Powerful Freaks

We are powerful freaks;
some winged, others gilled…
all a universe of promising chaos.

I started seeing through dark-mooned skies,
my smile sharpened,
I took to weaving my fate.

When the first pet went missing,
friends and strangers whispered,
“She has all those legs now,
all those eyes;
that stomach is too large,
too monstrous
to be filled with just guts.”

While I was still naïve
enough to kiss hope in the mouth,
expecting it would kiss back,
I whispered explanations:
“My opisthosoma cradles my heart.”

But the Stones that made some of us Mythical
didn’t only expose our inner essence;
it also showed us powerful (perhaps too powerful)
in the eyes of men too scared
to see that our new shells housed the same old Selves.

Mistakenly,
they called me nasty bug,
recoiled (then trembled) when I was near;
some tried to crush me like an insect.
So many mistakes were made.

I considered smirking sharply into their flesh,
filling their veins with venomous rage,
liquefying self-inflicted blindness into convenient food;
but I was a vegetarian…
in those nearly forgotten days.

.
Process Note: I was rereading my “Belle du Freak” poem, in order to write the short piece I was supposed to post today (but didn’t; since I just published “Large, Powerful, Wild”, and two consecutive short stories felt like a bit much). Revisiting the poem left me wondering about the spider woman’s background; thinking, why did she have to hide in a terrible circus? “Powerful Freaks” seems to be part of the answer.

Opisthosoma is the posterior part of arachnids’ bodies, often called abdomen; but different from it, since it also contains the respiratory organs and the heart (Wikipedia).

written for May Monster Madness ← follow the link to visit other deliciously mad participants; and do visit the madness instigators: Little Gothic Horrors, Annie Walls, and Something Wicked this Way Comes…

linked to Poets United, Poetry Pantry 254

Spider Web Desktop Background
Spider Web Desktop Background

via

Large, Powerful, Wild

When the archer sprouted through the concrete floor, Fine Arts Macabre rippled. The force that was making the building pulsate had also added a silvery glow to the archer’s skin and eyes. Her metallic lips moved without producing audible words.

“What do you think she’s chanting, Miss Flynn?”

Laila had been reduced to a transparent sphere of energy that shimmered a few feet above the floor, encircling DeeAnn’s body. Her awareness shared headspace with DeeAnn’s consciousness. Because of it, Laila could speak through her apprentice’s lips. But she chose to answer in the girl’s mind, hoping DeeAnn would follow the example. “I don’t know what she’s doing.”

“I wish she would stop looking at me like that and mumbling,” DeeAnn said.

Through DeeAnn’s eyes, Laila tried looking towards the door—her view was blocked by the archer. Laila had used the last of her energy to separate her mind from her maimed body. It had been the only way to keep DeeAnn from irreversible harm. “Don’t let her see your fear.”

“I’m sorry, Miss Flynn. It’s just… Well, that woman’s eyeballs feel like hot fingers in my head. It’s hard to concentrate on anything else.”

DeeAnn’s choice of words made Laila pay closer attention to the archer’s movements. She, too, had believed that the archer was looking at DeeAnn. By the time she realized what was actually going on, the archer had pulled two of the three arrows that impaled Laila’s limp body to Fine Arts Macabre’s front door, and had shot an energy jolt that yanked Laila’s mind out of balance.

The channeling spell the archer had been chanting slammed Laila’s essence back into her dying body, giving her no time to tell DeeAnn what was happening.

Laila couldn’t speak. She tried, but her words turned to gurgles. The archer had removed the last arrow leaving a hole in her throat. There was no pain, but the blood loss was stealing her senses.

As consciousness left her, Laila saw the archer’s twisted features illuminated by the flaming hand she waved in front of her face.

DeeAnn’s fading voice yelled threats and obscenities.

“Quiet!” the archer shouted.

DeeAnn’s yells ended.

Laila tried opening her mouth to curse the archer. But her brain couldn’t find her lips. And her magic ignored the call of her will.

.
Amparo stood on the sidewalk leaning on her walking stick, her back to the entrance of Fine Arts Macabre. She disliked the sudden silence that oozed out of the building, but not nearly as much as she hated the smirk spreading over Blanche’s face. When a member of the Traditional Guild of Tales looked that joyous, it was almost certain that one of Amparo’s friends would suffer a great deal; or would lose the ability to ever suffer again, she thought. “Don’t look so happy, Blanche. If something has happened to the Curator or her apprentice, I could think you were involved.”

“Don’t be stupid, Keeper. I have no love for the Flynn woman, but I would never risk my position as Curator just to scratch an inconsequential itch. The Guild sent me and a Scout to check this place, after it showed as the center of an energy fluctuation. The voice you heard inside belongs to—”

She was too upset to allow Blanche to finish the sentence. “No one other than Laila can survive Fine Arts Macabre’s crisis wards. Not even me.” Amparo kept her tone leveled, but in her mind she screamed until Blanche’s face melted into a sad bloody puddle at her feet.

Blanche leaned forward until she was only a foot away from Amparo, and whispered, “What happens to the wards when the Curator is no longer breathing, Keeper?”

Amparo heard the door open behind her. She didn’t want to turn around, not while Blanche grinned like a pretty carnivorous flower that ate every one of the family’s kittens. But she forced herself to glance over her shoulder. The sight was much grimmer than she had expected: it looked as if the flower had butchered all the children before eating their four-legged playmates.

A tall blonde woman wearing black cargo pants, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and combat boots—the preferred attire of the Scouts of the Traditionalist Guild of Tales—stood in the threshold. Her hands were wet with blood.

Amparo squeezed her walking stick, and turned to face Blanche. “You are not the only choice left for Curator.” She was in so much pain. Her foot throbbed. Her calf was thicker than her thigh. Perhaps it’s been too long. Neutrality can’t last forever.

“I’m the only one here now,” Blanche said. “And I’m the only one left who isn’t a criminal on the run. The building will choose me.”

“Not while I am still Keeper,” Amparo said in a soft voice, as she jammed the iron tip of her walking stick into her inflamed calf. Pain, and a gargoyle the size of a cat, burst out of her skin.

“Stop him!” Amparo heard the Scout yell, right before Laila and DeeAnn ran out of the building.

But the warning had arrived too late. Amparo’s symbiont had already exposed the back of Blanche’s throat.

.
“The Blanche woman vanished before hitting the ground,” DeeAnn said, again and again, as if everyone hadn’t seen it happen. “Where do you think her body went, FAM? Did you eat her?”

“My reach doesn’t go beyond the walls of this building,” FAM said. “The Blanche lookalike disappeared because she was made of energy that doesn’t belong in this Realm. The essence went home.”

“How were you able to eat Aurora then?” DeeAnn raised an eyebrow. “And why didn’t the archer’s body go poof after you healed Miss Flynn? She was made of weird too, wasn’t she?”

“I haven’t eaten anyone. Aurora and the archer were never alive. They were energy shaped into bodies, controlled by Riders. When Aurora collapsed inside the building, I repurposed the energy that gave her form. I used the power to push out the mind that rode the archer, and morphed the energy left behind into something this Realm could understand.”

“You ate Aurora.” DeeAnn crossed her arms. “Just admit it.”

FAM exhaled her irritation and left the room, through a wall.

Laila stood near the door to her office. She hadn’t spoken since walking back into the building. She kept quiet when DeeAnn argued that, “Fine Arts Macabre is just too long of a name to call anyone. And ‘Fine’ is just too presumptuous. And we can’t just go around calling a building and its Sentinel by the same name. FAM just makes sense.” Just, just, just… the words echoed in Laila’s head. She stared at Amparo, and at the small stone creature pacing at her friend’s feet.

“Does it have a name?” Laila addressed the question to no one in particular, but the edge in her voice pointed at Amparo.

“His latest name is Dexter. From the TV show,” Amparo said. “He saw an ad on the side of a bus.” When Laila said nothing, she added, “He gets bored watching over the building night after night. So he renames himself, binge-watches TV, and reads when—

“He spies on me?”

“No, Laila, he doesn’t spy on you.” Amparo took a step towards her, but stopped when Laila shook her head. “He watches the building. I am Keeper. Dexter is Watcher. Our work is not—”

“Why didn’t you tell me? How can we be friends if I don’t know you?”

“I am your friend and you know me. I am also the Keeper of Tales. The latter has always been neutral.” Amparo was crying, but her voice didn’t shake. “I thought that if I told you about Dexter, then the essence of the Fine Arts Macabre’s Sentinel would have compelled me to share the same information with the Traditional Guild. They can’t be trusted. You’ve been Curator long enough to know that.” Amparo pointed at FAM. “After she went silent, I had no guidance. I didn’t know a way to keep our friendship completely honest without losing Dexter.”

“Why would he leave you for being truthful?”

“The Watcher’s allegiance is to the things guarded by this place,” FAM said, reentering the room through a different wall. “A new Keeper is appointed by the Sentinel, if there is evidence of trouble, Laila Flynn. But the Watcher has been around since the first Crafter left her original tale, and was read into a new Story Realm. Dexter can’t choose his host.”

The gargoyle curled up around Amparo’s leg, and bared his teeth at FAM. Laila started to like the little beast for that.

“And you?” Laila said.

FAM watched her for some time, and then said, “The essence animating this body belongs to the first Curator. She… I… chose to merge with the building when the energy needed to catalogue and shield powerful items, which had been separated from their wielders, became too unstable to be moved from place to place safely.”

“You gave up your life to keep strangers from getting hurt.”

“I’m not that selfless, Laila Flynn.” FAM grinned. “I didn’t give my life, for the change didn’t kill me. I exchanged my freedom for the protection of something that means everything to me.”

“What’s worth so…?” Laila’s words trailed off when the building began to shake.

FAM’s eyes silvered out of focus. “Something’s trying to get through my wards.”

“Trads?” Laila said.

FAM shook her head. “I don’t recognize the entity’s essence. But it’s large, powerful, wild.” She turned to look at Amparo, before saying, “And it’s coming from Pre-Chaos, New York.”

.
***
This is the conclusion of the Laila Flynn web serial. To read the tale from the beginning, visit my Stories page and scroll down until you reach the Laila Flynn heading. A novella, which will include the polished web serial plus the events taking place right after, will be published this October. This is a tendril of a much bigger world…

Tendril Tree, by OnirimTendril Tree, by Onirim
via

Cackling While I Was Naked

My eyeball is healing. But we’ll be on a few medications, rocking glasses only, and seeing the ophthalmologist a lot for the next few weeks… just to make sure things continue to improve. I noticed the infection early, so there has been none of the agony or blurriness I had to live with the last time my cornea went holey. Alas, no sexy eye-patched pirate this time around.

The last few days were for listening to audiobooks, resting, walking, taking care of logistics, and for running s l o w l y (I did other things too, but they involved cackling while I was naked, and this isn’t that kind of post). My legs and lungs are regaining their strength quicker than I expected. I’ve been good to me—taking a lot of breaks while exercising, even when the pauses weren’t prompted by fatigue; and I’ve been sleeping. I’m following a hybrid version of my former Daily Thirteen, Jeff Galloway’s 5K Training, and guidance from my physical therapist/trainer. I was about to start Week 3 of 15, when my eyeball got its dot… so I’ve decided to start over from week one… on Monday, I think… No rush, right?

I want to thank every Wicked Darling who sent me get better soon wishes and hysterical jokes—you rocketh very mucho and your sense of humor is freaking delicious! My inbox is about to explode, so please don’t think that I’m ignoring you if it takes a bit before I reply.

To those of you who emailed me to ask different versions of: “How did you beat chronic pain?” (perhaps inspired by the fact that I’m running again). Well, I haven’t “beaten” pain. I doubt anyone can do that. I work with mine. Running hurts; doing calisthenics hurts; walking downhill hurts; holding a book in front of me hurts; sitting down, other than on my bed, hurts a lot… But if I keep my arms very close to my body while I run, the pain doesn’t make me lose my balance; if I modify my position when doing crunches, my back gives me a slight break; if I walk downhill sideways, with my strong side turned forward, my nerve pain doesn’t steal my breath… Small consistent compromises work for me most of the time.

Chronic pain is a rather personal thing, methinks. Many of us share the physical throbbing, the emotional burden, and often the rage. But the ways in which our bodies function and fight are different. There is no beating this, at least not for me. Most of my chronic pain comes from physical trauma, so I suspect that things will get trickier as time does its thing. I also know that I’ll come up with new tactics in order to help my mind and body dance with the trickster. This is the only advice I can give: Listen to your body; never allow pride (or misplaced badassness) fool you into believing that you know more than what your body tells you it feels… Then glare a lot and bare your teeth. I do it all the time.

On the writing front, the conclusion of the Laila Flynn web serial shall be published on Friday. It’s already scheduled—no spotty body part can postpone the mayhem. I’m almost done with the first draft of a Lum and Darlene novella, for the second book in the Blooming Howls Series). Oh, and I’ve been having some serious research fun while I learn about the haibun, haiku and senryu Japanese forms of short poetry.

That’s all, my Luvs. I showed you mine. Would you like to show me yours? If you aren’t too shy, that is *cough, cough, cough*. Seriously though, what kind of trouble did you get into while I was gone?

P.S. Feel free to roar at Fate’s obliteration of my recently-born schedule; I did… Then I grabbed a pencil and notepad and drafted another… What if Fate feels the need to murder my latest effort? Well, I have writing supplies galore… plus endless stubbornness to boot.

P.P.S. I shall lurk around your cyber homes tonight… Muahahaha!

TenacityNature’s tenacity, as portrayed by this tree, had me grinning like a lunatic, for at least a quarter of a mile… 🙂