on the vast grounds that lie within the borders of the Menstrual Temple of the Funky Grail there winds a crystalline river of such vivid shades of lapis and teal, and the deepest royal blue ever conceived by Nature. the water tastes of happiness and hope, with a freshness that bubbles on your tongue, the water so aerated it invariably evaporates inside your mouth until you don't know if you're breathing water or drinking in sweet, pure, mineral air.
the sweetest mountain stream is bracken compared to the River Funk.
clear across the grounds from the zen gardens, there lies a grove of pomegranate trees that grows on either side of the river, with a wonderful bridge of braided pomegranate branches gilded in sparkling laughter joining the two banks. and these are the sweetest, plumpest and most ruddy red fruits of persephone ever to grow in the history of the multiverse.
many things had happened lately, and i found nothing was more healing or peaceful than lying beneath those pomegranate trees, the soft grass like a felt blanket beneath me. the leaves whispered holy stories and sacred puns in the breeze, and secret wishes of the Jiggy Snake grew inside each lovely pomegranate, clothed in the sacred, sweet red flesh of the tiny seeds.
a small pile of waxy red rinds lay scattered beside me, and i lounged in the dappled shade and dangled my fingers in the river. the ground was soft as a feather bed, and the sun caressed my face with a gentle mastery of tantric mystery. a small sigh escaped my lips.
there were footsteps then, a hushed rustling of bare feet on the green carpet of cool grass. i opened my eyes and saw the pomegranate priestess staring down at me, the red whorls and dots tracing like faery dust up her arms. this particular priestess wore a gold nose ring in her left nostril and bells in her braided hair, and the pendant dangling in the middle of her forehead flashed a brilliant, clear and all-knowing red.
she held out her hand, and only then did i notice she held a small piece of raw paper rolled up like a scroll and tied off with gold and red ribbons. her lips were full and glistened with the stain of pomegranate juice like the darkest lip gloss. she smiled at me, a gentle smile full of pity. the darkness in her eyes filled me with dread, but i knew i had to read the letter.
--dearest and most adventurous delena of the funkywild--
a misguided swan became infatuated with a pedal boat at a pond in hamburg, germany. apparently mistaking it for his soul mate, the devoted bird guarded the boat jealously and rarely left its side. the human owner of the boat found it amusing at first, but later regarded it as a nuisance, since the enamoured swan chased away all potential renters of the vehicle.
before i could even react in my confusion to the ambiguous and out-in-left-field nature to the letter which was entirely typical of things in the Menstrual Temple, the priestess pointed a finger at me. the motion was so quick, it caused the bells to chime softly in her hair.
"make this poignant creature your anti-role model," said the priestess. for only a moment, her hair came loose of its braids and exploded in a riotous, fiery red down to her feet. her tone reminded me of those days when i was young and was constantly running into the street without looking both ways, and my bio-mother would catch me and give me her no-nonsense voice.
but then she smiled. "may he inspire you to free yourself of all delusions you have entertained over the years about the kind of intimate ally you need in order to be happy."
the breeze picked up and ruffled her hair, and a vulture feather flew out of her tresses where it had apparently been caught. a chill raised gooseflesh on my arms, even in the heat like warm butter on my bare limbs.
"you're talking about my bio-dad," i said.
she raised an eyebrow, and just for a moment it seemed her face elongated to accomodate a great, wickedly curved vulture beak. sometimes knowing the sisterhood of the pomegranate priestesses never spoke except as the goddesses wasn't as comforting as it seemed.
"is that your delusion?" she murmured. "your biological father as intimate ally?"
i winced at the barely veiled allusion of incest. "ew, no." i took my hand out of the river and dried my fingers on my shirt, sat up and tucked my legs beneath me. "it's just..." i sighed. "the idea of peace with him, like a holy grail, only i watch it tear me apart and i can't stop crusading for it."
the grace and poise of the priestesses are legendary. in one smooth motion she sank back on her heels and stroked the grass with her fingertips. would that i had an ounce of such self-possession...
i could feel the heat rising to my face, sitting there beneath that gaze that was priestess and vulture goddess and bandit, revolutionary prankster goddess all at once. unable to look her in the eyes, i lowered my eyes to the fists my hands were making of themselves in my lap and i shrugged. "inside, deep inside, i wonder that one day people will look at me and see my Funk as a fraud, and they'll see i'm still that little girl on that porch. and maybe, just maybe, if i can make peace with him, if i can build a friendship where things are good, it will cancel out that part like it never happened and it won't matter.
"it's not that my Funk is fake," i said. my throat was clenching up so hard it felt bruised. "i guess we just want resolution, me and that little girl. and how better to get it than from the man who created the rift?" i shook my head as if dismissing the entire, idiotic thing. "it's my issue, and i know it. i'm once more looking outside myself for something i need inside, but you can't blame a girl for wanting to again be the precious little girl her daddy loved. i don't want to wonder, for the rest of my life, whether he loved or hated me."
the small sickle was once more in the priestess' hand. with practiced efficiency, she raised an arm suddenly entirely blue, and swiped the sickle across my chest. the blade bit deep into my breast bone, nicked my heart.
the impact flung me backwards, and i landed with a bracing splash in the River Funk. shocking cold blinded me and my limbs tingled with sudden numbness. whether it was the shock of physical or emotional trauma, i didn't know. my arms refused to obey my desperate attempts to break for the surface. my lungs burned, and i opened my mouth and breathed in great mouthfuls of water...which turned instantly into fresh, cool air.
slowly, so slowly, my head broke through to the surface, and i floated on my back. from the corner of my eye i could see the red stream of my blood widening in the current.
"you have studied," the priestess called to me from the bank of the river. "you know what happens to a body slowly dying of blood loss. you can bleed as you wish, or you can close the wound. you are of Those Who Bleed But Do Not Die. do not waste your power needlessly, or it will be devoured for those who would use it."
she leapt into the air then, and the sun flashed in the sky. suddenly, where before there had been a beautiful woman dark of hair and red of skin, there was a vulture with red talons and red-tipped wings flying over the pomegranate groves.
stunned, injured, i floated helplessly down the river.