Wednesday, May 27, 2015

{Author's note; I wrote this for some people I know. I believe in them, and though I’m not very good at saying it, this is one of my attempts to do so. I hope they know who they are, and that they are totally rad. WARNING - POSSIBLE SQUICKS OR TRIGGERS WITHIN: Death mention, dysphoria mention, blood, brutality, hate crimes, murder.}

Sepulchral Desire
By Meghan Conken

Mist swirled around in thick gatherings, rubbing elbows with the long dead and the recently so as it made its way around the graveyard, pulled by a gentle late spring breeze. Clouds backlit by the brilliance of the full moon coated the sky like a roiling blanket, unceasing. The air was sick with the approaching summer, humid and suffocating. It smelled of freshly overturned soil and heavy wetness with an undertone of rotting flesh. Nothing but the mist and the wind moved nor made a sound. Not even crickets dared. The heaviness in the air had more to do with death than was usual, even for a graveyard.
A break in the clouds brought a shining god’s finger of light down, illuminating the gaunt fa├žade of a crypt standing solitary on the highest point of a hill. It was long, tall and deeply empty, unused for decades, maybe centuries. The gravestones around it seemed far away. Or perhaps they had moved to accommodate the newcomer.
Standing at the top of the stairs leading into the crypt was a figure, thin and ragged and shrouded gently in a cloak like blackened moss; dark, but still with a touch of green barely visible in the moonlight. Their face was obscured; even the moonlight dared not enter there. They stood motionless, no breath or idle movement shifted their posture or form.
They waited.
Slowly, the mist began to coagulate, becoming less wind and water and more earth and fire and muscle and sinew. It spun and spun, quickening and tightening until it came to an abrupt and breathy halt. There, before the robed figure, stood a person soaked in rainwater, mud, and their own blood. They were slender and short, with softer features than they would have liked and a gently rounding bosom tied as flat as they could get it. Their skull was caved in on one side, as if by a club, that being the main source of the blood soaking their form. Torn garments sticky with blood revealed more of what had taken place, more of this sad creature’s plight.
The figure knew them for what they really were. They felt a slight twinge just behind their heart. Not of emotion or physical pain, but of empathy.
“Wha…. where am I?” Croaked the bloodied one, reaching up to feel at the moist hole that used to be their face with a hand that more resembled a beaten steak. “What…what happened?”
The figure remained motionless. The wind had stopped completely.
Another twinge, higher than before. In the throat.
“Wh-who are you?” Stammered the now-shaking human.
The cloaked one considered this. Who were they? Perhaps a feeling; a sensation at the top of the spine felt when alone in a dark place, missing a step going down the stairs, an ache in a chest that never ceases. Or a smell; wet leaves on the knife’s edge of fall and winter, antiseptic and salt tears, iron and warmth and mineral salts. All of these and something else entirely.
What do you want!?” The broken one had raised their voice.
The better of these questions is what you want.” Began the other, strange and ethereal, almost empyreal in their speech. “You were taken from your place in these worlds far earlier than I think you intended. Certainly earlier than I intended, but that is another matter entirely. They beat and broke you, took from you all that you had managed to cling to in your desperation for just one chance. They did not see you for what you are. They saw only your parts and the arbitrary titles they tacked on with them. They saw what they thought was right, and they saw you denying their supposed rightness. They told you how wrong you were, tried to force on you their ideals and wishes for you. Yet, dysphoric and pained as you were, you still defied them. You still stood up and said no. I admire you for that. Though my admiration could not have saved you from your sad fate, as here you are before me now. And unfortunately I cannot give you what you desire most, much as it pains me- who is without mortal coil or such deep agonies and loves as you. There is, however, one thing I can offer you.”
The bloodied man, enraptured by the stillness of the other one and their way of speech, blinked to relieve his reverie.
“What…What is it?” He asked, forcing himself to speak through the blood and the brain that had lost a considerable amount of its quiddity. “What is it you can offer me now, if I am in a state that I think I am?”
“The state which you are in, I am sad to say, is an unlife. A half life. Nearly dead, nearly living. A between state that should not last much longer, so your decision must be swift. Your choices are these; come with me, and learn what you can, and eventually return to the place you left some the wiser. Or reject this that I offer you and continue on, never again having to dwell upon the atrocities of that which you will leave behind forever.”
The man considered this. He had been forced to be what he was not in the old world, brought down constantly by the words of his family and those who did not understand and would not be on his side. Constantly beleaguered and beaten both with words and fists. And yet there had been hope, there had been those on his side. And deep in his heart he knew they would miss him for a long time should he stay.
“You fought for so long against forces both exterior and interior, mental and physical, to stay. Will you leave now, after all that?”
“Is it worth it?” The man asked finally, his voice cracking painfully and blood beginning to pour down his lips.
“You thought it was. Before they took it from you.” The preternatural said.
“They thought me a woman, refused to listen. They called me the wrong name and fought always to discredit my experiences and what I know to be true…” The man trailed off for a moment. “But…Some part of me always wonders if they were right… Surely! Surely you would know! Is it true? Am I wrong?”
“You are never wrong to be who you are,” The figure said, their voice taking on a breathier tone as they went on. Something about the darkness beneath the hood seemed bright with conviction. “There will always be those who will argue, gripe, moan and shout their anger. But do not let them get to you. Do not let them get anywhere near you. Let their shouting and griping and arguing and moaning be for naught. You are stronger than they are. You are stronger than you think you are. And those voices in your head telling you that they are right? Loathe as I am to encourage killing, this is the exception. Kill them with the fire of your mind. Know that you can destroy all of these demons with no more than a whisper. You are more powerful than all of them. And don’t call me Sherly.”
“What would I learn? Could I take going back there?” The man wondered, the ache in his voice betraying how his surety failed him. “Is the place I came from better than the next one? Is going back there going to be the better choice?”
The figure lifted their arm as if through water, slowed and elegant, the edge of their cloak sliding back to reveal a hand that was nothing but ivory bones, more the color of an elephant’s tusk than of anything refined. They tilted their palm upward, offering their grip to the man.
“Why don’t you find out?”
It had been a long while since Death had an audience.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Riddle Me This

The Clearwater blog lives again, with a slightly different focus. Clearwater students have revived the blog to provide a place for their voices! It’s a place for students to post work they want to let other students, parents and the community at large see and absorb—their artwork, music, stories, photography and more. Clearwater students if you want to put something up, look to the bulletin board in the Common Room for the emails of the editors, and send it in to them with any specifications or notes you have.
We will be working at least semi-actively at trying to get things posted in a relatively timely manner and often enough that you know we care. We hope you all enjoy the return of the Clearwater blog! We’re certainly excited. We hope you enjoy the first post.
~Meghan and Stephanie.

Riddle Me This
By Meghan Conken

Raleva heaved herself up onto the ledge, her armor clanging loudly as it chafed against itself and the rock. The sound echoed, disturbing the otherwise peaceful night. Raleva cringed at the amount of noise she made as she stood up, pausing to let the echoes run their course before turning to face the way she'd come.
The Isgrad valley was so large it was easy to forget it was a valley at all. It consisted of beautiful rolling hills covered with tall grass, and forests with huge trees that danced with the wind. A lake sat at the base of this mountain. The mountains that surrounded the valley were massive and jagged, and so full of caves and crevices that they appeared from a distance to be covered in full dark, deep eyes.
Silent, ever watchful protectors of the valley. The people of the valley had taken to calling them the Seeing Mountains.
The cool night air tugged at Raleva's cloak and ruffled her long blonde hair, bringing with it the smells of greenery and dirt, and something else.
Raleva inhaled deeply, steeling herself for the encounter she was about to have.
Raleva had been having trouble sleeping for a fortnight now, and what better way to spend her time then to climb the infamously-hard-to-climb Seeing Mountains. The night air was never as rough as the
air in the day, it seemed, and seeing everything blanketed in gentle darkness was somehow comforting.
She took a long moment to let everything wash over her, breathing in as if she'd never tasted air that was sweeter. She let everything that had happened in the last two years wash over her, and then she
exhaled, letting any and all tough feelings out with the puff of white that represented her breath.
Raleva spun on her heel to face the yawning mouth of the cave that seemed to stretch on forever, taking heart in the small pinprick of light she could see within.
One last deep breath, and she took her first step into the darkness.
Then, it was darkness no longer. All around her in the cave crystals lined the walls and floors, all of a light turquoise color, and the instant she stepped inside an explosion of bright light spread outward across the floor and through the walls, lighting up any and all crystals it came across Temporarily blinded, Raleva threw up a hand to cover her face, jostling her cloak.
“The hell-?” She started, squinting from beneath her hand. Her next words were lost as her breath caught in her throat.
Wedged deep in the back of the cave, yet taking up most of the space that wasn't filled with glittering jewels and gold coins, was a colossal coil of sinuous, scaly body. The blue light reflected off of the
purple and blue surface of the creature as its entire body moved with each heaving breath. In the middle of the interminable body was the same pinprick of light Raleva had seen before. It was clear to her now that it was the creature's eye, not a fire like she'd first thought. But the smell was still there, and with every puff of smoke that came from amongst the coils there was a rush of heat in her direction. Raleva turned quickly, not wishing to spend any more time than was absolutely necessary in the cave of a dragon.
You came here for a reason.” Hissed a deep, throaty voice from behind her that vibrated in the very heart of the mountain itself. “You may as well finish what you started.”
Raleva swallowed, trying to calm her suddenly fluttering heart as she slowly swiveled to face the great beast.
The coils had shifted, revealing a head that was now resting atop the rest of its body. Monstrous fangs hung from its upper jaw, warring for space with fearsome tusks that jutted upward from the bottom jaw just behind the fangs. Four bright yellow eyes sat above large nostrils. Sprouting from just above those
eyes were two sets of horns; one pair was curled like a ram's horns, the other stuck upward and out. All together it created quite the visage to go along with the iridescent purple scales that, in the right light, you could see the underlying tones of green.
“Ahah...” Raleva bit her lip nervously, looking the dragon up and down. “Yes...I did come up here for a
reason, didn't I.....”
Spit it out. I haven't got all night.” Snorted the dragon, its voice refusing to conform to any usual gender identifiers, instead fluctuating between being higher, almost human-like, and low and growling, like a dog might talk if it could.
“Are you Orriasth?” Raleva asked tentatively, bracing herself.
That is what I am called here. What of it?” Orriasth said, its nose twitching as if it might sneeze.
“I came to ask your favor,” Raleva said, thinking fast. “I..wish for a thousand nights of peaceful sleep for everyone in Isgrad valley. Anyone who leaves will not be under the effects, anyone who enters will.
Anyone within Isgrad valley.” Raleva remembered the stories she'd read about genies and how specific you had to be with them. She assumed this worked with dragons as well.
Orriasth blinked slowly, the two pairs blinking out of time with each other. Then Orriasth began to shake, its maw opening wide as a sound akin to that of a thousand rockslides at once sprang forth from
its throat. This revealed two rows of yellowing teeth on both top and bottom. Several were chipped and she could see the bones of some less fortunate creature still stuck between two of the rows. Was that laughter?
Orriasth lifted its head high until its horns scraped the ceiling, the coils of its body beginning to writhe around each other, seeming to grow in size until Raleva had to take several steps back to avoid being crushed. The sound that she had thought was laughter shifted into a roar of such proportions that it
echoed far out into the valley and sent crystals falling from their places in the walls and ceiling. Her heart beat faster as she realized her mistake and she cringed away from the dragon. It let out a spurt of flame above her head, making her feel as if she would melt in her armor.
Orriasth, God of the Nightmare Realm, lived up to the legend.
And what makes you think that you, a mere mortal, can simply enter the resting place of a god and make such demands!?” Boomed Orriasth, making Raleva shrink back.
Raleva shuddered, forcing herself to inhale and remember that this would be worth it. Surely.
“Because I have endured hardship, betrayal and loss. I have climbed up this mountain that no one else has dared to climb in thousands of years to speak with an entity that will surely kill me for simply making it this far. Because I am reckless enough to ask for it.”
There was an infinite pause as Orriasth fumed, the tip of its spiked tail lashing just beside Raleva, but never getting close enough to hit her.
Orriasth lowered its head until it was resting on the floor before Raleva and blew a puff of smoke out of its nostrils, enveloping Raleva.
Fine.” Orriasth said simply, swiftly pulling its head back within the pile of dragon that was it.
“What?” Raleva wheezed, coughing through the smoke.
Fine. Isgrad valley will have a thousand nights of peaceful sleep.
“What- just like that? No challenge, no great riddle to solve?”
Oh, fine. Four riddles then. If you get so many as one wrong, Isgrad valley will have nothing but nightmares for a thousand nights, and I get to eat you.” Huffed Orriasth, lifting only the tip of its muzzle into view “I have a bed, yet I do not sleep. I run, but do not have feet. I roar, but I do not have lungs. What am I?
Raleva faltered for a moment, then snorted. “Why, a river.”
Prrrecisely,” Orriasth purred, a forked tongue flicking out from between its teeth. “I have caused the deaths of so many, yet I cannot hold a blade. I have made many weep, though I have no emotions, nor a body. I can take you anywhere without you leaving this room. What am I?” Raleva opened and closed her mouth several times, wrinkling her nose as she thought.
“A book?”
Correct. A certain man was blessed with five children, half of whom were daughters. How can it be so, that an even half were daughters?
Raleva 'hmm'ed loudly, beginning to pace up and down before the dragon.
No rush...” Muttered Orriasth, sinking into itself again.
“...All five are daughters!” Raleva exclaimed, skidding to a stop and whirling on Orriasth.
Well done.” A deep, throaty sound not unlike a chuckle resounded from within the cave itself, it seemed. “Last one, mortal. What is a weapon that can be wielded but not held, that injures when penetrated, rather than penetrates to injure?
Raleva bit her lip, pacing again. She paced up and down for so long that it seemed she'd wear a rut in the floor, and she thought for a moment that she'd heard snoring coming from the dragon. Would she be eaten after all? Would the people below never have another good night's sleep for a whole thousand nights? Panic had started to take hold when she finally skidded to a stop once again and planted her feet triumphantly before Orriasth.
Very good.” Orriasth said, a low grumble erupting from the woven body. “Now begone before I change my mind. I should like to return to my duties. There has already been too much good sleep while you distracted me this long.
“Of course!” Raleva said, bowing so deep that her chestpiece jabbed into her bladder. “Thank you, Orriasth. I will tell the people not to bother you for another thousand years.”
Mmmf. Good.
Raleva left the cave with a smile on her face, relieved that she'd survived the ordeal.

Maybe now she'd finally get some sleep.