After the nightmare ebbs, Tanim holds me close while I tremble and it’s as if his arms are the only things keeping me from physically breaking apart. Without his unyielding embrace I might shatter into so many discordant fragments I could never be made whole again. Would it really be so bad, though, to shatter? To crumble into the separate pieces of myself? A shard of anger, another of bitterness, yet others of fear and pain and claustrophobia? Grief and loathing and exhaustion? They are hardly unified within me; perhaps the pieces are so jagged because I was never meant to be whole in the first place. Perhaps it would be easier to break apart. I doubt even Tanim’s firm hold can keep me together forever, anyway.
[ Daren doesn’t usually react to things on my side of reality, but something about the story of that imprisoned transgender teenager who escaped from a treatment facility (only to be soon caught) rubbed him the wrong way. Interesting… ]
If you want me, oh summer king, oh golden lord, then come and seek me; cast off your heavy silks, your rings of amber and tigers eye, and go slumming in the dark places; I am waiting for you in those cold depths, crowned in funereal ashes and buried in shadow, exhaling smoke with every deathslumber breath; take my cold hand, brother, if you do not fear the grave, and draw me out of this purgatory; resurrect your winter lord.
Over a glass of Angel’s Envy he breaks the settled evening silence, murmuring as if the thought has just crossed his mind, “You’re like a tiger.”
“A tiger?” I glance over but Tanim’s gaze rests in the hearth fire.
“Yes,” He nods once, sips his drink. “You’re like a tiger kept in some run down zoo, caged behind rusty iron bars and cold cement. You’ve been in there so long you’ve forgotten you ever knew anything else, felt the wind or rain or earth; yet still you pace your confines in endless circles, lashing out through the bars, starved and desperate. Instead of defeating you, the captivity only fuels your rage, makes you a feral, senseless beast. If someone were to open that cage for you, you’d leap at them and sink your teeth into their flesh before you even realized the door to freedom stood open.”
Tanim’s speech leaves a strange taste in my mouth, not bitter yet unpleasant nonetheless, and when I scoff, “I’m no tiger,” the denial feels false. He eyes me now, and replies with slow thoughtfulness, “No, you’re not. You’re far more dangerous. Even with that door wide open, you’d remain in the cage and wait for your prey to come to you.”
I have no reply to that.
The more I bleed, the more he drinks. Do you suppose there’s an equation to predict which of us will drown first? Blood is thicker, but whiskey burns all the way down. I’ve let my body waste, but he actively tried to destroy his. I wonder: if we could predict the end somehow, would we use that knowledge to change the outcome? Would he, knowing I might leave him behind, hasten his own demise? Would I, fearing to be alone again, attempt to tip the scales? Maybe it’s best this way, this camaraderie of shared misery, this fellowship of blood and pain. Maybe if such an equation did exist, could give an accurate sum, we’d only spend the time remaining trying to equal out both sides.
I have always been the Ice Prince: stark, barren, unyielding. It is a vast and empty land over which I rule, shadow and nightmare in shades of silver. Yet now you the Ice Queen too bear the iron crown, I see. Welcome to the kingdom, dear sister. Yes, we are kin, of a kind. We’ve the same black ice blood sluicing through our veins, the same bleak winter in our lungs. Your inheritance is ice and indifference, stone and storm. Did you think otherwise, when the depths and dark places have always called to you? There are no promises or platitudes here; only cold, hard, cutting truths. We can never offer enough, never fill the cup of longing, never sate need nor want. We are inert, hollow, unfeeling things, and even when we give it is always inadequate. We are inadequate. Frozen hearts, wasteland souls, impenetrable and deceitful. Do not disagree, you have carried this shard of knowledge in your breast all your life. After all, are the stars not hard and distant, no matter how brightly they shine? Constant as the Moon is fickle, yet both shed the same cold light, dead light, false light, are unobtainable all the same. So you. So I. So we. Do not deny the crown, Lady, should it slip and become your noose.
Do you know why the Moon first rose up to slay his lover the Sun? Some say it was sorrow or jealousy or fear that moved his hand, or that the Moon had gone mad in the darkness and did not know himself again until he knelt with the dying Sun in his arms. There may be a fragment of truth in all of these – does love not encompass all such emotions? – but I have glimpsed another sliver of truth. Perhaps the Moon raised his blade not to punish or sacrifice his lover the Sun, but to spare him. To save him. Perhaps the Moon wanted only a way for them to never be parted, to cease the chase which kept the lovers forever a horizon’s length away, and did what he must to change their fate. Can you deny that it is better to perish in your lover’s arms, rather than never feel their embrace at all? At least in death the Sun remained with the Moon, as the Moon would remain with the Sun when his turn came to embrace the blade and spill his silver blood. An ill fate, yes, but no worse than the agony of constant separation.
You must hold tight to the thing you love, for it can be taken from you without warning. Do you understand, now? I cannot allow you to be taken from me. It is better, this, than leaving our luck to fate. I spared you the blade, though, and I doubt you ever tasted the powder. (Though I wonder, darling, if even knowing, you would have drank anyway?) The Moon required suffering for his pact, but not I. You need not bleed, darling, only drift to sleep and fear neither pain nor loneliness; I am with you in this, as in all things, and I will hold you safe. You are mine, now, and only mine.