The dust had been swirling all day in small cyclones that lifted off the barren path outside her hovel, spiraling into the air and adding to the haze cloaking the distant purple mountains. Had the local priest of the shrine been visiting, he would have thought it a bad omen and said the desert spirits were agitated. Misha simply frowned and kept her passing superstitions to herself; she had enough to worry about.
Stories from the ‘Misha’ Collection
From worlds far across the desert sands they met, the dark girl with pale skin burying something in the ground, burning feathers and sticks that held a stench about them like that of carrion baking under the hot sun, and sooty, gray-white smoke rising up from their ashes to swirl in the breeze like tiny, angry spirits with terrible, fanged faces.
Perched above her in the branches of a strong desert tree — his graying once-red feathers hidden amid the patchwork green leaves, a tattered ghost of age and all the conflicts visited upon him during his time beneath the olive sky and black sun — the bird-man watched quietly. Much more quietly than the noisy girl below kneeling in the white sand, chanting and breaking, cursing and burning and pleading like a child sacrificing to the long-dead spirits of the desert wastes.
His fingers had withered to gray, brittle sticks, worn down by years of rape and defilement, of rampant excess and the sickness that comes with too much power left unchecked and unopposed. This punishment extended to the rest of his body as well, which was equally withered and decrepit. He wore skin the pale color of the diseased, skeletally emaciated except for the bloated paunch of his naked belly, his back bent and cratered with ridges of bone and thin flesh.
“Why do you hate me so?” the decrepit man queried, his voice a strained whisper of age, the whole done without gesture and immersed in a slack wantonness.