the puzzle.

      The lines, cut without saw or scalpel but drawn achingly by hand, barely let slip the slightest of light. Pieces slid along the grain, so many slender fingers hewn from wood, locking soundlessly into place. Fingertips tracing the surface would only find a box where a puzzle had been, a coolness lingering on the skin that spoke of warmth and its absence.
      Inside, he waited, pale skin incandescent, lips unable to do more than quiver. Forlorn eyes watered, fearful of what lie in wait beneath his eyelids, desperate for the slumber yet to come. In his skeletal hands he clenched a phial, chipped and cracked with misuse, swirling with a shimmering aether from some deeper place.
      Silver-grey tears roll and tumble from cuts along his skin, darkening the pool with each silent drip. Brief images coalesce with every droplet, only to fade just before his tired eyes can come to focus. No matter how much he tries, each picture disappears; no matter how much he tries, his eyes will not cry.
      Outside, a beautiful voice calls through the wood, distorted by the echo of memory, a thousand voices unlike her own. She sings a lullaby, but he hears only ghosts, holding all the skin that once longed to be touched, stirring the luminiferous liquid in has hands.


i still miss her.

      It all started with Tabby, the rugged little barn kitten. Friend of the family had been workin' on a farm when he caught wind that some farmhands were goin' 'round and "taking care of the barn cat problem" in the only way they knew how. Now, the truth is, I don't know if he really did take that shotgun and use it to clock the guy in the face; I only know that when he saw the little girl destined to be named after her fur, he rushed in to save her life, and quit the farm right then and there.
      Tabby proved a loyal friend, time and time again. Tough as nails, long after she'd been declawed, she could still take down birds with the best of 'em. Her big green eyes, her red leather nose, and the ability to stay asleep by your side despite the most restless of sleep . . . always there when you needed her to be. That was Tabby, through and through, the little girl who waited for summers and vacations, long after I slipped out the front door.
      Her eyesight left, and a tumor came, bringing with it the seizures. and her kidneys couldn't hold out anymore. She was twenty-three when she left us. Maybe it was for the best, given how she was by then. Every glimmer of who she was just marked the coming of another attack, and just when she'd come back to her old self again...
      She was like me, in the end. She couldn't take the memory. S'how it goes for a lot of us, maybe, in the end.
      Tabby used to love trees, especially the challenge of climbin' 'em. Never could get down on her own, though, the fearsome warrior suddenly rendered helpless by the cruelty of heights. Still remember the days when we'd search the high branches for the slightest trace of fur, sometimes anxious about needin' a ladder. She always came down, though. The brave little girl who lived through attempts on her life, and bein' thrown down the stairs by a four-year-old too afraid to go alone in the dark, who later became a comforting weight on a slumbering boy, always coming to her name.
      She was my best friend, my dearest companion. To say I loved her would be a lie. I still do.
      I always will.


warm, happy, shorter than it needs to be

      She gently awoke, her ears tickled by the sea's gentle kissing of the shore, teasing her to consciousness. Soft features made serene by slumber, her companion slept still upon her breast, tousled locks warm and inviting to fingertips. Lips ached for the merest touch, but only briefly, slipping contentedly into a smile with the dreamer's gentle breathing.
      Just past the glass, nascent blue and white painted the sky, warmed by a solar caress. Stirring from her slumber, the dreamer sweetly tugged at her drifting eyes, suddenly overtaken by a squeeze. Smiling, she squeezed the dreamer in kind, mischievous lips pressing upon her crown.
      And for some time, the morning gulls did all the talking for them.