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Theater of Paradise

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 Harvey is, above everything, a performer. His place is on the stage, lights following his every step like the audience’s eyes, marvelling everyone with his theatrics and shows, his mind always set on what he is doing like a true professional. It doesn't matter how many people occupy those seats, the lights are always set in a way so that the brightness doesn't let him see. They were like that when there were barely enough to make a profit, and it stays the same now that he is a recognizable name in the profession. 

 A profession that he never knew could mix with his passion, but once he found out it became harder and harder to set them apart. 

 To think that it all began with a training accident. They weren’t unusual, he got used to dealing with dead rabbits and doves, choking them with bad timing or twisting their necks with a bad grip, maybe more than he should have. But it never happened with a human being. It was only the two of them, filming for behind the scenes extras for their next big show, an exclusive peek into the practice for those who wanted to spend a little extra. It was an indulgence only allowed for that one time, enough tickets sold to cover the cost. 

 

 He doesn't know what went wrong. Maybe his palms were sweaty, maybe he was distracted, maybe he was tired because the hotel bed was so thin it was almost non existent, or the fact that he had been training for so long, or maybe he was tired of his own stubbornness and telling himself that this next one is the one, this time his hard work will pay off and he’ll make it big, and show everyone that he wasn't wasting everyone’s time
The only thing he knows is that the handle of the knife slipped through his fingers and flew through the air, and instead of hitting the side of her neck, close enough to earn a gasp from the audience but not enough to harm, it sank deep into the flesh with a deafening, slick sound.

  Paralized he watched as her face grew pale, a cough building on her chest as she struggled to breathe. He was hypnotized by the mixture of blood and spit that drooled from the corners of her mouth, accumulating with each useless exhale. A violent cough forced the liquid to splatter forward onto her chest, small drops staining the cheap stones of the costume, somehow making them shinier. 

 In a trance, his body moved on its own, eyes never leaving the blood. His arms reached for the next knife and threw it without thought, seeing it stab through the flesh of her thigh. A chest convulsion, tension of muscles, the mouth hangs open, the inside is so red he can't even see the teeth, and more blood falls down. A dark spot forms around the blade, soaking the fabric of the stockings, slowly, extending with each clench of the muscle, growing weaker, paler, limper.

 It's not enough. 

 He reached one, two, three more times, so fast he can't even remember moving, but he does remember the sight and sound of the knives hitting their targets: the palm of the hand, the chest, and the stomach. The red drips slowly, with a shyness unbecoming of such a violent act. 

 Still not enough. 

 It itched under his skin, at the tip of his fingers, that need. To hear, to see, to take. More.

 He doesn't remember getting closer, he just grips the handle of the first knife he threw, and without a second thought he rips it out of the body, the force of the blood spraying his face, his clothes, his hair. He closed his eyes, soaking in the warmth and slimy texture. When he takes a deep breath, he smells what he tastes when he licks his lips. Warm, coppery ecstasy. And when he opened his eyes and saw the dead body, he couldn't help but think that it was beautiful. 

 He never knew how the UAA found that tape, he can't even remember what he did with it, nor the body. One moment he is standing there, in front of his biggest failure as a magician, but also his best performance, and the next he is sitting in his cheap hotel room, getting a call from a stranger, who tells him that they saw what he did, and he is just what they are looking for.  

 


 

 It should have been unsettling, how fast he got used to it. 

 Could have been the shock that later facilitated the desensitization, the familiarity between himself and death, his magic tricks and the act of killing. But they clicked so perfectly in place once he found the way, his own way. It was an easy set of steps, so easy he considered them boring: go to a designated spot, find the target, and beg that he isnt covering the hidden camera that he never gets told where it is, no matter how much he insists that he could give much better shots of the action if they did. 

 But no matter, he found a way to not make it such a boring job. A little bit of flair, some talking to the audience, and of course, his specialty: the theatrics. If they wanted a butcher, they would know not to buy his name. 

 In the escenario of alleyways and broken in homes, of hotel rooms bought with the owner’s silence and amateur filming, the violence is the star, and him it’s noble assistant.

 


 

 Apparently, the association was right: he was what they wanted. There were a certain kind of people, a group that grew with each tape, that wanted to see more of what he had to offer. They demanded more, but not only blood and guts, but more him . They wanted to see what this new character could do if he was allowed a bigger stage. 

 But they didn't want just a murderer showman. No, that would be a waste of time and money, a waste of assets. He would need to step up from his role as assistant, and show them he had what was needed to be the main star. They wanted someone that could fight and survive, not just rip open a paralized victim. 

 An assassin that can put up a show. Now that is entertainment.

 


 

 And that's what he became, molded by the need, the itching under his skin and the pull in his soul that pushed him to slaughter those other members that stood in the way of gaining his stage, until he could call them his own kind. He fought and rose like on a blind rampage, drunk on the thrill but never losing sight of his wish, his passion, his reason for living, his everything.

 Until he got it, his big break, the spotlight he always desired to be under, the escenario he worked so hard to stand in. So big he could finally breathe, extend his arms and bow to the audience, finally able to give them the spectacle they were all craving for. Finally, he could show them: No longer the assistant of his own craft, but the brilliant and merciless assassin magician he became. 

 Once he got big enough, recognizable enough, profitable enough, the UAA offered the assistants, the victims, the people in the crowd he was supposed to pick. Sometimes they were targets, sometimes people that actually paid to be murdered by the great Harvey Moiseiwitsch Volodarskii. Oh, and what an honour it was! An honour that grew with each fascinating performance, with each ticket sold, each seat taken, each gasp and clap and standing ovation.

 His name and reputation are like a siren’s call to everyone that knows, that wants to know, that desires to see and hear and taste in the air all that is forbidden outside the theater. With each body that makes the pile he stands in bigger and taller, so much he is blinded by the lights, and deafened by the public asking for more. And more he shall give.

 And then came the others, his kind, just as he came for those that are now nothing but bloody footprints that trail behind his success. They have the same desire, the same fire, but he didnt work so hard for his own to be extinguished. No, he fights and entertains, because that's what he does, and shows to those that dare to try and take his spot why he is placed fourth. 

 In the Theater of Paradise, violence is the main event, and Harvey the star. 

 


 

 That night, the request to perform for an audience of two was strange, but he knows better than to question the UAA. He’ll go as far as saying that it felt almost nostalgic, the empty seats and the silence, save for the two VIPs he is meant to entertain, even if they all know what they are there for. But even so, he keeps the act and goes along with the illusion of normality, and chooses with fake effort the lucky volunteer.

 A boy, for that’s what he is: a boy that if it wasn't for the sheer bloodlust hiding under that skin, he would have thought he was just some guy. Ah, yes, Travis Touchdown, the name that has been rising through the ranks, the latest talk of the underground. The nasty boy with the beam katana that looks so crude next to Harvey’s own glitter and glamour. 

 He has a bite when he talks as he is restraining him, offering a fight behind closed curtains. How ridiculous, that this one moment in his career would be away from the public’s eye. His last show, he calls it, a ridiculous statement! But he says it with such conviction, as if with words alone he can seal his fate.

 The boy escapes the trap, as he was expected to do. The best surprises are the ones that are staged, after all. And even if he knew it was going to happen, Harvey smiles to himself, as he clashes with the boy. Electrifying, magnificent, a dance both delicate and animalistic, pure bloodlust unleashed in the fight to be the one left standing.

 But the boy, that nasty boy, does something unimaginable: he takes his light away. The light he worked so hard for, the one he bathed himself in, the one he remade himself to be in. Gone in an instant, leaving him in the allecompasing darkness, just like before.

 No! He refuses to go back there! To even stay a second longer in the dark, such an insulting notion! He gets pushed as he demands for the light to be brought back, restrained in place. 

 In the theater of Paradise, violence is the star, and this time he is the unwilling volunteer.

 And he dies, in the darkness he shaped himself in to fit under the spotlight, the only sound he can hear is that of his own screams, drowning that of his own passion sawing him in half, nicking bone and ripping flesh and organs apart in it’s merciless path. And just like his life, the sight of his death belongs to an audience.

 This time, to an audience of two