The Blessing

“Do you even have the faintest idea why you’re still single?” my mother asks. Questioning me out of the blue is the way she offers her unsolicited and always unwanted opinions.

“I don’t know, Mom, because I just watched The Exorcist and cried through the entire thing?” And this is the way I try to dodge the conversation. “I mean, I know how it’s going to end and I feel terrible for Pazuzu. When it’s all over, Chris has Regan, Father Karras and Father Merrin ascend to heaven but what does Pazuzu get? Bupkis. Nada. Nothing.”

“You’re an odd duck.”

“A sentimental odd duck, let’s not overlook my ability to empathize and emote.”

Mom doesn’t take the bait. “I just want you to find someone so badly. You’re such a wonderful, albeit weird person and you deserve to meet someone really special,” she says.

And then, on cue, Dad pokes his head into the living room and in true man-fashion, tries to fix the problem.

“You attract more bees with honey than vinegar, pun’kin. Maybe if you spruced yourself up a bit,” he says. “Not that there’s anything wrong with the way you look–“

“Shut up, George!” Mom punches Dad in the arm.

“What? I’m just saying some fellas need to see the car polished before taking it out on a test drive, that’s all.”

“You want strangers test driving your daughter?”

“No! Of course not!” Dad waves the notion away as if it was a wasp. “What I mean to say is would it kill you to maybe wear a dress and some makeup once in a while and socialize with actual people in the real world in a social setting instead of throwing your youth away on the internet in chat rooms?”

“Dad, I know you mean well but you’re old–“

“I’m 56.”

“And that’s ancient, so is your way of thinking. Women shouldn’t have to gussy themselves up–“

“I never used the word gussy.”

“–in order to attract a mate.”

“We’re not talking about mating we’re talking about dating.”

“Same difference, Dad. If I met someone and we were into each other we might just hook up. It’s only sex.”

“Not in my house, it’s not! There’ll be no it’s only sex happening under my roof, young lady!”

“Which answers your question, Mom, as to why I’m still single.”

“What?” Mom looks confused. “How did this come back on me?”

“Not that it’s any of your business but I still have my V card.”

“Your what?”

“She’s still a virgin, George.”

“Well, thank Christ for small miracles, I suppose,” Dad breathes a sigh of relief.

“And if and when I hand in my card, I want it to be with someone who gets me, someone on my level and I want it to happen in a place where I feel safe and that’s here, with you guys.”

“You’re not asking us to watch, are you?”

Mom punches Dad in the arm again. “George!”

“Ewww, Dad, don’t be gross!” I decide to make one last attempt at explaining my reasoning. “This place isn’t the fanciest but it’s lived in and it’s filled with love—your love for each other and for me and my love for you. I want my first-time love to exist in the same place.”

“Seeing as it will be your first time, it might not be filled with as much love as you think,” Mom says under her breath and it’s Dad’s turn to punch her lightly on the arm.

“Hey,” he says. “Don’t spoil her fantasy.”

“So,” my voice turns sheepish. “Do I have your blessing?”

They stare at each other for a long contemplative moment and to my surprise, Dad is the one who breaks the ice. “Yeah, kiddo. It’s okay.” And Mom nods in agreement.

“Great!” I snatch my laptop up as I bound off the sofa and race past them and upstairs to my room.

“Where are you off to?” Mom asks.

“To get ready! Tommy’ll be over in a little while and we’re totally going to do it tonight! You guys are the best!”

Mom turns to Dad, “Who’s Tommy?”

“Dead meat if he knocks on this door,” Dad says cracking his knuckles.

Text and Audio ©2019 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

My Name Be Entropy

I was never what anyone would have called creative by any stretch of the imagination but my parents, my loving mother and father taught me how to appreciate creativity when I encountered it especially when we gazed up at the night sky.

They schooled me on using my imagination, on connecting the dots to form pictures and manipulating those images in my mind to construct the most beautiful art imaginable. I was alive with a raw energy that I could not brush onto canvas or mold in clay. Nor was I able to express in song, speech or written word the joy I felt standing with those whom I loved most dearly beneath a canopy of loveliness brought to life by divine hands.

But that was then.

Now I serenaded the twilight every night, luring stars close enough to be plucked from the sky, one by one, and I saved their beauty in my clutch bag for the day my mother and father, who grew bored with me and succumbed to wanderlust, decided to finally return home.

“Why do you continue doing this thing, Enny?” my neighbor, the Spinster Wainwright, once asked in a tone that was more condemnation than curiosity.

“Because my mother once told me that stars used to inspire wishes,” I replied. “And I will continue to do this thing until my wish has been granted.”

To this, the old woman had no response. She simply stood at my side, watching the night sky grow darker as one by one the stars were plucked from the heavens and placed into my purse, causing galaxies to shudder.

Eventually, our star, our sun would join the others and this lonely existence would be eaten by the dark motes that share my name.

Text and Audio ©2019 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

We Call It Love

They darken our doorstep, these weak men of authority do, issuing proclamations and threats in hopes of frightening us into submission. How poorly they know myself or my wife.

Were they more observant, able to peer beneath the surface of our supposed marital hatred, if one of these men, made strong only because of their sheer number, were truly bold enough to gaze into my betrothed’s eyes or even mine, they would perchance see into our souls and spot a chemistry that is more than mere butterflies churning in our bellies for our butterflies are bloodthirsty ravens forcing us into an entanglement, a battle for conquest, a contest of champions in which there can only be one victor but when the coupling is concluded, both emerge victorious.

But no, instead they bring their rules and laws, trying to persuade us into accepting that our way of thinking is not right, telling us our mating ritual will eventually end in disaster and in order to safeguard both my wife and myself, we must not only separate from one another but be sent into exile and walk the earth until we see the errors of our ways and are prepared to repent for our sins.

They think our ways foolish and perhaps I am the fool for thinking we could live among these strangers and benefit from sharing our respective cultures, acknowledging our common traits and if not embracing them at least accepting the rituals which divide us.

I state that no one will ever dictate how we live our lives for we are happy and even if their armed horde by some miracle manages to separate me from my wife, they will never succeed in tearing us apart because our hearts are knotted in the unbreakable bond of life union.

I explain that our marriage is built upon a foundation of fighting, for warrior blood courses through our veins and sometimes fighting is right. Necessary. Each dawn, as sunshine glints off our slashing blades in springtime, there exists between us a strange, violent harmony that we call love. But they are not one with understanding in this matter.

So, as they draw their weapons in an attempt to separate us, my wife smiles at me and we brace for battle, accepting their challenge.

Text and Audio ©2019 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

The Wooden Cup

The last meal? Declined. Told that I might dine on whatever foodstuffs my heart desired, I found myself wanting nothing that would possibly remind me of the pleasures of this existence. Starvation would be the repast I took to my grave.

Prepared to meet my maker? Not by a long chalk. Religion was a thing that never quite managed to find purchase upon the coral reef of my soul. Mine was a spirit never moved by any diety, higher or lower, so the only salvation available for me once I came face to face with my final fate was to let oblivion enfold me within her inky embrace.

My jailors were informed that I would seek no holy counsel from a curate, as I hoped to spend my last hours in solitude but that request was ignored and a visitor was announced—a woman whose face was unfamiliar to me was escorted into my cell.

She said nothing, this woman, as she sat on the far corner on my bedding, cradling a cup hewn from wood in her delicate hands. Smiling, she offered the cup to me and made a motion suggesting that I drink.

For the life of me—a peculiar turn of phrase considering my position—I could not explain why I accepted the cup or why at her urging I touched its brim to my lips but in my grasp this simple cup was not unlike the holy grail.

It was filled with a liquid that after one sip I somehow knew to be her tears. Tears shed from happiness and from grief, yet when those collected salt drops greeted my lips the flavor was replete with the surprising splendor of the sweet serenity of a loving quiet purpose.

I drank and drank until there was no more and was momentarily reluctant to release the cup. When she left, still proffering that unnaturally kind smile, I realized what she had done. That simple and bizarre act of sharing her fluid with me sparked an ember of faith within me that I had no inkling existed and in that moment I knew sorrow and regret for what I had done and for the life that could have been and for the reward that existed beyond this life whose gates would never be opened for one such as I.

So it was to be oblivion after all.

Text and Audio ©2019 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

There is a Letter…

In my sock drawer, there is a hiding space behind a row of what my father calls grave socks as in one foot in the grave because they either do not have a match, are riddled with holes, threadbare at the toes and heels, or the ankle elastic has given up their hold on life. In that hiding space, there is a letter written carefully in a mixture of cursive and print. In that letter, are words, feelings, emotions, and admissions that a boy would never say directly to a girl’s face, not even on a double dog dare.

On a bicycle, there is a shy paperboy who, even though I have not responded to his first letter yet, would write me another letter, I am sure of it, reminding me of our time in the park. In that park, there is a rum cherry tree under which I made a promise to the shy paperboy of seven minutes in heaven.

In my closet, on an afternoon when no one is home, I make good on my promise with the shy paperboy. In the dark, my mind is filled with a sort of scary, sort of awkward fireworks that I can see but cannot hear because my heart is pounding so fast and loud that I swear the shy paperboy can hear it.

In that kiss, there is something I do not have words for, something that drops my guard completely, makes me feel truly comfortable with the shy paperboy and I am desperate to let him see me in my entirety.

In that feeling, I am crying harder than I ever have before, harder than I even knew I could, crying past the point when I run out of tears. In the tearless sobs, my breath is hitching and I realize that this is most likely the happiest and most terrified I will ever feel in my life.

In the silence, after the kiss and the tears, the overwhelming and slightly painful joy is replaced by the sound of a key sliding into a lock, the tumbling of a bolt and the jangling of a woman’s metal bracelets.

In the house, there is a mother who will tan not only my hide but the shy paperboy’s as well, if she ever finds out I have company without permission and especially if my room door is closed and that company is a boy who is in my room.

In the window, there is a scared paperboy climbing out and mumbling a prayer that he does not hurt himself or makes a sound when he drops a story to the ground below.

In my mother’s eyes, there is suspicion when she opens the door and enters my room, catching me rushing to shut the window, cutting off the cool breeze even though I am dripping with sweat.

In my mind, there is a list of excuses that I cannot find in the clutter of thoughts so I just stare at my mother as innocently as I can manage, as she walks past me and opens the window, about to stick her head out to inspect the backyard.

In my mouth, there is a fib, “A wasp!” I say just a bit too forcefully and I build on it by telling her there was a wasp in the room so I closed the door to stop it from getting into the rest of the house and I managed to chase it out and shut the window behind it.

In the moments that tick by too slowly, my mother glances at the window again, then at my face before turning to leave but as she reaches the door, she stops and says, “You should probably find a better hiding place. Your father’s been talking about throwing out your grave socks and you wouldn’t want him finding that letter, would you? And the no company without permission rule stands no matter how sweet a boy’s words are or how much your heart aches for him, understood?”

In the end, I realize I am not as clever as I think I am, nor is my mother that foolish or unreasonable and I discover a newfound respect for her as I answer, “Yes, ma’am.”

Text and Audio ©2019 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

I Wake Up Falling

I feel a pressure against my body that gives way to a cracking and tinkling sound. Suddenly, I am awake and my eyes take in every detail in an instant. I am on the wrong side of my bedroom window, surrounded by hundreds of tiny glass shards that catch the morning sunlight. There is a masked man standing on the proper side of the window, arms outstretched in a throwing motion. These images are caught in time and for a moment I am weightless until gravity returns and the noises of the city coming crashing down on my ears. I am falling storeys per second into rush hour traffic, pushed by a man I do not recognize for reasons I cannot fathom.

My final thought before my physical being comes to an abrupt halt is surprising clear: If there is an existence beyond this, I will spend the rest of my afterlife tracking down my murderer. I need answers and he needs to pay for what he has done.

In Health And In…

Aida was awakened by the gamey scent of wet dog fur amalgamated with mildew, blood and rancid breath. Instinctively, she reached for her husband’s side of the bed to find it empty and soaked with sweat. She rose to sitting and once her eyes adjusted to the darkness, her hands flew to her mouth in order to stifle a scream. There was a figure crouched in the corner of the bedroom, half hidden in the black slashes of shadow. It was moulting from translucent skin and changing in the process into a thing that resembled no man or beast, like the stuff and nonsense creatures of fish wife tales, only it hadn’t occurred at the fall of dusk or when the full moon was at its apex. No, this transformation began at the hour of the wolf, when the stars faded into pitch and the sounds of nature were lulled into unnatural silence.

At first, Aida feared this changeling had devoured her husband but as it turned to look at her she noticed that its eyes belonged to Benjamin, the man she had loved before she knew what the word meant. It was those very same eyes that studied her now, and she thought she detected the creature’s internal struggle, being torn between a deep-rooted love and overpowering hunger as if it was trying to puzzle out how to satiate its appetite without breaking its own heart.

Each Time It Comes

The temperature in the room changed and Rupert’s breath came in frantic little gasps as he smelled the hot, sickly sweet fragrant cloud of burning sulfur that singed the edges of his nostrils. Hackles raised as long bronze fingers spidered on his shoulders and a mouth crowded with sharp teeth kissed his neck.

Mother was home.

Auntie’s Little Secret

She hadn’t needed to surf dodgy websites in pursuit of self-gratification because telepathy was Annabelle’s internet porn. One peek into a stranger’s seemingly innocent thoughts allowed her to slip behind the velvet curtain of desire, leading her down a delightful rabbit hole of dirty little sexual secrets and it was all fun and games until she accidentally peeked into her aunt’s mind and found scenario after scenario of herself in various forms of bondage, being subjected to things she wouldn’t have done to her worst enemy.

Mandy Smells of Rain

Mandy smells of rain when she cries. Teardrops fall from sky blue eyes and I splash in their puddles as I rush to comfort her. I have ruined many a pair of shoes this way, but I don’t care. She is not mine, though I wish the opposite were true and I am not the cause of her sorrow but I will be the earth beneath her, the foundation of support that absorbs her precipitation.