Chrysalis (The Man in Room No.5)

v shaped


Many things had become routine. Some semblance of balance amidst the chaos of everyday life had settled upon the cloister known as the Shadow Gallery. Perhaps it was a pretense — an attempt at normalcy, when in fact all things normal and regular had long evaporated into the surreal. And so, in this underground museum of stolen and most priceless works of art, a masked man and a shorn woman did their best to affect a thing called life.

This masked man who could cook an egg as well as he could accurately throw a blade into another man’s heart, wrapped up his nightly salutation and rose from his place at the side of his lodger’s bed. Secure in her newly found strength, yet wraithlike in appearance, Evey asked V one last question before retiring.


“Yes, Evey?”

“The movie tonight…”

“I trust you enjoyed it? Would you care for more conversation on the matter?” asked V, preparing to seat himself once again by her side.

“Do Andy Dufresne and Red live happily ever after?”  

“I should think so, yes.” V’s voice trailed off.

“Heavenly.” Evey smiled softly, eyes closing with relief.

“Heaven is in the mind Evey.”

Evey’s eyes widened as she looked at him. Reaching to touch him lightly on the forearm she said, “as is Hell.”

V looked down for a moment and after pausing said, “Yes. Goodnight Evey. May you dream of heaven and it’s angels.”


V retired to his quarters, a chamber beneath the gallery itself. No one but he had ever been inside these walls. Rather, no one human. And just before he had the chance to lock the solid oak door, Virgil reminded him of this fact.

“You’re the destruction of my wardrobe aren’t you Virgil?” he asked as the pure white cat oozed in and around V’s ankles, demanding attention. V bent down, picked the animal up and let him sniff his mask. Always tentative yet curious was this one. Cat in arm, V walked towards his mirror and placed the fluffy little menace upon the dressing table. Seated, V spoke to Virgil.

“And how was your day?”

The cat flung a paw out at a strand of V’s wig.

“You won’t rest until this wig lay like a dead soldier, will you? Shredded and beyond recognition is what you’re going for. Am I not right?”

The cat sniffed at the air.

“I understand the feeling,” V said as he stroked a gloved hand over the animals back.

V sat at the vanity and removed the wig, placing it gently onto it’s plastic head shape. He undid the ribbons which held his mask in place and before removing his leather gloves, he indulged his pate in a deep long scratching massage.

“Lord it feels good to get that thing off.” Looking over at Virgil he asked, “Jealous?”

V undid the high collar of his vest. Gloves off now, he gave his eyes a vigorous rub. He looked into the mirror as Virgil sniffed at his face, occasionally licking at his ear.

Gazing at his own reflection, V said, “Now there’s a face only a cat could love.”

And raising the facial muscle where an eyebrow might have been, he said to the cat, “But you don’t love me, do you, cat? You just use me for my tinned tuna.”

And on that note, V clicked his tongue against his palette and signaled to the cat that dinner was about to be served. He led the cat to yet another hidden chamber where he kept food, a bowl and a warm place for the feline to sleep.

Yawning, V turned his attentions to a hot water shower and lavender scented creme soap. Stripping himself of his black fencing gear, his attentions once again turned to a full length mirror. Sighing, V took in the sight of his naked form. A burn victim. All of the typical trauma and mess that one who survives first degree burns would go on to live with. No matter, V thought. But he also recognized that denial was his only recourse.

“Why spend a lifetime hating myself simply because my appearance is socially unacceptable? T’would be a waste of precious and fleeting time.”

And so, in the shower he scrubbed away the day, the image, the weariness. He tilted his head back and let the scalding water confront his wasted face, let the water stream down and over his muscular physique. The fire and the chemicals may have robbed him of his more accessible beauty, but he was able to take minor pride in that he was still exceedingly strong. Stronger than ever before, in fact. The soap bubbles drizzled down over his sculpted chest and arms, slithering over his hipbones and long, strong thighs, over knee caps, shins, ankles, toes and down, down, down the drain.

Wrapping a thick white terry about his waist, he grabbed for the black silk kimono draped delicately over the antique Japanese screen just outside the door of the loo.


Evey, having not fallen asleep as planned, felt restless and somewhat agitated. She wondered if such suffering and trial as the sort she’d just seen in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ could actually result in a happy ending. A heavenly ending at that. It had been days since she’d stood in the rain in the same way as Andy Dufresne, feeling the glory of god within and without. Feeling what both she and V knew as fearlessness. But were they fearless? Were they really fearless?

Yes, things had changed. There was a ready air of confidence and yes, together they knew that the bond between them was nothing less than a force majeur… but were they fearless? Weren’t there still things that could not be approached? Subjects still forbidden to speak of? Evey had secrets after all. V had secrets. What was it that prevented these two, who had shared so much trial and suffering together, from sharing these secrets? Was it respect, Evey wondered… or was it fear? A fear that she suspected lingered beneath the bravado. A fear so much like Pandora’s Box, that once breached, would let loose what might be…redemption.

Shivering, Evey left her room abruptly.

Padding her way down the spiral staircase, she ventured forth towards V’s private chambers. Not only had she never the nerve to approach him in the late night, but she hadn’t actually thought to invade in such a way before. Oh yes there were times when she lay in bed wondering if he was doing the same… laying in his bed thinking of her. Yes of course there was a desire to expose him, to see with her own eyes what his face might look like beneath that comical mask. But there was also another need, a need to be seen. She desperately needed to be seen by him, and not just tended to. Had he ever really looked at her? Had he seen her body? Surely, when she stood before him naked in the night he must have seen what is so apparent about her…and yet, his gaze never settled on her form at all. For if he did look at her, surely he would have mentioned what was so glaringly obvious. Was V such a gentleman… or was he selectively blind?

She was in pursuit of truth and freedom, she told herself. “No more masquerade,” she whispered aloud, trembling.

Terror washed over her as she saw the golden ray of soft light seep out from an everso slim opening at his door. How can this be, she wondered. Would he not sleep with his door locked? The warm scent of lavender and aloes wafted into the corridor. As she approached the sliver of an opening, she heard him humming softly. One of those jazzy old tunes of his.

“…it’s drivin’ me crazy, just thinkin’ ’bout my baby, to maybe come around… hmmm, hmm hmm….”

V singing. Evey’s every bit of strength and fervour suddenly melted into an almost gleeful mirth upon hearing V sing a word like baby. She clamped her hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle. Regrouping what was left of her courage, she once again approached his door.

The slit in the doorway was not large enough to peek in at him, which was good because she was not about to become a voyeur. Cracking the door wider, she entered the bedroom very slowly.

V stood silhouetted in front of the only light in the room. Evey could only perceive a black form.


V turned, quite startled. He dropped from his hand a priceless copy of Dante’s Paradiso, its brown pages falling to the floor, scattered. In a blur of motion she saw him slip behind the Japanese screen.

“Don’t you believe in knocking?” There was true anger in his voice and it scared Evey.

“I-I oh good God V, I’m so sorry…”

“This is not the time for revelation, Evey. Go to bed.”

“I have apologized V, but I disagree. This IS the time for revelation.”

V stirred behind the screen. He knew he could not get to any form of cover-up without her seeing him. The only way out from this behind this screen was au naturel.

“How selfish you are Evey! This is not some sort of game, something to toy with! I am like nothing you’ve ever seen before. And you will wish you were blind…you will wish away all thought…” V’s voice began to grow raspy.

“You have NO IDEA of what I’m like! NO IDEA of how horrible I look! You don’t have a clue as to what to expect…”

Evey lit a candle by the bed. V could not tell what she was doing or how furious she herself had been getting.

His head began to swim. He felt he would lose consciousness. This was NOT part of the plan. He stood behind that screen bunching up the kimono around his neck, as if… as if…

…the lavender blossoms crept up his legs, creeping vines tugging him downwards… the vortex began to scream old names and the implied taste of lemon and aspirin invaded his mouth…

She put down the matchbook and head towards the screen. And in truly anarchistic fashion, she flung the screen to the ground.

“I HAVE AN IDEA V. YES, I DO HAVE AN IDEA!!! This isn’t about you! It’s about ME! It isn’t all about you and your scars and burns and unwillingness to be seen!” Evey screamed.

And as her scream stopped short, she saw him. In the candlelight. A man. A man with little hair and darkened skin. A very tall, muscular man whose skin had been patched with shiny stretches of poreless flesh, pocked areas of dryness and purplish veins running hither and thither. And she saw his eyes…and they were the most beautiful eyes she’d ever seen. His face was…the very face of Love itself.

V stood there, vulnerable yet completely dignified. He could not run, nor could he hide. This was it. This was the moment he dreaded and somehow he felt as though he was standing in the eye of the storm. Around him swirled the gusts of memory, wisping around him like silent sheets of rain. Sunshine through windows long forgotten and the distant hint of smell…cooking…fresh fruit…roses.

Standing as a witness, in the eye, this hurricane of emotion nipped at his flesh like tiny electric sparks yet he remained unmoved. Tubes uncoiled like snakes that danced and syringes blew up from the earth’s core with great speed, bypassing him. Red, red liquids spouted up from great geysers… and then the voices, the voices and the smells once again. Napalm, cow dung, alcohol…

And Evey, there, in front of him. Naked. Sucking back down into himself he became a pin point of absolute calm. Evey. Evey and her naked body, before him. There was only Evey.

With tears in her eyes, she said to V, “Yes, V, I do have an idea.” And as she stood before him naked, she held the candle up to her body. She had been severely scarred. Slash marks ran up and over her breasts. From the base of her pubic bone to her collar she was riddled with deep scars that told a story of wretched violence and abuse. Cigarette burns about her midsection. Her small lithe body was a war torn battlefield that had been long ago forgotten, it’s soil never nurtured again. She was deformed by the hate of disease and rape. And though her pretty face betrayed the torment of what her body endured, this was nonetheless her body.

“Look at me, V. Look AT ME.”

Snapping out of his fugue, he reached out to touch her. His fingers were no more than healed pulp, yet they had sensitivity. She held her arms out and cried sweet hot tears as he touched her torso. Her tears were the boiling river of unreleased pain and rejection. No one had ever touched Evey in a kind way before. No one had shown her the simple kindness of sympathy or acceptance. V traced the lines of her deepest scars with his sensitive fingertips, trembling all the while. Overwhelmed, he pressed his head close to her breasts, kissing her scars tenderly. Evey and V dropped to their knees.

It was at this moment that everything changed.

Evey opened to V’s kisses. They embraced with the hunger of the starved. V pulled her so close to his body that he could feel the rhythm of her heartbeat make time with his own. Ravenous he was for her as he laid her gently on the floor, climbing on top of her. He no longer existed as the tormented man of wounds. All of the world had finally disintegrated. He lost himself and in losing himself he realized that he never saw anything clearly…at all. Everything he did in the past was done out of reaction, and not without the constant consideration for his own pain. He was the apex of his actions. He had ruled his own world for so long, in denial of who he truly was… and Evey…Evey showed him the mirror and that mirror was her own self… For the prison that he thought he had fearlessly escaped had not been truly vacated… it held within it an obstinate inmate: his own self hatred.

As V discovered the depth of Evey’s love, she clawed at his back. Beneath her fingernails she felt flesh being torn. She began to rip the flesh from his back. Panicked, she screamed out, “V! What is happening???” But V was beyond the call of words. Bits of dried flesh fell off of him. The roof of the bedroom began to crumble apart, exposing a sky filled with moons and stars. She tried to soothe his back but the skin kept peeling away, and beneath that skin lay another impenetrable layer… it was smooth, cool and hard. But what’s this? What were these bumps under her palms, bumps where his shoulder blades might have been?

“V! My god! What’s going on?”

V was lost to this world. His passion was being revealed and Evey was there to bear witness. And as Evey slowly began to comprehend this event, she felt those strange bumps elongate. Within her grasp, these bumps seemed to grow and lengthen rapidly. She held in her two hands, two stalks made of bone and cartilidge, covered in soft feathery flesh. His ruined skin had molted off his body and beneath this carapace there was a completely white being emerging, beautiful beyond description, with ageless blue green eyes. He was so much like a white stallion above her. And as he looked into her eyes with love and compassion, his wings grew and grew until they sprouted past the open ceiling…up and up, stemming from his strong back, he on top of Evey, she the foundation…the apex. And as he poured his love into her, his wings spread apart in formation… Evey felt it. As she grasped tightly to his wings, she felt the surge of power that lifted her as high as those wonderful wings would go. The tips of his wings touched the stars and the base of his body was rooted deeply in Evey. Fear would forever be relative and forever more they would be in relation to nothing.

They had finally become free.

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