Friday, March 21, 2014

Excerpt 4: Beyond the Reach of Judgement

“Ruth, let’s go for a walk. You’ve been stuck inside for far longer than is healthy,” Julien offered his arm as the setting sun darkened the great room. “This part of the city can be quite peaceful in the evenings. Let me show you.”
    Ruth stood as she wondered at his motivations. Was this it? Had he finally grown tired of her and planned to be rid of her?  She searched his eyes for evidence of such motivations but she found none of the hunger and desperation she had met during their first encounter.
    “Unless you would rather not?” Julien stepped back and lowered his arm as he appeared to study her with equal intensity.
She swallowed and took a deep breath. “No. I’m sorry. I would enjoy a walk. I was just wondering what you did with all your time. I mean, before coming to the City I could barely imagine what it must be like to not to have to spend eight to twelve hours working a day and barely have enough free time to shower after trying to get a good night’s rest in. You don’t work, don’t sleep, and your showers are so short.”
    “I think.”
    “All the time?” She took his arm as the elevator doors opened to the lobby.
    “Not exactly. I probably spend most of my time trying not to think, to be honest. That is how I came to enjoy these evening walks when my hunger allows such things.”
    Ruth shivered. As soon as her mind seemed to escape the fact that he needed to feed from humans to survive, he found a way to remind her. “How is your hunger now?”
    “Tolerable. You needn’t worry. I will not risk your safety again.” His other hand reached over to squeeze her arm where it rested over his, but he did not look at her.
    “I’m not worried for myself. I just hate to think of you doing something uncomfortable for my sake.”
    “You are an interesting person, Ruth. It seems rare in this current age to find someone quite as selfless as you.” Julien led them down the street.
    “Um, thanks, I think.” She shrugged and considered asking him how many people from this age he actually knew.
    “So the architecture in this area is different from anywhere else in the city. This area was once home to the most prominent citizens of the city in its infancy. Many of these buildings are in their original Art Deco style that was popular at the time.” He pointed upwards toward the towering buildings that surrounded them. “That building there was the tallest in the state for nearly 50 years and was designed by the same architect that designed the building in which I currently reside. They are some of the oldest still standing in this area.”
    “So you like architecture then?” She questioned.
“I find it intriguing how it reflects the current culture and technology and mentality of the time, yes. But mostly, it just seems to remind me of how old I am. To think this entire area did not even exist as more than just prairie and forests when I was born.” He looked away from her. “There are some lovely churches in this city as well. Maybe another night I will take you to see them.”
“I would like that.” Ruth smiled when she caught his glance returning to her as they continued their stroll.
“But the strangest thing I’ve ever encountered anywhere on my travels is coming up here.” He pointed to an alcove between buildings. “It is called Putto 2x2x4.”
As they approached, Ruth stared in confusion at the odd piece of sculpture settled amongst the garden in the alcove. It seemed about twenty feet tall and depicted some strange headless, two-bodied creature with six limbs appearing as human fingers and two limbs appearing as short fat baby-like legs, four limbs on either half. On the screen behind the metal beast played a video of the creature clumsily dancing around as its two bodies fought for control. “It makes no sense.”
“Apparently it is modern art,” Julien replied indicating the plaque for the Kemper Art Museum. “But I relate to the poor beast’s struggle. Its two halves not wanting to acknowledge the other side, meanwhile pulling in opposite directions in a constant battle with itself.”
Looking at the sculpture again and then to the video screen, she could now see the battle between the two sides, neither inherently stronger than the other, each gaining control for a short time before the balance literally tipped in favor of the other side. “Now I see why you try not to think too much.”
He gave a sad seeming smile and another gentle pat on the hand before they continued down the street back toward his place.
She found herself longing to reach out and touch him. The muscles in her arms twitched as she resisted the impulse, and instead she felt her desire twist within her chest. Reminding herself again, despite how he appeared and behaved, that Julien was not human and therefore could not share her feelings, she pushed her urges away. 

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