Title: A Game of Chess
Summary: Hunter and huntress dance around the empty spaces left behind by things unsaid; the choice between heaven and hell is a tricky one. Part two of five in The Waste Land series.
Categories: Introspective, Angst, Poetry/Prose
Warnings: Contains incest.
Author's Notes: This story and its companions are written with the themes and tenor of TS Eliot's The Waste Land in mind, but with a distinctly metafictional bent. There are deliberate tense changes, deliberate line breaks, deliberate quotations and phrasings, and deliberate references to other texts. Deal with it. If you have questions about this story or its companions, either ask in a review and leave your email address, or email me directly. The text of The Waste Land can be found here: http : www .bartleby. com /201 /1.html
A Game of Chess
'My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
'Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.
'What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
'I never know what you are thinking. Think.'
I think we are in rats' alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.
-- T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land
This ocean of the world is hard to cross: its waters are very deep. Kabr says: "Listen to me, O Sadhu! few there are who have reached its end."
-- Kabr, jis se rahani apr jagat men
Frail and gaunt he stretches thin, drinks rice milk and can't pass on, and the world tips and falters. Bent and weary, Sango toils, Sango trudges, Sango drags her calloused feet across the barren fields, and Kohaku curls beneath a pipal tree and trails his empty fingers through the dirt.
"It's time to go home," she tells him when the sun goes down, drying the suffering on her face, baking it into her body. How to let go, she thinks, how to reach? Cracked fingernails rake down her cheek, peeling away the sorrow and skin, digging up the sadness and sin.
Listless, he shakes his head. "There is no time," he murmurs, limp inside the leaves.
She takes him on, lifts him to her back, and carries him home up the hillside, and in the morning he will roll down again, roll down to rest again, roll down, roll down, again, again, and come to rest, and come to drift, roll down again and come to rest beneath the tree.
The demon king had risen, and there were ashes in her mouth.
"Which one?" he'd said,
almost, nearly dead.
Fingers twined, she stepped from heaven down to hell, and found what she wanted there.
(His pretty corpse shines bright inside the circles,) and to the test is placed her sad and empty life.
"And I shall stay here, with my afflicted brother."
From behind the seven gates, the demon king reaches out, cuts through the world, and brings him back and seals him in, and carves the sacred word upon his brow.
Blood and clay, blood and clay, and her flesh and blood was cold as marble against her face.
She looped the chains around her rival, sealed her to the ground. "This," she said, settling in beside him, "is where I am meant to be."
And so it was.
"He died," Kohaku remembers once again, "in a fire."
Words fall from his lips, patter down like fingertips, down to the floor below, and beneath the floor, down to the earth, fall little words of little worth.
"Yes," she says, "he did."
"Ah." He turns in his endless circle, rolling through the world. "And there is nothing left."
Half sick of shadows, she holds him near, moves her lips across his cheek. "No," she whispers, "we are here."
"And here it ends."
And here are the walls of the hut, and here is the door. Here is the fire in the floor.
Here the huntress comes to rest, and here her heart abides.
And this is where her secret hides.
In the morning he is gone, slipping through the empty space, the door swaying back into place behind him, drawing steel against his skin. In the dirt he splashes prettily, leaking gently into the world and she walked by.
She was angry, and pulled the bandages tight around his wrists, tight around him, binding him to her with four quick loops.
Sango kisses him hard when he wakes up. "I'm running out of cloth," she tells him.
The skin of her palms is rough and scabbed, and he slips from her grasp and tumbles past. "Why won't you stop?" she pleads. "Why won't you stop?"
"I know. I know."
You chose this, he reminds her through his teeth of stone.
I know, she says.
There were demons once, and they passed down all the roads met their fate in the smiling arms of hell, and were purified by a priestess' touch.
In the rice paddies, the clouds rise.
The huntress grits her teeth, her hand is stilled.
The burden of her heart, the silence of the years,
She hopes the priestess feels her tears.
She hid his blade, and all the lengths of cloth, and it's only a matter of time until he follows the length of icy chain into the woods.
(His breath stills, and she sings, she screams, she sings him back to life again.)
And this time, he burns and she cries as she bats the flames from his life. He didn't even wait for her to fall asleep, for her to turn her back. One moment dead and tired and the next: face-down in the fire.
"No!" she screams. "No, no!"
She fastens her hands into his burning hair,
And whispers in his ear,
Wonders what he hears
The wind is in the walls, the wind is in the walls.
"Tell me who you are."
I am gone. I am gone.
"We are here," she whispers heavy, echoing in the--
something kind just found me.
"But there is nothing left," he says.
"But we are here."
I am gone.
A smile for my lady.
The huntress laughs and moves beneath him.
I wonder why.
"Porquoi? Il faut
she grins and sighs
and slides a foot
against his thigh.
The hunter and the huntress, the huntress and the hunted, the hunted hunted man, meet inside the storm, meet beneath the pipal tree, meet inside the beat of starling's wings and hope to suffer less.
I thought it was a test.
Tisiphone's long arms found him, finally, and brought him home to rest.
just a riddle
in nine syllables,
brings him back to life again.