The castle settles down to sleep and the barrier between the worlds is touched by every dreamer. They offer their minds as bridges, stick-thin kindling we use to set fire to their fears and feed off the scraps. I remember once chasing a man through a maze of his own creation, given the form of a beast with slathering jaws and paws as big as his head. His imagination was lacking, but his terror was masterful. It flowed through me like a river, giving depth to the shadow of my form, clarity and focus as I grew in strength. It was as close to physical as the ethereal can grow. When his heart gave out and his presence vanished, I mourned the loss of what I thought would be the most fulfilling chase I would ever know. I thought that was nourishment, true and whole.
I was not aware that in our realm, fear is as much shadow as we are. It is a reflection, limited by the lack of physical form, and even at the most exquisite peak, it cannot match the sustenance, the substance, of simple pain.
It took reaching the other side of the barrier, stepping from reflection to source, to learn the difference. The discovery came at cost, with most of us too weak to make the journey, but it was worth it for the taste of even a scratch. That taste is just the beginning. There is no need for a chase when the greater benefit is in the capture, and moderation is of no importance after discovering you’ve existed on water for a millennia, when on the other side burst forth wine at the slightest urging.
If you had your way, Desian, we’d never taste anything other than water. I understand your reluctance, but we cannot both have what we need.
That’s the end.
I would make the same choice again. Even if time was still a concept out of my reach, I would not have changed that moment in the eternity I had to do so. Or so I believe. Must believe.
Because there is an end now.
It’s not gone, though. I had always thought they made choices, left them behind, left in what they call the past. It isn’t so. They carry their pasts around with them, dwell in them as much as we ever did, and now so do I.
Even if I wanted to, I cannot take it back.
You know what your duty is? Words are feelings. The curiosity contains the meaning and there are no misunderstandings.
I do. And I do, I do, I did. Did. Because there is time in this place, and there is place in this time. All things are not one thing, all moments not one moment. I know my duty. I know my duty. I respond with truth. There are no lies.
When I awoke the next morning, the scent of smoke had been smoothed away by the rain. The fallen water eased the tension of the battle before. Guards on the walls joked with one another, using puddles of rain water to clean the soot and blood from their faces.
And here I thought my people had short memories.
It was the scream that stayed with him. Through their escape, through Tishaani’s recovery, through his own pain, the scream echoed in his mind.
He wasn’t surprised to hear it again in his dreams, not given the source. That it was the thread that bound the all scenes together, the support on which all his night-time reflections hung, did disturb him, however. Continue reading
My story Surveying the Land appears in the anthology Dark Pages from Blade Red Press.
A collection of stories to “delight and disturb”, I’m quite pleased that this story found a home there!
My short story What We Give appears in Lost Innocence: A Niteblade Anthology.
The anthology is available in both .pdf and print (and looks wonderful ^_^).
The short story What We Give has been published in the March issue of Niteblade Magazine.
I’ve linked to the online version, but recommend buying the .pdf ($2.00), as the layout is wonderful, and ad-free.