The Tender Riot of Rebirth

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The Dead South “In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company”

The journeyman had arrived at a crossroads
With two very distinct pathways marked out before him
One path He knew only too well
Had already walked it for many suns and moons
And it had seen him this far
Albeit clutching his chest through fatigue, while hosting a not so vague feeling of spiralling despondency
He wasn’t quite certain why this was
As the road more travelled had introduced him to a number of travel companions
Provided no end of sights to see
Was clearly mapped out before him
However, his feet felt decidedly heavy this day
And something was drawing his attention to the other, less familiar, route.

This left bearing path appeared far more narrow
His safe passage was by no means assured
For where it led was anybody’s guess
And a nagging voice in his head was insistent that He dared not entertain changing his course
He had always prided himself on his keen listening skills
Had followed this voice of his every step of the way
Never seen fit to challenge it
But any real sense of progression was sorely lacking
Any real sense of ownership was sorely lacking
Any real sense of freedom had long since gone.

Yet everything before him was mapped out so meticulously to the right
Never again would He be required to check his coordinates
For his every movement along this path was recorded
By whom He wasn’t exactly sure
But neither had it mattered until now
For it had just felt good to know that somebody somewhere was looking out for him
Perhaps a guardian angel of sorts
This is how He had liked to think of it
That He was inexplicably protected by a higher force
And He had never seen fit to question his quiet faith before.

Even if He had
No response had been forthcoming
It was as though there was a secret knock that nobody had thought to teach him
Hence the multitude of abrasions which littered his knuckles
Some were fresh
Still weeping
Causing him to wince
While others had scarred some time ago
And, for the first time ever on his journey, these wounds disconcerted him more.

Why had they not been treated at the time?
Perhaps had they been tended to appropriately, then his hands wouldn’t appear so unsightly
Not that He cared a great deal for general consensus
Keeping up appearances had begun to grow tiresome around the same time that his identity was first called into question
Curiously by those He had suspected knew him best
It was as though He had fallen out of favor
And, for the life of him, He couldn’t place his finger on why that may be
Had He grown complacent?
Not adhered to some kind of unspoken code He had not been made aware of
What other reason could there be for this sudden shift in climate?

The watercolor landscape before him had now run
Colors bled into one
And his legs, once strapping, now felt like easels
The weight of this wishy-washy canvas on his heavy heart had become almost too much to bear
Any detail was no longer either here or there
All the while, imperfect storm clouds billowed above head to his left
Swollen with urgency
Gently coercing He to the lesser known path
The one He had been adamantly advised against taking
“You can’t go there” they had said time and again
“Why?” He had rightfully replied
At which point, “You just don’t” had diffused any God-given right to be graced an answer
At least, one He could hang his greaves upon.

They had warned him of regret many times
And He now regretted ever listening to them
For a fleeting moment, at least
Didn’t appreciate the way this felt any longer
Not after so long spent blinded by a searchlight that seemed sentient to his every last inconsistency
Consistently shone in his direction
This once made him feel distinguished
Like a performance artist centre stage on the opening night of the off-Broadway feel good hit of the summer
Waiting patiently for a standing ovation
Before squinting his eyes to discern an audience whom simply weren’t there
With the single tear of a clown drowning him ever deeper in the sorrow constant through this proposed encore
Final curtain ready to fall.

The journeyman now began to shuffle to the left
For these picture perfect postcards of nothing much in particular had unwittingly alerted his attention to something else far more becoming
An incongruous trail of silvery ivy
Weaving its way through the sod from the left to right before his bare feet
Where it rather eccentrically ceased its campaign
At least, momentarily
As though observing respectfully
And, in a flurry of electrified heartbeats, He felt truly seen and adored
Galvanized, the journeyman followed this ivy directly to the bank of a river bearing alongside the left-hand path
And once the water ceased its shimmering
His true reflection danced before him in uncut Crystalline.

The eyes
No longer so true blue but as black in pitch as Onyx
Romanced by Cimmerian shade
And as sincere as the devious grin which writhed beneath them akin to a hammock of serpents
This smile no longer painted on perfectly straight
But worn of will both free and absolute
And notably dressed to the left
Even more winsome were the pair of white tail deer horns protruding from his back and towering from his reflection like a tree of life
He reached up hopefully with a faith which had long since been denied him by a voice of reason which wasn’t his own
These antlers glossed in encaustic wax, He grasped with both bloodied palms
Caressing each curve to its conclusion, He counted sixteen points
And hurriedly glanced back down at his reflection once more
Only this time, a most prominent shadow had been cast across his likeness
One which revealed his true distinction through means of mirrored image.

Never before had He seen anything quite so clearly
As She
She of such handsome beauty
She of such unnamable darkness
The very kind of devil the scriptures had warned him of
The very kind of devil the voices in his head had warned him of
“You can’t go there” they had said
“Why?” He had rightfully replied
At which point, He had no longer cared to entertain the same passive-aggressive rejoinder
These angels wore dirty shifting faces
Tapping their cloven hooves together in self-congratulatory manner
As they spewed their rancid mistruths of eternal damnation like it is something to consciously abstain from at any cost
And, should that result in a man surrendering his soul, then so be it
He now saw straight through these glass assassins in the Cimmerian shade She invited
And the path of the righteous assumed its true form
One which He no longer desired to associate with.

For divine was not its glory
No, misemployed had been its power
It’s intentions were cruel
Right-handed leanings merciless
Judgements riddled in spite
The lies it had seeped of the burnt offering to its left overhung scandalous
One look into the very blackest of eyes was all it had taken for the journeyman to assume battle-like posture
And He would have been endorsed every right to draw his blade and decimate every last one of them for what they did.

But something had altered
No longer did rage consume him
Indeed, he genuinely pitied all those who had ever wronged him
Had forgiven all trespasses
And wished only for their guidance to a higher state of understanding and more peaceful passage
Like He did in this moment
For He had witnessed She do the very same
And felt infinitely grateful to be a shadow in her wake
She of such handsome beauty
She of such unnamable darkness
The very kind of Big God he had seen visions of ever since childhood
But only ever as the girl in the dream
As He called She
Right now, He could reach out and touch highest heaven simply by stroking the hair from her cheek
For in hell, with She, He would be in good company
Here in hell, with She, he would be Home.

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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5 Comments

  1. “To Bleed or not to Bleed” turned into “To Breathe or not no Breathe” a few times while I was reading this article. My heart and air almost stopped flowing here “…, if you weren’t already aware, this was intended to be my final bleed.” I am happy to hear that the Rivers of Grue will continue to flow/overflow in Crimson Red, for this is another home for me.

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