Category Archives: personal darkness


(The story alternates between the Chola and Lankan sides. Here’s what’s going on on the other end of Sri Lanka. Picture is of  the Temple Tank beside Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur.)

Sri Lanka, Chola conquest
Mahatittha Harbor,
1029 A.D. -Year of the Buddha 1573
Stray sunbeams tore angrily through the curtain of clouds, illuminating the ominous shapes of powerful Chola ships on the horizon. They were pulling into ever-shallower water as they moved through the waves, the brawny arms of the oarsmen driving them forwards.
The men on the shore at the harbor quickly readied the area for the seamen to disembark.  More ships were anchored here in deep water off the rocky islands off Manthotam. Masts and sails stuck out, a warning sign as potent as the quills of a porcupine. The stone walls of a fortress towered over even them, an orange banner emblazoned with a pouncing tiger fighting against the wind and signaling the oncoming task force forwards into safe waters.
The coastguards patrolling the mouth of the bay set off to guide the approaching ships into the harbor.
Their relatively smaller boats flanked the vast hulk of the leading battle cruiser as they signaled to the men aboard.
Dock workers piled out, as did a number of elephants, ready for any heavy lifting. The beasts were still nervous despite the presence of mahouts on their backs. These men steered the elephants with expert skill from their posts on the backs of the creatures.
“Keep them steady!” A man on horseback raced forward. Four more men flanked him, but he stuck out from the rest. Even one of the elephants almost bucked, releasing a startled bellow at the sight of the leader. His horse, for one, was an enormous animal, flowing black mane glowing in the sunlight. Its jet-black flanks were hewn with muscle and bathed in sweat. A terrifying flame blazed in its eyes, and even the mahout grew unsettled as the creature neighed and reared up suddenly.
“Whoa Kalki! Calm down, brother, calm down”-the horseman lovingly patted the monstrous horse’s neck as it paced menacingly-“and you, mahout! If that lump of fat does anything to my horse, I’ll make sure to separate your head from your body.”
One of the other men drew up, raising a cloud of dust behind him. “Sir, would you like a report? I just got”-
“Later, Harihar, later. First, we need to welcome that fool Balaram properly. He calls himself a man of high standards, so he does. Bah! Just between ourselves, lieutenant, I’ve never really like the navy. I don’t like long voyages either. Why else do you think I put out from Rameshwaram when the lot of you came here from Arikamedu? The distance was much shorter, and anyway it’s my birthplace. I have every reason to go there whenever I like. Sure, our old friend Raman blew his top when I refused to obey his orders. But I got my way in the end. I always do. But tell me Harihar, are all roads to Jananatha cleared and ready for the new troops to pass? I don’t particularly like the governor, but still…”
“You never liked anyone, SenathipathyBrahmarajan. It’s not news to me.”
The lieutenant was younger and leaner than the broad-shouldered Senathipathy. A wispy beard covered his cheeks, but his eyes were still puffy from lack of sleep. A large vein traced itself across his bicep as he gripped his horse’s reins even tighter. Harihar looked uncertainly at his commanding officer as his hair was whipped by a sudden gust of wind. The stormy eyes of his commander echoed the approaching storm that Lord Indra was about to unleash.
His mount shifted its weight uncomfortably as he glanced out to sea. “I think we should take shelter. And hope that the ships can all weigh anchor here.”
“It’s my job to worry about that, Harihar.” He steered Kalki effortlessly to his right and halted. “Harbormaster, are the stores ready?”
“Yes they are my friend,” answered the old harbormaster with a knowing smile. His hand went up to the commander’s back as he continued, “We can get through this, Narasimha, we can and we will. I never asked for a war like this. I do believe that this is the toughest resistance I’ve ever seen from any of our colonies overseas. Vikramabahu is king of a mere sliver of this island but he fights with the inner fire and determination of a true, all-powerful Chakravarthy. I admire the man for that, but I also fear him.”
One of the larger supplies ships had pulled into port and the dock workers and deckhands hauled out luggage of all sorts, carting it off to the stores.
Very few of the elephants were needed in the end, but those that were required, carried immensely heavy chests filled with weapons and armor.
Someone shouted, “Harbormaster! Sir! There appears to be an excess of spears, and we have severely under-stocked when it comes to swords and shields. We have just enough maces to last us for a while though.” He ran up to the officer, panting, as he held out a scroll on which he’d written down the details of the store capacity.
His handwriting was atrocious and the old man strained his eyes crossly as he attempted to make out the scrawled Tamil.
The harbormaster grumbled and spurred his horse into a quick gallop as he raced away from his companions. Sacks of dry rations were hefted up onto the backs of some of the stronger men and even a few of the biggest oarsmen kindly assisted the workers. Narasimha and Harihar themselves galloped off to where the new ships had been docked. The battleships guarding the supply vessels were now jostling for a good spot to moor themselves. A few other ships already at Manthotam had to move away slowly, making room for the approaching vessels. After all, they were on an island. There were plenty of ports about.
Narasimha, still astride Kalki, skirted around as boats were put out from the largest battleship in the squad.
He whispered to the harbormaster, “Allow that ship into the harbor. No sense for Balaram to stay out in the bay.” In reality, the battleship was not far from shore, virtually within stone’s throw. The harbormaster raised a grey eyebrow quizzically as he watched the boat coming ashore, the rowers raising their oars up as three men made walked up the harbor steps. Their leader breathed deeply as he looked around.
His eyes caught a glimpse of a metal-grey sky above him.
They blinked rapidly when a long, stray hair escaped from under his polished helmet.
They also caught sight of the large, broad man astride a huge horse, black as night itself, with a strong and square-jawed face and curled mustache, as well as a small white mark, the traditional mark, which struggled to stay still against the rive of sweat on his large forehead.
The sizeable dimple at the end of his chin flexed into shape as easily as his powerful arms did when he smiled at the lead man who walked up the steps.
“I see you’re just as joyous as ever my dear friend!” He warmly put his hands together, dismounting when the three visitors reached the top. Scores of men, all determined soldiers still in civvies for ease of travel during the voyage, appeared as more boats were put out of some of the ships that had been anchored further out.
“Just explain something to me, Balaram,” continued Narasimha, “I suppose you have your own professional reasons for dumping yourselves here? We have enough warriors as it is, but I do hope that there are enough cooks and doctors in your ships. There’s a shortage of those as it is, and we have had a few losses out here. What’s surprising”-he put his arm across his friend’s back-“is the number of defeats here in the north. Granted, our last siege was a complete disaster, but we have had plenty of successes too.”
Balaram sighed with a shake of his head. He looked Narasimha directly in the eye, but his expression was unreadable for a while. A vein appeared gently pushed his friend’s arm away. “You won’t like Raman’s newest decision, that’s for sure. You’re already one of his best commanders but are also a huge thorn in his side as he so eloquently and unapologetically puts it. He believes that your methods are, well, off the record and that you’re too much of a risk taker.”
A mask of bitterness strapped onto Narasimha’s face as he beckoned the harbormaster and his lieutenant.
“So he doesn’t agree with me? I could say the same”-his tone grew venomous as he handed Kalki’s reins to one of the stable boys-“although I will not do what he wants. Well, you know I have my ways, don’t you? I’m going to the lavatory. Plus I’ve got a few more appointments with some top officials. Go to the harbormaster’s office Harihar. Take Balaram with you.”



(Part Four, the final chapter)

The port of Devanagara.
Not the most exceptional part of the Principality of Rohana, with its small seaward-facing towns and the scent of salt rich in the senses of the bhikkus. Simple people, from fishermen with their lean oarsmen’s muscles to wealthy captains of mighty trading vessels, mingled with the crowd of Buddhist devotees. The rain was coming down hard on Devanagara.
The streets were a quagmire where there was mud, and a slippery hazard where there were paving-stones.
The trail of saffron-hued monks took each step with the slow dignity of gods among men, their devotees and temple workers shielding them with their parasols. The wind chill bit angrily at them and their robes wrapped ever-tighter around their bodies.
The young monk too had his share of trouble.
Mud sloshed under his feet, and the cacophony of toads in the drains stung his ears, some of them hopping around him, their cold eyes smiling ominously at the hordes of flies. He hiked up the trailing edge of his robe to avoid mud splashing against it. The vile little creatures seemed to be judging him; but when the slender form of a rat snake slipped by his heart was in his mouth. A tumbling vortex of feeling gushed out from the dark shores of his mind as he watched the reptile swimming through the deep puddles, searching for a dry haven down a gutter. Its shiny form glistened in his mind as the world around him grew dark…
The memory stormed through him…
He felt his young body becoming supple and slick with oil a mere two years after he’d lain with her. The room was dark but for the set of candles that glowed on the bedside table. A pile of jasmine and water lillies was heaped around them, the flame carrying the wondrous aroma in currents through the boudoir. Her slender hands worked tenderly across his soft body as the coconut oil seeped into his soft young skin. He trembled, fighting back hot tears as his sin bored into him.
Wandering off.
That would be his excuse.
But he was fifteen! Would be be so irresponsible at that age? What would truly be his excuse to have his goddess by him? He wanted to be a man.
Her kisses awakened what little strength his organ bore as he gripped the sides of his bed. His mind too was awakening as he took in her bronzed, majestic beauty. The silky tongue traced over him as she whispered into his ear.
“You’ve probably guessed at my race, haven’t you?” Her blade-sharp canines and inscisors, filed down to almost leopard-like points, nipped at his earlobe. “Our culture struggles against the grip of greater faiths which suffocate our lands, and that is why we are different. We break away from the all-seeing eyes of so many saints and gods who possess us. Let me show you, my little monk. The Naga race is extinct, but we still live on us long as our gods do. We”-she grinned lustfully-“are gods tonight, and here is our heaven.” The monk’s heart pounded against his chest, screaming in terror at the dancer’s vicious, hungry gaze. She straddled him with her strong, lithe legs as she towered over him.
“Lord Kamadeva is among us now!” she cried, ripping away her bodice. “My sweet, sweet darling, I will be the one you will never forget! You there”-she turned, barking at her tearful, trembling companion who stood by the door-“open the damn door. I want my Kali inside. And if you cry again I’ll slap you till you bleed. Same goes for you, boy. Now”-her tone became softer as she silenced his lips with a kiss-“are you ready?”
“Are you mad?” shrieked the other young woman, a pretty, petite girl of around twenty-three. “Both of you! This is a sin that neither of you will live with! Oh my lord, forgive me for this, but do you not have an oath of celibacy to follow? This must not happen tonight, I will not let it happen! This is a sin!” she struggled to keep the floodgates of her eyes closed, to keep the tears within her and cry in private. Her mind was stuffed with the horrors of the Six Hells, of flames rising sky-high, and pretas with immense bellies sticking obscenely out into their rotten world, slavering with hunger. Visions of Mara, King of Hell, danced past her as she watched her associate running her lips over he boy’s struggling body.
“In your damned faith maybe!” roared the Naga dancer, “but not in mine! Bring Kali inside now! And was it ever my sin? I could see this boy’s imagination flashing through his eyes when first we met two years ago. His hopes for me as he saw me, oh they were worthy  of a dog in heat.” She was salivating with excitement.
“So bring in Kali now.”
The other girl told a silent prayer, opened the door and ran outisde, shutting it firmly behind her.
She screamed once in terror, and then a Buddhist prayer rose from her as she crouched on the doorstep.
The monk’s lover shot him a predatory glance that chilled his blood, then turned her attention to the floor.
“My Kali wants to meet you now,” she smiled sweetly as she dismounted him and dropepd onto he floor. He closed his eyes as he shivered through the cold mist of horror that swirled around him. Her moans of pleasure grew in tempo, but most terrifying was the low hiss that accompanied her voice. A long rope was being passed over his body, rubbing excitedly past his thighs and circling around him. The rush of heat that flooded his body seemed to warm the chilled rope that wrapped around him.
He felt his legs growing sticky as fought stubbornly against the arousal.
The hiss-a rasping voice that felt like a blade being dragged over gravel- grew almost into a roar as he saw, with the corner of his eye, the candlelight reflected in an glassy black spot on the rope.
A rope which was rougher than a regular fiber-woven product…
So thick it was, that he could count its hard scales as it reared up above him…
The boy screamed and the vast cobra almost growled in a combination of anger and excitement as it showed off its hood. It was vast, more dragon than serpent as its great weight crushed against his chest. Its toothy jaws were open in defence.
The dreamy dancer willed the reptile to move up her body. “My Kali…” Her words felt trance-like. “Her mother is from the far-off country of Ramanna. My family raised my beautiful Kali from birth. In Ramanna, serpents grow larger and stronger than they do here in Lanka. They are powerful beasts, but even she is not the greatest of her race! But still”-she lowered the king cobra onto the bed as she doused herself in oil-“we Nagas worship them. Kali is a goddess among snakes.”  The light of the candle lit the left side of the dancer perfectly. The dark points of her nipples, the taut muscles of her stomach and the cleft of her sex were illuminated like mountains at sunset; thus she seemed to him like a spectre as she lowered herself onto the boy once more.
He kicked and struggled, whacking her in the hips and the belly as she allowed him inside her. She held so tightly onto his body that he wailed in a mix of pain and pleasure.
Everything around him was a red blur. His world was dominated by her lethal beauty, the wonder of her perfume and the suppleness of her oiled skin. The senses that he had hoped to sharpen as a bhikku-the forces in his mind which told him what was good and what was not-were dulled as his eyes grew blind with tears. He allowed his young body to be rocked by waves of perfect pleasure, while sixteen feet of serpent slithered around them, seeking the warmth that the fire of their lovemaking produced…
He almost fell face-forward into the mud.
“We’re nearly there,” hissed a middle-aged companion, catching him by the crook of the arm, “so don’t make a disgrace of yourself, please! This devotee is very important. He’s a merchant, a Tamil, who has just embraced the Dhamma. We need to show him what we truly are made of, and that won’t be possible if one of us looks even slightly dirty or undignified! So”-he grabbed the young monk bodily-“stop making a scene and waving your arms about, you’ll attract the wrong kind of attention!” Excusing himself, the older priest pulled the young man out of the once-orderly line. A senior bhikku or two glowered at him, but he indicated that the boy was ill and wanted some treatment.
“What are you doing?”
“She…she’s here!”
“Who is?”
The beautiful ghost danced past him, swaying her nude hips to excite his senses. He groped at her as she passed by.
“There!” he shouted. “My goddess has come! Let go of me, you old fool!” He struggled so much his robed nearly slipped out of his companion’s grasp. “She…my beautiful…she wants me…”
A much younger, slimmer monk drew up near them. “What’s going on here, sir? That’s my good friend!”
“Get away! He’s sick! Seems that he can see some goddess or woman or something in the line. Yes, there are women here, but you’ve been to enough ceremonies and alms-givings as it is. Control your thoughts and carry on. Mara is playing with you, don’t let him in,” the middle-aged monk told him sternly. “If he’s your friend, boy, here! I’ll leave him with you. It’s dangerous to do this sort of thing in front of people. Lord Buddha himself knows what kind of gossip these poisonous tongues will spread.” He handed the tempted man over to his younger friend.
The teenager whispered, “We can’t do this over here! I thought we went over this once.”
His hand busily worked at his friend’s shoulder as he looked around.
Already, some older men and women were crowding around the two young monks.
“Look here, you can take a rest after the ceremony if you feel ill, but try to look sharp during, please!” However, his voice was filled with uncertainty as he politely sent the throng of gossip-mongers away. One man though, was particularly hard to see off.
Creased hands held onto a gnarled stick as he steadied himself. He saw the teen monk’s older friend lying crumpled on the ground.
The monk’s face was a wide-eyes mask of horror, one arm reaching out for something invisible.  
“Come on, don’t phase out on me now!” shouted the teenager as he tried to shake his companion out of his vision. Her body filled his world, growing to him as huge as the cosmic mountain of Meru. The young boy was nearly in tears as the old man neared him. The man’s son held onto him.
“He sees a goddess, does he?” The hoarse, scraping voice breathed warmly into the boy’s ear. “He is merely hallucinating. I think you too have dreamed of beautiful women on many a night, haven’t you? It’s alright”-he smiled kindly when the boy gasped at the truth of his words-“I know you live a hard life. Not everyone can emulate the preachers of old. No, this world is too full of sin for that.  If you can control your human nature, you are a true monk, Reverend Sir. He, however…he is sick. The sickness grows inside his heart and mind, not in his body.”
The teenager looked at his friend, who was enveloped in the throes of madness.
“My angel, we were always meant to be together,” he called out mournfully as he rolled through the mud. Her perfume danced on the wet winds and every raindrop felt like her heavenly kiss. The gentle warbling music of her laughter became like white noise as his robe fell away. With a yell, his friend reached for him, but a spring of disgust and horror welled up inside his young heart.
Women and girls joked and jeered at the nude bhikku. He reached for his thighs as she bore down on him, allowing him into her gently.
She purred, “Love me, love me,” as the voice of reason slipped away from his grasp.
“Fight, damn you!” The teen reached out and made another grab at his friend, but tried to avoid slipping in the mud.
“All those years ago, we met, my goddess. I was so foolish! I resisted your power, but now we’re together! No other woman but you could love me for what I am. I resisted this, but no more now.” His goddess laughed beautifully as he kissed her.
So in her embrace did he drift away from the golden wonder of reality, and into the terrifying darkness of mad oblivion and all-consuming power of Lord Mara. The huge crowd beheld his shameful situation as she grew more real before him…
Shaken, the teenager looked up for a second. A cold-eyed woman, probably between her thirties and forties, was watching him. Her long hair, while predominantly black, was beginning to grow more silvery, although she still was beautiful.
Yet her beauty felt more like that of a proud, elegant and regal woman who had been highly successful during her lifetime.
Her white sari was wrapped tightly around her body, but she wore no bodice and her breasts were visible, pushing out against it. Her perfect, smooth stomach was left open to the elements, but the rain did not bother her much, even if the edge of her sari was lifted by the wind. Quickly, she smiled coolly at him. There was even a small snake of some sort-a young rat snake or water snake maybe-motionless by her right foot. Slightly disturbed though he felt, he smiled back briefly, then turned away from her.  Then he remembered that he’d noticed something unusual.
His mind still held the image of her twisted gold necklace with a many-headed serpent as a pendant…
And the sharp points of her canine teeth…


It was time to return to his own cave retreat once more.
To be out of the powerful rays of the sun was the best thing he could ask for. However there was still a scorching flame welling up within.
“And how come youdon’t want to leave me? Why are youhere? Does this mean I was never meant to go on the Buddha’s path?” he mused, gazing at the ceiling. A beautiful jewel wasp had built her nest in a small cavity in the right-hand corner. The tiny head of one of her offspring peeked through the hole, possibly crying to its mother for food.
He laughed slightly.
A wasp.
Crying and mewling in some hallowed insectoid language that only the most ancient of beings could properly comprehend. He thought of all the demons he had been taught about, the ones that the Lord had tamed through the power of his sublime philosophy. Then his mind wandered onto the worlds of the gods and goddesses. Another laugh rocked through his body and he looked down at himself. Perhaps this was his reason for being here…he was not meant for this life of penance. He was a god himself, was he not?
Tall, lean and sandy in hue, his smooth young body glistened in the stray shaft of light that peered perversely into the cave. The sword-like blade of light cut into the seemingly indestructible ceiling and eyed the beautiful, nude young man keenly. He allowed his feet to spin out of focus, swirling through and invisible vortex in which only he could travel. His deep black irises, soft lips and slightly feminine chin invited Surya’s untouchable beams to touch and caress his body. He pushed his own hands down his naked form, lingering at the deep dimple of his navel and down to the slender valleys of his thighs and groin. As he rubbed down he felt a rush of heat travelling back and forth across his body like a river.
“Maybe I am beautiful now so that…I can fall in love…with someone just as beautiful so we can be together, be gods united in flesh.”
 His voice wavered between the realms of dream and reality as the veil between the two worlds grew thinner.
Looking up at the beam of light he wrapped his body in the cloak of orgasm as his organ cried in pain and pleasure.
Small flakes of dust rose into the air when he knelt down, the weight of his dreams bearing down upon his back as he reached for the cave floor.
Each flake was perfect and untouchable as they glowed in the heavenly light streaking into the dark cavity. They danced as daintily as butterflies at a waterhole as they crossed into the arms of the gods above them.  He spotted her again, her angelic face floating down the beam. Gazing upwards in excitement, palms clutching the floor, the monk’s eyes grew lustful and then soft as his body shivered with each tender touch of her soft palms.
He lost himself as she spoke to him.
“Little boy. My sweet little boy. You are yet young, my dear, so don’t be frightened to try once more. Let me show you…” The hook of reality fished out the state of dream as he was flung onto the hard shores of reality, gasping for breath. But the world refused to turn. It shimmered instead, flowing and shifting before his incredulous eyes. Rock turned to water as the music of the damsel’s speech filled the cell.
With a scream he shot back up, the lithe muscles of his calves tensed as he stood.
What had he been doing? Had he forgotten his reason for being there?
In a flash he sheathed the freedom that seemed so attractive to him, as her laughter died away to an airy whisper. As he adjusted the vast length of saffron cloth across his right shoulder he closed his eyes, teeth gritted firmly in his jaws as he close his legs, avoiding the salty wetness clinging to the insides of his thighs. Yet his organ was still hungry for the heavenly apsara who still danced around the cave. He had brought his little journal with him, along with his stylus and inkwell.
He wrote quickly in Sanskrit:
“I am here to attain perfection. My memories shall never come back. I shall journey the path of the great Lord Gautama Buddha and I will not sway, I will…I will not…sway…” His stylus trembled as he penned the words down. A trickle of sweat flowed down his cheek to join the crinkly, dry palm leaf pages of his book.
He too felt the sweat welling up within the grottos of his upper eyelids as the heat of the sun invaded the interior of the cell. The world outside was bathed in the most blinding light he’d ever seen. It was high noon in the Cittalapabbata hermitage and even the crows that perched in the rocks around him panted, glossy black throats vibrating soundlessly. He crouched in his tight shroud of darkness, with another shroud constricting him like a deep vermillion python. This serpent of cloth bound him and every bhikku to these dark holes while the a wondrous glow bathed the rest of the earth.
The robe, for a few minutes, threatened to roll of his legs and push him back into the lair of the temptress, but he angrily pulled it up from his shoulder. Cursing under his breath he looked at his book. “I killed my mother at birth. That’s why it happened…that’s why…they all said that I was unlucky!” He gritted his teeth as he reminded himself of it. “Then came my…my life here began.” Picking up his stylus, he chewed on its end thoughtfully, then wrote:
“My father dumped me on the hermitage. That’s why I could never experience life as it really should be. So many years, I…I…”
He was so young.
He was now a monk, was he not? Twenty-three years alive, twenty-three years a monk. There was that black abyss within his heart and mind which still seemed to be clawing out through his body to attack every truth he knew and everything that he thought was for his benefit. The darkness had a form, and she was dancing through the air within the cave.
His eyes locked away from the light outside.
Hard sighs rumbled through his chest as he began his chant.
“May I be washed of this strumpet’s memories now. May the powers of good restore me to what I was earlier.  Mara, Lord of Evil, your daughter is strong, but I will sway no more towards her. May my tear and prayers float her away as wood floats down a river…I…I will sway no more…no more…”


(All photos are the property of Sarah DeAnne Peterson- and will not be re-used without the artist’s prior permission)
 “I love you.”
How many times had she uttered those words into the empty air with hopes of salvation? Nobody responded. Maybe the God of her neighbours had abandoned her in that house. She couldn’t find any reason to believe in Him anyway if even her idol did not answer to her prayers and nightly cries.
The thought of him filled her with that familiar rush of heat, that his warm, tender body was pressed against hers. No winds could shift them with their airy, prying hands. Now that made even the hot shower seem like a mere spark in comparison. No heat could penetrate her, not even the hot, wonderful kisses of the hundreds of droplets that raced towards her through the cold evening air.
The water coccooned her and she felt fingers resting against her breasts, eagerly exploring her as she once had been, not what she saw when she looked now into the bathroom mirror. The misty glass felt her gentle hand pressing against its firm surface as her face morphed into his perfect, trim chest. The tumbling rollercoaster of emotion and the soft moans added weight into the air around her. Steam rose from the tiles.
Hands ventured across the hills and valleys of her body, pausing excitedly at her soft belly. She had no clue why this little mound of flesh stuck vulgarly out of her. Not noticeable at first but she miserably gazed down at her body. Thus arose a tide of feminine questions. Should she lose it? Why was it there?
After all, she fed on nothing more than love.
Yet the hot shower too felt like a solvent acid, digesting her in the bowels of a colossal beast.
The thought of him was engulfing her as his fingertips brushed against her body.
Like a boa with a hare, she was being devoured whole.
Resting in his embrace was the pleasantest sensation to her, his lips kissing her neck, hers kissing his.
The sea of blankets was disturbed by the throes of pure love as his beautiful body kept appearing and disappearing between her arms. Soft cotton waves crashed against the shores of their bodies, yet they still swam together through the turbulence.

“I love you. I love you,” she sand gently to the glowing angel whose back she straddled with her legs. He smiled down at her, flickered and solidified as her senses became a white blur. His glacial blue eyes, velvet lips and slim, supple body screamed for her love. A red rush of warmth journeyed the length between her thighs and the peaks of her nipples. She wanted to sink deeper into the luscious coccoon, to never spread her wings and escape his glow, which always blinded her but which always told her that there was such a thing as faith. Oh, what a luxury it would be to drown in that crimson sea of sex and love!
But she could not…
A terrible hook was tugging her out of her reverie, and she gasped for breath on the shores of her fantasies as she was cruelly beached.
Where was he?
Did the bedroom mirror give her a clue?
The flat pane of this glass compass always pointed at her true north whenever her breath misted it. She saw once more her sweet beau, his face marvelling at hers as their eyes broke together through the abyssal depths of the glass. Her reflection had drowned her many times and his beautiful face always rose towards her at dusk. Her kiss left a mere red stain on the hard, colorless sheet.
Kneeling beside the mirror she wondered if the mirror was truthful, or whether the wall was. His pale perfection would rise from the dark uncertain realm beyond both honest mirror and dishonest wall-or was it vice versa to her? He came to her only when her eyes were filled with tears anyway and the air around her felt like a leaden weight dropped onto her chest. The mist against her eyes reflected his sweet and painful aura and drew her towards him as his face appeared again.
If she touched or even kissed the beautiful vision she would be pulled down the tunnel of reality and the pain would make her bleed again.
She did that well enough.
One cut on her forearm for every time she cried.
She looked at her painting for salvation. Everything made sense when she touched the warm canvas, his lips smiled at her, his smooth hips beckoned her to kiss them and pleasue him deeply.  She moved like a ballerina beside the never-completed portrait, working with the kind of ease and power she knew he had whenever he made love. In this warm room, she-nude and sweaty-was a divine queen, and he was her noble young king with whom she would share her life one day…a day that seemed too distant for her to grasp.
Silence was her lady-in-waiting.
Her paints were the powerful knights that quested in their search for him, directed by gentle quick strokes of her hand.
The anthem, “I love you,” rang through the room. He gazed at her through the deep, rich realm of the canvas, half-asleep and half-awake. Her body ached more as her angel explored her with his eyes…then he looked rather cross. A tear on the canvas? What blasphemous act could do this? Violently she grabbed the painting and ran her fingers down the crack.
The crevasse was widening as tremors shook the picture, the crust coming away at her hands.
Her deathly shrieks reverberated through the room, the poisoned air of sorrow trapping her inside. Her false god lay dying on the floor.
The black curtain of confusion and horror had been draped over her, and it was darker than the falling night.
What had she been doing? Bones and muscles lost their memory of movement as her mind spun around at a hundred miles per hour. Did he truly love her the way she did, or would he offer his body to the next person who walked his way?
Would he laugh from his heavenly abode while she wept for him, and worshipped him from below, chained at his feet? It stung her chest. Every beat of her heart was an angry drum which summoned forth an army of hot tears which streamed into the void between face and floor.
“I love you.”
Her chorus felt meaningless and foolish to her.
Her voice grew to a dry whisper.
Her altar to him was destroyed in a single diabolical action, and she had seen the darkness within his wicked young heart. The house had shifted into the heavy belly of a black behemoth, and a single fickle beam of inch-wide light cut inside to reveal the mirror to her.
Her had been swallowed up forever.
Not a ripple would taint the surface.
She only saw a broken, pallid ghoul from a gothic novel. Dry hair framed her face, and her naked salt-white body shook as a terrifying chill surrounded her. The blade of light too was now sheathed. The dirty maroon scars on her forearm were all the color she had. Sunken breasts that once were large and firm, cried for his love. The once shapely hips-supposedly made for childbearing- now looked as if carrying a child between them might kill her. A stench rose from the inside of her thighs as she slipped to her knees.
Cold iron locks chained his still exquisite figure in her heart. Perhaps he had resided there for too long, a lovely but malignant parasite who was devouring her essence from within. She was a nightmare angel who served to nourish a murderous god.
But she knew he had to be there.
She tried to see the ripple against the mirror, but none came to her.
All she saw was an ashen mockery of a marble Venus, with eyes half-blind from weeping.
Her voice grew hoarser as she breathed, until the night drew away one final, desperate breath:
“I love you.”


(Because there is such a thing as loving yourself too much…)

(All photographs are the property of Yannis Belkhir; photographer/model- and will not be reproduced without the photographer’s prior permission)

The mirror always tells the truth. It is an unforgiving eye that glows glass-like upon the blank wall. The eyes in the mirror are the windows to the soul of Man. Thus does the mirror tell us the state of out souls….

The words shot around through his mind as he bared himself to it.
In this place he was a king, four walls closing his heart and organ unto none but himself. A vortex of pleasure spun about him as he ran through the words once more.

The mirror always tells the truth. It is an unforgiving eye that glows glass-like upon the blank wall. The eyes in the mirror are the windows to the soul of Man. Thus does the mirror tell us the state of out souls….

The mirror always tells the truth. It is an unforgiving eye that glows glass-like upon the blank wall. The eyes in the mirror are the windows to the soul of Man. Thus does the mirror tell us the state of out souls….

He saw himself inside its glassy depths.
His form had drowned in it a thousand times, as had his wicked heart and his sinful soul. The mirror was now weeping for him, blinding itself for his beauty was too great even for the Lord of Truth.
For how long did he stare into it? What could he see within that he thought was so easy to love, that was so beautiful? Or was it mere passing habit to look upon a tall and smooth body that walked that fine line between masculine and feminine, icy blue eyes and brooding lips? Lips that could bring anyone to their knees with the faintest breath, or the slightest kiss.
The only one he could kiss now was himself.

The mirror.

He was drowning himself in it.

He was in the mirror.

His eyes blinked for a split second, eyelashes brushing past an intrusive housefly. The blue glacial spheres inside the flat glass had an inner glow to them. The perverse sunlight was eyeing him with joy, touching his bare back with its rays and feeling the length of his marble figure. Each touch however could not warm his soul. Both the one he looked at and the one in his body were now untouchable to the drifting gentle flame. A greater blaze was burning inside his body at the time, and his soul perspired with pleasure.  The eyes in the mirror had been fixed there as if by an adhesive, never to move away, never to cry. His would well up. His god’s eyes never would.

This was the sweetest truth in his young life.
Four concrete liars surrounded him, hissing under their breath at the writhing soft flesh beneath them. These walls had many patterns dancing across them, floating delicately across the solid canvas. To him they were solid dead behemoths with no souls. His soul was not there, his figure was not within it.
In this, he had seen whales course across the clouds and birds dart through the waves. A black sun, a technicolor moon.
False shapes and hues.
Two hours with a wall was unlike two hours with a mirror. He hated the wall. Why was he restrained in his own home? His deepest wish was to live in a hall of mirrors, to live with only his truth surrounding him. But he moved from mirror to wall. The odyssey from Altar of Truth to Walls of Falsity was hard on his heart and he paused to breathe, heart thundering inside. But the bed beneath him was the comfort he needed now to feel more  beautiful.

Silence reigned, except for his beating heart, a drum of creation and destruction of stimulating thoughts. Breaths pulsed through him.
His hands ran down his body, running from his chest down to the dimple of his navel and to the inside of his graceful, firm but soft thighs. His head spun out of focus in that instant, dizzy with heat and excitement. Drowning in the feel of his nude vulnerability was…

“I love you.”

The voice shook him violently, feeling like rusted steel scraped across his spine. He felt for blood on the sheets. Was he bleeding? No…But the feminine voice coils around him like a malign, bloodthirsty mist about to constrict him in its shapeless monstrosity.
“I love you.”
It was suffocating him and he gripped the bed, shivers rushing through his body. An anguished moan tore past his lips. His open palms flew up to his head, whacking against his skull with a resounding thud. Eyes looked up at the wall in horror as the venomous voice ripped through his veins. The untrue wall was now a wall of flesh, the girl who had run after him, a hungry beast in the body of a beauty. Beauty and beast all in one, just like him…but loving him too much. It was like a plague to her. A bane to him, the reddened lips only said, “I love you.”
Her eyes looked straight at him, sorrowful but gleaming with want, a goddess of famine about to put deep desire and hunger into his heart. She was making him want her more, but how could he touch her now? Why should he?
The words came back…

The mirror always tells the truth. It is an unforgiving eye that glows glass-like upon the blank wall. The eyes in the mirror are the windows to the soul of Man. Thus does the mirror tell us the state of out souls….

…but they were back in a meaningless wave. His sobs shook him as she pushed out of the wall, reaching towards him suddenly, grabbing at the air, screaming out her curse. “I love you! I love you!”
He attacked her in a blind rage. The blood rushed to his face, reddening his pale skin. His knuckles met her-met the wall-with a terrifying explosion of pain and anger as he roared through the process. Crying was all he could do, crying and clutching himself. Naked and small, he crouched before the rising succubus on the cold floor, and she advanced upon him, laying beside him, touching and kissing him-but was it himself?

The air in the bedroom felt like jelly, and he was seeing a bloodied blur swirling around him.
He had lost all sense of place…the gorgon’s breath was hot poison against his skin, melting him away….

It is dark.

He wakes up with a terrible scream. Drenched in sweat, spread out on the bed, slimy wetness clinging to his thighs, and sheets cast about him, this is his reality now. Nightmares are such strange things, it seems. Love is so strange too, so he muses. He has been created to feel the heat from himself and live within a world he has made for himself. Nothing else is for him. Thus he turns to the glass god, his salvation on the polished wooden altar. Inside the mirror he feels ripples, something rising up towards him to consume his body and soul…rising, rising up from the colorless waters…something would come, maybe SHE would, or maybe something else, something indescribable would.

The mirror always tells the truth. It is an unforgiving eye that glows glass-like upon the blank wall. The eyes in the mirror are the windows to the soul of Man. Thus does the mirror tell us the state of out souls….


There are many who seem to think of the darkness within them, and all around, as being something of comfort that they can live with. Sometimes they embrace the depths of this darkness so much that it is a part of them. It follows them around like a terrifying shadow which then leads to manic depression and strange episodes which prompt others to believe that these people are losing their minds.
Yet it is no real loss of  the senses. It is merely a newer window into a form of creative genius that most dare not tap into. For when they do, they do not tame and properly reconcile with  their personal demons, this rare chance to finally see the light gives rise to the most disturbing works of literature ever produced.
Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932-September 11, 1963) was a woman who thrived within her blackened shell. She wrote guided by her dark passenger’s hand and thus questioned much of what was possible to say within the poetic circle. This was not the horror of the supernatural that Poe was in love with but a new kind of terrifying subject had found its way into her world. This was the creation of a swirling vortex of the deep, dramatic and disturbing. Death, cruelty and even a form of anti-Nazism found their way into her writings.
Her images may be of the heart, sometimes of God, but they are in no way pleasant.

Today the WFR team brings to you a poet who is considered by most to be the patron saint of self-dramatization and self-pity.


       You do not do, you do not do   Any more, black shoeIn which I have lived like a foot   For thirty years, poor and white,   Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.   
You died before I had time——
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,   
Ghastly statue with one gray toe   
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic   
Where it pours bean green over blue   
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.   
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town   
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.   
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.   
So I never could tell where you   
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.   
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.   
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.   
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna   
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck   
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.   
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You——

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.   
Every woman adores a Fascist,   
The boot in the face, the brute   
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,   
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot   
But no less a devil for that, no not   
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.   
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,   
And they stuck me together with glue.   
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.   
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,   
The voices just can’t worm through.

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two——
The vampire who said he was you   
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat black heart   
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.   
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

It is thus extremely clear from this narrative work that Plath was deeply resentful of her father for being a Nazi supporter. He was, after all, German, named Otto Plath. He was also over two decades older than her mother Aurelia, which might have meant something to Plath herself. Clearly the narrative, which is full of short, abrupt sentences tells us that she is driving her point into us hard, and dramatically to boot.
The word “black” shows up a number of times. It is obviously a show of personal darkness, and the darkness inside her because of her father. She blames him openly for her suicide attempts. She had done many of these during her episodes of depression. By calling herself a “Jew” she is using a word for the term hatred since she hates him, and it makes him hate her as well.


I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful —
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman

Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Poets do not regularly tackle the subject of aging and the agony that comes out of it, but in this short poetic work, Plath once again is giving us an insight into her mind. She tells us in the first line of the poem that she is “exact”. This and a continuing series of sentences and words that tell us about the “four-cornered” nature of the mirror seem to say that she has been feeling restricted and that is thus driving her insane. No artistic person likes to be restricted, or else they feel paralyzed. Plath however clearly says that a mirror is always truthful. She is growing old and that is all the mirror can tell her.
Yet her views do change within the lost time between the two verses. The word “lake” tells us that she now has a broader mirror, which has stretched out, possibly due to seeing the reality of things. Attempting to deny aging, despite what the mirror told her, was something that she might have tried earlier but not anymore. She had come to realize the all-consuming nature of old age. 
Plath also writes in the first person, and as the reflective surface itself. What really lies behind the mirror? Authors the world over have attempted to answer this question. But what is clear is that when the mirror is personified we see what Plath herself sees inside her soul when she looks into the mirror. 


I ordered this, clean wood box
Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the coffin of a midget
Or a square baby
Were there not such a din in it.
The box is locked, it is dangerous.
I have to live with it overnight
And I can’t keep away from it.
There are no windows, so I can’t see what is in there.
There is only a little grid, no exit.
I put my eye to the grid.
It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feeling of African hands
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering.
How can I let them out?
It is the noise that appalls me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
It is like a Roman mob,
Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!
I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.
I wonder how hungry they are.
I wonder if they would forget me
If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.
There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,
And the petticoats of the cherry.
They might ignore me immediately
In my moon suit and funeral veil.
I am no source of honey
So why should they turn on me?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.
The box is only temporary.
In our final poem, we have Plath dealing with the concept of death itself. She tells the reader that it is a “wooden box” at first and then we have the image of a coffin. We also have the aural image of thousands of droning, angry bees. Of course nobody would be foolish enough to deal with a box full of bees. A large number, when irritated, can kill you. Therefore bees is a metaphor for death. The box is another means of restraint. Death is kept in restraint until the coup de grace,  the final blow when it attacks you and overtakes you completely. Plath is telling us that she has mixed emotions about dying, about whether or not to open the box. She cannot bear to hear the bees inside the wooden box. The same way she contemplates suicide. However she does say that “The box is only temporary.” 
Does this indicate that she believes in the afterlife, that death is a temporary phase? One cannot yet be sure but perhaps it is. In any case it is one of her most disturbing poems. 


(Another of these…about Ishwari herself now…..)

“So tell me why you dare to cower before the one who turned your spine into an iron rod.”

“Parashakti please! You were never meant to stay back here, I thought you didn’t have to come back here anymore.” Ishwari was weeping bitterly, but she couldn’t look at the abominable apparition that darkened the room. “Mother, you shouldn’t be here, it’s not natural! You’re scaring your grandchild!”
“And it was you who burdened her with something so powerful as a curse!”

Parashakti snarled at her daughter, and reached down to Ishwari’s ankles. The living woman drew back again in terror as her mother started taking on a solid form, something that she knew could touch her. Only her touch made her skin crawl. She locked her eyes, not even daring to scream, and ringing metallic clangs filled the bedroom, an orchestra that chilled the blood to the lowest degree.
Ishwari shut her eyes, but she still saw her mother bending down and tighten the manacle she made specifically for them. She saw Parashakti’s body becoming so solid that the day of her death was clearer now.
Ishwari could even smell the ominous sweetness of camphor, coconut oil and kerosene in the room. Her mother’s screams of madness had turned into roars as she cursed at her disease as it took over her body with terrifying speed. The cries pierced Ishwari’s heart like a knife as she ran out of her mother’s bedroom, and onto the street.
Now there was nowhere to turn, nobody to turn to either. But the flames shot up through the bedroom window, the stately, albeit still maddened woman clutching her burning, oil-stained sari against her body and racing out of their house. “What are you doing? What is this?” shouted the sixteen-year-old in protest as the crawling, clawing bundle of burning humanity tried to reach for her. But she only kept feeding her flames with more oil that she had stored in a tiny bottle.

“I…trained you….to be powerful!…Ishwari…Ishwari Ramakrishna…if you cry I will hunt you down and…kill you….” The disjointed voice was swallowing her up, and it was indeed her mother’s. But this burning monster couldn’t be talking through her murderous yells.
She had been backed into the alley near their house, and some of the beggars there tried to extend their hands to her. But the flaming, tottering monster who had fallen down in a heap at her daughter’s feet was practically Kali incarnate. They were unable to even move in without fearing death at any minute.
“Mother…Para…Parashakti….you,” she tried her best to bite back tears as she hid her face in her blanket, “you…you were the richest devadasi of them all! Why did you have to do this and leave me alone? You are the one who wanted to turn me into a sex-crazed demon like yourself! But this? And in front of me? Why?”
“I wanted you to be strong!! BE STRONG! I live within you!” screamed the devilish voice once more, although it was obvious that the scarred and charred carcass was not the one who was saying it. “We had our nights together, I showed you how it was to dominate any man you met! Look how they’re looking at you now,” the monster kept stabbing her daughter with her words. The alley became as dark as hell to Ishwari.

Soldiers who had been on their nightly city patrol were rushing to the aid of some of the servants who were struggling to make it out of the inferno…

One or two offered to carry Ishwari, but she could only feel their hands as sweaty clamps trying to break into her again and make her shriek in pain…the same way Parashakti watched with cold eyes as her daughter bled out in torrents under the power of the drunk nattuvanar. He had roared maliciously like a raging tiger as he pinned her down and gored her with his manhood, the tearing pain shooting from her legs to her chest as he bore his great weight on her young breasts. Then came the climax.
Sharp teeth and nails caught hold of the drunkard’s neck and he screamed as she used all her strength to attack him, ripping his skin as a vortex of anger, sorrow and pain swelled in her.
“Well done,” was all Parashakti had said, pulling the bleeding man off her horrifically broken daughter, “now you can be stronger than any man you chose to be with. Clean up that blood you young fool, clean it up! Never let him inside you, never let him cross the line when it comes to sex. Women are prayed to, as mothers we are goddesses, we undergo hardship to bring about life, and we continue to suffer as the men around us keep gathering wives like cattle, only to mate with us and enslave us. They might have several men and women in their lives, all to treat as playthings. So remember that…”
Her scream was ten times more powerful now than it was then.

“MOTHER STOP IT PLEASE!” Yashodha was crying as only frightened children could cry, burying her head in the protective folds of the sheet.

Ishwari’s moans of agony tore above the cries of her poor daughter.

She still shut her eyes and her tears flowed freely down her cheeks. “I strengthened you! Never fall in love if you are to be on top, to be a strong woman! We must always be powerful and beautiful, carry our heads high and beat down whoever male idiots who cross us, let no man be above you, in life or in bed. You’re just an ordinary woman, small before everything more powerful than yourself. Will you jump on a bloody pyre when the father of your brat dies?” Parashakti snapped coldly. “Abandon that other woman of yours! The women of our family were never meant to find true love, and that heartless northern witch will never love you back. She will be the reason for your undoing, Ishwari. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. Why else would we be tied by an iron chain? Every feeling of love you have towards her strengthens it and every time you resent…”
Her daughter lifted her head slowly. “Resent? Resent? I…That’s an understatement, I…I want you to burn in hell!” Ishwari growled. “You were always a monster to me, my sisters and I all hated you, but they were lucky! I had to suffer, I was a girl and the youngest, a double curse upon me.” She straightened her back. “Let me and my daughter find real love! I don’t care if I have to die, but the woman I want shall be mine, and when I’ve lain with her I’ll spit on your grave.”