moral compass spinning free
black and white mixed to gray shades
Here’s the thing: Annabelle smells like lavender. And not fake lavender, like scented shampoo or the cheap body spray so many girls use that makes them taste like chemicals. No, I’m talking fresh wild lavender, wet with dew and everything. She smells like the fucking first day of spring. What am I supposed to do? I try to be good, really; I try to focus on the other students around us, bubblegum-scented Bianca and earthy Diane, Ellen’s fresh soap smell and Vivian’s musk, but my nose wanders until I’m drooling over Annabelle again. Unlike the others, her scent isn’t fabricated. It wafts from her pores like she has lavender in her blood, so strong and heady I wonder why no one else notices. I’m surprised she doesn’t have a cloud of bees on her heels, hummingbirds and butterflies trying to lap at her ivory skin. (Oh, how I’d like to lap at that skin…)
I want to forget about her, really, I do. There are plenty of others here who would be just as satisfying and don’t cause me any… unnatural feelings. But I haven’t bothered to change schools yet, or classrooms, or even seats; I just keep staring at the back of Annabelle’s head, daydreaming about running my fingers through her silky orange-gold hair (and since when do our kind daydream?). I’m not even being all that good, really. I mean, I haven’t eaten her or anything, which I suppose is “good” by certain standards, but it’s not like I’m not using every trick in the book to catch her eye. It’s like she’s immune to my charms, but that can’t be possible… right?
This is totally mortifying. I mean, it’s bad enough being a succubus who might, well… like a human (or at least not want to eat them because they’re just too pretty and sweet and their laugh is like– ugh, shut up!) but it’s even worse if I can’t even get them to glance my way. Every instinct inside me is screaming at me to ramp up the charm and hook this girl, my mouth watering at the thought of hot flesh and blood, and yet… the flip-flopping in my stomach isn’t hunger. I don’t know what it is. All I know is when I imagine the night of passion we might share, Annabelle and I, it doesn’t end in me sucking out her bone marrow (would it taste like lavender?). It doesn’t end at all, actually. I can see the dawn, and the way its light would fall on her pale skin, her upturned lips. And that’s the image that makes my stomach flutter.
Crap. I’m, like, the worst succubus ever.
[ EXPLANATION: So I had this idea for a Twilight shoujo-ai parody where instead of a male vampire who falls in love with the female protagonist and must overcome his urge to drink her blood, it's a succubus who falls in love with the female protagonist and must overcome her urge to eat her flesh. It's set at an all-girls school to which the succubus, named Remr'knali'v'sarna'nbat'shi (Remer or Bats for short), transfers in the guise of a new student in order to find fresh meat. The twist is that she falls in love with this chick, Annabelle, who is asexual and therefore immune to her sexy succubus powers. So not only does Remer have to fight her basic succubus nature and not EAT the girl she loves, but she has to learn how to show her love in a non-sexual way and win Annabelle's heart.
Hilarious hijinx ensue. Life lessons are learned. Unimportant characters get eaten. ]
What an ironic curse, a perverted fairy tale, that instead of a man turned beast to punish sin it is a beast turned man to punish the beauty foolish enough to fall in love with a monster. Hah! See how the bonds of affection chain not the beast’s hunger, but the beauty’s heart? See how she struggles not to free the humanity within, but to preserve its fragile shell without? A beast with the soul of a man may remember what it is to love and be loved; a man with the soul of a beast, however, is at core a thing of violence and madness, and no beauty may gentle its captive rage.
we are not living in a fairy tale, we are made of fairy tales, restless blood and enchanted dreams, your soul the brave knight yearning for a respite from constant battle and my heart the high tower within which the captive beauty pines, a wild thing caged with no room to spread her wings, and alone we raged and wept and bled to change our fates, forever to no avail, our aspects as incomplete as the sun without moon, east without west, waging separate futile wars until a twist of benevolent Providence braided our paths, fused our destinies, and now together our laughter and touch and whispers in the dark form the secret spell with which to break the curse on us both, unburden the knight and crumble the tower, so dawn may find our limbs entwined like the trunks of young saplings in a forest grown overnight
April 16th, 1912
I have only just now found time to write, it has been so very chaotic the last two days. How lucky I am, little journal, that I carry you with me always! I could not bear to think of you at the bottom of the ocean, all my dreams and secrets lost forever in those cold depths. But oh, how many others were lost in such a manner – so many lives we still do not yet know the full count!
I have never been so frightened, dear journal. At first they would tell us nothing of any use; when I asked if something had happened to the ship the crewmen treated me as if I were a child asking silly questions! Mother and Father told me not to worry, but there were many among us as restless as I. When it was announced that those of us in first class should head onto the deck (think of it! on such a cold night!), many people began to argue and spread rumors. I overheard someone say an engine had died; another that this was simply a drill and would soon be completed; someone even claimed we had hit an iceberg and were sinking!
At first I did not believe such dramatic stories, but then the crewmen announced first class women and children should board the lifeboats. I did not think, even then, that a mere drill would require such drastic actions, especially in the middle of the night. By then my fellow passengers were in a panic, and the rumors became truth – we truly had struck an iceberg and the Titanic, that purportedly unsinkable ship, was foundering beneath our feet. If we did not evacuate, we would surely go down into the black waters as well.
Journal, you will think me foolish for my actions, but I swear I acted without thought. One moment I was standing by Mother in preparation to board one of the lifeboats and the next I was running through the crowd, pushing my way back from the deck and into the dining room. I had to find her, journal. That was my only thought. I had to find the girl I had traded glances with over dinner, smiled to secretly as she placed a plate before me or refilled my glass. I did not know her name, had no way to find her on such a great vessel, but I had to try.
In the dining room, where chairs were overturned and meals left half eaten, the serving maids had gathered in fear. No one had told them what to do; I doubt anyone gave a thought for the staff in such a crisis. And there she was, my angel, my beauty, doing her best to calm her fellows and soothe their fears. I should have left her to her duty, perhaps, but as I said, journal, I could hardly think for fear. I grabbed her hand and pulled her with me, saying nothing to her surprised questions save that she must come with me, that we must escape the doomed ship. I remember little of our flight, only that her hand in mine was very warm.
Somehow we made our way through the crowd and to a boarding lifeboat. The crewman assisting ladies into the boat would have let me pass, but he held his hand out to my companion. Even with the deck tilting beneath our feet, still he refused to let my companion board with me, citing her lower class. You would be proud of me in this moment, at least, journal: I squared my shoulders, put my hands on my hips like any stern matron, and told the man this girl was my servant and that if he expected a lady like me to travel alone, and refused her admittance, then I too would remain on the ship. How white he turned, journal! Sometimes I am quite grateful for my station in life. He let us both pass without another word and we climbed into the lifeboat.
Oh journal, I cannot put to words how it broke my heart to hear the cries of fellow passengers as we watched the ship sink beneath the waves! Surely it shall haunt my dreams for many years. I turned my face into my companion’s shoulder and wept, and we held each other through the long, cold night. I do not know what I would have done, had I not had her by my side. We have been inseparable since.
Those of us who survived the sinking (so strange to call myself that – a survivor!) are on a different ship now, one that shall take us the rest of the way to New York. I have promised my companion she shall have a place in our home, for I cannot bear the thought of parting and swear to keep her close as I may. If this harrowing experience has taught me anything, it is that we must keep close the things we cherish, or risk losing them when least expected.
I will write more soon. You remain as always, little journal, my confidante.
You are your own card, last in the deck, The Deceiver with no honest man to balance your influence. The chalice cupped in your outstretched hands could hold anything; blood or tears or semen, wine or poison. Drawn alone, are you friend or foe? Set beside another card, do you muddle its message, twist the meaning of the spread? Even inverted you pose a threat, your proffered cup empty and waiting to be filled. You’ve your allies – the veiled moon, the crumbling tower – but ultimately you stand alone. Your very presence in the deck causes a constant anxiety, as if even when not drawn your power seeps into the telling.
Snow White in your coffin of glass
I have come to wake you
I will suck out the witch’s poison
replace its bitterness with my honey
and kiss your lips
and kiss your lids
and kiss you ’til you wake.
Sleeping Beauty in your prison of thorn
I have come to wake you
I will cup your face in battered hands
torn by vines and burned by flame
and kiss your lips
and kiss your brow
and kiss you ’til you wake
Shakespeare’s Sister in your unmarked grave
I have come to wake you
I will dig until my fingers bleed
unearth you from your bed of clay
and kiss your lips
and kiss your palms
and kiss you ’til you wake
I would venture into the dark forest for you, brave the monsters of which we do not speak, the old vengeful gods of sacrifice and punishment which leave their marks over our lintels by night, for in the light of day you’ll see they are but creatures of flesh and blood, as easily cut down as us fragile mortals, and cut them down I shall to lay the felled fell beasts at your feet, my hand outstretched, and when you join yours to mine I shall draw you away into the conquered forest where we will reign as kings, gods, lords of the green hall, and never more shall the shadows hold sway over us.
how strange and beautiful
our capacity to love
so many so deeply
for are you not sister and lover
swordsman and sun goddess
fierce wolf and, yes,
even that vulnerable
(whom I love most of all
did you know that?)
just as he is brother and lover
savior and sacrifice
tormentor and tormented
and the other
the mad duke
the twisted king
the ice prince bound in pain
so precious and so wounded
each one loved as part of the whole
and again loved as whole in itself
such love so beautiful and strange
that any heart may contain it
(and yes, dear sister-lover
I know what you wish to ask:
what do I see, who do I see, in myself?
but that is for you to answer
those ones for you to love or leave
for they mean nothing to me
You starved from lack and loss and they buried you in a crossroads grave, nameless, forgotten, but I have always known you and I built a cathedral upon that axis, monument and beacon both, sentinel and soul’s vow, and therein I have waited all these long years. To you, lonely spirit seeking the shelter of belonging, the embrace of completion, my doors are always open, and barred tight against those who mean you harm. Cry sanctuary! and fall into me, let me hold you to my breast and smooth away your tears. Specter no more, take a drop of my blood and a tear from my eye and resurrect like a phoenix from your ashes, sister to my own heartbeat, lover to my own breath. Be reborn as the goddess, the angel, the Valkyrie with blade in hand; and I shall be your temple, your holy ground, your Valhalla.
- The First Law Book 3: Last Argument of Kings– Joe Abercrombie
- Havemercy – Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
- Hogfather – Terry Pratchett
- Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett
- Mort – Terry Pratchett
- Soul Music – Terry Pratchett
- Thief of Time – Terry Pratchett
- Heritage of Hastur – Marion Zimmer Bradley
- Sharra’s Exile – Marion Zimmer Bradley
- A Perfect Waiter – Alaine Claude Suzler
- By the Mountain Bound – Elizabeth Bear
- Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
- Hastur Lord – Marion Zimmer Bradley
- The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller
- I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual: A Memoir of Nazi Terror – Pierre Seel
- Don’t Let Me Go – Catherine Ryan Hyde
- Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslight Fantasy – Terry Windling and Ellen Datlow
- Sorcery and Cecilia, or: The Enchanted Chocolate Pot – Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
- Into This River I Drown – TJ Klune
- Range of Ghosts – Elizabeth Bear
- Lord of the White Hell: Book 1 – Ginn Hale
- Lord of the White Hell: Book 2 – Ginn Hale
- The Archer’s Heart: Book 1 – Astrid Amara
- The Archer’s Heart: Book 2 – Astrid Amara
- The Archer’s Heart: Book 3 – Astrid Amara
- Irregulars – Nicole Kimberling, Josh Lanyon, Astrid Amara, Ginn Hale
- Strange Fortune – Josh Lanyon
- Red Dragon – Thomas Harris
- The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
- Freedom – Jay Kirkpatrick
- Unnatural Creatures: Stories Selected by Neil Gaiman – Neil Gaiman
- Line and Orbit – Lisa Soem and Sunny Moraine
- Every Day – David Levithan
- Awake – Brian Katcher, Robin Reardon, Jordan Taylor
- Story of a Comfort Girl – Roger Rudick
- How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity – Michael Cart
- Crack the Darkest Sky Wide Open – TJ Klune, Eric Arvin, SJD Peterson
- Greenwode – J Tullos Hennig
- Kirith Kirin – Jim Grimsley
- Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction – Steve Berman
- Wilde Stories 2013: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction – Steve Berman
- The Fire’s Stone – Tanya Huff
- The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury
- Fearsome Journeys – ed. Jonathan Stratham
- Brothers of the Wild North Sea – Harper Fox
- Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane – ed. John Skipp
- Men of the Mean Streets: Gay Noir – various
- So Fey: Queer Fairy Fiction – ed. Steve Berman
- Before and Afterlives – Christopher Barzak
- Time Well Bent: Queer Alternative Histories – ed. Connie Wilkins
- Hellebore and Rue: Tales of Queer Women and Magic – ed. Lisa Morton
- Love Devours: Tales of Monstrous Adoration – Sarah Diemer
- Project Unicorn, Volume 1 – Sarah Diemer and Jennifer Diemer
- The Dark Wife – Sarah Diemer
- Twixt – Sarah Diemer
- Death by Silver – Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold
- This is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death – Ed. Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki
- Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes: A No-Bullshit Guide to World Mythology – Cory O’Brien
- London Triptych – Jonathan Kemp
- Boston Marriages – Ed. Esther Rothblum and Kathleen Brehony
- Like Light for Flies – Lee Thomas
- The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy – Ed. Tom Cardamone
- Ash Street – Lee Thomas
- Swordspoint – Ellen Kushner
- The Dust of Wonderland – Lee Thomas
- In the Closet, Under the Bed – Lee Thomas
- Tell the Wolves I’m Home – Carol Rifka Brunt
- Two Boys Kissing – David Levithan
- Skin – Kathe Koja
- The Cipher – Kathe Koja
- Paddle Your Own Canoe – Nick Offerman
- Aisling Book One – Carol Cummings
- Aisling Book Two – Carol Cummings
- Aisling Book Three – Carol Cummings
- Shirewode – J Tullos Hennig
- An Arrow’s Flight – Mark Merlis
- The Privilege of the Sword – Ellen Kushner
- Fire From Heaven – Mary Renault
- The Persian Boy – Mary Renault
- Overqualified – Joey Comeau
- The Privilege of the Sword – Ellen Kushner
- Sabriel – Garth Nix
- Hogfather – Terry Pratchett
- Welcome to Bordertown – ed. Holly Black
- Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett
T’was the night before Christmas
The ground snowy soft
As Tanim sat drinking
Up in his loft
Littered the bed
And nameless ghosts swirled
Through the man’s head
He felt so alone
And though he knew why
He cared not to live
But only to die
Vice after vice
He tried to find rest
To numb the hollow
Of the heart in his chest
When on the balcony
There arose such a clatter
Tanim sprang up
To see what was the matter
Away to the glass door
He flew like a flash
Tore open the curtains
And pulled down the sash
The moon on the breast
Of the new-fallen snow
Gave a lustre
To the grey world below
When what to his wondering
Eyes he beheld
A dagger-thin man
With silver hair, felled
Stumps on his shoulders
So jagged and red
Tanim opened the door
Knelt down and said
“Who are you, sir?
And what is your name?
Can you please tell me
From whence you came?”
“I only know death
And I only know pain”
The sorrow in his voice
The man could not feign
Before he could think
Tanim drew the man near
“Don’t be frightened, sir,
You’ll be safe here”
The man, with reluctance
Gave Tanim his trust
He was tired of running
And rest he must
The broken man leaned
Heavily on Tanim’s arm
Who moved very slowly
So as not to do harm
“Daren” he said
“Is how I am known
I have neither favor
Nor grace to loan
But I am indebted
To you and your own”
To the man’s tale
Learned of his
Utter desire to fail
To leave the realm of angels
Where he was stuck
How he leapt from the sky
And landed with luck
On a loft in a city
Dreary and cold
But more stunning
Than his kin ever doled
Touched, Tanim leaned close
To give him a kiss
The fallen angel
Reared away with a hiss
“Don’t touch me!” he screamed
“You don’t know what I am!”
“You’re as shattered as me!”
“I don’t give a damn!”
Then from under his shirt
The angel drew steel
“Is this all a trick?
Are you even real?”
“Put down the knife
Come here and feel”
Daren stepped forward
To touch the man’s cheek
And found more
Than he intended to seek
The two men embraced
‘neath the moon’s silver light
And for the first time
Was a beautiful night.
[ My wonderful girlfriend wrote this parody poem for me for Christmas. See how talented she is? Now go read her stuff! ]
He pushes, palms to slick, cool gold, shoulders weighted with a thousand judgments as the gates slowly part before him and he crosses the threshold, blade in hand, staring straight ahead in defiance and denial of the knowing gazes all around, let them test his devotion, head high and heart a wild thing in his chest he steps forward without hesitation, as if he has walked such holy ground before, without hesitation or fear or intimidation until… until… until, oh, the sea parts and he falters, forever unprepared to stand as if naked beneath that dark gaze so piercing, he falters and the blade falls from slack fingers, and as the other approaches so he follows the abandoned weapon, drops numb to his knees with mouth open but no words emerging, so focused on this impossibility, the black eyes, the willow body framed in wings so white they hurt to look upon, and all he can do is reach his hands out to this vanished vision and finally utter the barest whimper as familiar hands reach to close the distance between them, the sound a prayer pleading just one touch, begging to let them come away from this place, their fingertips are so close and if he could just feel those hands one last—
He wakes, the whimper still on his lips, and turns his head to press his cheek to the cold white marble, no fit resting place for the living nor the dead, and fingers denied always that last touch reach up to trace the carven letters, Beloved spelled in a braille he has always known and would give anything to forget.
I will break down the gates of heaven
A thousand angels stand waiting for me,
Oh, take my heart and I’ll lay down my weapons
Break my shackles to set me free…
I’ll run, I’ll run, I’ll run,
run to you.
What do I want?
I want revenge. I want absolution. I want nothing. I want to be worthy. I want to unravel this world. I want choice. I want release. I want revolution. I want to wake the dreamers with gunpowder and flame. I want to feel nothing. I want to sow sanctuary’s ruins with salt. I want to break from this cycle. I want to lay a wasteland in my wake. I want to covet and possess. I want to be enough. I want to succumb to the beast I am inside. I want to force you to see the truth. I want to punish the believers. I want to undo every mistake I’ve made. I want control. I want to tear the wings from my back. I want you to beg forgiveness, weep at my feet, surrender yourself. I want to see attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I want to watch c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. I want to show you who you truly are. I want to deny the person I’ve become. I want to break myself open. I want to go down in lightning and thunder. I want to be something more than this. I want to walk between worlds. I want to be nothing. I want them to fear my coming. I want blood and tears. I want ruin. I want beauty. I want finality. I want chaos. I want peace. I want silence. I want one chance.
That is what I want.
there is no sound like Tanim’s loss, bereft of love, one half of a broken bond that should bleed from such violation but is instead so achingly empty, so undeniably gone, ceased, cut like light from his eyes, nothing on Earth nor in Heaven or Hell to match the anguished howl that erupts from more than mortal lungs, pours forth from body and heart and soul and mind all lost in the darkness as he cries down the Furies, the Hunt, the sky itself piece by piece with his agony, shattered by the Sun’s rage that is not the desire to punish what remains but the inability to contain the wasteland within him, no reason now to spare the world when his world is nothing, when he is nothing, when there is nothing, nothing, nothing…
“Someone Help Will Graham”
caged in steel and bone
the monsters lurk in your mind
wolf waits at the door
[ More Hannibal haiku because fuck yeah Hannibal, and also this Sweet Dreams cover rooocks. ]
[ The following is an Ovilus III session conducted in the location commonly referred to as Suicide Alley. Approximately one year ago police were called to the scene after receiving reports of gunshots in the vicinity. On arrival officers found the bodies of two men, one with a fatal gunshot wound to the chest and the other with a fatal gunshot wound to the temple. The incident was reported as a murder/suicide and since neither man carried any form of identification, the case was soon closed. In the past year many people have reported paranormal activity in the area, including black figures, sounds of gunshots and weeping, and intense feelings of fear, guilt, and sorrow. ]
(11:31:15) Investigator: Is anyone here?
(11:31:30) Investigator: Will you talk to me? Are you trapped here? What happened to you?
(11:32:49) Ovilus III: Dark.
(11:32:51) Investigator: Dark. Is it dark where you are? Can you tell me who you are?
(11:33:29) Ovilus III: Heavy.
(11:33:32) Investigator: Can you tell me what happened to you? Did you fire the gun, or were you shot?
(11:34:36) Ovilus III: Mistake.
(11:34:39) Investigator: What was a mistake? Did you make a mistake?
(11:35:43) Ovilus III: Argue.
(11:35:47) Investigator: What were you arguing about?
(11:37:54) Ovilus III: Struggle.
(11:37: 56) Investigator: Did you fight over the gun?
(11:39:22) Ovilus III: Trigger.
(11:39:25) Investigator: One of you pulled the trigger. Was it you? Did you shoot him?
(11:39:54) Ovilus III: Accident.
(11:40:01) Investigator: You shot him by accident?
(11:41:16) Ovilus III: Mistake.
(11:41:19) Investigator: Why did–
(11:41:20) Ovilus III: Mistake.
(11:41:21) Ovilus III: Mistake.
(11:41:22) Ovilus III: Mistake.
(11:41:23) Ovilus III: Mistake.
(11:41:24) Ovilus III: Mistake.
(11:41:37) Ovilus III: Dark.
[ At 11:41:38 the Ovilus III ceased functioning despite a full battery charge prior to the start of the investigation. No other readings were recorded, nor did investigators experience any other activity. ]
[ The Girlfriend and I love watching Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel because it’s an awful, ridiculous show. One of the devices they use is an Ovilus, which theoretically allows spirits to display single words on its screen via an extensive digital dictionary. Theoretically. ]
beware opening locked doors
every name’s a key
[ The girlfriend asked me a few more questions about my characters – here are the answers! ]
What rock best embodies Tanim? Daren? What characteristics do you factor in to make your assessment?
Tanim would be granite, definitely. Granite is forged deep in the earth through intense pressure and heat, just as Tanim’s life experiences have forged and shaped who he becomes as an adult. Granite also forms the solid, stable core of continents and holds up mountains. Likewise, Tanim’s loyalty and stability are the solid core of his relationship with Daren, the one thing Daren can always count on. In some ways, Tanim even resembles the physical properties of granite. From far away, granite can seem like a fairly plain stone, but up close you can see the beautiful minerals which form the stone. Tanim is the same way; he may seem like a straightforward person, but once you begin to know him better, you see how complex his personality really is.
Daren would be obsidian, without a doubt. Like granite, obsidian is a product of volcanism, but at a much hotter, more volatile scale – just as Daren’s past has shaped him in more dramatic ways. Unlike granite, obsidian is a glassy stone which breaks to edges finer and sharper than a razor blade. Daren, too, is most dangerous when broken, and must be handed with extreme care lest he cut you… by accident or on purpose. Obsidian is beautiful to look upon, but its classic black form yields no deeper features. Daren is the same way; he’s beautiful, but closed-off, showing only on the surface what he wishes you to see. His eyes practically are obsidian, black and hard and cutting.
Presume that Tanim and Daren have a long-distance relationship. What is each man’s preferred method of communication? Email? Phone? Text? Hand-written letter? Skype? Instant message?
Since technology is rarely mentioned in any of their stories, I hesitate to say anything that points to a particular decade, such as text messaging or Skype. Therefore, without those choices, Tanim would probably prefer at least being able to talk on the phone so that he could hear Daren’s voice. Tanim is such a sensory person that he’d need something beyond just text to bring him comfort. Plus, he’d worry about Daren if they weren’t together, so he’d want to hear his voice at least once a day, if not more, to judge for himself whether Daren was okay or not.
Daren’s not very talkative (understatement of the century) so he probably wouldn’t enjoy long phone conversations. Text is more his style, especially since writing out a letter gives him time to choose his words with care and hide anything he doesn’t want Tanim to know.
Name a movie that one man would hate and one man would love, and vice versa.
Hmm… you know, I could kinda see Tanim liking Bedazzled. I think he’d really identify with sweet, dorky Elliott who just wants the woman he loves to love him back, and whose well-meaning naivety gets him into all sorts of trouble. Tanim would sell his soul to the Devil in a heartbeat if it guaranteed him a happy life with Daren, so he’d be rooting for Elliott the whole time. Daren, however, probably wouldn’t be able to sit through any romantic comedy, especially one where the main character is so helpless to change his own emotions. It’d be just too sappy for him and he’d just end up rooting for the Devil instead.
As for Daren, I think he’d enjoy any movie with an unreliable narrator or protagonist, such as Memento and Frailty. Daren himself is an unreliable narrator, after all, since he’s so good at hiding who he really is and what he’s feeling. He’d respect that in a fictional character and identify more with them than someone genuine – especially if their motives were secretly harmful, either purposefully or subconsciously. Although Tanim would probably like those kinds of movies as well, I think facing an unreliable narrator would be slightly disturbing to him, partly because it would remind him of Daren’s more difficult personality quirks… and partly because it would remind Tanim of himself, as well. Of how easy it can be for his own mind to trick him.
What’s something that Tanim knows how to do but Daren doesn’t? And I mean something really odd, like… like Tanim can ride a bike, but Daren can’t. Or Tanim knows how to swim, but Daren can’t.
Hmm… well, I imagine Tanim can swim and Daren can’t, only because I don’t know when he’d have had a chance to learn. Somehow riding bikes seems… beneath Tanim’s family, so I’m not sure he’d know how to do that. He didn’t exactly have free time in his childhood; or if he did, his “free time” was the choice between studying, practicing, or shadowing his father. Tanim can play the violin, though, and knows all the appropriate fancy dances required of someone at his level of society, as well as the proper use of every tiny fork on the table. He also knows how to buy drugs, though I’m sure Daren could manage that pretty easily, too. And then of course he knows certain, ah… techniques useful in the bedroom… *cough*
[ My (insanely wonderful) girlfriend asked me some questions about my characters – here are the answers! ]
If Tanim and Daren were superheroes (or villains…), what would their outfits look like, and what power(s) would they have? What would be their kryptonite?
First, I think Tanim and Daren would have to be villains, not heroes. Daren certainly isn’t enough of a humanitarian to risk his life for strangers, and Tanim would probably rather stay in bed with Daren than answer his version of the Bat Signal. So villains, definitely. They would probably be a team, or Daren the lead and Tanim his right-hand man. I could see them as sort of Mafia-esque villains; debonair, not too flashy but VERY menacing, and more serious than theatrical. Perhaps their outfits would be matching suits, Daren in black and Tanim in white. Daren would carry some sort of blade, of course, and Tanim a gun. If they had powers as well, I think Daren’s would be something like the ability to call down darkness or to get into his opponent’s mind use their own weaknesses and fears against them. As for Tanim, I could see him with perhaps some sort of fire power, since he’s the Sun, or the ability to control weather (though I’d also love for him to be able to turn into some sort of huge hound). Weaknesses-wise, Tanim’s would obviously be Daren; he’d be helpless if Daren was in a situation in which Tanim’s actions could cause him any sort of harm. Daren’s weakness, on the other hand, would probably be capture. I can see him having a total mental breakdown in certain confined conditions, just from PTSD flashbacks alone. I think they’d make a good team, though they’d have to have a good reason to put effort into being villains instead of just staying home.
Remember “Toy Story”? Buzz and Woody have catch phrases in their voice boxes. So if you pull Woody’s string, he says stuff like “There’s a snake in my boots!” And Buzz says stuff like “Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue!” If Tanim and Daren were toys and they had voice boxes, what would their catch phrases be?
Best. Question. EVER. Also a tricky one! I suppose they’d have to have a variety of phrases; maybe a silly one, serious one, etcetera. Tanim would say things like “Hush, my love”, “I am yours”, and “It’s not an addiction if you enjoy it”. Daren would probably say things like “Fuck off”, “You don’t understand”, and maybe “You’re a fool”. (…of course, this is under the assumption that they aren’t, you know, kid friendly dolls.) It’d be fun if you could change their settings to different periods or storylines. That way you could have quirky settings like Victorian Tanim or Super Crazy Daren with associated catchphrases. Also, just think of the outfits.
On a similar note, you know how every family in Game of Thrones has a sigil? Like House Stark is a wolf’s head and the phrase “Winter is coming”? What would Tanim’s symbol and phrase be? And Daren’s?
Hmm… Well, first of all, it probably goes without saying that their houses have been at war with one another since forever, right? Okay. So Tanim’s house sigil would be a rising sun, and their words would be, “We Hold Back the Night.” Their colors would probably be gold and white, so he’d wear a lot of gold, amber, and rubies. Daren’s house sigil would be a crescent moon, and their words would be “Darkness Falls.” Their colors would be silver and black, ornamented with pearls and moonstones. Therefore, Tanim and Daren are of course raised as bitter enemies, encouraged to sabotage and foil the other’s house at every opportunity. And yet, there’s such a fine line between hate and love…
Let’s say that Tanim and Daren have each been sentenced to death, but for whatever reason, they can select the manner of their execution. Of the following methods, how would each man choose to die and why: lethal injection, guillotine, electric chair, hanging, or firing squad?
That… that is a really good question. I suppose it would depend on why they had been sentenced to death. I can see Tanim choosing hanging if he truly believed he deserved to be punished for his transgression, as hanging is usually a long and painful method (if it’s done incorrectly, at least). After all, in several fragments he chooses hanging as his own method of suicide. I could also see him choosing a firing squad for the same reason, and also because a firing squad and hanging are both very classic, antiquated methods of execution. They suit Tanim’s personality more than quick, painless methods.
Daren, on the other hand, would probably choose something with the most chance of scarring or disturbing others, as a sort of last “fuck you” to the ones punishing him. Something public, then, like the guillotine or a firing squad. Both of those methods also carry great historical significance, since they’re often associated with the execution of martyrs and revolutionaries. I think Daren would want people to see him die and to remember that image for years.
What kind of car most embodies each man’s character? What make and model are they? Or are they other modes of transportation (motorcycle, jet, bicycle, etc.)?
Well, to be honest, I don’t know much about different car models, so I can’t give you a super detailed answer. I’m actually tempted to say Tanim would be a carriage, or something equally elegant and historical. A carriage fits his outdated, Victorian values (in so much as his desire to be the provider and protector in a relationship) and is a somewhat nondescript, understated mode of transportation. It highlights its occupant, not itself.
I’m not actually sure if Daren would be a mode of transportation, simply because I can’t see him in any role where he’s serving someone else that way. The closest I can come to is a wild stallion (if you consider horses a mode of transportation), the kind of creature that can’t ever be truly broken. It may allow you to ride it, if it trusts you and is in a good mood, but one wrong move or word and you’ll be dumped on your ass.
I’ve never understood Romeo and Juliet. Am I supposed to be touched and sorrowed by a love so passionate these two shortsighted children were willing to kill themselves because of its supposed end? Should I weep with the knowledge of a bond which transcends life and death, trial and tribulation? Because I’ll admit, my eyes are dry. I just don’t get what’s so heartbreaking about two fools who chose the easy way out. That’s not love; that’s cowardice. Love is taking the blade to another’s neck, tilting the poison to another’s lips, protecting that which is yours by striking out at whatever may come to claim it from you, or you from it. There’s no promise of reunion in the afterlife or blessing bestowed for the ultimate sacrifice; there is only what victory you can wrest with blood and sweat and tears in this life. If I were to lay down my life for the man I love it’d have to be because of another’s sword in my breast or another’s bullet through my temple. Nothing less will ever take me from his side.
I have been to the place where the Prince first Fell, where he tore such a hole in the sky that the sun’s molten heat still pours through in blistering waves. His impact crater is a land unto itself, a waiting predator disguised in rubble the size of mountains, ancient layers exposed by tectonic shifts like the sharp vertebrae of the earth. Everything here is stark; the line between light and shadow, the shift between baking heat and freezing cold, the sudden swift wipeout of parched earth by a flash flood of tempest’s rage. Great black birds circle overhead each day and each night the ground dwelling creatures creep forth from their cool dens, eyes flickering in the moonlight. There is no land harsher on Earth and yet life struggles on in this place, oblivious to the workings of men or angels, and when either perishes here the scavengers strip their flesh like all the rest. If the Prince still walks this land it is in the rattlesnake’s venom, the coyote’s piercing howl, the thunderhead reaching down with lightning tentacles to scorch the earth.
Have I fallen down the rabbit hole?
Have I stepped inside the toadstool ring?
Have I been pulled into the world beyond the mirror?
I thought I’d be the summoner, not the summoned.
I thought I played the acolyte, not Aphrodite.
I thought my role was of fair maiden, not Faerie Queen.
I thought I’d forever seek, yet never be sought.
I don’t understand.
I can’t understand.
I am mortal and fallible and
not nearly deserving enough.
And yet I sense a goddess status,
a stirring beneath my breast bone,
and the old spiced blood beats once more in
a reawakening of someone something sometime long passed.
The moon to light the lone wolf’s path,
the candle to lead you home.
Is this who I am supposed to be?
Is this who you are supposed to make me?
Lay your offerings at my feet, beloved,
and I will kiss your brow in blessing.
Go with my protection.
Go with my guidance.
Go with my love.
[ Scribbled down the first draft of this at 3:30 AM, a time at which every idea seems so much better than it really is. Someone is a bad influence on my sleeping habits. ]
All in all, Heaven wasn’t quite how Dave had always imagined it would be. Sure, there were the heavenly choirs of angels singing all the time, but someone near the top row had a bit of a tin ear. Jesus was a pretty great guy but he loved punking on the newbies by getting them to try on his crown of thorns, promising you couldn’t feel any pain when you were dead – Dave had believed him, too, and learned the hard way. Mostly, though, he was disappointed by the food, or lack thereof. Not that he’d been expecting a mile long buffet or anything, but Dave had sort of assumed in Heaven you ate ambrosia or fruit from the Garden of Eden. Instead, Saint Whoever-Was-In-Charge-of-Dining-Services seemed convinced all you needed in eternity was… a cereal bar. And just to add insult to injury, they didn’t even have Captain Crunch. Dave was beginning to wish he’d spent his Sundays watching football instead.
[ My girlfriend requested I write a paragraph incorporating the following words: angel, tin, crown, and cereal. This is the spontaneous result. ]
If I were fair Titania
I’d spirit you away
and sorrow’d no more trouble you
among the court of fey
If I were Queen of Elfland
you’d dress in silk and gold
and be the fearless heroine
of every ballad told
Yet I am merely mortal
no royalty am I
and I have naught to offer you
but arms in which to cry
My hands will hold you gently
and wipe away your tears
while from my lips I’ll speak the words
to banish all your fears
I may not rule in Faerie
nor bend earth to my will
yet everything I am is yours
if you will have me still
[ Apparently being in a relationship makes me incredibly saccharine. Whodathunk? Now go read my girlfriend’s poetry. It’s waaaay better than mine. ]
Who are you today?
(My name is Will Graham)
You are not the man you were
(I feel like I am fading)
This is my design
(I don’t know myself)
Mage had been in the city four months before she saw the wolf. Four months of pacing the endless streets, searching every dark alley and abandoned building for evidence of the two men she’d been sure she’d find here. Four months of trading haiku and short stories scribbled on the backs of paper scraps for meals and scavenged baubles for a place to spend the night. Four months of disappointment tainting every glimpse of tempest eyes or snow white hair. Four months spent clinging to hope while she tried desperately to pretend this hadn’t been a colossally bad idea. Bordertown, for all its magic, for all its elves and shimmering graffiti and sense of endless possibility, was turning out to be just another crowded, overwhelming city.
And then she met the wolf, and nothing was ever the same.
~ * ~
Another day of failure. Mage dropped onto a street corner and inspected one purple striped tennis shoe, frowning at the spots where the rubber sole had worn through completely. Her quest had taken her up to Dragon’s Tooth Hill again in the hopes one of her boys had taken up residence with the Fair Folk. No luck, though, and after enough cold stares the girl had trooped back down to the friendlier sections of the city. Now, with evening falling and the bright city coming alive for a second time, she turned her attention to acquiring dinner and a safe place to pass the night.
“I lost my life that day and I lost her too / My glass is empty / I drank most of it down / I like the burn coating my throat / As long as I don’t feel the burn I’ve hidden…”
Mage glanced up from digging in her backpack for something worth trading and searched for the source of the music. Her eyes fell on a singer standing on the opposite street corner, an open guitar case at her feet and dark hair falling in her face as she belted out the haunting tune. In one breath Mage was on her tired feet again; in another she was crossing the street, pulled by song and singer both.
“Another memory / Another drink / More truth than lies now / I can’t stop thinking of you, of you / Can’t stop thinking of you…”
Bordertown was filled with musicians plying their trade and Mage had heard it all; rock ballads, rap lullabies, gibberish and mirror words and languages from lands unknown. She’d never heard music like this, though. This music was raw, brutal, vulnerable. Honest. Familiar, even, like something she had never heard but should have, long ago.
“I hate the memories coating my eyes / They won’t stop pouring down, down…”
For a moment their eyes met, ocean gray to rich velvet brown, and Mage felt an unfamiliar flush. Breaking the contact quickly, she reached into her pocket and tossed a doodle into the guitar case before hurrying away – a faceless man with the wings of an angel and a crescent moon held like a scythe in his hand. Maybe it’d be enough to get the girl a cup of tea or something. That was all Mage had to offer; words and doodles and fiction.
~ * ~
With a sigh, Mage turned away from the unnaturally red Mad River. It had been a good idea in theory; the lost and alone were often drawn to the river’s promise of temporary relief and she could picture Tanim seeking its protection from the ghosts in his mind. None of the huddled creatures by the river’s shore or hidden in the shadows beneath the bridges and docks had been him, though, nor his pale companion. As Mage trudged back into the city her broken shoe sole made a desolate flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop sound.
“You were so elegant and so tempting / I was so blinded and so wrong / What made me think you wanted me? / What made me think you wanted her? / What made me sacrifice her to you?”
Later on, Mage would wonder whether she had truly been wandering or if her feet had somehow known where she wanted to go even when she herself didn’t have a clue. Evening found her once again on the street corner where the exotic guitarist played another song that spoke of ghosts whom crossing the border hadn’t been enough to shake. Mage paused on the sidewalk and stared. The lyrics moved past and around and through her, speaking to the weary, defeated core of her heart.
“Something strange is coursing through me and I don’t even care / I’m lost in the pull of it all / Something strange is tearing through me and I wish I could care / But I’m lost in the pull of it all…”
Around her people flowed by down the street, Truebloods and halfies and humans, but the girl paid no attention. Every atom of her being focused on what this song, this singer, was trying to tell her. And not just her as the listener – her. Mage. This song had been written for her to hear, for her to understand. And she did.
“I saw what you wanted me to see / I played the part you wrote for me / Why did I think I breathed for you?”
Silence followed the final chords of the song and Mage found herself loathe to break it, too respectful of the mood the girl had set on the warm night air. Finally she worked up the courage to approach, a tanka this time in her hand, and as she let it flutter into the guitar case she asked, voice barely more than a shy whisper, “What’s your guitar’s name?”
The other girl blinked as if she hadn’t expected Mage to speak to her at all, let alone ask something so odd. Then a small smile broke over her face and she replied, “Pharaoh.” A powerful name for a powerful instrument. Mage approved heartily.
“I’m Mage,” She offered the name without hesitation, a first for her in this city of strangest strangers. Mage wasn’t her real name, of course, but she’d done her research before coming to Bordertown and knew what power true names wielded here. They weren’t to be traded lightly. Nicknames could tell just as much about a person yet prevented someone from weaving a spell around you. Spells. At least the stories had been right about those.
“Fenris,” the girl bestowed in return. Mage nodded. Yes, of course that was her name. It suited her perfectly, though Mage didn’t know why. It just felt… right. Fierce and wild and beautiful. A creature longing to be free. Even if you tried to choose a name at random, somehow it always spoke to some sliver of your inner self.
“Can I buy you a cup of tea? I’ve got a short story about a coral city by the sea I think is good enough for two cups, or maybe even some pancakes,”
And thus Mage came to know the wolf.
~ * ~
“There are specters everywhere / Chameleoned in folds of curtains / That are pulled back at six ante meridiem / They always come back / But the fire is so warm / And it cancels out the chill / From the lazy hand of Zeus / Who didn’t want the girl to survive…”
Arms around her legs, head resting against her knees, Mage let the newest song wash over her. This one didn’t want to haunt or condemn; it wanted to comfort, to inspire, to kindle a guttered flame. The sunset sank to chilly darkness but she didn’t notice, too wrapped up in the music and the warm presence sitting beside her on the stone stoop. For the first time since entering Bordertown, Mage felt no urge to wander or search. She felt content simply to be.
“Surprise / She had wings tucked into her jacket / And when she jumped / She knew she would soar…”
The song came to a close but Mage didn’t open her eyes. In the ensuing silence drifted the remnants of those final notes and she let them settle over her like ash. And then even they faded and all that remained was the sound of her heart in her temples and Fenris’ breathing beside her. That was a music of a sort, too, she realized.
“What are you looking for?”
Mage smiled at the question and unfolded as she glanced at her companion. It was rude to ask someone flat out why they had journeyed to Bordertown but everyone came looking for something – a way out, a way in, something stolen or lost or never known – so it was usually safe to ask about that instead. The search for, not the flight from. She considered giving a false answer, something cliché about magic or elves or something, but the fierce sincerity in Fenris’ eyes made her pause. Somehow Mage knew this girl would understand. Giving her a false answer would be more than a mistake – it would be a betrayal of their burgeoning bond.
“It’s silly…” Mage kicked at the pavement, searching for the right words. “I thought… I thought I might find them here. The Sun and Moon. Back in the World I could only see them in text, on paper, in my dreams, and it drove me crazy. I thought maybe here… I mean, this place is full of stuff that’s supposed to just be fiction, so I hoped they’d be…” She shrugged, sighed more heavily than she meant to, and shook her head, the peace of a moment before fled with the reminder of her failure. “It was a stupid idea. I should just stop looking.”
“No!” Fenris’ exclamation was nearly a cry of despair as she took Mage’s cool hand in both of her own. “Anything’s possible in Bordertown,” the musician swore, clutching the hand to her breast. “Your Sun and Moon are here somewhere, I’m sure of it. Don’t give up.” She hesitated, staring down at their clasped hands as if only now realizing what she had done, then turned her sweet, dark gaze back up and asked, “Maybe we can search for them together?”
Together? No one had ever offered such a thing to her. No one had ever understood why she sought, let alone who, nor how the longing drove her like a compass needle embedded in her chest. It had drawn her here, to Bordertown, to a place of danger and beauty and wonder. Could it have led her to this girl as well?
“I…” Mage nodded, swallowing the sudden lump in her throat. “I’d like that. Thank you.” They shared a silent, comfortable moment, and then Fenris freed her hand to take up her guitar once more. Mage watched her calloused fingers wander over the strings, mesmerized by their confidence, their mastery over this familiar landscape. She found herself asking the question before it even formed in her mind. “What are you looking for?”
Fenris just smiled and strummed the last few chords of the song again.
“Surprise / She had wings tucked into her jacket / And when she jumped / She knew she would soar…”
evil clad in silk
the wolf in bloody sheepskin
this is my design
[ I had a nightmare about Hannibal Lecter (NBC’s version) and woke up in the middle of the night to write this haiku. I am so obsessed with Hannibal it’s not even funny. Ohmahgawd. ]