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Ron Sanders  Feb 2020
Hero
Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

There is a glacier.
Its blue tongue’s tip just tastes a frozen gorge.
There is a gorge, its walls shattered by cold; a once-green thing that, in dying, birthed a thousand aching fissures. It works its jagged way downhill, round ragged rifts and drifts until it comes upon a little frosted wood.
There is a wood, an island locked in ice.
Within this wood the gorge descends. It wanders and it wends; it brakes and all but ends outside a clearing wet with sun. And there, forking, its bent and broken arms embrace a strange, enchanted glade.

There is a glade.
And in this glade the black bears sleep, though salmon leap fat between falls. Here the field mouse draws no shadow, the eagle seeks no prey; they spend their while caressed by rays, and halcyon days are they. Here rabbit and fawn may linger, no longer need they flee. For in this timeless, taintless space, the Wild has ceased to be. (Outside the glade are shadow and prey, are ice and naked death. There blood may run freely. There the eagle, that thief, is a righteous savage, a noble fiend. But once in the glade he is dove, and has no taste for blood, running freely or otherwise).
And in this glade there nests a pool:  a dazzling, blue-and-silver jewel; profoundly deep, pristinely clear. All who sip find solace here, for this is the Eye of Being. They lap in peace, assuming blear, not knowing it is seeing. And ever thus this pool shall peer:  a silent seer, reflecting on—all that Is, and all Beyond.
(Outside the glade there lies a world where rivers ever run, where ghastly calves in random file revile a bitter sun. East, the day is born in mist. West she dies:  her rest, the deep. And North…North the Earth lies mute. Wind gnaws her hide, wind wracks her dreams. Wind screams like a flute in her white, white sleep).
But in the glade are tall, stately grasses, sunning raptly, spinning lore. Roots render the rhythms, blades bend without breeze, as signals ascend from the glade’s tender floor. (In this wise the glade weaves its word, airs its views. All the glade’s flora are bearers of news). They do not wither with fall, for in the glade there is no fall. They do not bind or wilt or brown—they gesture, spreading the mood, the mind; conveying, indeed, the very soul of the glade. As ever they have, as they shall evermore.
Bees do not hum here; they sing. They fatten the dream. Mellow and round are the timbres they sound, sweet is the music they bring. Birds do not sing here—they play. They carry the theme. Dulcet and warm are the strains they perform. Gifted musicians are they. (All in the glade are virtuosi. They were born to create. Melody, harmony, meter…are innate). Now the performance is lively and bright, now full, now almost still. For, though all in the glade may lean to the light, they must bend to the maestro’s feel.
And yet…there was a day, long ago in a dream, when this ongoing opus was torn. And on that day (so the lullaby goes) the wind brought a scream, and Dissonance was born.
There was a noise.
Moose tensed, their coffee eyes narrowed, their patient brows creased. Bees mauled the tempo, birds lost their place. The grass stood *****, all blades pointing east. There was a crash, and a shriek, and a naked, bleeding beast burst stinking through the fern, fell stumbling on its face.
Moose scattered:  unheard of. Sheep brawled, geese burst out of rhyme. The symphony, forever endeavored to soar sublime, fluttered, plunged, and, for all of a measure, ceased.
The pool was appalled…what manner brute—what kind of monster was this? Furless flank to forelimb, hide obscured by blood. As for its face…it had no face; only a look:  of shock frozen in time, of horror in amber. A deep welling rift ran temple to chin, halving the mask, caving it in. Such a grievous wound…the pool watched it stagger, on two legs and four, thrashing about till it came to a rise. There it labored for air, wiped the blood from its eyes, lashed at illusion, looked wildly round. Beholding the pool, the beast tumbled down.
And there this wretch plunged his thirst, drank his fill, fell back on his haunches.
The pool became still.
The two traded stares.
The glass read his features:  that durable eye pondered the wreckage and probed the debris. Revolted, the pool sought the succor of sky. But that thing remained—that face…in all creation…surely there could be…no other creature so ugly as he.
And he gazed in the glass.
Beneath the surface were…images…swimming in currents of shadow and light. He saw half-shapes and fragments…hideous men, exotic beasts…saw blue worlds of water, saw white worlds of ice…it was all so vague and unreal—yet somehow strangely familiar. Deeper he peered, but, as his mangled face neared, the sun smote the pool and the shapes disappeared. The brute pawed the ground and, dreaming he’d drowned, shook his head sharply and slowly looked round:
There were starlings at arm’s-length, transfixed with suspense, their tail feathers trembling, their dark eyes intense. Fantails and timber wolves, stepping in sync, paused for a sniff, stooped for a drink. Bees, pirouetting, threw light in his eyes. Seizing the moment, the pool pressed its hold.
And the glade revolved.
The freak watched it spin—saw the ferns’ greedy fingers reach round and close in, saw the tall grass rise high in an emerald sheen, swaying to rhythms from somewhere obscene. This place was madness; he struggled to stand, but, weak as he was, keeled over cold.
And the glade heaved a sigh, and the tall grass reclined, in curious patterns once rendered in whim. Far off in thunder the hard world replied, as iced pines exploded and screamed on the breeze. Down bore the sun, a chill just behind. The pool, grown blood-red, fended frost from its rim. Details dissolved in the oncoming tide. The pool dimmed to black. Night seeped through the trees.
Now flora found slumber while, pulsing below, the pool was infused with a soft ruby glow.
Soon birds bearing beech leaves, and needles of pine, laid down a spread and returned to the limb. But breath from the North blew their blanket aside. The wind grew in earnest, the air seemed to freeze.
And the wolf and the she-bear, of contrary mind, abhorring their task approached, looking grim. They sniffed him for measure, then, loathing his hide, growled their displeasure and dropped to their knees.
All night these glum attendants flanked his naked quaking form. The rising moon drew dreams in gray.
In time the man grew warm.

Morning swept through the glade in one broad stroke of the master’s brush, dappling the foliage with amber and rose. The pool was roused by the sweet pass of light. He opened his eye and the glade came alive:  into the whirlpool of life a thousand colors swam, chasing the scattering eddies of night. The magic of morning began.
Bluebird and goldfinch descended in rings, primaries clashing with robin and jay. Dollops of sun, repelled by their wings, spattered anew on the palette of day. Banking as one, the hues struck away.
There was a crowd.
And in this crowd that oddity sat, its chin on its chest, its rear pointing west. Its forepaws lay leaning, upturned and at rest. ***** and blood messed its muzzle and breast. Passed overnight. Or perhaps only dozed…tendril by tendril, claw by claw, the crowd decompressed:  the ring slowly closed.
And the stranger cried out and shifted his seat. His eyes sought his feet—rounding the arches, and topping the toes, the tall grass was questing. The little brute froze.
And the fauna took pause, and the flora went slack. Leaves followed talons, stems followed claws. Hooves tromped on paws as the crowd drifted back.
Not a breath taken. Not a move made. Stillness, like fog, enveloped the glade.
Now the grass tugged his feet, now the sea of jade splayed—left hand and right, the slender shafts reared. Gaining momentum, blade followed blade. The green field was torn till a deep swath appeared. The swath hurtled west, reflecting the sun. A hundred yards distant it died. Once more the grass stood, its tips spreading wide. The swath, born again, repeated its run.
Plain was the message, and clearly conveyed. The newcomer gawked. Confusion ensued.
The tall blades were swayed by the pulse of the glade.
But the swath was not renewed.
Something tiny bounced by. He ventured a peek, barely rolling an eye.
A chocolate sparrow, with pinfeathers black, popped past an ankle and paused to look back. The bird cocked its head, rocked in place, hopped ahead. It fluttered. It freaked. It glared and stopped dead. Vexed to its limit, it burst into flight.
The sitting thing watched till it passed out of sight.
Now a breeze bent his back, picked him half off his stern. The wind, done its best, grew flustered at last. It trailed to the west, thrilling lilies it passed. It wound round the willows and didn’t return.
So the fauna repaired to the live oak’s shade.
A strange kind of stupor fell over the glade.
From deep in the wood came a shape through the trees—a pronghorn, perhaps, or an elk swift and sure. But up limped a moose, a flyport with fur, low in the belly and wide at the knees. Wizened he was, scarcely able to see. Neither vision, nor vigor, nor velvet had he. He hobbled abreast, then groveled or died, his nose facing west, his tail flung aside.
The brute merely glazed.
But the glade was unfazed.
Those long shafts reshuffled. A tense moment passed.
The ominous shadows of badgers were cast. Three left their holes, as if to attack. They pedaled like moles and the stranger jumped back. He stumbled, fell flailing, and, kicking his guide, threw out his arms and tumbled astride. First he stepped on his tail, then he stepped on his pride. The moose bellowed twice and shook side to side while the little pest clung to his high, homely hide.
And the old moose unbent to his knees by degrees. He reeled like a drunk down the path of the breeze. Together they lurched through a break in the trees. And all morning long, and on through the day, both beggar and bearer would buckle and sway. The moose lost his temper, but never his way.
And the wind blew the sun to its deep ruby rest; the scrub, in obeisance, inclined to the west. Their slow taffy shadow in slinking would seem to slip round the rocks like a snake in a dream.
And the sun became a beacon, and the underbrush a stream. The wide Earth took their weight in stride, and the wind named him Hero.

                                               WORLD

When the sun was low the old moose began to stumble, at last limping to a halt beside a swift river lined with stunted pines. He’d half-expected a somewhat graceful dismount, but Hero, dug in like a tick, wasn’t about to let go. The moose knelt until his joints objected, shimmied, bucked, and with a sudden whirl sent the little bother flying.
Hero scraped himself out of the dirt and looked up forlornly. The ancient moose, his good eye gone bad, glared a long minute before hobbling away, his bony **** rocking with dignity, his scraggly tail fighting off imaginary flies.
Hero managed a few steps and dropped, staring in disbelief as the moose disappeared between half-frozen pines. He remained on his knees for the longest time, his jaw hanging, waiting for the moose—waiting for anything to show. At last a ruckus to his left snapped him out of it. His head ratcheted around.
Fifteen feet off the bank, three screaming gulls were dancing on an immense stone outcropping, fighting over a rapids-tossed sockeye. Hero was instantly famished. He wobbled to his feet and stumbled twice wading out, only regaining his balance by leaning against the current while rapidly wheeling his arms. The shrieking gulls reluctantly backed off as he stepped in slow-motion through the rushing water. Hero lunged at the slapping fish, cracked an ankle on the rock, and hopped around howling with both hands holding his shin. One foot was as good as none in the surging water. He went right under. Before he knew it he was being swept downriver.
This was glacial meltwater, so cold he quickly lost all sensation. Hero swallowed a mouthful and surfaced fighting for life; too disoriented to combat the current, too numb to realize his waving arm was striking something solid. That solid something turned out to be a swirling clump of rotted birches tangled up in scrub. He embraced one of these trunks as the mass slammed against isolated rocks, kicked his feet wildly, and somehow hauled himself aboard. The raft ricocheted rock to rock until repeated impacts sent it spinning. Giddy from the whirling and soaking, he clung freezing to the trees, retching continuously while the river roared in his ears. Through spray and tears he made out only cartwheeling fragments of the world.
But then the river was widening, its fury dissipating. The raft was approaching the sea. Hero gasped as the seemingly boundless Pacific swallowed the broad red belly of the sun. And as he spun he was treated to a panoramic, breathtaking spectacle:  the great indigo ocean with its slow traffic of driftwood and ice—voiced-over by the dismal calls of foraging gulls, and broken rhythmically by intermittent glimpses of the river’s rocky banks growing farther and farther apart. Whirling as it went, the dying man’s soul was taken by the sea.

At the 59th Parallel in winter, the Pacific coast plays host to numberless floes and minor bergs orphaned from Alaskan coastal glaciers. Hero cruised into a watery gridlock on a boat of ice-glazed birches, one bit of flotsam among the rest.
The cold wouldn’t let him move, wouldn’t let him breathe, wouldn’t let him think. He lay supine, feet crossed and hands clasped, terrified that to budge was to roll. An ice patina grew over the tangled trees like a white fungus—this growth soon webbed his fingers and toes, speckled his chest and thighs, glazed his hair and face, danced and disintegrated with his breath’s tapering plumes.
Floes and frozen-over debris tended to group with passing collisions; Hero’s married birches bit by bit accrued a mostly-submerged tangle of trunks and branches, all becoming fast in a creeping ice cement. Night came on just as resolutely, until land was only a flat black memory. The raft moved silently over the deep, still accepting the occasional gentle impact. And the floes became thicker and wider in a freezing doldrums; soon the proximate sea was all a broken field of packed ice, bobbing infinitesimally with the planet’s pulse.
Long ghostly strands of fog came striding over the torn ice field. They leaned this way and that, their mourners’ skirts tearing and patching and leaning anew. The ghosts were there to seal it:  their locked fingers and gray diaphanous wings were quickly becoming a wholly opaque descending shroud, its boundaries lost in the soughing wind.
Collisions came less and less. Darkness and silence, breaching some previously impenetrable barrier, began to take up residence in Hero’s chilling marrow. From his very center broke a weak little cry of refusal, of denial, as mind mustered frame in one desperate bid for freedom. His skin, frozen to the raft, peeled right off, and at that his inner brave succumbed. Hero’s smashed head arched back. His face contorted frightfully while the little lamp fluttered and paled within.
A raucous chorus slowly worked its way through the mist. It emerged a few hundred yards off—a tiny, terrified barking, growing in clarity as it grew in volume and urgency. It was a sound beacon. Hero strained eagerly, and when for one excruciating minute the beacon was cut off by a large passing body, was certain death had claimed him. Then it was back, and his heartbeat was quickening. He caught a heaving sound…something was moving his way down a wide tributary between floes. Hero could hear a gasping and snorting, accompanied by a hard slapping and splashing. The sounds vanished. In a moment the raft was rocked from below.
A sputtering muzzle blew salt in his eyes. A cold slimy flipper flapped across his chest and slapped about his face. The fur seal barked directly in his ear. Whiskers raked his dead cheek. The seal barked again.
Back below the surface it slipped. Hero listened anxiously as the splashing sound retreated whence it came.
The seal swam off perhaps a hundred feet and began barking hysterically.
From much farther off came a profusion of answering barks.
The seal swam back to Hero’s raft, circling and calling, circling and calling, while the responders approached en masse.
Now a sallow beam could be seen cutting through the fog. Several more showed vaguely along a plane yawing with some huge, barely discernible object.
A herd of northern fur seals burst into sight, barking madly, beating through the ice. They converged on Hero’s raft, really bellowing now.
Those odd yellow beams came in pursuit, and soon were close enough to eerily illuminate a gigantic wooden vessel parting the ice. The seals barked ferociously. Whenever the vessel leaned away, those nearest Hero’s raft would absolutely howl.
The fog deepened, condensed, crystallized, and then the collective light of a dozen lanterns was playing over a low, listing nightmare. Hero could hear the shouts of many aggressive men, but the waterborne seals, rather than scatter, boarded the ice and redoubled their din, fighting their way onto his quickly mobbed raft.
The sealers hurled serrated spears even as they clambered down rope ladders. When these men reached the ice the seals snapped and gnashed madly, refusing to be dislodged. The sealers lost all composure with the thrill of the hunt:  wielding clubs, spears, and hatchets—sometimes using iron bludgeons or any old utensil handed down—they crushed skulls, dragged carcasses, hooked animals still spurting and bleating. Clinging though he was, Hero was flabbergasted by the way the slipping and scampering men went about their butchery, hacking and smashing more with passion than with precision. But not a single seal attempted to flee—throughout the carnage they barked all the louder, egging on their slayers, carcass by carcass drawing the impassioned sealers to Hero’s ice-locked raft.
It was all so hazy and macabre. Hero’s eyes rolled back, and the next thing he knew he was sitting hunched on the vessel’s sopping deck. Two men were rubbing his limbs while another poured warm water down his back. He looked around in shock. The very notion of a boat containing more than one or two individuals—a sort of floating tribe—was way beyond his ken; so to see it, to have it come looming out of nothingness, was an experience almost supernatural.
He remembered some of those fur-covered men force-feeding him mouthfuls of halibut and seal fat, and he recalled a small group standing around him, shouting words that made no sense at all. After that he had a very vivid memory of their angry little chief repeatedly punching him while hollering one angry little word over and over and over. Hero couldn’t make out his inquisitor’s face, for the large feather-lined hood quite engulfed the man’s head, yet he could see those quick eyes flash as they caught the oil lamps’ light. Finally this man stopped boxing Hero’s ear. He stared hard. In these remaining decades of the tenth century it was fully within his power to administer as he saw fit—he could have ordered Hero’s immediate execution and not a man of his crew would have objected. He hesitated only because there wasn’t a hint of resistance in his prisoner’s pinched and frightened eyes. He leaned forward, studying the wound that all but split Hero’s face in two before grunting, raising his right arm, and yanking down its seal hide sleeve. Attached to the stump of his forearm was a primitive prosthesis consisting of a thick oak cap strapped to the arm with lengths of gut, and, hammered squarely into the center of that cap, a broad, cruelly hooked blade chiseled from a narwhal’s tusk. He held this obscenity in front of Hero’s eyes, traced the face’s deep diagonal rift, and once more demanded his captive’s identity. Hero then vaguely remembered being dragged along a tilting deck and thrown into the ship’s tiny hold. He retained a strong mental image of landing in a place of musty odors and dank projections.
There came a soft scuffling in the darkness, and presently a blind and exceedingly old woman felt her way to his side, mumbling as she approached. Her speech was comprised not of words; it was rather a running gibberish of cooing vowels and clucking consonants. The old woman was as mad as her circumstances; sick with sea and solitude, bedeviled by age and confinement. She sat cross-legged, patting her withered palms up his arm until she came to his face. Her strange mumbling soliloquy rose and fell as her bony fingers daintily explored the newly opened wound. Hero let his head fall back in her lap. A pair of hands like emaciated tarantulas scurried through the filth and tiny bodies until they came upon an old otter’s pelt bag that held her secrets. The woman loosened the bag’s cord and extracted an assortment of herbs, sniffing each in succession. She then scooped a handful of blubber from a bowl made of a previous occupant’s skull, kneaded the selected herbs into the blubber, and commenced gently massaging the wound, clucking and cooing while the black rats watched and waited.
For nine interminable days Hero remained in that cold, stinking compartment, rocking back and forth between life and death. The old woman never gave up on him. She clung to him during his seizures, rubbed his limbs vigorously when his blood pressure fell. She gathered various accumulated skins and, using woven strands of her own long hair, sewed him a multilayered, body-length wraparound with arm sleeves and very deep pockets, working by touch with a needle formed of a cod’s rib. By this same method she was able to fashion a pair of heavily lined snug-fitting moccasins. The old woman made him eat; she masticated the cod and halibut their keepers pitched into the hold, then shoved the results down his throat with a long gnarly forefinger. She called into his screaming nightmares, talking him out of sleep and back into their foul little reality. Together they lowed in the dark, while the keel groaned along and the waves beat time.
At the end of those dark nine days his strength was restored, but not his mind. Once again he was taken on deck.
The vessel had reached a chain of remote wind-swept islands, rocky and treeless, naked except for patchy carpets of hardy grass. These islands stretched far to the west, shrouded in mist. The ship was making for the smallest; just a chip on the sea. When they reached depth for anchorage Hero was hustled into a rowboat and lowered over the side. He looked up, saw two men climbing down by rope. These men positioned themselves at the oars and slowly rowed toward the islet. Seated between them, Hero felt like a man being led to his execution. He snuck a peek. The rowers’ heads were lowered, their features completely obscured by the heavy feathered hoods; they had all the somberness of pallbearers. Not a word passed between them as they rigidly worked their oars:  the only sound was the dip-and-purl of wood in water. Hero looked away. Against his will, he found his eyes drawn to that rocky islet waiting in the fog.
Not a bird, not a sea lion, not a shrub. It was lonesome beyond imagination.
Upon landfall one of the men used a spear’s point to **** Hero ashore. While his companion steadied the boat, he removed a skin sack full of half-frozen halibut, followed by a few armloads of precious tinder. These articles he tossed at Hero’s feet. He resumed his place at the oars and, without looking back, used the blunt end of his spear to shove off.
Hero watched the boat moving away, watched the men climbing their ropes, watched the boat being hauled aboard. As the mysterious vessel receded he saw a number of those silent men standing at the stern, stolidly returning his stare. Their hooded forms grew smaller and smaller, finally becoming indistinct. The vessel was swallowed up in fog.
Hero looked around, at a desolate world of rock and drifting ice. In the sunless pools at his feet a few purplish, flaccid sea anemones were waving in a sickly phosphorescence; along the rocks ran a tattered quilt of wild grass and lichen. It was the end of the world. He began to pace in his anxiety, only to crumple bit by bit inside his furs. At last he just sat with his face in his arms and wept. When he could weep no more he raised his head and opened his red, swollen eyes.
There were gulls all around him, staring like statuary in a madman’s garden. Standing in their midst were auks and puffins and murres, absolutely spellbound, unable to lean away. The silence was broken only by a wild, fitfully pursing wind—a wind that seemed, eerily, on the verge of producing syllables. And on that wind a flock of terns was rising slowly, their beady eyes fixed on the lone sitting man. The terns watched as he trembled, and banked as he swooned.
Then, beating as one, they threw back their wings and blew into the sun.

There was a blaze.
Behind that blaze a pair of black, bug-like eyes met his and immediately withdrew. A man wrapped in caribou hides stood abruptly, drawing angry swarms of sparks.
The Aleut peered queerly into the icy Pacific, his craggy profile merging seamlessly with a jumble of rocks showing just beyond his shoulder. The man was very tall, closer to seven feet than to six, and thin almost to emaciation.
He was also a mute. Soon enough he would display a talent for communication through gutturals, but now his body language spoke louder than words. It told the shivering stranger that he was not only disliked—he was feared.
The islander removed the hides he’d piled on the sleeping man. He produced a bone awl and strategically pierced a caribou hide, draped the hide over the old woman’s handiwork, and ran a cord of tightly woven tendons crosswise through his made holes, knotting it at the bottom to create a kind of cloak. He then killed the fire, heaped wood, fish, and remaining hides into Hero’s arms, and led him to a tiny cove where his long skin canoe lay in the grass. This was not the one-man kayak used by his people for centuries, but an actual canoe modeled on the graceful vessels he’d observed under the control of northern coastal tribesmen. After dragging it into the water he perched Hero in the fore, placed the cargo in the middle, and stepped into the rear like a gaunt furry spider. The Aleut dug out a paddle and began pulling with smooth strokes of surprising muscularity, his black eyes trained on his quiet companion’s back.
So began their long island-hopping journey. They stepped the chain one stone at a time, living off the sea. But much as the islander disliked Hero’s vapid company, it was not in his nature to proceed expeditiously; his people, remote as they were, had learned to count not in days but in generations. Given this, the Aleut took his time. He showed Hero how to build shelters of skin and gut; during bad weather the two would sit on an island in utter silence while rain hammered on their stretched seal-intestine window. And one very clear night he pointed out constellations while attempting to demonstrate, using broad gestures, just how the brighter heavenly bodies were in perfect alignment with the Aleutians. Hero followed his guide’s gestures as a pet follows its master’s movements and, like a pet, soon became bored. The Aleut did not grow flustered. He grew ever more wary:  behind that granite, weather-beaten exterior squirmed a very primitive imagination. Superstitious as he was, the Aleut was almost certain Hero could read his mind. So one time, and one time only, he threw a searing look at the back of Hero’s bowed and listing head. After a long minute of vigorous thought-projection he shifted his gaze aside. The brute appeared to feel this shift, and gently turned his head. And both saw the ocean break rhythm, and watched as otters and sea lions surfaced, noted their progress, and slipped without tremor beneath the waves.
In spring the fogs lifted. The grimness gave way to serenity, a generous sun buttered the dappled sea. On the islands grass grew lushly. Wildflowers leapt on the color-starved eye.
And one day the islander’s nape itched. He turned to see a flock of arctic terns casually tracking them under a gorgeous, white-plumed sky. As the day progressed the terns came drifting high overhead, slowly but surely taking the lead.
The Aleut squinted against the sun. He’d never known these birds to pursue a westerly migratory pattern—the terns were distributing themselves into a rough wedge shape, much like geese on the wing.
For a while he let the flock be his guide. Then, to test his stars, he cunningly steered his canoe north. At once the wedge disintegrated. Not until he’d lowered his eyes and pulled purposefully to the west did the disrupted pattern reassert itself. He peered up timidly. The wedge was now in the shape of a perfect arrowhead.
Just so were the fates of mariners and aviators inextricably entwined. At night, once the Aleut had landed his canoe on the nearest pearl, the terns would light in a quiet circle and remain until sunrise. As the Aleut and Hero took to sea, the flock would quickly form that same authoritative pattern.
In time the Aleut paddled his companion clear to the westernmost islands of the Aleutian chain. His people had dwelt, even here, a thousand years and more, but no contemporary islander knew for certain what lay beyond. Legend told of an enormous land mass forever gripped by cold, where a cruel people waylaid innocent seafarers for barbaric sacrificial rites.
So here the islander paused. But even as he vacillated he noticed the terns were veering south.
If the Aleut had been able to curse aloud he would have been vociferous. He was being compelled to follow an even less desirable course—that of the unknown open ocean. Now he looked upon his passenger’s hunched back not with fear but with loathing. He took a deep breath, rolled his shoulders, and defiantly continued west. The wedge broke up immediately. The terns dive-bombed the canoe, whirled around the windmilling Aleut, tore skyward and hovered determinedly. Something huge broke surface behind them, but the Aleut was way too frayed to turn. He dropped his head, a beaten man, and began paddling south. Little by little the birds returned to formation.
The tiny canoe had no business going up against the mighty Pacific. It would soon have been swallowed and smashed, had not the terns veered in close formation whenever the distant sea appeared too rough. Once he’d lost his bearings the Aleut religiously followed their serpentine course.
The days began to warm.
Now the sea’s bounty all but leapt in the canoe.
It seemed the Aleut was forever catching the finest currents, practically sliding down a corridor entirely free of peril. In this manner he was able to safely navigate waters no such craft had mastered before.
They were proceeding south by southwest, awed children of a plenteous, generous sea. The going became easier by the day, the ocean heavier with cod.
Nights the Aleut drifted comfortably, but a lifetime of wariness made him wake off and on. He’d slowly rise to find Hero sitting quietly under the stars, and soon he’d see, pallid in moonlight, a large body neatly pleating the ocean’s surface. The shape would precede them a while, only to vanish without a ripple.
All this strangeness kept the Aleut’s heart in a whirl, though he took pains to maintain his poise.
To allay his fear he kept a flat black stone planted squarely between them. It was his oldest treasure; an oddity he’d taken off the body of a mauled Tlingit woman when he was a child. Who she was, and how she’d come by the stone, were mysteries far beyond him, for no such piece had ever been known to Aleut or Inuk.
The stone was smooth and had been worked perfectly round. Bright yellow specks were scattered about its dull black face.
Long ago someone had etched a quaint and clumsy rune on that flat black surface—it was the crude, universal symbol for sun:  a broad circle surrounded by several rays. When the stone was rubbed against a pelt it possessed the curious property of growing quite warm and bright in the rune’s grooves, while the surface remained cool and dull.
This stone, both friend and overlord, had always “spoken to him”. It caused him to become restless when it was time to move on, and allowed him to relax when a destination had been reached. In this way he’d come to the familiar islet and discovered the unconscious little man. Just so:  the stone, he was sure, was responsible for making him “feel bad” as he watched the stranger shiver, and “feel better” once he’d built him a life-saving fire from the small pile of tinder he’d found nearby.
By now, however, the Aleut was wholly disenchanted with his stone, and deeply regretted having done its mysterious bidding. Never before had he been so long from sight of land, and never before had he felt so very, very small. The unimagined immensity of the Pacific was really starting to get to him when, after all their while at sea, a gray, seductive haze broke the horizon. They had reached another chain of islands, an Asian chain, the dark and smoky Kurils. Here a cold current kept the climate cool and foggy, and the chill, along with the prevalence of otter and seal, made him feel almost at home.
But this place gave him the creeps; he was a stranger, a trespasser somewhere sacred. There was a looming quality to the island mountains that made him extraordinarily aware of his transience, his pettiness, his puniness. He grew more and more cautious, sure their progress was being monitored—he could have sworn he saw wraiths in the trees, and wolves padding warily in the brush. The big islands looked on breathlessly. All along the rocky cliffs, thousands of auks and puffins followed the canoe in dead silence, their heads turning simultaneously, their countless tiny eyes peering redly through the fog. As the weeks passed, the Aleut’s anxiety was manifested in tics and sighs, and he’d cringe each time the crimson sun sank behind those black volcanic summits. In his imagination the mountains would rise right out of the sea, as though to pluck him. But the islands, in all their dignity, would always refuse to acknowledge so meek a stranger, and return their eyes to sea. The Aleut would hang his head, and timidly paddle by.
Then for days and days he pulled his weary canoe west—through a strait parting two mighty islands not part of the chain, and thence across a sea that was a warm, enticing bath. Spring had come to the East Asian coastal waters, and the Ainu, alone and in groups, were venturing deeper in search of increasing bounty. The Aleut, absorbed in his thoughts of sweet climate and bitter fate, was unaware they’d been spotted.
This first meeting between strangers of different worlds was a brief and awkward one. A lone Ainu fisherman, seeing the Aleut come paddling out of the unknown, dropped his net and turned to stone. The Aleut, for his part, instinctively froze with his body turned half-away to make the leanest target possible. Their stares locked. Never had the Aleut seen a face so heavily bearded, and never hair so fair. The Ainu began banging on his bronze catch pail. Other fishers soon appeared from the north and south, effectively cutting off the canoe. The Aleut caressed his stone and looked to the sky. The wedge had vanished. He put down his head and paddled for all he was worth.
With the word out, uncountable fishing craft appeared out of the blue and broke into hot pursuit, their pilots determined to force the canoe ashore.
Suddenly they were in sight of land, and the sea was absolutely riddled with watercraft. A train of small boats cast off from the mainland, even as a posse of two-man coracle-like tubs began to surround the battered skin canoe, their inhabitants calling back and forth in astonishment at the sight of these dark, savage newcomers. But the pursuing little coastal men, banging excitedly on the sides of their boats, were not Ainu. They had very straight black hair, prominent cheekbones, and strangely slanted eyes. And their speech, oddly marvelous as it was, was a rapid series of coos, chirps, and barks. Their boats formed a tight semi-circle around the canoe, forcing the Aleut to approach the mainland. The little men banged their boats maniacally, with more joining in as the canoe neared shore.
A bit farther south was a natural harbor swarming with fishing vessels of every description. As the canoe was forced into this harbor, people along the rocky coast began banging whatever they could get their hands on, until the air was filled with their lunatic percussion.
Tiny brown men came running along a soft yellow cliff overlooking the harbor, gesturing wildly. The canoe was squeezed between a chain of tubs and the shore, and, as it slowed, the tempo and ferocity of the banging decreased accordingly. When the canoe came to a halt the banging and shouting stopped. Hero creaked to his feet. The first North American to set foot on Asian soil stepped out shakily.
There followed the profoundest silence imaginable.
A second later it was as if a dam had burst.
Hundreds of hysterical, yammering voices erupted from hundreds of hysterical, clinging men and women. Hero was spun around, jostled about, handed along. He stared into their astounded, pinched little faces, and the sun, pulsing between their heads as he was turned, repeatedly stabbed his eyes. There came an excited outburst and frantic splashing which could only have been the Aleut’s violent demise, and then Hero was somehow limping alongside a primitive fishing village, blindly following a narrow dirt path that hugged the yellow cliff’s base. The warm spring sun caught the dust as he shambled. He rounded a bend and stopped.
Half a dozen children stood in his way, too fascinated to run. A chatter and scuffle rose behind him. He looked back to see that he was now in the midst of a small crowd of these children, and that more were running up with cries of amazement.
A stone struck his shoulder. As Hero turned another glanced off his chest.
A moment later he was being pelted from all sides, and the giggles and gasps had become something wildly unreal. He dropped to his knees in a hail of hurled rocks, covered his head with his arms, and slithered up the path on his belly.
A new voice broke in; an older, authoritative voice.
The children scampered off squealing.
Hero, shaken to his feet, found himself face to face with a diminutive, shouting, incomprehensible old man. The old man threw his arm around Hero’s waist and, jabbering all the while, led him to a secondary path cut into the cliff’s face. This path sloped gently upward over the waves. Together they picked their way to a place maybe halfway up, where the cliff’s face was honeycombed with natural alcoves and dug-out caves. Most of these spaces were used as one-man shelters; a few, cut deeper in the earth, as family hives. Strange gabbing people slid out of these holes like worms, reaching, but the little old man, who was evidently a little old man of some stature, embraced his find possessively and shouted them back inside.
The path narrowed as they climbed.
At its summit spread the upscale end of the neighborhood. Hero was led to a hovel nestled amid dozens of similar hovels, all scattered around a dainty stream wending between patches of stunted vegetation.
The old man’s place was basically a one-room hut fashioned of earth and salvaged boat hulls, with a slender side-yard surrounded by dry, dusty hedges. But inside it was clean and tidy, with rice paper partitioning and, built into the far earthen wall, a miniature stone fireplace. The old man sat his guest in the exact center of the room. There he fed him scraps from his bowl, using long sticks to pluck out bits of fish and clumps of tiny, starchy white pellets.
He studied the brute closely, watched him chew, walked round and round him. He poked here. He pinched there.
And that night he lit a fire on his crushed-shell hearth.
Hero curled up on a mat where the gossip of flames could reach him. Nearby, at his delicate wicker table, the old man sat in semi-darkness, illuminated only from the waist down.
But his eyes were alive. They spat and darted as they reflected the fire’s light, and, when at last they’d begun to sputter, his scratchy little voice came pattering out of the dark, muttering something vile and oddly modulated, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes in a gathering snarl.
Hero feigned slumber, unable to ignore those paired ominous flashes. Still, the room was cozy, and the fire warm, and the play of light and shadow kicked sleep in his eyes.

In the morning he woke in the old man’s side-yard, his head pounding, a rusty iron clamp securely fastened around his neck. This clamp was attached to the outermost link of a crude three-foot chain, and the link at the other end to a long stake driven into eight inches of solid rock. The chain and stake, like the clamp, were hammered of local iron. The clamp was too tight for comfortable swallowing, the chain too short to make standing possible. Hero could, however, spread out on his chest and stretch an arm to a low row of hedges. By parting the tangled undergrowth he had a limited view of the fishing village below, and of the harbor beyond. As the days passed he was able to tweak himself a view-space discernible only from his peculiar vantage. He accomplished this by gently breaking small branches strategically, then guiding their interrupted growth with the utmost tenderness. It was his secret garden.
He had no memory—none whatsoever—of being staked here. Obviously the old man hadn’t set this up overnight. Hero’s mind prodded timidly…how many others had been chained to this spot, and why?
But over the subsequent weeks and months he went beyond caring. Each day was the same:  just after dawn the old man would storm into the tiny side-yard swinging his reed whip wildly. The lashings were savage and unremitting. The old man, except for his eyes, would be mute. Only his whip need speak. And the snap of his reed had but one message:  when you see this whip you go down, and you go down immediately.
The naked savage, scarred head to foot, learned to go prostrate on the moment. Even so, the old man couldn’t resist the temptation to indulge in the occasional good old, all-out thrashing. And after each session he would toss the prisoner a vile mess of dead fish and rotting leftovers.
Hero lived like this for many months, lost in a confused world of pain and anticipation. Perversely, he came to look forward to the bite of that whip, for, whether he flogged him in passion or just for sport, the old man was always sure to make it personal. It seemed their relationship might go on forever.
But one day there was a great commotion in the sleepy little fishing village. Hero parted the leaves and beheld a small train of oblong coaches at rest near the harbor. Large oxen yoked in pairs lolled between the carriages, immune to the clamor around them. There were dark shaggy horses and colorfully dressed Bactrian camels. The horses and camels were tethered in the rear, but were occasionally paraded around the carriages by little men wielding long painted bamboo poles. The whole affair was exotic and mesmerizing, eccentric and profane. Hero watched all day in amazement, infected by the hubbub, though he was totally mystified by the crowd’s fascination on the carriages’ far side.
And late that afternoon he saw the old man come walking out of that crowd, talking heatedly with another man. The stranger was shorter and broader than the old man, with long stringy hair and long stringy mustaches. He saw them climbing the path, saw them crawl inside a hole lashing furiously. They were lost from view for a minute, then popped up big as life. Hero glowed and curled up eagerly as they approached.
The old man and stranger came into the narrow side-yard still arguing. The old man grabbed Hero by the hair and twisted until he was facing the newcomer.
The stranger had oily, porous skin, and a round but grave countenance. His highly slanted eyes were bright and restless. He studied Hero’s mutilated face with keen interest before borrowing the old man’s reed. When Hero scraped at his feet he grunted and returned the reed.
The stranger pulled out something shiny and hefted it in his hand. He then raised his other hand while considering Hero, as though weighing him too. The old man’s eyes glinted, and for an instant his expression became grotesquely servile. The stranger and old man, facing, nodded curtly in unison. The stranger dropped the shiny thing onto the old man’s itching palm. The old man whipped Hero frantically before taking a small ax to the chain. A few hard blows split a link, the broken link was bent back by the tool’s shaft, and the prisoner was at last released.
The old man handed the stranger a short hempen rope. The stranger bowed deeply. He then tied an end of the rope through one of the remaining links and began dragging Hero along. Hero’s hands sought the old man, who kicked and cursed him all the way to the path. The three stumbled single-file to the bottom. The old man waved his arms and shouted hysterically, trotting behind until he ran out of breath. But he got in a final kick and, before he came to a gasping halt, managed to lash Hero once for old time’s sake, and to spit on him twice for luck.

There were five carriages; a long one in the center hitched to four oxen, and two smaller coaches in the front and rear with a pair of oxen on each. The carriages were old and battered, built of splitting wood slats and rusted iron braces. Various hides, spare wheels, and a hundred odds and ends were tied to the sides and roofs. Hero’s new master, using him as a ram, shoved him through the crowd to the long carriage. He hauled him up the single wood step and watched the crowd’s reaction. Children hid behind mothers, mothers hissed and jeered, men spat in that smashed, disgusting face.
Satisfied, Hero’s master twisted the rope tighter and dragged him through the hide flap that served as the carriage’s rear wall.
A strange ruckus began at their entrance.
Inside the carriage were bulky shapes and quirky movements, yet the immediate and overwhelming impression was one of unbelievable stench. Hero, instantly covered with flies, was kicked and shoved down a foot-wide aisle. The carriage’s walls were riddled with black flecks of old dried blood, the floor coated with standing *****, a variety of small carcasses, and some clinging, indefinable slime. But the living contents of this hell were so horrifying, and so unexpected, that Hero at once dropped to his knees. Observing this, master grabbed a whip off the wall and lashed him along the floor.
A number of bamboo cages lined either side of the carriage, each four feet high, four feet wide, and three feet deep. In the first cage to their left, a quadruple amputee dangled in a leather harness in a cloud of flies, jealously gnawing a chicken carcass balanced on his belly. The second cage held a man who had been burned over ninety per cent of his body, and the third a middle-aged woman with no eyes or tongue, her head shaved. The next cage housed a fully grown black leopard, its bright eyes fixed on the horrified newcomer. Then an empty cage, and finally a cage containing a demented man whose long yellow nails were busily raking a face deeply scarred and bleeding.
The first cage against the opposite wall held two girls rolling in their own excrement. Siamese twins unable to part, they had developed a unique method of locomotion, and now executed a three-quarters cartwheel in Hero’s direction, their mangled, severely bitten hands attempting to reach him through the bars. In the cage next to theirs a naked dwarf glowered menacingly, his eyes following coldly as Hero’s master shoved him down the narrow aisle, occasionally pausing to lash a cage. The hissing and howling increased as each prisoner beheld the new neighbor.
The third cage held an intensely sick adult Bornean sun bear, so confined it was entirely unable to move. Its hide was a patchwork of scraggly fur and grayish skin, glistening with odd eruptions. It rolled its sunken eyes in Hero’s direction, its muzzle twitching feebly.
The next cage contained a man who was frightfully diseased. Broad fungal patches covered his face and limbs, terminating in waxy folds that dangled like a rooster’s wattles. Welling sores spotted his chest and back. His eyes were bugged and sallow; his lower lip drooped below his chin. He barked wetly at Hero’s passing legs.
The second-to-last cage housed a rare, completely hairless Chinese albino, and the last cage a very tall, skeletal woman. The albino snapped at Hero while repeatedly banging his head against the cage. The woman hissed and coiled like a snake, her spine arching amazingly.
Master hauled Hero to the empty cage on his left, swung its door open with his foot, and forced him to his knees by pushing down with all his weight. He kicked and punched until Hero had been squeezed inside, then shut and secured the wide bamboo door.
Master inched his way back down the carriage, hammering the **** of his whip on each cage as he passed. There was a glimpse of daylight as he lifted the flap.
Once he’d departed, the carriage grew eerily silent.
Hero cautiously turned his head. Less than a foot away, the black leopard was frozen in place, one paw waving hypnotically in his face. The beast’s fangs were bared, its ears straight back, its eyes glistening. Hero turned ever so slowly, until he was looking into the eyes of the demented man in the final cage. The man cocked his head quizzically. A second later he was screaming his lungs out in a bizarre downward spiral.
At once the carriage erupted. The freaks shrieked and scrabbled, the leopard spun in place. Directly across the aisle, the albino hurled himself against the bars of his cage. He batted his face with his fists, threw back his head, and just howled and howled and howled. The snake woman curled even tighter, her long scrawny legs entwined behind her head.
Hero sat with breath held, absolutely silent, absolutely motionless. He very, very slowly closed his eyes.

Later that night the flap was flung high. The menagerie came alive as master, weirdly illuminated by moonlight, slowly made his way down the aisle carrying a skin sack oozing blood. He stopped at each cage to toss in a dying chicken and a handful of smelt.
When he reached Hero’s cage he looked down thoughtfully.
He extracted a quivering chicken and held it above the cage so that blood dripped on the brute’s deeply pleated forehead. Hero lowered his eyes. Master’s face darkened. He smashed the bird against the cage, over and over, a vein throbbing in his temple. Finally he hissed and displayed the limp chicken high over the albino’s head. The albino yelped and kicked, thrusting his hand up between the bars and jerking it back to lick away the blood rolling down his forearm.
Master eyed Hero coldly before pointedly dropping the chicken into the albino’s searching hands.
Master hissed again. He slowly made his way out.
Soon there was a commotion outside. The carriage rocked a bit before settling. Hero, turning in his cage to peek through a rift in the wood, saw horses being urged forward. He could hear men shouting. The carriage rocked again. He looked up and saw the gibbous moon suspended in mist. For just a second something wedge-shaped cut across its soft white face.
But then the oxen were grunting, the wheels had been freed, and the horses drawn abreast. Master’s lash spat left and right, and the show proceeded…west.

                                              MA­STER

She was very round and very small, with very short, very shaggy black hair. Her arms bore the scars of numerous bites from beast and man, and around her neck ran long wheals from a particularly savage owner. Hero, having spent the better part of the morning watching master storm in and out of a strange screaming house, now watched him drag the little round woman through the dirt. For a while he listened to the song of his master’s lash, waiting for the woman to break. But there was never a whimper.
It had been a difficult transaction for master, and an altogether difficult morning. For hours he’d paced up and down the main carriage, alternately murmuring affectionately into, and lashing at, each cage he visited. The sun bear, long dead and stuffed, had been taken outside for barter. It had soon been returned.
Master had lingered over Hero’s cage for a good while, staring critically. He’d begun shouting, and three of his men had burst in through the flap, unlatched the demented man’s cage, and dragged him out by the feet for trade, master personally stomping on his torn and groping hands.
And now master was kicking and shoving the little woman down the aisle as his men restrained her by the hair and throat. Upon master’s command these men stripped her naked and commenced pinching and slapping while making threatening faces and mocking noises. The freaks sat right up in their cages.
The woman looked as though she’d fainted:  her arms were lax, her eyes rolled up. Her whole face seemed to purse, and her body, head to toe, began to run blue. Her fingers quivered, arched, and clawed—the woman was self-asphyxiating. Master fairly leaped with delight while the cages rocked around him. He had the men slap her awake. Once she was fully conscious they stuffed her into the demented man’s old cage next to Hero’s.
Master then looked in eagerly, one to the other, his hands balled into fists. The woman buried her odd round face in her forearms as she squeezed herself into her cage’s deepest corner. Hero gazed indifferently and went back to his peephole.
Master exploded. He smacked and kicked the cages over and over, swore up and down, ran the shaft of his whip back and forth against the heavy bamboo bars. Eventually he calmed somewhat. He stared coldly at Hero, made a ***** smile, and spat right in his eyes. A tense minute passed. Master slowly made his way outside.
Hero automatically relaxed. Across the aisle the albino ****** his face between his cage’s bars to sniff the newcomer. The leopard, bobbing rhythmically, emitted a high-pitched squeal that gradually descended to a steadily throbbing growl.
Hero looked the stranger over. Once she’d lowered her hands he saw that her eyes were crossed, her jaw slack, her face as round as the full moon. He looked closer. There were scars all over her throat and arms:  plainly, the small round woman had been treated very badly. Hero instinctively slid a foot between the bars; the woman cried out and scrunched even deeper. Across the aisle the albino quickly extended an arm. Without knowing why, Hero turned on him. The albino flinched, his eyes tearing into Hero’s. A second later he was stamping his feet and grinning wildly. Hero went back to his peephole.
Next morning master and two of his men dismantled the bamboo walls separating Hero’s and the woman’s cages. They bound the frames with broad leather bands, making a single cage of the two.
A common door was fashioned and secured. Master used his broad blade to shear away Hero’s rags. The men hunched around the long cage expectantly.
The naked couple backed away. Master was instantly exasperated—he shouted, lashed furiously, stamped and screamed, jabbed a broken shaft between the bars with malevolent intent, whirled and hurled the shaft at nothing. The carriage’s inmates went out of their minds. At master’s bellowed command a man scurried outside, returning with a long rope of woven leather strands. Master opened the cage and, applying all his weight, pinned Hero and his new mate in an awkward embrace while his men tied them together.
Again master and his men bent over the long cage to watch.
When Hero realized his predicament he made a desperate attempt to reach his peephole.
The men, misreading his struggles, babbled and cheered, but master threw up his hands. He then, through gesture, ordered his men to drape a number of hides over the long cage. Once these hides were in place he very quietly bent to one knee and placed an ear against the cage. After a while he cursed and rose to his feet. He shook the cage and stormed out, whipping and kicking the howling inmates.
In the semi-darkness the man and woman quit fighting their bonds.
A muffled patter began on the hide-covered roof.
Rain, as always, had a calming effect on the carriage’s occupants, causing the freaks and beasts to slip, one by one, into lethargy or slumber. Under such a spell, the attainment of master’s goal was inevitable.
It was a coupling both innocent and vile, without passion or celebration. Occasionally the freaks would surface, register their excitement by shrieking, shaking their cages, or otherwise clamoring…but very quickly the air would stifle them, weighing their heads and confusing their impulses. The atmosphere grew heavier by the minute. And, when night rolled over the carriages, the rain came down in sheets.

Leaning ******* the woman’s cage, master slipped his gnarly hand between the bars and slowly rubbed her belly in a counter-clockwise motion, his sinister features soft in the candle’s light. And he told, in nonsensical cooing whispers, of a lovingly secure and impossibly prosperous future.
How large and promising that belly had become! And how wise was he, the cunning and aggressive master, in his far-reaching business decisions. He turned his affection to the motionless gaping brute; stroked the battlefield of its face, tossed in another lizard. Master rubbed his palms together. From now on it was extra lizards daily, for both the woman and her mate. He remarked, with only passing interest, his star player’s continuing indifference. They didn’t know each other, didn’t need each other.
There’d been months of shows on the road now, broken only recently by this sensible rejoining of the mates at conception.
Hero’s horrible disfigurement was unquestionably top draw; he was a guaranteed crowd pleaser at every stop. So now master looked him straight in the eyes and smiled. He held the reeking candle high. The carriage was absolutely silent. Master smiled again, rose to his feet, tiptoed away.
Hero watched him retreat until the flap had fallen. He returned to his peephole, saw master round the rear of the carriage and slowly crunch by. For a time he could see nothing but the half-shapes of junipers bathed in starlight. There was a tentative movement to his right and a large shape came to obstruct his view.
The horse stood for a minute in profile. It slowly brought its head to rest against the carriage, applying its eye to the peephole. Hero froze. The two remained fixed, eyeball to eyeball, while a breeze played odd tunes on the outer wall’s hanging paraphernalia. The horse’s big dark eye rolled nervously. A long moment passed. Slowly the horse backed off. It stood uncertainly for a while, staring at the peephole. Then it quietly moved away.

Master kicked the cages one by one, left hand and right, as he slowly made his way down the aisle. Into each cage he delivered a personalized warning in passing—a growl, a hiss, a bark—but he was quickly losing control. Animal electricity hopscotched the carriage, cage to cage, ceiling to floor, front to rear and back again. Master froze. Much more of this excitement, he feared, could seriously agitate the woman—with grave consequences for master.
She was splayed on her back, in labor’s throes, her ankles and wrists bound to the long cage. Hero had been removed to give her room, and now sat hunched atop the snake woman’s cage, two men holding him by the throat and legs.
Master gnashed and snarled, listening to the woman scream, watching her stupid round head bounce up and down and back and forth. He knew it! He’d been suckered, hoodwinked, scammed—ripped off like a common rube. The woman was too ******* to handle even something as natural as childbirth. Still…it was too late to second-guess himself—all these months he’d been patient—he’d been supportive and vigilant and now he would not be denied. He flogged one of the men to alleviate his tension.
The blue lady was very slowly, very dramatically arching her spine. Master wiped the sweat from his eyes. When the bars were pleating her big round belly, her shoulders began drumming on the straw-strewn floor.
Master screamed one very colorful expletive.
A razor silence came over the carriage. Not a body moved or breathed.
At last two men tiptoed around their purpling master and leaned into the cage. One obediently ****** a foot between the bars. He pushed ******* her right knee while using a hand to grip the left knee, spreading her legs wide. The other man drew a broad leather strap between her teeth. After lifting the woman’s head he pulled the strap behind her neck, knotted it to make a gag, and yanked a skin sack over her face. He looked up anxiously. Master licked his lips and nodded. The man made a fist and frantically punched the woman’s face until her muffled screams ceased. She moaned gently throughout her contractions.
Master genuflected, brought a spitting candle in tight, and took a deep breath. As he raised his hand the candle’s light bounced off his knife’s chipped and scored eleven-inch blade. Master swore and reached down carefully. He flicked his wrist twice and the menagerie went mad.

The child was a tremendous disappointment.
Master had eagerly anticipated an infant ******* and deformed; something embracing the best qualities of its parents. He had even designed a special cage that could be expanded by degrees as the spawn developed. There also remained the tantalizing option of a family display, though such an undertaking would require the eventual construction of a structure even larger than the cage its parents now shared. Master anguished over the logistics, knowing it would break his heart to have to cut one of his jewels’ throats just to make room for a growing child. Nights he would slowly pace the carriage with all the possessiveness of a jealous suitor, one hand maneuvering a sputtering candle, the other tenderly rapping his whip’s **** against each visited cage.
But the boy was a flawless specimen; a beautiful, undemanding baby. From the moment master angrily tossed the placenta he felt cheated, even betrayed. He grimaced as it peaceably took to its mother’s breast, despite the surrounding horrors. Master hated it, immediately and entirely. The ****** thing was so docile it was almost charming. He drew his knife and was just reaching down, when an overwhelming sense of dread shook him like a rat in the jaws of a mastiff. Sweat poured down his squat, pig-tailed nape. He knew he would live to regret it, but decided to not cut the child’s throat right away. It was the oddest feeling. His knife hand had trembled for the first time in his life, and he had found himself momentarily contemplating right and wrong at the outset of a perfectly simple and commonplace procedure. That was it, then. His business instincts were letting him know there was a good, albeit unknowable, reason to let the sweet baby live. Master left the carriage anxiously, muttering in his ambivalence.
The boy grew to embody his worst expectations. Not only was it a poorly oriented child, clinging to its father rather than its master almost from the moment of weaning, but it soon proved a lousy draw with the patrons. Those who paid to view the child dangling in its special cage inevitably departed unsatisfied, some vocalizing, strangely, an acute sense of shame. So once again master entered the carriage with his knife hand steady, and once again he exited trembling, his heart in his throat and his soul in a whirl. He whipped the dwarf savagely before leaving. What place conscience in the mind of a businessman?
Soon as the boy could walk, master put him to work fetching and feeding. But the brat was slothful in his chores, preferring to hang around his family’s cage while staring wistfully at his father. For their part, the parents were wholly disinterested. Master would fume while Hero gazed for hours out his peephole—even as the mother lolled, perpetually ill. Sometimes that accursed woman’s condition riled poor master to no end. She could teeter at death’s door for months at a time, her body changing hues to the fascination of customers, only to bounce back with a hardiness that was of interest to no one. But at the peak of her performances the blue lady could really hold a crowd. Master produced an entire outdoors extravaganza around her:  within concentric rings of raging torches his men would slowly strip her naked before wild audiences, then allow the dwarf and albino to take her while the leopard strained against a gaily festooned chain. Master circulated his crew through the crowds to encourage his patrons’ cult-like behavior of breath-holding and fainting. No getting around it:  the customers were crazy about her—village to village, master’s Bactrian vanguard’s colorful robes shouted her approaching fame. And Hero’s popularity continued to soar. Many were the nights when master, pacing the perimeter, wondered just what devilry could have produced the lovely boy.
Overall, Hero remained his master’s favorite conceit and hottest property. Part of the little brute’s appeal was, of course, his exoticness. And certainly the ugliness arising from his deformity was compelling…but there was a detachedness about him that fascinated every soul with a fistful of copper cash coins. Whether they ****** him, cudgeled him, or spat in his face, he remained unflappable, staring only at the aching sky. Though many would leave uneasy, master noted with deep satisfaction that they almost invariably returned.
The boy soon evinced an amazing affinity for animals. No matter how agitated an ox or horse became, the child could pacify it with one hand on a lowered brow. This was a source of endless fascination for the crew. Wagers were made. The boy was pitted against oxen whipped to a frenzy. But they would not harm him; they would rather go prostrate and take the lash. Master tried to work this knack into a viable act, but his patrons just weren’t buying. They wanted freaks.
When the lad was a mere five years old, master had him trained in the peripheral art of the pickpocket. The boy worked well alone, and had all the makings of a fine little flimflam artist. Master sighed, his chronic nightmares a thing of the past. As ever, his business instincts were guiding him well.
Then late one afternoon he found the boy squatting outside his parents’ cage. The boy had done the unthinkable:  he had deposited his day’s pickings at the feet of his father instead of bringing the ***** to master. Master flew into a rage and raised his whip to give the little traitor the lashing he deserved. But before he could deliver a single stroke his other hand shot to his chest and he staggered back against the albino’s cage. He blinked down at the boy, who regarded him steadily while scooping the plunder into a little pile.
From that day on the boy placed whatever he could get his hands on at his father’s feet. As time passed he became ever more adroit at thievery, growing into a youngster both admired and despised by master and his crew; admired because theft was a cinch for him, despised because they were all that much lighter in their possessions.
Now, for eleven long years the strange little train had bounced along, sometimes camping outside villages for months, occasionally pausing on connecting roads. The show traversed the heart of Manchuria, skirted the Gobi in the north, and so eventually crossed almost the entire width of Mongolia before proceeding north to the confluence of the rivers Yenisey and Ob’. Much silver and copper had come to master’s coffer, much fame to his name, but he now sat looking over a vast, unmapped Siberian wilderness. The mostly nomadic characters they’d been encountering spoke in tongues unfamiliar even to his personal valet-translator-accountant, and the tone of these nomads had been unmistakably hostile.
Master huddled surlily under a canopy of sopping hides. Night was falling hard during a merciless rain, the wind was picking up, and his supplies coach was bogged in a growing sea of mud. At that moment he accepted the whole end-of-the-line concept, and knew he wasn’t going anywhere but back. And when he got back he was going to shine! He jumped from the coach.
The earth took his weight for a heartbeat—and he was up to his chin in muck, splashing about on his hands and knees, sliding forward on his palms and toes. He did a belly flop into a rain-filled depression and churned to his feet with the devil in his eyes. Wallowing in mud and bile, master stomped to the supplies coach and kicked wildly at the stuck rear wheels.
Somewhere between kicks he lost it completely.
Master broke for his whip. One minute he was blindly lashing his men, the next he’d succumbed to a mindless ferocity. He thrashed about like a berserker; whipping the beasts, the coach, the very night. His men were scarcely able to move in all that mud, but their dread of his savagery kept them hopping. They gathered as one and shoved the coach recklessly; slipping, splashing, shouting. A minute later, three lay splayed underfoot, but the mired wheel had been freed.
Throughout all this the oxen had swayed nervously, while the horses softly tramped their hooves in place. Master had his men turn the oxen about until the rickety train was pointing dead east. He checked the hitches and personally applied the lash. The oxen didn’t budge. Master swore and wiped the rain from his eyes. He had the horses hitched ahead of the oxen, but they were even less obliging. Master flew into a spectacular rage. His men, fearing for their lives, ran liberally with the lash.
The swaying of oxen picked up until the entire train of carriages was rocking. Yet the oxen could not, would not be compelled, under any amount of prodding, to take an eastward step. Master looked around in exasperation.
The night had gone insane.
Horses were fighting hitches, oxen walking on fire.
Master cursed the rain and mud and lashed all the harder. His men, seeking to please, whipped maniacally until the horses and both lead oxen broke their hitches and bolted west. The men immediately embraced the rear oxen, but the hitches shattered and the beasts stormed off. The remaining horses blew it, kicking at everything and nothing.
Inside the long carriage all was chaos. The albino was neighing and screaming, the aged leopard spinning in its cage. Hero stared out his peephole, amazed at the blur of figures stumbling by in the rain.
A pair of clopping blows rattled the opposite wall. Three slats cracked. A tremendous impact, and a huge section collapsed. A thrashing, hysterical mare burst through the breach in a veil of rain.
The horse went mad, killing the albino and snake woman in a flurry of hooves. She fell ******* the near wall, crushing the cages. The leopard shot into the air like a rocket, slashed at the mare’s throat and vanished in the rain. The horse reared above the family cage. She was just coming down in a wheeling storm of hooves when something made her freeze. Her stare locked with Hero’s, and a second later her eyes were rolling in their sockets. The mare kicked crazily and came down ******* her left flank, smashing the long cage’s side. She whirled upright and leaped outside.
For a tense minute the family sat in the rubble, rain bombarding their eyes. Nothing in their years of captivity had prepared them for such a situation. But by the end of that minute the son had taken full command. He rolled onto his back, braced himself, and kicked his parents across the aisle, through the remnants of the opposing cage, and out of the carriage. They all fell about in the mud and rain. To the west, the mare stared back strangely as she splashed into the night. The boy wedged himself between his parents, threw his arms around them, and pushed with all his might. Their bodies found a common center of gravity. Fumbling drunkenly, the family staggered through the rain in the wake of the mare.

The boy was the natural leader.
Master’s innocent-looking little ex-student could quickly assess and exploit almost any situation. He did the foraging and the figuring, slept with one eye open and one fist ready. He got what he wanted by charm or by stealth, slipping off at nightfall, returning at daybreak with small slaughtered animals and chunks of dark peasant bread. He also pilfered any bauble or oddity he could get his paws on, to be placed reverently at his father’s mangled feet. Breadwinner and watchdog, he faithfully held the family together; a nuclear son. He sewed hardy feather-lined cloaks of reindeer hide, and turned a cache of marmot pelts into a kind of side-slung backpack. He was doting nurse during his mother’s episodes, and unbending apportioner of calories in lean times. Dauntless when it meant crossing mighty rivers, relentless when it came to finding mountain passes. But the endless marching, the unreliable diet, and the countless predators made the three wanderers lean, haggard moving targets. There were times when the little lamp of family was all but extinguished, and long stands in places that seemed absolutely impassable. Still, the boy would work things out. He would stoop to any level to feed Hero, and for a stranger to threaten his father was to summon a psychotic, unyielding monster. He was both spear and shield.
The toughest job of all was maintaining a tight unit, meaning he was forced to become a hard-nosed ******* whenever his father was ready to wander off, which always seemed to be whenever the mother was hurting most. She’d become a tremendous impediment to Hero’s compulsion, and therefore her son’s chief nemesis. It wasn’t a big-picture concern anyway; the writing was on the wall. The blue lady’s attacks were increasing spectacularly on the steppe; her world had always been an enclosure of some kind, and the great horizon was proving just too much. Perhaps these intense affairs served as links to Hero’s suppressed memories, for at the onset of each attack he’d turn and hike, and then only exhaustion could curb him. The boy would press his mother on, dragging, shoving, and smacking—he could be mean when necessary, and though circumstances had made him the nucleus, their worlds unquestionably revolved around Hero. Where he sat, they sat. When he rose, they did the same. In this manner they marched for years across the vast steppes, single-file—father, mother, and son, respectively—unmolested, lacking possessions, always following the sun. Long before they could be measured they had drifted into obscurity.
The woman’s end came quickly and dramatically, in a rocky little depression on a half-frozen field. One moment she was responsive to her son’s prompts, the next she was flat on her back, her eyelids fluttering. That night she leapt from fever to chill, from alertness to stupor. The boy, squatting beside their campfire, watched her face and hands run cadaver-blue to fish belly-pale and back again. While he was staring her eyes popped open and her hands came scrabbling. He sweated through the clawing embrace until he could bear it no longer. He oozed out and ran down to fetch his father.
When they got back Hero watched incuriously for a while. His mate’s face was scrunched up and her skin the color of sapphires. She wasn’t breathing.
His gaze became glassy, his eyes returned to the night. As he rose the boy immediately grabbed an arm. Neither moved for minutes. When the boy at last relinquished, his father casually stumbled off.
Strange things were going on in Hero’s world. Some days he would notice how animals regarded him oddly, in a manner that seemed almost personal. He found, for instance, that particular creatures were recognizable even over great distances. A number of times he would sit with one in a stare-down, waiting patiently, until the animal’s natural disposition caused it to bolt. Though the meaning of these encounters was way over his head, he would watch, and he would listen.
In time he noticed an increasing skittishness in some of these familiar creatures. Something had them spooked. He then observed a number of lean gray wolves moving in and out of the picture with an air of complete indifference:  these wolves weren’t hunting; they were loitering—lounging in the grass, lackadaisically padding to the rear, filing by slowly in the distance. Once in a while a lounger would raise its head, yawn cavernously, and drop back out of sight. So unobtrusive was their behavior that even Hero’s ever-vigilant son began to take them for granted. They paused where the family paused, and halted whenever the woman broke down. Perfectly camouflaged by the gray boulders and dire sky, they were completely forgotten in the drama of her passing.
There were other, far subtler events existing for Hero’s senses alone. He could perceive patterns in everything around him; in the manner vegetation gave way wherever his heart was leading, in the way so many animals appeared to be not merely mirroring, but making his course. And wind, rain, running water:  these phenomena had voices. Yet not for everybody. No one—not his mate, not his son, not another soul on the planet could hear this call, for they were all of a sort. They were static, they were temporal. Hero couldn’t have cared less about the lives of his family, or about the mundane goings-on in the encampments and small tribes they skirted. Such beings lived in a world that was defined by the moment. They shouted, they banged, they clamored.
But west—west was music.
For his boy, once again watching Hero shamble off, the moment of truth had arrived. He looked back down, at his mother’s death mask being remade by the dying light of their campfire. As the flames dwindled he could have sworn he saw shadows creep into the wells of her eyes, while others, crawling up around her jawline, drew her bluing lips like purse strings. He hopped to his feet and ran for another handful of tinder. When their little fire provided enough light he dropped to his knees and looked again.
She was sinking right before his eyes, every aspect of her expression in collapse. The boy watched clinically, fascinated. As the flames began to sputter he thought he could see large purple bruises spreading across her cheeks like the seeping limbs of overflowing pools. He bent closer.
From deep in the night came the longest, the leanest, the saddest wail he’d ever heard. He turned to see the starlit ghost of his father, facing away, staring at a low barren hill. Uncountable stars embroidered the spot. The boy made out a low shape moving along the hilltop, cutting off patches of stars as it passed.
The wolf howled again; a mournful, spiraling cry to nowhere and nothing. Hero’s head notched upward. He began to hike.
Halfway to his feet the boy stopped dead.
It took a minute to sense why he’d frozen in place, and a good while longer for his heart to quit pounding. He was aware of a nervous padding, and, once his vision had adjusted, of a lazy stream of eyes gleaming in the dying campfire’s light. The eyes bobbed around him, glared momentarily, returned to the ground.
A massive gasp, and his mother was tearing at his wrist. He watched her hyperventilating, saw her bulbous yellow eyes sinking in a wide violet pool. With a sizzle and pop the last tongue of flame was taken by the night.
Then her clammy hands were all over him, pulling and demanding, caressing and beseeching. He had to pry them off like leeches, had to place them clasped on her shuddering arched belly.
A silky snarl rose almost in his ear.
With a little squeal he sprang to his feet, even as something nearby jumped back in response.
The boy stood absolutely still while the panting thing padded nearer. They stood very close, smelling each other. He instinctively extended a hand, palm forward. But it was no good; his arm was shaking out of control. The snarl rose again, not so tentatively this time. His mother’s nails tore at his ankle.
The boy gently stepped away, only to find himself surrounded by the shifting silhouettes of half a dozen gray wolves. They approached in a calculated manner:  two from the left, one from the right, another from behind. He was being goaded away from his mother; he could hear her fists beating the ground, and a few seconds later the sounds of a nauseating assault and ravaging.
He shakily raised his other hand. Now both arms were extended, and their message was clearly one of defense rather than control. Two snapping wolves stepped aside, leaving him a gateway into the night. A cold wet nose bumped his wrist.
Screaming like a woman, he took off after his father just as fast as his feet would carry him.

                                                  BOY

Alon­g the great Kazakh Steppe a man could wander a lifetime and never meet another of his kind—especially if his kind happened to be Alaskan Inuk, and if he happened to be the teenaged patriarch of a two-man family going nowhere.
Here history is mostly mute.
Upon this continent-spanning steppe, unnamed communities were scattered and rebuilt, lives blown about by the wind. The only centers of humanity a traveler might encounter, far removed from the Silk Road at the very crack of the new millennium, were temporary encampments of civilization at its rudest—shifting holes of cutthroat commerce existing solely for the barter of silk and spices and hapless souls. Life here was revered far less than merchandise, and the longest-lived men were those who kept their distance.
Hero and his boy hiked over permafrost and tundra for years; their meandering course a drunken mapmaker’s scrawl. Chronological entries along this imaginary line would reveal that they’d stopped, sometimes for months at a time, when the father had grown too weak and disoriented to continue. Hero’s internal compass was long-sprung, and his weight had fallen considerably. He’d sit on his lonesome, scarecrow-scrawny, wistfully scrolling a 360-horizon while his boy scouted and scavenged. Then, for no apparent reason, he’d just up-and hike—sometimes northwest, sometimes along a tangential plane that always threatened to spiral. It was brutal:  winters were frigid, summers, by odd contrast, running steamy to baking. Season by season these marches lost their tenaciousness, and eventually their heart. Hero’s obsession was becoming his demise.
Now, to a hypothetical observer, the ratty pair of woolly camels materializing out of the rising August heat might have been mirages.
These beasts were novelties here, and pioneers, for they were way beyond their normal stomping grounds. They’d tramped for months with a mind-numbing monotonousness, a thousand miles and more; round the Urals to the south, and through the hard territory braced by the Volga and Voronezh, avoiding anything that even smelled of men. They’d been wild camels; ugly, ill-tempered, and unpredictable, until the boy tamed them by touch…but this new pattern was a literal change of pace…for weeks the frail little man and his dark teenaged son rose and fell with the animals’ rhythm, lulled by it, sick of it, dreaming of lands far removed from hoarfrost and peat moss. In this manner they were borne clear to present-day Belarus, whereupon the camels’ stupefying march began to quicken. Mile by mile they put on steam, until one day they reached a broad area distinguishable from its bracing terrain only by its many deep surface cracks. Here the camels’ behavior became erratic; they crouched at an angle while tramping, their long necks oscillating, their noses bobbing along the ground. Eventually they came upon a dingy pool nestled in a pebbly depression. The local brush surrounding this pool was situated like iron filings about a lodestone. The boy hauled back his camel’s neck and laid a hand on its brow. The brute slowed to a halt. The other camel imitated its partner, move for move. Simultaneously the animals dropped to their knees.
The boy jumped off, catching Hero as he fell. The camels stood watching stupidly as son maneuvered father, but after a while grew nervous and began tramping their hooves in time. They slowly stepped to the pool’s rim and knelt woozily, their noses poised just above the surface. Their whiskers danced on the pool’s face, their lids became heavy, their hindquarters quivered as they drank. Their nostrils, having fluttered in unison, remained agape. They appeared to be asleep.
The boy began filling skins.
The water was quite warm; he slurped a palmful and almost immediately felt intoxicated.
He flicked it off his fingers; the water was bad.
Three heads were now mirrored in the pool; the camels’ at ten o’clock and two o’clock, the boy’s at six. He watched their reflections continue to ripple, long after the pool had become still. His face, melting and firming, rapidly fluctuated between extremes of age, and between his own recognizable features and those of some…monstrosity. The effect was hypnotic. He felt his joints stiffen; his eyes became weak, his thoughts muddled…his face was irresistibly drawn to the pool’s surface, and for a moment he was in real peril of drowning. He ****** his head aside and creaked to his feet.
Where the camels had knelt were only the prints of their bellies and knees. In the distance they could be seen galloping all-out for the horizon, right back the way they’d come. The boy watched until they were swallowed by their dust, and when he turned around his father was long gone.
Now he knew it was all just a matter of time.
And sure enough, after eleven more days of feebly staggering along, Hero completely ran out of gas. The boy bundled him up in a shawl, like an old woman.
Sitting there, cradling an unresponsive man weighing less than eighty pounds, he couldn’t help but let his morbid fantasies run wild. He was now old enough to realize his father had at some time suffered severe head trauma, and honest enough to accept that the man was rapidly approaching a vegetative state. This understanding accompanied him like a shadow, and that night he questioned, for the very first time, his own convoluted rationale.
He was just beginning to sense that his will was not his own.
He built a semi-permanent camp west of the Desna and foraged in a tight spiral, always returning in a straight line. Some days he came back feeling uneasy, sensing another presence. Then it was every other day. It bugged him to no end. At last, when it became every day, he hauled his father to his feet and began a resolute march to the west.
Again he became anxious, and after only a dozen yards.
He turned slowly while hunching, certain something bulky had just dropped out of sight. Nothing looked suspicious, everything looked suspicious. He walked Hero some more, occasionally peering back over his shoulder. There was…something.
He whirled:  only masses of rock and high brush. Yet, when he really strained his eyes, he was sure, pretty sure, that he could make out a large crouching body continuous with the rocks. Heart in his throat, he began a slow steady creep, only to pause, positive the bulge, whatever it was, had shifted in response. The boy very gradually raised his arm until it was level with his eyes, faced the palm outward, and extended the arm parallel with the ground. He could almost feel some kind of current passing between his itching palm and…nothing. He walked over to Hero, stopped again. There’d been the subtlest sense of traction. The boy propped up his father in a cloud of flies and waited.
In a minute the bulge drew *****.
Out of the brush strolled a furry gray wild ***, her back inclined from countless weary miles; stretching her neck, pausing to nibble, taking her sweet time. Grungy as she was, she fit right in.
At the boy’s first casual step she immediately hit the dirt and remained flat on her belly, one big dark eye staring between her hooves. Another step, and her **** bunched up. The closer he got, the higher her rear end rose. When he was almost at arm’s length she sprang back and danced away, seeming to bound with delight. But not to the east, as she’d come.
To the northwest.
She backpedaled while the boy came on whistling and cooing, matching him step for step. But the moment he threw up his arms in resignation she spun round as though cued, dropped on her belly, and peered over her shoulder.
The boy was first to blink. This time he approached fractionally, keeping movements to a minimum. She rose just as carefully, sauntering northwest in reverse, and at the first sign of hesitation turned, dropped, and cautiously gazed back. The boy glared at that huge mocking **** and broke into a sprint. She easily danced out of reach, plopped down, and continued to stare.
He began hurling stones, with venom and with accuracy, until she’d scurried into the brush.
But on the way back to his father he could feel her tagging along.
Twenty feet behind she halted, looking bemused.
The boy nodded ironically. He walked Hero over, murmuring baby talk all the way, and firmly placed a palm on the animal’s muzzle once her breath grazed his fingers. She stroked his hand up and down with her whiskers, gave a kind of curtsy, and waited on her knees while he helped his father mount.
At Hero’s touch a shudder ran down her body. She stood up straight. Her eyes became set, her back absolutely stiff. She put down her head and began the long trek northwest, never once breaking stride.
It was an amazing march, an impossible feat. For a little over three days and almost four hundred miles she progressed like an automaton, driving herself without rest, without food or water.
After trotting alongside for an hour the boy climbed on and force-fed his father berries and smoked meat, his dark eyes constantly searching the countryside. Occasionally he’d see a run of red foxes to their left, watching intently, padding cautiously. Sooner or later they’d vanish, only to be replaced by a train of feline or equine pursuers. Packs approached and receded while, high overhead, flocks formed triangular patterns that continually broke up and reformed. There was a peculiar rhythmic quality to this ebb and flow that lulled his senses further. The boy shook his head to clear it, but his exhaustion was deeper than he’d supposed—even the brush appeared to be leaning northwest.
That first day he grew numb with the pace, and that night the relentless pounding of her hooves drew him into a miserable slumber. He wrapped his arms around his sleeping father and lay half atop. When he couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer he tore strips from his skins, then looped his tied wrists round her neck, his ankles round her belly.
On the second day she was breathing hard, but her back was still high and she showed no signs of faltering. Her eyes remained focused on the ground dead ahead. She always sensed the best routes; finding mountain passes, fording wetlands.
But by the third day they could feel her ribs quaking against their legs. Her breath exploded as she marched, blood frothed and caked about her nostrils. Still she pushed herself on, her pace so steady it was almost metronomic.
On the fourth day her legs were gone. She veered and stumbled, shuddering every few paces. The boy hopped off for the umpteenth time and tried to bring her to graze, but she wouldn’t be turned. He ran behind her as she staggered along, unwilling, or unable, to rest.
At last a foreleg gave and she went down hard. Sobbing and snorting, she plowed her muzzle back and forth in the soil, the useless leg repeatedly pounding the ground. After a minute she raised her head and brayed at the sky, her neck muscles taut, her head slowly swinging side to side. Her cry went on and on.
With a tremendous effort she pushed herself upright and butted the boy aside. Every part of her body was shaking. From her depths a low moan grew to a steady bray, and finally to a wild, pulsing howl. She came to a rise, but was too weak to climb without sliding. Stamping in frustration, she managed a few feet, reared feebly, slid some more. The boy got behind her and applied his back; it took all he had to assist her almost to the top. With a desperate lunge she crashed on her belly.
Amazingly, she dragged herself on, her howl now a scream, her head whipping left and right. When she could pull herself no farther she ****** forth her neck to its very limit and, with a shudder that ran from the tip of her nose to the tuft on her tail, shoved her muzzle straight into the dirt and died.
The boy hauled off his father and fell back. The animal’s eyes were fixed upwards, seeming, even in death, to be straining for a glimpse of what lay just beyond the rise. The boy half-dragged Hero the last few yards. They collapsed at the top, and together looked over the cold Baltic Sea.

At water’s edge a haggard fisherman sat on his boat’s ravaged deck, blindly staring out to sea. His was a queer vessel; a family structure built more like an aft-cabined barge than like seacraft typical of that period. The fisherman’s boat, like his mind, had been abused beyond repair.
He’d lost much in his life. Time had taken his dreams, pox his face, hardship his back and shoulders. And, more recently, a brawling band of drunken Baltic pirates had ***** his wife and daughter before butchering them along with his two fine sons, while he sat helplessly bound to the mast. Finally, to further their delight, they’d set the boat aflame and sent it crackling against the sun; knowing he could hear their hoots and howls, knowing he would drift undead, accompanied only by this last unspeakable memory.
But a squall, without prelude, had doused the flames and blown his home ashore.
There he’d remained for a full long day, staring at nothing, his shattered life caught on the rocks. On the second day he’d worked himself free and commenced staggering about in his memories, gathering shards. It was a pathetic claim. He made a pile of all the old bedding and linen and usable cords, and set about sewing a sort of mementos sail. All that third day he had sewn, and on the fourth he had hoisted this sail and been moved to see it billowing in a northwest-blowing breeze. Again he just sat and gaped. And later that day he’d become aware of a commotion taking place on the long grade leading down to the water, where a writhing mass of seagulls was proceeding like a tremendous slow-motion snowball. He’d never seen anything like it. It wasn’t uncommon to find gulls in a group of many dozens or more, but there must have been two, maybe three thousand of the birds now swarming toward his boat. They were making an incredible racket. In the midst of this cloud could be seen a couple of slowly walking figures; as they neared he made out a small man accompanying a boy in his late teens, both dressed in odd skins. When they reached the rocks his eyes were drawn to the small man’s face. It was a foreign face, brutish and dark, with a deep cleft running from above the right temple to the jaw’s left side. Whatever instrument had felled this man had been devastating—everything in its path was smashed, and with permanence. The forehead was caved in. There was no bridge to the nose, the left cheek was completely collapsed, one side of the mouth was a mangled mess. The jaw itself had set improperly, so that it jutted to the side. The general impression, especially from a distance, was of some unforgettable circus freak’s countenance puckering at an angle. It was a face right out of a nightmare. But there was nothing frightening about the eyes. They were the eyes of a child.
Maybe half the gulls hopped screaming on the rocks. The rest circled overhead.
The boy considered the fisherman curiously before placing a foot on the charred deck. His gaze went around the boat, lingered on the makeshift sail, returned to the slumped figure. He passed a hand before the eyes. No response. He then leaned in close and placed his fingers on the man’s forehead. Immediately that bleak expression became fluid, brimming over with horror and heartbreak. Tears rolled down the fisherman’s cheeks as he gasped, shuddered, and backed up the scorched mast to his feet. Thus propped, he squinted at his visitors and was overcome by a wave of homesickness so strong he had to turn away. The feeling bewildered him, for this vessel, and this sea, were all the home he’d ever known. He clung to the mast while the boy helped his father board. Once he’d collected himself, the fisherman tore a heavy crossbeam from the toasted cabin. He and the boy used this as a lever, and together they shoved the boat off the rocks. The wind picked up nicely, and the little craft was swept across the water.
Exploding off the rocks, the gulls shot after the boat as if it were brimming with fish, the loudest and orneriest vying for favored positions directly overhead. The melee attracted additional gulls—they came shrieking in their hundreds from all sides, banking and calling in the oddest manner, until the mass grew so thick as to cast a permanent shadow on the boat. All day long the clamor continued, and all that night. The fisherman rolled with the rudder, listlessly, allowing the sea to control him. Eventually he let go, that the wind might bear them where it would. His sail ballooned but held firm, and the boat fairly zipped across a sea somehow smooth as glass, broken only by the vacillating ripples of bottleneck dolphins and migrating humpback whales. The three tiny sailors sat hunched together, motionless, all throughout the next day, until the black coast of Sweden loomed in the twilight.
As the boat neared land the cloud of gulls broke up, shot to shore, and landed in groups of a thousand and more; a dizzying, wildly uproarious reception committee.
The dung-covered boat slammed into the rocks, shattering the fisherman’s trance. He intuitively walked his **** up the mast and, swaying there, watched the boy draw his father over the side and lead him to a clearing at wood’s edge. There in the dusk he made out what appeared to be a hefty spotted runaway heifer hitched to a rickety wood wagon. He saw the cow gallop up to meet them, saw the boy look around warily, saw him help the little man into the wagon and climb in beside him. The animal immediately began picking through the woods, the large brass bell round her neck clanging forlornly.
The clarity of that bell made him realize just how quiet it had become. He craned his neck:  there wasn’t a gull in sight. He fell back against the shot mast and slid onto his tailbone with a clacking of teeth. His eyes were misting up. In the gathering dark a few sail fragments flew past and were ****** into the woods. The boat rocked and relaxed. After that there was only the sound of the receding bell’s sad, monotonous song being batted about by the wind.

The little cow strode through moonlit woods until she came to a path formed by the rutting of wheels over many years. She followed this broken, serpentine track throughout the night, and by morning was passing farms and, occasionally, crossing broader paths that might realistically be defined as roads. All day long she bore down that ragged track, until she came in late afternoon to a clearing near a village. Here many such tracks converged. And here the boy slipped away while she grazed.
Sometime after dark he returned with a load of straw, a couple of pilfered blankets, and a fat iron kettle. Crammed in this kettle were salt, tubers, cheese, a few loaves of rye, legumes, and a plump foot of lamb sausage. Most of this ***** he’d brought in tied to the bowed back of a huge, puffing, highly amenable black pig which, thus laden, now followed the boy’s every step like a fresh convert tracing the heels of the messiah. The boy built a fire under the stars, filled the kettle with creek water, and commenced simmering their dinner. While waiting, he couldn’t help but note an odd feature of the local flora:  plants, especially trees, all seemed inclined to a northwesterly disposition, though no amount of wind could account for it. He shooed the pig. But rather than run along, it backpedaled in a nervous circle, round and round in reverse, until it lost its balance and fell on its ****. There it remained, a yard behind the wagon. The boy fed his father and lined the wagon with straw. They settled in for the night. The boy must have nodded, might have dreamt, but while he was drifting he became aware of a stirring in the woods. He sat up, saw the pig’s eyes gleaming inches from his nose. And there were a number of animals, some wild, some strayed from farmsteads, arranged in a broad circle around the wagon, their eyes glinting with moonlight. Not a rustle, not a peep, was lifted from the woods.
In the morning he woke to find the pig still staring. The fidgeting heifer, impatient to roll, began her long day’s march while Hero and his boy were yet stretching and scratching, and the ******* pig, galloping heavily, fell in close behind. Each new day this routine was repeated. They banged past farms and small communities until the ruts intersected a broad rocky road wending halfway across the kingdom. The cow addressed this road with vigor. They picked up followers—a goat here, a couple of sheep there—which hurried after the wagon as best they could. The cow stomped on with resolve, mile after mile, day after day, her bell keeping steady time. That bell’s peal attracted foals, lambs, and kids into the wagon’s narrowing wake. Hares hopped between hooves and wheels, boars and blue foxes fell in and withdrew. White falcons, normally solo fliers, whirled into wedge shapes high overhead.
At night the entire train would camp on the road while the boy raided proximate farmsteads, always returning fully laden. And as soon as the fire died the colony grew, creature by creature, and the moment the sun broke the horizon the heifer came to life and moved on, but each day a bit more resolutely, as though straining to meet a deadline. The march took on a sense of real urgency. The cow pressed on with attitude, the clang of her bell more strident with each passing mile. Soon her followers numbered in the hundreds, as animals deserted their farms or crept out of the woods to tag along. Tillers and traders stood dumbfounded, amazed by the bizarre flow.
Once they’d crossed into Norway the frothing cow veered hard to the west. The pace really picked up; no longer were Hero and his boy afforded the luxury of a night’s sleep in one spot. Days blurred into a single variegated flow as the bashed and lopsided wagon continued building its entourage; the riders were surrounded dawn to dusk by a confused and confusing scurry. Word of the flow’s weirdness preceded it clear to the Norwegian coast, so that now plowmen and merchants, wearily gathering their goggling families, found themselves lined in anticipation along the king’s highway. Horsemen went pounding to and fro with news of the procession’s progress and particulars, children ran through the streets banging pots in imitation of the cow’s approaching bell. Livestock wheeled and stamped, fowl leaped and crashed.
The slobbering cow broke into a run.
Bystanders trotted behind, calling back and forth excitedly, while the wagon’s permanent following squealed and squawked between their heels. The cow made a hard turn onto a widening swath in the brush. This swath, seeming to strain against the soil, ran straight down to the crest of a low hill overlooking the Atlantic. On either side a crowd had been studying the phenomenon for some time, but now all eyes swung to the dark and disfigured man and his son, clinging to the disintegrating wagon behind the careening spotted cow.
The trailing people traded views as they ran. Most—at the very outset of the new millennium, with Christianity burgeoning throughout Europe—leaned to the miraculous. Others, just as superstitious but prone to a darker point of view, threw looks of horror at the deformed little man. Yet they ran no less eagerly.
The galloping crowd made for the seaside, where only one local event of any moment was brewing:  on the coast a Greenlander Viking was preparing his longship for the rough voyage home. Impetuous son of the great island’s first permanent European settler, he’d just been baptized in Olaf’s court, and was now eager to sail—but not as a warrior—as a missionary. While his spirit remained in a tug-o’-war between his father Erik’s will and that of gods old and new, his duty was clearly to his king. And Olaf had charged him with the Christianization of pagan Greenland.
Something on the wind now made this destined man turn his head. From behind the gentle hill to his rear came a kind of thunder. Heads popped up, followed by a confused explosion of voices, and seconds later a frantic bug-eyed heifer burst into view, dragging the wheel-less skeleton of a shattered wooden wagon. On the wagon’s splayed frame a man and teenaged boy clung for their lives as the spewing animal made a beeline for his ship.
The new missionary, still egocentric enough to assume his Maker might actually toss him a personal, surreptitiously rolled up his eyes. The sky yawned at his arrogance. At his side a smallish cowled man rose irritably, but the missionary sat him right back down. He then snorted, squared his shoulders, and signaled his men to halt their preparations.
Knowing it was expected, he gathered his hard Nordic pride and coolly made his way into the crowd.

The priest clung to port, gagging above the waves.
After a completely uneventful minute he leaned back and stared through tearing eyes at the distant backdrop of gathering mists. Weeks now…a man of his constitution had no business at sea.
Along, too, were a quirky little man and his fiercely devoted son.
Through his pantomime, the boy had been so persistent in begging their passage that refusal, under the circumstances, would have been unbecoming not only a man of God but a man of the world.
So there it was:  a priest who couldn’t hold his lunch, a witless eyesore who couldn’t sit still, and a surly teenaged protector who snarled at the first hard look. This crossing just had to be some kind of divine test—of mortal patience as well as moral values. Norsemen weren’t made for babysitting.
The mists condensed.
And the shifting shape became a hard familiar coast.
And the longship was mooring, and the crew were jostling and clambering, and the big missionary had booted off the haunted little freak and his hypersensitive son, and was condescendingly half-escorting, half-carrying, the green priest ashore.
And they were home.

Priest in tow, Leif quickly took up the Christianization of Greenland’s Western Settlement, as per Olaf’s command. The mangled little man and his son followed him around like dogs, slept outside his door and annoyed his visitors, ultimately proving far easier to adopt than to shake. Barely tolerable shadows…still, the lad was simply amazing with livestock…and though the youth’s useless father seemed time and again to be just begging for a whooping, his son’s presence bore some ineffable quality that always curbed the missionary’s hand. Several times he’d witnessed the father approached by settlers bent on abuse. Each time the boy had stepped in, and each time the troublemakers were mysteriously repelled. The missionary of course didn’t attribute any kind of celestial intervention to these episodes, and certainly the popular notion of devilry was a natural reaction to the pair’s outrageous exoticness, but…in the son’s company, and even under the sharp eyes of his fellow Norsemen, Leif more than once found himself oddly moved to protect the father. And so the deformed man and his boy day by day blent in—as village idiot and mystic guide. And when in time a ****** brought tales of an unvisited land to the west, it was only natural for the restless Greenlander to buy that ******’s boat and, before stalwart comrades, weary family, and whimsical God Almighty, reluctantly accept the eccentric father and son as sort of seagoing mascots.
Hero was from then on irrepressible. During preparations he would pipe and stammer in his half-mute way, brimming with a confounding anxiety that kept him underfoot and at odds with all. On frigid nights he perched on the westernmost rocks, moaning to the horizon in the strangest fashion while his son stood guard. He positively spooked the locals; they’d gossip, nervously and with bile, of an answering wind that came wailing off the sea like a banshee in labor. The whole island wanted rid of him. And when his champing beneficiary, still clinging to the notion of Christian charity, bundled him aboard with his son and a crew of thirty-five, not a single settler was sorry to see him go.
Almost from the moment they cast off everything went wrong, as all attempts to control the longship were met with some kind of unknowable countermanding force. Vikings were not renowned for passive resistance—they fought, squaresail and steering oar, leaning oarsman to oarsman, until the ship rocked on the waves like a bucking bronco. An erratic weather system pursued them, worsening dramatically at each minute variation in heading. The Norsemen doubled down, and when the clouds finally burst wide, the cowling sea went mad. Dervishes whirled about the hull, crisscrossing winds bedeviled the sail. Patches of kelp belonging to much warmer waters came heaving alongside, fouling the work of the oars, while far to the west a humongous fog bank formed, eradicating the navigable field. The lightning-streaked horizon was a throbbing gray slit.
The longship became locked in a slow westerly current.
Fatigued crewmen complained of headaches and hallucinations, and of a nasty, slightly metallic tang to the air. There were numerous walrus sightings; bobbing flippers and snouts amid drifting ice chunks that came prowling the North Sea like a circling pack of famished white wolves.
Worst of all was the boy’s father—instantly agitated by everything and nothing, prey to some primitive impulse that caused him to periodically incline his head, shudder to his feet, and loop his arms as though embracing the sky. Leif would watch him scrabbling at the prow like a cat at a tree, furs snapping in the wind. He’d watch the boy re-seat him for the hundredth time, and for the hundredth time be filled with an immense contempt. By now he’d acknowledged that it takes a special kind of strength to shoulder charity and tolerance. That brown little freak struck him as an enormous malformed barnacle, slowly working its way back up the prow. Trying so hard to go unnoticed, looking and listening so intently, though there was nothing to see other than the growing shelves of fog, and nothing to hear save the rising, almost hysterical voice of the wind.
Leif sniffed the air, his ******’s instincts nagging him. This was a foul current, and a fool's errand; he took a deep breath and tentatively ordered the longship brought about.
The ship kicked twice, as though an enormous submarine hand had seized and released the hull.
A whirl formed in the water, causing the keeling ship to sweep around like a clock’s second hand. All about them, those drift-ice ghosts cruised dangerously near.
But they’d been liberated from that accursed current. Leif fiercely urged on his rowers, and at last the ship broke free. They made a bead due north.
Night came and the temperature plummeted.
Small sheets of ice converged, drifting between the hunks. The Norsemen, instinctively huddling amidships, passed out one by one in a massive pile of fur and flesh. In the freezing silence the floes bumped and recoiled, bumped and gathered, bumped and bonded. The tiny ship, swallowed whole, was dragged along in a labyrinth of black sea and interlocking slabs of ice.

The Norsemen came to in a surly, foul-smelling heap, lost at sea. While they were still groggy a voice cried out that a darker patch was developing in the fog. The men all fell to port. Under the confusion of their voices could be heard a distant rumble.
At this Hero hauled himself up the high curved prow. A half-light began to penetrate the fog, barely illuminating the irregular faces of drifting ice. The missionary stormed forward and indicated by gestures that if the boy didn’t restrain his father he would have the man tied down.
The longship stopped dead in the water.
The men found themselves regarding a perpetually frozen coastline swathed in bluish veils of mist. Directly before them loomed an immense ice cliff hundreds of feet high. Rising beyond this cliff were endless snow fields, where lean violet shadows seemed to drag about of their own volition. And upon those bleak fields a thin howling wind prowled, kicking up brief white dervishes, leaving a strange zigzagging signature.
Even as they stared, a darker shadow high on the ice cliff’s glistening face began to widen, accompanied by a cracking sound that could be felt before it was heard. With the illusion of slow-motion, a stupendous chunk broke out of the cliff and came screaming toward the sea. It hit the water like a bomb. The thunder of its separation and the explosion of its impact took a moment to reach them. Then, out of a spewing crater of crests and spume, the new calf came lunging, tromping the sea so hard the longship, fully a mile to sea, was swept out and ****** back in like a cork. The floundering mountain of ice bobbed and lilted, generating huge waves which continued to rock the ship long after the monster had settled. In a while the roaring in their ears subsided and there remained only the swirling, nerve-wracking howl of the wind.
The missionary’s eyes swept left and right. Whatever this place was, it sure wasn’t the fair shoreline he’d been promised. Hero again scrambled up the prow, and Leif again yanked him down. This time he made good his threat; he had the little nuisance bound, though he was half-tempted to let him take his chances overboard.
From somewhere deep in the haze grew a soulful, otherworldly call. It went on and on, electrifying the air, bottoming out once the ship had merged with that previously fought westerly flow.
By now Leif’s nerves were shot. He ordered the oars raised.
The longship began to drift. Ship and ice were pulled due west.
The clouds fell far behind as the ship embarked upon an amazingly calm sea—so calm its entire visible surface was featureless except for the faint wakes provided by the ship and its hulking ice companions. To the east a huge fog bank appeared on the horizon, and a while later a smaller bank to the north. Then a very dense one to the south. In time these banks converged, imperceptibly becoming a single mass that closed about the ship, bit by bit creating a slowly heaving dome. Tiny beads of water appeared on beards and eyebrows; in a minute everything was soaked. The only sound was that of the dragging steering oar. The men were now sopping ghosts, speaking only with their eyes.
Directly ahead the fog began to dimple. The dimple became a hollow, the hollow a cave, and then ship and ice were being towed through a low, ever-extending tunnel in fog. The current increased its pull. Ship and drifting ice accelerated through the tunnel.
After a while the missionary quietly stepped forward. He stood with one hand on the prow’s neck, listening to the mist, so motionless he might have been a carved extension of the longship’s aggressive design. Not a man breathed. The tunnel’s dilating and contracting bore was producing an all but seamless series of oscillating, near-phonetic sounds. Leif almost tiptoed back. No god, pagan or Christian, could account for the strangeness of this situation.
They were borne on a course that grew more southerly, and the following day beheld an inhospitable shoreline glazed by dazzling white beaches. Their course held. Two days later they came upon a far pleasanter, thickly wooded coast. Here the current released its hold, and here the missionary untied Hero and personally placed him and his son in a tiny oak faering. He was just as sick of them as he was excited by this promising new land. Once the rowboat had been heaved over the side, he and another man stepped aboard and took up the oars. They began rowing with easy, powerful strokes.
When the boat kissed sand the missionary stood unsteadily.
The first European to set foot on North American soil now placed one hand on his crucifix, the other on his sword’s hilt, and awkwardly plunged his leg into the thigh-deep, ice-cold surf. Before he could take another step the boat lurched as Hero leapt headfirst into the water, followed an instant later by his son. The Greenlanders watched sourly as the two splashed their way into a mad dash for the waiting pines. Leif wished them both good riddance and turned to grin wryly at his fellow Norseman. He must have blacked out for a second, must have been blinded by a shaft of sun, for he found he was staring stupidly at a point midway between his companion and the longship. It felt like he’d been kicked between the eyes.
Everything was dissolving.
He studied the beach and pines closely, but saw nothing of the man or his boy. He turned back, disoriented. With what seemed a superhuman effort he took up his oars. He rowed out sluggishly, in a dream, and the fog rolled in to meet him.

The boy broke into the trees and embraced a trunk, fighting for breath. What happened next happened so fast and so unexpectedly he didn’t have a chance to react.
Three savages stepped from behind the pines and beat him to his knees. They twisted his arms behind his back and hauled him to his feet. He’d barely processed the impression of a wild painted face when something sharp struck him ******* the temple and tore down his cheek to the jaw. Two of the assailants manhandled him into an upright position and held him in place while the third brought his weapon down again and again and again.
All but dead, he watched a nightmare countenance shouting through a shot veil of blood, and behind that image a reeling crimson sun. He lay there gushing while the savages went through his rags. They propped him against a pine and shrieked with triumph, tore the hair and gory scalp from his skull, threw back their heads and screamed at the screaming sky. Tooth and nail, they ripped apart his face and throat and, certain he would die, split what bits of fur were left and let his carcass lie.

                                                HERO

The weeks stretched into months while he fought his way back into the light.
He progressed in stages; only half-conscious, stumbling along in a blood-red stupor punctuated by a slow strobe of frequent blackouts. Days loomed and decayed, nights pounced and were gone; the backlit, swirling gray cosmos collapsed and expanded on every missed beat of his pulse. A thousand times he broke down to die, and a thousand times he clawed to his feet, driven to pursue a tiny, ghost-like figure fluttering in his memory.
Everything conspired to check him.
A bay like an immense landlocked sea was skirted over months or years—it was all the same. Cold locked him in, Hunger drove him afield, that rude ***** Wind lashed him blind, wore him like a shoe, screamed for his skin while he worked his way west.
Somehow he ate, somehow he avoided being eaten; the instincts that had served him halfway around the planet were still vital beneath the abused exterior. His simple burrows became sturdy temporary shelters. He relearned the art of fire, and began to cook what he killed. He manufactured crude snares and weapons and, when his recuperation was complete, paid closer attention to the on-again, off-again trail he’d been following…forever.
Sometimes this trail would call to him like a lover. Other times he stood peering uncertainly, trying to recapture meanings and aims. Then the ground would turn spongy and the sky revolve, and once again he’d be lying all but dead in the woods, while from the face of the sun emerged a vile winged horror, its ugly pale head lashing side to side, its cruelly hooked beak dangling something that glistened in the wild pulsing light…then the fat moon, rising like gas against the icy black night…the feel of the wind:  the slashing of her nails, the chafing of her hem…the sound of things crunching and pausing and sniffing…then the sun, blazing anew. And again that thing, descending, its wide black wings beating slowly, metronomically—but none of that mattered any more. For his mind had quit him, had flown howling into ice and pine to roost with things surreal. In the day his madness might muddle and run, or spend the light stalking, cat-like, watching and waiting. But at night it came creeping from all sides. Sometimes it came in waves. It could gnaw like the devil, or wrap around him like a warm second skin. But none of that mattered either.
The only thing that mattered was the trail—whether it was lost for good, or for only a while. He’d been following it through his episodes, always north, wondering just who and where in the world he was, and trying to shake a ridiculous notion of being led on a wild goose chase.
The cold was unbelievable.
The deeper north he delved, the more confused he became. He grew starved for colors and scents, finding nonexistent patterns in the stark contrast of shadow and snow. He thought he could detect a kind of otherworldly design in the overwhelming number of dead ends he encountered, and, too, in the diabolically frustrating locations of natural obstacles. He seemed to be forever fighting the wind—a hulking, despondent snowman, he hiked face down and focused, while another aspect of his attention floated just behind, disembodied, watching his silent pursuers…leaving no tracks, blending perfectly with the environment in their clever winter coats…not predators, but creatures that normally should have been hightailing it away from him. By the time he could turn, they’d become nothing more menacing than snowdrifts. But they pursued him nevertheless.
And so his paranoia increased…had there ever really been a trail…and when did this miserably cold, miserably anemic crusade begin…his long-term memory was falling apart a chunk at a time. It just got colder and colder and colder until at last, one snippet of a day during one blur of a year, he found himself utterly lost, and clueless as to his history or objective. His mind was a blank, as colorless and featureless as the endless world of ice around him. He’d come this far solely to learn that the only trail he’d been following was his own—and now even that trail was succumbing to ice. On all sides there was nothing to see but an infinite field of glaring whiteness, and nothing to hear but the ululating wail of the tubular polar wind. It was the loneliest, the unholiest, the creepiest sound imaginable. But it wasn’t insanity that made him wheel. It was his self-preservation instinct.
And then he was somehow on his knees in the woods, facing a furious setting sun.
Whole seasons had passed from his memory like chalk from a board. His only recollections were those of a broken, haunted animal:  of being perilously sick, of fearing the unseen, of blindly struggling across a solid-white wilderness. That he’d survived such an ordeal meant nothing to him. And that he had in some indecipherable manner stumbled across the cold-as-stone trail did not fill him with amazement or with thankfulness—there simply wasn’t anything visual or emotional left to draw on. A significant part of his life had been whited out.
But now he could focus entirely on the trail. And before he knew it, the fuzzy area between fantasy and reality found a seam. He began to analyze and plan. He paid attention to hygiene, and kept a kind of running mental journal. Things were sorting out. Yet there were nights when the old sickness would resurface, reestablish its hold, and leave him sweating and uncertain under the stars. Then, paradoxically, his perception would become razor-keen. And so he would see, on a distant hilltop, a pair of scrawny silhouettes, one on four legs and one on two, slowly crossing the faintly pocked face of the setting moon. He would become strangely excited, and thereafter retain crystal-clear images of himself, as if seen from above, hurrying with adroitness through the silent, graveyard-like setting of black and blue night and white-frosted trees. Then the fuzzy area would broaden, and it would be the next morning, and he would be staring at the prints of man and elk in snow. And he would see how the elk’s prints doubled back, and how the man’s prints terminated where he had obviously mounted his guide. An unfathomable glow would bring tears to his eyes. But, even as he gathered himself, a fresh snowfall would wipe out the prints. And once again the world would plummet into white. And the wind would howl as the snow hammered his eyes. And he would ***** on.

A haggard animal sat shivering in a small grove of frozen pines, watching his campfire die. His eyes were fixed. Like the fire, he was running out of warmth, running out of fuel. There wasn’t a whole lot of tinder round his bones, and not much feeling left in his limbs. The slowly heaping downfall was burying him alive, but he was too numb to care.
It had taken him six long years to cross an entire continent, and during that time he’d known only cold and excruciating pain. The pain was leaving him now. The cold was making it right. His eyes glazed over.
Along a narrow plain to the west a herd of caribou filed dreamily through the snow, cutting across a panoramic backdrop of dazzling white mountains. The slow-motion parade was hypnotic. After a while it occurred to the drifting man, in a roundabout way, that he was dying, that he was nonchalantly freezing to death. Concurrent with this notion there rose in his chest a wonderful liquid warmth. His eyes slowly closed and, once shut, began to set fast.
He was jolted from within. It was as if he’d been kicked in the heart.
He ****** to his feet, pounded his fists on his thighs, felt nothing. The breath spurted from his mouth in small white clouds as he stumbled downhill after the slow caribou train. He swam through the snow, hallucinating, imagining that certain individuals in the herd were mocking him by slowing and accelerating, while others glanced back with expressions of contempt.
As he burst into their midst the animals stepped aside indifferently. A few galloped ahead to keep up the herd, but most simply sidestepped while he danced there, stamping his feet and smacking his hands. The herd grew thinner, until only the old and infirm were filing by. The man desperately embraced a hobbling female for warmth, but she cried out and kicked, triggering a panic reaction in the herd. Clinging for his life, the man was dragged along beside her as the herd stormed into a maze of flying ice and snow. His weight caused her to stagger sideways until they slammed against the flank of a sick male. The man instinctively threw an arm over the male and, thus draped between them, was borne across the drifted plain for upwards of a mile, his freezing feet alternately dangling above and dragging through the snow. The herd broke into a hard run, forcing him to assume a broken trot. Soon his legs were stinging. Sensation rushed through his body.
Now the herd, still picking up speed, began to contract, jamming him between his bearers. There was a quick jolt to his right and he was lifted clean off his feet, nearly straddling the bucking female. It had become an all-out stampede. Through hard-flung snow he saw the cause:  just ahead, the caribou had run head-on into a solid wall of galloping wood bison, and both frantic herds had blindly veered to the east; were in fact running side by side down a deep, ragged canyon—were pouring over the canyon’s lip like a cataract. He was approaching, at breakneck pace, that very place where the converged herds so abruptly swerved. The hanging man snarled as he was borne inevitably to the point of deflection.
There came a concussion at his left shoulder, followed by a blast of snow. In an instant the ailing male was tumbling head over heels to the east, ****** into the stampede’s plummeting mass by the fury of its descent. The man and female, rebounding from this impact, were shot to the west in a crazy jumble of flailing legs. The caribou lost her footing, flew nose-first into a snowbank, and came up running. Kicking off, the man used the last of his strength to heave himself astride. At first she fought to shake him, but the spell of the run was too strong. She and half a dozen others went pounding in the opposite direction of the stampede, quickly joined by a number of bison that had likewise splintered from their herd. The riding man could make out their huge hulking shapes thundering by in a blizzard of flying ice, could hear their heavy gasps and explosive grunts. One passed so close he felt its massive flank brush his leg. He peered to his right and saw a black, pig-like eye regarding him excitedly, moving up and down like a piston as the beast ran alongside.
The eye shifted, focusing on the gasping, completely obsessed female. The bull dropped its head and slammed into the caribou’s side, sending her and the man careening down a ***** to the west. The caribou brayed hysterically and her backside went down, but she managed, despite the weight of her rider, to return to all fours and frantically continue along the *****. Again the bull charged, crashing into her shoulder. The man and caribou were launched sideways into the white searing air.
He sat up carefully. The huffing bison was straddling him like a bully laying down the ground rules. Its big wiry beard came right up to brush his chin. The stench of its breath was stupefying.
The bull stamped and snorted, thrusting its stubby horns left and right as the man used his elbows and heels to back away. The bull followed, move for move. When the man collapsed under his own impetus the bull shoved him along with its snout, bellowing furiously. Clear down the ***** they lunged, shoving and lurching, until the man lay sprawled on his back; up to his chin in snow, completely helpless. The ton of a bull butted and kicked, but only glancingly:  those hooves could **** with a blow. At last the man, in one clean sequence, spun on his rear, dropped to his side, and went rolling down the ***** using his elbows for ******.
At the bottom ran a narrow fence of frosted saplings marking an ice cliff’s precipice. He lay face down in the snow, too done in to do anything but **** at an air pocket.
And there came a high-pitched crackling, a sound like the protracted gasp of embers in a dead fire. He turned just as those saplings began leaning to the west, their frozen skins cracking with the strain.
The bison bellowed menacingly.
The sprawled man looked back and saw it still standing with legs spread wide, silhouetted against the sky. In a moment it began huffing downhill, lurching side to side, surfing the snow between lunges.
It chased him through the genuflecting saplings straight into a frozen gully where, protected by a few feet of insurmountable verticality, he was able to slide on the ice between its stomping hooves, downhill out of reach, then downhill out of control—spinning just in time to glimpse a breathtaking vista:
Partly framed by the gully-straddling saplings was a vast crescent of jagged white mountains seemingly huddled round a small stretch of snow-draped pines. The little wood these mountains surrounded was isolated in a broad lake of solid ice. Hundreds of fissures radiated crazily throughout this packed ice field, appearing to issue from somewhere near the frozen wood’s center, which was completely obscured by a ring of rising mist. Above this thumbnail panorama the sun showered gold.
Then the gully dipped radically, and he was skidding headfirst, slamming back and forth against its slick white walls. This uncontrollable plunge had the positive effect of getting his blood flowing. Yet it tore him up. Had the gully concluded in a cul-de-sac, or had further progress required a single calorie of uphill effort, his struggle would certainly have ended here. He would have been too weak to move, and death would have been swift.
But there was a glacier—a great river of ice pouring slowly out of the clouds. The gully, terminating in a little scoop formation near the glacier’s base, spat him flailing onto its gnarly glass hide. He went head over heels, bits of skin and fur flying like chips from a band saw. Somehow he gained his footing, and then he was running against his will, tumbling and recovering and tumbling again.
He didn’t catch much of that crazy run. He half-glimpsed whirling walls of ice, felt a fickle surface underfoot, and broke through an assaultive mist that clung to his ankles and arms. He remembered having the ragged hides torn right off his body, and then being skinned alive. And he remembered reaching the glacier’s base and crawling like an animal; round its sweeping drifts, past its peaked moraines, all the way to a twisting frozen gorge.
And he followed this gorge down; ricocheting wall to wall, delirious, small plumes of thrashed snow marking his descent.
Through a freezing wood he fumbled. In a veil of mist he tumbled down a steep and verdant grade. As cold consumed his closing breath, he fell upon, near-blind, near death, a strange, enchanted glade.

There is a pool.
And in this pool a man lay purged, his broken body half-submerged.
The stumbling man stopped. He knelt to weep, but lost his thread. One hand took a bicep, the other, the head. With a twist and pull the corpse emerged.
That visage…that face—misshapen mask, contorted, bleached; of life’s deposits fully leached. Essence dispatched—a void, sodden wretch.
He let it fall and the glass was breached. All a freak, all a stretch:  upon this act his grip detached.
And the bridge collapsed…one vagabond grasp…what were these feelings; recaptured and trashed…a span elapsed…who was this puckered mass…he hauled it by the waist and thighs…slid it in, watched the pool react:  purse and recover, expand, contract. The glass reformed, now silver-backed…a sudden mirror…the man leaned nearer…saw his reflection, just smashed, remade intact.
The pool grew still.
Within its depth a shadow stirred—visions gathered, some distinct, some obscure. What they meant, and who they were, was much too much to fathom. The glass became blurred.
He closed his eyes, let his heavy head fall, fell back on his haunches, felt the sweat seep and crawl. The air was a pall—as he struggled to rise, a nib crossed his wrist.
He opened his eyes.
Between his fingers the blades poked and crept. Round his knuckles they ventured, up his forearm they stepped:  they seemed to be triggered by prompts from the ground. He shook his head slowly and dully looked round.
There were jays grouped about him, their black eyes aglow. Red hens came running, their fat chicks in tow. Gophers engaged in a weird hide-and-seek. Bluebells and buttercups craned for a peek. Sparrows hopped past and, paying no heed, burst into flight. He watched them recede.
Westward they flew.
Bewildered, he slumped.
Bumped from behind, he jumped to his feet, flabbergasted to find an ancient gray moose near-eclipsing the sky, with grit in his snarl and fire in his eye.
The old moose took aim.
The man turned to flee and stumbled, then tumbled and fell on a palm and a knee.

But there lies a world (so the lullaby goes) where rivers ever run.
Poked from behind, pushed out of his mind, he staggered into sun.







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
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forgo forlorn formidable foundry foyer fracas fraught frivolous frolic frontier funnel copious furrow fuselage fusillade futile forgone frivolity frolic galaxy galleon galoot galore galoshes gambit gangrene ganglion gargantuan gargoyle gardenia garret garrote gasolier gatling gawky gazebo gazelle gazette geezer geisha gendarme generosity genre genteel gentry genuine geodesic geranium gesticulate ghastly giggle ****** gimmick giraffe gizzard glacier glamour glimmer glimpse glisten glottis gluteus gluttony glyph gnarly gnaw goddess godling gorgeous gorilla gory gossamer gourd gouts gracious gradient granary grandeur granulation grapple gratify gratuitous gregarious grenade committee grievance griffin gristle grotesque gristly grotto grouch groupie grisly grovel grudge gruel gruesome gubernatorial guerrilla guffaw guidable guidon guile guillotine gullet gymnasium gyrate habitable hacienda haggard halibut halitosis hallelujah hallow halyard hammock harangue harass harried hasp hatred haughty hearth hedonism hegira heinous hegemony hemisphere hemophilia hemorrhage herbivorous hereditary heresy heritage heroine hesitate hibiscus hidden hideous hieroglyphic highfalutin high-rise hilarity hippopotamus hoarse holler holocaust holster homicidal horror hosiery hurricane hydrant hydraulic hydronic hyena hygiene hyphen hypnotize hypochondria hypocrisy hypocrite hypotenuse hysteria idiocy igloo ignoramus ignore illicit illiterate illustrate imbecile immaculate immaterial immature immersible immigrant immune impasse impeccable impedance impenetrable impervious imperfect implement implicate implicit important impressible innately inert impression impugn inadequate inanimate inauspicious incandescent incantation incarcerate incentive incinerator inclusion incoercible incompressible incontrovertible controversy indefatigable inconvertible inconvincible incorruptible indices indictment indigent indigestion digestible indignant indiscretion indiscreet indisiplined indiscernible inducible inebriate ineffable inefficacy ineludible inexorable inexpiable inextricable infallible infatuation inferior inflammatory inflexible infuriate inimitable iniquitous infuse infusion ingenuity ingratiate inimical innards innocence innovate innumerable inoculation insatiable insectivorous insincerity insinuation inspection inspirator instability installation insurance insufferable insufficiency insurrection insupportable integrity intellect intelligence intemperance intension interaction interception intercession interdiction interface interference interpolate interrogate interrupt intersperse intervene interstice intractable intergalactic intransigent intravenous intrepid intricate intrigue introductory introject intrude inundate invective invariable invertebrate investigate intuitive invertible investiture inveterate inviable invidious inviolate invigorate invincible invoke invocation invalidate involute invulnerable impregnable ionosphere ipso-facto irascible iridescent eradicable irrational irredeemable irrefragable irrefutable irregular anomalous irrelevant irreproachable irrepressible irresistible irrevocable irreverent irresponsible irritative irrigate irritability isolable isosceles isostasy  issuance isthmus italicize iterative itinerary interjection ******* jackhammer jackknife jackpot jackrabbit jaguar jai alai jalopy jalousie jamboree Japanese jacquerie Jacobin jargonize jaunt javelin jealous jehoshaphat jeopardy jocular jouncy journal jubilant jubilee judgment judicature judicious juggernaut jugular juke julep juncture junta jurisprudence juvenilia juxtaposition kahuna kalpa kamikaze kerf kangaroo karat ken katzenjammer katydid kempt kerosene kewpie khaki kibitz kibosh kilter kimono kinesiology kleptomaniac knell knowledge knuckle kook kowtow kulak kyrie labyrinth laccolith laceration lackadaisical laconic lacunar lacquer lagging laissez-faire lamprey languish lanyard lapidary laputan larceny lariat laryngeal larynx lascivious latent latter lattice latrine launderette lavatory laxity lechery legacy bequeath legend leister lei leisure lemming leniency lentic leopard lethal lethargy lettuce leviathan levitate lexical liable levity liaison libation liberate licentious lieutenant ligament lilac limnetic limousine limpid lineage lynchpin lineolate lingerie lingual liniment linoleum liquefy litany literacy lithesome littoral lizard loath local loiter longevous loquacity lottery louver lucidity lucrative ludicrous luminary lummox lurid luscious lyricism machinator machinelike machismo macrocosm besmirched machiavellian mackerel mademoiselle maelstrom maggoty magisterial magnanimous magnifico maintenance malaprop malarkey malediction malamute malicious malign malinger malleable mandarin maneuver mange maniacal mannequin manure manzanita maquette maraca maraschino marauder marbleize marbly marionette marmalade marquee marquetry marrow marshal marshmallow martyr mascara masochism massacre matriarchy maudlin mausoleum maxillary mayonnaise meager meandrous medial medieval megalith mediocre Mediterranean megalomania melancholy melee membrane memorabilia menagerie mercenary mendacity meritorious mesmeric mesquite metallurgy metaphor meticulous metronome metropolitan mezzanine micrometer midriff mien demeanor millennium minarets minion minuscule minutia misanthropic miscellaneous mistletoe moccasin modus operandi monaural mongrel monotony morgue morose morsel moribund mortgage mosaic mosque mosquito motley mottle mucous membrane mucus mullion multifarious munificent museum musketeer mutable mustache mutineer myopic myrmidon mystique naïve narcissism narcosis narrate nausea navigable Neanderthal necklace needle nefarious negligible nemesis neophyte nertsy  nerve-racking nestle nether newfangled nocturnal nonchalant non sequitur normative Norwegian nostalgic nuisance nullify obedient obeisance obelisk obese objectify oblate oblique obliterate oblivious obsess obsolete obsolescence obstacle obstinate occupy occurrence ocelot odious oedipal officiate ogle ogre oligarchy omelet omnificent omniscient ontological argument oodles oomph opaque operable operative opossum optimal orangutan orchard orchestra ordinance oregano orgiastic oriel oriole ornery orphan osculate ostensive ostrich osteology oust overwhelm overwrought oyster pachyderm pacific pageant painstaking palate palaver libel palette pallet palomino pamphleteer panorama pantheism parapet paradigm papier-mâché paraffin paralyze parishioner parliament parody parquetry parsimonious pasteurize pathogenic payola ******* pediment pendant pendentives penicillin pennant pentathlon perception percussion perennial parameter perimeter peripheral peristalsis permissible pernicious perron perseverance persistent persona persnickety personnel persuasion petite pertinacious pessimistic pestilent pestle petticoat petulant phallus phantasmagoria pharaoh pharmaceutical peasant philander phenomenal philosopher phlegm phoenix phooey phosphoresce physique picayune picturesque piety pilfer finagle pilaster pillage pineapple pinnacle piquant pique piteous pitiful pittance pizzazz placate placenta plagiarism plaintiff plateau platypus plausible plinth plunderous pluvial poinsettia pollutant polygamy pommel ponderous portico portiere portentous prairie precipitous predecessor predicate predilection preeminent preempt preferential premier preparation preposition prerogative presumption pretentious preternatural privilege proclivity prodigious proffer progenitor progeny promissory promontory propellant propensity propound proselyte prospectus protégé protocol protuberant pseudonym  ptomaine pulchritudinous pursuant pygmy pylon python qualm quarrel quarry quash queer quell querulous quibble quitter quixotic rabbet rabbit rabbi radiant rambunctious rancor rankle raspberry rethink rebellion recant recital reconcile redundant referral reglet relevant reluctant remiss reminiscent remnant rendezvous renegade repartee reprieve repertoire repetitious reprehensive reprisal repugnant rescind reservoir resistant resurgence resurrect revelry reverie retaliate reticent retrieve retrograde reveille reverberation reversible reversion rhapsody rhetoric rheumatism rhinoceros rhinoceri rhubarb ribaldry ricochet riddance rigmarole risqué rive rollick Romanesque Rosicrucian rotisserie rotunda rogue roulette rubato ruminate rusticate sabotage sabbat saboteur sacrilege sadomasochist salacious salmon salutatory samurai sapphire sarcasm sarcophagus sardonic sarsaparilla sassafras sassy satiate satirical saturate saunter savoir-faire savvy scabbard scaffold scalawag scarcity scathe scenario scenic schism sciatic nerve ******* scintillate scissor scourge scrawny scrimmage scribble scruffy scrounge scrumptious scrunch scrupulous scrutiny scurry scythe sedition seethe seismic self-applause seltzer semiporcelain seniority sensible sensual separate sepulcher sequel sequin sequoia serape serenade sheaves serendipity  servant settee shabby shackle shanghai shanty shellac shenanigan Sherlock shirk shish kebob shoulder shrapnel shriek shrubbery shtick shush shyster Siamese sibyl significant simile simplicity simultaneous sinewy siphon skeptic skiff skillet skirmish skullduggery slaughter ****** sleeve sleuth slither slough sluice smart aleck  smidgen  smithereens  smolder  smorgasbord snazzy sneer snide snivel snorkel sobriety socioeconomic sojourn solder soldier solemn solicit soluble solvent sombrero somersault soothe soprano sophisticate sophomore sortie soufflé sousaphone ***** spiel souvenir sovereign spaghetti spandrel sparrow spatter sphinx spatula species specific spectacle spectral spelt sphincter spinach spinneret spiritual splatter splitting splurge spry  splutter sporadic sprawl sprinkler spree sprightly squawk spurious sputter  squabble squalor squander squeak squeal squeamish squeeze squiggle squinch squirrel stable squoosh stabilizer stagnant stagnate stalactite stalagmite stammer stampede stationary stationery statue statuesque statute staunch stealthy stein stellar stench stencil stoic steppe sterile stickler stifle stimulant stingy stirrup stolid strafe straggle strangulate stratagem strategy strenuous stretch strident stringent strudel streusel strychnine studious stultify stupe stupefy stupendous special stylus stymie styptic sublimate subliminal submergible substitute submersible subpoena subsequent subsidiary substantiate suburb subversion success succession succinct succor succulent succumb sufferance suffocate suggest suicidal sully sultry sumptuous sundae sundry superfluous superior supersede superstitious surreal supplicate surrender surrogate survey surveillance suspension suspicion sustenance swarthy ******* swath swear sweaty swelter swerve swindle swivel swizzle sycamore syllable symphony symposium symptom syndicate syndrome synonym synonymous synopsis synthetic syphilis syringe syrup suffrage tableau tabloid tacit tambourine tandem tangible tarantula tarot taunt technique telekinesis temperamental temperance thence temporal temporary tenuous tequila terrace terrain terrific terrify tetanus tether thatch thistle thither through though throat throttle thwack thwart ticklish tiffany timbre tirade titillate toboggan tolerant tongue top-notch topography  tortoise trauma tortuous torturous tourist tracery tournament tourniquet trachea traffic tragedy tragic traipse traitor tranquility transcend travesty transcribe treachery treatise trellis trepidation trestle trinket triplicate triumphant trivial troglodyte troubadour  trousers truncate tumultuous tundra turbid turpitude turquoise tutelage twixt twiddle twitter tycoon tyke typhoon tyrannical tyrannize tyranny umbrella unfulfilled unanimous usury undulate unequivocally unguent urethra unprecedented unscrupulous untenable unwieldy utterance vaccinate vagary valance valiant vandal variety vehement veldt veneer vendetta venetian vengeance vernacular versatile version vertebra vicinity victual vigilante villain vincible vinyl violate vitality vivacious volition voluminous voluptuous ****** vulnerable wahine waiver wallaby warble warrant wayfarer weasel wheedle wheezy weird whilst whistle whither whittle whoopee whoopla wistful whither wizen wont worse worst xanadu yowl yucca zephyr zeppelin zucchini extraversion embezzlement euthanasia extortion obscure carousing marauder aptitude ribaldry rigmarole chicanery shenanigans capers antics escapade crafty cunning cleaver connive furtive sneaky stealthy plunderous pillaging usurper pilferous wheedling finagler longevous loquacity derisory deplorable critical decimations tithe cynic frivolity frolic derriere easel emasculate emaciate linguistic depravity berate scold scorn scoff rail rebukeness  brawl vapid hamster spleen sequiter sequacious sequesterous flatulence impressible herbaceous impropriety veneration ignoble fatuous phatic journey acrid pungent fetid fiendness gamut ire irascible graffiti irk tedium diminutive minutia iota iterative reiteration self inductive interpolations objectified interstitial extrapolation trepidation tumultuous tortuous adjunct turpitude salient viable seethe conflagration lexical etymology idolatrous affectionate ****** caress craw swell surge flow flux amorous enamor endear ardent ardor cajole piquant poignant prescient puissant presage apex crux citadel pinnacle vertex vortex matrix ****** peak languishing lurid larcenous licentious lascivious squanderous squaloring wallow in the furrow confluence wretched infelicitous trajectory sordid warp strong raw war resume quirkness ***** tinker **** fink stink ******* eccentric pinky suit idiomatic cognate somatalogy virtuoso concurrent intemperance obsessive habitual addicts psychosomatic pathological psychopaths diabolically maniacal dementia panoramic tableau tediously meticulous laboriously beleaguering excruciating exacerbation autonomous avarice oscillating ostracism adrenergic analeptic adumbrate obdurate aberrance genocidal xenophobic prospectus personification of sartorial perfection visage picturesque vision of spectral grace picture of positive prosthesis protractive analysis cyborg ebullition ne plus ultra monad cybernetics prognosis prognostication clambering clamorous clangor hectic mayhem pulverize annihilate pompous bombastic query squash squawk squish squirm sprocket squeal squelch staunch statuesque steadfast steep stench stint strategic logistical tactician stratum stolid stoic stodgy viscid tumult stray streaky stretch strenuous striated strident stringent strive structural strut subjugate subjective substratum substantiate subterfuge subvert sultry sulk sundry superlative superfluous superficial syllogism soliloquy superovulation superfluity superfetation superfecundation suspicion swig superstratum sycophant ingratiating surrogate suspension swindle swallow swanky swath swill sympathetic symbolic synapse synchronous syncopate synoptic synectics syndrome synonym syntax systematic larceny lecher oligarchy ribaldry rigmarole intoxicate tangential tectonics tantamount telepathy tantalize throng tactile taint talisman talesman squabble brash torment temerarious terminus thrall torpid torpor torque tousle  traduce transform transubstantiate transpire transmute transmogrify transport trapezium traverse treason tremulous trendy trivia trifles trounce turgor truculent tuft turf turbid turgid tussle twain twang twinge twerp twit twitch tweak **** procedure vernacular posthumous spasmolytic propagate prolific proliferative profusion profundity proliferate profligate cogent fecund secund secular thick trick quick mystical silhouette sojourn excursion genre engender jaunt pilgrimage prophet trek waver wrought waxy waylay weave weary web wedge ***** wend whang whet whimsical whir whinny whereupon whish whisk whoosh whizbang whoop whorl wield wile wilco wild whence wingspread wiry wiseacre wherewithal rapacity wolf whistle wrath wraith wrack worship wrest wretch wring wriggle wry shyster shylock phone roan tone zone bone hone loan drone known own moan cone done groan koan gnome dream gleam cream seam beam          team serene ravine green gene careen tellurian terrene quaff query quiescent radishes reciprocate raunchy raspy rascal rampant rampage ravage ****** ravish rebuke rebuff rend reave recourse reconnaissance reconnoiter rectify recompense rectitude reconcile regime reintegrate relegate rejuvenate remission remonstrance reparation replication reprieve reprisal nocturnal emission repose remunerate resonant retort revelation revision grandiloquence cleft fissure crevasse rift rill robust rouge niche
crack tromp stomp chasm crevice trudge rostrum rout roust row ruckus sagacious salacious sapient satiric sarcastic sartorial sartorius scalawag screed scrutable contemptible scurvy scuttlebutt seditious seduction sect segregant sequacious psychic reverie subterfuge serenade sequiter serendipity shuck shylock sibilant shush signet simulation siren skeptic sleek slick slinky snare ****** sneeze sneer snide smug intrados loquacity spandrel iambic sonorous spatial spatiotemporal telemetry spectral spry spectrum speculate solicitor sprout spoof specular splendiferous sporadic spurt binge spree ***** squalid forte fortitude Gumby emit war  time raw umbrage ultraism ultimatum unary unbridled uncanny unanimous ambiguous biased unabated uncharted articulate deviating undertow congenial feint feign unity predicate unprecedented paradigm unscrupulous brash dire unfathomable unlimited urchin usurp utmost utilize fluctuate vague vacuous vanity vanquish vantage veer vast advent veracity verbatim vertex vortex vertigo vestige vex vigor vitalize virile vicissitude viscous visceral virtuous virulence vital virago vivacious vivid livid splurgeness stag vituperatively vociferous volition void voracity waft vulturine wacky waifs wainscot waive wallah itinerant wand wane lavish wanton wonderlust warrantee warn warp warlock warren wastrel wastage warranty dicker insidiously sinister flagrant verity maniac pack mendacity abscissa ordinate yacht yearn yaw yare yen yelp yin yonder yoni yore yours yolk zany zest zeal  zenith zingy zooid treatise hyperbolic lingam blasphemous farcical fugueness and estranged ensemble orchestration rendition various assorted forms of related stranger weirdness traveling down this obtusely overt contusion in my vehicular contrivance convection convolution abalone absolute acceptance accurately acquiesce acquire actually adamant additional adequately adherence affiliation affinity against aggressive allegiance although allusions amendable analogous analysis anchor ancient animation annihilation appeared approach appropriately archaic assembler assimilation assuage attain attempts attendant attribute audience aura auspicious authoritarian authoritative barbeque before belligerent binary blazing Buddha bulwark carousel ceaselessly ceremony chaos character charisma Christmas chronological cite classification classify clutter cocoon cognation cognizant comment communal complete conceive conceptual conclusion conducive conquered consciousness constituent construction continuum contrarily convenient corporeal collage creates credibility crystalline culture curious curriculum decadent decide deferred deified deity deliberately delineate deluded delusion demagoguery democratically descriptions desire destroy destructively develop dialectic dictates difficult diffuse disappeared ecstasy ecstatic efficiency elaborate elliptical empathy endeavor engaging equipment escape especially essence eventually evolutionally excellence excitement expectorant expedience experience extraneous extremity façade facet fashions fever flatten forgotten frailty framework gapping glimpse grandiose graphically groan growing hedonistically hierarchy hobby holocaust homogenous hovering ideology imagination immaturity immediate imperative impertinence important inadvertency inapplicable indispensable individually infancy initiate innate interpreters intervene intricacy intrinsic irrelevance jagged kaleidoscope lit literally lose ludicrous macabre minstrel meld mischievous model monstrous mores myriad mystic necessity negativity Newtonian normalcy nuance nullify obnoxious obscure obvious occasional officiate ominous omnipotent oppose optimizes oscillating ostracism paradoxically partially participants pebbles perceive pervasive phenomena portrayal posses preceding pretty prevalent pregnant primitive prism processional progress prominent proprietor psychic psychological purpose pyramid quandary rational receptacle recumbent redemption refused reiterate relatively relativity relevant reminiscent renaissance revere schemes schizophrenia separately sequence serious severe socially spontaneous stalwart stimulus stomach struggle stunned succession superimpose supplement suppose surround swimming switch symmetry sync taubla tapestry tenacious tendency tyrant terrestrial torrential totally tomorrow transient turbulence tyrannical ulterior ultimate universally unwarranted vicious weather yankee whether soliloquy amenity ambivalence ameliorate aggrandize aghast agrapha barnacle gerrymander jasper jasmine obfuscate obdurate castigate metaphysique cyborg appliance intrepid intrigue mystique impetus volition gumption motivation inspiration metaphor parable leprechaun leniency secund hefty endogenous exogenous lozenge irrefragable recalcitrance fecund jaded seal ordinand obdurate aberrance ignominious interface consent imbroglio embroilment lethargy impressionism agitator treacherous lurid allure obstreperously abstruse subconscious squanderous squalid anomalous punitive incendiary infrangible extemporaneous incognito (succubus , incubus) incongruous incredulous indemnify indigenous infernal infidel iniquitous secular funky spunky Rosicrucian epicurean phlegm levity levee lubricious loath loathe frigid **** ******* lick fenestration dire ****** brash crass rash aggrandize tactile acuity bridge rude crude bandy randy monad positive indenture obnoxious obtrusive obtusely overt indemnities annuities cavalier dawdling gallivant bought naught fought caught ought dribble rip zip gig blond entropy catalyst cohort cavort chronological sublime purvey pander meandrous extravagant exorbitance ***** vicarious endear eccentric cognate frolic frivolity fawn agnate aggregate junction function conjunction conjecture conjugation adjunct contiguous constituency cohesive coercion covert maestro maitre d mastoid newel minx murk monad muss muggy mull mirador bartizan musky meager demonstrative anarchy iconoclasm misnomer mimicry minaret mimetic monocracy pungent mordant mnemonics mangle maim mutilate mesomerism morpheme nepotism nurture vexation anxiety vindictiveness vendetta moot void null meringue laconic obliterate papaya proboscis podiatry polemist porcupine palindrome pandemonium presumptive procureness ploy **** paltry pander paphian pummel puny presage felicity parley parturient potpourri partisan peccavi verity goad penumbral platitude platonic proxy photic pharos perdurable preemptory posh perfunctory perilymph phoneme phenetic phantom permeate proximity phantasm phalanstry delusory apparition pietism oviparous expiate vindicate extricate  exonerate absolve posthumous prehensile prerogative presumptive prestissimo preterite retroactive primacy prevaricate equivocate primordium primeval puissance  pristine prescience prompt prodigious protagonist prurient pyre lurid pshaw guffaw purlin purloin quirk pith quark ***** tip put temerarious userp asymptote pirate tiny hat  thief tine slow slide slim hide me effigy infinitesimal slink slick paw
flaw craw claw heuristic swum cuckold climb locuna live **** sly **** sequacious expeditious sequesterous glove glaive glade
don’t dale  otter glue equestrian gog rift cog gone lean had good gold ride ode *** house pine low law earth *** guilty slime negligent torrentially torrid tortuously tempestuous einzeln function truckness presumptive procureness ploy **** off the line cyborg cylon live antonym exogamous dimorphism pry rap gape homogeny gap dudely cruel incredulity ergo apropos ipso-facto pith tip push where keeky geek peek peep glib jive gawk talk dudely cruel off the line but off it !  pit ego colossal incredible fantastic great outrageous amazing fabulous terrific stupendous splendiferous glorious God grandiose orgiastic magnificent ne plus ultra astounding astonishing bodacious marvelous exuberantly ecstatic subliminal nostalgic allusions subordinate ancillary conjectures similar analogous configurations exotically ****** quixotic render proof orchestration rendition unicorn railway mainsail ebullition monad girdle thigh spasmolytic heuristic sartorious sartorial discrepancy amendment rip reave rive tear rend esoteric erudite beleaguer hype synch torque your ringer occipital sync ubiquitous eucharistic oblation obeisance oblate obelisk ubiquitous edifice ******* efficacious salacious lubricious sagacious expeditious grief  orgiastic paroxysmal orthogenesis overture repertoire quagmire quandary poshly plush lushly lustful longevous loquacity hunky-dory harbinger guzzle gyro gyre exult heuristic awkward humph haberdashery hauberk huarache bourgeoisie dichotomy greave zealot goatee cavalier humerus gumption hors d’oeuvres coalescent hysterically delirious coercion nullify correspondence corral coral architrave archaeology ardent ardor arduous awry askew asinine altruistic allure allude alluvium aloof egress effulgence ephemeral apathetic anxiety antonym existential exigency exodus expiate esoteric exacerbate evoke exact exult excerpt exorbitance cajole argent apriori arbitrate appliqué aqueduct presumptuous prestige precocious precursor preempt predilection premises premonition preoccupy preponderance prescient pretentious perineum peristyle perpetuity pervade pertinent portent elicit pursuance putrid quasi queasy quaver quarrel rampart ransack voracious rapport ratchet raucous ravenous reciprocal rectitude emanate imminent perdition erudite erogenous scarp lambent reticent vehement auspicious austere consternation construe contingent convection convolution convenient cocoon coerce collaboration collude vacuum vacillate vestibule vicarious recalcitrant repudiate resend resilient resonance purvey wreak writhe wreath fortuitous fulminate fuscous cudgel futurity gable gallivant gallant embellish gauntlet scavenge scandalous scarify scatter schlieren scholarly scoundrel scowl unmelodious scramble scrabble scraggly craggy cephalic fallacious fallible absurd cutaneous synthesis commission extreme  conscientious adherent proponent subtlety diligent receive interesting abhorred exorbitant arrangement intelligence surprisingly important encompass contributes asymmetrical excellent elliptical collaboration straddled collapsible spanned feasible oriented pervasive artistry instructor precursor innovate adrenergic adumbrate queasy acclimatize accommodate acceptive accordant accrue accusation acrimony actuarial acuity adduce adjective adjunct admonish adroit aerobic aesthetic prosaic affiliate affluence aggravate aggregate agnate agonize airy albeit alchemy allege allegiance allegorical alleviate allocution ambience ambivalence amenity amenable anaclitic analgesia anacrusis analeptic anathema subordinate ancillary anecdotist animism animosity annulet announce anomaly anonymity antagonize antecedent subsequent antefix antenna anterior pathos antipathy antithesis aperture appall adorn pertain appreciate aquifer arbiter arbitrage arboreal frantic pedantic febrile fanatic quixotic hegira to xanadu frenetic zealot zeal eucharistic oblation occipital ubiquitous omnipresence opulent effluent affluence larcenous overture orgiastic paroxysmal ornithology orthogenisis gleam sheen English bird treacherous lecherous asinine dumb foolish stupid inane ignoramus absurd idiotically imbecilic silly unintelligent dense dingy crazy insane quasi slow epos epitomize epochal era gemma schema lemma jargon idiom colloquialism vernaculars peer quay pier pair appearance insipid vapid insidiously insolent pompously bombastic blatant flagrant chaparral epopee pseudopodia actuator militantly mercenary covert adumbrate intimate obfuscate abet abeyance proxy fugue edict advocate détente anticipate angary amentia terse inabsentia expurgation imputation impugn exculpate eugenic euphenics incumbent incipient accidence acoustics acquittance amore malign asperse amok amuck allegorist pervert aspect aorist wrist expiate asylum epigynous anovulant antenatal antidote antiquity antitrust antithetical argufy apartheid apocalyptic apologist apothecary apomixis appreciate aposteriori apostrophe protractive analysis parabola avidity liberty concise tine albeit life still arrogance coherent abandon abate abash abase abdicate abduction abject abominable abominate abomination abound abrogation absolution absorption accentual accession accede accessible accommodate accomplice accomplish accrual accursed acerbity acrimony accredit accustomed actuality actuate addle adamant adjutant adventive adultery adulterate adventure adversity advertent adulteration venturesome advocacy eyrie aerie aerial affix affront aggressive agile acuity tactile nimble agnostic agog agonist aghast avid avarice agrarian curtilage Arian airhead peterbrain alacrity alchemize alibi allegation allegory gorge ally allocate aloof altercation ambition amatory prelude amaze amateur  ambidextrous ambient amble amiable amicable amorist amulet analeptic analgesia analytics anathema android amalgamated anemometry animism annals chronicles annex annul annoy anonymity antecedent arcade armature arson articulate ascension assiduity asperity asynchrony augmentation audible auger aural areola auspice austerity authenticate autonomic astronomical enumeration auxiliary avenge avert economist autonomist autonomy aviatrix axiom avow avouch bifurcate bigamy bend bind bent bisexual berate bereft hype due behave behaviorism ******* behest bereave beholden biologism bureaucratize circumvent conscribe bacchae backslide backswept badland baddy bagnio baize balky ball hawk balmy bambino bamboozle banal bandwagon baneful banishment bankruptcy banter bandy barbarism barbarous barratry base pay bang bash bastardy bawdry lewd obscene ***** bawl beamish beatitude ****** beat beautiful bedlam beggary begrudge befuddle perplex behalf beleaguer beneficiary benevolence benighted bequeath bequest berth betroth bevy birth bitchery bivouac blabber blandish coax blah blither blare blazon bleak blear blighter bliss bloomy blot blunder blotch blooper bludgeon gag blurt blush bluster bonkers bosh boulevard bout brat browse brunt brute buck passer buffet bungle bungalow bunk bunt buoyancy burglarize burnish burp belch burlesque bureaucratize sorrowful lamentation baleful caterwaul
true clench closet queen constitution provocative soap menagerie melee cirrus camorra caboodle cabotage cabriole cacophony
cadge cahoots cagey cairn calamitous calculate calibrate  caliginous caliper calyx callet cameo campestral canard candid candidacy candelabra candor canker can’t canter canteen canoe capitation captivate capture carapace caribous carnal carnival carny cartomancy casque castellated caste castle catacomb catatonic phonics caustic cavernous celibate censor centric centrifugal centripetal certify cervixes cestus chalet chalice chameleon changling chaperone charlatan chary chaste chastise chastity cheeky cherish chesty chide ***** chintzy chivalrous chinch chomp choose chortle chromatic chronic intrinsic chroma chump chutzpa chute cinch conciliatory ciliary ciliate citadel citation civility clank clammy clang clairaudience taciturn reticent classify inveterate claudication cloven cleft cliché click clinch clement clip clique ******* cloak & dagger clobber clog clone clonk cloth clothe clothier cloture redolent clout cluck clump clumsy clunk coadunate coalition coadjutor coaster brake coax cochlea chronology inundate **** coexist anachronism coercive coitus coincide collinear collateral collegiate collision collusion coma combinatorics comfy  commandeer  commensurate comensal commend commerce commence commodious commotion compatible compensatory competitive compile complexional complicity comply connotation compost composure compunction compulsory concatenate concoct catenary concubinage condolence condemn condescending conducive cavalcade confidant confession confirmatory confiscate conformity confrontation congruence congeal congenial conjure connection connivance connote conquest conscript consequence conservatism consistent console consolidate consort conspire contagium contention continuity controvert conveyor copulative cordial cordon cornucopia coup couth coy crag cranky craven cringe crud culminate cumulate cursive credulity credulous infidel gullible diatonic perturbed derogate edict delict rage tirade irate vehemence denouement denounce tire dervish dictatorial diction proof desolate deontology Kant indenture defray detinue douceur amuse disseminate eustachian daft dainty damnify dapper dastardly dauntless daymare dead heat dead horse debauch debacle decadent debauchee decamp declamatory declension decorticate deductive default defeasance defenestration defunct defrock deformacy degeneracy deft deforce hipster mesmeric deification deist deleterious delimit deltoid delve deluge delusion delirious demimonde demesne demiurge demoniac demonetize demonstrable denizen denegation denigration demur demure despot desperation destine despise detect determinative determinism detersive deterrent detest determinacy detectaphone devout devoid detract desultory detrimental detour deviate deviant devastate devotion devious devisee devolution devolve developer dialectic dharma diagnosis prognosis matriculate diacritical differentia diffraction digenesis dignitize dignitary dilly diligence ***** dilemma dilapidate diminution **** ding diphtheria diphthong dent dirge dirk disaffirm discontinuity disclaim discern discord disconsolate discourteous discredit discontinuance discretion discriminate distain disenfranchise disenchant disencumber disenthrall disembody disgorge disgrace dishonest disguise disengage disinfestant disjunct disillusion disinfectant dislodge dismal disloyal disoblige disobey disparity disparage dismantle dismay dispatch dispel dispersive disproof dispute disrupt dissertation disrepair dissipate distillate distort distract ditto ditty diverge divaricate divert divest divulge dominion doohickey dormer doss dowdy doughty dowry drastic douse drat dray dread drawl dreary drippy drifty drivel droll drown drowsy drudge plan dubious dude dudgeon dulcify duct ductile drakeness ducky duel dull dusky tawny dynamic dwelling dwindle derisive bombastic primordial integumence parenthetically pragmatically prosaically practically protractively portion premise portent pervasive perpitude phenomena hierarchy predicate metaphysique endoskeleton ectomorphic dour droll dismal dank dreary bleak stark Electra complex lore epigone epigraph epsilon epistaxis epilation earnest earthshaker earthward earwitness eclectic ebonize electroacoustics ciphony ebullience eccentricity echelon echoic eddy edgy edify edit educe edition eerie edacious effectuate effeminate effete efficient efflux effrontery effluent effusion ego defense eidetic ejecta elaborate elapse electioneer curtail elocution elucidate elegant eloquence Elysium emancipation manumission detinue osteopathy elucubrate emasculate emaciate embark embargo emanate emblazon emote embellish elusive enhance embracive embouchure emergent emendator embryology emit emissary emitine jacquerie empathy empennage emphasis emphatic emigrant empirical emulate emunctory encephalic enclitic yuck junk funky junkies enchant enchain enclosure encroach encrustation encumber endergonic endorse endowment enduro enfetter enforce energetic enemy enema enervate engender engage propensity preternatural proclivity prestidigitation gesticulation equilibrate equilibrium equilibrist preterite rendition retroactive engross engulf enhance enjoin enlightenment enlist impressed enormous ennoble enrich  ensheathe enshroud ensnare ensnarl entanglement enthrall enthusiasm entice entity enthuse entrap entreat entrance enunciate envoy envy envisage epigynous epigraphy cipher epilogue episodic epitaph epistolary epithet equate equestrian equity equivocal equivocate eradicate erosion eroticism errancy erratic erroneous ersatz erumpent erudition erythron epistemology espalier essentialism progressivism esprit espy estimator estrus estuary etcetera ethnic ethos ethic eternal ethereal eugenic euphenics eustachian tube salpinx euthenics euthanasia evacuate evaluate evasive eventuate evaporate evict evident evil evert evolve exact exaction exult exaggerate exasperate excel excerpt exception exclaim exclude exculpate excursion excuse execration execution exempt exhume exile exhaustive exhibitionism exhilarate exegesis exert exonerate expense expletive explicit exploitation exponent export exposition exserted exposure expound expurgate ubiquitous extemporize extenuate exterminate extensive externalize extinct extort extradition extrasensory extraordinary extol extract exuberate extrude foible fasciculation twitch flinch fenestra Fabian falchion falangist Phillip felly ferro falsie **** fess fink out festinate ***** bustle fourragrere fimbria feduciary fabricant fable fabulist façade facile facilitate facsimile facture faena fain fairing fallopian fallow fascinator fash fatalism fastidious fastuous fatidic fatigue Faustian fatuity faux pas feasible faze ******* facilitate feline feeler ferocity fertile fervid fervor fetor fetus fetology fetish feverish fester fetation fetch fiat fief fiasco feticide obnoxious fiacre figment fickle fictitious fiddling fidelity fidgety fierce fiesta  filch filly filthy finale finesse fingertip finicky fang finite firmament flabbergast fixation flak flashy flagitious ******
flashpoint paroxysmal retrograde flaunt flasher flask flat flap flaw fledge flee fleece fleet fleshy flighty flick flexible flimsy  
flimflam fling flinty florid flora ****** flourish flotsam  flub fluke flurry flush focalize foist footing foray forfeiture forgery foreign
forensic formalize format formica formulate fornication forsooth forswear perjurious fortify forte fortissimo fortuity forum abjure
abnegation fossil fosterling four flush frame up freaky frazzle frenulum fret frigidity frigate frill fringe fritter frontal fructify fruition frump frugal fuel fulcrum fulgurous fulham sable furor furring brazen furtive fustigate future perfect fuchsia find roan gauntlet gamut gatecrasher havoc glass jaw glare glass eye gabber gadzooks gaff gaga gage gaggle gag rule gainful gainsay gait gala gale gall gallery gallivant gallop galvanic gambrel roof gander gammon garb garish garble garnishment garrulous garter gasp **** gaudy gauge gaunt gavel gear fad gee haw gemma gender genealogist geotropism germinate gestation ghost writer ghoul gig gigantic gill gimmick gimp girlish gist gizzard glaive glamorize glance glaze glean glint glitch gloat globe gloomy glitter glom glob glop glorify gloss glower glutton glum slum glue hue gluteal gnash aphorism adage gnosticism gnome goggle gnomic gold digger psychic golem gore gorge gown gossipy gouge grasp greedy frigid gremlin greave grieve grin grime grim grind gripe ***** groom gross grit groin grove grout growl grumpy grunt guck gruntle guide guile guild guilty guise gull gulch gully gunk gushy gust gussy up gulp gusset gush gustatory gung ** gusto gutsy gyne gyre gynecocracy gyve guy  aceimnorsuvwx  bdfhklt  fgjpqyz atheist goblin Godiva grog hang up disinter gamet zygote hunks hunkers haunches black white life death lithe heart rending miserly greedy stingy frugal habitation propinquity habituate hackamore hagride hairbreadth halftrack hallucinosis hamstring handicapper handless hangin hand woven hanker hanky panky haphazardry hari kiri **** harangue harass harbinger harem oviparous residual harmonic harpy harsh hast hassle haggle hasty pudding haugh haunt haversack haversian canal hawk hazard heady heal headway heap hearing hearty heave heathen heavenly heavy duty heft heir heinous heifer heist helix enliven glue hellion helm hemlock hence heredity primitive anachronistic hangover heretical heritage hermit recluse heresy primordial integumence skull hernia hue hex heuristic hirsute hireling ally hint **** hoard hoax hitch hoist hokey hoot horizon hornswoggle horologist hostile hostage housebreak huckster hovel huff humeral hurtle hustle hutz pah homage homogeny exogamy hone honesty honkies hooky hutch hypercritical hypotaxis hysterics incoercible idiosyncrasy impugn idolatry ileum imagism idempotent ides ichor icky icon ics ictus ideational identity crisis matrix idea iffy ignescent illustrious immaterialize imitation inextremis immanentism immolation mollify impeach impedance impecunious impassion immutable retrograde recumbence inabsentia impious impenitence impinge implore impotent paroxysm impressment impute impromptu impoverish improvident imprudent improvise imputation inanely inanimate inauguration incorrigible inappreciative inconsequential irreverence inconsolably disconsolate irreparably irreconcilable incorporeity ideally ideogram inferential illicit incarnate incestuous inch incident converse incipient incite incognita incommodious incompliant incommunicado indagate incursion incus incumbent indecorous indecent exposure indecipherable indefeasible indenture indictable  indicative indignant indiscrete indite indolence indubitable induce indulgent industrious ineffectual inane inert inertia infamy infanticide infest infinitesimal inflect inflict infringe encroach infrastructure inflation influential informant inimical iniquitous innumerable innuendo inquisitor injunction injudicious inkling innocuous insolent insidious insipid inept phatic volatile instigate insinuate instinct intangible interdict intentional interject intimate intimidate intricacy intrigue intrinsic intrepid introspection introvert intrusive intuitive inviolate invade inundate invalid inventive inveigh inure defeasance foist isomorphic isthmus fistula jabber jackal jackleg jag jaunt jeer jerkin jest jetty jettison jiffy jig jilt jive job jack jolt josh jostle joust jovial judicious juggernaut jugglery jumble jumpy junctural jungle junk ****** jurisdiction justice justification jute jutty juvenile delinquency juxtaposition kale kalimba kangaroo court kaput karate karst kayo keel keep kempt kept keynesianism kick in **** kindle kinetic kink kist **** kleenex kismet kirtle kith kithe kitsch klaxon knack knavery **** knout kobold koan kneed king cogent adroit lollygag lummox languorous lanyard limbus lotic loquacious lesbian lam labial lambaste lampoon landmark bilk lang syne languish languid languor larder larky larvicide larynx lascivious lateral latent recumbent lapel laud lavish layette lecher leeward leer leech legacy legate lefty lest lewd avant-garde levant avaricious liaison libido libertarian lien ligature lilt list lisp liturgy livid loiter loom loophole lubricity lubric lucent lugubrious yuck lunkhead dolt lurk luscious luster luxury lynch lysis legerity lemma lickspittle limnetic ankh maverick mare liberum marabou machete machinate machiavelianism magniloquent macroevolution macrogamete Magdalene mantis mantra maniacal manubrium mare’s nest maenad majuscule maladjustive malfeasance maleficent malefactor malevolence mash malm malocclusion manipular manifesto mastectomy maw manacle manifest Manitou mana marrow pith manumission constitution marsupial mare nostrum masseur pervade perpitude quark master plan master race mastoid glitch exiguous skimpy scanty sparse masticate matriarchy matriculate escutcheon nombril mere mathematics matrix matinee impetus maxim axiom meatus minimax mediation mediocre medley metabolic meddle ménage a trios menagerie mendacity meroblastic menial meiosis meliorate memorandum memoir memento mori menace mesne menarche menorrhagia meninx mesh mesomerism mesne lord metal methodical meticulous mettle miasma microcosm militia mingy minion koan mirage mire misnomer modality mockery ****** mongrel monstrance morbid morose mortify mortise martingale motivity musky mushy murky muse mutuality muzzle myopia mystique mesomorphic nabob nadir narcosis nark native natty navaid necking pilaster neigh neuter neutrino nexus ****** nihilism nimbus nimiety nitty gritty noisome nominalism nonconformity non sequiter nooky noose nostalgia nostrum notch notion notorious noumenon nous nuance nubile nymph nympholepsy numinous ***** obliquity oblivion ubiquity eucharistic oblation obligee oasis oath obbligato obligatory obliterate obnoxious obscene obstreperously abstruse exude obviate ochlocracy odium odalisque ominous awesome omnivorous onerous onus opprobrium opprobrious optimal opulence orifice ornate orotund ostensible osteopathy oust outlier overawe overt **** ozone procurator pagan palingenetic pallid pallor paragon pagoda palpitate pander pandemic panhandling paraphrase paternoster pathetic paunch pavilion pawky peachy peculiar pedagog pedal pedantic peart peccant peeve perception intuition peremptory perdition perdurable detinue perfective
perfidy perforce periphery perjure perk permeate permute perorate perpetual perpetrate perpetuity perplexity persecute
perspicacious perspiration pertinent perturb ******* pesky perky pester pestilence petrify petrous phalanges juggernaut              
phenomenal phylogeny phobic phony photosensitize phrenic physicality ***** physicalism pick pictorial pious piety piffle pilgrimage pinion pithy placate placid plaint planetoid plasma platitude platonic plenipotentiary plucky plunderous poach plenary plummet polemic polyphonic postulate pouch polyandry polygamy populist pounce popsicle potentate pout practicable chatter prattle precarious precedence precess precious predetermined predicament preen prelusive premonition prefix preposterous prevail prevalent presumptuous **** prim priority depravation probity prodigious profane promulgate proffered prohibitive projective promiscuity propagandize propagate prophetic prosthetic propinquity prophylaxis protocol proprietous propitious haggard proxemics prosecutor prospectus protensive proximity pummel pundit prejudice piranha punitive purgatorial purificatory putschist kitsch quag quantum jump quarrelsome quarterstaff Quetzalcoatl quickie quirt quoit rescind reverb revile mnemonics retuse rabble rachis raconteur ratification radial radix raffish raft ragamuffin railroad raiment rake ramify ramet ramus rank rancid **** rapper rapt rapture rarefy rarified rave ravel raw raze razzle-dazzle razzmatazz realm ream reap rebuttal rebuff rebuke receptaculum recital recess reconcile recondite recourse recriminate rectilinear rectify rectitude recumbent recuperate recursive redeem redolent refer reek reeve reflective reflex refraction refulgence refuge refuse relativistic reliquiae remedy remorseless remnant repertory replicate reproach reptilian repugnant repulse repulsion rescissory residue resignation resolute restitution retraction restriction restraint resuscitate reticent retentive retinue retreat retribution revel reverberation reversal revert revulsion rhapsodic rhombus rhomboid rictus ridgy rifle riff rigorous ritzy rival roan roam roar rive robust rodent rodeo roguery rollick frolic romp rote rouge rout ******* rubble rubric rumpus rumor rural ruse rustle Ruth sitzkrieg superciliary supercilious surfeit suture bravo bravado seminal vesicle sacerdotalism sacroiliac sagacious saga safari saguaro salpinx salubrious salvo salve sanction sanctify sanguine sashay satchel satiate saucy savory scads scalpel scandalize scapula **** schmaltz schlep schnook scorn scour scoff scowl scow scram scrounge screak scud **** scuz seclude ****** seer selfish seminiferous senility sedition smear sycophant sensitize sensorium sentiment sequester sequential servile sham shindig shoddy singular screech situate skedaddle skew sketchy skittish skivvies slang slight slogan slovenly slouch sneaky snub soffit solvency sophistic spangle spar spawn spew squall squamous steeple logistical tactician strategy stupor subjunctive suborn subvert the clarity of criticism can create credibility comprehension can cause conducive consciousness supremacy surly burly squirrelly schema temporize tai pan tup trochlea ulna taboo taciturn tacit tacky tact talus tamper tang tamp tangible tangential tank tankard tassel tawny ****** telepathic temerity telos tenable tenet ternary terra-cotta testy topos tiercel theocracy tempting thew tizzy trite thirl throng thundering tantrum tonic torso topsy-turvy torus tour de force touristic **** tout tragus tractive trance tranquil traject transcend trample transducer transfix transgress transition transposition transude transpire treasure treason trek trenchant tremendous tributary trigeminal  trollop triumph tropic tropism troth trough tractable tract strumpet trove trump trustless tribunal twang tweeze twinge twirl twaddle tunic typecast tyrannical tyrannosaur traction padness tyrant tympanum twist ukase ultraism ultima ratio ultrastructure uglify umbilicus umbra umbrage unabridged unconditional unambiguous unanimity uncanny unceremonious uninucleat union unique unison unity farce sham unmannered unremitting unspeakable upsurge upstage urchin urbanist usherette usufruct travesty usury utensil ****** utmost ut uvea utter uvula utility uxorious usurp surreptitious vagabond vagarious vagile vagrant vagrancy vale valor validate vampire vanguard vas deferens vast vaunt vector venery venial veranda venture verbalist verboten verdant verdict verge vertebration verve vexatious fierce vigil vigorous vile vilify villainous vindicate violent virtue vitalist ***** vituperative vogue vomitus volunteer vouch vulcanization vulturous vulgarism weld **** volume decimate wahoo waive wangle wee weepy welch whammy war wharfage whereof whereupon wherein wherefore whereon wherewithal whine whopper wild goose chase wishy washy wisp woeful wrathy wrought wrong xenophile ******* fornication phantasmagoria fluent voluble yammer yelp yes man yummy zany zealotry zilch zing zombie zooidal zoom zounds zygomatic contiguous constituency confluence contiguity continuum concurrence conjunction conjugation métier quintessential
There was a motion on the floor for the nomination of a proxy to be my epigone.  I feared I didn't have enough votes to challenge so I filibustered.
The mythical ethereal tree balancing 9 parallel dimensions uniquely different to our own. In perfection the equilibrium of its natural power gives life to the heavens fruit to the earth and water to the stars. A holy reverent insignia a symbol of justice and order the tree itself is the embodiment of the individual soul of God. The root of the tree is indestructible and immortal. It's branches flourish thru the cosmos and it's splendor can be seen from the most far away star. Deep within a Heavenly Realm the tree has its resting place. Secluded and alone from the rest of the Heavenly host. Alone only God himself is allowed to visit it's hidden location. Three Querubins watch over the tree at all times never allowed to leave their post. This is known as the "Mother Tree" part of the core to God's soul.

The wisdom and freedom the tree itself carries is superior than the one God has. Henceforth, if the tree were to get destroyed somehow Gods immortality will seize to be. For the fruit that the tree carries grants it's consumer immortality and limitless power to control time, space, creation. The power of destruction is only given to those who have earned it thru endless evil delegated from deep within their corrupted soul.

The perfect creation a Querubin made in Grandiose Splendor... Insurmountable power yet inferior to his Creator. Deep within the Chariot Of God Lucifer plotted to take down God and take 4 million Angels from Gods heavenly Army. In total God had 12 million Angels protecting Heaven and its contents. So Lucifer being in the hierarchy bracket of the Angelic Host Beginning with the Master Angel known to be the primordial spirit also known as the Holy Spirit a being that Humans can feel Angels can't see or hear him but they can also feel multirealitic presence for he inhabits all the 9 parallel dimensions. He is the Main Chief Executive Master of All Angels Heavenly Creatures and Heavenly Host including Gods only begotten Son Jesus Christ. From a time when time and matter didnt exist antimatter was the only thing present in the Unique Dimension
That God alone and nothing resided there because is known as the Reflection Master Black Hole it means only God knows the code to enter this dimension separated from all the other 9 Dimensions for this are the 10th and 11th Dimension the 10th being a place so miniature and so undescribably small that his particle alone existed there. The 11th dimension a dimension that only God himself knows what's inside for it is told by an Ancient Rumor that there is something beyond eternity and immortality something beyond the scope of limits and limitations powers and imagination of even knowledge of all heavenly host combined even to Jesus it is not permitted to enter this realm for whatever is being held there puts his life at risk and his immortality at stake. For only Yahweh holds *Ultimatum Immortalis
or known as Ultimate Immortality the unique gift to live anywhere where his imagination and force of power is able to roam and create or destroy. Even it it's made from the massive unexplainable and inexplicable force that a supermassive black hole has. Pressure and Force unknown to man and for us to calculate even the smallest black hole in the universe its size force and power is mysteriously unexplicable and unobtainable now let's take a supermassive one which is out of our rational thinking and yet so much so more mysterious than the ordinary black hole. Knowing God alone all knowing and unknowning in the Multiverse the deepest most illusive and superior knowledge known to man and even God alike is who created the Book of Life there everything containing life has a word a meaning and a unique life attribute and death attribute vibration in the multiverse.  

The Only One containing neither attribute eeriely is God also known as Yahweh or Emmanuel and to some Creator. For eternity has not immortality and immortality supposedly has a destruction point and the final letters which are seven secret letters that unlock and relock dimension 11th to be opened or closed so that destruction won't consume all realms and God himself.

From then on nothing more is known to Angel, Demon, Man or Beast or Ethereal being...

Seven trillion years had passed since the beginning point of creation when God alone had created the dimensions >6.9< being his primordial creation the Son along with the Holy Spirit and in latter time came the Heavenly Beings and even later time extraterrestrial species and mankind. God ruled over all parts of the Heavenly Kingdom which consisted of 8 different parts. The Altar and Courtroom of God's heavenly host located in the North Side of the Heavens. The Majestic Garden placed in the Northeast of heavens. The palace of the Grandiose Predecessor God of the Old and Savior of all existence known to God himself as the Original God speculated to be the creator of the Book of Life who's immortal existence and Ultimatum Immortalis was destroyed by unknown reasons to all except Yahweh. This particular place is located in the Northwest of heavens. In the Southeast part of heaven lies all the heavenly creatures. Including 3 dragons with celestial beauty and tremendous power. The first Dragon had a Dark pigmentation and red smoke emanating from his body his eyes where red like the color of blood. The second one had transparent crystalline like skin and golden eyes. The Final Dragon was a small petite dragon flying I n between the two big dragons small in figure but very radiant in light he had 13 halos on his head and 12 wings... Five mighty beast like where also in the room. The first was a lion head with griffons wings and a rattle snake tail the second beast had a face of an eagle with a body of a cheetah and the tail of a scorpion the third had the face of a elephant with the body of a human being decorated with precious stones and mir. The last creature had the body of a giant with 8 arms and five legs he had a mysterious glowing mask on that revealed 4 faces each with a unique expression on their sculpture. From there there was a long corridor that lead to the southwest side of heaven in this place was a city made out of Gold the floor made out of platinum and it was really bright and shiny everywhere. I could see mansions as far as the eye could take you all prepared for the saved and rescued souls Jesus had gathered on Earth. From there we visited the South side of heaven where 12,000 Querubins 25,000 Seraphim's and 75,000 Messenger Angels gathered listening to Arch-Angel Nathaniel stood giving direct orders to all the Angels gathered. In the middle was a huge rupture on the floor that from what I heard Nathaniel say leads to one of the 8 Circles of Infernus the hellish realm of all condemned Angels who had revealed or betrayed God. It is said that God did not create hell but that it had always been there locked away and kept contained and under surveillance by all Warrior type Angels. The Angels that had been in missions and had taken a trip down to that Dark and Infernal place a place of pain and horror a place of solitude and no presence of God anywhere to be found the majority of them revealed or had turn their faith from God and became a Demon but the ones who had come back victorious and conquered within are a selected few and lived to tell the tale. As this speech was going on Lucifer was preparing to give out a speech in the throne room for him being Speaker Of the House and the the Second Commander of Platoon Squad Army of Angels composed of 1.8 mil Angels with the 2 other Arch Angels known as Jarvan and Krylinn. Arch Angel Jarvan is first in command then comes second in command Lucifer and lastly but not least the beautiful warrior angel known as Krylinn Elite Angel Squad #6 composed of 4 Arch Angels who took down a Legendary Beast in Infernus known as Inrah

Inrah resides in the 7th Circle of Hell...a collosal beast with tremendous power Part Demon and Part Angel it's a hybrid Demon 11 ft tall with 9 wings a small wing emanating from his head and four wings in his right side on his back and another four wings from the left side of his back.  Each wing had a natural element 2 made out of ice another 2 made out of fire another 2 made out of thunder and the last 2 made out of earth. The small wing made out of Shadow. From what the Angels could see Arch Angel Valerye Arch Angel Leona Arch Angel Krylinn and last member Arch Angel Sebastian. Each Arch Angel had a Legendary Equipment on Sebastian he weilded a Heavenly Crossbow with precious stones on it. A light armor to be able to move efficiently and quickly Sebastian is a Master Archer LvI for there being three levels of mastery in total and only 777 Angels made the cut to become a LvI Mastery Archer Angel. In the bracket of the Angelic hierarchy there is Levels of Power, Skill and Tactics. The Levels range from Messenger Angels range from Lv1-Lv150 max 200. Seraphim's range from Lv200 to 450max Lv. Querubin range from Lv400-750 and the unique couple known as Lucifer and Querubin Morrigan who's power ranges from Lv475 to Lv800 and Lucifer from Lv500 to Lv850. Arch Angels range from Lv500 to Lv1000. God's Lv? Lv?. The Son Jesus Christ has a power level of Lv1000 who he himself has Elite gear Legendary gear and lastly Juggernaut gear. His partner Arch Angel Leona she wilded a Heavenly sword shield and Special Heavenly Attributes to use a doppelganger. Her Armor was Legendary. Armor Levels Regular Lv1-150 Rare Lv150-300 Elite Lv300-375 Legendary Lv375-500 Master Lv500-800 and Unique Lv 800-1000.  The Third member of the Group Krylinn was wearing a hybrid armor made out of glass/blue crystals a specially made glass so powerful it's Lv is Unique. She was wearing a Heavenly gun with a Heavenly wip. Lastly the final member of the group Warrior Valerye also known as her nickname Grand Valkerye of the Heavens for her wings are slightly bigger and her body anatomy is muscular. She wore a platinum armor with a large Heavenly Sword. From what it seemed it was a two handed weapon. Each Arch Angel range from 6ft to 8ft rare ones 8 and a half. This Hybrid demon however could talk each of their Angelic Tribe Language...and they where all surprised. Inrah being from the Southwest side of heaven had revealed over 2 years ago and was never seen in Heaven anymore but now he had resurfaced more powerful and a total corrupted Arch Angel who's level was Lv502-747 now he possessed a Lv of 1000. There it floats slowly but directly toward the Angels ... About 400 ft away floating in mid air and slowly depending to the ground of Infernus. To the Left what seems like a Lunatic Army of Lesser demons all decapitated and a Demon Lord killed deep within a crater of Infernus. Telepathically the Hybrid demon Inrah said to them in their native Angelic lenguage "Come form a pact with me and obtain Ultimatum Immortalis by me consuming your delicate feeble and frail immortal link between you and the spirit of God...hahaha you cannot defeat me."

Valerye looks at Sebastian in an instant like .4 seconds Inrah disappears and reappears so quickly that his immediate attack punching Valerye in the face and leaving a small bruise and a cut...As soon as she put her eyes back into focus with Inrah he lays headless in the ground It was Lv4 Cosmic Light Arrow that hit him directly in the forehead...says Sebastian to Valerye who still rubbing her eyes due to the force of the punch...9 seconds later ...
Valerye: -Inside her head...I hear something as they where 366 ft away from Inrah who Sebastian and Krylinn checked his head and it was literally browned to pieces skull and all. Even his power level diminished slowly right after getting killed...or so they thought as much. Then Valerye quickly teleported directly in front of Inrah and suspected the worst his whole head was slowly rebuilding and reviving itself so before she even asked for help from the others they teleported directly to her location in front of Inrah. As his head was slowly yet increasing speed as time moved on from second to second so Krylinn took out her gun and shot him in the head about 100 times...then took out her special weapon the RocketGalacticGun equipped to be a minigun and a rocket launcher. So she used all her attacks on the body of the demon dispersing his body parts everywhere...it was a grotesque scene. The main part of the demon the torso was heavily damaged exposing parts of heart lungs and backbone. The wipp made huge holds with gushy wounds everywhere one lash hit Inrah so hard that it cut off his whole arm. They all looked at the extensive heavy damage they done to the Powerful ArchFiend. They all communicated to each other and agreed that Inrah's power level had hit 0 and they have waited 5 minutes for him to pull a stunt and reform but nothing so as soon as they come to agreement to leave the exact moment they decided that telepathically to each other Inrah pieces of flesh started to move and we're turning a metallic silverish goldish color. They tried to stop it but all of their attacks where somehow ineffective. Then they looked at the pieces all gathered in the ground they slowly started flossing and at first creating a small transparent shield slowly turning the color black till it was pitch black and huge about 25ft tall and 30ft wide. It then all the sudden standing in woe the Angels saw the horribly demonic ugly and ferocious zombie dragon. Green blue and red in color with soars all over the dragon licking fluid from the soars and this transparent white smoke coming from it. It had perfect denture but it was putrid and smelled like sewer waste and water. Yellowish black smudges and smears all over the dragons teeth. It roared and it's powerful battle cry made the Angels be a bit uneasy and scared to some degree...

The dragon with a whopping power level of 1000 yet Valerye a Lv 787 Berserk Warrior Angel couldn't dodge the attack of the monstrous dragon which spat a bubble of toxic liquids with a mixture of awful fumes that hit Valerye and she crashed to the ground...all the others came to her rescue...Sebastian using the Heavenly Crossbow Explosive Holy Rod Shots being the biggest and most heavy arrow with a powerful explosive ability creating a whole in it'd victims. The dragon oddly stood there calm and getting hit by the shots which where 5.  He shook his body as the last rod arrow hit him and wow only 1 stuck his body penetrating his body creating a wound and it gushing green thick with bluish lines liquid from its body. As Krylinn was hitting the dragon in the face causing it a couple lacerations. Trying to shot him in the Eye Krylinn gets smacked by the dragons hand and crashes to the ground cracking part of its armor. They telepathically get communicated by the dragon and he says "You shall not win this battle Angels for I have trained long and hard for 2 and a half years ever since I left heaven to seek for more complete power. Now you shall bear the fruits of my training. Now die...

*In the second part of this sequel we will review what happens to the Angels and with the speech Lucifer will conclude to give in Heaven in the Throne Room.
This is an Epic Poem/Tale similar to the epic poem Beowulf. However with different ending and different mechanics of how it was written. It's a Trilogy so therefore it has 3 parts to the sequel.
1
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their
parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.

2
Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with
perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the
distillation, it is odorless,
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and
vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing
of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and
dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,

The sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the eddies of
the wind,
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields
and hill-sides,
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising
from bed and meeting the sun.

Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the
earth much?
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of
all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions
of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look
through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in
books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

3
I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the
beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.

Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always substance and
increase, always ***,
Always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of
life.
To elaborate is no avail, learn’d and unlearn’d feel that it is so.

Sure as the most certain sure, plumb in the uprights, well
entretied, braced in the beams,
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,
I and this mystery here we stand.

Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not
my soul.

Lack one lacks both, and the unseen is proved by the seen,
Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn.

Showing the best and dividing it from the worst age vexes age,
Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while they
discuss I am silent, and go bathe and admire myself.

Welcome is every ***** and attribute of me, and of any man hearty
and clean,
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be
less familiar than the rest.

I am satisfied - I see, dance, laugh, sing;
As the hugging and loving bed-fellow sleeps at my side through the
night, and withdraws at the peep of the day with stealthy
tread,
Leaving me baskets cover’d with white towels swelling the house with
their plenty,
Shall I postpone my acceptation and realization and scream at my
eyes,
That they turn from gazing after and down the road,
And forthwith cipher and show me to a cent,
Exactly the value of one and exactly the value of two, and which is
ahead?

4
Trippers and askers surround me,
People I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward and
city I live in, or the nation,
The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old
and new,
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,
The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,
The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or loss
or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations,
Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news,
the fitful events;
These come to me days and nights and go from me again,
But they are not the Me myself.

Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,
Looks down, is *****, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,
Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next,
Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.

Backward I see in my own days where I sweated through fog with
linguists and contenders,
I have no mockings or arguments, I witness and wait.

5
I believe in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself to
you,
And you must not be abased to the other.

Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not
even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.

I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning,
How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn’d over
upon me,
And parted the shirt from my *****-bone, and plunged your tongue
to my bare-stript heart,
And reach’d till you felt my beard, and reach’d till you held my
feet.

Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass
all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women
my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love,
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap’d stones, elder, mullein and
poke-****.

6
A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more
than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green
stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see
and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the
vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I
receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the ******* of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out
of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for
nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and
women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken
soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the
end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

7
Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know
it.

I pass death with the dying and birth with the new-wash’d babe, and
am not contain’d between my hat and boots,
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike and every one good,
The earth good and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.

I am not an earth nor an adjunct of an earth,
I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and
fathomless as myself,
(They do not know how immortal, but I know.)

Every kind for itself and its own, for me mine male and female,
For me those that have been boys and that love women,
For me the man that is proud and feels how it stings to be slighted,
For me the sweet-heart and the old maid, for me mothers and the
mothers of mothers,
For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed tears,
For me children and the begetters of children.

Undrape! you are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded,
I see through the broadcloth and gingham whether or no,
And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and cannot be
shaken away.

8
The little one sleeps in its cradle,
I lift the gauze and look a long time, and silently brush away flies
with my hand.

The youngster and the red-faced girl turn aside up the bushy hill,
I peeringly view them from the top.

The suicide sprawls on the ****** floor of the bedroom,
I witness the corpse with its dabbled hair, I note where the pistol
has fallen.

The blab of the pave, tires of carts, sluff of boot-soles, talk of
the promenaders,
The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb, the
clank of the shod horses on the granite floor,
The snow-sleighs, clinking, shouted jokes, pelts of snow-*****,
The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of rous’d mobs,
The flap of the curtain’d litter, a sick man inside borne to the
hospital,
The meeting of enemies, the sudden oath, the blows and fall,
The excited crowd, the policeman with his star quickly working his
passage to the centre of the crowd,
The impassive stones that receive and return so many echoes,
What groans of over-fed or half-starv’d who fall sunstruck or in
fits,
What exclamations of women taken suddenly who hurry home and
give birth to babes,
What living and buried speech is always vibrating here, what howls
restrain’d by decorum,
Arrests of criminals, slights, adulterous offers made, acceptances,
rejections with convex lips,
I mind them or the show or resonance of them-I come and I depart.

9
The big doors of the country barn stand open and ready,
The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the slow-drawn wagon,
The clear light plays on the brown gray and green intertinged,
The armfuls are pack’d to the sagging mow.

I am there, I help, I came stretch’d atop of the load,
I felt its soft jolts, one leg reclined on the other,
I jump from the cross-beams and seize the clover and timothy,
And roll head over heels and tangle my hair full of wisps.

10
Alone far in the wilds and mountains I hunt,
Wandering amazed at my own lightness and glee,
In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the night,
Kindling a fire and broiling the fresh-****’d game,
Falling asleep on the gather’d leaves with my dog and gun by my
side.

The Yankee clipper is under her sky-sails, she cuts the sparkle
and scud,
My eyes settle the land, I bend at her prow or shout joyously from
the deck.

The boatmen and clam-diggers arose early and stopt for me,
I tuck’d my trowser-ends in my boots and went and had a good time;
You should have been with us that day round the chowder-kettle.

I saw the marriage of the trapper in the open air in the far west,
the bride was a red girl,
Her father and his friends sat near cross-legged and dumbly smoking,
they had moccasins to their feet and large thick blankets
hanging from their shoulders,
On a bank lounged the trapper, he was drest mostly in skins, his
luxuriant beard and curls protected his neck, he held his bride
by the hand,
She had long eyelashes, her head was bare, her coarse straight locks
descended upon her voluptuous limbs and reach’d to her
feet.

The runaway slave came to my house and stopt outside,
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,
Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsy and
weak,
And went where he sat on a log and led him in and assured him,
And brought water and fill’d a tub for his sweated body and bruis’d
feet,
And gave him a room that enter’d from my own, and gave him some
coarse clean clothes,
And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness,
And remember putting piasters on the galls of his neck and ankles;
He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and pass’d north,
I had him sit next me at table, my fire-lock lean’d in the corner.

11
Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore,
Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly;
Twenty-eight years of womanly life and all so lonesome.

She owns the fine house by the rise of the bank,
She hides handsome and richly drest aft the blinds of the window.

Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.

Where are you off to, lady? for I see you,
You splash in the water there, yet stay stock still in your room.

Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth
bather,
The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.

The beards of the young men glisten’d with wet, it ran from their
long hair,
Little streams pass’d all over their bodies.

An unseen hand also pass’d over their bodies,
It descended tremblingly from their temples and ribs.

The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the
sun, they do not ask who seizes fast to them,
They do not know who puffs and declines with pendant and bending
arch,
They do not think whom they ***** with spray.

12
The butcher-boy puts off his killing-clothes, or sharpens his knife
at the stall in the market,
I loiter enjoying his repartee and his shuffle and break-down.

Blacksmiths with grimed and hairy chests environ the anvil,
Each has his main-sledge, they are all out, there is a great heat in
the fire.

From the cinder-strew’d threshold I follow their movements,
The lithe sheer of their waists plays even with their massive arms,
Overhand the hammers swing, overhand so slow, overhand so sure,
They do not hasten, each man hits in his place.

13
The ***** holds firmly the reins of his four horses, the block swags
underneath on its tied-over chain,
The ***** that drives the long dray of the stone-yard, steady and
tall he stands pois’d on one leg on the string-piece,
His blue shirt exposes his ample neck and breast and loosens over
his hip-band,
His glance is calm and commanding, he tosses the slouch of his hat
away from his forehead,
The sun falls on his crispy hair and mustache, falls on the black of
his polish’d and perfect limbs.

I behold the picturesque giant and love him, and I do not stop
there,
I go with the team also.

In me the caresser of life wherever moving, backward as well as
forward sluing,
To niches aside and junior bending, not a person or object missing,
Absorbing all to myself and for this song.

Oxen that rattle the yoke and chain or halt in the leafy shade, what
is that you express in your eyes?
It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.

My tread scares the wood-drake and wood-duck on my distant and
day-long ramble,
They rise together, they slowly circle around.

I believe in those wing’d purposes,
And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing within me,
And consider green and violet and the tufted crown i
howard brace Oct 2012
Stood rigidly to attention either side of the hearth, the two bronze fire-dogs had been struggling to maintain that British stiff upper lipidness, which up until earlier that evening had best befitted their station in life... indeed, for the last half hour at least had become brothers in arms to the dying embers filtering through the bars of the cast-iron grate, passing from the present here and now, having lost every thermal attribute necessary to sustain any further vestige of life... to the shortly forthcoming and being at oneness with the Universe... only to fall foul of the overflowing ash-pan below.  This premature cashing in of the coal fire's chips could only be attributed to the recent and prolonged thrashing from the Baronial poker... and a distinct lack of enthusiasm from the family retainer, whom it appeared, required spurring along in a like manner... and while unseen mechanisms were heard to be engaging, then resonating deep within the Hall... that unless summoned... and quickly, the housekeeper had little intention of making an appearance of her own choosing and re-stoke the Study fire while the BBC Home Service were airing 'Your 100 Best Tunes' on the wireless, leaving the heavily tarnished pendulum to continue measuring the hour.

     An indistinct mutter and snap of a closing door latch sounded in the immediate distance as the unhurried shuffle of domestic footsteps... not too dissimilar from those of Jacob Marley's spectral visitation to Scrooge... echoed ever closer along the ancient, oak panelled hallway without.  Their sudden cessation, allowing the housekeeper ingress to  the book lined Study, was by way of sporadic groans from unoiled hinges, door furniture that voiced the same overwhelming lack of attention as that of the fire-grate set in the wall opposite and presumably, from the same overwhelming lack of domestic servitude.
                                        
     "Had his Lordship rang...?" the Housekeeper wailed dolefully, giving her employer what might casually pass for a courteous bob... and in lieu no doubt, of Marley's rattling chains, padlocks and dusty ledgers... "and would there be anything further his Lordship required..." before she took her leave for the evening.  The notion of a sticky mint humbug warming the cockles of his ancient, aristocratic heart gave her pause for thought as she rummaged through her pinafore pockets, then thought better of it, after all, confectionary didn't grow on trees...  In bobbing a second time she noticed the malnourished, yet strangely twinkling coal-scuttle lounging over by the hearth, whose insubstantial contents had taken on an ethereal quality earlier that evening and had now transferred its undivided attention to the recently summoned Housekeeper, who was quite prepared to offer up a candle in supplication come next Evensong were she mistaken, but the coal-scuttle's twinkle bore every intimation of giving what appeared to be a very suggestive 'come-on' in return... and had been doing so since she first entered the room... 'and did she have any plans of her own that particular evening', the coal-scuttle twinkled suavely, 'perchance a leisurely stroll down by the old coal cellar steps...'  Now perhaps it was the lateness of the hour which had caused the Housekeeper's confusion that evening, or perhaps an over stretched imagination, brought on through domestic inactivity, but it wouldn't take a great deal to hazard that a lingering fondness for Gin and tonic played no small part towards her next curtsey, which she did, albeit unwittingly, in the unerring direction of the winking coal-scuttle.

     With the household keys as her badge-of-office, jangling defiantly from the chain around her waist, the housekeeper began inching back the same way she came, back towards the study door and freedom... and back into the welcoming arms of her 1/4 lb. bag of peppermint humbugs and the pint of best London Gin she'd had to relinquish prior to 'Songs of Praise...' and which was now to be found... should you happen to be an inquisitive fly on a particular piece of floral wallpaper... half-cut, locked arm in arm with the bottle of Indian tonic water and in the final, intoxicating throws of William Blake's, 'Jerusalem...' hic.

     "Ha-arrumph..." the elderly gentleman cleared his throat... "ah Gabby" he said, lowering his book and placing it face down upon the occasional table set beside him.  The flatulent groan of tired leather upholstery made itself heard above the steady monotony of the mantle-piece clock as he stood and chaffed his hands in the direction of the bereft fire, "Oh! I'm sorry your Lordship, then there was something...?" as she maintained her steady but relentless backwards retreat unabated, the double-barrelled bunch of keys taking up a strong rear-guard action and away from the well disposed coal scuttle... "and was his Lordship quite certain that he required the fire stoking at such a late hour..." she dared, "perhaps a nice warming glass of port and brandy instead" gesturing towards the salver, long since tarnished by the half hearted attentions of a proprietary metal polish... "and would he care for..." then thought better of offering to plump the chair cushions herself, having discovered Mort, the household mouser in the final stages of claiming them as his own, deftly rearranging the Victorian Plush with far more than any noble airs or graces.

     "Poor Mrs Alabaster, you will recall Sir, I'm sure..." a pained expression crossed the Housekeepers face as she collided with a corner of the Georgian writing bureau and bringing her to an abrupt halt... "her late Ladyships lady" she continued, indiscreetly rubbing her derriere, "whose services your Lordship dispensed with at the onset of last Winter, shortly after the funeral, God rest her late Ladyship... when you made her redundant... and how she's been unable to find a new situation ever since on account of her lumbago flaring up again, seeing as how it's been the coldest January in living memory", which in all likelihood meant since records began... "and SHE didn't have any coal either... or a roof over her head for all anyone cared... begging yer' pardon, yer' Lordship", letting her tongue slip as she attempted yet one more curtsey... "and it's wicked-cruel outside this time of year Sir, you wouldn't turn a dog out in it..." and how ordering the coal used to be Mrs Alabaster's responsibility...

     "Oh no, Sir", as she unsuccessfully stifled a hiccup...she would be only too delighted to rouse the Cook, especially after that dodgy piece of scrag-end they'd all had to suffer during Epiphany, but it was only last week that the Doctor had confined Cookie to bed with the croup... "as I'm sure your Lordship will recall..." as she attempted a double curtsey for effect, the despondent coal-scuttle now all but forgotten, "that below-stairs had been dining on pottage since a week Friday gone... and it tends to get a little moribund after almost a fortnight your Honour... and that Mrs Cotswold's rheumatism was still showing no signs of improvement either by the looks of things... and was having to visit the Chiropodist every fortnight for her bunions scraping... and how she's been advised to keep taking the embrocation as required".

     As a young woman, any disposition her grandmother may have had towards sobriety or moral virtue had quickly been prevailed upon by the former Master's son taking intimacy to the next level with the saucy Parlour Maid's good nature.   Shortly thereafter, having been obliged to marry the first available Gardener that came along, she was often heard to say "a bun in the oven's worth two in the bush" for it was with stories 'of such goings-on'  that made it abundantly clear to the Housekeeper, that it was far more than old age creeping up... and that if she didn't keep her wits wrapped tightly about her, as she threw a sideways glance at the winking philanderer... then who would.

     As for the Gardener, "well... he couldn't possibly manage the cellar steps at this late hour, yer' Lordship, wot' with the weather being the way it is right now Sir, seasonal... and him with his broken caliper... and bronchitis playing him up at every turn, even though his own ailing missus swore by a freshly grown rhubarb poultice first thing each morning", but oddly enough, "how it always seemed to work better if the young barmaid down in the village rubbed it on, especially around opening time..." even his brother, Mr Potts Senior, ever since their Dad passed away... "God rest his eternal soul", as she whirled, twice in as many seconds, a mystical finger in the air... had said how surprised he'd been to discover that it could be used as a ground mulch for seed-cucumbers... it was truly amazing how The Good Lord provided for the righteous... and even as she spoke, was working in mysterious ways, His Wonders to Behold... "Praised-Be-The-Lord".

     And how the entire household, with the possible exception of Mrs Alabaster, her late Ladyships lady, who doggedly refused to be evicted from her 'Grace n' Favour cottage...' the one with pretty red roses growing around the door, that despite a string of eviction notices from the apoplectic Estate manager... had noticed what a fine upstanding Gentleman his Lordship had steadfastly remained since her late Ladyships sudden demise... "God-rest-her-immortal-soul..." and may she allow herself to say, "how refreshing it was to have such a progressively minded and discerning employer such as his Lordship at the helm, one filled with patient understanding and commitment towards the entire household..." much like herself...

     Fearing an uncontrollable attack of the ague, which invariably took the form of a selfless and unstinting dereliction to duty and always flared up at the slightest suggestion of having to roll her sleeves up and do something... which incidentally, was the first mutual attraction by common consent to which her parents, some forty years earlier had discovered they both held in tandem... and "would his Lordship take exception..." feigning a sudden relapse as she gestured towards the nearest chair, were she to take the weight off her feet... she plonked herself solidly upon the Chippendale before his Lordship could decline... "perhaps a recuperative drop of brandy" she volunteered, "just for medicinal purposes", she swept her feet onto the footstool, then crossed them with a flourish that would have caused Cyrano de Bergerac to hang up his sword... "the good stuff, if his Lordship would be so kind, in the lead-crystal decanter... over in the corner by the potted plant", she caught sight of the adjacent cigarette box, also tarnished... "just to keep body and soul together, may it please 'Him upon High'..." and just long enough to brave the coal cellar steps and refill the amorous scuttle... "if only it were a little less chilly", she gave an affected cough... on account of her diphtheria acting up again, she felt sure that his Lordship understood...  Moving over to one of the book lined alcoves, the elderly Gentleman lifted several tomes from the shelves... 'My Life in Anthracite', an illustrated compendium' "to begin with, I think... followed by... hmm!" 'The History of Fossil-Fuels, a comprehensive study in twelve breath taking volumes' "and we'll take it from there" as he threw the first on the barely smouldering embers...

                                                      ­     ...   ...   ...**

a work in progress.                                                        ­                                                         1859
All armies are the same
Publicity is fame
Artillery makes the same old noise
Valor is an attribute of boys
Old soldiers all have tired eyes
All soldiers hear the same old lies
Dead bodies always have drawn flies
Erica Jong  Oct 2010
Wrinkles
For Naomi Lazard

Sometimes I can't wait until I look like Nadezhda Mandelstam.
-- Naomi Lazard

My friends are tired.
The ones who are married are tired
of being married.
The ones who are single are tired
of being single.

They look at their wrinkles.
The ones who are single attribute their wrinkles
to being single.
The ones who are married attribute their wrinkles
to being married.

They have very few wrinkles.
Even taken together,
they have very few wrinkles.
But I cannot persuade them
to look at their wrinkles
collectively.
& I cannot persuade them that being married
or being single
has nothing to do with wrinkles.

Each one sees a deep & bitter groove,
a San Andreas fault across her forehead.
"It is only a matter of time
before the earthquake."
They trade the names of plastic surgeons
like recipes.

My friends are tired.
The ones who have children are tired
of having children.
The ones who are childless are tired
of being childless.

They love their wrinkles.
If only their were deeper
they could hide.

Sometimes I think
(but do not dare to tell them)
that when the face is left alone to dig its grave,
the soul is grateful
& rolls in.
Robin Carretti Aug 2018
Let's not make this long speech
    my best moment to reach
    Casablanca-*******
Day in and Craker Jack out what!!
Please the kiss needs to be longer__

The piano plays incredibly stronger
So short the "Cheez Wiz" visit

Oh! My the lovely edible dish
The long wish
too long its been
way too longare we short on

The strawberry short cake
Please make no mistake
   ******* Barrel crackers
I am Jamming sweet grape jam
Orange marmalade home run slam
New Orleans  Southern hospitality
Don't rain on my parade

    Robin-Tweet
C-R-A-c-k-E-Rs
Cozy-Real
A++ Collection can't be beat
King Eternity the Queen *******
Cheese deck what a home wreck
Green Guacamole animal
 crackers green Scrooge

"Long story Witchcraft"
The spell his magic fingers
French Tickler ******* winner
Those finger foods gift matcher
She sees little red riding hood
Getting the right Judge Judy
homemade Country fudge

VIP ******* may I RIP cracked
the code computer hacker
Afterthought but don't
come towards me she's bulletproof
It's today coffee dark swirls
Proud Mary got cracked mug
I only have eyes for
      Sunny

The Leap jump for all
Easter bunny
Long appetizers in her tray
The longer the wait like the
Meisers
The same star how I
met all the losers

Moms *******
Saltine stuffing
I am longing for English crackers
Like a ritual, out of time lips chuckle
Sweet Berry cheeks and lovely dimples
This life will burn and crumble

Over crumbled crackers?

Dog wear collars of polka dots
Vacation spot Meditterian crockpots
by the sea
Sea salt sprinkling saltine
over the shoulder, good luck
Feeling love sick her revolver
crackers to meet her four leaf clover

This is not only__New York City
  "Apricot" cracked wheat dot dot
What white as a sheet
Longshot transformation
To the Stepford wifes
Robot desperately seeking crackers
The best honey milk

 bedroom eyes like
Star shape crackers
the ship watch your salty lip
The shepherd's pies short skirts
Vampires blood jelly
Be Jolly Santa's baby *******
wicked plot "Santa Claus"
*** of gold belly at a glance

Cheesecake Factory
Trampling over crackers
What a time for a boycott
What fine attribute of
girl scouts
Getting blondie
brownie points

Someone passed her
screen test mirror mirror
cracked the glass shot
Astronaut gravity goes insanty
The third eye three reasons

"Soap Opera Diamonds"
three times got cracked
*** matters lips sensually
Madonna Vogue
The oyster's long love rumors
She just loves her jelly roll and
Mr. Graham crackers

Just appreciate those cracked
wheat ladies
Sesame melba toast short top
of the crack
Whats the matter?
With your daughter
He longs for her divine crackers
That's another short chapter

They crack up those actors
The writer needed to
find more movie extras
Groucho mark with
joke of crackers
The jackpot was hard to hit
Everyone was better to
crack the safe long neck
My lady Giraffe*

The true lover's knot
Your poem is worth the shot
Astronaut I brought you
The perfect flight the men
with the mustache
The salt and pepper shaker
Elvis the King is shaking
Long shot ******* butter fingers
Happy Holiday to all
This is a long shot to wherever you want to go but I cracked the safe what crackers can actually do it is a long shot we arent through
Shamans, in an attempt to find a word that all cultures could understand, to represent, universally, the subject; married the languages by root.

Each attribute or thing that the beast is said to do, have or have power to do or over is found as a definition in a language of the individual roots.

Take Sanskrit for instance. "Dra," is "water and combine it with Sumerian, "Gun, Gon," and you get a "water-born," beast who "writhes, twists or wraps around," which is the Ouroboros Serpent as shown in ancient images.

The secret to all ancient myth or religion is in interpretation of language into foreign languages over time.

And, yes, it is very creative, appears complex due to time but is just humans trying to describe observable nature.

None of it is meant to be taken literally unless you literally live six thousand years ago and speak in an ancient tongue.

Addendum

Keltic, "Con, Kon," makes the Dragon, "All-knowing." *

And we know from Plato that Greeks
stole their root words from the Celts.
Plato's own words in,

'The Cratylus.'
All mythology is born from the language of trade and existed as a pre-science.
Keith W Fletcher Oct 2016
I thought about this and around this for a long time, so I guess it's time to write it down.

THE NATURAL ORDER.

There is a natural balance in Earths history and mankind's tentative balance along the scale.
  When humans began to band together and create communities, control of fire / light created a need for oil . Eventually settling on whale oil.
   So it was by the grace of whatever one might want to attribute it to,that let petroleum come into play at a time when whales are in danger of being annihilated and dead horses were clogging the streets of cities in the east, left dead or dying by the Cartmen who simply unstrapped the sick or dead animal and moved on.
  .Oil / petroleum led to the creation of the internal combustion engine.
   So again a hand stirred the ***.                
  Consider these improvements( if such they were )created rapid growth and burgeoning cities . Again Providence stepped in to create radio , telephone and airplanes, essentially at a time when growth of humanity was so great , that new ways of farming , new ways of seeing the world-  were  becoming more and more necessary to a shrinking world.
   Unfortunately, at a time when we, the American initiative creators of so many trends, ideas ,Innovations and inspirations around the world, were suddenly slammed a blow that at this point, 40 years later; it's very reverberations are still being felt.
   Consider if big oil and trickle-down had not ,for spiteful and greedy involution, taken down the solar panels from the White House roof, that Jimmy Carter had installed in 1977.
  How far ahead would we be now ,in clean energy and how much less damage to the ice cap and the atmosphere would have been done??  To date... my guess is that it is incomprehensible.
  So if nature does create a balance, it seems we are coming to a critical Junction.

Right now -metaphorically speaking- we are riding shotgun in a car with a driver ,who like us ,sees cars up ahead disappearing around the curve and all hitting  their brake lights. Now any reasonable driver at highway speeds is 65 - 80 miles an hour would at least take the foot off the gas in preparation of  tapping the brakes.
  So many politicians right now are refusing to accept the brake lights... see no reason to tap the brakes to interrupt cruise control, in all actuality, completely refusing to do anything except go around the curve at full speed.
   Around that curve we may find nothing but smooth sailing ,  or we may find a catastrophe in the making.
   Nature will accept the cruise Interruption now (maybe) brakes absolutely, but Full Speed Ahead will lead to the sickening crunch of seawater rising and  spilling salt water into the lands that are used for growing crops and food -  leading to millions , maybe billions of refugees with nowhere to go.

Or we will reach critical mass of sheer ignorant arrogance and nuke ourselves into a situation that does not have the technology or population to hammer at the planet so freaking hard.

Most likely the first scenario would instigate the 2nd and those of us who crawl up out of the ashes will start the evolution to revolution journey all over again.

Ain't nature Grand ???
Ayad Gharbawi Dec 2009
THE STORY OF SARA

OR A REFLECTION ON OURSELVES

Ayad Gharbawi

Chapter 4: THE HALLOWED PURIFICATION PROGRAMME




  One night, Omar began to thunder on:
  "No more of the disgusting concepts and ideas created by the Pigs! We should eliminate from our minds every single Pig that is influencing you, and I must say to you all, that I'm not seeing any progress."
  The audience suddenly went all quiet.
  Our leader was not satisfied with our emotional progress.
  We were not purifying our minds in a manner and speed that was satisfactory to the Great Noble Leader Omar.
  "I am looking at you all. I see you; yes, I, Omar, see each one of you. Your eyeballs seem to me to be unsure of what's behind them – I mean, your brains."
  Omar's voice began to talk in a tone that was almost a whisper, whilst the vast audience strained their ears to catch his every precious word.
  "And inside your brains lies our minds. Well, I'm talking about your minds, my friends. I'm not seeing progress. Yes, you do this riot; you **** this Pig; you burn this Pig school – and all of these acts are crucial to our holy cause. But, what about you yourselves? What about your own minds? Maybe you, too, are tainted with some of the Pig mentality yourselves? Now, how about that? Yes? What do you think?"
  The audience gasped.
  Omar began to raise his voice again.
  He was taunting this audience.
  Mocking them.
  Sarcastic.
  "Why, you really are telling me, that you think and feel and believe, that you have the right to **** Pigs?"
  At this question, Omar stopped.
  The audience gasped louder.
  I knew what they were thinking.
  Is our Great Noble Leader questioning our faith in him and in the cause itself?!
  He screamed, almost blowing away the microphones!
  "Why, who gives you the right to be soldiers in this unforgiving, merciless and ferocious war we are waging every day against vastly superior forces? I'll tell you 'who' gives you that right."
  The audience waited in tense anticipation at our leader's answer.
  It was so silent in this vast stadium, you could hear a pin fall.
  "What gives every man, woman and child the right to be a soldier in this brutal struggle is when that soldier has the purest heart and mind. It's as simple as that. And to be 'pure', my friends tonight, is the one who has not a shred, and does not have one ounce of Pig matter. That's right, you heard. Pig matter. Any dog that has even a fleeting Pig thought, is a Pig him or herself!"
  The audience now began to whisper among themselves.
  They seemed to be receiving the light from the words being delivered by Omar.
  Many were saying among themselves, that, 'Yes, we do have Pig thought and ideas and emotions and feelings in our hearts.'


  Omar continued, in a soft voice, after allowing his audience to digest his last words:
  "Yes, that does come as a surprise to you, doesn't it?"
  "Yes!" roared back the audience who now fully submitted to his question and answer.
  "So, I ask you – who are you?" he screamed!
  And the crowds immediately screamed:
  "Pigs! Pigs! Pigs! We are ***** Pigs!"
  Again and again, the crowd seemed to be going a little bit hysterical.
  Some began tearing off their clothes, as if they were trying to 'cleanse' themselves from their Pig thoughts!
  "That's right!" screamed back Omar, furiously and wildly staring with those maniacal eyeballs, like some trapped, ferocious animal, at his audience:
  "Why you yourselves are Pigs! That's right! Come on now! So, what are going to do about you? If you give yourselves the 'right' to **** Pigs, then why don't I have the same 'right' to order my best elite troops to **** you too?"
  "Save us! Save us!" screamed back the audience.
  "Save yourselves!" Omar screamed right back.
  "We are filthy! We are Pigs!" the audience began to insult themselves in all sorts of words and phrases.
  At this point, Omar was shrieking!
  "That's right! You are filthy Pigs yourselves, aren't you now?”
  The audience continued to scream and you couldn’t understand what they were saying anymore.
  Omar went just as suddenly silent.
  He just looked at his followers, and allowed them the need to express themselves.
  After some twenty minutes o this chaotic screaming, Omar became impatient and quickly motioned his followers to be quiet.
  Silence.
  He continued, with a soft tone:
  “So, I hereby announce the following."
  Once again the entire audience become tense.
  What was Omar going to order now?
  "I hereby allow you all, and I mean all our soldiers and not just those sitting with me here in this stadium; I order all of our soldiers to purify themselves of every Pig matter. You will have three months. And then, after that term ends, we will establish courts, to decide wether you have succeeded in cleaning yourselves from these cancerous and murderous feelings and emotions you have. Our courts and our hallowed judges will next decide, case by case, wether you are clean or not!"


  Later, when it appeared that our mostly pathetic, ***** and sick 'soldiers' were simply unable to cleanse their minds from the Pig establishment in three months – since they had no instructions or guidance - Omar, in his eternal grace, patience and humanity, decided to help them, by allowing classes to be held where one teacher would help each and everyone to 'cleanse' themselves.
  Personally, I thought that our Great Noble Leader was decidedly wrong in being so gracious to these so-called soldiers, because, in my opinion, this lot were not worthy of being in our party, and they ought to have been immediately expelled.
  "But, Sara," Omar would gently explain to me in his humble office, surrounded by his most trusted officers, "if we were to purge every undesirable element in the party, I would be left with practically nobody!"
  I took in his gracious words. and then thought about it.
  Why, he was correct, yet again, in his thinking!
  Indeed, if we did purify our party from the filthy ones, we would be left with little more than a handful of true, faithful and clean combatants and that, obviously, meant our self-destruction!
  "You're right, Sir; as usual, I think too hastily. That's why you are the only leader for us; my God, if I, God forbid, were leader, why I would have destroyed the party and our eternally holy cause years ago!"
  "Indeed, indeed, my dear," Omar softly said, but he seemed to have already forgotten my words, and, he was already somewhere else, thinking deeply about another problem.
  And so I, of course, went silent, so as not to disturb him.


  "You know what?" suddenly he asked me, his eyes sparkling with passion.
  "Yes, Sir?"
  "These 'classes' I was talking about. You've studied psychiatry, and I believe that we must use psychiatric methods to purify my subjects."
  Suddenly a strange feeling overcame me; I found the word describing the party members as 'my subjects' a little bit odd.
  Also, didn't Omar call psychiatry a Pig subject for all those years? Indeed, he said everything they taught us at university was evil, and that even the institutions of universities were dens of evil. And, yet, now, he was asking me to help him using what I was learning from my university days?
  "Yes, I can see the path I am talking about Sara. We need to get psychiatrists, like yourself, to tear out, yes, tear out, the filthiness in our party members."
  Suddenly, he got quite excited by his visions.
  "That's right, my dearest one, Sara. Yes, and I appoint you to supervise this programme of purification. That's right, and I shall call it by its simplest name, the 'Programme of Purification'!"
  Suddenly, I got excited as well, forgetting my previous disturbance.
  "That would be such a heroic move on your part, Sir." I gleefully told Omar.
  I feel that not only was he the saviour for our nation, but that he was also a personal saviour for myself.
  "Yes, I see my vision where it is leading us to. My dear Sara; you will set up these classes and you will bring the psychiatrists and you will purify the ***** elements in our classes."
  I got nervous again, for I just realized the magnitude of the job Saviour Omar was demanding I do for him!
  "And therefore, I Omar call for an immediate ceasefire against all Pigs!"
  Everyone in the office stood there in a state of shock!
  A ceasefire against the damnable Pigs?!
  Holy Omar could, of course, read our faces and smiled.
  "But Holy Sir," one officer softly asked, "how can we have a ceasefire against the most evil forces in the history of our country?"
  "And, Sir," asked another officer, "if we stop our eternally pure and humanistic battle against the disease-ridden pigs, wouldn't the latter take that as a sign of weakness on our part?"
  Next, saviour Omar raised his hand.
  Everyone went silent.
  He looked at us.
  There were no words from his mouth.
  We waited humbly.
  Geniuses take their time to formulate the right structure of words, not because they don't know what to say, but they do so that we fools can understand what they have to say.
  It is out of concern for us.
  Omar finally spoke:
  My clean, pure soldiers. We must declare a ceasefire, for I have no other choice. As a humanist, how can I allow impure elements from our party to fight and **** Pigs, when they themselves are still 'impure'? Where is the morality in that?"
  Suddenly, I couldn't help but feel such fanatical love for this man; I can only describe his man and his words, as pieces of Heaven coming down to us inferior beings, and if we are decent, then we must grab every shred and piece that he utters, so we can, in turn, save our impure souls.
  "Beautiful thoughts indeed, my Gracious Leader!" I said.
  Then I turned to the listeners:
   "What's wrong with the rest of you? If, one of our 'own' party members was impure, then by what right does he and she have to fight and **** Pigs? We must cease all out activities, until we have a purified party! It's simple and obvious!"
  Thereupon followed silence.


I was speaking the obvious.
  Finally, a voice spoke:
  "So, how exactly are these psychologists going to 'purify' the 'minds' of our party members?"
Good question – one that I had not thought about.
  Indeed, how, and by what means, were we going to purify the undesirables?
  And then, just at the right moment, Omar spoke his words:
  "Yes, that is a great question. There's no use giving orders that no one knows how they are to be carried out. You see, it will not only be the job of psychiatrists who will purify the filthy ones. No, we will force the filthy ones, to ***** out every filthy thought, feeling, and idea; and we shall make sure that all these impure thoughts and feelings and convictions will be screamed out of their minds."
  At that last phrase, once again, I found myself pausing and thinking, what an odd thing to say!
  I got lost in my thinking.
  After all, Omar always, and I mean always choose his words carefully, for he would always make it a point to be so careful with the choice of his words, so that his credibility would never be in doubt and so people do understand that that he means exactly whatever he says.
  I must confess, I was completely confused.
  On the one hand, I had such deep reverence, complete love and a total need for Omar, and then, there was a part of me, that simply didn’t understand what he was talking about!
  I remembered, once more, how everything was so nice and easy and simple with Tony.
  But, I assume, that Tony was a general doctor, whereas Omar was a surgeon, and so, with Omar, we had to face a far more complex situation.
  "What do you mean by that, Sir?" asked one of the officers, waking me up from my thoughts.
  "I mean, it shall be the duty of every party member to purify every other party member. We must all be psychiatrists! This will be done, of course, under the supervision of the leader psychiatrist in each class. He or she will guide you, as to how to get every party member to rip out every Pig attribute in our party members. It's as simple as that."
  At that, Omar gestured to indicate that the meeting was over, and so we left.
  I kept thinking that his idea was, I'm sure, utterly brilliant, but how in practice were going to do this?


  He left his office far too soon.
  We had too many questions to ask, and yet, by leaving us, Omar was, in effect, giving us a 'programme' to do, but without clear, precise orders.
  So, how were we going to carry out his orders?
  What did he mean that 'we must all become psychiatrists'!
  That was absolutely absurd!
  Untrained people cannot simply 'become' psychiatrists, even if they are 'led' by psychiatrists – or to use Omar's words, to be 'guided' by psychiatrists.
  So, Omar's idea seemed to me, to be really a recipe for a catastrophe for our party.
  The more I thought of it, the more I found my mind asking myself the question: why was Omar insisting on this 'purification programme' in the first place?
  Couldn't the party and its members simply continue the struggle, without having to enforce this ridiculous programme?
  And didn't Omar realize that his insistence on us carrying out his orders to do the purification programme, was going to cause absolute chaos, disruption and ultimately mass desertions and expulsions from our party?
  In other words, Omar's sudden 'need' to 'purify' our own members seemed to me to be a self destructive act that would seriously damage the party.


The ceasefire announcement was barely noticed by the Pigs – which came as a shock to many of us.
  The government didn't seem to actually care at our ceasefire announcement.
  Indeed, the Pigs declared that what they termed as the 'social troubles' was, in effect, 'over' and so, therefore, the country could breathe a sigh of relief, and people could now be 'happy'.
  I didn't believe what the government was saying.
  I was of course nauseated by the hypocrisy of the Pig leaders, because, their pronouncements were lies, as usual, and they would of course, continue their merciless war against us, while we had to cease our fire.
  Yes, Leader Omar was probably correct, but I was **** frustrated, because it seemed to me, for the first time since I joined the party, that the Pigs may now well win the struggle.
  It was obvious to me!
  For how on planet earth could we 'win' a war, when we were not allowed to fight, while the same eternal enemy would continue his war against us?!
  Also, to be very honest, I'm not sure that we could 'purify' Pigs in the first place.
  It seemed to me to be a contradiction!
  I would simply have to swallow whatever Leader Omar ordered us to do.
  God knows, he's proven to be correct every time before, and maybe, he will confound us once more with his superior wisdom.
  Have faith, Sara, have faith!
  Never question the Great Leader, for he is superior to all of us; after all, that’s why he’s the ‘Great Leader’ in the first place!
  Keep the faith!
  How can we understand what a su

— The End —