Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Green Demon

Absinthe. Is there any other drink that stirs the imagination more? It has long been a controversial topic in its long, checkered past as a liqueur, drawing the imagination of critics and artisans alike, both for very different reasons. Were Hemingway, Picasso, Van Gogh, and Wilde insane, or were they spurred on by the mystic charms of the Fairy's fluttering wings, her opaque smile, and her sinister smirk? They say that absinthe, or the Green Fairy, is deadly and delightful, causing massive waves of hysteria and spurring forth the art of some of the greatest masters the world has every known. Writers dabbled in her mystic arts, and for a couple of years, I was certainly one of them.

Absinthe certainly has a checkered past not only in the United States, but in the world. While she was created in Switzerland, she's most often attributed to France, and to New Orleans, which dedicates an entire bar to it. Absinthe is made of a few different herbal ingredients, most specifically wormwood, anise, and sweet fennel, which collectively give it its black licorice taste. While emerald green, absinthe is much better consumed in the traditional sense - served in a glass, diluted with water, and guzzled with a melted sugar cube. Despite being served in this fashion, in 1905, Frenchman Jean Lanfrey served himself several glasses of wine, coffee laced with brandy, and two ounces of absinthe before before murdering his family. It was because of this, and another murder that included absinthe, a hatchet, and pistol, that the drink became banned in Europe and the United States. Temperance leagues blamed the hallucinatory beverage because of its connotations, and it wasn't made legal again until as late as 2004.

Absinthe, and the Green Fairy, eventually became a cultural icon, most likely because of its more taboo reputation. Walt Whitman, Earnest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and Oscar Wilde all claimed that she made their artist expression all the more vivid, and that she inspired them heavily. Artists have referenced her in paintings, writers have professed their love for her, this fiery, metaphorical Fairy that charms you one second and bliss kisses you to death. I have made several references to absinthe in my days of dabbling with the drink. It's made its way into a few of my novels, short stories, and poems. In my latest novel, Romanticide, my character Kendall has had too much of the stuff, and his absinthe hallucinations have transformed his friend and lover hopeful, Nadia, into a seething seductress, the Green Fairy incarnate.

"While she cools her heels, my green-screened imagination runs wild. I imagine Nadia, finally sick of the complaints and the threats and the games, peering down over the edge of the bed at me. I imagine her giving me a sultry smile, uttering something poetically suggestive, blowing me a kiss maybe…no, puckering her lips or something, cocking an eyebrow as her lids fall half-mast. Yeah. She apologizes for the attitude, blaming it on the strong sexual tension that’s been building up between us. I unzip the sleeping bag, flinging open the top flap, a silent welcome for all her pent up frustration. She’s dressed in a frilly lime green blouse, a cucumber-toned skirt and a matching pair of lacey tights. Her hair is tussled and teased and intense like neon electric. She slowly rolls onto the edge of the bed above me. She moans, purrs, and it resounds across the apartment like the faint fluttering of delicate wings. It funnels its way into my ears like a pleasant trill, idyllic beauty encapsulated, the perfect sound, Cleopatra Ptolemy reciting Tennyson. Nadia’s glossy face gleams in the enveloping darkness, the headlights bearing in from outside the window illuminating a strip across her eyes like a sultry villainess in a Tod Browning picture. I lay enraptured, incapacitated. Her pearly, perfectly-aligned teeth are simply a ruse to conceal the fangs hiding behind them and I squeal and flail and feel the entrancing embrace of her iron jawbone ripping at my neck, kissing it with delicate dread, tongue dripping with potent decay."

In my very first novel, written back in 2004, I made the Green Fairy an actual character, one who rears her head when protagonist Cameron has had too much of the opalescent delight.

"Her presence delivers her true intentions. She inspires hints of Lavinia, only to jealously tuck her away again into the gloom that entraps her. Elegantly, immorally, she defies gravity, hovering over to my bedside only to make landfall again. Thinking it a possible new incarnation of Lavinia, I open my eyes. I watch her wings cease their buzzing hymn. I watch them as they mesh themselves to her back again like a second layer of flesh. Her emerald-hued skin, her thighs emit streams of absinthe. Her skin is like a taut, plastic mold. It is like a spandex body suit, a Gorgon costume she has known ever since the dawn of her existence. She utters my name. She utters all her pet names for me in her intangible accent, Eastern European meets Caribbean. She’s naked, though her intimate areas are concealed by a murky green ambiguity. Her perfect teeth are unveiled from underneath her ample lips. The spreading smirk creeping into the corners of her wide mouth is one that I can only describe as sinister. Her fluttering eyelashes are like the legs of an insect, long and nimble and spiny. Her brows are pointy, devilish. Her bulging yellow eyes resemble something between a feline and a demon, light and bright and frightening. Her green hair is significant in length, dripping wet corkscrew curls like a patch of lush, twisting vines following a fresh rain. Her visits are brief, but epic. Her visits are comparable to the selling of my soul, to sanctioning a pact with the devil himself. 

La Fée.

I feel her scalding touch despite the anesthetization of my flesh. Her fingertips caress my face to the rhythm of her slithering, serpentine body. She utters all her false promises and jealous quips. Her fingers, her vampiric fingernails stroke my cheeks and lips. She lowers her face down to mine. The dripping tips of her hair brush against my face. I feel her touch, and her touch only, as she and the bottle of absinthe are one in the same. 

I find that the bottle is no longer in my hand. I lower my arm to my side on the bed. I lose myself in the trance of her eyes. I lose myself in the bittersweet wickedness of her smile. With her long, lean tongue, she licks the underside of my upper lip until it separates from the bottom one. She slithers her tongue, trickling waves of wormwood anise, into my mouth to quench my thirst, to further numb my senses. Her lips suction their way onto mine. Her tongue serves as a funnel for the liquid fire she spews forth from her inner recesses. Floating in a swoon of euphoria, I’m rendered her captive, her slave, her lapdog. 

Her palms are like a soothing sandpaper, like the tongue of a cat. She strokes, massages, chafes my bare chest and stomach. She slips into position next to me on the bed, desecrating the imprints of Lavinia’s body, the ones I’ve managed to keep free of contamination for a two full years. I try to scorn her for it. I try to curse her for it, but even in this lucid state I find myself in, I can’t speak and guzzle her sweet nectar at the same time. She nestles her body closely to mine. She proves a warm contrast to such a cold night. The locks of her hair latch onto my shoulder like a conquering kudzu. Her leathery skin, her breasts are pressed to my chest and ribs below. Her oozing thigh and calf tangles themselves to mine, almost as if she believes herself capable of entering not only my mind and soul, but my body as well. 

I attempt to push her away, but I’m too far gone in my stupor. As her soft, serrated lips and tongue dance across my jaw, I can do nothing in my own defense but turn over onto my side to face the wall. I close my eyes. I breathe steadily, hoping to vanquish her seduction in every sense of the word. She lulls me closer to the arms of sleep with her faint kisses upon my shoulder, neck, and earlobe. Though she wasn’t directly invited, I run the risk of such a liaison with her every time I raise her bittersweet juices to my lips. Death in a bottle. I close my eyes, lie completely motionless. I wait for sleep to deliver itself to me just as fast as La Fée did. My only defense against her is to call upon my greatest ally in this particular situation. 


In a spin-off of that first novel, I create a short story in which Cameron is investigating a string of supposed absinthe deaths ravaging the French Quarter in New Orleans.

"Cameron’s Diary: November 22nd, 2007

Is it cliché to say that the mirror has many faces, or does the saying go that it’s just two? At any rate, I attest that it indeed has many, especially in the case of the plague that swept through the French Quarter of the summer of 2007. The Green Fairy. The Green Muse. La Fée Verte. Death in a Bottle. Absinthe.

I tracked well her emergence, her resurgence in New Orleans, a place where she had first made her entry into the United States. She had enchanted the likes of Oscar Wilde, Picasso, Crowley, Poe. All of the terrifically inspired craftsmen displayed either their extreme dualities or their most terrifying inner demons. She, La Fée had been the catalyst. Of that, I’m sure. She possibly may have even murdered Poe, leaving him begging for his own soul with his final words, while leaving the rest spared but permanently scarred by her searing, hooved footprints. 

Do I hold the key to her mysterious resurgence? My careful research has guided me into compiling it into one volume. All my interviews, surmises, experiments, and calculations in true Holmsian form, trying on the tight-fitting gloves of deductive reasoning. I’ve included diary entries from early victims like Jean Lanfray,

When the days grow short and the nights grow longer, she appears from the mythical, mystical ether of the opened bottle. Colorless, odorless, translucent, venom contained by, and in, its vapors. She will tease you, seduce you with her minty scent of green anise and sweet fennel and black licorice as she injects her Artemisia absinthium and enough thujone to slay a small horse.

In a sort of jovial pursuit, you adhere to her charms and obey her silent commands (vapors do not speak), to empty a third, possibly two-thirds if prematurely aroused by all the lush degrees of her initial allure, of her sweet, potent essence into the parting glass, as our friends in Ireland refer to it. Funny that the Fairy didn’t make more of an initial splash on the Emerald Isle, what with their fond affections for the color green and their cultural references to a glass that might preface a meeting with a contented death.

Add the water or not, you are wholly hers. She slithers her way down your throat like Gorgon kiss, her pixie dust first numbing your tongue before scorching a path into your bloodstream

In the past few years, I published a poem about the Green Fairy in Literary Orphans online magazine.

Ode to La Fée”
What myths and monsters paint the night
In hues of ghastly green and the absence of light?
Ghostly white, curdled with the essence of neutral tones,
Bones and skin and bloody knees, the beast finds herself appeased.

Erased from the face of the earth from birth.
Festering sore on the cheek of humanity,
I combat her vanity with a dripping prose,
Flipping her underworld free of all its flaming woes.

Stay the course, live among the light
Though the night is a jealous sprite, dealing only in death and spite.
Fight that Green delight until you find her absent her color,
Sobering valor shall resist her most horrifically shrill holler.

A new voodoo queen shall prowl this scene,
Laveau shall fade where La Fée shall incite parade.
A lavish spectacle, a Bacchanalia of fools
In which fairies and ghouls spawn bottles empty a’ plenty.

And if so vigorous a she-devil should fail to fall abashed,
Then hold still with teeth gnashed, awaiting the foul tempest to pass.
Drink her down, hold yourself still,
And blink not, righteous friend, while baited breaths draw nil.

Suffice it to say, absinthe can be quite the inspirational entity, even when its not being consumed. The Green Fairy, is a cultural icon, its charms depicted in vivid pieces of art and film. Absinthe plays a subsidiary role in Bram Stoker's Dracula, From Hell, Interview with the Vampire, and Murder By Numbers. From those particular titles, you can see that absinthe is most associated with the macabre and the affluent, the drink of choice for the soul's seduction. It begins an emerald green, but by the time you add water, it becomes a murky sort of opaque, almost the color of what you'd imagine for a St. Patty's Day-themed eggnog. Drink too much and you are bound to lose yourself in frightful hallucinations, spawned from the 90-proof, herbal delicacy. The flavors of mint and licorice will fill your mouth, and if you consume her without water and sugar, she is a scalding trail of liquid fire down your throat. She is a moody beast, a whimsical sprite, boasting streams of death and delight with the toxic charms and her delicate dread.

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