Enchanted majestically to be of a simple purpose, the Crane Wife, a sea-faring vessel of moderate proportions, was created for transport. She holds no treasure, but yet many seek to find her. She requires a crew of twelve. But her Captain may never worry for her well-being, nor should he (or she) chain themselves to her helm to live with her in a watery grave. She is a feather on the seas, swift to port, and light in the breeze. She picks her Captain and will stay with them whist they prove to still be worthy. This treasure is neither gold nor gem, but is indispensable. Because, if the Captain settles at shore and calls for her, she folds her white wing masts, tucks her nose into the folds of her feathers and sinks into the wooden bones of a fine crafted statue. The Crane Wife shrinks smaller and smaller until she floats into the palm of her Captain.
-Written for a world building game at Roleplayer Guild.com
Putrid and low, crawling between the roots of eight massive spinney tress, hangs a glimmering fog. Myth has spoken in whispers of a black spider, Rom, with her tenfold skittering offspring. She was birthed unholy in the beginning when there was only darkness. With her children on her back she wandered the seas, as her eight legs were long enough to touch the bottom of all but the deepest seas. Even wandering, searching with million orb-ed eyes for a nest for her brood, until here, in a mouth of an eroded volcano, she was able to find solace. Rom folded her enormous legs beneath her, her rump facing the highest peaks, and her fangs dipping lightly into the sea at the coastline. For many years the sun rose to glint in her flickering eyes, beacons in the massiveness of the sea. And perhaps that was her downfall, as it is unknown what events actually transpired next. Perhaps, her demise was dealt by the hands of gods, humans, creatures or something as old as she that festers in the depths of the sea. As Rom died, she died as spiders die, on her back, legs reaching towards the sky.
All that is known of her struggle is the aftermath; her bones left to rot and spawn mold, her belly to be the birthplace of spiny vegetation thick with leaves of lavish white webs. Her children have reclaimed her, small though they are as they are no gods or goddesses. But they pay tribute to their mother, and at dawn, her island glimmers just as her eyes did once, sunlight glinting on webs of intricate designs spread between her legs. And perhaps Rom still protects her children, because at the place where her fangs touch the sea, just along the top of the salt water waves, there spreads an oily substance, thick and viscous. It slowly boils, secreting a mist that rises and falls with the tide, sea faring winds pushing it back into the basin where her children roam.
-Written for a world building game at Roleplayer Guild.com
This forest is lewd in it’s beauty, with vapid flowers and rocks the color of red soft flesh. Huge girthed willows whisper names so familiar you could believe one to be your own. And between roots drifts water milked clean of dirt, feeding towards the slick lips of waterfalls. But the creatures are hollow. Clinging below on branches, claws and talons gripped on a hair trigger. Like bats they hang, birds, beasts, dogs perhaps even something magical if your eyes are sharp enough. But danger comes, as look too closely you will see a split in their skulls from widows’ peaks to the base of their necks. They contain no organs, no blood to drip from their wound. And perhaps you have thought what being a wolf may feel like, what songs you would wind if you had the lungs of a sparrow. In this place you would find that answer. Just stare long enough into an empty skull and listen for the click of a trigger. A shichk as these skins release themselves from their mother trees, to fill, no longer hollow, with you. Stitched into a bird or wolf or beast from the widow’s peak to the base of your skull. And some say, near the depths lie the soft bodies of empty humankind, prime picked in every shade and sex. But only if one not be a frog before one gets there. Unless you wanted to be a frog, then congratulations.
Hunger seeps between,
the spine, head, heart, devours the dream.
The poor man’s sickness,
you heaving hunger victim
stuck slick in city pitch,
yearning a bate and switch.
They leer, stalk, just at bay…
skritch-scratch to trap you in a cage.
Wary of your claws dipped
in ethnic skin.
The world exists in a vacuum of sand and sun,
cut between wind and rock,
stained red and veined in black.
Above earth and under heaven mingle spirits,
painted purple, orange, and blue
by the fingers of the cycling Sun.
Heat breathes between ink night and bleached light
devouring mud, moist from desert rain.
But the pine buries white roots deep,
circumventing the Sun,
dipping into sweet water springs.
The world is vast,
sacred in its menace
and trusted to the few.
Pushed and pulled through the sand,
they wedge their toes between red cracks,
presiding across their their rigid earth.
Determined to stand between the mountains,
they rise with voices fronting the migrating heat.
But still, their four sacred watchmen
shutter their gazes, only blessing those within.
And beyond, the ones who were taken?
They press towards the sky:
burning brown irises for only a glimpse of
their kin through the Sun.
They are the People,
thrice and once born from under the earth
into a vacuum of sand and sun.
My mother has two infant pictures of me. She tells me I didn’t smile much but I had bright eyes and strong fingers. I remember that first picture.The one outside, in the spring sun and grass. I sat up on a rug, back straight but with a steady say, one foot nuzzled in the warmth of each hooked knee. To me, this world was the sea, splashing the green sea foam grass over the sides of my rug, a deck of rough woolen wood. I knew that if I stood I’d have to battle my stormy equilibrium, to gather my sea legs if I hoped to not tumble off the gangplank and splash back into the grass. I was content to watch the sun glint low over the fish scales of black ants, to watch my parents sail into the deeper water, circling with me as their anchor. But most importantly I listened to the wind and the comfort in his voice as he fished for the shiver in my spine.
Image: Sabin Boykinov
This man, he travels from table to table like a wet silk panther. He is sleek in his black coat. His smile is almost pleasant but for the gloss coat of whiskey slicked across his lips whenever he licks them. The hunting hours start at 5pm each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He orders a water, a whiskey and sour, and compliments the wait staff. Perhaps a about comment about my shade of lipstick or an appreciative once over of Marcus’ choice in over coat.
Next comes the steady sitting at table 4 near the door, sipping from his glass. I avoid catching his eyes when I buss past him, keeping my gaze trained on the wet path my towel makes as I clear tables. Women never approach him, but they appear to appreciate his initial company when he slides down next to them at the bar. They are charmed; he is aggressive in a lion-like manner with his smooth brown mane. He uses words like “miss” and “young lady”. I see him leave with a variety of personalities, both short leather skirts and pleated blossom blouses; woman who look easy and woman who make him do paces to appease their pride.
I know, and have witnessed, that some men bring black nights to women. Perhaps, they should have expected as much? In this place, in the places like this. But this man? Each of his one-night ladies always come back. And they are never wounded more than they are in pride when he steps off with another who is not them. He’s the cleanest sleaze I’ve seen.
He came alone at first, for three months. Until recently. A woman followed in with hair as brown as his and a mirror tilt to her smile, a sure scar of shared parentage. She named herself Karen, his sister. She sat down at the end of the bar to pester me with tales of her brother. One embarrassing snippet to cut him down every time he slicks his way into another woman. I have trouble understanding the two her and he, together and related. Whenever he comes over to speak to her, he stands a ways to her left. If there was anyone who at this bar who shifts to timid and wounded, it is him when he sees her. Later, I learn they are partners. She is the fisher-woman and he is the bait.
The tab, a combination of his, Karen’s, and his night woman’s drinks, is always paid by the sister. She leaves a sizable tip that sweetens our wariness but doesn’t take the edge off of the falseness of her smile. I used to believe she was feminist, with her brashness and take no prisoners attitude. But now I know she’s an asshole, nondiscriminatory in her prejudices, with a raw ability to find flaws in even the most agreeable people that walk through our doors. Some nights I want to lean over and slap her. But sometimes…often more then I’d like to admit… she’s more right than many others.
‘Women, as much as men,’ she tells me, ‘perpetuate sexism. This is why I have to be such as asshole,’ she leans over close to me, ‘to smack the prissiness out of them. Men get called misogynistic, but I have the ‘get out of jail free’ card.’ She points down to her pants. ‘My vagina.’
I think she’s hateful and sour, but I get paid to give her drinks and for all her words she doesn’t create trouble or pester us when we’re busy. When I first witnessed her brother, Bruce, talk a woman into sleeping with him I thought he was the asshole. But when juxtaposed to his sister, his smile at least shows an honesty when he talks to them. He has a twenty-first century romanticism about him, built around phones with names attached to numbers he’ll never have to try to remember. A one night wonder man, transparent.
Tonight, Karen sits in her usual seat. However, as the night has been unusually busy, another of our regulars is forced to sit beside her. Typically seated at stool 8, she is an older woman, a mother and a wife: a nonentity in Bruce and Karen’s ploys. But she talkative and I myself have enjoyed her softly buoyant laughter and watery voice. After a few moments of silence, she speaks to Karen.
Image: Jonny Lindner