Prose by Tara Perry & Jordan Wayne Long
The Rook: Short Story
The Woods. Black on black. The sounds of water rushing over the dam cannot distract from the beauty that is the white-skinned birch trees. Pillars lit by moonlight. A fearless hooded figure is steadfast unto the wooden door. Animalistic sounds cut the crisp silence of the night. Billowing smoke rises, a savory smell enticing him. He is greeted by a puzzle: a labyrinth, a riddle, a gesture of wits. The way inside. Success finds him, and onward he pushes as he’s done before. An unwavering smile creeps across his face, as he can now see the woman. Her body is built on the smoldering ruins of a million glances. Her movements are as if she’s dancing. Ordinary meaning melts away as she conquers the mundane. In a single, swift motion, as if he’s made of water, his hood is removed and she is motionless in his arms, if only for a second. A kiss. They meet with a ravenous and enduring love. The shelf of her lips: he would live there forever if he could. One could not tell if this is the first or the last; with such passion, the answer is hidden. Bodies turn electric, small hairs on her arms reaching for the heavens. His shoulders are strong but would sink to the depths of eternity if permitted. To them, their language is their own: a cadence that is foreign, a rhythm that is unique.
He gathers wood; she prepares the meal. Provisions and devotion, much in the same. A wooden slab serving as their table is filled with the embodiment of senses. Eyes do not waver, but glances are taken. Wine dances on their lips. Feet wander. Gentle touches turn electric once more. Connection. Fire. The continued search for one another. Proximity means nothing in this moment. They speak without words, in glances and sounds, while they fill themselves with gifts from The Rook. The Rook guides without leading, dragging the man deep into isolated places where one should take advantage of abundance. He asks for nothing in return. But the man and woman fear not. Strong and cunning, they would never shy away from a fight, for a fight is passion embodied in a new casing. They carry that passion in their eyes, throwing it to each other in a blink of lashes.
The slab is now bare, with just smears of grease on the surface. He wipes his chin as her lips curl to meet the corner of her eyes. Reaching out with his right hand, he takes her left. Indescribable shapes unable to be traced are swirled into existence by the hem of her dress. His masculine strength balanced with ethereal beauty, he presses his fingers deep toward the veins that run red—the very blood that runs with heat. Heat that can warm him from the outside. Heat that can be mistaken for jealousy, the only which is that of herself. Jealous of her youthful self, she remembers the kisses stolen from his lips in fits and tantrums. There are tinges of jealousy for her ideal self in the years to come, knowing the lips are the same yet memories and moments are deeper still. She’s bruised like a stone fruit, but willing to do so. So lustful for him, she confuses pleasure with pain. Both want just a taste. Hints of furrowed brows show disdain for the premise they entered into without knowing, yearning for nothing more than nothing more. Once again she fuels him by blossoming, releasing her neck to one side. The thick, pulsating strand of life, she wants him to bite. Invited pain, pleasure for another, is not in her mind pain. Her mind flutters at the idea of a happiness shared in a moment. The opposition sneers, just as it’s always sneered, never having won them over. Stronger still from once being tested so deeply, almost taking in her last breath. But ever so gently, as it seems to enjoy, that same creeping smile came along and they crumbled in the face of its existence. And yet she forgave them, knowing the origin of their sorrow and feeling nothing but sorrow for them in return.
That pleasurable gnashing, the smile is now his. Appreciation flashes across his eyes. The opposition flows after breaching the surface, streaming down her chest toward the end of the earth. The cave that longs. Once dripping to his abdomen, it turns yet a darker crimson and thickens in consistency. Knowing there is no destination, not with their hearts in their minds. There is no competition, not one the man and woman cannot control. And so the others falter, and they call themselves Gods.
The bed needn't be soft, for their bodies are enough, and naked they entwine. Embers keep the haven temperate, enough to strip away all false fabrics. The gentle, crisp wind whispers at the entrance, the very same at which The Rook now stands. A tapping, small holes being burrowed into the facade where no one cares to knocks. He doesn’t. For The Rook must too solve the puzzle. With the quickness of a fly being swatted from hide, he is inside. No amount of shock crosses their face as they turn toward their visitor. Only for respect to each other do they adorn themselves with the tatters that slipped off so freely. The Rook. Formidable crow. A knowing, powerful creature that perches on the edge of the slab. The woman swings her hair, ruffling the night sky feathers. Twisting the day-old loaf, crumbs falls into a pattern. Tied to the foot, a leather pouch is nodded to. She unties, opens, and sweeps in the only gift The Rook has asked for in return.
An ancient conversation begins as the man slowly wanders back and forth behind the woman, stoking an almost ashen cave. The creature tipping his head to one side. He’s decided he wants something else. Their life? Their happiness? Their knowledge? Their understanding? She stays calm, as does the man. As they always do. They live in every moment and for each; within it they see. They feel more than most. Another puzzle. A riddle they’ve known the answer to for ages.
Every moment is a riddle,
Every second, a chance to live.
Like water, it’s wasted by so many.
And like water, when it’s gone we can all see.
What we should’ve done is take those moments and searched to be free.
Like water, moments are finite, and we always expect one more.
But at some point, one more isn’t coming, as we’re dying on the floor.
Be the man and woman and solve this riddle before you and yours are dead.
Squeeze crimson from the second hand and live a life not full of dread.
The Rook speaks and lays out terms. She pulls a candle close to light her face and nothing more.
Displaying what he feels is power to the man and woman, she begins to speak. The man cannot avert his gaze. These moments give credence to his. He lives to see inside her. He lives to touch the thoughts that swirl inside her mind. No matter what is thrown at them, in the midst of battle they feel life; for what is not surprise, he lives for.
She eyes The Rook and gestures. He eyes The Rook and gestures. The Rook exhales the smallest of laughs, for he knows this game. Mimicry: his favorite. He cannot peel his eyes away from the strong entities that lie before him. He loves to watch and be challenged. The woman stands up and turns to the man, sliding her chair across the floorboard. The vibrations can be felt as north as the beams the sounds of the screech should make any ear shudder. But for The Rook it sounds of home. The man turns to her. The Rook is pleased and happy. So it begins…..
The man closes the gap as his hand rises to meet her face. His fingers trace the shelf of her lip, slipping from top to bottom, finding wetness in the gap as he passes by. The Rook can barely wait for his turn. He leans in, anxious. Mimicry must be precise, and he knows it. His life depends on it. The man steps back and is replaced by The Rook in an instant. His crooked finger finds her lips. She does not flinch; she is strong. The Rook runs his finger around the shelf of her lip. The woman presses into him, but The Rook doesn’t notice. Her luminous beauty flusters The Rook; they do love shiny things, after all.
The deed is done, and The Rook steps back to look at the man. He’s pleased. The man doesn’t flinch and pushes the creature back. No anger is in this movement, and The Rook understands. The Rook loves a good vantage point. The man and woman sit down at the slab as The Rook perches back for the full view. The man and woman’s legs wander underneath the table, finding each other in an instant. The man curls his foot around the woman’s leg and raises it into the air. She pushes down, causing the man's muscles to flex. Above the slab, they stare at each other, their pupils changing as they talk to each other through glances. To the untrained eye the room is silent, but to the man and woman the conversation continues.
The Rook finds himself inching closer again. It can’t be helped; he’s a curious one. As the man rises, The Rook takes his place and the dance begins again. He slides his crooked leg across the floorboard like a snake wandering through the grass. He finds her leg and lifts; she returns no pressure. The Rook stares at her. No matter how much he tries, he can’t penetrate the woman’s stare. He doesn’t miss what he doesn’t know. He feels complete. Why wouldn’t he? The Rook is a cunning foe, but even he can be bested by those who see beyond. How satisfied he feels, full even though half the feast lay naked on the slab. Yet for all his sight he’s still blind, too scared to step beyond. This is why the man and woman are sought after relentlessly. They taste the fullness of life every night. They don’t hide their pleasure, which makes the world twitch and moan, longing to understand what they’ll never see.
The Rook nods to the man. He thinks he’s tasted the heavens, yet he’s barely above the clouds. He gives the woman one last look as he flies out, the door shutting behind him as the bell rings. The man and woman turn toward each other. The tattered cloth falls from their bodies. It begs to stay as it’s left on the ground. The woman finds the man, and we watch as the light between them vanishes. The room is still cold from The Rook’s exit. Their cold breath can be seen as it falls onto their shoulders. He watches as her small hairs reach toward the heavens. Wetting cloth, the smell of a field of flowers blooming, honey drips from the forest edge. When embraced, without room for air, skin presses on skin. His arm twists, palm facing her now and her eyes floating as her breath drops. Placing his fingertip to his lips, he tastes honey. Honey, when tasted, isn’t as sweet as most know. But this honey, oh this honey is spiced with a tinge of iron. It is his favorite meal. With sticky on his lips, she presses hers to his. A small string of shared sweetness between her crimson shelf and his beard. A mutual smile. They once again have been successful. They beat The Rook at what he thought was his own game, and now he knows not to return.
The crackling of charred wood and a hiss from the hearth harmonize with the woman’s hum. They embrace and sway east to west. The silence is broken by a sharp scream and clicks of a puzzle unable to be solved. The fortress door shakes under the weight of obsessive fists. Frustration grows on the worldly side of the door, stomps and growls vibrating the floorboard. The man and woman close their eyes, as they can’t rid themselves of other’s lustful ideas. They feel them with every fiber, and they will sleep tonight just as they do every night: entangled and powerful, for they have warded off yet another foe.