The Hound & The Mare

While working on my synopsis I noticed I started to write occasional sentence pairs in verse. This was not good– a synopsis should not be a narrative poem, as far as I am aware.  Probably an annoyance for literary agents right up there with alliteration.    

Then I caught myself starting to read everything with a rhythm.  All right, time to get it out of my system.  

An intriguing dream steeped heavily in Celtic Mythology involving jealous princesses, a demonic boar, a hound, a mare, and a forlorn prince gave me the inspiration– I thought about turning it into a short story but have enough of those on the back burner, so a narrative poem became the dream’s destiny.

I’ve never written a narrative poem before and am certain there are rules that I am breaking.  Regardless I hope you will enjoy the story found within, and bear with me.  

epona

 

In the kingdom of Ingomar, the woods are wild and free.

Filled with secrets and monsters, and groves and ruins,

The foolhardy will enter and never return while the thoughtful can sometimes request,

A blessing fulfilled, a wish endowed by ancient, powerful, goddesses.

 

Now the ruler of this land lived in a grand castle perched up high on great limestone cliffs.

Each day he walked out, in somber silence, and looked at the foggy sea.

No one knows why he did it, no one dared to ask, but rumor holds merit that a love was once lost.

One day the beloved king of Ingomar, walked out to the edge of the cliff.

He didn’t look back, he took no second glance, then stepped out into the sky.

No heirs to inherit, the kingdom mourned their loss, will their next king be as loving as the last?

 

A stalwart, young prince, journeyed across the lands to reach fair Ingomar.

When he arrived, he declared to honor the king and win the hearts of his people

“There will be seven days of song and food, and jousting and merrymaking.”

At the end of it all, he will host a great dance, and choose from among them, a sweet young lass.

She will be his bride, a princess for a prince and a queen for a kingdom.

 

Town criers announce in every village, that every young lady should attend.

In one distant village, the crier attracts the attention of two sisters.

 

Fair Lura is a skilled huntress.

Nimble and silent, mysterious and wild, many have sought her hand.

With milky white skin, long, pale blond hair and deep, sparkling blue eyes, she knows she must try to make it in time for a chance to enchant the prince.

Beautiful Eloa is perfectly domestic, a master of hearth and home.

When her soft touch graces, any flower or creature, she soothes both heart and soul.

Her golden skin shimmers, her dark brown hair flows, and her deep, green eyes trap distant gazes.

She knows if she makes it to the great dance in time, she will win the prince’s favor.

 

The only obstacle, each sister foresees is that from the other.

Quietly they steal into the twilight to seek out the guidance of mothers.

 

Lura moves deep into the darkening forest to a grove sacred to her mother,

Beautiful Flidais, goddess of the hunt and all woodland creatures.

Eloa travels a forgotten path to an even more forgotten place.

Between the rubble of ruins, she enters what was once a magnificent temple.

There she prays to Epona, her mother, goddess of fertility and horses.

 

Under the twisted boughs of a hawthorn tree, Lura drifts into slumber,

Lulled by the gentle incantations of wind and the conversation of flowers.

“My dearest, Lura, I send to you a gift of my terrain.

The prince revels in the thrill of the hunt and the reward of the game.

This sovereign hound will course and scent and pursue with infinite endurance.

She will strike true and fell stag and boar with hardly any effort.

But be forewarned, her collar removed, and you will take her place.”

 

Eloa finds her bed on a mound with a pillow of supple green grass.

She enters a trance as leaves begin to dance on branches overhead.

“My tender, Eloa, to become the queen, you’ll need a charger of noble bearing.

I send to you a roan from my herd.  This mare will carry you over vast distance, wherever you wish to go.

She will never stumble, frighten or kick and you will never grow sore.

But be forewarned, her bridle removed, and you shall take her form.”

 

When Lura opened her eyes in the morn, a tall, slender hound stood before her.

With smooth and silky, silvery fur and eyes like the midnight sky.

Ears held erect, pointed like a dagger and a long, bushy tail that slopped down from her spine.

The golden collar graced the hound’s elegant neck, decorated with the dara knot, inspiring reverence.

Despite its beauty, the collar cast dread into the heart of Lura.

She shook off the feeling and stood in a rush, the hound gracefully moved to her side.

It was time to get going, time to make haste, time to hurry to the hunt.

 

Eloa slumbered until a soft sound awoke her,

A gentle nicker followed by a rush of hot air.

She jolted upright in exalted delight and stared at the magnificent mare.

Adorned by a beautiful coat of red and white, and a long, thick mane and tail.

Bold eyes as deep as emerald pools stared at her, ready to go.

Eloa jumped up and climbed on the mare’s back, holding the gilded rope of the bridle.

No saddle, no bit, no spurs, no whip, the horse only abided by gentle request.

They moved at a quick pace, no time could be lost for the dance was only a few days off.

 

By the tireless gait of her Otherworld mount, Eloa reached the castle ahead of her sister.

The prince took immediate notice of her because of the red speckled mare.

It was easy to see, by all in attendance, that the farmer’s daughter soon became his favorite.

But on the eve of the dance,

Lura reached the castle, with hound at her side and a boar’s head on a platter.

By the size of the head and the ivory tusks, the boar had once been a monster.

Such a feat to imagine, quickly garnered attention.

The prince fawned over Lura and took her hand in his then led her into the Great Hall.

He announced her bravery and commended her deed and while many did cheer, one jealous sister conspired.

 

When all inhabitants slumbered soundly,

Eloa tiptoed to her sister’s bedside.

She crouched down and examined the hound resting beside her and knew the collar was like her mare’s gilded bridle.

With no more than a moment of cold consideration

And nary a hesitant thought,

She slipped off the collar and ran with it in her vindictive, merciless grasp.

 

The knock on her door echoed in her ears and when Lura opened her eyes,

She realized her hands had become silver paws and her fingernails powerful claws.

She sprang to her feet and tangled her legs then fell to her face on the floor.

How dreadful it was for her to witness the prince open the door.

She couldn’t utter a word, cursed only to yelp and longingly howl instead.

He petted her head to subdue her sorrow and pensively asked where her mistress had gone.

Lura jumped on her hind legs, placing her paws on his chest,

She desperately tried to tell him.

But he stepped away and left her to be his princess trapped inside a dog.

 

She was taken to the stables and placed with the canines to be used for the day’s royal hunt.

The prince was eager to see what she could bring him and the entire pack set out.

Lura struggled to run with them,

Struggled to keep up,

The prince and his retinue rode far away.

Left on her own, she wandered and waded through forest, meadow, and brook.

Into a glen she staggered, where glowing red eyes revealed her terrible mistake.

A boar ten times bigger than the one she had slaughtered emerged with a rumbling bellow.

It plowed through the trees and ripped up the earth all in pursuit of her hide.

She tried to evade it but its fierce tusks scraped her against the side of a tree.

Bloody and broken, Lura possessed no more strength and accepted her dreadful fate.

She knew she would die,

Far away and alone,

Deep within the woods of Ingomar.

Unaware of the pack that had come to her aid, the boar thundered off,

And the prince scooped her up then swung into saddle and held her in his arms in a tender embrace.

 

Back at the castle, he rested her softly on a blanket beside the fire.

But Eloa saw her and feigned utter dread at the sight of such grisly wounds.

She begged him to dispose of her while callously declaring the dog better off dead.

The prince knew in his heart that the hound stood little chance but could not dispatch her so willingly.

He carried her to the stables and relinquished her instead to the knowledgeable hound-master.

 

Over the months that followed, the master cared for her and mended her broken bones.

His rough hands always gentle, his soft songs supplied comfort and her strength began to regrow.

In that time, the kingdom celebrated the wedding of the prince and Eloa.

The prince became king and Eloa, the queen

While Lura remained a hound.

 

One day several months later, Eloa emerged in the stables to check her most prized possession,

The beautiful roan, the gift from her mother that always wore its gilded bridle.

From her shadowy corner, on her bed of straw, Lura watched with keen interest.

Then her pregnant sister took notice of her and scowled in her direction.

“I thought you were dead, you wretched thing.

Perhaps instead of stealing your collar,

I should have buried the fang of your dagger deep inside your breastbone.”

Lura understood what had happened to her, it was her sister all along,

The one who had transformed her into a dog and taken her life as her own.

While she cursed herself for not seeing the truth, it now seemed so obvious.

The horse’s bridle was like her collar, a symbol of a powerful goddess.

And from that moment on, Lura obsessed, with a strong desire for revenge.

The hunter’s shrewd mind set to work a plan of rightful vengeance.

 

That night when the stables emptied of men,

Lura pulled at her tether until a link gave in.

She crept into the shadows and entered the pen of Eloa’s slumbering mare.

Daintily she balanced on her long hind legs,

Grasped the bridle in her mouth and pulled it away.

With the gilded bridle between her jaws, she darted back to the shadows

Then proceeded to chew and to tear and destroy every last gilded fiber.

 

The next morning, the mare woke with a terrible neigh,

She kicked and she reared uncharacteristically.

The kingdom erupted with the same frightened fervor at the loss of their queen, the soon to be mother.

For days, search parties scoured the woods, but not even a trace of Eloa was found.

The king commenced with a mournful cry and his subjects woefully reciprocated.

 

Lura was not done, her plan had not yet come entirely into fruition.

There was still the matter of the pain she endured, the overcoming of trepidation.

Finally, the day arrived when the king decided to go out on his own for a ride.

The hound and the mare were all that were left of his two lovely ladies.  So he took them with him, to accompany him, on his lonely ride through the fog.

What he didn’t know was that the mare saw red as soon as she saw her sister.

She seethed to trample and stamp on the hound for she knew she’d destroyed the bridle.

Lura knew this would happen and played this to her favor,

Leading the mare on a reckless and wild endeavor,

That took her into forest and glade, through thicket, meadow and brook.

As she had hoped, the massive boar awoke

And his angry red eyes reappeared,

In the glen where she’d wandered so haplessly so many months ago.

 

The beast roared as he trampled trees and shrubs, setting his sights on the mare,

Which slid to a stop with the king still astride, clinging to her neck and mane.

She spun around on her haunches and took to a gallop, breaking through branches and ferns.

She raced through the valley, tore through the streambeds trying to stay ahead.

Her hot breath plumed, her heart pounded her chest, as the king urged her to run.

Faster and faster, but the boar was gaining, his stampeding scarred the land.

 

Eloa flew down a craggy hillside, her hooves clashed upon the rock,

The sound of the sea could be heard up ahead.  She didn’t know where else to go.

The mare valiantly broke through the trees and took a magnificent leap from a cliff.

The king leaned forward and for but a moment they sored without wings through the air.

The boar hit the treeline, splintering boughs and leapt right after the mare.

Eloa landed, her hooves covered with sand, she stumbled and fell and the poor king dismounted, thrown into the rising tide.

 

On the shore with the roaring sea behind her, Eloa turned and faced the boar.

It charged and slammed right into her, driving its tusks into her.

It spun and it jabbed, mangling her flesh,

Leaving her bloodied and broken.

When the mare collapsed onto the cold sand, the boar turned its sights on the king.

 

Lura scrambled down the rocky cliff in time to witness the horror,

As her poor sister stood absolutely no chance in defeating the monster.

Her heart swelled and burst with grief at what she had done to her sister.

Now the innocent king stood his ground, ready to face their demon.

 

He held out his sword and the boar did charge but Lura intervened.

She ran underneath its matted wet belly to save the life of the king.

The hound leapt and snapped her jaws tightly on the flesh of the wild beast’s neck.

The boar screamed and flailed as she held even tighter, driving her fangs even deeper.

 

The beast wouldn’t go down and slammed her against the ground.

Each strike broke a bone in her body.

The thrashing didn’t stop until the king drove his blade into the heart of the boar.

When it fell to its side, Lura dropped to the sand but her legs crumpled underneath her.

She pulled her beaten body to the bloody remains of her sister lying out on the shore.

 

The hound rested beside her, dropped down beside her and placed her face next to hers.

Both drew their final breaths and with their deaths, their true forms were restored.

 

The king couldn’t believe it and dropped to his knees then crawled out across the shore.

He knelt there beside them, lamenting and pining, for each maiden had half of his heart.

His retinue found him with the girls in his arms and forced him to let them go.

The tide rose around them and carried the sisters out into the grey sea.

 

The king never fully recovered.

Each day he walked out on the cliffs near his castle and gazed longingly at the sea.

He couldn’t find it within him to love yet another, to have a new queen at his side.

His only child died with her, Eloa.  His lineage died on the shore.

It seemed the kingdom of Ingomar would suffer the same as before.

The king grew more despondent each year, spending his time on the cliffs.

He began to contemplate how it would feel to fall through the air to his death.

 

One morning he walked from his castle, intending to take the final step

When a stunning red fox stood between him and the beckoning limestone cliffs.

He stared deep into its golden eyes then noticed a strangeness about it.

The fox had an emblem upon its head, the ancient symbol of a woodland goddess.

It sprinted into the forest and he took to a run after it.

Three mythical birds cawed above him, flying with him as he ran.

 

A narrow path twisted between ancient trees, leading him to a glade.

At the base of a giant hawthorn tree sat ruins covered in green.

On the steps leading up to an earthen mound, rested the fox so tranquilly.

It looked to a place bathed in sunlight, a place where a temple once stood.

The king approached cautiously, not knowing where he was.

When he stood on the grass of the earthen mound, he noticed a second symbol,

The triquetra of Epona, Otherworld goddess and queen of the horses.

 

The mythical birds landed before him and began tearing at the earth with their beaks,

Then he heard a sound that came from below, like the knocking on a casket.

Confused and alarmed the king dropped down on his knees and began digging at the earth with his hands.

When a colt leapt from the hole he had dug, the king stared in astonishment and his mouth fell open.

It was a beautiful colt with a red piebald coat and it pranced with an elegant step.

The patterns along the edge of its markings were the symbols he’d seen before, on the fox and the ground, on the collar and bridle of the hound and the mare.

 

Then he noticed a familiar glint in the mottled sunlight,

The colt wore a bridle of his own.

Apprehensive at first, about what he saw, the king held out trembling hands.

When he grasped the bridle and slipped it away, the colt became a boy.

His hair was red, his skin was fair and each eye was a different color.

One sparkling blue and one emerald green, like the eyes of his mothers.  

ingomar-shore-ii

 

Old Regrets

When I was a kid, my parents got divorced.  I’m not unique here, this happens to many.  It happened when I was between 12 and 13 years old.  And my dog became my best friend more so than ever.

This isn’t to say I didn’t have friends but when the weather was bad or homework was their priority (I wasn’t the best student) my dog was my constant companion.

Tundra was his name and he was a Siberian Husky.  We had many adventures.  I used to put on my roller-blades, attach two leashes to his collar (for balance) and hang on.  I got pretty good at this, crouching down low when we took sharp corners or steep hills.  A couple times I had to bail when he went after some critter and one time I lost control and slammed into the back of a truck.  When my dad saw my bloody countenance, his first question was, “Is the truck okay?”  Then he asked if the dog was okay and finally if I was okay.

When I would run with him, he would pull me to no end.  I would hang onto the leash and leap from foot to foot, sailing through the air.  The trick was to try and maximize the time I spent in the air and not to slow him down.  This was my favorite.  It was the closest I could achieve to actually running with him.  This memory is one I cherish and use to describe the sensation a character in my novel feels when running with a pack of wolves. 

Then there was the forest.  I can’t remember how much acreage there was.  I could spend hours exploring it and it took me years to learn all my different routes.  I was an intrepid explorer.  I fell down many gullies, landed in flooded streams and stinging nettles.  A friend and I were swarmed by wasps that had made their nest underground, which we haplessly trod upon during the fall when it was concealed by leaf litter.  I followed deer and coyotes.  I learned my way and would use the forest to get to other neighborhoods and even to the main part of the nearest town, where a shopping center was located.

Tundra always went with me as did the family dog, Lucy, a Shetland Sheepdog.  As we slipped past the tree-line, I would let the dogs offleash.  While the loyal sheltie stayed with me, Tundra was off and we went our separate ways.  He always came when I called and generally stayed somewhat close.  As I said before, we had many adventures.

When my broken family moved from Oregon to Montana, everything changed.  The dogs had to live in a kennel because the yard either wasn’t fenced or Tundra escaped.  He became an escape artist.  I would always go after him but there was no catching him.  Huskies are born to run.  He got into all kinds of trouble.  He became a chicken killer, steak thief and livestock worrier.  On one occasion I had to stand between my dog and a furious shotgun wielding owner of dead chickens.  It was a very frightening and tense standoff.  My dog lived but I was warned that if he was ever seen around that property again, he would be shot on the spot.  Every time Tundra ran off, I wondered if I would see him again.

In the winters I could let him run.  He would pull me, alongside other huskies, on a sledge.  I would also put on my snowboard and let him pull me through town, though it was tricky to maintain my balance.  I often caught my edge and even broke my tailbone once when we hit ice.

The days of roller-blading were over, chipsealed roads were not friendly to roller-blades.  We would go hiking though but there was no letting him offleash, at least, not as often as he was accustomed to.  The wilderness was vast, a massive expanse of wild stretching between Montana and Idaho.  It was far more dangerous and not a place to let a husky roam.

As time progressed I began working and partaking in extracurricular activities.  I still tried to let him out to run and take him for walks as often as I could but it was a far cry from our adventures together in the forest of my childhood.

After I graduated high school, I left Montana and I left Tundra behind.  I got a job and my own place then got a Doberman puppy named Joe.  My biggest regret is that I didn’t take Tundra with me or go back and get him.  It would have been hard because my place and yard were small but I would have figured something out if I would have known what was to come.

My dad called me one morning and told me that he gave the huskies away (there was another named Shira, I’ll tell her story later).  I asked where they went and he told me to a place up in Northern Montana.  Where they got to run and pull sleds.  It sounded perfect.  Too perfect, like the proverbial farm.  I would ask my dad, nearly every time we spoke, if he knew how the huskies were doing.  They were always doing wonderful.  Even after a number of years had passed, making the huskies an impossible age, they were still doing well.

So I wonder, what really happened to my friend?  Where did he go?  Did he live to a ripe old age pulling sleds and live out his days as a husky should?  My dad’s story never changes.  I only hope it is the truth.  It haunts me to this day though and I suspect I will always carry this regret with me.

Tundra headshot in snow

The stunning escape artist himself.  

Find Tundra II

(not a great picture but this was our forest in Oregon, you can see him peaking through the foliage)  

Temperate rainforest

(another not so great picture but this was one of my favorite places.  Tundra’s not in this pic)

Find Tundra

(find the husky)

Tundra sitting nicely

(he was impossible to brush)            

Lucy come home

(Lucy, the sheltie.  Also an awesome dog. Much loyal, to the end.) 

Jerusalem Syndrome Part VI: conclusion of a short fantasy story

Heather stared blankly at her computer screen in the darkness of her bedroom.  She couldn’t focus on her work; she hadn’t done anything with it in days.  Her cell phone rang.  She recognized the ringtone and answered immediately.  It was her husband calling to tell her that the police had turned up nothing about her brother’s disappearance.  There was nothing to give them any direction except from where he vanished, the front of the hospital.  Security cameras showed that Bradley had walked out the front door then everything went black.  There was no trace of him.  Why the equipment failed to raise alarm when he disconnected himself was still a mystery.

There was a long period of silence until her phone rang again, it was Taher.  He called to tell her that her brother had been found.

The old Mitsubishi Montero bounced and rattled as it traversed the desert footpath used mainly by ungulates.  Sheep and goats moved out of the way and camels grunted.  The dust settled as the vehicle came to a stop at the Bedouin camp.  Taher threw open the door and stepped out.  A wave of children ran to him, young boys shouting in such frenzy he couldn’t understand what they were saying.  A few men followed, telling him to come retrieve the man with the infernal mark.

Taher trailed them to the center of their camp and resting on a makeshift table was Bradley, bruised, scraped, scabbed and sunburned.  The men told Taher to get him out of the camp.  To get him far away.  Then the sheikh emerged from his tent and the men, his sons, grew quiet.

The sheikh explained to Taher that since they found Bradley, he had seen three markings appear on the red-haired man’s body.  The infernal mark had been over the heart but faded.  A second mark replaced it but also faded and a third mark emerged across the entire chest and has stayed.  The sheikh said that he could not say what it meant but the heart beats and when they found Bradley there was a great feather over his body so unlike his sons, he was not afraid.  The sheikh continued to explain that the nearest hospital was too great a distance by camel or horse for the red-haired man to endure.  And that his wives and daughters had kept Bradley alive.  It was best that the red-haired man be taken by car to the hospital right away.

The Montero sped across the desert, Taher sat in the back, holding Bradley while one of the Bedouin guides he had hired for the striped hyena expedition drove.  It was because of those guides that he even learned about Bradley’s miraculous discovery which was what led to his recovery.

 

Heather entered Bradley’s room at a hospital in Be’er Sheva.  The heart rate monitor was a familiar sound and again he was hooked up to an IV but this time he looked at her and smiled his usual half-smile.  She burst into tears and her husband wrapped an arm around her, kissed her on top of the head then walked with her to his bedside.

“How are you feeling?” she said, wiping tears from her eyes.

“Like I was in an oven,” he answered in a hoarse voice.

A small laugh broke through then after a brief moment of silence, she asked, “How did you get to the middle of the Negev from Jerusalem?”

“I’m still trying to work that out,” he answered bleakly.

“Do you remember any of it?”

“Anything in particular?”

She shrugged, not really wanting to speak of what she witnessed.  She was just happy to see him awake, smiling and talking.

“Did you get any new pictures of Apollo and Delphi?” he asked.

Heather burst out into tears again and turned to her husband.  Bradley knew that he was obviously the cause of her crying and regretted this.  Uncertain as to how he could mend the crime of making his sister cry, he looked away.  His gaze landed on a sandy colored dog sitting right outside the doorway to his room.  He briefly wondered how it had gotten into the hospital but then it stood up on its long, slender legs and elegantly trotted away.  It had looked like a small saluki but with pointy ears.

“Apollo” and “Delphi” Striped Hyena photos by the amazing Photographer and Conservationist Ezra Hadad Ezra Hadad Facebook Page 

Jerusalem Syndrome Part V: a short fantasy story

Bradley felt a presence.  Someone stared at him.  Slowly his eyes flickered open.  He didn’t take much time to notice where he was as the first thing that caught his attention was the dog from the Old City.  It sat on the hospital bed he was in, its dark eyes focused on him.

“You—” he said hoarsely.

“My name is Ankah, I am a daughter of Simourv, the benevolent, friend to mankind,” the dog said softly, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Oh,” Bradley muttered.

“I am here to help you.”

He looked around the hospital room, his sister slept on a chair with a blanket over her.  There was a lot of equipment surrounding him and he noticed the IV catheter in his arm.

“Nothing here can help you,” Ankah said.

“What is wrong with me?”

“You feel strange, don’t you?  Like there is another being that exists within you.  You cannot tell the difference from when you are sleeping to when you are awake?  You’ve lost control over yourself and what truly is.”

Conversing with a dog wasn’t reinforcing his sanity at all but he still nodded because she was right.

“Some would call it a demon, others a jinni but it is an ancient curse, a powerful dybbuk that has tortured many.  It has your soul in its grips and wills you to do its bidding.  It will not leave you until it has completed its task and the task is most sinister.  The dybbuk will destroy you, it will destroy many.”

“You can help me though?”

“I will take you to the desert.  I will take you to a place where Bahamut can hear me and bring Kujata to rid the dybbuk from your soul.  Kujata can send it to the void.  If you are strong enough to survive this then you are strong enough to reclaim your existence.”

“This is the only way?” Bradley asked, glancing at his sister, not wanting to leave her.

“Yes,” Ankah answered.  “You must come with me now.  We must travel quickly before the dybbuk wakes.  If you do not come with me willingly then I cannot help you and if the dybbuk wakes then you will not come willingly.”

“Can I say goodbye?”

“There is no time and even if you wanted to, you wouldn’t be able to wake her.”

“What about all this?” Bradley asked, holding up his arms, one with the catheter, the other with electrodes.  “Won’t I be caught trying to leave?  And how did you get in here anyway?”

“None of it matters.  All you have to do is follow me.”

Ankah leapt off the bed and trotted to the door.  She looked over her shoulder and waited for him.  Bradley took a deep breath then stood.  Everything fell away from him, the catheter, the electrodes and he stood barefoot in his hospital gown.  The heart rate monitor continued to beep, no alarms sounded, nothing disturbed Heather in her slumber.  Worried he would bleed from the catheter site, he looked to his arm.  There was nothing even there to indicate a catheter had ever been placed.

“Goodbye, Heather,” he whispered as he passed by his sister.

Bradley followed Ankah as she trotted elegantly in front of him, the flowing, silky strands of fur from her tail and legs rustled gently from her movement.  The hallways and lobbies were mostly dark, only some lights were on.  There were hardly any people, a few nurses at their stations, but they were going over charts and didn’t even look up as he went by.  Bradley stopped being afraid after they passed the third nurses’ station and tried not to think about how this was happening…

He and the dog exited the hospital.  It was windy but he didn’t feel cold, he simply felt it pass through him.  Suddenly all the lights went out, bulbs exploded into shards of glass the size of grains of sand.  He crouched down and threw his arms over his face as the shards sprinkled over him.

“Come,” he heard in Ankah’s voice.  “Step forward.”

He did as told, rising and stepping into the blackness.  She stood before him, transformed.  The face and front legs of the creature he marveled at were hers and so was part of the body but the sandy colored fur became golden and then all shades of green and blue.  Her tail had become long feathers of equal beauty and sprouting from her shoulders were large wings, all shades of green and blue with golden edges.  Her hindquarters were now adorned with feathers and back legs featured scales and talons instead of fur and claws.  She stood as tall as a large horse and possessed a magnificence he could have never known without staring directly at it.

“Climb onto my back and hold onto my fur,” she said.

Bradley stepped forward and she bowed down to allow him onto her back.  He did as she said.  With one tremendous leap and downbeat of her great wings, they were ascending the night sky.  He gripped the fur of her neck and held tightly.  Wind rushed over him but he still felt no cold as they glided across the starry night, passing in front of the full moon.  Bradley watched the landscape change beneath them, from forested hills to long stretches of crops and finally to desert.

Where Ankah landed the sand was white and powdery.  The winds had grown tumultuous, swirling in columns, carrying sand high into the air.  Bradley slid off her back and landed on his feet but immediately fell to his knees, unable to withstand the force of the winds.  He could hardly keep his eyes open and watched as Ankah threw out her wings and let the winds grab her, carrying her far and fast, leaving him on his own.  Then the winds died down and he was able to stand.

It was just him and the long stretches of white sand and the stars.  Not even the moon was present here.  He began to feel dizzy but soon realized it wasn’t him.  The stars had begun to move.  They moved away from an area and in the darkness there was movement.  It moved like a wave, rising and falling and was difficult to follow.  Then something began to emerge from that darkness and the winds roared into existence again pushing Bradley back and obscuring his vision.  Something was approaching from the emptiness in the night sky and it looked like a charging bull.

The white sand rose up in sandstorms and met Kujata as he stepped out of the sky.  The ground quaked with each step he took, his legs concealed by the swirling winds.  When he inhaled the winds moved in one direction and when he exhaled they moved in another.  His eyes were the color of starlight and his body the color of nebulae.  Kujata advanced swiftly upon Bradley from the horizon, not because he moved fast but because he was a colossus and with each step he covered a distance Bradley couldn’t fathom.

In front of Bradley the sand fell away and a black, swirling hole remained in its place.  He stood on the edge but at least he could stand as the hole seemed to consume the winds.  He knew the colossal bull was over him though he couldn’t make out any features because of Kujata’s vast size.  But when the bull lowered its head and focused its gaze on him, his knees became weak.  His entire body began to shake.  The bull exhaled first, sending Bradley rolling across the desert.  Then the bull inhaled.

Bradley tried to focus on his surroundings but everything was moving too fast, he tried to reach out and grab something to stop his tumbling but there was only sand and it slipped through his fingers.  He could feel something being pulled from him, out from underneath his skin.  It felt like his bones were peeling.  The sensation was cold at first but soon every part of his body erupted in fiery pain.  All he could do was grimace and cry out in agony.  The bull exhaled and inhaled again, sending him back and forth across the desert, faster than he could comprehend.  The pain was growing in intensity and he began to not care what happened to him, he just wanted the pain to end.

He was pulled to the edge of the black hole and was able to grab onto something hard to keep from falling into its gaping maw.  A primeval fear of the void prevented him from letting go, a fear that was greater than the pain.  Just as he managed to climb over the ledge, the bull exhaled then inhaled.

Again he caught himself and again he climbed over the ledge.  Kujata breathed and he was tormented.  His strength faded and eventually he could only hang from the ledge above the void, no longer able to pull himself over.  One arm gave out, now entirely numb.  One hand supported his entire weight as he dangled over the voracious black winds.  He looked up with a grimace and found Kujata staring at him from afar.  Bradley’s fingers began to slip and he knew he was going to fall.  Before his last ounce of strength gave way, he felt a release of all the pain.  The swirling black winds of the void illuminated briefly in a blue hue and he saw bones turn to dust.  Then he let go.

Kujata

by Deathrimental http://deathrimental.deviantart.com/

Jerusalem Syndrome Part IV: a short fantasy story

Bradley walked the city as though it were his own.  He knew everything about it now.  So much had changed in 24 hours.  When he walked through the Shuk he found his path easily, stopping to observe the commotion, to pay close attention to the people creating it.  Everyone moved around him, he was not a salmon lost in the current but a stone creating the flow.

With purpose he walked through the Old City, he chose his route, making sure he reached every corner of all four quarters.  He prayed in the churches, the mosques and the synagogues, it was all familiar.  He avoided the heavy traffic of tourists, knowing the secret routes and hidden alleys.  With his sister seeing to her work, there was nothing to detract him from his agenda, except for the dog.

As soon as he’d entered the Old City, there it was.  It followed him at a distance.  When he stopped, it sat and watched and waited.  When he walked, he could hear the click of the nails as it trailed behind him.  No one else seemed to notice it.  He tried screaming at it and lunging.  The dog would dart away and leave him alone momentarily but it always came back.

Bradley walked from sunrise to sunset with the stray dog, stubborn as a shadow.  He was finally rid of the thing when night fell and he left the Old City.

Ankah II enlight

Heather returned home close to midnight.  She had seen to her cameras but worried about her brother all day.  She was glad to see him sleeping when she arrived.  With a smile she closed the door to his bedroom.  After a hot shower and some soup, she crawled into bed and was fast asleep.

 

Bradley woke before sunrise.  He threw off his shirt and pants then ripped the white sheets off his bed, flinging pillows across the room.  After fashioning a toga from one of the sheets, he ran out of the room, out of the apartment and out of the building.  Into the cool morning air he sprinted, his bare feet slapping the stones.  He didn’t tire despite the constant uphill to the Old City.  He didn’t feel any pain when his feet began to bleed.

Heather shivered in her bed.  It was enough to wake her.  Immediately she knew something was amiss.  Throwing back the comforter, she flew from her bed and bolted out of her room.  She saw the door wide open then pivoted and stared into his room.  The bed was disrobed, his clothes were on the floor and he was gone.  Horrified, she scrambled back to her room to throw on some clothes then took off after him.

When she reached the Old City, sucking air and sweating profusely, her look of desperation transcended all language barriers.  She followed the gestures of witnesses along a wake of bewilderment that could only belong to her brother.

She reached the Western Wall Plaza and heard yelling and recognized it as Bradley’s voice.  Her brother stood, dressed in his bed-sheet toga, shouting in a language she didn’t immediately recognize.  Tourists stood at a wary distance, taking pictures or recording him on cameras and cell phones as he delivered his speech.

Heather noticed a group of Israeli Defense Force soldiers approaching and she raced them to her brother, shouting, “Ach-ee!  Ach-ee!”

“This is your brother?” one of the soldiers said.

She nearly doubled over in front of him, her face red and her lungs screaming for air.

“He is speaking Aramaic and Arabic,” the soldier said.

“And Latin,” another added.

“How is that possible?” she asked, her voice raw.  “He doesn’t know any of those languages, he’s never been outside of the United States before.  He’s not religious.  This isn’t possible.”

There was a crowd drawing closer, a mixture of tourists and locals, old and young, Muslims, Jews and Christians.  At the front of the crowd stood a wizened Hasidic, his peyos long and silver as was his beard.  He concentrated on Bradley, whispering softly.

“He needs to go to a hospital,” the soldier said.

“What’s happened to him?” Heather asked, on the verge of tears.

Bradley started shouting the same phrase in Aramaic over and over, spittle flying from his mouth.  He stomped toward the old Hasidic man.  The crowd collectively stepped back but the old man did not.  He closed his eyes and continued moving his lips.

Neither Heather nor the soldiers could hear what the old man was saying but stared as he held a hand out toward Bradley.

As though Bradley were fighting some great force trying to prevent him from doing so, he reached a shaky hand out toward the Hasid.  But he also continued shouting in Aramaic, Arabic and Latin, speaking faster and faster.  Veins bulged and pulsed on his forehead and neck.  His skin was red, covered in sweat and now not just his hand shook but his entire body.  The old man lightly touched Bradley’s palm with only his fingertips and this seemed to induce great trauma.  Bradley threw back his head, jaw clenched, muscles taught.  Then he opened his mouth, released a visceral cry and crumpled to the ground.

 

Heather sat in the hospital room, the beep of the heart rate monitor her constant companion.  Her eyelids were red and swollen from the crying and tears fell in silence.  She stared through blurry eyes to the screen of her cell phone, watching the minutes change.  Her husband was on his way from Los Angeles, though on a nonstop flight, he wouldn’t arrive until tomorrow.

Bradley rested tranquilly beside her.  He hadn’t woken up or stirred since he’d collapsed.  The lab tests came back fine except for mild dehydration and low blood pressure, so he was on an IV drip for now.  He was scheduled for an MRI in the morning, so long as all his vitals remained stable.

A doctor had spoken to her about a condition called Jerusalem Syndrome, a rare form of psychosis that some people experienced when visiting the ancient city.  There were even cases on people that weren’t religious being afflicted.  Based on the medical history she was able to provide, the doctor suspect Bradley was a Type III case.  Everything did add up, her brother’s behavior change, his obsession, the bed sheet-toga, his sudden procession to the Wailing Wall and the sermon he zealously delivered…  However, according to the doctor, most, and quite possibly, none of the other documented cases contained patients that suddenly and coherently understood three ancient languages.  A nurse assured her though that if Bradley was only affected by Jerusalem Syndrome and he truly was a Type III case, as extraordinary as everything was that had happened, he should be fine once he recovered and departed the city.  All this Heather considered as she sat in the hospital room, staring at her cell phone.

“Excuse me,” a soft voice called from the doorway.

Heather looked up and found a young woman attired in black.

“I would like to speak with you but dare not enter.”

She stood from her chair and approached the stranger.  As soon as she’d stepped out of the hospital room, the girl took her hands in hers.

“My grandfather is a rebbe, he saw your brother this morning at the Kotel.  He wanted me to tell you that your brother is very sick and may never wake up.”

Heather stared in disbelief but a knot tightened in her stomach when the girl started crying.

“And he said that if he does, he won’t be your brother anymore— I’m so sorry.”

She didn’t really know what to say but the young woman appeared to be waiting for some sort or acknowledgement.

“Thank you for telling me this.  And please thank your grandfather,” Heather said softly.

The young woman turned and began to walk away quickly.  Heather could only stand and stare and took a while to move even after the young woman had left her sight completely.

Blindsided

I don’t write poetry very often…. or at all, generally.  I don’t know the first thing about it… But it’s been about two years since I was involved in a case where a young Siberian Husky was hit by a car.  I still remember every detail like it was yesterday, some things just stay with you and while I was supposed to be writing up charts, these six lines crept into the back of my mind late that night:

There’s blood on the door

blood hits the floor,

I look into her pale blue eye.

 

She opens her mouth

takes her last breath,

a young life dies.    

 

I think about it often and I so wish we could have saved her.

siberian-husky-blue-eyes-wallpaper-2