Farewell from the Bookshelf!

Please note that GLBT Bookshelf -- the community wiki which was the parent to this fiction blog -- went offline on May 31, 2016, after seven years' service to members.

All Gay Romance will remain online till the end of 2016 in order to give contributors every opportunity to recover materials uploaded here.

Many thanks to all who contributed over the years, and good luck to everyone in your future works!


Out of the Night, by Sara Lansing

This is part of a cycle of shorts, an experimental collection of stories about a person trapped (as are we all, if you subscribe to the philosophy) on the wheel of reincarnation, travelling forever through lives which appear to be without purpose. Sometimes incarnating as male, sometimes as female, in each life s/he will eventually become cognisant of this cosmic disjunction and begin to actively pursue the mystery of who s/he really is and what her/his existence is really for. Set in ancient Japan, in this installment of "The Chronicals of I, the Nameless" the incarnation is female and it seems reality is at last to be answered in the only currency that truly matters. Is this the way out of existence without purpose?


The cold wind cuts like a knife.

Here I stand, alone with the wolves. Nothing changes, except by my will, and that is the soul of survival. The wolves are circling, I hear their tread, stealthy as they may be though in these conditions none of us is silent. But they are hesitant: their prey waits for them and they are afraid.

Let them be! The wind that blusters over these angry mountains worries at my robes, tugging ceaselessly, as it crackles the banners of the Sosonowo Shrine across the Bridge of Air, and I feel the world circling as if this spot is the centre of the universe. For me it has become so in this desperate moment.

Darkness. Wind over the peaks, the crunch of snow under my boots... My gloved hands are warm in the sleeves of my robe, and I stretch out to track the four bandits. I know the guards of the shrine are watching from across the way, but they will not intervene. They know me and they know why I am here.

For a moment I stretch out with my senses and feel the warm glow of the one I love. She is there, safe within those walls, so near at hand now. These final challenges have been the hard road to her side... Track her down in these wild mountains, follow the bandits who took her from her home, the merchants whose hands she passed through, traced her escape, learned of her encounter with the monks of the peaks and her safe haven here at the roof of the world.

Climb the mountain. Brave the storm. Fight the bandits. And, if victorious, cross the Bridge of Air, that final leap of faith by which, after all my tortured incarnations, I might reach at last that nexus of life and love that has eluded me, I feel in my depths, since my soul made its red entrance to this universe.

No sound save the wind and our footsteps, no light reaches my eyes. In this dark place I fight alone, as I have ever done battle, down the long ages the wheel of life has turned. When they make their move my katana sings from its sheath at my side faster than the eye can follow, and weaves a web of flickering energy -- contacts the blades of my foes in bursts of sparks, chiming thinly in the mountain air, stroke, parry, thrust, feint, all by the superhuman senses a warrior’s training brings forth. I hear a scream and know a man is down, though in a split second I have moved on to another opponent, parry, block, thrust, and the dance goes on.

Breathing is the tidal flow that sustains life. As the sea moves, the rivers flow, and the clouds blow around these peaks, so the smaller rhythms within ourselves mark the moments of our lives, rhythms from the breath that is life for the next few moments, to the cycle of our bodies with the Moon Goddess that brings forth life in its turn. Life and death are a cycle, and it is the eternal prayer of the warrior that when life finds its end on the edge of my sword, that it shall return renewed, refreshed, and with optimism for the span to come.

Four times this shall be, on this snowy shoulder of the peaks. Two screams. Three. I smell blood in the air, then the final rush and mad flurry of blows as swords hammer and clash, and our battle is made a punctuation point in eternity.

And at last I am alone. Did I ever doubt it? With all my heart, yes. My existence has taught me only to hope against hope that all I cherish shall someday be the meaning of an existence without end or reward. So it is with a strange sense of release that I stand in the chill wind among the four bodies, raise my sword to the sky above, and at last free the bindings of black across my face.

White light strikes my eyes like knives, a blinding reflection from the snow under a watery blue among fang-like peaks, and the red of blood is a cruel intrusion upon this place of pristine nature. Far too bright a place in which to do battle, it is preferable to adopt the tactics of night, and fight as do the blind. This is not the dark place that drags down the soul, it is the nexus of light that leads it forward.

I clean my blade on a bandit’s cloak and return it to the lacquered scabbard at my side, and stride on across the snowy slope toward the gorge that cuts this peak, and beyond which the Shrine of the Storm God stands atop a massive pillar of native rock. The gorge was once spanned by the bridge across which the materials of building were taken, but when the temples and buildings were completed, long centuries ago, the bridge was dismantled, leaving the monks of the Storm isolated on their fierce crag, across a gulf of air spanned by a thin ribbon of snowy stone.

The Bridge of Air.

No handrail, no guide rope, serves the pilgrim. This is where faith is matched by action, for the seeker must cross this windy vastness unaided, and no help shall come: live or die, it shall be by one’s own strength and will force. Will the bridge give way? Shall it hold another hundred years? No one knows, and that is the leap of faith we all must make to approach this sacred place.

For me it is no leap: my love has already made this crossing, so be it to death itself I shall follow. I would throw myself from this mountain to be at her side.

Above the gatehouse of the Shrine the hooded monks watch, their robes tugged by the wind that strains the standards of the Storm God, and their faces are impassive. They have watched seekers by the thousand come this way, and those who reach not the gates but the next life are blessed on their journey with a whole heart. But my step is sure in the fighting wind that seeks to tear me from the snowy arch of rock, and as it seems I walk in the endless sky itself my heart could fly as truly as an eagle.

Closer, closer, and as the stone and timber gates of the Shrine grow before me, I feel a strange release beginning. A new perspective, as if I stand outside myself, something unlike any state I have ever known. Are all my existences coming together here and now? The lonely millennia reaching their focal point? More moves now than simple human destiny, my body is tingling with expectancy, and the desperate hope that this time I will complete the journey -- one I feel sure I have attempted many times in misty ages gone by.

And before I know it, I am on the pillar of rock, before the tall, ancient timbers of the gatehouse, and at a call from above those gates swing open, their hinges grinding as if rarely ever used...

A garden, protected from the elements by the stout walls, sculptured trees and bushes surround a pond now frozen for the winter, and a delegation of monks bow their welcome, hands folded in the wide sleeves of their robes. Among them is a slight figure, muffled in heavy robes for warmth but unmistakable as the day we met on that warm riverbank long ago. She steps forward and fine, small hands draw back a hood, baring a a beautiful face to the sun that floods this courtyard.

I draw back my own, feeling the wind bite and tug my bound hair, and I go to her one faltering step at a time. All of space and time turn on this moment, I now know, and when I take her in my arms it is with feelings that are too vast to be measured.

Not since the time of Tomoe Gozen and Yamabuki have women Samurai walked this land with open prowess, and the monks do homage to the skill they have witnessed. For my part I can only experience a warmth I have never known, and it seems I glimpse my past lives, wanderers, seekers, all over the world and all through time and space, all in quest of this one simple thing.

The love that brings meaning to life.

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