Late Goodbyes: First draft

It was a cold winter evening, the full moon already making its way slowly up into the stormy sky, sometimes hidden, then shining brightly through angry clouds. There was no other source of light in that cold English graveyard. Something that sounded like a clap of abnormally loud thunder startled a young owl into abandoning his hunt with an indignant hoot, immediately followed by a mad scrabbling sound, eerie until identified as badly laced shoes shuffling through the fallen leaves and twigs scattered all around, and over, the unkempt graves.

A girl scrambled out from behind an old twisted tree, and her eyes were wide with fear. She clutched at her side as she stopped to catch her breath, and the owl gazed sympathetically at the still-bleeding cut on her forehead. A muffled shout in the distance made both girl and owl turn warily towards the distant church, long abandoned to the elements. A shadowy figure emerged from the darkness, and as the moon shone momentarily from between the clouds, it reflected off the steel he carried in his hand.

The girl seemed to have frozen in her place, and she watched the hooded man slowly make his way towards her.

“Don’t make me hunt you down, sweetheart.”, he called out, and she trembled at the toneless sound of his voice.

He kept moving towards her, a deceptively relaxed finger poised above the trigger. She no longer believed he would not shoot her dead if she ran.

“Why are you doing this?”, she asked him, eyes full of grief and confusion.

He was close enough now for her to see him glaring at her, and her eyes widened as he raised his arm slowly until the gun was pointed at her, but she made no other move.

He smirked at her, and then fired.

The bullet flew off into the open sky, and the Owl took flight. She couldn’t stop her heart from sinking at that fitting final act of betrayal as she stood alone before him.

“You don’t have to do this”, she whispered, voice low and steady.

The hooded man took another step towards her, “You know you left me with no other choice.”

She bristled at that, “Don’t pretend like my choices had anything to do with what happened! That was all you!!”, she snapped at him, stepping forward herself.

He waved the gun at her gently, “Stay still, babe.”

“You don’t get to call me that”, she muttered under her breath; nevertheless keeping still, her eyes fixed warily upon his gun.

A moment of silence passed, and the man pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his pocket.

The girl watched him as he took one out, lit it and inhaled deeply.

“Are you really going to kill me?”, she asked, plaintively, after he was halfway through his cigarette.

He looked at her thoughtfully, “I think so, yes.”

The girl glared at him, then looked sadly at the ground, “In that case, can I have one as well?”

He raised an eyebrow at her, “I thought you weren’t supposed to be smoking.”

A moment of silence, and then the both of them burst into laughter, the sound echoing strangely across the empty graveyard. They held their sides as they laughed, and she had to kneel down and he had to lean against a tree, and yet they could not stop laughing.

Until she rushed at him with something she had pulled out of her boot, and he instinctively raised his weapon and shot her. She cried out, then smiled, then fell in slow motion to the ground. He kicked over her outstretched hand to find a red rose clutched so tightly that the thorns had poked holes into her skin and embedded itself there, even as she bled around it. And around the bullet wound in her chest. She tried to speak, then coughed up some blood, painfully, and he stared down at her with eyes full of horror.

He knelt down then, cradling her blood soaked hair in his hands, “Why did you do that?” “Why did you make me do that?!”

She smiled at him, and tried to speak again.

He leaned in and pulled her closer even as she whispered something over and over again.

But understanding the 9 words she said in quick succession until he lost her to all the blood seeping into the earth no matter how hard he tried to keep it all inside her, that understanding drove him mad.

And after that night, his face lived under a cloud that never seemed to leave, his laugh never sounded quite the same, and at night, it was said that you could hear him cursing and raging through any thunderstorm, though curiously enough, he appeared perfectly calm and composed the next day, and his loyalest circle of servants made no mention or explanation of the absurd quantities of chinaware, mirrors and glasses they would constantly be acquiring and disposing stealthily off.

And the women he was involved with, only they knew of the nine words he would whisper in his sleep after a tiring, fun-filled evening at home. (Though the ones who mentioned it to him, or anyone at all actually, they never saw him again)

I love you, I forgive you, We are free.

The First Sonnet: Words in Vain

Note: My first attempt at writing in an Iambic pentameter. Phew, that was hard. Fun, but hard. Inspired loosely by the Dune series. As in, I had Lady Jessica in my mind a lot when I was writing this… Muad’Dib’s mother.. Don’t know why.. :\

.

The words I know, and moments sunk in time

cannot suffice to mend this burning sphere

For I am lost in words that no more rhyme

and ghosts of people who were never here

It scares me that this world is changed to fire,

A desert fuelled by hate and crude despair

And all of these betrayals leave me tired

Cannot one see how hard I tried to care?

May I tell you a secret? We could stay;

and I could swear to never speak of Rain

Within your deep embrace I’d find escape,

Though we both know I bleed these words in vain,

For there is little you would have me say

And I love you in ways words can’t explain.

IMoPI

Nothing is True,

Everything is Permitted.*

.

The past is a myth

and the future is a lie.

.

(Or is it the other way around?)

.

I’m all I’ve got

and it’s all I need.

.

And, if it isn’t

Well, at least I did it my way.

.

(Also:

Fuck You)

Everything I’ve Got

The first time that you reached out across the abyss and slipped your hand into mine, that was the first time that I ever felt connected to anything.

The years and even decades spent in existence before that first moment, every single moment of my life before I learnt of you – it all feels like a colorless dream.

You bled meaning into my life – something I had been trying to do for years.

You bled meaning into my life – When *I* hadn’t been able to do so for years..

You were the first light to reach me in what felt like millennia of darkness.

And, whatever you ask of me, I cannot refuse you,

you know that…

If I could, I would kneel before your reclining shadow, and beg you to reconsider your decision, but my words get lost in this darkness… And I don’t know how I can reach you, or if I ever will be able to again. Instead, I only remember how your skin felt against mine, and the way you’d say my name before you’d fall asleep, or the way you’d instinctively draw me closer when the winter wind would rattle your windows late at night. The way you said goodbye, the way you’d meet me when we had been separated for any longer than a day, the weight of your lips upon my forehead, the way my hand would glow in yours, the precipices you brought me down from, the Sky we shared in all its madness. I remember the sound of your voice, and the shape of your smirk and the taste of your smile. I remember things that won’t let me sleep at night, and things that won’t stop burning, and things that lay upon my heart like a Shadow that I dare not ask to leave.

Because

it is all I have left

of you.

I am cold. And weary.

I only wanted this to last for as long as it could.

I am sorry if I have let you down

or hurt you in any way.

Thank you.

For Everything.

The Night Begins

He came to her, as he always did, to their chosen secret place, and she smiled as he appeared, breathing heavily from the long walk uphill.

“You’re too happy”, he grumbled, even before she’d managed to greet him.

“Sorry”

He sighed, “Don’t be like that.”

“Okay.”

Damian frowned, but couldn’t bring himself to say anything further. After all, she had returned to see him again, just as she had said she would. He knew it must not be easy. The tired lines around her eyes as she turned to smile at him made him feel a twinge of guilt. But he shivered at the thought of that empty, aching loneliness which was just waiting to envelop him once she was gone for good, and he cast aside those feelings of guilt. Now was not the time.

Cerid was watching him closely, a strange expression on her face as she watched Damian’s distracted frown go through a series of minor transformations, until he suddenly snapped his icy gray eyes on to her warmer brown ones, and even though she smiled comfortingly at him, the haunted look in his tired eyes made her want to cry.

But, Cerid had not cried since the war had ended. Not once. Not even when she had spent two weeks watching Damian destroy everything around him, until the cursing and swearing and whiskey and screaming was all done with, and all that remained in its place was his pale gaunt frame, surrounded only by endless destruction and stony silence. Her heart had ached as she’d watched, but she hadn’t shed a single tear.

Damian liked to believe that it was because she had run out of tears, and not because other people’s agony and pain affected her more than his. Cerid thought it had something to do with the last battle she’d been part of. Because she had had plenty of tears to shed that day. An all of a sudden, the picture of little Remo, lying in a pool of his blood, flashed through her mind.

He had been a day away from his fifth birthday. She had promised to gift him a real kite. He had been counting down the days. The day of the last air-strike… it was Roberto who had found out first. Damian had been in the middle of his own dilemma. Straddling both sides of the war, he had a difficult decision to make. Even though, technically, he would always be of the Shadow Tribe first. Ceridwyn had been at the forefront of the battle. And she had watched Remo die.

Ceri! Ceri!

She opened her eyes to find Damian kneeling over her, eyes full of worry, “Are you alright?”

She laughed, then, suddenly aware of the bizarreness of the situation. “We have to stop doing this”, she whispered, leaning up into the familiar frame of his body. He swallowed, once, twice. “I understand”, he said, “But what am I supposed to do?”

She shook her head at him, despondent and unsettled, “I love you.”

He looked down at her cautiously, then swallowed again, “I have always loved you.”

“And that’s why you can’t stay”, she whispered, smiling up at him gently, even as her eyes sparkled with waylaid tears.

The baby wouldn’t stop wailing. She knew that it was Arianna’s son. Arianna, who had trusted her and helped them escape when the entire kingdom was against them. Arianna, who now lay buried not far from here, shot in the heart with a poisoned arrow, even as her husband fought on in the Outer Circle with the other Marine Corps. Arianna’s son was trapped inside the burning building, and his mother was injured, and there was no one around to help him. Cerid had already lost a lot of blood. But she could hear the shouts in the distance, and it was clear that victory was imminent. She was just steps away from the designated Tower. She’d get medical attention there, and probably be able to send someone for the baby.

But it would be too late.

And as she turned away from the tower and towards Arianna’s home, for some strange reason, she thought of Damian and the last thing he’d said to her.

Dead to me.

He stared at her for a moment, memorizing every detail of her face as she smiled at him encouragingly. “It’s going to be alright. I’m always going to be here, with you.”

“So,” he began, in a shaky voice, stopping to take a deep breath and continue, “What you’re saying is I’ll never be walking alone.”

She beamed at him then, and for just one tiny moment, Damian forgot all about the last night of the Quarter Century War, when he had returned to the village only to find her overwhelmed and outnumbered against Assassins intending to eliminate all the noble-born children.

He had joined in the battle, and afterwards held her blood soaked body in his arms, as the cheer of celebration and jubilation rang out all around them, and the last of her life ebbed away from her. “Forgive me” he had cried, but it had been too late, and the only answer he had was the silence of the blankness in her empty eyes, just as she had promised him.

Sudden darkness. The hill was empty now. A cold wind rustled past the nearby trees, and a whisper trembled at his ear.

“You’ll never walk alone.”

Damian fell to his knees.

The night had begun.

Mr. Ebenezer Brightside

You watch her walk up the stairs, her hair so much longer than it used to be that you almost don’t recognize her. You wait until she pauses, then walk up to her and clear your throat. She whirls around so fast that her hair is still falling into place around her startled face when her eyes widen in recognition. “You”, she breathes, and holds out her arm – you aren’t sure if it’s to steady herself from the turn or to protect herself from you.

“I need to talk to you”, you say, and nearly cringe at the hoarseness of your voice, but her eyes are darting to the stairway and the elevator just visible in the lobby, as if calculating her chances of escape. You wait patiently as she fiddles with her hair, a different shade from what you remember too, and then sighs, “Alright. But, not here.”

Your relief quickly turns to confusion, yet you keep the expression on your face characteristically blank. “Okay..”

She knows you too well though, and answers the question you did not ask by holding up her hand before her face. It takes you exactly six seconds to notice; if the diamond hadn’t been shining so brightly in the sunlight, you’d probably have taken longer. Her hand trembles and she lowers it slowly, your eyes falling with her fingers as they clench into a fist. You look up to her to notice her looking at your face, waiting for your attention. She won’t say your name. “I have to go now.”, she says, and silences your protest before it has begun, “I’ll meet you tomorrow, by the War Memorial. In the evening, at six.”

Six. Once it was dark. She didn’t wan’t to be seen with you. She turns to leave and starts to walk away, and you can’t help but call out her name. She stops, but does not turn around.

“Who is he?”, you ask.

A strangled noise makes it way from her lips as she whirls around, her eyes wild and hair framing her face like the flames of hell, and you remember her from your days together at the war. She seems to struggle with herself as you stand firmly before her, wondering how things could have gotten to this point, until a cloud passes over the sun, distracting you into breaking eye contact, and by the time you look back, the moment is gone. She is standing tall before you now, the expression on her face eerily serene, and more so in contrast to the anger you could have sworn threatened to consume the both of you just moments before. She gives you a tight-lipped smile, her face pale, but her eyes are bright. “That is none of your business.”

She turns and walks away.

“It used to be.”, you call out to her retreating back. “You remember? When you begged me to help you? It used to be. Until you left.”

She pauses again. “Yes..”, she says, thoughtfully. “It used to be. But it is not anymore.”

And, with that she is gone. And the flowers you brought on your way here are suddenly too heavy and dead in your jacket, And the ring on her hand is now shining in your mind, blinding in its meaning.

You walk out of the complex in a daze and almost don’t see her across the road, swallowed up whole in the too-large jacket she has on. Someone walks up to her and hands her a cup of something warm and steaming, and you see her lift up her head to smile at him in gratitude and loyalty. You recognize the smile because it used to be you she once smiled that way for. And you watch as she adds sugar to both their cups, the wind carrying snatches of conversation towards you amidst this sleepy corner of the city.

She is speaking of Christmas as she hands him his cup of coffee; and the man leans forward and kisses her forehead.

And you turn away, suddenly sick.

Excerpt: The Cursed

“Why’d you do it?”

Her voice was small, but steady as she stood before Norflus and the bodies of the three young children.

“I had no choice, Saya.. You must believe me.”, said Norflus, taking a step towards her.

“You sick bastard… You murdered them! Your own children!”

“I only did it to save them! They were sick! You know that!! You’d seen Maya and Aliana yesterday! They could barely stand. And Ria hasn’t opened her eyes in 4 days! They’re at peace now, and I’m not sorry for what I’ve done!

The sound of a gun cocking made both of them turn around in time to see a disheveled Shade standing at the door, his eyes sweeping across the ransacked room.

“Saya, what the fuck is going on?”

 “Shade!”, Saya exclaimed, instinctively moving towards him, “What are you doing here? You need to be resting! Where are Tonya and -“

She stopped in her tracks as Shade pointed the muzzle of the gun at her, “I asked you a question.”

Saya stared at him in disbelief, dismayed at her training having seemingly failed her at this crucial juncture. She had no idea what to say to him. Besides the fact that it was dangerous for him to be here.

She watched his eyes sweep over the room, pausing over the bedsheet strewn carelessly over the bodies of the three young children. Oh, no.. Aliana…

Norflus now stepped up to Shade. “My Lord, I did what I thought best. Now you must do the same.”

Saya’s heart began to race. The Imperium would never forgive such a transgression. Already the walls were tainted with the blood of three innocents. Shade would be held responsible. The council was waiting for just such a transgression. The last thing he needed was to kill the one man who could offer proof before the Most Honorable Assembly of The Highest Justice.

She moved closer to him, and Shade drew back his pistol, cracking Norflus across the face with it. It took all of Saya’s training to not gasp out aloud at the sudden violence. Norflus fell to the floor in a faint, and Shade swayed himself.

“Shade!”, exclaimed Saya, slipping her arms around his waist to steady him. “Guards”, she called out into the hall, cursing the Others for letting him out of the Healing Ward and into this mess. He must have followed her. But why was he alone? His body was tense against hers, and she resisted the urge to dig her nails into his back, shocked at the suddenness of the thought.

In anger or in love? she asked herself, suddenly miserable.

Shade looked down at her, “I’m fine. You can let me go.”

Reddening, she stepped away from him. “You tried to shoot me.”, she accused, already aware of what was going to happen next, as if she had seen it all happen before. In the ghost of a dream, she thought, feeling her skin tingle as she watched Shade turn away from her and walk towards the murdered children.

Even though he wasn’t supposed to have entered the room before dawn. By then the girls would have been prepared for the ceremony. And he wouldn’t be walking towards their still-warm bodies on a floor slick with their blood.

It wasn’t your fault, she thought, her heart aching for him. But she couldn’t say that out loud. Because it wasn’t what she was supposed to say. He will curse now. Swear vengeance on the Introducers of this Vile disease. And Norflus.. And even me..

He stopped before the outstretched hand, that would have tugged Saya’s heart right out of her body were it not for her lessons in Momentary Isolation Techniques. “They need a proper funeral”, she said, finally, because that was what she was supposed to do, even though it was six hours earlier than when she was supposed to be saying it.

He will curse now.

A sudden movement on his part drew her out of her reverie, and she saw him on one knee, hand hovering around the youngest child’s hand, which stretched out from below the bloodstained sheet, fingers curled around a crumpled piece of paper. He took the piece of paper with his left hand, then covered her hand with his right.

She took a step closer, concerned with the different direction the situation was taking, and then stopped as she heard him speak. The Ancient Tongue! Tears sprang unbidden in Saya’s eyes..

He was praying for the children.

What had they done?