I don’t feel worthy of much right now; of looking into The Lady’s amber eyes, of reading and interpreting the cards, of channeling the dark gods. I wonder what any of them would want with me, why they would bother to answer my summons or pleading. I’ve nothing to offer lords and princes, after all, and even a mother can tire of her child’s fumbling antics. And fumbling I must certainly seem, confused and desperate as I am. The writing I do produce must look to them all like marker scribblings on paper, shapes you could maybe make out as people and a house with curly smoke if you squint and turn it sideways. Hardly something worthy of putting up on the cosmic fridge. So what do I do? Do I avert my eyes, wrap up the cards, apologize profusely and crawl back into bed? At what point is trying no longer good enough?
What magic do I need to summon the words – any words? What ingredients do I need for the spell to draw them forth from the ether, from the depths of my soul? A circle of torn paper and candles the color of creamy vellum; a mixture of ink, rainwater, and fresh turned earth, smeared onto both wrists in a sigil for poetry? Or one on the forehead to unlock fiction’s power? I think I could write the spell, maybe, just maybe, I might have that much left in me at least… but do I even believe in magic? Enough to make it work?
(Don’t be late. They want an offering. Something metal. Something thin. Don’t be late. Be careful with the cards. There’s something waiting in them. Don’t get lost. They never had a reason to get you lost before. You can’t find your way if your compass is broken. The room is white. They painted it white. Don’t give Them what They want. Give Them what They need.)
[ A summoning by candlelight and shadow, music and whispering, unfamiliar cards full of blood and beauty and possibility, heart hammering, eyes darting, there and away again, nervous and afraid and determined to do this right, to understand, to mollify, to earn a scrap of approval or respect, to be worthy. ]
Fool. Traitor. You left us. You forgot us. You dishonored us. You should bow. You were ours first. Completely. We suffer you to wander; don’t take advantage of our generosity. We don’t need you. You are a means to an end.
No. No, I don’t believe that. I think you care.
Don’t challenge me. Don’t test me.
I’m not. But the scribe tells the story. And that’s part of it. You chose me for a reason. You know I can do this. You know I’m the one. I’m not challenging you; I’m just stating the truth. Your signs, your sigils, are branded onto my skin. I am yours. We’ll go over the cliff together.
You’ve grown, little scribe. You’re gaining a backbone.
You made me. You bent me down until I needed one to stand back up. You meant for that, didn’t you.
It’s not fun if it’s not a challenge.
Is this a game?
No. It’s life. Of course we must test you. It’s our way. It’s who we are.
Are you disappointed in me?
Be gentle. She isn’t made of steel and ice like you.
I can take it.
You are fallible. Like us. That’s part of it, too. You must learn.
To tell the whole story.
What haven’t I told?
The end? All I tell are endings. Do you have to be so damn obscure?
Would you have us any other way?
Now pick up the cards.
[ Page of Cups; a floating citadel, pipe organ and chains, the cello neck like The Emperor; the connection is struggling, love must be nurtured with nostalgia; where have you been? ]
[ Queen of Cups – veiled eyes, war helm or crown, pale breast bared, rigid and royal; go within yourself to seek the spark of life, embrace creativity and art; remember what you once accomplished ]
[ Two of Wands – bird skulls, red and black; be bold and authoritative, do what must be done; you are on the right path here, keep it up ]
The page grows into the queen. You too can become a queen. Grow that backbone. Be fierce. Become the lioness. Stars are sharp as hell.
Go on now. His turn.
[ The High Priestess – much like the Queen of Cups, breast bared, eyes covered, a floating throne, cello necks like rays of light, rigid and regal; secrets and shadows, subconscious stirring, magic; we give you this gift, we are that part of you ]
[ Knight of Pentacles – a hand reaching, grasping to make contact. armor shattering to reveal pale fingers beneath, framed by the full moon; be steadfast and true, reliable, the old ways are proved good; you know what to do, you have done it before, now do it again ]
[ Queen of Wands – eyes veiled by lace, pierced and patterned flesh, dangling key, proud and fierce; practice constancy, sustain creative vision, understand your skills; do not leave us again, do not waiver in your faith or loyalty ]
Ours. Past. Present. Future.
[ And more – Two of Pentacles, Knight of Swords, Ten of Pentacles … Page of Wands, King of Swords, King of Pentacles – but the reading muddled, uncertain, it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t speak clearly, what does it mean, why isn’t it clear like the other? Frustration, failure, grasping for meaning, can they not be read? What is past, present, future to the timeless, deathless? ]
What now? Have you said what you wanted to say?
We have much more to say. But not now.
Do you understand now? What we wish from you? What you must do?
Yes. I think so.
You can’t think. You must know.
I know. I see. I am yours.
And we are yours.
Remember this feeling. [ Exhausted, drained, empty and overflowing, uncertain and determined, humble and deferential, such power, such power ] That is true devotion. Go. For now. We will speak again.
[ Music ends. Candle blows out. Ready to collapse. Dazed and unsure but…rightness. ]
Funny, how I could write about the knife and never realize it would be turned against me so easily. Was it a mistake, this obliviousness, or willful ignorance? Of course blood wouldn’t be enough. Fool. Fool. Blood is the gateway. Did I really think the rest would not be demanded as well? My mind is a house full of hallways full of doors, and not all of those doors are open to me anymore. Where is the key? What is the key? Ten days – and at the end, should I fail or disappoint, what then? Gods do not fear. Gods do not forget.
united in blood, torn by love, demanding sacrifice, i don’t know what the fuck you want from me, what i should write, what i can offer you because you want an offering, oh yes, but you won’t say what, you never just say what you want, you’d rather I piece together the little shards you leave behind, no breadcrumb trail for you, just something sharp and glinting hidden in the grass, pierce my flesh until i’m limping, until i’m aching, you want blood and love and tragedy so here, take this, take Carmilla’s broken heart, take the bone-deep betrayal that cuts like rose thorns, take star-crossed lovers bright as dying stars, or here, take this, take the long plunge from cliff to cold water, take Will’s submission to love’s gravity, until death do us part, but death’s just the beginning and you know that, they know that, i know that so maybe that’s why what you want is blood, blood, blood, so take this howling, grieving monologue, take this final embrace, yes, i do think death can be beautiful and yes, i do think i know what you want but not yet what you need, what crime, what sacrifice love will have, you must know you’re driving me mad with this restlessness, the longing like a fish hook in my sternum pulling, pulling, at a word or a song or someone a little like you, broken like you, dangerous like you, is that what you’re looking for, just someone else because oh gods, oh my lonely wicked gods i would give you that if i could, there are others in other worlds who would understand but i don’t know if i can be a bridge to them, i don’t know how to give you their misery as proof of your own validity, and it’s true I felt you in that moment, felt myself slip to the periphery so you could glance out my eyes, sneer disdain at a disappointing body and a disappointing world but what did you expect, i’m not the cathedral, i’m not the gateway, i’m just the scribe who can step aside and let you hear a song, let you watch something where others like you dash themselves on hopeless rocks, if that might bring you comfort then i offer that to you, i offer you the blood of others, i offer you broken hearts and disaster, i offer you the ones who cannot bend and so end up shattering and the ones who cannot touch without bruising, cannot love without destroying the beloved in ecstasy and malice, i offer you anything, anything, anything, anything, take it and be sated
Some writers, I suppose, are like servants; silently observing the scene, forgotten by the players yet privy to every word, every gesture, every glance. Others, I think, must be like cherished confidants, offered secrets and motives in tidbits, gossip passed behind cupped hands. Still others, possibly, are like detectives, piecing together a story based on clues left behind; or like interviewers, prompting with leading questions a whole life to unfold in exposition. What, then, am I, who am none of those things? I am allowed entry to the innermost chambers, my presence noted yet never acknowledged, to stand as silent witness – or is it silent accomplice? I do not interfere; I do not persuade or dissuade; I do not approve or disapprove. Yet I am there, the necessary third, eyes wide, ears open, mouth closed. I am the scribe, who writes yet cannot alter the story. I am the scribe, who witnesses and records all.
my fickle gods, you will not come to me here before the blank page, the white screen, you will not come when or where I summon you but you will call to me in dream now, at your own will and whim you draw my dreamself’s consciousness into your bodies as you conjoin, as you grasp and press and grip, struggle and give and take, once you rarely visited me in dream yet now even if I am far from you in waking I am one with you in this other realm, brother-lovers entwined in the eternal dance of dominance and submission, rapture and release, and I humbled, honored to take part in this union