Listen to Let Me Tell You by m b blissett
Once Upon a Time, Eilhu awoke from a fractious, confusing dream with perspiration beading in the hairs on his chest, breathing hard like he was in battle. His grief was a suckling infant with a voracious appetite. It fed until his bones were hollow but when he awoke, there was the hope within him of an accord being reached. He got up from the bed, went to the bowl of water and splashed water onto his face, snorted a little of it into his nostrils and looked out onto the courtyard.
It had been his home but the efforts to renew his connection felt forced and not by his own hand.
He recalled the golden pond and the shimmer of light on water was there whenever he closed his eyes.
The cerulean blue of Mirabelle’s eyes was there too, a splinter in his mind which hurt to contemplate. Eilhu’s palms hurt and when he opened his eyes, he saw scarlet crescents where he had clenched his hands so hard it caused him injury. He flexed his fingers and inhaled through his nose in a slow hiss.
Paul came to him after receiving petitions and found him in bed, his knees brought up to his chest and golden hair in a curtain falling over his face, mute with agony. He sat down with a sigh and waited for his nephew to acknowledge him.
‘It pains me to see you like this.’ He said.
Eilhu peered through the curtain of hair at him.
‘My pain is my own.’ Eilhu said.
Paul nodded in understanding, seeing the faint glimmer of connection renewed between them.
‘ If you wanted to talk, I would listen.’
Eilhu sat up, slow and cautious as a foal testing its limbs, brushed his hair from his eyes.
‘What does talking do? A man is his actions, not his words.‘ he said.
Eilhu’s lips drew back over his teeth and the beard around his mouth was damp as he got up from the bed.
‘I trust you will retire to the garden?’ Paul said.
Eilhu went over to the garden.
‘You misunderstand me, uncle.’ He said.
Paul’s heart danced with a small hope of reconciliation between him. He treasured his nephew through to his bones and late at night, he would whisper to the darkness of his hopes for Eilhu to succeed him. Eilhu turned his head and smiled at him.
‘I seek revenge, and I believe you hold the means to it.’
Paul swallowed, prickling with a caution which pooled in the wounds he carried, made them throb and sing as he debated whether to risk candour with his nephew.
He gave a small nod and Eilhu raised his eyes.
‘He raised me uncle, I can feel his presence.’ He said.
Paul folded his hands in his lap and pursed his lips.
‘He is here, bound in cold iron until I decide what to do with him.’
Eilhu came to his uncle and dropped to his knees, eyes bulging in their sockets as he took his uncle’s hands in his.
Paul sought to stuff down the flames of delight at such a turn in events. Their reunion had been stilted and disconnected, but now the parts of his soul which were a shrine to the boy glowed with a renewed faith.
‘I want to see him.’ He said.
Paul bit the inside of his cheek and squeezed his nephew’s hands. Eilhu’s face was tight with need as they gazed at one another. A revelation came to Paul’s lips, a confession which would change everything between and around them but he decided against it.
‘Yes, it is important for you to see him. The queen’s murder was by his hand.’ Paul said.
Eilhu swallowed and lowered his chin. Fat tears welled up and trickled down, dissolving into his beard.
‘Then I must see him. If only to know.’ He said.
Paul steeled himself for disappointment but this victory, silent and ethereal unmanned him. He asked Eilhu if he wished to see him straight away but Eilhu shook his head.
‘I must prepare myself. It’s not an easy thing to consider.’ Eilhu said.
Paul let go of Eilhu’s hands and placed his right hand on his shoulder.
‘Would you like me to come with you?’ he said.
Eilhu shook his head and rested his hand atop his uncle’s and gazed into his eyes with such depth of feeling it was like staring into the sun.
Paul got to his feet and smiled down at Eilhu.
‘I will show you his cell then leave you to it.’ He said.
He would not, he decided, but Eilhu deserved closure and Paul knew opening the wrong door would undo everything.
What haunted him afterwards were the consequences of opening the right door.
Paul walked with Eilhu, down through the winding tunnels into the bowels of the castle. Eilhu wrinkled his nose with distaste at the fetid, warm stench which clung to each stone like a jealous lover as they walked but kept his face still.
‘Why does it stink so much down here?’ Eilhu said.
Paul coughed into his fist and nodded before he spoke.
‘Cold iron burns.’ He said.
Eilhu grimaced and swallowed, tasted something dank and ugly in the air down here. They stopped outside a cell door and Paul unsheathed a dagger from his belt, flipped it over with a smooth, practiced flick of his wrist and offered it to Eilhu.
Paul’s eyes sparked in the gloom.
Eilhu took the dagger, held it up to the light and inspected the blade. The edges gleamed, forged from good steel and cold iron. He hid his feelings and gave a small nod.
Paul opened the door and stepped to one aside.
Eilhu took a deep breath and walked in as the door closed behind him.
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In dreams I want to fly but fall like a silent prayer. My limbs are an anchor as I slip beneath the surface. Opened mouthed my lungs expand, struggling palms lie flat as gentle waves of the river rock me. Seaweed strands of hair mingle with the sigh of my breath, my only thing of […]
The museum of my heart is full of rooms that describe me but do not define me. Walls painted with joy and pain. Hung with the memories of family and friends and lovers. Floors set with mistakes and successes Ceilings lit with laughter and love. This museum of my heart is not a place of […]
Toni stood in line at the supermarket, jostling Henry on her hip as she watched the cashier check her coupons with the precision of a corrupt jeweller. The cashier glanced up at her with dull eyes and Toni steeled herself for recognition which came too often to dismiss. She passed a faded coupon back to her between thumb and forefinger.
‘This one’s expired.’ The cashier said.
Toni grimaced and checked the small print, crumpled it up in her hand and shoved it into her back pocket. She considered dropping it but there were people behind her. Toni fought to ignore the impatient sighs and mumbled comments which arose with each second.
‘The others work, right?’ Toni said.
The cashier nodded, her eyes twinkled with pity which made Toni’s stomach churn. She handled indifference with aplomb but pity? Toni felt it like a slap across her face before she handed over her card and paid for the groceries. She turned to one side, grabbed her bags in one hand and went outside. Henry wailed at a volume which felt like nails being hammered into her temples so she hustled across the car park, opened the trunk and put her bags inside. She entertained the exhausted impulse to put him in the trunk and enjoy the silent company of the groceries, but she turned and kissed him on a soft, wet cheek and smelled his hair instead.
Dad was in the yard, in his underwear when she pulled up, staring at her in frightened confusion as he scratched the white hairs on his melted wax abdomen and his yellowing shorts hung low on his hips, ragged and threadbare from too many laundry cycles. Toni swore under her breath as she got out and told him to go back inside. He stared at her, bottom lip flapping like an adulterer’s shirt tails and turned around.
‘Where’s Maria?’ Toni said.
Dad looked at her with the same expression a dog gave if you showed it a card trick before he shrugged his shoulders.
‘I’m hungry.’ He said.
Toni grimaced and got Henry from the child seat. Her dad walked inside, and she averted her gaze from his sallow, sagging buttocks, shocked by how he had degraded since Mom died. She would call the agency and give them a piece of her mind, they cost enough and still hired incompetent carers for her dad. By the time she had soothed them both, the impulse passed and she had dinner to cook. Afterwards, Dad insisted on watching the news even though he wouldn’t remember what he watched. Toni stayed in the kitchen, did the dishes and tried to drown out the bray of her old boss at a press conference before it made her break something.
Her phone bleated and she picked it up.
‘Toni Keating.’ She said.
A sigh came through the phone and the hairs went up on the back of her neck.
David on the phone. The sound of his voice raised the hairs on her forearms, sent a low pleasurable trickle of lava down from her stomach into her pelvis. It lasted for a second before she looked at the sink full of dishes and her dad turned the volume up on the television. Reality tapped her on the shoulder and reminded her of how things were.
‘Fuck off, David.’ She said.
He sighed and told her to calm down which made her disconnect the call and put the phone back in her pocket. She glanced at the television, saw him in a medium close up and giving the killer smile which had done so much harm to her so she called him back. It went to voicemail, and the smooth burr of his voice set her aflame.
‘When I see a fucking dime out of you, then you get the privilege of ringing me up to reminisce. Until then, don’t fucking call me. Ever. I wish you were dead.’ She said.
She disconnected the call, humming with self-righteousness until she heard Henry squall from his cot and she burst into hot, frustrated tears. She dashed through to get him and hustled him into her arms. She pressed her nose to the top of his head, inhaled him like good cocaine and squeezed her eyes shut against the tears.
Henry nestled against her chest and touched her cheek with a soft, sticky hand. It wasn’t much, but it was enough. She walked through to the living room, asked her dad to turn the volume down and saw David on the television stood with the President.
Her lover and her boss, talking like old friends.
She still had a few of the suits in the wardrobe. The shoes had gone in a yard sale, for far less than she had paid. The black housekeeper walked off with a pair of Manholos, grinning like she had won the lottery. It had gone on diapers which was appropriate. No one recognised her anymore, the years had worn away the polish and make up was pointless, even for herself. She had gone from prime time television during the most controversial election in decades to just another aimless, crumpled mother in the streets. Mandy, her neighbour who lent her the occasional menthol cigarette in return for watching her son asked her once why she didn’t sell her story. Toni raised a finger to interrupt her, went through to her bedroom and came back with a thick document in her hands. She let it slide onto the table with a thump which made Mandy cry out.
‘That’s why.’ She said.
Non Disclosure Agreement. She had signed it as the price of the ticket to get aboard and she couldn’t imagine breaching it. Toni came to the campaign wreathed in a belief which resisted the logic and rhetoric of political commentators and journalists. She would have given up an arm for him if he had asked.
She lost more than that.
Henry cried and Dad had fallen into a light doze on the lounger as she stood there, watched the circus go on without her. Toni wept. She threw a blanket over her dad’s legs and smiled at him. Toni remembered how he would babble to his friends about his little girl on the tv, representing the next President until his voice gave out. His mind had beaten his voice now, but in moments of clarity, he gazed at her with bemusement and she had to turn away. She cuddled Henry and kept kissing the top of his head.
‘It’s okay, baby.’ She said.
She kept saying it, over and over.
Over and over.
Over and over.
A VIOLENT LOYALTY
Once Upon a Time Paul limped down the winding passage towards the cell where he communicated with The Dust. Paul kissed his fears full on the lips but his nerves ran like stallions on the shores of his soul. He unlocked the door to the cell and slipped inside, letting his eyes adjust to the gloom within. The cell was small, slick and dark like an open wound stinking of old blood, sweat and shit in every breath. In the farthest corner, something had grown there. It was a desiccated ball of chitin, dripping with strings of translucent mucus and pulsing in time with Paul’s heartbeat. He tried to look away, to focus on the ritual of communion which allowed him to communicate without risk of attack.
The Dust came, ragged fingernails scraping down his spine and the hot, wet breath of a rapist at the back of his neck.
‘We’ve had fun with your little hunter.’ It said.
The sacred texts and histories related to The Dust contradicted one another in terms of its origins. Paul, ever the pragmatist had found the rituals and wards to summon and control it but as time went on, he entertained doubts about his actions. He was aging and each time he communed, another sliver of his soul decayed and fell away.
‘Don’t mock me.’ He said.
The Dust laughed like an unrepentant mourner and the darkness coalesced towards him, denied by the wards which protected Paul from harm. The ball in the corner pulsed with a gruesome enthusiasm.
‘Is that him?’
The Dust was silent and the ball split, spewing a torrent of black bile, seething with small, fat grubs onto the packed dirt of the cell. A hand reached out, the fingers thin and tapering to claws which curved over followed by a forearm ridged with jagged lengths of bone, the skin having healed around it but still carrying the pink of infection. The abhorrent birth throes spat the thing out, human in shape but as it lifted its head, it smiled and revealed several rows of tiny, sharp teeth underneath black lips and patches of yellowed beard. Paul could not meet its gaze, seeing too much of Ernst in the reconfigured anatomy. There was intelligence there, the kind which inspired children to pluck the wings from butterflies and men to hurt their women in places which would never heal. Paul fought the urge to vomit or weep and turned his head.
‘Your only true child.’ It said.
Paul pressed his knuckles against his closed mouth and squeezed his eyes shut.
‘Shut up, damn you.’ He said.
The Dust laughed and Paul saw the perpetual damnation he had surrendered to. He was a king in every part of his kingdom, but here he was servant to a master who was a genius in the art of cruelty. Paul sighed and looked into the darkness.
‘It needs to play.’ It said.
Paul coughed and nodded. The parts of his intellect which saw the picture from an elevated perspective considered the application.
‘I know somewhere.’ He said.
The Ernst-thing mewled like a starving infant being fed pebbles and Paul ended the ritual with a wave of his hand and backed away. He said he would return with instructions and a location.
The Galloping Horse was a small inn, popular by its position on the first stretch of good road out of the forest. Ingrid and John had run the place with more elbow grease than talent and when Ed, their nephew came to him, with a talent for making bread which was not burnt and raw and stews which smelled of rich memories, they had found a life, small and hard like a stone in a boot, but not without its pleasures. The rooms were full, and all of them worked to keep the beer, wine and food coming to their patrons. The sun had set, and Ed was looking forward to sitting down when Ingrid came up and pinched the back of his neck which made him yelp with indignant surprise.
‘Go to the stable, horses are playing up.’ She said.
He snarled at his aunt, rubbed the sore spot where her nails had dug in and wiped his hands on his apron.
‘Don’t let the loaves burn. Uncle John blames me when it happens.’ He said.
Ingrid hissed at him and rolled her eyes. He strode past, thirteen years old and thin from constant motion and a spare diet, walked outside to the stables. He took a breath and a thick, metallic scent clotted in his nostrils.
Ed froze, seized by a jolt of utter panic before he flung himself towards the stable. He swung open the door, overwhelmed by the stink of blood and in the shadows, he saw the glistening pink ropes of intestine, dragged and slashed to ribbons in a shuddering pile. Themare, ridden by a hedge knight had been kindand even tempered, but now Ed could make out one sightless, staring eye at him. He he backed out, opened another door. The stallion had reared at him, and Ed had dodged a hoof to the temple with more luck than skill before muscling it into the stable.
Its head sat on the floor, stared up at Ed with a final pleading look in its eyes as a thick pool of blood spread out, pieces of straw floating away. The rest of its body laid in the back as Ed saw a pale, emaciated figure hunched over it. Ed heard the gristle of torn flesh and the flat, damp sounds of feeding before he turned on his heels and ran.
He heard someone screaming and realised it was him. The stable door flew open and Ed stared at the door to the inn. He had fostered a grim acceptance of his life there, burns from the fire and bruises from his relatives, an ache in the small of his back and knees which was his only companion.
An impact knocked him forwards, the breath forced from his lungs as he clipped his chin and caught the tip of his tongue between his teeth, sent it flying like a pink, meat fly as his mouth filled up with blood. He tried to call for help but hands clamped either side of his head and twisted. Ed felt the bones in his neck wrench, cutting off the words before he could speak. His last memory was his perspective tilting and looking down at his headless corpse.
Ingrid pulled the batch of bread from the oven, eyes narrowed against the smoke and bitter ashes which spewed from the oven. Ed had allowed this to happen, and she itched to transfer her failings to him with a sharp pinch or a good slap. John loved his nephew and wouldn’t lay a hand on him, pointing out how his cooking kept people coming back. She heaved it onto the table and coughed, expecting his skin between her nails when she heard the tinkling of broken glass and a cry of alarm. John bellowed and she ran through to the main room of the inn. The patrons were on their feet, backing away as she muscled through and saw what came through the window.
She swooned, but regained herself as she saw the head which landed face up on the wooden table. Ed’s last expression had been disbelief and terror, carved into his muscles and frozen forever. Her eyes went from the head to the broken glass as a shape filled the gap, curling its elongated fingers around the frame as it hissed with carnal anticipation. It darted forwards, too quick and quiet to be anything human, leaping at the nearest patron and sinking its teeth into the man’s neck with abandon as it wrapped its legs around him. Ingrid ran towards the back, the wet cacophony of violence reaching a terrible pitch as people tried to flee the carnage.
John was in there, but Ingrid kept running, barrelling through the door and fleeing into the woods without looking back.
She ran until her lungs burned and her legs were hollow, unable to stop even when a low branch smacked across the bridge of her nose and sent a flare of pain up into her forehead. She ran through the pain, but the branches overhead shook with a terrible urgency and she felt blood drip onto the crown of her head from above before she looked upwards and saw an emaciated figure leap onto her from above.
She stared out at nothing and unable to explain what happened. Her skirts were soaked with blood and the patrol traced her path back to the inn. One of them reported this to their commander, and the regent.
Carrey received the news with a closed expression. He called for a scribe to compose a letter.
It had begun.
Ingrid laid in the apothecary’s quarters, silent and unmoving. Something turned in the pit of her stomach and opened its eyes.
Once Upon a Time, Mirabelle awoke to the echoes of prayers reverberating around the chamber, pulled from a lustful, twisting dream like a fish from water. The air shimmered with the heat and she reached for the wide wooden bowl of water, washing away the grit from her eyes. Her travelling clothes were too thick for the climate, and she had a white robe and a Shayla, a headscarf which she put on with care, recalling how Asra wore hers. She walked around the room, marvelling at the woven tapestries, the furred textures and colours were sensuous enough to take her breath away. Banners and tapestries at home were martial celebrations, fallen enemies and lauded victories in colours of blood and soil. The Caliphate was a place where sense and spirit were indivisible, knowledge seen as a weapon to equal the sharpest spear. Mirabelle was here on business, but the atmosphere had seeped beneath her skin.
Eilhu would love this place. The thought was bittersweet and she pressed her palm against her collarbone, fighting the ache of his absence.
‘Good morning, your highness.’
Asra stood in the doorway, without a Shayla but wearing a red loose gown which had the liquid sheen of silk, stressing the lean length of her physique as she smiled at Mirabelle.
‘Please, I am Mirabelle.’ She said.
Asra’s smile widened as she rolled her eyes, gestured towards Mirabelle with her tattooed fingers.
‘Mirabelle.’ She said.
Mirabelle’s nascent mood dived downwards and she recalled her father, both in life and death.
‘I owe you an explanation.’ She said.
Asra offered her hand, her dark eyes weighted with expectation and curiosity.
‘Over breakfast, then?’ she said.
Mirabelle took her arm and they went down to eat in the garden.
They took the long route through the qusur, a series of tunnels which ran through the reservoir. Mirabelle took it all in with awe as Asra showed her the gardens, but stopped at a corner kept apart by a large wall and a spiked metal gate with a large, ornate lock set into the centre. The change in temperature made Mirabelle shiver, but it was a pleasurable sensation to wander through the cool darkness.
‘I expected to meet the Caliph.’ Mirabelle said.
Asra nodded as she retrieved a key with a slow flick of her wrist and turned it in the lock.
‘All in good time, Sir Carrey sent word of what you needed and it is something I can provide.’ She said.
Mirabelle enjoyed the low purr of Asra’s voice, cultured and erudite with a note of dark power which resonated in the hollows of her bones. She fought the tender sparks of nerves which flew up within her.
‘You’re more informed than I.’ Mirabelle said.
Asra pushed open the gate and waved Mirabelle through.
‘You wish to know the face of your enemy.’ She said.
Mirabelle gasped at the variety and tumescence of the plant life.
Thick, purple vines with swollen berries dripping white, pearlescent liquid.
A horned bush which undulated in patterns of exploration, a sinuous, blind dance which unnerved and intrigued Mirabelle.
A tall bank of yellow flowers, which hummed, the pressure and volume pooling in Mirabelle’s sinuses until she swayed on her feet.
Asra put a hand on her shoulder and drew her backwards, which made the effect of the plants lessen until it became a curiosity.
‘What are those?’ Mirabelle said.
Asra took her arm and led her from the garden.
‘As an exercise, ask yourself the question and we can discuss your answers.’ Asra said.
Mirabelle frowned with polite distaste but Asra chuckled.
‘I offer knowledge but you must earn it.’
Mirabelle turned and faced Asra.
‘I’ve had to trick the people I love into believing me dead, Lady Asra, the least you can do is answer a straight question.’ She said.
Asra locked the gate and appraised Mirabelle with care.
‘You face an enemy who has feasted on the bones of Gods. Some idiot summoned it.’ She said.
Mirabelle paled and sucked the cool air into her nostrils, the hiss of a candle flame extinguished in a single deft pinch.
‘They murdered my father.’ she said.
Asra bowed her head.
‘No, I meant an idiot in they have unleashed something they cannot hope to control.’ Asra said.
Mirabelle thought of Carrey, Eilhu, her father. The people who loved her.
‘What does the garden have to do with it?’
Asra shook her head.
‘Ask yourself and answer it as we break our fast.’ She said.
They feasted on dates as sweet as stolen kisses, milk as thick and rich as a lover’s thigh. Asra asked Mirabelle for her answer.
‘They’re plants.’ Mirabelle said.
Asra nodded in agreement.
‘What does a plant want to do?’ she said.
‘Feed and grow.’ Mirabelle said.
Asra clapped her hands together.
‘Does it know reason?’ she said.
Mirabelle shook her head.
‘Then it becomes a matter as simple as black and white. What are you to do?’ she said.
Mirabelle swallowed, recalling the agonies she faced at the hands of this unknown antagonist.
‘Find out what it takes to kill it.’ Mirabelle said.
Asra smiled, as cold a gesture as a knife drawn across a throat.
‘I like you.’ Asra said.
(The Wild Man – Omnibus from the beginning. Season 2 is https://mbblissett.com/2017/08/11/the-wild-man-season-2-omnibus-2/.
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Still hold hands
Whisper to one another
In the language of silence
Kiss as soul’s kiss
Love as a flower
Holding onto pieces of