Artemis Drifting

Just because she tippietoes, doesn't mean she's a creepin'.



“I messed up again, didn’t I?”

We sat on a grassy island, wrapped by a cold stream.

Keith stretched his legs until his heels almost skimmed the water. “Yeah, a little.”

I drew my legs up to my chest, wrapping my arms around my knees. “I keep taking it out on every one else, and when I’m not, I’m at my own throat.”

He smiled that lazy smile, rolling over onto his back and propping his head up with the palm of his hand. “You know there’s only one person who can judge you. You don’t keep having to weigh your own sins and kindness against one another.”

I rested my face against my forearms, nose tucked into the space of my left elbow. “I haven’t heard Him in a long time. All he does is reach down to earth and pull me away from disaster. Then He’s gone. I’m still without any answer to where I’m supposed to go.”

Keith reached out and wrapped his hand around my golden brown braid. He stroked it down until it ended at the small of my back. “You’re standing in front of yourself.”

The affection only pushed me towards a quiet weeping, tear drops dusting the fine blonde hairs on my arms. “I can’t see beyond myself.”

“Bingo, kiddo. You know you can. Maybe one day you won’t need me anymore. Maybe you won’t need any of us anymore.”

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Pearl touched her fan to her mouth, allowing each fold to pass over her lips. “Well, there’s no helping it then.”

Jasmine scrunched her fingers into her dress and leveled her gaze forward. “I wish there was something I could do.”

The fan snapped shut and touched Pearl’s throat, her smile indulging. “I don’t. This is how you’re meant to be.”

Jasmine felt her cheeks burning and worried the fabric in her hands, “I wish you had warned me about how love is. You gave me so many books with knights, princesses and pleasant endings. Each of them contained a little piece of a dream I wanted.”

Pearl arched her brows and eased back into her chair, folding one long length of her leg over the other. “My dear, there’s nothing I could have taught you about love outside of fiction and fairy tales. You talk to me like I should have warned you, prepared you, or given you instructions on how to experience it.”

“You should have! Maybe then, I wouldn’t have-” she holds a gloved hand just under her mouth, preparing to cover it at any moment. “If I had known I would have run away.”

Pearl closed her eyes.

Jasmine felt a sob building in her throat and swallowed it with a painful grimace. “Now I’m consumed. All I think about is the moment I see him again. I cannot even pin my hair without thinking of how he …”

“Unpinned it.” Pearl finishes.

Jasmine put both hands over her face, her fingers tight together as she covered her eyes, feeling her own breath rolling back against her cheeks. “Please don’t say such vulgar things.”

The chair creaked as Pearl took leave of it, kneeling in front of Jasmine. She began to smooth the wrinkles from the gauzy fabric. “You won’t think of it that way, in time. You’ll learn to appreciate those feelings, regardless of how they seem to have your heart in rough seas.”

Tears ran down Jasmine’s face until they stopped and soaked into her covered palms. “I don’t know what to do next.”

Pearl laid her head against the girl’s trembling knees, “That’s how you know it’s right.”


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An unsteady light flickered overhead, giving the illusion that the room’s shadows skirted towards her. Her naked feet were icy cold from the tiled floor. The old radiator was covered in a thick blanket of dust. But it didn’t stop her from peeling her shirt upward. It joined the lump of her jacket near her ankles.

In her mouth was pandora’s box, a miniature sliver of a coffin beneath her tongue.

It was all honey when she was untouched. She did so much good. But that didn’t matter now, not in this lonely bathroom. For as much good as she did, the bad always found her. She didn’t know how to do bad. So the box opened and swallowed the vile. The tiger would always eat her, for she was too fearful to crush even an ant in her flight. The coffin swelled when the bad men came.

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I put a picture away, I fold up a letter. I cry. I know this is natural, that this is healthy. It’s just something I’ve never done before. My memories wind into my DNA, using those curving ladders and their sparkling seats as home. I don’t know how to undo it, to break it apart and send those feelings flying would be breaking apart my very self. Whatever I am, whoever I am, whatever I’m going to become.

I take a breath and put my head in my hands. I feel my hair slump over my fingers. I’ve reached the two roads and there’s no sign post. There’s no warnings. I can’t just walk straight ahead, there’s a dark gulf between them that I know is bottomless. Sitting at the point is no option either, my choice to remain still would rob the color from my hair and bleach my corneas bone white.

Either way is hard. Either way is perilous. One road welcomes me with willow trees and a path as soft as moss. The other is murky, uncertain of itself, in the space of a blink the curves ahead can twist into unconquerable loops. I’ve never taken the easy way out, that much I know about my character; I also know things have never been easy for me, and my triumphs over the many darknesses that have followed me since my childhood have served to make me resilient.

I know sometimes I step up to the arena to fight a battle that I know I cannot win. I take blow after blow, spitting out blood and teeth for a dream I’m not even optimistic about. I torture myself with the possibilities, I torture myself with what I’ve lost. I’m under the bright lights and I cannot see anything beyond the ropes keeping me inside. I tell myself I don’t need to be rescued: I beg to be rescued. I want to stop this brutality on my soul, I want to crawl away from the kicks battering at my ribs.

I want the path that makes me happy. I want. I want. I never knew I could want. I never knew I could want something for myself. My life has been by proxy, living in the smiles and tears of others. Now my body burns from the inside, calling out for the hand to lift me away from it all. My Lord saved my soul, now I want someone to save my life. I used to feel that it was weak to need, to open up, to use someone’s shoulder when I’m stumbling. I wanted to be the horse that steadfastly carried my loved ones to safe havens, crossing whatever perilous land ahead.

I don’t want to be a means to an end for anyone anymore. I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want to be a saint. I just want to turn my face up into the autumn wind and not have tears running back towards my temples. I want to stop telling myself I’m alone, spinning away with no tether to the ground. If I am water, then always, I will fall back to earth. I have to remember that.

I want to be the rain that fills someone’s upturned hands. I want to be a precious heat inside of someone’s heart.

I want, I want, I want.

And thank God.

It’s Amazing

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She sits on the edge of the table, her toes pointed downward. “It’s funny.” her head rolls back, “It’s sad.” now her tongue is touching her left canine. “It’s important.”

With considerable grace she slides from the table, her heels arching high into the air. “They hate you for your strength. Your unpredictability. Everything that you can do and undo. You don’t disappear well. Every box you outgrow.”

Now her fingers slide against calloused palms. “They resent your courage when they cannot move. They fear you because you are fearless.”

Carefully she pushed forward, tipping weight between two bodies. One slid forward. One slid back. “And here you want to shed your wings? You’re mad. Will you cut your talons and file your teeth? You can change everything ahead of you, you can conquer the universe.”

She felt resistance now, knowing that she could never break that balance. So instead, she fell forward into a chest that rose and fell ever so evenly. “Don’t let them tar and feather you. Don’t let their hateful labels stick. No one that loves you would want to push you to the ground. No one that cares for you would cut you just to see you bleed.”

“Run as hard and as fast as you can into the light. Let the water split beneath your feet and leave a hot mist behind you so they can never see where you go. Stop looking at them, their eyes are ivy around your feet. Don’t give up. You’re good. Please don’t ever give up.”

Water cut her across the face as she fell backward, shielding her eyes as the splash scattered blue gems. She felt a great wake in the air and stared over her shoulder.

“Keep moving, dear one, I’ve passed the torch to you.”


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Mary pushed her hands down on Luke’s head, squeezing her fingertips down in a drum-like rhythm. “Come on! We’ve got to get closer, I want to see the fireworks go over the bridge.”

“Oof.” He adjusted his balance and shuffled through the tightly packed audience. “Quit grabbing my hair.”

Mary grinned wildly and squeezed her legs until her heels nipped in at his ribs, “Ya!”

Luke pursed his lips and drew them to the left. “I am not a horse.”

“You’re right. You’re more like a bull. Charge!” she rocked with impatience, the movement jarring her short hair along her jaw.

He gripped her calves and edged closer still to the railing. Luke took the annoyed stares of the jostled in stride. A crazy woman was driving him, what could he do?

Mary released his hair and drew deeply of the night air, the delightful smell of spent fireworks heavy in the July heat. “Oh wow. We’re gonna be able to see everything.” when Luke didn’t answer, she continued on. “I’ve always wanted to see this. The last time we were in the back of a truck, remember? It was so weird. We were all crushed together but ..”

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“I can’t get it.” Keith groaned, his body bending so far over his drafting table that weight pressed dangerously on Ikea Territory.

Dessie, the sulky room-mate, flicked a spent butt at a clay ashtray. Another miss. It only added to the dozens of other misses. For all practical purposes, her ashtray was the entire planet earth. She dug her tongue into the gap between her teeth, mumbling around the awkward twist of her tongue. “Of courf you can.”


Dessie spit free the food lucky enough not to get ground to digestible quality against those nicotine stained choppers. “Can’t. You can’t.”

Keith snapped back around and pretended to focus on the spread of notes on his desk. Lyrics, poems, stories and letters. The summary of a man’s desperation.

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“It’s that time of the sunset again.” she murmured, staring at the orange sky over the rim of her glasses.

Her companion sunk deeper into the half egg-shell chair, “Why can’t you just say how you feel?”

She smiled, an ivory flash showing between two fingers that framed her lips in a horizontal peace sign. “But that is how I feel.”

“You’re a human being, not a time of day. Though with how weird you are, I’m starting to doubt the former part of my observation.”

The hundred year old seat bottom creaked beneath her as she rose to her feet and then stretched onto the balls of her feet. “That’s how I got here you know.” Two fingers came up and tapped on the shallow dent of her right temple.


She closed one eye, grinned, and arched her thumb to resemble the hammer of a gun.



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The crosswalk glowed as a lingering high five.

She stood there with a sullen expression, watching the duplicate machine across the street count down.

Where she was from, you never had to wait to go. The concept was alien because her people’s independence had plenty of room to stretch out and grow.

She was angry that the city was more honest. It wrote unspoken rules and drew invisible lines.

Tucking her thumbs, she waited.

The hand turned to numbers. Somewhere, on the other side, time had run out.

Her shoulder bent inward as she was jostled forward, and she begrudgingly stepped into the street. Just even listening to the electric humming over her head felt like a betrayal.

But she …

She had never felt so alone than the moments she stood there waiting.

The light that sluiced between the buildings blinded her, and cupping one hand over her forehead she proceeded forward.

Ah…God, it was so bright.


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“You fall off your fence, buddy?”

I laid there, breathing in the chalky dust. In some last stubborn act, my arm was still looped across the rough bottom rung.

The crackling of my dusty gloves were louder then I ever would’ve thought right now.

“Yeah, somethin’ like that.”

He leaned over his fence, muddy sweat filtering through the stiff grains of his beard like the process of shifting. “Gonna get up?”

I sunk my head back into the greasy, untangled mop beneath my skull and closed my burning eyes. “Maybe.”

He flicked a heavy glob of mud from the cleft of his chin, “You’re still on about the ashes thing, ain’t you?”

“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust.” I quote, voice dry and bitter. “You get to burn and twist off in papery molten capes towards the sky.”

The mud strikes a clump of her hair. “So, Dust – how you doin’ with that then?”

I hunched forward, lifting my chin to draw my eyes towards the dark skies above. The movement revealed the pale ribbons of pasty flesh between each ring of soot on my skinny neck. “Dust.” I whispered, again, pushing away from the fence and into the ragged terrain.

“It was never Dust to Ashes.”

I walk away from him now, the earth’s heartbeat lancing up through the dry soil to strike me as yet another artery for substance. It’s supposed to hurt a little more than this, but nothing…

After all, I am Dust.