Archive for literature

The First of Many Strange Days

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2018 by beautifulimposter

It had been a long, shitty, weird day and Abby was glad it was ending. The remnants of it flashed through her mind in flickering zoetrope flashes as she wrestled the last two heavy bags of trash along the narrow hallway from the café’s kitchen to the alley out back. She’d been seething when she’d left earlier, at Maggie for being her usual momma self and trying to fight Abby’s battles even if they weren’t worth fighting, at Jacob and his petty bullshit, but mostly at herself. In her head she’d been screaming vitriol, saying everything she knew she should have, just letting her anger and frustration loose, just once standing up for herself. In the end, that’s mostly what had her pissed off at Mags, not that she’d meddled, but that she was right, if she hadn’t Abby wouldn’t have herself. That, that was what hurt, that Abby betrayed herself at every turn.

She’d been so preoccupied berating herself and just cursing at life in general as she’d stormed down the crowded sidewalk, and that was when the first strange thing had happened. She bumped into some guy, a round shape in a rumpled grey raincoat, which in and of itself was an odd choice for the heat of the day. The face under the flat cap was ruddy, with a fat, bulbous tomato nose webbed over with veins, eyes already a bit cloudy, unfocused.

“Sorry miss, sorry” the round little man mumbled, pulling on the brim of his cap.

“Just fucking watch where you’re going!” The words snapped passed Abby’s lips before she could button them, stabbing into the continuing mumbled apologies. Passers by looked at her, just glances then back to whatever they had been preoccupied with, but still, Abby felt each set of eyes keenly and lowered her head to flee onward. Her eyes flashed down to the pavement, glimpsed the old man’s feet, then faced forward, then flashed back, needing confirmation. They’d been regular feet, in old boots or grubby shoes, they hadn’t been neat, flinty black hooves, no fucking way. He’d moved further on, the tide of the crowd hurrying him away, she lost sight of him in moments but still stood, the people drifting around her as she looked dumbly at where he’d been. She shook her head violently, generating more stares, then hurried on, thrusting the entire episode to the back of her mind.

It just kept up though, little things, all damn day. People at the bank, random passers by, just tiny flashes of oddness, a glimpse of purple, white and red skirts under the drab brown housecoat of an old lady on her stoop, as if beneath she was a Gypsy matron, the kind you might see in old movies. Or what she thought was a large, gleaming eye, acid green, luminous in the deep darkness of a storm drain, but that couldn’t have been. She definitely had trouble with the vivid, swirling cloud of moth wings fluttering about the head of a small girl being dragged along by her mother on some errand, a riot of shimmering color haloing her little blonde head as she pointed and gasped at everything she saw that caught her eye, squealing “mommy, want!!!” at street vendors’ wares and into shop windows. That one had taken a bit to shake off.

Even on shift, ensconced in the rock solid familiarity of the café, there were things wriggling at the edges of her sight, was that a tail peeping out, flicker twitching back and forth from under a table? Were the cat ears that girl and her friends sporting on their headbands? It was a trend, Abby was vaguely aware of that, but they didn’t look right, too far back and they looked so real…that was the first time that night Abby sent a tray of mugs crashing to the floor, trying to walk while staring back over her shoulder. That was just how the whole night went, mixed up orders, slopped coffee and tea scalding her hands, her thighs, bumping into things or worse, people. Any given night she’d usually end up with a headache just from the noise and frantic pace but tonight, with everything just going wrong and the insanity apparently come to claim her at last, her temples throbbed, each beat of her heart sent aching lumps of pain running across her temples. After they’d closed the door on the last customer it was all she could do to keep from crying. At least Jacob hadn’t been in tonight, whenever he was in the office during the day he never stayed for second shift, so she hadn’t had to deal with him or his staring or his fucking hands.

Max had been working the counter and it had been a long night for him too. He was a nice guy, but when it got busy like this and there were only two of you and one was not pulling her weight it could be hell. That was why, after cleaning up the main room, putting all the chairs on the tables, she’d let him duck out.

“You sure?” He looked incredulous, but was already reaching for his messenger bag when Abby told him to take off. He hesitated though, his hand almost seeming guilty of its eagerness. “There’s still the trash to be taken out and it’s really late, you don’t want help with it?”

“I do, but you’ve done your time Max, it’s good” Abby felt her head still throbbing, but it was a bit better now that the big overheads had been shut off, the neon signs no longer lurid and buzzing in the dark windows. She almost managed to make her grimace look like a weak smile. “It was a rough night and I didn’t make it any better for you, I’ve got it.”

“Thanks Abby, I owe you. We all have them you know, those days. I’ll cover for you a shift or something, kay.”

“I’ll hold you to it” this time she did smile and Max gave her shoulder a little squeeze.

“I’m good for it, promise” The words flew over his shoulder as Max walked out into the night, the front door closing heavy behind him. Abby had locked it up tight and went to finish, which was where she was now, lugging the last of the trash outside. She’d almost cursed Max for taking off when she saw that first shift hadn’t taken theirs out, but instead she just groaned and started hauling. This was the very last load and all Abby could see on the other side of the battered steel service entrance door was her bed. All she had to do was grab her bag and arm the alarm and then she would be free and she could put this absolute bitch of a day behind her.

Abby shouldered the heavy door open, shifting the bags awkwardly as she flicked her foot at the doorstop. It took her a couple of tries to get it down, propping the door open, the yellow light from the alleyway turning her skin the color of butter as she turned to toss the bulging sacks into the dumpster just to the left of the door. They weren’t supposed to keep it open, it locked every time it shut and they were just supposed to let it swing closed and use their keys to get back in, but Abby just wanted to be done and didn’t want to fuck with it. Here, out of even the weak ac, the night air was hot, sticky, clinging to her skin like oil. Abby paused, closed her eyes, took a deep breath in and wiped the back of her hand across her brow. The sound of rummaging from the dumpster across the alley behind her nearly made her jump out of her skin.

Very, very slowly, Abby turned around. There was an old street light over head, covered over with a warped tin hat that bathed the area immediately around the door in bright sodium yellow light but kept anything outside its radius bathed in shadow. Her eyes scanned the darkness but it just seemed too dense, it was like nothing at all existed beyond the border of illumination. Abby kept flicking her eyes back and forth, back and forth, animal quick, nervous, wary. It wasn’t a bad neighborhood, but it wasn’t great either and she was very, very aware suddenly of just how alone she was at two am in a dimly lit alley. She glanced over at the door, a portal back into a safe world when this one seemed so dangerous. She began to move towards it, trying to seem casual, not letting the urge to bolt to it take control. She cast one last glance towards the shadowy side of the alleyway and that’s when her heart froze, when what she was dreading most flickered ever so slightly into the rim of light, movement.

“Who’s there?!?” Even she could hear the edge of fear under her words and she winced, mentally kicking herself. What had she said anything? Why the fuck would she do that?!? Whoever it was might not have even known she was there. Well, they did now. There was another bit of rummaging, then a pause. Eyes straining, Abby caught the vague guess of a shape, something so much blacker than the darkness around it. It’s bulk was hunched over the edge of the dumpster as if whatever it was had been leaning down inside but now it straightened up. The shape was huge, bigger than anything had any right to be. It turned then, moving into the little circle of light slowly. Abby wished that it hadn’t.

Whatever it was was human shaped. The bulk of it though, it was like a big, lumpy slab of rock had decided it wanted to take a stroll. As it made its way slowly into sight she could see it was wearing a dark suit, the material of it worn, shabby and greasy, looking old fashioned, the cut of it almost antique. The menacing figure stopped just short of letting its face be seen clearly, a fact for which Abby thanked God over and over and over again but even the bit she could see was horrible. The skin was grey, dead, something that should be under the ground and buried. The head was round, massive, seeming to sit atop the table wide shoulders without any neck. It’s mouth was wide, lips two plump worms writhing together. The upper portion was shaded by a bowler hat, but the eyes still gleamed, reflecting the streetlight with chilly glittering. Abby could feel her scream clawing its way up from her belly, her throat aching with it.

“S’cuse me mum, dint mean ta startle ya” the voice was worse, the fact that it could speak was worse, so deep that it ran through her, turning Abby’s bowels to water. “I was wundrin’ if you might know the whereabouts of” here a massive, thick fingered hand fumbled in its coat pocket, retrieving a rumpled bit of paper “three oh four Cumberfield Row? Seems I’m a bit lost ya see.” It grinned and Abby might have thought it was trying to be friendly, reassuring, but the mouth it displayed ruined the attempt. If it had fangs, row after row of sharp shark teeth it would have been almost better. Instead, it had broad, flat teeth, gravestones in crooked lines, nothing that could tear or rend but would instead irresistibly grind, pulverizing anything caught between them.

Abby shook her head, backing into the brick wall, feeling the roughness of it beneath her sweating palms. It was real, but that meant that this was real too and oh God this can’t be real, it can’t, it can’t…she shook her head violently, in denial, shutting her eyes tight. That was when it hit here.

She want in the alley, she was underground, deep, deep underground in the lightless earth. She could feel it clotting in her mouth, her nostrils, thick with the scent of must and decay, feel it under her nails as she clawed at the thick clay. She couldn’t scream, couldn’t even breathe to scream, she was buried down with the worms and the dark, crawling things, they touched her, everywhere, here beneath the world, beneath mountains and oceans and all deep places, crushing, squeezing every last inch…

“Dint mean to scare you miss, be a right spot of trouble if I did so. Mebbe I should intr’duce m’self, I’m Mr. Cripple.”

Abby’s eyes slammed open and she drew in a long, ugly, ragged breath, the first it seemed in years and years and years. The alley swam back into view, the streetlight, the brick walls, and the nightmare. It was tipping its hat, why did that make it worse, why did it have to pretend to be human, the lie of it was what made it so much worse.

“Look what you’ve done now, mmmmmmmmmmade things so much worse than they had to be.” The new voice was soft, almost sweet, high, but strange still, sounding as if the speaker had trouble making the sounds properly. At the very corner of her eye Abby could see another shape, not as tall as the first. She didn’t want to look, didn’t want to take her eyes off the first thing in the dark, but her eyes turned traitor, looking over, needing to see. They regretted it rather quickly. If it had been any other place, any other time, it might have looked like an old lady, tall, thin, frail, in a long wool coat that was the color of fresh liver. It was old fashioned too, like something old English women in photos from the twenties might have worn. It even had a prim little hat perched atop its head. All the little touches like that just added to the absolute terror of everything. Whatever it was didn’t seem to move so much as glide, the body swaying with each step as if there were no bones beneath the skin, its face sagging like something wax left out in the hot sun, eye sockets deep and dark and black. Abby shrank back as this new thing approached, then turned and shied from the other, caught between.

“I’mmmmmmm Mizz Flay dear, and as my colleague said, we are a bit lost. We have an appointment we must mmmmmmmmmmm keep you sssssssssssee.” The words crawled up under Abby’s skin, like thin knives or scalpels. Whatever Mizz Flay truly was, it held its hands one over the other as it got nearer Abby, looking as though they were wearing ill fitting gloves of a pale color. Abby begged for them to be gloves. “We really mmmmmmmmmm shouldn’t be doing thisssssssss, but we’re in a bit of a mmmmmmmmmm bind.”

Abby still could feel her flesh crawling, as if it would escape, tear off her and run away on its own. She felt overcome, felt sickened, felt repulsed, but now not by this thing, but by herself. Her body disgusted her, it always had, it wasn’t really hear, it was an alien thing she was trapped inside, that she wanted to claw out of, she could see her fingers tearing at her flesh, ripping off her breasts, digging into her belly till she pulled out the wrongness inside of her…outside of her mind, Abby nearly swooned, staggering, could feel the sour taste of vomit dripping from her lips.

“Thissssssss mmmmmmmmm, is not going well” Mizz Flay retreated a bit and what passed for the real world slowly spun back into existence, at least a bit.

“You got a better idea then? Whole bloody world to work with, all the bloody streets lookin the bloody same, it’s a wonder anyone can find anyfink” Mr. Cripple rumbled from the near darkness, conjuring up new terrors of crushing and smashing.

“Look at their poor thing, she’s nearly mmmmmmmmmm frightened out of her ssssssssskin”

It was too much, too much, Abby was drowning, no, she was scrubbing off her ugly, ugly face with wire brushes, or standing on a platform, looking at an oncoming train and fighting the urge to jump in front of it…the thick, cloying night air trembled with her sobs, her eyes rolling back and forth, showing mostly whites, a tiny, panicked animal, so small, so fragile, hemmed in by fear, tears and snot and sweat gleaming on her face. The two things nattered back and forth amongst themselves, as each one spoke the waves broke over, drowning her slowly. The light inside her head flickered, guttering, the flame of her sanity was a breath away from being snuffed out.

Above, out of the purple grey night sky a familiar shape fluttered, landing upon the lamp above the door. A magpie, black coated and white collared alighted, wings ruffling along its back, head cocked as it glanced down, little black eyes sharp and bright. It was something real, something normal, an anchor Abby’s eyes and abused mind clung to like a spar on the ocean. It was a tiny piece of the everyday. Abby watched it, the movements of it, the way it shifted its tiny clawed feet, how it held its head, all somehow soothing. Until it spoke.

“Now then, now then, what’s all this then?”

It was too much. Abby stumbled, knees and palms scraping down onto the pavement as she struggled to right herself, the pain jarring, but it was what kept her moving, the reality of the sting. She knew, deep down she knew if she didn’t get away she would die, die screaming forever and ever and ever. She careened off the wall and into the diaphanous shape of Mizz Flay, just for a moment, the body beneath the clothing so repulsive soft. The fresh waves of self hatred, the urge toward the rending of her body nearly made Abby swoon but she held on, desperate. She ran then, out of the alleyway, down the street, not caring at all of the few glances from late night faces, all blurring in her speed. She ran until her legs shook, her breath fire in her lungs, until she thought her hammering heart had to burst from the strain, and then she ran some more. Her whole world became a tiny strip of concrete beneath her pounding feet, constantly shifting as she ran.

She didn’t think twice as she yanked open the outside door to her building, slamming it open loudly, didn’t think as her feet stumbled up the two flights, didn’t think how odd it was that she opened her apartment door without having to unlock it, her keys forgotten back at the café. She just slammed the door shut, putting her back to it, bracing her legs on the floor, shutting out the night and the monster’s she’d just discovered were in it. She stood, gulping down air, her shirt stuck to her in a clammy sheet, shaking, making gurgling sobbing noises in the dark.

“I’m very, very sorry you’ve had such a bad evening.”

Abby reacted, grabbing the heavy globe of blown glass she used to weight down her mail on the table beside the door, heaving it as hard and fast as she could in the direction of this new voice, this intruder into her home, her last safe place. In the dark silence she heard it caught, cat quick. Abby opened her eyes, looking towards the bookshelf where the voice had come from. The dim light spilling in from outside glinted frosty on the paperweight, held in a slender hand, the arm seeming to disappear in the shadows between the top of the case and the ceiling. Abby strained, seemed to pick out a shape, something perched atop the bookshelf that slowly, gracefully unfolded itself, stepping down onto the bare boards of the floor. Boots made a slight clunk as they hit. The shadow moved, slim, tall, stepping more into what light there was. The features were sharp, high cheekbones, narrow chin, dark hair falling in waves over either side, framing the face. Details flashed into Abby’s mind, prey instinct making her hyper aware. At least it looked more human.

“I do not tend to interfere in such fashion, but I do feel you are owed an explanation at the very least.” The voice was soft, not deep, but not high either, the tones even, the accent strange, unplaceable. Abby whimpered, eyes still wide, as whoever it was moved closer. “Please, try not to be afraid, I mean you absolutely no harm, I can assure you, although I know well how you might not believe me. Allow me to introduce myself, I am Lord Nevermore, The Beautiful Imposter.” The figure bowed low, formally, arms describing graceful arcs, one before its chest, the other behind its back. The figure straightened and as it did, Abby saw the eyes. Tigers eyes, irises swirling gold, brown, amber, ringing pupils of deep, deep black. She’d dreamed those eyes, felt them on her months ago on a very different night, looking startled, puzzled, but mostly alone, oh, so very alone. They glinted, looking at her, seeing her, seeing her completely and utterly, the hugeness of them was too much, far, far too much.

It was not a cinematic faint, no delicate crumple to the floor, no knees giving out to leave her a delicate puddle. Abby’s eyelids fluttered, what eye did show was pure white as she pitched forward, arms slightly back with the force of her plunge. If no one had been there, her head would have cracked and bounced of the hard floor, however, the dark intruder stepped forward, catching her neatly. Nevermore looked down at the unconscious girl in his arms and let out a long sigh.

“That…could have gone better.”

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What Happened Further

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2018 by beautifulimposter

Far above the grumbling of the traffic, the rising sun rose fat and butter yellow, pouring thick, golden syrup light past the broken stump grey teeth of the skyline. The sky was a deep blue, fading to paler and paler shades towards the line of the horizon, layers of gauzy mist boiling around the edges of sight. If one were to cast their eyes over the rooftops, in amongst the old cisterns squatting upon rickety legs, the forests of old antenna and satellite dishes whispering one to another, their eyes might alight upon a figure standing precariously upon the very edge of one of the buildings. Then again, one might not.

He looked a slash of night sliced neat and clean through the growing daylight, the tails of his coat ruffling only slightly in the feeble fingers of the breeze that even up so high wheezed and struggled to tug upon them. The Imposter squinted into the rising sun, eyes watching the milling crowds below, people and cars and busses traversing paths to and fro as if on rails or writing out in serpentine lines strange runes of daily ritual. This was not really his time, at least so he felt, there was no real restriction put upon him yet he always felt more acclimated to the between times, dawn, twilight, those moments that were not quite one thing or the other. His realm was the cracks between things.

He cast a glance down to his right hand, long fingers parted, the daylight streaming through them, creating an illusion of separate ribbons. They scissored closed suddenly, leaving the stranded beams hanging limp between, the color of fresh clover honey. As he gathered up his new prize the still, heavy air beside him resounded to the beating of wings, a familiar shape feathering the corner of his eye in ragged shadow.

“All is well I trust?” The Imposter turned, looking down at the crow settling his wings along his sleek back, ruffling them repeatedly till they rested to their owner’s satisfaction. “I must say, I thought you cut a fine figure, grey looks very good on you.” At this the crow tilted an ink drop eye, turned, ran his sharp beak down one glistening black feather until each strand was in place.

“Thank you sire” the beak moved and the words ran out of it smooth as silk. While some might know crows could talk, they might well expect it to be a rasping, coughing voice, hardly the deep, rolling Spanish accent that issued forth. It was fortunate then that foiling expectations just happened to be one of the small joys of the speaker. “Things do seem quiet for the time being, The Brethren have been bringing me report and not all have come in, but everything thus far has been in order.”

The Imposter spun, folding down cross-legged upon the ledge, running the strands of daylight through his fingers, parting them over and again until they became thinner, filigree that shimmered and glinted over the dark hollows of his palms. “What of the girl then?” His tone remainder casual, yet Skergaal knew his lord well and could sense the curiosity begging to be satisfied.

“I have had her watched for some time now, as you asked my lord. There appears to be nothing out of the ordinary, just a normal, mortal girl, perhaps twenty-six years of age, although I can’t swear to that. My people do try to be thorough, but I didn’t think it necessary to authorize breaking and entering to get more precise details.” The crow shuffled back and forth, a soldier making report, strutting a bit along the narrow stonework. “I don’t think she is anything to be concerned with, perhaps just a touch more perceptive than most, or perhaps just able to see by happenstance. It has happened before.”

The Imposter closed his eyes, letting his mind see clearly. There was not one thing he had seen that he could not remember clearly and in the soft shadows behind his lids a pair of eyes appeared, he could see the curve of them, the striations in the irises, all the subtle shades of blue rippling through, lines and coronas of color in vivid detail. “You keep saying thus my friend, yet I think there is more.” While it was a general rule that he could not be seen by mortals when he did not will it to be so, even those that could, lunatics, young children that life and passage of time had not yet beaten wonder out of, even…magicians, all felt different. No, this was something else, she had seen him clear and as himself, seen right into the bones of him and that was not right, was worrisome. “It May amount to nothing, as you say yet I feel there is somewhat to be watchful of, it is an anomaly, and I think should not be overlooked.”

Feathers ruffled softly “I think it unwise to concern yourself too much over the affairs of the mortals lord” Skergaal shifted his feet, both out of apprehension as well as the growing heat of the brick beneath them. “Even if this girl was possessed of any scrap or crumb of true power, what of it? Even the most mighty of them have proven at most minor inconveniences, and this one seems hardly that.”

“Yet you seem to be withholding your full counsel, why might that be I wonder?” The Imposter’s eyes flicked open, golden brown, piercing, deep as wells. In his lap his fingers still played with the threads, weaving, plating, nimble and dexterous. “Could it perhaps be that you fear my judgement could be faulty in the matter? Or perhaps you felt her gaze upon you today and have concerns of your own?” This last came with a Cheshire grin, thin lips turning up in amusement as the alert eyes caught the nervous shuffling.

“Do you spy on me now my lord?” Skergaal tilted his bullet head, one eye cocked to meet The Imposter’s formidable gaze, almost, but not quite yet as sharp. “I would hope that my loyalty was not so in question as to lead to such measures.”

“And I would hope you wouldn’t deflect the question with another, a rather obvious device, my most cunning of feather dusters” while The Imposter had no doubt that the affront was entirely feigned he added the gentle needling to put Skergaal more at his ease. “Come now, tell it true, what did you make of her?”

Skergaal fluttered his wings, turning his back upon Nevermore, head held up at a ‘well I never’ angle, then turning to look back. “As I said, she seems simple enough, perhaps a bit more put together than some of their young. A bit of a study in contradictions at times, although I must say that could go for the lot of them…and yet” here Skergaal trailed off, a pensive expression swirling in the depths of his eyes “…and yet, there was a moment, a brief sliver of time where I felt her gaze tugging at the edges of my seeming, little mice fingers trying to unknot the weaving of it. I can’t say for certain, but given time, she might have seen through.” The words seemed to come more and more reluctantly as if the sharp edged beak were trying to snap them to ribbons before they could find utterance.

“I see” The Imposter returned his eyes to his handiwork, now holding a delicate net, perhaps of veil of woven sunlight, little jewels of it forming the knots between the diamond panes. It sparked and winked, an utter impossibility of golden amber held betwixt his fingertips, giving the dark bronze of his skin an unearthly luster. With a suddenness he stood, unfolding and striding over the rooftop in one motion, slipping the wondrous trinket into one of his proverbially deep pockets.

“Master, what vexes you, why the alarm?” Skergaal burst into ungainly flight, the suddenness of Nevermore’s departure having him hop fluttering into the air, wings splashing in the thick air to keep up.

“No vexation, at least no great one.” The Imposter’s long legs took him swiftly onward, boots scrunching over the gravel upon the rooftop. “Your words have given me more to think on, yet at present there is not much to be done about the matter now.” As he moved, The Border gathered, bright new day faded to muted shades, replaced by twilight blues and purples, strange stars now pricking out of the sky. The building beneath his feet shifted, rose up taller of a sudden, became a steep peak as the church spire that had been just between this building and the next a hundred years ago became a slope his feet climbed effortlessly. “We have lingered long enough in The Real for now and if there are no pressing matters there, I am sure there will be in The Borderlands. Time waits for no one, the insufferable bastard.”

“Very well my lord” Skergaal found the match to The Imposter’s pace, wings beating more sedately as he followed along through the growing familiar strangeness all about them. Gothic brickwork became something more Art Deco, replaced then with peeling paint and rust grimed grillwork as The Imposter descended a fire escape that hadn’t existed for decades. Deeper and deeper the two wound their way into The Borderlands, both lost in silent thought, finding comfort in the weirdness as the bright world closed up behind them.

The Imposter Remembers

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2018 by beautifulimposter

The wind makes the tails of my coat snap, pennants whipping behind me. It moans, softly, but steady, a constant, drawn out exhalation, weary, grieved, the sound after the first sharpness of loss, when it’s become dull, familiar. The only other sound at all in the vast, flat emptiness is the hiss of dust, fine particles rubbing one over the other, small, but when multiplied by a billion billion times it becomes a delicate roaring, the terrible monotone of absolute desolation. The dust is red, fine as sand yet gritty and it stings my cheeks.

In every direction there is nothing, maybe the faintest trace of geography, the hint of a hill worn down, pressed into submission by Time’s heavy thumb, or the suggestion of a valley, but for the most part the land is a table beneath the perfect bowl of the sky. It is a nothingness made so much deeper when added to the knowledge of abscence, the ache of a festering within flesh that appears whole, the rememberence of a wound scabbed over, healed, but still present. There was something here once and it lingers in the hole it has left.

I know, right where I stand was a plaza, the architecture of it a wonder, stone and steel and living plants woven together, hung with lights, glistening with fountains that would lift up columns of air and water that caught the beams of lanterns and threw up jeweled fire into the night air. Beside me, a bench still holds the lover’s that sat, hands entwined in knotwork of love and flesh and bone, content to be each with each, watching the passers by but only with concern for one another. Children swirl around, have me spinning on my heels as they run, a school of bright fish flicking this way and that, laughing, mischievous, full of wonder and dreams and promise. I can look into a shopfront, see the makers at their trades, here haggling, there bent to their craft, one taking their meal with a spouse that brought it, another passing along the secrets held within a lifetime of callouses, failures, and successes. It was all here, and now it is gone. I see it still though, I must, there is not a thing I do not remember, not one since my eyes opened. Every single moment exists perfect and complete within my mind, drawing the was over the is, making a palimpsest, a double exposure that defines the emptiness and drags it across my memory like a razor.

I had no choice. If I had not acted, the one who came from Outside would have riven the entire universe, shaped it into what its vision thought it should be and all would have been undone, every life across billions of planets snuffed out. I tried to reason with it, tried words to steer it from its course but these failed. It was far too sure in its reason, built an impregnable fortress of certainty and righteousness. So I, being the guardian of The Real, sought to fight it. That, that was foolish. The power of it was vast and deep, so deep the well of it could crush you down just by the pressure of it being. Those inside do not change anything, not really. Magic, power, it can be used to make things happen, bound in patterns and spells, but reality itself remains the same as both hammer and nail remain fundamentally the same when applied one to the other. Their nature never changes. Those Outside though, with the power in them make things different, can simply make what is in their mind be and not only be but always have been, reweaving the threads of reality. It was a power I could not withstand.

We fought across the stars, across worlds, plunging through clouded nebulae, where it passed The Real screamed, tortured into new shapes, rent apart in ragged wounds I did my best to suture shut even as I fought back, striking with every charm or spell I could remember or devise, attempting to surround it with The Border as a body might do with a cyst, condoning off its infection, but it changed and shifted and slipped free. I know not how long we fought, time flowed in torrents, a gale of it whipping me, lashing and battering as I contended with The Outsider until at the last I was weary, wounded, a blackened rag flapping at its heels while it was undiminished, a titan that would pale Chronos, towering, invincible. It turned to me and in that moment, in its eyes I could see my undoing, but not just that, my cessation, the complete unwriting of me and everything that had ever been. I could see only one avenue, one small, desperate gleaming thread, so delicate that it might snap even by clinging to it. I knew what it would mean as it and I stood upon the curvature of the planet’s atmosphere, I knew the cost down to the penny, down to the last bright life just as I knew that if I did not act the price would rise too great to account for. In that last moment, as it turned to gloat in its triumph, I broke The Border.

The Unreal poured into The Real. The space around us boiled as nothing became something and then nothing again, endlessly, warping everything it touched, dissolving the rules, eating away at the is with the isn’t as a wave might eat a castle of sand upon the shore. It crashed into The Outsider and where it was became something else, twisting so rapidly even it could not hold onto itself and was undone. Alas, it did not stop there. The planet beneath us was tortured, racked by storms of madness, stone and seas and flesh melted, ran like wax, became something else but all of it, all of it dead. By the time I’d grasped the ragged seams of reality and knotted it back together all that remained was a planet shaped grave.

All of this I can see, as I stand on the planet’s surface, on what once had been stone, in the middle of what once had been a plaza in what once had been a living city, that had once been a part of a civilization that exists only in my memory of it. I come here every year to stand upon the red, red sands and remember them. They kept their history in one long song, each new thing, every discovery, every new event another verse. I learned it long, long ago and it still exists perfectly in my mind. So every year that has passed since then, millions of years before life would even be a contemplation for its nearest neighbor, I come, and I stand in the emptiness and let the wind bite at my coat and let the dried blood sting my cheeks and I sing. I sing the decades, the centuries, the rising and falling mingling with the dull ache of the moaning wind, I sing the life of a people that were beautiful and terrible as all other people save these where stalks mowed too soon leaving their field fallow and barren. Alone, I sing and remember, always, my purpose and my failure.

The Imposter Has Coffee

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2018 by beautifulimposter

The breeze winds it’s way through the canals, cool, but not unpleasantly so. Early morning light washes over cobbles, not entirely succeeding in banishing lingering bits of the night still hiding in the cracks and under windowsills. The table I occupy sits just out front of a small cafe, mostly empty but filling up slowly with somewhat harried and bleary eyed people in smart suits and skirts. The waiter brings me my espresso, leaving it on the wrought iron tabletop, a vaguely baffled expression clouding his features as he struggles with the conundrum of why he’s serving no one. I don’t need to eat or drink but sometimes the mood strikes me and when I do so I always pay and tip well as I appreciate the effort it takes most to accommodate me. I appreciate good service.

I take a sip, roll the rich, dark coffee over my tongue. Say what you want about humans, they have found several excellent indulgences. I place the cup back upon it’s saucer, pull out a slim silver case and remove a cigarette. I inhale deeply, expelling a plume of blue-grey smoke, twisting it into strange shapes, tableaus of writhing forms that twist and dance around my head, amusing myself as I wait. Then, of a sudden, there is the delicate thunder of wings.

“Of all the habits you could pick up m’lord, must it have been one so noxious?” The chair beside me scrapes over stone and Skergaal sits, dressed today in seeming flesh and a rather sharp suit. Armani I think. “I don’t think I’ll ever understand your amusements sire.”

“Always so formal.” A slight smile crosses my lips. “Have a cup of coffee and enjoy yourself a little, it won’t hurt.” I wave at the waiter. He has no idea why his attention is diverted from walking back into the cafe but he sleepwalks over.

“A cappuccino, please” Skergaal turns his bird bright eyes to me, out of place in the narrow, predatory face. One myth is absolutely true, no one can ever hide the truth in their eyes, no matter how cunning a master of form. The waiter ambles off again, shaking his head to clear it. “After our last conversation my position seemed to be made very clear m’lord.” The tone is even, only knowing him so well can I detect the hint of reproach, the hurt. I wince a little, take a deep drag.

“I am sorry old friend, I was out of sorts already and I lost my composure. You know I value your council, cunning, and wisdom very much.” He preens just a bit, tugging on the cuffs of his shirt. “Our relationship is always a bit fraught, I being who I am but you are the closest thing I have to a true friend Skergaal, and that does mean a great deal.”

“I understand master.” There’s a look that wanders over his face for a moment then flees, perhaps sympathy, perhaps pity, but any such overt emotion is quickly replaced with the usual sternness. “I do try my best to advise, but in familiarity bounds can be overstepped.”

“Sometimes they should be. What worth is an advisor if he cannot speak the truth, even to ears that might not take pleasure in it?”

“Yes, well, the matter seems to have cleared itself up. There’s been no sign of The Outsider and his companions, the magician (this with not even remotely concealed contempt) and the warrior woman have been relatively quiet. I still think you should have been more direct.” As he speaks, the waiter brings Skergaal’s coffee, setting it down, sweat beading on his brow. Ignoring me is one thing, but Skergaal is something else. As he’d never stoop to actually transforming into a human, he simply clothes himself in a semblance of one. This means that ostensibly there is a well dressed man sitting at a table of a cafe while at the same time, inside, is a large, rather intimidating crow. Mortal minds are very, very good at convincing themselves that what they see isn’t, but limits can be tested. The look of relief on the waiters face is nearly pathetically comical.

“Anyway, to business. The Border has been relatively quiet for a while, so there’s something.”

“It is nice when things go as expected” I settle back into my chair, cup in one hand, cigarette in the other. “What if the new arrival?”

“The dragon has been settling in nicely, an absolute terror to the lands about. Several very brave but I am afraid terminally stupid knights have already met their end. The damsel it’s taken doesn’t seem to be minding her new circumstances much, in fact, I’ve report they’ve become rather good friends. Somewhat bucking tradition, but of no real concern.” Skergaal takes a slow sip, movements neat, precise.

“That’s good, and I’m not at all surprised, the beast seemed to have a deep affection for girls.”

“Other than that most recent little event, all else seems unusually stable.”

“Don’t sound so disappointed, it could be considerably more exciting”

“I know master, yet I feel this is but a prelude, I’ve a sense of storm shivering through me.”

“As is usual my friend, when does it not?” I notice some pinwheeling above, set aside my coffee, dip my hand into my pockets and scatter a fistful of seed. The air fills with green purple iridescence and liquid burbling as the pigeons settle.

“Bah, look at them, smug bastards” Skergaal bridles a bit, putting up a wall of scandalized affront. “They think they own the world, strutting about, believing themselves so clever just because the mortals stuff them silly. Gone to fat is what they’ve done, not a trace of The Navigators. Puffed out chest, putting on airs of civilization when they’re little better than flying vermin now.”

“Your people have been known to haunt the footsteps of armies in anticipation of feast, one might not put on so many airs.” I chuckle, knowing this will sting his pride a bit. “Harbingers of woe and wrack as they say old crow”

“Humph, waste not want not, they’re always going to slaughter themselves, I don’t see why good meat should go left to rot.” He glances over again, sharp eyes probing. “You know well their capacity for death, and it isn’t always influenced by the others, oft it’s their own hands turned to it.”

“I know.” There’s a new melancholy unlooked for.

“I worry for you at times Nevermore, your love for these mortals in particular, among all of your charges. The fascination may grow unhealthy.” I cast my gaze about us, watching the city springing to life, the faces of it milling about much the same as the birds at our feet. “They’ll break your heart master.”

“I know” the sigh wells up from somewhere deep, deep within the heart of me, of what I am, of memory and more than memory, what was an what is. “They always do.”

There is a long silence filled with city noise, cars, scooters, the white noise babble of voices punctuated here and there by rising shouts or exclamations. The morning is turning fine, the sky above glimpsed through a maze of ancient rooftops is robin’s egg blue. We sit, two of the strangest strangers, in an island admits so much burgeoning life. We both sip our drinks.

“Excellent coffee” Skergaal breaks silence first.

“Yes, some of the best I’ve found.”

“How are the pastries here?” I reach for another cigarette.

“Decadent, rich, and sinful” Skergaal perks up at that, settling back into his chair.

“Best call the waiter back then, I could murder one” we both have a chuckle at that. “Oh, pass one of those along, I’m gasping for it.” I pull a cigarette from my case, light it as he takes it from me and holds it to his lips, inhaling deeply. We both sit back, smoking, drinking coffee, surrounded by a cloud of smoke and disbelief. “Damn fine day master.”

“I think so too my friend, indeed, very fine.”

The Imposter Seeks a Nightlight

Posted in Fun stuff, Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2018 by beautifulimposter

Patience is a virtue, one it could be said I possess in abundance. Then again, when you have all of the time that will ever be, there’s no rush and one can afford to stay very still for a very long time. Fortunately I don’t think that will be necessary.
I rest lightly upon the street light, coattails fluttering in the soft spring evening breeze. Anyone looking up would think it’s impossible for a man to be standing up here, unswaying, unmoving, and it is, so they don’t look and even if looking they wouldn’t believe their eyes. More people really should believe their eyes, they tend to work well as designed which is to see things, but for my purposes it’s just as well that they don’t.
Below, it’s late, the streets are sleepy, a week night as far as that kind if thing matters, just another night really. Few walk the streets, every once in a while a car will pass, grumbling softly to itself, muttering old beasts. The silence is almost complete, or as complete as can be expected…it’s going to be a good hunt, the conditions are just right. I allow myself to rub my hands together gleefully and my lips to curl up into my best Cheshire grin, the one I save for occasions like this. I practice it a lot, again, I have time on my side and it needs filling, it’s hungry.
A door opens and amber light spills upon the sidewalk like good whiskey, the flow of it carrying burbles of conversation, threads of music tangling with the strands of night air in complex and odd and wonderful tapestries. A handful of people exit, letting the door close, cutting the light off as with scissors, letting the more sober silence fill the bubble left by light and sound’s departure. They amble with the exuberance if youth, the pavements glittering beneath their feet, because they are fresh minted and their coin is accepted and there seems to be endless abundance in promise. I like young people quite well, they tinge everything about them with orange and rose and it’s a nice change.
Upon my perch, I crouch, hands upon the cold metal, leaning, eager, hungry. Soon, it will be soon and I must be ready. Their conversation drifts, rising, falling, the streams of it gathering and carrying them along. One of them tells a joke, or a tall tale, or some other token of amusement. This is it…
Laughter bursts forth, first one, then another and another, lips and throats issuing gleaming motes of light, shooting up, new stars climbing for the night sky. They fly swift, but I am swifter, long time hunter. I leap, coat whipping in the wind of my speed, bootheels clicking on roof tops, hands flickering deft and sure. Laughter tickles when you catch it, most people don’t know that. It wriggles too, like eager bright scaled fish. One by one, I snatch the gleams and shimmers, one handed, stuffing them into a mason jar. As a side note, mason jars are best for holding laughter, the lids are the only thing I’ve found tight enough, they were after all designed to hold preserves.
Over and under and around, flying fast and far, they swim through blue black night and I follow, dark salmon cleaving cleanly. Oh my but this is fun, each one plopping into the glass with a soft splash. Laughter, in its natural state is liquid, breath just warms it, allows it to fly. It would be easier by far to let it condense, gather into dew, but this is by far more fun. It’s brighter when it’s fresh, more concentrated. I swirl and jib along, almost, but not quite giggling in glee along with them, but I haven’t mastered giggling yet, that takes great skill, so I don’t. Still, I pursue joy fleeing gladly, oh, yes, what a merry chase…

Open Mic

Posted in Fun stuff, Poetry, Spoken Word with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2014 by beautifulimposter

So I was invited to an event called Ten Artists here in Springfield, IL held at The Hoogland Center for the Arts on a semi-regular basis. The event showcases ten local artists, as the name implies as well as performances from local writers, singers, musicians, etc in an open mic format. This video was taken on 10/31/14, the last time this little gathering occurred and I just thought it might be cool to share with you, my delightful followers. The gentleman introducing me is Adam Nicholson, one of the literati types I have had the pleasure of associating with and founder of Sala, a fledgeling project of his to foster the arts of all dimension here in Springfield. Anyway, I hope you all out there enjoy this as much as I enjoyed doing it. There is just something about a live reading that is electric and wild and fun and it is one of those times I really feel alive. That’s all I have for now folks, stay tuned as always for new work, cheers for now.

Musing Aloud

Posted in Prose, Spoken Word with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2014 by beautifulimposter