I kneel under a willow in the spirit-ridden glade.
The sky is a dark tapestry shot through with silver threads of star. Shivering, I clutch my jacket- red like scarlet blood- closer, leaning into the crook of a dying tree. The willow’s branches float like serpents across the wind.
There is nowhere left to go. Nowhere left but here. All paths led to these crumbling stones, pointing like compasses to these decaying sepulchers.
To this twilight, hollow as bone.
The mad months run through my head, like the ghosts of dancing girls, bearing goblin fruits in procession to feasts below. Below, where water soaks past damp earth, through worm-teeth and sleeping bones. My blood seeps into the soil.
Samael smells it.
Borne by a creeping fog, I watch him rise, trailed by wisps of wind. There is an unspoken universe between us. A crimson rose at my feet, too rich in its redness and too deadly of scent to be of this world. I am intoxicated by the bloody bloom I carried, dazed, up the winding road, to this necropolis on a hill.
I wandered barefoot in the dead of night, up, up, through the thorn-strewn path and bramble bushes, cutting my feet on briers.
And now my torn maiden’s flesh, kissing the grass that grows over dead mens’ breasts, has woken the slumbering dragon below.
“You called,” the Beast says, with a voice like the rustling wind. A faint sigh comes from his shadow-cloaked form. He exhales, lingering on the edge of the graveyard, at the corner of the wrought-iron fence. He is haunting white bones, the Grim Reaper, not an ounce of soft meat or fleshly eyes on him.
Malakh ha mavat caresses the fence’s spike as he leans into the metal grilles.
I do not look up from the ground.
The rose, from the noonday sun of Isaac, a blossoming evil fungus, begins to burn in the border of my mind, its threatening form looming at the edge of my vision. Cool air envelops me. I shudder, revulsion wracking my limbs. Biting my lip, I fend off tears. Memories twist my mind:
It was written in black blood and poetry that ices bone. In a book with haunted pages, inked in hollow script. A story uttered only in the dead of the night, whispered to my shivering dreams.
Night visions of his form, lingering just beyond me.
A single rose at my doorstep. The head of my bed. The floor of a desolate room. Tucked into my drawer among my precious things.
Its presence a secret.
Its petals a challenge.
An invitation to dine with danger and dance under razor moons with the goblin king of Hell.
I have fled it. I have bled for it. It has driven me to the wilderness. And now, I find myself here.
I have never been this close, yet so desperately alone. My mind pulses with horror, want, and pain. The wind wraps around me like the coils of a serpent. I chill at its stony touch.
Through a film of tears, I look at him. Hopeless. Lost. Perhaps found. There was no escaping him, anyways. Just delaying time.
My heart lurches in realization.
He smiles like a thorn –