Though banished and beheaded, a godling never dies. Now his face is frozen in a scream of rage. In his teeth, an iron bar barrister. Beside him, mouths drawn back as if still breathing flames, his dragon comrades of the seas. Visitors are struck with awe, so alive appears this sculpture on the rail.
Son of Poseidon, once his name was legion. He ruled the ocean winds. His conch could trumpet hurricanes or becalm merchant ships. It’s said that at the sound, goliaths fled in fear of dark leviathans, such was the power of his horn.
A woman was involved, as women are so often blamed for the folly of both gods and godlings. Some say she was a mermaid, gifted with a Siren’s voice for song. Others claim she was a silkie and half human. They say she walked on land to do her business, was no better than a whore. At any rate, she stole his heart.
Gods do not tolerate such alliances, though allowances were made among their own. Their children had no such right to privilege, and thus the punishment was swift and cruel.
He thinks her body lies within the bricked-in door behind him. He believes she died for love of him, believes he guards her crypt. Surely they would leave him that, but it’s not so. His scaly tail and torso lie within the wall. Her soul became the phosphorous light known only to the denizens of stygian depths.
In a place beyond the myth, she visits him in dreams.
They are always watching you—the figures with hollow eyes and hungry teeth. Some look like faces, some like dragons, some like men and some like monsters. They hang on fences, stand in parks, squat on the roofs of cathedrals. They are very still. You never see one move. No human can pay attention long enough to do so. But what about when your head is turned, when your gaze is diverted? Think of that the next time you feel a touch that shouldn’t be there. Think of it when you hear the sounds of life but there is no life in the room but you.
Perhaps you believe the figures are made of steel or stone. They are not. They are a strange flesh, the fruit of alien loins. And they multiply. There are more today than there were yesterday. Tomorrow that total will increase. How many will there be in a year, in ten years? When will they outnumber us? What will happen then?
I know. Don’t you? Don’t lie to yourself. You feel it the same as I do. You recognize the wrongness in them. You shrug it away. You laugh. You call the very thought of it silly. Yet still you shiver in the feral night. Still you cry out after dreams you cannot ‘quite’ remember. Still you pull the sheets up tight beneath your chin. None of that will save you.
I know exactly how you feel. Do you wonder how? It’s because I’m watching too. Right now.
In this world, we still exist.
In the corners, in the shadows, in the icons and the ornamentation. The images the humans created have become our places of refuge. Where we fled when the world changed. When the humans took what was ours, killed our kind.
Once, we were dragons, shapeshifters, worshiped as powerful creatures. We flew amid the clouds, breathed fire and lightning, swam the seas, walked and loved among the humans, even taking their form.
We ruled as gods.
Until our hubris become our undoing.
Pandora seemed so docile, subservient, yet she let our secrets into the world and laughed as we fell from power. One small woman gave the humans the power to destroy us.
Now, though, after millennia, those secrets have been forgotten.
I am Zeus, watching the world from my wrought iron sanctuary. Each day I can feel my strength returning, hear the voices of my fellow dragons. We are angry, ready.
And I am tired of hiding.
It is time for the dragons to rise and reclaim what is ours.
It is time for the humans to bow to their gods once more.
Dark Boys for Dark Girls
Mercedes M. Yardley
If he had said,
Let me be the Donnie to your Marie or
the sprinkles to your sundae or
the warm sand under your feet
I would have walked away
Let me be the Hades to your trapped Persephone
the chains that draw your body to the floor of the sea
I’ll be the rope around your neck so when you swing
you won’t swing alone
You don’t need trinkets and parties and balloons
You need somebody strong enough to climb into your casket
and close it over us both.
I stand slightly behind the emissary my client sent me and the man leans in closer, drawn to the intense depth of darkness. It’s the only one in my showroom, which is set up as meticulous as the piece itself, the lighting and background designed to mimic a sunny day.
“How did you get the coloring like that? Will it be the same on all your pieces? It’s remarkable,” his voice quiets and his last sentence is almost said to himself even though it’s only the two of us in the room. He inspects the dragon closer.
“It took me years to get the mix correct. The sacrifices I made, but when I got there …well, I would say it’s worth it. And now that he sent you as the down payment I can begin.”
“He didn’t send me with any down payment,” he says and starts to turn.
I grab his head and slam it against the dragon’s ear, the slurp sound of bone and flesh splitting fills the room. I pull back and finish the job. I drag the lifeless body from the room to the basement where I can drain him for my next batch.
A Waited Burden
Lee Andrew Forman
Within the cage rests not a full being, not a complete form of limitless power, only the tip of infernal intent born for destruction. Both head and spine intact are encased in the solid prison. One wonders if thoughts of fire and death still linger within. A life so mighty cannot be so easily undone even in post-severed condition. The lives of all which surround it know nothing other than its ornate appearance. None but myself and few others remain to guard it. The world around it may have grown, but our coven retained its youth, its knowledge. Each day we question when time will wither its unnatural enclosure and free this Earth the burden of life.
The Sky, The Song
Scarlett R. Algee
It’s never not been raining, at least not in my lifetime.
We build up and up, brick and concrete and iron, and every year the city sinks and sinks, the sea gnawing at the land from below, the sky weeping it away from above.
Everyone knows the story, wrought as it is on almost every fence and railing: the scowling god, the snarling beasts. How the god our ancestors worshiped lost his two daughters to the wrath of a spurned siren, who sang them into dragon-like fiends that fled their father’s countenance. How he, mad with grief, gutted the sky with his trident and tore the siren’s voice from her throat.
How the spell-song remained unbroken, the sky did not mend, and the daughters did not return.
It sounds ridiculous, on its face: a legend, a fairy story. And I thought as much myself until the day the package arrived, jagged shards of unearthly metal that gleamed like spilled oil, that I pieced together on my dining table into the shape of a massive three-pronged spear.
Until I read the letter, and learned that sirens have daughters too.
Maybe, at bottom, it’s still just a story. Maybe it’s a stranger’s idea of a prank.
Or maybe the grief of a god can be mended, and skies made whole again, and sisters sung back home.
They huddled together, watching the cracks spread as the waves splintered the wall sheltering them. The levees had already been overwhelmed, now it was just the wall holding back the ocean. This was it, the last piece of terra firma, the last piece of land not covered by the rising oceans. The rich had taken to vast floating palaces, while the poor drowned. John and the others had sought higher and higher ground until they were at the top of the world. On top of the peak that people had died to reach, the small group sat, protected only by the wall…and now it was collapsing. John stood.
“I’m going to die on my feet.”
The others joined him.
Just for an instant there was the sparkle of blue water at the top of the wall, then the mortar gave way and the water consumed them.
Iron mask; unyielding carapace that stifles. Crown of thorns; the lock upon an opaque prison. Eyes blinded; no sight – ebon madness encroaches. Lips shrouded; no utterance escapes. Ears aware; the slush of bodily fluids draining. A hiss heard left then right:
Sissssss… …terrrrrrrr; the sound slithers.
My guardians keep watch; vestigial, vile.
There’s Always Tomorrow
Cursed to an eternity with the most bothersome creatures imaginable, I try to stay my tongue, but their incessant complaining makes me pray for reprieve. Perhaps a building inspector will come to condemn the land we sit upon with bulldozers and wrecking balls that dance until I am finally set free from their infantile chatter.
Good lords, do they whine and mutter constantly. Someone leaned on me! Something just shit on me! Boo-fuckin-hoo, you little twits. Their disgust at these events immediately falls to my ears, “Can you believe the audacity!?” they croon, indignant to their pathetic little cores. Fools! If only they knew who they were speaking to.
I was a sorcerer once, one with great power known for aiding in the conquest of lands further than today’s world remembers. Now, well, what am I? Trapped, that’s what, in this accursed metal tomb by those I’d have considered friends... Friends, what a notion. I should have slaughtered them all and taken their breath as they have ensconced mine.
I wipe away my thoughts as the day draws close to its end. My knight in mismatched orange and blue polyester will soon be here to shelter behind me – his cart of belongings reeking as much as his body. A brief evening’s worth of reprieve from the vapid serpents, his babbling I understand; war, famine, the pang of thirst. I watch as the world winds down only to await the next morning in false death, seeing nothing more than darkness and concrete before me. I’d kill for a new view…
There’s always tomorrow.
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