"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."-Edward Abbey

29 December 2011


Two years ago, I began by telling a story of my concept of Kashmir. It was an old in its context, and it went unnoticed, but I sometimes feel awkward when I am the focus of attention. I have purged words from my skull forever and a day. One of my friends calls this a rare gift I should share. When I've referred to it as a curse, another of my friends tells me not to be so melodramatic.

Some things are started with predefined goals, whilst others it's a case of seeing where one ends up. I tend to think this was the ladder rather than the former. Although, to paraphrase someone I used to know; I think I was looking for a new mythology. See, I'd self-published a book a few years back. A angsty dark thing that was great for my twenties and early thirties living within the borders of the greater metroplex, but I was neither that age or in that location anymore. Unfortunately, there were a few cats I knew who could not or would not accept that I wanted to move on. Somehow, I was betraying them.

But, perhaps it was a matter of context. By the time I started purging words my skull here, I'd lived in the mountains for a few years. Different geography. Different reality. I wanted to tell stories about being out in the in-between places and exploring deeper into the American Maghreb. Sometimes, starting out, I would joke were I crazy, or stupid, enough to try for publication once more, perhaps it would be upon the pages of the Mountain Gazette.

That day I vomited out my first story here, my mother was languishing in a sickhouse. Five days later, my brother and I would be standing over her body, trying to reconcile the very harsh reality that she was lost and gone forever, and ever, amen. I did tell stories about losing her and trying to come to peace with it, but, at first, not here. I didn't want to drag any random strangers from across the spider's web of cyber into my mourning. That lasted for four months, and then all bets were off.

I told stories about my mother. About helping my father move from the Rub 'al Khali of the badlands of Eastern Colorado. Stories about living in the mountains, walkabouts through our little Sahel, and observations of the weather. Tales with my daughter, Sabina, and the other species of quadruped we share our tiny house with. I started telling other tales again, ones spoken in the tongues of fiction as well as fact, because it's all true; even and especially the lies.

Somewhere in there, I think I found the shape of this, even if I've not found the words to articulate that particular concept. At its simplist; this is mine. My little bit of terror and shock and awe I inflict upon the rest of the cosmos. The simple fact anyone else looks is really quite humbling. Once upon a time, I thought it would be cool to be famous for the words I purge from my skull, but then I remember how mortified and uncomfortable I became in my own skin when someone announced, quite loudly, how I'd published a book to a room full of strangers. That's when I learned I'll never be a rock and/or roll star.

I've just finished a story arc and have been queried as to what I might do next. Rest assured, it's just as much of a mystery to me, but that could be half the fun of it. A very long time ago, I once told someone that some stories write and/or tell themselves and the storytellers are just along for the ride. It's a bit of wisdom, cosmic in its significance, perhaps, that I truly believe.

26 December 2011

Epilogue; The Last Hot Day in September

Her nightmares began right after she found Bear dead. These were horrible black things, which often involved staring into cold amber eyes before waking, unable to scream. She would lay there in the dark, deafened by the sound of her own heavy breathing. After a few minutes, what felt like far longer than forever, she would realize how utterly alone she was and would cry herself to sleep.

She dreamt of the rocks crashing down and being tied up. This time there was no rescue. Her tormentor came back. The last thing she saw was a triumphant smile and those reptilian eyes just before a rock was brought down upon her skull and it all going into a wet, crunching black.

Her eyes flew open into the darkness of a warm room. She could hear her breathing and feel a thin glaze of sweat upon her brow. At first, it was like waking up from any other nightmare until she realized there were arms around her. There was someone else breathing next to her, and it sounded like the purring of a big cat. With a sigh, and perhaps a smile, she pulled herself in closer to the slumbering embrace allowing for the waking safety she was yet to achieve in her dreams.


Of course he would disappear. He was Lazarus Lankin. The first time it happened, despite every story and every fact she was told about him, Sydney found her feelings were hurt. Her grandfather’s barn cat, back when she was a child, was like that; curling up in a bed with her one night, and then disappearing for a week or two before the sun was even up.

“Lazarus is Lazarus,” Bast said to her one afternoon at Ira Milligan’s café. “If you think he might be someone else, or try to make him into somebody else, he will turn on you.” She leaned closer, predatory gray eyes narrowed. “And I think you’ve seen quite well what happens to those he turns upon.”

“I guess I might have to learn a new way,” Sydney mused. “That seems to be what I’ve needed to do since I came to Marrakech.”

 “I’m optimistic,” Bast said.

“Your brother said that too,” Sydney quipped and Basted smirked in the manner of a sphinx that knew the answer to the riddle from the time of the dinosaurs.

“Did he now?”

The nursery rhyme of Humpty-Dumpty became a strange mantra for Sydney the rest of that summer, as she worked to pull herself back together again after five years of harassment. She found a newfound sense of freedom living in Marrakech and not all but hiding in her little apartment above Ira Milligan’s. The freedom of being somewhere new and finally really starting anew. There was the freedom of not being followed and tormented, though she still fought back the nightmares and the urge to constantly check over her shoulder. The freedom of knowing Darcy was going away for a very long time.

Sydney found freedom in her acquaintance with Lankin. Sometimes she would find herself at the last house on Lovecraft Lane. There were times they would go for a hike or to shoot pool at Magpie Jack’s and part ways with nothing more than a hug and a peck on the cheek. Sydney joked she never thought of herself as a cat person, but for him, she would try to make an exception.

“My sister observed a defiant streak in you,” he told her one night. “Perhaps it is that, which intrigues me.”

“Or maybe you just actually like me,” she teased.

“You’d find that answer boring, Just Sydney.”

“Only from you.”


In Levant County, it was said the inhabitants of Marrakech had an innate sense of when the last truly hot day was before the chill of High Country autumn, and ultimately, winter, was going to set in. It was inevitably a day in September, and, most always, a day when the aspen leaves had hit their peak, turning the mountainsides into tiger-stripped veins of green, gold, orange, and red. On that day, the atmosphere at Magpie Jack’s was that of the most festive of parties, and everyone in town, as well as from nearby, stopped by for at least an hour.

Sydney sat out at a patio table with the warm sun on her face. There were loud voices and the sound of a game of horseshoes being played. Something fun was being sang from the speakers. Her vantage point allowed her a spectacular view of Gaia’s Backbone, including the Death’s Head and Hell’s Watchtower; both mountains she had finally been able to summit.

At the table with her was Desdemona, Bast, and Marty. She was enjoying the company, and the fact she could have friends now and not worry about having them poisoned and stolen away from her. This new life she found herself in, despite the lingering nightmares and occasional old fears, was shaping up to be fairly good.

“I must say you look much better than when I first met you back in June,” Bast observed. “You look more vibrant.”

“I’ve been up on the tundra a few times this summer,” Sydney said. “Someone once told me going up there can be quite cathartic.”

“Sounds like someone rather wise,” Bast said with a smirk.

A round of cheers erupted from inside. It was the type of ruckus that was made when an important point was scored during a game. Bast leaned back in her wheelchair and Sydney stood up to peer in the open patio door. By the bar was a familiar angular figure sipping a glass of red wine.

“Well, well, we will need another chair,” Bast chuckled. “Look who’s coming to dinner…”

“Natty Dreadlocks,” Sydney finished with a smile that might be described as either excited or expectant. 

24 December 2011

100 Words; Idle Hands

There was really nothing to do. No victims. The travelers wanted to get where they were going. I got a little punchy. But I insist it wasn't my fault. Idle hands and all.

Images were sent. My sister couldn't stop laughing and my father enjoyed it. My daughter said I was her hero. Sempi said the model never looked better.

For some reason no one believes me when I say the Devil made me do it, even if I might've meant it. Queer. I wonder if it has anything to do with what I once said about the Devil's wife?

A Question of Safety

“I have a cousin who lives out on the plains and a brother down in Texas,” Connelly mused. “Both of them are ranchers. Cowboys. With cowboys, the last thing you ever want to do is mess with their horses.” He then leaned forward to lock eyes with the Darcy, swaying side to side in her handcuffs across from him. “Up here, well, anywhere you got people who enjoy the outdoors, the last thing you want to do is fuck with their dogs.”

“You shouldn’t have killed the dog,” Lankin echoed coldly, his gray eyes narrowed.

Sydney sighed heavily at those statements and leaned her head on Lankin’s shoulder. Darcy, seated between two Levant County sheriff’s deputies, would glare daggers, but, for the first time in five years, it didn’t matter. This was the beginning of the end, although it wasn’t the end Darcy had envisioned. The thought got Sydney to smile. It was as though a weight was lifted. She closed her eyes and relaxed, subconsciously rubbing Lankin’s rope-burned hands.

Word travels fast in rural counties with small communities. It was joked in Levant County that rule was doubly so. Upon entering Magpie Jack’s that night Lankin and Sydney were greeted by a tide of cheers and pats on the backs and shoulders. Someone, as a joke, put on Queen’s We are the Champions. Grizz showed them to dimly lit table just past the pool table. There was a bottle of beer and bottle of wine already waiting for them.

“On me,” Grizz said. “So’s your dinners, in case you were wondering. And, Lazarus, if you don’t start another bottle tonight, I’ll be insulted.”

“Then I’ll endeavor to get half-drunk, Grizz,” he replied with a respectful inclination of his head.

Sydney found that Lankin was not exaggerating when he said Grizz made the best elk steaks. They ate well and shot a few games of pool. Every so often, she would allow herself to get closer to Lankin. Although he maintained his usual feline aloofness, it also seemed he was receptive to her advances.

“You certainly more relaxed, Just Sydney,” he said at one point. “I told you going up on the tundra would work wonders.”

“Cute. Although I’m a little leery now of your definition of ‘cathartic’” she snickered. “It’s strange, though, knowing that Darcy’s being taken care of after so long. I don’t know if I can explain it, but in a way I think I’m safe now.” She took his hands and pulled closer. The look in her dark eyes bordered between fear, relief, and simple desperation. “I am safe, aren’t I?”

Lankin reached up, cupping her face in one hand. She squeezed it and nuzzled his palm, planting a few light kisses along the red marks he’d acquired from the rope earlier. The look on his face was pensive.

“Not completely,” he said, a single finger tapping her temple. “She’s still in there, and she probably will be for a very long time. It’s something I can neither protect nor save you from. You’ll have to face that down and make peace with it on your own.” He then leaned forward and gently placed his lips on her brow. As he pulled back there was a compassionate smile on his face. “I am, however, optimistic.”

Sydney found there was nothing she could say. Instead, she merely nodded, and with a smile, she squeezed his hand once more and planted another kiss along his palm.

22 December 2011

Crime and Punishment

Just beyond the rockslide was a drop-off overlooking mounds of scree just above the Abyss. There were several crevasses in which a body could easily be swallowed, never to be seen again. Darcy liked to believe if An Interested Party had not been crushed by the rocks, he had fallen, to either be dashed upon the scree, or devoured by the mountain itself.

Still, she wanted proof. In her encounter with him in Leeds it was obvious he was possessed of some cunning. She found this both intriguing and intimidating. Most of the men she dealt with, even those who looked after her when she was locked away, no matter how intelligent, could be manipulated after some time. It was a matter of figuring them and out and knowing how to play the games necessary to achieve her ends.

An Interested Party, upon first impression, seemed impervious to such things. In fact, Darcy felt the only reason she came away from their initial encounter was because he allowed it. That he was quite dangerous in his own rite. The very thought of which, no matter how likely, was sickening.

As she scrambled about the crevasses, she thought she heard the distant thwok of a helicopter. At one point she thought she heard the jackrabbit speaking in a raised voice. This got her attention. It occurred to her she wasn’t going to find a body, because there was no body to be found. With a frustrated hiss, she turned herself around to finish what she started five years ago.

She was nearly back to rockslide when movement along the Abyss caught her eye. At first, Darcy could only stare in disbelief at the sight of the jackrabbit heading back down the trail at a brisk pace. She almost screamed in rage as she moved closer to edge for a better look.

At the edge, she felt her balance wane for the briefest of seconds, as if something behind her moved her ever so slightly forward. The lower tiers of mountain seemed to reach up for her momentarily as she struggled to right herself. Then, she felt something, someone, gripping her very tightly about the waist.

“It’s all right. You’re okay,” Lankin whispered into her ear. “I’ve got you. I won’t let you fall.”

Darcy watched her prey disappear down the trail with a scowl. When she tried to struggle, his grip merely tightened. The turned her head to be face to face with Lankin and spat at him. He regarded the action with feline detachment.

“You should let me go!” She snapped, and he merely shrugged, as if unsurprised.


And she was flying, hurtling toward the rock a few hundred feet below her at incredible speed. At first, it didn’t seem real; that he would let her fall. But, there she was; cold air screaming in her ears as the ground rushed up. The scree yawned before her in the manner of broken teeth and jagged talons, ready to embrace her.

Then, suddenly, she stopped. Something jerked tightly about her waist. Darcy looked down to see it was the very climbing rope she had used to bind the jackrabbit. She was suspended just above the scree. First, she started to laugh manically and she found herself crying at the realization of what happened. Her bladder and bowels loosened and she was only partially successful in restraining the urge to vomit.

The thwok sound seemed to be closer. Something about that worried her. She felt the rope pulling on her waist and realized she was being pulled back up.

“I am afraid it’s not going to be that easy for you,” Lankin called down to her.

“I hate you!” Darcy screamed.

“If I was here solely for you to like than we’d both be disappointed.”

“Just let me fall!” Then her voice became plaintive; “Please!”

“No,” he said softly.


By this time she was dangling just a few feet from the edge once more. Lankin stood firmly, his wiry arms as knotted as the rope around her waist. His gray eyes were narrowed in predatory concentration, but there was a slight look of amusement playing across his lips, like that of a barn cat with an especially fat mouse.

“You’ve been building up to this for years,” Lankin said off-handedly. “Torment, torture, and ultimately murder someone you decided was the source of all your misery, then kill yourself so you could be with the fantasy of someone who left you fifteen years ago.” He pulled her closer to the edge, a smirk forming. “But you’ve been a naughty, naughty girl, and naughty girls need to be punished.”

With that, he gave a mighty tug, sending Darcy hurtling past him, onto the bare rock of the Death’s Head. It took her a moment to realize she was back on solid ground. Even before she could move, Lankin’s booted foot was jammed into the small of her back. He was using the rest of the rope to tie her hands behind her back. His trek pole ran behind her, making her feel as though she was being trussed.

“And your punishment is you get to live!” Lankin growled as he pulled her to her feet forcefully. Then he whispered in ear in a voice that was far removed from anything human; “Now, you see you’re not the only one capable of abject cruelty.”

Darcy felt defeated tears begin to flow as she was made to start walking along the trail. The thwok sound of the helicopter was very close now. Both of them turned to see the vehicle coming down along side them. There were official markings on it and men in uniforms could be seen riding in it.

“Lankin! We’re here!” Connelly’s voice was amplified by a loudspeaker. “We’ll land at the usual place and wait for you.”

“Dammit, Connelly!” He shouted back, although there was a smirk on his face. “We were going to be down by tonight! Did my sister ask about me?”

20 December 2011

Nine Lives

This was what true defeat felt like. Sydney was convinced of it. No matter where she went, what she had, or who she met, Darcy was there to ruin it and then take it all away. It was an inescapable as the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening. This was what it was like to truly be broken, to be utterly powerless. A lump formed in Sydney’s throat and she could feel the tears welling up in her eyes.

With a deep breath, she fought back the urge to weep. She might be defeated. This might be the end. But she wasn’t going to make it easy. She resolved to kick and spit and fight until the very end. Darcy saw her only as prey and Sydney was going to prove that was not the case.

From behind, she felt someone working with bonds on her wrists. She was being pulled to her feet, slowly, and gently, which puzzled her. Darcy had gone on to inspect the rockslide more thoroughly. Her other quarry was a wily one, she said, and she wanted to make sure he was properly dealt with. She hadn’t come back yet.

“This is good rope,” Lankin said softly. Sydney’s head whipped around in surprise to see him, not even dusty from the rockslide, working on untying her. “It’s climbing grade. I can always use something like this myself.”

The tears almost sprang up again. She started to shake. As she started to open her mouth, Lankin pressed a single finger to his lips.

“Remember that little tall tale I told you that the old-timers say about me and this hill?” He whispered with smirk. “Even if it’s not true, this is the Death’s Head, and it’s not my first rodeo.”

The rope was pulled away and Sydney turned to regard him fully. It occurred to her that there was only one way Darcy might’ve known where they were. Her cheeks flushed with anger at the thought. Once more, she started to open her mouth, and, once more, Lankin, anticipating her words placed a finger on his lips.

“If you do not like how I’m dealing with this, then you should’ve handled it back in Prague,” he growled, his eyes narrowing, his face suddenly screwing into predatory harshness. “But instead, you brought this misery into my backyard.”

“What now?” Sydney asked finally. She hated how small her voice sounded.

“I am afraid we’ll have to take a rain check on the rest of our trek,” Lankin replied with a disappointed sigh. “It’s too bad, really. I wanted to at least show you the summit of the Death’s Head. But there are some people who cannot understand good advice when it’s given, and I must speak with someone to that point.”

“Lazarus!” Sydney’s voice raised a little louder than it should have. “No! Please! Let’s just get out of here! We can go where she’ll never find us!”

“You need to get back down the mountain, Just Sydney” he continued as though she hadn’t said anything. “Back down to Marrakech. In fact, meet me down at Magpie Jack’s for dinner tonight. If memory serves, Grizz just got in two cases of my wine and he’s grilling up elk steaks. He makes the best elk steaks. Probably because he hunts and carves them up himself.”

“I’m not going to leave you up here alone with her!” She snapped.

Lankin reached out, grabbed her shoulders firmly, and shook her. His manner was that of a big cat on the hunt. For a brief moment, she became worried for her own safety, and Darcy had very little to do with it.

“You will get your ass the fuck down the mountain and back to Marrakech, or I will forget that I ever wanted to do anything to help you!” he growled. “And you will do it right fucking now!”

He released her and stepped back. Sydney realized she was seeing the Lazarus Lankin that rescued hikers from mountainsides and recovered bodies from avalanches. Here was the barely human creature she would here about in stories. Someone who carried themselves like a big cat ready to eviscerate its prey, but not before having a little fun and games first.

Before she realized what she was consciously doing, she threw herself at him. Something very primal told her she needed to kiss him at least once. At first, he reciprocated, drawing her in so close it seemed as though he would consume her. Then, in the same moment, he pushed her away. When she opened her eyes to see him once more he was standing with his arms folded across his chest and his feet planted firmly on the rocky ground.

“Now go,” he said harshly.

“You better be at Magpie Jack’s tonight,” Sydney whispered. “Promise me!”

“Of course,” Lankin said, cocking his head to the side inquisitively. Slowly, he licked his lips. “After all, it seems we have something to…discuss.”

Sydney caught herself blushing slightly, but found there were no words. All she could do was nod before turning and heading back down the trail. Lankin watched her disappear down the slope toward the Abyss with a sigh, grateful she was leaving. He reached down to grab the climbing rope and start gathering it up. Despite himself, he found himself softly singing a mock-song he would sing with his sister when they were children;

“I’m looking over
My dead dog Rover,
That I overlooked before…”

18 December 2011

100 Words; A Little Night Music

Something from awhile back...

About every three weeks, the Music Geeks meet...

One brings the prog rock, another the grunge. I handle the African/world/punk. Sabina does folk with one Rush song, because. There's Icelandic and electronica; all of that Knob.

I'm not an open fan of the Knob, but I groove to it; a guilty pleasure...

The context speaks to me of after dark in the most neons of downtowns. Places I have been before, though lifetimes have passed. I groove on it when the Geeks play. See, it is so rarely after dark, when the neon comes up I can indulge.


This was partially inspired by the 100 Words posts from Mister London Street and a bit from the soundtrack of  Tron; Legacy of which I blame one of the Music Geeks for playing at one of our gatherings...

17 December 2011

Snake, Rattle, and Roll

The Death’s Head, outside of Marrakech, Colorado…

Sydney drew a sharp breath as she took in the view of Gaia’s Backbone from just above a place Lankin referred to as the Abyss. She noticed a sadness in his eyes at mentioning the place, and knew there was perhaps a story behind it. She opted to hold back on inquiring. There would be time. It felt as though there was all the time in the world.

She really was enjoying herself. Remembering back to the afternoon in Glasgow, Lankin did make a wonderful outdoor companion. Although, as they climbed up the Death’s Head, she would notice him disappearing either ahead or behind her. He seemed simultaneously distracted and deep in monk-like concentration. Sydney dismissed this as how he must get when climbing a mountain. The same mountain, he mentioned the old-timers were convinced he was born on, and was the only thing in the whole creation that would decide when it was his time to die.

The bright sun was finally beginning to warm mid-morning air. The occasional chirp of a pika would interrupt the otherwise profound Backcountry silence. Below them, the tundra spread out like a patchwork quilt before meeting the Krumholz sentinels of tree-line once more. The Death’s Head itself was bald rock, which shot up imposingly across Gaia’s Backbone, to only be dwarfed by its neighbor, Hell’s Watchtower. Lankin mentioned some hikers would climb both mountains in a day, daring the Abyss to do so.

He had just reappeared and was nonchalantly sipping water from his bottle and hooking his trek-pole to his pack. Sydney wanted to make a remark about how much she was enjoying herself. She found there were a lot of things she wanted to say to him. There was a combination of fear and his detached manner, which caused her to hold her tongue. Perhaps, she felt there would be time to say all those things too. Up along the Death’s Head, it was as if there was all the time in the world.

“We’ll break here for a minute,” Lankin said finally. “You probably need to catch your breath.”

“You’ll notice I’m doing a fair job of keeping up with you,” Sydney remarked. She caught herself smiling playfully.

“I have,” he said with a smirk. “Impressive.”

There was the sound of movement. Sydney noticed how Lankin cocked his head to the side inquisitively. She couldn’t quite read his expression as he began to walk, almost unconcerned, in the direction of the noise. Part of her wondered if it was a marmot or maybe even a mountain goat. It was only as he got further away, closer to the edge, that she found herself feeling anxious.

Rocks, small at first, began to come down, scattering around his feet. Dust began to rise up, making Lankin’s angular figure hard to distinguish. It did look like he turned to look up just as large boulder came crashing down.

Sydney was running toward the rockslide frantically. Her voice caught in her throat, but she wanted to call out. She wanted to cry for help. She wanted to call out for Lankin, hoping against hope he would answer back.

Before she reached the slide, something landed on top of her. She was being pushed to ground. It took her only a heartbeat to realize this was not a rock landing on her. She felt her arms being pulled savagely behind her and her wrists being bound. Shock, fear, anger, and betrayal played across her face as she turned her head to see a set of familiar cold amber eyes.

“End of the line, jackrabbit,” Darcy hissed triumphantly. “End of everything.”


Levant County Courthouse, Leeds, Colorado…

Bast slowly opened her eyes and noticed her hands were shaking. This was understandable. With a deep breath, she worked toward steadying herself. Trembling would do no good right now.

Slowly, she turned her wheelchair back around. Connelly was standing on the other side of her desk, waiting. No words passed between them as their eyes met, just a mutual nod. With that, Connelly spun his heel and moved purposely out of the archival office, the whole time, furiously dialing into his phone.

15 December 2011

Parlay of the Predators

Darcy watched the tow truck pull into the post office parking lot with a jaded fascination. Something was happening. Something, which was quite curious. The driver, a young man with straw-blond hair began hooking up a familiar jeep to the tow chains. The owner of the jeep was not there. In fact, she had seemed to disappear into thin air just a few hours before from the Leeds library.

Most likely, the jackrabbit had help. As Darcy followed her through the afternoon streets, she noticed the panic in her prey’s eyes. Something, which she found exhilarating. She enjoyed the levels of fear she caused. The jackrabbit deserved every bit of it and more.

But she had been eluded, and this would not do. It didn’t take long to figure out her prey did not actually reside in Leeds. There were other places nearby to start checking. The jackrabbit’s five month respite was going to come to a very abrupt end.

Darcy decided she would start with the tow truck driver. He might be willing to tell her something. Men liked to do things for her at first, getting lost in her eyes, if not her cleavage. Such simple, predictable, creatures. It was only after some time passed that her male prey items became uneasy around her, her hypnosis not working quite as well.

It was what happened with her Jacob. If she had just a little more time, she might have been able to seduce him once more. But she was locked in that cage for a few years, before she convinced those who needed convincing she was perfectly well. By then, Jacob had been stolen by the jackrabbit and had gotten sick and died.

These thoughts passed through her head in lightning flashes of rage as she started to walk toward the post office parking lot. The tow truck driver would give her some answers, she was sure of it. Adjusting her top and adopting playful smile, she began to walk toward him.

“The owner of that jeep isn’t going to be coming back any time soon,” a voice behind her said casually. “And Curtis there doesn’t really like girls that much.”

Darcy spun around, barely concealing the scowl on her face. He was perched on the hood of her car in the lengthening shadows of a mountain dusk. His head cocked to the side inquisitively and an amused smirk played across his lips. She felt a shudder pass through her, recognizing his manner as predatory, having seen cats with similar bearing just before they pounced.

“Who are you?” Darcy inquired coldly.

“An interested party,” Lankin said simply, his grey eyes not wavering as he pulled himself from the hood of her car.          

’An Interested Party’ is a rather odd name,” Darcy mocked.

“I believe it’s Swahili, but it might be Diné,” Lankin remarked. “And you’re Darcy McCellan. Come all the way up from Prague, New Mexico.”

“You apparently know things.”

“I’m a likable sort, so people tell me things.”

“You’re the one who helped her at the library.”


Darcy walked closer, swaying side to side. Lankin stood firm, his arms folded across his chest. Their eyes remained fixed on one another, neither willing to break their gaze. Such an action would spell defeat.

“You should stay away from her. She is not what she seems.”

“Which makes her all the more interesting.”

“She’ll break your heart.”

“Preposterous! My heart has no bones.”

“She’s a whore and a thief,” Darcy whispered, her voice almost sweet, despite the venom carried upon her words. She placed a hand on Lankin’s arm.

You are a stalker and a dog-killer,” he said coolly. “So far, you New Mexico girls seem to be anything but virtuous.”

Darcy’s gaze hardened and she withdrew her hand as she backed away. Normally, her charms would have achieved their ends by now. This one was more of a challenge than most men. In fact, the only interest he seemed to have in her was that of an adversary.

“Then I am dangerous,” Darcy stated, adopting a colder tact. “If I could kill a dog than I could be considering killing you right now.”

“You most likely are,” Lankin said dismissively. “But it would be rather embarrassing for you to try.”

“You seem to think I would fail.”

“It’s a given.”

She began to walk closer once more. This time, there was more of a predatory stride in her movement. Lankin let out a heavy and disappointed sigh as he uncrossed his arms. His gray eyes narrowed and something that sounded like the growl of a mountain lion rattled in the back of his throat.

“I promise it’ll be the last thing you ever do.”

Darcy stopped cold. For the first time she could ever remember, she found herself standing completely still. She found herself looking down at her feet, ceding the primal and predatory challenge that had existed between them since they started speaking.

“Why are you here, An Interested Party?” She asked.

“I came to make you an offer.”

“Of what sort?”

“Sydney Pollack is no longer in New Mexico. She’s nowhere near the places your mutual dead x’s remains lie. In a sense, you’re victorious.”


“I’m offering you a chance to walk away now,” Lankin said plainly. “Go back to New Mexico happily knowing you won.”

Darcy started to laugh. It was a twisted, mocking, hateful sound, which had gotten those hearing it to shiver in the past. Lankin listened impassively, simply folding his arms across his chest once more.

“You don’t understand!” She spat.

“You’re the second girl from New Mexico to say that to me today,” Lankin shot back. “Are the boys down there a little less bright?”

“It’s you who should walk away,” Darcy hissed. “You should run.”



“We’re going for a wander,” Lankin said. “The Backcountry around Gaia’s Backbone. Up the Death’s Head, to be specific.” It was then he turned and began to walk away, melting into the gathering shadows, but added over his shoulder; “Don’t be here when I get back.”

13 December 2011

Opal Labyrinth

Her hair was spiral sequins, which framed the face of porcelain doll. Eyes, the color of opals, took in every tiny detail. Her skin was bronze and copper with a hint of cream. She dressed in second-hand store eccentric and was possessed of the knowledge of thousands of lifetimes. When she spoke, her sing-song voice carried an accent of a faraway warm land, perhaps south of the equator, by way of the bygone European empire. Her scent was that of cinnamon.

I had occasion to talk to her in a coffeehouse as she puzzled and poured over Arabic poetry, trying to decipher the riddles she found therein. Her stories played out like untitled blues songs, sang in nameless and forgotten gin joints beyond the ends of the world. The very fabric of reality shifted around the table with every tale. Sometimes I caught myself being lost within the labyrinth of her gaze, not caring if I was found.

She seemed equally fascinated with my stories, though I didn't think any could compare. Perhaps it was the way I perched in my chair, or the simple fact of being something of a curiosity. Whatever it was, she listened with rapt attention, even saying she was hanging on my every word. At the time, I didn't care whether or not she was lying. She was exotic, and I can easily become entranced and fascinated by such things.

We parted ways under a full African moon. I never asked if I might see her again or sucked up the courage to even try to ask for a kiss. The very idea seemed impolite at the time. Perhaps somewhere, sometime, we'd run into each other again. Share more stories. Until then, there are the memories. A recollection of getting lost in a labyrinth of opal colored eyes.

11 December 2011


Every so often, she was able to lose herself in the moment; the smell of burgers grilling and her cold beer. The sun was divinely warm on her face, and she found herself shutting her eyes and soaking it in. There was a playful breeze, perfumed with pine, which ruffled her dark and curly hair. The voices and laughter of the others would bring gentle smiles to her lips.

Then she would remember her jeep was still parked at the Leeds post office and it all came spilling back; the façade she’d built up around her life for the last few months was torn apart. The monster she’d run from had found her once more. Memories would come back in flashes; the moment of across the street eye contact, predator and prey through the business district, being grabbed in the library, and crying for what felt like days in a set of strong arms.

Upon recollection, she found herself wanting to start crying again. The feeling of defeat was as palatable as the taste of bile in the throat. Then the anger would come; anger at being chased so far, at running, at feeling like a victim.

“I do not see you as a victim, Just Sydney,” Lankin told her as they drove back to Marrakech. She found his statement of little comfort.

Her mind flashed to when they first pulled up to Desdemona’s and Marty’s house. She was almost afraid to get out. Visions of Darcy standing just behind Lankin’s vehicle, watching and waiting, strobbed across her mind’s eye. It was enough to make her nauseous.

“It’s okay, Just Sydney,” Lankin said gently when he opened her door. “Come on.”

“I don’t know,” she said in a small voice. “I’m still rattled.”

“You just need to relax. Breathe.”

“Easy for you to say,” Sydney muttered.

“Easy to do,” Lankin said, leaning in so close the tips of their noses touched. “Here, let me show you; in…out, in…out, in…out. Just like that.”

She wasn’t sure what to call the feeling, which caused her to all but greedily gulp at the air as she looked into his gray eyes. There was similar confusion when she exhaled, the sound coming out as more of a sigh. Lankin smiled broadly at her.

“See? You can do it!” And with that, he pulled away and started to walk toward the house. “Come on, we’re expected.”

“I’m either falling in love with you, or I’m discovering you’re just a thorn in my side,” Sydney whispered to herself.

“Well, flip a coin and tell me what the decision is,” Lankin called glibly over his shoulder, not even bothering to turn back and notice how she deeply was blushing at the realization he heard her.  

A few hours and drinks later, in last bits of warm daylight, the burgers were served. She was amazed how hungry she was. Back when she was making ready to leave Prague, her appetite vanished. From the standpoint of sheer vanity, it was great to lose twenty pounds. But knowing what caused it reminded her there were far better ways to diet.

They talked about jobs and families. Small town and country gossip and tall hiking tales. What happened in Leeds seemed to disappear again. The spell was working quite well until Sydney looked out into the drive and saw Lankin’s vehicle; an ancient mud-splattered thing that looked like it was more suited for going up the steepest part of mountains than driving on pavement. Her face flushed as she remembered where her jeep still was.

“Fuck!” She grumbled perhaps a little too loudly. “My jeep…”

“We’re going to take care of that, Syd,” Desdemona said. “Don’t worry. It’s fine.”

“Great, rescue me like I’m some fucking damsel in distress!” she spat. “All because of that bitch. I thought this was over, and now, she’s fucking here!”

“She doesn’t know you’re in Marrakech,” Dessy observed.

“For now,” Sydney argued, finishing her beer and starting another one.

“My sister says when you run away, your monsters will chase you,” Lankin mused.

He was sitting away from the others, thoughtfully nursing a bottle of wine one slow glass at a time. Since arriving, he would disappear for extended periods. When he was around, it was at a distance. His bearing was pensive, like that of big cat on the hunt.

Of course she was going to chase me!” Sydney snapped. “She’s got it in her head she needs to ruin my life! You think I wanted to fucking run? Do you think I fucking enjoy this?”

“That’s not my place to say,” Lankin remarked with a smirk. “However, I’m enjoying listening to you talk dirty.”

“Fuck you!” She turned away, but not before noticing how he raised an eyebrow at her.

“Oh, you two,” Dessy broke in, hoping her amusement at their interaction wasn’t too obvious. “Syd, please calm down. And, Lazarus, perhaps this isn’t the best time to be joking.”

“If you think I’ve been joking around, Desdemona, than you need to reassess how well you think you know me,” he said with a sudden narrowed-eye seriousness that got them both to shudder.

“Any brilliant suggestions?” Sydney asked in a mix of defeated cynicism and desperation.

“You need to breathe,” Lankin replied. “And you need to clear your head.”

“That’s easier said than done, given what’s happened.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” Lankin said with a shrug. “I know for a fact you have the next couple days free from your job, Desdemona told me. To that end, I say we go for a little stroll.”

’Little stroll’ in your world means a day-hike, Lazarus,” Dessy giggled.

“I am proposing we go up the Death’s Head,” he continued, unphased. “I could even take you up Hell’s Watchtower if you think you’re up for it.”

“I’m up for anything you have to offer, Lazarus Lankin,” Sydney said defiantly.

“That’s the spirit!” He raised his glass and took a hearty gulp, before refilling it.

“But do you really think it’s going help?” She inquired.

“Immeasurably,” he said. “I assure you, being up in the tundra can be quite cathartic.”

“You should trust him,” Dessy added.

“I think I do.”

“Wonderful! Desdemona, why don’t you take Just Sydney to get her gear and have her stay the night with you and Marty?” Lankin said. “I think we can all agree it would do wonders for her peace of mind if she had some company overnight.”

“Of course,” she said. “And you?”

“I should get myself ready,” Lankin replied making to leave. “We’ll have an early start, after all.” He stepped over to place a firm hand on Sydney’s shoulder. “Get plenty of rest tonight, Just Sydney. Tomorrow promises to be a big, big day.” 

10 December 2011

100 Words; Deception for a Friend

The gypsy's mother is in the sickhouse. Brain bleed. There will be surgery when the swelling goes down.

I am told these things because we're kindred in more ways than one; she's an ICU nurse, I used to dance with the dead for money. We've had closeness with our mothers. My mother's last seventeen days were around this time of year.

I tell the gypsy I'll do whatever I can. She's my friend and I've been where she is. I'm thanked, but I'm really lying.

I might do anything for her, except tell her about the bad feeling I have...

08 December 2011


Rohatso is supposedly when the Buddha had his ah-ha! moment in the shade of the bodhi tree. I noted the passing of the holiday with a belly full of bar-b-que. Then again, I am a heretic. A fact I not only readily admit to, but sometimes all but brag about.

It was ten years ago to the day I took my refuge vows, the Buddhist equivalent of baptism someone once told me. My sangha was a lovely British woman who looked Sinead O'Conner in saffron robes. It was fantastic. Even and especially when she broke it down in Sanskrit. I found myself getting both theologically and linguistically erect when that happened.

I started calling myself a Buddhist when I was twenty-two, just before my daughter was born, but didn't take the vows for another seven years. That Rohatso, Jezebel asked me what it was like to be a real Buddhist. With a shrug, I told her it wasn't any different than the prior seven years. That night I went out drinking with some punk-rock friends.

Being a heretic, I've never been under any obligation to be a good Buddhist...

06 December 2011


Sydney did try to confront Darcy once. It was right before she left Prague. As rationally as she could, she asked why; Jacob had broken up with her when they were both just out of high school. Darcy was institutionalized for years after that, and it was ten years after the break-up that Jacob died. Another five years had come and gone since then. There was no reason for this. For Sydney’s attempt at inquiry Darcy nearly smiled a condescending smile, the whole time swaying back and forth like a snake about to strike.

“This is obviously beyond your simple comprehension, jackrabbit,” she hissed. “Don’t worry; it’ll all be over soon. For both of us.”

When she first got to Levant County, because of Desdemona’s mom, she was able to get a post office box in Leeds. Another effort to throw her tormentor off the trail, should she ever be tracked to Colorado. In the months she since lived in the High Country, she had began to feel safe, that her attempts at misdirection might have worked. She began to wonder if with leaving Prague, leaving New Mexico altogether, Darcy had decided to give up the hunt, perhaps feeling victorious.

Seeing her standing across the street in the downtown shopping district of Leeds, smiling that condescending smile shattered the delusion Sydney had allowed herself since the end of February. Although Darcy still sometimes appeared in her dreams, this was the first time in months she had been so tactile. A nightmare made flesh, staring at her from across the street in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon.

Sydney’s phone buzzed, which got her to jump involuntarily. It was Dessy. There was a small amount of comfort in that. There was at least one person in the world who was willing to help, although Sydney was starting to worry about what might happen when and if Darcy found out who her friends were.

“Help is on the way,” the message on the screen read. “Go toward the library.”

“And what? Throw a book at her?” Sydney responded.

“Trust me,” came Dessy’s response.

Darcy was still watching her from across the street. With a resigned sigh, Sydney put her phone away and began the walk toward the library. Looking over her shoulder, she wasn’t surprised to see she was being followed. Part of her wanted to collapse on the sidewalk and just start sobbing. She felt quite defeated, after all. No matter where she went or what she did, Darcy was there, the very incarnation of nightmare, passed on unintentionally from Jacob, slowly coming for her.

Sydney took her time going to the library, stopping in a few shops. Perhaps it was one last attempt at misdirection. Darcy was never far behind, which added to the feeling of a nightmare in the middle of the day. Back in New Mexico, before Bear was killed, she’d not been so predatory. There was a look Sydney caught in her amber eyes that told her things had changed; Darcy was through with her games. The pain she meant to inflict now was more immediate.

A rush of cool air greeted her as she walked into the library, almost slamming the door behind her. Darcy was not far behind, but Sydney was hoping for somewhere within the labyrinth of bookshelves she could hide, if just for a moment, so she could catch her breath. There was sweat trickling down her neck and beading up upon her brow. She had just ducked down a corridor of musty tomes from the mid-nineteenth century when she heard the bell over the door jingle, announcing a new visitor. This time, she didn’t look behind her. She knew exactly who it was.

Passing by some ancient editions of Shakespeare she felt someone grab her, pulling her into another aisle of shelves. She wanted to cry out, but something stopped her. The grip on her right arm, strong and sure, pulled her deliberately, yet somehow gently, through several aisles. She found herself disoriented, not even sure if she was still on the ground level of the library or if it was still the same Tuesday afternoon that her daytime nightmare had began anew.

A door opened, the basement side one, and she was outside again. It was a deliciously warm late-June afternoon. The sky was the tint of blue she had seen on Colorado postcards Desdemona used to send for birthdays and Christmas. For a moment, Sydney felt like she had just woken from a dream; her reason for being so rattled, soaked in a thin sheen of sweat, and being pulled through a maze of library bookshelves could not have been real. Just another of her nightmares she’d had since leaving Prague.

“She’ll be wandering around in there for hours,” Lankin’s voice seemed to come from a great distance. “Enough time for us to be back in Marrakech and have had dinner.”

“Lazarus…?” Sydney was shaking, trying to get her bearings still. He offered her a quick, sphinx-like smile.

“Come along, Just Sydney,” he said. “Desdemona said you still need to pick up dessert.”

“You bastard!” She screamed, lashing out to slap him. He caught her hand effortlessly. His head cocked to the side inquisitively.

“This is the second time in as many weeks I’ve pulled you from a rather awkward situation, Just Sydney,” he remarked. “And I must say, you have a peculiar way of showing your gratitude. Will you be buying my breakfast at Ira Milligan’s place again in the next few days to make up for it?”

“You don’t understand! You said it yourself; you can’t save me from this! You’ve never had to deal with her!”

“It would seem I just did, after a fashion,” he said calmly, releasing her hand. “How did you think you got out here instead of having a face to face?”

“Lazarus…” tears were forming in Sydney’s dark eyes. “You really don’t understand! If she finds out that you know me…”

“This is not New Mexico, Just Sydney,” he said. “You seem to keep forgetting that.”

“Goddamn you, Lazarus Lankin…” she was beginning to cry. He wrapped his arms around her. “I don’t want her to find out about you.”

“Stop it now,” he whispered. “Hush…”

“Goddamn you,” Sydney sobbed, burying her head in his chest. In that moment, she was both comforted and troubled by the strength of his embrace. “Goddamn you…”   

02 December 2011


Darcy McCellan was a woman who was described as having a strange beauty. Everything was put together in the right places and in a pleasing fashion, but something just always seemed off. Perhaps it was her way of slowly swaying side to side, even when she was supposed to be sitting perfectly still. There was a certain kind of coldness to her manner, which was borne of nothing mammalian. Her amber eyes were cold and distant, even in the heat of passion, and her smile was that of a rattlesnake as it coiled to strike.

Jacob was the one who described her in such serpentine terms, and he’d once been in love with her. That was before the break-up. Before she tried to strangle him with a telephone cord. They were both barely eighteen at the time. She hissed proclamations of how they were mated for life, and how he could not, how he would not live without her. Years after the fact, he would sometimes shoot up out of bed screaming, gasping desperately for breath.

He pressed charges and testified in full, exacting, detail as to what she tried to do him. The defense showed that Darcy was possessed with some sort of mania with an exotic sounding name, which absolved her trying to murder her supposed soulmate because he wanted to break up with her. It wasn’t her, after all. There was a monster behind her reptilian eyes that needed to tamed, if not caged, altogether. If anything, Jacob was at fault for being unwilling to try to help her.

So convincing was the defense’s argument that Darcy was sent to an institution. Maybe after a few years and some intensive therapy, her illness would be under control. Jacob made it a point to move away from Taos. He hoped to escape the coils of her madness and try and live a normal life once more, even if the persistent nightmares and constant urging to check over his shoulder prevented it.

Some five years later, in the small town of Prague, he met Sydney. Her dark, dark eyes were so much easier and more comforting to look into than the amber orbs of his x. He found himself willing to open up again. To love, which they did in abundance.

But Jacob was sickly. Having survived a bout of Hodgkin’s Disease in his early teens did not mean he would be so lucky as an adult. Sydney stood by his side, doing everything she could for him, as the disease devoured him. In those last weeks before his death, his nightmares intensified. He would tell her he was having visions. One of the last things he said to her was a plea; get as far from New Mexico, and from wherever he was laid to rest, as possible.

Until the memorial, Sydney had not completely believed in Darcy. Sure, there was the bad x. Everybody had at least one of those. But she sometimes wondered if the stories Jacob would only tell when drunk or stoned out his mind on morphine during his last days were not just a little over embellished. Darcy, it seemed, was more of a bugaboo meant to frighten small children into behaving than an actual flesh and bone human being.

At Jacob’s memorial, Sydney would later say, she met the Devil, and the Devil was a woman named Darcy McCellan. She did not walk in straight line, but moved in a zigzag pattern, like a sidewinder across the desert sands. Her cold amber eyes focused on Sydney with a sort of predatory intensity that only spoke in cold honesty; Darcy saw Sydney as nothing more than prey. Something to be destroyed.

You did this!” She whispered in accusatory tones. “If it hadn’t been for you, he’d have waited for me. He’d have never gotten sick and died.”

“But…” Sydney wasn’t sure how she could talk reason to someone who was supposedly so unbalanced.

You took him from me! And for that, you will pay!” Darcy hissed. “Take a good look, jackrabbit; this is your life…and I will take it from you. One piece at a time.”

Afterward, it was easy to dismiss the encounter as surreal. The memorial and high emotions and people from the past, certainly, strange and intense things would be said. Darcy disappeared again for almost a year.

But, then she was back; infiltrating into Sydney’s life in subtle ways; her job, taking an interest in men she might find attractive. Little bits of conflict, annoying drama at first, began to surface. Then the conflicts got worse over the next few years; her workplace becoming increasingly hostile. People in the circles she traveled started referring to her as a whore and questioned whether or not she was completely loyal to Jacob, even and especially once he became very, very sick.              

Bear was the last straw. Bear, Jacob’s thirteen year old Australian Sheppard whom had also adopted Sydney as one of his people. Bear, whom would go with her on treks into the mountains and canyons and deserts to scatter ashes. Bear, whom she found lying dead on the kitchen floor one night after being so healthy and vibrant that very morning.

“Shame about the dog,” Darcy whispered the next day at work. “Jacob loved that beast the way I loved him. I’m sure you loved him too, jackrabbit, just as you did my Jacob. It’s so terrible when the things you love are stolen from you.”

If Sydney ever had any doubts about the stories Jacob told of Darcy’s malice, her words about Bear’s death dispelled them. From the stories, she knew asking for legal intervention was worthless; somehow, Darcy’s mania could be used as a defense, and she would just have to go into a hospital for a few years while Sydney would be portrayed as the villain. There had to be another way.

With her life in Prague being slowing destroyed, Sydney had been talking more and more with Desdemona. Colorado, Levant County, and, ultimately, Marrakech, seemed like a far more promising option. To throw Darcy off, she sent of her things she once shared with Jacob to a storage unit in Santa Fe. Then, she packed everything else she could fit into her jeep and a trailer for her drive to Colorado.

The things in the trailer got left at storage unit in Trinidad. Desdemona had arranged the place above Ira Milligan’s café. It snowed heavily that first night her new home. Sydney curled herself up in heavy blankets that still smelled of Bear, and even faintly of Jacob, and cried herself to sleep, hoping beyond hope the nightmare down in Prague was now over.


Lankin accepted wine being poured into his glass from Marty with a smile. A lazy summer afternoon on the porch surrounded them. There was a mention of grilling buffalo burgers in another hour. Desdemona mentioned something about getting a salad together, as well as appetizers. Apparently, Sydney was shopping for dessert down in Leeds.

“Funny she was called a jackrabbit,” Lankin mused. “I told her she acted like a frightened rabbit once.”

“I know,” Dessy said. “She told me about it, and it kind of hurt her feelings.”

“Snakes eat rabbits,” Lankin continued, ignoring what he was told.

“Which is why you saying that bothered her,” Dessy persisted.

“Probably,” Lankin finally acknowledged. “But I’m neither her dead boyfriend or his bad x.”

“I know.”

“Does she?”

“I don’t know, Lazarus,” Dessy started, but then her phone began to buzz. She looked at the screen and smiled. “There’s our girl…” she said as she hit a button, suddenly, her eyes widened. “Oh, fuck me!”

She pushed the phone into Lankin’s face. His eyes narrowed and something resembling a growl escaped his lips as he read the all-capital letter message on the screen in front of him;


29 November 2011

Breakfast with the Big Sister

Like her brother, Bast wore her rust-colored hair in a set of dreadlocks. It was said this act alone showed how laid-back, and, in some ways, liberal, Levant County was, since she was the archivist. Like her brother, she seemed more feline than human. Although, the older Lankin was more of the domestic variety, not straying very far from Leeds most of the time, where as the younger was considered more feral, disappearing into the Backcountry on such a regular bases.

It was the accident up Deneb Gulch, five years ago, that kept her closer to home. The rollover left Bast paralyzed from the waist down. Timothy, her fiancé, had not been so lucky, being ejected on that brutally cold and snowy night. His broken body was recovered from the river of which it landed in a week after. There was speculation he may have actually survived were it not for the hypothermia.

Some of the old-timers, like Grizz, expressed concern for Lankin. The accident, and subsequent recovery of his potential brother-in-law, had a profound and devastating effect. It was whispered the last time he had gotten like that was when he recovered the body of Bethany Tabor, some years earlier.      
Bast shocked everyone, including her brother, with her recovery. The Denver doctors were continually shocked by her obstinate refusal to chained to her wheelchair. She worked on her upper body strength, and was able to use a pair of crutches to drag herself along within six months. On any given early morning in Leeds, she could be seen pulling herself along through the town park.

“I’ll summit the Death’s Head by the time I’m fifty!” She would defiantly proclaim. Some asked her brother if he thought if it was possible.

“Even if I have to carry her,” was his response.

Bast offered Ira a sphinx-like smile as she refilled her coffee. The jingle of the bell over the café door got her to turn to see her younger brother strolling toward her with his sense of predatory purpose. It was back in mid-March when they had last seen one another, and late April when they’d last spoken over the phone. Given their natures, the estrangement between them that others perceived was hardly noticed, and, were it to be, it would be embraced.

“I wasn’t sure if you were having coffee or tea this morning, Lazarus,” she said nonchalantly as he pulled up a chair.

“And I was hoping you’d surprise me with one or both,” he returned in a similar tone, sitting down. “I hope you at least ordered us something to eat.”

“Of course, our usuals,” Bast said before leaning closer. “Miss Milligan says you’ve not been disappearing as much, even though it’s warmer.”

“Ira Milligan is ancient and should not be counted on for facts,” Lankin shot back. “At her advanced age, her ability to recollect anything is suspect.”

He might have said more, but the ringing of the bell over the door got him to turn. Desdemona and Sydney walked in, chatting quietly amongst themselves. They both cast looks over at Lankin, and it was hard to tell which woman’s glance lingered longer. With a growling curse under his breath, he turned back to meet his sister’s amused smirk.

There’s why,” she observed. “Although Dessy and Marty have been married for twelve years, she still nurses a bit of affection from your time with her. And what of the dark-haired girl? She appears to have a defiant streak to her.”

“It’s nothing,” Lankin said quickly.

“Maybe we should invite them to sit with us?”

“Piss on you, Bast!” Lankin snapped before looking up to Ira, who had just returned to their table. “May I have some mint tea, please?”

“Of course, Lazarus,” Ira replied. “And Sydney wanted me to let you know she’d buy your breakfast if you’re willing.”     
“That’s splendid!” Bast exclaimed with child-like glee. “Ira, please send those young ladies to come and sit with us.”

“It’ll be my pleasure,” she said with a wink and a smile, although it was up for interpretation as to which Lankin sibling the wink or the smile was for.

“I want a divorce.”

“I’m your sister, Lazarus, not your wife.”

“There’s probably some law somewhere saying a brother can be released from his cantankerous sister,” he shot back.

“I wish you the best of luck finding it,” Bast said wryly as her gray eyes tracked across the café. “Now behave, our guests are arriving.”

“Morning, Lazarus,” Dessy said as she sat down. “And Bast, thank you for sharing your table. I swear, it’s been at least a year.”

“At least,” she echoed before turning her attention to the dark-haired, dark-eyed girl sitting down across from Lankin. “And you’re…Sydney, the nice girl who’s buying my little brother breakfast?”

“Yes,” She said somewhat bashfully. “I feel like I kind of owed it to him after the other day.”

“Oh, dear, what happened?” Bast’s inquiry, while polite, carried an edge to it.

“I stopped her from falling face-first into the Kirkpatrick,” Lankin said in a low voice that let his sister know there might be more, but not to press.

“Exactly,” Sydney said quickly. The look in her eyes seemed to one of gratitude that what happened at Magpie Jack’s was not being mentioned. “Breakfast seems so insignificant for someone who saved my life.” She allowed herself a slight smile and an unintended giggle. “My knight shining outdoor gear.”

“You give me far too much credit, Just Sydney,” Lankin said, noticing how Bast and Desdemona were exchanging glances.

Breakfast arrived quickly, which put an end to the invasive inquiries. Almost before she was completely through eating, Sydney offered to pay, saying she had to get to work. Lankin watched her leave with feline detachment, though he cast a quick glare toward Bast when he heard her snickering.

“She really does like you, you know,” Dessy said as she stood up to leave. “Just give her time.”

Left alone with Bast, Lankin sat back with his tea. He kept his eyes riveted to the outside, not wanting to meet his sister’s gaze. The idea of disappearing up into the tundra for the remainder of the summer suddenly seemed infinitely appealing. In his mind, he began to catalogue what he would put into his pack.

“What do you suppose she’s running from?” Bast asked finally.

“Most likely a who,” he muttered. “Someone who she hopes never finds her.”

“That someone might be coming, Lazarus,” Bast said. “You know that, don’t you?”

“It’s really not my concern.”


His head snapped around, gray eyes narrowed. Something looking quite like a snarl rolled across his lips. Bast gave a small smile and placed her hand on his.

“If, or when, that happens, she might just need you,” she said. “And you’ll be there for her before you even consider it.”

“You’re pretty sure of that.”

“Of course,” Bast chuckled. “You’re my brother, and, besides, it’s what you do, and there’s no escaping it.”  

27 November 2011

Fragile Monsters

Yes, I can admit to a bit of possible sadism; seeing Sabina's reaction, all but screaming at the sight of small spider is something I find really fucking funny. I march over and take the arachnid, turning it loose, where it can scuttle off. This isn't done to save Sabina from her irrational fear of something hundreds of times smaller than her as much as the spider, which many Homo sapiens would outright murder because of some addle-brained primal fear and zoological racism. The ultimate hate crime.

So, I watch the itsy-bitsy spider clamber away, fascinated by its movements. Something I remember from when I had tarantulas as pets. Any biped would've been more than a match for it. Size not withstanding, spiders have no coagulants in their blood; with a simple nick, they can bleed to death. Few know this. They are actually quite fragile monsters. I cannot fathom why any monkey would be scared of one.

There was something I heard once, which I think is a grand backfist of perspective; you think a spider is scary when you look at it with two eyes? Imagine what it sees when it looks at you with eight...

25 November 2011

The Ballet of the Frightened Rabbit

Three beers in, Sydney realized the giddy feeling she was having might be exacerbated by a buzz. Maybe, had she not spent the afternoon exploring the ruins of Glasgow and other related trails, she wouldn’t have wanted to drink so much beer so fast. Perhaps, were it not for the company she was keeping, she wouldn’t have been so eager.

To her frustration, Lankin, for all the fun he claimed to have had during the afternoon, was calm, cool, and collected. He drank his red wine, the first glass in a gulp, but, the second, patiently, and seemed completely unaffected. If queried, he may have given one of his aloof looks and mentioned something about living at altitude. She wanted to punch him to get a reaction. She wanted to kiss him.

She wanted …

They were shooting pool. Lankin ordered food, though Sydney could scarcely remember what it might have been other than something to eat. Having something on the stomach besides trail-mix and jerky might be a good idea. Something that resembled hunger pulled at her belly, which conflicted with the other sensations running through her body as she played pool with him.

He was just…Lankin. Nothing else. Up on the trails, out in Glasgow, Sydney tried to get a little further, but it was akin to asking a sphinx for a glass of water in a burning Egyptian desert; an enigmatic smile, if that, but little else. One had to content themselves with the riddle.

Food arrived; burgers, fries, and salads. Lankin made a gesture to eat, but said nothing. Instead, he watched, patiently, predatorily, as she gorged herself. She felt like such a pig eating like that in front of anyone. If he was offended, his gray eyes betrayed no reaction.

He ate slowly, almost in a reserved manner. Every so often, he made a motion offering Sydney more, which she declined more out of not wanting to appear gluttonous, than not being hungry. Lankin cleaned the plate, his manners nothing short of immaculate.

Their pool game resumed. From the speakers, a song from Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers came on. They both smiled. Lankin mouthed along flawlessly with the opening lyrics;

“Will you be my Mary Magdalene?,
Would you be my American dream?
Will you mix your perfume up
from diesel fumes and gasoline?”

With a wide, unthinking, smile Sydney’s hips began to sway. She found herself dancing, pulling herself closer to him. It seemed so wonderful to be dancing up on him.

In that same moment, something else happened; something deeper and defensive became aware. She was dancing up on some strange man in a small mountain bar in a small mountain town in the middle of Colorado’s High Country. Suddenly, her situation became very dangerous. She needed to stop. She needed to pull away.

“Baby ain't we a beautiful disaster?”

She was blocked. An arm; Lankin’s arm, came down over her probable escape route. Her gaze met his; her deep, dark eyes showing a primal fear she could neither explain rationally or try to talk about otherwise. His gaze showed only that damnable feline curiosity of his.     

“You would like to get closer, but something holds you back,” Lankin said as if he was noticing the outside weather. “Strange.”

“Lazarus...?” Sydney tried, feebly, to start.

“It’s likely someone,” he continued, unconcerned. “Someone has given you reason to want to run like a frightened rabbit when you even think of wanting to get close to anyone. It’s why you ran away from Prague.”

She shuddered. There was nothing she wanted more than to get past his arm, even if she knew how strong and sure his embrace was, which was something she remembered with fond reassurance from Glasgow. But, there at the pool tables in Magpie Jack’s, all she wanted to do was run.

“I am not that person,” Lankin stated flatly. “Neither is anyone here. It’s rather unfair of you to put that on anyone other than the offending party. You need to remember that, Just Sydney.”

Without warning, he pulled away. He was walking away from her, grabbing his pack from one of the nearby chairs, and moving toward the door. At first, she was too shocked to react.

“Lazarus…!” She cried finally.

“You know I love
to watch them angels
fighting over you,

Heaven knows
they left me long ago…”

He spun around. The look in his eyes was that of when he pulled her from the Fitzpatrick Mine Shaft; one of anger, frustration, and disappointment. She felt very small under his predatory gaze.

“Please?” Was the only other word she could manage.
“What?” His gaze held her. “I could tell you I’ll look after you, that I’d never let anything bad happen to you, but that would be a lie. I’ve lost more than I want to count on my watch.” It was then he stepped forward. His movements ferocious and feral in their purpose, it was enough to get her to jump back. “But I cannot protect you from everything.” She almost fell over when his long finger pointed toward her brow; “I cannot save you from that.”