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The Path Untaken
Confessor #3
© 2022 James LaFond
The light which seemed to subtly radiate from the star-speckled void of soaring metal was absent in the darkened tunnel of jade scales. Decked in pythian, dragonian and crocodilian art, the tunnel did and appeared grossly to be twisting downward into the bowels of Foundation according to a leftward spiral. The only light source was the soft nimbus about his head of sleek black hair, which betrayed the rough dimensions of the tunnel as two spans from any point to the other, being a perfect cylindrical artery of carven jade, to which mahogany vines somehow clung and twisted, sometimes overhead, sometimes to either side and sometimes underfoot, as the man carefully picked his way like some great two-legged cat.
Having taken some forty searching steps with pantherish caution, Phane was struck by the realization that he was now beneath the point at which he had entered, and that the spiral snake of jade coiled downward continually to the left and that he resided within its belly.
And so he followed, the blossoms of sooty pink whispering to him like lips of dissolution, beckoning him to stop and partake of their nectar, to kiss their knowledge-bestowing buds of repose, to lay in coddled state among the great vines which even suggested themselves as a learning couch of a sort, broadening and softening under the waving petals, which whispered in many languages and none, “Recline, Seeker among the blooms of knowledge—receive our sweet, soothing kiss and know knowledge incarnate, for the secrets of the Infinite Universe flow through our veins. We are one, Seeker, with truth for our blood. Know our kiss and know what tides lap at the far stars, what secrets lurk beneath men’s beating hearts.”
The man started form his eyes and shook his head, shivering feverishly as sweat pooled on his bare shoulders, surging onward and downward as the flowers beckoned, swaying seductively on lithe vines new-grown—life created as a whim to entice him into a fair embrace, sprouting to greet him from the dark boughs of mahogany.
“Kiss us, Seeker, for you wane lonely.”
The man shivered as if struck by an adder of truth and began to cry, tears dripping from his straight nose as he pushed on with a hard-set jaw.
“Pick one of us, Seeker, any one of us, and she shall love you until the stars grow dim! And we, the all of us, shall sing to you of the spheres as you wonder away the sweet years of eternity.”
The man moaned slightly as if in pain and a petal extended itself near to his tear-soaked face, and whispered in famished glee, “Pick me! Seeker, Pick me! Look how pretty I am to see. Pick me, lonely little me!”
The man shook the tears from his nose and rubbed the sweat from his shoulders, wrapping himself in his arms and whimpering slightly as he grit his teeth and stepped the quicker, downward, to the left, ever downward.
A sooty petal of luxurious pink, two beautiful eyes upon her nectar stalks, moaned in an ecstasy of sweet discovery and circled down from the overhead vine and, coming to rest on his bare shoulder, whispering with all of her flowery might up into his left ear, “Seeker, I bathe in your sweat, want only to absorb your pain and take it all away. I will drink your tears until I drown in your sorrow with my sweet sisters to replace me. Oh, Seeker, look at me, shriveled and dying, fallen from my vine, drawn by your dreamy eyes—please, Seeker, kiss me so I might die revealed!”
The man looked down in longing onto his shoulder at the dying flower, her lower petals soggy with his sweat, her teary eyes of love sought and unfound blinking in abject innocence up into his killing eyes as she wailed slightly, “Just a kiss, man of my many dreams!”
His face went somewhat slack and he thought openly upon his face about granting this plaintive wish, even as the beautiful flower withered visibly, her eyes beginning to sag on their less vibrant stalks and his chin quavered, “I I’m sorry…I must seek on…”
A trail of drool strung from his mouth as he staggered on and the flower, shorn from her vine, moaned in agony and begged, “My master, save me—a kiss, a kiss to take into the last long night.”
He shivered as he sped up and seemed to regard the dying flower on his shoulder with renewed dread as she shriveled and wilted, and one last, terrible tear came from her eyes and she died and he seemed to run from her last breath as if she were not yet soggily dead upon his sweating shoulder.
A manic resolve seemed to seize him as ever more, ever more luscious, ever larger, ever more beautiful-eyed flowers sprang from the ever-thickening vines that lined the walls of the jade scale tunnel—beginning in their earnest efforts at convincing him to stop and gain some rest, to obscure the pythons, dragons and crocodiles depicted in jade scale, as if these flowers had somehow usurped the place of these beasts and choked out their life.
“Me, kiss me, Seeker!”
“No me, I am the one, the one who will sing in your eager ear for eternity!”
“Of course, you should choose me, Seeker. My roots spring from the shattered building block of life, my petals, a million swooning beauties, each to spend her entire life to ease a moment in your weary seeking day. Sit, rest, my hero, and bless my bough, purred many petals vined together as a single mouth, speaking to him like a goddess, as the ever-thickening vine of mahogany reformed into a throne of greening vine, petals of black lying down one upon the other on the seat, back and arms to form a cushion for his seat, petals of white arraying themselves like books, while big-eyed petals of pink sang the words grown with veins upon each petal.
For each petal was a page in a book of dainty beauty, a page in the story of the Cosmos, a story that could be his if only he would stop and partake of its welcoming cadence rather than bumbling fitfully on to no purpose...
He was reeling before a flowered throne, a dead puddle of slime dripping from his left shoulder, a flowered face of incomparable beauty looming above the throne before him and crooning in soft, sultry tones, “Sit man and be My Wonder, be My Prince upon the Throne of Thought. Repose, My Dear Prince and float with me upon the River Truth evermore!”
The nimbus about his head was waning, dimming nearly to gray, the lush tunnel now lit with verdant flowers sacrificing themselves from new grown vines and glowing for a moment, their life literally reduced to a phosphorescent flicker…
He reeled drunkenly, putting out his hands as if to ease himself into the great chair, then recovering with a shudder and reaching with his right hand for the mighty aor at his side, the pommel like a condor claw, the blade a hand wide at its base and tapering relentlessly to a needle point at a half span of length, ripped out the terrible, swift sword and cleaved the mouth of flowers, his nimbus waxing bright as a waxy candlelight and then leaped over the throne-like vine dashing a hundred pitifully screaming petals to doom with a whip of his cape and began to run; he ran like some unbearable beast licked at his booted heels—for she did, her flowers spitting thorns into his flesh and harness, green vines lashing his face and arms likes whips, club-like lengths of black vine striking at his legs as if to break them. He danced on recklessly, turning, crouching, hopping, lunging, ducking, jumping and even dancing his way downward to the left, battling a unified thing.
This vine beast that awaited him, followed him and lashed at him on the instant seemed to learn from his actions and adapt its morphology to every occasion, here forming a mace of thorns and smashing at his foot, there whirling vines into green cordage and lashing at his legs, further down making of itself a vine-like hand to seize him as a bundle of hissing flowers formed themselves into a venomous dagger aimed at his throat. This manic, variegated diabolism continued, even to the extent of a great bough some turns down into the depths fashioning itself into a sword and shield of mahogany—but always the aor bit deep.
The man made his roughly nimble way clear in some way, seeming to gain power from action as his nimbus waxed like sunlight in the dark and the looming vines and flowers began to cower back away from his advance.
In the end, the Seeker stalked like a bully down the last length of tunnel as the greying and shrinking mahogany pulled back and the sooty flower petals with their sad pink eyes skulked away in the shadows moaning, “Seeker, not me, not me!”
Ahead gaped a curtain or mirrors, tingling suggestively between the pythian tunnel and whatever awaited. The mirrors and disks and tags and codices and scrolls of glass of many sizes hung from strings of bloody gore and each of these mirrors cast back an image of the Seeker out of his past: doubting his will, losing his way, failing in some skill, slipping as a child, crying alone in the star-charted night, starving of love in his austerity, lacking of wit in some great game—and they all shattered into a multitude of dissolving regrets as the aor, a hand wide at its star metal base and a needle point at its half span of length, crashed through the curtain of mirrors in an X-pattern of fury, and Phane, Seeker of Ais, stepped through to meet whatever fate did await.
The Curtain Undrawn
The Stair Unclimbed
the gods of boxing
the fighting edge
barbarism versus civilization
under the god of things
the combat space
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