I have a few copies of Britannia Unleashed available to anyone who would like one (NOT MANY). They are time-limited as in, ‘download within the next 48 hours or miss out‘ and yours to keep. I apologise that they are for the UK and USA, (Audible.com and Audible.co.uk) markets only and currently worth about £23 or $25 per copy.
I am not sharing this post en masse to give my WordPress friends first dibs at them. If anyone would like a copy, please leave an email address for me to send you the link and individual passcode to. Please state whether you require a USA or UK code. As soon as they are gone, I shall delete this post.
To anyone who takes up the offer, I hope you enjoy Michael Langan’s reading of my work as much as I did. He really is very good.
Richard M. Ankers
Author of Britannia Unleashed and The Eternals Series
PS I shall be asleep soon, so watch your inboxes in the morning.
Cold was the morning you frosted away like a slender white shadow escaping the sun. Freezing, if truth be known. A displaced moonbeam marked your demise. A creaking branch acknowledged my own. Such inglorious departures for two once lovers on this our final goodbye. Perhaps we were never meant to be.
In veins cut and blood lost, I departed.
The malaise came in breaths made mists. They gathered. They loomed. I cowered.
There was no moon, no setting sun, just an eternal twilight, or closer, a damnable dusk.
Memories, however, were never so easily vacated. Tidal in their surges, relentless in their crashing intent, all that I, we, and everything in between had been, regathered. The pages of our book un-tore themselves.
And still, I wanted more.
Lost in the fogs of neither here nor there, I wandered in a landscape of dread morbidity. To the passing recollections of others, I appeared furrowed of brow and dangerous. To those who’d had less than we, I gleamed. Ghosts avoided me. Nature abhorred me. They were right to.
As for her?
I wished to forget, no longed to, to move on to other planes of existence. I determined to build such thorny, impenetrable barriers as to have bricked her away in my mind’s darkest recesses. And I tried. Yes, I tried.
But those emerald eyes were hard to stifle, lush spring grasses dripping with dew. That’s how I remembered her, weeping. Always weeping.
Days became months and months became more, the centuries amassing in insurmountable massifs, my own private Himalayas. Yet, I climbed with intent and rejoiced in the starlight, for the stars were what I imagined. Some latent wish to stand atop the world and scream her name, persevered. A desire so strong it dragged me up, up, up and away towards the light. My legs pumped, growing stronger with every step. My flexing fingers crushed granite, grappled with purgatory itself. But it wasn’t purgatory, not limbo, not any of those self-titled places between places. As I said, neither here nor there.
I heard her voice as a rainbow all bright light coruscating through the rain clouds. She burst from above and drove me to distraction; it was all I’d ever hoped for and more. No echoing torment was this, no indeterminable dream. It came again, a sonic confirmation.
The veil dropped as though from a blushing bride, and Hell dropped away with it. The Earth with all its colours lay before me in its patchwork perfection. Heaven’s gates rested at my fingertips.
Say her name. Just say her name. Say her name and all shall be returned to you traveller, for your love is binding, tied tighter than infinity’s restrictions.
And I wept as they spoke, or sang, or kissed my stone-cold cheek. Blessed were the angels. I was back. Well, almost.
Lips that had not spoken in eternity pursed through my smile. They readied. They dared me to stop them.
But everything one wished for was never so easy. Death, like life, was never meant for cheating. And though it rattled around my cavernous mind like an avalanche down a mountain, her name had gone.
I tired. We all do eventually. I tired of remembering, of forcing what time had lost. I succumbed.
Only when the fog once again entwined my soul in its lover’s embrace did I remember. Only then. I remembered why I’d forgotten it, too, and wandered forever away.
I dream of a girl with raven hair and eyes suffused with sorrow. She lies on a bed draped in lace and languor, waiting for something, anything, but not me.
The nights roll past like midnight breakers, the froth of their passing coating my dreams. I watch the moon descend into this nothingness without ever the certainty it’ll rise again. At least, I know it won’t rise for me.
A pinprick sky of dazzling gems flickers. The stars take their last hurrah. An obsidian curtain shall soon drop across them like freshly dug earth upon a grave. I set my spade aside.
There’s a man in a nightmare from which he can’t wake, where a girl in her bed dreams of the ocean, and the stars die every evening. I have the power to help one of them, but which? This uncertainty shall ruin me.
Soulless images swinging from a ledge, we perused the underworld as if a dare. A vast darkness, it swirled and roiled in endless chaos, a temptation to all we undesirables, and we were more undesirable than most.
Time meant little there. Each dusk rivalled the next for length and languor. Each splitting of the sky rendered the place more ruinous. Eternity was less a bonus than the Devil had promised.
We jumped from boredom, not shame. We plunged into His realm, as he had dropped into ours. I only hoped our son watched from heaven. Perhaps it balanced the books.
There’s less of me now I dissipate daily One emotion at a time Falling from grace Like a rock from a cliff Shards of me crumbling Just crumbling away Less than a person Worse than a ghost Grey eyes dispersing a gloom That permeates this soul
Freedom deserts me I’m no longer myself Walking the high wire In concrete boots Awaiting the plummet Whilst watching birds fly So far and so free Wondering if angels do too I’m less than I was There’s less of me now With never enough to save
She claimed me a simple fellow bereft of ideas and ambition. In many ways, this was true, but not all. Whilst she revelled in opulent un-necessities, as I termed them, I made do. As she basked by day in dazzling pools of gold, quicksilver sprinkles by evening, I brushed off the ragged darkness and settled for black. This was just my way. As you might imagine, we clashed. Money and its making was ever a seduction to some.
Lissette was as headstrong as I was meek. She wore me down. She erased my lines like pencil from a clean, white page. It seemed I wore my soul as a too-long cape, one that dragged in the gutter, grew wet and mould-ridden, whilst she bought ever more spectacular silks and flaunted them as a modern-day Scheherazade. She recited her wondrous tales to whoever, whenever, just to get her way. Something had to change, as I was no king and she certainly no prospective queen. Yes, something had to change. But what?
The simplest solutions are often the best, and mine was the simplest of all: I ran. I gathered all I owned, emptied the accounts, leaving her with next to nothing, and fled to the mountains where once I’d thrived as a boy. There, where only goats roamed and cows munched the pastures, I lived the simplest of simple lives. Unfortunately, even this was too much.
She appeared one windswept evening, drenched and enraged. Her clothes hung from her like a wailing banshee, her skin now of spectral shades. What beauty she’d flaunted had long since past. Even her eyes had dimmed. If she still possessed the gold and silver she so valued, there was not one sign. Had she sold all her belongings, spent her, or rather, our fortune, just to track me? Could she truly have been so petty?
“You left.” She slammed the shack door closed to a whistle and a whoosh.
“You… left… me…”
“I did.” What else was there to say?
She shook so violently, raindrops sprayed everywhere, soaking everything, including me.
“You made me look foolish.”
“You did that on your own.”
“Me!” she said, as if in disbelief.
“What do you want?”
“I’m your wife…”
“We were never married. Never would have been, either.”
“In the eyes of the law, we were, and I want what I’m entitled to.”
She unravelled a script that said as much. I read it, rolled it back up and refastened the thing. I set her with one of my best looks and said, “I gave it all away.”
She laughed for some reason. Lissette almost split her sides. Only after several minutes of tears and frothing did she recompose.
“Where is it?”
“With a boy in Toulon. An old woman in London. A gypsy somewhere in between. There were, of course, others, all far more needy than I. The list was extensive. Now, I have this and nothing more. I spread my arms out wide.
I had seen rivers breach and even a volcano blow its top in Sicily, but nothing compared to her. Lissette knew me as well as I knew her, and there was never any doubt of my lying.
The dagger slipped into her hand as easily as a dream into sleep. Even easier into my heart, and twice in my head.
I woke to a glistening web of a place, neither silver nor gold, rich nor poor. The others were there, those I’d assisted, helping me to my feet, smiling.
“No, said the boy.
“Down there,” said the old lady, who looked decidedly better than when last I’d seen her.
“Cursed,” added the gypsy. She crossed herself and spat.
“Oh,” said I.
I wept then. Not for being murdered, nor that briefest of pain, but for Lissette.
“Why?” chorused the masses who’d benefited from my philanthropy, all those she’d tracked and butchered.
“I loved her.”
As I said, the simplest answers are always best. Never embellish them with adornments, no matter how fierce the shame.
I curl inwards Though no sleeping rose am I Waiting for tomorrow’s sun Protecting the bloom Tighter and tighter until it hurts Fingers curling, toes, too A spine made willow Bent by autumn storms This is the life you’ve granted Sights and sounds Growling through the dusk Moaning through the midnight Weeping till the dawn An emotional contraction I’ll never unfurl