Witches of the Wood

And first there was Florence, with her wild howls and hair like fire. With her boy building coffins and her sad siren songs, carried in the arms of the ocean to the banks of stone. She danced in gowns of green and raised her frail hands to the sky, summoning rain. Her love was cosmic, and she danced with devils. She was their leader.

And then there was Aurora, who would run with the wolf cubs and lie in the snow, who’d touch moths with her fingertip and sleep on the moon. She danced liked an animal, fingers clutching and toes pointed, kissing strangers and staying mute. But when she did sing, it was like the wind, high and haunting. She was their conqueror.

And then there was Phillipa, with her dark hair and dark eyes and dark words. Who would seduce the wolf at her door and condemn the adulterer. She was the disappearance of the girl, the black of the moonsea, the toll of the funeral bell. She was their dragonfly keeper.

Nanna was a peach, soured.

Soley was a fairy, devoured.

Each had their charm and biting wit, but each could be deadly—one dripping sin, the other melancholy. One killing darlings, the other clowns. Their faces were bare, but their eyes were clear. They were their moon and sinking sun.

Claire Elise was not a witch, but a sprite, an elfling. She’d often hang around to jest and jeer, but only in good fun. She’d cavort as an angel with white-feathered wings, spitting blood and staining stones like they, in their grime, were her own. She was not one of them, but she appreciated power. She was their butterfly.

Byrne was a human, but seemingly immortal. All long limbs and pale skin. All lonesome tones and lusty eyes. Brown-bearded and bold, in a billowing shirt, he would join them in their songs with his hand-carved guitar, planting his feet in the mossy ground. His lips were stained with cherry wine. They were his church. He was their worshiper.

These were the creatures of the wood, the demigod dignitaries who made music in the night. They held stars in their mouths and kept potions in jars and sang to saplings to help them grow. They stamped and stepped and twirled and teased, their souls in the air and their voices in the trees. Their hearts were rebels and their words were untamed. Each had a vision, each unashamed. And on some dewy mornings, as they slept in soft light, the wolves would lay with them, warming them ’till night.

© 2019 Obliquity of the Ecliptic

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The Humanity of an Angel

It began in a neighborhood, quiet and commonplace, with a girl of similar qualities. Everyone knew her as “Audrey”, but her name was Celeste, and she was an angel; she just didn’t know it yet. Seventeen at the time, she was on the cusp of full-fledged womanhood, yet her face still bore all the innocence and naivety of adolescence. She was like a lily of the field, easily martyred for others.

She’d had a sheltered upbringing, her parents meaning well but ultimately suffocating her with an overbearing love that left no room to grow—to explore the world around her. They meant to protect her from evil and sin, never thinking she could be a light strong enough to overcome it. They always called her their little angel, a term of endearment stemming from how sweetly and obediently she followed orders, their dutiful daughter so kind to everyone she met.

She didn’t have many friends. It was a side effect of being educated at home and having few opportunities to socialize in their quiet suburbia. The neighborhood kids would sometimes allow her to join in their ruckus-making, although truthfully Celeste never much liked their wild games of throwing baseballs and butting heads. No, she much preferred exploring the small forest at the end of the cul-de-sac, being so fond of nature—most of all climbing trees.

It was her most sacred rebellion, this act of scaling large oaks and towering pines to touch the sky and feel the wind against her neck. It seemed the higher she climbed, the more the clouds above her would clear, parting the way for her to touch the sky. The kids thought her strange, but they all could admit she was fearless when it came to heights and thus often recruited her to fetch their frisbee when it got caught on a high branch.

Later, as she blossomed into a teenager, she began to develop some behavior problems which made her parents question if she was still their little angel. A storminess would sometimes overtake her, causing her to lash out with harsh words or scream without warning. She spent more and more hours outside, any excuse to escape her parents. Often times she wouldn’t answer to “Audrey”, acting as if it wasn’t her name at all. The other neighborhood adults assured her mother and father that it was perfectly normal for a girl of her age to be volatile, and yet they still thought something was peculiar about the stormy gaze she’d have and the fact that every time she’d lash out or cry, it would start to rain.

Despite this rebellion, they could still rely on her to tend her plants—ever her companions, apparent in the number of succulents on her windowsill and flowers in her garden. They flourished under her care: the pansies, poppies, and hyssop plants blooming with every touch and whisper. She even took to planting a tree, but not in her backyard, for she wanted it untouched by a human’s gaze. She planted this little fir in a small clearing deep in the forest, not far from a pond with water lilies. It was her own little secret, one she never shared. It felt more special to not tell anyone about it.

Nature was not her only respite though. Faithfully she would attend every service at the small chapel down the road, staring up at the golden stained glass like it was her savior. There was never any storminess on a Sunday morning, only sunshine and smiles. The pastor, charmed by her devotion and bright eyes so uncommon in his church, assumed it was the depiction of sacrifice that enamored her, but really it was the light shining through the crimson glass of Christ’s bleeding body that held her attention, making her feel whole.

There was something so lovely about the glistening redness on his palms and side, contrasting the pale cream of his flesh, the ebony of his bones, the silver of his thorny crown. This hallowed image of crucifixion was her favorite thing about the chapel, drawing her back like a moth to the flame.

Oh, she was undoubtedly an angel. The way her brown eyes were ancient, the way the dandelions on the sidewalk seemed to drift towards her, the way the lamplight at night always found her. In the church choir, her voice stood out from the rest as more soulful, more haunting. In school, her teachers thought her odd, a young woman with a penchant for dreamy stares and leaves in her dark hair. She never spoke but always listened. She was always alone but never appeared lonely. One student reported seeing steam coming off her during a sunshower as she walked home, like her body was warm enough to heat rain.

However, only one man ever knew what she truly was, because he was the only one she ever kissed.

Captain Thomas Pierce was the head of the police station, a stoic man of handsome features and a callous temperament. Little was known about his life, where he was from, or why he’d chosen to stay in their small town for so many years. Few even knew his first name. He was curt, cool, and closed-off, a man of intimidating presence. He behaved as such because had long ago decided to make himself hollow. Why allow yourself to feel in a world of so much suffering? And so he didn’t, so much so he thought he wasn’t capable of anything else.

It was an autumn evening when they met. It was late, and he was on patrol. Although generally his job revolved around paperwork and strategic advising, he often took night shifts to make use of his insomnia. There was a soft rain blanketing the town, a warm dampness in the air. All was quiet and dark.

He saw her first, a figure with a flashlight weaving between the trees of the forest. Suspicious, for no one was ever out at this hour, he dimmed his headlights and drove closer, parking his car at the edge of the clearing. At this range he could now better make out the figure on the move.

It was a girl, in a white cotton t-shirt that came to her knees.

Earlier in the evening Celeste had, after a long period of restlessness, wished to see how her little fir was doing. Sleep did not always come easy to her, and she often found herself craving an escape. So she climbed out her bedroom window and went into the night, a ghostly apparition with messy hair. She knew her parents would tell her it was wildly insensible to be out at such an hour, especially all alone, but what was there to fear? Death and danger seemed far away as she crossed grassy lawns and wet sidewalks. So preoccupied with her wandering thoughts she did not notice the police car following her, and thus when she returned from the forest some time later, heart happy from seeing her tree growing so well, she suddenly found bright light blinding her eyes.

Her serenity shattered as she dropped her flashlight in surprise, raising her hands to her face to diminish the glare. The car door opened and out stepped Captain Pierce, who now recognized her as the strange girl with the ancient eyes. He wasn’t at all surprised.

For a moment, neither of them spoke. The air buzzed around them, like a thunderstorm was near. Her dark hair was damp with raindrops, her shirt soaked through. The glow of the headlights illuminated her like a fallen star, a meteor ablaze soon to dissipate into dust. Audrey only saw the tall and ominous figure of a man she knew she should fear, and yet she did not.

“What are you doing out at this hour?” He asked, deep voice neither harsh nor kind.

She said nothing, only continued to stare at him, wondering what he was thinking.

“It’s dangerous for girls like you to be out this late.”

“Why?” When she spoke, her voice was questioning, almost childish. Reality seemed a bit altered, creating a blur between actions and consequences, fantasy and fate.

He walked around to the other side of the car and opened the door to the back seat. “It’s raining, so let me drive you home.”

She nodded and padded over, bare feet making crunches against the leaf litter and twigs. For a moment, they stood face to face. She could count the silver buttons on his uniform and smell a musky scent which she believed was aftershave. He could see the freckles on her nose, the small pool of water in the crevice between her collarbones. She was so dainty, so petite. He felt old and rusted in her presence. Ephemeral. A muscle in his jaw clenched, and he sighed with all the weight of a man tired of living an empty life. And it made Celeste sympathize, for reasons she didn’t fully know.

And then suddenly, she knew. She realized everything and all things all at once. And she smiled.

“Thank you, Thomas,” she whispered as she reached up and touched his face.

Captain Pierce was too surprised to say anything in return or to even stop her. How does she know my first name? He thought before noticing a golden ring on the middle finger of her left hand. He swore it glowed brighter than it should. When the pads of her fingers brushed the stubble of his cheek, he felt awash in peace, cleansed. This feeling only grew stronger as she stood on tiptoes and kissed him for the briefest of moments. Her lips felt impossibly warm, and suddenly he thought he must be floating for how euphorically weightless he felt.

And then suddenly it ended; she climbed inside, and he—in a daze—shut the door.

The drive was short and silent. Occasionally he would look back in his rear-view mirror, and every time she would unwavering meet his gaze. Questions like What are you? needed no answer, because he already knew. For the first time in a long while, he felt it. He felt everything.

When he reached her house (she made no comment about him remembering her address), she waited patiently for him to stop the car and open the door for her, as it was impossible to open the door from the inside. Once again, they stood face to face.

She looked up at him through her lashes. Once again she seemed so delicate and ethereal—a creature from another time and place. He felt the overwhelming desire to cry, tears beginning to form in his blue eyes as he looked at her with a mixture of awe and understanding.

“Why?” He asked at last, choking on his words.

She smiled, kind as ever. “Because I wanted to.”

He laughed—how long had it been since he laughed?—thinking she was a rebellious youth after all. And then she patted his cheek and hurried off to her house, feet squelching on the wet grass. Captain Pierce could only watch her go, and in the rain he thought he saw the outline of something feathery (were those wings?) folded on her back. And then he climbed back into his car and drove off, white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel.

They never spoke with each other again. Celeste disappeared shortly after, and it seemed nobody remembered her except for him. Her parents insisted they had no daughter, and the neighbors acted like he was silly to suggest such a thing. Life carried on like normal in their small town. He would have thought himself to be mad if it wasn’t for how sure he was of that night, how sure he was that it’d happened.

Because some nights, when the moon was full, he would go out to the forest, to a clearing near a pond with water lilies. And he would see the outline of a woman in white, tending a little fir growing there. And he would know that there was still a little good in the world and that everything would be alright.

———

A/N: Inspired by a dream on January 23, 2019

© 2019 Obliquity of the Ecliptic

 

Vampire, Inesis

Inesis Pyre
Creature of Desire
Prince of the Night
And Phantom of Fire

A vision is he
Angel of divine light
Glimmering like the sun
Harsh, diamond bright

Long golden tresses
Halo alabaster skin
And bright eyes of amber
Tempt the wicked to sin

For immortality he wears well
A sultry glow, an ember’s heat
There’s hunger in those hooded eyes
A white wolf craving fresh meat

“Blood, blood,” he says, “The finest wine
Thick and warm, beneath tender flesh.
It flows in rivulets, rivers of red
Best consumed when taken fresh”

“Fire, fire,” he further proclaims,
“Hot and cruel it consumes the hearth.
Dancing in flames, wild, unashamed,
Full of reckless and ravishing mirth”

This is no man, for god-like is he
A seductive seraph contained in that form
His pointed fangs, white as fresh cream
Glint like lightning in a summer storm

He taints, he corrupts
Never to relinquish his hold
He is a trickster, a tempter
More than seven centuries old

A criminal overlord and mastermind
An aristocrat of devilry untamed
He is sole king of this cruel city
Even the shadows know his name


A/N: Written for a potential novel I’m working on

© 2019 Obliquity of the Ecliptic

Pithy Advice

Be kind. Be affectionate. Tell the bus driver thank you, save a lizard trapped inside the building, compliment a stranger’s clothes, pick up trash on the side of the road, smile and wave at children when they wave at you. The world is far too cruel and negative for all of us to be bitter and mean all the time. And affection is surprisingly lacking, even among friends.

Ask people questions. Every person on this planet knows something you don’t, no matter their age, gender, race, or profession, and that means every person you’ve ever met could teach you something. Even if you don’t like the person, knowledge is still knowledge and it’s powerful and gets you places. Also asking questions helps facilitate relationship (especially since most people love to talk about themselves)

Remember that knowing the right people at the right time can get you farther than your own efforts. Some people call this “blessings”, but I think it’s a little more complex than that. All the best opportunities I got in my life I got from other people. In the business world, they call it “networking”. Basically you’ll find that being nice and friendly with the right person could lead you to getting  the opportunity you’ve always wanted.

Be humble, but never self-loathing. This is achieved by being grateful towards everyone in your life, but remembering what you’re capable of alone. I’ve come to realize all my greatest achievements are due to another person: whether it’s support from a parent, help from a friend, advice from a coworker, or contributions from a stranger. But I still try to be proud of those achievements because in the end,

Love the stupid little things in life that make you happy. Don’t be ashamed to love sappy romance novels or candles or croissants or comic books or monster movies or fuzzy socks. As long as it’s not hurting anyone or is a serious breach of morality, go ahead and love it till your heart is content.

Fake it till you make it. That’s not being dishonest, that’s just adulthood. But speaking of…

Always be honest. Or at least sincere. Be sincere in your words, your thoughts, your emotions. And always be honest with yourself. I can’t tell you how far this has gotten me in life. Apparently some people find it charming.

Don’t ever think you know it all. You don’t. Everyone everywhere is always learning. And like I said early, always ask questions.

Don’t apologize for your feelings. They’re just feelings, you can’t control them. Instead, apologize for actions, then ask for forgiveness and work to make things right.

Have metacognition. Think about why you think things, why you have the opinions and beliefs you do. Challenge everything you think you know. As someone very smart once told me, “don’t have beliefs, have ideas.” Don’t just have a view on a matter without reflecting on it, analyzing it, researching it, asking questions(!), and testing it. I know it’s hard to let go of certain beliefs because of emotions and past experiences, but you have to at least try.

Nothing really matters. At all. So enjoy life and try not too care about anything too much. The entire book of Ecclesiastes, supposedly written by the wisest man to ever live, can be summed up with these few words. Most importantly, don’t care about what anyone thinks about you because opinions are meaningless.

© 2019 Obliquity of the Ecliptic

Vices

I want blood and sex and food and flesh
Tears and sweat
Hands around my neck
My fist through a door
As I fracture my sense
I crave pleasure
I want pain
Razor blades on skin
Needles through my brain
I want black and white
Not a single shade of grey
Red in the ledger
And blood on the page
I lust for violence
I need war
I don’t want to hurt anyone
Only to destroy
Self-destruct
Self-combust
I’m frenzied, unhinged
Dragging nails over skin
But it’s all wearing thin
And my throat’s going hoarse
As this mania runs its course
With showers running hot
And tiles ice cold
With biting silver
And bleeding gold
And charcoal black
And hazy blue
And stinging pink
That won’t fade soon
I’ve got scars turning purple
And knuckles going white
Bruised shins, peeling elbows,
An aching back at night
My palms are burning
My cheek is bleeding
My insides are pulsing
I don’t think I’m healing
My love bites are fading
I now feel wasted
Used up, and empty
Everything’s tasteless
The greed’s had its time
And I’ve had mine
The chocolate cake devoured
I drank all the wine
I found my band-aids
And gauze and cream
I’ll be okay
At least for another week.

© 2019 Obliquity of the Ecliptic