Wednesday, August 26, 2020

#QueerBlogWed: Wednesday Words

On April 22, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving a tile, a pond, and a game.

This story amidst the Tales of the Navel: The Shadow Forest was the result...

What existed before the Garden of Arachne was a blurry memory, punctuated by vivid images. Dyvian didn’t fight these visions the way his arachocratic ladies and relations did. He allowed them to strike his mind, pentrating his thoughts like a droplet of rain upon a pond. He could see the pond in those moments, the spray rising from millions of droplets of water hitting it, changing color. He felt the cool kiss of the spray from where he sat at a table across from Lord Stefan Ashelocke, just the two of them alone with the falls. 

Yes, he remembered Stefan. Back when he smiled, loved, plotted, and schemed. Before  he surrendered to the arms of his Lady Duessa, becoming the First Marriage Feast. A still icon of beauty, immortal and unchanging standing at the very center in the mazes of Duessa’s garden. 

In the visions, Stefan possessed life and color, wearing a midnight doublet which matched his raven hair as he lifted a tile in his slender fingers, placing it in a careful arrangement of waves, wands, crystals, and lightning bolts. It was all part of the game, a symbol of a greater game he sought to impart to his nephew. “Most people simply find a pattern, see it as the pattern. It’s a rare player who creates his own pattern amidst everyone trying to convince him to set the pieces in a pre-conceived design.”

Eyes as rose-purple as a gem or a flower, eyes Damian would one day possess, met Dyvian’s own, filled with mockery at his own wisdom. He allowed his fingers to linger upon the wand he’d just placed. 

Dyvian looked down at the lightning bolt upon the bone in front of him, his own hand tingling with images of a pine twisting in the wind. Perhaps a lightning bolt would stroke it. Perhaps a wand would be taken from its branches. He could smell the metallic odor on the hillside, warning of the coming storm. He could feel the splash of water against his face, the first raindrop signalling its coming. 

Perhaps these images were impressions left upon the bones by their former owners before their remains became game pieces. Perhaps they were part of message left for anyone who played this game Stefan teased Dyvian into again and again. Perhaps they were simply part of the meandering path Dyvian wandered in his own inner landscape. 

Or perhaps the tiles were just telling him what he already knew. It was dangerous to play with the Lord of Mystere, even if he was no more than a memory. Ah, but Dyvian held onto that memory, not wanting to resist it. Why would he? No one resisted Lord Stefan, no one. Even the Lady Duessa, who’d put an end to his games, had once been a violated and adoring victim. 

No more. The lady had consumed her former husband, draining his essence, his energy. Nothing remained of Stefan but a statue, a beautiful shell. This was why Duessa told her court and the boys blossoming in her garden. This was what many chose to believe. 

Was it true? Stefan had left his imprint on many places in Mystere, lingering in the garden, in the memories of those who’d loved him. No, Stefan remained if you were willing to look for him. To let him into your thoughts. 

Dyvian glanced at the pond next to their table, their game, dappled with reflective light. Sometimes the light changed color. You could catch a glimpse of a lost soul, a missing memory with those shifting hues if you looked closely. The fleeting images clinging to the tiles gathered together in each droplet of water, waiting to be found. 

It wasn’t a lost memory Dyvian looked for in the sparkling color. It was an ideal, a secret desire. A youth’s fair face, beardless, framed by wavy dark hair, dominated by a pair of green eyes, brilliant as any emerald. Exquisite. 

Shameful to imagine any boy being more beautiful than those growing in the Gardens of Arachne. Everyone knew they were lovelier than anything outside of Mystere. Lord Stefan’s sacrifice had released this beauty, this potential in every male who came after him. This strange boy was the culimation of that grace, yet somehow untouched by the garden. Dyvian could see the innocence, an eager willingness to be guided coupled with a hunger vying with any arachocratic lady’s within those green eyes. They tempted Dyvian with their silent longing. 

This boy he saw with the waters of the pond was Dyvian’s secret, much as these conversations with Stefan was. An arachnocratic boy might dally with others, but he was destined for his bride. One day a lady would claim him in a Marriage Feast, drinking his life, his vitality, all that he was in an ultimate night of ecstacy. Nothing would be left of him but a beautiful statue standing in his lady’s garden. 

Every boy in Arachne lived for that moment, that night, that ecstacy. One day Dyvian would give himself to that passion, aroused and brought to a climax by his bride. 

No point in disturbing anyone with his perversion, the secret passion for this green-eyed youth who might be more than any bride could be. A boy who might one day become flesh. The pond was, after all, a portal to the Shadow Forest where all dreams were possible. Who knew what might emerged from its waters if Dyvian wished hard enough? Who knew whom might come to him, born from his own desire.
“A life is the ultimate pattern.” Stefan watched his nephew, weighing his words. “Ask yourself, Dyvian. Just what is the point of the game? What do you hope to achieve?”

“To become one of the few who creates his own pattern.” Dyvian smiled at his uncle. “Whatever he might evolve into.”

Stefan raised a hand over the tiles in what might or might not have been a gesture of benediction. “You don’t disappoint, my dear.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Paula's Prompts: Wednesday Words

On April 15, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt involving a deadline extended, a bird, and a title.

This all-too autobiographical poem was the result...:)

The deadline has been extended
There’s more time to tell the story
My execution has been delayed
No putting me out of my misery
Allowing myself to be weeded out
The dealine has been extended! 
A bird seems chirp mockingly
Singing it from the tree for all to hear
Making me shrink into myself
Wanting to hide, wanting to run
No, I will not run!
I can do this, I can write this story
Now if only I could think of a title
A title that would bring the whole thing together
Offering clarity, giving the story direction
Everything that comes to mind sounds stupid
Overdone, like worn-out sneakers I know I should throw out
Going bad like the milk in the fridge
Pressure builds inside my head, the need for a title
Crushing ideas, shredding inspiration
There’s no escape from the pressure
I stare at my computer screen in a daze
Wondering what sentence, what word comes next
Don’t think, just start writing
No matter how stupid or cliché I sound
I can always rewrite this later
This is the refrain that keeps me going
I cling to it, ignoring that bird’s annoying chirp
Echoing the critical tone of my inner editor
Yes, it may be crap, what I’m putting on the page
Crap can fertilize better things
Allow a finish product to grow
In the full flower of its beauty

From rough, ugly beginnings. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Paula's Prompts: Wednesday Words

On April 8, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at  a Wednesday Words prompt involving a lost comb, a pile of notes, and noisy neighbors.

This poem was the result...

Can’t find my comb
Can’t find my sense
Somehow it got lost in the pile of notes
All is confusion
All is lost in the clamour
Noisy neighbors screaming through the walls
Demanding attention
Demanding things I don’t want to give them
A crass soundtrack holding me captive
Are they trying to make a cheap radio show of their reality?
Broadcasting to anyone who can’t get away?
Or are they too wrapped up in that reality to notice or care
They’re disturbing mine, disturbing anyone’s in range
A shockwave of sound disturbing patterns of thought
Disrupting any attempts at organizing my environment
A mess dropped in my attempts to cleanse it
Deliberate or not it’s jarringly rude
Just another example of rudeness in an increasingly rude world
Where common courtesy fades into one more myth. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

#QueerBlogWed: Paula's Prompts

On April 1, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving a prank, a bow tie, and a flower.

This freebie story for my surreal steampunk Work in Progress, On the Other Side of the Mask was the result...

Something tickled his cheek, bringing Shelley back from dark dreams. Something soft, silken that clung to his skin. A flower petal. Someone stroked him with a flower.

“Wake up, sleeping beauty.” It was Nathaniel’s voice, half-mocking, half-sad, uttered with a musical lilt. “Look at me.”

Shelley obeyed, raising his eyelids to behold the young man leaning over him. Auburn curls dangled around Nathaniel’s face, close enough to Shelley’s own to grab and pull. He’d tied his cravat into a bow tie, giving himself an almost clownish appearance. He held out a daisy in one gloved hand, letting it glide over Shelley’s cheek. 

“Should I expect a prank?” Shelley moistened his lips, wondering if the tie or the flower would spit water at him. It was a trick he’d sometimes seen on the streets of Paradise on Festival of Fools Day, the one time of the year clowns were allowed near the Cathedral of the Goddess and its songbirds. “Does Lord Ruthvyn allow such clownish behavior on his estate?”

“Oh, he always has a least one fool in his entourage. Often more than one.” Dark blue eyes, the same vivid hue as Olympia’s clouded even as Nathaniel smirked. “Right now he has you and I. Perhaps Olympia and Byron as well, but neither of them are as foolish as you or I.” 

“Why do you say that?” Shelley raised himself from his bed to look Lord Ruthvyn’s servant in the eye. Nathaniel was baiting him as usual, but he might reveal a clue about Byron’s well-being or state of mind while doing so. Shelley was so hungry for any crumb of information about his proud songbird, he was more than willing to endure the abuse. 

His songbird. Shelley might no longer have the right to consider Byron his. Lord Ruthvyn could have gotten to him, crawled inside his head, changing who knows what. 

For a moment, the room swam around him, the red velvet hanging over the bed transforming into a waterfall of blood, falling into a pool. Byron floated in the pool; naked, pale, disturbingly exquisite in his stillness as any boy in the paintings upon Lord Ruthvyn’s walls. All the fire in his luminous dark eyes was gone, leaving them as cold and empty as their pale master’s. Long, white arms reached from the crimson depths of the pool, to clasp Byron, dragging him down into their wet embrace. Byron disappeared from sight, his face as blank as a doll’s. Not seeing Shelley. Not caring. An emotionless mask of Byron’s once animated features was swallowed by red water. 

“No!” Shelley clapped his hands to his own cheeks, banishing the vision. “This is a trick, an illusion!”

“Maybe it is.” The vision swam into red velvet hangings and a ruddy golden pattern on the walls. 

Shelley was back in his own bed, if he could anything in Lord Ruthvyn’s estate his. Including himself. Especially himself. 

No. Don’t think that way. Shelley couldn’t let his mind sink into such submissive despair, he couldn’t let their pale lord win. He’d be betraying the name he’d chosen, the poet it belonged and the freedom Shelley represented. Worst of all, he’d be betraying Byron and the bond between them. He couldn’t ever think that way. 

“It was a prank.” Nathaniel gazed at him as if Shelley were a rare work of art, a creature of spun class. One he yearned to touch but didn’t dare. “Your Byron remains your fool, holding true to the promise the two of you made.” 

The young man brought the daisy in his hand close to Shelley’s cheek once more, brushing it. “How long can he keep it, Shelley? How long can you resist Lord Ruthvyn? It’s only a matter of time before our lord drains the vitality from both of you, transforming you two little rebels into pieces of silent art, a pair of spiritless toys.”

“You’ve seen him do this again and again.” Shelley studied Nathaniel’s face. Young, with delicate features, a small, snubbed nose, yet immobile and unlined, it was very like the servant’s mask. Only Nathaniel’s eyes retained a spark of emotion. “Were you one of his victims, Nathaniel? A cherished songbird until your lord tired of your song?”

“My song? Lord Ruthvyn would laugh at the idea of me being able to sing a note, let alone divert him with it.” Nathaniel shrugged as if his master’s disregard was nothing of particular interest, but there was a flicker of pain in his eye. “I’ve never been more than a doll to him, a toy for Lord Ruthvyn’s diversion, and not a very diverting one for all that. Much like Olympia.” 

Nathaniel withdrew the flower to press it against his breast. He stood up, looking down at Shelley. “It’s time. Go to your cage. Get ready to sing for Lord Ruthvyn, little songbird. Pray that you satisfy his hunger with your voice.”

The young man turned his back on the boy in the bed. Stiff and rigid, he walked towards the open door. Once he crossed the threshold, he slammed the door behind him.

Shelley was left alone in a silence which breathed and quivered.

“Are you really just a toy?” he whispered into the silence. “For all your taunts, that reaction was very human.” 

Perhaps there was more life lingering on Lord Ruthvyn’s estate than the pale lord realized. It was just a question of rekindling it. Perhaps with the right song.

This was the one power Shelley had, which he was encouraged to exercise. He could still sing, even if it was without Byron. 

If only he knew where Byron was in this vast estate. If only Shelley could catch a glimpse of him, hear his voice. The smallest sign of the other songbird would give Shelley courage. It would rekindle his own dwindling hope. 

No. Shelley had to hold onto hope even if he had no one but himself. He had to be brave for both Byron and himself. It was the only way of navigating this surreal mansion and its mazes back to Byron’s side. It was the only way the two of them would be reunited. At least Shelley hoped so. 

There was no point in praying for a miracle. The Goddess who ruled Paradise was on the pale lords’s side. She wanted to suck the stolen vitality from her servants just as they sucked it from their songbirds and the other sad citizens of Paradise. Shelley couldn’t look to a higher power for help. He had to rely upon himself. 

He could almost see Byron’s sly little half-smile, the sardonic arch of his brow. “You are mine and I am thine. All we have is each other. Believe in us and no one else.”

“I’m trying.” Shelley knotted his hands against his breast. “I’m trying, but it’s so hard, Byron. I feel so lost without you.”

He bowed his head and began to weep. For a moment, he could hear the others, what was left of them. The lost, abandoned songbirds, trapped in paintings, statues, the very furnishings of the mansion silenced forever. 

“No.” Shelley forced himself to smile through his tears. “You still have a voice in me. I’ll give you one. I can hear you crying. Even if you no longer can, I’ll cry for you. Cry and sing.”

He allowed his smile to twist into something savage. Lord Ruthvyn wanted Shelley to sing? Oh, Shelley would sing for him. He’d sing for everybody. He’d sing something not even a pale lord could ignore. 

“Just you wait and listen for me, Byron,” he murmured. “I’ll sing for us all.”