[prologue]

One candle remained lit, its feeble glow casting uncertain shadows along the earthen walls. The rest had burned out long ago, weary with the effort of bringing light into the world. Wax dripped slowly round their bases, cementing the tallow pillars in place and creating a makeshift altar to the only god that mattered here.

The bottle was heavy, the glass warped and cracked. The last candle was brought carefully to its lip, the wax forming an angry red seal atop the cork as the room plunged into darkness.

A low moan crawled from the corner, seeking both mercy and shelter.

“Hush now. You know what comes next.”

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Eternity

Stars are remnants of
a broken universe
that crumbled when you left
each step causing the sky to fall
just a little further than it stood
when I held it on my shoulders for you,
keeping the cold away from your skin.
But as you walked away,
I thought there are more ways to touch than this
and hoped that you might be crushed
under the weight of a dark horizon.

Surrender

Hush, hush
she susurrates her
sickly sweet spell
slowly, slowly
sliding and slipping
insidiously inside
saturating the silence
with the sound of her soul.
I cease to sense
the caress of bliss
as something seems to scream
confess, confess –
innocence is surface deep.

Weight

It was weeks later when he saw her again. They were in a bar. He was with someone else.

She had waved briefly before returning to her conversation, wrapping herself in the protection of distraction.

At some point in the evening, they found themselves near enough to speak, alone enough to try.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

Even these words feel uncomfortable now.

“How’s life,” trails into a noncommittal sound at the look on her face.

“It was good to see you.”

After a brief hesitation, they embrace, letting go quickly because even their bodies are strangers now.

And after she is gone, the weight of their last conversation still seems heavy in the air.

“But I love you.”

“…I know.”

Still

It’s okay that it’s over.

She pauses. It is painful to continue. He takes her hand gently, timidly, as though he would rather leave it resting by her side. But the warmth of this small connection, this thing that has not yet been stolen gives her courage.

It has been difficult to love you this way.

She is embarrassed when the tears slip freely over her face. She wishes she could be stronger.

It doesn’t seem fair to love so passionately, but be so confined…I wish there were more ways that I was able to tell you what you mean to me.

His silence is agonizing, but it hurts even worse when he breaks it.

“Goodbye.”

Please, she begs, please let me love you in my limited way.

He slowly lets her hand go and stands to leave.

But before he reaches the door, he looks back to her propped up in the hospital bed and scans her searching eyes – so desperately alive, they seem nearly to scream.

Hummingbird

Jackboots crack on pavement top
echoes of wings in the undercurrent.
Dark, heavy silence
cut only by the flurried fists
which hover, dart, knock
in the night.
Flashes of color,
rank and status,
allow them to pretend awhile longer
that this could never happen
to them.
They laugh as they sip their sweet nectar
which tastes only faintly of fear, for now.
So hush, my little one.
They won’t come for us.
Tonight.

Wonderland

Your fingers seem longer, thinner
alive in their own right, as they crawl among the pill bottles.
For a moment, you feel like Alice:
labels are meaningless, but you’ve tried them all.
The tall green one will cause strange words to tumble
over and under and from your lips,
while this orange one brings dreamless sleep.
And as you mix yourself
a cocktail that rattles in your palm
you wonder –
how did she climb back out
the rabbit hole?

Dream: Part Eighteen

Reese sits down heavily on the bed next to her.  She is curled away, tucked securely under the blankets but he can feel the chill from her wet dress seeping through the sheets.  She makes no move to acknowledge his presence, though he realizes sadly that he isn’t surprised by this.

“Lana, were you ever going to tell me?”  He looks away from her, to the framed photos on the wall that seem so clearly now to hold pictures of a stranger.  He shifts his weight, stares out the window.

“What have you been doing with your life?  Was it just the drugs or were you…Fuck.  Lana, say something.”

She is silent.  He puts his head in his hands.  She was always silent, he slowly realizes.  It was him who filled the quiet.  He glances at her, at the sharp, tense line in her shoulders and recognizes that as well.  He wonders how long he knew, how long he pretended.

“Why, Lana?”

She is unrelenting.  He isn’t sure if she can’t think of a single thing to say, or if she can no longer stomach the thought of speaking to him.  But he deserves an answer for this.

“God damn it, Lana, say something.” He reaches over and grabs her shoulder, turning her towards him.

Her lips are blue, that brightest most brilliant shade of familiar blue.  They are caked in a powdery sheen he would have been able to identify in his sleep.  It has bled over her teeth, her tongue.  Run over her cheek, down her neck to pool in the soft recess of her collarbone.

Her eyes are open, but they have ceased to see.

“Baby,” he gently cups her face in his hand as he crawls across the bed to her.

“Lana, honey, Lana, wake up,” he cradles her head in the crook of his arm, brushing away the hair from her forehead.  Someone in the back of his head is saying that she is gone.  She is cold to the touch, stiff.

“Lana, please, say something,” his voice cracks.

He tries to prop her up a little further, to wedge his body in behind hers.  Her arm falls free from his grasp, off the edge of the bed.  There is a soft clatter as something small frees itself from her hand.

“Please…”

He suddenly finds it hard to breathe.  She is gone.  He is dizzy, nauseous.  Vaulting from the bed, Reese grabs for the phone on her nightstand.  Kneeling beside her, he is shocked by how pale she is.  He puts his hands out on the floor to steady himself, fingers brushing against plastic.

The empty bags of Dream.

He picks them up, one by one, counting the times she poured that sickly sweet death over her lips.  Then he sees her ring.  Tossed on the floor before she took one more trip.

He looks back up at her.  She had taken it off.  Chosen the drug instead of him.

He continues to look at her, blankly, then suddenly slams the phone down onto the floor.  He knocks the lamp off of the nightstand, shattering it against the wall.

“Fuck!”

He stands over her.  Then turns and punches a hole in the wall, shaking a picture of the two of them on their wedding day.  He yells again.  He wants to destroy the room.  To tear this carefully constructed illusion apart piece by cheap piece.  But instead he sinks down beside her, rolling to look at her.  He used to think she was so beautiful.  So perfect.

He touches his lips to her softly.  He thinks of every smile that had failed to reach her eyes.  He wants to break her.  He wants her to hurt as badly as he does, but she feels nothing.  He wonders if she ever felt anything.

He kisses her more fervently then, devouring her.  He kisses her with a rage, and a sorrow, that he has never expected to feel.  He tries to reclaim them for his own.  She is unyielding in his arms, she was never his.

He sits back hard against the headboard, wipes his mouth clean.  His hand falls away, a bright, brilliant, familiar blue.  He sits in an empty room, with the hollow of a ruined wife, echoes of a ruined life, closes his eyes and lets the Dream take him…

Dream: Part Seventeen

She is standing at the sink when he comes in.  Her back is to him, she is humming faintly.  He pauses in the doorway briefly and watches her.  She is lovely in her rhythmic motion, hands circling plates as she cleans away the residue of last night’s dinner.  He watches for just a moment more before he moves towards her, grabbing a towel so he can help.

“Hey there,” he leans in to kiss the back of her neck playfully.

“Reese, stop that, I’m all wet.”

“Just the way I like it,” he gives her a lascivious grin and picks up a bowl.

She glances at him out of the corner of her eye, watching as he haphazardly slings the dish rag around.  She smiles, tilting her head towards him, beckoning for another touch of his lips on her skin.

“How was work?” she asks, putting down the plate and turning to face him.  Looping his arms around her waist, he pulls her to him.

“Boring.  I kept thinking, if only my lovely wife would stop by.  I have my own office you know…with a door and everything.”

She laughs, “You are ridiculous.”

“Fine.  If you won’t come to work to satisfy me, I will just have to start coming home earlier.”  He sweeps her over his shoulder, carries her screaming into the bedroom.

He tosses her on the bed.  He unbuttons his shirt, slips his jeans down, as she starts to pull her dress over her head.   Arms raised, eyes covered, he stops her.  Grabbing hold of the fabric, he leans her back, exposing her throat to him.  He kisses her softly, moving out along her collarbone, back in along the line of her bra.

“Reese, please.”

He silences her, kissing her more intently now.  His tongue finds hers, and the taste of him is exquisite.  He lets her go.  And then they are wrapped tightly in one another.  It has always been this way.  She can remember nothing but the feeling of his skin on hers.

“Lana.”

His voice sounds strained, harsh.  She looks up at him.  Red.  Everything is red.

“Why, Lana?”

He pulls away from her and she can see the gaping wound.  There is blood, pouring from him, running down her arms, settling in the creases of the sheets beneath them.  She can feel the cool of the metal in her hand.

“No.  No.  No.  Reese?”

She rolls out from under him, feels the slick wet of blood, so horribly familiar now, as he lies back on the bed.  There is a ragged gash of torn skin and raw flesh crossing his chest.  She watches, frozen, as Reese raises his head to see, fingers fluttering vainly over the laceration as if willing it to heal.  It must have shocked him, the extent of the damage, because she can see his muscles tense and the skin parts even further.

He looks back up at her then.  There is nothing but pain and confusion on his face.  He opens his mouth to speak, but he chokes.  She wipes away blood from his lips.

The room fills with an indistinct haze.  Lana reaches for Reese’s hand, but she cannot find it.  She is overcome with a sense of panic.  The feeling that she must run, and she must run now.  She takes off, slamming into the doorway as she sprints through the house.

She runs, until her lungs burn and her vision is blurry.  She doesn’t know where she is any longer.  It is dark.  Trees lash out and she can feel the blood coursing down her face.  She loses her footing, and suddenly she is falling.  Her arms spin out, grasping for anything to grab hold of, but there is nothing.  She is rolling, smashing head and side and back into ground.  It does not stop.  She is dizzy and cannot breath.  Everything is black.

When she can see again, she is immediately struck by a devastating pain.  It pulsates through her, piercing every piece of her.  She tries to lift her head, but can’t.  A sharp, blinding burn radiates from her throat.  Shaking, she reaches up, and screams.

Her fingers run over the course grain of the wood, the sharp green of pine needles, follow it until they meet the soft flesh of her neck, wet and slick.  Her breath becomes shallow, frenzied.  She gently pulls at the branch, trying to free it from her skin.  The pain is unbearable.  She cries out, screaming for Reese, Dean.

But no one comes for her.