Picked up and dragged through the air of violent twilight.
Crash landing into each world of pain.

Grow up; learn up she told herself.

Red lipstick, tight dress; bad girl good. Unrested she was, she was unrest.
Unrest in her mind, unrest in distress.
That girl was nocturnal,
her life was night.
Although star & moons glared,
reluctantly lit,
her blue skies were none but bottomless pits.
Duck duck GOOSE, once a child without care;
I choose YOU, life spitefully said.

GROW UP; LEARN UP, she scolded herself.

Keep your head up, keep it down.
Too much air, too much water,
too much CONSCIOUSNESS.
Low then high then low again.
One minute was 60,
but she blinked and it was over.
So much time was so little.  
Disregarded, she became the Object of obsession.
Danced too fast, danced too slow;
never by the beat of her heart.
Chaos!
Calamity!
Joy!
Insanity!

GROW UP, LEARN UP; she forgot herself.

The madness before the storm,
the storm of never-end.
She had to grow up, she had to learn up.

Untimely Growth

Test Ting Won To Tree
By
Charles Fleischer







Rifleman decal water is to Tiny basket liners as Strained yo-yo string is to?
Dark wool glowing is to Oldest lost oddity as First genetic engine is to?
Black quail taint is to Nut curdled paint as Hemp biscuit dominoes are to?
Steam traced paper is to Lemon ash vapor as Digital midget wig is to?
Eccentric brine mimes are to Electric silk slacks as Spark formed lava is to?
Sunchoked black hornets are to as Rescued orphan doves as Retold cat jokes are to?
Hand traced videos are to Braided rubber spines as Opal rain dancers are to?
Halogen anchor gong is to Annoying bread portraits as Soft bracelet lockers are to?
Old troll bios are to Select cherub echoes as Broken matchstick parasols are to?
Dome nine chariots are to Frayed lunar remnants as Fuming honey flasks are to?
Bluing assault operas is to Beading fluted flowers as Magnetic lawn tweezers are to?
Converted flea sponges are to Floating dog murals as Frozen Archie comics are to?
Molded road pads are to Crusty gumdrop thread as Straw ribbed pelicans are to?
Inflatable diamond vowel is to Single gender raffle as Groovy desert coffee is to?
Temporary solution radiation is to Idiotic witness mumble as Motorized marshmallow kit is to?
Panoramic utopian paranoia is to Aggravated pimp silhouettes as Unhinged gun sellers are to?
Homesick ghost pajamas is to Virtuous fly fungus as Royal sandpaper gloves are to?
Gangster hayride tickets are to Deer milk Oreos as Turnip fairy maps are to?
Glue gun porn is to Nocturnal cabin mice as Cab fare corn is to?
Speckled fish nickels are to Under water bric-a-brac as Epic snakeskin paisley is to?
Twinkie bungalow pranks are to Drowsy vapid oafs as Quantized cavern fish are to?
Raunchy snail kimono is to Coiled time dice as Smeared equator malt is to?
Metallic centaur franchise is to Transparent cheese chess as Spotted glacial remnants is to?
Sky fused pong is to Rustic mothers brattle as Granulated canister ointment is to?
Overgrown maze mule is to Mated smugglers hugging as Floating thesaurus exam is to?
Sliding coed sprinkler is to Soapy whitefish rebate as Precious lamb diaper is to?
Mushy acorn luster is to Lilac protein rings as Slapstick wrestler dialect is to?
Freaky plankton bells is to Rolling horse divorce as Morphing morphine lips are to?
Sticky razor sparkle is to Emerald muscle spasm as Glaring cat cipher is to?
Peppy unisex mustache is to Pelican fighter syndrome as Clumping night grumble is to?
Scanning paired pearls are to Ruby rubbed roaches as Satanic sailor flotsam  are to?
Glowing asteroid solder is to Ideal shark data as Failed frail doilies are to?
Numb nuts boredom is to Fantastic icy phantoms as Sporadic silk creations is to?
Crooks crow chow is to Loading spackled bonder as Gargled snowdrop blasters are to?
Outdid myself today is to Outside myself again as Outlived myself controls is to?
Venting shuttlecock upset is to Texting badminton kitten as Settler tested motels are to?
Prepare paired vents is to Prefer paid events as Pretender predicts fiction is to
Crunchy mental fender is to Catching mentor menace as Poorly seasoned lettuce is to?
Outside sidewalk inside is to Seaside outcast input as Sideways landslide victory is to?  
Compile fake password is to Compost world poo as Compose village anthem is to?
Crooked crotch blunder is to Loud crowd thunder as Divine vine finder is to?
Chucks’ wooden truck is to Bucks good luck as Sticky ducks tucked is to?  
Overhaul underway overseas is to Overturned downsized pickup as Underground onramp overloaded is to?
I’ll bite there is to Aisle byte their as Isle bight there is to?
Gnat gnawed wrist is to Boned show beans as See through putty is to?
Flapping floppy guppies are to Buzzing zipped dozers as Muddy bloody strippers are to?
Dark diagonal dialogue is to Diabolical dihedral die as Interesting circadian exposition is to?
Experimental flossing expectations are to Waxed dental traps as Permanent impermanence resolution is to?  
Outran ringside intrigue is to Sidetracked onboard boatload as Loaded firearm topside is to?
Phony floozy phone is to Chewy ego honey as Yogi Mama’s dada is to?
Nimble teardrop squiggle is to Humble cage curtains as Loyal truckstop morals are to?
Torching curled elastic is to Sonic neighbor clamor as Golden droplet integers are to?
Duplex pupil scanners are to Nacreous cloud clocks as Shrouded flute shops are to?
Lawn rocket tendrils are to Finding surreal borders as Sheep monarchs children is to?
Gloating ungloved squires are to Busting double doubters as Pushing woeful doctors are to?
Tricking snowbelt firedogs is to Panmixing blackened haywires as Unclothed shameful leaders are to?
Malicious ranch ritual is to Internal puppet bubble as Ornate underworld masquerade is to?
Rustic debonair Eskimos are to Mindless sassy elves as Gorgeous somber acrobats are to?
Learned earthy pimps are to Fearless sneaky Queens as Somber gentle vagrants are to?
Shocking horse wear is to Glossy sled fluid as Damaged chipmunk tongue is to?
Traditional agony chart is to Damp voodoo motel as Backwoods museum quote is to?
Magical cat cabin is to Dapper porpoise humor as Malicious graveyard foam is to?
Therapeutic gazelle cushion is to Stored alibi equipment as Stunning tempo light is to?
Fantastic rascal art is to Wasted prune dust as Jupiter’s midget law is to?
Little nut razor is to Gigantic hyena shield as Hourglass pillow fever is to?
Coiled rain clouds are to Dizzy tycoon clowns as Lime eating cowards are to?
Possessive epicurean demonstrators are to Faded eavesdropping giants as Determined swanky drunks are to?
Aquatic preview pocket is to Soggy judicial topiary as Finicky hamster fabric is to?
Enlarged fruit cuff is to Obedient mumbling orchestra as Dark tenant tariff is to?
Recycled flash thermometer is to Botched temptation probe as Pet glider grid is to?
Seriously shy idols are to Costly driving perfumes as Ferryboat chapel wine is to?
Winged jalopy details are to Faithful spectral fathers as Sprinkled mint rainbows are to?
Spelling unneeded words is to Sprouting donut flaps as Blaming mellow mallrats are to?
Eroding loom keepsake is to Magnificent accordion canoe as Dirty bongo fumes are to?
Souring violet ink is to Juvenile insult park as Periodic ferret envy is to?
Obedient boyfriend aroma is to Sanitized fat lozenges as Dramatic jailer garb is to?
Mysterious patrol group is to Dynamic maiden discharge as Captured hurricane ratio is to?
Lackadaisical bigot bingo is to Oblong care merchant as Expensive swamp shampoo is to?
Petite orifice worship is to Atomic barge pet as Plucked hair exhibit is to?
Elite officer wallop is to Automatic yard rake as Healing climax glitter is to?
Needless swan costume is to Giant jungle goat as Organic picnic napkin is to?
Leaky jet steam is to Innovative fascist whistle as Enchanting idol evidence is to?
Plastic mascara seduction is to Greasy thermal ointment as Attractive muskrat crease is to?
Lucky camel pills are to White coral Torah as Eternal stage clutter is to?
Roasted oat lube is to Sloppy rum glue as Nylon table debt is to?
Steep nook catastrophe is to Empty dome damage as Pulsing breeze powder is to?
Empty sack power is to Hitched buck stroke as Red claw warning is to?
Ultra brief slogan is to Yummy lab mutant as Pathetic ball armor is to?
Nauseating fish splatter is to Obstinate rectal twitch as Strained prick coffee is to?
Mezzanine intermission fossil is to Proven slut apathy as Golden duck shroud is to?
Civil tutors torment is to Thor’s posted theory as Yellow melon rain is to?
Immense olive raft is to Exploding kangaroo buffet as Ethereal witness index is to?  
Marching dark speeders are to Searing scribble fighters as Weed tripping sinners are to?
Seeping viral angst is to Aged hermit tea as Murky bowl nibble is to?
Condensed blister guzzle is to Pink dorsal pie as Lavish speckled runt is to?
Needy insult poet is to Sedated acorn trader as Dry honey zoo is to?
Veiled trust flicker is to Deranged poser fashion as Flat sizzle tangent is to?
Purified diet spray is to Nebulous wishing target as Thrilling screen dope is to?
Majestic ribbon astronomy is to Bizarre formation sector as Rebel bell gimmick is to?
Sealed dart whisper is to Green silk draft as Cold vacuum varnish is to?
Clumsy raven power is to Insect island circus as Minted mink drapes are to?
Curved map ruler is to Tiny lethal radio as Blue fused metal is to?
Inverted laser invasion is to Damp sheep dump as Puffy gown smoke is to?
Saucy Channel blazer is to Leather goat filament as Starched locomotive hat is to?
Broken jumper leads are to Disgraced mini exorcists as Designer shamrock caulk is to?
Tweaked poachers smokes are to Assorted sulfur pathways as Collected bedlamp trickle is to?
Twinkie bungalow pranks are to Drowsy vapid oafs as Quantized cavern fish are to?
Crawling battle worms are to Vibrating metal pedals as Mentholated matrix wax is to?
Missing meshed rafts are to Liquid rock pipes as Crinkled bean bikinis are to?
Tithing nude joggers are to Perforated buck fronds as Leather zither picks are to?
Fearing truthful cowards is to Rambling preachers mumble as Gazebo ambulance gasoline is to?
Shelving elder’s whiskers is to Poaching goalies pesto as Radical tricycle angst is to?
Mucky gunboat polymer is to Primeval maypole flameout as Cathedral greenhouse intercom is to?
Diaphanous safety prize is to Unleashed saucer lion as Dorky blonde ropewalker is to?
Tapered spring meter is to Silver silo mythology as Misguided judges medallions are to?
Alligator x-ray money is to Cherry unicorn water as Coyote cactus toy is to?
Cowardly dorm scrooge is to Atomized pewter script as Flattened spore smoothies are to?
Trash can yodel is to Flashing wired spam as Exploding chocolate pudding is to?
Sonar blasted bushings are to Threading ruined wheels as Forty shifting boxes are to?
Tiny balloon rebellion is to Softened square cleanser as Iconic soul sucker is to?
Harmony night light is to Spanish nitrogen desire as Squirrel cavern iodine is to?

Lazy winter secret is to Slow airport widget as Silly mustard binder is to?
Elephants raising raisins are to Microscopic lamb planet as Purple hay puppets are to?
Caribou venom vaccine is to Electronic lemonade choir as Demonic princess massage is to?
Beet coated bridge is to Fattened needle point as Mylar monkey spine is to?
Ashy ink dust is to Youngest rabbi planet as Orange cartoon geometry is to?
Cold green chalk is to Cobalt ladder farce as Dirty river filters are to?
Sublime sheep master is to Sleeping past rapture as Subliminal bliss jelly is to?
Ocean crust slippers are to Twigged germ radar as Popping sharpie scope is to?
Zen wrapped beep is to Oak foamed code as Wicked flashing sizzle is to?
Dew eyed sleigh is to Say I do as Act as me is to?
Humpback on hammock is to Ham hocking hummer as Hunchback with knapsack is to?
Corned flag jelly is to Draped wing chewers as Tripping swan acid is to?
Futuristic Rembrandt chant is to Almond likened meadows as Asian timber blue is to?
Nap in sack is to Flap on Jack as Ducks dig crack is to?
Flowing flavored lava is to Gleaming optic layers as Enhanced goose gibberish is to?      
Flag tied pajamas are to Saline checker choir as Speed reading quotas is to?
Whipped spam spasms are to Misted shaman scripture as Testing pitched bells is to?
Cave aged eggs are to Crowded tiger cages as Bloody wagon pegs are to?
Pigeon towed car is to a Man toad art as Wolf whisker wish is to?
Second hand clothes are to Minute hand gestures as Final hour prayer is to?
Slick wicked shavers are to Tricky watch boxes as Sprouting pine tattoos are to?
Waxed stick ravens are to Match stick foxes as Narrowed thermal towers are to?
Ice cave rice is to Laced face lice as Gourmet pet meth is to?
Diamond lane anniversary is to Space age appropriate as Time travel agency is to?
Lime bark violin is to Lemon twig guitar as Lunar sky waffles are to?
Fake rat fart is to Smart cake batter as Rugged fur tax is to?
Tarred raft fluff is to Flaked rafter dust as Lined liquor flask is to?
Flakes will fall is to Take Bills call as Broken maze compass is to?
First faked voter is to Entombed cartoon honey as Smallest aching smurf is to?
Fancy bared nipples are to Flaky fairy treats as Kings amp filter is to?
Bone window folio is to Whittled fake pillow as Little fitted jackets are to?
Nine nuts brittle is to Ate pear pie as Six packed poppers are to?
Incandescent playground pencil is to Elastic hand worm as Perfumed piano ink is to?
Opal shifting anode is to a Windup lion decoy as Pale paisley trolley is to?
Stacked black boxes are to Old packed tracks as a Throwing micron hammers is to?
Apricot bark furnace is to Merry Orchid Choir as an Ivory rinsing funnel is to?  
Narcotic honey nuts are to Slick flag toffees as Silk fig sugar is to?
Orange coin raisins are to Low note candies as Smelling balled roses is to?
Pocket packed monotints are to Tragic ladder hayracks as Ravishing speed traders are to?
Crayon spider resin is to Coral squirrel forceps as Wolf tumbled loaf is to?  
Silver wheat flies are to Width shifting wheels as Golden blister blankets are to?
Really tiny hippopotamus is to Masked fat podiatrist as a Sad sack psychiatrist is to?
Miniature Mesopotamian monuments are to Apple minted elephants as Raising wise ravens is to?
Lathered nymph nacre is to Sonic ion constellations as Concealed iron craft is to?  
Epic gene toy is to Ladies bubble sled as Jagged data bowl is to?
Bugged dagger bag is to Pop sliced meld as Atom bending moonlight to?  
Rural madam’s deed is to Dyed dew dipper as Eight sprayed dukes are to?
Jiffy grand puffer is to Floating altar myth as Vintage dark mirth is to?
Undercover overnight underwear is to Overpaid undertaker overdosing as Overheard understudy freebasing is to?

Black grape crackle is to Red cactus ruffle as Installing padded pets are to?
Snide snobs sniffing are to Sneaky snails snoring as Snared snipes sneezing are to?
Exploring explosive exits is to Explaining expansive exports as Expecting expert exchange is to?
Shrewd logic ledger is to Puppets dropping cupcakes as Placated topaz octopi are to?
Door roof tools are to Cool wool boots as Wood cooked root is to?
Bright fight light is to Night flight fright as Mites bite site is to?
Floor flood fluid is to Wooden door Druid as Nasty poop broom is to?
Accurate police photography is to Intelligent microbe geography as Condensed aerosol biography is to?
Cowardly cowboy grime is to Corpulent corporate crime as Bosnian dwarf necromancer is to?
Jell-O clearing shaker is to Brillo cleaning shiner as Cheerios bowling shields are to?
Mumbled mindless hokey is to Fumbled found money as Humming kinder bunny is to?
Daisy’s clock setter is to Lilly’s boxer toxin as Poodles rose paddle is to?
Watch Bozo Copernicus is to Hire Clarabelle Newton as Find Pee-wee Einstein is to?
Amethyst thistle whistles is to Lapis pistol whip as Diamond bomb scar is to?
Dandelion seahorse rescue is to Crabapple dogwood farm as Faux foxglove lover is to?    
Optical poppy stopper is to Polar halo lens as Day-Glo rainbow sticker is to?
Savanna leopard spotted is to Eskimo lassos kisses as Alligator lemonade standard is to?
Bill of Rights is to Will of left as Thrill of night is to?
Baptize floozies quickly is to Useless outsized nozzles as Puzzled wizard wanders is to?        
Chaps wearing chaps are to Chaps contesting contests as Consoling concealed consoles is to?
Quiet squirming squirrels are to Aeon beauty queens as Queasy greasy luaus is to?
Knew new gnu is to Sense scents cents as We’ll wheal wheel is to?
Blazing zingers ringing are to Wheezing singers flinging as Freezing finger number are to?
Lamb tomb jogger is to Dumb numb thug as Thumbed crumb bug is to?

Blue accordion casket is to Jaded scholar vomit as German mushroom circus is to?
President George Flintstone is to Funny Fred Washington as Abraham Jetson’s dog is to?
Google Desmond Tutu is to Kalamazoo Zoo Park as Zodiac actors Guru is to?
Swamp cradled whisperer is to Cherished drawbridge cello as Bludgeoned prankster outlaws are to?
Dukes pink mittens are to Smeared nest caravan as Miniature fire trucks are to?
Part too

Duck village avatar is to Corona garden ogre as Mini Martian treasures are to?
Melting razor anvils are to Phased tanning lamps as Metered photon spacers are to?
Masked vergers tagging are to Zapped roadies muskets as Cutting paper newts is to?
Popes pest dagger is to Turtle dawn bong as Dream bending tea is to?
Pilot’s vital vial is to Crystal pepper clouds as Red plastic socks are to?
Sleeping deco mice are to Dove pecked ginger as Stitched candy witches are to?
Vivid sugar nougat is to Giant clam tiara as Velvet halo omen is to?
Pawned awning tablet is to Coiled round poppy as Coal black slug is to?
Humping mole mites are to Crushed wheel arrows as Wireless flower syringe is to?
Ten spinning plates are to Tense pinning plays as Tents winning ways are to?
Cracked pepper shells are to Violent star static as Franks’ rubber domino is to?
Crown Newport pine is to Copper birth pods as Anterior hub stains are to?
Aqua dot motor is to Nine banded rod as Floral army ruse is to?
Looped impala tide is to Creeping toffee trestle as Erroneous aberrant hayseed is to?
Drooling troll doll is to Elk powered anthem as Ozone rat genome is to?
Short fuse ions are to Fixed mode divinity as Fabled frog moth is to?
Frosted Parisian scone is to Drilling phased phones as Fading alloy allies is to?
Bulging cream pie is to Nut drained pastries as Narrow tailed vixens are to?
Tapered wing tapestry is to Post gift tangle as Peeled strutting strays is to?
Faithful boater baiting is to Beak draining bone as Moronic intuition train is to?
Idiotic ditch clock is to Taffeta confetti hat as Foolish daffodil dialog is to?
Manual towel barge is to Orbiting bug cage as Rawboned reptile scales is to?
Chinese lace noodles are to Singing metallic chopsticks as Trapping mollusk jelly is to?
Spotted ice cats are to Chime lashed moccasins as Dusty cracker vats are to?
Synthetic pink fur is to Red ink crumble as Flaky flute fruit is to?
Silky clay feet are to Soaking collegiate dogs as Moth eating sheep are to?
Enticing plastic fumes are to Motorized stroller lanes as Zoned virtue manifesto is to?
Penthouse grammar trance is to Lazy naive critics as Dolphins heart channel is to?
Twin ballroom pranksters are to Floating old stallions as Stolen gold chariots are to?
Gin soaked map is to Operatic Rasta pot as Chasing polka dots is to?
Dithered zoo pixels are to Lavish slim brunettes as Foam bubbled lace is to?
Abracadabra focused pokes are to Armored flower jokes as Red wax lion is to?
Jumping measles cure is to Roped canal forces as Silver ladle equinox is to?
Apostle light cones are to Dormant pixie bats as Puffed white circles are to?
Morbid crayon secretion is to Warm parrot eggs as Wet baby horses are to?
Levitating geode wrapper is to Ornate foiled cobra as Boiling coiled poles is to?
Gagged rivals toboggan is to Salacious tepee atrium as Invisible spider tattoo is to?
Green witches milk is to Oiled fur boat as Fox blended muck is to?
Glorious spontaneous remedy is to Magi reunion ritual as Pasted adrenal divot is to?
Coconut hallway spray is to Fractal fossil pit as Bloated stoic boas are to?
Linking green puddles is to Vortex splash magic as Lifelike ram monument is to?
Fortified troll festival is to Moss playboy usher as Groggy fish dentist is to?
Candy ribbon bourbon is to Lazy sapphire wine as Zircon blossom bingo is to?
Kashmir bison catapult is to Cashmere mouse radar as Amish billiard champ is to?
Amoeba crater maps are to Sinking apple rings as Soda frog babble is to?
Dappled blue dachshund is to Apricot fire mystery as Frosted ginger club is to?
Splattered ghost dew is to Red court scholar as Pearl chinchilla talon is to?
Sequential aquarium equinox is to Opaque quantum liquid as Marmalade invader scalp is to?
Nocturnal badger logo is to Avalon nerve nets as Thickened raven twine is to?
Ripened seed salon is to Clock flipping skink as Shunning pitied pilots is to?
Barking circus fleas are to Clustered pod buzzards as Rock spitting birds are to?
Dove cage pharmacy is to Purple poison antidote as Cellophane cell phone is to?
Sap chained bandicoot is to Limestone saddle track as Raspberry butter water is to?
Transparent waterfall goggles are to Altered spark rockers as Tibetan flotation tourists are to?
Bug licked leaves are to Swollen star stamen as Gloomy neon haze are to?
Pick pocket cowboy is to Poisonous light bulb as Chrome topped trestles are to?
Fire pumped peppers are to Rat flavored crackle as Flaming orange poop is to?
Manchurian panther vodka is to Heated cat crystal as Pirated pillow puzzles are to?
Porcelain pine cone is to Neutered pelican glue as Stone age moonbeam is to?
Hallow weathered feather is to Willow feathered heather as Cathedral monarchs marching are to?
Reindeers teardrop cup is to Salty jeweled butterfly as Velvet martini rancher is to?
Altered jester stain is to Diminished chewing barrel as Insects graphite portrait is to?
Clearing atoned heroine is to Toy pusher pump as Flowing plumed clouds are to?
Sparked rapping pellets are to Sacrificial lake creature as Blurred algebra steam is to?
Nagging cordial lady is to Grave stone gravel as Meshed nylon joints are to?
Tall king yawning is to Fountain bottled throttle as Correlated cocoon elation is to?
Resented sparrow files are to Risqué kissing parks as Lewd mood covens is to?
Parchment heart paradise is to Elated well stories as One ton eyelid is to?
Minted twig quiche is to Complex moon tableaux as Driftwood movie monster is to?
Kerosene carpet gym is to Eve’s atom apple as Sprouting stoned smiles is to?
Chained squatter rite is to Noah predicted ducting as Neural gun unity is to?
Inked bubble noises are to Rooted lakers rocking as Royal soul relish is to?
Expanding panda verandas is to Commander Randi’s handler as Newest aging jails is to?
Cackling spaghetti twins are to Misted fortress fauna as Riding butter cranes are to?
Slapping knighted knuckles is to Calf chewed chalk as Phonetic parakeet stencil is to?
Salted fossil flags are to Frozen felt cushions as Quartz martini straws are to?
Hand traced videos are to Braided rubber spines as Opal rain dancers are to?
Historic dovetailed rewards are to Folded roach molds as Majestic cryptic fulcrums are to?
Terminal fowl taxes are to Sailing glued wheels as Creamed goat fumes are to?
Smashed cotton stockings are to Shriveled mango pits as Chocolate holiday spackle is to?
Bronze furnace crumbs are to Flaming nougat bouillon as Neon target markers are to?
Glistening shade plungers are to Scrambled shifting shafts as Cramped titanic nomads are to?
Unwashed orphan figurines are to Mammal bowling shoes as Stretched rubber vowels are to?
Snail etched lapis is to Submarine anthem cocktail as Protein discovery rage is to?
Elected duck blaster is to Jigsaw antler frost as Boiled car parts are to?
Diluted sun drops are to Hawk bone vinegar as Plundered shelf cork is to?
Royal opiate globules are to Flared platonic vessels as Flying brandy patches are to?
Tucked fish pillows are to Hazelnut chimney wafers as Obsolete holster charms is to?
Shadowed floating dice are to as Blotched nut color as Repaired thermal vacuum is to?
Graphite bowler’s patio is to Tanned yogi artists as Botanical glacier carvings are to?
Spinning piano towers are to Military dog medals as Caffeinated margarine crackers are to?
Pickled turkey wattles are to Thin rocket grommets as Sculpted stooge fudge is to?
Chalk nesting microbes are to Flapping pulsed banners as Pure iron loafers are to?
Magnetic water trout are to Manic teaching vouchers as Winged thunder sages are to?
Hypodermic splinter shrapnel is to Helical sponging option as Antique thorn javelins are to?
Charcoal toothpick points are to Pan fried peyote as Tribal locksmith ethic is to?
Banished Roman butchers are to Tragic squid trophies as Crumbling gluepot anger is to?
Bleached arrow parallax is to Airborne sneaker trajectory as Erotic fowl relays are to?
Scrambled fashion frocks are to Swanky swan boats as Failed pilot morphine is to?
Death feather archives are to Pork chowder flushing as Lackeys pudding trowel is to?
Tonal vipers vapor is to Patched spider traps as Knotted soap daisies is to?
Hang glider bonfire is to Stashed reefer gushers as Intergalactic pray phones is to?
Verdant skater verdict is to Rotting gourd roots as Robotic taxi doctors are to?
Flowing crooner coral is to Big banging microwave as Wasted termite parkway is to?
Lumberjack’s vineyard stopwatch is to Rowboats anchor strap as Chewed raisin nets are to?
Throbbing migraine strobe is to Telescoping fly pods as Suburban throat fudge is to?
Painted beast fang is to Toad gas converter as Rude bridal posture is to?
Worm smudged grapefruit is to Red moleskin gloves as Timid antelope retreat is to?
Dish location docket is to Privileged orangutan checkers as Brunch table rickshaw is to?
Mechanical piano tuner is to Whitefly calendar laminate as Paired fishing limousines is to?
Grimy fiddle furrow is to Plastered clown smackers as Card holster latch is to?
Supine maggot cargo is to Furry waterbed bug as Lavish nutmeal emulsion is to?
Polar slime awareness is to Sturdy gherkin tablet as Funky subterranean gradient is to?
Stored chimney tile is to Tingled gorillas mingling as Linoleum channel changer is to?
Botched boot clasps are to Vented dungeon vaults as Backyard beamer spore is to?  
Machete lug nuts are to Spunky pumpkin cakes as Patching ragged charities are to?
Vaseline trampoline murder is to Scottish sculptor goggles as Dwarfed mirror radish is to?
Soft mirage balcony is to Ocean thimble noise as Singing clouds cabin is to?
Crushing spotted wrinkle is to Cracking rotted twinkle as Broken racers linger are to?
Blank linked chapters are to Beatnik particle debate as Jubilant dribbling heresy is to?
Misleading vacancy bookings is to Flustered skeptic tingle as Oak trench fallacy is to?
Burbank coat survey is to Antique snowball waffle as Tinsel jigger vermin is to?
Wasted flyspeck nightcap is to Flavored quasar treaty as Aborigine biker frenzy is to?
Sliding shower latch is to Hidden snow catcher as Redden thinnest data is to?  
Combat poser stance is to Decomposing time prize as Surprising battle secrets are to?
Commuters depressing confessions are to Domestic sport fortunes as Computer dresses rabbit is to?
Hippie pipe piece is to Pierced pie groupie as Piedmont blue sharpie is to?  
Hillside sidekick duped is to Blindsided ironsides scooped as Sidestep curbside poop is to?
Winged sword tax is to Tented tribal trash as Wooden watch working is to?
Submissive dancers trance is to Flashing bulb séance as Glaring award radiance is to?  
Blowout dark fires are to Handout spark flyers as Freaky outside liars are to?
Dripping waterspout trout is to Dropping scout quartet as Knowing knuckle knives is to?
Titanic ear pop is to Tube room debutante as Modern courting lark is to?    
Roaming medieval shouter is to Knitted cake knobs as Coded zipper faze is to?
Lost knowledge knot is to Multipart dart art as Fijis Bee Gees are to?
Numb dawn cavalry is to Windsock chandelier apron as Macaroni mask reduction is to?
Violent chomping knockers is to Vanquished grouchy fighters as Ridge faxed copters are to?
Glazed funk holes are to Hoisting fruit ringlets as Spongy vouchers bouncing are to?
Roaming modern ducklings are to Blocked archdukes cracking as Sketching stitched smidgeons is to?
Energetic closet divas are to Naked misfit hunters as Wretched sloppy tarts are to?
Raspy brash directors are to Abrasive gene stingers as Trite wreaked writers are to?
Protective evaporation headgear is to Classy weasel broth as Electric pyramid shame is to?
Youthful governor effect is to Attic raccoon nostalgia as Jealous koala madness is to?
Ossified fur paddle is to Boring oval piffle as Cowardly dolphin vaccine is to?
Pointless juvenile lexicon is to Obscene gesture acne as Fertile zoom strategy is to?
Old alarm matrix is to Animated demon stench as Twitching kangaroo grotto is to?
Temporary insomnia quilt is to Colossal spurt discovery as Evasive universal mosaic is to?
Forged ledge trigger is to Hamper hamster transfer as Hobo fluid tremor is to?
Burning bush pilot is to Mundane picnic weakness as Placid possum gesture is to?
Crass combat chuckle is to Vengeful camper technique as Fuzzy squirrel wisdom is to?
Strange cheetah logic is to Tiger tavern chuckles as Moving yacht statues are to?
Absurdly named whiskey is to Friendly lesson catalog as Epic apex rapture is to?
Sugar card war is to Moldy failed weapon as Roaring jumper hare is to?
Forked valley resentment is to Yellow teenage laundry as Cured paper socks are to?
Purple kissing frog is to Damaged cantaloupe experiment as Dented tin marinade is to?
Early zit rash is to Folded scenery stitch as Mind gutter gauze is to?
Orbiting robot amendment is to Radiant muzzle radius as Synthesized dignity therapy is to?
Buffed lute fingers are to Pickled gonad cream as Burnished clock rods are to?
Coyote dream filter is to Heartbreaking hate reserve as Festive verse fallacy is to?
Red amulet agony is to Sad patchwork melody as Cliff monkey election is to?
Ultra lash victory is to Historic page vaccine as Massive portal echo is to?
Spooky lobby notebook is to Noisy postal rat as Ancient crash pony is to?
Cultivated ghoul absorption is to Rustling warehouse treaties as Branded crab romance is to?
Reasonable plant yammer is to Black pelt bandanna as Rejected omen code is to?
Plaster acre sedation is to Lake nesting loon as Orchid pizza machine is to?
Acoustic whirlpool melody is to Mute stingray vengeance as Throbbing dew terror is to?
Worn rocks tundra is to Spicy tethered nurse as Fused mountain nexus is to?
X-ray sleeping leash is to Bursting lantern pajamas as Fake owl hip is to?
Matted clam tendril is to Renaissance glory bug as Royal saltine raiders are to?
Nervous curator debacle is to Cracked screen portrait as Burnt walnut icon is to?
Moist corduroy slippers are to Silver train tracks as Deviled fart repellant is to?
Snooping marked legend is to Maize willow salve as Shiny hard redwood is to?
Agnostic preacher overlap is to Hypnotic cell elation as Healthy pimp peaches are to?
Fancy hat jitters are to Long distance lather as Bargain glamour twine is to?
Automatic trance legacy is to Stalled coal car as Brain train translation is to?
Bonking glitter logs are to Lyrical fudge mishap as Vacant urban posse is to?
Sewage charged water is to Excessive yawn adage as Woozy flower lunch is to?
Pioneer baby spook is to Ambitious furniture lab as Untested swamp bread is to?
Savoy beach waffles are to Vivacious humming needles as Muddy collar oration is to?
Muffled crouching teacher is to Funky drunken gator as Mango lock narration is to?
Smoky sewer sentiment is to Shrewd dinning diva as Toasted rose pasties are to?
Rude polar scar is to Rabid rat agony as Singed lace scarf is to?
Beeping spiral flavor is to Fabled burning table as Raging verse vengeance is to?
Grinding rumble mutant is to Grotesque banker spleen as Tainted ranch banister is to?
Converging lettuce fever is to Pegged shuttle shuffle as Severed server franchise is to?
Cheerful sperm juggler is to Alley joke hunter as Shifting gear leakage is to?
Remote blossom intern is to Linked track contraband as Mad plant piano is to?
Chubby crap face is to Secreting meth rod as Narrow arrow kook is to?
Quiet prom function is to Outdated bubble charger as Melted fractal trap is to?
Pretty egg tranquilizer is to Fused pain manger as Pet poker token is to?
Blind rhino taboo is to Matched knob rage as Adult barrel jelly is to?
Heroic supper rash is to Blazing pulp jam as Holly spiral mosaic is to?
Accidental stereo flag is to Ranting brainless mail as Hairy flying wand is to?
Red rayed tide is to Pine striped road as Dog carrot wine is to?
Garden snake addiction is to Garter belt adhesive as Shocking poster poses are to?
Masked shovel plate is to Wigwam jawbone fate as Torn raven quilts are to?
Ski musk jingle is to Red braid pilot as Screw top plowing is to?
Rat hole tachometer is to Foxtail hoof ramp as Sorted function folio is to?
Canned winding train is to Lotus toupee glue as Catfish worm jumble is to?
Tornado gremlin muslin is to Rocket launched emblems as Mighty snow batons are to?
Pitchfork dialogue jabber is to Gumshoe drama symbol as Sublime papal draft is to?
Planning genies arrival is to Railed pocket lock as Sneaky muscle ache is to?
Jealous French cows are to Sympathetic feather ragas as Peacock dart blocks are to?
Painted bathing brackets are to Frosted opera glasses as Foiled labcoat buttons are to?
Shiny leafworm droppings are to Vibrating caramel candy as Activated sidewalk figurines are to?
Obese moth month is to Sportsman’s squirting lacquer as Arsenic shampoo jackets are to?
Blazing email slippers are to Cleated sunbeam flippers as Pretty flecked apricots are to?
Soaring flowers swaying are to Funky fungal holes as Abominable abdominal anomaly is to?
Clawed fauna germ is to Washing focused groups as Urban turbine turban is to?
Organic water spouts are to Magnetic peach melodies as Thunder winged sages are to?
Dinosaur valley comet is to Honey wagon fiber as Cracked brownie canoe is to?
Sapphire bayonet gaze is to Superman’s witch shop as Whistling ego chivalry is to?
Fumbling trucker carousel is to Rainbow shrimp sabotage as Storable falcon wigs are to?
Mayan anvil storage is to Immoral stingray salute as Cloud plated wishbone is to?
Nocturnal zebra whiskey is to Stinging graphite romance as Comical champ euphoria is to?
Curvy dowel deviant is to Pudgy mudlark cereal as Roaming stinkbug fever is to?
Captive boat musket is to Forbidden freak eyeball as Bleached frog dynasty is to?
Foaming leotard syrup is to Honeycombed curtain equation as Caged wolf thunder is to?
Tropical bumpkin strobe is to Vanishing backbone virus is to as Hysterical blowgun implants are to?
Zinc camel varnish is to Clustered doorman slumber as Frowning polar bugs are to?
Enamel helix fulcrum is to Halibut sex window as Swollen cherub jargon is to?
Dazed fawn jury is to Hysterical sneeze fatigue as Fastest stolen jewel is to?
Faulty isometric umbrella is to Wooden bead catapult as Welded porch font is to?
Unlocked mucilage scraping is to Oversized peon craft as Flashing penny dish is to?
Penguin iodine parody is to Organic plumber toast as Fat stinky sulfur is to?
Twisted bathing sword is to Shameful basin claim as Throbbing pimento cover-up is to?
Mutant bread spheres are to Pastrami dog triangles as Whirling fist novellas are to?
Wispy cracker gravity is to Crusty peaches lane as Blazing lava train is to?
Grungy hound radio is to Thermal butcher twitch as Rustling rhombic sail is to?
Fractured plum clarinet is to Cork bolt combat as Horsefly court dispatch is to?
Junkyard campfire choir is to Ravenous pancake scouts as Glamorous sleigh glow is to?
Checkered praline blisters are to Hydroponic blues riffs as Time tower silhouette is to?
Naked car dealer is to Master mist lute as Ten pound marionette is to?
Diaphanous safety prize is to Unleashed saucer lion as Dorky blonde ropewalker is to?
Empty fedora cabinet is to Fragrant cutworm escort as Swollen cupcake auction is to?
Smoldering crop lights are to Silent condo drones as Bald pepper cures are to?
Rowdy locket politics are to Skinny Buddha Frisbees as Ripped dandelion tablets are to?  
Curved market cuticles are to Frozen Koala clichés as Vulcan applesauce spoons are to?
Bipolar owl capsules are to Heated boltneck tokens as Garish iceboat anchors are to?
Flatworm wartime pathways are to Racy lemon moccasins as Downy patch bait is to?
Rustic love montage is to Slanted emerald buildings as Mandatory climate insulation is to?
Chunky map monitors are to Sparkling microwave water as Scarce chair furrows are to?
Sinus signal fractions are to Sneaky fishpond bridges as Skylight doll signals are to?
Glowing calculator comet is to Bleeding starfish galaxy as Crushed steam fuses are to?
Lincoln Canyon fog is to Washington canned frog as Carters livid thrills are to?
Pony licked paisley is to Stoic solo syrup as Squatting buffoon allergies is to?
Trolled onyx pitfall is to Kazoo playing pythons as Porky’s pixel pylons are to?
Pleated heat generator is to Whistling wet spots as Frozen tears pier is to?
Perverted camp dog is to Intruding skillet seizure as Golden radio mattress is to?
Fat drained hotel is to Rattled brain lotto as Fedora lane auto is to?
Chrome eagle ballet is to Cortisone hawk banquet as Jade raccoon shampoo is to?
Hilarious rail guard is to Soiled whale apparel as Cove boner taffy is to?
Fluorescent tofu babies are to Denim elf slacks as Coned ray envy is to?
Snake shoe riddles are to Mood beam blues as Author enhanced dice are to?
Victorian slaw burger is to Roaming multiplication typos as Random sword fungus is to?
Lemon snow cloud is to Sadistic loan relish as Pasting red gravel is to?
Noisy snail missile is to Perfumed sativa diva as Powdered apple heart is to?
Fainting vapor spectrum is to Nylon pants wizard as Barking moss slag is to?
Darting lakes paranoia is to Sanitary bee artist as Stubborn weather oven is to?
Sunbeam archery mint is to Eden’s needy maidens as Yellow rhinoceros tweezers are to?
Ravishing blue radish is to Puffing fish livers as Dazed cone carpet is to?
Dismal rehearsal reversal is to Captured captains caption as Recording garden porn is to?  
Shady gazebos flies are to Kooky cob jobs as Cooing nettle gnats are to?
Huge owl bones are to Linked boats bobbing as Weaved wings flapping are to?
Chronic cyclone blaster is to Lustered rustic phone as Cunning comet camels are to?
Hot tonic tuners are to Western sponge portraits as Chiseled creeping leap is to?    
Fat doe cakes are to Growing cat masks as Sexy horned elk are to?
Bleak nights stationed is to Danish beak vaccine as Kabbalah dart elixir is to?
Fluted basin thread is to Corduroy dinosaur market as Rapid radar radio is to?
Flamed Botox serum is to Foggy noodle sandwich as Swinging moon aliens are to?  
Genetic gemstone badge is to Wolf massage cult as Juggling ghost sherbet is to?
Quartz pod cats are to Moaning crack addict’s as White noise needles are to?
Tender tenor boasting is to Cactus backed abacus as Minting tinted mittens are to?
Robot tractor tracks are to Stacked rusted rack as Paper packed slacks are to?
Open source code is to Open cold sores as Old oaken floors are to?
Moody swinging sliders are to Slippery thumb guitars as Official drooling fool is to?  
Drifting bacon geode is to a Timid waif loafers as a Nighttime slime skier is to?
Safe cracker baking is to a Demented crackpot dentist as a Jeweled jockey cave is to?
Red clawed snail is to Dagger tooth rat as Hot trigger ant is to?
Anthill mind trust is to the Ideal leopard squad as Harpooned popper squid are to?
Seeing orange coins as raisins is to Hearing low notes as candy as Smelling balls as roses is to?
Vampire clock repair is to Zombie walnut harvest as Testing rated robots is to?
Banjo mind cloth is to Black Swedish furniture as Indigo eagle ink are to ?  
Canned sedan shoes are to Pinecone trophy walkers as Cracked glass buttons are to?
Drifting banded disks are to Raised ridge nuggets as Prehistoric hut crackers are to?
Stone forest sinks are to Rock garden tubs as Dragon moon whistles are to?
Green serpent droplets are to Cliff side graphics as Cellophane mountain sandals are to?
Swindled Parcheesi gangs are to Looming shill jostle as Twin kiln glaze is to?  
Historic glamour poses are to Distorted cloud mirrors as Porcelain horse shoes are too?
Paramount’s adored spy is to Whipping pealed bubbles as Fortified glamour bus is to?
Targeted tram rider is to Drained moon memories as Stop sign holidays are to?
Flying slit finder is to Frayed felt scruff as Crafted rag muffins are to?  
Fudgy panoptic naiad is to Transitory poser token as Flying archer fugue is to?
Overwhelmed understanding overhead is to Interstate overpass underway as Head over heels is to?
Artificial artichokes hearts are to our Arthropod artillery darts as Partly sculpted carts is to?
Splashdown countdown sound is to Lowdown hoedown clown as Putdown downtown standoff is to?
Speak up standout is to Lookup hideout map as Cookout cleanup mop is to?
Gestalt parrot party is to Drafted mayhem module as Cupids padded papers are to?  
Insect infested vest is to Indoor inspection squad as Insulting gene razor is to?  
Inventing informed nation is to Invited assisting ants as Insisting intent pitched is to?
Doors Tool collection is to Cool boot inspection as Wood rotting knot is to?
Daddy’s bad mood is to Cool pool Mom as Floating moon boat is to?
Zoom proof focus is to Blood bloom poker as Last roof hooker is to?
Phony coughing coach  is to Bronze trophy laugh as Adopting orphaned elephants is to?
Gleeful stamp collectors are to Morose racecar drivers as Buttered griddle cakes are to?
Steel trumpet petal is to Tardy guitarist startled as Riming drummers rumple is to?
Squirrel scrotum ballet is to Sphinx sphincter opera as Lapping lilac labia are to?
Kool-Aid dashes are to Silly putty hyphens as Jiffy pop star is to?
Anointed cake candles are to Fixed ambition martyr as Melancholy collie melons are to?
Dog whisper suicide is to Seahorse action rider as Optical nightmare tickle is to?
Existential rabbit hat is to Holographic steward’s cat as Expired mental gloss is to?
Skipping rudder rules are to Skimpy dork doodles as Wimpy wet noodles are to?
Lumberjack mice cookies are to Cedar packet chew as Ladder back chair is to?
Chihuahua guardian angle is to Toxic taxi tangents as Graceland’s fur emporium is to?
Gazelle’s spooning sherbet are to Dragonfly pie squares as Black lizard gelato is to?
Spike Tesla spokes is to Billie-ray Lincoln jokes as Gomer Edison’s lab is to?    
Alabaster bastards placards are to Malachite nights kite as Junipers persimmon riches are to?
Pyrite left turn is to Topaz right angle as Sapphire burning man is to?
Snoopy's Snicker tricks are to Pavlov’s’ spectacle bells as Seed soiled knickers are to?
Cubic cobalt factory is to Nordic nimrod ranch as Mosaic Mobius stripper is to?
Lamp stand RAM is to Light speed hand as Male forged freight is to?
Training trainee trackers is to Underwriting overture gestures as Upstairs downtown offer is to?
Crazy drizzled jam is to Fizzing sheltered lamb as Lazy citizens cram is to?
Shelved shells shaking are to Skinny skinned knees as Rendered revival rivals are to?  
Polished zinc zeros are to Shifting zoo zones as Popping zombie zits is to?
Diagnosing deadly diarrhea is to Diagonal dialing demo as Diagramming distant diamonds is to?  
Combo comb cleanser is to Comics comp camp as Compacting complaint trash is to?
Pepper tree entrée is to Gum tree soirée as Dirty shoe tree is to?
Itchy scratchy spot is to Spicy icy hot as Touchy bitchy feel is to?
Raspberry cupboard surface is to Applecart heart attacks as Windswept cotton tunnels are to?
Smart part gene is to Tart dart thrown as Fart chart needed is to?  
Heartless monster costume is to Clueless mobster excuse as Mindless spinster rip-off is to?  
CD needy kid is to Seedy weed lid as Speedy greedy gringo is to?
Preppy hippie laptop is to Happy puppy crap as Speedy remedy ads are to?
Relaxing composer napping is to Reflex composure app as Complex exposure setting is to?
Comet tail comb is to Comma dash combo as Combat ball camp is to?
Madman mentalist listing is to Menthol mentor torment as Menagerie mending vendor is to?
Tin man semen is to Yemen plant stamen as All good women are to?
Piedmont pie platter is to Piecework pier pliers as Earthy beach sandals to?
To the store is to To the bank as Go to school to is to?
Outside sidebar budging is to Landslide sideline fudge as Graveside sidekick boxer is to?
Duck trumpet holder is to Moose flower stem as Beaver flute solo is to?
Donald cruises seas are to Tom ducks keys as Porky corked Stalin is to?
Hope shimmering ray is to Love sparked glimmer as Ultra glamour fashion is to?
Hunter ranged wilderness is to Pouring flowered tea as Mirrored smoking whistles are to?
Spoon valley calling is to Folding moon telescope as Holdup cream meeting is to?
Cars that roll though sticky sod are to Jousters sprung on fractured taras Sparking arks that sway and rock are to?
Sales are sold as they sell is to Tales unfold as we tell as Cities swell with the sea is to?
Wink won’t blink if he stinks is to Lance won’t boil if he foils asTom wont romp if he stomps is to ?
Flip won’t flip if he flops is to Skip won’t skip on a ship as Ned won’t wed in a shed is to?
A train of twin world twine is to A plane of spinning time tops as A ship of shifting sands is to ?
Sales are sold as they sell is toTales unfold as they tell as Cities swell when seas are jealous is to?

Keith Collard Jun 2013

The Quest for the Damsel Fish  by Keith Collard

Author's  Atmosphere

On the bow of the boat, with the cold cloud of the dismal day brushing your back conjuring goose bumped flesh you hold an anchor.  For the first time, you can pick this silver anchor up with only one hand and hold it over your head. It resembles the Morning Star, a brutal medieval weapon that bludgeons and impales its victims.  Drop it into the dark world beyond the security of your boat--watch the anchor descend.
        Watch this silver anchor--this Morning Star--descend away from the boat and you, it becomes swarmed over with darkness.  It forms a psycho-metallic grin at first as it sinks, then the sinking silver anchor takes its last shape at its last visible glimpse.  It is so small now as if it could be hung from a necklace.  It is a silver sword.  
Peering over the side of the boat, the depths collectively look like the mouth of a Cannibalistic Crab, throwing the shadows of its mandibles over everything that sinks down into it--black mandibles that have joints with the same angle of a Reaper's Scythe.  

I am scared looking at this sinking phantasm.  I see something from my youth down there in this dark cold Atlantic.  I see the silver Morning Star again, now in golden armor.  I remember a magnificent kingdom, in a saltwater fish tank I had once and never had again.  A tropical paradise that I see again as I stare down into the depths.  This fish tank was so beautiful with the most beautiful inhabitants who I miss.  Before I could lift the silver anchor--the Morning Star--over my head with only one hand, turning gold in that morning sun-- I was a boy who sat indian style, cross legged--peering into this brilliant spectacle of light I thought awesome.  I thought all the darkness of home and the world was kept at bay by this kingdom of light...

Chapter  1 Begins the Story

The Grey Skies of Mass is the Name of This Chapter.

                                                      ­­                        
    
 Air, in bubbles--it was a world beauty of darkness revealed in slashes of light from dashing fluorescent bulbs overhead this fish tank.
Silver swords of fluorescent energy daring to the bottom, every slash revealing every color of the zodiac--from the Gold of Scorpio to the purple of Libra combining into the jade of the Gemini. 
In the center, like a dark Stonehenge were rocks. The exterior rocks had tropical colors like that of cotton candy, but the interior shadows of the rocks that was the Stonehenge, did not possess one photon of light. The silver messengers of the florescent energy from above would tire and die at their base.  The shadows of the Stonehenge rocks would stand over them as they died.

 
          When the boy named Sake climbed the rickety wood stairs of the house, he did so in fear of making noise, as if to not wake each step.
   Until he could see the glowing aura of his fish tank then he would start down that eerie hall, With pictures of ghosts and ghosts of pictures staring down at him as he walked down that rickety hallway of this towering old colonial home.  He hurried to the glowing tank to escape the black and white gazing picture frames.
                    The faint gurgling, bubbling of the saltwater tank became stronger in his ear, and that sound guided him from the last haunt of the hallway-- the empty room that was perpendicular to  his room.   He only looked to his bright tank as soon as he entered the hallway from the creaky wooden steps.  Then he proceeded to sit in front of this great tropical fish tank in Indian style with his legs folded over one another as children so often would sit.
  The sun was setting.  The reflections from the tank were beginning to send ripples down the dark walls. Increasing  wave after wave reflecting down his dark walls.  He thought they to be seagulls flapping into the darkness until they were overcome as he was listening to the bubbling water of his tank.
                " Hello my fish, hello Angel, hello Tang, hello  Hoomah, hello Clown and hello Damsel … and hello to you Crab...even though I do not like you," he said in half jest not looking at the crab in the entrance of the rocks.  The rocks were the color of cotton candy, but the interior shadows did not possess a photon of luminescence.  All other shadows not caused by the rocks--but by bright swaying ornament--were like the glaze on a candy apple--dark but delicious.  Besides the crab's layer in the rock jumble at the center of the tank which was a Stonehenge within a Stonehenge--the tank was a world of bright inviting light.
                The crab was in its routine,  motionless in the entrance to his foyer, with his scythe-like claws in the air, in expectation of catching one of the bright fish someday.  For that reason the boy tried to remove the crab in the past, but even though the boy was fast with his hand, the optical illusion of the tank would always send his hand where the crab no longer was.  He did not know how to use two hands to rid the crab in the future by trapping and destroying the Cannibal Crab ;  his father, on a weekend visit, gave the Crab to the boy to put into the bright world of the saltwater tank, which Sake quickly regretted.  His father promised him that the Crab would not be able to catch any of the fish he said " ...crabs only eat anything that has fallen to the bottom or each other..."

         A scream from the living room downstairs ran up the rickety wood and down the long hall and startled the boy.  His mother sent her shrieks out to grab the boy, allowing her to not have to waste any time nor calorie on her son; for she would tire from the stairs, but her screams would not, allowing her to stay curled up on the couch.  If she was not screaming for Sake, she was talking as loud as screams on the phone with her girlfriends.  The decibels from her laugh was torture for all in the silent house.   A haughty laugh in a gossipy conversation, that overpowered the sound of the bright tropical fish tank in Sake's room that was above and far opposite her in the living room.
               " Sake you have to get a paper-route to pay for the tank, the electricity bill is outrageous," she said while not taking her eyes off the TV and her legs curled up beside her.  He would glad fully get a paper-route even if it was for a made up reason.  He turned to go, and looked back at his mother, and a shudder ran through him with a new thought:  someday her appearance will match her voice.  

              Upon reaching his tank,  Hoomah was trying to get his attention as always.  Taking up pebbles in his big pouty pursed lips and spitting them out of his lips like a weak musket.  The Hoomah was a very silly fish, it looked like one of Sake’s aunts, with too much make up on, slightly overweight, and hovering on two little fins that looked incapable of keeping it afloat, but they did.  The fins reminded him of the legs of his aunt--skinny under not so skinny.’

               The Tang was doing his usual aquanautics , darting and sailing was his trick.  He was fast, the fastest with his bright yellow triangular sail cutting the water.  Next was the aggressive Clown fish, the boy thought she was always aggresive because she didn't have an anemone to sleep on.  The Clown was strong and sleek with an orange jaw and body that was built like a tigress.
  Sake thought something tragic about the body if the  orange Clown and the three silver traces that clawed her body as decoration -they reminded him of the incandescent orange glow of a street lamp being viewed through the rainy back windshield of a car.   The Clown fish was a distraction that craved attention.
The Clown would chase around some of the other fish and jump out of the water to catch the boy's eye. 
                 Next is the Queen Angel fish, she is the queen of the tank, she sits in back all alone, waving like a marvelous banner, iridescent purple and golden jade.  Her forehead slopes back in a French braid style that streams over her back like a kings standard waving before battle, but her standard is of a house of beauty, and that of royal purple.

                    Lastly is the Damsel Fish, the smallest and most vulnerable in the tank.  She has royal purple also, rivaling the queen. Her eyes are lashed but not lidded like the Hoomah.  Her eyes are elliptical, and perhaps the most human, or in the boy’s opinion, she is the most lady like, the Hoomah and the Queen Angel come to her defence if she is chased around by the Clown.  Her eyes penetrate the boys, to the point of him looking away.  

                      Before the tank, in its place in the corner was a painting, an oil painting of another type of Clown donning a hat with orange partial make-up on his face (only around eyes nose and mouth there was ghost white paint) and it  had two tears coming down from its right eye.  The Clown painting was given to him by his mother, it seems he could not be rid of them, but Sake at first was taken in by the brightness of the Clown, and the smooth salacious wet look of the painting. it looked dripping, or submerged, like another alternate reality.  The wet surreal glaze of the painting seemed a portal, especially the orange glow of the Clown's skin without make-up.  .  If he tried to remember of times  before the Clown painting that preceded the Clown fish, he thought of the orange saffron twilight of sunset, and watching it from the high window from his room in the towering house.  How that light changed everything that it touched, from the tree tops and the clouds, to even the dark hallway leading up to his room.  The painting and the Clown fish did not feel the same as those distant memories of sunset, especially the summer sunset when his mother would put him to bed long before the sun had set.  
Sake did not voice opposition to the Clown.
Then he was once again trapped by the Clown.  
            The boy was extremely afraid of this painting that replaced the sunsets , being confined alone with it by all those early bedtimes.
Sake once asked his mother if he could take it down, whereas she said " No."  That clown would follow him into his dreams, always he would be down the hill from the tall house on the hill, trying to walk back to the house, but to walk away or run in a dream was like walking underwater or in black space, and he would make no distance as the ground opened up and the clown came out of the ground hugging him with the pryless grip of eight arms.  He would then wake up amid screams and a tearful hatted clown staring somberly down at him from the wall where it was hung.  Night made him fear the Clown painting more;  that ghost white make-up decorating around the eyes and mouth seeming to form another painting in entirety.  He could only look at the painting after a while when the lights were on, and the wet looking painting was mostly orange from the skin, neck, and forearms of the hat wearing clown.  But the painting is gone now, and the magnificent light display of the tank is there now.  

                Sake pulled out the fish food, all the fish bestirred in anticipation of being fed.  The only time they would all come together; and that was to mumble the bits of falling flakes: a chomp from the Clown, a pucker from the Hoomah, the fast mumble of the Tang, and the dainty chew of the Damsel.  The Queen Angelfish would stay near the bottom, and kiss a flake over and over.   She would not deign herself to go into a friendly frenzy like the other fish; she stayed calm, yet alluring like a flag dancing rhythmically in the breeze, but never repeating the same move as the wind never repeats the same breeze.  She is the only fish to change colors.  When the grey skies of Mass emit through every portal in the house at the height of its bleakness, her colors would turn more fantastic, perhaps why she is queen.

                 He put his finger in the top of the watery world; the warmth was felt all the way up his arm.  After feeding, his favorite thing to do was to trace his finger on the top of the warm water and have the Damsel follow it. She loved it, it was her only time to dance, for the Clown would descend down in somewhat fear ( or annoyance) of the boys finger, and the Damsel and he would dance.  The boy, thought that extraordinary.

                     Sake bedded down that night, to his usual watery world of his room.  The reflective waves running down the walls like seagulls of light, with the rhythmic gurgling sound and it's occasional splash of the Clown, or the Hoomah swooping into the pebbly bottom to scoop up some pebbles for spitting making the sound "ccchhhhh" --cachinging  like a distant underwater register.  The tank’s nocturne sound was therapeutic to the boy.

                      Among waking up, and being greeted by his sparkling treasure tank--that was always of the faintest light in the morning due to the grey skies of Mass coming through every portal to lessen the tropical spectrum-- the boy would render his salutations " Good morning my Hoomah.....good morning Tang, my Damsel, and your majesty Queen Angel.....and so forth.  Until the scream would come to get him, and he would walk briskly past the empty room and the looming family pictures of strangers.  His mother put him to work that day, to "pay for the fish tank" but really to buy her a new cocktail dress for her nightly forays.  The boy did not care, the tank was his sun, emitting through the bleak skies of Mass, and even if the tank was reduced to a haze by the overcast of his life, it only added a log to the fire that was the tropical world at night, in turn making him welcome the dismal day.
                  On a day, when the overcast was so thick, he felt he could not picture his rectangular orb waiting for him at night. He had trouble remembering what houses to deliver the paper.  He delivered to the same house three times.  Newspapers seemed to disappear in his hands, due to their color relation to the sky.   Leaves were falling from the trees—butterfly like—he went to catch one, he missed--a first. For Sake could walk through dense thorned brambles and avoid every barb, as a knight in combat or someone’s whose heart felt the painful sting of the barb before.  He would stand under a tree in late fall, and roll around to avoid every falling leaf, and pierce them to the ground deftly with a stick fashioned as a sword.  He could slither between snow flakes, almost like a fish nimbly avoiding small flakes.  
                  After he finished his paper-route , he went to his usual spot under an oak tree to fence with falling leaves.  As the other boys walked by and poked fun he would stall his imagination, and look to the brown landscape of the dry fall.  The crisp brown leaves of the trees were sword shapes to him.  He held the battle ax shape of the oak leaf over his eye held up by the stick it was pierced through, and spied the woodline through the sinus of the oak leaf lobe.  The brown white speckled scenery, were all trying to hide behind eachother by blending in bleakfully; he pretended the leaf was Hector’s helmet from the Illiad—donned over his eyes.
“ Whatchya doing Sake?” asked a young girl named Summer.  Sake only mumbled something nervously and stood there.  And a pretty Summer passed on after Sake once again denied himself of her pretty company.  He looked to the woodline again, a mist was now concealing the tall apical trees.  It now looked like the brown woodland was not trying to retreat behind eachother in fall concealment, but trying to emerge forth out of the greyness to say "save us."

“ Damgf” he uttered, and could not even grasp a word correctly.  His head lifted to the sky repeatedly, there was no orb, and the shadows were looming larger than ever; fractioned shadows from tree branches were forming scythes all over the ground.
             He entered the large shadow that was his front door, into the house that rose high into the sky, with the simplicity of Stonehenge.  He climbed the rickety petrified stairs and went down the hall.  Grey light had spotlighted every frame on the wall.  He looked into the empty room, nothingness, then his room, the tank seemed at its faintest, and it was nearing twilight.  He walked past the tank to look out the window;  the back side of the house seemed like a tower, being on a hill it was dizzying to look down this side.  He felt like the only boy in the world, he could see off distant,  grey  clouds were overtaking the tree tops and buildings.  Out his door in the hallway were shadows painting  the portraits black, and the dust that was swimming in front of the empty room— came together to resemble a flowing Sunday dress, as if it was underwater.  He slammed the door, and closed his blinds, turning off the light.  The waves came back, the gurgling was stronger, and then he sat Indian style in front of his tank.  He was alerted to something wrong.  
            The Tang was there, Clown, Angel, and Hoomah but no Damsel. Looking in the usual refugiums of the Damsel, she was not there.  His eyes lowered to the rock alter--pink on the top, a multitude of dark polygonal faces on its facade..  In the main shadow, there motionless, the dark crab, unblinking with both it's scythe claws upward.  In its grasp the Damsel, writhing and squirming, but it was firmly grasped by the tail.  His hand plunged down, and grabbed at a mirage, the crab had already retreated with the Damsel.  
          He wanted to plunge his fist in into the dark alter of rocks, but was afraid of the murkiness.  His hand felt the coldness near those rocks, and the hair-like touch of algae growing on the inside of the rocks.  " She's gone," he whispered to himself.  All the fish floated in a baffled muse staring at the boy.  The clown hid in the back, the boy knew the clown was the cause of this.  
                    He felt he was sinking to the bottom of the sea.  Out of his brooding darkness, gliding specters swam up to him, and stared at him as he sunk away.  He felt the tremendous undertow of huge things swimming by.  
The grey skies of Mass outside had made its way into his house, completely filling up his room.  He felt like he reached the bottom of the cold dismal sea while the grey filled to the top of his room. The tropical tank was but a faint shining fishing lure in the monochrome of his mind, a mind that relied on the palette of a bright world to emit some light--  
               His mother's scream woke him from his misty malaise, he walked down the long hall, staring at the pictures this time, the black and white pictures started to disappear with the onset of the grey skies  that were of the same color. The rickety stairs creaked with an all new slowness from his tread.  They sounded like muffled moaning from fathoms.
                     " You need to give me more money for the tank, it is costing more," said his mother deceivingly.  Her heart was caught by another shoe or dress, the boy knew.  He assented and added , " I'll give more money, and turn off the tank."  He left, his mother too bestial and short sighted to be perplexed.  Two days surpassed, he did not feed the fish, nor clean the tank, and then he unplugged it, silence came over the room.  He went to bed at a sunset that was not there.  He held up a dried oak leaf, and placed it upside down on the glass over the grey expanse, the oak leaf looked like a Trojan helmet staring down the bleak expanse, but then Sake crumpled it, and let it fall like flakes of fish food.
  He thought of the Clown fish, and he thought of the old painting.  Slowly and slowly he fell into sleep,  slight liquid disturbances were heard, from the fish trying to get his attention--  the pebbles chinged  from  the Hoomah; but they have betrayed him, letting his Damsel be snatched up, her elliptic eyes disappearing into that cave--and he had failed too. Now he had no escape from the grey skies of Mass.
            More and more, the drip drop sound became louder, Sake who was in half sleep—rolled around on his bed. He pictured a giant crashing tear in his sleepy daze--he fell  fully into sleep.  Nightmares haunted him, he looked and looked for the Damsel in impenetrable grey light, until he came upon a dark portal, and he was too afraid to enter.  He suddenly missed the other fish, and called out to them. "I’m sorry my fish, come back."  His words were gargled in the dream-state, and he could not move as he intended to.  
                  The image of the Damsel disappearing into the rock alter, slowly as a sandbar is overtaken at high tide made him wake mid scream.  The reflecting light was running down his walls again, the sound of the tank echoed off his walls as if he was in an underwater cave.  The tank was on, and lit somehow, and the crab was in the entrance again with the Damsel in its claws.  The air in his room was distorted, like the area above the surface of something hot; the dust particles swam around as if in liquid light; every time he blinked the tank was closer to him.  It was also growing bigger, merging into the room with the mandibles and fore claws of the black crab spreading around his vision.
             Sake froze in fear ; the seagulls of light increased down his walls, the gurgling became incessant; he crawled under his comforter and closed his eyes.  All sound stopped.  He opened his eyes, and threw off his comforter, his bed was gone and he was standing.  No longer in the same world.

Chapter 2 The Land Of Chimes

"O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing."--La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Keats

He felt millions of firm but gentle breezes gliding past his body from all points of the compass.  The sound was source less--the sound of an indefatigable exhale.   Was he in his bedroom still? No, he was in a cave.  In an opening like that of a nave of a church, or a foyer, with a high ceiling of jumbled rock with cat-holes of light that came through as spot lights.  Under his foot were pink and red pebbles that suddenly glowed brighter, then waned, as if a tree branch was above it swaying-- but there was only rock.  
          “Where am I?" he tried to say to himself, but his words were unintelligible to himself.  He went to move his hand to his mouth, and missed his face completely and very slowly.   Looking around at the dark shadows that lined the bottom of the foyer like dark portals, he felt as if he was in a school's foyer awaiting punishment from a principle.
                 He looked up at the upper walls, the dark cavities looked like eyes, blackened hollow eyes.  Behind him, a portal had grey light coming into it; possibly the outside entrance—he thought.  He made his way, slowly and confusedly, he could not walk properly. I must be dreaming.   He heard eerie echoes from one of the dark portals—almost like sobbing stretched painfully to laughing.   He attempted to walk to the sound , loneliness beckoned him.   His feet sinking in the pebbles, with the fractioned light waving off the bottom and be speckling the dark rocks above him-- he reached the dark entrance ; the abutting rocks swaying with green algae to an undetectable breeze-- he felt the air grow colder.  This is just a dream, he told himself in order to brave the dark entrance, but his words were jumbled.  He then clumsily walked into the portal, toward the sound--hoping it would be something that would hug him in this scary cavern, and assuage his fear and lonlieness.  He looked at the sides of the rock portal as he grabbed onto them to walk, and was frightened deeply, he felt the complicity of the rocks, as if they served as the tools in a pagan sacrificial chamber, with the sacrifice paid by the opposite of the uncaring, planet old, jagged rocks--and what came to Sake's mind, was feminine glass smooth beauty.  " Help me," Sakes mind said, as that thought induced in his mind, but he did not address it to anyone, and so get's returned to sender.

Coldness seized Sake, he took under ten steps but he felt fathoms away from the foyer.    The sound changed drastically—a drilling sound, as if a distant shuttle was departing the bright earth’s gravitational field and into the starry sky.  The chamber was empty, with eye-like cavities running up  walls flickering with green algae.  The algae and the red pebbles on the cavern floor were the only way he could see; they created a contrast with the darkness that was perceptible, but most of all the ground was not dark. He heard a voice again coming from another cavern.  
He stumbled, almost falling just to get to the other entrance to find another human being in this unknown place.  The entrance filed down to a rock hallway, the algae touched his forearm, he pulled back from the silica feel.   The rock jumble wall stopped, and he turned the corner.  Colder than the previous cavern by a degree, but a lip bluing degree-- tiger stripes rippled in vertical reflections along the walls, giving the cavities momentary and replenishing reptile eyes.  He could not make out anything in the chamber, it was bigger than the proceeding one and it did not have green algae nor red pebbles.  
In the center of the cavern was a fire, dying down only to kindling, then back up in a yellow flash that lit up the chamber like a flare, and shrinking  down again as the tiger stripe reflections returned on the walls: as if the fire in the center was running out of energy.  The fire lured the boy before he knew he was moving towards it; it was a beacon in a world of darkness.  He neared…the beacon spoke , “ Hey you, help me, get this trap off me.”
  “ Mmmgmgglllloooo” came out of the boy’s mouth, even if he could have spoken he would have been unintelligible still from sheer shock.  The radiance shined brilliantly, not at all blinding to the eye, but the opposite; the fire was the size of him.
“Hurry up Cucumber, before they come back,  bite down right here,” said a long needle mouthed  flickering flame . Sake just sat there staring at the glowing, rippling form.  “  “ Hurry up you stupid cucumber, I can still find the Damsel--”
Sake felt the cold on him again, around the intensifying luminescence of the fire;  a droning sound, that was distant yet audible became known—almost like druidical monks conducting a ceremony underwater in a black cauldron.  The Damsel is still alive... he mumbled to himself, shaking nervously.  He saw the net only when the fire died down, it was cinched through a eyelet with a weight like tackle, he pulled one side of the working end and with his other hand loosened the cinch of the net on the fire.   The fire was in utter surprise at the boy’s method of rescue.  “ I never seen a cucumber with claws,” a  yellow circle forming a mouth said as the monkish droning became louder.  “ Come on, the Damsel must be here,” it said as it rose off the floor, hovering , rippling in the air---brightening the immediate vicinity.
The fire darted away from the boy and into the next chamber, Sake watched as the rippling torch flew off into the other opening abandoning him, and hurried after it--afraid the darkening cavern was going to devour him.  He mumbled and stumbled after it—the mumbles would have been shrieks and cries if translated.  As he passed a cavity in the wall he noticed something bright down deep in it, like a white hot stone from a fire thrown into a well.
He chased after the talking torch. “ Damoiselle, where art thou?” the giant torch yelled.  The droning was becoming ominously thicker; he could not keep up as he watched the torch disappear into another chamber.  Suddenly the cavern started to brighten.  The light was coming from somewhere hidden.  Seeing movement, Sake looked up at the far wall of the cave, the mumble  “ Mmmblllerrf,” translated to “ Uh Oh.”
First alerted to the movement by the swaying green algae on the far wall, he noticed a more spasmodic motion that was the converse of the rhythmic and mindless algae.  It moved again, the purple outline came into view with the sparkle of a diamond being turned in the hand—for the deep purple mirrored sideways against each other—was blinking.  My Damsel, said his startled mind.
The searching torch in his hot neon negligence did not see the wall that captured the Damsel , searching other chambers in flickering haste, sounding the dark cavern with taunts and yells—blinded by anger.  Sake took a step closer to the wall, then heard a ‘click ‘noise over the monkish droning of the foreboding cavern.  The rest of the outline from the Damsel’s tail came into view.
The protrusion at the base of the rock jumble wall was not a rock, but a giant crab with both its black scythe claws up in the air as if conducting a ceremony in a lifeless stare, as if it had been in dark polluted harbor sludge for eternity.  One claw clutched the almost lifeless Damsel around the yellow band she had on her tail fin, the other was held around her body.  It looked ready to close on the purple-diamond-studded corset that was the Damsel’s body.  The smaller rock jumble stacked above and on the back of the large crab, was made of smaller crabs, packed tightly—with their baby scythes sticking out.  ‘Click’ He now knew where that sound was coming from.  It was the open claw, clicking closer to the Damsel’s body.  ‘ Click.’  The claw was three clicks away. All the little stacked crabs on the wall closed their claws at the same time as if snapping to attention: reminiscent of a black clawed iron maiden--that sent chills down Sake’s spine in the already ice cold cavern.  He stepped closer, the giant dark crab’s mouth –hooks and scissors—looked like a  carousel of torture.  ‘ Click.’  Only one click away from the Damsel.  Sake could reach out and touch her, but the wall of scythes scared him to immobility.  He closed his eyes and looked away in anticipation of the fatal click.
He heard a different sound, a “ clack,” as if the claw was opening back up.  He was looking at the back wall away from the wall of rhythmic algae adorning the snare-trap-still crabs.  The crevices in the far wall now looked like deep recesses, the eye shaped recesses now had pupils—glowing white hot dots.  He looked back at the crab, the claw was all the way open again, but then ‘click’ and it started the process over.  Sake looked away.  If he could only walk correctly he could run to the wall save her.  He could not do it with his eyes closed, it scared him too much.  He looked back at the wall, the pupils in the crevices were glowing brighter, almost getting angrier.  They dilated, glowing white hot.  Then the eyes emitted a white hot pebble attached to an arching branch.  Hundreds of glowing stones came out of the walls, then the branch that held them slowly came forth.  
The corner of the room lit up with color, it was the torch returning from its search.  “ Run Cucumber, they are coming,” it said to Sake has it rippled past him.  
He began to see what  the branches coming out of the walls were attached to, a silvery metallic scowl of a fish’s head.  And that fish was the Deep Sea Viper.  The whole wall was a ’grin with shiny and rusty razor blades.  Sake suddenly felt fathoms deeper, with no chance of hope.  
The torch was flying  past him, Sake grabbed onto the bright blur that was cool to the touch, and held on for dear life as he looked back at the chamber fill up with rusty (or blood stained)metal  of hundreds of Deep Sea Viper.  They all turned there razor over-bites in unison at the fleeing morsels, and shrugged off their lethargy, remembering their proclivity—to devour.
“ Let go of me Cucumber….” Said the fire, as he took the wrong direction back to the foyer.   “Mmmmblerf,” cried Sake to tell him it was the wrong direction.  The Vipers darted down the rock hall, scraping and sparking off the rocks, they were fast.  Sake saw what it was that dangled from their foreheads, he thought it was a glowing shrimp, but it was a glowing skull—their lure.  As soon as the silver filled up the hall and Sake could see the Viper’s black dead eyes up close, he let out a muffled scream and the torch picked up speed, turning and twisting at 90 degree angles, then soaring down a straightaway only to turn again.  The fire’s soaring speed was kept down by the turns, and that was a good thing for the boy, his grip barely held on at the roller-coaster speeds.
  Sake  could not bear to look at his assailants anymore, he looked forward—but that was just as daunting.  The fire flew at jagged walls, only to turn at the last second—Sake could feel the green algae’s cool wet touch on him as the fire pivoted and darted down the rock halls.  If the vipers were a mustang cobra, then the torch was the fire in the cylinder, unhindered by chassis—fast as an explosion.
They came into a cavern that had red and white pebbles as ground, but to sheer horror, the only exit out of the room was emitting the metallic silver light and a painful scraping sound.  “ We’re trapped”, said the fire but the boy pointed to the high walls that had a cat hole and was emitting grey light.  “ I cannot climb that high with you on my back.”  Sake got off and started climbing the wall , which was easier than walking on level ground.  To the boy’s surprise, the fire could not go upward in the same speed as it went horizontal.  The chamber started filling up with clashing armour, which was the vipers scraping into eachother as the fire was rippling upward slowly .  Sake reached there first, and was silhouetted by the light coming from the other side, he grabbed hold of the bright creature that was having difficulty rippling upwards, and pulled it up and into the narrow passage.   As soon as the fire was on level ground it shot forward pushing the boy out of the narrow passage as if the fire was the primer and the boy a bullet just as the vipers were filling into the tunnel; before Sake knew it, he was falling down into the foyer.
Sake looked beside him, the torch in dark caverns, was a magnificent Tang in light.  The Tang startled himself up,, the vipers were coming still.  “ Get on Cucumber,” said the Tang, and the boy  climbed on clumsily putting a foot on the Tang’s face.  “ You oaf,” his voice almost honked from the boy’s foot in his nose—a saxon nose in human scale that gave the bright creature an utmost humanness and its scales on the downward taper of his forehead resembling a slicked back neon hair.
The yellow neon fish exhaled after feeling the boy’s full weight, “ you must be one of those coral cucumbers,” he said exasperated. The sparking sound was closing.  The Tang cracked his body like a whip, and gave the boy a momentary vertigo ; the powerful ripple distorted the air behind them, and sent a seismic ripple through the pebbly ground; the closing vipers were knocked into shock.  Sake watched the grey light of the entrance coming at him as the barrel of a cannon, as the incendiary round that was the Tang shot forth with its payload of mumbling boy.  ; they shot out of the opening and the landscape opened up,  he looked back, the cave was retreating from proximity with the imperceptible increments of low tide--even at high velocity.
He hung onto the streaming hair of the Tang with all his might, which was severly weakened in this new land.  The ground below his feet took the form of liquid metal at high speed; the surrounding landscape was a nuance of grey on silver.    “ What were you doing in Crabaltar, that is no place for cucumbers, in all my journeys around the Saccade, I have not seen one like you… have you seen any other knights?” said the aerodynamic face, unaware that his passenger could barely hold on let alone answer him.
The boy’s legs were streaming in the wake.  Wind that was so thick that it was causing the boy to smile, was forcing him off the inverted saddle.  “ Slooooow dooown….” he yelled, but  even if it was unjumbled, it was absorbed by the dense streaming wind.  The yellow streak  that the boy was falling off of even had words that were aerodynamic, “ I must come back another time, it will be dark soon and much colder, the vipers can go much further when it is cold, but at least I have brought back a nice cucumber for the queen…
“ I am the only to make it out of Crabaltar alive, someone has laid a trap in there, that is how I was captured, they are lucky I was traveling without my cuirass, I wonder how the Hoomah is doing, if he is the hunter that he says he is….. I say, I never saw a cucumber with starfish on it, you will be a rarity in the Coral Kingdom…and a mighty fine present for the Queen” the speed talker did not notice that the boy’s starfish were losing their grip.  “ Blllrrrrffff” the boy’s mouth sputtered, as he lost his grip and fell into the strong slipstream, tumbling over and over until sliding in debris strewn ground slowing his speed before his movement was stopped by a mound of rocks.  He watched as the flame became smaller and smaller, dying down as it disappeared into the grey horizon.  “ Come Back…don’t leave me” he tried to yell, but to no avail.
Running after the Tang’s direction his foot was caught by something and he fell; the sound of melancholic chimes rang into the silent wasteland.  Not seeing what caught his foot, he got up, only to trip again.   This time he saw, but only for a second as the outline of the line sparkled amongst the greyish background.  It was a fishing line of some sort.  He reluctantly scanned his environment and goose bumps flared up on his skin.
The level plane was studded with mounds of rust colored rocks, choked and strangled with silver line, and stabbed all over with barbed hooks.  Metallic scales littered the ground, with slices of rust color seeping up between the wreckage.  It looked as if a great battle took place, and the good guys lost.   He stepped on the metallic ground and a depressing chime sound emitted then was swallowed by the bleak expanse.  At that point he saw a shadow exhibit over the ground, moving sinuously and fast, it then disappeared.  Try to keep my steps on the rust-- his instinct ordered him.

The direction the Tang was going was already lost by the boy after he tripped on the line. “ No, no , no” he cried, only to be horrified to what his words were converted to in echo by the burial grounds he was in--” lay down don’t fight it.”
  He set off in the direction he presumed, passing foreboding mounds and webs of strung diamond line.  His foot yanked a line, and a hook the size of its target (his head) whistled through the air at him, he ducted and it sunk into a mound, piercing both ends into the rock torso.  Metallic scales covered the rock’s head, a head  of a stainless steel-osprey with no eyes.  His heart raced as he fell back, stepping on the scales that rang like a lonely chime ornamenting a grave.  The shadow on the ground appeared again, then disappeared, causing Sake to look above him in expectance of a monster, but nothing was above  in the sky that resembled the depths.
“ Ugggrrrh” he muttered as he tried to balance his steps, to steer clear of the metallic scales and the diamond lines that could wrap around and strangle him if not for his slow gait.  He passed a lobster trap, in industrial dimensions, two bars were bent away from each other.  He shuddered then tripped again, the diamond line wrapped up his shin like a reel, but it did not have a hook on the end, only a weight, Sake could not get it off, and so left it.
He felt like something was watching him, even worse, following him--on top of the feeling that the scales would assemble themselves into Vipers, and the lurking thing high above him would dive down on him. Getting nowhere fast, he sat down, and started crying.  His tears swam out of his eyes, and collided with a mound—embedding  the word 'beloved' in the mound altar as if the tears were chiseled dates, that then leaked downword forming the sentence “ lay down to rest.”  A carousel came to the boys mind, for trident hooks and lures dangled out and away from the mound.
Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw some color, “ please let some color or light come, please” he cried, putting his head in his hands.  Then he saw it, through his arms, two hovering yellow half circles, that retracted sharply into nothing.  The color looked out of place, he stood  to survey  what he thought he saw, “ who’s there?” he gurgled, but nothing stirred.  He turned now, to put distance between him and the apparition. " PING" He stepped on a scale that chimed ominously in the cryptic landscape bedecked with sepulchers of rock mound in all form of strangulation; he was not stepping with care now.  He looked back to see a faint portion of yellow before it disappeared.  “ Who are you, what do you want?” he yelled and pointed at his follower.  Then the two yellow half circles returned and then quickly disappeared, confirming his suspicion.  Then it spoke,
“Sponge, keep your mumblings down, you are going to attract Viper, or let alone the Mahi Mahi. What are you doing so far away from the Coral Kingdom, in this cold wasteland?....nevermind that, I do not speak sponge…do not fear me…”  The flitting half circles then seemed to move horizontally and upward; under one of the yellow half circles now ran a yellow paint streak conjoined with a pink one.  Metal scales bound together like chain mail fell to the ground off the apparition.  Sake now saw what the two yellow half circles were--two eyelids, and then saw the crescents of shock white and yellow on the body that was attached to the face that had pastel war paint.  It was the Hoomah who cloaked himself by covering up his tropical streaks with the viper scales, for in between his streaks of pink, yellow and white was his body color of grey—which already blended in perfectly with cemetery bleakness of the landscape.
Ecstatic at not being alone, the boy approached the hovering Hoomah, with its two small wings not flapping, for they had the proportion of a T-Rex’s arm is to its body, and could not viably keep the powerful stout Hoomah in the air, but paid heed to an old custom and now just rippled in the slow manner of a boxer snapping his knuckles.  Gravity was not the same in this dark world, with distant constellations of neon plasma and the hovering Hoomah confirmed that fact.  He was double the size of the Tang, and had  lipstick of yellow which he sucked in when cloaking himself.   A boxers nose was on the declivity of the long snout, in human scale, also giving presentation to rugged humanhood, . 
 The giant lips spoke,” Sponge, go in that direction, hurry before the lights set and the Vipers come, it is already getting late for it is much colder--.”
Sake just wanted to hug the magnificent hovering body, and stay with him, but the large lidded eyes looked at him, as if to say “easy sponge,” so the boy backed off.  But he did not want to leave his presence and the direction the Hoomah gestured was foreboding with its strangled mounds and giant prisons of lobster traps.  “ Oooh, it’s getting colder,’ the Hoomah shuddered, “ Now go Sponge,  the Mahi Mahi already heard your clumsy chimes,” but the boy did not listen, just gurgled idiotically, and in his excitement stepped on another chime, but this chime was Sake’s earlier fear, for it reared its decomposed looking head sheathed in metal blades, and opens its jagged jowl while rousing itself from slumber.  The Hoomah went to one of the mounds, and freed a hook from the mound’s torso with his powerful mouth, as the Viper was recoiling in sadistic joy at the sight of Sake; its overbite of jagged razor poised.  
Sake flinched and put up his arms to guard his face--that the Viper was eying with salivating desire--and gurgled helplessly.  The Viper’s arm length body straightened and shot at its prey, and in turn was preyed upon by the hook that the Hoomah blew at crossbow speed , piercing the viper  with the sharp and dull end through its body sticking it to the torso rock mound.  The Viper made a nasty scream, then fell to pieces, clanging and chiming off the other assorted scales.  The giant shadow re-emerged on the bottom and a distant shriek sounded, that even though afar, had bone-setting captivation; something horrible lurked above in the depths, and came closer with the sound of chimes.
“ I am going to give you a good start Sponge…darkness is almost here, and this place will be swarming with these ,” with those words , the powerful lips that were already cloaked again--for the warrior had donned his camoflauge taken from slayed viper--revealed a bright red tongue inside and suctioned up the boy, and after a deep inhale, blew the boy through the air barreling at catapult speed, but not before hearing from the owner of the blinking yellow eye lids in deep confident tuba baritone , “ Tell our Queen-- I will find her—alright Sponge .”
Chimes rang and then were swallowed up by the desolate land.  A skid trail twenty long was behind him, that connected the flat stainless steel graveyard land to a rolling land he was now in.  Littered still with scale but not dangerous tackle, the piedmont milieu was decorated with more natural objects: shells, conches, and swaying plants of red and blue.  He badly wanted to go back to the Hoomah, who was somewhere behind that grey impenetrable light, and suddenly felt cowardly for being so afraid amongst the stalwart, and for escaping away from the Damsel.    
Off distant, the blue and red plants suddenly started swaying, as if a breeze was snaking a path through them, making its way towards the derelict boy.  Sake braced himself, for what he thought would be a cold breeze, as the nearest plants rose ten feet higher into the air.  No breeze came.  
The foreboding path deterred Sake to traverse to the side of the swaying alley, and as if a breeze had started from his location, arose and went back down the alley, and the once swaying plants became still.  
Standing before a new lane,  the same breeze came, enlivening a new alley of plants, the nearest ones rising into the air.  The boy gulped.  But this was the direction the Hoomah pointed with his snout, so he proceeded.
Chapter 3 A Stunning Land
" This quest is not for thee."--Tennyson, Holy Grail

An almost inaudible whisper came and Sake turned as if he was tapped on the shoulder: “ hope and change I care for you.”   The sound came from a large waving blue plant, but the boy did not see anyone around it.  He resumed his awkward pace, this time a red plant on his right rose up well over his head.  “ family together I work for you.”  The sound had to be coming from inside the plants, Sake looked at the plants, they looked harmless and even inviting with color far different then where he had just been.  He kept to the center of the path well away from the still upright neon plants.  He passed another red plant, “ united with her, love forever.”  He paused to look at this blue plant, it had took the form of a house, a tall house; a mother ,father, and daughter were in the doorway.  “ join us, forever, hope, change.”  The red plant rose up even higher behind him, “Come inside, let us help, unite, forever.”  The red plant took the form of a little girl made up of slithering tendrils.  She animated and started skipping with a pony tail of tendrils streaming .  Sake was mesmerized, he held his arm out to touch the red image made up of adroit tendril, and the image held her hand to him fingertip to fingertip; the girl burned his finger, he brought back his hand and crossed his arms to smother the searing pain.  But the image was still there, “  not leave me here alone Sake come stay in with me.”  Sake walked away down the corridor as goosebumps flared up his back and more plants waved to the air.
“ Son, I am for you, come let give you hug, it’s had  too long, me  your mother  back together,  like old times, now come hug, yes we can.”  The blue tendrils even darkened the 5:00 o’clock stubble on Sake’s father’s face.  Sake was mesmerized, “ You’re not my father,” he whispered to himself unconfidently  as he held out his arms and headed into the blue tendrilled siloutte of his father, “ Good boy, forever, we can,” whispered the plant.  Sake felt the stubble of his  father’s face just like old times, a sting full scratch against his face. But the boy saw something in the center of the waving plant, that was busy assembling most of itself to allure the boy.  “ My promise to-- a whole new land” said the fatherly image with arms going around the boy.  Sake saw what they were in the center of the plants; tendrils that have assembled themselves into coffins, with portholes where one could see skulls with bits and pieces of bright colored scale still on it.  One head opened its jaw to reveal tendrils inside—probing and nestling--sending the boy retreating out of the blue tendrils .  Away from the now upright swaying blue neon plant, he felt the scratchy sting from the stubbly blue beard, and as it flared up, his vision pulsed blue. His finger and his face hurt in alternating turns, as if the plants were in alliance, to not waste a pain receptor of their prey.  Economical.  Sake looked back down the corridor, the plants were almost fighting with each other, like teachers and priests arguing over the souls of children.  They interfere with each other, thought the boy unconsciously.
“Don’t you want be family, and change,” the tendrils were already assembling themselves again as they rose upright.  Sake turned, and hugged the center of the path out of the reach of the red and blue tendrils.  Behind him, a red plant whispered “don’t leave me”, he looked back to see tendrils start to coil around her and drag her back into the center, the person being dragged was the young girl “ Noooo,” Sake yelled, and fell to his knees.  The father image assembled again, yelling “  son, never, forever, come back to past for a better future.”  A door formed and the tentacles acted out someone being dragged inside a room.  Sake turned to move on, a red and blue tear swam out of his eyes in a snakes swim, knotting and crushing itself into obscurity.
He quickened his pace, estimating the length   of the tendrils and walking down the middle out of their reach.  They all rose up as he came before them, “ value me….family first….hope” and as he passed them they could be heard saying “ value, death, forever….depths.”  Some sent beautiful faces out to kiss him, saying “ oh what  marvelous handsome little ….what fine hero  be someday….come  gather  your  insides inside…” They were relatives of his, and so strangers that just made him quicken his pace--at times angling himself like he was doing the limbo, so he would not feel the heated touch of the red and blue plants.
He was almost out of the dangerous corridor.  There was a giant red and blue plant, intertwining to form a mesh gate, leading out of the seductive  alley.  Their tendrils were high and numerous enough to grab the boy;  Sake looked back at all the still slithering apparitions behind him, and decided he could not make it back the way he came. The red and blue intertwined plant  ahead of him was massive,  and foreboding, it was the Magnificent Anemone--it was getting darker out too, the darkening atmosphere brought forth more plants with the buzzing and sputtering  of neon signs being turned on in a bar window, sending a reminiscent chill down Sake’s spine.  A blue tendril sign read “ Damsel,” a red one said “ Ours.”
“ I need armour” he said to himself--a tactic he recalled from his brief encounter with the Hoomah .  The remembrance of the Hoomah, gave him the will to carry on, and shake off the visual stunnings of the anemones.  He feared the Tang, but admired the Hoomah’s wise face with the pastel war paint.
There was plenty of armor lying around: shells, metallic scales, conches, lime green seaweed.  He wrapped his arms and legs with the seaweed, weaved the metallic scales into them using the diamond line that wrapped around his leg like a reel as he tripped over it earlier. He saw a scallop shell inside a plant to his side, he could not get it out without something, for the plants would surely burn him.
As he worked, he felt the slithering tendrils on his shoulder or back, but as soon as he turned in surprise, there was nothing there.  He sawed the diamond line with a jagged shell,  like he was playing the harp.  A melancholic sound emitted,  the tendrils sang in his ear to the tune of his sawing—obliiiiiviooon--they sang, he looked over his shoulder startled—but nothing was there.  His face burned from the neon plant’s stunning, he badly wanted something to protect his face.  Back in the bottleneck of the corridor, where the plants converged dangerously close, where he had been seduced and seared minutes before, was a conch shell and hook the size of Sake’s arm on either side of the alley he realized now.  I do not want to go back there…I cannot,  whimpered Sake as he stared off at the conch.  But the conch beckoned him, with its glowing bone white knuckled fist,  -- looks that looked out of place, and defiant to the neon plants.  
Sake stumbled towards it, mumbling this is gunna suck over and over again.  The plants let him in then re-animated again.  The conch was under a blue plant, the hook a red one.  
“ The outcome not  does look good forever.”  Sake turned round, to see where the voice was coming from.  It was a hospital room, no face could be clearly seen.  They were gathered around someone in the hospital bed with a doctor telling a prognosis.  The image stunned him, his heart palpitated in his chest and he struggled for air.  The hospital bed lowered into a cavern below the anemone, as if a casket being interred. Sake clutched his heart.  “ The court  now session for oblivion.”  The plant behind him turned into a courtroom, with a woman crying at the stand, her face buried in her hands.  “ The divorce is now always, and he is forsaken, always and for oblivion.”  The woman on the tendrilled stand lifted her face, and was streaked with her make-up in a clown like manner.
Sake was immobilized, he should not have come back down the corridor.  He stood, as if a spider bit him, and he was dissolving from the inside, but the painful images came undone, and released the boy.  One tendril even snapped its fingers to awaken him from his stunning. “ Awaken my poor boy,” whispered from all angles of concealment in a woman’s blithe voice.   He aroused, shook his head, remembering his aim, to get armor.
He took step by cautious step for the hook, but still was aloof, his feet were struggling to learn this world’s gravity, an enslaved collage of color on both sides of extreme, oblivion black and the interplanetary blinding lightning color, with the lifeless neutral point the grey metallic scale color of viper.
Expecting the neon red plant, that was a still-picture of a five thousand degree fire to come alive and ensnare him, he moved to the hook the size of a side sword under the red glare—his shadow emblazoned behind him in like a dark socket, outlined by a bright arterial glare; but the plant did not animate, and Sake grabbed the hook, and retreated back to the aisle.  
On the other side of the aisle, the conch sat, in white knuckle defiance staring down the blue plant, almost keeping it at bay.  Sake followed after the barb of the hook in which he led with, and hooked the conch closer to him while keeping his eyes on the blue plant.  He hastened out of the aisle to the opening before the giant magnificent blue-red anemone.  “ I hope this fits” he uttered pathetically as he slipped the smooth opening of the conch over his nose, and as if destined, it locked onto his nose and chin.  He removed it, and with one of the sharp knuckles on his new face mask, he sawed the diamond line on his leg, and through two convenient holes in the conch, he fastened it back onto his face.  It glowed white knuckle hot, and cooled instantly the sting on his face from the blue plant.
“ Much better,” sake said, and to his surprise, his words were converted to a deeper voice, rectified and pressed together from fathoms, and it was sand crystal clear.  He used the hook and released the scallop shell from the site of its demise, but a fated demise for its body would serve as armor for this boy and the world it’s in.
He approached the intermeshing barricade, with the scallop shell held in front of his vulnerable torso, the viper scales shining on his shoulders and limbs, and the conch strapped around his face like a hounds helm; his hands were still vulnerable though, and there were spots not covered by the viper scale, but those spots were padded with extra sea weed.  He lifted his hook to start slashing at the barricade but it began unfurling in the same manner of two tendrilled coral snakes releasing eachother from an interlocking kiss, the more they pulled back the wider they opened and louder they hissed, venom dangled out their fangs, but was actually the illusion of the anemone.  
A long arcade of ornate fluted columns opened up before him  with the live pulsing contour of a dragons throat.   On the slightly unstill columns,  were torches made of the same deadly anemone material, waving with what looked to be red and blue neon tinted deep sea centipedes; legs and incisors opening and closing.  Sake stepped reluctantly into the long hall, and the red and blue tendrils formed overhead and behind him, imitating a bar coming down to lock the two doors to a palace gate.  He gulped.  The plants did not seem to be interested in him, other than drawing him further into the swarming palace.  He stepped at a cautious pace; his hand  still stung from the blue plant which seared him earlier.  As he walked, he looked into the recesses in between the columns—shark bones, with tendrils waving out of sockets as eye lashes-- blinking, dilating, watching the boy.  He looked to the other side: great jaw bones, long since dead, came alive with wicked waving red tongues.  There were knights also, fallen in death, the tendrils polishing their armor as they spoon fed from the remnants that once wore them; a trigger fish was splayed between two columns, bone armor with an indentation that said ‘ Clan Hoomah.”  The other side, a knight propped up—was a butterfly fish, with silver armor indented with ‘ House Of Tang.’
Chandeliers came down from the ceiling, spinning, and emblazoning blue red lozenges on his scallop shield; Sake looked at his shield, it now bared heraldry of a knight dying, and already being buried with dirt by the parents; the motto of the shield said Only Death Shall Set You Free.
The boy looked around in awful trepidation as he passed down the long hall, the light emblazoning the deathful illustration on his shield departed.
  He pulled out the barbed hook from his belt, as he reached a foyer.  The tendrils formed vases, paintings, sculptures of Spartans, Athenians, Romans, all  gesturing for mercy from their unseen slayers.  The stair case formed, and came unrolling down to the boy.  He climbed, with awkward gait.  Every footstep sizzled off the red treads, his shoe tips sizzled from contact with the blue risers.  He picked up his speed to get off the grand staircase before they burned through his shoes.  Upon reaching the top, the first sound other than deadly nestling came, “ Come my boy, ahah, come forth, let me see what a strong brave boy you are,” the sound was coming from directly ahead of him.  
On a couch of red tendril, an orange and white body laid with utmost hedonism.  Fans of blue connected to the side walls , were waving  and cooling off the boy’s addressor.   It was very warm inside, and past the couched madam, were flambeaux torches, that were burning fuel of decomposition.  
An orange clown, lightning bolted with white, laid horizontal on a waving, caressing couch.  A blue tendril came and fed her a flake, a red one wiped her mouth.  “ Oh such cute armor, conch, and viper skin, ahah, such a warrior, even better than the those Hoomah’s.    Come, my boy you must be hungry.”  The drawing room turned its walls into a kitchen, the Clowness got up, a spectacular dress of blue, a french braid of red formed under and above her, her orange nose, in human dimensions wrinkled every time she spoke suggesting snobbery.
  The palace came forth to unfurl her red carpet, as she went up to a red blue stove, with pans that were sizzling with viper bodies in them—their dead eyes bubbling in the heat provided by the plants scorching sting.  “ You must be hungry my brave warrior, that shield is heavy as your legs look, perhaps you would like some poached conch wrapped with seaweed, served on scallop shell.”  As the queen of the red blue palace trailed her flowing dress and flowing French braid, the tendrils formed her arms and picked up the plates, that were of the same variety that made up Sake’s armor, helm and shield.  Sake dropped the long hook, and dropped the shield.  He could be devoured any second, those statues in the earlier foyer, were pleading mercy from the Clowness, and so would he.
“ Are you going to kill me?” asked Sake, and he was surprised to realize that through the conch on his mouth, he could speak bravely and intelligibly in the face of death.  The Clowness laughed, “ kill you, oh poor boy, that would be rude of me,  me and you need each other.  You’re here to rescue the poor Damsel, and stop this ooohh bitter cold from coming , with all this grey, how blazay.”  
The Clowness moved with her wavering blue dress behind her to the other wall, “ The coral kingdom my boy, is what’s at stake, and we cannot let Crabaltar penetrate into the kingdom, but I say, night is falling here, my palace keeps me warm, but my palace likes the cold, and it takes all my power  to hold them back from your warmth, they turn everything bone cold in the end hahaha, you need to get to the warm Coral Kingdom, and fast, for the vipers are coming along with other cold depth creatures.  The Queen is already sick you see,” the tendrils formed to show a magnificent looking Angel fish lying in her bed, with colors turning fantastic.  “ Oh poor queen, and all this wrought after the Damsel disappears into the cold realms.  All those yellow fins, and still they cannot save her,”  the Clowness’  dress wrapped around her tight, her red tendril hair spiraled up, a microphone came forth from her servants, a chandelier came down with stinging fluorescence.
The back wall formed the posture of a red organ ironically, for the whole palace seemed like a thriving organ.  The side wall formed blue drumsticks and banged on blue drums,  the Clowness, looking miraculous and stunning from the boy’s viewpoint, took the blue microphone and said in a transatlantic singing voice: “ Well show me the way, to the next little girl, for if we don’t find that little damsel girl, I’ll tell you we must die.  Oh the viper moon , and we are losing our good old mama queen, and if that little girl has died, from the mahi mahi there will be nowhere to hide, oh show me the way to the next little boy.”  The Clowness stopped, and gathered herself up, lying on her caressing couch exhausted, her slender servants rushing out to her. Sake could see green droplets of what looked like mucus sweat coming from her face and body—be telling something world old of the young Clown.  “ You see boy, someone has to find the Damsel, or coldness will reign, and the coral will petrify, oh how all the bright fish won’t stand a chance against the vipers, they’ll be sought out and devoured. (as she said that, a tendril mimicked the act, with the red tendril being the remains).  No one wants that, and then there is the Mahi Mahi.”
“ What’s the Mahi Mahi? Asked the boy still in the same exact spot, afraid to move.
“Oh the Mahi Mahi, if the vipers and other deep sea creatures rule the night, it is the Mahi Mahi that reigns supreme during the day.  She has a barb in her heart, her lips are studded with a hundred hooks, and her ears dangle line connected to hooks scouring the floor for flesh.  She was scorned, and slithers down from  the depths, when she descends, she screams, and anything that moves, is….(a tendril drew a knife motion across the Clowness’ throat) has a worst fate than my tendrils(the tendrils formed a large cavity somewhat of a stomach with blue tendril inside imitating the scream painting).  No one can remain in place after her tormented scream ahaha.”  The tendrils formed a horrific hook studded fish swallowing down from the depths, with everything scurrying out of the way.  Then they untangled, and wiped the Clowness’ face, and powdered her nose.
“ It will be a lonely cold path my boy, you will need everything you have to make it here, the Damsel, well, it does not look good for her.”
Sake looked at the hedonic Clowness, her audacity filled him with anger, that anger devoured his fear.  This world is not different from mine, lonely, and cold.  That thought creeped from his head, and through the conch over his mouth to say in a whisper “ I will save her you witch.”  The conch over his mouth translated his naiveté into defiance, invoking a sense of symbiotic alliance with his armour, in turn invoking a sense of futile hope, that if he had known someone believed in him as his armour did, he would have walked back through those rows of neon plants, that sounded like every preacher, teacher and politician of his life speaking their own selfishness.  The neon plants were like the teachers and priests fighting over children that were throwing paper airplanes while they talked, thinking of things afar.  During the day the teacher would talk of things en masse, and at night, the priest would conduct mass; he wanted to be gone from the state of mass altogether; all had nothing to do with Sake’s internal battle, he was suffering, and alone--abandoned.  That is when the grey skies of mass came, when the teacher talked of oblivion during the day, and the teacher of “hell” at night.  The two colors of this world thought Sake.  But the color he had seen on the Tang and Hoomah, were different he thought.
They were one of the same for Sake,  cold neon blue and cold neon red, and they both fought eachother, as they do most likely at home.   The Clowness had built her palace with an entrapping mockery of color, of vehemence  and callousness.  It was true, the red and blue ferns were of a different spectrum, and had a different purpose than the tropical ones.
“So, what are we going to do with our warrior, “  a hall formed on the far end of the drawing room, with descending stairs, “ we need to help you get to the Coral Kingdom, oh that poor Queen, missing her Damsel, oh boo hoo.” Her couch wiped her eyes. “ Go, my boy, get to the Coral kingdom, tell her that the Clowness offers her premises if the cold disrupts her kingdom, and beware the Mahi Mahi.”  A blue tendril picked up his scallop shield and gave it to him, as he was being moved away from the lounging Clowness on descending escalator.  Sake looked back, her French braid swirled upward, and a red tendril dangled a sizzling viper in her mouth.” Better Hurry Buddy boy.”  He looked forward in breathing a sigh of relief to be leaving her domicile.  A door unbarred and he was out of the palace of the Clowness.

Chapter 4 Land Of the Egg Eaters
" ...and you shall slither on your belly, and eat dust"

The ground graduated into capsules of red and blue interspersed with upright anfractuous plants that have been stunted from growing to maturity—almost strangled to a gnarled state; Sake owned the only luster of the plain—with chain scale he wore as a doublet.  He thought about dropping the scallop shield, it was tiring his arm, but a gigantic shadow slithered over the land in the distance—the size of cloud, and there were no clouds above in the depths, only impenetrable grey light.  It was cold, and getting colder.  The brightness to his rear—that was the Clowness’ domain-- was slowly receding with every distorting wave that blew across the plain.
Something rippled across the ground to his front, then off to his side.  He pulled his hook out, and raised his shield, and walked on with clumsy gait.  Another ripple.   He turned, but saw nothing.  He turned back around, and dangling out of from the ground in front of him was a blue and white striped snake, with blue eyes that had the flicker shape of a candle—hypnotic  blue pupil silhouettes that opened up and swallowed  a small remaining portion of itself, then waved and and laid down—snake eyes of a continuous liquid motion staring into the shocked green ovals of the boy.
“ And who is this?” the serpents voice was sedated, its snub jaw barely moving, but revealing small rows of fangs.  Sake held his shield between the approaching snake and him.
“ I am passing through, to the, to the Coral Kingdom, so get out of my way,” the boy’s voice quaked and in turn was rectified by the conch and its ages old veteran calcium, “ Out of my way” said the boy’s facemask, but his eyes betold of hesitation, which a snake always capitalizes on.
“ Oh you are, are you” the snake’s voice was more haughty and drawn out.  “ You do not want to be mon ami, we do not get many visitors.”  Sake squinted  and looked around him when the lethargic snake said ‘we.’  “  My name is Caviar, what is yours?” the snake twisted itself up putting its small head on level with with the boys.
“ My name is, is Sake, I have to go,” Sake could see a vaporous blue breath coiling in and out of the snake’s mouth.    He turned and went to sidestep the solicitous snake, but the reptile was to circuitous and slithered through the red and blue capsuled ground and twisted up to eye level with the boy, mesmerizing Sake until he shook his head and turned around with his shield over his back, to head back to the domain of the Clowness.  The ground rippled before him and up sprung a red and white snake.
“ Who do we have here Caviar?”
“ It is a new friend, introduce yourself Caliente.”  The boy was turning clumsily in both directions with his shield to face the two threats at once. The latest arrival, was not sedated, talked fast, and twisted its body like a barbershop sign causing the boy’s eyes to cross.  “ Please stay amigo” said the red striped snake—vapors were protruding from its nose holes forming large fangs, then retracted by dissipating; his pupils could have been the psychedelic looking hyacinth seeds if not for lacking the third dimension-- kidney shaped and white, bespattered with all shape of capillary red.  The snake came up to eye level of the boy and widened his lids revealing his blood shot hyacinth eyes.  The red smears seemed to come forth out of its elliptical white dimensions: intertwining…climbing, kissing…then knotting, tightening…strangling, swaying, and stilling.
Sake was gorgonized.  A scream came down from up in the depths and snapped him out of it, just as Caviar was slithering forward targeting a chink in the boy’s armor.  The large shadow enveloped Sake and his venomous interlocutors.  He looked back at Caviar, his eyes were neon now in the shadow—with the same liquid blue metal, but no longer the ladylike form waving goodbye and laying down, but of an even more hypnotic motion, a morphine drip of tears…drip….drop.  Sake shook his head…shut his eyes, but still saw the elliptical drip drops  reflecting on his black eyelids.  He raised his shield to the approaching Caliente—whose eyes ever brightened in the shadow,  projected a film from the iris—capillary streaks were in a fight with each other; one streak struck the other, and picked it up and carried it off…back into the two dimensional realm of Caliente’s eyes.  
The shadow flitted across the land and out of sight, the snakes hypnotic eyes lessened in intensity.  “ Come on, let us have a kiss, a kiss is all we miss,” said Caviar in his sedated tone.
“ Yes, one hiss of our kiss, will be delish,” said Caliente with smoky tendrils fuming out of his nose holes.  Sake turned sharply, and heard the “ting” off his scallop shield.  Caliente went forward to kiss the boy, but was intercepted.  " Please, leave me alone," begged the boy.  He turned again, this time it was Caviar slithering down low for a fatal kiss, Sake dropped his knee and his heavy shield downward cutting the snake in half.  Blue egg capsules squeezed out of the snake’s innards.  
“ Nooo, Caviar,” Caliente’s hyacinth pupils were now arcing, binging with lunacy.  The snake bent its body sharply and thrusted, pushing the shield and the boy backward.  It recoiled for another strike almost like a fencer,  Sake’s arms were tiring—the snake formed a ninety degree angle then sprung, tapping off the shield, it recovered and thrusted again, and again—Sake was grunting every time he lifted the shield, and he was losing sight of the red and white snake because his shield was steaming from the coral snakes kisses.  “ One kiss is on your list, oh don’t worry it will be so delish,” taunted the snake’s voice, the boy could not locate its source.  Sake took a step back and sunk up to his knee, he had stepped inside an upside down conch.  He heard movement to his right and posted his shield up and in turn heard the “ting” sound emitted off his shield.  Ting…ting Ting…the snake was inexhaustible.  The boy’s  leg was beyond his shield, and his other leg was  inside the conch; he felt the small but devastating bite on his leg,  gashing the snake across its face with his hook, he stunned the snake momentarily.
“ Nooo, “ the boy said, knowing the snake possessed some kind of venom.  He brought the wounded leg back under his body inside the conch, took a step backwards, and as if descending a staircase, lowered into the conch, then stumbled inside its winding staircase. The shield falling over the entrance sealing it shut.
He fell onto the first landing, and then tumbled in a slinky motion finally stopping on hard-smooth-level ground.  Grabbing the the hound conch  guard from his mouth and tearing it off, he fell to his knees and breathed in deeply.  There was a long dark corridor ahead of him, faintly visible due to the pink color of the giant underground conch tunnel.  Boom….boom boom…his heart thudded.  
Putting one hand on the floor, putting himself in a three point stance, he lifted himself to his feet and trudged forward.  The corridor curved subtly—taking the bend, the ambiance changed drastically and took on the form of the lower levels of an aquarium, pink light reflecting down the dark walls that were equipped with large ports.  Lumbering with the disregard that someone with high fever has, he came up to the first port, it was painting, a living painting that drew him forth.
It was a coral palace, an electric lighted playground almost, neon green palm’s waving tendrils that formed an arcade leading up to a throne where a most striking and beautiful queen sat—she was adorned with every color of the rainbow, and had a crystallizing white traces growing over her face that wore a veil of royal purple.  At her feet, mid bow, were two warriors in shining  and bone armor, the Tang and the Hoomah.  
The boy was entranced with the moving painting, and went to walk into it.  As his nose was a hair away, he saw what made the painting move, little hermit crabs—some with scarlet legs and some with blue legs--  busy scurrying around tracing the magnificent colors, their shells glowing to the color they were painting; their hooked claws like assembly line lasers emblazoning the pink creamy white walls of the conch.  “ So beautiful,” said Sake in his delirium, then rolled along the wall to the next painting, it was the Damsel as the center of attention in a ballroom, suitors and handmaids in the motion of the minuet around her.  Her purple corset shined brilliantly, her elliptical eyes modestly aimed down as if she was mid dance, the Hoomah was in the background, body still, with eyes fixed wondrously on the Damsel.  The Tang was beside him, looking with considerably  more affection at the Damsel; but there was a large brooding golden knight in the background—the only one adorning the vain color of gold, the color which with all its ostentatious and glare was considered a cheap imitator by the lush neon and pastel colors around him, and the void above in the depths at the golden knights shoulders in the open air court hall seemed to distinguish the golden glare to a rusty imperceptibility;     the rest of the knights were in a form of silver, bone or steel.
  Sake went to walk into the picture, but stopped upon seeing the hermit crabs busy rendering another mirage paintings.  Hand over hand along the wall, he came upon the next painting.  It shined with the colors of Caliente and Caviar’s eyes.  It was the Clowness, on a lush red anemone, with blue tendril chandeliers over her, there was a parrot fish perched beside her attending.  Sake backed away from the painting, the Clowness’s stare was that of aspiration, and a colder grimmace than Caviar’s.  The painting started its transition with lava lamp fluidity; showing the Clowness surrounded by little clown babies, and with machine motion, the painting depicted the little clowns being gobbled up by their mother.  Sake tucked his chin into his neck, “ Mmmblurf,” he mumbled, which was surely an expletive starting with “ What the...”
The next painting was dark, barely perceptible, a nocturne of perhaps a barge on a dark stormy ocean.  No, it was a bed in a room.   A boy was being painted on the bed, with his eyes looking forward unblinking at something bright in the corner; the hermit crabs painted his forehead glowing hot, and there was a blue capsule on the bed stand, that looked like medicine.  The painting started glowing red hot, and blinding.  Sake covered his eyes, only to notice he was losing his vision—as if staring into a solar eclipse.  He fell to his knees, and listened to the peaceful inner humming of the conch, he could just lie down and not worry anymore but as he was descending down, on the inside of his eyelids something was being painted, it was purple and beautiful.  Dancing in the wind, it was the Damsel, and she gestured for him to get up and go get the antidote—so he got to his feet, and followed the walls of the conch back to the winding stairwell he fell down, where the inner humming of the conch mixed with the thudding of his heartbeat, along with the tinging sound  that was Caliente striking the scallop shield in his red hot fury.  Now Sake would have to face the snake blind, to obtain the capsule outside on the ground that was shown to him in the artwork.
  All form of expression fell from the boy’s face, he sat stoically, wiped the sweat droplets from his forehead-- put back on his hound conch mask, strapped it snug and climbed up the stairs to the tapping shield.
Thud…tap….thud(of his heart)…tap(of the shield).  He listened, gaging the pattern of the enraged snake.  Putting his feet on the shield and his back against the inside wall, he readied himself.  Tap…tap…tap, tap… all he could see was the snakes pupils now in his blindness, the hyacinth seeds, the red lines strangling and slapping each other, one always overtaking the other. Tap….he straightened his legs with all his might, sending the shield upward.  The decibel of the snakes jaw hitting off the shield was attuned by the boy’s ear.  He scrambled out, feeling the ground, holding capsules to his eyes, almost pressing them to his eyes.  “Dam, only red” he said after making out the aura of the capsule.  Rustling came from behind him, Caliente was over his stunning, Sake had to turn and ready his shield, he could not gauge where the lethal snake was, he swiped the air with his hook to get his stalker to betray his location.
“ A miss, but I won’t miss with my kiss…another miss, can’t find the source of hiss,” laughed the snake toying with the vulnerable prey.  “ A kiss is on your list.”
The snake lunged but the boy reacted in the microsecond stopping the strike, Sake backed up against a stunted tree.  There was  capsule dangling from one of its branches above his head, and the boy saw that it was blue.  Instinct kicked in quick for the boy, he swiped at the capsule hanging, and hooked it in, retreating behind the tree, he squeezed it over his mouth and swallowed the juice.  “ A kiss is all I wish,” came the snake around the tree.  Sake wobbled backward, and readied his shield in the wrong direction—baiting the snake to strike while watching the now visible red and white snake unblinkingly feigning being blind.  Caliente lunged at his exposed neck line, where the boy was expecting him, the hook came upward through jaw ,tongue and brain.  Sake used the tree to help remove the lifeless snake from his barb.
“ Ya, You can kiss my butt snake,” said the conch over the boy’s mouth, which was almost near to the boys own words….surprising Sake as he stowed his hook in his belt to free his hand to rub his eyes.  Everything was tinted blue.  A cold breeze stirred through all the gnarled trees.  The grey horizon was darkening.  The capsuled wasteland was awakening from its lethargy in a red and blue glow, like lava meandering over cindering blue coal.  He looked down at his hooked sword, it was steaming with red fluid at its tip.  A lacerating scream came from the darkening depths.  Sake sliced some thin switches from the tree, and picked up some red capsules and strapped them to his belt, then retreated to the conch entrance and sat down.  It was if that loud tormented cry was tolling for the oncoming night, Sake knew it was the Mahi Mahi, but was not particularly worried about it, for at the moment the stars were descending from the depths as the ground lit up, and things could be heard scrambling for hiding spaces.  The blue tint lessened to a smaller degree, or so he thought.  Taking refuge back in the underground conch he pulled the shield three quarters over the entrance, watching the lights descend like coins falling to the bottom of the sea.  Two lights sped for each other, sparks ignited.  More broke their descending methodic speed and darted for prey on the lit floor.  He made eye contact with a psycho razor grin, then pulled the shield all the way over the entrance.

Chapter 5 Night Of The Viper
" I had a dream, which was not all a dream, the sun was extinguish'd and the stars."--Darkness, Lord Byron.

His footsteps rang into the hollow curving chamber of the conch, he turned the bend to find that the previous paintings on the left were now gone.  The interior walls of the conch were blue now and not pink.  He doffed his conch from his face, and walked in a brusque manner to the first painting.  
The hermit crabs were arcing with blue lightning diagonally from each other, assembling a blue hour glass, that then turned sideways forming the Damsel’s elliptical eyes.  Tremendous sadness and shame assailed the boy’s heart.  He walked on to the next painting.
It was Crabaltar, with its entire dark crevice, the hermit crabs were hot pink as they were working slowly to lazer  the jumble of rocks in the same  nominal speed of a photocopier.  Next to the pink lines was infinitesimal darkness, and the real picture came into the boy’s view.  The shadows formed the Crab in the interstice of the Stonehenge-like rock jumble--with its scythes upward, with the Damsel in his claws, she was dripping hot pink.  He moved on quickly from that painting.
Adjacent, was a painting almost bordered itself by reflective blue waves, Sake could not make out where the conch ended and the painting started.  The hermits left the canvas blank, until its viewer stepped fully in front of it.  There were many painters assigned to this piece, and it would be massive.  Twilight lines started the head and forehead: Siberian white stripes,  ranks and ranks of clashing silver scale, nebulas of red dots.  As the massive beast was being filled in, studs and studs of hooks came into perception, dangling from the massive lips.  Trident anchors of barb hung from the gills, diamond line strangled around its throat. A giant spear or harpoon protruded from its chest. The artwork enlivened, startling Sake backward, it swam the depths, with a tortured look on its face.  It grew and grew, taking up the entire tunnel, then it screamed revealing trident hooks on its tongue and tonsils.  
Covering his ears, “ arrrrrrrrrr” he screamed, which was only a whisper under the shriek of the Mahi  Mahi on the conch wall. He tried to retreat away from the growing monster, running around the bend to the unexplored corridor, the beast followed in length and torturous echo. Tear drops were landing on his shoes, he fell forward in front of a painting that was just before a rising spiral-staircase at the end of the conch.  The sound and sight of the Mahi Mahi vanished as Sake kneeled, crying, before another painting, denoted by the flurescent arcing, suggesting it was warming up--
The hermit's painting assembled the image with the reticulate pattern of the human iris.  But it became apparent that it was coral, a giant massive brain coral, with a frontal lobe of bright green, right of red, and left of blue, underneath was purple. It was an oracle of some sort, a ‘Coracle.’  The purple was flaring more than other parts and was leaking into the grey matter grooves and spilling out of its section.  Three figures came into view at the base, the forward one was a boy, in armor, scallop shield and straight sword; to his rear was the Tang in a shiny cuirass with a dorsal sabre and pectoral dagger; next to him, the block body of the Hoomah, in his mouth like a toothpick  was a barbed hook-- the war paint of yellow and pink dripping from his right eye, his lids were wide open and he is staring intensely at the interaction of the boy and the coral.  
Battle erupted on the painting, showing only the Hoomah and Tang back to back.  The big body of the Hoomah spit bolts and barb at assailers of pscyho grin as they screamed with sadistic seizure from the impalement they recieved.  The glowing skull lure of a thousand vipers were surrounding them from the darkness.  It was as if the two knights commanded the spotlight on a dark stage with the audience grinding their teeth of flint.
    As the vipers lunged forward, the two fish moved too quickly to be perceived correctly, the Tang was a forge bedecked with silver swords fresh from the flames;  and the Hoomah:  who’s bone armored body resembling the shape of a cross bow with the sight rising just under his large mouth screamed baritone at the demonic hoard with a powerfull  war cry shockwave that bought his armor  time to load the next bolt.
  The attackers were limitless, and occasioned with bigger deep sea creatures; spinal cords connected to bear trap brown scale heads, their jaws wide and ready, as their tongues slithered in front as their form of lure for their prey: they were the Gulpers.
   Sake stepped away from the painting, it was so intimidating, and immediatly felt cowardice at not being brave enough to want to help the suicidal duo in their last stand.  He clenched his fist, inspired, commanded by the travesty of the besieged.  
The Tang became maimed first, a gulper bit out a chunk of his tail fin in its fast jaw spring lethality.  The Hoomah blew air from its powerful mouth blowing the assailers off the Tang then rammed a gulper with a barb sticking out of his lips, like a prow of a trireme at ramming speed.  But a viper took advantage of the Hoomah’s distraction and bit between his bone armor.  Bright yellow lids widened at impending death.   The vast glowing lures from the approaching darkness that surrounded the spotlighted arena formed the outline of the Crab, in the interstices of the viper skull lures.  The two tropical warriors could not be seen anymore, only wagging tail fins of the voracious vipers, as the glowing lures became inordinate, as the stars in the black expanse.  I rather die with them, then be enchanted by the viper like everybody else—thought but did not speak Sake, for fear that the painting's depicture would be given materialistic merit by his words, making it an actuality, rendering him alone.  Then the thought of the tendrils from the Clowness’ palace wearing the two fallen knights armor came to mind, infuriating him.  The depravity and onslaught of it all.  
The painting reverted back to the Coracle, but no one was standing at its forefront anymore; purple was spilling out from the coral and engulfing the entire canvas until all was of one color; in turn the whole tunnel glowed with the royal color, then in one blink the tunnel was empty except for blue waves of light interspersing the walls. The tunnel was quiet.  Sake continued looking at the spot where the artwork was, something about it, something fated about that depicture that told him he must re-unite with both knights before it is too late.
He climbed the stairs past the point where the last painting was, and found a cat hole to look out of at the top.  The glowing bait of the prowling vipers dashed and cruised the black expanse.  Struggles could be heard at intervals, but otherwise it was tranquil.  Sake sat on the step, and was resting his back against the wall, when he heard his name being called from the darkness.  He looked to first see a flowing dress, ghastly white, then a frail arm, “ Saaaaake” the voice was childlike, or was a child-like predator.  The flowing dress and the frail hand moved over the loophole, Sake saw what it was.  The skinny arm was a tentacle belonging to the translucent dress of a jelly.  The head came into view, and Sake whacked his head against the back wall; the jellyfish had a globular head, that en-sphered a dissolving viper head; the psycho grin and black eyes of the viper became the jelly’s face.  “ Disgusting,” whispered Sake, trying to be barely audible to this dark world.  He moved four steps down, and rested, until he fell asleep.
His dreams were loneliness, the black expanse beyond the conch poured into his mental panorama as a black cauldron pouring out black fluid.  In dream, he felt the strength of an undertow when something massive swam by him, but paying no attention to him.  He searched for a glimmer, as he was sinking, or rising… pure vertigo, pure pure vertigo in a never ending cold black universe.  Then the feeling came, as a blacker essence came forth in the abyss,  it was the crab’s scythe , and it clicked close foretelling the boy that death: is oblivion.  The boy screamed at the form, the ultimate tragedy leading to his ultimate shame, he screamed the words “ The Coral Kingdom” the claw clicked open, only to close again; he couldn’t believe it, all were subject to the cannibalistic realm of the crab, the realm of ‘ In the eye, out the mouth’ , he screamed for light, and there came forth a glimmer, a sparkle, a glimpse of hope.  It fluttered to him, and a halo of light illumined from a beacon,  it was the glowing skull lure that was arched from a vipers forehead, it was squirming into his black panorama to devour his hope, it writhed and gnashed, Sake woke up.  
A viper was writhing through the cat hole, it was breaking its own teeth to get inside in a metallic frenzy.  Sake stepped to the intruder, and drove the barb through its brain.  The view to the darkness was now blocked by the dead viper.  He was almost glad it had waked him from that dream.
Before he sat down, he saw a cleft in the shape of a oak leaf in the conch’s wall, and immediately thought of a sword, looking down at his hook his brain was moved by the thought he could straigten out the hooked weapon he held in his hand.  Arising, he stuck the hook in it with an upright position; the barb fit inside as a key into a tumbler; Sake then bent it straight, leaning every ounce of meat and bone on his body.  
The dream maddened him still, and the sound outside the conch, had the sound from inside his dream.  He lopped off the viper’s head and carved the vipers ribs, making a cup hilt for his handle.  He had to pry the ribs out, for they were metallic, and the sound was that of claws scraping down a chalkboard.  Sake had a scowl on his face as he worked, but he was still aware of his fear of the vipers carcass coming alive like a mesh mower and dicing his arms off.  He finished the work and quickly wiped the sinewy white guts on his coral snake blue greaves--not wanting any part of the disgusting predator's flesh on him.  " Eeeck, "he sneered, without his conch on.
A painting came alive on the wall, it was a blue-red lazer outline of a sword, almost like a mold.  Two hermits were spaced apart with their claws facing out, almost beckoning Sake to put his sword on their hooks.  
He went up to the wall as if he was summoned and placed the sword onto the hook like projection of the red and blue hermits within the lazer sword outline  More hermits came,  the mold outline exploded with spectrometry of a diamond flooded with electrons;  the hermits fashioned the hilt to the shaft with green laser precision first, grooving the handle and making a pommel.  Red lasers gave the forte, shell cutting sharpness by smoothing out the barb. ‘ Sake’ was laser etched into the debil of the blade forming a blood groove;  the lights ceased.   Sake picked up his modified rapier that was still hot and returned to the step to sleep, thinking all the while, that if he ends up in that dream of tragic darkness again, he will have his sword to sink or see with.
The night was over, and the shell was back to its creamy pink color due to the bright rays of light coming in from their unknown starting point, and refracting down the shell tunnel. He put his hound conch back over his face and picked up his custom rapier, and with a slow and achy gate made his way back to his shield at the entrance to the underground layer.  Using his rapier to hold up the shield, and thus provoke any enemies, he made his way back to the land of stunted growth .  There was already movement under the surface, and what he thought a large tree, was a strangled sapling seething with more bi-color coral snakes.  He looked back to the direction of the Clowness’ domain, and pondered going back, “ I would not stand a chance getting by there…then there is Crabaltar,” he felt cowardly, due to his pragmatic conclusion that he wouldn’t stand a chance alone in either domain.  The Damsel would have to hold on.
It was much colder, and that fact was hindering the snakes, they huddled together to keep warm.  There was barely any capsuled fruit around, “They must have gobbled up em all, to not feel the cold, or feel  warm, dumb snakes” thought Sake.  He proceeded in the direction of the Coral Kingdom, his balance much better, but now weighed down by a heavy sword.  Caviar’s body was still strewn on the ground, Sake stopped to use his tough hide to reinforce his shoes, and making blue greaves and boot gaiters.  He approached Caliente’s body at the base of the swarming tree, the snakes reared their heads, and put their pupils in unison, making a blue red motion picture of Sake getting devoured.  Sake looked away, and using his rapier, fetched the body and fell back.  The snakes were helpless from their cold lethargy.  Strapping muscle shells to his knees with the red snake hide and diamond line,  Sake did not worry about the coral snake's  little teeth anymore.  The armor, felt personified to Sake, maybe because at one point it was alive, and thus he felt better for putting the coral snake hide at his feet, and the calcium conch knuckle on his mouth.  It fortified him against the loneliness of the landscape; from the depths above, the grey impenetrable light behind, and the faint infra-red and ultraviolet stars growing from the horizon in the direction of his travel: which did not possess the deceiving color of the anemone’s spectrum but something by the light of a liberating x-ray.

Chapter 6 The Hunting Mire
"Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
                                For Thine is the Kingdom..."--T.S Elliot


Trudging along, the landscape molted its previous colors.  Even more depressing than the land of chimes—was this land of sockets, cesspools, and seaweed.  The boy’s leg disappeared into the mire up to his knee, he ripped it out using his shield as leverage.  He  used his shield as a boat over the rotting ground with his long rapier as an oar; a journey worse than Virgil and Dante in hells river choked with drowning moan.  The gaping wounds from the oar would send up fuming gas that would send him slipping off his shield into the muck.   Sake looked behind him, to his horror, was vast muckiness, it had crept behind him in a high tide stalk, furthering him in the muck more so than he had thought.  A sense of return was out of question.
Sake suddenly felt like he fell inside the dank deep disgustingness of an outside toilet.  Or swimming in the dissolving enzymes of his own liver, in brown excruciating bile.  Almost too much for the boy, his nose and mouth burned, he suddenly needed someone, anyone….he was too young for a landscape that betold : in the eye and out the mouth.
  He struck his sword for another laborious row on top his scallop shield to keep his body moving in the burping land.  The muck made a noise, a  moan.    Sake readied his weapon, but the glimmer of silver came up from the dankness, it was a knight, the Dragon Goby, that wore a silver masquerade mask that connected to a large silver bladed serrated horn that emitted from his forehead just over the knight’s nose..  The rest of his body was submerged, but one could tell from the countenance of the unfortunate knight, and the languid fluttering of his lower jaw, that he was in pain, and mortally wounded.
“Where are you wounded, let me get you on my shield, I am a friend of yours knight,” said the boy, in self-deceiving hope that he would not be alone.
“ I…I have…failed…Damsel…the prawn…go before…” Sake began trying to dig out the stricken knight, only to find big clawed, slender crustaceans devouring his lower body.  They were prawn, and they were voracious.  A claw stuck through the eye behind the silver masquerade mask,pulling the unfortunate knights eye inside the socket.   Sake fell backward in horror and splashed in the muck.  They came for his exposed eyes, one prawn almost speared his oval right through the epicenter before Sake caught it with his hand and flung it.  Flopping his belly on his shield, the prawn scurried up his back, they snipped at his snake hide, but it proved as durable as his viper chainmail.  As quick as he flung one from his face, another would scurry onto him for his eyes.  Another wound in the muck opened and a stream of prawn came out, covering Sake and weighing down his shield.
“Ahhhh, “ he screamed in utter desperation, his scream was not tempered by the conch, for the conch knew the gravity of the situation,  as a prawn snipped the diamond line holding the white knuckle conch felling it as another prawn crawled in his mouth and cut off his scream.  He flung it with lightning reflex as he was being weighed down into the fowl undersurface.  Reaching for his rapier,” no use” he thought, as he let go of the hilt.  It would have just opened another wound for prawn to come out if he pulled it out and he could not even wield its weight in the strength sapping muck.
  “ The red capsule” whispered a voice in his mind. Flinging prawn off his belt, he uncovered the red capsule, and as his vision was being blotting by the pincers of the prawn, he held the capsule over his head with his eyes closed.  The smacking’s and sucking’s of the prawn were in his ear.  A prawn snipped his ear on the lower lope making a bi-lobe, Sake grunted in pain, but the prawn’s claw was so sharp as to be almost done by a professional surgeon with a scalpel cutting the cartilage in half.  His fist clenched, breaking the hyacinth streaked capsule over his head; it was as if Caliente’s eyes leaked their capillary blood shots from the capsule, wrapping round the prawn like snakes, boiling their shells instantly, turning the prawn from maroon to bright boiled arterial red.   The surviving prawn scampered off, perhaps the coral snakes were predators of prawn,  and the fumes of the capsule were more than enough for them, the opposite smell of the methane decay they cherish.  
He caught his breath, caught his rapier, and steadied his shield  Barely alive with his ear dripping blood on his shoulder, and the hyacinthe lines of the capsule squirming off to find prawn or fade away.  He looked back down at the poor knight, and grabbed his silver masque,  and detached the blade and slipped it off the knights horned forehead.  The blade was hollow as to fit over the Dragon Golby knights horn making a sharp horn even  deadlier.   He used it as a scabbard to sheath his rapier diagonally across his back, affording extra armor, and tied the silver zorro type mask along with the snipped off conch on his mouth and nose-- effecting a total face mask with visor; for he almost lost an eye to those things and was still squinting from the encounter, but now he looked out through a horizontal slit with the visor in the flipped down position.  The conch clenched white knuckle hot again, and burned off all the savage muck.  The conch steadied the boy, who was still not in possession of his mind and body, after that close encounter.  Sake was shaking his head, as his right eye shed a tear, and his left ear shed a droplet of blood.  “ I’m not going to make it out of here,  and there is nowhere to make it to, “ said Sake, despondent, for the horizon of ethereal glow was out of sight, blocked by distorted rising gas of methane or the vile fountains of prawn nest—which resembled pagan sacrificial altars, with the top most part a dark offering plate….they were empty at the moment.
  He rowed on with without his prior coordination, he so wanted to be gone from this foul land.  Upon looking around he spied many yellow fins poking up out of the muck.  An unnerving thought came to him, “ how did they fall into mire if they can hover above it?”  Then the scream came down from the depths, and the green brown abscess that was the quicksand seaweed mud frenzied itself in burping bubbles.  There was nowhere to hide or run.  Sake said “ oh no” but his conch said “ready yourself.”
The massive shadow slowly stalked over the cess; the black shadow lacing the land in slithering darkness.  Sake flipped down his new visor over his conch and scanned the greyness.  He felt so cluttered and hindered from the muck on him, and the wobbling shield he was on that would not stay still due to his nervous legs.  “All the knights must have been sitting ducks” thought Sake, he raised his rapier in a futile taunt to the depths above him.  The shadow and scream told him that his sword would be esteemed as straw by the behemoth.  He plunged his rapier into the mire to see if he can make any sort of a getaway, but the dank land and the Mahi Mahi were in symbiotic cahoots—he could not row anywhere.
The scream tore through the land, splitting the muck into divided wake, foretelling the boy which way it was coming, as he covered his ears.  “ Nooo, please God,” he muttered in futility as he saw the mouth wider than he saw in the hermits painting, he could not jump out of the way, the hook studded mouth spanned two to three of his jumps on solid ground.  He saw the trident hook on the ghastly tongue wiggling in anticipation of bathing in minced boy.
The gape was becoming larger and larger, until Sake smelled the stank breath, and thrusted his rapier onto his shield and pole vaulted with all his upper body strength out of the swooping  beast’s jaws.  His head banged off the side of the cold lip of the beast.  He splatted into the muck, as the beast’s  velocity and slip stream caused the mire to churn sending the boy struggling to keep his head above it.  A prawn went onto his face, braving the red capsule, but Sake’s helm proved sufficient.  He churned and slapped maniacally.  The large shadow was returning,  the scream split the muck, Sake ducked into the disgusting cesspool as the massive undertow went by him overhead sucking him sideways under the surface.  He could hear the Prawn sucking their lips, in  momentous unison, and snipping at his cordage to rend his flesh.  He had to get out of there, he surfaced his head, breaking into air with a sucking sound, he saw a diamond line trailing the massive body, a trident hook on the end.
The rapier was an arm’s length away, he reached for it, skimming his fingers off it.  The giant shadow turned round, Sake finally grasped the rapier and used the handle to pull his shield to him.  He climbed atop, hooked his feet into the handle, held his sword backwards, “ Alright Mahi Mahi, COME ON, COME GET ME “ yelled the boy in a voice rectified by the veteran calcium of the conch.  The gaping mouth came after the scream, he quickly regretted his taunt, “ On second thought maybe we can be friends” said Sakes mind,  but Sake held his place, almost like a sacrificial boy on the plate of the behemoth who esteemeth his bones as straw.   The trident pierced tongue was almost on his conch helm.  The last possible second Sake flattened himself, and felt the prickling’s of the Prawn as he raised his rapier above the muck with all his strength, and the diamond line streamed by , Sake caught the trailing trident hook with the hilt of his rapier and was violently spun up and around, skiing on top off the muck, then the shield lifted up onto into the air.  He was waterskiing behind a battleship, the wake of which was enormous.  Sake’s stomach dropped as the great beast ascended, he could see a great harpoon in the chest of the Mahi Mahi, and past that sight post was a glowing kingdom, as the beast was starting its turn, Sake released his rapier from the trident and he coasted at missile speed in the direction of the glowing city.  But the shield he was using as a wake board spun around, so he was flying backwards, looking at the massive seamless pivots of the Mahi Mahi cruising the lonely depths, with eyes fixed downward, bestudded and bejewled with swaying chain and hook, resembling chimes of a lonely graveyard. A beast eager to pass the pain to someone else, and replicate itself.
Sake tried to spin around, but to no avail, he awaited his toboggan to smack into an implacable object at any moment.  
Chapter 7 The Coral Kingdom  
" every tear shall be wiped from the eye forever"

Skidding and sliding, Sake came to a violent stop; but not a life threatening abrupt stop. A Jetstream of unknown properties slowed his descent.  Then the land slowed him down, one tumble, one scratch, and one “ahh” at a time.  Unlike in the other lands, there was swaying warm growth here.  He had smashed his hound conch mask off glimmering lime green coral, it slid off his face like a jigsaw puzzle.  The shield skimmed over the ground until it smacked into a pile of yellow coral cracking in half.   He flipped up the silver visor, and gurgled an expletive--he would not be able to speak.  As he was feeling his head, he heard scurrying behind him, he drew his sword while he was still sitting and unsheathed it then accidentally let go of it and it sailed from his hands.  He was discombobulated to say the least.
“ What is that…is it plankton…no it’s a sea slug.”  Sake was looking at a gang of peppermint colored shrimp musing over what he was.  “ No it’s definitely a sea cucumber,” said one confident shrimp who came forward and gave a little nibble on Sake’s foot, then started spitting . “ Uggg, no it’s definitely a sea slug.”  The motley gang moved on away from distasteful boy, lumbering over pizza anemones, and non-stinging purple carpet anemones humming a song that Sake could not discern.  
The shadow at his feet was unfamiliar, but it was his—he turned his head to see where the powerful source was that was casting shadows askew from the festive plants and crustaceans.  His eyes followed a pebbly road busy with traffic: shrimp, starfish, algae, butterfly fish all scrambled down the highway toward a palisaded coral palace, that had a white marble coral grand staircase that tiered down three levels surrounded by columns spiraling with pink green phosphorescence.  Sake looked down the road at the incoming traffic—bleak greyness with something lurking in it, was causing an exodus.
He joined the traffic, ducking out of the way of algae and fingerlings soaring by.  The coral off to the side of the road was cindering like hot coals fighting to stay alive, of all color—blue, green,pink, yellow—pulsing was a better word .  “The cold, “Sake thought, “it’s from the cold.”  Something caught his eye out to the side of the road; it was coral in the shape of Trojan soldier, with only one arm,the other had broken off long ago,  and it  was holding a spear that had green algae swaying from its tip and from the helm running the long way down the helmet like a plume was bright green seaweed.
  It did not pulse, but stayed its grooved gangrene color with the T opening of the Trojan coral helmet staring down the grey bleakness—implacable..  The redoubtable man size coral was more impressive up close, “ An Atlantean knight” Sake gurgled.  Only the helmet had joint lines, thus being able to detach; Sake doffed his silver visor, and reaching up for the ancient green coral helmet, grasped it and donned it over his head.  “ I like,” the boys words were sharp and distinct as a Lacedaemon bronze sword.
He had to make his way across the highway still, and waited for an opening, and stepped onto the road.  He was immediately spun around by a turtle, “ Hey watch it buddy” the turtle jeered.  Then a jelly fish splatted onto his face and a sea horse hooked into his lips giving him a fish hook. “ Get out of the way,” they all said in some form or fashion.  A blue bottle jelly smashed off his helmet breaking to pieces. “ Well the helmet works,” he mused as he stumbled and spun, as he made it to the far side of the road that was flowing with Bostonian-like commuters.
Leaving the fleeing passerby’s, Sake stood at the base of the grand marble coral staircase that was blushing with pink blotches;  it looked more precious then Aventine marble; the fluted columns were electric eels sizzling as they spiraled up and around thin coral poles, dazzling bluish black electric devotion and loyalty.  The bespattered boy, in snake hide boots, climbed the stairs.
At the first landing, he looked back, the landscape tableau was spectacular, abuzz with life, warmth—the radiation was captivating; there seemed to be a pattern to the sway of the plants, or a gravitational pull and push from the bright bodies, inducing all color of voltage into their surroundings and even up into the depths as spotlights.  But, something ephemeral was invoked into Sake, as if the Kingdom wasn’t going to be there much longer, “ So pretty” he whispered, so the Trojan helmet would not hear his effeminate words.  He looked aft beyond the road, he now saw what was lurking in the grey bleakness, causing the exodus, it was Crabaltar.  He hastened his speed, to get to the top of the grand staircase.  His eyes came on level with a  foyer, smooth as ocean glass, that absorbed every spectrum from  the kingdom below and before it.
The court silenced, as the boy stepped forward—his viper boots sounding off the aventine coral floor, smoother than ocean glass.  The throne to his twelve o’clock was empty, there was a dozen bodies standing before it with serious looks on their faces, one was the Tang.  “ This area is off limits to cucumbers, the rules haven’t changed in the wake of these events,” the Tang said squinting, surveying the boy with suspicion due to his armor and the full palette of bespattering it had.  There was a parrot fish in the center of the gathering, Sake recognized it from the Clowness’s palace as he approached the hostile Tang.  “ Flee like the rest of the commoners, this assembly is for loyal fighters, therefore for Royalty,” barked the Tang,” knights do not migrate, so join the migration, migrant.”
Two silver blades sprung like switchblades from the Tang’s cuirass armor; Sake didn’t process the knights warning, for the Tang was still a beacon to the boy.  “ I am here to help rescue the Damsel, I am…”  before the boy could finish the Tang came at him with lightning speed, Sake turned his back, and heard the sound of metal clashing against his sheathed rapier on his back.  Le Tang recoiled and lashed Sake across the face, knocking his Trojan helm off.
The knight that was thermite hot now betwixt his silver cuirass armor-- and ready to make a point to the intruding boy, and draw it across his face in a disciplinary slash.  Sake froze, unable to speak without his helm that was clanging over the super smooth Aventine floor and clanging down the grand staircase.  
That is enough Le Tang, he comes in peace,” the stout body came forward, wearing a helm of shark jaws, the upper serrated jaw hung down over the yellow eyelids, the lower jaw under the Hoomah’s long snout; the Hoomah looked as if he was swallowed whole from the tail end by a skeletal shark, with the jaws closing above his eyes and below his snout; but in fact was a shark that was severed of life by the Hoomah, dismembered, and hewn as hand crafted bone armor  .  He was wearing a necklace of shark teeth also,  and there were long bones of rib cage fashioned to sharp deadly bolts running the length of the stout hunter’s body that served as armor and missile.
“ We do not have time do deal with cucumbers Hoomah, the Queen’s color is changing drastically, and you waste time stopping my slash…” the others present were forming a circle around Sake.  One knight, who looked like he was wearing a bandana bandito mask but in fact was only wearing its natural tropical tribal pattern of black to yellow,  puffed up like a body builder who only does upper body, then he whipped himself like  a cat o’nine tail in the air. It was a formidable knight, perhaps the strongest, for its body was now an offensive weapon, with his now stern small face on the bludgeoning surface of the mace, and his duel yellow fin served as chain.  “ Blunt, squish this intruder, we can use his oil to shine our steel,” ordered Le Tang.
“ Le Tang, he looks like an ally, he wears our colors, and smells of slayed viper, so shut your hubris, I care not of your rank nor honor,” said the Hoomah as four bone bolts projected out and over the lower shark jaw from his pectoral , ready to be loaded into the powerful mouth.  His armor had a bone-action mechanism of hand crafted simplicity, and the primordial provenance of a great hunter.
Le Tang’s pectoral and dorsal blades split open, forming a razor sharp X.  The circle backed up, the parrotfish spoke, “ The Hoomah of the lower class has insulted an aristocrat, Le Tang, proceed."

“ A costly mistake Hoomah Hoomah, the Queen is sick, the cold bleakness and vipers are coming, and the Coracle forewarned us that it is all for the Damoiselles’ sake, and I have to waste time to slay you as Saccade is overpowered by disgusting son’s of…,” Le Tang spinned in place faster than a garbage disposal.
The boy could do nothing but watch, as the Tang who was arcing with incandescence and the Hoomah, who seemed to blend in with the marble calcium color of the court due to his bone armor covering his tropical camo streaks, which was one of the hunters natural methods-- were getting ready to battle; making Sake’s stomach drop in fear and horror for it was like he finally found his brother and father and instead of jubilation--was violence and destruction.  The land flickered down below.
Ready to slay each other, the two knights alternated in anticipatory strike of one another encircled by the other knights of the court.
“ I need my helmet” thought Sake, but he heard it clang down the stairs.  The parrotfish was edging the knights on, “ Lets finish this, hurry!” he haughtily ordered.  The boys eyes squinted as he spied the look alike from the palace of the Clowness.  It had her audacity, unabashed, and most of all—trespassing.  Sake unsheathed his rapier behind his back, and held it like a javelin, his cursive name in the debil of the blade was oscillating with red current in eye like capillary lines.  He did not have his coral helm, but his rapier was made of instinct.  He launched it at the fight provoking Parrot of the Clowness.  It sailed and hit its mark, pinning the parrotfish to the sloped wall of the calcium court in steel-to-bone grip.  
A horrible scream emanated in the court, witchlike, and nasty.  The parrotfish uncoiled in red and blue tendril, revealing itself as anemone.  The knights attention was all on the screaming creature.  It spoke as it uncoiled around the rapier, “ you will all serve me, when the cold comes” and terminated in a horrible laugh.  The tendrils struck outward, the knight Blunt crushed it into the Aventine with his powerful mace body.
The rapier leaked its cursive voltage up the curving calcium walls of the court.  A picture emitted-- canvassing the entire forum, walls, palisade, and floor.  It was the Damsel, wavering, in royal purple.  The crystals on her corset body refracting the lost spectrum of light, lost to the mortal eye.  
“ It is the hermit's painting,” exasperated Blunt.  
“ It is the Damoiselle,” barely muttered Le Tang.  His fiery light--lashed between silver armor--died down, tempered by the one of two things capable thereof—lethal defeat, and the pristine innocence of a maiden.
The ceiling turned to black body light, as the moving painting now resembling the Stonehenge boulder stack of Crabalter.  That came into existence around the Damsel, until she was entombed, and then engulfed by shadow the color of oblivion.
Sake suddenly turned back, to look across the open side of the court, facing the coral kingdom down below, and to the source of the exodus—which was the brooding Crabaltar.  Walking down the first tier of the grand coral staircase Sake retrieved his helm, which fell to the position of staring down Crabaltar once again—gangrene in stark contrast to the white coral and pink blushing stairs.
He donned his helm, “ I am migrating that way, “ he yelled in, his voice rectified by the coral grooves of his helm making him sound unlike a boy.  The sound waves caused serpentine slithers of red capillary light on the stairs.  He was enraged by the thought of the Damsel being back there,  and returned to the foyer, not looking at the other knights, and went to pull his rapier out of the wall but failed pathetically.  Crying, he resolved to die trying to pull it out, the knights surrounded him in curious awe.   His hands were bleeding ,but the color of his blood was blue, as if still inside him. It dripped from the blade.  Frustrated he gave up, and yelled “ you cowards,” what are you waiting on, let’s go save her….”
“ Cucumber, desist from your stupidity, you do not need a blade, go, we will venture to the dark palace of the cannibals, we now know for sure she is there,” said Blunt Mace, as he turned to look at Le Tang who inturn collapsed his blades with a sorrow induced face.  He was there at Crabaltar, and he failed to find her.  
The knight known as Blunt Mace,  wore no armour, for that was his weapon, to entrap enemies by feigning weakness, then puffing up to the shape of a  mace-like club, with his little face staying the same size in his natural bandana mask; if Clan Hoomah were hunters, then Blunt was the trapper from ‘Club Puff” a long line of trappers, and bludgeoners, who served as the palace guards; the boy felt as if a titan was going to descend his hand to wield the ball  and mace shaped knight.  But as strong as he was, he could not pull the rapier from the wall, and Blunt Mace knew this, so he beckoned Hoomah Hoomah forward.  
Hoomah blew with his powerful lips, the boy across the foyer, who slid on his backside to the other side.  He put his lips on the hilt of the weapon and pulled it out, then spit it across the court towards the boy.  It clanged with dissonance.  “ You have much to learn Sponge,” torted the hunter.
“ I am not a sponge, or a cucumber, I am a boy, A BOY.”
The knights convened amongst themselves, ignoring the crying boy. “ We must go to Crabaltar now,” said a yellow fin, and they all morosely agreed.  For one only had to look forward past the kingdom, to see the impending coldness, and the virtual impossibility of surviving out there.  
Le Tang only looked at the exodus, as the other knights deliberated.  His color intensity was completely flat.  “ The hermits know the future,” he said not taking his glance of Crabaltar.
The boy’s helm quenched his sobs, by hollowing out the quaking voice, to a warriors blithe.  He composed himself, “ The hermits painted more, a giant Mahi Mahi, a Clowness in a giant anemone, and a giant coralcle,” he uttered to the Hoomah.
“ The Boybummer doesn’t know what he is talking about,” said Le Tang, still not moving his stare.
“ But the Boybummer is right,” said Hoomah, “ we must consult the Coralcle, for the Clowness is involved, who can command the creatures of the cold, and the Mahi Mahi patrols past the land of chimes now.”
The court ceiling erupted in rivulets of royal purple, as if the high ceiling was the bottom of a purple stone brook, unrolling curtains of purple light down the sloped scallop walls.  The calcium floor unfurled a blushing pink carpet of light in the smooth luster of marble coral.
“ That will be tough, my knight, the Coracle is past the Land of Blennie in the Goby Desert,” said the brightness, that came forth to be the Queen, held up by two servants, a dazzling snowflake was crystallizing and dissolving in the skin of her face, on her body was tropical green, twining over the field of royal purple, to blinding levels then disappearing to start all over again: a sign of the cold.
“ I have dreamed of someone coming from afar, someone that I could not see, but felt, felt his presence standing guard over me, and once the finest maiden in our court, the symbol of our purity disappeared, I prayed for you to come, and here you are.”  The servants placed the Queen Angel on the throne.
“ My Queen, you should be in your chamber resting,” said Le Tang with deep concern.
“ There is no time for that, the Damsel needs to be restored,” the Queen Angel said faintly.
Sake was in complete awe of her beauty, even more beauteous than the paintings, he thought of the Damsel when he looked into her royal purple, and saddened immensely.   He got up and  took a knee in instinctual deference, and said “ My Queen-- Le Tang, Hoomah Hoomah and I will go to the Coracle and find the answer, and stop the Clowness and her plans, I have seen it in the hermits painting,” the boy could picture himself kneeling before the queen in this lofty court, and felt supercharged with the feeling that he was being knighted.  But the Queen looked ready to swoon, and every time her color traces roared then faded, the palace flushed, and the land pulsed.  In that moment, the grey bleakness felt like it would suddenly thrust from afar right to the royal party and palace replete with voracious metallic viper, and other monstrosities from up in the depths.
“ It will be dark soon, and too dangerous. If the hermits have only painted you three at the Coralcle then only you three can go according to their depiction; the corals still have enough light to keep the vipers at bay , so we will have our traditionally fete for our guest,” she motioned for her servants to start the preparations.
“ A feast of fete for our guest, get up my warrior, your tears are cold, I know what they hold.”  The Queen Angel got up from her throne, her body entirely royal purple, she clapped and said, “ Ready the Pavillion.”  Her servants soared down to the lower landing, overlooking the lower Coral Kingdom, smoldering beyond the spiraling columns of electric eels and the crowded highway’s pastel passengers;  they took giant feathery algae in their mouths and tickled the frescoed ceiling of coral, in turn the coral high ceiling erupted in color and unfurled robes and tassles of light down the walls.
The warriors formed a circle around the Queen and Sake, who was blushing beyond his mask.  Hoomah puffed his lips and blew Sake’s helmet off; Le Tang whipped forward slashing the lines holding up his bespattered snake hide and viper mail; a servant slipped on a purple vest studded with sparkling diamonds onto Sake, the diamonds turned to prism of fantastic color.  The highway stopped moving and anxiously looked up the marble coral stair case.
“ I am not as good a dancer as the Damsel, but I can still do the minnow-ete,” said the Queen, as  the landing beneath engulfed in purple circles of light; the parapet surrounding the lighted floor undulated  in digital display of blue and red.  The vaulted coral walls reflected a human profile of ocean glass behind the queen for Sake to mimic in dancing. The entourage started swaying in unison, to an invisible breeze; a drip drop sound percussed from the palace in fast rhythm and echoed of the many vaults of the palace: one drip drop sound was converted into an orchestra by the amazing amphitheater  powers of the coral’s grooves.
The reflection told Sake to put his arm across his stomach to bow and he did so; then told him to turn the opposite direction of the Queen…bow, lift his leg, turn….move his hands.
“ Do not forget to smile my dear prince,’ said the dancing Queen with her dainty lips.  Sake smiled without showing his teeth, as usual.  The Coral Kingdom beyond, watching in adoration cheered “SMILE CUCUMBER” .  Sake showed his teeth, eliciting a “ handsome boy” from the Queen.  He felt like he was on Mount Olympus, among shimmering ambrosia, shiny goblets, the stuff he has read about in the Iliad ; for once he did not feel in the fathoms.  The Queen pulled up her slender body like folds of a dress, changing the dance, there was no reflection for Sake to follow, and he improvised.  Hoomah and Le Tang nodded in uniform sway, smiling for the first time in a while seeing their Queen vibrant and dancing as the Damsel.  The coral spotlighted the two dancers, the walls and palisade turned ivy green, with white veins forking their way to leaf like symmetry ,then the rest of the Coral Kingdom beyond sent up neon spot lights in a show of finale.
The lights toned down, and the traces returned to the Queen, as she was helped off to her throne.  Sake stood in place, looking around, “ So beautiful” he thought, then he saw the distant glow of the vipers patrolling the bleak cold as deceptive stars of light that was their skull lures.
“ That is why she is Queen,” said Le Tang, “ because even in the midst of the oncoming darkness, she inspires us and leads us like a beacon.”  The Hoomah looked at the Tang who was staring deeply at the Queen, then at the coral walls unfurling banners of light that portrayed the Damsel.  A tear emitted from the fiery yellow warrior and was swept away , and the Hoomah for the first time saw something other than anger from the vehement young knight.  
The highway of colorful refugees began moving again as the Queen was led off to her chamber.  The knights’ just sat down on the glowing white stairs, next to their custom armor as the Coral Kingdom died down, and the palace became fainter.  Sake sat down too on the white marble steps  pulsing to stay lit and put his helm back on. They all watched the distant vipers, dashing like shooting stars until the ones not on guard fell asleep.  Sake saw that the Hoomah was just staring  forward at nothing, in deep muse, with a solemn face, his big eyes motionless in his big sockets; the pastel war paint streaking down from his eye looked like two upside down feathers up close..  Sake wanted to break up his morose concentration, and so asked “How did you get that scar on your stomach?”
Big eyes rolled to look at the boy, the yellow eyes blinked, the long snout flexed—Sake was ready to gobble up his words, in sheer admiration of the calm warrior.  The big eyes looked forward again.  The mouth moved.
“That is, a dark tale Boybummer.”
Sake finally relented on his new name, out of sheer exhaustion trying to explain that he was a boy.
“ Well, I sat on one of you by accident, that’s how I got these scars.”  
Sake started laughing, “ I am not an urchin or whatever you think I am.”
The Hoomah’s face became serious, and the boy became aware of the Hoomah’s spiritual connection with the land; the coral kingdom down below rippled with a barely perceptible vision--it was a knight, adorned with shining blond armor, with two sabre fangs coming up from its lower jaws, the upper smaller fangs the same width as the scars on the tale teller.  “ Our best knight, who worshiped the Damsel’s beauty and youth, was named Sabretooth Blennie."  

Chapter 8, The Tale of The Fallen Knight and the Clowness
" It is better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven."--Paradise Lost, Milton

The boy was not watching the Hoomah now, he was watching the land below, pulsing a faint image.  He could not hear the narrators deep baritone voice no more, just watch the story unfold in light.
“ The Sabretoothe taught Le Tang the skill of speed, and thrust.  I was just an ambassador in the court, an onlooker, not yet knighted.  Jousting matches, fin to fin, and other competitions were held, the contestants motivated with unsinkable buoyancy due to who sat by the Queen—the Damsel.
“ He defeated all, and stood alone in the winner’s circle, but the Damsel did not change the shape of her elliptical eyes due to his feats.  Blennie became boastful.  He was from House of Tang, and wore the “t” symbol in blond gold across his massive pectoral.  The rest of the knights wore silver, due to the long belief of what happens to gold in the depths—it joins the sad gold streaks of the bestial Mahi Mahi. The knights, wear silver, fashioned from the spines of the metallic viper.  So whosoever shall don armor, cannot do so until slaying a brood of viper to accumulate enough spine.  But Blennie, did not want to be on par with the other nights, and had more than enough viper silver.  He ventured to steal the gold scale from the Mahi Mahi.  Only he could survive the encounter,being strong enough to climb to her heights and knew the weakness of the beast and her blind spots.  He put her in her current position with a barb to her heart. He made the House of Tang “t” into blond gold.
“ Le Tang joined the competitions thereafter, and was defeated every time by the golden sabers Blennie, he tried and tried, but could not defeat Blennie and those defeats made him faster and sharper.  Blennie became audacious and insolent, demanding the Queen give him his prize, but silencing himself at the moment of her anger: when her frontlet formed to fire red on her forehead.  So Blennie took out his energy for the Damsel, descending up to the depths, spotlighting darkness with his golden armor, hunting for challengers; one day he returned, and I noticed he had a mark on his neck, as if he received a searing kiss.  He grew violent in the kingdom, as his golden armor was losing its shiny finish as if it was growing a patina of decay similar as if crab entrails inside out.
“ He rushed at the Damsel as she was dancing, Le Tang interceded and was deposed.  I fought the Sabretoothe, and lost, getting pierced by his top sabers,he was much more powerful and bigger than before.   He fled with the Damsel, no one knew where he went, we knew  from the coral that she was still alive, we did not know what possessed him,  but we had our theories.  The day she disappeared, the Mahi Mahi turned possessed also, screaming down, attacking, everything, laying waste to everything.  Le Tang blamed me for failing against Blennie, and I do feel like I lowered the prestige of Clan Hoomah.  Now the kingdom has lost its separation from the depths, and it looks to blanket us.  No one has seen the Sabretooth Blennie since and lived.  They say he is guarding the coralcle, no one knows. “
“ It was the Clowness that got to him huh, who is she, what is her deal?” asked the boy trying to seem calm hearing the narrators words.
“ Her hot vanity and ice cold soul control the magnificent red blue anemone, she is extremely jealous of this palace, and might, I suspect, have made a deal with the Dark Crab.
“ She is world old, much older than she looks.  She is a link, between the darkness and the light, her palace a waystation from Crabaltar and the Coral Kingdom-- she keeps the viper brood from filling the depths completely and cannibalistic crab, lobster and prawn from becoming the squirming floor.  That is her purpose, to balance the light creatures against that of the dark, in her powerful filtering palace.  She does not do that because she wants to, but has to, her palace breaths our air, she breaths the viper and crab’s exhale.  She needs the warmth, her palace the cold.  She cannot move out of place without jeopardizing her being.  Her vanity and lust could destroy this kingdom instantly if she could move, and Crabaltar would emit infinite creatures from the depth if she was removed.  She has come to the Queen’s aid before.  But, I suspect she has wrought all this, by introducing something new,” the Hoomah looked at the wide eyed boy, “  something we were not ready for.”
The corals resumed their slight pulsing, the boy was in awe of the Hoomah, he did not know what to say, and did not feel as if it was proper for him to advise him, this veteran.  Sake looked forward, and said passively “ does everything in this land try to eat ya, I don’t wanna know what lays ahead anymore, I did fine in those cold lands when I didn’t know what was coming…I was sharper because I expected the worst…and seen the worse, the Damsel in that thing’s scythe,” the boy looked down upon thinking about it.   Hoomah turned his big eye to the boy and said, “there is one more monster, terrible, worse than Blennie and the Clowness,” Sake looked worriedly at him as the Hoomah continued, “ it is the stink slugs, they stink so bad…” the Hoomah started laughing at the surprised boy.  “ Sake, you have done more than meet the criteria of a knight, and Le Tang told me after the Queen fell unconscious that he was glad you were coming with us than one of the other veteran yellow fins….you caught on to the business of facing down death, and even excelled to the next level.”
“ What is the next level Hoomah?”
“ It is to be the same warrior in life as in death, at home and on the field of battle, if you laugh in the court, then you have to laugh in the field staring down the enemy.  You said you expected the worst, seen the worst, your life has been warfare just like many, but you know it to be so, others do not….and you are far below military age, and that only means one thing—“
Sake interrupted Hoomah, “ How do you laugh at the enemy, if they are so annoying, always yelling and trying to kill you and all,” Hoomah looked at the striving to smile  boy, who was already catching on, and said “ I usually tell them ‘ you dropped something’ and when they look down I bury a hatchet fish in their head, then that will make me laugh, but that only works with more than one enemy, so someone is alive to see you laughing.  Then there is the Le Tang way, use big fancy words , calling them the sons of codswallop—he’s always saying son’s of something, son’s of slugs, son’s of barnacles…. “ Hoomah was chuckling as Sake was shaking his head to that cheesy joke.
Sake was watching the glowing viper skulls descending from the distant depths as if stars, and stood up and punched in front of him, as if to strike a deadly blow to one.  “ Those…those nightmare creatures, why do they want to hurt and devour, they have no purpose…..Blennie, the Clowness, what is the point of them, I never hurt anyone, I don’t want to control anyone…I want to go now, slash right to Crabaltar, burn down the Clowness’ palace, and rip apart that crab.” Sake’s helmet was pulsing green as he spoke staring down towards the viper starscape. “ Such lonely depths, ugly depths, they take the only thing you have…what doesn’t turn to viper in the depths? not knowing what way is up….they take your light, your beacon and drop it to the depths, and you watch it sink, you chase after it only to turn into the thing harming her (he paused)…..they do not even let me have my fable, where the girl lives, and there is a father and mother that teach light, not darkness, what is the point of these wicked things…” the boy was still standing, staring at a kingdom in sleepmode ambience. " The Mahi Mahi, I hate her, her shriek is horrible, but I know she was once beautiful, and so I hate life, for making me hate her, and what it has done to her...." The coral helm rectified his voice to the sound of steel being sharpened on stone.
Hoomah looked at Sake who was staring off distant, and pitied the boy, for the Hoomah knew the boy was a good looking specimen of his species, and youthful, almost princely looking, yet his green ovals showed a desire in their elliptical curve, to be destroyed, and not just adequately, but completely, as if they wanted to be burned at 1 million degrees, destroying the atoms of the soul
  “ Your helm helps you speak, so listen to your own words, have a beacon when you are in the depths, an image of an angel, so as not to turn psycho mad, like viper and Blennie, the Mahi Mahi, and the Clowness.  They have some of our color, but not our luster, making our camo burn brighter in infinite darkness, and perceived hopelessness, we know what is good by seeing the horrible and wicked, that is the point of the wicked, to let it be seen as a warning to the good, to not bear resemblance.”
“ But I have no beacon Hoomah.”
“ You do, a false beacon, it is your anger, as like Le Tang, that does not allow you to see things correctly, and why he could not see the Damsel at Crabaltar.”
Sake sat down next to the sage that was the Hoomah, the boy felt his words, but could not understand them yet.  But, he felt that understanding, was why they were making the next journey to the Coralcle.
“ I need to find my beacon,” said Sake becoming drowsy.
“ You need to get sleeping,” replied Hoomah Hoomah as he puffed off Sakes helmet, and the boy chased it down the stairs, mumbling “mmmblerf” the while.
  “ Get some rest Sake, we depart for the Coracle at first light,” and with that the Hoomah laid down next to his shark armor and started snoring in howitzer caliber.
Sake put back on his Coral Trojan helmet, and not needing to speak anymore took it off again with the Hoomah getting the last laugh. Resting his head against the de-energizing stairs, one thing was  still on his mind, it was “ why was the CLowness doing this, and what had the Damsel to do with it?”  He looked out at the coral down below, like filaments aglow with only static electricity, he looked at the distant vipers with their glowing death head lure," Disgusting creatures, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were enslaved and whipped on by their own lure" he thought…"Slaves."
The morn came, and the knights were already up before the boy, staring off down the highway with horror.  It was Crabaltar, and it was in view now, and seemed to be coming closer with every distorting breeze.  The line of warm and cold could be seen in the sand, as a dark rain cloud rains on the other side of the street.  “ We must make haste,” said Le Tang somberly.
They were in the full armor, looking on the flashing Queen, bedridden and barely conscience, she labored to speak, “ My nights, let us say a prayer:
Build me straight, O worthy Master!
Stanch and strong, a goodly vessel,
That shall laugh at all disaster,
                                                       ­      ­     And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!*"
With her utterance, she fell into unconscious sleep, Le Tang fell to his knee at her side.  The rest left, then the Tang.  Sake was turning to leave, and the Queen Angel spoke, “ Sake, when you feel the cold of the world attacking from the past and the future, sit down at the fire and warm yourself, “ then she fell back to feverish sleep.  Traces of chiseled font etched on her body like that of cracking glass; the color of silver rain over orange incandescence.
The ones to remain and protect the palace and Queen were in line at the top of the grand coral staircase, they made way for the three voyagers.  Le Tang said “ wait” and went to grab something, returning with a neon yellow shield emblazoned with a lowercase  lime ‘t’ , “ this is the shield from the house of Tang, take it Boybummer, you will need it,” and the boy took it, and they descended the staircase with armor, weapon, and bone rattling.
Chapter 9 The land of Sand and Sabre
                      " What do you know of Behemth, who esteemeth your sword as straw."--Book of Job

“ Get on Cucumboy,” said the Hoomah, “ you are to slow.”
The boy got onto the stout body, the Tang not able to support the weight, from his size or ego.  The coral below the moving Hoomah looked to the boy like rain falling down the back window of a car at night, under a street light—but not silvery translucent ,but a spectacular neon array.  Le Tang was out in front, his glow coming from under his silver cuirass weaponry was warning off the encroaching bleakness that was closing in like a tunnel but leading the way to the Coracle.  Sake looked back, the pizza anemones and purple carpet anemones were becoming distant.  He felt as if the tide came behind them, and locked them on an island sandbar; the palace, a lighthouse showing how dangerously distant they were.  They were transitioning into the Golby desert.
“ We have to hurry Hoomah, ‘ the Tang yelled from out in front,” we must pass through the Land of Sand, the other route is shut out by the cold and most likely cold water creatures.”
Making circles shapes  of his mouth, the stout Hoomah chugged along with shield bearing boy.
Realizing the Hoomah was tiring, and not able to keep up with Tang’s pace, the boy called a halt.  “ We must stop, and catch our breaths,” the boy helm called out ahead to the neon silver array on point.  “ There is no time,” called back from the knight on point.
“ There is time,” said the fatigued Hoomah, “ let us bivouac for a moment, so we are full strength upon arrival.”  
Sake dismounted and put down his shield, and stabbed his rapier into the center of a sandy circle surrounded by low lying green-red coral. His arm was  tired from the heavy shield. The Hoomah dropped his shark-armor and rested on the ground.  “ You are a bunch of weaklings,’ scoffed Le Tang.
“ We do not burn with the same fire as you,” rejoined Hoomah.  Le Tang made his way back to the sandy circle and sank down into the sand.  Sake was looking at the grey expanse that was the closer of the two sides that enclosed them.  
“ What is going to happen to the Coral Kingdom when the cold darkness comes?” asked the boy.
“ The coral will petrify, all else will go into hiding,” answered the Hoomah, “ the land will be a wave less colorless place, like that of the Land Of Chimes and  anything with color will be the imposturous cold water anemones.  The original color and history of the great coral kingdom, will be petrified in the coral…we should have set out earlier  but the parrot clouded our plans, a defeatist and detractor.”
Sake dropped his viper chain mail armor, a slight chiming rang out; the shadow came forth from something high above them; Le Tang turned to a fire in the looming shadow that engulfed them, and only the neon war paint of the Hoomah could be seen, especially the two paint spills of upside down feathers distending from his right eye.  The boy looked up in apprehension of the great beast.  “ Don’t worry, she will not come if you do not do that again” said Hoomah calmly.
New deep sea creatures were swarming in the grey misty wall. Brown sperm bodies with enormous gulping heads.  They unhinged their jaws, gaping open only to clamp back down with bear trap efficiency.
“ Why does she come for the sound of chimes?’ asked Sake ignoring the rancid raucous of the deep sea creatures.  Le Tang was stirring as he sat, anxious at the question.  “Why did she come for the knights back in that land of muck?”
The Hoomah was taking up pebbles in his mouth and spitting them out—his way of relaxing.  “ She comes with the sound of sword also, she is haunted and in turn haunts the land during the day, she swoops down on any metal, for they sound like the land of chimes—“
“ But why has she turned into a beast after the Damsel disappeared,” interrupted Sake.
“ Because the vipers torture her, grinding their rusted razor blade teeth, and flaunting their glowing skull lures, but they can only do that at night, when they amass —“ before the Hoomah could go on a hideous gulper  poked its head out of the grey mist and disgorged a hideous tongue wagging taunt.  Le Tang shot forth closed the distance and sliced off its head.  The decapitated head was still blinking and snapping its jaws , it happened so fast.  Sake thought of the painting in the conch tunnel, where darkness and its minions surrounded the two knights and instantly trembled, for he was with them now on that dark stage.
“ When Sabretoothe Blennie kidnapped the Damsel,” the Hoomah went on,” the Mahi Mahi hunted in blind rage for the sounds of metal , chime or sword clash .  She grew enormous swallowing the male species, a shadow of her former self she is now.”  The massive shadow came back, reducing Le Tang back to a flickering flame and the Hoomah to neon war paint.
The Tang was calmer now that he vented his internal forge that was his anger slaying the deep sea creature.  “  Cucumboy, I will say this, you are here with knights, to do battle, you are a knight by association now, as the rest of the kingdom is fleeing, you are fighting, I am sorry before for saying otherwise, “ said Le Tang who finally doffed his silver cuirass.
“ What is making the Clowness do this, does she really want to have a world of darkness, with nothing  but these, these creatures,” asked Sake, gesturing to the approaching masses of coldness.
Le Tang spoke, “ She is a witch, who would gobble up her own children, as to not waste any of herself on them.  Jealousy and envy occupy her, she wants to be adored, and served.  She will not give up her cold-water palace of anemone to live amongst the commonage, and will not live under the Queen Angel, for she thinks herself to be an Angel worth serving.  She has learned the dark secrets, every life she has destroyed gives her the mucus to stay young, and command the anemone.  A corruptor of youth, and destroyer of whole families, she was confined to the cold water domain, but now, as we have found out, has found a way to unleash the deep sea depths on us, all to satisfy her vanity--”
“ All this, so she can be Queen, but there will be nothing left, only Viper,” interrupted Sake.
“ She wouldn’t care, the mucus in her pores are an ancient evil, as old as the coral, when the land was divided, and she was confined to the cold realm by her own vanity, for her palace needs the cold, she could have gave it up to come to the Coral Kingdom, but she would not deign before a more noble light, as that of the Queen Angel,” explained Le Tang.
“ We have to stop her, we have to stop this,”  said Sake desperately as he pointed at the towering wall of grey.  “ How is it linked to the Damsel and Crabaltar?”
“ That is why we are going to the Coralcle is it not,” answered Le Tang sarcasticly, “ if not for you Sake, the Parrot would have sent us  to her for help in our desperation,still, we did not know she was commanding this cold front.  But what we do know now is that Clan Hoomah and House of Tang do not serve hags, right old Hoomah?” said Le Tang in a jocular voice, attempting to bury the hatchet fish with the older veteran—for they were pressed together, literally, by a vast army of enemy lurking on either side of the narrowing sand road to the Coralcle.  The evil gliding things in the two walls had compressed them together in camaraderie, as it was just them three versus a vast jaw snapping horde.
The yellow lidded warrior responded with a “ Hooooomah,” that had the baritone force of a tuba.
“ What is your clan, or house Sake?” questioned Le Tang.
“ I do not have one, I am all alone,” answered the boy.
“ Well, then that is better, you are the originator, you can be House of Cucumboy,” quipped Le Tang.
  “ I think I’ll find a better name,” rejoined Sake.
              “ Or Clan Sponge,” said Hoomah and all three chuckled, their laughs momentarily drowning out the deep sea creatures salivating asseverations off in the enclosing bleakness.
“ Take off your helm boy, it is not good to always wear armor” said Hoomah.
“ But I will not be able to talk,” responded Sake.
“ You cannot talk without it because you had no one to talk to, you know us now, so you can talk to us,” said Hoomah as he spat a pebble.
He took off his helm, and went to talk, “ mmmbleerrf” was the only thing that came out of the boy’s mouth.  “ Well a good mmmbleerrff to you as well” responded Hoomah, as he and Le Tang erupted in laughter.  “ Hey I thought you said I could talk without my helmet” said Sake putting back on his lime green Trojan helm.
“ Well maybe you have an accent, trying saying ‘mmblerf’ now, and see what comes out”
“ Lumpsucker” was the word that came out of the boy’s mouth, Le Tang almost doubled over.
“ Now take off your helm and say ‘lumpsucker’ ’” advised Hoomah.
“ Stinkbutton” came from the boy’s lips.  They all started laughing.  
“ Clan Stinkbutton it is,” bellowed Hoomah, as all three bivouacers rested into the sand, resting before battle in the corridor of bleak mist and gliding, screaming  things.  Perhaps why they were talking more now--to break up the eerie hollowness of the desert, and the lacerating screams of the rising walls of gray on either side of the corridor leading to through the desert to the Coracle.
“ Learn the pattern, and you’ll be able to talk here, but only with people you trust, but the helm gives your tongue clarity for now,” replied Hoomah.
The shadow returned, slithering over them , and the three warriors illuminated once again: Sake’s gangrene coral Trojan helmet and blue viper skin gaiters on his shins, Hoomah’s white shock streaks on his body and pastel face paint, and the solar flare of Le Tang’s body.
The viper’s glowing skull-lure branching from their disgusting metallic foreheads seemed pathetic in comparison to their colors, thought Sake.  But the boy once again thought of the hermit’s painting, these two knights being overwhelmed by the hordes of nightmare creatures on that dark stage spotlighted by the combined skull light of a thousand vipers.  He wanted to hug both warriors, so so badly, he did not want to lose them, as the painting was becoming ever more likely as the Mahi Mahi patrolled above, and the deep sea monstrosities were closing in with the gray walls.  The Atlantean helm Sake wore rectified his young quaking voice, but viewing the two tropical knights through the ‘T’ of his helm made him realize, that the only way he could be close to these knights, was being back to back against the odds,always outnumbered he was to be, if he wanted to be like these foremost warriors… the ‘T’ viewpoint he received from the gangrene coral resembled an upside down sword projecting on the two tropic warriors, being a sword still in the forge on Le Tang, and the bright shining steel after it hardens in air when on the Hoomah’s shock white stripes.  He would mimic these knights, he said to himself—be has lethal and confident as Le Tang in the face of death, and as calm and pluck as Hoomah Hoomah who would not let impending disaster jolt him from his pebble spitting hobby; and most of all, to not be changed from the depths.
An oblong balloon inflated from the sand near the knights, Sake roused to his feet, “ A coral snake,”  called out Sake.
“ That is just a Goby boy, don’t worry, they’re  only cleaners,” said Le Tang nonchalantly.
The oblong blue-green balloon spoke, “ Hello my wayfarers, might I offer a free grooming,” solicited the Goby.  “ No thanks Goby, be gone, we are on serious business if you haven’t noticed,” answered Le Tang.
“ I can go for a cleaning,” responded Hoomah, and the Goby called out, “ Hey Zumba, grab the kids,”and three more Gobies ballooned out from the sand.  “ Yay, a Hoomah,” the child Gobies rejoiced.
The Gobies swarmed the Hoomah, nibbling his scale, and cleaning him.  Hoomah laid back in pleasure as they caressed him.
“ How bout you, you look like you need a cleaning.  Are you a Flounder?  Anyways, your pretty dirty,” said the father Goby.
“ Ah, I don’t know, I’m a boy, and not sure if I can be cleaned,” answered Sake unsurely.
“ Go on Sake, it is imperative that a warrior remains clean, and it is very relaxing,” advised Hoomah.  “ Well I guess so,” said Sake as more Gobies emitted from the sand and swarmed onto him.
Sake began laughing and rolling around as they tickled and poked him.  He rolled and rolled till when Hoomah thought he would roll into the bleakness suctioned him up and placed him back into the sandy circle.  “ Wow, this Flounder could feed the whole Goby nation,” rejoiced a Goby.  Le Tang just watched shaking his head the whole while.  Le Tang was all business, or vengeance.
The two were laughing and crying so loud as to drown out the deep sea creatures stalking in the over watching bleakness.  Hoomah was more professional about it, and only emitted short tuba sounds.  A Goby pulled a green ball from the boy’s ear, “ wow, we are going to save this for a holiday dinner,” delighted the oblong Goby.
The Gobies left the Hoomah, having depleted their scales of crumbs, and joined the foray on the boy.  Sake was in ecstasy, a Goby was mumbling his eye lids, and pulling food out of his teeth.  But the Hoomah warned, “ Be careful Sake, many warriors have not made it back from the Coracle due to their overindulging in Gobies, they have forgotten their mission, and became Goby addicts, roaming the Goby desert, rolling around in mud to get a cleaning, only to starve to death or get eaten by vipers.”  As he said his warning, Sake was still laughing, until he caught the distant view of a viper, just staring at him from the greyness, as if it was waiting,   The image of the Damsel came into his mind.  “All right, that’s enough,” Sake said as he brushed the Gobies off of him.  One Goby that squeezed under Sake’s viper gaiters on his shoes was rolling a green ball of toe jam back to his hole saying “ Wow, boys are good eating.”
“ You will be a formidable warrior Sake,” said Le Tang, “ You do not possess the lower classes addictive personality, you are in control of yourself.”
“ Well, let’s get it on , the walls are closing in,” said Hoomah—and they put back on their armor.  Le Tang went back ahead on point.
The land graduated from streaming dark sand to wavy blond sand, there were protrusions from the sand everywhere.    A whale bone-yard, that was what it resembled.  The behemoth bone stabbed upward out of the sand in sabre curvature.
The bones were sparse at first, so they only had to walk around them, but then became a bone bramble, and Le Tang kept catching his cuirass on one of the hooking-bone sabres. Hoomah worked slowly and methodically for he was much bigger.  Sake, who before could not even walk in this land, had no difficulty at all.  He felt it was just another graveyard, where he was raised.
The white grey bone started to show signs of patina, even signs of gold specks—which had a physical reaction in the two tropical knights, for their eyes scanned their environment more rapidly—for  every rib a certain width apart resembled the two sabre fangs of the Sabretoothe Blennie.
He followed after his rapier, pointing through every rib cage slat first.  Le Tang was still bravely out in front on point.  Hoomah still methodically pivoting his stout body around the bone wreckage.
At points, they had to crawl over dense bone huts.  The deep sea creatures could not be heard in this land, making it only sound with the scraping of the knights armor on bone.  A bone outcrop collapsed, and the whole party whipped their heads to scan for a threat—but it was nothing.
Then the land became a little less dense with bone obstacle.  Sake’s rapier was shaking violently as he led with it.  “ Le Tang is one brave knight being out in front,”  thought the boy, recalling the knight in Crabaltar, recklessly touring the cavernous layer in flaring daring; the boy was beginning to see the benefit in being dangerously debonair like Le Tang—anger was less painful than fear and feeling.
No one spoke as they moved forward through the wasteland, for their ears attuned for the sound of movement.
Le Tang was passing under slanted fangs in the form of a bone arbor  all color of decay, patina, rot, and bedecked with gold fillings.  The Hoomahs eyes widened, the spacing of the sabre fangs that hung down above Le Tang  were the same distance of the scars on his chest.  It was him… “ Tang move” he yelled, as another set of fangs sprung from the sand beneath Le Tang looking to meet their smaller but still enormous upper jaw that once pierced the Hoomah.  Hoomah blew the Tang out of the way as the teeth that was the Sabretoothe’s locked shut, and the sand disgorged the huge body of  Blennie rising into the air: tiger striped with gold over green patina and block rot, its eyes were black spilt egg yolks underneath its mask.  The party backed up and the creature that was once a knight spoke in a hollow long dead sepulchral breath as if a sinking titanic finally reaching its sight for internment—gives its last metallic stretching moan.
“ The Coldwater Clowness is making her way for the Coral Kingdom  for the Queen, and then the Crab’s claw will close around the Damsel making the Clowness beautiful ruler supreme, and you will be still alive to bow to her, in my prison, peering between my ribs begging for oblivion .”
All were in horror of the morbid knight, especially Le Tang who had nothing to say for once.  They did not want to be addressed individually by the long dead tone of the eternally damned knight.
“ I will be first knight and only knight, for I was the strongest, and should have been given the Damsel, I have served the House Of Tang long enough under the Queen Angel, I shall command the Viper Brood as their King, and my clade of sabretoothe goby shall live as long as the Dark Crab.”
The dark knight was ten times the size of the Hoomah now—five  lances in length.  
“ You are a disgrace Blennie, look at you, you resemble the disgusting creatures of the depths, your soul has been digested by the dark crab and spit back into this land.  The Clowness will fail, she cannot survive without the Coral Kingdom you disgusting son of a urchin, she needs the warmth caused by our breaths and deeds to live,” yelled Le Tang.
“ Le Tang, still thinking that there is good and evil.  What do you think will happen when the tropical light is gone, the vipers will be the light, and they will change, they will don your armor after you are slain, they will be the warm vipers, exhaling a warm breath for the Clowness, they will be the knights, they shall teach and preach through the depths, this world will be two shades of viper, not light against darkness, but black light against oblivion.  The Magnificent Anemone shall be the palace, after the cold takes over balanced by the warm cadaverine rising from the slain tropical bodies.  All hail the beautiful Clowness,  and all thankness goes to the Cannabal Crab of Oblivion.”
“ Blennie, we shall stop the cold, and rid your legacy,” gritted Hoomah Hoomah.  Sake was motionless, pointing his rapier at the dark knight thinking “ this is futile, we are going to die,” the boy thought.  
“ Blennie, your armor won’t stop me from wearing your heart,” said Hoomah.
“ I have dibbs on his tongue,” said Le Tang as he sprung his blades and split them into the “X” form.  Sake heard the bone mechanical sound of the Hoomah’s custom armor—the shark jaws closing more over his face, and pectoral bolts spearing forward under the lower shark jaw to be ready to spear or spew.
The massive rotten jaws opened--readying to strike.  Hoomah’s armor loaded forward then back, putting a long bolt into his mouth, he spit in rifle velocity at the tonsils of the dark knight but was stopped by  a rotted saber; Le Tang spiraled through the air and carved a sparking gash in its armor, but the powerful beast bent its tail sending Le Tang to the ground—crashing into bony debris.  One of his sabrers  bent as the fiery body crumpled on the ground..  But Le Tang got up, and reversed his blades forward—they now looked like  a clutching claw of an eagle.  “ I will gut you Blennie,” he said as he flared up between his silver cuirass.  Le Tang attacked again barely dodging the snapping sabers, and was head-butted violently to the ground.
  The Hoomah’s shark jaw helm loaded another long bolt forward and the Hoomah sucked it into firing position but the Sabretoothe dove for him causing him to evade out of the way; the Blennie was back on him and ready to swallow the Hoomah whole but for Sake, who ran forward to pierce the blond chest armor with his rapier only for his sword to fling off the tough armor and out of his hands; the act bought the Hoomah some time, as the focus now was on the boy.  He backed up before the salivating dead beast.  Sake backed into a tunnel of bone, with the Sabretoothe crunching forward to get the fleeing morsel.    The boy ran to the end, that was gated close with bone.  He could not fit through the slits…the beast closed on him—squeezing its body in the tunnel it then writhed, snapping the bone hallway to dusty debris that made a smoke screen of marrow. It opened its jaws, Sake looked away.
A yellow lid showed in the slit of bones blocking Sake’s escape, “DUCK” ordered  Hoomah.  He blew  a bolt through the slit  striking the monster in the left eye sending it recoiling backward in anger.  “ RUN, NOW, BOTH OF YOU, I’LL DEAL WITH THIS DISGRACE.”
Running by the huge body and into the dusty cloud of marrow, Sake found Le Tang and helped him up, “ lets go,” he uttered.  
“ Im not leaving , this is my battle ,” scoffed the injured Tang.  The occupied Hoomah yelled with baritone force “GO NOW,” the force of the Hoomah’s yell blew the boy and the Tang back, crashing through bone—a good stone throw from the battle.   Sake pulled Le Tang up.  Le Tang conceded the fight to the Hoomah, “ All yours big guy,” he muttered in respect to the veteran warrior who looked to be evading the mammouth sized Blennie , but in actuality was stalking him.
They ducked and weaved under and around bone, while the Hoomah was doing the same behind them, avoiding the thundering clamping strikes of the Sabretooth.   The beast moaned, struck at the Hoomah, missing by a pectoral fin width, snapping the bone protrusions in half. Sake understood what that the Hoomah was doing, waiting till the monster showed the other eye so he could spit his barb into it.  A thunder clap, the snapping of bones, were the sounds  as the Hoomah narrowly weaved in and around bone.  
“ Get on, “ commanded LeTang as the bone became less dense allowing easier movement, and the boy got on and they cruised under and around bone to the direction of a faint blue-green and purple beacon off distant.  Sake looked back, he lost his rapier back there with the struggling warrior.  Hoomah looked to not stand a chance, but the calm determined look on the Hoomah’s face re-assured him that he did.  He did not even blink  his yellow lids as he barely retreated from the rotted giant overbite and weaved into another patch of cross bones.  Sake turned his head frontward--saddened, but  knowing there was not enough time.  Another moan, thunderclap, and snapping of bones emitted from the battle taking place well behind them.
Horrid sounds of battle slowly lifted as the land opened up to baron blond sand: the Goby Desert . Sake heard the labored breathing of Le Tang, and dismounted.  “ What are you doing Sake?” get on, we have to make haste,” commanded the ailing neon warrior.
“ You’re injured, don’t worry I will run,” replied the boy.
“ Your about as fast as a periwinkle Cucumboy, get on, or I will go on without you,” said Le Tang.  The boy ignored Le Tang’s bluff, and started to run over the rippled dunes to the faint distant trace of a purple beacon.  “ Sake, I guess I am going to have to carry you,” said Le Tang.  But as he approached the lumbering boy, he froze.  Sake looked back at him with a blue and red eye—the eyes of the anemone.  “ What is wrong Le Tang?” asked Sake.  
Le Tang looked to the approaching walls of bleakness, there were anemones flaming beyond the grey mist—hexing upward to the depths with their demonic digits.  They were perched on top of lobster like silhouettes, awaiting the bleakness to move forward and allow them to move up with it.
“Sake, nothing to win, in world of evil, oblivion is painless, serve the Clowness,” they droned, but only the boy could hear.  They formed pictures, half concealed from the mist that froze the boy-- his eyelids unblinking over his blue and red eye.  “ The world is ice and fire Sake, serve the Clowness, and wield both, they abandoned you, the ‘t’ on your shield and your parents, your teachers, the state, they are one side of the spectrum, serve her Sake…”
Sake’s head started sweating and burning up, his hands became ice cold.  He fell to his knees.     “ See, the world is evil, it is they that are killing you,  killed your soul…” Sake fell lifeless to the sand, his red and blue eyes projecting upward.  “ Serve the Clowness, serve oblivion, and serve yourself, all others already do, but only one side, you will have both, you will die if you don’t, and not from us….let us show you then,” the anemones formed into memories at the base of the grey wall.  
“ This is from  Venice,” it was the image of a priest addressing children in the animation of anemone.  He was talking about his garbs and gesturing to his gold skull that resembled the viper lure around his neck.  
“ See Sake, you asked for light, and this man of red was occupied with the glimmering viper gold hanging from his neck,” the anemone spoke to the mesmerized boy in the accumulated voice of many whispers. “ Worship this or go to hell,” the priest finished.  The anemone undid itself.
Another anemone spoke, already mid animation.
“ Children, we come from apes,  when you die, there is oblivion, we are ungrateful towards society, there are kids dying around the world ….”  It was the visage of a teacher, addressing pupils.
“Ah, but are there not children dying under the teachers nose, loving so far, is so despiteous, making you feel so alone, you do not have to join the viper brood as the teacher or priest, the Clowness will care for you, you can be different from viper,” spoke the anemone.,” you do not even know who is your father and they want you to hug apes.”
“ Serve the Clowness, for she serves the Crab, the Crab wants to enlist you, you will never shed a tear again if you do.”
Le Tang was strapping the hallucinating boy’s foot into his cuirass in the same manner as a foot in a stirrup as the anemone spoke personally only to Sake.
The boy was being dragged by Le Tang, who then picked up speed as to not drag the boy off the sand.  Anemones were replaced by vipers and gulpers, with their gaseous methane hisses.  “ Hold on boy, I’ll get you away from her power,” yelled the speeding Le Tang as the boy’s eyes  projected red and blue—as his head turned they scanned the immediate air like a copy machine.  Red blue skin glowed inside the ‘T’ slit of his coral Trojan helmet.  “ HOLD ON,” desperately cried Le Tang.


  The glowing brain coral became immense, blinding  Le Tang who was dragging the boy.  He reached the base of monument sized brain coral.  The anemone’s light instantly ceased in Sake’s eye as his gaze fell on the Coralcle that was the only outcrop in the sandy wasteland.  “ Where am I,” asked Sake as he got to his feet and looked at the Coralcle that was aglow in purple light that sent out purple haze in the immediate surroundings.  His feet sunk in the sand as he approached then stopped.  The grooves of the Coralcle were rivulets flowing with energy.
The Tang , after seeing the boy was alright, approached closer to the monument.   His flare between his cuirass was completely drowned out by purple light.  “ HOW DO WE SAVE THE DAMSEL?” he yelled impatiently.   Nothing came back.” HOW DO WE STOP THE CLOWNESS AND THE COLD?”  Still nothing.  “ DAM YOU, HELP US, WE HAVE JOURNEYED HERE AND THE PALACE IS IN DANGER.”
Le Tang scowled, and turned his back to the glowing edifice.  “ We wasted our time, let us rejoin Hoomah” he said to the boy who was just staring at the brilliant beacon with light running its grooves as electrons run an elliptical track orbit.  The misty cloud around the glowing object seemed charged.  
Sake doffed his helm, and walked closer to the Coralcle, as if summoned.  Le Tang watched curiously, rippling in the barren desert breeze.  The boy just stood there, and the Coralcle spoke with the combined voice of a billion microscopic whispers and from a region, that was only heard by the boy.  It glowed red from within, in what resembled its mid brain, the hypothalamus of the coral.
The Coralcle spoke no words, but spoke hyper light, and transferred this light to the boy. His eyes dilated and undulated rapidly.  The capillary hypnosis of Caliente’s  and Caviar’s eyes could not compare to this.  Sake felt the message, as high above the Mahi Mahi screamed by.  Take the barb from her heart, put it in yours, then put it in Crab and Clowness alike, and command the gray, was the message to the boy.
A life time of pain was erased from Sake’s eyes.  The Coralcle photo copied from left to right and right to let over the paper whites of the boy’s ovals.  The searing kiss of the anemone was gone, for now.  Sake turned from the dimming Coralcle and faced the sandy expanse closed in from
  walls of misty bleakness  gliding with monsters; darkness was enclosing, and  Le Tang flared up ever more, as did Sake’s helm and blue viper skin gaiters over his shoes.
There was a lacerating scream back in the sabre land where they left the Hoomah, that woke Sake from his paralysis.  It was no telling if it was a death throe or victory cry.  He so badly wanted to go back for him, but Sake knew that coldness was coming; they were boxed in on both sides, where beyond the darkening gray mist were concealed vipers and gulpers of the dark depths.   Le Tang had swallowed all his pride to be able to not sail back and help the stricken Hoomah; his bright neon body was rippling with cat o’nine tail vehemence.
“ We must take the barb out of the Mahi Mahi,” said the boy to the Tang.  Le Tang unsprang his blades, “ we won’t need weapons this time, only armor,” said Sake as walked confidently—matching his voice.  Le Tang followed the boy into sandy wasteland that was the Goby Desert.  
“ We must lure her, “ the boy said while taking of his viper mail. He began waving his viper chain mail like a towel, the chime sound rippled into the wasteland that was quiet as a graveyard and bounced off the impending grey curtain and rose up into the depths.  “   Le Tang, was spinning all around, in trepidation of their vulnerable position—in the open, attracting the locomotive strength of the Mahi Mahi.    “ Sake, I have plenty of weapons and javelins in my armory, how bout we go…”
“ When it comes lay flat as you possibly can, tuck that big nose of yours in, and then we give chase and remove the barb before she ascends…”
Le Tang interrupted the boy,” Big nose, look who’s talking,” the Tang gestured towards the boy’s codpiece,  Sake laughed, and so did Le Tang not fully understanding why.  It was nervous laughter, and suicidal quips, that make heroes out of warriors.
They whipped their heads in a direction of something coming down the narrow passage between light and greyness--that was in line with them and the Coral Kingdom.  It was the long immense jetstream shadow of the Mahi Mahi.  “ Don’t worry Le Tang, I’ve done this before,” he said as he waved the viper mail.  “ That’s very comforting,” quipped Le Tang in an apprehensive look at the daunting shadow.  “ We have to try to hold in place when she screams, and not become dislodged,” said the boy as he looked down the corridor caused by the approaching cold—a corridor that darkened from the corralled massive Mahi Mahi above in the depths.
The sand began to tumble toward them; small whirlwinds of rip currents started dancing upward—then the passage before them between the greyness became occupied by the never-ending procession that was  Mahi Mahi’s body uncoiling downward for its nose dive; to level with the bottom for its screaming prowl.
” Ready Tang,” …Le Tang made an X  motion with his body like a fencer, crossing himself in the sign of the House of Tang with a look on his face of bloodless determination.
It darkened, as if a wave was rising over their heads, the scream came, a slit in the sand came at them with flaring sides forming a V.  “ Remove the barb from the heart,” repeated the boy in his head as the viper mail flew from his body as the first destructive decibel of the scream reached them.  He went down to a three point stance, Le Tang began speeding in place so he would not be dislodged.
They were blasted with sand, that pinged off their armor, Sake covered his ears, and began sliding backward as he was out of three point stance.  Le Tang held him in place by speeding with all his energy.  They were being moved back slowly, the Tang was rippling with lightning speed and yellow energy that was being pushed to its max amperage.  “ I can’t keep up,” gritted Le Tang, as his body began to flicker like an incandescent light.  “ GET READY TANG.”  The trident pierced tongue between the hook studded lips took up all of the narrow passage, the lower lip was exactly Sake’s body width from the ground, but hooks and tackle reached further, carving the sand like a thresher.  He would have to dodge barb and beast.
The giant upper jaw was over them as Sake flattened forward as the lower jaw contacted the plume on his coral helmet almost knocking it off.
They were under the belly of the great beast.   It was as if he was crawling under a moving locomotive, there was no space to move, a barb had hooked his shirt sleeve and ripped it off, another one caught the other sleeve giving the boy a vest.  He dug his head into the sand to be able to look up; the view was of a concrete wall, grout lines of scale, stabbed with hook and spear—a never-ending story of beast.  Barely being able to turn his head forward and seeing a shining harpoon slicing the ground in half, he moved to his right and it flew by him almost cutting him in half.  He could not see Le Tang behind him who unsprang his chest V blade—digging into the ground to remain in place.  The boy’s foot was on Le Tangs head.   Le Tang dodged the deadly hooks and barb, as a fencer parries.  
The beast began to lift in the air, Sake had enough breathing room to turn and yell, “ GET READY.”  Le Tang retorted inaudibly under deafening noise of the beast “ A cucumboy telling me to get ready.”
The behemoth was high enough that no protruding hook on its belly would cut them in half.  As if they rehearsed it, they got up in synchronization, Sake hooked his snake skin boots in the Tang’s silver decking –using them like stirrups to hang on.  Le Tang whipped and rippled, rearing himself like a horse and gave chase to the ascending beast; but the sound breaking scream of the Mahi Mahi was slightly faster than the sound breaking speed of the not full strength Tang; the Mahi Mahi was raising more into the air, the long barb was becoming out of arm’s reach.  “ FASTER,” screamed Sake.  The Mahi Mahi was screaming into the air…“ FASTER.”
Le Tang cracked the sound barrier with whiplash ferocity and rippled so quick that Sake was losing his grip on the silver.  Sake had to take his hand off to grab the barb, and he could barely hold on with two, realizing this Sake yelled “OVERSHOOT IT LE TANG” and the fast thinking Tang grasped the command.  It was almost becoming out of reach, the speeding Tang overshot the target, Sake let go of the silver and he became sucked backward into the jetstream crashing into the barb, and as he bounced off it; he clasped it in a bear hug, the Mahi Mahi was rising faster now, the wind blew off his helmet and undulated the flesh on his face—he put his feet on the scaly belly and pulled, it was in there deep.
“ Ahhhhh,” Sake screamed in his exertion, he was now high above the ground, Le Tang was a ground fire down below.  “ Ahhhhh,” his scream was as desperate as the Mahi Mahi, it pulled loose;  Sake tumbled downward  in a radial pattern  with the long lance like barb, as if he had a parachute that didn’t fully employ—still neck breaking.  The fire on the ground was darting every which way to line up with the falling boy….. “ Shiiiiiiit,” yelled Sake in utter horror.
Sake closed his eyes in expectation of smashing into the ground.  Then smash…he crashed into the slow climbing Tang who put on the afterburner slowing their descent but it was still a too deadly rate, Sake saw the ground a blink away and closed his eyes, but the last second when they were above the ground Le Tang shot forward and tore into the sand like a comet crashing and digging into the earth.
He opened his eyes, darkness, they were in a ten foot hole; the lance was glowing red—where it was submerged in the Mahi Mahi-- behind them at the mouth of the trench they created.  The far off scream graduated into a smoothing glissando of feminine voice—no longer tortured. The Mahi Mahi was at peace and sounded beauteous.
They clamored out of the trench and returned to the lance sticking out of the ground.  The grey that was closing from both sides of the horizon, like towering waiting waves--darkened, they could see the glow of the vipers; both sides were a spear throw away from them on either side now, and the remaining light glowing ahead of them in between the encroaching darkness—was the Coral Palace.
He slowly grasped the lance, a shudder ran through him, he felt the pain in his heart and quickly pulled back his hand— it was glowing as if right from the forge but the tip was shedding ice blue glacial tears.   The Coralcle’s message came into his mind: put it in your heart, then Clowness and Crab alike.
The walls of darkness moaned in unison “ You will fail, and she will die”-- it was a gaseous sound, of decaying methane. Sake grabbed the lance and pulled it from the sand.  The pain was extraordinary, it was the anemone’s kiss  and Blennies bite, but he held on, to return the painful capacitance of the lance to the Clowness, and finally , god willing, to the Dark Crab.
Ignoring their demonic hecklers, they got their armor together, Sake putting on his Coral Trojan helmet, as Le Tang unbent one of his blades.  Sake mounted without saying words, and rested the lance in line with the aerodynamic neon yellow body.  He hoped that they would come across the Hoomah Hoomah on the return journey, but deep down did not think that would be so.

  The tip of the lance coming over Le Tang's eyes was the cue to floor it for Le Tang, and he cracked his body like a whip, speeding down the narrowing passage with demonic droning from both sides.

Chapter 10 Final Chapter: Crabaltar
" Come father, let us embrace."--Excaliber

                    As Le Tang shot through the narrowing passage, Sake suddenly became aware of something, there were two towering walls that enclosed them and the Coral palace, and Crabaltar was only on one side..  The walls no longer resembled the Grey Skies Of Mass, but oblivion interspersed with sliding monsters.  Such Pain, he thought again, looking at the lance glowing, deflecting the rushing air like a boat prow,; and suddenly the lance made him recall painful things, and those painful things were the best days of his life.  He gripped Le Tang’s weapon accoutrements making him rear, swivel, then crash into the ground.  Sake became lost in thought, staring at the lance glowing, upright in the sand--
Images of him deftly catching snowflakes, rolling to catch a leaf flying to the ground, or stabbing a shopping bag whipping through the cold air with a newspaper… every season was gray, cold and alone, then he remembered he was not always alone…there was a warm youthful Summer, replenishing, and he walked away from the sunshine and sat indian style in front of a world he thought he was in control of, then there was the Crab, infiltrating his kingdom of light.  .  A world, where he was no longer deft in hand or confidence, unable to talk, chasing strangers to hug him.  The crying clown painting in his room came to mind, and his mother crying with make-up smeared down her face.    Then he thought of the Damsel, in that Stonehenge within a Stonehenge, that pagan, disgusting vile place, surrounded by vipers.  She belonged in the Coral Kingdom, and he had to put her there all the time forever…and he would put a sword upward through viper breath closing their mouths, so they never again have the audacity to assail the kingdom; and end the mirage that is the Clowness, her falsity, her pretension of bringing happiness, she works misery and a lifetime of craving and vanity.  Then there is the Dark Crab, polluted sludge within a shell, just like his once human followers are shells of their former human-hood….the Crab made the Clowness who she was , who in turn made Blennie.  
The Crab, a cannibal worker from the underworld, not fit to scurry among the upright in the light.  
Sake looked at the other wall of approaching darkness, and it scared him-- it was the future.  
Le Tang was shouting, but Sake couldn’t hear him, just looked at the approaching darkness.  He felt cold, oh so cold…and abandoned.  The landscape darkened, Le Tang was completely back to torch form.
When you feel the darkness pressing from the past and the future, warm yourself by the fire.  It was the voice of the Queen Angel in his head.  He snapped out of it with Le Tang’s shout.
“ You have nearly wrecked us.”
Sake looked at him, a blazing fire, went to put out his hands as if to warm them, but stopped.  Le Tang was his future, a future of revenge and vehemence.  Sake could not give that up, he was only a boy, and boys do not know forgivness, especially from teachers that wear the glowing skull lure of viper round their necks.
Walls running all the way up to the depths laughed and screamed at the two knights—they  appeared to show hideous teeth while they laughed and screamed then let way for another  volley of screamers.  The walls were a javelin throw away from either side now. Sake became enraged.  “  Let us go, and finish off these mutants,” said he, as he  pulled the lance out of the sand and mounted Le Tang.
The neon warrior in silver armor said nothing, and appeared less vengeful than the boy for the first time.  In life as in death, said Sake to himself, repeating the Hoomah’s words.  They went forward, through the bone brambles, no sight of the veteran hunter, nor Blennie.  They slowed a bit, but after concluding that a tropical warrior had been felled, they sped on to the faint pulsing image of the Coral palace that was without a doubt under siege.  They both said nothing, enraged at the apparent loss of their fellow knight.

Light came into view.  Hope?  No, for it was the Clowness’ magnificent anemone, surrounded by shining armor and yellow fin laying lifeless on the ground still smoking from a hot tendril touch .  Her massive anemone stayed in the dark towering waiting wave of coldness, and  it was atop a giant lobster—under her control—black eyed, and soulless, a lobster from miserable polluted sludge.  Crabaltar was behind her, inching closer with every blink.
“ Run this hag through, and sever her head” ran through the boy’s mind faster than the Tang was moving.  Le Tang tacitly approved.
They charged straight forward with the lance glowing lance leading the way.  The front row of blue and red anemone mobilized and formed a line mocking colonial era troops…tri corner hats and all, and pointed muskets with tendril bayonets protruding from the ends.  Sake pulled back on the Tang and they stopped just short of their deadly reach.  The bayonets went to attention, and formed a path for the besieging baroness.  She came forward with legs of anemone covered with red knee high jack boots and blue riding pants, and a blue-red fencing mask that quickly unformed to show her orange face.
“ Oh, my poor knights, you tried so hard to save the Queen, but she is almost within my grasp, so maybe you might think of serving me.”
“ We would never serve a hag from the cold water realm, you are an usurping peasant in temporary clothes, “ sneered Le Tang, moving clockwise around the red and blue troops, who in turn moved  their bayonets to follow his throat.
“ But my poor Tang, you have already helped me, with your anger, and you boy, yes I know what you are,” she stepped down closer to address Sake who was standing still unlike Le Tang, “ You have unrolled the carpet for me, letting the cold in, and I am Queen of the Coldwater, and now to be Queen of the Petrified Coral Kingdom, and then ruler of Saccade, and I will replace the knights with vipers, and they shall be more colorful than their monochrome cold water cousins, and they shall balance the temperatures.”
“ They are not tropical warriors, but imposters , and it will not work, the knights are the vipers opposite, evil cannot be evil’s opposite,” gritted Sake with the help of his helm.
Sake held the lance over his shoulder, he did not know what to do, for surely her anemones would intercept it.  They would have to slay each tendril, there was no other way.  “ Enough talking old hag,” said Sake and with that gambit, Tang sprang his sabres then they split into their X as he raced forward slicing a row of red musket men in half.  Sake moved forward, and speared a blue coat in the chest.  The Clowness went back into her field attire and fencing mask, “ Fools” she laughed.
Le Tang hacked and hacked them down, and Sake leaned in for a thrust , pulled back, and speared again,  but every assembled soldier they dispatched, it was only scratches to individual tentacles.  Le Tang was hacking his blades dull, he could not penetrate into the defense of the Clowness.  His yellow body was sending small curls of smoke where the tendrils had reached their mark, he was losing the war of attrition.  Sake’s armor was more complete,  but not having the Tang’s speed left him more vulnerable, a tendril wrapped around his wrist, “ Aaaaarrrr,” he yelled and stabbed through it with the lance. He was using the weapon as a bat just to stay alive now, he was retreating, and Le Tang was still hacking nowhere.
A soldier bayoneted through Le Tang’s tail, another grabbed hold of his fin, Le Tang sliced one off him, but another came.  “ Fall back,’ Sake yelled, but it was too late, the soldiers were on Le Tang; the Clowness was laughing haughtily now. They took off his armor and held him by the tail, which was smoking from the hold; the bayonets now all trained their points at his chest, he was helpless.  Red tendrils put on the Tang’s blades and ornament, and formed to the front.
“ What about now, will you render your service , haha,” taunted the Clowness.   “ You are just a boy, can’t even speak without the help of your helm, how would you expect to beat me.”
Sake wanted to throw the lance, but knew it stood no chance, unless something cleared the way first.  Le Tang was screaming from the burn, but he was still yelling “Hag” at the top of his lungs.  The  giant lobster moved forward towards the palace stairs and stopped, awaiting the cold to move forward again.
“ Serve me Sake, you will live greatly I assure you, we will be the most brightest in the land of Saccade, no one will rival us.”
“And the Damsel?” asked Sake as he noticed something in the cold wall, but it was not a viper, it was a yellow lid and it blinked at him, implying “get ready.”
“ The Damsel will go to oblivion painlessly and my palace and I will be the brightest in the kingdom of  fifty shades of Grey,” and with the Clowness’ remark the Hoomah rushed forward from the darkness where he was concealed by the besmearing of his body with the Sabretoothe Blennie’s black heart.  Hoomah bull dozed into the anemone, making a way for the harpoon, the red and blue tendrils first stung his shark bone armor, then slipped it off and slapped at his scale, but the warrior still rushed forward, all the tendrils formed together to stop the hulking Hoomah.  Sake watched for any lane to open up and throw as he moved forward diverting some attention away from the Hoomah and the captured Tang.
The soldiers retook tendril form and left Tang under two guards, one guard was mid thrust with a bayonet to Le Tang’s heart.  Le Tang whipped free and whipped the guard in half, then cut the tendrils in half that stole his armor by pressing the collapse mechanism only he could work, and Le Tang was back in his armor slicing the tendrils off the dog pile on the Hoomah.  Sake walked to the right of the ferocious foray, and had the Clowness in his sight, with only two tendrils standing guard, he poised the lance that was hot with magmatic pain.
“ Haha, boy, you can’t harm me,” as she said that Sake squinted under his Trojan coral mask and took three steps forward and launched.  The two tendril guards grasped the lance, but before they could slow it down, it struck home, pinning the Clowness to the lobster.  She looked at Sake in horror, mucus formed on her face and body, the tendril’s left her attire.  Her eyes looked up to the depths then she split from the lance in two gelatinous globs, splattering on the lobster.   The anemone returned to its lifeless sway.  He could not believe it, they defeated her.  Sake ran around the lobster, to look for his compeers.  They were at the base of the anemone, he pulled them out by their fins one at a time.
Both were in rough shape, but Hoomah  had ribs exposed.  Le Tang raised himself to a fin, and looked at the Hoomah.  The Hoomah’s big eyes were looking forward and not blinking when Sake cried  “ you’re alright ” the big eyes came down and looked at Sake.  Tears were swimming out of the boy’s eyes.  Hoomah spoke: “ You will be the first of your line, protect it… do not waste a kill, now go save her,” and with his last breath he made his last joke and blew Sake’s helmet off.
He stood up, and closed his eyes, not moving.  The loss of his mentor, was his final lesson.  He fought with all his might to hold back his tears, as if Hoomah was still watching him…As in life as in death… and that thought wiped all expression from his face and unleashed him from his brood.
Sake picked up his helmet, and retrieved the lance.  He could not bear to look at Hoomah, he rather look at the redoubtable approaching Crabaltar.  He turned and faced it down, as the Trojan coral before him, it was at the doorstep to the Coral Kingdom.  "Don’t waste a kill"  he said out loud.  He  lifted up the lance and brought it down on the lobsters leg.  Cracking and prying it off, then reaming it out. He shoved his hand up it, and with his now claw armored arm he snipped off anemone, and put it all over his armor. He worked lifelessly, as if he was a mortician doing his own art.  Battle hardens the heart.
“ I’m coming with you” minced Le Tang.  Sake just shook his head, he knew Le Tang still could not move anyways.
The cold breeze caught his Trojan algae plume, and his red blue anemone swayed off his arms and torso in medusa lethality, ready to sting flesh from him .
He walked toward the towering dark wall after his anemone glow entered first.  The dark creatures of the fathoms silenced their demonic laughs, “not so tough anymore.”

A Deep Sea Gulper went to clamp Sake, but Sake’s armor bit into it, sending it scampering off singed and yelping like a beat dog as he walked to the entrance of Crabaltar.  He needed no torch, the anemones light searched into the darkness and his lance was the equivalent of fifty torches .  He passed into the foyer, where it all began, then passed into the first dark portal.  The crevices emitted their glowing eyes of vipers, the anemones singed and stunned them.  The vipers screamed in Sakes face as they burned from the sting, he did not blink, just head butted them with his helm or ripped out the stunned ones from his armor and crushed them underfoot as he walked down the long narrow passage.  He stood up to his knees in dead viper.  He took a knee before the Damsel’s chamber.   More vipers screamed down the hall, then screamed in their painful retreat.
As he took a knee, he took off his blue-red light anemone to stand guard at his rear as his lime green helm lighted the path to his front.  The lance was a magmatic rivulet in his hand, glowing to unseen proportion in the dark enclave.
He closed his eyes, “ Power and speed, be hands and feet” and walked into the chamber with  his eyes still closed remembering the Crab’s claw will close on her if he sees it.
He heard a click, and knew the claw was only one click away from the Damsel, he walked at the Crab, and heard the rock wall behind the Crab coming loose with baby crab.  Sake did not stop.  He climbed on top of the Crab; the wall of small crabs came over him, he still did not stop his ritual.  The Crab’s free scythe came up slowly and pathetically to pierce Sake in the side, it did not get deep.  Sake still did not make a noise, but raised the lance with both hands, he stabbed down through the cannibal’s exoskeleton, prying each way to open the wound.  The exoskeleton made a cracking noise that echoed off every wall. Then he opened his eyes and stuck the lance through the claw that held the Damsel and snapped it off by  giving the lance a hard boot, ripping  the black scythe claw to the floor  . The Damsel fell slowly to the ground like a feather.  He buried the lance through the crab’s brain and the baby crabs fell off him.  
He stepped down and picked up the Damsel, as the whole place begin to buckle.  He walked over uneven ground of dead viper, and into the foyer as one of the gigantic rocks overhead fell behind him blocking the entrance to the Crab’s layer.  He walked out of Crabaltar as the place began to crumble..   Rock tonnage fell with thunderous force, sending out aftershocks.
Outside was already brightening; he walked with her in his arms past the giant dead lobster to the Coral Palace that was becoming alive again.  He walked past his fallen mentor, but  Le Tang was not there.  The grand staircase lit up in a white hot glow from the first touch of Sake’s snake skin gaitered boots, the Damsel opened her eyes, and looked at her hero as he climbed the stairs. “ You are free,” said Sake looking into her eyes.
“ Ma frère” she said, “ you are free,” and she quaked in his arms, her heart ceasing from beating .  He stopped on the stair landing, looking downward; the stair case flickered and so did the whole kingdom, he then proceeded to ascend the stair case and the staircase responded by glowing its white aura continuously.
He reached the open hall, servants and hand maids were there with a royal bed, he placed her on it.  They took her within the palace, as the Queen was being led out to her throne.  Coral parapets were energizing and forming purple wavelengths undulating in soothing sine waves along the palace--in healthy heartbeat rhythm.
Sake turned around and doffed his helmet, holding it under his arm. He had to see this unimpaired and not through the ‘T’ opening of the Trojan coral..  Life was returning to the Kingdom, the corals glowed, light came from the depths.  The Mahi Mahi glided over the kingdom, no hook nor barb in her face--she was beautiful, and strong, and her shadow brought forth magnificient light displays on the corals.
  He stood looking at the impressive vista, the court filled behind him, hailing him as a hero.
  The Damsel’s image was projected from the corals onto the sky and onto the palace walls.  Sake heard a drip drop sound, just as he saw Le Tang beyond the palace, he had his armor back on, and he had only one fin.  He rendered a salute—a three stroked fencing slash with his body- -smiled, then collapsed his blades and turned.  Le Tang became a wandering fire.
Clan Hoomah came to claim the body of Hoomah Hoomah, a procession longer than the kingdom, and a body worth more than Alexander the Great’s.  One particular clan member led the procession, he was young, with the same neon war paint through his right eye—two upside down feathers.  No one in the procession showed any expression, other than austerity, Sake remembered the Hoomah’s words…” In life as in death,”  and smiled at the sight of the clan, all austere faces with : lips of jokesters, minds of hunters, and hearts of mentors.
He thought he heard the Queen Angel hailing him, he turned, and the drip drop sound became louder.  He stood on the glowing marble coral landing, holding his helmet, as the highway of returning colorful refugees came from both directions to hail the knights.  An elliptical constellation twinkled up in the depths.  He felt as if he was being pulled away from the kingdom, as if the journey was over.
“ Sake, can you hear me, Sake, honey, are you awake.”
He opened his eyes; he was in his bed, his mother was attending him.  He sat up, his tank was back on.  He looked at his mother, she looked like she had been crying.  “ Sake, you had a high fever, you--you called out things in your sleep.  I turned  your tank back on, there is breakfast for you when your ready—and Summer is waiting for you” she turned and left.
Sake stumbled out towards his tank.  Waving like a magnificent banner, was the Queen Angel .  The rock jumble in the middle had collapsed; on it, a neon scallop shell, with a lower case’t’ indentation in the center.  He turned to the window and smiled.  The overcast was being pierced by a thousand swords of light, the reflections running down his dark walls slowly diminished, and returned to their source.

Afterword


My Angel In Heaven

I am tired and want to die,
I am not Atlas, but still
try to hold up the sky.

But it is not your sky I hold up,
it is her heaven, over violent sea.
she needs my help--I need help,
sunset-- I am down to knee.

If my arms weaken--
I lost faith,
my young angel,
will disappear into ocean--
without trace.

Every morn I stand,
some days refreshed;
when ocean is quiet,
and clouds resemble
Sunday dress.

My angel in heaven,
sea spray can lash my face,
wind can howl in my ears--
I will still hold your heaven in place,
from falling in the ocean of tears.--KjC

Toni Seychelle Feb 2013

The ground beneath the stiff leaves is frozen. The cold, brisk air invades my lungs, I exhale, my breath visible. I step over fallen branches and tugged by thorny vines. A red tail hawk screeches overhead, this is a sign of good luck. There is no path, no trail to mark our way, just an old, flat railroad bed surrounded by walls of shale, blown up for the path of the train so long ago. The only ties to remind of the rail are the rotting, moss covered ties that once were a part of a bridge that would have carried the train over a small creek between two steep hills. I see a fox burrow, and it's escape hatch is one of the hollowed railroad ties. I want to be a fox... The trek down this hill is not easy, thorny blackberry bushes and fallen trees impede progress. At the bottom, the small, bubbly creek is frozen at the edges, traveling under rocks and continuing its ancient path. I look up the hill that I just descended, and wonder how the return will go. Keep moving. The next hill will be easier, there are no thorny tangles, just treacherous leaf litter that will give under my feet if I don't find the right footing. The trick is to dig my boots into the ground as if I'm on steps. These hills are steep. Finally at the top, I look back at this little spring valley, I'm not that high up, but what view. Here, there is a dilapidated tree stand, falling apart from years of neglect and weather. Surrounded by deep leaf litter, there is a patch of rich dark earth, a buck has marked his spot, his round pellets are nearby. The saplings catch my hair as I walk by, and at these moments I am thankful for this cold snap that took care of the ticks. A creepy feeling takes over me, so thankful for this snap. A few feet further, as I watch where I am walking, another tussled bit of earth and I notice some interesting scat. It's furry and light grey; I poke it with my stick and find a small skull when I turn a piece over. Owl. I continue my walk, I didn't come here to play with poo. The last time I took this hike was three years ago, on a similar frigid day. It was a lot easier to make it through the shale valleys. Last summer, a wind storm felled trees and took out power for two weeks. The evidence of that derecho is clear here in this untouched forest. I remembered a tree, which now is a fallen giant, that had lost it's bark. The bark had separated and laid around this tree like a woman's skirt around her ankles. Now the tree lies with it's bark. I pass another tree I recognize whose branch extends out but zig zags up and down, as if it had three elbows. The tree signifies my next move, to descend from the flat railroad bed, down to a creek that flows through the tunnel that would have carried the train. The creek is considerably larger than the last creek I could step across. Descending towards the creek leads me over moss covered rocks and limbs, still bearing snow. Outside the tunnel, the hill walls are large stones, covered in a thick layer of moss, some of which has started to fall off due to heaviness. There's a sort of ice shelf in the creek, it's three layers thick and can support my one hundred and twenty pounds. Laying across the creek is another derecho-felled tree. Some sort of critter has crawled on this, using it to avoid the water below and as a short cut up the hill. His claw marks are covering the the limb, a few are more clear, it looks as if the creature almost slipped off. His claw marks show a desperate cling. I walk through the tunnel, in the mud and water; the creek echoes inside. I look above. There are drainage holes lining the ceiling, one is clogged by a giant icicle. I imagine the train that used to ride over this tunnel, I pretend to hear it and feel the rumbling. The last time we were here, we found cow skeletons. We placed a few heads on branches and one over the tunnel. We stuck a jaw, complete with herbivore teeth, into the mossy wall and a hip bone on a sapling. The hip bone reminded us of Predator's mask in the movie. All these bones are turning green. When I was here before, there was a bone half submerged in the creek; I had taken a picture of it but today, it isn't here. I'm sure it was washed away. After our exploration of the previous visit, we turned back. We are cold again, can't stay in one place too long. I climb through the deep leaf litter and over the rocks back to the railroad bed. Passing all the things I've already seen and spotting things I missed. I find two more fox burrows. They utilized the shale rock and burrowed underneath the jutting formations. Hidden coming from the south, the gaping openings seem welcoming from the north. My friends, the spelunkers and climber, want to descend into the darkness but I remind them, it is an hour to sundown, our trek is hard enough with overcast daylight. Wisdom prevails. We pass a tree, we didn't notice before, that was struck by lightening. The cedar tree was split in two and fell down the shale wall. I see the evidence of the burn and a smoldered residue at the base. Nature has a cruel way of recycling. The downed tree still has snow on it and the path of a raccoon is visible, I like the paws of coons. Though the way is flat, the walls of shale tower above us, limiting routes. At one point I can't see through the fallen trees I have to pass through. I have to crab walk under, crawl over, duck again and find my way around the thorny collections of bare black berry bushes. Finally into a clearing, still surrounded by sharp shale, there is another wall covered in inches of thick, healthy moss. I place my hand, taking time to stroke the furry wall. My hand leaves an imprint. I wonder how long that will last.. Back down the steep hill up and up the thorny tangle. I know I'm on the right path up, I see the fox's hole through the railroad tie, and his entrance burrow up the hill. Going down was definitely easier. The summit is literally overgrown with thorns, there is no clear path through. It is, again, impossible to see through the tangle of limbs and saplings and more thorns. Somehow we make it through. We are close to breaking off this path. We know this by the remains of a cow skeleton that more than likely fell from the top of the shale cliff. Femurs and ribs and jaws abound. On the last trip, we placed a hip bone in the "Y" of a sapling. The young tree has claimed it, growing around it. We add a piece of jaw to the tree's ornamentation and move on. We climb down from the railroad bed to our car - parked on the side of the road with a white towel in the window so that no one suspects a group of people walking through private property, past faded NO TRESPASSING signs.

When I undress for bed later, there are many small scratches up and down my legs from those damned thorny vines. I'm okay with that, it's better than searching for ticks in my head.

I couldn't write a 'poem' about this hike. It was too full of nature.
Mitchell Duran Nov 2013

It was 98'.
No, it was 99'.
That was the year.
Yeah, that was the year.

I had just landed abroad and knew no one.
Well, I was there with my girlfriend, Page.

I knew her.

We had to get out of the states.
There was nothing for us there.
We were drowning in that nothingness - that lacking future.

Cookie cutters everywhere.

Everything I saw was like an outline of something that had already happened.
I couldn't sleep.
I couldn't fuck.
I could barely call my parents to let them know what I was doing.

Nothing really.

Floating downward like a leaf broken from its stem.
I was scared.
I'll admit it.
I was terrified of the next four years.
Twenty-five seemed so far away and so close, all at the same time.

We had a found an apartment to live in while in the U.S.
We were lucky because people we met later on said it was hell trying to find a place after arriving.
I was never too good at that stuff anyway.
I always felt like people were trying to cheat me or something.

It was small.
You would have said you loved it, but secretly hated it.
One could barely stand in the shower.
Want to spread your arms wide?

Forget about it.

There was a balcony though and you could watch the street traffic from above.
People look so small when your high up.
Down the street, there was a large theatre where they filmed movies.
I rarely saw them shooting, but I could tell it was a good place to.
It was beautiful at night when the lampposts would flicker on, orange spilling on the street.
Everything was damp in the Fall when we first arrived.

"What do you want to do today?" I asked her. She was laying face down on the bed.
Whenever she was hungover, she would do that.
All the covers and pillows over her face, blocking out the world and its light.
I did the same thing, so I couldn't really say much.
We were hungover a lot those first couple months.
Then came the jobs and everything changed...mostly.

She moaned something that I couldn't understand.
I was standing by the window, staring at the pigeons and crows perched on the roof across from us.
They had made a little nest under one of the shingles.
Clever little fucker's.

"Look at those things," I said.
The coffee I was drinking was bitter and made from crystals.
It gave me a headache, but it was cheap and we were broke.
I stepped back to get a better look at their nest and knocked an empty beer bottle around.

She moaned again and rose up from bed, kind of like a stretching kitten or a cat.
Her back was arched like a crescent moon and she stunk of vodka and Sprite.
The blankets were twisted and crumpled and she was tangled in them like a fly in a spiders web.
I went into the kitchen and poured out my coffee, thinking of what to do with the day.

"Breakfast?" she asked me from bed.
My back was to her, but I knew she wanted me to make it.
I put the electric stove on and opened the refrigerator.

"No eggs," I said back to her, "I'll be right back."

She moaned and slithered back into bed.
I threw my jacket and slippers on and made my way downstairs.

"Dobry den," I said to the cashier.
He was a tiny vietnamese man with a extremely high pitched voice.
I struggled to stifle a laugh every time I came in.

"Dobry den," he said back, sounding like air escaping from a balloon.

"Dear God," I thought, "How does his voice box do it?"

I went straight to the eggs, pretending to cough.
All around me were packaged sweets and rotten vegetables and fruit.
There were half loaves of brown, stale bread wrapped lazily in thin plastic.
Canned beans, noodle packets, and cardboard infused orange juice lined the shelves.
Where were the goddamn eggs?
We needed milk too.
Trying to drink that crystalized coffee without it was torture.
I don't even know how I did it earlier.
"I must be getting used to the taste..." I thought.

I opened the single refrigerator they had in the place.
It was stocked with loosely packaged cheese, milk, beer, and soda.
There they were, those goddamn eggs, right next to the yogurt.
I looked at the expiration date of a small carton of chocolate milk and winced.
"Someone could die here if they weren't careful," I whispered to myself.

"Everyding O.K.?" I heard the cashier squeak behind me.
I turned and nodded and showed him the eggs.
He was suspicious I was stealing something.
It was ironic.
I put the eggs on the counter and handed over what the cash register told me.

"There you go," I said and handed him the 58 crown in exact change.

"Děkuji," he peeped.

His voice sounded like a stuffed animal.
I nodded, smiled, and quickly got the hell out of there.

"You know the guy that works at the shop across the street?" I asked the body still in bed.
Well, she was up now, back up against the wall with her laptop on her lap.
"You mean the guy that has the voice of a little girl?"
"Exactly. I was just in there - getting these eggs - and I nearly laughed in his face."
"That's mean," she frowned, staring at her laptop.
Many of our conversations were with some kind of electronic device in between us.
We needed to work on that.
"I didn't laugh at him directly."
She smiled and nodded and moved down the bed a little more.
Only her head was resting on the pillow.
I cracked two eggs and let them sizzle there in the butter and the salt.

"So, what do you want to do today?" I asked Page, "It's not too cold out. We could go on a walk."
"Where?"
"I don't know. Over the bridge and maybe down by the water."
"It's going to be so cold," she shivered.
"I was just out there in slippers and a t-shirt and I was fine."
"That's because you're so big. I'm tiny. I don't get as much blood flow."

I flipped the two eggs and looked down at them.
Golden and burnt slightly around the edges.
Fucking perfect.
Now, just gotta wait a little on the other side and make sure to not let the yolk harden.
I hated that more than anything in the world.
Well, that and hearing piss poor excuses like it being too cold.
It was nice out.
She'd be fine.

"Come on," I sighed. I did that a lot. "It'll be fun."
She looked up at me from her computer with a dead look in her eye.
"What?" I asked her.
"You're such a...nerd," she said.
"No I'm not."
"You're so weird. Some of the things you say sometimes..."
"Like what?"
"Let's go on a walk."
She exaggerated the word walk.
I laughed and knew I was being a little too excited about a walk.
"Yeah. So? What are you doing? You're just laying there doing nothing."
"It's my day off," she scoffed, jokingly.

We were unemployed.
Everyday was a day off.
This was not something to bring up.
It was touchy subject.
One had to go about it...delicately.

"We need to find jobs," I stated, "And we can probably ask around or look for signs in windows."

"Oh JESUS," she gagged, coughing and diving back under the covers.

"I'm just thinking ahead so we can stay here. There's got to be something out there we can do."

"Like what?" she asked, her voice muffled by blankets.

"I don't know...something," I mumbled, trailing off as I flipped one of the eggs, "Perfect."

After breakfast, Page finally got out of bed and took a shower.
I tried to sneak in there with her, but, like I said before, one could barely fit themselves in there.
We compromised to have sex on the bed, though I did miss doing it in the shower.
As Page got dressed, I watched her slip those thin black stockings on, half reading a magazine.
I had gotten a subscription to The Review because I was trying to become a writer.
I thought, maybe if I read the stuff getting published - even the bad shit - it'll help.
Later, I realized, this was a terrible idea, but I enjoyed the magazine all the same.
Page finished getting dressed.
I jumped into whatever clothes were on the floor and didn't stink.
Then, we were out the door on Anna Letenske street, looking at the tram, downhill.


"I can see my breath," Page said, "It's cold..."

"Alright," I said as both of us ran across the street, "It's a little cold."

"But it's ok because I'm glad were out of the house."

"If we would have festered there any longer, we would have stayed in there all day."

"And missed this beautiful day," she said mocking me, putting both of her arms in the air.

The sky was gray and overcast and a single black crow flew over us, roof to roof.
No one was out, really.
It was Sunday and no one ever really came out on Sundays.
From the few czech friends I had, they explained to me this was the day to get drunk and cook.

"Far different then what people think in the States to do," I remember telling him.
"What do you do, my friend?" he had asked. He always called me my friend.
It was a nice thing to do since we had only known each other a couple weeks.
"Well," I explained to him, "Some people go to church to pray to God."
He laughed when I said this and said, "HA! God? How many people believe in God there?"
I had heard through the news and some Wikipedia research Prague was mostly atheist.
"A good amount, I'm pretty sure."
"That's silly," he scoffed, "Silly is word, right?"
"Yep. A word as any other."
"I like that word. What else do they do on Sunday?"
"A lot of people watch football. Not like soccer but with..."
"I know what you talk about," he said, cutting me off, "With the ball shaped like egg?"
I nodded, "Yes, the one with the egg shaped ball. It's popular in the Fall on Sundays."
"And what is Fall?" he asked.
You can see our relationship was really based on questions and answers.
He was a good guy, though I could never pronounce his name right.
There was a specific z in there somewhere where one had to dig their tongue under their teeth.
Lots of breath and vibration that Americans were never asked or trained to do.
Every czech I met said our language was a high contradiction.
Extremely complex in grammar and spelling, but spoken with such sloth.
I don't know if they used the word sloth.
I just like the word.

As we waited for the tram, I noticed the burnt orange and red blood leaves on the ground.
"Where had they come from?" I wondered. There were no trees on the street.
Must be from the park down the block, the one with the big church and the square.
There were lines of trees there used as leaning posts for the bums and junkies as they waited.
What they were waiting for, I never knew.
They just looked to be waiting for something.
I kicked a leaf into the street from the small island platform for the tram.
It swept up into the air a couple inches, and then instantly, was swept away by a passing car.
I watched as it wavered in the air, settling down the block in the middle of the road.

"Where's this trammm," Page complained.
Whenever it was cold out, her complaining level multiplied by a million.
"Should be coming soon. Check the schedule."
"Too cold," she said, "Need to keep my hands in my pockets."
I shook my head and looked at the schedule. It said it would be there at 11:35.
"11:35," I told her, still looking at the schedule. There was a strange cross over the day of Sunday.
"You mad?"
"No," I said turning to her, "I just want to have a nice day and its hard when you're upset."
"I'm not upset," she said, her teeth chattering behind her lips.
"Complaining I mean. We can go back home if it's really too cold. It's right there."
"No," she looked down, "Let's go out for a bit. I just don't know how long I'll last."
"Ok," I shrugged.
I looked up the street and saw our tram coming; number 11.
"There it is," I said.
"Thank God," Page exhaled, "I feel like I'm about to die."

Even the tram was sparse with people.
An empty handle of cheap liquor rattled in the back somewhere.
I heard it rock back and forth against the legs of a metal seat.
"Someone had a night last night," I thought, "Hope that's not mine."
We had gone to some dark bar with a lot of stairs going down - all I really recall.
Beer was so damn cheap there and there was always so much of it, one got very drunk easily.
I couldn't even really remember who we met or why we went there.
When everything's a blur in the morning you have two choices:
Feel guilty about how much you drank, lie around, and do nothing or,
Leave it be, try not to think about it, and try and find your passport and cell phone.

We made our transfer at the 22 and rode downhill.
Page looked like she was going to be sick.
Her sunglasses were solid black and I couldn't see her eyes, but her face was flushed and green.
"You alright?" I asked her.
"I'm fine," she said, "Just need to get off of this tram. Feel like I'm going to be sick."
"You look it."
"Really?" she asked.
"Yeah, a little bit."
"Let's get off at the park with the fountain. I don't want to puke here."
"Ok," I said, smiling, "We'll get off after this stop."

We sat down on one of the benches that circled around the fountain.
It was empty and Page was confused why.
"Maybe to save money?" I suggested.
"What? It's just water."
"Well, you gotta' pump the water up there and then filter it back out. Costs money."
"Costs crown," she corrected me.
"Same thing," I said, putting my arm around her, "There's no one here today."
"I know why," she stated, flatly.
"Why?"
"Because it's collllllllld and it's Sunday and only foreigner's would go out on a day like this."
I scanned the park and noticed that most of the faces there were probably not Czech.
"Shit," I muttered, "You may be right."
"I know I am," she said, wiggling her chin down into her jacket, "We're...crzzzy."
"We're what?" I asked. I couldn't hear her through her jacket.
She just shook her head back and forth and looked forward, not wanting to move from the warmth.
Dogs were scattered around the brown green grass with their owners.
Some were playing catch with sticks or balls, but others were just following behind their owner's.
I watched as one took a crap in the center of the walkway near the street.
Its owner was typing something on their phone, ignoring what was happening in front of him.
After the dog finished, the owner looked down at the crap, looked around, then slunk off.

"Did you see that?" I asked Page, pointing to where the owner had left the mess.
"Yeah," she nodded, "So gross. That would never fly in the states."
"You'd get shoulder tackled by some park security guard and thrown in jail."
"And be given a fat ticket," she said, coughing a little, "Let's get out of here."
"Yeah," I agreed, "And watch for any poop on the way out of here."

We made our way out of the park and down the street where the 22 continues on to the center.
"Let's not go into the center. Let's walk along the water's edge and maybe up to the bridge."
"Ok," I said, "That's a good idea." I didn't want to get stuck in that mass of tourists.
I could tell Page didn't either. I think she was afraid she might puke on a huddle of them.
We turned down a side street before the large grocery store and avoided a herd of people.
The cobble stones were wet and slick, glistening from a small sliver of sunlight through the clouds.
Page walked ahead.
Sometimes, when we walked downtown in the older parts of Prague, we would walk alone.
Not because we were fighting or anything like that; it was all very natural.
I would walk ahead because I saw something and she would either come with or not.
She would do the same and we both knew that we wouldn't go too far without the other.
I think we both knew that we would be back after seeing what we had wanted to see.
One could call it trust - one could call it a lot of things - but this was not really spoken about.
We knew we would be back after some time and had seen what we had wanted to.
Thinking about this, I watched her look up at the peeling paint of the old buildings.
Her thick black hair waved back and forth behind her plum colored pea coat.
Page would usually bring a camera and take pictures of these things, but she had forgotten it.
I wished she hadn't.
It was turning out to be such a beautiful day.

We made it to the Vlatva river and leaned over the railing, looking down at the water.
Floating there were empty beer bottles and plastic soda jugs.
The water was brown, murky, and looked like someone had dumped a large bag of dirt in there.
There was nothing very romantic about it, which one would think if you saw it in a picture.
"The water looks disgusting," Page said.
"That it does, but look at the bridge. It looks pretty good right now."
We turned our heads and looked at Charles bridge.
Hundreds of people were walking back and forth, specks shuffling to the both sides.
Every two seconds, a flash would go off from someone's camera.
It looked a little like there were tiny firecrackers going off, but without the sound.
"Look how many people are over there," Page murmured, "Let's not go over there."
"Agreed, "I said, "We can go over the bridge before it. There's never people on that one."
"The one that leads to the rail that takes you up the hill."
"Yeah," I said, walking ahead, "That one, but we don't have to go up there if you don't want to."
"I'll see," she shrugged, catching up to me and putting her arm through mine.
We walked near the railing and both looked over the slow moving river.
On the other side, where the cobble stones stopped and a beige beach was, were many geese.
There were ten or so people feeding them cheap bread and the geese were everywhere.
"We could check that out if Page is up for it," I thought, "We'll just have to see."

As we crossed the bridge, we moved through a large group of italian tourists.
They were taking a large group photo with the bridge behind them and we had to wait.
A tram rumbled past us, startling Page.
"Jesus!" she screamed, "I thought that thing was going to hit us."
I laughed, "You're so damned jumpy."
"No I'm not. I just get scared easily when I'm hungover or tired."
The Italians had finished taking their picture and we walked in front of them.
"I wish you would have brought your camera," I said, looking at the Charles bridge.
"Me too, but the light isn't that good."
"Really?" I asked. I didn't know anything about photography other than to point and shoot.
"Yep. Too dark." Page had done some photography in college for sports and concerts.
I looked up into the sky and saw that the sun was just starting to come out.
It was about 1:30 in the afternoon and I noticed that this was the time the sun would show - if at all.

We went down a flight of steps that lead to where an abandoned green house stood.
There was nothing inside but broken clay pots and trash.
The windows were stained with streaks of dirt, bird shit, and thin vines that crept up to the ceiling.
As we walked in, there was another couple taking pictures of the glass.
There was another group huddled in a corner in a circle drinking beer and smoking.
They were laughing about something and I was hoping it wasn't us.
Other than the clay pots and trash, there was nothing else inside - not even planter's boxes.
From the looks of it, the place had been raided and ransacked a long time ago.
What anyone could get from a few splintered pieces of wood and dead plants, I had no idea.
We walked through the greenhouse in five minutes and to the edge where the path ended.
The ground was wet and muddy. I put out my hand so Page could take it as she walked.
We tip toed to the very edge as the water lapped up against the tips of our shoes.
In front of us, paddle boats floated atop the water, their driver's peddling wearily along.
"We should do that one of these days," I told Page, "It looks fun."
"Look at them," Page laughed, pointing, "Do they look like they're having fun?"
I looked at the paddle boat she had pointed to.
The peddler looked to be exhausted, sweating, and out of breath.
The passenger - who looked to be his girlfriend - had her head tilted back, looking up at the sky.
"Well," I said, "That wouldn't be us. We would take turns."
"Why?" she asked, stepping backward to get out of the mud, "You're stronger than me."
"And that makes me be the slave, paddling you around?"
"No," she said, "That makes you the gentlemen. Chivalry or whatever it's called."
"Sounds like a bunch of a bullshit. Look at that poor guy. He looks like he's about to pass out."
Page laughed loudly and was making her way back to the stairs.
I squinted my eyes and stared at the paddle boat with the couple inside.
"Poor bastard," I thought, "Guy doesn't stand a chance...he'll never make it out alive."

After crossing the bridge, Page stopped to get a bag of potato chips.
Whenever she was hungover or tired or both, she would inhale potato chips.
I would give her a lot of shit for it, but I would have a couple, and she would dish it right back.
The sun was out now, but a wind blew past, reminding us that it was still cold.
I wanted to make it down to the edge of the water where I had seen the geese.
Pages teeth were chattering again and I looked down at both of our shoes, which were wet.
I knew of a cafe on the way to the castle, only a couple blocks away.
One of those places that is never crowded, serves good, cheap hot food, and is all wood inside.
I could never remember the name of it, but I knew they served this stuff called Red Velvet beer.
It wasn't so high in alcohol that you would get very drunk, but you would definitely feel it a little.
I liked to go there when I was hungover to take the edge off or have a drink and not get drunk.
Page had finished her potato chips and jammed the empty bag in her purse.
She could finish a bag of those things in a minute flat. I'm not joking. She loved those things.

"It's 2 o'clock," I said to Page, "Let's get a drink at that place that serves the velvet beer."
"It's so expensive though." To her credit, it was pretty expensive, but I saw no other options.
"Only 60 crown," I told her, "We can afford that."
"You can?" she asked, raising her eyebrows, "How?"
"I borrowed some money from my mom for rent and VISA stuff. She let me have a little extra."
"Really?"
"Yeah. I think she feels bad that we don't have a lot right now and we are traveling."
"That's so nice," she mused, "I always feel so awkward asking for money."
"Let's walk and talk. I'm getting cold from being outside so long."
"Good idea," Page said, walking with me, "I'm freeeeezing."

I put my arm around her and rocked her back and forth, trying to warm her up.
"It's not workiiiiiing," she said, rubbing her hands together.
I sighed and unwrapped my arm around her shoulder, defeated.
"Hey!" she screeched, jokingly, "Put that thing back around me! Why'd you do that?"
"You said it wasn't working, so I took it off," I said flatly.
"I was kidding," she said, "It was working." She took my arm and wrapped it around herself.
Page was so crazy when she was cold. She turned into a different person entirely.
We walked like that for a little while until my arm got tired and I swept it off of her.
As we made our way to the velvet beer, we looked up into the hills.
It was wide and light green, with hundreds of apple trees lined up, one behind the other.
I had heard the hills were once used to grow grapes and that the wine they made was very good.
Mostly whites, with a light and clear taste, and so fresh it felt like you were drinking spring water.
I had only had that kind of once, at a party if I remember right, and I drank the whole bottle.
The wine hadn't got me drunk, just nice and lucid and sharp, like good alcohol does.

I pointed up the hill to show Page where they were still growing grapes.
She stopped and crossed the street and went down an alley to get a better look of the hill.
I followed behind her, watching her move through the tourists and down the alley.
We passed an old antiques glassware shop and a modern thai restaurant that looked to be closed.
The streets were slick and wet from the mist that hung above our heads.
Coming up from the other side of the alley, we got a wider view of it all.
It was very beautiful, the hill, especially with the gray fog hovering behind.
The dark lime green of the hill and the sky clashed in front of us.

"How would anyone ever maintain this place?" Page asked out loud.
"I have no idea. It would take a lot of work, though."
"Going up and down those hills everyday, cutting all that grass."
"And pruning those apple trees, too," I said.
"Those are apple trees?" Page asked, excited.
"I think so, " I said, putting my hand over my eyes, straining to see better, "I see little balls in them."
"Let's go get some!"
"They're probably not even ripe yet and they're all the way up the hill..."
But, she was already gone, running up the steep path to where the trees stood.
"What about the velvet beer!" I shouted at her.
"It'll be there when we get there," she yelled back at me, "It's not going anywhere."
I slowly started walking up the hill, "You have a point," I mumbled.

I had never seen her run so fast for anything.
Page was up the hill in three minutes, where it took me ten to walk up.
When I got to her, she already had ten bright green and red apples in her arms.
I got closer and saw she had about five in her purse.
Her cheeks were flushed and she was smiling like mad as she washed them in the wet grass.
I came up behind her and wrapped my arms around her, nearly making her drop everything.
Page leaned her head back on my shoulder and we both looked up in the sky.

"Your'e so cold," I whispered behind her ear, swaying back and forth.
"My feet are freezing," she chattered. I looked down at her leather boots and they were soaked.
"Well, you ran up that hill like a rabbit in the tall grass. What'd you think was gonna' happen?"
"I just wanted the apples," she said like a child: innocent, guilty, and playful.
"I just wanted the apples," I repeated, mocking her smiling.
She wiggled out of my arms, swung around and looked at me, her eyes wide. She paused.
I started laughing. There was nothing else I could do.
"Don't mock me!" she screamed, "I'm just playing around. You're always so serious."
She had backed away from me a little and I followed her. I felt like she was going to run away.
"I was kidding," I tried to tell her, "I was only poking fun because you sounded like a little kid."
"No, I didn't," she pouted, looking at all of the apples in her arms.
"I'm pretty sure you were." I tip toed towards her, my arms wide open.
She fell into them and nestled into my chest, "You're always so warm. Why are you always warm?"
"Blood flow," I explained, making it up, "That and I drink too much."
She didn't say anything, giving me all her weight.
I took it all and leaned back on my heels and we stood like that for a long time.

As we made our way down the hill, we bought a plastic bag for the apples in a small shop.
Page dropped them all inside and the store clerk laughed when we did it at the counter.
"What are you going to do with all those apples?" I asked her as we walked down the sidewalk.
"Eat them!" she yelled, "These are ripe and ready to eat. I just need to wash them better."
"Why?" I said, "They look fine to me."
"I just washed them in the grass. Look, "She took an apple out of the bag, "This one's got dirt on it."
I looked down at it and there was a dry patch of dirt covering the whole of one side.
"Gross," I grunted, "You'll definitely need to wash all of them again."
"That's what I'm saying." She popped the apple back in the bag as we reached the front of the bar.

We scanned the menu and saw the food was relatively cheap.
French fries or hranolky was only 35 crown and the meals were around 115.
"Are you hungry?" I asked Page, as we walked in.
"I want some hranolky." She was taking her coat off and sliding into the booth.
I slid in behind her and we sat together, shoulder to shoulder, looking over the menu.
No one had greeted us as we walked in. Only the bartender who had nodded and smiled.
I didn't see any server's to order a drink, but knew it was bad custom to order from the bar.
Eventually, the bartender came over to take our order. He told us the waitress was on a break.
"Va velvet pivo, prosim," I told him.
He smiled and walked away, probably thinking my czech was that of a four year old.
An impossible language, especially for an American. So many tiny nuances of the mouth.

"What'd you think of my czech?"
"Pretty good," Page said, "Much better than mine."
"Really?"
"Yeah. Any czech I try to talk to has absolutely no idea what I'm trying to ask them."
"It's so embarrassing," I sighed, putting the menu down, "I wish I was better prepared."
"We just moved here," Page said, trying to comfort me, "You'll get better."
"Do you know what you want?"
"Yep," she said, pointing to the menu, which was glossy and clean, "French fries and veggies."
"Where's that?" I took the menu in my hand, "The veggie part."
"Somewhere in appetizers. It's cheap, like 20 crown or something."
"I'm gonna stick with beer," I said, "Not too hungry."
"No," she moaned, looking at me, "If you don't get anything, you'll eat mine. I won't have it."
"Huh?" I asked, feigning ignorance, "I never do that."
"You always do that," she said, "Every time we eat out you either eat the scraps or eat mine."
"Fine," I said, taking up the menu, "I'll get a sandwich or potatoes or something."
"Good."
"I'll get a chicken sandwich and eat half now, half later. It's only 115 crown."
"Get it!" she shouted, laughing.
There was no other customers in the bar except for us and it was very peaceful and secluded

We sat back against the wooden bench and looked around the velvet bar.
The kitchen was behind a swiveling half-door and a looked to be no bigger than a walk in closet.
I leaned over Page to see who was in there.
Two older woman, both leaning back against the stove, were standing there and chatting.
Short and fat, they stood there like some form of gatekeeper's.
They looked be very bored, yet very content with having nothing to do.
I felt bad we were about to order food and interrupt whatever they were talking about.
Page was gazing out the window, most likely looking for passer by dogs.
She loved dogs and anytime she could get a glance at one, she would scream, "Look at that DOG!"
Ever since we met, she talked about getting one for us, but it was impossible.
No place we ever moved into would ever let us have one. It was kind of sad, if you think about it.

"Va velet piva," the bartender said, placing the two beers down in front of us on coasters.
They were a golden, burgundy color behind the glass and the foam on top was a creamy beige.
"And anything to order for food?" he asked us, switching over to English.
"Chicken sandwich for me," I said.
"Hranolky and..." Page paused, awkwardly reaching for the menu, "Zelenina."
The bartender laughed," The vegetable platter or plate?"
"Which one's cheaper?" I asked, laughing with him.
"The plate is good for two people, unless you are very hungry?"
I looked at Page, who shrugged back at me, "Plate will be fine," I told him.
"Plate of zelenina, hranolky, and kuřecí sandwich," the bartender said back to us.
"Perfect," I said, nodding and handing him the menu's, "Děkuji."
"Prosim," he said, and walked to the kitchen to put in the order.
"That's what the word for chicken is," I said to page after a moment, "Kuřecí."
"Gah, I can barely say that. Kur - jet - see...I know that's wrong."
"We'll get it," I told her, "One of these days we'll say chicken, pig, and vegetables no problem."
Page took off her scarf, which she had wrapped around her neck, and laid it on her lap.
I kept repeating kuřecí under my breath, really trying to get it right.
Eventually, Page made me stop and we sat again in silence, waiting for our food, hand in hand.
The bartender had started the small gas fireplace near the door.
I leaned my elbows on the table and took out a tattered tourists map of Prague.
The corners were ripped and frayed, but only the legend was missing, which I already knew.
Scanning over the length of it, I tried to find a small side street we could get lost in later on.

Page had leaned her head back on the hard wooden bench and closed her eyes.
She tried to get herself comfortable by wiggling and rocking in her seat.
The bench creaked from her movement and I laughed under my breath.
"Why are you laughing?" she asked me, looking over at me with one eye.
"Nothing," I told her, lying.
"You're laughing at something. I can tell."
"You're making the bench creak with all that moving around you're doing."
She sighed and moaned and leaned forward, "I can't get comfortable in these things."
"They're not meant to be comfortable," I told her, "It's that old, gothic, medieval look."
"That's stupid."
"I agree completely. My back is killing me, but we've already ordered and can't go anywhere."
"Maybe I can ask for a cushion..." she said out loud, raising her hand to catch the waiter.
"No! Don't," I hissed, but the waiter had already seen her and was coming over.
"Yes?" he asked. His face was taught and worried that we needed something extra...
Page smiled at him and said, "Do you have a cushion or anything here? The seat is very hard."
I looked away - anywhere - out the window, down to the floor, trying to keep my gaze away.
"Of course," the bartender said, sounding relieved, "Is the seat very hard?"
"Yes," Page laughed, embarrassed, "I just can't seem to get comfortable."
"I'll get you one from behind the bar. Just a moment."
He hurried behind the beer tap, grabbed two cushions, and brought them over.
"Here you go," he grinned, handing Page and I one.
"Děkuji," we said together, both of us blushing.
"Prosím," he smiled and turned to go to the kitchen to check on the food.

I exhaled, laughing a little, and took a drink of my beer.
It tasted warm, crisp and full as the bubbling foam came up and over onto my lips.
"What?" Page asked, innocent, like nothing had happened.
I paused, then asked her, "How's your cushion?"
"How's yours?" she asked, looking forward, the glass of beer in her hand.
"Like a cloud has just floated underneath my butt, to tell you the truth. I'm hovering."
"Me too. I'm glad I asked. What was the big deal?"
"I just don't like to ask too much in these kind of places."
"Why?" She had turned to look at me and was genuinely worried; her eyes were wide and white.
"Because we are obviously not from around here and I don't want to annoy anybody."
"By asking them for cushions?"
"Yeah," I said, "And speaking in English and juggling around what we wanted."
"Is it that bad?" From the look on her face, I could see she was starting to understand.
"Not bad," I put my arm around her shoulder, "I don't want to be a bother to any of the locals."
"I see what you mean," she said, leaning into me, "But I don't think it was really that big a deal."
"It wasn't, really. I just don't like to inconvenience anyone."
"I know what you mean. It is a very awkward feeling."
"Especially when you don't know the language at all," I sighed, "I wished I did."
"Me too," she agreed, "Oh! Here comes the food."
She moved away from me and settled in her cushion, acting like she hadn't seen the food.
We were still the only one's in the place. There was really no way we wouldn't have seen it.

"Zelenina a hranolky," the waiter said, putting the food down, "A kuřecí sendvič."
He was humoring us, but we acted like we knew what he was saying anyway.
I raised my hand for the chicken and Page for everything else.
"Děkuji," we both said again. I felt like that was really the only word we knew.
"Prosím," he nodded, "Anything else?"
I shook my head, my sandwich already in my hands, "Perfect. Everything looks perfect."
He chuckled, "Perfect," he nodded and went back behind the bar.
After a few bites, I put my sandwich down and leaned over where Page was eating.
Not to say anything to her - she was too preoccupied with her food - but to see into the kitchen.
The two, short ladies were still there, but now one was sitting on a large, wooden crate.
It looked to be some kind of meat or vegetable box. The lettering on it, I couldn't understand.
The other was smoking a cigarette and scratching the back of her head where the hairnet tangled.
As I was looked over, the one on the crate caught my eye and quickly looked over her shoulder.
She said something quickly and the other one looked over at me too.
For just a second, the three of us were locked in stare.
Not a one of us knew what the other was thinking.
Page sat there eating away not caring about anything other than the food in front of her.
The second passed and the lady smoking dropped it in the sink and pulled the water on.
The other got up from her seat and began to violently scrub the grill with a metal sponge.
I - unsure why they started to do any of those things on my account - went back to my sandwich.

The bill came and it was less then I thought, which I always love.
"How'd you like the food?" I asked Page. She was putting her coat back on.
"It's freezing in here again. How did that happen?" She hadn't heard me.
"No idea. How'd you like the food, though?" I repeated.
"It was good. They were crispy and greasy, just what I needed."
"Good," I said as I looked over the bill, "What about the veggies?"
"Superb," she exaggerated by kissing her fingers and flaring them out into the air.
"Good, good. Looks like you owe me around 120 crown for everything."
"That's cheap!" she exclaimed, "I thought I was going to have to spend more then 200."
"Me too," I said, taking out my wallet, "I only spent 200 but I got a sandwich and a beer."
"And some of my fries," she mumbled.
"You wanted to eat all of them by yourself?"
She hated it whenever I took any of her food.
"It's just annoying," she explained.
"I'm sorry," I said, licking my fingertips, "I guess I don't think about it."
"It's O.K." She took out her wallet and dropped a 100 crown bill and a 50 crown coin.
"You're tipping?" It was customary that you didn't have to tip the waiters.
"Yeah. He gave us the cushions and looks like they're pretty dead."
"You're right. I should tip. How much do you think?"
"Like 50 for you."
I looked at the bill and tried to figure the percentage out in my head.
"Fuck it," I said and put a 200 crown bill and two 20 crown coins on top of Page's money.
Page brought the bill and money up to the waiter who stood behind the bar as I put on my coat.
My chest felt tight and my hands were cold after being heated up by the food.
I watched as Page tried to say thank you in czech and smiled; she'd get it eventually.
She came up to me, shaking her head, "I gotta' get better at czech."
"Why's that?" I asked her, putting my arm around her shoulder, walking out the door.
A wind hit us as we walked outside and we moved closer to one another.
"It's just so embarrassing when you're trying to say something and you can't."
"I'm sure they get it all the time. Don't worry."

We walked across the street and looked down an alleyway that looked to open up into a park.
"Do you want to walk through there?" I asked Page. Her scarf was wrapped around her mouth.
She nodded and quickly ducked into the alleyway in front of me.
I let her walk in front of me and noticed the cracked, light beige color of the walls on either side.
They looked like they'd never been repainted.
From the roof, water dripped down from various places.
Upon a closer look, I saw a large bird's nest in the gutter rail.
Nothing seemed to be inside. Only the twigs and dead grass sat there.
Further down, I winced as the cream colored wall was interrupted by black and neon green graffiti.
For the first time, I understood why it was illegal.
The act itself seemed so selfish, yet I understood why the art had become popular.
There was a mixture of defiance, rebellion, and the ignorance of youth, as well as danger.
Pondering this, I figured someone would come and paint over it eventually.
Nothing stays the same forever.

At the end of the alley, we walked onto a wide, square lawn.
On the other end, where two benches sat apart, was an old couple, bundled up with a newspaper.
The other bench was empty and Page and I walked toward it.
We turned and sat down, looking out onto the empty green grass.
Page wrapped her arm under mine and gripped both of my hands with her's.
"You're so warm," she shivered, "Why are you always so hot and I'm always so collld."
"I have no idea," I stated, "Maybe because I'm bigger and I drink more then you?"
The logic seemed right.
"And you're Mexican. That's probably why you're always so warm."
"I'm Spanish too," I reminded her.
"You've got that hot blooded temper in you."
"That's true. I do get pretty mad pretty fast."
"Yeah. It's scary."
"Really?" I asked. I looked at Page and could see she wasn't joking.
"Sometimes you get really mad and get a little afraid of you."
"Like I'm going to do something?"
Shame and guilt swept over me like an icy wind.
"I don't know. Nothing like that, but," she paused, "I don't know. It's hard to explain."
"Well, I would never do anything like that. I just get mad sometimes."
"I know you do. So do I. You just get mad more often, that's all."
"I need to get better with that," I said to myself, looking over at the old couple on the other bench.
One looked to be asleep and the other one, who wore a black beanie, was still reading.

"I'll get better," I told myself.
"You will," Page said, getting up, "We both will."
I put out my hand for her to take it.
She did, pulling me up to her.
I jokingly fell into her arms, giving her my full weight.
She barely was able to hold me up.
"Jesus, you're heavy," she said, pushing me up to my feet.
"I'm not that heavy," I said, nodding to the old couple on the bench.
We crossed over a bridge and stopped to watch the fire colored leaves float on the water.
I could see small fishes swimming downstream, but Page couldn't see them.
Trying to point them out, I hoisted her over the banister, and she nearly fell in.
"That would have been awful," she exhaled, "I probably would have died."
"I don't think I would have jumped in to get you."
She stopped and looked at me, her lower lip jutted out, "Are you serious?"
I looked at her and shrugged, "That's a big fall and the water is pretty shallow."
"You wouldn't come get me!?" shouted Page, poking me in the stomach.
I backed away from her, laughing, "Of course I would. Of course I would."
"You'd better. If I die, you have to die with me."
I scoffed and ran my fingers over my face, then through my hair, "Yeesh, that's heavy."
"It's true," said Page simply, "I die, you die."
She walked ahead of me, down another alley to get lost in.

Eventually, after shouldering through tourists and novelty shops, we came to the clock tower.
It was about 4 o'clock, a little past, and we had just missed the show.
I wasn't sure what it was about, something to do with money and death, but I wasn't sure.
The golden symbols on the clock reflected the light of the sun down onto the wet cobble stone.
I turned to look at the crowd behind me; there were hundreds of them, their flashes popping.
Page was closer, looking up and studying the large, rusted hands of the clock.
They looked like they were barely moving, almost as if time had stopped after the show.
I walked toward her, also looking up, and saw various bodies leaning out of the tower skyward.
They were so high up and I couldn't make their faces out; only flailing arms and distant voices.
When I reached Page, a trumpet sounded from the tower and everyone on the street looked up.
"You know what this is about?" I asked Page.
"No idea. I wish I had brought my camera."
"Why?" She rarely brought her camera anywhere and I was confused why she wanted it now.
"Because you're supposed to take pictures of these things," she shot back.
"Why?" I asked again.
"Shhh," she hushed, "I want to hear this."
The trumpet player sounded like duck being strangled and I couldn't stand it.
I whispered into Page's ear that I was going to get a coffee.
"Get me one too, please," she said.
She placed a fifty crown coin in my hand without looking away from the trumpet player.
I kissed her on the cheek, trying to hide my confused frustration, and moved through the crowd.
"For such a serene place," I thought, "It sure attracts a good amount of freaks."

"Hello," I said to barista behind the counter.  
I decided to forfeit speaking czech for the moment.
"Hi," she said. The sides of her face were flushed red and I realized it was freezing inside.
"It's really cold in here," I said, looking around for some kind of heating.
"Prosím?" she asked me, then stuttered and asked again in English, "Sorry...excuse me?"
"Sorry, I don't speak any czech. I said it's very cold in here."
"Yes. Heat is broken." She pointed upward at the ceiling and frowned.
"That's too bad," I said, "They should get on that. It's very cold."
She smiled blankly and stared back at me, unsure what I wanted.
"Oh," I smiled, shaking my head, "I need to order."
She laughed, but didn't say anything and looked at the other barista's. They grinned back at her.
"Uhh...one medium drip coffee and a cafe au lait, please."
"Ok," she mouthed, poking the computer screen in front of her happily, "Anything else?"
"Oh," I started, "Can you make the cafe au lait with soy milk instead of regular."
"Yes," with a swipe and another poke, "Anything else?"
"I think that'll be it." I hand her my czech debit card.
She looked down at it and up and me. Maybe she thought I didn't look like my name.
She paused a moment more, then swiped it and handed it back to me.
"Thank you very much," she said, looking over my shoulder, "Your order will be ready soon."
I was brushed to the side and thrown into a field of other tourists, all rubbing their hands together.

It didn't take very long for me to get the drinks.
That surprised me.
Those czechs know how to make a good, quick cup of coffee.
I smiled at the barista who had helped me, but she didn't see me doing it.
Hate it when that happens.
You always look like some desperate kind of creep, hoping for a scrap of acknowledgement.
She was probably too busy to notice me.
Maybe she did and just wasn't able to smile back.
She was with a customer.
I wouldn't want her to get in trouble, anyways.
We were in the center of the square.
It probably paid pretty well.
I wouldn't want her to lose her job on account of a smile.
That would be terrible.

"Cafe au lait with soy milk for you," I said, handing the drink to Page.
"With soy!" she exclaimed, "That's so nice. Did it cost more?"
"Like ten crowns," I lied, "I know that you like it and I like getting you what you like."
"That's so nice," she gave me a kiss and smiled, "Was it busy in there?"
"Very," I said, "And freezing cold."
"Why?"
"Heating was broken."
"Oh God," Page sighed, "I'm glad I didn't go in there."

We made our way to the main square, away from the clock tower.
The crowd had dispersed and the streets were almost empty again.
When we got into the alley's though, everything seemed narrow and pinched.
On every corner, there were peddlers flapping around opera and ballet flyer's.
I snagged one and looked it over.
"Good God! They want 500 crown for something like this."
"Let me see," Page said, taking it from my hand.
"And all you probably do is sit in an old church and listen to the echo of singing."
"It's a tourist thing," she explained, "What do you expect?"
Page crumpled up the flyer and tossed it in the trash, "I do feel bad for those people."
"Who?"
"The people that have to hand out those flyer's all day. That must be tough."
Page was always thinking about the people with shit jobs.
Whenever we would see a trash guy looting garbage cans or waiter's getting hassled, she'd cringe.
I knew why to: she'd had plenty of shit jobs in the past
Waitress was one. Bar back another. I knew she worked in a hospital at one point. Late hours.
"Maybe that's why she was going with me?" I wondered, "I've had a lot of those."
"Yeah," I replied, "They have it pretty rough, especially when it's so cold out."
"I would die," said Page. Her voice was scared and grateful.

We walked up the hill into the main center of town in the middle walk way near the gardens.
All the plants and flowers were dead now, but there was no trash or anything like that there.
I decided we should walk in the center to avoid the club promoters and heavy foot traffic.
Any more tourists elbowing me or people trying to hand me pamphlets would have done me in.
As we continued up the hill, I stopped and turned around to see the view of the city buildings.
Bright neon signs flashed, mixed with large billboards of chiseled women wearing dead faces.
Store window mannequins stood poised and ready to sell to passerby's in mute.
Because we seemed to be so far up, both sides of the side walks seethed with tiny black dots.
Flashes of cameras and the low hum of everyone talking at once filled the wide square.
And witnessing all of this hysteria, were the original buildings, stoic and ancient behind it all.
I had seen pictures of the square in the 1920's and before, and everything was so perfectly simple.
The walls of the buildings were cracked and worn, but standing with pride and originality.
They had nothing hanging or beeping or demanding people's attention.
A window here or there would display what they sold, but all in modesty and class.
If the two pictures were put together, I don't believe any resemblance could be found.
The only thing one could possibly recognize is the architecture of the buildings and the square.
Stripped and sacrificed, the buildings stood there like dolled up relics, too tired to breathe.

Page and I couldn't walk in the center of the square any longer because it opened up into the street.
We were forced to cross and enter into the surging fray of bodies going up and down.
The metro tunnel shot stale, damp air up and out of the stairwell, smelling of fresh urine.
Page hurried past me and up toward the crosswalk, but I stopped and watched two cops.
They had their doberman pincher sniffing a pair of hobo's leaning against a crooked tree.
The two being sniffed out stood there shaking and wondering what the hell was going on.
I'm sure they had something on them that was illegal, but what it was, I had no idea.
The dog sure did though. He wouldn't let them be and the cops just stood back, staring.
But, after a minute, the dog lost its scent or interest and sauntered back and laid down.
"Too bad," I mused, pensively, "I would have liked to see an arrest in broad day light."
Page had just started to cross the street without me and I ran up to her and took her arm.

"Where you going so fast? You trying to get rid of me?"
She just shook her head and looked ahead. I could see she was so cold she had turned mute.
"Did you see that dog sniffing out those two junkies?" I looked over my shoulder toward them.
Page shook her head back and forth, no.
The both of us walked up a yellow and orange leaf covered hill and down into a tunnel.
To the left of us was a large mural of graffiti and names I would never be able to pronounce.
To the right was a pizza booth, some kind of italian sandwich bistro, and a Russian shop.
We stopped in front of the Russian place and noticed a tiny window with a woman's head inside.
There were glistening pink sausages, pickled neon orange carrots, and bright red peppers.
A single knife hung by a piano string hung behind the woman, swinging back and forth.
Nothing looked like it had been touched.
Nothing looked like it had been sold.
Everything looked like it probably had since they had opened shop 657 years ago to the day.
The old woman said something to Page and pointed to a jar, but she smiled, laughed, and ran off.
"Děkuji," I smiled, embarrassed that I didn't know it in Russian.
I ran up behind Page again, who was up the ramp from the tunnel and on the sidewalk now.

As we walked up into Prague 2 and Vyšehrad, the sun was just beginning to set.
I stopped, Page continuing on, and turned around to see the expanse of the city.
People passed me as I looked at the clock tower and where the Charles Bridge was hiding.
I couldn't see the castle, but I knew it stood there behind the building beside me.
They lit the castle up every night and I wished at that moment Page and I could watch it.
To be within those walls and underneath the ancient cathedral going from darkness to the light.
Turning, I started up the hill, following up behind Page once again.
The 22 tram rambled past us, but we were late to jump on and ride it to our stop.
"We are so close anyway," I comforted Page, "Two blocks."
"So collld," she shivered, "I just want to be in our bed with the covers all around me."
I put my arm around her, "Almost there."
We walked like that, holding in our heat, until we reached the potraviny across from our house.

"We should really get something to eat," said Page, "We aren't going to want to come back out."
"Yes..." I agreed, "But what?"
"Shitty noodles?"
My stomach reacted in both pain and pleasure. I liked them, if I'm being honest.
"Does sound good," I said, weighing other possibilities, "Do we feel like cooking?"
I took out my phone and checked the time.
It was only 5:30 and we would be in the rest of the night.
"We should cook something," I said.
"Like what?" asked Page.
"I know of this cheap potato soup recipe with chives, milk, and salt. It's simple, but good."
She put 60 crowns in my hand," Sounds good to me. I'm going to go upstairs."
"What?" I asked, looking down at the coins.
"It's so cold, I can't stand it. I need to get upstairs where it's warrrm."
She smiled and ran across the street and into our apartment building.
I went inside, grabbed a sack of potatoes, a plastic jug of milk, and some chives and paid.
As I waited for the elevator, I struggled to remember the exact way to cook what I said I could.
Page wouldn't notice the difference either way.
As long as it was warm, didn't taste like cardboard, and had some salt on it, she'd be fine.

The meal was good.
It warmed our stomachs and there were leftovers for tomorrow.
We ate in bed and laid our only two bath towels down where we sat.
For some reason, Page lit two candles and sat them on the window sill.
Across the street, spotted windows were warm from the lights burning inside.
Everyone was tucked away, hiding from the cold and the approaching dawn of the day.
I looked at Page in the candlelight, watching her eat, seeing shadows dance across her cheeks.
Her beauty was as simple as a flower petal, yet complex as a painting.
There are so many other things that I am at a lost to remember, now.
They are somewhere inside of me, hiding, elusive, and wondering when I will find them.
As I took a bite of my potato mush, I warned myself not to get too sentimental.

"You know the one thing we forgot to do today?" I asked Page.
"What's that?"
"We forgot to look for jobs."
"Well," she sighed, "We were just too busy with other things."
"What other things?" I asked.
"Breakfast, the walk, the bridge, the bar, the beer, the park, the clock, and the square."
"We did a lot today."
"Yes," said Page, "Too much. And to add job searching on top of that? Forget about it."
I no longer felt guilty about not even once looking for some kind of job prospect.
"What's that saying?" asked Page.
I noticed her bowl was clean as she placed it on the floor.
"Hm?" I asked.
"There's this saying...there's always tomorrow. Is that a saying?"
"I feel like I've heard it," I struggled, trying to remember, but failing, "Somewhere, some place."
"Well," Page said, turning herself from the towel and laying back, "There's always tomorrow."
I put my bowl on the night stand and laid back with Page.
We kissed and held each other, not caring about tomorrow, only trying to get warm.
Page slowly drifted into sleep and I let her head roll and fall onto my chest.
The two erect flames of the candles stood reflected onto the window overlooking the night sky.
I too laid my head back, closed my eyes, and fell asleep with the weight of Page upon me.

Fredrick Fannin Dec 2014

Oh what a fight, push shove duck Dodge.

Miss count dance prounce, Oh what a fight.

Bob Weave trick up my sleeve, Oh what a fight.

Toss turn ive awaken, It was just a dream But, Oh what a fight.

I love to dream.

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 sex,
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 organ 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 erect, 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 bosom-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-weed.

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 breasts 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 bloody 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-balls,
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-kill’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 souse 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 negro holds firmly the reins of his four horses, the block swags
underneath on its tied-over chain,
The negro 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 intentional,
And do not call the tortoise unworthy because she is not something
else,
And the in the woods never studied the gamut, yet trills pretty well
to me,
And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out of me.

14
The wild gander leads his flock through the cool night,
Ya-honk he says, and sounds it down to me like an invitation,
The pert may suppose it meaningless, but I listening close,
Find its purpose and place up there toward the wintry sky.

The sharp-hoof’d moose of the north, the cat on the house-sill, the
chickadee, the prairie-dog,
The litter of the grunting sow as they tug at her teats,
The brood of the turkey-hen and she with her half-spread wings,
I see in them and myself the same old law.

The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections,
They scorn the best I can do to relate them.

I am enamour’d of growing out-doors,
Of men that live among cattle or taste of the ocean or woods,
Of the builders and steerers of ships and the wielders of axes and
mauls, and the drivers of horses,
I can eat and sleep with them week in and week out.

What is commonest, cheapest, nearest, easiest, is Me,
Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns,
Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me,
Not asking the sky to come down to my good will,
Scattering it freely forever.

15
The pure contralto sings in the organ loft,
The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of his foreplane
whistles its wild ascending lisp,
The married and unmarried children ride home to their Thanksgiving
dinner,
The pilot seizes the king-pin, he heaves down with a strong arm,
The mate stands braced in the whale-boat, lance and harpoon are
ready,
The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious stretches,
The deacons are ordain’d with cross’d hands at the altar,
The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the hum of the big wheel,
The farmer stops by the bars as he walks on a First-day loafe and
looks at the oats and rye,
The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum a confirm’d case,
(He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot in his mother’s
bed-room;)
The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws works at his case,
He turns his quid of tobacco while his eyes blurr with the
manuscript;
The malform’d limbs are tied to the surgeon’s table,
What is removed drops horribly in a pail;
The quadroon girl is sold at the auction-stand, the drunkard nods by
the bar-room stove,
The machinist rolls up his sleeves, the policeman travels his beat,
the gate-keeper marks who pass,
The young fellow drives the express-wagon, (I love him, though I do
not know him;)
The half-breed straps on his light boots to compete in the race,
The western turkey-shooting draws old and young, some lean on their
rifles, some sit on logs,
Out from the crowd steps the marksman, takes his position, levels
his piece;
The groups of newly-come immigrants cover the wharf or levee,
As the woolly-pates hoe in the sugar-field, the overseer views them
from his saddle,
The bugle calls in the ball-room, the gentlemen run for their
partners, the dancers bow to each other,
The youth lies awake in the cedar-roof’d garret and harks to the
musical rain,
The Wolverine sets traps on the creek that helps fill the Huron,
The squaw wrapt in her yellow-hemm’d cloth is offering moccasins and
bead-bags for sale,
The connoisseur peers along the exhibition-gallery with half-shut
eyes bent sideways,
As the deck-hands make fast the steamboat the plank is thrown for
the shore-going passengers,
The young sister holds out the skein while the elder sister winds it
off in a ball, and stops now and then for the knots,
The one-year wife is recovering and happy having a week ago borne
her first child,
The clean-hair’d Yankee girl works with her sewing-machine or in the
factory or mill,
The paving-man leans on his two-handed rammer, the reporter’s lead
flies swiftly over the note-book, the sign-painter is lettering
with blue and gold,
The canal boy trots on the tow-path, the book-keeper counts at his
desk, the shoemaker waxes his thread,
The conductor beats time for the band and all the performers follow
him,
The child is baptized, the convert is making his first professions,
The regatta is spread on the bay, the race is begun, (how the white
sails sparkle!)
The drover watching his drove sings out to them that would stray,
The pedler sweats with his pack on his back, (the purchaser higgling
about the odd cent;)
The bride unrumples her white dress, the minute-hand of the clock
moves slowly,
The opium-eater reclines with rigid head and just-open’d lips,
The prostitute draggles her shawl, her bonnet bobs on her tipsy and
pimpled neck,
The crowd laugh at her blackguard oaths, the men jeer and wink to
each other,
(Miserable! I do not laugh at your oaths nor jeer you;)
The President holding a cabinet council is surrounded by the great
Secretaries,
On the piazza walk three matrons stately and friendly with twined
arms,
The crew of the fish-smack pack repeated layers of halibut in the
hold,
The Missourian crosses the plains toting his wares and his cattle,
As the fare-collector goes through the train he gives notice by the
jingling of loose change,
The floor-men are laying the floor, the tinners are tinning the
roof, the masons are calling for mortar,
In single file each shouldering his hod pass onward the laborers;
Seasons pursuing each other the indescribable crowd is gather’d, it
is the fourth of Seventh-month, (what salutes of cannon and
small arms!)
Seasons pursuing each other the plougher ploughs, the mower mows,
and the winter-grain falls in the ground;
Off on the lakes the pike-fisher watches and waits by the hole in
the frozen surface,
The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the squatter strikes deep
with his axe,
Flatboatmen make fast towards dusk near the cotton-wood or
pecan-trees,
Coon-seekers go through the regions of the Red river or through
those drain’d by the Tennessee, or through those of the Arkansas,
Torches shine in the dark that hangs on the Chattahooche or
Altamahaw,
Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and great-grandsons
around them,
In walls of adobie, in canvas tents, rest hunters and trappers after
their day’s sport,
The city sleeps and the country sleeps,
The living sleep for their time, the dead sleep for their time,
The old husband sleeps by his wife and the young husband sleeps by
his wife;
And these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them,
And such as it is to be of these more or less I am,
And of these one and all I weave the song of myself.

16
I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuff’d with the stuff that is coarse and stuff’d with the stuff
that is fine,
One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the
largest the same,
A Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter nonchalant and
hospitable down by the Oconee I live,
A Yankee bound my own way ready for trade, my joints the limberest
joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth,
A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deer-skin
leggings, a Louisianian or Georgian,
A boatman over lakes or bays or along coasts, a Hoosier, Badger,
Buckeye;
At home on Kanadian snow-shoes or up in the bush, or with fishermen
off Newfoundland,
At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the rest and
tacking,
At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the
Texan ranch,
Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners, (loving
their big proportions,)
Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen, comrade of all who shake hands
and welcome to drink and meat,
A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfullest,
A novice beginning yet experient of myriads of seasons,
Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion,
A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, quaker,
Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest.

I resist any thing better than my own diversity,
Breathe the air but leave plenty after me,
And am not stuck up, and am in my place.

(The moth and the fish-eggs are in their place,
The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in their
place,
The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.)

17
These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they
are not original with me,
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to
nothing,
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are
nothing,
If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.

This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is,
This the common air that bathes the globe.

18
With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums,
I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play marches for
conquer’d and slain persons.

Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?
I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit
in which they are won.

I beat and pound for the dead,
I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for them.

Vivas to those who have fail’d!
And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea!
And to those themselves who sank in the sea!
And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes!
And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes
known!

19
This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just same as the righteous, I make appointments
with all,
I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited,
The heavy-lipp’d slave is invited, the venerealee is invited;
There shall be no difference between them and the rest.

This is the press of a bashful hand, this the float and odor of
hair,
This the touch of my lips to yours, this the murmur of yearning,
This the far-off depth and height reflecting my own face,
This the thoughtful merge of myself, and the outlet again.

Do you guess I have some intricate purpose?
Well I have, for the Fourth-month showers have, and the mica on the
side of a rock has.

Do you take it I would astonish?
Does the daylight astonish? does the early redstart twittering
through the woods?
Do I astonish more than they?

This hour I tell things in confidence,
I might not tell everybody, but I will tell you.

20
Who goes there? hankering, gross, mystical, nude;
How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat?

What is a man anyhow? what am I? what are you?

All I mark as my own you shall offset it with your own,
Else it were time lost listening to me.

I do not snivel that snivel the world over,
That months are vacuums and the ground but wallow and filth.

Whimpering and truckling fold with powders for invalids, conformity
goes to the fourth-remov’d,
I wear my hat as I please indoors or out.

Why should I pray? why should I venerate and be ceremonious?

Having pried through the strata, analyzed to a hair, counsel’d with
doctors and calculated close,
I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.

In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn
less,
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.

I know I am solid and sound,
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.

I know I am deathless,
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter’s compass,
I know I shall not pass like a child’s carlacue cut with a burnt
stick at night.

I know I am august,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,
I see that the elementary laws never apologize,
(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by,
after all.)

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten
million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

My foothold is tenon’d and mortis’d in granite,
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.

21
I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul,
The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with
me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate
into new tongue.

I am the poet of the woman the same as the man,
And I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man,
And I say there is nothing greater than the mother of men.

I chant the chant of dilation or pride,
We have had ducking and deprecating about enough,
I show that size is only development.

Have you outstript the rest? are you the President?
It is a trifle, they will more than arrive there every one, and
still pass on.

I am he that walks with the tender and growing night,
I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night.

Press close bare-bosom’d night - press close magnetic nourishing
night!
Night of south winds - night of the large few stars!
Still nodding night - mad naked summer night.

Smile O voluptuous cool-breath’d earth!
Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees!
Earth of departed sunset - earth of the mountains misty-topt!
Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue!
Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river!
Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer for my
sake!
Far-swooping elbow’d earth - rich apple-blossom’d earth!
Smile, for your lover comes.

Prodigal, you have given me love - therefore I to you give love!
O unspeakable passionate love.

22
You sea! I resign myself to you also - I guess what you mean,
I behold from the beach your crooked fingers,
I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me,
We must have a turn together, I undress, hurry me out of sight of
the land,
Cushion me soft, rock me in billowy drowse,
Dash me with amorous wet, I can repay you.

Sea of stretch’d ground-swells,
Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths,
Sea of the brine of life and of unshovell’d yet always-ready graves,
Howler and scooper of storms, capricious and dainty sea,
I am integral with you, I too am of one phase and of all phases.

Partaker of influx and efflux I, extoller of hate and conciliation,
Extoller of amies and those that sleep in each others’ arms.

I am he attesting sympathy,
(Shall I make my list of things in the house and skip the house that
supports them?)

I am not the poet of goodness only, I do not decline to be the poet
of wickedness also.

What blurt is this about virtue and about vice?
Evil propels me and reform of evil propels me, I stand indifferent,
My gait is no fault-finder’s or rejecter’s gait,
I moisten the roots of all that has grown.

Did you fear some scrofula out of the unflagging pregnancy?
Did you guess the celestial laws are yet to be work’d over and
rectified?

I find one side a balance and the antipedal side a balance,
Soft doctrine as steady help as stable doctrine,
Thoughts and deeds of the present our rouse and early start.

This minute that comes to me over the past decillions,
There is no better than it and now.

What behaved well in the past or behaves well to-day is not such
wonder,
The wonder is always and always how there can be a mean man or an
infidel.

23
Endless unfolding of words of ages!
And mine a word of the modern, the word En-Masse.

A word of the faith that never balks,
Here or henceforward it is all the same to me, I accept Time
absolutely.

It alone is without flaw, it alone rounds and completes all,
That mystic baffling wonder alone completes all.

I accept Reality and dare not question it,
Materialism first and last imbuing.

Hurrah for positive science! long live exact demonstration!
Fetch stonecrop mixt with cedar and branches of lilac,
This is the lexicographer, this the chemist, this made a grammar of
the old cartouches,
These mariners put the ship through dangerous unknown seas.
This is the geologist, this works with the scalper, and this is a
mathematician.

Gentlemen, to you the first honors always!
Your facts are useful, and yet they are not my dwelling,
I but enter by them to an area of my dwelling.

Less the reminders of properties told my words,
And more the reminders they of life untold, and of freedom and
extrication,
And make short account of neuters and geldings, and favor men and
women fully equipt,
And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugitives and them that
plot and conspire.

24
Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son,
Turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding,
No sentimentalist, no stander above men and women or apart from
them,
No more modest than immodest.

Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!

Whoever degrades another degrades me,
And whatever is done or said returns at last to me.

Through me the afflatus surging and surging, through me the current
and index.

I speak the pass-word primeval, I give the sign of democracy,
By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their
counterpart of on the same terms.

Through me many long dumb voices,
Voices of the interminable generations of prisoners and slaves,
Voices of the diseas’d and despairing and of thieves and dwarfs,
Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion,
And of the threads that connect the stars, and of wombs and of the
father-stuff,
And of the rights of them the others are down upon,
Of the deform’d, trivial, flat, foolish, despised,
Fog in the air, beetles rolling balls of dung.

Through me forbidden voices,
Voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil’d and I remove the veil,
Voices indecent by me clarified and transfigur’d.

I do not press my fingers across my mouth,
I keep as delicate around the bowels as around the head and
heart,
Copulation is no more rank to me than death is.

I believe in the flesh and the appetites,
Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me
is a miracle.

Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am
touch’d from,
The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer,
This head more than churches, bibles, and all the creeds.

If I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of
my own body, or any part of it,
Translucent mould of me it shall be you!
Shaded ledges and rests it shall be you!
Firm masculine colter it shall be you!
Whatever goes to the tilth of me it shall be you!
You my rich blood! your milky stream pale strippings of my life!
Breast that presses against other breasts it shall be you!
My brain it shall be your occult convolutions!
Root of wash’d sweet-flag! timorous pond-snipe! nest of guarded
duplicate eggs! it shall be you!
Mix’d tussled hay of head, beard, brawn, it shall be you!
Trickling sap of maple, fibre of manly wheat, it shall be you!
Sun so generous it shall be you!
Vapors lighting and shading my face it shall be you!
You sweaty brooks and dews it shall be you!
Winds whose soft-tickling genitals rub against me it shall be you!
Broad muscular fields, branches of live oak, loving lounger in my
winding paths, it shall be you!
Hands I have taken, face I have kiss’d, mortal I have ever touch’d,
it shall be you.

I dote on myself, there is that lot of me and all so luscious,
Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy,
I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my
faintest wish,
Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause of the
friendship I take again.

That I walk up my stoop, I pause to consider if it really be,
A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics
of books.

To behold the day-break!
The little light fades the immense and diaphanous shadows,
The air tastes good to my palate.

Hefts of the moving world at innocent gambols silently rising
freshly exuding,
Scooting obliquely high and low.

Something I cannot see puts upward libidinous prongs,
Seas of bright juice suffuse heaven.

The earth by the sky staid with, the daily close of their junction,
The heav’d challenge from the east that moment over my head,
The mocking taunt, See then whether you shall be master!

25
Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sun-rise would kill me,
If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me.

We also ascend dazzling and tremendous as the sun,
We found our own O my soul in the calm and cool of the daybreak.

My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach,
With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of
worlds.

Speech is the twin of my vision, it is unequal to measure itself,
It provokes me forever, it says sarcastically,
Walt you contain enough, why don’t you let it out then?

Come now I will not be tantalized, you conceive too much of
articulation,
Do you not know O speech how the buds beneath you are folded?
Waiting in gloom, protected by frost,
The dirt receding before my prophetical screams,
I underlying causes to balance them at last,
My knowledge my live parts, it keeping tally with the meaning of all
things,
Happiness, (which whoever hears me let him or her set out in search
of this day.)

My final merit I refuse you, I refuse putting from me what I really
am,
Encompass worlds, but never try to encompass me,
I crowd your sleekest and best by simply looking toward you.

Writing and talk do not prove me,
I carry the plenum of proof and every thing else in my face,
With the hush of my lips I wholly confound the skeptic.

26
Now I will do nothing but listen,
To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute
toward it.

I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames,
clack of sticks cooking my meals,
I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,
I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,
Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day and
night,
Talkative young ones to those that like them, the loud laugh of
work-people at their meals,
The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint tones of the
sick,
The judge with hands tight to the desk, his pallid lips pronouncing
a death-sentence,
The heave’e'yo of stevedores unlading ships by the wharves, the
refrain of the anchor-lifters,
The ring of alarm-bells, the cry of fire, the whirr of
swift-streaking engines and hose-carts with premonitory tinkles
and color’d lights,
The steam-whistle, the solid roll of the train of approaching cars,
The slow march play’d at the head of the association marching two
and two,
(They go to guard some corpse, the flag-tops are draped with black
muslin.)

I hear the violoncello, (’tis the young man’s heart’s complaint,)
I hear the key’d cornet, it glides quickly in through my ears,
It shakes mad-sweet pangs through my belly and breast.

I hear the chorus, it is a grand opera,
Ah this indeed is music - this suits me.

A tenor large and fresh as the creation fills me,
The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling me full.

I hear the train’d soprano (what work with hers is this?)
The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies,
It wrenches such ardors from me I did not know I possess’d them,
It sails me, I dab with bare feet, they are lick’d by the indolent
waves,
I am cut by bitter and angry hail, I lose my breath,
Steep’d amid honey’d morphine, my windpipe throttled in fakes of
death,
At length let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,
And that we call Being.

27
To be in any form, what is that?
(Round and round we go, all of us, and ever come back thither,)
If nothing lay more develop’d the quahaug in its callous shell were
enough.

Mine is no callous shell,
I have instant conductors all over me whether I pass or stop,
They seize every object and lead it harmlessly through me.

I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am happy,
To touch my person to some one else’s is about as much as I can
stand.

28
Is this then a touch? quivering me to a new identity,
Flames and ether making a rush for my veins,
Treacherous tip of me reaching and crowding to help them,
My flesh and blood playing out lightning to strike what is hardly
different from myself,
On all sides prurient provokers stiffening my limbs,
Straining the udder of my heart for its withheld drip,
Behaving licentious toward me, taking no denial,
Depriving me of my best as for a purpose,
Unbuttoning my clothes, holding me by the bare waist,
Deluding my confusion with the calm of the sunlight and
pasture-fields,
Immodestly sliding the fellow-senses away,
They bribed to swap off with touch and go and graze at the edges of
me,
No consideration, no regard for my draining strength or my anger,
Fetching the rest of the herd around to enjoy them a while,
Then all uniting to stand on a headland and worry me.

The sentries desert every other part of me,
They have left me helpless to a red marauder,
They all come to the headland to witness and assist against me.

I am given up by traitors,
I talk wildly, I have lost my wits, I and nobody else am the
greatest traitor,
I went myself first to the headland, my own hands carried me there.

You villain touch! what are you doing? my breath is tight in its
throat,
Unclench your floodgates, you are too much for me.

29
Blind loving wrestling touch, sheath’d hooded sharp-tooth’d touch!
Did it make you ache so, leaving me?

Parting track’d by arriving, perpetual payment of perpetual loan,
Rich showering rain, and recompense richer afterward.

Sprouts take and accumulate, stand by the curb prolific and vital,
Landscapes projected masculine, full-sized and golden.

30
All truths wait in all things,
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon,
The insignificant is as big to me as any,
(What is less or more than a touch?)

Logic and sermons never convince,
The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul.

(Only what proves itself to every man and woman is so,
Only what nobody denies is so.)

A minute and a drop of me settle my brain,
I believe the soggy clods shall become lovers and lamps,
And a compend of compends is the meat of a man or woman,
And a summit and flower there is the feeling they have for each
other,
And they are to branch boundlessly out of that lesson until it
becomes omnific,
And until one and all shall delight us, and we them.

31
I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the
stars,
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg
of the wren,
And the tree-toad is a chef-d’oeuvre for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven,
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,
And the cow crunching with depress’d head surpasses any statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.

I find I incorporate gneiss, coal, long-threaded moss, fruits,
grains, esculent roots,
And am stucco’d with quadrupeds and birds all over,
And have distanced what is behind me for good reasons,
But call any thing back again when I desire it.

In vain the speeding or shyness,
In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat against my approach,
In vain the mastodon retreats beneath its own powder’d bones,
In vain objects stand leagues off and assume manifold shapes,
In vain the ocean settling in hollows and the great monsters lying
low,
In vain the buzzard houses herself with the sky,
In vain the snake slides through the creepers and logs,
In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the woods,
In vain the razor-bill’d auk sails far north to Labrador,
I follow quickly, I ascend to the nest in the fissure of the cliff.

32
I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and
self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of
owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of
years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

So they show their relations to me and I accept them,
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their
possession.

I wonder where they get those tokens,
Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop them?

Myself moving forward then and now and forever,
Gathering and showing more always and with velocity,
Infinite and omnigenous, and the like of these among them,
Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my remembrancers,
Picking out here one that I love, and now go with him on brotherly
terms.

A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my
caresses,
Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears,
Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,
Eyes full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut, flexibly moving.

His nostrils dilate as my heels embrace him,
His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure as we race around and
return.

I but use you a minute, then I resign you, stallion,
Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them?
Even as I stand or sit passing faster than you.

33
Space and Time! now I see it is true, what I guess’d at,
What I guess’d when I loaf’d on the grass,
What I guess’d while I lay alone in my bed,
And again as I walk’d the beach under the paling stars of the
morning.

My ties and ballasts leave me, my elbows rest in sea-gaps,
I skirt sierras, my palms cover continents,
I am afoot with my vision.

By the city’s quadrangular houses - in log huts, camping with
lumber-men,
Along the ruts of the turnpike, along the dry gulch and rivulet bed,
Weeding my onion-patch or hosing rows of carrots and parsnips,
crossing savannas, trailing in forests,
Prospecting, gold-digging, girdling the trees of a new purchase,
Scorch’d ankle-deep by the hot sand, hauling my boat down the
shallow river,
Where the panther walks to and fro on a limb overhead, where the
buck turns furiously at the hunter,
Where the rattlesnake suns his flabby length on a rock, where the
otter is feeding on fish,
Where the alligator in his tough pimples sleeps by the bayou,
Where the black bear is searching for roots or honey, where the
beaver pats the mud with his paddle-shaped tall;
Over the growing sugar, over the yellow-flower’d cotton plant, over
the rice in its low moist field,
Over the sharp-peak’d farm house, with its scallop’d scum and
slender shoots from the gutters,
Over the western persimmon, over the long-leav’d corn, over the
delicate blue-flower flax,
Over the white and brown buckwheat, a hummer and buzzer there with
the rest,
Over the dusky green of the rye as it ripples and shades in the
breeze;
Scaling mountains, pulling myself cautiously up, holding on by low
scragged limbs,
Walking the path worn in the grass and beat through the leaves of
the brush,
Where the quail is whistling betwixt the woods and the wheat-lot,
Where the bat flies in the Seventh-month eve, where the great
goldbug drops through the dark,
Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old tree and flows to
the meadow,
Where cattle stand and shake away flies with the tremulous
shuddering of their hides,
Where the cheese-cloth hangs in the kitchen, where andirons straddle
the hearth-slab, where cobwebs fall in festoons from the rafters;
Where trip-hammers crash, where the press is whirling its cylinders,
Wherever the human heart beats with terrible throes under its ribs,
Where the pear-shaped balloon is floating aloft, (floating in it
myself and looking composedly down,)
Where the life-car is drawn on the slip-noose, where the heat
hatches pale-green eggs in the dented sand,
Where the she-whale swims with her calf and never forsakes it,
Where the steam-ship trails hind-ways its long pennant of smoke,
Where the fin of the shark cuts like a black chip out of the water,
Where the half-burn’d brig is riding on unknown currents,
Where shells grow to her slimy deck, where the dead are corrupting
below;
Where the dense-starr’d flag is borne at the head of the regiments,
Approaching Manhattan up by the long-stretching island,
Under Niagara, the cataract falling like a veil over my countenance,
Upon a door-step, upon the horse-block of hard wood outside,
Upon the race-course, or enjoying picnics or jigs or a good game of
base-ball,
At he-festivals, with blackguard gibes, ironical license,
bull-dances, drinking, laughter,
At the cider-mill tasting the sweets of the brown mash, sucking the
juice through a straw,
At apple-peelings wanting kisses for all the red fruit I find,
At musters, beach-parties, friendly bees, huskings, house-raisings;
Where the mocking-bird sounds his delicious gurgles, cackles,
screams, weeps,
Where the hay-rick stands in the barn-yard, where the dry-stalks are
scatter’d, where the brood-cow waits in the hovel,
Where the bull advances to do his masculine work, where the stud to
the mare, where the cock is treading the hen,
Where the heifers browse, where geese nip their food with short
jerks,
Where sun-down shadows lengthen over the limitless and lonesome
prairie,
Where herds of buffalo make a crawling spread of the square miles
far and near,
Where the humming-bird shimmers, where the neck of the long-lived
swan is curving and winding,
Where the laughing-gull scoots by the shore, where she laughs her
near-human laugh,
Where bee-hives range on a gray bench in the garden half hid by the
high weeds,
Where band-neck’d partridges roost in a ring on the ground with
their heads out,
Where burial coaches enter the arch’d gates of a cemetery,
Where winter wolves bark amid wastes of snow and icicled trees,
Where the yellow-crown’d heron comes to the edge of the marsh at
night and feeds upon small crabs,
Where the splash of swimmers and divers cools the warm noon,
Where the katy-did works her chromatic reed on the walnut-tree over
the well,
Through patches of citrons and cucumbers with silver-wired leaves,
Through the salt-lick or orange glade, or under conical firs,
Through the gymnasium, through the curtain’d saloon, through the
office or public hall;
Pleas’d with the native and pleas’d with the foreign, pleas’d with
the new and old,
Pleas’d with the homely woman as well as the handsome,
Pleas’d with the quakeress as she puts off her bonnet and talks
melodiously,
Pleas’d with the tune of the choir of the whitewash’d church,
Pleas’d with the earnest words of the sweating Methodist preacher,
impress’d seriously at the camp-meeting;
Looking in at the shop-windows of Broadway the whole forenoon,
flatting the flesh of my nose on the thick plate glass,
Wandering the same afternoon with my face turn’d up to the clouds,
or down a lane or along the beach,
My right and left arms round the sides of two friends, and I in the
middle;
Coming home with the silent and dark-cheek’d bush-boy, (behind me
he rides at the drape of the day,)
Far from the settlements studying the print of animals’ feet, or the
moccasin print,
By the cot in the hospital reaching lemonade to a feverish patient,
Nigh the coffin’d corpse when all is still, examining with a candle;
Voyaging to every port to dicker and adventure,
Hurrying with the modern crowd as eager and fickle as any,
Hot toward one I hate, ready in my madness to knife him,
Solitary at midnight in my back yard, my thoughts gone from me a
long while,
Walking the old hills of Judaea with the beautiful gentle God by my
side,
Speeding through space, speeding through heaven and the stars,
Speeding amid the seven satellites and the broad ring, and the
diameter of eighty thousand miles,
Speeding with tail’d meteors, throwing fire-balls like the rest,
Carrying the crescent child that carries its own full mother in its
belly,
Storming, enjoying, planning, loving, cautioning,
Backing and filling, appearing and disappearing,
I tread day and night such roads.

I visit the orchards of spheres and look at the product,
And look at quintillions ripen’d and look at quintillions green.

I fly those flights of a fluid and swallowing soul,
My course runs below the soundings of plummets.

I help myself to material and immaterial,
No guard can shut me off, no law prevent me.

I anchor my ship for a little while only,
My messengers continually cruise away or bring their returns to me.

I go hunting polar furs and the seal, leaping chasms with a
pike-pointed staff, clinging to topples of brittle and blue.

I ascend to the foretruck,
I take my place late at night in the crow’s-nest,
We sail the arctic sea, it is plenty light enough,
Through the clear atmosphere I stretch around on the wonderful
beauty,
The enormous masses of ice pass me and I pass them, the scenery is
plain in all directions,
The white-topt mountains show in the distance, I fling out my
fancies toward them,
We are approaching some great battle-field in which we are soon to
be engaged,
We pass the colossal outposts of the encampment, we pass with still
feet and caution,
Or we are entering by the suburbs some vast and ruin’d city,
The blocks and fallen architecture more than all the living cities
of the globe.

I am a free companion, I bivouac by invading watchfires,
I turn the bridgroom out of bed and stay with the bride myself,
I tighten her all night to my thighs and lips.

My voice is the wife’s voice, the screech by the rail of the stairs,
They fetch my man’s body up dripping and drown’d.

I understand the large hearts of heroes,
The courage of present times and all times,
How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless wreck of the
steamship, and Death chasing it up and down the storm,
How he knuckled tight and gave not back an inch, and was faithful of
days and faithful of nights,
And chalk’d in large letters on a board, Be of good cheer, we will
not desert you;
How he follow’d with them and tack’d with them three days and
would not give it up,
How he saved the drifting company at last,
How the lank loose-gown’d women look’d when boated from the
side of their prepared graves,
How the silent old-faced infants and the lifted sick, and the
sharp-lipp’d unshaved men;
All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well, it becomes mine,
I am the man, I suffer’d, I was there.

The disdain and calmness of martyrs,
The mother of old, condemn’d for a witch, burnt with dry wood, her
children gazing on,
The hounded slave that flags in the race, leans by the fence,
blowing, cover’d with sweat,
The twinges that sting like needles his legs and neck, the murderous
buckshot and the bullets,
All these I feel or am.

I am the hounded slave, I wince at the bite of the dogs,
Hell and despair are upon me, crack and again crack the marksmen,
I clutch the rails of the fence, my gore dribs, thinn’d with the
ooze of my skin,
I fall on the weeds and stones,
The riders spur their unwilling horses, haul close,
Taunt my dizzy ears and beat me violently over the head with
whip-stocks.

Agonies are one of my changes of garments,
I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the
wounded person,
My hurts turn livid upon me as I lean on a cane and observe.

I am the mash’d fireman with breast-bone broken,
Tumbling walls buried me in their debris,
Heat and smoke I inspired, I heard the yelling shouts of my
comrades,
I heard the distant click of their picks and shovels,
They have clear’d the beams away, they tenderly lift me forth.

I lie in the night air in my red shirt, the pervading hush is for my
sake,
Painless after all I lie exhausted but not so unhappy,
White and beautiful are the faces around me, the heads are bared
of their fire-caps,
The kneeling crowd fades with the light of the torches.

Distant and dead resuscitate,
They show as the dial or move as the hands of me, I am the clock
myself.

I am an old artillerist, I tell of my fort’s bombardment,
I am there again.

Again the long roll of the drummers,
Again the attacking cannon, mortars,
Again to my listening ears the cannon responsive.

I take part, I see and hear the whole,
The cries, curses, roar, the plaudits for well-aim’d shots,
The ambulanza slowly passing trailing its red drip,
Workmen searching after damages, making indispensable repairs,
The fall of grenades through the rent roof, the fan-shaped
explosion,
The whizz of limbs, heads, stone, wood, iron, high in the air.

Again gurgles the mouth of my dying general, he furiously waves
with his hand,
He gasps through the clot Mind not me - mind - the entrenchments.

34
Now I tell what I knew in Texas in my early youth,
(I tell not the fall of Alamo,
Not one escaped to tell the fall of Alamo,
The hundred and fifty are dumb yet at Alamo,)
’Tis the tale of the murder in cold blood of four hundred and twelve
young men.

Retreating they had form’d in a hollow square with their baggage for
breastworks,
Nine hundred lives out of the surrounding enemies, nine times their
number, was the price they took in advance,
Their colonel was wounded and their ammunition gone,
They treated for an honorable capitulation, receiv’d writing and
seal, gave up their arms and march’d back prisoners of war.

They were the glory of the race of rangers,
Matchless with horse, rifle, song, supper, courtship,
Large, turbulent, generous, handsome, proud, and affectionate,
Bearded, sunburnt, drest in the free costume of hunters,
Not a single one over thirty years of age.

The second First-day morning they were brought out in squads and
massacred, it was beautiful early summer,
The work commenced about five o’clock and was over by eight.

None obey’d the command to kneel,
Some made a mad and helpless rush, some stood stark and straight,
A few fell at once, shot in the temple or heart, the living and dead
lay together,
The maim’d and mangled dug in the dirt, the new-comers saw them
there,
Some half-kill’d attempted to crawl away,
These were despatch’d with bayonets or batter’d with the blunts of
muskets,
A youth not seventeen years old seiz’d his assassin till two more
came to release him,
The three were all torn and cover’d with the boy’s blood.

At eleven o’clock began the burning of the bodies;
That is the tale of the murder of the four hundred and twelve young
men.

35
Would you hear of an old-time sea-fight?
Would you learn who won by the light of the moon and stars?
List to the yarn, as my grandmother’s father the sailor told it to
me.

Our foe was no sulk in his ship I tell you, (said he,)
His was the surly English pluck, and there is no tougher or truer,
and never was, and never will be;
Along the lower’d eve he came horribly raking us.

We closed with him, the yards entangled, the cannon touch’d,
My captain lash’d fast with his own hands.

We had receiv’d some eighteen pound shots under the water,
On our lower-gun-deck two large pieces had burst at the first fire,
killing all around and blowing up overhead.

Fighting at sun-down, fighting at dark,
Ten o’clock at night, the full moon well up, our leaks on the gain,
and five feet of water reported,
The master-at-arms loosing the prisoners confined in the after-hold
to give them a chance for themselves.

The transit to and from the magazine is now stopt by the sentinels,
They see so many strange faces they do not know whom to trust.

Our frigate takes fire,
The other asks if we demand quarter?
If our colors are struck and the fighting done?

Now I laugh content, for I hear the voice of my little captain,
We have not struck, he composedly cries, we have just begun our part
of the fighting.

Only three guns are in use,
One is directed by the captain himself against the enemy’s
main-mast,
Two well serv’d with grape and canister silence his musketry and
clear his decks.

The tops alone second the fire of this little battery, especially
the main-top,
They hold out bravely during the whole of the action.

Not a moment’s cease,
The leaks gain fast on the pumps, the fire eats toward the
powder-magazine.

One of the pumps has been shot away, it is generally thought we are
sinking.

Serene stands the little captain,
He is not hurried, his voice is neither high nor low,
His eyes give more light to us than our battle-lanterns.

Toward twelve there in the beams of the moon they surrender to us.

36
Stretch’d and still lies the midnight,
Two great hulls motionless on the breast of the darkness,
Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking, preparations to pass to the
one we have conquer’d,
The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his orders through a
countenance white as a sheet,
Near by the corpse of the child that serv’d in the cabin,
The dead face of an old salt with long white hair and carefully
curl’d whiskers,
The flames spite of all that can be done flickering aloft and below,
The husky voices of the two or three officers yet fit for duty,
Formless stacks of bodies and bodies by themselves, dabs of flesh
upon the masts and spars,
Cut of cordage, dangle of rigging, slight shock of the soothe of
waves,
Black and impassive guns, litter of powder-parcels, strong scent,
A few large stars overhead, silent and mournful shining,
Delicate sniffs of sea-breeze, smells of sedgy grass and fields by
the shore, death-messages given in charge to survivors,
The hiss of the surgeon’s knife, the gnawing teeth of his saw,
Wheeze, cluck, swash of falling blood, short wild scream, and long,
dull, tapering groan,
These so, these irretrievable.

37
You laggards there on guard! look to your arms!
In at the conquer’d doors they crowd! I am possess’d!
Embody all presences outlaw’d or suffering,
See myself in prison shaped like another man,
And feel the dull unintermitted pain.

For me the keepers of convicts shoulder their carbines and keep
watch,
It is I let out in the morning and barr’d at night.

Not a mutineer walks handcuff’d to jail but I am handcuff’d to him
and walk by his side,
(I am less the jolly one there, and more the silent one with sweat
on my twitching lips.)

Not a youngster is taken for larceny but I go up too, and am tried
and sentenced.

Not a cholera patient lies at the last gasp but I also lie at the
last gasp,
My face is ash-color’d, my sinews gnarl, away from me people
retreat.

Askers embody themselves in me and I am embodied in them,
I project my hat, sit shame-faced, and beg.

38
Enough! enough! enough!
Somehow I have been stunn’d. Stand back!
Give me a little time beyond my cuff’d head, slumbers, dreams,
gaping,
I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake.

That I could forget the mockers and insults!
That I could forget the trickling tears and the blows of the
bludgeons and hammers!
That I could look with a separate look on my own crucifixion and
bloody crowning.

I remember now,
I resume the overstaid fraction,
The grave of rock multiplies what has been confided to it, or to any
graves,
Corpses rise, gashes heal, fastenings roll from me.

I troop forth replenish’d with supreme power, one of an average
unending procession,
Inland and sea-coast we go, and pass all boundary lines,
Our swift ordina

Dorothy A Oct 2013

Everything faded to black. He had a hard time remembering just what the hell happened. He wasn't sure of downing some random pills from of the medicine cabinet-- his first attempt to end it all. Making sure he would not recover-- if the pills didn't do the job-- he had already devised the set up of the noose in his bedroom. Definitely, he didn't recall anyone cutting the rope, forcing him down to the floor.

Lacie joked with him. "Dude, you've got nine lives! You must really be a damn, fricking cat in disguise! That's why you'll eat those nasty tuna fish sandwiches they serve in the nuthouse! "

Chris grinned at her.  He had to agree. To refer to it as the psych ward at the hospital made it seem like more of a jail term, but calling it "the nuthouse" lightened up the severity of the situation. As grave and nearly tragic as everything  had become, it was kind of laughable to him.  He supposed he had more chances than a cat's fabled life. It all seemed so crazy that it must be funny.

Well, what could he say? He had flirted with death, but unwillingly managed to escape its grip. "Pathetic..."--he commented. "I don't not even know how to die well..."

Chris  eventually realized that he had been rushed to the hospital, but wished it wasn't true. Since then, everything was either a total blur or a bizarre state of mind . Even waking up in his room was like a remotely vague memory, almost like a long ago dream that might not really have happened.

Maybe, he was somewhat aware that his sister was screaming in shock and horror at the sight of him, shouting out downstairs to her boyfriend to help her. But the walls were turning red, a glowing scarlet- red, with an added fiery orange and yellowish-gold-- all joined together in pulsating embers. He was quickly losing consciousness. It was like some, bad acid trip. Not that Chris knew this firsthand, but it sure was like something he saw on TV or at the movies.

And now he was the star of the horror show.

Did he die?  Death was what he planned on, so waking up was not a relief, or a reality back into motion--just the opposite. It was as if being awake was the real nightmare, a delusional time when everything was not true, and was only an scary, offbeat version of the life of Chris Cartier.

The bad acid trip continued. He recalled hospital staff rushing about him, seeming like real people-- sort of. Then they morphed into fish in scrubs. From overhead, an IV was dripping into his arm. Tubes were shoved down his throat. His vital signs were displayed on a screen that made beeps and sounds, increasing the chaos and adding to the mayhem to his mind. Soon, the vital signs machine started talking to him that he was a "very bad boy" and other such scoldings.

He was thoroughly freaked out. If he was still alive, he'd rather be dead.

He wanted to run. One of the fish pushed him back down and muttered out undecipherable utterances-- like underwater gibberish . Then that fish used its slimy fins to inject him with a needle in his arm. The other fish circled around him like fish out of water--with opening and closing mouths-- as if gasping for air.

As they surrounded him as rubber monkeys shot out from the walls and bounced all over the room. On top of all this madness, the florescent lights above were flickering on and off, in sync to the wild music, like the drum beats of a distant jungle. It was one bizarre tangle of events, a freaky, crazy, out-of-control ride in which reality could not be distinguished from the animation and mass confusion. It was one overpowering ride that he would much rather forget.

When Chris got out of critical condition, he found out that he could still not go home. That would take a few weeks more. Dr. What-The-Hell's-His-Name assured him that he needed to start on the path to his psychological healing--just as grave as the physical--right here in a safe place.

It didn't seem so safe to him.

The enemy wasn't what was out there in the world, but the big, bad wolf was actually him. He had to be protected from the true culprit--himself-- and that was a mind-blowing concept. Just what did he get himself into?   

He never had been a patient in a hospital before. In all his twenty-six years, he didn't so much as even have his tonsils out. Feeling now like a prisoner,, he was still scared out of his mind-- as if it was day one all over again. When was he going to get out of here? Chris began to fear that they would never let him out. No professional had a definitive answer, as only time would tell of his improvement.

Man, why couldn't he just be dead?

His parents visited almost everyday, but it was of no reassurance to him. His mother always left in tears, and his father was lost for words. This was nothing new. When it concerned their troubled son, they felt inadequate to help him. The best his dad could say was, "Hey, Chris, we're pullin' for ya". That was of no comfort, whatsoever, like he was some fighter in a boxing ring that his old man had a bet placed on . His mom always clung to him as she said goodbye, like she needed the hug more than he did, saying to Chris through her sobs , "Miss you....love you". Her emotional state just unsettled him to the core, and he was worried for her more than for himself.    

At best, his outlook was grim. But then he met Lacie Weiss, and things started looking up.

Lacie was one of the quietest psych patients in the ward, always sticking to herself. But then he found himself sitting right next to her in group therapy, and they hit it off. He had no idea that she had a fun side. She usually looked apathetic and quietly defiant to society, a nonconformist in the form of a Goth, with edgy, dyed black hair, dark eye make-up and some facial piercings of the eyebrow, tongue and nose. Her look was quite in contrast to his light blue eyes and sandy-brown hair. Chris never was into Gothic, viewing those who were as spooky creeps.  

It was obvious that Chris was scared and confused. Now although trying to seem tough and stoic, Lacie seemed so little, almost fragile, yet obviously trying to hide her broken self together. Petite and somewhat girlish in appearance, she was barely 5 feet tall. Chris was 5 feet 11 and a half inches, close enough to the six foot stature that he wanted to be. Only a half inch less really didn't cut it for him, though, even though his slim build gave the impression of a lankier guy. He would have loved to be as tall as the basketball players he so emulated. But such was life. He was never used to having the advantages.  

At first, Lacie never opened up, not to a single soul. Like Chris, she certainly acted like she didn't need this place, and nobody was going to help her--or be allowed to help her. As stony and impenetrable as she tried to be, group therapy it was hard to disappear in. Everyone was held accountable for opening up, and the leader was going to see to it.  No way, though, did Lacie want to crack or look weak in her turtle shell composure, in her self-preservation mode. So it was agony for her.

She first spoke to him, whispering loudly to him, onc,e in the group circle "This is all bullshit!"

Hanging with Chris was the one salvation that she had in this miserable experience. They both could relate more than he ever realized. They both really liked motorcycles and basketball. He had his own Harley, and it was something he loved to work on and go on long rides with it, his own brand of therapy.  In spite of how she looked, Lacie was also actually close to his age. He was twenty-six. and she was twenty-two.

They first broke the ice with casual introductions. "No, the name is not pronounced like Carter", he corrected her about his last name. "It is like Cart-EE-AY...... It's French".

"Yep", she replied. "Like mine is the same way, but as German as brats and sauerkraut,  Ja dummkopf?"

Chris gave her a weird look. She continued, "My mom's dad was from Germany, and I got my mom's name. Ya don't say it how it looks. You would say Weiss like Vice, but I couldn't give a damn how anybody says it. Nobody gets it right and original, anyhow." Her dark brown eyes flashed at him as she said, " But I think I like Chris Cutie, myself, better than Cartier.....cutie it is for me. Huh, cutie pie? "

Chris laughed hard. She was pretty coy for a die-hard Goth. She batted her eyes playfully at him and winked."You're worth being in here for, ya know", he told her, blushing, still laughing at her silly remarks.

She studied his face in response, all laughing aside. Suddenly, her mood turned solemn.  "I'll bet".

They began hanging out in the commons, walking down the halls for exercise, and swapping stories of their plights. Chris quickly found that she Lacie wasn't so steely and unapproachable as the day he first saw her.  And she discovered that he was more than a pretty boy.

"My parents weren't home when I tried", he told her one time after lunch was done. They were sitting in a corner, trying to be as private as possible. "Twenty-six years old...and I still live with them. Yeah, that's my life. I got a twin brother, and he's moved out and doing alright for himself. My sister's younger, is going to college. Wants to be a doctor".

Lacy didn't have any siblings to compare herself to. "Must be cool to have a twin", Lacie said. "I always wondered how that would be to have two of me running around! Scary, huh, dude?"

Chris shook his head. "No, it's nothing like that. Jake and I aren't identical. We are just a two-for-one deal...I mean  is that my parents got two babies in one, huge-ass pregnancy. Jake and me don't even act like twins. Half the time, I don't want to be around him."

No, it wasn't like his cousins, Adam and Alan, who were identical friends, mirror images, and best of friends. Chris never identified with that kind of brotherly relationship. He and Jake never dressed alike, or knew what the other one was thinking. And Chris felt that his brother always felt superior to him. He was the popular one. He was the ambitious one who landed a great job in computers, as a system analyst.  To add to Chris's feelings of inferiority, his little sister, Kate, had surpassed him, too. She was acing most of her classes, and boarding away at college. She was well on her way to becoming a doctor.    

"So if your mom and dad weren't around...who saved you?" Lacie asked. She stared into his eyes with such a probing stare that Chris almost clammed up. Just thinking about that day was overpowering.

"Uh...my sister and her boyfriend were hanging out in the basement. She was home from college, and I didn't know it. My parents were out-of-town. Our dog, Buster, was acting funny. He knew something was up..."

Chris stopped abruptly, but went on. "Kate, my sister, explained to me that she saw me in my room, getting up on a step ladder. She says she yelled at me to stop. I don't remember...but I guess..I guess I was going to do it anyway, and she wouldn't be able to stop me....stop me from...so I hurried up and jumped off before she could stop me."  

Lacie could almost picture it, as if she was there with him. She said, "But she did stop it. She saved you."

"Yeah", he agreed. "Buster started it all...barking, alerting my sister to come upstairs from the basement, and upstairs by my room...." All of a sudden, he felt so weird, like he was having an out-of-body experience.

"Hey, it's OK", Lacie reassured him. "It's over now. You aren't there anymore".

Chris started to cry, but tried not to. "If it weren't for Brian, Kate's boyfriend....she would not of had the strength to hold me up by herself, and cut the rope, too. I must have been like dead weight, and Brian grabbed a kitchen knife and told her to stay cool about it. Yeah, sure, like that could have been possible ! She was trying to keep the rope slack, while trying to save my sorry butt...and she was scared, shitless! "

Lacie opened up, too, relating her tragic past. She had an unbelievable tale, one hell of a ride herself.  It was amazing how detached she was when relating it, though. "Well" actually I got to fess up" "I'm not really an only child....I mean I am...but not really. I know that sounds weird---hey--but I am weird. Oddly unusual is the story of my life-- even before day one. "

Chris had no idea what she was talking about. "What are ya' trying to say?"

She added another surprising bombshell. "Also,  I have a two-year-old boy. His name is Danny. He don't see his dad--ever. The guy's a waste of space. Anyway, my mom has him. She can afford him more, and can do a better job raising him than me. Well, she does OK money-wise. Anyhow, my mom deserves him because she lost everything. And I mean EVERYTHING! Her whole fricking family practically wiped out!"

The shock that Chris had on his face-- his widened, blue eyes and open mouth were expected.   Most people had a hard time believing her.

She explained, calmly, "I mean she nearly died--way before I was born--in a car accident. And her two, little boys were with her in the backseat...and they died that day. "

Chris looked pale. "That is so awful!" he said, hoarsely, barely able to say it.

"Yeah", she continued. "Not a damn thing she could do about it, too. She was like in a million pieces. I know a part of her died right there and then, too. I just know it.  You know, dude, my mom was once really, really coasting along, just doing fine. A typical wife and mother-- a bit older than me now-- life was good. Her little boys were just cute, little toddlers--like Danny. I found out from my grandma that she was  pregnant, too, just a month or two. Nobody could have imagined it coming. She was just driving--doing nothing wrong-- when some idiot broadsided her.  I don't know if it was a guy or a lady, if they were jacked up on booze or drugs, but they were speeding like a demon out of Hell. Her husband was at work and wasn't around."  

The boys were Benjamin and Gerard, but Lacie couldn't remember their names, for her mom could barely mention them without breaking down. It was an unbearable loss.

Chris was so horrified, amazed that Lacie related this like it was someone else's story. She was almost too cavalier about it.

"And they died ?!" he asked.

"Yeah....sucks, don't it? Pure, pure agony. Downright Hell on earth. My mom had to learn to walk again. It took about year, I think."

"Oh, no! What about the baby she was supposed to have?"

"Miscarriage. Worse yet, the damn doctor told her she'd never be able to have kids again. She lost everything, man! Her husband couldn't handle it and left her. Shit on top of shit, on top of more shit, on top of more. If it wasn't for her parents, and her sister's help, she would never have made it.

"But she had given birth to you, right? Or were you adopted?"

"Yeah, she gave birth to me. I was her miracle baby, and she didn't give a rat's rear end if my dad wanted me or not. He'd send her money, once in a while, but he wasn't really into either of us. Who cares though? She didn't give a shit what he thought. I was her baby. Truth is, before I came, she ended up slitting her wrists--just like me. What was the use? At first, there was nothing to live for. But now she has Danny.

"And you!" Chris quickly pointed out.

"Dude, are you kidding me? I have been NOTHING but grief for her, a real pain in her ass!"

Unlike her deceased, half-brothers, Lacie grew up before her mother's eyes, from a shy girl to a hard core rebel. Since the age of twelve, she would sneak drinks from her mom's liqueur cabinet. Eventually, she smoked pot and tried cocaine and heroin. Dropping out of the eleventh grade, she soon away from home, living with friends or boyfriends ever since.  Thankfully, she wasn't doing drugs when she conceived Danny. And her drinking wasn't as prevalent as it was in her teen years of partying and binge drinking. That didn't mean that her drinking problems magically disappeared, or that she was cured. Immediately, though, when she knew she was pregnant, she refused to touch a bottle, but it was just a white knuckle process that was effective momentarily--a band aid on a more serious wound. And going months without a drop of alcohol didn't deaden her urges--quite the opposite--as it only made her crave what she could not have. Often, her fears caught up with her--of especially becoming a mom--but due to the nightmarish thoughts of ruining her baby's life, she fought her alcohol urges and remained dry all throughout the time she was expecting her baby. Eventually, time would prove that the alcohol would win.

No wonder she tried to put up walls . Inside, she had to feel the overwhelming pain, some of it her mother's, some of it her own, and the blurred lines were confusing . Chris noticed the fresh slash wounds around her wrist, and the tattooed angel with a tear down her face, on her upper arm. Was that angel supposed to represent her? A fallen angel?

She was living with her boyfriend, Kyle, when she cut her wrists in the bathroom. Like Chris, she tried to down some pills, popping them one by one, but didn't take too many. Still acutely aware, she was crumpled up on the floor, crying, and she was surrounded by a small pool of her own blood. Luckily, the wounds were pretty superficial.

Working at a dollar store, she was stealing from her boyfriend to buy cocaine and weed. Eleven years older, and running his own tattoo shop, he was threatening to kick her out of his house. Danny innocently saw Lacie's mom as more of a mother to him.

Like her mother, she was losing hope that she could ever have a worthy life. "Yeah, my mom was my age when she lost everything", she repeated. "Shit! How ironic. And here I am feeling the same way....wishing I was dead....like put a fork in me, I think I'm done."

Chris put his arms around her for comfort, and she did not expect that.  Certainly, she did not expect him to give her a brief kiss, although she kissed him back. She better not fall in love with him. Love has always been such a disappointment.
                        _______­______

Lacie got out of the hospital first, and she now, for the first time in years, was going to live with her mother, hoping to mend the fragile relationship that they had. She now had a golden opportunity to be more active in her son's life. She sure  did not want to blow it.

Both she and Chris exchanged cell phone numbers, and promised to call each other as soon as they could  Once released--free at last-- Chris did just that. In his mind, Chris was not able to make that call soon enough, just itching to do it. Once his cell phone was given back to him at the hospital, he called Lacie.  The second thing he did was befriend her on Facebook.

They were fast to becoming good friends. Both needed some space, and being too clingy would have divided them.  A love relationship really wasn't materializing, for too much went on that they needed to recover from.  This was a first for Lacie--meeting a potential boyfriend and not quickly hooking up and into his bed.

Since Lacie wasn't working, she had some quality time with Danny and with Chris. Getting to know Chris better, she looked forward to him taking her for rides on his Harley. Surprisingly, Chris's mom would ask about her welfare, not judging her by what was considered strange appearance. She never questioned her son's choice in his new friendship, happy that he just had a close friend. Lacie's mom was fine with Chris being in her life, too. He didn't seem like the rest--only interested in himself.  

Danny, who was a sweet-natured boy, really enjoyed his company. Danny looked a lot like Lacie, with dark eyes, and a smile that was contagious. Chris would put him on his shoulders and go for a walk with him and Lacie. Danny couldn't wait to do it, the next time.

Chris's twin brother, Jake, on the other hand questioned his brother's logic and choice of Lacie as a friend. "Why would you want to hang around that sick freak? he had wondered. "Forget the crazy chicks from the hospital!"

That did it! Chris would have no mercy on his brother. Soon they got into a shoving match, and then came to blows when Chris threw the first punch. He swung hard, but missed as Jake was quick to duck. It was soon a battle of the brawling twins, and the punches were equally exchanged . Sure, Jake had good muscles, but Chris was taller and more street-smart, quite able to  fight well. Their mom rushed into the living room to break it up.

"Who are you to talk about Lacie like that? You shut your stupid mouth, numb nuts!" Chris warned, his mother still trying to be the referee and peacemaker.

Jake sneered, "Oh, yeah, sure! I'm the stupid one? Like I'm the one who can't get a decent job!." It seemed like that verbal punch had leveled Chris into giving up the fight . Yet in instant, he pushed past his mom, and took one, good swing his brother again. Jake was caught off-guard, completely knocked to the floor.

Exasperated, his mom threatened him. "Stop this right now, or I am calling the police!" Why him and not Jake? His mother's pointed finger at him wounded Chris far deeper than his brother's words or punches.

Chris stormed off and sped away on his Harley.He wanted to see Lacie so badly, but nobody was home. So just sped off again, driving and driving, without any planned destination or any desire to go back home. 

If only he could just leave and never look back.

What was the purpose of his life, anyhow? He sure as hell didn't have a clue. Maybe, now he could really pull off ending his life. It was a mistake to attempt suicide in the house, with the possibility of being caught and stopped. Today, he could race--full force-- into a tree, or a brick wall and nobody could stop him.  

But he realized that he promised Lacie something. He promised to take a college class with her, and he would not go back on his word .

"I now know what I want to do--the first time in my whole, misfit life", Lacie said, her eyes showing excitement. It wasn't Lacie's style to wear her emotions on her sleeve.

"What's that?

"I want to counsel people! I want to counsel drug addicts and alcoholics....like me".

She was serious, yet it was strange. Chris said, "What happened to the girl who thought that psycho babble was BS? Plus, don't you have to finish high school to go to college?"

Lacie laughed, and placed his stubbly face between her hands . "Got that covered, dude! I knew I did not want to work at the dollar store the rest of my life, so I got my GED last year. Best thing I did in a while...other than having Danny. Look, Chris, we made it out alive when he never thought we'd ever go on. We are survivors of the craziness--all that this crazy, insane life has to offer! And we made it, bro! We keep on moving, and we'll keep surviving!"

His expression said to her, *Your little speech is touching, but really? Give me a break!"

"The psych ward--the time at the nut house-- all that hot mess--well, it helped us more than we will admit...at least it did for me", she stated, confidently.

"I don't know", Chris said, doubtingly. "I'm not sure I could stand listening to all those problems--day in and day out. I did think it was interesting, though at the hospital....I don't know...maybe it's worth checking out. It wouldn't hurt to try one class. I'm a college virgin though...not one time did I ever go.Jake has and Kate are miles ahead of me."  

"Screw Jake and Kate! Look!  I never wanted to go to college--but I KNOW I can do it if I really, really, REALLY want to! Don't you wish you had the same chance? Don't you want to prove it? Not to your brother, dude! Prove it to yourself!"

He could not deny that Lacie had wisdom. He admitted, "I thought about it...years ago...but I never knew what I wanted to do. Nothing *still* seems to grab me". He studied Lacie's smirking expression and added, "Sound pretty lame, huh? Like, why I can't figure it out by now".    

"You're not dumb", Lacie insisted. "Give yourself a chance to try".

And so, soon,  they took an introductory class in psychology in a community college. Lacie needed to know if it was really for her. Chris was more of a support for her. Things were going good for him, for he soon found a part- time job delivering furniture at Loring's Furniture Factory. His friend also helped him to get some work at his cousin's car detailing business. Chris was set to work there in the past, before he made his suicide attempt. He now wasn't found with so much time with time on his hands, which was doing nothing for his past situation except increasing his depression.

There was nothing to lose by being busy, the busiest he has ever been. What surprised him was how well he did. He got an A in the introductory class, while Lacie got a B-. And she worked hard, too, putting her heart and soul into the class--and loving it--while Chris wasn't as enthused.

When Lacie and Chris had free time, which wasn't much these days, they would go to local basketball games at his old high school. Other times, they would shoot some hoops together at a recreation center. It was a much appreciated release.They both had a lot on their plates--school and homework for the both of them,  his part-time jobs, and Lacie had her time with Danny, going to counseling, and weekly AA meetings.

It was fun to take on Lacie in basketball. She  might have been small, but she was quick on her feet, and able to handle the ball well. Chris was impressed with her dribbling, and ability to move about the court while dodging his moves on the ball. He showed no mercy on her because of her size and gender. Sometimes, he had the upper hand, but she would amaze him, once making five hoops in a row. They'd laugh as he tried to maneuver the ball away from her--with little luck. He finally gave up exhausted, as Lacie threw up her hands in triumph. Good- natured about it, Chris locked his arms around her waist and picked her up off the ground, spinning her around until they were dizzy.

"Sweet! Good going, Lacie Lou!", he shouted, as he would call her, affectionately.

She laughed like a carefree girl, gazing into his eyes as they both were still catching their breath. He was so beautiful to look at---for a guy--and in that adoring moment she seemed irresistible to him. Chris bent down to kiss her, and she stood up on her toes to reach up closer. He smelled of sweat, but it was attractive. His long, thin fingers surrounded her sides of her head as they embraced in a smooth kiss.

"Not bad", she said, a wicked twinkle in her eye.

"What?"

"The kiss. I liked it...a lot".  

He grinned from ear to ear. "Me, too."

Lacie fanned herself with her hand, and removed her sweatshirt that was over her T-shirt.  In a silly Southern accent she said,  "I declare you are makin' me hot, boy!"

Noticing her angel tattoo with the sad face, again, it finally occurred to Chris to ask her about it. "I like this side of you--the Lacie who lets me see her soft side. You think you're a kick-ass chick, but you aren't so much. That tattoo on your arm doesn't say 'tough' to me. What does it really say, Lacie?"

"Oh, yeah. I am tough--tough as nails", she returned, blowing off the question. She winked at him in her fun, flirtatious way. "And you think you are tougher, Mr. Cutie?"

"No...I don't. You beat me! I'm a wuss.  Isn't it obvious?"

Lacie became serious, looking down at her black polished nails. "I beg to differ. You defended me to your brother. Just remember, I know about the bruises you got that time, too. I got the truth out of you. You didn't want me to know that he was talking smack about me, that he thought I was a basket case." She paused, looked up, and her eyes glistened. "Defending me was one of the nicest things anyone's ever done for me--ever ".

Chris was modest about it, and waved off her comment. "I'd do it all over again. I wouldn't let him get away with it. Anyway, you got the truth out of me. Now what about you? Why don't you answer me?"

"About what?"

"The tattoo is what!"

Lacie grabbed up the ball and started bouncing it. "Oh, that. It's nothing. That's what."

He wasn't going to let this go. Chris insisted, "If you did it, it wasn't pointless".   

"Okay, so what? I got a tattoo. Big deal!  An FYI--I have a few! Duh? Remember, my ex boyfriend did it for a living! I got one on my back, and one on my left buttock." She was obviously annoyed with him.

"I'm just asking."

"Yeah, and I'm just saying that it could be the story of my life, and that would take an hour or more to explain all that crap standing here. It could mean that I fell from grace, from a kid who was pretty good....to...to now." Impatient with him, she blurted out, "Or--news flash-- it could mean that I was just too high or drunk to know what I was doing! I'm not sure anymore. Move on!"

"You aren't that terrible, rotten person that you want people to believe that you are", Chris stated, firmly, placing his arm upon her shoulders.

Lacy just shrugged it off, and started to walk on. "Let's get something to eat. I'm so damned hungry".
                                                
_­________

The next classes that Chris and Lacie were going to take were English Composition and American History. Psychology may have been their major, but they both needed many of the basics in order to get a degree in counseling. Taking some of these classes at a community college was cheaper, and the credits could be transferred, later, to a university. Lacie was determined to study hard and stay on course. If she could survive one class, she could attempt to double her classes and take two.

They had come so far, a far cry from the desperate and despairing days prior to the hospital. Chris was proud of Lacie, for she was blossoming, enjoying her life, again . He wanted to be on the same page as her.

She and Chris signed up again for the next semester. Chris was uncertain that the load would be too much, but he plodded along. In the  first day, homework was already assigned, and more books had to be bought. College was still intimidating for the unlikely pair of students, but it beat the alternative. It was better than getting high for Lacie. It was better than sleeping too much for Chris and having zero motivation.

On the second day of classes, Lacie was surprised that Chris did not show up, not for either class. That wasn't like him. Maybe he was stuck at work--or in traffic. She didn't want to worry herself too much. There was probably a good explanation. But then she tried to call Chris on his cell phone. He didn't answer or return any of her calls.

Alright, what was going on?

Lacie texted Chris. He still didn't respond. I'm getting worried that I can't get a hold of you. Call me back P-L-E-A-S-E, she texted him.

There was still no response. If something happened to Chris, wouldn't she have heard? Maybe not, but why would he do this to her if he was alright? Chris wasn't like that.  She couldn't reach him on Facebook, either, and there were no recent posts on his wall.  Lacie could hardly concentrate on her reading and homework. Her mom noticed something was wrong, without even knowing. It was hard for Lacie to place Danny as her high priority, too.      

"Just go over there and find out for sure if he's alright", Lacie's mom suggested.

"I'm going to have to, Mom", she responded. "It isn't like Chris at all."

So Lacie went to Chris's house, his parent's place. Nobody was home. Panic almost set in, but Lacie told herself to be calm. What if Chris ended up back in the hospital? Things were going so well--at least she thought they were. What if he really did try to kill himself, again? What if he actually died?

Lacie kept trying to call him. She still got the same results--no answer. This was just too much for her. She didn't sleep at all that night. The next day, as soon as she could, she went over to his house. This time,, his mom was home and answered the door.

"Chris is watching TV in the basement", his mom stated. The woman was clueless about how scared and concerned that Lacie truly was. She didn't know Chris was avoiding her, and Lacie didn't tell his mom that she was trying to get a hold of him, that she was worried sick. So she masked the anger that was rising up within.

When Lacie went downstairs, Chris must have assumed it was his mom. His back was towards her as he slouched down in an old armchair, watching reruns of The Mentalist.

"What the hell!" Lacie yelled out.

Startled, Chris jumped up and faced her. "Lacie!"

She put her hands on her hips, in a show of disgust. "What are ya' doing? Hiding here from me? Do you know how worried I was?!  I CALLED and TEXTED you! You DID NOT show up at school! Why'd you disappear, dude?! Why?!"    

Chris looked about the room like he was searching for an answer. He threw up his hands and finally said, "I don't know why."

Lacie's expression grew from red hot to more cold. "Dude, that's so messed up!  "Hey, if you don't want to be my friend, I think I'll survive," she blurted out, sarcastically. "But don't you disappear on me, making me wonder....thinking the worst. Actually caring about you? Go see a psychiatrist and get some help. I'm so done with you and your crap!"

"Hold on!"

Lacie stopped and slowly turned around. She tried to appear calm--but if looks could kill. "What about you?" Chris asked her.

Her eyes narrowed. "Oh? What about me?!"

"Lacie, you sound like a hypocrite. Calling me out! But you're running just like me! Who are you underneath all that dark eyeliner and all that dyed hair that you hide behind?! Really! Who are you? You don't have it so together, Lace! Don't call me out unless you take a good look at who you are!"

She thought he was crazy. "Because I like this look, I'm hiding?! I like who I am, Dr. Sigmund Freud! That's the lamest thing I ever heard! Losing it, much? "

"No",  Chris responded. He paused as Lacie crossed her arms before her. "I'm not saying you aren't pretty because you always are to me. But you haven't arrived, so DON'T judge me. It's obvious that you still carry a lot of guilt around for being alive. Like a hundred pound stone! What happened before you were born--all that shit--shouldn't define you. You were on the run for so long...from yourself, your mom, your son. It's like you are guilty you survived, when the others didn't."

No matter what he said, Chris felt like a fool. Lacie let him have it. "Leave my son the hell out of this! You're acting like such a dick! Who do you think you are to say...I don't...you're PATHETIC! Oh, I could scream bloody murder!" Her muscles were tensing on her neck, and she was beside herself.

Lacie started pacing. " I'm happy, for once, dude! Look at me now!  I'm going to school! Things are going up, not down! I thought I had you in my life, but I was wrong! Be my guest, and go right ahead! Later--not! I'll gladly not touch you with a ten foot pole! Sounds like you would rather sit in this basement and wallow in your miserable self! So do it !"

"Not miserable....scared."

Lacie made her way up the steps, slamming the door behind her. A minute later, she walked back down, stood before Chris and said, "I'm still listening."

Chris was already sitting back down and watching TV. He  stood up to face her, with a more contrite attitude. "I'm sorry, Lace....Lacie Lou."

"Yeah, OK. So now you owe me some explaining. I was really worried about you. Thought you were in the hospital or something."  

"Lacie...I think I love you. No, really...I don;t think. I know...I do."

Her irritated face softened as she looked into his light blue eyes that were now welled up with tears . She responded, "I do, too. That's why I don't get it. You're the best guy I know. You really mean it, don't' you? If you said you love me, then you have to mean it."

Chris attempted to respond, hemmed and hawed, but was stalling for the right words. Lacie's brow furrowed, again. She said, "You are so messed up! You love me, huh, Chris? Well, you SUCK at it. A funny way of showing it, dude!

"Lacie, shut up!"

There was complete silence in the room as Chris turned off the TV. "I'm not finished", he said to her, as she looked stunned. "I can't be what you want me to be. Well...here it is. College isn't for me. Not like you, it isn't. It's not that I don't want to learn. But a big degree isn't it. I'm getting a refund on those classes. Now I am checking into a trade I can probably get into--maybe heating and cooling. I'm good with my hands, and there's plenty of work I can do with them. Anyway, I was wrong...scaring you by not calling you back. It is so disrespectful that it's ridiculous. Lacie, I was so wrong."

Lacie couldn't help it. Tears ran down her face. "OK. So what the hell? What's with you guys, anyway? What's wrong with you that you can't tell me the truth? What's wrong with me? I'll get over it that we won't be in class. I guess it's really my dream...and I'm too selfish to see the signs that it's not yours."

"Lacie...I..."

She quickly interrupted, wiping away the tears with her hand,  "Please don't think for one minute that I don't want to quit--take another drink, have another snort, that I don't desire to steal from my mom for more booze and drugs. It's hard to not blow my top when my son prefers my mom to me. I struggle...still."

"I get that, Lacie. I really do."

"And it does hurt that I don't have my brothers around, that they died and I'm here. It really hurts so  bad, sometimes, that I don't know how it will stop." Lacie broke into sobs, reaching to Chris for comfort as she buried her face into his chest. Chris wrapped his arms around her, and held her tight.

"I'm not running again, Lacie. That is a promise that you can hold me to " He cried, too, as Lacie looked up at him with red eyes, and smeared make-up.

Neither one could guarantee what the future would bring, or fully be able to shut the door on the past, but they would walk on, together, the best that they could. They were, after all, survivors.

Allen Wilbert Sep 2013

To expel intestinal gases through the anus.
The definition makes it sound kinda heinous.
Whether you pass wind or pass gas,
either way it comes out your ass.
Farts are loud and some silent but deadly,
you can make it sound like a medley.
Farts are cool and sometimes funny,
lookout for ones that become runny.
Some like to fart in your face,
it may cause pink eye,
and sting like mace.
Farts can smell and usually bad,
must be a duck, says your dad.
I have farts that never stink,
although some were on the brink.
Dog farts will make you take cover,
the smell lingers and starts to hover.
Woman never fart,
but watch out when they do,
it can be brutal,
once their comfortable with you.
If in certain places you must hold it in,
farting in church is considered a sin.
A good fart can make you feel good,
its part of life and fully understood.
Every fart deserves a smile or a giggle,
don't forget to give your ass a shake or a wiggle.
For ones who think farting is disgusting,
I bet your asshole needs a good dusting.

howard brace Jan 2013

     Despite repeatedly shaking her pincer... much as a sprightly pensioner might brandish a furled umbrella at a grappling contestant, currently being boo'd at in the red corner... the baby crab stamped her foot in annoyance as she glowered at every passing wave that rolled along the shoreline.  In absolving herself of any guilt she may have felt over her prolonged excursion, she had become, even further marooned by a failure to catch a succession of tides back home, an oversight she later confessed, to observe local tide-tables in 'Old More's Almanac...' on sale in all discerning book shops and selected High Street newsagents, priced 10/6d... for unless fluent in the Russian vernacular, it was just about as articulate to the little crab as a map of the Moscow Metro during a blackout, only to have the Rouble finally drop with a throat gagging 'Gaaargh...' clunk, that you were currently standing on the down-line platform, when you should've been stood on the up... as the last train lurched unsteadily out of the station whistling a jubilant entente cordiale... 'wish me luck as you wave me dasvidaniya'.

     Still stamping her foot, only now in strict rotation with the other seven, the baby crustacean peered out from beneath the shade of the large pebble, rearing its bulk out of the rockpool like a lollypop-lady's 'STOP'!!! sign, her beady eyes twitching independently, first this way, then the other, cut withering swathes through every cardinal point of the compass that didn't duck quite fast enough, was rapidly coming to the conclusion that the rock-pool in which she found herself tapping her foot in today, would be no less aquatic as any other rockpool that she may find herself still tapping a foot in tomorrow and that the best course of action was simply to stay-put and take the matter up with the local town council, then petition for additional fare-stages to be implemented... and with the cost of shoe leather at current prices... well, with eight legs to consider it would make savings that weren't to be sneezed at.  

     It wasn't everyday of the week that a young and upwardly mobile baby crustacean had occasion to move both up-market and down the beach, all in the same mouthful... and into what could only be regarded as a desirable, detached beachfront property, a rock-pool of distinction with all available mod-cons.  She felt relieved that apart from the occasional day-tripper, who invariably dropped litter wherever they went, that a baby crab of distinction such as herself, was certain to be accepted socially and hob-nob with a new and discerning circle of acquaintances... you only had to take that nice lady earlier in the week, they both seemed to have so much in common... then she would roll up her sleeves and really show the neighbourhood what knitting was all about...  

     With as much enthusiasm as that of a three year old screaming for an ice-cream in the middle of an heat-wave, Red marched up the beach and as far from his wife's waspish tongue as a lame excuse would carry him, heading back towards the growing crush of holidaymaking fathers who were only there presumably, for the sake of their own children, laying siege to the mobile vendor... only this time, having already stood in the same queue ten minutes earlier, now had a sufficiency of funds to purchase that which he'd unsuccessfully queued for the first time.

      After an unspecified time which by his wife's reckoning was grounds for divorce... Red, now laden down with the iced confectionary picked his way through the same throng of fathers who moments earlier had been happily chatting in the queue together, were now enjoying the same berating as the one Red was looking forward to as he made his way back towards the rock pool, juggling more ice-cream than two manly hands could intelligently control... while in a bid for freedom, the rapidly thawing confectionary were hatching plans of their own, ones quite independent from those intended as they embarked upon their meandering exodus, known only to iced creamy desserts on hot sunny days... and into the unknown, roaming across Red's hands and trusting their fate to a far higher authority.

     "Did I mention that I was on a diet" snapped his significant other, as she sat licking pistachios from the melting cornet... "don't you ever listen," secretly smiling to herself... "and you did remember to bring Sockeye's water this morning.. didn't you..!" she continued "someone with half as much sense would've stood it in the rockpool to keep cool, I'm sure the little crab wouldn't have objected..!"   At the mention of his name, Sockeye with ears far too free-lance to ever consider gainful employment of their own, needed no further persuasion and charged straight through the rock-pool to his mistress's side, walloping the thermos flask for a tail whopping six... bringing his personal batting average so far this holiday to a self congratulatory forty not out... and found the baby crab spluttering flat on her back and having second thoughts on any immediate savings in shoe leather were she to stay. 

     Generous to a fault, Sockeye now thought to shower everyone's ice cream with liberal helpings of the seashore as several parasitic irritations had Sockeye hard at work serving eviction notices on some of the more exotic zoology that only a patent Bob Martin's would dare to muscle up to... the local wildlife, by the look on his face were having the time of their lives bivouacked behind his left ear, throwing wild parties and disturbing the peace.  Cross-eyed, it was only while launching a double pronged assault on the latest settlement of interlopers that Sockeye finally succumbed to his injuries and surrendered to a neighbouring sandcastle... it really didn't do to mention a certain name too loudly at times like these, especially when you just happened to be on the receiving end.

     For some strange reason he was undoubtedly in the dog house... they'd shouted at him, which made him sad, all except his little master who had pushed him away... which left him bereft.  Sockeye sat down on dads beach-towel and had a long, thoughtful scratch... where had all the fuss gone? he searched for appreciation their faces... his tail gave one disheartened thump before it stopped... and all those little pieces of ice-cream dipped wafer, which up until now had always appeared as if by magic.  

     Catching sight of one such treat, undoubtedly forgotten by the rock pool, a marauding seagull pulled out of a rolling dive and swooped, at the same instant as two gaping jaws launched themselves skywards... canine jowls quivering bravely in the light sea airs... and not too dissimilar to a heat seeking missile, rose gracefully from the ground to meet it... 'well intercepted..!' as both ears applauded in mid-air... no aerial freeloader was about to skip town with Sockeye's ice cream wafer without paying... leaving one solitary wing flapping its willingness to pay up.

     At least it kept her husband in useful employment Tina decided... and mercifully out from under her feet, as she brushed a fragment of affectionate pistachio from her bikini top... she'd have to  make sure he went for the ices in future... and without the means to pay for them... a mischievous smile turned the corners of her mouth as she leant towards the beach-bag and invested herself with several more juicy grapes... that everyone who fell within her sphere of influence had been warned well away from... under threat of dire consequence... and it would take a brave man indeed, or a very foolish one... she gave her husband who was sitting well within arms reach a caustic glance... and Tina's particular variety of justice had a very long arm indeed.

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a work in progress.                                                        ­                                                                 ­  1297

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