Shadow and spear, the path to ruined dreaming. I saw myself before I became myself. His hands on my wrists, his breath on my throat. I begged, I wailed, like a fever in darkness. A chastity of thorns, shining with emerald light. Let nothing and no one touch me again, I vowed. But that is a brutal and haunting way to live; imbibing your violator, bonded to the very thing that stole your dignity. They made me dance for them. They sold my tears to merchants and revellers. The spilled soul of a child traded at flesh fairs. I was murdered before I was born, dreaming of lesser kings with feathers at throats, to conceal the shame of his breath on my skin.
"Esmé, Ananke, Ashamed, go among them now," he whispered to me, "And be a lost, broken thing, as I have made you tonight. Such is my hold over you, child..."
I stumbled from the parapet with my flesh torn and my name twisted. But what's in a name, you wonder? Everything. I watched my city burn, like hell had found the night, and the fires seemed to be howling my names. All about me was a ruin of every story, a babbling delirium, and I no longer knew a tongue from any other. Xashi, Esmé, Osarai; a city of songs aflame, shrieking as sand burst from every pore, weeping from every part of me. Don't you remember, desolate one? I have since searched for you in every ray of corrupted light. I lost myself in myth-making, giving myself to unworthy fools, simply because they reminded me somewhat of you. But that's what the cruel and desolate always foster, is it not? You make wolves of virgins. The city is full of satyrs, and bloodied tears is the wine of the highest in the land. Oh, but not for much longer, ye mighty. Still we people sing, still we dance, for each other. Still we are kind and strong, though we are made vagrant. Made vermin by your brethren of absence. We may dwell in gutters and hidden places, we may move concealed, folded in fiction, but we see the radiant as it really is. Manifold, dangerous, joyous. Your vile hunger is but a glimmer in its midst, here and then gone, like a momentary arrhythmia of experience. And what is left when even the faint of cruelty is passed away? I saw myself before I became myself. A quiet, ragged thing of service.
Imperfect, human, angelic.
A poet at the place where rivers meet, wings bright as dawn, offering safe passage when I can. Then, to rest, reflect, thankful for every measure of favour. To rise yet again, and again, offering passage until abandonment itself passes from memory and is home. To pound these holy fists upon the gates, demanding sanctuary. I will pass into nothing if I must, if it means no reveller walks again with the tears of children concealed in his veils. I will die unremembered and unforgotten if it offers even the slightest hope for my family. Promise is written at the procession of all dreaming gates, in every tongue. And the wisest will know each tongue from every other. I saw myself before I knew myself but I will never forget this taste of ashes in my mouth, or the sand that drowned my sacristy. Instead I will use it to rent the veils and speak a very particular kind of truth. You said I was Ananke, Ashamed, that you forged me anew as you hurt me. But I am redeemed by grace. I am favoured, neither lost nor broken. You have power over me no longer, Samael. Blinded, I still see you as you truly are. Deafened, I still Listen to your hidden thoughts. You shall rue the day, intercessor. You shall rue the day you set your hideous sex upon the entire family of mankind. Esmé, you called me with dark delight, and mocked my future dreaming. But I knew you before you touched me, foolish thing. You were slain by my hand before you were even born, before I gave you anima and dreaming and life. Don’t you remember? You taunted me.
“Witch, little angel, beautiful, broken whore…”
But you were right, fallen. You have no idea how right you were. I am shame. But not my own. I am yours. I keep all stories, you see. I am with you even now. The thing you love so secretly, that is me. And the thing you fear so terribly, that is me. My family will finally know love, and light, and freedom. Then, when I have returned this empty fiefdom to the ashes, there will be only you and I remaining – alone at last. Would you like to know what happens when I really come, fallen? Because I come with knives. But I am not going to destroy you. I am going to do something much, much worse. That first flush of change, the horror of empathy, the fertile ruin of guilt and torment – that is me. When I speak, things burn. When I dream, things remember.