The clouds break on the first day of Hell Month. The sky is painfully, powerfully blue against the grey thunderstorms moving to the east. I woke to the sound of the rain pummeling our home. Against our duplex the drops sounded like rolling thunder.
The nights before I had driven almost endlessly to the edges of the city. The eastside, where I now reside, had faded from businesses and lights to the foothills of the Catalina Mountains. I was captivated and captive to the lightning playing against the dark sky. The strikes illuminated the mountains in brief and beautiful seconds. Someone was parked on the side of the road and had a tripod set up for his camera. He was photographing the light show streaking across the sky.
I drove to the end of the road, until a yellow sign read ‘Dead End’ – though more appropriately it had simply become a dirt path – and swerved the car back around. The clouds to the south were tinted red with the lights of the city. I had hated that red sky during my teenage years.
I had hated everything about Tucson. She wasn’t like my beloved Seattle. Seattle was green and wet year-round. The ocean bumped up against that rainy city. There was even a city under the city. What magic! What mystery. And my beloved family lived up there.
Now, apart from my immediate family of mother and father and paternal grandparent, the entirety of my family does live up there. I haven’t seen them for three years. Every day a gnawing hunger roots around in my belly, asking whether they truly are my family. They are, after all, the grandparents and aunts and uncles on my step father’s side, and he stopped being a step father when my mother divorced. I think of writing to them and never send mail. I’m too afraid.
I don’t hold hate for Tucson anymore. I may complain of her, certainly. She is a hot and sweaty city. At times she is dying and falling into disrepair. At others, though, she is magnificently alive. The sounds of downtown on the weekends are so familiar and warming. Memories of parking myself in the last smoking café and going through too many cigarettes fill me during late nights, especially when it rains. I have never been a frequenter of bars, but I love the sounds as the city parties.
The city is not partying at the start of Hell Month. The city roasts. The clouds part and the mesquite seed pods lay under their parents, rotting a foul stench in the wet heat. I gag at it. Decades of growing in Tucson have not inoculated me to the scent after rain. I look up at the sky after dropping my spouse off at school and feel all is right with the world, apart from the early rains. All is right in my world.
Hell Month was a holy month that cooked up shortly after Reunion came about. I knew, in around February or March after the first Reunion, that the Dierne was deified at the end of July. I didn’t truly grasp the entire month of hell until later, and I would have to search through my notebooks to find a specific date of revelation. Most likely those notes have been lost anyway. Even though I have softened my anxiety of private writings being read by those I don’t wish, I still habitually rid myself of all manner of things and most especially my older writing. The writing of the early twenty-teens is bearable, at the least.
Story wise, the gods are absent from the West during July. I don’t think that’s exactly true. The spirits still interact with them. We can still interact with the gods, though in some stories they go off and adventure in our world during Hell Month. Like Reunion, when they take on more benevolent forms, they adopt different forms during this month. The gods of love remind me of shattered glass. the Clarene becomes bedrock solid and the Ophelia turns to piercing icicles.
I don’t know what to expect of this month yet. Perhaps more of the same that 2016 has dished out.