Vespers

The distance between us is a hair’s breadth. I can taste the salt on his skin, heady with exertion. He smells like woodsmoke and temptation. We stand in the bowels of Hell, in a garden fed by underground springs and earthly fires that burn like rivers aflame. A cavernous shaft wends its way to morning above our head, letting slicing blue sky pierce the heart of the inferno. It is a place of great unbeauty, with asphodel and pomegranate trees, the fruits of Persephone’s garden. 

Snakes skirt my ankles and climb onto his awaiting figure. My muse towers over me like a stone angel, his wings brushing my arms, face boring into the depths of my soul. He has the twelve pinions of that sage fallen angel Milton knew so well. The light casts blue shadows over his black feathers, playing like stained glass over their raven gloss. I cannot help but stare at him in rapture, he the angel of darkness I created and the heart of the abyss. He smirks at my awe, I the lamb trapped in the lion’s embrace. He sees it in my eyes, I see myself reflected, my curiosity burning like brands. It amuses him, amuses me, being the lantern that draws lost souls.

“You have the same hunger as I,” he says knowingly. “It will either fuel or destroy you. Like flame, we devour those we love. The question is whether you are skilled enough to let the fire linger in the ash, a self-sustaining light.”

He bears that light well, a halo atop his proud brow. His icy eyes are holes into the void, ready to feast. Hair like dripping black ink. I lose my fingers in those strands, counting out the days til my premature death. They say bipolar is twenty years, at least, off your life.

Plath’s head baked in an oven.

My dreamy demon runs his hands down to the small of my back, pressing me against him. Our forms lock together. I am lusting after my illness, the poison I am is this fortress of a curse.

“You question whether I can survive here?” I breathe into his ear, telling myself I am brave enough for my mind’s unconscious bowels. “I know the paths of shadows as well as you. All these years, I’ve watched you, memorizing your tricks. Don’t think gently of me. I won’t get lost.”

He sighs at my whisper, cradling my head against his chest. “I still wish you had chosen a different road.”

(I wish I was sane, but instead, I am quite unwell, as well as Hell.)

I laugh at the ridiculousness of his – my – suggestion, tracing the hard muscles of his arms. My desires are clearly on display in this simulacrum of mechanical starlight. “I may hate the underworld, but all roads lead here eventually. As if this path hadn’t been set in stone since the day I met you.”

The Heroine’s journey, Inanna’s descent: her own womb hell, Serpent of the ovary biting the apple uterus.

My dream intensifies: my character tenses, shielding me from the world with his wings. A chill wind picks up, mixing the strands of our hair and ruffling his ebony robes. “So I’ve damned you,” he says stonily.

I don’t believe in Damnation.

Or – maybe I do.

“No,” I say, peering into his face. “Because in my heart, I know I’ll never belong here. This is your domain. (It is my kingdom). There are embers of heaven inside me, of past joys and days spent under the sun. I’ve known peace, and that’s what makes the suffering bearable. It’s like a refuge I can turn to in my darkest hours. That’s why I was able to follow the labyrinth to it’s center.”

He grins at the comparison. “So am I the beast awaiting you, like Theseus’s Minotaur, at the labyrinth’s heart?”

I kiss Asterion’s chest. “You’re certainly foreboding enough,” I answer, smiling.

I wish I was clever, I think, looking back. But I’ve always been a hack writer.

[This is a dream and daydream journal, after all.]

We stroll through the gardens, my muse and me, watching the fragrant flowers of death. I pick some, crushing them between my fist to smell their perfume. The cries of the damned – those I sent to perish – ring through the caverns. The Tree of Knowledge blooms at the center, its red fruits unlike any earthly delight. He takes one and presses it to his lips. The juices flow as he bites it, his teeth sharp as a shark. He hands it to me, and I do not refuse. 

 It tastes like sweet wine and memories.

At this age, I have never tasted wine outside of dreams, only at my serpentine touch.

After, we sit by the spring, this gentleman doom and I. I stare at our reflections in the water- the bone-pale man and the magpie girl. Has it always been this way? I wonder. Us alone in Hell. Me and my madness.  All my dreams bring me back here, into his arms. 

I haunt myself, I am myself, I am just a scared girl in the Hell of a disease that is poison.

Tonight is no different. While I sleep in the waking world, my soul is here, trapped. I fear one day, I will remain and never wake up. I feel like a lightning bug in Death’s hourglass, air growing stale, slowly drowning in sand. When it is too much, I crush myself to him, forcing my fears away.

The mythic is a solace for poets, but I am a trite poet, so these verses and daytime recollections suffice.

Our lips meet in slow lingering passion, forms pressed against one another in a sinuous blend. It is enough, not enough, and our hunger is insatiable.

I have terrible taste in the men I create. Something out of a Stephanie Meyer novel on acid.

Finally, we pull apart, surfacing to breathe.

I had never been kissed in real life, the way I kiss myself, the way I hold myself, the way my body feels against my own skin –

“What are we?” I ask, wondering what in the world this could be. Is it sin, to love the fallen? I’ve never sold my soul. He’s had it since the beginning- I was never given a choice.

(The choice is, commit yourself to yourself in a wedded asylum).

He presses his lips to my brow. “We are the end times and the omega, the dregs of wine from which all things grow.”

No, that’s Lilith and Samael, not a timid girl and her false prophet.

But I am not Jewish, so I get the Talmud wrong. A Rabboni after Resurrection I am not, just a shit novelist with an active imagination.

“What is that supposed to mean?” I ask, cursing his cryptic speech. My brain is a sphinx, and I am full of terrible riddles.

“That seeds take root in the darkness, growing up to reach the light. Our connection is one between Heaven and Hell. All the space between is ours to roam.” He enfolds my hands in his. “Make a wish- anywhere you want to go- and I’ll take you there.”

I awake.

I have saved myself

in the most awful

of ways.

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