Souls, Swingsets, and Sun rays.
The metal clinked loudly with each back and forth swing. The park closes at dusk, the lowly hung sign on the gate reminded me. I never paid much attention to anything, anyway.
For some reason, as I had gotten older, swings had come to make me nauseous. Not boats, or roller coasters, or mixing dark and light liquor, or any cocktail of drug, or falling, face first into a love uncertain— no, just swinging on swing sets.
As a kid, I was quite adventurous— always enticing other playground goers, I may or may not have seen again— because the world is funny like that— to compete with me. “Whoever can reach the sky first, will win,” I would exclaim, with all confidence that it would be me flying off into the sun.
And when I learned all of the tricks to swinging even higher, from my brother, 8 years my senior— who I swore then, and still do, knew everything— like using your feet and your entire body to give momentum to propel yourself even higher, I began to challenge even the older kids, too.
And I guess, in a way, those were the last competitions I ever truly won, though I would go on go achieve many other things in my short life.
I slowly ran my fingers across the S shaped metal links, and the U shaped rubber seats that brought me— brought all of us a little closer to heaven. I glanced around at the blanket of emptiness that had fallen over this space that, by day, sheltered and shaped the childhood dreams of mothers that never quite lived and children, all too ready to grow old, not knowing, that the best and easiest days, were the ones spent with feet scraping rubber ground and arms outstretched to clouds they’ll soon realize they can never grab.
I find myself frequenting parks even more now, as an adult, than I ever did as a kid. There exists some untouched sense of purity in kids— some sense of exponential happiness that I’ve been trying to find again, since age 7, when I lost my sense of self and beauty to mean boys and girls who told me I was anything but, and a mother and father who just didn’t know how to love a child quite like me.
Part of me hopes that if I come here, to the Mecca of childhood square dances, romances, bruised knees, effortless smiles and happiness, oh happiness, that some of it will rub a bit of the darkness off of my soul— a bit of the dirt off of my hands.
The park closes at dusk, I remind myself.
At 7 I never thought that at age 20 I’d be quite so ordinary, quite so wallflower, wildflower— quite so, sitting in parks desperately trying to uncover shards of happiness in a dirty sandbox. I suppose none of us were every quite perfect at predicting who we’d be at nearly triple the age we were then.
Would-be doctors and lawyers became accountants and bartenders. Teachers and mothers became forever-college-goers, and women that stare too long at kids and their own mothers in grocery stores, before pushing their own empty carts out of the isle.
Nothing ever seems to fall directly in place like the leaves into perfectly jump-able piles like the ones in movies about autumn— nothing ever seems to feel as good as that single ray of sunlight that beamed through those clouds, we all aimed to grasp, into your eyes— blinding— but in the beautiful way.
The heat radiating off of your skin and through your body, into your bones and your blood— some decades later, I realized, on an acid trip with a stranger, that the sun is happiness, and holds happiness for ransom from the adults who turn away, who block it out, who wear sunglasses, who only go out at night time, who smile without teeth, and who laugh behind closed doors.
The sun hides happiness from those who fail to find solace in it’s light, those who turn away from the things that once brought them closer to it. And maybe that’s the thing of it. Because I’m still searching for light in the presence of the sun, and swings still make me nauseous.
He needs some direction – oh what a lovely life. They are handing out houses, I’m gathering up pounds. Take the keys I’m ashamed of – two steps from London and its all defence. Its armoured public and colloquial speeches. Balaclava proprietors of bad education – I share some of his terrified mechanics. It’s no use apologising to shaken women. Trust thought. The message of blood – t-shirts and bodies in the road. No more slit and tie – I refuse to move two squares on my first move or recognise threats on open files. Diseased arrangements, the city sleeps. The tiny bathhouses of sunlight that compete with electricity – shocks inducing smiles and having to change after only a minute. I hear a siren in the open-air then take a seat to hear another from my left-hand side. I can swipe a glass plate for a faster response and leave my entire history behind. We don’t know why we hid in a cinema watching film after film – I could have gone straight there, side-stepping community police – an extra fluorescent presence, I am going to be discovered – tired and small-eyed in the yellow light of this sleeping carriage.
Excerpt #199: No, They're Still People
The balance here was precarious. The Baron felt confident that he’d taken control of these two men, if only because he’d been the first to meet them, but these kinds of false identities failed quickly in practice. He watched the mirrors for another CPUSA on the approach.
“Ray,” said the officer in the back, “did you ever read that book, by that lady?”
“The one about the occult. She wrote it.”
“Yeah, that’s the one, Apostasy. You read it?”
“What’s an apostate?” the armed officer asked.
“It’s someone who renounces their religion,” the Baron said. “Yes, I read it.”
“She stopped being a cultist?” he asked.
“No, she stepped outside the system of prestige. You know, refused to play ball? Just direct barter. That was enough for the people who named her.”
The officer in the back said, “She wrote good things about the Baron.”
“Not much though,” the Baron said.
“Still, you’ve read it. He keeps that monster under control. You want to kill him?”
“A man can live a good life and still do something bad.”
“Yeah, but we’re talking death here.”
The Baron shrugged. “I don’t think about it too much.”
“I’ve got to kill him or I’m dead anyways.” The officer shook his head. “Don’t like it though.”
“I’m with you there.” He looked through the rearview mirror. A trio of men in business suits was leaving the back alley. They spotted the squad car, pointed. The man at the lead was tugging on his jacket lapel, showing a strap from a shoulder holster. He was trying to ready for a pull. The two behind him were carrying improvised clubs. One was a solid copper candlestick. The other was slapping a wooden rod against his palm. It was stupid to advertise their aggression, but they weren’t trying to warn the Baron. They were working themselves up to a confrontation. They were psyching themselves into believing they were innately violent.
The Baron admitted it to himself. A plan to fool dozens of people for hours was stupid.
The officer in the back must’ve followed his gaze. He turned around and looked through the rear window. “What the hell? Richard, what’s Thorn doing out here?”
They were coming to question the Baron, arrest him, and eventually beat the truth out of him. Once they’d assuaged their doubts, they would kill him. He looked at the cigar in his hand. It was the only tool he had left in his arsenal, but it wasn’t totally useless. They wouldn’t see it coming, even though it was clearly a dangerous improvised weapon. He lifted it to his lips, pulled out the lighter and started cooking the end. He didn’t want to do this, but he didn’t draw a smoke.
“Don’t smoke in here,” the armed officer said. Richard. His name was Richard.
Goddamnit. “I’ll roll down a window,” the Baron said.
“Something’s wrong,” the officer said in the back seat.
“Open your door,” the Baron said, “let’s get out and help them.” The cigar was clearly beyond smoking now. It was burned. The car was beginning to smell of ash, not tobacco. The end was a quarter inch of cherry coals. He closed the lighter and put it away.
The armed officer followed the suggestion mindlessly. He cracked open the door and grabbed the frame to stand. His head was turned away. Richard, poor fucking Richard.
Hate to stab you in the back.
The Baron reached over with his left arm and jammed the burning cigar into Richard’s neck, turning it away from his cheek at the last moment. Simultaneously, he reached down with his right, unbuttoned the man’s holster, and got a finger under the handle before everything slammed into a confusion of motion and noise.
Richard shouted and jerked forward and fell out of the squad car at once, popping the Colt out of its holster. It landed on the seat. The Baron scrambled for it.
The approaching CPUSA trio started running for the car. “Baron!” the lead shouted, throwing back his lapel and struggling to pull a 1911.
The Baron got the gun, saw Richard on his ass. He ought to shoot the man. Instead, he aimed and hesitated. The officer rolled aside uselessly, still an easy shot, but the Baron cocked the hammer and blasted the sidewalk. Then he hopped the gear stick, head down.
The armed CPUSA member stopped at the gunshot. The street was filled with screaming runners. Unsure, he blasted twice with his 1911, hitting the trunk and the back windshield. The Baron fired over his left shoulder, hitting the cage. The officer in the back was shouting obscenities. “Cunt!” he screamed, “You fucking asshole!”
The Baron turned the ignition and slammed the clutch. “Out!” he bellowed and shot another two times over his shoulder, aiming well past the man in the back.
Another man he should’ve shot. Another person he couldn’t shoot.
“It’s the cage!” the officer shouted.
Locked in for the ride. The Baron pulled the door shut and shifted into first gear, then slammed on the gas. The wheels peeled out. Another 1911 shot, this one slamming into the back of his seat but stopping short. He pulled into the street, heard the engine whining, jammed and shifted again. Civvie vehicles were pulling to the curbs. The sun was ahead; he was going west. At the end of the block, three Willys MBs flew into the intersection and slammed brakes, leaving curved trails of smoking rubber. Rifles were raised from the seats.
“Get down!” the Baron roared.
He jammed the handbrake and clutch, slewed around and jumped the median. He hit the other lane with a metallic grind, bumper ramming asphalt. He let off the clutch; the engine shuddered and nearly stalled, but he downshifted, then touched the gas to accelerate faster and peeled out again. The world could hear his poor driving. The side of the vehicle caught the volley in a series of bullet thunks. The side window shattered, scattering glass over the cowering officer. The National Guard had been watching the temple. Shots had triggered their ambush.
A 20mm anti-aircraft halftrack rumbled into the intersection at the other end of the block. The mounted gun began the slow swing down to the street. “Fuck me!”
“Flushing armory—” the cop said, peeking through the cage.
The ack-ack would total the squad car. The Baron pulled around again. He had to risk the approach, and he’d rather go west anyways. With his windshield facing the guardsmen, another volley was lobbed, the windshield exploding in his face. He couldn’t help but close his eyes, shield his head. His left arm caught a round in the bone and he ignored the arc of pain. It was a bullet wound slowed by glass; he’d nearly been shot in the heart already. This only hurt.
The halftrack couldn’t fire without hitting the Willys Jeeps. Three weren’t enough vehicles to block the road. The Baron pulled left around them and kept going in the oncoming lane, fortunately empty. He glanced in the rearview mirror. More vehicles were coming in past the halftrack. Gunfire strafed the front of the theater, showering the prone CPUSA in a hail of rounds. It was a story repeated throughout the city. They could hide inside, but CPUSA fighters weren’t going anywhere on the streets. They would be locked in the temples until New York could organize and arrest them. The Communist Party couldn’t fight a war with the US army.
“You’re not dead?” the cop shouted over the wind howling through the vehicle.
The Baron pressed his left arm to the cage, entry wound visible and bleeding before the mesh. “No rest for the weary,” the Baron shouted. “Keep low, don’t die!”
The sound that left his mouth was almost primal in nature as every muscle in his body tensed up before he collapsed onto her like his bones had completely evaporated. It wasn’t like him to pick up someone from a nightclub, he was more of a “take it slow” kind of guy when it came to women. However, there was something about the way she moved on the dance floor that he found simply irresistible. It was like she was making love to the music, each note caressing and entering her body, with her undulating movements demonstrative of the pleasure. Watching her made him want to be those notes and make her body oscillate under his touch. Imagine his elation when after only a brief introduction she leaned in closely, brushing her lips lightly on his ear.
“I want you inside me tonight.”
Her smell was intoxicating and as he lay there, collapsed on top of her, inhaling her hair’s sweet aroma. He actually felt like he was a little more drunk now than he was when they left the club. He felt her stir a little underneath him, so using whatever infinitesimal energy he had left, he rolled off her and onto the silky black sheets that shrouded her bed. The sheets were cold and inviting, giving an icy relief to his overheated state.
She turned towards him, flashing him a satisfied, but mischievous look. She sat up and slowly slid one leg over his body, straddling his hips. The inside of her thighs was like fine velvet lightly brushing against his skin. She leaned forward letting her nipples lightly brush his chest as her hair descended from her shoulders almost completely covering his face. The bouquet of her smell mixed with the essence of their passion actually made him dizzy. He could feel the room start to spin, around and around and around again. He was so light-headed that it actually felt as if he was sinking into the bed, enveloped in the fine silk.
“I think I need some water or something, I’m feeling a little woozy.” he said, reaching up to use her as support as he sat up…
Except he couldn’t move.
“What the?” he muttered as he tried again to sit up, but to no avail.
He looked at her in a wide-eyed panic, only to be met with a steely smirk. She indulgently started sliding up his body towards his head. Inch by inch she slid up his body while straddling him until she was almost sitting on his neck. She reached down with both her hands, grabbed a hold of either side of his head and yanked up with a twisting motion, severing it complete from his body.
It was difficult for him to understand what he was seeing, but from the nightstand where she placed his disembodied head, he could see her gyrating on the open neck wound of a headless body completely encased in finely spun, silk thread. With each circuit of her hips, she dropped what look like a small translucent orb, the size of a golf ball, into the carcass.
“Oh God, that’s my body!” was the last thought he ever had.
(5500) Conversations: Please Let Me Say This
It was the rain that made me say it.
It was the rain and the fact that it came on so suddenly, an impossibility on a day where the sun was busy cooking everything and anything with its sheer glare. It was the rain and fact that the world suddenly seemed as if it was telling me something. That some things do happen without cause or reason.
It simply does.
Like rain on a hot summer day.
The mad dash from the street to a place that would hide us from the falling rain led us to the entrance of the museum. It was closed for the day and here, while leaning against the massive columns that lined the stone entrance, we checked how badly soaked we were.
Most people would complain that they were soaked down to the shoes and curse the bipolar weather gods at work for not being able to make up their minds about the sky, but you are not like most people.
You stood there in front of me, your hair a soaking mess, the shirt you wore streaked with trails of water, and your face, split into a wide grin as you ran a hand through your hair exclaiming, “Free shower, right?”
I had to tell you right then and there, the one thing that has been roaring in my chest like an angry dragon demanding to be released, the one thing that would either make my world whole again or rip it apart.
I looked at you and for a brief moment, you see it in my eyes, the sheer and utter thrill and fright of what I was going to do next, and I see your own eyes widen in warning.
This was not me, saying it in a passing remark. This was not me, saying it as a joke. This was not me, hiding behind a casual sense of bravado but me laying it all out for you in a three syllable sentence.
So please let me say it.
And say it I did.
“I love you.”
It was the rain that made me do it. The rain and the universe. And how apt it was that, all I could hear was the rain and the universe answer back in return.
Candy Crush: More Than Just That
Life, at times, is like Candy Crush. We often take things for granted, but the truth is we just have a single, limited life.
In relationships, comparison with the said app can also be considered. Why? Appreciation is the word. We often have that thinking of go-on-life-goes-on-I-can-do-what-I-want. Then when that special person moves out, we regret. A single move can actually make a big difference. Once you switched the candies, there’s no undo button. No exchange and no return policy it is.
We wait, tarry, and sit back. Thirty minutes seems to take like forever. We look at the clock as if it’s hypnotizing. As we close our eyes, we see candies crushing all by themselves! Then we suddenly realize we shouldn’t just wait like that. We searched for alternatives, and we found out that thing which gives us infinity lives. It was a breath of fresh air. But on the other side, we became even more careless.
Moving on without limitations is perfection. But with this, we trance a bit faster than the others. We don’t actually have time to take it all slowly and enjoy the moment. Instead of doing other things while waiting, we focus on this certain thing and rush things up. Happiness can be felt for a while. Sooner or later, it’ll be gone. It might give love letters now, but it’ll bombard us with hate mails after.
That chocolate candy bomb gives a huge smile just like the big opportunities that come in our lives. We tend to focus on this powerful candy and forget the basics. We strive hard to crush it with its co-powerful candies so as to give us better results. We try and try to do this, but we suddenly forget our limitations—our moves are counted. Then what’s next? We fail. Basics are still vital even though we feel like we can already walk on water.
Numbers will be just numbers. If we’ll let them devour us, then we won’t live life to the fullest. We should just be careful with what we do. The app doesn’t have an undo button. If we don’t want to waste what we worked for and start over, we should have that brain-first-before-anything-else mentality.
These things made me realize what life is. Who would ever think I can write beyond what Candy Crush is? Perhaps one more thing needs to be taken into consideration: look at the different angles of life. We’ll never know where true diamonds are.
i have this plan—
stuck in my head like the smoke
that circles the inside of your car—
to tell you i’m gonna make a move,
slide myself up next to you
and take something back for myself,
something i’ve been trying to take
since day care
when i asked that girl to touch my tongue
with hers just to see what it felt like.
i used to want it so it’d fill me
with the thing that’s missing
but nothing’s missing anymore,
everything’s there and it’s too much—
and i want to know if i can trade with you.
let me have your kiss and your hand up my skirt;
i’ll give you all the moments i thought
i really would hurt myself that time.
let me take a bruise on my thigh
and i’ll give you my death rationalizations.
give me shotgunning in the car,
parked on that dark street where no one lives;
i’ll give you all the pills i didn’t take
but thought hard about.
give me ripped tights and your jaw
unhinging against my neck;
i’ll give you every emotion i outgrew.
give me a kiss for every missed call
and a bite for every misjudgement,
and for every moan you swallow from me
i want one back.
i want to end up balanced and blissed out
on the feeling of running engine,
the touch of someone stupid in lust,
the loose grip of smoke,
the smirk of someone falling for it.
Poison Arrow: The Unforgivable Downfall
A lovely girl.
A paternalistic state. A cacophony of atrocities. The absurdity of it all. Disgusted, she forms a paramilitary group. A collective, initially, assembled in her garage to watch old Soviet propaganda films for instruction in revolutionary techniques. A sister group springs up in Montevideo. Then Ulan Bator. There is no stopping her, excepting a tragic love affair. She does her best to conceal the faux pas, until one night she is caught red-handed with a bouquet of peonies.
East and West fell in love, sent love letters to each other across the wind, across the horizon. The sun employs as their messenger, on a measly pay of clouds and seasons, carrying missives along with all the other packages left on doorsteps before dawn breaks the night into a thousand pieces that shatter above fluttering epistles. East and West pass light back and forth, a game of catch that never ends, a playful activity always initiated by East. But West doesn’t mind, and North and South refrain from saying a word in either way or any direction. West remains perennially calm across from East’s crumb-less coolness and kindling kindness. In this love, West knows she represents the end, but every once and awhile, on a cloudy day or winter’s eve, West smiles and shines, believing herself to be the beginning.
The past has fingers that feel like the bronchi of a smoker and I can see the people I used to be leaking out like tar from its grip. My sigh leaves me just the way the sound of your tyres did all those months ago. I suck in the air and a part of me wants to let the pirates ride in again with it, let them drop their anchors in my lungs, cork them with mines and duck as my retina turns to rain. I board the next train with no idea where I am going, all I know is that distance, not time, will do the trick. When it comes to you and me, time does not exist. I place my hand on the glass, watch it tremble, watch my skin try to leap from the bone it is wound to. The sky is teaching me how to open up and close in all at once. The wind is howling at me to hurry. I am on my way.
It All Falls Down
“Liar!” That was the word she had screamed at him as his face contorted into a look of disgust. He was disgusted after all, disgusted with her. She made him sick. But, there was something he didn’t take into account: What he had made her feel. What he had done to her. He was just telling her the truth. All of it, everything they had gone through had meant nothing to him, and he didn’t care.
The girl, however, had given up everything. She had lost so many people she cared about to stay at his beck and call. She had destroyed her own life for the sake of his happiness and it meant nothing. Now, as she slumped against the wall, she made no noise. No utterance of defiance. She just stared at his retreating back with bloodshot eyes and tear-stained cheeks. Her spirit was broken. Without him, what did she have? Nothing. She was utterly alone.
Just when she thought the sting of the pain was lessening, that she was numbing to it, something inside of her shattered. It felt slow, agonizing, like someone was taking a knife to her chest, but keeping it shallow enough to keep her alive. After a few seconds of the torture, she screamed. She didn’t want to, and she wasn’t even aware that she was, but the sound of pain that left her throat echoed out into the night. Even the man that had caused the pain that was tearing her to pieces turned to look at the door he had just shut with slight shock.
Suddenly, the scream cut off. Something warm had enveloped her body tightly, quelling the shaking that she hadn’t noticed, though the sobbing continued.
When her sense returned to her and she realized someone was holding her tightly in their grasp, and the sobbing quieted. Slowly, she lifted her head to see glowing cerulean eyes looking down at her calmly. “Are you all right now?” The deep and gentle voice that filled her ears made her blink in surprise. She knew who this was; she had fallen asleep to his voice so many times. This was the man who truly gave her world its color, its light. This was the man who caught her every time she stumbled. This was the man was everything to her.
How could she be so foolish?
A visual of faith
She saw you there, playing with your florescent bandage, it was traffic-sign orange. a color you cannot deny, like a bubblegum flavor of color in your bones. His therapist is worried about the wound. It should have healed up by now. But it feels syrupy under the bandage and smells of cinnamon.
She saw you there, her remastered version of you and what she would do to you. Bending down in a thought, she would rip the bandage away and scoop out the gelatinous tissue and smear it over her cheeks. It would turn her face white and the Indian red light of a star would reflect off the skin, and bending her knees with dimensional cohesion, she would suck up close to him.
Her legs would spout of creek water, running over his empty wound, and his face would turn under the red light. And with her nails she would break apart his body, gripping from the middle of the wound, tearing his ambergris flesh with her pink fingers. She would place the parts of his body by her altar in a ceremonial way, lighting candles and quoting the mantra that god had given her.
Today, I will write about an affair.
When your wife wraps herself around your son each night after you’ve been cramped at a desk each day, you begin to crave that bond you shared with her earlier in your relationship. You tell her that you feel like he is getting in between you two, but she says to stop being selfish; he’s your son; asks you why can’t you love him.
Late one night, while your wife is sharing her breast with her offspring, you lie on the couch with the laptop perched on your stomach. You refresh your Facebook feed, something you’ve done a few dozen times in the past half-hour, and then a red bubble pops up at the top of your screen. A red bubble, finally, something interesting to keep you entertained while your son grows closer with your wife.
You click on the message, and the name is a distant memory from your college years. The name evokes excitement, attraction, and memories of tipsy nights shared in her dorm room, slipping between her pink satin sheets and ignoring the television’s glow, passing her beer after beer after beer and begging for more of her body.
You wonder why you ever let her get away. She did more with you in that twin bed than your wife does with you in a king.
And that night, you stay up late and begin the not-so-harmless small talk. You sit up higher to keep an eye on the door to watch for your wife, and you curse the whimpers and coos of your son because your wife, your son, your house, your life, all of it reminds you that you’re unavailable to this woman.
But then after hours of chatting online, you tell yourself that none of it really matters in the grand scheme of things. And since you’ve been with this woman before, it’s not like it’s actually cheating.
Then months down the line, when you’re pissing her juices off your dick, she rolls under the sheets and asks when you two are going to be together. She asks you about having children, talks about the dream home she has planned for you, says that she loves you.
It’s the same talk she had back in college, and you remember why you left her. She wasn’t “the one.” She gave it up too easily and would have opened her legs for whoever was exciting. So when she became bored, she would have slept around and left you to take care of the kids.
And you hate kids.
Questions for the Dull.
I pretty much just stare at blank screens and notebook pages watching that black line blink right on the seconds that bring me closer to the beginning. And I find that I am drowning myself in all things cliche, wondering why my bed rocks like the sea and my walls have grown an incredibly dull shade of beige. And I watch… I watch the sun glide in dots along my comforter as the hours pass, and it dances with the colors in my sheets and I dream of the motivation I’ve lost that comes out in my dreams at night, that comes out in my nightmares.
And they reach. They reach their long, shadowy fingers across my elongated neck and push their nails against my pale forehead.
Because, you see, I no longer sleep. My mind is ticking and growing and blooming and when the lightning strikes I wake, my body electrified but my mind still numb.
And here I sit. With empty screens and a longing heart.
Waiting for my real life to begin.
Sitting in the corner of Starbucks it’s difficult not to notice how connected everyone is— by that I mean to my left is a lady on her phone and her Facebook at the same time, to my right is a man talking on his bluetooth and browsing the web, in front of me is a man on a video call, and on the other side of a room there’s an entire table of men each on their computers while respectively jumping from app to app. Even I am here on my e-mail and writing on the computer.
And it’s ironic how absolutely disconnected that makes all of us. I’m the last person who would ever jump on the technology-is-ruining-us train of thought, but I also can’t say I don’t see the fault in the whole thing. Doing things like going out in public, going to restaurants and sitting in coffee shops used to be about interacting. Nowadays, it’s merely been added to the list of things we do while simultaneously consistently being plugged into our phones or laptops. It makes me a little sad— Especially when I realize that a lot of the time, we use our gadgets to escape the feeling that we are unable to create a reality around us that we like, and it’s much easier to lean on our online or social media presence. So lately I’ve been trying to use my phone as little as possible when out with others or not to bring my laptop unless I’m working on something that can’t be done later.
There’s nothing inherently wrong about using gadgets frequently. It only becomes detrimental when we use them to avoid or replace really living or participating. So after I finish typing this I vow to put the laptop down, start a conversation with someone, and relish in the experience of having other human beings around me. If nothing else I think that is, at the least, a starting place.
It’s easy to get caught up in the mentality that we can never be offline or away from our phones, that, “But what happens if I don’t update my blog/Facebook/Twitter tonight?” mindset. And the answer to that question? Absolutely nothing. You meet people. You drink coffee. You experience. You live. And you go from there.
The Crater Maiden
There’s a girl in there, they say.
She lives on the floor of the deep blue lake, where the edges of the water turn black and boil. Where, like the albino salamanders and snakes, she breathes in air through her slippery skin and sees the shaded world through hollow sockets. Her solitary guides to the outside world are the taste of blood on the water, the texture of the weeds against her scaly palms.
So they say. Never loudly. Never sober. They talk only in hushed tones outside the earshot of children who have not yet learned to fear the world’s true dangers. There are some stories they tell the little ones, terrifying fables meant to make them behave. But they know better than to trouble them with the tales that are true. There’s time enough for that to come.
She collects the bones of fish and forgotten men, they murmur. The desperate and the unlucky — fishermen who sometimes toil late into the night, who sometimes fall. The fortune-seekers who brave the perilous waters of the abyss for biological treasure… Foolhardy scientists and divers who think they know what lies in the heart of the chasm, lurking in the shadows. Not one has emerged unscathed—and those who surface again rant and rave and refuse to repeat what they saw there, down where the water meets the earth.
Some repeat the tale they have heard so many times before. They say the girl fell from the sky on a moonless night, rocketing down with such force that she tore a rift in the very flesh of the world. Unable to escape the molten walls of her prison, she filled the pit with scalding tears and made the crater her home.
But others are sure that she was born there—formed of grit and muck polished perfect by the heat and heaviness of the lake surrounding her. Like a diamond. A pearl. A fossil. A relic of a primordial and ancient world, both savage and sublime.
Some nights, the fishermen see her rise, pale and white and hairless and terrible in her beauty. She rides the ripples of the water to the other shore, playing the sweetest melodies any mortal has ever heard. And if you venture close enough, they say, you’ll see the instrument she wields—a harp of tangled vegetable and shattered bone, what might have once been a femur or rib gleaming, wet beneath the stars.
They say, sometimes, she sings. And this tale is true. Because when she opens her mournful lips to wail, the wind carries the sound through the valley, rattling walls and shattering windows and mirrors. The people of the valley bolt their doors and huddle by the fire, refusing to listen, refusing to hear.
But there’s always one or two young men who heed the call. And in the morning, the fishermen find their broken bodies resting on the sandy shore… Boys reduced to bloody meat and skin, skeletons so deftly and artfully removed that at first it’s hard to tell exactly what’s amiss. No obvious wounds mark the point where the crater maiden ripped them open. As if their bones simply dissolved within them as they lay, sleeping, beneath the watching sky.
Every once in a long while, the fishermen find them still alive, writhing like earth-bound fish, gasping for air. It’s hard to deliver swift mercy, they whisper, shaking over shot after shot of whisky. When there’s no neck to snap. No point of purchase to grasp. No obvious way to tell where the weak hearts swim inside the boys’ shapeless chests.
Luckily, the dying never lasts long.
After she sings, the girl goes quiet for a time. The people of the valley fall into restless slumber until they can almost forget. Until they’re almost able to push the piercing cries from their ears, the closed caskets from their eyes.
Some have tried to leave the valley to seek their fortunes. To escape the whispers. To find a new livelihood. To raise their infant boys up to manhood, knowing no siren song will ever touch their fragile ears. And to forget. To truly forget.
But these wandering ones never linger long on the outside — for the walls of the canyon are steep and slick, and the world outside is cold.
young brother with eyes still kind; you have to crane your neck to meet them some days. he presses his palm against yours and smiles, victorious. his voice changes with the seasons. not too long from now he will understand your mother’s woes, your father’s aches, and that is the day he will leave you.
he will walk towards the outskirts of a city and rediscover the romantics and their whispers of innocence. he will examine his dimples very quietly in the mirror and imagine peeling his skin back, like wallpaper over a hollow, so that he might be able to store summer scents for bitter days. he will write a letter to you apologizing for the mishaps of your shared childhood twelve times, and not one will find its way into your hands. he will try to hold a human in his arms and when he fails, he will feel small and scared.
fawn grows bolder, steps more certain, learns to evade the glimmer in the grass. what once was a cosmos is now and has always been but a two-story residence, sixteen hundred square feet of anthill rulers, and a promise of eternal youth swaying in the breeze. if he returns home he may find god in the attic. he will not recognize Him.
and you will not recognize him.