You remember how this one begins, right?
My fingers are like spiders drifting over memories in my webbed brain. The husks of the dead gaze up at me, and my teeth sink in and I speak their ghosts. But it’s all mixed up in my head. I can’t separate lines from lines, or people from people. Everything is in this web, Esumi. Even you. Even me. Slowly the meat falls from the bones until only sunken cheeks and empty space between the filaments remind me that a person was there, in my head. The ghosts all fade the same way. They fade together. Your face fades into the face of my husband and the dying screams of my daughter. Esumi, your face is Seth’s face, and the face of the golem.
Esumi, do you remember the night before you left? We threw a grand ball in your honor. A skald sang of the glorious deeds. My deeds, my husband’s, and even yours were sung. And Adel’s glorious song eclipsed us all. Three hundred cantos extolling her deeds were barely enough for the ones who didn’t know her when she was alive. I knew her. You didn’t. I don’t know if she was really our savior, or simply the monster who fooled us all. Both, perhaps. I don’t know. I never did. I think she was my friend, but even that’s fuzzy. For all I know I was a weapon for her, no better than any mercenary. Or perhaps I was her friend, like a trusted weapon at her side, a trusted warrior. And, she is a hero worthy of song.
In these letters I wish to tell you of us and his empire, Alameda.
Our empire was forged in bloodshed. First was my family’s murder, and my grandfather’s execution. Then, there was Adel’s husband, Tycho, by her own shattered hand. And then I killed one more wicked beast, and secured my throne in the deed. I didn’t even know I had earned a throne at that moment.
I was just a girl. I was such a violent fool. You remember me after all of this was already over, Esumi. After you came home and we fought a war and took over the whole world for my foolish husband.
He tore us apart when our daughter was born, with your red hair.
Esumi, my love, come to me. I will take care of you, even from this bed. I will hold you close. I touch this vellum parchment and remember your rough skin. My stylus scratches into the page, and I remember my fingernails across your back.
My lips whisper softly what the ink tongues on the page.
I remember our daughter fading to a dream, and my dreams fading with her.
I remember Adel, and I remember a city. I remember my uncle who deserved to die, and his father who got what he deserved.
I remember so many things, Esumi. And I will give them all to you, for one glimpse of your true face again. Faces fade in this web, and my husband is tall and strong while you were fat and weak and then you are both together on the deck of a ship dazzling sailors with only a cloak and smoke. I yearn to see your face again, without all of the others tangled up in my web of death.
Come to me.
Check out Apex Publications this February for a new printing. (Gotta love that new book smell.)