Arrwyn Cliona Berkana

Giving the Dark Wine of Life

April, 2006

The last rays of the sun filter into my cellar and wake me. Time to rise. Why? What is the point? I ask myself. Then the hunger reminds me.

I find the mirror with its layer of grime. My reflection is a shadow in the shadows. I watch until the sunlight fades completely and only the artificial glow of the naked bulbs fills this museum of forgotten lives that has become my home.

The magus warned me I would outlive the reason I took this power. He warned me the hunger would not abate even after my revenge was realized. He did not warn me I would outlive my essential humanity.

I turn from the lamps that will cast no light, the fixtures that will shed or hold no water, and make my way to the streets of the city.

I feel life all around me. A young couple approach, their arms, carelessly, around each other. They look so comical as they try to walk hanging so close together. So very full of life.

I remember something called love. I remember it was vaguely like the sensation of life’s blood flowing down my throat. Vaguely. That is all that is left of my humanity is vague remembrances and a body that looks human but isn’t.

An old woman approaches. She walks bent and slow. The bag of groceries she carries would be as nothing to the young couple but it seems a burden to her. Her mind is not where her steps take her. Well, they are, but not in the now. Her life is all remembrance and a ginger cat. I know this old woman from somewhere. From some time. I move deeper into the shadows as she passes by. She is not ready to relinquish the hold she has on her memories. Besides, her ginger cat needs her.

Needs. No one needs me. Perhaps that is the greatest of my hunger, to be needed. Even the magus is moldering bones in his grave, now. But I go on. And on.

My shadows are not deep enough, tonight, to hide me from my own pain. I walk into the street. Just one more lost soul in a stream of lost souls. No one notices the dark haired young man in black with sad, penetrating eyes. No one sees the danger that walks beside them.

And no one see the woman standing in the middle of the bridge. She’s been standing there at least ten minutes, simply staring down into the murky, swirling water. I can not feel her life from here, but I know her thoughts.

“It’s too cold to be staring at dirty water, mam.”, I say as I stand with both white hands on the railing beside her.

“It’s even colder in the water. … I don’t like the cold.”, her voice carries all the tears she can not shed, all the pain that stays closed around her heart like a fist of iron.

“Then this is not the place to be. Come with me. I know a place that is infinitely warmer.”

Her soul, only for a second, recognizes the reprieve I offer, and she accepts it. We walk beside each other but in our own worlds. Silent, only our souls speak, of pain, betrayal and foolishness.

I lead her to my room among the cast off squalor of broken dreams and forgotten lives. Here is a bed, a table, warmth.

“Do you have something I can drink?”, she asks.

“Water.”

“It will be enough.”

I bring her water in a jar from the spigot on the wall. She takes it and I notice her hands are not warm compared to mine.

“How long were you on the bridge?”, I ask as I crouch at her feet, like a cat watching a bird on a limb.

“Seems like days. I don’t know, maybe half an hour.”

“Why?”

She looks at me over the rim of the jar. My eyes sparkle in the gloom from beneath my brows where I sit below her face looking up but not lifting my head.

“Hold me.”

It had no volume. She had no voice. Her eyes tell me she knows what is to come, but she wants one last shred of human kindness. From me, who does not remember how to be human.

My hunger burns. I hear her heart beating it’s regular course. I smell her warmth as she opens the coat and casts it back on the bed, off her shoulders. Then she reaches for me, with her icy hands, and tears in her eyes.

“Pretend you love me for a little while, then take what you want.”, she whispers.

What is this? I feel something. My heart stirs as it hasn’t for an eon. I rise to my knees, my face equal to hers as she sits on my low bed.

“I can not pretend to love you … I don’t remember what it means.”

“Then desire me.”, her voice trembles with need, her hunger almost as intense as my own and I hear her heart quicken.

I brush her lips with mine. Her warmth washes me.

I hold her face in my cold hand and form her lips to my desire. She yields freely.

I remember this! The contours of her body are soft and round. I remember flesh under my hands! Her taste is salty and sweet at the same time. She vocalizes. Not words, only sounds. It touches me, somewhere deep. The other hunger grows dim in the feeding I get in this contact, but it does not fade away. My body remembers as her passion is spent on me. I remember this! I remember passion and need. I remember how painful it was.

I grab her head and force it to the right.

“Don’t kill me … let me join you.” she whispers as my teeth break the skin over her vein.

Then there is only the sweet, intoxicating power of her life flowing into my mouth.

But she is holding on to me! Not an effort to dislodge me, she is holding me to her, tenderly, like a mother holds a newborn to her shoulder for the sheer joy of it’s warmth.

Her blood fills me and her touch grows weak. She whimpers in pain as her heart works harder and harder to pump less and less.

“Let me join you.”, she begs again as her body convulses in death.

Impulsive, rash thinking. Why did I tear my wrist and press it to her dying lips? What does this woman mean to me? Just another suicide that I have granted her fondest wish.

Ah, but, this is not her fond wish. What I give her is not reprieve but hell!

It takes twenty four hours. Twenty four agonizing hours, for me. She still smells salty and sweet. The wound in her neck healed, as did the wound in my hand. Her heart does not beat, yet.

Why? Why did I do it? I have never made another like myself. In all my time, I have never made another. Why now?

Finally, the sun is gone again. I watch from my perch on the shelf beside the lamps that will never shed light and the basin that will never hold water. My eyes glow dimly in the overcast from the naked bulb above my head. I am a dark presence in a harshly lit, ugly corner. I wait. I watch.

I feel. What? What do I feel? This is new. This excitation beneath my skin.

She takes a long, shuddering breath. My head comes up to better see her move. My heart, it’s usual beating so slow as to be non-existent, now races almost as fast as human life. It is a painful experience to be able to feel my own blood circulating again. What is this excitement?

She opens her eyes. She raises her hands and looks at them. She turns her head and our eyes meet.

I am not alone! There is light in the darkness of my soul! She is the light!

“No, I am not the only light, we are the light for each other.”

Her voice is sweetness. The chirping of a robin. The lost and forlorn defeat that was her voice and countenance yesterday is gone. There is a vitality here, now, in her unholy state, that was missing in life.

“We need to feed.”, I say darkly.

She rises with the grace of a cat and comes to me. Her touch on my cheek is warmth and sustenance, but it fires my perverse hunger.

“I only feed on those who wish to die.”, I tell her in warning.

“I know. We have enough food in this city to last us years.”, she says as she takes my hand and raises me to my feet.

“Besides,”, she says as she pulls me close to her, “you don’t have to kill any more, you’re not alone.”

***

author bio:

Arrwyn Cliona Berkana is 53 years old and lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She is the mother of 3 grown children ages 30, 28 ad 18. When not writing or guiding young people in the discovery of their spirituality, she runs a costume design business and is currently a full time, on-line student in Website Design. Arrwyn has been “pagan” all her life, even when attenting United Methodist Sunday School. She is from a strong Celtic traditional family and learned most of her “natural witchcraft” from grandparents. Awakened at the tender age of three, Arrwyn has been ‘talking to ghosts” since early childhood and in the environment of her family began her work with paranormal research at an early age. She now guides others with the benefit of her learning and the wisdom age has given her.

The Gothic Stitch can be viewed at
http://webspace.westwood.edu/penniepyle/gothicstitch/finalproject/home.html