The wall collapsed in a relentless shower of ancient and neglected masonry. As the pieces rained down unforgivingly onto Louise, they fell bouncing off her gentle body and onto the cold marble, leaving blood and shattered bones to mark their descent. Louise stumbled under the fusillade and sank to the floor, her head in a spin. One of the larger, more elegantly decorated pieces of the now shattered archway tumbled and finally gave way, coming down onto her skull. The last of Louise’s air escaped from her inactive lungs as she quickly expired.
At the same time, on his way past the theatre Maxwell was confronted by an elderly man, shabbily dressed in soiled rags as damp as the night.
“Spare the price of a cup of tea?” the old tramp asked. Maxwell leaned forward out of the shadows and looked darkly into the dirty face of the tired man. “Look into my eyes old man, and tell me what you see there”.
The old man looked long at Maxwell, and almost immediately, his lips started to quiver, and tears began to trickle down his cheeks. His skin grew cold, and his breath short. He let out a whimper, turned and fled from Maxwell in a fit of dead panic. He ran headlong into the street and into the path of an oncoming bus – the driver saw nothing until it was just too late. Somewhere in the distance a woman screamed, and the last thought of the frightened vagrant was one of sheer uncontrollable terror.
Maxwell slowly picked up the blood-stained hammer with his left hand – the quill gently rested in his right, its delicate white plumage still untouched by the flashing violence that had passed only moments before. He lifted himself up off his knees and shuffled over to where a thin shard of dust-filled light cut from the boarded window to invade the disordered room. He faltered slightly, the loss of blood from his leg wound making him dizzy. He turned his back against the dirty boards and sank down to the floor again. The recently disturbed dust and dirt in the small room had mixed with the sweat on his face and hands to form a layer of scum that somehow lent itself to the drama of the violence he had just engaged in. Ah, violence, sweet violence – he had instigated it and carried it out most exactly, but was at the same time quite horrified at how passively he felt he had also witnessed it. He replayed the scene over and over again in his mind, often several different portions at once. The tramp was younger and stronger than he had first anticipated, and dragging him down the corridor had taken more energy than he would have liked, but, he had to admit, this had made the battle more rewarding. It has been said that you can often tell the strength of a man by the scream he makes at the moment of death. Well, this one’s scream had showed an inner power that impressed Maxwell very much. Through the blood and the dust, Maxwell smiled a happy smile as he played the quill feather gently over the hairs on the back of his wrist.
“If You Need Help in Understanding Its Meaning, or If You Have a Personal Problem Concerning Your Relationship With It, Perganums Will Always be Pleased to Help You.” The large, incandescent neon letters hung ominously on a board by the doorway.
Louise hadn’t spoken to Maxwell for nearly three months now, not since the last few days of Rehab. Her own images were still with her – the emotional bloodletting, blurred anguish and confusion – making her balk every now and then as she considered what the next meeting between them would be like. Inwardly she knew exactly how it would be – a gently reserved greeting with no mention of the fear that would rise up in their throats at the thought of what they had once done to themselves, and each other. She knew Maxwell was almost certainly still going insane, but she also knew that she neither could, nor would, simply let herself stand idly by. This time there’d be none of the private jokes, however – no friendly intimate touches, or tender smiles they’d once shared. His powerful and active mind would still be there, but through her single act of what he saw as betrayal she had finally and irrevocably tainted it. Reluctantly, she stepped out of the rain, and shuffled inside to see the Man.