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Fenixx Menefee Dec 2018
All around me, every day, I see them, lurking
Characters teasing me, praising me, staring at me, smirking
They're there every day, waiting, preying upon me, I'm their target
These characters of mine, I loathe them, they speak to me using an argot

Characters, they won't leave me alone, droning on and on in my head
I can't get rid of them, they'll never leave, each one I hope to shed
These characters most people call "voices," but that doesn't explain much
They hold onto me, suffocating me, they're a huge mental crutch

They're just holding me back, but I can't push them away, I hate it
Characters, I avoid and ignore them, but I share their pain, I'm a hypocrite
I despise them all, each and every one, I need them gone
These characters, these "voices," they're a "phenomenon."

Characters, such a repetitive topic, repetition is so boring
I hope I can keep this up a little longer, my abilities restoring
These characters limit the things I can do, I have a mental lock
I don't know how to express it, I might go into shock

I hope one day they'll leave me for good, they're such a pain
Characters I see, in the darkest puddles, and in each and every drop of rain
I can't ever get rid of them, they're here with me for life
These characters of mine will be with me, even in my afterlife
Mateuš Conrad Jul 2016
.i'm in luck, they're selling it at under 11 quid right now,
stock dry - gone in an instant - laphroaig like -
but not as smoky - but smoked scotch it it
at £10.34 - oh the little joys of having little money to spend -
you end up less picky and less hoarder and
the junk yard.


na głowe sypano mi, tak popiół:
     popiół! a obiecano mi *****!
           popiół! a obiecano mi *****!
                 popiół! a obiecano mi *****!

                  (not my words... lao che's dym)...

me, beer, cigarette, outer-suburbia -
police whizz past, silent with flare
or screaming toddler and Odysseus' 20 sirens
with wax in the ears of oaring company
akin to Ajax'ς vitality -
along the way, my neighbour (who's mother
killed my cat.. listen, i know he had
heart problems, he was on aspirin -
but kidneys, even if complicated are not
real problem, felines take longer to ****
than do the no. 2, pigeons don't have kidneys -
they're always of an **** diet of diarrhoea;
write like Aristotle sometimes,
forget the facts, be wrong, get it wrong,
never put a glass cup into the waterfall of
poetic cascades - get it wrong, be wrong -
get to know yourself - it's not that dumb
to be predictable in yourself -
if you allow self-predictability you will
see certain social events as being pointless -
you'll see friends and "friends" -
self-predictability is a verb, compounded -
i already know i'll make references to grammar
and it being missing in philosophy -
no, not coherence and appropriate arrangement -
i mean undoing the box of thing-in-itself
and the subsequent tennis with a brick wall,
to surprise yourself when something is unearthed,
a little piece of the puzzle - simulating awe,
the genesis of all that's to come, even awe from a yawn
and boredom... it's here somewhere... i'll karate
catch it with chop sticks.... (looking around)...
i don't know, might be a moth or a fly...

Antichrist: or a summary of Antisemitism - a variant of,
or at least a concentration - mainly confiscated
by Christianity - prime complaint:
a democracy of Anointed One (Messiahs) -
obviously a manifested justifiable practice of Antisemitism -
the throng of Golgotha intelligence quotient -
Jew v. Jew, and one convert from the delusional
4 x 4 (in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the holy
                                         spirit... hold on!
                                    i make four gestures... and make a fifth
                 with Romeo and Juliet talking -
St. Matthew-Luke-Mark-and-John... penta penta pent-up
pentagon - evidently there's a pentagrammaton somewhere:
ah! i b l i s.                       Surat no. via Rumi - 7:143 - veils and
the one - reward in heaven - more veils, gardens veils,
grapes in heaven veils - stomach a veil - hunger a veil -
rewards in heaven also veils - the poem?
praise be Jesus - and Jason and the Argonauts - and whoever
wanted a strawberry flavoured pastiche to lick tears off -
love's apocalypse, love's glory -
         well bloodhound eyes say it all - droop drool -
droop & drool... Jack & Jill... went up the hill, and passed
the Grimm Bro. baton to Hanzel und Gretyl in the 100m x4
relay of Disney Limps - then rabbinical literature to sober up -
Albotini's Sulam HaAliyah (Ladder of Ascent, formerly Jacob's
ladder - to be: Ladder of Skip-rope; Oxford, hello! yes,
can you please consider un-hyphenating what is desirably
a compound worthy word in the practice of German?          )?
is a bracket necessary anywhere and i missed it?
Antichrist - or a very strange form of antisemitism -
be like a Jew, congregate applauding in the right corner: Jesus -
in the blue corner: Crux Golgothia.
export from Portugal - the said book -
key principle (kefitzah) jumping or skipping (dilug) -
and this being applied to the one practice of mystic Judaism -
the ****** gematria; hishtavut (stoicism) -

me - is it still 20 quid for an eighth?
Sim (my neighbour) - yeah, but these days
                                       they sort of cheat,
                                       you'd get an eighth nibbled on,
                                       twenty for a tenth?!
me - ******, well, we can't expect it to not happen,
         we had coin debasement - clippings of silver
         keratin with Siliqua, third stage and
         all encoded authority is gone: Thomas and Anne
         till death and nail clippings be fraud unison in
         the depart (or when narration extinguishes
         a character, the character is worth nothing -
         the narrator wakes up - all the characters run
         like phantom-hares into nonexistence -
         phantom! thin air!
politeness said: only one **** at the wacky wee ö wee
(umlaut O / double oh, 007 - 00'7 - double u... oh!
                                 i get it!                             Jamie Oliver!)
DEI.GRA.REG.FID.DEF.
   "   (-tia) (-ina)(-ei)(-ensor) -
all that would have been clipped - authority of visage -
the courtesan only knew the mint in silver
and the mint in the flesh - hence clipping of coin
to erase the authority from the holy authority of words -
in the beginning - but once dei.gra.reg.fid.def.jpeg /
                                   dei.gra.red.fid.def.gif.

that ****** moth is here somewhere! there it is! catch it!
                                                             ­   catch it!
SLAM!          and the job is done )                                      ).
i really waiting a bus stop pretending to wait for a bus
toking on a joint - joint is mix tobacco and wee wee
and spliff is pure? i forgot the slang - haven't been
addicted to it in years.
Sim - yeah, that's how it is. work in central london -
         have to get up early in the morning.
         corporate finance - no that's a commercial firm,
         corporate finance - McDonald's, etc.
me - oh cool waiting for  ghost bus - never get paranoid
         then?
(police cars whizz by)
Sim - n'ah, a perfectly decent area, got stopped once,
          three years ago.
and the price goes to the laziest narrator in history - absolutely
no engagement with characters - it's too real, everyone's
lying - this is the second time i spoke to my neighbour properly
in the past.. ooh 2002... 14 YEARS - it's not even funny -
no amount of marijuana will make you feel comfortable -
you can mate and make Kingston handshakes and what not -
this is purity of absurdity and western isolation,
we went against the maxim: no man is an island on purpose,
not by chance like Robinson Crusoe -
at least Crusoe had a talking Friday - we have a ghost
of Michael Faraday on Friday - ******* disco blink blink -
poet... or alt.: the narrator complex - inhibitions toward
character craft and pseudo-schizoid symptom -
believing in ghosts is easy, fiction writers and their ghosts
and abortions, hardly a way to escape from that -
poetry: rebellious narration - just anything with narration,
modern fiction is read like a chess match between deep blue
and Kasparov - or Pavlov v. Jezebel playing gynaecologist.

blank.... blank... wait for the atoms trilled R to make
their toady presence felt -
the more pricier the whiskey the more pristine water,
i.e. you get drunk more easily -
anyone that smokes marijuana and thinks
they're clever are stupid; how many people are out there that are
stupid!
- resounding hearsay-hooray!
drugs, ******, crack, blow, marijuana, ****, ***,
  cannabis, dope, ******, mary-jane, 13, M - herb shake -
Humphrey saying to Bogart - that joint.
as said in Saudi
Arabic - a Ferrari G.T.I. and MeKubalim HaMitbodedim
                  )
                                  -chism - schism - sky - ski -
                                  cha cha, cha cha - kilo or 100th -
                                  1000 thd. - hundredth a thousandth -
                                  - where then the acute,
                                  timber from Czechs -
                                  kebab from Mesopotamia -
                                  and the Trojan horse to boot -
                                 chatter - chopper whopper -
                                 astoikism - not chew off
                                 curve into cherish but
                                 cravat chew in -
                                 Slavic mining zed - czarna
                                 ciasność - blackened claustrophobia.
a Buddhist clap
                   immersion -
left handed the right hand claps against air
                  )             )              )               )            ) ) )            )
a night at the Opera, right handed the left hand claps against air
(                       (        (            (               (          ( ( (            (
scimitar Luna - so they said, would like an audience with the
further unmentioned mention -
you're mates with neighbours who over 14 years you only
spoke to the count of thumb and index on occasion -
and thus necessarily high -
i was going to write something really important before
i finalised this draft... but i forgot what it was...
got almighty this whiskey is good...
i'm smoking salmon and pickling reindeer hooves and antennas;
a bit like practising Chinese miracle medicine with
whale blubber and Mongolian nostril hairs.

it's not about loving your enemies -
this love sinister must be invoked as: making your
enemies bearable.

i'm sure i had something concerning poetry and narration -
ah! it was... poetic compensation -
a.d.h.d. narration - attention deficit hyperactive disorder -
true - all psychiatric terms are metaphors -
at least outside the psychiatric realm -
poetry as a.d.h.d. meaning: shrapnel narration -
a custard pie of missing characters -
poetry: i.e.: the inability to believe in ghosts
or write characters - claustrophobic or agoraphobic narration?
a mix of both - poetry - the inability to conjure
Ouija fancies - poetry, the over-specialised gift for
narration, but an inability to invent characters -
poetry, the truth of the narrative, and the truth of un-invented
characters, poetry: the ability to narrate, coupled
with the inability to create characters -
fiction and the dumb narrator - poetry and the exquisite
narrator - fiction and the exciting characters -
poetry and the God - our focus is based on that vector,
or bias to that vector - fiction and the Oscars -
narrator and director - when to change from first person
to third person - again Burroughs was right -
images 50 years ahead of writing - a bit obvious,
nothing spectacular with that phrase -
lightning and the sons of thunder: 12 of them -
made the tetragrammaton less spoken and swear words
fucken-uppen censored so the crucifix and **** could
collide - a fine fine excuse - the Boeing 747 first
and later the quasi-sonic broom shoo' 'mm -
poetry as fiction disguised when fiction was given
a seance with pure narratives - splinter group:
philosophy's juggling with pronouns esp. the plural deviation
from first person as if to proper punctuation -
psychiatry and the theory of pronoun usage -
poetry and the pronoun rōnin (macron = umlaut -
count to two, or prolong - reasonable man / **** sapiens, pre-noun pro-adjective / adjective attache-noun, noun counter-noun es duo-adjective, Kellogg's sunrise cockle-doodle-dip-in-tartan-chess) -
only poetry mediates the parallel vectors of prose-fiction and philosophy - it consolidates the use of pronouns, art of poetry alone -
pure narration we're talking about,
the narrator and characters of its fancy,
philosopher and dialectical placebos (character equivalence)
with self-conscious moments, mono-pro-noun - alone i name -
the sacred squash wall of lecturing an invisible audience -
rummaging epitaphs in a graveyard along with birth dates
and live by dates - yes, that sacred we philosophers use -
an entire theatre was summoned to continue in appearing
sensible when writing without fictive apparitions -
enabling a fluidity in pronoun use, without sensible letter
writing, as in dear sir,
                                       me in reverse, thank you.
w
The mountain pinnacles slumber; valleys, crags, and caves
are silent.

“LISTEN to me,” said the Demon, as he placed his hand
upon my head. “The region of which I speak is a dreary
region in Libya, by the borders of the river Zaeire. And
there is no quiet there, nor silence.

“The waters of the river have a saffron and sickly hue; and
they flow not onward to the sea, but palpitate forever and
forever beneath the red eye of the sun with a tumultuous and
convulsive motion. For many miles on either side of the
river’s oozy bed is a pale desert of gigantic water-lilies.
They sigh one unto the other in that solitude, and stretch
towards the heaven their long and ghastly necks, and nod to
and fro their everlasting heads. And there is an indistinct
murmur which cometh out from among them like the rushing of
subterrene water. And they sigh one unto the other.

“But there is a boundary to their realm—the boundary
of the dark, horrible, lofty forest. There, like the waves
about the Hebrides, the low underwood is agitated
continually. But there is no wind throughout the heaven. And
the tall primeval trees rock eternally hither and thither
with a crashing and mighty sound. And from their high
summits, one by one, drop everlasting dews. And at the
roots, strange poisonous flowers lie writhing in perturbed
slumber. And overhead, with a rustling and loud noise, the
gray clouds rush westwardly forever until they roll, a
cataract, over the fiery wall of the horizon. But there is
no wind throughout the heaven. And by the shores of the
river Zaeire there is neither quiet nor silence.

“It was night, and the rain fell; and, falling, it was rain,
but, having fallen, it was blood. And I stood in the morass
among the tall lilies, and the rain fell upon my head—
and the lilies sighed one unto the other in the solemnity of
their desolation.

“And, all at once, the moon arose through the thin ghastly
mist, and was crimson in color. And mine eyes fell upon a
huge gray rock which stood by the shore of the river and was
lighted by the light of the moon. And the rock was gray and
ghastly, and tall,—and the rock was gray. Upon its
front were characters engraven in the stones; and I walked
through the morass of water-lilies, until I came close unto
the shore, that I might read the characters upon the stone.
But I could not decipher them. And I was going back into the
morass when the moon shone with a fuller red, and I turned
and looked again upon the rock and upon the
characters;—and the characters were DESOLATION.

“And I looked upwards, and there stood a man upon the summit
of the rock; and I hid myself among the water-lilies that I
might discover the action of the man. And the man was tall
and stately in form, and wrapped up from his shoulders to
his feet in the toga of old Rome. And the outlines of his
figure were indistinct—but his features were the
features of a deity; for the mantle of the night, and of the
mist, and of the moon, and of the dew, had left uncovered
the features of his face. And his brow was lofty with
thought, and his eye wild with care; and in the few furrows
upon his cheek, I read the fables of sorrow, and weariness,
and disgust with mankind, and a longing after solitude.

“And the man sat upon the rock, and leaned his head upon his
hand, and looked out upon the desolation. He looked down
into the low unquiet shrubbery, and up into the tall
primeval trees, and up higher at the rustling heaven, and
into the crimson moon. And I lay close within shelter of the
lilies, and observed the actions of the man. And the man
trembled in the solitude;—but the night waned, and he
sat upon the rock.

“And the man turned his attention from the heaven, and
looked out upon the dreary river Zaeire, and upon the yellow
ghastly waters, and upon the pale legions of the water-lilies.
And the man listened to the sighs of the water-lilies,
and to the murmur that came up from among them. And
I lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the
man. And the man trembled in the solitude;—but the
night waned, and he sat upon the rock.

“Then I went down into the recesses of the morass, and waded
afar in among the wilderness of the lilies, and called unto
the hippopotami which dwelt among the fens in the recesses
of the morass. And the hippopotami heard my call, and came,
with the behemoth, unto the foot of the rock, and roared
loudly and fearfully beneath the moon. And I lay close
within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And
the man trembled in the solitude;—but the night waned,
and he sat upon the rock.

“Then I cursed the elements with the curse of tumult; and a
frightful tempest gathered in the heaven, where before there
had been no wind. And the heaven became livid with the
violence of the tempest—and the rain beat upon the
head of the man—and the floods of the river came
down—and the river was tormented into foam—and
the water-lilies shrieked within their beds—and the
forest crumbled before the wind—and the thunder
rolled—and the lightning fell—and the rock
rocked to its foundation. And I lay close within my covert
and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in
the solitude;—but the night waned, and he sat upon the
rock.

“Then I grew angry and cursed, with the curse of silence,
the river, and the lilies, and the wind, and the forest, and
the heaven, and the thunder, and the sighs of the water-lilies.
And they became accursed, and were still. And
the moon ceased to totter up its pathway to heaven—and
the thunder died away—and the lightning did not
flash—and the clouds hung motionless—and the
waters sunk to their level and remained—and the trees
ceased to rock—and the water-lilies sighed no
more—and the murmur was heard no longer from among
them, nor any shadow of sound throughout the vast
illimitable desert. And I looked upon the characters of the
rock, and they were changed;—and the characters were
SILENCE.

“And mine eyes fell upon the countenance of the man, and his
countenance was wan with terror. And, hurriedly, he raised
his head from his hand, and stood forth upon the rock and
listened. But there was no voice throughout the vast
illimitable desert, and the characters upon the rock were
SILENCE. And the man shuddered, and turned his face away,
and fled afar off, in haste, so that I beheld him no more.”



Now there are fine tales in the volumes of the Magi—in
the iron-bound, melancholy volumes of the Magi. Therein, I
say, are glorious histories of the Heaven, and of the Earth,
and of the mighty Sea—and of the Genii that overruled
the sea, and the earth, and the lofty heaven. There was much
lore, too, in the sayings which were said by the sybils; and
holy, holy things were heard of old by the dim leaves that
trembled around Dodona—but, as Allah liveth, that
fable which the demon told me as he sat by my side in the
shadow of the tomb, I hold to be the most wonderful of all!
And as the Demon made an end of his story, he fell back
within the cavity of the tomb and laughed. And I could not
laugh with the Demon, and he cursed me because I could not
laugh. And the lynx which dwelleth forever in the tomb, came
out therefrom, and lay down at the feet of the Demon, and
looked at him steadily in the face.
YA SEE I AM GETTING LAUGHED AT, FOR DRESSING UP AS A GIRL



YA SEE I AIN’T INTO BEING A TRANSGENDER, I JUST WANT PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND I AIN’T SHY

YA SEE I WANNA DEVELOP CHARACTERS, AND SUSIE IS A CHARACTER OF MINE

YA SEE I HEAR VOICES OF OLD MATES LAIUGHING AT ME, AS I MOVE AROUND

I DON’T WANT TO BE A TRANSGENDER, NO, I JUST DRESS UP AS SUSIE

TO PROVIDE A BIT OF FUN, FUN FUN FUN TILL THEIR DADDY TAKES YOUR TEABIRD AWAY

YA SEE AS I GET UP TO WORK ON THE COMPUTER, I HEAR HIM SAY, YOU ARE STUPID

YOU ARE DRESSING UP AS A GIRL, AND YOU ARE A ******

I SAID, NO, I HATE BEING TREATED LIKE A HOOLIGAN, I HATE BEING TREATED LIKE A STRANGE PERSON

JUST BECAUSE I CREATE FEMALE CHARACTERS

I LIKE TO HAVE, AND I CAN CREATE THE FEMALE CHARACTER VERY WELL

AND AS I ENTERED THE OUTER SPACE, EVERYONE LAUGHING AT ME SAYING

HA HA HA HA HA HA, AS I GOT UP, TO USE MY COMPUTER, I GOT UP AND USE THE COMPUTER

AND PEOPLE LAUGH AT ME, CAUSE I LIKE TO USE MY GIRL CHARACTERS

YA SEE, I CAN DO THE GIRL CHARACTER VERY WELL, SO I WANT TO DO THIS

I KNOW I USED TO BE TOO SHY TO DRESS UP AS A FEMALE WHEN I WAS YOUNG

BUT, I PREFER TO JUST LOOK AT IT, AS I ENJOY LIFE, BEING THE HYP SUSIE

SAYING, YOU DRESS UP AS A GIRL, HA HA HA HA, YOU DRESS UP AS A GIRL

YOU ARE STILL SHY, AS WE TREAT YA LIKE A TRANSGENDER, WHEN YOU ARE DRESSING UP IN WOMENS STUFF

YA SEE, I WANNA SHOW, THAT I AM NOT SHY TO DRESS UP LIKE THIS

I DON’T WANT TO HEAR THE VOICE OF PATRICK LAUGHING WEIRDLY WHEN I DO THAT

CAUSE I WANNA EXPRESS MY INNER GIRL, THE TYPE OF GIRL WHO PARTIES ALL NIGHT

I KNOW IT SOUNDS WEIRD, BUT WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO COPE WITH THIS AWFUL TEASING

YA SEE, I WAS GIVEN WEE, AND THERE IS NO WAY YOU CAN STICK A **** IN A FRUIT BOX

BUT IN HINDSIGHT, NOTHING WENT WRONG, BUT GETTING TEASED IN MY MIND

JUST BECAUSE I PUT PINK HAIR ON AND A FEW PINK AND PURPLE SCARVES

DOESN’T GIVE YOU THE RIGHT TO LAUGH AT ME LIKE A TRANSGENDER

I WANNA HAVE FUN, I WANNA BRING THESE CHARACTERS TO THE STAGE

I DON’T WANT TO BE A TRANSGENDER, I WANNA BE SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T CARE HOW HE LOOKS

YA SEE, I HEAR VOICES SAYING, YOU ARE A TRANSGENDER, AND WE HAVE NO PLACE IN THIS COMMUNITY FOR YOU

AND I FEEL SOMETIMES LIKE THAT TRANSGENDER ON ALL MY CHILDREN

BUT I AM NOM TRANSGENDER, I AM AN ACTOR, I AM PLAYING A WOMAN

NOT FOR TRANSGENDER PURPOSES, NO FOR READING AND ENJOYING PARTYING PURPOSES

YOU SEE, I DON’T WANT TO GET TEASED JUST BECAUUSE I AM OPENING MY LITTLE GIRLIE

YA KNOW PINK HAIR, AND SCARF AND BANNER, NO I AM A COOL PERSON

DRESSING UP LIKE THIS, IS CALLED HAVING FUN, YA SHOULD TRY IT SOMEDAY

SOMEDAY SOMEDAY, I WILL BE AN ACTOR, SOME DAY SOME DAY, I CAN BRING SUSIE INTO THE REAL WORLD

I KNOW I AM A MAN, BUT I DON’T WANT TO GET LAUGHED AT, ALL BECAUSE I DO THE DRESSING UP AS A GIRL THING VERY WELL

SOME DAY SOME DAY, I WANT TO GET WHAT I WANT, SOME DAY SOME DAY, I WANT TO BE BIG ON YOUTUBE

IF THAT MEANS SUSIE CAN BE POPULAR, WELL, I GUESS THAT IS WHAT I WILL DO, OH YEAH

WATCH AAA YOUTUBE TV ON YOUTUBE

WATCH AAA YOUTUBE TV ON YOUTUBE

WATCH AAA YOUTUBE TV ON YOUTUBE

CAUSE TOO MANY PEOPLE COMPLAIN ORB TEASE PEOPLE WHO DRESS UP AS THE OPPOSITE ***, WHAT IS WRTONG WITH ME

DOING IT, I AM NOT HAVING *** WITH GUYS, NO, I AIN’T A ****, I AM DRESSING UP AS THE GREETING CARD TYPE OF GIRL

AND I DON’T WANT TO BE TREATED LIKE A HOOLIGAN, BECAUSE, I PREFER TO LAY MY MESSAGE STRAIGHT

I AM NOT TRANSGENDER

I AM NOT TRANSGENDER

I AM NOT TRANSGENDER

I AM DEVELOPING CHARACTERS, WITH MY DRESSING UP LIKE WOMEN LIKE SUSIE AND BOGAN WOMAN SUE LONGWAYS

THERE COULD BE MORE WOMEN CHARACTERS EMERGING, PLEASE DON’T TREAT ME LIKE A TRANSGENDER

TREAT ME LIKE A FUN LOVING GUY, CAUSE MY SUSIE CHARACTER IS COOL, MAN

AND I DON’T WANNA BE SHY, BE A HOOLIGAN, OR BE A TRANSGENDER, I AM JUST A FUN LOVING STRAIGHT GUY

WHO DEVELOPS CHARACTERS ON YOUTUBE FOR FUTURE STUFF ON TELEVISION

WATCH AAA YOUTUBE TV ON YOUTUBE TO SHOW I AM NOT A TRANSGENDER

I AM A MAN WITH EVIL SPIRITS TRYING TO SAY I AM TOO WOOSEY FOR LIFE

THAT IS NOT TRUE, I LIVE MY LIFE EVERYDAY LIKE IT’S AN ADVENTURE, DUDE

MY AAA YOUTUBE TV PROFILE PHOTO IS THE TWO SOUTH SYDNEY CAKES

I AM NO TRANSGENDER, LEAVE ME ALONE, I AM NO HOOLIGAN LEAVE ME ALONE

I AM A POOR STRUGGLING BUDDHIST ARTIST WRITER AND YOUTUBE ENTERTAINER AND CHARACTER BUILDER, WHO WANTS TO PARTY

I AIN’T SHY TO KEEP SUSIE COOL, MAN

LAUGH AT ME ALL YA WANT, BUT I AM NOT GAY, OR ******, I AM COOL, I AM STRAIGHT

BUT I WANNA HAVE FUN,  YEAH
THIS SHOWS, I AM A STRAIGHT MAN, WHO HAS CHARACTERS
ON YOUTUBE, OF BOTH GENDERS, BUT I LIKE BEING A GUY PLAYING DRESS UPS
Nigel Morgan Nov 2012
As a woman, and in the service of my Lord the Emperor Wu, my life is governed by his command. At twenty I was summoned to this life at court and have made of it what I can, within the limitations of the courtesan I am supposed to be, and the poet I have now become. Unlike my male counterparts, some of whom have lately found seclusion in the wilderness of rivers and mountains, I have only my personal court of three rooms and its tiny garden and ornamental pond. But I live close to the surrounding walls of the Zu-lin Gardens with its astronomical observatories and bold attempts at recreating illusions of celebrated locations in the Tai mountains. There, walking with my cat Xi-Lu in the afternoons, I imagine a solitary life, a life suffused with the emptiness I crave.
 
In the hot, dry summer days my maid Mei-Lim and I have sought a temporary retreat in the pine forests above Lingzhi. Carried in a litter up the mountain paths we are left in a commodious hut, its open walls making those simple pleasures of drinking, eating and sleeping more acute, intense. For a few precious days I rest and meditate, breathe the mountain air and the resinous scents of the trees. I escape the daily commerce of the court and belong to a world that for the rest of the year I have to imagine, the world of the recluse. To gain the status of the recluse, open to my male counterparts, is forbidden to women of the court. I am woman first, a poet and calligrapher second. My brother, should he so wish, could present a petition to revoke his position as a man of letters, an official commentator on the affairs of state. But he is not so inclined. He has already achieved notoriety and influence through his writing on the social conditions of town and city. He revels in a world of chatter, gossip and intrigue; he appears to fear the wilderness life.  
 
I must be thankful that my own life is maintained on the periphery. I am physically distant from the hub of daily ceremonial. I only participate at my Lord’s express command. I regularly feign illness and fatigue to avoid petty conflict and difficulty. Yet I receive commissions I cannot waver: to honour a departed official; to celebrate a son’s birth to the Second Wife; to fulfil in verse my Lord’s curious need to know about the intimate sorrows of his young concubines, their loneliness and heartache.
 
Occasionally a Rhapsody is requested for an important visitor. The Emperor Wu is proud to present as welcome gifts such poetic creations executed in fine calligraphy, and from a woman of his court. Surely a sign of enlightment and progress he boasts! Yet in these creations my observations are parochial: early morning frost on the cabbage leaves in my garden; the sound of geese on their late afternoon flight to Star Lake; the disposition of the heavens on an Autumn night. I live by the Tao of Lao-Tzu, perceiving the whole world from my doorstep.
 
But I long for the reclusive life, to leave this court for my family’s estate in the valley my peasant mother lived as a child. At fourteen she was chosen to sustain the Emperor’s annual wish for young girls to be groomed for concubinage. Like her daughter she is tall, though not as plain as I; she put her past behind her and conceded her adolescence to the training required by the court. At twenty she was recommended to my father, the court archivist, as second wife. When she first met this quiet, dedicated man on the day before her marriage she closed her eyes in blessing. My father taught her the arts of the library and schooled her well. From her I have received keen eyes of jade green and a prestigious memory, a memory developed she said from my father’s joy of reading to her in their private hours, and before she could read herself. Each morning he would examine her to discover what she had remembered of the text read the night before. When I was a little child she would quote to me the Confucian texts on which she had been ****** schooled, and she then would tell me of her childhood home. She primed my imagination and my poetic world with descriptions of a domestic rural life.
 
Sometimes in the arms of my Lord I have freely rhapsodized in chusi metre these delicate word paintings of my mother’s home. She would say ‘We will walk now to the ruined tower beside the lake. Listen to the carolling birds. As the sparse clouds move across the sky the warm sun strokes the winter grass. Across the deep lake the forests are empty. Now we are climbing the narrow steps to the platform from which you and I will look towards the sun setting in the west. See the shadows are lengthening and the air becomes colder. The blackbird’s solitary song heralds the evening.  Look, an owl glides silently beneath us.’
 
My Lord will then quote from Hsieh Ling-yun,.
 
‘I meet sky, unable to soar among clouds,
face a lake, call those depths beyond me.’
 
And I will match this quotation, as he will expect.
 
‘Too simple-minded to perfect Integrity,
and too feeble to plough fields in seclusion.’
 
He will then gaze into my eyes in wonder that this obscure poem rests in my memory and that I will decode the minimal grammar of these early characters with such poetry. His characters: Sky – Bird – Cloud – Lake – Depth. My characters: Fool – Truth – Child – Winter field – Isolation.
 
Our combined invention seems to take him out of his Emperor-self. He is for a while the poet-scholar-sage he imagines he would like to be, and I his foot-sore companion following his wilderness journey. And then we turn our attention to our bodies, and I surprise him with my admonitions to gentleness, to patience, to arousing my pleasure. After such poetry he is all pleasure, sensitive to the slightest touch, and I have my pleasure in knowing I can control this powerful man with words and the stroke of my fingertips rather than by delicate youthful beauty or the guile and perverse ingenuity of an ****** act. He is still learning to recognise the nature and particularness of my desires. I am not as his other women: who confuse pleasure with pain.
 
Thoughts of my mother. Without my dear father, dead ten years, she is a boat without a rudder sailing on a distant lake. She greets each day as a gift she must honour with good humour despite the pain of her limbs, the difficulty of walking, of sitting, of eating, even talking. Such is the hurt that governs her ageing. She has always understood that my position has forbidden marriage and children, though the latter might be a possibility I have not wished it and made it known to my Lord that it must not be. My mother remains in limbo, neither son or daughter seeking to further her lineage, she has returned to her sister’s home in the distant village of her birth, a thatched house of twenty rooms,
 
‘Elms and willows shading the eaves at the back,
and, in front,  peach and plum spread wide.
 
Villages lost across mist-haze distances,
Kitchen smoke drifting wide-open country,
 
Dogs bark deep among the back roads out here
And cockerels crow from mulberry treetops.
 
My esteemed colleague T’ao Ch’ien made this poetry. After a distinguished career in government service he returned to the life of a recluse-farmer on his family farm. Living alone in a three-roomed hut he lives out his life as a recluse and has endured considerable poverty. One poem I know tells of him begging for food. His world is fields-and-gardens in contrast to Hsieh Ling-yin who is rivers-and-mountains. Ch’ien’s commitment to the recluse life has brought forth words that confront death and the reality of human experience without delusion.
 
‘At home here in what lasts, I wait out life.’
 
Thus my mother waits out her life, frail, crumbling more with each turning year.
 
To live beyond the need to organise daily commitments due to others, to step out into my garden and only consider the dew glistening on the loropetalum. My mind is forever full of what is to be done, what must be completed, what has to be said to this visitor who will today come to my court at the Wu hour. Only at my desk does this incessant chattering in the mind cease, as I move my brush to shape a character, or as the needle enters the cloth, all is stilled, the world retreats; there is the inner silence I crave.
 
I long to see with my own eyes those scenes my mother painted for me with her words. I only know them in my mind’s eye having travelled so little these past fifteen years. I look out from this still dark room onto my small garden to see the morning gathering its light above the rooftops. My camellia bush is in flower though a thin frost covers the garden stones.
 
And so I must imagine how it might be, how I might live the recluse life. How much can I jettison? These fine clothes, this silken nightgown beneath the furs I wrap myself in against the early morning air. My maid is sleeping. Who will make my tea? Minister to me when I take to my bed? What would become of my cat, my books, the choice-haired brushes? Like T’ao Ch’ien could I leave the court wearing a single robe and with one bag over my shoulders? Could I walk for ten days into the mountains? I would disguise myself as a man perhaps. I am tall for a woman, and though my body flows in broad curves there are ways this might be assuaged, enough perhaps to survive unmolested on the road.
 
Such dreams! My Lord would see me returned within hours and send a servant to remain at my gate thereafter. I will compose a rhapsody about a concubine of standing, who has even occupied the purple chamber, but now seeks to relinquish her privileged life, who coverts the uncertainty of nature, who would endure pain and privation in a hut on some distant mountain, who will sleep on a mat on its earth floor. Perhaps this will excite my Lord, light a fire in his imagination. As though in preparation for this task I remove my furs, I loose the knot of my silk gown. Naked, I reach for an old under shift letting it fall around my still-slender body and imagine myself tying the lacings myself in the open air, imagine making my toilet alone as the sun appears from behind a distant mountain on a new day. My mind occupies itself with the tiny detail of living thus: bare feet on cold earth, a walk to nearby stream, the gathering of berries and mountain herbs, the making of fire, the washing of my few clothes, imagining. Imagining. To live alone will see every moment filled with the tasks of keeping alive. I will become in tune with my surroundings. I will take only what I need and rely on no one. Dreaming will end and reality will be the slug on my mat, the bone-chilling incessant mists of winter, the thorn in the foot, the wild winds of autumn. My hands will become stained and rough, my long limbs tanned and scratched, my delicate complexion freckled and wind-pocked, my hair tied roughly back. I will become an animal foraging on a dank hillside. Such thoughts fill me with deep longing and a ****** desire to be tzu-jan  - with what surrounds me, ablaze with ****** self.
 
It is not thought the custom of a woman to hold such desires. We are creatures of order and comfort. We do not live on the edge of things, but crave security and well-being. We learn to endure the privations of being at the behest of others. Husbands, children, lovers, our relatives take our bodies to them as places of comfort, rest and desire. We work at maintaining an ordered flow of existence. Whatever our station, mistress or servant we compliment, we keep things in order, whether that is the common hearth or the accounts of our husband’s court. Now my rhapsody begins:
 
A Rhapsody on a woman wishing to live as a recluse
 
As a lady of my Emperor’s court I am bound in service.
My court is not my own, I have the barest of means.
My rooms are full of gifts I am forced barter for bread.
Though the artefacts of my hands and mind
Are valued and widely renown,
Their commissioning is an expectation of my station,
With no direct reward attached.
To dress appropriately for my Lord’s convocations and assemblies
I am forced to negotiate with chamberlains and treasurers.
A bolt of silk, gold thread, the services of a needlewoman
Require formal entreaties and may lie dormant for weeks
Before acknowledgement and release.
 
I was chosen for my literary skills, my prestigious memory,
Not for my ****** beauty, though I have been called
‘Lady of the most gracious movement’ and
My speaking voice has clarity and is capable of many colours.
I sing, but plainly and without passion
Lest I interfere with the truth of music’s message.
 
Since I was a child in my father’s library
I have sought out the works of those whose words
Paint visions of a world that as a woman
I may never see, the world of the wilderness,
Of rivers and mountains,
Of fields and gardens.
Yet I am denied by my *** and my station
To experience passing amongst these wonders
Except as contrived imitations in the palace gardens.
 
Each day I struggle to tease from the small corner
Of my enclosed eye-space some enrichment
Some elemental thing to colour meaning:
To extend the bounds of my home
Across the walls of this palace
Into the world beyond.
 
I have let it be known that I welcome interviews
With officials from distant courts to hear of their journeying,
To gather word images if only at second-hand.
Only yesterday an emissary recounted
His travels to Stone Lake in the far South-West,
Beyond the gorges of the Yang-tze.
With his eyes I have seen the mountains of Suchan:
With his ears I have heard the oars crackling
Like shattering jade in the freezing water.
Images and sounds from a thousand miles
Of travel are extract from this man’s memory.
 
Such a sharing of experience leaves me
Excited but dismayed: that I shall never
Visit this vast expanse of water and hear
Its wild cranes sing from their floating nests
In the summer moonlight.
 
I seek to disappear into a distant landscape
Where the self and its constructions of the world may
Dissolve away until nothing remains but the no-mind.
My thoughts are full of the practicalities of journeying
Of an imagined location, that lonely place
Where I may be at one with myself.
Where I may delight in the everyday Way,
Myself among mist and vine, rock and cave.
Not this lady of many parts and purposes whose poems must
Speak of lives, sorrow and joy, pleasure and pain
Set amongst personal conflict and intrigue
That in containing these things, bring order to disorder;
Salve the conscience, bathe hurt, soothe sleight.
Mateuš Conrad Feb 2016
i still get two alumni magazines
shoved through my mailbox,
edinburgh's edit, and u.c.l.'s portico,
they're alike, they're asking for money:
which is a bit like that mystery of lawlessness,
one word... money!*

i love poetry, i really do,
i think it respects readers more
than those glutton chatterers of off-the-page prose,
there's no need to create characters,
prose readers have an easy way out,
they have all the hidden architecture
keeping them involved with time-wasting
effectively-exploitative narration,
and then the characters, off the page
nothing like the readers with mundane jobs,
with menial tasks better augmenting
the cartesian thought and being,
ego and something that represents a passing,
meaning the unit, re-, of something the same
that changes each day...
readers of poetry are not readers of prose,
in comparing poetry to prose
poetry is naked... there is no elaborate
scaffolding... to concrete character study...
a poet can't conjure characters...
he can't even conjure rivers or readers...
when prose has characters, poetry has readers;
how many memorable characters emerge
from a prosaic narrative? one, two... fifty?
you see the pawn legion fall on the first
shot shadow of mongolian arrows...
you see their slain bodies hit the mud without
a word... so you see:
poetry is too naked, it's a mud-hut compared
to prose's glass spiral...
poetry will leave you an architect, rather than
a labourer... you will build your own you...
i wish i too could build from scratch
a horizon of distractions...
i rather you build that... you can't be a character
for me... you have to be a reader... not necessarily
an orator of what i wrote... just a reader...
and more than all the summations of characters
can be moulded into... hence the loss of tightly packed
paragraphs... hence the scarcity of composition...
if prose be a Chopin or a Liszt... then poetry be a Debussy or
a Satie... and i prefer the latter...
plus poetry is written so there's less eye-strain
bothering you... no loss of post-interlude starting point...
when poetry is read standing up...
prose is a style taken to bed and falling asleep to,
or that easy armchair: when i was converting my
grandmother to read poetry (zbigniew herbert's)
and forget the cheap romance novels... she was quietly
amused... i told her we write scarce words, once in a while,
rather than attempting to procrastinate
as most work is these days with the lost scythe and plough
on the pseudo-faustian bargain of Proust
(if it has no direct meaning, remember
there's a direct and an indirect article dualism,
just let it resound... don't treat it like a comet...
but more like rainfall... i treat ezra pound's like that...
like a hundred people could say the same,
even though only one did)...
the proustian bargain fabble? babble babble blah blah
babylon... the israelites sung about the babylonian
captivity... thought about the egyptian one...
i once said architectural necrophilia, and i'm true to it
like an expected tide...
but let us return to the title...
poetics explains economics the best...
new notation in post-existentialism, the ditto-encapsulation
will be replaced with a non-literary notation,
with the approx. mark, so a word is referred to
as approximately rather than within the skeleton
of ambiguity, loose the question mark, that way you will,
no longer "haiku" as referring to syllables, but rather
referring to length, hence the notation ~haiku, e.g.:
poet strip yourself of priceless / worthless subject matters,
the mechanics of the moon and the sun are too much,
you write of beauty for beauty be only a grandeur,
and indeed you take pick of the celestial bodies,
but you leave the two-pence coin on the pavement
when you pass it, and by not picking it up
not blowing on it for good luck (come one moment
come the next moment, gone),
so that the pennies can be increased...
write a thousand moons into a single poem
and still the thousand moons will not translate
into a thousand pounds: you speak of the nocturnal
moisture with a mouth of a desert, and a tongue
like a sidewinder... always missing the topic
you care for because you have never took step
on the object stressed, used...
don't make this a barren art-form.
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.
tloco Jun 2015
Coming to now, the story of life not as a practical lesson in wisdom as such in a parable or teaching only casual experience for individual. Experiencing this wisdom will change your knowledge gained through the events of becoming with the kingdom of heaven. Ways on the tree of life or paths which are ordained or divined in the Lords or spheres build your learned life knowledge. Adapting as a disciple on the natural skill of the soul shows a person whom, the individual is in a pure state of self and exponential in the ***** of the tree of life.
As a child of light I lived happily joined in the union of spirit, my young soul always with the Almighty Father and Creator in the Tenth heaven. From a dream of the past awaking as a watcher of an extremely large craft inside the entire vessel I could see animals each of them were named and had most important characteristics from the Father. From high aloft in Heaven to the boat a watch was taking place omnipotent over the last life within. Many hosts and angels spoke once I was inside the boat but wasn’t as a soul like a spirit invisible I saw and heard. Angels divine in accord to works of commands were at work in heaven whole groups of choirs known as orders were not ever interrupted by my watch. Trumpet sounded heard in the spirits from heaven to the sea and rush gate of the heaven’s upon the earth. The name of angel that sounded and captured fallen in the thirteenth month; Tebae-et, into the stellar order of gates or fallen paradise.
A child of light borne in spirit always with the hosts or different characters in life such as Chanokh (Enokh-Father of Melekhi-Tsedek order), but it was either in dream or warden amongst crowds of souls touring in celestial spheres with paths of light on the tree of life. Walking outside my house the morning after my dream, I felt as if I could float in the air body and soul light as a feather. Surrounding me was Topaz, chrysophrase, jasper, chalcedony, and amber gemstones still transparency like crystalloluminescence. Above me sapphire with alabaster and my soul looked down upon me with white eyes shining light out of them in a robe covered in my names brilliantly shone in gold light in the temple of my soul. My body was in euphoria and I stared into the future and realms of heaven, seeing into the seven seals as celestial wardens. The divine experience was wholesome pure enrichment to my soul each word I had in communion with the throne of supreme majesty firm with glory, order, and unconditional loving care. Differences in the Father; whom was a body of so many names and creations perfect in commands, recordings, gates, cycles of hosts myriads, elementals, migrations of stars, and firmament upon firmament.
The way of the most holy spirits as complete body of the Father the original tree of life, which is known completely in the true names it was created as. The spirits, angels, guardians or incessantly serving hosts help the Father governing of the kingdom of heaven in the four parts of man. The structure I remember is perfection with tongues that fill the heart with everlasting laughter, hope that cheerfully overcomes in a soul victory. The heavenly abode the height of the throne gives the soul countenance of wisdom to the word unto man. Upon a single walk with the Father had taken my body and spirited my being in soul countenance of wisdom so far through the future I had saw unto trumpets of revelation.
Melekhi-Tsedek order the true religion to be proclaimed unto man the creatures such as animals, fallen accursed, the plant life in, promise, orphans, and widows were watched over on the decree or divine ordination from heaven. Ascending up to the throne; I went through the knowledge of the complete day in heaven or paradise recorded then toured the solar spheres, through the knowledge of the spirits or holy hosts that did in accordance to the orders. The process was divined in the Father’s willpower over my essence I had knowledge to what was being experienced in a connection unto every living creation. Completely, opening the mind unto Ratsiel (secret of God), through the third-eye founding of my soul into mysteries of kingdom of heaven. Voices of many named angels were annunciating with pleasant tones and choirs voices of angels by the thousands. Recording archangels kept the things that were occurring in the kingdom of man, while also serving the obligated roles of their natural being as direct personification of God. Organized, synchronized, and in spirit of prophecy patterning so perfected without error moving about in every way structurally sound through commanded orders. Systems of planets were kept sealed in the seven hallways or wards that divide heaven’s celestial nether space from the foundation of firmaments of word and universe unto the highest Lords signs of zodiac places. Above Almighty Father can sit omnipotent as ascending angels, spirits, or orders can go the entire flight focused on the Father’s throne. The orders of body were eminence Seraphim, Cherubim, Wheels (Thrones), Dominions (Authorities), Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangel, and Angels. Although the kingdom in spirit was always changing and becoming according to the cycle of the sun’s orbital sphere into the gates of each day on a 28 year cycle and 7,000 year unto 7 days in heaven the Lord a light-giver and also Lord of completion, Sabbath day.
A fresh gust of wind and a light pure feel was a regular experience while awakening my mind I learned of the Elders of heaven whom had crazy stories like when Samson had the might to slay the lions or tore down the temple of Dagon. I knew the hosts and things that had become in the kingdom of heaven to allow the might shone as a show for the heaven, but also act of the devils in his life. This knowledge was in a book the scripted the entirety of all the acts that take place as a divine act, once a celestial being was in visitation in spirit. The seraph Ratsiel (secret of God) investigated the acts of the temptation of Adam by Chavah and the acts of the archangels in response to the threat. The accord to the acts of everything that exists in the accord to knowledge of the solar is obtainable through this book, the book of knowledge.
Later in another dream I met the minister of death in spirit which as within a myriad where thousands of spirits were at works performing the acts in which is their existence and adapted behavior as a role in realms. Being in one place while still seeing into a complete different world or plane of existence doing as is need or divined in nature. Black darkened pillars came down on me as this space ship shaped like a pyramid with the patterns of natural earth red and black like lava years after a volcano. Around me each pillar stood as a being in realm invisible to my eye except for one being on a throne centered in the myriad the throne of death. Fiery torment in flames along with brimstone flowed in two pooled lakes parallel from one another with a long path going from gate to the another gate leading to Sheol or Hades. A base foundation of the throne is a horizontal shadowed hallway with many smaller pillars which give no support to the throne, while the path is vertically centered. Two stairways go up to the platform of the throne one on each side of the platform decorated with images of Baaliyal in form of a torrent. Death sat upon the throne with darkness like the appearance of black smoke blowing from his mouth a complete skeleton. Skeletal body covered in black cloak with a screeching voice like a woman’s long fingernail’s scratching a chalkboard. Terrified I walk my being over the site of my soul-mate who is on my like side and here with me she is like a dream and become in multiple places at the same time. Beautiful she was consistently becoming in hosts of cherubim changing into many different forms of the adapting natural instincts of animal’s behavior for survival, she is tan Carmel skin color and flesh uncorrupted by any mans thoughts of lusting ruin. Passionate vivid dreams of a                maiden lying in an alien jungle full of plants most like a rainforest but yet close to the planet’s beaches, wearing a purple robe. Dark and warm humid with a damp feel to the observer of the smooth cover of the claylike terrain of the solar sphere. Again I dreamed of her while she was separated from me by the prince of Tyre or the cherub covering the mercy, she ran amongst different hallways while in the tower of Babel and giant nephlim watched with other gods in gold cursed trying to look down on things in spirit. I walked up the stairs and could see myself from outside of myself, seeing my form as a human being in appearance most like Michael or Melekhidael with breastplate of gold without a helmet. Death screeched out at me and I saw an ancient giant of hell also the spirit of Tanhumeth trying to send me into the past. Awakened into a new form I walked through the gate vertical in the chamber beneath death’s ministry. Sopheriael Yahweh took me into the spirit of a seraph Hadaneriael then, into the 10 archangels of punishment over the 10 nations of Babylon the great which took me into the depth to the ninth circle of punishment for a reign in gates of the Phul seal or in Phalek. My soul was the loosened stars of Kesil through Samuil the poisoned messenger a discernment spirit involved in the surfs of the accord of the kingdom of dark princes in paradise, the divine comedy Queen of Angels enchanted songs counted into paradise. Darkness in the kingdom of heaven, with the ability to paralyze minds with seraphim hosts of terror, I walked through the brazen gates of Hades seeing everything on fire but also thousands of thousands of different forms of creations each rarity seen with delightful insight to provoke interests into any living being. The life paths of a multitude of creations would come through Hades and become baptized through spirit’s fire of pure refinement spoken as worth in the golden city, precious daughter of the loom, here in accord to John the Baptist’s   prophecy.
At a young age of 6 years old I began to refuse the world or play directly into the kingdom of heaven which was a lonely elect of self in my family also in the church my family attended. Wicked spirits attacked the gates of my inner ear where and had began to tell me of things that would happen in future then, keep me from being with the Father completely in heaven. My memory started to fade in fear that I would only to struggle if I kept learning. Gradual disillusion way from the throne began while I was only a few years old, the devils were wise in deceit most from the tree of knowledge and future mistakes from which I saw rolling with wheels of heaven. Moments of times in the future I would soul determine things into happening from the spirit of prophecy it was something I kept special between the Father and mines relationship. Constantly I would hated life and wanted to die, feed into temptation, stole, and spoke accursedly cutting my relationship from the Father.
Was not until I was seventeen years of age when I felt an overwhelming feeling like I had just explained something about the firmament of heaven which usually gives me this same feeling like a gust of wind in my person with a prestigious self worth from outside of self comforting to my soul. Looking up into the pitch black night sky, I saw a strange and odd formed constellation of stars above me I raised my arm and pointed at three stars. As if on command or through a governing of the stars each was loosed and fell immediately after pointing to them. Excited as the skin of my body was stinging as hairs stood to the point of super natural acknowledgment of the world’s great mysteries finding depth in the human soul I watched the sky then turned to the east. About to use the marijuana I torched a bowl of green bud then thought in the medium mostly of the kingdom and Father in heaven. In the zephyr region of the sky I saw a light floating, soaring, flashing, and moving faster than anything I had ever seen in life but on movies scenes. Astonished again I watch the spirit jumping around in the sky with multiple purposes and clear intent to do for the Father most high. My only other witness to this was my black minx cat shadoe, whom I looked at and said “I going to have a vision tomorrow” then finished two more hits of the cannabis before leaving to my room in the basement of a two-story house.
Awakening to the day was full of feeling of mystery I didn’t tell any of my experience from the night before. On October eighteenth in the day I smoked some marijuana went to Crook County High School and a blood drive was setup, I planned to give a pint for my first time ever so I went to auditorium where the blood was taken from my arm. Feeling faint and in hope for a high opposed to school I left and was excused from classes. Arriving at the house I stopped my Suzuki Sidekick in front then went in and downstairs to the place after the last step knowing something amazing was about to happening I uttered the name Metatron. Linear thought was tremendous while spirit balanced on a pillar and the first seal Arathron had me in celestial hallway warding the ancient spirits from the night before. Sitting down in a lazyboy recliner chair I first start the satellite television turn it on with remote, the spirits are crazy making grandeur boosts of how I can control everything like that remote but from mind. Flipping through stations I begin to change the channel in accord to how I sense and feel the spirits. Crazy things start occurring watching until I was seeing a celestial vision. Hearing my mind from above it was intriguing and making my pride compulsive like no one living I was experiencing these sights. As a mode of characters in a set ordained function were becoming visible on the tree of life but each were in a different realm not visible to the other. Beautiful alien life most exquisite to the eyes in the planes of other worldly adobes just doing into a set way of commands rare without repetition. Nine characters panther, eagle, falcon, wolf, coyote, Siberian tiger, and one man with blonde hair came into view in a dense rainforest like jungle each was adapting to the environment but they were only one soul becoming the entire time. The forest was no longer and the upper places had new hosting since I had entered and changed things with my thoughts, I became the soul of the characters. Seeing upwardly was a flight to the top of the extreme heights of the Father’s presence through the third seal of Phalek. At the arrival of my being I saw the most adorned and absolutely marvelous splendor of white shine like that of the sun’s rays hitting snow filled fields. The Father’s presence so handsome and gorgeous I have never seen another beauty like it only his eyes were so bright shining when he created my being as a star to his left-hand above a white marble pedestal of wisdom. Father had most elegant white robe shining in purity and sat upon a throne center below seven pillars known as the tabernacle of creation or tabernacle of seven days. In the presence I was pulled back down I felt spirits by the millions entering me, fusing to the dawn star in me finding a place inside me. Possessively filled with spirits till an evil pride overtook me and I felt ever sinful or dark taint of the soul. Lightening fell on the seventh pillar in the tabernacle blue bolts streaked downward as I fell from the presence back to the sphere of Adam’s where I heard two voices speaking. Red clay-like surface with rough igneous and metaphoric rock on the solar planet were a tree had burned to charred pieces. Sin from the Tree of knowledge was present as a spirit she was a young apprentice of the ancient one or Athiquelis. Introducing herself with flaming hair of red orange flames, her eyes shone as big red gemstones of ruby and a body covered with a black dress that faded into the natural darkness of her nature. Waving and floating in the air seducing temptation in her words that spoke into my mind and not from the channel. Soothsaying feminist voice would move me to her place and origin beside a large eleven foot pillar of smooth dark bla
Dark Smile Oct 2013
I live in my fantasy world.
It is a place where all the characters in the books I have read can come to life.
They become my friends.
They don't lie,
they aren't fake.
Sometimes,
I stay in this world for too long.
I lose sense of what is real and what isn't.
I seem to think that I become a fictional character.
Of course,
that would be ideal.
I wouldn't have to lie.
Even the villains in books don't lie.
They openly hate the heroes.
In real life,
they'll talk behind your back,
they will make your life hell.
I wish I could be a fictional character.
I never will be.
I can't.
I'm always brought back to reality.
If insanity is what can liberate me from this,
then I'll gladly lose my sanity to live in my world of fictional characters.
Shanijua Jul 2014
How can we get so attached to someone who isn't
Even real? Why do we cry when something tragic
Happens to our favorite characters? I find myself
Not being able to get over Freddie McClair's death even though
I constantly remind myself that it was only fiction. Even
Now I am saddened by the memory. Freddie was only
A character.. Why must I feel so upset?
Mateuš Conrad Nov 2015
with the internet the fictional characters rebelled, added to the  stealing of shadows by hollywood, now comes the true time of who the  narrators are... if no narrator relieve character studying and keeping  narration in a state of ~necessary placebo we’ll only get alien  invasions and bomb blasts to succor the anaemic characters... we need  charisma from narrators who are characters as if imbued by the  surrounding... we hardly need mythologies of ghosts that replaced  mythologies of gods... we need narrators ready to forget fictive  chronology and engage in the life of what their characters live; nothing  else, nothing more; show us a weak narrator overcome by a strong  character... stop shoving us so much imagery of contentment resembling  ~strength  of characters... when the narration is weakened by cloning  termed sequal / prequel / sequal no. 2 / no. 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 etc.  how can  a weakened narrator ever provide a strength of character? never mind,  the punctuation in philosophy is stressed by the question mark - meaning  a question will provide offshoot narrations in whatever arrangement the  comma, the full-stop semi and colon will allow... the question mark is  an entry point of punctuation, it’s the full-stop with something being  added in relation to another person... so if a poem is given alliance to  parallels, i always italicise in a method of anti p.s., although  strickly p.s. as pre scriptum: what made me think after i have written  something as easily disposable in comparison with tolstoy’s war &  peace on the basis of what denotes civilised people?*

when i do something that’s not too excessively adjectively biased
like the book of genesis: ‘ah ****... it’s good,’ said god
concerning the world that gave us
the infestation of diseases and statues of david...
good thing he didn’t say: it’s amazing! it’s psychedelic!
that would be untrue... he chose neutrality...
like me... i thought i lost a poem, i saved it with ctrl c...
and i get pavlov’s reward with a memory:
i’m buying beer in a turkish shop,
i start chatting to a boy ~10...
i tell him my childhood secret
about how i thought animals couldn’t see in the realm of 2d...
given that no cat or dog ever watches the t.v.,
mindful of sleep / mindful of the owner...
cat: i missed an hour in the sloths physiology, go away!
dog: i really need to ****! i really need to ****! get me
a tree quick or it’s going to be your leg getting soaked! soppy miu miu **.
god... adele’s hello single... if i had to mine for salt
i'd check the dog’s ******* first.
boy from the turkish shop - when you grow up
and are still interested in my game from youth:
about how animals don’t see in 2d -
i hope... i hope... i hope they still don’t.

poets’ ~sadness is what feeds people’s apathy,
people feel the lack of pathology in apathy
that they sense something must be wrong,
and poets provide this ~something-is-wrong
pathology - modern computers hibernate like bears -
it’s still very basic... we’ll need more than poets
to feel like ****...
i said once: apathy creates no pathologies...
but people desire pathology to craft drama...
they despair at the celestial ingenuity of orbits...
they despair at the leo’s strenght and cancer’s recycling
to endear their characters with zodiacs...
the west is too individualistic that it divides...
take the year of the tiger in the chinese shadow of belief...
it’s hardly specifying samuel tollbridge with a confirmation
name to gimmick the tetragrammaton as the catholics do...
i don’t feel like feeding people’s apathy...
i rather enjoy my own ~sadness than feed it...
if anything i want to oppose philosophy’s testimony
that scarceness of words in poetry... unsung...
unsung with guitars pianos and harps is sad...
and the simplicity of words in songs
sung with guitars pianos and harps is profitably ‘appy...
poetry is merely what the composer wrote
in silence in that complexity of
what poetry isn’t:
what the violin had to say,
what the piano had to say,
what the concerto d-minor sounded like
in the life of john smith disillusioned with living idealism
necessarily lived...
poetry the silent background...
fruitfull in automating the lives of others... the crackling wood
of the woodwinds necessarily lived to the score /
or off the pavement of dialogue expected...
poetry not sung is less akin to music it’s true cousin...
poetry not sung becomes philosophy.
1969 Hartford art school is magnet for exceedingly intelligent over-sensitive under-achievers alluring freaks congenital creeps and anyone who cannot cut it in straight world it is about loners dreamers stoners clowns cliques of posers competing to dress draw act most outrageous weird wonderful classrooms clash in diversity of needs some students get it right off while others require so much individual attention one girl constantly raises her hand calls for everything to be repeated explained creativity is treated as trouble and compliance to instruction rewarded most of faculty are of opinion kids are not capable of making original artwork teachers discourage students from dream of becoming well-known until they are older more experienced only practiced skilled artists are competent to create ‘real art’ defined by how much struggle or multiple meanings weave through the work Odysseus wants to make magic boxes without knowing or being informed of Joseph Cornell one teacher tells him you think you’re going to invent some new color the world has never seen? you’re just some rowdy brat from the midwest with a lot of crazy ideas and no evidence of authenticity another teacher warns you’re nothing more than a bricoleur! Odysseus questions what’s a bricoleur teacher informs a rogue handyman who haphazardly constructs from whatever is immediately available Odysseus questions what’s wrong with that? teacher answers it’s low-class folk junk  possessing no real intellectual value independently he reads Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium Is The Message” and “The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci” he memorizes introductory remark of Leonardo’s “i must do like one who comes last to the fair and can find no other way of providing for himself than by taking all the things already seen by others and not taken by reason of their lesser value” Odysseus dreams of becoming accomplished important artist like Robert Rauschenberg Jasper Johns Andy Warhol he dreams of being in eye of hurricane New York art scene he works for university newspaper and is nicknamed crashkiss the newspaper editor is leader in student movement and folk singer who croons “45 caliber man, you’re so much more than our 22, but there’s so many more of us than you” Odysseus grows mustache wears flower printed pants vintage 1940’s leather jacket g.i. surplus clothes he makes many friends his gift for hooking up with girls is uncanny he is long haired drug-crazed hippie enjoying popularity previously unknown to him rock bands play at art openings everyone flirts dances gets ****** lots of activism on campus New York Times dubs university of Hartford “Berkeley of the east coast” holding up ******* in peace sign is subversive in 1969 symbol of rebellion youth solidarity gesture against war hawks rednecks corporate America acknowledgment of potential beyond materialistic self-righteous values of status quo sign of what could be in universe filled with incredible possibilities he moves in with  painting student one year advanced named Todd Whitman Todd has curly blond hair sturdy build wire rimmed glasses impish smile gemini superb draftsman amazing artist Todd emulates Francisco de Goya and Albrecht Durer Todd’s talent overshadows Odysseus’s Todd’s dad is accomplished professor at distinguished college in Massachusetts to celebrate Odysseus’s arrival Todd cooks all day preparing spaghetti dinner when Odysseus arrives home tripping on acid without appetite Todd is disappointed Odysseus runs down to corner store buys large bottle of wine returns to house Todd is eating spaghetti alone they get drunk together then pierce each other’s ears with needles ice wine cork pierced ears are outlaw style of bad *** bikers like Hell’s Angels Todd says you are a real original Odys and funny too Odysseus asks funny, how? Todd answers you are one crazy ******* drop acid whenever you want smoke **** then go to class this is fun tonight Odys getting drunk and piercing our ears Odysseus says yup i’m having a good time too Todd and Odysseus become best friends Odysseus turns Todd on to Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar” and “Ariel” then they both read Ted Hughes “Crow” illustrated with Leonard Baskin prints Todd turns Odysseus on to German Expressionist painting art movement of garish colors emotionally violent imagery from 1905-1925 later infuriating Third ***** who deemed the work “degenerate” Odysseus dives into works of Max Beckmann Otto Dix Conrad Felixmulller Barthel Gilles George Grosz Erich Heckel Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Felix Nussbaum Karl *******Rottluff Carl Hofer August Macke Max Peckstein Elfriede Lohse-Wachtler Egon Shiele list goes on in 1969 most parents don’t have money to buy their children cars most kids living off campus either ride bikes or hitchhike to school then back home on weekends often without a penny in their pockets Odysseus and Todd randomly select a highway and hitch rides to Putney Vermont Brattleboro Boston Cape Cod New York City or D.C. in search of adventure there is always trouble to be found curious girls to assist in Georgetown Odysseus sleeps with skinny girl with webbed toes who believes he is Jesus he tries to dissuade her but she is convinced

Toby Mantis is visiting New York City artist at Hartford art school he looks like huskier handsomer version of Ringo Starr and women dig him he builds stretchers and stretches canvases for Warhol lives in huge loft in Soho on Broadway and Bleeker invites Odysseus to come down on weekends hang out Toby takes him to Max’s Kansas City Warhol’s Electric Circus they wander all night into morning there are printing companies longshoremen gays in Chelsea Italians in West Village hippies playing guitars protesting the war in Washington Square all kinds of hollering crazies passing out fliers pins in Union Square Toby is hard drinker Odysseus has trouble keeping up  he pukes his guts out number of times Odysseus is *** head not drinker he explores 42nd Street stumbles across strange exotic place named Peep Show World upstairs is large with many **** cubicles creepy dudes hanging around downstairs is astonishing there are many clusters of booths with live **** girls inside girls shout out hey boys come on now pick me come on boys there are hundreds of girls from all over the world in every conceivable size shape race he enters dark stall  puts fifty cents in coin box window screen lifts inside each cluster are 6 to 10 girls either parading or glued to a window for $1 he is allowed to caress kiss their ******* for $2 he is permitted to probe their ****** or *** for $10 girl reaches hand into darkened stall jerks him off tall slender British girl thrills him the most she says let me have another go at your dickey Odysseus spends all his money ******* 5 times departing he notices men from every walk of life passing through wall street stockbrokers executives rednecks mobsters frat boys tourists fat old bald guys smoking thick smelly cigars Toby Mantis has good-looking girlfriend named Lorraine with long brown hair Toby Lorraine and Odysseus sit around kitchen table Odysseus doodles with pencil on paper Toby spreads open Lorraine’s thighs exposing her ****** to Odysseus Lorraine blushes yet permits Toby to finger her Odysseus thinks she has the most beautiful ****** he has ever seen bulging pelvic bone brown distinctive bush symmetric lips Toby and Lorraine watch in amusement as Odysseus gazes intently Tony mischievously remarks you like looking at that ***** don’t you? Odysseus stares silently begins pencil drawing Lorraine’s ****** his eyes darting back and forth following day Lorraine seduces Odysseus while Toby is away walks out **** from shower she is few years older her body lean with high ******* she directs his hands mouth while she talks with someone on telephone it is strange yet quite exciting Odysseus is in awe of New York City every culture in the world intermingling democracy functioning in an uncontrollable managed breath millions of people in motion stories unraveling on every street 24 hour spectacle with no limits every conceivable variety of humanity ******* in same air Odysseus is bedazzled yet intimidated

Odysseus spends summer of 1970 at art colony in Cummington Massachusetts it is magical time extraordinary place many talented eccentric characters all kinds of happenings stage plays poetry readings community meals volleyball after dinner volleyball games are hilarious fun he lives alone in isolated studio amidst wild raspberries in woods shares toilet with field mouse no shower he reads Jerzy Kosinski’s “Painted Bird” then “Being There” then “Steps” attractive long haired girl named Pam visits community for weekend meets Odysseus they talk realize they were in first grade together at Harper amazing coincidence automatic ground for “we need to have *** because neither of us has seen each other since first grade” she inquires where do you sleep? Todd hitches up from Hartford to satisfy curiosity everyone sleeps around good-looking blue-eyed poet named Shannon Banks from South Boston tells Odysseus his ******* is not big enough for kind of ******* she wants but she will **** him off that’s fine with him 32 year old poet named Ellen Morrissey from Massachusetts reassures him ******* is fine Ellen is beginning to find her way out from suffocating marriage she has little daughter named Nina Ellen admires Odysseus’s free spirit sees both his possibilities and naïveté she realizes he has crippling family baggage he has no idea he is carrying thing about trauma is as it is occurring victim shrugs laughs to repel shock yet years later pain horror sink in turned-on with new ideas he returns to Hartford art school classes are fun yet confusing he strives to be best drawer most innovative competition sidetracks him Odysseus uses power drill to carve pumpkin on Halloween teachers warn him to stick to fundamentals too much creativity is suspect Todd and he are invited to holiday party Odysseus shows up with Ellen Morrissey driving in her father’s station wagon 2 exceptionally pretty girls flirt with him he is live wire they sneak upstairs he fingers both at same time while they laugh to each other one of the girls Laura invites him outside to do more he follows they walk through falling snow until they find hidden area near some trees Laura lies down lifts her skirt she spreads her legs dense ***** mound he is about to explore her there when Laura looks up sees figure with flashlight following their tracks in snow she warns it’s Bill my husband run for your life! Odysseus runs around long way back inside party grabs a beer pretending he has been there next to Ellen all night few minutes later he sees Laura and Bill return through front door Bill has dark mustache angry eyes Odysseus tells Ellen it is late maybe they should leave soon suddenly Bill walks up to him with beer in hand cracks bottle over his head glass and beer splatter Odysseus jumps up runs out to station wagon Ellen hurriedly follows snow coming down hard car is wedged among many guest vehicles he starts engine locks doors maneuvers vehicle back and forth trying to inch way out of spot Bill appears from party walks to his van disappears from out of darkness swirling snow Bill comes at them wielding large crowbar smashes car’s headlights taillights side mirrors windshield covered in broken glass Ellen ducks on floor beneath glove compartment sobs cries he’s going to **** us! we’re going to die! Odysseus steers station wagon free floors gas pedal drives on back country roads through furious snowstorm in dark of night no lights Odysseus contorts crouches forward in order to see through hole in shattered windshield Ellen sees headlights behind them coming up fast it is Bill in van Bill banging their bumper follows them all the way back to Hartford to Odysseus’s place they run inside call police Bill sits parked van outside across street as police arrive half hour later Bill pulls away next day Odysseus and Ellen drive to Boston to explain to Ellen’s dad what has happened to his station wagon Odysseus stays with Ellen in Brookline for several nights another holiday party she wants to take him along to meet her friends her social circles are older he thinks to challenge their values be outrageous paints face Ellen is horrified cries you can’t possibly do this to me these are my close friends what will they think? he defiantly answers my face is a mask who cares what i look like? man woman creature what does it matter? if your friends really want to know me they’ll need to look beyond the make-up tonight i am your sluttish girlfriend! sometimes Odysseus can be a thoughtless fool

Laura Rousseau Shane files for divorce from Bill she is exceptionally lovely models at art school she is of French descent her figure possessing exotic traits she stands like ballerina with thick pointed ******* copious ***** hair Odysseus is infatuated she frequently dances pursues him Laura says i had the opportunity to meet Bob Dylan once amazed Odysseus questions what did you do? she replies what could i possibly have in common with Bob Dylan? Laura teases Odysseus about being a preppy then lustfully gropes him grabs holds his ***** they devote many hours to ****** intimacy during ******* she routinely reaches her hand from under her buns grasps his testicles squeezing as he pumps he likes that Laura is quite eccentric fetishes over Odysseus she even thrills to pick zits on his back he is not sure if it is truly a desire of hers proof of earthiness or simply expression of mothering Laura has two daughters by Bill Odysseus is in over his head Laura tells Odysseus myth of Medea smitten with love for Jason Jason needs Medea’s help to find Golden Fleece Medea agrees with promise of marriage murders her brother arranges ****** of king who has deprived Jason his inheritance couple is forced into exile Medea bears Jason 2 sons then Jason falls in love with King Creon’s daughter deserts Medea is furious she makes shawl for King Creon’s daughter to wear at her wedding to Jason  shawl turns to flames killing bride Medea murders her own sons by Jason Odysseus goes along with story for a while but Laura wants husband Odysseus is merely scruffy boy with roving eyes Laura becomes galled by Odysseus leaves him for one of his roommates whom she marries then several years later divorces there is scene when Laura tells Odysseus she is dropping him for his roommate he is standing in living room of her house space is painted deep renaissance burgundy there are framed photographs on walls in one photo he is hugging Laura and her daughters under big oak tree in room Laura’s friend Bettina other girl he fingered first night he met Laura at party is watching with arms crossed he drops to floor curls body sobs i miss you so much Laura turns to Bettina remarks look at him men are such big babies he’s pitiful Bettina nods

following summer he works installing displays at G. Fox Department Store besides one woman gay men staff display department for as long as he can remember homosexuals have always been attracted to him this misconception is probably how he got job his tenor voice suggesting not entirely mature man instead more like tentative young boy this ambiguous manifestation sometimes also evidences gestures thoroughly misleading after sidestepping several ****** advances one of his co-workers bewilderingly remarks you really are straight manager staff are fussy chirpy catty group consequently certain he is not gay they discriminate against him stick him with break down clean up slop jobs at outdoor weekend rock concert in Constitution Plaza he meets 2 younger blond girls who consent to go back to his place mess around both girls are quite dazzling yet one is somewhat physically undeveloped they undress and model for Odysseus radio plays Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly With His Song” both girls move to rhythm sing along he thinks to orchestrate direct decides instead to let them lead lies on bed while curvaceous girl rides his ******* slender girl sits on his face they switch all 3 alternate giggle laughter each girl reaches ****** on his stiffness later both assist with hands mouths his ****** is so intense it leaves him paralyzed for a moment

in fall he is cast as Claudius in production of Hamlet Odysseus rehearses diligently on nights o
Infinity - The name of the planet where the story takes place.

Eternity - The name of the main Continent where the story takes place.

Darkness - The name of the country where the sins live.

Chaos - The capital city in the country Darkness.

Tranquility - The name of the country where the virtues live.  

Glory - The capital city in the country Tranquility.

Lust - The wife of Greed and the mother of Anger.  Lust is a ******* and a ****.  Her husband Greed is her ****.  Lust has an affair with Hatred and becomes pregnant.  She gives birth to Anger.  Lust and Envy are best friends.  

Greed - The husband of Lust, the older brother of Envy, and the step father of Anger.  Greed is Lust's ****.  Greed is a ****, corrupt politician, gangster, and a ***** businessman.  Greed is Pride's right hand man.

Hatred - The father of Anger and Cruelty.  Hatred has an affair with Lust.  She becomes pregnant and gives birth to Anger.  He also has a fling with Envy.  She becomes pregnant and gives birth to Cruelty.  Hatred rapes Love.  Hatred is a terrorist, an assassin, and a cold calculated killer.

Love - The wife of Loyalty, the mother of Kindness, and the older sister of Truth.  Love is a humanitarian and a healer.  Love is ***** by Hatred.

Loyalty - The husband of Love and the father of Kindness.  Loyalty is a soldier and a warrior.  He gets revenge on Hatred for ****** Love.

Kindness - The daughter of Love and Loyalty.  She is the niece of Truth.

Anger - The son of Lust and Hatred, the stepson of Greed, and the half brother of Cruelty.  Anger is best friends with Ignorance.

Faith - The wife of Truth and the mother of Hope.

Hope - The daughter of Faith and Truth.

Pride - The elected commander who rules over all the sins.

Cruelty - The daughter of Envy and Hatred.  She is the half sister of Anger.

Envy - The younger sister of Greed and the mother of Cruelty.  Envy has a fling with Hatred and becomes pregnant.  She gives birth to Cruelty.  Envy is best friends with Lust.

Truth - The husband of Faith, the father of Hope, and the younger brother of Love.  Truth is the uncle of Kindness.  Truth is a soldier and a warrior.  He gets revenge on Hatred for ****** Love.

D.E.A.T.H. - A terrorist organization created and operated by Hatred.  D.E.A.T.H. stands for Darkness Engulfing All Things Holy.

Knowledge - The younger brother of Understanding and Wisdom.

Understanding - The brother of Wisdom and Knowledge.  Understanding is a teacher.  He and Mercy have a romantic interest in each other.

Wisdom - The oldest brother of Knowledge and Understanding.  Wisdom is the elected commander who rules over all the virtues.

Sloth - The wife of Gluttony and the mother of Ignorance.

Gluttony - The husband of Sloth and the father of Ignorance.

Ignorance - The son of Sloth and Gluttony.  Ignorance is best friends with Anger.

S.O.U.L. -   A humanitarian organization created and operated by Love.  S.O.U.L. stands for sharing our undying love.

Grace - She's a singer, entertainer, and a a performer.

Mercy - She is a member of S.O.U.L.  Mercy is best friends with Love.  She has a romantic interest in Understanding.

Limbo - A country that's in the middle of the two countries Darkness and Tranquility.  Darkness is to the west of Limbo and Tranquility is to the east of Limbo.  The country Limbo has a river of blood running down the middle.  There is a civil war taking place in the country Limbo.

Deceit - Deceit is a master of disguise.   It is a male and and a female.  Deceit is a member of D.E.A.T.H.

Written by Keith Edward Baucum
A story about Sins and Virtues.
Journal of Darkness: Assassin and Deceptress


Nov 21, 2011, 8:17:32 PM by ~OmegaWolfOfWinter
Journals / Personal




(description of storyline: all characters in this work are dragons, with the ability to change into a human form. they live in present day society, but have a base in the middle of the desert. there is a library with the history of the world, which is operated by stacra, an organization to preserve the peace in the world. there is a rival organization, the dracra, who wish to take it over. the dracra is led by a dragon named Darkheart, a dragon who has haunted the Scar line for millenia.)
"... sahsa...."
what was that mumbled sasha, a small town girl in modern day USA. she was nearly asleep when the voice called to her.
sasha was usually described as a freak. she was a dragon fanatic, and she carried her favorite books wherever she went, Brink of Insanity: journal of the Wild and the Broken; and its companion, Blood curse:  journal of the Destroyer and the Savage. they told of dragons living in new york who had to bear a family curse and sought a way to release it. the author was only known as "Lucian".
"....sasha...."
i'm sure i heard it that time...
"....come to me sasha...."
she didnt know why but she felt as if she absolutely had to find the source. she was barely clothed but quietly snuck out, leaving small footprints in the snow.
"....sasha!...."
she felt panicked. as the voice grew louder so did her heart, beating quickly in her ears. some sort of animal instinct took over and she somehow Managed to run on all fours. her whole body began tingling, her skin writhing. she looked back and nearly choked: wings and a tail... had grown from her body. her whole body turned white as scales etched their way into life over her skin. her body began elongating and enlarging, becoming streamlined and lizardlike. she was transforming...
"...yes!... just as you said, master...."
"...quiet, kovu..."
sashas vision went dark as she stumbled, barrelling through the snow. when she looked up, she saw an enormous dragon, with scars just like the ones in her book. "she will be a fine student."
sasha was dumbfounded as she saw her parents walk up behind them. "greetings, master Lucian, kovu." said her father.
"and you, rydon."
"y-you...know...?" stammered sasha.
"all will be explained in the morning, sasha," replied her mother.
sasha felt tired and her eyes shut as the ground came up to meet her.
sasha sat alone at the picnic table, surrounded by lucian, her father rydon, her mother sophia, and kovu. "so... you're all.... dragons.... like in my books..." she gestured to the two books.
lucian stepped forward and placed a hand on the books. his hand glowed and the glossy books turned to worn, leather journals. "yes, we are dragons. sasha. and you have done well guarding my journals."
"your... journals? but i thought that these were best-selling novels..."
lucian chuckled, "no no. young one, there are only two other copies of each of these in existence."
"wow..."
her father spoke up now, "so what are you here for, master? is it time for her to leave us?"
"leave?! what do you mean leave?!"
rydon looked worriedly at lucian and then at sasha,"you are dragon, and it is tradition for you to be trained."
"but what if i dont want to leave?!"
her father began to become angry,"its not your choice!"
"then whose-"
lucian's eyes glowed red in anger, "rydon, haven't you taught your daughter respect? surely you would know of my ways by now."
rydon nodded, "i- i'm sorry, master. i don't know whats come over her."
sasha ran, shifting to her new dragon form and flying away. darkheart had warned her of this, that lucian was a dictatoria leader. she asked herself, "why had her father taken his side? why did this have to happen so suddenly? and most of all, what was she going to do next?"
darkheart had given her directions to meet her after lucian made contact. sasha flew, tired as she was not used to the extra limbs.
once she reached the spot that darkheart had told her, she waited and thought things through.
once darkheart arrived, she spoke, "i want to join you. i beleive everything you've said."
darkheart chuckled, "i knew you would dear girl, lucian is the same as his grandfather, they both hounded me and tortured me, for their own twisted ways. i've tried to keep as many as possible from falling into their cluthces. i wasn't able to **** scarheart, as he captured me and forced me into his own body as an energy slave. he tortured me even there, and after he died, lucian, his grandson, got me. he too tortured me."
sasha looked at her in sock, "thats terrible. i didnt know..."
"you couldnt have, darling. those evil dragons keep everything from those who should know."
sasha stood, "i want to be trained. by you."
"really? i warn you, it is quite tough. not all survive. you must be willing to do whatever it takes to stop those vile dragons."
*     *     * 3 years later
sasha was 20 years old, and it was time for her to take on her first big mission: infiltrate lucian's schol and learn everything she could.
sasha had already talked to lucian, apologizing for her behavior so long ago. lucian had seemed hesitant but allowed her in. foolish old bat. she thought. she had been at the compund for a year and a half now and had become familiar with their ways.  sasha would often wonder why she was doing this, and she remembered, darkheart had said that lucian killed sashs's father. she always looked at him with scorn and wished to **** him. but she restrained herself and kept on the facade.
today she felt especially hating towards every master she came in contact with. she passed tsai, lucian's right hand dragon, as he went to talk with the master. she tried to eavesdrop but they were speaking in an ancient, coded language. she growled and her white scales flashed in the sun.


"Lucian, somethings not right about that youngling sasha... she's always watching us, like she's gathering information."
"yes, tsai, i know. i know exactly what she is."
"what?" tsai looked skeptical.
"she's an agent, an informant. for darkheart."
tsai stared, incredulous."wha?! how do you know?!"
"ive been under the influence of darkheart before, as have you. something about sasha is of darkheart's doing."
tsai nodded "even still, is she possessed by her or under orders?"
lucian thought for a moment "i beleive under orders..."
both stared as lucian's son, kovu, walked up to sasha.
*       *        
"sasha! hi!" kovu had taken a liking to sasha since his father took her as an apprentice.
"oh, um. hi. kovu..." *i cant let my emotions get in the way of my mission!
"how have you been?" sasha felt herself blush under the gaze of the drake. he wasnt half-bad to look at, and she often caught herself watching him.
"i'm doing great, training with tsai is always fun. what about you and master lucian?"
her eyes darted to her master, her target, then back at kovu. "you mean you're... dad?"
"yeah... my dad... but we students can only call them by their designation. even master scaleweaver calls some elders master."
sasha's ears pricked up as she heard scaleweaver's name. she was assigned to gather information on all of the masters. i must make madame darkheart proud... i am worthy... she must see that...
"is... something wrong, sasha?"
she caught herself, "n-no i'm just tired is all... just tired..."
her master lucian came toward her what a fool, he doesnt even know about me... "sasha, i need to speak with you.... alone."
kovu difpped his head and backed away respectfully.
"sasha, come."
she swallowed her pride and said, "yes... master..." and followed him.
once they were outside, lucian turned to her and said, "i know, sasha. i know that darkheart sent u here to gather information on us."
sasha's eyes widened and her mouth dropped. she thought hard how?! how does he know?! this cant be possible....
"i-i dont know what youre talking about, master..."
lucian turned on her with a peircing gaze, and made her wince as he studied her. "there are better ways to lie, youngling... but not to me. ive known for quite some time now."
sasha felt her legs give out beneath her. she sat, looking into the dust, listening incredulously at lucian. "how... how do you know?!?!"
sasha ran forward, clawing at lucian's throat. she was instantly frozen in place, an immensely strong spell holding her legs in place.  "let me go, lucian!"
"its master to you, youngling. and why would i let you go? you just tried to **** me." sasha struggled helplessly against her bonds. she saw lucian mutter something and felt her legs grow suddenly cold. she looked and gasped as ice started to creep up her haunches.
"lucia-master, please let me go... i was only under orders."
lucian chuckled, "how did darkheart get to you?"
"i can't tell you..."
"oh? then let me guess; theres another informant, a higher up in stacra, who told darkheart about you and she arrived, possibly a week before us? she fed you a story of stacra destroying the world and trying to take over the one that they created. she told you that she was only trying to help restore order. am i close?"
sasha felt naked under the gaze of the elder, who saw straight through her act and through her commander's plan. it made her heart quicken and her scales writhe. she felt a sharp pain as the ice crept up and chilled her thighs, creeping steadily upwards. "how... how can you know these things?! darkheart said you wouldnt be able to know... she said that you held her prisoner... that you tortured her... she said that you- you killed my father."
lucian shook his head and wiped something from his face, revealing gruesome scars. "she altered her face to look like mine... look, and know the truth." he placed a claw on her forehead and she gasped as a flood of memories flooded her, darkheart inside lucian's mind, taking over him, taunting him, and forcing him to do terrible things. she heard lucian say, "she tortured me, she held me captive. its true that stacra destroyed the world, but look also;" she saw the corrupt government of old, and their wretched attrocities. "they brought about their own destruction. we created the world you know, but dont wish it to be taken over, we merely want peace...We act as peacekeepers. darkheart seeks to enslave all to do her bidding. and your father died at darkheart's talons, not mine." sasha saw a gruesome scene as lucian tried to save her father.
she felt him withdraw, and felt the magic and ice withdraw from her, the ice's touch fading from her ****. she shivered and crouched low, warming her body.
"sasha, darkheart is a liar... she's been at it for thousands of years." he watched her shiver and said. "come, sit around the fire."
sasha noddded and followed close behind lucian, hiding her vulnerable state.
"i'm sorry, master."
"all will be okay, sasha... all will be fine.."
lucian brought sasha into his study under his wing. he had her sit down in front of the fire and draped a blanket over her. he sat down behind her, looking over the latest reports, waiting for her to speak. after a few minutes she sighed and looked back at lucian, tears forming in her eyes. "is everything you said true? Is darkheart nothing but a deceptionist?"
lucian looked up at her and nodded. "all of it was true. I'm sorry, sasha. darkheart is a gifted deceptionist and many of us have fallen for her tricks.  including me."
sasha turned back and looked into the fire with sad eyes, tears rolling down her cheek. she shuddered and took a shaky breath. lucian came up beside her and placed a comforting paw on her shoulder.
"darkheart forced me to **** my best friend... a she-drake named Clia... in front of her other followers to show that we must be able to turn on anyone to fulfill the mission..."
lucian nodded, "so I had heard... darkheart has become more cruel than ever."
"l-lucian, what can i do to make her pay?"
lucian thought for a while and then shook his head. "let me think more on this, sasha. for now, let no one know that you are an affiliate of darkheart, it could have deadly consequence. you may remain in here if you wish, or you may return to your own quarters. i have some things to attend to."
sasha nodded to him and gasped as everything went still and dimmed, even the fire seemed grey and frozen.
"wha-"
"sasha... you must tell me now, will you work with me?"
she was stunned. "where are you? what do you mean?"
"you want to get back at her, i know how to. but you must tell me if you will work with me."
"i-i will, lucian. but whhy ask now, and in this way?"
"because, there is someone here, that is going to try to **** you. he was listening to us and is going to attack you with magic. ive cast a spell that will give an apearance of death. just let the magic do its stuff and u'll do fine">
"but wait!"
"you must trust me, sasha."
all of a sudden, everything went back to normal, and lucian was gone, she could hear his fading footsteps.
what was that abou- wait! the killer... she kept facing the fire and listened as she had been taught to the clawsteps of the incoming dragon.
"is it true? you're one of them?!"
sasha turned and gasped, flashing him a shocked, innocent look over her shoulder. "what are you talking about, kovu?"
he was angry, and she was struck with fear. "i overheard you and lucian talking. i heard everything."
sasha turned to face him."y-you, heard everything..."
"then you are one of them! i cant beleive it... i cant beleive i trusted you."
kovu stepped forward and sasha's eyes shifted, trying to find a way out. "kovu, i- i can explain."
"you're nothing but a trickster, a deceptress! dont try to talk me out of this."
her heartbeat quickened, stricken with dread. "out of... out of what, kovu?"
he said nothing but uttered the death spell.
*      *    
sasha let herself go, remembering lucian's spell. but as she did so, she thought about why she was doing this. *to make darkheart suffer...
she heard lucian in her mind. "you'll be going to death-sleep for a while, a few days to make it beleivable. now sleep, sasha... sleep and i will awaken you soon."
"o-okay, master lucian..."
"there is no need to call me master anymore, sasha. from now on, you no longer exist. which is why darkheart will never see you coming. its time... dont worry."
the death-sleep overcame her and she fell to darkness.
*   * *
lucian ran downstairs and saw kovu standing over sasha's body. he put on a facade of dread and said, "kovu.... what have you done?!"
kovu looked at lucian angrily. "you were going to harbor a killer... i took care of the problem."
lucian became angry now, "no, you made more problems. you didnt think... you didnt listen. she was willing to help."
kovu snarled at lucian, "i did what needed to be done. I killed her for you, father."
lucian responded quietly, "you killed a helpless dragoness in cold blood. i have no choice but to arrest you for ******, my son." he muttered a binding spell and blocked kovu's magic. he watched kovu struggle for a moment then went to pick up sasha's seemingly lifeless body. he contacted her mentally, saying, "i'm taking your body in to the infirmary, i'll oversee your examination. in 2 days, i will wake you, when i do, be very quiet."
"yes, sir."
sasha's new appearance was stunning, quite different from the black color of her original scales, she now looked like each scale was a glittering saphire, and her horns and underside were now a shimmering silver. sasha was astonished by what lucian had done, he had also changed her voice and form, making her more slender and agile, he altered her voice in such a way that it seemed that she could charm the heart out of a rock. even lucian who had a mate of his own had to keep himself composed. but he was undoubtedly pleased that things were turning out well. lucian had to change everything about her, her eyes now a deep green, her draconic fingerprint being her tail-tip and spine, were changed to furry mane and a slender diamond tip.
she looked at herself in amirror and remarked how mature she looked.
"you may have to be put in certain situations which may have you exploit some... erm... feminine charms."
"so i'll have to...."
"only if you let it go that far. it depends on you. you said that you'd  do anything to get back at darkheart. these matters are up to your own discretion."
she thought long about this. "i want to g
this is a book i'm still writing.
RAJ NANDY Aug 2018
THE ENIGMA OF TIME IN VERSE: PART TWO
Dear Friends, having introduced ‘The Enigma of Time in Verse’ in Part One, along with few selected poetic quotes, I now mention what some of the important Philosophers thought about Time down the past centuries. But while doing so, I have tried my best to simplify some of those early concepts for better understanding and appreciation of my readers. If you like it, kindly re-post the poem. Thanks,  – Raj Nandy of New Delhi.

          THE ENIGMA OF TIME IN VERSE : PART TWO
   I commence by quoting Sonnet 60 of Shakespeare about Time,
   Hoping to seek some blessings for this Part Two composition of
   mine!
“Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
  So do our minutes hasten to their end;
  Each changing place with that which goes before,
  In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
  Nativity, once in the main of light,
  Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,
  Crooked elipses ’gainst his glory fight,
  And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
  Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
  And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
  Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
  And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
  And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.”

              PHILOSOPHY OF TIME
Animals are said to live in a continuous present,
Since they have no temporal distinction of past, future,
or the present.
But our consciousness of time, becomes the most
distinguishing feature of mankind.
Though we are mostly obsessed with objective time, -
As the rotation of our Earth separates day from night.
With the swing of the pendulum and the ticking of clocks,
Which regulates our movements, while we try to beat the clock!
But the ancient theologians and philosophers of India and
Greece,
Who were among the first to ponder about the true nature
of all things,
Had wondered about the subjective nature of time;
Was time linear or cyclic, was time endless or finite?

GREEK PHILOSOPHERS ON TIME:
I begin with Heraclitus, the Pre-Socratic philosopher of 6th Century BC born in Ephesus.
He claimed that everything around us, is in a constant state of change and flux.
You cannot step into the same river twice Heraclitus had claimed,
Since water keeps flowing down the river all the while and never
remains the same.
This flow and change in Nature is a process which is ceaseless.
The only thing which remains permanent is impermanence!
Here is a quote from poet Shelley reflecting the same idea:
“World on world are rolling ever
  From creation to decay
  Like the bubbles on a river
  Sparkling, bursting, borne away.”

Now Heraclitus was refuted by Parmenides, born in the Greek colony of Elea,
On the western coast of Southern Italy, as his contemporary.
Parmenides said that our senses deceive us, since all changes are mere illusory!
True reality was only eternal and unchanging ‘Being’, which was both indivisible and continuous - filling up all space.
Zeno, a pupil of Parmenides, through his famous ‘Paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise’ had shown, that when the tortoise was given a head start,
Swift footed Achilles could never catch up with the tortoise,
Since the space between the two were infinitely divisible, resulting in the impossibility of movement and change in motion!
Now the Greeks were never comfortable with the Concept of Infinity.
They preferred to view the universe as continuous existing ‘Being’.  
However, unlike Heraclitus’ ‘world of change and flux’,
Both Parmenides and Zeno have presented us, with a static unchanging universe!
Thus from the above examples it becomes easy for us to derive,  
How those Ancient Greeks had viewed Time.
Time has been viewed as a forward moving changing entity;
And also as an illusory, continuous and indivisible Being!
To clarify this further I quote Bertrand Russell from his ‘History of Western Philosophy’;
“Creation out of nothing, which was taught in the Old Testament, was an idea wholly foreign to Greek philosophy. When Plato speaks of creation, he imagines a primitive matter, to which God gives form as an artificer.”

PLATO AND ARISTOTLE ON TIME:
For Plato, time was created by the Creator at the same instance when he had fashioned the heavens.
But Plato was more interested to contemplate on things which lay
beyond the sway of time and remained unchangeable and eternal;
Like absolute Truth, absolute Justice, the absolute form of Good and Beauty;
Which were eternal and unchangeable like the ‘Platonic Forms’, and were beyond the realm of Time as true reality.
Plato’s pupil Aristotle was the first Greek philosophers to contemplate on reality inside time, and provide a proper definition as we get to see.
He said, “Time is the number of movement in respect to before and after” - as a part of reality.
To measure time numerically, we must have a ‘before’ and an ‘after’, and also notice the difference objectively.
Therefore, time here becomes the change which we see and experience.
Time takes on a linear motion moving from the past to the present;
And to the unknown future like a moving arrow travelling straight.
Aristotle had developed a four step process to understand everything inside of Time and within human experience:
(a) Observe the world using our senses,
(b) Apply logical rules to these observations,
(c) To go back and consult past authorities, if your logic agrees with their logic,
(d) Then only you can come to a logical conclusion.

No wonder in our modern times, experiments conducted by the LDC or the Large Hadron Collider, located 100m underground near the French-Swiss border,
By going back in time simulates the ‘Big Bang’ conditions, that moment of our universe’s first creation.
The scientists thereby, study the evolution of our universe with time, which  resulted in the  finding of the Higgs Boson !  (On 4thJuly 2012)

NOTES :  All elementary particles interacting with the Higg's Field & obtain Mass, excepting for photons & gluons which do not interact with this field. Mass-less photons can travel at the
speed of light with a mind boggling 186,000 miles per second! Now this LDC is a Particle Accelerator 27 kms long ring-shaped tunnel, made mostly of superconducting magnets, inside which two high-energy particle beams are made to travel close to the speed of light in opposite directions, and the shower of particles resulting from the collision is closely examined, presuming that these similar shower of particles must have been produced at the time of the ‘Big Bang’ some 13.8 million years ago, at the time of Creation! Sound like fiction? Well, Prof. Peter Higgs got the Noble Prize for Physics, for locating the particle called ‘Higgs Boson’ among those shower of particles, on 10th Dec. 2013.

NOW TO LIGHTEN UP MY READERS MIND, FEW TIME QUOTE I NOW PROVIDE :

“TIME WASTES OUR BODIES AND OUR WITS,
  BUT WE WASTE TIME, SO WE ARE QUITS!” – Anonymus.

‘Time is a great Teacher, but unfortunately it kills its Pupils!’ – HL Berlioz

“Lost , yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two
   golden hours,
   Each set with sixty diamond minutes.
   No reward is offered, for they are gone forever!” – Horace Mann


PLOTINUS & ST. AUGUSTINE ON TIME:
Now getting back to our Philosophy of Time, there was Plotinus of the 3rd Century AD,
The founder of the mystical Neo-Platonic School of Philosophy.
He had followed Plato’s basic concept of Time as “the moving image of eternity.”
Mystic Plotinus tried to synthesize both Aristotle and Plato by saying that the entire process of cosmic creation,
Flows out of the ONE  through a series of emanation!
This ONE gave rise to the ‘Divine Mind’ which he called the ‘Realm of Intelligence’ and is an aspect of reality,
When everything is understood in terms of Platonic Forms of Truth, Justice, the Good, and Beauty.
However, the later Christian theologians had interpreted this ONE of Plotinus, -
As the Christian God, the Divine Creator of the Universe.
For God is eternal, in the sense of being timeless, in God there is no before or after, but only a timeless present.

Now this lead St. Augustine, to formulate a very admirable relativistic theory of Time!
St. Augustine, the greatest constructive teacher of the Early Christian Church, had written in Book XI of his ‘Confessions’ during  5th century AD, -
His thoughts about the enigma of Time which had perplexed the Greek philosophers of earlier centuries.
To simplify St. Augustine’s thoughts, I now paraphrase for the sake of clarity.
Time can only be measured while it is passing, yet there is time past, and time future in reality.
To avoid these contradictions he says that past and future can only be thought of as present: ‘past’ must be identified with memory, and ‘future’ with expectation.
Since memory and expectation being both present facts, there is no contradiction.  
“The present of things past is memory, the present of things present is sight; and the present of things future is expectation,” - wrote St. Augustine.

This subjective notion of time led St. Augustine to anticipate Rene Descartes the French philosopher the 17th Century,
Who proclaimed “Cogito, ergo sum” in Latin, meaning “I think, therefore I am”, and is regarded as the Father of Modern Philosophy.

Now cutting a long story short I come to Sir Isaac Newton, well known for his Laws of Motion and Gravity.
Newton speaks of ‘Absolute Time’ which exists independently, flowing at a consistent pace throughout the universe, which can only be understood mathematically.
Newton’s ‘Absolute Time’ had remained as the dominant concept till the  early years of the 20th Century.
When Albert Einstein formulated ‘Theory of Space-time’ along with his Special and General Theory of Relativity.

Now the German philosopher Leibniz during 17th century, had challenged Newton with his anti-realist theory of time.
Leibniz claimed that time was only a convenient intellectual concept, that enables to sequence and compare happening of events.
There must be objects with which time can interact or relate to as ‘Relational Time’ he had felt.
Ernst Mach, like Leibniz towards the end of 19th Century, said that even if it was not obvious what time and space was relative to,
Then they were still relative to the ‘fixed stars’ i.e. the bulk of matter in the universe.

CONCEPT OF TIME AS 'SPECIOUS PRESENT' :
During late 19th century, Robert Kelley introduced the concept of ‘spacious present’, which was the most recent part of the past.
Psychologist and philosopher William James developed this idea further by describing it as ‘’the short duration of which we are immediately and incessantly sensible’’
William James also introduced the term “stream of consciousness” into literature as a method of narration,
That described happenings in the flow of thought in the mind of the characters, - likened to an internal monologue!
This literary technique was later used by James Joyce in his famous novel ‘Ulysses’.

TIME CONCEIVED AS DURATION: HENRI BERGSON (1859 -1941)
Next I come to one of my favourite philosopher the French born Henri Bergson.
The Nobel Laureate and author of ‘Time and Free Will’ and ‘Creative Evolution’.
Will Durant in his ‘Story of Philosophy’ says Bergson was ‘the David destined to slay the Goliath of materialism.’
It was Bergson’s ‘Elan Vital’ that life force and impelling urge, Which makes us grow and transforms this wandering planet into a theatre of unending creation.
For Bergson, time is as fundamental as space; and it is time that holds the essence of life, and perhaps of all reality.
Time is an accumulation, a growth, a duration, where “duration is the continuous progress of the past which gnaws into the future and which swells as it advances.
The past in its entirety is prolonged into the present and abides there actual and acting.
Duration means that the past endures, that nothing is lost.
Though we think with only a small part of our past; but it is with our entire past that we desire, will, and act.”
“Since time is an accumulation, the future can never be the same as the past, -
For a new accumulation arises at every step, and change is far more radical than we suppose…the geometric predictability of all things, Which is the goal of a mechanistic science, is only a delusion and a dream!”  
Bergson goes on in his compelling lyrical style:            
“For a conscious being, to exist is to change, to change is to mature,
to mature is to go on creating one’s self endlessly. Perhaps all reality is time and duration, becoming and change.”
Bergson differed with Darwin's theory of adaptation to environment, and stated;
“Man is no passively adaptive machine, he is a focus of redirected force, a centre of creative evolution.”

Martin Heidegger, the German thinker in his ‘Being and Time’ of 1927, had said:
“We do not exist within time, but in a very real way we are time!”
Time is inseparable from human experience, since we can allow the past to exist in the present through memory;
And even allow a potential future occurrence to exist in the present due to our human ability to care, and be concerned about things.
Therefore we are not stuck in simple sequential or linear time, but can step out of it almost at will!

CONCLUDING  PART  TWO OF ENIGMA OF TIME IN VERSE
In this part I have tried to convey what the Ancient Greek Philosophers had felt about Time in a simplified way.
Also some thoughts of Medieval and Early Modern philosophers and what they had to say.
Where Sir Isaac Newton stands like a colossus with his Concept of Time, Laws of Motion, and Gravity.
Not forgetting Henri Bergson, one of my favourite philosopher, of the mid-19th and the mid-20th Century.
All through my narration I had tried to hold the interest of my readers, and also educated myself as a true knowledge seeker.
In my concluding Part Three I will cover few Modern Philosophers along with the relativistic concept of time.
Certainly not forgetting the space-time theory of our famous Albert Einstein!
Thanks for reading patiently, from Raj Nandy of New Delhi.
  *ALL COPY RIGHTS ARE WITH THE AUTHOR ONLY
Showman Aug 2013
First there is the prep.
The roommate.
Wearing salmon colored pants.  
He has Shaggy from ****** Doo
On his left thigh.
The alcoholic.
She has a drinking problem.
She is in denial of her drinking problem.
She hangs out with the loners.
The loners.
Unkempt, unattractive and fat in all the wrong places.
The blond looks like Tom Petty.
The one with dark hair, glasses and braces
They live next door.
Living together but segregated. 
Wild cards.
All of us.

©Gambit '13
Marigolds Fever Sep 2018
Characters of folly
With their agony and jolly
One who makes water
In the gutter
As bystanders shudder
One who wears a cape
Is he planning his escape
While the gentleman with the black beret
Morning walk to his frothy latte
People with sign in hand
What’s the message
Where they stand
Souls everywhere
Just the same
A powerful friendship
Could be acclaimed
Generous one
Did you find
One that lets you put your cares behind
One that talks to trees
Even in the breeze
That brings those pines to their knees
One who taunts honest and kind
While he croons those left behind
Those who seek out the good
Kindred spirits misunderstood
One who sees the light at the junction
With his guitar that’s multifunction
One who wrote look for the sunny side
Knowing the silver lining as she cried
Characters of folly
Will leave you chanting my golly
ConnectHook Feb 2016
by John Greenleaf Whittier  (1807 – 1892)

“As the Spirits of Darkness be stronger in the dark, so Good Spirits which be Angels of Light are augmented not only by the Divine Light of the Sun, but also by our common Wood fire: and as the celestial Fire drives away dark spirits, so also this our Fire of Wood doth the same.”

        COR. AGRIPPA,
           Occult Philosophy, Book I. chap. v.


Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow; and, driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight; the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier’s feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.


                                       EMERSON

The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east; we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.

Meanwhile we did our nightly chores, —
Brought in the wood from out of doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd’s-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;
While, peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold’s pole of birch,
The **** his crested helmet bent
And down his querulous challenge sent.

Unwarmed by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag, wavering to and fro,
Crossed and recrossed the wingàd snow:
And ere the early bedtime came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.

So all night long the storm roared on:
The morning broke without a sun;
In tiny spherule traced with lines
Of Nature’s geometric signs,
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below, —
A universe of sky and snow!
The old familiar sights of ours
Took marvellous shapes; strange domes and towers
Rose up where sty or corn-crib stood,
Or garden-wall, or belt of wood;
A smooth white mound the brush-pile showed,
A fenceless drift what once was road;
The bridle-post an old man sat
With loose-flung coat and high cocked hat;
The well-curb had a Chinese roof;
And even the long sweep, high aloof,
In its slant spendor, seemed to tell
Of Pisa’s leaning miracle.

A prompt, decisive man, no breath
Our father wasted: “Boys, a path!”
Well pleased, (for when did farmer boy
Count such a summons less than joy?)
Our buskins on our feet we drew;
With mittened hands, and caps drawn low,
To guard our necks and ears from snow,
We cut the solid whiteness through.
And, where the drift was deepest, made
A tunnel walled and overlaid
With dazzling crystal: we had read
Of rare Aladdin’s wondrous cave,
And to our own his name we gave,
With many a wish the luck were ours
To test his lamp’s supernal powers.
We reached the barn with merry din,
And roused the prisoned brutes within.
The old horse ****** his long head out,
And grave with wonder gazed about;
The **** his ***** greeting said,
And forth his speckled harem led;
The oxen lashed their tails, and hooked,
And mild reproach of hunger looked;
The hornëd patriarch of the sheep,
Like Egypt’s Amun roused from sleep,
Shook his sage head with gesture mute,
And emphasized with stamp of foot.

All day the gusty north-wind bore
The loosening drift its breath before;
Low circling round its southern zone,
The sun through dazzling snow-mist shone.
No church-bell lent its Christian tone
To the savage air, no social smoke
Curled over woods of snow-hung oak.
A solitude made more intense
By dreary-voicëd elements,
The shrieking of the mindless wind,
The moaning tree-boughs swaying blind,
And on the glass the unmeaning beat
Of ghostly finger-tips of sleet.
Beyond the circle of our hearth
No welcome sound of toil or mirth
Unbound the spell, and testified
Of human life and thought outside.
We minded that the sharpest ear
The buried brooklet could not hear,
The music of whose liquid lip
Had been to us companionship,
And, in our lonely life, had grown
To have an almost human tone.

As night drew on, and, from the crest
Of wooded knolls that ridged the west,
The sun, a snow-blown traveller, sank
From sight beneath the smothering bank,
We piled, with care, our nightly stack
Of wood against the chimney-back, —
The oaken log, green, huge, and thick,
And on its top the stout back-stick;
The knotty forestick laid apart,
And filled between with curious art

The ragged brush; then, hovering near,
We watched the first red blaze appear,
Heard the sharp crackle, caught the gleam
On whitewashed wall and sagging beam,
Until the old, rude-furnished room
Burst, flower-like, into rosy bloom;
While radiant with a mimic flame
Outside the sparkling drift became,
And through the bare-boughed lilac-tree
Our own warm hearth seemed blazing free.
The crane and pendent trammels showed,
The Turks’ heads on the andirons glowed;
While childish fancy, prompt to tell
The meaning of the miracle,
Whispered the old rhyme: “Under the tree,
When fire outdoors burns merrily,
There the witches are making tea.”

The moon above the eastern wood
Shone at its full; the hill-range stood
Transfigured in the silver flood,
Its blown snows flashing cold and keen,
Dead white, save where some sharp ravine
Took shadow, or the sombre green
Of hemlocks turned to pitchy black
Against the whiteness at their back.
For such a world and such a night
Most fitting that unwarming light,
Which only seemed where’er it fell
To make the coldness visible.

Shut in from all the world without,
We sat the clean-winged hearth about,
Content to let the north-wind roar
In baffled rage at pane and door,
While the red logs before us beat
The frost-line back with tropic heat;
And ever, when a louder blast
Shook beam and rafter as it passed,
The merrier up its roaring draught
The great throat of the chimney laughed;
The house-dog on his paws outspread
Laid to the fire his drowsy head,
The cat’s dark silhouette on the wall
A couchant tiger’s seemed to fall;
And, for the winter fireside meet,
Between the andirons’ straddling feet,
The mug of cider simmered slow,
The apples sputtered in a row,
And, close at hand, the basket stood
With nuts from brown October’s wood.

What matter how the night behaved?
What matter how the north-wind raved?
Blow high, blow low, not all its snow
Could quench our hearth-fire’s ruddy glow.
O Time and Change! — with hair as gray
As was my sire’s that winter day,
How strange it seems, with so much gone
Of life and love, to still live on!
Ah, brother! only I and thou
Are left of all that circle now, —
The dear home faces whereupon
That fitful firelight paled and shone.
Henceforward, listen as we will,
The voices of that hearth are still;
Look where we may, the wide earth o’er,
Those lighted faces smile no more.

We tread the paths their feet have worn,
We sit beneath their orchard trees,
We hear, like them, the hum of bees
And rustle of the bladed corn;
We turn the pages that they read,
Their written words we linger o’er,
But in the sun they cast no shade,
No voice is heard, no sign is made,
No step is on the conscious floor!
Yet Love will dream, and Faith will trust,
(Since He who knows our need is just,)
That somehow, somewhere, meet we must.
Alas for him who never sees
The stars shine through his cypress-trees!
Who, hopeless, lays his dead away,
Nor looks to see the breaking day
Across the mournful marbles play!
Who hath not learned, in hours of faith,
The truth to flesh and sense unknown,
That Life is ever lord of Death,
And Love can never lose its own!

We sped the time with stories old,
Wrought puzzles out, and riddles told,
Or stammered from our school-book lore
“The Chief of Gambia’s golden shore.”
How often since, when all the land
Was clay in Slavery’s shaping hand,
As if a far-blown trumpet stirred
Dame Mercy Warren’s rousing word:
“Does not the voice of reason cry,
Claim the first right which Nature gave,
From the red scourge of ******* to fly,
Nor deign to live a burdened slave!”
Our father rode again his ride
On Memphremagog’s wooded side;
Sat down again to moose and samp
In trapper’s hut and Indian camp;
Lived o’er the old idyllic ease
Beneath St. François’ hemlock-trees;
Again for him the moonlight shone
On Norman cap and bodiced zone;
Again he heard the violin play
Which led the village dance away.
And mingled in its merry whirl
The grandam and the laughing girl.
Or, nearer home, our steps he led
Where Salisbury’s level marshes spread
Mile-wide as flies the laden bee;
Where merry mowers, hale and strong,
Swept, scythe on scythe, their swaths along
The low green prairies of the sea.
We shared the fishing off Boar’s Head,
And round the rocky Isles of Shoals
The hake-broil on the drift-wood coals;
The chowder on the sand-beach made,
Dipped by the hungry, steaming hot,
With spoons of clam-shell from the ***.
We heard the tales of witchcraft old,
And dream and sign and marvel told
To sleepy listeners as they lay
Stretched idly on the salted hay,
Adrift along the winding shores,
When favoring breezes deigned to blow
The square sail of the gundelow
And idle lay the useless oars.

Our mother, while she turned her wheel
Or run the new-knit stocking-heel,
Told how the Indian hordes came down
At midnight on Concheco town,
And how her own great-uncle bore
His cruel scalp-mark to fourscore.
Recalling, in her fitting phrase,
So rich and picturesque and free
(The common unrhymed poetry
Of simple life and country ways,)
The story of her early days, —
She made us welcome to her home;
Old hearths grew wide to give us room;
We stole with her a frightened look
At the gray wizard’s conjuring-book,
The fame whereof went far and wide
Through all the simple country side;
We heard the hawks at twilight play,
The boat-horn on Piscataqua,
The loon’s weird laughter far away;
We fished her little trout-brook, knew
What flowers in wood and meadow grew,
What sunny hillsides autumn-brown
She climbed to shake the ripe nuts down,
Saw where in sheltered cove and bay,
The ducks’ black squadron anchored lay,
And heard the wild-geese calling loud
Beneath the gray November cloud.
Then, haply, with a look more grave,
And soberer tone, some tale she gave
From painful Sewel’s ancient tome,
Beloved in every Quaker home,
Of faith fire-winged by martyrdom,
Or Chalkley’s Journal, old and quaint, —
Gentlest of skippers, rare sea-saint! —
Who, when the dreary calms prevailed,
And water-**** and bread-cask failed,
And cruel, hungry eyes pursued
His portly presence mad for food,
With dark hints muttered under breath
Of casting lots for life or death,

Offered, if Heaven withheld supplies,
To be himself the sacrifice.
Then, suddenly, as if to save
The good man from his living grave,
A ripple on the water grew,
A school of porpoise flashed in view.
“Take, eat,” he said, “and be content;
These fishes in my stead are sent
By Him who gave the tangled ram
To spare the child of Abraham.”
Our uncle, innocent of books,
Was rich in lore of fields and brooks,
The ancient teachers never dumb
Of Nature’s unhoused lyceum.
In moons and tides and weather wise,
He read the clouds as prophecies,
And foul or fair could well divine,
By many an occult hint and sign,
Holding the cunning-warded keys
To all the woodcraft mysteries;
Himself to Nature’s heart so near
v That all her voices in his ear
Of beast or bird had meanings clear,
Like Apollonius of old,
Who knew the tales the sparrows told,
Or Hermes, who interpreted
What the sage cranes of Nilus said;
A simple, guileless, childlike man,
Content to live where life began;
Strong only on his native grounds,
The little world of sights and sounds
Whose girdle was the parish bounds,
Whereof his fondly partial pride
The common features magnified,
As Surrey hills to mountains grew
In White of Selborne’s loving view, —
He told how teal and loon he shot,
And how the eagle’s eggs he got,
The feats on pond and river done,
The prodigies of rod and gun;
Till, warming with the tales he told,
Forgotten was the outside cold,
The bitter wind unheeded blew,
From ripening corn the pigeons flew,
The partridge drummed i’ the wood, the mink
Went fishing down the river-brink.
In fields with bean or clover gay,
The woodchuck, like a hermit gray,
Peered from the doorway of his cell;
The muskrat plied the mason’s trade,
And tier by tier his mud-walls laid;
And from the shagbark overhead
The grizzled squirrel dropped his shell.

Next, the dear aunt, whose smile of cheer
And voice in dreams I see and hear, —
The sweetest woman ever Fate
Perverse denied a household mate,
Who, lonely, homeless, not the less
Found peace in love’s unselfishness,
And welcome wheresoe’er she went,
A calm and gracious element,
Whose presence seemed the sweet income
And womanly atmosphere of home, —
Called up her girlhood memories,
The huskings and the apple-bees,
The sleigh-rides and the summer sails,
Weaving through all the poor details
And homespun warp of circumstance
A golden woof-thread of romance.
For well she kept her genial mood
And simple faith of maidenhood;
Before her still a cloud-land lay,
The mirage loomed across her way;
The morning dew, that dries so soon
With others, glistened at her noon;
Through years of toil and soil and care,
From glossy tress to thin gray hair,
All unprofaned she held apart
The ****** fancies of the heart.
Be shame to him of woman born
Who hath for such but thought of scorn.
There, too, our elder sister plied
Her evening task the stand beside;
A full, rich nature, free to trust,
Truthful and almost sternly just,
Impulsive, earnest, prompt to act,
And make her generous thought a fact,
Keeping with many a light disguise
The secret of self-sacrifice.

O heart sore-tried! thou hast the best
That Heaven itself could give thee, — rest,
Rest from all bitter thoughts and things!
How many a poor one’s blessing went
With thee beneath the low green tent
Whose curtain never outward swings!

As one who held herself a part
Of all she saw, and let her heart
Against the household ***** lean,
Upon the motley-braided mat
Our youngest and our dearest sat,
Lifting her large, sweet, asking eyes,
Now bathed in the unfading green
And holy peace of Paradise.
Oh, looking from some heavenly hill,
Or from the shade of saintly palms,
Or silver reach of river calms,
Do those large eyes behold me still?
With me one little year ago: —
The chill weight of the winter snow
For months upon her grave has lain;
And now, when summer south-winds blow
And brier and harebell bloom again,
I tread the pleasant paths we trod,
I see the violet-sprinkled sod
Whereon she leaned, too frail and weak
The hillside flowers she loved to seek,
Yet following me where’er I went
With dark eyes full of love’s content.
The birds are glad; the brier-rose fills
The air with sweetness; all the hills
Stretch green to June’s unclouded sky;
But still I wait with ear and eye
For something gone which should be nigh,
A loss in all familiar things,
In flower that blooms, and bird that sings.
And yet, dear heart! remembering thee,
Am I not richer than of old?
Safe in thy immortality,
What change can reach the wealth I hold?
What chance can mar the pearl and gold
Thy love hath left in trust with me?
And while in life’s late afternoon,
Where cool and long the shadows grow,
I walk to meet the night that soon
Shall shape and shadow overflow,
I cannot feel that thou art far,
Since near at need the angels are;
And when the sunset gates unbar,
Shall I not see thee waiting stand,
And, white against the evening star,
The welcome of thy beckoning hand?

Brisk wielder of the birch and rule,
The master of the district school
Held at the fire his favored place,
Its warm glow lit a laughing face
Fresh-hued and fair, where scarce appeared
The uncertain prophecy of beard.
He teased the mitten-blinded cat,
Played cross-pins on my uncle’s hat,
Sang songs, and told us what befalls
In classic Dartmouth’s college halls.
Born the wild Northern hills among,
From whence his yeoman father wrung
By patient toil subsistence scant,
Not competence and yet not want,
He early gained the power to pay
His cheerful, self-reliant way;
Could doff at ease his scholar’s gown
To peddle wares from town to town;
Or through the long vacation’s reach
In lonely lowland districts teach,
Where all the droll experience found
At stranger hearths in boarding round,
The moonlit skater’s keen delight,
The sleigh-drive through the frosty night,
The rustic party, with its rough
Accompaniment of blind-man’s-buff,
And whirling-plate, and forfeits paid,
His winter task a pastime made.
Happy the snow-locked homes wherein
He tuned his merry violin,

Or played the athlete in the barn,
Or held the good dame’s winding-yarn,
Or mirth-provoking versions told
Of classic legends rare and old,
Wherein the scenes of Greece and Rome
Had all the commonplace of home,
And little seemed at best the odds
‘Twixt Yankee pedlers and old gods;
Where Pindus-born Arachthus took
The guise of any grist-mill brook,
And dread Olympus at his will
Became a huckleberry hill.

A careless boy that night he seemed;
But at his desk he had the look
And air of one who wisely schemed,
And hostage from the future took
In trainëd thought and lore of book.
Large-brained, clear-eyed, of such as he
Shall Freedom’s young apostles be,
Who, following in War’s ****** trail,
Shall every lingering wrong assail;
All chains from limb and spirit strike,
Uplift the black and white alike;
Scatter before their swift advance
The darkness and the ignorance,
The pride, the lust, the squalid sloth,
Which nurtured Treason’s monstrous growth,
Made ****** pastime, and the hell
Of prison-torture possible;
The cruel lie of caste refute,
Old forms remould, and substitute
For Slavery’s lash the freeman’s will,
For blind routine, wise-handed skill;
A school-house plant on every hill,
Stretching in radiate nerve-lines thence
The quick wires of intelligence;
Till North and South together brought
Shall own the same electric thought,
In peace a common flag salute,
And, side by side in labor’s free
And unresentful rivalry,
Harvest the fields wherein they fought.

Another guest that winter night
Flashed back from lustrous eyes the light.
Unmarked by time, and yet not young,
The honeyed music of her tongue
And words of meekness scarcely told
A nature passionate and bold,

Strong, self-concentred, spurning guide,
Its milder features dwarfed beside
Her unbent will’s majestic pride.
She sat among us, at the best,
A not unfeared, half-welcome guest,
Rebuking with her cultured phrase
Our homeliness of words and ways.
A certain pard-like, treacherous grace
Swayed the lithe limbs and drooped the lash,
Lent the white teeth their dazzling flash;
And under low brows, black with night,
Rayed out at times a dangerous light;
The sharp heat-lightnings of her face
Presaging ill to him whom Fate
Condemned to share her love or hate.
A woman tropical, intense
In thought and act, in soul and sense,
She blended in a like degree
The ***** and the devotee,
Revealing with each freak or feint
The temper of Petruchio’s Kate,
The raptures of Siena’s saint.
Her tapering hand and rounded wrist
Had facile power to form a fist;
The warm, dark languish of her eyes
Was never safe from wrath’s surprise.
Brows saintly calm and lips devout
Knew every change of scowl and pout;
And the sweet voice had notes more high
And shrill for social battle-cry.

Since then what old cathedral town
Has missed her pilgrim staff and gown,
What convent-gate has held its lock
Against the challenge of her knock!
Through Smyrna’s plague-hushed thoroughfares,
Up sea-set Malta’s rocky stairs,
Gray olive slopes of hills that hem
Thy tombs and shrines, Jerusalem,
Or startling on her desert throne
The crazy Queen of Lebanon
With claims fantastic as her own,
Her tireless feet have held their way;
And still, unrestful, bowed, and gray,
She watches under Eastern skies,
With hope each day renewed and fresh,
The Lord’s quick coming in the flesh,
Whereof she dreams and prophesies!
Where’er her troubled path may be,
The Lord’s sweet pity with her go!
The outward wayward life we see,
The hidden springs we may not know.
Nor is it given us to discern
What threads the fatal sisters spun,
Through what ancestral years has run
The sorrow with the woman born,
What forged her cruel chain of moods,
What set her feet in solitudes,
And held the love within her mute,
What mingled madness in the blood,
A life-long discord and annoy,
Water of tears with oil of joy,
And hid within the folded bud
Perversities of flower and fruit.
It is not ours to separate
The tangled skein of will and fate,
To show what metes and bounds should stand
Upon the soul’s debatable land,
And between choice and Providence
Divide the circle of events;
But He who knows our frame is just,
Merciful and compassionate,
And full of sweet assurances
And hope for all the language is,
That He remembereth we are dust!

At last the great logs, crumbling low,
Sent out a dull and duller glow,
The bull’s-eye watch that hung in view,
Ticking its weary circuit through,
Pointed with mutely warning sign
Its black hand to the hour of nine.
That sign the pleasant circle broke:
My uncle ceased his pipe to smoke,
Knocked from its bowl the refuse gray,
And laid it tenderly away;
Then roused himself to safely cover
The dull red brands with ashes over.
And while, with care, our mother laid
The work aside, her steps she stayed
One moment, seeking to express
Her grateful sense of happiness
For food and shelter, warmth and health,
And love’s contentment more than wealth,
With simple wishes (not the weak,
Vain prayers which no fulfilment seek,
But such as warm the generous heart,
O’er-prompt to do with Heaven its part)
That none might lack, that bitter night,
For bread and clothing, warmth and light.

Within our beds awhile we heard
The wind that round the gables roared,
With now and then a ruder shock,
Which made our very bedsteads rock.
We heard the loosened clapboards tost,
The board-nails snapping in the frost;
And on us, through the unplastered wall,
Felt the light sifted snow-flakes fall.
But sleep stole on, as sleep will do
When hearts are light and life is new;
Faint and more faint the murmurs grew,
Till in the summer-land of dreams
They softened to the sound of streams,
Low stir of leaves, and dip of oars,
And lapsing waves on quiet shores.
Of merry voices high and clear;
And saw the teamsters drawing near
To break the drifted highways out.
Down the long hillside treading slow
We saw the half-buried oxen go,
Shaking the snow from heads uptost,
Their straining nostrils white with frost.
Before our door the straggling train
Drew up, an added team to gain.
The elders threshed their hands a-cold,
Passed, with the cider-mug, their jokes
From lip to lip; the younger folks
Down the loose snow-banks, wrestling, rolled,
Then toiled again the cavalcade
O’er windy hill, through clogged ravine,
And woodland paths that wound between
Low drooping pine-boughs winter-weighed.
From every barn a team afoot,
At every house a new recruit,
Where, drawn by Nature’s subtlest law,
Haply the watchful young men saw
Sweet doorway pictures of the curls
And curious eyes of merry girls,
Lifting their hands in mock defence
Against the snow-ball’s compliments,
And reading in each missive tost
The charm with Eden never lost.
We heard once more the sleigh-bells’ sound;
And, following where the teamsters led,
The wise old Doctor went his round,
Just pausing at our door to say,
In the brief autocratic way
Of one who, prompt at Duty’s call,
Was free to urge her claim on all,
That some poor neighbor sick abed
At night our mother’s aid would need.
For, one in generous thought and deed,
What mattered in the sufferer’s sight
The Quaker matron’s inward light,
The Doctor’s mail of Calvin’s creed?
All hearts confess the saints elect
Who, twain in faith, in love agree,
And melt not in an acid sect
The Christian pearl of charity!

So days went on: a week had passed
Since the great world was heard from last.
The Almanac we studied o’er,
Read and reread our little store
Of books and pamphlets, scarce a score;
One harmless novel, mostly hid
From younger eyes, a book forbid,
And poetry, (or good or bad,
A single book was all we had,)
Where Ellwood’s meek, drab-skirted Muse,
A stranger to the heathen Nine,
Sang, with a somewhat nasal whine,
The wars of David and the Jews.
At last the floundering carrier bore
The village paper to our door.
Lo! broadening outward as we read,
To warmer zones the horizon spread
In panoramic length unrolled
We saw the marvels that it told.
Before us passed the painted Creeks,
A   nd daft McGregor on his raids
In Costa Rica’s everglades.
And up Taygetos winding slow
Rode Ypsilanti’s Mainote Greeks,
A Turk’s head at each saddle-bow!
Welcome to us its week-old news,
Its corner for the rustic Muse,
Its monthly gauge of snow and rain,
Its record, mingling in a breath
The wedding bell and dirge of death:
Jest, anecdote, and love-lorn tale,
The latest culprit sent to jail;
Its hue and cry of stolen and lost,
Its vendue sales and goods at cost,
And traffic calling loud for gain.
We felt the stir of hall and street,
The pulse of life that round us beat;
The chill embargo of the snow
Was melted in the genial glow;
Wide swung again our ice-locked door,
And all the world was ours once more!

Clasp, Angel of the backword look
And folded wings of ashen gray
And voice of echoes far away,
The brazen covers of thy book;
The weird palimpsest old and vast,
Wherein thou hid’st the spectral past;
Where, closely mingling, pale and glow
The characters of joy and woe;
The monographs of outlived years,
Or smile-illumed or dim with tears,
Green hills of life that ***** to death,
And haunts of home, whose vistaed trees
Shade off to mournful cypresses
With the white amaranths underneath.
Even while I look, I can but heed
The restless sands’ incessant fall,
Importunate hours that hours succeed,
Each clamorous with its own sharp need,
And duty keeping pace with all.
Shut down and clasp with heavy lids;
I hear again the voice that bids
The dreamer leave his dream midway
For larger hopes and graver fears:
Life greatens in these later years,
The century’s aloe flowers to-day!

Yet, haply, in some lull of life,
Some Truce of God which breaks its strife,
The worldling’s eyes shall gather dew,
Dreaming in throngful city ways
Of winter joys his boyhood knew;
And dear and early friends — the few
Who yet remain — shall pause to view
These Flemish pictures of old days;
Sit with me by the homestead hearth,
And stretch the hands of memory forth
To warm them at the wood-fire’s blaze!
And thanks untraced to lips unknown
Shall greet me like the odors blown
From unseen meadows newly mown,
Wood-fringed, the wayside gaze beyond;
The traveller owns the grateful sense
Of sweetness near, he knows not whence,
And, pausing, takes with forehead bare
The benediction of the air.

Written in  1865
In its day, 'twas a best-seller and earned significant income for Whittier

https://youtu.be/vVOQ54YQ73A
Reading to me is like being in a relationship. You invest your time getting to know characters like you do getting to know someone. There are no pictures in novels so you fall in love with a characters personality and heart instead of their looks which I think a lot of people don't do in the real world anymore. You go on adventures, you feel things and parts of you that you thought died are brought back to life with one simple quote, phrase or line. The characters may be fictional but the things the characters go through sometimes are actual things people go through. It's nice to have places and people to lean on when reality gets to be a little too much. The best part is that the characters never leave. If you miss them, just open the book and there they are. People complain that reading takes too much time. Books are like life. You have to take it one chapter at a time because if you move too fast, you will miss the most important moments. Life already moves too quickly. It's nice to be able to pick up a book, take your time and catch your breath.
WRITTEN BY: Mandie Michelle Sanders
WRITTEN ON: October. 6, 2015 Tuesday 2:24 AM
Mateuš Conrad Jul 2017
i can usually feel it coming,
a bit like watching a glass being filled
with the usual contenders for my mind...
but at the same time,
i write from within the prompt
of memory...
   this bulgarian *******
with a tattoo on he shoulder blade...
and her words:
- you haven't changed!
and then she enters a realm of tears...
and i just have to stop doing
what i'm going, and think to myself:
what change is there to speak of?

to write poetry, is narrate: proper -
in the proper sense of the term
that is... to somehow become
         the central figure in the story...
       for numbing the current affairs
of narrators...
how predictable with their
she said* / he said "events" -
         that generic style of inviting
characters...
    isn't that the basis of "good literature"?
that the narrator is mundane,
and that the characters are peacock supreme?
well...
               strip away the fluidity of
literary fluidity within the mundane:
god is very much like this -
      he narrates like a boring sog...
but then exfoliates with the bards akin
to shakespeare -
                 to finally rest
among the poets -
      and yes: rhyming is cheap poetry,
to stress rhyme
   is like reading a tabloid newsopaper!

poets require no need for puppets...
     they move via the chasms of
historical figures, unable to express
a will of confiscation -
of all the literary mediums,
all high school students are put-off
the art, because it is under a surgical
scalpel of investigation!
            it's borderline with the schooling
of linguistic precision...
        i can't see as to why there is no
guarding motto for poetic expression -
             a string of words that can
protect it from certain enemies it seems
to have conjured to defy and redefine it
as a useless art form:

    or one that can be at least treated
with contempt,
disdain,       ridicule.

poetry is, after all: a constantly revived
theory of written tongue -
short, sweet, i gather, esp. given the oriental
haiku: barren for a year,
                 succinct for under a minute:
surely we can add this to the times:
years, days, hours, minutes, syllables, seconds...
are we not implied in realm of
        the space-time parabolla to say so?

poets become anemic when trying to conjure
characters,
   the he said / she said architecture of a novel,
what with the anti-irish / anti-polish
loss of immediately talking,
   not abusing the ditto markings "
   but instead implying the swift winds
   (a conversation in ulysses looks like this,
  jimmy and paddy talking respectively):
- toad's a two day bargain.
- aye! and a claim tow two weeks
                       of *****!
- aye!
    poets don't really need puppets,
          the poetic "narrative" is always
necessarily non-descriptive -
             do we really describe within the framework
of: a matter of fact?
   no! the landscape is always a view
of a metaphor!
                        but poets are
puritan narrators... in that:
        it's very hard to conjure up characters...
the self-invited fascination with
  the barren-wasteland of fictional narrators
is what pushes us...
        no, it's no longer a concern
for song...
                          as to be sung
given the exfoliation of black (classical) jazz
and white (classical) classical -
               not so much the pivoting
on a word, but merely psyche...
                  ars poetica est ars narratio:
mind you,
   a cohesive narratives takes time to
be established into something akin
to the bros. grimm, or a h. c. andersen -

why wouldn't stephenie meyer
cite the poet-general moses in her first
book twilight from the book of genesis?

we're a multitude of narrators -
  only because poets cannot conjure
the bland narrator -
  and the supra-human characters!

i can't become a bland scribbler of
the descriptive method, i can't play chess
or draft puppets within a bland
narrative...
            that's ******* excruciating!
i'd rather run a marathon!
  and believe me: i have been wondering
about this for a long time: give or take
10 years (and counting) -
  
i simply can't forsake my mono-presence
(alone), and become some omnipotent
omnipresent (etc.) ******:
i can entertain a self-voyeurism,
but to invent characters i can manage
like puppets, or chess pieces?
     i have an ****** inability to perform
such feats!

let's just say: i an entertain the idea of
missing characters and plots -
   but i can't entertain the idea of a nullifyingly
boring narrator
   that requires prompts for character
study, ending with a mouth piece
and the need to state a:          he / she said.

no narrator ever becomes self-conscious
either...
               not like this they don't:
to me fictional literature is nothing but an
exfoliation of the bardic tradition -
beyond the obvious mouths and limbs
of the theatre...
   and why wouldn't i be critical?
            of the entire content of a novel,
how much is actually worth a cinematic /
memorable application of, regarding
the digested content?
            
                           i'll be kind: i'd say a third;

and this has bothered me:
   what is the worth of narration
           in literature of imposed fiction?

funny that, sidelining the question:
there is more truth in fiction than in
real life...
     people will always believe in fiction
than in what a heinrich harrer
wrote about his seven years in tibet -
maybe that's why poetry is so vilivied
and how poetry is only read by
poets...
                    maybe real life truly is
so mundane, that for nature to fill the vacuum
of the everyday mediocre,
poetry had to be born?

              hard time explaining homer though;
i hardly think that life in that aeon
was boring...
      only that:
  as life moved us to the present -
we have the exact mirror before us -
  that mediocre times, breed mediocre poetry...

in summary?

                         i rather see poetry as a mirror -
          upon the blank slate of a self-imposing-defeat,
with my words: like contortions of my face -
   telling me, of beauty, disgust...
              fear...
                              and ******* on lemons.
Challenges and competition notified.
Every step codified.
Tears and sweat pacified.
Achievements and advancement glorified.
Regression and depression terrified.
Muscles and struggle verified.
Foes and conspirators mortified.
Plans of progress and purpose sanctified.
Grace and the Goodness of God testified.
Sweet pleasures of life.
Trials, Torment and Torture.
Eulogies and Elegies of visible characters.
Promising and decisive.
No conflicts, No dilemma.
Tawanda Mulalu Sep 2014
We want to see ourselves
see ourselves
because we're afraid that nobody else will
ever want to capture us
in a camera flash- so we take our own pictures.

Click. Our front camera becomes
the one minute we had hoped our fathers had for us
when he wasn't busy on that same phone, speaking,
not clicking. Without us.

Or it becomes the one minute we had hoped
that our lovers would hold us
before they settled on to someone
with more likes,
more comments,
more friends,
more happiness...
than we could ever wait for.

We are impatient
like the frequency of data on our profiles:
here are our feelings now... here
are our feelings again, five minutes later,
performing for social algorithms
in place of photographers
besides ourselves who
see ourselves.

But our ignited pixels,
and overstuffed inboxes,
and masturbatory statuses,
and glittering timelines,
and social everything-

are popularity contests
that all of us are losing.

Yet still we want to see ourselves
see ourselves
even though we are afraid
of what we know is true...

...Because what difference
is a poem to a tweet
besides the number of characters
that we wish we had to populate our own stories?

Please let us be different,
just like everyone else.
It's elaborate I know, but I wanted to try writing something for 'the times.'
Infinity - The name of the planet where the story takes place.

Darkness - The name of the country where the sins live.

Eternity - The name of the main continent where the story takes place.

Chaos - The capital city in the country Darkness.

Tranquility - The name of the country where the virtues live.

Glory - The capital city in the country Tranquility.

Lust - The wife of Greed and the mother of Anger.  Lust is a ******* and ****.  Her husband Greed is her ****.  Lust has an affair with Hatred and becomes pregnant.  She gives birth to Anger.  Lust and Envy are best friends.

Greed - The husband of Lust, the older brother of Envy, and the stepfather of Anger.  Greed is Lust's ****.  Greed is a ****, corrupt politician, gangster, and a ***** businessman.  Greed is Pride's right hand man.  

Hatred - The father of Anger and Cruelty.  Hatred has an affair with Lust.  She becomes pregnant and gives birth to Anger.  He also has a fling with Envy.  She becomes pregnant and gives birth to Cruelty.  Hatred rapes Love.  Hatred is a terrorist, an assassin, and a cold calculated killer.

Love - The wife of Loyalty, the mother of Kindness, and the older sister of Truth.  Love is a humanitarian and a healer.  Love is ***** by Hatred.

Loyalty - The husband of Love and the father of Kindness.  Loyalty is a solider and a warrior.  He gets revenge on Hatred for ****** Love.

Kindness - The daughter of Love and Loyalty.  She is the niece of Truth.

Anger - The son of Lust and Hatred, the stepson of Greed, and the half brother of Cruelty.  Anger is best friends with Ignorance.

Faith - The wife of Truth and the mother of Hope.

Hope - The daughter of Faith and Truth.

Pride - The elected commander of all the sins.  Pride is a priest.

Cruelty - The daughter of Envy and Hatred.  She is the half sister of Anger.

Envy - The younger sister of Greed and the mother of Cruelty.  Envy has a fling with Hatred and becomes pregnant.  She gives birth to Cruelty.  Envy is best friends with Lust.

Truth - The husband of Faith, the father of Hope, and the younger brother of Love.  Truth is the uncle of Kindness.  Truth is a soldier and a warrior.  He gets revenge on Hatred for ****** Love.  

D.E.A.T.H. - A terrorist organization created and operated by Hatred.  D.E.A.T.H. stands for Darkness Engulfing All Things Holy.

Knowledge - The younger brother of Understanding and Wisdom.

Understanding - The brother of Wisdom and Knowledge.  Understanding is a teacher.  Understanding has a romantic interest in Mercy.

Wisdom - The oldest brother of Knowledge and Understanding.  Wisdom is the elected commander of all the virtues.

Sloth - The wife of Gluttony and the mother of Ignorance.

Gluttony - The husband of Sloth and the father of Ignorance.

Ignorance - The son of Sloth and Gluttony.

S.O.U.L. - A humanitarian organization created and operated by Love.  S.O.U.L. stands for Sharing Our Undying Love.

Grace - She's a singer, entertainer, and performer.

Deceit - Deceit is a master of disguise.  It is a male and a female.  Deceit is a member of D.E.A.T.H.  

Misery - An island off the coast of Darkness.
This story takes place within all of us.
PG Sep 2015
A blank page waits for words that it will never see
Created from the head of someone writing a story
Characters, plot, setting, theme, are central to the tale
Without them every narrative is simply guaranteed to fail

Stakes and consequences must exist for someone to pursue
Whether treacherous of heart, or noble, brave, and true
And if these traits stand not alone but mixed in with the rest
That simply adds more intrigue to the outcome of the test

Will he get the girl?  Will she rise above her station?
Can a rags-to-riches fable captivate the nation?
Who done it, where and why?  Are three questions most effective
But often ****** requires the help of a detective

These may seem like idle, fragmented bits of a much larger whole
But actually they’re not; every type plays a role
For you see, “someone” mentioned above is not a professional writer
But an individual on a journey, and we all must face it like a fighter

Characters are those you know and love, plot is what you choose to do
Setting is where you live, theme defines what is important to you
So why a fighter you may ask, someone who faces pain and strife?
Because we encounter both good and ill as we write our book of life
Ira Desmond Aug 2014
The comic convention
has cardboard cutouts of
all of the main characters of
Harry Potter.

Harry,
Ron,
Hermione,
etc.
All motionless in a river of people,
glossy but worn down,
bathed in cold white halogen.

And one by one,
the cosplayers—
the Harrys
Rons
Hermiones,
etc.

Have their pictures taken
with the cutouts,
one cardboard cutout cut out
and replaced with a real human being.

Being human, we
crave companionship,
fear solitude,
crave solitude,
fear companionship.

We try to avoid becoming cardboard
cutouts of ourselves, but sometimes
a retreat into inanimacy
is what the animus needs.

The cosplayers continue to shuffle forward in line
each waiting to pose for a selfie.  Each
politely smiling at the living Harry Potter characters around them,

but not striking up a conversation.
Hao Nguyen Apr 2016
In the year 2015,
instantaneous expectations
condition behaviors exponentially
that veteran social media robots
efficiently reduce their average
characters in texts and posts
as often as the characters
who exist in their memoirs.
judy smith Mar 2016
Detective stories have been making a splash on European screens for the past decade. Some attract top-notch directors, actors and script writers. They are far superior to anything that appears over here -- whether on TV or from Hollywood. Part of the impetus has come from the remarkable Italian series Montelbano, the name of a Sicilian commissario in Ragusa (Vigata)who was first featured in the skillfully crafted novellas of Andrea Camilleri.

Italians remain in the forefront of the genre as Montelbano was followed by similar high class productions set in Bologna, Ferrara, Turino, Milano, Palermo and Roma. A few are placed in evocative historical context. The French follow close behind with a rich variety of series ranging from a revived Maigret circa 2004(Bruno Cremer) and Frank Riva (Alain Delon) to the gritty Blood On The Docks (Le Havre) and the refined dramatizations of other Simenon tales. Others have jumped in: Austria, Germany (several) and all the Scandinavians. The former, Anatomy of Evil, offers us a dark yet riveting set of mysteries featuring a taciturn middle-aged police psychiatrist. Germany'sgem, Homicide Unit -- Istanbul, has a cast of talented Turkish Germans who speak German in a vividly portrayed contemporary Istanbul. Shows from the last mentioned region tend to be dreary and the characters uni-dimensional, so will receive short shrift in these comments.

Most striking to an American viewer are the strange mores and customs of the local protagonists compared to their counterparts over here. So are the physical traits as well as the social contexts. Here are a few immediately noteworthy examples. Tattoos and ****** hardware are strangely absent -- even among the bad guys. Green or orange hair is equally out of sight. The former, I guess, are disfiguring. The latter types are too crude for the sophisticated plots. European salons also seem unable to produce that commonplace style of artificial blond hair parted by a conspicuous streak of dark brown roots so favored by news anchors, talk show howlers and other female luminaries. Jeans, of course, are universal -- and usually filled in comely fashion. It's what people do in them (or out of them) that stands out.

First, almost no workout routines -- or animated talk about them. Nautilus? Nordic Track? Yoga pants? From roughly 50 programs, I can recall only one, in fact -- a rather humorous scene in an Istanbul health club that doubles as a drug depot. There is a bit of jogging, just a bit -- none in Italy. The Italians do do some swimming (Montalbano) and are pictured hauling cases of wine up steep cellar stairs with uncanny frequency. Kale appears nowhere on the menu; and vegan or gluten are words unspoken. Speaking of food, almost all of these characters actually sit down to eat lunch, albeit the main protagonist tends to lose an appetite when on the heels of a particularly elusive villain. Oblique references to cholesterol levels occur on but two occasions. Those omnipresent little containers of yoghurt are considered unworthy of camera time.

A few other features of contemporary American life are missing from the dialogue. I cannot recall the word "consultant' being uttered once. In the face of this amazing reality, one can only wonder how ****-kid 21 year old graduates from elite European universities manage to get that first critical foothold on the ladder of financial excess. Something else is lacking in the organizational culture of police departments, high-powered real estate operations, environmental NGOs or law firms: formal evaluations. In those retro environments, it all turns on long-standing personal ties, budgetary appropriations and actual accomplishment -- not graded memo writing skills. Moreover, the abrupt firing of professionals is a surprising rarity. No wonder Europe is lagging so far behind in the league table of billionaires produced annually and on-the-job suicides

Then, there is that staple of all American conversation -- real estate prices. They crop up very rarely -- and then only when retirement is the subject. Admittedly, that is a pretty boring subject for a tense crime drama -- however compelling it is for academics, investors, lawyers and doctors over here. Still, it fits a pattern.

None of the main characters devotes time to soliciting offers from other institutions -- be they universities, elite police units in a different city, insurance companies, banks, or architectural firms. They are peculiarly rooted where they are. In the U.S., professionals are constantly on the look-out for some prospective employer who will make them an attractive offer. That offer is then taken to their current institution along with the demand that it be matched or they'll be packing their bags. Most of the time, it makes little difference if that "offer" is from College Station, Texas or La Jolla, California. That doesn't occur in the programs that I've viewed. No one is driven to abandon colleagues, friends, a comfortable home and favorite restaurants for the hope of upward mobility. What a touching, if archaic way of viewing life.

The pedigree of actors help make all this credible. For example, the classiest female leads are a "Turk" (Idil Uner) who in real life studied voice in Berlin for 17 years and a transplanted Russo-Italian (Natasha Stephanenko) whose father was a nuclear physicist at a secret facility in the Urals. Each has a parallel non-acting career in the arts. It shows.

After viewing the first dozen or so mysteries of diverse nationality, an American viewer begins to feel an unease creeping up on him. Something is amiss; something awry; something missing. Where are those little bottles of natural water that are ubiquitous in the U.S? The ones with the ****** tip. Meetings of all sorts are held without their comforting presence. Receptionists -- glamorous or unglamorous alike -- make do without them. Heat tormented Sicilians seem immune to the temptation. Cyclists don't stick them in handlebar holders. Even stray teenagers and university students are lacking their company. Uneasiness gives way to a sensation of dread. For European civilization looks to be on the brink of extinction due to mass dehydration.

That's a pity. Any society where cityscapes are not cluttered with SUVs deserves to survive as a reserve of sanity on that score at least. It also allows for car chases through the crooked, cobbled streets of old towns unobstructed by herds of Yukons and Outbacks on the prowl for a double parking space. Bonus: Montelbano's unwashed Fiat has been missing a right front hubcap for 4 years (just like my car). To meet Hollywood standards for car chases he'd have to borrow Ingrid's red Maserati.

Social ******* reveals a number of even more bizarre phenomena. In conversation, above all. Volume is several decibels below what it is on American TV shows and in our society. It is not necessary to grab the remote to drop sound levels down into the 20s in order to avoid irreparable hearing damage. Nor is one afflicted by those piercing, high-pitched voices that can cut through 3 inches of solid steel. All manner of intelligible conversations are held in restaurants, cafes and other public places. Most incomprehensible are the moments of silence. Some last for up to a minute while the mind contemplates an intellectual puzzle or complex emotions. Such extreme behavior does crop up occasionally in shows or films over here -- but invariably followed by a diagnosis of concealed autism which provides the dramatic theme for the rest of the episode.

Tragedy is more common, and takes more subtle forms in these European dramatizations. Certainly, America has long since departed from the standard formula of happy endings. Over there, tragic endings are not only varied -- they include forms of tragedy that do not end in death or violence. The Sicilian series stands out in this respect.

As to violence, there is a fair amount as only could be expected in detective series. Not everyone can be killed decorously by slow arsenic poisoning. So there is some blood and gore. But there is no visual lingering on either the acts themselves or their grisly aftermaths. People bleed -- but without geysers of blood or minutes fixed on its portentous dripping. Violence is part of life -- not to be denied, not to be magnified as an object of occult fascination. The same with ****** abuse and *******.

Finally, it surprises an American to see how little the Europeans portrayed in these stories care about us. We tend to assume that the entire world is obsessed by the United States. True, our pop culture is everywhere. Relatives from 'over there' do make an occasional appearance -- especially in Italian shows. However, unlike their leaders who give the impression that they can't take an unscheduled leak without first checking with the White House or National Security Council in Washington, these characters manage quite nicely to handle their lives in their own way on their own terms.

Anyone who lives on the Continent or spends a lot of time there off the tourist circuit knows all this. The image presented by TV dramas may have the effect of exaggerating the differences with the U.S. That is not their intention, though. Moreover, isn't the purpose of art to force us to see things that otherwise may not be obvious?Read more at:http://www.marieaustralia.com | www.marieaustralia.com/short-formal-dresses
Mateuš Conrad Aug 2016
because i reduced my language to encode onomatopoeia, and because i didn't allow stresses to be pronounced on letters for the appropriate expressions of deviating local accents (instead concentrating on the snail slogans of organic produce, local, ******): to contrast the inherited Latin encoding system - i used aesthetic encoding to such an extent that i gave birth to dyslexia, or to put simply: over-spelling... i deviated from the other inheritors of the Latin alphabet without stressing certain sounds, hence i conquered the world, and subsequently giving up Hong Kong, became the ****-hole of the world, with 5 year old children being accused of ****** exploitation in the newspapers... i didn't follow the continental drift toward evolving Latin, yet i immersed myself in Darwinism, to preach the doctrine of the evolution of forms, the square remained a square, the circle a circle... the monkey suddenly became a man... and since i preached the universality of man, i was wedged in too many particulars in how i said things to be... which is why i believed in America and decided to exit Project Europe... which is why i became the F. D. Roosevelt island of hopes, isolationism being the cure, sure, everyone is employed, but on 0 hour contracts... which is why someone with enough oil in their head came among and said: Sa-id! we need a hyphen over a letter rather than keep it as a wavering compound awaiting the Oxford nod of approval... it's a shame when you care for the aesthetics, but never provide a system of directness, as in always providing a system of indirectness - meaning there's no mathematics involved in lettering - no stress - all the stress gets turned into exploiting forms that don't nudge into coerced trapeziums of disintegration, means you work more than the 9 to 5 prescription... all because you exploited children during the Victorian age, and left the young of our present age to premature ailments that only old people should succumb to... you can't be Romans just like that! too may oceans, not enough seas... you need to add stresses to the letter you are sorta borrowing rather than plundering, be like the Germans, the French, the Poles, invite the aesthetic scientists to desecrate the temples of Runes... but at the same time plunder the encoding with accents, to simply say: we're above, no matter the success of trade your empire provides... we say it chisel, you say it chive... we build, you cook, the end. but keeping it in naked diacritic lack will expose weaknesses in the physical realm of use when silenced... English needs to stress itself with this phonetic encoding if it's to survive at all... but it's too late for that, i fear... there are too many particular instances of its eccentricity that come as pride a minute from now, and as a landfill site the minute after... they are paying for keeping with the Latin alphabet unabashed to continue without mathematical stresses of saying things... but the times of George V and the empire are long gone... it's just that, or the fact that they don't know what their weakness is... since they battle stresses of phonetic encoding with political egoism on a populist scaling.*

i congest myself on the feline onomatopoeia, between a roar
and a meow - between the matured tree
and the bonsai replica i tend to do my quasi-cartesian thinking -
i don't really have an ego to verb together
things with a pristine causality akin to exercise equalling
perspiration - thought has no verb attachment -
no motivational speech to boot -
being is the same -
i simply concentrated on the exponential
existence of nouns -
like anyone with too much information
i find keeping a respectable investment in
nouns to be the source of my misery -
with such a high number of nouns and a pauper's
share of verbs i will obviously become a slacker
in the former category, as in the latter -
instinctively like a cat, speaking the universal
sound that i silence and then rewrite in
the onomatopoeia form i hardly think and hardly
am, a cat... i just have too many nouns to
take care of, most of which i'd only use
slouched with a book before going to sleep,
and never actually using in my everyday speech,
it's back to the garden of Eden and the fruit of
temptation: aiming for a high propane vocabulary
is like Adam given the fruit, gets a vocabulary
of a chemist, but ends up being a plumber...
no one checks this ****, ever!
i get the part of "we're in this together",
but mediating all our specialisations in a democratic way
will only create more tangents and the trigonometric
tan(gens) graphs of solipsism - offshoots and
somehow always "dark graphs" (σκότογραφυ) -
oddly enough, making the acute omicron into a u
never allowed the upsilon an endeavour into Y (macron
i) with any diacritic, other than the hint in capital
of the mentioned lower-case encoding.
what the **** was i saying? i'm astounded at the
fact that i lost the fluidity, not what i was saying per se,
it seem the per se fluidity got blocked and i had
to reopen the Pandora box yet again... let me have
a while to guess where the narrative should realign
without the reverse of fictional characters as extensions
of the narrator - i.e. poetry's synonym of characters
is personae, meaning that poetry has personae
and fictional prose has characters... the fictional
prose narrator tries to piece a space together with many
characters he's conscious of as inventing...
the poet narrator tries to piece a person together with many
personae he's not conscious of, atypically a schizoid
symptom... or not... ... ... ... ... ... oh right...
the balance of nouns and verbs in the Cartesian sense
of exercise and perspiration, or the fact that Serena Williams
never breaks a sweat... love those thighs...
she never asks for a towel to rub her hands or face dry...
she must be doping with the Russians...
too many nouns surrounding us,
i feel like a proton surrounded by what i thought
was the limit (electrons), but no! oh no! there are
quarks, neutrinos, and ******* violins!
whirling whirlwind strings and chopsticks -
which translated into Chinese just means Chopping Suede Sue;
hey! i got a bell ding-**** knocking on wood just now...
funny how poetry can do that... knock on wood
you end up hearing a seashell tide break open
the coral restrictions with a tsunami gnash on earthly goods.
nabi 나비 May 2019
my dad has always given me hell
for loving queer literature endlessly
and i've tried to explain it to him several times
but i don't think he will ever understand
he will never understand that i could read all the romance novels with heterosexual individuals
and i will never be able to fully relate and understand either
yet whenever i read a queer novel
i relate to those characters endlessly
despite all of our differences
i understand falling for somebody that your not supposed to in society's eyes
i understand the fear of liking a girl despite being out and proud for years
i understand that voice in the back of your head shouting the bad endings when your coming out
i understand so much more in the queer novels
i can actually see myself as those individuals
because i've been there ad i've understood those fears and the honesty and the relief
no straight character could ever describe their crush and i be able to fully connect
because for me with every crush there is that tiny fear
i wish i could explain this all to my dad
and have him understand why those characters have such a safe place in my heart
why being able to read those fears is something i connect to
why realizing that strange yet very known fact about oneself is a place i've been
and i just wish he could understand
Kyler Goulding Nov 2014
An expanse of characters unknown to me is all I can percieve.
There is no prompt dictating my choices, and therefore none shall be made.
The day and night have become one, and heaven and hells interests coincide.
Tangled forests, icy tundras, calm plains, and inexplicably dark areas exist sporadically everywhere.
Indifference fueled by emotion makes for a strange perception.
There is no certainty that I can discern from the tangled mess I see.
The characters shift and change color into an amalgamation that almost appears solid.
You can see figures shamble in the distance who constantly dissemble their motives with a facade of good intent.
As choices shall not be made I let them pass me by, but without my unease being assuaged by their lack of presence.
As they pass I look again to the characters that make up the empty space on the ground.
The nearly solidified characters become words: creativity, speech, calculating, organizing, and creating.
The words fluctuate in location, and start to become paths to the different places I can see.
They appear fractured by incomprehensible darkness, but the path can still be tread carefully.
Is sitting in silence what I should continue to do, or must I choose to abandon the indifference where I took shelter?
Must I tread a path that is broken in my own mind simply to achieve more uncertainty?
I will end up on a path someday, but what word the path is given is the last question.
Will my unease at these figures be ameliorated when I take the path they refuse to tread, or must I follow them through the straight line they walk?
The word is stretched too far for me to understand, but I question it's competence due to it never breaking.
I'll move any day now from this perch of indifference to where I can read more words.
Though some words may cause me to feel pain and others regret, I understand the consequence.
I can't stay as I am though because there is no reason to sit when there are choices to be made.
This world must be explored, and I must know what the characters mean.
I want to know what will make the world that I can see change into a world I can understand.
Even if it means repairing the words that I covered in darkness.
She said those words
'Let's be friends'
If I never hear
those ******* words again
I swear to God
it would be too soon
Comical words
invoking cartoon
characters that are
kooky and dumb
Because that's where
these filthy words are from

You must take me for a wide-eyed naive
Or an escapee of the mentally insane
ward of a prison or "hospital"
or whatever politically correct term it's called

You can take your friendship
and shove it up your ***
I know,
I'm sorry
Such a statement has no class
It's crass
But I don't give a ****
I'm angry right now
For a moment
I had hope
You got back in somehow

I built such sturdy walls
grand and tall
Made you stand outside
Press that intercom button to call
Kept you at a distance
But time turns scar tissue dull
You smiled and you waited
Baited me into a lull

We'd hang and talk
You'd smile and laugh
Hours upon hours
the time would pass
So comfortable; So easy
Something others don't have
Thoughts and dreams start again
But Nope,
Sorry! Too bad!

A forgotten feeling
Also an ember burning deep
High hopes birth expectations
That you did not want to meet
'It's just complicated right now'
Some ******* that you say
Oh! Okay! That makes everything better now
Hip-hip-hooray!

You were just being honest
Saying how you felt
It was me with the problem
A hand of cards that were self dealt
All the work I had done
The counseling and the meds
Heart-to-heart talks
Many books I have read
Feeling so confident
but overconfident I was
Unaware of the noise
A teeth shattering buzz
Blindly I stood
with the answers there for me
Head in the sand
Look away; don't want to see

'Only fools love'
you said to me once
Thought I knew what you meant
Had an inkling or a hunch
But not a ******* clue
is the sad, sad truth
Your forked-tongue spit it's venom
Words used to sooth

Mask after mask
you pulled from your face
Never the truth
Confused in a daze
You grasped with tentacles
Ensnared with your web
Lies are your candy
I was endlessly fed

My mind a toy
Not anything more
My heart for your consumption
***** kept in a drawer
Rip me apart
Please tear me down
Your never-ending heartache
I'll choke in and drown

Under your foot
Under your thumb
An insect; A maggot
Piece of dirt; Lowly ****
What am I now?
What have I become?
What was I to begin with?
A child on the run
Running with fear
You made my heart run
Mouth running had your ear
My torture was your fun

Should I call you a '*****'?
Smear your name? Shout out '*****!'
Would that equal out the playing field?
Somehow even the score?
Playing games, put on pause
Maybe save for later
But there's no saving this time
Tend each need; I am your waiter
Forever I'll wait
so endlessly I am waiting
Madly love you
Yet for me, I am hating

Thunderous booms
The sky streaked with light in veins
War is raging all around us
and in the balance we remain
Here I remain
even though there's no balance
Must be insane
Have me committed to this mess

You are a jigsaw puzzle
with half completed pieces in my mind
The rest of it a jumble
The other pieces I can't find
The nervous dog who is confused
I follow your commands
Unfulfilled, I'm simply used
Didn't go the way I planned

Now to me you speak
as you tell me so much more
of the textbook cliche nonsense
Told a million times before
You feign heartfelt sincerity,
interest and concern
Who you care for is a short list
It's as if I'll never learn

There was a version that before
was living at one time I think
But nothing in this life is free
As rain pours down, in mud we sink
So proudly I strut and adorn
my stunning hand-made concrete shoes
The complimentary attire
fitting all the bad I choose

Now frozen here
as I am kept
unkempt in this very dark place
Place marker for my maker
Marks
Without a mark
An unmarked
grave
Written: March 8, 2018

All rights reserved
Hygor Marques May 2019
My characters 'd be incredible lovers
The type who knows what to say and what to do
When to say and when to do,
where to say and where to do.
It's weird that they're part of me.

And still, they can while I not.
All these things go blank out of the paper
like a broken printer when I need the most.
Eventually, there are pages, and I write them good
but you're missing because I'm bad written.

You'd love my characters.
It's easy to love the words
that I think when I'm leaving your home.
They speak it raw, they face you,
then you smile and burn the passion
that lies beyond the words.
I envy this so much.

I'm afraid that you meet one of them
walking on the street.
Then take a hit,
turn the heat,
make it hot,
say and do.
I'll be happy for you
but it's sad that, probably,
won't be a part of me.
Danny Valdez Jan 2012
He woke up
next to the empty spot
where Wonder Woman had been.
He puked in the toilet
slammed down a forty-ounce Miller High Life
and started putting the suit on.
boots
the gray and black tights
the gloves
the yellow utility belt
and the cape.
It was leather.
He put the cowl
under his arm and left his apartment.
It was a late start
nearly noon
by the time
the bus got him to
Mann's Chinese Theater.
He saw a lot of his
friends and colleges
as the bus went down to his stop.
It was a regular day
all the characters were
in their usual little groups.
Spider-Man & Captain America
two Mormon boys that had been
excommunicated from the church
they got caught **** *******
each other
now they were stuck in Hollywood
like everyone else.
The X-Men
or H-Men as most people called them
were a group of junkies.
One of them had a cousin at Fox
and they got four replica X-Men costumes.
So that's how they scored
their junk everyday
garnered pretty good tips from the tourists.
Cyclops, Jean-Grey, Storm, and Wolverine.
It was a good grift. **** good idea.
Then you had the impersonators
plastic surgery freaks
obsessed with Michael Jackson
creepy bald men dressed as Dr. Evil
and there was always
a lazy fat guy
that would do Elvis.
Not know any of the songs
and saying the catch phrases all wrong,
"Well, thank you Ma'am....thank you so much."
Those guys never lasted too long.
The cutesy cartoon characters
were almost always
pedophiles or ******* ladies.
The horror people were hands down
the most bat-**** insane of the lot.
They got into the most fights
they terrorized the kids
and they talked a lot of ****.
Would bate guys into fights.
Michael Myers would always start ****
with guys that had beautiful women with them.
It was ****** up.
The LAPD took away Freddy Kruger last month
for beating up a guy
right in front of his kids.
There was talk from the cops
about shutting down their whole thing down.
Making it illegal to dress up in costumes
and get tips.
'Panhandling' as the office had said.
But
Batman hung out with
Superman & Wonder Woman
while doing his thing.
The night before
Wonder Woman and him
had been drinking, smoking, and
they ****** once
before she asked him
what she needed to.
"We got two new guys starting tomorrow."
"What?"
"Yeah. They came up to me on the street today,
wanted to know if they could hang with us."
"Wha? What? Well...do they have costumes?"
"Yeah." She said, exhaling smoke, wrapped in the sheet on the bed.
"These guys got a Green Lantern and a Robin costume. Really good quality,
they showed me pictures. Hey, you finally got a Robin now! Isn't that great?"
"****...I don't know Diana...I was kinda liking our little *******.
"Oh come on, Bruce. It'll be good." She said, wrapping her arms around him
as he sat on the edge of the book, looking out the window.
"We can finally get the big, group tips. Like what the H-Men got going."
"Alright. That's fine."
And the next day
there they were,
Green Lantern & Robin.
Wonderful costumes, like she said
their hair color and overall appearance
spot on.
"Hey there!"
"Hello. Robin. Green Lantern."
Their gloved hands all shook.
They got acquainted and he couldnt help but like them.
Nice guys, musicians, Rockabilly guys, from Venice.
They went out into
the crowd of people
Superman's voice booming over the crowd
telling everyone that they're safe from
evil and wrong doers, blah, blah, blah,
the usual ******* that Superman always said.
Batman yelled to Robin over the enclosing crowd.
They were now fully entrenched by people
fat & sweaty
Batman's panic attack took over.
"COME ON!" He shouted over the rising crowd noise.
The dynamic duo
shoved & pushed
parting the sea of fat tourists
and breaking out onto the sidewalk.
"What's up, Batman?" Robin asked
looking up to him.
The size difference was just like in the comics
Robin was a little guy.
"I just needed to get outta there. Let's go take a lap
down Hollywood Boulevard...see what kinda cash we can grab."
"Okay, Batman."
They walked
up and down
the walk of fame
posing for a few pictures
making some kids day
with wide-eyed excitement
that will be with them forever.
They made forty bucks too.
"Alright, that's good for now. Let's grab a beer, Robin."
It was a small dive
on Hollywood Boulevard
they were two beers in
and Robin was learning a lot
about how Hollywood really was.
Some real talk from Batman to Robin.
"Yup. I moved out here in 1997. I saw that movie 'Swingers' and I thought...
I could do that, that could be my life, I want that."
"And what happened Bats?"
"Well...I came out here, went to film school, did everything I was told, and...
I still got ******." He said, taking a long pull from the bottle.
"Well what happened exactly?"
Robin's green glove, gripping the brown bottle
tilting it back, bubbles rising
"Well...ya see...when I was in film school, the instructors all told us...you either do your internship here in Hollywood or go to New York. Anywhere else and you won't be able to make it. That's what they said."
"Yeah?"
"Yeah. So I did my internship here in Hollywood and it was for nothing. The whole two years that I was at Faramount, I was never allowed to even touch any film equipment. Well, just to dust it off and clean it. But they didn't even try to teach me anything there. I just did food runs at lunch, got them their Starbucks in the morning, and took out the trash. Swept the parking lot, cleaned the toilets, I was a ******* janitor at that place. And you know what happened next?"
"Huh?"
"One day they just fired me. Just like that. After two years of being their ***** boy. So now I have $50,000 in student loans that I can't pay back, and a degree that got me nowhere."
"****." Robin said, finishing his beer.
"Yeah. So what do you do?"
"I'm in school for audio engineering."
"Ah...the music business eh?"
"Yeah, Batman."
"Hmm."
Batman grew silent then, just finishing his beer, and staring into the mirrored wall.
He wanted to say,
"I have 117 scripts sitting in a stack next to my t.v. That's eight screenplays a year. Robin, I've been at this for fourteen years and it doesn't get any better. I never stop trying and I keep at it, year after year. But I'm done. Get out while you
still can Robin. This city will eat you, **** you, **** you. If you still have a home, I suggest you go back to it."
Batman sat there, his beer finished, still staring straight ahead.
Robin pulled out a ten dollar bill, smiling, calling for the bartender
with that sparkle in his eye
of youth and hope.
He didn't want to say all that ****
crush that gleam in Robin's eye
like he once had.
Those were the best days
the great days
the glory days
to be young, handsome, poor, and hopeful
that you could make it
that it could happen.
So Batman didn't say another word about it.
Nope.
There were things
Robin would have to learn all on his own.
Unity Drain Dec 2013
The aftermath of poorly applied algebra is a scramble of numbers, letters, lonely coefficients, and an unemployed ninjas. These characters are much like those of a barbershop quartet, where members can either harmonize or simply fall flat. All of this depends on the song they sing and the order it is sung; algebra sings a song of SVSCOS (Same Variables Same Coefficients Opposite Sides) What else can come of bad math? Nothing less than a burning hatred for radicals, imaginary numbers, the saying 'PEMDAS', or maybe the fact that if you're 21 you must stay out the bars. This being said, Algebra 2 is very much like a dream; once you wake up, most of it is forgotten, but also in that it can be strived toward and reached.

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