This story is for David Gleicher
Ivan and Eric were rivals for the hand of the fair Suzette, and Ivan was winning. Whatever Eric did, Ivan did better. If Eric made Suzette a sandwich, Ivan made her a succulent soup. If Eric wrote a poem for Suzette, rich and glowing with quiet, ecstatic understanding of humanity and love, Ivan wrote in stone or metal or vibrant paints the Truth. If Eric fought through the deep jungles to the hidden temple of the Olmecs and brought back the polished eye of their lost stone idol, Ivan flew to the Moon in a terry-cloth balloon and discovered the subterranean Lunans. Eric despaired, and felt his glory die within him.
Eric angered, smouldered, while Ivan and Suzette spent days, weeks, months, and years in sweet contemplation of each other. He found other loves, other rivals, other successes and failures, but Ivan and Suzette found only each other and struggling life. It was enough for them, but not for Eric. Eric, rich now, brilliant, married, beloved, and barking mad, wrote a book, wrote The Book, in just under five years. It was his masterwork, his Dark Lady, his Orphic song, and it was dedicated and moulded to Ivan and Suzette. He sent them one copy, in a green color, signed and hand-delivered by the author himself.
Ivan read it, and was transported into other worlds, lifted high above humanity, above himself, and above love. His brain reeled. It was epiphany, religious exaltation. When he finished the book, in one long feverish night, and closed that vilely green cover, he moved through a darkened house and out into the night. Suzette ran after him, step light and eyes bright, but he knew her not, and shook her off as casually and as absent-mindedly as a ladybug. It was the last anyone saw of him.