It is almost satisfying to watch as a person’s lifeblood is drained from them.
I have never cared for young people. I suppose I was once one myself, but I’m glad to have outgrown that tiresome stage in life. They are so full of the energy that comes from youthful dreams, that the effect is rather exhausting. Imagine all that energy just… draining away.
I can never forget the first day that I joined the Guild of Gentleman, not so very long ago. I strode into the room boldly, so as to impress them with the confidence that comes with age. They looked up at me with their beady eyes, as a convocation of eagles might regard a distant field mouse. There were eight gentlemen at the time, I believe, and I could feel a flush creeping up my neck as they looked me up and down.
Even though each man was different, they all possessed large, hooked noses and grizzled hair. Every one of them was clean-shaven and wore pressed grey suits with a dried yellow flower in every one of their lapels. They reminded me of a set of ancient dolls that you might find in the back of your grandmother’s cabinet, yellowing, faded, and dusty but still intact. Almost frozen in time.
I tried to ignore the horrible silence that filled the space as I strode across the great hall to my seat in the back. Slowly, the gentleman went back to their work, deciding to pretend I wasn’t there. An unwelcome guest.
It has never been clear to society exactly who the Guild of Gentleman are. They rarely leave their mansion-like building on the edge of town. The slate-gray building contrasts ominously against the bright skies of Arizona. As a child, I used to stand in front of it and stare up in wonder at its intricate designs and many turrets. There was always a shroud of mystery surrounding the place. Surrounding those men with their yellow roses. Society accepted them. Many assumed they were businessmen of some sort. Nobody asked any questions. Nobody knew what they really were.
But I did. And I made it my life’s ambition to join them. Their twisted power drew me in. It fascinated me.
That first day with the Guild, we were visited by a young man wishing to sell us his talents. He was bouncy, excited to be in front of such a respectable group of people. He was so pure, so untouched by the world. I almost felt bad for him.
He stepped forward, his eager face shining with anticipation. As he launched into his presentation, I saw the gentleman known as Dawson reach out, for the Color, the life. I watched the bright tones of the young man’s checkered shirt and rosy cheeks slowly fade as a satisfied smile played on Dawson’s thin lips. His yellow rose glowed a vibrant gold. I was spellbound. Color eaters. Men who live on the Color of those around them. It was incredible to behold.
The young man, who had introduced himself as Doug Dickens, began to sway on the spot as more and more of his color faded. I saw him shoot a confused glance at his shirt as though he was privately questioning whether or not he should visit his ophthalmologist. His bouncy curls had lost their shine, and the veins in his face became very apparent against his chalk-white skin. His face had turned a light shade of gray, and I’m afraid he looked rather poorly. Without warning, he turned and ran out of the room. The sound of violent retching filled the hall, and the Gentlemen of the Guild smiled grimly at one another. An unfortunate side effect of having your life slowly drained from you. Ah, well.
Mr. Dickens staggered back into the room, wiping a trail of vomit from his chin. “I’m… so sorry, gentleman. I seem to be feeling… a bit ill. My sincere apologies. Shall we continue?”
“Please, do,” whispered a bony man called Adams, leaning forward from the shadows. It was his turn.
Mr. Dickens rambled on, and I watched with great interest as Adams parted his ghostly white lips. Color began to seep from Mr. Dickens like clouds of Earl Grey in a mug of boiling water. Adams closed his eyes as though savoring a rick steak dinner, and a murmur of immense pleasure escaped him. My brow furrowed. The gluttonous man was taking a great deal more than his fair share.
At last, our Mr. Dickens gave a great shudder and broke down, collapsing over a chair and falling into a sprawl on the floor. Like a great cloud of bats, The Gentleman of the Guild rose as one to gather around the unconscious man. I stayed in my seat and merely gazed at the figure sprawled comically on the floor. His face had been drained of its youthful beauty. His lips were grey and cracked, blood pooling in the corners of his mouth. His skin, which had been stretched tight, revealed the angle of every bone that jutted from his face. But the eyes, the eyes were truly remarkable. Once a watery blue, jolly, and full of life, they were now a cold, dead, lifeless gray. It was rather a shame.
I was unable to tear my eyes away as the body crumbled to ash. Involuntarily, I leaned forward in my chair. It was fascinating in a horrible, distorted way. In so many ways, I was a child again, gazing in awe at the building that I now sat in. More than anything, I wanted that power. The power to drain a person’s life in mere minutes.
Almost as though he could sense my longing, Dawson turned to me and drew from his pocket a blossom.
A yellow rose.
The gentlemen closed in around me, pressing in on all sides as Dawson drew closer. He gave me the tiniest of nods.
When he pinned the faded flower to the front of my suit, its sickly sweet scent hit my nostrils, and a pang of hunger seized me. A wild urge to devour.
“Welcome,” he said, his gray eyes boring into me, swallowing me whole, “to the Guild of Gentlemen.”