Starless Imperium

Morgan Argor Strange, Science Fiction Horror Author

Severed Wings of a Celestial


Warning: This story contains strong themes and triggering imagery of r*pe, sexual coercion, and trauma. It also contains self-harm and drug abuse.

“When the stars align,
When I rise from the grave to follow the sign
Immortality or death: Which will you choose?
Nothing to gain, Eternity to lose.

Wings of a Celestial, I face the darkness alone
With the Night at my back, I’ll die for the unknown.

~ Wings of a Celestial, by Wormheart

I. How Many Darknet Necronomicons Do I Have to Shred to Make a Suit of Human Skin With Pauldrons?

I want to feel his blackness flutter inside me like a murder of crows.

I tell myself this as he pins me for what feels like the fourth time today. As usual, he doesn’t keep his promise, so it’s a good thing I already hypnotized myself into believing he’s right by staring into those dead grey-blue eyes the entire time.

He wants it so badly. He wants me so badly. No one else ever did.

I can’t tell if my heart is pounding with longing or fear as the warm, piercing dread finally thickens. For solace, I run my fingers through the tousled falls of his thick, dark hair. His scent paralyzes me like a sedative as his excitement builds. Evergreen moss and midnight rain. Maybe I do want it after all. Maybe I . . .

His breath is strange and heavy in my ear as I lean my neck back and stare up at a crack on the ceiling. I know what the unmistakable pulsing means.

I imagine myself wearing one of those barbed, backwards condoms, like they talk about in Africa on the news.

But why stop there?

In the hysterical ultraviolet nuclear flash inside my mind, for a moment, my skin is armor: A suit made from the hardened leather of a thousand girls who died this way long before, their bones sharpened into spikes that shred his vocal cords like razor wire so he can never moan in pleasure or pain again.

I wear the screams of their vengeful, humiliated legion like pauldrons of human skin.

Why did she leave me alone with him again? I whisper to the god of time and death as he floods me with the unformed memories of countless tortured, unformed lives. He never listens, so I never fight. By now, it’s all routine.

We cry together, and then for some reason, I’m glad she left us alone. I feel his stubble gently nuzzling against my cheek as the warmth settles in, and I know no one in all the gutter has ever been closer than us.

Ignoring the slamming on the walls outside, a million miles away, we count the invisible stars on the ceiling after and smoke a joint—both on our backs, equalized.

There’s something off about that weed. I wonder if you can order books made of human skin on the darknet, too. If I somehow got my hands on enough of them, I wouldn’t even need to sink to his level to source the skin for my suit.

I know what will happen if I never slip into my skin suit. I kiss him, brushing back his tears and telling him I love him more than anything in the world: And it’s true.

But being alone with him for so long is going to end up gutting me. There’s something off about him. He never gets tired, like the broken, curb-stomped incubus that he is.

Like raven feathers falling in a turbulent midnight wind, the stirring hits me again. I feel dizzy as he locks his arms around my shoulders and kisses me, smearing the remnants of black lipstick down the side of my neck like the bruises of want he always leaves.

How is he not tired? I wonder—half amazed, half amused.

For the first time ever, the banging on the door doesn’t jar me. I’ve never felt safe anywhere except his arms.

When you’re at the mercy of the sickest motherfucker in the valley, with a shadow twice as black as death, you forget what safety even is.

You forget everything except what will happen if you try to pull away, or even worse, say ‘no.’

II. The God of Time and Death Wears a Hot Topic Trenchcoat  

“Fuck no, I won’t take you.” His thousand-yard stare shivers across the rainy mirror of the windshield as if he saw a ghost, but inside, I know it’s just his own reflection. “That’s sick.”

My mind flashes back to more blacked-out, ravenous fuckups than I can count. I saw his fangs from the moment I met him; I played with fire and I got burned.

From the inside . . . Something isn’t right. And no matter how violently he sobs as we speed down the endless stretch of country road through the dark, I know how it’s going to end.

He may be too blind to see my suit of human skin, stitched together over a tired and worn-out body that can hardly sustain itself—but I can tell he feels the aftershock of its thousand thorns, bleeding out from his eyes and his tongue in the driver’s seat. Horrible words muck the gentle fall of raven feathers into a vortex of sludge that I can’t wait to expel.

He turns the radio up all the way and closes his eyes. Hallowed Be Thy Name. So do I. I don’t care anymore. I know he’s too much of a coward to do more than bitch endlessly, and impose his will on others: Namely me.

Hydroplaning around a corner, we narrowly miss swerving into an oncoming truck. Neither of us flinch.

Way back deep in the back of my brain, I picture myself ripping out all the pages; shredding all the pictures of us fucking around back in her bedroom, or out getting high on some random back road. But in the true spirit of necromancy, our faces are painted in blood across the same book of human skin.

I pray to the gods of Time and Death that I’ll finish my skinsuit before he slams the breaks. Once he parks, he’ll drag me to the backseat again.

The way he thinks is so fucked up. He always says his brain is backwards, but as the speed drops from 85 to 60, all I can think is “sideways”.

Hulking, back gnarled, and more wide-eyed than I’d ever known in the moonlight, I know that this is his domain. Iron Maiden howls, and the black fields stretch wild and restless in every direction, as if a storm brews far away.

“I can’t leave him. I just . . . can’t. He’ll kill me.” My mother’s wisdom echoes across the hopeless prison of night, and I remember why I’m here.

True to my nightmares, when the car screeches to a halt in some forsaken pull-off, he gets out and drags me out by my arm and throws me in the backseat as easily as a child tosses a doll.

“Shhh . . .” Suddenly, his voice drips with blood-soaked honey like Romeo; the worn out sadboy soliloquy of the first day we met, that had kept me cozy for so long, here in hell. 

He strokes the side of my face, but there’s nothing in his eyes but panicked desperation as he slams the door behind him and locks it, coming for me: looming miles above me for a long, bleak second before finally pinning me down like usual.

“T-this is the best thing that ever happened to us. It’s like . . . a second chance at life.”

I almost would have believed him, but the quaver in his voice gave it all away. Even after he silenced me with a raw, deep kiss, his eyes were still wet with tears.

For some reason, in that moment I realized he’d never been half as cool as his gaudy Tripp trench coat made him look.

III. There’s Nothing Gay about Calling Another Guy’s Eyes “Celestial” (Even if His Soft Auburn Hair Strangles Babies)

“What the fuck do you mean, you prayed to the Celestial?” He sputtered, so stoned he missed the middle console when he tried to punch it, smashing an empty vodka bottle splayed sideways across the cup holders instead. He raised his hand to the twilight, studying the blood, and for a moment, we shared a true laugh like the old times. A piece of broken glass lodged itself in the side of my ice cream, though, and then it wasn’t so funny.

It was about to be even less.

“I mean exactly what I said I mean. I played Wings of a Celestial, like I always wanted to.” In his constant delusional haze, now peppered with misguided pseudo-religious bullshit that made about as much sense as crying over abortion but gushing over genocide, I knew that would be far easier to swallow than the truth.

“I knew he was the only one who would help me.”

I guess he was kind of Celestial, when you really think about it. Before I ever met him, I only knew him as “the guy with the bat tattoo on his throat and the long red hair.” But despite the potential for unspeakable evil that lurked behind his quiet black eyes, somehow, the melancholy—void of even the faintest shred of angst, even though he knew all the best goth bands, and actually knew how to dress like it—made him feel so pure.

A stark and everlasting contrast to the black-hearted caricature of a person next to me. The person I once loved more than anything, who now grabbed me so roughly by the arm with his bloodied hand and twisted that I wondered if my wrist would snap.

“Bullshit. You never would have survived,” he snarled, barely recognizable with his once-beautiful face gasping for air beneath his seemingly endless toxic well of sorrow. “No way in hell it was him. For real, who took you?”

He reached to feel my stomach, the cobwebs of disbelief suspended between every fingertip. Before, I’d hated to let him touch it. When he reached up my shirt, his engagement ring—our engagement ring, even though it didn’t really feel like it anymore—was colder than ice against my skin.

But now that the feathers were so bogged down with clotted blood that they would never twitch, or flutter, or even stir again, it felt like nothing.

“Who?” He repeated, punching the steering wheel and leaving an eerie imprint of blood.

Like I’d tell you, I thought to myself, staring up at the middle star of Orion’s belt. It was only Christmas eve, but it felt like unwrapping presents on the 25th back at the lake when I was four. I smiled at the Demon Star, then said nothing but, “Nobody. I told you: If you wouldn’t help me, I’d do it myself.”

It was as much of a lie as Christmas magic. Really, the one who took me was just a weird kid like the rest of us that happened to be in the wrong place at the right time. Kind of like me, when you really think about it.

But I’d never sell him out in a million years. I knew the fury of death when I saw it . . .

. . . And all these miles from town, with no one to hear me scream and no will to fight, I actually did wish on the Demon Star this time.

It’s bad luck to tell exactly what you wished for, so I never will.

But somehow, some way, I convinced him to take a couple of Xanax while the liquor was still pounding in his blood. It worked.

I have no memory of forcing him into the backseat of his own car. For all I know he went without a fight before he passed out.

But deep down, I hoped I got a few good punches in, at least: Because the drive back to town was the worst of my life.

The same way dogs like radios, or babies cry when you change the channel, I knew it was over if I turned Hallowed Be Thy Name off its 550th repeat.

Once we were back to civilization, I got into the back with him by my own free will. But instead of laying down on my back and wishing upon stars that the pain would end, I sat up and held his hand while he slept. The only reason I could stomach it was because my Necronomicon Skin Suit was finally complete.

Turns out the secret really was just ripping all the pictures up into little pieces and stitching them back together wrong.

I made sure he was breathing every now and then, and kept him sideways so he didn’t throw up. Somehow, I knew it was the last time we’d sit together—at least in that form, in that lost and fucked up time in both our lives. I was glad he was unconscious for it. I don’t like it if people see me cry.

When the track hit 667 repeats, as a direct “fuck you” to The Number of the Beast, I checked him one last time and walked away. To where . . . Well, I won’t get into that.

All you need to know is that I’ll regret showing him that fucking album ‘til the day I die.



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