Small Sculpin with Top Snail, Vancover Island, BC. Photo by Bev Dulis

Death and the Moon
Excerpt from Temple: The Book of Seraphina
By Elle McKenzie

I WENT TO THE kitchen garden looking for herbs. As I walked between beds looking for what I wanted, I noticed a door in the garden wall. Not being in a hurry, I opened the door to see what was on the other side. I expected to find a tangle of briars and weeds hidden away behind it. Instead I found a neatly laid out garden containing a profusion of flowers in bloom. Borders and narrow paths separated colours and species. But for all its exactness the overall feeling was one of wild abundance. On my left there were beds of tulips; yellow, white, red, black and orange. Such a gentle flower; its head always seeming too heavy for its stem, pulling it over to touch the earth. On my right there was a profusion of rose bushes; pink, white, crimson, and my favorites, the pretty yellow ones. How different to the tulips. You cannot run your fingers up and down the stem of a rose. Even its leaves are like little guard dogs, their size disguising their strength and the sharpness of their teeth. There were foxgloves and primrose, lily and pansy, and in one corner, a carpet of bluebells. The hot sun released their intoxicating scents and fused them. For a moment I felt faint.

I followed a straight path between two very tall hedges. In the distance I could see a figure standing still. As I got closer I saw it was the Moon Lady. She was taller than me with long blonde hair. Her breasts were milk-white and she drew me into her embrace, my head pillowed on their fullness.

Taking me by the hand she led me along a lane until we reach a cornfield. Men and women were cutting the corn and stacking it in bundles. The Moon Lady handed me an ear of corn and told me to wait.

"I have someone I want you to meet."'Who?' I ask her. "Death," she replied. I can't say I felt enthusiastic, but there was nothing I could do. I sat down and waited for Death. I played with the corn, twisting the tough stalk into knots, feeling the texture of the head between my fingers. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder and a body drop down beside me. I didn't want to look, but it was impossible not to.

"Death?" I whispered. "Yes," he smiled, his white teeth gleaming between full, baby-pink lips. "I thought you were old," I exclaimed, shocked by his good looks."Surprised?" he asked, preening a little. "Very." Amber eyes sparkled through long dark lashes. His sand-coloured skin was flawless without lines of time. His hair was a lion's mane of red, gold and burnt sienna. His body was young, energy vibrating in all its perfect lines, and his erection was achingly beautiful.

"If you look like this, what does Birth look like?" I asked him.

"Look over there. See for yourself. "My eyes followed the direction of his long fingers to a figure across the field. I looked at Death and Birth several times. I was surprised again. They were identical twins. I turned to Death, a question poised on my lips. "Yes, we are identical twins," he said before I could speak. He seemed burdened by the fact. I turned to look at Birth again, but he had vanished. "He's disappeared," I exclaimed, feeling cheated. "That's because I'm with you now. He will return when I have gone." "Why are you here?" I asked. "To dance," he replied. In silence we sat in the corn. Death lifted several stalks and twisted them as I had done. He held them up.

"If my brother was with you he would have woven these into a crown for your head. Unfortunately, I'm no good at that sort of thing."

I laughed softly and touched his hands. The idea of Death being a moonlight and roses man was ridiculous to me anyway. But from the way he said it, I had the feeling that he would like to be.
"Would you like to dance with me now?" I asked him, wanting him to feel appreciated. He nodded, and rose to his feet offering me his hand.

Death took me in his arms, and we waltzed to the sound of violins that appeared at the snap of his fingers. He was good dancer, confident, easy to follow. Even if you missed a step, Death didn't falter. Up close he was warm, and my body fitted snugly into his. His cock pressed against me. I rubbed against it rhythmically. I was trying to put a name to his smell. Was it herbs or plants? No, it was something more pungent. Sharp. Then it came to me. It was the smell of the inside of an old cedar wood box containing letters. I had a box like that. It was my mother's. Death and I lay down in the corn and looked up at the sky. The light was fading, but the Moon Lady was clearly visible above us, even though the Sun had not yet left for the night. Death put his hand on my belly. His hands were warm on my skin, but as they went through my skin his grip turned icy. I put my own hand over his to ease the pain. My thighs and sex felt numb. Apologetically, Death removed his hand and kissed my breasts. A warm wetness ran down my legs. I lifted my skirt to look. It was blood. Death was leaving me and descending into the Earth. The impression of his lips on my flesh all that was left. In the sky the Moon Lady was shining, feeding on the blood of my womb that kept her turning through time.

Already the smell of Birth was emerging. The twisted cornstalks were still in my hand. I walked back the way I had been brought, guided to the garden by its scents.

Closing the door behind me, I found the vervain I had been looking for in the kitchen garden. ++

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