Category Archives: short story

Quiet Moment On The Front Lines of an Eternal War

I was tired, from something more than battle and fatigue and hunger. I was tired not just to my bones, but to my very soul. My heart felt like it was pumping sludge instead of blood.

Me and her, Lt. Parris, were sitting above our dug out bunker that was basically home, known, not at all affectionately, as The Tomb. We had tinned fish and bottled water, so we were in high cotton!

Lt. Parris, I dared never call her Taelor, was happily chowing on down on her tinned fish, as if she were on her lunch hour in the park, not a care in the world. Not that she was careless, and not that she wasn’t as wrung out and exhausted as I was, it was just the meat grinder of a war never seemed to dampen her brightness, she shone even in this night.

It was the last dregs of dusk, the last bits of golden and red light been washed out of the sky, and the teacup of the sky was almost completely turned over to close out the light. So many holes in the tea cup. So many stars.

Their was a cool wind coming off the desert. Always so cold at night. Very cold. But I felt something in that wind, almost, almost…….peaceful.

Lt. Parris finished her tinned fish, and washed down the salty aftertaste with the last few swigs from her bottled water. She looked out onto the bare horizon, which ghostly and uncertain under starlight and with no bright moon. There not fear in her eyes. Only peace. And resolve.

“Something to eat besides MRE’s are a rare treat Jones, you should have savored it more.” She says, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

“What are tinned fish when we’re all being devoured, and The Red Dragon is coming take us. We’re all burning. We’ll be ashes on this cold goddamn wind.”

Lt. Parris, sighed, still looking out on the horizon, but she saw something…..else out there. Something……beyond the night and the demons and all the bloodshed.

“Jones…..we’re facing a lot right now. Don’t think I don’t notice the state you’re in. Don’t think I don’t know the Principalaties are amassing, and we’re hemorrhaging soldiers, and that it’s seems like everything we’re fighting for is hopeless and lost.”

“How many years have we been at This Lt. Parris? How much has been lost and how many have we sent how in caskets? How many rivers of blood has flowed on these dusty hills? And for what? The Red Dragon is still pushing hard against us! The demons are everywhere! There’s no bloody end to them! Home, is almost lost!”

I was howling at this point, as if to offer a scream up the sky and heaven itself! Once again, I was getting to worked up. To emotional. To bloody moody and unstable. I sighed, and brought myself back to earth, I think.

Lt. Parris sighed, but didn’t react otherwise. She didn’t threaten to have me reported to the platoon priest for blasphemy, or threaten to have me court martialed for defeatism. All the same, this was stuff she’d heard before, often, and was exasperated with hearing. Almost as exasperated as I was for not being able to shut up about it. But this war I’d been fighting for so long, and nothing seemed to every change in a good way. All that changed was what poor sucker caught it that day and had to be sent home in a box, perhaps a box that contained many pieces.

“Jones, Home isn’t lost. We have held them. At cost, at pain and loss. But we have held. It will never end, not until The Revelation and The End of Time. We’re going to fight here until we can’t. The others who follow us will do the same. The Red Dragon will always be a threat, because just as we have the divine light in us, we also have the darkness in us. Demons were once us you know. They got seduced. They let themselves be taken.

“There  will always be people who let themselves be taken.” She said.

She reached over and placed arm around my shoulders, and gave me a squeeze. I tensed, surprised by her showing any sort of affection. But I then melted into it, and felt the warmth of her, and I felt as if the light and the peace in her was pouring into me.

She disengaged herself, squeezed my knee, than looked up at the stars.

“Remember what you have won, and what you’ve saved, all that you’ve been, even here.” She says.

She collects her empty tin and bottle and goes back inside The Tomb.

I sit by myself for a long time, in the darkness, beneath the stars, and in the wind.

Valentine’s Day

The sky is clear and starry. There is no moon. The street is sparse. A
man. A couple. A diner at a cafe. The air is crisp. I pull my jacket
tighter. I hear footsteps behind me.
I wish I had a cigarette. I quit. She made me quit. Helena. Red hair.
Smile. Hands soft as silk. I remember them on my face.
She had survived once. So many didn’t. A shooting at school. We
thought that was it. We were safe. Footsteps.
Helena. Unchanging. Beautiful. Seventeen forever. I wish I could see
her get old. Gray. Wrinkled.
I keep this day holy. I keep it pure. One year ago. Bleeding on the
resteraunt floor. Gunshots. Her tears. What was happening?
I pass a couple. They are laughing. I look away. Wouldn’t you? I
almost remember. Not quite. Just almost. A summer day. Hands soft as silk.
First kiss. A Promise.
Footsteps are closer.
End of the street. Couple go into a shop. Man is gone. Diner leaving.
I turn.
A man. Plain. Cold. No plumes of breath. He has a gun.
Silenced shots. I fall. The man walks away.
My turn. Now I’m gone.
Stars are bright. They are cold.
Will I see her now?

Hopes and Dreams

Hopes and Dreams

I remember waking up early on summer mornings, when the day was still cool
and the light still soft. Every summer Hope would tend her own garden in her
backyard. She would be up early ever morning, sometimes before first light,
to work in it. And while she worked, she would sing. I would open my window
the night before when I went to bed just so I could wake to her sweet
singing. I’d lay in bed, wrapped in my sheets, and listen. She was always
there, like the morning birds, their song saying that the night was over and
another day was here. Eventually my mother would call me down for breakfast
and I’d get up and ready and dressed and go down stairs to eat, though I
would never want to leave before she was done. I would always go when called
though.

I’d see her at church. I’d see her walking with her family; mom and dad and
sisters Faith and Charity on the tree lined sidewalk. Hope and her sisters
where not like most other kids. Me and my brothers would goof off and horse
around in the back seat of the family car as we drove the short way to
church. Often, during the service we’d let our minds wander, the words of
the preacher becoming a soft drone. Hope and Faith and Charity however
always acted so reserved and quiet. They never seemed to play the fool like
we did. During the sermon they always sat straight up, eyes on the preacher.
You knew no word was passing them by.

I’d pass by Hope’s house sometimes in the early evening, heading back from
the park or woods where me and my friends would play. She’d be sitting by
herself under a big old tree in her front yard. Her eyes would sometimes be
closed, and only her long brown hair stirred in the gentle breeze. Other
times her eyes would be open, and it would be as if she were seeing
everything in the twilight; the ants climbing the blades of grass, the
insects buzzing through the air and the bats that would swoop down to devour
them. It’s was if, like her God, she saw everthything all at once, and like
her God she lived all of it without reservation. We lived on the same street
in the same neighborhood in the same city, but we were really from two
different worlds. We were aliens to each other.

I remember the Valentine’s Day of my eigth grade year. I was in middle
school, and that day was just another school day unless you had a boy or
girl friend. No more parties for us where we exchanged pre-bought cards in
little envolopes, to be but in shoe boxes we had spent the day before
decorating. No, it was just another day. I had no one I was dating at the
time, so I wasn’t expecting any presents or cards. But Hope surprised me.
After the last class of the day I was headed to my locker, and I saw her
standing in front of it. She had her books hugged to her chest. She was
wearing a plain white dress. Her eyes were on her feet. Her long brown hair
fell over her face. I walked up to her.
“Hello.” I said.
She looked up at me. Her hair slid away from to reveal her pretty face. She
looked me in the eye. Her eyes were bright like stars, and as full of light.
Then she smiled, and I saw something in it I had never seen, something I
couldn’t put my finger on.
“Hello.” She replied, and held out her hand. In it was a homemade card with
my name on it. I took it from here, stunned by this turn of events. I didn’t
know she ever took notice of me.
“Happy Valentines Day.” She said, still looking me right in the eye, still
with that strange something in her smile. Then she turned away and walked
towards the buses. I watched her go for a moment and then opened the card.

We met once after that. She had stayed after school for chorus and was
waiting for her mom to come pick her up. I had also stayed late for
rehearsals for the school play. I saw her sitting in on one of the concrete
benches that lined the front of the school. She was looking up at the big
blue sky, not a care in the world. I just watched her for a moment, as
always amazed by her. She was so in tune to something I just couldn’t know,
some other better place. After a moment I walked to the bench where she was
sitting and sat down beside her. She looked away from the sky and then at
me, that strange smile once more on her lips.
“Hello.” She said.
“Hello.”
“Beautiful day.”
“I know.”
“No.” She said. “You don’t.”
There was a sad look in her eye, as if she knew where she went I could not
follow.
“Thanks for the card.” I said.
“You’re very welcome.” She said, her eyes lighting up again.
“It was very nice of you to go through all the trouble of hand making it.”
I told her.
“Well, anyone can buy something. It takes real love to make something for
someone.”
I must of blushed. She giggled, then looked back to the sky.
“It’s an amazing world, despite everything we do to it, or to each other.”
She said. “Do you ever think about it? What all we have here? What all we’ve
been given?”
“Uhhm, well…..” Was all I managed. Again that sad look was in her eye.
“Most people are like that. They don’t think about it.” She said, and then
turned back to me. She looked me in the eye, and I felt as if something
where piercing my heart. It was like she could see right into it.
“You’re like most of the people here. Thoughtless. Aimless. Wasting your
time.” She said. “Still though, there’s something more to you. No one else
sees it. Not even you see it. It’s there though, and it shines bright.”
Hope reached over and squeezed my hand. She never looked away from my eyes.
I felt at once hungry for and fearful of her gaze. Either way, I didn’t want
her to turn away from me. Then there was the honk of a car horn; her mom was
here. She stayed for a beat longer, then gathered up her book bag and then
got into the car. As they drove away, she looked back and gave me one last
smile.

I never got to talk to her like that again. Once again we went to our
seperate worlds. We grew up. We moved away. We lived our lives. Still, she
is often in my thoughts. I always hope she was right about me, that there is
a light shining bright within me. I often doubt how well I’ve lived up to
that. I’d like to think that if she could still see me she would be proud of
me. She is still in my heart. In that way she has never left me. Through all
the years and all that’s been done, part of me can still hear her singing.

The Sin Eater

It was six am, the little digital clock said on Ellie’s desk. She couldn’t see the sun beginning to break, as the morgue was cold and underground and away from all sunlight. Still, she took a moment to visualize the coming light in her head, the cold and wan light of a February morning, the shadows that and starry ocean that receded like a tide as the light pushed its way ashore.

               She had shared just such a morning with Skylar, the young man laying cold and dead on the examination table, with the loaf of bread laid upon his chest for the ceremony that she needed to perform him, to get him free and into heaven.

               Ten years ago, after a night of drinking and laughing and talking and ecstatic lovemaking, they had walked up the scraggly, almost bare hill behind their apartment, holding hands, happy, carrying yet another bottle of red wine with them. They had sat down on the hill, passing the bottle, her head on his shoulder, in silence as the sun rose and all seemed like paradise.

               That was the last good time they’d had. That was the last time the bad outweighed the good. That was the end of everything for them, and the beginning of everything about Skylar going completely to shit.

               Ellie left her office, and went to the examination table. The sweet beauty, the boyish petulance, the trickster spark was gone from him. He was only an empty shell. Whatever it was that made him wild and mad and a goddamned fool was gone forever from him. It unnerved her to look at him like this. Bodies of those lost were uncanny faces that looked familiar, but utterly empty and alien. There had been a soul, and it was gone. What was left was a mockery.

               The autopsy had told her what she already knew, but procedure had to be followed. No foul play, his body had just shut down from all the abuse. Suicide by substances. Suicide, slowly but as plainly as if he had put a gun to his temple and pulled the trigger. Suicide, because he was a goddamned fool.

               He could be sweet, when he was sober, when he was himself. He could make her believe she was God’s Most Favored Angel, the greatest treasure in a starry night. She remembered him taking her down to Chattanooga and over into Dalton Georgia in the middle of the night, simply because she’d said she’d never been out of Tennessee, and he though he needed to immediately rectify that. She remembered the song he made up for her though he couldn’t sing and could barely play a guitar. She’d be flattered anyway. She remembered his tender and supplicant kisses. She remembered.

               And she remembered the drink and the drugs taking over and the demon that unleashed upon her. The rage and accusations and the jealousy. She remembered trying to take a bottle from him once when he was already smashed, and him hauling off and back handed her across the face. She fell to the floor, crying and screaming, while he continued to howl at her. She scrambled to her feet, ran out the door of the apartment they shared, and never came back.

               Once he was sober he kept calling in tears and begging her for forgiveness. But her heart was hardened to him, and she cut him out of her life forever. She gone on her way, to becoming a doctor and then an M.E., and working for the county sheriff. He’d gone on down the path he’d laid out for himself since the beginning, and it came to its predictable end.

               And now, the ceremony must begin. The loaf of bread had laid upon his chest all night, since midnight and the turning of the day. It had absorbed all his sins. In the old times a Sin Eater would eat the bread left upon the deceased, so the bread could absorb all the deceased’s sins, and the Sin Eater could take those sins upon themselves, so the deceased could go into heaven and be free and at peace forever.

               Ellie would be his Sin Eater. She would take his sins upon herself. She wanted him free and in paradise. She ate the bread, bitter and cold, and quietly tears rolled down her cheeks. She still loved that goddamned fool, even now. She couldn’t bear the thought of him in torment and without hope. She would take his price, so he could be at peace at last.

               The ceremony over, the tears shed, the bargain made. She called his parent to release the body to them, and to go and see the sun that was now risen and bright.

              

              

And All Of That And All That Happened After

“Do you think it’s like in that old movie, that like, Hell’s full?”

 

               “No, because everyone who dies comes back as a zombie, and that would mean everyone goes to hell, and that The Church has been lying to us all these years, and were fucking suckers, and also that it doesn’t matter if you’re good, you still burn, and who needs to think shit like that?”

 

               The two others in the armored van continued like that. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep, or at least lose myself in non thought, just free floating blackness. I wanted to lulled by the hum of the engine and the tires on the road, and the rocking of the van as we made our way back to Paladin Base.

               It didn’t work though. My heart still thudded in a sickening and breathless hollowness. I still strained to catch my breath and not feel like I was suffocating. And the two other assholes in my squad would not stop yammering about god and hell and the undead. None of it went anywhere. None of it meant anything.

 

               The van shuddered and shimmied as we went over the fat concrete lip at the entrance to motorpool. Finally, maybe, this night would fucking end. Harris and Walters where the muscle and the firepower. I was the Priest In Command. They would only have to unload the young woman’s body, but I would have to perform Rites over here, before putting the corpse into the crematorium to burn.

               Harris and Walters unloaded the stretcher with the body, and placed it on the gurney, and started wheeling it to the Revenant Chapel, which held the crematorium. Then they’d change from their battle armor into civvies, lock up their weapons and be done. This job was hell for everyone who did it, who rounded up the Revenants, or who were present at deaths or any mass casualty event where their were in short order going to be lots of undead to be put down. But I hated being a Priest, and having Perform the Rite that we were told would send the good to heaven despite the Curse of Returning. I hated having to be last one to be with them, to bear witness to their final destruction.

               Most of all I hated the thoughts it led to. 15 years the Curse of Returning had been here, and it never ended and we humans rose again after corporeal death, hungry and ravenous and soulless, to have to be destroyed again by a well placed hollow point in the skull, and for all the devotion and prayers and songs of praise all of us in The Church sent wafting up to heaven, it never got better, the curse never lifted, and society just continued to crumble, to grow tattered and dissolute, in the face of all this madness. All the awnsers The Cardinals could not supply.

 

               The Revenant Chapel was nothing like glories The Church had once produced. Nothing awe inspiring or hushed and sacred. It was a plain cinderblock room painted cream, with an aluminum cross painted a flat gold above the hatch to the crematorium oven. All functionality and utterly banal, like everything else.

 

               I was supposed to remain in body armor and keep my side arm holstered on my leg, and my main assault weapon on the sling when I performed The Rite. I was not going to do any of that. Off came armor and weaponry, and shirt, undershirt and boots. I was hot and I couldn’t breathe and the weight and the air and even the silence seem oppressive, like the weight of a million atmospheres.

               This Revenant was a young woman, poor and already a mother. We’d killed her in front of her two daughters because otherwise the daughters would have been eaten by their undead mother. But the girls would carry the weight of that death forever, and already they’d been born with so much else to scar them.

               I cleaned the body with holy water. I placed a communion wafer in her mouth. I said prayers over her and burned insense. I told her her Father In Heaven would receive her into paradise.

               Tears welled in my eyes as I went through all this, though I never broke down into sobs. All that had happened and all that was yet to come and all that we, God’s Perfect Children, suffered in the dirt and mud of this world, and He showed no interest, just let it all play out.

               The woman had been sweet and loving. She’d been a devout believer. She’d loved her daughters and did the best she could by them. She died in a stupid accident, and all of that and all that happened after they saw, and no angel wiped away their tears.

              

               I crumpled against the cold cinderblock wall, the sobs finally coming. I held my crucifix in my hands, and mouthed the words of prayer, but I felt nothing getting past the ceiling.

 

 

               I left Paladin Base as the sun was coming up. This early the day was actually cool and all was still quiet and I almost imagined it was all over, we’d all gone to heaven, the world would not wake-up and continue, we could all rest forever.

              

               I share a small bungalow on a back alley, behind a ratty apartment complex and a old Victorian house down at heel and now a half way house, with my lover. Priests are supposed to be celibate and refrain from romantic love and pleasures of the flesh, but my heart is hungry and demands love and affection, and, well, there’s worse things I could do.

 

               She is not awake yet. The morning sun casts a hollow on her. Her back is turned to me, and with her long, dark hair fanning out over her naked back, and the soft rhythm of her breathing, and that wonderous light making her glow like a Madonna, all purity and love. In that, in that simple sight, I’m reminded of what beauty this world can be, and how it can take you out of all the pain and emptiness, and almost make it seem worthwhile.

 

               I lift up the covers and bury my face in my lovers hair. I reach one arm around her chest and the other meets it after passing under her neck. She sighs and I wash her body with my tears and anoint her with all the light and devotion and sweetness that is left in my broken heart.

               We make love, and then she dresses for her day. She kisses me, once, softly on the lips, I drift to sleep with the smell of her perfume filling me with bittersweet dreams, and puts me in some long lost garden.

              

Heaven’s Tattered Ways

I believed, when I was a girl, that a mermaid lived in the little grotto that formed in the bend of the dark, slow river that ran behind my house. The hill past the little back yard dropped severly, and was covered in verdant trees and mossy rocks and tall, wild grass. The little grotto was shaded and secret.

               I always swam there in the humid heat of an East Tennessee summer. The cold water made me shiver even in the hot season. I always sang to her, knowing that mermaids sang to people to keep them to come to them. I called out to her that I meant her no harm and I was her friend. She never came, though I always knew it was because she was shy.

               My bedroom was in the back of the house, my bed right against the window. We had no air conditioning so in summer I always slept with my window open, hoping for a cool breeze to ward off how stuffy and sticky the air felt. And in those summer months, as I drifted to sleep looking up at the sky full of stars and shepherded by Mother Moon, I’d talk to the mermaid, down in the little grotto. I could tell her anything, for she loved me and used her magic to protect me. I always knew she was there for me.

 

               I am a grown woman now. My daughter is asleep, curled up in a little ball of pink and bows on the couch, cartoons running mindlessly on the TV, though mercifully muted. She holds the stuffed mermaid I gave her close, her best and truest friend. I didn’t even realize what I was giving her when I bought it for her. A mermaid protected me; a mermaid would protect her.

               All the windows are open in the living room, but the air is still and the day is hot and even just sitting still on the couch I am sticky with sweat and finding it hard to breathe, like I need gills to breath this wet air.

               I decide to go for a walk.

               I leave my daughter sleeping and walk to the back of the house and down the wild, unkempt hill to the little grotto. It’s not as dark and hidden now, as blight and insects have killed several of the trees that shaded it. There are still patches of shade, and they are soothing.

               I walk to the very stone edge of the grotto and sit down. The stone is cool and I feel it on my skin beneath the seat of my jeans. I feel overwhelmed now, back in the secret place that nurtured me as a child, through all the hard times and wanting to escape and hiding everything inside and smiling brightly like a good girl should. This was my Eden, Neverland and Narnia, my place beyond the world.

               I sing. I sing to call the mermaid up from the dark cold waters. I sing to call back something I’ve lost and that was precious to me. The sense that there was magic in the world, and I could slip between the cracks into something wonderous, and that my mermaid really did watch out for me. That someone was watching out for me.

              

               “Over dark seas and endless days,

               over starless dark and devil’s ways,

               over lost moon and the hope of sunrays,

               to know at last heaven’s tattered ways.”

              

               I sing those words, that mantra that called her into my mind, that let me know she was there and that her magic kept me alive and safe when everything went all too shambles. I sing them and I don’t see her and my heart crushes into itself and I hang my head and my hands start to weep. After everything that’s happened not this too!

               I start to get up again, and walk back to the house, and I hope compose myself before my little girl wakes up because I will not let her so me cry, when something in the water catches my eye.

               It’s her! My mermaid! Her golden hair a halo and crown, her beautiful aquamarine face looking up from the depths. And she smiles at me.

              

Ania

Ania was in the light. The light was all there was. It and her were one.

Ania was a toddler, clutching her mother’s leg. She was small and ever dependent on the mercy and love of the world. She could not defend herself from it’s cruelty.

 Ania was sitting at her mother’s side, in the big field with the tall, green grass. She was enraptured by a nigh sky so full of stars it was almost white. Eyes wide, Ania reached her little hand to the stars, as if to catch some and hold them in her palm.
Her mother saw this and laughed, looking away from the telsescope and putting down her notes and pulling Ania into her lap.
“You can’t reach them baby; there way up in the sky.”
Her mother than kisses her Ania’s silken, blonde head.
 Ania was asleep in her mother’s arms as she walked up the stairs to the nursery. She was at peace, warm against her mother’s breast, unafraid of anything in the world. Her mother’s heart beat was the rhythm of her dreams.
 Ania dreamed of God, impossible and tall and up in the sky, watching us as we, like insects, marched about at his feet. We are all children before him, for we depend on his love and mercy, for none of us defend ourselves against his cruelty.
 Her mother and father were kissing. Mother’s belly was full and round and plump.
“Mama, why are you so big?” Ania asked.
“Because you’re going to be a big sister.”
“There’s a baby in there?”
“Yes.”
“How?” Ania wanted to know.
Both her mother and father laughed, and her mother ran a hand through Ania’s silken blonde hair, and then stroked her cheek.
“Don’t worry about that now baby.”
Ania was left wondering at the baby inside her mother, and how that could be.
 And that was how it could be. Health class sophmore year. Though she understand how children were made, so much about sex still remained baffling. Why was her best friend, who was almost a brother to her, acting so strange and looking at her with that hungry light in his eyes? Why were the boys all becoming so strange?
 A friday night and Ania was alone. She had one of her father’s old cassettes of Wagner playing on cheap headphones. She lay in the field were her and her mother used to come. Anymore though, Ania wanted to come by herself. It was at the edge of autumn and the air was crisp and the grass cool. As Isolde passed on from the mortal world Ania watched the sky above and all those wonderous stars, wondering at the immensity of it, and at what God thought of her now that things were so changed.
 She did not know what the light wanted, but she felt warm and at peace within it. The light moved over her like God moving over the face of the still waters.
 Ania was on a hill, watching the shuttle lift up and into the sky, the nightime darkness ravaged and bleeding bright, burning colors. She dreamed that one day she would ride like a valkryie up into the stars.
 All those years of dedication, hard work and sacrifice were paying off. Ania had been accepted into the National Space Service. She had opened the letter and her parents were now embracing her. There bodies were thin and there skin as thin as paper. How could these be the strong gods who had given her life and watched over her? How could her bubba now be a grown man, making preparations for his wedding day?
 Ania floated into the vaccum. All she heard was the clicking of her regulator. If she become disconnected from the ship, she would be lost and would float out into the emptiness of space forever.
 And then………..
 …….She was within the light, as if she had always been there, as if there was nothing but the light, and never would be anything else.
Finally, she felt the light move through her.
It was as if the Breath OF God was moving through her. She felt her body stir deep within itself. She heard something like children’s laughing, somewhere just beyond her mind’s eye.
 Back home again, laying in her husband William’s arms after making love. She listened to his heart thump steadily, soothing her as her mother’s once had.
“Something happened while I was up there.” She said.
“What?” William asked.
“I’m not sure. I was touched by something. Maybe I was taken up in a chariot of fire.” She said.
 Ania was a mother. She sat in the open field with the tall green grass, cradling her baby daughter Alma in her arms. Ania looked up into the night sky almost white with so many stars. Her daughter too, looked up into the night sky, and with her little hand tried to reach up to touch it.
“What will come of you baby?” Ania asked, and kissed her baby’s silken blonde head.

Shared

This was a secret world, among the thick green and tall grass, a lush little grotto by the clear, silver creek. The sounds of the highway and the shouts and noise of the people in the town did not come here. It was a shard of Eden.
Gabriella was leading me by the hand. That hand was small and warm, and felt so light and strong in my own. We did not talk, as this was sacred.
The branches and leaves of the trees hid even the twilight sky, though honeyed gold lit us in robes of flames. She pulled her hand away and faced me. She smiled, then placed her hands on my shoulders, signaling me to kneel in the dirt.
I did.
Her smile grew brighter, and she did the same.
Her fingers brushed my cheek, and she looked me in the eye, locking me in her light, which was grey like starlight, and as ancient. Her eyes were the color of the water that was the only sound, deep and resonate and without blemish.
She kissed me, softly, tenderly. Her fingers curled into my hair.
A light began to emminate from inside her chest, crimson and pulsating and rich, the color of blood and life and birth. She put her fingers into that light, and pulled her chest open.
The ball of crimson light came out in her hands. Our sacred place was like an unshed womb, dark with nuturing flesh.
On her face was a shy and intimate smile, the light in her hand she was handing to me, to my hands that waited and trembled, in this most intimate moment, our most delicate bonding.
She was handing me her soul.
I held it, and it was heat that did not burn, a dream that did not wake, a wound that was cut and healed at birth.
I felt the light of her, the essence that had drawn me to her, helpless against her wonder, was in my hands.
We were one, this angel and me.
And I felt all the sweetness of my life return, untarnished by loss and the fall from grace, I felt the times the light of heaven had poured through me like the river crashing in white capped power down the mountain, washing away all else in it’s past.
If I had been unworth, we both would have burned away.
And in that fleeting eternity, that sweetness of her glory, she knew all there was in me, and all I could be, that I would be, for her, for us.
And I returned her soul to her , and slipped back into her silk and soft flesh that closed around it, and sealed in the light.
She looked like a young woman again, hiding her power and beauty.
Again, she reached out and touched my face, stroking my cheek.
Again, she gave me a soft, tender kiss.
The tears wracked me then, unable to absorb all that had happened, that we had shared.
She drew me in her arms and kissed my head, sang me a song from some happy land.
I cried, then slept in her arms.

Spook Show

The woman followed the vampire willingly. He was pale and handsome and full of promises, such promises. Through the foggy heath she followed, into the castle, a remnant of decadent aristorcracy. Not much farther now to go.
“I should not be here.” The woman said, as if her head were as full of fog as the night around here. “I should go.”
“But, my lovely one, you’ve come so far already. I have such things to show you.”
He took her hand, which was soft in warm, into his own, which was cold and smooth as marble. The woman’s breath began to come faster now. It would not be much longer now at all.
Down the mossed and broken steps, into the selphulcre. There were candelebra lit, casting velvet shadows on the anciet walls. The oblong coffin was open, it’s lid laying at it’s side.
The vampire moved in close to the girl, inhaling the jasmine scent of her perfume, the lilac scent of her silky hair. Her ran a long, white finger down the line of her jaw. She closed her eyes and sighed.
“I have such things to show you, my lovely one.” The vampire said, and sank his long fangs into the woman’s neck, sucking her life’s essence through the pin prick wounds.
Sonya shuddered in the darkness, imagining the vampire’s ivory fangs sinking into her own neck. Flickering on the screen, the woman slowly crumpled as her life was drained out of her. Her skin became pale and smooth like the vampire’s. She seemed to be in ecstasy even as conciousness and life slipped away from her. They so often followed, perhaps knowingly.
In the safety of the audience, where nothing on the screen, no matter how cruel and cunning could touch her, Sonya wondered what it would be like to walk into the night, into the fog and shadow, and follow the devil into his world.
The movie was letting out. It was well after midnight, the triple feature have taken up all the darkned hours; soon morning would be coming around again. Sonya leaned against the the front wall, by the poster announcing the night’s shows, and smoked a cigarette. She had promised her mother she’d come right home after the show was over. But it was already so late, surely a few minutes more would not matter……

“Hello.” A voice said. Sonya turned and saw a boy, a teenager like her, smiling at her. He was dressed in dressy black clothes. His hair was shiny and slick and cropped closed to his head. His eyes were ice blue.
“Hello.” Sonya said in return, returning the greeting as she took another drag from her smoke.
“Pardon me, miss, for being so forward. I know we have not been introduced. But I saw you coming into the show tonight. I wanted to make your aquaintance.”
“Why?” Sonya asked, curious.
“Because you are so beautiful, miss.” The boy said. Sonya saw his teeth were perfect and ivory white when he smiled. She didn’t know what to make of his compliment.
“Thank you.” She said, and smiled back at him, a little unsure. She was flattered, but she couldn’t imagine what it was about her the boy found so alluring.
“It’s a dark night out miss, and it’s very late, would you like for me to escort you home. Perhaps we could talk along the way.”
“Sure.” Sonya said, flicking away her cigarette. The crowd from the theatre was already dispersed’ it was just them on the street.
“Splendid.” The boy said, and smiled again with those perfect ivory teeth.

 A wind was blowing. A few leaves, though still green, had already fallen. They were pushed down the sidewalk at their feet. There was the hint of a chill in the wind, the crispness of autumn already beginging to push back the wet, hothouse heat of summer; winter would be here before long.
“You are a brave young lady, to be out so late on your own. Is not you’re mother worried for you.”
“My mother does nothing but worry for me. I’m surprised she doesn’t have ulcers.”
“Are you always making trouble for her?” The boy asked.
“Yeah. I don’t mean to, but it always seems to happen.” Sonja replied.
She turned to look at the boy. He looked every bit as youthful as her, yet something seemed aloof about him. Plus he talked very proper, like one of her grandparents. In the washed out golden light of the streetlamps, she saw his skin was almost as white as marble.
“You shouldn’t be trouble for your mother.” The boy said. “She loves you very much I can assure you. She only wants you to be safe.”
“I know. But it seems like no matter what I do it always causes a stir.”
“Oh, my dear girl, that will never do.”
Sonya turned to the boy and scowled. Why was it any his buisness anyway? Why did he care so much about her mother to begin with?
“You said you came up to me because I was beautiful.” Sonya said, hoping to change the subject.
“Yes, miss, that is true.”
“What’s so beautiful about me?”
“You haves such beautiful skin.” He said. Sonya again scowled at him. What kind of thing was that to say? Though, all things considered, she should perhaps be pleased he didn’t say something rude about the size of her chest. Then again, would he say anything rude at all?
“Beautiful skin?” She asked.
“Yes, very healthy and glowing.” He said, then stopped walking. He leaned in close, ran a finger down her jawline. She didn’t close her eyes or sigh. He’d must’ve downed a bottle of mouth wash before coming out tonight, but still there was a hint of something……fetid on his breath.
“And your cheeks my dear.” The boy continued, now smiling. “They are so chubby and ruddy with color.”
Sonya backed away from his touch. His smile, she saw now, was full of a predator’s hunger. And where there fine tipped fangs there as well. She looked around her; they were in the park, a good half mile from her house, in the middle of the night, no one was around.
She turned to run, not knowing what else to do. Yet she was in such a state now that her limbs betrayed her and she fell in an ungaily heap on the paved trailway. The boy placed his hands upon her arms and easily picked her up. She looked into his ice blue eyes, and knew not what she was seeing.
“Now my dear, be still, and soon I will let you go.”
 Sonya awoke in her own bed, under the covers, nice and warm. She heard her mother snoring in the next room; she had not been awakened. Yet something itched in the back of Sonya’s brain, something that would not let her think it was all a dream. She felt her neck; their were two bumps their, almost like mosquito bites. And she felt somthing hot stirring beneath them.
She curled into a ball beneath her comforter, watched into the darkness of her room, which was lit only by the tint of the moon. What would happen now?

A Duel of Wills In The Dead of Night

There were only a couple of sickly golden lights in the distance, several miles from the house I was staying. Up here in the foothills of The Applachians, neigbhors were sparse. The coal black sky was filled with stars though, and a ghastly pale moon.
I wished for a cigarette, years after quitting, years after feeling any desire for them. My hands were jittery, my mind fillled with an agiated bedlam. A cigarette with it’s harsh pleasure and rote action would distract from that.
It was late summer, the begining of September. Summer was still hot and humid and the wetness of the air made you sweat even still, even in the night. But there was already a harshness in the warmth that signaling the coming autumn and winter. Things would die off, and the dead season would come. But no respite or sleep would come with it.
I came in from the night, closed the door behind me, sat in the too bright room with it’s garish, ’70s era wallpaper and paneling, the rundown, cigarette burned furniture, the inane blanting of the radio.
On said radio a preacher was talking about the end times and Jesus coming back and the glorious elect been given their heavenly reward. I had it on, because even though I had no faith in a greater, supernatural power, and no love for anger, it soothed me to hear another human’s voice.
I sat in a hard easy chair, watching the ceiling fan spin and spin, the light chasing thin shadows on the peeling white ceiling.
I fell asleep, knowing it was coming.
 I saw her again. In a sundress, standing in a meadow, the soft, warm sunlight flitting through her long, black hair as the wind blew around her. She was looking away from me, down at the ground, but I could see the sad look in her blue eyes I knew so well. The madness that would eventually take her, the madness that I would make my own.
Her arms were crossed over her chest, like she was hugging herself. My heart ached to reach her, to hold her again, to feel her warmth, her softness, to smell the strawberry scented shampoo in her hair and the lilac smell of her skin. I ached to kiss those lips and tell her it was all going to be alright and perfect again.
I never make it to her. It can’t be better again. She is already gone.
 It is then I awaken, feeling a gauging shock in my brain. I cry out and my muscles jerk at once and I’m out of the chair and flung by my own body onto the floor. I cry out in aguish, as the thing in my brain is rooting around trying to find where I’ve hidden her soul inside my mind, so they can take her from me forever.
I close my eyes tight, my fists clenched against the sides of my head, as I regroup to fight off the demons that have come for her, the things that drove her to take her own life and leave us all behind. The demons that destroyed her will not turn loose, even after death.
I make it onto my knees, screaming my throat raw as I focus my energy to fight back against the demons, to keep them away from her, to let them take her to damnation. The demons fight back and dig into my mind and thoughts like an Eagle digging into the flesh of it’s living prey. I am in tears and even my muscles and very skin is on fire as I fight them off, a duel of wills in the dead of night.
Finally, they are pushed back for a moment, their high shreaking squeels fading out as I lay exhausted on the floor, sobbing and bodily wiped out, my mind a hive of static and noise and fire. I weep for a long time.
 At some point, I fall asleep, and I fade in and out of conciousness and dreams, between the waking and the dreaming, between the living and the dead.
She is there, still sad eyed and distant, still in her sundress. She is laying upon her side, looking at me, her head on her folded hands. She is crying. She is sorry and hurting. I try to tell her, not that it’s okay, but that I lover, and will always love her, and that I will find away for all these things to turn loose of her, and that she’ll walk in golden fields one day.
 Again, we are in the meadow. The wind is a warm wind of early June, and everything is green and alive and all the birds and creatures are singing. We are drinking wine, sitting on a blanket. I ache to her hear voice again, that girlish, lilting laugh she had.
In this dream, or vision, or wish, I put my hands upon hers, and lean forward and kiss her cheek, which is soft and tastes of salt.

There is water flowing. A clear creek clear and silver and cold. If she could only drink that water now.

 It’s the edge of dawn. My breath is ragged and I’m out of breath and my muscles ache and my head pounds like the fist of God upon the world. My eyes and tired and red and sore. My heart is squeezed inside a vice.
I feel her light though, in that secret place for her I keep safe, keep so her light will not go out.  It soft and warm and only a pinprick in the darkness. It’s all I need to keep fighting. I hear a song in the wind of her voice.
I crawl to the flat, hard and uncomofortable couch to sleep. I pull the smoke stained throw pillow over my face. Sleep, for what rest I can find will be sorely needed. They keep coming and coming for her. I cannot find the clear and silver water for her. I cannot yet send her to golden fields, where those demons can never touch her again.
 In the depths of my mind, where I keep her safe, her star’s binary light flashes out:
“I love you. I’m sorry.”
 “Some are born into sweet delight. Some are born into endless night.”—William Blake