Voices of Never

by Bladen Breitreiter

Photo Art by Julie Landrum

The atmosphere radiated hot silver in a thunderous sky that refused to release its treasures. The noon darkness made the pale limestone walls of the dead canyon almost glow with a heavenly brightness. Deep wounds ran in every direction as far as the eye could see, creating a mosaic of hungry earth. The crevices were wider and deeper than any Macarthy had ever seen, making the land appear as if each section of ground was its own pillar. Bending down, she put her tan hand to the dry, fractured soil. While starved, no magical energy radiated back at her. The water had preserved it, keeping it safe, and the drought had consecrated it. She found it nearly perverse that such devastating events had manifested a surface so pure.

Carcasses of mesquite trees laid across the cracked earth like bones blasted by water and sand, clearly remnants of the last time the vein was dry. The trees stood short, starved and ghost-like, rising out of the earth as a twisted alien hand. Macarthy laid her palm across their fraying bones, hearing the desperation for water pulsing through their veins, an incoherent cry. The wood splintered and broke apart at her touch, falling to the dusty ground below. The shrubs beneath carved through space like cracks in time, no foliage left to guard them. Macarthy let her fingers dance among their empty branches, her heart aching at their pleas for rain. With a snap of her wrist, she broke their ends off, collecting their ruins in her hand.

Keep dancing for rain…

Macarthy paused at the ambient beckoning, turning her gray eyes to the stubborn gray velvet above. Wild lines of silver etched themselves along the edges of the covered sky as the sun began to push through. Eighty-seven days without rain, and it seemed that today would be no different. Tears welled in her eyes at the pain that emanated from around her. She felt displaced, as though in a dream, surrounded by a familiar world that had become so profoundly foreign. Drawing in a sharp inhale, she slammed her feet into the loose clay. Dust erupted around her from the parched earth, and she clapped, turning about in circles.

Do not listen to the voices of never, motherless child.

A calming voice announced fragments of wisdom from nowhere. It was in her mind, but also echoing everywhere. Hawks flew overhead, quiet travelers of the thermals made by a roasting surface, and the clouds began to condense and morph above them. Wind pushed her long, raven hair back and cooled her body as the sweat dripped down the sides of her torso and bare legs.

Keep dancing for rain. Ride against the voices of never, motherless child, and I will give you a voice.

Slowly, a mountain lion approached her, and she stopped to greet her visitor. The giant cat had eyes of fire, and golden embers of energy radiated off its dark skin. She smiled at her spirit animal as the forceful rays of the sun baked her. She yowled a wild call at the daystar, her spirit invigorated by the desert cat. Perhaps, if she kept dancing, she could will the sky to sweat. All other magic had failed up to this point. As she spun about in the unforgiving desert heat, sweat intermixing with tears, her heart began to pound in her chest…and yet, she felt no fatigue, beckoning to her mind that this was all an illusion.

The puma stood before her, magnificent with incredible wisdom and respect, the fire pouring eternal out of its almond-shaped eyes. Both waited for the orchestra of water’s return as the clouds swelled above. The pregnant pockets reshaped and flattened, and the winds stirred, letting out a great breath, signifying the end. The delicate sound of thunder rumbled above as though it was traversing hundreds of miles to reach them with its message:

Motherless child, believe meI will give you a voice.

Bladen is a scientist by day, rock star by night, writer in between, and someone who enjoys running only in dreams. A graduate in atmospheric sciences, they chase fire and tell the future for a day job. In addition to their work with the Southwest Gothic series, Bladen has written and recorded several varieties of sonic entertainment, including an accompanying soundtrack to the novels. A Desert Southwest native, they do their best writing in the ghost towns of the Texas borderland between the real and the unreal. Also a witch, the second law of thermodynamics is their magical ethos and they try to live everyday as though it were Halloween. Bladen likes cats, honey mustard, yelling at clouds while drinking scotchy scotch, and is composed almost entirely of jokes.

Julie Landrum is an artist from Lampasas, Texas. Julie is a "process artist" who likes to feel the entire process or art in an organic way during creation. She prefers her art to be spontaneous and diverse. Julie raises sheep, whose wool she uses to weave her own pieces. Julie's talents include photography, spinning and weaving, and painting. Julie likes to mix mediums, exemplified in her pieces above.