The last tunes of the waltz still hang in the air, echoed off in the furthest corners of the church. I carefully let go of the pedal.
“So, how was it?” I ask my piano teacher. She jumps at my words.
“You have improved a lot since last time,” she says. “However, the last part could be better…”
I smile with one corner of my mouth. She’ll pick at my play again.
My name is Luxan. I am preparing for a piano contest right now. I barely came through the first round- the competition was harsh- and now practice for the second round. The piano currently occupies all my time, my thoughts, my life.
The lesson is finally over. I almost slam the door shut behind me. Is it possible to be so picky about a waltz? If I only had her level of skill!
I am very lucky with the bus, which only arrives ten minutes too late. I take a window seat and prepare for a half an hour battle with sleep. There have been cases of me drifting off and missing my stop, as I’m often up all night practicing for the contest. Thank God for coffee and soundproof walls in the house!
It’s past 10 PM when I finally arrive at my home. My younger brothers are already asleep. I pour myself a cup of strong, black tea (my mother would never allow me to drink coffee just before “sleep”), and leave for my room, carefully carrying the full cup. At my request, the piano was moved from the living room to my room so that I could practice after my younger siblings went to sleep.
After I successfully spill the tea in my room, a sheet of paper on my desk grabs my attention. It says:
Everything you’ve ever given will be given back. Wrath, Pride, Envy, Lust.
Everything you’ve ever taken will be taken back. Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Lust.
Choose you must.
What kind of childish, demonic rhyme is this? More importantly, what is this doing at MY desk? I study the crumbled note carefully. The the word “ever” is smeared, so it might have been the word “never”. No one in our family has such an elegant, back-sloped writing. I could barely read my parents' handwriting, while my sister was just learning to write. My heart races.
Maybe it’s one of those minor hallucinations I’ve had lately, caused by little sleep? I clench the note in my hand to check. The note crumbles, but stays in my hand. Ink smears on my fingers. I know that I need to do something, but my mind is paralysed by fear. What should I do? What would someone else do in my place? What...
My mind goes blank.
I am in a dark, empty room. What the hell is going on? The only furniture is an altar with two newly lit candles on it. A cross barely reflects the weak light, but that is enough for me to see that it hangs upside down. I carefully approach the altar and take a candle. Hot wax drips on my hand. Wheezing, I let go of the candle. I carefully pick it up again and re-light it.
I soon discover a door by the candlelight. It leads into a well-lit corridor. After walking around in the abandoned maze of corridors for a while, I shout out: “IS THERE ANYONE IN THIS ACCURSED PLACE?” I hear a faint response several corridors away.
I meet a girl. After five minutes of a "dialogue attempt" (she speaks horrible English), I figure out that her name is Ira. I show her the note. It turns out to be a huge mistake. She suddenly reaches out for me and slams me into the wall. I never expected it. When I finally come to my senses, she is clawing and punching me with such force that I nearly lose consciousness. I push her back with all my strength, get up and run as fast as I can. Why would she suddenly attack me? What did I ever do to her?
My whole body hurts. I still jog down the corridors, though I cannot hear Ira behind me anymore. I crash into something as I take a sharp swing. It turns out to be a pale, short guy with an arrogant look. His clothes hang on him. He would certainly not be able to hurt me- he has no muscles at all.
“You scared the hell out of me! Who are you?” he asks.
“You won’t suddenly start beating me up, right?”
“WTF? No! Are you a psycho or something?”
I stand up, while trying to keep a good distance between us. The adrenaline rush decreases, and I support myself against the wall.
“I’m Luxan,” I finally mutter.
“Luxan? What kind of stupid name is that?” He laughs. “I’m Hubert.”
“So, Luxan (btw, do you live in luxury? Just joking), do you know anything about why I am here?” You? What about me? His arrogance starts to mollify me.
“No, I have no idea about why you are here.” He looks angrily at me.
“YOU DARE TO OFFEND ME, YOU STUPID, UNGIFTED INSECT? YOU THINK YOU ARE WORTH ANYTHING? WELL, THINK AGAIN!”
The sudden shout makes me jump a meter away from Hubert. However, he soon carries as usual: “Oh, it seems like you’ve already met that fury, Ira- you are very jumpy. Will you mind if I call you cockroach?”
And so went this strange conversation. Hubert always had these strange outbursts of insults every time I said something that might be found mildly offensive.
“Where are you from, cockroach? Oh, never mind. I don’t really care.” God, you vex me.
He suddenly exclaims: “Oh, look who it is! Isn’t that our friends!” Ira and another injured person are walking down the corridor. My first impulse is to run. However, Hubert grips my arm and wheezes: “Don’t dare to leave me, you insect!” His grip turns out to be unnaturally strong.
Ira does not have a rage outburst this time, though one could clearly see that she had already beaten up her poor companion. He presents himself as Vidar.
“I envy all of you!” he exclaims. I stare at him while trying to make sense of his last words.
“You see everything, while I have to cope with the fact that I only see with one eye!" Vidar stares back. I quickly revert my eyes.
"It’s so unfair! GIVE ME YOUR EYE, HUMAN!!!”
Everyone seems to be confused by Vidar's exclamation. Using the advantage, I pull myself from Hubert’s steel grip. Vidar notices it. He jumps at me and reaches out for my face. His bony fingers brush my cheek and dig into the eyehole, piercing the eyelid.
I scream. I slam Vidar into the wall. He continues to rummage in my eyehole. The pain is almost unbearable. I smash Vidar into the wall several more times until he finally rips his fingers out. I throw him off me and run.
The pain gets worse with every step I take. It feels like his fingers are still there, poking around in my brain. Tears blend with the blood from the wound. I stagger through several corridors before I collapse, unable to move any further.
My eyes snap open. The movement causes incredible pain It feels like someone is pulling a knife though my head. It hurts so much! I moan in despair.
I hear footsteps, which come from my blind side. I turn my head to the source of the noise. When my eye finally focuses in, I see Hubert. He kicks me.
“Wh… why?” I croak. I only get another kick as a response. The next blow sends me over to the side. I lose sight of him.
The blows finally end. My vision triples. I puke.
I turn over again, just to come face Ira this time. She says something, but I barely hear it over the ringing in my ears. She sees that her words have no effect on me, bends over and shouts the most horrible words that I’ve ever heard. Some of the words I recognise as my own. I once called my younger sister “happy idiot” (even though I was plagued by horrible guilt afterwards), told my classmate he was "trash"… Words I had spoken in blind rage.
The thought struck me. Rage. How did the rhyme go again? Everything you’ve ever given will be given back. Pride, Wrath, Envy, Lust… Wrath.
Ira must be my Wrath. She’s giving me back all the anger I ever held against anyone, first in physical form (though I’ve never hit a person in my life) and then in verbal form. The verbal one hurts the most. Did I really say this? How could I?
Ira notices the change in my eyes. A smile of satisfaction plays on her lips. She then steps away and gives space to Vidar.
If Hubert was my Pride and Ira was my Wrath, Vidar must be my Envy. I have imagined the better pianists on competitions fail to play correctly, envisioned their fingers tangle in themselves and break with a soft chrunch. I know it’s horrible. No matter how much guilt I feel, I cannot un-think those thoughts. I wasn’t really myself then- I had slept too little the weeks before.
According to the rhyme, Envy must be my second largest sin after Lust. Why haven't I met Lust yet? I set everything under winning the competition- my family, friends, even myself. It is, certainly, my greatest sin.
Vidar disrupts my thoughts as he reaches out for my face. His thin fingers slip under the second eyelid and rip the eyeball out. I hear someone scream- or was it me? He bends my fingers into unnatural angles until he hears the soft crunch of broken bones. My throat goes hoarse from screaming. I found out that I still am able to see a bit with the second eye- just enough to see the angles my fingers are in. Every time I look at my hands, the fingers have a new angle. I think I lose consciousness several times during the horrible process.
Finally, the crunching stops. I hear a distant voice say: “You’ve been given back everything. You are pure Lust now, sin otros pecados… Congratulations, you won.” Spanish? Yes, I take Spanish classes at school… Sin… Without. Otros…others. What is “pecados”, though? Sins, probably.
I … won?
“Who are you?” the girl cries out. She holds a crumbled sheet in her hand.
“Who are you?” I retort. She looks scared.
“D-Diana,” she says.
I smile at her.
“I’m Luxan. Nice to meet you, Diana.” I, too, still keep my crumbled, bloody sheet of paper.
Except that my rhyme’s different now:
Everything you’ve ever given will be given back.
Everything you’ve never taken will be taken back.
Lust you were, Lust you are. Purified as Sin,
A Wish of Envy, Pride and Wrath- where Wish did always win.
“n”- The letter that is smeared in the poem. The letter “n” in Arabic stands for Nazareth, or the Christians. It is used as a symbol for utter hope or utter despair.
“Sin Hallucinations”- in the title, the word “Sin” can be used in its Spanish meaning. The title would then be “Without Hallucinations”, which contradicts with its original name. It can by read both ways.
Lust- Lust is defined as “an intense desire- for money, food, fame, power etc.”. The main character set the ambition of winning higher than he (who suffered from Pride) set himself.
The names are inspired by Latin:
Pride: (Greek) Hubris
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