#1606 – Summer Solstice

A living room in an apartment in a dark city of glass and steel. Battle lines drawn, Daren standing rigid on one side and Tanim the other. Interrogator and suspect.

“So what will it be?” Daren’s voice flat, arms crossed. “Have you decided?”

“Yes.” Tanim averts his eyes. Answer enough.

“You’re going to do it, aren’t you.” Daren scowls, disgust in the curl of his lip, the narrowing of his dark eyes.

“It’s complicated.” Tanim’s hands open and close at his side as if grasping for words. Daren doesn’t allow him time to find them.

“Complicated!” A short, harsh laugh. No humor in it, only mockery and pain. “Oh yes, you would say that, after the promises you made.”

Tanim, head flying up, “I never promised–”

“Please.” Daren’s hand cuts the air between them. “Lying doesn’t become you, darling. If you respect me at all, you’ll at least forgo deception.”

“…fine.” Tanim’s shoulders slump, eyes turn away again. “I was wrong, and for that I am sorry. I thought we could fight this. I thought we could change the ending. But we can’t.” A glance up, beseeching, hopeful of understanding if not acceptance. “It’s a cycle, we both know that. It’s necessary–”

Don’t tell me she made you do it!” Daren’s voice louder than ever before, teeth bared and finger pointed in accusation.

“What else would you have me do?” Anger now in Tanim’s raised voice as well, an animal backed into a corner.

“I would have you choose me!” A step forward, snarling, all threat in the lithe form. “Or at least own your sin, you coward!”

Chaos, then. One lashes out first, or maybe the other. Fists falling, fingers clawing at flesh, raking eyes, brawn versus speed. Then the slim little blade, always somewhere on his person, and Tanim leaps back with a cry of pain. Blood running down his arm, down the knife gripped in Daren’s hand. One heartbeat in between; before Tanim reaches, before the thunder. Before Daren, mouth open in silent shock, looks down to the blood stain spreading quickly across his chest.

He falls before Tanim can catch him.

Blood washes away battle lines. Tanim kneels, the gun forgotten, the argument likewise but for the glaze of rage and disappointment in Daren’s eyes. Blood on his lips, he finds energy enough to draw breath, hiss, “This was your choice and no other’s.” Another breath, shallower. “Remember that.” And a final one, a struggle but he manages. “I do not forgive you.”

#1604

Beware the universes into which you may wander, Alice Worldspanner. I have seen the possibilities of them, and they are terrifying. I have seen the Great War, all of us standing side by side for once, and I have seen every one of us fall. Wreckage of ships and bodies, spills of blood and ink. The ocean is wide enough and deep enough, and it will be our graveyard. Should you pass into this universe, who knows if you might ever step out again? Even dreamdeath fragments us, and in just the viewing I feel a new absence in myself. Beware, explorer. Beware, seeker. Some doors should stay closed.

#1597

When I was younger, before my silence and resistance jaded the nurses’ treatment of me, they used to tell me that St. Anthony watched over me. They told me St. Anthony was the patron saint of lost things and so watched over all of us there, that we may one day find what we were looking for; health, sanity, family, hope, even the peace of the beyond. They said that every day, smiling as they handed out little paper cups full of pills: May St. Anthony protect you. May St. Anthony guide you. May St. Anthony lead you back onto the path of goodness. They didn’t seem to sense any irony in this, in summoning the blessings of St. Anthony when no one wanted to find us anyway and none of us could leave of our own accord. We were all in some way the abandoned, the purposefully forgotten, sick in mind and spirit and body. Society didn’t want us, was embarrassed and afraid of us in turn, and so we were locked away where we’d offend no delicate sensibilities. If St. Anthony was indeed the cause of our incarceration, or at least had yet to lead any of us to our better destinies, then he had a lot of explaining to do. St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things, of lost people, of lost minds. St. Anthony, patron saint of the lost and never found.

#1596

It’s a lie to say that monsters, real monsters, don’t exist. After all, you don’t have to change into a werewolf at the full moon to be ruled by your animal instinct, to become a beast of uncontrollable hunger and lust. It doesn’t take the bite of a cursed creature to turn you into a rabid dog; you can do that all on your own, by choice or by lack thereof. That’s the truth behind all those legends – we make our own monsters, gladly, willingly, and only after the adrenaline has calmed and the blood dried do we make up fantastic stories to exonerate ourselves. But I have partaken of that moment of madness and blood, and I know the truth. I know what I am.

#1595

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

#1594

Alice rolled over in the dark, reaching automatically for Muffy’s warm body; when her hands felt only cold sheets on the other side of the bed, she sat up with a frown. By the dim light of glow-in-the-dark stars and scattered fairy dust, she could see the bedroom door stood open. That wasn’t odd in and of itself, but a feeling of wrongness crawled up her spine and Alice had long ago learned to listen to that unease. Crawling from bed, she pulled on yesterday’s clothes, sword belt included, and went to stand in the open doorway.

“Muffy?” When no answer came to her call, Alice moved cautiously through the dark house, straining to catch any sound. She heard nothing but the sound of her own breathing until she reached the front door, which like the bedroom door stood open and empty. There, standing on the threshold and gazing out into the starlit night, Alice spotted Muffy’s footprints leading down the path – at the same time as she caught the faraway strands of singing.

The music was like nothing Alice had ever heard before in all her travels across the universes. It seemed as though her ears didn’t actually channel the music; it simply spilled through her mind, lilting and haunting, wordless yet passionate. It traveled down her spine like electricity and branched out into her arms and legs, urging her forward with a euphoric restlessness. She felt her feet move of their own accord, following the path Muffy had taken not long before. Like a sleepwalker Alice wandered along the trail, a distant part of her mind aware she headed unerringly toward the beach below the lighthouse but unable to turn her feet from the path.

“Muffy?” Alice called out again, alarm making her heartbeat pound so loudly it almost drowned out the strange singing. A fat full moon sat low on the horizon, lighting both ocean and sand and casting back long shadows of two figures down by the waves. The song no longer drew Alice forward; she ran without realizing she had regained control of her legs, the song’s control broken by her distraction. “Muffy!” she yelled over the sound of singing and waves. “Muffy, what are you doing out here?”

The fae stood knee deep in the frigid water, wearing only a tank top and panties, a look of dreamy joy on her face. She didn’t turn as Alice rushed to her side and grabbed her arm, only sighed like an infatuated schoolgirl and said, “Oh Alice, isn’t she just beautiful?”

“What are you–” Alice fell silent mid-sentence as she followed Muffy’s gaze out to a jagged rock in the water. Perched atop it sat a girl – or at least part of the creature was a girl. Its top half was the upper body of a human girl, pale and naked, her eyes like glowing amber and her long hair glossy black. Yet where her legs should have begun her skin met scaly, dark blue flesh in a sinuous striped tail which wrapped several times around the rock. Her rosy lips parted as she sang, one supple arm stretching out to beckon Muffy closer.

“She says I can have a kiss!” Muffy managed to pull out of Alice’s grasp as she rushed forward through the water, her own arms held up to the beautiful woman. As Alice lunged to grab Muffy, she glanced to the creature long enough to watch the rounded mouth spread wide in a hungry smile filled with thin, sharp teeth. In the same instant the creature dove from the rock with a flick of its long tail, fingers outstretched to reach Muffy first.

“Muffy, no!” With one hand Alice yanked Muffy back, the other drawing her sword to thrust the blade between themselves and the approaching creature. It drew up just short of the sword’s point, tail lashing through the waves and lips drawn back in a frustrated hiss. Even as Muffy begged, “But Alice, I want a kiss from her! She’s so pretty!” Alice pulled her back toward the shore, swinging her sword back and forth like a lit torch to keep back the beast. When they reached the beach the creature gave another angry hiss and disappeared into the waves.

“Come on, honey, let’s get away from here…” Alice wrapped an arm around Muffy’s wet waist, keeping her sword drawn until she could be sure nothing else would leap out of the darkness. Muffy allowed herself to be lead back up the path, yet kept casting glances back to the waves with a forlorn look on her face. “But she was so pretty…” she pouted. Alice merely nodded wearily. “Yes, she was certainly… er… something.”

Miles offshore, the siren sank her claws into black painted wood and hauled herself up the side of the ship, slipping over the railing in a spill of scaly tail. Mage sauntered down from the helm, eyes gleaming with excitement. “How did it go?” she asked. The siren scowled as she gathered her tail into a coil beneath herself. “My song didn’t work on the dark haired one long enough,” she hissed. “She broke its control and intervened. I lost them both.”

“Alice!” Mage spat the name like a curse. “I should have known. Fucking asexuals – present company excluded, of course. I just thought perhaps…” She waved her hand dismissively and sighed. “Ah, oh well. It was worth a try. We’ll get them next time, my dear.” She leaned down, planting a kiss on the siren’s smooth cheek.

#1589

She doesn’t knock. She doesn’t have to. Daren senses her presence somehow, not so much a tingling on the back of his neck as a disturbance in the air of laughter unheard. Blade held down at his side, he makes his way to the door and opens it part way, one foot positioned to block it from being pushed farther. “What are you doing here?” he demands flatly.

“Is that any way to greet me after so many years, brother?” The woman on the other side of the door frowns as if injured by his callous greeting. “I thought you’d be happy to see me.” Daren sighs, keeping a firm grip on the door handle with one hand and his knife with the other – still out of sight, though he has no doubt she expects him to be carrying it. “What are you doing here, Mage?” he asks, trying for a slightly more civil, though no less threatening, tone.

“I’ve been worried about you, of course,” She lays a hand over her breast as a show of sincerity and he almost laughs aloud – like she even has a heart in there. “I wanted to see how you’ve fared since we both got out of that awful place. You’ve been terribly hard to find of late, you know. You were living on your own for some time,” she inches closer, lowers her voice with a smirk, “but that’s not true anymore, is it?”

“Leave him out of this,” Daren snarls before he can bite back the response. Mage chuckles, her smile smoothing sweetly. “He’s very handsome, this friend of yours. And he must be rather rich, too,” she adds, eying the glimpse of the apartment she can see past Daren. “I wonder what he sees in you, Brother?”

“Call me that again and you’ll have a knife in your throat,” He moves his hand just enough to catch light on the blade held at his side. Mage’s cool green eyes flicker to the blade and back and she laughs delightedly. “Such a temper! They couldn’t break you of that, could they? Good,” her eyes narrow, a feral grin he knows too well, “I like your anger. It suits you.”

Daren refuses to rise to the bait this time. “You should leave,” he growls. “Now.”

“I see your hospitality hasn’t improved much,” Mage shakes her head woefully. “Won’t you even invite me in? Offer me a drink for old times’ sake?” When Daren doesn’t respond she sighs, pouting her disappointment like a child denied a toy. “Fine, I’ll go. But do say hello to your companion for me, won’t you?”

“Fuck off,” Daren slams the door in her face, a gesture of finality and dismissal that betrays his unease. As he pockets the knife he hears her laugh softly on the other side of the door and murmur, “See you around, brother dear.”