cheyenne

This week’s post is based on the following lyrics from Beaches of Cheyenne by Garth Brooks:

“Nobody can explain it, some say she’s still alive.  They’d even claim they’ve seen her on the shoreline at night.”

…..

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His glass slipped on the counter ever so slightly, drifting in the pool of condensation as the humidity and cold glass worked their science.  He caught it before it could slide to the edge and moved it to a coaster.  With a heavy sigh he leaned away from the bar and closed his eyes.  Tired.  That’s all it was.  He rubbed his eyes and then leaned forward to cradle his glass for a moment before downing its contents in two large gulps.

Sam came over and replaced the beer with a fresh one.  “You look more haggardly than normal, everything okay?”

“I saw her again,” he mumbled in response, his eyes lost in the swirls of the amber liquid.

He’d told Sam about the woman before.  He’d seen her a few times, late at night while working the docks, walking along the shore, walking on the surface of the water, and had mentioned it to Sam after he’d had a few drinks one night after his shift.  He’d expected to be laughed at but had felt compelled to share the story anyway.  Perhaps he’d thought that getting it out In the open and having it be ridiculed would help him shake it from his mind.  It hadn’t worked.

Sam had believed him and had heard about the woman from other workers before.  Plus, he kept seeing her.  Kept watching her walk along the shoreline, impossibly striding across the breakers, only to disappear.  It proved impossible to doubt it.  He knew what he was seeing was real.  It was some kind of real he didn’t understand but real all the same.

Sam placed his elbows on the bar and leaned close so they could confer without being heard.  “She see you?”

“Nah.  She’s too far away to take any notice of me.”

“Some of the stories I’ve heard say that she’ll talk to you if she keeps letting herself be seen.”

“How can that be, Sam?”

“Some say she’s still alive, somehow.  Whatever she is.  She can do impossible things.”

He took a drink, not wanting to go down this rabbit hole of a conversation again.  It let to too many damn questions.  Who was she?  Why was she out there?  How could she do what she did?  Why was he able to see her when so many others couldn’t or didn’t?  And what did it all mean?  No.  He’d climbed down into that hole of unanswerable questions before and had no interest in doing so again.

Though, taking another drink, he found himself wondering what her voice sounded like.

Cursing under his breath, he set his glass back on the bar and frowned at Sam.  The bartender laughed and walked away to refresh another glass.

For the next hour he pushed the woman from his thoughts.  Then he paid his tab and started for home.  Instead of walking the direct route he took a detour down towards the ocean.  He didn’t think he’s see her again but he felt compelled to walk that way anyway.  Maybe he would.  Maybe he’d see her again on his next shift on the docks.  Maybe she’d walk across the water to talk to him.  Really, would that be so bad?

the tower

This week’s story is based on the following lyrics from Kiss From a Rose by Seal:

“There used to be a greying tower alone on the sea.  You became the light on the dark side of me.” 

……

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“Why do you always look so sad when you look out at the ocean?”

“I’m not sad.”

She smiled kindly and put a hand on his shoulder.  “I didn’t say you were sad, darling.  But, you do look sad when you stare into the distance like you were just doing.”

The corner of his mouth twitched.  He knew what she was talking about but it was going to be hard to put it into words.  He knew, too, that she wouldn’t rush him.  She was patient like that.  It was part of why he loved her, part of why he was comfortable enough around her to let his emotions walk in the past.  His eyes settled on a point just shy of the horizon and his thoughts dipped back into the years between his youth and his adulthood.  Magic years.  Haunting years.

“Have I ever told you the story of the lighthouse?”

“Is this a literal lighthouse?”

His lips twitched again, more than they had before, and the small smile betrayed his truth.  “No, not a literal lighthouse.  It’s a story, a parable or some such thing.”

“Then, no, I don’t think you’ve told me this story.”

Silence, as quiet as the beach ever was, settled around them.  The waves, gentle long rollers, washed in and dragged out, over and over.  A few pelicans gave up fishing for the moment and settled on the surface just beyond the breakers.  The breeze that sometimes roared off the water was little more than a whisper.

“Will you tell me?”

He put his hand on hers, still resting on his shoulder, and nodded.

A moment later he began, “The lighthouse stood on an island far out to sea, it was a beacon of both hope and doom.  To see its light meant were near land, but that land could be your salvation or your death, right?”

She said, “Yes, that makes sense.”

He continued, “We have many lighthouses in our lives.  People.  Memories.  They stand in the vast ocean of our minds and flash their lights at us.  You have to draw near to see the threat, to understand why the lighthouse is there, but if you get too close you will be dashed upon the cliffs, or the reef, or whatever.”

“And you see these, these ‘lighthouses,’ while you are gazing toward the horizon?” She asked.

He squeezed her hand, and answered simply, “Yes.”

“That is sad,” she murmured.

He squeezed her hand again and said, “It’s okay though.  You see, I don’t need the lighthouses anymore.  You’ve always got my back.  You are always helping light my way forward.”

my fears

This week’s post is based on the following lyrics from Re-Align by Godsmack:

“My fears come alive in this place where I once died.”

…..

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He sped through the room, refusing to look left or right.  Before he could exit to the solace of the hallway, his path was blocked.  Gritting his teeth he said, “Get out of my way.”

His antagonizer smirked and did not move.  “Why does this room bother you so much?”

“Move.”

“Fine, fine, I’ll move, if you’ll tell me what I want to know.”

Sighing, he nodded once and then stepped into the hallway as soon as the way was clear.

“So?  I’ve watched you walk this big house for months now and in this room, and this room only, you rush through.  Why is that?”

He sighed again, refusing to meet the other’s gaze.  The words would not come immediately and so he said nothing.  His eyes shifted to his feet, ready to be on the move again.

“I’m waiting.”

“I died in that room.”

“So?  That’s it?  You’re dead.  That shouldn’t bother you.”

“I don’t mind the room because it’s where I died.  I don’t like it because it is a reminder of all I left unfinished.”

“Again, so what?  You’re dead.  None of that should bother you.”

“You are truly lucky then.”

“Come off it.  What are you talking about?”

“In that room, that room where I died, I can still feel.”

“That’s impossible.”

“As I said, you are truly lucky.”

“What do you feel?”

“Afraid.”

At this, the other scoffed and grew visibly agitated.  “That can’t be.  You have nothing to fear.  You’re already dead, you fool. What are you playing at?  What’s the real reason?”

He didn’t answer.  There was nothing else he could say to have them understand. 

It wasn’t fear for himself, he was dead.  It was fear for those he’d left behind.  Fear he hadn’t done enough for them.  Fear he hadn’t helped as much as he could.  Fear that they would join him in this, this haunting, this whatever it was. 

In the room where he died, all those fears came alive.

to be a god

This month I’ll be doing a series of posts based on song lyrics. This post is based on the following lyrics from Captive Honour by Megadeth:

“When you kill a man, you’re a murderer.  Kill a million and you’re a conquerer.  Kill them all and you’re a god.”

……

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She stood on the battlements and surveyed the carnage below her.  Her forces, clothed in the bright yellow she had adopted as her color, to be as bright as the star in their day time sky, to be as important as it was, were holding their own against the much larger army amassed against them.  She was a beacon for her troops, standing there, shining down upon them.  They couldn’t lose. 

Raising her arms over her head she spoke the words that would cause her to radiate and she smiled as the magic took hold.  With a series of pulses, each growing in brightness and intensity, she cast her light upon the battlefield.  Her army, facing away from her, felt the warmth on their backs and knew she was with them.  Her enemies were blinded and frightened and began to break their lines and scatter under the onslaught.

She dropped her arms as the spell ended.  Her advisor was at her elbow immediately.  “Should we signal for our troops to return, Ma’am?”

“No,” she responded firmly.  “Signal to hunt them down and kill them all.”

“No prisoners?  They could be useful in bartering.”

She scoffed.  “We will have no need to barter.  This was the entirety of their force and once we have wiped them out, they will bow to us as have all the others.”

“As you wish, Ma’am.” 

The counselor moved away to relay her orders and she leaned forward against the castle wall to soak in her victory.  She didn’t care about the carnage.  That wasn’t her goal.  It was simply a means to an end. 

Her smile broadened as her troops carried out their directive.  Only after the last of their foes had been slaughtered did they turn to face their Queen.  She lifted her arms in salute to them and they cheered in response.  Six more times she saluted them and six more times they cheered back in response.  Then, with a final wave, she turned away from the wall and made her way towards her audience hall.  There she would shower her generals in praise and gifts and trinkets for them to pass along to their warriors, to be added to water spoils they took from the field as they stripped and cleaned the dead for their funeral rights.

They would honor their foes as they honored their own, as a show of respect, yes, but mostly because it was her wish.  It was part of her plan, part of her becoming.  She was a great queen and her kingdom was growing.  She wanted so much more.

Her chief advisor was at her elbow again as she took her throne in the audience hall.  “Ma’am, why do you never show mercy?”

She knew some rulers would bristle at being asked such questions but she didn’t mind.  It was asking questions like that which had shown her what she wanted and how to get there.  “It isn’t about mercy.  It’s about what I’m trying to achieve.”

The advisor nodded once in understanding and then stepped away.  As the first of her generals entered the hall, she continued her own line of thought, “When you kill a man, you’re a murderer.  Kill a million and you’re a conquerer.  Kill them all and you’re a god.”

The Campaign, part 4

It wasn’t a tree, as Dorian had feared, but it wasn’t much better.  Zanth led the companions a small alcove, little more than a depression against a rock wall, likely where storm runoff had carved away the ground over the years, but was ideally situated for giving them protection from almost all sides and keeping them hidden through the night.  Still, the ground was more damp than not and if a storm passed in the night it could leave them in a tricky spot.  Zanth assured him there was no chance of rain.  He was almost always right so Malland and Dorian kept their grumbling to a minimum.  As it was, they were exhausted and ready to bed down anywhere Zanth said was good enough.

They took turns on the watch and the sun began to warm the horizon without incident, which they were all thankful for.  Rifling through their packs they scrounged together enough of a meal to ease their hunger but realized they’d need to hunt or find a town before too long.  They’d planned on being home and their packs weren’t exactly overflowing with provisions.

“Alright, what does that rest of that note say?” Zanth asked.

Malland pulled out of his pocket and reread what’d he read the night before. Then continued, “That’s it, except this signature at the end.  I think it says ‘Lord Fendall.’”

He passed the note around and Zanth and Dorian both agreed that’s what the signature likely said.  Then Zanth asked, “Isn’t he the seat of power for the mountain region west of here?”

“That sounds right,” Malland said.  Dorian grunted in agreement.

“Well, that’s settled then,” Zanth stated with a sad smile.  “I guess we have to go find out why Lord Fendall wants us captured.  I certainly don’t remember running afoul of him recently.  Do either of you?”

Both Dorian and Malland shook their heads.

Zanth squinted into the surrounding forest.  From where they were stashed only the tops of the nearest trees were visible with just the slightest hint of the warming sky beyond.  While he let his gaze drift through the canopy he made a few quick mental calculations and once he was decided he addressed his friends again.  “I think there is a town about a day’s journey from here where we can resupply.  Let’s head there first and then we can track down Lord Fendall.”

They packed up their gear and Zanth led them back through the dense forest.  It was slow going at first but then they came across a game trail, Zanth said it was a likely last used by a bear, and their progress sped up some.  They only stopped once, for a brief lunch, before Zanth stopped them as the forest began to thin out.  They could see the smoke from home fires drifting lazily into the sky and they could faintly hear the hustle and bustle of small town life.  Mothers called to their children.  Merchants hawked their wares.  It was peaceful and the trio took a moment to soak it in.  It was what they’d hoped to come home to the day before.  It was a peace they may not know again for quite some time and could easily shatter just by showing their faces in the little town before them.

Zanth asked under his breath, “Ready?”

Dorian and Malland nodded and the three walked confidently forward.  As far as they knew, they had nothing to fear in this town.  News of what had happened the night before couldn’t have beaten them there.  So, there was no need to skulk about, there was no need to be any more cautious than normal.

For a time, it seemed like they wouldn’t have any trouble.  Nobody asked them who they were or what they were doing in town.  But then they tried to barter for some food to fill their packs and the prices were outrageous.

“Well, what do you expect?” Said one merchant.  “Nobody here is going to sell to the likes of you for a decent price.  This is food for our neighbors.  Selling to you means one of them might go hungry.”

With a sad shake of his head, Zanth pushed Dorian onward.  The dragonborn had begun to growl low in his throat and that wouldn’t serve any help in this situation.  They would just press on and find someone who would sell to them for a reasonable price or they would find their own food.  The last year on the trail had made them quite adept and hunting and preserving.  But, seeing as they had a few more gold coins than they’d started the previous night with, it amused all of them to spend Lord Fendall’s gold on the provisions that would help carry them to the man that was trying to hunt them down.