So I fell.

Long did I linger in the crater of collapse. I made shelter amidst the scorched earth and haunted the place I learned to call home. A spirit that languished in a past it could not move pass. Cursed to relive all the minutes in the many hours that made me what I am.

I took my time like it was something owed to me. Licking wounds so compulsively the very act of healing kept injuries from ever closing. What was one more scar among an already flagellated body? I was made to believe I was my wounds. That all I suffered, was all I had to offer; thus I was valueless. Unloved, to be discarded. Someone else’s lies became my truths and I called myself an honest man.

I was a ghost passing straight through the things I yearned to touch. People slipped between my fingers like water and dripped out of my life into polluted rivers of memory, only to be forgotten by a heartless sea. These hands never taught to hold, there was only the act of letting go. Such was my purgatory. Neither saved, nor damned, just a phantom to be forgotten. Until I saw my future in that place, and found that there was none.

So I took my body and possessed myself again. Bringing new life back into atrophied limbs, reminding them the strength of their grip as I lifted the burdened boulder of existence willingly up this mountain that knows no peak. Aware there may never be a period of peace. I may always be at war against this, but what greater fight is there?

Rise and rise
and rise again
and again,
in a baptism of ashes.

I forgive what there is to be forgiven, for I must travel light. I pardon those who have wronged me, for they too were once children of God. Embraced, not in grace, but marked and broken in their Father’s image before the age of reason. Thus traumas transcend time, like chains linked from their beginnings to ours in forges whose fires are kept bright and burning generation after generation in hatred and anger. So I came to love my legacy. I inherited these rusted irons and melted them down into armor. My daughters will have their shield and my sons hands will be bound no more.

The words I used to curse myself, they were never mine. I thought myself damned and made that hell so loud I heard nothing else but my own fire for a lifetime. Until someone showed me all those lies I thought were true. How they wore my face but spoke in my father’s voice. I had to learn how to speak all over again until those voices belonged to me. Kindness was once a foreign language, now my tongue is fluent and it has tasted salvation. Ever since then, it has finally been quiet. Life grows anew among the blackened soil and soon, it will be green again.

Moments of Collapse

I awoke that day to the familiar patter of footsteps pacing the hardwood floors. But that morning, the steps were hurried and palpably manic. I opened my door to find my friend pacing the house with a phone to her ear and tears on her cheeks.

“Larry just died,” she said.

Larry. Her mother’s partner. An old oak of a man whose main method of communication was a series of grunts, scoffs, and dismissive waves. Visibly racked with a pain only a dying man can feel, no one ever questioned the brevity of his speech. He dwelled in a space of solitary that young people reserve for the old; kept at a respectable distance for to be any closer would remind them of the fate that awaits their spry joints and quick limbs.

“Larry is dead…”

The words washed over me with little sensation. A breeze through an open door, subtle and fleeting. I didn’t know him. He was but a fixture in a house to me. Someone I didn’t sit near or speak to besides whatever cheap courtesies I could afford. A nod. Hello. Goodbye.

He gave up the ghost a little after dawn. And in that sunrise I learned that you never really know when your last goodbye is for good.

As I watched my friend crumble before me, my male mind raced with solutions on how to fix a problem I’d never solve. In the wake of my helplessness I knew only that I should be there for her. So when she finally got in the car, I got in the fucking car too.

Her mother’s house was not the home I remembered. It was stirring with an unsettling static in the atmosphere, like something had been sucked out of the walls.  The yelling, the barking, the screaming, all the laughter, that chorus clamor of an affectionately dysfunctional family…it wasn’t there. The music of the house had dwindled to a mumbled lament. Not even the dogs made a sound. For the first time, I entered that house and was greeted by a stranger named Silence.

My friend walked up to her mother, whose face immediately swelled with tears like a dry wood that touches water. They held each other and their grief. I stood in the doorway and felt the pressure of something I didn’t know how to articulate then. I touched their shoulders in quiet consolation as they shook under the weight of their sobbing. I left them to their mourning without a word.

I walked down the long hall. My feet moved, driven with a purpose all their own. I had been down that hall I don’t know many times before; ushered by screaming children chased by panting dogs. Walking alone then, the hall suddenly felt so much wider than I remembered. I found my feet in front of his door. Beyond was a place I had never been, in every sense of what that could mean. I didn’t know what was on the other side but my body took me there, and I followed.

Larry’s bedroom was a simple and quiet place. A fine reflection of what I had seen of his character. The walls were completely unadorned, save for a few scattered photographs. Strange and familiar faces inside of small frames. Another family. Another life. A solitary window faced the street where the early morning sunlight began creeping in.

The light and I found him, sitting in a chair in the corner of the cold room; his head resting in his chest. His hands curled atop his lap where a blanket lay falling off his legs. The old man looked like he was just sleeping.

Almost like a spotlight, the sun stole into the room. The rays caused the naked white walls to shine brilliantly as they touched the atrophied limbs of the body in front of me. Almost heavenly, in a way–if, after all this time, you still believed in such things.

I had never seen a dead body before. It’s something your eyes see, plain as sunlight, but your mind struggles to grasp the concept. This person is gone; even with their body right in front of you, somehow you know they aren’t here anymore.

And yet, his peaceful countenance stirred in me a sense of disbelief. What if he is just sleeping? What if he isn’t dead?

With a steady hand I placed my fingers upon the life vein in his throat, searching for a semblance of a pulse. His body had already begun to atrophy and grow stiff. It felt as if human skin had been stretched across the bark of a tree. His pulse answered me as a statue would. I felt his chest for a heart beat but it’s measure was over. No breath. No movement behind the closed veils of his eyes.

In the hallway, I could hear the women he left behind crying. Sadness was in the walls and the house seemed to creak in response. I found his bed without any real thought and slowly sat down. I don’t know how long I stared at him. I can only tell you I could not look away. Neither fascinated nor disturbed. Not afraid nor really brave. I only felt this great sense of…nothing.

I felt nothing.

“Where’d you go, old man?” I asked him as I smiled to myself. Realizing then what a great joke this had just become. I just said more to this man in death than I think ever had in life. That distance I kept him at, would that I have closed the gap.

”I want to believe you went somewhere. Somewhere better, I do…” Conflicted with my own beliefs of the existence of an afterlife, talking to what was left of that old tree named Larry, I felt something then. I couldn’t tell you what it was. I could only tell you it was there.

I remember hearing once that when stars die they collapse under the weight of their own gravity. The star erupts, and when the dust settles what remains of the star and its energy coalesces around it’s former orbit to form a nebula. In that room I felt a pressure then, of a star that had gone out in a tiny universe with four white walls. And there is poetry there that I will forever struggle to properly articulate.

As I stared at the body of what used to be a husband, a son, a father, I noticed he had drool slowly falling from his mouth down the side of his great wrinkled face. It made him look particularly infantile. Regressed in death, to the stage of his birth. I took a rag and gently wiped away the spit. I took his blanket and covered him up to his neck. He didn’t seem so frail then. Just a man lost to a forever kind of dream.

And then I left him. To be mourned and seen by what people knew him. One by one his people began to visit the house to pay their respects and be there for one and another in their own way. They all began to regale stories of the old oak. His grumpiness was comical to most and to my surprise, he was quite a rambunctious soul. Had you only took the time to know him, he’d have talked to you. He might have even made you laugh. Scoffed at your youth and then, perhaps, shared some wisdom purchased at the cost of all his years.

And you couldn’t help but wonder, who will be there when my body is found? Will I make it to old age? Will I be so lucky, to pass quietly into that good night? Will they speak as fondly of me? You can only hope and strive to be that for people; a source of fond remembrance. In that crowded room in our wake, I couldn’t help but think that in the face of death, you can only live in spite of it. In truth, is that not life’s greatest rebellion?

As the house began to fill, I took a seat next to a friend, the youngest daughter of the now widowed Mother. She was holding in her arms her newborn niece, Mary Anne, swathed in a blanket and clutched at her breast. I sat next to these two beautiful creatures and my weary eyes just rested a while in their innocent countenance. Little Mary Anne, being fawned and awed by a love struck teenager.

Such life existed now in this house where, only moments ago, was only a vacuum of sorrow. Our own little rebellion, if we had anything to say about it. I edged closer to them and dove into Mary’s eyes. These great blue pools of curiosity teeming with wonder and contemplation. Searching the room until they found you. And then you just drown in there. You really do.

I reached out and touched her soft, porcelain hands and she grabbed my finger with a strength I didn’t know an infant could possess. In that moment, I can tell you, I felt something; love. This sudden unwavering desire for nothing but all the good of the world to befall this creature.

That feeling, it grips me as tight as her hold on my finger and does not let go. As I am swimming in her eyes, I see her begin to drool a bit. Her spittle falling gracefully over her face, I grab some napkins and wipe it all away from the cherub ever so softly. I wipe until her face is clean and ready to be admired. And then, I laughed. I didn’t know what else I could possibly do but laugh.

One Voice, Louder than a Choir

In this parade of charades
you are but lighting and shade
in a never ending guessing game.
Who can we portray to you
to make you believe what we say?

Woven symbols of a narrative
we so meticulously orchestrate,
What is a name? What is a face?
Everything we say will never be erased.
Press the spine and watch us break.
A fictive biography of would be histories.
Superficial symphonies sang in the key of Me.
An opus higher than an opiate;
push the needle in and watch it bleed.
In a measure sung by a pack of liars
can one voice ever be louder than a choir?

All conjured illusions interlinked,
A spider web of mirror deja vu.
Woven so tightly,
lest we all be crushed by the weight of truth.
You’ve so many faces,
I never know which one is you.

Have we ever truly met, my friend?
In a world where reality shifts and bends
I fear we have lost sight
of where the stage ends.
Cover your ears,
we can still pretend.

– I. G A L L O W S

Of Bones and Blood

It’s not enough.

It’s never enough.

A brilliant star collapsed inside my gut
and it’s a hole that since
has never shut.
It takes,
it breaks,
and it unmakes
in a fever of bones and blood–
and even though I know,
I know,
I cannot endure this storm alone.

As if pain were a tree you diligently water,
for the shade of its branches
has been all you’ve known of shelter.

– I. G A L L O W S
November 3rd, 2016

The Carousel


My life has become a carousel.

A beautiful ride. A brightly lit amusement teetering along a set axis of imaginary lines.

Thoughts turn to memories and memories to translucent dreams as a familiar tune I know now all too well sings just for me. Under the alluring spell of nostalgia, soothed by the smooth porcelain hands of familiarity, I am anchored in the deceit I sell myself that this is what it means to be free.

The comforting weight of knowing that today will spin on forever, keeps me in place.

Tomorrow becomes a forgotten friend I told secrets to in the spring of my youth. Under canopies where we carved our names into towering titans whose changing foliage was our only sense of time. When we ran naked and wild in limitless fields of our imaginations and flew about with invisible wings.

And now, we dream digital dreams birthed from the wombs of screens. The Gods and their magics have all faded away, starved out in disbelief. Pregnant with the knowledge this age of wisdom brings, tomorrow seems a happily never after just beyond my reach. Like the limbs of impossible trees that taunted me in that childhood of virgin spring.

I am far from my jungles now, lost in the crowd of a parade called, “Someday”.

These painted horses and magical seats find me and carry me aloft. Destination: unknown, yet certainly familiar. For the everyday happens every day. Again and again and again. Seasons merge into seasons at an accelerating pace. Years skip along the rippling surface of time like weeks, never sinking; still finding me in the same place.

And when I lay my heavy head down again, that song becomes a lullaby and on whatever surface my body finds tonight, I will dream the same thing; of a life I don’t constantly feel the need to escape from,

And the dream remains a dream.


Then, dawn finds me again.

All fades and recedes like the black curtain of night, as I get back on the carousel stage.

Allured by it’s siren song and captivating lights, blinded to all else that would enter my sight, the ride will cough and sputter to life. The circular motion provides an illusion of progression. I am moving, if only further from the point of origin that was myself. The wind is in my hair and the lights dance about like fire flies in a Southern night. Artificial stars guiding me to a destination I’ll never find.

A rat in a wheel aware that it serves, in spite…

Be still, my rampant mind.

For it’s all…

just a ride.


And this,

this is goodbye.

For I am that which must collide to break the constant spinning of cycles.

Farewell, ye well oiled machines, whose machinations are beyond me. Whose design produces assembly line drones and counterpart white collar clones existing in living limbo on the fresh cut lawns of suburban purgatory.  You, who sour the Earth with pollutions that poison the imaginations of minds and darken the native born, holy exuberance of men’s souls!

They sold a Nightmare donning the mask of a Dream with tickets bought by those lost in perpetual sleep. Our dreams orphaned on a busy street. I cradle my newly adopted son of insomnia.

Farewell to the painted horses whose instinctual trajectory brought me to memorable places I have since forgotten. The people I passed by passing through. Out of focus, brightly colored silhouettes who painted a picture a thousand others could paint rather than signing their masterpieces with scar or stain. Momentary loss for temporary gain. Spinning each other around, again and again.

The innumerable static distractions and few starving affections. The angel choir chorus of slapping skin and creaking mattress; spun round the willing impostors to an endless waltz and grand skeletal ballet. Spinning in pretty circles until the scenery recycles.

Allow me to forget the steps. The modern dance of romance that leaves me dizzy for the band is always off time and off key.

Rapturous melody! Oh, harmonious discord! Fill my lungs and teach me a new song!

Or, let the music stop.

Turn the fire flies off.

Enrapture me in silence and cloak me in a void,
So that I may find my voice.
Leave me deaf and leave me blind.
So that among the muted progression of seven billion songs screaming towards heaven I can find myself in this passage of time.

– I. G A L L O W S
December 3rd, 2012


I swore once
that there was a magic in desire
that could give flight to creatures born without wings.

I levitated on this feeling once.
But butterflies are all but a forgotten memory.

Remind me.


For all I have are dreams of what has yet to be;
for that is all I will let be.

Here, amidst the soil of this savage garden,
I have come to fear the thorns of every flower
from the times that I have bled,
yet still–
I am intoxicated by the scent.
And this love would bloom if only I would fetch the water,

But I am not a gardener.

– I. G A L L O W S
July 15th, 2012

All Bows to the Gale – A DND Tale

The wolf licked his muzzle, still slick with the blood of his prey. The crimson hue of viscera indiscernible against it’s black as midnight coat. He scratched behind his ears, his claws scraping against giant horns that protruded unnaturally like that of a devil. It savored the taste with what could almost be mistaken as a smirk and then, intoxicated with satisfaction, the great beast collapsed, his paws lazily hanging over the edge of a bluff that gazed at an endless horizon of giant trees and imposing mountains.  The wolf watched with one eye lazily open as a plume of dust and flower blossoms burst forth from the long grass and took to the air. The pedals cascading gingerly in a waltz with the wind as they flew down the vast valley below him in a sea of red and gold, until finally vanishing into the brilliance of the setting sun. 

The great beast lifted it’s head and sniffed, then stretched with a dramatic yawn before curling into himself. The chill of Autumn was fast approaching. It’s culling breath bringing the slow death of Winter that would claim the weak and the sick from his land to let life thrive anew. And this was Tieli his land, the trees told him. Speaking in a language older than time that he could not comprehend, but one that he somehow understood. This forest belonged to him, and he belonged to the forest.

The Trees spoke to him, in creaks and groans and with wordless spells weaved from skeletal boughs that shivered from cold. A tuneless hymn that comforted his restless spirit with a constant hum. A sonnet that sung praises of his name and revered him as a God. A great protector. This was  uniquely his land, and he would partake in the hunt here until the forest that bore him life took him again in death. There was no past, there was no future. Only the hunt.

And that was purchase generic accutane  enough.  

And yet, somewhere deep within him, between his swollen belly and pride, something gnawed at him. An itch he could not scratch, like a tick that had burrowed itself into the back of his mind. For as long as the wolf could remember, he had felt chased.

But what could ever catch him?

He was lightning made flesh. He brought with him a storm of claws and teeth. And still, he felt prey to something he could not sense. Stalked by a memory he could not recall that lay waiting for him. He had forgotten something, a task so much more greater than his station as the warden God of this land. No matter how long the trees sang for him, his body was restless and his dreams were haunted. When he dared to close his eyes again, he dreamed of her. 

A woman with skin like snow and hair tangled in a fire that somehow did not burn him. He feared and worshiped her, but he knew nothing of her tongue to sing her praise. She called to him, and he could not understand. He touched her with hands that were not his, the hands of a man. He felt her on his bare skin that had no fur but was never cold. There was a ravenous hunger that seemed insatiable, he desired her body but his teeth never broke her skin. In his sleep, the wolf bared his fangs with a longing to feel her smooth neck snap like a twig in his jaws and taste her blood, but as a man he had no claws or teeth. Just a soft mouth that took hers into his…over and over and over–

The wolf woke in the night crying with fear and fury. In the wake of his dream lay a monstrous sadness and anger residing in his heart all at once; clashing like two storm fronts colliding in the heavens. He howled, and lightning burst forth from his mighty jaws that tore a bright rift into the once black sky. Creatures of the night flew away from him with shrill shrieks of panic. He could feel the familiar pulse of the earth below him seek to placate his torment, but nothing could soothe the sickness he felt in his heart. A heart that this beast somehow knew was not only his.

Something was trying to surface within him and he would suffocate this other thing that dared to speak until it ran out of breath and surfaced no more. Nothing would overcome him. He was the wind, and all bows to the gale; even the mountains in time. But something else just as immense and dreadful as he had been looming behind him for far too long. Days passed into nights that brought through it’s black curtain a nightmare theater. Each night becoming more vivid than the last, clawing at his eyes until they were lashed red. The thing that hunted him was drawing closer. He felt it with his bones, with every shudder of his sharp instincts. Until the tremors grew to a quake and told him to run. And so he ran.

How long he ran, he did not know. Days blended into night and he dared not dream again. Leaves fell until there were leaves no more and the forest shuddered under a blanket of snow. Naked, still, and lifeless. The wolf’s breath frosted and singed with raw energy from the storm that surged within him. His waking life was surrounded by ghosts he could not outrun. He had fled his dreams and now they had followed him here. 

Faces he somehow knew but could not name chased him out of his forest and out of his mind. In his flight he begin to see specters. Phantoms from a past that brought pain that stabbed his heart like so many knives just from the sight of them. They hunted him, this great forest god, like a dog. And no matter how fast his flight, his past was always there ahead of him–waiting.

His great paws bled. His bones ached. His silver eyes bloodshot from the sleep he eluded. He had not known exhaustion, not truly, until his pace slowed to a trot, then to a crawl, until his great and terrible frame collapsed into the snow. It blanketed him slowly, the cold a welcome respite to the blood that had been boiling within him for so long. He saw the faces of his pursuers surrounding him now, these phantasms portraits of grief and pity. He snorted into the snow with what could almost pass as laughter.

You, pity me?  The Beast thought in the midst of his fever. I never needed you.

As if they could hear his thoughts, the visions vanished and he felt the pain in his heart only amplify at their departure. Carrion birds circled above him patiently while winter crept into his heart and he bid it freeze. He would run no more. Soon there would be nothing. No more dreams. No more ghosts. No more listening to the laughter of crows. The torment that gnawed at him would cease to bite and he would commit himself to the earth. How easy this was, to finally surrender…

The wolf closed his eyes for what he prayed would be the last time. 

The woman with fire in her hair came for him again, as he knew she would. He whimpered softly and his eyes pleaded to her. She bent down and he felt the burst of warmth from her hand part the snow from his eyes. Was this still a dream?  Her eyes met his with kindness, understanding, and…an insufferable sadness. A sadness he somehow knew he had helped author.

“You have to wake up, Sol.” she spoke. The song of her voice was sweeter than the forest ever sounded.

The wolf groaned with a tongue that was not his,“I…I…”

She leaned in and whispered in his ear, “I will wait for you…

Then she was gone. All was quiet and still. Time knew no measure until the wolf commanded his body to move and it slowly acquiesced to his demands. The snow falling off him as he desperately searched the woods for any trace of her. He began to move again, his body fueled only by sheer will now. The forest began to slowly recede, it’s hum now barely a whisper in his ears as the trees became sparser and sparser. Above him the pale sunlight began to creep in through the dense canopy and he began to see the clouds above him, pregnant with rain. He felt the wind shift directions against his fur and caught the scent of the sea not too far from him. The wind stung his nostrils with a salted bite and–something else. Something so familiar that the wolf froze and he remembered a name. 

“I–Ireena?”, the wolf spoke. His vocal chords deep and strained, rusted with time.

The wolf shot out of the snow like lightning from a thunder cloud. His body screamed but his roar was louder. A light rain began to fall as he ran towards the scent, his body a freight of desperate desire careening towards the one thing that ever felt like home. The beast broke through great trees, snapping trunks in twain as if they were nothing.
The very floor beneath him seemed to quake in panic when suddenly, the forest itself moved against him. The earth shifted and heaved in mighty tremors as gnarled tendrils shot from the ground and roots grasped at his limbs.

He roared and snapped as he smashed through rock and root as they splashed and splintered against his mighty form. His energy waned as he plummeted against the wilds. His body beaten with sleeplessness and hunger. He slowed. No matter how many boughs he broke against his body they continued their assault. He frothed at the mouth, snapping and gnawing until the tendrils of forest ensnared him in shackles. The feeling of chains all to familiar.

Instantly the wolf was transported to a cage in his mind. He was now a just a small child, crying and afraid behind bars that his tiny limbs could not yield to bend. A prisoner put on display for the world’s entertainment for his difference. He was a Tiefling, a spawn of demons and man, cursed for an existence and form he never chose. Years spent in chains tattooing permanent scars on his wrists and ankles that would never heal in his body or his soul. Until one day the boy summoned his wrath into a wreath of flame, like the devil they all claimed him to be. And with his own burning shackles choked the life out of his captors and escaped.

Lightning and flame surged in the wolf’s eyes and his great body heaved with renewed fury. He would never be a prisoner again, not even in paradise. He was the god of this forest, the forest was not his god. And he would command it to bow. His heaving breath smoked in the winter air and crackled. The wolf howled, his eyes glowed from silver to a blinding white ignited with cosmic sparks. The clouds above him darkened and burst open. With a power he had forgotten he had paid a great price for, he brought the wrath of the heavens down.

The wolf emerged from what was left of the wilds, the forest all but ash and smoke behind him. His body burned, bloodied, and broken. The rain pelted his fur and blood ran in streams from his wounds. 

In the clearing before him, he saw a cabin by the sea, built upon a cliff. A house he had built, in another life. Like the north star at sea, a lone light illuminated a window and the hearth smoked. The beast moved toward the cabin with a will no longer it’s own, it resigned itself to the voice it had made mute for so long.

With each step he recalled a different memory, as if leaving the forest allowed him to finally remember. Flashes of another life surged across his mind. This was the home they made with each other, him and the woman with fire in her hair. Far away from anyone who would do them harm. They’d both been hunted in their other lives. And from then on, far and away from anything that they had known, they could finally find some semblance of peace in their house above the sea.

His broken spirit began to lift as he stepped closer and closer. He’d be haunted by her memory no more. Now, he could finally join her and the beast could rest. He moved quietly in the rain, fear suddenly gripping him but not enough to stay his pace. He followed the scent and then he found her. Beneath a pile of wet dirt and a weathered stone that read,  

Here Lies Ireena Holstead
Beloved Wife, Mother, and Healer
Rest in Peace

The wolf stared at the stone. Reading the words over and over as the rain spattered against it. Below him the waves crashed and he recalled a vision of her playing in the sea with no regard for anything but the waves. He longed to see her again. He began to whimper, and pawed at the wet dirt below him. This couldn’t be true. He had to see. He had to see her. His bloodied paws moved the earth and the mud with a desperate frenzy.

A door burst open behind him and a woman readied her rifle against the pillar of her porch and fired a warning shot into the air.

“STOP!”, she screamed as the gunshot echoed off the cliffs.

The wolf turned with a growl and bared his fangs. He saw a red haired woman behind him who looked so much like the woman in his dreams that his eyes widened and his jaw closed. But she was not his Ireena. Her hair was a dark red, and she had eyes the color of the sea at midday and her belly was swollen with child. While the wolf could smell her fear, he could still sense her resolve. Seeing those eyes behind the rifle’s sights, that gaze told him she would not flee.

He looked back at the tombstone and the world seemed to freeze. Nothing moved but the rain. The women kept her eyes down the sights, while the wolf contemplated the grave. Suddenly, he broke the armistice and tilted his head back. The woman jolted as his haunting cry echoed off the cliffs. His howl suspended in time and air. He continued to mourn, as other wolves from far and away in the forest took up his lament. 

The woman kept her rifle aimed true at the giant wolf’s heart but paused. She studied it’s body, broken and battered from a recent battle, but also a lifelong one. His body reminded her of a tree that had been struck by lightning. Parts of it’s skin still singed from the burn, and arcs of electricity still seemed to pulse bright and blue from his veins. But it was the horns that curled back from his head…those horns.

Her eyes widened as the howl turned into an inhuman cry, distorted and unnatural. She saw the fur from the wolf began to fall from his form. It’s bones began to snap. Cracking in and out of place as she watched in horrid fascination the monstrous wolf turn into the form of sobbing man. A man with skin like that of a corpse and grey eyes that burned bright against his tattooed face. The horns of a devil sprouting ominously from long black hair that failed to cover a trail of a lightning scar down the right side of his cheek. His naked and scarred body shook, whether it was from the cold or his pain, she did not know.

But she did know him.

“Are you…Solitude?”, she asked from behind her rifle.

The Tiefling slowly stifled his sobs. He looked at the woman, with tears still flowing from his silver eyes lost amidst the falling rain. Without irises, his eyes seemed devoid of expression and yet still, they were the saddest eyes she had ever seen. 

“I…am. I…was.”, he said looking away from her. The scarred half of his face seemed paralyzed and sagged, and he spoke out of the side of his mouth. “Are you…Ireena’s daughter?” 

“Reena was my Grandmother. My name is Rose.”, she said, finally putting down her rifle against the cabin. “She was waiting for you, you know?”  

Solitude recalled the last thing Ireena had ever said to him. It was right before he had left to forage the forest before the Winter snowed them in. She said the same thing she had whispered in his ear in the forest,

“I will wait for you.”   

He startled suddenly as Rose placed a fur coat over him to shield his body from the cold of the rain. She knelt in front of him, and reached out to touch his horns before stopping herself. 

“I thought you were a dream brought on by the fever that took her. But here you are. The man who was a devil that was a beast…She told me about you, right before she died. She told me everything. And I never believed her. She told me she waited for you. And when you didn’t come back from the forest she went looking for you. She said it felt like…like the wilds were keeping you from her. They say these woods are cursed. That this forest grants you wishes. She went in there over and over, wishing to see you again, going round in circles that always brought her back. Until one winter she fell ill and a hunter found her half dead in the snow. He took her back here and nursed her back and well, you know how it goes…Guess she finally got her wish though.”

She paused for a long while awaiting a response, but none came. “Why didn’t you come back?” 

Solitude’s eyes rose from the grave to Rose’s eyes, searching and hoping for some manner of deception that was not there. How had it been so long?

“The forest did not let me leave and I…I forgot myself. It felt like a dream, or a curse I just kept drifting deeper into. A part of me always knew. Maybe I chose to forget…”

The Tiefling rose up with great effort, and with a slight raise of his hand the soil he’d dug up around the disturbed grave began to shift and coalesced into a proper burial mound once again. Rain pattered on the fresh soil as he outstretched his bleeding arm and let a few drops of blood drip over the soil. Tiny buds began to emerge from the earth that grew with unnatural speed into brilliant red roses that blossomed all around the grave of Ireena Holstead.

“I am so sorry,” said the Devil to the flowers. “Did she live a happy life?” 

“She lived,” said Rose. “That’s more than most get.”   

Solitude clutched the fur to his chest and turned to the direction of the sea and began to limp away.

“Wait,” cried Rose. “…why did you call yourself ‘Solitude’?”

The Tiefling stopped and turned to her, forcing a smile at her with the part of his face that could still move. 

“Other than Ireena, it’s the only thing I ever wanted. I guess the Forest gave me my wish, too.”

Rose watched until he was out of sight and legend.

The Devil who helped stop a great curse that affected an entire people fell victim to one of his own making. No one knows what fate befell Solitude, but every Fall there after the Holstead family would find furs and food at their doorstep to get them through the harsh Winters. And as the cemetery on the cliff grew, each new grave would suddenly blossom with the the most brilliant red roses. Until the cliff the cabin was built on eventually fell into the sea. For all bows down to the gale in the end.

Even the mountains.