Black and broken way, winding through empty mountains. Shattered, burned black bones silhouetted against stars, a heavy, amber moon.
A narrow road, no barrier against the abyss at its edge. How many have taken that plunge, accidentally or otherwise? A time when I might have condemned the latter for their waste, a time before I realised what a torment living can be, before my own skull became a cage, every thought a desperate bird, intent on escape.
Even if it means shattering itself, bleeding for a little sunlight.
A nameless place, what road-signs there are seeming to be in some alien alphabet, smeared or vandalised to illegibility.
Lost. So beautifully, blissfully unfound. The only place where a thing like me might find some sanctuary. So cold, no matter how high I crank up the heating. Night invading, sprouting teeth and thorns, patterns of frost forming on the windows. Jealous of the barely-born ghosts that seep from my lips; grey and purple spectres that hardly have time to mourn before fading to nothing. Not knowing who or what or why.
Knowing a curse, in contradiction of reason or revelation:
Why I woke to find her gone; why they left me while I dreamed. Idiot, letting myself hope for one second that...but no, of course not. How can an angel abide sin? How can perfection tolerate pollution?
And she was an angel to me, for a time.
Masochist memory, conjuring her amongst the ghosts: red hair unkempt, as though a fire rages in her that her skull can't contain, green eyes, almost azure, burning likewise, vents for the brilliance within. Strangely beautiful; alienating and attractive in equal measure.
Knowing from the first kiss, the first invitation to bed...a temporary arrangement at best; that, when she saw me sweating and naked in the night, what I wept, what I bled and breathed in my dreaming hours, it would end.
Six years. Six years. Still unsure how she sustained, what drove her to breaking.
Lying. To her, to myself; knowing precisely why:
The new dream, kindling in her belly, thast she wouldn't have my parasite species pollute.
Loving her for that, despite myself; as much as I hate her.
Perhaps, had she not shown me love; a promise of what life might be, I wouldn't be here now, defying her, chasing her from shore to shore, across oceans; defying the disease that made me.
A screech, the world dissolving, tumbling around me. Jerking the wheel right, away from the abyss. Almost ploughing into the cliffside, metal screeching against stone, sparks making the shadows dance.
Still again. Cold again. Though not inside.
Laughing, groaning, gripping the steering wheel hard enough to leave indentations in its leather.
No one and nothing; no passing cars, no sign of any living thing.
Just me, and the reflection of my suicide's smile.
A time, before I step out of the car. Minutes seeming to stretch into silent hours, my heartbeat and the various clicks and groans of the car my only companions.
Cold and dark calling, stars and moon smiling down on me, amused by the farce of my existence.
“Is this enough, now?”
Howling it into the night, chill stealing my breath, kindling blue fire in my lungs.
Bitter laughter, her ghost smiling at me, through those born of what breath remains.
The curse returning to me, mockingly echoed by whatever infests this desolation; the worm and maggot-things amongst its broken slopes and canyons.
Snarling, kicking out at the car, I stumble away from it, not caring if others hurtle around the mountainside, casting me up into the air, down into the abyss.
Juliana. Others before her; none remaining even half as long. Most no longer than the first nights we sleep side by side; few still there upon waking, the emptiness beside me aching, aching always, a severed limb, an extracted tooth. A part of me, torn loose and taken, into the new day.
Others...remaining long enough to hurt, to wound more profoundly: cold as the night, appalled by me, disgusted by what I leaked into their dreaming minds.
Never remembering for myself; the worst of it, not even knowing what sours between us, what could be so terrible as to revolt them so, some to the point of terror, threats of violence:
Don't you dare...don't you dare come near me...
Don't touch me! Don't touch me...
Every epithet, burning into me, almost as profoundly as the spit on my face, in my eye. The rumours that follow.
Long since past deluding myself, when I met her; no hope that it could be any different, that the disease might burn itself out, or I might find a soul immune to its infection. Resisting her, for so long; denying and rebuffing her, to the point of making myself repellant in her eyes.
Always returning, inviting herself to sit at cafe tables with me, beside me on trains and buses, talking as though we never parted.
Almost confessing it, as a means of finally murdering whatever she hoped might be between us. Unable to, though the words swarmed in my mouth like a vomit of wasps, desperate to fly and sting her affection to death.
The swarm murdered from the first kiss, frigid fingers rising to my lips in memory of it, touching her, tasting her; a cruel ghost, that can never be again.
“What you showed me last night...”
How the note began; no “Dear John,” no mention of my name:
“...I'm sorry. I can't do it any more. I can't let what's inside of you poison what's inside of me. Don't try to find us, please.”
Obeying, for as long as I could. Trying to make her just another of the lost; another shaming ghost in my memory.
The road broken, pot-holed beneath my feet, stumbling drunk across it, following the curve of the mountainside. Gasping in the cold, teeth chattering; eyes not ahead, but cast out, over the star-flecked darkness between the broken peaks; an abyss to match the darker specimen below, far deeper, infinite.
Nothing compared to the abyss inside.
“Show me...show me, fuck you!”
What horrors it boasts, what nightmares are born out there, on worlds humanity will never walk or see, in the dreams of alien children, afraid of things no child of Earth can imagine.
Nothing. Nothing compared to what I sweat and seep, what my lovers have seen in my arms.
Flickering torch light from my otherwise useless mobile phone (no signal since I first hit the lower slopes), panning white and glaring over the broken road; enough to partially blind any driver that hurtles around the bend ahead.
The night silent, stars likewise. Content to watch, to smile as I shiver, wanting to piss, to weep; to hurl myself into the dark, lacking the will even for that.
“...give me something, anything. Show me why.”
None other; no record or account the internet or history can provide of my disease. There must be others, there must be...
Stopping, stumbling; gasps that have nothing to do with the cold. Motion, catching my eye in the higher peaks, a sudden glare; a second moon, colder, paler than the first, emerging from behind their shattered heights.
My first thought...some sort of aircraft; a drone, a helicopter, quickly abandoned; the light somehow...wrong, its glare upon me cold and nauseating, leaving me stumbling away from the abyss, flailing out at the dark for some support.
A second moon, slowly sailing across the sky, whole where the other is a sickle smile; the cruel grin of some bitch-goddess, wallowing in my hurt.
All thoughts of Juliana, of the others before her...not evaporating in the face of it. If anything, perversely emphasised, recollection more vivid, more potent; moments in which I'm cast back, memory supplanting waking now: moments of weeping, of screaming, of snarled recriminations. Pleas and begging from my younger self, not understanding why they stand before him naked, unable to meet his eyes, tears streaming down their faces, such hideous, bitter words on lips he'd kissed only the evening before.
“...please, what is it? What's happening?”
“Shut up. Shut up, shut up! Don't come near me!”
Fleeing, leaving him dumb-founded, cold and nauseated, a boy without the least understanding of himself.
Until later, until those that lingered long enough to provide some clue:
“...vile. I saw...last night...you. It feels...Christ, I want to throw up...”
“Please. Tell me why...”
Something more than contempt in her eyes; dawning comprehension.
“You...don't know, do you? Fuck...I...”
Wretching, a hand to her mouth.
“...I...what you dreamed, last night: I dreamed it, too. I...”
Almost laughing, believing it to be some esoteric joke.
“That's...insane. How can..?”
“I don't know. I don't know! But...oh God! I can...I can still feel it, still see it...”
Fleeing, then, like the rest.
All of them; from anonymous fumbles to those I prayed might be more, relived, the shame and hurt and betrayal. The surrender that follows.
Juliana. The last. The only. So much more; the first night, when I fought to stay awake beside her, the notion of waking to find her gone, to find her weeping and repulsed, too vile to bear.
That first morning, the most hideous stirring, resisting it, as a child might the dawn of an exam or a dentist's appointment. Knowing. Either gone or awaiting me, to spit her contempt in my face, as so many had before.
Her hand on my chest, her head against my shoulder. Half-sleeping still, murmuring, but smiling. Smiling.
The first dawn, a new waking. Delight almost enough to make my heart combust, to prick my eyes with tears.
The weeks and months following, in awe of her, of every moment. Cycled through again in that light, experienced in a matter of heartbeats.
Then the end. No confrontation; no sign or warning. Just...absence, and her note, left on the kitchen counter, stained with coffee.
I can't let what's inside you pollute what's inside me.
Staggering, almost going to my knees in the road, shivering and sickened.
Raising my head, staring into the light, silently pleading for it to leave me be, to let the dark and cold have me again.
Laughter without sound, resonating through my bones, my nerves: a hideous sense of dirt, of shame: of being naked and stinking, stained and diseased. A parent's contempt, a deity's displeasure.
Something vast, impossibly enormous, silhouetted against the sky, blotting out space and stars as it heaves from behind the peaks, the new moon blazing in its swollen head, its only feature, the rest darkness so deep and cold, it eclipses everything, everything, threatening even the memory of light.
Not crying out, all breath leaving me, the blue fire in my lungs withering to ashes. On my knees, weeping, a sewer stench rising as bowels and bladder betray me.
Vaguely man-shaped, its limbs slender, many-jointed; those of a great spider, multiple arms reaching out to grasp nearby cliffsides, to anchor the entity, so it might haul itself up from repose.
Seeing me, knowing me, its attention an autopsy, invisible scalpels slicing me open, peeling me back, the most delicate, curious fingers plucking me apart fibre by fibre, thought by thought, setting all separate, to twist and examine, to assess and discard.
Burning, a frost fire raging through my every cell, withering every nerve, as it rifles through me, seeking out every sublimated memory, every denied or secret shame: childhood cruelties, lies and betrayals. Stumbling, fumbling idiocies, forcing me to relive them, again and again.
But most consistently, the lovers; the ones I might have made some semblance of a life with, who likely still wake cursing me, hating me more than adulterers and abusers, than liars and rapists, for my unwitting infection.
The entity seeming fascinated, the moon in its featureless face flaring, whenever one of those recollections stir, swelling to eclipse its entire head, to blot out the surrounding darkness, to consume me, leaving me suspended in blinding white agony.
Seeing it reach, gasping in silent terror, its immense, many-fingered hand stuttering as it draws close, as though little more than a projected image, the machienry responsible archaic, running down. Its shadow as hideous as the light of its eye, falling over me, swallowing me, sweeping away road and mountain, abyss and cliffside, leaving only...emptiness, the dark before or after stars, thought, dreams: a space in which I am all and everything; where I have nothing but what I've lived and accrued and regreted...
Grasped, its fingers closing around me, wrenching me up, up, from the roadside, up into the heavens, drawing me out over the abyss, the swarms of its young or parasites that squirm and seethe there, closer and closer to that burning eye, to the moon as bright as a new sun.
But cold. So cold.
Its touch... a wave of sensation that I have no word for: nausea, agony, ecstasy...all at once; licked clean by adoring tongues, rasped skinless by hateful claws. Made to see, made to walk the places I shared with my lovers as I slept alongside them:
...a stinking desert, a steaming waste: undulating dunes of black, seeping meat, barely-human things writhing amongst them like maggots, coupling and devouring one another, splitting open as they give birth to clutches of screaming, starving young...
...towers, spires; cities and cathedrals of intertwined, fused and shuddering bodies; meat that screams endlessly, endlessly; the shrieks of agonised babes, calling out into wastes where no one and nothing hears...
...a state comprised of fractured mirror shards, of black and shattered crystals, jagged fragments rising and interlocked to form a structure to shame any city on Earth; vaster, more ancient, the scarlet light that pulses from within staining the sky, the vapour that rises from between the shards engulfing it, forming storms that broil out across the surrounding wastes, whose red rains fall on the heads and up-turned faces of the thousands that make pilgrimage to it...
The filth that swills in my mind, realised here as not something born of it; not the sewage of my sub-conscious, as they all believed, but infecting me likewise.
That realisation...that I am not sick, but wounded; broken open at the soul, this shit fed through the rents and ruptures to poison me, enough to bring relief: laughter breaking from my bleeding, filth-choked throat, from black, suppurating lips.
The moon seeming to smile, before blazing to eclipse all, burning away even the hand that grasps me, leaving nothing but molecules of knowing dust, happy to go to oblivion, in the certainty that they will never be whole again.
Waking, walking. For how long, I can't say. Enough to wear my shoes to nothing, enough to make my soles bleed.
The smile never leaving my face, as red light seeps across the mountains, dispelling shadow, staining the sky, bathing me, leaving me bloodied and newborn, dreamless, save for her face, her name, and the certainty that I'll know both again, before our child screams its anguish at being born.
George Lea is an entity that seems to simultaneously exist and not exist at various points and states in time and reality, mostly where there are vast quantities of cake to be had. He has a lot of books. And a cat named Rufus. What she makes of all this is anyone's guess.