Ben was right – everything really did go off without a hitch. I don’t know what I was so worried about.
I’d gone to find his lost sheep, the wayward participants who were scrambling in frustration for the last clue. I scolded them for making us wait so long, acted the part of the reluctant friend indulging his lunatic companion. I took them out to the grave. It was now past midnight.
They sat hushed as I gave the stupid speech that Ben had prepared for me. Everything seemed normal – I’d made sure to stow the rag before anyone could see it.
“Friends, foes, and everyone in between. Tonight we gather to resurrect the ancient horror that has plagued mankind for centuries. Its tale, once a gruesome epic of blood and seduction, has become nothing more than commercialized fodder as society has aged. Now, the time has come for the phoenix to burn and rise again. So, too, shall the blood-soaked visage of… the vampire!” My voice resonated throughout the woods, and the morons in attendance clapped as they all reached for their shovels.
We dug him up in about half an hour. It was much faster work with his host of suckers. It was good that we reached the coffin quickly, because I could barely contain my excitement.
Two of the men opened the coffin and screamed. The women leaned in over the grave to peek as well, full of expectancy. There was something dreadful about the scene, to be sure.
Ben’s face had gone gray, sprayed over with a few specs of dirt. His hands were bloody, his fingernails pried off. Deep scratches decorated the top of the lid. The men who had opened his tomb dragged him out in a panic, unsure if this was part of the performance or not. A few moments of silent listening at his chest produced no heartbeat. The proclamation was definitive: he was dead.
They screamed. They called the police. They alternatively looked at his body and shielded themselves from its horror, enraptured yet struggling.
They ignored me.
But that was fine. It was fine because they were admiring my work, the work of the real artist. Finally, I had been given this opportunity to prove my worth. Finally, I had found my sacrificial lamb. And it had been a rousing success. The heat raging in my body affirmed that much. I didn’t even care if I was caught, so long as I could have this moment to hold for the rest of my life.
Ben was right. I should have known – a man of principle never lies. And I owe him a debt of gratitude, for realizing the artist within me.
Art must be a little dangerous for it to be real.