- The Goat's Song -
“You called me fierce and vicious...Tell me, how does it feel with my teeth in your heart?”
- Euripides, Medea
Will first became a sacrifice at the age of seven.
His father had hard creases. Hard lines that followed the narrow path away from family and home. Left his mother standing in the living room, puffing a cigarette by a broken radio and cornflower blue curtains, all sharp edges and twisting smoke.
When his father's shadow would ascend, all whiskey and sports, she would grip Will's shoulders and in that soft lilting sing song say,
“Teach it to the boy.”
When his father's shadow would descend, all fists and fury, she would reach towards Will and with that soft crying sing song say,
“Not in front of the boy.”
When his father became nothing more than a memory of a shadow, a hard silhouette long gone down a bottle with a new city and broken frown, she would cradle the phone receiver and with that pleading sing song whisper,
“Come home for the boy.”
And eventually his father stopped coming, when the Louisiana summers boiled beneath the sound of an empty driveway and a silent phone. Eventually he was left to fix the carburetor and the skip alone.
His mother would watch him then. Watch him with detachment and a menthol cigarette, body gone soft with resentment and gin. And with that distant sing song sigh she would cry,
“If only for the boy.”
And he knew he had not been enough.
Will was first seriously beaten in middle school.
He was not specifically cast out before then. To be ostracized from society one must first be recognized as uniquely threatening. Will was an freakish ornament up until that point, the fixture of a classroom merely laughed at. A passerby on the playground reliably heckled. Unassuming and meek, something strange but harmless.
Taunted and dismissed.
It wasn't until they cut open the frogs in class.
Green and common, as common as mosquitos in the summer and catfish in the fall. As common as the people around him, croaking, singing, living in the sticky heat.
And he cut it open. Sliced its white underbelly, long and fair, like the throat of a boy. Could feel the excitement pooling in his groin, the air suddenly too heavy for his lungs.
And he suddenly wished he had been the one to kill it, to kill something. Had strangled in it's summer song, had grasped it until he felt the life leave and the eyes bulge. Had found something common and banal and snuffed it out.
Had found something only he could keep.
The science teacher said that the word autopsy was from the Greek words autos 'self' and optos 'to be seen'.
The moment Will was first truly seen, flushed with a scalpel half-hard and eyes distant, his classmates sought to cut him open.
Will was first stabbed as a cop.
He was on a domestic violence call. The man had slashed her wardrobe, hadn't stopped with her clothes. She met them in the hallway under a single swinging bulb holding in her guts.
She was crying, and the broken lilt of the record player framed her like a soprano on stage.
Red and white under the spotlight.
The man was supposed to be gone, but jealous lovers never leave. When Will touched her shoulder he felt a knife go through his.
And he felt it, felt it as he twisted to shoot the man.
Felt how it would feel to love something fierce enough to gut it.
Will was first tested by the FBI.
Everyone had always known something was amiss. As a baby he wouldn't point. His primary school teacher would hit his hands when he used to flap them for comfort, for agitation. Easily overwhelmed. Easily overloaded.
A top criminal profiler who couldn't meet the interviewer's eyes.
The interrogation portion measures the participant's reaction under pressure. Sought to pry open the cracks in the marble.
Will didn't last three minutes before he shattered. Before they made him sing.
The FBI didn't need to rubber stamp him as unstable for field work.
He was broken long before the exam.
Hannibal recognized Will as the mongoose under the house. The wily mammal that fearlessly battles the snake, that bites the neck of a serpent even as the venom sinks in.
Will preened at flattery. Preened at being envisioned heroic instead of broken.
Hannibal did not tell Will he was the cobra.
Therapy became a retreat. Hannibal became something precious, something Will could hold.
Hannibal liked to compare Will to a chosen Prophet with his empathy disorder. A tortured oracle in the halls of man and the FBI.
“Emblem of Dionysus. “ Hannibal had proclaimed with warm humor. “The Greek protector of outcasts from conventional society. The divine symbol of the everything exulted that escapes human reason and understanding.”
Hannibal had leaned forward with a gleam in his eyes.
“A representation of mystery and enlightenment.”
Will had cracked a smile.
“Chaos and awe.”
Hannibal chuckled darkly.
“Danger and the unexpected.”
The autumn light had been orange and red. Hannibal's worlds were colored with acceptance.
Will did not know that all of Dionysus's followers eventually went mad.
Sometimes Hannibal would prepare dinner. Will would stand in the kitchen, the comfortable silence broken by the sizzle of liver and the singing of lungs in a pan.
Hannibal would feed him like a child, full of warmth and understanding. Smiling at the horrible associations that poured from Will's twisted mind.
Isolation appears most profound when it is finally broken.
Will consumed more than physical sustenance at Hannibal's table.
The fevers came like the warm Louisiana tide. Washing up his body, relentless and steady.
Will envisioned oceans of blood descending on him like a towering leviathan. Dark red waves crushing skull and marrow, its black mouth swallowing flesh and sound.
Will often felt like he was screaming into the vast sea of it. Every burst of terror suffocating him further, allowing the red waters to close in.
Only Hannibal remained with him.
A deity never leaves his devotee.
A shark never leaves the wounded.
When Will finally recognized Hannibal in truth, he knew the fever had spread. An infection that would leave him black with rot and despair.
“You are alone,” Hannibal had whispered in the dark, “Because you are unique.”
And Will had put his gun between them, between the nightmare and his ruined heart.
Because like Saul on the road to Damascus, the scales had fallen from his eyes.
He had seen his Savior, and wept at the face of his terrible God.
It was not betrayal that ate at Will in prison. Gnawed at his foundation like termites in his heart.
It was the sensation that the world had righted itself. That the bullies had told, and society had tied his hands and finally saved him from himself. From that throbbing need to to dismember, to strangle and devour.
It didn't matter that he was innocent.
His fall had been preordained.
When Will was released Hannibal poured him wine.
“The drink of inspiration and madness.” Hannibal had placed a tender hand on Will's shoulder, “Dearest William, no one will believe you. No one believed Cassandra. Draw your comfort in the liberation of the senses, not the deliverance of the law.”
Will had swallowed. The hand on his shoulder smoldering his senses in a slow, sweet burn.
“Apollo gave Cassandra the gift of prophetic truth to seduce her.” Will shuddered, the air too thick to breath. “Madness was for rejecting him.”
He turned his face up in fearful supplication.
“Which is your gift for?”
When Will killed Randal he beat him to death.
Beat him like Will was once beaten at school. With fists and fury, a rejection of the monster in front of him. A rejection of the secrets others' desires reflect in us.
It had been intimate.
Will stared, dizzy at the unbearable exhilaration he felt, the sensation of falling as Hannibal baptized his hands afterwards. Washed blood with water.
Hannibal turned Will's hand with reverence, stroking his thumb over the wrist in slow circular motions.
“Stay with me Will,” Hannibal moved to wrap Will's hands in gauze. “Revel in the state of your becoming, suspended in space in time. Do not wade into the quiet of the stream.”
“I did not kill a man tonight.” Will whispered, fighting to raise his eyes, to met the serpent's gaze. “He was a stag with horns.”
“Does it sooth your heart to imagine him a threat? That your actions were in self defense?”
Hannibal's smile unfolded slowly, a baring of lips and teeth.
“The stag sheds his horns every winter, yet the hunter prowls the fall. Predators have no conception of righteousness or guilt.”
Will turned his head, unable to watch his Maker's words take form.
“Only the livestock consider the blame.”
Before Hannibal gutted him he caressed Will like the woman. Like the woman in the hallway holding her guts beneath a single bulb.
The cruelest kiss of a lover. The touch of damnation and longing.
Freddie had called them Murder Husbands. Had sensed Will had wed himself to the bloodiest of alters.
He had seen Hannibal, but he approached his god without sacrifice. Without leaving everything else behind.
Hannibal would fix it. He would slice Will's ties with a kiss to the gut. He would tear the inequity out. He would take Will's loyalties, his distractions, his daughter.
Would take it all until only Hannibal remained, cut deep in his flesh.
And as Hannibal forgave him, forgave him as Will bled out, Will wondered what vengeful god he had chosen to pray too.
Will followed Hannibal to Europe. Sailed over the tumultuous storms of the rolling Atlantic. The dark waters of his heart.
He followed Hannibal with longing and a knife.
His forgiveness bore a blade.
He knew the only way to pray at Hannibal's alter was for one of them to bleed.
Hannibal plucked the dagger from Will's hand like petal's from a flower.
Will lay there, half clothed and bloody. Brimming with vengeance and half digested desire.
“You forgive like God forgives Will.” Hannibal mused. “You think I have betrayed you like Jason, my vengeful Medea.”
“Medea?” Will slurred, feeling the drugs take hold.
“The murderous wife.” Hannibal cooed, delicately washing the blood away.
Hannibal leaned forward slowly, breath ghosting across Will's lips.
“Tell me, how does it feel with my teeth in your heart?”
Hannibal turned himself in so Will would always know where he was.
Like a rock in his shoe the thought would exist, a hard irritant that would tear everything around it until removed.
It was defiance. And fruitless defiance at that.
Will would have known Hannibal's whereabouts no matter where the man went. Hannibal would have plagued his thoughts no matter the doctor's path. A phantom limb can never truly be amputated.
Will didn't need to know Hannibal's location.
It was his own heart he was still searching for.
Francis called himself the Red Dragon.
Will could only laugh.
There was only one true serpent, and Will could still taste his poison.
They met like lovers, clandestine in a cliffside retreat. Hannibal poured the wine, and Will longed for everything he shouldn't have.
Everything he feared to hold.
“My dearest Dithyramb.” Hannibal gave a sibilant sigh, “Do you know the origins of the Tragedy, Will?”
Hannibal reached forward, smoothing the hair from Will's forehead as tenderly as a pet.
“The Greek word Tragedy comes from tragos, goat, and ode meaning 'the painful song'. Taken literally it translates as the lament of the goat. The perfect animal given as a prize for a Tragic play and then slaughtered in sacrifice on stage to exalt the god of rebirth Dionysus. The highest honor to give the most precious prize: to be transformed in death into art.”
Hannibal leaned in, hissing breath hovering above Will's lips. Stealing his oxygen, his clarity.
“But you, mon précieux, you do not need your throat slit to become art.” Hannibal slowly moved his mouth across Will's cheek, hovered over his ear in a brush of sin and heat. “You have been the embodiment of Death's sweet lament from the beginning. Singing to my heartbeat, a hymn to my horror.”
Hannibal reared back and smiled, regarding Will with black eyes. And the room tilted like a pinwheel, a whirl of lights and color clutched in a jealous child's hand.
And Will felt the wine glass slip from his fingers as Hannibal met his lips in a searing kiss. As Hannibal burned away his flesh, his sanity, his depthless isolation.
As the serpent consumed him whole.
When Francis stabbed him Will feared he was lost.
Lost in a tide of anger, of blood and horror. Lost in the sensation of violation, of being cut and then discarded.
When Will stabbed Francis he knew he had been reborn.
Birthed in a rush of ego and bone. In the blossom of blood and becoming, of finding that tender white underbelly and finally slicing. Out of love. Out of arousal. Out of finally being seen.
Hannibal was both his witness and his muse. The married lines of self collapsing into a single vibrant resonation.
As Hannibal reached for him, like a conductor his arms outstretched to the source of the melody, Will knew he had given in.
Had married the devil and in doing so damned his soul.
And as Will shuddered against him, writhing against Hannibal's sweetest words and deepest promises, he could only ache at the vision before him. At the seductive days and blood split nights. With Hannibal, his Dionysus, spinning dizzying visions of debauchery and rebirth. With a dagger in hand and teeth on Will's neck.
“It's Beautiful.” He whispered, for they had just painted the depths of Will's soul in black and red.
And leaning forward against his serpent, against passion and damnation, he threw them over the edge.
The perfect tragedy, slitting his throat in the embrace of love.
He had finally been enough.