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Subject: "It's Alive! It's Alive!" rss

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Zack Boatman
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These notes were found in the desk of the late M.____________. The desk was purchased in a small, exclusive auction in southern France and the new owner M.___________, by accident, discovered a false bottom in one of the drawers before he was able to remove the desk from the estate. Several individuals witnessed the discovery, so M.___________ was hence unable to secret the document. What follows is the publication of the exact transcript. The verity of the text has been investigated, but is still unsubstantiated.

It need be known that I sit here at my desk, my eyesight and memories failing, and I wonder to myself if my writing is but a fantasy I have constructed in my loneliness or if the words that follow actually happened to me. But it is at this time, when I doubt and cast aspersions upon myself, that I run my fingers and thoughts across scars seen and buried within and I hold for a minute that I lived the dreadful and terrible; I lived this horror that escaped the bounds of my imagination.

***

College was a simple time for me; I mastered my science classes, rarely challenged-usually bored. The concepts and theories were so hindered by the ethics of practice; I could not understand why there were such limitations on the practical use of ideas, why the brilliant were hampered by the constraints of a society that could not understand its own needs. Held back by society that demands innovation and advancement, but denies those capable of such the means to create these advances.

I thought I was alone in my passions and perversions, but in medical school I happened upon a like mind. We spent hours together lamenting the ills that plagued the brilliant (such as ourselves) and from these discussions evolved an idea. Not just an idea, but "The Idea." An idea such as the world had never seen.

During the course of our burgeoning relationship, things began to change between us. For the first time we had each discovered someone that was accepting of the trappings of genius and willing to accept-despite a few peccadilloes. Our friendship became love and blossomed into a trust and a practical melding of two into one. We allowed our mutual passions to envelope us in a protective shell, isolating us from those unworthy of our experience. And from this trust we formulated our plan to propel our idea from our imaginations into being; creating from our love and giving birth to what could only be described as life altering;shaking the very foundations of understanding.

Of course, some would call us mad or perhaps even deranged, perhaps they couldn’t see past their own petty biases; couldn’t look beyond their limitations to see actual potential.

In our bliss, we worked together to graduate; to acquire the education necessary to fulfill our dreams. We studied and talked and pushed and strived and did what others before had failed to do. We graduated together in perfection, equal in every way. We left our fellow students behind, our academic success separating us from our classmates as we tore free of the confines of academic suffocation and began to create our need. While the others in our class chased internships so they could further be stuffed into the mold that is medicine, we left the country, searching for a place that would match our beliefs.

It is impossible to describe the feelings of being free for the first time in many years. Our studies had broadened our minds while our dream had sustained our imaginations. When we walked across the stage it was with pity for our fellow peers, as they were actually not our peers at all, but mere reflections of a weakness; products of a desperate ideology dying a slow death. However, we were resolute in our conviction; we knew that our course was that of greatness and success. Nothing could stop us; nothing could stand in our way.

Three years passed as we searched for our home. We met many people along the way, but precious few came close to matching our intellect and none understood our purpose and our dream. We began to believe that we might possibly be misguided, that the idea driving us was faulted. Just as we were beginning to despair, we stumbled into that which would ultimately drive us apart...

It was a cold, gray morning and we had been traveling alone for months. Our searching for the past few years had been fruitless. No one in our travels had even come close to reaching the bar we had set for ourselves. But we were beginning to feel the first pains of anguish; the first pangs of longing. We were no longer the couple that had walked across the stage a mere three years ago; we were older, the strain of our needs etching its course across our faces, tracking its pace through our blood. We were haggard and alone and facing defeat for the first time in our lives. We were feeling the crushing weight of loss.

We found ourselves, hand in hand, in front of a deserted inn. Whispers and forgotten lore had led us here. We had been lost and traveling the Carpathians for months and the leanness of our travels showed. We were shadows of our former selves, almost walking skeletons. The dirt trail beneath us was cleaner than our shoes and feet. Our hair hung limp and lifeless, the nails of our fingers cracked and brittle. Our clothes protected us from the elements, but did little else. We stood, barren and wasted, at the steps of the door. We looked at each other from red rims and bloodshot eyes. I shrugged, squeezed her hand and we entered the deserted inn.

The hinges creaked (of course) and we walked into a small hallway. Spider webs brushed our faces, dust spilling from them as we walked by. This might have been beautiful refracted in sunlight, but the dull gray of outside snuck in with us, changing everything to a uniform sadness. The hallway ended at the only other door. She reached out and turned the handle. The door swung soundlessly open.

The heat and light that poured from the room took us by surprise. It was as if the warm breath of life was lightly blown across our faces; we could feel the weight lift from our shoulders, the blood began to rush through our veins. We smiled at each other in our amazement. Hand in hand, we stepped forward...into our futures.

Perhaps, if I could go back to that moment, I would turn around and never look back; alas, no one is ever given such a choice.

It is impossible to describe the moment as my visceral reaction cannot be put into words. Suffice it to say that as we stumbled into the room, I slumped into the closest chair as the cacophony of sights invaded me, seemingly entering my body through every pore. It was as if I had never seen true beauty; as if I had never seen.

I cannot tell you how long we sat, our hands still intertwined, neither of us speaking. It could have been hours or even days. We moved only within the stillness of our breath.

A man and a woman walked into the room. They were not out of the ordinary and as a matter of fact, they were quite ordinary. He was on the smaller side, but sturdily built and of average looks. The woman beside him was on the heavier side and rather plain in appearance. The difference between them and anyone else on the street was the power that seemed to exude from them like a natural force of nature. When they came into the room it was as if they carried with them a charge of electricity that shocked everything around them. That was what I felt, we felt, as they entered the room; it was as if a current was being sent through our bodies into our very souls.

He looked at us, his plain and average face smiling while his eyes were alive with curiosity and intelligence and said, "We are so happy to see you. We so rarely have visitors." They sat beside us and took out hands into theirs.

It is difficult for me, after all these years, to peer back into my memories and describe that evening. There was laughter and the sharing of tears and the pains of weariness. I remember that we drank well and ate superbly that evening. Our hosts captured us with stories and made us feel as if we had known them as friends of old.

The night lasted, a gaiety of tumultuous solemnity, until day broke and we took our leave of this remarkable inn. A casual a glance across my shoulder as we left was the last I ever saw of our meeting; it was the last moment I distinguished our destiny. We made our way, careless and without discretion, to a small lane recessed within the forest that surrounded us. As we closed to the way, the drunkenness of the moment took from me the very idea of perception and I failed to observe the miscarriage of nature that surrounded me; the hierarchy of limbs and trunks and scars of bark did not impress a foreshadowing upon me. We climbed into a smallish coach, drawn by shadows we could scarcely perceive in the well surrounding us. But such was our joviality that oppression and discovery could not pierce. The carriage surged and the weight returned for a moment, heavy and coercive. But equilibrium returned and such thoughts and profundities escaped. Out hosts never lapsed in providing, and our journey passed into night with neither our notice nor our heed. We slept in moments to awake in continuing; I’m sure it was not days as we traveled but fleeting instants where we moved through time instead of along. And within that time suspended, we spoke with our hosts, and we knew.

They told us of their home, folded away within the protection of the forest we now traversed. How, within, we would find our way to realization, that our dream would no longer be just that. They would offer and sustain and bear the scrutiny of our indulgence, while with us determined in their own fashion and recreation. Together and working apart we would advance in ways unforeseen; from this vision create our dream.

And as suddenly as our world turned from our initial encounter with our hosts, we arrived. I did not feel leaving the tangle behind, not crossing the open grounds, nor stopping. Our travels opened and before was a castle of impressive girth. A massive, encumbering mass of stone and vine and crust driven into the ground by forces unimagined. My love and I stood, mouths agape, as we failed to understand the prospect before us. Peripheral movement became utter stillness as our eyes attempted definition. We stood and our hosts, with smiles and ability, ushered us in.

The vast and empty halls that greeted us did so with scorn and derision. It was strange to encounter such coldness after hailing such warmth. But it was not to last. Our hosts influenced us with hands and hushes to move into the smaller, connected anti-chambers that created a knit warren of purpose. The warmth returned as our confidence. From these we were taken through spirals and narrows, up into the opportunity that would become our homes.

My love would come to me, in those first nights, into my bed from her own. And discomfort ruled us as we began to explore our idea together, yet within the confines of separation. Our hosts enabled our laboratories, separate and equal; both apart so that when we came together it was with zeal and abandon. When we had been together and the idea was ours alone, to disconnect it from the "us" was beyond the scope of our understanding. But as we began to work in our severance, we found that we could come together in abject brilliance; leaps and bounds surround our every thought and pastime and our progress was consummate. Our hosts remained detached, apparent only when they would silently watch us work. But their intentions did not concern me, nor my love. And within the confines of our happiness, we began to achieve our dream in our simultaneous being.

However, we were not meant to be. Our providence was to change, and that was our demise.

The first cracks in our faultless love began to show when we began working alone at different hour during the day. I would often find myself absorbed in a project and not even realize that we hadn’t been together for hours and that she too would be immersed in her own ideas and projects, oblivious to the fact that we were beginning to lose touch with each other, that we were starting to forget that we were more important than our ideas. Months passed and instead of talking when we actually had time together, we found ourselves uncomfortable with small talk and the language of love. So strong was our obsession with our idea that I hardly noticed that we were beginning to move our experiments in different directions.

I would often close the door in my lab and become absorbed in the details of my work. It is difficult to explain, but once we had been given the spark it became a fire that illuminated us. Within me, this fire burned brightly at an even pace; the fire in her, however, consumed her. I would stop to eat, to spend time on thoughts outside of my experiments, to take the time to take care of myself.

My first real shock came when we met in a long, dark hallway deep within the bowels of the castle. I hadn’t seen her in weeks and as I walked quietly with a small candle lighting my way, I noticed another’s light coming toward me. As we drew closer I could make out a face reflecting the dim candle light. A face with which I was not acquainted. I stood alone in my ring of light and she came toward me directly, and apparition from my past as she smiled. And in that smile I remembered how we were forgetting ourselves; how we were spiraling apart together.

She spoke to me quickly about her bearing and she blew past as if in an unforgotten breeze. I stood and saw what was becoming and I curved it from my understanding. I continued to my lab, and continued our approach into that which we were converting.

***

It is always the unexpected that allows us to reveal what we have always known. I truly believe that buried within us is all of our knowledge; our pasts and our futures; our loves and our defeats. Newton had the knowledge within him, it just took an apple for this knowledge to push forth, an infant struggling to birth...wet and bloody and wailing and new and perfect and beautiful. A discovered thought that had been there all along, yet with the power to change everything and everyone who could now think it.

My apple was death. I sat in my wooden chair looking out the window from my lab. I had been unable to progress in my experiments for almost two years now. Every layer that I tried to peel back, like skin surrounding organs, left me finding exactly what I had seen before…pools of meat and sinew and blood and membrane. And though each slice took me deeper into the glutinous mess, nothing new was here; nothing was left to be discovered. I was spinning my wheels mucking about the killing fields looking for life where none existed, trying to find that which was not there. And I found myself looking out the window. There was a gale wind whipping through the trees that formed a barrier around the castle. If I had thrown an ansible from the castle keep, it would not have been close to the trees that surrounded us. Several hundred feet of wide open yard ended abruptly at the seamless forest. I found it a strange thought that I had never entered the forest since we came to the castle and, in fact, had only emerged from it once. And from the gathering storm I watch a small figure emerge from the dense anger that was now the trees thrashing in the wind.

We had always been aware of a small enclave of desperate people that lived within the depths of the forest. Small curiosities would sometime be missing from a familiar place when I would come back to my room. Even when I locked the door I would find a bauble missing every once in a great while. I had asked our hosts of this small proclivity, and they smiled and looked at each other. I know now that this was the smile of lies, but at the time I believed what I could see instead of relying upon what I could sense. They gathered my love and myself near the hearth (I can distinctly remember looking out the window as the reflection of the flickering of the flames on the window pane created poetry of clouds). They told of a lonely and frightened band of indigenous nomads, of a group scarcely considered people. They had lived in the forest as long as anyone could remember. Sometimes, or even more rarely than that, we were told they will sneak into our room in the castle and take meaningless knick-knacks. Our hosts explained that they were almost invisible and that if we happened to glimpse them, they were best left alone as they were harmless and superstitious. We looked at each other, the four of us, and the warmth of the fire and the strangeness of interlopers and the passions of discovery made me think of this little tribe as nothing more than a footnote in the story of my life. I shake my head now, both embarrassed and incredulous that I could not (or perhaps would not) dare fathom the truth.

But as stated, it was death that opened my eyes, allowing my preconceptions to wither away in its presence. The storm was an angry one, tearing the sky asunder and spewing forth rain and sleet with an unbridled viciousness. And I could see that lone figure, a slash of white against the black of forest, light grounded in darkness. Movement was splintered as the rivulets across my window created images within themselves. Perhaps Fate intervened or a quirk of nature or within the nature of man itself I created the necessary inference, but my window, my vision and my mind cleared for a second and I could see beyond my vision. There was a stillness, the singular stillness before the storm. The slash of white on the grounds, the swirling storm and the quiet of Hell itself found their place among the moment. And then from Heaven, as if from the hand of God itself


Dear reader, it is with great request for forgiveness that we explain omission. The word "itself" is seemingly the last word on the remains of this page. It was neither a careless nor random exorcism, but a deliberate laceration of text. One can only assume that M.___________ decidedly did not want the secrets he revealed to be public; as it were, perhaps he did not rely upon himself within the context of this text. We can only commence again where this splintering ends and our author has redefined his trust in us. Our sincerest apologies.

I stood without knowing. My breath was shallow hissing, escaping from my lungs without pressure, without forgiveness. It was strange how, in my mind, the pieces began to move and rearrange and fit together in new and impossible ways; how the microscope seeming came to focus, a deliberate mistake that allowed for connecting imagination and my idealism and the veracity of my existence. I was consumed. I believe my heart had forgotten. Though the burning in the middle of the grounds was being washed in the purity of the rain along with the broken and fire scarred bones, I was awash with the fire of thirst; the wrenching need to break from the shackles that bound me to resignation and failure and once again gave deliberation to the idea that had brought me here. But in that moment, as the fires began to flame within, I knew that I must once again bring her to my heart, that without her I would not be.

I rushed to her room, not knowing if she would be there or in her lab. I threw open the door, but the crashing of it into the wall was not enough to drag her from the bitter slumber in which she was enshrouded. I quickly went to her bedside as I wanted to wake her and share my revelation. But I stopped my hand before I touched her. My senses were shaken in a way I had never experienced. The woman on the bed was no longer the woman with whom I had fell in love with and known these many years. What had once been vibrant and beautiful was now haggard and worn, a vestige of I placed my hand on her brow and leaned close to her ear. I whispered my secret, my discovery, the fruition of our idea into her ear. And though she was asleep, she heard my words and stirred. She opened her eyes and in that opening I could see life returning; brightness and curiosity replacing darkness and defeat.

We held hands and I had to support her frail frame as we slowly made our way to the kitchen. Each step seemed painful to her, but she was becoming infused with my idea and I could see it running its course through her body, giving her strength and renewing her. We sat and ate and for the first time in an exceedingly long time, we laughed together. Our laughter was true and strong and full of potential. It rang though the castle and before we knew it our hosts had joined us. They literally poured into the kitchen and looked at us and they knew. They knew that their belief and faith and trust in us were justified. They joined us in laughter and revelry and it was as if we were together for the first time, just like that first night. I wish I had never looked out that window.

I found our hosts deep within the labyrinth of the castle. Though I had been to their labs before, I could not find them there. In my excitement, and with my love, I decided to seek them out. Though we had never been told to stay to ourselves within our labs, neither of us had ventured into the depths that lay below. I found myself quickly lost within the bizarre twists and turns, with only dim candlelight to mark our passage. The only hallmarks of our passage seemed to be the age of rot that progressed as we fell deeper in to the womb of the castle. The stones that made up the casing of the tunnels grew darker with a glutinous damp and when we would brush against one on accident, it would crumble like diseased skin flaking from a dying man. Several times I tried to turn us around and assume the comfort of familiarity, but these actions were for naught as I could not remember our descent and my love was in no condition to aspire to greater heights. I was desperate and the confusion I could feel in my mind was crowded with the now unfamiliar (for lo these several years) grip of panic. I could feel my eyes, reflections of an animalistic fear, darting around these silent halls, becoming like the tomb. My breath, coming in staccato, created short puffs of beautiful rainbow refracted in the small wisps of candle. This beauty was lost on me as I screamed inside my head. I had never felt this before, this loss of control and I found that I was paralyzed; I could not move and my love stood lost beside me, unknowing of that which was now my psyche. She held my hand in hers and I turned my focus to it. I stared only at her hand, the subtle lines I knew so well and was quickly lost in what I had known, but now was the unfamiliar.

My panic receded as I took in the hand. In the candlelight it became a notion of my memory. Contours that were once a map of our commitment were now new and complicated misunderstandings and potential arguments that would unravel all that had come before us. I was entranced and furious and wounded and so myopic was my focus that I did not perceive her interest in discovering the same within the visage I now carried that remarked our years together, but apart. For how long we stared into this silence I could not tell you, but as one we stopped our searching and found each other’s eyes. In that simple moment, and within that simple motion we saw our past and our present converge and the loss of our future. Our tears seemed crystal in the candlelight. What escaped from her lips, though a whisper seemed a wail in my ears, capturing fullness with resentment and failure and desolation. But in the end this was our salvation as this whisper of pain surrounded us and floated past, delving deep within the amplifying catacombs that embraced us. Our hosts found us, their lights following the dying symphony of her absolute, us huddled together in a small cast of light from our flickering flame. They gathered us, her in her weakness and me in my shatter, and took us deeper.

Perhaps I knew all along. Perhaps the greatness to which we had aspired allowed me to understand without having to acknowledge; had allowed me to serve without being a servant. How deeply they carried us was lost to me. Though I have been there several times since, the immersion of the first time, our baptism, could not be defined in terms of time. It was emotion that permeated beyond our understanding as to define us in ways we could not being to comprehend, but in a way that we knew already existed within us waiting for liberation. I can only describe the physical as the remaining denies this mundane. Our host carried us to a door, unremarkable in that it was seamless in the decay and odor of its surroundings. On hinges rusted to near helplessness, almost involuntary in deciding to open we were brought into the light.

This laboratory was nothing as our own. We stood in helpless fascination as we understood the concept of our recruitment; our diabolic conscription. My love left her hand from mine and the fire rose within her; cheeks and tears and wavering fell asunder and I could feel the heat exude. I damped my prerogatives and hastened to divest myself of opinion for I was subterranean in this involvement and could take not leave of it. But I knew my love was now lost to me and forever did not contain time to bring her back.

I hesitate to explain more here as I, upon assumption, disclose that which you have hastened to already discover. Our hosts were, as previously contemplated, generating those which, you knowingly, aggregate within the forest. Our hosts however, were not, as us, creating, but using us to advance their concepts of creation. And as we realized, my love and myself, the amalgamation of suppleness they were conducting, the combinations they were adjusting, we distilled in that moment the truth we had know since our meeting at the inn. We were tools, mere pawns; but that was my perception and my inaccuracy. I now saw the tribe for the resplendent parts and agonizing pieces which they had become and come from, just as you have surely intuited far earlier than I. I can only consider that you have embraced wisdom more blissfully than I and lounge within my mistake. But confined by my insight I did not see my love in that moment. I did not see that our hosts were now the wager.


The lab took in our total encompass and eventually we were recognized. There was no panic, no resource to find excuse, but an embrace. While I smiled and feigned, I resisted within and showed no outward sign. I delved within and as my dreams shattered and tore and shredding contained, I could see infusing within my love determination and desperation. I knew that our hosts did not conceive that they could not. That the lives of our hosts were forfeit and that we would supplant. But my love overruled and I hoped beyond that of meager optimism into the foolish and the trust of our love.

As the weeks passed and she grew more fevered in her determination and armed with my insight, she evolved into a being of pure diligence. While I languished in my recognition, my love would constrain to distant understanding. Our labs were no longer our own as the four of us conducted together this discordant symphony. The ranks of the grafting tribe were spliced once and again, always ending in death and never resurrection. Though I had unlocked the idea, the practical still evaded, and much on my part as I would not participate beyond convincing. But it was not my lot to seed this disastrous inability as I was still harboring our idea, allowing the smoking ember to maintain its heat as I could not step away from discovery.

I had taken to stealing moments, laboring alone in these fissures. I could not undermine my nature, though I tried. Perhaps it was months, years. And it was within a fracture that I happened upon creation. Unbidden it streamed, a sponge within suddenly squeezed and issuing forth. I applied and soon I held this dead life complete newly come in my hand. I watched as it evolved from quivers and trembling to acceptance of recognition of its plight. And as I returned it to its previous state, while it pleaded for forgiveness and absolution, I knew that they would never follow in my footsteps, that my love and our hosts could not envision what I had ushered into conception. That they would never be able to see so as to follow.

And as this life extinguished again from my actions and at my hand, I heard an intake behind me. So engrossed that I was unaware and of my love that had joined me. She did not stare at that before me, but into me. She knew I held discovered secrets and she knew that she had all that I had as well. But she could not see beyond her fortitude and turned from me. I followed her to her lab, she unaware of my investment. I left her later, amazed by her failure to understand and the defeat of her placement. In the weeks that followed she never asked of me, but was drive by such. She could not achieve beyond that of components and her memory of the complete which I held in my hand was driving her deeper within her folly. As she stretched and pulled and fought to create my conception, she did so to herself. She became a distortion, emboldened by her deficiency. I watched as she wasted and turned upon herself.

I left her, but not in my heart. Weeks turned to seasons and in the bitter cold I came to myself and sought my love once again, as hope springs eternal damnation.

And when I found them, it did not surprise me; my acceptance was fundamentally concluded.

I knew this was another story, arcane and diabolic. But it was not my story; its realm would not allow my passage, could not consent to my interpretation. I stood near the bodies that laid scattered across the floor, the blood long dried, entrails shrunken against the cold, hard floor as if they were now a part of the stone itself instead of exercised from the hosts; a giant beast swallowed whole by this monstrous castle and with sacrifice splayed across its stones, teeth within the mouth insatiable. My love had fled this sanctuary; and from that flight I knew she had failed to discover fruit of her desires. Her footprints were small coins stamped in blood all around the lab. Dark and harsh, they flaked as I followed them, stepping as she. It was torture to see into her madness and tenderness; each step a testament to the ascending depths to which she availed. I could not comprehend the time she languished within the carnage, but I could assume months. There advances of decay were different, but our hosts bore the initial affront. Pieces of them seemed broken, as if they were dishes dropped from heights unknown to shatter and spread and never dissolve.

For days that hastened weeks I did not see my love, though I searched the byzantine structure endlessly. Oft I would return to the scene of her devises, longing for motion within this defeated absence. I would wander the grounds in a dreamlike state, never taking it upon myself to examine that I did know the truth of her distance.

As morning crept upon me mixed with haze and rain and desperation, I wandered into the carnage that had once defined our host’s laboratory. My love saw and recognized and realized me from where I stood. She did not smile or back away, but turned and strode with purpose, exact and defined. Away from me. Through a door and out of my life. I could not help but follow, as the way was determined long ago. Through a small recess and into a tunnel not made of stone, but of dirt and bramble; vestige of the forest that once loomed above. Though she seemed guided by fortune, I stumbled and faltered and found alcoves; recesses in which only allowed retreat. And through this mythology of monotony, I placed myself in the footsteps of her path and her goal and I realized in my shame how I had been so wrong; so deeply erroneous in my assumptions of her progress next to mine.

I ran in and out of this tunnel, knowing exactly where it was prepared and into that which she was headed. As if birthed in remnant dirt and sinew of temperament, I issued forth from the tunnel. I stumbled through a maze of dead trees and treacherous undergrowth, trying my best to find her before she could plunge herself completely in her madness. Branches tore skin on my face and arms, briar covered vines pulled at my feet seemingly trying to hinder me from reaching her. And as suddenly as I had struggled through the dead and unrelenting forest, I broke through into a mist as thick and unrelentingly viscous as a fur coat covered in blood. I stopped, knowing that as dangerous as my pursuit through the forest had been, it was nothing compared to the pitfalls that I could not see through the mist.

I knew I was in their camp as I stumbled across a pitiful layer of small bones. Though I could only imagine its track through the mist, it was obvious that this weaving of tiny animal bones created a great circle, enshrining the contents within. I moved cautiously. It was not in fear of the inhabitants, but I held in reservation the intent of my love. Though I wanted desperately to be wrong, I knew from the depths of my soul what I would find if I could not intercept her. I also knew that navigating the sorrow of these depths was the truth I would find, despite the consequences of enlivening her graces with my presence.

Perhaps the horror of my imagination was tempered by love, but my expectations were strongly exceeded when I blindly found remnants of tribal association. My love had been busy for these past several months and the price had been exacted from the lost and battered and lonely that surrounded and cracked brittle beneath my feet. So profound was the vigor of her appeals to her passion that there was no life left within the enclave that had suddenly become the myopic world from which I wished to retreat. But as mentioned, none are ever allowed to step back and moments are cast even before our wishes.
Amidst the ruins I did not find her and returned to our castle, our host.

***

I took stock of the few belongings I had scattered about my room. They would provide me no means us sustenance, so here they would stay. I shouldered my jacket and placed a small key into a pocket, velvety smoothness caressing tarnished brass. Though it was just the key to the desk that faced the lonely window in my room, I needed the physical to forever remind me of what would become fragmented memory. I stood in the doorway, the match burning to my fingers. I tossed it, flickering across this space and it seemed through my heart as well. I did not close my door. I began my journey, matches the crumbs which marked my travels; but in the stead of returning, remaking each step into its last.

The fire was its own voice raging and screaming and whimpering as it reached into itself and from. I left it behind me, moving faster than its willingness to let go of what it could seize, and I arrived to the last and was beleaguered.

I stood in the doorway, unnoticed by her. She sat, hunched over her desk...a shell of the woman she once was. She was consumed by her madness, by her failings, by her unrelenting darkness. I gently spoke, calling her name with the hope that she would hear me; that she would come back to me. Quietly I stole behind her, a ghost unbidden. Her pen scribbled spidery lines, nonsense on ripped and torn pieces of paper that littered her desk; its disarray reflecting the state of her mind. I involuntarily stepped back, aware only that she was completely unaware. I turned and walked to her door. I stood for a while watching her, trying to remember all the memories I had deliberately forgotten; those memories too painful to hold, any longer, close to my heart. She did not hear me nor did she perceive the rending that was ultimate. And in that sadness I closed this door, leaving her behind with her frantic scribbling and erratic murmurings. The last thing I heard as the door shut, separating us forever, was her strained and weakened voice muttering over and over again, "Cootie, Cootie, Cooooottttiiieeee..."
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