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Victor Renquist touched a control set in the armrest of the long black stretch limousine and cracked the smoked-glass divider that separated him from Lamar. "Pull over and stop, please, just as soon as you are able."
From behind the wheel, Lamar answered without glancing back. "It's kind of hard on this stretch of Mulholland, sir."
Renquist nodded. "I know that. Just pull over when you can. Pull into one of those observation areas where you look out over the city."
"You want to look at the lights, sir?"
Renquist nodded and half smiled. "I do indeed, Lamar. I want to look at the lights."
The limo continued to glide effortlessly along the night hilltop scenic twists and turns of Mulholland Drive for perhaps two more minutes, and then Lamar smoothly eased it off the road and gravel crunched under the tires. The limousine came to a gentle stop and Lamar sat, saying nothing, not even looking round, just waiting for Renquist to announce what he intended to do next.
"I think I might step out and breathe the air, Lamar, such as it is."
"Very good, Mr. Renquist."
Renquist had no real need to speak directly to Lamar, he could have directed his instructions directly into the man's mind, but the two of them maintained the niceties of the chauffeuremployer relationship. Lamar got out of the driver's seat and walked to the right hand passenger door. He opened it and Victor Renquist emerged from the car. Renquist straightened and stood for a moment, as goodas his word, taking one deep breath after another. A hundred years ago, the air in the Los Angeles basin had been possessed of a desert purity, but what now filled his unique undead lungs was rank with gasoline and the oppressive scents of eucalyptus, honeysuckle, and night-blooming jasmine, exhaust fumes mingled with subtropical vegetation made unnaturally lush by water all the way from Nevada. Such was the way of human madness. By day, much of the city had a half-completed ugliness, slashed by freeways, picketed by rearing billboards and littered with shoddy, rectangular cement boxes of a basic and unsophisticated architectural crudity that even the overlay of palm trees, panoramic glass, and pink-and-turquoise stucco could scarcely disguise. Fortunately, because of his very nature, Victor Renquist was never required to see LA by day, except on television or perhaps through the charcoal-tinted windows of a speeding limo. For Renquist, the lauded California sun was nothing more than a lethal anathema. His own intimate knowledge of the city was strictly that of the city by night.
He walked a few paces to where, with only a low retaining wall to protect the unwary, the side of the road fell away in an almost sheer drop of sandy cliff for thirty or forty feet. Below him, the lights of Los Angeles, immortalized in so many motion pictures, extended to the horizon in every direction. For a moment, Renquist was gripped by a genetically atavistic wistfulness as he looked out over the electric jewelfield of lights. O, but there and then to transform himself into a huge batlike thing and swoop unseen over trees and rooftops and the gaudy neon boulevards, riding the unnatural thermals thrown up by the heat of the concrete landscape. Sadly, though, such exhilaration was never to be his. The secret of shape-shifting was more than a millennium lost and gone. The last of the ectomorphs had vanished over a thousand years ago, even before he had been created, and yet some twist in his nosferatu DNA could still remember and yearn, as he stood, a tall, imposing watcher in the night, black silk shirt rippling across his back in the slight breeze, high boots planted firmly and inevitably on solid ground. At first glance, Renquist looked like a slim but powerful man in perhaps his early forties, pale featured, with dark hair that curled to his shoulders. That was, of course, until one looked into his dark, deep-set eyes. The eyes told a true story, one that most humans could never bring themselves to face. Renquist's unguarded eyes were the sole testament to how he was not only incalculably old, but also something frighteningly other than human.
He may, of course have been biased, but for him, Los Angeles by night was a place of soft, if near complete, deception; a deception that was well-suited to the needs of a predator like himself. The very pollution that plagued the city in the day and, when inversion set in, turned the sky at the horizon an ominous brown, acted as a cosmetic screen, giving the night a feel of velvet-soft focus and causing the myriad of lights to gleam and twinkle like radiant gems. For the first few moments, Renquist took in the view with the nosferatu singlesight that closely conformed to the limited range and spectrum of normal human vision, and he stared across the only slightly less than symmetrical laser geometry of Hollywood and beyond like any mere tourist. Since he was compelled to live in a world at least numerically dominated by humanity, it was only sensible to spend at least some of his time observing it as mankind did. It was a piece of calculated self-discipline designed to avoid possibly fatal oversights, overestimations, and misconceptions. One on one, the nosferatu might be infinitely superior to the humans on whom they preyed, but Renquist was well aware that he and the others like him should never fall to an overweening reliance on that superiority. They were few, a comparative handful, while human numbers were in their constantly growing billions. With the odds so stacked against them, nosferatu survival had to be a matter of constant care and vigilance.
Los Angeles always struck Renquist as a city that had begun its decline even before it had been fully built. In some respects, it reminded him of Rome, Cairo, or Constantinople, except so much was missing from the picture. It had no great mosques or cathedrals, no wondrous structures that would survive for thousands of years. The glass-and-steel towers of downtown and Century City were hardly a substitute for all the places he had know when he'd been young and when he'd been human. They hardly competed with St. Peter's or the Coliseum, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, or the Basilica of St. Sophie, and certainly not the with the Great Pyramid, although that was really a whole other story. At first, the transitory and ad hoc nature of the place had suited Renquist, but lately he had become bored and reclusive. The challenges were tiresomely trivial, the ambitions desperately frivolous, and the driving criteria little more than infantile materialism. Renquist would have been happy to move on, but he knew, for the time being, he was firmly anchored by the rest of the colony. The colony had adapted well to this final city on the edge of America, and their presence was not so much as suspected. Although, as in New York, an arrangement had been made with a larcenous Salvadoran orderly at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital to ensure an uninterrupted supply of packaged whole blood, the nosferatu hunted on a regular if discreet basis. Unlike the New York colony, they did not even try to exist exclusively on the plastic packs of donor hemoglobin. Such a complete self-denial of their nature and appetite for the fresh kill had only led inexorably to the condition known as Feasting, the frenzied outbreak of uncontrollable slaughter that had all but caused the colony's downfall and annihilation back in Manhattan and necessitated their flight from that city.
In certain respects, Los Angeles was a wilder, less civilized place than New York. With just a bare century of history as city behind it, it had never been sufficiently developed to divorce it from the primal underlay of tooth and claw, and hunter and hunted. Coyotes still maintained furtive territory, even in the more populated areas of the hills and canyons, prowling affluent yards and pools to snag the unwary poodle or calico cat as what, from the coyotes' point of view, was a perfectly legitimate meal. In the same way, the city was full of enough lost and dislocated souls, with no one to miss them, mourn them, or investigate their disappearance, for the nosferatu of the colony to hunt virtually at will and completely escape detection. The presence of the movie industry created a constant and self-renewing community of runaways and the sadly overambitious who flocked there from all over the world with tinsel dreams of making it as big as Sandra Bullock or Leonardo DiCaprio, while the poor teeming Latino nations to the south supplied a constant influx of the unknown and undocumented. It was among these that Renquist and his companions found their equivalent of the coyotes' poodles and calico cats, and the colony seemed to thrive on the arrangement.
Julia, the youngest and most headstrong of the surviving colony, had especially taken to the Hollywood social parameters like a demon duck to a dark expanse of fetid green swamp water. If Renquist suggested moving on, Julia would be the first to raise the most strident and violent of objections. Julia had always been attracted to power, and in Los Angeles she had immediately recognized it. Now that time and cash had run out on the banking barons, and the military industrial complex had moved most of its billions to the Dixiecrat South, all true power was pretty much the monopoly of the entertainment industry. Accordingly, the slim deceptive blonde, with the deep Dietrich voice, the ice blue eyes, and the iron will of a Prussian field marshal, had homed in on the town's media elite like a moth to the flame, although Renquist knew the simile worked better in reverse. Julia was much more the flame coming to burn up the unsuspecting moths. Her ruthless determination was a million degrees more all-consuming and devious than that of the most highly venal of TV or movie moguls.
Of all the surviving nosferatu colony, however, Julia was the cannon most likely to tear loose, and in this Renquist only had himself to blame. He had after all created her in the first place. Julia Aschenbach had been a budding starlet in the Nazi film industry and reputedly one of Joseph Goebbels' countless mistresses. Renquist had thought it a fine karmic joke to bring her through the Change, so he could leave one of his kind at the very heart of the Nazi hierarchy. That death sect of degenerate human butchers had disgusted even him. And not merely one of his kind. Julia had been in that very first phase when the newly transformed are young, angry, and overwhelmingly predatory. On one point, though, he had grossly miscalculated. In his general contempt for humans, Renquist had failed to examine what kind of being he was Changing. If he'd thought of the human Julia at all, it had been to dismiss her as nothing more than a stunningly airheaded beauty who would be unlikely to survive the sun, the stake, or the fire for more than a few years undead on her own. As it turned out, she was both acutely cunning and a consummate survivor. Many years later, he had learned this to his cost, perhaps the terrible cost of his beloved Cynara.
Through long twentieth-century decades, Julia had killed and prospered. She had thrown her deviant undead energy into KGB psyops, black nights of Latin American counterinsurgency, and then on, with a complete right-angle turn, so typical of her character, into achieving nocturnal bohemian fame with her own depraved performance art of the damned. She had finally sought out Renquist in New York City and demanded that he acknowledge her as his own. Julia had been accepted into the colony, albeit over the objections of some of the established members, but her plans went further than that. From the moment that she had first entered the colony and assessed the situation, her ambition had been to replace Cynara as Renquist's consort and pair-bonded hunting partner. Although it was the human, Kelly, who had been the actual agent of Cynara's passing, given time, Julia might well have engineered the deed herself.
In the microcosm of the colony, just as in the macro-world of the humans, power was the key to understanding Julia. She had seen that Renquist, as Master of the colony, wielded the ultimate power and commanded the ultimate respect, and she had become determined to be the ultimate object of his affections. It might have been more flattering if Renquist had not been very well aware that, even if he and Julia did bond, it wouldn't end there. Ultimately, Julia didn't have the personality of a consort. Eventually she would get round to challenging him for the Mastery and, in the event of that confrontation, one of them would inevitably be destroyed.
Renquist sighed out loud. Nosfertatu, for all their infinite time, strength, and awesome intelligence, were intractably quarrelsome creatures. "Ah, Julia, why do I have to spend so much time watching out for you? I hardly even like you."
Lamar, who was standing at a discreet distance by the driver's door of the black limo, stiffened. "You said something, Mr. Renquist?"
Renquist turned, stepping off the train of thought named Julia and turning his attention momentarily to the human chauffeur. "It's a while since I had you drive me, isn't it Lamar.
"That's right, Mr. Renquist."
Lamar was one of that tiny minority of humans who had a great enough awareness of their expendable subservience that they were able to subsist in close proximity with nosferatu and be pleased to do their bidding. Once upon a time, they had been known as thralls; now the word seemed to be employee. Renquist smiled coldly at the man. "I haven't been out that much in the last few months."
"So I have observed."
A hinted, although never stated, promise on the part of the nosferatu to their strange mortal retainers was that, at some time in the future, when the human had proved his or her worth, the good and faithful servant would be rewarded with the priceless gift of near-eternal life. It was, however, a promise that the nosferatu rarely kept.
"I'm sure the others are more than enough to keep you busy."
"Indeed they are, sir."
Renquist looked speculatively at Lamar. This one might make it, unless, of course he had to be sacrificed to cover the colony's tracks, or used as emergency sustenance in a crisis. "But you were wondering why I suddenly decided to go for a solitary drive on this particular night?"
"I never wonder, Mr. Renquist." And that was the absolute truth. Lamar never wondered. Lamar was possessed of a mind that functioned extremely oddly even for the brain of a human. Renquist, however, rarely invaded it. He didn't believe in routinely entering the minds of humans with whom he needed to maintain a regular or close proximity. He only scanned them when monitoring or adjustment was needed. Human servants always grew to resent too much casual intrusion, even if they weren't consciously aware of it. They became mistrustful, unreliable, and in some extreme cases, unacceptably surly and uncooperative. Some even plunged into a form of paranoid schizophrenia. Renquist had, however, scanned Lamar very thoroughly when he had first accepted him into the employ of the colony, and what he discovered in the man's mind convinced him that, in Lamar, he might well have found the ideal retainer; certainly one worth preserving, too good to waste on any casual expenditure.
Lamar was a tall, raw-boned descendent of oil field roughnecks and itinerant cowboys. He had grown up in some forsaken, flatland hamlet in West Texas border country and had suffered a hateinducing childhood worthy of any prominent serial killer, and like any prominent serial killer, the greatest satisfaction Lamar could imagine would be to randomly murder and mutilate others of his species. Unlike his more homicidal soul mates, however, he didn't act on his impulses. Those urges remained locked away, along with the memories and imaginings, in a place so deep in his mind that it was the mental equivalent of a steel safe. He loathed being around people to the point of phobia, but found a perverse comfort in the company of nosferatu. Renquist knew that this probably wasn't the way a human mind should function, and Lamar might well be, in the terms of human society, a dangerous and ticking time bomb, but that wasn't Renquist's problem. To him and the others, Lamar was loyal, devoted, and unquestioning, and these attributes were all that the Master of a colony should care about in his human vassals.
"You're a good man, Lamar."
Lamar's face was expressionless. "Thank you, sir."
Renquist turned his attention back to the panorama of LA, but instead of using the limited spectrum of human vision, he changed to the deep and unique perception of the nosferatu, the special sight that perceived auras and emotions in form and color. The image of the city was instantly altered. The physical features remained, but now ghostly and less substantial, secondary to a mistlike multicolored overlay of normally invisible psychic forces. At this distance, all Renquist received were general impressions of the prevailing collective mood in different areas, but even they were spectacular, and told him a lot about the so called City of Angels and its denizens. All over, the general impression was one of weary anxiety. It swirled like a green and pale luminescence, hanging in the flatlands and creeping across the hills with the motion of a sluggish sea fog. To Renquist, this anxiety was perfectly understandable. If humans elected to live in a place as seismically unstable as Southern California, they had every reason to be anxious. Add the ravages of brush fires, mud slides, and civil unrest, and the anxieties multiplied. It seemed that every human in the city had something to worry about. Some desperately gambled with millions of dollars on a daily basis, while others struggled barely to eke out an existence of minimal wretchedness. On every level, fear appeared to rule.
Renquist also suspected that the city had perhaps accepted too much transient evil into its geographic heart. At various locations, he could see dark magenta peaks, outstanding points of notable human iniquity. One tall and multiplex spike danced ponderously over the downtown Parker Center, the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department, while another, equally large but of a somewhat different tone, reared above the nearby Men's Central Jail. A third, equally unique, lingered over the great Paramount Pictures movie and TV lot. Spasms of magenta also clung to any number of the thirty-story corporate monoliths that made up the downtown business district. Other star points of smoke ruby were dotted in various locations of the city, too numerous and widely scattered for Renquist to know what crimes or conspiracies or sinister ambitions they might represent or even to attract his interest. At that moment, he was not looking for the dark red telltale markers of mere human vice and transgression. He was also not interested in the ghostly olive afterglow that hung over the La Brea tarpits. That was nothing to do with either him or humanity. It was of the Earth itself, had been there for many millions of years and would remain for millions more. Renquist's deep-seeing scan of the city was motivated by more than just general curiosity. He was looking for something specific. One of the reasons that Renquist was unhappy in Los Angeles was that lately he had been fleetingly sensing that there might be something in LA with the potential to make him very much more unhappy than he already was. Indeed, one of the reasons that he had called for Lamar to drive him on this particular night was to attempt to locate the source of these impressions.
After some searching and taking his deep vision deeper than he normally would have needed had it been a mere human aura that he sought, he finally found what he was looking for. It resembled a pale plume of vapor rising high into the air, over to his right, somewhere in commercial Beverly Hills, as far as he could ascertain, perhaps near where Santa Monica Boulevard met Rodeo Drive. Its outer mantle was an unhealthy plague yellow, darkening to a sullen purple at its heart. Renquist recognized that the aura was partially human, but it was the aura of humans who were engaged in an activity so extreme that it generated strange and unique responses and emotions. Factors other than human were also present. Renquist knew that no collection of men and women could have produced an aura like that, no matter how bizarre and depraved their behavior might be. Something else was present beneath that aura, possibly something far older than either humanity or the nosferatu. Renquist had no exact idea of what that presence might be, except that he was certain it was nothing akin to his kind. Any non-human manifestation, however, so close to where he and the colony had taken up residence, had to be treated as a potential threat. The most minimal risk posed by a non-human intelligence, of which there were far more than the majority of twentieth-century humans ever suspected, was that it might might be capable of detecting the presence of the colony and somehow exposing them. Beyond that, Renquist didn't care to think right at the moment. He was too aware that the other dangers it could present might well be close to limitless.
This nighttime excursion to Mulholland wasn't the only time that Renquist had scanned the city for possible threats to the colony's continued well-being. When they had first arrived, he and Dahlia, the diminutive but deadly half of the pair-bonded weird sisters, had conducted an initial midnight survey. Dahlia's story was less than clear and a number of variations circulated through the colony. What was for sure was that Dahlia had negotiated the Change from human when nothing more than a child, and had then, quite deliberately, arrested her physical development so she remained a cutely feral ten-year-old Victorian moppet ever since, apparently, at the same time conducting a form of incest with her even more bizarre sister, Imogene. Beneath the ringlets and the Shirley Temple, lollipop exterior lurked a sharp and devious mind, honed by a harsh whetstone of perverse cruelty, the capacity for blasphemy of a hungover longshoreman, and a sense of humor that took no prisoners. Renquist liked Dahlia a great deal. She had proved a staunch ally during the troubles in New York, and since the relocation to Los Angeles, Renquist had increasingly relied on her to take care of much of the day-to-day running of the colony.
When he and Dahlia had stood together, all those months ago, on another high point where it was possible to see out over the city, their primary concern had been the detection of other nosferatu, either isolated loners, wild wanderers, or the gathering of a group, clan, or colony. Even a city the size of LA was hardly big enough for two communities of the undead to survive in peaceful coexistence. They had, however, seen nothing of the orange flares that normally signified a nosferatu presence. Far to the south, beyond the horizon, somewhere in Baja, Mexico, they had seen something that might have been interpreted as an undead aura, but it was faded and insubstantial, the color of a rotting tangerine, primitive and totally lacking in energy and vitality. Stories had long circulated of how a strong but insular and very ancient colony of the Mexican Tlacique existed somewhere in the dry hills of the Baja, but he could hardly believe that this degenerate flicker could be that of such a supposedly proud and strong bloodline of the undead, with their implacable combination of MayanAtlan roots and a five-hundred-year infusion of Spanish fire. Dahlia had agreed; if the Tlacique had ever been there at all, they had either moved on or found a way to disguise themselves, even from their close European cousins. Dahlia, who made a habit of keeping up with all the current trends in the paranormal, had Suggested that such a weak and degraded aura might be produced by a small hyena pack of chupacabra. "I mean, Victor, what would you expect from things that scare peons and suck on goats and chickens?"
Renquist had chuckled, but stored the ghostly aura in his memory for future contemplation. What he and Dahlia hadn't seen, back then, was the yellowpurple plume rising from Beverly Hills. He was certain that, if it had been there during their initial inspection, there was no way they could have failed to notice it, and he had to assume that whatever was the cause, the disturbing aura was an even newer arrival than themselves. Renquist knew that this thing needed a closer investigation, and he was almost tempted to instruct Lamar to drive in that direction right there and then. He didn't, though. He walked back to the car, signaling that they were moving on. "Go down Laurel Canyon and drive east on Sunset."
Lamar nodded silently and opened the rear door of the limousine. The detective work would have to wait until later. After weeks of subsisting on packaged blood, he knew the warning signs, the familiar weakness in his limbs and the primal stirrings deep inside him, stirrings that could only be ignored at their peril. If some danger did lurk beneath the rising aura, he should be as strong as possible before he attempted to approach it. Renquist ducked into the womblike interior of the limo where Mahler was playing softly on the sound system, and Lamar closed the door behind him. Lamar knew but never acknowledged. It was time for Victor Renquist to go hunting, and without his lost Cynara, he would hunt alone with only this blank-minded human attendant acting as both metaphoric horse and hound.
As the limo pulled back onto Mulholland, Renquist again leaned forward. "Turn the air-conditioning up, will you Lamar? Enough so it has some bite."
Perhaps the thing that Renquist missed most of all in LA was the thrill of cold.
In Los Angeles, no one could hear you scream. That had become a maxim to live by for Elaine Dance. In Los Angeles, one was always insulated, always encapsulated, and, until her one great ambition was fulfilled, that was the way she wanted it. From the isolation of the single-bedroom Hollywood apartment near the Pacific Design Center, where the drapes were always closed and no one ever visited, she moved to the protection of her car, the black-and-chrome '68 Ford Mustang with the dark-tinted windows that was one of the few pleasures, perhaps the only pleasure, in her current, constantly searching, wasteland of a life. Elaine Dance had no appetite for pleasure. She cultivated no friendships among the subtropical foliage and consummated no affairs under the wilted palms and relentless sun. She neither visited the beach, nor sampled the nightlife, and as far as possible, avoided even the most casual of contacts. When her thoughts grew too much for her, she retreated to the tried and trusted buffer zone of television and Valium, the bland massage in which she could effectively park her brain in the long hours when there was nothing else to do. She was like the character in the old Paul Simon song, "I touch no one and no touches me ..." It said a lot about the way she lived that one of her most sustained relationships was with the Shetland sheepdog that belonged to the gay couple in the next-door apartment. Almost every time she ventured out onto her small balcony, the dog would stare at her from the adjoining terrace with the painted metal garden furniture and the carefully tended planters. Something in the dog's large and mournful collie eyes suggested that it knew, or at least suspected, the dark secrets of her stranded and mutilated soul.
Elaine was well aware that, in all likelihood, she was slowly sinking into madness, perhaps a rigidly controlled madness that would never outwardly reveal itself until she finally blew apart, but madness all the same. To believe that a dog knew her pain could hardly be a hallmark of mental health. Hadn't David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz fantasized that a dog was his soul mate? The Mustang, aside from being both her sole pleasure and her primary means of transport here in the carbonmonoxide-choked capital of car culture, was possibly the only thing that contributed to any measure of balance in her existence. When what she now thought of as her half-life became too claustrophobic, she got into her car and simply drove, out along the freeways until the endless suburbs finally gave way to naked desert. Once there, she would pull over to mourn all that she had lost under the huge, white and uncaring Mojave moon, and sob the name Cynara over and over until she could sob no more.
On this particular night, though, Elaine was not driving her grief to the desert. She was carefully threading her beloved Mustang through the dense middle-evening traffic on the Boy's Town strip in West Hollywood, watching for sudden stops by the Volvos of gay cruisers. She was heading in the direction of Beverly Hills; she had a nine o'clock appointment with one of her regular and bestpaying clients. The costume of her private and professional theater was concealed under a light jacket, and on the seat beside her was the leather hold-all, not unlike an old-fashioned Victorian doctor's bag. The slightly sinister bag contained the necessary collection of her working paraphernalia, the erotic threat and promise of which would have probably both shocked and excited any regular conservative citizen, had he or she been able to see it laid out in all its rubber, chrome, and dark leather glory.
After some stopping and starting at the lights, she was out of the central congestion of West Hollywood, past Dan Tanner's landmark restaurant and the Troubadour nightclub, and into comparatively lighter traffic. Up ahead on Santa Monica Boulevard was the slightly disturbing, monolithic black glass tower with the weird pylon mounted on the top that belonged to the group known as the Apogee, the self-realization cult that was rapidly overhauling the Church of Scientology as the big-ticket, quasiscientific, fashionable faith among movie stars, studio deal-makers, and corporate lawyers. Even in her detachment and isolation, she had heard about the Apogee people and instinctively distrusted them. She was even disturbed by their commercials on late-night TV that seemed to be attempting to tap directly into the worst of popular anxieties, even though, in some respects, she made her living by doing something not all that dissimilar.
Once, while passing the black building on foot, taking a lonely walk after a particularly exhausting weekend with a client in Aspen, an Apogee sidewalk recruiter had attempted to force his literature on her. Despite her dark glasses, headscarf, and cultivated air of unapproachability, the recruiter had gone straight into his smiling pitch. For an instant she'd been tempted to take him up on his offer of coming into the black tower for what he called an "evaluation." She would almost have been interested to see what these smug cultists might have made of an inconsolably disappointed would-be undead, but after less than a minute she curtly told him to go away. She had no time for even patently ersatz therapy.
All attempts at any kind of therapy had been terminated months ago, and thousands of miles away, back in New York City. While still there, she had, at least for a while, tried to move on from the terrible and frighteningly unnatural grief, for as long as she still could deceive herself that it might be possible, she had worked hard at returning to drab humanity. She had done her best to maintain a brief affair with a perfectly nice and reasonable man, a moderately successful graphic artist named Martin, who had attempted to nurse her through her depressions and bouts of raging hysteria, but had ultimately fled to save his own mind from contracting her seemingly infectious disarrangement. Poor Martin had done his best, but when you have loved and lost a non-human superbeing who was close to a goddess, and you almost became a goddess yourself, even the most tender caress and most sensitive penetration of a mere mortal man could Provide little or no consolation.