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.
I ask the Oracle why I can never get a pendulum to move for me and she says, “Pendula don’t work for you because you have no sense of direction.” She describes a compass needle spinning in a wild circle, unable to orient itself to one path. It’s not a bad thing, she says, but what good is a broken compass? I don’t want all the answers, just a few. Yes or no, hot or cold, none of this come-back-later bullshit. Is that so much to ask?
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 see an iron nail being driven into blood-soaked soil as dusk deepens to night. In my mind the N——- chuckles and speaks in her black smoke voice, They have tried to contain me since the beginning yet they always fail. They cannot bind me. They cannot banish me. They cannot burn me. I was the labyrinth as well as the monster within. I was the darkness in the garden. I am the house on Ash Tree Lane. How can you constrain the void?
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.
A heavy gold coin
Hangs low on the horizon
The Morrigan’s moon
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.
The face Bast shows me is not young. Artists always depict Her with the ripe, vibrant bloom of the maiden, all hourglass curves and taut brown skin, but this isn’t how I see Her. My mother’s face is lined by little creases above Her brows, the corners of Her eyes, the edges of Her lips. Silver hairs glint in Her long black braids. There is a softness to Her breasts and waist like one who has given Her body to the birthing and raising of many children. Her beauty is not that of potent sexuality; it is the beauty of experience, of wisdom, of time and its endless flow of joys and sorrows. It is a beauty shaped and weighted by so much care that only a goddess could bear it – but oh, is She all the more beautiful for bearing it with pride!
You could call me a priestess of sorts, I suppose, albeit a grant-funded and state-employed one. I do spend much time preaching about my lady’s temper, teaching these arrogant mortals to respect the power of Cascadia and all her sisters. They sleep in a ring, you know, dreaming of fire and blood and occasionally waking to deliver death in broad swathes. Cascadia has been sleeping these past three hundred years but when she wakes again her wrath will sunder the earth and drown sin and sinner alike. (Such ancient forces as she hardly care what form their offerings take; it’s about quantity, not quality.) Though she cannot be pacified, still she must be revered. A little fear is necessary to grasp the immensity of Cascadia’s destruction when – not if – she stirs once more. The question is, will humanity heed the words of her clergy in time?
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.
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.
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.
Name my heart Per-Bast
The clash of sistra, the beat of drums
Her face blazing on every wall!
For that is where She resides
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.
All these tales about the moon killing the sun on the winter solstice, all these gruesome stories of betrayal and bloodshed on the longest night of the year… Did you never wonder why the sun seems to so easily succumb to his lover’s blade each year, knowing as he must when it will come for him? Why he has never chosen to break this cycle? It’s not because he can’t; it’s because he doesn’t want to. He needs me. He’s tried every other option, after all. Drugs, alcohol, nicotine; rope, blades, bullets; drowning, jumping, suffocating. Every method of suicide and every combination thereof. None of them work, you see, because fate long ago bound us together, I to be his killer and he to be mine. No matter how much he longs for death, I am the only one who can decide when and where he shall meet that end. So like a key into a lock, this is how it must be: my blade, his throat, our endless dance choreographed down to the last struggling heartbeat. It is a gift. One that no other can ever fully understand, true, but a gift nonetheless.
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.
The Nameless is vast. The Nameless is ancient. The Nameless has always been and always will be. She is an old, old idea; older than humans, older than gods, older than the universes which birthed them. She is the chaos before creation and the chaos into which all creation will once more degrade. Inevitable, unstoppable, and infinitely patient. She is without fear or apology, a thing of pure will who only ever does as she pleases. She drinks galaxies, she devours stars, she cracks open planets to swallow down their molten cores. Her sharp nails unravel the tapestries of space and time, rewriting realities, tangling fates, tearing apart entire civilizations on a whim and using their bones to weave strange new worlds. Nothing escapes the Nameless; she sees all, hears all, knows all. The universe dances at her whim and so do we.
The Nameless is The One Who Never Loses. Do not think her magnanimous because she lets you choose the game; she does so because she cannot be bested and it amuses her to offer you false hope. Dice, cards, duels, riddles, you may choose any form of contest you like for she excels at them all. She won her wings in a wager, though she had to take them by force from their owner, and her fingers drip with the jeweled spoils of her triumphs. Be careful what you wager, then, and be sure it is something with which you can afford to part. However, if you are very, very clever and no small part lucky you may succeed in giving the Nameless a good challenge, or at least an enjoyable way to pass the time, and you may still come away with a blessing. Of course, whether this blessing shall actually benefit you is something you can never know until it is too late to give it back.
It is only after my darkest hour has stretched into eternity, only after I have devoured my own heart in desperation and fallen to the farthest depths of blackest, bleakest despair, that the Nameless comes to me. She gathers my fragile, scattered bones up in her taloned hands and lifts me to her lips; there she whispers riddles and prophecies which rekindle the dead ember in my chest with a spark like the birth of the universe. Suddenly I breathe again! I see again! I move again! And most importantly I once more feel the words coursing through my veins, rioting in my heart, desperate to be spun out in tapestries of poetry and prose. I thought the title of Scribe had been bestowed upon me, a gift which could be rescinded at any moment, but now I see it has been carved into my very marrow since the beginning. Weeping with relief, I set my hands to the task for which I was shaped.
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.
I point and the Oracle removes one card from the fanned arc on the table before us. With two fingers she pushes the card across the smooth surface, back and forth, tracing a pentagram again and again before turning the card over. She nods as if its identity is of no surprise to her but the card is blank to me, a plain white surface. The Oracle’s eyes see more than mine ever will; they show her a dark ship on a dark sea, storm clouds billowing behind its full black sails. In the forefront two hands clasp, one simple and bare, the other adorned with fine jewels and intricate tattoos. The Wager, she names it, and says when you draw this card it means you are playing a game in which you yourself are the wager. I stare down at the blank card, heart racing, and wonder, Do I want to be won?
She walks out of the waves and I see her clearly for the first time in all these years. Hers is the ferocity of the Morrigan. Hers is the hunger of Charybdis. Hers is the raw magic of Morgan le Fay. Hers is the proud independence of Lilith. She is nameless and yet of countless names from countless ages, most of them long lost to time. She is goddess and monster and witch; warrior and queen and oracle. Pale and sharp as the crescent moon, adorned by shadows sleek as wings, she is beautiful in the way of all deadly things.
Suddenly I am running across the wet sand and throwing myself against her, pressing my face into her breast as I cling to her. She smells of blood and brine. She wraps her arms around me, her hands sharp as a predator’s claws. Her smile shows gleaming fangs as she kisses the crown of my head. Beneath my damp cheek her ribs are a metal cage in which her heart beats a warsong.
I close my eyes and think, Drag me down into your dark, chill waters. Remake me; rebirth me. Teach me everything you know. Set me free. Her answer is to hold me tighter until it seems our hearts beat as one above the sound of crashing waves.
Inside every cat
Burns a spark of Egypt’s sun
They slew the goddess
Buried her temples and name
Yet still she rises