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Here to speak the truth, change the world, and translate the world's chaos into common sense.
(Cultural anthropologist, singer/songwriter, yoga instructor, educator, and, of course, writer.)

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Photo by Monica Castaloni

 

Photo by Monica Castaloni

 

Chapter 12 from my unpublished book, "Sky of Dreams, Sky of Nightmares": This is the story of Juan and Lisa...

25 min read

The trip to the police department at 850 Bryant Avenue from Juan’s apartment at 1347 South Van Ness Avenue takes about twenty seven minutes. With a few dollars and some change you can ride the bus all the way along Cesar Chavez, jumping on the Number 27 bus from Van Ness and 26th St. to Bryant and 7th St. and walk the half block to the right towards the stairs of the monolithic, gray building. The concrete cube can immediately be seen from the bus, looming tall and colorless on the corner of the street where the bus stops and lets its passengers out at Bryant and 7th St. It is devoid of individuality, a perfect government establishment that seems more likely the product of an architect from post-war, communist Poland than the contrasting old buildings that favor forest greens or pale pinks, or even the newer, start-up tech-culture styled storefronts that favor shiny chrome and steel with open windows, and bold yellows, oranges and reds. The building is an almost perfect rectangle, no artwork or graffiti, no balconies or stairwells. It is a fortress of sorts, keeping criminals in or criminals out, and hosting the armed and badged police affiliates within. From the outside, you would not be able to guess where a holding cell or temporary jail could be; there is no form to indicate function beyond the obvious. This is a structure meant to be taken seriously, grimly. Devoid of frills, the symmetrical rows of small windows seem almost an afterthought, as if someone had said, half-way through construction, “They might need some natural light.” A humane gesture, one that didn’t diminish the fact that even cages have openings, neat and falsely impenetrable.

 

Juan had dressed himself in grays and blues. He wore black jeans with a muted blue t-shirt the color of the sea before a storm, a gray jacket and black leather boots. On his right wrist was a bulky red bangle and a yellow beaded bracelet. On his left wrist was a red beaded rosary that wrapped around a wooden bracelet with pictures of the Virgin Maria on them, like little picture-frames. Juan drew on some light, black eyeliner and brushed on some mascara. He slicked some gel into his heavy black curls. His hair was only a little more than an inch long, but his curls caused his hair to lay heavy and curved in pronounced waves, even with the gel. He wrapped a black shemagh scarf around his neck, tucking his keys into his leather shoulder bag, and stepped outside.

It had begun to to sprinkle outside. The light misting of rain hit his cheeks and threatened to make his eyeliner bleed, so he pulled sunglasses out of his bag and pulled up the hood of his jacket as he waited for the bus. He could wait for Number 12 or Number 27, but the latter rolled up sooner. He climbed up, paid with his Clipper transit card, and sat down across from an elderly El Salvadorean woman. There were lots of Latin Americans in the Mission district and surrounding neighborhoods. There were never a lack of places to get a pupusa or burrito. Some people only spoke their native language; there were health centers and other outreach programs that catered to this population, and getting a job as a bilingual Spanish speaker was easier than if you only spoke English. 

Juan had been raised by his grandmother, a devout Catholic from Cuba. She had made him go to Catholic mass every week, sometimes twice. His father had disappeared when he was four years old and his mother always needed to work two jobs to get them by. So, his grandmother -his father’s mother- had lived with him and his mother, and it was from her that he got his faith. He knew that his family would never accept his lifestyle, however. He knew the church condemned his sexuality, and so he left when he was seventeen. 

First, he moved to Portland, Oregon. Then, he spent some time in Los Angeles with a lover. After he realized that he had been cheated on repeatedly, he knew that his emotions were being toyed with and left. He got a job at a restaurant in San Francisco, lived in a shared apartment that was far too expensive, and settled in, drinking alone at night. After time, he made friends and eventually got a good job working at the fertility clinic. He moved out of the cramped apartment and into 1345 South Van Ness. It was the nicest place he could have afforded on his own, and though sometimes it attracted questionable people during the night -homeless and drug addicts- he had found somewhere he could call home.

He began to find out what kind of person he was, and realized that his time in Los Angeles was merely an experiment in playing the role other’s wanted him to play, pretending to be the type of gay man that they wanted him to be, the type of boyfriend he thought they found attractive. It took getting his heart broken to force him to leave, and it took him being alone to figure out who he was. 

Late one night after work, Lisa had invited him to go out for drinks. They’d spent hours at the the Kava Lounge, drinking non-alcoholic coffee cocktails. He hadn’t expected to be drinking coffee when she said she’d wanted to buy him a drink, but it was refreshing to get to know someone without being tipsy. He felt strangely comfortable, even though alcohol, that inhibition-killer, was absent. They took a cab home to her place and had whiskey night caps. It wasn’t long before they became best friends. She was the wing-woman to his outings at clubs and bars. She rarely dated, and never seemed very interested. A year and a few months after meeting her, she had a birthday. She was quiet as she blew out her single candle on a cupcake Juan had brought her. 

“What did you wish for?” he asked, sensing a tension in the air that hadn’t been there before.

Her eyes were gazing at where the flame had been, smoke making serpentine-spirals upward. Her face was placid as a lake at winter, and there was a sadness in her features making her look elegant and tired. She looked up at Juan slowly, regarding him. She was trying to find an answer in his face, or maybe it was the permission to give him the truth that nestled in her heart. 

“Lisa..?” Juan put his hand gently on her shoulder. She bit her lip, and took a breath.

“I wished…”  she paused, her breathing seemed more labored, heavy. “I wished for a child.”

Juan was stunned. He’d never seen her with anyone serious, and he had already asked her if she was a lesbian. That would’ve been easier to understand than what she’d confided in him, that she simply wasn’t attracted to anyone. She had some dalliances with a boy here or there, sometimes an androgynous woman. Nothing lasted and nothing mattered. She enjoyed her job, she enjoyed playing matchmaker for Juan, but she wasn’t interested in her own love-life. How was she going to have a child unless she adopted?

“I can’t adopt. It has to be mine.” She’d said, after many drinks and a lot of questions from Juan.

“But Lisa, where are you going to get the money to pay for that?” They both knew how expensive it was to get IVF, In Vitro Fertilization, and even adoption was difficult. There weren’t a lot of adoption agencies that would look favorably on a single mother who earned a middle-class wage. The easiest way, the cheapest way, was to just get knocked up via an old-fashioned one-night stand. 

“I don’t want the father to be part of his life. At least, not officially. I don’t want anyone else having a claim on my child, and I can’t risk someone I don’t know making a deal with me and changing their mind last minute.” Her jaw was set firmly, her lips a thin line of certainty. “My child will not be dragged into a courtroom custody-battle… all because someone decided they want a claim on the outcome of the donation of their sperm.” She had thought a lot about this.

“But don’t you want help raising the baby, I mean a father-” A sharp look from Lisa shut him up. He realized the idiocy of what he said. He hadn’t had a father raising him. It was only the deep seated desire to have known his father that made him say that. He had had two mothers, and neither of them had the education or the job that Lisa had. She had graduated from nursing school and helped at the clinic tremendously. 

“I have a good job, a place of my own, and savings.” She said, very business-like. She looked at him, her eyes suddenly showing nervousness that had never been there before. Her cheeks turned red. “I just need… the extra ingredients to make it happen. Maybe… from a friend.”

It took Juan a full sixty seconds to process what she meant. As soon as he did, his face turned red and his stomach tightened up. Oh my God, he thought, I can’t believe she’s asking me this! I’m gay!

“No. No, no, no way. Wow.” He pulled on his jacket and turned away. “You can’t ask me that. I am gay, Lisa. Fag. I like dick. You aren’t seriously…” He stormed out, slammed the door behind him, and as he reached the street, he muttered under his breath, “Fucking...puta!” but the words were without anger. They were sad. Mournful. 

They didn’t talk for three days. That’s the longest they could go without seeing each other, however. They had to show up to the same shift eventually. At work things were tense. Lisa was quiet and withdrawn. It only took a day for Juan to start to feel guilty. After work, he stopped her and quietly said, 

“Let’s talk.”

He told her that he didn’t want to lose her as a friend, that he was scared she had developed feelings for him, and he didn’t want to lose what they had. She laughed and said,

“No, Juan. I love you. I accept and love who you are and the way you are.” She sighed, tired. “I would never change that.”

“Then… why would you ask something so impossible from me? Why would you risk our friendship?” He had genuine fear and concern in his voice.

“I don’t want to.” She took his hand in hers. “But… you’re the only one I trust.” 

Her fingers were small and dainty. She suddenly seemed fragile, and Juan noticed, for the first time, the difference in their size. He was taller than her, stronger, and could’ve lifted her if he’d wanted to. He had a fleeting moment, strange and alien, where he distinctly noticed the feminine in her and the masculine in himself. He was often the more gentle of his male partners. A strange heat rose in his chest, and he felt protective of her. He understood her longing, and thought of all the times she had been the best of friends to him, given him time and love and loyalty and sacrifice. He pulled her into a hug, and whispered into her ear.

“If we’re going to do this…I’m going to need a drink.” He heard her exhale and tension leave her body. “A lot of drinks. And you’re buying.”

She laughed and squeezed him. “Thank you! Thank you. Thank you.”

“And let’s be honest… I’m probably going to need some kind of dick around, also.” He laughed, but was semi-serious. “If you want this to work, you want this” he gestured toward his genitals in no uncertain way “to work, it’s gotta be a lot more gay.” Then he put his hand around her shoulders, and decided this would simply be another strange adventure.

Lisa and Juan both worked out a date to attempt conception. Being employees at a fertility clinic had the added benefit of Lisa knowing exactly when the highest chance of successful conception would be. Lisa marked it on a piece of paper and handed it to Juan during his shift. Juan knew it would be difficult to get in the mood, so he’d invited a bisexual lover to join them. After many drinks, they all headed to Lisa’s place and made love. It was the strangest sensation… as if he were moving outside of his body, watching a film on the bigscreen, immersed but not involved.

When it was over, Lisa was asleep in the bed. Juan had made love a few times to his male friend,  Daniel, and then while sipping a night-cap, laid in bed next to Lisa, almost tenderly. The humid steam of sex and sweat hung in the air, warm and heavy as a blanket, and Juan felt that, despite his best efforts something had changed. He just hoped it was the status of Lisa’s fertility, not their friendship. He wrapped Lisa in a summer sheet, tucked her hair behind her ear, and left a cool glass of water by her bed. He and Daniel, the lover he’d invited, kissed goodnight at the doorway after Juan walked him out. 

He could have left. He could have gone with him, but he had the strange feeling that he should stay, that he should watch over Lisa. In any case, he couldn’t sleep. His thoughts filled with fantasies of being a father, being someone he had wanted for himself growing up, and he imagined the possible life forming in her womb. 

When one month passed and nothing happened, Lisa didn’t talk about it. She simply said, “It didn’t work.” but didn’t dare ask again for the ‘help’ Juan had given her. Juan was relieved, but at the same time a little saddened. This was better for him… but not for her. Something inside her had quieted, as if a light in a lonely room had suddenly dimmed and gone out. 

 

The bus halted with a screech that caused Juan to stagger. He’d been standing, holding on to the safety rail above him. His height made it more difficult to balance after being thrown forward so abruptly. He looked up. He’d arrived at Bryant and 7th, just  a few yards from the edge of the ominous building that housed a cold room for interrogation. In his reverie, he’d almost missed it. His mind was almost wholly on Lisa.

Lisa… He thought, moaning internally. Why did you have to die? His heart was tight, his footsteps heavy as he climbed the steps to the entrance of 850 Bryant St. He checked in at the front desk, and they called up to room #525, “Investigations”, was promptly told by a gruff fifty year old woman with stubble to “Wait over there” by the bolted-together steel chairs and an ancient water fountain.

Detective Belgrove and a young man with blonde hair and blue eyes whose nametag read Cook came down to collect him. They asked him to empty his pockets of any metal or weapons, and then was sent through a metal detector and searched. Juan thought they might cuff him, was glad that they didn’t. They simply sent him ahead of them, up the elevator to the 3rd floor and brought through an office, past several other officers at work, criminals or suspects cuffs chained to metal benches, and a cacophony of cursing and ringing phones. Juan could smell booze and vomit, as he was ushered forward away from the drunks, coffee and cigarettes as he almost ran into another officer. Finally, a door was opened for him, he was seated in a cool, steel chair. The door clicked shut. Silence.

 

Detective Belgrove sat opposite his suspect, eyeing him with a hawk’s fascination. He had a small file in front of him containing details from the night of the murder, pictures of Lisa’s body. He opened it, checked the date of the murder -November 10th, called in at approximately 4:52am- made a face of severe concern, looked up at Juan and closed the file, pushing it to his left. 

Belgrove made a thin-lipped grin, faked but sincere enough to try and put his suspect at ease. He pushed the record button on the tape recorder in front of him.

“Juan Jesus Martinez, age 34, you live at 1345 South Van Ness. Is that correct?” Belgrove was opening with the facts. When someone listened the tape later, it was standard to know who was being interviewed.

“Yes, that’s correct.” answered Juan, feeling tense.

“Mr. Martinez, how long have you lived at apartment 1345?”

“About three years.”

“Where did you live before?”

“I lived in the Tenderloin with a few other people. It was a shared flat.” Juan made a face of displeasure. The Tenderloin’s human traffic included many drug addicts and homeless. During the night you could often hear the serenade of violent yelling and hysteria from outside a balcony window. 

“Ah, yes. That’s always an interesting neighborhood.” Belgrove chuckled. “My first apartment was in the Tenderloin. I didn’t sleep a single night without earplugs and music playing. It used to be much worse than it is today, if you can believe it.” Juan settled in his seat. “Anywhere else?” Belgrove was giving him open ended questions. He just wanted to get him to talk himself into an unsuspecting calm, then he’d grill him on the murder.

“I used to live in Phoenix, Arizona as a kid. I lived with my mom. But I left when I was seventeen. Went to Portland for a while, then Los Angeles, and now I’m here.” Juan decided it was best to be straightforward, but he didn’t need to include his grandmother. He was born here, didn’t have a criminal record, he didn’t have to worry, he thought. His grandmother? Well, she taught him at a young age to avoid getting into trouble with the law. She had no citizenship to speak of, although she’d been there for over forty years, brought over by a son who later abandoned his family.

“How about your father?” Belgrove asked.

“Left us when I was young. Don’t remember him.” Juan said, stiffly.

“What a shame. My dad wasn’t around much, either.” Belgrove frowned, his demeaner serious and sympathizing. “My mother, though, she was a saint. I bet your mom was one strong woman to raise you on her own.”

“Yes, she is.” Juan didn’t agree with his mother, but she had always worked hard and protected him. 

“Any siblings?”

“No, just me.”

“I see. And what about work?” Belgrove continued, casually. “I’m sure you’ve had a lot of jobs since you were seventeen.” It was just Juan and Belgrove in the room. Juan and Belgrove, and his young partner, Cook, listening from behind the two-way glass wall.

“A few. I was in the service industry for a while, before I took night-classes at school and got the job I have now.”

“And what are you doing now?”

“I work at a fertility clinic.”

“Oh really? Tell me about it.” Belgrove feigned interest. “My wife and I have been considering that.”

Juan felt surprise at the sudden personal comment from the detective, but a part of his brain that fell back on the comfort of a familiar role made him start to tell Belgrove about the services that the fertility clinic offered, the types of people they helped.

“I don’t do the actual medical services,” Juan added. He’d had no training for that and he didn’t want to get the detective suspicious that he was operating without a license. “I just help with the tests and assist the new mothers-to-be with our counseling and consulting options.”

“How long have you worked there?”

“Almost five years.” 

“And how did you know the deceased?” The question was abrupt, and nearly threw Juan off course. He’d gotten comfortable talking about something he considered to be his professional life, something almost unemotional compared to what was going on in his personal life. His face changed, and Belgrove saw it. Belgrove’s eyes narrowed a fraction, and he took a mental note of Juan’s behavior.

“I, uh, I met her at work.” Juan felt hurt somehow, as if they were having a civil discussion over a cup of tea, and then someone came and flipped the drinks over and broke them. He knew the getting-to-know-you portion of this interview was over.

“Which work?”

“The clinic.”

“How long ago?”

“It’s… it’s been about-” Juan bit his lip, thinking. It felt like forever since he’d met her. She had been such a huge part of his life. “-two years. I think.”

“We saw pictures of you both all over your apartment.” Belgrove crossed his hands. “It seems you both were close. A lot closer than work-acquaintances.”

“Yes. Everyone knows that. We were friends. She was like, an amazing person.” Juan felt defensive.

“How well would you say you knew the victim?” Belgrove started writing notes on a paper pad. Juan glanced over, nervous. He didn’t want to get into how intimately they knew each other. 

“Lisa. Here name’s Lisa.” He stuck out his chin, a little defiantly. Lisa was a person, not just some ‘victim’ to add to their crimes list. “Very well. We were best friends, or almost like best friends. We were nearly inseparable.” 

“And so you knew where she lived?”

“Yes, of course.”

“And she knew where you lived?”

“Yes.”

“Would she normally come over to your residence in the middle of the night?”

“No, but if she felt like she needed a place to crash,” Juan stopped and pursed his lips, narrowing his eyes in return to the detectives questioning, “of course she could come and knock on my door.”

“Well, she was found close to your apartment. What was she doing there that night?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t know she was coming over.”

“She was pregnant, walking in an alley at night. You seriously are asking us to believe that she didn’t tell you she was coming by?” Belgrove had a tone of sarcasm in his voice. “Come on now. It’s the age of cellphones. Technology. She would’ve told you she was nearby.”

“I don’t know! She didn’t tell me.” Juan was getting upset. He had thought this over and over again. He’d lost sleep wondering why, Why hadn’t she just called me? He thought. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened to her if… 

“I don’t know why she was there that late. She shouldn’t have been walking around at night like that, not in her condition.”

“Condition? You mean pregnant?” Belgrove’s eyes raised.

“She was in the first trimester. You can lose the baby easiest during that time.” Juan looked at Belgrove’s expressionless face, and mentally cursed him. He didn’t get it. “If you are going to have a miscarriage, it’s going to be within the first three months, the first trimester.”

Just then, the blonde-haired and blue eyed officer, Cook, came in. Juan barely recognized him as the younger cop he’d spoken to the night of the murder. Cook leaned over to Belgrove, whispered something to him, and left. Belgrove gave a curt glance to Juan, grabbed the file on the table and gruffly said,

“I’ll be back. Wait here.” He paused, an aggressiveness in his posture that wasn’t there before. “Try and see if you can remember anything more before I return.” Then he left out the door, leaving Juan alone in the cold room. 

Juan sat in the room, feeling deafened by the quiet. It seemed as if the room was getting smaller, colder the longer he stayed in it. He hadn’t brought his watch, and they’d confiscated his telephone before he entered the room. He began tapping his fingers on the table, drumming out patterns to songs that played somewhere in the back of his subconscious mind. His seat became uncomfortable, and he began to wish to get up and move around. He stood, paced, sat back down again. There was a temptation to test the doorknob, just to see if it would open. Why would it be open, Juan? Damn. They’re not gonna just tell criminals to stay here and wait and expect them to do it. 

Then a thought occurred to him, one that chilled him to the bone. Do they… think I’m the criminal? Juan, again pacing the floor, stopped dead in his tracks and sat down. He felt his palms sweat, his body get cold. Oh god, no. Virgin Mary protect me. I can’t go to jail, no no no they have the wrong guy. How could they think that? Lisa…She was my friend. She was. ...wasn’t she?

It must have been more than twenty minutes that he’d been left alone to worry, to make assumptions about what the detective was doing. He got angry, frustrated, and finally, he got afraid.

And he couldn’t shake the thought he’d had since they’d found her that night, dead, defiled, her body destroyed. If she was really my friend, why didn’t she come to me? 

Then another thought occurred to him. What if she was? What if she was running from something and running towards me, for safety?

A fresh wave of despair washed over him. Time, he knew, didn’t favor anyone. Every drag queen knew that. They joked about age, and they saw the younger, “newer” version of themselves come and go. He was still young, but he valued the company -and wisdom- of older queens. But the lessons they taught were also those of sacrifice, of knowing that you might lose your dearest friend because they were careless, or careful, because they loved the wrong person. You might show your love and die by hate. You simply never knew… and so everything was honored and sacred, at least it was to them. And that’s what he learned from them, to live that way, with that in mind. 

He had never expected it to be Lisa. Somehow, he thought he would have been the one to die young. He had never expected Time to take a few moments from him that would keep him from seeing her in the alley, keep him from helping her, or at least saying goodbye to her during her final breaths. 

She died alone, horrifically, in the dark and in pain. 

 

The door swung open without warning. Juan wanted to yell out, “I know my rights! I didn’t do anything. Why did you keep me in here so long!” 

Instead, he kept his mouth shut and sat down. The caution his abuela taught him as a child came rushing back. He swallowed and met Belgrove’s gaze.

Belgrove’s eyes looked darker than before, his demeanor more imposing. The familiarity and ease that he’d had before had vanished. He threw down a file, larger than before, on the table.

 

“Mr. Martinez, we have reason to believe you a possible suspect in the murder of Lisa Falealili.”

 

 

Short Story: Fenrir & Soley

20 min read

Fenrir and Tyr

In Asgard, a long time ago, there was a pup named Fenrir. One of the three children of Loki, he was feared from the very day he was born. The other two children were sent away to locations that Odin and other gods deemed safe, but they believed the wolf pup would be the most dangerous of all, for there were prophecies that foretold he would be part of Ragnarok, the downfall of Asgard, and that he would swallow Odin whole. So they kept him close so they could keep an eye on him, in Odin’s stronghold in Asgard.

Though he started out very small, Fenrir was already feared and only one god, Tyr, was brave enough to feed the beast. The wolf pup grew quickly, and so did his appetite. Soon, he was as large as the room they put him in, and was cramped against the walls. They moved him to a larger hall, and kept watch over him. Many of the gods were concerned about how to contain him, and made fetters, shackles that closed around his legs, to bind him. Fenrir did not know how to distrust them yet, and they didn’t want him to be suspicious, so they made putting the fetters on a game. They told him it was a challenge to break the fetters, and he gleefully agreed to try each collar on and break it, proving his strength. Each fetter, heavier and larger than the last, was broken by Fenrir and he enjoyed proving his strength. Finally, the gods decided to ask the dwarves to create a fetter that would not break. They made it out of impossible things: the breath of a fish, the sound of a cat’s footfall, the beard of a woman, the sinews of a bear, the spittle of a bird) and called it Gleipnir. The dwarves presented it to the gods to put on Fenrir.

The gods thanked the dwarves, and decided to take Fenrir to a far off island called Lyngvi. Fenrir was suspicious of the fetter. It was lighter, smaller than the rest; it moved like a serpent and was a light as silk. He could not see how breaking these fetters would prove his strength or be an impressive feat. He said, “I will only put this on if one of you takes a vow of good faith that this is not a trick.” None of the gods would take the vow, so Tyr came forward and pledged that he would release Fenrir if Fenrir could not break the bonds. Fenrir, who’d been fed by Tyr his whole life and raised by him, sniffed at the fetter, still wary. “Put your hand inside my mouth; if your vow of good faith proves false, then you will lose your hand you hold your sword with.” Thinking that his threat was enough to convince Tyr not to lie, Fenrir opened his giant maw, and as Tyr placed his hand in Fenrir’s mouth, the fetters were placed around his legs.

Fenrir tried to free himself as he had before, and failed. He flexed the muscles of his neck, and nothing budged. He kicked his legs and writhed. He pulled against the fetters, struggled and raged and… nothing. Lighter, smaller, the fetters made of impossibilities had trapped the impossibly strong wolf. 

Hurt, betrayal, fear, and finally rage filled Fenrir’s eyes. He gazed directly into Tyr’s face as he snapped shut his jaws upon Tyr’s arm, tearing the flesh and cracking the bone at the wrist. Blood dripped from his mouth and he snarled so deep the earth shook. It did not matter though; he was trapped. Chains of the same strength had been tied to the fetters, and he was sent to the farthest away part of the universe, on a dark planet, all alone. To keep him from shutting his mouth and biting anyone else, they threw a sword between his jaws, piercing deep into the top of his mouth. He howled with anger, chained to the planet in darkness, until a red foam began to spill from his mouth and became a river of blood and agony.



But this isn’t the story of his despair. This is a story of love. In places forgotten, in stories from long ago, there are forgotten players that are hidden in time. Tyr was not the only one to know this beast; there was another, a kinder soul who saw not a monster, but an animal torn from its mother, cursed by the infamy of its father, placed in a beautiful prison, left alone. We often hear of the gods who fought wars, who died valiantly, or who caused trouble. These are not our only heroes. For Fenrir, the only one who mattered, was Soley.



Soley was a light elf from Alfheim. She had been part of a diplomatic peace trade, and served as a sort of ambassador servant, and had to leave all that she knew behind. She had been tasked with being a servant of the goddess Freya. However, Freya saw in her magical potential, and took an interest in her. When serving her goddess, she learned from her magic. Not very much, but enough to be troublesome if she’d wanted. Freya was fond of her, and as the goddess of fertility, sex and lust, taught her many things about the ways of seduction and lovemaking. She had looked into Soley’s eyes and decided that she could see Soley’s future. Then and there, Freya took so much of a liking to Soley that she taught her secrets that only someone who ruled over the fallen warriors of the battlefield would know, like how to heal those close to death, and how to commune with the dead. 

No one ruled over Freya, but Soley was not so lucky. She was not of Asgard, and so her invitation to stay could be rescinded. When she was caught whispering incantations to herself, she was given a choice; leave Freya’s side and serve elsewhere, or be thrown out of Asgard. She chose the latter, and became a servant in the palace, hidden away from Freya’s affections. 

While Tyr was brave enough to feed the beast Fenrir, he was not so interested in caring for the pup. There had been attempts to have servants clean up after Fenrir and keep an eye on him, but so far, all had been too fearful, or too stupid. Some had made unfortunate mistakes and been injured by the snapping of Fenrir’s teeth. 

Soley was in a position to be punished, and being a quiet servant in the halls that Fenrir roamed was her punishment. 

He was still young when he met her, but so very, very large. He smelled her as soon as her footsteps lightly padded outside of the door. As she entered, her scent filled his nostrils and he crouched low, near the far end of the great hall that was his home, waiting. 

With a creak, the door opened. A guard shoved Soley inside, and quickly shut the door behind her. No one wanted to be inside the hall with this enormous wolf. 

Soley stood near the door, her hands clasped. She was barefoot, and wearing nothing more than a simple silk dress colored sage green that softly contrasted against her golden skin. Her dark hair had small, white flowers braided into it and fell just below her breasts. 

Soley peered into the darkness. She could smell the scent of Fenrir, as well. His musk was heavy in the room. It mixed with the scent of old blood and excrement from the animals he’d been fed by Tyr. As she looked at the floor, she noticed the filth that none had attended to, and saw that the entire hall was generally unkempt. 

Fenrir waited in the shadows across the hall, his large body still lay low against the ground. He had an idea. She could not know whether or not he was awake, so he decided to pretend to be asleep, and see what she did. If he did not like her, perhaps he would surprise her and attack her.

Soley crept across the hall, stepping around bones and debris. The great wolf was in the far corner of the hall, still and quiet. Her heart sped up. She’d never met such a large beast. She crept closer until she, too, was in the darkness and could see him more clearly. 

Fenrir waited, his muscles tense. Her smell was overwhelming, she was so close. He could snap her in half, if he’d wanted to. He wanted her to know that he could; a good scare should teach her this. His eyes were closed so he didn’t see that she had reached out her hand…

Soley came close to Fenrir. She was told he was a beast, but all she saw was a sleeping beauty. His muscles were strong, his head large and heavy, his coat needed brushing but was fine and thick. She reached out her hand and placed it on his flank and began to softly, so softly, stroke his fur.

Fenrir was completely alarmed. His muscles relaxed, but his mind was more alert than ever. Something strange was happening. He felt… what was this feeling? Whatever it was, he waited more. He opened his eyes and lifted his head to look at her.

“Hello.” Soley spoke softly, and directed her gaze right into his eyes. She didn’t stop caressing his fur.

“Hullo.” Fenrir said, his voice rough and deep.

Soley began to remove her hand from his back, and Fenrir made a sound of disappointment very similar to the huffing of a dog.

“Oh, you like that, do you?” Soley smiled. “Lay on your side, and let me come close to you.” Fenrir, still shocked at his response to her, did as he was told. 

Her fingers pulled through his fur, untangling some of the fur that had been matted, and then traveled down to his belly. She massaged his muscles and scratched the hard-to-reach places. Fenrir’s eyes began to close and Soley saw his lips pull back in a relaxed grin. 

Soley looked at this gigantic beast, laid out on its side, acting like nothing more than a pup wanting love, and then she suddenly saw herself, small and fragile besides him. He could rip her apart if he wanted. When she was sent here to clean up the great hall that he lived in, she knew deep down that this punishment could be a fatal one. She mourned being separated from her goddess, Freya. She looked back at Fenrir, and something stirred within her. She saw this great beast who so yearned for her touch, a touch of kindness and care, and she knew that he was lonesome here. Her heart felt for him. 

Soley walked around to face him and sat on her haunches. Fenrir’s large eyes opened, lazily, and he rolled over onto his belly and looked at her directly. His gaze was steady and had the calm confidence of an animal that can kill you, but somehow she saw the playful youth in his eyes, as well. Fenrir had a little bit of trickery and mischief in him. Soley smiled and had an idea. She decided she would tell him stories about tricksters. You see, she was one of the very few who walked these halls that had been beyond Asgard and heard of old trickster stories from those she had met who’d traveled to Midgard. There were stories of coyotes, bears, foxes, and even of human women and men. Fenrir’s ears pricked up, and they would twitch at a particularly exciting part of the story. Soley did this until the sun set and there was a shuffling of feet at the door. 

A few guards opened the doors, tentatively. They didn’t expect her to still be there; they had a bet that she’d have run away or been eaten. So, they were surprised when she walked towards them calm, unharmed. 

Soley went back, day after day, to do her job. She was to clean and care for the great hall. It had been neglected and become filthy since no others would go near Fenrir. When she was done with tidying up, she would sit down and stroke Fenrir’s head and neck, and tell him stories that she’d heard from different worlds. Fenrir would become so anxious to spend time with her that he actually became a neater eater. Instead of dragging his kill all over the hall, spreading its blood and vitriols on the floor, he picked a place where he would eat and leave the rest of the hall more-or-less clean. 

Soley and Fenrir spent more and more time together, and Fenrir’s heart became light, and Soley began to forget her despair in losing her goddess. Then, one day, Soley and Fenrir had been playing a game of hide and seek. Soley knew that Fenrir had an advantage and she’d stolen a large sack of flour mixed with pepper and tied it to Fenrir’s muzzle. Anytime he’d try and take a big whiff and look for her with his nose, he’d sneeze instead. She tied a long scarf around his eyes so he couldn’t look for her with his eyes, either. The only thing he could do was listen for her. She would step so very quietly, that mostly she felt this was a nearly-fair game. This day, as he searched for her, she had hidden close to the smells of blood and carnage from his meals. He got closer, and closer, and closer. She could have stayed still or covered herself in blood so he wouldn’t be able to even try to sniff her (sometimes he could catch her scent even through the flour and pepper). She decided to run.

Fenrir heard her footsteps, heavier and quicker now, and pounced after her. His great head shook off the sack of flour and the scarf around his eyes fell as he landed, two large feet on either side of her body. She stumbled and fell to the floor. Fenrir’s great, big muzzle was just a breath away from her face. His tongue lolled out and his teeth showed in a grin. Soley felt vulnerable, her skin heating up from the hot breath of his panting. She couldn’t help herself from feelings the primal reaction that triggered her need to fight or flee, and her heart raced so much in her chest that the beat of it was like a steady, rapid drum. She felt compelled to reach a hand out and stroke his muzzle, soothe the snarl from his face, and calm them both. Fenrir’s body changed as his muscles stiffened at her touch. He could smell her, too, that the very scent of her sweat had changed. He lowered his muzzle, slowly, until his nose was against her chest. Her hands moved up his muzzle slowly, stroking his fur and reaching the places he had trouble reaching himself. She grabbed his ears and massaged his temples. He breathed her scent in and his whole body tensed. Normally, her touch would relax him and make him want to sleep. Now, Fenrir simply felt that his senses were heightened, that every part of his body was tingling and electric. 

Soley felt like every time she touched him, wherever she touched him, that warmth moved from his body into her hands. She felt her heart warm and she realized that it was love that was tingling through her. She began to kiss his nose, and then his cheeks, and then his ears and neck. She reached below his belly and then around his back, wanting to give this love to all the parts of him that she knew, with certainty, had never been loved.

Fenrir began to pant and shiver. Unlike Soley, he had never felt any kind of compassion, and Soley had been the only one to show him any affection for as long as he could remember. This feeling was new to him; he didn’t know that he had fallen into such a deep state of love for her. Nor did he realize his love had turned to lust. 

Soley remembered all the magic that Freya had taught her. She’d been taught to please giants and giantesses at Freya’s side, and often been a lover of Freya, herself. “It is not necessary to have the right parts,” Freya said to her, “but it is necessary to have the right attitude.” To be playful, loving, creative, sensual; these were Freya’s gifts to her.

Ah, but she had one more, and it was a spell not given to many. Freya truly did love Soley, and since it was often said that Freya could see the future, Soley realized why Freya might have taught her a magic spell so very different than any other -and one that was never truly used with Freya, herself. It was a spell that turned her into any animal she touched, as long as she had a connection with that animal. The connection had to be genuine; it could not be faked. More importantly, it was a very limited spell, because once she chose that animal, she could not take on the form of any other animal except her original body without causing great harm to herself.

Soley felt the lust and tension in Fenrir. She knew that all this time had not been false or wasted; there was love there and there was friendship. Fenrir had come into his age and Soley was the only one he had ever truly trusted. 

“Fenrir…” Soley whispered, feeling shy and nervous. Fenrir’s eyes focused on her, even though they were full of heat and fire, and amongst it, a fluttering fear. “Do you trust me?”

Fenrir nuzzled her and gave her a wet kiss; her chest and face, small as it was compared to him, became wet with his saliva. “You are Soley. You are my light in the dark.” His voice was steady, although there was a strained and haggard quality to it now. 

“I want to give you something. Something you’ve never had.” Soley reached forward and touched his face, lovingly, and looked into his eyes. “Please trust me, and don’t be alarmed.” Fenrir looked at her quizzically, but stayed still and listened to her. Soley step back and began to whisper the incantation she had learned, one so very old and secret that she had sworn never to teach it to anyone. She dearly hoped it worked. 

It was not as scary as she thought it would be, changing into a wolf like this. It hurt a little, but she’d endured worse pain. She could hear better, see in the dark better, and suddenly the world changed from forms and colors to smells. So many smells! The strangest thing, she realized, was she saw the world from higher ground.

“I’m bigger than I was!” She exclaimed, in shock. She looked at Fenrir now, who was wide-eyed and completely bewildered. 

“Soley??” Fenrir knew of magic, but not of this kind. He certainly didn’t expect it from Soley. “Why do you look…”

“Why do I look like a wolf?” Soley grinned and began to pad over to him. Her new body felt natural to her, and she moved with ease. She silently praised Freya for magic that was so elegant. “So I can do this!” Soley pounced on his back and bit him gently on the shoulder. Fenrir’s immediate reaction was to flip her off him and pin her down, which he did with ease. After all, he knew his body well and for much longer than she’d had hers. She began to lick his face and neck. Fenrir realized the kisses made him feel strange. Then Soley wriggled free and nuzzled his belly, nipping and licking him all over. Fenrir’s eyes closed, and his jaw fell open. Then he felt her beneath him, and something so primal and very natural to him occured right then and there… 

 

Soley and Fenrir played with this new experience, sometimes Soley in her normal form, sometimes as a wolf, sometimes somewhere inbetween. She heeded Freya’s advice and was very creative. After, they would lay curled up together, feeling the swelling of their hearts as they both were full of love. 

Sadly, as history has shown, this bright Summer of love and light they enjoyed did not last. The Winter of their love was not of their doing, but of the fearful gods of Asgard. The gods had begun to devise plans to chain and bind Fenrir. Now a full grown wolf with love and pride swelling in his chest, he did not suspect their mal intentions. Soley occupied his mind, his time and his heart. While there were a few that questioned how this simple, fragile woman would be able to survive the fearsome wolf, none were brave enough to find out the answers; they remained curious, and Soley’s love for Fenrir was so preposterous an assumption that it was never considered. 

Fenrir was fettered and chained, and dragged away never to return until the Ragnarok, when the moon would be swallowed, and the sun devoured, and all light left the world and the end came for all the gods who had imprisoned him. He would die there, never to meet Soley again. 

No, he would suffer endlessly, betrayed and alone, his blood pouring from his mouth only because he defied the silence with his howls. In his cries, muffled and unheard, he called for her. She, the only one who could have bound him without steel, iron, or impossible chain for the rest of his days.

 

“You are Soley. You are my light in the darkness.”

 

But on that isolated planet far away, the darkness persisted. 

 

 

Short Story: The Lash of the Wolf

11 min read

 

The woman took the lash of the wolf. 

 

“Don’t go out into the woods”, they said. They were afraid for her. They were afraid of the woods, of what was different and dark. They heard the howling on the wind, they couldn’t tell if it was demons raging from the forest, cries of the unsettled dead, or the wild moans of creatures; they said it was the wolf, and that the wolf was always bad.

 

She had been born in the village, on a night as dark as this one. The moon did not hang high in the sky, casting its light over the town and casting long shadows. She had been born at the end of a very long labor, at night, on an unlucky day. Friday, Freya’s day, the 13th, the forbidden number. When she was taken from her mother’s womb, she was already screaming, her fist raised and her hands bloody. 

 

Her mother raised her to be good, protecting her from everything that might harm her. But still, to her mother’s chagrin, she did not want to play with the dolls, she did not care for the things of little girls; she ran after frogs, sought out the dead things, played with the bones. She would get so filthy in the dirt that her mother stripped her of her clothes, and let her play naked as a child.

 

She was grown now.

There was no place and time for games like this. 

And the people were afraid. They said the wolves would eat her. “Don’t go out, don’t go out!”

 

She had first heard the wolves howling when she was very, very young. She knew that she had heard them before, but this night, with the window open to let in the full moon, she heard them… calling out to each other. It was the first time she realized that their sound was her sound, their voice was calling to her. But she was not of their kind, and yet her heart sang with a fire so consuming that her blood ran hot and her skin burned with a desire to join them. She stripped down to nothing, and sat in the pool of moonlight, and sang herself to sleep. 



“Why do you fear the wolves?” she asked.

“They kill our livestock!” one said.

“They eat young babes!” said another.

“They have teeth that can crush your bones!” another snarled. “They are animals, and they have no kind of soul at all, girl.”

When she heard these things… she began to hide inside herself. Though she couldn’t understand why, she knew then that she had to keep her moonlit baths secret, that her singing could never be too much like a howl, and that they must never see how well she slipped into shadows.

 

AAwwwooooo!!! The wolves were crying. She felt a pang in her heart, her stomach tightened, and she doubled over in pain. 

“What’s the matter?” asked her mother, suspicious, but not really wanting to know the answer. She had eyes that wouldn’t see. If she couldn’t see her daughter’s pain, she couldn’t speak her daughter’s secret to the town.

“Nothing, mother, nothing. Just a pain.”

“Then go to bed and sleep. Rest up, and you’ll feel better.” And so the daughter went to bed.

 

In her sleep, she dreamt. 

She was running through the darkness. The sky was black and endless, the stars glimmering above. Cold air filled her lungs and she stretched out, and the grasses and fields around her fell away as she picked up speed. She looked down and saw not human feet, but paws. She stopped, in shock. And with that jarring moment, she saw her hands and body  were human once again. 

The edge of the forest was in front of her, a wall of trees that made some strange and mystic barrier between her world and the unknown. She glanced behind, at the town, and only a few fires were burning; only a few candles in the houses; people were sleeping. 

She turned to face the forest when, suddenly, a giant wolf leaped upon her!

 

The daughter woke abruptly, her heart pounding. The image of the wide open mouth of a wolf was seared into her mind. 

Awwwooooo!!! 

“The wolf…” She whispered, and felt the howl, like a breeze, blow through her very soul. 

 

She still felt like she was dreaming when she crawled out of her window. She barely felt the earth beneath her feet as she began to creep within the shadows, then to jog, and then to run. She ran towards the forest, closer.. Closer… closer and then, suddenly, she was within the trees. 

 

It felt different here. Less like danger, and more like protection. She could hide amongst the trees, slip between them unnoticed, watch from afar.

 

AwwwooooOooOoo! The howl was pained. 

She knew now where it was coming from and headed in that direction. Then she saw it, a lump of haggard, fur and muscles, wrapped in a metal trap. It’s eyes watched her with anger, and fear, and desperation. She smelled the blood before she reached him. 

 

“My life is in your hands. My pack can’t find me. They are afraid of the traps.” The wolf said to her. He spoke in a language she did not know that she could understand. “Please, don’t kill me. Please, free me.”

She reached for his fur, spiky with blood, and his lips pulled back into a pained growl, teeth flashing. 

She remembered what the villagers said: “The wolf will eat you! They are cruel! Monsters! They have no soul.” And for a moment, she felt afraid. 

“You will eat me… if I let you go.” It was a statement. It was a question. 

“It is true, I could kill you. You would be a delicious snack for me and my children. You have seen the strength of my jaw, the sharpness of my fangs.” 

“So you will eat me?” she asked.

“That is not the right question. If I tell you no, you won’t believe me. If I tell you yes, you’ll leave me to die.” said the wolf. Pain wracked his body. “You speak our language. You have to decide what to do on your own.”

The girl contemplated what to do. Her mind raced, and her thoughts made her dizzy. Then, realizing her hand was still on his bloody chest, she felt his heart beating. Looking into his eyes, she said, “I’m going to free you, wolf.” As she pulled the metal trap off his body, the trap tore at her hands and made her bleed, but she ignored the pain and freed him. She staunched the blood with the earth and leaves, tending to his wounds, and ripped her dress to shreds to tie his bandages.

Throughout the night she tended to him. She could hear the stream, though she had never gone there, and brought him water. She found a rabbit in another trap, and brought him food. And as the light came up from the mountains and night turned into day, the wolf was better, and stood on all four paws. 

They walked together in silence, padding through the forest and listening to the sounds of the this new world waking up. The wolf did not look so scary, nor did the forest. 

 

As they walked, she did not realize where he was taking her. A hut had been hidden deep in the woods. She had never heard of anyone living here before, and yet here was a home, as familiar as those she had grown up around. 

“Why am I here, wolf?” she asked, confused.

“I have brought you here so you might live in the forest.” 

“I must go home, I’m sure the village is worried about me.” She did not want to go back, but a sense of duty pulled at her.

“I am sorry... but you can never return. Not the same, anyway.” The wolf looked sad. “I have indeed killed you.” The girl did not understand; she felt alive, better than before. “When you helped me, you pulled the trap away from me, but cut open your skin in the process. My blood is in you now, mingling with yours.” 

“I … I don’t understand.” She stammered, suddenly afraid.

“Please, come inside. Let me show you.” The wolf led her to the door, but waited for her to open it. He needed her to choose to enter on her own. 

Inside the hut it was warm, and looked like someone had been living here recently.

She turned to face the wolf, but instead saw a man standing where the wolf had stood. Taller than she, he covered himself in a robe nearby before stepping towards her. She saw his skin, covered with scars from the forest, claws and bites. His dark hair fell across his face, but his deep, brown eyes were those same eyes she had seen in the wolf. 

They were gentle, and kind as he said, “The you that you knew is dead. My blood has killed her.” He stepped to take her hand, and bowed his head to kiss it in gratitude. “But you have saved my life, and I will not abandon you when you change for the first time.”

“Change?” she said, nervous, and exhilerated.

“You will be like me, and run under the moonlight, if you choose. You will transform into a wolf.” 

 

The girl was stunned. Torn between horror and excitement, she knew that the life the had tried to make for so long in the village was soon ending, but that the mask she had been wearing would no longer need to be worn. She was going to be given the chance to sing, to howl, to be free.

But her old life was going to die… and this saddened her. The villagers and the town had been her home, and though they lived in fear and shelter, there were still those she loved and cared for. She needed to return to them, even if it was not forever.

“Wolf… I cannot just leave my home.” She placed her hand upon his cheek, felt the warmth of his skin. He looked at her with eyes that held no secrets, no reservations, no judgement. As human as he looked, he still had the steady gaze of the wolf. “I must go back.”

“Then I will give you a lash from my eye, so that you can see as I do, and be able to make your decisions clearly with this newfound sight.” He plucked a lash from his eye and held it out to her to take. “And I will wait for you to come to me, and I will howl every night until you do.”

 

She gazed at him, a new understanding developing. Should she believe him? Should she leave now and never return? Was this all a dream?

 

The woman looked into his eyes, held out her hand, and took the lash of the wolf. 

 

 

Bodies: Yoga

3 min read

Warrior 2 with Backbend: Photo by Jayson Boyd

 

Bodies: They all tell a story. I can see it as you walk in. Maybe your shoulders are a little rounded, your back rigid, your gait stiff. When you breathe, I notice your chest lift. You lean on your knuckles today because twenty years ago you fell hard on your wrists when on a fishing boat. You find Down-Dog difficult; your shoulders have already been carrying your children and the weight of their needs for so long. You can't look me in the eye because you're nervous, and -for the same reason- neither can you close them. Visions of your work week, school day, past trauma or past excitement often flash before your eyes.

 

Yet you return. You learn to breathe deep, to stand tall and root your feet to the Earth. You've done something incredible, one long breath after another, and you've grown inside yourself. 

Even so, I see you comparing, competing, and judging yourself for not being 'better'. Yes, I know the feeling. Sometimes I think I should be perfect, and show a perfect example. But what is perfect? So often we have been misled to believe that perfect is untarnished, pristine, and even the creams we put on our skin are meant to help us return to that 'freshly packaged' look, like a newborn.

 

What if we reexamine that definition. As a kid, I read fairytales of Kings and Queens. Pampered and protected, their feet never touched ground, their skin never blemished, they never broke a sweat. Naive, and gullible, this seemed like a life of luxury. As an adult, I can't imagine a life more boring! The scars I've accrued are well-earned and give me character. Aching muscles are lessons to learn about balancing work with self-care. Broken bones heal stronger, and long-term injuries teach us to be gentle. Each of these 'imperfections' you carry with you into class has a story. You may judge and compare yourself to that guy doing the splits, or that girl serene in Padmasana, but imagine life without your mistakes, your adventures. Sure, you might've gotten hurt in some of these stories, but here you are again, learning to breathe, to heal, and ultimately to love yourself. Next time you step into class, don't look around; look in, and find those stories, love those stories, and you'll never need to compare to another person's body again.

 

 

 
 

My most recent articles have been about project development! How to make sure your idea is one you can pursue... and how to get money for that project once you are certain it's a good investment!
Here are some links to the publications:
https://nectarpd.com/essentials-of-prototyping-your-product/
https://nectarpd.com/8-ways-to-secure-funding-for-your-project/

 

Another publication, this time more straight to the point. Should you consider adding independent contractors or even an outsourced team to help complete your project? Find out for yourself and consider your options by reading this article! https://nectarpd.com/roi-outsourcing-your-talent-by-using-independent-contractors/