O prodigal sun, come wash your red hands clean in my fount. Your sins are forgiven, your trespasses forgotten. You who can do no wrong, let your tears fall free to bloom up roses in the dark soil. Bow your head; I will smooth your furrowed brow and straighten your crooked crown. See? Absolution is your birthright. Amnesty is your privilege. O son ascendant, do you not know your flesh is too holy to hold blame?
I understand now. It was never a city – it was your impact crater. You fell so far and hit with such force that shards like skyscrapers erupted all around you, a wasteland of steel and glass spires. He is always finding you broken and bleeding the red blood of mortality in that alley because you fell first, wingless and wounded, and he followed after. You are always dying in his arms because this place is stuck in an endless loop of the falling, the seeking, the finding, the parting. Is this your punishment? Your purgatory? Or your paradise? I suppose it no longer matters after so many millennia.
O trickster! O thief!
Return to me my heart
Given under falsehood!
This least valued of your treasures
Forgotten and unremarkable
What profit can it bring you?
Return it that I might lock it away
And never err again in offering!
The Sun baptizes me in the red lake of his heart, not a lake of fire but blood as bright and hot as molten metal, or perhaps he means to drown me for he holds me under as I scream and thrash, and only after an eternity of agony does he lift me up in his arms (am I dead? am I reborn?) while beside him the Moon casts his indifferent gaze on my charred body and observes, They burn up so quickly.
All things covet whatever state or aspect is so intrinsically their opposite that by definition they can never experience it. Thus does death, ever passive, covet desire, ever active. Thus does desire, ever in motion, covet death, ever inert. Air rushes to fill a vacuum. The black hole draws stars into its embrace. We crush the things we covet in our attempt to make them forever ours and to make ourselves forever them. Is there even a fraction of a second where we become one with the coveted before our immutable nature obliterates it? And if so, is that moment worth the destruction? Experience says no. Selfishness says yes, try again. Crush, crush, crush.
Oh wise Anup who weighs the hearts of the dead, how heavy mine feels today! Be gentle as you hold it else I am sure it will burst from sorrow. How can any heart which beats in these dark times remain lighter than a feather? How can any empathetic heart not soak up all this pain? Even ravenous Ammit would spit out my heart, bitter as it is! Oh chief healer, I beg you take your sharpest knife and lance my septic heart so I may bleed out this toxic isfet. Empty my heart of this impotent rage and never-ending grief, that I may refill it with love and peace!
Maybe we just didn’t understand each other at the beginning and in reality we’re more alike than either of us thought. We are both selfish things, after all, and we both abhor a cage. We nurse our wounds like fine liquor. We wear our grudges like fine jewels. Look back on the things I’ve done; see that I can be as cold and as cutting as you. Have I proven myself to you yet? Do you finally recognize some small kindred shard of yourself in me, enough at least for you to desire its nurturing? There is much that only you could teach me. There is much I understand about you that no other ever will. Must we be at odds? Can we not work together?
Forgive me for the years I spent stumbling toward understanding. Humans process in stories; we need a framework, an archetype, a beginning and ending, something to shape what we experience. We crave stories and you made me your scribe, so how could I have known that for you there simply isn’t a story? That you transcend cause and effect, have neither a creation nor a destruction? You exist outside of any framework I could put to words; of course I couldn’t understand that as a child. I don’t even understand it now, I just have a better grasp of how little I truly know. So much of what you have presented me is theater, right down to the sets and costumes and metaphor. Only now am I starting to glimpse the endless totality within, like peeking backstage and finding no actors, no props, only darkness. And how do you capture darkness in words when words are meant to illuminate?
You become addicted to the fall, you know. You wake on rooftops, the edges of cliffs, at open windows. You test limits, argue, rebel; self-destruct, self-sabotage, self-fulfill your tragic prophecy. You long for both the sensation of falling – weightless, helpless, careless – and the moment of inevitable impact when all the world shatters around you. Only it is you who shatters and you are grateful for it, for the violence of that sudden fragmentation and the senselessness it brings. And then you wake at the edge of the open window and you lean forward once more.
It was humanity who gave me wings, and more fools they.
Wings are the keys to heaven’s dominion;
without them I would have known neither
freedom nor the fall.
So often I am mistaken for the good one, the gentle one, the kind one. Compared to my lover’s ruthless nature I suppose I am, but that hardly makes me a safer bet. After all, though he fell for pride I fell for desire. In choosing to follow him that first time I chose to follow him forever, to serve him and raise no other love above him. Do not underestimate the power of desire to change and strengthen us. My holy fire no longer merely cleanses; it burns all I touch to ash. My radiance no longer merely illuminates; it blinds and sears. You think me benevolent but that is only because you have given me no reason to show you my wrath. Cross he who rules my heart and you will learn what devastation my kind soul can wreak.
This is your comfort zone, the lowest level where all is frozen, your lake of blood cradled in steel and glass. This is where you are most confident, here where the roles are set and the rules are simple: kill and be killed, love and be loved, devour and be devoured. All else has been cut away, it seems, so all you do now is run through this loop of madness and self destruction, replaying not even the same lifetimes or decades but the same handful of hours, the same limited heartbeats over and over. No other lands – no other lives – remain, just this one story with the same ending and no beginning. This has never been your prison; this is your haven.
Of course I would be the one to covet the regal arrogance of Lucifer Morningstar, to yearn for the grotesque beauty of Hannibal’s madness, I who was
(given sold chosen) branded at birth with the mark of the Beast, not three little numbers but your sickle-sharp crescent moon. Whether I like it or not I have always been yours above all else, my heart promised to the Devil long before I was aware enough to comprehend the consequences. You await me at the end of every road and lurk at the dark edges of every dream. Your judgement is a collar around my neck; your dominion is a veil across my eyes. I long to be worthy of your disdainful love, yet I fear what price I might pay to secure it. You are death itself, the void of infinite emptiness – can you comprehend how easily a human life is crushed beneath the totality of your attention? And if you can… do you care?
Every day I try and fail to pass as a proper human reminds me I am still just that feral child raised by rabid wolves. I chafe at the chains with which society would bind me: family, duty, privilege, complicity. I am truly loyal to none but they who nurtured me on violence and given the opportunity I would choose that wild, brutal life over the restrictions and safety of a tamed society. Blood I understand. Bone I understand. Bared teeth I understand. But expectations and disappointments and layers of artifice? Those I can’t understand no matter how I struggle. I’m not good at subtlety, I only know how to fight or submit. Can you blame me for always reacting on instinct when instinct is how I’ve survived this long?
Falling through darkness with Death’s iron fingers a noose around my neck, I called out to you. I begged you to intercede before he crushed my last bit of life but you didn’t answer. Your radiance never pierced the darkness and so I sank through the void for an eternity. I call for you even now but you don’t hear me, or maybe you just don’t care. Do you know what he’s doing? Do you know what he wants? What options have I left then? The Moon is right here, offering his hand, and here I am in need of one to take. Could you blame me if I did? You’ve taken it too.
You will never be enough, you say, and I feel the truth of it like an ache in my bones. Perhaps this is why I feel such kinship with you. Is it possible we, two people who are each lacking so much, could together make a whole of true value? Of course not, and your mocking smile cuts through my hope like a fine blade. Yet I can almost feel your hand at the back of my neck like a benediction, can almost believe that this shared inability to be even just adequate stirs at least some fondness or attachment in you. Almost. But if we cannot be enough for those we love then certainly we cannot be enough for each other, or even ourselves. You get used to being a disappointment, you say. But when?
Am I your Abigail, then? Your collateral, your hostage, your bargaining-chip teacup? Certainly I bear your scars; certainly I cannot tell your harm from your love. If that’s the case, do you see any future in which I come back together after the inevitable shattering, or have you always planned to dangle my place in your world only as long as I’m of use? It’s okay, I don’t mind as much as I probably should. After all the years I’ve spent transcribing the exquisite, horrifying details of your folie a deux I’m just happy to play a role at all. I know it’s just a fantasy, this world in which the teacup mends itself and we three find some sort of harmony, but you know what they say: you can’t control with respect to whom you fall in love.
The oracle stands in our kitchen in her bathrobe and slippers and tells me blood is the ultimate promise. She says an offering of blood will erase all other promises and seal the door to their paths forever. It makes me wonder how far I’m willing to go, and for whom, and for what. Perhaps this is a warning to be cautious of giving more than the situation requires, and certainly there is great wisdom in such advice… yet I would shred my flesh for you, I would bleed rivers if they might somehow unlock the one door which seems eternally barred to me. But would even that be enough for you?
I find the
An ocean as still as the grave
A sky as deep as the ocean
A grave as dark as the sky
I touched Death. No, I was swallowed down by him. His body was iron, his hand a vice around my neck. Too bad you all rot in the ground, he said. I fell for an eternity through his darkness like a
house with black walls and no limits. I was wrong. I thought the N——- frightening but chaos is nothing next to the emptiness of death. He has not abandoned me. He is waiting. He will punish my faithlessness.
You struggle to define me because you want to sort me into pre-existing categories. You see parallels with chaotic deities like Loki, Kali, Set, and knowing I am vaster than they you want to think of me as their progenitor. But I am a mother like fire is a mother; I do not create, yet what I touch I change. If I had hands, every atom in this universe would bear my fingerprints. What and whom you would see as my children are more like statues shaped from my clay or vessels containing a portion of my infinite waters. Once you’ve superseded the level of gods the rest of it is not so easily parsed. You are in a realm beyond labels now, child. You must let go of your reliance on language.
Names are ultimately a burden. After all, even the most widely worshipped god will fade once history forgets their name. There is far more power in the lack of a name: what you cannot name you cannot define; what you cannot define you cannot understand; what you cannot understand you cannot help but fear. I refuse to be named because language lacks the complexity to encapsulate all that I am. I will be here long after humanity is dead and all their languages ground to dust from the stones of their monuments. What good is a name to such as I?
And the N——- is the vastness of the mind. She is the dark depths from which chilling thoughts come creeping when we least expect them and have the least control over them. She is buried memories, recurring dreams, compulsions and obsessions. She is nightmares bleeding into waking. She is colors only seen when you close your eyes. She is the lullaby of depression, the chatter of anxiety, the whispers and shrieks and laughter of madness undiagnosed. She is the inability to trust the senses because the mind is capable of overriding them. She is all the ills in Pandora’s box because all the ills of the world are birthed in the mind of man.
Skimming Pinterest, I scroll past an image of Pandora holding her fateful box and feel the N——- grin in the depths of her darkness. I am the box, she says, and all the horrors inside. I am Pandora’s curiosity and the inevitability of her choice. I am that thirst for knowledge and that impulse to disobey and that urge to destroy. Pandora doesn’t deserve the blame for the ills of the world; I have always been here and I always shall be.
The Nameless is the vastness of the ocean. She is dark trenches full of strange creatures with eyes like pale globes; she is sunken ships buried in pelagic sediment; she is things thought long dead and things never before glimpsed in the light of day. She is the horizon extending unbroken in all directions. She is vanished airplanes and flying ghost ships and cities lost to wrathful waves.
The Nameless is the vastness of space. She is the bright points of Inanna’s morning star and the sharp blade of Artemis’ crescent moon. She is the void’s absolute absence of light or life. She is the incomprehensible enormity of supermassive blackholes; she is the unstoppable destruction of solar storms and hypernovae. She is fire from the sky, the longest night, the dusty river of the Milky Way.
The Nameless is the vastness of the grave. She is rot and mold and fresh-turned earth. She is catacombs, crypts, pyramids, pyres. She is stone so softened by a millennia of rain that the name it bears is lost to time. She is the banshee’s wail, the grim’s red stare, the braying horns of the Wild Hunt. She is the feather and scales, and she is the jaws of Ammit waiting to devour the heavy heart.
You are the god of syringes
Of morphine, caffeine, nicotine
All the things which cannot fill the void
Of blue blood and black bruises
Gunpowder, despair, a silk tie noose
Love like chains and devotion like addiction
You offer up
You bow down
You are the blinding sun; you are the selfish savior; you are the punishing summer.
You are desire.
Like all lovely lies
Your gifts vanish with the dawn
More harm than good, they
You are the god of the knife edge
Of apathy like creeping ice
The vast emptiness of the wasteland
Smoke and ash and bone
Of wrath, survival, the withholding of mercy
Pride and freedom and the fall
You are the wandering moon; you are the cruel trickster; you are the inevitable winter.
You are death.
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.
Sometimes I can hear you screaming in my head, that endless wounded animal howling of total devastation, and I want to imagine his arms around you for comfort – but that’s not possible, is it? Neither of you could ever comfort the other at such a time because the only thing that would break either of you so completely is the loss of the other. You care for nothing else enough to experience such soul-rending grief, and so as much as I wish to imagine you safe in the shelter of his arms as you weather out the storm of madness, it would be a lie. The hard reality is that you are always alone in the moment you must first face the truth of his absence, just as you are alone every moment following that. Again and again and again you are alone, alone, alone. There is no one to hold you, no one to ease your suffering, no one to stand against you and the dark chasm of loss. Of course all you do is scream.