#QueerBlogWed: A Tale of the Navel

On November 17, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a drawbridge, a comb, and a Help Wanted sign.

This bizarre Tale of the Navel, a prelude with Peter to Unwilling to Be Yours was the result…

How strange to see a Help Wanted sign just after Peter had crossed a drawbridge into a castle. 

He was carrying a comb. He’d intended to give it to Paul. Perhaps it had belonged to a famous vampire, still carrying traces of its previous owner’s dark energy. Perhaps a siren had used it to straighten her hair before singing below a bridge, convincing those ailing in their hearts to jump. 

This was how desperate Peter was, brandishing this comb and a likely fable just to get his former lover to talk to him. 

“Oh, what a lovely comb!” A mermaid popped her wet head out of the moat. Tresses of hair floated around her breasts. “Won’t you come down, handsome stranger, and give it to me?” 

She gave a fetching little wiggle which didn’t fool Peter. 

“I’m so sorry, my lovely.” He gave a half-bow and a wink, but never quite stopped walking, keeping a firm grip on the comb. “My assistance is needed elsewhere.”

He gave the sign a significant nod. 

“Such a shame. All that beauty of yours wasted on a heavenly direction and attempts to return what isn’t wanted.” The mermaid flicked her tail dismissively at the sign. “Come back when you tire of work and decide to play.”

She giggled and dove below the water of the moat. 

It was only when he was on the other side that Peter saw the bones lying in patches of land under the drawbridge. Human bones. 

Why was he not surprised playing with a mermaid could be fatal?

He looked around the castle courtyard. Birds chittered and took flight amidst the lords and ladies rushing in different directions. No one paid much attention except for one. 

“Why, that’s my comb!” A lady wearing a haughty scowl upon a long face under a coned headdress snapped her fingers under his nose. “Give it here, boy!”

Peter shook his head, smiled, and pressed the comb to his chest. “Forgive me, my lady, but this comb is for my former lover. I must woo him with lies in an attempt to win him back.”

“How brazen of you to admit that!” she scolded, but a smile softened her face. “All right, get along with you. Just remember, lies can be more costly than the truth.”

She raced after a distracted lord in black, no longer paying attention to Peter. Just why was everyone in a hurry? 

There was no point in hurrying, just as there was no point in telling him lies could be more costly than the truth. The truth had a way of popping out, regardless, like a hideous jack-in-the-box. 

Peter found the stairs leading up to one of the castle towers. He started climbing them, winding up the stone edifice, glancing down at the green countryside below. 

Some of it he’d passed through. There were a few cottages he hadn’t remembered seeing. How interesting. 

He reached the end of the stairs at a little wooden door in the stone wall. 

Uncertain, he tapped on the door.

“Come in, Peter.” The voice was soft, seductive, yet somehow deep and commanding. It tickled the insides of his ears, sending shivers all the way down to his groin. 

He opened the door, finding himself in small bedchamber. A great bed with long dark green hangings did nothing to conceal the occupant. 

A man with high-cheekbones rolled over amidst his own moonlight-colored hair, exposing bare shoulders slipping free of a robe the same hue as the bedcovers. The man fixed him with a searing gaze, his eye filled with prism-like light. 

“Shut the door behind you.” The man smiled the slow smile of a predator who’d just caught a particularly succulent squirrel in his claws. “We don’t want to be disturbed.”

“My lord,” Peter said, tasting the truth in every world. This man was the true lord of this place, no matter what title or lack of title he might have. 

He turned to shut the door behind him, knowing he risked being devoured, but so what? He’d come this far for his wish. Better to be eaten than to turn back. 

“So determined,” the man said softly. “Paul was a fool to discard you. He might follow gods, but you could become a god yourself.”

Honeyed words in which he might be stuck. 

“Not to waste such an opportunity,” Peter chose his own with care, doing a little spin to face the occupant of the bed. “I cannot help but wonder if you were looking and expecting someone else.”

“As you were?” The man raised himself from the bed, exposing more shoulder and chest as perfect as a marble statue’s. “This doesn’t mean we don’t have something to offer each other.”

“I saw the Help Wanted sign.” Peter sauntered toward the bed, yet stopped before getting too close. “Are you the one asking for it?”

“Yes and no. The Navel needs help.” The man leaned back to expose his own hairless navel and what lay beneath it. “The question is do you truly want to help? Or are you simply seeking your own path?”

Difficult to answer that question even with this man looking and smelling the way he did, distracting Peter with his ample charms. 

“I wished to see someone again.” Peter stood his ground, clutching his comb. “I may have to lie to do so.”

“You don’t have to lie to me. You won’t be able to.” The man reached and nudged Peter’s thigh. “Come closer. I have a message I want you to deliver.”

“What message?” Peter allowed himself to be drawn toward the bed, to lean over his occupant.

“This one.” The man reached out to seize Peter, claiming his lips with his own. “You’ll know who. You’ll find him as difficult to resist as I always have.”

Peter fell on top of the half-naked man, finding his own body very happy to be there. 

The man wrapped his robe which seemed to be growing around both of them. Darkness enveloped the two men. Peter tasted darkness, breathing in the shadows along with the taste of their master…

…only to find himself walking down a cobblestone path, clothes in disarray. 

“What happened?” The man, the bedchamber, the castle were retreating as if they’d been a dream. 

He glanced down at his empty hands. Somehow, somewhere, he’d lost his comb. 

Conversations with Christopher: Map Part 3

Images swim within Map’s eyes, images which not everyone can see. Flickers of torchlight, accompanied by angry cries, the heavy echo of footsteps, and labored breathing. All washed out in a crimson pool. 

Christopher sees himself rising from the pool. Its bloody hue softens, suffused by blue, green, and refracted light. It bubbles, the bubbles floating from the surface to pop around him while he clutches an egg to his chest. 

He sees himself again, leaning over the edge of another pool of water. Cooler, quieter, yet colors still float across the surface. A hand stretches out from the pool, beckoning with pale fingers. 

Christopher: Is this how you see me?

Map: I see another Omphalos reflected in your eyes. You were happy there, but you couldn’t help chasing after what you couldn’t have.

Christopher: I have no sense of direction. I needed my…Map. (He stares at her, eyes widening).

Map: (nods with a sad little smile) I’ve had many names, but I always been fond of Map. The name you and Ashleigh gave me. 

Christopher: You became our Map. You gave us direction, a place to go when we badly needed it. How could have I forgotten you?

Map: You keep opening Doors, getting lost in gardens, or other people. You and Ashleigh both.

Christopher: You didn’t forget us. 

Map: I try not to open Doors. I stay right here, even when another Omphalos vanishes or burns down around me. 

Christopher: I’m sure I’ve seen you on the other side of the Door. Even if I no longer recognized you. 

Map: I said I try not to. I never said I didn’t. There’s a part of me that wants to chase after you. To find everyone else I’ve lost. 

Christopher: Have you?

Map: I found Leiwell, Danyel, and Tayel. You and Ashleigh for brief moments, but I’ve never been able to hold onto you. Sometimes others. My boys are the only ones I’ve managed to bring back. 

Christopher: Leiwell, Danyel, and Tayel.

Map: Yes. They’ve become my children. Drawn to dangerous things, all of them, but we’ve managed to form a family here.

Christopher: Where did you find them?

Map: I already told you. On the other side of the Door.

Christopher: That’s a big place. The Shadow Forest is huge and it’s always changing.

Map: Aye, and it’s not always a Forest.

Christopher: And you managed to bring these children back. 

Map: Not without help.

Christopher: Whose help?

Map: You’ll find out soon enough. 

Christopher: You’re very mysterious. 

Map: There’s too much to reveal you’re not ready for yet. I just wanted to show you this cottage. To see you, sitting here once more. 

She bows her head. Christopher can feel the grief, pulling down her shoulders, hanging in the air. 

He reaches for her hand. 

Christopher: I’m sorry, Map. I’m sorry you’ve had to bear this alone.

Map: (lifting his head, managing a grim smile) It’s not like I didn’t chose bear it. Someone has to take care of the cottage. Make certain there’s a home to return to. 

Christopher: I think in a way you’re like Gabrielle. She’s doing what you’re doing. Waiting in the Navel for people to come to her. 

Map: Is she, now? (Her smile broadens a bit.) I’m glad you’ve found someone solid to ground you. You kept attaching yourself to people who disappear. 

Christopher: (it’s his turn to smile sadly) I’m afraid that hasn’t changed. 

Map: No, it wouldn’t, would it? 

(To be continued Monday) 

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and Jupitre

Quartz stretches, shakes out his beard, stomps his boots, seeing the mist disappear beneath them as it clears around him. 

Quartz: That right, I’m back! Took the scribbler long enough to bring me back. Not that the shadows, nor the Conversations with Christopher can keep this dwarf down!

Jupitre: How nice for you. I wish I was back. I’d darken the sky and illuminate it with brilliance. I’d shower my might down on my worshippers, sporting with the more attractive ones. All I was once is gone. Gone!

Quartz turns, seeing he’s in some sort of forest clearing. The complains come from an old man sitting on a stump. He has stooped shoulders, resting his chin on a hoary hand as he scowls. A scraggly grey beard hangs in limp hanks from his chin. The rest of his face is lined with misery. 

Quartz: Right. Secondary Characters Speak Out is back, too. You must be my guest. Go on. 

Jupitre: Right? There is no right! Not for me! I’ve lost my thunder, my majesty, my godhood! Just look at me now. Talking to a snarky little dwarf I would have once hit with a lightning bolt for sport. Talking about secondary characters as if I was such a trival thing! Don’t you realize who I am? I am Jupitre! I ruled the heavens, making all the puny forms of earth beneath me tremble with fear and awe!

Quartz: Right. You’re not going to awe anyone. Not with that beard.

Jupitre: And now those puny forms dare to criticize my beard!

Quartz: Expect more. Criticism, that is. You should take better care of your whiskers. 

Jupitre: Take better care of my whiskers? I’ll have you know when I ruled the heavens, I had scores of beautiful boys comb, brush, and oil my whiskers! (He leers in nostalgia.) Not to mention other parts of me. 

Quartz: Uh huh. (utterly unimpressed) And what happened to them, eh? Those boys. 

Jupitre: (slumping back into a morose slouch) They left me. All my servants. All my worshippers. They stopped believing in me. Me!

Quartz: Sounds like you lost your worshippers because they stopped believing in you and maybe your godlike whatever as well?

Jupitre: Why do you think we gods made such a severe example of those who didn’t worship us, didn’t sacrifice to us? Without sacrifices, prayers, offerings, the devotion of our followers, we starve! We shrink and diminish into this!

Quartz: So this is what’s left of you without them. Your followers.

Jupitre: (tearing at his beard) How can I live like this?!

Quartz: Well for starters, don’t go worrying your beard! (waving his hands) Having scraggly whiskers solves nothing. Something my own family fails to figure out. 

Jupitre: And now this impudent dwarf dares to call me scraggly!

Quartz: You bet the shards I dare. What kind of deity goes ripping off his whiskers? You’re not a fool kid like my little brother. You’re a god, right? Show some pride!

Jupitre: Just what do I have left to be proud of? Without my power, I’m nothing but a weak old man!

Quartz: Right. No wonder you lost your worshippers with that attitude. 

Jupitre: I’m kept home by my wife, kept in a weakened state while she parades pretty visitors before me to mock me!

Quartz: Met Christopher, have you?

Jupitre: (showing interest in something other than himself for a moment) Is Christopher the slender youth, pretty as a girl with the multicolored eyes?

Quartz: Uh huh, that’s him. 

Jupitre: (the moment has passed) He looked upon this aging wreck of my former self with no awe. 

Quartz: Can’t imagine why not. 

Jupitre: And now you mock me again! I’m reduced to being a secondary character by a rude little dwarf in a blog written by a half wit with pretensions of being an author!

Me: (looking up with annoyance) Hey!

Jupitre: Once great artists and poets depicted me, worshipped me. Now I’m just a secondary character in some miserable scribbler’s blog!

Me: (grumbling) At least you’re getting an appearance. Which is more than you can expect of many people’s blogs.

Quartz: Scribbler, this is what comes of encouraging secondary characters to speak out. Some of them never shut up. 

Me: You’re the one encouraging secondary characters to speak out. 

Jupitre: (drawing himself up) How dare you treat me like a nuisance, both of you! (turns on Quartz) How dare you accuse a god of whining?

Quartz: Like I said, when that god won’t shut up. If you’re all that, why don’t you do something about it?

Jupitre: I told you, dwarf. I’m no longer any of that. This is all that I am now. All that’s left of me. 

Quartz: Right. Again, why don’t you do something about it?

Jupitre: What?

Quartz: Do something, anything. Change. Or try to change. You don’t like what you’ve become? Do something about it. 

Looking aggravated, Quartz stomps away, muttering something about gods being worse than witches or kobolds. 

Jupitre sits alone, the mists rising around him, his morose face turning pensive. 

Jupitre: Change. Yes. If I opened a Door to the Shadow Forest, change would be inevitable. Change would be far better than remaining as I am.

The mists almost hiss in sinister encouragement as they envelop him. 

Conversations with Christopher: Peter

Hands reach out to grab Christopher’s feet from the glowing silver disc beneath him, Some of them climb up his legs with roving fingers pulling him down and through a now insubstantial floor. 

He slides down into a sea of hands, carrying him down the ceiling to the waiting golden disc on the ground. 

The hands release the slender youth with slow reluctance, disappearing into the golden disc on the Navel’s floor. 

Christopher: Every time it’s different. (He steps out of the golden circle in a hurry to glance up at the silver one upon the ceiling.)

A moan comes from above, a young man’s groan filled with frustrated longing.

Christopher: Peter?

The silver disc glows, becoming misty. Two slippered feet attached to slim, wiry legs in hose emerge from the mist, followed by a pelvis thust out, a torso quivering. Peter’s head is thrown back while he floats from the ceiling.

The golden disc below brightens, pulsing with an almost seductive rhythm. Peter’s eyelids flutter, his lips parted in a dreamy little smile. 

Christopher: Peter?

Peter: (not opening his eyes) Yes. Yes, that’s me. I’m all yours. 

His feet hit the circle. The glow disappears. 

Peter opens his eyes, stands up straight. His mouth closes. 

Peter: Well. (He allows one hand to slightly cover his groin in a gesture that’s almost demure for Peter.) I’m not sure, but going down is always more pleasant than going up to Gabrielle’s sanctum above the Navel. Wherever that is.

Christopher: (averting his eyes) I’m not sure either. I always thought it was part of the Navel. The private part for those who’ve become part of it.

Peter: Is that so? (He fixes his soft brown eyes upon Christopher.) Am I part of the Navel, Christopher?

Christopher: You’ve been a part from the moment you were able to enter. (He gestures up toward the silver disc.) To rise, to enter Gabrielle’s sanctum, is to become one of us. 

Peter: (glancing up in the direction of Christopher’s finger, one hand on his hip) Is it really Gabrielle’s? Or simply part of the Navel as you say?

Christopher: I’m not sure if ‘Brie sees a difference between herself and the Navel. 

Peter: She belongs as much to the shop as it does to her, eh? No escape now. She’s bound to its walls and boundaried by them.

Christopher: Now you sound like Damian. If ‘Brie is bound to the Navel, it’s because she wants to be. She loves her work here. 

Peter: Or she’s hiding, avoiding something or someone. Like all of us. 

Christopher: Gabrielle is the last person in the world who would hide. You’ve seen what she’s like.

Peter: I have. The hearty manner, the odd hats, the way she proudly welcomes visitors to the center of all things bizarre. She wraps these things around herself like a loud cloak, distracting everyone. No one will look too close. 

Christopher: (lowers his head) I never thought of it that way. 

Peter: Yes, you have. (He takes a step closer to the younger boy, so he’s right in front of him.) You’re just too polite to allow yourself to dwell on your mother’s vulnerability. After all you have plenty of your own. 

Christopher: (raises his chin only to find Peter’s face is too close) What of it?

Peter: I’ll wager Damian noticed this vulnerability and picked at it. 

Christopher: He didn’t see ‘Brie’s reasons for being here as vulnerabilities. He thought she was wasting her strength. 

Peter: (leaning back, giving Christopher space) Perhaps he was right. 

Christopher: (raising an eyebrow) I never thought I’d see the day you’d agree with Damian. On anything. 

Peter: Just because he was right doesn’t mean he wasn’t a prick. He used ‘Brie to hide from whatever awaited him until he decided to leave, using everyone else to make his exit. Including your need to hide. 

Christopher: He offered me the Navel in return for the Shadow Forest.

Peter: Yes, definitely a prick. As if the Navel was his to offer. 

Christopher: Do you think the Navel is anyone’s to offer? Even Gabrielle’s?

Peter: A fair question. I’m not sure how Gabrielle and the Navel have become one even if I’m certain they were very different entities once upon a time. I could speculate quite a bit about this. Clever distraction on your part.

Christopher: Distraction? (He backs up another step.)

Peter: Yes. You distracted me completely from the topic of what you’re hiding from.

Christopher: (raising his chin) I might ask you the same. Since you’re convinced we’re all hiding from something. 

Peter: What am I hiding from? (He backs up a step, lets out what might have been intended to be a hearty laugh, but it comes out weak.) I would have that was obvious. My own broken heart and frustrated desires. (He shrugs as if it doesn’t matter.) I suppose I need you, you and ‘Brie. Perhaps I need the Navel, too, and its customers. You’re a haven from everything I’ve been through. 

Christopher: (softening) We need you, too.

Peter: If only you needed me, Christopher. (He takes a few steps forward, closing the distance betweeen them.) If only I could satsify that hunger of yours.

He reaches out to touch Christopher’s lips.

Christopher reaches up to remove Peter’s hand, but he doesn’t let go of it. 

Christopher: You do. 

Peter: (sighing) Not in the way I’d hoped to.

He drops Christopher’s hand and shrugs, offering him a smile. 

Peter: Ah, well, all I can do is keep on hoping.

Christopher: Peter…

Peter: Never mind! Perhaps there’s time for a little walk through Omphalos before the Navel opens, hmm?

Without looking back, Peter marches toward the Navel door.

More slowly, Christopher follows. 

Like my style of writing? Here are links to my published works…

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Tales of the Navel: Voices in His Head

On November 3, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a spoon, spots, and a ringing bell.

This Tale of the Navel was the result…

Spots swam before Tayel’s vision. Every spot contained a different face swimming in color. 

A bell rang, tolling out each chime as every face began to sing:

Seraphix

Grant us our wish

We’ll give you our faith

Make us part of you

We’ll make you a god.

“Tayel!” 

Danyel’s voice, sharp with alarm, brought him back to the table, to the kitchen, to the here and now. 

Tayel gazed at the spoon in his hand. 

Below him lay a bowl filled with untouched broth. 

Map hadn’t given up on trying to get the twins to eat, even if it was just a sip of liquid. 

“Don’t drift off. Even if it’s just into your own thoughts.” Map stressed each word, hovering behind Danyel, trying to look as if she wasn’t hovering. “Eat a little more.”

It smelled good, the contents in the bowl. Perhaps the scent was simply Map’s concern wafting in the air.

Tayel picked up his spoon, stuck it in the bowl. He gathered a little of its contents into this curious curved utensil humans used for eating. This particular item seemed to work. 

Maybe he shouldn’t regard humans in such an otherly fashion. He and Danyel were human-shaped. They had mouths. If Map could eat, so could the twins.

He lifted the spoon to his lips. He managed a tiny sip. Before he could taste it, he started to cough. Tears gathered in his eyes. 

“It’s all right.” Leiwell turned his head toward Tayel. His older brother had been resting it on the table after another night away, “serving” his mysterious master. In spite of his weariness, Leiwell’s green eyes were clear and bright. “Just eat as much as you can for now. Eventually you’ll be able to eat more.”

Reflected in those dark pupils surrounded by emerald irises, Tayel could see the tower. Of course it was a tower. It always was the tower whether it wore a crown or rang a bell. He could almost hear the bell ringing, a faint echo anyone could easily explain away as imagination. 

He wished he could taste the soup or try to taste it. His throat burned. 

Danyel was not to be left behind by his twin. He picked up his spoon, filled it with brother. He took an even bigger sip than Tayel had. 

As one, the twins started coughing, gasping for air. 

“All right, that’s enough.” Map leaned over to rescue the bowls and the spoons from their careless wielders. “This will heat up easily enough. You can try again later.”

“Eating will get easier,” Leiwell reassured his brothers. “You’re growing. Maybe not quite like human children, but the longer you spend in this place, the more you’ll be able to eat and do other things they do.”

“Really?” Danyel turned to their older brother with a wide-eyed expression of hope. Unlike Tayel, his violet-blue eyes were innocent of any inhuman brightness. 

“I did,” Leiwell said with a mysterious, yet sad little smile. 

Curious how he both answered and didn’t answer Danyel’s question. Tayel’s admiration and mistrust for their elder brother grew. 

“What’s normal varies from person to person in this world,” Leiwell said in dreamy, speculative tone. “Just give yourself time to discover what’s normal for you.”

“I keep hearing a bell ringing and singing.” Danyel glanced from brother to brother. “Do you hear them, too? One voice is louder than the rest. A voice like mine, only slightly older and wiser. A beautiful voice.”

Tayel shut his eyes, belatedly realizing he shouldn’t have done that. He’d just given away the fact that he heard them, too. 

Leiwell lifted his weary head from the table to regard his brothers with alarm. 

Map stiffened where she stood at the cauldron, still holding the bowls. 

“What’s wrong?” Danyel, the innocent, as always had to ask the obvious questions. The wrong questions. The questions which opened doors to answers which were murky, dark, and filled with mysteries no one in this cottage wanted anything to do with. “What is this bell? Whose voice am I hearing?”

“The mind is mysterious, whispering things from dreams which trouble daylight and waking life,” Tayel murmured. “Best to leave them be.”

“That’s right,” Map said, a little too heartily, putting the bowls down with a thump. “Best not to worry about such things. Concentrate on being a part of this world.”

“Don’t let the tower distract you,” Leiwell murmured. “Ignore its whispers and enjoy being alive.”

“Wait, does it whisper to you, too?” Danyel pounced on this particular bit of information like an unwary cat leaping on a devilish mouse. Catch it with your claws and it catches you. “What does it say, Leiwell?”

“I don’t remember.” Leiwell leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes. “It was a dream, I think.” 

This didn’t seem like a lie. Nor did it seem like the entire truth. 

“Dreams will lure you away from reality.” Map turned around, her brow furrowed. “Don’t let it trouble you.” 

Danyel opened his mouth and shut it. He gazed at Map, Leiwell, and Tayel himself frowning, a wrinkle in his forehead. 

It was clear his twin thought the rest of his family was privy to some great secret they were excluding him from.

If only Danyel knew. It was best he didn’t. The singing, the bells, they might be part of a dream, but they could turn into a future reality. 

Tayel mistrusted the song, the words. There was a darker meaning behind them, a dangerous selfishness to its desire. 

He didn’t want to be drawn into the song. What’s more, he didn’t want his family to be drawn it into it. 

This wouldn’t stop the song or the singers from drawing close to them. 

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Conversations with Christopher: Gabrielle Part 2

Gabrielle sighs, shaking her head, making the fishnet veil of shells sway over her fedora. 

Gabrielle: This is maddening. I still can’t find my sense of humor. Where could I have put it?

Christopher walks toward the front window of the Navel. One of Damian’s skulls, handcrafted out of clay, sits and grins at people passing by on the other side of the glass. Some of them stop, start, and stare. More than a few roll their eyes. They’ve seen weirder in the window of the Navel. One bold passerby grins back at the skull and waves. Or is she waving at Christopher?

Unsure, Christopher waves back. He walks toward the window. There’s a rack of robes nearby, black, dark blue, white, and green robes which can easily cover a person’s clothes. Every single robe has smiley faces all over them. 

Christopher: Maybe it’s here? (He gestures to the rack.)

Gabrielle looks up, brightens at the sight of the robes.

Gabrielle: Ah, the Navel’s special collection of robes! Start something with a smile. Or a lot of smiles.

Christopher: Just what sort of something did you have in mind? (Feeling a little annoyed, he glances at the robes, the unrepentent little circles grinning from them. It’s the sort of joke which would have made Damian roll his eyes at the very least.)

Gabrielle: (unruffled) Whatever the customer has in mind. Whatever they think the robes can be used for, even if it’s just a joke. It’s an old joke. (Her smile fades a bit.) Not as funny I used to think it was. Maybe my sense of humor used to be there, but I think it’s disappeared over time. Just what happened to it?

Christopher gazes at Gabrielle for a long moment, at her fedora with the veil covered with shells and fishnet. Yes, something appears to be missing from her. 

Christopher: Maybe you’re wearing the wrong hat?

Gabrielle: (brightening again) By the Directions, I believe you’re right! (She reaches up to touch her fedora.) I must have left my sense of humor in the other one!

Gabrielle walks over the golden circle right before the counter. There’s a silver circle right above her head. 

She raises her arms. A faint glow of dancing dust motes swirls around her, covering her fedora. Her veil disappeared. Her entire body blurs, becoming part of the shimmering dust. 

For a moment Christopher stares at the cloud of dust until it disappears, leaving a shining figure in a golden tuxedo with a golden top hat. 

Gabrielle strikes a pose. The chicken on top of her hat seems to cluck or chuckle. Yes, there is a chicken emerging the brim of the hat, one claw raised above the brim, her beak open. 

Gabrielle: Ah, I feel so much better!

She chuckles, tapping her cain against the floor. It’s a hen-headed cane. 

Gabrielle: Nothing like a change of clothes to refresh you! Especially a change of hat. Looks like my sense of humor was here all along. 

Christopher: I thought you preferred loose, flowing clothing. 

Gabrielle: I do, but every one in a while, even I need a change. (She taps her cane against the floor, taps the ground with her feet.) And now I’m ready for customers! Welcome to the Navel, center of all things bizarre!

She tap-dances her way across the floor into a row of shelves, laughing. 

Christopher watches her go with a bemused smile. 

Christopher: I suppose it will be as long as you’re here. 

#QueerBlogWed: A Tale of the Navel

On October 27, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt involving a flickering light, a dream, dried herbs.

This Tale of the Navel was the result…

Sometimes the flickering light was green, sometimes it was blue. It fluttered in his hands, pulsing in his palms, warming him.

Nothing made Leiwell feel more tender and protective than the light. Dreaming of it effected him as much as the visions of his master. 

He’d awaken, breathe in the scent of dried herbs, hear Map humming under her breath through the cottage wall. 

Those smells and sounds grounded him in the here and now, reassuring him. There was no need to chase after the light. No need to go looking for his master. Map was here. She needed him. Sooner or later the light and his master would both find him. 

He was content to wait here in this cottage. With Map. 

For now Leiwell would be content to dream. It wouldn’t last. Dreams gave way to waking reality or they drew you back in. 

He would enjoy the state he was in, this flesh and blood form for as long as he could. For as long as others needed him to wear it. 

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Conversations with Christopher: Gabrielle Part 1

Christopher walks through the mists of the Cauldron, waiting for them to part. Waiting to see what they’ll reveal to him. 

Wispy tendrils of gray creep away from a familiar cobblestone path leading through Omphalos. On either side are cottages, quaint structures with pointed roofs. One of these structures has a swinging sign over the door, painted with an image of a flat stomach and a belly button.

Christopher: (stopping under the sign) The Navel. Center of all things bizarre. Quite a boast, to claim all bizarre things.

He glanced at the window. A muscular human statue with the head of a chicken lowers their beak menacingly at him. 

Christopher: Perhaps ‘Brie wants to talk to me. 

He opened the door of the dwelling. He enters the darker interior of a shop filled with shelves covered with crystals, candles, boxes, skulls, cups, and statues of squat smiling humanoids among stranger items. Racks of bright-colors robes are tucked away in another corner. 

Christopher almost stumbled down the slight slope into the shop which replaced the stairs.

Gabrielle: Welcome to the Navel, center of all things bizarre. (She says her usual greeting, but not with the usual boisterous enthusiasm. She’s too busy searching the shelves in a bustle of skirts and clattering shells.) For the sanity of me, I cannot find my sense of humor! Help me search for it? It’s got to be around here somewhere.

Christopher: Your sense of humor? 

He approaches the woman who’s become his mother, who accepted him into her home and Place of Power as her son. Her request isn’t nearly as odd as it might be to a lot of people. Lost memories, wayward ideas, and forgotten dreams find their way into the Navel, manifesting as cups, skulls, or statues. Why not a sense of humor?

What’s stranger is that Gabrielle should lose hers. She’s always smiling or laughing. From the time Christopher first met her, she’s had a strong sense of the wacky. 

Take those chicken-headed gods similar to the ones in the window. They’re taking up an entire shelf. Some are made of porcelain. Some are made of metal. Some of models made with actual chicken feathers. They all have human male torsos and the heads of hens. 

Inspired by the sight of them, Christopher heads to the shelf where those gods await. 

Christopher: It wouldn’t happen to be here, by any chance? Your sense of humor?

Gabrielle turns to glance at the deities only she seems to appreciate. A smile starts to brighten up her face, lifting the lines from it. 

Gabrielle: You might say so, yes. How those chickens annoyed Damian! Almost as much as the chicken representations her father collected annoyed our scribbler. Only her father was trying to be Country French. I collected these in an attempt to protect Damian with a joke. 

Christopher: Protect him? How?

Gabrielle: Well, chickens have been known to gobble up spiders along with insects and worms. One could consider an arachnocrat a type of spider. 

Christopher: The Lady Duessa seemed more amused and scornful at the sight of them along with everything else in the Navel than afraid.

Gabrielle: That was Duessa. She wasn’t the only arachnocrat that wanted Damian. Others might come calling. These deities could be a form of protection.

Christopher: I’m not sure if they ever protected Damian or me. They seemed as eager to get us as any other arachnocrat. 

Gabrielle: Maybe I should get rid of them. (She gives the chicken gods a sad look.) No one seems to like them other than me. 

Christopher: (waves a hand in protest) Don’t worry about. I’ve grown accustomed to them. They’re part of what makes the Navel bizarre. 

Gabrielle: They are, aren’t they? (She perks up a bit.) They still make me smile, but no. They’re not what I’m looking for.

Christopher: We’ll keep looking. 

(To be continued next Monday…) 

#QueerBlogWed: Seven Tricks Freebie Story

On October 20, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptywant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving sausage, a nose, and boxes. This Seven Tricks freebie story was the result…

A long nose poked its way out of a pile of boxes, whiskers twitching at the smell of sausage.

Only for a second nose attached to a muzzle to rise from the boxes, baring its teeth. Those teeth closed around the first muzzle, biting it. 

“Youch!” Cheesecurd whined. “Why’d you do that for?”

“Don’t go scurrying after the first sniff of sausage!” Madam Mousenip chittered at her subject. “Honestly! You only have a fraction of wit, not to mention charm that Mousetrick possessed!”

“Uh huh. And where’s Mousetrick?” Cheesecurd sniffed with some petulance. “Off with some human.”

“No, he’s not!” Madam Mousenip bared her teeth at this sullen substitute for a decent mouse, let alone a prince. “He’s following his dream, you hear me? No matter how cheese-curdled that dream might be.”

“There’s nothing wrong with a little curdled cheese,” the affronted mouse retorted. “Say what you like of me. I’m here. I haven’t abandoned you for sugar plums and a magician’s nephew.”

“No, you’d abandon me in an instant for cheese. Or gingerbread,” the queen asserted. “Stop trying to act like you’re any better than the rest of us. Mousetrick had finer feelings than you’ll ever know. Not to mention a finer coat. And far more expressive whiskers.” She sighed, wringing her paws against her chest.

“Hmph. If my feelings, coat, and whiskers are so disappointing, why are you scampering with me?” Cheesecurd demanded. “What’s the point?”

“Training!” Madam Mousenip snapped. “Uncouth and ruffled as your fur might be, you still faced a troupe of gingerbread soldiers, showing spunk. Only you gobbled your way straight into a human’s trap.”

“How can you blame me? They smelled too delicious to resist.” Cheescurd drooped his whiskers in a sulky fashion. “How was to know I should have?”

“Exactly. You should know better. You need to learn how to know better. This is why I’m scampering with you.” Madam Mousenip flickered her tail in a meaningful manner. “I’m offering you knowledge. It’s up to you whether you decide to gain it. To think before scampering after anything that smells delicious. It might help you survive.”

“Or it might mean someone else will rush in and eat the delicious thing while we wait!” Cheesecurd whined. “I want that sausage!”

“Yes, and you might scamper straight into a trap if you don’t think when you sniff!” The queen flicked her tail in the direction of the kitchen. “Look!”

A giant human, dragging the cloth of its skirts across the floor plodded her way past the boxes in the kitchen. 

Madam Mousenip and Cheesecurd barely had time to dive beneath the boxes before hiding. 

“I’m bored!” The human’s shrill voice pierced the air. If the mice hadn’t taken cover, it might have knocked them over. “Where is Cracktooth?”

“He’s gone.” Another human’s voice rang out, softer, yet more dangerous. “I told you, Prissipat. He’s not here any more.”

Cheesecurd felt his fur stand on end. It was her. The human who’d drugged him, who’d set the gingerbread trap. What had that shrieking doll called her? Marchen. 

“Why? Why isn’t he here?” The one human whirled to face the other. “He was just starting to get a little less annoying and he just disappears! What did you do?”

“Nothing.” Marchen sounded a bit defensive as well as sad. “He wanted to go. That’s all.”

“That’s not all. You’re hiding something, both you and your godfather. Why won’t you tell me?” Prissipat turned again, stamping her foot. 

The mice under the boxes covered.

“Come. Come have some sausage.” Marchen took her arm, coaxing her away. “You’ll feel better if you eat.”

“I don’t want to eat.” In spite of her petulant reply, Prissipat let herself be led away. 

The mice cautiously peeked out from beneath the boxes.

“You see?” Madam Mousenip chittered. “We would have been caught if we’d scampered after the sausage.”

“Now the humans are going to eat it,” Cheesecurd grumbled. “Cracktooth…Cracktooth. Isn’t that the one Mousetrick kept carrying on about? Wouldn’t let us eat any gingerbread until we’d saved his beloved Cracktooth. Wouldn’t give up that doll either. Nearly led us all into a trap.”

“Really.” Madam Mousenip looked down her snout at him. “From what I’ve heard, it was you who gobbled your way right into a gingerbread trap.”

“No!” Cheesecurd protested. “It was Mousetrick! He was your prince! We had no choice but to follow him! All he cared about was rescuing his precious Cracktooth!”

“Save the excuses,” Madam Mousenip sighed. “Scamper now. You may let learn something…and how to find the right opportunity to steal sausage.” 

Cheesecurd let out a sulky chitter, but he obeyed. He followed his queen as she raced across the floor to under a chair. 

As if he didn’t know about finding opportunities. He was a lot better at this than Mousetrick who did nothing but smooth his fine fur and twirl his whiskers. 

Eventually his queen would understand this. 

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Conversations with Christopher: Damian

Christopher walks through the mist of the Cauldron, enjoying its cool kiss once more. He tilts back his head, closes his eyes. 

The mists part to reveal a path through the roses. He opens his eyes, his irises swimming with colors, but the dominant one of the same rosy purple as the flowers. 

Damian appears behind him, looking at the path with eyes the same hue. He lays a hand on Christopher’s shoulder.

Damian: How far we’ve come, yet we keep returning to the same place.

Christopher: I love it here. Don’t you?

Damian: There aren’t as many roses here as in the Gardens of Arachne. Their scent isn’t as overpowering. 

Christopher: The very air in the Gardens is trying to seduce us into staying. If you stay in this place, it’s your choice. 

Damian: I didn’t stay, but I keep returning. To our garden. To you. 

Christopher: It means everything to me.

Damian: Not everything. 

Christopher: Perhaps not. Everything that matters to me is drawn to this place.

Damian: Not everything. You keep returning to the Navel. To Gabrielle and me. Even when I’m not there. 

Christopher: Even when the Navel isn’t the Navel. In another Omphalos, what will it be?

Damian: Something like a home? Where Danyel, Tayel, and Leiwell live with Map, trying to be a family? We haven’t gotten to that part of the story yet. 

Christopher: No, we haven’t left the Navel or this garden. Not this past month. Not in Waiting for Rebirth.

Damian: Waiting for Rebirth, huh? That was the first major change for us.

Christopher: It happened here. In this very Cauldron. Our story. The story formerly locked inside our scribbler.

Damian: She just needed to let it out. To let me out. She can be timid about letting things out, our scribbler. 

Christopher: We can’t stop, just because April is over and Camp NaNoWriMo is finished. We can’t let her stop. 

Damian: She’s easily distracted. Just a few words from a reader in her world convinced her to turn her attention to another story. 

Christopher: It’ll happen again. We’ve just got keep going. Remind her every day our story is worth telling. 

Damian leans forward to kiss Christopher’s cheek. 

Damian: Don’t worry. We will.

The mists rise from the ground, creating a blurry landscape. The gardens, Christopher, and Damian disappear into it. 

You may have disappeared, but you’re not forgotten. Don’t worry, Damian, Christopher. I know your story is worth telling. I’ll keep going.