Angels & devils
Putting my soul through the lathe;
Battles rage within.
By A.E. Wallace
Angels & devils
Putting my soul through the lathe;
Battles rage within.
By A.E. Wallace
My thoughts follow the sun’s path
In relative haste.
By A.E. Wallace
The note came just after dawn. Her servant left it on her writing desk on a little silver dish. Lady Persephone Antonia Luna Pepperdrake sat in her dressing gown at her desk balancing a cup of tea on a saucer in one hand as she held the note in the other. It read:
The Vermilion Smoke docked.
I have a good egg for A Good Egg.
Awaiting an invitation for elevenses.
Your devoted servant, Rigo DLC.
Lady Persephone sighed heavily. She knew her brother, Ted, would be along as soon as he had enough of his self-induced oubliette. Annoyance began to tighten her jaw but a swift pang of guilt in her heart released it almost immediately. Still, she was glad he was back and also that she would see Rigo, the Vermilion Smoke’s navigator. Rigo was the only man she knew that could make her forget all propriety. In his presence she could forget any melancholy she would fall into. He even made her forget her work. To this end, she tried to limit her contact with the handsome navi.
She put down the letter and gingerly lifted the cup of tea to her mouth. As she inhaled the soft exotic fragrance, she mused on memories of her old friend, Lenore. They had been as close as sisters. Lenore had soft, auburn hair and hazel eyes. She had always had such a serene countenance. Persephone often thought her friend would have been more at home had she been painted on some fresco in a great cathedral in Italy— wings spread behind her, holding a harp looking up through her halo in askance to the artist’s interpretation of God— Lenore had been a soft beauty with a blush on her cheeks and rosebud lips. She was like a new summer day. Lenore had been the complete visual contrast to her icy, glamorous friend. Persephone’s raven black hair and dark brown eyes set in her light olive skin heralded her noble Venetian ancestry.
Where Lenore looked completely at ease and content, Persephone gave the appearance of a life in complete drama and violent passion. Together they were like day and night arm-in-arm as they walked the halls of their palatial boarding school. They shared secrets, made plans, played pranks and genuinely doted on each other. When Persephone brought Lenore home to her family that Christmas, it had been like the sun broke through a long winter’s night. In the serenity of Lenore’s gaze, she watched her brother fall into a love too deep. He would never recover. The shadow of Persephone’s mistake crossed her reverie. She took another sip of her warm tea then put the cup and saucer down. She wrote on an ivory note card, folded and sealed it. She addressed it to “Rodrigo De La Cruz, Vermilion Smoke” and rang for her maid.
The hopes and fears that propel mortals into a frenzy pace down the highways and byways of goal orientated destinations are sometimes just as bullshit as the thermals you see just on the horizon.
“Where are you going? ” said Frank.
“Fuck knows. But I’m not staying here.”
“But Anya, you can’t just go,” he said as his eyes searched my face. What was he looking for, anyway? I changed. There was no getting away from that.
Maybe he was looking for whatever it was that he saw in me back then. It was clear now that he never really loved me; he loved the idea of me. I had been a song that caused him to shipwreck his life. I had been blithely floated into a dream he spun out of some sleep deprived and marijuana induced haze.
But that was a long time ago and a decade of disappointment had worn me down like millennia of water worming holes through rock.
“Look, I just need to go for a bit. Need to think. You don’t let me think here. You don’t let me do anything,” I said.
Frank watched me as I stuffed my bag. The contempt I saw in his eyes only 30 minutes before was melting into watery pools of understanding. I think he knows that, even though I have to come back, I will never be here again. It was way past time and I had towed the line long enough in the name of duty and responsibility.
Looking out into the nebulous horizon, Rigo steered the wheel. The tails of his flight coat flapped in the breeze. He could taste a metallic flavour in the air. Tears began to sting at his eyes but he was unsure if it was due to the quality of the air or the thought of Persephone lost in the ether. He shook the doubt from his mind and decided the woman was far too formidable to not have made correct calculations. Although she might not have yet reached her destination, she would do. Or perhaps she already had, he thought. Perhaps she found Captain Pepperdrake and Lenore. Perhaps even now somewhere in time, she might be toasting to her success in helping her brother find his lost love. She most likely was basking in the glory of their admiration and gratefulness. She was also most likely cursing Rigo and wondering what was taking him so long to get to them.
Or perhaps not. There had not been any transmissions from Persephone’s coms device in two days. However, the dials on the Tempus Sextant rotated chaotically indicating she was still moving through time. This gave him hope. It meant, theoretically, he could track her and find her. He would be able to follow her if he could just track the sky right. He needed to see the signs so he needed to fly into the eye of the storm. Although he was a navigator, he was not a scientist. That had been Persephone’s talent. She would know when all the conditions were right. She would know when to anchor and lock in to time. With one vial of Fluxinium left, he knew there would be only one chance to make it through the porthole.
He felt he reached the correct altitude. There was the familiar electricity in the sky prickling his face like the last time. He threw the lever into auto-pilot to maintain the course. He needed to be at the Captain’s override when the porthole opened so he could plug the Tempus Sextant into the Captain’s control panel. He looked at the spinning dials on the sextant once more before putting it into his large coat pocket.
Rigo had thrown any excess weight off the aerostat before he left the dock. All valuables had been stored at the Dr. Griffin’s warehouse. The Vermilion Smoke was barren of everything that meant anything.
Almost everything. He turned to look at Aursezz. His dragon regarded him from her corner on deck. He could not bear to part with her yet he did not know whether she would survive the journey. Her death would be even more unbearable. She never asked for this. He walked over to her, bent down and put his forehead to hers. I’ll set you free, my friend. I hope to see you again, he thought. Aursezz purred and sent him her thoughts of understanding. She acquiesced. He unlocked her from her security cable. She stretched her wings, shook them flapped once and took flight into the billowing air. He watched her fly away until her silhouette faded into the white lightening and tumorous clouds.
He was now the solitary member left on the Vermilion Smoke. Tears stung his eyes again. This time it was not because of the air. Angrily, he wiped the tears away and brought his goggles down from the top of his leather flight cap to cover them and tightened his chinstrap. Rigo went back to the instruments and read all the gauges. He was unsure of most of the readings but he knew enough to know the craft was in good running order. The mad engineer had taught him enough to keep her running.
He reached into his coat pocket and reassuringly touched the sextant again. Then he put his left hand into his other pocket and took out a box. He brought this box to Persephone during the early days of their acquaintance. He had not long been onboard the Vermilion Smoke. He opened it. All the letters he wrote to her were still in it along with one she wrote to him. She had never sent it. He wanted to read it but a crippling regret threatened to suffocate his heart. He regarded it for what seemed an eternity lost in a golden reverie. Anger and fear took hold of him suddenly and broke the spell.
“I lied to you. I said what you wanted to hear. It’s what you wanted, my dear,” he said out loud to no one. He closed the box, walked to the bow, steadied his resolve and dropped it into the amber and bronze clouds.
The lightening clawed past the Vermilion Smoke and an eerie green illumination burst into view. This was the sign. The porthole was about to open. Rigo wished Chongan was there. The monk understood the magic of things. His quiet serenity gave the crew strength. He should have been the one to do this, thought Rigo. He bit back his doubts, went to his navigator’s podium and looked at the charts. He took out the sextant. The needle continued to move but was now wavering between two points. This was more than satisfactory.
Persephone, he thought. He picked up the vial of Fluxinium that was strapped to the podium and went to the engine room. He opened the door to the boiler and tossed the vial in. The fire went green. He slammed the door shut and bolted it. In a fluidity of motion, he turned wheels on gauges, flipped switches and pulled the correct levers for the engines then sat in Pepperdrake’s chair. The dials and switches on the arm of the chair formed an elaborate control panel that parroted those at the steering wheel. Rigo took a moment to marvel at the invention. Of course it had been Persephone’s genius that allowed her brother to fly so well. The auto-pilot had been maintaining the course steadily but it was time to accelerate. Rigo strapped himself in, took the Tempus Sextant out of his pocket and plugged it into the control panel then flipped the master switch releasing the Vermilion Smoke from the auto-pilot.
Suddenly, the needle on the sextant steadied and locked in. The control panel accepted the reading; the lights went from amber to blue on the control panel. The sextant began to chime. The course was set. Rigo’s heart raced as he felt the thrust of acceleration. He saw the eerie green starburst of light at the centre grow bigger and bigger. He was headed into the eye of the storm and into the portal. His trajectory was set. He would see Persephone and Pepperdrake again.
There were those bright days
Filled with wind, mirth, song & sun…
Then I left to roam.
Soon I was beyond the pain as I inhaled. I slipped into the slurping sound of the pipe. The soft tasting, sweet perfume expanded within me and the surprisingly subtlety of disregard for the passions, that before now kept me chained to such unhappiness, took over. My wistful gaze softened as my mind glissaded into a controlled daydream down a snowy peak. The snowflakes fell in glittery white, pink and blue and looked more like soft sugar that dissolved before me as I made my way down into a verdant valley. I began to glide over plush, cool grass as I nodded to fluffy Valais Blacknose sheep that lifted their empty faces at me in regal regard. This peaceful, restful place was beyond any dream. I was warm and serene and wandering without wallowing. I was an angel.
I began to circumambulate within and without the herd, feeling only a moiety of the apprehension I had previously felt before inhaling the warmth, love and peace from the pipe. Any fear in the back of my mind danced away into the warm fleece of the herd that surrounded me
The vivid noon of the meadow bypassed any sunset I had ever known and melted into a mellow, cool summer night. The sky cascaded in seconds; an indigo canopy trailedp overhead a-glitter with new-born constellations. My faced turned up along with my empty-faced sheep and we exhaled a song of life as all cares drifted away.
Oh city poet, with the steely eyes and the nu-buck coat— all collar-up guarded against the bleakness of the grey day! You ride the tram looking out into the world of sandstone sculpted civilization with a sigh on your lips.
I watched as your face lit up when another of your kind joined you on-board and how passionately you spoke of some garbled piece of information you learned from someone named Trisha. Your grey gaze fell upon the smiling face of your compatriot as he nodded in approval. You enthused and rallied your dear friend to agree to something quite shocking (from the look on his face). And you made him promise you faithfully that he would see it through. He got off two stops later and your face fell as you watched him trot off into the Lace Market. Your eyes went cold again and you morosely looked out into the austere day. You knew in your heart the promise would be broken.
My heart went out to you. Inside I wanted to weep.
Connected by magnetic felicity–
A spark lit by mutual fancy;
our connection consonant with our laughter.
Friendship nurtured by common kindling,
growing bright and warm—
burning light like the sun—
fiery love, we were one—
and just like that, it was gone.
In my heart, the ember glows;
You cannot deny your soul still knows
what vestige of truth burns between us.
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