#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.

#1795

You don’t seem to want to speak through the cards. Perhaps they’re too concrete a form of divination for you? Too limiting? Too, dare I say, mainstream? You do prefer to speak in riddles, in fragments and half-remembered dreams, and derive perverse pleasure from muddling my mind. Can we not find some happy medium, though, so that I might have at least the tiniest light in the darkness? If not cards, what about runes? Pendulums? Bibliomancy? Would you speak more clearly through flame or smoke or bone? I look for your messages everywhere I go, and can glean some meaning from what I find, yet I wouldn’t mind a rulebook or a cheat sheet to help me interpret them. I’m not asking for a Rosetta Stone, here, just a little help. It’s only the three of us on this strange, twisted path – can’t you have a little mercy on your scribe?

#1792

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Sometimes I feel I must burn like a torch in the darkness, lit from within by divinity’s gift, sunlight and moonglow and starshine pouring out my eyes, my open mouth, my skin all aglow and hair stirring in the heat. Sometimes I feel I must be overflowing with love, radiating the hot fire of my devotion so brightly that moths dance in my light, cats drowse in my warmth, and those around me can’t help but notice my incandescence, even if they cannot comprehend the source. Sometimes I feel I am born of fire, shaped by stars and moonlight, and the love with which I flare is infinite, a blessing to embrace and then release back to the universe in a never ending cycle.

[ The above image was created by my amazingly talented frienemy Inno! Her art is beautiful, as is her writing, and she takes commissions! *hint hint* Visit her Patreon to see more, and consider supporting her! ]

#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.

#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.

#1781 – Summer Solstice 2016

Standing in the bedroom doorway, frozen: Tanim. Laying on the bed within, languid and smiling: Daren. Between them: the heady, noxious odor of gasoline.

“What’s going on?” Tanim asks slowly, taking in the glistening bed sheets, the soaked carpet. Daren lifts his arm to take a drag on the cigarette balanced between two long fingers; his wet clothing clings to his thin frame. “It’s so easy to mold the mind of a madman, isn’t it?” he replies as idly as if commenting on the weather.

“What are you talking about?” White-knuckled, Tanim grips the doorframe as if torn between running and coming closer. “What have you done?” Daren exhales a stream of smoke and blinks dreamily. “I think you know.”

“Come out of there,” Tanim extends a hand, frowning, and steps over the threshold. His shoes sink into the wet carpet. “Careful,” Daren waves the cigarette back and forth, the embers carving light trails in the dark. “I wouldn’t take another step forward if I were you.” He waits until Tanim has eased back before asking, “Does it anger you, that I got to it before you could?”

“You’re not making any sense, darling,” There is a note of pleading in Tanim’s voice, but Daren continues as if his lover hasn’t spoken. “What were you planning, anyway?” he wonders aloud. “A gun? Poison? Or perhaps something more intimate, like your bare hands?”

“You won’t know now, will you?” Tanim’s scowl is sudden and dark, his teeth bared like a predator whose prey has been stolen. Daren only sighs. “My loss, yes.” He holds his arm out over the side of the bed, dangling the cigarette between two limp fingers. His gaze is quite clear now, no longer lethargic and amused, but the smile remains as he locks eyes with Tanim. “You might want to run now, beloved,” he advises.

Tanim runs. Daren lets the cigarette fall.

[ Read all of the solstice fragments so far. ]

#1777

Two lands reside in my heart
one of mountain and fog, shore and evergreen
the other of riverbed and mesa, burning sand and thunderstorms.
I wondered how they could both exist within me without warring
so different are their climates, their cultures, their purposes
but I see it now: that he is the ocean and you are the desert
and as the sun loves the moon
so prosperity loves scarcity
and as the moon loves the sun
so the hottest wastes love the coldest depths.