Back On My Bullshit Again

When they caught him, when they took him from her, she thought it was because she was stupid, careless. She blamed herself for that, while she knew he rotted in Their grasp.

**
No.

No, back up.

**
It wasn’t always perfect; it couldn’t be. Sometimes, the nightmares came, and sometimes when she thought they were safe, she would catch sight of a missing pet poster–

HAVE YOU SEEN OUR LOYAL DOG PETEY
He’s NOT VERY BRIGHT
BUT WE LOVE HIM

–that set them running again.

**
No, further.

**

It was good, for a time. For a long time, even.

It was so good.

Every inch of him, every ounce, every fibre, she matched, she complemented.

Every day, music.

Every night, magic.

Every laugh, every song, every touch they shared.

She ran with him until she couldn’t, or until he couldn’t, and then she fought when he fell, or he fought, when she fell.

She offered salvation with her heart, her flesh, her mouth, and prayed for it from his.

They were together, and it made the world brighter, made everything deeper, sharper, more.

Sometimes when he thought they were safe, he would catch a shred of music, in a diner’s jukebox, or out the door of a club they were passing — a few notes that cold-cocked him, a line of music that told him it’s time. It’s time to run, Because They’re Coming.

But sometimes, it was Good. It was so, so Good.

Sometimes, it was even Beautiful.

Late nights of talking, and not-talking. Starscapes swirling overhead, and dancing together. Singing, together. The guitar he bought her, she begged him to play, and her kisses were always sweeter every time he pressed his fingers to its strings.

Cooking together. People-watching — and sometimes, people-saving. Helping. On occasion.

When it needed doing.

They had their time, and it was glory, and it was–as it had to be, by some disastrous law of the universe–

–all too fucking brief.

**

She blamed herself, but it wasn’t that she was careless; it was simply that after so long a hunt, they were bound to be unlucky. After such a long time of having both her, and him, in Their sights, They were going to pull the trigger. Of course, of course.

Of course.

**

It’s been so long since he’s seen her.

So long since he’s heard her voice.

They had years, together, fit as though they were one.

And then, alone — how long? Weeks? Months? Years?

Such a very long time while They tried to peel him open.

**

Stand in the circle.

“No.”

Stand in the circle.

The voice is in his head, somehow. Maybe it had to do with the collar at his throat. Had he seen them somewhere before? A collar that stopped him from using his power, until They turned it off, when They told him They wanted it. Until then, it kept him cold, unable to summon his constant weapon.

Stand in the circle.

“No.”

Stand in the circle.

“No.”

She’s alive.

Fuck you.”

Stand in the circle, and we won’t hurt her.

Would that get him to comply? Maybe. Maybe not.

Stand in the circle.

“No.”

He’s never had it confirmed, what they want, when they try to pull the fire out of him. He doesn’t know what the energy is for, only that They wait until he’s unconscious to bring food — everything left for him is simply left on the stone floor, as though it appeared out of nowhere. Stale bread, withered fruit, all of it strangely tasteless, and nothing that could be used as a weapon. Even when he kept any of it, They took it again, somehow, while he slept, while he wasn’t looking.

First, it was there.

Then, it wasn’t.

The six-inch trough that ran along one side of the room only brought him fresh drinking water, and drained away anything he put into it, on the other side. It was the only sound in this place, a quiet rushing babble.

Stand in the circle.

“No.”

Stand in the circle, or we destroy what you love.

He almost laughs. He feels it, inside, a heat, however brief. “You can’t.”

One day, shards of a guitar show up in the water trough that was the only source of sound in his stone prison. They flow by, along the runnel that seems to line one wall. They come in, on the right, and flow by, out the left. Wood chips and a broken string. A cat collar.

A blue hair ribbon.

His eyes follow that longer than anything else, from the moment it comes through on the right, and tumbles left in the water. Only after — long after — it’s gone can he even curse himself for having stared at it so hard.

Stand in the circle.

“Fuck you.”

It was cold and mostly dark in the room; the stone walls must have been thick by feet, tens of feet, hundreds of feet — there was no echo, no hollowness, just a dull thump when struck.

Stand in the circle.

“Ain’t happening, toerag.”

There were no doors, no windows, but a strange sort of ambient light coming from somewhere above.

Having explored every last inch of the place, he was intimately familiar with every last bit of rock, every lump, every curve, every imperfection.

He was alone, in the cold, for a very, very long time.

Alone with only his thoughts and that voice.

Nothing changed. Nothing new.

Nothing else.

Not even five o’clock shadow or new scars or holes in his clothes to mark the time.

Just alone, in the cold, in the mostly-dark, with his thoughts, for an uncountable amount of time.

**

And then the water stopped coming. The hole it spilled from simply ran out. The trough dried up to little more than a trickle. Something had blocked the hole.

Curiosity drove him to exploration, almost more than necessity. True, he was thirsty, but he didn’t imagine they would simply leave him to die that way.

He got down on his knees by the hole in the wall, and reached in a tentative hand.

When it disappeared into the stone, a wild laugh rose up inside him, and he had to bite his tongue to cut it off. “Fear’s the fuckin mind-killer, love,” he snorted, laughing, aloud, and pressed his cheek to the stone, breathing in sharply.

He knew he needed to be grounded; he could smell her. Sweat and roses.

And then his fingertips felt her cheek, soft and silken, and he froze, his eyes snapped wide, his spine cold, his whole body taut.

He pressed, just a touch, fingertips reaching — and then everything came loose, and he felt the water rush again, and when he pulled his hand back out, and he was holding a profusion of rose petals. The velvet of them was so deeply red, he could almost hear the ringing of it, a deep and droning bell.

When he crushed them to his palm with the pads of his fingers, his skin stained red.

That didn’t disappear.

**

The same day–or is it hours, months, decades later?–he will hear a sound like a drum. A beat, a pulsing.

He will hear it like a heartbeat, as he lays on the floor. The cave itself has a heartbeat, pulsing.

And then the wall behind the trough seems to shake, to tremble.

A crack comes up it, from the back edge of the trough, toward the ceiling, splitting into a giant V, the rock making grinding, groaning noises.

And then it falls away, tumbling outward, away from him, the dust glittering in the air, mica whorling in the pale light that spills in, fractals in the air.

She is there, then, a triumphant angel, the golden ringlets of her hair spun out in a soundless wind, her hands lifted to conduct her symphony of destruction, her starless eyes open wide, a look of determined concentration on features that seem as young as when they first met.

…and she’s singing.

Singing for him.

And she sounds like rose petals.

Her voice catches, when she catches sight of him, when she sees him, and her hand reaches out as she is already stepping forward over the stone, without thought or hesitation, to reach for him, a look of dazzling wonder and victory daring to light up her face.

Music’s always been a key.

“You.”

She’s unlocked so many doors — was this finally the right one?

“Hey –”

She stands there, on the threshhold of the doorway she made, looking so full of hope it’s painful, tears tracking down the rockdust on her pale cheeks. It takes a waltzing moment, one-two-three, while she steps down over the clattering rubble, massive boots skipping down over the ground, as if she were weightless.

Only a breath away.

Only an outstretched hand away.

She starts to reach her hand out, stops, pulls it back and looks at it for a moment, as if trying to read the bible in the scuff and stain of the gloves that cover her hands. She peels the soft, worn leather from her palm and reaches, palm up, fingers splayed.

“Are you with me?”

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About Catastrophe Jones

Wretched word-goblin with enough interests that they're not particularly awesome at any of them. Terrible self-esteem and yet prone to hilarious bouts of hubris. Full of the worst flavors of self-awareness. Owns far too many craft supplies. Will sing to you at the slightest provocation.
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6 Responses to Back On My Bullshit Again

  1. Trent Lewin says:

    If this is bullshit, keep it flowing Jones. This was a great read for a Sunday morning. Is this part of something else or is it by itself?

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