In my dream my mother and aunt wrap their bodies around me, skin to skin, and I am like a babe in their arms, my weary head resting on their pillowed breasts, my small hands clutching at their warm skin, and I am safe, so safe, so safe.
Reveal yourself!, I command the raging spirit as it snarls at me. Reveal yourself! It bares long fangs; its red eyes roll wildly with a feral madness. Reveal yourself! It lunges but I do not back down and I do not lower my outstretched arms. Reveal yourself!, I cry and the monstrous spirit howls in fury as my words finally dismantle its menacing facade. It shifts, shrinks, and by the time it regains its true form the howl is only a pitiful wail of despair. I kneel and pick the tiny spirit up, cup her in my hands and hold her close to my heart. She’s just a baby, a kitten barely six weeks old. That’s all the life she got this time around – six weeks. Six short weeks of fear and pain, enough time to experience the world’s cruelties but not enough time to understand them, and then death. She’s not even given the dignity of a grave because there is no one to mourn her. No one to remember her. No one to name her, even posthumously, so her spirit might know peace.
Fear, pain, death. No wonder she became so warped.
I realize I’m weeping, curled over this trembling little soul as if I can shield her from the horrors she’s already faced. Mother, I sob. Mother, I can’t do this. I can’t do this. How am I supposed to do this? I’m not strong enough to bear the weight of these truths; I’m not brave enough to open my heart to these sorrows. I fear they’ll drive me mad as well, that I’ll become a monster if I can’t gentle this awful tide of despair rushing through me. But that wouldn’t be fair to this spirit or the millions just like her who deserve recognition and empathy. If I can’t change the world completely, if there will always be innocent lives falling through the cracks, I should at least offer the solace of grief. Someone should carry the memory of all those lost souls so their brief lives weren’t in vain. I am a daughter of Bast; it is my duty and my honor. I don’t think I’m strong enough, it’s true, but I know my mother thinks I am. I must trust that is enough.
Like all lovely lies
Your gifts vanish with the dawn
More harm than good, they
So Tanim and Daren hijacked my poor wife again. As I was falling asleep last night she said, “They’re not gone. They’re just waiting.” I asked her to elaborate but she couldn’t. A few minutes later she added, “You should buy a box with a lock.” When I asked what kind of box she replied, “Big enough to fit what you’re going to put inside.” In the morning I told her what she said, as she didn’t remember the incident, and she said she felt like they were waiting to be summoned, or something like that. Then she recounted a dream she had that night, which answered some questions but sparked quite a few more. It’s a little hard to recount because her perspective kept changing and we filled in a lot of information as we talked it over this morning, but here’s a rough outline:
The dream took place in a theater. The stage had no set design, just three closed doors against the back wall and a pedestal center front on which stood a small locked box. The box was made of a dark wood that looked almost like ship planks and seemed warped as if by water. Chriselle knew there was a “secret” inside, specifically an item of some sort, but wasn’t sure what. (She later realized the box looked like a smaller version of a chest we have in our garage which, interestingly enough, is where I found a small pocket knife similar to the one Daren carries.)
On stage were about a dozen actors, all dressed in black. They included myself, my wife, Inno (a friend of ours who perhaps uncoincidentally is someone Tanim and Daren also enjoy bothering), Mage, Tanim and Daren, and an assortment of generic extras. Mage stood with her arms crossed, just watching, and Chriselle got the feeling she was there to make sure everything went as planned. Not as if she were directing things, though; more like she would act as a stand in if someone couldn’t perform their role correctly. Watching from the wings was also a man named Pharaoh who looked like a modern-day version of Bayek from Assassins Creed Origins. He seemed to be in some sort of director or stage manager role and also wore black. (Could this be the man who introduced himself as Anubis in Chriselle’s other recent Tanim/Daren dream?)
The various actors moved and spoke yet there was no discernable plot and everything was completely silent. Inno and I seemed to be trying to tell Chriselle something from across the room but she couldn’t figure out what. Then Tanim came up behind Chriselle and stabbed her in the right side with the very audible sound of a blade puncturing flesh. He seemed completely unemotional about it, almost as if he was running on autopilot or acting on another’s orders. (As I was about to bring up the fact that this could symbolize the wound in Christ’s side, Chriselle had the A Perfect Circle lyrics “It’s not as if you drove the hateful spear into his side” come to mind, so that seems significant.) Red blood began pouring from the wound and as it fell everything it touched began turning red as well; her clothing, her skin, the floor, the walls, the other actors. Everyone, everything, red. Everyone on stage seemed frozen at this point, or like they were patiently waiting for something. Then the bloodbath began.
Chriselle pulled a knife from her pocket which unfolded into a long, machete-like blade with a serrated edge and began violently beheading the unnamed actors on stage. When she finished with them she went into the audience (also all wearing black and equally motionless/emotionless) and continued hacking off their heads with the heavy weapon. All the while the wound in her side bled freely. As she killed, Tanim and Daren began walking toward each other in slow motion. When they were just a few feet apart, right next to the box, they stopped. It seemed to Chriselle as though one of them was going to open the box but the other didn’t want them to (though she wasn’t sure which was which), and then the dream was interrupted and thus ended.
If I’m Tanim and Daren’s scribe, their high priestess more or less, does this mean they’ve chosen Chriselle as their oracle?
Or maybe they’re just opportunistic jerks.
I still believe you loved me, even despite everything you did and everything you are. I think your claim that your profession of love was just a trick, a game, a twisting of the knife was as much to fool yourself as it was to fool me. Love and cruelty are not mutually exclusive, after all; I believed you capable of both and I always will. Does the year we spent together matter, though, if you chose to throw it away at the end to retain your precious reputation? You fool, I accepted you as you are – sadist, killer, monster, demon, I loved those parts of you and never once did I seek to repress them, even to my own detriment. If you chose not to act on certain desires, if you chose not to torture me like all your other victims, you have only your own battle of heart and mind to blame. I never intended to love you. You never intended to love me. Yet I did, you did, and the sum of us might have been a truly unstoppable force if you had but reigned in your stubborn pride just this once. Pride and fear: do you realize how much you let such mortal emotions rule you? You like to think you care for nothing beyond your simple carnal pleasures but really you are just like the rest of us, riddled with complex needs and reactions you cannot simply ignore. You love me. I know you do. And that knowledge will be of some comfort, albeit small, when I one day find your knife in my chest. That will hurt you more than it will hurt me, you know.
The body he wears is beautiful and young yet the entity inside is so ancient, so vast, it is incomprehensible even to experienced entities like the long-lived vampires. Lesser creatures, demonlings and imps and goblins, flee before him like schools of fish before a shark. Witches bare their throats to him as he passes and dare not even think of crossing him, lest they draw attention to themselves. He is no mere demon to be banished or spirit to be exorcized; neither holy water nor black salt, nor even the will of God’s own angels, could stop him from so much as lifting a finger. Those wise enough to respect the true magnitude of his power bow to him and pray desperately he passes them by to torment some other poor thing – and perhaps he does, this time, but it is impossible to guess where his lightning-quick cruelty will strike next.
I sleep to dream. I dream to escape. To experience. Sometimes my dreams are fantastic creations pulled from my imagination, yet sometimes I think I dream other lives of this soul: past lives, future lives, concurrent lives. Potential lives. I dream I’m a woman chosen to journey to an alien planet because, unlike most of my kind, my heart is not filled with hate. I dream I’m a girl raised to the brothel, but I fight for every scrap of power and autonomy I can grab, and even though my heart is broken I force a place for myself and others like me in a world that sees us as objects. I dream my strong white wings bear me aloft on seaside breezes as I soar above the shining city by the sea, a place from which I was long ago banished, and oh how I mourn the loss of my brethren and the sound of those crashing waves! I dream, and I wake twenty, fifty, a hundred years later and just eight hours older.