The Last Straw

All around me were the bemoanings, though truly thinly

disguised recounts to friends of the events from the night before.

A wink, a sling, a one-time fling.

I laugh inwardly and clutched at my backpack

strap: It grew heavier in a blink. When I got back

to my room, the slim figure in the mirror on my left greeted.

I forgot to close my cabinet, and the plain face smiled, sneered.

How funny, that my friends should brush off hook-ups,

while I wonder what it feels like to have my hand cradled in

another’s, my cheeks pecked

by a gentle, innocent kiss. Perhaps I am out

of my depth tackling topics as ambitious as “fate” and “love,”

when my mind tumble and tangle at the cup in my hand.

The straw, flattened by my habitual

biting while drinking boba was where he had tried the drink.

Curiosity, he said, with those glimmering eyes and smirk.

I suppose I am the only college girl who blush at the notion

of an indirect kiss. But now, the idea was forever

etched into my writer’s mind.

Each sip of boba now

sweetened by a new bling

that the face in the mirror blushed at.

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XL.

Father looked much kinder, warmer; his face intruded by the foreign, upward turn of the corner of his mouth.

So that’s what he looked like when he smiles.

She was unbelieving of that expression, the secure sensation when he effortlessly lifted her over the muddy parts of the beautiful mountain trail they were ascending.

“Where’s mama?”

He chuckled, “We are going to meet her.” So their trek continued, her pulling the hand of this strange apparition of her father.

Then their journey ended abruptly by a cliff, preluded by the gradual climb of hills. As they neared the terrifying edge she finally felt a hint of familiarity: the inevitable feeling of falling. While he paced nonchalantly by the highest point of the cliffs looking down at the roaring streams crashing against boulders, she repeated, “Where’s ma?”

He scoffed.

She looked down at the thin thread of scarlet water and the white foams forming from the liquid’s fatal crash against boulders, which were not even rocks, but bones of those wronged by this smiling man beside her, “Why?”

Instead of answering, he stated simply, “I made you, Lyra.”

She knew. Her title summoned her hand about her throat.

“You donned my title for this power, Lyra.”

She knew. So her hands closed tighter.

“You used my face for your own power.”

“Lyra!” Her cheek stung from a strike she did not see, reality swam back in the form of odd-colored eyes. “My God, you were…oh are you alright?”

“…” Air returned to her lungs along with a rush of colors.

The girl was hugging her knees at the corner of Lyra’s eyes while Aldebaran stooped by, coaxing her to try to see, “Don’t overthink it: try to see what it wants to do.” The girl nodded through tears, closed her eyes in concentration.

Lyra looked about, “Where’s Horatio?”

Athlem rolled her eyes, “He went after the thing. I couldn’t just leave you here, so…where are you going now?!”

They darted into the dense forest paths once again.

*******

He hated himself for being so stubborn, to think himself well enough to chase whatever abominable beast, but he had to exterminate those images.

He noticed that it was cutting through the overgrowth to town. Every twist and turn lend more space for those ill omen: her odd-colored eyes dimmed, deep, thoughtful whisper of parting promises…”Horatio…” “No!” He made out the first wooden frame of a cottage, then a pang struck his right shoulder at the most inopportune time, though he bit his lips and persisted, and so did the visions in increasing vividity.

Pure white dyed a dark scarlet. “No…” He left the cover of the forest, followed the beast’s track.

His bride was cold in his arms, and no kiss could warm her delicate frame. The pang morphed into agony, and his world flashed white then red. He reeled and leaned against a convenient wall, gasped, “Athlem…”

He was trapped for an infinity until a voice broke the spell, “Horatio!” Full of life, like the arms that cradled him: so warm, plagued only by concerns and worries.

She saw his visions in her all-knowing eye and pressed her lips to his forehead, “I’m here…I’m here…”

Seeing that Horatio was attended to, Lyra directed her attention to the beast roaming at large.

She drew closer to the ran-down cottage, spotting the dark cloud sweeping across the skewed fences and the obsolete planks; a crystalline screech, the glass and frames gave away. The widowed and her eldest daughter ran out of their house, watched in utter horror as their home wobbled, groaned.

The silent beat of midnight wings were drowned in the chaos, but they brought in the author of this destruction, the girl that ran forward proclaiming, “Stop it!” Her voice was a thin wail to the roar of the storm.

But did she mean it? Lyra remembered a scene shortly after her father’s disappearance, when she turned to her advisors and demanded the rebuilding the palace.

She convinced them it was  good, “to do off the past indulgences.” But it was not for “better use of land,” but the riddance of moments: her father’s cruelty, her mother’s death, etched into the marble halls and pillars.

She, too, wanted them all obliterated.

Lyra didn’t know that she was holding the child’s hand, calloused from whipping and writing. She embraced the fragile form sobbing in powerlessness: ‘tis strange, Lyra thought, to embrace a mirror of her past. She wanted her to see, and she did.

“It’s alright,” Lyra couldn’t hear herself, didn’t see that the beast paused. “He’s gone.” The beast approached them, saw its source of power depleted, cried out. Mourned.

“It’s over now…” Lyra said to herself. “He’s gone.” And so did the beast.

She kneeled there holding the girl in an unspoken redemption, washed by the child’s unrelenting tears.

Yet of course such a precious moment was curtailed, the patrolmen came tumbling and shattering peace, “The criminals are here, the Princess and the Nokshan.”

Lyra cursed under her breath and in a turn of wit grabbed the girl and shouted, “Take another step toward us and I will end this child.”

The girl, confused by the turn of events, realized Lyra’s true intentions, protested, “No…please don’t do that for me…”

“Did you also kill the doctor?” The bows are drawn, Aldebaran stood a careful step between Lyra and the guards with his hand upon the hilt of his sword.

“And what if I did?” “That’s a lie –” “– Silence.” Lyra surprised herself with her own outward cruelty.

“Put the child down,” Lyra exchanged a quick dart with Alde, and he sprung to action: with an imperceptible stir hand daggers sailed through the taut bowstrings. Then in a blink Lyra pushed the girl away, a powerful beat of wings and they were gone, a mere black dot in the distant sky. The girl, numb to her mother and sister’s comforting caresses, traced the spot and thought aloud, “Thank you.”

XXXVIII.

And the darkness spoke to Lyra in a bodiless voice, an apparition whose language was feelings. So it said,The thing came from his shadow. Specifically his shadow that got cut off from him as he slammed the door too hard and fast. Mother opened the windows in the usual mighty struggle, coaxing the roses’ sweet scent to alleviate the fumes Father left behind. But the fumes were only gone since we breathed it in, my share of chopped shadow already enough to choke me.

Knowing that I already have the smallest serving I rushed to my room and vomit there. Found a page and spilled some ink, then from boiling my blood it mauled the pages instead, simmering scripts to tell the tale of how a doctor broke someone’s back. His wife’s back.

She was the envy of the township and beyond, her grace and poise and intellect and beauty supposedly worthy of a man as educated as him. People whispered in general good will, wishing that she would be dumber, and him a little handsomer, but otherwise ‘tis a good pair.

So? He wasn’t thinking all that, though, for as long as his wife’s father’s trade continue “love” was well fed.

Of course. This world is not ruled by the Divine. Trade fails. “Love” fails.

The pages grew more numerous at each door slammed, each piece of shadow curtailed from its often drunken source then stuffed down our throats.

“Silence,” He hissed. “Get yourself educated so you can be more reasonable.” A mumbled contradiction: why would he grimace at the tutors should he truly wish his daughters educated?

From the pages the thing grew, a dark shadow came from each bent of my pen.

I’ve done a terrible thing, I realized too late, to infect the pages with such spite. They were not even cheap, these flimsy old things, and their potential was priceless, now ruined. But from there I found my beast, my demon, whose sole purpose was to soar for me on clipped wings.