Acts of Love And Pleasure

GODS & RADICALS

Short fiction from Emma Brooks


“The blessings of Aradia and Cernunnos be upon this creature of salt.”

There’s an itch on my arse. I try to wriggle, rub it without being obvious, but my hands are bound too tightly to my chest.

The smell of sandalwood and cinnamon warms the room, and the radiators click and creak. The heat only makes the itch worse.

What if it’s a spot? I should have checked.

I should have skipped that pasta yesterday too. I must have the biggest belly here.

Under the blindfold, I can see the pebbles they used to lay out the circle, and I prod one of them with my big toe.

Should I have painted my nails? Would that have looked a bit shallow?

Dave finishes his speech, and the room is silent, except for the scuffle of naked feet on the carpet, and the occasional small cough.

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Shelter

The road became a river. The rain didn’t fall, but hurled itself at the land as if it would drown it all, the village, the hill, the grave – mounds. The water rose up to my waist. Underneath it, roots tried to grab me and pull me down.

I saw an open door and I took it; A hollow tree, a shelter with enough room for most of me if I pressed my face tight against the rotting wood. 

I didn’t hear anything scuttle, or creep, over the storm.

 I didn’t hear it until it grabbed me and pulled me in.

Forest

I want to know what those ancient trees have seen. I want to know what sort of men they’ve let pass under their arms, what kind of violence those fallen leaves have quietly buried.

Well. If they care they’re keeping it to themselves.

I stamp on the back of the shovel with my boot, and dig the hole a few inches deeper, getting down into the black, wet soil. She’ll rot quick, down here.

She is wrapped in black sacks. There are five of them; I can’t remember which bits are where. I slide them all in and push the mud back over the pile.

Above me, the trees watch, and rattle their hands.

On the way back to the road I hear voices. Shouts. Barks. It’s dark already, too late for walkers, and the police wouldn’t be here,  not with their dogs, not unless they’d found her car.

There’s rope, and bin bags, and bloodied clothes, in her car.

I leave the path, stomping over the roots and the brambles as quickly as I can without tripping, followed by the crying and snorting of dogs, the buzz of walkie – talkies, the slamming of van doors. I drop the shovel and run.

It’s her car. I stride over a ditch. Nothing connects me to it, nothing of mine, no fingerprints. I wade through wet ferns. If I can get out of here and home without being seen, there’s nothing to connect me with her at all. I stamp in a puddle. I could even go to the pub. I should go to the pub. I should sit under warm lights with a beer and the laughter of old locals and the click- tap of snooker cues and forget about her and act normal.

A root catches my foot and I’m thrown to the ground.

It takes a minute to realise why I can’t get up, why the inside of my coat is damp.

I’ve been impaled on a stick. I can’t feel it yet but I can see it’s tip, peeking out just below my ribs, red flesh clinging to the splintered edge.

The dogs are running, over pathways, over mud, calling their handlers closer. I can’t do much but lie here and look up. The tree above me waves its fingers happily.

Well. Perhaps they do care, after all.

Hearth mother, peace weaver

Babies are ordinary. Most people will come across one, sooner or later. But they don’t  feel ordinary, not when they’re yours. I’m quite convinced that mine is perfect; Too many night feeds may have dissolved my capacity for rational thought.

Frigg can be seen as a kind of role model. Smart, independent, a valued wife, she is hearth- mother and peace- weaver, a figure to thank for our fertility and prosperity.  A focus on Frigg can help us to see the home itself as something more than ordinary, a sacred space as important as any grave-mound or temple.

The home is where you take care of your family, where you take care of  your guests.

It is the heart of hospitality. Everything we do, friendships, work, it all comes back to the home. To honour Frigg is to acknowledge its importance.  

I sing nursery rhymes to the baby, when she’s tired, and I’m tired, and there’s magic in that small act, in doing a thing that every mother has done to a child since our especially developed species of ape learnt to sing.

I will pass on all the little songs that my parents sang to me. I will pass on the stories of Frigg.

I will remain convinced that every ordinary thing the baby does is somehow amazing, even when I’ve had some some sleep.

Warlock

The roses are rage-red, some bright, some wilted, all shaking in the summer wind, thorns long and sharp and slick with rain. Every year more blooms emerge, bursting with their bloody colour, every year.

I tried to stop it once; sick of being told it was pretty, I hacked at the many-headed thing like a righteous knight but it did no good. Every year more blooms emerge. I lost a battle with a fucking plant.

Some idiot online wrote that rose petals were good for sweets, face masks, and love spells. I knew mine better. I hid nine thorns in the centre of a bud. I carved a slip of wood with a name. I reddened both with blood from thorn-pricked veins and buried them, not in my own garden, but under the fence, sneaking under the boundary of that old warlock next door. I won that one. I watched him wilt and fail until he fell and broke his hip.

Not so pretty now is it?