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posted on Mar, 1 2006 @ 11:06 PM
I'm new to this forum, so if I make any mistakes as to how to present my work, I'd appreciate the pointers. This first post I am using as an introduction, so to speak. The title of this work is the same as the thread name, Arcadia. I will be writing this as I go, so, while I will appreciate errors and the like pointed out, please understand that there WILL be errors, and, writing it out straight as I will be, it will have some areas that are a little rough. However, I think it will be an enjoyable adventure, almost like a fictional blog, if you will. So, with that, enjoy Arcadia.

P.S.: If you have feedback or comments, U2U me them! Feedback is always welcome, and helpful!

[edit on 3/2/2006 by saturnine_sweet]

[edit on 3/2/2006 by saturnine_sweet]

posted on Mar, 2 2006 @ 12:37 AM
Chapter One

I can smell the fear on the air tonight, as I look down on the alley from my apartment window. The city lights are like the eyes of Argus, brilliant and innumerable, the sky purple with their reflections. Across the way is a derelict building, brick and steel and spray-paint, splayed across a city lot that even the scavengers have forgotten. At least, it seems that way, though even now I can see one flitting along the narrow alley. He moves like the way a stutterer talks, all start - start - start, then hurry to the finish. He's got dirty hands and a dirty face, and, if I know his sort, a dirty soul, too.

Some might say I have a dirty soul, as well. I've been that man below, the city scavenger, a parasite in the city's asphalt veins. I've done things I'd as soon forget, and some things I tell myself I have forgotten, yet never truly will. Just the same, though, I don't live that life anymore. I have an apartment, in a foul, crouching building down by the city projects. I could have better, my bank accounts say, but I dare not bring attention to myself. I live a secret life, perhaps because of my secrets, perhaps because I'm a little paranoid. But I'm not a bad man, I tell you.

That old good book says: So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. That's 1 Corinthians 13:13, and those are the words I live by. Thirteen and thirteen, appropriate, indeed, but despite my luck, I do believe in love, as both my friends and enemies can attest. Over time, those words have become my trademark, my message to those I am paid to send a message to. It's become my name, even. Once, I was the dirty scavenger boy Joe, invisible in my obscurity. Now, I am the dying god reborn, in a sense. I am the Corinthian, invisible in the shadows I cast about my life.

I turn away from the open window, the smell of fear still thick in my nostrils. There is love needed in the dark city streets tonight, and I am the messenger sent to bring God's love to them all. No one needs to pay me for this task; it is the heart and soul of my existence. I slide on my cracked leather jacket, it's embrace as familiar as a mother's. It was the prize of my scavenging days, and so I keep it as a reminder, though the years have left it battered. Slipping out the window onto the fire escape, I check for scavengers, but the alley is empty of everything but old garbage. Not even bums live on this street; I saw to their relocation as soon as I moved here. I wanted to be sure my comings and goings would be unknown.

Slowly down the metal steps I go, carefully watching for eyes peering out of windows. Between my short beard, skully and sunglasses, I'm not like to be knowable, but I try to cover all possibilities. As soon as my heels hit the pavement, it's down the alley and into the streets. It's a poor neighborhood here, all broken walls, broken glass, and broken people. I don't think anyone actually lives on this street anymore, though. A couple of months ago, all of the residents were murdered in the night, soft and silent, like a ghost of death had come for them. I am still not sure which ghost had been behind it, but I suspect I know why. The prying eyes and clutching fingers had come close, that time. As I move down the city blocks, I idly wonder what I will do when they hit their mark. I know they will, eventually. Could I find love, even for that sort?

I don't see another soul, all the way from West 15th, where I had begun, to 1st. Two blocks down 1st, and there is the building I am looking for, LeRoy's Pawn and Salvage, spray-painted shakily on the front wall. The wall is dirty, the windows and doors barred. A narrow track runs between LeRoy's and the next building, an unmarked hovel with plywood over empty windows, that sells anything that old LeRoy won't handle. I take the narrow track halfway to the rear of the building, where there is a small basement window. It's been made to look barred as well, but if you know the trick, it will come free. I know the trick, and slide down into LeRoy's dungeon, as us shadows like to call it.

LeRoy is a good friend to me, or, at least as good of a friend as one could expect to have 'round here. I don't trust him a lick, but I know his secrets, and that makes mine safe with him. His shop brings him in near a thousand dollars a week, and that makes him like a king 'round these parts. I swear, the man wears so much gold, and always the finest suits, you'd think he was a king, in truth. On the far wall is a row of lockers, the paint so chipped and faded that no one can tell what color they might have once been. I spin the lock, left, right, left, and pop the locker open. Inside I keep my "street" clothes, and tools of the trade. I change into these, all black: black jeans, black sweatshirt, black gloves, black boots. The only decorations are on the boots, the number thirteen inlaid in steel on the bottom of each heel. I love the way these boots ring with my footsteps, when I have a mind for them to. I guess even shadows want to feel like men, sometimes.

I finish changing, toss my home clothes into the locker, close it gently, and move back out the window, down the narrow track, and into the street. There is a man on Pine Street, the Shady Mummer. He's a thief and a beggar, a killer, a cop, a reporter and an out of work actor. At least, those are the faces I've known him to wear. The whispers are that his real job is running a newsstand downtown. I think those whispers are probably right, but no use in letting anyone else know that. Besides, to me, the Mummer's real job is as an information broker, a buyer and seller of secrets and lies. A most dangerous man, for a shadow like me, but his boy had told me he knew where to find a certain ghost, one I have been looking for since my scavenger days. It was this secret I hope to buy, while hoping I don't get sold in the process.

[edit on 3/2/2006 by saturnine_sweet]

posted on Mar, 2 2006 @ 04:55 AM
Chapter One (cont.)

No city ever truly sleeps, but this city is as close as it comes, as I arrive at the Mummer's Mansion. An old, sprawling farmhouse, at the end of a dead end road, miles from any farms. But, I suppose, if you go back far enough, most city blocks were some farmer's fields at some point. Makes me wonder how far back this ill-named mansion goes. The porch light is on, of course; it's a rare night when the Mummer isn't open for business. The interior is dark, but the shades are up, so I know he hasn't got any company right now. Even so, I circle around to the back, skirting the light. Many a fool goes right up to that door, bold as you please. But not me. No, I was a watcher, in my day, too. I know there are eyes here, above all places. A talented man can be near to invisible on any city street, even in the light of day, but once you step off that street, you become someone with a purpose, and a purpose draws interest like **** draws flies.

The backdoor is plain, solid steel, primed a bland grey, but unpainted. The button for the doorbell is missing, but I stick my finger in its place and press down on the guts of switch. I don't hear a sound, but after a few moments, I hear the lock slip free, and the door swings open slowly. There is no light, so I can only make out a shadow before me as I enter. The shadow closes the door with a dry, rasping chuckle.

"Come for my secrets again, have you Mr. Corinthian?" The voice isn't a voice I recognize, but that doesn't surprise me. The mummer has many voices to go with his many faces. Tonight's is the breathy growl of a spent brawler, or maybe that of a rugged farmer corrupted by age, given the setting. His shadow slips past me, followed by the creak of old wood as he sits. I wait for him to continue, as I we both know the answer to his question.

"Ah, as quiet as always, I see. Do you really think they are after you, Corinthian? No one comes to ask of you. That's a secret, but I'll give you that one for free. Have you considered that you might be insane? But ah, never mind," he continues before I can answer, though I am not sure I would have. "You're not here for questions; you're here for answers. About a man, I presume?"

"A ghost," I answer. "Mercandes, his is called."

"Mmmm, Mercandes, you say. Well, I have some knowledge of this man, by that name, and another. Have you heard of a man by the name of Julian? A man who deals in whores and, some say, children?" His tone is mocking, though I know he does not dare push it further. Whomever the shadows might hide, I could kill him before they could help. Not that I would, but not that he would know that, either. And as for this Julian...

"Julian? Julian the Jeweler?"

"Indeed, some call him such, though I dare say I don't find his products to be gems. But at least I get ah, free samples, shall we say?"

I snort at that. Free samples. Of children, no doubt. The Mummer is not likely to be fool enough to touch one of Julian's women. I doubt there is one clean whore amongst them. "So, you say that this Julian is the Mercandes I have been searching for? In front of me the whole time? I can't believe that. I tell you, he is no real man. He is a deadly ghost, no more."

Another dry, rasping laugh. "Call him man, ghost, or goat. He is who he is, and Julian is Mercandes. It seems he tired of being a shadow, and became a man of property. So, do you still wish to hear my information, now that you know your man's identity?"
"Name your price, Mummer."

"Candice Constance. Of the K-7's. I believe you know her?"

Of course, I do know her. She lived with me for two years. She burned my dreams of another life. "An easy price. I hope your secrets are more valuable."

"Easy? Perhaps. She is just a woman, I suppose. But she does have quite a group of followers. And I do wonder if she still has a hold on you...but easy or not, the price is set. Here is your secret: Julian, or Mercandes, if you prefer, cannot be found at his establishment. But of course, you must know that, from LeRoy. Some have actually claimed that he and LeRoy are one in the same. I doubt this, though, for one reason: I have seen Julian, in much higher places than I ever suspected. I have outside information to confirm it, as well. Julian, your Mercandes, is none other than the mayor of our fine city. So, you see, he is no ghost...are you certain he is the man you seek?"

"Damn you, you lying farce." My voice is as cold as death, as cold as the sweet love I share. "You mock me with your questions, then you mock me with your answers. The man I seek is no man, I tell you. He is certainly not this city's mayor. But you must know who he really is, or you would not feed me this charade. Name any price you want, as long as you give me the truth!" Not a wise offer, perhaps, but I am not going to let the answers I have searched ten years for slip through my grasp.

"Any price? I will tell you every secret I know about Mercandes, for one price. But I fear you would not pay it, and even if you would, I do not know that I would trust your honor that far."

"I keep my word. More than can be said for you. What is this price? Who?"

"The Corinthian himself, of course. Pledge your death after you have your revenge, and I will tell you everything."

I have no words for this changeling. My death for his secrets? He doubts if he could trust my honor, but I would place my life in his hands, on his own honor! I am desperate, but I will see what I can squeeze from the lies he has shared, before I consider his final offer. Even his lies always hold a shade of truth.

"I will consider it, Mummer. For now, I am done with your games. The fee will be paid by the weekend." I turn and exit without looking back, nearly running from the room. Coming out into the fear-scented night feels like an escape from prison. The sky has shifted towards a slightly lighter shade of purple. An hour and a half until dawn. Just enough time to head back to LeRoy's, change, and slip back in the window of my apartment. I circle back around the light of the porch, and into the shadows of the alleyways. Looking back at the Mummer's Mansion, I see the shades are still drawn. Perhaps I gave him something to think on, as well.

Snaking back towards LeRoy's through the stinking alleys, I still hear the scavengers in the walls, and in the shadows and on the street corners, I see them scurrying away. I walk past a sleeping bum, and his eyes flicker open, watching me pass. I think about killing him, before he can report, but doing so would paint shining arrows to my passage for everyone. At most, the bum is only reporting to a couple of people. More, and he would have been dead already. Better one or two know, than everyone.

At LeRoy's, it's back down the narrow track, and into the basement. To my surprise, LeRoy himself is standing at the lockers, leaning against them with the casual air of, what else, a king. His suit is perfectly pressed, deep purple with cream colored pinstripes, with a matching bowler hat perched jauntily on his nappy black hair. A diamond stud the size of my thumbnail is in each ear, and around his neck is an ungainly gold cross on a heavy chain, it's heart a dark amethyst the size of a quarter. Each finger has it's own golden halo, as does his left thumb. He leaves his right thumb bare, because he says a ring makes it hard to write, he says. But I am not sure he even knows how to write. There is much affectation about LeRoy. I sometimes wonder if he even knows who he really is, anymore.

"Hazzi goin', 'rinthian?" he says in greeting. "I's an itchin' you'd here, 'is mawnin'." His mode of speech is as singular as his style, and his pronunciation of here always makes me smile. It's a perfect blend of here and hair that only LeRoy could pull off. I wonder, though, why he expected me here? Was he the Mummer's informant about Julian?

"It's a fine night, LeRoy. A fine night, that is almost over. Do you have pressing business, or can it wait until tomorrow night? I need to be back out your dungeon window as quickly as possible."

LeRoy checks his grossly encrusted gold watch. What it is encrusted with, I'm not even sure. Diamonds, of course, but there are other stones as well, all massed together so tightly that you might not even guess the watch was gold, if you didn't know LeRoy. "Whys, you is righ', 'rinthian! I'sn wait fo t'mar. When you b'here?"

"Two hours before dawn, my friend."

"I's b'here. Gnigh." With a tip of his pinstriped hat, he's out the basement door. I wait for his footsteps to fade, then it's spin, spin, spin, into the locker, out of my street clothes, into my home clothes and back out the little window. The sky looks like a fresh bruise, now. 1st to 15th, and the scavengers are everywhere, stuttering from nook to cranny, gathering everything they can gather, stealing everything they can steal, and spying all they can spy, before the sun rises to catch them.

15th street is empty of scavengers, as always. Up the fire escape, and in the window, and I look back to see if anyone saw me. At the far end of the alley, there is a new pile. I can't tell from here if it's new garbage, or a body, either living or dead. I figure if it's garbage, it will be there tomorrow, and if it's a dead body, it might be too, but if it was living, it will be gone. My mind presses me to ponder the night's gleanings, but that isn't my way. I pull the shade over the window to block out the brightening day. I will worry about it all when I wake. For now, it's been a long night. Sleep comes swiftly.

posted on Mar, 4 2006 @ 02:08 AM
Chapter Two

It's a bleak morning. The sky is as barren as the back alleys, and I feel like an old pair of jeans; worn thin, and frayed on the edges. Last night’s dreams were dark and shapeless, yet still served to wake me, again and again.

I'm not a morning person, or even an afternoon one. The old, wind-up clock by my bed tells me it's a quarter after three, but my mind still feels muddled and my eyes bleary. I stumble to my refrigerator, an old, discolored wreck that leaks like a menstruating woman. Though, if it were a woman, it would have dried up long since, given that it must be at least sixty years old. Splash, orange juice in the cup, down my throat. I check the date on the bottle; it's up today, so I throw the rest away. The last thing I need it to get sick on old juice.

I've got a lot to think about this afternoon. Prices and pieces, lies and the truths they conceal. First, the lies and truths, because I'd rather not think about prices yet. Those thoughts are better left to the darkness. I lay on my tattered couch, more patches and rags than couch, to the eye.

Article one, of the lies and truths: Julian and Mercandes are one and the same. Evidence for? Well, both are elusive, nearly mythical. The Shady Mummer is the only person I know who has claimed to have seen Julian. The Mummer claims LeRoy knows, too. I'll have to run this by him. Carefully, of course; it wouldn't do to let on to LeRoy as to why. Suspicion makes people do funny things. Evidence against? Nothing, other than the fact that there is no real connection. And I don't believe Mercandes is more than a ghost. But then, Julian could be a ghost, too, I suppose. God knows there are enough of those, in a city like this. Conclusion? It's possible, and LeRoy might be able to help me get to the bottom of it.

Article two: Julian/Mercandes is the mayor of this city. Evidence for? Absolutely nothing. Nothing more than the word of the cities biggest lie. And yet, his lies always contain some seed of truth. That seed is what gives him such power. Evidence against? Most everything. The mayor is no ghost. And no matter how skilled he might possibly be, if he were Mercandes, he could never have escaped me so long, not as a person so prominent. Even though I look for a ghost, not a man? Conclusion? Impossible. But perhaps there is a connection between the mayor and Mercandes.

Those were the lies and truths of the Mummer, but there is another niggling point from last night: LeRoy. Why was he expecting me? Obviously, he knows that I come and go from his basement most every night, but he had no reason to think I hadn't already come and gone. That told me it had to be one of two things. Either he had been waiting for me all night, which is unlikely, knowing LeRoy and his royal attitude, or LeRoy had know what my business was last night. Which shouldn't surprise me, given that the Mummer's information came from LeRoy. And yet...the Mummer told me that no one comes asking after me, but surely he hadn't volunteered the information to LeRoy about my interest in Mercandes. So, at the least, LeRoy has been asking. That thought gives me a feeling like fleas biting at my brain. I trust no one, but the one person who can compromise me is LeRoy. I've always thought that knowing his secrets protects mine. Now I am not so sure. It seems I'll have plenty to discuss with LeRoy tonight.

My mouth is a little dry, always is from the hot, dry nights here. I reach down beside the couch and grab a bottle of water. Bottled, because I don't dare drink what comes from the tap, and I keep them by the couch because I like them warm. It's hard to quench a thirst when your water is so cold you're choking on it. The clock seems a little slow today. It tells me it's only four. I've got three hours until sunset. Plenty of time to trace the paper trails.

I toss my half-finished bottle of water across the room, onto my bed, slip on my well-worn jacket, and out the door. My place is on the second floor. The landing is bare planks, splintered and sagging in places. I jog down the stairs sideways (the steps are sized for the foot of a small child, at best,) and into what passes for a lobby. This being the high class establishment in this district, us lucky tenants have a security guard. Sort of. Really, I'm not sure what his job is, other than letting tenants in when they buzz from outside. Mostly, he sits behind his dirty counter, his bleary eyes alternating between a tiny TV he keeps under the counter and the porno mag that is always spread across his lap. This week’s feature appears to be large black women. As I come up to the counter, his grime-encrusted finger is tracing the outline of a paper-girl, big and black, with hips that look like wrecking balls and thighs as curdled as month-old milk. To each his own, I suppose.

I ring the bell. He never answers unless you ring the bell. He looks up with watery eyes. " 'Ere for your papers and your mail, number 13?" Thirteen is of course my apartment number. What else?

"Yes, thank you," I reply, though he's already rolling his chair across the floor to the mailboxes. In addition to his door keeping and pornographical perusals, he does distribute the mail, as well. He is also why I leave by my window each night. He doesn't look like much, but I've noticed how his bleary eyes watch me, sometimes. One can never be too cautious.

He rolls back across the floor, a greasy pig on wheels, and hands me a bundle of papers. His eyes have already returned to his fat black whore, and his vile thumb has left a large black print on one of my envelopes. I thank him quietly, and return to my apartment.

My apartment has three rooms: a bathroom, a kitchen/living room combo, where my couch and my bed are, and a bedroom, where my secrets are. I wear the key to the bedroom on a leather cord around my neck, and never let it out of my sight. I unlock the door and enter, locking it behind me. The room is empty of furniture, except for a small desk on the far wall. But the room is far from empty. Every scrap of wall is covered in papers, news cuttings, notes, letters, all my information, pinned to the peeling walls. The right hand wall is for Mercandes, hundreds of clues scattered like autumn leaves. The left wall is for my current kill. My notes for one Doug Gabrial are still tacked up, though he's been dead almost two weeks. Tomorrow I'll replace him with Candice. It's only Tuesday, so I've got plenty of time to take care of her. A troubling, yet exciting, target.

The rest of my notes are pinned up in groups on the far wall, categorized and cross-referenced with Post-it notes, so I can look up anyone of interest in an instant. I toss today's papers and mail on the desk. I begin with the mail, as I always do, on the days there is mail. Mail's not a common phenomenon, when you haven't got a name. There's a piece of mail today, though, a crumpled, cream colored envelope. It's addressed to Joe Doe. A letter from the street sweepings, then. A few of them use their eyes for my causes, and tip me off to anything unusual. I slide a finger under the flap and rip open the side, sliding a folded piece of paper out. The paper is as crumpled as the envelope, yet of the same fine, cream colored stock. The letters from the street boys are usually written in pen, in blocky, childish letters. This letter is typed, however. It reads:

My dearest Joe,
This letter should find you in good health; I hope your health remains good. I heard a name in the street the other day, on the lips of a scavenger, a name scavengers shouldn't know. He told me everything, my dear boy. I can't imagine why you are looking for me, but I do hope you never find me. I hear you're a very skilled assassin; I'd hate to have to kill you. Every city needs skilled assassins.

It bore no signature, but it didn't need to. The name on the street was Mercandes, and this letter was made to look as though it came from him. I don't, however, believe it is from Mercandes. He would know why I search for him, and he would never dare leave me alive. So, who would put me off the search, masquerading as Mercandes? It seems to me I can smell a sweet cologne on the letter. Whether it is really there or not, doesn't matter. What matters is that I can smell LeRoy all over this. Only he would know where to reach me. And he might put me off, to protect me, if only to protect himself. A tangled web. I set the letter aside, and spread the first of the daily papers before me. The Metropolitan Messenger. Perhaps I can find some clues in the papers.

[edit on 3/4/2006 by saturnine_sweet]

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