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Pastiche of an old Italian folk tale.

An Unquestioning Spirit

The tale had been told before, of a banker on the board of directors just rolling in wealth, with a beautiful wife and a beautiful son—and eventually, a beautiful daughter too. People muttered under their breath about the banker, about how lucky he was to have everything in his life so damnably perfect. The trouble with success being that people rarely see the years of work behind the wealth, they could only see what years of power had done to a man who, once upon a time, had been just like them.

One day the banker had had enough of the manipulating and the meetings, the backstabbing and the politics. He hadn't had enough of the money, though, so he took his wife and all his other possessions and retired to a small country town to run the bank's local branch. He felt like the Emperor of his own country town, bestowing favours on struggling farmers. He'd go down to the local pub and ask everyone how the weather was doing, whether the drought had broken, never realizing that they thought he was being really nasty and provoking them about how much they needed his money. He thought he was being social!

Anyway, the locals in the country town put the evil eye on him, wishing his Masarati would get flat tyres, and that horrible things would happen to his manhood, his wife, and everything else he owned. In the manner of a small town, everything was said behind his back and never to his face because everyone had to borrow from the wealthy banker, even the local chapter of a famous biker gang.

One day, everyone stopped with the nasty sayings, because it seemed like someone answered their prayers in a particularly cruel way: the wealthy banker lost son, wife, wealth and very nearly his infant daughter in one horrible week.

After that day everyone told mocking tales instead, of how the once-wealthy banker jealously guarded his only treasure remaining, his beautiful daughter. He kept little Mia locked up in a room of his semi-detached duplex. The day came that she turned eighteen and still no one had ever seen or talked to the banker's beloved Mia.

But the true tale had never been told to anyone.

The desperate banker kept his Mia locked up, not because he was jealous, not because he wanted to protect Mia, but because he desperately wanted to protect everyone else in the town.

Now beautiful little Mia, at eighteen, hungry for life and having had quite enough of being shut up, slowly began to eat a hole in the wall of her room. Her room was very small, made so by the three extra layers of bricks the banker had put up to keep Mia from escaping, so terrified was he of what she might be. There was only one opening into the room, a little slit with fine mesh over it, through which the banker could look to see Mia was still contained. Mia was a patient girl, mostly because she had no other choice. Despite her nature, she tried to honour her father's wishes that she should stay in the room - but she was an adult now, and desperate for rebellion.

Mia was also a very canny creature, so she started her second hole where it couldn't be seen from the first and only worked on it at night. She only wanted a taste of real life, you see, then she would come back to where her father wanted her to be.

In the manner of small towns during a time of unregulated urban renewal, the once-wealthy banker's duplex was built against the walls of his neighbours. To one side of the duplex was the wall of a great, three-storey townhouse belonging to a family of the local bikers. That very night Mia finished eating through the wall, and looked into the bedroom of a young rider of the Mitchell family.

The bright young man slept in a bed, beautiful and peaceful, his skin covered with art and smoke, his fingernails lined neatly with the dark grease of his machine. He had long blonde hair spilling over his pillow and his bare, inked shoulders. His lips parted as he made a little sigh, turning over in his bed without sheets.

Mia, always hungry, felt a hunger like nothing she had ever known before.

The moon reached through a window to the young man's bed, silvering the darkness so he appeared so as clear and untroubled.

'But,' Mia asked, 'does my prince sleep, or does he see me?'

'Night-eater,' the darkness replied, 'you have nothing to fear; Butch Mitchell is sleeping here.'

So Mia went through the little hole and lay down beside the young man. Butch woke up straight away, his eyes wide at the sight of her. Before Mia could move he took her in his arms and kissed her, hungrily. He had her then, quick as his machine and bright as his hair. After he spoke to Mia:

'Ah sweetheart, as long as I've lived here in this gut-wrench shithole town I've dreamed of you. In smoke dreams and speed dreams, and now you're here. But you're so thin and frail, as though you've never eaten a day in your life, tits barely a mouthful when I dreamed a feast. Don't tell me you're just another ghost. Don't wanna wake tomorrow and find you gone, it'll break my bloody heart. Who are you, to do this to me? What can I do to make you stay?'

But Mia thought of her father the banker and how he had sworn to kill her if she ever left her little room. Mia shook her head and said only: 'love me, Butch, love me again, don't question me or who I am.'

Butch could see sadness in her eyes. He kissed Mia again, and lay with her in his bed to give her everything he could give her in a night; and oh, how he tried, with all the vigor a young man with strong thighs can summon. How Mia tried, with the hunger inside a hollowness that not even Butch could fill. All their efforts would amount to nothing, because Mia was a creature of death, not life. In the morning Butch woke to find Mia gone and his bed very cold, and he raged with sorrow and anger.

Butch leapt from his bed and dressed in his leathers. He raced down the street to speak to his friends, who had risen early to go shooting. 'Red, you dog,' he shouted, 'Blackie! Last night the old lady of my dreams came to my bed and I had her all night long, but when I woke she'd gone!'

Blackie and Red sniggered. 'And why does that surprise you, Butch Mitchell?'

'I want her back or I'll— But I just don't know what to do! Help me out here; if she comes back, what can I do to keep her?'

'Tie her hair to your hand,' Red suggested, 'that way if she tries to leave while you're sleeping she'll wake you up.'

'Better yet,' Blackie said, 'tie her hair to your hand, and then tie her hands to the bed. That way she'll wake you up, but if she doesn't, at least she won't be able to run away.'

'Right,' Butch said, 'good thinking,' and he went about his day. It was the first time he hadn't got exactly what he wanted, so Butch was in an unhappy temper, and fought many an unnecessary fight until his knuckles bled as freely as his heart.

That night his desires were fulfilled again.

After her night of tasting life Mia vowed she wouldn't try to escape her father again, but the smell of blood from Butch's bruised fists drew her. And so Mia crept through the tiny hole in the wall, aching with her starvation. Butch woke when she lapped at the broken skin over his knuckles, and instantly he fisted his hands through her hair to hold her to him. 'Oh, you came, I want to have you so bad.' He was fervent with his kisses to keep her from noticing as he tied her hair around his wrist. 'Oh please tell me who you are, I want to make you my missus, want you forever, want to feed you and ride you and have you forever.'

'Feed me, Butch,' Mia panted, 'feed me, please don't speak to me of forever.'

So Butch bound her wrists to his bed-head and lavished his affections on her, until Mia was filled of him, and she could almost forget her hunger. Dawn nearly came upon them from the wrong side, but before the sun could strike Mia at last Butch slept, and Mia licked up his sweat and efforts and the life he held in his hands. When she left she cut both rope and her own hair with the razor of her teeth. Butch woke up with gold hair over his bed and the rope in frayed fragments, shivering from the cold and the despair, for he was not so used to failure.

'You two!' Butch said to his friends, 'she's left again and your advice was useless! Now what do I do? She won't tell me who she is or what I can do to make her stay.'

'Maybe she's a bird what got class,' Blackie said, thoughtfully. 'You need to impress her.' Red agreed, 'Any woman's got to love being impressed.'

But Butch was disturbed by the suggestion, because he was already bright and beautiful, his hair long and glossy, his bike a rare model that even his enemies couldn't fault; on the street and in confrontation, he was bold enough to be the gang's favourite lieutenant. What else could he do? Already in a temper from lack of sleep and frustration, Butch drew his gun that day when had previously won his arguments with a knuckled smile; he went to his bed that night laved in blood, and hard with it.

Thus Mia came, drawn by the scent of spilled life despite her resolutions to stay within her father's stone walls, and she lay beside Butch and raised his blood.

Butch held her firmly. He was stern where his pleading had failed. 'Listen, I want you to stay and marry me. I'll become top man in the chapter if you like. I'll become top man in everyone else's gang if that's what it takes, I'll be the richest, most powerful bloke in the town, all just to make you stay.'

'Butch,' Mia said, 'oh Butch! You don't want me to stay, you don't know what I am or what I want.'

But Butch wanted what he wanted, and he knew what she wanted.

With his friends by his side he fought to keep Mia as he knew how. The process was hard and bloody, and Mia came every night to drink the life Butch claimed for her, thirsting and never full; and Butch killed his own father to move up in the ranks, and killed his own brothers to keep them from stopping him; Mia came, lingered, drank the blood Butch spilled in her name, but still she never stayed past dawn.

'Use chains instead of rope,' Blackie suggested, 'round her wrists and ankles and neck, and crisscross it around her waist and between her tits, double her over and keep her hot and waiting for you all night, then she won't be able to walk anywhere even come the morning.' But Mia ate through chain as well as through stone, and when Butch woke he was alone.

'Use beer instead of lube,' Red suggested, 'and get it right inside. Then when she leaves you can follow the trail to where she goes.' But Mia rose after Butch ended and raised him to lust again, until she had been loved dry, and Butch could not follow her.

The months passed. Butch grew in power and influence and wondered how much it would take until his reputation would hold his mysterious lady of the night. Once frail and ghostly, Mia grew fat and voluptuous with the life spilled in her name; Butch loved the light in her eyes, the lust in her bowels, the hunger in her smile.

More months passed, and Butch woke one morning to find not Mia by his side, but an infant boy, kicking and squalling. He was not surprised. As bright as Butch and as hungry as Mia, Butch lifted the kicking baby to the sky, and the boy turned and bit Butch's thumb with sharp little teeth, and suckled from his father. Butch took the boy to show his friends, and the creature grinned with its bloodied teeth, and Butch cried in triumph: 'Look at our bloody son!'

'Ah, mate, you know what you can do now,' Blackie said. Red nodded his agreement: 'No old lady could keep quiet at a funeral for her own brat. And then you'll know her for sure.'

'Yeah,' Butch said, 'yeah, and then I'll have her.'

He did that very thing and took the life from his own son to put the body on an altar in the local church. The town was ablaze with the scandal, the papers raising a great chorus of Butch Mitchell's son dead in a church. All sorts of women came to see and scorn. The ruckus was so great that even within her stone sanctuary, Mia heard the news.

At last she appeared.

Butch knew her the moment he saw her, but he waited to be sure. With ruddy tears streaming down her cheeks, Mia pulled at her hair and tore at her face, crying: 'He was afraid of me and so he put me away; I cut my hair, I cut my chains, but by then even I was afraid! What a world this is, where my fear of me sees me put my bloodied son into a grave!'

'She's the mother,' Butch cried to his friends, 'that's my wife, hold her!'

But Mia went to him instead, so beautiful and curving, saying, 'I can't hide what I am.'

Then Mia's father, that once-wealthy banker, leapt forward with a gun at the ready and pointed at his beautiful daughter.

'I told you I'd kill you if you tried to leave,' he said, 'you were mine to hide and hold! A creature like you can't live amongst people! You killed your own mother and brother with scarcely the first breath of life in your lungs!'

'NO!' Butch screamed. He threw himself between Mia and her father and knocked the gun aside, his arms wide and Mia sheltered by his broad back. 'You tried to lock her up for her nature, but I'm not letting you kill her for it! It's only because of your own greed that Mia is what she is! And whatever she is, she's my wife now!'

'Oh Butch,' Mia said, marveling, 'you really won't ever ask me what I am.'

'What do I care,' Butch said, 'you're mine, and that's all I need to know.'

And they got married in that very church.

December 2010

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