Archivist note: This post is from an older recovered archive.
((Posted by Scottie Melnik on July 25, 2010))
I breathed heavily, attempting to regain some control as I spoke, my voice still low and dangerous, “The real me? You know nothing about me…” I had known it might come to this but it was going too far; I was going too far. I had walked down the path with her and it was time to bring her back.
“I know more than what others do and that’s very dangerous, isn’t it? Admit it… I’ve poked at the beast that begged to be free. True, we know how taunting and roguish the women may see Mr. Melnik, but what about the monster he can be?” she said in a voice full of self-assurance. She smiled darkly at me, “We’re all beasties, darling. Some bark… while others bite.”
I brought my lips down to hers, sneering, “It is dangerous to push me, yes. And that ‘beast’ doesn’t need to be set free, it’s never caged. It’s a part of me and I know it. As for my bite… you don’t want to feel my bite, little girl…”
She just sighed, sounding as if she were bored, “I think lions would tear me apart more… enjoyably than you could, Mr. Melnik. Besides, as I’ve mentioned do you really wish to be the one that take the daughter of Armand to her grave? Especially with his… backing…” She turned her head and looked as though some shiny trinket had caught her attention across the room. Offhandedly she continued, “You’re broken anyway,” and then turned her gaze back to me, “Tell me, what has hidden what could be truly an enjoyable man?”
She cackled mirthlessly and as she did I realized I had never heard Bianca invoke her father’s name and I had only heard of the man in passing. I had no idea who he was so her attempt to dissuade me from causing her further harm for fear of some great retribution rang hollow.
“I don’t know your father nor do I care. He means nothing to me and I doubt means much to you either.” And then, for some reason that I’m not quite sure I’ll ever understand, I said, “As far as this ‘beast’ within, what you saw just now, it came from a battle long ago, something I wish not to relive.” Just saying it out loud brought back flashes; the sounds of pistols and swords, the rending of flesh with tooth and claw, blood drenching the landscape… and me.
She smiled widely and a triumphant look overcame her. I had told her something she seemed to want to know badly. “If you do not wish to relive something, then why… have you made it a part of you?”
I shook my head free of the invading memory. It wouldn’t stay gone but it could be subdued for now. My entire world had been pulled back to this moment and this question. Even my slowly ebbing anger completely evaporated and was replaced by utter confusion. Did she think one could just shrug off a part of one’s self that easily? Is this what had lead her to this point in her life?
I gazed into her eyes and spoke slowly, making sure to be very clear, “The past is a part of us; to deny it is to deny ourselves. It doesn’t mean we have to revel in it, but it can be quite useful. When need be…”
She looked at me incredulously and burst out laughing, shaking her head, “That’s your coping mechanism? That’s it!?” She laughed a bit more and then finally sighed, “What a pity. I guess it will be fun, then, to destroy that façade. Maybe I won’t go away, ever. Maybe she will be the mask and I will be the truth”
Many things troubled me about that but once again I found myself drawn to that one comment. I became exasperated and my voice rose, “Destroy the façade? There is no façade! It’s just me! You’re getting me. The good and the bad, you’ve got it! That’s what everyone gets from me!”
“I doubt they do…” she said wryly and shifted her leg between mine, “I really doubt they do.” I jumped a little at the movement and, still holding her dagger hand, moved away, climbing to my feet and then moving back, finally releasing her wrist warily. She didn’t make a move to strike but slowly rose to her feet as well.
I watched her carefully and backed away, putting a little distance between us, “This isn’t you. This is just some demon of yours coming to the surface.”
“Perhaps that is me? Perhaps it is what we both are? How do you know? Are you like me?” Good questions, really. Maybe I hadn’t ever known the true Bianca Namori. And yet this wasn’t her, at least not all of her.
I shook my head, “No, this isn’t you. I know it isn’t you. I’m more like the real you, not this…” I smiled faintly, “…façade.” She said nothing but stepped closer, her right hand still gripping the dagger but her left reaching for me. I let her approach, keeping aware of what she was doing and yet I pressed on.
“That seems to have quieted you down. No witty remark or comeback? Perhaps this is the façade that need to be destroyed.” I took a certain pleasure in turning her own words against her.
She simply smirked at me in that way that only this creature could, “I’ve gotten what I wanted already. Have you?” I think I had, actually.
“And what is it you think you’ve gotten?” Her hand pressed to my chest now, right over my heart and began sliding down. I took her wrist, yet again, and pushed it away from me.
“Like I said, any other man would have either killed me or told my uncle,” she shrugged, “You haven’t done any of that. But you have steadily shown me how dark you can become.” She ran her finger across the barely visible cut on her neck, “Even so far as to cut me. I was curious about you… very. I wanted know what you weren’t and you showed me as much as I wanted to know.” She grinned up at me, “I like to fantasize about the rest…”
I was a bit shocked at this, not really sure what to say, “Fantasize? About what!?”
“You’re a man of books, surely you have some tales of the Arabian Nights…” and she winked coyly at me and wrenched her hand from my grip, stepping back. I had never actually read those and had no idea what she was talking about.
I corrected her on one point, “I’ve actually spoken with your uncle, just not all the details of your… brazenness. Why do you think they’re treating you?”
“Because they know I have more than one inside me, that’s why. You informing my uncle only revealed to him that others in Babbage knew and he’s told my father. And he’s a man that likes to save face.” She suddenly threw the dagger towards me, but not at me. I jerked my head to the side as the blade twirled safely past me and stuck into the relatively soft lime mortar of the wall behind me. It would have missed even if I hadn’t moved. Had she chosen not to try and kill me this time? It was a start, maybe.
But if I had revealed something to her, she had just made a bigger revelation to me, “Does that upset you? Knowing that he’s only helping you to save his reputation?”
“Maybe, a little” she said quietly as she turned away from me, rubbing her wrist. I could still see a smirk touching the corner of her lips, “I’m not the little girl in dresses they want me to be. Any other woman in Babbage can be whatever they and it’s quite alright…” Her smirk faded, “Why can’t I be strong? Or insane? Why do I have to be the princess in the glass case? Doomed to enjoy the company of some pompous aristocrat from Caledon?”
I stayed quiet, listening intently as she continued, “I not only went to find my father in Ireem, I went to find myself. And what I found there was a woman in control; unscathed by mere bloodshed and dominating in all aspects of her life.”
I shook my head slowly, my voice calm, “You don’t have to be some porcelain doll, Bianca. Just be your damned self, and this isn’t you.” And that wasn’t true, really. It was her. It was a part of her that had split off from the whole. But that raging animal side didn’t seem likely to listen to reason and it was fading now. Her offensive had failed, although just barely. She was defenseless and opening up to me. Now it was my turn.