I count my nightmares like blessings-
only two tonight. I pray to the Chime Lord,
asking for peace.
I drift back to sleep.
I awake on the shores of a white city
The skies are grey, hung heavy with rain.
an iron skiff awaits, tethered to a desolate shore
I float like Danae to an unmarked tomb.
The ghost of a cathedral juts from the sea
A castle of graves crushed in the mortar.
Halfway between Alcatraz and Purgatory,
The court of the Crimson King.
Limestone crosses and ancient inscriptions
crumbled in the stone.
The waters are black and thunderous
I walk the desolate path,
through the maw of the labyrinth,
into the grip of the abyss.
The air has the weight of centuries.
The fortress is rich. Unforgiving.
Richest reds, elusive blacks.
The sultry cry of a violin
haunts the endless halls.
I wander through smoke and mirrors
with shuddering, halted steps.
A grand room opens before me,
“Welcome to my abode.”
He beckons me to enter,
to sit by his throne.
His face is shadow, severe robe
the blackness of the Judge.
The Damned plead their cases before him.
They are hideous, cancered with sin
The Lords of Hell watch, silent
I walk through the ranks of the dead.
One meets my eye, grotesque smile
tumored and bloody red.
He cannot see the rot on his soul.
They are human, think themselves whole
but in the eyes of the infinite,
they are diseased.
And we, mortals, blind.
“That is my power. To see the rot of souls.”
I stand by his side, watch in horror.
He passes Judgement, grins secretly at me,
relaxes on his throne.
The Crimson King holds court:
Purgatory petitions, an orchestra of sighs
Anxious dreams, passing on.
Waiting, waiting, waiting.
Rank and file, card and number-
how heavy are your sins?
A god-damned bureaucracy in Hell.
But it is too eldritch to be government.
I hide in the shadows, daring to watch
morbid fascination kicks in.
Who were they? Rapists? Murderers?
What crimes are their disease?
He reads the patterns of rot.
“Everyone is stained,” he tells me.
He shows me my own, his.
“Everything is tainted.”
“You’re a bottle of sunshine.”
He snorts. We retire for dinner.
I stay silent, the din of sharp laughter
and razor wits clash at the alien table
Like Persephone in the Underworld,
I eat nothing. No blood-red fruits
or blackened meat.
The Chime Lord enters the room,
the sinners bow.
“Do not kneel before me,” he whispers,
in my ear.
He takes my hand, leads me to the jagged cliff
spires to crash against when falling,
perfect for skewering the heart.
I stand on the edge, watch the savage waves below.
He tells me many things.
There is no time, with the Chime Lord.
Does he lives in stasis, eternally?
I would hate to be immortal.
He speaks in starlight and wind
the rain falls, like I prayed.
“You asked for ten days of rain.“
The gulls cry far below, and there’s an emptiness
in their song that could fill the Book of Life.
I read the bones of the earth, the planes
on the cliff of his face.
I think he is bound here, in this hellish beauty
Endless turns of the grinding wheel:
Deformed damned file in before the Angel of Death,
pleading their cases. The Lords of Hell look on.
Death judges the forsaken.
Is this a prison or a haven?
A place of punishment or forgiveness?
I can never tell, with him.
The second day came.
Thunder drummed to lightning strike.
My god, how deep our stains.