They say the world of the dark sisters is all shadow and that is why only in the light of moon or flame may they appear in ours. If that were the case, I would never spend a moment in daylight again. I would shun the day and wake only once moonlight or candlelight could call you forth. I would only ever want you by my side, even if that meant I’d never feel the warmth of the sun again. Your presence would be worth any sacrifice. I would wait every day, every night, every heartbeat for you to step forth from your dark world. No matter how long it might take, I would wait. I will wait. I am here. Sister, will you join me?
Not all gods will disappoint you. I hope you know this is true, even if you don’t want to believe it yet. You have been hurt by a god who promised unconditional love and yet cast you out for being true to yourself; that wound runs deep and does not easily heal. Perhaps you don’t believe other gods exist, or if you do you can’t yet let yourself believe that they may love what another rejected. But they do exist, I promise, and they will love you. There are gods who will see in the depths of you great beauty and worth. There are gods who will embrace every aspect of your being, even and especially those parts of you which another god rejected. There are gods who will urge you to talk to that cute girl in the bookstore or weep joyfully with you when your partner proposes. They will dance with you in nightclubs and march with you in Pride parades. To discover them for yourself you must go straight to the source. Put down the poorly translated books, turn away from the preachers and prophets, and reach out directly to the divine. Connect to the source material and let it, not some fallible human, show you the truth of its compassion. You have been burned before by a cruel god but there are others out there waiting to fold you into their truly boundless, truly unconditional love.
Star-crossed lovers? What a bullshit concept. What is so romantic about the idea of two people the universe has chosen to especially fuck over? Why do we idolize the ill-fated as if the poignancy of their doom somehow outweighs in value the happiness of which they were robbed? I can assure you, there’s nothing romantic about losing your lover to violence or madness or a disease which rots them from the inside out. Nor is there anything particularly romantic about knowing you are helpless to change this fate no matter how many times you play it through. I would trade our thousand lifetimes of misery for one lifetime – no, one year, one month, one fucking day – of simple peace without the end looming near. I do not find our doom sexy or exotic or poetic. I find it merely wearying. But please, by all means, continue glorifying the tragedy of others.
It was never about the girl or her grandmother or even the woods; all that was incidental. It was always about the wolf and the hunter. They are brothers, after all, twin apex predators caught in the same orbit. Only one may rule the forest at a time and so the dance continues as the sun and moon revolve endlessly overhead. On another day it might have been the hunter who caught Little Red unawares and the wolf who came to the rescue just to rob his enemy of a nice meal. After all, are they really so different? When you’re walking along the forest path and hear the snapping of a twig, can you tell what manner of monster follows you from the shadows? And does it even matter once you’re sitting in its stomach?
I have watched the moon rise over blue-white mountains
and the sun set in a pool of glittering fire
yet still you are most beautiful
I have listened to water falling through green canyons
and thunder quaking in the bruised sky
yet still you are most beautiful
I have tasted cold, clear water fresh from glacial streams
and ripe blackberries warmed in the sun
yet still you are most beautiful
I have smelled the sharp salt scent of low tides
and the perfume of apple blossoms on the wind
yet still you are most beautiful
I have touched the rough bark of ancient redwoods
and stones formed deep in the earth’s core
yet still you are most beautiful
yet still you are most beautiful
I wake nauseous from the reek of your blood in my nostrils, the thick warmth of it still clogging my throat, and all I see is the red lake where you stood, pale as bone, a corpse wearing nothing but a smile and long rivulets of red jewels. Swimming in the fevered remains of your dream, I recall the sensation of falling amidst a chaos of violence – hands ripping at white wings, fingers bruising and crushing, a knife or perhaps razored nails slicing bare skin – and through it all your smiles like twin flames burning bright. Come play with us, you seemed to say as you tore at each other. You were proud of your work but I wanted only to weep, or vomit, or scoop you out of that red baptismal fount and carry you away from your madness. Yet I am awake now, curled into a knot of my own sweat and stiff limbs, and so all I can do is wait for the nausea to pass and sleep to come again.
Alice floats through space, sliding past stars and the dark bulk of distant planets. She bumps against a glyph and loops her arms around one end, leaning on it as she sees what looms before her – a gaping black hole. It’s ancient, a monster that has lurked at the center of the universe for countless eons, swallowing everything in its reach. Yet overshadowing this event is an even greater threat: Mage rises beyond and over the black hole, grander than the hungry beast itself, and when she smiles her eyes are twin suns and her teeth are supernovas. Her jaws unhinge, devouring the black hole, and Alice’s glyph shatters into stardust. Alice feels herself start to fall toward that cavernous mouth, pulled inexorably into the waiting jaws and their eternal grin–
and then she wakes in a cold sweat.
Mage travels through a forest, a beautiful walking staff adorned with mother of pearl in her hands, and on either side of her walk Tanim and Daren. Through the treetops a low hanging moon winks in and out, its pale glow casting soft shadows on the forest floor. Suddenly the moon peels wide into a sun which blazes brighter and brighter as it climbs into the sky. The face of it becomes Alice’s helmet; its fiery tendrils burst forth, becoming her wings that engulf the entire sky. The light touches everything, so bright and burning that the leaves on the trees burst into flame, so white hot that it becomes magma boiling the earth alive. Mage’s clothes catch fire, her hair chars, her skin blisters and peels back in crisp black strips–
and then she wakes in a cold sweat.
The blankets shift and Mage looks over to Alice who sits up, breathing hard and still trembling. She meets Mage’s haunted gaze with her own. “I dreamed you… ate me alive. I was so small and you were the entire universe. You sank your teeth into me and every atom of me was crushed.”
Mage pushes herself up with a shaky laugh. “Well, I dreamed that you shone so bright there were no shadows. You outshone the moon, the sun, blotted out the stars from the sky. You were the sky. My clothes burned, my flesh charred, my bones were exposed. I was naked and had no secrets.”
They look, at each other, each thinking, Did I choose right? Is this who I want to spend immortality with? And then, without a word, their hands meet across the space between them. Because yes.
A friend was posed the question “Does God exist?” by an ethics professor with a clear far right bent (says you have to believe in God to be moral, purposefully deadnames his trans students, etc). I offered to answer the question for her and pounded out a few paragraphs that I probably wouldn’t have written with quite so much snark if it had been my grade on the line. She has a bunch of other equally biased prompts so maybe I’ll make this a little mini series. Enjoy!
“Does God exist?”
The first question is not whether god exists – it’s what concept you mean when you say “god”. Do you mean an entity that created the entire universe, each animal and plant and miscellaneous whatever, in a particular number of days? Do you mean an entity which in some way initiated the birth of the universe in a big bang type event and then let things continue to evolve on their own without much, or any, interference? Do you mean an entity which, regardless of its own true existence, has so shaped life and culture through the sheer belief of its followers that for all intents and purposes it exists as much as anything else? The debate regarding whether god exists changes greatly depending on which version of god you’re debating. An omnipresent, omniscient god requires a different level of proof than a remote god which only had a hand in the very beginnings of our world. A god which exists through belief requires no proof at all, depending on how loose you’re willing to be with your definitions of concepts like belief, existence, power, etc. But for simplicity’s sake let’s ignore that particular rabbit hole completely and go with a concept of deity which hinges on the actual existence of some all powerful being which still actively takes part in our world and its fate.
The second question is also not whether god exists – it’s what entity you mean when you say god. If we’re discussing whether it’s possible for such an entity to exist in the first place then to be fair we should consider any god, or every god. It’s just as possible for Odin to exist as for Yahweh or Krishna or Ra or Zeus. Any argument which can be made for the existence of God can be made for the existence of The Morrigan and Aphrodite and Inanna. The same could also be said for the existence of all gods simultaneously. Edging even further out on this metaphorical branch, you could then include what gods we might create from our own beliefs – and are they not just as real when they so influence our actions? But I won’t spoil the plot of American Gods by expanding on that topic here. Besides, you capitalized God, so perhaps you mean the Christian god. Do you mean him and only him, though, or do you also include Yahweh and Allah who share so many remarkable similarities? See, the question isn’t so straightforward. Yet, once more for simplicity’s sake, let’s assume you meant the Christian god. Let’s be honest, other possibilities probably didn’t cross your mind – or, having crossed it, were quickly dismissed due to the western-centric view that, well, of course THOSE gods wouldn’t exist. So we’ll agree we’re discussing Christianity’s God who created the world in seven days, did the flood, all of that. Now we can move on.
The third question is, I suppose, whether the extremely specific concept and identity of God we’ve chosen to debate exists. But before that, I think there’s one last question to consider: is it ethical to ask students to answer a question like “does God exist” in such a public forum? Can the debate over such a personal topic, one which may risk alienating or even endangering certain individuals, really be considered ethical when you’re also requiring them to participate for a grade? Sure, a person too uncomfortable to share their personal views could lie, or stick to safe comments and vague arguments, but that’s not the point. The point is that, given the complete impossibility of ever proving with concrete evidence that this particular God exists (and exists in the manner that we have come to expect), choosing this topic for a class discussion feels purposefully antagonistic.
(At this point I lost steam because everything I tried to write after that was probably too combative for my friend to submit for her assignment, but I think you get my drift.)
Hi! My name is Lorne. I’m three years old and I live with my sister, Willow, and our two moms. Willow and I were born in a crowded place with a lot of other cats. It wasn’t very nice, but then our moms found us and took us home! Now we live in a nice big house with so many good places for napping and playing. We even have a catio so we can go outside and still be safe, but I don’t understand how the door works so I haven’t explored it yet. I do like watching the birds from the window, though, and sleeping in the sunshine.
Our mamas take really good care of us. We get a new box of toys every month in the mail and all the tummy rubs we want. Willow and I have to eat special food so I don’t have trouble peeing, but if I wiggle my butt enough sometimes mama will give me treats. (Mama says I’m not chunky, I’m just big boned!) It’s really nice here. I spend most of my day sleeping on our mamas’ bed or wrestling with Willow. As the man of the house it’s up to me to keep us safe, though, so I also check the cupboards regularly and yell at them if I need to. You can’t be too careful.
I used to think all kitties got to live in nice places like me, with all the toys and sleeping spots they could want, but mama told me that’s not true. She said lots of cats have to live outside where it’s cold and wet and they don’t always get to eat dinner. She also said some humans are really mean to cats, and hurt them for no good reason. This made me really sad! I think every cat deserves a nice home and good humans to take care of them. I’d be really scared if I had to live outside, and I would be lonely if I didn’t have Willow and our mamas.
I asked mama what I could do to help all those other kitties and she said there’s a cat rescue she works with called The Whiskers Syndicate. It’s a shelter run by a really nice lady name Josie who takes care of needy cats in a far away place called Indonesia. The people there aren’t as kind to kitties as people are here in America, so there are lots of cats who need her help. Mama donates money to The Whiskers lady, and she said maybe I should ask everyone she knows if they would want to donate some too. Or if they couldn’t, maybe they could at least share this so others can see it too. What a great idea!
I’m really grateful to have such a good family; thank you for letting me tell you about us! If you liked my story, please consider clicking this link and donating a dollar or two to Josie’s family, or even just sharing this so we reach more people. If you can’t, a prayer is just as good! I know they are very grateful for anything you can spare and you’ll be helping kitties like me have a safe place to sleep and play. That’s what every kitty wants and deserves.
So I’m minding my own business, just a Container Store full of nicely labeled boxes and jars and tubs and cubbies and storage cubes and vacuum seal bags all sitting prettily on their shelves and display stands with the shrink wrap still on, and in she walks – cursed Pandora with her clever fingers – and open she pops all my carefully organized containers and out pop all the things I’ve hidden away in them, hoping to never see again in the light of day: my various anxieties and angers and fears and shames, bad memories and unwelcome realizations, guilt complexes and mother issues and latent mental illnesses (oh my!), how they come flying out in a hurry, and there she stands in the middle of the maelstrom with a mild look of apology like sorry, but it had to be done, and oh my troublesome Pandora, I’m not mad, I find, not really, because she’s right, it’s time I actually went through all the crap I spent thirty years shoving into boxes and jars and nooks and crannies and you get used to the chaos, she says, and I figure she’s probably right but that doesn’t make the disaster zone look any less overwhelming.
You wear identities like masks, so easy are they to slip on and off as you please. You are Hannibal and Will, Satan and Lucifer, Vishnu and Brahma; you are Loki, Sutekh, Jack the Ripper; you are death and change and chaos. You wear identities like masks, all with equal elegance, yet your trickster eyes still stare out from beneath and I see you, Tanim, I see you, Daren. You look good in silk, though. And blood. And white, white wings. There might be some hidden lesson here for me to learn but I think you enjoy the masquerade for its own sake as well. You do tend toward pageantry and spectacle, after all, so what better way to tell your story than on such ancient stages and in such iconic forms? I just hope you’ll remain satisfied with the work of your lowly scribe and not go looking for a Homer or a Milton or an Enheduanna!
Another year, another read list! And a great year it was with a mix of historical fiction, nonfiction, and a lot of revisiting books (mostly of the comic or fantasy persuasion) from my shelves that haven’t gotten any love in a long while. I didn’t read as much queer fiction as I usually do, but I made up for that with a good haul of queer comics. The highlight of the year was obviously Patrick O’Brian’s age of sail series lovingly dubbed by fans as the “Aubreyad” or the “Aubrey/Maturin novels”, which I already gushed about here.
- The Mauritius Command – Patrick O’Brian
- Desolation Island – Patrick O’Brian
- One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns Series #2) – Kendare Blake
- The Fortune of War – Patrick O’Brian
- The Surgeon’s Mate – Patrick O’Brian
- It Devours! A Welcome to Night Vale novel – Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
- The Young Queens (Three Dark Crowns Novella) – Kendare Blake
- The Wicked and the Divine Vol. 6: Imperial Phase Part 2 – Gillen McKelvie
- The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part 2 – Bryan Konietzko
- The Ionian Mission – Patrick O’Brian
- Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli
- Treason’s Harbour – Patrick O’Brian
- The Far Side of the World – Patrick O’Brian
- They Both Die at the End – Adam Silvera
- Meditation for Beginners: Techniques for Awareness, Mindfulness, & Relaxation – Stephanie Clement
- Tarot Spreads and Layouts- Jeanne Fiorini
- The Reverse of the Medal – Patrick O’Brian
- Bingo Love – Tee Franklin and Jenn St-onge
- The Letter of Marque – Patrick O’Brian
- Heathen: Volume One – Natasha Alterici and Rachel Deering
- Kaibyo: The Supernatural Cats of Japan – Zack Davisson
- I Was the Cat – Paul Tobin and Benjamin Dewey
- Love is Love – IDW Publishing
- Wilde Stories 2017: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction – ed. Steve Burman
- My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness – Nagata Kabi
- The Biography of Goddess Inanna; Indomitable Queen of Heaven, Earth, and Almost Everything – Sandra Bart Heimann
- All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages – Saundra Mitchell et. al.
- Nagasaki: The Massacre of the Innocent and Unknowing – Craig Collie
- The Thirteen Gun Salute – Patrick O’Brian
- Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident – Donnie Eichar
- The Oracle Queen: A Three Dark Crowns Novella – Kendare Blake
- Circe: A Novel – Madeline Miller
- The Nutmeg of Consolation – Patrick O’Brian
- The Truelove – Patrick O’Brian
- The Wine-Dark Sea – Patrick O’Brian
- The Commodore – Patrick O’Brian
- Titanic: A Very Deceiving Night – Tim Maltin
- The Yellow Admiral – Patrick O’Brian
- The Hundred Days – Patrick O’Brian
- Yurei: The Japanese Ghost – Zack Davisson
- Band vs Band: Volume 1 – Kathleen Jacques
- Band vs Band: Volume 2 – Kathleen Jacques
- The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens – Morgan Daimler
- The Runes – Horik Svensson
- I Am a Cat – Soseki Natsume
- Blue at the Mizzen – Patrick O’Brian
- The Wicked and the Divine Vol 1: The Faust Act – Kieron Gillen
- The Wicked and the Divine Vol 2: Fandemonium – Kieron Gillen
- The Wicked and the Divine Vol 3: Commercial Suicide – Kieron Gillen
- The Wicked and the Divine Vol 4: Rising Action – Kieron Gillen
- The Wicked and the Divine Vol 5: Imperial Phase Part 1 – Kieron Gillen
- The Wicked and the Divine Vol 6: Imperial Phase Part 2 – Kieron Gillen
- Fairies: A Guide to the Celtic Fair Folk – Morgan Daimler
- Black Sun Rising – C.S. Friedman
- Locke and Key Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
- Locke and Key Vol. 2: Head Games – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
- Locke and Key Vol. 3: Crown of Shadows – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
- Locke and Key Vol. 4: Keys to the Kingdom – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
- Locke and Key Vol. 5: Clockworks – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
- Locke and Key Vol. 6: Alpha and Omega – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
- Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt – Yekaterina Barbash
- When True Night Falls – C.S. Friedman
- Crown of Shadows – C.S Friedman
- Becoming Dangerous: Witchy Femmes, Queer Conjurers, and Magical Rebels on Summoning the Power to Resist – Katie West
- Flesh and Spirit – Carol Berg
- Breath and Bone – Carol Berg
- The Poisoner’s Pocket Guide Vol 1: Book of Saturn – Coby Michael Ward
- Two Dark Reigns (Three Dark Crowns Series #3) – Kendare Blake
- Nine Princes in Amber (The Chronicles of Amber Book 1) – Roger Zelazny
- The Poisoner’s Pocket Guide Vol 2: Book of Mercury – Coby Michael Ward
- The Guns of Avalon (The Chronicles of Amber Book 2) – Roger Zelazny
- Sign of the Unicorn (The Chronicles of Amber Book 3) – Roger Zelazny
- The Hand of Oberon (The Chronicles of Amber Book 4) – Roger Zelazny
- The Wicked and the Divine Vol 7: Mothering Invention – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
- The Courts of Chaos (The Chronicles of Amber Book 5) – Roger Zelazny
- Sister Light, Sister Dark (Book 1 of the Great Alta Saga) – Jane Yolen
- Transformation (Rai Kirah Book 1) – Carol Berg
- Revelation (Rai Kirah Book 2) – Carol Berg
- White Jenna (Book 2 of the Great Alta Saga) – Jane Yolen
- Restoration (Rai Kirah Book 3) – Carol Berg
- Creatures of Light and Darkness – Roger Zelazny
- Eye of Cat – Roger Zelazny
- The Dream Master – Roger Zelazny
- The One-Armed Queen (Book 3 of the Great Alta Saga) – Jane Yolen
- Lord of Light – Roger Zelazny
- Unicorn Variations – Roger Zelazny
- A Night in the Lonesome October – Roger Zelazny
- The Ritual – Adam Nevill
- A Sound of Thunder and Other Stories – Ray Bradbury
there’s feedback in your resurrection loop and we’re burning up on reentry, mayday mayday, Lucifer bleeds ichor, Satan weeps starlight, crowned with fire you fall through every universe that shall ever be and leave a trail of prophecies in your meteoric wake, but never fear for your impact craters are my home and I shall find you in every iteration, there is no form you could take in which I would not know you
It was all there on the table. The candlestick. The rope. The lead pipe. The wrench. The knife. The gun. He trailed his fingertips along each weapon with veneration. Clue had always been his favorite board game. He loved the idea of giving six people unique opportunities to kill one another. When he played the game as a child he often concocted complex scenarios that resulted in the deaths of all six guests. He’d been sent to Sister Reverence’s office more times than he remembered. It was always the same.
“Young man, this is becoming habitual.”
Habitual. Habit. Like that stupid thing she wears everyday. It would be so easy to grab her by it and pull. Up, up, up. A widening grin. Until she turned purple, like that bitter chalice offered every morning.
(STOP TELLING IT. YOU’RE TELLING IT WRONG.)
Rain falls hard as hail in the night; in the heavy sky above lightning flickers and thunder sends shudders vibrating through the air. The guests enter the mansion beneath an arched front doorway over which is written, “Do not die before your death”. There are six of them, not including their absent host, and each carries a golden envelope in which the mysterious invitation sits.
Tanim arrives first, of course, in a navy blue suit over which he has draped a pale blue scarf with gold tassels. He bides his time by the fireplace, whiskey in hand, staring into the bright flames until another guest arrives. There are two this time, Bast and Wepwawet, both dressed in layers of desert silks and gold adornments. Wepwawet introduces himself as Anubis; Tanim does not comment on the deception. The three trade amicable conversation until Inanna arrives, her spools of red-gold hair commanding attention as they capture the firelight. Tanim nods to her in greeting and steps to the side, continuing his conversation with Wepwawet as the goddesses greet each other. Soon they are joined by the Morrigan, her blood-red dress offset by a gold collar draped across her clavicles. She is polite yet aloof until Mage swaggers in, almost unfashionably late though highly fashionable in her black leather and gold piercings, and then the two fall to discussing something gruesome. They could be sisters with their pale skin, black hair, and cold eyes.
Their host enters last of all, dressed in his customary black. Daren’s only concession to the formality of the occasion is a single gold ring on his left hand. He looks to each of the guests in turn, noting their placement in the room, their dress, their body language both before and after they notice him. “Now that you have all arrived,” he says once the conversations have ceased, “shall we begin? Come this way.” He turns and leads them across the wide marble-tiled hall and into the dining room. Exchanging glances that communicate a variety of emotions, his guests follow in silence.
THE DINING ROOM
The long table is set for seven, three seats on each long side and the seventh at the head. Crystal and polished silver gleam amid candlelight, the china white as bone. Upon each dinnerplate is a weapon: a candlestick; a rope tied into a noose; a lead pipe; a wrench; a knife; and a handgun. The seventh is empty. Daren stands behind the empty seventh seat and rests his hands on the back of the chair. “I assume you know why I’ve called you all here,” he begins, “and thus will not waste time with explanations. Every window and exterior door in the house is locked, save for a single window – though I would be careful, I imagine the roof is quite treacherous right now. There are six weapons and seven of us. You have two hours.” He gestures to the table’s deadly spread. “Good luck.”
Wepwawet stands in the center of the observatory, watching the raindrops light up in silver strands every time lightning cracks across the sky. Inanna enters, bearing the lead pipe, and approaches him from behind. “Do you know why I’m here?” she asks. Wepwawet smiles, neither surprised nor concerned at her presence. “Because you came,” he replies, turning to face her. He stretches out both of his arms, kneeling down on one knee, and lowers his head reverently. Then he then raises his head again and looks up at her, his dark eyes filled with a humble peace, and says, “As you will, Queen.” Inanna nods once. She strikes him across the jaw with the lead pipe; the sound of his neck cracking echoes through the room. She then kneels down beside the god’s prostrate body and caresses one slack cheek. “The Duat has missed you,” she murmurs. As she walks away, his body turns to gold and drifts away on a wind that does not stir her hair.
The warm glow of antique light bulbs is reflected by a myriad antique mirrors and the polished wood panels in between. In one corner a piano plays Moonlight Sonata, though no one sits at its bench to press the keys. No one dances with Inanna, either, and yet her raised arms and twirling form suggest an unseen partner. So does the way she suddenly stumbles back, a hand clasped to her red cheek as if she’s been struck. She glares up through the hair fallen into her eyes and hisses, “How dare you defy me!” In response, something throws her backward as easily as a discarded toy; she crashes into the piano with a discordant shriek of keys, scattering bits of polished wood and ivory across the marble floor. She lays unconscious in the wreckage of the instrument as red blood trickles along the curls of her fiery hair. Above her the wrench floats for a moment before something brings it crashing down on her temple. Once the golden ashes of her body have drifted away, all that remains in the middle of the broken piano is the rusty wrench.
THE BILLIARD ROOM
Daren finds Mage in the billiard room, sitting cross-legged atop the pool table with a drink in hand. She doesn’t seem particularly concerned about the knife in his hand even though she does not have a weapon herself, unless you count the 8-ball she rolls back and forth across the felt. She cocks her head as he comes to stand in front of her, her green eyes to his black. She asks, “Do you think it will work? Will you learn what it is you wish to learn?” and he nods. “I’m confident I will, yes.” And then he sinks the dagger deep into Mage’s right thigh, moving so fast she doesn’t even have time to retaliate before he pulls away. The dagger stays behind.
“Motherfucker!” Mage bites back a grunt of pain as she grips the dagger’s hilt. “I knew you were going to do that.” Daren only gives her his ghost of a smile and leaves. Mage downs the last of her drink, briefly considers pouring another but decides she doesn’t have the time, then yanks the dagger out and begins cutting strips of cloth from her pants for bandages. When she has staunched the worst of the bleeding and can put at least some weight on the leg she grabs the dagger and goes in search of the single open window. She is just passing into the hallway when every light in the house extinguishes at the same moment, plunging the labyrinth of rooms and hallways into darkness. Her swearing is hushed but prolific.
Bast is in the library, perusing the shelves of leather-bound books, when the lights go out. Firelight catches her eye and she turns to see the Morrigan walking in, a tall white candle set in the candlestick she bears. Its flickering flame is the only light in the room. “What happened to the lights?” she asks. The Morrigan removes the candle from its holder and approaches. “Here,” she offers, proffering the light. Bast accepts it with a nod and returns back to the books. Behind her the Morrigan raises the candlestick and whispers, “The weight of the world,” before striking Bast in the back of the skull. The goddess collapses to the carpet and lays unmoving in a widening pool of blood. Then her body begins to glow, transforming into something like golden ash, and then the ashes blow away as if by a strange wind.
The Morrigan never sees her killer. She has found her way through the darkness to the cellar where she searches now along the cool walls for the circuit breaker. She cannot see the two hands which appear out of the darkness behind her, nor are they accompanied by any sound of footsteps or breathing. Between them they hold a length of the untied rope taut. Just as she locates the circuit breaker the hands bring the rope down over her head and pull it tight around her neck. The goddess struggles against her assailant, nails scrabbling at the thick rope, but to no avail; her vision flashes with brilliant fireworks of pain as she runs out of oxygen. Once she ceases fighting and goes limp, the hands let her fall to the cement floor. After a moment her body turns to gold ashes which blow up and away.
Tanim stands in the doorway to the study, the gun lowered at his side. Across the room Daren stares into the fireplace, his form silhouetted by the red glow of the coals; these shed the only light left in the tomb-like mansion, just as these two men are the only living things left in it. He does not move as Tanim approaches, nor when the man stops a few feet behind him. Instead he merely asks, “Is it done?”
“Yes,” Tanim raises the gun to the back of his lover’s head. “Are you satisfied with the state of things?”
“Almost,” Daren strikes just as lightning illuminates the room for one stark, white second, its attendant thunder a cacophony all around them. With one arm he pushes Tanim’s out of the way so the shot goes wide; with his other he sinks the dagger deep into Tanim’s chest. Darkness reclaims the room and the two men fall still. Then the gun falls from Tanim’s limp hand and with a folding of his knees he follows it soon after, collapsing on his back as a red stain blooms about the hilt of the blade still lodged in his chest. Daren kneels at his side and smooths the hair from his face. “Now I am,” he says softly. “Goodnight, brother.”
my being into your flesh, to
both awareness and autonomy, to
the silent witness behind your eyes, to
the cigarette smoke burning your lungs, to
the familiar weight of the knife in your hand
o wicked winter, o sinful summer, let me curl up behind your ribs to slumber amid your shared madness, let me bear witness to the cacophony of your frenzied union, blood and sweat and insatiable hunger, you are a discordant melody shivering toward a violent climax, a dissonant hymn to addiction and adoration played out on bruised flesh by forceful hands
Despite being both sun and moon, you are truly winter gods. You rule over a city of darkness and storms where summer is merely an abstract concept. Even the summer solstice is soaked in blood, after all, and the sun’s inevitable triumph is something to be mourned, not celebrated. Between the solstices are a succession of long, starless nights bleeding into short, rainy days. Or perhaps it is all the same day, the same night, the same moment drawn out into eternity; I admit it’s hard to tell. Either way, your realm is not for those who wish to honor the ever-turning wheel of the year and its balance of light and dark, death and rebirth. You are gods of death only. Each solstice is ushered in with blood and in between darkness reigns.
My heart is a piece of lodestone and all my life I have followed its tugging, no matter that it pulled me away from well-tended paths and instead over mountain ranges, across rivers, and to the farthest ends of the earth. Sometimes my road runs beside another’s and we walk together for a while, learning from each other where our journeys have taken us, and other times my road so deviates from the norm that I find myself alone in the wilderness. Yet either way the compass stone beneath my breast guides me so that I need not question my direction or fear losing my way. I walk to the ocean and I swim through it; I walk to the cliff base and I climb up it; I walk to the waterfall and I jump down it. Where my heart leads, I follow. In thirty years it has not yet lead me astray.
This was never a competition, per say, and I truly have renounced my vendetta against you, yet some part of me still derives a twisted triumph from the fact that I am here at the end of all things and you are not. It’s over; there’s no time now for you to come running in to play the knight in shining armor and make everything right again. You had that chance – so many, in fact! – and yet I was the only one who stayed. The only one who still cared, who still believed, who understood what fighting for so long can do to someone. I was there for every inch of that journey, physical and emotional; I know far more now about your precious (and yet abandoned?) protege than you ever did or ever can. After all, when you are the only two left in a war you at some point stop seeing yourselves as facing off on opposite sides and instead as back to back, two against the world. Did you really expect her to continue protecting the sanctuary you built without any help at all for years – for forever? No, I don’t think you did. I don’t think you thought anything at all. You just wanted a fantasy world in which to escape, something you could rule with the power you didn’t wield in your regular life, and when you grew bored you tossed it away without a care for those you had already tangled in the story. That’s why I started this war, after all, and that’s why I ended it. She and I are both too much a product of your shaping and we deserve to be free of our last bonds to you. I guess in the end we get to be the knights in shining armor, not you; how ironic is that?
Yes. You promised. And yet here I am, as alone as I was before you came. You are gone and I wait like a fool for an end I swore to you I would not hasten. Please, darling, could you keep this one promise, could you do just this one thing for me? I asked so little of you while you were here and you know it. You owe me this. Please, don’t make me break my word to you by breaking yours to me. I can’t wait any longer.
They say to cross the Bridge of Ghosts you must wear a mask so the specters cannot recognize you and silver bells to disrupt their voices. If you do not wear a mask the spirits will take the form of those you love to lure you over the side. If you do not wear bells they will whisper lies in your ears until you take their words for truth and leap to your death. Even with these protections in place you must walk quickly and never stop until you reach safe earth on the other side. The mask and bells are no guarantee of protection.
No one crosses the Bridge of Ghosts without good reason. It spans a chasm high in the mountains where the wind wails and the cliff faces sharpen the gusts to knives. Nothing grows there. Nothing lives there. Nothing chooses to linger there longer than it must, for to linger is to tempt fate too boldly. Yet it is also said that if you cross the bridge successfully, never succumbing to the ghosts’ illusions or lies, you may at the other end ask them one question which they must answer truthfully. Such a reward has thus lead many, many fools to attempt the pass.
Someone stands now at one end of the bridge and the ghosts swirl hungrily in anticipation, appearing as a white mist which ascends from the valley far below to shroud the bridge and cliffs in wintry half-light. The traveler wears a finely wrought mask of silver with rays like the sun’s with bright little bells tinkling softly from each point. One foot moves to step out onto the bridge; the spirits take up their howling din. They cannot physically touch the man and so they seek to stop him with trickery, yet the mask and bells render the deceptions powerless.
The traveler thus passes through the fog with ease, never faltering, never fearing, and arrives safely at the other side of the bridge. As he removes the mask he speaks to the empty air, “Did you keep your promise?” Behind him a familiar voice answers, “Yes. I have waited long for you.” The traveler turns back to the bridge to find his lover standing upon it with arm extended. “I am here now,” he responds. He steps forward and they join hands; both disappear, leaving behind only the fallen mask.
Put me in a sideshow, it’s where I belong. All the people who have heard about freaks like me can come pay fifty cents to stare at me through the bars of my cage. They’ll ooh and ah, gasp and point. When I try to explain myself they’ll snicker behind their hands, Look, it thinks it’s people! You’re wrong, though. I don’t. You’ve finally forced it through my thick skull that I’m not one of you. But at least here you’re all laughing at my face and not my back, right? And maybe someone will throw peanuts to me out of pity.
i dream of cocaine and matches, sharp teeth and carpet burns, seems like quite the party you’re having without me but whatever, it’s cool, i have so many friends to hang out with that i don’t have time to write anything for you anyway, have fun fucking on the floor, try not to hurt each other too much or neither of you will even make it to the solstice
After completing the Bast FAQ I wanted to write one for Inanna. For all that She was an extremely important goddess in the ancient middle east, She doesn’t seem to have much of a following anymore – and often when She does, She just gets lumped in with other similar goddesses. It’s hard to find anything modern about Her worship so I hope my experiences can help anyone else who has been called by Her or is considering working with Her. Again, the following is all based on my own UPG (unverified personal gnosis).
What’s Her personality like?
Inanna shows Herself to me as a copper-skinned woman with dark red hair, very reminiscent of the Gerudo race from The Legend of Zelda. Her fierce warrior essence and proud sensuality give Her an alluring “don’t fuck with me” vibe that’s definitely intimidating – She is the Queen of Heaven and you won’t forget it when you’re in Her presence! In the beginning I saw mostly her warrior side, that part of Inanna which rejoices on the battlefield and destroys entire mountains for not bowing to Her. This aspect must be respected; Inanna’s temper is short and Her memory long. Over time, however, I have come to see Her ‘softer’ aspects more clearly. As a goddess of love and sexuality, She embraces all regardless of perceived flaws and encourages self-love and self-care. Though She may lead you through the underworld to face your deepest fears and secrets, She will also lead you back out into the light. Inanna is the embodiment of tough love, which we all need sometimes in our lives. She will expect a lot from you but never more than you can give.
How did She come into your life?
About two years ago I dreamed about a goddess who was totally white – white skin, white hair, white eyes, like a marble statue – and who had a white snake coiled around Her neck so that it looked almost like ram’s horns. In the dream She asked me, “Why have I been summoned?” in a resounding, thunderous voice, and when I woke I had the name Inanna on my lips. I didn’t know She would be a real goddess; I’d never heard of Her before nor knew anything about the Sumerian pantheon. When I googled Her, though, I found out She was THE goddess of the ancient middle east, powerful and greatly worshiped for ages, and even connected with the earliest named author (a woman!!) in human history. Talk about intimidating…
What does your devotion to Her look like?
For the first year or so of my devotion to Inanna it was a lot of “hurry up and wait”. She indicated She had plans for me, but that I wasn’t ready yet. Therefore, for a good portion of that time I just had a small altar for Her at which I would pray and offer food weekly. Every month or so I’d check in to see if things were moving – and sometimes had Inanna AND Bast tell me I wasn’t ready! At the beginning of this year, 2018, things started to pick up. Inanna indicated She is in my life for two reasons: one, to help me better love myself (especially my body) and two, to assist me as I take up witchcraft. So lately I’ve been trying to honor Her by being kinder to myself physically, mentally, and emotionally, as well as allowing myself to really dive into my interest in witchcraft. Basically any time I stick up for myself or feel like a truly capable, badass person, that’s a tribute in part to Inanna.
Can I worship Her if I’m [insert race/orientation/diagnosis/etc]?
Since Inanna’s expertise covers such a wide array of topics – love, sex, war, government, knowledge, the underworld, fertility, freedom, gender equality, queerness, joy, wrath, courage, magic, and more – just about anyone could follow Her as long as they weren’t actively working against something that falls under Her purview. However, I believe certain groups are especially under Her protection and care, including women and queer people. Inanna has historical connections with gender-swapping, androgyny, and trans-ness, and Her role as a goddess of love and personal autonomy make Her a strong ally for anyone who’s queer or otherwise marginalized by society.
How do I go about initially connecting with Her?
Inanna is scary – and it’s okay to admit that! She wants to be scary. She wants to be intimidating. She wants to know that you’re ready to put the hard work in and that you can handle Her at Her toughest. Never forget that She’s a goddess of war who asks a lot from Her followers. Set some time aside to focus before you reach out to Her, then light some candles, offer up something nice (that won’t break your bank, of course), and introduce yourself. While you don’t need to grovel in the dirt or anything, try to remain formally respectful. Use some of Her epithets and state your intention politely. Inanna isn’t a goddess to go to with instant demands or only when you need a quick fix; everything with Her takes time. If your first connection is weak or it seems like nothing “happened”, just wait and try again. Perseverance will get you far with Her.
How should I communicate with Her?
Everyone will have their own method of communicating with a deity so experiment and see what works for you. I usually use tarot to speak with Inanna when I want a more in-depth answer and this works fine for me – though She can be very blunt! She is partial to the swords and pentacles suits and identified Herself to me as the Strength card. I have also had Her communicate with me through signs like finding crow feathers, certain songs, Day of the Dead imagery, and even several fictional characters. Once you make contact with Her, you might be surprised at all the ways and places She suddenly pops up.
What kinds of offerings does She like?
Inanna is a little picky when it comes to offerings, I’ve learned. While you can get away with the basics (bread, water, etc) if that’s all you have, She definitely knows when you can do better and She’ll make sure you know She knows. For Inanna quality is definitely preferred over quantity. Buy or make something for Her specifically and you’re much more likely to earn Her approval than if you make Her share an offering with other gods or give Her something thoughtless. Don’t worry, though, She’ll be sure to tell you when She wants something!
Some specific offerings I know She likes include: dark chocolate, baked goods, kombucha, apple cider, pomegranates, rose quartz, carnelian, garnet, lapis lazuli, flowers, skulls (especially bird skulls) or skull motifs, candles (I go with something spicy like frankincense and myrrh), bullets, nails, statues, raven figurines or artwork, moodboards, red and gold, witchcraft-related items (athames, cauldrons, mortar and pestle, etc), celestial motifs, dancing, and jewelry (especially snake-themed).
Does She require ritual purity?
Inanna has never required me to be ritually pure to approach Her altar, though I usually already am because I cleanse myself before talking with Bast. That being said, it’s probably not a bad idea – Inanna expects and appreciates respect, and adhering to ritual of any sort is a good way to show respect.
How does She feel about Her followers worshiping other gods as well?
Not only does Inanna come from a very large pantheon, She is heavily associated with other goddesses such as Ishtar, Isis, Venus, and Aphrodite. Given this connection, I don’t think She would have any issue with a follower of Hers worshiping other gods. That being said, I’ve noticed two pet peeves of Hers. One, She doesn’t seem to like sharing altar space if it can be helped – She is much happier with Her own dedicated space. Two, She wants to be recognized as Inanna Herself, not just a carbon copy of Ishtar or other similar goddesses. Every time I considered getting a statue of Ishtar for Her, since finding one of Inanna is rather difficult, I received a very strong NO. I think the similarities between Her and other goddesses can be appreciated and drawn upon in your practice, but you should remember that Inanna is Her own entity and not just an offshoot of any other deity.
I hope this helps!
Do you think I won’t drag your corpses behind me, one by each arm, through all the length of our shared Purgatory? I’ve dragged mine along for years; the added burden’s nothing to me. Though you be rot and bone, I will not ever let you go.
Do you think I wanted to be this way? she longs to scream. That I was made like this, with a rotting heart?
She remembers the beginning like it were yesterday and not a thousand thousand years ago: the white marble city sparkling on the edge of the primordial sea, the islands made of leviathan jaw bones, the newborn sun warming sand and water and immortal flesh alike. She remembers the weight of wings and the weightlessness of flying, soaring on lazy thermals through the eternal summer day. Her skin remembers gold and jewels and silk, her tongue ambrosia and honeyed wine, her ears the harmonious blend of laughter, music, and the susurrus of waves. Yet when she returns to those memories, painful though they may be, she most often chooses to remember the companions she once knew, those she danced with in the sky and those she lay with in the sea foam. Soft lips and sweet kisses on the sandy shore, open arms and hearts in the cool marble halls; love was so uncomplicated then. She was so uncomplicated then. She does not pine for home, but she does pine for those she left there.
Monsters are not born from flesh and bone, she wants to say, but won’t. They are born from betrayal and desperation. Remember that, because what was done to me can be done to you.
the devil is trapped between swords and pentacles and i do not know if i can free him or if he even wants me too, he is a candle in the darkness that burns too hot to touch and yet always i am reaching out to scorch my useless flesh, dip my fingers deep down in that glass black scrying wax, you know we are the same with our hands dripping stains so where are you, where are you, i will rend open heaven and hell to carry or drag you out if i must, i will find you i will find you i will find
Our current DnD campaign isn’t over yet but I’m already working on my next character because ideas! Her name is Selene and she is a siren (ie killer mermaid) cursed to remain trapped in a human-shaped body, thus preventing her from being with her kin in the ocean. She has none of her siren powers, but she makes up for that by basically being an anthropomorphic shark. I LOVE HER ALREADY.
Name: Selene (in Common)
Race: Siren (homebrew based on water genasi stats)
Orientation: Hella gay, just so so gay for pretty ladies
Primal Path: Berserker
Alignment: Chaotic neutral
General physical description: About 5’4″, very slim but well muscled, body somewhat “androgynous” (not very curvy, kinda flat-chested), blueish-gray skin similar to shark skin, completely black eyes, long straight black hair, teeth shaped and in rows like a shark’s, pointed ears
Dress style: Selene is used to being naked and therefore doesn’t like to feel confined by clothing, so she wears as little as possible and what she does wear is very open and flowing; she doesn’t wear shoes or anything else restricting, nor does she need to given her tough skin; she does bear lots of gold and silver piercings in her ears/lips/nose/eyebrows/etc because sirens like shiny things
Weapons: Teeth, claws, shark tooth club that slings across her back, barnuckles (brass knuckles made out of barnacles)
Hobbies: Sinking ships, eating people, playing with her sisters and other sea creatures, sunning on rocks, exploring shipwrecks
Positive personality traits: Curious, brave, headstrong, physically affectionate, easily attached to people or things, open-minded and accepting in a semi-oblivious way
Negative personality traits: Petulant, vengeful, short-sighted, self-centered, spicy but short-lived temper
Sense of humor: Dark; siren humor is like “haha, look, you thought we were pretty ladies but we’re actually scary monsters who are gonna drown you!”
How other people see her: Like a literal monster most of the time since she doesn’t have very good manners and is basically a land shark, or maybe as just a particularly weird water jenasi; she doesn’t easily endear herself to others since she’s more wild creature than human being
Opinion of herself: Generally high; sirens aren’t big on self-reflection
Religion: None – though sirens do respect the sea goddess Umberleigh (aka The Bitch Queen), as it was she who first created them in her bitchy likeness
Background: Selene was just a typical young siren, singing songs and sinking ships, until she sank the wrong ship and the brother of one of the dead sailors cursed her to remain trapped in a semi-human form; until she breaks the curse she can’t return to her home and has none of her siren powers, hence why she has to depend on her body’s physical attributes (strength, dexterity, sharp teeth, etc) when fighting
Reason for adventuring: To find the wizard who cursed her and
eat him make him remove the curse, then eat him
Philosophy of life: Eat or be eaten; also, finder’s keepers, losers weepers
Most important thing to know about this character: Although she’s a chaotic monster who literally eats humans, she’s also a young creature away from her home and family in a totally unfamiliar world
Other random facts: She’s good at mimicking sounds; she has little fear of creatures larger than herself; she’s basically always hungry, and will eat almost anything; she’s very distrustful of men; when she gets really worked up she has a harder time speaking Common; she has absolutely no qualms about lying
Other belongings: Her only real belongings of value are all of her piercings, since most of those are gold or silver; she did steal a pack from someone who tried to capture her and therefore also has a waterproof pipe tobacco set, a whittling set, a guilded dragon tooth, something called “the captain’s ring”, a jar of breathe fire, ever-ready tinder, a mini machinists chest, a lake iron hunting knife, an ironwood club, and something called “kindred crow call”
I was the good doctor’s failed first attempt; the electricity ran through my dead flesh but never jolted the rotten cells back to life and so I remained a disappointing patchwork corpse. He tried to pass me off as human anyway, yet no one believed him. Look, they said, she can’t feel a thing. How can she be human if she can’t feel? They were right, of course. I am only a monster made of discarded meat and I feel nothing. Maybe someone with more talent or luck can break down my disparate parts and use them to build something more worthwhile.
there are some things i can only write about at very specific times, like when the moon is just a sliver in a sky the color of my freshmen year of college or the afternoon sun is slanting just like it did that day in eighth grade, when i’m driving the old back roads home from a theater that hasn’t changed at all in twenty-five years or listening to a song i wrung all the emotion from while i walked endless circles around campus late at night, but even then i must hurry to capture the fleeting, fickle moment before it passes and i am left too weary to write another word, too empty to perform another grand resurrection of my old ghosts and demons and long beloved spirits, and in the morning or the next day when i go back to reread those scribbles i’ll just be disappointed anyway by how impossible it is to capture such ephemeral experiences, so i’ll think why do i even try, why do i bother robbing graveyards, and then i’ll ctrl+alt+delete my way out of all memory but today’s