Chapter XII – Katharina Trembles

“Katharina; describe your soul to me,” asks Gustave Hoffman.

“How should I describe my soul?”

He continues to take out the meat from the oysters, that lay in a silver bowl upon the table. That bowl seems as a symbolization to his heritage. His family. He takes care removing the oysters from the bowl. When he speaks, his voice is lifted, enunciating the syllables.

“Your soul,” Gustave begins to describe, “must bear the same fragrance as your neck. It should have the same softness of your breasts. It would retain the milky texture of your skin.”

He pauses, passing a shell to another bowl, near to the first one. This other bowl is plain, and does not have as much elaboration as the heirloom bowl beside it.

He continues. Leaning forward, he says. “There is something within you, where I’d die to be lost. You are not letting me inside. Why will you not see me through the gates?”

“I have given you a daughter.”

Ignoring her words, Gustave says, “The absence of color from your soul, possesses something unique. It possesses both the fragrance and the softness, as we imagine a phantom.”

“I cannot imagine the fragrance of a phantom.”

“You should imagine it as death. There is a fragrance to death. The decay of a corpse, is as much akin to the scent of anything which has ended.” Gustave smiles.

“Is there much to describe in terms of death?”

“There is everything to describe. Melville pointed out, through much symbolism, the very horrors which the lack of color portrays. Yet, he also mentioned very beautiful things.”

“What were those things?”

“Death is a simple representation of something which has ended. Its meaning is so broad, and cannot be open to interpretation. To end, is as universal to anything, and should something have its life ended, such a concept is unable to be questioned.”

“Why can it not be argued?”

“I have observed both the demonstration, and the aftermath, to which death strikes the very soul of something. We realize it, through sight. We cannot argue it, for the very pallor that strikes death into something, are those things you are questioning. Ashes. They are white.”

“But, ashes are gray, are they not?”

She only somewhat comprehends Gustave’s words.

Katharina’s eyes are shifting from many directions. From her lap, they avert to her palms. From her palms, they avert to Gustave’s face. From Gustave’s face, they avert back to her lap.

Katharina is unsure of where to decide her perspective, and to place its certainty.

“Ashes are gray, as science ensures, given what the ashes once were. But, as ashes represent destruction, and as winter represents misery, poetry shall forever describe ashes as white. They fall like winter snowflakes. They are cold, even should they be warm. Destruction is always cold. Death is always cold.”

“Death is warm.”

“I am viewing a woman, who has a perception of death that is akin to death itself.”

“I am death, itself?”

“For whosoever else perceives death evermore graceful, then the controller of death?”

“I am the controller of death?”

“To the dealer of death, death is a release. It is a warmth.”

“I am a dealer of death?”

“To the sufferers of death, death is cold.”

“Who are my victims?”

“Every victim who has been felled by their own wounds. It was a warmth.”

“Am I mother to these victims?”

“To the dealers of death, it is only a fire, that cleanses corruption.”

“Am I mother to these victims?”

“You have ended their suffering, through absorbing it as a burden.”

Gustave leans back, embracing his own words. He has forgotten the existence of Alden, who is a philanthropist, and whose idea of curing suffering, is through money. Alden, has forgotten that Katharina is a Jewess. Katharina, has forgotten a secret.

“You are rich, Katharina.”

“I am rich? I am not wealthy. Where are my own earnings?”

“You are rich in the spirit of negligence. You have forgotten many things. Many of these things sit before you. I wish to know the taste of your soul, as well as other things of your soul. I have still not seen them clearly. I only know your inherent gifts. As a mother to many things, not only Devorah, you are gifted with many qualities.” He ends with a sigh.

“The taste of my soul? I cannot taste my own soul.”

“I can taste your soul. It would not be the same taste as your lips.”

Here, Devorah has taken a few steps into the lower floor, and makes her appearance known into the faint light of the rising sun. She appears tired, rubbing her eyes with the back of her hands. While Devorah descends the remaining stairs, she notices Gustave once again, and pauses.

The pause was one of fear. She is hesitant to understand the situation.

 Devorah has placed the subject within a chosen area of her mind. That area is the garden of disinterest. For such a garden exists in all our minds. It roars continuously with the flavors of many petals. The daffodils are charming near to golden skin, and the tulips entertain themselves under the horizon of vast emotions. Insects hum and buzz in this constant influx of hues and shades. It is yet an area of every mind that is forever fruitful, but is flooded with unaccepted ideas.

Devorah has not dedicated a mere glimmer of curiosity to this spectacle, that has downplayed her current comprehension of family. She does not deny that there is something oddly shaped into this man named Gustave Hoffman, but refuses to accept it as anything worthy to see.

It is an endless form of grief, that seeks to abandon all contrasting emotions. She will use it as a weapon, until the entreaty is thrown upon her, to embrace the reality of the situation.

It may just be that this is the time.

For Katharina is the one to wave her over. Her fingers extend, and curl outward, like the symbols of music on the many pages of colorful arrangements. It is a display of comfort.

She soothes Devorah’s entrancement. It becomes as mocking as any form of humor.

Devorah walks towards this message, and only the message. Her eyes linger on Katharina’s fingers. They do not notice Gustave, who sits there observing her approach, with his own eyes full of pleasure. His demeanor is relaxed. Gustave does not shake, and the approach of his only child will be to any parent, as the sort of ecstatic happiness to terminate the deepest pits of distress.

There is a lone candle that raises an ireful presence.

That candle reflects its shimmering glow upon Katharina’s countenance, as only a shadow is poured over Gustave. This shadow emanates from the bowl, that sits before the candle. For the candle is rather short, and is covered behind the candle. As such, there is poetry involved.

Katharina is amazed by her daughter’s innocent perplexity.

Both are driving this seduction into Gustave. She approaches with both an eagerness, and a perpetual hesitation. Both a resolve, and a confliction, set into one moment.

Devorah sympathizes with Katharina. Devorah finds emptiness in Gustave.

She approaches, with brown locks of rosy highlights. These tresses are tied behind, displaying the modesty of children. The world within either eye is different, for it seems either eyes is upon either sitting figure. Her body is rested with a simplicity of expression, and she is not pained by the ongoing flood of the unknown. There is blackness on either end.

Devorah simply says, “Alden is awake, and he wants to see you.”

The words dry up the atmosphere, faster than kindling upon the infernos of Hell. Katharina looks to Devorah, neither with truest pity, or mere motherly compassion; she is only stunned.

She says to Gustave, “I will be back.”

Though, Gustave is showing emotion. His tears roar over his cheeks, as two great rivers of sheer pain. His agony is rooted deep under mother earth, and his yearning is even deeper.

Yet, upon his face, there is no sign of agony.

It is as though Gustave mimics the filmy texture of Katharina’s soul, to which he has compared to death. The simple yearning to end a lasting moment of pain, goes deeper than any other emotion. Gustave will only nod in apprehension, offering her to deception, and not to truth.

Katharina will obey, once more.

To the darkness, she will crawl; and, to blindness, she will serve.

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