by Kristine Ong Muslim
The city of your youth was already gone
taking with it the vestiges
of your cold dark past.
They were strange then,
and most beautiful--
your dead people.
You could still hear the women
weep their songs of farewell and damnation
as you fled
past shadow barges and subterranean caverns
and the stark lonely seas that stretched to infinity around it,
across hillsides lined with footprints of minotaurs
and tiny tracks of benign elves,
between trails of gladiators and pursuing beasts.
You remembered how the invaders burned the children,
and you knew you died with them that day
in the middle of the blood-drenched courtyard.
Mirrored in your eyes was the memory
of these nightmares.
How you wished you could still burn yourself clean
someday, free of your history.
You could hear the sound
of horses’ hooves
Soon, the chase would near its end.
Your weary eyes scanned the verdant
mounds that lined the swamp
while you searched for a refuge.
The echo of your approaching doom
filled the world.
The bushes seemed to grow thicker
as the riders hounding you drew closer.
Hopelessly, you ran and ran
while you still could
towards the sunset
away from the smoking chasms of the hinterlands
away from the taunting elementals that would lead you astray
away from the deafening roar of the galloping horses
but with just a few miles to go
before death could finally catch up on you.
First appeared in the anthology Travel A Time Historic, ed. by Nancy Jackson, RAGE machine Books, 2005.
More than 500 of Kristine Ong Muslim’s poems and stories have appeared or are forthcoming in over 200 publications worldwide. Her work has appeared in Aoife's Kiss, Cemetery Moon, Down in the Cellar, Kaleidotrope, Labyrinth Inhabitant Magazine, OG’s Speculative Fiction, and Tales of the Talisman. She is a two-time winner of Sam’s Dot Publishing’s James Award for genre poetry. Her publication history can be found here.
What inspires you to write and keep writing?
The rejection slips.
What do you think is the most important part of a
What advice do you have for other fantasy writers?
Read the entire Dune series!