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Jun. 1st, 2008

Cloister

Renewed

Masha enters her little room in the cloister and carefully strips before standing at the wash basin, cleaning her skin, sponging off the smells of the city. She opens the drawer in the little nightstand, reaching for her red flannels and pauses. Her journal, there, caught in the fabric. She'd brought it along when she'd assembled a bundle of things at her flat, then put it out of her head.

Picking up the book, Masha stands there naked, her ribs still showing starkly against her dark skin. She'd been eating voraciously the last few days, but it would take more than that to restore her to her normal weight. She lifts a finger and touches the embossed leather cover, then sets it on the bed with a sigh. Fewos mews at it and promptly lays down right on top of the little book, purring.

Laughing, Masha tuts at the calico cat and dresses in her flannels. Slipping her hand under Fewos' warm furry weight, she extracts the journal, deftly avoiding his lazily swiping paw. "Fierce cat," she says affectionately, then takes the journal to the chair on the other side of the bed. Settling in, she opens it, removing the pen that had been left at her last entry. Over a month ago. Masha touches the page, her face unguarded, alone with just the cat in the serenity of the cloister. She looks young, which she is, and haunted, which she has already learned to hide. Turning to a fresh page, she begins to write.

"It is ironic that, in my faith, where possession is a glorious and honored thing, celebrated as a holy gift to the lwa, we do not believe that a person can be possessed by evil, that evil can take hold of us and hold it prisoner. Yet, this happened to me. A manbo of the Societe de la Rose Blanche.

"It started with the govi, I think. It was broken, the little djab freed, then those soldiers came to the rave, taking me and Pera to be starved, tortured. The djab, it got inside, and it widened a door when I was not able to or even aware enough to close it. I was ill, and then so wounded and it took a while to get better. When I finally got that lady to help me set the govi's mait tete right, it was too late.

"It began with nightmares, and with a smell I could not escape. Like mildew and rot and the worst of the swamps. I started to sneeze, and feel sick, and more and more I would realize that lots of time had passed without me knowing it. I grew thinner and weaker and cold, so cold, and the fear, it rooted deep in my belly and clogged my throat. I was terrified. I knew something was happening but I was not in control, I could not stop it.

"It got worse. The nightmare started to be more and more real and reality something I would only get to see once in a while, like clouds parting. And when the clouds parted, it would be upon horror. I would hurt, and be so soiled, and bloody, and I would feel sick, would BE sick, or horrible words would come out of my mouth, vile things, or I would be hurting myself. I was so very cold, and I could feel things I have never experienced, this unbridled rage and a poisonous lance of hatred, a pustulant desire for violence and brutality.

"At the end, what I remember most is the nightmare that had become my world. It was this place that reeked with a wet, purulent stench, and dark. I could not escape or move much, and I was a wretched, mad thing. Sometimes light WOULD come, but that meant agony and torment, this thing that had me would turn its attention ON me, and that was the worst of all.

"I had given up. I was lost. A broken thing. A weeping mess and I just wanted it to end. But I was saved. Saved by ordinary peoples, people who know me well, like Deets and Debra, and others who did not, like Elise, or Guin, or Lazarus, or the monk, Brother Lincoln. Most of all, I was saved by Father Eamon, a priest here in Midian who wields faith like an arrow, or a torch. He is all too human, and that, I think, is what makes him so powerful.

"I am humbled by it. The good god stepped into this man and made that thing that had stolen me from myself, that had violated my very soul, made it go away. Made the writhing soul of Midian go back to the sewers.

"I lived. I was a mess, but I lived. I was sick and my poor body was abused in several ways, but Debra, she fixed me up good. And I am still virgin, thank the good god, so it never made me do something like that. Now I just need to fatten up. I am so skinny that I feel my bones when I sit, or when I lie down, pressing against each other. All I do is eat.

"I have been staying at the cloister ever since. I feel safe here, quieted. Fewos is with me, and some of my things, and I have ventured out into the city again, a little bit at a time. The worst moment was a day or two after. Elise was here and she was the first I had spoken with since I was freed. Alone, I could remain calm, serene even, but with another, all the things I had been ignoring wanted to come out. Later Father Eamon came and it was too much. I ran to the little chapel, the stained glass there so like Ezili, and the Father followed me, and that was it. I wept like I have never done, not even as a little child. I have never felt that inconsolable, that angry and grieved. When it was finally over, I felt like a reed stick, hollow and light and barely able to move. But it was better.

"I keep remembering more and more. It is never clear, always like a watercolor, or a soapy glass, or a muffled scarf over my ears, but I am reclaiming the reality that I missed, as ugly as it is. Still, it is mine and my body lived it, so I get to know it too.

"A few days ago, I finally decided to make a Gad, a pwen for Papa Legba to live within my own body. No more pwen cho, no more external things that can be removed or taken away. I did the ceremony at the cloister, around the maple tree there, and it was good. The gad, it heals and I can feel Papa there, humming his song with that deep voice of his. I know now that I can still horse the lwa. I am not afraid.

"I have not yet figured out what all of this means. Why it happened to me. What I am supposed to do with all of this. I will write more of it here, but I am tired and need to sleep."

Masha folds the journal closed, the pen tucked between the pages. Letting her head fall back against the chair for a moment, she closes her eyes, feeling everything roiling through her again. Fewos leaps onto her lap, vibrating with a huge purr, and she pets him absently, again and again until her hands fall still, resting quietly, thin fingers buried in the plush fur of the purring cat.

May. 23rd, 2008

Faith

Interlude: The Trapped Dreamer

"She is in a dark cavernous room of some sort, and the scent of rot and sewage and mildew is all about her. Phosphorescent growths are the only source of light and the drip of water off stalagtites the only sound save her labored breathing. A darker pore in the general dimness lies ahead and she creeps forward on hands and knees, afraid to walk upright lest she fall or plunge into some unseen chasm. Deeper and she thinks she spies a flicker of light, the orange red of flames, barely flickering. A thin hope flares in her chest and she crawls a little more briskly, eyes fixed on the pinpoint of light.

Hours seem to pass as is the way of dreams and she is exhausted, so tired, but unable, unwilling to stop. Finally the light seems to grow closer and then it splits into two small flames. Masha pauses and finds herself staring into eyes, ancient eyes, eyes that hold madness and death. The cloying mildew scent rises about her and she screams, the mindless screams of the trapped dreamer, and she finds herself surrounded by the buzz of countless biting flies. Their wings knick at her face and hands as she bats frantically at them, unable to move away as Masha suddenly finds herself trapped by solid walls of wet, weeping stone. The eyes grow closer as the buzzing roars through her pounding head, and she falls into them, burning, burning..."


Over and again, around and about, until Masha no longer knows what's dream and what's real. She lives in the concave, putrescent womb that holds her, the stench pervasive, thick and rank, clogging her nose and mouth, coating her skin. The stench has woven itself about her, into her, through her, knitted together by the countless flying things, buzzing and swooping past her ears, biting at her lips, landing on her nose and mouth, crawling inside when she wasn't careful. They lived on the soup that coated her skin, at home on her nakedness as she shivers from a cold that has also become a part of her being. The cold, it has penetrated the last of her defenses, made her stupid and slow, unable to move or fight. Masha lies there in the diseased womb, knowing it will never give birth.

Sometimes she thinks she hears voices or sees flits and shadows of those she once knew or strangers she hasn't met. She tries to speak, to cry, to call out but her mouth is stuffed with stench and wings, her tongue frozen.

She tries to make veves, to talk to the lwa, to pray to Bonye, the good god, but she can't remember how, the words are gone, the drawings she'd once made with effortless sweeps of her hand defying her memory. What Masha does make, the winged things destroy, laying a viscous gunk all over, the same that drips wetly down the walls that surround her. She can't even pray to die.

The worst is when the darkness draws so deep, and so quiet, and she becomes like a stone: Masha, the stench and the wings. Then the eyes will come and she can't even move, the red handed creature that holds her is merciless. The thing laughs and it sound like the buzzing wings only razor sharp. Masha feels herself bleeding from her eyes and nose, her skin splitting as if from powdery shards of glass. She tries to see the creature's face, but darkness cloaks it, only the blooded eyes boring pain and hopelessness into Masha's heart. The thing crowds her, crawls over and atop her, the pendulous breasts, the weeping maw between it's legs, the laughter that is nothing but pain. Masha goes mad, and she knows she's been mad for a while but had forgotten what it was like, her mind lifting on splintered wings of her own to fly free then smash into the slick walls, dying before ever knowing freedom. She becomes her madness and all that's left is the laughter and the eyes.

((with great thanks to Elise for the title))

May. 11th, 2008

Peace

Interlude: Descent

It started with the govi. Masha was sure of that. Somehow, it all came back to the govi breaking.

There was delay after the soul was released too soon, the rave, and the soldiers, and the pain of captivity and torture for information she did not have. Then the slow healing, and only when she felt better was Masha able to finally lay the soul to rest, to do the ritual necessary to send it safely below the waters. Even then, she had help from a willing passerby, the woman Jeze who now worked at the gym in the old Sarcina headquarters.

Once she was finally able to walk about, Masha went back to her customary rounds about the twin islands, making her honors to the lwa at the many veves she had been tending for nearly a year. The shock, the absolute shock of finding two of them willfully descecrated was beyond anything Masha had experienced, worse than the betrayal at the hands of friends, worse than the pain of uncomprehending torture.

She went to the church to speak with the priest there, Father Eamon. She'd met him a few times and liked him, his lyrical Irish accent, his boxer's frame. She told him about what she'd found and it was then that Masha first smelled it. Mildew. Swampy, musty, sour and dank, the odor of mildew seemed to rise from the church walls. She sneezed at the clogging scent, and left.

Days passed, and the sneezing grew worse. The rotting scent of vegetation seemed to rise and linger everywhere. She could taste it, and she was sure it was growing in every place she frequented. Masha was sneezing more and more violently and the first time her nose bled was in the park. She'd been working for hours, tending her garden there, raking, weeding, hoeing, trying to work her healing body and exhaust it as well.

Because the nightmares wouldn't let her sleep. Whenever Masha closed her eyes, she dreamt the same dream:

She is in a dark cavernous room of some sort, and the scent of rot and sewage and mildew is all about her. Phosphorescent growths are the only source of light and the drip of water off stalagtites the only sound save her labored breathing. A darker pore in the general dimness lies ahead and she creeps forward on hands and knees, afraid to walk upright lest she fall or plunge into some unseen chasm. Deeper and she thinks she spies a flicker of light, the orange red of flames, barely flickering. A thin hope flares in her chest and she crawls a little more briskly, eyes fixed on the pinpoint of light.

Hours seem to pass as is the way of dreams and she is exhausted, so tired, but unable, unwilling to stop. Finally the light seems to grow closer and then it splits into two small flames. Masha pauses and finds herself staring into eyes, ancient eyes, eyes that hold madness and death. The cloying mildew scent rises about her and she screams, the mindless screams of the trapped dreamer, and she finds herself surrounded by the buzz of countless biting flies. Their wings knick at her face and hands as she bats frantically at them, unable to move away as Masha suddenly finds herself trapped by solid walls of wet, weeping stone. The eyes grow closer as the buzzing roars through her pounding head, and she falls into them, burning, burning, before waking up in a panic, her head a solid flame of pain.

Every time she slept, the same dream.

There in the park, she worked, when the sneezes became so violent that blood poured from her nose. And over by Maman Brigitte's veve, the one she'd cleaned and recreated after being so fouled, a beehive, only the sounds were like the buzzing of the biting flies in the nightmare. It seemed to Masha that the buzzing was now brother to the mildew, the two cozy and living within her rather than without. It was after she found the bee hive and the sounds overwhelmed her that she discovered her arms were clawed and ripped, her own fingernails bloody and limned with skin.

She headed to the MCMC, wanting to treat her wounds before anyone saw, and found the Father there with the woman Guin. She'd been raped and Masha did her best to stay calm, remain herself, be the healer she has been studying for so long to be. Some fragmented moments, but she did well enough, and after went to the church where she found a note claiming that the Templar Matthew had been taken. She remembered speaking a neko and a now pale Tuqiri and they showed her the desecrated altar and that is the last Masha remembers from that night.

Another night, no sleep, no food or water because it won't stay down. She's in the park, it feels better here, in the grasses, and went to Maman Brigitte, begging her to help. She retched and then the roar of the buzzing wings filled her head. Fragments, then finding herself soiled with her pants around her ankles, with a crazed Marina and an oak tree. She ran, ran to the Center and plunged into the shower, weeping.

More wandering, and a surreal ballet of sword against sword, more fragments. Than some clarity when the neko, she knew this one, the purple and black neko gets wounded and left and Masha tried to be whole and help. Chi, nearby and the Hauler man, then Bekah with her kit and another medic came and Masha ran off, relieved and terrified that someone will see that she's in pieces.

A slice of memory, Bekah speaking then darkness. Light and more of the now horribly familiar sneezing and blood and a man's voice, surpised and confused. Masha drew herself together and said what she'd been saying, allergies, and a flash of Matthew naked and raw behind a curtain, then the damned buzzing and the cooling green of grasses.

A long blank time then Masha slowly realized she'd been wandering and headed into the nearest place, the Twilight Zone. Stranger behind the bar and he gave her a bottle of whiskey which she drank then he said something, something, but the stench rose, the cacaphony rang. She found herself on hands and knees and the taste of blood was in her mouth and she felt it like lead weight in her stomach, but not for long and Masha retched, retched then ran.

Masha wandered and keeps wandering, driven and growing gaunt, slowly consumed with the need to outpace the claustrophobic blanket of swamp and mildew and buzzing wings.

Apr. 25th, 2008

Resolve

Doors

Masha breathes a sigh of relief when the "nurse" Rena had acquired finally agrees to go take a walk and she has some time to herself. She hurts. Deep inside, her torso seems to throb and burn at a higher temperature as the various stabbing wounds heal from the inside out. She has to move so carefully not to jostle anything and it's a new feeling for Masha. The wound on her shoulder seems trivial in comparison until she tries to actually use it, then she understands the phrase "screaming in pain", as if her own body is launching a lecture at her complete with pop quizzes she hadn't studied for and would absolutely fail.

Fewos sneezes and Masha laughs, then stop abruptly as her stomach objects. "We, it was a horrible comparison, little one." Wheeling the chair over to her safe, she smiles briefly as the young cat plays a game of dodging the tires while she maneuvers in the small space. With a groan of effort, Masha finally reaches the safe combination and manages to extract her journal from within. A dark look of worry crosses her features as the absence of the stranger's govi bottle reminds her of the odd circumstance Sunday afternoon, before all hell broke loose at the rave.

Shaking her head, Masha wheels over towards the wood stove and pulls a throw pillow on her lap, balancing the journal on top. Careful not to jostle her shoulder, she starts to write.

"It started Sunday. I woke, I remember waking. I hopped out of bed and felt spikes cutting my feet which made me stumble and fall. I caught myself on my hands and more spikes, and I jerked my hands up, so surprised I was not even afraid! Then a big pain in my head and things get confusing.

"Mitz found me wandering the city and fixed me up. I must have hit my head pretty hard on the coffee table and gave myself a good old fashioned concussion. Mitz, she is a wonder and a terror and I am fortunate she calls me friend.

"Anyway, I got back home because I had promised I would finally attend one of the raves and I wanted to clean up the mess? But I got in the door and I was just shocked. It was not a water glass or some such that Fewos had knocked over. It was the govi, the one I made by the side of the unknown man who I had thought to be Damien's corpse. My safe, it was still closed and locked. I kept checking. But the govi, it was free and shattered, and now that mait tet is free too early, with no way to lead it below the waters.

"At the rave I told Rena even though I know she is not a religious person because how did it get out of my safe? But I set it aside and just decided to dance, you know, let off some steam, when all these soldiers started pouring on to the rooftops. One of them shot me in the shoulder, and I fell, and I remember trying to crawl to the edge of the roof, then I felt a big pain in my side from a soldier kicking me in the ribs. There was screaming and so much gunfire then they made me get into one of their flying transports. More than anything, I just remember feeling so confused - why me? What could they possibly want with me?

"In the transport, Pera was there too, and we flew a while, then were brought into some sort of facility. Pera was taken away, and then I spent days just waiting. They brought me just a little water and kept the lights bright and if tried to sleep, a guard would wake me.

"I have been through torture and been attacked now, but those days of just waiting, they were hard. It wore me out and I felt crazy, and I was sure that the spirit from the govi was with me, a djab, you know? Mad at me for not getting it home.

"Last night, things changed. A man arrived, tall and beanpole thin with red hair and pale skin. He had a woman with him, who wore a mask but showing vivid green eyes. He called me a creature and a terrorist and said I had no rights. He dragged me out of the cell and told me to get on this metal examination table. I tried to appeal to the woman, but she just would not, like he had a hold on her of some kind, because she seemed sorry and scared but would still not help. I knew if I got on that table things would get bad, so even though I also knew it would not matter, I decided to fight. I let that part of me that is coyote come forward and I attacked that man, clawed his cheek up, but he just took it and the woman stabbed me with some thing that made my muscles fail.

"Then I was strapped to the table.

"The man, I think he did not even really care about the questions he asked. I think he just loves to hurt peoples and this was an excuse. He took his scalpel and he dug it deep into me, three times, twisting and jerking it about. My belly, my side, and again between my poor broken ribs. He traced paper thin cuts between and under my breasts and finally he seemed to grow bored, telling the woman to dump me in the sewers.

"During that time, he wanted to know about some transmitters and who led KAOS, and about a lady named Liliane. I was in such deep pain but I did not know his answers except about Liliane, who I thought was the girl who played her music for me that one night in the playground? It was the only thing I was able to answer, and he told me things, like they'd had me for weeks, that Pera was in the Urals in a work camp and I would go there too, as a breeding project to be raped several times a day, that my cat was mostly likely dead, that we were in New Boston, not Midian, and over and over, that I was a creature who had no rights.

"I was so disoriented, no sense of time, it was like nothing I have experienced. Somewhere in there, another woman came in. She was pregnant and this one seemed to treat the man as a lover does, and her voice indicated that she was enjoying my distress. It came out that the first woman, the one with green eyes? The man had her children captive and that was the hold he had on her. The worst part is, if this is true, he will never let them go and she aids him with such horrors for no reason at all.

"I next remember waking in the MCMC, alone, only I did not know it was there I thought I was still at this lab and I panicked. There was an IV and I ripped it out and I ran and ran, finally losing steam over by the Pool Hall. Of all the people to find me, Nerio was there, as was Edna and a wolf woman who's name I cannot recall. They took me to their underground clinic, the one where I fixed up Nerio, and things were so fuzzy for a while. I just know they fixed me up and I tried to tell them everything I could think of, to make sure Rena was alright, and that Pera was still there.

"After, they said I could not get up yet so they got me to my flat and thank the good god, Fewos was fine. I always leave out big big bowls of water and food and it must have been enough. Rena arranged for this man to stay here with me, she said he is a nurse but he smells like a body guard. Not literally, but you know what I mean, journal. I feel silly over it, but she was right, I could barely move to go to the bathroom and I did not even care that he was a man helping me with such intimate things.

"I will say this: that Nerio, he can be a good guy after all. He certainly adores Rena and he did not have to help me, even if it was just because I am Rena's friend. It seems like I need to do more thinking about what makes a person truly evil, if that is even possible? No, it is. That man Tres (for so Nerio and the rest of them seem to think it was), he is evil. He had no compassion, saw me as a thing, wanted nothing more than to hurt me as deeply as possible for no other reason than he enjoys it.

"Tonight I feel a bit better but I am still very very tired and hurting. I want to get out of my flat though, if I can convince the nurse to let me. I need to figure out what happened with the govi. To try to put the djab to rest."

Masha shakily closes the journal, more exhausted than she cares to admit. Nevertheless, she takes care to restore the journal to the safe and lock it tight before finally relaxing into the chair, seeing spots before her eyes from the effort. She sleeps and barely notices when the bodyguard/nurse returns and scoops her professionally back into bed.

Apr. 4th, 2008

Wistful

OOC: Midian blues

OOC Post

EDIT: Re-reading this, the whole comes as off as rather angsty, self-absorbed and all around rambling, so feel free to move on if you're here. I'm leaving the post because I needed to get it off my chest without whining to people I know in-world and I've already moped about it to my husband so he's off the hook. Else, you've been warned.

So, it's felt for the past few weeks that Midian is finally dying. People on my friendslist who I used to RP with regularly on the SIM are never there that I can see, or if I do spot them, it's brief and they get a "cell phone call" before running off. I don't think that part is personal (or I hope it isn't!), but rather, they'd rather be doing whatever involving RP they have waiting than be on the outside with Masha, when I'm there, hoping for a hook to get let in. It's hard.

Some I've learned have moved on to other SIMs and they've let me know where they're going and shared the love about any nifty finds. Some have just vanished and I can't decide if the hurt I feel is valid or if it's just the nature of the online world. I'm not there as much as I used to be, I refrain from RPing sexual situations, so even if folks like my character or me personally, leaving me out of the loop for good RP opportunities could make sense.

I've been casting about for some sort of catalyst to boost Masha in yet another direction, but everything I toy with sounds either cliche or forced (no pun intended). The truth is, nothing around her at the moment gives me anything to hang a story or plot upon. She's in the ranger, and she got promoted (woot!) but still knows next to nothing and only knows of TWO other people in her faction, not counting the wolves. It's not a good faction for fostering RP, at least not from her end. The MCMC gets her some good medical RP, but each of those are isolated, non-connected incidents where Masha's really an NPC in someone else's scene. Fun, but NOT involving for her own story.

I've started to be more active on a few alts over at some other SIMs myself, because it's getting awfully dull making "Masha's rounds" in Midian and never getting past the surface roleplay you find on the streets. I knew I took a risk when I left the Sarcina and for a while I thought it was worth it, but now, it's been a while since I've really been involved in a sort of juicy plot and the fun is seeping away. When I spend more time driving Masha around hoping for encounters than actually RPing a scene, that starts to pall, especially when my time is limited.

Don't me wrong, I don't think Midian is dead yet. There HAVE been good moments (a recent gun battle was a blast) and some of the folks remain tried and true and dedicated to the SIM. And at least I've managed to have at least ONE good RP, even if it's short, for each time I'm there in the SIM, so I count it still breathing. But I guess, and this feels sappy to say, I'm feeling lonely there now when I used to feel welcomed and it's definitely a much emptier place of late, with so many doing factional RP or RPing together in private land settings or in other SIMs.

So what next? I don't really know. I'm not giving up, not yet. I still have stories to tell with Masha, I hope, and I love Midian and the people I've met or have yet to meet, whether I see them or not. I'm enjoying RPing my alts, but my favorite has been and continues to be Masha for the time being and I don't want to give her up. Quarter Two starts up Monday, so this weekend is really my last gasp for the quarter to get some good RP in Midian.

We'll just have to see.

Mar. 28th, 2008

Peace

Hauntings

It has been mostly quiet for a small change. Little disturbances, small eruptions, nothing too big, you know?

Rena's wedding was a splendid affair, and she seemed radiant as did Nerio. I finally softened. No matter what he is, and I have no illusions there, he loves her and it does not seem to be the kind that rots into abuse. I offered him a clean slate and he seemed to take it. I promised Rena that I would do what is necessary to curtail the curse I placed on Damian, so that Nerio and his children are spared.

So mulling that over, I was about town, wanting a drink? I ran into Sammy and she was upset. Drak, the latest Sarcina Pratorean, had taken his own life and her own fiance had died. We talked and I offered to do a small service for her man, just me and her, and we did, giving his bones to Maman Brigitte and his soul to the Bawon, below the waters. Later, she wanted to drink so we went to the Milk Bar.

That place. It is horrible, I will leave it at that. There was a bit of a tumult, and the man O is to marry, Dorian, he was there, with some blonde woman who he pulled around by her hair. Even if I had not already gotten a bad feeling from him, I sure disliked him after that, right?

I went to bed and a few nights later, I went out again, tired of studying, and headed out for a drink.

I ran into Deets and learned that she and Debra both have left the Sarcina over an argument with O. We caught up a bit and I did not pry too much when Raven, the Hound? He wanted to talk with her. So I went outside because this mech had just said there was an accident and I wanted to see.

No accident, but an arrow with a note, addressed to me personally, wanting to meet. I got Deets, for I have learned that lesson well, we? A few more silly notes later, and the mechanical man shows and wants to talk on the roof. We go, and it turns out he is Grif, playing at superhero. Literally. He puts on the armor and takes the name Vengeance. I do not know whether to laugh or cry, it is both touching and silly, you know?

He got pretty cocky, and I really hope he remembers that in his efforst to 'do good', that he tries not to hurt the peoples around him. It seems that these crusader types, they always ignore the regular folks and it bothers me.

I went back to study, then last night came down for a walk about town and tend to my duties in the park, when I across Forge, and Kuno (with a pink tail of all things?) and some various cat peoples, all scrapping. I left them to it, then later on, at the same spot, there was Forge again with this little neko lady, Marina, and of all peoples, Charles. And a wolf.

The wolf wanted to eat the neko. I did my best to run interference, because that is what Asimu said I should do, protect the protected animals, but it occurred to me, she was not very specific. But it worked out, mostly because the wolf, she avoided attacking me (maybe my coyote side smells like a friend?) and because Marina commanded her to stop. She just said, "No!" and that was it. Like the wolf was her pet.

The wolf headed towards downtown so I followed and she allowed me to pet and comb her fur and it was a glorious thing. So close to such a wild, vibrant life. I felt blessed and lucky to be alive and who I am.

Yet now, I am having trouble sleeping, nightmares.

I think it is because it seems that my old family is truly fragmented now and I feel a bit at loose ends, sort of untethered? There is Rena of course, but she is well seated with her husband, with KAOS, even with the Sarcina still. Deb has joined the Mercs, Deets is deciding. Indi is gone wandering and I rarely get to see her though it is a joy when I do.

Graves is gone without a trace. I have no men to look up to, and I feel the lack. At home, there were always grandpapas to go to, or somebody's brother, or so and so's cousin. I am odd in being an only child, but my maman, she died when I was eight and who knows anything about my papa. Even Drak, who seemed to be turning into a sort of brother figure, he took his own life, that most precious of things, and I was not good enough of a friend for him to call. Chi is a bit of a brother, but he is also what he is and I cannot relax. Jackson I once thought to call brother but that went away.

And that brings me to this part. Seeing Marina and Charles there last night, so chummy? that bothered me some. I know what he is, and I know what she is, and both of them have looked at me with dead eyes and excited pulses while doing something to cause me pain or torment. I know that Marina thinks we are all okay now, but we can never be right. I know too much about her now.

And last night, I just had bad bad dreams, the kind that you claw to wake from, then try to wake up enough so it a new dream can start but you just cannot and you fall asleep right back into it. Marina and Charles with dead eyes, looking at me.

I will go to make my honors and then maybe I will see if I can find enough bottles of whiskey to make me drunk and get a good rest tonight. It cannot hurt, right?

Mar. 10th, 2008

Awe

Gardens, the good and the evil

Masha sleeps on her new bed, snug under the green quilt her grandmere had managed to get to her through various channels. How, Masha had no idea - the package was just there the other day, at the door of her flat, clearly postmarked from Port a Prince. The quilt was green and white and Masha swore she could smell the familiar scents of home and honfour in the woven threads.

Her head is throbbing and a strange rumbling echoes loudly in her left ear, accompanied by a swaddling warmth around her throat. She snorts, and sweat breaks out lightly on her skin. Masha starts to roll over, not quite awake yet, when she feels a sharp pin pricking at the tip of her nose, and her eyes fly open.

Golden eyes, the same color as her own, but the pupils are vertical slits and full of energy and mischief. The kitten curls comfortably at Masha's throat, head nestled near her ear, purring, one paw still poised from his recent activity.

"You poked me, you little devil!" Masha starts to scoop up the kitten but as her fingers sink into the soft calico fur, the purr gets louder and she smiles and relaxes back on her pillows, petting his silky ears. "Little demon, eh? What am I to call you? And why does my head hurt, so-- ah." Masha tosses back the covers, holding the kitten snug to her throat with one hand and pads over to her safe to retrieve her journal. Sitting at the desk she scoops the kitten to her shoulder and pets him while her pen begins to move.

'As always, life here in Midian is never dull. I have had opportunity and then some to practice my medical skills, although strangely, I never seem to see Doctor Hax. He has also closed down the clinic which appears to be undergoing renovations, but I never received word from him about it.

'I have taken to broadening my usual circuit in the evenings, making my honors but also poking my head into places like the Snake Pit and of course the Zone now that the Sarcina are there. Bah, I do not like that place - it is just not my style - but they like it and seem to be doing well. I even started going back to the Pool Hall, and of course I have been working to tend my new garden in the park along with fulfilling my other duties there. I am embarrased to admit that I have yet to write a word for the Dark Times - perhaps I should just face it up and tell the editor that I lack motivation or whatever it is that makes reporters into reporters?

'Now, here is the good stuff. Remember the artifact? The artifact was some sort of monolithic item with keys to open it secreted here and there about the city. When the Sarcina discussed entering our own bid for the keys, I was against it. It seemed too much like a baited mouse trap, you know? But no one listens to me, and of course, peoples wanted it opened.

'Here and only on this page, I say it: I told them so.

'I cannot believe I am writing this, but here it is: evil plant women emerged from where the artifact was opened and tried to make babies with peoples. Then angry tree men (who I think must be their outraged husbands?) came out to wreak vengeance upon us all. I managed to miss most of the events, cooped up with my books, of course. I first encountered one of the plant ladies shortly after I helped with Rena and Chi to cure Pera of the virus that had infected her, and by the way, she was still possessed by Ezili Freda when we found her! I must remember to write to Grandmere about this, that not only was a vampire possessed by Ezili but that Ezili stayed to save her life. Whatever they are, vampires, they are NOT of the dead. How else to explain? The Ezili's, NONE of them will go near the dead. At the peristyle, we never call them along with the Ghedes, and if we try, they will not come. Their shrines, they must be separated. They do not touch. Yet, there, Ezili Freda Dahomey, grand belle of the Ezili's, sat firmly in the seat of Pera's head, willingly. I am astounded still.

'Anyhow, Pera is well and I was walking along from the Snake Pit a day or two later and encountered the strangest of sights. A green woman, she was attacking another woman with these strange tentacular growths. A man wearing a guitar of all things, he was attacking the plant lady. I did not think but leapt forward, trying to help the lady, you know? And then the oddest thing, this scent that was indescribably good, it just filled my head and all I could look at was the green woman, as beautiful as Ezili herself. Then the man, he did something and she let out this horrible, horrible shriek, right into my face and I thought I would die my ears, they hurt so bad. I felt the man grab my hair and then I was flying through the air, and then, blackness.

'I woke in the MC surrounded by those who lately hang about the gas station. I know some of them, Luk and Mitchell, they were there with me, and I have also met Mud and Cait, who is a lovely lady also from Louisiana! My skull, it had still been very fragile from what Drakeo did when I was crazy in the Zone, and when I got thrown by the guitar man, it cracked open. Mitchell, he gave me more of those little machines and that seemed to do the trick. I hope they are not addictive, because I seem to be using them much of late.

'Later that evening, I snuck into Zoe's and cooked up some of my special Cajun burgers for them, I was so grateful. Any peoples who helps a stranger, well, they get my trust until the prove otherwise. I refuse to let what happened with Marina and Jackson change that for me. So I took them the burgers but they were in the middle of something and Cait, she looked truly awful, and I still do not know if she is welllllllllllll---'

Masha scoops the kitten off the page where he was sitting with a triumphant cat smile, ears at high perk, pupils enormous. "You little imp, we, you got my pen. But not while I am writing!" She nuzzles his soft nose with her own and he mews at her, nuzzling back before trying for a gentle nip. Masha laughs. "You a fierce hunter, eh? I think I will name you Fewòs Chasè. Do you like that, little one? Little Fewos?"

She pets the peach fuzz fur of the tiny cat, admiring the patches of cream, brown and orange, then cradles him up to her neck, feeling his heat and the fierce pulse of his heart. She had found him just yesterday, nestled in a hollowed out log near the shore at the park, his dead mother nearby, and no signs of his littermates. How could she not take him home? Setting Fewos back on her shoulder, Masha promises herself to guard her pen more closely, and returns to her journal.

'That little mark was my new kitty's fault and I have named him Fewòs Chasè to honor his hunting prowess. He is good, strong, and thank the good god that Auntie keeps milk at the community center. I can find him meat as he grows. But to continue.

'So, let me see. Momi and the woman Scar? They killed each other, and I do not know they why or how of it. I missed the funeral services, but I went later to put my own addition, an offering to Maman Brigitte who will keep Momi's bones safe under the waters.

'Later that evening, I was walking about, like I do, and was just headed up main street when I saw a large man who I know to be a Hound carrying Rena! I followed, and was taken to some sort of bunker the Hounds have that possesses quite a few things like a shooting range, prison cells and a well equipped medical clinic. Nerio's guard, Janus, he was there and I mostly stayed long enough to see that Rena was well and to observe that Ix's scent was upon her neck, near the rather obvious puncture wound. I have to say this in the interests of honesty - as much as I mislike him, Nerio arrived and seemed genuinely torn by Rena's injury. I suppose it is possible that he feels real love for her? Bah, who knows. Abusers show love between bouts of violence, do they not? I wish I could learn the truth of that boy and set my mind at ease.

'That also reminds me - Rena is getting married to Nerio and further, I have agreed to be maid of honor. You know, he just better be what Rena claims he is...

'Anyhow, this topic just aggravates me and little Fewos is trying to claim my pen again so I will continue relating events. The next evening or so, there was chaos in the streets and several peoples who were injured in the MC. Or was this before Ix attacked Rena and I met the plant lady? Things are so jumbled and confused and my head hurts, which I will get to. Suffice to say, it all happened around the same time, so it is good enough for these pages.

'Nerio was brought in covered in burns. Literally. Rena was distraught, saying they had fought one of the angry tree men. Deb was there, thank the god, as was Sol, and I assisted with Nerio and others that were wounded as well, winding once again up in that bunker. Or maybe it was the first time. Nevermind. We wound up having to call upon rather unusual resources as Nerio is allergic to Debra's little machines, and they contacted Fu, and that magician man, Bones. They did quite some magics, on Nerio and another Hound and my memory is unclear - was it Calee? O was there too, and surprisingly, she is gifted now with this, this... what can I call it, flesh knitting? It is a miracle, a true blessing from Les Mysteres. I will say that Bones, he gives me shivers, he is like a Ghede walking about always, only he has no love or family connection with me and mine like Papa does with the honfour. Sol is funny around him, turning from her normal confident, controlled self to a teenage like girlfriend. It is strange and sweet and oddly moving and I pray that she is happy with this situation.

'That reminds me. Somewhere in there, I got to spend some time at the docks, just talking with Sol. She told me her story and suffice to say, she is a remarkable woman. She is also Nerio's aunt, which I do not begin to understand as I thought Damian and Marina were his parents and her story did not mention being relations with either of them? But that family is strange, so who knows?

'Let me see. Other events, more recent. Probably all that is left worthy of noting here on these pages is from last evening. First, I encountered Marina carrying the man I know to be Odina's lover and he was bleeding terribly. They did not wish to go to the MCMC, so we went to the Hax Clinic where Marina broke in. They called someone called Able, a German man who seemed quite competant with medical things and not only allowed me to assist but seemed happy with my work. The man, Forge? He had a gun shot wound in the leg which I am starting to be able to handle quite readily, and two big gouges in his chest, punctures really. Those worried me, because my books, they say that it is hard to clean them and infection can get in really easy, you know? So we got him fixed up and I smelled lilac and jasmine on him and teased Odina about it, thinking to distract her a bit, but a look passed between her and Marina and I think it was a clue for who they planned to hunt. When Forge woke, he said it was some man with horns and spikes, another odd creature, but hopefully, not made of plants.

'I had just finished there when I wandered down to the beach, hoping to catch the end of Sammy's placement fight with the Sarcina. But instead, there was a big crowd and fighting. One was Calee and some Hound, and the other was Nerio, Snaps and Rena, with Nerio trying to choke Rena to death! I was astounded and tried to help, finally injecting him with one of my remaining tranqualizer darts from my time with the Sarcina. He went down and Rena, Snaps, myself and Mitz managed to get him to that horrible bunker of the Hounds.

'We start to haul him down the ladder when we encounter this terrible pitiable mess of a man who later I learned was actually Janus. He had been horrifically wounded, covered in burns, his face distorted and broken, and he was wild, savage. Nerio was coming around and Mitz told me to use another dart so I did, just as Rena said wait, only Nerio can handle Janus. I only have one dart left now - I wonder if Deets or Deb will give me more?

'Anyhow, I thought about epinepherine, from my books? and found some in the clinic. I got it set up in Nerio's vein and refused to go back into the clinic (Nerio and Rena were in the hallway by the door that led to the room where Janus and two women were struggling). She gets so overprotective, you know, but she needs to learn that we all make our choices and she is not responsible for them, only her own. It worked well, and Rena was clever, using the door to bounce Nerio into the room and slamming it shut behind him. Then she got even more tricksy and shoved me into the clinic, following me in and locking the door behind her. I have to laugh, she is good, eh?

'Anyhow, we watched through the glass wall but we could not hear a thing, and we kept waiting for Janus to take a bite off Nerio (if I have not said, he is yet another vampire of some sort and for some reason, only Nerio's blood will suffice to heal him - I did not ask). Suddenly, Nerio, he slits his own throat! I was just amazed - we work so hard to save his life before when he was burned, he has everything to live for with Rena, and here he goes, throwing the most precious gift we all have into the drain. I was just mad, and it is a good thing I was swearing in Kreyol or those Hounds might have taken issue. We dashed in there and I did my best purely from reading. He seemed to be doing pretty good, stitched up and breathing on his own, when one of the women, she says we need to get Nerio's blood into Janus.

'She was rather rude, but I learned she is Janus' lover so I figure, she was distraught of course. They had this transfusion machine so I thought maybe if we kept the blood going into Nerio while some went out into Janus, it would keep them alive? I wanted poor Rena to decide - she is to be his wife and that is what wife's do. She was taking the whole thing horribly, in shock herself, but I had no time to help, blaming herself for Nerio's behavior. Bah, that man.

'Anyhow, I got the transfusion going when the big man from the beach? He brought in Calee with some simply gun shot wounds. I was just starting to work on her when Janus, he starts screaming and writhing.

'I was at a loss - what do I know about vampire physiology? I pulled at some of the burn skin on his arm, trying to check to see if any healing had occured, and a remarkable thing happened: when I pulled it off, it hurt him, but amazingly, the revealed skin, it healed before my very eyes. I pulled some more off, and then shouting and a big exploding pain in my head.

'Again.

'I woke here with little Fewos on my neck and a headache. I think Janus' lover got mad at me for making him hurt. I suppose this is the bad side of being a medical person in Midian?'

Masha finally puts her pen down which is immediately pounced upon by the calico kitten. He bats it, watches it roll off the edge of the desk and bounce on the floor, then gleefully follows, playing with it until they both disappear under the bed, nothing but his long tail showing. Masha shakes her head, winces, puts the journal back in the safe, and goes to make an icepack for her head. She has studying to do.

Feb. 29th, 2008

Resolve

Awakening

Stretching hugely, Masha reaches her arms up and pushes against the headboard, pointing her toes, her whole body quivering before releasing the stretch, a satisfying lassitude filling her as a result. She aches all over, but not unpleasantly except for a large bruise on her shoulder, a slight throb at the back of her head from the healing wound, and another intense bruise at the back of her thigh. She moves her palms to her cheek and finds no sign of the scabs and relief washes through her. Slowly opening her eyes, Masha sits up and swings her legs over the side of the bed, blinking as she takes in the state of her flat, her nose wrinkling at the stale smells of blood and sweat, pervasive even with the open window. She twists to look at her thigh and snorts, recognizing the mark of a hastily slammed tranqualizer dart and offers a prayer of thanks to the good god for trusted friends.

She rises and pads about, tidying up, opening the other windows before scrubbing the sofa fabric, vacuuming the carpet and changing the bedclothes, stuffing the soiled linens in a sack for later washing at the basement laundry. Gathering her shower things, she heads down the hall, throwing away the shredded, salt stiffened clothing enroute. Feeling clean and restored, hair painstakingly combed, she returns to her flat and puts on her comfy flannels before opening her safe to withdraw her journal. Settling on her favorite sofa with a cigar and whiskey at hand to write out what she remembers of recent events, Masha feels oddly at peace.

"I must remember that sometimes, Les Mysteres take us at our word. I wanted to know more of these coyote gifts, and I have been given just that. Oddly, not from the Pack, which I left a few days back, with some regret. As I told Aidann, I just do not fit there. Everyone is absorbed in their own affairs and seemed to have very little time for me and I felt very alone and lonely, very at odds with Aidann's description of family. No matter where I go or who I affiliate with, the Sarcina are my family in Midian, those who have left and those who remain. So when Chi asked me to come to Bangkok to help with something going on with Pera, I left the aftermath of Rena's new placement fight where she did beautifully, all grace and ferocity against the oiled machine that is our Bekah.

"It is confusing, but suffice to say, I now believe that vampires are not of the dead, for how else do I explain the willingness of Ezili Freda Dahomey to horse Pera who herself is, to my surprise, a vampire? I know this only because she bit me as Ezili took possession of her body in order to save her from some other presence, not one of the lwa, but somehow still with ties to ancient Africa, a male presence that is unlike any of those I know and honor in Vodou.

"It seems the virus that Tres manufactured is rampant through Midian and that bite infected me. I lay in my flat for several days, succumbing to the virus, having bizarre and vivid dreams, some of which make me blush to even think about. I also have a firm belief now that the coyote who bit me? He was indeed a gift from Papa Legba and oh my, can a person lose her virginity in a dream and stay a virgin?

"But I digress. Things are much blurred. I remember hunting food and the enormous satisfaction of securing the rabbit that was my intended dinner. I ripped its throat out and ate its flesh and lapped up its blood and it was utterly pure and fine and wholesome. Just writing that seems so strange, but it was like when we sacrifice chicken or bulls to the lwa - a sacred thing, with the offering made and all of the flesh used towards food. That it tasted so good raw makes me feel ill to think of now, but is that not what the wild is about? As much as I adore cooking, it is fascinating to realize that the menu provided for nature by nature is just as wholesome in a very strange way. I remember feeling an odd love for that plump little rabbit, that it would honor me with the joy of the hunt, the thrill of the chase, and the inevitable offering of its life to sustain my own needs. I have much to ponder about this.

"I remember napping for a bit hidden in a sheltered area of the ruins, then returning to the park still nice and full but wanting to explore. Then I started encountering peoples and their own antagonism and disrespect seemed to trigger an anger in me, a rage that slowly built. I remember a man that smelled like oil and blood and the sting of gunpowder and his voice was like nails on a chalkboard and I ran into the city. I remember gazing into the Pool Hall where there were many gathered - I think I was looking for peoples I knew, that I felt safe among? But none were there and I trotted towards the Twilight Zone where a man and a woman moved in such tempting ways that all I could do was chase her.

"Then it was all aggression and fighting and such fury that I have never felt before. I was possessed by the it, not like with the lwa where I am safe, but consumed like a parasite. I know now that it was the virus, first causing me to be "feral" as the nekos call it then triggering such violence from me. It was no longer about hunger. I just wanted to hurt those who saw me as a threat and I was like a wild thing, clawing and snapping and snarling and biting and I felt no pain, no matter what my targets did but something finally gave and I remember just falling to the floor of the Zone, barely able to move. Then nausea and horrible retching and the taste of iron laced blood in my mouth and nose, then nothing.

"The next I recall, Chi and Rena were standing over me and I was suddenly panicked. They had found me in the strange machine place that the biomechanical peoples of Midian called home although I have no notion how I got there. Chi had given me the antivirus, thank the good god, and Rena told me to go and wash in the ocean as the blood from my body could contaminate others. I did this, swiimming in my shredded clothes, still feeling so odd and quivering, like I was only barely in charge, like my teeth could become sharp if I only willed it so.

"I met Rena back at the Zone and she gave me some of her own clothing to wear and then gave me a hug now that I was clean. She is so dear to me and I almost forgot, she asked me to be maid of honor at her wedding. How about that, eh? Anyhow, I was scared and surprised to find that she smelled not just like her normal Rena scent, but like food. Yes, food, and tasty food and that truly frightened me. Rabbits, but not peoples!

"She suggested we go to find Mitz who had gotten contaminated by my blood, saying Chi had gone ahead and I thought that seemed like a good plan, you know? So we went, encountering Paris along the way and some strange scruffy looking man. I had to struggle again with wanting to attack them like a coyote, because Paris, well, Rena told me SHE was the one to hurt her that time, to take her tail away. I just wanted to leap on her and rip her throat out. It was quite daunting to have to struggle with such an urge, but I managed, and followed Rena towards the metro.

"There, I smelled Chi but worse, I smelled the scent of the man who had hurt me before at the Twilight Zone and all I remember is a sense of righteous fury. I followed his scent as clearly as if it were a breadcrumb trail and it was this perfect song of focus, with his back to me and I remembering just leaping towards him. Then I remember pain in my shoulder, and another sharp stabbing pain in my thigh, then nothing more. I suspect Rena took matters into hand and used her dart on me, and thank goodness, for I do not want to find that I have eaten a person, even if he DID hurt me.

"I need to find out what happened to Pera and Mitz and see that they are well."

Masha closes the little book and restores it to her safe, locking it tight, before heading down to wash the linens and Rena's clothes, still in her flannels. Some things couldn't wait.
Peace

Interlude: Coyote dreams

Eyes drooping, still clutching Ezili Freda's red lacy fan, Masha locks the door to her flat and manages remove her boots before falling onto the bed, exhausted. She is asleep nearly as soon as her head hits the pillow.

***

"Can you do some of your mojo to help?" Chi's smooth voice full of worry for his sister-lover Pera, and Masha decides to place trust in the hands of Ezili, her first mait tete, the one with her since birth. Maman Ezili, lwa of grace and beauty and fierce possessiveness, owner of her head since she barely opened her eyes. Masha drew the veve, made offerings particularly favored by her, recited the regelmen, rattled the asson, sang the song that Ezili loved so much and as always, when the lwa came it was like a spike of lightening from the crown of her head to the tips of her toes. She welcomed it, feeling the ecstasy of total trust and passivity, submitting her body for the use of one of the most ancient ancestors of Vodou, Ezili Freda Dahomey. Vaguely, she felt her body convulse and Chi's strong hands under her head and shoulders and it was and wasn't like at the peristyle when dozens of hands would support the ridden as the rider mounted.

At the crisis of the experience, it was like consciousness tunneled into a pinprick and became instead a sense of floating, of not-awareness, of hovering somewhere around her own left shoulder without seeing or hearing or feeling anything that was happening. It was so peaceful, a sense of security, of being cradled as a powerful loving and protective force took over her body and all the responsibilities of having one for a time.

And then the call, and it was like waking from a dream or sliding into a pair of perfectly fitting shoes and this time as she came back, a whisper of knowledge from Maman, tasting like lipstick and perfume. Call Ezili into the woman, it said and as her eyes sprang open and as she rose from her knees, Masha did just that, seizing hold of her asson and using all the training and power bequeathed her as manbo of Societe de la Rose Blanche. The other presence, it was male and strong and it wanted her in a way that both terrified her and sent a cramping knot of longing low into her belly. Of course, Masha knew he wanted Ezili, for who did not? Finally, just as she felt Ezili Freda slip into the body of her friend Pera, this other presence it lunged for her and exposed a set of vampire fangs in Pera's mouth, closing fiercely on Masha's neck.

A wave of dismay, non, non, Ezili does not touch the dead! but it was too late and she somehow told Chi to kiss his lover, call her attention, which he did. Staggering to her feet and bleeding from the wound, Masha managed to make her way back home to her little apartment on the ninth floor.

***

Masha tosses and turns, beads of sweat on her forehead, and she gets up at some point to strip herself naked, so hot, tossing the bloodied shirt into a corner and ignoring the dried blood on her collarbone. The wound throbs and she ignores that too, so so hot. She goes to open the window and just leans there, her forehead pressing against the cool glass, nearly falling asleep and starting when she begins to fall. Shaking her head wildly, Masha pours herself a glass of water and drinks thirstily before laying down stark naked on the nearest sofa, falling again into sleep and dream.

***

"I'm hungry." The conversational tone rolled over Masha and she turned to look at the speaker, knowing and not knowing him as was so often the way in dreams. He was tall with skin dark like hers only with a reddish cast. His hair was stark black and silky smooth, pulled back into a loose tail, and there were red feathers tucked haphazardly through the strands. She blinked at him and realized she was being held close against his naked chest, hairless and smooth and radiating such heat. They were lying nestled and bare in a nest of furs within the coolness of some sort of cave and she could see the hot sun of the desert blazing outside the rocky opening. She stirred and their legs slid against each other, and it felt so natural she didn't even worry. Her bottom was cuddled closely against his front and then she did flush, sitting up to stare at his lean features, the eyes a perfect amber. "Who are you?"

The man grinned, the teeth blindingly white in his dark face and it was such a carefree, open and honest smile that Masha grinned in return, laughing delightedly when he swooped her back into his embrace, rolling them about on the furs until they were so entwined Masha couldn't tell where she ended and where the man started. He brushed a sweet kiss on her lips and they parted as easily as a leaf opening for the sun. He whispered to her, "I am Old Man Legba's gift to you. Remember, cher?"

She shook her head slowly, mesmerized as he closed the small gap between their lips, and again as is the way of dreams, Masha abandoned herself to his warmth, his touch and best of all, his scent, musky and warm and alive, so alive. Their bodies joined and it was a tangle of limbs and sweat and furs and finally blood when he sank himself deep. His expression was fierce and possessive and he licked at her lips as he taught her the ancient rhythm of mating, their scents combining to perfume their cries. When they peaked, her head tipped back, releasing a keening call of triumph and surrender to echo off the cave walls and she felt his own call twining and weaving about her own, a concert of primitive music, high and eerie and joyous.

***

Masha moans as she thrashes on the green couch, her body bathed in sweat, her hair plastered to her forehead and neck. Heat pours off of her even as the wound on her neck seems to be closing. She sits up suddenly, eyes staring at nothing, and just drapes there on the sofa, limp, until awareness seeps back into her mind. Bathroom. Masha pulls on her discarded pants and shirt and nearly falls as she moves to open the flat door, catching herself against the knob and clinging to it. She nearly weeps at her weakness and the heat that seems to surround her like a swaddling oppressive cloak. Urgent matters take over however and she manages to get to the bathroom through sheer force of will, doing what was needed and crawling the final feet back to her flat. She finally does weep with relief when she makes it back within, on hands and knees, head dangling, before collapsing to the carpet and falling deep into the chasm of sleep.

***

She was running, the grasses whipping past her flanks and she sees her mate just ahead, his full bushy tail flying low behind him. The deer was ahead of them both and her scent was amazing, fearful, and Masha knew she was already theirs, even if the deer did not. Her mate looked back at her over his shoulder, tongue lolling in a wide coyote grin and she wore the same expression, the wind whipping past her muzzle and roaring along the tufts within her furry ears as they took turns trotting or sprinting to harrass their prey.

Finally, the deer stumbled and fell and they both drew up, legs stiffening instinctively before pouncing. They buried their teeth into the deer's neck, ripping it open to reveal the sweet hot life's blood and the flesh beneath. Masha and her mate ate greedily until their bellies were full and distended, gorging on the bounty before flopping back into the tall prairie grasses, shoulder to shoulder. Masha dozed for a bit, waking to hear her mate snapping and growling as other lesser predators started to encroach, but his posture was only half hearted as they were well fed. She barked eagerly, and ran off through the grasses, tail low like a foofy flag behind her, knowing he'd follow, unerringly heading towards the scent of water running through the nearby wood, finally splashing into the rocky creek, and burying her nose happily in the clear running water.

Masha lapped thirstily then rolled in the creek, soaking her thick fur thoroughly before climbing to the opposite bank where her mate already lolled. She snorted through her black nose at him, making a pretense of stiff legged stalking before playfully pouncing on his back and the two of them rolled in the dirt and leaves, amber and cream fur flashing in the dappled sunlight coming through the tree cover. Finally, they broke apart and stood together, lifting their muzzles to the sky and singing their triumph into the approaching sunset.

***

She was choking. Gasping, Masha pushes herself up to her hands and knees on the green carpet, staring down at the large veve she'd marked there without understanding what she sees. Hot, so hot. She pulls and claws at her clothing, ripping it, desperate to get air, her mind unable to sort anything but the need for freedom of movement. Something was clawing at her stomach and she feels ravenous, her eyes wide and golden, and her head moves slowly, nostrils quivering as she seeks out the source of the breeze coming into the flat, finally zeroing in on the open window. She moves swiftly and perches there as easily as if it were two feet from the ground, large tail dangling behind her into the room. Her muscles clench and she leaps in a long lazy arc right out the window to the parkland below, landing with surprising grace. She tips her head back and sings her success to the Midian moon, yipping high and long.

Lowering her head again, Masha crouches low in the torn pants and nearly shredded sweater, her hair loose and wild about her face, her coyote ears high and listening. Her eyes narrow to slits, her mouth opens slightly as she sips the air about her, nose lifted, then sets off at a lope. Rabbits abound in the Midian park.

Feb. 15th, 2008

Faith

A bouquet of beginnings

It has been some busy times.

In a few short weeks, I have been accepted among the Pack, given work in the Midian Park, asked to help foment freedom of expression with the radio peoples (KAOS is the call sign), and been taken on as a student with doctor Nik at the clinic. Oh, and I have a new secret identity of all things.

I will go one by one, to be less confusing.

First, the Pack.

Well, I met and talked with Aidann and I quizzed her, not wanting to have any misunderstandings about what they stood for, you know? She said the Pack was about family and just that, and I thought, well, why not. They are all animal people and I am one too now. I met Angela the next night and she quizzed me this time, not very trusting because of what went on before with the Sarcina. I told her truthfully why i left and she asked if I would swear an blood oath to the Pack. I thought about it and decided I would. These things mean something important in Vodou. She held out her knife and waited and I waited for her to do the honors, and then she sort of sighed, poked the tip of my finger and casually went to put my blood into some sort of mechanical device on the main doors. It beeped and confirmed it had read my DNA and gave me access to the Den.

I was rather flummoxed. That was not an oath. I swore nothing and was asked to swear nothing. She is a strange lady.

But I had entry and I went in and mon dieu, the place is huge compared to some others, being outfitted in a way that I found pleasing on a very basic level. It melds with the ruins around it and I was told I could pick my own spot and decorate as I please, something I was never given with the church or the Sarcina. I hung some pictures and a few drapo and got my sleeping bag arranged. I will keep my flat, of course, as it is the closest I have to a peristyle, but it is nice to have another haven.

Now the not so good is that they seem to do nothing, not really. They laze about or they spar, or they flirt with each other, and that seems to be it. And they barely acknowledge me. I have had to introduce myself which I find difficult as it is not how I was raised, and they will smile briefly and nod then go back to their own thing. I tried talking with Luke and Aidann about my feelings and they said they would think about a focus for the Pack, a reason for being, if that makes any sense? We will see. I will give it a fair shot, even with an oath that is no oath, because I do not like to just come and go without giving time to see. But I miss the closeness I had with the Sarcina, the family, the sisterhood, the sense of good dear friends.

Meanwhile, one evening I came across yet another disturbed gathering by the Legion's bunker and their little strip of pavement. It seems to happen more and more so I leapt up to the roof there since the Pack has lots of trouble with them and they are now my peoples, we? I landed right at the feet of some sort of machine man, all in black, but he just nodded and ignored me. I did the same and listened as this strangely feminine man in a black coat spoke with a female soldier about being sent there to evaluate the work of Doctor Tres Asbrink. Then Rena came by, landing on the roof near me and she was all dressed in pretty red silks. She smiled in that way of mischief that she gets and I could see her ears and tail, even if they are no longer there. She told me to come to a party being thrown by her radio peoples, the ones I mentioned above? It was in the sewers, in Marina's brawling place and I hesitated because the stench is so so bad with my coyote sense of smell, but she seemed so relaxed and happy that I decided why not.

I am I glad I went, getting to dance a little bit and cut loose, and even if it is not the hours and hours of dancing we do at the honfour, it is still a way to honor the good god with movement and celebration, we? Chi and Mitz were sparring and taking forever because they are well matched, and then Damian showed up with his lover... pet? Vasha. She was glaring hate at everyone, me included and Damian had some sort of stare off with Markko of all people, who by the way, was dancing quite closely with Rena. That girl likes to keep men about - I wish I could do that, but I just want to wait for the right one, you know? Hopeless romantic or not, I want someone with the courage of Agassou, the wit of Legba, the passion of Ogou, the desire of Agwe, the wisdom and humor of Ghede.

Is it silly to be in love with the lwa? Bah, that is another entry I think.

So anyway, near the end, Pera and I got to talk which was nice because we have not spoken in ages and she told me to join her group. They are a radio station, but they are also about protecting freedoms for the little people, me and everyone else who lives there without the power of the UAC. They fight with the little things, like graffiti or other arts, or little pranks or what have you, and of course with the airwaves, and it just made my heart sing. It appeals to my own trickster spirit, what I gained from Legba's little joke, or maybe that was there all along and I did not know it? So now I am a coyote pirate.

So a few evenings later I was making my honors in the park, by Legba's veve, when one of the managers came by on her big black horse. She is called Asimu and seemed very friendly and even inquired after my health and well being. I was surprised but found myself in a pleasant conversation with her. She and her peoples, they come from Arabia she said, and they practice rituals of nature in the Park. They are seeking peoples to help maintain the grounds and help protect the wildlife and I thought I could do that, you know, seeing as I already spend so much time there. So I accepted the job, and Asimu, she said I could have a little garden plot of my own, so a few nights later, I planted a bunch of the seeds Grandmere had sent with me from Haiti. I hope they bloom!

Oh, and she also said that when I get my livestock order in from Markko, I can use their stables for a small chicken coop and to stable the bull. That is a huge relief. Perhaps I will be able to serve as a manbo for Midian after all, once the plants bloom and I can harvest them properly. I would love to start making gris gris and pwen and similar for those in need.

That same night, I headed downtown fresh from gardening, in such a good mood and hoping to find some Sarcina about to catch up and share a drink. I ran into Pera, then Mitz came roaring by on a motorcycle. She offered me a ride, oh, it was so so fun! I kept singing in my coyote voice, it was so thrilling, I just had to, and then, then, she let me drive! It was not as hard as it seemed and I think I did pretty well.

Later, Mitz and I got to talking and she told me a secret. A few weeks ago, I met a dark, cloaked lady who called herself the Black... Vixen? Something like that, now I forget the actual name. Anyway, it turns out it was Mitz in disguise and she and some other women, they have been working in secret to do just what I thought the Sarcina were meant to do, serving as a force to take on some of the truly evil souls that lurk in Midian. She invited me to be among them and I accepted, taking on the code name Black Gypsy. I have made a little costume which was hard because I have to hide who I am, but I think I have it. I got a big black skirt and if I bind my tail to my thigh, it stays down. A top to cover my coyote tattoo, and gloves for my paw pads. I made some drops that darken my eyes a good bit and some of my Mardi Gras costume to make a very pretty mask. A black sash around my head holds down my coyote ears and I cut little slits in and fiddled until I could hear properly.

In all honesty, I have no idea what I am supposed to DO as "Black Gypsy" but it was fun to make the costume!

Oh, I almost forgot! So much of the regelmen in Grandmere's books is about healing things that I decided to ask doctor Nik if he would take me on as a student and he said yes! So now I am kept very busy three nights a week, reading all that he gave me which is quite a bit, but it is all good stuff even if the science things makes my head hurt. Herbs and potions and pwen are much easier, I think. Find the curse or set the protection. But doctoring is good too.

Maybe I will help someone someday, eh?

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