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Archive for December, 2010

He felt the empty reach for him.

He couldn’t let it take him. He knew that he was the only one with the strength to return man to his former condition, whatever that may be. As the season changed with the lifting of the gray, it was the time when an awakening would begin, and he must hold for what was in front of him. He was told it was his quest. From his youth, he was taught of the becoming, smoldering the lives of men with the power of the elements. Fear would take hold, casting shadows, bringing with it the plague of dark that brings ends to men.

He knew memory would keep him from being taken into the empty. He thought back to the memories of his father and a promise. I will come back to you. He never did. Only later did he find the horrifying truth about the demon that his father had become.

He knew his father wicked, a taste for the flesh of young things. He sought to quicken his own rotting body with the sex of the young, and when the youth was taken, the tainted body would be cleansed of any mark that was left by him. The body needed to be buried deep where the mark could fade and find some other home beneath mounds of dirt.

When he was old enough to know that the promise would never be kept, he sought the man he once knew as father. He never knew why. He just knew he needed to.

He closed his eyes.

The day the wretch is found comes as the heat from the morning dawn slowly warms the things left cold by the long night. A naked body lays on its side with beads of sweat and blood running down its bloated form. This is the monster he remembered. The skin is dark, almost black, the body of a monstrous beast.

Under this mass, a young child lay naked, with his blue eyes emptily staring off into the void as if torn from the body. Breath from the still child flows like mist into the frigid air, stilling and falling to ground.

Nothing between them but blood and semen

Finding what had settled between them, he becomes rage. He throws the monster from its mount and stands above it in contempt of its severity. The creature stares at him with no recognition, the eyes move too quickly to hold to anything for long. It stares down at its own bloated form.

Nothing between them but blood and semen

The hideous monster, realizing its own doom, reaches for some defense. He crushes the creature’s hand beneath his heavy foot, and feels the bone scrape against stone. A rush of heat fills his body and pulls at his spine, pulling him down to where the monster whimpers at its bloody knuckles that have been ground into dust. He kneels in front of the hideous display in a bow to savage things. He grabs the creature’s head tight and slams it against the wall. Open your eyes. You have a revelation before your end.

The dark eyes of the monster fall upon the golden eyes of man. Recognition comes like ice, scraping against the creature’s spine and chilling its bones.

He looks deep in the creature’s eyes and finds them dark. He waits for recognition, a glimmer. There it is, a revelation. The creature tries to speak, but he doesn’t let it. Clutching his knife tight, he makes sure that the creature sees the glint of steel before it enters. He pushes the steel deep into the creature’s engorged belly. There is no scream, only a sigh. Life has not yet left the creature as he pulls his knife up the length of the body. The steel touches the ribs and stops. He pushes himself up hard behind it and breaks through. The force tears the creature asunder. The man falls into it and listens as the monster’s last breath leaves its body with a cough and spatter of blood. He savors it and relishes in the release of a creature so repulsive. His only wish is that his rage had allowed the creature to suffer longer and more horribly before he killed it. He pulls his knife from the monster’s throat and watches the organs fall. Turning his back to the fallen monster, he pushes through the door and he ascends from the darkened hole that was the creature’s lair.

Breathe.

He opened his eyes and looked to the east.

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She felt the push and pull of the currents against her.

Weightless, her body shifted with the pull from the undertow. Serene, she flowed with its movement, twisting and turning. The currents caressed her young flesh, its sensual touch cradling every part. Not just her flesh, it went deeper. Inside of her, where nature could never penetrate, she felt a pulse in perfect harmony with the one that moved in her chest. As it pushed against her, her pulse pulled, and as her pulse pushed back, those currents lifted. She longed for nothing. She felt nothing. She knew nothing of…

…death…

Floating, senseless with nothing of suffering, some things still lingered, questions of things past, she struggled to find…

…life…

Was there life before this. Doesn’t really matter anyway. She had forgotten. There was something that she almost remembered, but she lost it again. She struggled for any thought, hazed and darkened, numbed and neglected. As quick as something came to her, it left. The only thing she could remember was that she yearned for whatever memory it was. She knew that she needed pain. She needed scars and the memory it would bring. The currents had carried her too far, and now she needed to try and find the lost pain that they had kept from her. Something else was kept from her, another sensation that had been long forgotten. Floating with those currents, she almost lost her thoughts again. Pleasure, she needed pain and pleasure. The currents had kept her from them both, suspended in their sway, pulsing with the current. They never left her.

She moved with them. As the currents moved, she ran her hand slowly across her body, feeling her firm flesh. As her palm grazed the peaks of her breasts, her blood warmed, and her muscles tensed slightly. The numb comfort of the pulsing currents held in contrast with the warmth of new blood moving through her flesh. Her fingers rose to her lips, caressing from one corner to the other. Her lips felt the slight heat from the tips. They gently parted, leaving way for one of her fingers to drop into the warmth of her mouth. Touching her tongue, she rolled it from side to side. The warmth swelled, spreading into her arms. She knew the currents felt it too and tried to keep their hold on her, trying to keep her numb. Pushing again against her body, the currents rolled her over.

She didn’t fight against them. She let them move her. Once again, the thoughts of her sensual touch were leaving her, and she struggled to bring them back. She kissed her fingertips, and, slowly, pulled them from her mouth and moved them down to her breasts. The heat from her fingertips had lost its subtlety and almost burned when touched her breasts. She moved the heat around her soft peaks, letting the warmth flow into her. She moved her hand farther down past her belly where she felt her greatest warmth.

Her other hand moved to her breasts, feeling more heat than had come with the former touch. The heat from her breasts moved down and met the heat that rose from between her thighs. Once they met, they flowed around each other and danced in her belly, flowing upward and outward, spreading through her entire body. She still moved with the current as she rolled over, head over foot and shoulder over shoulder, floating in the dark current and pulsing with it.

The hand between her thighs moved with the rhythm of the current, rubbing with its flowing movements. She caressed herself, breasts and belly, with one hand while she pushed the other harder and deeper inside. She pushed so hard that a sharp pain shook her from inside. She fell into herself as the pain shook her and took hold. More heat came with it. Her fingers warmed in her soft hot flesh that was swelling with blood. She threw her head back as the waves of heat moved up her body. She clutched tightly to her breast with one hand while the other moved deeper, feeling the pulse pushing strongly from inside. Still keeping with what was around her, she moved her hand in and out in a rhythm between the pulses of the currents. Somewhere between force and pulse, the heat came on strong again. Her fingers ground hard against the soft flesh inside of her, tearing it. Blood flowed from her and surrounded her with the warmth of life. It floated with her, bouncing from her skin and trying to return to the common body it once knew. As she moved, heat and pain flowed into each other in complement. She bit her lip until it bled, joining the rest of the blood in a dance of memory, sharing what was known and what was left behind. She pulled her legs together, still keeping the rhythm with her hand. In and out, soft flesh pulsated harder around her fingers. She pushed farther and harder, deeper and faster. She knew it was coming. It was almost there.

The heat reached its threshold and held her every. Push, feel the heat. Touch the warmth. Allow yourself to be engulfed by it, the pain, the catalyst, the heat, the means. It grew as her body turned and toppled out of control. The build was too much, and she couldn’t stop it.

Her hand clenched tightly around her breast as her fingers inside went rigid. Her legs pressed tightly against each other as her body erupted in a war of heat and power. She threw her head back and opened her green eyes. The…

…memory…

…returned to her in a sudden burst of thought, a pulse strong enough to allow the rivers of thought to flow through. With the pulse, the fear for her brother came to her.

She saw him. She saw him falling away from her, falling into the darkest pits of the earth, to be left there until the earth turn to stone.

She looked on his face as he fell away from her into the depths, his eyes glowing green.

His mouth moved as if to speak, but she couldn’t hear anything, nothing at all.

Her hand reached out but touched nothing, finding nothing kind. His body was disappearing into dark, and being consumed by it. His eyes were crying, crying for her. Those eyes that were a reflection of hers battled the same forces that sought to swallow all.

He fell too fast, too far

She pushed to him

To save him

To save her

He pushed to her

She fell too fast, too far

Wretched and scarred, he saw the sway of the water carry her deeper and deeper into oblivion. He could not stop her from falling away from him, her body going dark and deep as he reached for her, her flowing hair swimming around her lovely pale face, moving in long waves, brushing her gentle cheek.

Her mouth moved as if to speak, but he couldn’t hear anything, nothing at all.

Her pale skin faded too and all that was left were her glowing green eyes, and they too were fading. Her eyes faded gently into the dark depths, glowing darker and darker still with every passing moment. No. Not her. Leave her alone. He wanted it to be him instead. He would let his fate be the one of the fall and let hers be left to her. He would take it, one to take for the other. His end would be her deliverance.

…breathe…

The cold sway of the endless dark held him hard, holding him close to stone.

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As a musician, I always read poetry with an eye toward the lyrical. I can’t say that I know the intricacies of “good” poetry, but I do know what moves me. And by that standard, Shadows of Poetry definitely has some really good work in it.

“A Woodland Dark” is a particular favorite. A melancholy observation at the ending of the lives of leaves parallels the endings of human beings left in the “black earth” where the only mark left for them are clawed tracks.

Not all of the poems are winners. Probably my least favorite was “Within the Moonlight”. The rhythm on this one seemed rather scattered and some descriptors were rather cliché. Also, just a personal tick, I tend to twitch whenever someone utters the word “soul.”

Because I am always neck deep in philosophy, I really enjoyed “What I Am” in the Philosophical Musings section of the collection. Too many people, and you know who you are, use the word philosophy incorrectly and deserve eternal damnation for doing so. A.F. Stewart has a better understanding than these people and so this section carries some of her best work.

To me, the most effective part of Stewart’s poetry is the dark imagery invoked by her use of words. Descriptors are not as important to her as words like “ash, blood, whispers, and of course, shadow.” All of them paint a darker portrait than any adjectives could. Shadows of Poetry definitely has its shadows, but even in the dark, Stewart is able to bring us some beauty.

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The landscape that used to be the medium of the short story is quickly becoming an arid wasteland left to the childish musings of novelists interested in making a quick buck. Some, like Cormac McCarthy, have completely abandoned the medium as pointless. There are a few writers out there who are valiantly trying to keep the short story alive. Steve Morris is one of them.

With his second short story collection, Jumble Tales, Mr. Morris illustrates eighteen individual stories with grace. His strengths lie in his ability to seamlessly bring us into the narrative, providing the reader with just enough to follow through the tale without being bogged down with trivial information.

Many of the stories introduce a type of twist at the end, which, for the most part, is used effectively. There are times, however, that some of these twists seem a bit forced. For me the twist at the end of The Best Policy was jarring and, for me, took away from what otherwise would’ve been a great tale.

The stories that I enjoyed most, however, were the ones where the twists were less jarring or completely absent altogether. One of my favorite stories was One-Nil, an elegantly told story of a soccer player’s redemption. While reading, I could almost taste the grains of dirt between my teeth, and I actually found myself reading this story over and over again. Ships That Pass is another favorite that will be familiar for anyone who feels that they never have enough time alone with their significant other.

Steve Morris shines as a writer of short stories. In his introduction, he broaches the subject of writing a novel. There are parts of me that hope that he doesn’t. Not because I don’t think he would be a proficient novelist, but because I worry that the short story landscape may become more barren.

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She was lost.

The taste of blood, like rust, she felt the weight of it on her tongue. She had no memory, nothing at all. Her eyes of gold were blinded by the deviant glare of fluttering lights through the trees that surrounded and overpowered her. She was cold. She was hungry. She was alone. Fear held her there, fear of the loss of her unborn child, still and warm in her belly. She was so close to the child’s birth. His ruin was with hers. She wanted to save him, to hold him tight to her body and protect him. She would hold his head to hers as she knelt on the soft earth. Her skin touching his, feeling each other’s warmth, keeping it between them. She would root herself there as the oldest of trees and hold her child.

The child slept so still in her belly. She couldn’t do anything for him while he was still inside her. If she starved, he would too. If she died, he would die. Hunger, weakness, and pain all took hold of her. Their weight became too much for her and pushed her down to dirt. Her spine tingled and numbed as she collapsed, her legs falling out from underneath her. She knew this feeling. This was fear, not the same fear she held for her child, but another. It was a fear of the dark.

She knew the empty was coming for her. She didn’t know where it was, but she knew it was coming. From what depths, she didn’t know. It was the purest kind, shadow that swallowed shadow and all good things. With the strength of a thousand and one worlds and the touch of a newborn child, the empty pulled all into oblivion. Not merely a death, but a nonexistence that transcends all time and legend. Only song escaped it. From this dark she heard the words and the song of a young girl, sweet and flowing, pushing through, entering her and warming her. They came comforting, creating a longing to join the dark.

…through time…over waters so dark…and through distance…I will see you soon…

The words comforted her. She let herself be swallowed by shadow and shadow plagued her, chilling her body, flowing around the warmth of her belly. The cold of the empty pushed through her veins. Here it comes. Wait. The warmth of her child was still there. The fear for her child came back to her in sharp pangs. She fell into herself, clutching her belly. She had her fate. That was hers, but she couldn’t let her decision take her child.

…breathe…lovely child…breathe…

From beyond the dark, it pushed and erupted through shadow, pouring and moving as light and moving to a safe distance. The child left its mother behind, leaving her to the empty.

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