Birds chirped on the trees nearby, as the morning star lazily raised itself into position. The golden rays of sunlight showered the land with their magnificent presence. However, one place casted a large shadow upon the land.
It stood tall, like an ancient golem, overshadowing the sleeping valley that was just beneath its treacherous feet. Upona hill, far away from any civilization it stood tall, proud and feared by all, the Cranbrook Correction Facility.
Murders, rapists, thieves and similar despicable pieces of evolutionary digression have been collected within the walls of this heinous place. They resided here, abandoned by the world and left to rot.
However, today something disturbed the great dungeon immensely. The mouth of the decayed, steel and concrete giant, had been opened and released one of its demons back into the real world.
Its worst, and richest, member was added to the collection of madmen just five years ago.
His name was Alexander Maxwel.
His crime: domestic violence, his punishment: three years in complete lock down.
Everybody was shocked and appalled by the charges against Alexander and especially when they were proven to be true.
He was once thought to be a respectable family man and a friendly soul who wouldn’t hurt a fly. However, te evidence was irrefutable and he was found guilty for his sins.
Alexander had lost everything that day: his wife, his son and all of his friends and family have turned their backs on him. It was in this, depressed and defeated state, that he abandoned his civilized behavior and calm demeanor. Once inside the concrete walls of the cold dungeon, Alexander became what he was trying to hide.
If somebody looked at him the wrong way, or said something wrong, Alexander would go insane. He would usually lung at the person who tried to diminish his pride and would not hesitate in destroying every single bone in their body, until they squirmed away, like a pathetic worm that Alexander considered them to be.
Guards would constantly break fights between Alex and other inmates, and were even advised to use brute force, if necessary.
All of these transgressions were bad enough, but what earned Alex those two extra years in the joint was an event so heinous that the whole prison still remembers it till this day.
Every first Thursday of every month the prisoners would get a cup of coffee. The coffee was given only to those prisoners who would behave, while prisoners like Alexander wouldn’t get any.
This was supposed to encourage positive reinforcement as a part of showing the prisoners that if they behave by social rules they will be rewarded. And, seeing how Alex stayed out of trouble for that month, the warden thought it would be a good idea to give him a cup as well.
As Anabella, the prison’s cafeteria lady, approached Alexander, he became thrilled to see her. That cup of coffee that she held in her hands was like a breath of fresh air. It was supposed to bring him joy in this miserbale place.
Unfortunately, Anabella made a gave mistakes.
What Anabella didn’t know was, that Alex was a diabetic, so she accidentally poured in a tea spoon of sugar. It wasn’t enough to send Alex into a diabetic shock, or to even harm him in the slightest, but Alex cracked into a maniacal attack.
He spilled the steaming hot liquid right into Anabella’s soft face.
Before Anabella could do anything, but scream, Alex had already lunged himself directly at her, like a hungry wolf attacking a defenseless lamb.
Anabella fought against Alex’s brutal attack, but it was all in vain. Her gfraigle body was barely able to sustain the force of Alex’s rage
As he attacked her, Alexander kept screaming “Never put sugar in my coffee, you stupid bitch! How many times do I have to tell you that Emily?! Emily…” he suddenly stopped and broke into tears.
The girl he had just poured hot coffee all over wasn’t who he thought she was.
As he stopped, two guards took him off the poor woman, while an inmate carried Anabella to the prison hospital. Her condition was looking pretty rim, but she was able to physically recover.
The very next day Alex got his sentence prolonged for two more years, and was also sentenced to solitude, until he had served his punishment. In this state hebegan to think about his ex wife and the life she led.
He didn’t care that she ran away with Dr. Hart, or that she took his kid away. No, no, he was worried about his money.
Alexander was a rather wealthy man and he didn’t want all his riches to go down the drain just because of some cheating slut.
Luckily, for Alex, he had signed a prenup, so she only got half of his assets. Once he came to this realisation, Alex finally found his inner calm.
He could still raise back to the top. Like a phoenix birthing from ashes, Alex’s eyes burned with a spark of shere detemination.
Months have passed, seasons changed, but Alex still remained in his dark padded cell. With his newfound strength, he was able to push through as his suffering drew to a close.
It wasn’t long before Alexander heard the warden yell,“Maxwell get up! You are a free man now.”
Oh how those angelic words soothed Maxwell’s cold heart. As he exited, a breeze hit his face, bringing in the fresh, cool air and filling his entire being with peaceful serenity.
This was the last time that Alex would ever see that fortress of solitude that he once called his home. Now, Alex thought, he will start a new page in his life.
“But where should I begin?” Alex pondered.
He couldn’t remain in the city, or the US in general, since his wife beating scandal was broadcasted all over the states. His social life was destroyed, his friends abandoned him, except for one.
That one individual was Mr. Thornsdale, a slimy little twat who cared for nothing more than himself.
Mr. Thornsdale never gave out his true name, because he didn’t want to get intimate with anyone. He only saw people as walking and talking money bags, so building an intimate relationship with anyone was out of the question.
Alexander met this man at his friend’s banquet, while he was still married to Emily. At first Alex was disgusted by the appearance of this strange and ugly creature
His small and round figure was more akin to a cannonball rather than a human form .
Thornsdale spoke in a shrill, high pitched voice which matched perfectly with his sharp and pointy nose and small, round, gray eyes, devoid of anything, but hunger for the green idol.
At first, this caricature of a man didn’t interest Alex, until he got to know him.
As grotesque as Mr. Thornsdale looked, there was no denial that he was very well acquainted with pretty much everything. He knew exactly in what, when and how to invest. Every prediction he made, he was right.
He got Alex out of his first debt and saved him, more than once, from bancrupcy.
So, it only figured to Alex to pay his ‘dear friend’ a visit.
“118 Maple Avenue. I hope I am at right place,” Alex said as he arrived at the bizarrely constructed house.
It was a small house with an overgrown lawn. Wildflowers grew rapid in his garden, so much so that they actually suffocated all of the plants that were once planted in their place. The outer walls of the house were stripped down of any color, with moss creeping up on its sides. The roof itself appeared to be unstable and wobbly which made Alex quite nervous as he feared that house might implode on itself.
“How could anybody live in this filth?” Alexander pondered. He became unsure if Thornsdale was still living on this address.
Slowly approaching the front door, Alex rang the doorbell.
As the bell rang all throughout the house, a small, rat faced man lazily paced to open the creaky, old, wooden door.
“Well if it isn’t the devil himself? Alexander Maxwell, in flesh and blood people! Come in, come in,” Thornsdale greeted Alexander with a pleasant smile, exposing his crooked, yellow teeth.
“Thank you, Thornsdale,” Alexander said and entered.
“You will have to excuse my mess. I wasn’t expecting any company” the human cannonball explained as they walked to his working place.
The whole house looked like a tornado just blew through it. Papers, pizza cartons and dust decorated the inside of this cryptic place.
“My dear boy, in what conditions are you living here?” Alex said in utter disgust for this place.
“Well business has been very slow for me. Some of my older deeds came to light and let’s just say most people don’t want to do business with me anymore,” Mr. Thornsdale said and seated himself comfortably in his lounge chair.
“Well considering how many affairs you had your fingers carefully sown in to, I can’t say that I am surprised,” Alex replied.
“You’re the one to talk! I am surprised you’re still in town!” Thornsdale said and began to laugh loudly.
“Actually,” Alex swallowed his pride, “that is the main reason I am here. As you know, I have fallen on some hard times, so…”
“So, you need my old services” Mr. Thornsdale said and began to cough from his laughter.
“I am sorry, but I don’t stick my nose into American affairs anymore” Mr. Thornsdale said and paused. He looked at Alex’ desperate face. In front of him sat the very man who sold him out, just to get a lighter sentence. A man who was willing to expose every dirty, little, secret Thornsdale kept for years. Now his faith lied in the clutches of the very man he betrayed.
“Looks like the shoe is on the other foot now, huh boss?” Thornsdale thought in his head.
“You have to have something! Look, Thornsdale you are my last resort. Without you, I will be ruined forever. I know you must hate me for what I did to you, but I am sorry! Please find it in your heart to help me,” Alex begged and pleaded.
Thornsdale’s happiness knew no bounds.
The once proud and poweful Alexander Maxwell was now nothing more than a sniveling child, begging for his help. It would be so easy to just turn him down and watch his whole world shatter right then and there. Thornsdale could already feel the joy and satisfaction, but he had to restain himself.
“Well, since you asked,” Thornsdale spoke after a while, “There is one thing.”
“What?” Alex exclaimed with a gleam of hope in his eye.
“Have you heard of the Parisian artist known as Bernadette Fou?” Thornsdale said mysteriously.
“I’ve read something about her. Why?” Alex asked completely confused.
“As I told you earlier, I have no interest in American affairs anymore. However, it seems that this young artist is taking the European scene by storm. Just look at this artwork” Thornsdale said and handed Alex a picture describing a tortured man with an insane woman looming above him with a sharp prolonged blade.
“It is rather disturbing” Alexander said and pushed the picture away “But why are you telling me this? You are not actually asking me to invest in this ‘artist’, are you?”
“Why not?” Mr. Thornsdale said “Think about it, it is perfect. You will get out of town, people will see you as a man of high culture, profound taste and indescribable wealth. It might even help them see how you became a changed man.” Mr. Thornsdale tried to persuade Alexander.
This made Alexander ponder through his thoughts. On one hand he would get rid of the bad reputation that followed him and he could even earn back some of his old reputation. On the other hand, this trip would cost him a lot of money and he didn’t know if it paid off.
“Are you sure this will help me? It is a rather exensive trip,” Alex said skeptically.
“Leave the accomodation expesses to me. You’ll just have to show up, sign a check and that’s it. What do you say?” Thornsdale held out his hand.
Alex’s interest was peeked. He observed the picture closely, one more time. There was something almost beautiful in it. The madness almost spoke to him.
After some consideration, Alex had finally reached a decision.
“What the hell! I have nothing to lose! Mr. Thornsdale book me a flight to Paris,” Alex exclaimed happily.
“Excellent! Let me just make a call to the galleria first. They will be thrilled to hear this” Mr. Thornsdale said and exited the room.
“It was done, mademoiselle” he whispered through the phone.
“Excellent! So we got our sponsor?” Charlotte asked.
“Yes. Just don’t forget our deal” Mr. Thornsdale warned the woman on the other side of the phone line.
“Don’t worry, Mon ami. I will transfer you the money, once the contract is signed,” Charlotte assured him.
“Perfect! Send my best to the artist” Mr. Thornsdale said and hung up the phone.
Mr. Thornsdale smiled to himself. The piece were all set and it was time to execute the first phase. He reserved a one way flight to Paris for noon tomorrow.
Everything was perfectly alligned, so Thornsdale thought he could treat himself a bit. He took out a bottle of cheap wine and brought two glasses back to his work-room.
“Well, it has all been arrange. Your flight will leave tomorrow at noon” Mr. Thornsdale told Alex as he handed him the glass of wine.
“I hope this plan of yours works” Alex warned him.
“Oh, trust me, it will” Mr. Thornsdale said and took a sip of wine.
As the night went on, the bottle of wine slowly held less and less liquid in it, until it was fully empty. They talked throughout the night as Thornsdale barely kept his displeasure under control. Once Alex fell asleep, Thornsdale breethed in deeply. He placed a blanket over Alex and smirked to himself.
“I guess it’s true what they say,” Thornsdale thought to himself as he nestled in his bed “Desperation can make people do very foolish things.”
The next day Alex was more than eager to board the plane. He arrived at the airport at eleven thirty. A flight attended showed him to his seat and Alex dozed off instantly. He had to stay fresh, if he was to leave a good impression on the gallery curator. When he woke up, his plane had already landed.
Alex wandered the streets of Paris like a lost child searching for its mother. He knew the name of this gallery, and where it was suppose to be located, but he still had difficulties orienting in this giant city.
He kept asking people about this gallery, but most of them didn’t know or simply didn’t ay attention to him. Luckily, a young woman with curly black hair was able to help him.
“Oui monsieur. Juste tourner à droite à la première intersection, et vous allez y arriver en peu de temps* » she said.
“Ah, merci mademoiselle,” Alexander smiled and thanked her .
Finally, after an hour of searching, Alex had found the gallery.
“Bonjour, Mr. Maxwell. I hope your trip was pleasant,” Charlotte exclaimed as she saw Alex.
“The trip was alrght, but it was a freaking nightmare to find you. You could have at least had a guide to help me out” he complained.
“Pardon me, Mr. Maxwell. But I can assure you that it was worth the inconvenience” Charlotte guaranteed him.
“I hope so” Alex replied snidely.
“Entrer, monsieur” Charlotte welcomed Alex into the galleria. Alexander was astonished of what he saw inside.
Pictures on the walls that depicted murder, torture were done so elegantly, so fluidly that he could not believe his eyes. It was incredible.
However, what really drew his attention was the picture of a woman with dark red eyes holding a bloody knife and looking directly at the viewer. The woman was surrounded by a dark and gloomy background which clashed highly with her bright red dress and the crimson red roses surrounding her, so much so that she could almost feel her. It was magnificent.
“That is the artist herself. Bernadette Fou” Charlotte explained to the mesmerized man.
“You mean to tell me that a dark angel like this truly exists?” Alex exclaimed.
“Not only do I exist, but I am right here” a woman said as she approached them. Alex turned around and noticed a white haired woman with dark red eyes and full ruby lips standing right behind him.
“Monsieur, I would like you to meet our galleries’ pride and joy, Bernadette Fou” Charlotte said, as Bernadette extended her hand. Alex gently took her hand and kissed it. Bernadette blushed as he did so.
“Enchanted. So, you are the one that made these exquisite images,” he said in a charming voice. Bernadette smiled shyly and nodded her head. Alex was much more handsome than she imagined.
“How do you even get inspired for such images?” Alex asked her.
“Well that is how I see it, my friend. To me blood is not just blood. It is a deformed type of art, which I want to exploit as much as possible. That is the reason I call my art ‘l’art sanglante’ because it depicts that which most people do not wish to see. It challenges their views and makes them question their reality,” Bernadette explained.
“How intriguing! You speak of your art so fluently, and it really does represent something different” Alex said.
“Thank you”, Bernadette said shyly.
“Ehem” Charlotte ‘coughed’ “Monsieur, if you would be so kind to step into my office. I am sure thar or associate Mr Thornsdale already told you about it.”
“Of course,” Alex replied and followed the red haired femme fatal to her office.
After signing the sponsorship contract, Alex looked for Bernadette. He found her gazing at one of her paintings. It was a painting of crimson red roses in front of a dark, almost hollow, background.
“That has to be one of your more tame work, I presume” Alex stated as he approached Bernadette.
“What makes you say that?” Bernadette asked with a confused look on her face.
“Well just look at it”, Alex exclaimed "It's nothing more than a rose. A simple flower that can be found in any old garden in this world."
Bernadette laughs at this simple explanation of her work.
“One cannot judge only by that which is visible to the eye, Mr. Maxwell” Bernadette spoke in a mysterious voice “The rose can only be truthfully represented when you see the truth that lies beneath it. To me this single rose is an image much more frightening than anything else.”
“Why?” Alexander asked confusedly.
“Because of what it represents. Under that tiny, prickled flower lay hundreds of civilizations. Emperors, people, animals, everything is placed under its deep roots.Their flesh is nothing more than decomposed biomatter, serving as a feast for the rose. Once you see that truth then a single rose, much like this one, becomes much more frightening than the most malicious thing that a human could think of,” she ended her speech and watched wistfully into the picture.
Alex just stood there, speechless. This magnificent being in front of him, intrigued him more and more by the minute. The way she spoke just revailed something truly disturbing, yet strangely compelling, about her.
Sddenly, Bernadette snapped out of her daze.
“I am sorry for that. I just sometimes get lost in my own thoughts,” Bernadette apologized.
“It is not a problem”, Alex said with a wide grin across his face, “Say, Bernadette, am I right?”
“Yeah,” she replied.
“I find you to be one exquisite lady. Are you by any chance seeing anyone?” Alex asked.
“As a matter of fact no, I am not seeing anyone. Why do you ask, Mr. Maxwell?” Bernadette said flirtatiously.
“Well, I was wondering if you’d fancy a dinner with me. To discuss more of your artwork,” Alex replied.
Bernadette gave him a smile, took out a piece of paper and wrote something on it.
She then proceeded to slip this note into Alex’s hand and whispered into his ear “Tonight at eight Mr. Maxwell. I trust you will make it” she said and winked to Charlotte that was just passing by.
“I can assure you of that”, Alex said and existed the building.
“So, what happened?” Charlotte asked Bernadette once Alex was well out of sight.
“The trap has been set, Ma Cheri. We will have our new artwork, soon enough” Bernie said with a malicious grin spreading through her gorgeous pale face.
“And that is exactly why I love you, mon amour” Charlotte said and pulled the white haired Bernadette closer to her pear shaped body. The two women shared a rather sensual kiss of passion, as they both were just about to create something magnificent.
Later that night Mr. Maxwell arrived at the address that was given to him by Bernadette. He knocked three times on her door.
As he waited, Alex stood so close to the door that he could hear Bernadette’s soft footsteps gently walking over to the big wooden door.
In a matter of seconds Bernadette appeared in front of him. She wore a crimson red dress that stood out of her pale white complexion like a flame wing phoenix would stand out in the snow.
“You look astonishing,” Alex complimented the beauty that was Bernadette.
“You don’t look too bad yourself,” she acknowledge his clean suit and tie attire.
“Shall we go, mi lady?” Alex said with a hidden touch of sarcasm.
“Actually, why don’t you come inside? I’ve made us a nice veil parmesan with a nice glass of champagne” she replied and lured Alex into her house.
They talked all through the night and laughed. The date was going rather well, as far as Alex was concerned. Soon enough the date drew to a close.
"Would you like something sweet?" Bernadette asked.
“No thanks”, Alex replied, “I will just have coffee now and you later;" Alexander winked.
"You are so awful!" Beernadette giggled.
She went into the kitchen and began to prepare the waterfor their coffeee. After five minutes she poured the boiling hot water into a small coffee mug. She then added a tea spoon of sugar and ‘special’ ingredient. Bernadette, then took the coffee over to Alex.
It took only one sip for Alex to discover that sweet scent of sugar in coffee.
“You put sugar in my coffee, didn’t you?!” Alex bulged his eyes in anger. Bernadette just sat silently and smiled.
“How much did you put in?! Tell me now!” he screamed in panic. She just sat there smiling as before.
“You bitch! You knew that I am a diabetic. I will kill you for that!” he said and tried to slap Bernadette.
But suddenly his legs felt weak and he collapsed on the floor. His handbarely even touched Bernadette's face as he barely fought to keep his eyes open.
Bernadette stood over him and smiled pleasantly as Alex's vision began to blurr.
“What did you put in my coffee?” were Alex’s last words before he passed out.
When he woke up, he found himself locked in a basement. Looking at him through a mirror were Bernadette and Charlotte.
“Good morning sleepy head,” Bernadette spoke through the speakers.
“What did you do to me you psychotic bitch!” Alex screamed.
“I did to you what you were doing to Emily all those years you had been married to her,” Bernie replied in cold blood.
“What?! How do you know about Emily?” Alex asked in complete shock.
“Oh come now Mr. Maxwell”, Charlotte interrupted, “Did you really think we didn’t know? After all, Emily is a dear friend of ours”.
“Her and that new husband of hers,” Bernadette said playfully, “He is such a refined gentleman”.
Alex was wide eyed in shock. How the hell did these two know who Emily was?
“Your ex-wife and her new family moved here about, what was that, three years?” Bernie asked Char.
“That sounds about right” Charlotte replied.
“We’ve heard so much horrible stories about you, your action and most, heinous of all, your arrogance” Bernie finished in a contemptful voice.
“But, when heard how long your prison sentence was, we cringed. The system was way too lenient on you” Char finished.
“So, we devised our own little plan, to bring justice. We talked to Mr. Thornsdale and made him to ‘deliver’ you to us” Bernie said.
“It was rather easy. Once we told him how much money he is going to make off it, he complied instantly. Not to mention his disdain for you was quite apparent,” Char said and laughed.
“But enough of that” Bernie said “This is how it is going to go down. You see that box in the middle of the room?” Bernie said and pointed to a huge square box in the middle of the room.
“It is filled with sugary deliciousness like: Twinkies, M&M’s, Snicker bars and other teeth rotting goodness” Bernie explained.
“These will be your only means of survival, Mr. MAxwell," Char explained.” Char continued.
“But I can’t eat them! If I do I will die” Alex complained.
“And if you don’t eat them you will die as well. The choice is yours. To die a slow and painful death or to eat the sweets and die quickly. Choose wisely” Bernadette said.
“You can’t kill me!” Alex yelled.
“Who says so? Look around you” Char exclaimed.
As Alex looked around, he was shocked to find two stiff bodies, one of a woman and another of a man, standing in the corner of his room. Their skin glistened in the dim neon light and on their faces were etched screams of agony as their hollow eyes stared into Alex's soul.
“That is your future” Bernie finished and the two women went about their lives. In the following five days Alex fell through the five stages of depression.
The first came denial.
He tried to convince himself that it was all just a dream, none of it was real. He was probably still in America. Maybe this is just a horrible nightmare.
However, the buzzing of the neon light and Bernadette's pale figure, observing him from the other side of the mirror claimed otherwise.
Then on the second day denial was replaced by anger.
He started to scream and throw himself around the room. Alex even at one point kicked the box over exposing its delicious content all over the floor.
Bernadette became more and more amused as she watched Alex twist and turn. It was almost too precious to see him throw tantrums like a two year old child.
At the third day he began to bargain.
“I will transfer all my money to you and won’t tell anybody a word about this, just please let me go,” he pleaded both Bernadette and Charlotte who passed through in observation.
At first they both ignored his hollow offers, until Bernadette snapped.
“Did you stop hitting Emily, when she pleaded you to stop?” Bernadette hissed at the pathetic prisoner.
Alex remained silent.
What followed was a state of depression. On the fourth day Alex just stood at one corner and cried. He knew there was no way out.
And finally on the fifth day he cracked.
Alex opened the box and started to devour its content, like a hungry lion tearing up a gazelle. His body couldn’t take so much sugar intake, so Alex, after devouring a considerable amount of candy, clenched to his heart and collapsed to the ground.
Bernie and Char entered the room, once they made sure that he was dead.
“Call the Doll maker, and let him take special care of this trophy. I have to finish my work” Bernie said to Char.
As she walked away to finish her fifth installment of her new collection Bernie smirked to herself. Not only did she manage to avenge her friend, but she also found new meaning in her art.
The very next day the gallery ‘Folie de la mort’ gained a new collection. L’art tormente contained five pictures named: Déni , La colère , Le marchandag , La dépression and L’acceptation , all depicting the last five days of Alexander Maxwell.
He was once a man who thought women were beneath him, until the women fought back.
*just turn right at the first junction and you will be there in no time