Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Severed Threads"

This poem is spillover from the September 1, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] alexseanchai and [personal profile] mama_kestrel. It also fills "the ties that bind" square in my 9-4-15 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest, and the "frantic" square in my 8-31-15 card for the Tones Bingo fest. This poem has been selected in an audience poll as the free epic for the December 1, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl reaching its $200 goal. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

Warning: This poem includes some intense topics. Highlight to read more detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features youth romance (but no sex), a soulbond, accidental severing of same, followed by intense grief and depression, then some unpleasant poking around to fix it. But it ends with fluff and cuddles. If these are sensitive subjects for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before moving onward.

"Severed Threads"

Cat had been asleep when it happened,
the sudden stab of pain waking him at once.

He patted at his chest, trying to find
the sharp source of it, but there was
nothing but nightshirt and smooth skin.


The precious thread
that had connected him to Mouse,
that had brightened from gray to silver to
almost-gold as they crossed paths now and again,
had gone slack like a fishing-line cut in two.

But what could sever the thread
that connected two people together?

Cat could do it, of course,
but he had only ever done it when
one person was hurting another.

This hurt all in the wrong way,
and Cat didn't know what to do.

The next day he went out, frantic,
following what was left of the thread,
even though he knew that Mouse had
gotten himself into Juvenile Hall again
so wouldn't be around the neighborhood.

There was no sign of Mouse.

Cat felt tired, and sore, and sad.
It was harder to get out of bed each day,
and all of his food tasted like sawdust,
but he made himself keep going.

It was just that his heart
flinched a little when he saw
the couples holding hands in the park,
and maybe he walked a bit faster
to get by them when it did.

Then one day the thread
twitched just a smidge, like a snake
crawling over something sharp.

Cat followed it, and the thread
moved more and more as he did,
getting closer to something.

When the end of the thread
lashed around like half a worm
chopped in two by a garden spade,
Cat found himself standing below
the steps of an old brownstone.

He didn't think twice about running
right up those steps to bang on the door,
or bulling his way past the lady who turned out
to be Mouse's aunt Ruby that was taking care of him.

Cat only thought about getting to Mouse
as quick as he possibly could.

So there was Mouse, lying in bed
in the middle of the day and looking
like he had no mind to get out of it either.

Sure enough, the little bit of thread
hanging off him was twisting itself like
a worm on the end of a hook.

"The fuck happened to you?"
Cat asked, his voice rough.

"It was an accident," Mouse said.

"Okay, but how?" Cat said.

Mouse looked away. "Don't matter,"
he said. "It was an accident, is all,
and I don't want nobody to get in trouble
for it. Wasn't meant to happen like
it did, and that's the end of it."

Cat wasn't too happy about that,
but he let it be. "Fine," he said.

"You felt it too?" Mouse asked,
glancing up at him and then
away again, too shy
to hold it for long.

Cat wondered about that,
because nobody else he knew
could see or feel the threads
like he did, and he'd thought
that Mouse was ordinary too.

But Cat couldn't lie to him.
"Felt the cut," he admitted.

Mouse nodded. "It's been awful,"
he said. "Juvenile Hall figured out
pretty quick that something was wrong,
but they couldn't tell what, so after while
they just turned me loose hoping maybe
that would help. Doctor said it was
all in my head, anyhow."

"It's not," Cat said. "I've been
feeling like nothing has any point.
Hard to get up, hard to fall asleep too,
nothing tastes worth eating."

"Can you," Mouse said,
and paused to lick his lips,
"maybe fix it somehow?"

"I can try," Cat said.
He'd never worked on anyone
who might feel it, though, and
that made him nervous.

"Well, go on then," Mouse urged
after Cat didn't move.

"I dunno what'll happen if I do,"
Cat warned. "Might hurt, might not.
Might fix it, might do nothing."
He paused, teasing out one
last possibility. "Or it might
come alive all at once."

Mouse didn't quite smile,
but one corner of his mouth
pulled up just a little. "I done
felt you petting on it," he said.
"Been almost a year now
since that started up."

"Well uh ... you didn't say,"
Cat muttered, his cheeks heating.
If he'd known, he would've quit.
He didn't want to lean on Mouse,
or rather, he wanted to, but it
hardly seemed decent to do.

"Didn't want you to stop,"
Mouse said, which tickled Cat
up one side and down the other.
He patted the mattress.

Cat came and sat down,
carefully so's not to jostle Mouse,
then reached out for the cut thread.

It was hard to get the ends together,
and they wouldn't stick and wouldn't knot
until Cat just about wanted to scream.

Wasn't this hard doing it to other people,
but then again, maybe that was the problem,
like trying to put a band-aid on his own elbow.

Finally Cat thought to pick the ends apart
into little fans of fluff, which hurt enough
to have him and Mouse both hissing at
the pain, but then he managed to twist
the threads back together again --

and oh, that felt better.

Mouse's sigh of relief echoed
his own, and he tugged Cat down
to lie beside him on the narrow bed.

They didn't neither of them
mean to fall asleep like that, but it was
the first good chance they'd had in a while, so.

It was late by the light falling through the window
when they both woke up, feeling better than
they had since the thread first got cut.

Cat and Mouse stretched, blushed,
and looked at the door to see
Mouse's aunt waiting there
with a tray and two bowls.

"First time I've seen that boy
sleep right since he got here,"
said the older woman as she
put the tray on the bedstand.
"Now if you can just get him
to eat too, I might forget how
you like to bust my door down
trying to get at him."

"Sorry," Cat muttered.
He passed one bowl over
to Mouse and kept the second.
The ham chowder was wonderful and
warm and gone before he realized it.

Beside him, Mouse made
a mournful little noise
at the empty bowl.

Aunt Ruby chuckled and said,
"Thank the Lord I'm an optimist.
I made a whole batch. You boys
take turns at the toilet, and I'll
go dish up some more."

They took turns
in the tiny bathroom,
but she wasn't back yet,
so Mouse led the way into
the narrow kitchen.

His aunt had set out soup and
crackers and a plate of cheese slices.

Cat's mouth watered like
he hadn't eaten in a week, and
he almost knocked the chair over
trying to get sat down so's he could eat.

Across from him, Mouse was
bent over his own bowl just like
he'd been the very day they met,
and the sight of it wrapped around
Cat's heart in a way that hurt
and felt good all at once.

Mouse reached out under the table
and tucked one foot between Cat's feet.

Cat couldn't resist.

He let his mental fingertips
run down the thread to the splice,
where it sparked sudden and gold
under his gentle touch.

It felt like rubbing over a bruise,
though, so he made himself quit.

Mouse looked up at him.
"Don't stop," he whispered.
"I missed you so much."

There now, Cat was
crying in his soup
like a big baby.

Mouse's aunt leaned over
and put a box of kleenex
on the table without a word,

and in that moment Cat thought that
he could learn to love her too.

* * *


The Red Thread is one type of bond between soulmates. In this case it's not actually red, but the concept remains similar.

Human bonding changes the flow of hormones so much that partner loss can prove fatal. Even though they're not 'officially together' or having sex, the attachment is enough to change their biochemistry such that suddenly cutting the tie has dramatic effects on both of them.

Along with death, a breakup or other emotional trauma can cause symptoms like bereavement does, such as depression. Understand how to cope with loss or support a grieving person.

Comfort foods such as Ham Chowder can help people feel better physically and emotionally. Ideally, choose something nutritious, not junk food.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, romance, weblit, writing
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