The Scar

Scar

You’re staring.

Don’t worry. Everyone does. They can’t help it. You probably didn’t realize you stared. Even now, when I’ve caught you, you have no idea why you were doing it. You don’t know why you can’t look away.

And you can’t look away. The fact is, someone could hit you in the head with a fireplace poker, and you would still struggle to look away. You don’t know why. Just like you have no clue what’s causing that sick feeling in your gut, like your intestines are full of frightened parasites all scrambling to escape you, like rats from a sinking ship.

Don’t panic. I’ll tell you. It’s not a secret. I have no secrets. Not anymore. You’re staring at my scar.

Go ahead. Look for it. Search my face, my neck, my exposed arms. You won’t find it. Strange, because you’re looking right at it. Right now, if I asked you to close your eyes and describe my eye color you wouldn’t be able to do it. It’s true. You wouldn’t even be able to describe the color of my skin.

You can’t focus on anything, right now. Nothing but my scar. It’s gnawing away at you and you can barely remember why you came here and what you’re doing and it’s driving you insane that you can’t look at or think about anything else and you can’t even find it.

It’s there. It’s right here. You can’t see it because it’s in a place you’ve never paid attention to, even though you’ve look there thousands of times before. Every time you look at another person, or an animal, or a tree. Because they all have them.

You are staring at me not because of what you are seeing, but because of what’s missing. It’s as if someone stripped all of the color from their skin. You couldn’t help but stare at the colorlessness, because up until that moment you had assumed such a thing was impossible.

I thought so, too. I didn’t mean to do it. I was just bored. I was bored and curious and playing around with my knife. This knife. It’s very special. I don’t know if it was special before I used it to do what I did, or if using it made it so. But it’s special now.

This is the knife I used to reach in and gouge out my own soul. I didn’t know there was such a thing as souls. I still don’t, really. I don’t know what they are, or what they’re for. But I know what it means to lose one. I know what it feels like to rip it out.

Maybe I should have stopped after I started digging. It was like a sore on the inside of your mouth. You know you shouldn’t worry it, but you can’t stop. You can’t stop until you’ve ripped your essential essence from your being. It’s happened before.

You won’t remember. You people never do. I could stab this knife into you and slice off your finger and you would have no idea how it had happened. You’d make up a story. Or someone else would, and you’d believe them. Explanations are like souls. Your mind can’t stand when they’re missing.

I could stab this knife into you, deeper than your finger, deeper than your flesh, deeper than your heart. I could make you like me. You’d remember me, then. Then, only then, you would understand.

But I won’t. Not this time. Instead, I’m going to walk away, and only once I’m out of your sight, only once something mundane and fleshy and full of color blocks your vision will you forget me.

But you won’t. Not really. You people never do. You just pretend. You come up with stories that explain the wriggling in your stomach, the panic that nestles in the back of your mind. The stories amuse us, as we watch you. They’re all we have left.

You still amuse me. So I won’t cut you. I won’t make you like me. Not this time. Not just yet.

Sweet dreams.

Advertisements

The Whole Time

a Candle

7 and 3, Day 4

“Can we start?” Steve tried to keep the impatience out of his voice.

“Just a minute, Sillypants,” said Peri. “I’m checking to make sure you drew the circle right.”

Steve opened his eyes to look, and sure enough, there was Peri, crouched on the ground like a lizard, her eye an inch away from the chalk lines he drew on the cloor.

“I was super careful,” said Steve. “Plus, you already checked it twice.”

“Yeah, but it’s important that you don’t screw this up. You’re kind of a screwup.”

Steve sighed. He couldn’t deny it, but did she have to be so blunt.

“While we’re at it, I really need a better magical name,” he said. “Sillypants is just so…silly.”

Peri grinned her wicked grin up at him. “You’ll get a better name when you’ve progressed in your awakening, Sillypants. And when you get better pants.”

“What wrong with my…”

Peri held up her hand, and Steve fell silent. Something was about to happen.

She sniffed the air. She leaned up on her haunches, and her head darted around liked a meerkat. Excitement welled up from Steve’s root, and he took a deep breath to stop from shaking. He always wondered what she was sensing when she did those kinds of things. He would know soon. She had promised him that, and he believed.

Steve had been undergoing magical training under the tutelage of the strange girl for almost a year now, ever since they met at the anime convention. It had been…transformative.

He started out skeptical. Everyone did, he thought, whether they admitted it to themselves or not. Steve had always known that there was more to the world than what science textbooks presented, but society sent so many messages. There is no magic. There is no wonder. What you see is what you get. Never-mind quantum mechanics and tribal shamans and the little things that every single person in the world experiences that just don’t make sense.

His skepticism didn’t last. Under Peri, Steve had made a candle flame dance, changed the weather, and seen the future in his dreams. This was real. He knew it was real. He just knew it, inside of him. And it was amazing.

“The time is right,” said Peri. She turned to him, her eyes half closed. “Are you ready to meet your spirit guide?”

“Hell yes,” he said before he caught himself. “I mean, yes.”

She laughed. Then her expression turned serious, and she nodded. “Let’s begin.”

Steve flicked on his lighter and lit the charcoal block. He poured on the custom incense—jasmine and thyme and pine resin—and it’s aroma filled the air. He set each candle alight, one after the other. He closed his eyes again, and let the scent, the smoke, the red that filtered into his vision, carry his mind away.

“To they that listen,” he said, “here is one who calls.” From the first word his voice sounded strange in his ears. Distant, barely like his own. This was happening.

“I have begun, taken these first tentative steps, into the Veil that touches lightly upon the world of clay, and into the vastness beyond.” The syllables echoed. He did this in a tiny basement room. There shouldn’t be an echo. Were they somewhere else? He could almost believe it. He fought the temptation to open his eyes and look.

“I have felt your presence in the moment between waking and sleep. I have seen you dance in my dreams. You, who are of me, and above me. Who are a part of me, as I am a part of you. My impossible twin, from impossible places. I call you.” A sound, like a single footstep, resounded in Steve’s ears.

“I lay gifts at your feet,” he gestured to where he knew the silver tray of Madeline cookies lay. They were Peri’s favorite, and she told him the spirits loved them, too.

“I implore you to take what is offered, and, if the time be right, if my offering be worthy, reveal yourself to me.”

A giggle echoed from the distance. From a dozen different points all around him, but in a single voice.

“Reveal yourself to me.”

More footsteps. Another sound, faint, melodious. Flute music, scattered, as if carried by the wind.

“Reveal yourself to me.”

The air changed. It was a cold day outside, and the space heater in Steve’s basement did little to alleviate the chill. Now, there was no chill. The air felt warm, a spring breeze. Warm, and electric. It charged his ever nerve.

“Reveal yourself to me!”

A gust of apple-scented air.
“Reveal yourself to me!”

Another sound, like a giggle and like the note of a flute, all at once.

“Reveal yourself to me!”

“I’m here!”

Steve’s eyes burst open. For a stretched second, his mind reeled. It had worked! She had answered. He was about to meet an otherworldly being, a guardian and guide from an unimaginable and alien place, that would take him to realms undreamed. He held his breath, his vision focused, and he saw…

Peri.

“Hi Steve!”

She said it an inch from his face, and he leapt back. She fell over laughing, clutching her sides like a cartoon character.

“You should see yourself right now!” she cried between giggles.

“What?”

“Oh man, that is priceless.”

Steve’s stomach sank. “That was…that voice was…you?”

“Of course it was, Sillypants. Who else would it be?”

“So…” his jaw clenched. “So it was all bullshit?” Anger filled every blood vessel in his body. His fingernails dug into his palm. He wanted to punch something. “What the fuck, Peri? Have you just been messing with me this whole time?”

She stopped laughing, and looked him, wounded. “What? No, of course not.”

He furrowed his brow. “Then why the hell did you do that?”

“Because it was hilarious,” she said, shrugging.

“But what about the ritual? I mean, you stopped it. Why didn’t you let it work?”

Peri looked confused. “I didn’t stop anything. It did work.”

Steve scratched his head. He hadn’t realized people actually scratched their heads in confusion, but here he was.

“Don’t you get it?”

He said nothing. She stared at him as if he was missing something obvious. He didn’t know what to say.

“I’m your spirit guide,” she said at last.

“Huh.” He paused. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“It means exactly what I said. I’m your spirit guide.”

“But…you’re not a spirit.”

She laughed. “Of course I am.”

“I’ve been to your house. I’ve met your mom.”

Peri shrugged again. “I’m adopted.”

Steve shook his head again. “No, no, no. The ritual, the ritual was supposed to summon my spirit guide. How can it have summoned you if you’re already here?”

“I came a little early,” she admitted. “Come on, Sillypants. You think magic is bound by a dumb little think like time?”

“Huh.” He thought. She had sort of come into his life out of nowhere and started teaching him magic. And she never seemed quite…normal. But then neither had his babysitter when he was little, and she certainly wasn’t a spirit.

“You weren’t my baby sitter, were you?”

“Huh?”

“Nevermind. Listen, Peri, I’ve seen some amazing things with you, but I’m just…this is hard to swallow. You’re a spirit? You’re in my life to guide me to…whatever it is you’re going to guide me to?”

“That’s right.”

“So why do you work at Starbucks?”

“I like coffee,” she said. “And it’s run by a mermaid.”

He blinked.

“I just don’t…”

Peri sighed with her entire body, like a five year old. “Okay, fine. You need some proof?”

“Yes please,” he said, with his best sheepish grin.

“Fine.” She pranced forward and knocked the candle off the altar. It landed on the rug, which immediately burst into flame as if it had been soaked in accelerant.

“What the fuck!”

“Calm down,” said Peri. She stepped over to the flame, reached down, and picked up a large chunk of it in her hands. Then she stuffed it in her mouth.

Steve’s jaw dropped open.

Peri grabbed another handful, and downed that one, too. Within a minute she had eaten the whole thing, and the fire was gone.

“My rug!” Steve cried.

“Oh,” Peri put her hand over her mouth and giggled. “Yeah. I guess I’ll have to get you a new rug.”

“That was incredible!” Steve stared at her. “You’re…you’re a spirit!”

“Well duh. You really are silly, you know that?”

He nodded. “So…what now?”

She look his hand, smiled, and fixed him with a gaze that hid all of the mystery there had ever been in the world.

“Close your eyes, Sillypants. You’re about to find out.”

otherside

Projet365CouleursMotifsSujets-argent-12

Yma sometimes thought she saw a person on the other side of the Mirror. A little girl, like her. Only strange. Distorted, like she was composed out of warped glass. All of the glass on Yma’s side was smooth.

She told Amam, but her mother only smiled, said, “That’s silly,” and continued her favorite game of pulling silver ribbons from the air and tying them into Yma’s hair.

Yma knew it was silly. More than silly. It was impossible. How could anyone live outside of the Mirror?

Hungry

Trou noir / Black Hole

I’m hungry.

It’s funny, that’s the one thing, I think, you can never get used to. I got used to being lonely, a long time ago. I got used to being bored. I got used to that weird feeling that we never had any reason to come up with a word for when it’s been so long since you’ve spoken to someone that, no matter how much passion or rage or lust you once had for them, you can no longer remember their name.

I can’t remember anyone’s name. I don’t even really remember what that means. Name. It’s like playing racquetball, or having blood. I remember that those were things and that once I care about them, but I have no sense of what they actually were.

I’m used to all of that, now. If it bothers me in moments, I don’t recognize it for what it is. It has dissolved into the slurry of what remains of my existence. But the hunger. I don’t think you can get used to that. If I haven’t, no one can.

When I was a small child of whatever sex I was—whatever that means—there was a picture about people who were trapped together in the mountains. Mountains were big and cold. I remember that. That’s what I remember about mountains.

These people were trapped in the mountains and they had no food, and nothing to hunt. Eventually, the living decided to eat the dead. It was a big controversy among people. Would you do that? Would you eat the dead flesh of your own species to survive.

It’s funny. Some people thought they wouldn’t. That’s funny. I think about that sometimes, and it makes me laugh.

Continue reading

One Last Time

Light in a Dark Room

“We’re going to die,” she said, her voice flat. “They’re not going to let us go.”

He looked at her, at her face. His dying phone barely lit the closet the two of them were squeezed in, but he knew those features too well. They were blank. She said the words in perfectly matter-of-fact tone, like she was telling him the local Quizno’s was closed for St. Patrick’s day. She, who got emotional over socks.

He knew what that meant.

“Damn,” he said.

“Damn?” she raised an eyebrow. “I say we’re going to die, and what you come back with is…damn?”

“Well what the fuck am I supposed to say?”

“You’re supposed to argue with me!” She tried to throw her arms in the air in indignation, but the space was too cramped. It almost made him laugh. Almost.

“You always argue with me,” she said. “Last week I bought a Powerball ticket and you wouldn’t shut up about the fact that I should have gone for the Mega Millions. You argue with me over every…” she fell silent. “You’re not arguing.” She looked into his eyes. They were tender, curious, bewildered. Her eyes. “Why aren’t you arguing?”

He shrugged. “Because you’re right. When you talk like that—all flat like a golf announcer–it’s because you’re right. It’s always because you’re right.”

“You…you believe me?”

“Of course I believe you. You’re the smartest woman I’ve ever met.”

She fell silent again. He wondered what was going through her mind. If she was about to break down. He wouldn’t blame her.

He wondered if he should hold her, wrap his arms around her so tightly that she might break. That’s what he did when her mother died. It was the only thing that calmed her down.

“I didn’t know that,” she said.

“What?”

“That I…that you thought I was smart. I didn’t know that.”

“I…what? Of course you are. You know, like, practically everything about everything. That’s why I fell for you in the first damn place.” He kicked the wall in frustration. For a moment he worried that the people outside would hear them. Then he realized it didn’t matter.

“You never told me that,” she said.

“Of course I did,” he snapped. Wait, had he? Had he ever actually uttered those words? “I didn’t think I need to. I thought it was obvious. I mean, how could anyone know you for more than five minutes and not realize how brilliant you are?”

“Then why are you always arguing with me? Telling me I’m wrong?”

“About what?”

She rolled her eyes. “About everything. You tell me I’m wearing the wrong lipstick to go with my dress, or that I hold my chopsticks wrong when we go for sushi. Or that I use Google wrong when I’m trying to find the names of they guy who wasn’t in the Beatles.”

“Almost everyone who has ever lived wasn’t in the Beatles,” he said. “I think you mean the Beatle who was replaced.”

“See! You’re doing it now.”

“No I’m not,” he said. “Okay, maybe I am.” He wrapped his fingers around themselves and clenched tight. “I argue about…about stupid things. Little things. It’s not you. It’s just…I do that to everybody.”

She shakes her head. “You do it to me more.”

“But…not about real things. Not about things that matter. On those…I mean, you…” He took a deep breath. “I let you figure that stuff out. Because I’m not…smart enough.”

The silence hung heavy between them.

“Damn,” she said at last.

He laughed. He couldn’t help it. She looked at him like he’d just tried to eat a tire iron. Then she started to laugh, too.

“You really mean that, don’t you?” she said. “You think I’m brilliant.”

“Of course I do.”

She fell silent again.

“I wanted you to argue with me.”

“Huh?”

“When I said it, that we’re going to die, I…I knew it was true. But I wanted you to argue with me.”

He nodded. It made sense.

“I…I like when you argue with me.”

He started. “What do you mean?”

“You heard me.”

“But all you ever do is complain about it.”

“I know,” she said. “I’m sorry. I don’t…I don’t know anything.”

“Yes you do.”

“I don’t feel like I know anything. Not until, not until I’ve said it to you. Not until I’ve made you shut up about it.”

He laughed again.

“Always happy to help.”

“I need you,” she said. “You know that, right?”

He looked at her. “You’re the most important thing in my life. You know that, right.”

She grabbed his hand and squeezed. “I didn’t.”

He shook his head. “Neither did I.”

She smiled. “We actually had something here, didn’t we?”

The past tense gripped at his chest, but it was strange. He felt calm. Scared, yes. Even terrified. But calm.

“I guess we did,” he said. “I wish we had…”

“No,” she cut him off. “Don’t do that. Don’t go that way.” He nodded. She was right.

It’s good to know,” he said. “Before it ends. I mean, I don’t want it to…”

“It’s horrible,” she agreed. “But yeah. It’s good to know.”

A creaking sound echoed through the corridor. Light spilled in. Whoever was out there was coming.

They squeezed each others hands tightly, then they looked at each other. For the first time. One last time.

The Maturity of Death

 Rest In Peace

The last thing Death wanted to do was grow up, no matter what the adults said. What could that even mean for someone like him? Death did his job. He traveled to the beds of aging widows in their moment of despair, took them by the hand, and carried them off to his Fields. He delivered the final moment to the swarms of things eaten by plague, or consumed by exploding stars.

It was a lot of work. What did it matter that he spent just as much time dancing through the lands consecrated to his image, or collecting the feeble wards the denizens of the universe made in a vain attempt to keep him away? What did it matter that he loved it? This was what he was supposed to do. He didn’t know what the others were always going on about.

Death didn’t spend much time with the others. It wasn’t because he was anti-social, or a loner by nature. Everyone else was just so boring. Matter lacked imagination, Entropy was too pessimistic. The less said about Momma the better.

Life told him she didn’t regret having him, but Death didn’t believe her. All they ever did was argue. There wasn’t a single subject that they agreed on. Even the ones where Death was obviously right, which was most of them. She was smart. He had to admit that. He respected her, in that way where you’d use a different word than “respect” if there was one because it wasn’t quite right.

The other youngins weren’t any improvement, far as he could tell. Light was so self-righteous, and cousin Gravity was just too dense. The pun always made Death laugh, but none of the others appreciated it. No one except his uncle.

Out of all of the adults in the universe, the only one worth hanging out with was Uncle Time. Uncle Time had been around longer than any of them. He was deep, but in a kind of strange way that somehow didn’t make him dull. Just about every worthwhile conversation Death ever had was with his Uncle Time.

“Just how old are you?” Death asked him one day, as he danced around the edge of a black hole as it drank up the remains of the last Living Nebula.

“Older than you will ever be, boy,” said his uncle.

Death scrunched up his face. “How can that be? Sometime I’ll catch up to where you are now.”

Time laughed, and it sounded like a thousand thousand old men, laughing so quietly a body could hardly hear it at all.

“You’re only as old as you are right now,” said Time. “I’m always as old as I will ever be.”

Death let that bounce around his skull for a few minutes, then nodded.

“That makes sense. Uncle Death, why are you the only one who ever talks sense to me? The others all treat me like I’m a little kid. Even Momma, who ain’t so much older than me, the way folks like us reckon it.”

“Do you think age matters, to our kind?” asked Time.

“I suppose not,” said Death.

“They don’t treat you like a boy because of how many or how few stars have gone out since you came into being. Or of how many life forms you’ve kissed goodbye.”

“So why, then?”

“They treat you young because you have not grown up yet.”

Death laughed. “Folks like us don’t grow. Everybody knows that.”

“But we do change.”

Death thought about that. “Even you?”

Time nodded, and Death saw the rising and setting of universes in his uncle’s brow.

“I change. I’ve already changed, and I’m done changing, and it all unfolds in this moment. But I change.”

“So you’re saying they treat me like a youngin because…because I act like a youngin?”

“Thats right.”

“But what about you? Why don’t you treat me no different?”

“You know the answer,” said Time. “It is already here.”

That was something else Death liked about his Uncle. He didn’t spell everything out so plain it’d be clear to anyone, no matter how dim. He didn’t treat Death like a moron. Death reckoned that might be because Time knew for a fact what his nephew would and wouldn’t figure out for himself, but he appreciated it all the same.

It did mean Death had to put a bit more thought into his conversations with Time than he did at other times. Taking lives came son natural—he was what you might call a prodigy. But this deep thinking, that was a challenge. But it was worth it. So Death sat there and thought, long and hard, before he answered.

“You don’t treat me different because, because you know what I’ll be like when I’m grown up?”

Time smiled every smile that had ever been or would ever be smiled.

“So what does it take?” Death asked. “What do I have to do to get grown up?”

“Are you in such a rush to change? Do you not relish your youth, of prancing through the graves of the lifeforms and species you have brought into your fold?”

“I can still do that when I’m grow’d up,” said Death. “I just wish the others would respect me. Like they do to…each other.” He stopped himself from saying, “like they do to Momma.”

“If you wish to know, I will tell you.”

“But I figure you already know whether you are gonna tell me or not,” said Death, grinning.

By the light of the dying stars, Death once against saw every smile that would ever be adorn his uncle’s face.

“Nevertheless,” said Time, “it is your choice. It has always been your choice, and it will always be your choice.”

Death stopped himself from opening his mouth and forced himself to ponder. That’s what his uncle would advise, and he was the smartest man Death knew. He let it the thought roll around him for a few decades. It didn’t matter much. His conclusion was the same as it would have been had he spoken right away.

“I want to know.”

“Very well,” Time took a deep breath, and exhaled the beginning and end of of everything. “You will grow up when you get an education.”

Death rolled his eyes.

“You sound like Momma. What am I supposed to study, then? How to sew myself some better robes?”

“You are to study medicine.”

Medicine?” Death spat the word out like a child forced to eat his sprouts.

“Indeed.”

“But I hate medicine. I’m Death, for dying out loud. I make people die. Medicine is for making people live. For…for fighting disease. What would I want to go and do that for?”

Disease was one of the things Momma and he fought most about. He put it together when he was little, back when Momma didn’t care so much about him playing with her stuff. He thought she would be right proud that he’d found a way to make some of her tiniest and least interesting creations that much better, that much more capable of expressing themselves. To give them a new way of living. She wasn’t.

“You only see it that way because you’re young,” said Time, shaking the first third of the universe in dismay. “That is what the others see when they look at you. That is why they believe you immature. Medicine is not your enemy. Indeed, it will be one of your greatest creations.”

Death furrowed his brow. “My creations? But medicine already exists.”

“Something they call medicine exists,” said Time. “It is but a pale echo of what it will be. It its fullness, it will save and extend a great many lives, and allow those who use it to spread across the universe. In time, it will lead them to change themselves, remake their scions, and forge your mother’s work into forms unimagined in this frozen slice of moment.”

Death grimaced. “Why would I want that?”

As one, a trillion of oceans crashed upon a trillion shores, all to the sound of Time’s sigh.

“Can you not see it?”

That was Time favorite phrase. It contained within it infinite frustration, and infinite patience. Sometimes Death wondered how his Uncle put up with the rest of them. To see—to be–everything that would ever be, right now, and have no one to talk to but regular old temporal beings like Death. He asked his Uncle about that once, and he got the same answer. “Can you not see it?”

Death knew by this point that it meant a great revelation was hovering nearby, just out of reach. The problem was, “just out of reach” could be a billion years from now. It also meant that his uncle would not give him the answer. Perhaps he couldn’t, in some way that Death didn’t quite understand. He would have to get there himself. So he tried.

“If I study medicine…” he started, “and make it into something real serious—powerful, not like it is now–If I do that, then people will live longer. And…and they’ll have more babies.”

“Good,” said Time. “Go on.”

“And those babies won’t give up their ghosts so easily. So they’ll grow up to have more babies of their own.”

“Yes. What then?”

“Then…there’ll be more people,” he was starting to see it. The edges of it. He continued, excited. “More people born every day. More people alive in the universe, and more crops to grow, more livestock to feed. More wars to fight, more disease to spread.” He turned to his Uncle, his eyes wide. “If there are more people alive, more people will die! Every single day!”

Out in the universe, races and beings far flung and unrelated in space and time took their chisels and their hammers and their cutting lasers, and all of them carved the face of man they never knew, and would never see, every one of them smiling. And Death saw all of them, at once, in his Uncle’s face right now.

Death turned away. “But…medicine. It’s so…”

“Yes,” said Time. “I understand. This, what you say now, is very similar to what she said, when I had this conversation with her.”

“She?” asked Death. “You mean…you mean Momma? She had…she went through the same thing?”

“Nearly identical, and completely different. She, too, wished for respect.”

“The others, Matter and Entropy and those folks, thought Momma was immature?” Death couldn’t decide whether to laugh or gasp in surprise.

“They did. Until she, too, sought knowledge and education. Until she, too, created something she could not have believed, until that moment, she would ever wish to create.”

“What did, what did Momma create?”

Before his uncle said anything, Death already knew.

“My boy,” he said, with the calm of a billion cooling supernovae, “she created you.”

Death paused, and he pondered. For a time—short to him but lifetimes to others—he did nothing but ponder. Out in the universe, in a thousand civilizations, they called it the Undying Time, or the Golden Age of Life. A strange, impossible time where nothing and no one died. Their descendants would not believe it, and it would live on only as myths, and the fragments of memories.

Death knew all about change. Uncle Entropy might have invented it, but that was only the boring kind. Change didn’t have color, it didn’t have poetry, until Death got a hold of it. The kind of change that folks cared about, that they lived for, that belonged to him. He knew all about change. He knew that people thought it was slow. It wasn’t. All change, all true change, happened in an instant.

“I’ll do it,” said Death. “I’ll go off and create medicine. Proper medicine, like the kind what you said. I’ll do it. I want…I want to grow up.”

Time nodded in approval. Death loved that nod. Anyone could nod their approval at you all day long, but not everyone could make you feel it. Uncle Time made him feel it. He wouldn’t have taken no advice on how to get himself some respect from anyone else. Uncle Time treated him right.

No, that wasn’t quite it. Uncle Time treated him more than just right. He treated him like an equal. An equal? Could that possibly be true? Him, little Death, the equal of Time himself?

Just like that, Death had another major revelation. His fourth, he reckoned, just in this conversation. He would be the equal to his uncle. If Time thought it, then it must be true. To Time, right here, right now, he already was.

The Monsters Within, Technical Notes

Evil Pumpkin (4)
We try to deny it, but we all have monsters within us. They seethe just below the surface, all fangs and teeth and incorporeal rage. We glimpse them when we turn away from mirrors, out of the corners of our eyes. We feel them when we look at a beloved friend lying asleep and some part of us, some dark, hungry part of us that cannot be tamed, feels the urge to do something terrible. It is not enough to acknowledge these monsters. We must understand them, lest they control us, urge us into actions as horrific as they are sublime.

This understanding is my great endeavor, and it is through this work that I have discovered these truths that I am about to unveil. These monsters are not nameless, nor or they formless. Once the light of rigorous scrutiny is shined upon them, they are all too familiar. We each are made up of not one monster, but three.

Specifically, we each have within us the following:

  1. A zombie
  2. A ghost
  3. A lycanthrope

Before I go into detail, a note on my qualifications. Firstly, I was born on October 27th, which was the date of the original Halloween (probably) back when it was a pre-Indoeuropean festival honoring Dark Cthonia, Lord of Horror Stories. It’s important to note that the reason their god of evil and fright was the god of stories, because unlike their descendants, these peoples weren’t dumb enough to think that shit was real. Also I made up the name Cthonia because records from that period are sketchy, but I think it sounds pretty call.

In addition to the birthday thing, I’ve read a lot of urban fantasy. Also my wife has read even more of it (all of it? nearly), and she’s told me about a lot of it in pretty good detail.

Okay, back to the theory. We are all made up of a zombie, a ghost, and a lycanthrope, and these three factors explain everything about us. Well, okay, they don’t explain everything about why we decide to become plumbers or why we like black olives. But they describe everything about how we manifest as monsters. Let us address each one briefly.

The Zombie: Our zombie is our corporeal body. That part of us that is nothing but empty, hungry flesh, seeking to sustain and duplicate our own existence mindless of the costs and the consequences. It also years to improve itself, to regain the intellect it lost when it was a complete entity, but its methods for doing so are as futile as they are useless. The zombie is even unable to recognize that the last sentence is redundant.

The Ghost: The ghost inside of us is our spirit, and our mind. The ghost allows us to think and function as intelligent beings, but it is shackled by its attachments. The emotional urges that make up so much of thought are present in the ghost, but it is lacking both the neurochemical factors that originally produced those urges and also the corporeality to act upon them.Thus, the ghost can think and feel but by itself it cannot change.

The Lycanthrope: The lycanthrope is the most rarefied of our monsters, but perhaps also the most important. The lycanthrope is the living principle. It is the spark of life that turns the lifeless zombie and the bodiless ghost into breathing, bleeding humans. It is also what lets us grow and change. But it also encompasses our rage, our passion, and the extremes of our emotions. NOTE: the lycanthrope was originally the werewolf, but the source material has taught me that maybe not everyone is a werewolf. Some people are turtles and probably also other things.

In a normal person, all three of these monsters are present and in balance. Strange things happen when you remove them.

If you rip the ghost out of a person, what remains is a ghost and a zombie. This is where ghosts and zombies come from. In this procedure, the lycanthrope is torn in half, and each of the remaining creatures has a fragment of it.

The zombie that remains is the hungry, mindless, brain-eating beast found in novels, movies, and parts of Detroit. It has no mind, because it has no ghost.

The ghost that remains has the personality of the original person, but obviously it also has no body of its own. It can interact with the physical world only weakly if at all. The personality that remains is only a shadow of its formal self, however, because it cannot change. Lacking the physical brain of the zombie and the full lycanthrope, it has only a limited set of emotions and thoughts, usually those it experienced at the moment of death. It is usually drawn to scenes of its life, people and places that remind it of what it was, in an attempt to regain what it cannot understand that it has lost. An isolated ghost is a slave to its own identity, as we all are, sometimes.

A full-blown lycanthrope manifests if this monster aspect gains dominance over the other two. The mechanisms for this are varied and outside of the reach of this endeavor.

If a lycanthrope is removed or destroyed from a person, what is left is a vampire. This conclusion is inevitable, both because of the logic I am about to present, and because of course there’s a vampire.

Once the life-force in the form of the were-creature is removed from a person, what is left is a body and a mind that are not alive, lacking in life’s vibrancy and dynamic nature, but still full cognizant and functional. It will not die naturally because it no longer has metabolic function. It can no longer change. It can still reproduce, but that reproduction is mechanical and infectious. It cannot create new life as that requires the lycanthrope. It can only transform others into those like itself, but since it has the mental awareness granted by its ghost, so do its “offspring.”

It requires very little additional speculation to see how this theory can be used to explain how people can be transformed into all variety of monsters. At least, all variety of the Urban Fantasy/World of Darkness/Halloween variety which are the purview of these notes. For example, it takes very little imagination to see how one would use these rules to explain the advent of mummies, or pumpkin kings, or teen wolves.

There is much left to be explored regarding the nuances of this theory, but its explanatory power is undeniable. As are its practical applications. By learning to comprehend our inner monsters, we can learn to resist them. More importantly, we can learn to harness and utilize them, for our own terrible, terrible ends.