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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.

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The Girl Waking Up

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2018 by beautifulimposter

The eyes looked at her, looked through her, seemed to see everything there was in her to see, stripped through layers of pretense, the little fictions everyone maintains to stay whole, to stay sane. Two eyes glimmering in the dark, deep, as deep as the night sky in the spaces between the stars, rings of amber and gold circling wells of black just staring, seeing, knowing. Then the waves of it, falling down and down into them, the gravity of them pulling, smothering, the terrifying feeling of being alone, suffocating in its pure emptiness, it was too much, too alien and all on its own, singular and empty, oh so empty, not even air, no air, no…

Abby gasped awake, lids slamming open, taking in air with deep gulps. A trembling hand pressed against her forehead, slick with a thin sheen of sweat, fingers pushing the few stands of her hair back and up as she rose up from the dream. The room was still dark, still coming into focus, but it wasn’t the full velvet dark of true night, it had silver about the edges of it hinting at morning. Her head turned, hand fumbling now for her phone, thumbing the home key, the thin white numbers declaring at to be a bit after six am.

“Fuck me” the words hissed out into the thick, muggy air of her dim room. She closed her eyes again and found the dark behind them mercifully empty. The eyes had disappeared once more. She had no idea why she dreamed them, why a dream of eyes was so very frightening, but it was and they were just the same. The room was hot as hell but her skin was nothing but goosebumps and she shivered. “Get it together” a deep breath, then another. Abby sat up, throwing her legs over the side of her bed, kicking free from the twisted sheet. Daylight filtered in from behind the curtains, outlining the familiar clutter of her room. The dream faded away, being forgotten with each breath.

Time to get up I guess she thought to herself, pushing away from the bed, stumbling through the blanket of clothes, feet shuffling, eyes in that half open not quite awake squint as she wandered into the bathroom. Flicking on the light, cursing it’s brightness Abby fumbled her way through the usual ritual. She swore again as she stepped into the shower, the water turned full cold to wash off the stickiness, settling into the cool relief of it after a while. She hummed a bit, the remains of the night swirling down the drain.

On to the kitchen/living room, pulling on the old Murmurs t-shirt that had used to be her big sister’s, the fabric dragging on her still damp skin. Standing in front of the sink, water filling up the carafe, looking out the window but not really seeing anything, the usual line of flat, grey buildings crawling beneath the sky. Once the coffee was on, the machine gurgling to itself in a warm, fragrant steam, Abby untwisted the plastic bag, pulling out an English muffin, carefully plunging a fork into the soft, squidgy sides of it, pulling it apart just so that it came away in two halves of jagged deliciousness. Toaster, butter, jam, mug of coffee, sit.

Abby scrunched herself up small on the kitchen chair, taking a big, ungainly bite out of her toasted muffin, fully awake now. The light grew brighter and whatever bad dreams she’d had melted. A bit of buttery jam dripped down her chin and she wiped it up into her mouth. This was always her best time, sitting alone, watching the morning growing, eating breakfast, the only sound the rattling clank of the nearly useless air conditioner wheezing from her bedroom window. She absent mindedly pushed around the ripped envelopes and scraps of paper on the battered tabletop. The sight of a bill nagged at her but she pushed the thought back. It was her day off and she just didn’t feel like dealing with it now. She would eventually, of course, just not now.

The appearance of the bird nearly gave her a heart attack. Wings battered the air outside the kitchen window, muffled by the glass but the flurry of movement and sudden sound was magnified by the silence. A black, bullet head above a white collar stared at her from the fire escape railing, cocked at a curious angle.

“What’re you looking at?” Her heart was still hammering as she got up and walked over to the counter for a closer look. The bird, a magpie she thought, just kept looking at her, it’s eyes two tiny drops of ink. “Enjoying the view?” Abby chuckled softly, shrugged, then went to get dressed. It wasn’t too unusual, birds gathered outside all the time, but mostly pigeons. She couldn’t shake the feeling that it was actually watching her either, but she shrugged the idea off. Just a dumb bird.

A few moments later and Abby was out the door, stuffing keys into her jeans pocket, grabbing her camera from the hook in the hall, hanging the strap around her neck. It was still early and there probably wouldn’t be that many people out and about which suited her just fine. Maybe she could get some nice shots in by the river, catch the light on the water just right. The outside air hit her cheeks, already warm, promising to be unbearable as the sun rose. She moved along quickly, eyes alert, the few vague people shapes catalogued in her head as she walked to the end of her street, took a left into the park. It was just early enough that the breeze was still able to rustle the leaves above, the sound of it so soothing. Why can’t it just always be like this Abby thought, just quite and soft. She never once looked up though, didn’t notice the narrow, sleek, dark shapes fluttering from branch to branch.

The water slipped by the low, grassy banks, it’s surface ribbons of current breaking up the sunlight. The big willow overhung the river, slender branches trailing in the flow of it. Abby squatted down, pulling the camera up, focusing it on the shifting patterns of light and dark. These were going to turn out well, she could feel it, almost see the images forming on the film as she clicked away. The second thunderous fluttering of the day had her stumbling back, landing on her ass.

“Jesus fucking christ, what is it with you today?!?” This time it was a large crow, his wings settling along his back like a schoolmasters hands. He cocked his head to one side, then the other, croaking softly. Abby gave a crooked grin, watching him hop-step in front of her. Without quite knowing why, she brought her camera to bear once more. “Want your picture taken, that it?” She clicked away, muttering under her breath, “that’s it, oh yeah, fierce, work it, oooooh, right there, a bit more pout, lemme see those bedroom eyes.” In spite of herself Abby laughed as the crow strutted back and forth, occasionally giving the thick grass a vicious pecking. “You know a pervy magpie by any chance?”

“Crawk!” It was almost, but not quite a response. A strange feeling prickled at the base of Abby’s neck, the fine hairs standing up. “What’s got into these fucking birds today?” She stood, taking a step back. Whatever peace she’d felt, the satisfaction of doing a thing she loved, how she saw the world through the camera lense fled. “Seriously, go fuck yourself Mr. Crow” Brow crinkled, Abby turned away, walking back the way she’d come. She’d need to stop by work, get her check, then the bank. Her mind wandered back on to normal thoughts, trying to push away the sudden oddness. Were there really more birds than usual? No, just her vicious mind toying with he again. “Get a fucking grip”

Abby left the park, her feet finding the familiar grooves, the growing sounds of cars and people washing over her, walking off the unease behind her. Just another day, one more in a long line of them, same as before, same as the next. She let out a sigh and went over her list, the things that needed done. As she let herself get carried out into the city, Abby didn’t once look up, didn’t see the flock of crows and magpies trailing behind her like autumn leaves, didn’t feel the eyes on her, black ringed with amber gold watching from their perch upon the blank streetlight as she passed beneath. They followed her until she walked out of sight, another girl fading into the crowd.

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 Romantic Imposter

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2018 by beautifulimposter

It is a fine evening, the sun making its way lazily through the deepening blue sky, gently kissing the line of the horizon. There’s some respite from the heat of the day but still, there is a haze in the air, a faint mist clinging to any bare skin. The air seems perfumed, like someone has just split open a ripe tangerine, a thick, sweet scent of flowers mingling with the usual aromas of cars and pavements and people. Yes, it is a fine evening indeed.

“I love you” the words are a sigh, the exhaling of a breath, quite, meant only for the ears of the loved. I brush past the couple, two women holding hands, one’s head resting lightly on the others shoulder as they stroll. I’m quite sure that neither would have noticed me even if I was apparent, even if I’d bowled clean into them. At best I would have been a momentary impediment to their closeness. I can see the threads, red as red as red winding between fingers, knotted and plaited in their hair, tied to lips and tongues and lashes. Not my work, no, the province of another, but I can appreciate the craftsmanship, the complexities of each tied to each, a web of words and touches.

I still along as I am wont to do, letting my eyes wander, following the strands. It seems a night for lovers, the streets cross crossed with fine weavings. A young lad stumbles, a girl laughs and just then a streak of crimson runs from her mouth to his heart. It may amount to nothing at all or it may give birth to a tapestry, but it is a beginning, a hint, a promising of expectation. Not all such seeds bear fruit, but I find the potential pregnant within them intoxicating. If nothing else after all, I am made of nothing but possible so it is my nature. I like to think I could have been a romantic.

Further on an old man is winding up the awning over his shop. His skin is pricked all over with threads, an explosion of crimson webbing him to his store, to the windows above it, to the stoop, the bustop down the way, if you follow them all they’ll touch upon the whole neighborhood in some fashion. The Legion Hall where they’d first danced, the old bench down by the park where they’d sat and held hands, fingers laced together like piano keys side by each. There’s one that flies over to ‘Nam where her letters had kept him less broken than some. One hanging above a mantle somewhere where she’d fought for them both, getting disowned in the process. All the places he and her had touched together, even the bare room where she became nothing more than a shape barely described beneath the sheets, her hand eggshell in his. Fifty six years of thread followed him as he shut up shop, thrumming beneath his skin, telegraph talking of the good and the bad and the inbetween. I can’t help but read it all, feeling a bit of the voyeur, but it makes me smile as I move through the growing evening.

It’s all beautiful in some way, I can’t help but feel it, even I, perpetually and very necessarily alone. Here and there I sneak a few stands into my pockets, they won’t be missed and are quite useful. My footsteps become a waltz, slowly turn and turn about, moved by such aching, beautiful love, all the strands of it being played by the gentle summer breeze. I sigh as well, soft and low, mingling with all the others.

The Imposter Who Did Not Slay A Dragon

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2018 by beautifulimposter

“Sh-sh-she l-l-left me!?!”
I find there is something inherently sympathetic when confronted by something so mighty expressing deep hurt and betrayal. I stood before the dragon, myself a splinter of dark cut out of the summer’s day, it vast, craggy, curled up around the prefabricated playground equipment, nearly, in fact, obscuring it from view. The long, lean muzzle of it lay forlorn upon its front claws and it was snivelling, all in all looking thoroughly wretched. Still, as I stood there before it, I must admit I was impressed. The scales of it glittered, hard, bright, rising into crests of horn, spurs of bone. Altogether, it was magnificent and terrible, a rare specimen indeed.
“Yes, well, they often do tend to do that I’m afraid.” I tried to sound conciliatory, which I truly am, after a fashion. These cases are always rather sad. All of the others born that afternoon, that had been strong enough, had already found their way into the Boarderlands. All the knights, the giant robots, the dinosaurs, the giant robots that were also dinosaurs, the wizards and witches, the herds of varicolored ponies, princesses, unicorns, the tumultuous, madcap horde of Makebelieves the children had imagined up were safely home. Those not so quite well dreamed had simply faded, disolving away the moment their children had been called home, leaving just the dragon.
The girl who’d imagined it up was only nine or ten, which actually made it all the more impressive. The imaginations of young children are indeed powerful, as most know, but they tend to be a bit unfocused. This girl had called up a truly awesome beast, no cartoonish Puff, but a juggernaut of air and fire and thunderous destruction. She’d stood so brilliantly atop the highest slide/castle tower, crowing in delight as her creation circled above her, the stiff, thick pigtails of her dark hair a crown, a valkyrie’s horned helm, triumphant, spurning all foes and would be rescuers in equal measure. So vividly had she dreamed, so fiercely, she would be one needing watching. That, however, would be for later. At this moment I was left with what to do with her titanic Makebelieve. The girl had drawn upon so much of the Unreal that the beast was straining at the edges of Real, at one point in her games the mighty wings so bruised the warm summer air the parents had craned their heads skyward, baffled, seeking telltale signs of thunderclouds that resolutely failed to be there. No, it was imperitive this one come with me, there was nothing else for it. Having a dejected, pouting dragon roaming about, throwing fits, menacing the suburbs, burning up things, or even people, could not be countenanced.
“D-d-do you think she’ll come back?” Such a voice! Generations have tried to recreate it, to vicalize it in the telling of tales, describe it in reams of text, cobble it together from wave forms and sound bytes for the silver screen, but they’ve never come close. How could you convey the roar of a predatory mountain, a hungering deep ocean of fire, the hurricane wings battering the winds into submission? You can’t, thats how, there is no imitating the real thing.
“I am sorry, but it is unlikely. They very rarely Makebelieve the same thing from day to day. Even if she did come back, she’d never dream exactly you again, it would be another.” I look deep into eyes the size of wagon wheels, so deep, so ancient, even just for an afternoon.
“It’s not fair, it’s just not!!!” The great wyrm rises, limbs thrusting upwards, neck a tower of scale and muscle, jaws dripping acid saliva and sharp teeth in equal measure. Great Gyre could that girl child dream! “I was good, I was fierce and mighty and I burned all the boys and princes and knights to cinders just like she wanted!!! I even gulped and devoured the ponies, even if I kind of thought they were pretty a bit!!! IT IS JUST NOT FAIR!!!” The wings extend with a huge, tearing sound, casting deep shade over the playground. Passing joggers peer incredulously at they’re watches as dusk seems to, against all reason, just snuck up on them.
“Very little ever is.” I keep my voice measured, calm. I could easily lose patience, but I always bear in mind that no matter the form, all Makebelieves are but children of hours. “It us the way of things, the children dream, they touch the Boarder with their vast, bright, unspoiled minds and they call you, beasts, faeries, wonders, and nightmares and they play with you until it’s suppertime, or bedtime, or time to do arithmetic. Then they go home, and you can too.”
“What if I don’t want to?” The massive head swoops downwards, thicket of teeth like spears parted, furnace breath sending my coattails dancing. “I am mighty you know” petulance now “I could stay if I liked and what could you do about it? It would not be hard to deal with you, you seem mostly ashes already little man-thing.” The voice is a cat cruel purr but even so could rattle bones into dust. “I could burn you, scatter you upon the winds of me, tear and bite and rend and stomp till there was even less nothing than you are now, I could!!!” The wings tear through the summer skies, rending the sleepy silence. It’s becoming harder to ignore. Actual people are teetering on the edge of believing and that is far too dangerous a precipice.
“No, you can’t” I say it matter of factly, casting it into the teeth of the wing wrought gale. Some believe in threats, some in bluster, others in flash or bombast, displays of naked power that would make professional effects artists weep. I find it best to just speak softly and let the power be felt, let it rise up from bootheels to forelock quietly, making a knot within, a valve holding back immense pressure. This usually drives the point home better than any ranting or ultimatum, just being me and perfectly aware of just what I can do. It has bedn my experience that very little can stand up to such certainty.
The dragon glares, angered, claws carving farmer’s field furrows deep into the rubber chip playground fake ground, roaring now, flames seething out from between clenched jaws, lifting slowly, gravity screaming in protest as several thousand tons of muscle, bone, and sinew rocket upwards. The head rears back, maw gaping, air rushing into lungs the size of small cars. With terrible speed it lashes forward, lunging towards me, eyes glinting in eager anticipation of the release of hellish, firey death…
“Ack….” The look of confusion upon its savage face is nearly amusing as not even a faintly warm breeze issues forth. “Why can’t I flame you?!?! Why is my fire not blasting the flesh from your bones?!?”
“I told you, you can’t, and I asked it not to.”
The beast collapses then with an ungraceful thump, dejected. Motorists passing the park stop, pull over, get out of their cars to check if they hit something or that there might have been, against all reason, a short, sharp earthquake. They’re alarmed, puzzeled, minds uneasy. This has gone on long enough, best to be done quickly.
“It’s not fair, it’s not fair, IT’S NOT FAIR!!”
“Again, no, it’s not, but there’s no point in blubbering about it, it’s unbecoming. Besides, if you keep this up you’ll drown the daisies with your tears.”
“But, but, but, I am mighty, I’m everything she wanted me to be…why doesn’t she love me anymore?” It curls up again, becoming small while staying the same size.
“She does love you, she loved you so well and so much that you were nearly Real, and that is a lot of love. The thing is, no matter how much they love us, the children will always leave us behind, it js their nature.” I run a consoling hand over its snout, the scales beneath my fingertips slick and hard. It sniffs some more, eyes shimmering, brimful. “At best they may remember us from time to time, but still, they will always leave none the less. You needn’t be alone though, if you just come along with me.”
“Where we’d be going…would there be knights?”
“Oh yes, I’m sure if it” at this the dragon perks up.
“And kings?” Slowly it gets to its feet. I begin walking away in my long strides, hands clasped behind my back, coattails fluttering and it follows.
“Certainly, can’t have one without the other.”
“And damsels in distress, maidens chained to rocks, villagers to strike terror into?” Its eagerness grows and I cannot help but smile as the falling evening of the Real is swallowed up by the twilight of the Boarderlands.
“I believe that can be arranged” I mean it too, there’s a patch of the Black Forest from 1125 lingering about that would be perfect. The dragon is nearly frisking along beside me, head level with mine, asking question upon question and so together, along the strange paths of my realm the dragon and I walk home.

Consequences

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2018 by beautifulimposter

Fitful light flickers about, defining shapes more from shadow than illumination. It wouldn’t matter much, as I’m well familiar with the landscape of an artist’s room, bare floorboards, paint chipped cupboards, a table with mixmatched legs, two lonely chairs, small, narrow bed with rumpled sheets. They never change much, perhaps the decorations a bit, but in all the centuries, for every one I’ve walked into, they’re all the same. Perhaps they come as a kit of some kind when you buy your brushes or first slab of clay.
What light that is cast shimmers over the artist’s skin, cold, coruscating flames writhing over bare shoulders, limning the line of the spine, seething upwards from the brows in a crown of colors unseen and undreamt of. The floor around his bare feet is littered with brushes, palette knives, crumpled rags, the shed detritus of creation, all of it showered in weird sparks raining from frenzied fingers scratching at canvas, piles and drifts of madness making it seem that he’s standing in a puddle of live coals. It is far too much, not right at all.
I approach slowly, looking over his shoulder. The canvas is a mire of brush strokes, cuts, finger slashes, the paint nearly an inch thick in places, layered, textured, water colors mixed with acrylics mixed with oils mixed now with thick, dark streaks of blood. His breath is labored, what May once have been a skinny but well sculpted chest is now a collapsing caricature of itself, rising and falling in paper bag rattles. Sweat gleams over taught skin, pale, almost waxen yet not, somehow less, like badly rendered tallow, rancid and running. He clearly can’t see any longer, not the canvas or the room at least, his eyes wide, the whites only nail pairing crescents around the edges of iris and pupil. This has been going on for days. I purse my lips, turning my eyes to follow his.
Lounging upon a rug, clothing discarded in a heap upon a third chair, completely nude glimmers a slim, perfect creature, long hair flowing in perfect summer honey cascades down rounded shoulders, narrow cheek bones sharp, alien, yet still beautiful, mouth set in a decadent pout. I shake my head, impatient, vexed, dealing with the fae is always a tedious task.
“Let him go” the words resound in the dim room, a clap of thunder within a space that over days has been accustomed only to scraps and breath.
“Why should I?” Petulance drips with every syllable. “He’s lovely, and so full of passion, so much beauty. He said he wanted to paint me, that he’d never been more inspired. I just gave him what he wanted” it doesn’t even look at me as it speaks, it’s lavender eyes looking adoringly upon the artist in the way only a predator can look upon its prey. My presence is at best a nuisance.
“I’m quite sure he would have balked more if he’d been aware of your price, but that’s entirely beside the point. You should not be here.”
“Why not? I am of the free folk, in high standing within my court, I shall do as I please, not heed the whinging of the doorman because I didn’t pay him mind, go back to your junkyard realm and leave us be, he’s got so much more to give” it purrs, stretching a languid arm out, fingers caressing the air as if running over the hollowed, fevered cheek of its “lover”. I can’t help but shudder.
“You crossed into The Real when it is not your season, The Rules are clear on this. If you don’t leave of your own will, I will have to take steps.”
It turns to me then, contempt etched upon its perfect face, lips turned upwards in a condescending sneer. “And what, pray tell, can you do ragged king? I know full well in your realm you may not be defied, but you are not in your realm now are you? You are here, in the mortal world and I am a Seelie lord in the fullness of my power.” It rises slowly, a new light, wild and green washes outward from it, lapping in waves onwards. It has a strong Glamour, making the Real shimmer and boil. I’m unimpressed, yawning slowly, pressing the back of my hand over my mouth. It reaches more deeply, tendrils of power lashing out, power that could rend a mind apart, have the target of it clawing out their eyes in adoration, or digging beneath their ribs to make a gift of their heart.
“Poor fool, get thee gone swiftly, your better gives you leave, tattered magpie, I fear you not!!!”. My coattails flutter out behind me, the force it exerts rising to a gale, blowing up strange shapes out of the dust. Everything to excess with them, the fair folk, no subtlety whatsoever. Rare that a member of Summer’s Court should be so cruel and rapacious, but no matter. I allow it to feel it’s triumph, for a moment at least, the threads of enchantment tugging at my clothes yet finding no purchase.
“Are you finished?” As I watch the expression change from arrogant gloating to incredulity I continue gathering The Boarderlands closer, seeping inward on soft feet. What most seem to forget whenever I’m called upon to fulfill my duty is that all a boarder is is a line between things. You can always just redraw the line wherever it’s needed, my realm is only ever a shadows thickness away. Whilst my Seelie was so full of his stolen passion and power, I was calling it towards me. It hadn’t even noticed the room changing, the walls falling away, replaced by brambles and Victorian lampposts and other oddities that could be perched upon. Since it seemed bent on resisting to the last, I feel its destruction should serve some useful purpose, and the brethren hadn’t feasted so well in a long time.
As the Real fades, they come, inky feathers whispering, alighting on branches, ruffs standing out stiff, gleaming blue black, silent save for a small croak here and there. Bead eyes all focused on the fae, now seeming small, it’s nakedness now painfully apparent, casting its glance about itself now, a cornered small animal within a tight ring of ravens and crows. It’s power lashes in fits, yet here, as my realm is neither here nor there, not the bright fields of Arcadia or the drab pavements of the mundane, the green tendrils fade into the smoke they always were. Skergaal, my seneschal alights upon my shoulder, bowing.
“You called us my lord?”
“Do what is needful, leave me two, but let the rest feed” I turn then, as Skergaal lifts from his perch, replaced one on either side by two others. I walk away with my hands clasped behind my back, unhurried, as the croaking grows louder, the suserous of feathers impatient.
“No, no, you cannot!!! I am a lord, you do not dare…no, please, please no!!!” One by one, The Murder lives up to its name, beaks and claws tearing as the brethren descend, eclipsing the bright, shining fae inside a clot of night that writhes and screams…the screams will go on for some time, and that part makes me smile a grim smile. I don’t kill often, nor with pleasure, but cruelty sometimes must be answered in kind. The shrieks echo away as I let The Boarder fade, rising back towards the artist’s rooms.
The poor boy is on his knees, weeping, hands dripping paint and blood, his hair limp in front of his eyes. Lost, broken, arms akimbo, fingers flexing in spasms, the discarded toy of a spoiled child. I kneel down, gently lifting his head, looking into his eyes, hoping, but not much. He had been ravaged so hard, if anything other than insanity looked back at me I’d be astonished. Yet, there, far in the back, a slim flicker, some remembrance of who and what he used to be before he was just a vessel to be drunk from. The crows hop from my shoulders to his lightly, dipping thier heads as if to whisper into either ear, yet their sharp beaks slide into his temples without resistance. Normally, when I gather to me my treasures, I never take the thing itself, just the form it impresses upon the never. This time though, it would be monstrous to leave him with these memories.
“You’ve been ill my boy, very ill indeed, a deep fever that’s left you weak, given you such foul dreams, but it is past now, the fever broken. You will mend, rest, be whole again soon.” As Memory and Thought do their work I lift him up, guide him to his bed. He’s frail, but will recover. I should have been more alert, perhaps I should spend less time on my hobbies, maybe I could have prevented any lasting damage. These violations seem to come more and more frequently, despite ancient treaties and Rules. A sign of the times perhaps.
I turn, taking in the canvas at last. Carved through the paint is a slim figure, once pale but now streaked with red, deep tissue purple, flesh hanging in rags, hanging from a thorn bush, formerly regal features twisted into a rictus, screaming agony forever. It has to be said, the boy has talent, it’s an incredible likeness. I take the painting, waste not, want not, and I stride back into The Boarderlands, leaving not a trace.

The Imposter Steps Out

Posted in Fun stuff, Poetry, Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2018 by beautifulimposter

There are few times that The Rules permit my touching the mortal world in any appreciable fashion. So, when such moments do arise, I must admit, I do approach with a certain gusto. Only my best, inky blackest, long tail flowingest coat will do (I’ve only the one coat really, I just will it to be fancier and slightly more sinister) as I walk out of The Tower With No Door, my boots scrape out an almost jaunty tattoo on the cobbles. The weight in my pockets tugs at the corners of my lips, my hands dipping into my pockets, fingering their contents, rummaging through until I grasp the box. It’s going to be a lovely day.
The Real folds around me, the Borderlands fading, trailing in whispers of strangeness. It’s a bright day, golden, early spring I believe, vague haloes of green hovering around the shapely, nude limbs of the trees, a rich jade mist rising from rich black soil. I seem to be in a park, some kind of open area with footpaths and trees and little benches. People flood and flock, whirling, almost grounded starlings in coats and scarves. Some sit, enjoying the bright but weak sunlight, wrapped in a fragrant fug of steam from cups held just below their faces so that their breath gets tangled in it. It is all too perfect.
I stride with purpose, pulling out the small casket, a shimmering four footed little beast that gleams like beetle wing case, purple-blue-green. I reach the rough center of the square or commons or whatever, watching, anticipation jumping nervous cat like from my shoulder blades. I set the box down reverently on a little table marked out for chess, fingers twitching as I manipulate the mechanism to open it. It’s very complex, I fumble with it a moment in my excitement. I would curse it’s tricksyness, but I know it needs be thus, don’t want it opening randomly, which it most certainly would do if left to its own devices.
The lid springs open, yawning out a rainbow. Within, flashing very strange glimmers are embers, coals, white hot, seemingly made of every single color and shade, some you’d know, others you’ve never heard of nor contemplated except in your stranger dreams or if you’ve hit your head particularly hard when they might flash momentarily at the edges of your vision. So lovely, crackling there, alive, wild, expectant. My breath catches, oh how I love this bit, I truly do…trembling, fingers itch crawl forward, digging in to my trove, writhing beneath, feeling the utter oddness. Imagine dipping your hand into fire made of water, it’s like that only not at all. I gather two fistfuls, great big bunches, holding my hands at my sides, tilting my head back, eyes closed, nostrils flaring, shivering in delight.
I let out a self indulgent whoop, tossing my hands to the sky, fingers uncaging, the bright gledes scattering, little crumbles of madness showering about like sparks. The set things afire, crackling blazes of bizzarre flames. I watch as it spreads, licking hands, turning hair into crowns of twisting strands, blown up by weird winds. Randomly, a passerby pirouettes, their feet alight, eyes flashing surprised delight as this touch of madness moves them. Songs break out, laughter, tiny bits of personal strangeness flow outward. All of this is wonderful, but I wait, I watch, for the best part. I see a spark nestle into an eye, the iris contracting, shimmering a very, very different color. This is it, the subtle change, oh yes, the shift. They look about, everything new, every single thing just a bit different. There is fear and wonder and exultation etched on thier features. Now, forever, this one will see the whole world how no one else sees it and will paint it, write it, sing it how they see it and it will change others too.
I cannot help but laugh, spinning in place, grabbing more, moving off and trailing madness like glitter. Never too much, never in one place lest the fires consume, that would be a horror not countenanced. No, with care, with prudence I spread the breadcrumbs of insanity on a spring day, setting the whole world ablaze with dreams. Tee hee…