by Gary W. Olson

Brutal LightShe swam through his new flesh, tearing him from the mountain and into the searing bright sky. Blood and terror streamed in her wake. As he fell to the sea, he smiled. She had come to him.

Kelly Creyts savored his pain. That he could feel pain again made him scream with joy. He was told to be ready to receive her, and thought he had known what to expect. As always, she proved to be more.

He let the mountain he had stolen fade, a moment before he struck the roiling waters.

You’ve gotten better,” he called without opening his mouth. “I never felt you until you were in.”

He expected a reply from his lover of old. She did nothing, save drink the raw energy her violent entry set free. A day before her assault would’ve killed him but now he had power to spare.

Once she called it poison, and craved it more than her life.

To see her and taste her again–had they really been apart less than two years? If she knew the things he had done, the compromises he made–

You’re in trouble already, girl. Why come to me?

The weight of the sea increased as he sank, but Kelly refused to give up the body he had so recently taken the power to recreate. He knew he had made her angry, maybe angry enough to do lasting damage. If he struggled at this point, he thought he would lose, having ceded so much advantage. He had come so far and done so much. Nothing he had been told had yet failed to happen.

“I will come to you,” he said. “As I promised.”

Intense light erupted from his wound and trailed his blood in the black waters. She coalesced into a rough human female shape, with fingers that burned his flesh where they dug into him. Her tongue blackened his lips, despite the presence and pressure of the deep sea. He kissed her and she erupted into him, cauterizing his wounds as she passed back through the door she had carved.

After a while, his pain faded and her light grew dim. The pressure receded, and a new light touched his skin. When he felt alone and controlled once more, he opened his eyes.

Kelly looked down the length of a familiar beach. The golden sand burned his feet, and he couldn’t see where beach or sea ended. The sand was filled with memories, but old times were of no interest. He craved the new. He craved whatever she had become since she exiled him from her body and her mind. Most of all, he craved what she would be, and what he might take from her. He licked his lips at the thought.

As before, a deep green forest bordered the beach. Though it seemed still, he could feel the writhing within. It was larger and more ravenous than he remembered, and even more enticing. She had withdrawn into it, but not so cleverly he couldn’t follow. The taste of the Radiance lingered, and he hungered for more.

From far within the forest, a wolf howled. He smirked, and gave the trees the finger. If she thought he would just plunge into her primal green, like the fool he had once been, she was mistaken. He had a plan. He had allies. For once, he would do as he should; as he was told.

Kelly willed away sky and sea and beach and forest. They dissolved as easily as the mountain, revealing golden walls and the late afternoon light of his former mistress’s bedroom in the material world. The air was hot and still to his newly created flesh.

“I’m back,” he said to the walls. “Did you miss me?”

His body ached. The wounds, though cauterized, hadn’t healed with his shift from the Noumenal, the shadowed space where all that was dream and will and unreal commingled. He could’ve left the flesh behind and saved the energy required to manifest it in physical space. Should have, he knew, since there was no one around to enjoy the show. The feel of flesh in the world of matter was a thing he never truly believed he would have again.

Kelly considered using a small part of his new wealth of energy to wash away his wounds, but decided against it. Gordon had warned against the temptation of waste. He would need the energy to get to where Gordon–and she–waited. He would recreate himself anyway, once he was in that place, and he would be even more beautiful to her than he had been before.

He would need every ounce of his power to take what he would have from her, and swallow the last of her ecstatic screams.

An ache beneath his ribs made him wince. It was a different wound, left by the owner of the bedroom he now occupied. This pain warned against overconfidence.

The owner was a tough and powerful woman named Alice Riesling, in whose service he languished for months. She was no longer in the room, though her blood had soaked her carpet. He knew Gordon would be angry if he found out about the mess. But her body would never be found, so what did it matter?

There was no danger of overconfidence, he insisted to the walls. The invasion and the opening of his wound meant his exile was at an end, but he had to move.

He looked at the painting above the disheveled and blood-drenched bed. It showed a dark-skinned woman with a severed hand and a neck that streamed blood, and eyes that were alive with primal force. A Tantric goddess, he remembered. Her name was Cinna-something-or-other. She walked next to a massive lion, her remaining hand buried in its mane.

Alice never explained what the painting meant to her, and until that moment, Kelly had never been curious. Later, he thought, when his business with his former and future lover was at its inevitable end, he might pull Alice from his belly and ask–if, by then, he didn’t already understand.

Kelly sat on the bed, ignoring the way his tangled red hair spilled over his eyes. He thought of the howl of the wolf and the hunger of the forest. He wondered what new beasts roamed there, and if anything now grew where old memories were buried.

“I wonder, my dear,” he whispered. “Which of us hungers more?”

He went within and dreamed of a door.

Soon, he was gone.

***

The new edition of Brutal Light (originally published in December 2011) came out in August 2017, and is available exclusively from Amazon.com: