1581 c/o Louise Norlie

November, an Anointing

The squeal of pigs. The yap of curs. The smell of mud-matted skin. The greased fur on his son’s boots. Richly patterned carpets bunched in the corners, tripping him in his rage.

Ivan the Terrible lifts his staff high in the air.

YOU, MY OWN SON he screams.

The metal point of the staff presses into his son’s skull.

It moves at an incredible velocity.

The skull of Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich cracks. A dark circle on the head of the Tsarevich, leaking red.

Ivan the Terrible splays his fingers in surprise, dropping the staff. There are fissures in everything now; these strange, malignant lights. Kneeling on the floor, Ivan the Terrible covers himself with the body of his son. A torch hovers in the air, held by a hand with stumps where the two middle fingers should be.

Ivan the Terrible thinks there is a way to plug every gash. One hitherto undiscovered way to replace a severed head so it seals with its former neck to create an illusion of wholeness.

Even if the person is dead. The head, back on. With the staff, rolling away. And the torch, wavering in the smoke.

Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich groans in his father’s arms. Ivan the Terrible prods his fingers into the softness of the wound, filling it, stopping it up.

YOU, MY OWN FATHER his son whispers. Dark, beseeching eyes. A voice begging with love.

Ivan the Terrible kisses his son’s dank hair. A taper drips hot wax onto his hand, anointing him with a pleasant burn. He tastes something metallic. It could be blood, his blood. All the blood is his.

Ivan the Terrible concentrates. The muscles on his forehead tense, pushing down his eyebrows, gathering thick wads of skin in folds. A fissure opens on the head of Ivan the Terrible. He reaches through the fissure into his skull and pinches his eyeballs from behind. The eyeballs bulge like ripe fruit, the arteries thick and red within the white. Now he will not close his eyes. He will watch what he did, what he will do. The pupils cringe in the centers of their webs.