by Laurie Razor
The ascension to sovereignty proved hard for a beetle devoid of flowers.
Beware the air you should not breathe, yet seek the storms that hide them! - Remenu
As I wandered a dirt road to nowhere, a vagrant ran toward me.
“Excuse me, boy-o. I’m lost. Could you tell me how to get home?”
His breath reeked of rotten cat meat.
“That depends, stranger. Where do you live?”
Strong winds almost blew us away.
“You know where I live, don’t you? If you didn’t, they wouldn’t have sent you.”
“Why would you say that?”
He dropped his backpack and kicked some gravel on it.
“On the mountain, this man built a house. I saw it before the beetles ate his skin.”
My smile widened.
“What beetles ate the mountain-man?”
He ripped the top button off his shirt and threw it far.
“Desert stags and ocean divers.”
“Who lives in that house now?”
The water in my bottle rose from its closed lid and floated through the air, the way quicksilver once danced over Cydonia.
I nodded as the liquid danced into his right nostril.
“Aye, he does. We knew him well, you and I.”
His legs raised in tandem though his body remained stationary.
“Now you’ve tasted the stream, where does this mountain lie?”
A saccharine puddle splashed my scarred feet.
The impure novitiate vanished.
I turned again. His button glowed like starlight, and I followed it.
My feet became hooves, my hands clopped against the earth, and a fuzz overtook me.
An incline sprouted ahead, and my speed increased.
Harmonious odors alienated my sense of self until my gallops weren’t mine.
These motions moved me outside myself, and my home neared.
In those pungent fields of Saffron, Musk-deer dropped like salted slugs.
As my impatient vessel ran, their auburn stamens screamed for salvation.
High upon bales of Oppoponax and Galbanum, the wise-man sat on a blasphemous chest of Myrrh.
Far beneath his clean feet, I bowed.
He drew deep from his long pipe and anointed my head in its acrid smoke.
“Rise, Youngblood. Why do you ascend?”
As I rose on my bestial haunches, he exhaled more smoke.
“To return home. To earn my orchid, end my journey, become Sovereign, and start anew.”
“Proceed, Youngblood. Another awaits you.”
He put his finger to his upturned lips.
My hooves charged through his floral blockade, up the merry fields to a great stone structure.
I rehumanized on the extravagant terrace.
Before I could move, the door swung open.
The woman who stood before me carried Gaia’s splendor.
“Greetings, Youngblood. I've waited long for your return.”
Tortured moonlight couldn’t dampen her color.
“Oh? How long?”
“Ten winters. You left before I arrived, didn’t you?”
I nodded as her arachnidan wiles flourished.
Despite her delicate appearance, she bore no sign of my orchid.
Slender arms slung over my shoulders, and I sensed her lie.
“This isn’t my home, and I don’t know you.”
Her lips caressed my aural cavity with breathless malice.
“Yet here you are, Youngblood. Are you lost?”
Though her face turned from mine, she felt my wicked smile burn through her pseudo-omniscience.
“Not as lost as you are foolish.”
The walls fell to the nether.
Once more, I stood in that sloped montane field.
Invisible as she appeared, I knew she still lurked there.
“You know my lot, illusionist. Mortals tremble before you, but I’m no man. My face is as false as yours. I warn you, anger me again and my wrath shall-”
The banshee screamed, though my internal beast silenced her with acoustic luminescence.
Membranous wings sprouted from my scapula, and I flapped them skyward as she imploded.
As I ascended, the button beckoned from my rooftop.
With a great whoosh, I soared to a porch.
Before I landed, the door swung open to emptiness.
“Who’s there? I’m in no mood, phantom."
Nothing greeted me, so I hovered in place.
“Reveal yourself, or I’ll end you.”
My former master hobbled into view.
“End me, will you? Such an attempt would not end well, Youngblood.”
His cyclopean hunch belied the arcane wisdom sealed within him.
I landed in the doorway, my wings dissipated, and his gnarled cane struck the floorboards thrice.
“Alas, I would mourn.”
“Oh? For me, or N?"
As he cackled, I recalled a cyan peony that blossomed in the black sands of a faraway Lepidopteran Desert.
“I knew there lied a reason, Youngblood. Now, you’ve wandered for ten long years, yet you remain intact. Have you learned well?”
My thoughts cleared.
“Does my return not prove my worth?”
“Some lost dogs return home lost, do they not?”
“I suppose, but that dog then knows what lies beyond his yard.”
He cackled again.
“Lucanus Youngblood, you have grown! I envy the knowledge and will you possess.”
Magenta streaks mottled his pale frailty.
“As I once did yours, Master Remenu.”
His cane shot to my shoulder, his forehead split, and he showered me in the colorless majesty of his ..
“May our spirits combine. If the fates deem this union unworthy, let me consume you; if not, I concede to your sovereignty.”
Feral tempests cored deep into our souls.
No tears escaped me as he fell.
From my rooftop, the vagrant’s button waltzed inside and closed the door.
I nodded, and like a merry swine who greeted a Grecian summer, it leaked a familiar face.
I felt as content as when I last saw her in my youth.
Odd emotions swirled within me as my pale orchid blinked for the first time.