The Birth of Night

“The Birth of Night” was a short story I originally wrote in June 2007, which has been through a number of revisions, each of which was worse than the original one. The version replicated below is the original with a few minor alterations for tone. This story was written on a walk through the forest in the rain – the pages were sodden when I tried to transcribe them.

This story comes with trigger warnings for gore and contains some sexual material.

The Birth of Night

 She gazes across the fields of purple, seeded long grass calm in the gentle rain, the buttercups honouring her silently. It falls like old tears, the rain, and the flying insects cling to her in sympathy, in consolation. She wonders across the meadow, this lost lover, dressed in mourning black, but pale and fragile like the dusk. To the trees, the rows of fruit darkening with the onset of night, they welcome and beckon; she follows. She hopes to find her love there, but she knows not who, for long ago they were lost to eachother.

Trees grow and tower above her as she traces long-aged paths, leaves and nettles softly warning her, holding her back. The starling sings. Was it her love, that voice? Small rodents clatter away from her. Was it her love’s footsteps, that sound?

Follows she, and travels she, that path into the woodland ill-defined, her hope leading her to the death of dusk and the birth of true night. Stars veiled once by tears, now obscured by leafy heights, whose rustles echo their sorrows faithfully.

From the grasping darkness of the woodland, a figure emerges. The lost lover is startled, for she knows this is not her love, and she is afraid. Coated in a shroud of darkness, his face is masked, unreadable, his beauty or grotesqueness rendered here meaningless by shadow. Her pale face glows in the dim light as fine porcelain. He turns to her.

“What seeks ye?” he asks

“My lover,” she replies boldly

“Knowest thou his name?” His eyes gleam in the new-born night with hidden wisdom.

“Aye, I knew it once, and it was treasure to me. For us, a witch weaved a spell of sables and gold, that love so true as ours could not tarnish. But now I know not his name, nor mine, but I am compelled to seek for him, for he holds that part of me which is soul, that was given to the witch in promise. As wife I gave my soul, as husband he gave his body, and in this was our union.”

“You are under a curse, young one,” the dark man sighed, “for your love has been betrayed, the spell now a curse, your soul lost in union and your memory masked. You still seek to find him, the betrayer?”

“It is all I know,” she says earnestly, “this love of him.”

“It will cost you dearly.”

“No cost is too dear for my lover.”

The man stopped momentarily, as though his heart was wearied by some long-forgotten trouble, as though a pain old haunted him.

“Very well, young one,” quietly he said, “but know ye not that love is ne’er singular? Find love again, and the curse will be lifted, for in new love ye gain new strength, new soul -”

“No,” said she, “my love is for no other than he, and whatever cast us asunder was but cruel misfortune or unhappy fate, which I must chance against. I must find him again.”

The darkened man fumbled for a while, and the moon soon shone bright. His face was a pale green, robes with the markings of wizardry and ancient magic upon them. The lost lover glowed in the new moonlight, dappled in shadows cast by the imposing trees. The wizard saw truly the beauty of the soulless woman; her longing became his desire, and how he wished he could save her. Alas, but love is so obstinate and refuses to admit, even when the dawn dies and destroys romance, the brevity of its devotion. One such as her cannot be saved, he knew too well, for many of young ones he has seen walk gladly to their downfall in the name of that which they forget too soon, love which they cherish, only to become obsessed with what the love itself makes them. Their very identity becomes inseparable from their search for love; in this is their definition, in this is their destruction.

Although he know what would happen to the lost lover, the wizard still conjured his magic. About him, the woods grew brighter and larger. Deftly, he transported the woman to another plane that bisects her reality, a realm of understanding beyond her own; where that which was hidden is made clear, where that which is dark and obscure is made light and simple. A tear slipped from his eye as he saw her fade from his existence, into a land where she would surely perish.

The lost lover found herself in a new woodland. Although it was night, it was bright all about. The moon’s rays filtered through the trees, illuminating and caressing softly everything around her. Where the floor was not covered in resilient grasses, the mud was a soft orange, and the leaves hung from the trees in fiery reds and burnt browns. The air tasted different to her, as though unto it a new potency had arrived. There was a feeling she could taste faintly on her tongue, that was not of melancholy or of shame.

The lover knew that now she must search. The wizard, she felt, was trying to help her, and perhaps her love was here in the amber forests of this dream world. Travelled she did along the thin and twisted pathways of the woodland, until her feet were sore and the birth of night became the death of day, over, and over until there became no way of counting hours, days, weeks. Yet, in her devotion she walked with no sign of slowing, taking no respite for her ills, needing neither food nor sleep to sustain her. In her naivety she sought the happily ever after that so many fairy tales told her to expect, sought to save the knight who she believed had saved her in turn. In finding him, she knew she would find herself again. She dreamed – oh, she dreamed – she dreamed of many things: of naming children; of decorating the house; of sharing hopes; of growing old in the arms of her love. She lived on these dreams, and her hopes carried her forth into the strange wood, with its perpetual light and august autumns.

After what she understood as being many months, she came upon a part of the wood that was different from the rest. Suddenly voices, both male and female, murmured lowly in the foreign breezes. She heard names, names uttered in the passion of love-making, and she was afraid to continue. She faltered, but a name called by a nasal female voice was recognisable to her.

“Oh, Lucian…” the unknown woman whispered lustfully

“…my Lucian” the lost lover responded to herself.

In her delight at remembering the name of her love, she cared not listen to the other voices, and the other names that filtered through the woodland. She knew now, and faintly memories of the one she had loved were restored unto her. She felt the joy of her soul growing in her abdomen. It was tangible, their reunion, and she knew she could see the end of her sorrow. For the first time in the many ages since their separation, a smile gushed warmly across the lover’s ethereal visage. Oh, would it were that joy which thou were destined to ascend to, fair maiden! – but thine sufferings art not yet done. Walking once more in remembrance of all that is beauty, the woman continued, now held firmly in the vice which gave her hope.

She followed, and as did the voice become louder and more urgent, so the woodland around abandoned its earthly browns and oranges to become shades of crimson, scarlet and violet. The wild plants shed their seed, making the air thick with specks of white, and the conditions stifling and musky that one could not breathe comfortably. Soon, unto her eyes was revealed a clearing of deepest red, where the seeds danced in the airs so fast that the place seemed almost to throb violently with their dizzying swirling. The lost lover gasped at the alien nature of this place, how those lofty autumnal woods had become a forest of sanguine reds, unearthly wails, smothering her  dainty mouth and delicate eyes with seeds and pollen.

Remembered she at once the warning and distant sadness of the kindly wizard, and she quelled the first inklings of fear in her heart. Find her love, she must, for that is all she knows. Shielding her eyes from the pollen, she walks deeper into the clearing. Immediately she notices something unusual. The ground beneath her feet is slippery and wet, her dainty shoes met with a substance viscous and adhesive, a red so deep it might be black. The mud of the forest was porous with the substance, the topsoil long ago having been penetrated by this slow seeping bile, becoming a quagmire.

The lover struggled ahead, but her shoes having little traction she soon slipped. Her black attire soon became drenched with the foul stuff, her face and arms streaked sickly scarlet. The bitter smell of blood and gore became etched in her nostrils, as she found herself on arms and knees in the soil. Beneath her hands she felt shapes displeasing and slippery, which shuddered softly as though the whole earth had a heartbeat. She felt the ground tremor under her weight, as it shifted and slowly gave way. Across her skin slithered intestines and organs, spurting excrement and fluids as she sunk into the warm, convulsing soil. Slowly submerged was she, and she did panic and struggle against the tremendous lure and the stench of death. All became blackness and putrid smell, while around her was filled with the sound of the screams of the exquisite and eternal agony of orgasm.

When the lover opened her eyes, she found herself back in the clearing, sunk up to her thighs in the gore that writhed beneath her. Above, the seeds still danced their menacing waltz. From this new angle, no more opaque with the white pollen, she could see clearly around her. What befell the maiden was indeed a grim sight. Strewn about her, the dismembered but preserved limbs of many women, along with shattered ribs, lungs that swelled, and vocal chords that wailed “Lucian” into the birth of night. The whole place was oozing with the bodily fluids of these women, and the stench of death was their own. The lost lover’s eyes with tears welled, and cursed she the women who called that name.

Through the tears, the lover saw something remarkable. Wherefore, was that her very own visage that wondered yonder? Marry, ’twas! There her own doppelgänger stood, enrobed in richest colours the floated round her gleaming: blues more brilliant than the sky; lilac far more glorious than the delicate flowers; greens more verdant than a luscious forest. It was her soul she saw, and the lover called to herself. It moved past her, shrouded, unable to see or hear the body to which it once belonged. The lover cried and cried that her soul might be returned to her. It was not to be. The soul had been joined in union with the body of her lover, and that it could never be parted with, so strong was the magic.

Where art then the body of her love? Maiden, lest thee not forget thine quest, search thou this plain for the one thou seek, the one who hast forsaken thee.

She heard, low in timbre, the voice of a man, and knew she this voice. It was the sweet melody of her love. The sweet melody which threw jagged discord o’er her, the names, names it called which belongeth not: names of old friends; of trusted servants; of esteemed parters; names of women unknown; names even of her dearest sisters. Thou cursed adulterer! Saw she then his face, mounted on a rock, and with a new fit of strength she dragged herself from entrails foul and organs innumerable, and with vigour clamoured to look upon the eyes of her love.

His face was no more than of average comeliness, his nose slightly bulbous, his lips proud, his eyes green but unseeing. Those lips, whence she had once found joy, joy bound for delight in eyes of holy matrimony, murmured names of others, and never once her own. Her soul turned and stood behind his face, and the lover met its eyes. Between them felt the pain of ages, inconsolable heartbreak. Tears fell and shod with bitterness and joy. Forgave him, she did, the lost lover, for her love for him was all she knew. Stood she by, in that same spot, waiting that he ever would say her name. Many more ages passed, many days died, and nights were born, and sat she and her soul still, listening tenderly to every word on that liar’s lips, until she no longer could move herself and no longer could utter anything of her own. As part of the earth she was inaugurated, the stone faithful maiden who gazes upon the one who had forsaken her.

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Meditation On Writing #1

Artistry reveals the artist. Each pen stroke, each word, shows an echo of the truth. Only the greatest or most banal of artists can create a world which does not reveal a truth, a secret of their being. To create is to reveal. To disguise, elaborately, in art some truth.

And we grow afraid.

What if some other were to see the truth concealed therein and recoil from the artist? What if a work reveals too much? So we bury ourselves in images and characters, levels and layers, that maybe a scholar or a friend might find themselves arguing one interpretation or another, and in their conflict never reveal the truth. We hope, in vanity, only to reveal too much to those that seek the same truth that resides within us.

At times, in fear, we hide the words or suppress them. I have sat many times with heavy words on my mind, too afraid to pen them, lest they were seen. And how great an indictment on my friends, my loved ones, that I don’t trust them to see an echo of my mortal being, reflected thinly in some clichéd dirge about a faraway kingdom or an epic conquest. How vain to be afraid! For I of all should know that so few see through the words, and how many are merely caught in what they see of themselves reflected back.

Sometimes the mere presence of words is troubling.

Even should I keep a small book, pages pressed against my breast, with me at all times, the words still exist. They speak some tragic thing that should have remained unspoken, and they torment me, and they trouble me until the words sprawl themselves on the wall and I, in guilt, destroy them.

Somewhere, a pretty tale about a maiden in the woods gathers dust, as I fear that you will spot me in the forest and love me less for what I feel.