I tried to write a fairy tale, but must leave it half unwritten. No happily, simply an ever after.
My hand remembers hers and feels empty without it. My fingers curl upon empty air and stare sadly down on nothing.
The memory of the warmth of her neck treads like a ghost upon my forlorn lips.
My body walks with others, but my heart stays trapped within remembrances of her.
Where, but for an accident of time and space, there would be a ‘we’, there is now only a ‘me’, lingering half undone.
All of these and more I see clearly in my mind, but fear they are merely cheap keepsakes.
Stuffed into the scrapbook of my mind where I frantically try to keep them fresh
But I know as time goes by they’ll grow harder to see
Like snapshots left in the sun…soon to fade.
you keep busy. it doesn’t matter what you are doing. you just have to keep yourself busy, keep the mind occupied. make a lot of noise. scream inside of your head. whatever it takes, just so long as you drown out what your mind and your gut are trying to tell you. because you really don’t want to hear it. your heart starts pounding on the walls of its cage of ribs desperately trying to raise a ruckus. it covers its ears. screams “lalalalalalaaaaaaa” at the top of its lungs like a little kid that is trying to ignore some unpleasantry. you can’t let yourself think. you have to keep hammering the nails into those boards. sawing, sanding, shaping. keep building. keep moving forward. because if you let yourself stop, if you let your mind think and your gut knock the wind out of you, if for just a second you make your heart be still and shut up and listen to those tiny voices trying to nag their way to the forefront, you’ll be forced to look around and realize you’ve been busy constructing the kingdom of nothing.
and then where will you be?
if things seem dark
and you need a smile
you can say hello
and we can sit for a while
if things go wrong
and you need a friend
I would love to
hear you say hello again
if the clouds grow dark
and the world grows cold
you can smile at me
and my hand you’ll hold
although I know that
the odds are small
you can come back around
and be my All
Perhaps it’s me.
Perhaps I long for something that isn’t realistic. Perhaps I long to burn too fiercely and perhaps there’s not a woman out there willing to step into that flame. It can be intense and frightening, I realize. There’s two sides to that coin, after all, and my passion burns on both.
Or, perhaps, love and the fire that goes along with it is only ever intended to be a one way street. Perhaps only one of the two is meant to burn while the other merely enjoys the warmth. In my own experience, it has been either I am on fire and she isn’t or she is on fire and I am not. Never have the two met. And that is what I have been looking for. A kindred spirit, a kindred flame that wants to join her fire to mine so that we can burn brightly together.
But in the end, perhaps that’s the problem. I am just not meant to find that fiery vixen, full of passion wrapped in long legs and a beautiful smile. Perhaps I am meant to be the wandering soul, forever searching, yet never finding. The world needs those too right? I mean, who else is going to write the lovesick songs and poetry? Who else is going to cry out with words the pain that dwells within so that others, who are temporarily lost and hurting, can read them or hear them and realize they are not so terribly alone after all? Because there is someone else out there whose job that is. They are the poets of loneliness that will eternally scribe their pain for all to share. Yes, perhaps that is my purpose on this earth. That would explain why it always comes so hard and goes so easily.
However, I can’t allow myself to believe that. I have to believe she is out there, searching for me as fervently as I am searching for her. Perhaps she is holding her flame in her hand and looking up at the night sky and longing for her fire king to come and join her in that beautiful conflagration known as love. And perhaps, some day I will see her flame and recognize it as the twin of mine and I will smile and know the journey is over at last. And perhaps, I will still have time to feel like I have truly lived for once in my life as I burn with her.
I didn’t find love where I thought it lay but I can assure you that I will find it some day, some year. And then, finally, I will wrap myself around someone, strong, brave, and beautiful and the tears that fall from my face will be those of happiness instead of sadness. And every night spent alone and wondering will be long lost in the mists of time, and I will only regret that it took me so long to find her and that our time together won’t be as long as it could have been. But any minute, any second, with her will be precious and nothing will tear her from me until the moment I breathe my last with her name on my lips.
I will let the water of her love wash over me and I will feel renewal.
there will be nothing left for you to see.
no inkling of anything to do with me.
nothing here, nothing there,
there will be nothing for you anywhere.
you have made your choice,
so no more will my voice,
share a thing or a feeling,
or pour out of my being,
in heartfelt love or pain.
it will wash away with the rain.
in the dark when your heart gently weeps
at the things you denied but which it still keeps
close to itself, all alone does it cry,
asking, with mine, why why why?
something that shall never be answered,
by thought, by deed or even by word.
i can’t fight the enemy of the past
and finally at long last
i just have to let the thing
go and, hurt as it may, become nothing.
now i want a compression of time.
the months until i see you feel far too long.
then the days between will feel far too long.
then the hours between will feel far too long.
then the minutes, then the seconds.
in the weird physics of love
the seconds and the minutes
and the hours with you will feel far too short
and the days with you will feel far too short
and the months with you will feel far too short
and then i will want a decompression of time
or better yet for time to stand still
I am dying to touch you.
I am dying to read your skin like a blind man, with the tips of my fingers sliding over your naked body, as they take in the story of you. The nudity isn’t about sex. It’s about doing away with all the barriers between you and I and getting even closer than sex allows as we merge souls together. My touch will be the conduit through which we speak. The vastness of my emotions for you will be narrowed down to a fine point and, as I trace and caress, I imagine there will be invisible words emblazoned upon you by the fire that burns so sweetly. The words will shine brightly there and then fade into your skin and race to your heart and then you can know, finally and at long last, what the man touching you is feeling. If your breath is taken away, that’s okay. You took my breath away long ago. It feels like I am still holding it and waiting.
Waiting for just this moment, when I can finally lay there with you and read you with my touch.
i stumbled across a box once. it was just sitting there in the middle of nowhere. it was metal. it had a keyhole. lying on the ground next to it was a key. i took up the key and opened the box but it was empty. i picked up the box and turned it this way and that, examining it. on the bottom someone had written “i have a gift for you”. i doubted that meant me, but i did wonder who it was meant for. and perhaps that gift was already taken long ago and the box would remain empty. i had no way of knowing, but i determined to check the box every day. and so i did. and every day i opened it with a mixture of dread and excitement. and every day i was disappointed for the box remained empty. after a time i realized that the gift must have been taken long ago and that was why the box had been discarded there in the middle of nowhere. it must have made whoever found it very happy. i wondered what it was. i knew i would never find out, but curiosity had gripped me by then and would not let go. i assumed that i had just been too late because i would hate to think that the box had lied to me. perhaps it did, i thought, and i determined to throw the box away and let it torture someone else, but i could never bring myself to do it. and so i still check the box and i still feel the disappointment at finding it empty.
Yeah. This post is going to be different. It’s just me, my thoughts and some beer. Should be interesting. Or not. I could be really boring right now as I let my emotions guide my fingers and just type whatever comes out. Ever read a stream of consciousness post? Yes, you have. Probably didn’t realize it though. Damn near every one of mine have been that way. Even the ones that seem to make sense, or are sort of poetic. It works like this for me: I get a feeling inside of me, it builds up pressure, and like any other sort of pressure it needs to be released before things explode. So I sit down and write it out. Writing is the turning of that valve so that I don’t go mad from whatever it is that is eating at me at that particular time. And the blog is as good a place as any. Maybe someone will stumble across this place and say to his or her self “Wow. I feel just like that.” and maybe knowing there is another person with the same things going on will help them out. I damn sure don’t write this thing for the glory. But I love this place even so. It’s a good listener.
As a man, I often feel like I have to keep everything locked up inside. Like if I let anything out I feel ashamed. At least the sad parts. I’m not supposed to whine. I’m not supposed to hurt. I’m not supposed to let anyone or anything affect me, and I am damn sure not supposed to cry. I am sure that this stems from my country upbringing and my redneck father who seemed to be made of stone and anger, but was probably suffering under the same delusions he passed on to me. He just didn’t have an outlet beyond punching and drinking and holding a gun to his head. Somehow, someway, I was born with a passionate yet creative disposition. Way more cerebral than dear old dad. He never understood me. He didn’t understand how I could spend so many hours in my room drawing, reading and just THINKING. He thought if I wasn’t actively doing something out doors then I wasn’t doing shit. He really wasn’t a very good father at all and once he and my mom divorced I hardly ever saw him. He once told my mom that he didn’t come around because it hurt too much to see us. I realized something when I heard that. My dad wasn’t a tough guy at all. He was a big fat pussy. I figured out at that moment that in order to stay manly and avoid having anyone see you crack, you had to avoid anything that would make you want to crack.
So I did for years. I kept it all bottled up. On occasion I would let things slip. Not very often. I fell in love – or what I thought might be love – a couple times. They ended badly. Funny thing though. I was married twice and neither one of those times correspond to the times I was in love. Could explain my divorce rate. 2 for 2 baby. Batting a thousand. After all of the crap, I was way more successful locking myself up. Of course it didn’t hurt that no woman made me even remotely interested in opening up either. They were so interchangeable that they all merged in to some gooey gunk with a vaguely feminine shape. I didn’t give a rat’s ass about a one of them.
And they loved the shit out of me.
But things change and so did I. I started hating that. I hated not caring. I hated that I was just fucking someone just to be fucking someone. Because I was horny. I hated the fact that the less I seemed to give a shit the more they chased me. It just seemed wrong. I looked around and I saw couples that seemed happy, and many that I knew were really happy, and I kept asking myself why the fuck I couldn’t find that. What self-destructive tendency did I possess that kept me from that? What was stopping me from caring about these women? What magic formula was needed to make me feel something goddammit? I had no clue and I still don’t. I just knew that until I felt something what I was looking for wasn’t going to happen.
And then I met her.
Fuck me, but it was love at first sight. I know, I know. It’s a load of crap. All kinds of rationalizations can fly around explaining that shit and I’ve heard them all – a lot of them from her. But I just knew. There is absolutely no way I can explain it in words. I was struck with a certainty I hadn’t felt before.
It was exciting.
It was exhilarating.
It was heartbreaking.
It was terrifying.
It was mysterious.
It was life changing.
It made me strong.
It made me weak.
I say all of these things in the past tense but the truth of the matter is that it is still happening to me right now. I am somewhere in the story. I can’t tell you if it is the beginning, the middle or even the end. It could be anywhere along that path. Some days it feels like the beginning…like I am in a really fucking long foreword…other days it feels like I am on the last page and I am about to turn it and see The End. The only part I am sure of is that I intend to be the romantic lead and do all I can to win the heart of my lady love. I’m either going to fly to the highest heights or I am going to crash and burn. But if I do burn I am going to scorch the memory of me into her heart.
Thing is, she wants that too. She is uncertain of it, questioning, but I can’t answer that question for her. Only her heart can guide her to the point where the answers are. All I can do is shout and whistle “Hey! Over here!” and hope like hell she notices and turns in my direction. I’m probably trying too hard, but this is all new to me. She’s done things to me inside that I am not familiar with or comfortable with and so I am kind of flying blind. I try to retreat back into my tough guy persona, but there’s not much of it left. She’s cracked it all open like the shell of a hard boiled egg and left me exposed. So I go with it. I let her see what no one else has ever seen. A side of me that makes my friends say “Who the fuck are you?”. I hope she doesn’t feel guilty about that. Or pity. I want neither from her. If those are ultimately what motivates her then this whole exercise is useless. I want her to feel happy about it. Privileged. Impressed. And then I want her to fucking fall her ass in love with me. I want a happily ever after (filled with good times and bad times – I’m realistic). She struggles against herself. Resisting. First going one way, then another. This stems from her having pain of her own to deal with. A way more intense pain than anything I have had to deal with. She is not at fault for being wary. I understand it. I accept it and try to remain patient. I stand here and hold out my hand and offer her support and love. It’s all I can do at the moment and hopefully it will be enough in the end.
Nowadays it seems this sort of persistence makes one a fool. But wouldn’t it be more foolish to let something I have spent a lifetime searching for go too easily just because it’s difficult? I think so. I’m not going to be a pussy like my dad and avoid the risk of a heartbreak just to keep from being hurt. I am going to plow through and see this to the end, whether that end be bitter or sweet or some combination of the two. I’m not prepared to wait another 20 years to have someone pry my chest open like she did. I don’t have the time for that. I want this love that everyone else feels to be a part of my life while I am still young enough to enjoy it. I’m not sure what I am going to do should she decide not to reciprocate. Not a lot I can do really. Sink back into the oblivion of meaningless relationships, flounder around and hope like hell it doesn’t take another 20 years to fall madly in love with some dark eyed beauty.
So keep your fingers crossed for me. The road is under construction and it is going to be a bumpy ride but I am confident that a pretty smooth highway lies on just the other side. Then it will just be a red convertible, the wind in my hair and her pretty head on my shoulder. We’ll be driving down the road with laughter in our hearts and love on our mind. Watch us disappear into the sunset and become that couple that some other person looks at and thinks “Damn, I want that.”
There once was a boy who liked to wander. One day he wandered far, far away from his village. He passed through a forest he had explored many times and came upon a large field full of tall grass that bent in waves as the wind blew across it. It looked like a huge green ocean. He paused, uncertain. As far as his eye could see stretched the emerald expanse. In doubt, he began to turn back and go home when a small, white speck caught his eye. Curious, he decided to go explore this new mystery.
As he walked toward the speck and it grew larger and larger, he began to realize first, that it was a person and then secondly, that it was a girl. She had noticed his approach and stopped, staring at him as he made his way towards her. She wore a white dress that blew enticingly in the wind, fitfully showing her legs and then covering them back up. She didn’t seem in the least concerned with this as she made no motion to keep her dress under control. Her hair was brown and shined with brilliant highlights in the sun. Her eyes were dark, her lips full and welcoming.
The boy thought she was the most beautiful creature he had ever laid eyes on in his life.
As he approached her he slowed. She merely stood there watching him intently, as if to see what he would do next. He stopped and took in the beauty of her once more. He felt funny. His stomach flip-flopped and his heart seemed to be racing as if he had ran all the way from the forest. He wanted to speak to her but his mouth was dry and wouldn’t seem to open properly. Plus the wind was sure to catch all of his words and she would never hear them from this distance. He began to move in closer. As he walked towards her yet again, she seemed startled and raised her hand.
“Stop!”, she shouted, her voice oddly muffled sounding.
He thought perhaps it was the wind and moved another step. His head crashed into something he hadn’t seen a moment ago, and he fell backwards with a grunt. Holding his forehead in pain he looked up and saw a smudge in the air that he hadn’t seen before. As he gazed at it, it slowly disappeared and once more there seemed to be nothing but open space there.
“What was that?”, he asked the girl, who was giggling at him as if he were the most entertaining thing she had ever seen. He was slightly annoyed by her amusement at his misfortune, but he held it in.
Soon the girl stopped giggling enough to answer.
“I’m not really sure, to be honest. It’s a barrier of some sort. I call it The Glass, but it stays clean all the time no matter how much you smear it. Look.”
She wiped her hand across it and the trail of her touch followed behind. As they both sat and stared, the marks she had made slowly disappeared and it was all clear yet again. Amazing. But then a distressing thought took hold of the boy.
“Does it go forever?”
She shrugged. “No one knows. At least not anyone I have heard of. Perhaps.”
“Is there a way through it?”, he asked, reaching his hand out and pushing as hard as he could. The glass, while invisible was quite firm and didn’t budge an inch despite his best efforts. He withdrew his hand and watched as his print slowly disappeared. His heart sank in his chest. The girl seemed unperturbed by any of this which made his heart sink even further.
“We can still talk through it.”, she said, sitting down and arranging herself comfortably, and quite prettily, the boy thought to himself. Shrugging, he sat down and pulled up a piece of grass and stuck it in his mouth. It tasted horrible and he quickly spit it out. The girl giggled again.
“You are so funny”, she beamed at him, and her smile made the annoyance he had felt at being laughed at yet again disappear.
They talked and talked. The hours seemed to pass in minutes and before long the sky began to grow dark. Regretfully the boy said his goodbyes and they agreed to meet again there in three days time. The days passed slowly and painfully for the boy, but finally the day came and he met the girl at their spot. Over time, they met there again and again and their feelings for each other grew. The boy tossed over and over in his mind the idea of trying to find his way through the barrier, or over it, even under it. On days when he wasn’t to meet the girl he tried digging and digging but no matter how deep he went the barrier remained. He tried to throw things over it, but no matter how hard he threw, the object always bounced off the invisible, yet infuriatingly real, barrier that stood between him and her. Discouraged again and again he would turn away, determined to try again another day until he figured it out.
One day, he arrived at the appointed time but the girl wasn’t there. All that was in her place was a piece of paper fluttering in the wind. On that paper were written the words “I’m sorry.” And that is all it said. Confused and heartbroken the boy returned again and again to the spot hoping the girl would return.
But she never did
Once upon a time in a land far, far away there lived a precocious girl. She lived in a beautiful valley and her family was happy to till the soil.
But, the girl was not happy. She wanted more out of life. She wanted to know what lay beyond in the next valley, she wanted to know what life was like in the cities she had heard of.
What lay beyond the beautiful purple, snow crested mountains she could see off in the distance. She felt the call of adventure.
A life spent living on the farm, no matter how happy seemed to wilt her soul. She went about her duties but her head was off in the distance. She could stand it no longer.
So one day she decided to go off on a small adventure. After all, she didn’t want to jump right in. She had to learn a few things.
There was a forest bordering one edge of the valley in which she lived. It was a dark and foreboding looking forest that her mother nad father had warned her away from.
The tales told of many who had entered the forest never to return, but that only added to the intrigue and her curiosity. So she packed up some food and things and that night she snuck off to explore.
So off she went, at first full of vigor but after a time it began to dawn on her that the forest was much further away than it looked. The pack grew heavy and her steps began to slow, but the forest did not seem any closer than it was.
Just as it seemed she couldn’t take another step, she looked up and the forest surrounded her, just as deep, dark and foreboding as the tales spoke of.
She looked behind her but the forest closed in all around. How was that possible? She hadn’t taken more than three or four steps into the trees surely. In a panic she began to retrace her steps but then realized that she did not know which direction that would be and any footsteps she surely should have made were gone. Plus, it was growing dark. Too dark to see. If she wandered too far she would surely be lost. Best to just make camp and wait for the morning light.
That was when she saw the light.
It shimmered through the trees, the branches breaking it up into spears of brilliance that blinded her. She held her hand up to shield her eyes, trying to desperately locate the source. She stood still, not sure whether to turn and run or to hope the light would lead her to safety and far away from the forest and the adventure she had so desperately desired just a short time before.
With nothing else to lose she summoned up her courage and headed towards the light. She gripped her bag and began to creep quietly towards the light.
She passed gnarled trees that made her imagine monsters reaching out to grab her in their withered limbs and eat her up. She would be another of those told in the tales that would never return. Unless the light held her salvation.
But the light seemed to not be getting any closer. It almost seemed as if it were teasing her, leading her on a merry chase. Well, it didn’t make her feel merry in the least. She was tired, hungry, frightened and growing angrier by the second.
So intent on the light was she, so angry, that she almost missed the fact that she had stumbled into a small clearing among the trees. The light, while still keeping its distance seemed to have stopped and hovered just past the far side of the clearing, giving her light to see by.
A great big man hovered over her…reaching out to her. She turned to run headlong into the forest, forgetting about being lost, scared, tired or hungry, but she stumbled and landed hard on her backside with a tooth rattling jar. Stunned she sat there trying to catch her breath, expecting any moment to be snatched up by the leering stranger above her.
She looked up at him, eyes large, and realized he hadn’t moved. Why, it was just a silly old statue! A great wave of relief rushed out of her and she began to laugh so hard her sides began to hurt almost as much as her rump.
Finally catching her breath and sitting up she noticed her statue friend wasn’t the only one about. The clearing was scattered with them. All in different poses. Men and women, young and old…even some forest creatures. Some appeared newer than others. Many, like her friend, had moss hanging off them in clumps that added to their frightening appearance.
She wandered around, marveling at the realism and wondered why such a good sculptor would bother doing all this work in the middle of nowhere like this. Seemed silly and wasteful. Whoever it was, was really very good she thought.
But then she noticed the bushes.
They were full of large, delicious, juicy looking berries. Her mouth watered and her stomach growled. Throwing down her bag, she went to the nearest bush, bunched up her shirt like a basket and began to pluck the berries and put them into their cradle as fast as she could.
She intended to wash them off with the water from her canteen first, but she decided she couldn’t wait any longer and began to pop one in her mouth.
NO! cried a voice, so loud and thunderous she let go of her shirt and dropped every one into the dirt. The one she held in her hand glistened in the light so tantalizingly close she could see the night dew on its surface. Not daring to move at all, she simply turned her eyes in their sockets, trying to catch a glimpse of whoever it was that had stopped her shy of her feast.
As she stood there straining with all her senses but terrified to move, she heard heavy footsteps approach her from behind. She felt the rustle of air as whoever it was got up close behind her…she sensed it was a rather large person.
Suddenly a hand reached over and plucked the last berry from her hand and threw it on the ground.
“You are in the Grove of the Unfortunates.”, the voice growled, sounding vaguely off in a way she couldn’t quite place. “These statues you see around you are not statues at all, but those unfortunate enough to have tasted these berries. The berries have a sweet flavor that is irresistible, but the sweetness hides within it a poison that…well does that.” A hand gestured towards the silent audience around them.
Wait…was that hand…metal?
No longer able to contain her curiosity and forgetting her fear she turned.
She didn’t quite know what it was she was looking at. It had the shape and features of a man, but made all of metal. She heard a faint whizzing, clicking and humming coming from within him as he stood there and looked at her impassively. Perhaps it was armor or it hid a hideous visage.
The figure stood there a moment more studying her, hands clasped calmly in front of him, arms half hidden beneath the cloak that covered most of his body. Over the metal of his body he wore clothing, so she guessed it might not be armor after all. But if it wasn’t armor, then was it…his body?
Bowing with a flourish, the man said “Allow me to introduce myself. I am the Clockwork Man. You could say I guard these forests, although under present circumstances one would have to say I guard them rather poorly.” Again he gestured towards those unfortunate souls.
He gripped her hand lightly and raised it to where his mouth was, although she felt no kiss upon it.
“And you are?”
She managed to mumble her name.
“Excellent. I have a castle nearby that you could shelter in for the night if you so desire.”
Not really having better options she agreed. The Clockwork Man turned and made a gesture at the light which disappeared instantly. He turned back to her. “Will O’ the Wisp” he explained. “Leads people to the berries. When I saw its light I knew I had better get here quickly.” She thanked him and he offered an arm. She took it and they headed off into the forest.
Curiously, she felt safe with this strange metal man. As they walked, she became aware of the night breeze and the smells of the forest. The moon peeked through at intervals and there were all manner of peeps, chirps and songs. It felt peaceful.
But, the metal man seemed to take no notice of all the beauty surrounding them. In fact, if he weren’t a clockwork fellow, she would have sworn he was sad. Can a clockwork man feel sad? Can he feel anything at all, she wondered.
“So, do you live all alone in this castle of yours?” she asked, finally brave enough to try to strike up a conversation.
“Yes,” he said.
“For how long?”
“I have lost count of the time that has passed. A solitary existence lends itself to all time becoming muddled. No reason to count days; nothing to look forward to.”
“Oh don’t despair for me, for I am made all of metal. I feel nothing…although I do wonder at times…what that would be like….feeling.”
“Were you always alone in your castle?”
“There were others, once, yes. But they all….went away. I don’t know where they went, or why. Just one by one, those with me became less and less until no one was left but me.”
She was about to ask another question, becoming more intrigued with every answer, but then a raindrop splattered into the dust in front of her, then another, and another. Random and not very many, but the effect on the Clockwork Man was like lightning had struck.
Without a word he swept her up into his arms and raced off. He carried her as if she weighed nothing and he ran with speed, grace and agility.
Confused and breathless she could do nothing but wrap her arms around his neck and bury her face into his cloak. Despite being made of metal, he felt warm and his cloak had a pleasant smell, faint and clean. The rain began to build up in tempo and as it did the Clockwork Man seemed to run with more urgency.
Suddenly it felt as if they were beginning to rise and his cadence got a bit more choppy and her head bumped against his shoulder. Looking up she saw that they were running up a wide flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs, across a wide stone porch, were two huge, beautifully ornate wooden doors. The Clockwork Man did not slow his headlong flight towards them and for a moment she feared they would slam full speed right into them, but at that moment they began to swing open and then they were through and into the castle.
And just as suddenly as he had swept her up, he stopped and put her down without a word, then removed his cloak and hung it on a hook by the door. Still a bit frazzled from her sudden flight from the rain she could only stand there, wide eyed for a moment.
Finally she gathered herself and asked, “What was that all about?”
If it were possible for a Clockwork Man to look sheepish, he did so now.
“I rust if I get too wet.”
“Yes. Straight through. I would cease to function.”
“You mean, you would die?”
“I suppose that would be the proper term.”
She looked about the foyer. It had high ceilings, with ornate carvings and beautiful paintings. An open arch led off down a hallway that seemed to stretch into infinity. The floors were made of some sort of stone that was polished to a shine that reflected the room into an upside down smudgy opposite.
“This is a very beautiful place.”, she said.
“Thank you.” He held out a hand. “Come, let me show you around and then get you settled in.”
She gathered up her belongings, gripped his hand and they set off.
The castle, while beautiful and full of many amazing things, was for all of that pretty much just like other castles. Lots of rooms and hallways, statues and paintings. She was beginning to get very tired and wanting that bed he had promised when he came to a small nondescript door set in an alcove. The door stood out because of it’s very plainness.
The Clockwork Man took out a large golden key and unlocked the door. From outside the door, she only saw a grubby little room, and she wondered why he was bothering to show her the broom closet. He stepped in and turned back to look at her, saying nothing but waiting expectantly.
Anxious to get what she hoped was the last stop on this tour over with, she stepped through the door.
The room she expected to step into disappeared as she crossed the threshold and she found herself inside an incredibly tall and wide room that held rows and rows of bottles and books and pictures. The room and its contents glowed and shimmered with all manner of incredible colors.
Breathless, she asked, “What is this place?”
“This room holds all of the things that are taken for granted in this world.” He reached for a nearby bottle. “This one, for instance, holds the dawn that is never truly appreciated.”
She looked into the bottle. The beauty inside was almost too much for her to take in. “But I have sat and watched the sun rise appreciably many times.”
“Yes, but did you truly appreciate what you were seeing. Beyond the beauty of the moment did you appreciate everything that was happening even beyond your senses, beyond what you could see or smell, taste or feel? Did it make you realize how small the world you live on truly is in comparison to the vastness of the sky or the galaxy?”
“To enjoy the beauty of something is to enjoy every aspect of its existence. How it came to be, what brought you there with it at that exact moment, and to appreciate it long after your short stay together.”
She studied the beauty encased before her, tears glistening in her eyes. So much she had missed and never realized it.
Then a yawn escaped her suddenly and her eyes felt like lead and she realized she was so very, very tired.
The room began to swim around her and she swayed woozily. The Clockwork Man once again swept her up into his arms, though she was barely aware of this. She was conscious of leaving the room and tried to protest, but she only yawned again.
Through heavy lidded eyes she observed that she was being carried down a hall and into a room. Softness enclosed her head as it rested on a pillow, followed quickly by warmth as the Clockwork Man covered her with blankets and quilts. And then after that she drifted off into the land of dreams.
She awoke to the sounds of birds chirping merrily outside her window just as they did for her every morning at her house. The sun shined brightly in her face just as it did every morning through the window in her room. The blankets and pillow felt just as rough and the mattress just as uncomfortable as it did when she lay in her bed. Foggy still from sleep, she stretched and turned, and then suddenly sat straight up.
In her bed. At home.
For days, she moped around. Her parents seemed concerned but they hadn’t questioned where she’d been. It was as if they didn’t even know she had left. She attempted to return to the place in the forest several times, but couldn’t find it. Each time she returned the forest just seemed a normal forest.
She was ready to give up, but she felt she had to give it at least one more try. So once more she set off. Once more she got to the forest. She stopped at its edge. Fear of disappointment keeping her from going any further. Finally she screwed up her courage and stepped in hesitantly.
She stepped in a little further. Still nothing. She looked behind her and could clearly see the edge of the valley through the trees. Sadly she sat down against an old gnarly oak and began to cry.
A tiny gruff voice startled her out of her self-pity. “Why you cry little girl?” She looked over her shoulder and saw a tiny ugly man standing there. He had on dirty little clothes and his shirt barely held in a fat belly. His orange beard surrounded a mouth full of nasty teeth that smiled at her from beneath a pointy wart covered nose. He had a pointy grime covered hat pulled down to his bushy eyebrows. His eyes twinkled as he looked her over.
“You too pretty for cryin’. Pretty girl shouldn’t cry. Why you sad, pretty girl?” His questions came out in a quick staccato and every time he asked he switched around from one shoulder to another and then with the last question he landed in front of her, legs spread, hands on his knees as he squatted there. His face even with hers as she sat by the tree.
A light seemed to dawn in the tiny man’s eyes. “Ahhh…I know why you cry. You look for windup man. Tinky-tink. Tinky-tink.” He crooked his arms and strutted around in a stiff fashion. He didn’t move anything at all like the Clockwork Man she thought.
But, he seemed to know why she was here. “Yes I am,” she said. “Can you help me find him? I would very much like to talk with him again.”
He beamed at her and puffed out his chest. “Ohhh yes, ohh yes, pretty girl, I can take you right to him. Take you now. Follow. Follow. I will take you right to tinky-tink man.”
He took off like a shot into the underbrush. She scrambled to her feet but she had already lost sight of him. His head popped up a short distance away. “You slow pretty girl. Slow. Slow. You want tinky-tink man, you better get a move on. He may find another pretty-pretty before you get there.” Then he took off again.
She managed to keep up for the most part, but the strange little man still had to stop and chastise her from time to time. Just when she thought her lungs would burst, she came across him, lying atop a moss covered boulder, facing away from her and peering through a bush.
She dropped down beside the boulder, completely winded. The strange little man looked at her with his crooked grin and sparkly eyes and pointed through the bush. “Therrrrre pretty girl, there is your tinky-tink man. He wait for you, he does. He wait for you long time. Yes, yes.”
Wondering slightly how this dirty little creature could possibly know anything about the mysterious Clockwork Man, she peered through the bush. She saw him standing there, his back was turned to her, but she recognized the cloak. He stood still atop a slight rise that gave him a clear view out of the forest and he appeared to be gazing off into the distance.
Slowly she made her way up the rise, loose dirt and rock making her slip and slide a little from time to time. She made such a racket, but he hadn’t seemed to notice as he hadn’t turned around. Finally she stood next to him. He still hadn’t turned.
“I’ve come back. I wanted to see you again.” Still he stood looking away, the cloak hiding his features. He didn’t answer her. Behind her she heard a tiny gleeful little laugh and the scamper of tiny feet but when she turned to look all she saw was a quiver of a bush.
She turned back to the Clockwork Man. “Please don’t be cross. I am sorry if my return is unexpected or wrong somehow. I didn’t think you’d mind.” She reached out to touch his arm.
The Clockwork Man collapsed into a heap beneath the cloak with a huge clatter. She realized it hadn’t been the Clockwork Man at all. Crossly she turned around to see if she could spot the dirty tiny little man. She found him immediately.
But he wasn’t tiny anymore. He was almost as tall as the trees and he slavered hungrily as he glared at her. His smile was still in place but his teeth were now sharp daggers dripping with saliva. He was naked and covered with the same orange hair all over his body as he had on his head.
He reached for her but she managed to dodge his grasp. He reached for her again and she backed away to the edge of the rise. Risking a quick look behind her she saw that it wasn’t so very far down and jumped. She landed with a whoosh of breath and rolled roughly into a tree. She lay there stunned. The now giant dirty creature made his way around the rise, the ground shaking as he came closer and closer.
With a roar and a flapping of his cloak, the real Clockwork Man flew out of nowhere, plowing into the giant’s belly with the force of a locomotive. The giant let out a groan but seemed to take the blow in stride. He swung a huge hairy arm at the Clockwork Man and sent him flying into the rocky side of the rise. The Clockwork Man rose and attacked the giant again.
As they fought she could only lie there helplessly still unable to gather her wits entirely. Her head ached from the blow of the tree. The two combatants swirled around her, raining fierce blows upon each other. Finally the Clockwork Man picked up a large branch fallen from a tree and drove its sharp end into the giant’s chest. The giant bellowed and ripped the log out with a spray of gooey ichor then disappeared off into the forest.
The Clockwork Man came over to where she lay and touched her forehead gently, where a cut bled freely. “You are damaged.”, he said. She looked back at him and noticed that his chest plate had been dented and a corner was slightly peeled back. From within came a soft golden glow. “So are you.” she said, touching his chest.
Ignoring her, he helped her to her feet. She swayed a bit and he reached out to carry her but she stopped him. “No I am going to walk. I’m fine, just a little woozy, but it will pass.” Shrugging and stepping back he turned and swept out an arm. “This way then.”
They walked for a while, talking of this and that, just enjoying the day and the hike, and before they knew it they had arrived at the castle. The Clockwork Man took care of her wound then disappeared for a bit. When he returned his chest place looked as good as new.
“I was surprised to find you had returned, but I am glad that you did”, he said.
“I had such a short stay here last time that I didn’t really get to know much about this place. Or you.”, she replied.
“I understand. Perhaps you can stay longer this time.”
“Well, my folks would worry if I stayed too long, but I do hope for a longer visit, and to be able to return.”
“Time has no meaning when you are here with me, it stands still. To the outside world it is as if you have just left.”
And so she stayed. Together they roamed the castle and the forest and he showed her such magical delights. It seemed as if every day there was something new that they could explore together. One day, she noticed something different about his face. “Are you…smiling?” she asked him.
“I can rearrange my features, I thought this would please you.”
“Well, you are correct sir. I like it very much”, she giggled.
It was a silly smile, but she liked it when he looked at her with it.
One night, restless, she roamed the halls looking for the Clockwork Man. She found him sitting in a workroom, his chest plate open. He was fiddling with something inside. Hearing her enter, he quickly closed it, but not until she had noticed that the strange golden glow she had seen days before had grown stronger and brighter.
She didn’t ask, he didn’t tell and she forgot about it as they sat up late into the night talking. The days seemed to fly by. Some times they danced, sometimes they just sat quietly and stared at the stars.
But even though he had put a smile on for her she sensed there was still a lingering sadness to him. Of course that couldn’t be as he had told her time and time again he was incapable of feeling, but she sensed it was there nonetheless.
One day after storm clouds had gathered overhead and ruined their planned picnic, the Clockwork Man had disappeared off into the depths of his castle. She had been reading, but must have dozed off. The rumble of thunder had awakened her.
On the table next to her sat a note and two objects. One was large and golden, the other was the key she had seen him pull out of his vest on so many occasions. She took up the note and began to read.
I have spent countless time alone in my castle. Time spent with an emptiness in me that I had no awareness of…until the time I met you. At that moment, something began in me that I had no words for. I sent you away where I thought you wanted to be, but you ran through my thoughts like an endless dream. And when you came back, and over the days we have shared together, what began in me when first we met grew and grew. And finally I understood. I felt.
But with those feelings came another discovery. Feelings are a two edged sword that can send you to heights unimaginable or plunge you to the darkest depths. The thought of you made me happy; the thought of losing you made me sad. And I realized that there was no option but to lose you for I am a machine and you are human. We could never be.
On the table you will find two objects. One is the key to this castle. It is yours to do with as you wish. It will always guide you here safely and without fail.
The other object has been growing inside of my chest almost from the day we met. I suppose you could call it a heart, but I can function fine without it. I have no need for it, so it is yours. It is gold so it can make you wealthy. You and your family should never want for anything again.
I owe you so much more than these can pay, for you gave me the priceless gift of awakening.
I ask nothing from you in return save that you perhaps spare a kind thought for me from time to time.
The Clockwork Man
As she finished the note and looked down at the heart and the key, thunder rumbled yet again and she heard the splash of rain against the window. Her eyes grew wide and she dashed out of the room calling for him. She ran throughout the castle shouting his name, hoping against hope that he would answer her, but the only reply she got was the echo of her frightened and panicky voice.
A sudden realization dawned on her. She returned to the drawing room and swept up the key then flew out into the night, the rain immediately soaking her skin.
She grasped the key and pictured the grove and found the path clearly in her mind. The rain plastered her hair and ran into her eyes, it pressed her dress down into a heavy weight that slowed her movements but she kept on.
Soon she was at the grove. She could barely see through the rain but she raced around peering at each and every statue that she could find. A bright light pierced through the gale and she saw the will o’ the wisp had returned. It was different this time. Closer. She moved towards it, expecting it to move but it stayed motionless.
The Clockwork Man was sitting on what appeared to be a throne made from the trunk of a fallen tree. He sat there motionless, his head down somewhat. Rain ran in rivulets off of his body, washing away bits of the rust that had already formed on him. From this throne he would keep eternal vigil over the rest of the grove.
As king of the unfortunates.
Once upon a time in a land anywhere you want it to be there lived a queen. Her kingdom was all of ice and cold and desolate. But she was happy.
Or at least, she thought she was. Over time a vague sense of incompleteness began to over take her. At first, it was a tiny tickle in her spirit, but it seemed to grow with every waking moment.
One day, a visitor to her court was announced with the solemn blare of trumpets and pomp. As the Ice Queen waited on her throne the doors slowly opened and in swept a man of Fire.
He was unlike any man she had ever seen. All of the men of her kingdom were as she was, cold and pale, but this man was colorful and burned with the flame of life. He strode purposefully up to her throne and without so much as a bow introduce himself as the Fire King.
He said he had heard of the beautiful yet cold Ice Queen who lived way up high in her mountain castle, distant and haughty, cold and aloof and he had thought to see if she would be interested in an alliance.
Although outwardly the Ice Queen maintained her composure, inwardly she realized that she now knew what exactly had been troubling her all this time. She was the ruler of all she surveyed but yet, she was alone. And lonely. And this man, this Fire King, also a ruler, one who could know of this loneliness had made her realize this simply by his appearance.
So with all the regalness she could muster, she agreed to begin negotiations with this Fire King to join their two countries in an alliance. She bade him follow her to the negotiation chamber and with advisors in tow they began to hash out the terms.
During the course of this, their skin innocently brushed, one against the other, and a bit of steam let loose from this touch. Each gasped and drew back in pain. The advisors stared in horror.
“Your King has hurt my Queen!” the Ice Queens advisor accused.
“Nay, your Queen has hurt my King!” the Fire Kings advisor countered.
To each’s horror they realized that this alliance could never be, for the alliance that the Fire King had proposed was one of marriage, and if a minor touch brought each one pain then there could be no hope of more.
With a heavy sadness they parted.
Time went by and the memory of the pain dulled somewhat but the Ice Queen found her thoughts constantly returning to the Fire King. Other suitors began to arrive. Ones more fitting of her nature, and for awhile she entertained thoughts of accepting one of their proposals. After all, the kingdom needed an heir. Perhaps, over time, she could feel what she felt for that too brief moment between when the Fire King’s hand had lightly brushed hers and the pain that followed.
But she realized that would be a lie. There was only one for her. But what to do? They could never be together without causing each other pain. Furious, she turned away all suitors and shut herself away in her tower.
She shut herself away for so long that the kingdom began to suffer, but she no longer cared. She gave power to her viceroy and simply sat in her room staring out of her tower window and thinking of fire and warmth.
One night, just after she had turned away from her window with a sigh and prepared to fall into troubled sleep one more night she hard a noise behind her.
There stood the Fire King.
He looked a fright. Disheveled and forlorn, but to her he looked as beautiful as the day they had met. Her thoughts turned to her own appearance. Oh, how dreadful she must look, she thought. He didn’t seem to care. He approached her, timidly at first, then with bolder steps as he closed.
“My love, I could not stand to stay away from you any longer. I am willing to risk any pain just for one sweet kiss from your lips.”
He held out his arms and not even conscious of what she was doing she folded herself into them and pressed her lips against his. Yes, there was pain, but also a sweetness that she had never felt before in her life. As their lips met over and over again, slowly, painfully, yet so exquisitely, they joined and evaporated into steam. The steam swirled together, and if anyone had been in the room, they would have heard the sound of laughter and joy as the steam flew out of the window and into the night.