The prayers of the cursed

Nope, this post isn’t about those lovable losers from Wrigleyville finally landing a solid left hook on a crisp October night. Even if the upcoming World Series feels like something out of a Ray Kinsella novel, with two star crossed towns looking to put an end to the agony of countless winters. 

This post is about a love story that me and the ladies over at The Lovely Fire have been cooking up. It is a prelude to Declan Beckett’s journey into the zombie apocalypse, with steps tendered out of a proposition he did not bargain for. It’s the music in that crazy little thing called love that allows us to believe in the impossible chances.

The wind whispered through the dark, empty trees like a warning in a foreign language. Winter was coming, and with winter came the wicked truths. The season had become a plaintive song to Declan Beckett. The initial frost of a brand new season was little more than a wretched scowl to his way of thinking. The merciless cold murdered all color from the landscape and replaced it with a Faustian bargain, while the darkness spoke the sun into a different language; its dreadful rampart stripping the rind of that ageless fiery circle and rendering it a muted facsimile before schoolchildren had even completed their homework.

He moved to the window of his studio apartment and stared at the barren oak tree that lived inside the street below. It was eighty feet tall, give or take, but it was a thousand miles higher on the pride of its clench. A fearless spectacle of mighty abandon, it had probably fought off the clutches of death a hundred times and it would likely fight it off several hundred more before settling its tab with the stars of a hungry sky. It spoke to the power of miracles; to borrow forever from the shallows, to speak life into a certain death.

Declan placed his hand to the glass panel which was painted in diaphanous rings whose formation was created from the gushing bleed of cold that hollowed the midnight streets. The wind danced precipitously across his brain, widening as a falcon’s wings from begging plead to hopeless flutter to wicked groan to menacing war cry. The seemingly benign construct of its whir possessed a Gothic interpretation of the world whose tariff demanded one’s sanity.

His conscience was an easy enough wall to climb after all these years of a life gone mad with evil deeds and unspent prayers. His last best wish had gone missing to all hope on a September afternoon inside what felt like another lifetime ago from here. With each subsequent winter came a hard and merciless rain that drove his mind to a reckoning he could not supplant with lawyers, guns or money.

The restlessness of his every single day was being especially benevolent on this particular evening, as if his very life was being scratched across the chalkboard of a class on Greek Mythology. It felt like the old days, it felt like New York. Only this was Atlanta, Georgia on a particularly inhospitable night with nary a speck of Southern hospitality in its offerings. He grabbed his leather and a couple necessaries and made way for the rooftop.

“Evening Deke . . . you’re up late.”

It was his landlord, Frank Chance. Dipping his finger into the business of someone else’s cake batter, as per usual. Declan guessed it was the predictable habit of wealthy retirees whose social calendars consisted of missing a woman and the days they spent like Paris. Chance was a harmless little man, if not annoying as all get out.

“It’s a sad fucking thing when an old bugger such as yourself can predict my bed time with any degree of certainty.” Declan winked.

“Well, it’s your own damn fault that you’re so fucking predictable!” Frank hollered. He loved his tenant from 4C, who always supplied him with humorous banter and six months advance in cash money goodness.

The two men spoke for a few minutes, avoiding the awkward reality of Declan’s risk averse love life which consisted of high priced escorts and the occasional celebrity housewife who was in need of some scratch for her perpetual itch. They spoke of the local teams instead, and they labored on modern day politicians who behaved like temperamental chefs and governed like spoiled children. And before they settled their conversation, they spoke of the latest fear that was gripping their town.

The virus was a Frankenstein proposition of Godly smite, Mary Shelly imagination and bureaucratic arrogance and now it was growing in both frequency and dimension. There were numerous reported outbreaks across the city, mimicking the national and global concerns. The days since had swelled into weeks and months, and while every public official insisted there was nothing to fear, it was becoming quite evident that the opposite would soon be true.

Declan said his goodnights to the charmingly inquisitive Mr. Chance and made his way to the rooftop. His cold weather combat fatigues consisted of a gray hooded jacket draped in a well worn black leather jacket whose pockets were lined with a flask full of bourbon and a fresh pack of Marlboro Reds.

The moon was a ripening scream and it was begging his attention from places he could not understand. He burrowed his eyes into its crust, peeling back the cashmere plum in a desperate want that swelled his eyes. He lit up a smoke and took a swig from his flask and he tried harder still. All of this from the inspiration of a dream that he could have sworn wasn’t a dream at all.

He was on the beach, with a lighthouse holding court behind him and there was Marie, walking in that gentle blossom way she used to walk, treading the ancient sands and plugging the world around her into a beautiful sound. Each step filled him with a deep and endless want and each moment with a breathless curiosity. And then she was standing right there, before him. In the dream he did not feel the need to grab her up before she disappeared again. In the dream he was content to listen. To everything.

“Baby. I miss you . . . so much.”

“I’m always right here baby, always . . . right here.” She reached for his hand and placed it over her heart and it was as if the gesture had been created from the heavens above. 

“It’s not enough . . . ” 

“Yeah. It is. Baby, you don’t get what all of this means. Not yet . . . but you will soon enough.” 

“Let me come with you.”

“It doesn’t work that way baby.” 

“Why not?”

“Because there’s another girl on another rooftop, and she needs you more than I do right now.”

“No!” He replied angrily.  

Marie simply touched his face and curled her lips into a smile that lit his world on fire, every time. And then . . . she was gone.

“Mon, it’s the girl who loves you telling you the truth of all things. So no worries . . . everything alright.” 

And so it began, shortly before the end of the world, the Marley dreams. He awoke to the sounds of Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar into a fine mist of purple haze from one flight down in apartment 3C. And that’s when he decided to make way for the roof, no mattering the thermostat. He was going to play it like the old days, like New York; when he used to make way for the rooftop in his Long Island City apartment building and dream upon a skyline wrought by the proverbs of Runyon.

There was something going on outside the cloister of his four walls and a roof, and it was killing him to know the truth of all things. The indigo moon plunged like a seabird, spilling the wake of angry tides across the ancient sands whose answers were still bathed in eloquent smiled answers to the savage beasts of the world. Like that mighty oak, they paid no mind to the losses when all that really mattered was the air that allowed for its climb.

He didn’t figure on outrunning his cursed existence, but maybe that wasn’t the point of all of this. Maybe all the answers to all those many questions was in the music of a person’s soul, and maybe his lost soul could provide a final redemptive argument to the unforgiving fates. And maybe the catastrophe of his present day might show its reason, soon enough.

The promise of maybe was all he had left.



15 thoughts on “The prayers of the cursed

  1. werewolves of london vs zombies of nyc…

    warren’s voice sounds good up inhere.

    and everyone has a dead lover…coming back with marley.
    I have to re-read it all and find the space.
    between this and jenny’s, lots of hints today

    • So much to feast on, and that’s not even a zombie reference.

      It’s getting deeper and darker, which is why we need to turn up the sound. Thank God for the girl who carries fire in her veins, she can make sense of this altered universe.

      Happy hunting!

  2. It doesn’t happen often. But every once in a while … maybe once upon a blue moon, or even a cashmere plum moon … I am rendered speechless.

    This is one of those times.

    I had the good fortune to review this before you (we) posted it. I remember casually thinking that I would give it a quick once over, check for typos, etc, and then how I would send you a quick text saying, “Looks great babe! Post her!”

    But something strange happened. I couldn’t get past the first two paragraphs. I just sat with my ass in the chair going over and over your words–your pretty pretty pretty purdy words–with my mouth agape. Random words flooded my mind:

    You know I’m your biggest fan. And after all this time you’d think I’d be used to the voo doo that you do so well with your words, but no. If anything, I am way more under your spell, because I know the person behind the words, and I know how your mind works, and I can envision you sitting at your computer and typing and thinking and hitting the delete button over and over again until you get a certain phrase JUST SO, and I know every word is chosen for a purpose, and sometimes I even know some of the purposes. And it’s just a thing of beauty.

    Two and a half years ago, you sent me your first Dave story. I remember sitting with my ass in the chair going over and over your words–your pretty pretty pretty purdy words–with my mouth agape. The same random words flooded my mind as today. I was practically manic in wanting to envelop your pretty words with a fitting setting…and enlisted the girls to help me…and Jennie crafted a beautiful “hollaback piece” in Sam’s beautiful prose, and it was perfect and was the spark to your kindling that created this Lovely Fire, and here we are two and a half years ago, and the tables have turned — in oh so many ways — and you have recreated those same feelings in me, and I am eternally grateful 4 every moment and every feeling, even the icky ones, because here we are today, exactly where we are meant to be.

    And nearly one year ago today, on 10/31/15, I stepped into Jennie’s shoes and continued Sam’s journey to Dave, to her forever home, to the place where she can finally breathe again, like all the way to her toes. What a difference a year can make, huh?

    Every time I see a sunrise, every time I see a sunset, every time in between on either direction, I say a little prayer of thanks for this oh so lovely fire … and I ask for more.

    Love you, c-

  3. The wind danced precipitously across his brain, widening as a falcon’s wings from begging plead to hopeless flutter to wicked groan to menacing war cry.

    that, i read that over and over….

  4. You make me blush. Which is literally an impossible thing to do for anybody else at this point in my life. I’m more jaded than Miley Cyrus’s diary, really I am. And yet….you can get me shaking in my boots. Which is quite an extraordinary talent, seeing as I don’t even have a pair of boots currently. It’s probably the feeling of solid ground that you give me. Every day.

    It’s been crazy, from there to here. From Dave and his parched lawn to Declan on a rooftop proclaiming his respect for the Holy Ghost. I never believed in muses, because I always thought to myself “Self, what about the dry season? When words aren’t working?”. But that’s not what a muse is, or what a muse does. A muse is simply the constant to a writer’s journey. The one true thing that serves as his beacon. That lights his way through the darkest of nights. A lighthouse, if you will.

    And you became mine. Somewhere between our first ‘Sup? and Linda Blair night, which forever after cured me of an irrational fear of B movie actresses. (Captain Howdy ain’t budging, but that is entirely a Marc problem). And somewhere along the way, a single post became something much more important to me.

    Purdy is as pretty does. A fire can’t get going until it learns to breathe. And that’s how a tremble becomes a roar, and it’s how watering your lawn becomes a guide to the universe.

    And all those many stars it keeps, with miles and miles and miles and yes . . miles. .

    Love you too Mad Science, with Twinkies on top

  5. Just the “oh! oh wow!” in this is… well, wow. I need a keyboard this cell typing takes too long and words don’t flow smooth and tend to get lost in the slow type lol

    Declan is going to be fab, fab, fabulously awesome. All stories need the winter, the contemplating in snowy wood, the tale of what happens when day turns to dust and, and …

    Which is to say, oh yes, it was worth the extra hour I had to wait to read this.

    • Welp supplied the inspiration for this one. Rooftops and all.

      Jennie and Declan. It’s gonna be something, huh? I know one thing for certain. If Sam and Dave become neighbors with Declan and Jennie after the world starts coming back….I’d hate to be the burglar who chooses their block.

      The City is so deep and dark, and it keeps every promise while making some new ones. So thank you for bringing it. Supremely and much.

      • The block Sam, Dave, Declan, and Jennie livery on is the place I’d want to be. Who’d need a neighborhood watch?

        Rooftops are awesome, you can’t have city stories without them, it just wouldn’t do. Now I’m impatient for Sam’s next installment!

  6. Oh my gawd…this was amazing.

    Like Christy, I try to imagine you spinning your magic sitting at the keyboard. The words you chose are like what an artist would do with a paintbrush – smudge, stroke, and swirl until the picture in your head matches what you want/need the audience to see.
    I love the rooftop scenes you and Genius Jennie created today. Marie sounds like magic and the way you wove in the cashmere plum and the woman with fire in her veins.
    I honestly don’t have the words for this – let me steal from Christy:

    “I can envision you sitting at your computer and typing and thinking and hitting the delete button over and over again until you get a certain phrase JUST SO, and I know every word is chosen for a purpose, and sometimes I even know some of the purposes. And it’s just a thing of beauty.”

    You never waste a single word, or phrase and the purposeful nuances moves me to wherever you guys are gonna take me next.

    And speaking of next…T-minus 60 minutes till WD.
    Truly gorgeous. More please.

    • Big thank you for the props. Jennie started it and I was stoked to follow her amazing post. Mad Science is busy working her magic and I’m swooning at the prospect of her next Sam piece. That girl ‘o mine..she’s what I’m thinking on when the words get all pretty.
      T- minus time on Negan! Woot woot!
      Thank you Mama!

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