Is the description of Paradise, which the righteous are promised, wherein are rivers of water unaltered, rivers of milk the taste of which never changes, rivers of wine delicious to those who drink, and rivers of purified honey, in which they will have from all [kinds of] fruits and forgiveness from their Lord, like [that of] those who abide eternally in the Fire and are given to drink scalding water that will sever their intestines?

- Surat Muhammad | Verse 15

It’s only in the third week of being on the run that he begins to write down the memories. The first two weeks, he was too busy looking over his shoulder, terrified that he would be caught–by his handlers, by the man with the blue eyes, by SHIELD, he wasn’t sure. He was verging on delirious with pain and exhaustion, fighting to keep running while his body healed from the injuries he sustained during the hellicarrier fights. The memories, when they did come, were confusing and terrifying and much too overwhelming, leaving him all but incapacitated until they released him back to reality again. Only when he can no longer taste the river water on each breath, when his reflexes do not recoil for every shifting shadow every hour of the day and night, does he find the presence of mind to desire a record of the scattered traces of history his mind spews out. 

Oh, but once he starts writing them down, it’s like the floodgates open. He spends the first three days holed up in an abandoned apartment in some large city–he couldn’t remember which if he tried–shaking off the vivid and overwhelming throes of memory just long enough to write down the newest thoughts. At first it’s all that same man from the bridge–Steve. Small and skinny and sickly, sometimes on the verge of dying with a fever burning him from the inside, sometimes raging and raring a brawl with brittle fists and endless resolve. Big and strong and miraculous, streaked in mud or blood or smoke, a flash of colours on a dull battlefield, emerging unscathed and impossible from a storm of fire, leaping headfirst into battle after battle after battle, curled next to his body in some frozen forest with a grin on his lips… 

And then the rest of it hits. Blood, and blood, and blood and blood and blood. On his hands, on his face, on his every inch of skin. Staining him through to the bones, until his heart can no longer tell his own blood from others’. Death here, death there, death again and again and again. Sometimes it’s kids. Sometimes it’s screaming women. Sometimes he can’t even tell, and that feels worse. Sometimes it’s far away, just a single bullet whistling precisely past a sniper scope; sometimes it’s close enough that he feels the blood splatter on his skin. He tries to keep those in separate pages, tries to keep the blood in those memories from seeping into Steve’s–but when his fingers tremble like earthquakes are erupting in his bones and his eyes can no longer tell ink from blood, it’s all but impossible. He has to give up on that quickly, and it feels like a betrayal; he spends that night curled around his first notebook, the one filled from start to end with nothing but Steve, and tries not to let his tears taint it. (He fails that, too.)

Once, he remembers seeing Steve in the middle of an assassination in Russia, and that’s when he realizes that not everything he remembers is true. He buys a red pen and goes back through every memory, every jumbled story dragged out of the dim vaults of his fractured mind, marking the ones that can’t be true, that go against what he’s learned from books and museums and endless Internet searches. A blue pen soon joins the red and the black, tracing uncertain circles around the memories that feel shaky and blurred, the memories whose truth are beyond his power to verify. 

It’s messy, with layers of ink and smudged streaks, with tattered corners and ripped-out pages, with fancy notebooks filled with crisp creamy pages and bits of napkin covered in tiny letters and food residue–but it’s messy like his mind, like him, and as terrible as most of those pages are, it feels a little bit like home. 

not 2 start discourse but pepsi should never have been invented it tastes like filthy river water and the only reason i’m drinking it is because the pizza company i ordered from didn’t stock coke and i needed something carbonated to write this essay


Stargate Atlantis 5x19 - “Vegas”

Fish in a pond, busy busy, lots to do, here and there. Dry as a desert outside, no place to go. Eat up, get stronger, think and hope, think and hope. Don’t look now! Oh, keep dreaming. There must be some other reason for your existence. Defiance tastes like life itself. No river. No water. Dry as a desert. Dirt is all around. The harvest moon is rising. Wraith are never-ending. I know the future. Come inside. I’ll show you your destiny … John Sheppard.

Ladies and gentlemen, your final Badass Woman of Polish Mythology: the rusalka. 

The fine people at thelithub are bringing this Badass Woman to you today. Here’s a taste:

“The rusalka is a water spirit who climbs out of her river or lake or stream and into a tree, singing a song to lure men to her in the forest. Some versions of the story have it that she can’t ever leave the water entirely, and must leave a foot dangling, or a lock of her long and tangled hair. She is always naked and beautiful, asking men to come feed her so she can take their souls. Which they do–poor saps, they’re often glad to. Sometimes she’s the remnant of a drowned girl, seeking vengeance: a riff on the Hungry Ghosts of Japan, but looking only for bread and salt. (And, well, the life-force of strapping young men.) In Dvořák’s version (or anyway, in the libretto written by the Czech poet Jaroslav Kvapil) the rusalka is an immortal who falls in love with a human man and ends up sacrificing herself for him despite the fact that he betrays her. It’s basically The Little Mermaid but with a desperately unhappy ending: she even sells her voice to a witch. And although the man dies too, the rusalka sends his soul to heaven, while she, for her trouble, ends up as a wraith.”

Enjoy! (PS: The Lit Hub is also doing a giveaway of The Daughters…)

Fiction, which is the ribbon pulled from a trembling mouth,
which tells its truth with such defiance
that everything forgotten will blaze, every joy burnished,
every recollection of unexpected flight shared
and passed from hand to cupped hand,
carried warm next to the skin,
recited for courage.
—  The Taste of River Water by Cate Kennedy