Aesir, Asatru, Faith, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Ragnarok Comes

 

The runes were cast
The answer cold
Ragnarok was come
The message clear

Who broke faith with us
Shall to the darkness
To the fire
To the ice fall

The fire raged; half the world burned
By mankind’s hand
In mankind’s greed
The nuclear Fenris shackles broke

Nuclear Explosion

The sky grew dark with ash that took the sun
The dawn brought fire that took the air
The earth groaned
Poisoned beyond salvation

Come now the Jottun
Fenris howling in the van
Surt marches
Serpent rising from poisoned seas

Alone the sons of Ask
The daughters of Embla
Face at last
The final night

No gods to lead them
No gods to save them
Those who forsake them
To stand alone

Pitiful few, the tanks did roll
Against legions beyond counting
Infantry locked and loaded
Jets screaming took flight

Sky grown black with Nidhogg’s brood
Lancing with fire to burn all that dared
The skys on the last day
No living could face them

Reign of Fire

The ground shook beneath Jottun tread
Spears of fire shatter armour
When through artillery march
Unharmed the foe

There is no hope
The young soldier cries
There is no chance
The pilot weeps

From above the hearth,
The veteran takes
The arms he lived to set aside
No longer will that be

Daughters of Freya
In the darkness scream
Not despair but madness
Dancing, move towards the line

Daughters of Frigg
Food they gather
Water they bring
Warriors will need both

Children of Eir
Bandages bring
Gloved and masked
No fighter to fall unaided

Sons of Tyr
No hope was promised
Only the right
And the will to stand by it

Sons of Thor
Laughter rings out
The final storm
Who would stand aside?

Children of Odin
Blood and madness
The feast of all ravens
March song on their lips

Hel in her fastness stirs
No prophesy to bind
Her own council keeps
Her charges set loose
Abrams and Leopard
To Jottun spear fall
Dread guns no match
For the fires of primordial chaos

Hel veiled

From the wreckage ghosts rise
Tigers in slate grey
Dun coloured Sherman’s
The guns of the dead speak

Jottnar reel,
As the first deathless fall
When the dead march
Where the living yet stand

Infantrywoman weeps
And loads her last mag
A hand closes on her shoulder
Grey and cold

Her grandfather to one side
His grandfather the other
Grey and cold the guns of the dead speak
Where the living dare stand

Surt in his fury
A sword of entropy bears
That no god or man may stand
Yet Frey grows from the earth
Antler in his hand
About him the poisoned earth
Gives forth green life
And fire burns it not

In the air the dragons scream
Red Baron soars
Bishop on his wing
Hurricane and Spitfire behind
Messerschmitt and Mustang
Phantom and MiG
While the living dare the sky
Will the dead make their slaughter

The Serpent from the sea boils
No force in nine worlds may face
All fleets shatter at its coming
Yet Thunder does sound
Where men and women flee
From warships serpent shattered
Does Thor stride to the shore
Hammer raised and joyous cry

Odin dances in the madness
Runes of victory he casts
Spear making great slaughter
Mad his laughter
Bright his eye
No hope do I offer
No hope do I bring
I am the promise only of death
Yet I am the promise kept
The battle embraced
The price paid
That no foe shall master thee
That no night shall befall
The children of Ask and Embla

Wolf Fenris howls
His dread jaws close
The Victory Father’s thread cut
By the wolf of war

Silent and bold
The son of the King
Viddar the jawbreaker
Fenris bane wrought

 

While still stand to battle
When all hope is lost
The sons and daughters of men
Shall never stand alone

The dead will uphold
Those who keep the watch
The gods will give strength
While still you dare fight

Will the dawn rise?
Will tomorrow come?
Will it to be mortal,
Then make it so

Rainbow dawn

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Aesir, Asatru, Death, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Won’t make Yule

Heathen Yule story

I had gotten old sometime when I wasn’t looking.  My body was a tracery of too many scars, a patchwork history of surviving things that should have killed me, and forgotten legacies of decisions that seemed brighter at the time then they deserved.  There was also the happy weight of enough good meals and good drinks to remind me that I wasn’t just surviving, I was living, and living as I chose.

I was sipping my morning coffee, watching the dawn think about risking the cold to happen anyway and trying to figure out which of the hundred things I had to get through before Yule I was going to work on next, or should I just kill some time on Netflix catching up on new releases.  I glanced at the window, and what shone back from the reflection chilled me to the point I could not feel the hot coffee that slid unnoticed down a throat suddenly ice cold.

“You will not make Yule this year.  You will not see another dawn outside my hall”

Half maiden fair and shining, half rotting corpse of grave darkness calling, Hel stared back at me.

Hel veiled

The face that ghosted in the window shone with an inhuman beauty and terror that affected me on levels beyond the conscious, deep in the primitive animal the urge to flee warred with the spiritual urge to abase myself before the divine presence that beat the air like silent thunder.  I had my scars for a reason, so both the primitive and the spiritual lost to the ego and will that lead me into, and out of most of a lifetime of trouble, and my mouth ran off without consulting me about the wisdom of cracking wise with a goddess.

“Come to collect my tired old ass yourself, have you?”

My mind had time to catch up with my mouth, and I contemplated having a heart attack on the spot as a reasonable option to finding out if Hel, goddess of the underworld had a sense of humour or tolerated sarcasm.  Fortunately for me, goddesses are somewhat harder to anger than employers, wives, and local police, or at least immune to my sarcasm.  She continued without bothering to address my mindless quip.

“I do not kill, nor does the earth kill the swallow in flight; it, and I simply await you when you fall.  You have in the past done me some service, and shown me some courtesy, so in return I offer you this.  You will not see another dawn.  I will see you before then.”

She turned sideways from the world and vanished, but as her dark aspect flashed past, the window frosted over like someone pulling blinds, and my coffee froze in the cup as a mute testimony to the reality of my vision.  Well….damn.

I looked over to the fireplace, there was about a days worth of wood there.  I looked out back to the wood bin.  There was about a weeks worth split and ready, and a couple of winters worth unsplit.  The wife was not good with an axe.  I mean she was a Girl Guide leader and could do anything camp related half decently, but honestly, watching her with the axe always made me nervous.

Knowing I was going to leave her my corpse kind of put a damper on Yule, but I could do a bit more than that.  I left off my coat, and took up the axe.  I put about two hours worth of splitting in.  My hands and wrists were aching from the shocks as I took a look at the bright pile of neatly split logs, and neatly piled kindling.  There, that was a wee bit better.

The song of the axe had settled me, as it always did. I went to wash my hands and found the sink full of dishes.  I cleaned them, as it just seemed like my last chance to show I cared enough to put in the scut work nobody enjoyed. So.  This was the last day, and I would not make Yule.  Well, take the day as a gift, and a gift for a gift is our way.  Yule is the season for gifts, so I had best be about it.

I had done more shopping than you would think, I just procrastinate about wrapping and mailing things because I hate lineups and hate the crowds of the malls.  I was out of time though, so I loaded my presents in my old army kit bag, and like a veteran version of Santa went to put some Postal elves on delivery duty.

Two hours out of my last day later, I had fired off presents to my wife and daughters, because I wasn’t sure if they would open something I left under the tree, I didn’t want the shadow of my death to make them shy away from opening them.  Instead, they would have to open the packages before they knew it was from me in the first place.  I sent off presents to my old friends from coast to coast, and if I broke a few laws about liquor distribution, its not like I have to fear arrest at this point.  The grin from that realization made the snarl of the waiting in line disappear.  I want the people I love to know that I was thinking of them right up until the end.  I may have been too busy to be there half the time they needed me, and been too much of an idiot to have heard half the times they asked for my help, but for whatever it is worth, they would know I loved them, and thought of them even at the end.

It was almost lunch time.  I knew my wife, who was a driving instructor, had a student with a road test at lunch time, and she would be waiting in the Motor Vehicle branch playing games on her phone during the test.  She honestly ate terribly when she worked, and I was the same.  Too busy to look after ourselves when there was so much to do, and so many people to look after.

I called in an order to the Greek place, and brought a full feast to surprise her while she waited.  I let her know that I was just at the post office, and got hungry in lineup and figured since I was next door, I would just pop in and surprise her.  The fact she was that happy I did told me I should have done it more often, but somehow unimportant things were allowed to get in the way of what truly mattered in life.  It took a visit from death’s own mistress to remind me what was important in life.  Add that to the list of my mistakes, its a thick book already.

As her student pulled into the parking lot, she smiled and gave me a kiss, thanking me for lunch, before getting up to watch the student pull in.  You can tell a lot about how a road test went by how the student exits the car, and it was less embarrassing than asking the student how they did.  I packed up the remains of lunch and then reached out and gave my wife’s ass a loving squeeze.  She squeaked and smacked me, but her eyes were twinkling and her smile made it clear she was equal parts flattered, amused, and annoyed.  It was part of my job to be inappropriate enough to remind her that I didn’t just love her, but wanted her.  It should go without saying, but at the end, you worry about whether you said enough.

“Love you.”  I said as I left, and her grin let me know it was the right thing to say.

I felt kind of bad about leaving her to clean up the mess, knowing I was going to die sometime tonight.  I mean, that is going to really make her depressed around the house, with the memories of our lives being overlaid with the memories of my death.  I was thinking about it as I wended my way out of downtown traffic into the quiet residential zones.

I came up to the stop sign, and felt a spasm in my jaw.  I absently took my hand to work it out, but it spread to my neck.  The ache was pretty intense, and I went to take a deep breath to push through it when I realized my chest felt tight like a jottun had wrapped his fist around it.  Ah.  Well, at least I won’t be at home.

I cleared the intersection and pulled off.  It was getting hard to breathe, and I was sweating bullets. I pulled out my phone and laid it beside me on the car seat. Honestly, if this was a heart attack, it did feel just like the spasm’s I got all the time from various spinal, rib and other injuries, but having Hel drop by and let you know tonight is the night more or less argued this was the heart attack kind, not the just living with the damage  five decades of hard living left you with.

I watched the sun set over the river.  The fog rose like a dragon above the river, stealing the sight of the waves as the cold laid its hands upon the earth, forcing the light to retreat over the horizon.  I felt the cold seeping into my bones with a heaviness that I had never felt before.

I dialed 911, but left the handset where it rested.  I muttered my location, and said something bland about chest pain, but honestly, there was something strange about the pain.  It was growing worse, but pain and I were old friends, almost lovers, and the strangeness of this pain was worth paying attention to.

The pain grew stronger and stronger, but somehow…….it was losing its grip on me.  I saw my vision tunneling in, I cast my eyes upon the last splinters of sunlight, and watched the cold dragon of mist rising hungrily from the brooding river.  There are worse things to see at the end.

Yule is the dying time.  The gods call upon us to gather together, to wassail hard in the heart of the dark, to feast and make merry, to exchange gifts and renew the ties that bind us to this life.  The veil between the world of the living and the dead grows thin at Yule, the Wild Hunt rides the howling night winds, and the fires of our lives flicker and are so close to extinguishing that without those ties, many who should live, will allow their fires to burn out, and surrender to the cold.

The cold took me.  Hel was awaiting, but on my last day I reached out to those who mattered to me and showed them I cared.  Words are nice, but honestly I lived my life through working for those that I loved, so on my last day, I worked one last time for those I loved.  It was enough.

 

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Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

Dark Times, Dark choices.

 

Children tell each other there are monsters under the bed, and they lie.  We tell our children there are no monsters in the darkness, and we lie too.  There are monsters.  Winternights have passed, and the long decline towards Yule allows the darkness to ascend.  The Hulderfolk, trolls, draugr and other baleful wights no longer fear the sun, and stretch forth their grasping hands from the shadows.

Oldest and strongest of magics are those of hospitality, greatest of all is the simple magic of the hearth.  What is warmed by a hearth, what is touched by its fire, whose boundaries have been marked by it, is warded by that hearth.  House wights chuckle in the firelight and dance in the shadows.  Petty mischiefs are theirs, yet also great wardings and healings are worked by their tiny hands, grown strong from a thousand offerings of mirth and laughter, stolen socks and offered treats.  In the center stands the hearth, the heart of the home, the flame that calls to Frigg, the smoke that carries every whisper to the Disir, and the ashes that hold the answers to a thousand questions never asked.

Against the wardings of the hearth come the claws of the Hulderfolk, but they cannot pass, for although the long night is theirs, and the moonlight their dawn, the hearthfire will bar them as strongly as Sunna’s own sun.  Any save the monsters we make ourselves.

Clara was crying again.  She was a fine strong girl, proud, bright, but the last years before the divorce were hard and ugly.  Her father had been a smart, laughing proud man.  Everyone loved him; mostly because he wanted them to.  He was always good at getting what he wanted, and even better at making sure those who didn’t give him what he wanted regretted doing so.  The worst monsters Clara met wore the smiling faces of family.

Chelsea was not crying, because Mother’s didn’t get to cry when their children were.  Mother’s had to be strong, even when they had nothing left.  Chelsea had gotten them out, her daughter and two sons had been won free from her husband and his controlling cruelty.  When Dominic could no longer control her, he tried to take them away.  When that failed, he chose to make sure he had the last laugh.  He killed himself, and left a note detailing that she had driven him to it.

 

That wasn’t the end.  He began to haunt Clara’s dreams first, then the boys.  The boys became sullen and distant, Clara became addicted to coffee and energy drinks, trying anything to avoid having to go to sleep, because at night, he came.
The hearth will protect you from anything save what you invite in.  Clara and the boys loved their father, for all that Dominic could be cruel when he wanted to be, when he wanted you to love him, you did.  Even when he was cruel, you wanted so much to please him, to make him be happy with you again, so that he would smile at you again.  Chelsea remembered that well from when he was alive.  She struggled so hard to protect her family from Dominic when he was alive, how was she to protect them from him now that he was dead.

Sitting sipping her wine she looked at her tarot cards and remembered Dominic laughing at her, telling her that there were no answers there.  Nothing on a piece of paper that wasn’t money could make a real difference, and gods knows he proved himself right when her restraining orders proved to be worth more as toilet paper than protection.  She spread the cards and winced.

Reversed King of Swords

King of Swords reversed.  Dominic.  Cruelty and manipulation.  Fine.  She knew it was him already.  What was she supposed to do about it?  She spread three cards

 

Nine of Wands, High Priestess, Death.

 

Nine of wands, last stands.  High Priestess, that was as much her card as the King of Swords was Dominic’s.  It was supposed to be her call to her magical self, her intuition, her maternal ancestors and magic.  Now it just reminded her of her inability to protect her children.  She looked at the last card.  Death.  Death didn’t stop Dominic.  He came for them in the night dead, even worse than he did when he was alive.

 

Slamming her deck to the table she went to reach for her wine glass when two cards spilled face up unasked.

 

Ten of cups reversed, broken family, broken dreams.  That she knew already.  Ten of Swords reversed, can’t get any worse.  Trembling, she reached out to turn one last card over.  What she had was losing her family, and it could not get worse.  What could she get if she dared?

Six of Wands

Six of wands stared back at her.  Victory.  If she dared.

Around the beds of her sleeping children she poured the sea salt.  Ringed round with Ran’s salt, she knew no dead would dare cross those lines, for Ran is a jealous goddess, and those she drags down into the dark are hers forever.  No thing not living may touch the salt of her sea blood and not be bound forever to her lightless depths.

Dominic would react badly to being denied. Living or dead, he was not a man it was safe to say no to.  She sipped her wine.  Tonight there would be an ending.  She prepared for their last night together similar to how she prepared for her first night as his wife.  Showering and doing her makeup, she turned her right cheek to the mirror, and made sure she showed him exactly the beauty he loved to possess almost as much as he loved to show off.  Turning her left cheek, she nodded and moved to the hearth.

Before the fire she stripped, for what was to come was a thing of naked truths, and naked power.  Love, hate, desire, life and death were too pure to be masked by clothes or lies.  Tonight, was about final truths.

 

To the hearth she stalked, and knelt before the flickering firelight.  With her fingers she traced in the ash and worked carefully to mark left side as her instinct told her she must.  Turning to  place her right side in the firelight, she drew the last salt circle around herself.  Magnificent as any temple statue, she stood in bronze lit perfection awaiting the shadow that would come for her children.

Opening herself to the other world, letting her mind drift into magical awareness, she felt the cold power, the mocking cruelty of Dominic as he came.  The ashes of her desire stirred, as ten thousand inner wounds also shrieked as all he was and once had been to her answered the feel of him.  She raised her head, and posed, right side painted bronze perfection in the firelight as his darkness took form and crept to the children’s bedrooms.  First the boys, then Clara he sought, and she felt his rage, heard his hissing and the vile threats he whispered as he stalked to her.

Dark hunger shone in his coal black eyes, and the lewd slash of his lips moistened under a pale and lifeless tongue as he traced them in visible desire as he stalked slowly towards her.  His voice was ghost cold, it made her flesh tremble in the cold horror of its malice.

“You can’t hide them forever, you can’t keep them safe.  No one can.  I can come in whenever I want, and I will never stop coming for what is mine.  Them first to punish you, and then you when they are broken, because only then will you understand why you shouldn’t have angered me.”

Right side lit in firelight, she gave him the yielding smile he knew so well.  She always let him get his way, it was safer.  With a toe, she carefully broke the salt circle protecting her, and let him surge inside to take what he was owed.

As he surged into the ring of salt, his cold white hands reaching out, and black eyes drinking in the naked perfection of his perfect conquest, his perfect trophy, the woman he loved only so long as she submitted, he froze in confusion.

Turning to face him boldly not submissively, while her right half was bronze perfection, black ash marked off naked ribs on her chest, and fine powder rendered her left side corpse pale, her lips the dead blue of the dead.

Half maiden fair, half corpse foul, she did not shy from his reaching claws, but reached out and folded him in her embrace.  Her hands wrapping in the tendrils of darkness that replaced the hair on his shadowed form as her lips sought his with a whisper of her own words and cold hunger of her need.

Hel veiled

 

“I could never keep them safe so long as you could walk.  I could never keep you out so long as any love for you remained.  You used our love to destroy our home and our lives, so now I use that love to end you.  Take the kiss of Hel, feel now the embrace of the keeper of the dead.  One last kiss, dearest Dominic, to send you forever into the dark.”

There was too much hunger for him to resist her light, and there was too much darkness in him to resist the gateway she had made of her flesh to Hel.  The kiss tasted of salt, tears for what was perhaps, tears for what should have been.  He didn’t scream as she devoured him with that kiss, his final surrender was too complete for that.

Standing between the firelight and shadow, her maiden’s face wept tears of loss and regret.  She was a healer who had killed, a lover who had destroyed.  Her corpse face bore a cold smile of completion.  She was a mother whose children will no longer fear the night.  She was a priestess who had balanced unjust scales.

Crossing to the altar plate, she poured out a splash of wine.

“Frigg, great mother, thank you for your wisdom and strength.  Ran, dark mistress of the sea, I thank you for your protection.  Hel, keeper of the dead, I thank you for your power, your grace, and your aid in this night.”

When she left the showers for her bed, none but the goddesses could tell if tears had joined the water with which she washed away the last touch of her husband, and they keep their secrets.

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Death, Faith, Heathen, Uncategorized

Noir

A little Halloween story, a Samhain sampling, or a little Noir to colour the shadows this winterfinding.  This story is not mine, for it was born from myself and Kat Kerns.  Neither one of us is sure how much the story told itself, so neither one of us takes much credit for it.

How it began:

Soundly asleep then instantly awake, but not knowing why. The clock reads 2:00 am; the house is silent except for the ever present dripping of the leaky faucet in the bathroom. ‘Why am I awake’ I thought to myself. My mind was alert to every sound and shift of shadow, my heart beating quickly out of time but not afraid. Suddenly I realized I wasn’t alone, not that I could see anyone in the darkened room, but I could feel a presence… instead of racing faster my heart beat calmed.

I felt strangely safe even though I knew I shouldn’t. Who could be in my house, in my room, and why wasn’t I afraid? I sat up in bed and turned on the lamp on the night stand. Looking across my room I saw…

Bogart smoking                                                            *

I don’t know how long it had been this time.  When your dead, time doesn’t matter that much.  I got plugged back in ’32, that was OK.  You cross some lines you have to figure there’s going to be a cost.  A dame gets involved and suddenly you start breaking your own rules, people get hurt.  Dead hurt.  I fixed it back then; but not before the kid got caught up in it.  One innocent, and a whole bunch of mooks who probably had it coming.  Like I did.  Somebody was keeping score though, ’cause it didn’t end when I died.

It was 43 when I got brought back first I think……..that little wop kid getting a bum rap because he had the wrong accent when they needed to hang an ugly wrap that came from one of the country club set.  Last time was what 93, the old broad who thought she was losing it because she could see me.  She couldn’t see her kid putting the squeeze on her loot, or selling her meds on the street.

He took a long drag on his smoke, pulling it deep into his lungs.  The cherry on the end burned in the night like a red eye.  Ghost smoke into ghost lungs.  The broad on the bed turned and looked right at him, and turned on the light.  He put out the smoke on the wall, noting it didn’t leave a mark.  Ghost smokes don’t leave marks.  Neither did he.  Or at least, not enough to erase the mark he made when he was alive.

He waited for the screams to start, or looking at the bottle from last night to figure out where the ghost crawled out of.  He hated this part.  Funny how nobody wants to listen to the dead they called back.  It’s not like he chose to be here.  That’s a lie.  He smiled, cold and hard.  I made my choice a long time ago.  Every drinker knows, no matter what’s your poison, the bill comes due at the end of the night.  It’s a long night when you’re dead.

Time to find out what this dame’s story was.  He didn’t always get it right, sometimes they still died.  He didn’t know how many times he had to get it right before he would get to rest.  Not a lot else to do when your dead.  She didn’t seem to be screaming.  Maybe this one would listen long enough to stay alive.

*

The spectral man seemed to be waiting for me to do something… perhaps scream or faint, not sure. He seemed surprised when I just watched him calmly. He looked vaguely familiar, like I should know him from somewhere. Perhaps he simply reminded me of someone I knew once or something. I took a moment to asses him, he had all the marks of a hard life when he’d been alive; at least I assumed he did. Not knowing how death worked, I really couldn’t say. Part of me knew I should be freaking out or questioning my sanity, but for some reason the only thing the spirit inspired in me was a sense of safety and calm, I knew somehow that he wasn’t here to hurt me.

Perhaps it was his eyes that inspired that, they had the look of a man resigned to his fate tinged with a touch of sadness. He put on a strong front as he drew on a spectral cigarette before putting it out against my wall; I was more than a little bit relieved to see that it didn’t leave a burn mark. They were always so hard to remove, I’d learned that well enough from an ex boyfriend who had been nothing but trouble when we were together and for a time even more trouble when we broke up. I still don’t know what it was I saw in him to begin with; maybe it was the challenge of the bad boy that many women make the mistake of assuming they can change, or perhaps pure masochism on my part. Whatever it had been, it was bad from beginning to end and I was well quit of him. I decided to say something maybe find out what he was here for, I was sure the spirit had a reason for being here; he didn’t seem the type to just be wandering through randomly. It was like I knew that he had a message of some sort, or perhaps he simply needed my help.

“Um… hello?” I said hoping that we could actually communicate.

*

The broad wasn’t freaking out like most of them did.  Wasn’t just sitting their giggling like that twin in 73; she never got straight long enough from the junk she was on to realize what was up.  It wasn’t hard watching that one go.   I watched a lot of people go in the Great War, and a few when I came back and worked as a cop.  Only a few more when I started work as a private dick, but one of those was her.  Angie.  The one I screwed up. The reason I’m here.

This girl looked smart, he could work with that.  She didn’t look scared though.  That was bad.  He may not have figured out much about why he kept coming back, but he knew that he only came back for kids on the edge of getting whacked.  Innocents like Angie.  No bottle this time, and no blonde; no chance to screw it up.

Sometimes they got in deep with the wrong people.  Sometimes it was family, and that got real ugly.  Sometimes it was love; god knows love is what screwed him up bad enough to let Angie get killed.  Even dead, that one won’t let him go.

This girl didn’t have the look; didn’t look hunted or scared.  That was bad.  She had no idea what was coming for her, and couldn’t tell me.  I pulled my .45 and checked the clip; five rounds, always five.  It begins again the same.

The girl pulled the blanket up when I pulled my gat, but still didn’t look scared.  She should be.  I only had one chance to get it right, last chance was all I ever got.

Memory gets bad towards the end, the things you try not to bring with you.  I remember the endings.  The blonde comes again, when I lose, she spits on me.  When I win she kisses me.  Funny, when she kissed me for real, I lost it all.  I lost Angie.  The dark one comes, her I know.  Half her face rotted and rat chewed, like the guys the shells dug out and tossed back in the trenches, all swollen up and bursting.  Half her face pale, cold, and hard.  A smile like the cocked hammer of my .45.  Then the dark.  Always the dark.

I walked forward into the light, no shadows for me I guess, since I’m not much more than one myself.  It was time to talk.  Probably too late, I was usually too late.  Two rounds wasted one bottle and one girl gone.

“What’s your story kid?  Who wants you dead?”

I lit another cigarette and took a drag, the smoke pulled deep and held, as I looked for her response.  Surprise.  Huh.  Always hard when you didn’t see it coming.

“Nothing personal toots, but if you see me, you got maybe an hour before somebody gets dead.  And right now, the smart money is still on you.”

I blew a long trail of smoke into the lamp light, and I laughed gently.

“But I always bet the wrong way, and sometimes win”

My smile used to do the trick.  Calmed the guys in the trenches calmed the cops on the scene who were turning green over their first corpse.  It never worked on dames though.  Of course, I never got that part right.  Even dead.

***

Dead? Someone wanted me dead, and this spirit was here to warn me. The gun he’d pulled out had startled me a bit, but I still didn’t think he was here to hurt me, but asking me who wanted me dead, that was totally unexpected. To the best of my knowledge no one wanted me dead. I mean the only person I could even think of who might even be angry with me was Joey, I mean he did take the break up hard and I had to get a restraining order, but I couldn’t imagine him actually wanting me dead because of it… could I?

Well, there was no way to be sure, if this spirit was here to warn me of my impending potential death then I had best figure out what to do about it. From the sound of things, he felt there might be a chance for me to survive so I’d better work quickly. Did he know the nature of the threat; was it personal, could it be accidental? All I knew for sure was that I wasn’t about to just sit in bed and let it happen. My mother didn’t raise a fool; she made sure that if her baby girl got herself into trouble she was strong enough to get herself out of it. I nodded my understanding to the shade, and got out of bed. Moving to my dresser I started pulling clothes out, I wasn’t going to face whatever was coming in my freaking nightgown. I paused only momentarily to glance at the spirit, but than continued to get dressed. He’d mentioned an hour at most, now was no time for modesty. Fully dressed in a tee shirt and jeans, I pulled my hair back into a pony tail to keep it out of my face and moved to my closet. I found myself very glad that my parents had seen fit to teach me how to shoot as I opened the gun safe and took out my 9mm glock. For a moment I considered grabbing my fathers .357 magnum but I wanted something light just in case. Who knew what I was going to be up against. Speed and maneuverability might be my saving grace. I made sure it was loaded with a round chambered and put a couple of extra clips in my pocket just to be sure.

I decided to grab my hiking boots and put them on, who knew if I was going to need to make a run for it. I was still unnaturally calm through all of this; well maybe I would fall apart later if I made it through the rest of the night. Once again I turned to look at the spirit, harbinger of doom or saving angel, didn’t matter, I was going to take full advantage of this warning. I for one was not ready to die this night.

“Okay, now what?” I asked him.

*

She said she didn’t have a clue who would want her dead, but her eyes said she was lying. She picked up a cannon, and put it back in favor of some boxy piece that looked like someone took my .45 and squashed it down to half size. She stripped the clip and checked it, chambering and safing what looked like about a 9mm like she knew what she was doing.  This dame had her head straight.  I might save her, like I should have saved Angie.

“Hey toots, how about you roll up that sleeping bag in the closet, and put it under your covers like you was still asleep”

The closet was beside the door, anyone sitting in it would see the bed, but the door was out of sight. To get a shot at the bed, you would have to step around the walk in closet, with your back to it.

“Sit yourself here in the closet. I will let you know when somebody comes through the door.  If they start shooting at the bed, don’t blow smoke asking stupid questions, you plug them hard and fast until they drop. If they look like they are turning to face you, plug ’em again”

The kid looked green, like it was sinking in, but she checked the safety, and worked it to make sure it broke clean. Her face went flat, like newbie’s usually did, faking cool until they bought it themselves. I saw that a lot in the trenches, and on the force. Sometimes I saw it in the mirror, or the bottom of a bottle.

It must of been about twenty minutes, but the sweat off the girl showed she felt it like hours. I forget how much the waiting gets to you, when your dead, some things just get easier.

I heard the back door open. I slipped into the hall to see a young guy pull a key from the lock.  Huh.  He had a key. With dames it was usually the things they didn’t want to talk about that got them killed. It was usually the one they would swear could never hurt them, but they were trying real hard to get away from because their brain read things clearer than their heart.

He pulled a gat of his own. Some shiny chrome job bigger than my Colt 1911. Maybe he thought he was hunting bear, because that was a lot of gun for a sleeping broad.  Of course, it wasn’t going to be enough. Not this time. He ghosted back to the closet.

“Show time doll. One guy, one gun. Coming quiet. You don’t make a sound until he makes his play. Then you shoot.  Don’t talk, don’t think, and don’t die!”

I gave her the hard stare, if she was going to freeze, I had to know. You can’t tell sometimes, until the time comes, whose got the steel to finish, and whose going to fold… Her lips went white; her breathing got deep, but slowed down.  Her thumb slowly pushed the gun off safe. Well now.  I’ve seen worse. I winked at her, and faded back by the bed.

Her left hand gripped her necklace, some kind of half cross or upside down hammer. Her right was at shoulder height, ready to bring her piece down on target.

The jackass came through the door screaming. I cleared my piece, even thought I can’t touch the living. Reflex I guess. Any surprise he would have had was gone. He lowered that cannon and started to blast.

Five shots rang like trip hammers. Three sounded like shotgun blasts, the cannon jumping in jackasses hand like a scared rabbit. He put a hole about chest level in the woman shape under the covers, then another in the pillow beside where her head would lay, then at the top of her headboard.  Whatever that cannon was, he couldn’t control it, anymore than he could control his screaming. The last two shots were sharp cracks, as the muzzle flash from the doll’s little gun snapped out a sharp double tap, and jackass hit the floor.

“Nobody leaves me, you bitch!” Joey screamed as he came in the door. Unloading his Desert Eagle and his hate towards the girl who dared to leave him.  He blasted out three times before he felt something hit him, and he fell to the floor.

He struggled to roll over, and saw her. That little bitch!  The one who left him, the one who had the balls to send the Sheriffs to serve him at work with a restraining order, as if it was up to her when it was over.  His chest was cold, and his legs were weak, but he snarled as he raised his Eagle towards his woman, HIS woman, whatever anyone said.

Joey heard a cold voice say “Finish it sister, this kid isn’t stopping”.

Joey looked into those eyes that used to look at him with love, and the ones he taught to look at him with fear, but this time they were flat, cold, and looking back in the moonlight on either side of the glowing sights of her Glock. Two more shots rang out, and he heard his pistol hit the floor.  He couldn’t feel it.  He couldn’t feel anything.

“Joey” the dame said, and then started to cry.  Let the kid cry. She had earned it.  He felt the end coming, they were coming again.  They always did.

Joey came out of his body, and reached for his gun. You could do that if you hated enough. I did.

“This isn’t over” Joey sobbed as he picked up his gun, and raised it towards his loved/hated ex.  “This will never be over!”  he screamed.

“Hey bub” rang a cold voice, edged with cruelty
“You want to bet on that”

Noir gun

He spun to face the trench coated figure shining moonlight silver in the darkness, but thunder spoke, and a hammer took him in the knee.

“My gun can’t touch the living any more, but you should see what it does to the dead”

“You could have let it go buddy, you could have let her go and lived”

The gun spoke again, and Joey screamed.

“Both legs-you will never rise, never walk”

Twice more the gun spoke, and Joeys shoulders were slammed to the floor.

“Both arms-you will not raise them to another woman”

Joey started to beg now; he was almost out of time.  They both were.

The grim ghost looked down, his eyes shaded by his fedora. The muzzle of the .45 looked like a train tunnel, as the smoke from the first four rounds puffed like a dragon’s breath around its muzzle.

“And your head, because I’m tired of listening to you”

Joey faded into silence.  A roughly man shaped pool of silver in the darkness, without form, without movement, without hope.

“Your choice to be stupid, my choice who lives”

He looked at the locked slide on his pistol, and released it. Slapping its empty form back into its holster, he turned to face what was coming.  He lit a cigarette and sucked deep on it.  He knew what was coming, If he could have run, he would.  It hurt too much to remember, except at the end.

From the moonlight came her. Shining the blonde came. Angie’s mother. I wished I died this time first. Sometimes when I failed, I ate my gun before they came, and missed this part. Sometimes I wished I had failed at this point.  Five rounds, that’s all I had at the end.

Noir blond

She was smiling, the way she was when she fed me the spiked booze, and left me passed out while she handed her kid back over to the monster that paid for her, the one whose guys I took her from in the first place.

The kid’s grandmother paid me to track Angie down, and I did. Two knuckle draggers for hire had grabbed her and were holding her at a hotel.  Neither one was willing to face a drawn pistol for the money they were getting.  Bottom feeders, not the kind that came back from war, or came up through the gangs.

I brought her back to the mother. The blonde.  Her face was hard and cold when I brought her back, and she told Angie to go to her room while she made a phone call. I cooled my heels in the living room while she made the call. When she came back she was all smiles, and brought a drink. Her blouse was unbuttoned enough to really distract me, and I never turned down good booze.

I never had much luck with broads and none with ones as hot as this one.  I tried to play it cool, but my brain shut off as she ran her hands on my chest, and told me to finish my drink.

When I came to, I was passed out in the chair with a headache.  Angie was gone, her mother too.  I staggered to the girl’s room; it looked like a fight happened.  Angie was a fighter, she didn’t go easy.  I saw a button on the ground.  Her mothers.  Her mothers.

Played like a fool.  Her mother sold her, just like the last time.  Two mooks too scared to face me didn’t snatch the kid themselves, they got her drugged unconscious by her mother, only this time she used it on me.

Booze and broads, I never could turn them down, and this time a kid was paying. Angie.

I called the operator, gave them my old badge number, and got the last number called. Lassiter. Old man Lassiter.

Lassiter was old money, bought judges and congressmen out of petty cash, and was untouchable. We all knew about him, and the rumors about his tastes. Nobody ever linked him directly to the bodies; nobody ever looked that hard, or were warned off. Nobody ever went after him.

I rubbed my head and my eyes fell upon the bottle. Well, I guess I just proved I was a nobody, a real chump.

I cleared my pistol and blasted the bottle and glass. Two rounds out of seven spent.  Five left.

“Angie baby, I swear I’m going to get you back, Hell take anybody who gets in the way”

My Ford weaved all over the road as I shook off the Mickey Finn. I clipped a mirror on the gate post on the way in, and went through the shrubs on his pretty lawn.

I came up the stairs at a run, Colt in my fist.

Two guards were at the door and reached for me. Amateurs. I didn’t waste a bullet on either of them. I knocked mustache boy’s coconut off the door post, and pistol whipped the second mook.  I didn’t slow down. You crossed the wire at the run, and didn’t stop until you hit the opposite trench. Slow was dead. Dead was OK, but only after I finished. Only I after I saved Angie.

I hit the stairs at the run; there was a butler in a stupid costume. He clawed at a piece behind his back. The stupid suit made him slow, my .45 made him stop forever.  Four left.

Another stood at the top of the stairs, and got off two shots of his own. One hit my chest, I felt cold, but it wasn’t enough.  It threw off my aim, and my return splashed his throat into a red mess. Three left.

I came through the door, and there she was. Angie’s mom, her purse was grasped in her hand, and she shot a look at the bedroom door.  I heard a little girl screaming, and the wet slap of a man’s hand stopped it.  I put a bullet just above those sweet red lips. Couldn’t let her speak, they made a fool of me before, and I may already be too late.  Two left.

I hit the door, kicking beside the lock, not with my shoulders because the movies got it wrong.  My vision was starting to grey out, not a good sign. Did I have enough time?  I would have to.

Lassiter was kneeling over Angie. His pants were down, and he had his hands at her throat. I put a bullet in his spine, but the old bastard got up again.

I was on the ground, I didn’t notice falling.  It was cold, and my vision was graying out. Not good. The old bastard raised himself up, and reached for the girl again, I put my last round through is temple, and blew his brains all over the antique bed drapes.

I couldn’t move now.  I heard the screams of the mansion staff, heard soft sobbing from somewhere.

“I didn’t make it Angie, I let you down.  I swear I’ll make it right”

From the shadows of the bed came two figures, one was a horror, half her face bloated and rotten, half cold and beautiful.  Both her eyes were hungry as they looked at me. You see strange things at the end.  I looked away from her, and there she was, the blonde; Angie’s mom, the vision of beauty seemed to have gotten over the slug through the skull, and was smiling at me too.  I shut my eyes.  Some things I just couldn’t face.

“Mine” said the blonde.

“Not yet” said the two faced horror.

Hella

It was a mercy when the dark came. It never lasted, but I welcomed it at the end.

It was the new dame that shattered the memory. She turned to my specters as if she saw them too, and shouted two names

“Hella!”  She said raising her arm in salute to the dark one, her eyes unafraid as she took in the two faces of the cold dark.  The dark one nodded in return.

“Freya” she said saluting the blonde.  That wasn’t Angie’s mother’s name, but the blonde laughed and nodded in return.

This had never happened.  Not even I knew who they were; just that they came for me, at the end.  Nobody saw them but me.

Who was this girl, and how did she know his specters?

*

It was hard to think, standing over the body of her dead ex, but the shock of the killing was nothing compared to the coming of the goddesses. Hel was cold, her presence deep in ways that spoke of the mound, of eternity. Her coming swept away shock and fear, for hers was a presence that anchored deep in the roots of the earth, and beyond.

At her glance, the silver pool that was the sundered essence of her attempted killer sunk into the floor, and the slight smile on her face was like moonlight on a bared blade. The look she turned upon her defender, the trench-coat clad ghost was softer; if not kind, then at least understanding. When she looked at how her specter faced the keeper of the dead, she was shocked to see him flinch, not from the half-corpse grave-queen, but from the Goddess of Love.

Freya was hard to look upon, her light was bright, not as sunlight, but as fire; amber and gold. Her beauty was vibrant, wild and fierce; even still she had the quality of dance, as if she was but a frozen moment between frenzied steps.  Her gaze upon the ghost was warm. In those eyes shone understanding, love, and a fierce possessive desire. Not the desire of a lover, so much as the desire to possess, the need to have something discovered.

Her specter turned on trembling legs of ghost-silver away from the shining light of Freya, and towards the corpse-queen’s dark. At last Freya’s gaze fell upon her, and the goddess spoke.

“Kitten, would you know why he flees me? Would you know what he sees?”

I nodded; I could not speak under that gaze.

“Then see his memories, look at the things he won’t see. He has earned more than he allows himself. He has won more than the task he sets himself. There is a place for him in other halls than the mound”

Freya looked at the specter with sad eyes.

“For him I wear the face of she he first saved, but he sees only the mother. His generation had forgotten us, many won great worth, but even some of those were lost, and need a guide to find their way home”

Those last words fell upon me like a great weight. As her eyes met mine, I saw the visions that haunted, that trapped my specter. As he lay dying upon the ground, I saw a young girl, shining golden with the promise of beauty to come, rush to his side, and weeping, close his eyes. When the police came, she told them weeping, of his heroism. She heard the echo of a name….Angie.

He didn’t know! He had been condemning himself for generations for failing her, but he didn’t fail. He was not running from the woman he killed (she shuddered at the thought of a mother selling her child to that fate), but from the child he saved!

A gift for a gift she thought, looking at the bullet holes in her bed; she had been given the gift of life. She looked at her ghost, the haunted look in her haunts own eyes. She owed a life, and but how was she to pay it back. She looked at Hel, and for the living to meet that dread gaze was harder than looking down the barrel of her pistol at her former lover. Turning from the light, to face the silver shadow in the heart of the dark, Kat turned to face Hella.

As she met the gaze of the two faced queen, Hel turned the corpse face she showed the living. Staring at the corpse bloat, and milky eye of the keeper of the dead, Kat steeled herself and met Hel’s gaze.

“Great Hel, I beg a question”

Hel turned her maiden face to the hard faced ghost, fumbling to light a cigarette for whatever comfort it offered the dead. A soft smile touched the Keeper of Silence, and she asked a question in a voice that was soft as a lullaby.

“For the champion?”

Freed to speak when the Dread Queen turned to look at the smoking specter, Kat mumbled her assent.

“He is not mine to keep. He will not rest.  Those that are mine know rest, an end to strife, He flees to me, and I wrap him in my darkness, but always the call will come, and his guns and wrath, not my arms, will hold him.”

The Keeper of the Dead turned her corpse face to the living once more and spoke her last.

“He is not mine to keep.”

It was times like this the sagas had great words from inspired poets. Too bad she was standing in her closet in her pajamas, standing over a body, looking at two goddesses, and trying to save a ghost. Sadly, this did not make for poetry.

“Shit” said Kat.  She stripped the mag from her pistol, clearing and safing it. Checking the chamber was clear; she worked the slide lock and put down the empty gun.  It was time to finish things; she thought she heard sirens already.

Quick and dirty heathen 101 or ghost intervention.  It was now or never.

“A gift for a gift” she said. “I don’t have a lot of time, the police are coming, but there is something you need to know.”

*

The darkness was lapping around me now, the cold black promise of oblivion, the chance to forget. I could feel the blonde behind me, feel her calling to me. One day I might be weak enough to give in, I gave in once, and Angie died. I died too; but I couldn’t even get that right. I turned to the dark lady again, her smile was cold and hard as a drawn knife, she knew me, and she knew what came next. The cold, the silence………the call again.

“Shit”, the dame I saved had a mouth on her like a platoon sergeant, but she shot straight, and didn’t flinch, so I guess she was alright. She said she had something I needed to know, but she was wrong. Stuff only mattered to the living; it only mattered until you got the big one wrong, then you were screwed for life. Or death in my case. You screwed up the big one, you paid and paid, and even a bullet couldn’t get you out.

I smiled, the darkness was drawing back. The dark lady wanted me to listen, and I guess the kid earned a minute. Being dead, my time got cheaper than a plug nickel.

“You never remember the end” she said.

No kidding. I got played for a sucker, and Angie died. I got the broad that sold her and the fat cat who bought her. The torpedoes didn’t count; they were nothing, so was I.  I didn’t save Angie, and even if I got it right a few times, I failed when it counted, I failed when I died, because so did she.

The sirens were getting closer, the kid seemed desperate. She stepped away from her gun, and looked like she wanted to slap me. I get that a lot, or did when I had a body to slap.

“No, you idiot!”  Kid had a silver tongue alright. He chuckled, but the kid had her motor running and shifted gears like she had places to go.

“You died, but she didn’t.  The crying you heard was Angie, she lived. She was crying and closing your eyes when the police got there. That’s not her mother’s face you see behind you, that’s Angie when she grew up.”

The dark lady looked sad; her eyes were almost soft as she nodded. Eyes like that couldn’t lie; they never tried.  Death didn’t cheat; she was the one unbroken promise. He didn’t know much, but he knew that.

The sirens grew loud, as they did that night when he was fading out. He heard then from a child, what he heard now from the blonde, so beautiful it hurt, so bright she burned.

“You came back for me. I knew you would. You are a hero. There is a place for heroes.  My lady keeps it. You don’t have to go into the dark. You can come  again when you are called”

The kid seemed to understand.  I didn’t. I turned to her, because she played it straight so far, and I wasn’t trusting myself to think, not with her in front of me.

“Go with her.”  The dame was smiling and crying the way only dames could.
“Freya’s hall is for heroes and lovers”

I looked at the empty clip in my 45 and the spot the ghost died again and laughed.

“I ain’t a hero, doll face.  And if there is a bigger fool at love than me, I never met him”

My voice turned hard and cold, I knew how it played out. How it always played out.

“Out of bullets, out of time. Now the dark comes”

A golden laugh lit the darkness, and I felt the shiver run up my spine like the caresses you dream about, but never know. My gun grew heavy in my hand; I stripped the clip and counted. One, two, three…….seven? NO!  I wasted two, and since I died, I only had five left, like when I tried to save her. Seven slugs looked back at me, and I looked up to three smiles.

The kid was crying, the dark one nodded and turned away, and ……Angie took my arm. I felt a rush, like blood and fire pour through me, like a living man, like whiskey and a first kiss, and dawn after a night of war. I looked down at the ghost of my arm, and saw it fade.

***

Kat watched Hel turn away, and the amber tones of life fill the bone white hollows of the dead man’s face with life. Love hid behind walls of fear in his eyes, but wonder made him look at Angie, and see love shining back in return.

A gift for a gift, a life for a life.

Standing alone in a room with no ghosts and a single dead body, she heard the police come in and she began to laugh. This was actually going to be the easy part of her evening. Tears streaking her face, she sat back in the closet to wait. There had been enough truth for the evening. Her ghost prepped her for the coppers, and a little damsel in distress beat the hell out of telling the local flat-feet about goddesses and ghosts. Gods, now he had her talking like that. Next thing you knew, she would be smoking……

 

By Kat Kerns and John T Mainer

Previously published in

They Walk With Us

All proceeds donated to The Troth.

 

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