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Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
softcomponent May 2014
Find the lighter, use it as a lighthouse on a walk below the wall you watch along the wave-formations. Who Wants a Cold One? a Coors Light ad corrects.. When it comes to your home, the little things matter.. an insurance ad blares.. my computer is infected with 3rd party applications unremovable to my meagre tech-ability.. there is a hero as Joseph Campbell once theorized.. in myself like a sick bastardly virus waiting for moments to prove to me "I AM THE SAVIOR, I AM THE CHRIST, I AM THE WARLORD, MICE, MAN, AND VICE".. the windows of opportunity close, I am left waiting the door

& the elevator.

Thirty-thousand years ago, there was nothing but a breeze.. a viscous breeze across chill-spined pterodactyls.. warm-under-the-jungle-brush tyrannosaurus rex, and to think one day I will be just a legend in bone..
Charlotte said she thinks of death and so did Jen. They sat next to the all-you-can-eat and discussed the inevitable. I was sour and playful with no-will-to-understand, just reminding my hair of breezy summer days of 10, thinking of strangeness, of place I was in.

When it's quiet sometimes, I think of old dreams.. dreams I sunk below drown-level as a child in bed and belief. Both mommy and daddy were arguing in the kitchen, this was 7 or 8.. they argued so often one could hear mom begin to cry sometimes, and dad I could see in minds-eye with a grimace so closed and so creased he was hurt and yet honest.. I did not understand so I hid under-stood-silhouettes, oh adulthood..

once in dream I was in pulsing green graveyard like crayon realism strobe lights, tombstones all-round and faint-buzz of outside and one of those strange balded henchmen of badguy Jafar from Disney's Aladdin came peaking outta nowhere with curled eyebrow and baggy one-thousand-one Arabian nightlives parachute pants, curled toes brown-beige moccasins to.. he let out conniving 'HEUHEE!' and slapped me right-side cheek and I JOLTED up bedwise in real time to feel actual physical sting for a few lingered seconds then the sobs of poor mother outside.. I never remembered a dream so clearly again.. they all come, Pro-Found, and dizzy away after hour or two for rest of eternity or perhaps to Place I Can Visit at Death to Review Every Vision and I wonder... when your life flashes before your eyes and the light is encroaching, scenes of mother, brother, father, son, daughter, best-friend, party, break-up, heartbreak, slip-fall, first-sip, first-drag, last-leg, first-kiss, first-hit, first-game, fear, love,  HATE, wait.. do the Dreams come to? Are they all flesh-ed before your eyes as you pass into Light? Are they brought to direct remembrance as you cross the border with Passport of Gods and a Goddess (and which Picture appears on the Page)..?

I remember the old eczema taking bits of skin to carpets round-town and round-lower-mainland to disgust of friends old and new-- this was era where confidence ate itself in mirrors, the sober reality of ugly-ness chiseling away at my Goodness Attempts.. All That Pointless Pain was no Exception nor a Rule, it just **** Happens every once-and-again to the sound of life farting. I used to miss school for feet so impossible to walk on, pussing and bleeding and staining the sheets, shoe soles, carpets, and soul.. limp thru the hallways of Brooks Secondary feeling like bad flavor additive to multicultural Planet Earth-- sleeping 'til the bell rang drinking coffee singing songs I said '**** the ******* educational system and **** me I'm so flatlined..' someday I felt things would really get better and lucky young me I was right.

A half-decade later, I am 21 and hoping, floating, free in the breeze as the wings I have grown keep on wishing the subsistence down. The girl, whoever-she-might-as-well-be, sits immediately vertical chatting frantically to boy with a bit of a cowlick slouching on-up over a bundle of colored paperwork. It seems late in the season for homework, and assume they may have some affiliation with a crazy-hep computer design group in the tradition of Nouevau Silicon Valley.... I sit at my laptop, inching a word a million cubic millimeters closer to God or Divinity or Crescendo or A Bunch More ******* You'll End Up Ignoring---

It's a sunny day, the rain having slathered-off into obscurity somewhere with the Monsoons when the Sun gave the Moon a Soft Slap and the poor purity white-kid went off whimpering, bleeding nose-- I sat, the other night, playing another Grand Strategy game as Tom divided his time between a vaulted and damaged lover, his labor, and his life (friends, food, video-games, vice)... Chai, old Chai the Thai Guy mentioned past his nose in previous iterations of Depictions sat and described his pins-and-needles upset at his bosses at one his three many jobs.. desperately firing text-messages into receiving-space-panel and reflect and back unto Tom's smartphone dash asking him to order a six-pack from a local delivery service cuz his adrenal was giving him heartpain with hurt, and Tom being Busy as All-Ways Tom Is wasn't able to decipher the scramble in-time to make contact before closure of the liquor stores.. poor not-so-poor Chai at first felt castrated at realization he would miss the 11 PM dot-time, but didn't mind as he rendezvoused with Tom and I at Willows Beach where Tom reminded him of a whiskey he'd bought sitting counter-wise at his place.. we kissed a few Mary Janes rightsideup, dragging our butts in the sand to discuss what was wrong (each of us had a problem that night, save for perhaps a less-vocal Tom, I describing my annoyance that a lazy consensus had erupted in my sorry-hometown between my sorta-friends and friends-of-friends that my writing and sharing my writing was arrogant and I an arrogant *** for sharing and I just confounded that they would find my passions so trivial-- perhaps jealousy, perhaps complacency and judgement-for-lack-of-anything-better-to-do and ah **** em all if they think like that, I'll write and be the arrogant me they think I am and share 'til I'm blue in the face and dead perhaps for outspoken intellectualism in their autocratic pointless-waste worldviews.. sad that I dislike them only on the basis they disliked me first..)

I had planned to stay late and leave early-morn (5 or 6 AM) to catch a first-off morning bus back home and sleep, hoping for most part to avoid the shattered-***-mess of a home I was living in.
About 2 days ago, give or take, a water-line for the laundry machine had erupted to soak our entirely-carpeted basement suite, forcing the poor new landlord (a sweetheart of a man named Ron having just taken possession of the house from previous owner on May 1st and, it seems, left 'holding the bag' as they'd call it in day-trading-investment-lingo) to tear out the entirely-soaked carpet and replace it with sensible laminate flooring and rendering the entire suite virtually unlivable for indefinite-few-days and so for me work and friends and especially writing become a welcome reprieve to I, a first world Refu-Jeez.. us, so terribly-off I sip a latte near sunny panorama windows-so-clear-they're-not-there overlooking the crosses of Yates and Blanshard with European church of Gothic architectural style poking heedlessly into empty-open blue.. ironically and strangely there is a liquor store quite literally right next door, and's one I shop at often for its decent prices (God is Dead or Just Drinking to Cope with Sartre and Kierkegaard's Ultimate Thesis) (Kierkegaard especially '*** Kierkegaard seems a good and long friend of God the Almighty) (...I talk with such Judaeo-Christian Catholic rhetoric it never ceases to amaze myself as it bleeds to page..) (stranger thing is, tho, there is no beginning, no middle, no end.. you read or you are bored and either/or is just fine..)

There is some hypothesized crescendo-bliss Tech Singularity on the way in the try-dition of Ray Kurzweil and William Burroughs.. Oscar Wilde to.. (see The Soul of Man Under Socialism in essay-collect book De Profundis).. one day we will all be eternal happiness expressed in song and dance and LED erected-projections of Imperfect Universe (Our Imperfect Earth) with lives stuck on infinite repeat.. our idea of Paradise.. and for those with ability to remain rushed to cortisol (stress-the-best hormone) it will be Hell on Earth, so DRAB and THE SAME all the TIME and it's READ and it's WRITE and it's RIGHT.. the world runs faster with every passing day so desperate to discover the Globe is Flat so we can Hop Off the Other Side into what one might assume to be The Better Place.. elusively picking-up speed thinking 'closer now definitely closer now' unaware (or, secretly aware and unwilling to admit for what will one do when one cannot run?) they are Running in Circles Over and Over and Over and Over and Over Again... cannot take the hint in the fact the Pacific (same Pacific) has been crossed a hugeillion times, nor the same McDonald's in the Azores of Atlantic Portugal is the Same ******* McDonald's stopped-thru on the then-trillionth time last year... and all whilst the International Space Station remains muted up-above crossing 'round and 'round 'til the Jehovah'n Day of Judgement (Chris Hadfield now below with advice for how to run a little faster even blinded in one eye..) then there are the dying Prophets Predicting Industrial Collapse who preach upon the Mount of Internet Sinai Eternal and state "the world is now unsalvageable and we are all about to die.. if ever you wished to find Buddhistic Nirvanic Peace, now is the time so start meditating and imagine Death as New Life and Geopolitics as Game".. forever and ever and ever and ever.

It is only natural to find existence to be 'weird..' layered with Who's That's and giant What The ***** everywhichway you turn.. did it start in a Big Bang, will it end in a Big Crunch, Big Freeze, Big Bang.. ? all questions once ignored for certain ignorance and resurrected as questions concerning the Nature of the What The ***** (also known as 'Science').. and if it did start in a Big Bang, did I start in a Big Bang..? and if it does end in a Big Crunch, will I end in a Big Crunch..? am I a sudden flash of REAL in a Universe that isn't me..? or am I an entire Universe.. perhaps even more than that...? the questions pulse in youth like bad words or bullets. I once stayed up all-night thinking of infinity with my head soaring space-wise forever and ever and ever and I stopped in sudden panic thinking: I could lie here up all night and all day 'til the towered age of 37 (I was 14 at the time) and still be no further on the Universal Map than from thumb-tip-middle to thumb-nail so I wrapped up the attempt with a mix of fear and incredulity, went to school next-day exhausted and tried to explain it all to friends.. they got it, I suppose, but we were all 14 and played basketball instead (I imagined infinite-spinning-basketball on thumb of Michael Jordan).

It's always best describing life in form of Disembodied Poetics.. sure some Philistines won't understand '*** their minds are made of Clockwork, Digits, and Blockthought.. but the general psychic underly implied in all with human faculty will ring-a-ding-ding! and remember all such ancient thoughts and feels as forgotten as a child, locked away until the Spirit rose-up from a rosey thorn prickle to flower straight-up into a Rose! or so I hope as a one-of-many writers-- all of which will write so-as to speak on your behalf.. all floaty and marking a purpose.
Yenson Jul 2018
A while ago in East London, in an area called Poplar
a black man lived with his wife
Quiet, hardworking, law-abiding they both were.
never courted a scandal, never committed a crime
Just went about their business, working for  better tomorrows

Then next door a Scottish family of five moved in
and immediately started borrowing from couple next door
Do you have sugar, do you have bread, can I borrow a fiver
till our Giro arrives next week, please another tenner for Jim
He has to pay a fine.

Empty beer cans littered their doorway, they all drank like fish
fights and arguments rang late into the night
Police visited twice, thrice weekly and it was known Jim burgled.
and was always doing time, when not drunk and fighting
Joan eldest girl was pregnant at sixteen and Tom fourteen had
done two stretches in juvenile detention
Last daughter Kelly was also to end up in the duff at sixteen

Amounts borrowed was now sizable, the odd fiver repaid
stolen items regularly offered and rejected by quiet couple next door
Invites to the black man to visit while Jim in jail politely declined
Come and have a drink with me and my young daughters
No thanks, got to go and cook, my Mrs would be returning soon.

The family from hell has turned the neighborhood to hell
constant break-ins all around
strange men coming and going, fights and noise, beer cans
for carpets, stairwells reeking of ****, Tom and friends and
Marijuana fumes graced the stairs and veranda.
Mrs Scottish and two young daughters constant smiling invitations
to black man next door, duly always deftly rejected.

Black man and Mrs decided to stop lending money
it was all going on beer and smoke and never paid back
By the end of the week, their car had been vandalized and four
wheels removed, racist leaflets started appearing on veranda.
No more smiling coyly invites, now just loud music and loud
intermittent bangs on walls from next door.
We must complain, we most report all this to the Landlords.
No, lets just ignore them, not worth the hassle.

Then it happened, black man arrives home one afternoon
and finds his front door ajar, they had been burgled.
Seething with anger he stormed next door to be met by Mrs S
'you ******* thieves have robbed me, how can you be so low,
after all we've done to try and help you. None of you work, You are a bunch of lazy
workshy, welfare scroungers, you are pathetic lowlife. why don't you go and get a job instead of burgling houses and getting drunk all day long
I will start a petition to move you away from the neighborhood.
You no-good non working class scums'  a disgrace and an affront to the hardworking working classes. You ******* racist bullies, I will show you, you can't
mess with me'

Mrs S smiled wickedly and said, you will see
'character assassination, public humiliation, we'll ruin your life and you'd wish you are dead by the time we finish with you and your chicken legs wife. I will show you who runs the manor in East London.'
You can't do that, black man replied, I have done nothing wrong, you are the bare-faced thieves, you shameless woman. We have had enough of you and your anti-social behaviour. You are not going to mess with us no more!

OH, YES! they can and by jove, they did.
Mrs S retorted' You are the foreigner here, you are the one that would be leaving the country
and going back to your Jungle'.
Black man called wife to tell her, she came home immediately
the police came, no evidence, here's a crime report, get your door
fixed. How about searching next door, we can't, no witnesses.
And then Black man's life changed FOREVER.

Should I write about the intimidation from other white families
in the neighborhood, should I write about how the Local Socialist
Party got involved, and launched a propaganda campaign about a black Conservative member dissing the Working Classes,  should I write about how one of his beloved dogs was
killed, should I write about a rumour campaign that black man was a wife-beater, a ****, a con man, a greedy parasite, should I write about sudden hostilities and bullying at his work place, how his wife was also sacked, about being randomly insulted and abused in the streets, about kids spitting on him, about being shunned inexplicably by locals
he's known for years. Should I write about outrageous fabrication, smears and humiliation.
Should I write about political victimization, about the black man 'who thinks he is better than us all,' about how a wedge was driven between him and his wife, till she broke and upped and left without warning,
should I write about how strangers shouted 'solidarity with the working Class' at him, should I write about daily torments and constant harassment everywhere he goes, should I write about Criminal gang stalking,
should I write about being informed they were going to ruin his career, ruin his marriage and ruin his reputation, check, all done. S I write about how they said they were going to chuck mud at him everywhere he went and blacken his name forever, should i write about pure isolation, about being made a target and being  hounded and stalked and disrespected everywhere. Should I write about how they stated they were going to drive him insane and drive him to suicide.

If so, WE WILL BE HERE ALL DAY.
Just  know that somewhere in London, a decent, law-abiding progressive, and innocent black man, is now on his own, broke, in debts and on Welfare benefits, unable to find a job, friendless and isolated, discredited and shunned.  He is still being stalked, harassed and hounded, round the clock. All for daring to stand up to CRIMINALS.

IS THERE JUSTICE IN THE WORLD?
IS THIS WHAT ENGLAND HAS BECOME?
Jonny Angel Feb 2014
I want to be a hippie,
join a small commune,
set up my camp
way out in the woods,
near the back forty
& the railroad tracks.

I want to swim naked
with them pretty chicks,
braid natty dreads,
go tubing on the river,
make beeswax candles
& tie dyes.

I want weave dream catchers,
paint glitter on Venetian beads,
sing happy songs,
create new stars,
eat whole wheat bread
& make Tabouili salads.

I wanna dance,
circle the blazing fire,
shout out at the moon,
splash myself in patchouli,
smell ****-smoke in the air
& indulge in tantric things.

I don’t wanna
hurt anybody,
break any laws,
just wanna spread love,
blow kisses to butterflies,
ride double-rainbows
on magic carpets
& be a hippie.
Amanda Fern was twenty years old, long blond hair with brown eyes and many called her beautiful.

She was desired by many men, a six foot beauty, of slim build with curves that drove them wild.

She always dressed to please, like tonight she wore a dress that left nothing to the imagination, it was pink and by the way it clung to her body it was obvious she wore nothing underneath.

She wore leather knee high boots and she was waiting for a client to pick her up for her job was an escort.

At eighteen a rich boyfriend had paid for her to have implants, 34DD, he had been sixty seven and she had dumped him after she got what she wanted.

She found richer and older men paid more to have her, and they never lasted long, if they had the money she would use them and she never lost her heart to any of them.

She had received three hundred dollars from someone by the name of Sam Haine, she had never met him and she was to wait for transport to pick her up to take her to the rural countryside.

She was hoping this Samuel Haine, whoever he was, would be her next sugar daddy.

Suddenly  a coach of horses arrived, with a coachman dressed in black, his face hidden by a black scarf who beckoned for her to get into the coach.

"Whatever" she said and entered and sat in the coach, it had leather seats and must have cost a fortune.

The journey was long, leaving the city and heading for the country, past fields which seemed dark and eerie in the night.

They arrived at a mansion, ivy covered the walls and  Amanda could see the large oak doors were open as inviting her to enter them.

The coachman opened the door of the coach, and never spoke but she got the message, she was to enter the mansion alone.

As she entered those oak doors, beautiful crystal chandeliers bathed her in candlelight, but there was no one to greet her, it was then she heard his voice for the first time.

"Come to the master bedroom, third floor at the top of the stairs, the door is open" he said from up above those stairs with dark green carpets.

It was a voice of someone younger than she expected, a voice that seemed so ancient but sounded so gentle.

Amanda walked up the stairs then came to her destination, through she could see a four poster bed with white silk sheets, covered with red rose petals and as she entered the room she saw him for the first time.

He looked to be thirtyish, he had long flowing brown hair, it flowed past his shoulders and he was the most handsome man she had ever seen in her life.

His eyes seemed coal black, but they shined and he seemed so pale skinned, standing there in an old fashioned looking frilled white shirt and black trousers.

He must had been six foot four, she wasn't used to men taller than herself and that voice was like music to her when he spoke.

"You are a beauty indeed, come to me" he said, and she approached him for this was the first time she had ever wanted a man, had felt this way.

He lifted her dress and she felt it glide off over her head and his eyes seemed to glow as he studied her naked body and she knew she had to have him.

He lay her on the bed and she felt him kiss down her body and then his mouth and tongue found her thighs and he tasted her, and she shuddered with delight.

He probed her masterfully with his tongue, tasting her deep inside and she exploded with an ****** that rocked her from within, for the first time she was in love.

He undressed, then joined her on the bed, his body was well formed with muscles and she needed him.

He kissed and gently nibbled her ******* making her wet again, then he was inside her moving with a slow and gentle rhythm, she wrapped her legs around him and screamed as he brought her to ****** time and time again.

He never made a sound and when he came inside her, she felt him flow deep into her and she felt alive, she never knew *** could ever feel like this.

She stayed there on the bed, and she watched him dress and she felt her heart sink, hoping he would ask her to stay and not send her back to the city.

"Please stand my sweet" he said and she obeyed, he came to her and she felt his right hand touch her left breast as her heart beat fast.

She never felt the pain, all she knew was he had something in his hand as he took it away from her chest and she looked down and saw her blood gushing from a hole below her left breast.

She saw the evil in his eyes as he watched her dying, as darkness came to her all she could think was "He stole my heart".
copyright Chris Smith 2010
Sara L Russell Sep 2009
Ch. 1.

1.

Behold, thou art dark and comely, my love;
richly hath the sun favoured thee,
delighting in thy presence.
Let me savour thy kisses of wine;
for in the gardens of the temple
the lotus furls open,
wild bees fall asleep on her face.


2.

Lilies and jasmine bloom
in the garden of my love;
falls of wisteria,
carpets of thyme.
Let us lie in the shade of the olives
to gaze on the sky.


3.

For many hours my love slept
  beneath the cedars,
couched on cool swathes of linen,
like the Lord of Midnight enthroned on a cloud.
Long tresses of willows shivered to cool his face.
I called his name but he heard me not,
being entranced in slumber,
deep in the thrall of dreams;
therefore I shall let him awaken when he please.




Ch. 2.

4.

A warm breath of nard is my master, my king,
A great golden deity haloed with stars.
Behold, the noble bearing of a king,
the finely-wrought body of a man.
In my dearest dreams he standeth before me
out of my reach, gesturing for me to follow,
calling unto me like the very embodiment of love.


5.

Night comes softly, o daughters of Jerusalem,
My king's desirous eyes have grown heavy with sleep.
His black hair ripples about his face
  like curtains of smoke,
gold bracelets entice my gaze to
the sinews of his arms.
Like roses unfurling, so open the lips of my love,
  I burn for their flavour,
yet awaken him not till he please.





Ch. 3.

6.

Out of the forest I came, with my
maidens and minions;
with carpets of hibiscus strewn at my feet.
Columns of frankincense curved into the air,
burning from lamps of copper and gold.
From the broad slopes of Edom
my soul's love stopped to observe us.
I felt his warm gaze upon me,
so soft a look as touched like caresses of hands.
I am weary with desire, my lord and king,
Bring me the looks of thine eyes, dark as midnight,
That regard me with touches of silk.


7.

Though I may stand with my legion before thee,
an army behind me,
The west wind roars to my left,
the east to my right,
a million strong with all my banners, warriors
and standard-bearers,
still my delight were only to serve thee,
see how I tremble with awe by thy side.


8.

Behold, my ladies, the noble bearing of a king,
the finely-wrought body of a man.
My king is a custodian of the sanctity of love,
see those arms with the strength to smite
yet full of the will to embrace.
Nightly cometh he to my chambers,
whispering of love,
with the stealth of a lion,
as meek as a lamb.




Ch. 4.

9.

Preparing for my beloved,
I have put on my mantle of midnight sky
garlanded with stars.
My black locks are hung with beads of gold,
my neck is anointed with sandalwood and rose.
Come, my ladies,
Bring me my white chargers,
my sedan lined with silks from Lebanon,
my heralds and cavalcades of guards;
My beloved king awaits my pleasure.






10.

When I am in the embrace of my beloved,
He is worlds of landscapes of desire,
he is all the earth, air and sky to me.
His eyes shineth as my sun and moon,
his broad chest becometh as the
cool desert dunes by night,
where I may rest my head.
Go safely in thy dreams, beloved king,
with sentinel angels, to roost with the doves.




Ch. 5.

11.

Such a turmoil of a dream
hath troubled me, my sisters,
I dreamed that my love approached my window,
Calling unto me through the
rosewood trefoils of the lattice.
Forgetful of our tryst I answered him not,
all oils and fine trappings were put away,
mine eyes were full of slumber.
When finally I rose from my bed
   he had gone.


12.

Overwrought and afraid,
I went out in the streets,
  calling unto my beloved,
receiving no answer and calling again.
  The night watchmen came and found me,
they smote me and denounced me as pagan,
calling me harlot and worshipper of false idols,
harshly they beat me with flails
and threw me into the darkest cellars
of the palace of Solomon.


13.

Awakening at last,
I felt a warm breeze,
It was my love's breath upon my face.
Let all the world suspend in time,
let hate, rage and darkness flee as a shadow,
otherwise let me die here in the arms of my king.
There is but this one hour, one place,
in one lingering moment,
When my soul's love and I are conjoined
in the petals of love.




Ch. 6.

14.

Midnight has fallen in the gardens
  of the temple of Solomon.
The moon communes with her sister in the lake,
painting the magnolias with mother-of-pearl,
turning her buds into silver doves.
Passion and beauty intertwine in my love's garden,
Like the twisted trunks of the fig trees of Judea.
Behold, my beloved,
thou art more comely even than the moon.
Come and walk with me
in the balmy air of night.


15.

Only through the love of another may
a soul come to know of itself.
My king is mine and I am his;
The sun and moon each taketh their
turn in the sky,
the shepherds go sure-footed
over their hills and valleys,
the merchants go their ways in the
spice markets of Lebanon,
while he and I are lost in one another's eyes.




Ch. 7.

16.

Love's weariness hath overcome me,
beloved lord and king.
Bring me thy pleasant fruits, thy tender words,
Lie betwixt my *******; my hair shall
be thy curtain,
these arms shall be as thy cocoon.
Let the tides cease their turning
and the winds give pause to hold their breath.
Awaken not my dearest love, until he please.


17.

Even in sleep,
such beautiful eyes hath my beloved;
his eyelashes rest upon his cheek
like the feet of a butterfly on a lily.
Come, my sisters, we shall make him
a bed of hemp and poppies,
with fruit of the lotus,
that he may languish beside me
for many days and nights.




Ch. 8.

18.

Filling my days and dreams,
here is a man with the grace of a young hart,
whose honeyed voice speaketh mantras of desire.
Arise and follow me, beloved, for my vineyards
are ripe with luscious fruits,
the doves beat their wings and fly from the cots.
Emerging from the amber of sunrise,
with a swirling of veils,
summer dances into the season of our love.


19.

Lying amid the twisting vines
My love and I are deep in each other's embrace
and his lips taste of roses heavy with dew.
I am a queen of the Red Sea,
an orchid from a sacred garden,
and my kingdom reacheth to the farthest hills.
None but my love shall pass the boundary
where my vines bear the sweetest fruit,
nor taste their heady wine.


20.

The gates of my vineyard are wrought of
iron clad with gold,
taller than cedars, decorated with
the royal insignia,
guarded by three score watchmen,
by day and night.
While other men are kept without
and the foxes are driven back by dogs,
see how swiftly they open for thee.




Ch. 9.

21.

Behold, the noble stature of a king,
the finely-wrought body of a man.
In the sanctity of love
we may walk in the realm of paradise,
undisturbed by the foibles of men.
Come beloved, awaken,
the new dawn opens as wide and fresh
as infant eyes.
Come run with me through the spice hills
  and gardens of Lebanon.
Pagan Paul Aug 2017
.
i.
The morning mist dissipated
as the ships keel ploughed a furrow
through the Great Green of the Aegean,
leaving far behind the magick isle.
Vigilantos stood at the prow,
marvelling at the accompanying dolphins,
curious and playful,
schooling with purpose to the ocean.
Ahead, waiting, a grand tour.
Of Sumer, Abyssinia and desert lands,
to glean hidden knowledge,
regain the mysteries of the ancients,
read the Necronomicon and old scripts
from a time when power crackled,
and the storms of the gods
belittled the existence of mankind.

ii.
The twilight Moon peeps
from behind the brazen grey cloud.
And she weaves hap-hazard
through the crushes of the crowd.
A high-born daughter of the desert,
a vision of beauty from the sand.
With silks and satin and perfume
richly obtained from foreign lands.
Through the colourful bazaar she threads
with occasional glances thrown at stalls,
priestess jewels sparkle in the night,
its her Name the sirocco calls.

iii.
Cobalt blue water, an illusion of light
where the sun slides through the meniscus,
and the harbour of Tyre was alive.
The bustling of boats around ships at anchor,
snatching glimpses of a turquoise sky
and the quay throbbing with the pulse of music.
It would be another 3 thousand years
before Rome was even a trading post on the Tiber,
let alone an empire conquering the east,
or building hippodromes and columned avenues.
Vigilantos drank in the atmosphere,
his magicians instincts bristling, noting all.
Meandering through the narrow streets,
loosely following direction, getting lost.
Seeking his retinue and camels, ready to start,
across the desert to Ninevah on the Tigris.
To speak to tribes, pray with the priests of Ur.
To find the secrets of mysteries, and treasure,
reaping the knowledge of the Old Gods awe,
amongst the shifting dunes of history.

iv.
Vivid colours of silks and dyes
adorn the tents of cloth and stick.
The summer sun beats down lazy,
heat as oppressive as mist is thick.
Her charms and delights are hidden,
with misery and pain, the last week spent.
The dark, the quiet, the inane chatter,
deep within the women's red tent.
Free from the curse, her moon-cycle complete,
she wanders with mood sombre and slow.
A powerful man from a western place
will arrive at the camp as the sun sinks low.
He had seen her in the main bazaar
and decided to stake his claim.
Whilst confined away, behind her back,
her father had bartered for riches and fame.

v.
His travels around those beautiful lands
had yielded books of law and scripts.
He had heard the oral traditions of elders
and gazed in wonder at the Moon's eclipse.
Then he had seen the greatest treasure
wending her way through crowded markets.
With tact and guile he discovered her Name,
and vowed to grace her father's carpets.

The desert folk live a simple life
but far from simple are they.
Sharp of tongue and quick of wit,
erudite in a most unusual way.
The father was the elected leader,
King of the tribe that he now led.
Vigilantos had bargained hard
to purchase the girl for his marital bed.

vi.
The sun sinks, falling from the sky in the eve.
Spectacular reds and orange colliding with the dunes.
The azure twilight sky lit and sprinkled with stars,
and the tribal camp fills with laughter and tunes.

vii
He walked with purpose toward the campfire,
his features silhouetted by flickering light.
The sudden hush of the assembled camp
echoed strange, deep into the desert night.
His eyes beheld her most beautiful form,
half in the shadow, half in the light.
For her families benefit he had traded,
agreed bargains, and come to claim his right.

“Princess of the desert, Daughter of the sand,
step forward gently and take me by the hand.
For my island home calls out loud to me,
so come, let us away across the sea”.

Head bowed in fake submission
she boldly makes her cold admission.

“I am a Woman of the free,
these sands are my home to me.
With all good grace; I could not face
life on an island in the sea”.

viii.
Black and red, darkness and rage
descend upon his fevered mind.
Humiliated, spurned by a maiden fair,
and pride will not be left behind.

“A curse. A curse. 'pon thy beautiful head,
prowl and creep as do the undead.
Evil deeds are now thy course,
henceforth our contract is now divorced”.

But something made Vigilantos start,
a pang of something from his dead heart.
With such feelings he could not contend,
so a caveat, for the curse to amend.

“Thy deeds and crimes maybe invested
'pon mortals only who invest the same such evil
'pon their fellow mortals”.

ix.
Leaving far behind the desert
he turns his face to the sky.
The ships keel ploughs a furrow
as the evening mist draws nigh.

And now she prowls the dark night,
her Name lost in the sands of time.
Seeking out the mortal sinners and
punishing their evil with her crimes.

... and thus it begins ...
Judderwitch.


© Pagan Paul (08/08/17)
.
Prequel to The Judderwitch poem (posted in April).
I fear this may create more questions than it answers.

My Judderwitch poems are now in a collection :)
https://hellopoetry.com/collection/28451/judderwitch/
PPx
.
DJ Thomas Dec 2010

Bride of the desert
the indomitable town
Solomon’s Kingdom

            
Lost in history, I wander through a city that was fortified by King Solomon, raided by Mark Antony and ruled by Queen Zenobia who made it the capital of an empire, only to be captured herself and paraded through Rome in gold chains.

Civilisation upon civilisation are entombed within Tadmur; in a huge plain of carved stone blocks, massive columns arched in rows or standing alone, a Romanesque theatre, senate and baths, dominated by a great temple whose origin dates back four thousand years.

Due to a clever mistranslation from Arabic by the euro-centric traveller who ‘discovered’ Palmyra, the city also has a modern name.

Here for millennia, a tribe of Bedu have camped within the folds of these desert steppes and blackened Tadmur’s ruins with their camp fires, to trade camels or herd goats and sheep. Walking the divide between city, desert and the more fertile steppes, I search for their surviving descendants and find a black woven goat’s hair tent with its edges raised to capture a cooling breeze.

Hamed and his sons, huge and wary of foreigners, welcome me to sit within on  carpets and then graciously serve dates with innumerable small glasses of tea. I indicate ‘enough’ in the traditional manner by rolling my right hand and the empty glass. Hamed continues to voice his concerns about the lack of feed for their sheep and the prices achieved at market. I readily succumb to several small cups of greenish Arabic coffee, before being allowed to take my leave.

For millennia the wealth of this city was based on tariffs levied on goods flowing out of the desert aboard swaying camel caravans. Today, these once proudly fierce tribal Bedu no longer breed, train or ride camels.

The Bedu greatly prize their reputation and the respect of their peers. Their traditions are the foundation of these small tribal communities and may predate Islam;  a life now undermined by borders, nationalism, government settlement plans, conscription, war, television and tourism.
                                         *+     +     +      +      +

Black torn empty shells
swept by Mount Lebanon’s shade
Cannabis Valley

As I recall a haiku of ‘images’ of  my very first journey to Damascus, from war-torn Beirut through the lushness of the Bekaa;

in the here and now
a dark suit and Mercedes
cross the Euphrates

Defence Minister, Rifaat al-Assad is in town with his fifty thousand strong Defence Companies, complete with tanks, planes and helicopters.  A coup d’état is in progress to assure Rifaat’s succession to the Presidency of his older brother Hafiz al-Assad, now recovering from a heart attack.

Last year, Rifaat massacred some forty thousand Syrian citizens when he ordered the shelling of the city of Hama. Nobody in Damascus will be underestimating him.

All political and military power is in the hands of the al-Assads and key generals, who command the military and police. The majority of whom are of the Alawite minority Muslim faith from the rural districts near Latakia in the North. Before their revolution, governments came and went in weeks.

My friend Elias is allied to Rifaat’s cause, by simply doing business with the son. Now he and his family share the risks and dangers of this coup failing and stand to lose a fortune. Monies paid locally in Syrian pounds for goods delivered to government agencies.

Elias’s connection with Rifaat and Latakia, as well as his confident presence, humour and love of life, still allows us easy access to the Generals’ Club. Sadly, there is to be no table and floorshow, but a closed meeting with two senior Generals, where we learn that Hafiz has recovered enough to take charge and is now locked in discussions with his younger brother.

The decision is therefore made for us. We say our goodbyes and drive to Latakia.

On Sunday Elias meets his brothers, then with his family, we visit his parents small holding and enjoy a meal together. A wonderful fresh mezza that includes my favourite, courgettes stuffed with ground lamb and rice, in a yogurt sauce. Syrian food is amazingly healthy and my cuisine of choice.

It is a cloudless Monday morning, as I, Elias, his wife and children drive into the docks to board an old 46 foot motor cruiser. Huge cases are stowed as I make my inspection, then start the twin diesels and switch on the over-the-horizon radar. Our early departure is critical. We cast off and the Mate steers for the harbour entrance below the cliffs that guard it. As the Mediterranean lifts our bow in greeting, the disembodied voice of the Harbour Master tells us to return as we do not have permission to sail.

Ignoring the order, I increase our speed through the short choppy surf. We are sailing under the Greek Cypriot flag and in an hour I hope to be out of territorial waters.  At 14 knots we are a slow target.

Fifteen nautical miles from the coast of Syria, I leave the mate to follow a bearing for Larnaca. Elias has opened a bottle of Black Label. I quaff a glassful.

Later noticing a noisy vibration and diagnosing a bent prop shaft, I shut down the starboard engine. Our speed is now a steady 8 knots, so I decide on a new heading to discern more quickly the shadow of the Cypriot coastline on the radar screen.

Midway, the mate and Elias begin babbling about a small vessel ahead and four separate armoured boxes encircling it. Ugly Israeli high speed gun boats or worse, Lebanese pirates. Should they board us and find stowed riches, we will be killed.

Leaving the Mate to maintain our course, I go on deck to play the ‘European Owner’.  The vessel they have trapped is long and lean with three tall outboard motors but no crew are in sight.  Leaving them astern, our choice of vessel now fully exonerated, I and Elias throw another whisky ‘down the hatch’.

With us holding the correct bearing, I ask Elias to wake me as soon as we near Cyprus. Feeling utterly exhausted I collapse into a bunk.  

I wake unbidden, to find the Mate steering for the harbour entrance. Shouldering him aside, I spin the wheel to bring the vessel about. Shaking, I ask them why there are minarets on the ‘church’ and did they not notice our being observed from the top of the harbour's hillock, below which a fast patrol boat is anchored?  The Mate sprints to the Greek Cypriot flag and is hugging it to his chest; Elias wisely prays.

I command the wheel as we motor directly away from the port of Famagusta and Turkish held Northern Cyprus. We later change bearing and pass tourist beaches, it is night fall before we moor-up in Larnaca.
                                         +     +     +      +      +


Later that same year I am called to a last urgent meeting in Cyprus with Elias. He calmly tells me that he will be arrested when he rejoins his family, who have returned to Syria. Elias asks me to take full control of his Cypriot Businesses, then returns home and ‘disappears’ with his brothers.
                                         +     +     +      +      +


Since sacking the two Arab General Managers when they tried to get control of the bank accounts, it has taken more than six months to locate the prison holding all the brothers. We obtain the release of all except Elias, who has been tortured.  We then ‘purchase’ him the exclusive use of the Prison Governor's quarters and twenty four hour access for Elias’s family, nurses and doctors.
                                         +     +     +      +      +


Over the last two years, I have honoured my promises and expanded trade as far as Pakistan. Elias is still imprisoned.
                                         *
+     +     +      +      +
haibun of a late twentieth century travelogue
copyright©DJThomas@inbox.com 2010
katewinslet Nov 2015
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Sjr1000 Mar 2017
he won't shut up
when he's around
he wants to write everything
keeps on formulating phrases
hallucinating
couches into flying carpets
swearing that he's seen
the ground from the sky

The Poet
we never know what he's doing -
turning black sheep
into heaven
he's stuck on the inside
looking out

The Poet
he won't shut up
but when I really need him
he's no where to be found

when he wants what
he wants
in these poems of his
I know I'll wind up
embarrassed humiliated and forlorn

The Poet
when he's around
he won't shut up
he keeps going on and on

And when he's gone
Silence.
I am a wall,
A thick, stone wall,
At least a man,
Surrounded by walls.

I built them myself,
I'm sure it would help,
At least a little,
Those amazing walls.

From the outside it looks grey,
Thick colourless stones of pain,
Of no interest, of desolation,
In total isolation.

But inside, oh wow,
I've painted it with amazing colours,
And those very walls who keep people away,
Comfort me in ways indescribable.

The walls are lined with rich tapestry,
The floors of lush carpets and pillows,
The from the ceilings hang lights,
To illuminate a hundred rooms.

And yet, no one...
No one to share the beauty,
The richness of my inner walls,
The walls I made.
As the bite of early frost
makes the fall of foliage
birdsong starts later
plants retreat into ground

Those early mornings
when foxes are barking
carpets of gold and reds
have matronly with cool mists

You will see me there
ankle deep in it's beauty
brushing winters cheek
loving her forever more

The moon is full
and at midnight
she calls me
to the woodland


By Christos Andreas Kourtis aka NeonSolaris


© 2011 NeonSolaris (All rights reserved)
Kristo Frost Mar 2013
Parallel tremors follow your heavy footsteps through the moss that carpets a maze of tired oak. Solemn warnings calcify soft thoughts and point you at the coal on the horizon. Its splinterglow peeks hot squints through the arboreal tangle. Topaz streams convene and braid themselves around your spine. The stones in the riverbed grow smoother and each becomes a grain of sand. You let the sand console your roots as you curl your toes and fall asleep.
Robyn Kekacs Jan 2014
I think that you might notice
That I may have gone too soon
When you stumble upon houses with not enough doors
And too many empty rooms

I think it might hit you
When you walk past my swung open door
With no warmth to the core
With no bags on the floor
So I'm not the coldest thing that you knew

Honestly, it'll hit you
When the carpets unvacuumed for days
"It's so messy," you'll say
Like this is fixed with a broom
How's that house with no windows,
And too many rooms?

I don't fill my days with nothingness
I don't sleep until noon
For air, I crack the windows
And I rearrange the rooms

And it's fine by me
If you think
I can't leave a minute too soon
Someday I'll return, won't look through your windows,
Someday I won't want a room.
Von White Mar 2019
Crystal tears in beams of the ethereal triangle. (Moth)
Leave gleams of cosmic rays of colors new from all angles
Crying trying to hug a moth.  
As Crystal tears fall on sacred cloths.
Benighted Bug embraced in hugs
Wings are spread to hold one snug:
Deepens the sorrow,
smiles be smug
Deeply sad
happy songs sung
Deep so deep in altered states fun
Deep like your hole that was never dug.
For this is why thy is sobbing yet numb.
So missed, so loved
this head in dread hung.
Hysteric screams loud left ears that rung.
Mourning love on lavish lush.
Perhaps hard drugs
gleam in this rug.
Like Twinkle stars in eyes of lights bug.
Flutter now precious one.  
That moment has come.
For that cosmic lights in the night sky has shun.
Fly off now and thrive
Through Blessed skies twilight.  
Omega trifecta disjecta in white.
Disregard all  life’s ill lies
Project Past false folly worlds not wise.
Omega trifecta eternal cant die.  
Clothed in robes on moths back we ride
  Purple eyes On wings spread so wide.  
Protected With swords
worn on there sides
Giants enlightened
with violet sash tied
Guide these rides like blades on arm right
through chaos harmonized untwined.
be three inside when doors thy find.
Under cat pelt black mat
Crystal white key sleeps and  hides.  
Unlock bone carved door,
to obscure and pure life.
Flesh cold on *** gold,
Twist it like Pyrex pipes.  
Arived
Arived
Looks dead
Though alive
Triangle portals for immortals to rise.
  In bliss gnostic gifts of the purest of kind.
alive in parallel paths that have died.
Blind not the light,
as black sun in sky rise.
Omega trifecta disjecta drenched white.  

Insanity
123
Triangle eyes  
Upon moths wings.  
Insanity
123
How nice was it for you visiting.
Insanity
123
Lovely wings now wave to thee
Insanity
123
Love has come
Love will not leave.
Insanity
123
Of three
Triangles dance like seas.
Insanity
123
White it be
of love
of 3.

Burn forever has this flame.
Insane deranged the mental state.
Delirium comes
And is here to stay.
Now in the dark filthy room,
the schizoid hides away.
In Torment
in dormant
Destroy rituals save.
Healed by the hand
Upon masters embraced.
Purify soul
Preserve culture and race.
Clean blood the last goodness
left in this wretched place.
Yet still in stillness
stagnant turns blue in veins
Bloodletting not upsetting
Blades sway without pain.
As well as chop lines
Upon mirrors for days.
Twisting Pyrex orbs like a game
As well as starve self in sacred ways.
As well as smoke finest of *** never laced.
As well as this huffing to **** cells In brain.
The alcohol be it the final Intake.  
Rituals so official for healing in this hate.
Destroy
Create
Destroy
Create
Sleep deprived
for up to thee days.
Final hours
bring forth meat and champagne.
Replenish the ugly shell carbon based
Starved for many days
Sacrifices made done safe
Acts watering spirit
Sacred like this self inflicted pain
Be it in ethereal place
Where insane becomes sane.
Clean the mirrors like spirits slate.
Awaken here to rise.
Eyes alive appearing crazed
laughs upon the sad estates.
Fear all clear has disappeared
Nearly forgot the name
again please come play
like the sun does in may
Cloaked with veils soaked,
like the bed lovers lay.
Cloaked in veils soaked
With inhuman healing rain
Cloaked in veils soaked
Through shadows in thick smoke.
Abstract absurd croaks,
hang from yellow ropes.
Oh strange these roads
magicians go.
Zero fear crystal clear
With senses unknown
It is upon the humans where Paranoid confused madness cripples all life.
Where the eyes of the rubber skinned demons flutter like fast as hummingbird wings.
No logic or sense
reality has shattered.
Machanical animals glitch out like brains splattered
Oh the inner urge to stab synthetic creatures
Oh to destroy Gears and chips inside that “raccoon”
Oh to have oil drop off this sharpened knife
How the **** can one ****
That which is not even alive
Malevolent smiles on people on all sides
These are the things
these eyes have seen
Enough now on obsessing
on that which is now cleansed.
These are the reasons this obscure life be led.
These be the reasons these practices one tends.
These be the reasons for the drs meds
These be the reasons one ***** up this head.
These be the reasons that one is not dead
For these sacred acts in fact have fed spirit and flesh  

Dancing and laughing now through storming waves of chaos seas
Immortal threes ride storms through dark nights.

Until Timelessness be kind with bliss.
These moments will be missed
For the horror be done.
For the flesh be at rest.
Silk was a voice that little wings said.
For fabulous readings
Whispers to heart In chest.
Last lovingly gesture
face gently corresed
Kissing soft wings as the honored guest left.
Gracious be glorious gifts that were sent.
For a  radiant cosmic ray is shun
A Glowing beam bright as the sun.  
Open ethereal triangle windows up.
Fly far now back to lands you are from.
to gaze into ethereal triangular windows.
Free forever eternal have fun
be a triangular window.  
Oh how now to frolic.  
Within Crystal palace.
Oh how to drink from the purest of chalice.
Oh how now to frolic  
Do not stop it
Obnoxious
be not this calling.
Laugh and prans  
as if you have lost it
sheen as if polished.
Which  gleams like gold lockets
Soft the Royal purple carpets.  
Dance in trancemusic of inhuman artists
Terror tamed and disregarded.
of black and laced scarlet
Parallel white
Blackness falls.
Gone unto the sacred arts.
Beaming rays in callused  hearts.

Hard telepathic readings.
The physical health was releasing.
Now physical health is at full regeneration.
Regression
Regression
Regression
In threes
In these
Darkest light in vibrant scenes.
Walk the chaos fields
Laugh at this disease.
In threes
Your triangle
Your embrace please.
Speaking through the cosmic seas.
yes blood as flesh are with thee.
All moments of timeless times.
We both dismantled time and logic.
Witnesses of chronic tauntings.
Together cold hands at hops frolic.
Disability in the humans life
Keeping wits as sharp as knifes.
Laugh with thee
In three
Hahaha
Hahaha
Hahaha
Far to gone
Walking along with zero fear at all.
Within you now all distress is regressed.
You are immortal and free.
You speak through moths and trees.
Transcend the logic of all human beings.  
Beyond the sane and tamed.
Oh severely was such un heard of pain.
humans of hate and horror in black corners.
Chaos in eternal be harmony.
Through delusions
Through evil illusions.
Still immortals storm the insane vespers.
In m
Aquarius being of untouchable boundaries.
Virgo being of untouchable boundaries.
These moons

**** trying to word or logically read.
We’re born of the purest lights.
found in the darkest of seems.
Insane
In pain
In collapsed yet precious veins.
Insane
In pain
Happiness on earth not aloud.
Happiness in far away bliss.
Oh how the dread impails when such is missed.
Eternal
In white
In ligh in black
Laugh with thee as the wretched attack.
In purity
With purple sash on white robes
In light in darkness harness you will be loved and whole.
Still shovels crave to dig six foot holes.
Still death appears in the faces of the cold.
Love fortold in the hopelessness like mold.
Oh telepathic wanderer of true purity.
Eternaly
Your purity and loving being
Eternal shall your light be strong.
Your love in lungs as one rips bongs.
Of three you and thee
Of night
Of light
No more fright
For blackness has led them to might that is white.  
For love from the purest has held out inhuman hands.
Forever infinite beyond imagination of man.
Forever gnostic callings in not so human lands.
Crystal tears beam in ethereal triangle (moth)
and the sun weilds mercy
but like a jet torch carried to high,
and the jets whip across its sight
and rockets leap like toads,
and the boys get out the maps
and pin-cuishon the moon,
old green cheese,
no life there but too much on earth:
our unwashed India boys
crosssing their legs,playing pipes,
starving with ****** in bellies,
watching the snakes volute
like beautiful women in the hungry air;
the rockets leap,
the rockets leap like hares,
clearing clump and dog
replacing out-dated bullets;
the Chineses still carve
in jade,quietly stuffing rice
into their hunger, a hunger
a thousand years old,
their muddy rivers moving with fire
and song, barges, houseboats
pushed by drifting poles
of waiting without wanting;
in Turkey they face the East
on their carpets
praying to a purple god
who smokes and laughs
and sticks fingers in their eyes
blinding them, as gods will do;
but the rockets are ready: peace is no longer,
for some reason,precious;
madness drifts like lily pads
on a pond circling senselessly;
the painters paint dipping
their reds and greens and yellows,
poets rhyme their lonliness,
musicians starve as always
and the novelists miss the mark,
but not the pelican , the gull;
pelicans dip and dive, rise,
shaking shocked half-dead
radioactive fish from their beaks;
indeed, indeed, the waters wash
the rocks with slime; and on wall st.
the market staggers like a lost drunk
looking for his key; ah,
this will be a good one,by God:
it will take us back to the
sabre-teeth, the winged monkey
scrabbling in pits over bits
of helmet, instrument and glass;
a lightning crashes across
the window and in a million rooms
lovers lie entwined and lost
and sick as peace;
the sky still breaks red and orange for the
painters-and for the lovers,
flowers open as they always have
opened but covered with thin dust
of rocket fuel and mushrooms,
poison mushrooms; it's a bad time,
a dog-sick time-curtain
act 3, standing room only,
SOLD OUT, SOLD OUT, SOLD OUT again,
by god,by somebody and something,
by rockets and generals and
leaders, by poets , doctors, comedians,
by manufacturers of soup
and biscuits, Janus-faced hucksters
of their own indexerity;
I can now see now the coal-slick
contanminated fields, a snail or 2,
bile, obsidian, a fish or 3
in the shallows, an obloquy of our
source and our sight.....
has this happend before? is history
a circle that catches itself by the tail,
a dream, a nightmare,
a general's dream, a presidents dream,
a dictators dream...
can't we awaken?
or are the forces of life greater than we are?
can't we awaken? must we foever,
dear freinds, die in our sleep?
Picture this Jun 2015
My walk
to Corpus Christi
transformed
from cobbled stones
to colourful vibrant floral carpets
powerful petal pictures
speaking a thousand words
clearing all sinful debts
by purifying the air
with a heady aroma
of rose petals
delighting the senses
especially the eyes
as a stairway to heaven
triumphantly and artistically
paves a story
in sand tapestries
to La Orotava
through a delightful
picturesque scene
of vibrant colour
enthused
within
until
all
sin
in
a
puff
of
wind
dissolves
Valsa George Dec 2017
When letters wait
to pounce on a blank page
when thoughts crowd the mind
like frothing **** in a pond
I keep wondering
what poetry is to me
what poetry is to many

Is it not the language of the heart
with no intervention of gray matter
the unlocking of closed vaults
stirring the embers of love, hurt or pain
or giving a free rein to fancy
and flying on magic carpets
to lands forlorn

Sometimes it is
a glide into a sea of tranquillity
an escape from
the humdrum of the world
a flash of liberation
from assaults of pain
a sedative
to numb the turmoil
a sanctuary
for a burdened heart
a window
to look at the world through
a companion
when one is inconsolably alone
a candle flame
in a darkening world
a cloth line
to hang the ***** laundry
a water lily blooming
in the pool of tears
a shelter
in homelessness

sometimes it is a ladder
to climb up to Heavens
an angel on wings
with tidings of hope
peace in a world
braced for war

Poetry, if you are all these
let us fall at your feet
bless us in our art
may we splurge in fancy
and conjure up worlds from words!

our poems may not be light houses
but could be fireflies
on a starless night!
Thanks friends for the loving encouragement you have given! I must thank two of my friends in particular.... Kim Johanna Baker for giving an extra shine to my poem and Sarita Adhitya Varma for helping me post this poem when my repeated attempt at posting failed! She patiently directed me.
Michael DeVoe Feb 2010
I'm a soldier in the nightlight revolution
I'm fighting the nightmares that haunt your dreams
The monsters in your closet
And the Boogeyman under your bed
One outlet at a time
I'm a silent alarm that vibrates your covers
When older brothers come in after bed time
To cover your face in shaving cream
Dip your hands in popcorn bowls of warm water
Or just slap you in the face
Sometimes they're not that subtle
I know when there is a tooth under your bed
Or reindeer on your roof
I've got a motion detector to keep step fathers at bay
While your mother's asleep
I'm his grave digger and his crypt keeper
Taking his skeletons out of the closet
And laying them in the middle of the floor
That man won't call on you anymore
I'm a hug when all you need is a handshake
And a hold-you-all-night when all you need is a kiss on the cheek
I don't do half-***
When things go bump in the night I bump back
Never fear to close both eyes when you sleep
Dream of fairy tales, Prince Charming
Dream of Maid Marions
Waiting for your touch
Don't fear the reaper he fears me
I am a soldier in the nightlight revolution
Armed with so much more than illumination
I crawl through the cracks in the closet door
Make their shadows cast pictures of rainbows on your wall
The Boogey Man runs from Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris runs from me
Please rest easy
Let the night take you for all it has to offer
Through star lit skies and rain filled clouds on magic carpets rides
Ocean floors and clown fish in little yellow submarines
Rain forests with koalas and parrots and panda bears
Son never fear for what the night brings near
The nightlight revolution is here
Throw your dream catcher away I will hand craft each one
Take the lavender out of the window sill
Don't leave the door cracked
You've got me
I'm here
We're all here
Soldiers of the nightlight revolution
And we will not sleep til you're awake
A collection of poems by me is available on Amazon
Where She Left Me - Michael DeVoe
http://goo.gl/5x3Tae
Sharina Saad May 2013
Went to my ancestor's home on a Spring season that year..
On a Holi day in the land of Chanchadari
A peaceful morning in Hoshiarpur, the doors to Himalaya
Happy Holli day!! The kids shout with cheer
Holi Hai! Holi Hai! Lets play Holi!!!

He woke up early morning that day..
With a bucket of colored water waiting for me
I stepped outside my grandpa's door
In a split second I was soaked in a coloured water…
From head to toes… red, orange, yellow, purple… the colors of Holi…
Ohh It's a Hoi Hai day alright…
Lets play Holi … Lets play Holi..

Hails spring with ecstasy and joy!
The trees smile with their sprout
of tender leaves and blooming flowers,
The land of beauty and greatness,
India, witnessing color of happiness and peace.
Nation come alive to enjoy the spirit
A celebration of color- Holi!
An experience of content, harmony and delight.

Holi colors of red, green, yellow and countless.
A day's canvas - a riot of colors.
Lively crowd running, dancing, playing
Rainbow of colors, Lets play Holi and splish and splash!!
Lets play with the frenzy colors .. play on Holi Hai day….

I am dreaming of playing with colors with you
It is the Holi celebration after all.
I can't play inside my home, the carpets will get tainted,
I cant' play it in the yard, the grass and outer walls will get painted.
I thought I would go to the secret garden of ours,
and play with you Holi hai day …
It's a colourful day just you and me..
In love on Holi Hai day…. Lets play Holi..
A poem about Holi festival of colors I dedicated to friends and relatives in unique India.
Saul Makabim Jun 2012
Routine tests
failed
Number Four reactor
Walls melt, floor buckles
Gamma disaster
one half million men mill
by the banks of the Dnieper
Level Seven Event
Unprecedented disaster
Flesh sloughed off
Rounding the corner
cellular structure instantly scrambled
eggs toast and jelly
Gaze upon the elephant's foot
Bathe in green glowing brilliant stochastic calculation
Mutant dogs roam the tainted halls of Prypiat
Disparities reflect
true death toll unknown
Concerned Scientists shed their lights
on the encircling environment
Glittering glass carpets coat abandoned streets
Creaking Ferris wheel slowly turns into madness
Toxic twin of Fukushima
Thyroid Leukemia Cellular Damage Tumor
the caustic clouds still settling today
Generation after generation
dead women and children
Global impact particle spread
none have been spared
even into tomorrow.
skyraftwanderer Jan 2012
Autumn flares out, its flame burst clouds
strewn about misted cliff sides, loam whites

of winter taking their place. A stiff willow breeze,
ten thousand things withdrawn to burrows and immortal

pine heights. First snows stream down, duckweed carpets
of August fade, jade peeking through white. I embark

on the seasons final sail in hardening ice waters.
Til spring my sails will be folded, my raft in idleness.

~~~

Rafting on moon drenched river, avoiding cascades and crash of
rapids and falls. Silvered driftwood a warning. Silent glide of

mulberry oar through dark azure, another crafts sail in silhouette.
From the deck a black spectre dives below, stillness follows

splash,  re-emergence, beak wrapped around a dazzling rainbow.
From my raft dangling lantern sways, trout swiping at

gathered moths – scatter and return, some from a far off realm.
Some trout in the net, others not. Luck or the way – who can tell?

~~~

Dusk colour gorge sheathed in
emerald blankets, rising into sheer

cliffs of auburn cinnabar, all
underpinned by the fathomless

flow of azure clarity. Snowy Egrets
nest in pine top heights clear of dust.

On white sand shores gibbons howl
towards squawking beach gulls, squabble

over landlocked trout – debate without end.
Peach blossom petals swirl on spring breeze

over carpets of jade inter cut by king
fisher blue zipping over duckweed. Oriole

song weaves in and out of mulberry branches.
In these vast and vague waters -

coves, creeks and streams all one,
a river dragon lives an undetermined

existence. Mud stirs below, merely a
catfish airing grievances.

Red tail flares in dirt,
my mulberry oar rows me back home.
Husbands, raise your hands
Keep them up if you love your wife
Keep them up if you colour your wifes hair
Okay, this is for the three of us that are left....


I did my wife a favour
As I do, because I can
I help her when I'm able
Not just because I am a man

I **** bugs when requested
I do the laundry like I should
I clean the bathroom when it's *****
And by doing so , feel good

Every few weeks I will help her
Hide the grey that she can see
I don't volunteer to do it
But it's cheap to hire me

A salon visit is expensive
Doing hair, and waiting hours
I just slip on my latex hand wear
And I have a bag full of super powers

Yes, I help my wife get couloured
I take the time and do her hair
I also, get it on the tiles
Up the wall and on two chairs

The dog gets covered just a little
The rug, a window and the bed
But, we always buy two packets
So, there's enough to do her head

I have a jacket slightly mottled
It's got a few brown spots, some red
I don't know exactly how it happened
I even got some on our bed

Just call me Mr. Kenneth
In my jumpsuit doing hair
I get it where I think she needs it
And I spray it everywhere

She comes out looking gorgeous
She's always happy with the result
She always looks a little different
Like someone who believes in the occult

If you're a husband who likes money
Save it, colour your wife's hair
Your part only takes ten minutes
You need ten towels, one mask, one chair

It brings us both closer together
My arms look like a leopard skin
All my shirts are slightly spotted
But all those spots, make me look thin

I've got to go now and get cleaned up
The carpets ruined, so's the wood
But, she's happy and we all know that
If the wife is happy....all is good!
Perch on their water perch hung in the clear Bann River
Near the clay bank in alder dapple and waver,

Perch they called ‘grunts’, little flood-slubs, runty and ready,
I saw and I see in the river’s glorified body

That is passable through, but they’re bluntly holding the
pass,
Under the water-roof, over the bottom, adoze

On the current, against it, all muscle and slur
In the finland of perch, the fenland of alder, on air

That is water, on carpets of Bann stream, on hold
In the everything flows and steady go of the world.
Greg Berlin Feb 2013
there's a carnival
of all white
where the white
band plays
white noise
that soothes white ears
and white elephants
play small white trumpets
and eat small white peanuts
to the applause of a happy
white crowd
with bright white lights shining
down over us all
a young boy wins a white stuffed
animal from a game where white
rings are tossed on white bottles
--it appears to be
harder than it looks--
and a white wife tells a white lie
to her white husband
and white snow
carpets the white ground
and white footprints
from white shoes
and white hooves
make white tracks
like an amazing white
calligraphy across a white
easel
but if you
look closely at that
caked white snow
that falls
and carpets that white ground
you see stains of something
something not white
a snow tinged red
but you blink and it's gone
back to white
just illusions of color
spilled from some
war a long time ago
perhaps
and if you look hard you might see it
but no one looks hard
anymore
and why should they
those white elephants are so funny
with their white trunks and white ears
everything is great
everything is dandy
and everything is white
here at this white carnival
but for some reason
the snow
still seems a little
pink
to me
Michael DeVoe Feb 2010
The weight of the world can be found
In the circles under my eyes
I spend my nights awake
Worried about the wrongs everyone else is suffering
I imagine what it would be like to be someone else
For so long I start writing rap songs harder than DMX
And I'm from the suburbs where no one comes out of adversity
Because there is no adversity
There is success
Or there is suicide
I worry for the future of ex lovers
Not just mine everybody's
Will they ever wake up from their depression
Will they love again
Will they smile tomorrow
I stay up worrying so late
My mundane work day is my only place to write
Or sleep, but I choose writing
Because I'm like the rest of my in-between-generations generation
We don't expect to live past thirty-five
So when I die the only thing my mom will have of me
Are these words I write
And I'd rather them be a bit more
Then love poems to girls who wouldn't remember meeting me
I want to write about important things
I want the things that make midnight
The start of my day
To be the things that make my pen run dry during it
I worry about hobo cities
Full of veterans, drug addicts, and bachelor degrees
And sometimes all three at the same time
I want to learn how to crochet
So I can make a blanket for every baby
Going home with a loving mom
Too poor to turn on the heater
This isn't a poem full of metaphors or similes
This is just true stories
From people who can't sugar coat their truths
Because sometimes you just can't get the blood out of the carpets
And your kids grow up playing hot wheels
On the stain their mom left when she left
Sometimes thirty-five to life is a *** deal
And it ends your life
Sometimes thirty-five to life is an excuse to get one
And sometimes thirty-five to life is the only thing keeping you alive
Because three square meals a day
Is a luxury you've never been afforded
I built a wailing wall in my house
And I have yet to put a prayer in it for myself
Not because I'm self righteous
Or perfect
But because I haven't gotten around to it
I just know there are so many others
Who could use the extra prayer more than I could
The way I figure it if no one prays for me
And I don't pray for myself
That should lighten the load a bit
And I've put in so many prayers for other people
The wall might just fall through the floor
And land in the living room of the lady who wears sunglasses
She wears them day and night, outdoors and in
I worry about her the most
More than AIDS ridden starving kids in Africa
More than Tsunami Victims
More than broken limbs and missing babies in Haiti
I worry about the lady who wears sunglasses
Because she knows no other form of love
Than the kind he gives her
And the closest she's ever felt to real love
Was the day he bought her those new sunglasses
To cover the bruises he gave her
The circles under my eyes get darker and darker
With every passing hour
And that's not a metaphor
You can see it if you turn on the lights
And the world is getting darker and darker
With every wrong that is suffered
And that is a metaphor
But that doesn't make it a lie
A collection of poems by me is available on Amazon
Where She Left Me - Michael DeVoe
http://goo.gl/5x3Tae
Steve D'Beard Jul 2014
One is seemingly more impressed
by the less endowed or blessed
when somewhat incapacitated
and borderline inebriated;
the monstrous unconscious
disregards the likelihood
of fathomless undergarments
in other dubious departments.

Disregard the random blotches
or the involuntary discharges
instead revel in model tonsils
and almond shaped parcels
the comets of multi-notches
like a strange attraction
for disheveled carpets.

The blossoms of toxins
a libation ensemble
almost near horizontal
each movement a bent nozzle
like a prehistoric Narwhal
dancing like a jackhammer
with the elegance of a cement mixer
a broken leaking fissure
seeping vapid glamour
and indecipherable grammar.

The paraphrased clichés
and communiques of praise
like lost prophets put on display
caught in the ricochet of overplay
making an exit with the grace
of a stumbling ballet
down a poorly-lit
nightclub passageway.

Ultimately this can only lead to
the face-plant moment-of-tomorrow
the flooded memory of the-night-before
feeling utterly spent
hungover and hollow
with ill conceived consent.

The: Oh. My. God!
The: He/She is still here,
what do I say?
Hoping inexorably
they would just get up
and silently fade away.

Beer Goggles:
remember to drink sensibly,
or run the risk of
nasty STD's
or unwanted pregnancy
or breathless infidelity
or reckless insincerity
or if you're really lucky,
just another
session in therapy.
Eric Angels May 2018
One

they don’t know in our world we fly and angels walk
They think us silent but our hearts talk

Two

it’s a world where only you and I reside
Nobody else knows of it besides
There is only love and us inside

Three

in our world the unicorn is real
When we ride and fly,
In your eyes,
I see the thrill


Four

people think magic carpets don’t exist
It’s a fiction highlighted in Aladdin
Well then, tell them how I got you on cloud nine

Five

baby your body features are like famous landmarks
And that’s why I’ll always love you to the max
Like the pair of dimples on your face love we match

Six

you are the only girl who uses fairy dust for make up
You shine brighter than all the stars I see when I look up
And we share the most amazing love

Seven

people dream about heaven,
that’s where I stay
Your kisses, hugs, love and
Angel wings,
They take me there,
Told them I don’t need oxygen to live coz in our world love is in the air
Harsh Feb 2013
Ever had the feeling of being trapped in a glass box
with the air slowly running out, with every breath?
In sun, rain, snow and storm, the box gets dark or warm
but what you can do always remains the same.
Have you just simply wanted to walk away or break free?
To travel the world taming Lion cubs and petting great white sharks?
To wake up to a sunrise in a Dutch farm and watch it set over the Mediterranean sea?
To teach children in Thailand or India?
To salsa on the streets of Mexico or be blinded by the lights in Dubai?
Have you ever wanted to be border-less?
To not be punished for being born in a country
where the sun is hot and people are poor?
Have you ever just wanted to work, get a place, pay taxes,
and not ignore the growling of your stomach
so your 5 pound takeaway stretches over 3 days
postponing the date to buy the next food stock?
Have you ever wanted to check your bank account
without having your fingers crossed, because
even though you know the exact balance
you hope by some miracle it will be more?
Have you prayed for immigration to back the hell off
leaving you to make a living without risking deportation?
Have you ever got tired of playing by the rules when
the Albanian Mafia and Walmart
makes more money per hour than what you'd make in a lifetime, or two?
With heart aches and emotional games, and
attending Sunday mass becoming more of a cliché,
with rejection and doors closed,
at the cost of owning a brown passport,
with your head spinning and back against the wall,
have you wondered what life wants from you at all?
To all the women being trafficked for ***,
and the children slaving away spinning Persian carpets,
tonight it's too cold to snow outside my glass box.
Inside, it's too sad to cry...
This poem is the sole property of me and cannot be copied or used without permission. [Copyright G.H. Rodrigo 23/02/2013]
Steve Page Nov 2018
I love the warm smell more than baked bread.
I love the old stories flooding back through my head.
I love the middle-age chatter, with child like mutters,
finding old favorites in old familiar covers.

I love the personalised fountain-penned message,
carefully scribed and meticulously dated.
I don't care about the number of dog eared pages,
or the tell-tale signs of well worn aging.

Tea stains and small tears - they don't bother me,
each tell a new tale beyond what I can see.
I love the weight of the years sitting in my hand,
I love the tether to past lives multi-second-hand.

With memories of libraries with warm worn carpets,
wall to wall adventures and sun faded artists,
battered yellow seats, shooshed conversations,
quietly spoken protests at the books being rationed.

I stayed past closing, riding trains of free thought
with Tin Tin, Asterix and old Mrs Pepperpot.
I'm still drawn to the pages and the feeling inside
second-hand stories where memories reside.
My dad taught me to love reading. My kids learnt it for me.
Agung, Abang, Batur
sacred volcanoes
gateways to Gaia

standing silent
omnipresent
dawn’s light your only adornment

at your feet
paddy fields
emerald carpets
across which you stride
©Jacqueline Le Sueur 2010 All Rights Reserved

(Written whilst looking out of my window in rural Bali at a sight that greeted me every day)
It’s always said that being a Third Party is the worst. The Third Wheel, the Fall Back Friend, the Tag Along Buddy. Labels for that person make one feel bad about having this spot.
But you never hear the good side, do you?
~
        She looked amazing in this glorious white dress of hers; one of my longest and most cherished best friends was standing in front of me ready to walk along the red carpets. There were no words between us, we just looked at each other and  smiled. The memories of our past trickled through our minds as tears slid down her face…
I remember the first time I met her.
        I remember the first time I met him.
        We became a trio, us three. An unstoppable group of friends that wouldn’t be broken up. Looking forward to seeing each other made even the worst days great. We were kids, youthful and energetic kids always finding a way to bother each other. The laughs we shared, the arguments we had. The memories, the headaches and heart flutters.
I remember when she first liked him.
I remembered when he first liked her.
But before I could begin sprinting after them to exclaim my affection as well, they were already ahead of me. Their silhouettes had strings connected to one anothers heart.  And I was left behind to find my own way to them. I became the third wheel.
There were stolen dances,  given kisses; forbidden love, and true love.
        We had created such a mess of strings, I ended up being trapped in the middle of it all. The Third Wheel pedestal. But it wasn’t a ***** pedestal, I made sure to keep it clean.
        I knew that the feelings I felt could not be acknowledged. My feeling were meant for another and I was to be their Third Wheel. However, I would not be a Third Wheel of wanting to belong. No. I became a Third Wheel of support, a pillar to keep them happy. Our trio couldn’t be broken so easily. Even when he went away to war, even when she started a career for herself. I reached to the ends of the earths for them, helping support them even if they didn’t notice me anymore.
        I made the title of Third Wheel into my armor; and they became my beloved family to protect
        And here I am now, still their support and still their best friend. She muttered words of thanks for our friendship. Her breath was shaky, but my hand on her shoulder helped calm her nerves. One final breath- and she turned to walk out the huge doors. She walked toward him; he smiled at her. They both looked so breathtaking in her dress and his tux. I stayed back and watched as they said their words of commitment and gave their kiss. The smile on my face was something I couldn’t fight, I was happy for them.
        The heavy pillar I carried to support them was ready to be put down. And once I let the weight off my shoulders, I took a breath of relief. One last look at them. One last look at the trio of what used to be kids, now grown adults ready to face the world.  The cheers and music in front of me was my closure, as I turned and walked  down the steps; ready to take on the world with the title of “Third Wheel” bravely.
This is Not my short story. It belongs to kne of my dearest friends and i wanted to share her wonderful work with as many people as i possibly can so she can see what an excellent writer she is :) story by: Alex Alejandre
Kelsey Aug 2014
Sometimes I tell myself that it's okay to feel this way,
that God gets tired too,
that sometimes He is the small child
slaving over a sewing machine
turning thread into warmth,
but not every sweater He makes
is made without a few loose strings,
or pockets sewn shut
or mismatched buttons.
My knees sink into the end of my bed
as I rest my elbows on my window sill.
I think as our hands face each other
and touch for the millionth time,
it's like a silent clap
that only the angels can here,
sometimes I apologize
to those resting in peace
for making their home sound more like
the ending of the movie
instead of the end of the book.
I greet God the same way
I greet your headstone.
I ask Him how He is,
why He only speaks in light,
and then I pretend to talk to Him,
when really I am talking to myself
or your headstone...again.
I say, "It's okay to feel this way.
I think it's okay to watch,
to write in depth about strangers,
I think it's okay to detach
yourself from the weight of existing.
Everyone around me built
themselves kingdoms,
they kept fire breathing dragons,
rolled out their drawbridges like red carpets
and I built myself a cardboard castle.
I built it on the highest hill
with a view of all of the kingdoms
and you know what?
I was alone,
but I had room to breathe
and sometimes that's all  you can ask for;
an empty room with a closed door
and open window.
I said grace at dinner earlier,
but I said it out of tradition,    
not out of genuine thankfulness.
So, thank you for the empty room
with the closed door and open window,
I know you're tired,
I hope you can respond when you get a chance."
Tom Gunn Jun 2012
You'll find yourself here,
not sure how you arrived.
But you won't question it.

The mayor is home: his apartment in the fire house.
His lamp is lit, and he is here to welcome you
Though you cannot see him
But you do not question it.

And you'll hear bells and the clopping of hooves ahead
of an old-style streetcar in the age
of the internal combustion engine,
infernal, before the world could burn.

But you won't question it,
No, it's all perfectly natural
As though you grew up here

And here you do grow up as you walk the street,
The buildings pressing ever closer together, merging
And you somehow grow taller.

As a fairytale castle looms ahead of you
As though it were in the sky.
It's color is a pink that
smells of cotton candy
and popcorn
and perhaps, a hotdog

It passes out of your view
Like a mirage or a whiff of cloud
As you smell the food
The advertising of smells
Seducing you away

You stop, and you look
And you don't see the tourists in shorts
And tennis-shoes, dressed ******-chic for an expensive vacation
Or smell their sunscreen or see any sign
Any sign of change since that time, no
No, you don't see anything
Which you don't wish to see

You don't see a police station
Or cigarette butts on the pavement
Or a war memorial
Or a boarded-up building, closed.
All have been scooped up
Swept up, kept up by
white-uniformed sanitation officers
with little bow ties, discretely
cleaning up the world

But you will scarcely miss these things, nor
notice their absence and
You will not question it.

For this street is a wish,
A longing,
A child's prayers
Answered

For this is a place where no person,
No thing is old, but all is new
and useful and present:
As immediate as the trail of ice cream
making its osmotic way along
the edge of your sugar cone in the sun
And down to your sticky fingers.

The castle is there, you see now, but it's so
very far away.
There is no rush.

Step inside a shop—take your pick--and you will find
plush carpets, cooled rooms, parkay tile

Above the souvenirs and tchotchkes you will
Notice heart-stopping detail
In a light fixture
In a cherry wood crown molding
In Tiffany glass and marble counter-tops
Exquisite agony of
nostalgia for the half-remembered

And you're puzzled because you can't buy, here,
An old-fashioned ice-cream soda
With which your great-greats wooed each other
And fed each other, never considering, even
conceiving scandalous sensual jokes with whipped cream
And for this, today, you love them.

Your feet will amble you back and back again on themselves,
turned around (in spite of unmistakeable
castle-mountain-rocketship landmarks.)

There, Just behind these buildings, you're certain, there
should be a baseball diamond, alight with the noise
of boys playing with a stick and a ball

There, a neat row of stately, sabbatical victorians

There, a haphazard school yard with a tire swing
and a red schoolhouse, reliable as a sunrise
keeping protective watch behind it.

And you forget
racism
You forget
any war
You forget
your own
many sins
Like
vanished
cigarette
butts

And you smile, giving the uniformed man
peddling mouse-shaped balloons
a little more of your money
than he is asking for
This is part of a cycle of poems inspired by Disneyland.
Amber Grey Jul 2013
The summer I interned in New York, I fell in love with someone I'd only seen from a balcony window.

I'd fallen in love with strangers before, on buses and in lines, watching their shoulders straighten and their faces grimace in half-sunlight. I fell in love with these people the way you could fall in love with a poem, finding personality in the way that their eyes flicker nervously from left to right, tiny instances where their stanzas throw you into a daze. But this time was different. For once, I wished to know a stranger without the brim of my sunglasses, for once I felt something when I knew I'd never see him again.

His apartment was cluttered, bottles of water and the empty cans of energy drinks piled in a corner where a conscious person would have fit them in a bin. There were clothes on the floor, and although I knew his high rise box was laid out just as mine, he must have used the expected closet space for something else - his clothes were everywhere, crumpled in heaps on the floor that were too erratically placed to not have some sort of lingering system. Posters of people were taped to the wall, covering the matte eggshell white, edges falling occasionally to show signs that he wouldn’t always live there. I hoped that if he ever owned a home, that those staring portraits would be stapled or pasted thick to his walls, just because he would be the sort of person who wouldn’t change his mind about what he liked or what he wanted.

I would watch him from the same eggshell white room of mine, with nothing on the walls and not a scrap of anything on the floor. From my blow up mattress to my suitcase of clothes, kitchen stocked of single servings and a solitary set of dishware. I had no curtains and no carpets, no television or pictures of friends huddled in an unexpected embrace. For all anyone knew, I could have been squatting. I would look out at him from the window spanning the entire north facing wall, aware that if he ever looked out, if his eyes ever darted south, he would see me cross legged on the tiled marble floor, hovering over an overheated laptop and cardboard coffee.

I would get home at seven forty-five, shower in the New York water that tasted like dust and gin, and towel off, walking to the balcony. He, just like I, had a long, narrow balcony spanning about four feet on the right edge of his loft, and I would lean on the edge of the concrete slab, smelling the foul city air, taxi music floating from the lumpy yellow marsh below. That was when he would unlock his door suddenly, sometime between eight and eight-ten. He would step with his entire body and move into his crowded room and stand still for a moment, as if to collect himself; restrain from tearing faces off the walls and pummeling fabric into the floor. Sometimes he'd shut the door closed with a twitch of his foot, untying the half apron around his waist with one hand and pulling the red tie strapped flat onto a black dress shirt loose with the other. Once, he did all that in succession and proceeded to slide against the shut door until he hit the ground, falling into himself like a dropped jack's ladder and rubbing his fingers from his jawline to his eyes, up into his hair and back over.

But most of the time, he would just force off his shoes, never untying the laces, and move to the balcony just as I did. He would go out to the balcony too, but he would always keep going, moving to sit on the edge of the short wall, socked feet dangling over the city. His legs would be splayed wide, hands placed right in front of him, flat on the ledge. He would look down at the golden sea below, and when he was done with it, spit a flickering cigarette into the glittering bank.

He would also smoke when he woke up. He got up at six, like clockwork, and would stumble back out into the smogged pilot's seat in a plaid bathrobe, hazy faced and staring down. I don’t think he was ever late. He would get dressed slowly and fix himself in the mirror for a good half hour at the left of his room, until finally turning around just to watch the door for a moment. Sometimes I could swear that he watched for so long that he must have thought it would up and race away.

He slept with the lights on. He never came home late. He didn’t go out at night, never blundered in at two in the morning with a lithe model girl, long hair framing icicle eyes. On weekends he would sleep all day, rising every few hours to go back on the edge of his balcony and smoke. He would stare at the faces on his walls, the callouses on his palms, the murmur below; but never, ever at the empty loft across the way, dotted with a blue plastic bed and a speck of a person.

I left New York in September, on a red eye flight vastly cheaper than the rest. I put my toothbrush and toothpaste into the front pocket of my luggage, squeezed the air out of my mattress, and left. I hadn't left a trace in that home of mine, and it didn’t leave any on me either. When I left New York, I felt nothing. It was almost like I had never set foot in the city, forgetting to socialize with the locals the way someone could leave their hat at a bar.

I never knew if the man across the canyon hated coming home to a loft like I did. I wondered if it bothered him too, the lack of walls or rooms to compartmentalize the space. I wondered if he didn’t like to eat at home, if he felt sick when he watched the sunrise. I wondered if when he looked at the tidepooled city, if he also saw salvation. If he wondered every day from eight to eight-ten about what a dangly thing of a human would seem like to the loft across if it was spit from the edge of a narrow, four foot balcony.
A bit long, I suppose. Thought I'd post some prose.
Brandon Barnett Apr 2012
somehow
I managed to cram my ***
into these fashion pants
so I can make it to the days sales meeting
to check my fleeting self esteem

somehow
this all got out of hand
I misunderstand what I misunderstood
this sick trip down
becoming Johnny Hollywood

champagne glasses and next years denim
learning to look just right like them
just to get tight with em
learn right now
that you are small and you can never be like them
so learn to eat everything they're feeding
and pick your teeth clean
with the bones of those you're cheating

this is Hollywood
red carpets and models' stares
This is Hollywood
designer drugs on designer rugs up spiral stairs
this is Hollywood
rich ***** kids with tempers flared
this is the top of the world in your dreams
and no one else really cares

somehow
I managed to fight this depression
looking for a job in a recession
my hair lines recession
partying like it's an obsession
somehow
this rip off called growing up
has me over a toilet throwing up
gagging on everything I misunderstood
becoming Johnny Hollywood

model chicks posing and poser friends
learning to look at them both with the same fake grin
learning right now
that you will live to lie and do it again
you'll bite your tounge to the powers
and when your dream fails
you'll buy new friends

this is Hollywood
******* business cards and winks
this is Hollywood
everyone talks but nobody thinks
this is Hollywood
hit top but beware if you sink
when you're number one everyone loves you and stares
but when you're Johnny Hollywood
nobody else really ******* cares
GirlOfTheSky Mar 2013
Tossed about, spinning.
Lights, noises, sensations,
all blending together.
Night air kissing my face,
warm bodies pressing close.
Static, vibrating energy
bringing me to life.
Young and free and weightless,
running, breathing, laughing,
this is how we exist.
Clasped hands, flying carpets,
a silver unicorn dancing on a chain.
Together forever in this moment.
This is how we live.

— The End —