A bitter departure, an ambrosial reprieve. Weightlessness encroached Reno as he wandered deeper into the darkness. Without foothold or distinction of direction, he took careful strides forward. Reno tucked his chin into his chest, tracing the invisible path with his eyes. A distraction, this was. While the towering stone door creaked to a close behind him, ripples rolled beneath his heels flowing forward into the unknown. Streaks of muted hues refracted the ripples. At their crests, smidgens of light wavered. Taking the shape of the supple star petals of henbane in bloom, the light encircled Reno. He covered his nose by reaction, but the light didn’t carry a scent, only a remainder. Unable to look behind, the floral sanctuary dissolved. The woman in white, the one called Maya, he worried about her. An option was presented by her to for him to stay by her side in the safety of her arms and his mind, but the gravity of his words quickened him. Constricted him. What was vowed wasn’t only for his benefit and resolution but for a songstress who lost her beauty of life in the loneliness of death.

The path he traveled narrowed as sable walls enclosed around him. Humidity licked Reno’s exposed left arm. A stickiness reminiscent of the powdery pollen of flowers he tended in his garden brought forth tarnished memories. The coil of thorns circumventing Reno’s left arm burrowed into his flesh, laggardly siphoning his blood. This pain he had long been accustomed to, but the pacing of the coil was hastened. Its thorns were not unlike the fangs of wolves, thick and precisely molded. Crimson dyed the translucent coil. Temporarily quenched of thirst, the thorns eased out of the reopened wounds and relaxed its hold. Beads of blood dripped from their tips

Westerly, a muffled bellowing sounded. The abstract space rumbled, the walls around Reno and the ground below sighed. A flash of white light streaked across above his head. An afterimage of slender threads of this light was painted along the dark, diffusing it bit by bit. Like roots spreading within fertile soil, the threads of light engrained themselves only before fading. The coil of thorns released minuscule droplets of blood, falling upward into the faint light. Reno pursued the droplets obscure movement with his eyes. Loose strands of hair and the drawstrings of his hood drooped skyward and stiffened. Reno’s weight shifted downward matching the orientation of the space. The faint security given by his current foothold was stripped away. Those petals of light encircling Reno compressed and liquefied. Meager bolts of lightning streaked across the darkness above Reno’s head and just below his waist.

White hot illumination dispersed the remainder of dark, charred fog rose like rings of smoke puffed from pursed lips. The atmosphere shuddered, thunder crashed. Reno, accompanied by beads of blood and droplets of light, nosedived towards the vestige of darkness at base of the space. His breath bubbled upon an exhale. Diverging shapes and sizes, the bubbles’ flimsy shells sparkled in muted hues. Not long before their creation, the bubbles  popped from the sudden spike in pressure. A voice that wasn’t his own flowed into his ears. Intelligible yet soothing, the droplets of light resonated with this voice and conjoined. A curious ethereal form was conceived. Slender and feminine, the form embraced Reno in his descent. Torrents of water poured from above, Reno’s beads of blood outpaced the water and collided against the fragments of dark below.

Acting as a razor-sharp blade, his blood sliced open the womb of the cloud. The feminine shape covered Reno, guiding him toward the opening. While the rain fell, they brushed against the skirt of his jacket. As the rain trickled down Reno’s body, the listless streams sizzled. Strings of steam weaved alongside the tufts of cloud. Reno senses were stripped from his consciousness like fragile bark of stilted sapling’s trunk. Limp limbed, he engrossed himself in the embrace of the feminine shade. Even without the knowledge of what it was, serenity pulsed through this form and eased Reno’s heart. The both passed through the entryway. What could gain nothing is meant to be left behind. The hole repaired itself, erasing the notion of return. There was liberation in the fall. Thin rain dropped to the earth while the steam leaking from Reno’s body rose.

Clouds of stone were affixed to the sky. Sturdy and unmoving, the clouds were sown as one. Like plates of amour, they were built to protect those who reside beneath. But a bastion can’t garner an absolute defense, there will always be a chip. There, in the center of the sea of stone clouds, mossy green light propagated. Etched inside the clouds, a shattered moon slept. Not unlike a scholar’s studious eye, the moon examined the world below. Raindrops captured the mossy green light, expanding as they lost their gentleness. Diving alongside them, Reno noticed masses trickling from the cracks moon. Transmogrified bodies joined him in his descent. Lifeless, a gale maneuvered the bodies south. The feminine shade flickered and carried Reno in the opposite direction.

The world below drew closer. Decaying structures plotted the razed land. Like tombstones, the bell-shaped buildings marked where vestiges of life resided. Bronze braziers spiraled around the base of these structures, the mossy light of the moon pooled within and conceived hollow flames that remind untouched by the milky rain. The land was soaked, its soil unable to swallow its sustenance. Small rivers diverged from one another, flowing forth in all directions. To the south, distant remains of forest resided. Reno, by the guidance of the shade and the wind, touched down on its edge.

***

Brittle bramble lay askew below frail hunks of petrified wood on the flooded forest floor. Reno found himself on his back, prone, still within the embrace of the shade. Intangible was her touch, as was the rain. A natural rhythm incited by the hollow drumming of soft rain against slivery branches and dense trunks. The rain caressed all, but him. Steam continued to ribbon off Reno’s limbs. He reached out to the leafless canopy. The shade mimicked Reno and glided her spindly fingers up his forearms, interlocking her hands with his.  Droplets plopped into the puddles around him. In tune, their cadence chimed. The feminine shade ceased to flicker. Heaviness and density subjugated the shade’s airy form before it melted into viscous sable sludge. The sludge slid across Reno, trickling onto the ground. Outlined, it spread along Reno’s heels.

What was that sensation? It safely led me here but why? This is the place I’ve abandoned along with myself. The changes are vast; however, the feeling of dread remains. I don’t know where I’m heading but what else can I do? I should do as Maya said. All those doors need to be closed before I can move on. Kama Tower is waiting. I can’t stand it.

 

Reno clenched his hands and lowered them to his sides. Misguided, covering a thin fog brought forth by the perpetual steam rising from his person. Though an unknown, he longed for the shade’s pleasant embrace. An aegis of emotion, an escort of remembrance. Where would Reno find solace if he couldn’t uncover it within himself? Despite the heat generating from his body, frigidness encapsulated his heart. Reno lifted himself to his feet and attuned himself to his current surroundings. Neither saturated in dark or blessed in light, the forest was neutral. The trees resembled splintered skeletons in both color and shape. Their trunks were not unlike cracked vertebras while their limbs, spindly phalanges.

Indistinct sapphire shadows scrolled over mite-sized holes speckling the trees. Shifting inward and outward, the shadows clumped on odd oblong growths that ringed around base of the tree, dangling on by a thread. Reno proceeded forward, tracing the movements of the scrolling shadows. Navigating over chunky roots, Reno positioned his hand against the passing trees for support, plucking his fingers from the damp and sticky bark. After a great distance, the thick canopy opened, allowing mossy moonlight and an excess of rain to pour in. With this illumination, Reno was given a revelation. The forest thinned and the height of the trees diminished, barely reaching the sky. But in the expanse, where the shattered moon and earth met, a contour shrouded in mist blessed Reno with familiarity in this unrecognizable land.

“Kama Tower.” Reno said quietly. Though his view was obscured from this distance, he was certain that the structure was none other. “I’ll need to make my way over there. I wonder how long it will until I reach it? I haven’t a moment to spare.” Reno lowered his head and removed his hood. In the puddles below, his reflection wavered. His lavender eyes, calm and brimming with resolve, vaguely gleamed.

As Reno inspected his countenance further, he took notice to what appeared to be an insect slinking along the ground. It carefully traced the outer rim of puddle that Reno stood. About an inch in length, the bulbous insect sported muted yellow skin. Broad streaks of indigo overlapped stringy coal strips along its sides. Seemingly eyeless, its feelers were long and ruffled like raven feathers, curling toward its back, and alternatively stretching in the air. Naturally curious, Reno wondered where the tiny thing was heading on its taut tact-like legs. After following the singular insect, more that were like it migrated in the same direction welcomed him into the herd. Reno sidestepped, carefully minding his footsteps. Scanning the path ahead, the little insects climbed onto immobile human shapes.

Some rested on both knees while others stood taciturn on eroded plateaus surrounding the forest’s entrance. The ones that were on equal ground didn’t acknowledge Reno’s presence but continued to bath in the rain. Dull clicks produce by the rain falling upon their faces mingled in with the droplets hurriedly splashing inside puddles and the rushed slouching of miniature waterways snaking across the land. Full frontal, Reno witnessed the shattered moon’s face. Dim, void of the abundant light leaking from its pores, it was clear that it was starting a new cycle.  Their backs turned to Reno, all of them casted their gaze to the moon with arms spread in welcoming. Undecided to either call out to them or conceal his presence, Reno stayed low and crept forward, watching the event play out before him. Three at a time, the insects climbed the ash-like bodies and bore into them. A few moments passed before the insects would reemerge, facing away from the entryways they created. Expunging bronze silky thread out of their backsides, the insects hung from the bodies’ skin, weaving themselves with the thread. Saplings protruded out of the napes of the ashen bodies’ necks.

 

Author and Novelist; an eternal seeker of self.

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