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

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
howard brace Feb 2012
Inconspicuous, his presence noted only by the obscurity and the ever growing number of spent cigarette stubs that littered the ground.  It had been a long day and the rain, relentless in its tenacity had little intention of stopping, baleful clouds still  hung heavy, dominating the lateness of the afternoon sky, a rain laden skyline broken only by smoke filled chimney pots and the tangled snarl of corroded television aerials.

     The once busy street was fast emptying now, the lure of shop windows no longer enticed the casual browser as local traders closed their premises to the oncoming night, solitary lampposts curved hazily into the distance, casting little more than insipid pools mirrored in the gutter below, only the occasional stranger scurrying home on a bleak, rain swept afternoon, the hurried slap of wet leather soles on the pavement, the sightless umbrellas, the infrequent rumble of a half filled bus, hell-bent on its way to oblivion.

     In the near distance as the working day ended, a sudden emergence of factory workers told Beamish it was 5-o'clock, most would be hurrying home to a hot meal, while others, for a quick drink perhaps before making the same old sorry excuse... for Jack, the greasy spoon would be closing about now, denying him the comfort of a badly needed cuppa' and stale cheese sandwich.  A subtle legacy of lunchtime fish and chips still lingered in the air, Jack's stomach rumbled, there was little chance of a fish supper for Beamish tonight, it protested again... louder.

     From beneath the eaves of the building opposite several pigeons broke cover, startled by the rattle as a shopkeeper struggled to close the canvas awning above his shop window.  Narrowly missing Beamish they flew anxiously over the rooftops, memories of the blitz sprang to mind as Jack stepped smartly to one side, he stamped his feet... it dashed a little of the weather from his raincoat, just as the rain dashed a little of the pigeons' anxiety from the pavement... the day couldn't get much worse if it tried.  Shielding his face, Jack struck the Ronson one more time and cupped the freshly lit cigarette between his hands, it was the only source of heat to be had that day... and still it rained.

     'By Appointment to Certain Personages...' the letter heading rang out loudly... 'Jack Beamish ~ Private Investigator...' a throat choking mouthful by any stretch of the imagination, thought Jack and shot every vestige of credulity plummeting straight through the office window and amidst a fanfare of trumpet voluntary, nominate itself for a prodigious award in the New Year Honours list.   Having formally served in a professional capacity for a well known purveyor of pickled condiments, who  incidentally, brandished the same patronage emblazoned upon their extensive range of relish as the one Jack had more recently purloined from them... a paid commission no less, which by Jack's certain understanding had made him, albeit fleeting in nature, a professional consultant of said company... and consequently, if they could flaunt the auspicious emblem, then according to Jack's infallible logic, so could Jack.  

     The recently appropriated letterhead possessed certain distinction... in much the same way, Jack reasoned, that a blank piece of paper did not... and whereas correspondence bearing the heading 'By Appointment' may not exactly strike terror into the hearts of man... unlike a really strong pickled onion, it nevertheless made people think twice before playing him for the fool, which sadly, Jack had to concede, they still invariably did... and he would often catch them wagging an accusing finger or two in his direction with such platitudes as... "watch where you put your foot", they'd whisper, "that Jack's a right Shamus...", and when you'd misplaced your footing as many times as Jack had, then he reasoned, that by default the celebrated Shamus must have landed himself in more piles of indiscretion than he would readily care to admit, but that wouldn't be quite accurate either, in Jack's line of work it was the malefactor that actually dropped him in them more often than not.

     A cold shiver suddenly ran down his spine, another quickly followed as a spurt of icy water from a broken rain spout spattered across the back of his neck, he grimaced... Jack's expression spoke volumes as he took one final pull from his half soaked cigarette and flicked it, amid an eruption of sparks against the adjacent brick wall.  Sinking further into the shadow he tipped his fedora against the oncoming rain, then, digging both hands deep within his pockets, he huddled behind the upturned collar of his gabardine... watching.

     It was times such as these when Jack's mind would slip back, in much the same way you might slip back on a discarded banana peel, when a matter of some consequence, or in particular this case the pavement, would suddenly leap up from behind and give the back of Jack's head a resoundingly good slapping and tell him to "stop loafing around in office hours... or else", then drag him, albeit kicking and screaming back into the 20th century.  This intellectual assault and battery re-focused Jack's mind wonderfully as he whiled away the long weary hours until his next cigarette; cup of tea, or the last bus home, his capacity to endure such mind boggling tedium called for nothing less than sheer ******-mindedness and very little else... Beamish had long suspected that he possessed all the necessary qualifications.  

     Jack had come a long way since the early days, it had been a long haul but he'd finally arrived there in the end... and managed to pick up quite a few ***** looks along the way.  Whilst he was with the Police Constabulary... and it was only fair to stress the word 'with', as opposed to the word 'in'... although the more Jack considered, he had been 'with' the arresting officer, held 'in' the local Bridewell... detained at Her Majesties pleasure while assisting the boys in blue with their enquiries over a minor infringement of some local by-law that currently had quite slipped his mind at that moment.  Throughout this enforced leisure period he'd managed to read the entire abridged editions of Kilroy and other expansive works of graffiti exhibited in what passed locally as the next best thing to the Tate Gallery, whereupon it hadn't taken Jack very long to realise that it was always a good place to start if you wanted free breakfast, in fact the weeks bill of fare was tastefully displayed in vivid, polychromatic colour on the wall opposite... you just had to be au-fait with braille.
                            
     No matter how industrious Beamish laboured to rake the dirt there always appeared to be a dire shortage of gullible clients for Jack to squeeze, what would roughly translate as an honest crust out of, and although his financial retainer was highly competitive he understood that potential clients found it bewildering when grappling with the unplumbed depths of his monthly expense account, which would tend to fluctuate with the same unpredictability as the British weather, the rest of Jack's agenda revolved around a little shady moonlighting... in fact he'd happily consider anything to offset the remotest possibility of financial delinquency... short of extortion... which by the strangest twist was the very word prospective clients would cry while Jack beavered around the office with dust-pan and brush sweeping any concerns they may have had frantically under the carpet regarding all culpability of his extra-curricular monthly stipend... and they should remain assured at all times... as they dug deep and fished for their cheque books, and simply look upon it as kneading dough, which eerily enough was exactly the thick wedge of buttered granary that Jack had every intention of carving.

     Were there ever the slightest possibility that a day could be so utterly wretched, then today was that day, Jack felt a certain empathy as he merged with his surroundings... at one with nature as it were.  The rain, a timpani on the metal dustbin lids, by the side of which Beamish had taken up vigil, also taking up vigil and in search of a morsel was the stray mongrel, this was the third time now that he'd returned, the same apprehensive wag, yet still the same hopeful look of expectation in his eyes, a brief but friendly companion who paid more attention to Jack's left trouser leg than anything that could be had from nosing around the dustbins that day... some days you're the dog, scowled Beamish as he shook his trouser leg... and some days the lamppost, Jack's foot swung out playfully, keeping his new friend's incontinence at a safe distance, feigning indignance  the scruffy mongrel shook himself defiantly from nose to tail, a distinct odour of wet dog filled the air as an abundance of spent rainwater flew in all directions.   Pricking one ear he looked accusingly at Jack before turning and snuffled off, his nose resolutely to the pavement and diligently, picking out the few diluted scents still remaining, the poor little stalwart renewed its search for scraps, or making his way perhaps to some dry seclusion known only to itself.
  
     Two hours later and... SPLOSH, a puddle poured itself through the front door of the nearest Public House... SPLOSH, the puddle squelched over to the payphone... SPLOSH, then, fumbling for small change dialled and pressed button 'A'..., then button 'B'... then started all over again amid a flurry of precipitation... SPLASH.  The puddle floundered to the bar and ordered itself a drink, then ebbed back to the payphone again... the local taxi company doggedly refused to answer... finally, wallowing over to the window the puddle drifted up against a warm radiator amidst a cloud of humidity and came to rest... flotsam, cast upon the shore of contentment, the puddle sighed contentedly... the Landlady watched this anomaly... suspiciously.

     The puddle's finely tuned perception soon got to grips with the unhurried banter and muffled gossip drifting along the bar, having little else to loose, other than what could still be wrung from his clothing... Beamish, working on the principle that a little eavesdropping was his stock-in-trade engaged instinct into overdrive and casually rippled in their general direction...  They were clearly regulars by the way one of them belched in a well rehearsed, taken-a-back sort of way as Jack took stock of the situation and was now at some pains to ingratiate himself into their exclusive midst and attempt several friendly, yet relevant questions pertinent to his enquiries... all of which were skillfully deflected with more than friendly, yet totally irrelevant answers pertinent to theirs'... and would Jack care for a game of dominoes', they enquired... if so, would he be good enough to pay the refundable deposit, as by common consent it just so happened to be his turn...  Jack graciously declined this generous offer, as the obliging Landlady, just as graciously, cancelled the one shilling returnable deposit from the cash register, such was the flow of light conversation that evening... they didn't call him Lucky Jack for nothing... discouraged, Beamish turned back to the bar and reached for his glass... to which one of his recent companions, and yet again just as graciously, had taken the trouble to drink for him... the Landlady gave Jack a knowing look, Beamish returned the heartfelt sentiment and ordered one more pint.

     From the licenced premises opposite, a myriad of jostling customers plied through the door, business was picking up... the sudden influx of punters rapidly persuaded Beamish to retire from the bar and find a vacant table.  Sitting, he removed several discarded crisp packets from the centre of the table only to discover a freshly vacated ashtray below... by sleight of hand Jack's Ronson appeared... as he lit the cigarette the fragile smoke curled blue as it rose... influenced by subtle caprice, it joined others and formed a horizontal curtain dividing the room, a delicate, undulating layer held between two conflicting forces.

     The possibility of a free drink soon attracted the attention of a local bar fly, who, hovering in the near vicinity promptly landed in Jack's beer, Beamish declined this generous offer as being far too nutritious and with the corner of yesterdays beer mat, flipped the offending organism from the top of his glass, carefully inspecting his drink for debris as he did so.

     A sudden draught and clip of stiletto heels as the side door opened caused Beamish to turn as a double shadow slipped discreetly into the friendly Snug... a little adulterous intimacy on an otherwise cheerless evening.  The faceless man, concealed beneath a fedora and the upturned collar of his overcoat, the surreptitious lady friend, decked out in damp cony, cheap perfume and a surfeit of bling proclaimed a not too infrequent assignation, he'd seen it all before... the over attentive manner and the band of white, Sun-starved skin recently hidden behind a now absent wedding token, ordinarily it was the sort of assignment Jack didn't much care for... the discreet tail, the candid snapshot through half drawn curtains... and the all too familiar steak tartare... for the all too familiar black eye.

     To the untrained eye, the prospect of Jack's long anticipated supper was rapidly dwindling, when it suddenly focused with renewed vigour upon the contents of a pickled egg jar he'd observed earlier that evening, lurking on the back counter, his enthusiasm swiftly diminished however as the belching customer procured the final two specimens from the jar and proceeded to demolish them.  Who, Jack reflected, after being stood out in the rain all day, had egg all over his face now... and who, he reflected deeper, still had an empty stomach.  Disillusioned, Jack tipped back his glass and considered a further sortie with the taxicab company.

     "FIVE-BOB"!!! Jack screamed... you could have shredded the air with a cheese grater... hurtling into the kerb like a fairground attraction came flying past the chequered flag at a record breaking 99 in Jack's top 100 most not wanted list of things to do that day... and that the cabby should think himself fortunate they weren't both stretched flat on a marble slab, "exploding tyres" Jack spluttered, dribbling down his chin, were enough to give anyone a coronary... further broadsides of neurotic ambiance filled the cab as the driver, miffed at the prospect of missing snooker night out with the lads, considered charging extra for the additional space Jack's profanity was taking...

     And what part of 'Drive-Carefully', fumed Beamish, did the cabby simply not understand, that pavements were there to be bypassed, 'Nay Circumvented', preferably on the left... and not veered into, wildly on the front axle... an eerie premonition of 'jemais-vu' perched and ready to strike like a disembodied Jiminy Cricket on Jack's left shoulder, looking to stick its own two-penny worth in at the 'Standing-Room-Only' arrangements in the overcrowded cab... and at what further point, Jack shrieked, eyes leaping from his head as he lurched forward, shaking his fist through the sliding glass partition, had the cabbie failed to grasp the importance of the word 'Steering-Wheel...' someone wanted horse whipping, and as far as Beamish was concerned the sole contender was the cab driver...

     In having a somewhat sedate and unruffled disposition it had fallen to Beamish... as befalls all great leaders in times of adversity, to single handedly take the bull by the horns, so to speak and at great personal cost, alert the unwary passing motorist...  Waving his arms about like a man possessed whilst performing acrobatic evolutions in the centre of the road as the cabby changed the wheel came whizzing around the corner at a back breaking 98 on Jack's ever growing list... and why, Jack puzzled, why had they all lowered their side windows and gestured back at him in semaphore..?  Rallying to its aid, Jack's head and shoulders now joined his shaking fist through the sliding glass partition and into the cabby's face, "Who" Beamish screeched with renewed vigour ,"Who Was The Man", Jack wanted to know... *"a
Bryan Lunsford Aug 2018
It is within an unusually warm and early spring night,
Here, where I begin to feel something ever so unusual while looking deeply into this goddess' eyes,

With her eyes like a pair of diamonds sparkling in the sky,
It's at this moment–in this part of the night–
Love simply didn't need a reply,

With candles lit,
As it's surely to her delight,
And with rose petals all over the bed–
That, surely, was to her surprise,

Though, right now,
Can you really blame me for having this nervous butterfly-feeling whirling around inside?

For this will be the first-ever night that I'll get to hold this beauty tight,

And for such a divine beauty,
Surely I'd make any sacrifice to make sure her every whim and need is perfectly sufficed,

Yes, with our feelings for each other that couldn't be more pure or refined,
I already know, without hesitance, our love would satisfy any god's most delicate appetite inside,

And although, this world may never know how I truly feel inside,
I, myself, know with certainty that I love this woman more than anything I've ever loved in my whole life,

Yet, with nothing more than the sound of crickets chirping within the night,
I proceed to lay this beauty down–
Here, pulling her close to my side (where I tell her)
"I love you, angel, good night",

And even though our love never did need a reply,
She said
"I love you too, sweet dreams baby, don't forget to hold me ever so tight",

And thus with this crazy, whirling, butterfly-feeling, again, that I begin to feel take over inside,
She rolls over unexpectedly and surprises me with a kiss to seal any other reply–
To only roll back over and close her eyes,

Oh, and in the midst of her every action–every move leaving me mesmerized,
She decides to move an inch closer to me,
(Where I wrap my arm around her thighs)
As it's also nearly simultaneously that I hear the clock's stride finally hit midnight,

With a chime that struck once–
Then struck twice,
I begin to hear a set of chimes strike–and strike until they chime twelve times,  
(As these chimes come from this evilly wicked, horrid and heinous clock of mine)

Yes!–with this clock being a clock that through time I have come to slowly hate and despise!

Though, this tower of a clock reminds me of its presence with not the tics nor the tocs–
No, only when the minute hand climbs and the hour's hand meets another notch,

As only then, within that second of the minute, does my mind's thoughts get crossed and rocked–
With my thoughts that become locked within a box
(As it'll be for the next sixty minutes)
I'll just lie there and remain distraught,

Oh, and you ask why?–
Simply because of this chiming noise that won't stop!

With these reoccurring chimes that take my sleep and make most nights a loss–
I can assure you that if I don't go to bed by one or two o'clock,
Any sleep for me will become more and more implausible by every tic of the clock,

Yes, nearly impossible–
For it'll be with the next four or five hours, I'll just lie there, roll, and toss,

Though this is a different night!–
As I'm reminded with our legs crossed and with our fingers interlocked,

Yet, here as I begin to feel the warmth of her body block and fend off any kind or sorts of lingering winter's frost,
I also sense that numerous candles are still glowing bright,
(With the sight of their ambient light flickering off of the bedside's wall from abroad)

And, within this room filled with sentiment as I hear not a sound at all,
I smell the candle's aromatic scents,
With the atmosphere within the air being ever so calm,

Until that is, I hear another chime of a ****–
With it sounding like a melody that's gone ever so wrong–
It's with this tower of a clock, right here, that has just let me know it's now the hour of one o'clock–
And one o'clock, right on the dot,

With only one lone chime that I heard–as everything then simply paused and stopped,

Though, within my mind and with these thoughts that refuse to stop,
I reassure myself–
Knowing that the time is only one o'clock,

For I know I still have an aplenty of time to close my eyes and make these endless lines of thoughts stop,

So to this brilliant mind of mine,
You know that it's clearly time to let these thoughts wander off,

Just close your eyes and let your mind stop–

Though, didn't I just say enough with your thoughts?

Oh, and I can see you might think a lot,
But clearly and obviously you're not thinking about squat!

So just stop or I swear to god,
If you don't stop with these god awful thoughts,
I'll have no other option than to smash and squash your head against these bricks outside of this wall and then leave you there to rot–

For if you don't stop this exact instant then I am almost certain your beautiful woman will become a loss,

And I'm sure you don't want that to happen again, now do you?

So just stop with these thoughts–
Quit fooling around and whatever you do–
Oh, and whatever you do,
Don't let this beauty see that crazed loony side inside of you,

Just fall asleep now and you both can wake up tomorrow around noon,

Yes, just close your eyes and count these sheep jumping over the moon,
And count them jumping one by one–then two by two,

Yet, between one and two,
Surely I knew I was bound to come unglued,
(With the loony that came right out of me as I hear a tune)

With a chime that struck once and then twice,
It left my mind to know not what to do,

Though, that doesn't mean I am confused,
With the duo of chimes that struck–
Only letting me know it's now into the minutes of the night that come directly after two,

And though,
As I begin feeling as if a disaster was nearing in soon,
Still, I knew not what to do–

Because I know nothing as I'm thinking of nothing and just fading away within the scents of her perfume,

(Where I begin fading away within this serenity and hearing not a tune)
I feel the weight of my eyelids begin to feel like a caving-in roof weighing at least a ton or two,

And with just one of a few wondrous thoughts still wandering on through,
I wonder
"Could this be sleep that is nearing in soon?”,

With this feeling of a wonderful tranquil sensation subduing and leaving my whole body consumed,
(As I'm weary and with clearly not a thought left in this room)
I take one last deep breath
(With my lungs swelling like a balloon)

And within a dream is where I have just entered into–:
UNTIL ABRUPTLY I HEAR A SNOOZING OF A TUNE!

Yes!–As I'm awakened and with the insanity within in me being let loose to roam throughout this room,
My mind, then, begins to shift back and forth (like something caught drifting between a typhoon and a monsoon)

Where realizing as I view that I've opened my eyes too soon–
With it being this beauty here of mine that is the one who is creating this horrendous little tune,

And feeling, as I hear–
With every single breath that she breathes rattling the room–the walls–and even the shingles upon the roof,
I feel my mind, here, completely coming all the way unglued–
For all I want to do is make everything within this room mute!

Yes, that's all I want to do!–

For I’m sure I wouldn't even be in such a foul mood if I wasn’t sleep deprived,
And if this beauty here of mine and her snoring roar weren’t the main culprits of keeping me, my mind, and this night alive,

Though, hearing with her roaring of a snore that is beginning to drive me crazy inside–
Yes, as she snores, there!–just an inch or two away from my side–
I hear with her snore only growing more and more–

As I, then, within this second, try to ignore a chord of chimes striking once, and then striking twice,
(With this clock striking three times to remind me once again of the time)

–With this night now being at least 3:03, 3:04, and could possibly even be 3:05,
I know this night is at the most three or four hours away from seeing the sun shine bright through my window blinds,

Oh, and surely I already know I probably would just close my eyes–
Yes, that's probably what I would do!
But this little beauty here of mine is worse than any set of chimes,

And surely indecisive,
(As I move the pillow over my ears while I'm consumed by an irritating form of fright)
I move my body a little to the left and then a few inches to the right,
Where I hear her demon's rumbling from inside,
And screaming as if they're trying to come out and fight–

(Which is where I begin thinking)
“Is waking her up really that much of a crime?”

For if she knew she was snoring at such a high decibel level,
Then I'm sure she wouldn't even mind,

And thus with my decisions that couldn't agree more with my mind,
I decide to slightly lift her head and wiggle her,
(As I nearly tickle her left side)

Whispering to her as I say,
"Baby, wake up, I just had the worst dream of my life!
Oh, baby, wake up, I just need to see those sweet little angel eyes!",

Though motionless–
There, as I try to keep my insane and crazy side inside,
My whisper begins to intensify to a scream
(As she refuses to open her eyes or give me a reply)

I continued to scream–SCREAMED!

"Oh, why, oh, why won't you open your eyes!",

And with her snore being the only reply that she could give me,
It literally drove me crazy inside–
Thus driving me as it drove me to climb on top of her body,
(Where I grab her nose and squeeze)

As it's within the silence and in this exact instant,
Instantly and unbelievably, I see I've hit a stride that I couldn't believe,

Yes, mesmerized!
And content beyond belief–
With her snoring, here, that has finally ceased–

–Casually, I proceed to climb off of her body
(Wherein realization I finally can go back to sleep)

And in the silence, again, as I hear not a peep,
I roll over, close my eyes, and before I could even count one jumping sheep,
I hear a roar once more coming from this treacherous little beast,

And surely with not a second more could I go without sleep,
(As this pillow, right here, has just become my best friend, and the most plausible way to get any sleep)
I decide to move this pillow over her face–with my exertion at first lacking any tenacity,

But what I'd end up hearing would be like a growl or a roar of a wicked beast,

With this sinister snore of hers only increasing more and more with every tic of my heart's beat,
I begin to feel my thoughts shift toward the sentiment of either insane or crazy,

(As my hands push with more and more of an intensity)
I begin sweating–feeling the smothering warmth of her body's heat,

Though, simultaneously as I hear her heart throb and knock an unstoppable and irregular beat,
I begin putting even more weight upon this pillowcase
(With a galore of my sweat dripping upon these sheets)

And surely I have to know,
(For it should be as obvious as could be)
That if I put any more weight upon this pillowcase,
I'd likely break through the toughest of the most unbreakable concretes,

And thus coming to the realization–
With this crazy side of me that has taken over and been unleashed surely not being me,

It's here, against the greatest of restraints
(As I'm barely able to climb off of her body)
I climb off and begin waiting within the silence–

Waiting and hearing not a peep,
Where seemingly prompting myself to say,
Here, as I speak!
"Good night baby–sweet dreams",

Though, I'd hear not a reply–
As a reply was something our love never did need,

Yet, as I roll over to climb under these sheets and close my eyes
(Where simultaneously it all has seemed)
I have fallen fast asleep within a dream while holding my sleeping beauty tight–

Holding her as I squeeze–
Holding her!–
With her heart that holds not a beat–.
Got Guanxi Nov 2015
casually breaking your heart

i was walking the line,
inside those guideline confinements you marked out on the pavement in chalk all those years before.

I still see them x ray vision,
when i sneak by nostalgically,
less and less as the years go by.

I didn’t know at the time,
but it seems I was casually breaking your heart.

Gradually time heals real wounds and feelings,
exposure to the pain grows alongside the overgrowth greenery.

Picture the scenery,
and all that you mean to me,
as i’m casually breaking your heart again.

So long to the honey drip,
another quip yet to come.
We emerge ensured bacteria,
surrounded in the Somme.
needs work
onlylovepoetry Mar 2018
Friday night immodesty

theater on East 4th street @ 8:00pm,
so the girlie stuff commences on schedule
90 minuets a-priori and the medley music
(adele+amy+alicia+ pink bach for some zing)
a harbinger, a pioneer Greek heralding of
Friday night immodesty

the clothes laid out upon the bed, the shoes,
pumps selected and already on,
(always a puzzler to me,)
the subdued lower east side jewelry possibilities,
on the dresser drawer,
indifferently hoping for selection, but
casually beaming quietly,
like those kids waiting for interviews in the waiting room
of the college Admissions Dean’s office,
all with serious smiles
and tiny tearing eyes

aside:
helloooooo, I am in a poetry polo with my best jeans ready to go
2 hours before the curtain calls out,
hellooooooo

she sits at the makeup mirrored desk,
clad in only her underneath garments of varying utility,
when I sweep in imperially
and with one hand twist gentle her hair upwards,
betraying
her neck nape which is again
the sujet of a poem aborning

lips,
like a Greek lyre strings, pluck, the tiny hid hairs never seen,
her instant moans at the never fully expected motion poem,
beg more mercy but no quarter given despite repeated cries
of you’ll mess my makeup,
the best defense known to a lady!

god gave men two thumbs to lift up,
simultaneously stimulating,
slide down each of the thin black brasserie strap invitations,
upon each, a writ,
upon her flesh colored shoulders,
stating
“what was she thinking!”

my lips,
now polar explorers, those power (filled) poles side by side,
(east/west for the designer was a smart
bipolar guy-person);
the lips play silent night progressive jazz,
tinkling with higher noted keys,
nape to shoulders moving down to the back’s prefrontal lobe,
the small of her back, the body’s quivering,
a con-federate flag of surrender

her last defense swept aside, we drink honey and milk,
celebrate the week’s mellifluous finish with immodest touching,
the lower east side will belong tonite
to only the hipsters, the millennials,
as our hips are milling and  otherwise
pre-theater and post, occupado

some hours later, watching TV and eating delivered Chinese,
she laterally and literally arm punches my arm
intensely to mark her discontent,
still annoyed,
for I

1) messed up her makeup,
2) best blouse to the dry cleaner and
3) the tickets wasted, and worse,
hits me again!

after I laugh and giggle upon proffering
most modestly, most assuredly,
seconds of
onlylovepoetry

9.21am Saturday
thank you all who liked this tale of
the poetry in the details
of our lives.
olp
Grahame Jun 2014
A  MOONLIT  KNIGHT.

Fern rises and looks out of her window.
Silver shards of moonlight lick the lawn.
She who once felt gay and oh so joyous,
Now feels oh so desolate and lorn.

Will she ever find true love again?
She before has never felt so low.
Should she, for love, continue searching?
Or give up by ending it here and now?

Outside, all is monochrome and still,
Inside, Fern is still and very sad.
Will she feel happiness again?
Who knows how long she’ll feel this bad?

At the stroke of midnight, there’s a change,
There seems to be a disturbance in the air.
Gradually something seems to materialise
On the lawn, a shape, come from where?

It is a knight, armoured cap-à-pie,
On a horse, for war caparisoned.
From his saddle hangs a jousting shield,
A silver moon on it is designed.

A white plume is mounted on his helmet,
On his lance a white pennon is tied.
The knight looks at her, at her window,
Silently he sits and does bide.

He raises a gauntleted hand and beckons,
Should she stay in, or venture out?
In her white nightdress she goes downstairs,
Deciding to see what it’s all about.

Cautiously she opens up the door,
And putting her head out, looks outside.
The knight still sits, patiently waiting.
Fern wonders what might now betide.

Slipping on an old pair of shoes,
She slowly walks over to the knight.
In her wake she leaves a dewy trail,
And as she nears, the knight fades from sight.

Fern wonders what this all might mean,
Is she dreaming or is she awake?
Is, what she has seen, been real?
Or has she made a big mistake?

Then, whilst standing there in wonder,
She happens to look down at the ground.
Where the knight was, the grass is trampled,
As though a horse has curvetted around.

Then she hears a sound from behind her,
And startled, Fern quickly turns round.
Her house no longer seems to be there,
In its stead, a keep there is stound.

The sound she hears is a woman calling,
“My Lady, please come back here inside.
You shouldn’t be alone out in the dark,
Please come back and in your chamber bide.”

The woman, from a window, looks at Fern.
“Excuse me, are you addressing me?”
Fern directs the question at the woman,
Who replies to her, “Of course, my Lady.”

“’Tis not safe out at this time of night,
And you are in your night attire dight,
So if someone, of you, catches sight,
You’ll not be seen in a good light.”

Before Fern can think of what to say,
She hears the sound of a galloping horse.
It is getting nearer in the dark.
She hopes that things will now not get worse.

“My Lady, quickly, please get you inside,
Do not just stand there as if dazed.
Hurry now, before it it too late.”
Fern, though, does stand there amazed.

Approaching through the night is a horse,
The one she’d seen before on her lawn,
The same knight is seated on its back,
Though now the pennant on his lance is torn.

The horse stops right next to Fern,
And caracoles to bring them face-to-face.
The knight lowers his lance to show his pennant,
Which Fern sees is a torn fragment of white lace.

The knight again does sit in stilly silence,
He waits, and does not make any demand.
Then lowers his lance to touch her nightdress’s hem,
When suddenly, Fern does understand.

The hem of her nightdress is lace trimmed,
So Fern bends, and seizes it in hand.
Then with a sharp tug she tears it off,
Removing it in a single strand.

The knight raises up his lance higher,
The old lace, from the lance, Fern does remove.
Then ties the furbelow on very tightly,
Saying, “Please take this favour with my love.”

The knight dips his lance in salute,
Then turns his horse, back down the road to face.
His spurs lightly touch the horse’s flanks,
Which straight away gallops off at pace.

Fern walks across to the keep.
The woman opens the main door wide.
Fern steps across the threshold,
And now, in her own house is inside.

She turns to look back across the lawn,
Which is still lit by the silver moon’s light.
The lawn is now smooth and unblemished,
With no marks caused by the steed of the knight.

Fern goes upstairs to her bedroom.
Has this all been a dream ere now?
Then, as she gets back into bed,
She sees her nightdress lacks its furbelow.

Fern remembers her nightdress has a pocket,
And into it, her hand she does place,
Then, to her utter amazement,
She pulls out a fragment of torn lace.

Fern wonders at what’s just happened,
Was it real, or only in her mind?
If it was just her imagination,
Why has she been able, the fragment to find?

Eventually Fern drifts off to sleep,
Waking with the chorus of the dawn.
Although she doesn’t think she has changed,
She no longer feels quite so forlorn.

“Why does the knight appear to me?
Why has he only come at night?
Is he trying to find out if he’s wanted?
Is he trying to make something right?”

Later on that day Fern walks to town,
And heads for the library to find,
If there are any references to knights
That might help to ease her troubled mind.

Fern does find a story of a knight,
Who had a moon device on his shield.
He was very brave in the fight,
And to a foe would never yield.

He had been commissioned to take a message,
To a lord, by order of the king.
It was to be delivered urgently,
And he was not to stop for anything.

He was nearly there when something happened.
By the side of the highway lay a maid.
Being a chivalrous knight, he should have stopped,
Instead, he carried on, not giving aid.

He delivered the message to the lord,
And later was seated, drinking in the hall,
When there entered in some serving men,
Carrying on their shoulders a shrouded pall.

They lay down their burden on the floor,
And without having said a word,
Reverently uncovered the face of a body.
It was the lady of the lord.

Then entered in another knight,
Who stepped up to the lord, and said,
“On our way here, we found your lady.
She was wounded, and now, alas, she’s dead.”

The other knight continued with his story,
“Seemingly, she had been robbed and *****.
There was no sign of the perpetrators,
We think they’d been disturbed, and then escaped.”

“Perhaps if we had managed to come sooner,
We might have been there to prevent this crime.
However, it seems the Fates conspired against us,
So we were not there to help in time.”

The Knight of the Moon sat there horror-struck,
He knew if he’d not been so keen to arrive,
Though helped, as his conscience had dictated,
The lady might yet even be alive.

Instead of speaking up, he stayed silent,
And never about this matter spoke a word.
Then he rose, and gave his condolence,
And went out from the presence of the lord.

The lady was removed to lie in state,
The Knight of the Moon went, to look at her face.
He knelt there in silent prayer awhile,
Then, from her dress, removed a length of lace.

He accoutred himself in his full armour,
Then rode from the keep that very night.
He left a note, stating his omission,
And of him, no-one ever saw a sight.

Fern is very sad to read this story.
What had then been in the knight’s mind?
Had he ridden off to end his disgrace,
Or the perpetrators, gone to find?

Fern now makes her thoughtful way home,
Hoping he’d found surcease from his torment,
Wondering what to him had befallen,
And if, for his lapse, he’d made atonement.

Fern reaches home rather tired,
So lies down on her bed, then falls asleep.
She dreams of knights in armour and fair damsels,
And jousting in the grounds of the keep.

Eventually, Fern wakens from her slumber.
She lies for a moment in her bed.
Yet again she thinks about her dream.
Was it real, or made up in her head.

“Perhaps,” she thinks, “I’m just on the rebound,
Because I’m still in mourning for my love.
And being of a romantic nature,
Dreaming of knights this does this prove.”

“Knights should have been chivalrous and kind,
Treating damsels in distress with care.
Except, when a knight I truly needed,
As it happened, there was not one there.”

“On that night, if we’d had some help,
My husband might still be alive.
Now, he has been taken from me,
And I feel that alone I cannot thrive.”

“However, life must go on as usual,
I should carry on, if just for him,
And so, perhaps, I should cease this moping,
And try to get on with my life again.”

So Fern gets up, refreshed from her nap,
Then decides, after eating, to go out.
That she must now get herself together,
Fern is not left in any doubt.

“Perhaps a short drive into the country,
And to stretch my legs, a gentle walk.
However, I will get on much quicker,
If I do not, to myself, talk.”

Fern puts on her coat and gets her bag,
Then goes out and walks to her car.
This is the first time that she’s driven
Since losing him, so she’ll not go too far.

Fern unlocks her car, and sits inside,
Then she is overcome with fear.
“Suppose, now, I am too scared to drive.
Perhaps I’d feel better if help was near.”

“Come on Fern, pull yourself together!
Feel the fear and do it anyway!
If you don’t do it now, then when?
Start the car, and let’s be on our way.”

So having given herself a little lecture,
Fern belts up, and pulls out of her drive.
Then, not really knowing where she’s headed,
Off she goes to see where she’ll arrive.

Fern motors out into the country,
And following a lane, drives up a hill.
At the top she parks and gets out.
Everything seems peaceful and so still.

She aimlessly ambles round the hill top,
And reads a notice saying it was a fort.
Then, Fern drifts off into a daydream,
And views the panorama without thought.

In her mind’s eye she sees a castle,
Decorated with many banners bright.
A tournament seems to be in progress,
And the winner is, of course, her moonlit knight.

Eventually, Fern becomes aware,
That she has gone some distance from her car.
So she slowly makes her way back to it.
She hadn’t meant to walk quite so far.

The shades of night are now falling fast,
And everything is starting to look grey.
So Fern unlocks her car and gets inside,
Ready to be getting on her way.

Slowly, she starts off down the hill,
The lane is very narrow with high hedges,
The moon is hidden behind some lowering clouds,
The track’s overgrown with grass and sedges.

Somehow, she’s gone a different way.
In the dark, everything seems wrong.
Fern is now starting to get worried,
And wonders why the track seems so long.

Eventually, she debouches onto a road,
Though she is not sure exactly where.
Fern is by now really anxious,
Then suddenly, gets an awful scare.

It looks just like the road they had been travelling,
When her husband lost control of the car.
It had skidded, spun and then rolled over,
The door had opened, and Fern had been flung far.

Her husband had still been trapped inside,
When it suddenly erupted into flame.
Fern could only stand and helplessly watch,
All the while loudly screaming his name.

No-one was around at that moment,
Perhaps someone might have pulled him out.
Then, as other motorists arrived,
They phoned for help, while listening to Fern shout.

Quite soon, a fire-engine came,
Closely followed by an ambulance.
The fire was eventually put out,
And Fern driven off still in a trance.

That had been several weeks ago,
And Fern has not since passed that place.
Now, it looks as if she is there,
And will, her darkest moment, have to face.

Then, to her horror, she sees a shape,
Dimly lit by her headlamps’ light.
It is a fallen motorcycle,
And the rider’s lying by it, just in sight.

Fern stops her car, and runs up to him.
Perhaps she can be of some aid.
As she approaches, the man gets up,
While a voice behind her says, “Don’t be afraid.”

“You just do exactly as we tell you.
We only want your money, and some fun.
Then, you can be on your way.
Do not even think of trying to run.”

The first man picks up the bike,
And pushes it to the road’s side.
The other man comes up close to Fern,
Who wonders again what might betide.

The wind blows the clouds across the sky,
Bringing the bright moon into sight.
The road that ’til then was hidden in darkness,
Is now lit with shards of silver light.

Fern then hears the sound of a horse,
Approaching through the wild and windy night.
The jingling of trappings can be heard,
And Fern thinks that now all will be right.

The courser slowly comes into view,
With the same knight seated on its back.
His lance is not couched, it’s held *****,
And the reins are loosely held, and quite slack.

Casually the steed comes to a stop,
And lowers his head to nibble at some grass.
The men, uncertain, both watch the knight,
While each wonders what might now pass.

One of them goes up to the bike,
And opens up the box on the back,
Then takes from it two crash helmets,
And a length of chain, which dangles slack.

He throws a helmet to his crony,
And they each fasten one upon their head.
Then they both turn to face the knight,
Who has not a word utteréd.

The one with the chain lifts it up,
And menacingly starts to whirl it around,
Then slowly walks towards the knight,
Who casually sits, not giving ground.

The other man reaches into his pocket,
Pulling out a wicked flick-knife,
And then, letting the blade spring open,
Prepares to join in with the strife.

He circles round the knight to the rear,
As the other man comes in from the side,
When the knight drops his lance into rest,
And suddenly, off he does ride.

He charges away from the men,
And gallops right past Fern at full speed.
Then, his lance aimed at the motorcycle,
He urges on his racing steed.

The lance pierces into the fuel tank,
And knocks the bike over in the road.
Petrol gushes out in a torrent,
And soon over the tarmac it has flowed.

The lance is broken in twain, the knight drops it,
And very quickly turns his horse about,
Then as he gallops back past the bike,
Both of the men start to shout.

Sparks from the horse’s hoofs come flying,
Igniting the petrol on the road.
Fern gives a shrill scream in panic,
Thinking that the bike might now explode.

The man with the chain wildly flails it,
Desperately trying to hit the horse’s head.
The knight strikes the man with a morning-star,
Who drops down, just like one who’s dead.

The knight then dismounts, drawing his sword,
And silently strides towards the other man,
Who flings away his knife, and starts running,
Fleeing just as fast as ever he can.

Fern sees the fallen man get up,
Rising groggily to stagger to his feet.
He looks at them, and then he turns away,
Slowly stumbling off, not yet too fleet.

Suddenly, the night becomes quite dark.
Clouds again, do the moon obscure.
Fern turns to try to thank the knight.
He’s gone, though she now feels secure.

Confidently she walks towards the bike,
And sees the lance by the fire’s light.
Fern bends and unties the lace from the lance,
And slowly walks back with it through the night.

She reaches her car, and gets inside,
Then starts driving off to get back home.
Belatedly thinking of her husband,
And wondering what next to her will come.

Safely arriving home, Fern parks the car,
And getting out, she sees on the lawn,
A pavilion has there been erected,
Turned rosaceous by the coming dawn.

The horse is also there, grazing tackless,
And by the entrance hangs a well-known targe.
Fern carefully goes and looks inside.
The pavilion’s quite small, not very large.

She sees the knight, kneeling on the ground,
His head bowed, as like one in prayer.
He holds his sword in front, just like a cross,
Of her, he seems not to be aware.

Quietly, Fern withdraws from the pavilion,
Then thinks, of the horse, to get a sight.
It’s nowhere to be seen, she turns around,
The pavilion’s now bathed in golden light.

As Fern stares at it in wonder,
See thinks that she can hear an ætherial sound,
Like a choir of heavenly angels singing,
And the pavilion vanishes from the ground.

Fern sees only a sword, stuck in the lawn,
And hanging from a nearby tree, the shield.
Then reliving what occurred in the night,
To tears of relief, Fern does yield.

She wonders if the knight has been translated,
Having now atoned for his mistake,
And Fern hopes that he’s managed to find peace,
For risking his life for her sake.

Fern hangs the sword above her bed,
And fastens the shield over her door.
She feels much more confidant now,
And is able to do so much more.

Sometimes though, when the moon is full,
Fern goes outside at midnight,
Carrying in her hand a strip of lace,
And seems just to vanish from sight.

At that time, if anyone was around,
They might then hear an unusual sound,
As though a fully accoutred
Don't worry, spiders,
I keep house
casually.
howard brace Oct 2012
Stood rigidly to attention either side of the hearth, the two bronze fire-dogs had been struggling to maintain that British stiff upper lipidness, which up until earlier that evening had best befitted their station in life... indeed, for the last half hour at least had become brothers in arms to the dying embers filtering through the bars of the cast-iron grate, passing from the present here and now, having lost every thermal attribute necessary to sustain any further vestige of life... to the shortly forthcoming and being at oneness with the Universe... only to fall foul of the overflowing ash-pan below.  This premature cashing in of the coal fire's chips could only be attributed to the recent and prolonged thrashing from the Baronial poker... and a distinct lack of enthusiasm from the family retainer, whom it appeared, required spurring along in a like manner... and while unseen mechanisms were heard to be engaging, then resonating deep within the Hall... that unless summoned... and quickly, the housekeeper had little intention of making an appearance of her own choosing and re-stoke the Study fire while the BBC Home Service were airing 'Your 100 Best Tunes' on the wireless, leaving the heavily tarnished pendulum to continue measuring the hour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                      ­     ...   ...   ...**

a work in progress.                                                        ­                                                         1859
judy smith Apr 2017
So you know you’re looking at two very different styles of dress, here. But precisely what decades? When did that waistline move back down? What details are the defining touches of their era? How long were women actually walking around with bustles on their backsides?

Lydia Edwards’s How to Read a Dress is a detailed, practical, and totally beautiful guide to the history of this particular form of clothing from the 16th to the 20th centuries. It tracks the small changes that pile up over time, gradually ******* until your great-grandmother’s closet looks wildly different than your own. As always, fashion makes for a compelling angle on history—paging through you can see the shifting fortunes of women in the Western world as reflected in the way they got dressed every morning.

Of course, it’ll also ensure that the next lackadaisically costumed period piece you watch gives you agita, but all knowledge has a price.

I spoke to Edwards about how exactly we go about resurrecting the history of an item that’s was typically worn until it fell apart and then recycled for scraps; our conversation has been lightly trimmed and edited for clarity.

The title of the book is How to Read a Dress. What do you mean by “reading” a dress?

Basically what I mean is, when you are looking at a dress in an exhibition or a TV show, reading it in terms of working out where the inspirations or where certain design choices come from. Being able to look at it and recognize key elements. Being able to look at the bodice and say, Oh, the shape of that is 1850s, and the design relates to this part of history, and the patterning comes from here. It’s looking at the dress as an object from the top down and being able to recognize different elements—different historical elements, different design elements, different artistic elements. “Read” is probably the best word to use for that kind of approach, if that makes sense.

It must send you around the bend a little bit, watching costume adaptations where they’re a bit slapdash. The one I think of is the Keira Knightley Pride and Prejudice, which I actually really enjoy, but I know that one’s supposed to have all over the place costuming-wise.

Yeah, it does. I mean, I love the BBC Pride and Prejudice one, because they kept very specifically to a particular era. But I can see what they did with the Keira Knightley one—they were trying to keep it 1790s, when the book was written, as opposed to when it was published. But they’ve got a lot of kind of modern influences in there and they’ve got a lot of influences from 30, 40 years previously, which is interesting to an audience and gives an audience I suppose more frames of reference, more areas to think about and look at. So I can see why they did that. But it does make it more difficult if you’re trying to accurately decode a garment. It’s harder when you’ve got lots of different eras going on there, but it makes it beautiful and interesting for an audience.

The guide spans the 16th to the 20th century. Why start with the 16th century?

Well, partly because it’s where my own interest starts, in terms of my research and the areas I’ve looked at. But more importantly in terms of audience interest, we get a lot of TV shows, a lot of films in recent years—things like The Tudors—that type of era seems to be something that people are interested in. That time is very colorful and very interesting to people.

And also because in terms of thinking about the dress as garment, obviously people wore dresses in medieval times, but in terms of it being something that specifically women wore, distinct from men’s clothes, I really think we start to see that more in the 15th, 16th century onwards.

Where do you go to get the historical information to put together a book like this? What do you use as your source material? Because obviously the thing about clothing is that it has to stand up to a lot of wear and tear and a lot of it doesn’t survive.

This is the other thing about the 16th century stuff—there’s so little surviving. That’s why that chapter was a lot shorter and also that’s why I used a lot of artworks rather than surviving garments, just because they don’t exist in their entirety.

But wherever possible, you go to the garments themselves in museum collections. And then if that’s proving to be difficult, you go to artworks or images, but always bearing in mind the artist will have had their own agenda, so they won’t necessarily be accurate of what people were actually wearing. So then you have to go and look up written source material from the time—say, diaries. I like using letters that people have written to each other over the centuries, describing dress and what they were wearing on a daily basis. Novels can be good, as well.

Also the scholarship that has come before, the secondary sources, works by people like Janet Arnold, Aileen Ribeiro. Really well researched scholarly books where people have used primary sources themselves and put their own interpretation on it can be really, really helpful. Although you take some of it with a pinch of salt, and you put your own interpretation on there, as well.

But always to the dress itself wherever possible.

What are some of the challenges you face, or the constraints on our ability to learn about the history of fashion?

Well, the very practical issue of trying to see garments—some of them I did see here in Australia, but a lot of them were in the States, in Canada, in New Zealand, so it’s hard to physically get there to see them. And often, even when you can get to the museum, garments are out on loan to other exhibitions or other museums. That’s a practical consideration.

But also, especially when I’m talking about using artworks and things, which can be really helpful when you’re researching, but as I’ve said they do come from a place where there’s more interpretations and more agendas. So if someone’s done a portrait and there’s a beautiful 1880s dress in it, that could have been down to the whims of the person who was wearing it, or the artist could have changed significantly the color or style to suit his own taste. Then you have to do extra research on top of that, to make sure that what you are seeing is representative.

It’s a fascinating area. There’s a lot of challenges, but for me, that’s what makes it really exciting as well. But it’s really that question of being able to trust sources and knowing what to use and what not to use in order to make things clear for the audience.

Obviously many of these dresses were very expensive and took a lot of labor and it wasn’t fast fashion—people didn’t just give it away or toss it when it fell out of season. A lot of times, you did was you remade it. When you’re looking at a dress that’s been remade, how do you extract the information that you need as a historian out of it?

I love it when something like that comes up. I’ve got a couple of examples in the book.

Well, it can be quite challenging, because often when you’re first looking at a piece it’s not obvious that it’s been remade. But if you’re lucky enough to look inside it and actually hold it and turn it round different angles, there’ll be things like the placement of a seam, or you’ll see that the waist has been moved up or down according to the fashion. And that’s often obvious when you’re looking inside. You can see the way the skirt’s been attached. Often you can tell if a skirt’s been taken off and then reattached using different pleats, different gatherings; that can give you a hint that it’s then been remade to fit in with a different fashionable ideal.

One of the key ways is fabric. You can often see, especially in early 19th century dresses when they’ve been made of these beautiful 18th century silks and brocades. That’s nice because it’s the first obvious clue that something’s been remade or that an old dress has been completely taken apart and it’s just the fabric that’s been used. I find it particularly interesting when the waist has been moved or the seams have been taken off or re-sewn in a different shape or something like that. It can be subtle but once your knowledge base grows, that’s one of the most fascinating areas that you can look at.

You page through the book and you watch these trends unfold and there are occasional sea changes will happen fairly quickly, like when the Regency style arises. But how much change year-to-year would a woman have seen? How long would it take, just as a woman getting dressed in the morning, to see styles just radically alter? Would you even notice?

Well, this is the thing—I think it’s very easy, when we’re looking back, to imagine that in 1810 you’d be wearing this dress and then all the frills and the frouf would have started to come in the late 1810s and the 1820s, and suddenly you would have had a whole new wardrobe. But obviously, unless you were the very wealthiest women and you had access to dressmakers who had the absolute newest patterns and newest fabrics then no, you wouldn’t have seen a massive change. You wouldn’t have afforded to be able to have the newest things as they came in. You would have maybe remade dresses to make them maybe slightly more in line with a fashion plate that you might have seen, but you wouldn’t have had access to new information and new fashion plates as soon as they came. To be realistic, there would have been very little change on a day to day level.

But I think also, for us now—it’s hard to see it without hindsight, but we feel like we’re fairly fluid in wearing the same kind of styles, but obviously when we look back in 20 years, we’ll look at pictures of us and see greater changes than we’re now aware. Because it happens on a slow pace and it happens on such a subconscious level in some ways.

But actually, yeah, it’s to do with economics, it’s to do with availability. People living in towns where they couldn’t easily get to cities—if you were living in a country town a hundred miles away from London, there’s no way that you would have the resources to see the most recent fashion plates, the most recent ideas that were developing in high society. So it was a very slow process in reality.

If you have a lot of money you can change out your wardrobe quicker and wear the latest styles. And so the wealthiest people, their clothes were what in a lot of case stood the best chance of surviving and being in modern collections. So how do we know what working women would have worn or what middle class women would have worn?

Yeah, this is hard. I do have some more middle class examples, because we’re lucky in that we do have quite a few that have survived, especially in smaller museums and historical collections, where people have had clothes sitting in their attics for years and have donated them, just from normal families over the years.

But, working women, that’s much more difficult. We’re lucky from the 19th century because we have photographic evidence. But really a lot of it will come down to written descriptions, mainly letters, diaries, not necessarily that the people themselves would have kept, but there’s examples of people that worked in cotton mills, for instance, and people that ran the mills and their families and wives and friends who had written accounts of what the women there were wearing. Also newspaper accounts, particularly of people who would go and do charity work and help the poor. They often wrote quite detailed descriptions of the people that they were helping.

But in terms of actual garments, yeah, it’s very difficult. Certainly 18th century and before, it’s really, really hard to get hold of anything that gives you a really good idea of what they wore. But in the 18th century—it’s quite interesting, because then we get examples of separate pieces of clothing worn by the upper classes, like a skirt with a jacket, which was actually a lower middle class style initially and then it became appropriated by the upper classes. And then it became much fancier and trimmed and made in silks and things. So then, we can see the inspiration of the working classes on the upper classes. That’s another way of looking at it, although of course that’s much more problematic.

It’s interesting how in several cases you can see broader historical context, or other stories happening through clothes. Like you point out that the rise of the one-piece dresses is due to the rise of mantua makers, who were women who were less formally trained who were suddenly making clothing. Are there any other interesting stories like that, that you noticed and thought were really fascinating?

There’s a dress in the book that a woman made for her wedding. I think she was living on her own, or she was living with a servant and her mother or something. She made the dress and then turned up to her wedding and traveled quite a long way to get there, and when she arrived, the groom and all the guests weren’t there. There was nobody. So she went away and came back again a week later, and everyone was there. And the reason that no one was there before was that a river had flooded in the direction that they were all coming from. She had obviously no way of finding out about this until after the fact, and we have this beautiful dress that she spent ages making and had obviously gone to a lot of effort to try and work out what the latest styles were, to incorporate it into her wedding dress.

Things like that, I find really interesting, because they talk so much about human and social history as well as fashion history, and the garment is the main way we have of keeping these stories alive and remembering them and looking into the kind of life and world these people lived, who made these garments.

Over the centuries, how does technology affect fashion? Obviously, we think of the industrial revolution as really speeding up the pace of fashion. But are there other moments in the history of fashion where technology shapes what women end up wearing?

One example is where I talk about the Balenciaga dress from the early 1950s—with a bubble hem and a hat and she would have worn these beautiful pump shoes with it—with the introduction of the zipper. Which just made such a huge difference, because it suddenly meant you’d have ease and speed of dressing. It meant that you didn’t have to worry about more complicated ways of fastening a garment. I think the zipper made a massive change and also in terms of dressmaking at home, it was a really quick and simple way that people had of being able to create quite fashionable styles on a budget and with ease and speed at home.

Also, of course, once women’s dress started to become simpler and they did away with the corset and underwear became a lot less complicated, that made dressing a lot easier, that made the introduction of the bias cut and things that sit very closely to the natural body much more widely used and much more fashionable.

I would say the introduction of machine-made lace as well, particularly from the late 19th, early 20th century onwards where it was so fashionable on summer dresses and wedding dresses. It just meant that you could so much more easily add this decadent touch to a garment, because lace would have been so much more expensive before then and so time-consuming to make. I think that made a huge difference in ordinary women being able to attain a kind of luxury in their everyday dress.

That actually makes me think of something else I wanted to ask you, which is you point out in your intro the way we casually use this word “vintage.” I think about that with lace. Lace is described as being a “vintage” touch but it’s very much this question of when, where, who, why—it’s a funny term when you think about it, the way we use it so casually to describe so much.

Oh, yes. It’s crazy. I used to work in a wedding dress shop and I used to make historically inspired wedding dresses and things. And brides used to come in and say, “Oh, I want something vintage.” But they didn’t really know what they meant. Usually what they meant is they wanted something with a bit of lace on it, or with some sort of pearls or beading. I think it’s really inspired by whatever is trending at the time. So, you know, Downton Abbey became vintage. I think ‘50s has always been kind of synonymous with the word vintage. But what it means is huge,
AmberLynne May 2014
Let me tell you the story of our serendipitous meeting, when we had been working not too far from each other for months but only just met.  Let me tell you about how I was slacking off because I was bored of work, and tired of life in general.  Let me tell you about how meeting you literally saved my life, for I had already made the plans and set the groundwork-my decision made long before and solidified more every day.  Let me tell you about how you walked up oh so casually as I was talking to a mutual friend.  And baby, let me tell you how I thought you were pretty freaking cute, and how I was so nervous and excited when you joined in our conversation.  But let me tell you also how I showed myself to you from that very first meeting and you accepted all of me wholeheartedly.  Because, let me tell you, I was at my very worst in those moments.  And let me tell you how I walked away from that meeting with a genuine smile on my face, the first in years.
First in a seven part series.
5.28.14
Matthew Aug 2014
You choose a sepia filter
To match your timeless visage
To match the clothes you've wandered into today
But it is not a selfie.

Your eyes pierce them through their iPhone screens
Your smile is casually not directed towards anyone in particular
Your outfit is recklessly on point
And it is not a selfie.

It is a punch in the gut
to everyone who has ever
said you are not good enough.
It is not a selfie.

The wings by your eyes will go out of style.
The dye in your hair will wash down the drain.
The clothes will wear out and you will take pictures again.

But you have fabricated a moment.
You are smiling towards yourself.
Slap your image onto every social media you know
Next to the supermodels and Kardashians and words of self hatred
This is the fulcrum with which you will lever the world.
This is not a selfie.
Deb Jones Sep 2018
People can fall into the habit of feeling low. We can get used to anything,
Especially bad things.
Doesn’t that scare you?

Get up off the floor.
Get dressed in something,
Light and flirty.
We WILL be getting *****.

Did you think the way up is easy?
I am teasing you,
It actually is.
First you raise your eyes

You make eye contact
With the first person you see,
Walking towards you.
They will look back at you.

They will first look confused.
Then look conflicted.
Do they know you
from somewhere?

The social awkwardness
Will try to stifle you.
Don’t drop eye contact,
Don’t blink.

Just slowly smile.
Let the smile calm this stranger
Don’t look away.
This is the best part

As you close the distant
And are ready to pass,
Say casually
“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?”

The person will relax
And their sweet smile will greet
The next stranger.  
And they will make eye contact.

Something so simple,
Can not only make you feel
Connected and good  
But you have paid it forward

To a stranger.

Let’s all start drawing straight lines
across this crooked world.
hal Mar 2020
He sits like he owns the place,
Walks like he’s already won the race.
Professional,
Yet casually.

Grey coat draped over his sure shoulders,
Moves quick and slick unlike boulders.
Swift,
Yet casually.

The black bag sits alone,
As he waits observing on his phone.
Tense,
Yet casually.

He catches a glimpse and chuckles a laugh.
I turn away his face only half.
Knowing,
Yet casually.

He knows something that I don’t.
Pay close attention but I know that you won’t.
Casual
Yet, undetected.
Gladys P May 2014
In stillness, and splendors of the oceans glint,
I casually walked down memory lane,
Leaving behind, lovely memories with each passing footprint.

Calming sapphire waters, creased upon the shore,
Bringing mild sudsy currents,
Crashing onto the smooth silky sands, like never before.

As sparkling seashells decorated the seaside,
Tumbling gently,
Upon the tiny creamy sprinkles of grain, as I glanced along the side.
****, a woman who has many casual *** partners
where do i begin, shouting, shaming, throwing a word at a woman
who uses her body in a way you deem, "wrong"
well let me tell you about a woman's body
a woman's body is hers, no ones but her own
her body is a vessel, a shell, a beating drum of life and choice
and what she choses to do, doesn't pertain to you
every part a different branch, teeming with life unseen
seeing beauty in each and every piece of her
casually isn't catastrophe
casually isn't calamity
casually isn't carelessness
casually is taking control of your body or completely giving it up, giving it to someone
even if only momentarily, even if only once
even if love never crossed your mind
some people like to say your "number"
follows you around like a burden, but your number
shouldn't follow you around at all
it isn't a number at all
it's a piece of time, piece of paper, piece of you
bundled up inside never meaning to hurt you
you never thought your own body would be used against you
where you put some of your most intimate parts
isn't to entertain the minds of people who don't know casually
isn't to give them a definition to put to their word
isn't to give them anything, because it isn't their's to take
it's yours to give
i think love has levels
you can't equate love and every ****** act committed
commitment doesn't come with every encounter
it's counter productive to shame an act because you wouldn't do it yourself
I'm not asking for acceptance of "*****"
I'm asking you to accept your unacceptable ignorance
and learn, learn about a woman's body
learn about her branches
learn about each and every piece
then, and only then, can you tell if her "number" truly matters
Deb Jones May 2018
I thought I forgave you.
I told you I did.

I meant it at the time.
Or thought I spoke the truth.

How casually you mentioned it
In the dark, drinking a beer.

“Remember when we were kids
You said “That’s how kids are”

“Besides” you said.
“It was only touching”

That continued even when
You were home after boot camp

I felt hot in the dark
I thought I had been stamped

Signed, sealed. Validated.
But it wasn’t enough.

You took something that shaped me.
And made it sound like crumbs.

Casually brushed away.
In an adult voice filled with scorn

Minimized.
Justified?

You were 15.
I was 10

Then I was 14
And you were 19

A beautiful boy- man
Loved and admired by all

I know you tried with our sisters.
They all told you no.

I never thought to say no.
Always pretending I was asleep.

Because of your shame
You hated me. I was a pariah.

You didn’t have the willpower
To stop yourself

See, brother of mine.
See how you shaped me?

Now I am an adult
And one of the hats I wear

Is as a **** Crisis counselor
Holding hands in the Emergency Room

During the **** kit examination

Of girls and women
That were ***** or molested in various ways

Various ways.....
With different words to describe what happened

Even different body parts.
How do we treat a young girl

That doesn’t even know
The word ******?

Who thinks that she was ***** where she pees.

For myself?
I did forgive you.

I put a letter in your coffin
You were Thirty-three
I was Twenty-eight

Faulty pistol, bled out,
Two hour wait for the ambulance.

Your head cradled by a woman
Who soothed and comforted you

Surrounded by our father
And dozens of your friends

I forgave you finally.
Completely.

I never stopped loving you.
Is that worth saying?

Why does death feel like
We have to whitewash the truth
Mateuš Conrad Sep 2015
but have you noticed, have you noticed how  all mental health problems
stem form a seemingly aether virus that attacks the pronoun category;
i mean with proper justifiable schizoids you will not hear of the nouns
being ransacked for an equation that equates itself to misnomers;
it's all categorised negation of ease within the framework of pronouns.
it's strange that philosophers stress the pronouns so much these days
and those countless prior, but why do mental health diseases
attack the pronouns and not the nouns? they attack the verbs
thoroughly, but prior to the verbs exposing an illness
the pronouns are attacked, so that many considering the singularity
of expressing thought are ill because of being forced into a plural expression
of thought: "voices." i find it hard to understand, but it's the reality,
the aether virus attacks the pronoun
on the backdrop of a king's casual expression / use
of pronouns, when a king casually says
of himself as omni or multi with one and we respectively;
so why are pronouns so weak and nouns so strong
that a tree cannot be a misnomer attaché of timber
and rock not a pillar, or mountain as the verb: mountaineering?
the pronoun category is weak from day one,
because it suggests photographic duck animation on the lip pursed
into a quack quack, but if we constructed thought
without knowledge prior, eating the fruit of knowledge
rather than the fruit of thought, using the starting point
of the genesis metaphor, it's sometimes a no brainer
to have weak thinking and strength in knowing,
for if there was strength in thinking and weakness in knowing,
i'd be the one chiseling these words in the ice age on a cavern wall.
so, given, that diseases such as the famed premature dementia
attack the pronouns but not the nouns the schizoid one
will convene life with: pizza is pizza and sunshine ray down the drain
clock the millionth dead parting of grasshoppers in decimals -
while man unto man lusts one man's parting in decimals,
but should dire said, part man with integers, and insects with decimals!
but still, in the terminology of a cartesian understanding of illness,
in that segregational aspect of things "sorted,"
why are mental illnesses tattooed in a weak pronoun usage
compared to a strength in other grammatical categories?
why are not mental illnesses ******* the life out of the nouns?
the nouns are intact, the pronouns attacked,
and the verbs chess piece the pawn from the casually speaking clown king
into a beast imprisoned, for while the pronouns are attacked
and the nouns left intact, the attack on pronouns expresses itself
fully in verbs of the never existent tact: with such magic
as to claim knock knock on plank is the same as knock knock on veneer.
There’s I place I go to
When you cross my mind
It’s almost as if your still there
By my side
Whispering in my ear
Caressing my palm

We called it the bridge to nowhere

I remember meeting you there
Sitting near the end
Staring out towards the water
You approaching me

I remember looking up
At your perfect tanned face
Your messy dark hair
Your mesmerizing gold eyes
Casually wearing your football jersey.

I remember your simple hello
Your nervous chuckle
Your silly smile.

I remember smiling back
And inviting you to sit.

Our first meeting on the bridge to nowhere

I remember sneaking out after dark
To meet you there
Just to lay on the bare wooden boards
Staring at the moon

I remember the smell of flowers that spring
branches blooming nearby
The smell of smoke and spices
Forever embedded in your clothes.

I remember your singing
Sweet nothings
in Spanish
Softly in my ear

Entwined together on the bridge to nowhere

I remember your high school graduation
Your mother so proud
Your sister excited
Your father crying

I remember your first game in college
Your running onto the field
Pride and joy in your eyes
Though you didn’t play
Because of that sprained wrist

I remember your sweaty embrace
And your ramblings
of the game
Reviewing every play
Your eyes shimmering with excitement

Racing to the bridge to nowhere

I remember that call
Which changed my life
My heart stopped
I couldn’t think

I remember rushing
to the hospital
Crying with your little sister
Collapsed on the floor

I remember your bloodied face
Wrapped in linen
Tubes bursting from your chest

I wanted to race to the bridge to nowhere

I remember spending my nights
Curled by your side
Willing you to stay
Strong

I remember that endless tone
That said you were gone

I cried at the bridge to nowhere

I remember curling up in your hoodie
Smelling you
Pretending it was you
Your arms surrounding me

I remember lying by the stone
That recalled your name
Talking to you
Burning letters by the small candle

I remember cleaning out your room
With your mother and sister
Finding that little box by your bed
Your final gift to me

I opened it at the bridge to nowhere

I still go there sometimes
With a letter filled
With promises to you
And a flame by which to send it.
anne p murray Apr 2013
He was casually walking one evening in a bustling place called New Orleans in the year of 1845. Nonchalantly strolling down Bourbon Street, a street lined with beautiful homes; graceful verandas; elegant parlors, and... Marie Laveau.

His name was Moine Baptiste. He was a black, French Creole. A man who lived for his music, Quadroon *****, the blues, jazz, and  places where he and Charlie would play their rip-roarin' music in the place called "The Big Easy".

Charlie the sax, was Baptiste’s long, time friend, since he first started playing the 'sax' at the young age of eight.

Moine Baptiste, Plessy Ferguson and all the guys played their Cajun, jazz and blues music at clubs like, 'Antoine’s Bar',  'The Maison Bourbon Jazz Club' and 'The Funky Pirate', all which were popular clubs in the French Quarter on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

In those days dusky stable hands would lead horses around the stables engaging in desultory conversation that went something like this:
"Hey where y'all goin' from here?" they'd query. "From here we're headin' for the "Big Apple", one would offer in reply.  "You'd better fatten up them skinners or all you'll get from the apple will be the core," was the quick rejoinder.
Resulting in the assigned name, Those Big AppleYears".

Close by on another beautiful, tree lined street was 'Esplanada Avenue'. It was the most elegant street of all in the French Quarter.

Esplanada Avenue claimed fame to a somewhat elusive, secret Bordello called LaBranche House where all the affluent or wealthier men would frequent.

Baptiste was very familiar with LaBranche House. That was where he met all his women and spent most of his money.  

The French and Creole children casually roamed the town, sometimes walking down by the graveyard near Bayou Street. They had been told many a time to steer clear of Bourbon Street, a street with a sordid reputation of burlesque clubs, all night parties and…Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of   New Orleans!  

When Baptiste was taking his walks he'd always watch out the corner of his eye. Something he learned to do when strolling along the sidewalks in New Orleans and in particular Bourbon and Bayou Streets in Congo Square. You see he’d had a few encounters with Marie Laveau.

Oh he had a great deal of respect for Marie Laveau... along with a healthy amount of fear.

This Creole woman, often used her Voodoo  to manipulate, acquire power and upon occasion bless those she liked with good luck and prosperity. She  was also quite adept in conjuring up her many powers in matters of the heart.

Her hair was long and black. She was both feared and respected. Ms Laveau had olive colored, Creole skin. Her black, piercing eyes were sharp as a razor’s edge. Almost magnetic, if she stared at you for very long.

Baptiste had called upon the Voodoo Queen a few years back when he was down on his luck..... and down on his luck with women.

It was almost to the point, that he’d all but given up on the possibity of being happy and contented.

Baptiste was a man with a robust charisma of Creole and French charm. Yet he had an air of reserve and dignity, with a bit of naughty that shone brightly in his chocolate, brown eyes. He was remarkably handsome with dark brown, wavy hair; a well chiseled bone structure in his cream colored face, full lips and a well toned body.

His main problem was, he liked too many women. Too many all at the same time. He spent too much of his money on his women which left him broke,  lonely and dissatisfied.

One night while strolling down Bourbon Street he happened upon Marie Laveau. He’d just finished playing a ‘gig’, with his old, friend Charlie his beloved sax and a few of the guys. Baptiste was feeling a bit light headed and a tad drunk from the ***** that flowed and poured so freely in that part of town called The Big Easy. It was a part of New Orleans steeped in history, lore and many mysterious legends.  Baptiste was feeling slightly tipsy from all the Whiskey he'd drank.

When Baptiste saw Marie Laveau walking towards him down on Bayou Street, he boldly said:

     "Well, Ms. Laveau”,  said he as she walked on by
      She looked piercingly at Baptiste, stared straight at him right through to his eyes.
      She was the famous Queen of mysterious curses
      She carried potions and spells in her bags and purses
      She was a famous legend in New Orleans where all the black trees grow

      This Black, Creole Lady lived in the dark, murky swamps all alone
      She carried black cat’s teeth and eerie Mojo bones
      She had three legged dogs and one eyed snakes
      A mean tempered hound she called  Big Bad Jake    

      He said, “Ms. Laveau you Voodoo Witch
      Please cast your spells and make me rich”!
      Marie started mumbling and shook her magic stones

      Why it scared Ole’ Baptiste right down to his skinny ole' bones!
      She cast aVoodoo Spell and spoke some eerie incantations
      Promised him wealth, true love and a big plantation!
      There’s many a story told of men she’d charmed
      But Ole’ Baptiste, he wasn’t too alarmed

      They strolled through the graveyard down on Bayou Street
      Where all Marie's ghouls and ghosts and spirits meet
      There lived a big, black crow where she held her ritual scenes
      She spoke powerful Voodoo words and cast her magic in between
      She held Baptiste’s hands tightly in her large, black hands
      She promised him love and riches and lots of land
      From that day forward Baptiste had more than his share of luck
      He had the love of a beautiful woman and lots of bucks


      But Baptiste always remembered that piercing look in Ms. Laveau’s stare
      An admonishing, cautionary warning they always shared
      If you ever walk the streets in New Orleans....
                                   Beware....
      You just might meet up with Marie Laveau... "The Bayou Voodoo Queen"
__________________­_________
"Marie Laveau (September 10, 1794 – June 16, 1881[1]) was a Louisiana Creole practitioner of Voodoo renowned in New Orleans. She was born free in New Orleans.
Marie Laveau a legend of Voodoo down on the Bayou. This well known story of this
Voodoo Queen who made her fortune selling her potions and interpreting dreams...
all down in a place called New Orleans!
Pagan Paul Aug 2018
.
i.
Smoke coils up and dissipates,
soon the images will be clear,
as she stares with cold contempt,
into the depths of the Seers Sphere.
And she stands toking her pipe,
watching as the story unfolds,
soon her hate will boil once more,
unleashing her vengeance of old.

ii.
Smoke coils up and dissipates,
a thousand lifetime's away,
blackened stone and charred bodies,
the remains of a village destroyed.
The flames still licking at the flesh
and melting mortar of cottage walls.
Raiding horsemen ride off cheering,
with swords, shields and firebrands,
carrying amidst them a prisoner,
their prize and sport for the victory feast.
Savages are these violent men,
barbaric in their wanton lust for war,
the red mist and the ****** fury,
it's all they really have a care for.

iii.
She waits with patient seething,
her moments will arrive so soon,
the spilling of her black arts,
witnessed by a Woman's Moon.

iv.
The Vale was so beautiful lush and green.
Steep sided, oak trees, clear blue stream.
With fresh grass on which horses grazed,
and smooth rocks where wild fowl lazed.

v.
But the leader here was not a man,
she was the daughter of this warrior clan.
Fierce, cold, she barked out her orders;
build a fire, make food, secure the borders.
Her status unquestioned by her riders,
they would all fight and die beside her,
and as the camp grew out much wider,
her boot casually crushes a hated spider.

vi.
Manacles held her ankle fast,
shackled as she was to a tree.
Withdrawn, shivering with cold,
still seeing her burning family.
Images scorch her private intimacy,
awaiting the moment of her epiphany,
eyes watching with careless vacancy,
preparations for the nights ceremony.
But she would not co-operate,
would not give her jailers pleasure,
as she knows these last few hours
would seem to her like forever …

and Nature weeps with a prelude to grieve,
as the Maiden pulls a dagger from her sleeve.


… deny them their sport she will,
placing the dagger 'neath her breast,
a sharp tug towards her heart,
a thousand nightmares laid to rest.

vii.
A thousand lifetime's away,
smoke coils up and dissipates,
a cackle rents the air like ice,
the time her Woman's Moon anticipates.
And the instant arrives with joy,
as the Seers Sphere is thrown,
shattering and cackling hold hands,
as the glass touches solid stone.
At that moment of contact with rock,
time slips into a reverberating shock.

viii.
The Vale was so beautiful lush and green.
Steep sided, oak trees, clear blue stream.
With fresh grass on which horses grazed,
and smooth rocks where wild fowl lazed.

And the earth heaved and tremored,
shaking the Vales languid peace,
uprooting trees with tremendous urge,
rending the loamy soil from beneath.
Frenzied horses scatter with fright,
and men are thrown up high,
screams and shouts of piercing pain,
and the stream suddenly runs dry.
The quake unsettles the warriors camp,
leaving many broken bones and blood.
Then an ominous deafening roar
heralds the arrival of the coming flood.
And water coursed fast into the Vale,
no longer pretending to be calmer.
All living men drowned and dead,
encumbered by their heavy armour.
But she was much fleeter of foot
and ran hard as the waters rose.
Tripped by a treacherous branch,
head banged, stunned, her eyes closed.

ix.
Sunrise saw many things.
Smoke coiling up and dissipating,
over the ruins of a village,
crows and dogs feasting well.
It saw
the hooded robed figure of a woman,
squatting on top a new grave,
smoke coiling up from her pipe,
cackling …

x.
She awoke in darkness.
It didn't take long to panic and scream.
It took no time to realise,
she was sealed naked in a coffin.
And she screamed and screamed.
Pushing at the sides, the lid.
The air was heavy, stifling, stifling, stifling.
Precious oxygen running out.
The coffin moved, and she screamed,
desperately scratching and scratching.
And in the box she heard … cackling.
Her frantic screams turn to sobs of pleading
to be let out, to breathe, to live.
She felt something touch her inner thigh,
she screamed, as it touched again feint.
Brushing it away as the voice cackled on,
more tickles on her thighs, she screamed.
And something landed on her face.
The feel of a large spider on her mouth,
and she screamed and screamed.
But the cackling persisted
as she scratched at the wood,
her fingernails shredding to pieces,
but the wooden prison gave no quarter,
the skin raw and bloodied,
scratching, scratching, scratching.
And in her tomb she screams,
she screams and screams and screams.

xi.
… sunrise saw many things.
It saw a new river,
wending its way to the sea,
caressing the contoured land,
it saw horses running wild,
across the lush grass on plains.
It saw
the hooded robed figure of a woman,
standing beside a new grave,
as she places the flame dagger
upon the Maiden's final resting place,
it saw
ice blue eyes of fire and malevolence.
Weeping.


© Pagan Paul (02/08/18)
.
3rd poem in Judderwitch series.
https://hellopoetry.com/poem/2076298/judderwitch-the-beginning/
https://hellopoetry.com/poem/1923972/judderwitch/

Today, Aug 2nd, marks two years on hp for me.
Thankyou to all those who have supported and helped me over these last 2 years. You are all greatly appreciated :) PPx xox
natalie anderson Mar 2013
deadbeat
by Natalie Elizabeth (Notes) on Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 10:42am

the knowledge i hold

neatly stacked inside my head

makes me want to *****

and laugh my *** off

disgusted

smells nasty like moonshine

fermented

rotten

taste bites the back of my throat

pulling up unwillingly, bile

clear bitter bile

turn my head and casually spit

**** kid you make me sick

but all i can do is laugh

pitiful

it came down to this
These streets
are home to countless
rodents
emerging but for a moment
to feed
or breed
or just to breathe the sun

One by one line up
for the chance to
make something
out of nothing

Who are they and
where do they go
while the city refuses to
sleep

Doors to endless lands
line the avenue
each its own portal to the
unimaginable

A family of four
with the yapping mutt
or a lonely cat lady
whose entryway wreaks of *****,
a drug dealer
door slamming
every hour on the hour
or an empty snowbird's nest

On the surface
everyone pretends
they don't have a hole to
crawl back to
or walls that know
every secret

But below the sewer grate
a world filled with
the stench
of what could have been a
good day

Many a barkeep can
shed some life
on these drunkards'
rat king
or at least a story of those who
made it out

Once or twice it'd be grand
to see the bottom of a martini glass
left with a sip or two
instead of the casually tipped
lipstick-clad cocktail,
drained of doubt and despair
until morning warms the
frozen dreams
of those retired to
a paradise unknown
New York City streets
Consider Icarus, pasting those sticky wings on,
testing that strange little tug at his shoulder blade,
and think of that first flawless moment over the lawn
of the labyrinth. Think of the difference it made!
There below are the trees, as awkward as camels;
and here are the shocked starlings pumping past
and think of innocent Icarus who is doing quite well.
Larger than a sail, over the fog and the blast
of the plushy ocean, he goes. Admire his wings!
Feel the fire at his neck and see how casually
he glances up and is caught, wondrously tunneling
into that hot eye. Who cares that he fell back to the sea?
See him acclaiming the sun and come plunging down
while his sensible daddy goes straight into town.
Emma Hill Sep 2015
BPD
Borderline personality disorder Unseen people unseen energies tickling my back Distrust paranoia Longing for love unwilling to accept Dreaming of self harm of boys in all black Who am I to you Trust no one not even your best friend especially not them Avert your eyes don’t look at me I don’t see you I hear things that aren’t there I hear things they whisper my name want me to follow Casual *** casually falling in love Relapse around the corner need to see my blood I smell blood I taste it Close my eyes move to music become a ghost Crying in my bedroom crying in public No one sees I am invisible Think horrible things think about killing A certainty that I will end up alone This sounds like a suicide note Want to be art want to be in the ground burned to ash Who AM I ******* daily In love with love In love with being on my own I can’t belong to anyone I want to belong to someone Can’t be a girlfriend can’t be a best friend Can’t lose me that’s all I have in the end I sound ******* nuts Borderline personality Don’t smile Won’t smile Bitterness bitterness Too afraid to hang myself Punch myself in the face Spit on me Respect me Degrade me Take me away take me in What the **** is wrong with me
Mateuš Conrad Dec 2015
i just lamented a more complex version of this; i just cannot  believe we denote the same thing in order to share an understanding of  the same by denoting as such, but when acting we feel so differently  about it; imagine the noun iran in the mouth of an american, then  picture the verbs subsequent... then imagine the noun america in the  mouth of an iranian, then picture the verbs subsequent: words hold as  much emotion as actions discard, even though the actions are worded, and  the words are almost imaginary when concerned with what iraq was when  given belshazzar.*

i wonder if as many people would **** or die
for the noun apple, as they do for allah -
say the noun apple... apple apple apple long enough...
will you get apple juice? well no, so if you keep on saying
the noun allah allah... will that thing materialise?
the imaginary atheistic sense
of the word allah, is that humanity
turned the noun allah into a verb
of its own chosing due to man's free will,
i.e., say allah casually over coffee,
now say allah in jihad clothing...
the same noun among diverse verbs...
might as well invent a new grammatical
category of nouns and verbs mingling...
nouverbs... what noun invokes what action,
consolidated in what are excesses of adjectives,
given the quality of a life lived -
the man who casually said the noun allah
in a coffee shop in denmark managed to integrate
into danish society and start up a newspaper...
the man in syria who "casually" said the noun allah
in a coffee shop in syria didn't manage the former...
because his orientation of the noun
changed the path of the sequence of nouns / beheaded nuns,
since the cutting of the word verb,
managed to craft non-verbum-ergo-actio.
in defence of avoiding one’s own mortality,
one speaks against one’s own death,
thus one speaks with the enemy of the people
one shares a life with, for a fake chance of the feeling of prolonging.
Frank Brown Aug 2012
Seven or eight people lounged about in a small back room. I had no expectations before arriving so I’m neither surprised nor disappointed by what I discover.  I find myself sat in one of those reclining gaming chairs and think “This must be the best chair in the room”.

Just playing it cool. I don’t know anyone here. There’re a few guys playing the Xbox. I eye them over, none of them look to challenge my presence, either too engrossed in the screen, or intimidated in some way. To my left sit the women in the place. I have their attention. Relief that the journey here wasn’t in vein, I give them all a nod and a smile. I casually introduce myself, and then find myself playing on the Xbox. I know I can’t play, but that’s the act. I ask what buttons to press, and laugh at my own hopelessness, eventually relinquishing the controller. It soon finds its way back into my hands. By this time, some bird is sat up on the arm next to me. She’s watching my actions, how I take command of the situation. Why don’t I take command of her? Sitting and waiting has never been a good tactic. I pass the controller over to her and say a few words in an attempt to get the conversation rolling. The drink clouds my thoughts and I forget that I’m talking to her. In the distance I hear them remark, “He’s a cool guy.”

I sit, reclined, legs outstretched, coat open revealing buttoned collar, slicked back hair, that look of pure relaxation in ones surroundings. She’s diggin’ it. I know she’s digging it. Her leg starts to press into my arm, and then her hands are down by my side. Commotion in the room. Some fat ***** needs to make her presence known. Everyone chilled. She obviously wants the attention. Not my type. She leaves for an upstairs room, and moments later, a spliff finds its way into my hands, courtesy of the girls to my left. I take a few drags, telling myself not to get too high; too late for that. I pass it on and fall back into the chair. Forgot I hadn’t smoked in a month.

Still a laid back guy, although not sure if it’s a choice anymore. I know it’s taking me over now. Slowly, I find myself entering that zone where weeds been taking me lately. Thoughts of everything; no filter; the need to verbalize things. Suddenly I’m Mr Charismatic, and you are all my audience, whether you like it or not. I stopped caring or stop noticing people’s reactions and forget about myself. I let my ego out to play, unregulated by the discipline of consciousness.

There are people in the room. Pretty sure they weren’t here earlier. One of them says something to me. “Is he been aggressive?” I think to myself. Judging from the tone of my reply, I obviously felt the need to establish my position. Taking no **** from these guys it seems; I’m still the Don in the room. Remember myself, remember the girl. Mr Cool again.

Filling up water in the kitchen, find myself chatting to random guys. Banter flying around the place. She’s watching me. Some powder is under my nose. “Kind of you to offer, but that better not be ket.” Turns out it was Mandy. Can’t say no to a bump. Pretty sure I’m the most ****** in the room right now, but I’m riding it well. Door frame seems like a necessity to keep me upright. Don’t want to brave the assault course back to the recliner, plus, I’m talking to the guys in the kitchen, don’t want to walk away.

We’re meeting J’s bird in thirty minutes. Twenty minutes. Five minutes ago. “We’ll go in five minutes.” She’s there again. Her presence known to me. She's up against me, but time is also against me. Too ****** up to keep playing this game. We’re leaving now. Out the door, I attempt to say a few words as we leave. My eloquence abandons me and leaves me in the ****. Flag a taxi; turns out we’ve booked one. Send him on his way. Tip the driver more than I can afford.
Mateuš Conrad Dec 2016
by simply watching 'don't call me crazy'
with regards to mental health... a bbc3 documentary.

i find a few pointers, apart from the fact that i've learned
English to a standard that i could
be misjudged as a native, what with african psychiatrists
   and the history of England as  a postcolonial nation...
     the problems of premature depression
and other divergences from the "norm"
  (or is that a tu-dum tss... "the norm"?
i never know how to tell the joke a proper
way, so many jokes are mothered
by punctuation, i don't know
how many there are that aren't) -
so aside from that... the fact that i'm
faking being British... if you have any grievances
against me: you'd better me Ukranian
or Lithuanian... otherwise? *******.
yes, i know the Poles did terrible things,
Vlad wasn't the only person ready to
do sadistic **** on people by impaling them
on sharpened-wooden poles...
   and you thought the crucifix was bad...
but oh look... the artists inserted a peddle-stool
so he could stand while on the cross...
rather than actually: hang from it.
talk about a woman faking an ******.
then again: he was all kissy-kissy with
a centurion having cured the ravaging libido
of his "demon possessed" daughter who
had a hot bagel flirt under her skirt for him...
or as i say: **** a prostitutes
           **** for an extra ten quid: the sigma
of how many ***** that thing has seen
turns your tongue into a dagger...
that's where i have seen my salvation:
   not in the eucharist or degrading symbols
of a godly stature.
       no, the point is:
this misapprehension of where the origin of
thinking resides...
  the true materialists posit the origin of thought
in the brain... but, honey-bee, the brain
is preoccupied with its materialistic responsibilities...
to shoot adrenaline when bungee jumping...
why think it isn't already preoccupied with anything
but thought? the brain doesn't think
no more than the heart might... or your *******
wetted or your phallus becoming *****...
there's no point in ascribing thought to the brain,
even if you abstract the source of thinking
toward the brain as a *mind
,
     the suggestion parallels what the brain does,
and what the brain isn't...
   as with the notion of god...
          ridiculous for most people:
or also ridiculous when man is taught to stress
his "individuality"...
                               both seem on equal footing
to be considered phantoms, but the individual is
more of a phantom than god...
                             and as Diogenes of Sinope found out:
you'll find god and the Archimedean eureka
quicker than finding an honest man -
who takes a candle at noon into a market square?
     ah: that famous lunacy...
but in the beginning the word was with god,
       yes, because when we started we only said ooh ooh!
and made those frightening monkey faces to
war off evil spirits and the Arabic third eye, evil.
   Darwinism created historical fiction...
           a bit like science fiction, but instead of looking
forward, historical fiction is looking back,
toward a time when people struggled against
the elements, and had no sense of having to think
given their actual pentagram equilibrium was tuned
into what was around them...
                   the senses could never deviate from
the world of shouting down a cave and hearing echo,
it's only when thought emerged and conceived words
   that the dubiousness of simple musing:
chicken or egg first? created auxiliary sense perceptions...
   we have left the sensual world...
           for we have "enriched" our lives with
thinking, the byproduct of which is what scared me
about this bbc3 documentary... that all mental
illness stems from allow thought to automate itself...
      in other words having no moral compass...
in other words: not having read a single book
   and learned a process of equating thinking with
narrating... as a sensible option to what others tend
to do (the innovators), and allow narration to be a void...
into which they pour all their thinking to
fill that void... with, say, Thomas Edison and the lightbulb...
Isaac Newton and gravity...
it's just scary that people can allow automated thinking,
     made even more evident that counters
the punitive transgender pronoun scenario
   that only focuses on the pronouns: he, it, she.
these youngsters in the documentary are dealing with
submitting to a pronoun focus of: i, it, you.
                      in some vague sense of a religiosity,
that they cannot allow cogito ergo sum into their minds,
a possessiveness of body, that later translates
into an identification with the mind: which is -
well, if you're going to posit the origin of thinking
in your brain, which isn't even there - you mind
as well posit the mind, seeing how the soul
is argued against primarily through our mortal condition.
   is the eye the window to the soul?
  and the brain merely a paraphrasing of that statement?
perhaps...
              but i wouldn't be too worried
             as Walter Benjamin was about art in the age
of mechanical reproduction... i'd be worried
that art is bound to the morgue of psychiatric institutions...
that art is not a term that suggest the origins of
   such ailments:
due the original lack of it in such places:
  but that that it was never there... and that finding
art can be therapeutic is why art can be scolded
               and establishment art is nothing more
than the pinnacle of us, having abused words,
waging fewer and fewer words, can't produce
    a work of beauty... merely a work that occupies
a space.
                art = space...
          that's the statement these days...
being oversaturated with scientific assurances has created
this insurgence of over-competence or making
art not art in a sense timelessness, as in Dante's
comedy isn't equal to space,
            but that it's equal to timelessness...
    or a statue by Donatello...
                          these days art = space...
because it's not going to be timeless... it was once
the iconoclasm in metaphor of: the lion of Judea...
          Lucifer as the morning star...
                         it will not be timeless because it
has been reduced to the establishment's aesthetic
of tracey emins' unmade bed... or
       damien hirst's the physical impossibility
of death in the mind of someone living -
i never said these things aren't art... some people
said cubism would never be art compared to
surrealism... but shove a triangle into Pythagoras'
head and you get some sort of mathematics...
              it's based on that principle...
what wouldn't work in the case of hirst would be
to put a cancerous tumour into a plastic cage...
people would associate it as some sort of atomist
representation of a nanometre worth's of some
larger thing... i do appreciate the fact that big
art works... it needs so much face to embody
the fact that you are to think about it...
                         and not to have a **** over it:
it's art that's anti-arousal and more and more
and more about how to juxtapose it in your mind,
always to abstract the brain as the mind
   and to never appreciate the idea of having
to source thinking as solely endemic to the brain...
the brain is busy, the heart is busy...
            we have perpetuated an outer-body
experience throughout our time since the time when
we first acquired the phonos of thought...
                 and it is a peculiar "sound", thought...
a dance memorable to actually having a hope in
possessing a soul... even after all sturdy things
shrink into the obsolete, and even vegetable.
but the piece i'm referring to?
     kinda paradoxical... given that a shark would
probably eat you... but then again counter-paradoxical
given the fact that most shark-attacks
     make the shark refrain from eating you,
but merely nibbling on you and leaving you alive
albeit nibbled on... maned... with scars...
so i get the part where the shark is in fact:
an impossible death to conceive... only for the lucky few.
  apart from the fact that the shark is caged
like a prehistoric mosquito lodged in amber...
              woodland gold, amber...
  that's the literal interpretation...
                                 but it's still a moving piece,
modern art isn't crap at all... it's just something you
don't get an ******* over...
            take any still life and apply a cognitively
based chemical reaction: stimulate a narrative...
in that famous phrasing, connect the: dot dot dot(s).
    become, in that almost ridiculous sense:
     a Sherlock Holmes... but all that died was about
a minute's worth of your attention...
this is what's fuelling revising a need for television,
big static things... my personal favourite?
that Tate Modern installation by richard holt -
hand on heart: about 3 times...
              i felt like a mosquito drawn into that:
ah the bright shiny light... 180º and a glass ceiling...
that's all it was...
                   art in the age of mechanical reproduction
has to almost ridicule man, or at least ridicule
the idea that he can become an individual,
    as was the ridicule of man that he could become
a god...
               sooner or later any attempt at individualism
becomes trendy, vogue, and magnetises and
monetises a need to mimic, replicate... one punk today:
20,000 punks tomorrow...
       /
           but that sort of mincing is mostly associated
by the bewilderment of our own success...
                           it's almost like a we're engaging with
a sabotage process: deliberately trying to undermine
ourselves by staging a variety of "anti-social" endeavours
we promised ourselves upon a belief in the "individual"...
      modern pieces of art debunk that myth,
it's that modern art pieces require so much space that
gave them the most adaptation prowess over, say,
a puritan's concept of art, as in a Turner painting...
           classical art can be put into a Florentine market
square and be passed by quiet casually,
because it provides an assurance - it forbids engaging
in an iconoclastic vigil, it's an assurance of the past
and how golden it was... but a modern sculpture
in a busy place where many people congregate
without first allowing it the asylum of an art gallery
and people will treat it as a chance to hone on it,
vandalise it, or steal it and sell it from scrap metal...
       modern art requires an asylum to be accepted,
an art gallery is an asylum where people with
good intentions enter and leave appreciating something
that, to the pleb, would get a rotten egg thrown at it.
    and as with regards to how i phrased something
earlier? how philosophy talks of the logos
     that doesn't see the phonos: or the dichotomy
between actual sound, and sound ascribed a
optically-phonetic disparity encryption:
deepened by a self-styled aesthetic of the "ruling elites"...
          and in the beginning the word was with god...
we're merely licking the toes of such a possibility...
         and just you try to bypass the orthodoxy of
encoding sounds with queer spelling...
                     you, in a sense, learn two-languages
with every single one you learn...
   how to say it and how to write it...
                              and then there the how you hear it
and how sometimes you hear different lyrics to
the ones sang...
                         a bit like the Chinese,
who, upon reading the English translation were
bothersome to get rich quickly after seeing
too many matchsticks in ideogram translated as merely
Li Po; i'd too go bananas and become frustrated
and retaliated by getting to Einsteinian grips with
the mathematical alphabet that bore Li Po... i.e. 1, 0
through to 9.
      ah yes... philosophy that doesn't appreciate
grammatical words, or in that sense credible for a biologist
not necessitating a genus to ease any argument,
to actually further it... or to play ping-pong...
   grammatical words are equivalent to the subconscious
given we tend to write some a sense of fluidity...
the unconscious? schematics akin to triangles...
  "images" or rather shapes...
                             beginning with Δ: isosceles...
later varied to the Γ triangle of Pythagoras...
          and as far as we got, a respectability to
not conjure up a square as worthy of encoding a sound...
nearest being the H... and that turned out to
be much ha ha ha.
                   still... i can't come to grips with these teenagers
in the bbc3 documentary talking about
automated thinking! i'm not denying it, i'm not
doubting it... it's just a question:
          how could such a pronoun muddle come about
that you discourage ownership of all your mental
activity? and instead leave a rampant kindred of an
abandoned snail's shell body to wreck havoc?
   it's almost like a a want to refuse to use words...
or encode words... rarely are people told
that the eyes are used as encoding organs...
                   but that the tongue knows no filters...
what the eye ingests... the tongue sometimes can't
digest... and vice-versus... that what the eyes digest
the tongue can't ingest: hence the rebellion
against contrary political ambitions -
   the ears? well: the ears are allocated the heart as
a partner... the tongue and eyes are entwined...
but the ears are allocated the heart...
                     you tend to feel words more than
hear them... because by the time the tongue
represses combining itself with the eyes to
that elevation of thought... your body becomes
autocratically synchronised to a sort of music
of heightened of unanimous response...
             well, it's not exactly a fetish watching such
documentaries.. iconoclasm in metaphor...
  i swear i wrote this before... how philosophy avoids
grammatical genuses... and how all too
ambivalent poetically equivalent nouns and verbs
are to hide our imperfections that precipitate from
art... iconoclasm / anamorphosis in metaphors...
                         camaïeu in allegory...
                   divisionism in pun...
                                       chiaroscuro in imagery...
gestural abstraction in onomatopoeia...
                     just some examples, and none necessarily
     convincing - as ever... this is my excuse
for i am always bound to say language is Alcatraz
   and my escape from Alcatraz is bound to metaphors,
fo
Kiernan Norman Jan 2015
I picture them in a balmy hallway,
far-corner huddled; quietly, urgently
comparing their notes on ways I have loved.

They'll laugh at lame jokes and avoid eye contact,
each surprised by their own awkwardness.
One of them will quip the term
'eskimo brother'
and immediately wish he hadn't.
The rest will kindly ignore it.
The moment will pass.

They will slowly shed their discomfort.
They will remove their coats.
Sweat will bloom at collars
and trace knotty bumps of spine before
pooling into the space between
boxers and belt.

They won't openly discuss the
strange comradery
that accompanies the lazy river evenings spent drifting down the same mind-
but the tension pulling across
each of their jaws
will announce loud and clear
how frustrating it has
been to be cropped,
tucked in, paper fortune teller folded
and wrapped up into someone else’s idea of poetry.


Casually
then all at once,
they will get started.
Printed pages will uncoil from backpacks,
phones will emerge from pockets
and fingers slightly shaking
will chase the letters
of my name through search engines.

My sticky poems will fan out across floorboards.
They will lower their bodies carefully, not quite kneeling,
(and without mention of the bad knees they happen to share.)
They'll hover above each piece of evidence
and their eyes will crash along titles and memories-
they'll read with raised
eyebrows and pretend as if
they don't already know
each poem, each quick dig, by heart.

When they start claiming
and denying pieces
they will do so lightly
and without judgment.
'This piece is about you and the dry, delicate
tissue-shell of skin
she held out for you after you told
her to shed.
But this piece- this piece is about me
and the messy ointment
that ruined her clothes and
stained her blankets.
A doctor instructed she
apply the ointment to her hands
twice a day to treat
the burns my silence left
across her arms and throat.'

They will share a bit of rage,
A bit of regret.
A bit of shame, perhaps.
They will either miss me intensely
or not at all.
They will either own up
to the poems they begat
or begin refuting.
They don’t want any of
this chilly weight on their soul.
I understand.

They didn’t sign up for this, I know that.
They didn’t set out to rock me,
nor to dig down deep and get to my China.
I was happy to share, to whisper and recite blurry
morning confessions and epiphanies.
I was right behind them running toward the sand dunes,
waving a shovel and pail.
But I can’t feel bad either.
You all must have known:

If you happen to fall for a girl
who writes you must realize
that every smile you put on her face,
every stray hair you’ve pushed back from her eyes,
and quick habit she starts to crave
is fair game.

If a girl who writes happens to fall for you too--
forget it.
You will find echoes of the way your souls fit and fought
together until she has nothing left to feel on the subject;
(and you must be well aware
she's tidal, her feelings are icecaps,
they are melting but will trickle fresh
and renewed for centuries to come.)
onlylovepoetry Jul 2016
for Sally, Bex and Tonya, Denel and my beloved

<>

gods do not seek forgiveness,
or comprehension,
desertion, desecration, ascension
or condemning condescension

but how how they crave
just a good conversation,
to get a word in edgewise,
a nice chat,
entrée à, la tête-à-tête,
entre deux, deluxe-amis

a casually talking,
absent of
words of need and beseech,
reason and causality,
and no I or We pronouns,
sans enunciations and annunciations,
false hopes for incarnations, incantations,
set asides for life's grievous aches
all human requests, and some of God's commandments
for now, set aside,
annulled

just a talk,
some repartee,
but mostly an open ear lent,
an early morn quiet listen
over tea (he/she) and coffee (me),
paying attention to
both sides of an interactive story

as recompense for my willingness to be,
his engaged counter party,
my mourning gloomier cloudiness,
quick exchanged for instant,
rising sunshine warming glorious

my vista
of a bay dancing
to Tchaikovsky Swan Lake ballet music,
deftly inserted between
an Agnus Dei and an Ave Maria

mood music he said,
and we chuckled,
he/she was god and orchestrated
my tastes,
Adele et Dudamel,
comprehending my undesirable apprehension,
by granting my needy wish for
poetic inspirational composition contentment

all exchanged,
for just a good listen,
no judgements, in either direction

I am the god of love,
the one who makes you weep,
when you study your beloved's rising chest,
each uplifted breast heaving,
a confirmation blessing,
that her life is present
for at least the next second,
ready for your magi adoration

be not fearful,
this day we talk only,
as I pass by,
I have no business to conduct,
on your island of sheltering redoubt,
but to engage and unburden
for even gods
are required to confess,
and aging godheads do adore
a human shoulder
upon to rest,
a great invention,
(If I may say so myself)
and to whom better to address
than my only love poetry
poète personnelle

here he off-guards me
with a favorite injection,
Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings,
music so sweet that it never fails
to weaken my knees,
sweeping my eyes unto weeping
priming me with this first coat of
sounds so elementary soothing

he half-bows before me and says,


forgive me human, for I have sinned

in Dallas and Nice,
just this past week,
with forays here and there,
doing god's work

read your bitterness and struggle,
anger and forgiveness all in one crust,
furious curses and wails so plaintive,
my heavenly musicians weep from jealousy,
at the cries emanating from the fired fury song
of human hearts torn and love plundered

I am the god of love

and

the god of pain and all that is the

anti-love

(and to make me better understand,  
Schindler's List score, so sweetly,
he plays for me,
to clarify the atmosphere,
that death and love -
and the courage of understanding,
so oft go hand in hand)

write me a love poem for me,
no hymn or sonnet do I require,
for love is essence of forgive,
there is no perfect union,
that cannot stand,
with out this emotion of
conciliatory intermediation

tell me you understand
that the scales
of bereft befallen,
disparate chance interrupting randomized,
must periodic perforce
sometimes weigh more,
than the good of simple

balance tip that creative god spark within,
of which you write,
away from my bloodied, unsightly hand

write me one more love poem
a frisson semi-sweet and cleanly neat,
of good things sad,
but worthy of remembrance

you are not the first for this bequest to receive,
other poet's before and after,
will Jacob-wrestle with my angels,
battling to find the...

no matter

"my love to thee is sound sans crack or flaw"^

let your love poem
to me
be of whole healing,
for these disarrayed feelings
cannot forever persist,
the perfect balance you desire
is not on your Earth existent,
unobtainable

these cracks and flaws must and will come


and yet

love poems
will be our common language

and then he/she left,
leaving this poem behind,
born from my mind, yet,
carved on my skin,
written with the nib of my rib,
sealed and signed,
future undefined,
but dated upon my
cleansed hand's lifeline,
hand held outstretched
as if to say


“and yet"
^ "my love to thee is sound sans crack or flaw".
William Shakespeare

Sunday, July 17th 2016
8:42am
Anno ab incarnatione Domini
Joseph S C Pope Jun 2013
There is nothing new under the sun, but it was night and the indifferent blinks of gaseous lives above looked down while my friends and I were at a new fast food joint that moved next to a now lonely Wendy's, with a faded sign tarnished by something the new fast food joint had yet to experience—mundanity by time. But I had my notebook with me while we ate outside, but it was in the car. My mind is always in that book, and I remembered something I had written for a novel in progress: 'Nothing is new under the sun. How is it possible to watch stars die? There is nothing new to their dust. We are the flies of the universes.'
It was just when I had finished my BBQ pork sandwich when Ariana suggested visiting a graveyard. I had the idea to visit a Satanist graveyard that our friend, Lanessa warned us against for the better safety of our sane souls—good luck with that. I wanted a revival of fear. How the beast would rip at the roof off our metal can of a car—the greater our barbarism, the greater our admiration and imagination—the less admiration and imagination, the greater our barbarism. But Ariana disagrees with words I never say, Nick laughs with my simple words to that previous thought. How funny it would be to burn eternal.
But then he suggested we should go to the Trussel in Conway. I had no idea or quote to think about to contribute to this idea. I wander, as I like to, into the possibility that his idea is a good one. Like some wanting hipster, I dress in an old t-shirt with of mantra long forgotten in the meaning of its cadence.
That is the march of men and women into the sea—honest, but forgetful and forgotten.
I was wearing a shirt sleeve on my head I bought from a mall-chain hippie store, and exercise shorts, finished off with skele-toes shoes. I was ready for everything and nothing at the same time. And that fits, I suppose. But all that does matter—and doesn't, but it is hard as hell to read the mind of a reader—it's like having a lover, but s/he doesn't know what s/he wants from you—selfish *******.
But there I was,  on the road, laughing in the back seat, sitting next to a girl who was tired, but also out of place. I could see she wanted to close arms of another, the voice of another, the truth that sits next to her while watching tv every time she comes over to hang with him, but never accepts that truth. She is a liar, but only to herself. How can she live with that? The world may never know.
The simple rides into things you've never done before give some of the greatest insight you could imagine, but only on the simple things that come full circle later. That is a mantra you can't print on a t-shirt, but if it ever is, I'm copyrighting it. And if it's not possible, I'll make it possible!
When we got to the Trussel, the scenic path lit by ornamented lamps seemed tame once I stepped onto the old railroad tracks. They were rusted and bruised by the once crushing value of trains rolling across it's once sturdy structure. Now they were old, charred by the night, and more than just some abandoned railroad bridge—the Trussel was a camouflage symbol birthed by the moment I looked into a Garfish's eye as it nibbled on my cork while I was on a fishing trip with my granddad when I was eleven. I remember that moment so well as the pale, olive green eye looked at me with a sort of seething iron imprint—I needed that fear, it branded instead of whispering that knowledge into my ears.
That moment epitomizes my fear of heights over water—what lies beneath to rip, restrain, devour, impale, and or distract me.
But epitomize is a horrible word. It reeks of undeveloped understanding. Yet  I want a nimble connection with something as great as being remembered—a breathe of air and the ideas  thought by my younger self, but I will never see or remember what I thought about when I was that young—only the summary of my acts and words. And by that nothing has changed—am I too afraid to say what I need to say? Too afraid to hear what everyone else hears? Or is it the truth—depravity of depravities that has no idea of its potential, so I am tired of the words that describe my shortcomings and unextended gasping hope. I am tired of living in the land of Gatsby Syndrome waiting for Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy!
But when we got to where the Trussel actually began I felt the fear hit like the day it was born—all hope was drained, and I was okay with abandoning all aspirations of having fun and being myself in the face of public criticism. I was flushed out by the weasel in my belly—the ******* beneath those still waters. I compare it to someone being able to handle Waterboarding, but can't handle being insulted—it's that kind of pathetic.
I stood just on the last understandably steady railroad ties that I knew were safe and watched my friends sit off the edge of the bridge, taking in the cold wonder of the night, and I was told at least I was smarter than my dead cousin who managed to get on top of his high school in the middle of the night, but had to be cohearsed down for fifteen minutes by a future marine, and future mourner who still grieves with a smile on his face.
The future mourner, he laughs at the times he insulted, or made fun of, or chilled with his now dead friend. It's never the bad times he cries about, there are none—just the good times, because they don't make them like they used to.
I watched them in that moment, and I don't know if I can deal with knowing my life is real. I began to blame my morality on this fear even though I already justified the fear just seconds before. But as I write this, I look over my notes and see something I wrote a few days ago: 'Life is ******* with  us right now. You laugh and I laugh, but we're still getting ******. The demon's in our face.'
As morbid as that comes off, it resonates some truth—what is killing us is going to **** us no matter what we do—and I don't want to be epitomized by the acts and words I didn't say.
I was never in the moment as a kid—I was raised by by old people and kept back by my younger siblings. The experienced tried to teach me wisdom, and the inexperienced kept my imagination locked in time. I don't want to go home as much now because I see that the inexperienced are becoming wiser everyday and the experienced are dying before my eyes. My idea of things is enduring leprosy.
But back to the simple moments.
Ariana saw a playground as she stood up and investigated the Trussel. It was next to the river, behind the church, fenced off by the fellowship of the church to keep the young ones in and the troublesome out. Of course, we didn't realize there was a gate and it was locked until Nick stated the probable obvious within ten feet of the nostalgic playground. And that's when Ariana pointed out the bugs swarming the parking lot outdoor lamp that blazed the fleshiness of our presences into dense shadows and more than likely caught the eye of a suspicious driver in a truck passing by. But I was still on the bridge—back in the past, never the moment. Me and my friends are still children inside these ***** forms. I muttered to myself: “Life ain't about baby steps.”
Nick looked over and asked what I said. I turned around, dramatic, like I always like to and repeated louder this time, “Life ain't about baby steps.”
He asked if I needed to do this alone, and I said he could come along. I walked rhythmically across the railroad ties, and heard Ariana comment that getting to the railroad up the small, steep hill was like being in the Marines. I laughed sarcastically. Nick and I had been to Parris Island before, and I know they test your possible fears, but they beat the living **** out of them.
I casually walk into the room where my fear lives and tell it to get the **** out.
When I reached the precipice of the last railroad tie I stood on before, I felt the old remind me that death awaited me, but there was no epic soundtrack or incredible action scene where I stab a manifestation of my fear in heart—a bit fun it might have been, but not the truth. I bear-crawled over the crossings of the ties and the structure of the bridge itself. I felt Relowatiphsy—an open-minded apathy self-made philosophical term—take over me. It is much simpler than it sounds.
There was no cold wonder as I imagined. There was just a bleak mirror of water below, a stiff curtain of trees that shadowed it, and the curiosity of what lies in the dark continuing distance past the Trussel.
Nick sat with me and we talked about women and fear, or at least I did, and I hoped he felt what I did—there was a force there that is nabbed by everyone, but cherished by few—courage. And I thank him for it, but I know I did it. Now I want to go and jump in that still water below—Ariana later says she's happy I got over my fear, but I'll probably have a harder time during the day when I can see what I'm facing, but I see it differently. During the day, the demons are stone and far away—like looking down the barrels of a double-barreled shotgun uncocked and unloaded, but at night is when the chamber is full and ready to go, and you have no idea who is holding the gun with their finger on the trigger and your destination in mind.
Then we threw rocks into the water in contest to see who could throw past the moonlight into the shadowy distance . I aimed for the water marker, and got the closest with limited footing, using just my arm strength. But it wasn't long before we had to leave, making fun of people who do cooler things than us, on the way to the car. I had to ride in the back seat again because I forgot to call shotgun. But on the way home, the idea popped in our heads what we should get my hooka and go to Broadway, and get the materials so we could smoke on the beach.
Nick's girlfriend and her friend joined us.
I missed a few puns against my co-worker as I was sent to get free water from the candy store where I work. I ended up doing a chore because I was taller than most of the people there. Appropriate enough, it was filling the water bottles up in the refrigerator.
All the while I loathed the fact that I would have to be clocked in tomorrow by two in the afternoon. I grabbed the water and got out of there as fast as possible without appearing to be in a hurry.
Impression of caring matters more than the actuality where I work—and yes, that makes me a miserable ****.
Perhaps it's not too late to admit I am recovering pyromaniac from my childhood and the flavoring we use for the taffy is extremely flammable. It would be a shame to drench the store in what people love to smell everyday when they walk in, and light the gas stove. Then, maybe I could walk away real cool-like as this pimple in this tourist acne town pops like the Hindenburg. The impression of splendor is like a phoenix—it grows old, dies, resurrects into the same, but apparently different form, spreads it's wings, and eats and ***** on everything simple, or presumably so.
I forget the name of the beach, but it was the best time I've had in a while. I was whimsy, and high on the vastness of the stretch of beach around us. They could bury us here. But me in particular. I rolled from the middle of the beach to the water, stood in the waves and shouted my phrase I coined when I realize something as wonderful as conquering a fear or realizing a dream;
--******' off!
And I stared at the horizon. My friends came up behind me and I looked back to see it was Nick and his girlfriend hugging. I gave a soft smile, put my hands in my pocket, and turned back to stare at the clouded horizon. What beasts must lie out there—more ferocious than the simple fresh water beings that wait beneath the earlier placid waters. I was a fool to think that was the worst. Nick said as I pondered all that, that I looked like Gatsby, and I tried to give him a smile that you may only see once in a lifetime, but I'm sure it failed.
I wanted to tell him that, “You cannot make me happy. It is usually the people who have no intention of making me happy that makes me smile the quickest.” But I don't. Let me be Gatsby, or Fitzgerald, if to no one else, but myself.

Hell is the deterioration of all that matters, and as the five of us sat around the hooka, and inhaled the thick blueberry flavored smoke that hinted at the taste of the Blueberry flavoring I use to make Blueberry taffy, there was a satirical realization that the coal used to activate the tobacco and flavor in the bowl is sparking like a firework, and reminds us all of where we're going.
It's a love affair between that hopelessness and hope of some destination we've only read about, but never seen.
By this point Nick and I are covered in sand, because he joined me in fun of rolling down the beach. We want so bad to be Daoists—nonchalant to the oblivion as we sit in. Just on the rifts of the tide, he and I scooped handfuls of wet sand, and I lost my fear of making sense and let Relowatiphsy take over again.
“Look at the sand in your hands. It can be molded to the shapes your hands make. We scoop it out of the surf and it falls through our fingers. There are things we're afraid of out there, and we sit just out reach of them, but within the grasp of their impressions. The sand falls through our fingers, and it plops into the tide, sending back up drops of water to hit our hands—the molders of our lives.” I said all that in hope against the hopelessness of being forgotten.
Then he said, “What if this is life? Not just the metaphor, but the act of holding sand in our hands.
I relish in his idea of wiping away my fear of an unimportant life. And by this point, it's safe to assume I live to relish ideas.

The last bit of sand from the last handful of sand was washed from my hand and I looked back at the clouded horizon, pitch black with frightful clouds and said:
“Nick, if I don't become a writer. If I live a life where I just convince myself everything's fine, and that dream will come true after I finish all the practical prep I 'must' do. I will **** myself.
I looked at him, Relowatiphsy in my heart, and he said:
“As a friend, I'd be sad, but I'd understand. But that means you have to literally fight for your life now—regardlessly.”
And he left me with those words. Just the same as my granddad left me a serious heed before he wanted to talk about something more cheerful, when I asked about his glory days fishing the Great *** Dee River. He said: “I wish I'd been here before the white man polluted the river. It would've been something to fish this water then”, then he paused to catch his breath, “Guess there are some things that stay, and others than go.” Then joy returned, as it always does.

But the idea of what was happening to me didn't hit me until we were a few miles away from the beach, covered in sand, but the potential of the night after conquering my fear of heights over water had been shed in the ocean.
Around midnight, when the headache from the cheap hooka smoke wore off and the mystic veil of the clouds over the horizon has been closed in by the condensation on the windows of some Waffle House in Myrtle Beach. There was a wave of seriousness that broke over my imagination. Works calls for me tomorrow by two.
There's not much vacationing when you live in a vacation town.
And midnight—the witching hour—spooks away the posers too afraid to commit to rage against the fear.
But there are others—college students that walk in and complain about the temperature of the eating establishment, and the lack of ashtrays—how they must be thinking of dining and dashing—running from a box, but forever locked in it.

They make annoying music as I write this. That is how they deal.
This one was the unedited version (if I make that sound naughty or euphemistic).
Gladys P Jun 2014
A parade of fluorescent silhouettes,
Aim against a tranquil lit afternoon sky,
In a collage of interwoven blossoms,
Casually stretching,
Side by side.

Releasing a pleasant aroma,
Interlacing within the calming sea,
As the water creases, upon a bed of shimmery grains,
Below a shade of fluffy clouds,
A place you would never want to leave.

When the tides slowly washes in,
In a rich and mild lather .... lacking impel,
Underneath a ribbon of distinctive seashells,
Leaving a mesmerizing imprint,
And a magical spell.
Ayad Gharbawi Jan 2010
The Story Of Sara

Chapter 7

Ayad Gharbawi


Chapter 7: GETTING A JOB AS A PSYCHIATRIST



At around this time, I realized, that I was living with Sanji and I still wasn't working, and so, that dear soul was having to work overtime in order to take care of me.
  I swear Sanji never complained; not even a ****** hint – but, I to my embarrassment, I realized this fact!
  "Sanji I just want to tell you I'm so sorry for not working; I just want to,"
  "Don't worry, Sara; you've been under stress and so I can understand. You've needed time to emotionally recuperate from the traumas of the recent past."
  "Yes, but stress or no stress, it's high time to work again. Don't forget, Sanji, I've got a psychiatry degree?!"
  "And, work will do you good. It will be a good source of distraction. Get your minds off this whole subject of the party, guilt, Omar and God knows what else!"
  "You're absolutely right, Sanji. Tomorrow, I'll be looking for any vacancies.
  I felt happy; I felt that finally I was going to be useful again.
  After all those years working for the party and feeling that I was being 'useful' and then discovering to my horror that I had been of absolutely no 'use', now I can say that I shall be useful to society.
  I will be respectable again.
  I will have a sense of direction in my life.
  A clear sense of where I'm going with my life, rather than just drifting like a jellyfish in the ocean.


  Sure enough, the next day I set off for the job centre, and applied for any vacancies for a psychiatry post.
  Within days, I received an offer for an interview at my local hospital.
  I was to be interviewed by Dr. Tajim, who was the Head of the Psychiatric Department at my local hospital.
  I went to the department, and there I met Dr. Tajim who was to interview me.
  Obviously, I was tense.
  "Good morning; how are you Ms. Sara?" said the elderly doctor.
  He looked frightening.
  "Very well, thank you," I replied.
  He was about sixty five; a bit overweight, and as I looked at him more closely, I pleasantly discovered that he had a really pleasant face and gently inquisitive eyes.
  I relaxed.
  I totally misjudged the character of this kind man!
  He wasn't at all overbearing, or stiff or cold; in fact, he was a very welcoming old gentleman, and he made you feel utterly comfortable with him, so all your nervousness simply dissipated!
  I had heard that one of his own sons was suffering from depression and that he was in a hospital.
I also had heard, that that fact really affected him a lot, and, at times, it seemed to emotionally exhaust him; and, yet he would persevere and he was known to be really loving, compassionate and deadly serious in his efforts to help not only his son, but all his patients to get over their depression.
  "Now, you do know what the job offer is about?" asked the soft spoken doctor.
  "Yes Sir; I am to be a psychologist for patients who are in Category 'C'."
  "I see, and you do know who are patients in Category 'C'?"
  "Yes, Sir. They are patients with mild to severe depression."
  "Good, that's correct. Do you have experience in working with depressed patients?"
  I thought for a quick moment.
  I couldn't lie.
  "No, Dr. Tajim; I have no experience, but I wish you would give me the chance to prove myself."
  "But that is rather strange. You are twenty eight years old, and you graduated age twenty one – so, the obvious question, is what were you doing in those intervening years?"
What am I supposed to do here? I needed Sanji to be with me. How can I tell Dr. Tajim that I was 'working' with so-called 'political parties''? I couldn't. He would never employ me if I told him which 'party' I had been working for. If I had worked for a decent, respectable party, then presumably, he would have had no problems with me, but working Tony and Omar?!


  I had to lie.
  Lie to survive!
"Dr. Tajim, during those intervening years, I worked on a voluntary basis for charities broad, helping the sick."
  "I see, that's interesting; where did you work, and what exactly did you do for the sick?"
  Great!
  Now I had to dig the hole of lies even deeper!
  What else can I do?
  Tell him that I was joking and that I never really worked abroad? Of course not, that would make me a fool.
  I really didn't want to lie.
  But what choice did God give me?
  "Yes, Sir. I worked in Uganda, in a village called Sanji", my God, of all names that came to my mind, I couldn't think of anything else except Sanji's name! "Yes, and there in that humble village, I acted as a nurse for the sick, in a really small infirmary."
  "Sanji?" Dr. Tajim asked, narrowing his eyes with incredulity.
  "Yes, Sir; as far as I remember, the village was called Sanji, but you know the odd thing about rural Uganda, is just how one village can have so many different names, since each tribe would have their own names, that differed from other tribes. So, you must excuse me, it was a little bit confusing."
  Rural Uganda!
  What on earth was I talking about!


  And did Dr. Tajim actually believe me?
  I was insecure, because I had no idea if Dr. Taji actually believed the lies I was saying.
  "I see; I ask because Sanji is not quite an African name."
  "Yes, Dr. Tajim; indeed, I may be completely wrong, but, as I say, there were so many languages in Uganda, that it was really difficult to communicate with anyone."
  God knows what I was saying!
  I was just saying whatever came out of my mind!
  "I see. Yes, there are different languages in Uganda, and indeed in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. But, I never knew that names of towns and villages would change, and certainly, no African tribe would give an African village 'Sanji' as a name. But anyway, maybe, as you say, the name may not have been 'Sanji'. Anyway, where did you get your training as a nurse?"
  Relief!
  Oh yes, but now I had to create another lie, in order to explain where I got my 'training' from.
I was getting deeper into this lying game.
  But I couldn't now worry about the morality of that.
  I had to come up, with an immediate answer to his pertinent question.
  "You see, Dr. Tajim, I went as a volunteer to rural Uganda, to help build homes and help women in their daily lives, and the next thing I know, is when the local doctor asked me for help. When I informed him that I wasn't a nurse, he said he would teach me. I soon learned the basic first aid medicine that was required. I guess, that I could be useful in the hospital in that sense too."
  "I see, Ms. Sara."
  Finally, Dr. Tajim paused, giving me time to think of what else he may ask me about my 'time' in 'rural Uganda'.
  "I see," he repeated, looking confused.
  Strange I thought, but this doctor would start every sentence with 'I see'.
  "So, for all those intervening years, you remained in this one village?"
  "Um, why yes, Dr. Tajim. I did spend all my time in Saji. Is that so strange?"
  My God, I called the non-existing village 'Saji', rather than 'Sanji'.
  Would he notice?
  "I see, but, I mean, as a volunteer, didn't your superiors relocate you to another village, or to another country, in all those seven or so years?"  
  I couldn't understand why Dr. Tajim was surprised at the time, which goes to show what a poor liar I was.
  Of course, later I would learn, that volunteers to Third World countries would get stationed in not more than a year or two in any country – let alone one tiny village!
  But, for that moment, I could only go on with my lies.


  "Yes, Dr. Tajim. I was posted for that village all those years."
  I simply stuck to my lie.
  Defend your lies, or else you drown.
  "I see, how strange. And now you are permanently back here?"
  "Yes, Sir."
  "I see," said Dr. Taji, looking uncomfortable.
  Silence, as he turned his attention to the papers on his desk.
   I felt that he was simply going to call me a complete 'liar' and to get out of his office.
  "Well, I shall get in touch with you. Give me a few days to get to a decision."
  "Thank you Dr. Tajim. I hope you will just give me a chance to prove to you, Sir, that I shall be really good at my job."
  What a surprise!
  With that, I got up and headed for the door.
  "Ms. Sara!" Dr. Tajim asked.
  "Yes, Sir?"
  I hope I didn't look nervous or startled.
  "Yes, before I forget, do send me by email the relevant documents from your charity organisation that gives me the official notification of your time you worked for them. Like a Letter of Recommendation from them."
  Yes, now I was startled.
  I know the colour of my face must have turned red.
   Where on earth would I be able to get any document from any charity organisation?!
  I felt that I was now caught!
  Was I going to be caught for lying?
  "No problem, Dr. Tajim," that's what came out of my mouth. And I found myself leaving Dr. Tajim's office.


  As soon as I was a safe distance from the hospital, I began to think once more: how can I forge documents that are supposed to be from a charity organisation? And, even if I did forge them with some expert computer person, wouldn't Dr. Tajim simply call the telephone number of the charity organisation and enquire about me, and then he would obviously be told that I had never worked for them, let alone having me fly off to Uganda?!
  Back at home, I sat down, and realized there was no exit.
  I lied and so now I must take the risk that Dr. Tajim simply would not call the charity organisation.
  I would choose one of the biggest organizations who would have hundreds of thousands of volunteers, and even if he did check, I could say that their computers get it wrong! They didn't register my name because they have so many volunteers!
  But, no, that's stupid of me.
  If I supposedly worked for seven years for one organization, then they would obviously have my name in their computer files.
  I was being stupid.
  Too rash.
  No, that's it.  
  I lied and so I must take the consequences.
  I would risk it.

  Well, I did forge a charity organization letterhead, and I wrote that I did 'serve' for seven years in rural Uganda.
  Next, I scanned the document, and had it sent by email to Dr. Tajim.
  To my complete surprise, within a few days, I got an official letter from Dr. Tajim's secretary, saying that I was accepted by the psychiatric unit in the hospital!
  I was so thrilled, that to be honest, I couldn't in the least be bothered about my lies!
  I was now going to be a useful member of society!
  At last!
  I was going to be a worthy, decent, respectable person!

**************

  As I got to work in the Psychiatric Department in the hospital, they began almost secretarial tasks to do. I would get 'introduced' to the depressed patients and, gradually, I was allowed more and more time to talk to the patients.
  I was really happy and pleased with myself, because I felt that I was, at last a 'respectable' person.
  For the first time since I had left, or rather since I was expelled from the party, I felt proud of myself; and perhaps, most importantly to me, was the feeling that I knew where my life was going.
  I would walk anywhere and, when asked, what I did for a living, I proudly reply that I was a doctor in the Psychiatric Department in our local hospital.

  It was at this time that I was watching television in Sanji's apartment, when the latter walked in and said:
  "You are not going to believe who is with me!"
  "Judging from the excitement on your face, it must be someone very important." I replied casually.
  "Yes, yes; so guess who?" asked Sanji.
  "Oh God, Sanji how am I to know? The Prime Minister perhaps?" I answered sarcastically.
  The next thing I know was that none other than Tony walked in!
  My goodness me! I was absolutely shocked and awed by his presence!
  What was Tony doing here?!
  This was the first time I had seen him since I left his party and joined Omar's party.
  And, I guess, he must have just left prison, because, it had been about one year, since I heard that he was prosecuted by our courts.
  He had changed a little bit.
  He was much fatter – which, I thought was a bit odd, since he had been in prison, and I thought that everyone in prison gets to lose weight!
  He looked older than his years. He had dark rings below his eyes, and for the first time in my life, I was really surprised, to find out, that he looked utterly dull, weary and tired.
  He seemed to have lost all that will power, charisma and charm.
  They were no longer part of his personality.
  "What are you doing here?" I managed to ask Tony.
  "And why not? Why shouldn't I be here?" he answered smartly.
  I got confused all over again.


After all, what had happened to him since our entire movement collapsed?
  I never thought about what happened to Tony, or Omar for that matter.
  Selfishly, I just thought about myself.
  That was typical of me.
  "You look dazed, Sara," said Tony laughing. "Is my appearance that shocking to you?!"  He joked.
  "No, not at all." I regained my composure, or at least, I tried to regain my composure. "It's just that, I never did understand, or know, what really happened to our movement? And what happened to you Tony?"
"Sara is confused about the entire movement." Sanji said to Tony.
  "Well, what happened is actually quite simple," said Tony, "the new government decided to take legal action against us for the first time. Previously, every government never even took us seriously enough to warrant a concerted attack to eliminate us. To them, we were just clowns."
  I was shocked.
  "Clowns? What do you mean Tony? What do you mean previous governments did not take us seriously? Of course they took us seriously; Tony, we were in a state of war, remember? What's happened to your memory? We were fighting battle after,"
  "Let me interrupt you, Sara; but you are so utterly naïve and blind that I just do not know how to face you with the facts."
  What do you mean? What are you talking about?" I asked frantically.
  Suddenly all those memories from the party days returned to me; for the moment I completely forgot that I was a doctor at the Psychiatric Unit; Tony had re-opened all my memories, anxieties and unanswered questions concerning those years.
  "Relax Sara, don't let your emotions take over your rational mind," Sanji said. "That's always been your problem. You simply allow your wildest emotions to highjack the rational part of your mind. I mean, you're supposed to be a psychiatrist and yet, you are so utterly impulsive in your thinking and in the actions you take."
  I knew Sanji was completely right. He was so rational and calm.
  "What 'battles' are you talking about Sara?" asked a perplexed Tony.
  Sanji laughed. "That's a good question Tony, go on, and ask her that one!"


  Tony joined Sanji laughing.
&n
Andrew Rueter Oct 2017
We find multiple ways to disconnect
Where business and technology intersect
We kick one another for cash
When we need equilibrium for our economy
Our morals disintegrate to ash
And we trade away our autonomy
But we don't dare reflect
Instead we disconnect
We turn people into symbols and numbers
So we can more comfortably slumber
After causing heartbreaking pain
Through bureaucratic chains
Because face to face
Our heart will race
And we'll examine our submerged morals
That lie in the depths with the coral
But our reflection is too much to bear
So we cowardly choose not to care
The only way we can feel ecstatic
Is to turn people into demographics

The Internet connects us
But also satisfies lust
And imitates human contact
Which has a negative impact
The feeling leaves us sated
And we don't feel the need to change
Our armor becomes plated
And we shoot arrows from long range
Because we don't like the idea of being one another
We get used to the idea of not seeing one another
We disconnect so we don't have to try
We disconnect so we can slowly die

The ****** disconnection continues
As we find more violent avenues
We utilize fatal instruments
To ****** without the sense
Of physically feeling
The life we're stealing
We stabbed one another with swords
Until the bullets soared
But we still needed more
So we disconnected further
And became satellite searchers
Studying people through actions
Defining them by faction
We don't have any interest in their personality or flaws
All we're concerned with is if they're breaking the law
The law we wrote to tip the scales
The law that makes us too big to fail

A husband leaves his wife
Disconnecting from her life
She's left with a child
To raise in the wild
Until a drone drops a bomb
On the struggling single mom
She's not an investor
So we'll just harvest her worthless life
Who'll be her protector
When she's near someone we don't like?
We **** her from our computer
That's the way we casually mute her

We carefully cultivated a disconnect
To treat one another like insects
This mentality will infect
Until we interject
Once we finally reflect
Love will connect
Katlyn Orthman Oct 2012
Death was not unfamilar to me. I'd killed my share of things classified as monsters. I wasn't complaining really, my job kept the humans safe. I just felt guilty, I was practically a monster myself. They call us Warriors of the night, we're not Vampires, we are born with extra strenght and a long life span. I was born a long time ago, I was raised to **** monsters that terrorize the human race. Since I was six, I'd been trained to ****. I was a killing machine, best of my kind. Yet somehow, even though what I do is considered an honor, I don't feel proud. I've been doing my job much to long, and lately I'd began getting sloppy with my work. God knows Rowan would be one ****** of boss if he heard about me letting the group of baby Werewolves. I wasn't a complete heartless ******* to **** a bunch of babies.
    I might've been two years ago, before the whole incident happened. I layed my head in my hands, I couldn't go there, not now. I needed a clear head. My small apartment in Master Singu's house was getting messy. I hadn't had time to clean lately with all of the monster attacks that had been popping up lately. Ghouls, Goblins, Oni, Ogre, you name it and it's been attacking. Wasn't much we could do with the Banshee, they were more of a signifier then a monster. A signifier of death, and usually they gave me a heads up if the person who's house it's been surrounding, is gonna die. Banshee were cruel looking creatures, never gotten to close to one, they make **** sure of that. Not sure I ever want to. They were ruled by the one and only, Death. And i will gladly stay as far from death as possible. Haven't heard too many good things about him. Death is one of the Four horsemen. Scariest ******* in the underworld, and I would gladly never meet any of deaths brothers or sisters, what ever the gender their welcome to stay away. There was a soft knock on my door, io glanced at the clock on the wall, it was already three. Warriors worked night shift basically, since thats the time most monsters like to come out.
    The victorian styled door was a black cherry carved wood, with a ancient symbols carved in so no evil spirit couls cross into my apartment, so I wasnt worried any monster was at my door. But I was suprised to see Cameron when I opened the door. Cameron and I used to work the nights together until he'd gone off and gotten married to Sylvia, who was a vampire. Vampires were only considered monsters when they didnt follow the rules. No feeding off of unwilling people, only donors, and they couldnt go around killing people. Their biggest rule though was not to tell any human what they were, Warriors like me had a lot of people to execute.
   "Cameron, never thought I'd see you around here anymore," just as I was talking to him I realized, Cameron looked scared and desperate. Unlike someone who spent his life killing evil monsters that were twice the size of him. " What's wrong Cameron?" He shook his head and walked past me, through the door and into the living room. "It's Sylvia, Theon please help me," Camerons voice was going all thick and his eye's all watery. This was deffinetly something bad. " Tell me, what has happened with Sylvia?" I needed Cameron in his most focused form to help me out, but as I looked at the shaking man I knew he was beyond that. " You remember the king vampire we took down to save Sylvia?" Cameron said quitely, but I knew instantly what vampire he was talking about. That vampire had killed Abelia. I quickly swept that from my mind and focused back on Cameron. " Yes I remember, "  I had no idea where Cameron was going with this. " You remember his brother than, the one that got away, he said that we would both pay. He, ah, made you pay that day. I never thought that he would carry out with his threat. He kidnapped Sylvia, and Sylvia is pregnant, " Cameron almost lost it right there.
    I never thought that, pip squeak of a vampire had it in him, but he was smart and possesed powers we hadn't known about until we had come across them. Their king that we had slayed, had been capturing girls of all species and abusing them in such barbaric ways.
We had to put an end to his affairs, and we did but his brother wasn't too happy about it. He'd done one of his tricks and manifested behind Abelia and snapped her neck. Everything for me had stopped, all I could hear was the blood in my veins. I didn't breath, I could still remember the deafining roar I had unleashed as my monster had gripped me, took the reins and killed all of the mans servants.
Blood had bathed the walls that night, not even the crickets dared to sing. The sun rose late that morning, and I sat inside this very apartment, on that very couch, and cried. For the very first time, I had cried until my eye's swelled shut, until my throat could bare no more. Until I passed out.
    "We'll get them back Cameron, don't worry. For now get some rest, we'll start investigating later tonight, I have meeting to attend," I was going to **** that ******* when I found him. He had taken my only love from me, and he would pay this time, I would make that absoultely certain. Cameron nodded and headed for the door. It was a long way back to his house, and he crossed quite a few bridges. I didn't want him making any bad decisions, " Cameron you can crash here, I have a guest room your welcome here man," I say casually so he doesn't get all prideful. He stops and looks at me for a moment then nods " Yeah, thanks man, and also thank you for agreeing to help me on this I know it's a bit of a touchy subject for you, just know i appreciate it." He made his way down the hall, I listened for the soft click of the door shuting before i went to leave.
    I grabbed my coat, and the keys to my Ducatti and ducked out the door. The hallway was long and at the end of it was two flights of srairs, I lived on the third floor. My motorcycle was parked right were I left it, it was a beauty. Black and red sleek metal and nice leather seats. I loved the bike so much I had named her Racer. I loved to drive fast, and so did she. I tore off out of the parking lot and listened to the purr of her engine on the way to Rowan's , my boss, office. It wasnt to far, but I wasn't in a rush either so i took the long road just to stall. I knew Rowan planned on giving me a partner. Probably some ****** that didnt know his way around a swiss army blade, let alone a sword. Warriors didnt use guns unless absoultely necessary. I loved the feel of my sword slicing through the air. I didn't, however, enjoy the noisy bang of a gun. A sword was like another limb, you have to trust it to take you were you need to go.
    Rowan's office light was on, and I could make out the form of three bodies. Great, I knew it, Rowan was going to assign me a partner.
I hated partners, the only one I'd ever slightly enjoyed had been Cameron. I got off my bike, patted the seat for good luck, and made my way into Rowans office. When I pulled open the door I was ready to yell at Rowan for even thinking of giving me a partner, instead i dropped my hand off the doorknob. " *******," was all I coluld say. I was stunned to silence.
To be continued! Hope I left you wanting to know more!
Joseph S C Pope Jun 2013
There is nothing new under the sun, but it was night and the indifferent blinks of gaseous lives above looked down while my friends and I were at a new fast food joint that moved next to a now lonely Wendy's, with a faded sign tarnished by something the new fast food joint had yet to experience—mundanity by time. But I had my notebook with me while we ate outside, but it was in the car. My mind is always in that book, and I remembered something I had written for a novel in progress: 'Nothing is new under the sun. How is it possible to watch stars die? There is nothing new to their dust. We are the flies of the universes.'
It was just when I had finished my BBQ pork sandwich when Ariana suggested visiting a graveyard. I had the idea to visit a Satanist graveyard that our friend, Lanessa warned us against for the better safety of our sane souls—good luck with that. I wanted a revival of fear. How the beast would rip at the roof off our metal can of a car—the greater our barbarism, the greater our admiration and imagination—the less admiration and imagination, the greater our barbarism. But Ariana disagrees with words I never say, Nick laughs with my simple words to that previous thought. How funny it would be to burn eternal.
But then he suggested we should go to the Trussel in Conway. I had no idea or quote to think about to contribute to this idea. I wander, as I like to, into the possibility that his idea is a good one. Like some wanting hipster, I dress in an old t-shirt with of mantra long forgotten in the meaning of its cadence.
That is the march of men and women into the sea—honest, but forgetful and forgotten.
I was wearing a shirt sleeve on my head I bought from a mall-chain hippie store, and exercise shorts, finished off with skele-toes shoes. I was ready for everything and nothing at the same time. And that fits, I suppose. But all that does matter—and doesn't, but it is hard as hell to read the mind of a reader—it's like having a lover, but s/he doesn't know what s/he wants from you—selfish *******.
But there I was,  on the road, laughing in the back seat, sitting next to a girl who was tired, but also out of place. I could see she wanted to close arms of another, the voice of another, the truth that sits next to her while watching tv every time she comes over to hang with him, but never accepts that truth. She is a liar, but only to herself. How can she live with that? The world may never know.
The simple rides into things you've never done before give some of the greatest insight you could imagine, but only on the simple things that come full circle later. That is a mantra you can't print on a t-shirt, but if it ever is, I'm copyrighting it. And if it's not possible, I'll make it possible!
When we got to the Trussel, the scenic path lit by ornamented lamps seemed tame once I stepped onto the old railroad tracks. They were rusted and bruised by the once crushing value of trains rolling across it's once sturdy structure. Now they were old, charred by the night, and more than just some abandoned railroad bridge—the Trussel was a camouflage symbol birthed by the moment I looked into a Garfish's eye as it nibbled on my cork while I was on a fishing trip with my granddad when I was eleven. I remember that moment so well as the pale, olive green eye looked at me with a sort of seething iron imprint—I needed that fear, it branded instead of whispering that knowledge into my ears.
That moment epitomizes my fear of heights over water—what lies beneath to rip, restrain, devour, impale, and or distract me.
But epitomize is a horrible word. It reeks of undeveloped understanding. Yet  I want a nimble connection with something as great as being remembered—a breathe of air and the ideas  thought by my younger self, but I will never see or remember what I thought about when I was that young—only the summary of my acts and words. And by that nothing has changed—am I too afraid to say what I need to say? Too afraid to hear what everyone else hears? Or is it the truth—depravity of depravities that has no idea of its potential, so I am tired of the words that describe my shortcomings and unextended gasping hope. I am tired of living in the land of Gatsby Syndrome waiting for Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy!
But when we got to where the Trussel actually began I felt the fear hit like the day it was born—all hope was drained, and I was okay with abandoning all aspirations of having fun and being myself in the face of public criticism. I was flushed out by the weasel in my belly—the ******* beneath those still waters. I compare it to someone being able to handle Waterboarding, but can't handle being insulted—it's that kind of pathetic.
I stood just on the last understandably steady railroad ties that I knew were safe and watched my friends sit off the edge of the bridge, taking in the cold wonder of the night, and I was told at least I was smarter than my dead cousin who managed to get on top of his high school in the middle of the night, but had to be cohearsed down for fifteen minutes by a future marine, and future mourner who still grieves with a smile on his face.
The future mourner, he laughs at the times he insulted, or made fun of, or chilled with his now dead friend. It's never the bad times he cries about, there are none—just the good times, because they don't make them like they used to.
I watched them in that moment, and I don't know if I can deal with knowing my life is real. I began to blame my morality on this fear even though I already justified the fear just seconds before. But as I write this, I look over my notes and see something I wrote a few days ago: 'Life is ******* with  us right now. You laugh and I laugh, but we're still getting ******. The demon's in our face.'
As morbid as that comes off, it resonates some truth—what is killing us is going to **** us no matter what we do—and I don't want to be epitomized by the acts and words I didn't say.
I was never in the moment as a kid—I was raised by by old people and kept back by my younger siblings. The experienced tried to teach me wisdom, and the inexperienced kept my imagination locked in time. I don't want to go home as much now because I see that the inexperienced are becoming wiser everyday and the experienced are dying before my eyes. My idea of things is enduring leprosy.
But back to the simple moments.
Ariana saw a playground as she stood up and investigated the Trussel. It was next to the river, behind the church, fenced off by the fellowship of the church to keep the young ones in and the troublesome out. Of course, we didn't realize there was a gate and it was locked until Nick stated the probable obvious within ten feet of the nostalgic playground. And that's when Ariana pointed out the bugs swarming the parking lot outdoor lamp that blazed the fleshiness of our presences into dense shadows and more than likely caught the eye of a suspicious driver in a truck passing by. But I was still on the bridge—back in the past, never the moment. Me and my friends are still children inside these ***** forms. I muttered to myself: “Life ain't about baby steps.”
Nick looked over and asked what I said. I turned around, dramatic, like I always like to and repeated louder this time, “Life ain't about baby steps.”
He asked if I needed to do this alone, and I said he could come along. I walked rhythmically across the railroad ties, and heard Ariana comment that getting to the railroad up the small, steep hill was like being in the Marines. I laughed sarcastically. Nick and I had been to Parris Island before, and I know they test your possible fears, but they beat the living **** out of them.
I casually walk into the room where my fear lives and tell it to get the **** out.
When I reached the precipice of the last railroad tie I stood on before, I felt the old remind me that death awaited me, but there was no epic soundtrack or incredible action scene where I stab a manifestation of my fear in heart—a bit fun it might have been, but not the truth. I bear-crawled over the crossings of the ties and the structure of the bridge itself. I felt Relowatiphsy—an open-minded apathy self-made philosophical term—take over me. It is much simpler than it sounds.
There was no cold wonder as I imagined. There was just a bleak mirror of water below, a stiff curtain of trees that shadowed it, and the curiosity of what lies in the dark continuing distance past the Trussel.
Nick sat with me and we talked about women and fear, or at least I did, and I hoped he felt what I did—there was a force there that is nabbed by everyone, but cherished by few—courage. And I thank him for it, but I know I did it. Now I want to go and jump in that still water below—Ariana later says she's happy I got over my fear, but I'll probably have a harder time during the day when I can see what I'm facing, but I see it differently. During the day, the demons are stone and far away—like looking down the barrels of a double-barreled shotgun uncocked and unloaded, but at night is when the chamber is full and ready to go, and you have no idea who is holding the gun with their finger on the trigger and your destination in mind.
Then we threw rocks into the water in contest to see who could throw past the moonlight into the shadowy distance . I aimed for the water marker, and got the closest with limited footing, using just my arm strength. But it wasn't long before we had to leave, making fun of people who do cooler things than us, on the way to the car. I had to ride in the back seat again because I forgot to call shotgun. But on the way home, the idea popped in our heads what we should get my hooka and go to Broadway, and get the materials so we could smoke on the beach.
Nick's girlfriend and her friend joined us.
I missed a few puns against my co-worker as I was sent to get free water from the candy store where I work. I ended up doing a chore because I was taller than most of the people there. Appropriate enough, it was filling the water bottles up in the refrigerator.
All the while I loathed the fact that I would have to be clocked in tomorrow by two in the afternoon. I grabbed the water and got out of there as fast as possible without appearing to be in a hurry.
Impression of caring matters more than the actuality where I work—and yes, that makes me a miserable ****.
Perhaps it's not too late to admit I am recovering pyromaniac from my childhood and the flavoring we use for the taffy is extremely flammable. It would be a shame to drench the store in what people love to smell everyday when they walk in, and light the gas stove. Then, maybe I could walk away real cool-like as this pimple in this tourist acne town pops like the Hindenburg. The impression of splendor is like a phoenix—it grows old, dies, resurrects into the same, but apparently different form, spreads it's wings, and eats and ***** on everything simple, or presumably so.
I forget the name of the beach, but it was the best time I've had in a while. I was whimsy, and high on the vastness of the stretch of beach around us. They could bury us here. But me in particular. I rolled from the middle of the beach to the water, stood in the waves and shouted my phrase I coined when I realize something as wonderful as conquering a fear or realizing a dream;
--******' off!
And I stared at the horizon. My friends came up behind me and I looked back to see it was Nick and his girlfriend hugging. I gave a soft smile, put my hands in my pocket, and turned back to stare at the clouded horizon. What beasts must lie out there—more ferocious than the simple fresh water beings that wait beneath the earlier placid waters. I was a fool to think that was the worst. Nick said as I pondered all that, that I looked like Gatsby, and I tried to give him a smile that you may only see once in a lifetime, but I'm sure it failed.
I wanted to tell him that, “You cannot make me happy. It is usually the people who have no intention of making me happy that makes me smile the quickest.” But I don't. Let me be Gatsby, or Fitzgerald, if to no one else, but myself.

Hell is the deterioration of all that matters, and as the five of us sat around the hooka, and inhaled the thick blueberry flavored smoke that hinted at the taste of the Blueberry flavoring I use to make Blueberry taffy, there was a satirical realization that the coal used to activate the tobacco and flavor in the bowl is sparking like a firework, and reminds us all of where we're going.
It's a love affair between that hopelessness and hope of some destination we've only read about, but never seen.
By this point Nick and I are covered in sand, because he joined me in fun of rolling down the beach. We want so bad to be Daoists—nonchalant to the oblivion as we sit in. Just on the rifts of the tide, he and I scooped handfuls of wet sand, and I lost my fear of making sense and let Relowatiphsy take over again.
“Look at the sand in your hands. It can be molded to the shapes your hands make. We scoop it out of the surf and it falls through our fingers. There are things we're afraid of out there, and we sit just out reach of them, but within the grasp of their impressions. The sand falls through our fingers, and it plops into the tide, sending back up drops of water to hit our hands—the molders of our lives.” I said all that in hope against the hopelessness of being forgotten.
Then he said, “What if this is life? Not just the metaphor, but the act of holding sand in our hands.
I relish in his idea of wiping away my fear of an unimportant life. And by this point, it's safe to assume I live to relish ideas.

The last bit of sand from the last handful of sand was washed from my hand and I looked back at the clouded horizon, pitch black with frightful clouds and said:
“Nick, if I don't become a writer. If I live a life where I just convince myself everything's fine, and that dream will come true after I finish all the practical prep I 'must' do. I will **** myself.
I looked at him, Relowatiphsy in my heart, and he said:
“As a friend, I'd be sad, but I'd understand. But that means you have to literally fight for your life now—regardlessly.”
And he left me with those words. Just the same as my granddad left me a serious heed before he wanted to talk about something more cheerful, when I asked about his glory days fishing the Great *** Dee River. He said: “I wish I'd been here before the white man polluted the river. It would've been something to fish this water then”, then he paused to catch his breath, “Guess there are some things that stay, and others than go.” Then joy returned, as it always does.

But the idea of what was happening to me didn't hit me until we were a few miles away from the beach, covered in sand, but the potential of the night after conquering my fear of heights over water had been shed in the ocean.
Around midnight, when the headache from the cheap hooka smoke wore off and the mystic veil of the clouds over the horizon has been closed in by the condensation on the windows of some Waffle House in Myrtle Beach. There was a wave of seriousness that broke over my imagination. Works calls for me tomorrow by two.
There's not much vacationing when you live in a vacation town.
And midnight—the witching hour—spooks away the posers too afraid to commit to rage against the fear.
But there are others—college students that walk in and complain about the temperature of the eating establishment, and the lack of ashtrays—how they must be thinking of dining and dashing—running from a box, but forever locked in it.

They make annoying music as I write this. That is how they deal with the inevitable death of the night. They bruise the air I breathe with love and faith and trust with no meaning—without even meaning it. But what do they know what I didn’t feel when I sat on that bridge or cowered on the fringes of the ocean? Their hands aren’t ***** like mine—their confidence does not seem fractured by these words that will never reach them, or their kids, or grandkids.
As day begins to move, I know I work at two and will be home by midnight again. The witching hour—where some stay and others go.
e vera Aug 2014
I hate that I know the location of the dumb moles on your back,

and that you told me about your grandmother's dementia,

or your mother's philosophy that no act is selfless,

I hate that you told me your most embarrassing secret,

or that you make me read cookbooks aloud on a Sunday morning, when I'm wearing nothing but your t-shirt from the night before, and every time I say a different ingredient you moan, or giggle, or gasp, or grab me and tell me how hot the way I say coriander is.

I hate that you wore ugly pajama pants around me,

I hate that you showed up, drunk, on my door step at 4am after ignoring me all night, and all you wanted to do was cuddle.

and that the next morning I called you a ****, and a ****, to your face, for making me so confused about whatever is going on with us.

I hate that you said "maybe we should take a step back, because I don't wanna be a ****"

(aka because you don't want a relationship.)

well, neither do I,

I never wanted this.

I was 4 months out of a 3 year relationship, enjoying my new found freedom.

I just woke up after a typical one night stand,
to all of my favorite things,
in one room,

your room.

I never wanted the guy I had been sleeping with at the time to turn off my "whiney pop punk", just to find the exact same cd in your collection days later.

I never wanted to find out that we have the same favourite bands, or that we both like films too much.

I never wanted you to offer to sneak home from work at 10am to drive me home, just so that I could have a few more hours sleep in your bed.

I never wanted to be attracted to a guy who is the total opposite from my usual "type",
or who reminds me of my dad.

I never wanted your best friend to tell me that he wants us to date, even though you're not ready for a relationship.

because I'm not either,

but now,

are we stuck attempting to casually **** other people to avoid what might be happening?

after all, in the span of one evening you ****** one best friend and I ****** the other.

I messaged you at 5am on Saturday,
after I'd had a ******* *******,
and you told me to come pick you up from some girl's house so that we could go back home to yours.

you told me that you didn't wanna hear my *** stories anymore.

you'd message me on a Monday afternoon, fishing to see if I'd ****** someone else on the weekend.

you told me one Saturday night that you wanted to spend the entire Sunday together, in your bed, watching Star Wars and ******* all day.

and that during the walk home, we could keep warm by making out.

you even messaged me to tell me that you kissed a girl, but that you then decided to go home and message me instead.

my friends have begun to hate you for all the head ******* you do to me,

and even after I changed your name back from "******" in my phone,
you still **** me around,

I don't even think you like The Smiths,
so I don't know why I care about you in the slightest,

I guess it must be because I think it's cute that when you talk about eating meat, you say the name of a vegetable instead, just to try and please me.

or maybe because whenever we are about to ****,
you say "tell me what you want"

and after I respond, I ask you
"what do you want?"
and all you moan to me is

"I want you".

or maybe just because we are kinda sexually compatible.

after all, you said the way I grab your **** is "magical".

our discussion last week, drunk, in the club bathroom.
when you yelled loudly about
how great I am in bed,
and how you hate your ****** job,
and that you've never been single as an adult,
and you just want to be free for once in your life.

and I said I was the same,
all I want is a life free of consequence,
doing whatever I want to do.
no
strings

we agreed that we both wanted the same thing,
and then you watched me leave with another guy.



I have to stop myself from thinking about the things that you say or do,
because I'm confused enough as it is.

like the fact that you messaged me to apologise for not having sober *** with me saturday morning,

or that you finally went down on me for the first time friday night,
(it only took you 3 months)
(some stupid part of me thinks it's because you like me,
but my common sense tells me otherwise),

I honestly don't know what we are doing,

and you probably don't either.
PK Wakefield Sep 2011
i swiftly, will into casually skies, wade fire into them and they alight on me cut like
sharp little eyes those heavens got such brusquely painted vaults all blue and slightly
they swim with whiteness in them are so puffed and drifting lazily on copper swooping
twilight they become a bit usual. but i comfortable and dauntless sleep in their heart, my blood ,
crinkles on the waxing moon's lustrous ***** (and it does roll crimson beads down through
each marvelous breast to upon her belly and becomes a singing bird of autumn and it dies
C Me Dec 2015
'Look at Me', so self absorbed in outward looks and latest fashion.
With disregard for inner peace, selfless thought, and kind compassion.
Piercing ears, with holes so big they look like they're starting to melt.
Trousers about our knees; showing off pants, clearly in need of a belt.

Cheap plastic toys bought without thought, of which so quickly we tire,
Relationship failing to last without love and once all consuming desire.
Throw away gadgets and electronic connections, with all  life's worth we trust.
But when they are broken, will never be fixed; just casually tossed, left to rot, and rust.

Mealtime no longer a social or family affair, at a table with fork and knife,
Check-in's a must so 'friends' will know that you're having a really great life .
No album prints of family snaps and childhood memories that last,
It's all about selfies, and sharing on line with 'friends' that human connections bypass.
KW Jun 2015
Tossed.

Casually-with ease. No second thought?

Maybe. But this I won’t ever know. Don’t need to-but want to.

That I, human, sensitive, feeling, committed, invested, involved, sacrificed.

And you, nonchalant, aloof, robotic, hard- a stone man.

Well, that is the tint through which I see you.

Once were. What exactly was it in the end? I don’t know.

Caught? Convenient? Comfortable?

And I, the wilted flower of once was. Memories slipping, falling, petals dripping from a tap left slightly open.

As is my heart- slightly open. Healing- but still bleeding.

And yours, is it tightly shut? Forever?

Seems so.

You stone man, with your clamped heart, wounds stitched- no bleeding here.

And I, tossed.

Casually-with ease.

Fresh water, new flowers. One, two, three?

And I, waking each morning. Slowly stretching, growing, leaf-arms reaching to the rays which are my hope, my optimism, my little nurse.

Slowly.

I cannot catch up to you, so quick.

But I choose not to. Time is precious and it’s mine. Now, I am not ready. My heart is soft, fragile, gentle.

It will be alright, stitched, whole-soon.

But now, in this moment, this small stretch of time, it is not.

When I feel replaced.

Tossed.

Casually-with ease.
ArturVRivunov Oct 2011
life is never what it seems to be, always reoccuring with a thought as put upon the length of arms that revolutionize this thought. . .for those that can be bought,
is day like today less then feeling of want to rot, because so simple as a breeze brought down your temperment to be pleased. . .caught in a storm, that has outlasted
longer then your heart to feel content and warm, to feel the essence of a breath among a group of bad breaths, in other words, to breath among a group of brothers and sisters
from whom you can gain so much. But life is never what it seems to be, instead you look yourself in the mirror pointing at me, you, fool. Glowing from ragging frustration,
the toll blows for you unsurpassable deflation, because it is not for your hand that grows for the motion, to pick which ******* **** you want to lotion. Spearing the reasons,
the ego is your hero, born to work zero, and trusted with such hand to uphold all by command. To twist on the ****, that opens your door, to circumstances i certainly care less
the **** to continue to explore. But with this slight little mention, please pay close attention because this song is a *****. At least to explain the message, my whole is a
whole that takes life time to experience and grow, and appreciate the things that stoop all the levels around me, no barrier, no door, just genuine life experience to bring me
to come to this point to explain to the world something within the self, that is described by astute persons, for whom these ideas carry on to fulfill an immense part of
something that is casually slipped in and never thought about because it is told within reason that humanity cannot be without such astute person's idealogy. For **** sake my
friend, if your have many common sense, think of the common thing that has driven you to come to the conclusion that you have come to about anything. Everything is absolute and
existent and is evoked through the means. . .from the time of your dissapating freedom, as kids, not as adults, because look at how adults are this days. They teach their kids,
and they let others teach their kids, but the kids never get the feeling of being free. I promiss you, that cry or emotion you have experienced due to lack of friendliness from a
neighboring ****, it is an instillement that sparks up many motions of your life to believe into bizarre things the world portrays. For myself, I find the starting point of my
when I first breathed my first sensible air, when I walked in my own two feet without guidance as to where my eyes were seeing. How can a mind be so tender, lost by the misconformed
train thogh after train thought. That is why I find schooling such a fascinating ruthless thing that can be broken into several fashions as to why is that case. But not even
reason to fashion an answer that I know will and is definetly can be viewed to abhold a societal dismark of "wF"is wrong with that guy's mind. He must be **** casing a storm to
bring an ideaology of thought or some **** religion, but that's what so funny to me. I find everything in life comedic, non concerning except at times if I feel similar to
someone adjacent because that is their essence in my prescence, and I feel the need to comfort it, to bring back the importance of that self. The part of life I find so comedic,
how bits and bits and everything with **** have all so many fascinating
things to learn from, the progression of one's mind never attains self worth in the world with something interfering. That something interfering for example, is me personally
writing what is can be taken as pointless and presenting my writing to you how I say I do. But did I say how I am presenting this writing, absolutely not. So brings the funny,
that school teaches the aspect of disfigurament of a person's essence. This thing is a complete oblivion to everything and anything, that because even though I did not specify
how I tone myself on this paper, there is the predicament to assume that I am very angry deranged person who but pokes charasmatically at something no one can grip, because he
is portraying me the image the way I was bred to see. But then it is so **** funny, you can also take my words describing
all that I intend to explain and stick them against me to simplify your circumstances as to the causitive feeling your experiencing, and maybe the confusion that I am creating
noting a significant point that I do write intentionally without any figurative wording, just simply talking about this to evoke a presence of an essence within you that is hindered,
by what type of **** everybody is wearing, where they are starring, who is ******* and adoring, and who's simply the **** because they don't fit in a deranged group, developed by
ego-centric level stingers, who but want either good for you, or it is the drive to profit from you everything. That is, words blah blah, can take stroll
on one day's role and make no complete sense, and all they did were live the sense of a tangled mind that fostered on what has been in some form, taught, over
what you can call a lively existence, considering how much traumatizing headaches this could cause, and resembled among a group of similar constituents with similar reasons
as to whatever the situation might be. I could point this out within one sentence, but it wouldn't hold any deeper understanding of this essence, so instead I decide with all
my reasoning and tremendous experience that even to some, even at this gritty expertisians who grease up the world to guess everything based on study and reasoning by other humans,
who believe all these ideas are shifters to the mind but always stem the relentless, functioning without any perspectives open to the idea that mold humans into one spatial and far better
so called community, which in all it's case has lost the essence to preserve the self without a ***** on the back. That ***** of course is the communal ****, that builds from a
trigger of words, then they teach the brain as if it is known how to be as a functioning unit. The amount doesn't matter, the amount that is thought brings hope, but the most
amount to the self is the function of you, like I feel I function amongst anyone because I have come to terms and realize what really important things I have learned from my life.
My life to some is gripping, only because it sounds unbelievable, but of that life I found the same driving forces that drive madness even today, and has been reaccuring for as
long as some form of expression has been. And in all humiliation of humanity, or as I consider it digression of being self around the bounds of comfortability, it has been
a grand experience to see many a people transgress from the point of my meeting them with a continuous contact to the point of now, and then, and future plausible. But then
and future plausible for me stand out as notions needless of evocations due to the fact that the self is a dwindling factor hung by a rope to swing the way the self first portrayed
to me, and then to the direction away from the first encountered mind. But in all, without senseless ignorance, I do understand these things are studied for a reason, for a reason
that is workable to be as they are for some variables do affect person's in many different way. That is why, the sense of one roof and too many aloof is but a big spoof. With
sensibility, how can forging something into your life help you to achieve greatness within self to portray it in a manner plausible. The only way is as a current flows, so do
the gulls.



where do you. . .come from. . .so many leagues unbeknownst among my dreams.
life is never what it seems. . .until i met your eyes.. . that built
my stongest implication, dire in desire to live a life inspired. . .
but then so is, to dream upon what tends on building motivation. . .
life is beautiful sensation. . .
from the first rainfall with you meeting outside spontaneous realm. . .
we fought the solemn wind to calm our cumbered spirits. . .taking flight,
fighting what might have been. . .semeless to even entertain. . .lost in
each others warmness. . .everything we built tended harmless.

now see how we have. . .related to each other's hearts. . .left the scrutinity
at obscurity prolonged on scale of mirror. . .where it has always belonged.
now it's just time darling
i promiss it wont be long until our roots bind the maximum strong.

from even across the plains, and mountain long trip stains. . .i feel
less pain. . .from what's the phrase non loose then gain, consorting time
absorbing each other's essence in rhyme.
the deepest of sensation of you. . .the meekest of me, makes me be the simple thing
that i've reconnected to . . .to realize, the sensation of you. . .from our first
encounter, i felt deep into your eyes. . .what agree's none behind with lies. . .
you evoked the deepest motion within my sphere of emotion not to betray myself within
this realm and dark frivolous potion. . .for my first set of emotion set on your tone behind
this potion. . .

i face you eye for an eye of every day until i die, but will ever will i die. . .not with you
never. . .darling angel, angel you are my expressive tone to call you so. . .nothing more
is the essense of you that you seem to implore, how busy life must be. . .we need feel free
to good ridance from this fee that life doesn't instill our good griefs beyond simple joys and beliefs. . .
for simply darling we are each other's heart beats, if it's simple smell of you
i will carry out my deeds in hell. . .beneath on hearth this earth, where all of us have been given
birth. . .but sent to spend what is driven by multipolluted cord, the time in blunt approach from
the thing that planted our roots. . .

how i feel you is simply too rich for some dirt to enrich you. . .i simply love and cherish
every bit of your essence, it has lifelong presence that even doing what they call
reminiscing, can't surpass living without missing what they have been reminiscing. . .
i cherish you beyond what little faith can teach about having bigger faith, when all my hopes
ride faithful slopes without elongated stops and rope bearing hopes. . .
my life i see to the extent to remorse only what some feel beyond scope of too openly. . .
but how can i retreat on what i can't stop to feel to protect you from, to their heads we are getting closely. . .
how in the scope of your first essence, can i give up to give way to ruin such pure essence. . .

i understand the world makes a feeling for such pure feeling is counted by blessings. . .
and in order for us to make it, that thought i feel senseless baking . . .constant roll of assorted
reasons for why we bleed to them treasons . . .for how can i express, how simple love doesn't
just digress, or something with time you invest. . .it's simply have been a joy of building
together a foundation for our nest. . .**** the rest. . .**** the pest. . .the world is the best
when sleepers are put to rest and the spark of commune are dwellers dwelling on these mischivers'
locked up chest. . .
to find out that darling. . .you simply are a joy to give me whole, that i'm not uninspired troll
reluctant to breath beside the one he placed his greed upon. . .or her, or it. . but all the essence
is closed and beat, by some known with ideals humanity can't consider too farfetched to bare to grit. . .
and sway to the essence that i hold in my glances. . .are as simple as these branded constructed norms
that most tend to manipulate and distort to one contorted form. . . .so all can bend into one socket for 365
degree view that most tend to agree. . .but never really see.

i know it's many there with this essense around the breeze of an aura, that simply are stranded too far apart by such horror.. .
to relent their essence with their prescence. . .to whom Barbarians find the essence is planted full on messes.
but how can we relate to such things darling. . .when the first glow of your essence showed me life full
of memories by the smile in your eyes, glowing beauty of any sort. . .i feel the world will someday . . .
take flight. . .in my way, but **** that. . .i'm to speak when my message is too simple, provoked only by the
thought, "protect the world its miser mother has been beaten". . .i can never relent, the message that is never
but to contradict what's life has not eaten. . .because of the times put to squares, living life, fostering a step back, into recluce. . .these biches wont even
say cause their too ****. . .to figure out that there's a worrior to stump them pleaded sheets out of wood. . .
i say this out for your sarcasm, elongated this song a bit to give you big ******. . .so when you repose, you
think nothing but what side are the pro's. . .and enter them into oblivion, grasping each by the billion, how
can i repose for i know, without one word it is and has been always come down to the special chosen million. . .

because my darling, i feel the miser that this essence in me you inspire, is up and target for no good. . .for
these pleaded fockers granted themselves unrelentless priveleges for centuries, changing diepers to giving
blood diamond marriages. . .riding on what they call prestine carriages. . .oh what,you don't recognize this
what the world has come to building from everybody's demise. . .feeding on high rise. . .splitting cots in the
rots, most alluded with plots and continued building upon the essence of you, keeping you stewed, brewing up a flu. . .
to this day when i met you. . .
will never cease your memory by only that it was circumstance. . .romance among thieves denying our chance to dance. . .
with one glance, their world just plopped a chance. . .for i know they know who im refering to, without a glance
i'm sure they feel my stance just to look **** eyed puking. . .**** blocking their world to rocking, while else where goes to foster under
this ugly monster. . .stooped on a porch ******* their air, without any underwear. . .haha must be due to how
much pull goes to their hair. . .how do i, they feel ****** diddlidy ****, what, is this person a human or a
restored frame of mind living. . .i can't be what's in my eyes to be believing, but i simply am retarted man. . .
a ******* rough psychological fighting bluff, to them i would. . .but trust me, how could i in my life, i
never could.. . .fall to false pretention, that life is a great invention, that my desire's are for simple
hires. . .for i know my life evolves around that which your first essence, darling, we built stronger everyday
to our future of what we call present. . .

life with you, i simply can't resent. . .but figure out what's best
to make what we don't need to make. . . because the essence uproots life's shrivel of what they call romances. . .
rooting upward from the seed we planted on the day people deside to bleed
all over the notion, that this emotion they conquered stems from shot of elixir handed down from the heavens by
some they call cupid fixer. . .relentless, they push through many dances. . .all so strained and constricted by many
glances, restricting their free essence to feel in whole their life is shot down by simple messes. . . .
but you, none taken, broken and mistaken. . .how can simple things be so. . .when you know my essence for you is
far greater then what one instance can remark for the whole, i feel simply. . .protect you from their hole and
bind you with my essence that strives in whole. . .even through tormenting lonely dances. . .when i saw the world an ugly form. . .
nowhere to want to run to, or feel
resentment.. . where's life going to go. . .if my essence in a whole feeds you. . .away to their
mysterious goal. . .i wouldn't have the patience to ***** their abnormal pretence, as if life is sweet with
such mysterious fowl. . .create little thought to create bigger picture, many aditions just create tensities
among those who bicker, loosing control each time only quicker. . .that's why it's never lesser to speak for the lesser
dresser, or the person they showed you, that looked like he ******* told you, but instead they made the mistake
to grow lower. . . cowering even bolder. . . what **** is the point of that. . .to say it none meeker as if its meant to outcast the bleeker
. . .i'm not that so. . .to scowl like fowl crackhead, loosing self reliance to gr

— The End —