Find the World’s Center With Feelers
It was evening. Just before the sky turns that deep grey of the dying day where the yellow moon shines pale and the stars begin to peek through the gathering of night’s darkness. I walked at this time every day. Nerves. A sour stomach and shaking fingers overcame the peace of ending every day, so my feet found the street. As I walked through my neighborhood, my heart lurching and nerves firing, my eyes took in every light, every movement, every threat. Others walked from pool of light reflecting on the wet pavement, cast from the sheer lamp above to pool of light, steps slacking and shuffling in the cottony night’s humidity. They smiled with a sweetness, a calm that belied a lack of alarm. A lack of knowing.
They didn’t worry like me.
They didn’t shake in the corner of their room after every contact with another person.
They didn’t lay awake all night, eyes wide with terror thinking about the next day.
Why didn’t they see how the world peeled back at every edge? Every corner.
And what was underneath, breathed poison through the cracks and sipped in our scents. Eating the blind fools stumbling from trap to trap. Things with rows of teeth. Things with too many eyes. Things that moved in insectile jitters, cretinous shells scraping. How could the others not hear it?
My walking made the monsters within lay down, rest in the shade of forest. Watching but not stalking.
I turned and went into the park, hoping the stew of green might soothe my pain. The velvet of the breeze settled on my face and for a moment, I felt relief wash into my belly. For a moment, I believed I could make another day.
Every night I made this turn to feel human again.
Because no others took that turn. I stood beneath the sky, line of dark trees encircling me in the field like the walls of Jericho. Someday they’d fall. Someday everything fails. But for now, the monsters hadn’t found the note to shatter our defenses. Still they marched, taloned feet scraping, claws skittering across the wall looking for holds and cracks. How did the others not know?
I lay in the center of the field, staring up at the stars.
The eyes of the beasts stared back. Searching.
Behind me, shuffling steps, light as a flower’s kiss. My stomach’s calm turned as I did into a swirling, clenching fist.
There, at the edge of the trees, a lovely woman smiled a Mona Lisa question. Brown hair tumbled with a shimmer of moon on moving water. She stood, though she was never still. Hair fluttering, body rocking side to side like a hooded serpent. Beautiful in a way that shattered my peace. And her eyes.
They locked on me. Black orbs set in tan skin, shining with tears. Black as the vault of the sky between stars. Spider eyes.
I moaned then, from some place in me so old and deep, I didn’t recognize it as myself until my chest rattled in time.
The breeze stopped and shifted then, cool to hot as a summer storm, wet and full of promises. She took a step toward me.
The movement halted in a way that made little sense. As if her two beautiful legs didn’t move at all, but some other legs I didn’t see shuffled her forward— a hunching gate, hard as a horse’s trot. Like there were six or eight legs carrying her along.
My moan turned to a scream then. I didn’t want to. Didn’t want to attract her more than I had. Didn’t want my fear to spill out in the gasping, raving cry that filled the meadow and bounced off the trees.
She stopped for a moment, tilting her head. Her beautiful face took on the mocking expression of care a mother might cast at a fallen child. Mocking because something like her couldn’t care. Something so not human.
Her steps, now audible with clicks of joints made of something other than skin and bone, resumed and she drew nearer. Such a beautiful false face, smiling beatifically down at me, hands spread and arms out in a gesture of welcome. She looked so human. So perfectly lovely but for the eyes, how she moved, and now I could see, the horns that sprouted from her clavicles. Horn not like something on a deer or rhino, that might have comforted me. These were the horns you see on scarabs. Stylized hands feeling the world. Antennae reaching for information. For me.
I couldn’t help but scream, all the fear pouring from my mouth, all the horror I’d ever known.
She kept coming, because why would a scream stop her?
She settled in the grass in front of me, a flowing movement that folded her legs neatly in a triangle under her, though she floated above the ground.
Her arms came up around me and enfolded me in their softness, hands gentling me as they fluttered across my cheeks.
“Quiet, little one,” she said, though her mouth didn’t move. The smile locked her lips into a pleasant fiction. The antennae moved and turned toward me.
I felt like she could see through me, light falling on every cell, though the light’s warmth didn’t brighten my eyes. I felt it inside. And the minute the gaze of those horns perched on her chest shifted, my stomach calmed. The fear didn’t settle or dissipate. It ceased to be. In that moment, staring in the black of her predator eyes, I was lost.
“My queen.” Words without thought. Words older than the ring of trees. Maybe older than the stars.
They’d found a crack and sent in the mother of them all.
In her black eyes, I knew we’d named her.
Mother of Demons. Lilith.
Only now, with her locked on my soul, hands gentling me and rewriting my knowing, I saw that she wasn’t Lilith at all. What she was couldn’t be known completely here. Only pieces of her glory might be seen in this limited light, this limited sight.
I sighed with my cheek in her hands, ready for destruction.
“I am yours,” I said to her, lost in the ancient gaze. Lost in the clutch of her beautiful claws.
“Ah little one, you will be my favorite toy,” she said. Then her lips, frozen things on her masterpiece of a mask found me.
What you see is only defined by the three dimensions of our eyes. But what you feel expands.
In that touch, I knew her.
I knew her and all my fears burned away.
Burned away because knowing hell is accepting it.
She ate my innocence, my shelter, in that kiss and opened me to the universe.
And now, I am to do the same for you.
Do you feel her approach in your guts? Soon you’ll hear the clicking of her dainty claws coming for you. The others hum from the void, a swan song for their queen. A song that sinks your feet into the earth as she presses through. Coming for you washed in beauty that cuts. In her black eyes shines the heaviness of history that brings you to your knees, screaming. Screams are her feast. As she flows toward you, here and not here, fascinating and terrible, as her lips press the eternity of love and hate she holds for us all into your little, finite mind, you’ll burn away. Those feelers will gather your pieces up and you’ll know.
She’ll eat us all and rip open the sky.
I’m not afraid. Soon you won’t be either.