Melion is a graduate student in history who currently resides in an acceptable amount of chaos with one husband and two dogs. Very little else is known about Melion other than the fact that Melion rarely refers to Melion's self in the third person during actual conversations.
Green Leaves and Cherry Blossoms By Melion Traverse
Despair has a taste, my love. Cold and raw, it bleeds from the heart into the throat and chokes away all that is sweet.
I first met the dog beneath an oak tree. Beneath our oak tree. Cold as the faded ages, he stood with paws where you had knelt. The blue-green leaves shivered like the flesh on my back as the fierceness of his eyes burned along my spine with algid fire. Silver as starlight, poised as eternity, he was dreams I dared not remember and destinies man will bleed to deny.
Who owns you, boy? Are you lost?
I have never been lost. I know who I am and whither I wander.
I do not understand.
Because now is not the time.
Beneath the rustle of the cherry tree he appeared again – a glinting of silver in warm sunlight. His tongue lolled pink as the fresh blossoms while you caught my hand and pulled me against your chest. Your heart thrum-thrummed life through my own blood, the hot pulse of anticipation melting the ice riming my spine.
Drink of this. The time is almost now.
But you laughed and the world swung wild in my chest and I laughed as the cherry blossoms swirled away the dog of dread destinies. Pressed against the solid warmth of joy, I thought of how I would finally know Forever.
A wise woman does not speak of dogs only she sees on her wedding day.
The dog flickered among the summer trees. A hand small with the promise of tomorrow clasped in my own, I watched the dog dart among the shadows. The small hand pressed against mine, pulled for my attention. Mommy, for you. A leaf green as youth with a blood-drop of a ladybug. In that smile, I lost the shadows of the headstones, I lost the graven eulogy over a corpse cold before life’s course was justly run. I lost the burn of tears and a future of regret.
In that smile, I lost the dog to the deepening shade of heat-languid trees. But I did not lose you, my love. Not in that smile. I lost you in a world falling away, but in that smile I saw your life and all that we were lived again.
But I would never speak of the dog. He was mine to see, not for our child.
A wise mother knows what stories to not tell her child.
Beneath the autumn burst of a Japanese maple, the dog’s eyes shimmer like sun-struck ice. I see the coldness of my world in those eyes. The coldness wisps through my life and echoes through tombs and sepulchers with the empty crunch-crunch of trodden frost.
My life occupied with the morbid scattering of young graves, he has taken from me your joy - the joy of cherry blossoms on a midnight tuxedo; he had taken from me the hope of green leaves and red ladybugs. What more could this ancient horror snatch from my trembling clutches?
“All I love is gone,” I say as the silver-flash of a dog looms beneath the maple.
The tang of fall wood smoke swirls with the wind, sharp and real in my nose. My love, do you remember that dance with the wood smoke twining between us? I remember the flickering grins of jack-o’-lanterns pulsing the rhythm as our feet swept across the ground and we found Forever. I would give my world for that Forever. I would give dreams I tremble to speak and stars I fear to count if we could have that wood smoke embracing us as our lives rushed together.
“It is not mine to take or to return,” the dog replies. “I am many terrible things, but I am not a thief. I guard gates, I do not summon those who must pass beyond my gaze. Sacrifice for me and I will sacrifice for you.”
The leaves burst with autumn fire as they ripple in the chill wind. I should walk away. My life will not always be memories tinged gray with mourning; I will never see the joy in cherry blossoms or the innocence in green leaves, but I will see the sunrise flare across the mountains and the stars glitter beyond my comprehension. But those cherry blossoms and green leaves belonged to me. I belonged to them. And I did not want to see them with the life dimmed around their edges and the pain raw in my chest.
“Three hundred heads glittering with immortal teeth, and you need a woman of mortal flesh?”
“Immortality is not omnipotence. I have been bound by your kind before.”
“Hercules was myth and nothing more.”
Silver shoulders shrug with the ambivalence of Time itself. “I have heard them say
the same of me.”
I cannot feel the roughness of the headstone as I brush cold-numbed fingertips across granite.
Hand still stroking the stone, I ask, “What would you have me sacrifice? What could I possibly offer?”
“I chose you not for what you can offer but for what you are willing to undertake. Help me and I shall overthrow eternity on your behalf.”
“Is immortality really yours to give?”
“No, not immortality. But I do guard gates. What price will you pay for the return of cherry blossoms on a midnight tuxedo? What cost green leaves and red ladybugs?”
Three decades rise within me, three decades spill across my life and flood across my remaining years. The cold air warms and I can feel your tuxedo against my cheek, can hear the thrum-thrum of your heart. A small hand is warm in mine.
“Name the price and I will pay.”
The shine dulls in those ice-silver eyes. “Bring me a cord of sinew soaked in the blood of a deer killed under a full moon.”
“What sort of price is that?” I can almost hear your voice now, my love. I can feel the tug of a hand on my sleeve. Mommy, for you. A trifle of a task and your hands will again be in mine.
“I said it is not about what you can offer, but about what you will undertake. It is not yours to know the ways of immortals – even those who are myth and nothing more. I have seen your life through the gates, have scented the rawness in your heart.”
Finally, I say, “I have never hunted anything. I do not know how to kill a deer.”
“Then I will teach you of the midnight hunt.”
Amid the wood smoke and the quivering of the Japanese maple, I feel the deep sting of teeth in my flesh. The dog of countless heads has taken my arm into his mouth. Blood like great ladybugs wells from around his teeth and a fire begins scorching through my veins.
“You shall soon know the price and you shall soon know the call of the hunt.”
“When I have the cord, how shall I find you?”
“I am always precisely where I need to be.”
As smoke disperses on the wind, the silver dog sung by bards and priests across the ages slips from my sight.
A wise woman does not wonder whither wanders Kerberos.
The heavens pull the full moon high into their embrace. Fear tastes sweeter than despair, but I must still swallow against its rising power. I remember the tuxedo tossed upon a chair and our own embrace like the moon in the heavens. The memory warms across me and the sweetness of fear ebbs away. I feel the hunt rise deep in my bones, gnawing at the marrow and tearing through my sinews. Pain like fire flares through my body and rends at my flesh and I remember stories of bulls on altars that their seared flesh may feed the gods.
Beneath the pale light of the full moon, I understand the cost of cherry blossoms and green leaves. The hunt calls my blood and I put back my head and call in response. I am the far kinsman of the many-headed hound and I know the primordial desire to sink my sharp teeth into living flesh and pull it struggling to the ground so that I might taste its blood and its death.
Across the hills I run gray as smoke and all the world spreads before me as it washes across my senses. The soft sweep of owl wings, imperceptible to my human ears, rushes into my mind.
In my jaws I bring Death and disgust froths in my mind when I find that I enjoy the power. Can you forgive me? I can no longer create, now I will destroy. I am not canis lupus, I am the wolf of full moons and autumn nights. I am hunting, I am the fiery pulsing of blood lust strung onto mortal bones and twined with flesh and fur.
The wind shifts and the rich scent of deer cascades down from the forested hills, spilling towards me on that delectable pulse of breeze. Only now do I break my stride, only now do I pause and my body goes as still as the rest of the world. But while the rest of world holds in a trembling breath, I breathe.
A young stag, arrogant in the wild rush of the autumn rut. His scent sings of challenge and youthful aggression. He is the sour sweetness of lust and power and he stands rigid with the rest of the world, wondering what fell creature stalks the night.
Saliva washes warm through my jaws and the nocturnal world brightens in my widening eyes. I am the wolf of full moons and autumn nights and I am finally hunting.
I crest a rise bristling with pines and I see my stag. Pride radiates from his wild form, embodied in the lofty set of his head, the arch of his still-forming antlers. In the years to come, he will be like nature’s own avatar, a majestic beast of power and grace sculpted by the hands of ancient craftsman and stepping boldly from the marble friezes. Future master of harems, heart’s desire of untold hunters.
But he will not see those years. For your sake, he will not see those years. This lordling of verdant places will be my sacrifice as those upon the pyres of forgotten times. His young blood will wet the cord that returns midnight tuxedos and green leaves. For a vast moment, we both seem to hang in the moonlight: me with body stretched at full-gallop, he with muscles poised to break among the brush and flee.
Then the breeze blows clear through the woods and that moment shatters. In the fast beat of adrenaline-shot hearts, the stag and I make our fatal decisions. I am the far-flung kin of Kerberos, he is untried power and rut-mad fury. I come forward amid the starlight glittering of fangs, he surges to meet me with all the recklessness of arrogant vigor.
For you, we crash together in the slashing of antlers and the snapping of teeth. His hot breath billows from his nostrils as he snorts and lowers his head. I drop back, baring fangs. I circle, hackles stiff along my spine.
His hoof paws the earth once, twice. As he moves for the third strike, I flash towards him with ears pinned and the hunt flaming in my flesh. The young stag falls and I point my muzzle to the moon and offer a song of triumph that would haunt the dreams of those who hear it among the shifting night shadows. For you, I have known what it is to hunt in autumn moonlight.
I see the dog amid the fiery-leaved autumn maples. Silver as a hunter’s moon, he stands before me and the eyes of river ice flash in the sun. I almost forget the wild call of the full moon hunt, but it has left a remnant in my soul, lodged deep in my mind and calling feral but soft in my heart.
“Here is the cord I promised,” I say, producing the strand of animal sinew soaked in the blood of the stag who would have come to rule the woods. “What need have an immortal of such a piece of nothingness?”
Jaws receiving the prize, the dog speaks. “Even immortal dogs have debts to pay and my hunting ground is not the living world. But that is not for your concerning.”
“When will I have them back?”
“I always keep my promises,” the dog continues. “But the things beyond mortal price incur a terrible cost. Go home now, mortal woman. You will see no more of the horrific Kerberos.”
I turn away from the ancient terror and begin towards my home, well aware that the guardian of gates and eternity will keep his promise.
A wise woman does not doubt the honor of Hades’ own guardian.
Laughter carries on the cool wind. Two voices meld in the rich twining of youth and maturity as they sift among the breezes. No human ear could perceive the voices as they come faintly upon the night, but they pierce into my heart and call forth a wild howl from deep within my chest. They will await me in the serene warmth of home where a fire crackles and lights beckon from bare windows. They await the setting of the moon and the lifting of the wild curse – the curse that won them from the depths of shadows.
Cherry blossoms on midnight tuxedoes and green leaves with blood-spot ladybugs await me, and I will return to them from the silvery night. But first the price must be rendered. I will return with loping stride and blood-matted fur and the ancient calling of the hunt dimming in my veins. You will wipe clean my fur and the boy of green leaves will tug upon me and beg with gleaming eyes for a ride before the sun rises. Perhaps I shall indulge him. No, I know I will indulge him because he is green leaves and ladybugs and this curse pays the cost of his laughter.
Jaws sharp and bright, I will return and you will hug me and the night will recede into the blurry mist of morning, but you will not dare ask of wild hunts and distant howls.
A wise man and his son do not question the wanderings of a werewolf.