Solomon Grundy

Born on a Monday

The days following the fire were hazy as Riff slipped briefly in and out of consciousness. When he thinks about it later all he can remember clearly is a flat voice telling him he was the only survivor. Before that there was guilt and pain and something else he dares not remember, something cool and sharp and bright pricking at the edges of his memory, a smile far too familiar.

He remembers Lord Alexis, some time later, sitting at his bedside. “You’ll have to give up medical school,” he said, “but I think I can find a place for you.”

Christened on Tuesday

Riff dabs at the fresh wounds on the boy’s back. Cain, his father had said while he cracked the whip, over and over again. His name is Cain.

“What was it my father called you?” the boy asks, twisting around as best he can.

“Riff, Lord Cain.” He bites his lip and tries not to look at the welts and scars crisscrossing the pale, tender skin. “It’s short for Riffael.”

“That’s a strange name,” the boy says, resting his chin on his open palm. “I like it, though.” He pauses for a moment, deep in thought. “Riff,” he says, softly.

Married on Wednesday

His devotion is almost instinctual, like blinking, like the rhythmic contraction of his diaphragm and the dilation of his pupils in the dark. Later he will come to realize that such is not the way things should be. He will not care.

It is Wednesday, at tea, and the young master’s shoelaces have come undone. Cain watches as Riff bends down to tie them. He has grown beautiful these last few years, long slender limbs clothed in smooth, pale skin, eyes piercing and cold. “You’re the only one,” he says, quietly. It is not only Riff acting on blind instinct.

Took ill on Thursday

It is a very long time before the fog clears enough for him to notice that it is there at all. One day he realizes he’s lost an afternoon. A week later, another disappears. He falls asleep one evening and wakes up smelling of blood and smoke, his heart beating heavy in his chest. That acrid smell always sets him on edge.

Riff stands, shaking, and walks to the mirror, splashes his face with cool water from the basin. Pausing, he stares at his reflection and twists his mouth up into something cold and sharp. It is comfortable, like instinct.

Grew worse on Friday

There is blood dripping from the corner of his mouth, and he wonders if this will be his end. Jizabel is here, with his needles ground to fine points and his eyes hidden behind wire-frame glasses. Riff clutches his chest. He remembers the last time, and how the needle in his arm gave him a stab of deja-vu. It was impossible, wasn’t it? He’d have realized, track marks up his arm, he would have known. There is a rose-shaped burn blossomed across his chest, old and beginning to fade. He did not know it was there until a week ago.

Died on Saturday

He’s lost. He’s not sure how he knows, he’s not sure how he’s still around to know, but he knows. He can feel that white-sharp smile on his lips, cruel and cold and empty. His fingers clench tight on a pale slender throat he’s undressed from countless stiff collars and silk neckties. Sickened, he retches, but has no stomach nor mouth nor oesophagus to accommodate the bitter black bile he can somehow still taste in the throat that doesn’t exist. A black cape flaps behind the man who walks away, and an idea is left dying in his fading footsteps.

Buried on Sunday

There is a smile.

His limbs, though sluggish and searing with the pain of rapid decay, are his own. There is rubble raining down on him and he knows this will be his end, this time.

And there is a smile. There is a body fitted tight against him like instinct, there is a warmth he’s known since before they pieced him together out of a lonely boy’s starry-eyed fancy. There is still a chance to save him, but he cannot will his grip to loosen. He can count their lingering embraces on one rotting hand.

There is a smile.

This is the end of Solomon Grundy.

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