Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the overwrought heart and bids it breaks
William Shakespeare, Macbeth.
When confronted with the loss of a loved one, we prefer the bitter truth to a life of not knowing why they disappeared from our life. Understanding why presumes closure and closure can take its own sweet time, coloring our world in unobtainable vignettes of the past and moments of profound sorrow. We search ourselves for answers, and with none available, we make up an answer that allows us to move a step further away from the searing flame of grief.
What is grief? How is it possible that it follows us for years when our joy ends after the trembling breath, the laughter fades, and the smile relaxes away? Research has shown us the reality of generational trauma. Year after year, the affected population suffers…
I am all in a sea of wonders. I doubt; I fear; I think strange things, which I dare not confess to my own soul
Bram Stoker, Dracula
Miley turned in front of the tall mirror and looked at herself in the amber glow of the chandelier. The curtains were drawn, and one could only make out that it was early morning by the soft light that ringed the curtains in the window of her quarters generously provided by Count Stephan.
The figure in the mirror posed like a manikin, frozen in a pensive gaze. The eyes in the reflection assessed her with a skeptical look and a face that spoke of no hope that some admirable quality would appear in the warm lighting.
She made love to Stephan throughout the night and still, she found their relationship wanting. What was it? What needed to change? Deep down she knew she was the one that had to change. He already had the perfect girl, and Miley wanted to be her, nothing else.
The bed covers were thrown about the bed, the sheets had wrinkles pressed into sharp creases from too many nights under her restless weight. On the floor among a pile of clothes, shoes, and adorned underthings, paper wads of handwritten notes collected like dust bunnies. The dresser was piled high with lotions, perfumes, make-up left open, and powder spilled on the dark wood and faded linen cover from the night before.
The figure stirred in the ancient mirror, fingered the two curious blood spots on the neck, and turned away. Miley – she called herself Miley because her real name was too hard for others to pronounce or remember – looked at the small desk by her bed at the sheets of paper in a loose pile and more thrown on the floor. It was hopeless. She was too attached. She could not document the Count’s genealogical dictations without inserting herself in this ancient family’s lineage.
She wanted him for herself. Miley wanted to be the forty-seventh Countess Radu cel Mare and become a leaf on this 541-year-old family tree. For a moment, Miley contemplated starting over and then the crushing thought of all that time making love to Stephan, and wrapping her life in a story about him was just too much. She had to let go and let him go back to his Anna and his beloved estate steeped in legacy and mystery so she, the Scribe of Vlad Stephan cel Mare could finish the story. His story, not hers.
The rest of the morning Miley thought about him. While she showered, dressed, and applied her makeup, she thought about him. The more she thought, the more she wanted, and the more Miley wanted, the more hopeless she became. The Scribe thought about how she could change him as she rifled through her catered breakfast spread for some tiny morsel to eat.
The troubled girl settled on Greek yogurt that already had the spoon sunk into it and a cup of coffee growing chill on the ornately engraved silver platter. Miley didn’t know why she fell in love so easily or why she always wanted the man meant for another. It wasn’t going to work out. It never did. She went to the desk and picked up her papers and stuffed them in her waste bin with the others she had read then rejected as woefully inadequate for nobility.
After a few minutes of pulling the papers out and putting them back in the bin, she realized she was late for her morning meeting with the Count’s staff. She set her body of crumpled work back on the table. She could change it. Miley decided she could make Stephan love her. She hurried out the door happy with the decision to make it work. Quick footsteps echoed down the hall of the castle’s residential wing.
A shaft of light cut through the crack left by the open door to Miley’s living quarters. On the floor under the side table, a sheet of paper glowed in the light. It was curled from age and neglect with a fine layer of dust.
“Dearest Miss Miley Nikolavska,
I welcome you to my estate in the historic Carpathians. I look forward to your arrival and employment to capture the historical accomplishments and family tree of my lineage.
I hope your journey from Bulgaria is enjoyable and that you have rested well. I have made arrangements for you to travel by train to stay in the tiny village of Vadu Oii when you arrive in my country.
I will pick you up at the hotel the next day at eight pm and bring you to my beautiful land in the mountains. I’m sure you will be enchanted by the countryside and enjoy your stay with me.
It eats me, whole and alive. The underlying current of resistance. The stubbornness I could never hide. The rhythm of which is diabolic in nature—forcing me to struggle profoundly, before I could really learn the flow of its tune; the right notes, the perfect configuration.
It suffocates me, all of me. The scorching heat of ground pressure. The freezing coldness of the judgment I give to me. I push. I push hard. Understanding that my limits are high. I, in most cases, can’t measure this right. I ran out of breath. An image where I start to fear Death.
It liberates me, the child in me. The part where I can do whatever I want. Oblivious of the eyes of the guardians. Hmm. Fine—intently doing so and partly playing the game of a stubborn child. What’s in it for you, she asked. Playing, for the sake of playing the game, I replied.
It honors me, the fighter in me. It contributes to the never-ending loop of proving. To show off to me, in fact. I don’t need no audience nowadays, I reckon. The relationship I am trying to strengthen now is with the one I see in the mirror. Could sound narcissistic in nature, but one that prepares for the strong foundation of the tribe.
It reminds me, of my future. Of purpose—of what I’m here to do and what I signed up for. Of the unbreakable soul contract. The destiny of the matriarch. Thus, the fighter fights. The fighter perseveres. The fighter stands back up as it was supposed to be. The fighter fights, over… and over again.
I love the shade and the shadow, and would be alone with my thoughts when I may.
Bram Stoker, Dracula
Count Stephan gazed out of the high arched window of his bedroom across the rugged snow peaks of the mountains. Blue-gray clouds obscured the valleys below under a blanket of velvet mystery and ethereal quiet. The violet haze of nearing twilight obscured the details of the distant peaks. The sun was below the mountains, and the shadows comforted the Count’s, anxious heart.
“Will you be dining in tonight, my lord,” came the silky voice of a young maiden. The Count turned and took up the portrait of her delicious yearning brushed with a pinkish hue on her porcelain face. He smiled as thoughts raced through his mind on how the dining-out pleasures met with his desire to take his sustenance here and now.
The seemingly undernourished girl realized her mistake as long fingers lightly stroked her cheek, forcing her to stare nervously at her feet.
“I’ll take dinner here on the Buffett. The fireplace is especially inviting tonight, don’t you think? “
“Yes, my lord.”
“Please have my Coachman ready to depart at precisely 7:00 pm. Oh, and I’ll take my evening coffee up here as well.”
“It is my pleasure, Sir Stephan.”
“And you are my eternal pleasure, Anna.” The Count lifted her chin with commanding fingertips until her eyelashes fluttered and opened to the laser penetration of two orbs of black glass dancing with the reflected light of the fire. She felt a disquieting tingle race down from her stomach into her loins. Stephan released his spell on the maiden, and Anna hurried from the Count’s chamber.
Deep laughter reverberated off the tapestry-covered walls as the Count sat by the fireplace. “That delightful Anna gives me hope for the future of her family. They have served our house for as long as this castle has stood. The modern world has nothing to compare to such devotion.”
“Now, I must turn my attention to Miley. How can I convince her to come to this distant outpost to be my personal scribe? Our meeting was not the most cordial as it seems Miss Miley has many troubles. Perhaps escape and solitude is what she needs, and I can give her that which she desires most.”
“War has been the breeding ground for some of our greatest dreams of accomplishment.”
Holtzman, The Butlerian Jihad.
BY Kyle Gray
The Warrior: Be fearless and stand strong
The Knight: Be brave and honest
The Shaman: Trust in higher forces
The Sky Father: Trust in the unknown
Arousing Thunder ䷲
Infinitesimal darkness outside the command center of the ESS Orca seemed like the ocean back on Eos on a moonless night. The stars floated in the dark, little beacons of light affording the universe depth and form. The Void was Admiral Ramos’ backyard where he roamed as the Captain of his ship and master of his fate and the fate of his 5000 crewmembers.
The command center was a plaza of activity. Monitors and gauges flashed their information as the command staff worked feverishly to ensure the wounded ship’s safety and security. The Admiral watched his dashboard panel of essential performance indicators progress from red to amber and finally green. He issued orders, and the staff distributed tasks and priorities to the crew stations.
Ramos recalled in his mind how The Orca had sustained crippling injuries in the battle over Manila. Orca had advanced to earth in search of Captain Rae and her ship, Aurora. On their approach, they detected a Western Alliance fleet over the earth’s horizon. The battle was joined with Orca giving more than she got, scattering the Western Alliance fleet and sending many of their expeditionary vessels crashing into the earth’s atmosphere, burning like stars in the Void.
Hypervelocity missiles rose from Manila just as Captain Rae’s AI had warned earlier. The Orca, outgunned, escaped to land on the dark side of earth’s moon to repair the ship and take care of the dead and wounded. It was what each person had signed on to accomplish. They all knew the risk and accepted it. “For Eos,” Ramos thought. Death here kept the awful burdens of war away from the homeland, so it was a worthy fate.
“G4, how are we on supply, The admiral asked his maintenance and logistics chief.
“All supply classes are green for 30 days operation, amber to return to EOS,” came the reply.
“What is the estimate for return to operational combat status? Ramos asked.
“Two weeks local earth time.”
Apprehension spread through the staff like the shrill tone of an attacking Eosian hawk. Admiral Ramos was planning his next move, and they would all have a front-row seat. Apprehension gave way to a subtle eagerness to take it to the Western Alliance for trying to colonize their ancestral homeland and recover one of their own. As fate would have it, the odds were stacked high against them. Just the way they liked it.
“Secure the bridge for war counsel,” the Admiral commanded.
“Bridge Secured, Sir.”
Ramos collected his thoughts, turned to his staff, and let them in on his plans. “I want to attack the Western Alliance and at a minimum cripple their colony with the objective of as near-complete destruction of their remaining fleet as possible. We will use the attack as a screen to attempt a rescue of Captain Rae undetected, Ramos said. I want to execute this plan within three days.”
The staff remained silent except to acknowledge the order. Each officer knew the Admiral’s famous father disappeared in the exact location as Captain Rae when Ramos was just a kid. To the staff, it was their duty to rescue Rae. To the Admiral, it was personal.
Sgt Hughes and Carter kneeled in the water, laughing under their breath, trying not to make a sound and failing. The remaining squad secured a perimeter around the two men, who appeared to have lost their minds.
“Sgt Hughes, What in hell is going on over there,” one of the crew asked.
“See for yourself,” Sgt Hughes replied while Carter wiped the tears from the side of his face.
The team gathered around and looked at the bloody water lizard in the spacesuit.
“Damn, those Eosians are ugly,” the astonished team member whispered under his breath. The squad lost it, trying to remain quiet in this god-forsaken jungle that demanded noise discipline to keep them from giving themselves away to anyone that might be close by and unseen. To their advantage, the jungle absorbed their noisy presence and gave no hint of the danger heading toward Ezra and Rae.
“Whoever belonged in that suit appears to be long gone now, Sgt Hughes said. Saddle up, ladies; we have a date with destiny up ahead. Let’s get after it.”
The team took up their positions, and Carter, still trying not to snicker at their folly, felt his energy renewed as he hacked his way up to the gigantic waterfall ahead.
Zara made her way upstream and picked a place to swim across the river. She angled downstream and caught the current, rocking her shoulders from side to side, reaching and pulling with her arms as she moved through the water without leaving a ripple. Her long ponytail undulated from side to side like a snake.
At the far bank, Zara grabbed for a root and dug her toes into the slick mud. Reaching higher with handholds and toe holds in the roots, Zara was able to slither up the bank and into the forest. Kneeling and listening, she sensed she was alone. The newly freed half-breed moved as fast as she could toward the makeshift ladder the two natives had constructed to descend into the bowl of the waterfall.
Miley sat on the edge of the brick planter outside the ice cream shop and indulged in her caramel macchiato sundae. It was a reward for living in denial. She denied herself enough food, rest, love, companionship, and gentle thoughts of doing nothing. Life was about goals and achievement, being heard and seen. She denied herself solitude, fearing silence was not golden but a terrible curse that she couldn’t escape. Some day she would have what she most wanted in life, and when Miley knew what that was, she could set her goals and devour the time to get there.
A man walked by and stopped in front of Miley, facing her left as if looking down the street. She almost asked him if he was looking for something. She stopped, berating herself for opening up for pointless conversation and the fight to get rid of him. She kept her eyes on her cup of sinful decadence and pretended to study where her spoon should dig next.
The stranger was dressed all in black. It matched his long raven hair. This mysterious fellow obscured Miley’s view with the side of his hip – well muscled. His legs were strong, his shoulders broad. Just what she didn’t need; another muscle man jackass to rip her insides out and leave her alone with her pain and regret.
“Miley,” his voice assaulted her awareness like the slow rumble of distant thunder.
Miley shuddered. How could he know her name?
“May I sit down with you,” he asked.
“It’s a public place. Set where you like,” she replied. Her voice seemed foreign and full of rude subtleness. She watched as he blotted out the sun and descended to the brick border of the planter. He sat a respectful distance away and leaned forward, his face in his hands, thinking about something – Miley had no clue. “How did he know my name?” The thought haunted her with unease and made her ice cream seem cloying and sticky in her mouth. A memory of her subversion by another man’s passion slid across her mind’s eye and she felt nauseous. She scooted over, just a few more inches.
The man didn’t look up or move. He didn’t acknowledge her. The black-clad figure sat with his face in his hands, tortured by something she couldn’t imagine and didn’t want to know.
“Don’t do it, Miley,” her inner voice scolded.
“Who are you? How did you know who I am?” She asked with a timid voice full of dread.
“I warned you girl,” The voice in her head fumed at her weakness for curiosity.
He lifted himself up and looked into her face. He was calm and expressionless. Miley tried to read him. Her heart raced with the fear a woman has when she falls under the gaze of a stone-hearted predator.
His gaze held her frozen, not knowing what would come next. Miley’s mind urged her to run away. The interloper’s posture held her captive, like the squirrel waiting for the hawk to leave. He looked down at Miley’s trembling fingers. She pushed them into her lap and abandoned her ice cream. Those eyes. They looked through her. They were like black obsidian gemstones fixed into twin settings; the eyes of Horus, she thought. It spoke and Miley felt the voice resonate in her chest.
“I am everything you fear and everything you need and nothing you want. I am the thing you look upon with disdain and give thanks you are not me. I am the beggar you taunted and the wealthy gentleman whose confidence you stole, thinking he had plenty of money left to carry him away in more luxury than you could afford. I am the love you never had and the pain you suffer to deny. I am the opposite of you, Miley. I am love in the darkness and I am only seen by you.”
His words came to her like a reading of some ancient manuscript that revealed some astonishing secret about her only she had known. It was the poem of Gilgamesh, the Poetic Asatru Edda. As she fell unwittingly into listening, into captivation, into mute silence, his voice shifted and she felt the words and saw them in her mind. His story showed her in the embrace of Krishna stretched out on a tiger’s pelt in a park where the trees were in the full bloom of spring. The air was sweet and fragrant and they practiced the enlightenment of pleasure according to the Kama Sutra.
“I am the boy you admired along the Danube river as our Tribe pushed west across Europe to Scandinavia to escape the Hordes from the Steppes of Asia as they swept everything aside like the floods of angry storms. I am the boy turned to the man who left you at the shore of Bergen Norway as our longboat sailed from the Fjord to Britain in search of glory and wealth.”
His story unfolded in epic vistas of history. She did not know when he had come closer and lifted her hand buried between her tightly held thighs. The hand that drew her into a spell swallowed her fingers with a touch soft and warm. Miley was afraid to look at what they were doing in this strange park where trees cast flower petals like snow. She felt no fear, only longing; the longing she had worked so hard to flush from her life. Now it was back stronger than ever.
The captivated tribal girl tilted her head down and listened as he neared her ear and whispered things; lovely things she didn’t want to hear, and could not resist, nor look away.
“I am the kiss, the bite, the intensity of striking your skin and spontaneous sounds unbidden.”
Miley felt his tongue barely touching the peach fuzz on her skin. He drew mandalas on her with fingers that burned. She felt the licks and bite, the rhythm of men in their frenzy of lovemaking. “What the hell is going on?” She thought, but it was too late.
“And who am I in your fantastic story,” she asked.
“You are the innocent girl across the river, the virgin mistress in the park adorned in the silk and spun cotton of your Lord and Master. You are the betrothed whose man has abandoned you for the glory of war, the dutiful wife, the mistress, the madame, the woman divorced from her divine nature.”
The obsidian eyes paused and waited. Miley read hunger in the reflection of her face in glossy pupils blown out to the edges of equally black irises. Did she pick up the faintest scent of his clothes; patchouli? Sandalwood, evergreen forest, wet stones, forest moss, and something sweet like masala chai wafted across her as a breeze from a passing car stirred the air.
“Would you like to come with me to my place? I want to hear more about us, about you,” Miley asked.
“Not yet, he said. When your heart is full and you have found that the love inside you is the greatest gift you possess, I will come back to you, and this time, I’ll take you with me.”
Miley’s eyes stung from the rejection. She was ashamed for stepping out of her guarded nature to risk her heart with a stranger. Worst of all, Miley had no idea why she asked this goth-looking asshole to stay with her. She could not look at him. She would not show him how he won her over with his charming story and when she gave in, he rebuked her.
Miley’s breath came in a shudder and she grew angry she might cry. She looked up to confront this cruel trick, but the man was gone and all she could see or hear was the people busy with each other, the sounds of commerce, and the songs of insects in the air. Her damned ice cream melted too.