Color
Background color
Background image
Border Color
Font Type
Font Size
  1. “A smile is limitless,” the old man once told me.

    I swung my feet off the pine studded bed and tried to brush away the sleep that clung to my mind. Something dawned on me that I could not explain; a deep, unnerving feeling crept up my spine. I had been here before, and not long ago. I shook the feeling away as I rubbed my hands through my hair.

    “Of course I’ve been here before,” I said in attempts to calm myself as I searched for my boots.

    A light breeze snuck through the open window and swayed the threadbare curtain. The sheets rustled behind me, fluttering the white cloth over the curves of her body. Golden brown hair draped over her face, shrouding her features. I pulled my boots on and grabbed my shirt.

    It was time.

    The tarnished silver timepiece read five after nine. I dropped it back into my pocket and moved quickly down creaky wooden stairs. The barroom was peppered with the salt of the town, braving whiskey just after dawn in hopes of escaping the day. My arrival warranted a few sullen glances and was dismissed with equal heedlessness.

    I lowered the brim of my hat as I pushed through the saloon doors and into the almost blinding light outside. I paused and glanced across the street, waiting for my eyes to adjust. The town was all but empty. Curious eyes flickered from behind wooden blinds in search of some sign of life returning to normal.

    The revolver at my hip was heavy. I stepped off into the middle of the street and headed towards the bank. I heard the hinges squeal, followed by two sets of boots entering the street behind me. I turned once I was across and nodded to the two men.

    “A smile can buy you trust,” the old man would say just before spitting a gob of chew onto the stained wood floor.

    Grey and Paul walked side-by-side across the street and to the awning just in front of the bank. I pulled out the timepiece and nodded once more at the two. They glanced at each other and drew their revolvers before pushing through the bank door. The yells were muffled through the rafters. The effect was successful, apparent due to the lack of gunshots.

    I strolled back across the dirt packed road and into the quiet saloon. The same sad eyes greeted me once more. The barkeep stopped polishing a glass mug and nodded to the few patrons who, though reluctantly, downed their drinks and meandered out of the room.

    “A smile can buy you admiration,” the old man would say as he sniffed the amber liquid just before throwing it back.

    At the bar I checked the timepiece again. The barkeep slid me a bottle and three small glasses. I pulled the cork out and poured a generous portion. I threw it back and reveled in the warmth that crept through my chest. It tasted like honey and burned like fire.

    The doors swung open. Grey and Paul sauntered to the bar, the bags over their shoulders almost bursting with crisp green bills. They sported easy smiles and dropped the bags at my feet. I returned their grins and poured three more glasses.

    “But most importantly, a smile can buy you loyalty,” the old man would say between puffs as he lit the dark, dry cigar.

    I flashed a smile that could have eased the minds of even the most cautious men. Grey and Paul grabbed the glasses and tossed them back greedily. I watched their faces change as they noticed the barrel of the revolver, as their eyes widened with understanding.

    The gunshots stung my ears as they echoed through the large room. I turned the barrel to the barkeep who gasped something between “No,” and “Please,” before the final shot filled the air. My eyes traced the bodies of the three men. Blood pooled under them, adding to the collection of stains that permeated the wooden baseboards.

    The puff of smoke behind me smelled of fine tobacco. I turned and saw the old man, as if he appeared out of nowhere, sitting at a table not three feet from me. His wind-beaten skin was dark and leathery, wrapped tight around black eyes and a crooked nose. He tapped the ash from the end of the cigar and took a long, hard pull.

    “It’s all there,” I said through a clenched jaw, though I wasn't even sure why.

    The old man exhaled a large plume of smoke and sat the cigar down on the table. He looked me over quietly, dissecting my every thought as if he wished to anticipate my very desires. “You can keep it, you know.”

    I looked back at the bags of money, and then to the old man. “We had a deal, no?”

    He chuckled and nodded. “Yes, yes we did have a deal,” he said as he rose from the table. “Tell me, this deal, will it be the same as before?”

    I shot him a confused look. “As before?”

    “Have you forgotten the original agreement?” He stared at me for a long moment, musing at my obvious confusion. “The room, the girl.” He moved to the bags slowly. “There is enough money here to last two lifetimes.”

    I thought about the oddities that surrounded me. Something was different about the saloon, the town. How had I arrived here? I thought back, searched my mind for some kind of understanding.

    “We have spoken before,” the old man said through a mouth riddled with missing teeth. “In this very bar.”

    His voice, his thoughts, resonated through my mind. I remembered a time before that we sat across from each other at the same table, though I could not place when or how long ago.

    He smiled an awful smile, a cruel smile. “I can bring her back,” he paused. “For a price.”

    I looked down and tugged at the badge pinned to my vest in attempts to avoid his daunting gaze as he laid out his plan. “This is all I must do, and you will save her?” I said, trying to hide the desperation in my voice. My love, I remembered her. She was as moving as the setting sun, and I knew that I could not live without her.

    The old man nodded with a trusting smile. “If the price is paid, she will live, Sheriff, she will live.”


    I turned back to the old man as he dropped the bags at my feet. “What price?” I managed to croak through my suddenly parched throat. “What price did I agree to?”

    A final gunshot erupted through the room. I looked to my left where Grey laid sprawled on the floor, his smoking gun was shaking in his hand. His eyes rolled back into his head and the gun clattered to the floor. I felt a chill of frost creep through my chest as my eyes refocused on the old man.

    “You, of course,” he said with a smile that made my knees begin to falter. “The price was always you. ”

    My legs gave out. I crumpled to the ground. The world slowly faded to black.

    “A smile is limitless,” the old man used to tell me.

    I swung my feet off the pine studded bed and tried to brush away the sleep that clung to my mind. Something dawned on me that I could not explain; a deep, unnerving feeling crept up my spine. I had been here before, and not long ago...
  2. Let us pretend that everything is the way it should be. That life happens exactly as planned. It is odd for us to imagine life in such terms. We are birthed into this stale cone, filled with spoiled ice cream, dipped in rancid chocolate. This marvelous thing we call life. This beautiful thing we call existence.

    People write entire books about bettering your life.

    These cardboard encrusted triple stitched gobs of changing you. Alter your appearance to be attractive, they say. Enhance your personality to better interact, they say. Trade your soul for fame, they say.

    “Tell me something about yourself that bothers you,” says the pudgy therapist of I don’t know what. The wrinkles of her face like canyons mapping the outline of her mouth, nose, eyes. I get lost in the entirety of her appearance, in the hair that peeks out of her nostrils.

    She says again. “Come on, it’s easy, just open up.”

    She smells used, that deep aroma of stale cigarettes and cheap perfume. She strums her hand on the cherry-wood veneer and chews wintergreen mint gum. “I see a great deal of pain in your past, pain that seems too terrible to resurface. It is handcuffing you, crippling you.”

    I didn’t even care enough to roll my eyes. I hadn’t cared in who knows how long.

    It becomes apparent that everything is misplaced in the mash of things. The fan whirls. The clock ticks. The copy machine hums. The room stops swirling as my chair loses momentum. Bill’s forehead peeks around the carpet wrapped particle board.

    “You okay man?” He re-positions his glasses tempestuously, as if he couldn't quite see me. Bill is the empirical acceptance of subpar genes and years of building a foundation apart from exercise. Bill has a wife and two kids that he secretly loathes. Bill is in dire need of change, of rebirth.

    I look at him indifferently, wondering if he applied the tongue in cheek method while dressing this morning. I thought about answering sardonically, but the meaning would be lost on him, like trying to explain satire to a pigeon.

    Feet stomp off in the opposite direction, towards the boss’s office. I force down the rest of the day shard by shard.

    Back in the therapist’s office she says, “It is okay to talk about what happened. It is not your fault. It was never your fault.” Her chin jiggles as she nods her head.

    I would have laughed but for the sedatives.

    She sighs through wire framed glasses and pushes a tuft of lumpy black hair behind her ear. “These sessions are required, but that doesn’t mean you cannot get something from them. Reflection? Fulfillment? Closure?” Her eyes try to decipher mine. “I can’t help you unless you help yourself.”

    Bill comes back with Jim, the boss. “Is everything okay?” he asks me. His hair is parted to the left in that eighties car salesman way. He wears a navy blue suit he is too fat for, and drowns himself in Old Spice after every shower.

    I watch as he grabs the phone and dials the number by memory. There is no answer, but then again there wouldn’t be. He sports a confused look as he hangs up the receiver. “Your wife isn’t home?”

    It was a statement in the form of a question. And here I thought I was the evil one.

    “Accepting it is the first step, after that you can move on with your— well you can move on.” She replaces the wintergreen with Nicorette, cycling the two to avoid losing that tingly feeling. “I know what you are facing. I know it can be daunting. That is why this is all so important.”

    I thought about stepping into oncoming traffic.

    By now the entire floor is packed with people staring at me. Whispers dance across the room as I resume spinning in my chair. “Listen … going … be okay. Help … coming.” Jim is trying to comfort me, but I only catch every other word as I spin off into a torrent.

    Phones ring in the background. Crowds gather. Nausea ensues.

    She is getting frustrated. Her nostrils flare in pig-like elegance. “We are required to sit here for the full sixty minutes. It would go by much faster if you would participate.” She is tapping her foot now.

    Paramedics rush through the room, dodging copy machines and darting through waist high hallways of corporate individualism. They say things like, “Get back everyone,” and “Make way,” before they surround me with medical bags and breathing machines.

    A young paramedic looks me over, moves my clothes around, checks my pulse. He moves a pen light in and out of my eyes. His colleague has to hold the chair so I will stop spinning in it.

    “Just explain to me what happened that day.” It seems like a simple enough request. I open my mouth, but nothing comes out. It is like the feeling of paralysis present those few seconds after you wake from a deep sleep.

    The paramedic seems confused. He looks me over again to be sure. “It’s not his blood.”

    Perhaps I would have told her the story in its entirety, but none of it mattered, least of all to her. This court appointed thought analysis paid for by you and yours. She closes her notebook with a grunt and looks at me incredulously. “Even now in the face of all that is to come, you remain silent.” She struggles out of her chair and storms out of the room.

    Jim, my affluent boss, grabs the phone again and hits redial. Concern is written on his face, the beginnings of disbelief. I am almost certain I was smiling.

    It's his eyes that give away the truth, or possibly my eyes, but there is no doubting that he knows. He screams and curses and flails. “What the fuck did you do to her? You son of a bitch, what the fuck did you do?!”

    In a fury, he lunges over a desk. Somehow a pair of scissors appears in his right hand. One employee tries to stop him, but he pushes through relentlessly. He shoulders a paramedic to get to me and brings the scissors screaming down towards my neck.

    There is a rap on the metal bars as the guard walks by with his nightstick. He barks some order halfway between stand up and hurry. They told me this would be the longest walk of my life.

    You can see beyond the glass into those pale white eyes that are present to witness the end. They are all appalled at what you’ve done. Contemptuous looks engulf the crowd of people who mean absolutely nothing to you. My boss wasn’t there. He didn’t make it out of the office.

    The chair spun. It's as simple as that. The chair spun and the scissors missed my neck but found Jim’s thigh. I watched as his blood pooled inside of my cubical. The paramedics scrambled to plug the artery. It only takes three minutes to lose four liters of blood. It is all quite shocking, actually.

    “Do you have any last words?” The warden says in to the hand microphone.

    I thought about saying something repulsive, or laughing hysterically, but as I stared through that glass words simply didn’t seem important. Only she knew the meanings of my words, only she felt the damage of my wrath, and only she could ever forgive me.

    The warden nods and the machine compresses the tubes, sending vials of clear liquid coursing through my veins. I saw her face then, the face I swore I never wanted to see again. It was all supposed to unfold differently, this lapse of emotion, birthed by the evidence in front of me, but the truth is that none of us would ever be the same.

    She cried when I walked through the door moments after his exit that day. “You eat lunch at the office. You always eat lunch at the office,” she mumbled through disbelieving eyes as she tried to cover herself. The entirety of that moment reverberated through time over and again. Something awful took place that not even I could comprehend, not until now.

    It is all so painless, the beginning of the end. My eyes get heavy and time seems to fade away as I drift into an endless sleep.
  3. A haze had settled on my soul, one that I was not sure I could escape. It was weighted and powerful, and it grew heavier with each passing day. I found myself asking the age old questions of why, though they continued to remain unanswered. All the while angst painted a picture in my mind, one that even I had no desire to be an audience to.

    Sleep had long since abandoned me, and I remember not the last time that food touched my mouth or that water graced my lips. That moment so long ago left the world empty, and I could no longer tell night from day. I was lost in a fog.

    I went for a walk one evening to gather my thoughts. It was as an evening should be, cool and quiet. Yet, despite these comforts, my nerves stood on edge. I find it hard to explain, though I suppose it felt as if something was out of place, like the very fabric of the universe had somehow changed and I was the one left without knowing.

    I looked back. Lights from the town were barely visible in the dusk, in the fog. The village was small and my cottage was removed from it, nestled in the hills, hugged by the woods. It was home, and it was all that I knew.

    I made my way into the forest, to the stone, to our stone. I moved carefully. The underbrush pulled at my feet and legs. My breath caught in my throat as I stepped close enough to see all that was left of her.

    No matter where I had intended on walking, I always ended up at the same place. I knelt down slowly and kissed my fingertips, pressing them against the cool stone.

    “Do not forget me, my love, for I will be with you soon.” I said as I pushed back the tears.

    I know not how long I had sat there, for time seemed to slip past me when I was with her. Sometimes, an entire day would pass with only the chill of night to brush me away. This evening, however, was different, for the wind carried with it a hum of deception.

    To say that I was completely unprepared for what stepped out of the brush around me would have been an understatement. I stood slowly as I watched her move into the small opening that surrounded the stone, our stone.

    I was dumbstruck, for the figure was no more than a girl, small and fragile, young and pure; yet she had an aura of wisdom revealed in each movement, confirmed with each step. She moved gingerly through the underbrush, her bare feet picking their next placement with careful consideration. I could have been mistaken, but it seemed as though she had yet to notice me.

    My eyes followed her lithe body as she continued her silent dance. Sheaths of waning light glinted off of her porcelain skin and shimmered through her golden white hair as the sun dropped beneath the horizon. My heart skipped a beat when she passed by me. She smelled of flowers. She smelled of spring.

    She reminded me of the moon.

    She knelt down in front of our stone and spoke, but her voice was soft and I was unable to make out any words. After a moment, she turned her head and faced me, her hand still touching our stone.

    “Could you tell me about her?” Her voice caressed my ears and eased my soul, as if she were a messenger from God himself.

    Words escaped me.

    It is quite hard to explain, for, as long as I could remember, she was all I could think about. As if every thought was intertwined with her whisper. Yet then, in the face of that which I could not explain, I was breathless, I was mute.

    I searched for the words to explain my love, my pain, but the thought occurred to me that perhaps explaining love, really explaining it, was impossible; like trying to decipher a beating heart, or solving the mystery of a prayer.

    She cocked her head to the side with a curious smile as I stumbled through my thoughts.

    “I beg your pardon, my lady, but you had words with her?” I regretted the question as soon as I asked it.

    Her face tilted down and she gazed upon me with lenient eyes; eyes that undressed my every thought, eyes that whispered deep into my soul. There was not a trace of evil amongst them, and my spirit danced as a smile softened her face.

    “My name is Cassidy, and I would love to hear your story.” The words flowed from her mouth as the morning light spills over the countryside.

    I found it impossible to deny her further.

    “Her name was Emily, and she was my beloved.”

    I looked at the girl, my eyes tired and red, and I took a breath in search of the words to speak my heart; for words that I was sure could not tell the tale the way intended.

    And so I told her, “I met her once, years ago, and knew instantly that she was capable of changing the world; perhaps not the entire world, but at least that of my own. I remember the way she looked at me the first time we spoke, as if I were the only person in the world worth talking to.

    “I was new, you see, and had spent months wandering about the town; all the while hoping that the curious stares and unwelcome frowns would end. I suppose they never really did, though I no longer noticed, for when she looked at me nothing else mattered.

    “To say I courted her would be a lie,” I caught myself smiling at the memory, “for I was but a breath in the wake of a monsoon, and she could have commanded the wind had she desired to.

    “We came here often, passing the days in each other’s arms.” I paused for a moment as I struggled with the memory of her. “And then, as if I had been violently woken from a dream, she was gone.” I focused my gaze onto the stone, our stone, and fought back the tears. “It pains me to say that I have long since forgotten her face.

    “Sometimes, I wonder if what I see when I think of her is not who she really was. As if I have morphed her into an image of what she means to me; the way people imagine angels, the way people imagine God.”

    The young girl gazed at me, her face covered with compassion. “It is not easy losing those that we love,” she stood and moved away from our stone, “will you walk with me?”

    I looked back at our stone for a long moment, trying to decide if I had the strength to leave, as I did every time before I went, and then I nodded to the young girl.

    I followed her as she weaved through the forest in silence. As I was about to ask her where we were going when we arrived at my small cabin. She stopped in front of it, looking it over for a long moment before she turned to me.

    “I lived here once,” she turned back to the house, “a very long time ago.”

    I knew not how to respond.

    “My father built it. He was a great man, a gentle man.” She was smiling at the memory of him. “He worked so hard. I remember him leaving for work every morning. I used to watch him go, hoping that he would make it back for dinner, knowing that he would barely miss it.

    “It broke his heart, not being able to spend time with us. At first I was angry with him. I could not understand why he had to be away, why he chose to work as much as he did. But one night, while I was walking I heard raised voices. I recognized my father’s, though the other was unfamiliar.

    “I followed the sounds and saw my father standing on the edge of the footpath that led from the road to our small cottage. There were two men behind him and another standing in front of him; the one that he was arguing with. I moved closer, struggling to make out what was being said.

    “I heard a yell, and then the man in front of my father hit him, knocking him to the ground. The two men behind him grabbed him under the arms and lifted him up. The man hit him again and again. I wanted so bad to cry out, to help him somehow, but I knew that it was hopeless.

    “I watched as they beat him over and over. Tears streamed down my face. Finally, when I could bear the pain no longer, I ran to him. I screamed for them to stop. The man in charge turned and looked at me. I remember an evil smile snaking across his face.”

    The girl stopped and looked at me, tears filling her eyes, and she gently grasped my hand. I followed her as she moved into the house, into my house.

    “The next morning I woke to the sound of my mother sobbing. She sat at the foot of my bed, her face buried in her hands, tears dotting the wooden floor at her feet. I moved towards her and asked her what was wrong. She looked at me, or through me, but did not answer. She only wiped her face with her sleeve and moved out of my room, leaving me alone.

    “I followed her. Our small sitting room was filled with people; friends and family mostly, but some of them were town folk I had only seen in passing. As I moved through our quaint house no one seemed to notice me. The entire room was somber; as if a great something had taken place. I tried to speak with a few of them, but was met only with blank stares and silent sobs.

    “Tears had long since filled my eyes when I moved to the front of the house. There were flowers everywhere and people came and went. It began to dawn on me that something was not right, though my mind could not comprehend what it was.

    “It was then that I saw him, my father. He looked into my eyes and I nearly fell. He smiled at me; it was the most tender smile I had ever seen. I went to his outstretched hand and he spoke to me, his voice as soft as a whisper, as gentle as a kiss. ‘Come my dear, we can stay here no longer.’

    “I looked into his eyes and said, ‘but papa, what about mother?’ He smiled a sad smile, ‘she will be with us soon, that I promise,’ and hand in hand I walked with him. We moved behind our house and I saw the two boxes perched on stands, surrounded by flowers and chairs.

    “He looked to them and then to me, ‘I am sorry my darling. I am sorry I could not save you,’ and that was all he said before he disappeared.”

    She looked at me again with soft eyes; her face seemed to light the world around me. She took me, hand in hand, back to the clearing with the stone, our stone.

    “He loved me more than his own life, just as you did for her. It is why you saved her. It is why you are now here.”

    I felt the weight being lifted, and I looked into the fog. I tried to remember the last time I had spoken with someone, or even the last time I had eaten, but all that I could remember was her. I stood and moved around the clearing to our stone.

    “We have been waiting so long for you to come home,” she said as I tried to make sense of it all.

    I thought back, trying to remember the last time I had seen my Emily. We were walking home from a party, her arm in mine, my gaze unable, unwilling, to leave her face. I noticed the three men walking towards us on the dark road before she did, but I thought nothing of them. They stopped in front of us, eventually surrounding us, and I remember telling her to run. I felt pain as I fought them off, but it did not matter, for all I could think of was my Emily. The world went black as I saw her running away, and when I woke, she was gone, and I was alone.

    I looked to the young girl in front of me and she nodded with an outstretched hand. I took it, and the world crumbled away, showing me a different world, a brighter world.

    I saw my Emily. I saw my love. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and my heart dropped as I watched her. She was sitting near the stone, our stone.

    She kissed her fingertips and placed them softly on its cool surface as the softest whisper escaped her mouth.

    “Do not forget me, my love, for I will be with you soon.” And a tear rolled down her cheek.
  4. I knew a whisper of a name once, it was silent, it was sweet. It was as most things are, misunderstood and eventually forgotten. As revelation morphed into trite I felt myself slipping, grasping at crumbling roots, and ultimately falling.

    I was lost.

    I thought of being lost as the same as being without purpose, but no, I do not agree with that, for life should have purpose, should it not? To be a rock skipped across the pond waiting silently for submergence is perhaps more frightening to me than any monster.

    I looked around and noticed that I was alone, taken by isolation, left treading in a pool of what I could imagine only as fear. I then looked down at my hands, they were covered in blood. Why, I could not remember. Perhaps I should have been concerned, for blood does not simply appear without reason, but I remained calm.

    She whispered to me again, the name, and it was sweet, but I still could not remember it.

    “Why do you run, child?”

    I stopped and turned to her. She was blurry, like I was looking at her through someone else’s glasses. It was odd, but I could sense her beauty despite my failing vision. I felt her move around me, the way a dog does when trying to get acquainted with someone new, though I was positive that she was not a dog.

    “I… I am not sure.” It was a stupid answer, but I had no other.

    A chill had entered my bones, I felt lost. Her eyes looked me over, they were the kind of eyes grandmothers have, ones that have seen more than intended and loved more than required. Though in reality I am not sure I could even see her eyes, perhaps I was imagining them.

    “It is not your fault.” As she said it, I felt an embrace. Though, it could not have been her, because she remained at least three feet from me. “May I tell you a story?”

    I looked down at my blood covered hands. “I guess a story would be nice.” Though, I would have probably agreed to anything at that point. I felt faintly dizzy.

    She smiled a warm smile. It reminded me of a child’s. “Once, when I was younger, I had great ambitions. They are like stars, you see, we can look at them and they seem almost close enough for us to reach out and grab, but they are far, so far away.

    “Things like that do not make sense when you are young, though, and I was enlivened to receive a purpose. Anyways, my ambitions were to serve as best I could. To be seen and heard by him. He had not been named yet, He was simply, He.” She was smiling at the memory. “I knew the rules, that no one had ever seen him and that we were all equal in his eyes, yes I knew them well, but I hoped them to be flexible. It was naïve, I know, but I hoped nonetheless.

    “I do not know how long I had been in existence, for time there is different, but it was long enough for my ambitions to grow into something I was not sure that I could control. And then I was sent for. I remember going, my enthusiasm almost boiling over.

    “Once I arrived, I knew something was not right, but I buried the feeling deep down. In front of me stood Gabriel and he was magnificent. I had heard stories of Gabriel, the ones you hear about someone so brave and honorable that they could not possibly be real.”

    I must have been looking at her in question, because she stopped and smiled at me.

    “Yes, even we have stories,” she said with a quiet laugh.

    I meant to apologize for my rudeness, but she continued as if nothing had happened.

    “He looked me over carefully and said, ‘the time has come for your service, you are Azra’il, you are love,’ and I knew my name and everything that came along with it, because I was Azra’il. I nodded to Gabriel and turned to leave but he continued to speak. ‘Go now and speak with the sons, for you have much to teach them,’ and I nodded once more and left.

    “It was odd to leave the light, for I had never been out of it before, but when I arrived here I saw the two sons and they were beautiful. ‘Hello, I am Azra’il, and I am love. Tell me, do you know what love is?’ I said to them and they looked at each other and then back at me. I smiled at them, for I was love, and they smiled back, ‘walk with me and I will teach you about love.’

    “And they did. We walked for hours and they became increasingly interested in love. I was pleased, for they spoke of love and it was beautiful. I looked up and Gabriel was there, though they could not see him, and I smiled at him, but he did not smile back. He only nodded, looked at the two sons, and then was gone as quickly as he had come.

    “As I have said before I was young, and though I had heard stories of Gabriel I had no idea what he was actually like, so his behavior up to this point had not alarmed me.

    “I turned back to the sons and they had decided to make an offering of love to He. I smiled, for I was love, and they were also love. They ran home and told their parents, they were giddy, it was beautiful. I watched them for days and days as they prepared their gifts. The older was a farmer and he grew the finest grains. The younger had love for animals and his flock was lovely.

    “So came the day for their offering. I sat in silent marvel, awaiting He, for they were so filled with love, and because they were filled with love I was as well. When He came, the older son presented him with the finest grains, and He looked at the grains but did not smile. He then looked to the younger son, and the younger son slaughtered his lamb, offering He all that was present and He smiled.

    “Perhaps I was too young to have seen it, but I was probably just too caught up in the moment. For He had accepted the gift from the younger son, but refused the gift from the older, and in doing so something grew in the older son that I was unfamiliar with.

    “So I asked him, ‘my son, what is wrong?’ and he looked up at me with scorn, and I knew not what to think, for I was love and he no longer was. The older son then turned to his brother and beckoned him to follow and his younger brother did."

    I don’t know how long it took me to realize that she had stopped talking, for I was enthralled, but when I did I looked at her and she no longer had a warm smile. “Continue, please?” I asked, and she looked at me with sadness and nodded.

    “I went to the field and watched them, the brothers, the younger still love, the older something else. I watched as the older son embraced the younger, and I watched as he spilled his blood into the earth. I remember crying, though I had no idea what tears were then, but they flowed from my eyes nonetheless. I went to the younger brother, and he smiled at me as his life blood left him, for he was love.

    “His breathing was shallow and his blood mixed with the dirt at my feet. I looked up and Gabriel was there again, he was also sad. I suppose he knew all along, and he said to me, ‘you are love, Azra’il, but you have another purpose now, one that is necessary, for He has spoken, and it is so,’ and I nodded and he was gone.

    “I looked back into the younger son's eyes and whispered softly into his ear, ‘come with me now my son, for I am love, and we must go,’ and he looked up to his brother who was no longer love and a tear rolled down his cheek.

    “I took him away and when we arrived He stood before me. I was sad. He looked into my eyes and nodded in silence and I knew that I was no longer love. My heart broke.”

    She smiled at me again as she wiped the tears from her eyes. The chill began to leave my bones, and everything became clear. I remembered the gunman, I remembered the store, and I remembered the shot. I felt a twinge in my gullet and realized that the blood was mine. I looked back into her eyes. She smiled at me and nodded with an outstretched hand, beckoning me to follow her.

    It was then that I remembered the whisper of the name, it was silent, it was sweet.
  5. The Tear

    We see it often, pieces of ourselves writing a story, one of pain, one of joy, and one of love. In its existence it tells more truth than anyone or thing ever could. Even in the first glimpse before it falls, the passion caught can rival the finest storm. Its proclivity to capture the soul is perchance abstruse, for how is something that is created with so little capable of accomplishing so much? Humbling is the simple intricacy of it, just as light pours itself over darkness, cleansing it. One can easily see the perplexity of the moment through the unity of that which is grasped, and that which is not, but forget not that it was made so. Not for comprehension, for that is not its purpose, no.

    Instead, trust that the importance of such a model of completion is meant not to accomplish a task as seen mortal, but to glimpse that which is to become, that which has yet to be named. Witness if you will the path that is led, over and again it changes, ambiguous to common thought, absent from habitual belief. It is required by absolution to occur not based on any system of control, for if one was to tame the wind, they would forget the beauty felt by each passing kiss. It falls, and so as it falls we stand in silent awe.

    Ever moving, the trail left behind reminds us of what we have, and what we have lost. Nothing man creates has as much power, the faint smile of our lovely lady and the distance that the stones can travel all fall short. Sometimes thought of as weakness, shading our most beautiful gift, our perfect display of ourselves, is perhaps one of our biggest mistakes. It begs to be released. It prays to see you once more. However, it knows that as it did in the beginning, it will have at least one more audience at the end. For if there is one thing for certain, it is that there are two times in life that we could not possibly be more real.