I do not yet know what I want from you – will you be patient as I search for it? Will you let me cut you open to dig through your soft flesh until I find that precious something hidden within? Will you let me dissect your deepest secrets and hold your most embarrassing fears and failures up to the light? It will be a learning opportunity for us both, a chance to discover who you really are beneath the layers of artifice. Somewhere in your warm depths I’ll find what I’m looking for; until then, I will enjoy weighing and cataloging every scrap of you.
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.
You don’t want to be loved for who you could become.
You don’t want to be loved for who you once were.
You don’t want to be loved for who you are.
Perhaps you don’t want to be loved.
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.
Stay, you beg. Stay, you plead. Stay. Stay. Stay. Just this one word over and over like a prayer, like a spell, like a compulsion. Stay. Stay. But he never will. He never can. No matter how many times you ask, no matter if you implore or cajole or demand or threaten, it will not happen – and you know that, yet still you say it. Stay. These rooms are haunted by your pleading. Stay. I cannot think for all I hear is your desperate voice. Stay. I cannot speak for only one word would come out my lips. Stay. Stay. Stay. Each time with more futility than the last. Stay. But you never cease.
I can almost feel your breath as you murmur in my ear, What if it wasn’t murder in the first place? What if it was self-defense? Or revenge? Or what if it wasn’t the Moon at all who killed the Sun that first and most fateful time? What if they were a setup, the blade and the blood and the blame? You say there is a universe for every possible iteration, so why not these? Your laugh is a cold, serrated thing. What if you’ve been asking the wrong question all these years? No wonder you’ve never found the true answer. Foolish little scribe, you have always been so quick to judge my words as lies – did you never think my noble lover capable of deception as well? No, his tongue is sweeter than honey and sharper than any blade. But you will never learn.
“Sweet, the brownies are ready,” With her left hand Mage pulled open the oven door and with the other she grabbed the hot tin inside, not bothering with a cloth since she couldn’t feel the heat through the obsidian-like claws on her hand anyway. Alice, watching from the kitchen table, rolled her eyes at the reminder of Mage’s alien appendage. “Weren’t you going to get rid of that thing?” she asked as Mage set the tin down between them. “It’s so creepy.”
“Oh, this?” Mage flexed her hand, the strange black material glittering in the light as she moved. “Uh, so it turns out I don’t… precisely… know how to get it off.”
“You don’t know?!” Alice jabbed an accusatory finger at her. “This is what you get for messing with unknown magic! What if that awful thing’s attached to you for the rest of your life? What if it keeps crawling up your arm until you’re just a big black statue?”
“Uuugh,” Mage slumped back in her chair with a stubborn pout. “You sound just like my dad.” When Alice only blinked back at her with a look of perplexity she raised one eyebrow. “What?”
“Nothing,” Alice shrugged but her expression didn’t change. “It’s just weird to think of you having family. I guess I just sort of assumed you like… clawed your way out of the dark core of the earth to become my nemesis or something.” Mage snorted, using the offending hand to scoop a chunk of hot brownie into her mouth. “You wish. No,” she continued around the mouthful, “I had family once and it was the literal worst. Exile was a fucking godsend. But since we’re on the subject, let me guess…” She licked clean one shiny claw and pointed back at Alice. “Oldest sibling of like ten or something, always mothered everyone, probably made them do their homework before they got to watch TV.”
“Actually,” Alice gave a small shrug and helped herself to a piece of brownie with far better manners than Mage had. “I don’t really have a family. I was sort of birthed out of the ocean fully formed, more or less.” It was Mage’s turn to blink dryly. “OH.” She threw her hands up in mock disregard. “Okay. Yeah, sure, that makes perfect sense. Born out of the ocean. Right.” They ate in contemplative silence for a moment before Mage shook her head with a disappointed sigh. “So… you’re the intrepid orphan and I’m the runaway princess? How cliche.”
Alice began to nod in agreement, then did a double-take. “Wait, you’re a what?”