Hush, Child, She Lives On

Written River
Artwork by Sarolta Ban, via @WrittenRiver


Before we leave this place, my child, hush

And find some comfort in the lovely skies:

The clouds, white paint upon a treetop brush,

Drawn from the well wherein your mother lies.


When any boy in innocence beholds

A woman’s matronly and wifely duty,

However much she jeers, berates, or scolds

She still helps shape his sense of female beauty.


But you must understand it isn’t so,

That there are people better off deceased

And ‘ere we leave the woods behind, please know

The goodness she had caged is now released.


You’ll see it in the birds upon their perch,

Prepared to leap into unhindered flight,

Their wings the boundaries of her newest church

Whose darkness lets her better glimpse the light.


Compare these autumn hues, this earthy scent

To mom’s red face and cloying, cheap perfume:

The things you would have learned well to resent

But not until your childhood met its doom.


Now, these are things that grownups understand:

That if you strive to love without condition

You may just go on holding someone’s hand

And even let them they drag you to perdition


Child, that is an unconscionable fate

And one from which I’ve saved both you and her,

Convincing mama to repatriate

From devilish life to nature, sweet and pure.


That woman, once a tyrant in our home

Is now a queen of peace, more gently crowned

By twigs and greenery and forest loam,

Enthroned forever in this hallowed ground.


So if you wish to think yourself a prince

Just wait until the rainfall mocks your crying

And let your private tears completely rinse

Away the silly visions of her dying.


She’ll never leave us fully or for good,

Not even if you come to quite insist it.

You witnessed that she somehow had withstood

The first few blows to prove her soul persistent.


And never think that she has been debased.

Although you’ve seen her on her knees in mud,

You’ve also watched as Earth itself embraced

Her body, drinking deeply of her blood.


So if in spring you find that your heart yearns

To see your mother, look to new-grown flowers

As proof that if you’re good the world returns

Most any precious thing the soil devours.


She may return your gaze from in the garden

While nodding in the wind ‘neath beaming sun,

And you may hear her begging for your pardon

For all the things she did or would have done.


I realize that you don’t understand

How what you’ve seen could constitute compassion,

Or why you couldn’t touch her reaching hand

Or warm her lips while they were turning ashen.


And yet your presence brought you both reward,

For you have seen the evil leave her eyes

And now you know that she is with the Lord,

Who surely heard His name among her cries.


Although I’m sorry that you watched her go,

It’s only right you offered your goodbyes.

Now, child, pray you’ll never come to know

Her newfound kin of worms and swarming flies.


For every now and then a shallow grave

With help from insects, wildlife, and lime

Is what’s required, a last resort, to save

The ones who, unlike you, are short on time.


Now if you feel the urge to cry out loud,

Recall the tranquil process of decay

And climb beneath your covers as a shroud

To hide from fruitless mourning and dismay.


You’ve had the last of mother’s firm embrace

Unless you find it here among the trees,

So look to all of nature for her face

And speak her name, but only to the breeze.


And when this time of year brings violent storms

That seem to emulate a parent’s rage

Regard them as the power that transforms

A woman so she lives but does not age.


Your mother’s beauty I have made eternal;

The pain I caused prevented so much more.

My viciousness diminished the infernal

Within her, something pleasant to restore.


Her spirit, once just noise of rage and gloom:

It would have trapped her in a living Hell

But now she’ll rest as quiet as a tomb

And that is how you must remain as well.


When people ask you where you think she’s gone

Be certain they don’t question why you stare

Into the earthbound sky or sun-kissed lawn,

And say your mother lives you know not where.


The Party Continues

Tom woke up in a gutter on what he was pretty sure was still Mardi Gras. For a moment, the streets were eerily, unnaturally quiet, but it only lasted for as long as it took him to dispel his drunkenness by force of will, climb to his feet, and remember, albeit vaguely, where he was. As soon as he recognized the New Orleans neighborhood again, it erupted as if into a riot. Fellow revelers overwhelmed his disoriented presence, seemingly pouring in from every adjacent street to converge on his location, cheering and yelping and welcoming him back into the party that his consciousness had so suddenly departed earlier in the evening.

Although the drums and stomping feet shook his body and tested his already unsteady balance, and although the whistles and shouting cut roughly through his aching mind, the sudden chaos made him feel somehow more at home, much unlike the brief, alien silence to which had had awoken.

How long had he been passed out on the roadside, he wondered. Apparently long enough to have raised any serious concern among partygoers and passersby. Not long enough for the night to have passed away into morning, heralding the beginning of the Lenten season, when everyone would be more sober of mind and body, or pretend to be. The omnipresent clamor of celebration helped him to achieve remarkable clarity on the other side of his blackout, and he was eager to take advantage of the newly raucous surroundings to squeeze every ounce of joy out of this experience, presumably the last moments of Fat Tuesday.

He could only assume that his coming-to on that particular corner had been a wild coincidence, but as the crowd assembled, it didn’t seem that way. No one else had been there when he awoke, but now that the entire parade had borne down upon him, it seemed keen to absorb him into itself before moving on. A half dozen people, whom he took to be young ladies in spite of their practically featureless, alabaster masks, quickly flattered him with their attention, clapping their hands and dancing circles around him, and reaching out their arms so as to help him keep his footing even as his senses were confused and overwhelmed.

When they had passed on, a brief procession of men and women clapped him on the back, passing by in the same direction before turning and gesturing for him to follow. He supposed that they were smiling as they did so, but each member of the procession was also masked, with most of them wearing the same perfectly smooth, milk-white façade as was worn by the girls who preceded them. As he surveyed a sea of hidden faces, each uniquely embellished with a different sort of painted blush in the cheeks or shadowing around the eyes, he came to feel as though he was being invited into a club but deprived of its mandatory uniform.

However, the slight sense of alienation was not enough to keep Tom from giving loud voice to his newly inflamed passions or leaping into the crowd to join it in raising Hell wherever they happened to be going. For although the members of this parade had arrived at his gutter-bed by different routes, they all now seemed to move on with unity of purpose, and he soon found himself carried along by their procession as if by a rushing river, the current of which he would not have been able to fight if he’d wanted to.

Several minutes passed like this before Tom’s keen excitement began to fade, overtaken by curiosity about how he had come to be here and how he would be getting back to his hotel. But other people continued to dance and clap their hands with lustful abandon, and he felt compelled to do the same. Even so, he was eager to arrive at some place where there the cacophony could give way to conversation, where there would be food and drink and a place to rest.

He began to wonder whether anyone was actually leading this procession, especially when he looking past the crowd to see storefronts and apartments that he was sure they had passed ten minutes earlier. Images flashed into his mind of a line of ants, which, once looped upon itself head-to-foot, will continue to walk in circles until every member starves. But he quickly pushed such thoughts from his mind, reminding himself that this parade had never turned to round even one block, and couldn’t possibly be going in circles.

This, of course, made it more difficult for Tom to explain his growing certainty that they were marching past repeating backgrounds, as if in some low-budget cartoon. And as he strained his eyes to better examine the surroundings, he noticed something else, as well. Not only did the buildings seem to be recurring; they seemed empty. Although it must have been very late at night – he still wasn’t sure of the hour – it seemed impossible that there would be a parade going on with no one to greet it, or even to look down on it disapprovingly from their windows.

Pushed along by the crowd, Tom began to look around with increasingly obvious confusion, looking for someone, anyone who was not part of this masked procession, or who had not been a part of it when it greeted him at the curb.

Nearby marchers seemed unconcerned by his searching eyes and his efforts to jostle his way to the edge of the overladen street. But there heedlessness was no indication that they’d failed to notice the change. A number of revelers regarded him for a long moment, but whether it was with concern, curiosity, or derision Tom could not say, since their masks concealed any human expression. One man with purple bags painted under the eyes of his mask grasped him briefly by the arm and asked, “Having a good time?”

“It’s fine, but where the fuck are we going?” Tom replied. But by the time the words had left his mouth, the man had walked on ahead to be swallowed and made invisible by the crowd. Wheeling back toward the nearest side of the street, Tom stumbled momentarily but was pushed back to his feet by a handful of people repeating the role that had been played by the young women he encountered at the start. In their haste to help him keep moving forward, they obstructed his vision and prevented him from getting more than the briefest of glances at what appeared to be a crumpled human figure just past the edge of the parade route.

He tried to look back, but found it impossible to fight the human current, and resolved himself to the assumption that if there was indeed someone lying on the ground behind him, another good Samaritan would check to see if was all right. After all, they had done it for him, hadn’t they?

Several more minutes passed and his growing annoyance was counterbalanced by a sense of pride in his own stamina. Considering all the alcohol that must have still been in his system, he’d expected himself to have grown exhausted from all this marching. But he felt fine. Or rather, he didn’t feel much of anything: no weakness or muscle ache in his legs; no tiredness or hangover; but also none of the elation that he would normally expect from the mass outpouring of joy and reckless abandon that he was now a part of.

The music being played in the crowd had by now ceased to inspire rhythm in his movement, so he instead regarded it as a fairly dull, persistent hum. His eyes had grown exhausted from the vivid colors of costumes and painted masks, and the initially exciting festivities began to look almost drab.

He felt increasingly certain that he needed to take a break from this aimless procession, not because of physical exhaustion but on account of an unfamiliar spiritual fatigue. Over time, he’d been pushed back toward the center of the crowd, but with newfound understanding of his undiminished strength, he felt confident that he could carve a path to the sidewalk, take shelter in a doorway, and rest for a while as he considered whether to rejoin the party or call it a night.

He sank into his weight and started to move diagonally across the street. Tom immediately found himself being battered by the crowd, and he could not help but suspect that this was deliberate on their part. There was, however, no evident malice in the behavior of anyone who collided with him, and his shouts of “excuse me” were only met with excited, drunken, and meaningless screaming. After a long moment, he was able to see the sidewalk beckoning to him behind a sea of marching feet, and he strengthened his resolve even as the crowd seemed to strengthen its oblivious assaults.

With less than five yards to go before he escaped from the masses, he once again caught sight of a motionless human figure lying just at the edge of the street. “I think someone’s hurt!” he yelled, pointing to the spot and resolving this time to undermining the crowd’s indecipherable single-mindedness. Yet not one marcher acknowledged his cries, and so he tucked his chin to his chest and charged forward like a bull in order to reach the place on his own.

As Tom burst through the last row of unrelenting masked figures, he finally lost his balance, prompting him to instinctively reach out for any source of stability, whereupon his hand caught the mask worn by a nearby dancer and tore it roughly from his face. His eyes remained focused on the ground ahead of him as he considered how close he’d come to cracking his skull upon the curb. But he was aware of the slight weight in his right hand, and the slick sensation on the underside of the mask, no doubt caused by hours of accumulated sweat.

In his peripheral vision, he noticed that the feet belonging to the mask’s owner had moved over to his left side and stood waiting. But before turning his eyes that way, his gaze shifted from the ground to the mask, which he passed to his left hand in order to offer it back to the reveler with a murmured apology. As he did so, he noted that the fingers of his right were coated in a layer not of sweat but of blood. Rubbing them together, he confirmed that it was not his own, and began at last to turn toward the unmasked marcher, intending to ask, “Hey, are you all right?”

Barely the hint of a breath had escaped his throat before it caught there and his eyes bulged wide with terror. For in between the reveler’s tricorn hat and collared finery was not the annoyed or intoxicated red-faced expression of another tourist, but rather a grotesque skull staring vacantly through one eye sitting loose in its right socket. Hideous strands of bloody tissue hung down from the places where the skull had been pressed into the ceramic mask, its darkly shaded eyes and colorful, swirling patterns now seeming like an absurdly understated caricature of the emptiness and lingering gore that the mask had concealed.

Worse still, the ghoulish figure’s teeth were ground sharp, and between an upper and lower set of deformed fangs, a thick, muscular, but half-rotten tongue lolled side to side in a serpentine fashion. After a brief moment, the creature opened its awful mouth still further, in a gesture that could have prefaced either speech or attack. Standing before it, Tom did not wait to discern its intentions but, forgetting what had drawn him to this particular spot in the first place, scrambled backward and promptly tripped over the figure lying beside the road.

As he collapsed to the ground, his foot caught beneath the torso of the face-down figure, so that Tom inadvertently rolled it onto its back. His eyes remained fixed upon the skeletal creature standing above him, which advanced forward a step, in a gesture that seemed more curious than malevolent. So it took a moment for the broader scene to penetrate his senses and for his gaze to drift tentatively toward the collapsed figure that lay in the gutter, appearing at first to stare at him with its own expression of horror until he realized, first, that it was the face of a person quite dead, and second, that beneath the warped rictus of death, it was his own face.

There he lay, in the same spot that he had laid when the parade arrived to claim him. But this time, his mouth dripped with a horrid mass of booze-filled vomit, his head with a half-congealed trickle of blood, which also stained the curb just beside him. Within his other self – his living self – the rising tide of terror finally broke its damn and flooded the scene with a piercing scream, which was nonetheless lost amidst another, celebratory cry brought forth from the still-marching crowd, as if in a mocking response.

While he screamed, the fanged skull continued to advance and then leaned over the man’s dead body to regard Tom’s liberated spirit. When it spoke, the words rattled within whatever remained of its throat, and were pushed languidly past its quivering tongue.

“You didn’t know,” it said. “But we know.”

“What is this?” Tom demanded feebly, shivering with fear and revulsion. He shrank away from the looming figure and searched the distance in every direction for a way out of this place, while his mind flooded with old memories of Sunday school, teasing him with the thought of how very different this was from what was supposed to happen to you at death.

As if reading his thoughts, the skeletal figure answered: “The gates you look for… They are closed to us. You see, this is both the price and the reward of departing life on the day when sin weighs most heavily – and most carelessly – upon your soul. For us, the party need never end. And indeed, it never will.”

Still trembling on the ground and pulling himself away from the terrible reminder of his own death, he looked back to the mass of people still marching and cheering beside him, and stretching forward and back as far as his eye could see. To all outward appearances, they were each filled with joy and devoid of worry. But what can be said of outward appearances when every face is hidden behind cold and lifeless coverings?

“When you’re ready,” the creature continued, pressing its monstrous tongue to the backside of the ceramic lips and guiding it back behind its teeth before fixing the mask in place once again, “join us.”

The creature turned to depart but then paused and brought forth its otherworldly voice again from behind the ceramic. “Oh, and take this,” it said, reaching beneath its costume to produce another mask, which he handed to Tom without looking at him. “We assure you, in time you will need it.”


Many thanks to Jeannette Andromeda, whose “Fat Tuesday” illustration provided the inspiration for this story. See it here:

Desire, Subjective

This isn’t like me at all. I swear that I am normally a master of self-control. But something extraordinary came over me – came into me – around the time that I took her home. It allowed me to feel everything as I never had before, to experience it all with such passion and depth of feeling that all concepts of self-control seemed suddenly childish and irrelevant. There was no question about my intentions and no doubt that I would have my way with her by the end of the night.

I was attracted to her from the moment I saw her. She danced enticingly on the barroom floor, and then continued dancing into my imagination. I set my sights on her and soberly charmed my way into her good graces. But by the time I had emptied the bottle that was set down before me I was looking at her through a new set of eyes. They were the eyes of something ravenous, something feral, something uncontrolled.


He was an old hand at imbibing spirits. But on that particular evening, “imbibing spirits” meant something rather more literal. Had he looked into the final glass of liquor after transferring it from the bottle, but before swallowing it in one monstrous gulp, he would have seen his own reflection looking back at him and found it transformed into something unlike his ordinary self. He would have recognized the strong line of his jaw, the smooth, fair skin, albeit darkened by interior shadows. But he might have been taken aback by the unfamiliar eyes – eyes of pure fire – or by the smile that showed an uncharacteristic malice.

He might have been stunned for a moment by all this. But the face reflected in the glass was a handsome face, perhaps more handsome than his own. And he would likely have seen it only as the inflamed self-esteem of his drunken mind. And all the same he would have swallowed the last bit of liquor, along with the image that came with it.


My desire was not the only thing that was let loose. The change that came over me also freed my tongue and allowed my charm and coolness to come through with exceptional ease. I was impressed with myself and knew that the effect on her would be that much greater. Every threat of awkwardness or uncertainty was superseded by beguiling candor. My compliments and innuendos were so well-phrased that it was almost hypnotic.

And every so often, when she shyly brushed her hair behind her ear or cast her eyes down while pressing her lips to the wine glass, I would glance at the mirror behind the bar and smirk as if sharing a knowing laugh with some third person hidden there. Even in the mirror I could see her falling into a gradual swoon, coming under my power. Indeed, I expected no less. Had I been on the other side of the conversation, I would have followed me anywhere.

As drunk as I was, I was astonished by my performance and even more astonished by the clarity with which I experienced it. The effects of the last drink had been more like ecstasy than alcohol. A charge ran through me every time she laughed and laid a gentle hand across my arm. When she leaned against me, her cheek close to mine, I felt the kindling of a fire that was blown higher by each beat of her pulse against my skin.


The new form of inebriation did not have the effect of clouding his perception. Instead, it altogether transformed and amplified his senses. He saw things not as they were, but not in a haze either. He experienced a version of clarity that could only emerge from absolute subjectivity. He looked into the night from one angle only and saw in it everything that he wanted for himself.

Every sight and sound was filtered to remove the possibility of distaste or uncertainty or equivocation. What he was left with was the perfection of pleasure. Even if the dingy confines of that mirrored bar, there was nothing to obstruct his pursuits or to diminish his enjoyment. When the girl leaned into him it was an expression of desire, and when she recoiled it was an invitation to pursue.

The remoteness of his reflected smiles gave the feeling of friendly encouragement, and it caused him to swell with pride – to be engorged with it.


I already counted her as my greatest conquest by the time she set foot in my car. I was so full of desire by then, and so attuned to every sensation, that the vehicle might as well have driven itself. I operated it by muscle memory, responding to red lights and traffic by instinct alone. My conscious mind was fully occupied with the visual cues I took from the beautiful object of my desire seated beside me.

I could feel the heat from her body, could smell her sweat. I could swear that I recognized the twitches and contractions of tensing muscles beneath her clothes, and I could well imagine what that would look like when she was laid bare and splayed out upon my bed.

I took hold of her hand; I ran my fingers through her hair. With every touch I could hear her breath quavering more loudly, more excitedly in my ear. As she returned the touch, sharp nails played teasingly on my wrist, my chest, my neck.

When we pulled into my home, I strolled around the car to open the passenger door and lift her out, her gentle weight yielding easily to my strength. She allowed herself to be cradled as she kicked her legs like a child on a swing.

Not a word was spoken. Had I been acting more like myself, there might have been offers of drinks, continuation of small talk, the exchange of an innocent, preliminary embrace. But I was instead a man without self-control, and so I carried her swiftly, purposively to the bedroom and tossed her onto the bed as easily as tossing a pebble into the ocean.


When the girl went out to the car with him, she went eagerly. Physical and emotional intensity beckoned to her with promises of something uncommon and unforgettable. But along the way, something changed. It was as if she had been under a spell back at the bar, and its effects faded so gradually that she wasn’t even sure when it was that her desire turned into fear.

There was something in his eyes that was not right. The desirous expression on his face seemed to have only been masquerading as romantic passion when it fact it was something more akin to violent ferocity. He drove erratically, constantly returning a look to his passenger that involved bared teeth, a lolling tongue, and obvious single-mindedness.

The touch of his hand was too rough, and when she pushed back against it, he responded by hardening his gaze and threading his fingers through her hair, causing her to wince as he pulled her nearer and showed that there was no going back. Instinctively, she lashed out in response and scratched wildly at his arms and face with her fingernails. But he shoved her off easily and seemed not to notice the sporadic gouges she left behind on his skin.

By now she recognized that there was no telling what this man was capable of and her breath rattled in her chest as she desperately looked for an opportunity to run. Yet when the car pulled into his garage and the automatic door shut with a heavy thud behind them, she was too frightened to move. She sat helplessly in the seat, shrinking away from the danger as a child would, until he came around and ripped open the passenger side door. She could muster only a few futile slaps as the hulking, increasingly inhuman figure leaned in toward her. She thrashed as he lifted her out of the car, her legs kicking out to meet only air.

Finally, she screamed as he carried her through the door and through the house toward the bedroom. But the man neither drew back nor changed his expression. Although he had responded easily to every soft-spoken word in the bar, her piercing cries did not seem to penetrate his hearing at all.


As she fell to the bed with her lustful eyes peering up at me all the while, I withdrew to the kitchen for just a moment. But as impatient as she was, she met me in the hallway and we fell into each other there, groping blindly, colliding with walls and knocking over small pieces of furniture. We did not so much shed clothing as rend it from one another’s bodies.

When we’d stumbled back to the bedroom I removed the last articles and then, without conscious thought, felt a familiar rigid form in my hand. I grasped it tighter, finding that it pointed directly to its mark and seemed to rush on ahead, carrying me with it as if it had a mind of its own.


Collapsing to the bed, she could only plead with her eyes until he vanished from the room. Seeing what might be her only chance, she scrambled to her feet and rushed back the way they had come. But beyond where the hallway led past his kitchen, she felt his hand catch her elbow and pull her back, stumbling until she was caught between him and the wall.

She fought fiercely, dragging him in erratic circles through the house. But throughout the struggle he dragged her, to her horror, back toward the bedroom. Still, she almost thought she would overpower him until she realized that that was only because he was grasping at her with just one hand, the other being held out to his side or behind his back all the while.

When he’d wrangled her back to the bedroom and slammed the door behind them, she saw why. In his left hand he held a large kitchen knife. It had already cut the straps of her dress, causing it to crumple halfway down her torso. In one swift motion the man dropped his pants and let fall the shirt that had come unbuttoned in the struggle. Then his insane gaze followed the point of the knife straight toward her breast. She shrieked horribly, stumbled backwards on the tattered dress, and fell onto the bed.


I would not usually rush to penetration. I would not usually take it so fast and rough. But after she’d thrown herself to the bed, I was immediately glad that I did. I was intensely gratified when I saw her succumb to it in an ecstatic instant, her mouth gaping, with engorged lips showing just the edges of pearl white teeth. Her moist eyes closed slightly to welcome the sensation, but still they remained fixed on me. Her hands tensed outward as she held them against my chest, then inward as she dug the nails into the flesh of my shoulders. I withdrew for a moment and she relaxed her grip, then I penetrated again, then again; over and over, feeling electricity course through my entire body each time. The exquisite feeling surged ever more strongly within me as her gasping cries subsided into throaty, honey-thick moans.

In real terms, it was over quite quickly. But the moments seemed to stretch to their utmost breaking point, and I felt sure that it was the same for her. The electric sensation surged once more and then let my mind be washed over with a feeling of warm, cloudy contentment. At about the same time, her limbs twitched wildly beneath mine and her moans gave way to one great exhalation before she closed her eyes with an air of finality, and was still.


Her scream of terror mingled seamlessly with a scream of mortal agony as he advanced on her, mounted the bed, and plunged the knife into her abdomen. She made one last valiant effort to fight him off before her hands and feet began to grope and kick blindly while her brain was consumed only with the spreading and escalating pain as he found new places for the knife to penetrate.

When her final breath rattled free of her lungs and life mercifully left her body, he rolled onto his back beside her, lay in joyful repose, closed his eyes, and passed out.


The first thing I felt when I woke up in bed was a sticky, viscous fluid beneath my fingers. For the briefest of moments, I believed it was simply the product of last night’s lovemaking, until I realized that there was too much of it. Far, far too much.

You must believe me when I say I was bewildered when I looked to my left and found a grisly, blood-stained corpse sleeping beside me. I swear to God that everything that happened looked and felt to me as pleasant and innocent as I have described it.

When I saw the girl’s body for the first time, I scrambled back off the bed and fell heavily onto the floor, only to find more blood pooling there. As I crawled toward the door, I noticed that my hands were also covered with the stuff, and it was only then that I began to understand what I had done. Stumbling to my feet, I rushed for the bathroom, needing desperately to empty my stomach of anything that might still be there.

My trembling hand opened the spigot and the sink began to fill, pulling blood off my hands along the way and casting a color-filtered, rippling reflection of my terrified face. I hunched over and grasped the sink as my esophagus convulsed and I heaved over the water, but nothing came out of me – at least, nothing physical.

As I stared down at the water, the face looking back up at me changed. It was similar but not identical to my own. It was at once handsome and horrible, placid and piercing. It shared none of my questions about what had just happened, but was both perfectly aware of and perfectly pleased with the reality behind the illusion.

I swear that it happened just as I said. From beginning to end, the act of murder felt like nothing worse than uncontrolled sexuality. Something brought both of those impulses out of me that night, and now that thing is sitting there in the bathroom sink. I have thought hard about what would happen if I simply pulled the plug and let the reflection fade away. Whatever demon or spirit is there, can it simply be lost into the sewers?

So far, though, I haven’t been able to bring myself to find out. The thing is, while I might be able to say that the devil made me do what I did, that’s not the same as saying that I didn’t want to.

The Thrill of the Chase

My hope is that this blog will help to motivate my fiction writing by giving me the sense that finished stories have a place to land other than in a folder on my hard drive. With that in mind, it seems worthwhile to dig up some previously written stories and put them into the mix, starting with this one that may or may not suggest I have some issues with women. About 4,500 words under the cut.

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The Garden of Decay

Asphyxiation paints the skin

In lilac colors to begin

The blossoming that draws its breath

From the fertile soil of death.


Now such is my appreciation

Of every dying inspiration

That I alone profess to know

The worth of its creation. So,


My hand upon the windpipe settles,

Its fingers spread like open petals.

A rattle and a final wheeze

Pass from the corpse, a springtime breeze.


The eyes are filled with drops of dew,

Tranquility, and calm renew.

The weed is killed and disappears

That was a lifetime’s wasted years.


And no more choked by base survival,

New blooms announce their swift arrival:

The early heralds of fruition

From liveliest decomposition.


And soon, dark spots like pre-dawn hours

Bid welcome cold, nocturnal flowers

That meet my fingers, one by one,

As yet unkissed by morning sun.


And meanwhile, ‘neath cadaver-soil

New snaking waterways uncoil

And chart a course of irrigation

Where grows the sweet mortification.


Then, gaseous bursts like seedpods’ swell

Send forth their shoots to roughly quell

The protests from a tightened surface

That no more can deny their purpose.


Destruction ousts the hidden essence

Of life into my waiting presence,

For only I can comprehend

The beauty of your violent end.


Necrotic flesh invites my nose

More readily than any rose.

Expressions from an eyeless face

Are warmer than the sun’s embrace.


And yet I know you fools revile

The earnest and unhindered smile

That is revealed when bones and teeth

Emerge to skinless high relief.


So hear this friend: I pity you

Your unexamined death-taboo

And beg you mourners for your pardon,

That I find death a perfect garden.


I wrote the original version of this in response to a 100-word story challenge. I have since lost it, but it made such a splash among those who read it that I’ve reconstructed it several times, in this case with five times as many words. I hope it retains most of the same punch.


I’ve never known satisfaction quite like this before.  After needlessly holding back for so long, denying myself, and dismissing what I’d felt, I finally let all of it just crash into him.  Now, swaddled in the comfortable swoon of this afterglow, I can follow the impulse to pick it apart and analyze it, to relive the vivid ecstasy of each moment, and discover a new intimacy with my own sense of profound gratification.

There was an almost comically clumsy lead-up, but sometime during the act itself, this contentment washed over me.  It was an altogether new sensation, following after the unfocused trembling of my sight as we wrestled together just inside the door, and after the pounding in my ears from the thud of each of our bodies against the wall.  It followed the subtle, bristling feel of droplets of sweat leaping from his skin to mine, and the quickening of my heartbeat, and the first release of newly realized emotions.

But this satisfaction came later.  I have the feeling that there is one instant of my passion, one specific element of my gratification that has served above all else to fill me with this astounding contentment.  But what is it?  What do I remember?

I first remember the final release, the sticky fluid surging forth to coat the sheets in which he lay tangled.  But no, that wasn’t the real climax.  By then I was already awash in the fullness of what I’m still feeling.  It was before that.

I remember watching him writhe and moan, his arms twisting and his legs flexing and shuffling as if he was trying to gain a foothold on something.  I recall the sight of his hands clenching and releasing, grabbing after whatever was in reach and finding none of it sufficient to hold him.  I remember the fluttering and closing of his eyes, the violent pitch of his entire body, his back arching sharply then sinking down again.

And still none of that seems sufficient to explain my satisfaction.  Without a doubt, there was rapture in looking on and imagining precisely what he was feeling.  There was delight in knowing that it was I who brought him to that.  And yes, there was an allure to staring down at the experience from the outside, and wondering what it would be like to find myself within it.  However, as it was, very little of this experience was uniquely my own.  There was virtually nothing for me to feel within myself, except…  Ah yes!

That is the feeling that moved me so deeply.  That is the moment it settled on my mind.  It was the mid-way point between the acknowledgement of my desire and the completion of it.  It was the feeling I had standing over him right at the beginning, when he lay down before me.  It was the control, the sense of raw power that I had when my conviction steadied my arm and cleared my sight, and I pulled the trigger.

Sans Delusion

Most people are such uninspired lovers.

Contented with their “happy-ever-after,”

They lock their love away as in a tomb

And keeping Death outside, make him a voyeur.


More fortunate by far, one who discovers

That madmen share much more endearing laughter

By letting passion be the mate of doom.

Embrace the ardent love of your destroyer!