Forgivable Myth

I have so many dead drafts that, honestly, if I cobbled them together no one would be much the wiser and I would have my post.

I feel so disconnected from my own language.  I think something about this relationship is draining something integral to me which is strange because this relationship seems to hinge on a whim.

It is, like all other things have been, half-imagination, half-things that cannot be held firm in thought without the charge of empirical evidence to tether them to my story of myself.  I have papers which read the word love.  I have rose oil.  I have hearts.  I have a ream of daily calls logged in a cell phone.  I have a necklace.  I have stories half-written in fonts I do not use.  I have receipts for packages sent away, gladly, to a home I’ve never visited.  I feel so defensive about it.   Like I am claiming the traumas incurred by the proverbial girlfriend in Canada that I may as well have just made up for all anyone gives a damn around me about it.

I am not going mad.

I am trying so hard to be tender and moral and good.  But my frustration, my endless frustration, is that I have given up so much of my life to promises nobody ever asked me to make and I have made crystalline, unimpeachable choices that nobody would find fair, but which people have taken because it caused them no bother to take my loyalty, my  black ink ledger of intentions and actions.  Debts I claim but can never collect, credits I’m owed but can never recover.

He says, kindly, amongst a spate of inert, complicated statements about this project that draws us together, that I adore him.  I don’t argue.  I think in that moment I might.  For no other reason except that I do.  He says he’ll call when I’m home, I say I’m not sure when that will be tonight, but tomorrow, yes.  And tomorrow comes and goes.  We have some awkward small talk in text form.  A few pictures exchanged that don’t let me get back to the conversation I keep trying to have:  “What are we?  Where are we? What about us?”  The one that keeps dying on “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.”

I read old posts and find such comfort there that I want to reach back in time, come back to this room, this bed, or wherever I was when I wrote those hopeful and incendiary words and kiss myself tenderly on the top of the end, a hand on either side of my face.  I want to acknowledge the effort, the mind, the willingness to just sit here until something broke loose.  Those days that I can now, like my papers that read love, my untold mountainous hoard of compliments that did not feel like lies, a few particular memories that are seared into me, prove that I am not inventing it all from scratch.

There are a few notes of reality in the formula that keep it from flying out of our hands, going like treacle, being a myth you can forgive and free yourself from.

I

 

 

Evening

We didn’t need dialogue…we had faces.

If I got to say it the way I wanted to, it would run through the trees.  It would probably flitter away halfway through and never get to your ears.  Not out of malice, just out of the curiosity of the wind drawing it down on some adventure that I will never be privy to.

If the conversation began at all, much less went as I hoped, it would be gilt in silver and would illuminate a secret message that is only visible in moonlight.  It would dance under its own power.  It would wear a gauzy, translucent gown with a daringly long train.  It would be beautiful to such a degree that to look upon it would cause a mystical sort of pain to the back of your inner eye.

It would be the uncatchable fish.  It would come adorned in such feathery words, it could be stripped for a thousand boas.  It would slink, a panther, foot by foot, in and around all the maybes and possibilities and stare you right down the middle so you might tip backwards from the force of it.

Instead, you’ve caught me on the backfoot, I’ve been knocked flat.  You have left me questioning my questioning.

THe conversation never began and yet it was had.  It was done in a moment.  A retraction of claw, of personal consequence, of whatever solar power has illuminated our shared heart for months upon months.

Centered.  Organized.  He needs time.  And that time may well be an overnight of silence.  It may be two days, three, a week.  Or it may be this great big swathe of time where the freedom I’ve sought has entailed him running headlong in the other direction from me.  And it breaks my heart.

Because I wanted to hear something about us.   Even just to be outright damned, you know, it could never be.  One of us will never move to be with the other.  My heart is still healing from pains past.   I just no longer love you.  If I loved you before which you are likely to believe given that’s what I told you when I stared at you as you delightedly opened the gifts I gave you which entitled none of us to believe anything about the other.

I wanted to hear that we had been together and we would be again.  I wanted to hear that this was just a thing to be done and thank you or if not thank you then, at least, I see you there, waiting for me to return to myself again.  For an even-ing of this lop-sided story.   I wanted to hear, oh, oh, oh, don’t worry.  Because now I have to worry and I have made a fool of myself already because I was so angry because it’s all set up in such a way that whatever I do I am hateful, cruel, stupid to somebody.  A frightful sort of anger that takes a year or more of earnestly behaving and chucks it out the window just to get the loneliness and the pulling back and the sour taste of watching someone peel their heart off yours addressed.

And then I’ll have to eat it back when everything’s right as rain in the morning.  And that, too, makes me sad and angry.

 

 

Notes for More

“He calls them daughters, though I can hardly speak to where they come from.  They simply arrive just as this one did.”

“When I return to you, there has always been a death.  Of late, it is rare that there has only been one.”
“What was when your father disappeared, when he drew me here to join him, that world of wonder that greeted us is no more.”
“Now the forces that mind the way have curdled.  I have my suspicions, but…
“How do you yet live in such a world?  How have you survived, I’ve been here but an hour and already I see my end.”
“It is only the will of one man that has protected me.  Your father.

So Rough, So Rough

Amelia rose back up on her feet.

The mouth.

“Does he eat your kind?”  She blinked again and yanked Amelia by the wrist with an unexpectedly forceful tug, pulling her towards the slab nearest them.   Amelia persisted, “Does it eat…everything?”

The priestess shrugged, unperturbed by the question or the images it evoked.
“Always.  Hungry.”

“I, no, no, I am outright refusing.” She tried to pull her arm back, but it was no use, and the being began to place it in the open metal ring, so she drew back on her heel and kicked the strange being in its chalky, worn ankle.   It was just enough to break concentration and Amelia pulled her arm back, leaping as swiftly as she was able ten feet out of the cannibal priestess’ reach.

She did not pursue further, choosing instead to pluck at a pouch at her side, a long brown leather sack, poorly stitched closed at the bottom with a horrifying form of sinew.  There was no decoration to help Amelia understand pr help defend herself, nothing save the blue discoloration that so many items had here.

Amelia’s throat was dry as the powdery walls, but still she swallowed hard as she heard the words in English, then echoed back at her a second, third, a fourth time, as the priestess began to spin in front of her.  “Alw-ay-sh-un-gree!”  She threw four stones as she spun, and hurried to collect them in a specific manner Amelia could derive no meaning from.  And with that, another face appeared on the priestess’ own, one with a mountainous strength that followed through in her body as well.  She lumbered towards the adventurer, a good foot taller than she had been before and three times as wide.  Amelia made a mad jump towards the corridor that had lead her here, but already, the priestess had her wrist again and lifted her up, carrying her back to the slab.

Now she dropped her there on her back without care and latched one manacle closed.

“Stop, stop, please.  Where am I?”  No response to her words or her squirming.

“Where is the …dagger, the…sharp?”  She made cutting motions with the side of her palm until the priestess’s face showed recognition.   Making her own swift motion, the blade appeared in her hand and she lunged for what might have been a painful strike against her shoulder when a dart sunk into the priestess’ neck and the white robes sank with her into the floor, as as bright blue rose off of her form as if it were steam.  Suddenly, amidst the roughly-hewn cloth the frowsy-headed girl from the upper level returned, still along the floor.

Professor Kafele.

“We must get out of here and get to your father.  If they know…”  She held him closely, carelessly, as if all of the frantic energy that months of isolation built within her, all the terror that ran through her as a current needed to be discharged in one moment.
When she pulled herself away from his grip to speak again, he looked back at her as if thunderstruck.  “My father is here…how has he….?

Continue

The beast king pulled the leg full from its socket and with no further exaltation, no drumbeat or ceremony, gnawed down upon it.  At such a distance, she could not make out its eyes beyond a sense that they were closed as the flesh was rendered from the bone by its monstrous tusk-like teeth.  Blood, thick and dark, ran as furiously as her own slowed, down its front.  It had no care of the mess it had made, the sacrifice, the being who would only truly be dead three excruciating minutes from now.

Where had Ammon sent her?

Even witnessing such horror, Amelia noted something strange about the air in this place.  A powdery blue color, translucent like the air itself had been painted to match a Robin’s egg, tinted the vignette.  She shivered in her own skin until she felt a light touch at the hem of her dress.

She tore herself from the macabre scene in response to the pull at her ankle, and saw the little girl, gripping the hilt of Amelia’s prized dagger.  She was frightened, spitting out a brief, unintelligible phrase, as her wide eyes strained even wider at the woman she had arguably taken captive.   She was afraid, the expression shifted to show in the tautness at the corners of her mouth, the sudden presence of her minutely jagged teeth, but only that Amelia had caught her, and she spun on her bare heels and ran with blade held loosely in her hand down the corridor.

Amelia gathered her skirts, fighting the dazed feeling that spun like a dervish at each of her temples, and knotted the ties on her boots back up.   She re-pinned her hair to little effect.

“Little girl!” She hissed as loudly as she dared and stumbled forward after the child thief.  She had no earthly idea where she was now, but nothing promised safety beyond what had just been taken from her.

Amelia’s eyes swam in the inky darkness that overtook her within a handful of steps as she turned the corner in the carved-out passageway.  After tripping on something she could neither determine nor kick away, she slowed herself, afraid to run and break a limb.  The quiet was painful, even in the depths of Capri there had been the surge of water, even in the untrafficked crypts and tombs she had been called to visit, she had footfall or some assistant to whistle tunelessly and calm her.

It was impossible to continue and not question how closely she traveled to her doom.   Still, she would starve up in that cave, starve or wait to be fed to whomever…whatever that was.   Still, bravery meant only one more step, and she had not been raised to cower, sensible though it would be.

The corridor tunneled down and sloped around in a long, meandering spiral until finally, finally, it began to open up into a larger room lit once again by torch light.  Another single creature, hooded, in white stood at its center, surrounded by eight flat slabs of stone each several feet up, off the ground.   They were empty, but the ropes, the splattered blood, indicated that they had not and would not be empty for long.

 

 

 

 

More Not Stopping

It ought to have been oblivion. If there was a god who presided over earth, who culled lambs from goats, who lorded over what must and must not be, she had not met him as she traversed this portal.  Perhaps…she ought to have been torn through the light and into the darkness as was her due.    Instead, Amelia squinted, alive, but her vision not fully returned to her.  But there was a warm hand stroking her face, sized as a child’s would be, tenderly, rhythmically, along her jaw, over her nose, heedless of her features.   A young girl, surely attached to that hand held Amelia’s head in her lap as she made this compassionate gesture, singing.  The voice was childlike, as well, though, not lilting and pleasant.  It was as if a player piano ticked off the prongs of the song from her voice box, an automaton’s nonsense song.  Every now and then she heard a word of her mother tongue, un hippotome, un phantome, tu vas mourir.

At this, Amelia found her strength and will and gingerly pulled herself up. The pins that had held her hair in place drooped to the side, her shoes were gone, but she was otherwise unaccosted.  She looked around at what was a cave lit by fire and the light that flooded in through its open mouth.  Dusty, but not unlike the first images she had seen of the excavations of the Egyptian pyramids, a sloping bar carved into cave wall that must serve as some sort of seating.  There was nothing else to speak of save another exit that lead through darkness deeper into the cave.

“Did you save me?”  She looked at the creature, small, with a wild shock of reddish, much brighter than her own.  What looked back seemed a rather moonstruck child, adorned in a necklace of abalone and a rather dirty white shift.  Much as her song had seemed as though Amelia had ought to be able to understand it, she stared as she was spoken to as if reading Amelia’s lips might help her to know her language.

The girl held her face up to hers, scanning it with both curiosity and fear.  She could be little more than seven or eight, too pale to had spent long in the sun.  A series of repeated words, of gesturing, left them no closer to communicating.

Amelia crawled forward, away from the girl who blinked slowly at her, as if she were witnessing a doll of hers come to life.  She kept moving, scraping the front of her dress along the dirt floor, until she could peer over the edge.

Here, just as the Professor had described, a massive valley was laid out before her and in the center, structures that would not be out of place in some ancient rite of sacrifice.  She could see the dais, already blooded, and some figure being drawn against its will up the steps.  Behind that, on some marble throne, towering above, was seated what could hardly be a man and yet…it could not be otherwise.  A giant, a titan, a beast with a man’s face, a maw scarlet even at such a distance.  Amelia’s eyes grew wide as her body grew cold.  It had to be a lie even as she understood Ammon to have been telling the truth.  It beggared belief.

Amelia knew she had not been saved.

Snitch

Give up on the words and you give up on your soul.

There is a bump on my face that is likely the latest in an aggressive campaign to reclaim my teenage years by covering the entire expanse with zits.  That or a massive face cancer.  One or the other.

……………..

She folded her hands, hand he now saw for the first time, even through the lace of the gloves.  He, this time with no care or consequence for the touch, peeled the gloves away and saw the burns that their first test had marked her with.  The acid produced in this break between worlds, a snapping of an aloe stalk, where in this world, it soothed, in theirs, it bled pain.   Amelia saw the line of suffering trace down her fingertips, move through him and settle, with force, behind his eyes.

“I am so very sorry.
“They do not hurt now.”
“They should never…”

“I do not understand, Ammon.”

“The falcon is not mine, only a sign sent from their side that I would recognize.  A device, I have now come to see that could only have ever been from your father.  It is nothing like the marks they make on their own.  It danced before my eyes at the Manor you’ve learned so much about, drew me away in the middle of my lesson.  I imagine young William must have been…no, I do not recall anything but following it, a sign and sometimes a bird, as it moved through the halls, up the stairs and out the front door.   Places I was never to be, but I didn’t think…I just chased it into the woods.  A day later, they found me, surrounded by…well, it burnt the wild grasses just as well as your fair skin.  It had seemed a dream.  A madness.”

Amelia gazed as this reverie overtook the Professor, and her thoughts travelled with him, seeing the blue ring that had opened above the table on some Midland afternoon, sun pleasantly moving through the trees exactly matching the horrors.

“That night I passed through against my will.  When last I saw you, it was by choice, a choice I…I have learned so much now, now that we are close that I wish at moments, I had flung myself into sea rather than come to bring you back to…”

“I had to mastermind this plot without his aid, thinking I was protecting Mr. Willoughby, Laurence, though

“As I belong to my father, as you belong to yours, so too, does Laurence belong to the King of these…cannibal people, indeed, he is something of their prince.  Though this King, if one could deign to call him such, has no love for his son.  Whatever loyalty remains to Laurence, what awaits him upon his return is something worse than death.”

“Worse than death, good sir, you’re positively shaking…”

“There is no time.”
“If I am to return, I am to return with a sacrifice.  And the Tormented peoples believe that the strongest magic is to be found in what a man has made.  The king hungers…he can no longer be appeased by invention, by charm, by kaleidoscopes and toys.  We cannot distract him with anything but the return of his own blood.”