At the end of my journey, I meet the dying form of a man,
an old musician past his prime, with a face as gray
as the jaded rocks he sits on beside the sea.
He says that in exchange for my company,
he’ll play the most beautiful song to grace my ears,
a piece of music taught to him
by the gods themselves.
With his last remaining bits of life,
the spirit of the music enters the man’s body.
He plays a woeful melody for all to hear, the notes carrying
down from the rocky cliffs to the blue waves below.
Seafarers stop their voyages to listen,
making peace with the Sirens.
The ocean’s roar is
silenced by their weeping.
“Oh Jupiter, Oh Minerva,” he wails out to the gods.
“You aided me in battle once, long ago, now grant me
your strength. Teach me to play this song for all eternity.”
Wise Minerva hears his prayers and with a kiss,
he is given salvation. “Pluto will never claim you,”
she decrees, “lest you reveal to anyone
how to play this song.”
I watch as his body withers away,
until only the spirit of the music remains,
carried on the back of an owl through the undying
winds, high enough to touch the hand of Jupiter.
He plays until I’m a ghost on the shore,
and any gods that remain are stones
overlooking the thunderous sea.
Those who still wish to learn their song
can pry the Gods back from the Earth, and
copy the notes etched into their bones.
The Bogeyman Visits
If you don’t behave this instant, The Boogeyman will pay you a visit tonight, the mother shouts at her disobedient child. He flees to his room at the mere mention of the name. He’s heard it before, each time more threatening than the last. Don’t you know the Bogeyman knows your fears? She warns. Can’t you hear his nails scratching the floorboards? Can’t you feel the shaking of your bed frame as he breathes, dislodging gray mucus from his throat? It’s not wise to test me, boy. Don’t you know the Bogeyman will take you away? You’ll be dragged by your ankles down into that shadowy world under your bed, where spirits play ball with bits of bone and flesh, molded into something barely resembling a toy.
But he’s not under the bed. Not tonight. Don’t you know The Bogeyman is severely overworked and underpaid? Dealing with that many kids is a hassle. Even Santa Claus only has to work one night a year.
No, tonight, the Bogeyman flees from the darkness into the light of crowded city life. His tall stature is enough to turn heads, but most don’t seem to notice at all, stepping to the side as he walks down the streets, honking their horns when he mistakes a car for food. When the Bogeyman goes clubbing, he wears his favorite shirt, a lost piece of laundry from somebody’s closet, and when he dances, it’s like one of those car sale inflatables, caught in a violent windstorm. No, the Bogeyman is not terrorizing anyone but the dance floor tonight. He’s learned new moves, like the Worm and the Sprinkler.
The Bogeyman is out buying record vinyls and teddy bears. He’s eating sushi and breaking into expensive apartments, catching up on new seasons of Desperate Housewives. He takes the subway home after a walk in the pouring rain.
When he returns, The Bogeyman finds the child’s bed empty, and proceeds to lie atop the mattress, its small scale barely enough to hold him. When the mother returns to tuck her child into bed, she doesn’t even notice the Bogeyman’s gnarled gray feet sticking out from under the covers and plants a kiss on the monster’s clammy forehead.
Goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the Bogeyman bite. She whispers. The sight of the bedroom around him reminds the Bogeyman of when he was a kid himself, back before he made the shadows his home. He begins to dream for the first time in a while, not noticing as the cowering child comes crawling out from under the bed.