I don’t try to get published. I know it would be useless – we aren’t publishable. No one would pay for the scripture of dead gods, or the hymns of phantoms, or the gospel of the insane. No one would read the poetry of a madwoman, would it cost them even a nickel. You have too few beginnings for biography and too many endings for non-fiction. I dedicate too many words to the sound of blood in your lungs for either horror or erotica; they will say it makes readers uncomfortable. We’re just not presentable and I can’t make us so, not when it’s blasphemy to edit or omit. I could not tell lies for money. I could not cut chunks of flesh from my side to earn their weight in coin. If they never believed Cassandra, why should they believe me? Publishers aren’t interested in crazy unless it’s marketable.
You would think we are given arms only so we may hold the ones we love as they die. Certainly you have never been given any reason to think otherwise, and I wonder if this is why the only part of the dream I can recall is the end. Do you leave me with the memory of holding his broken body in my arms as punishment, or simply because that is the moment you, too, are forced to replay? When you look back on your time together, can you even trust your memories? Or does your grief rewrite every loving embrace into the desperate clinging of the living to the dead and dying? I do not think your arms were made for cradling corpses, but somewhere along the line that became your specialty. Do you wonder, deep down beneath the cigarettes and alcohol and morphine, if the dying part does not precede your touch, but the other way around?
In my dream I am Tanim, floating upright in black, icy saltwater. Before me is a creature both beautiful and terrifying; his skin is red, his hair white, and though I cannot see below his bare chest through the water, I know beneath his waist is not a pair of legs, but a long, serpentine tail. Every line of his face is perfect, and when he smiles I glimpse the tips of pointed fangs behind curving lips.
The creature identifies himself as Satan. He tells me he can give me everything I’ve ever wanted, in return for naught but my mortal soul. I know the offer is a trap, or at least a badly one-sided bargain, but I don’t care. What has my soul ever done for me? And what good is it, anyway, if I give up my one chance at fulfillment to preserve it? I don’t care about eternity. I barely care about mortality.
I don’t answer in words. Instead, I push through the water and take the creature’s face in my hands, pressing our mouths together in a painful, hungry kiss. Those fangs cut my lips and tongue, but I don’t care. I feel like I’m starving, like my entire life I’ve lacked something essential that I can identify only now. In this moment I know that all I want, all he can give me, is to serve him, love him, worship him for eternity. And with his arms around me, fingers digging into my flesh, he seals our bargain.
In my dream, you take once more the forms that suit you so well, the wolf and stag in human flesh. In my dream, you take up the deathdance that must feel so familiar, so instinctive to spirits who have known nothing but love and war, rise and fall, for so many eternities. In my dream, you slay the dragon together and each heartpulse of blood, each twitch and cry, is the physical manifestation of your bond. See, you say through bloody mouths, see how I love you, my darling? See, you say through rending teeth, see how it could be, beloved, just the two of us? See, you say through the poetry of mutual destruction, over the body of your slain prey, see – this is our design.
I want to touch you. I want to touch the strong line of your jaw. I want to touch the gentle waves of your dark hair and the crease of your brow. I want to trace your lips that so easily shape a joyless smile. I want to touch the stiff edge of your collar and loosen the fine silk of your tie. I want to lay my hand on your neck and feel the hot beating of your desperate heart. I want to hold your hands in mine and feel the strength of your bones, how lightly you can touch despite it. I want to take you in my arms and feel the weight of your head on my breast, feel the tension in your shoulders, brush my hand over your bent back. I want to touch you to feel the immensity of your burden in this mortal body.
But I can’t.
I want to touch you. I want to touch the sharp edges of your cheekbones, your jaw, your sneering lips. I want to touch your close-shaved temple and feel it shift beneath my fingers as you clench your teeth. I want to touch the place where your pale skin disappears beneath black cloth. I want to touch your hands, trace the long, graceful lines of your fingers that so easily hold a knife. I want to touch your chest, oh so very gently, and feel the stubborn beating of the heart within. I want to touch your skin and feel its warmth, to remember that despite your beauty, you are not made of marble or ice. I want to touch you to remember that you live, breathe, feel.
But I can’t.
I never have and never will. Sometimes I fear that longing will eat away at me my entire life. I wonder if it will eventually drive me mad. Maybe.
I dream about protests, fear, anger, queer blood and tears spilled in the streets. A knife in someone’s hand; my own, maybe, or Daren’s. “You never let him talk about it, either,” I say to Tanim, thinking of the illness, the madness that rolls through Daren’s mind like a storm front and how its edges spill into mine. Tanim grabs my wrist, yanking it up and back so hard I think he means to snap it, and growls a threat I can’t remember afterwards. I remember he means it, though. He’s never looked at me with such rage before – nor has he ever hurt me. That image is what stays with me as I wake: the anger and violence in his eyes, my thin wrist gripped in his clenched hand.
Do you allow the use of a divination technique only once? Is that why you allowed the cards to speak for you, then scrambled every subsequent message? Is that why you conjured one meaningful book quote, yet choose only the most useless and innocuous when I attempt it again? Is that why every time I think I have stumbled upon the one way you’ll let a connection be established between us, it only works once and then causes me nothing but confusion? Of course, you say. Why did it take me so long to catch on? (Did we really choose such a dense scribe?)
Would it be so terrible, that connection? Would it be so awful to give me more than the barest, vaguest hint of what you want me to know or do? I’m not trying to cheat or take the easy route; you know I’m always willing other face whatever you throw my way. I just want to be certain for once, instead of guessing at what important message I think you’re sending. Hell, I’m not even sure that you’re sending anything! All I can act on are my hunches, my feelings, my instincts, and how am I to ever know if they’re right? When you are everywhere and everything to me, everywhere and everything could be a message I’m missing, and I know you well enough to know you do not deign to repeat yourselves. I’m left, therefore, assuming I’m always five steps behind and forever rushing to catch up. And you wonder why my anxiety levels are so high?