Water Cathedrals

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Wind off the ocean. The thrum of the engine. All of it goes in an instant, in a shudder, a death rattle. Eerie silence settles on everyone. Suffocating. “It’s a tomb,” I say, but nobody listens. No one understands. “It’s a corpse,” I say, “And we’re inside its belly, waiting to be devoured.”

They ignore me. A machine can be fixed, they say. A machine is not a body. It can be fixed, it can be fixed. A prayer. But I know the truth and I leave them to their church.

Another death rattle. The water turns darker, darker, an inky blackness spreading out as the clouds come in. A biting wind.

The first out of the water is the crab. Or maybe it is a crab made of other crabs, I don’t know. It’s too big to be just one. Click click, it says as it passes by to the tomb. Click click, I say back. There are screams and the sky turns a little bit redder. Didn’t I tell them to leave? We are in a corpse after all and crabs like corpses.

Fish are more vicious. They come after, in all shapes and sizes. Long teeth, sharp teeth, teeth meant to tear. There’s not so much screaming now. The silence must have suffocated them, the people who thought this ship could be fixed. Machines can die too. The Titanic did. And now we are here too, all bones. Well, they are bones, but I am not. I left. Before the crabs, before the fish.

“It’s a tomb,” I say, but there is no one left to listen to me. So I swim away.


The final version of this piece was featured in Chapman University’s Calliope: Art and Literary Magazine alongside several other great pieces. Check out other issues at chapmancalliope.wordpress.com

Petrichor

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petrichor (n.); a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather

We let the rain wash our sins from our hair and bring relief to sun-scorched tongues. Blackened grass bowed at our feet. Our hair whipped around our faces. The cold stung our cheeks.

You turned to me and said, “We are the queens of everything” and I laughed because it was true. Not for me, but for you, my queen of everything. I was just the humble servant girl in our little game. The one with big hopes and dreams who looked up to you and wondered if she would ever be so beautiful or wise. You caught me staring and smiled, just for a moment.

Then with eyes like gray storm clouds barely reined in, you looked up to the sky and you challenged Thor himself to a fight like only you could. He responded with claps of thunder, so loud I screamed and covered my ears. You had a smile on your face.

The rain ended. You held out your hand. I took it, feeling the rough pads of your fingers against my skin. We watched as the wind chased the clouds away and the sun came out, warming our soaked clothes. I remember thinking this was perfect. And I remember realizing how wrong I was months later when the storm clouds came back.

Wildflowers in the Rain

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Credit: xinature.com

The smell of rain on dry earth always made her think of her dreams. Not the ones you had where you wanted to be a firefighter or an astronaut. The kind that came for you in the middle of the night, betrayed you, tore you apart. Those were the dreams she feared would come when the rain set in. Dark storm clouds would dot the sky and she knew she had to get inside. Outside was where the dreams could get her.

She had brief glimpses of fields in the cracks between the clouds. Tall grass brushed against her, sending her into giggling fits as she tumbled toward… something. She never quite made it. The flowers would lose their color, the fields would fall away to a steep cliff and she’d find herself on her horse again. What was she running toward? Or was it running from? She shook her head and didn’t think of it, though the scent of wildflowers still filled her nostrils. It mixed with the dirt turned to mud and if she happened to stay outside for too long after that, she always found tears on her face that she didn’t remember crying. The rain disguised them, at least, but always left her confused. Had there been a farm and a field of flowers where she used to live?

That was the terrifying part. No matter how much she tried to convince herself, how much she pushed those thoughts away, they kept coming back. And what scared her the most was that she wasn’t sure if they were dreams at all.

Red Lantern Jesus

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Credit: Source Unknown

Trees with bulbous flowers in a face of stone, like Chinese paper lanterns. Red, translucent eyes in a blind jungle. Vines over the water, their whispers among each other. The birds in this humid forest, in the eyes and mouth of that great stone head, songs an echo in an empty space.

The march and march and march of boots through sludge, slick mud. And the sun, too bright, on a hundred dollar bill some sucker like me — a flash, glint, BOOM! A man-made earthquake in this jungle temple. A volley of fire. And I, on the ground, just pieces in front of the stone head of Jesus with red lantern flowers for eyes.


Inspired by “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien.

Beauty

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Credit: “Seven Hours” by Mira Nedyalkova

Belladonna is beautiful except when it taints your blood and makes you a monster in your own skin. And I am a monster. Every teardrop and tear in this fragile heart feeds the poison. Builds it. And it pulls everyone apart.

But me, I don’t want to be like this. I used to think I was a pacifist or an activist but this is neither. This is Eris, goddess of discord, throwing the golden apple. This is beautiful belladonna, poisonous to the touch and I, I don’t want this. But my blood burns and I watch the world burn with it because it’s just something to do.

The Mouse Ran Down

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Credit: Google (original source not found)

Hickory, dickory, dock. The hand on the clock, faster and faster towards its inevitable end. To the number thirteen. Thirteen? Well yes. A special clock, one with thirteen at the top instead of twelve because the Greeks may have liked even numbers, but only because they liked order. I, I am chaos. And they? They’re dead. Like the rest of them. Because even numbers kill, or so say the Chinese with their fear of four.

Thirteen always frightens people. Perhaps because it comes from me, from chaos, from darkness. Or perhaps because it always has an odd feeling about it. They avoid it, claiming the devil’s number. I don’t mind. They fear the devil, so by extent they fear me. But I, I came before the devil. I came before the Greeks created Zeus and Hades and Olympus. I came before all of it. With the darkness of the night, creeping in. Instilling fear. For what truly lurks in the dark at night? Only I can answer that.

But you know, don’t you? It’s chaos. Chaos lurks in the darkness. It is that which they fear when they look upon areas light cannot reach. My wretched brother created the light, believing that my darkness had too much power. But even in the day, there are places his light cannot reach. Places where creatures, my creatures, have never seen a ray of his invention – they could not imagine it if they tried, and they do not want to try. They feed off chaos and the darkness, growing stronger in perpetual night.

Some say darkness is only an absence of light, that it does not truly exist, but this is wrong. Can a creature feed off something which is not real? Can a mere fiction hold power like that? Who would dare suggest that I am only the absence of my brother? Though, in some senses, each of us is everything the other is not. But I digress.

My eyes lazily drift back up to that clock. The hand is so close to thirteen. I love the beauty of it, the way the digits twist. It’s deliciously unsettling. I get lost in thought so often… But such is symptom of knowing too much. Knowing what happens when the hand reaches thirteen… I stifle a chuckle. All in due time.

It can get sort of lonely when you are everywhere and nowhere all at once. Knowing everyone and everything but not having them truly grasp what you truly are. They call to me, pray to me. Fear me. But they do not know me well. Some call me sin and some call me savior, but what a human thing it is to divide the world. I am. That is enough for your fear and devotion, your indifference and your spite. I will exist whether you embrace me or reject me. And you, oh you, my dear– You will perish and join me no matter the hours and days and years spent reaching for the light.

Love? Oh, I know not nor care for love. Your prayers and pleading are met only with interest and never with emotion. Or with every emotion. There is no swaying what is eternal, no story that will turn me or persuade me. When the clock strikes thirteen you are over and you rest in me, and I–

I think that good.


Based on the prompt: Take the first line(s) of a nursery rhyme and turn them into the beginning of a dark narrative.

Siren’s Song, Pt. 2

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Credit: Tim Walker

She danced along the treetops of the kelp forest. Her words were a song of long lost lovers and sinking ships. But now, caught in the net of a fisherman’s boat, her voice choked on water. She struggled. Clawed and bit.

Snap! A searing pain, but the rope gave way and she, she sank with it. Her torn fin, bloody, useless. The net and down, down, down into the darkness. The weight on her chest. Water bubbles, bubbled, burst out of her and the night came.

Still trapped against the rocks, she gazed upwards. Her sad song from the depths of the ocean came and tore their hearts asunder. And then, then there was only silence.

Memories

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Credit: Google Search (No source listed)

Elijah held the pocketwatch, its weight settling in his heart. There was a time when his father had worn it, a sepia-toned photograph in a cracked wooden frame, the watch tucked proudly in his pocket. Now there was just the photograph. He, at age 12, mother standing just behind him. His sister and his father still alive, smiling.

The dim light reflected off the dusty glass. A train horn sounded nearby, shaking building as it passed by.

There’d been a time when strong hands guided him in the tricks of the family trade. He had been stubborn. Architecture was his passion. He wanted to see New York. Skyscrapers soared in his mind’s eye, filling him with wonder.

Now all he saw was dust and smoke. Ash and charred bones.

“I told you, family business more stable,” his father said in broken English.

“But I don’t want to work in the family business. I want to try something different! Build skyscrapers with my name on it!”

His father scoffed. “Rich people get name on skyscraper. Not you.”

“But people will know I designed it!” He shot back. “And I’ll be hired by even richer people to design even taller skyscrapers.”

“Ludicrous business.” His father shook his head and crossed his arms. “You will work for family. End of discussion.” His fist slammed down on the table with ‘discussion.’

Elijah glared at his father. “You never listen to me. You’re an old man too set in his ways.”

He was glad those hadn’t been his last words. No, his last words to his father were “I’m sorry,” oddly enough. While he hadn’t given up on the idea of becoming an architect, he’d settled for a compromise. Work a few years in the family business, save enough money, and then buy himself a one way ticket to America.

Time changed his plans overnight. Elijah placed the watch back in the box with a sigh and switched off the light.”I’m sorry, papa,” he whispered into the darkness.”I tried.”


Based on the prompt: What memories does your character/s have about the people who raised them? How did this relationship, or lack thereof, shape their personality and beliefs?

Monster

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Credit: Peter709 (DeviantArt)

Like a monster in the shadows, war followed him wherever he went. In the people who walked past him on the street, in the sounds he heard. Cannonfire and gunshots. Blood in his mouth and dirt settling in his lungs. He was constantly drowning in nightmares only to realize he was awake only to realize he was dreaming again. War had a way of blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction, even when it was over.

He did his best. He went to therapy when he could, talked to people, made sure not to close himself off too much. Some days, the weight of the world crushed him and he couldn’t have moved if he’d tried. Other days, it was easier. But no matter what he did, war found its way back in. It clawed at his insides and poisoned his heart.

His enemies came to taunt him. They tore him apart, made him pay for what he’d done. They held him there in the darkness until guilt and fear, hopelessness and despair claimed what was left and then they dragged him across the rocks, left out to die. He was Prometheus and they were the eagle tearing out his liver every night.

The war might have ended around him, but it’d found a new home in his mind.

Blood and Bruises

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Credit: Natalia Drepina

The darkest bruises hurt the least, which is ironic. Even when I dig my fingers into them, they don’t hurt. The cuts hurt more. Thick blood

drips

down

the wall

behind my bed

I stow the razor in my dresser drawer. He hurts me, so I hurt myself.

Bruises don’t look pretty, but he says I’m ugly, so it doesn’t matter. My skin is dark-spotted like a leopard’s but I can’t run away to the wild. Wilder than people who smear blood on their faces for

protection

but I can’t protect myself

from him.

These bruises spread across my skin like ink.

I use it to etch my story on my soul, knives

c   a   r   v   i   n   g

i    n    t    o

s     k     i    n

A heart ❤ Three lines | | | One for me, one for him, and one for us. There is love, there is bruised skin, open veins. Screaming. He only hits me harder when he sees the scars.


Based on the prompt, “Write the colors purple and red without mentioning them once.” I also wrote this with my friend, Maya. You can find her at mrahmanrios.wordpress.com.