Conversations: How Do You Love?

You really got it all wrong, my dear. I am not the monster you believe me to be.

You won’t release me. I am here just for your pleasure.

No, no my dear, I can not release you despite what you think.

You are the god of death, Thanatos.

Yes, I am, but that is what everyone has wrong. The god of death does not actually cause death, does not actually take a life, I am just here for when life is already gone. You, my dear, are the one that does not release yourself. I am always here when you call, am I not? Perhaps you see the wrong one as the monster.

Are you saying he is the monster?

I am not saying anything. I do not know him.

But, he says such sweet things. He always answers when I message. He says we are friends, always, and he will always be there.

Yes, he does. I am always here, too, when you call. Sometimes, even when you do not call, I am here, for you. Is he there when you don’t ask? Does he look for you, want to see you, be with you, even when you do not reach out?

He…

That is all I am saying, my dear. I am always here, for you, because you mean everything to me. I have no control over whether you are released from this world or not, only you do. I will be there after you are released as I am here now.

But you only want me because of my flesh, the beauty, the pleasure you take from my pain.

No, my dear, that is not true. I am here because you make me feel life like no other. You are beautiful, yes, but it is not your physical beauty that I crave. I can have physical beauty from anyone, male, female, young, old, it does not matter. There are beautiful people everywhere. The truly beautiful, like you, have nothing to do with physical beauty. You radiate your pain, your emotions, happy or sad, you radiate so much more than a physical beauty. You care, deeply, you feel, deeply, you simply are breathtaking with the depths of emotions. This world has slowly become devoid of those true, authentic emotions. It has become all about the visual beauty. The aesthetics. The looks being more important than anything else on offer. I take pleasure in you, my dear, your pleasure, your pain, your breath and ache, in you, my dear. I take pleasure in you and I am here now, when you need, I seek you when you don’t need me, I will be there when it is all over, at the end and beyond. I am here, my dear, always.

I… but… that is all I ever wanted, someone to be there, always, for me, whether I’m beautiful or ugly, young or old, in pain or not. I just wanted someone to love me. Are you saying you love me Thanatos?

If you have to ask than I have not shown my love to you properly, my dear. You should feel my love not ask for it. I am sorry for failing you my dear.

But what about him?

What about him?

He is not a god. He is simply a man, here, in this world, like me. Doesn’t he love me?

Do you love him?

What?

It is a simple question, my dear, do you love him?

I don’t know.

So what does it matter if he loves you. Human or god, what does it matter if you do not love in return. You need to love someone and then their love will matter. I would like you to love me, my dear, but even if you do not I will still love you, always. You are the only one that has taken my heart but my words, my thoughts, my feelings, what I do to you and for you does not matter. Only you matter and where you place your love, who you gift it to, that is what matters, my dear. Do you want his love?

I don’t know, I never actually thought about what I wanted. I just, well, if he loved me, if anyone loved me, that was what mattered, right?

No, my dear. You are clearly mistaken on how easily it is to love you. Everyone loves you but you, my dear.

Conversations: Remember Me

Did you ever break a bone? He asked innocently, trying to make small talk.

I broke my foot once, a few years back, when I lived in a four story walk-up.  Moving around with crutches was tough and forget about trying to get up and down stairs with groceries or any other shit.  It was impossible and I cursed the lack of elevator every time I had to leave.

Damn, sounds like a pain in the ass.

It was but I’d still rather have a broken foot for the rest of my life and live in that walk-up again if it meant trading away this depression bullshit.  She fiddled with the salt shaker in the center of the table as she spoke.

Really? Why? He watched her absentmindedly pour salt on the table then press her finger into the center of the tiny hill as she avoided eye contact.

People came to help me then.  They understood the pain of a broken bone, the difficulty to leave the house and added burden trying to do simple tasks.  They checked in every day.  They asked how I felt and cared for the answer, didn’t get annoyed even as it went on for weeks.  They didn’t get frustrated when I said it was too tiring to go out and do anything. I didn’t feel forgotten.  She shrugged and licked salt from her finger, dipping it back into the tiny salt hill and repeating.

You feel forgotten? Don’t they keep in touch now?

She laughed. Not mocking, not laughing at him, just a melancholic sort of laugh.  Clearly you’ve never had any type of mental illness.

No, I haven’t.

When you have a mental illness people forget you. They stop checking on you. They get annoyed that you aren’t… she went silent for a moment searching for the words and poured another small pile of salt as she thought.  They aren’t as understanding.  A broken bone they understand, they don’t understand a broken mind. They get annoyed that you aren’t normal as though I chose this, as though I want to live like this, as though I enjoy barely being able to function most days.  Then they are annoyed when you put on a mask because you aren’t being genuine but I’m just trying to make it from one moment to the next without completely falling apart and… she stopped talking mid-thought again.  She finally raised her eyes and looked at him.

He sat silent, looking into her deep green eyes, seeing the water along the edges never quite becoming tears.  He saw the pain in them; the desire for understanding while expecting none. Is that what you want, to be remembered?

Yes. She responded softly, immediately, without any hesitation.

Devour Me

“M, my dear, why all the tears?”
“Thanatos,” she whispered.
“It’s been a while my dear M; I missed you. Why have you called me?”
“I… ” she stared at him, the words lost in her mind, the feelings overwhelming, indescribable.

He stepped closer, reaching for her, “M, what’s wrong? What’s happened?” He felt a strange tremor in the air; a different, darker vibration emanating from her sorrow.  She fell to her knees, wrapped her arms around her middle, rocking like a child self-comforting, silent.  He felt her heart beat, fast and erratic, tasted her tears as they fell.

“Thanatos, who is he?” She asked, finally, managing words to escape her lips.

Thanatos paced feeling her emotions roll over him like waves after a tsunami.  Confusion, pain, sorrow, self-hatred, all crashing over him, familiar but something different beneath all the other darkness. He looked at her again, her upturned face, green eyes begging him for solace, for answers, for clarity.  He dropped to his knees but did not reach for her.

“Who?”
“M, my M, the other M,” she sobbed.
Thanatos’s eyes darkened, “Why do you ask me about him?”
“He confuses me, Thanatos.  I don’t understand him.  I don’t know what he wants.  I don’t know what he expects or how to please him or how to make him forget me… or remember me.”
“Why do you ask me about him?”
You won’t let me go and he confuses me.  I don’t know what I am to him, to you.  What does he want? You won’t let me go and I don’t know if he wants me to go or not.  I don’t know what role I’m supposed to play anymore, Thanatos.  Help me, please,” she pleaded.

Thanatos stood and walked to the fireplace, reaching for the poker to stoke the flames, feeling the heat fill the room.  Staring down into the fire he said, “I do not know him.”
She stared at his back confused, “You don’t?”
He turned to look at her, “Why would I know who he is?”
“I…” she started to speak but felt a loss for words.
“What does he do to you?” Thanatos asked darkly stepping closer.

She stood and dropped her arms to her side.  Silent.  Her green eyes holding his gaze.  He advanced slowly, like a predator stalking prey, and she inhaled deeply.  Thanatos took her by the waist, pulled her close, gently kissed her neck.  She dropped her head back, closed her eyes and whispered, “Thanatos, who is to set me free?”

“M what are you doing?”
“Praying for redemption.”
“What? I didn’t know you were religious?”
“I’m not.”
“What’s going on?”
“Nothing. I think I need to run again M.”
“Run where?”
“Anywhere.  I need to run, M.”
“Run to me then.”
“What?”
“My dear M, run to me, please.  Stop running away and run to something.”

M: Woodford Reserve

Sitting on the exam table the thin paper crinkles with the slightest movement.

Do you think of self-harm?
No.
(Are you asking if I want to live?)

No plans to kill yourself?
No.
(Do you care that I don’t want to live?)

You need to take these the same time every day, can you do that?
Yes.
(This isn’t really to help me but make it easier for others to pretend everything is just peachy, isn’t it?)

See the receptionist on your way out to set a follow-up in one month.
Thank you.
(But will it fix me?)

Lying on the kitchen floor in a fetal position she prays to a god she doesn’t believe in between heaving sobs and jagged breaths.

Please let me die. Why does this torture never end? Please, make it stop.
Do you think of self-harm?

Will this finally end when I die? I just want this to end and I don’t know how to make it go away.
No plans to kill yourself?

I take the pills every day but I still feel the same. I just want someone to lie and tell me this will end.
Don’t cry in public, or at work, or around others. It makes them uncomfortable.

Please, god, kill me already, I will see the receptionist on the way down, just kill me.
That will be a twenty-dollar co-pay. Thank you.

Thanatos leans against the kitchen counter holding a glass of bourbon.

Please, god, how much longer will you torture me?
I am not god.

Thanatos, let me die, please, I can’t endure anymore.
Oh, my love, my love, I need you.

I hate you.
I love you.

Thanatos holds out the bourbon. She swallows the deep amber liquid feeling the heat sear her esophagus and her vision blurs attempting to focus on the label, Woodford Reserve. Her mind holds on to the thread of words, the white font on clear bottle, feeling the pressure of tiles against her knees. She feels his hands on her shoulders, lifting her from her knees, despite her inward protestations. She wants to stay fetal, prone, begging for release, weeping with incomprehensible sadness but his loving hands lift her up and pulls her to his chest. She feels his heartbeat like an ache. A thrum vibrating as his desire rises. She falls into that vibration, that dark love, that void of emptiness taking solace that her pain releases him briefly from an unending existence of mundanity.

And in that embrace, feeling his vibration, she breaks apart. However briefly, he releases her from the pain, the darkness, the sadness that shatters her tentative grasp on a depressing reality and lets her dance along a fantasy of love and light. He takes her out to the universe, dancing along the inhuman pulses of supernovas and shows her what she knows; being free and wild beyond her skin that begs from a god she doesn’t believe. Lifting her up beyond her despair feeds his own implosion. He wishes he could make her understand that he can not touch those stars, dance along the comet’s tail, drink the supernova without her. Without her he is a husk broken and fetal. If he granted the release she begs for he’d be left alone to walk eternity never tasting the aether. With her he weaved a tapestry of dark matter expanding and exploding the universe.

Sitting on the exam table the thin paper crinkles with the slightest movement.

Do you think of self-harm?
No.
(I have not seen Thanatos for weeks.)

No plans to kill yourself?
No.
(I am out of Woodford Reserve.)

So you’re feeling better?
Yes.
(I have a larger gray cubicle at work since I stopped crying all the time.)

See the receptionist on your way out to set a follow-up in one month.
Thank you.
(I guess I’m fixed?)

Thanatos and M Speak

Thanatos speaks:
There are many myths, falsehoods, misunderstandings and outright lies mixed with truth about who I am. Some believe I’m the devil. Some believe I’m the grim reaper. There are myths surrounding what I do, how I usher souls from one realm to another, that I actively participate or just wait idly until I get a message, like some number at a deli counter and I help the next in line. Some think I’m a god or a demon.

I was not born or created. I exist, nothing more, nothing less.  I walk this realm for millennia. I feel the darkness, I do not control it. I feed off emotions but they do not sustain me. I sip them, like fine wines or butterfly dipping their proboscis to sip nectar. Human emotions are like cocaine, or heroin, or alcohol or any addiction; once you touch the depths and see the universe within you chase it forever. I do not need anything to survive.  However, the delicious, deleterious nature of a vessel so gloriously sensitive to the emotional vibrations of the membrane between worlds is a rare find that I crave it as if it is life itself. I am not meant to interfere with the choice of death’s time. I have, on occasion, interfered and prevented or prolonged the time of death for particular jewels.

The swirl of dark emotions — depression, sadness, longing, grief, loneliness, yearning, regret, shame, rage and all the rest that cause indescribable aches within — are when I’m at my most perverse. I can’t control myself, can’t stop myself from enjoying such suffering. Happiness and all the light emotions are not as powerful. For me, they give but momentary bliss whereas the dark emotions surge an overwhelming rush of ecstasy that lasts far longer.

I try explain all this in a poor attempt to explain why I can not let M go. She electrifies me unlike any creature in all my years. She has a well of darkness inside that swells through every aching crevice and trembles her body like an earthquake ripping the earth asunder and when she releases her pain in racking sobs, well, even thinking about it makes my lips parched like a desert needing water. She gives herself to me both begging for release and needing the power she holds over me. She doesn’t understand what she does to me nor why I can not release her. It is love, perhaps, but oh so much more.

M speaks:
My daily life outwardly appears no different then the millions of others walking this planet. I survive the mundane and yearn for the profound, the profane. I yearn to change the world at the same time wanting to be invisible. I go to a boring office job that pays the bills. I drink with friends, celebrate birthdays, walk the dogs and sip coffee in the morning on the ride to work. And I am in love with death.

I am depressed, as the doctors tell me, and I feel the sadness but it is so much more. In the ordinary world I feel insane because it’s like I feel the fires of the universe, walking a membrane between realms, unable to explain the strange vibration that hums in the back of my thoughts all the time. I can taste the sadness, I can hear the black tar bubbling in that hallow within, I can smell the burnt smoke floating from the fires that I see burning in a dark place that I can not touch. In every day, I survive. I tamp down the sadness, the shame, the anger, the yearning because I can’t explain it. I sit in therapy and listen, wanting to find a way out to the happiness, but I can’t explain why nothing I hear is truth.

My only relationship is with Thanatos. He doesn’t cringe from my drama, doesn’t tire of my tragedy, doesn’t find me retched or reject my darkness expecting me to “lighten up.” It is a rare thing to be accepted so completely. At the same time, it hurts being with him because he has the power to release me from my pain and refuses. So we are stuck in this dance of death. When I am with him, however, to feel his ecstasy, to see the heights he reaches when I fall to my knees, the way he takes my darkness and matches it with such utter, raw, pleasure sends me spinning into orgasmic heights as if I am almost touching a higher realm.

We are addicted to each other. I yearn for death and he yearns for my well of darkness. He loves me but will never say it. I both love and hate him profoundly.

Words on Flesh (Thanatos and M)

He laid on his stomach, head on his hands, naked. She straddled his waist using his ass as a cushion, knees bent, naked.

In one hand she held an inkwell filled with deep indigo blue ink and in the other a feather quill with a gold nib.
Her hair cascaded down over her shoulders with rippling waves down her back. He felt the spring of her pubic hairs against his flesh.

“What should I write?”
“Whatever you feel.”
“No, that’s too dark. You tell me the story.”
“No, I want your words.”
“I can’t do it then.”

He felt the bed shift with her weight as she leaned over to put the ink and quill back on the nightstand.

“Yes you can. It doesn’t matter what you write, just write from your soul.”
“That’s even worse. No, definitely can’t.”

He sighed. She bent forward, he felt her hair caressing his back and light kisses over his shoulders. He didn’t move.

“You’re mad.”
“Not mad.”
“Annoyed then.”
“Frustrated. I want your words, it’s simple. What are you afraid of? I have your body.”

She sat back. He still didn’t move, only closed his eyes, feeling her breathing. A few heartbeats later, the bed shifted again. She leaned over to take up the quill and ink once more. She started slowly, tentatively, at his upper left shoulder, writing across his back to the other shoulder. He felt the quill, the nib a little rough, dragging across his skin. It was pleasurable, an odd sensation, the ink feeling like blood and the nib needle-like. As she fell into her thoughts, dragging the nib against his flesh, dipping the quill more often than for paper, her pace picked up. By the time she reached his mid-back her writing was frantic. He smiled.

He remained quiet, passive, allowing her to manipulate his body as she required. Quickly writing down his back and over his ass. She spread his legs so she could write on the inside of his thighs. The sensation of her touch, the intensity of her silence pouring thoughts through her ink onto his skin, her breath quickening as emotions crescendo within her, aroused him. If she noticed she made no effort to acknowledge his need.

When she reached the soles of his feet she began blowing across his skin like trying to cool a bowl of soup. She wanted to make sure the ink was dry before turning him over. He waited motionless until he felt one of her hands gently push at his hip, then he rolled over to his back. She began in reverse, starting at his feet, teasingly sitting on his stomach, his hard-on now aching. He resisted the urge to grab her ass or touch her in any way. Forcing himself to be content with the vision of her bent forward, hair, breath, ink and quill mingling across his skin as she worked her way around the rest of his body. He pressed his head back against the pillow, the agony becoming almost unbearable, when she reached his hips. She held his cock, not stroking it or licking it despite his mind willing her too, but holding it steady to write.

He thought he would explode with the unexpected as she continued to scrawl words around his cock, balls, over his hips and finally working his abdomen. She backed up, rising up, her pussy tantalizing near his face, and her scent made him dizzy. A moan escaped his lips. He closed his eyes. Remaining still becoming a heady, excruciating test of self-control.

“Finished.”

She stood up, shy but proud of her creation.  He stood before the mirror, his skin stained blue, words gently cascading in swirls from her touch.  He touched her face.  She stood shivering, tears threatening to spill from her eyes.  Pouring her words across his flesh left her emotions roiling inside, the darkness coming alive, clawing its way up, choking her throat, spilling its tarry blackness through every internal crevice.  He watched her green eyes darken and took pleasure from her internal pain.  He owned her body, easily, taking it when he pleased, she gave it away without resistance.  Her soul, her inner self, her mind and emotions, however, she protected fiercely and forcing her to spill her words across his flesh opened the well within her.  Watching her struggle with the sorrow that danced inside, seeing her attempt to remain standing, to not fall to her knees, fulfilled a gluttonous desire.

He waited, wiping the tear that finally fell with his thumb, watching her crumble, slowly.  Her arms wrapped around herself like a child trying to self-comfort.  Her body trembling.  Silent tears and the struggle to keep the black dog from shredding her core apart.  He waited until she finally fell to her knees, sobbing, shaking uncontrollably, her strength finally breaking under the strain.  Her madness burst forth and he listened to her sobbing, drinking in her keening cries.  She began rocking herself and his self-control ended.  He kissed her breasts, licking her tears, made love to her there on the floor, in front of the mirror.  He felt her clinging, her tears dripping down his back mixing with her words causing blue streaks, and with each sob he felt blissful release.

Her breathing became ragged, gasping, feeding his arousal more than her moist pussy or stiff nipples.  He became rabid, insatiable, and she scratched his back creating a kaleidoscope of ink, tears and blood.  With each thrust she released more darkness, flowing out of her, smoke-filled intensity.  He tasted the salt on her cheeks, she clutched him tight, their chests pressed together and heaving, becoming like feral animals.  She keened.  He moaned.  When she felt like she was splitting open, her skin splitting like a cicada breaking free from its cocoon, she stiffened, holding her breath; he shattered with release and she breathed again.  Her mind spiraled into silence.

“Thanatos, when will you finally kill me?”
“Never, my love, without you I am nothing but a shadow on the edge of life.”

(Thanatos): M

3:23 am: corner booth

She sat alone watching a couple drunk in love; or perhaps just drunk love. She ordered another whiskey and stared out the window.  The shadows across the street reminded her of the first time she saw Thanatos.

It was her fourteenth birthday and her parents were arguing, again, in the other room.  She could hear her mother yelling while her father’s tone was deeper, a little muffled, but still menacing. The small apartment left little room for escape so she climbed out to the fire escape for a cigarette.  Slipping her headphones on, turning the volume up, she watched the darkness unfold on the streets below.  In the shadow, across the street, he leaned against the wall, smoking a cigarette, looking up at her.

Her heart slowed with the eerie feeling of someone watching her, a stranger, calmly inhaling when she took a drag of her own cigarette.  He took a few steps to stand under the street light.  She exhaled slowly, not sure she was seeing as clearly as it seemed.  He was tall, dressed in black slacks, a black dress jacket with white shirt, cuffs open and hanging loose accentuating his long fingers.  His hair was short, black, a little messy.  What she noticed most were his deep blue eyes.  Unreal eyes like those in photographs of beautiful boys with microphones and smoke swirling.  He didn’t have a beard, but not clean-shaven, and she wasn’t positive but felt he let her study him for several minutes before smiling and walking away.

She met Thanatos a year later.  Visiting her cousins upstate, they took her to a party at a house near a lake.  The drinks were beer or overly sweet combinations typically involving Coke and cheap spirits.  A couple of older boys brought weed, acid and some pills with vague promises that it would make you feel good.  Wandering around drunk and high, feeling the usual melancholy, not wanting company, never able to feel connected, she slipped down to the lake with one of the knives her uncle used to gut fish.  She vaguely remembered cutting her wrist, slicing down following the trace of her vein.  She felt the blood, warm and sticky, dripping around the circumference of her arm.  She managed another cut on her other wrist, not as deep, and laid back staring up at the stars.

Her head swam, a mixture of alcohol and drugs, and she felt the pain from the cuts but didn’t move.  Instead trying to focus on locating the big dipper, identify Orion’s belt, looking for the North Star.  She laughed at her ridiculous dramatics and felt cold despite the warm summer night.  The fireflies blinked silently, calling to their loves across the grass, and she heard the occasional splash from a fish or turtle.  She smiled feeling life finally slipping away, so close to ending, the pain and darkness within finally about to be distinguished.  Vaguely she wondered how long before someone found her.  Would it be some fat housewife with her kids going for a morning swim?  Maybe one of her cousins would notice her missing and go looking for her.  Maybe she’d just rot here all summer, slowly decomposing into the earth until the rain washed her remains into the murky green lake.

She turned her head to the left, to look at the moon reflecting on the calm waters, and instead saw his blue eyes looking into hers.  He was kneeling silently next to her.  She didn’t know how long he was there, when he showed up, or where he came from.  She recognized him from the shadows across the street outside her apartment and she let out a small cry.  He gently touched her face, his eyes soft and kind, and took off his jacket to place under her head.

“Who are you?”
“Thanatos.  And who are you my love?”
“M.”

She saw lights blinking, heard voices and static sounds from radios.  No, she thought.  She looked at Thanatos and felt the black tar boil up into her chest threatening to crack each rib slowly.  As she struggled to focus, consciousness barely holding on, she felt pressure on her wrists, being lifted, heard voices all around.  Standing off to the side, Thanatos told one of the paramedics he had gone for his nightly walk and found the girl on the beach.  They thanked him for most likely saving her life.  As they loaded her into the ambulance she saw a black dog sitting across from the lake entrance, panting.

Two days later, at the hospital, her parents sat silently by her bed.  Her mother cried.  Her father clenched his jaw.  She feigned sleep hoping they would disappear for a while to the cafeteria.  When they finally left, she touched the bandages around her wrists and cried.  The doctors said they could help relieve her from the depression but they didn’t understand the well deep inside that held the bubbling, dark, black sticky tar that gripped not only her psyche but her very core.  It was a part of her, she understood that, something that would never disappear no matter how much they medicated or promised.

There was a soft knock on her door.  Thanatos stood holding a large bouquet of calla lilies and white lavender.  His blue eyes slightly clouded with contrition.  He waited until she gave a slight wave with her hand calling him closer.

“I’m sorry.”
“Why?”
“I can’t let you go.”

She sighed, her mind snapping back to the present.  She still didn’t understand why Thanatos couldn’t let her go.

Conversations: Thanatos’ Mistake

You, my dear Thantos, made one fatal mistake
What is that, my dear M?
You showed me that I am important
How have I done that?
You can not release me from this pain, give me the death I desire, so there must be something of worth, a greater value, than this earthly veil reveals
What makes you think such silly thoughts?
If there was no truth to what I say you would release me, give me death, reap my soul as you, the god of death, are meant to do. Instead you continue to play with me which means I have something more than this life offers.
You are a foolish child.
Yet you do not deny my claims
I do not
I am your muse
You are
Which means if I can be the muse to the god of death than there is something more than what I see now
I can not deny your logic
You have made a mistake Thanatos
What mistake is that?
You have given me a purpose
What purpose is that
To find what is so valuable that the god of death will not reap.

Road

The dark road tunneled ahead of her, the headlights illuminating a few hundred feet, as she sped along listening to the static from the radio echo in her head.  The thoughts cascaded like cicadas in the summer heat, droning endlessly, singing to the only one who understood.

Where she was going she couldn’t say.  She could only say what she left behind.  Or, what she was running from, trying to leave behind, though deep down she knew it would follow, like luggage transported from one destination to another.  There was nowhere to run, no one to run to, no one to catch her.  No one to save her.  She knew that even as she pressed her foot on the gas pedal until she felt it hit the floorboards beneath.  There wasn’t enough speed, wasn’t enough road, wasn’t enough distance between her and the past.

“What the hell does that mean?”
“You can be aggressive as hell when you feel uncomfortable.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be a bitch.”
“I never said you were a bitch, just aggressive, there is a difference.”

She paced her kitchen reading the texts wondering what the hell it all meant.  Why would he tell her that just before a date she was already nervous about.  She had no idea she was like that.  She always tried to acquiesce, to do what others wanted, to appease and please yet she was aggressive as hell?  What did that even mean?

“I can’t change overnight.  I’m trying for fucks sake.”

She tried to breath but instead inhaled with a jagged stutter.  She felt her arms shaking as she held the wheel, pressed the gas pedal harder even though it was already to the floor, and tried to focus on the dark, endless road ahead despite the tears blurring her vision.  This was all familiar.  Not the road itself but the flight.  She flashback to the freedom, at seventeen, when she finally escaped hell; or so she believed then.  Back then she also hit the gas as hard as possible, fleeing up the road, leaving the house she grew up in as a distant memory in her rear-view.  She never returned even when her mother begged.  She never felt the pangs of nostalgia like her older brother wanting to visit the old pizza place and ice cream parlor.

Back then, when she fled, the roads started out familiar, she knew which way to turn, which way led north or south.  Eventually she lost track.  Eventually she simply drove, focused and unfocused, following wherever the road took her as long as it wasn’t back.  It didn’t matter if the sun or moon was shining, it only mattered that she moved, ran, at top speed, as if she could outrun her fear, her pain, her mind and all the secrets.

She carefully arranged the plates, the knife on the correct side, the forks and spoons in their proper place, as the Christmas tree glowed behind her.  A bottle of red breathing on the kitchen counter while the white chilled in the fridge and garlic wafted through the house.  She pressed her hand against her solar plexus as she glanced at the arrangement, hoping it was correct, praying the glasses were in the right place, wishing for small praise that she fulfilled expectations.

Standing in the kitchen, the heat turning her cheeks pink, she quietly downed a glass of wine and filled it again quickly.  She felt that numbness, the softening effects of the alcohol, like cotton behind her eyes, softening the tension in her shoulders and took a deep breath.

“The table is set.”
“I better check to make sure it’s done right,” her older brother said, giving one last stir to the risotto before removing it from the heat.

She felt light-headed from erratic breathing.  She heard the buzz from her phone.  She wanted to drive to him.  She wanted to be held, to be cared for, to be understood but she knew the reality.  It was all a fantasy, what she built up in her head, and he didn’t care the way she did.  He didn’t feel the way she did.

“Are you okay?  You’ve gone quiet.”  She glanced at the phone as she pressed the pedal harder despite it being pressed all the way down already and she let the darkness take her.

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.