It was autumn. The air was colored like the face of a sick boy. Upon the streets rested a windless chill. The pavements were somber as during rain. There was an absence of illusion about buildings. They stood, high thrusts of brick, stone and glass, etched geometrically against a denuded sky.
Fantazius Mallare walked slowly toward his home. Over his head, trees without leaves stamped their gnarled and intricate contours on the shadowed air. A pallor covered the roofs. It was afternoon but a moon-like loneliness haunted the autumn windows.
Mallare lived in another world. Neither trees nor buildings conveyed themselves to his thought. Within his own world he was sane. His relation to the phantoms and ideas which peopled his mind was a lucid one. Mallare's world was his thought. He had retired within himself, dragging his senses after him.
The street through which he walked was like an unremembered dream. The faces that passed him vanished before his eyes. He walked, seeing nothing that was visible, hearing nothing that had sound. He had accomplished an annihilation.
Three months had passed since he had written in his Journal the command to find a woman. She was waiting for him now as he returned to his home. In the three months he had devoted himself to her transformation.
Mallare no longer raged. In the lucidity of his thought was a strange lapse. There had vanished from it all images of life except those of his own creation. His thought emptied of its projective sense, he found it difficult for
him to translate his ideas in their relation to the world from which they had escaped. Yet he wrote in his Journal;
"I am aware of something that no longer lives in my mind. Dim outlines haunt me. Dead memories peer through the windows of my tower. Life grimaces vaguely on the edges of my madness. I can no longer see or understand. The world is a memory that expires under my thought. I am alone. Yet how much of me must still be the world! My dearest phantoms are, after all, no more than distorted reminiscences. I fear, alas, this is the truth. Yet it is pleasant to be alone with one's senses, to feel an independence."
The woman awaiting him was a curious creature. He had found her with a family of gypsies on the outskirts of the city. She was young- eighteen. His money had bought her release. She was called Rita and after two weeks she had agreed to come home with him. An old man in the caravan had said to her:
"This man is crazy. You can see that by his eyes and the way he walks. I have listened to him for two weeks and I know he is crazy. But you go with him, Rita. He is lonely and wants a woman. You go with him and obey him. You are young and he will teach you. Perhaps even you will fall in love with him. You are an ignorant child. Your mind is like a baby's. And perhaps you will not understand that he is crazy."
Among the gypsies with whom she had lived Rita was known as a simple one. She was never to be trusted to enter the cities they visited. She would remain with the wagons, helping to cook and wash. When men came to her in the evening and, sitting beside her, sang and played on guitars, she would listen for a moment and then run off. The old ones of the caravan said:
"She is not grown up. We must treat her like a child because there is still only a child's heart in her, She is beautiful but without sense. Some day she will make a good wife. But there is danger that she may give her body to strangers. Because she does not know about such things. We must be careful for her."
Sitting along the summer roads outside the city Mallare talked to the child. She listened without understanding but after days had passed, dreams of the man with the black hair slanting across his forehead came to her when she was alone. So when the Old One of the caravan said-
"You may go with this stranger. You can go away if you wish"; she nodded and smiled with happiness.
Mallare brought her home. And she had lived in the carnelian room that was colored like the inside of a Burgundy bottle ever since. Goliath was her slave. Mallare was her God.
At first he had said little to her. She wanted him to talk but he neither talked nor paid other attention. He brought her ribbons and dresses, trinkets, jewels, and playthings. She had a room in which to sleep but all day she sat in the room that was hung with heavy red curtains through which the sun filtered in a rouged and somber glow. Vermilion fabrics covered a long couch against the wall. Red carpets, red tapestries, tawny vases of brass inlaid with niello; crimsons and varying reds struck an insistent octave of color around her.
Mallare was absent during the days. She wondered where he went. He would return in the evenings with gifts. This had continued for a month. Then had begun a more curious existence.
One night Mallare had said to her:
"You must never talk to me any more but listen always to what I say. If you remain here you will have everything you wish. But you must not go outside. Do you understand?"
She closed her black eyes and nodded. He continued-
"I desire to make something out of you. If you stay here you will learn what I want you to be."
Thereafter he had sat for days at a time in the room with her. Goliath brought them food.
To Rita the smiling man who never ceased talking to her became like one of the Djinns the old ones of the caravan used to tell stories about, in the nights along the roads. The words he spoke became a languorous mist in her ears. She listened and understood only that this man with the black hair slanted across his forehead and the silent eyes, was talking to her. This made her happy.
At night she slept alone dreaming of the sound of his voice. Her heart became filled with awe. The strange room with its red colors was a Temple such as she had heard about but never seen. Mallare was a God who sat in its center and around whom grew a world of mysteries.
When she awoke her heart grew eager. Perhaps he would let her sit closer to him this new day. Perhaps his hands would touch her hair. She dreamed that some time he would play a guitar and sing to her as the men of the caravan used to do. But if that happened she would not run away as before. She would draw close to him and kiss his hands.
But the two months had passed without change. Except that the days became for Rita only the sound of a voice in her heart and the image of a face staring out of her secret thoughts.
She wore fine clothing. Rings crowded her fingers until her hands seemed little effigies of themselves. Her black hair was looped over her ears. A gold band was around it. She would have been happy if he had sat closer to her while he talked. Then the mystery of the words he spoke would not have separated them. Now she could lie on the couch, her head on her hand, her eyes burning and watch his lips move.
Her mind never asked what he was saying. His words carried him away. They were part of the mystery of him. Out of them she gleaned fugitive meanings as one recognizes for an instant familiar faces in a passing crowd. But she was content to lie watching him. A lethargy filled her. The days were like parts of a dream. At night, alone, she lay awake remembering them as a child playing with delicious fantasies.
She was asleep on the couch when Mallare came in. Goliath shuffled away as his master appeared. He had been standing in the center of the room, staring at the sleeping Rita, his eyes rolled up and his huge black head rigid.
She woke and Mallare smiled at her. Her eyes grew large and her red lips parted.
Mallare, seating himself, studied her with calm. She was his creation. He was giving her life. His mind was beginning to conceive her as a part of the phantoms that lived in him and that were his world. This illusion diverted him. His objective sense fast vanishing, he was gradually perceiving her as a tangible outline of his own hallucinations.
She was no longer the childish-minded gypsy girl he had found with the caravan. She was a fantasy of Mallare. There was no body to her but the body of his curious thoughts. A silent and adoring image of his brain stared back at him from the vermilion couch. This pleased him.
His madness had translated her into his inner world. At moments a gleam of doubt disturbed his illusion. As he talked a consciousness of her eyes would tangle his words. Her eyes would become two dark intruders, and he would rise and walk away.
"I must be careful," he would mutter nervously.
Away from her the illusion would leave him and his thought would consider lucidly the situation it had created.
"My madness plays with a dangerous toy," he pondered. "She is a woman and her eyes are filled with desire. Perhaps she has not even understood the things I have told her. I must be careful, however, not to betray my illusions with this lingering sanity. When I am with her I conceive her a phantom- a something which has stepped out of my madness to divert it. Her body becomes like one of the dreams in my brain. Her little hands reach like cobra heads among my intimacies. She is very beautiful that way. In my mind I caress her as a part of myself. I speak to her and it seems as if my words are talking to each other. Yet her eyes intrude and frighten me."
Now, as he studied her, the illusion he desired again filled him. His eyes turned inward saw only a dark-eyed phantom, a woman of mist that was no more than a hallucination drifting through his thought. He addressed this image of Rita softly.
"It is pleasant to be in love with you," he said. "Because love hitherto has been one of the abominations. In the world I have destroyed love existed. It was the foul paradox of egoism. Man, feeling suddenly the torment of his incompleteness, embraced woman. He was inspired by the mania to transform his desires into possessions.
"His heart taunted him. His brain filled with despairing vacuums. And he said to himself,'I have become a deserted room. A woman will enter. Her beauty and desire will be gifts that will furnish me once more. She will be something I possess within myself.'
"In this illusion was contained the foul paradox of egoism. For in the world I have destroyed, egoism died in the embrace of love. The mania for possession which flattered man into seeking woman was no more than a shrewd mirage of his senses, that tricked him into the fornications necessary only incidentally to himself but vital to the world which he fancied love obliterated.
"For all these strenuous admirations of beauty- what are they but the subterfuges by which man hopefully conceals his lacking egoism from himself? He admires the tints of hair. His thought trembles before the curve of a neck. Graceful images unravel in his mind at the sight of a woman's breasts. To himself he declaims, 'I am in love with her. She is beautiful. I will take her beauty in my arms. There is an emptiness in me that clamors for the charm and mystery of this woman.'
"Accordingly he embraces her. There is tenderness between them. Their bodies, indeed, seem to have become overtones that mate in a delicious and inaudible melody. But this melody must be brought closer so that its beauty may be more definitely enjoyed. This melody must be played on instruments and not on thin air.
"And, selah! The egoist beautifying himself with love, finds himself removing his shoes, tearing off his underwear, fondling a warm thigh and steering his phallus toward its absurd destiny. The transvaluations- the ineffable and inarticulate mysteries he fancied himself embracing- turn out to be a woman with her legs wrapped around him. His desires for the infinite sate themselves in the feeble tickle of orgasm. Cerberus seduced from his Godhood by a dog biscuit!
"As for those animals whose egoism has never escaped their testicles, they are not to be spoken of as men. Their imagination discharges itself through their penis. They are the husbands in the world I have destroyed. They understand neither beauty nor disillusion. The vagina is a door at which they deliver regularly like industrious milkmen. They are the sexual workmen to whom fornication is as much a necessity as poverty is to incompetents.
"I alone have found the way in which to love. I love and grow richer. I am mad. Yet how admirable my madness is! My eyes and senses are enslaved by a radiant phantom. As I talk your outlines grow luminous. Your eyes become like conquered Satans. They crawl inside my brain like amorous spiders. Your lips are the libretto of a dream. Your breasts are little blind faces raised in prayer. Your body flutters like a rich curtain before the door of enchantments. I look within. Thus I possess you and my senses without leaving themselves, enter the infinity of my mind."
Mallare's eyes closed. He remained rigid in his chair. A murmur that Rita could no longer hear came from his lips, as if voices were speaking out of a depth.
"Rita . . . Rita," they said, "See, eyes prowling like golden tigers. Cobra hands playing over my soul. Mine . . . I walk with you through gardens, deeper and endless."
The murmur ended. Rita, watching from the couch, lay trembling. Warm tongues spoke within her body. Her breasts tightened until they felt impaled on their own nipples. Her child's mind was alive with impulses driving her like slow whips. She would crawl shivering to his feet. Her breasts would press their pain against his knees. Desire like an impossible anger filled her. She closed her eyes and felt herself moving from the couch. She would lie at his feet.
Her hands reached out. Mallare regarded her blankly for a moment. A wildness slowly filled his eyes. He sprang up. Goliath crouching in a corner of the dim room watched his master raise the velveted figure in his hands and fling it with a cry against the wall.
"Fool!" he shouted. "Intruder!"
Goliath cringed as his master rushed past him to the door. He listened to his feet flying down the stairs toward the night.
Rita lay with her head hanging over the couch. Her lips were opened. Her teeth gleamed like little deaths. She lay motionless as Mallare had flung her.
Goliath shuffled to the couch. His huge black face stared over her closed eyes.
Forward to Fantazius Mallare - Book III