Sleep Through The Night

And I look to the west, the moon’s in the sky
I wanna get at least that high

My readied smile slipped away once Nuka’s breathing deepened. Sure that my friend was truly asleep, I worked my jaw like an actor warming lines and slipped out of my bedroll, cautious not to disturb his. The care was not necessary, Nuka’s agitation had run him raw all day and he slept solid. I was surprised he’d made it to his bedroll at all, and not simply collapsed on the road in a scowling heap.

The night air hanging over the bog was thick with croaking frogs, rotting green, and a hint of cold that kept off the worst of the thrumming insects. I took the cotton-bound book from my pack and a leather herb pouch from my discarded coat. With the firebugs bobbing along over the grimy water and the moss softening the trees into hazy watercolor, the night was too alive to waste tossing in a bedroll.

Soon reclining over a precious bit of dry root and stone, I lit the twist of herbs and let the fire shrink my pupils. Everything went dark except the glow, until the smoke hit my tongue and I waved the match out. The night unfurled for me in muted greens and blacks, each darker than the last until I was sure the void itself waited in the trees.

I enjoyed the heaviness settling in my fingers by running my thumb down the book’s spine. I might read a little in the sickly light of the fire bugs, or I might not.

Up in the sky, above the weeping branches, the moon rose in the west, surrounded of course, by stars. I frowned at them both. Someone needed to figure this shit out, I doubted it was going to be me.

Been a long time gone, living out on the coast
It’s a long way back from the edge of the cosmos

Some say soldiers find their beds too soft after they return home. This is something like that. I am not used to her breath on my neck, or her fingers resting on my chest. Curled next to me beneath the covers of our bed, my wife radiates heat like a stoked forge. Usually this lulls me into rest quickly enough.

Not always though. Staring up at the ceiling in the dark, tonight I drew her fingers gently off my chest so I could test the weight there. I clutched a hand over my breastbone and searched beneath my skin for reassurance.

My wife curled around my pillow when I left the bed. Clothes retrieved from the dresser, boots on at the door, I stepped into the yard and hissed. The isle gets cold at night and I’m still not used to it. Far away,  almost hidden by the overgrown hills, I saw the top of the manor house. Light flickered in its windows.

I filled my lungs with the cold and made my way to the forge, certainty growing with every step. No leash, taut or slack, tied me anymore. No distant man, lord, or god held my soul hostage.  Even stuck on an island lost in the sea and assembling a new life from the wreckage of centuries, the only thing coiled angry in my chest was me.

You chained my life to an ancient master
Will the curse be reversed if I say it backwards?   

Purple seeped into the pitch of the night sky. With the glass balcony doors thrown wide, I could see the full canvas, from the tips of the gold-domed city to the black heavens. My tower afforded me an aerial landscape of  city, provided I stood from my desk and wandered out to the balcony to receive it.

Tonight though, the balcony doors were open so the night air could cut the damp warmth of early summer. I had work to do before the sun rose and the empire’s armies began to march. The gods did not concern themselves with train-car capacity, tides, or how many lemons kept mortals from getting scurvy over long voyages. They left that to us, and so we oversaw their soldiers, their worshipers, their cities. And the return for this service, an eternity to do it.

The narrow bed still waited for me in the corner, stuffed unlovingly between two monstrous bookshelves. Sleep was always an intruder here, forestalling breakthroughs and progress with paltry biological demands for rest. I may have welcomed the respite had someone called me to it, perhaps gently or hungrily taken my hand and drawn me down with them, then I would have abandoned my work for the night. But no one would do so tonight, or possibly ever again.

The pages began to blend as my eyes blurred between application, transcript, and docket. Above, the sky lightened and beneath the palace stirred.

[Good Morning, Raven. Have you slept?] The voice touched down in my head. The gods were awake.

You told me you’re never gonna die
How am I supposed to sleep through the night?

Raw Rambles and I are seeing Lord Huron live in only a couple weeks, so our music challenge this week is to the song Secret of Life, off their newest album, Vide Noir. Check out Raw Rambles blog for her post.  

 

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The Nature of Chaos

Chaos was not an unthinking thing. Prone to disruption over impulse, her path through the towering pines was purposeful. And her thoughts, like herself, were unquiet as she trudged deeper into nature’s cold heart.

The thick silence of the snowfall could not smother her, nor could the vast solitude of the endless trees quell her intentions. Where others might fall into lonely contemplation and lose themselves in the enshrined serenity, Chaos thrust herself into the ancient webs of land and sky until the very threads of it all shivered with entropy.

What are you doing?” The voice rumbled from the trees and earth around her, only to end the question with a single voice.

Chaos turned to the speaker, panting in the cold and from the effort of unmaking. A young man with deep hazel eyes glared at her from between two pines. The trees here stretched deep into the sky but the moonlight still managed to fall on them both. Despite the grace in his strong limbs, there was no mistaking him. The thing behind the brown- green eyes had never been human.

But then, neither had she. “Getting your attention. Nice flesh suit.” Chaos answered.

His expression hardened at her vulgar words. “Precise vocal cords have their uses.” He took a step towards her into the glen. “You’re not welcome here. Return to your walled temples.”

Chaos snorted. The mountains overhead recoiled from her presence and the silence of the forest grew denser, as if the trees could cage her influence. “No can do. Welcome or not, I’m here.”

Anger churned beneath his placid expression like molten rock. As ancient as he and his kind were, the stuff that formed her was older still. Before humankind huddled in their caves dreaming of gods, and masses of earth shuddered against each other to form mountains and ocean crevasses, before life had wriggled itself from those secret depths, primeval chaos reigned supreme.

Rarely welcome, she was here, as she’d always been, and would always be until she picked apart the earth, sky, and sea. He knew it, as did she. Chaos was just giving him a choice, now or then.

He sighed, and the wind rustled through the snow-blanketed branches. “What do you want?”

Chaos smiled for the first time since she’d set her path into the frozen pines. “Your help.”

This week is my fault. I challenged Raw Rambles to write something to or inspired by one of my absolute favorite bands, Lord Huron and their song Frozen Pines. The resulting weirdness is above, and you can see her piece here.