Isolated. Alone. Yet standing among others. They raise their arms around me. So, I raise my arms to join them. Like feathers along the wing of a bird, green leaves cling to the parchment like bark that covers my body. Isolated. But not truly alone. My fingers entwine with those around me, and together we cast the earth below in green sunlight. Light that gives us life, bathes us in warmth, and wraps us in a glowing cocoon of comfort. Knowledge that we are alive. I am alive. Isolated. On the inside, I am alone. Outside, surrounded by others just like me. Arms raised to the sky, holding hands, we blanket the heavens to catch the rain that revitalizes us. Deep in the earth, my roots hold fast, despite the winds that rip away my leaves, and cause my trunk to creak with the strain of standing. But I stand. And I don’t stand alone. I stand with the aid of the earth and the others holding onto my branches. Powerful. I can withstand the elements. Wind blows, but I stand. Water fades, but I have saved enough. Fire burns, but my bark protects me. And through the earth and the sun, I can grow again. Isolated, but not truly any longer. I am my own inside, and outside others love and care for me. And forces greater than I truly understand keep me standing, my roots seated securely in the earth, and now I raise my arms in praise of being alive, basking my leaves in the glory of the sun. And I live. Powerful. Secure. Myself.
Dog hair to me
is like the crumbs of cereal
and toy cars left on stairs.
The sheets cling to her curves, like
a toddler clinging to her mother,
afraid of leaving the comfort of stuffed animals
and cartoons for the terror of making
real friends, and learning what happens
when she has two apples and Johnny snatches
one. Makes her cry for mommy. The fabric
pulls taut against her, showing pale peach beneath
its white, where her skin threatens to fade
through and escape. Her breathing is captured,
breasts rising and falling like rolling
waves lapping at my feet. I can imagine
the sand feels pleasant spilling between
my toes, like she spills from the sheets.
Her legs escape, snaking over the bed
and sinking feet into the plush, white carpet.
For a moment, the sun presses through
the window, and she is golden
in the space between the sheets struggling
to contain her.
Xanthiilus woke up abruptly. The forest was dark, and he could barely make out the sleeping forms of Maryanne and Sympheros a little distance away. Saleena was asleep next to him, her hair spread out like a blanket over the foliage and her chest rising and falling peacefully. Xanthiilus looked around the forest, trying to find something that could have caused him to wake up so suddenly. He stood up silently, not wanting to wake the others. Why was the forest dark? When they had arrived last night, it had been glowing green. Would the new wards have changed that? Or had something come here.
Xan looked up at the broken skylight. The voice was incredibly quiet. He wasn’t sure he had heard it, but a star suddenly blinked out of existence as a dark form moved in front of it. In a blink, Xanthiilus was standing on the roof, naked blade in his hand. His eyes roved across the roof, looking for the dark form.
The voice screamed right in his ear, and Xan dropped to the side, lunging out with his sword. It met resistance with an earsplitting clang. Xan looked up. His sword was resting against a curved and wicked looking blade. It was red, with scratches carved throughout the entire surface. Xan quickly stood up, jumping back to give himself some distance.
The figure in front of him was the size of a human, and it wore a black cloak with the hood drawn low. The entire being seemed to exude darkness. There was only a dark form beneath the cloak; Xan couldn’t make out any discernible features, and he could not see through the darkness of the creature’s hood.
Continue reading “Rise, Rise – Chapter Eleven”
“Where do we start?” Fin was packing his bag: clothing, food, and other items they would need.
“Honestly? I have no idea what Magister Rochester expects us to find.”
Fin stuffed an extra ration into his bag and closed it. He looked at Grace, searching for her violet eyes in the dim bunker lighting. “It does seem like a bit of a longshot. But this Elementalist could really help us.”
Grace finished packing her own bag and turned toward Fin. Her hair shrouded her face in as much shadow as the minimal light. “He could. If we could find him. If he exists.” She shouldered her bag. “Fin, the truth is, we don’t know what we’re looking for or where.”
Fin dropped his gaze and briefly nodded. “He saved us in Times Square. That might be as a good a place as any to start looking.”
A soft thump caused Fin to glance at Grace. She had set her bag down on the floor and was sitting on one of the benches in the locker room. He shifted his weight, eyes darting toward the empty bench space next to Grace.
“Times Square isn’t exactly close to this bunker. Even if it was, you heard them. It sounds like the Soulless have overrun the city. Even if we can make it to Times Square, there’s still no guarantee the Elementalist would be there. And why would he? You remember what that place was like. The death, the destruction…”
Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Three, 1:30pm”
She sits in the shower
and he swirls down the drain.
The unstained oak is rough against
her naked feet. Un-sanded burs catch
and splinter. They were going to finish
the deck. She watches the sun dissolve,
Alka-Seltzer for the sea.
She has the shower hot—
her skin cherries and the steam chokes.
But she can still feel him. Fingers
brushing hair behind her ear. Lips part—
breath escapes. Eyes open,
and it’s just steam.
The sun is gone. She watched it dip,
reflected in the patio door’s glass.
Her hand sticks to the handle, eyes locked
on the darkness.
Eyes wide to keep them dry.
She walks past the coffee table—
ghost rings where he didn’t
use the coasters, a plate with bread
crusts. The newspaper.
She doesn’t look down. Refuses to read
what she knows is there.
Her skin is raw. Burning.
The hot water will run out—
she stays. Stays where she can feel him.
Feel his arms, the press of his lips
before the cold comes on.
All of the houses are empty.
I see lights drifting out of windows
momentarily lost in the darkness
before spilling on vacant streets.
There is no one. Anywhere.
No one is watching heroes fighting,
on the muted TV.
Electricity is being drained away—
Barry Manilow quietly singing
to empty rooms bathed in dimmed lights—
like a ghost fighting against the pull
of crossing over.
An open door pulls
me through its threshold.
It rests, almost carelessly forgotten
to be closed, but there is a sense
of urgency hanging in the air.
Decorative cushions neatly line
the beige couch. A TV Guide sleeps on the floor,
pages pillowed like a tarnished halo,
a nest for the remote and coasters
pushed off the coffee table.
Mixed in with them—a bra, boxers,
and several used condoms.
Did these people know they were
going to vanish? In a rush,
they left the door open to strip
off their clothes and clear the coffee table
so they could melt into each other.
But then why the condoms?
In a narrow hallway pictures
of a golden retriever—
playing fetch with a slobbery, red ball,
burying an old shoe, devoid of an owner.
Second door on the left, and I find it.
The bathroom. It’s clean—
almost like it was never used.
I leave the door open—who’s going to see?
The stream splashing into the bowl
echoes, enunciating the solitude.
A glint from the ring on my hand
brings fog to my eyes. A smile
that seems forever ago spreads,
tingling painfully through my body—
the pins and needles of a sleeping foot.
The bathroom floor is bare,
no plush rugs to comfort feet
stepping out of the shower onto cold tiles.
I’m reaching for the toilet paper
when I hear footsteps in the hall.
Stunned and unsure, I sit there, hand
limply holding the tissue. She’s in the door.
I’ve never met her, but there she is
staring at my crotch.
I wasn’t expecting anyone.
The world was gone. Her eyes
travelled up my body, until they
met my own. There weren’t any sparks.
Just a dull ache.
Her voice was quiet, and a little hoarse.
When she spoke, it was
a gear rusted too long.
“Can I use the toilet?”
My fingers fumble over the zipper
and the swirl and gurgle
of the toilet bowl cuts through the silence.
My mouth opens, but my voice left—
left with everything else.
I step outside as she closes the door,
water faintly splashing.
When I drink
my Kahlua Mudslide
through a straw—
I saw her sit down.
She didn’t have a coffee,
an espresso, or a mochatini.
She had her eyes.
So young, surrounded by
a mask carved from leather,
baked in sun and dusk.
I keep my eyes
on the laptop screen,
trying to write a poem,
or a word, or a line,
or at this point, even
just a letter.
But she’s staring at me—
through me, into me—
or at the mirror beside
me. What does she see
when she sees herself?
An old woman, alone
in a coffee shop not
A young girl, in love—
unable to tell if the heartbeat
is hers or his?
and the wisdom carved
into her skin?
I look to her seat,
but she’s gone. A faint face
the leather back seems
Paint clings better to paper mache.
A strange bird’s feathers
float between her mask’s furrowed eyes.
Her eyes, the only humanity visible,
and they are dark and creased. Overflowing.
The gold paint glimmers how she cannot.
The tired smile is carved into the mask,
Her skin below the mask hesitates,
drifts out of the fabric of her costume.
Bright and faded, it stretches,
and folds over her like an envelope
without enough postage.
When she changes her face,
she turns away and her dark hair curtains,
and creeps down her back.
The mask has become her;
the paper hides her hollow.
It was almost daylight when Xan got back to the safe house. He could have gotten there instantly, but he decided to walk, to have more time to think and smoke. The shock of the werewolf and what the werewolf had said were still bouncing around inside his head. Xan had lived through so much, yet it was unsettling hearing this wasn’t the first life had been through. He had always accepted that nature had created him to help combat evil, but he never thought that he had been different than the others. His thoughts left him when he reached the front door of the safe house. He was suddenly so tired, and he just wanted to crawl into bed with Sal and hold her as he fell asleep.
“There you are, Xanthiilus.”
Xan turned around groggily, to see who was addressing him. Wings sprang from his back and his sword was in his hands in the blink of an eye. A demon stood before him.
“Is that anyway to welcome a guest?”
Xan couldn’t believe he hadn’t recognized that voice as demonic. They all sounded like chains being dragged over stones. “What the hell do you want?”
The demon chuckled. “I certainly do not want hell. I have been locked up there for a lot longer than I would like. I just thought I would stop by and see how everyone is doing. I would especially like to say hello to that little slut of yours.”
A streak of fire pierced the demon, and Xan stood behind it, fire dripping from his sword. The demon gurgled, a large cut appearing through its middle as black blood oozed from the wound. It placed its hands on the cut, and black wisps of clouds drifted from its fingers followed a sharp hissing sound. Xan watched as the cut began to mend jaggedly, leaving a large scar on the demon’s middle.
Continue reading “Rise, Rise – Chapter Ten”