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Minor thirds bring the head to sway, while a sixth swells the throat. Mere measurements, as the dying guitarist understands. Time is something that he will not know for long, and he relishes in his tones. A pulse driven by low resonance that pushes at the gut every time it’s plucked. And he dances with them. In spite of his willowed legs and arms, he still dances with those dancing notes. The sway of a knobby hip and a knotted shoulder. A dance of a dead thing that hasn’t left its time behind to finally get some rest. Still that dying thing plays. And he smiles.

 

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Keep your teddy bears close! But not too close.

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For those of you who don’t know, I moonlight as a guitar god. Well, maybe not a god. But maybe an Daemon at least. Check out the video review I did for TheToneKing.com

 

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Click here for Musical Accompaniment

Beyond the fire, among the wild things and shadow, he found the child, and the child was his, to be held with care and to be guided through dark places, strange and distorted, and through the world, twisted and contorted. He would provide, and the child would learn from him. The frightened man lies broken on broken earth. He kills the wild things. The distance to here is too much for him, so he seeks out others.

…best to finish him off…

…probably…

…but you’re not going to do it…

…no…

The wild man stayed silent with his child in his arms. He anticipated that he would push through and find whatever waits on the other side, if anything at all. It would tear at him, shred his skin, and leave him broken. He knew that. He would take those scars and make them his.

They traveled when there was light and rested when there wasn’t. No words were spoken by any of them. They just moved. The wild man had set the frightened man’s arm, and it healed completely. The frightened man’s side was still so sore, though, and he still had trouble keeping up with them. He couldn’t help but walk behind the two. He watched the wild man’s back, gazing at his long dangling locks, tangled and twisted, brushing against the black mud that stuck to his skin.

Reuel longed for a bath, to find a cool spring to wash away the sticky blood from his chest and arms. The slathered mess smothered and choked him. He really wanted to speak, but he didn’t. Most of Reuel’s kill was already eaten, but the rest spoiled quickly. The wild man didn’t cook it enough, too red and raw to keep, and now it stank sour. He watched as the wild man sniffed at it, flaring his nostrils and curling his lips, then sniffing it again like something would’ve changed from a moment before. He watched the wild man throw it into the brush without any care. It could’ve lasted them much longer if it was properly preserved. Reuel knew of better ways to keep the meat. He thought of freezing it, but he wasn’t sure when the cold times were coming. He thought of using salt from the shores surrounding water to cure it, but they only found salt on the coasts, and they had been inland for some time. Drying it would work. It would hold longer. He wanted to say something about it, but he didn’t.

He looked to the wild man and the child resting from the distance they had traveled. The fire bathed the wild man’s naked muddy body, emphasizing his muscles underneath. Reuel looked down on himself, adding more to the leaves and mud that hid him.

Eventually, he couldn’t stand to keep his silence anymore, and he spoke to the wild man. “I…I was thinking that we should dry our meat next time we…” The wild man wasn’t paying attention to him. He just lay there on his back, holding the child to his chest. “Ahem, I said that if we dry the meat….” The wild man’s eyes opened, raising his head to peer down his chest at him. He didn’t answer. At least he was looking at him, Reuel thought. Reuel waved his hand at the wild man, hoping to get him to speak. The wild man raised his hand from the child and waved back. Then, he put his hand back where it was, lowered his head, closed his eyes, and started snoring.

“Well, I guess we could talk about it later. Um, goodnight.” Reuel turned and walked closer to the fire. He wasn’t sure why he kept building these fires. It was still warm, and there wasn’t any meat to sear. He could use it to boil roots and vegetables, but the wild man seldom ate them. Reuel just couldn’t live without a saving light, a dancing flame. It held his gaze while the others slept. He watched its sway as it kept to some old rhythm, some old thing dancing an ancient dance that was lost to him. It was as foreign to him as all old things were.

Reuel tried to speak often, needing to speak to the wild man about things, but the wild man never showed any interest. He only kept to the child, only moving for him.  The child reached for the wild man’s long brown locks, unwashed and unkempt, like the rest of his body, darkened with dirt and sun. The wild man lowered his locks, swaying them back and forth, taunting the child until he could reach them. When the child grabbed a bit with his small hands, the wild man quickly pulled it away. He smiled as the child smiled, a smile of young things that still find things new. There was always time for play.

This is irritating. Why won’t he say anything. Reuel tried to keep his silence like the wild man, but he found his silence was impossible to keep. Finally, after a fifth turn, he spoke to the wild man again. “Wha…what’s the child’s name?”

The man looked at him with some surprise, his eyes held wide. That gaze held on him for so long without a word, holding still to someone who seeks to speak. Then, looking to the earth as if he had lost something, he answered. “My son’s name is Joseph.”

Reuel stumbled. “Oh. Where’s your, I mean his mother?”

The wild man didn’t answer. He looked to the child again. His green eyes found his child sleeping. He pushed his bearded face to him, touching the child’s nose, tickling him. Startled, the child moved his head with his eyes still closed, pulling away for a moment, only to return and bury his face deep against his father’s course cheek with a whimper.

Reuel didn’t speak for another three days, and, when he finally did, he did so with care. “What’s…your name?”

The wild man was watching the fire, flames dancing on his mane that hung so gangly on his forehead. Despite the flame, his face was still black, covered with soil, blood, and dirt. He had been kept from the touch of water for so long. “Marc,” he murmured as he scratched his beard. He moved his eyes from the flames and looked to the sleeping child at his side. He put his large hand on the child’s back.

“I’m Reuel.” He waited for a moment to see if Marc would respond, but he didn’t. He just gently rubbed the child’s back. When he didn’t speak, Reuel continued. “Where…are you from?”

He kept his gaze to his sleeping son but pushed up his brow at the strange question. “Um, here.”

“Where? No. I mean…” What the hell is he talking about. “I don’t think you understand. I want to know where you came from.”

The wild man took his gaze from the child, his brow furrowed and his face serious, and stared at Reuel. He seemed, to Reuel, like a man irritated by questions. He must’ve thought of those same questions. He couldn’t move without them. Impossible, I can’t be the only one with them. Still, this wild thing didn’t want to talk at all, much less about such things.

For the moment, Reuel had nothing else to say, so he left it alone.

As time passed, Reuel put more questions to the wild man, but no answers came, just more silence. There wasn’t even the recognition of conversation. It had been so long that when Reuel tried to remember what the wild man’s voice sounded like, he found he had already forgotten.

Although speech was lost, Reuel did find trust and was allowed to help care for the child, such a delicate thing. Always still and smiling in his father’s arms, the child never calmed for Reuel. He was almost always struggling, especially when he would try to bathe him. The only thing worse than when the child squirmed was when he was still. Reuel hated those times. Gaze would catch gaze as he found the eyes of the child, each a different shade. One was the color of green earth and the other the clear sky above it. Those eyes showed old things that pushed too deep, shaking Reuel unnaturally. He found fear in those things and the eyes that held them there. He soon learned to keep his eyes from the child, shuddering when he remembered those pushing things. He always remembered them. That he could never forget.

As they continued to travel Reuel tried to speak less and less, leaving whatever questions he had unanswered. Time passed without words and came out only in need. They hunted, they ate, and they kept moving. He followed the wild man’s lead, unsure to what end. At first, it bothered him not knowing where they were going but not anymore. He had a companion, and he felt safe.

After a long time had passed since their last words, Marc spoke. His eyes fixed on a piece of bark that he moved between his finders, tearing a piece from one corner and rubbing his thumb on another. “Monsters.” He turned the bark over and found its smooth belly. “We’ll find monsters.” He gently brushed the dirt free. “If I die, take the child and leave me be.”

Reuel’s eyes shimmered as they widened.

Marc continued to roll the piece of bark over in the palm of his hand, looking at all of its sides. “Leave death be.” He pulled a piece off of the corner and threw the rest of it into the fire. He stood up and walked away from the light of the fire, away from the companion, and away from his child.

Reuel found himself unable to speak. He was shocked at hearing Marc’s voice again, and it was different than he remembered. He had never heard so many words from him. They still bounced around in his head, trying to escape, but they were held there so tightly. He stood up and tried to follow him, but he stumbled. Look to where the wild man moves and you’ll find nothing but shadows, shadows that look to each other, still finding shadows themselves. His hand reached for something to touch, something flesh, something with breath and something with warmth to help him hold and to help him keep whole. His mimics reached out too but found no flesh, breath, or warmth. Like Reuel, they found nothing. But there was something he found. He found the wild man’s death.

He closed his eyes.

Overwhelmed by a towering beast, the man is beaten, and his companion is helpless, kept still by a bond, a simple word. He sees the man being pushed into the dirt, rising with a bloody face only to be pushed back down again. Blows come from every direction and tearing claws come with them. Flesh rips off from his bones. His blood wells and pools in the wounds left by a savage beast, blood and dirt, shred and tear.

He moves to aid him, but the man reminds him of the bond. He says to leave him be. The man is pushed farther and further into the earth, each time rising smaller and smaller. He fights every blow with one of his own, but his blows soon become weaker and weaker until they lose control completely and hit nothing but air. Still, though, he tries to fight, swinging his arms helplessly. The last moment comes, a time that he can move in and save him, but he does nothing because of those words. I can only watch while you die. The man looks to his eyes for the last time, and the last blow ends him, killed. It’s over, and I couldn’t do anything.

He opened his eyes.

The wild man was gone, and the father didn’t return for some time. Reuel feared being alone again. He stayed at the camp and cared for the child. The day’s light came and left, and still the man was gone. There, waiting by the fire, Reuel felt a sudden pressure in his chest that pushed the air out of him. He struggled to pull his breath back in, but the pressure wouldn’t allow it. It left him on the dirt. The pressure pushed harder, popping his ears, bleeding them and bleeding him. He thought the pressure was going to tear him apart. His stomach twisted, and his legs went taut. Involuntarily, they kicked, cracking sharply at the knees but hitting nothing but air. His fingers forced themselves deep into earth, dragging and tearing at it, finding only deeper dirt.

As suddenly as it had left him, his breath returned to him. He pulled it in hard, tearing at his lungs. He pulled his muddied hands from soil and pushed them to his ears, smearing them with blood and mud. He stood, stumbling and wiping the blood from the sides of his face. He smeared and shaded his skin with its crimson hue. He let his breath out and pulled it back again sharply, fearing he would lose it again. His ears heard a cry, and he ran to the child. The child’s face crinkled and winced. Reaching for him, he found the child untorn and unblemished, no blood, mark, or scar. It was a long while before the child finally calmed down.

Light came and left again, and still the father was gone.

The wind was moving, blowing through the tall and swaying green. He stumbled forward slightly, taking a step in the wind’s pushing direction. The child was still behind him. He couldn’t leave him here. He turned to grab the child, but lost his breath again. Pulling his breath too hard, he choked and coughed out everything that was in him. Nothing stayed inside, and he couldn’t pull anything back. Things swam and spun around him, twisting around his head in a taunting game, mocking and laughing at his spinning state. He couldn’t stay any longer. It was becoming too much for him. The child would have to wait here for him to return. He turned away from the child again, breathing so hard that his chest and belly were sore. Another gust pushed against his back, and his foot fell forward again. He tripped and fell. His face hit the dirt as the harsh winds rolled over his back, moving past him. He lay his head to the earth. He couldn’t leave. He would have to wait and endure. He pushed himself up from the dirt, weak and weary, and walked to the child, binding himself to him with words left unspoken.

…until the end child…

Light came and left again, and finally the father returned, his body covered with clothes and his nakedness gone. His tangled mane was pulled behind his head, and his beard was braided. The man carried with him more clothes for Reuel and Joseph. As he reached for the child, the child started to cry. He rubbed the tears from the child’s face and finished dressing him. When he was done, he looked toward the east. “We move west. Come back when we’re ready.” He turned his back to their path and took up the child. Reuel looked to the path and saw the dark things that waited there. The light had already left them, resting somewhere in the opposite direction. They followed that direction and chased the falling light.

…I wasn’t ready…

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The young girl’s voice tried to carry with her broken bits and the other bits, all that pull and tug and push and shove. She sang as if the world would stop to hear her. Even the motion of the earth would obey new laws that would bow to what sounds her breath pushed. Physics would become a flick of her tongue. Phenomena would be the push of her diaphragm. Gravity’s hold on humble things would be humbled by her scale. Let the dark haired child sing. Let them all sing. Even with their broken bits, let them sing.

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Music from my upcoming Audiobook: Becoming.

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