Thursday, October 12, 2017

Chronicles of Gethsemane: Dragon's Consort, excerpt 1

    The witch-woman awoke to the horrific, sticky taste of filth in her mouth, and little memory of what had put it there. She tried to move, but stopped when every muscle and joint seemed to scream protest. She restrained a groan of pain, but was unable to stifle it completely; a squeak escaped her throat. Her eyes fluttered open, or tried to; they seemed swollen, or stuck shut somehow. The slight glimpse she got of her surroundings was not encouraging; she was laying sideways, curled up on a stone floor in a puddle of light that did not extend further than a few inches past her body. She could not make out any details in the darkness beyond, and her head was pounding too hard for her to want to move it about more than she had to. Her arms and legs were chained; she could feel the manacles on wrists and ankles.
    She was naked.
    She had a terrible feeling that she did not want to remember what had got her in such a state.
    “Why, pray tell, has my village sent me a tribute that stinks of man-flesh?” a deep, resonating voice resounded in her ears and seemed to vibrate and buzz against her skin, like she was surrounded by a horde of bees, all of them bumping up against her without stinging her.
    She shivered, and tried to think. Tribute? That was important, that meant something, but she couldn’t remember what or why…
    “Open your eyes, woman-thing, and rise to your knees, and explain to me why!”
    Her body shuddered again, and another whimper escaped her. She tried to comply, but the signals were somehow getting scrambled on the way from her brain to her muscles, and she only twitched about feebly on the cold stone.
    “Fire take your weak, pathetic human flesh!” Rough hands grasped her shoulders from behind and heaved her upright, causing her to gasp in shock and pain. The hands settled her onto her knees and held her there for a few heartbeats until her body finally got the message and could hold her upright on its own. The hands then disappeared, without giving her any idea of who… or what… their owner was. “Now, answer me!”
    “I…” she faltered. How to answer, when she didn’t understand the question?
    “I do not like to repeat myself, you mewling creature, but I will do so this once because it is obvious your wits are addled beyond repair. Why has my village sent me a tribute that is foul with the stench of man upon her flesh!?
    The disembodied voice thundered around her, battered and buffeted her already bruised flesh, and echoed in her mind until she could not think her own thoughts, could not hear anything but the words it had uttered. The sensation faded, and she swallowed. Now, she understood. She didn’t remember the details, but she did remember the village, and the reason she had been in the village, and the reason she was no longer there… but the how of getting here, much less where the ‘here’ was, still escaped her.
    Tribute. Her eyes had not opened once since she had attempted to examine her surroundings, but now they did, eager to see, eager to know. Her heart began to pound wildly. She knew what this place was. Her gaze flashed around her, desperate and seeking, but she still could not see anything beyond the circle of light she knelt in.
    A growl, wild and dangerous, echoed from the darkness.
    “They wanted to be rid of me!” she said quickly, excitement running through her. She felt no fear; she knew what it was that waited in the dark, and she could only hope it allowed her to see it, maybe touch it, before it killed her…
    “Why?”
    “I am a witch-woman.” To her, the answer seemed obvious, but perhaps it was less so to one who did not know what it meant….
    Laughter roared about her, startling her, and then stopped as abruptly as it had started. “How would a witch-woman earn their ire enough to be sent to me, fresh with that stench pouring off her?”
    She thought furiously for a long minute. When he growled again, she swallowed and began to speak. “I… I am not…” her words faltered, so she paused and cleared her mind, and tried again. She still had no idea why this creature had not already killed her. Perhaps it wanted to be certain of its displeasure with the village before it did away with her. Her chin lifted.  “I am outside their power structure. The men resented it, and the women were jealous. They…” she stopped, closing her eyes. The memory of her time in the village suddenly came to her, rushing upon her and she shuddered.
    She had been in the village only a matter of days, asking questions and hunting clues to the dragon that was plaguing them. She had made it clear to them that she had no intention of slaying the dragon, that she was there on business of her own. The villagers had punished her severely, taking their hate toward the dragon out on her. The bruises, the blood, and other unsavory things on her flesh were the result of their abuse of her. For a moment, shame and disgust overwhelmed the excitement, but it did not last long. The events… even the abuse… had gotten her here, after all. “They are the reason that you… you smell what you do.”
    The voice was silent for a long moment. “You are bruised. You are bloodied, but it is not all your own. You gave a fair accounting of yourself, I think, before they took their frustrations out on you and brought you here to be sacrificed. You stink of the touch of man. Yet you do not stink of fear. Your heart races, little morsel, but you are not afraid.” The words were thoughtful now, and very close. Smoke coiled slowly, serpentine and sensuous, about in the air around her and in front of her eyes. She could smell sulphur, feel hot breath on her backside, and it only increased her thrill, her desperate desire just to see this creature once before it killed her.
    “Why does your heart race, morsel, if not for fear?” The dragon’s voice was soft, carrying a different sort of threat.
    “For delight,” she whispered. “For the fact that I have finally found one such as you. For the hope that I might see you once, before you kill me.”
    The voice was silent for many minutes, but the hot breath warming her flesh did not move. She did not dare to breathe, much less look around to try and catch a glimpse.  Suddenly the breath vanished, and all was silent. There was no movement in the darkness.
    Then, she heard a footstep. It sounded very much like that of any human, and she swallowed, suddenly nervous. She heard another, and then a third that brought its maker into view.
    He was human, and ruggedly handsome, with a sharp chin and high cheekbones that showed perhaps a day or two’s worth of beard. He was of average height, with wide shoulders that were enhanced by the collared shirt and brocade vest he wore over well-tailored trousers. His eyes pierced through her, making her forget her hope, her purpose, and her pain. They were old eyes, dangerous eyes, that had seen more and done more than any human could hope to in a lifetime. They were alien to her, and in a human face, they were terrifying.
    “Now does your heart freeze in fear, now that you wonder if perhaps I am not what you thought?” His expression did not change, remaining intense and piercing, but unreadable.
    She swallowed and scrambled backward as far as the chains would allow, curling her knees up in front of her and crossing her ankles, trying to cover as much of her naked flesh as possible. She could not look at him, could not answer; she was too scared to speak.
    Dragons didn’t scare her. Men did.
    After all that had been done to her by men, she felt that at least dragons were knowable; they would kill you, and maybe eat you. If you were lucky, they’d just scare the life out of you and chase you away. Men could… and would… do much worse than kill you, and for less reason.
    “Hmm.” The man nodded to himself and continued to stare at her.
    She glanced up at him through her matted hair, wondering why he was just standing there. Her power was useless, here. Something about the rock rendered her magic helpless. She was weak and sore, and utterly vulnerable chained to the stone floor. So why had he done nothing but look?
Her thoughts raced, and she remembered that dragons were magical and clever, and some liked to play tricks. Stories said that sometimes, just sometimes, they would test mortals…
    She closed her eyes, mastering herself just enough to keep from cringing away from him. She was a witch-woman, by the Void! No mere man was going to terrify her into submission. Much of the blood on her body was not hers, she reminded herself. And even though she had no knife and no magic, she still did not have to submit quietly. Her chin lifted again, and she looked into his eyes…
    She felt as though she were falling, but only for a heartbeat. After that, she was able to study him, much as he was studying her. There was little else to be seen in his appearance, and his expression gave away nothing.
    But his eyes… she kept coming back to his eyes. They were shaped like a human’s, but they were so alien to her understanding that she could not even begin to fathom what sort of creature…
Her thoughts stopped dead, and she grimaced. What a fool she was, to be tricked so! This man… his eyes gave him away. She stood slowly, her chin still raised, and took one graceful step into the very center of the pool of light.
    “If you are going to kill me, or eat me, I ask only that you do so in your true form. Grant me this, if only because my presence here has shown you that your village has nothing but disrespect for you.” Her words came out clear and without hesitation, and she was proud of herself. He did not react, or respond for several minutes, and she began to wonder if she’d made a miscalculation, if she had misread the situation.
    He grinned. It was a toothy, almost bestial grin, that did not belong on a human face any more than his eyes did. And then he began to laugh. It was not the booming roar from before, but it was still loud and boisterous, almost jolly. “Fire and Stars, morsel! I have not laughed even once like this in many years, much less twice in such swift succession!” He took a breath and eyed her closely, still smiling. “Do you know what a dangerous thing it is, for a mortal to make a dragon laugh?”
    She let out the breath she’d been holding, juxtaposed between fear and hope, and her blood began to pound in her ears again. However, she did not dare return his smile. Not yet. “No, I don’t.”
    He shook his head, the smile gone. “It is dangerous, because it might make the dragon decide to keep you.” He turned around and walked away, back into the darkness, his footsteps sounding three times before all sound vanished. After another moment, the shackles also vanished, and a bedroll and blanket appeared as well as a bowl of hot water, a cloth, and a simple shift. Her eyes went wide, and a chuckle came from somewhere in the shadows.
    “Do not move from that spot. Get some rest, for you shall be telling me more about my village when you wake.” The dragon’s voice, while still amused, held an undertone of threat that made her skin want to shrivel.
    She did not want to know what this dragon would do, once he heard what she had to say.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Depression. Also: Love.

Disclaimer: Firstly, understand that I have struggled with depression, several major times in my life, and still do from time to time. Secondly, understand that as a "sufferer" or "victim" of depression, I do not subscribe to the popular culture of depression.

I search Google with a word that terrorizes millions (approx. 15mil, according to Psychology Today), and what do I find? Headlines such as "Symptoms of Depression - Depression is not a choice" or "Major Depression" or "Learn how to cope with depression." Psychology Today says that it is "an illness that comes in many forms—from major depression and seasonal affective disorder, to dysthymia and bipolar disorder. Depression is an illness that increasingly afflicts people worldwide, interfering with concentration, motivation and many other aspects of everyday functioning. It is a complex disorder, involving many systems of the body, including the immune system, either as cause or effect. It disrupts sleep, and it interferes with appetite, in some cases causing weight loss, in others weight gain. Because of its complexity, a full understanding of depression has been elusive."

There is also some scientific evidence that links depression to certain nutritional deficiencies.

I can attest to the truth of the claim that "depression is not a choice" because there are times when I feel there should be no reason whatsoever for me to be depressed. The choice comes in when we choose how to deal with it. But more on that later.

This is an open letter to someone I care for very deeply, who has recently deemed they are suffering from depression (note that there is no official diagnosis). Know I love you very much. Know that I DO know what you are going through. I have had plenty of reasons to be depressed over my life. My parents divorced when I was thirteen (in point of fact, a counselor diagnosed me with depression and was treating me with St. John's Wort until I got sick of having to rely on the pills just to feel like a person), I got pregnant at 17, married at 18 to a man many years older than I, and divorced myself 8 years after that. That same man claimed my children from me, by simple virtue of the fact that I couldn't afford to care for them (my father and stepmother supported and assisted him, and no one assisted and supported me at the time), and now I live 645 miles away from them. So, yes, I know depression. We are old enemies.

But you should understand about enemies. Depression is an enemy, a bully, a trial, a hardship... but all these things have one very important commonality, and one very important weakness. Depression, like an enemy, or a trial, or a hardship, is nothing more than a challenge to be met. Enemies and bullies can be defeated, trials and hardships overcome.  Metal must be torn from the earth, subjected to flame and hammer, and finally quenched in oil and water, to become strong and useful, to become something more than inert material. Metal becomes a sword. In some stories, dragons must breathe fire over their eggs or they won't hatch. Heroes don't become heroes until they've walked through the fire... but they had to choose. Frodo was depressed as hell, but he carried the Ring anyway. And at the end, someone who cared for Frodo came along and helped him do what was necessary. Sam and Dean, who lost their father and family and others along the way, keep hunting and fighting regardless, and not only have each other but Castiel as well. The Doctor, over 900 years old and lost his whole planet as well as said goodbye to dozens of people he cared about (think about Rose, or Amy!), has his companions, and continues to save the universe.





You, my dear, have me. You have family and friends who love you.  But we can't help you unless you let us.

Depression has a secret weakness.

It has no real power.

All it has is a voice, that it likes to pretend is your own, telling you all the horrible things - you're worthless, incapable, pathetic, can't do anything right, what's the point of even trying - until you believe it. You either let it convince you, or you spit in its eye and keep going just to spite the bastard. As a friend once said, "drag the monsters under the bed into the light, kicking and screaming." Monsters can't live in the light. Depression will hide under your bed and sneak out when it's dark to try to drag you back down. It -will- happen. The rest of your life, probably. Be stronger than it. Get up off the couch, spit in its eye, and DO something. Some days I have to wrap myself around the pain and keep going, because otherwise I really am useless, and I refuse to be useless. I have family. I have kids who need me. I am an artist, goddammit, and I will shoot myself in the foot before I allow depression to keep me from doing and being what I need and want to be and do.

In the end, my dear, it's your choice. But you have to choose. And every day that you don't get out of bed in the morning, every day you sit on the couch wrapped in your blanket, is a day you choose to allow it to defeat you. And yes, it really is that easy. There will be days when it feels harder than you can handle, but it's a lie. You can do it. Don't listen to those idiots who tell you that you can't help it, that it's ok to sit and mope. Fuck them. Sitting and moping only makes it stronger. You're better than it and you're better than them. Just because they can't handle it, doesn't mean you have to be like them. It's not something you just hunker down and sit through until it's over... because if you do that, it will NEVER end. The only way to beat it, to stop hurting, is to get up and walk it off, get up and Be.

Believe me, I know.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

13

Despite being ignored, passed over, and generally discounted as a mother for several years now, I've thought long and hard about this day. You see, I've been cut out of my eldest two girls' lives in various ways for going on six years now, mostly due to the fact that we can barely afford to feed the youngest and ourselves, the gas money to get to the grocery store and back... much less a place to live, a place for them to live where they want to be. That is on its way to changing, but I'm sure that won't make much difference to minds that are made up. I am given no acknowledgement as their mother, whatsoever. I'm pretty sure very few people will read this, much less comment. After all, I'm just the "other" parent. They don't live with me, so I don't matter.

But I remember. I carried her, birthed her. She was two weeks late, and they had to induce labor. Emergency C-section after 14 hours of labor and anguish, blood and pain... and terror as her first cry was delayed almost a full minute. Weary pride. Fear, and love... two edges of the sharpest knife a mother will ever throw herself on. I raised her, not alone but lonely. I fought for what was best for her, and her sister... I lost, but I fought. I still fight. Very few can say the same.

Caroline turns 13 today. Her grandparents are taking her and the middle sister on a Disney cruise, and I hope it's the best time she's ever had. Her first day as a teenager, she's spending without me, without her Papa Dragon, and without her baby sister. We were not even invited to her birthday celebration.  This is a miserable, joyful day for me. It's agony. But I'm proud of her. She has blossomed and flourished in spite of those who would suppress her, In spite of being denied opportunities and support to grow and explore herself, she's found ways to be uniquely and beautifully herself. She is big-hearted, smart, creative, self-determined, struggling to overcome herself as she grows up, as she's going through changes. She is ridiculously clumsy, but she's got long, strong legs and a torso frame that shows promise of outright knockout proportions. She's a beautiful girl, who's going to be a gorgeous lady... an amazing wrapper for the wonder that she is as a person.

Artist. Writer. Reader. Photographer. Girl Scout. Sometime Tae Kwon Do practitioner. Singer. Violinist. Tomboy. Fangirl. Nerd of many colors. Budding gamer. Trekkie. Jedi-in-training. Whovian. Digidestined. Zoid Pilot. Dragon trainer. Philanthropist in the making. Budding chef & baker. Gardener. Backyard scientist. Adventurer. Big(est) sister. Wonderful daughter. Today you are celebrated, with flame and joy. Today you are lifted high. Today you pass from child to something more. Today is your birthday, and you are adored, supported, wanted, and loved.

With all our hearts
We are proud of you.
-Mama (and Papa) Dragon, and the Wyrmling.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

NaPoWriMo 2015 with Magaly Guerrero, Day 8: It Hurts, but It Doesn’t Harm

Today, Magaly says to: "weave a poem that explores the difference between hurt and harm."

For simplification's sake, she narrowed it down to the difference between physical pain and physical harm. I think I know exactly what she means...


Ouch
Leather loves the taste of sweat and skin
Whip thrills to the swift lash
Knife... well, everyone knows what Knife thirsts for.
Leather was the first; she knows the fleshlings best
She knows their play and she smiles
with an amusement bordering indulgence.
There was always joy in their noises
of mutual appreciation.
Whip came later, and got along with Leather pretty well
Knife was new, though... 
And Leather didn't know how to feel about that.
She wasn't particularly fond of the taste of blood.

"Ouch," said Knife, as something soft went past his edges.
Whip winced in sympathy; the fleshling's cries were far too loud.
Leather, restraining flesh bared for Whip and Knife, rolled her eyes.
Knife was new to the game; he didn't know what to expect.
Whip was a wimp, even though she liked to bite.
Leather knew the fleshling's cries well;
they were rather incoherent most of the time.
 The second fleshling, always unbound, always talked softly
but tonight something was wrong.
Tonight, his voice was loud.

Knife bit fleshling far too deeply, and Whip tasted the wound.
Fleshing cried out again, this time in terror.
The unbound one's eyes glittered
with an expression that Leather didn't like.
If Whip wasn't flying, she'd be covering her eyes.
Knife, again. Whip, again.
Until Leather gagged on blood
and choked on the stench of fear.
The unbound was snarling, rage and madness in its hands...
Until the only sound was the drip, drip, drip
of the blood's flow slowing
but Leather still couldn't see.

Leather felt hands; felt Knife and Whip bundled up next to her
They whispered in the dark to one another;
"What's happened?"
"I don't know!"
"Something bad," said Knife, and they all fell silent.
There was noise again, and then... dirt.
And then Leather could see, just a little.
Something orange and yellow flickered too brightly
And she knew fear.
Leather screamed as the heat began to touch her.
Whip wept and whimpered inconsolably
but neither understood
what Knife knew, all too well:
that there are some things
even Fire cannot burn away.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

NaPoWriMo with Magaly Guerrero, day 4: Feeling so Deeply it Hurts

(Yes, I skipped day 3. This is my attempt to catch up. I may yet go back to day 3. Yes, I am a time traveler. No, you may not hop a ride in my TARDIS.)

From Magaly: "On day 4 of NaPoWriMo with Magaly Guerrero 2015, I wish you to write a poem that shows how an emotion might increase physical pain, and vice versa."


Exile

Shake your head and turn away.
Close your ears to what I could not say.
Blind your eyes to what was right in front of you.
Blame me
Deride me
Pity me

Go on, it's only words
flung blindly from your hearts
oozing with ill-conceived emotions
and birthed from misbegotten loins.
Still, they slice like the knife
and burn like poison
and sear like fire.

I never lied, not once,
except to tell you I was just fine,
except when I told you
nothing was wrong.
Let's be honest now
you didn't want to hear it.
My truth
would have cut you deeper
than your words behind my back 
will ever scar my flesh
(and you should know, it will scar).

I embrace the torment
of your misunderstandings, 
flung like bullets through my unprotected Self.
I take it in and place it
alongside my own
so they won't be lonely.
I wrap myself around the pain
and keep going,
just as I've always done.
Because it's the only thing
I know how to do. 
Because it's the only thing
you've ever known how to let me do.

Until now.
I stand, I burn, I breathe
Take it in, transmute it, make it mine.
By Fire and Earth and Air
Transform woe into weal,
Forged, grounded, carried aloft.
By Sword, Stone, and Feather
I stand here as I am, to offer it up
-my own shed skin, rent asunder-
a sacrifice to show the world
(should it care to see)
that things would have been so much better
had only "I" become "we."

Friday, April 3, 2015

NaPoWriMo with Magaly Guerrero, day 3: Indulgences

From Magaly: "Craft a poem about spoiling your Self or the Self of another. Let decadence run wild."

To honor my Dragon.

Dragon's Hoard

Our hearts
flowing with love like rivers of gold
keep you close and and dear.
 
Our eyes, bright as gems,
sparkling in delight, excitement, joy
gaze upward to your face, well loved.

Our arms draped about your neck
like strings of pearls
to hold and be held.

Our minds as one
in knowing you;
with our lips we bless you
with words:
 
Guardian, Comfort, Friend
Teacher, Playmate, Protector
Father, Lover
We, your treasure hoard, name you
Ours.

Dragons' Treasure by Skye-Fyre on deviantART