I read about a cabin in Patagonia
built in the shadow of a glacier.
Every season the glacier moves a little more,
until it comes to the doorway,
swallowing the little house as it goes, board by board.
I wonder if whoever lives inside it
chose to stay. I wonder
if they like the feeling of
being swallowed up by something
larger than themselves.
I wonder if the glacier
what it is doing to the house.
Every hero takes this journey, sooner or later.
It is a matter of knowing Heaven exists,
and willing yourself to forget that you’ve been there.
It is a matter of crossing the threshold into Valhalla
and then leaving again,
exiled back to Midgard with the taste of ambrosia still on your lips
and the mead of the gods of still buzzing in your chest.
It is a matter of climbing to the top of the birch tree
and then swinging back down to the earth,
a clip-winged angel shaking the celestial sugar from your hair.
It is the reason that the dead are made to drink from Lethe,
so they don’t stumble through the underworld haunted by visions
of a shining life that is no longer theirs.
It is a kindness.
It is how you wake up every morning,
and go to the same small box in the clouds,
and sit stooped under the garish fluorescence of the lower realms.
Maybe it is not time, but boredom, that heals all wounds—
a dulling of sensation, a retreat into routine
that keeps you tame and stops your thoughts from drifting
Up, up to where you once were
All too briefly
One bright night
when there was no gravity to hold you in place.
Maybe in this world without wings,
the best you can hope for is the cold, smooth comfort
Some days were purple and green
All broad brushstrokes and abandon,
A sky in tumult over The Peak.
And then there were the cool days
That left him black and blue,
Bruised by all he’d taken in.
Fuscia days were strange and demanded distance
When only the detachment
Of screen-printing would do,
When to wound a canvas with a brush was too much
For either painter or surface to bear.
In the end, they all were strung together,
All the days of Andy’s life
Captured in negative
And pinned to the wall
Like rare moths
Frozen into the illusion of flight.
Bathtub Lady (as I had taken to calling her inside my brain) shifted in the tub like a caterpillar that had never passed pupae stage and aged in its cocoon, or a child returned to the basinet after an exhausting adulthood.
“There is a center to all things,” she began. She ripped a page from New Moon and held it aloft. Then she took a handful of cloudy water from the tub and let it fall in the middle of the page. It shook in her grasp.
“The center feeds the rest of the system,” she continued. The drop spread across the paper in a widening circle, and the ink started to bleed. “But it also erodes it.” She poked the growing spot with a talon-like fingernail and left a jagged hole. “A saturated thing collapses in on itself.”
“Aw shoot,” I said off of her significant look. “Now we’ll never find out if Edgar marries the bitch.”
“EDWARD!” she hissed. This woman scared the shit out of me, but I was still doing my best not to show it.
“Fine. So what’s saturated and collapsing that I should know about?”
She smiled, a wide, horrid smile that created a whole new pattern of cracks and wrinkles, shifting the landscape of her features. “Well most of the continent, for starters.”
People are always shitting bricks about how big Texas is, but no one ever mentions how goddamn flat it is. Like Ohio, but with all the water and rednecks sucked out and replaced with rattlesnakes and even worse rednecks. These were the thoughts that chased through my mind on the 293 interminable miles to Sterling City. That, and how much my arm felt like a bag of chainsaws.
Scats seemed to be determined to take my mind off it all with long, one-sided conversations about nothing in particular. I discovered that he had an uncanny knack for talking endlessly without actually saying anything at all. Every time he dipped into his magical pocket pharmacopeia (which was staggeringly often, even by my measurements), he was guaranteed to spend the next half hour and change careening down some mental byway, full of fantastical dead-ends and cagey detours. Every pill-pop, like clockwork. He was the Old Faithful of bullshit.
“I stole this guy’s ride once,” he said. His feet were propped up on the dash, the passenger-side floor being occupied entirely by his giant, creepy, stinky duffel bag. “Real nice one, too. Hell of a lot nicer than this tin can.”
“There are so many reasons I would like to punch you right now,” I said.
“I can drive, you know.”
“Fuck you! It’s my car!” I was pretty much just growling at this point, steering with my left hand while my right arm bled freely and my right foot slammed on the gas. Yes, this might not have been the best idea. But I wasn’t about to let anyone else behind the wheel of the Old Man, let alone this creepy motherfucker who ate rabbits and talked about basset hound people.
We were on the open road now, but I could still see something looming in my rearview. “Are they still behind us?”
“I think we lost ’em. Keep gunning it, though.” Scats was twisted around in his seat, looking out the rear window and cocking the rifle I’d handed him. Since when did I have a wingman? He turned back to me and I saw his eyes travel along the shaft of the arrow, which was still very much sticking out of my bicep. “I think we oughta find you a hospital.”
“No way,” I said. For a garden variety of reasons, hospitals were not places I went. Ever. Even when my whole right side was screaming at me.
“Seriously, lady, we gotta get you to a professional here. I don’t know if you got the memo when you were busy trying to prove how badass you are, but there’s an arrow in your arm.”
As it turned out, I wouldn’t have long to wait for Satan. Walking up Parsonage Lane with the bag of ginkippers and a cobbled-together thirty-rack tucked under my arm, I ran right into the bugger. He wasn’t nearly as tall as you’d expect.
“Mortal!” Lucifer bellowed when he saw me, pointing a jagged hoof in my direction. I cowered a bit.
“C-can I help you?” I sputtered, trying to collect myself.
“I demand to know who’s in charge here!” he shifted his leg, and flames shot from a nearby phone box. The sound of the displaced receiver’s dial tone filled the air.
This was a difficult question to answer. “Well I’ve heard the Prime Minister’s still at 10 Downing, but he’s a zombie now, so–”
“Fool!” he interjected, “That was a trick question! I, Lord of Chaos and Wicked Deeds, I am in charge!” His loud cackling drowned out the dial tone. He impaled a passing cat on his pitchfork and bit off its head.
“I think,” I said, taking a steadying breath, “I think—that may not be true.” I wasn’t sure where I had gotten this newfound fearlessness. Maybe it was the fact that I’d be undead soon, so I didn’t have all that much to lose. Besides, Satan was being such a git.