A rare moment, the calm after one storm and before the next spent in weary and listless silence. Head to Tanim’s shoulder, Daren asks idly, “Which madness do you prefer? Which is the least of the evils?” but “I’m not sure I’m the best judge of evils,”  the other answers with a wry nod to the bottle at his side, half empty or half full depending on the day. It earns him a jab in the ribs and, “I’m the only one who gets to dodge questions.”

“Fine,” Tanim stares down at the bottle, rocking it from side to side to make the amber contents dance. “I don’t prefer any of them,” his reply thoughtful, “but I think the quiet one scares me the most. When you’re not angry, not sneering or snarling, not fighting back or lashing out or anything. When you’re just still and blank…” His voice trails off and Daren laughs, or his rough version of the sound anyway, honest amusement with a one-sided smirk for accompaniment. “You prefer the times when I try to gut you to the peace and quiet? You really are a masochist.” Tanim ignores the last comment and shrugs, careful of Daren’s head leaned against his shoulder. “I suppose so, yes. The knife I can see, even if I can’t always dodge. It’s predictable. This… it’s like not being able to hear the ice cracking beneath your feet.”

“That’s fair,” The smirk twists, turns sour and oddly introspective. “I’m not sure even the ice knows when it’s about to shatter.” Tanim nods in acknowledgment and the silence expands once more until, “It’s never really peace,” he admits, unnecessary confession, “But I don’t want peace. Neither of us would be here if we wanted peace.”


I wonder what those grunge singers and goth kids would have done if they knew such gods as you existed, if they had been told their militant atheism could find a better home in your worship than in the denial of any worship at all. How might their songs have changed if they had sung to you instead? What fires might their rebellion have lit if they had rebelled for you? Death gods abound and always have, but there are none in any pantheon that light even a candle to your fierce and fantastic blaze. If things had been different, you might have had a following instead of a single scribe. You might have had an army clad in leather and safety pins, black painted nails and kohl lined eyes; an army fed on stolen cigarettes and hard liquor, energized by sorrow and hate. I just wonder what others may have accomplished with you to fuel their dark creativity – could someone like Kurt Cobain or Elliott Smith have handled you, or would your darkness have only fed on their own? Or perhaps you were there after all, in another iteration, another cycle, whispering the same wrenching dirges in their ears as you do now in mine?


Don’t tell me what happened to Amelia Earhart, D. B. Cooper, or the crew of the Mary Celeste. I don’t want to know.
Don’t explain why there are stairs in the middle of nowhere or plane-hungry triangles out at sea, rows of lights in the sky or holy faces appearing in rock, plaster, linoleum, clouds. I don’t want to know.
Don’t try to convince me The Wreck of the Titan was just some crazy coincidence or that famous black and white picture just a grainy snapshot of a floating log. Let some of the mysteries remain.
Let people disappear without a trace; let the wilderness swallow up whole ships, planes, settler communities, and leave behind only a word carved into a tree to prove they ever existed.
Let Tutankhamen’s curse sleep in infamy. Let the Chupacabra skulk through Mexican jungles. Let the Flying Dutchman live to haunt another day.
Is it so bad, not to know the truth?


Oh Lady, You must shake Your head at me sometimes, smiling fondly the way a parent does while watching a stumbling child. I never mean to doubt You, truly I don’t. It’s just that the world is a big place, a scary place, a cruel place. I can hardly bear to let any of Your children out of my arms when I know what dangers await them beyond my home; predators, poisoning, abuse, sickness, abandonment… I try not to let the endless possibilities run through my mind but it’s so hard when I know what my own species is capable of. I can’t help but think I can protect each tiny kitten if I just keep them forever. But that isn’t Your wish, is it? You don’t send Your children my way so I can shelter them from the world; You send them to me so I may help them grow, learn, heal, and then pass them on to their destined homes. I know You are teaching me many things in this process: patience; surrender; acceptance; trust. I know I must trust You to watch over Your children when I no longer can, and trust You to know to whom they truly belong. Like a parent sending their child off to college, I must trust I have done my part in preparing them for the world beyond my door. These little ones aren’t mine to keep – they belong to others out there, to children like themselves who will love and grow with them for many years. I know that’s right. I know that’s how it should be. And I do trust You. Forgive me when I stumble, Lady. If I fear too greatly, it is only because I love Your children so greatly as well.


Is this the winter you’ll finally tell me why the Moon killed the Sun?


Are you ever going to tell me?

Probably not. Besides, who knows why the gods do anything?

That’s a terrible answer.

Isn’t it better to get an honest “no” than be promised truths you’ll never receive?

I feel like you’re getting too into this trickster-death-god role.

I thought that’s what you wanted?

Yes, I mean, maybe, but… I’m getting Loki/Set vibes from you and it’s becoming a little alarming.

I’m well suited to the role, that’s all. Anyway, you already know the answer to your question. I don’t know why you keep bothering me about it.

I feel like every time I get an answer it just inspires ten more questions.

It’s been thirteen years and you’re just now catching on to that?


Muddled dreams; your fingers, the knife, the needle, fear and exhilaration; strange you’d choose these forms (yes, I know it’s you), suiting masks but so many meanings; lovers and enemies and one never without the other, by blood building a world to suit you both (or neither); so whose mask should I wear? the daughter, surrogate born in her own blood, so precious she should be sacrificed rather than set free (as if you allow a trinity); or the broken one reborn as avenging angel, she who managed to capture the Devil and would have held him until the end? (as if he can truly be held, ever); the dreams don’t tell me what role I should play; in them your masks are mine; in them the knife is dear to me, and I submit (you enjoy this, don’t you); but if I write about blood and feed you dark anthems the dreams recede for a time at least.


[ Writing prompt via my arch nemesis: “Mage does a pilgrimage through a desert temple” ]

This is not your land, the sandstorms wail. This is not your place, the blazing sun hisses. Turn back, turn back, the dry winds moan. You will not survive here, the jackals howl.

But still she walks. Across savannah grasses, rocky outcroppings, desert sands. Over dried streambeds and through wide, still rivers. She walks across the entirety of the dark continent, a solitary traveler beneath a wheeling cobalt sky. She could have sailed her slim black ship up the Great River and to the very doorstep of her destination, but then it would not be a pilgrimage. Every step she takes is a sign of her respect for another creature, so unlike her and yet… similar. She recognizes the similarities between them, few as there are, and it is for these reasons she makes the pilgrimage. There are few she truly respects; this is one.

In time her journey brings her finally to the first branches of the Great River, and these she follows north for countless miles as they flow into the larger artery and toward the distant sea. In this way she comes to the goddess’ city, surrounded as it is on three sides by wide canals. In this reality the city stands brilliant and whole, a wonder of ancient architecture and affluence, and yet also stands empty of human inhabitants. No civilians, no guards, no royalty or merchants or farmers. Even the grand temple, sharp and new as if it has just risen from the desert sands, is tended by no worshipers or priests. No music or chanting float from its dark corridors. This is not a place for humans.

This is a place for cats. She steps carefully as she makes her way through the city and toward the temple at its center, for everywhere lay felines of every size and color, basking in the hot afternoon sun. Some are small, domestic cats with triangular faces and pointed ears. Others are much larger, wild cats with paws the size of dinner plates and teeth made for breaking bone. They seem to exist together in perfect harmony; kittens dance and play between groups, crawling over sleeping lionesses and tagging cheetah cubs into the game. The heavy air thrums with the buzz of a thousand cats’ deep purring.

The cats pay her no mind until she reaches the temple’s entrance; here the doorway is guarded by two wild felines larger than any she has passed, one the tawny color of the desert and the other black as night. They watch her keenly as she approaches. When she bows her head to them in acknowledgement, they move aside silently. Inside the temple is dark, the cats needing no torches to see the way – and luckily neither does she. She moves as surely and softly as any feline, following the hallways and antechambers deeper into the structure. Finally she comes to the altar room, a masterpiece of architecture and beauty, and approaches the giant statue at its far end. More cats nap at its base, curled up on the stone feet and nestled in the crook of the statue’s lifted arms. One even bats idly at the ankh held up in one stone hand.

“Greetings, Lady of Flame,” she says to the statue as she bows her head respectfully. “It’s time we talked, you and I. I believe we have an acquaintance in common.”

The statue begins to glow.