Beyond the Colors of Darkness and Other Exotica
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by Brian Stableford
Category: Horror/Dark Fantasy
Description: Here are eleven stories of science fiction and fantasy by a master writer of the fantastic, including four pieces published for the first time. Contents: "Beyond the Colors of Darkness," "An Offer of Oblivion," "Enlightenment," "The Dragons Yetzirah and Alziluth," "A Saint's Progress," "Mens Sana in Corpore Sano," "Black Nectar," "Nephthys," "Plastic Man," "Aphrodite and the Ring," and "Danse Macabre." Brian Stableford has written and edited over 100 volumes of science fiction, horror, fantasy, literary criticism, and reference, among others, many of them being published by the Borgo Press Imprint of Wildside Press. He lives and works in Reading, England.
eBook Publisher: Wildside Press, 1974
eBookwise Release Date: September 2009
11 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [297 KB]
Reading time: 190-267 min.
When the news reached the city of Is that the Lady Valeria had died on the isle of Ouessant, to which she had been taken in triumph by her latest princely lover, the entire city gave itself over to an orgy of mourning. When a great lady dies far from home, all resentments are forgotten; all of those who had been numbered among her admirers--whether they were men or women, old or young--were ostentatious in their weeping, while all those who had hated or despised her pretended otherwise.
Is was not to be drowned for a hundred years and more, and no Christian missionaries had yet arrived from the East to tell its innocent populace that its nobility was vile and decadent. Its aristocrats were magnificent in their conscienceless, and Lady Valeria had been the most magnificent of them all. She had also been fortunate enough to leave the city before her beauty had begun to spoil, leaving a rich legacy of envy behind.
Although the golden wine of dreams and its dark companion had already become exceedingly rare within the walls of the city, many a glass was raised to the Lady Valeria's memory, and its contents avidly drained. Many a luxuriant and lustful dream was born of those sorrow-stricken draughts, but the flames that burned in her former lovers' hearts could not be extinguished so easily. Those who knew real grief yearned for more potent cures, while those in whom the flame of desire was too bright to be quenched affected to yearn for a darkness deeper than any connoisseur of the Underworld's dark wines had ever contrived to discover.
It is said that time heals, and it is undoubtedly true that the majority of men is so poorly equipped by treacherous memory that their pain soon disappears beneath numbing scars. On the other hand, there are souls so very sensitive that time seems to them to bring naught but further torment: men in whom the bloody wounds of honest memory seem to gape ever more widely, shedding their vital fluids with unabated profusion. These are the rare beings who believe that they might die of love or grief, and for whom the combination of the two seems to be a living hell that cannot long endure. It chanced that there was a young man among the Lady Valeria's most recent lovers--the last-but-one in a sequence said to extend into the thousands--who aspired to be of this dire kind. His name was Multipliandre.
Had he spent longer than a few months in the ranks of the Lady Valeria's discarded conquests Lord Multipliandre's face and health might well have been despoiled by jealousy, and he would certainly have been divested of his newly-inherited fortune by the various species of carrion crows that prey on the lovesick and bereft. As destiny dictated, however, the news of her death found him still young, strong and handsome--and richer by far than any young, strong and handsome man ought to be in a city as civilized and decadent as Is. He promptly fell ill, as propriety demanded, but it was widely suspected among his friends, servants and neighbors that his determination to die was not as strong as he affected, and that he would soon rediscover the utility of forgetfulness.
When Vulgric the Vendor of Exotica slipped into the alleyways of the Low City from the quay on the western side of the great Sea Gate, the rumors he heard in the taverns soon brought him to Multipliandre's wrought-iron gate, anxious to exploit an opportunity that might not long endure. Lord Multipliandre had instructed his servants that common hawkers were not to be tolerated even at the tradesman's entrance, let alone the main gate. Had the lord's instructions been dutifully followed, such a visitor as Vulgric would not only have been refused entry but given a severe beating before he was sent on his way, but the Vendor of Exotica was, as his unorthodox trade demanded, an unusually persuasive man. Within minutes of presenting himself at the gate Vulgric was ushered into the bedroom where the unfortunate Multipliandre lay, pretending to slink by slow and agonizing degrees towards one of the more ignominious of Death's many doors.
"I desire nothing," Multipliandre told the Vendor of Exotica, meaning--probably without consciousness of the underlying hypocrisy of his declaration--that what he desired to the exclusion of everything else was oblivion.
"Then you are in luck, sire," Vulgric said, "for nothing is exactly what I have to sell--and I pride myself on offering a quality of service in that regard which no one in the world can match."