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Braq de Leppis was not always my name. Before I was born I had no name.

Romance / Horror
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

Braq de Leppis was not always my name. Before I was born I had no name. I live in what is known as Le Compounde on Rue Orchamps. The roof rattles in the rain. Footsteps and horse cabs from the laneway can be heard inside the crumbling gypsum walls.

Marie Richelieu collects the rent. No one knows her last name. Maybe no one has ever asked. She waits at the gate near the stairs at noon on the first Sunday in the month. Sometimes we pay, sometimes not, it doesn’t seem to bother her which.

Mushrooms are easier to pick in the soft wet mulch.

That is Marc. Don’t be alarmed but sometimes I hear what he is thinking.

‘Grab that one there.’ We are outside in the field collecting mushrooms.

Kindling scratches; hindering progress through the thickets. A snapped branch - rotted out – tugs on a shoelace. Mulch everywhere, aroma of wet grass, blackberry branches mingled with oak leaves squelch underfoot. With a swift kick the gold tops fall to the ground.

Sometimes my thoughts get mixed up with Marc’s.

‘If I scrape them into piles with this branch we can collect them later.’

‘I’m not coming back, it will be dark soon, and this rain is getting thicker.’

I can tell Marc is getting anxious. He doesn’t like the outdoors or the dark.

‘We could collect more berries if the brambles weren’t so stunted from a lack of sunlight.’ ‘They’re seasonal as well!’ I remind him.


‘It reduces any consistent yield.’

‘I can’t sort mushrooms in darkness. They need to be sifted and sorted into piles of similar shapes.’

‘Let me see.’

‘There are the grey ones; those are black as coal and the smaller ones have the gold tinge.’

He was right; in the dark it was hard to tell which were which.

‘Discard the smaller pieces, they taste woody.’ I told him.

’What about these off-cuts? They smell peculiar.’

‘They are bitter for certain but when left to dry they are excellent to start the hearth fire.’ ‘Here, I have a piece of hessian, wrap them to place under your cap.’

‘My hair will stink.’

‘It can’t stink any more than it already does.’

‘What was that?’

I hear a crack and a whistle - could be a bird high in the tree tops. Silence is the forest holding its breath. The vista appears two-dimensional, bland yet natural, the mind interprets broad brushes of light as a natural feature with no discern between earth, trees, and sky. A snail ventures onto a blade of grass unique in the thousands surrounding it, an odyssey of death and forgiveness. On a tree, bark shreds what touches it but along the grain the softness nourishes and protects when needed. Branches sway and yield to wind, rain and nests, but when dried litter the forest floor then snap and burn to support the process of re-generation.

‘In nature all is not what it seems and only becomes alive when seen as it is.’

‘What rubbish you speak. And why do you carry those bundled papers so?’

’You know too well why. These are my journale. For who knows when complete it may change literare forever. You should scoff so, how less significant is your arte.’

‘My arte, as you call it, is nothing - for that is what I strive for, to paint nothing.’

‘You talk in riddles.’


I introduced Marc to Marie just in case she needed to know. Allies are necessary but adversaries even more so. She said it was okay for him to stay with me. That was three years ago.

‘Hurry, she will be waiting at the stairs.’

‘Is it noon already?’

‘What are you doing?’

‘I’m counting, and it looks like I’m five francs short this month.’

Every month is the same.

‘You have days, weeks no less to arrange and let me know if you are short. Why do you leave it so late to account for the rent?’

‘Wait,’ stop your incessant blabbering, ‘there is 3 francs in the kindling satchel, I’m sure.’

She won’t stay long at the gate, and the suitcase seems heavy.

‘Marie doesn’t care if we pay or not.’

Sometimes money is more trouble than it’s worth.

Marc works at Café Mesmaris. He collects and washes plates and jugs. On a good night he makes enough to buy cheese and brioche. Sometimes he brings home wine collected from the dregs which he pours into a jar and carries expertly in his coat pocket without spilling a drop.

I am a painter; actually I want to be a painter. For the time being I use charcoale.

Life is a struggle, as it should be. There are good days and bad days, but along the continuum they merge into neutrality that must be discarded of having any importance. There is a change in the air, you can feel it everywhere, and also the papers say so.

I collect newspapers from around the traps, and although a few days or weeks behind I keep up with current goings on.

Paris is alive again after years of inactivity. There are cafes springing up everywhere and people of mesmerising talent are converging here. I have read there is a shift from old Europe; Vienna, Rome and St Petersburg are teetering on the brink.

There are new ideas - transforming literature, art and music. Paris seems to be the new epicentre, for where else would Monet, Proust and Stravinsky be more at home.

I would love to live in Paris but it is too expensive, even here in Montmartre is becoming difficult to survive. Thank the heavens for Marie. She is a breeze, allowing us to do pretty much what we want and the rent has never increased.

Mind you she isn’t spending too much on keeping Le Compounde maintained in any high regard. The walls are cracking, the gate needs replacing and the wind whistles through the gaps in the roof but we are happy. The other lodgers all seem to have jobs in the day, leaving us to go about out nocturnal struggle unencumbered.

Painting requires time and attention to detail. Charcoale must be prepared, gypsum walls cleaned and washed and when paper or parchment is available it must be dried. All this takes time along with the seemingly never ending search for mushrooms and the occasional slab of rind and brioche.

The communal duties are supposed to be shared by Marc and myself but the reality is I end up carrying out the majority of chores. I collect the kindling, arrange for the laundry and clean the laneway of rubbish.

Le Compounde comprises ten rooms or huts as they are commonly known. There are three on each floor plus a manager’s office on the ground floor that is primarily used for storing ladders, tables and an odd assortment of never used buckets.

‘Trouble lies ahead for those that don’t learn from the past.’

‘How so?’

‘The past is the only reliable source of information. Without it we don’t know who we are.’

‘You and your lament for the past. Today is the only important day. Tomorrow will never happen. Your protestations fall on deaf ears.’

‘I have a gift!’

‘A gift for what?’

‘I can see into the past.’

’If you are going to assert you have a gift at least predict you can see far into the future for no one will know. What’s the point of believing you can see into the past?’

‘To see how things were done.’

‘But things that have happened are already known.’

’Not exactly, history is fantasy; people’s recollections are tainted by sentimentality and righteousness. Only the Lord’s word is resolute. Factions expand and contract, melancholy dominates the pages of history. Noble conquests of ideals and great expanse are tempered with the strewn and mutilated bodies of the great Peloponnesian wars, even our own Revolution. I have even heard there is unrest with the Tsar. How will he be recorded?’

‘But you can’t change History.’

‘Not so, history changes all the time, it is reviewed, revised and re-written all the time. Why does the great book not mention those huge fossils found in Egypt, or the bones of huge beasts that were never recorded in Noah’s Ark?’

‘It must be an oversight.’

‘How plain you see things, of course not, they weren’t discovered - they weren’t known about, so how could anyone write about such things. History is only what people at the time know. Cavemen could not write about electricity yet it was all around them, they would have looked up to the black belching sky in the middle of a great storm to see the sky light up for a second or two, no doubt they saw trees hundreds of years old crash and burn to the ground after such strikes, yet did they know it was electricity?’

‘And for what purpose is all this? Your retrospective wisdom?’

’It fuels the present we find ourselves in. The future is over the horizon - yet to burn our eyes, so all we have is our history, both collectively and individually.

What do people hold onto most dearly? A mother’s breast, a quiet lullaby, a favourite toy, perhaps that first love, a tankard of ale…the list goes on.’

Marc and I often talk like this, sometimes for hours

‘Why is everything covered in soot? You never clean this place.’

’Charcoale is very expensive so I collect what I can. I wait till dark then go to the laneway behind Partistes. On my hands and knees I search for shiny shards of black sticks. In a good night I can collect enough to last a week.’

‘That’s smart, I should come with you, never know what we might find.’

A seriate of semi-tone birds?

‘No, that’s not a good idea.’


‘We might be seen.’

‘Maybe, but with both of us we will find more.’

‘True, but it also doubles our chances of being caught, you stay here and I will roam the laneways.’

Squeaking gates and dogs with insomnia are the enemies of nocturnal adventure. Along the banks of the canal many less fortunate congregate, not to share their histories for they have far more pressing affairs to attend to – warmth, food and shelter among the more prevalent. Traces of fire from the previous night lay dormant after the coals have dwindled. The homeless move on leaving lumps of coal, amongst the debris shards and flints of charcoal are left. When collected and pressed into thin pencils they can be left to dry and weighed down under cobbles. Over time they can be used as drawing implements, some are rough and splinter under the slightest pressure, others less rigid are malleable and if treated like wrapping a baby can be used for many etchings. Newspaper tears, and butcher paper rare so the piles of gypsum in the quarry behind Oriane can be transported to Le Compounde and used as a wash that dries pearly white on the inside walls opening up vast potential for all measures of murals and great artistic meanderings.

Rain shields cold. To know you are going to die is the greatest gift of all…it releases you from wondering what is going to happen to you…imagine if you lived forever, what would you think about? There would be no motivation to do anything…it would be so tiresome…when it gets desperate I collect kindling from the open fields behind Le Compounde for the hearth. I’ve never had much but when necessary I can be resourceful. The difficulty is traversing the brambles and thickets which prevent most people trespassing.

I wander into the fields as much as I can to pick mushrooms that grow everywhere after it has rained. Berries too, for Marie to make jam, but just as much to clear my head. Sometimes the visions I have are so vivid and concerning that I need to walk for hours. Once I even left at dawn and did not return until late into the following night. By the time I returned Marc had raised the alarm. Le Compounde was ablaze with light and movement. Marie had been notified and although not present had arranged for her staff at Mesmaris to be on high alert. I was set upon as I rounded the corner with my basket of mushrooms.

‘Where have you been? We thought you were dead!’

‘What of it?’ I countered. ‘The passing of a life is nothing compared with a river flowing into ocean or the stars above.’

‘Ah such madness you speak, next time we won’t bother, we’ll just unleash the hounds.’

‘Unleash them at your peril.’

’Your pile of off-cuts grows bigger. I sneeze every time I enter the room. That reminds me Pierre wants to see them,’ Marc suddenly fills the courtyard with excitement.

‘What? Who?’

’Pierre from Le Taverna. I was taking my gloves off when he noticed something drop from my pocket. I didn’t notice but he picked something up from the ground. He was holding one of your off-cuts and asked me where I got it.’

‘What did you tell him?’

‘I said one of the lodgers at Le Compounde brings them home when collecting mushrooms. He is coming to look at them. I told him you have a whole pile almost to the ceiling.’

’No, impossible, he cannot come here!”

‘Why not?’

‘No one is allowed in this kingdom, by royal decree, we must keep this hallowed ground sacred.’

‘You are stricken with madness.’

‘Mad or not, I recognise the lineage of our ancestors. There must be continuum with our duty and obligations. We must be careful that this renaissance of ideas must pass through the gates of modernity unsullied and unchecked. You can walk away if you must, but you can’t hold back this tide that will fill the streets of Paris with radical rebuke of the Viennese protocols and Russian colonisation of our minds. It is time to stand and be free of all thought, of all ideas.’

mask a box in metallic sharpenings…discordant notes that someday will tear down the waltz mentality…

‘Strip away the clothes of bondage that hold us within ourselves…I am witness to my life.’

I laugh at such tedium. The rocks under my feet know no such anguish. How long they have been here, nobody knows. I rest against a tree and marvel at its density and fortitude. It survives storms, floods and people building houses. Walking amongst the forest mulch enriches my resolve to withstand hunger, angst and the unapproachable inevitability of my demise.

Walking in the forest affords no less than I deserve. The cows normally leave me alone but this one seems remarkably idle. It stares as it chews with glossy eyes deep in texture. The hide feels shallower than I expected but the smell is what captures me. There is a reminder of approaching rain, concealed earth, low lying cloud, freshening wind…

Haphazard placement…random grazing…detached stillness…affords me release from having to be self-aware. They wander not into the forest…the grass nearby enough to feast upon…like us we dare not progress into the unknown content to stay where we know the grazing is fresh.

I could stroke this rump forever; there is a soothing pattern as I slide my hand across the back bone down the bloated side to the hind quarters…the cow looks behind momentarily before turning to the wet mulch and tall grass…

Sleeping was difficult - there was much chaos last night upon my return. The Gendarmerie present, noted inventory of all lodgers. How it was explained was difficult to understand for I was groggy from being out all night. I must have fallen asleep next to a cow for I woke up with my head tilted to one side lying on the beast’s flank.

Marie had been called and was identifying residents…but where was Francois?

A complaint was made from one of the daughters of the couple on the middle floor. Antoinette raised the alarm a little after three in the morning accusing Francois, the janitor, of disturbing her underclothes while she was still wearing them.

‘And how did he gain entry?’ asked the Gendarmerie Captain. ’The door was still locked, was it not, when your father arrived?

‘He must have scaled the balcony.’

All in attendance in perfect sympatico tilted slightly and looked up at the girl’s pointed hand.

‘So this Francois, who is how old?’ He turns to Marie who is still looking at the second tier balcony. ‘Gains access by standing on the ground floor railing then climbs up to this balcony,’ Pointing up, ‘Gathers himself and clambers through your window?’

‘I’m not sure of his age exactly, but he could be fifty or sixty.’ Marie shakes herself from the improbability of Francois’ nocturnal gymnastics long enough to provide the missing piece of the puzzle for which the Captain is profoundly grateful.

For now Antoinette is not so sure of her account of events and sheepishly sinks into her chair. There are empty bottles of Absinthe to the side of her bureau and under the barest of scrutiny her poise and indifference quiver and buckle.

What events had transpired were long gone, soaked into the background of night. An intrusion of malevolence may have occurred, perhaps some lusty foreplay had been misconstrued and under sufferance some poor buck had been banished leaving the less than credible victim grasping at ghosts to explain her out-of-character behaviour.

‘Why do you wash at night?’

At first I didn’t answer Marc. His voice was distracting. The alcove with the tap is narrow. Hip high the flow of water oozed rather than poured. It made lathering difficult. The slimy curved cobblestones were an adequate bathmat as long as sandals were worn.

‘It’s better at night the water feels warmer,’ I eventually answered.

Marc went to his hut, presumably to read his journale. He always reads out loud. It was the way he was taught. I can hear him from the washing alcove.

‘Babylon was an independent Holy Citadel surrounded by a wall to keep the Assyrians out…’

His voice faltered as I washed my ears. The gurgling in my ears made me feel heavy.

Ice cold water heats the skin - a trick of the nerves.

Standing or sitting doesn’t make the slightest difference – what is important is the evenness of the lather. My soap is composite, like marbled slate, collected from the bathrooms of many cafes, hostels and taverns. Thin string bounds the chardres together, a quick rub of the pieces moulds the edges so more chardres can be layered keeping a bar of soap alive for weeks. It can’t be used for washing hair as loose valuable flecks can be trapped in strands and never to be used in the genital area.

I knocked but there was no answer. Candlelight was dimming. Marc stared at the table. At first I thought he was asleep. I noticed the fixation of his focus. On the table in the dead centre as if placed with geometric precision by a surgeon was a placid currant bun.

I stood at the doorway longer than was necessary.

Marc turned to face me with the look of a man in a deep morose as if contemplating the Virgin Mary.

My thoughts turned to excavating the hard dried fruit from the bun, a heap of organic mess, so that the flinty pieces could be set aside to form a preparation for flea bites, something Marc had read out loud many weeks ago. His proposition was provocative in its simplicity but so far had not been ratified by any scientific means. Tentative steps to touch salvation had gone mostly unheralded.

‘Caravaggio! Caravaggio!’ Marc screams to the wall as a pious sentence as when the Greeks foresaw the emergence of decay and despair.

I tried to dislodge his slumped figure but Marc held firm - postured - screams went high into the night. Tears rained down where nothing existed. The cave was dragged shut. Solace evoked certainty – blast the fortitude…

Iesous calmed the tempest by savaging the daemons away – prostrate yourselves for the migration of souls. Piece by piece, pebble by pebble, stone by stone, I was brought to this land by mariners forgotten.

His thoughts were angular and carried an undertone of protestation but towards what or who was never fully known. Maybe it was a blight on his naivety or something more sinister; I could not tell not having full and unbridled access to his deeper states of mind.

Marc picked up a stone with marbled flint and placed a twig on the edge of a crack between the droppings of a rat and a fledge of mossy granite.

‘Be weary of sentimentality, by God’s will,’ he is still not fully postured, and continues to pick at a loose thread on his trousers.

Borne from will, set aside, Goethe’s lightning release from antiquity, the dark settled around. Staring at this thread, with hunger by my side, picked at the base, knee bent silvered knee canopy, thread oh thread, clings. Rest away the worm beckons but attaches to the cotton soil spread out through the land. Drip, drip water lurks at every instance, mould aroma dangles the acrid poverty with hope stranded outside – peace at last. Hours pass, days perhaps for who is to know. The Sun may have perished long ago, the Stars burnt out, energy lost forever. But, once eternity is grasped, focus on the thread returns, so it is picked at, tortured, bent backwards, and scraped along the ridge of the knee until progress is thwarted by hopelessness.

From his journale, Marc reads; ‘Helena my muse, love rests swallow on a spring breeze. Purity is not defined only sought. Beauty is not bestowed; simply softened till it becomes aware.’


‘Too sentimental?’

‘Helena, your beauty is not stylised like a portrait with cherub ink, it’s in the way you stand bare foot over the cauldron, with sweat on your brow pounding the soiled sheets from a sick child. True beauty is what happens not what is dreamt of.’

‘What? Jesu you talk merde.’

‘It’s true, we wander around thinking all this shit, when there is no you, just drop it. Watch the hearth, the fire is too hot, the flames too orange, the broth will scorch.’

Marc felt the weight of expectation. It was his turn to cook and I had dragged so much kindling back from the field.

‘This mutton is dry, too much burnt sauce.’

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mitali: The book is quite interesting and the story line is also nice I will recommend this book to my friends

Arista: Vielen lieben Dank fürs Teilen auf Inkitt! Eigentlich brauche ich nicht unbedingt den stinkreichen Protagonisten, aber hier ist es so nett geschrieben, dass es gut passt :)

Ronni: Me encanta la temática es maravillosa el amor del Kookmin es bonito y los cachorros son tan tiernos 🫶🏻

Tine75: Tolle spannende Geschichte🥰freu mich schon auf den 2ten Teil😍

Shakeicha Young: Really enjoyed this read!!!

jjapes: Gelungene Story. Hier und da ein paar Wort und Satz Fehler-lässt sich aber dennoch flüssig lesen. Danke dir fürs teilen deiner Phantasie!

annemirl56: Gefällt mir sehr gut! Gut und zügig zu lesen.. deine Bücher laden zum entspannen ein.Danke dafür 🫶🫶🫶

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