The jarring buzz of the phone struck his ears faintly. A warbling cry plunged into deep water, set to floating through the waves of a dream. In defiance of convention he did not jump to hear it, did not startle, but instead grew still, as would a creeping predator in whispering grass when the wind stopped and all went silent, the eternity of death contained in a mere moment. A muscle in his eye twitched. A single breath escaped, noiseless against the insistent buzz.
It was a simple enough thing to fall into that state between wakefulness and sleep: a dream state, a limbo, a torturous suspension. One could be thoroughly convinced that he was, in fact, awake, and yet noise would be dulled, movement slowed, the entire world moving inexorably on, unmarked, unheeded. The hand of time jerking to a halt, the finger of Fate lifting itself from the map of a soul, providing a moment’s respite in a world rendered senseless with chaos.
That was the state that possessed him now, earlier musings subdued to the torpor of the waking dream. When the ringing stopped, when a deep voice pierced the ensuing silence like a beacon of light cutting thick fog, the push back to awareness, to reality, was harsh. His left hand-- knife hand, trigger hand, thwarted hand -- spasmed; the thin blade of the fruit knife seemed to sing as it bit into his suddenly clumsy fingers. Blood dark and thick like poisoned wine stained the verdant skin and bruised-porcelain flesh of the apple his other hand clutched...and though his rational mind loathed the doing, some strange, gleefully unhinged part of him wanted to laugh at the sight. Four missed calls in one day, money in his pocket guaranteed, a heart shattered and patched unsteadily back together with ice and stone. Red, white, silver, and green in his hands, rage and innocence and profit and envy-- like bloody Christmas, it was. Blood and blood money and blood bonds broken. Bloody Christmas in July.
X X X
Four missed calls . The notifications flashed across the phone’s small screen as he picked it up from the couch onto which it had been angrily flung. Cassio, every time. Cassio, the looker, the rake, the right hand. The usurper. Puffed-up, arrogant, self-important wanker--! But. He had called. Four times. Called him four times , and that in itself was anachronistic enough to give him pause. He could see no reason for such desperate seeking of contact. Their work was done: Othello’s farce of a marriage... dealt with; Brabantio powerless and in a right strop. The newlyweds off shagging somewhere before the tour, warming up to the music of groans and bodies joined in unholy communion, playing the swan song to their hideous love in this place, this time, this life. Roderigo gulled, driven to the brink of madness by the twin flames of elation and the passion of his own stupidity, buoyed up on the rising smoke of hopes no more substantial than sparks, bringing destruction in their effervescent glory before fading to nothing ere one could say they lightened. Cassio...well. Cassio, sitting like Patience on a monument, smiling at grief-- his grief. Holding his place. Owning the piece of-- no . That mattered not, it mattered not. Damn the thought, nascent though it was. Damn it out of sight, out of mind-- to Hell, where it belonged, and himself with it. Damn it all .
It was rage that had first bid him throw the phone aside, and it was rage that made him unlock it now: to spite himself, his momentary lapse into sentiment. Into weakness. Cassio wanted to act like some neglected and psychotic wife, ringing him without pause? Well. He could oblige. He could play the message, force upon his ears one voice of many that haunted his every waking dream. Self-retribution. Simple enough thing.
X X X
Iago! Ah, there was that voice--! So smooth and clear, like glass, rippling with feeling and warmth and yet so cold, like a star, the light a memory lost to distance. Look, I don’t know what you’re on about, mate; I’ve been trying to contact you all morning. You’d better be either out or mortally ill, you hear? Preferably the former. I’ll be very hurt if you’ve just been ignoring me. A breathy chuckle; he could easily picture the younger man ducking his head to hide that wide, self-effacing grin of his, sleek waves of dark hair falling over eyes of crystalline blue. Even in the ephemeral transparence of imagination, the sparkling perfection of the image rankled. No one who destroyed so much should have been so charming. So beautiful. Can’t imagine why you’d want to, of course. Couldn’t he? Couldn’t he?
Anyway, Othello just wanted to make sure you knew the way to the Nic-- oh, and he was wondering if you could swing by the studio first to pick up the gear before heading up to his flat to get Em and Des. Anytime before sunset’s fine, he says. He trusts you. ...Christ, I hope you hear this, mate. Be a laugh if you didn’t...well. Be our heads on a platter, too, I’d imagine, but we’d be a fine sight, turning up down the Nic with no instruments or anything. Bloody mess, that’d be.
Dial tone. Silence.
X X X
Be a laugh , he said. A laugh, if he didn’t get the message. As if Cassio and Othello were so incapable of retrieving the equipment and driving the girls themselves. Bloody rich , that was. Errand boy, was he? Yet still so important? How indispensable was a mere slave?
Low enough, apparently, that Othello didn’t even have the decency to ring him himself. Trust him he might, he did , and yet here was Cassio, messenger and commander all at once, passing the orders down. Not even once mentioning why it was that Othello seemed incapable of making a simple phone call to his...left hand. Left hand, now. He had to remember that. Still, nothing for it now. Relegation was relegation, and that tended to end matters rather nicely. Cherished yesterday, inconsequential today. Objectively speaking he knew that such things had happened before, countless times, in the history of the relationships of man. In a way his case was better. He, at least, could say without hesitation that this was no end. No... this ...this was a beginning.
You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting. Empty words, words from another place and another time, but they had been put around his neck one time too many. Never again . The noose would come off, and they would be spoken anew, tightening around the glowing life forces of his ( friends, brothers ) pawns. Raising his fortunes in the ashes of their shattered peace, a phoenix baptized in fire and blood.
X X X
And he laughed-- high and wild, more choked breath than anything, but oh, he laughed. Laughed like the world had burned around him as any remaining vestige of rejection’s gnawing ache fled from him, seeping out alongside his poisoned blood. No more of that, of any of it: the bitterness, the longing, the pain. Only hatred. Only ice. Only stone.
I hate the Moor, I hate him, I hate him…. Yes. Yes, that would do nicely. Let Othello see what it felt like, hm? Turning against the one he loved, knowing her heart belonged not to him, but to another, to a beloved friend ...and not even knowing . Not really. Not necessary. Believing was enough.
All it would take were words. Poison Othello’s ear. Topple graceful Desdemona from her golden pedestal. It would be so...easy. She would fall, and Cassio, the divine messenger, with her-- and Othello, too, but before he fell he would have to know. And he would. He would not see it, the maelstrom of emotion into which he was being drawn, but he would feel it. The pain. The grief. The madness. Pay back in blood what had been cut away in flesh. Pain. Grief. Madness. ...And one more. One more, but that was his, his alone. The sweet tang of revenge, the tender burn of empathy and compassion, the foundations of humanity, twisted. Made less than. Other. Monstrous. Othello would fall, yes, but he would not stand by in solemnity, in sympathy, when he did. For it was delight, this thing coursing through his veins, consuming all else in its path. This was just, it was right, and so. Raise a glass to the new order, the new way, and he would smile. Bloody Christmas in July.