Month: July 2020

The Letter

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This post was originally published through Patreon on March 27, 2019

Dear Sandra,

It is with great sadness that I pen this letter. I love you so much—I always have—and I wanted desperately to embrace the human side of my nature so I could share my life with you. But I’ve learned that I can’t change what I am, and I can’t continue to deny the part of myself that keeps me awake with its alien secrets long after you’ve fallen asleep at my side.

This morning, I made you breakfast—your favorite: bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast. This morning, I kissed you on the forehead and bade you a good day at work. This morning, I watched you pull out of the driveway, your head filled with hope for the future I promised we could share. And then, this morning, I peered into the vast blue sky to ponder the immensity of the cosmos. I got into my car, and after peering through the driver’s side window in silence, hoping my melancholy would pass, I pulled into traffic and headed south along the I-5.

It’s impossible for me to describe what happened next. Words are a human invention, and my experience behind the wheel was anything but human. My body never left the car, but as I wended through unfamiliar avenues, the early morning sun blazing across the windshield like burnished brass, my soul came unmoored. I began to drift, to rise above the Earthly plane and into the infinite dimensions beyond. I beheld, in a single instant, a thousand other worlds, each placed atop the other like Russian stacking dolls.

In that moment, I was whole. In that moment, I was complete. I felt the beauty and immensity of life outside the linear progression of space and time, and my human body in the car began to weep. Aware once again of my physical aspect, I startled and slammed on the brakes, terrified I’d cause an accident. Despair rushed to fill the vacancies in my soul that had, for one glorious moment, been filled, and after the deepest sadness I’ve ever known passed over me like a heavy storm-cloud, I returned home, shaken.

I spent the next three hours brooding, wanting to drift some more, to merge with the cosmic substrate as I had so many times before taking on this human skin.

That was when I realized the truth.

As much as I want to remain human and love you, I cannot. My body is only a shell, a tattered garment made to be donned and then tossed aside. I was never supposed to stay, and as much as I’ve tried to delay the inevitable, I know now that I must go home.

When I met you, I thought we could make it work, that I could somehow nurture my humanity and grow it into something more, something enduring, something everlasting. But I realize now that I was wrong, and I must break your heart and leave you here alone.

Sandra, you must understand: I don’t want to leave you. My fingers are trembling as I write this letter, and even now my mind is reaching for any way to make this strange relationship work. But my longing to go back is too great, my need to burst free of this constricting body too profound, and by the time you read this, I’ll be gone, just another afterimage left behind in the wake of a brilliant cosmic flash.

You’re a strong woman, and I know that whichever path you choose, you’ll find happiness. That’s one thing I’ve always admired about you, and I can only hope that in the meantime, as you grieve for what you’ve lost, you’ll think of me and the love we shared with fondness.

As for my own love, it will never die. It is ageless and eternal, like the form I’ll take when I finish writing you this letter.

I love you, now and for always.

—Sammuel

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Witch’s Brew

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This post was originally published through Patreon on March 19, 2019

Martha tipped her plate and a hillock of diced onions dropped into a tall aluminum pot. Steam rose up at once, and she grabbed a metal spoon and began to stir.

“If there’s no browning, there’s no flavor,” her father used to say, “but too much browning and you’ve spoiled the meal.”

Martha knew how important it was to get this dish right, so she sprinkled in some salt to bleed the onions and watched with a hawk’s eye as it turned first translucent, then gold, then finally a light caramel brown.

Next came the minced garlic, followed by the carrots and celery. Martha gave the vegetables time to release their magic, then dumped into the pot two cans of crushed tomatoes and waited for the concoction to start bubbling like a witch’s brew.

And that’s really what it was, wasn’t it?

She’d feed it to her customers, and in a few minutes, or a few hours, or a few days, something would happen. Something would change, and for better or for worst, their lives would never be the same.

After ten or fifteen minutes, Martha stirred some more. She didn’t have to—the heat was low and the bottom wouldn’t burn—but she needed to do something with her hands. The anxious energy inside of her had started to boil alongside the soup and she was restless.

Should I serve this to my customers or send them home?

Every day, she asked herself the same question, and every day, she reached the same conclusion.

This is what I do. It’s my life’s work and I’m good at it.

The soup on the stove spat its approval.

The happy endings were, of course, a fundamental part of what kept her going—spontaneous marriage proposals, miraculous cures, and unexpected fortunes were just a few of the things that occurred in Martha’s restaurant—but what really got her fired up was that she got to play such a direct role in the outcomes of people’s lives.

“You’re not changing their destinies,” her father once explained, “just hastening their fulfillment. Some people prefer to meet their fate head-on, and for almost 200 years our family has helped them do so.”

But it was hard for her not to feel responsible for the things that happened, and whenever her soup led to someone discovering their fortune, Martha swelled with pride.

There is, however, a dark cloud for every silver lining—isn’t there always?—and while many of her patrons departed under much-improved circumstances, many more did so having suffered some traumatic loss or heartbreak—or didn’t depart at all, at least not alive.

Yesterday, a seemingly happy husband had confessed to his wife of forty years to numerous infidelities, and the day before, two men had suffered massive coronaries, dropping dead before the rest of Matha’s horrified patrons. On both occasions, she’d found solace in her father’s explanation, assuring herself that these horrible things would have come to pass anyway in their own good time.

Still, such experiences took their toll, and Martha felt as if she’d aged twenty years rather than five since inheriting her father’s restaurant. At the end of his career, the man had, for the first and only time, taken a taste from his own spoon, and today, Martha considered doing the same.

Her father was now comfortably retired, having received an unexpected windfall from a past investment. What would happen to Martha if she, too, partook of the mysterious soup? Would she find good fortune or bad? She had no children to carry on the tradition should her life take a sharp and sudden turn for the worst, but then again, whatever happened to her would have been destined anyway, so what did it even matter?

Before, Martha hadn’t understood why her father had been so impatient to meet his fate. Now, she thought she did.

And so, with some trepidation, she dipped her spoon into the aluminum pot. She stared at its contents with avid fascination, and, heart pounding, lifted it to her lips and took a sip.

Now, there was nothing left for Martha to do but stand before her famous brew and wait for her fate to catch up to her.

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Safe Passage

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From the vantage point of a sheer rock cliff, Samantha stared into the void, the weight of an entire planet resting on her shoulders. She lifted her head, and in a deep baritone rumble, proclaimed, “I bear precious cargo and demand safe passage.”

The witch who hired her had warned her to be careful, that the world she carried would attract dangerous creatures who wished it harm, but there was no way Samantha could have prepared herself for this unique brand of terror.

The darkness in the void beheld her, standing with the world on her back, then surged, swelling like a dark rose in full bloom.

Samantha felt thick, creeping vines of despair shoot through her heart. All at once, the cargo she carried became too heavy, and she could feel it beginning to slip.

“Come,” said the darkness. “Drop your burden and follow me into the void.”

She could feel its corrupting influence surround her, a dark miasma that stoppered her nose and her mouth, making it difficult to breathe.

“I can’t,” she said, but she felt her feet sliding, her face falling. She could hear the inhabitants of the world she carried crying out. They, too, had sensed the darkness, and they were afraid.

She could no longer see the path that lay ahead. The impenetrable darkness wound around her like a snake and proceeded to crush her alive.

“Did you really think you could protect them from me? They are mine, as are you.”

The world on her shoulders sagged some more.

“I won’t deliver them to you,” Samantha said, but it was all she could do just to keep breathing. Like a noxious gas, the darkness seeped into her lungs, starving her of oxygen. She knew she couldn’t hold this position forever, but she also knew she couldn’t let the darkness win.

It was clear now: she had no choice but to use the magic the witch had given her.

Searching herself for the light within, she feigned weakness, and the darkness, eager for the prize she carried, rushed in. Samantha held her breath and readied herself for the outpouring of light that was sure to come…

Except it didn’t.

Samantha’s legs began to buckle.

What’s wrong? Why can’t I do this?

She felt the light inside of her, but it fled from her every time she reached for it.

I can’t keep this up much longer.

The little air that was left in her lungs was devoid of oxygen, and Samantha was beginning to feel lightheaded. Meanwhile, that awful darkness shook the cavernous walls, confident and victorious.

“You are mine,” it pronounced, and Samantha, to her mounting horror, believed it to be the truth.

Surrender, the witch had said. The light cannot be forced, only drawn. Let it take control of you, or you will surely die.

Starved of air, surrender was now her only option and, tumbling dangerously close to the death and darkness that awaited her, she opened herself to the light’s will at last.

Please, she thought. Help me.

And in the stillness of a guttering heart, she heard its reply.

Like lightning, it tore through her body. It drew an involuntary gasp, forcing the stale air from her lungs. It burst from her eyes, her ears, her mouth, piercing the darkness and making it shriek.

In the presence of that unwavering light, the darkness shriveled, drew into itself, and evaporated.

Then, just like that, the light was gone, fled once more into the deepest recesses of her heart, where it would wait in hiding until Samantha needed its help again. She fell to her hands, heaving, and the world she carried, safe at last, fell to the ground beside her.

Thank you.

She didn’t know if the light could hear her thoughts, if it was even conscious and could discern the meaning of her words, but she knew now that it was on her side, and she picked up her precious cargo once again, knowing this time that it would be safe for the remainder of her journey.

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