Blood Upon the Frigid Waters

I

The night’s breath has turned my bones to ice. I can’t feel my fingers, died red from crushed berry and blood tainted chalk dust. It will not wash off. The juice swirled like blood upon the frigid waters. My head flares like the fire we had built. Hot and raging. I can still smell its pungent fumes caught within my hair. Herb. Torn bud. Sacred bark. Roots. Roots run deep to blood red waters beneath the earth. They surge. The fountains of the deep gush forth. I can hear them. But still I shiver. Droplets of sweat have frozen upon my skin. I can hear the footsteps of the earth shapers. Blood on stone. It drips. Drips. I can’t ground down. I can’t switch off. Why am I so sad? Voices of hungry ghosts long dead, move in; their blood caught within the Fàd a’ chaorain. Keys. Rusted keys. A door thrown wide off the hinges. The night is as black as pitch. But still I see. Serpents writhe. I paint in blood on skin. My blood. Whose skin, I know not. My heart breaks. Caught between here and there. A rustling of feathers. Cave deep. And the Dragon calls. I feel it up my spine. I should be sleeping. My companions are deep in dream. But sleep will not come for me. Perhaps I see their dreams. They would not be the first. The calling. It hurts my ears. But l know not how to answer. My feet still feel damp. My head is hot. Molten lava boiling. Tingling. I am on fire. Yet frozen.

II

The flames leapt to unnatural heights as we took up a frenzied dance with winds which flowed briskly down into the valley. Cocooned by pitch on all sides, we were sheltered from civilisation and revelled in our solitude as the stars bore down from above. We breathed in the odoriferous aromas arising from the flickering fire and the stench of damp disturbed earth; which brought with them memories of the deep forest floor, of an autumn, many moons ago, at the midnight crossroads where the moon-bathed roads of silence converged. The place was dark and half-lost, strange and mossed, and our voices merged into a dirge – the notes drawn out in sonorous syllables which resonated across the wetlands and deep into our bones. The shadows shifted and sent frozen caresses down our spines. I paint in blood on skin. My blood. His skin. The aberrant amalgam of shadow figures closed in, pressing down upon us both as our song gained pitch and pace, our swaying progressing to dancing with staggered step upon chalk tainted with blood. Howling now, with heads thrown back in fear and joy, we called out into the utter blackness, to the space between the stars – “Cut forth the way!” We danced then with the hosts of the night, becoming unto the Lych in the dance of the dead as we were enfolded in the silken blackness and fell into shadow. Backward riding and rising in wild, eerie patterns upon the ghost road.

III

She writhed in the mud, coated in filth, blood and the ashes of her beloved dead. Clawing at the earth, as tears stream down her cheeks. She demanded retribution for and communion with a life taken far too soon. Grieving. Her hair thick with muddied chalk. The pit was dug at the centre of the lych way with bare hands, raw and red, and filled with honeyed milk and wine. Barley was scattered in a fit. They had been there, they would be there again. At the back of her mind, she quietly feared her mind had snapped and that she had let the grief carry her too far. She squatted in the mud, naked, her eyes red and feral as she crushed white heather into the mess. Delicate pristine flowers stained red with her own heart’s blood, howling her prayers into the barren night sky. She had never seen the sky so devoid of light before, or again, the darkness was impenetrable and afforded her no comfort. It did not enfold her in silken blackness, but bore down claustrophobically to choke out every last anguished tone she had, through gritted teeth. Her eyes stung, her insides contorted in painful knots, and her head was lost. Droplets of sweat had frozen upon her skin. Her head as hot as molten lava. Boiling. Tingling. She was on fire, yet frozen. The footsteps of the earth shapers resonated through her very being. Blood on stone. It dripped. At the very edge of unconsciousness she was held still as they drew near. The aberrant amalgam of shadow figures closed in, pressing down upon her. She could not see them, but felt them, but this wasn’t for them. And as she felt the world give away beneath her a familiar voice rang out… “Sleep now… Sleep…”

Some friendships even death cannot tear asunder

– In loving memory of Karl.
Image: “Within the Fàd a’ Chaorain” : Sarah-Jayne Farrer

Published in “Sabbatica IV: The Garden of Bones and the Arcana of Death” from Sirius Limited Esoterica edited by Edgar Kerval

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