The Lost Prince

The moon was dark that night. Everything out on the fields flickered bronze and gold in the light of the torches. Fire was such a different light than the moon; the yellow of it cast everything into a feverish glow.

I live it over and over and over again.

“Commander!”

Please don’t make me watch.

“Commander, the Queen!”

I can’t live through this again.

Everything is gelled around me; I can’t think fast enough, speak fast enough, move fast enough.

She and Elias face off amidst the war raging around them; they do not care to send a champion to the other. This battle, the men and women dying around us, they are nothing compared to the battle they have planned for one another. I see, then, that my brother’s insistence on coming to the field was not to stand and watch over his brothers in the Order, nor to be near me and help me try to salvage what control we had left.

He had demanded to be let onto the field knowing that she would come, and they would at last be within arm’s reach of one another again.

Their horses draw alongside one another, and they speak, but I cannot hear their words.

I cannot hear my brother’s last words.

He does not see the bowman of the Queen throw off his nightcloak. He does not see the bowman draw and loose the arrow. He does not see the head pierce his chest or the shaft follow it swiftly, leaving only scant inches and the fletching fountain from his falling body. His steed quicksteps back, trained to know his rider is insensate.

I am told the Queen trampled the bowman — that the boy was errant. A true shot, but not what had been ordered. I am told she wept for him, the father of her stolen child.

I know nothing save the scant weight of Elias’s body as I pull him to my horse, and the way he tries desperately to draw breath enough to pray. I stanch the blood with my cloak, but the arrows of the Queen’s bowmen are murderous past parallel; it is not enough.

Elias dies in my arms, and in the chaos, the Queen and her guard depart the battlefield, caring nothing for the thousands slaughtered in the name of her lost Prince.

In that moment, my brother’s blood still hot on my hands, I vow her Prince will remain lost to her forever.

Why’s it Always You?

She stood high, watching out over the city. A sugary smoke fell to ash undisturbed, forgotten between her fingers. He blinked long-lashed eyes and breathed in all the scents surrounding her, smoke and rain, city street and burnt gasoline, wet rubber, blood.

Blood.

She turned her head, looked down the alley, and focused her gaze on the form half-curled on the wet cement.

The man lay on his side, staring up at the rain, too-blue eyes going glassy, the last of his breath fogging the air above him. “S’you,” he said from the ground, staring high up at her. “Why’s it always you?”

She flicked her cigarette down toward him in a long, slow arc. It bounced, filter first, near his eyes, the last of it witness to the last of him.

She waited until they both went out, and then answered, “Because it’s always you.”

Brilliance

He was mine, though he never knew it. His hands crafted worlds, fingers pulling them loose from the firmament, making webs between the bright lights of stars. He was a god, and didn’t know, weaving all the thoughts together, to make a well-lit space. He sang of light and he bashfully hid his talents when supplicants came calling, for the talents of his heart were not made for any of them to witness.

None of it was for them; it was all for me.

They prayed and shrilled, but he swept them aside casually, and spoke poetry to me, and dazzled me with the wonder of his presence.

I loved him, and he left me, because that is the way of gods.

No matter your faith, they will one day leave you.

Lessons Learned

I’ve stayed away from the windows, when it’s dark and the lights are on. I’ve never let my lighter be lit for too long. I’ve never ordered the Chinese to come right to the house. I’ve never stayed in the same lane for more than three minutes, or taken the same way home from the same place twice. I don’t cry anymore, and I don’t buy stupid shit, and I don’t let idiots direct me. I don’t know what else it is you want from me. I don’t let anyone follow me. I don’t give out my number. I don’t give out my address. I don’t have anyone, and I have been by myself in this stupid place for what feels like years now, falling out of the sky, falling back through the center of the universe until I think I must be drowning in time.

I walk in your footsteps, because they’re the clearest path out of here. I reach out for your hand because I think we’re both just so goddamned tired of being alone.

I thought I found you, once. I thought it would last.

Maybe that’s the last lesson you’re trying to teach.

For my wife

You who challenge me,
you who praise me,
you who love me,

you who refuse
to let me lay down
in the mud

and give up.

You who push me,
you who encourage me,
you who love me,

(again)

you who will listen to me,
believe me,
guide me,

be beside me,
hand in my hand.

You who are not
who I thought love might be
until I realized
you were the only one
love could ever be.

You who has dried tears,
cried tears,
bitten back anger,
stomped down pride,
lifted up hope.

You, whose feet fit my face.

You.

* * * * *

For my wife, because I will always be searching for the right words, the best words, to give her what she gives me.