Shattered Reflection

I am in that between place, beside the sea, on the border of worlds.  A storm brews above.  An elegant skyscraper, all black polished sides like a stone, juts up before me.  Rain slicks the surface of the window pane that I stare into.  I touch the caustic surface, feeling the slight acid tingle of sulfur carried in the poisoned clouds.  My face is reflected back at me- eyes like slices of sky, hair the bronze of an old candelabra.  My face blazes with curiosity and wonder at this dangerously beautiful dreamscape.  I know that I am waiting for someone.

Suddenly, my reflection shifts.  It changes to a skull, stripped of skin, with gleaming lights in the eye sockets.  I take a step back in horror, only to hear quiet laughter as I back into someone.  A bony hand at my shoulder- I turn, and he is there, decked in the inky black robes of Death, an imposing skeleton with a perpetual smile.  My reflection returns, and it is two faces that glance back at me- one me, the other my shadow.  My face had fused with the Reaper, or perhaps it had been a trick of the light.  No matter now.  My image has returned.

Perhaps the surface before me is a literal window to the soul.  His reflection shifts like Tam Lin when Janet breaks his curse: one, a horribly beautiful seraph, another, a devil with majestic horns, the last, the Angel of Death.  His form ripples like circles in water, finally settling on a human guise.  Onyx hair, eyes like crystal, and skin the alabaster of secret things.

“Nice trick,” I say as he sits on a bench in the shadow of the skyscraper.  I stand opposite him, hands on my hips.  He smirks.

“It is no trick, little one, but truths I show you,” he says, voice like the bells of Notre Dame.  “I am a part of you, as you are like a cutting from me, planted in a different world to grow and flourish under another sun.  Underneath your skin, we are not so different.”  His smile becomes almost sad.  ”You will face the same challenges as me, girl.  Fighting back your destructive impulses, walking like a haunted soul through your life.  We both have ghosts, you and I.  A train of spirits follows in our wake.”

“That doesn’t sound comforting,” I say, and shiver.

“And yet you must make peace with it,” he advises.  ”I will be here for you.  Remember that.  Even in the depths of your madness.”

Lightning cracks like a whip.  The downpour intensifies.  There is hell inside my head.  Voices and bruises on my brain.  I crave peace but know it is impossible.

“But I can’t live like this, Samael!” I say, voice raw.  ”What if I hurt someone?  What if I hurt myself?  How do you live with yourself?  How do you conquer madness?”

“As anyone combats an illness.  You take it day by day.” His blue eyes bore into my skull.  “Battle by battle, you fight.  I’m not saying it will be easy- no, it is anything but.  You must endure.”

I sit beside him, head in my hands.  ”I hate this,” I sigh  “I feel like a monster.  I’m repulsed by myself.” 

Tears sting my eyes.  He takes my hands in his.  Our reflections meld in the window pane once more.  Death and the maiden.  Two sides of the same coin.  I wonder if I am made in his image, fettered on account of insanity.  All the things that limit him are like chains binding me.  I know, if we were set free, that we would consume the world, and all the fruits life has to offer, savoring each discovery like the finest of mulled wine.  It would be a beautiful horror, gutting the sky of its stars.  Letting go and releasing everything.

“We are all monsters, in our own way, girl.  But each of us is also an angel.  The best of us dare to dream that we can be more than our demons.”  He pauses, looking out upon the sea.  Waves crash tenderly onto the shore.  “I have the utmost respect for outcasts, those society labels insane.  They are brave, brave to face nightmares each morning.  I honor those who swim against the current, trying to mount waterfalls.  The vagabonds, the exiles, the refugees- the different.  I raise my glass to them.  They have a peculiar strength.  His gaze returns to me.  “Just because you are not the norm does not mean that you are broken.”

“But I feel broken,” I explain. ”Like a vital part of my humanity is missing.  Like a puzzle lacking the most important pieces.”

“Then you must learn to feel whole.”

“How do I do that?”

“Seek completion in those you love, in the things that set you on fire with passion.  Live honestly, live truly, and cultivate inner peace.  Life at the bone is the sweetest.  Suck the marrow out of life.”  He releases my hands, putting an arm round my shoulder.  I sink into him, so tired of the war in my head.

“I try to be fulfilled.  But even in sleep I’m not safe,” I say, shuddering.

“No one is ever safe.  Not from themselves,” he says sadly.  “I wish I could tell you my protection will fix all your problems- but it won’t.  There is no miracle cure for suffering- not even the gods have that power.  But please, remember this: I will be there for you.  I will always do what I can.”

“Thank you,” I whisper.  “But my brain is diseased.  Sometimes I wonder if you’re my own inner demon given life.  My sickness personified“I laugh bitterly.  “That you’re a delusion.  I’m an idiot, aren’t I?  I’ve taken the devil on my shoulder and made him my friend.”

“No, you’re not an idiot.  Foolish, sometimes, but not a fool.”  He holds me tighter.  ”And so what if I am your imagining?  Would that change things?” he challenges.

“It would prove how sick I am.”  I choke back tears.  “I want to believe in angels with such desperation, Sam.  In beauty and deities and a loving God.  But I have such a deep-seated fear that all of this is just the pathetic wanting of a lonely girl.  One who still hides under the covers from the terrors of the night.”  I hide my face from him.  “Isn’t that what religion is?” I murmur.  “An opiate to allay our fears?  I mean, who could really believe that a dead man rose from the grave after three days, or that souls reincarnate, or that anything awaits us after death beyond the cold, hard ground?  They’re all child fantasies, and the critic in me doesn’t buy them.  And even if they are true, I’m supposedly fraternizing with evil incarnate.

He has shifted into the Grim Reaper, perhaps to hide tears.  If my words have hurt him, it doesn’t show, not on his bleached face.  “Is that really what you think of me?” he asks quietly.

“No!  Yes?  I don’t know.  You can be cruel.  Of course you can be cruel.  But so can I.  And, I think, God must be cruel- to have invented something like madness.  To rape minds with insanity.”  I shake my head in dismay.

“I was made in my Father’s image.  Remember that, little one,” he reminds me.  “We are all the dust of stars.”

“But stars’ hearts are black holes,” I point out.  “Like you.  They seek to devour everything.”

He laughs, a deep, echoing noise that comes from the depths of his rib cage.  ”We are all born hungry and starving.  Those that burn brightest cast the deepest shadow.”

I contemplate that, watching the pitter-patter of raindrops between my feet.  “So you’re saying the most intense people have the most problems?” 

He shrugs.  “Interpret it as you will.  And even if I am a thorn in your side, at least you’re not alone.”

“You mean you won’t leave me, even if things get really hellish?”I ask, shy.

“You will see me reflected through the ages, within you, and without.  I wear many masks- that of an angel and demon, fleshed and bare bones.  Some will terrify you, others will move you to write poetry.  Sometimes, you will not recognize me.”  His forms shift as his words gloss over his aspects, until they settle on the Reaper once more.  “Only remember that it is me, behind every face reflected in the rain.

“Each raindrop is like a mirror, isn’t it?” I wonder.  “Like a facet of you.”

“Or shards of you,” he counters.  “Perhaps this storm is your heart.”  He reaches out a hand to touch the rain, letting it fall in rivulets through his finger bones.

“Maybe so…”  I drift off into silent ruminations.  The storm is like an elegy.  There is a curse, between us, and I am neck-deep in the serpent’s coils.  My lips drift over old parchment and ink detailing heavenly wars.  I taste the sweat of gods; the ichor of angels runs thick on my tongue.  It is all a breakneck dance, a tango with Death-

Roses twine round us as we turn to stone.

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Azer-bae-jian

In which my brother discovers Azerbaijan has the biggest KFC in the world.

Sueños de Viajes

Salam!  Menim adim Willdir. Ikki piva verin.

And that’s about all the Azerbaijani I know. Translation: Hi!  My name is Will.  Bring me two beers.  So far I’ve survived two months in Azerbaijan and traveled to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia, as well as multiple places in Azerbaijan.  Unfortunately I’ve done that without updating this blog- which is a record even for me.  I’ve realized that although I often want to update it every day, often I simply forget to with all of the other stuff that’s going on- interning in an Embassy does not make for a healthy work-life balance.  Butttt, besides that, I’ve had a blast.  Seriously, anyone who doesn’t want to go to the Cacuas region or Central Asia is missing out.  Although I have found a depressing few hedgehogs and Pokemon go doesn’t appear to function well in Baku, I’ve loved all the travel I’ve been able…

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Zophael: Chapter 1

I remember when we were born.  Most angels don’t, so maybe my screw’s a bit loose.  

It wasn’t much: Father dipped his hand into the cosmos and scooped out me and Zadkiel, two cherubim more cherubic for our chubby cheeks and pudgy putti bodies than the flaming wheels and four headed messengers humans are familiar with.

I like to think I was a cute baby, but I probably wasn’t.  Something was always off about me – a glint in the eye, tousled hair, bruised knees.  Zadkiel was the charmer: blonde wonderboy I liked to call him.  Secretly I fawned over him: we were twins, but he always seemed older, wiser, knowing the ways of women, wine, and song.  

Michael, our older brother and basically a glorified babysitter, let Zadkiel do what he wanted – make explicit shapes out of the clouds, piss halos in the snow when it came to the Heavenly Palace, boy stuff.  

Because I was the girl, Michael was a hardass.  Overprotective as the briers covering Sleeping Beauty’s palace and extra hard on my training because I didn’t have the same build as the male angels – where they were hard and sturdy, I was curved and wild, like some kind of cat you find dead at the end of the road, minus the dead part.  The only time Michael was soft was when we were in the prayer gardens and he was with his beloved roses.  Secrets of the heart, he told me, only blooming when humans cried out to Father with such earnestness all the choirs couldn’t sleep.  

We hear all your prayers, every one.  Makes napping a pain in the ass.

Because we were supposed to be his generals, Father let Michael choose our names.  Michael is abysmal at naming things.  Exhibit A: Zadkiel, the righteousness of god.  Sounds like a crappy Christian metal band.  All our names kind of suck.  At least he can be Zad for short.  

Mine’s the worst though.  I don’t know what Michael has for Z’s.  Zophael.  From tsaphah.  Spy, or watcher, of god.   That’s right, Michael wanted me to be Father’s spymaster.  Milton didn’t call me “of cherubim swiftest wing” for nothing.

What Michael didn’t understand is that, in naming us, the names had power, power that sometimes undermined our purpose.  Michael was still a kid that liked celestial explosions, after all.

Righteousness could make Zad a righteous asshole.  As for me, because my eyes see everything, and I mean everything, I am easily distracted by bright shiny objects like pearls and armor on attractive men and the latest jewelry at Tiffany’s.  I timehop sometimes and scour NYC for baubles.  I especially like bells, and I wear them on my dresses, mostly to annoy Mikey.  Zad thinks it’s all great fun.

So yeah, I remember my birth.  I remember being spoonfed manna and shitting ether and getting sick off the time Samael and Bael – now Beelzebub, the twat – dunked me in the Abyss.  Those idiots always did that.  Thank god Father kicked them out.  They’re good for a drink or whatever, but being the angels of rot, death, and insects really does ruin dinner in the Heavenly Throneroom.  Bael and Michael always fought when Michael sprayed his precious, precious prayer gardens with pesticide, anyways.  Thank god I’m not the angel of, of all things, flies.

Time moves differently when you’re an angel, circular, as your beloved physicists say.  We know the beginning, sort of know the end, and bullshit the in-between.  I’ve been bullshitting most of my life.  That’s what the whole spy business is.  I’m kind of Heaven’s double agent.  Herald of hell and all that.  I mean, I’m a guy’s girl, I got along with the heavenly fratboys like Asmodel – now Asmodeus, dumbest name change ever – and I even got close to Samael.  Close enough I convinced them I was on their side during the whole Heavenly War fiasco and gathered intel to report back to dear old Mikey.  

In the end, I got burned by both sides, broke promises I never intended to make in the first place, and lost one of my nine lives.  Dead cat by the side of the road, remember?  I am many things, none of which is cautious.  

Now back to when I was a baby.  The nitty-gritty details of growing pains, first loves, and of course, Michael’s awful, cruel and unusual punishment lessons.  Father.  Glorious, wily Father, adamant Father, Father I have not seen since the end of the War.  

Father I hope to never see again.

Father who left because I told him a terrible secret.

Folk Horror Revival: Corpse Roads — Folk Horror Revival

Welcome to the Corpse Roads … An epic collection of spellbinding poetry, focusing on folk horror, life, death and the eeriness of the landscape by many creative talents both living and departed. Accompanied throughout with atmospheric imagery by an impressive collection of contemporary photographers. 100% of sales profits from this book are charitably donated to […]

via Folk Horror Revival: Corpse Roads — Folk Horror Revival

The first poetry anthology I’ve been published in is now available for sale!  All proceeds go to the Wildlife Trust.  It is aptly titled “Corpse Roads.”  I didn’t expect anything else, tbh.