Conversations with Christopher: Damian

Christopher wanders through the mists alone. There’s a faint humming in the air, almost a suggestive whispering. He closes his eyes, stretches out his hand, searching with his fingers.

Christopher: If I wish for you the way you once wishes for me, will you appear?

Strong, slender fingers grasp his, holding onto his.

Damian: This is the Cauldron of Inspiration, is it not? Anything is possible beyond the fourth wall, between all walls. Much like the Shadow Forest itself.

Damian Ashelocke steps forward, wearing a black leather jacket over a white poet’s shirt, and tight leather pants. His dark hair is damp, dissheveled, falling forward over his pale brow, ending in waves at the nape of a slender neck. He slants his rose-purple eyes in a humorous squint, yet his face is grave.

Damian: Of course I’ll come to you, Christopher, if you wish for it.

Christopher: You think I haven’t been wishing for you?

Damian: I think you’ve been distracted by Quartz and his story. You’re very close to the scribbler and her thoughts. Closer than any of her other characters perhaps. Isn’t it time you spared a thought for your own tale?

The mists parts to show a garden path leading to a hill, lined with rosebushes. The thorny vines burst with blossoms the same hue as Damian’s eyes.

Damian: If I don’t force you to blossom, you’ll wither on the vine. Do you remember these flowers? They’re Ashelocke roses. They’re here in Omphalos but also in the Gardens of Arachne.

Christopher: Must you bring up the Gardens of Arachne? I’d rather not return there.
Damian: Oh, Christopher. You and I always return there, one way or another.

The mists creep up and swallow everything but the rosebushes. The paths realign, twisting into mazes. The gazebo nearby, crouching like a wooden beast protecting its secrets disappears. It becomes another part of the lovely sunlit twists of thorns and briars, carefully cultivated to form a spiral, turning and twisting inward.

Christopher: For every boy in the Gardens of Arachne, the paths have a single destination. Always from manhood and into his bride’s arms.

Damian: Not every path and they don’t have to end there. Come. (He’s still holding Christopher’s hand but he’s wearing a white tunic, revealing slim legs, taunt with slender muscle. Flower petals, more of the Ashelocke rose are caught in his hair.) It’s been to long since we visited Stefan Ashelocke.

Christopher: Perhaps not long enough. (He reaches up to touch his own coppery-golden locks, the same length as Damian’s. He, too, has the same rose petals in his hair, a wreath of them. Crowned with flowers as every boy is when he goes to his bride, yes, he remembers those days and nights.) Stefan sacrificed his life so that the Gardens of Arachne could bloom. Stefan was the very first Marriage Feast to satisfy an arachnocratic lady’s hunger.

Damian leads Christopher around a turn bursting with thorny briars. More of the rose purple flowers develop upon the vines. The two youths take a left. Each petal cries for a young boy’s voice, yet it’s only the faint whisper of the vine. The path twists, offering two ways. Damian leads Christopher to the right. Look close enough and see the webs, linking each of the roses. The two boys, for now they are just boys walk straight for a while, hand in hand until they come to another fork, the tangle of green rising high above their head. For it is a tangle with thin strands of spun between thorns, glistening as if tears clungs to them. Damian took another right. Now you can hear the cries of women weeping. The two boys walk straight amidst the sobbing, the rosebushes rising high into hedges, blocking out the sun, all other noise. How the webs weep, with the voices of those whom became lady monsters; aloof, powerful, too hungry for this oasis, for dominance after being dominating. They had allow their hunger to rule their hearts, to become arachnocrats, a court of elegant worshippers of the Spider whom resides in them all, engaging in a gracious dance of predator and prey, a ritualized matriarchy of sacrifice to escape the crude patriarchy which once existed upon these grounds. The many-limbed ladies see, remember, and weep. The roses are all the lovelier and more innocent, flowering in sheltered tragedy amidst their webs.

Christopher remembers and senses this, hand in hand with Damian. He feels his eyes fill with tears for both predator and prey, those whom can’t escape this, but there’s one more turn to the left before the two boys reach the enter of the maze. Gravel gave way to smooth sandy stone beneath their sandaled feet. The walls of hedge and briar retreat, allowing the still stone figure at the center of the open courtyard his space.

Damian lets go of the other boy to approach the white statue, the figure of a young man who is the exact likeness. Only this young man wearing a doublet over a high-necked tunic, wiry legs covered with hose.

Christopher: (shivering for Stefan casts a long shadow even in his stillness) I’d almost believe he was a statue. Only he’s more than this. He’s immortal. He’s what’s left after the Lady Duessa devoured him in a Marriage Feast.

Damian: Before that, he was Aunt Duessa’s husband. The last husband in these lands to live with his wife in a castle with towers before the Ashelocke estate and the Temple to the Spider were erected. I wonder how willing he was to submit to his lady’s fangs in truth?

Christopher: What are you saying?

Damian: Before the Gardens of Arachne with its mazes and shrines to Marriage Feasts past, there was this.

He raises his hand like a sorcerer summoning forces from another world. Perhaps Damian Ashelocke is exactly that. For he once summoned Christopher from the shadows and now he summons the mists of the Cauldron.

They come to him, swallowing the sky as they do, the statue, the very Gardens of Arachne themselves. Damian lowers his hand to grab Christopher’s before he can disappear, before they both disappear.

To be continued on Monday; September 28th, 2020…

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