Don’t You Want Me Back?

     It stank in this place where I ‘self-medicated’. 

     I called it that because I didn’t want to say I was strung out on something I’d actually forgotten the name of, because I was that addicted. 

     But the alternative of memory was worse, and death would have been a lot more certain.

     As it was, it all seemed unreal.

     When Carla died in the accident, I broke down, lost everything, because she’d been a lifeboat in an ocean of garbage, betrayal, and abuse.

    She was the one light in the darkness, and I walked toward it as she walked toward me, though I’ll never figure out what it was she saw other than a shadow trying to crawl out of the void. 

    I didn’t  know that shadows have no business crawling toward light.

    I’m sorry, Carla. I thought that sentence for untold times, for untold years as the chemical cocktails I indulged in began to dissipate my body.

   I was okay with that, but then I saw Carla one night in the small hours of the morning, standing in the corner of my hovel.

   “There is a way…” she told me. 

   I grasped at the chance. “Tell me how.” 

   She told me, and the following night I went to see.


    This place stank too, but more of an effort was made to cover it up.

    It stank of desperation, hope, and ruin, and its appearance was almost a parody of a carnival fortune teller, but the old woman who owned the place took herself seriously, and I should have done that too.

    “Your Carla, she died in an accident,” the old woman told me. “Do you want her back?”

    I swallowed, nodded, and took the offered bottled water. My body’s moisture had been gulped by the chemicals I put into it two hours ago, and decided to go do what Carla told me as reason and the ability to function flickered under the drug’s onslaught.

    “She told me there’s a way…”

    “Yes. Do you know where she is?”

    I did. The family came and put her there, blamed and rejected me, and cut me off from Carla in a way I never had been in life.

    But she loved me and came to me, even if I was the cause of her end.

    I didn’t think I was, but guys like me never blame themselves.


    “Do you want her back?”


    She looked at me for a long moment, so long that I began to shift in my seat, sipping the water to keep up my end of the silence.

     Finally, she nodded. “Very well. It will not be pleasant, and I make no guarantees.”

     I held up a hand to stop her from going further. “Wait a minute. Will she be as I remembered, or as she is now?”

      It had been a while, and I’d read stories about this kind of thing before…before all this.

      She gave a heavy sigh that puffed up her round, stunted body for a moment and made her look, just for a second, like a beating heart. 

      “I make no guarantees.” 


      She said something about blood, and making a sacrifice, and digging Carla up, and some words I was supposed to say. 

     I didn’t do any of it, even after making plans to break in, or climb, or do whatever it took. 

     The place was in a wealthy, snobby neighborhood, so there’d be video, security, twenty four seven protection; I’d stand out like a bloodstain on white marble, sure to be harassed by the cops.

     After that, who knew? They’d be free to do what they want with me, and to me.

     I laughed at myself, imagining my clothes to be in the style of some Victorian grave robber digging up corpses for money, my one and only contribution to science. 

     But as I kept putting it off, something in me changed, and for some reason the chemical need didn’t seem as urgent now.

     Carla came to me again, between injections, as I was letting the last one fully dissipate. 

    Where are you, Warren? She told me you came to see her, and she told you what to do.

    I sat up in bed, despite the pain it caused. I had to see her, but I didn’t want to be prone and vulnerable. “She did.” 

    Carla looked like she always had before the accident, but I could see the cracks in the broken wall behind her now. The last time, I couldn’t. 

    But you didn’t come for me. I thought you loved me.

    “I did. I still do.”

   Then why haven’t you done what she told you? I’m waiting, but every day you don’t, I get weaker.

   Don’t you want me back?

   “I did, but I didn’t want you back…like you are, there in the ground now.”


    “I asked her if you’d come back to me like you were in life, or now. She told me she couldn’t make any guarantees. In other words, she didn’t know. If she’s all that good, with all the people she’s supposed to have helped, why wouldn’t she know?”

   Carla floated there in front of me, silent, her sunken eyes still somehow managing to convey hurt at my hesitancy, at the fact that I’d even delayed at all to what…rescue her?

   You’re leaving me.

    I got up on my feet. “Carla…” I moved toward her spirit.

    You’re leaving me! 

    Her flash of anger made me jump, and I stopped moving. 

    The silence grew tense, long, awkward. She was waiting for me to confirm it. 

    I merely sighed, which said everything I couldn’t. 

    Then come to me, she said.


    Come join me, Warren. Put together one last blast of what makes you feel good, and join me here. We’ll be together again, with no one to stop us.

    I considered it. Everything was there, in full view. 

    Everything was there but the need for it. 

    Warren…? She was still there, but a darkness in the center of her manifestation was slowly spreading. 

    I looked back at the busted table, and all I had to do was use the equipment to feel that familiar, toxic warmth once more, feel it for the last time.

    The old woman said it would take a sacrifice, but didn’t say it would be me. 

    Warren, don’t you want me back?

    I don’t know how much longer I stood there in the sick, shadowed darkness of what I’d become, in the small hours of a cold night with a chill wind storming the cracked windows,  driving out the cloying, putrid stink of my wasted life, and taking something else with it.

    I only know that when I turned to look again for Carla, for the ghost of the woman who’d been the light in my earthly darkness, she was gone.

    It was only then I realized our roles had been reversed.


 I was bent over her, offering what small comforts I could in her final moments, but yes, I was also curious as well when I looked into her eyes.

  They were yet beautiful, and still full of life, but restless despite my murmuring of vague and pointless reassurances she’d be fine, when she was so clearly not; they couldn’t seem to focus on my face.

   As I was the one responsible for her current state, I wasn’t so sure I’d look at me either.

   She’d lost a lot of blood and was starting to tremble, her right hand squeezing mine in a desperate attempt to anchor herself to the living world as my tears fell on her cheeks to mingle with her own.

   I called her name.

   For a moment, it brought her back from wherever she was, and she stopped trembling.

   “Help me,” she whispered through dry, cracked, bloody lips.

   “I want to help you, but you have to choose. Now.”

   The scent of her leaking blood was intoxicating, and as much as I knew what I would have chosen for her, it had to be her decision, and hers alone.

   She struggled, blinking rapidly, and breathing became harder.

   Her wounds filled and emptied with red life with each heartbeat, and I trembled myself from the sheer effort it took to keep my focus.

   Again, the squeezed hand for something to anchor her and keep her safe from the unknown realm of spirits.


    I smoothed her hair from her forehead and pulled her close.

    “Do you trust me, then?” 



    Despite my frantic need, the bite was tender, the herald fangs well placed, compensating for the curve to fit snug into the vein that would give me back my own life, cursed as it was.

    I sobbed with the pleasure and gratitude of the warmth that filled me, pulling the wasted nourishment away from the holes in her body that spilled it on the ground.

    Holding her with both my hands on her back, braced in my arms, she shuddered against me as I worked. Her loud gasp of finality was music in my ear as she slumped against me, and her nails scratched my forearms.

     I felt her life slip, and bit deeper in a final bid to make this work. It was selfish and cruel on my part, but I couldn’t let her go yet. 

     Caught up in the sensations, I closed my own eyes and gave myself over to our moment.


     I don’t know how long we stayed in that terrible, tender tableau of damnation, but her skin was cold against my cheek when I felt her lips move to give me a tender kiss and whisper my name.

     My eyes opened, boring into hers, looking for fear, questions, loathing, and horror at what she’d allowed herself to become. 

     There was only a calm acceptance, her eyes as clear and lovely as ever, scanning my face.

     “You came back to me.” 

“I never left, you fool.” She nestled on my shoulder.

I suppose, all things considered, she didn’t.

No, They’re Not Asleep

 The things that can scent you in the dark, that track you by the smell of your fearful blood, and the things that feast on the small, red, stringy, buffet that is you, don’t take their rest by day, as you would hope, or once believed.

   No, dear child, their thoughts churn, and their dreams give them power. 

   Their lack of humanity robs them of all innocence, and there is no divine judgment on their soulless bodies.

    They’ve already made plans for tonight, and you will never know when your part of town, or  all of your farms, forests, festivals, and sabbaths will be a day of bloody carnage and a Valhallian feast for the damned.


     Sometimes, they fight among themselves with a great slaughter, but the diminished ranks are always replenished.

     It’s neither quick nor pretty, this refilling. 

    Some are quite willing to die, and some are so wretched they will beg to belong, no matter the cost.

    Others will be turned, and still others, turned away, but those are seldom left alive.

    These plans, at times, have brought undue and unwanted attention.

    Those who bring it are willing to risk the consequences, and bigger losses ensue.

    The ruination is glorious in scope, and the air smells of wasted humanity proportional to the scope of the war. 

    They’re stupid, fragile things, these humans, but they’re sense of self cannot be denied. A rebellious, vain, and silly lot, they are not inept at fighting their enemies. They will cry, and mourn and wail, but they will not stop fighting all the way to their own demise.

   But soon, their end must come.

   Be there to witness it.
   Be there to help it along.

   Be there tonight, child. 

   No, they’re not asleep. 

   They never are.

Spending the Night

He was twice cursed: once to walk the night, and twice, to feel every cosmic shift of the stars, to hear its spirits calling, crying, and keening all around him.

He saw the roiling atoms of life grind and flow to make the very dark that cloaked his hands with frost, and burned his skull with eyes of fire.

Even the spirits paused in their wanderings to let him pass.

The damned saw him in all his splendor, the gems and gold that bedecked and dripped from his limbs, and the exalted blessed fled from the sight of his malformed, wretched nakedness.

And when he wished it, all fled from his presence, leaving him to hear his own feet crunch, splash, shuffle, and run, feeling the pain of never resting, even when the silence of a universe devoid of gods and magic mocked his tears where the trails scraped like small claws and tasted of brine, and he would beg for death’s peace.

Death would reveal himself, shake his silent skull ‘no,’ and disappear. Again.

And step after he weary step, he wandered on.

And wanders still.


Chapter 1: A Buzzard’s Circle

   Ours was a small town, but shrouded in dark secrets, and steeped in bad, bloody practices. The forest around us was cursed and haunted with the spirits of burned witches, tortured slaves, and small, shallow graves full of the indiscretions of the town’s self-proclaimed holy men. They sometimes paid unholy men to rid them of those indiscretions for good, or to see to it they didn’t stay anywhere close.

     The man who was now responsible for burying them all seemed himself to never age, though he was clearly on the other side of youth. He worked alone, and hard.

    Overall, he seemed fit enough, and did the job well.

    Of course, being quiet and aloof he came under suspicion, though he seemed a naturally quiet man content with his lot in life. His reluctance to offer any sort of consolation to the grieving seemed more out of surliness than a quiet personality.

    His name was foreign and difficult to pronounce for our plain tongues, and though no one knows or remembers who started it, he was nicknamed ‘Buzzard,’ because he seemed content to dwell there among the dead, though a house had been purchased for him in the town proper. 

    He set up a room in the sexton’s workshed and slept there. 

    Being under suspicion for his ways, the town council tested him by sending prostitutes, con men, and the occasional bounty hunter, to see what his character was made of and how prone he was to bribery’s corruption.

    All of them returned quickly, having been rebuffed in a quick and efficient manner.

    With the hunters, some of whom were offered a bounty for his head, not all of them returned; whether they died or got away is anyone’s guess. The ones who did kept their silence, and never came back.

    The women cited the Buzzard’s intense scrutiny that bore through their fakery and chilled them to the bone.

    His secrets were safe, whatever they were. 

    But the council was more determined than smart, and by the time they found out Buzzard’s true nature, it was too late.  

2: The Final First Warning

    At the time of the next town gathering to discuss bringing in and distributing the harvest, Buzzard showed up late and took a seat in the back. He paid no attention to the silence that fell over the Hall. He’d never shown up to a gathering before. 

    He looked at no one, and said nothing, but his eyes were all business.

    He figured out what they were doing, and he came here to let them know he wasn’t pleased.

    When the meeting was over, Buzzard moved to block the door, and those nearest him recoiled when his gaze swept over them. They recoiled a bit further as he spoke.

    “This will be your only warning. Leave me be. I bury your dead, respectfully and thoroughly.

    “Been doing it a long time, and I’ll keep doing it ‘til my own time. Leave it at that, and leave me be.”

    No one said anything, and he stepped aside to let them pass, turning his gaze to the council in the front of the room, who decided to leave by another door rather than pass him. 

   A couple of them challenged his staring, but their nerves failed them. It was as if they realized he might do any number of things to them at any time, because they knew almost nothing about him. 


    Leave it at that.

    It was too late. He piqued my youthful curiosity, and I had to get this figured out.

    I convinced two of my friends to come with me to spy on him after midnight.

*art by bzitz*

An Inheritance of Light

All I could think of was how beautiful you looked, even through the downpour.

Your stance so regal, dark-gowned, standing full height in the wind-tossed high grass

Your bearing, not defiant, but trusting that the power so rapidly bearing down upon you, dread and awful in its unpredictability when bequeathed to your forebears, would find no fault or make exceptions.

My heartbeat matched the shimmering rhythm of the thick, slashing rain seeking to smash through the window. I had to shield my eyes against the sizzling brightness of untethered lightning striking in several bolts, but I saw when it hit you.

I saw you fall, believing you dead, burned to a bloody pile of bone and ash to be swept away across the open field, the rushing wind scattering your remains like sand from a child’s fist.

Then I wept for you all through the wet, stormy night thinking your new power found fault in you after all and punished you for the crimes of your soul.


At first, the smoldering grass hid you from me.

When you finally emerged, walking toward me, unsteady as newborn fawn, the sight of you was terrible and beautiful, spellbinding and repulsive. I confess that fear and lust waltzed within me at the sight of you, rescued and resurrected, by a hand unseen yet not unfamiliar.

The dark, vengeful fallen one, swatted from Paradise like the very flies he commands, took pity on himself, raising you to be yet another useless minion to strike another feeble blow at his celestial conqueror.

Closer still, our eyes locked. There was sadness in your gaze, even through the iridescence of your glowing irises.

The field that newly took the trauma of your birthing, now tinged with the light of false dawn, gave the wet, charred grasses over to cold death as the morning dew drowned the rest of the small, clingy fires..

You walked back into a world that no longer knew you, and held me tight.

And in my weakness, I suffered the bite that transported me, and took the mark that condemned me to be with you to endure unbearable pain, knowing you were no longer who you were.

I wondered if together, in the inheritance of damnation’s light, we would we learn to love again.

In time?

For eternity?

Does it matter?

Vision Aerie (1: The Caul of War)

Years later, standing there alone in the center of the sizzling, stinking, fire strewn rubble, I was left without a sense of peace or resolution following the enemy’s defeat.

As the sun set in the very shades of the blood we spilled, those who gathered round to gawk at the remains of their invaders likely felt a sense of ‘closure,’ but the only thing that closed for me that day were the gates of any celestial paradise to my immortal, trembling, wailing soul, and I left them to bury their dead, and loot what they desired, reminded once more of the calling that followed me, and the curse that followed the call.


I was in their world, even then, and while not quite understanding what was wrong, I knew that something wasn’t right.

The spirits were all around the onlookers staring into my cradle. A swirling mass of black shapes and shadows, they too turned their gazes on me, peering as they assessed the threat.

I stopped pulling at my face and returned their silent scrutiny, looking past the smiling, cooing, babbling faces that were a hair’s breadth away from having their souls snatched from the land of the living the way a cutpurse steals the gold of the unsuspecting.


The onlookers were now cheering, surrounding my body, kissing my cheek soiled by ashes and blood, pounding my back, and offering hands to shake that I ignored.

I was a foreigner here; I had no tribal marks, nor spoke their language, but their grateful smiles convinced me that I’d helped win the long, protracted war against the invading hordes that seemed to continually plague them. As the cheering continued, despite my reluctance, in my own relief I began to return their smiles, and in a rush of pride foolishly, foolishly roared my hollow victory to the equally hollow sky, or so I thought.

But the gods that dwelled in hallowed halls had just begun to make the path crooked as they played with my life.


The spirits around my family and their friends all turned their attention to a dark haired, dark eyed woman who took my infant fists in her hand, and leaned over to get my attention.

Everything went still, and with three of her long fingernails and a practiced motion she lifted the caul from my face, letting it dangle for a few seconds while she cleaned my face with the damp, warm cloth in her other hand.

My face was cold, and I suppose blue, because she set the cloth aside and rubbed my cheeks with her soft palms as she turned to reassure my mother I would live.

When she took the caul, it was not a tearing off, but more like an extraction of something inside me, like lovers releasing a long, hard hug.

She put it somewhere on her person, and the spirits began to disappear from my sight, as grim and deathly silent as they’d manifested.


As the sense of relief at their liberation swelled, I found myself lifted and carried on shoulders that bobbed and dipped not unlike the ocean. Whether it was from drunkenness or weakness. I couldn’t tell, and it didn’t matter, but I bunched some fabric on shoulders in my fists and held on, not knowing where they were taking me.

Inevitably, the toll of the fight took my consciousness as its prize, and the last thing I remember was a pair of large hands peeling me off the revelers’ shoulders, and lifting my prone body into the air.


I woke up in my own bed.

Covered in bruises and scars, I didn’t understand what happened at first, handed back and forth between dreams and reality as I was, and not being able to tell the difference.

What was it about that war that I needed to be a part of it? What was inside of me that it needed in order to end?

How much did I really want to know the answer, to remember what I did, what my birth caul had to do with it, and what was the price of that knowledge?

At the core of me now was an emptiness, cold and black, devoid of anything remotely like desire to repent or apologize for whatever it had been.

Let the blood and madness flow, then.

A Vampire Pleads for Death

But the humans….

I heard the ancestors’ voices in my head, chorus and echo, reprimanding me for my reluctance.

I looked up at them, but not in prayer. If I’d had a heart, it likely would have quailed, or broken, or skipped, or whatever it is hearts do when they’ve had their full of life’s dealings.

“Yes, I know. But I grow weary of dwelling in drafty halls full of shadows, and the stench of entrails and blood, and broken bodies strewn across the soil.

“The misty nights among the tombs hold no beauty for me anymore, not even by moonlight.

“And yes, the humans are foolish; they either don’t understand why they’re punished for evil, or the relish the pain and death, and seek our retribution.

“I am tired of their tears, their screams of suffering, and the pitiable prayers, and the endless stories of why their lives should be spared in the name of love, or the offers of their wealth, even their flesh in the earthly sense, bartered like the counterfeit coin it is, but they still believe it of value to us.

“No, my people. Release me from this darkness, for I am made of dark stone, indifferent to the killing now. It holds nothing more for me, and I have lived too long in it.”

I found that as my request was spoken, I began to feel lighter, even as my vision blurred and began to darken.

They heard me.

“As I have no part in Heaven’s light, let me embrace the final darkness, and see earth and damnation no more.”

Sit here, child, and wait for the sun.

I sat and waited, feeling the red hunger growing silent within me.

And crying final tears of blood, awaited my oblivion.

Desiring Incandescence

A single ray of light shines in the sewer of my life.

The water around me is befouled beyond stench, and full of things that nip and suck and bite.

The chains chafe my wrists with their rust, now in my bloodstream, infecting as it goes. They’re heavy too, and to a starving man they weigh too much for my arms to move for too long.

I focus on the light.

I belong up there. I belong to the light.

The dark and silent cell I’m in mocks my feeble affirmation as I try to spit, but my captors have decided to keep me thirsty as well.

The light, dim as it is, hurts my eyes, and squinting doesn’t help much, but I see the hole is big enough to fit my fingers. Touch freedom. It is just within your grasp. I wanted to, more than anything, but the rational part of me that was still there tells me it’s a test, and I follow my instincts, and keep my hand inside.

I reach through, and someone breaks my fingers by stomping them, or worse, they cut them off,

The light brightened, or seemed to, as if to say I won’t let that happen. Do it. Don’t be afraid.

And so, against everything in me screaming in fear, I reach. The light finds them, warms them, and the ground is firm beneath them, and I close my eyes even as the tears fall.

There’s a breeze, and the warmth from the sun, and I close my eyes, imagining myself out there sunning like a lizard, grateful for everything. Even my solitude.

Already, my thin, shaking arms grow tired, and small clank from the shifting chains calls me back from the reverie like a parent whose child wandered too far past an unseen boundary.

Like the same willful child, I tune out the call to stay as long as I can, as long as I want. The darkness can wait.

I leave it now choice, but it is patient, indulgent even, as if the parent decided to let the consequences of that choice teach obedience.

The darkness doesn’t understand the human will.


I don’t know how long I stood there surrounded by the filth, but the ray of light faded, and gravity pulled at my manacles to break my infantile grip on the ground above me.

There were tears in my eyes still, but a smile on my face.

That smile made the darkness angry, and the things that crawled, nipped, bit, and sucked my blood came at me with a vengeance. These seemed larger, more fierce, and faster, and my screams of pain and prayers to relieve the anguish fell on deaf celestial ears that did not hear me, or chose to ignore my begging for mercy.

There will be no more tomorrows for you, the darkness said.

I was on my knees, bleeding and in agony from the poisons coursing through me.

By the time the vermin were burrowing into the gore of me, I was laughing.

I left the darkness, and went toward the last of the light.

Tell Me Your Story (Chapter 2)

His mother’s hair, glossy and black as a newborn raven’s wing, framed her face as the gentle beach wind blew strands across her sea-green eyes, an obsidian veil of strands she was forever moving with her fingers, unable to keep it tamed and penned behind her ears.

Her eyes were beautiful, the contrast against her hair and dusky skin a bit jolting at first; it seemed even her hair couldn’t help but be near them, the dark strands like fairy trails, as if they’d stopped to look before flying away, weaving around her lashes.

He found it odd she never considered cutting it, but never suggested it.

At this hour of the day the sun was high enough for the sand to be warm under his feet, and he took a glance up at the clouds sailing like galleons of vapor across the sky, assailing the light before floating away.

A perfect day.

In her linen dokran, she was not dressed for swimming today, though they walked where the surf met the sand and their feet kicked up droplets of mud; she didn’t seem to mind the hem of her robe getting muddy.

He was going to splash her, as she’d fallen into a reverie, but something in her expression checked the impulse and purged it from his mind.


She was preoccupied, looking out at the ocean, and though the surf was quiet, he didn’t think she heard him, so he called again.


She turned to face him then, her eyes coming to focus, her smile indicating he had her attention, but he’d forgotten what he was to ask about his father, and quickly filled it with something more inocuous.

“Can we collect shells today?”

Her smile grew bigger. “Don’t we always?”


He wanted to remind her that they hadn’t always, to remind her that when his father set sail and the weeks flew past like a hurricane wind that brought no letters to their door, they would go to the harbor, and she’d spend hours watching the horizon, leaving him to fend for himself through the rough trade and thick stench of filthy, briny sailors, fearless gulls and rats, and buckets of bloody chum for sharks and such.

He took the neglect well enough, and an older fish merchant took a liking to him, teaching him to scale and gut, and how to remove a hook from a wriggler. He’d also taken a liking to Mother, but when his advances were rejected, he cooled toward the boy himself, no longer as welcoming, content to exchange a brief nod of non-greeting and nothing more.

Too young to understand the motives of lust, the boy retreated further into himself, not realizing he’d been used as a prop.


Mercifully, she stopped going to the harbor, and they began to walk the beach instead. He wasn’t sure whether to view it as a sign of persistent optimism or fading hope. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know, and so they passed the time collecting shells, and he’d go swimming while she watched.

He’d swim today too, when the water became warmer, but for now, her eyes replaced the sun in his world.

The ship never came, and the emptiness of the horizon seemed to reflect the emptiness in her heart as he listened to her quiet sobbing in the small hours of the morning, grieving more for her instead of with her.

For himself, there were calico patches of impressions that never became a whole picture, trickles of sensory things that never became a whole stream.

It left him more numb than angry, more resigned than sad.

He did have a memory that he favored, but even that one he’d buried deep.


The book seemed to know he wasn’t done, and the pages called to it, digging into the barriers of his mind and tearing them like desiccated gossamer as he fought back the tears from a well he thought had dried long ago.

The memory came, evoking feelings of an unwanted longing he hated but couldn’t stop.

He shook his head. “Please, spirit. No. Please….”

The book’s power broke through, and the oldest memory flared like a newly made torch.


His parents were standing together, looking down at him as he woke up, squalling and striking the air with his infant fists.

She smiled at the both of them, kissed his toes, then kissed the man on the cheek and said she was going to make breakfast.

When she was gone, his father’s rough, strong hands lifted him to see a smile of loving pride nestled inside of bushy, black whiskers, but the rest of his father’s face was indistinct.

The smile was all he remembered while the edges of the vision dimmed and faded, and the sound of gently rolling surf returned…


“That’s a beautiful shell, son.”

He beamed at the praise, and she laughed and ruffled his hair and kissed his forehead.

“Did you put it to your ear yet?”

“Yes, I did!”

“Did you hear the ocean?”

He grew pensive. “No, I heard….I heard it speak.”

She stopped, and looked at him, saw he was serious. “What did it say to you?”

It asked me…it said, “Would you sail the world to find a smile?

He’d heard the voice as clearly as he could hear the wind, the gulls, and the surf foaming and hissing at his feet, and when he looked up again, she was weeping into her hands.


The book’s power, or whatever it was, released him.

Weakened, he merely sat back, and let his wits and composure begin to return.

He guessed he always knew he’d put the memory away but never sealed it.

He didn’t know if he could, or really wanted to seal it forever. He didn’t know if the book had that power. But what he knew was that in that moment, if he could have, he would have sailed the world to find that smile and bring it back to her so she could see the man she loved, and smile at him as she did that morning, and her world would be set right again.

Leaving the book on the table, he finally emerged from the hidden room and locked the door.

Through the dirty windows he saw the light had turned to darkness, and under a blanket of moon and stars and dusty silence, he shuffled along to his space in the library’s cellar.

He used the slivered moonlight to find a match and lit the candle on his stand, and sat on the edge of his bed thinking about what just happened, but the emotions were too high and the thoughts racing and incohesive.

He didn’t want to think right now, and reached for the flask in his stand.

With the fire of the flask’s liquid settling him, he managed to change into his night clothes and lay down.

Tonight at least, he’d sleep like the child he wished he’d been, his father standing by his mother’s side, lifting him onto broad shoulders as they all watched the feeling of longing sail away on the high tide, never to return.