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Serpent's Nest ::Prologue::There is a map of London on the ceiling. It is drawn in flaking plaster and stains where the attic pipes leak. When dusk falls, the shadows of the birdcage melt into the Thames and its tributaries. Although the cage is empty, the room is not.
A nightingale hops along the dirty floor, bobbing its head to an invisible beat. A hunk of stale bread pokes out from beneath the bed; the bird falls upon it and rips it to pieces. The room's sole other occupant says nothing, even as the hard crumbs pepper his arms. The nightingale hops closer. It beats its wings against the man's arms, trilling softly.
There is no response. James remains sitting, unmoving but for when he blinks. The nightingale pecks the crumbs off his arms, drawing speckles of blood. When it has gotten every crumb it can, it turn to hop away. He grabs it. It trill
resurrectionThis is the last thing I will forget. The grey of the gravel, the whites and blacks so small you only ever see them when you're staring. When you're searching for something. Then I see the blood in my mind's eye, the red like wine that dried to rust; but it's gone and you're gone, and there's only the gravel.
And on the third day, he rose again...
But you did not. Not on the third day or the fourth day or the fifth. I was waiting for you to come back and say it was just a mistake or a dream or something. And then I would curl up against you and your warmth would chase the chilling nightmares away. But you didn't come back.
I was waiting by the swingset when dawn broke on the seventh day. There was dew on the ground and I stood there until my bare feet became green and brown from weeds and woodchips. You didn't come then, either. I don't know what I was doing wrong.
Rose Redin the cold (untouchable
by blankets and old socks filled with rice
and warm from the microwave)
the roses bloom red
but the thorns are redder
and the dying petals reddest
while caressing golden bodies
in a parody of romance
soiled and broken,
on cheap motel sheets---
there will be another rose tomorrow,
and another girl,
and another Beast left dying
in the cold as the roses
Spectre"I always loved you, you know." James is staring at the ceiling, where the dripping air conditioner from the next floor up had made a blurred map of China. His eyes are half-lidded, smudged shadows with long lashes. "Even when I hated you."
He doesn't turn his head, doesn't look at the body beside him. The warmth he can feel is enough, and there are some things it's easier to say like this -- in darkness, when the tangled minds begin to pull apart. He feels Charlie stiffen but he doesn't pull away, not yet, and James knows he shouldn't say this but he goes on anyway. He will blame it on the alcohol and the heady rush of tangled limbs, these words that should never be spoken and have been kept silent too long.
"Even before I knew it was wrong." He licks his lips, nervously, not like he had before when he was leading Charlie to his bed. No one had noticed them leave, with the music blaring
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