, rested against the wall and slid to the floor. He wrapped his bleeding arms around his shins and lowered his head to his knees. "What the fuck is going on?"


Abel hadn't intended to bring the young man back to the studio. But when the pretty blond had begged to see Abel's work, Abel had felt somewhat obligated to show it. It had nothing to do with the man's smoking hot ass. Or that mischievous little grin that made Abel want to eat the man alive. Although Abel took no issue whatsoever with the way the blond fell on him the moment they walked through the door. Nor did he complain when hungry lips began to wander thrilling paths along his neck. All for the good of the fans...

"Is it cold in here?" The young man shivered, casting a wary glance around the studio. "It's damp, yes?"

Abel blinked, tried to refocus awareness. "I hadn't noticed?"

The young man shrugged and cocked another of those fantastic smirks at Abel, "I guess I'll just have to get a little closer to you then. See if I can soak up some of that body heat." The man leaned in, began a slow taste of Abel's neck before suddenly pulling back with a gasp. "Holy shit!" he exclaimed. "That's fantastic!" He pushed past Abel, eyes wide. "Who is it?"

"Oh," an odd flush of jealousy hit Abel's stomach. "Cain." He walked quickly to where the young man stood. "Don't touch it," he ordered, pulling on the man's arm. "It's still wet."

Abel was shot an annoyed glance. "I wasn't going to touch it," the blond growled. "I'm just looking at it."

"Well don't," Abel growled right back. "Just leave it alone."

"What? I can't even look at it?"

"No," Abel tried to turn the man away from the painting, his fingers gripping the man's shoulders harder than necessary. "You can't."

The blond shrugged him off, "What's your problem?"

It was a question Abel couldn't answer. What was his problem? "Nothing... I just don't want you to..." get near him, Abel's mind finished silently – he's mine. Once again Abel reached for the blond, "Just leave it alone."

With a huff the young man yanked his arm out of Abel's reach and Abel gasped, horrified, as he clipped the open can of paint thinner with his elbow. Both men's gaze flew to the painting as the can danced precariously on the ledge, its debilitating liquid sloshing dangerously close to the canvas. Abel cried out, reached for both can and palette knife without thinking. The can Abel steadied, the knife he flicked towards the young man's throat. "Get the fuck out," Abel hissed.

Breath rushed from Abel's chest to be pulled back just as harshly. His hands shook. Every fibre in his being wanted to rush the young man, hold the tiny pointed trowel against neck tendons and slash.

The blond stepped away carefully. "You're fucking nuts," he spit. "I'm outta here."

"Good plan," Abel said coldly. He held the knife aloft until he heard the door slam. Then he carefully pressed the lid closed on the can of thinner and set the tool down with a shaky sigh. "No fucking respect..." he mumbled and turned his eyes towards Cain's. Cain's expression seemed to shine – amusement? Anger? No, Abel decided. Praise. And that thought made a sharp, pleasant surge rise in the pit of Abel's stomach. He flashed a shy smile at the painting and bowed his head.


It wasn't a thought of the blond that had Abel's body rising in his sleep, nor even a fantasy about Cain. It was nothing more than the twist of sheets, the lay of leg, or odd bit of friction that was calling to life the organ at the core of him.

Abel's subconscious mind ignored it until it began to distract. Then he did what he always did when he woke with a hard-on but was still too damned tired to do anything about it, he flipped face down and pressed it into the mattress to give himself some relief. When the resulting pressure did nothing but offer further friction and spike sensation to frustrating, Abel gave up on sleep and flipped yet again. Passing traffic caused rounds of light to spin on the ceiling above him; a barely-there breeze flicked the ends of curtains like the wings of a dozing butterfly.

He took a deep breath, slipped his right arm into the warmer depths between the sheets and took his aching dick in hand. He paid no attention to the dip of the mattress at the bottom left of the bed, assumed it to be the weight of Moo on another nightly visit. After all, the doors were locked, the only open window beside him, and God knew, no one had been in the studio when Abel went to bed. He heard the scrabble of small claws settle on the headboard at the same time his mind registered that the weight moving on the mattress was far too heavy to be a cat.

Abel's eyes flew open. He gasped. Recognition was instantaneous.


Impossible, Abel told himself. He wasn't dreaming. He was awake. He had to be. He'd felt his own hand on his cock. He could feel the sheets against his body. Headlights continued to flit along the ceiling of his studio and even the curtains continued their lazy dance.

"Hello, Abel," Cain's voice lilted, and Abel had to hold back a whine as Cain advanced.

Fingers stole up Abel's thigh until a gloved hand ghosted over the tenting cotton. "Surely we can do better than self-pleasure," Cain smiled. Heat and grip forced a low moan from Abel's lips when Cain clutched him. Abel didn't fight Cain as his hips were straddled and Cain reached to secure his jaw. There didn't seem much point in trying to fight a figment of one's imagination suddenly brought to form and flesh. Whatever magic had brought this to be, it had to be stronger than anything Abel could manage. Besides, the way that Cain was nudging against him felt extraordinary.

"Caution! Beware the..." Abel heard overhead and he flipped his eyes up towards the sound at the same time Cain reached out and swatted. A thump, a fumble, and a scrabbling of nail and righting of feathers sounded from the corner of the room.

"Follow me, Abel," Cain ordered in a voice that could have been the auditory essence of silk. "We have so much to do."

Abel didn't rise immediately. He lie naked beneath the sheets and was wrestling with the panic of exposing himself to a man who was leaps and bounds above him in magnificence and stature. Just the thought of it brought a hot flush to Abel's face.

A deep, quiet chuckle rumbled from Cain's throat. "Come on," Cain urged. "Don't be shy now." Sheets and blankets began to slide as Cain dragged them off Abel's body. "I have no use for modesty." As though taking lead from his own painted image, Cain extended his hand, palm up. "Come with me."

If Abel had dared to question his likelihood to offer compliance, the reservation would have been gone the moment he provided Cain his hand and the appendage was accepted. Thought was best left to the struggling thing in the corner still trying to croak out its bewares, for the moment Abel slipped his legs from the bed and stood, Cain embraced him. Abel was pressed, thigh to thigh and chest to chest, skin on clothing. Abel was sucked into a deep kiss. Everything shut down except Abel's ability to taste. Long seconds were lost to an insistent tongue, skilful lips, and the rush of leather-wrapped hands stealing over Abel's naked back.

Hardwood became something grainy and cold below Abel's feet and it was only then he realised they were no longer in the studio. Weight landed on his shoulder. "Run!" it hissed.

The alarm in the voice was obvious but Abel felt no fear. He was lost in the dark cold gaze of Cain's eyes. When Cain clobbered away the annoyance it was with much greater force and accuracy than the first attempt had been. Abel paid no mind. "Just a little further," Cain told him before catching Abel's mouth in another mind-melting assault of lip and wet muscle.

Deeper they travelled, into the corridor that Abel recalled from his dreams. When Abel's half-lidded eyes widened in recognition of his destroyed work, Cain merely turned Abel's view back with a soft stroke to Abel's cheek. "I need you, Abel," Cain whispered against Abel's skin. Cain's hand slipped from Abel's jaw to stroke down Abel's arm and twine with Abel's fingers. "These talented hands," Cain brushed his lips over Abel's ear. "Your wonderful mind." When Cain's touch dropped further, slowly stroking Abel's maddeningly hard body, Abel swooned into him.

"You set me free," Cain continued. "And there are so many more in waiting."

Something slithered wetly from somewhere unseen and Abel knew he should be paying attention to what it was, where it was, why it was, but the sensations Cain was manifesting from nothing more than a simple touch had Abel trembling like a schoolboy with his first hard-on.

"Lean," Cain directed, pushing Abel lightly against the wall. Slimy, wet stone met Abel's back in a cloying, cold slide that made Abel grit his teeth in revulsion. Cain stepped closer, used his foot to nudge Abel's legs apart, and straddled Abel's leg when Abel followed the lead. Groin to hip, Cain licked a line up Abel's neck. Strokes intensified, the closeness of Cain was intoxicating, and the way Cain moved against Abel's hips woke up confusing emotions of pride and fulfillment.

The slick sound Abel had heard repeated and Abel felt something snake sinuously up his thigh, searching. Abel's breath caught against Cain's kiss, his eyes grew wide as the inquisitive whatever-the-hell-it-was sought more personal spaces. Cain chuckled when Abel flinched away, and, as though from the walls themselves, reptilian hands reached from behind Abel and grasped his chest, holding him securely in place. Dry, rough fingers tipped with nails that could shred metal slipped coarsely over Abel's nipples.

"Cain?" Abel whined as sound increased around them. The air became rich with the scent of earth, wet fur, swamp and decomposition. And still Abel didn't struggle, desperate to cling to the man that draped over his side – his Cain, the figment of his own imagination that he'd fallen in lust with. That he'd served for the last several weeks.

"Okay," Abel whispered to himself. "You can wake the fuck up now."

It was a rush of air, a squawk, and a hard strike against the strange hands that held him that had Abel suddenly released and stumbling forward. Gloved hands dug into Abel's hair and a growl was snarled. "I. Grow. Tired. Of your games. Sparrow!" Cain hissed through clenched teeth. Cain's grab was vicious, his beautiful face twisted in fury, and Abel turned his face and closed his eyes as something far too quick fluttered too close for comfort. A scuffle, a cry of anger, and a flash of brilliant red shot across the room that was bright enough to see even behind Abel's shut eyelids.

Abel stumbled, catching himself just before he fell. "Run," the voice told him. "Run now!"

The desire that had anchored Abel gave way to fear. He heard a chorus of snarls and felt the nudge from his shoulder at the same time that something attempted to coil his ankle, and Abel took the prompt. Another flash of blinding red lit the corridor and Abel saw for the first time the full destruction he had already witnessed of the ravished paintings, so much worse than he had even taken them to be. But it was not the paintings that made his throat dry up and his limbs work harder though. It was the rest of the mementos—pounded into stone with thick iron spikes, held captive by long blades driven into earth—bits and pieces of his life: photos, clothing, things thought lost, and... God... God, no… Was that broken pile of fur and limb Moo?... Abel took no time to dwell or grieve. He ran like the wind.

The quiet studio lay just beyond his reach, only a few more steps and Abel stretched for the boundary between reality and fear. Sharp, crippling pain made him falter. Abel whipped his head around to look and screamed. He had no idea of the creature that had latched on to his calf, all he saw was a faceless stretch of black sinew, and the foamy set of fangs that had buried through skin to muscle. Heat raced from teeth into Abel's blood, a fiery agony so intense it threatened to steal Abel's sanity.

He had two options: try and yank his leg from the hold and suffer the inevitable ripped flesh and torn tendons, or reach out of the godforsaken place he'd been tricked into and hope that would be enough to break the spell of whatever the fuck it was that held him. Abel stretched through the canvas, hand flailing to grasp at something—anything—and he choked back a sob as he felt himself get yanked back. He grabbed the only item he laid hands on, tears falling in frustration when he saw what he'd managed to draw back with him – a jar of yellow paint.

Abel's knees met packed, dank soil as he was dragged back another foot. Then his side. Then his chin. He lay face down in the filth, breathing dirt and waste and tried to force his flailing mind to formulate. Something began to move in the dark and when Abel felt a second set of fangs sink into his other leg he used the only weapon he had. Flipping, screaming at the pain the movement lanced through his body, swallowing back a gag at the wet, leathery flops the creatures made as they flounced with him, Abel pulled back his hand and whipped the jar of paint at the beast to his right.

"Break," he begged the little glass container. "Fucking break!"

He was not granted the request. Instead the jar bounced off the solid muscle of the thing, upended, and released the lid that held back the liquid. The paint splashed wetly, drenching the thing's... limb? head? body?... in a bright coat of yellow. As though in hideous gasp, Abel's calf was released and the creature began to slam against wall and floor, writhing. With a hiss the thing still attached to Abel's left surged out of the way, avoiding the colour as if it was venomous.

Abel's eyes widened. He thought back to the canvas, how colour had refused to set on the image; he thought back to the cat's eyes catching light refraction and Cain's reaction to it; he thought of the red flashes provided as distraction and how he'd managed to almost get free because of them. Was it possible? Did Cain and his following somehow, for some reason, have an aversion to something as simple as colour?

He fumbled back the way he'd come, dragging the final creature along with grit teeth and burning leg, granted mobility only because of the beast's continued avoidance of the colour that littered the area. Grunting, Abel stretched, tweaking fingers as they sought, and found, another jar. He yanked it back with a gleeful whoop that dropped to a frustrated cry when he saw it. "Fuck!" he screamed, dropped the jar of black paint and tried for another.

A violent tug from the corridor forced Abel back and he wept in relief at the saucy pink he pulled with him. "Thank God for spring flowers," he grumbled, twisting off the cap and dumping the pigment-rich liquid over the squirming muscle. He didn't wait to see the resulting fallout. The moment Abel was released from teeth he sprung.

Abel landed on hardwood, wheezing, and rolled onto his side. He stared at the picture, horrified. Cain stood exactly as Cain had stood for the last several weeks. No wrinkle marred a single inch of Cain's finery; the only disarray the wild tumble of Cain's black hair. Such nice hair too, Abel shook his head. Thick enough you wanted to run your fingers through it. Abel's eyes drifted to Cain's lips, felt an ache fall over his chest when he remembered the way they'd felt against his own; he didn't fight the tears that fell when he recalled how Cain's hands had felt on his body. Abel closed his eyes and hung his head.

"Fool," Abel heard the word before he saw the movement. In one singular stretch the entire image animated and began to draw itself out of the canvas.

"God, please," Abel sat up and began to pull himself away.

"No God for you," Cain deadpanned.

Abel closed his eyes, set his jaw and reached. It would hurt as much to do what he was about to do as his calves did, maybe more. His masterpiece—certainly the masterpiece of his career up until that point—but one must do...

He reached for the jar of red paint and spun the lid. Cain's eyes widened, his advancement stopped.

... What one must do.

Abel flung the paint over the canvas. As if Hollywood-inspired holy water, the entire image hissed and bubbled in vampiric drama. Thin lines bled from the red slash, racing towards the floor.

He stared into the jar, nodded and flung again, harder still. Bits of clinging colour flew out to splatter like gun-spray over Cain's receding image.

He didn't wait. Weeping, stumbling, Abel wrestled a tarp from the corner of the studio and tossed it over the canvas. As repulsed as he was to touch the painting at all, Abel didn't leave the tarp loose. Heavy twine was wound again and again, top to bottom, side to side, and corner to corner. No errant breeze would loosen this wrapping. No wandering guest would unwittingly lift these edges.


Abel didn't dare try the champagne. Knowing Fisher's taste it would be the best of the best, but Abel had suffered the last week with fevers and chills, weak spells and dizziness. His legs ached constantly. No blood had ever run from the wounds left to fester. Not even when Abel had drenched them in peroxide or squeezed out puss. Rather, a constant black goo oozed and trickled. Twice a day Abel forced himself to change the bandages he kept wound about them and the interior layers reeked like nothing Abel had ever smelled in his life.

"Abel, love," a voice to his left, "fantastic work, doll. Simply gorgeous."

He offered a quick nod, a shaky wave and did his best to keep himself upright and smiling. The venue was beautiful, filled with flowers and draped with linen that complimented the bright, cheery paintings perfectly. Both potential and existing clients milled throughout the displays, chatting quietly and sipping from crystal. Late afternoon sunlight streamed in through the large gallery windows, blinds lifted right to the limits of the equipment, as though mocking the usually dark, more sombre surroundings preferred by artists.

No more black, Abel had told them, and though confused, no doubt silently musing on the eccentricities of his kind, both manager and gallery had conformed to Abel's wishes without argument.

"Abel," a deep voice purred far too close and Abel flinched and spun away. Michael Something-or-other, Abel recalled as he caught Michael's admiring gaze with his own panicked one. "I really have to commend you on the Cain piece. It's quite a change from your usual style but I must admit," the man sent a whimsical glance down the hall; "it really is quite a masterpiece."

Abel's lips felt too heavy to move. "The... what? Which? C-Cain?"

Michael nodded, clapped a hand on Abel's shoulders and moved away, all three movements lost on Abel. As though commanded, Abel's feet began to slide, slowly moving him in the direction that Michael had shown.

A mistake, Abel reasoned. Surely the man had heard Abel was working on something, perhaps even caught wind of the title and was merely remarking... Surely...

Sound seemed to fall away: every clink of glass, every step of heel, every spoken syllable. Abel's vision tunnelled. "A mistake," he whispered.

There was no denying his eyes, however. In a room by itself, sheltered from the outside brightness, exterior lighting dimmed but for the bar above it, sat the painting of Cain. He'd been set up alone, as though highlighting him from the rest of the work. Rich black silk hung in behind and deep red roses stood in tall vases along each side, complimenting the violent slash of colour across the painting to perfection. An entire crowd of guests milled in front of the painting, gushing, chatting... "Worshipping," Abel mumbled.

How, Abel asked himself? How had it gotten there? Who could have searched the tarps of his studio, found the ruined work and deemed it art? Abel frowned and cast his eyes around the multitude, seeking his manager, an aide, anyone that could have it removed. His chest jumped painfully and an annoying twitch began to tick in his jaw.

"Oh, Abel! Darling! It's just so beautiful!" a woman exclaimed, prancing towards Abel the moment she saw him. Scent seemed to hit him with every flounce of her expressive hands, an overpowering floral that threatened to knock him to his ass. "So much expression!" she gushed, clinging to Abel's forearm, leaning towards him with a suggestive tilt of bosom that made Abel grit his teeth. "How do you do it?"

Though in the throes of sensory-overload and possible heart-failure… could one die from too much perfume and the unwanted touch of another human?... Abel did his best to smile. "Thank you, it's a favourite of mine," he lied.

"You must tell me what this piece is going for," she continued and Abel had to resist the urge to swat away the ribbons that hung from her dress; ribbons that seemed intent on wrapping him every little which way. Binding him. Trapping him.

Abel's panic increased. He needed air. More so, he needed the painting gone – if by this woman's purse, so much the better. "I'm sorry," he started, cleared his throat at the strangled sound that left his lips, and tried again. "I'm sorry but I just don't know. My manager…"

Once again Abel's eyes searched out the missing director. Once again they failed to locate the man.

"But I must have it!" the woman cried in mock-horror. "I simply cannot take no for an answer! Whatever you ask…"

Abel all but melted from relief when he heard Fisher's voice behind him. "Ms. White," Fisher purred, extracting the woman from Abel's shoulders. "It is always such a pleasure to see you at one of these events. Do tell me, how are the children?"

"Ugh," she exclaimed. "Ogres." A waved hand once again cast cloying fragrance into the air and Abel fought with a gag. "This painting!" A perfectly polished claw pointed jaggedly through a swarm of gardenia, lily, rose… God! What was that scent?... And it dawned on Abel. Decay. Underneath the sweet garden aroma laid the fetid traces of rot. He turned to the right, saw the painting of his meadow and a sudden recollection of oozing, dying greenery tickled his memory.

Air. Be it sliding door or window. There had to be one somewhere.

"Very interesting, yes," Fisher was agreeing, his voice bordering somewhere between sympathetic coo and outright pandering. "But I'm so sorry…"

Fisher caught the attention of someone behind Abel and for some reason that act made Abel want to whimper. "Ms. White, you see," Fisher reached out, extending a palm to the someone that stood just out of Abel's peripheral. "The painting has already been sold."

Abel was sure his chest's thumping was visible to everyone in the room. He turned slowly, smelled spice, felt heat, and a rush of fear caught him so strongly he imagined it as a giant fist gripping his torso and squeezing the capability of breath right out of him.

No tailcoat graced the man's form, rather a precisely tailored tuxedo—classic, stylish, gorgeous—and Abel felt his knees go soft.


Gloved hands, with long, perfect fingers lightly balanced a crystal flute by its delicate stem, champagne bubbling pleasantly; and Abel felt the blood drain from his cheeks.

The colour… what had failed?…

Black hair, styling product desperately trying to hold back the wild, eyes the colour of spent embers… and Abel's mind began to retreat.

It wasn't… fair…

The man lifted his gaze, smiled a lazy smile, and even before Abel began to fall, the man, Cain, was at his side. "Good heavens," a sensual voice was the last thing Abel's conscious mind registered. "I think our artist needs some fresh air. Do let me assist."


"It's bizarre," the reporter said, adjusting the feed on the recording device in front of her and stepping closer to Abel to try to catch his words as he spoke much more to the canvas than her. "Your style has undergone such a drastic change in the last few months."

"Hmm," he replied.

"Do you liken that to any specific occurrence? Or was it just time for something different?"

Abel grinned at the image in front of him. The hooked dry fingers of something far too reptilian to be human and far too human to be mere reptile clawed from something as yet undeveloped. Black and white, charcoal and grey.

"Don't get me wrong," the reporter added quickly in the resulting silence. "It's fantastic! And your followers seem to love it. It's like no one can get enough of the new pieces. People have been clamouring for them. Rumour has it that the President himself purchased your last one. Care to confirm or deny?"

Abel shrugged and the reporter fidgeted nervously.

"The reactions and reviews have been magnificent," she continued and lifted a paper to begin quoting. "'Spellbound', 'Captivating', 'You'll be unable to tear your eyes away'," she read. "Those are some pretty fantastic appraisals."

Abel chuckled. "Fantastic. Yes."

"I heard you have a waiting list," she paused, growing frustrated with his silence. "What is it about this new work that you think draws everyone in so much?"

Abel traced the snout-face of the half-finished creature and turned towards the woman. He heard the sharp intake of breath she released when he caught her eyes with his own.

Flashing black pools...

deeper than the wells of folklore...

and as cold as a spent coal...

held the reporter's gaze and Abel smiled a slow, sinister smile. "Come closer," he said, his voice all but dripping with sensuality. "Look into its eyes and see for yourself."

The End

Copyright © 2012 AF Henley

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