Cursed XXII~

[22] — Epitaph

I gingerly traced the outlines of my crescent-shaped cuts with nails coated in fresh, cranberry polish. I never disliked my hands. This was in spite of their larger size to a cis girl’s hands. My shoulders were monstrous, and my face still shook my nerves on dreary days. my hands; however, had brought me so far. They had caused me so much pain, yet just as much relief did I drain from ink-drenched notebooks, and joints rolled with the love of a passionate creator.

So small were the troubles that plagued me, only worsened through the world’s tumbler. Other stones had plopped out a bottom-dispenser lustrous and proud. If only had the chance to return; I would arrive washed, smoothed, and unscathed; instead, I sat with my plushie reminiscing over old war wounds.

I was thankful for my bitterness; I had succumbed to apathy and died. Anger restored my vitality. Fear drove my hands to an action not begotten of violence, but of forward momentum.

Time had not healed all wounds, and that was ultimately for the best. Scars faded, but some never disappeared; they remained as a grim reminder that I had struggled, once. Pale skin arched across the indentions. My mind had hated my body, and yet she always healed as best as she could. I loved her, yet I hurt myself so.

I could make amends with this. I may even get past the guilt I hold for all the pain inflicted upon myself- and others near me.

The itch, I feared, would never disappear entirely. The sadness mingled with a tickling whisper through an iron blade. I heard the whispers on dreadful days, and moments of personal calamity. I continued to feel the itch even on happy days, and restful days, and exciting days.

Temptations hibernated. Now, that I moved forward, the past must make one last stand. The scars were not enough. The mind must harbor the lacerations. The soul must yearn for bloodshed. Whispered desires urge my hands to don their weapons once more, to hurt what they should have loved.

If I were to lower my guard, and abandon the smoldering fear of returning to the darkness, then I would hasten my death destined upon bloodied sheets.

I kept internal assurance with myself that I could handle the pain. I had not driven myself to the chasms of death to return bowlegged before the world ahead.

Body, I had stolen your skin. I had stolen your health, and your beauty. My eyes were spit-shined with dip-soaked mucus. My brave eyes, take upon yourself gently. We are as another tree within a forest. We are an individual prickle of grass poking above the soggy earth.

I found comfort in the whispers, which brushed over my mind as an old friend stopping by to check in and make sure you hadn’t forgotten about them. The worst friends were always there in the worst times.

I was the worst of them all; indifferent to the struggles of others- no. No, that was not right…

There was a gentleness I needed, and only I could offer it. Friends were there for friends. Sometimes life pushed people adrift. No one was to blame for the prickles of life.

My vulnerability brought my defenses out. I was as prickly as the words I read online and the stories plastered across the buzzing warm screens.

The future held no promised gold, and no promised safety, which was unfair and cruel. The battles ahead were swathed in a fog of darkness. I survived the blade of my own hand, but how long before the pain would be inflicted by another? Stella and Alice sent me letters, but they could be anywhere. I was a lone contender, a walking representation of the state’s enemy. Weakness was as punishable as having a strong-will. No one marked would find refuge. None cursed would find friends. Here the beaten are reprimanded. This land would strip us of our fruits, but there was strength through endurance. The flowers may bloom, and that was worth any struggle.

These scars were for no one other than myself. The world could view them in whatever manner that best fit their narrative. I had nothing more to offer than a moving body to play the role in whatever game tossed across my path from masked men in jet-black suits with a shimmer on their wrist.

I may never know who to trust, and I may never fully repel the darkness from my thoughts, yet this was okay. This was the fall. A chance to control my descent, and catch a fine view of the sun-stained seas.

I never feared death. I overcorrected and yearned for the release. Even now, my bones are tired. My brain had worked hard to keep my sanity intact, and the weariness had drifted within the layers of scarred tissue and beaten muscle.

The cuts I orchestrated remained as pale, thin-lined kisses upon my skin. I never hated them. I cannot, in good faith, say that I disdain my wounds. To do so, would be akin to betrayal. I did not struggle for all the work to amount to shameful neglect. No. No. My wounds are stretch marks. My cuts are kisses from past pains; they are echoes from lost battles.

Sing Valkyries; carry those more valiant than I away. I had survived the fray and moved on to the rest of the slog. The heroic dead left their bodies to rot and their armor to rust.

The task now fell upon green shoulders to cart the waste, plow the field, and grow the crops. Nurture a fresh batch of soldiers. A new gravesite was marked, stamped, and signed.

I released the air I had trapped within my lungs for however long. I pulled my sleeve across my battle-wounds. I had ruminated enough to last a lifetime. I simply wanted to focus on my path.


Autumn had grown weary from her dance; she slept beneath winter’s puffy, white blanket. The last of the leaves were stripped from dead branches. All the world, it appeared, had fallen into a deepening slumber.

A single deep-trenched path, made from the frost-bitten legs of my father, paved a way through the white abyss. The lake reflected the same icy-marks as my wrist, yet one would feel inclined to call one a beauty, whilst the other labelled grotesque.

The ice inched ever closer to dense fulfillment as the dark water purified. The midlife crisis white men on jet skis are replaced by midlife crisis white men on snowmobiles. The fishermen stayed, replacing their canoes for tents. I felt anticipation toward seeing a dozen, brightly-colored tents pitched against a snow-drenched flurry. The pine trees kept their green needles, which presented a stark contrast to the white world surrounding the last testaments to greener days.

I enjoyed winter. I enjoyed the deathly peace. There was now contrast between the flurry of thoughts hurdling themselves within the compounds of my head and the desolate landscape ever-expanding behind my window.

The world willed my heart to cease her rapid beating, which only allowed my defenses to fall apart as paper taken by the swell of a coastal flood.

I had enjoyed winter- now I retreated within the warmth my newfound spirit rekindled. The premature darkness was unnatural even to one accustomed to burrowing within the deepest bundle of blankets and pillows to hide from the sun’s light; however, at least I knew, within some logical part of my mind, that the sun was still there. Now, distrust distanced myself from the world. I turned my back to the window and the next instant the sun had slipped below the foggy, winter horizon.

Dreams of Spring played in the quiet hours of the morning, when the cold fought against the fire within my blankets. I wondered if these dreams meant I was bettering myself. The world was wrought with dark forces, yet Spring was promised the same to us all.

You have to be better by Spring, I thought and quickly refuted. You have to be by Spring, the resolution dripped from my fingers through a few, forceful taps of my fingers upon my desk.

I spun the dagger, which adorned my desk beside an opened letter. The blade glittered as it did the first night I saw it gleam in Kiera’s shop. It had tasted my blood and found me an adequate handler.

At least that’s what I would tell people. It was a pretty weapon. The metal sparked a hypnotic display of light refraction as rainbows rippled through the rotation as a tide in the lake.

I stopped the rotation with a press of my finger. The hilt wobbled against the wooden desk.

The sight of the letter made my heart flutter for the briefest of moments. There were still things to look forward to.

I had grown desirous of companionship in recent weeks. Another change that my medicine had brought like a gift before Christmas. The patches did not get me high, but they brought a similar relief, even if it were internal. I was on the path. I had traversed my way through the thickets of unknown emotions and treacherous conspirators and came upon the safety of progression.

The bloom of Euphoria was a grand idea, and I had hoped for the magic just as any other would.

There was magic in this too- I thought. The mirror had never shown kindness until now. My features had softened with the encouragement of Artemis’s touch. No wars would they wage for my love, yet were it not for combat, the love I felt for myself would have never shone.


The scent of hot apple cider drifted between the cracks on my doorframe. The warmth of the smell and promised companionship in the darkening day brought me to my feet. I yearned for affection in ways I had not expected in the cave I had made my home. The touch of a friend, or warm words from a loved one had found their way to a heart, whose wounds could not be interpreted in a romantic sadness.

I tip-toed down the stairs, holding the seams of my skirt so as not to trip. My kitchen, in the span of a morning, had transformed into the set of a Hallmark movie. Candles were lit on our kitchen island as the stove was cooking a pot of yellow-brown cider. Cinnamon lied atop the drink in tiny clumps. Pastry-sheets were compressed around the rippling edges of a glass pie dish; flour laid spread across the granite. My mother had mixed apples, sugar and cinnamon in a blue ceramic bowl, which sat to the side of the pie pan. A holly reef was displayed on the door to our garden. The doormat was drenched in freshly-melted snowfall. A puddle of water surrounded a white pair of fur-lined boots.

“Really?” My mom said raising an eyebrow, “You know its twenty degrees outside. Why are you wearing a dress, Grace?”

“I like the flow.” I said twirling the seams around the air, “I didn’t know you felt the Christmas spirit.” I laughed.

“I like to enjoy the season. You should try it.” My mom said with a hint of sass.

“I’m not good at acclimating” I responded.

“It is apparent, my daughter.” She said.

Therein lied the difference, so subtle and insignificant, yet they filled an emptiness. A hint of Euphoria sparked its way from the tips of my fingers to the tops of my toes. Warmth and bliss coincided with the pitch of affirmation. It made the fight easier; however, I feared, more so than the desire to hurt myself, the feelings of inadequacy in my femininity would persist. She had fought too hard for these pangs to return. I would not let that happen, but it helps having some of the world aid me.

My mom pushed the filling from the bowl to the pan, and then covered it with the top pastry sheet. “Your siblings will be here later. Are you sure you don’t want me to say anything?” She asked gingerly as the oven released a wave of heat.

“No.” I said, “I’ll do it.”

“They will love and support you” My mom said, “And if not then they’ll get their asses kicked by their mother.”

Laughing I said, “I believe it.”

“What’s your plan for the day?”

“I’ll be out for a little bit.” I said, “I’m going for a hike.”

“In a skirt?” She frowned.
“No. I just wanted to say hi.”

“Oh. Hi.” She said brightly before giving me a sudden, stern look, “Savage?”

“No.” I laughed, “They threw up some cameras near the gate.”

“Great. I’m glad you know that.” My mom mumbled, “Be safe.”

“I always am.” I said.

“Sure, you are.” She replied sarcastically, “You don’t want any apple cider?”


Dressed for the weather, I thrusted open the portal into the snowdrift despite my hands being occupied with two mugs of hot cider. I tightened my scarf with my teeth as the wind tugged at my rosy-cheeks.

I liked the cold. It ironically brought more awareness to my present than the heat, as well as being able to hide my scars and face from others without appearing too strange.

Savage loomed beside me through the snow drifts and winter fog. I thought of Stephanie. It didn’t make me feel right, yet what else were we to do? So many were hurt for nothing. A dream and a false hope. A scheme to hurt countless more. Evil temptations lied within the fabrics of our world. Profiteers’ falsehoods were as culpable as the gun. Their words were air, so others said, yet whispers churn with fear to create violence.

The wind never ceased her gnawing; she knows victory was as emanate as a river tumbling stones. She would take all of me, eventually.

I pulled into an unpaved, parking lot. The oak trees stood stoically behind the lines of the asphalt. The man-made barrier to nature had already begun to deteriorate. I felt the bumps and strains on my suspension as I parked in what I could only guess were the spots were.

I checked the time, and turned up my music. I thought of preparing a bowl to smoke while I waited, but I did not think my heart could take any more excitement. The months alone had been more difficult than I first anticipated.


At last, the clock showed half-past-twelve. I could not see any of my surroundings from the fogged glass of my window, so I braced my body and tightened the scarf around my throat before returning to the flurries.

The world was brighter than I had noted in my tinted car. The sun had cast his pale image through an array of clouds and fog. His light still shone upon the mounds of soft snow.

The forest was all but dead. Only a few birds still fluttered from branch to branch above; however, the only noises I heard were my boots crunching the frosty leaves below my feet.

A whisper creaked through the sleeping trees, “Hey, stranger.”

“Hi, Stella.” I felt her arms embrace me once more.

After a minute-or-so, Stella tapped my shoulders. I looked at her confusingly.

“You made your decision.”

I nodded solemnly, “I’m not ready, Stella.”

“You do not need to explain anything, sister.” Stella said moving the corners of my mouth into a smile. Her fingers were ice cold, but I was thankful for their touch.

“We can get high and walk around for a while.” Stella said.

“Everything I needed to hear.” I said pulling my smoke stuff from my purse.

The trees, though barren, kept the snow to a minimum upon the forest floor. The stones that littered the well-paved path glimmered with a light icy coat. The front of my boot slipped beneath one of them, or sent one flying back behind me down the mountain to be caught by a tree or snowy lethargy. Snowflakes spiraled gracefully begotten from the heavens. The crystals caught around my black scarf only to melt from the warmth of my neck; the droplets trickled frosty-trails down my throat.

My fingers were stiff and frozen by the time I managed to grind up some weed and pack my bowl. The wind had not made things easy, but with Stella playing defense, I was able to spark our communion bowl.

“How can it be,” I said after passing Stella the glass-piece, “The world was ending one day, and the next it is like this? -Serene, quiet.”

“That’s easy.” Stella said, “That’s because the world already did end. We are all dead.”

“Really?” I asked sarcastically.

“I don’t know.” Stella giggled, “Would you be cool with that?”

“If it means we get to hangout for a little longer then yea, I would be.”

“We could still hangout all the time.” Stella said implying to the main message in her letter.

“Stella, this year drove me to the edge. My wounds aren’t strong enough to withstand the road, nor am I ready to know any more hate.”

“You are strong, Grace.” Stella placed a gloved hand on my shoulder.

“I’m tired.” I replied, “I’m tired of running away.”

“You wouldn’t be running away.” She said, “You would be running with us. Toward liberation.”

We trekked in silence for a moment. A few moments I had examined my mental state to question whether I had actually improved, or whether I had simply convinced myself that I was better. I continued to question the thoughts in my own mind, yet nothing, I feared, would bring affirmation.

“I guess it doesn’t matter.” I said to the wind, I am who I am.

“No, it does not.” Stella said as she ashed the bowl in the falling snow.

We hiked a few miles before cutting the trail short and circling back to my car. Stella tried convincing me of stopping home, packing a backpack and leaving Clearwater.

I told her I’d see the world one day, but I had only begun to see Clearwater the way I was always meant to have viewed it. I could not do that to my family, who had loved me, nor could I do it again to the friends I had abandoned once.

The foggy hillsides converged upon us. Even here, in the midst of the hair of the Gods, I was tightened and stricken with claustrophobic fears; however, only a fool would denounce it entirely. The flicker of my lighter blinded sent fireworks in the middle of my vision. The flashes remained until fated dissipation and forgotten existence.

I released a torrent of intermingled breath and fire I sent through my lungs.

“You can’t hide forever, Grace.” Stella said as we rounded another bend in the trail. A wooden platform rose from the trail to gap a sharp decline. Our collective weight shook the pine beams. The crunch of snow was replaced by a thud of frozen wood. My purple fingers caught the edge of a hardened trickle of golden sap. It was destined to remain until the Spring’s thaw. It would find release with time and warmth.

“Who hides?” I replied, “I am here.”

“The bloom…” Stella said, but I interjected.

“…Will still be there without me. You wrote Alice found someplace in Oregon?”

“She doesn’t know. A friend of ours called; he said one of the vines flowered.”

“More Euphoria?” I asked, a shadowy desire grumbled in the pit of my belly.

“He doesn’t want to test it.” Stella giggled, “Mickey never trusted the bloom. I had believed it to stem from some issue he had with the occult, but after what happened here… I don’t know, Grace. But, that’s the path we were given, sister.”

We broke the tree line and returned to the parking lot. Our previous tracks were already partially replenished of snow. A truck was waiting across from mine. Steam guzzled from the twin-exhaust pipes, while rock music was blaring from within.

“Is this you?” I asked, “You know you are welcome to stay with me, Stella. You’re not going to miss out from a day or two of rest.”

“I’ve seen this town long enough, Grace.” Stella said turning to me for another farewell hug, “I doubt death will have many thrills. I’m trying to shine while I can. The darkness never did me any favors.”

“I guess we can disagree over some things.” I said as I laid my head on her shoulder. Stella smelled of lavender blossoms and weed.

The noise dulled in the background as I peeked my eyes open within the warmth of Stella’s figure. I needed nothing from this life but love and peace. I desired no thrills, nor did I thirst for adventure or rave for bloodshed. I wished for the safety to poke at the threshold of civilization and not fall victim to scornful eyes; I wanted to feel the warmth of a lover on a cold winter night, and know by a touch in the dark echo of a bedroom within a disorganized pile of blankets, that I no longer must fear loneliness, save for a single moment more.

I held the love of a friend, and a way forward. The sunlight struck brilliant bursts of light upon the distant white shores of the lake. I saw the moon, as well; her pale frame barely broke the skyline. Shine, moon, shine with the light of the sun. My body as dim and as pale with my spirit shining her light through.

[Previous Chapter] *** [Cursed Home]

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