Revenance- free preview pages for my newsletter subscribers

I come scratching at your window,
wraith claws caked with mud,
hair sooty with revenant smoke
from our embered fire.
Where you walked,
where you ate
encoded in me
like a reflex gasp,
a ruminated cud
resurging from dissolution.
A strand of your hair,
a yo-yo thread
binds me to you
with need and dread.
A lagging distemper
as I tap the glass
with bleeding palms
by your
subcutaneous touch.

The end times are coming, or so the preachers say, scuttling about like roaches, thriving on oblivion.  In the meantime, I rest, not at peace, waiting for my Awakener. 

A flower rots in my cramped fingers. Pretty little lily corrupted. Visions of half-attained desires, scenes from books and movies that fueled my imagination combine in crazed mutations, atrocities of invention and compulsion, the poison apple visions of a slumbering Snow White whose prince has not yet come. I see my fragmented scream in a shard of shattered glass as the too-late brakes squeal with futile remorse, and then I am silenced, shrouded, entombed.  

I wait for the call, the kiss. My muse is here. Time to kill, then time to arise.


Invisible to human eyes, he walks through the white corridors of the old medical school hospital, looking for those who are praying for deliverance. 

Raspy, wheezing, cajoling, demanding, obsequious, desperate, the voices only he can hear call to him. He is their savior, their lost love, their forsaken but fervently desired hope, their nullifying nowhere-guiding last embrace. 

A sigh, like a drooping flag, signals surrender. He pauses, breathes in the subtle scent which, eluding antiseptic, tantalizes his nostrils. It summons him, and he approaches the little girl from whom it so seductively emanates.

Tubes slither from her frail, bruised arms, tubes ferrying clear liquids and dispatching yellow fluids. She is the port through which these watery cargoes proceed. 

One liquid flows untubed, undisturbed. Underneath her cool, blue-white flesh this liquid churns—warm, pulsing. Placing his fingers against her neck, he feels the wild throbbing of hidden tides.

Her eyes open, their dark brown depths muddied by disease. A tall, slim man stands beside her, his long black hair shimmering darkness within a halo of flame. Fire of warmth, fire of comfort.  She smiles, thinking of Christmas stockings and her grandfather’s cottage, the Yule log burning.

The flames surrounding the stranger billow towards her. They are everything she wants them to be. Her will is their command. All she has to do is make a wish and they will become her favorite things. They flicker, becoming blurry, malleable dream taffy shaped by her imagination.

Kittens with fluffy fur play by the hearthside, tickling her toes. Silver tinsel dangles from a Christmas tree, the pine scent, ancient yet fresh, promising blissful surprises.  Red foil packages seem to wink at her as the flirtatious flame reflections glide across the shiny wrappings.  Everything twinkles and sparkles in a firework bravado she hopes will never subside.

His lips, soft as her mother’s satin nightgown, press against her throat. He cradles her in his arms, the flames beckoning her into their warmth.

That paler wisp of flame is a golden pony, its darker companion a stately stallion. The black stallion whinnies softly, inviting her to climb upon his back. 

“Yes,” the stranger says gently. “All the pretty little horses, all your favorite things are yours, forever and ever.” 

She grasps the black mane and clutches tight, as eyes closed, she feels a soaring gallop merging her with a force stronger than any fairytale magic. Riding with this force, fused with it, she is flying into a radiant sunset, which, like the fireplace flames, bathes her in warmth. The rays of the ebbing sun reach towards her, orange red tendrils caressing.  “Hush . . . shhhh,” they whisper as a darkness even more beautiful than the black horse, dappled ponies, fluffy kittens, or endlessly twinkling tinsel, ushers her into its sheltering, inescapable depths.


On the hill the graves of unbaptized children stand, apart from all the others. The wind blows colder there, as if abandoned by God, there is no warmth or shelter anymore. Inside the tiny coffins the remnants of briefly-lived bodies decay, baby bones snapping like twigs in the remorseless crush of time. Above the bones and worms and damp earth, the spirits flutter, moths seeking light. 

They wait for their wishes to be granted. They wait for their prince to come. They wait for ice cream and watermelon, tinsel-bedecked Christmas trees, all the delights of life they had lost, all the happy-ever-after futures their parents and the fairytales told them could come true.  

 Fragile dandelion seed fluff hovers over their graves, upside down spiders hanging by silken silver legs, fairy messengers bringing wishes from dead little girls and boys. The voices and memories of these lost children echo in this neverland vortex. I hear the whisper of the endlessly recurring dreams, the hiss of candle flames being snuffed again and again. Never will their wishes be granted. Never will they be adults.  Never will they be anything.

A new member tonight enters the ranks of the dead. Whether she will join those on the cold, windy hill, whether her wishes are to be granted or whether she will forever be kept waiting, I do not know. My muse has sealed shut her eyes. 

Down she falls, her body as light and insubstantial as the faltering fluff. Down we all fall, ashes to ashes. Like her, like the children on the hill, I, too, had once believed in fairies and wishes come true. 

For years, it seems, I had waited as I grasped the decapitated dandelion stems and watched the parachuted seeds float above the unevenly paved driveway, relaying my wish to a faraway kingdom in the sky. Ignoring the seeds fallen wind-thrashed upon the cement, I thought about my wish, my fingernails etching stigmata of bloody battered beliefs upon my palms. 

Scratches became scabs. Scabs, dug open, became scars, port holes of infection proliferating as my childhood wishes metamorphosed into futile, intangible desires.  I yearned for something as yet nameless and elusive.  I seethed with anger.

 In a blur of rage, I would plug my guitar into the amplifier. Nourished by the rage of my bandmembers and my audience, I would, at the end of the performance, walk down the alleyway leading to my home, unconcerned with the blowfly buzzing of people and the huffing frenzy of traffic-congested cars. My ears sizzled, manic radio broadcasts hissing in arcane tongues. I didn’t hear the predatory snuffle of the approaching car. By the time I heard the gloating growl of its engine and baboon-like shriek of its brakes, I was unable to escape. Mangled, broken, obliterated, I now am covered by layers of ever darkening shadows.

The chill of inevitability seeps from the ground up, a chill as desolate and distressing as the eternally damned.  I hear their cries, these lost souls, children and adults, who have given up all but their most desperate hopes. No longer do they wish for the comforting joys of life, the simmering summer barbecues and gentle motherly kisses.  They have forsaken the fairy messengers and other whimsically enchanting emissaries of youthful imagination. There is nothing innocent or happy about their hopes. They crave absolution, only that. I feel their knotted, clammy, granite-grey fingers as they grasp mine. They cling to me, clawing, pleading with me to intercede for them, their flesh falling from their bones and sticking to me like a layer of adhesive leprous skin. 

I cannot help them, nor can I help myself.  All I can do is wait.

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Writings by Alison Armstrong