An ocean between them,
he watches over her.
When she sleeps under her sun,
he stands and subdues her demons into submission.
She wakes not,
resting peacefully.
On even just those few hours,
she can get by.

When her sun falls,
and he has returned home to rest,
she awakens.
She knows even in sleep when he is not there.
she stands guard.

While she cannot see him,
as his sun has drifted off to sleep with him,
he can see her.
She is there if he is ripped from a peaceful slumber,
or his sun has slept before he and keeps him awake.
She is there simply to speak or lull him to sleep until his sun stands and stretches again.

When his sun is up,
she often tries to rest again;
but her demons pester her.
They prod her awake,
haunt her dreams,
strangle her.
She gives up.

Though when he is there,
she grows tired and drifts off.
The demons shy away,
and for a few more hours,
she rests.

And so the cycle continues.
Each take a shift,
an ocean apart,
protecting the other from the monstrosities that pervade the other’s dreams.

One Memory

Now I lay me down to sleep,
The tune still hummed softly in the back of her mind.
Every night as a child,
every night her mother was home,
she sang her to sleep.

I pray The Lord my soul to keep,
She still smiled at the memory.
she didn’t have a surplus of happy childhood memories.

Guard me Jesus through the night,
she didn’t subscribe to any religious beliefs as an adult.
Her mother tried.
It didn’t stick.

Wake me with the morning light.
She never failed to follow up with the same jumble of silly sounds,
a tickling,
a kiss on the forehead,
and a “Goodnight,” before flipping off the lights.

While she didn’t have many childhood memories to make her smile,
she had this one.
She could still sing the prayer,
religious or not.
She could still remember the mass of jumbled sounds,
word for word.
She could still feel her mother’s fingers on her stomach and hear her own concurrent giggling,
just settling down as the lights flipped off with her mother’s voice fading out.

While she didn’t have childhood memories to make her smile,
she had this one.
And she always would.

Arguing With “Her”

‘Don’t get too close.
Never let anyone see everything.
Too much;
no one could handle them.
She knew that.

‘They always leave in the end—drop off like flies.’
Even when she hid the worst,
the “best” of the worst was still too much.
She was insufferable.
She was right again.
And again, she knew that, too.

‘Who could ever want… this?
For once,
she agreed with the bitch.
No fight.
She was nothing to look at.
She saw that lazy eye,
even if slight.
That extra fat, extra skin.
Cheeks, chin,
bat-winged arm flaps,
stomach (freshly-baked muffin tops, anyone?),
And the scars.

‘Don’t blame me. You did that allllll on your own.’
She remembered almost nothing.
Just snapshots,
almost like crime scene photos.
This was her doing.
The physical evidence of insanity.
And what the fuck else could they be?
Semi-uniform lines,
crossing over others,
some thick,
some thin,
lining arms, thighs, and calves in layers.

‘A future?’
That cruel laughter…
Rattled her brain,
nearly sent her into hysterics,
in public even.
That was for her own amusement.
The bitch was… still right.
Even as a little girl with a softball bat and a cheeky grin,
she was always in awe when she started the next grade level,
amazed she’d made it that far.

‘We both know it’s only a matter of time; you’ll do it regardless.’
She wanted to argue,
but could she?
A void:
black, empty.
She’d never seen anything else.
Maybe that was her future.
The near future.

‘You’re a lost cause. Doomed from the time you took your first breath.
She needed to stop being fucking right.
Nothing worked.
She couldn’t even be labeled for treatment properly.
Can’t treat what you can’t diagnose.
Just fuck the thing up more.

‘Get it over with. Selfish prick.’
The longer she stayed,
the longer those she met “knew” her.
The longer she stayed,
the larger her pool of acquaintances grew.
They wouldn’t see right away that she was doing them a favor—
that they would be far better off without her.
She’d be doing them a service.
She was going to do them a favor.

‘I should start… making arrangements.’

An Unlikely Sanctuary

In an unknown location within the realm of Risdoc,
buried deep below the large kingdoms of Amraes and Iveog,
laid a devilish dungeon known to a very select few.
This dungeon, however, was not one of stereotype;
the “slaves” willing,
the Mistress one of mercy,
the “Petboy” well-loved,
and the Guard Dog a mere mischievous trickster.

While slaves came and went,
a cohort of 19 stayed.
Of those 19,
a cluster of 10 formed a bond,
interacting regularly.

The Mistress: a cute Renga guinea pig.
The Petboy: a lanky Shirbt.
The Guard Dog: a fluffy Gnoer.
The senior fools migrated in clusters from other smaller lands—
a Shirbt bard,
a Gnoer soldier,
a Dehtuci guardian,
a Notsmac jester,
a Rgotu pascifist,
a Notsmac inquisitor,
and a Ngoraspi mediator.

Without hesitation,
the veterans absorbed the “little ones” into the herd,
trickling in from far away places—
a Mriaane scholar,
a Dehtuci strongman,
and a Dehtuci caretaker.
Slowly they came,
but quickly they became one with the rest.

Regardless of homeland,
native tongue,
time on Earth,
experience in life,
or flaws,
they all came together to form a group of crude,
misfit puzzle pieces that just so happened to fit comfortably together.

When one fell apart,
the others were there to catch the pieces before they shattered.
When one left,
the others called out,
letting them know they were missed and patiently awaited their return;
and upon their return,
they were welcomed home with loving insults and open arms.
When one faced hardships,
the others stood behind them to keep them on their feet.
And when one just needed encouragement,
the others were there to cheer them on.

Some found their home in this place—
something they lacked and wouldn’t have otherwise.
Others found a home away from home.
Some found a place to leave their mask at the dungeon’s gate;
expose their flaws, weaknesses, and “undesirable traits.”
Other found an escape from the harsh realities of the world above,
even if just for a short time.

This dungeon was the only one of its kind.
This dungeon was a place of spirited chatter and endearing taunts.
This dungeon was an openly friendly hidden fortress echoing with the swears of many mother tongues,
and on occasion,
deep debate.

Above all else,
this dungeon was an unlikely sanctuary—
one for those who needed safety somewhere more than anything else.

Soften the Blow

Will it make it easier if I make you hate me?
If I tear open the wounds of the past,
dig my talons into your chest and make new?
Twist to tear you apart,
to drive the point home,
and rip out your heart?
All while hiding tears behind a mask of remorseless glee,
tossing the very thing you entrusted to me aside like a used chew toy?
Laughing, watching you pick your broken body and mangled heart up off the floor,
turning away for the last time without even a final glance over your shoulder?
Will it?

Will it make it easier if I just disappear?
Log off one night and never return?
Never hear my voice again?
Only a last letter or an email?
A confirmatory text from Dan?
Will the shock numb you?
Paralyze you?
Leave you unable to feel the pain you’ll waste on a creature like me?
Will it?

Will it make it easier if I truly say goodbye?
Say, “Welterusten [Sweet dreams],” one final time before we hang up?
Leave you one more message saying, “Goedenacht [Goodnight],” and one more, “Goedemorgen [Good morning],” to greet you in the morning?
Apologize profusely for leaving you behind,
breaking a promise,
despite knowing it will never be enough?
Assure you that you did everything you could,
are the best thing to have ever happened to me,
and that none of this is your fault?
Leave that final, “Ik hou zielsveel van jou, mijn schat,” [I love you very much, my dear]
signing it with, “Je Klein Vogeltje?” [Your Little Bird]
Will it?

My dear,
mijn schat,
I am going to do the one thing I never wanted to:
hurt you, unbearably so.

With time,
the pain will ease,
and you will love another.
And that person,
as I do and always will,
is going to accept every piece of you with a smile on their face.

Babe, are you handsome?
I promise I’ll answer when you do.
Don’t worry.
I’ll hear you.

Ik hou heel veel jou, mijn schat. (I love you very much, my dear.)
Mijn lief. (My love.)
…Mijn beertje. (My little bear).
Zo… zo veel. (So… so much. 

Please don’t ever forget that.

No Longer a Parasite?

“I’m here.”

She’s often on the receiving end of those words.
Hyperventilating and sobbing.
Vacant and unaware.
Flighty and shaking.
Deflated and listless.

“Babe, it’s okay.”

She’s often on the receiving end of those words.
Falling apart.

“Thank you.”

She’s often the one saying those words.
Finally calm.
Breathing evenly.
Cognisant, lucid.
Shakily pieced together again.

For what?

He’s often the one asking this question.
Why was he being thanked?

“For being here.”

She was often the one saying these words.
He was there.
He put up with her.
He cradled the shards in his arms.
He wiped the tears away.
He tried to help her glue herself back together.
He tried to help her keep herself together afterward.
He was always there.

“Babe, stay with me. I’m here. It’s okay.”

For once…,
she was not on the receiving end of these words.
For once,
she was trying to keep him there,
with her,
away from somewhere,
wherever the hell that may be,
in his mind.
Not alone.

With a golden poteto,
his inked beauty,
a Fin of three decades,
and a dash of salt,
he came back.
And he stayed.

Thank you for being there.

She smiled.

“Of course. I love you. I always will be.”

She now understood why.
Thank you?
Of course she was there.

She helped him.
she always had.
She kept him sane…
by being insane.

She was a parasite.

…Or maybe not…