Sunday, October 30, 2011

Winter

All he could feel was pain. All kinds of pain. Searing pain that set every nerve on fire. Throbbing pain from shattered bone. Sharp pain from expertly split skin and muscle. His mouth and eyes were filled with blood and grit, his lungs filling slowly with thick red life in an effort to catch up and his breath came in wet gurgles. With a sudden white hot flash the pain blissfully disappeared in the wake of a neck breaking blow to the head.

* * *
Winter sat in the corner of the large tavern, his golden eyes moving from one person to the next, ever aware of who was doing what, where they were doing it and how it might affect him. He didn’t know why he was so hyper-aware of his surroundings, nor was Bothun ever able to explain it during the many months he’d spent recovering from being beaten nearly to death.

Bothun had found him on the brink of death, mostly buried in the snow, the red of his blood having caught the old mage’s eye as it was absorbed into the crystalline drifts piling up around his frostbitten limbs. For months he’d lain unconscious, his body mending with the aid of powerful magic, and even after waking up it was another six months before he was well enough to leave Bothun’s care.

The old man had dubbed him Winter, as much for the season in which he was found as for the chill that settled over those who looked at him. Winter had woken with no memory of who he was, where he was from or what had happened to him, and after almost a year of healing and rehabilitation it was with a grateful handshake he set out to uncover his past.

The orange light from the fire crackling in the large fireplace cast eerie shadows across his face, the darkness disappearing into the black of his hair which hung almost to his waist, the heavy mass confined into a thick braid and bound at the end with a leather band from which hung a silver coin. He’d found the coin in the bag of possessions that Bothun had returned to him once he’d regained some of his strength, along with a rare Prince Jamison revolver and hand tooled leather holster.

The grip was made of ribbon mahogany, the deep red hue striped with black and worn smooth from what he could only assume was his own use of the weapon. The burnished steel of the barrel, frame, cylinder and trigger guard were elaborately decorated with relief flourishes, the dark recesses making the ornate design stand out. Bothun had tried to grip the weapon but painfully learned that it was protected by a dark magic the likes of which he’d never encountered, which explained why Winter’s attackers hadn’t stolen it.

Winter continued to watch as the other patrons cast sideways glances at him, the men wary with hands idly resting on the hilts of their swords and the women excited, tittering and smiling shyly at him. His perfectly sculpted face was that of a God, broad shouldered and tall he simply commanded attention, though it was more the almost electric aura around him that made him impossible to ignore.

Pushing his empty plate away he stood up, towering over the smaller desert people who were native to the area, and their dark eyes turned to watch him as he made his way toward the door. The weight of so many stares was almost measureable and he felt it pressing against his back like a hand, urging him to leave so the air could again be easily breathed. A scent wafted past his nose, sparking an elusive memory in the back of his mind and he spun on his heel, his fierce eyes trying to locate the source.

A lithe figure was pushed forward, her delicate frame stumbling toward him and Winter’s body reacted before his mind fully processed the situation, drawing his revolver and firing a single bullet. Amid the screams and subsequent chaos the woman staggered and he caught her as she fell; he didn’t see who had pushed her and he scowled into the crowd but there were too many fleeing bodies to determine who the culprit had been.

Winter lifted the woman into his arms and carried her to a long table, clearing it of dishes with a single swipe of his arm before laying her down. She stared up at him with wide blue eyes. Blue? The desert people didn’t have blue eyes. He pulled the turban from her head, sending a thick wave of red hair spilling across the arm that cradled her shoulders and he was again assaulted by the familiar scent that had stopped him only moments before.

The tavern was almost empty now, only a handful of slaves huddling in the corners undoubtedly hoping he wouldn’t see them, and the quiet hung like heavy clouds; silent but oppressive. Blood trickled from the corner of her mouth and from her left ear and Winter watched in frustrated confusion as she slowly reached into the folds of her robes and extracted a small pouch. She pushed it into his hand before using the last of her strength to reach up and press her palm to his cheek, giving a weak smile before the light left her eyes.

Winter stared at her face, now empty of life, and carefully extracted his arm from under her. Loosening the drawstring on the pouch he upended it and dumped its contents into his palm, staring wide eyed at the silver coin that was identical to the one ornamenting his hair.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hannah

Her velvety brown eyes stared at the words scribbled on the single old sheet of stationary, ink splotches spattered across the fragile yellow paper. In spite of having found the letter only hours before, she had read the note a thousand times if she’d read it once, but having it memorized didn’t keep her from reading it again.

She raised her eyes, her gaze moving slowly up the imposing stone fa├žade of the house she stood before, and as she took her first step forward a bolt of lightening suddenly flashed a warning at her from the rapidly gathering clouds. She hesitated for only a heartbeat.

The old boards creaked under her feet as she ascended the stairs and slowly moved across the wide porch toward the large double front doors. Pulling a heavy ring from her purse she selected one of the old iron keys and inserted it into the lock, having to use both hands and a good deal of force to get the mechanisms to move through the built up rust.
With grinding protests the lock gave way and with a trembling hand she turned the knob and pushed, the hinges groaning like weary old men as the door swung inward.

The air was thick with dust. Tiny specks danced through the sunlight that was intermittently blocked out by heavy clouds in an ever changing ocular staccato, flitting in the eddies of air as she moved from room to room. Furniture was draped in sheets that were once white, the passing of time having turned them the same aged yellow as the paper clutched in her hand.

Cobwebs large enough for her to use as hammocks filled corners and doorways, dainty webs laced balusters together and thick mats of silk threads cocooned the chandeliers. Rugs were rolled and stacked like cord wood in each room, the dust so thick on the hardwood floor that she left footprints as she walked, the boards creaking under the forgotten feel of a human’s weight.

She walked through the kitchen, her gaze glancing over the wood burning stove, the pot rack laden with cast iron skillets and the butcher block topped table like a stone skimming across the surface of a still lake. She made a direct line toward the back door, reaching for the ornate knob and letting out a surprised scream when she was pushed from behind, cold hands slamming her against the still closed door.

Spinning and pressing her back to the wall her eyes scanned the room, looking for her assailant even while knowing she wouldn’t find them. Her mind went back to the letter, written over a hundred years before from a despondent husband to his dead wife:

My dearest Hannah,

This morning finds me wracked by the fiery pangs of your absence. Remembering the softness of your skin, the mirth in your eyes and the gentleness of your touch leaves me lost and longing. Nothing and no one will ever fill the vacancy left in my soul. The day I shrug off this mortal coil can come none too soon if the hereafter finds me lying by your side. Wait for me, love.

Forever yours,

Roger


Roger had been her Great Grandfather, and he had died when she was only 10. She fondly remembered sitting on his knee and listening with a young girl’s romantic heart as he spoke of his Hannah, her namesake. Despite the years that had passed, his love for his lost wife was an ever present light in his dimming eyes, and the mere mention of her name seemed to bring out of him the young man he once was.

He had moved out of the house he and Hannah had shared, refusing to create any memories there that didn’t include her, and lived out his life by raising their one young son. As he lay in his bed dying, Hannah’s small hands tucking the quilts her mother had made around his frail body, she wept silently both in anguish and in joy. Anguish that she was losing him and joy that he was going to be with his wife again.

The dreams started only days after he died. Hannah would wake up dripping with sweat, her heart pounding and feeling an overwhelming sense of panic, as though she had lost something and couldn’t find it anywhere. Her parents would soothe her, calm her, rock her, but she couldn’t get anyone to believe that something had gone wrong with Great grandpa’s soul.

These dreams plagued Hannah almost nightly all the way through college, and it was while home for the holidays that she found Roger’s letter to Hannah and the pieces fell into place. She had been awakened by the same sense of panic she had felt for as long as she could remember, getting up and heading outside to get some air, the cool autumn air chilling the sweat on her skin.

Hannah sat curled up in one of the worn rocking chairs on the wide porch, her brown eyes staring unfocused across the front yard until a milky shadow moved near the garden shed. Unfolding herself she stood up and moved toward it, not feeling afraid but rather a sense of excited anticipation came over her. She felt pushed and guided and directed. She pulled the door open and walked directly to a stack of old boxes, her hands moving the unimportant ones aside and, as if controlled by someone else, she reached into the dusty contents of a non-descript shoebox and extracted one specific letter and a ring of old keys.

It only took one reading of the letter for her to understand what she needed to do. She packed a small bag, left a note for her parents and climbed behind the wheel of her mom’s SUV. Four hours later she found herself being attacked by her Great Grandmother.

“Wait!” she shouted, holding her arms up to shield her head from invisible fists. “Grandma, stop! He’s here! I’ve brought him to you!” Hannah’s voice carried through the house, echoing off the high ceiling. The room was suddenly still, holding its breath and watching her with what felt like skepticism. Reaching into the small bag slung over her shoulder, Hannah extracted a polished silver urn, Roger’s name engraved across the front and she held it out as proof.

Slowly she reached for the doorknob again, letting out the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding until she stepped through the doorway without incident. She felt something move past her, like the brush of heavy skirts scented with lavender, and she followed the scent to the family graveyard. A low iron gate hung oddly from one rusted hinge, the sagging corner stuck in the dirt. Two dozen headstones poked up through the thick carpet of weeds, ivy and decomposing leaves, the stone covered in moss and the chiseled words faded.

Hannah moved slowly, still following the scent of lavender, to the far corner of the graveyard, stopping to stare at the bare earth of her Great Grandmother’s grave. Nothing grew there. The air didn’t stir. The temperature dropped. She felt something pacing, circling her like an impatient lion and with slow, deliberate movements she removed the lid from the urn and sprinkled the remains of her Great Grandfather’s body onto the bare dirt at the base of the half finished dual headstone.

It felt like the universe held its breath and for several minutes nothing moved, nothing made a noise. With a sudden burst of air, thick green grass and brilliantly colored wildflowers erupted from the naked ground. The branches of the trees that hung bare over the ground exploded with emerald leaves, birds circled overhead and the dark clouds that had felt so ominous split and showered a warm rain down onto Hannah’s uplifted face.

In the sporadic sunlight that reflected through the fat drops, out of the corner of her eye, Hannah watched her Great Grandparents reunion and in that moment she knew what pure joy looked like.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Montana

Blue skies stretch, covering the whole of the world that at that moment contains only me.

Black mountains reach up, draped in snowy lace, brushing the sky like a lover’s lips.

Wide green plains roll, a velvety ocean grown still, rising and falling like breath.

Trees sway in a silky breeze, leaves preening, waving at those who pause to greet them.

Water flows, running fast or trickling, making music to accompany the bird song.

Stretched out on the velvet swell of ground, my vision draped in blue sky and dancing trees, black mountains embrace me and the land’s wet kisses saturate me where we touch.

The languid pulse of Montana infected me with awe and wonder because I took the time to breathe her in; we won’t be roommates, but rather occasional lovers, madly falling together each time we meet.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

See You In The Funny Pages

She stood outside, wearing the storm like armor. The fat, warm raindrops struck her bare shoulders and her upturned face, exploding into a hundred smaller drops that saturated the aqua cotton of her summer dress, molding it to her body: breasts, thighs and hips. Her sandaled feet stood in an ever growing puddle, unaware and uncaring, and the shallow water lapped at her red polished toes.

He had told her about summer storms, the lightening racing across the sky, chased by claps of thunder she could feel in her chest; but the storms were only part of why she had flown in to visit him. The wide sky was black, every single star obscured by the heavy clouds that loomed overhead, lost against the dark of the night. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then another, and another until she felt the threat of tears had passed.

“Sasha, come back inside.” Adam’s voice was frustrated, but her own frustration was clear in the rigid set of her entire frame, her hands fisted at her sides, and she didn’t reply. She heard him step off the curb and walk up behind her, his pace slow and tentative as though she was a wild animal who might turn and bite him. When he laid his hands gently on her shoulders she had conflicting urges: to turn and fold herself into his embrace, or to step away.

Her internal conflict lasted only a few heartbeats yet it felt like eons, and it took every ounce of will she had to take that single step away from him, his fingers sliding over her skin until they fell away entirely. Folding her arms as a means of perceived protection from the painful conversation she knew was coming she turned slowly to face him, her hazel eyes locking with his light blue ones through the veil of rain.

“Adam,” Sasha began, her voice quiet. He mimicked her pose and folded his arms across his chest as he shook his head.

“I know that look, Sasha,” he said, his own deep voice quiet.

“Then do I even need to say anything?” she asked, hoping he would let her off the hook, but she knew better.

“Yes!” His blue eyes grew fierce and he stepped forward, his long fingers gripping her slick shoulders, “I want to hear you say it. Tell me and let’s see if either of us believes it!”

The pressure of his hold made her anger flare to life and reaching up she fisted her hands into the wet cotton of his T-shirt, glaring up into his face. “You want to hear it? Fine! I’m selfish! I want to kiss you and touch you and make love to you, and I can’t because besides living so far away you’re married!!”

Adam opened his mouth to speak but the adamant shaking of Sasha’s head silenced him. “I know what I’m saying isn’t right, isn’t fair, but I’m in pain and I think its better that we part as friends, I don’t want to lose that.” A small smile lifted one corner of her mouth as she released his shirt, her hands smoothing out the wrinkles. “We’ve known each other a long time,” she said wistfully, “But it’s clear your wife doesn’t like me and I won’t be a secret.” Stepping forward Sasha closed the gap between them, rising onto her tip toes and kissing him softly. “I’ll see you in the funny papers.”

Stepping around him she went back into her hotel, refusing to look back. Her heart was breaking but sometimes you have to run away to see if someone will chase you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Full Spectrum

Dawn
Milky cool peach
Rising
Violet pink lavender
Breaking
Amber honey topaz
Sailing
Warm golden liquid
Soaring
Caress cover embrace
Cresting
Bask yellow fire
Sinking
Bliss nourish fulfill
Falling
Reach touch hold
Fading
Breathe orange kisses
Failing
Filter cool color
Dusk
Veiled indigo touch