Serg drew long a long breath through his pipe. As he inhaled, he felt a sensation of peace rush down his throat. He held it there momentarily, savoring its flavor. With despair, he released the smoke slowly into the air.
He slumped in his chair and laid his pipe on the table beside him. The den was dark and lit sparsely with only a few candles. He preferred it this way. The simulated solitude allowed him to disappear into himself.
He looked at the severed hand on the table, then closed his eyes and traced his finger over the long, raised scar that marred the left side of his face. He hated the thing and cursed the soul of the man who delivered the wound. As much as he despised the addition to his appearance, he could not keep himself from touching it. It was as if he needed the reminder of how his life had gotten to this place.
Serg was once a handsome man. He took great pride in his appearance. In the years before this darkness fell upon him, he had been vibrant and full of life. Every night, he had a different woman. Sometimes even more than one. He was envied by men and wanted by women. He enjoyed all the pleasures that the world had to offer him and made no apologies for how he lived his life.
He had given little thought to the treasures of other men. Serg had always had the distinct sensation that nothing was off limits to him. That he had somehow, perhaps in another life, earned all the good things that were coming his way, and then some. He took so much from the world, and gave back nothing. Eventually, it caught up.
After drinking several flagons of beer, and attempting to woo all the females in the tavern, he adjourned with a striking specimen that he had not tasted before. They laughed and strolled along the cobblestone streets, nearly tripping along the way.
They managed to find his home, and stopped on the stoop. Their passion could not be contained. They embraced each other, and found one another’s mouths with enthusiasm. Their bodies felt electrified with the touch of skin on skin, and writhed in ecstasy as they anticipated the events to come.
They were so enthralled in each other’s hunger that they did not immediately notice man that snuck upon them. He was only two steps away when he made himself known.
“It’s never enough for you, is it?” The man asked, clearly upset.
The two stopped and faced the man.
“I don’t believe I know you,” said Serg as the woman he had brought home continued to hang on him and tempt his flesh with kisses to the neck and nibbles to his ears.
“Perhaps not,” said the man, “but I know you. Or, at least, I believe my wife does.”
“And just who is your wife?”
“Jessica Miller?” Serg said drunkenly, scanning his mind. “Nope, doesn’t ring a bell. Although, I do ring a lot of bells, if you know what I mean. I’m afraid I don’t always get a name. Take this gorgeous creature, for example,” he said, taking her by the hand and encouraging her to twirl.
She spun slowly in place, and nearly fell over, but instead, grabbed tightly back onto Serg, and laughed.
“I don’t have a clue what her name is. Do you have a name, love?” Serg asked as he looked at her.
“Well, there you go then. She does have a name. Doesn’t really matter what it is, however. It’s not a name I’m interested in.”
“You’re a pig!” the man shouted.
“Yes!” he exclaimed, “I suppose I am. A filthy swine. But an attractive one, and with the funds to back it up. I’m sorry if your wife strayed, good sir, I really am. However, it is not my fault that I was the one she wandered with. If anything, it’s yours. So, I will excuse your intrusion, and bid you good night. I have matters to attend to,” he said smiling and looking his date up and down.
The man cried out in anger and rushed towards Serg. He held a knife and thrust it to Serg’s face. He plunged the blade deep against his skin, running it down the length of his cheek.
“Not so pretty now!” the man yelled as he ran off.
The wound was not mortal. Yet, Serg felt as if it had taken his life. The ladies no longer looked upon him with favor. They avoided eye contact with him now, unable to look at his mutilated flesh. His fortune disappeared before his eyes as he chased the dragon for relief.
One night, fearing he could not take this life any longer, he remembered a name. Jessica Miller. The city was small, and he got an address with little prodding. Perhaps people volunteered the information just to get him to go away. It didn’t matter, he got what he needed.
It was just after dusk when the man who had marked him arrived home. It was Serg’s turn to swoop out from the shadows.
“Did you think you’d ever see me again?” Serg asked as he approached the man.
“I was sure I would,” he replied. “No doubt you think I was unjust and you’ve come to take your revenge. Well, revenge was my right, and I took it.”
“I am here for justice,” Serg said, certain of his conviction. The man put up little resistance as Serge chopped off the hand he had used to disfigure him. Blood poured from the wound, and the man quickly succumbed to his injuries.
Serg gathered his trophy ran. He stopped for his things and made it as far as the opium den. Puffing away his guilt until the day that his money ran out or until the authorities finally found him. He hoped to be dead before either happened.