It's cold in here and the walls are bare stone, but at least there's a straw-mattressed bed with a blanket on it. I tear a strip off the blanket to bind my bleeding shoulder. It's hard to do and the blanket doesn't make the best bandage, but I sacrificed my shirt to Cassio's leg. Damn Cassio! This is his fault. I should have killed that bastard, slit his throat, not just stabbed him in the leg. Yet I shudder as I recall how my hand wavered and guided the dagger away from his vital organs. His influence on me is not gone. I have caused the deaths of a score of fools and I still feel the agony of watching him rise hurriedly from beside me and leave.
My heart aches, not least with hating myself, but I sleep. The devil comes to me. He has dark hair, dark eyes...He is beautiful. In my dream it feels natural to think that. Here I am free.
He comes close and I feel his hot breath.
"Well done, Iago," he says. "I have watched your scheming these past weeks. I am impressed. You tempt like a master."
"I thank you, " I say, my hand rising to touch his face.
He takes my hand away. "But you are not happy, are you?"
"I'm happy here," I object, seeking the pupils in his near-black eyes.
"This is the next world. You're not due to come here yet. You've got a few things to sort out first."
"Like this." Suddenly I realise I am standing in the arms of another man, that I am unbearably attracted to another man. Oh god, what would your father say? I pull myself away. I mustn't feel those things.
Satan does not seem upset. He raises one eyebrow meaningfully. Then he looks up, suddenly alarmed. "I will see you later, Iago. I have to go."
Where is he going? What has happened?
"God is coming," he says, and the dream dissolves.
The bolts on the cell door are being drawn back. Have they come to torture me already?
They'll learn nothing.
It's Cassio. I love, I hate, I won't think about him, maybe he'll go away. I hear the door close again, but this time Cassio is on the inside. He has a crutch to take the weight off his injured leg. He wears a new pair of trousers, the bandage visible beneath the leather. He does not approach too closely. Wise move, really, but the distance feels like a thousand miles.
"Iago, I thought you were my friend," he says.
"I was once," I reply.
"That night was a mistake, I can't tell you how sorry I am for offending you."
I am silent.
"Look, Iago, if you feared my interest in your body you could have let me know. Why did you try to kill me while still pretending to be my friend?"
Because I hate myself for loving you.
"And why on earth did you fool the General like that? You knew Desdemona was his first love and how little he understands women."
There are tears in my eyes. I try to send them away, but they won't go. What the hell, I don't care any more.
I feel Cassio's weight on the bed beside me. "Iago, we were friends once, a long time ago. Tell me what's bothering you. And don't tell me nothing - a man doesn't cry over nothing."
"Don't pretend you care now, you bastard. I saw the look on your face when you left my house."
"What are you talking about? I left because I had embarrassed you, you didn't want me there."
For the first time in a very long time I begin to wonder if I should tell the truth.
"I was ashamed, but I didn't want you to go."
Cassio's eyes widen. "You didn't stop me. I assumed..." He pauses to think. I wonder if he remembers that as he awoke from whatever erotic dream his mind had formulated, I was ardently returning his embrace, his kisses...
Evidently he does.
"Are you ashamed of being attracted to men?" he asks.
"Yes," I reply. Where did that weight that was just on my soul go? "If you wondered why I hated Othello you have found the root of it. I destroyed him because he loved a woman. That damned foreigner could love our Venetian women, but I can't."
Cassio puts his hand on my thigh. "Iago, you don't need to love the Venetian women. I know a certain Florentine man who could prove it to you."
My eyes find his. They are as dark as Satan's, from my dream. "After everything I've done?" I ask.
"I've always admired your talent for getting your own way," he says with a wry grin. "And I believe that if you accept who you are you won't need to commit crimes like that again. Just remember," and his eyes harden, "that if you do, I will have you back under lock and key."
"'Back'?" I repeat. "Are you planning to release me?"
"I am the governor here now, so yes."
It appears my fortunes have changed.
Despite now being entitled to the Governor's residence, Cassio still owns his old apartments. And they're a mess. Oh, there's the handkerchief with the strawberries! "You used that to send the General mad," says Cassio as he picks up an armful of clothes and puts them down again a few feet away in a half-hearted attempt to make his house respectable.
"I shouldn't have, " I reply, "but having that power made me feel good."
"You didn't ever feel sorry for him?"
"No. Somehow you're the only person apart from myself that I've ever felt anything for. And I haven't treated you very fairly either."
"Maybe love can change that," says Cassio, running a hand across my lower back as he passes. His leg is healing quickly.
"I hope so." I grab at him and miss.
There is a big mirror in Cassio's bedroom. He's cooking dinner - hopefully he still remembers how now that he has servants to wait on him. I sit and look at my reflection. Is this the face of a man who makes love to other men? It doesn't look like Cassio's. My eyes are blue, my hair and beard red-brown. Is this the face of a demon? Everyone knows demons are dark. Like Cassio. Where is Cassio? I take my evil, demonic self downstairs to find him.
Later, I lie on Cassio's bed. There won't be any serious sport tonight, even if I did feel ready. Cassio's leg is still sore and I cannot use my arm thanks to the pain in my shoulder. Cassio bends over to kiss me. There's a fire in those kisses that runs through my body into my genitals. I never felt that with a woman. His pricey green silk shirt hangs open, as does the beautiful black one he has lent me. His mouth is on mine, his hand on my breast. I reach for him with my right hand, running it up his side to touch his nipple, so much smaller and neater than the cow-teats of a woman. His mouth leaves mine and travels down my neck. All I can do is purr as he licks my nipples, I can't move easily with my shoulder still aching. He pauses for a moment to unbutton his pants, to release an erection which has been straining at the gate for some time. It brings home to me that I am lying with a man. I want to go on, but I'm nervous. "Cassio, stop." I say. He pauses, about to untie my pants. "Not yet. I'm still not used to the idea." I say.
He must love me. He stops immediately, without complaint.
"Just kiss me for now," I tell him.
"Your wish is my command, Master Iago," he says.
It's morning. Cassio, undressed, lies beside me. His head is on my shoulder. This is good. I can get used to this. There is a banging on the door. "Cassio!" shouts a female voice, "Cassio, wake up!" I nudge the man beside me. He wakes up, muttering. Someone's at the door.
"Oh shit!" he says. "It's probably Bianca." Downstairs, the door bangs open.
Bianca appears at the bedroom door. "Cassio, darling, how..." She stops. She stares at me and at the naked Cassio. I give her a friendly smile. Cassio's hand is on my chest. "So nice to see you this morning, Bianca," he says, caressing. She turns and runs from the room.
"Shut the door on your way out!" he calls after her. There is a decisive slam. Cassio grins at me and we both laugh. It feels good. He was right. I don't need those Venetian women and I don't regret that fact any longer. Looking into Cassio's dark beguiling eyes, I reach down to the drawstring of my trousers.