Nightlight

3:43 a.m.

He feels the bed shift as she gets up; hears he bare feet padding across the floor in the darkness.  The only light from the nightlight plugged in the hallway illuminating her movements.  He closes his eyes seeing her in his minds eye.  The familiar press of her hand against her chest, holding her breath like she holds in the pain, as tears fall.

3:54 a.m.

He hears the front door close softly.  She wears his hoodie because she can get lost in it and when she lifts the hood she feels completely hidden.  Her breath puffs in the cool autumn night and she hears the crunch of dried leaves.  She walks silently, avoiding streetlamps, letting the darkness envelope her trying to breath deep and slow but failing.

4:25 a.m.

He sits on the edge of the bed, runs his hand through his hair, and stares out the window contemplating whether to wait or find her.  He picks up his phone, the light illuminating his face in a soft blue, and asks Are you okay?

She pulls her phone from the pocket of his hoodie and stares at the screen, her thumb hovering over the keyboard, not wanting to lie but not wanting to tell him the truth.  Go back to sleep, I’m almost home.

He reads her message; a response but not an answer.

6:59 a.m.

Sitting on the front porch she watches the sky lighten as the sun rises.

7:00 a.m.

She hears the alarm go off in the bedroom then silence a moment later.  He rolls over feeling the empty space and cool sheets next to him.  He gets up and makes coffee.

7:17 a.m.

She looks up at the sound of the front door opening.  He holds out a cup of hot coffee, the steam rising perfectly like in advertisements, and feels a brief touch as her fingers brush his.

“Did you sleep well?” She asks softly, putting her head on his shoulder when he sits next to her.

“Did you sleep at all?” He asks concerned.

She sips her coffee and he wipes her cheek with his thumb.  The nightlight in the hall switches off as the sun rises higher.

Voodoo

There was the familiar break.  Her mind shifted from reality, from the monotonous grind of life, to an inexplicable darkness. Alien to most but to her, familiar and comforting; a welcoming escape.  She let it fall. She let her mind drift.  She let her feelings shift.  Her pupils widening as the hit of delirium consumed her.  She did not struggle, did not fight in fear; instead choosing to fall into the delusion like a voodoo priestess succumbs to the spirits.  She let it lure her, lead her, down, into a deep abyss, like a snake bite draining it’s victim of life.

The rain soaked streets glistened under the street lights as he hustled across the parking lot.  Pressing the button on his key fob, his car blinked and beeped in response and he felt a small rush of gratitude.  The late October chill filled the night and crept into his bones as he slipped into the drivers seat.  Pulling the door closed with a satisfied thud he quickly started the car and turned up the heat.  He breathed deep, filling his lungs, and releasing the days tensions as he released his breath in a calming sigh.

The road glistened in the rain, his headlights creating a tunneling effect, as he made his way through the night.  Autumn leaves littered the medians, orange and yellow, and barren trees lined the horizon.  He squinted in the heavy rains and darkness feeling the tension in his shoulders.  Slowly making his way off the exit, meandering down a winding dark road, he clicked on the high beams and suddenly slammed on the breaks as a figure randomly appeared in the center of the road.  A dark hooded figure standing stock still shocked his system.

She blinked in the glare of the headlights feeling her heart racing at the sudden shock of a car stopping inches from her.  He cursed, opening his door, the rain momentarily ceasing.  “What the hell are you doing in the middle of the road? Are you trying to get killed?” He shouted angrily.  The hooded figure raised its head slightly revealing a pale face, lips bright red, and green eyes captured by the light of his high beams.

A breeze blew across the road causing a swirl of leaves to dance and the hem of the cape to sway.  She ducked her head as if bowing in apology but remained silent.  His anger cooled, “Do you need help?”  She turned away in response.  “Are you okay,” he asked concerned, stepping a little further from his car.  She lifted her head again and he saw her deep emerald eyes like a cat staring in the darkness as a chill passed through him.

“No need to fret,” she said softly, almost imperceptible, as the wind blew the leaves again.

He hesitated unsure what to do next when the chill he felt moments earlier turned to a soothing tingle, like the feeling of fingers softly trailed over his skin, and his shoulders released the tension he felt while driving. His mind blurred, thoughts dissipating, but his vision focused on the silhouette that stood before him.  Crisp and sharp like a fresh image embedded in his mind and the cat-like green eyes pierced his perceptions of time.  He had no idea how long he stood there, motionless and silent, but he felt nothing but a peaceful embrace as he waited for time, and his senses, to recalibrate.

He felt the shift from reality to delusion in that moment and instead of fear or struggle, he let it slip over him like slipping into a warm bath, the water soothing and relaxing instead of bracing.  He heard a voice in his mind, embrace delirium, she is gentle. He couldn’t identify where it originated since the figure before him remained motionless and silent.  Her lips did not move yet he heard the voice as clearly as if he wore headphones.  He asked, “Did you say that?”

“No,” the hooded figure said softly, “but she says the same to me.”
“Can she be trusted?”
“That is for you to decide,” her green eyes blinking slowly like a cat.
“I feel unusual,” he said calmly.
“So did I, the first time,” she responded just as calmly.

She blinked a few times clearing the dryness from her eyes and she slowly shifted back to the mundane.  Staring out her office window, she watched a man rush towards his car in the rain.  A Cheshire Cat smile lifted her lips as she knew within the hour she’d stand at the crossroads of a dark, windy rain-filled autumn road and discuss delusions with a stranger.

*Photo Credit

Owl

Photo Credit: George

Photo Credit: George

She walked among the dead with soft footsteps.  The moon shone bright, half swollen, with white petals blown from dogwoods fluttering in the breeze like her white gown.  She reached up to unpin her hair.

Death watched her soft steps along dew wet grass and resisted the urge to touch the black strands falling loose over her shoulders.

The dead souls parted, invisible hands reaching to touch her as she passed, singing with delight in her wake.  Her eyes, soft focused, reveled in the dancing lights surrounding her, her ears pricking with a song coming from an other-worldly realm.  When she began humming the tune, the dead smiled.

She reached the top of a small hill, under an old, gnarled crab apple tree, and lowered slowly to her knees.  She placed the palms of her hands flat against the earth to feel its pulse.  Her senses filled with the smells of flowers, and wet grass, and distant rain; she felt the earth pulse with death’s footsteps; she heard the voices of the dead; she saw the stars bright and muted colors illuminated by the swollen half-moon.  Her tongue expected to taste the saltiness of tears.

“Owl.”  She felt his breath whisper her name against the back of her neck.

“Cillian.”

She turned to face him, his hooded robe still covering his face, as he dropped his scythe.  It clattered to the ground when he reached out to touch her dark hair and a raven called from a tree branch above.  In the moonlight his bony fingers filled with muscle and flesh before entwining her hair.  She lowered his hood to look into his blue eyes and kissed the salty tears streaking his cheeks.

“Don’t cry Cillian, I’m here.”

“Only for tonight.”

“Always,” she whispered.  The dead began fading, stepping into shadows, falling silent among the grass petals, and the raven flew up towards the moon.  Wherever her hands reached, his flesh filled out, so all she felt was warmth.  His arms enveloped her, pulling her close, pressing her warm body against his.

She leaned back long enough to pull her dress over her head.  He kissed her collar-bone, kneading her breasts, and pushed her down on the grass.  Under the crab apple tree and moon they made love.  Slow as if time wasn’t counting the seconds before his flesh vanished and the dead returned.  As the moon arced the sky, edging closer to the horizon, she felt the familiar itch of pin feathers along her arms.

Cillian held her tighter, “Please.”  His pleas useless, knowing once the moon dropped, Owl would fly to the tree branches above.  His only solace was her cries in the night, signaling another death, until their next dalliance.  Until the next night when the curse separating them lifted, he would collect the souls and teach them to sing love songs to her from beyond the grave.

Unsteady

Photo Credit: Unknown

Photo Credit: Unknown

Her skin felt sticky with dried blood.  Her hip hurt.  Her vision blurred along the edges.  The quick, and rough, implant of her tracker left her dazed. She heard the judge speaking but her comprehension remained fuzzy.

“You are sentenced to runner.”

Runner.  Her thoughts slowly coalesced around the word.  Runner.  Her incision itched.  She is now a runner.  They opened the large walnut doors leading to the open courtyard and the birds preening in the barren trees stopped to watch her stand, confused, in the doorway.  On the other side of the courtyard the wrought iron gates swung open.  Someone shoved her shoulder.

Run.

She looked back hoping to understand, to find a familiar face, but stumbled farther as another shove across her back launched her across the threshold.  She felt unsteady.

Run.


big-blue-divider-modified-md

She blinked trying to focus.  She felt a hard surface beneath her.  She heard muffled talking.  She smelled wood burning and heard a teapot whistle distantly.  Her stomach grumbled and she vaguely made out a slim figure in a black jacket with white shirt hanging loose over black pants.  She closed her eyes, rolled her head, opened again trying to gain focus and heard a voice say, I think she’s waking.

The familiar panic fluttered in her gut and she tried to swing her legs over and stand but she didn’t have the strength.  She felt a hand gently push her shoulder back.  “Don’t move.”

She struggled feebly, trying to get up, trying to focus, trying to gather thoughts enough to figure out where she was, what was happening, but in the end her head remained heavy against the cushion.  She felt a little unsteady while she dreamed of snow falling while being wrapped in a blanket of ice.


big-blue-divider-modified-md
Everything remained unfamiliar.  The room warmed by wood burning in a large fireplace smelled inviting yet her mind raced to focus on escape.  Her hip ached.  Her legs felt rubbery.  Her thoughts swam and she desperately tried to hold on to something to steady herself.  The figure dressed in black with white shirt walked towards her.

He squat down to make eye contact with her while her pupils desperately tried to focus.  She wanted to grasp her surroundings, to understand what happened, where she was, who this man was, but she kept falling.  She felt drunk.  Unsteady.

Blue eyes stared at her.  Dark hair, day old stubble, black jacket.  She held onto these details hoping to lock her awareness onto something.  Smoky, soft voice.  Dark lashes.  Indigo eyes.  Short black hair.  White shirt.  Black jacket and white shirt repeated in her vision and mind.  A scent of cherry pipe tobacco filled her nostrils.  Pale skin, amber voice, vanilla touch.  She rolled her head trying to shake clarity back.  Her hip continued to throb.

“Relax.  You’re safe.” 

She struggled against the comforting words in distrust.  Desperately she fought the madness to remain still, to remain complacent.  Her vision remained devoid of color and focus.

Tree

Photo Credit: Nasser Osman

Photo Credit: Nasser Osman

A tall lone ash tree stood in the valley equidistant between the east and west mountains. No other trees or bush of any kind except for this lone ash tree and its shadow to eclipse the valley. Forks of red lightning splintered the indigo black sky, otherwise clear, as thunder rolled down the hillsides as if filling the valley solely to strengthen the ash tree. A woman walked towards the ash, across the valley from the north, with arms raised as if summoning the lightning herself.

She walked unhurriedly and when she stood under the ash, and the lightning struck once more, a dark cloud of ravens burst from every branch, cawing to each other. Rain finally fell, as if called by the ravens, even though visible stars still sprinkled the sky. The woman leaned against the ash, watching the lightning dance across the sky, and waited for the rains to fill the valley. As the rains dropped like big fat tears she felt the wind rise, first in gentle breezes then quickly swirling into gales strong enough to snap the strongest pirate sails.

She waited calmly feeling the water begin to trickle in small rivulets and streams until they joined together becoming one large river that sliced the valley, north to south, between the mountains, like a dagger ripping flesh. The waters roiled and swirled, with white peaks and an angry grumble almost louder than the thunder that continue to roll down the hills. The birds all disappeared, the crickets long stopped their song, leaving nothing but the ash tree, the woman, and the water that raged through the valley.

Her long hair wet, strands plastered to her face and shoulders, blew wild with the wind while her toes dug into the muddy soil at the base of the ash. She breathed deep, filling her lungs with the violent winds, tasting the tang of salt and soil in the water while the thunder vibrated in her heart. She kept her face upturned, eyes unblinking despite the bright flashes of lightning, feeling the electricity burn the air and raise the downy hair on her arms.

The water continued to rise and build, threatening to fill the valley and dwarf the mountains, but the ash tree remained as an island amid the turmoil with the woman at its base. Drops ran down her cheeks, rain mixed with tears or simply rain only she could say, but she remained with her face turned upwards. As the clouds moved overhead, dark and tumultuous, the thunder bellowed incessantly, filling her chest with a thrum and vibration that infused with her voice, slowly rising, a single note, strong and clear, deep and emotional, calling all the ravens back to roost.

The birds returned, slowly, like ink drops tossed on a roiling sea, their feathers wet and ruffled, finally gripping a branch in the midst of the storm. They eyed her, silently, with puffed chests, blinking with curiosity as she continued the one note. The valley was gone, now filled with water, the mountains peaks barely visible among the crashing waves but the ash tree remained untouched, barely a leaf blown out-of-place. As her voice crescendoed then fell silent, the thunder boomed to silence and the lightning flashed no more. The clouds squeezed the last few drops of rains before breaking apart and revealing the indigo black sky once more.

When the woman’s voice was silent and the river valley water calmed, an eery silence filled the void. The ravens shook their feathers, preening each one dry, then looked towards the sky as she raised her arms once more. They waited, watching, anxious and curious, but no sound or light flashed, no rains or thunder echoed, only an occasional splash in the distance occurred. The woman stood motionless, with arms raised, until the edges of the sky began to lighten. The sun rose in the west tainting the sky a strange bruised purple before fading to hints of lavender and blue. When the warmth of the sun touched the ravens feathers, the birds began to caw. Their voices rang out across the water, echoing and reverberating, like fish playing in the sea.

She lowered her arms and the birds rose up, filling the blue sky like dark gray smoke, diving and twirling in the doldrums air. They rose in columns of black feathers like soot, twisting and rising higher before falling, like stones, dropping as the rain had only hours before. When it looked like they would smash into the water, breaking the surface and drown, they opened their wings and sailed across the ocean before coming to rest on a mountain peak.

The woman then climbed to the uppermost branch of the ash and breathed deep once more. She let the sunlight dry and warm her skin and hair. Once dry and warmed she looked to each crow perched on the mountains ridge and blinked, slowly, before bowing. She bent at the waist, deep, folding in half, then stood again with a bright smile lifting her lips. The crows blinked and tilted their heads, watching, waiting. She slowly rose to her tiptoes, lifting her arms once more, then pushed off, arching over the edge of the ash tree’s island, and diving deep into the waters and disappearing.