This city keeps its own. The people here may die, but never truly leave; we are preserved with every cigarette inhalation of formaldehyde, every intoxicated exhalation of alcohol and ammonia. Each ingested breath of poison preserves another layer of our flesh, like mummies in a catacomb of glass and steel, huddled around our little flames in paupers’ graves. We shrivel, harden, turn to leather and dried bone encasing soft organs shrunk to black stones, but the city will never allow us to dissolve into dust and escape on an errant breeze. This is our eternity, spent clutching at our hearts in rigor mortise while the world stares in passing.
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.
…despite the blade, Tanim does not draw away, lets the knife edge remain pressed to his throat, his every breath shifting the honed metal. The moment stretches out, Daren unmoving save for the faint traitorous tremble of his hand, the rise and fall of the blade as Tanim inhales, murmurs on the exhalation, “Why do you hesitate?” Black eyes flick, sharp and guarded, to meet his own, and the trembling stills for a breath as the other swears through clenched teeth and the desire to draw back, the need to draw blood, “I won’t.” A smile, sad and wry, and an imperceptible twitch of his head presses Tanim’s neck against the blade, razor edge gliding through unresisting flesh; movement just enough to embed the knife’s point in a vein pulsing with each heartbeat. “We must.” He holds his companion’s gaze while one hand rises, curls over the elegant fingers wrapped in turn about the hilt, and draws the buried blade across…
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…
We three know I have nothing to offer you. I am so deeply in your debt, so unworthy of even the existence of that debt, that I am helpless to ever repay the barest fraction of what I owe. But take this, my darlings; not in offering, not in payment or gratitude, but in return, because it should always have been yours. Take this choice, the free will of which you were so long ago robbed, and do with it as you will.
Sometimes when I lay awake in bed at night, I imagine stabbing myself in the chest. I know it wouldn’t be easy, that I’d have to break through skin and muscle and bone, but in the middle of the night it’s so hard to remember I’m not utterly hollow inside. It feels that way, like the blade would face no resistance, just plunge through soft flesh and right into the gaping cavern of my chest. It wouldn’t hurt. I wouldn’t even bleed. And even though some small part of me knows that isn’t true, in the dark of the night I still long to take that blade in my hands and slice myself open. Even if it did hurt, even if I did bleed out, it would be worth it to feel something instead of this aching, mocking, consuming nothingness. I fear one of these nights I’ll…
You ask why I flinch from you? I flinch because in the moment I sometimes forget where or when or who I am. I flinch away instinctively to keep you from glimpsing bruises or scabs or welts, all the shameful marks and reminders of my subjugation. I forget such physical evidence has long since faded because every time I look in the mirror it’s all I can see. Understand, darling: there is no future in my eyes. There is no present. I only see the past, relive fragments of memory or nightmare as if they’re all I’ve ever known and all I ever will. Can you blame me for my shame? Can you blame me for fearing you’ll turn from me in disgust if you see how tainted, how damaged, I am? Yours aren’t the first hands to touch me, and some things can’t be wiped from flesh or memory.
What am I?
I am not fire; fire burns hot with passion but dies quickly once it’s consumed its source. I am not water; water hates to be still and must move at every opportunity, always seeking the easiest path no matter the destination. I am not air; air feigns stability yet is a heedless, fickle thing which changes direction and speed without warning.
Then what am I?
I am earth; earth, the foundation of creation, the vessel of life. While fire burns out and water flows ever toward and away, earth remains. Earth cares little for itself, instead offering its riches to the seed-bound possibilities slumbering in its depths, the cycle of lives played upon and above and, in the end, within its body. And like the earth I am nothing more, nor less, than the womb which surrenders its nutrients to nourish fragile ideas from germination to maturation.
[ 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. ]
“I’m scared. I’ve done it before, haven’t I?”
Do you see what you’ve done to him?
“I remember… I remember how the rope felt around my neck; how the blade felt slicing into my flesh. How the metal against my temple was so cold and the gun so heavy in my hand. I can remember, and yet I can’t. I don’t understand.”
The memories leak through, you know, like radio frequencies bleeding into each other. No wonder we feel like madmen.
“I’m afraid I’ll do it again.”
And he will. He always will. Are you proud of this, the spill of blood and tears? Is it poetic enough for you?
“I wasn’t always this damaged. Why is this happening to me? What did I do?”
Yes. What did he do? What did we do to deserve this?
[ I know it’s silly to be afraid of one of your own fictional characters, but fuck Daren’s scary when he’s mad at me. ]
Blood sprayed across the snow, anointing it with war.
He’d seen the doe’s eyes widen before he tore into her neck. She weighed almost nothing. He carried her back to a cluster of trees, heedless of the spotted trail left in his wake. None of the other wolves hunted here. The terrain was a jagged, uneven stretch of ditches and sharp rocks. A few of his pack had already perished while in pursuit of prey. He was the only one who seemed able to navigate the angles and pitfalls.
His sprint had slowed when he picked up the other wolf’s scent. His lungs were flooded with the air of danger, the presence of the other male, but he had yet to see him. He snorted the smell out of his nostrils and charged at the deer. This kill belonged to him.
He settled down on his hocks, the lifeless animal cradled between his paws, and bit into the warm flesh. The blood ran over his teeth and colored his flews bright pink. The neck snapped with ease and he lapped up his meal lazily. He wouldn’t be seen hurriedly eating. He had to show the intruding wolf that he didn’t feel threatened by him.
The sound of snow softly crunching beneath foot pads set him on edge, but he remained still. Then, out of his periphery, the white wolf approached. He kept his head down—typically a sign of submission—but it only made him look dangerously unpredictable, like a snake coiled to strike. He stopped just a few paces before him.
White and black. Stark and bleak.
The dark one slowly stood up, hair bristling, and hovered possessively over the mangled carcass. He growled. You don’t belong here.
This isn’t your place.
It’s my kill. His lip curled.
Nothing here is yours, you fool.
His hackles weren’t even raised. The white one wasn’t intimidated at all.
He clicked his blood-stained teeth angrily. Who are you to pass judgment?
Who are you to question? The white one straightened to his full height.
He instantly felt the tugging at his gut, the need to submit, to swear allegiance to this frost-white beast. He resisted it. You cannot make me yield.
He padded closer. I’m not making you do anything.
It was happening. His ears were curling back. It was harder to maintain direct eye contact. The kill that was once undeniably his now felt like contraband. The blood staining his snout had gone as icy cold as the white wolf’s stare.
He snarled. Leave me!
They were standing nose to nose now. The black one’s withers were slightly higher than the other wolf’s, but there was no question as to whom the authority belonged. He shook his head in a vain attempt to dispel the ever-increasing desire to surrender. The white one stood statue-still, the breath from his nostrils the only proof that he was a sentient being. The smoke swirled around his head. He looked as though he had wings.
He took a step forward. Do you want to die?
He dug his paws into the snow. No.
Then be mine.
He couldn’t fight it anymore. He took a step back and lowered his head. The alpha strode forward and began to feast on the remains of the deer. Shredding through fur and sinew, he ripped out the heart, anchored it against his paws, and began licking it. The dark one obediently stayed near him but made no move to satiate his own wild hunger. When the alpha was finished, he motioned for him to follow.
He licked the blood from his muzzle. Yes…my King.
[ GUYS, MY GIRLFRIEND WROTE A STORY ABOUT TANIM AND DAREN AS WOLVES, HOW FUCKING BAD ASS IS THAT?! ]
Come and hibernate with me, my love, let us dig our den and curl together, arms and legs entangled, breast to breast, breathing in each others’ warm exhalations. We will cover ourselves over with autumn leaves and slumber there as the snow falls to bury us deep, our heartbeats a lullaby in the dark. Above our nestled bodies the sky will turn and turn, the moon dance through its phases, and as we dream the winter will encase the world in ice and melt free. Spring’s first tentative rays will warm our blanket of leaves and yawning we will crawl forth, hair wild and nails long, to walk hand in hand through the waking forest.
A strange midnight, roles reversed; Tanim this time, slumped against the bathroom wall, elbows resting on his knees and hands dangling limply. Reek of alcohol on his breath, red rimmed eyes staring with pupils wide as dimes within a thin ring of stormy iris. I’d ask what he’s taken but in this condition he probably doesn’t even remember, the promise of chemical oblivion enough to drive him careless and desperate to drink and drug. “Tanim…” Kneeling at his side and he flinches from the verbal contact, shrinks into himself – clearly not oblivious enough in this narcotized state – and glassy eyes dart up, away, back, above sleepless shadows. Then: “Don’t leave,” he begs, hands flashing out, grasping for mine, gripping as if he has no other anchor in the swell of panic, “don’t leave me, please, don’t leave, I can’t, I can’t stay behind, don’t leave me behind, please, I can’t lose you…” a rush of intoxicated babbling silenced only by a kiss to his sweet-sour lips. Nothing to say; I cannot promise eternity, after all, no extra year or month or day, not even a precious second past my due. Trembling hands slacken over mine and a choked sob blocks his throat as I gather Tanim in my arms and he crumples, the bereft lover helpless against inevitability. Don’t leave, he pleads, as if I have a choice.
It turns out there is something more shameful than laying drunk and helpless in a gutter; laying drunk and helpless on the seat of a train while behind sit one’s own mother and brothers. There are many kinds of rock bottom, I am beginning to learn – too late, perhaps, but that remains to be seen. At any rate, this moment is a particularly embarrassing low: curled like a sick child in yesterday’s clothes, reek of drink and vomit on my breath, neither ill nor intoxicated enough to sink into dreamless sleep. And in accompaniment to the aches and protestations of my body, behind me is the constant cluck of Mother’s patent disapproval. Perhaps it is my punishment to remain just awake enough to hear the long list of my faults and failures.
“Perhaps he should see a doctor, Mother, he looks quite unwell…” Sweet, naïve Thomas. Too young to understand how properly ashamed he should be of his elder brother, or does he simply find it more shameful to drag me along in my current condition? He should follow Jonathan’s example of cool disdain.
“Ignore Stefan; he made his bed and now he shall lie in it,” And Mother chiding now, true to form, in her perfected stage whisper, the voice of drawing room gossip circles. “Sometimes I think it’s a blessing he shows no interest in marriage or family, who knows what sort he’d bring home…” Her derisive sniff curdles my stomach more than the stale drink churning within.
They think I do not care, that I feel no shame for my actions. But what if my actions are the result of shame? Would Mother worry if she thought this were a cry for help, or would she merely purse her lips at such unwanted drama? Lord, I could use a drink…
And now this pointless Paris trip! Why Paris? Will Paris be any better than London? Better food, better parties, better gossip? Every city seems much the same to me, Paris or London or New York. The very thought of braving my way through noisy, chaotic crowds of people makes me want to sob, to hide beneath the seat, to leap from the train and end this misery once and for all. Do they not understand I want only to be left alone?
Though… Peter is in Paris. Kind, gentle Peter. Lovely Peter…
No, no. Don’t think of him. Why should Peter do anything but turn me away, wretched and disgusting as I am? I cannot go to him for help or understanding any more than I can go to Jonathan or Thomas. Better to stay as clear of Peter as possible so his only memories of me may be good ones – or at least not… what I am now. If the Lord will show me any mercy, I will be free to hide away in our rooms and venture out only for another bottle or a dose of laudanum.
I wondered, in the beginning, what you saw in me. Not beauty, of course, or grace, passion, possibility. Certainly not a future. I thought perhaps the challenge intrigued you, but you remained long after I assumed you’d lose interest. So why me? What did you see? What could you want from someone so lacking?
I understand now, of course; you’re an addict. Addicted to guilt, to shame, to lust and loathing and longing. Addicted to pain and intoxication, masochism and asceticism. You’re addicted to anything that punishes you or lifts you for even a moment out of your detested body. So of course you’d be drawn to me. I am your greatest punishment, aren’t I?
Like a strange, warped mirror, somehow I showed you the self you could be with my help, the hideous new forms your addictions could take under the twisted influence of your love for me. You knew what I would deny you and what I would force on you without consent; what I would reject and take at will. How did you know?
How did you know?
Perhaps an addict can always recognize a new stimulus.
Do you know how often people disappear? How easy it is to snatch someone from their life and vanish them away forever? Every day. Every hour. Every minute. Gone. Gone. It’s so easy. Yet hope persists among those whose loved ones have been taken; a hope that somewhere these people still exist, that the world has not swallowed them whole but temporarily misplaced them and they may one day return to fill the ache of their absence. A false hope, this. Comforting and useless. The vanished loved ones are dead. Their bodies lay in ditches and dumpsters, at the bottoms of basements and lakes and ravines. Even if they live and by some miracle find their way home, the ones they were are dead. You do not return the same, if you return at all. You are still in your grave. You are always in your grave. Once you are stolen, you can never return. You are gone. Gone.
Tense in the darkness, the silence, Daren wants to swallow down the words but they stick in his throat, choke him, so; “What if I’m not enough?” asked with more hesitation than he means, winces at the pathetic fear in his voice but swallows and waits – for what? Admonishment, ridicule, misunderstanding? But instead weight shifts at his side, heavy gaze falling over him in the darkness, and “You’re enough” Tanim swears as his fingers find Daren’s familiar curves, trace his jaw, his throat, gentling the fear. Daren wants to have faith, wants to believe, yet even between clenched teeth heavy tongue moves to counter, “But what if I’m not?”
“Oh, love…” Exhalation and Tanim’s fingers clench to a fist in his hair, urging Daren to see the fierce, honest desperation in his eyes and hear his words, slow and deliberate, “You are enough, Daren. More than enough.” Tears in his eyes now, so embarrassing this vulnerability so he buries his face in his lover’s chest and murmurs into the steady beat of his pulse, “What if I never stop asking?” because he won’t, he can’t, and steady Tanim loyal to a painful fault kisses the crown of his head while as softly in return the promise, “Then I’ll never stop telling you you’re all I want. All I need. Only you.”
Love grows like a wild thing in my chest and oft threatens to break free from its cradle of flesh and bone, ribs creaking as they bend against the pressure of passion, the swell of the ocean against the seawall, and sometimes I long to succumb to this tidal push, crack open my breast, let the sonnets and psalms spill forth and sweep us both up, out, away until we float on strange seas below strange skies.
Wretched and ragged, winter rattling in his lungs with each forced breath, he shifts to hug bony arms tighter around his trembling frame, numb skin scraping against wet pavement, lips and nose traced by rivulets of rain, and when a gentle hand brushes back soaked hair from his fevered brow he barely blinks, too far away to acknowledge the voice murmuring urgently over the storm’s cacophony or the fingers pressed to his throat in search for the shallow, struggling heartbeat beneath, only utters an inaudible groan as steady arms lift and fold him into a sheltering embrace, that voice a soft drone trailing him down into the darkness.
I wasn’t vying for your attention; I just needed you to notice me. I needed you to need me to notice you. I needed you to see I was crumbling at the edges and couldn’t help myself, didn’t know how to hold together, how to show my true intentions or explain this longing like madness. I didn’t want to lock myself in a tower, but I needed you to be willing to scale the wall of thorns anyway. See through my façade. Draw me in from the rain. Take me away from myself. I needed you to need to rescue me.
No, no, don’t pull away from me; don’t let distance and silence fade me to yet another ghost trailing in your wake, a mere poltergeist knocking in the night. I would be greater and more terrible than any of your specters. I would shake chains of music, howl sonnets, weep lullabies. My fingers would claw memories in the wallpaper. Please, look my way, remember me, don’t leave me here in the past to rot and disperse. You need me. I need you.
[ More character questions from my stunningly awesome girlfriend! ]
How would each man react if he were approached by a mugger (both before they met, and after)? The mugger has a knife and brandishes it a little nervously. He says, “Give me your wallet.” It’s late and it’s a dark alley.
Before, Tanim would probably act completely unfazed, just sort of say something like “…really? Ugh,” and hand over whatever cash was in his wallet (which would be a considerable amount). If it’s late at night and he’s walking down a dark alley, chances are good he’s either drunk or high or feeling very, very low. Part of him probably wouldn’t be all that concerned about getting stabbed, though he’s got enough survival instinct to at least cooperate a bit. He might be a bit mouthy, though.
After, Tanim would probably try to act the same way, though underneath he’d be a lot more anxious. After all, he he’d have something to lose then, or someone who would be affected if they lost him. He’d probably hand his whole damn wallet over just to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible. He certainly wouldn’t try to goad the guy. I can imagine he wouldn’t mention the incident to Daren, though, for fear of being thought a coward.
As for Daren, he’d have no trouble in the time before they met. He’d probably just roll his eyes and say, “Do I look like someone that even carries a wallet?” And if the guy protested and continued to threaten him, Daren would just pull his own knife out. And even a nervous would-be mugger should be able to recognize the glint of madness in Daren’s eyes as something you do not want to fuck with. Daren would probably scare him off by saying something along the lines of “I have no qualms in killing you. I wouldn’t even blink twice. Is my non-existent wallet worth bleeding out in a filthy alley? Because if so, I will happily oblige.”
After he had met Tanim, Daren would… well, probably react much the same way. He’d have more to lose as well, of course, but he isn’t one to let fellow street scum push him around. In fact, he’d probably just be angered that someone would even dream of threatening to take him away from Tanim, so he might just end up pressing the attack, or at least the situation. I can see him wanting to punish someone for that sort of transgression. And he’d most likely still carry a knife on him, out of habit if not a conscious effort to remain armed at all times, and be entirely willing to use it. He’s unhealthy, sure, but he’s fucking fast when he needs to be.
Of the following “creatures,” which would They elect to be and why? Vampire, Wolf, Ghost, Angel, Faerie
Tanim would probably elect to be an angel, at least after he had met Daren. After all, he already considers himself Daren’s guardian angel, in a way; to be one in truth is simply poetic. I can see Tanim choosing the form of an angel in the hopes that being such a creature would allow him to truly protect his companion. As an angel Tanim would be able to keep Daren safe and heal him – both physically and emotionally, in theory. He may also be able to bring down some serious divine retribution on those that have harmed Daren in the past, or may try to do so now.
Daren would probably elect to be a ghost. After all, he already tries to interact with others as little as possible, and a part of him does truly wish he was nothing more than an unfeeling wraith. Ghosts do not want or need, nor do they have to rely on others. In his mind, ghosts are free from their mortal burdens and pains. As much as he loves Tanim, it would be hard for Daren to resist the chance to shed his nightmares, his traumas, his damaged body and mind. Plus, he could remain with Tanim forever, at least in some form, instead of being forced to abandon him in death.
High above, the eternal night, slivered moon caught in a river of stars; far below, the world spread out beneath his feet, muted city lights and asphalt webs. Faintly, the screech of metal as the roof door eases open, swings shut. Snap, snap of a lighter and the chill breeze carries to him the warm, acrid cigarette scent.
“Déjà vu, huh?”
“Repetition is comforting,” Daren muses in reply as he draws one leg up to his chest and hugs it close with both arms. “It’s strange, isn’t it?” Head tilted, he glances back to the man approaching from the stairwell, a shadow touched only by starlight and cherry embers. “Which one is your favorite? Which life of ours hurts a little less than the others?”
An inhale, exhale on the cigarette and Tanim sighs, a weighty sound, as he comes to stand behind Daren at the ledge. “I love and hate them all equally,” he admits. “Every life with you hurts. Every life with you is precious.” One hand lifts the glowing stick to his lips while the other glides through Daren’s silken hair and down the graceful curve of his neck. “I could never choose just one.”
“You would say something like that,” Daren leans his head back against Tanim’s chest, reaching up to pluck the cigarette from the man’s mouth. “Fool.”
“Always,” Chuckling, Tanim bends to kiss the crown of his lover’s head and murmurs into his fine hair, “Now… will you come inside, lovely?” A sigh, silvery smoke spooling out between Daren’s lips, and he slowly unfolds, rises like a crane. Tanim trails in his wake.
High above, the eternal night, slivered moon rising over a river of stars; far below, the world spread out beneath their feet, muted city lights and asphalt webs. Softly, the shriek of metal as the roof door pulls open, swings shut behind two descending forms. On the rooftop the cigarette smolders, abandoned.
Do you know why you succumb always to violence, my love? Why you strike so willingly to draw blood and tears and apologies? Why need cripples you like an addict? You are unsophisticated, darling. You’re vulgar. Crude. Primitive. You are ruled by your baser instincts, your hunger and lust and envy. You take what you want and destroy what you cannot take. No grace in you, no, nor patience or honor. You’re no more than a feral dog biting blindly with foam-flecked fangs. Intimidating? Hardly. You’re pathetic.
I have never raised my hand against you, dear beast. I know where that path leads, and it leads nowhere good for me. I am no match for you in brute strength, but what I lack in muscle I more than surpass in wickedness. My weapons are sharpened words, frozen silences, aching absences. My power lies in merciless truth and cruel deceit, quick cuts and slow bleed outs. I am refined. Elegant. Precise.
I am dangerous.
Tell me, my sweet – do you think the hound can stand against the serpent? Do you think the hound can sever the serpent’s head from its body before poisoned fangs sink into its flesh? Can mere brawn trump agility, blind instinct best cold calculation?
Let us test that theory, beloved. The winter solstice approaches.
[ Written while listening to Johnny Cash’s song “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” on repeat because this video is bad ass. ]
I see you in everything, darling. The angle of your sharp jaw, the arch of your cheekbones, the curve of your lashes. Oh cruel, lovely monster, was it you who thrust your blade-thin fingers into my chest to pluck out my beating heart? Or could I, hopeless fool that I am, have broken open my own ribs and placed my heart in your waiting palms? You are a selfish master and every precious piece of myself I surrender to you leaves a bleeding hole. You are a reluctant god and every sliver of myself I offer you aches yet I cannot stop giving, cannot turn away, cannot avert my gaze. You are everywhere, everything, everyone.
[ I started a Tumblr (basically for personal use) where I post art that reminds me of Tanim and Daren, for writing inspiration and whatnot. Y’all can check it out if you like; it’s really just lots of purty pictures of purty boys. ]
“You always were my favorite,” my lord whispers, breath warm against my ear. My lips quiver and curl back in both a grimace and a grin. His slender fingers tilt back my head to bare my throat, laced even now with the marks of his affection, then glide through my hair and clench—
As I grunt, a swallowed cry of pleasure and pain, Daren forces me to my knees. A distant part of me weeps for the sin of our love, the perversion of our union, but my darker, dominant side shivers, pleased at being deemed worthy of his attention. I may be a monster, but I am his monster, his servant, his slave.
When the blade slides into my skin, cold and sharp and beautifully painful, I can only shudder and moan. Even such degradation, when delivered by my master’s hands, becomes a blessing. Tears burn my eyes, heart hammering in my temples and chest, yet nothing matters as my beloved’s fingers fist in my hair and he growls softly, “You will always be my favorite, Tanim.”
[ I promise this is the last of the terrible high school poems turned terrible prose pieces. ]
“Don’t worry, I’m here to help.”
“Can you tell me your name?”
“If there’s someone here, please let us know.”
“Don’t be afraid. We won’t harm you.”
“I’m trying to reach–”
“Do you know where you are?”
“Why are you here?”
“How can we help you?”
“Knock twice if–”
Funny, I thought death would be peaceful. Silent. Sort of a nothingness, you know? And it is, in a way; after all, everything’s dull, gray, insubstantial. But it sure as hell isn’t quiet. I may not be able to see them, but I can hear them all – the mediums, psychics, ghost hunters, clairvoyants, even the slumber party pre-teens toying around with their Parker Brother Ouija boards. Every damn thing comes through on the crystal clear reception of the afterlife. It’s like living inside a radio channel that plays nothing but commercials, or a phone line that receives nothing but calls from telemarketers. I swear if I wasn’t a disembodied consciousness, I’d shoot myself all over again.
[ 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*
In times of torment I seek the solace of hymns and psalms, not to confirm to me my place in the world but to remove me from it, to unspool and unmake me until I am neither flesh nor bone, until I am nothing but awareness without corporeality through which the pure, weightless, judgeless music passes, its harmonic crescendo a fitting replacement for the physical heartbeat I so gladly sacrifice for this unfettered form, and along this cresting wave I am drawn until at its peak I am truly lost within the melody, no memory of the self bound by faulty heart, abnormal mind, dysfunctional body, and as I fall I am only the energy of harnessed understanding, that precious glimpse into an impossibility which in the morning, imprisoned and encumbered once more in an inadequate vessel, will feel so far, so weak, so achingly beyond this unworthy yet struggling sentience, but it is a temporary state of reprieve and too easily the silence takes hold and plunges me back into this inescapable moment as if I have only ever been here, mouth shaping words too good for someone so utterly lacking.
Filtered sunlight tints your pale skin sea green, yet you’ve sunk too far below the surface for waves to ruffle your hair or shift slack, suspended limbs. Even gathered in my arms you remain a thing of flesh and bone only, the hot spark of life I loved so dearly doused within your flooded breast. Oh, forgive me, my dear, my love. I arrived too late to save you; I dreamed too late, too little, to know you. Forgive me. Forgive me.