The Loneliest Traid

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  • Published: 2 Apr 2017
  • Updated: 13 May 2017
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Love and death and war and Gods and blood and magic and dancing and rest and revenge and kings and fate.
Don't worry, within these three stories you'll know yourself,
And I will put you back together again.

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41. If You Love Me, Don’t Let Me Go Again, Please

Samhain pointed down at the shadow under their swing bed, “There are snacks down there if you want to get them.”

    “Do you need to eat in the second realm?”

    “No,” he paused, “It’s chocolate though.  I’ve been saving it for a while.”

    Jinmi thought this was cute, and slid from the side of the hammock.  He seemed to weigh so much more now off of the bed.  The air seemed heavier, denser almost.  As if being between feather and down for that time made everything else harder to bear.

    He sat on the flats of his feet, holding the swing bed for balance, and as he pushed it, the shadow moved.

    “How do I get down again?”

    “Through the same door?” Samhain posed as a question.

    “But it-”

    “Oh!” Samhain slid onto his stomach, pointing at the shadow that hadn’t stopped swaying under his jolts, “Just jump in, it’s a door, I promise.”

    “But it’s a solid floor,” Jinmi said, knocking on it.  It made a dull sound, not giving away any space underneath.  He felt like an idiot, wondering if this was a joke.  If it was a hex, it gave away no light, no aura he could see.

    “If you knock on it like that it won’t want to open.  I’d offer to go but I haven’t walked in a millenia.  Jump down, will you?”

    “How long did you say?”

    “Go on!”

    He shuffled forward, leaning his head back to dodge the bed.  The sun was caught behind it, blinking through the wicker.  It was almost as bright as Samhain’s light, he thought.

    He felt his feet dip through the stone, but if he went to look or wondered too much about how it worked, they were suddenly flat against the ground again.  He tipped his head back, scooting onto the ledge, “Do I jump?”

    “Is there a ladder?”

    “I can’t look at it, I can’t tell.”

    “Just think, is there a ladder?”

    And Jinmi saw in his memory, a ladder by the trap door.  He didn’t remember it before, and he couldn’t be sure if it existed earlier, but he reached for it, and there it was.

    He took a step down, and another.  It took a few tries before he was really climbing, rather than crawling along the floor.  Samhain watched him, laughing.

    When his head finally broke the surface, he found himself in a room darker than before, as if it were nighttime on this side of the world.  It wasn’t upside down anymore, and there were more boxes than before, most filled with piles of loose stuffing fabric, thread, buttons, cloth, boxes of wine and jars of beads and berries.  He finally found a bar of chocolate wrapped in golden foil, hidden behind a bucket and mop, still filled with unnaturally lukewarm water.

    He took the ladder back up, banging his head once or twice before he heard Samhain call, clear as day, “Follow my voice.”

    “Your voice is coming from behind me.”

    “Then follow it.”

    He stuffed the chocolate into his back pocket, and began climbing down the ladder.  Samhain hummed, a song he felt as though he recognised for some reason.

    “Take my end, tie to ships and trees.” the voice floated forward, caught in an updraft, but Jinmi was too distracted by the words to realise that he was now crawling forward, the room quickly growing brighter, “Tear yourself open.”

    “To let yourself free,” he finished, “How do I know that song?”

    “It must be connected in your fate.”

    Jinmi handed him the chocolate, and sat up against the mountain of blankets surrounding them.  Samhain handed him a square, that tasted of juice and cacao, “What do the fates have to do with it?  I thought fate was just your life’s story, and if our meeting was connected, could the song be too?”

    “I wouldn’t know, there are only four Gods that control the fates to some extent,” he said, wiping the crumbs from his lap, “But the fates are more like… A board of strings.  No matter how far you space them, strings will connect if there are enough.  But sometimes, they become tangled, and the Gods always notice this and try to fix it.”

    “Fix it?”

    Samhain bit the loose skin of his lip, “I’m very surprised that you’ve made it this far into the second realm.  If we are as connected as we seem to be there are a few Gods who would see what the four Goddesses have planned and want to be rid of us.  If they even pull on string the rest will come undone and find their space.”

    “How would they even tell?”

    “The strings, they’re connected, and even the smallest of things are.  If we speak now about fates, somewhere, someone else will too.  You’ll cry, as will they, and visa versa.  Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a place of awful luck, and it’s their fault.  If the Gods don’t fix it, the fates might have something to do with a plan of the Goddesses.  They hate them, a reason I hardly understand.  But no one likes feeling controlled, I suppose,” Samhain said, looking off of the tower, off into the distance.

    Jinmi leaned forward, trying to catch his eye, “And you?  How are we connected?”

    “I’m not sure yet.”

    “Nothing to do with you living on this tower?”

    Samhain smiled, and rolled his eyes at him.  He didn’t seem angry, and Jinmi couldn’t imagine him ever being angry, really.  Anger is blaming other.  Samhain only blamed himself, a toxic habit.

    “You can ask me whatever questions you like, Jinmi, I won’t mind.”

    He took a deep breath, “Why are you here?  Who are you?”

    “I’m the God of Nightmares, you know that much.”

    “Yes, but who were you before?  And why are you here now?”

    Samhain took another square of the chocolate he’d been saving.  It was clear that even though you could survive in the second realm with nothing, it drove you either mad, or lonely to the break of sanity.  The scratches on his body gave that much away.

    “You’re a stranger, Jinmi.”

    “I know.”

    “Then tell me, why do I trust you?”

    He smiled, “Because we’re connected by fate?”

    Samhain slapped his arm playfully, Jinmi’s softly scaling laugh filling the air around them.  Samhain sometime heard the music from the market place travel up to his tower on a particularly still day, but he wasn’t sure if it would mean anything to him now that he’d met Jinmi.

    “I’ll tell you, but only because we’re connected by fate.”

    “We mightn’t be,” Jinmi pointed out, “And you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.  If you want to share it with someone though, I’ll always listen.”

    Samhain stared off at the horizon.  It was beginning to flutter, like a swarm of butterflies taking flight, their wings oranges, reds, flaming gemstones that would make the kindest sunset proud.

    “It’s getting late,” he said.

    Jinmi fidgeted, but decided not to say a thing.

    “You want to get back to her, don’t you?”

    “I can wait.”

    “Jinmi, I’m sorry, I forgot to tell you,” he said, “This sunset is a hex as well.  You might have been here for days, I can’t tell anymore.  You should probably go to her now, if it’s night here, it might be day out there.”

    “That explains why the world below was dark when it was evening here.”

    Samhain nodded.  Guilt stirred within him, although surely he hadn’t forgotten intentionally to keep Jinmi here?  That wouldn’t be like him, he wouldn’t have.

    “Why are there two time zones here?” Jinmi asked, swinging his legs off of the bed.  He seemed aggravated now, more eager to leave than before although to polite to say it.

    “That’s a long story.”

    Jinmi looked at the turning colours with him, autumn leaves caught in a lazy breeze that pushed the colours over the forest floor slowly enough that for a moment, the world was both in day, as clear as the summers that Jinmi had missed for so long, as turning into watercolour strips, brushing over in a turn wheel of light, the sun its vanishing centre, its yellow eye shutting for the night made only for Samhain, and never meant to be seen by anyone else.

    “It’s beautiful up here,” Jinmi said, his voice too light, drifting away into sleepy sigh, “I’d forgotten how much I used to love seeing the sunset.”

    “You could see the sunset from Mavros?”

    Jinmi laughed, “No, but I used to climb the lookout points at the border and sit on the crow’s nest watching it some nights.”

    “You must have given your parents a heart attack.”

    Jinmi lay back again, “I suppose.  But I was one of the wolf boys, raised by the other children around me.”

    “Oh.” Samhain felt guilt rise up again.  It was a pain worse than any nightmare he had known, but somehow it vanished whenever Jinmi turned from the sunset to look back at him.  He hadn’t realized that he’d been staring, again.

    “You say it’s a long story, why the sky sets late?  Do you want to tell me?”

    “It’s a very long story, Jinmi, and you should get going, really.”

    “It’s too dangerous to leave at night, if you don’t mind, I’ll stay until morning break.”

    “But it’s probably day outside, you-”

    Jinmi rested his hand on the crook of Samhain’s arm, using it to pull himself up again so that his legs were tucked beneath him and his head could lie back against the wicker basket, “Tell me.”

    Samhain didn’t take his arm back immediately - he couldn’t move it quite yet.  Whatever kindness Daphne had known, a small part of that will wait, and it will wait soaking into the cuts of the skin wherever Jinmi touched.  The guilt was replaced, the butterflies falling back around the arc of the sky and finding their way into the base of Samhain’s stomach, where they lit him on fire as they had the evening.

    “Okay, I’ll tell you, but leave whenever you want.”

    Jinmi nodded, and wrapped his arms around himself, his eyes lulling shut.

    Samhain lay back with him, and with a voice made for a still night began his story.

 

    Samhain’s name had been forgotten, those who knew him in a past life now long dead, lost souls within the third realm.  He was a small child from birth, his lungs weak, his heart struggling between each beat.  He grew to be a teenager, despite all odds, and a loved one at that.

    Once you feel the grief of being born on a deathbed, hurt from others means less, and love from yourself seems like a blessing.

    His mother and father were kind to him, pulling his hair into braids and curls, singing him to sleep at night, staying with him and coating his sleepless body in touches and kisses soft enough to hold him in his dreams, and to not hurt his gentle bones.

    He doesn’t remember a lot from the world before, but he will never lose the memories of how the kept him upright in their arms, their beautiful boy, so young to die, and such a good soul in their world.

    He also remembers the nightmares.

    Claws of black needles and nails, grabbing a hold of his delicate frame and pulling him limb from limb so that he couldn’t run, then opening his chest, breathing water through his lungs, pinching at his heart until in beat as fast as the other children’s, his body giving up on him, and yet the hands holding his soul within his body.  The told him that he was a sin, the Gods didn’t want him there at all and they were set on killing him quickly, that he wasn’t going to last long, not in a world so cruel.  They strangled him, tore him apart and left him until his blood coated their ghastly hands and his mother’s voice broke the darkness screaming his name.

    He’s wake up coughing up blood from his corrupted lungs, his heart racing out of time.  His mother and father would stroke his hair, his arms, his cheeks.  Tracing lazy lines onto his body, saying that he was going to be okay, that no one was going to hurt him.

    And no one did.  No one dared touch the boy so kind.  Doctors came from both poles of desert, each mountain range, from the newly forming black magic markets on the outskirts of the land.  People came from far and wide to deliver what they could and help, but in the end it made no difference.

    One night he awoke from his nightmare to hear his mother’s cursing.

    “The creators, they’d done this, left our baby half dead.  And yet, no one comes to help him?”

    A girl in the next village over had lost her mother recently, and the news of an angel descending to console her rang across the world, it seemed.  It was not an uncommon thing, to meet one of their angels, and yet Samhain never did.

    “He’s still strong,” his father said.

    “How strong?” he grew quiet, almost as silent as a graveyard, the tears falling from her eyes almost louder, “Strong enough to leave the house again?  To run, and play with the others?  He’s not strong enough, you can’t deny it.  If you could, I’d show him the world.  But I can’t.  There’s… There’s nothing I can do.”

    And his father took his mother into his arms as she howled into his neck, muffled sobs of a widow, or a childless mother.  He drew the same lines in her skin, but harder, knowing she could take it without splintering and breaking apart, unlike his son.

    Samhain looked outside, at a world he would never know, never feel.  Even the wind slowed for him, afraid of knocking him over.  He missed it all, what others condemned.  The rain on his skin, the blisters of sunburn finding his young cheeks and nose, the feeling of rolling in the wind and feeling grass hold his ears, the back of his neck, between his curious fingers.  He missed it all, and he died not long after that night in a nightmare, still missing it the same.

    And angel came to his soul in the woods.  He bathed his feet in water like ice, and cried feeling how his bones didn’t ache like they used to, they didn’t crack and his skin didn’t open again.  The angels sat by his side, and pulled her skirt around her hips, dipping her feet in too.  The forest was green, the sky grey and drizzling.

    “This was all I ever wanted,” he said.

    “I’m glad you like it, I made it for you.”

    “You’re a guardian angel?”

    Her skin was dark, like his, her hands running under the water like the cliff behind a waterfall, sparkling with life and gold.  

    “I’m your guardian angel.  You are one of the few with Gods looking out for you, although I’m sure it never seemed so.”

    He remembered his mother that night, how she cried for him, the same as she did when his heart stopped with him in her careful arms.

    The angel understood this, “I have something to ask of you.”

    “What is it?”

    “You have an option.  Live here for as long as time lasts, be free to wander these woods and find the other souls that reside her.  Start anew, your body is ready for it now, and you will never feel the pain you did in life.”

    “Or?” Samhain didn’t waste a moment dwelling on how much he would love it.  To have the time he never did before out in the rain and the snow and the sun.  Not when he saw how her eyes dropping, weighed with guilt.

    “Or become a God.  The other half of those who control nightmares.  You will spend your nights in a tower, plagued with nightmares, and in exchange those in the first realm will not.  You will free them of that.”

    He looked into the sky, the grey clouds that were darker now with lightening and thunder.  He had never seen lightning in his life, claws much like those he had dreamt of for so long but now of light and power and majesty.

    “I am so sorry.  It is a horrid thing to ask of you, I know.”

    “I will become a God.”

    The angel looked at him in shock, “Why?”

    He stood up, the grass holding him in place with soft touches so familiar to him, the clouds opening into sheets of rain that stuck his shirt to his shoulders, the curls his mother had put in for him falling flat.  The rain filled his lungs, but he could breath, for the first time in his life, in death.

    “Because I know what it was like, never sleeping.  I have met those demons that keep you up with their lies and dark touches.  I know the pain of being ripped open and eaten alive and made into nothing.  Why would I ever wish that upon another?”

    She stood up, desperate.  It was clear that she loved him, who had once watched over him stopping the storms from being too harsh against him, who kept the sun away from his delicately new eyes.  She now asked him to relieve his nightmares, from now until the end of time, to rip him away from the world she had built him in a forest just like she knew he always wanted.

    “It’s not your responsibility, you can say no and live in peace.  You deserve it, after all you’ve been through.”

    But he shook his head, “No one deserves what I knew.  I don’t mind that much anyway, I’ve dealt with it before.  And anyway, what man would I be if I were to leave others with what I had seen.  People were so kind to me in life, and you were kind to me too.  If I can do this, it’ll be enough, and I’ll have made use of what I could be, that’s better than paradise, isn’t it?”

    And so she made Samhain a God, and sent him to the tower.  His nights were longer, and his days were too, but as wars raged on there were more nightmares to deal with and he ended up sleeping each day away too, his life now nothing more than nightmares, becoming more like home that the visions of his family.  He saw them once or twice in the dreams of those who knew them, their hair grey now, their eyes full of sadness.  He wished that, just once, he could see them again.  But before long they disappeared from dreams forever, his mother first, his father second.

    He drew lines on his skin as they did, holding his body close and together, each shock of a nightmare sending his body rigid, his hands digging harder, the lines once keeping his heart beating for them now leaving him scarred, ropes as thin as scratches keeping him in the dreams that spiraled into monsters of war, skeletons and fires and more blood than he had ever seen in his entire life.

    The angel never visited, his tower growing further and further from the land until he was above the clouds themselves.

    “Please, you shouldn’t be the one made to do this,” she had said.

    “It’s alright, really,” he smiled, “I want to help.”

    “You don’t understand, the things you’ll see, the…”

    “It’s nothing I haven’t seen before, surly?”

    “But you don’t understand, the loneliness being a God.  You might never see another soul, damned to spend your life alone, and with such awful creatures that the mortal’s will see within themselves.”

    “It’s okay,” he said, “I was never lonely in life, I had all I could ever need.  Now, it’s time that I give back to those who were so good to me.”

    “But you won’t know how it feels to be abandoned when you have nothing but monsters by your side.”

And Samhain laughed, “Loneliness makes love sweeter, I’ll wait out for that, and that will keep me going, I’m sure of it.”

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