I was walking,
In the rain,
It was freezing,
And my attempts at moving were parried,
By the ice beneath my feet.
And as the sickness set in,
I noticed the road I walked was long.
I felt my jacket begin to fail,
As moisture crept through tears in tbe leather.
And in staggering, laboured breaths,
I called out to God,
and I said,
"Is this all that exists for me?
A struggle in the cold.
Is this what you wish for me,
No one at home even to hold.
When I make it through this,
And I drag myself inside,
I will be all alone, with no kindness from my mind."
And he called back,
"Sometimes, you want things,
And I can hear your soul scream from here.
As the sleet drenches your skin,
And fever burns away your hope,
Your heart may wish to start,
And it will beat slow,
Like an old locomotive,
But, you must halt it, for all the ruin it could bring on,
I do not give you nothing.
I give you loneliness, and hardship.
I give you painful perspective,
And the words you complain with.
I give you violence, and wrath.
Hell, I'll even give you lust.
But I will be dust, scattered among this damned earth you speak of,
before I ever consider, letting you have love."
And when I got home,
I sat in the dark, shivered, and cursed aloud.
I wrapped blankets around me,
But they couldn't keep the cold out,
Because outside in the street,
Where winter you'd expect,
Sat a sun in the sky,
Amd its heat on the pavement.
For, the chill let the door lock behind it,
When I stepped through its frame,
And I have now since learned, that I am the rain.
Rejecting it all
I want he who sits on that pile of dirt to extend a hand,
And I want to take hold of it.
But beneath that soil sits the bones of the past,
And beneath my word sits the corpse of my fear, and my foolishness.
So, indulging in the rarity that is my ignorance,
I resign myself to prudence.
To giving away gold in the street,
To serve without charging a fee.
Everything I vowed never to be-
-Come with me, and I’ll show you defeat.
A boy named Ivan
War was lost. Snow, chest deep, and heavy, enveloped him like an ocean of infuriatingly viscious water, and in a way, it was one.
He had spent the last decade idling around eastern Europe, prodding the Ottoman Empire in the hopes of eliciting an interesting response. Unfortunately, the Sultan proved to be an incredibly patient man, and the people were complacent. He tried to create protest, and fan the flames of dissidence, as civil conflict was always his favourite kind. He looked at civil wars like terrariums in their isolation. One need only plant the seeds, and watch an ecosystem blossom. In this case, an ecosystem of assassinations, and budding casualties waiting to be plucked.
Alternatively, he looked at them like appetizers, enough to savour without eliminating the potential for further desire. If you think about this preference enough, it is entirely possible to deduce a whole host of War’s habits in the bedroom, but I digress.
He really tried to shake things up: attending meetings held by those with radical new political ideas, and reducing himself to screaming in the street about how the Sultan was secretly a sodomite (A fact, which War believed to be an outrageous lie at the time). Unfortunately, those meetings turned out to be nothing more than passionate book clubs, and the people believed his ravings to be some experimental new comedy act, going on to throw coins in his direction for the performance. Eventually word arrived at the Sultan himself about the entertaining foreigner. He responded by throwing a feast in War’s honour, requesting he perform his ‘act.’
War decided he would dabble in diplomacy, or rather anti-diplomacy, attempting to take advantage of the connections he had made to the elite in this new jester-esque role within the palace. He quickly learned, through the servant grapevine, and hours of egregious gossiping that the Sultan’s second in command, the Grand Vizier was the one who made the decisions that truly held weight.
War wrote new ravings for dinner entertainment, accusing the Sultan of many other moral indignities as he continued his stay, but none stuck quite like the accusations of homosexuality. Later, War would fondly remember those two years of his life as ’That time the Sultan employed me to call him my dirty little slut,” and it wasn’t in vain, either. He listened at these dinners and learned much about the inner workings of the empire, including the fact that the Vizier wanted to build a new Canal, but couldn’t get the Russians to agree to the use of their territory.
War spent several months, slipping into adjacent hallways, and ‘running into’ the Vizier by ‘chance.’ On such occasions, he planted ideas of the empire’s military might, and snide judgement of Russia’s recent defeats into the Vizier’s mind. Eventually, this paid off in a skirmish between the two countries over one of Russia’s southern cities, but the flame was quickly smothered by Ivan the Terrible’s proposed treaty, and War was left with nothing but his dick in his hand, or a dick, anyway, as he had payed the Sultan a warm visit before departing.
He decided, if the Ottomans wouldn’t make a move, he would instead try his luck with the leader known most for his cruelty. “If the appetizer is cold, just ask for the main course,” were his parting words as he slipped from his window, and began his walk north, cursing himself for spending his meager salary on ale rather than a horse, “if that’s cold too, kill the waiter, and castrate the chef.”
And so, War found himself tiptoeing across barren fields of snow, trying his best not to sink in. An outsider watching him from afar may have likened him to the clumsiest ballet dancer on the planet, and the outsider that was watching from afar thought exactly this. The bystander pulled his sleigh up beside War, who looked up to see a grizzled old man. He had wild eyes, but tailored clothes.
“What are you doing here?” He asked.
War laughed, “You must be wondering how I’ve survived out here in the snow wearing only these torn rags!” he boasted.
“No,” the man growled, “You’re on my property.”
“Are you going to leave?”
“Well in that case, my wife made too much soup for the two of us. If you’re going to trespass on my land, you ought to at least help me rid myself of her terrible cooking.”
War groaned as he climbed aboard the sleigh, this wasn’t exactly the manifestation of terrible he was seeking, but it was something. He tried to make conversation a few times to distract himself from the wind whipping against his bare flesh, but the old guy wasn’t giving him anything to work with.
Eventually, the sleigh pulled off the open land, and into a small wood whereupon a large estate was found. They pulled up front, and the man handed the reigns to an emaciated servant. “This way,” he grumbled. Through the large doors, where an array of expensive furnishings welcomed them. War was impressed, for a private home it was surprisingly royal, it rivaled even the palace from which he had just come.
“A house like this, you must have maids to make your soup for you,” War observed.
“Yes, but my wife insists on cooking, anyway. It’s something of a hobby, to my misfortune, and I suppose, yours as well.” The strange man sat War down at a grand table tucked beneath a gawdy chandelier. Even war looked up at it with a slight grimace, the idea of subtlety settling into (and quickly drifting from) his mind for the first time.
A bowl of soup was set across from War, who, even being famished from months without food, found it difficult to stomach. He looked over to the man, who was now lighting a fire in one of the many fireplaces strewn throughout the house. “Thanks,” He mumbled with a full mouth, almost relinquishing his soup to the whims of gravity, “may I ask the name of my most gracious host?”
The man stroked his beard for a moment, “Hmm so it is true then.”
“That you are a foreigner.”
“Why do you say that?” War was perplexed by this assertion. He knew that his Russian was perfect, he was present when it was invented.
“Everyone in this nation knows my face, young man. For they have seen the statues in the cities, and the imprints on their coins.”
“Oh,” was all War could muster without revealing his excitement.
“I am the first Tsar of all of Russia, Ivan… what suffix is it they use in your homeland? Is it ‘the terrible’, or perhaps ‘the great’? I have even heard the ‘the fearsome.’” The look on his face betrayed that the Tsar was not so fond of these titles.
“Vasilyevich.” War responded coolly.
Ivan chuckled at that. “Not many of my own people, let alone foreigners, know of my surname. For that, I will allow you to rest in my home for the night, and when it is light, I will grant you use of a sleigh and a servant to accompany you to your destination.”
War yawned at the word ‘rest.’ He was not predisposed to operating well on anything less than an obscene amount of beauty sleep.
“Tsarevich!” Ivan called. The sound of footsteps was quickly followed by another poorly fed boy. He appeared as if years of neglect had brought his skeleton outward from his body.
“I’m sure I can find my room without use of a servant,” War assured him, holding his hand out.
This comment was followed by the loud slam of Ivan’s fist on the table, “Learn your place, peasant, this is my son, and you will respect him as such. If I say you will be escorted by the boy, you will be escorted. Is this clear?”
War tried his best to imitate fear, “Yes, sir.”
“Sorry about my father,” the boy said as he led the way up some winding stairs. “He is unpredictable. I was listening to your conversation, and I can sense you want something from him. But I warn you, those names that have been given to him. They are not without merit.”
“Thank you for the advice,” War responded, dismissively, “It doesn’t seem you can handle him very well yourself,” he said, and motioned to the boy’s battered appearance.
“I fear I will not live to see many of life’s pleasures, or for much longer at all” He conceded, “This is your room. My father says you aren’t permitted to leave it until dawn.
Please don’t get caught disobeying him, or it will mean the end of both of us.”
War shut the door, and kept his hand on the handle until he heard the boy’s footsteps fade, upon which he reopened it immediately. He needed to know more about the Tsar if he had any chance of influencing him. When he arrived at the bottom of the stairs, he saw two shadows cast from the neighbouring room, and listened to their conversation.
“You let a stranger into our home?” A woman’s voice echoed throughout the house.
“Only to keep him here until I’ve decided what to do,” Ivan replied.
“This is simply your paranoia, again. I thought coming to this house away from the city would help you clear your head, but you’ve only worsened.”
“Wrong,” the Tsar’s voice was angry now, “He knows of me, but not my face. He was wandering around my property without reason. He finished all of the soup I gave him. That is very suspicious behaviour.” This statement was followed by the sound of a sharp slap, and War stifled a chuckle.
After some shuffling, the conversation continued, “You think he is a spy? Ottoman, perhaps?”
“No, his Russian is too good. I suspect he is from Siberia, sent to relinquish me of any invasion plans I may be keeping. I will kill him in the night to be safe.”
“Please, Ivan,” their voices were reduced to mere whispers at this point, “Let one of the guards do it. You have seen too much blood.”
“No. I do not trust any of them. Not one. I will do it myself.” The shadows began to move then, and War decided it would be best to retreat back upstairs. He was having a very bad decade. It would be impossible to convince the Tsar of anything if he was suspected of being a spy, and if Ivan tried to kill him that would only complicate things further. He decided it was time to bounce, and he looked to his old pal, the window.
Pressing his hands against the glass, he shivered, feeling the frozen wasteland outside seep in. Not again. He dashed through the hallways until he found the most ornate door, which he burst through without a second thought, Proceeding to the closet, he removed his rags, and set them, folded, on the Pillow of Ivan’s bed.
“One of Ivan the Terrible’s fur coats,” War grinned as he pulled the last item of his new outfit on, “Not a bad souvenir.” He then departed before anyone could notify him that it was in fact the coat of Ivan’s wife.
By the time War arrived back in western Europe, Ivan the Terrible had grown furious at the ‘Siberian spy,’ and declared that he would conquer Siberia in retaliation. This conquest was successful, and resulted in an outrageous amount of deaths, to the chagrin of Death himself, and the delight of War who claimed this to be the plan all along.
War eventually did return to Russia, bursting in on the Tsar and a colleague playing chess. News had reached him that Ivan had finally snapped and murdered his son. Ivan’s eyes went wide at the sight of Wars face.
“I brought a friend of mine,” War said solemnly as Pestilence stepped out from behind him,
“’Friend’ may be a bit much,” Pestilence responded as Ivan’s face slammed into his chess board, scattering pieces across the room, and shocking his opponent. The stroke had killed him instantly.
As Pestilence, and War left the room, there were three smiling. The other horsemen both gave Death a pat on the back as they walked by him. He rarely got excited about work, but after taking eight of the Tsar’s wives, and countless children, Death had been waiting for this day.
We are sitting on your couch, and I ask,
“What do you fear?”
And you sit there, and stir your tea gently to ground your body in the safety of your home as your mind drifts to those places,
We put you in a cage and submerged you,
And the sharks came and you shivered from more than just the icy water,
Until they grew bored and swam onward.
Not so you would shake your fear of sharks,
No, they will eat you if you let them, and will offer you no payment for the meal.
But, I watched you as a child, play in the shallows,
And now I watch you, as an adult, contemplate the depths.
For you learned that you feared the shark’s malice, not the sea’s sway,
And when you climbed back aboard our ship,
“I’d like you to look at your thoughts this way.
For this is why, in the evening when it’s bright, and the morning when the moon appears to wane,
The sharks will swim on, and you’ll be okay.
A day trip to London, and subsequently hell.
Pestilence grimaced as he stood in one of London’s less glamorous boroughs. The air smelled like horse shit and misery. Men, women, and children alike grasped at his immculately tailored trousers, their own rags all but falling off their withering figures. He smiled kindly down on a man of indeterminant age, his face ravaged by hardship and desperation.
“All I ask is for a single penny, sir.” The man pleaded, “Enough for bread, and a glimmer of hope for my family.”
“Not an unreasonable request,” Pestilence conceded, as he kicked the man into a puddle of rainwater, and what would be assumed by the optimist to be mud. He pressed his heel into the man’s temple, and with it, the man’s face dug a groove in the dirt, “But I am here to meet a friend, and I don’t think she’d appreciate my undoing her good work.” Pestilence slid his hands into his pockets, and began to walk away, before stopping abruptly and turning back. “So don’t tell anyone, ” he whispered as he stroked his beard, tossing a penny into the puddle with the groaning beggar.
Not three steps later, a melody of scorn and amusement escaped from the dark alleyway next to him, “Soft, as always,” it said.
“Enemies bring War, and I don’t intend on fraternizing with him today,” Pestilence responded.
“Diplomacy with the impoverished is a futile endeavour,” Famine smiled as she stepped from the shadows, and into the grey haze of daylight. “Like I said, soft.”
“How have you been?”
“Productive, and yourself?”
“Bored. I’ve been wandering around China aimlessly.”
“I take it this visit isn’t just social, then.” Famine’s eyes glimmered an odd, indistinguishable shade, “What are you planning, Pestilence?”
“You’ve done well devastating this disgusting city,” he mused, as a small rat scurried by him. He scooped it up by the tail, and held its seizing body in front of his face, “But I think it’s time I take the seed of suffering you planted, and nurture it into something the aristocracy can fear.” Pestilence planted a kiss upon the rat’s mangy fur, and tossed it aside, “would you like to invite me in for tea?”
Famine gestured for him to follow, and slid back into the crevice from which she had emerged. She led him through a series of winding back streets, and neglected buildings. He was careful not to let his shoulders brush the filthy walls as he admired one of the most beautiful cities he had witnessed. No effective sewage, babies born among the horse’s feed, sex and crime a more common currency than gold or silver.
Eventually, Famine settled in front of a rickety door wasting away with rot, the building leaning so far over the road, it appeared to be watching anyone that traversed it. “This is home,” she said as she undid the lock and chain wrapped around the door’s handle.
“A resourceful girl like you could certainly stay wherever she pleased,” Pestilence’s disgust dripped off his tongue.
“I take my work seriously,” she responded, her face blank.
“Still, it is a poor habit to bring work home. It’s about balance.” He stepped through the threshold into the barren house, “Do you take no comforts?”
“You’ve developed quite the tedious taste since that Justinian business in 540. Rubbing elbows with emperors has made you pretentious,” she chuckled, “what need do I have for comforts?”
“The burning of Rome was good work. I think we deserve some reward for our efforts.” He said, settling into a creaky chair.
“The burning of Rome was reward enough,” she responded, setting a cup of cold tea in front of him, and sitting across the table.
He sipped it with trepidation, “I don’t suspect you have any sugar, then? Will you leave this place once my work is done?”
Famine rested her face in her hand contentedly, “With your dedication, I assume you’ll render staying unnecessary. Though, I may keep this house as a vacation home, visit once in awhile. It is a wonderful city, isn’t it?”
Pestilence knocked back his tea, eager to get to work. He rubbed his hands together, and grabbed his overcoat from its hook. “It was nice seeing you, Famine. We should do this more often.”
“Proper balance would seem not to share that view,” she whispered with kind warning. Pestilence simply nodded.
“Do you think your hospitality could extend to gracing me with directions to the nearest market?”
He sauntered down the street, curiously eyeing the stalls, and trying to settle the squirming rodents that filled his pockets. He pretended to be interested in buying fruits, slipping the rats into baskets, and under wagons as he bowed cordially, and purchased produce. He granted them both with a deadly secret, and his own famous zeal, and so they scurried on with their business, as he scurried along with his.
Four years later, Pestilence stood outside Famine’s door once again, adjusting his collar, and fixing his hair in a puddle’s reflection. The door swung open just as he prepared to knock. “It’s time to move on, ” he said.
“I bought sugar,” she responded, “come inside.”
Elsewhere, Death’s eyes fluttered open lazily. He sat up, and reclined against the old oak under which he had slept. He stretched, and lit his pipe, “So soon?” he yawned, scratching his head, “I wonder where those guys find all their motivation. Ten more minutes, then I’ll get to work.” With that, he was snoring once again, and the black plague raged on for another year.
Puppeteering a corpse in training
To be suspended,
Is a cruel fate for even me.
Though, I neglect to let a single drop of blood escape from the wounds of my apathy.
Bandages of ambition, and badges of optimism to adorn my cloak of uncertainty.
To be suspended,
Is a cruel fate for even me,
Hanging somewhere between wanting to see where this empty highway leads, and returning to the city where I can’t seem to find the space to breathe.
To be suspended,
Is a cruel fate for even me,
Too wise for irrationality, too young to be content.
Wearing flashy jewelry, and sitting in a throne that’s pretend.
To be suspended,
Is a cruel fate for even me,
Begging for death, and asking in my weakest moments if this will be the depth of a demon’s fortress,
If I am gifted the chance to be imprisoned within such a treacherous land,
If my own experiences will serve as my torturess,
Cruel, with her capable hands.
To be suspended,
Is a cruel fate for even me,
Ascending several hundred mountains a day, and meeting a some men on their descent who say the top is only a dozen away,
And hearing their celebration echo as I scramble to remember the combination of rambling direction they imparted upon my trembling senses.
To be suspended,
Is a cruel fate for even me,
Sitting at a desk with a gun to my head once again,
Because I made the mistake of trying to get even with me.
I stand at the base of a statue,
Of an old god long forgotten.
And I do not worship it,
For I worship nothing.
But I do admire it,
And for this I will dedicate to it my mortal years,
And if I have years beyond that, the statue may have those too.
And the statue looks down on me,
And it doesn’t worship me,
For I am not like it.
But it admires me
And for that it will pat me on the head,
And accept the years I have to give,
And it will treat them with respect.
for children, on unconscious ambition
I have taken a page out of the book of mankind,
And polluted my mind.
Where once I wandered,
for better or worse,
Through the twisting paths, of a place far greater even than earth.
More treacherous at times, and more vast, and more free,
I remember the days when I'd trek through the pass,
That led to that cabin nestled between the mountains in me.
And then I learned of their riches,
And how much they're worth,
I cast aside the cottage of my minds vast woods.
So that I may build a mine to harvest the gold,
And level the mountains to collect all their stone.
So that I could build this palace,
And adorn this here throne.
I put the nymphs to work, as I abolished their homes,
And when I considered the consequences,
I used force to make my thoughts,
Condone the offences of their own defenseless,
Escaped me, and was obscured in the smoke,
As tastes grew more obscure, and the cost became
Domestic income, of my mind and my soul,
grew higher yet, as I turned up the soil.
Whereupon I built shrines,
To the things that once thrived,
In the forests and the mountains,
And near that old cabin in my mind.
Courage without knowledge of the benefit is madness.
Bravery without something to protect, likewise.
Sat on the bow of a ship, legs dangling off the edge, and eyes on the horizon.
Waves rose up, and were split beneath him,
Only for more to take their place.
And he saw not the water beneath him,
Or the might of his ship, or its crew,
As storms waged wars against them, and those waves gained confidence,
Only to be be tamed once again.
And he saw not the dolphins leaping alongside,
Or the sun rise behind him.
He saw only that unmoving line,
Un-wielding in its decision to stay in place,
Unwilling to move an inch closer,
And he thought not of the good that lay on the islands before it.