Whips and augmentations of whips swing off candelabras to ascend. Each night the same storm rages as the last, the same family drama repeats, from father to son to blastocyst, all aligned against an ageless foe that is death and not death. We combat faceless efficiency, a void that drains all color and replaces the primacy of the moment with infinite vistas. In Castlevania the candles burst apart when the whip cracks, producing colored vials and healing hearts. Organ music plays on a loop deep beneath the castle, but no player is ever revealed, even as we scale the pipes so impossibly large and pristine, fit our hands between the gaps of stone turrets and climb toward our destinies. We drink our fill of lost loves and obsessive wildlife, wolves stampeding through unlocked doors, rousting rats from passageways as bats swoop overhead. The castle is a sphere, a never ending enclosure in which the tomb generates new code, blossoming vines crawling out through the edges of gothic arches, tunneling gateways shaped like crosses, holy relics subsumed in watery blessings. Teeth are bared, capes billow, but we are gone, exploring passageways beneath a river our forefathers left unnamed.
Move the stone and enter the labyrinth, collecting piece after piece in the hopes of one day forming a whole. A dark spell has fallen across the land, is falling across the land, has always lain draped across the land, even when we were too blind to care or notice. We manufacture wind instruments and practice sword-play, puzzle ways to retrieve sunken treasures from ancient lakes. Our bodies are bad wizards in the darkness, slinging incantations through fractured wands and frightening old women in their sleep. We try potions as cures for heartsickness, for loss of nerve, for substandard archery. Our swords protrude limpidly into the unknown, collecting samples to test for triumph. Our bodies grow into kingdoms of disrepair, memories fade, tombs signify nothing. Look upon the flashing repetitions assembling triangles over and over again, the little towns on the outskirts hidden under rocks. See this feather tucked into my cap as the walls close in, think of oceans of choice drying out one by one, hearts fading in half-time as the monsters find us. We have lost all this in the sand, yet still her vision haunts our eyes, a conjurer’s trick to push us through faded confidence, to defeat masters of empty tombs.
Curl into a ball as your primary coping strategy. Master codes to electrify the intellect, traverse through caverns and claustrophobic labyrinths, flickering and floating in a neon blue haze. Your suit is an androgynous vehicle to enter and exit fictions at will, the smooth surface of your helmet forever reflecting pink folds, pitting yourself against minions and the fear of falling. It is here you learn the true meaning of courage, beginning again after each death with a singularity of purpose, a clear mandate to accept the guiding hand. It is here on Zebes we wander together then apart, searching for mothers – of invention, of denial, of sinister thought. The scene explodes in spongy bits covering the screen, silent triumph achieved in a cold void where shimmering clouds of synths echo in your mind but cannot carry. Repressurize the hold and remove the helmet – the beauty of your eyes, the length of your hair, your face coalescing in frozen pixels.
NEAL KITTERLIN lives in Matteson, IL with his wife and daughter, and has published poems in PANK, Nap, Red Lightbulbs, HOUSEFIRE, and many other fine places. He has an e-chap of election poems, Decisions, out from Love Symbol Press, and can be found on twitter @NealKitterlin.