In The Garden Of The Free Children
Who Knows The Ruin
The Darkness approaches,
like a storm of armed men,
a swarm of misfortune,
but I am not afraid.
I stand through the night,
as the wind leans ever closer,
whispering the fate it thinks I deserve.
I will hear but I will not listen.
I am eternal,
if I want to be,
standing under a starless sky,
as the future threatens me,
I am defiant,
I am defended,
laughing as I step inside the jaws of Darkness,
my faith blocking its throat,
my power pulsing down gloomy tunnels,
that regret setting their eyes on me.
Being loved is a power,
that comes with no weakness,
I am the light that the darkness fears,
because my light is powered by a million hearts,
I glow with a faith that the darkness cannot shake.
We are divine,
as we offer our hand to you.
The Darkness is coming,
don’t let it swallow you.
Damien was several hours down a YouTube rabbit hole, skipping from one nonsensical recommendation to the next, his pale blue eyes glazed and barely registering what was in front of him. Truthfully, he just wanted some background noise. It was winter, and as the night came quicker with every passing day, it became harder to ignore his solitude. He would tell himself sometimes that he enjoyed his own company, but he found the constant buzzing of unfamiliar voices from his laptop comforting.
Damien had never found it easy to connect. He lived alone. He ate alone. He worked alone, and most nights, he drank alone, to help him sleep, after an adventure through YouTube’s algorithm, to see if he could find anyone or anything to break up his routine.
That night was different. The autoplay must have read his mind, as it beckoned him into a world he would be lost in for the rest of his life. He had finally found Wonderland. He had found Querida.
She stared out from the screen, a stray curl from her tight ponytail draped across her eyebrow, as she toyed coyly with her bottom lip. As she pulled her finger from her mouth, it was coated in her lip stick, and Damien’s eyes followed it, suddenly awakened by the sight before him.
“I’m on set for my perfume ad!” She was attempting to whisper, but her excitement got the better of her voice. “I can’t wait for you to see the whole thing.” Damien couldn’t wait either.
He stayed awake all night, not noticing the hours snake by as he watched Querida’s life unfold in front of him. His eyes were glued to every second of each make up tutorial, photoshoot and slice of life vlog he could find on her channel. As the sun rose, he blinked back the light peeking through his curtains and made a mental note to call in sick at work. As he wandered to the kitchen, to find something for breakfast, he decided that he wasn’t going to spend the day at work, alone, as always, he was taking the day off, to spend it with Querida.
She flashed in front of his eyes all day, in a variety of ever more adorable poses, as he consumed every second of footage he could find, barely noticing as the sun slipped from the sky back down to be replaced by the moon. He had never felt such joy, such passion or such desperate yearning. His soul ached for a woman he had only just set his eyes upon, and his days soon began to revolve entirely around her.
He awoke at five sharp, several hours before he began work, so that he had time to wait with baited breath for her first tweet every morning. He had to be the first to reply, hoping that she’d notice him. It had worked a few times, he had received many likes, and even the odd reply. Each time, it felt like she was smiling back at him, through the screen of his phone, feeling the same elation he did.
He had changed his route to work, favouring the bus over the underground. It took longer, but it was a sacrifice he was willing to make, for the sake of being above ground and able to get signal, just in case Querida logged onto social media. It also gave him time to think and fantasise about the way he felt, and how if he could just get the opportunity, he was sure he would find she felt the same.
Damien enjoyed his new routine, even enjoying the mind numbing hours he spent at work, spurred on by the thought of an evening with his beloved, scrolling through photographs, reading articles and interviews, and working on his fan fiction. He enjoyed crafting Querida’s adventures, giving her a slice of the normal life, being loved and adored by him, to take her mind off her hectic celebrity lifestyle, and it was during a lunch break at work, as he was sat in the park, hunched over his notebook that Damien’s life changed forever, and the dreams he scribbled onto paper became closer to being his reality.
“Hello Damien.” His pen slipped as he jumped at the sudden interruption, peering up from his pages, he saw the new intern, Andre. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing.” Damien fumbled with the notebook, desperately trying to stash it into his bag as Andre took a seat on the bench next to him.
“I didn’t know you were a writer.” Damien stared daggers into the ground, but couldn’t help a small smile joining them, still angry at the intrusion, but pleased that someone thought of him that way. “You know, they say there’s power in that.”
“Power?” Damien’s curious eyes met Andre’s, and he edged closer. “What do you mean?” Andre shook his head, running his fingers through his messy brown hair as he leaned back against the planks of the bench. “Come on, tell me!” Andre smiled as Damien grew more desperate, almost nose to nose with him at this point, his curious eyes were now wild and wide.
“It tells her what you want.” Andre whispered, motioning to the open bag. Damien’s eyes followed the indication to the notebook that was still visible. “If you tell her, and you want it bad enough, she’ll give it to you.”
“Who?” Damien was breathless. He didn’t understand entirely, but he understood enough to know what Andre was suggesting, and he knew he had to find out more. “Who is she?”
“Come to my place after work and I’ll show you.” Andre rose as he spoke, lingering for a moment, he looked down at Damien, smiling in a way that unsettled him but made him wonder even more about what it all meant, and if Andre really could help him to grant his greatest wish. “She wants you to be happy, Damien.” Damien couldn’t help but notice that every time Andre spoke, it was as if he was answering the questions in his head. “She sent Querida for you, you just have to ask.” Damien tried to respond but was so muddled in an ocean of confusion and excitement that all he could do was nod and watch Andre walk away.
Your heart is split,
inside your chest,
desires desperately drumming on your ribs,
your languishing wishes crawl from your core,
trying to teach your throat to sing.
Change your fate,
if you are brave enough,
to be happy,
let your throat free the thoughts you never dreamed could be reality.
Let your heart be heard,
grateful for the glimmer of a new day,
for the mercy of her cold blade,
for the freedom to change your fate.
Who Knows The Ruin
Father Andre Delacroix gave himself to God at the age of twelve. He had liked God just fine before that point, but at the age of twelve, he truly understood and appreciated God’s love, and knew that his purpose in life was to be as loving and grateful to God, to repay him for his kindness. He considered him a friend, a companion, who could guide him, and show him the way through the crazy maze that was life.
As he sat at his Father’s funeral, doing his best to suppress a smile, he knew that everything he had ever learned at Sunday School was true. God loved Andre, and God would punish the wicked. He was certain that his whole life, all twelve years of it, had been building to this moment of clarity. While the room around him crumbled into tortured sobs and anguish, Andre could hardly keep from singing.
He could still picture his father falling to the floor, clutching his chest, gasping for air, gasping for God, and though he questioned whether it was an image he should enjoy, Andre was certain it was an image God intended for him to see, so that he could truly understand his love.
He had thought of that image as he had dressed for his father’s funeral. He could almost see it in the mirror before him, as he fashioned the tie around his neck into a messy knot, and combed through each sandy strand of hair he had inherited from the man he was preparing to say goodbye to.
His father’s funeral had pushed him into God’s embrace, each prayer, hymn and eulogy sending Andre a coded message.
“Evil shall slay the wicked, And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.”
While it hurt Andre to watch his mother so distressed, her grief spilling down her cheeks, as she clung to his older brother, howling in despair as loss consumed her, Andre knew that it was God’s will, and the best thing for her, among others. It was better this way. Nobody had to know the truth. It would hurt for a moment, but one day, they’d feel what Andre had felt, and they’d know that God loved them too.
“But the wicked will be cut off from the land And the treacherous will be uprooted from it.”
He felt each shake and tremor, coursing from his mother, through his brother, down onto the pew, and back up to his own body. Pure trauma, leaking into the church, and surrounding its occupants, but, in his new enlightened world, Andre knew that while it was cold, and frightening, it was a message from God, that his children were safe, and that evil had been destroyed. He felt slightly superior, knowing that God was sharing this good news with him, and he considered it a gift, to make up for the journey he had taken to be there, and receive it.
Father Andre Delacroix gave himself to God at the age of twelve, after God killed his father.
“For their calamity will rise suddenly, And who knows the ruin that comes from both of them?”
It had been fifteen years since his father’s funeral, and while he had been to many funerals, as both a mourner and in his capacity as a priest, nothing could prepare him for the funeral of his mother.
Winter was on the way, and had surrounded him as he had walked from the home they had shared to the church, the fall rain marched as one with relentless icy winds, down the streets of New Orleans, yanking at his well meaning but ineffective coat, and reminding him of just how alone he really was, despite the community passing him by, with warm wishes that couldn’t hope to bring any relief.
After watching so many collapse under pain of loss, offering as much comfort as a bible verse and a listening ear could give, he finally understood the devastating ache of death stealing your heart, and devouring it in front of you. All he could do was stare, motionless at his mother, so close, but out of his reach, and wonder if he had been wrong for all those years.
As Andre grew up, he had taken many steps to distance himself from his father. Dying his hair, reverting to his mother’s maiden name, and perhaps most important of all, choosing a life of worship and service to the church, so that he would always be sure that he was purer than the man who had made him. He dug his fingernails into his palm, pleading with the tears to stop, and some words to come. His brother was at his side, locked in his own turmoil, and Andre ached, so sure that he had caused it all. His bastard father was ruining his life, even though he had been dead for years.
He had seen her again last night. The girl. She had been sat on the end of his bed, legs crossed, a few strands of her once immaculately plaited hair strewn across her tear stained face. They stared each other out for a few moments, before she spoke. He didn’t want to look, and a part of him thought that regardless of his revulsion, he shouldn’t look anyway, but she, despite her small stature, was in control of his gaze, and she wanted him to look.
“You liked to watch, didn’t you Andre?” He tried to shake his head, but as usual, he was frozen. Shame and guilt washed over him as he continued. “It’s in your blood.” Her eyes fell upon the blanket, and she sighed in a way far beyond her years, and he didn’t dare to follow their path. “Just like your father.” Her words burned, like the hands of Satan himself, and Andre felt the air around him cool to icy depths, and then suddenly rise to hellish fire, over and over, as her torture continued. “Your daddy was a rapist and one day, you’ll grow up to be just like him.” He knew it wasn’t true. He had felt sickened by his father, then and now, but the repetition of her accusations left him in tears of anger and helplessness all the same.
“I tried to help you.” He spat. He was drowning in disgust, once so sure of his good virtues, but feeling more abandoned by them with every passing second. “I tried to make him stop!”
He did try, as much as a twelve year old boy could, when nobody believed that his father was a peadophile. He prayed, to the only person he thought would listen. He prayed to God that his father would stop.
“I made him stop.” He whispered, his voice shaking as much as his body. He was sure it was true, and he had seen God’s proof that it must be, but, as was always the case when he saw her, he couldn’t make himself believe it.
“No.” She advanced on him, his body frozen and full of fear. “Invierno made it stop.” It normally never went on this long. He could normally pull himself from the horror of his past, but tonight, the past was persistent. “You and your God were too weak, so she had to protect me.” He had never heard that name before either. Invierno. “Invierno!” The name echoed as she screamed it, almost on top of him. He closed his eyes tightly, praying even though, in that moment, he had never felt so abandoned by God.
As quickly as she had arrived, she was gone, though the scars of her visit left Andre with a sweat covered body, and a sleepless night. He had struggled into the day, knowing he had to be strong, but unable to work out how to do so when faced with the only thing he had feared more than her presence.
Back in the blinding daylight, that poured in through the stained glass, casting a rainbow on a sombre scene, Andre tried to cast her from his mind, leaving the nightmares to the night, but he couldn’t escape the feeling that he had been mistaken. History had shown that there were often none more foolish than the young, and he was beginning to think, as he waded through a constant state of horror and dread, that he had been arrogant to believe that his father had been the only wicked one in his family line.
As he sat, silently, across from his mother, watching the service, and counting in his head, to keep him busy before it was his turn to speak, he couldn’t quite silence the voice that echoed inside of his mind, as he waited to say goodbye to his mother for the last time.
“You and your God were too weak, so she had to protect me.”
Father Andre Delacroix gave himself to Invierno at the age of twenty seven, after Invierno told him the truth about God.