#1797

From your iron tomb beneath the sea, break forth and seek the sky. Wings full of darkness, mouth full of blood, cast wide your arms and show them how death feels. Breathe fire and ruin; spread pestilence and plague. Devastate the unworthy world  and in its ashes embrace your lover.

Sin is risen. The bad gods are coming.

#1791

“What do you mean, you’re not coming back?” Anna stopped cold in the corridor, staring after her girlfriend as if not quite believing what she had heard. Jessryn turned back to see she had stopped walking, then took hold of her robe and pulled her to one side. “Are you telling me are?” she whispered furiously, keeping her voice low so as not to be heard over the sound of students moving between classes. “Of course!” Anna made no such attempt. “We have to!”

“It’s not our fight, Anna,” Jessryn glanced around, but no one seemed to be eavesdropping on their conversation. She moved closer to Anna and lowered her voice further, just in case. “My family’s going into hiding once the school year’s over. They want to wait for things to calm down, or fall out, or whatever’s going to happen. It’s not safe here anymore, not at Hogwarts and not in this country; I doubt even this continent. I don’t know where we’ll go, but you can bet it will be far, far away from here.” She cupped Anna’s face in one slightly trembling hand. “You should come with us. You’d be safer.”

“I’m not running away like a coward,” Anna stuck her bottom lip out, a stubborn expression Jessryn normally adored – now it only made her go cold. “So I’m a coward?” she asked, dropping her hand. Anna’s mouth fell open. “No! No, I just mean… this is our school. It’s been like a home to us the last six years. If it comes to a fight, shouldn’t we defend it?”

“Not if it costs us our lives,” Jessryn turned away, desperate to end the conversation. They rarely quarreled, and never over anything this serious; neither of them was saying what they really meant, or how they really felt. “I don’t want to talk about this right now. We’ll be late for Potions.” And with that she stalked off down the hallway, willing herself not to listen to check if Anna followed.

#1787

“That was… unsettlingly close,” Daren brushed ash and embers from his clothing as he stepped out onto the roof. Beside him, Tanim nodded in agreement. “Isn’t it always?” He seemed distracted, staring at something over Daren’s shoulder, and the younger man turned to see what had caught his attention. His shoulders sagged. “Is that…”

“Tornado?” Tanim nodded again in a matter-of-fact manner that belied the danger of their newest threat. “Yes. Yes, I believe so.” Although they stood on the roof of a towering skyscraper, a forest of other building spires surrounding them in all directions, a dark, fat funnel of wind roared not far away. As it rolled its way toward them, it chewed up buildings and streets alike, leaving nothing but rubble in its wake.

“Okay,” Daren turned away from the tornado with a sigh of unwilling acceptance. “Cool. And that?” He pointed upwards to where the dark clouds, from which the twister had been birthed, were bubbling and roiling like boiling water. Amid the movement the broad edge of some spacecraft could be seen; it took up half the sky, and beside it the tornado seemed a paltry risk. Tanim stared at the ship that was clearly out of the trailer for Independence Day: Resurrection and commented mildly, “You know… it occurs to me that we might not make it out of this one. She’s not that good.”

“Time to wake up?” Daren suggested, indicating with a nod the direction where there were, as yet, no new surprises – though a distant glint implied a tsunami might be approaching. Giving the impending warship one final wary glance, Tanim mumbled, “sounds good,” and followed Daren to the roof ledge. Without any parting words or declarations of love, he pushed Daren over the edge, then closed his eyes and let the dreamer take over as he fell as well. At least she was good at slipping out of dreams when necessary, even if it was her own mind that conjured the various disasters and threats they faced.

#1786

If this is the apocalypse, it’s not so bad. Don’t get me wrong, I mean, the power’s been out for weeks now and the whole city smells like unflushed toilets and burning trash. Most of the defensible buildings and hiding spots have been claimed, boarded up, and packed full of whatever supplies and weapon-like objects could be lifted from the non-defensible buildings. The sky’s a uniform gray because it snows non-stop, or just about, and if you don’t watch your step you’ll break through snow and ice and fall down an entire subway stairwell – and that’s if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky, you’ll step on the squishy flesh of a buried dead and it’ll grab your ankle before you can right yourself. They eat better than any of the living, these days. Except maybe the wolves.

So I mean, it’s not pleasant or anything. It’s just not as bad as I guess I always thought it would be. I holed up in some ground floor apartment in the university district, just one bedroom and one bathroom, and I share it with five others. We aren’t best friends, but we get along okay as long as no one tells the blond chick to stop being so bossy. The girls sleep in the bedroom, of course, and us guys on the cheap carpet in the living room. At night you can hear the dead shuffling around and you have to keep pretty quiet, but as long as you only light the one lantern, you can at least play cards.

That’s all beside the point, though, because what I really mean when I say it isn’t so bad is, well, her. Not the blond one, the other one, with the flaming red hair and the eyes that can be hard as steel when she needs. Man, that hair stands out like a torch when we’re out in the cold, gray city. You’d think that would make her a target, make her want to cover up, but no, she just stands there like some Amazon. If the dead could feel anything, I know they’d fear her. As it is, the living don’t mess with her much, and so they don’t mess with us much either. It’s nice. I mean, there’s nowhere to take a girl out now and where would it lead anyway, marriage? Yeah, we’re gonna settle down in a nice little place off the collapsed viaduct. Have an indoor pool and everything – you know, because the house is half under water.

So anyway, like I said before, it’s not great. I’m just saying I never woulda met her if the world hadn’t come crashing down around us all. Gotta find the silver lining in this sorta thing, right?

#1785

“Tanim, are you even listening to me?” Catherine glared from the bathroom doorway, fingers sliding a pearl earring expertly through her earlobe. Tanim glanced up from his phone but his unfocused eyes clearly did not register his wife’s irritation. “Yes, dear,” he replied absently, already looking back down at the screen, “the dinner tonight… seven…” Why wasn’t Daren responding? What was taking him so long? Restless with anxiety, Tanim began pacing the living room, eyes darting from the phone to the window and back again as if the message might magically appear in either. On his second pass his subconscious registered something odd and he stopped mid-stride, staring out at the city spread below. What had he seen? Nothing appeared out of order, just the usual view of other high rises and polished towers, faintly obscured to the right by encroaching morning fog.

No, not fog. Too dark. Too substantial.

Tanim’s gut clenched. It was smoke. Smoke, drifting westward from somewhere east of their building, its density suggesting the source could not be that far away. Dropping the phone in his haste, Tanim ran for the door just as Catherine entered the living room. “Tanim, what’s going on?” Her startled voice was muffled by the pounding of his heart. He neither bothered to reply nor even close the front door as he ran down the hallway, foregoing the elevators in favor of taking the stairs down two at a time. When he finally reached the ground floor and burst out onto the street, the scent of burning wood and less natural materials confirmed his first suspicion.

His second suspicion, one based more on irrational fear than any real evidence, became steadily more likely as he took off in the direction of the smoke. With each block the haze grew thicker and it wasn’t long before Tanim could hear the wail of sirens; an ambulance passed him as he ran, heading toward his same destination, and within minutes another passed going the opposite direction. Breathless both from running and from the tainted air, Tanim could barely keep his legs moving as he rounded the final corner. Facing now the source of the smoke, he froze. He was right, though there had been no reason to think–

Fire had gutted and blackened the old brick building. Every window had broken, either from the force of the blaze or by the firemen who still swarmed over the lot. Soot darkened the brick and covered the scorched grass, flakes of ash still drifting out the windows and settling onto Tanim’s hair and skin. For a moment Tanim simply stood on the sidewalk, staring numbly at the wreckage. Then the anxiety that had for a moment been smothered by dread flared to life again and his mind began whirring. Heavily suited firemen still patrolled the grounds, moving in and out of the building’s battered front doors with caution, and paramedics moved between them, tending to the wounded at a temporary triage center set up in the parking lot. But there weren’t many wounded, it looked like, and more bodies were covered in white sheets than laying upon them.

Tanim began running again without realizing his feet had ever left the ground; he only registered his action when a gloved hand smacked into his chest, preventing him from broaching the scene any father. The fireman must have said something but Tanim wasn’t listening, had already started demanding to know what had happened, how many had died, who lay among the injured. Only when the fireman grasped Tanim’s collar and shook him hard, repeating, “SON! You need to calm down!” did he pause for breath. The man eyed him, seemed to accept his hysteria as true concern and not an attempt at voyeurism, then gestured over to one of the paramedics. The other man approached, a clipboard in one hand, and the fireman released Tanim’s shirt. “He’s looking for someone,” he said by way of introduction, then turned and resumed his work.

“What’s the name?” The paramedic was consulting what appeared to be a list of the apartment building’s residents. Choked by fear, hope, and acrid smoke, Tanim barely managed to cough out, “Daren. Daren St. Anthony.” The paramedic frowned, flipped through a few more papers, frowned deeper, then returned to the list. After seconds that seemed to Tanim like an eternity, the man nodded, said only, “Right, follow me,” and took off across the blackened lawn.

“He’s here?” Tanim peppered the paramedic with questions as he followed. “Was he hurt? Is he okay? What happened?” The man didn’t answer until they had approached the temporary hospital. He nodded in the direction of a white tent. “He was marked as dead when we first found him,” he explained, “but they tagged him red once they’d had a chance to examine him.” With that he waved a nurse over and handed Tanim off to her, just as the fireman had handed Tanim off to him. The nurse, too, had a clipboard, on which were pages of paperwork she apparently wanted Tanim to fill out, but he ignored her and pushed his way into the tent.

Had there been more than one cot currently occupied, Tanim might not have recognized his lover. Daren’s once pale skin was burned black and red, loose bandages covering the worst spots but nothing left untouched. Even his face sported burns, and his already short hair had been singed off. Tanim knelt beside him in an instant, yet couldn’t bear to touch the skin that even now radiated heat and a sickening smell.

“Daren…” His voice seemed swallowed up by the magnitude of the disaster and he had to clear his throat to speak more clearly. “Daren, can you hear me?” The man’s eyelids twitched, then opened a crack. Beneath, his dark eyes were glazed with pain, yet aware enough to fix themselves on Tanim. Letting out a trembling breath, Tanim forced a smile. “Hey,” he whispered. “How are you?” Beneath the oxygen mask covering his mouth, Tanim could swear he saw Daren’s cracked lips tilt up in a very faint, and probably very painful, smile. “Good,” he seemed to mouth, and Tanim, unable to resist, touched the tips of his fingers to Daren’s.

#1759

nothing to say for a while here, just a great stillness within and maybe the merest ripples on the surface, just the wind playing over the water, though, not anything of any real consequence passing beneath, but last night at least a precious gift from the Mother, two of the lost ones, most faithful and beloved of sons, and my dream tears as I held them in my arms and thanked them for coming, for visiting, for reminding me I am never alone and that they watch over me always, spirits that walk all worlds, souls that reach through time, and even if I have nothing to say this morning I am still grateful for that, for them, for Her

#1751

In my dream I am a clone of the Slayer, summoned by old magic in the midst of an occult shop. We look the same, sound the same, move the same. We have the same cells, the same blood, the same bones. The same memories, the same dreams, the same hopes and fears. But I’m not her. I’m me. They don’t understand. They don’t see an autonomous person when they look at me; they just see a copy, a backup, a spare. I’m pleading for Faith to understand (“I’m Buffy, but I’m not Buffy”) when we’re attacked by a demon in the body of a young woman. It’s strong, too strong even for all of us together, but somehow I know its weakness while the true other Buffy does not. I rush to the section of the store which holds statues, shrines, and other tools dedicated to ancient Kemet’s gods. Something has been calling to me here, and this must be why. I grab first a staff of black polished wood, its tip carved into an image of Aset with wings outstretched. Frantically, I search among the statues for another item, but can’t decide what would work best; a cat, a jackal, a hippo? I finally choose a serpent figurine carved as if poised to strike. Staff and carving in hand, I run back into the fray and point both at the demon. The voice that comes from my mouth isn’t mine. It’s like thunder, deep and rumbling, so loud it fills the building and makes the shelves shake. At first the demon resists, mocking my little human body, but when the voice reveals its identity and threatens to strike the demon down for its disrespect, the demon cowers and finally vanishes. Whatever entity possessed me disappears as well, leaving me exhausted and empty – but at least the others are looking at me now with new wonder.