Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Last Spell

She hadn’t seen an omen in over a decade. Nor even anything vaguely omen-shaped (Tea leaves did not count; one could read anything from them. Many did.). But her arthritis was not as bad, this morning as others, and Edwina had not switched any herbs. Further, the old instincts coming back, like falling off a horse all over again, the weather had an unseasonable cold bite to it, and there were more beggars on the streets than normal, when she went to the market.
         She still did that, omens be cursed! Routines could shatter them, or make them true. Edwina did not know which was true, or if either was. But it was comforting to see the same old shops, the same familiar faces two hours before noon, and she bought more than she usually did, and some food for travel out of a habit older than the pain in her lower back.
         The market was bright and alive, but beyond the urchins she spotted more hungry faces, heard the desperation under merchants casual greetings, saw the way people paused to count up coin before paying, the way the few guards in the market kept their hands too close to the blade. Oh, then Edwina knew what was coming. She bought a few other things, lastly, before going home, and cleaned up the small single room flat she considered home, above the shop of a spice merchant who should have charged for the aromas she got for free.
         It didn’t take long, but her body was old and it too longer than she lived before she began to make supper. She went down for some spices, before she was done, to mask the extra ingredients, and was unsurprised at the single knock on the door when the afternoon faded into twilight.
         Edwina stood and walked over to the door, leaving her cane by the chair. It had no power, and she did not want to seem weak. “Welcome,” she said, opening the door.
         The young man standing on the other side of it was tall and pretty, with eyes as cold and empty as the barren seas. He had a sword on either side, no doubt other blades hidden, and his hair was short, chopped ruthlessly above the far too pretty face below it.
         “I am Edwina,” she said, offering up no bow or curtsey.
         “Kel,” he said, voice low and rough. His gaze flicked about the apartment, even hunting into shadows “You expected me.”
         “Or someone like you. Omens, you know. No dead birds,” she added, and he gave her a thin wintry smile but just followed her inside without a word, closing the door. He didn’t lock it; Edwina didn’t ask him to.
         “Food?” he said, surprised, voice almost rising to its normal tone.
         She pretended not to notice, nor the faint blush that followed. “It is poisoned,” she said, offering him a bowl. “Just in case.”
         “Ahhh.” He let the breath out slowly, taking one. “All the dishes?”
         “Not quite.” She poured them both wine, from her meagre stock. “Few seek out a mage in this age. There are few of us left.”
         “I know. But there is something I wish for.”
         “Hmmm.” She drank her wine, noting that he drank first. Courage, or something else? His eyes gave away nothing. “Across the ocean, this would not be done.” He waited with the patience of death, respecting her magic. Or perhaps only age.
         “Warriors marry, in fair Calderon by the sea. It is law, there. To marry, to have children. To fight for more than lords and kings, gods and wizards. I would wish more did that here.”
         “Calderon has fallen to such things many times, has lords who build castles they need to design to defend against their own hired mercenaries. That is not true here,” Kel said mildly. “We do not betray our lords. Not for love nor other things.”
         “A pesky thing that gets in the way of duties and obligations. Yes, yes. I know all the reasons. You should know they don’t matter, who walk and do skilful murder and are nothing else beyond that.”
         “But there is something beyond that.”
         She said nothing in turn, starting on the salad. He followed suit, and broke first.
         “I have married to death, to the battlefield, to the fatalclash of blades.”
         Edwina nodded slowly. “I felt as much.”
         “I have fought battles that would be legend, were their any bards left to speak of them. I have killed mages. Even wizards.” He smiled strangely. “With help, but even so. Two years ago I met my best friend from childhood. We did what was duties sake, and I killed him. He used to be better, but he hesitated when I did not.”
         “It has not been the same since.”
         “It has not. I find I want another path, but I cannot find one. Not alone. And so I have sought a mage, though few are left in our land.”
         “And how many did you have to kill, to find me here?”
         “Only three.” His smile was crooked now, and she was relieved the irony had not escaped him. It was possible to go so far even magic could not save someone. If they did not wish it, there was no magic that could at all.
         “I do not know how many spells I have left in me,” she said. “I am old now, Kel of Orshkar Reach. A mage is not a wizard, to kill others and extend their own life, extend their own magic. We pay with our own years. Surely a wizard could help you more than I.”
         “Wizards -- seek different things, and they would demand prices that would make this pointless.” He began eating the bread. “Many deaths, and always they would hold their power over me.”
         “When did you first kill?” she asked.
         “I was seven. Over this face, and a fool’s jokes.”
         “You could arrange for scarring,” she said mildly, eating the rice.
         He ate some, then looked up. “I tried; it made no difference.”
         “And yet you had the scars healed, hmm?” He said nothing, not returning her gentle smile, and Edwina sighed and stood up slowly. “I will cast a spell for you, then, before I did.”
         “You remind me of my daughter. I had one, before the magic woke inside me, and now -- well, I doubt she’d recognize me. In five years, I became close to this, and have walked the world since. Her daughter might be alive, but I have not looked in on them.” She smiled into his cold, cold face. “You should know better than to ask questions to which you do not want to know the answer.”
         “I see.”
         “What do you seek with a new life?” she asked as they finished the meal, before the silence became too brittle.
         “A wife. Children, perhaps. A place in the world where I do not have to kill a friend again.”
         She nodded slowly and leaned back into her chair as he reached for the wine. His hand shook, slightly, and he drew a knife from somewhere, swifter than thought and it flew through the air straight and almost, oh! almost true.
         “You should be honoured,” Edwina said as the second blade fell from his fingers and Kel fell over. “Even for one such as yourself, who has made death his bride, it took longer to work than it should have.”
         She stood slowly, trembling a little, ignoring the blade and pain as she had ignored all other pains in over two centuries of being old. “Almost too long. You make wake and remember this, you may not: I do not know. But one cannot be reborn without having died. The poison is only a short death. Your blade a - true one.
         “ Mages die slowly, unless by our own spells. And so few do, because of what we’d return as. Because of what wizards can do to our bodies and spirits. It does not matter: you gave me my death, warrior, and I owe you magic.”
         Edwina reached down slowly, the made moving that little moment it needed, and felt her life’s blood begin to flow from the wound. It was a simple spell, a minor wish only, and she threw the rest of her magic out into the world, to cure the aches and pains of those she’d known in the market a little, because there was nothing to hard now, and no reason to keep it inside.
         Much of the magic had died, during her long time of wandering and wishing to do things other than die. But there was enough for those little things, and she sank down beside the warrior, and wondered as the poison killed her own pain and she drifted into sleep, just what he would think of his beard when he awoke.
         Edwina truly hoped he would not cut it off, but she had put measures into the spell to prevent that.
         “No excuses,” she whispered, or thought she did. “No more, for killing and drawing of blades. That is my gift to you, Kel. Wear it well.”
         And then there was just blessed darkness.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Even lust can be subtle

The wind    only a breeze
a scent of poplars long ago

I remembered a memory
too vivid it could not be real
      in it you sill bit your fingers
      to the quick

Each time I whisper your name
I pretend you listen   hear   know

I wish a little thing so small
hoping it small enough to come true
that you were not so far below
      the bare earth between us
      not so very hard

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Last Laugh

Nothing we do ends well. It’s not a lie, but sometimes it’s close enough to the irony that seems to run the universe that the differences aren’t all that apparent. Like most things, it holds together if we don’t put it under too harsh a light.
          This isn’t a diary. I expect it to be found after I die. Nor is it a confession, since there’s always things we leave out of that. There are things about me I’d be happier if even God didn’t know. I imagine it’s the same for whoever reads this.
          I don’t know what is going happen, not yet. There might not even be a body left. I can feel the trap, the future, the story, all closing around me with a chill finality. Maybe it’s a mother, or a police officer; I don’t know which. Someone is going to come after me, like in the movies. I think they’ll want explanations, to know why I did it, what kind of monster I am.
          I have no idea what to tell them.
I blame Stephen King. Him and ‘It’. I always wanted to be a clown, to make people laugh. Not the kind of humour that’s born from sorrow, but the kind that is taking joy, sharing it on, making the world a better place. If you can make people laugh and not hurt someone in doing so, you’ve done something beautiful.
          It’s all I ever wanted. But somewhere along the way it just fell apart. The kids were always scared of me. No matter what I did, or the jokes I said, they were always afraid. Sometimes they even hated me. Understand: I didn’t learn how to be a clown, didn’t become one, as a means of strength. Too many people use humour as a weapon, a defence -- I just wanted to use it for its own sake, without the meanness of stand-up comics, without the bile of tv comedians.
          I guess it just wasn’t possible. But it was my dream. I started seeing a psychiatrist a few months ago, because I was getting angry with the kids, for crying, or laughing at me in a way that was all mean and hurting themselves. He said that if my dreams had been true, they would never have been dreams at all. I think he’s just angry that he never got a tv show like Dr. Phil.
          Becomes sometimes dreams do come true. The problem is trying to tell dreams from nightmares, at that point. I tried everything, to keep the dream pure and bright, but it never mattered. I tried religion, modern religion (my shrink), new age psychobabble -- none of it helped. Children don’t lie like adults do, and in their eyes there was a harshness adults hide, a light judging clowns and humour and laughter.
          They couldn’t see it for what I could. I’m not sure anyone can. Even children have lost that kind of wonder.

I could have done something else, been anything else, but I’d put too much of myself into being a clown. Too much of my identity, of my longings, of the who and how and why and what of me was in being a clown, and I didn’t have any other me to be.
          It would have helped, I think, if I’d ever actually got around to going past first base with Maria.
The first child looked like her. And she laughed, and made jokes. But the party was at her place, and it was horribly easy to get back, to enter, and take her home. I never called it a ‘fun house’. The media did that. It’s a damn trailer, double-wide. There’s nothing ‘fun’ in trailer parks. The only mythologizing done there is the idea that no one is brewing meth.
          It made it easier to hide them, to hide the monster growing under my skin. I even got more work, by scaring the children, letting them see under into the new me, the one they wanted. They’d all seen horror movies, all seen ‘It’: to them it was just acting, just another kind of joke. To them I was just a clown, playing up the darker parts of the archetype.
          Well. No. They never thought it like that. No one really does, I think. But if you pretend to be something, you become what you pretend if you do it long enough. The darkness grew, though I was never dumb enough to dare give it a name. Or pretend it was real: I tried not to give it power, but --
          but you can’t be laughed at, like I was. Hated, like that, by those I had tried to help. You can’t have all that, and not internalize some of it. The darkness grew, and there were always more children who reminded me of Maria. Or other people. Or myself. Eventually, it just didn’t matter. There was a lesson, and they needed to to learn it, that the real monsters are human. Gloriously, terribly, human.
          And that under the mask, I was just like them. And they were all just like me.

But nothing lasts forever. People make patterns, find out clues, follow hunches. For a while, it was as if the universe was on my side: nothing I did went wrong. I don’t know who is after me, but someone is. There’s always a hero, come to destroy the monster. And I am one, now. I stopped lying about that, and things began going wrong.
          Maybe I wanted to fail. Maybe I have to fail.
          Maybe it’s because, no matter how hard I try now, I can’t bring up the kind of humour I used to have, the kind without pain, or hate, or rage, or fear. There’s nothing noble to me now, only a darkness I keep on feeding, and I’m trying to save the children from it now. I am being. And becoming.
          I hope the darkness can die. Every time I look in the mirror, I don’t see any shadows on me. It’s gone deep, and something is growing in my soul. These aren’t the words, but I don’t have words. Judgement is coming. I hope someone stops me.

There is crying, from the spare bedroom. I could make my nose red again, with her blood, before judgement comes. I can hear sirens. I can feel thunder, even though there is no storm.
          The girl is crying, and she reminds me more of Maria than Maria did.
          I just want this to end.
          And I hope they hurry, before she stops crying. Before my nose needs to be red again. Before I smile, and tell her jokes, and laugh.
          It is getting to hard to think, to write. Whoever comes, save me. From the Clown, please save me.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Because there should be more to us

It's not a thing of equals, but the books
all say love has to be, bold faced,
with CAPS and with EXCLAMATIONS!!

I want to write to them, to say: "This.
This is my life. It's different from you,
from your manuals." And I'd tell them,
clearly, cleanly, about you, and me,
me and you, how much I love you --
no, I'd show that. With videos of us,
friends testimonies, the poetry I wrote you
on the back of napkins, never shown.

After I would say: "There is nothing equal,
not in this." I would tell about your eyes.
About how I bare my soul, look into yours,
see only a mirror. I'd ask them what to do,
when I love more than you love in return.

We never talk about it, never bring it up.
I bring you more flowers (for no reason)
and love in in those little things, that when
you are not with me, I think of you
sometimes for no reason at all, but just
because you are you. And I think, I think
you worry about board meetings instead
and other mundane things. And I think
they should pale beside love, in poems,

but -- I am me, and not you, and you love me
not as I love you, and whenever you say
"I love you", it feels like a a favour, like
the giving of a gift, and not how the words
mean more than they mean, but I love you
too much to leave you, even if your fire
barely burns next to my own. The books,
the books I've read, then never said how
it was possible to love too much, not and
still have a normal love. I think, my love,
that they were all the loved, not the lover;
there is a book inside I could not write
without breaking my heart on your eyes.