Wander Away

The yellow moon glowed in her bedroom window. Like her mother, she could not sleep without the prickle of night air against her cheek. Laying beside the open window pane, the pure-smelling wind crawled over her blankets.

Her chest rose and fell restless as she stared out at the moonlit trees. The orb was full, casting everything outside into a story she might wander through.  Like a maiden, barefoot in the dainty light, off to find some ethereal journey. It stirred her heart until her chest and bed felt a prison.

There were other stories she could wander into though, spun in evening news cycles and on milk cartons. Vagrants who slept beneath those trees, hard-eyed teens breaking bottles behind the train tracks, missing girls eventually found in stranger’s cars.

She rubbed the itch from her feet and tucked her blankets over her shoulders until the night air only chilled her nose. She settled deep into her bed, ignoring the beckoning night. Next month, next moon, she promised.

The yellow orb waxed again until it hung swollen over the mountains, framed in the night by her bedroom window. She betrayed its ache in her chest for the warnings of the waking world.

Like the moon, her hips widened. She did not wander out into the coaxing night lest someone find her and her newly supple limbs. One day a man came to gently grasp her hand and she fell into his bed. Though she breathed the wild night seeping from their propped window, she did not steal away under the expectant moon, lest he notice the empty space beneath the blankets.

Her belly swelled like the moon that called to her. When her children shivered beneath their window, she closed the pane and only remembered the tonic night smell amidst the warm and sweet cloy of the nursery.

The moon waned. Her children grew, the man grayed. The chill of night air stabbed vengeful slivers of ice into her bones. When spared the timeworn chatter of husband and child, she slipped out into the yard and gazed beyond their little fence and smiled, feeling the cold and its deep ache.

Her wide hips shrunk again, the man could no longer grasp her hand, her children did not shiver beneath her window or call anymore. She looked up at the yellow moon.

It waited for her, casting the trees in white gold and cradled in the distant mountains. She breathed in the cold and it stole the warmth from her chest. With only one story left, she left into the night to wander in its dainty light.

Raw Rambles challenged me to write something to or inspired by Fleet Foxes “Blue Ridge Mountains”, which I happily posted above. 

A Brazen Charm

The wind was, like everything else in the city’s sprawl, artificial. It rushed up from the baked freeways to blister the hillside homes of the rich. There it rippled indigo pools before cutting itself on the jutting angles of glass and concrete.

Stepping from the car onto the drive, she looked up at the pale planes and grudgingly admitted there was a brazen charm to the monstrosity hanging off the brown hills. The car rolled away, leaving her and her men on the drive.

Upon entering the white walls, those men lost themselves in the glittering crowd. They would enjoy themselves among the other guests until needed. She could not disappear so easily.

A sea of bronze legs, vicious clavicles, and ombre hair parted for her. She told herself it was the confident cut of her chin, the jut of her shoulders, the pale planes of her face. That the contoured faces noted a brazen charm that came from being where one shouldn’t.

The angle of their plump lips said otherwise.

The host found by the sparkling pool, having abandoned the conditioned interiors for a view of the illuminated grids below. Like her, he did not seem to belong here. His clothes were his own, rough, practical, and fashionable only two hundred miles to the south. The ugly gun at his hip would quickly offend any West coast sensibility.

But this was his home, carved out in the hills to overlook a kingdom.

She dipped her head in greeting and complimented the appeal of his house. He waived away the compliment, explaining it brought pretty women. It was probably the truth, but also a courtesy to her presence as he delivered the line with a rogue’s smile.

He knows she is a newcomer. An unknown mostly, except that she seeks to carve out her own place. A place on the hills perhaps. He asks how she is finding the city so far.

She admits that she doesn’t and that in kind, the city does not seem to like her either. They look out at the glow of the valley together. She smiles at the darkening hillside and the lights stretching beneath them. She intends to grow on it though, and tells him so.

This week I challenged Raw Rambles to write something to or inspired by Disclosure’s Magnets, which features a personal favorite of mine, Lorde.  The above piece, and last weeks post on Raw Rambles, is the result. 

Sick Strange Darkness

She’d always resided behind his eyes. In the darkness floating above his bed, the space between his waking thoughts and the blurred abyss of sleep. Since his twelfth birthday, when his father had passed the binding to him, she’d found him in his dreams.

Now watching his own son turn fitfully beneath the bed covers, plagued perhaps by her warm sepia eyes, he turns away. “Come home.” Her voice hums deep inside his skull.

He’d thought to be free of her. He’d even thought himself clever. If the cursed cuff, that evil twist of metal, was her call, her beacon, surely it’s departure would free them? He’d pushed it over across that velvet table himself when the cards had spoken. Won by another in a poker game, he was done with the thing, with her.

That night she came to him as she’d never before. With hair like webs and skin that burned at its touch, he drowned that night in his sheets. Three days later he was able to wrest himself from the warm depths of her arms. He woke up to a brilliant morning in a hospital bed. The doctors did not understand, but his father, now old and white-eyed, did and would not speak to him.

He leaves his own son’s room and walks the hallways to keep her at bay. One by one they’ve succumbed to her. Half his house sleep. He no longer bears her alone, she spreads like the inky silk of her hair into everything.

He comes to his bedroom door. It is locked, barred from within so the bed cannot tempt him. It does. He is tired, every blink is a small fight to stay away from her warm black depths. “Come home.” She whispers, her breath against his cheek.

His sheets would be cool, unused and soft. She would be so very warm. He leans against the door as if he could fall through the wood and into the hazy depths of her realm.  “Come home,” says the voice inside his head. He closes his eyes.

Raw Rambles picked this amazing cover by PHOX for us to write to for the Music Challenge this week. See what she wrote with their rendition of “I Miss You” in mind here. 

Glass Knives and New Kings

I remember Adam’s hand on my shoulder the night of our father’s funeral. It kept me standing there and facing down the flashing cameras. I remember his fingers digging deep into my tendons when I broke down and looked at the floor.

Adam lost his composure only once that night. When he stepped up to address the crowd beneath our balcony, his voice broke and for a moment the entire crowd went silent. Then, he cleared his throat and went on to deliver a speech the press would call robust and inspiring. They mentioned his momentary lapse into grief too. Everyone was sympathetic, their new king had loved his father.

Maybe Adam had. I used to think so. Now I try not to, think I mean, gets me too angry. Not that there is much to do down here but think. That, and bodyweight exercises.

I was there when my father died. It took me some time, three days after Adam received the news with wide eyes and a hand out to steady himself, to remember what I’d seen. I’m not good at a lot, but I’m great in a fight, and sizing up people is part of that.

When the assassin slipped a glass knife deep under my father’s ribs, quick and professional, I didn’t remember. It happened too quickly, I know now I should have run after her, but I didn’t. I went to him, to uselessly clutch at my father as he died.

It took me until the night of the funeral, as my other brothers and I followed Adam from the balcony, to remember where I’d seen the assassin before. She’d been here, on the white stone. So had Adam.

Good in a fight, and not much else, I confronted him. It was insane, he told me, I must be mad with grief. And because I always had before, I believed him again. It wouldn’t have been the first time I was wrong, too foolish and angry to think right. His guards tore down my door the next morning.

And so I’m here,  with a limited exercise regime and too much time to think. Adam comes down to see me through the bars, to ask why I did it, and to say he still loves me as his younger brother, even if he cannot abide my crime. He promises to spare me if I admit to it.

I won’t. I’m not good at a lot, and its probably for the best I will never be in charge of anything, but I’m not a murderer. And whether my eldest brother ever loved our father, I know I did.

This week I challenged Raw Rambles to write to Streetlight Manifesto’s The Three of Us. See what the ska inspired her to do here. 

That Yellow Haze

Only a hundred miles or so out of Memphis, Alex was aching for a beer and long night in the back of a smokey bar. It’d been weeks since he set down long enough to waste any time. He jabbed his finger at the RV’s radio until it played something that had some proper guitar.

Too far out for anything but trees and endless highway, he could only recall the light pollution laying over the city in a yellow haze. Neon clubs, flickering bars, yellow streetlights, pouring light into the night sky to challenge the stars.

Alex let his foot get heavy against the gas. The RV’s engine revved up, unhappy but obedient. The trees flashed endlessly by in the headlights, like old film on a projector reel. Memphis had always treated him well. Cheap beer, real music, and friendly groupies. They’d liked his crooked smile and Kurt Cobain hair, though none of the girls knew who that was anymore.

A pity, Alex thought as he yawned. He turned up the music slowly, watching the bunks in the back of the RV through the rear view mirror. No tousled heads emerged awakened and grumbling.

Alex eased off the gas some, Memphis would be there all night. The kids needed their sleep and he planned to wake them at the state line. Everyone needed to see Graceland at least once.

Because Raw Rambles has classy taste in music, this week’s Music Challenge is to Paul Simon’s Graceland.  Like me, she wrote something to and/or inspired by the song. 

Staccato Sounds

“And that’s all I know. Our fearless leader returns soon victorious, another bloody triumph, make of that what you will.” Her smile, inches from the steel microphone, sharpened the words. The red bulb on the switchboard flickered. Her eyes flicked to it.

The signal was strong, the light was just crap.She tapped it with a pointed fingernail until it stopped.

“But enough about struggles for the next patch of mud, we’ve got more important things ahead.” She queued up the next song. Something new, filled first with crackling voices and then with spoken rhythm. Mellow but righteously assured, there was something in the cadence of the words that made her want to close her eyes and nod along with it.

Instead, she switched off the mic and let the music race across the clouds. She stood and arched her neck to the side, letting the fire in her veins cool a bit. Without the microphone to hold her attention, she realized she was alone in the studio.

The mismatch of radio equipment rumbled behind her, the delicate metal, plastic, and wires vibrating off each other as the floor trembled. Without the headphones she could hear the sounds of engines, and distantly, gunfire. Familiar voices down the stairs and from the floor began to yell.

Poka met her on the landing and answered before she could demand. The man’s normally braided hair was everywhere in a sleep mussed fall.  “Someone’s here.”

“What?” A more important question presented itself a fraction of a moment later. “Who?”

Poka shrugged wildly and began shakily loading a revolver someone pressed into his hand. “No one knows.But the guard isn’t even here right now, we need to get back, lock a door, hide.” He was barely managing with the gun.

“The hell we are.” She said and grabbed her boots. Poka with his unsure hand could be dangerous at her back, but she’d just make him walk in front. Something was happening and she didn’t hide.

My turn this week, for our music challenge I picked Wax Tailor’s “The Games You Play” featuring the talented Ursula Rucker. Check out Raw Rambles to see what she did with the song. 

Painted Telephone Polls

Months travelling across the country’s respective belts, rust, wheat, and bible, had left him hungry for something substantial. Something that didn’t taste of sun bleached plastic and salt. Something that didn’t sound like the radio cycle.

Gas stations, covered in dirt and rust, marked the sides of the pavement, monoliths along an ancient highway. They relinquished their hold first to uniform suburbs with perfect miniature lawns and malls, and then finally to mismatched storefronts and painted telephone polls.

Now beneath apartment buildings with mismatched windows, he paused to explore.  Hung over the bars, boutiques, and smoke shops, black fire escapes draped the building’s sides like lace. Musty liquor shops survived with peeling stucco and vandalized loitering signs. They carried on amidst new whiskey lounges and self-service dog salons, serving the budding alcoholics of their community, graduate students and disillusioned hipsters past the partying scene but still in need of oblivion.

He found a coffee shop first, an easy feat with one almost on every block, each with their own smart blackboard sign on the sidewalk. Smells of burnt coffee and sugar coated pastry filled the air with bittersweet scent. In the corner, a singer with scruffy brown bangs curled around her guitar. Caught in their screens and crisp paperbacks, no one watched her warble a cigarette-rusted song. But she set her fingers to the guitar’s strings and creased bills climbed the sides of the fishbowl before her.

He dropped a crumbled single into the bowl before he left, the meager fruits of pudgy Midwest audiences, and went to seek his own stage.

This place was a moment in time, dirty sidewalks and artisan bakeries, designer jeans and molding blankets. Eventually, the liquor shops would close, replaced by fair-trade markets, the homeless would be pushed out to make room for yoga studios. A year, maybe three, maybe ten from now, and they’d buffer this place until it shone, bright and soulless.

He set the case open before him on a street corner, and cradled the violin tenderly beneath the angle of his chin. For now though, the sidewalk remained dingy, the mix of dispensaries, vegan eateries, and craft tasting rooms, confused. He might as well be part of it all while it lasted. The string hummed against his fingers when he set the bow. He smiled and began to play.

This weeks challenge comes from Raw Rambles, as she challenged me to write to Angel Olsen’s Give It Up. I went for feel instead of subject matter this round, but see what Raw Rambles came up with as well on her blog