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There's a certain peace that settles inside you when you hear the wind whip through the forest, the sound soothes you until your muscles quiver with joy and you begin grinning with delight as the cool air runs soft fingers down your spine and sends shivers back through you. That was the feeling going through Fayowin as he stalked his prey, a nimble buck that mindlessly grazed in the snowy glade. Fayowin was a wolf, tall and regal, his fur ran a silver-white with intricate blue lines spiraling and writhing around his muscled body. His eyes glowed pure white in the night and shimmered in the daylight. The fangs lining his jaw were longer than the other wolves'... then again he was also larger than his alpha as well. Fayowin saw everything clearer and faster than the most skilled hunters in his pack, and he was also the swiftest. He should have felt proud of his uniqueness, but he felt outcast instead. The other hunters shunned him and disliked hunting alongside him, leaving Fayowin to hunt alone.

Today was no different. It was his turn to hunt and he had to hunt alone. If he failed, the pack would force him out into the cold. "If the pack starves, the hunter freezes," was the motto of his alpha, Alexei. Fayowin narrowed his white eyes and drew in the scent of the deer. As he did, he caught the hint of a she-wolf nearby, not of his pack. Distracted for an instant, he snapped back and sprinted for the deer, lunging for it and tearing into its throat and ripping out the windpipe and blood vessels all in one bite. As the smell of blood coated his senses, he began to feel uneasy and whirled around to see a silver wolf snarling at him. It was the she-wolf he had sensed earlier. She stood just a little shorter than him and had strange markings of her own: she bore black marks under her eyes and one on her forehead that resembled a paw. What struck him the most was the band around her upper foreleg. His eyes wandered as he observed her and she growled, bringing his attention back to her glaring green eyes.
"That... was my ****!" she growled. "I don't know how you managed to get it before me, and I don't know how you managed to escape my notice. Who are you?!"
Fayowin sneered and raised an eyebrow, "This, my dear, is MY ****. I've had my eyes on it for a while now. And frankly, this is my territory as well, and unless you want to become part of my territory, I'd suggest you treat me with respect."
She edged closer to him, surprised and infuriated at this male's straightforwardness. But there was something about that and his scent that appealed to her though. "I'm not leaving without this deer."
Fayowin chuckled, "It looks like you will be leaving without it, whoever you are."
"My name... is Feiria!" she licked her lips hungrily, "and that is MY deer!"
Fayowin narrowed his eyes thoughtfully as he studied her. Even through her winter coat, he could see the outline of her ribcage and could smell the desperation on her scent. He saw Feiria's muscles contract as she prepared to lunge at him. He sidestepped and she landed face-first in the snow, a mere inch from the warm deer meat. She looked at him hungrily, almost pleading. Fayowin sighed and nodded his head once, after which Feiria voraciously tore into the carcass.

He slowly meandered towards the center of the clearing and flopped down into the snow. He could hear the she-wolf eating ravenously behind him as he thought of his next move. If he returned to the pack, he'd be ridiculed and forced to live in the snow. If he stayed out here he faced the same problem.

Fayowin flattened his ears back and started to doze off, still listening to Feiria eat his ****. He began dreaming of gaping mountain passes, tall forests, and warm valleys. He felt oddly warm, not freezing cold as he had expected. He didn't care though, warmth was a gift in the winter. He slept peacefully until nightfall overtook the forest and the moonlight shone down and illuminated his fur, the lines becoming like blue fire. His eyes would have glowed if they were open, but they remained oblivious to the change in scenery until a cold wind blew through his fur and he shivered awake. He nearly jumped when he realized why he was so warm: the she-wolf lay curled up, pressed against him, sound asleep. He tilted his head slightly as he watched her sleep, probably the most peaceful she'd been in a long time. Fayowin would've hated to ruin his gift to her, albeit an unwilling one.
Feiria woke up soon after midnight, and gazed fearfully into Fayowin's glowing white eyes, taking in his
Cynical stare and his glowing body. She whispered, "I've heard of your kind..."
he looked curiously at her, "my kind?"
"the star wolves.."
he averted his gaze, "Never heard of them.. I'm just a normal wolf.."
Feiria glared at him, "You're glowing, *******.. Not normal. Unless.... Unless your whole pack is made of star wolves!" her face seemed to light up as she said it.
Fayowin whipped his head around, "No! I'm the only one like this..." he looked solemnly down at his feet as he finished.
She blinked, dumbfounded. Clearing her throat, she said, "I really should get back to my pack. They'll be worried about me if I stay out for much longer." she glanced at the massive deer behind them and sighed quietly.
"Your whole pack is starving...aren't they?" said Fayowin quietly.
Feiria nodded and he stood up and walked through the snow silently towards the deer. "you'll need to lead me to your pack if they're to get this meat."
Feiria blinked again, then nodded, getting up and starting off  
Towards the north. Fayowin gripped the deer's neck and drug the carcass behind him as he walked. After a half hour of walking, Feiria howled long and low, signaling her pack that she was near. Fayowin sighed as he heard their howls respond. He thought, there will be no howls for me tonight...
As they neared her pack's clearing, a group of young wolves sprinted towards them, rushing past Feiria and surrounding Fayowin. "Who is this outsider, Feiria? Why did you bring him here?"
there were five of them and they all went into attack mode, growling and circling him.
Feiria attempted to stop them before they got into a fight, but one of them pounced, and in a flash Fayowin had him pinned to the ground with his fangs around the wolf's neck. Fayowin watched the wolves around him react, stepping back and glancing at each other. Feiria shouted at them to stop but they didn't seem to hear her immediately, backing down only as Fayowin's growl tore through the trees, echoing throughout the forest
. They finally heard her, "he's a star wolf!" by now a crowd had gathered around them, Feiria's packmates watching Fayowin closely. He let go of the young wolf beneath his paws, who quickly scampered away, and Fayowin sat up straight and tall, his markings and eyes glowing for all to see. The wolves ooh'd and ahh'd amongst themselves before the alpha stepped forward and looked him up and down. "You killed this deer, yes?"
"I did."
"Why bring it here? We are strangers to you."
Fayowin glanced at Feiria, who shifted, uncomfortable with the silence. "I brought it here because i could tell that this pack needed the meat more than my own." Fayowin looked directly at Feiria and continued, "besides... She saw it first."
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(End of day one of writing, really enjoyed it, look forward to writing again)
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Fayowin perched high upon an rock outcropping, overlooking the clearing below and the wolves within. The alpha had allowed him to stay, grateful for the meat. Feiria was pressed against him again, but this time Fayowin didn't mind. He enjoyed the warmth that she provided and felt at ease around her. She nuzzled his cheek affectionately, a move that surprised him enough that he turned to face her, brushing her nose in the process. He gazed fondly into her eyes for a moment before standing. "I have to return to my pack."
Feiria looked shocked, "No, stay here with us. We could use a hunter like you. Plus you're a star wolf, and it doesn't seem like your pack appreciates that."
He let the words sink in before replying, "I have to go. I'll return in the morning." Seeing the desperate and doubtful look on her face, he added, "I promise. I will come back."
Fayowin walked to the edge of the forest, the glow of his body soon disappearing from Feiria's view.
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...
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F­ayowin sprinted relentlessly back to his territory, smelling the familiar and not so pleasant scents of his packmates. The smell of blood ran thick in the air as he neared the clearing. The moonlight cast eerie shadows around him and he could feel the eyes of the wolves watching him as he reached the gore pile. The mound of bones and rotting flesh dripped blood into the white snow.
"You're late. And emptypawed. You know what that means, filth." the voice was that of his alpha, Marroy, who stood three feet tall at the shoulder, a whole foot and a half shorter than Fayowin. His fur was a mottled black with a grey underbelly.
Fayowin bared his fangs, the longest being three inches long, and he growled, "My name.. is Fayowin."
Marroy cackled in the darkness, "So straightforward. That's unlike you. No matter, you failed to bring us fresh meat. As punishment, you'll be reminded why we protect you in the first place."
Fayowin heard growls emanating from the trees. The pack of around 25 wolves was massive compared to other packs, and there were enough hunters to go around. Fayowin took a step back and let his eyes adjust so he could see them in the trees.
"You don't protect me, Marroy! You fear me!"
Marroy laughed again, "Not from where I'm standing, Mutt. You look pretty frightened." Fayowin took another step back. "Run! Run! Give us some entertainment!"
The wolves started bounding out of the trees and began chasing Fayowin out of the clearing. They seemed to be pouring from every shadow. He ran faster than ever before, the trees blurring past him as he tried to get away. He ran for what seemed like an eternity before seeing the snowy valley at the edge of the forest. He added a burst of speed and instantly regretted it. A rock beneath the snow tripped him and pain shot up his left foreleg. He tumbled end over end in a heap of blue and white, coming to a stop twenty feet away. Fayowin heard the pack coming for him and he tried to crawl away, but to no avail; the pain was too much. He whimpered as he was surrounded, and shut his eyes tight as he felt them bite and claw at him, retreating only after there was a ****** pool around the star wolf. Marroy walked slowly up to him after they had gone and said, "I hope you die out here. If you aren't, we'll make sure that changes." Then the alpha left him there, cold, ******, broken and alone.
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* (End of Day two/Start of day three of writing and i'm really hooked on this, I believe this may be one of my better stories...)*
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Feiria lay silently on the rock outcropping above the pack and she thought of the star wolf. Something about the breeze brought thoughts to her mind.  
Feiria lifted her nose into the air as the smell of blood became present. She sniffed intently and heard her packmates do the same. She looked in the direction that Fayowin had left in and saw a dark form slowly shambling through the shadowy flora towards her. As it neared her she could see that it was dripping a dark liquid, trailing it through the snow in a scarlet path. "Its Fayowin.." she thought to herself. "Why are his eyes so dark? Why isn't he glowing?"
she rushed to his side and the smell of his blood was almost overwhelming. There were numerous bites and cuts all over him and his left foreleg seemed broken.
Feiria called for the healer, an older female named Sheya, and supported Fayowin as they walked to the glade and waited for the healer. Fayowin collapsed in the center of the clearing, the moonlight hitting him directly, making the blood seem black against his white fur.
Feiria whimpered helplessly, waiting for Fayowin to answer, but his eyes seemed so lifeless that
She felt it was almost a false hope. When Sheya finally arrived, the blood had stopped flowing and his breathing had slowed until he was asleep. When the healer examined him, she looked puzzled.
"what's the matter, Elder?"
Sheya pondered a moment before saying, "His wounds have healed. I'd say its a miracle, seeing as he lost so much blood."
Feiria examined the sleeping wolf herself and found the elders words to be true; there wasn't a scratch left on him. "Leave him here, the sunlight will warm him once daylight comes and his fur is thicker than ours so the cold will not affect him as much." the gathered wolves sat in silence as Feiria washed the blood from his fur with snow and lay down next to him, pressing her body against his. The blue lines on Fayowin dimmed and brightened in tune with his heartbeat, and Feiria listened as her own beat matched it.
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...End of day 3....
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Fayowin felt like he was in another world, this one so much quieter, but at the same time he could sense every noise, every movement, every vibration. His fur was no longer the bright white it once was, but rather a deep black with crimson lines flowing round him. He was lying down, surrounded by a wolf pack, Feiria pressed against him for warmth. He saw, or rather sensed her spirit energy, a type of green fire that outlined her entire body as she slept. Fayowin stood up, thinking to wake her and let her know he was alright, but she hadn't moved. And neither had he; his white furred body remained as it was a moment ago, but he was looking at it as if in another body. He took a step back as he realized he was roaming about in his spirit form. He looked around at the pack and none of the gathered wolves seemed to notice him. He exited the circle of onlookers and gazed up at the falling moon, watching it descend into the horizon, chased away by the rays of the sun coming over the mountaintops to the east. As the sun peeked over the ridge, Fayowin caught something out of the corner of his eye, a dark mass that didn't fit right with the rest of the environment. He looked and saw two sets of glowing purple eyes in the shade. He called out to them, hoping they might hear. "Hey! Can you see me?"
The eyes looked at each other and then back at him, staring for a moment before turning and running.
"Hey, wait!!" Fayowin called after them and began to chase them deeper and deeper into the mysterious forest.The beings moved faster than Fayowin had anticipated, disappearing soon after the chase had begun. Fayowin stood there in the middle of the woods, panting and searching for the elusive forms. After a moment he saw them at the very edge of his vision, their eyes glowing brighter, almost as if they were taunting him forward. Snarling, Fayowin bolted towards them and they led him on a winding path marked by a barely discernable scent trail. The smell was that of burnt wood and crushed pine needles and was oddly alluring to Fayowin as he ran. It seeemed as if he were running for ages, the sun and moon rotating numerous times around him as he traveled over mountains and rivers, through forests and valleys. On the thirteenth solar rotation, the figures finally stopped, joined by eleven other figures surrounding a circular rock with vines and overgrowth covering its base.
As he neared the figures, he saw that they all looked like him, long furred and covered in glowing lines. "Star wolves... Like me..."
The wolves all surrounded the dais and watched him with razor sharp eyes, watching his every move. As he gazed back, Fayowin noticed that each of them had some form of a trident mark right below their left eye, the color matching the lines tracing their bodies. He felt the urge to move forward, as if an instinct were telling him to stand in the center of the circle. Fayowin stood, all eyes on him as he waited for whatever was about to come.
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....I have nothing to say to you HP... I dislike you at the moment....
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Nightfall was coming swiftly, the moon and the stars swirling into place above them, reaching their peak and then halting completely. All of time and
onlylovepoetry Jul 2017
a companion piece to
miniskirts & high heels vs. poetry & yoga^
<•>

a couple of buds at a local dive bar, drinking Buds,
talking loud about technology
and other manly man stuff

attract attention for our conversation isn't bout sports,
get approached by long legs in high heels and a miniskirt,
with the best come on line ever
any woman invented,
"you guys know about computers, huh?"

later after reading twenty or so of her poems,
and learning the degree of difficulty of the
downward facing dog pose
(adho mukha svanasana)
she said:

tell me again how I
clear my cache,
change my font,
add more memory for new memories,
stop auto correct from making wont into want,
so I can happy write


"wont thy thoughts to my heart thereof"

so I obliged and then
the geek in meek wrote
his first poem

after first clearing the catch  
in his throat
Test Ting Won To Tree
By
Charles Fleischer







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

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

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

Blue accordion casket is to Jaded scholar ***** as German mushroom circus is to?
President George Flintstone is to Funny Fred Washington as Abraham Jetson’s dog is to?
Google Desmond Tutu is to Kalamazoo Zoo Park as Zodiac actors Guru is to?
Swamp cradled whisperer is to Cherished drawbridge cello as Bludgeoned prankster outlaws are to?
Dukes pink mittens are to Smeared nest carava
Candace Jun 2014
The driveway was strewn with rotted oak leaves, and Oscar wondered if the old man was still alive. He stopped his car just short of the rusted garage door, knowing that from this vantage point no one from the house could see him. Stepping out of his car, he strode toward the front door. The outside looked much the same as before, ivy gnarling up the walls and spiders webbing around the door. He held up his hand to knock.
“It’s open, Oscar.” He was relieved to hear the old man’s voice through the open window.
“Thanks, Harry. I’ll be right in.” Oscar nudged the front door open and walked into the kitchen. The green wallpaper was faded but the little square table in the corner was clean. The old man had his back to Oscar, stooped over the sink drying the last of a small batch of dishes. Oscar stuck his hands in his sweatshirt pocket.
“The wood looks like it’s staying dry,” Oscar said. The old man gave a slight nod, wiping the counter with slow, decided movements. “I heard it’s been a wet winter.”  
“Not too bad.” The man looked at Oscar with tired eyes. “Those gutters need cleaning, though.”
“I’ll do what I can before I go.”
The old man turned his pale neck back toward the sink. “That’s fine.”
“Do you need anything from town? Or anything?”
The old man didn’t respond. Oscar took his cue to leave, walking through the laundry room and out the back door. An enclosure of thick oaks and cedars faced him, not quite a forest, but more than he could count. His feet carried him on the familiar path, up the mountain where the air was thin, and he struggled to breathe deeply. The trees grew thicker and the path narrower, but he trudged on, finally coming to a stop at a small clearing housing the remains of several tree stumps. In the middle of these stumps sat a bright yellow lawnchair currently unoccupied. Oscar took the opportunity to catch his breath, closing his eyes and lowering himself into the squeaky chair, waiting for her to come. He imagined her sneaking up behind him, covering his eyes. She’d giggle and lope back into the trees beckoning him come to follow her.
He heard a slight rustle through the trees and saw her walk toward him, her steps slower than usual. Her once long hair was cut short against her scalp and her belly protruded in an obvious way. She stopped just short of his arm’s reach, resting one hand over her belly. She cocked her head to the side, looking Oscar up and down. Her eyes settled on his face but not his eyes.
“You got old,” she said.
“You didn’t.” Oscar smiled while she stayed serious.
“I got old and died three times,” she said. “This is me,” she said pointing at her belly.
Oscar reached out to touch her arm, but she took his hand, leading him back out of the clearing down the mountain. He didn’t wonder where they were going. He set aside all the world but her. As he followed behind her, he thought that she looked much different than last time. Her eyes seemed less savage and her skin less pale. He thought she looked strange without her long hair tangled with leaves and wind, and he wondered if the same person that put this baby inside her was also trying to fix her, to make her like everyone else. He tightened his grip on her hand and rushed ahead of her. She gave a tiny laugh and started running after him.
Soon she let go of his hand and sat gracelessly on the ground, resting her head against a tree. Oscar turned around and sat across from her, watching her pick the leaves off a fallen branch.
“This is my tree,” she said, holding up the branch.
“I’ll plant it for you, so it can grow bigger.”
“It’s already dead. Won’t get any bigger.” She began pulling the twigs off the branch, smoothing it into a pole shape.  
“Are you done with college?” she asked.
“Another year.”
“I’m going to go, too.” She sounded like she meant it. Oscar wondered if he had been gone for too long this time. “Soon,” she said.  
Oscar nodded. “You don’t have hair anymore.”
She looked up at Oscar, not meeting his eyes. “It was trapping all my thoughts in my head.”
Oscar smiled. “Now all your thoughts are running around like rabbits having little thought babies of their own.” She laughed out of courtesy, and it bothered him. They sat in silence. He continued to watch her.
“Do you think it’s going to rain today?” she asked.
“Since when do we talk about the weather?”
“I want to.” Oscar said nothing. “I think it’s going to rain. I can smell the water in the air. Do you remember Frankie, that gerbil I had as a kid?”
“I’m leaving again tomorrow.”
“I know.” She started to stand up, bracing herself against the bare branch in her hands. “Frankie knew when it would rain. He did this thing with his ear. Twitch.” She brushed off her pants. “Next time you come back, I’ll be a baby. Brand new and wrinkly.” She met his eyes.
“Are you going to name it after the dad?” He asked, hoping that the dad was long gone.
“No, me.”
Oscar thought she looked very young then, and he could imagine her becoming younger and younger as he continued to age. He would grow into an old man like her father, stooped over and feeble, and she would go to college, reborn without him. Without her hair, she would run faster and he wouldn’t be able to keep up.
“Let’s watch the sunset,” she said, taking his hand. “Go get some lawnchairs and I’ll meet you there.”
He watched her trek up the mountain for a moment before making his descent. As he neared the house, he saw the old man gathering wood, one piece at a time. His bones seemed to creak as he lifted the tarp off the remaining dry wood, feeling which pieces were dry enough. The old man seemed to acutely feel each footstep, pausing on every stair and taking a deep breath, before entering the house. Watching the old man repeat this process again and again, Oscar decided that all the youth in the world did not belong to her. He would preserve her forever as she was now, and by standing in her orbit maybe she could give him everlasting life.
He waved to the old man as he hoisted two lawnchairs over his shoulder. After the old man had walked back inside, seemingly for the last time, Oscar grabbed the half-empty canister by the woodpile and began climbing toward the clearing where she was waiting. He hoped the rain would never come. He arrived out of breath and set up the chairs in their usual places between the tree stumps. She stood at the edge of the clearing, her arms wrapped around her protruding belly, watching as the sun crawled below the tree line. She smiled at him and he beckoned her to sit down. She sat and Oscar told her to close her eyes.
“I want to see,” she said.
“It’s a surprise.”
Oscar crossed the clearing, carrying the canister. He looked as the base of each tree, trying to find the right one in the fading light. “It’s the one on the left,” she shouted.
“Keep your eyes closed.” He tried to sound stern, but he couldn’t stop smiling. He saw the tree and began to pour the contents of the canister onto the trunk.
“I knew you remembered Frankie,” she said. There was a large stone underneath the tree as a monument to the gerbil. Oscar remembered that it was the biggest stone that they could carry as children.
“I know.” Oscar took the makeshift walking stick she had made earlier from her hands and wrapped a piece of his shirt around it. He again crossed the clearing pulling out his lighter. He lit the end of the pole before putting the flame to the gasoline soaked tree. He backed away from the tree as the fire struggled up the wet trunk before flaring in the leaves overhead. It crackled and hissed through pinecones, trying to keep its hold on the damp tree.
Oscar’s leg hit the edge of a stump and he sat down. He felt her walk up next to him. Tearing his gaze away from the fire, he looked up at her, and it seemed to him that her skin mimicked the red of the fire, coming alive in its light. Her eyes were once again untamed, feral. Oscar imagined that no time had passed since he left for college and that no time would ever pass again.
She took his hand, just as the fire spread to another treetop, and put it on her belly. “It won’t burn forever,” she said, letting go of his hand and turning to carry the lawnchair back down the mountain.
It rained. Oscar stayed watching the last embers flicker and die before his feet blindly carried him back to the house where he would clean the gutters and leave.
Toni Seychelle Feb 2013
The ground beneath the stiff leaves is frozen. The cold, brisk air invades my lungs, I exhale, my breath visible. I step over fallen branches and tugged by thorny vines. A red tail hawk screeches overhead, this is a sign of good luck. There is no path, no trail to mark our way, just an old, flat railroad bed surrounded by walls of shale, blown up for the path of the train so long ago. The only ties to remind of the rail are the rotting, moss covered ties that once were a part of a bridge that would have carried the train over a small creek between two steep hills. I see a fox burrow, and it's escape hatch is one of the hollowed railroad ties. I want to be a fox... The trek down this hill is not easy, thorny blackberry bushes and fallen trees impede progress. At the bottom, the small, bubbly creek is frozen at the edges, traveling under rocks and continuing its ancient path. I look up the hill that I just descended, and wonder how the return will go. Keep moving. The next hill will be easier, there are no thorny tangles, just treacherous leaf litter that will give under my feet if I don't find the right footing. The trick is to dig my boots into the ground as if I'm on steps. These hills are steep. Finally at the top, I look back at this little spring valley, I'm not that high up, but what view. Here, there is a dilapidated tree stand, falling apart from years of neglect and weather. Surrounded by deep leaf litter, there is a patch of rich dark earth, a buck has marked his spot, his round pellets are nearby. The saplings catch my hair as I walk by, and at these moments I am thankful for this cold snap that took care of the ticks. A creepy feeling takes over me, so thankful for this snap. A few feet further, as I watch where I am walking, another tussled bit of earth and I notice some interesting ****. It's furry and light grey; I poke it with my stick and find a small skull when I turn a piece over. Owl. I continue my walk, I didn't come here to play with poo. The last time I took this hike was three years ago, on a similar frigid day. It was a lot easier to make it through the shale valleys. Last summer, a wind storm felled trees and took out power for two weeks. The evidence of that derecho is clear here in this untouched forest. I remembered a tree, which now is a fallen giant, that had lost it's bark. The bark had separated and laid around this tree like a woman's skirt around her ankles. Now the tree lies with it's bark. I pass another tree I recognize whose branch extends out but zig zags up and down, as if it had three elbows. The tree signifies my next move, to descend from the flat railroad bed, down to a creek that flows through the tunnel that would have carried the train. The creek is considerably larger than the last creek I could step across. Descending towards the creek leads me over moss covered rocks and limbs, still bearing snow. Outside the tunnel, the hill walls are large stones, covered in a thick layer of moss, some of which has started to fall off due to heaviness. There's a sort of ice shelf in the creek, it's three layers thick and can support my one hundred and twenty pounds. Laying across the creek is another derecho-felled tree. Some sort of critter has crawled on this, using it to avoid the water below and as a short cut up the hill. His claw marks are covering the the limb, a few are more clear, it looks as if the creature almost slipped off. His claw marks show a desperate cling. I walk through the tunnel, in the mud and water; the creek echoes inside. I look above. There are drainage holes lining the ceiling, one is clogged by a giant icicle. I imagine the train that used to ride over this tunnel, I pretend to hear it and feel the rumbling. The last time we were here, we found cow skeletons. We placed a few heads on branches and one over the tunnel. We stuck a jaw, complete with herbivore teeth, into the mossy wall and a hip bone on a sapling. The hip bone reminded us of Predator's mask in the movie. All these bones are turning green. When I was here before, there was a bone half submerged in the creek; I had taken a picture of it but today, it isn't here. I'm sure it was washed away. After our exploration of the previous visit, we turned back. We are cold again, can't stay in one place too long. I climb through the deep leaf litter and over the rocks back to the railroad bed. Passing all the things I've already seen and spotting things I missed. I find two more fox burrows. They utilized the shale rock and burrowed underneath the jutting formations. Hidden coming from the south, the gaping openings seem welcoming from the north. My friends, the spelunkers and climber, want to descend into the darkness but I remind them, it is an hour to sundown, our trek is hard enough with overcast daylight. Wisdom prevails. We pass a tree, we didn't notice before, that was struck by lightening. The cedar tree was split in two and fell down the shale wall. I see the evidence of the burn and a smoldered residue at the base. Nature has a cruel way of recycling. The downed tree still has snow on it and the path of a raccoon is visible, I like the paws of *****. Though the way is flat, the walls of shale tower above us, limiting routes. At one point I can't see through the fallen trees I have to pass through. I have to crab walk under, crawl over, duck again and find my way around the thorny collections of bare black berry bushes. Finally into a clearing, still surrounded by sharp shale, there is another wall covered in inches of thick, healthy moss. I place my hand, taking time to stroke the furry wall. My hand leaves an imprint. I wonder how long that will last.. Back down the steep hill up and up the thorny tangle. I know I'm on the right path up, I see the fox's hole through the railroad tie, and his entrance burrow up the hill. Going down was definitely easier. The summit is literally overgrown with thorns, there is no clear path through. It is, again, impossible to see through the tangle of limbs and saplings and more thorns. Somehow we make it through. We are close to breaking off this path. We know this by the remains of a cow skeleton that more than likely fell from the top of the shale cliff. Femurs and ribs and jaws abound. On the last trip, we placed a hip bone in the "Y" of a sapling. The young tree has claimed it, growing around it. We add a piece of jaw to the tree's ornamentation and move on. We climb down from the railroad bed to our car - parked on the side of the road with a white towel in the window so that no one suspects a group of people walking through private property, past faded NO TRESPASSING signs.

When I undress for bed later, there are many small scratches up and down my legs from those ****** thorny vines. I'm okay with that, it's better than searching for ticks in my head.
I couldn't write a 'poem' about this hike. It was too full of nature.
Tom Spencer Jul 2015
In the evenings
the deer would emerge
from the edge of the woods
stepping over the tumbledown stones
of walls left untended-
they'd leave tracks through the snow
in a wandering line that led to the last apple tree
in the field by Orchard Street.

I remember that now,
staring at this antler I've found
in the clearing between the cactus
and sun bleached stones.
The lines of the antler
flow into the fractures of my palm-
two thousand miles from snow,
and two thousand miles from
the blue evening glow
of a shivering world
glazed over by twilight…

And the deer-
magnificent, pawing the snow
searching for apples that had fallen below-
emboldened by the frozen sweetness of autumn.
They were graceful even in flight-
when cars with chains
jingling and crunching the ice
rounded the corner
down Orchard Street.

Today I've tracked over two thousand miles
in my own wandering line-
the lines of the antler
flow through the tangles and hollows of time.

Sometimes I stand in a clearing,
sometimes hidden by trees,
sometimes I scratch below the surface,
and I run- but, less gracefully...

There are walls I've left untended
and some I've crafted too well-
it is through forgotten tumbledown walls
that memories come-
I thank grace
it was into this clearing they fell.


Tom Spencer © 2017
rhiannon Mar 2019
Once upon a time there was a brave girl called Alison Parker. She was on the way to see her mum Michelle Ramsbottom, when she decided to take a short cut through Wyre Forest.

It wasn’t long before Alison got lost. She looked around, but all she could see were trees. Nervously, she felt into her bag for her favourite toy, Bunny, but Bunny was nowhere to be found! Alison began to panic. She felt sure she had packed Bunny. To make matters worse, she was starting to feel hungry.

Unexpectedly, she saw a kind werewolf dressed in a black skirt disappearing into the trees.

“How odd!” thought Alison.

For the want of anything better to do, she decided to follow the peculiarly dressed werewolf. Perhaps it could tell him the way out of the forest.

Eventually, Alison reached a clearing. She found herself surrounded by houses made from different sorts of food. There was a house made from carrots, a house made from biscuits, a house made from cakes and a house made from pancakes.

Alison could feel her tummy rumbling. Looking at the houses did nothing to ease her hunger.

“Hello!” she called. “Is anybody there?”

Nobody replied.

Alison looked at the roof on the closest house and wondered if it would be rude to eat somebody else’s chimney. Obviously it would be impolite to eat a whole house, but perhaps it would be considered acceptable to nibble the odd fixture or lick the odd fitting, in a time of need.

A cackle broke through the air, giving Alison a fright. A witch jumped into the space in front of the houses. She was carrying a cage. In that cage was Bunny!

“Bunny!” shouted Alison. She turned to the witch. “That’s my toy!”

The witch just shrugged.

“Give Bunny back!” cried Alison.

“Not on your nelly!” said the witch.

“At least let Bunny out of that cage!”

Before she could reply, three kind werewolves rushed in from a footpath on the other side of the clearing. Alison recognised the one in the black skirt that she’d seen earlier. The witch seemed to recognise him too.

“Hello Big Werewolf,” said the witch.

“Good morning.” The werewolf noticed Bunny. “Who is this?”

“That’s Bunny,” explained the witch.

“Ooh! Bunny would look lovely in my house. Give it to me!” demanded the werewolf.

The witch shook her head. “Bunny is staying with me.”

“Um… Excuse me…” Alison interrupted. “Bunny lives with me! And not in a cage!”

Big Werewolf ignored her. “Is there nothing you’ll trade?” he asked the witch.

The witch thought for a moment, then said, “I do like to be entertained. I’ll release him to anybody who can eat a whole front door.”

Big Werewolf looked at the house made from pancakes and said, “No problem, I could eat an entire house made from pancakes if I wanted to.”

“That’s nothing,” said the next werewolf. “I could eat twohouses.”

“There’s no need to show off,” said the witch. Just eat one front door and I’ll let you have Bunny.”

Alison watched, feeling very worried. She didn’t want the witch to give Bunny to Big Werewolf. She didn’t think Bunny would like living with a kind werewolf, away from her house and all her other toys.

The other two werewolves watched while Big Werewolf put on his bib and withdrew a knife and fork from his pocket.

“I’ll eat this whole house,” said Big Werewolf. “Just you watch!”

Big Werewolf pulled off a corner of the front door of the house made from biscuits. He gulped it down smiling, and went back for more.

   And more.

      And more.

Eventually, Big Werewolf started to get bigger – just a little bit bigger at first. But after a few more fork-fulls of biscuits, he grew to the size of a large snowball – and he was every bit as round.

“Erm… I don’t feel too good,” said Big Werewolf.

Suddenly, he started to roll. He’d grown so round that he could no longer balance!

“Help!” he cried, as he rolled off down a ***** into the forest.

Big Werewolf never finished eating the front door made from biscuits and Bunny remained trapped in the witch’s cage.Average Werewolf stepped up, and approached the house made from cakes.

“I’ll eat this whole house,” said Average Werewolf. “Just you watch!”

Average Werewolf pulled off a corner of the front door of the house made from cakes. She gulped it down smiling, and went back for more.

   And more.

      And more.

After a while, Average Werewolf started to look a little queasy. She grew greener…

   …and greener.

A woodcutter walked into the clearing. “What’s this bush doing here?” he asked.

“I’m not a bush, I’m a werewolf!” said Average Werewolf.

“It talks!” exclaimed the woodcutter. “Those talking bushes are the worst kind. I’d better take it away before somebody gets hurt.”

“No! Wait!” cried Average Werewolf, as the woodcutter picked her up. But the woodcutter ignored her cries and carried the werewolf away under his arm.

Average Werewolf never finished eating the front door made from cakes and Bunny remained trapped in the witch’s cage.Little Werewolf stepped up, and approached the house made from pancakes.

“I’ll eat this whole house,” said Little Werewolf. “Just you watch!”

Little Werewolf pulled off a corner of the front door of the house made from pancakes. He gulped it down smiling, and went back for more.

   And more.

      And more.

After five or six platefuls, Little Werewolf started to fidget uncomfortably on the spot.

He stopped eating pancakes for a moment, then grabbed another forkful.

But before he could eat it, there came an almighty roar. A bottom burp louder than a rocket taking off, propelled Little Werewolf into the sky.

“Aggghhhhhh!” cried Little Werewolf. “I’m scared of heigh…”

Little Werewolf was never seen again.

Little Werewolf never finished eating the front door made from pancakes and Bunny remained trapped in the witch’s cage.

“That’s it,” said the witch. “I win. I get to keep Bunny.”

“Not so fast,” said Alison. “There is still one front door to go. The front door of the house made from carrots. And I haven’t had a turn yet.

“I don’t have to give you a turn!” laughed the witch. “My game. My rules.”

The woodcutter’s voice carried through the forest. “I think you should give her a chance. It’s only fair.”

“Fine,” said the witch. “But you saw what happened to the werewolves. She won’t last long.”

“I’ll be right back,” said Alison.

“What?” said the witch. “Where’s your sense of impatience? I thought you wanted Bunny back.”

Alison ignored the witch and gathered a hefty pile of sticks. She came back to the clearing and started a small camp fire. Carefully, she broke off a piece of the door of the house made from carrots and toasted it over the fire. Once it had cooked and cooled just a little, she took a bite. She quickly devoured the whole piece.

Alison sat down on a nearby log.

“You fail!” cackled the witch. “You were supposed to eat the whole door.”

“I haven’t finished,” explained Alison. “I am just waiting for my food to go down.”

When Alison’s food had digested, she broke off another piece of the door made from carrots. Once more, she toasted her food over the fire and waited for it to cool just a little. She ate it at a leisurely pace then waited for it to digest.

Eventually, after several sittings, Alison was down to the final piece of the door made from carrots. Carefully, she toasted it and allowed it to cool just a little. She finished her final course. Alison had eaten the entire front door of the house made from carrots.

The witch stamped her foot angrily. “You must have tricked me!” she said. “I don’t reward cheating!”

“I don’t think so!” said a voice. It was the woodcutter. He walked back into the clearing, carrying his axe. “This little girl won fair and square. Now hand over Bunny or I will chop your broomstick in half.”

The witch looked horrified. She grabbed her broomstick and placed it behind her. Then, huffing, she opened the door of the cage.

Alison hurried over and grabbed Bunny, checking that her favourite toy was all right. Fortunately, Bunny was unharmed.

Alison thanked the woodcutter, grabbed a quick souvenir, and hurried on to meet Michelle. It was starting to get dark.

When Alison got to Michelle’s house, her mum threw her arms around her.

“I was so worried!” cried Michelle. “You are very late.”

As Alison described her day, she could tell that Michelle didn’t believe her. So she grabbed a napkin from her pocket.

“What’s that?” asked Michelle.

Alison unwrapped a doorknob made from biscuits. “Pudding!” she said.

Michelle almost fell off her chair.

The End
justin Dec 2010
i ran throught the fog to find the clearing
a clearing in which noone was there
im alone
they promised they would be there
but promises can be broken as easily as a peice of paper ripped in half
now im alone alone in this clearing where all i feel is sadness
sadness and regret
i should be happy but who can be happy when your all alone
im going to lay down now
im going to shut my eyes
im going to drift away into the space
beacuse im alone
im not really alone but i was at one point and i drew from that to make this
Sharde' Fultz Oct 2014
I'm not out the woods yet
but at least I do see a clearing up ahead
sunshine gracefully dancing between the leaves that have shadowed me.
days. weeks. months. years.
What is "time" anyway.
But alas, the sun's rays whispers this one little secret
I spy this, this bit of solitude in the distance
the thick tall trees and brush is thinning
the ground more even
I'm not sure if it leads to the end of this wood, or if it will only offer a brief respite from my tortuous journey
But I'll take it.
I'll sleep there and I'll catch my breath
And I'll thank God for the peace
I'll lay on the solid ground
and hug the space around me
I'll inhale deeply and digest this rare moment
then back onto my journey
and if it proves to be the end I'll take it
and if I find myself back in the wood, I'll look forward to another clearing.
Venusoul7 Jun 2014
In the North Rock Lands, many Centuries past, our tribe took to Journey the Land during turning blossom season, when days grew to cast shadows stretch to lengthen Light of day.

The Clearing Ritual set many of us vital in Life to find relationship with the truest nature within Oneself. A small group would start out together, never staying together to long. As One found truth by the rushing rivers, Another followed the Bird's Song, some found deepest reflection in snow covered Mountains.

I parted ways when a whispering of tribal drum drew my ear to solitary call. I followed the haunted chant of a weary Wisdom, a Voice that broke in wailing acceptance, painful experience, and croaked from dark dirt of Life.

I continued instinctively not care for danger, for I knew this Voice knew me. It resonated its pitch right in the pit of my stomach, hungry to know.

I found myself walking up a dry dusty hill topped in plateau. There I saw in close distance a Man sitting, feather necklace, fair hair, and leathered skin. As I neared, he paused midair and placed his wood flute to his tired lips.

It was the Song of Welcome, I knew it well. I reached my last step next to him. He stopped and faintly uttered words beneath his breath. I asked what say he. He did not turn but looked straight into the air before him to repeat,

"It's not easy to please me
As I am my own worst enemy"


Taken aback I replied,

"In a World full of Foes
Who needs another one of those."


He wailed into the setting Sun, growing small and still. Then he turned and looked right at me, silently awaiting. I stumbled out words pertaining to Truth, searching, seeking the Wisdom of things.
A body heaving grunt, deflated his stature. He smiled slowly, cracked lips, rose even slower to face me, eye to eye.
Spoke words I took home with me, never to forget,

"Lack not in Motivation
Just not the kind that belittles your Vision
Lack not in Discipline
Just not the kind that leads your mind inside a Prison
Lack not in Passion
Just leave for Death, the Deadly kind
Lack not in Laughter
Just not the kind that pleasures from pain of Others
Lack not in Love
Put not Self in the Center, nor direct with selfish motive, for that be a kind of Boomerang, like backwards travel, the black of white, a dungeon, a death trap.
Just know this, There is no "I" in LOVE.
If you break apart from the Circle, in service to Self, you will die alone in the mirror of EV(I)L."


I returned the Clearing strong in Truth, and danced the Winged Clan dance, three sips deep of the Sacred Fruit. I lost my former claim of Self and chanted in the mists of the New, Clearing Cleared to be Honored as White Horse with Eagle Eye. That is the name I am called by my Tribe.
I made up a mythic fable set in Old Native American Tradition.
Thomas Mooney Dec 2013
Somewhere, under the bent branches,
heavy with snow, waits a whisper.

A whisper of all that space has seen-
    the wolf sifting slowly through drifts of snow.
    the deer pausing, alert and eying the depths of the wood.
    centuries of life moving through this clearing.
And the wind will come.  And the wind will carry the whisper.
Carry it to the ear of a poet that will
write the wolf to life, and lower, once again, the deer's head
to graze.  

And the centuries that had lived in that clearing will be given
words and life.  And the centuries more
will hear the whisper and know the clearing.
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
I

In that November off Tehuantepec,
The slopping of the sea grew still one night
And in the morning summer hued the deck

And made one think of rosy chocolate
And gilt umbrellas. Paradisal green
Gave suavity to the perplexed machine

Of ocean, which like limpid water lay.
Who, then, in that ambrosial latitude
Out of the light evolved the morning blooms,

Who, then, evolved the sea-blooms from the clouds
Diffusing balm in that Pacific calm?
C'etait mon enfant, mon bijou, mon ame.

The sea-clouds whitened far below the calm
And moved, as blooms move, in the swimming green
And in its watery radiance, while the hue

Of heaven in an antique reflection rolled
Round those flotillas. And sometimes the sea
Poured brilliant iris on the glistening blue.

                        II

In that November off Tehuantepec
The slopping of the sea grew still one night.
At breakfast jelly yellow streaked the deck

And made one think of chop-house chocolate
And sham umbrellas. And a sham-like green
Capped summer-seeming on the tense machine

Of ocean, which in sinister flatness lay.
Who, then, beheld the rising of the clouds
That strode submerged in that malevolent sheen,

Who saw the mortal massives of the blooms
Of water moving on the water-floor?
C'etait mon frere du ciel, ma vie, mon or.

The gongs rang loudly as the windy booms
Hoo-hooed it in the darkened ocean-blooms.
The gongs grew still. And then blue heaven spread

Its crystalline pendentives on the sea
And the macabre of the water-glooms
In an enormous undulation fled.

                        III

In that November off Tehuantepec,
The slopping of the sea grew still one night
And a pale silver patterned on the deck

And made one think of porcelain chocolate
And pied umbrellas. An uncertain green,
Piano-polished, held the tranced machine

Of ocean, as a prelude holds and holds,
Who, seeing silver petals of white blooms
Unfolding in the water, feeling sure

Of the milk within the saltiest spurge, heard, then,
The sea unfolding in the sunken clouds?
Oh! C'etait mon extase et mon amour.

So deeply sunken were they that the shrouds,
The shrouding shadows, made the petals black
Until the rolling heaven made them blue,

A blue beyond the rainy hyacinth,
And smiting the crevasses of the leaves
Deluged the ocean with a sapphire blue.

                        IV

In that November off Tehuantepec
The night-long slopping of the sea grew still.
A mallow morning dozed upon the deck

And made one think of musky chocolate
And frail umbrellas. A too-fluent green
Suggested malice in the dry machine

Of ocean, pondering dank stratagem.
Who then beheld the figures of the clouds
Like blooms secluded in the thick marine?

Like blooms? Like damasks that were shaken off
From the loosed girdles in the spangling must.
C'etait ma foi, la nonchalance divine.

The nakedness would rise and suddenly turn
Salt masks of beard and mouths of bellowing,
Would--But more suddenly the heaven rolled

Its bluest sea-clouds in the thinking green,
And the nakedness became the broadest blooms,
Mile-mallows that a mallow sun cajoled.

                        V

In that November off Tehuantepec
Night stilled the slopping of the sea.
The day came, bowing and voluble, upon the deck,

Good clown... One thought of Chinese chocolate
And large umbrellas. And a motley green
Followed the drift of the obese machine

Of ocean, perfected in indolence.
What pistache one, ingenious and droll,
Beheld the sovereign clouds as jugglery

And the sea as turquoise-turbaned *****, neat
At tossing saucers--cloudy-conjuring sea?
C'etait mon esprit batard, l'ignominie.

The sovereign clouds came clustering. The conch
Of loyal conjuration *******. The wind
Of green blooms turning crisped the motley hue

To clearing opalescence. Then the sea
And heaven rolled as one and from the two
Came fresh transfigurings of freshest blue.
ConnectHook Nov 2015
♪♫♪♪

Your beaded snakeskin loincloth

strung beneath humid palms

cool rippling breeze that calms

our hammock hung under thatch

what a catch . . .

your Amazons running into my Congo

lost track of my bongo

back about one mile

from the sources of the Nile:

your jungle smile.

Restoring all celestial things

deep within your tropical clearings . . .

flowing slowly, going loco

at the mythic mouth of the Orinico;

shake your nut-brown biospheres

and banish all my worldly fears.

Dusk is nearing — clearing the hill

insects trilling a sinuous thrill;

the yuca half-mashed in the clay ***

the witch doctor hungover in his hut

while our little fire smolders

near the mountains of the moon

—or are they only boulders?

Come soon

Jesus, Lord of the Jungle . . .
NOTES: ♪♪♫♪♪♫♫
♪♫♪♪
Cyril Blythe Sep 2012
I followed him down the trail until we got to the mouth of the mines. The life and energy of the surrounding maples and birches seemed to come to a still and then die as we walked closer, closer. The air was cold and dark and damp and smelt of mold and moths. Delvos stepped into the darkness anyways.
“Well, girl, you coming or aren’t you?”
I could see his yellowed tobacco teeth form into a slimy smile as I stepped out of the sun. It was still inside. The canary chirped.
“This tunnel is just the mouth to over two hundred others exactly like it. Stay close. Last thing I need this month is National Geographic on my *** for losing one of their puppet girls.”
“Delvos, ****. I have two masters degrees.” He rolled his eyes.
“Spare me.” He trotted off around the corner to the left, whistling.
“I survived alone in the jungles of Bolivia alone for two months chasing an Azara’s Spinetail. I climbed the tallest mountain in Nepal shooting Satyr Tragopans along the cliff faces. In Peru I…” Suddenly I felt the weight of the darkness. In my blinding anger I lost track of his lantern. I stopped, my heartbeat picked up, and I tried to remind myself of what I did in Peru.
I followed a Diurnal Peruvian Pygmy-Owl across the gravel tops of the Andes Mountains, no light but the Southern Cross and waning moon above. I am not scared of darkness. I am not scared of darkness.
I stopped to listen. Somewhere in front of me the canary chirped.

When I first got the job in Vermont I couldn’t have been more frustrated. Mining canaries? Never had I ever ‘chased’ a more mundane bird. Nonetheless, when Jack Reynolds sends you on a shoot you don’t say no, so I packed up my camera bag and hoped on the next plane out of Washington.
“His name is John Delvos.” Jack said. He handed me the manila case envelope. “He’s lived in rural Vermont his entire life. Apparently his family bred the canaries for the miners of the Sheldon Quarry since the early twenties. When the accident happened the whole town basically shut down. There were no canaries in the mines the day the gas killed the miners. His mother died in a fire of some sort shortly after. The town blamed the Delvos family and ran them into the woods. His father built a cabin and once his father died, Delvos continued to breed the birds. He ships them to other mining towns across the country now. We want to run a piece about the inhumanity of breeding animals to die so humans won’t.” I stood in silence in front of his deep mahogany desk, suddenly aware of the lack of make-up on my face. He smiled, “You’re leaving on Tuesday.”
“Yes sir.”
“Don’t look so smug, Lila. This may not be the most exotic bird you’ve shot but the humanity of this piece has the potential to be a cover story. Get the shots, write the story.”

“Do you understand the darkness now, Ms. Rivers? Your prestigious masters degrees don’t mean **** down here.” Delvos reappeared behind the crack of his match in a side tunnel not twenty yards in front of me. He relit the oily lantern and turned his back without another word. I reluctantly followed deeper into the damp darkness.
“Why were there no canaries in the mine on, you know, that day?” The shadows of the lantern flickered against the iron canary cage chained on his hip and the yellow bird hopped inside.
“I was nine, Ms. Rivers. I didn’t understand much at the time.” We turned right into the next tunnel and our shoes crunched on jagged stones. All the stones were black.
“But surely you understand now?”
The canary chirped.

When I first got to Sheldon and began asking about the location of the Delvos’ cabin you would have thought I was asking where the first gate to hell was located. Mothers would smile and say, “Sorry, Miss, I can’t say,” and hurriedly flock their children in the opposite direction. After two hours of polite refusals I gave up. I spent the rest of the first day photographing the town square. It was quaint; old stone barbershops surrounded by oaks and black squirrels, a western themed whiskey bar, and a few greasy spoon restaurants interspersed in-between. I booked a room in the Walking Horse Motel for Wednesday night, determined to get a good nights sleep and defeat this towns fear of John Delvos tomorrow.
My room was a tiny one bed square with no TV. Surprise, surprise. At least I had my camera and computer to entertain myself. I reached into the side of my camera bag and pulled out my Turkish Golds and Macaw-beak yellow BIC. I stepped out onto the dirt in front of my door and lit up. I looked up and the stars stole all the oxygen surrounding me. They were dancing and smiling above me and I forgot Delvos, Jack, and all of Sheldon except it’s sky. Puffing away, I stepped farther and farther from my door and deeper into the darkness of night. The father into the darkness the more dizzying the stars dancing became.
“Ma’am? Everything okay?”
Startled, I dropped my cigarette on the ground and the ember fell off.
“I’m sorry, sir. I was just, um, the stars…” I snuffed out the orange glow in the dirt with my boot and extended my hand, “Lila Waters, and you are?”
“Ian Benet. I haven’t seen you around here before, Ms. Waters, are you new to town?”
“I’m here for work. I’m a bird photographer and journalist for National Geographic. I’m looking for John Delvos but I’m starting to think he’s going to be harder to track than a Magpie Robin.”
The stars tiptoed in their tiny circles above in the silence. Then, they disappeared with a spark as Ian lit up his wooden pipe. It was a light colored wood, stained with rich brown tobacco and ash. He passed me his matches, smiling.
“What do you want with that old *******? Don’t tell me National Geographic is interested in the Delvos canaries.”
I lit up another stick and took a drag. “Shocking, right?”
“Actually, it’s about time their story is told.” Benet walked to the wooden bench to our left and patted the seat beside him. I walked over. “The Delvos canaries saved hundreds of Sheldonian lives over the years. But the day a crew went into the mines without one, my father came out of the ground as cold as when we put him back into it in his coffin.”
I sat in silence, unsure what to say. “Mr. Benet, I’m so sorry…”
“Please, just Ian. My father was the last Mr. Benet.”
We sat on the wooden bench, heat leaving our bodies to warm the dead wood beneath our legs. I shivered; the stars dance suddenly colder and more violent.
“Delvos canaries are martyrs, Ms. Waters. This whole town indebted to those tiny yellow birds, but nobody cares to remember that anymore.”
“Can you tell me where I can find Mr. Delvos and his, erm, martyrs?” The ember of my second cigarette was close to my pinching fingertips.
“Follow me.” Ian stood up and walked to the edge of the woods in front of us. We crunched the cold dust beneath our feet, making me aware of how silent it was. Ian stopped at a large elm and pointed, “See that yellow notch?” Sure enough, there was a notch cut and dyed yellow at his finger’s end. “If you follow true north from this tree into the woods you’ll find this notch about every fifty yards or so. Follow the yellow and it’ll spit you out onto the Delvos property.”
“Thank you, Ian. I really can’t begin to tell you how thankful I am to find out where to find this elusive Mr. Delvos and his canaries.”
“You don’t have to,” he knocked the ash out of his pipe against the tree, “Just do those birds justice in your article. Remember, martyrs. Tell old Delvos Ian Benet sends his regards.” He turned and walked back to the motel and I stood and watched in silence. It was then I realized I hadn’t heard a single bird since I got to Sheldon. The stars dance was manic above me as I walked back to my room and shut the door.

The canary chirped and Delvos stopped.
“This is a good place to break out fast. Sit.”
I sat obediently, squirming around until the rocks formed a more comfortable nest around my bony hips. We left for the mines as the stars were fading in the vermillion Vermont sky this morning and had been walking for what seemed like an eternity. I was definitely ready to eat. He handed me a gallon Ziploc bag from his backpack filled with raisins, nuts, various dried fruits, and a stiff piece of bread. I attacked the food like a raven.
“I was the reason no canaries entered the mines that day, Ms. Waters.” Delvos broke a piece of his bread off and wrapped it around a dried piece of apricot, or maybe apple. I was suddenly aware of my every motion and swallowed, loudly. I crinkled into my Ziploc and crunched on the pecans I dug out, waiting.
“Aren’t you going to ask why?”
“I’m not a parrot, Mr. Delvos, I don’t answer expectedly on command. You’ll tell me if you want.” I hurriedly stuffed a fistful of dried pears into my mouth.
Delvos chuckled and my nerves eased, “You’ve got steel in you, Ms. Rivers, I’ll give you that much.”
I nodded and continued cramming pears in my mouth.
“I was only nine. The canaries were my pets, all of them. I hated when Dad would send them into the mines to die for men I couldn’t give two ***** about. It was my birthday and I asked for an afternoon of freedom with my pets and Dad obliged. I was in the aviary with pocketfuls of sunflower-seeds. Whenever I threw a handful into the air above me, the air came to life with flickering yellow brushes and songs of joy. It was the happiest I have ever been, wholly surrounded and protected by my friends. Around twelve thirty that afternoon the Sheriff pulled up, lights ablaze. The blue and red lights stilled my yellow sky to green again and that’s when I heard the shouting. He cuffed my Dad on the hood of the car and Mom was crying and pushing her fists into the sheriff’s chest. I didn’t understand at all. The Sheriff ended up putting Mom in the car too and they all left me in the aviary. I sat there until around four that afternoon before they sent anyone to come get me.”
Delvos took a small bite of his bread and chewed a moment. “No matter how many handfuls of seeds I threw in the air after that, the birds wouldn’t stir. They wouldn’t even sing. I think they knew what was happening.”
I was at a loss for words so of course I blurted, “I didn’t see an aviary at your house…”
Delvos laughed. “Someone burnt down the house I was raised in the next week while we were sleeping. Mom died that night. The whole dark was burning with screams and my yellow canaries were orange and hot against the black sky. That’s the only night I’ve seen black canaries and the only night I’ve heard them scream.”
I swallowed some mixed nuts and they rubbed against my dry throat.
“They never caught the person. A week later Dad took the remainder of the birds and we marched into the woods. We worked for months clearing the land and rebuilding our lives. We spent most of the time in silence, except for the canary cries. When the house was finally built and the birds little coops were as well, Dad finally talked. The only thing he could say was ‘Canaries are not the same as a Phoenix, John. Not the same at all.”
The canary chirped, still only visible by the lanterns flame. Not fully yellow, I realized, here in the mines, but not fully orange either.

When I first walked onto John Delvos’ property on Thursday morning he was scattering feed into the bird coops in the front of his cabin. Everything was made of wood and still wet with the morning’s dew.
“Mr. Delvos?” He spun around, startled, and walked up to me a little too fast.
“Why are you here? Who are you?”
“My name is Lila Waters, sir, I am a photographer and journalist for National Geographic Magazine and we are going to run an article on your canaries.”
“Not interested”
“Please, sir, can I ask you just a few quick questions as take a couple pictures of your, erm, martyrs?”
His eyes narrowed and he walked up to me, studying my face with an intense, glowering gaze. He spit a mouthful of dip onto the ground without breaking eye contact. I shifted my camera bag’s weight to the other shoulder.
“Who told you to call them that?”
“I met Ian Benet last night, he told me how important your birds are to this community, sir. He sends his regards.”
Delvos laughed and motioned for me to follow as he turned his back. “You can take pictures but I have to approve which ones you publish. That’s my rule.”
“Sir, it’s really not up to me, you see, my boss, Jack Reynolds, is one of the CEO’s for the magazine and he...”
“Those are my rules, Ms. Waters.” He turned and picked back up the bucket of seed and began to walk back to the birds. “You want to interview me then we do it in the mine. Be back here at four thirty in the morning.”
“Sir…?”
“Get some sleep, Ms. Waters. You’ll want to be rested for the mine.” He turned, walked up his wooden stairs, and closed the door to his cabin.
I was left alone in the woods and spent the next hour snapping pictures of the little, yellow canaries in their cages. I took a couple pictures of his house and the surrounding trees, packed up my camera and trekked back to my motel.

“You finished yet?” Delvos stood up and the memory of his green and brown wooded homestead fled from my memory as the mine again consumed my consciousness. Dark, quiet, and stagnant. I closed the Ziploc and stuffed the bag, mainly filled with the raisins I sifted through, into my pocket.
Delvos grunted and the canary flapped in its cage as he stood again and, swinging the lantern, rounded another corner. The path we were on began to take a noticeable ***** downward and the moisture on the walls and air multiplied.
The canary chirped.
The lantern flickered against the moist, black stones, sleek and piled in the corners we past. The path stopped ahead at a wall of solid black and brown Earth.
The canary chirped twice.
It smelt of clay and mildew and Delvos said, “Go on, touch it.”
I reached my hand out, camera uselessly hanging like a bat over my shoulder. The rock was cold and hard. It felt dead.
The Canary was flitting its wings in the cage now, chirping every few seconds.
“This is the last tunnel they were digging when the gas under our feet broke free from hell and killed those men.”
Delvos hoisted the lantern above our heads, illuminating the surrounding gloom. All was completely still and even my own vapor seemed to fall out of my mouth and simply die. The canary was dancing a frantic jig, now, similar to the mating dance of the Great Frigate Bird I shot in the Amazon jungle. As I watched the canary and listened to its small wings beat against the cold metal cage I begin to feel dizzy. The bird’s cries had transformed into a scream colder than fire and somehow more fierce.
The ability to fly is what always made me jealous of birds as a child, but as my temple throbbed and the canary danced I realized I was amiss. Screaming, yellow feathers whipped and the entire inside of the cage was instantaneously filled. It was beautiful until the very end. Dizzying, really.
Defeated, the canary sank to the floor, one beaten wing hanging out of the iron bars at a most unnatural angle. Its claws were opening and closing, grasping the tainted cave air, or, perhaps, trying to push it away. Delvos unclipped the cage and sat it on the floor in the space between us, lantern still held swaying above his head. The bird was aflame now, the silent red blood absorbing into the apologetic, yellow feathers. Orange, a living fire. I pulled out my camera as I sat on the ground beside the cage. I took a few shots, the camera’s clicks louder than the feeble chirps sounding out of the canary’s tattered, yellow beak. My head was spinning. Its coal-black eyes reflected the lantern’s flame above. I could see its tiny, red tongue in the bottom of its mouth.
Opening.
Closing.
Opening, wider, too wide, then,
Silence.


I felt dizzy. I remember feeling the darkness surround me; it felt warm.

“I vaguely remember Delvos helping me to my feet, but leaving the mine was a complete haze.” I told the panel back in D.C., “It wasn’t until we had crossed the stream on the way back to the cabin that I began to feel myself again. Even then, I felt like I was living a dream. When we got back to the cabin the sight of the lively yellow canaries in their coops made me cry. Delvos brought me a bottle of water and told me I needed to hit the trail because the sun set early in the winter, so I le
Gary Brocks Aug 2018
We spread our blanket on uneven
ground, bodies embracing in descent,        
                       They lay on the boxcar floor,
                        fingers twisted, clutching slats.
transfixed by the spell of evening,
limbs entwined, interlaced,
                        Barbed wire pressed punctured palms
                        faces creased as old photographs.
We stretched in dawn’s light,
poured coffee out of cups,
and left as it merged with the dust.
                         bones upheave turf and loam
                         fingers grasping, sheathed in soil.

Copyright © 2003 Gary Brocks
180828F

At the time of writing, the war in former Yugoslavia was occurring. Pictures of ethnic extermination camps, barbed write, mass graves, Happeing again. Happening despite the awareness and vows after the holocaust, that such things must never be allowed to happen again. An awareness that had grown stale. Do the horrors of history, even in our ignorance or innocence, ultimately make even the smallest of our acts, some how complicit?
Emma Feb 2017
A small clearing surrounded by trees,
Everything is bright and vibrant.
A crisp breeze blowing,
Swaying the grass.

The ground is covered by rocks
Of various shapes, colors, and sizes.
Bladed grass and ivy-like plants
Growing in the cracks of the stones.

A small white butterfly fluttering about,
So full of beauty and life:
Like the sweet-smelling flowers,
So simple with a fragrance of purity.

A soft breeze blows rustling the leaves,
Seeming to shush the world.
All is still, obeying the command,
And all around is at peace.
Written June 2016
Becky Littmann Aug 2014
Have you ever seen the sun rise?
Witnessed with your own two eyes?
Watching exactly how it went?
Not through someone else's photo captured moment
You'll really enjoy it more if you view it live
& you'll appreciate just being alive

I've watched the sun rise countless mornings
It's like my own private showings
Each one completely different in every way
& the best way to start any day
They're bright & beautiful
Breatakingly blissful

You'll never feel the same once you've experienced it
& so many will never understand the feeling you get
It's hard to explain but I'll do my best
I'd imagine it's like fresh air deepily inhaled into your chest
Your lungs fill up with all the freshness
& you exhale all that causes you stress

Your worries all just disappear
Your mind is calm & clear
It's a feeling that just forever stays
Until your dying days
Joy & happiness is all you release
It is what brings you inner peace

All you care to do now is enjoy everything
No matter the troubles & obstacles life may bring
A happy soul is all you've got & need
Your heart has compassion & optimism is what you bleed
Sharing your smile with all you pass or whoever you meet
That is your favorite way to say hello & greet

All from experiencing a live sun rise happen
That all may seem impossible to imagine
All that out of just a sun rising?
When it happens to you, it IS quite surprising
Shocking at first, you just can't believe how you feel
& you wonder how can this even be real?

If you allow yourself to let go of your worries & any doubt
Then you make room to clearly feel what it's about
You're allowing yourself to be vulnerable
& that's when you become more relatable
Clearing your clouded mind of opinions from useless chatter
Let's you finally enjoy what most may think or say doesn't really matter

Those are the ones who don't pay a lot of attention
& are afraid to get lost in their imagination
Never will they set a foot out of their "safe" box & risk crossing that thin line
It's OK, it's their loss & that's just fine
They'll just never understand your constant positive attitude
& can't recall a time you were even the slightest bit rude

They will never know how to just live happily
Inside their soul will be dying slowly
Some won't see how beautiful a sun rise really is
It's something no one should ever miss
A sun rise & even a sun set
Are too amazing to just forget!!
unnamed Feb 2012
I found the forest and did not understand at first but that’s to say we ever do which I doubt thoroughly, especially now.



The forest stretched out before me because I was in a clearing facing it and had not yet entered or entirely committed myself to the idea but that’s to say we ever do which I doubt thoroughly, especially now.



In the clearing I found the forest graceful. It had not swallowed this space of Earth. In this grace I found respect. That thriving beast forest easily could have dug itself into and over that clearing but did not.

I wondered whether the forest desired to **** this clearing but was not able to and in this way I found weakness but only more respect. I of all things am weak and understand this as a fact and who cannot respect oneself and things in which oneself is found, if only slightly, while still committed to this life?

Because I found myself in the forest and understood the forest to find itself in me I did not ask to enter but entered with grace as to promise good intent. 



The forest was a monumental wall in front of me with no end left or right or end upward to the sky and I saw it was thick and sprawling and rich and could seem dead to someone who did not find himself in the forest, or the forest in him, but that is to say we living things are nothing of being dead which I doubt thoroughly, especially now.



The forest parted with the snapping of branches and the groan of life though life imagined. I did not sense natural life and, in this snapping and these groans, I must argue, what is unnatural life if not life imagined?

The path before me was slightly taller than I and slightly wider and overgrown and with crooked limbs of wood. The arms of trees stuck out before me and I continued. The arms struggled to walk with me but were rooted to their trees which were rooted to the Earth.  Spines of plants bent toward me as I crossed further into this realm and were pleased with this new thing called a man. 

In the path in the growth of the forest I strained to see clearly. The canopy was dark and thick above me and I could not see light from the sky above us both. What light made it through tossed itself about the silk webs, which were many, and the webs were symmetrical as they should be and I respected the order of the place. The forest was black and the diminished light was slightly less black except for many pairs of illuminated red lights that seemed to be eyes and followed me as eyes would and the eyes were bright and without harm.
Grace Oct 2017
So you’re clearing out your room,
clearing out more of yourself,
because it’s the end of the world, isn’t it?
The end of an era anyway –
the end of the bad decision to paint
your room pink.
You never really liked the colour pink.
Your old room had been sunshine yellow,
that bright happy colour of raincoats
and welly boots and sunflowers
(and yellow was still my favourite colour
when i painted my room pink –
yellow rubber in my pencil case,
yellow bow in my hair –
a sunshine happy kind of child
but not really. i painted my room pink
just because).
You wanted the new room painted a shade
called jazzberry but you were told it was too dark.
You wrote in the card to your dead great grandmother
that you were having your room painted jazzberry
and then you didn’t.
The card was placed in her coffin and cremated with her,
and you experienced that strange sensation at the funeral
of not feeling what you were supposed to be feeling.
I should cry, you told yourself, I should feel sad,
but you had cried all your tears in advance
and you’d cried them all for dead grasshoppers
and the old house you were leaving behind.
(always the same with me, isn’t it.
tears over everything except the things that matter.
i’m crying on the floor over lino, over my bedroom,
over a dress that’s in the wash and not my wardrobe)
The new bedroom had wardrobes you loved,
mirrors you loved and hated and it was pink.
It was your safe place, the space that wasn’t
really made for you, but was the one place
in this world where nothing could get you
(except me and yourself, but that’s another story).
Anyway, let’s get back to the point.
You’re clearing the room out because it’s the end of the world
and you’ve been putting it off for three years,
but you’re a crumbly cliff and waves are strong.
You’ve been thinking of train tracks
and gosh aren’t you dramatic,
but you’re finally clearing your little self out.
The toys are easy – you keep a couple whose names you remember
(Tallulah, Alfie, Tilly, Phillipa, Clementine
//oh my darling, ruby lips above the water
and the dream of kissing your best friend
that will forever be connected to
oh my darling, Clementine//),
the clothes are easy – in fact,
it’s all easy when you start to let go
of that nasty little girl from the sunshine yellow
and from the pasty pink.
You bundle her off into charity bags and bin liners
and then you find it – the Special Box.
It was your treasure trove in an
orange Jacobs crackers box  so you open it,
thinking you’ll keep everything, and then,
well then it’s a box full of *******.
Not just ******* things that once mattered,
but real ******* – broken pens, meaningless rocks,
used rubbers, crumbled tissues, incomplete
gifts from Christmas crackers
(and how very like you and me – to keep
things that go in the bin. we cling
to the sadness and the guilt and the fear
just because).
You throw away your special box
and you throw away all your junk
(except your new junk –
every train ticket you’ve bought
since the First)
and then the room is empty.
Were you ever here, you wonder
(and what toys will you have to give to your children?
you get asked, and you say you won’t have any.
i won’t because how would i, for one?
how could i, for another?
how could i put them through all this?)
and then you remember, that yes,
you’ll always be there – sunshine yellow,
pasty pink, nasty little version of nasty bigger you,
but for now, you’ve cleared yourself out a bit.
The new room will be blue
and one wall will be papered with books
(and i see what you’ve done –
you’re using the imagery of your own poetry,
because it’s easier to live inside of your own imagery
than deal with anything else, isn’t it)
and maybe, you think and the others think too,
this is a good thing, the sign of a change to come
(but your Special Box was full of *******
and what other evidence do you need
to know that you will never change or move beyond this?
this is as good as it gets).
a poem (kind of - i don't know if this is really poetry or just strings of thoughts to be honest) that i wrote today. not my best but i'm back at uni and not doing poetry this year
So many doubts in my mind
got to clear I was  determined
asked the perfect he didn't say
asked the cleverest he got away
Then I rushed to the elder
Who was glad to see me there
Instead of answers
he threw me doubts
there I stood still again
Still without any gain..
hand slaps shoulder knee rhythmically that’s called hamming the bone sitting on a street curb singing making up lyrics i got a transitor sister loves cossack named jake he rides Cherokee chopper all he’s ever known is hate he’s going down underground where a man can be a man wrestle alligators live off the land ebb flow i don’t know racing chasing hair-pin turning at 150 miles per hour downshift to 3rd spread the word sweet sour naked flower touching skin deep within defies all sin with a grin speed speed speed all i need i’m getting off coming on you tawny scrawny bow-legged pigeon-toed knock-kneed Don Juan Ponce de Leon Aly Khan all wrapped up into one going to have ******* good time good time tonight i feel like an orphan mom and dad seem so far away tonight i feel like an orphan you make me feel this way hand slaps shoulder knee rhythmically hand bone hand bone

Odyseuss drifts job to job construction worker office assistant waiter whatever he does not understand how road to recognition works continues showing portfolio to art dealers but they react indifferently he does not know how to attain notice in art world begins to suspect there is no god watching over souls instead he imagines infinite force juggling light darkness creation destruction love hate Mom and Dad insist he can earn respectable income if only he will learn commodity futures like cousin Chris Mom says you can work down at the exchange and paint on the side a part of Odysseus wants desperately to please his parents he considers perhaps Mom is right for the time being maybe build up nest egg it seems like sensible plan he wonders why Dad and Mom never speak about money how to save manage they treat the subject as forbidden topic Odysseus has no idea what Dad or Mom earn or investment strategies Odysseus is about to make serious mistake the decision to get job working at commodity exchange needs deeper examination why is he giving in to his parents what attracts him to commodities trading is it Chris’s achievement and the money? does Odysseus honestly see himself as a winning trader or does it simply look like big party with lots of rich men pretty young girls is that where he wants to be why is he giving up on his dream to be a great artist does it seem too impossible to reach who makes him think that? is he going to give up on his true self? he halfheartedly follows his parent’s advice begins working as runner at Chicago Mercantile Exchange several friends including Calexpress disloyalty for entering straight world commodity markets are not exactly straight in 1978 clearing firms pay adequately hours are 8 AM to 2 PM over course of next 6 months Odysseus runs orders out to various trading pits cousin Chris rarely acknowledges Odysseus maybe Chris feels need to protect his image of success perhaps in front of his business associates Chris is embarrassed by Odysseus’s menial rank and goof-off attitude maybe Chris senses what a terrible mistake Odysseus has made

Chicago suffers harsh winter in February Roman Polanski skips bail in California flees to France in April President Carter postpones production of neutron bomb which kills people with radiation leaving buildings intact in October Yankees win World Series defeating Dodgers in November Jim Jones leads mass-****** suicide killing 918 people in Jonestown Guyana in December in San Francisco Dianne Feinstein succeeds murdered Mayor George Moscone in Chicago John Wayne Gacy is arrested

darkness descends upon Odysseus his heart is not into commodity business more accurately he hates it he loathes battleship gray color of greed envy he resents prevailing overcast of misogyny he meets many pretty girls yet most of them are only interested in catching a trader it is rumored numerous high rolling traders hire young girls for sole purpose of morning ******* remainder of day girls are free to mingle run trivial errands commodity traders typically trash females it is primitive hierarchy Odysseus bounces from one clearing firm to another then moves to Chicago Options Exchange then Chicago Board of Trade on foyer wall just outside trading floor hangs bronze plaque commemorating all men who served in World War 2 Uncle Karl’s name is on that plaque Daddy Pat bought his son seat hoping to set him up after war Uncle Karl’s new wife wanted to break away from Chicago persuaded him to sell seat move to California Uncle Karl bought car wash outside Los Angeles with Daddy Pat’s support Mom and Dad encourage assure Odysseus commodities business is right choice they promise to buy him full seat on exchange if he continues to learn markets they feel certain he can be saved from his artistic notions the markets are soaring in profits cousin Chris is riding waves a number of Chris’s friends are sons of parents who belong to same clubs dine at same restaurants as Mom and Dad Odysseus is not alpha-male like Chris Odysseus is a dreamer painter poet writer explorer experimenter unlike Chris who has connections Odysseus starts out as runner then gets job holding deck for yuppie brokers in Treasury Dollar trading pit Odysseus holds buy orders between index and middle fingers sell orders in last 2 fingers arranged by time stamp price size in other hand holds nervous pencil he stands step below boss in circular pit in room size of football field full of raised pits everything is traded cattle hogs pork bellies all currencies gold numbers flash change instantaneously in columns on three high walls fourth wall is glass with seats behind for spectators thousands of people rush around delivering orders on telephones flashing hand signals shouting offers quantities every moment every day calls come in frantically from all around world space is organized chaos sometimes not so organized fortunes switch hands in nano-seconds it is global fiscal battleground rallies to up side or breaks to down side send room into hollering pushing shoving hysteria central banks financial institutions kingpin mobsters with political clout daring entrepreneurs old thieves suburban rich kids beautiful people pretty young females abound big guns **** in same air stand next to low-ranking runners everyone flirts sweats sneezes knows inside they are each expendable Odysseus is spellbound by sheer force magnitude he feels immaterial only grip is his success with girls it is not conscious talent he grins girls grin back Chris’s trader friends recognize Odysseus’s ability they push him to introduce girls to them it is way for Odysseus to level playing field he has no money or high opinion of himself he simply knows how to hook up with girls

1979 January Steelers defeat Cowboys at Super Bowl Brenda Ann Spencer kills 2 faculty wounds 8 students responds to incident “i don't like Mondays” in February Khomeini seizes power in Iran in March Voyager space-probe photographs Jupiter’s rings a nuclear power plant accident occurs at Three Mile Island Pennsylvania in May Margaret Thatcher is elected Prime Minister in England in Chicago American Airlines flight 191 crashes killing 273 people in November Iran hostage crisis begins 90 hostages 53 of whom are American in December Soviet Union invades Afghanistan 1980 in November Ronald Reagan defeats Jimmy Carter one year since Iran hostage crisis began

he meets good-looking younger girl named Monica on subway heading home from work he has seen her running orders on trading floor she is tall slender with long dark brown hair in ponytail pointed nose wide mouth innocent face she confides her estranged father is famous Chicago mobster Odysseus recognizes his name they talk about how much they dislike markets arrant disparity of wealth between traders and themselves Odysseus says i hate feeling of being so disposable worthless Monica replies yeah me too he tells her if i was a girl i’d ******* myself to several handsome generous traders Monica acknowledges that’s an interesting idea but who? how? which traders? do you know? he answers yeah i know exactly who and how Monica says if you’re serious i’m in i have a girlfriend named Larissa who might also be interested i’ll call Larissa tonight following day Monica approaches Odysseus at work agrees to meet at his place after markets close that afternoon Monica and Larissa show up eager to learn more about Odysseus’s scheme Larissa is petite built like a gymnast giggly light brown hair younger than Monica he lays it all out for them cousin Chris and his buddies the money ******* both girls are quite lovely he suggests they rehearse with him he will coach them on situations settings techniques girls consent for 4 weeks every afternoon they meet at Odysseus’s place get naked play out different scenarios he shows girls how to pose demure at first then display themselves skillfully fingers delicately pulling open ***** spreading wide apart buns working hidden muscles he directs each to take up numerous positions tasks techniques then has them switch places he teaches them timing starting slow gradually building up rhythms stirring into passionate frenzy having two mouths four hands creates novel sets of possibilities one girl attends his front while other excites his rear he positions them side-by-side so he can penetrate any of all four holes he stacks them one on top of the other many other variations after reaching ****** several times making sure to reciprocally satisfy their eager needs Odysseus dismisses girls until following day finally after month of practice Monica and Larissa feel confident proficient primed Odysseus arranges for girls to meet with 2 traders through Chris most traders have nicknames Twist who is hosting event is notoriously wild insatiable on opening night Odysseus behaves like concerned father Larissa and Monica each bring several dresses and pairs of shoes Odysseus helps them choose suggests Monica ease up on make-up he styles Larissa’s hair instructs Monica to call him when they arrive again when they leave he requests they return directly to his place Monica wears hair pulled back in French twist pearl earrings sleek little black dress black stiletto heels she stands several inches above Odysseus Larissa wears braided pigtails pink low-scooped leotard brown plaid wool kilt just above knees brown suede cowboy boots he kisses each on lips then pats their butts warns them to be careful mindful Monica winks Larissa giggles more than an hour passes as Odysseus sits wondering why he has not heard from girls suddenly reality hits he does not want to be commodities trader and certainly not a **** this is not how he wants to be known or remembered Odysseus wants to be a painter and writer Monica and Larissa are good sweet girls whom he has misguided he calls Twist’s place Twist answers Odysseus asks to speak with Monica when she comes to phone he questions are you all right Monica answers yes we’re fine we’re having a fantastic time why are you calling what’s wrong he explains you were suppose to call me when you arrived i began to worry i think maybe this whole arrangement is a bad idea i want you to call it off and come back home i don’t want either of you to become prostitutes i love you both and don’t want to be associated with dishonoring you Monica says it’s a little late to call it off but we’ll see you when we’re done kissy kiss bye Odys another hour passes then another he frets wondering what they are doing after 4 hours as he is about to call Twist’s house again doorbell rings Monica and Larissa both giggling beaming Odysseus can spot they have a coke buzz Monica announces you should be proud of us Odys we got each of them off 2 times we left them stone-numb and tapped out the girls open their purses each slaps 5 hundred dollar bills unto table Monica says this is your cut Odys we both got a thousand for ourselves he replies i can’t touch that money we need to sit down and talk Monica demands no talking Odys take off your clothes he insists i’m serious Monica i’m never going to send you out again Larissa claims there’s no turning back for me i had too much fun Monica  pleads come on Odys we’ll be good we promise now take off your clothes Twist and his buddy never attended to our needs i’m ***** as hell Larissa where’s that little bottle of dust Twisty handed you

Chicago Monday night December 8 1980 Cal and Odysseus sit at North End they're on 4th round feeling buzz the place is lively adorned with holiday decorations Cal says you’ve changed Odysseus questions what do you mean? how? Cal says the commodity markets and your cousin and his friends they’ve changed you when was the last time you painted Odys? are you dealing coke Odysseus looks Cal in the eyes answers they’re so ******* rich Cal you can’t believe it one drives a black Corvette Stingray another a ******* Delorean anything they want they buy girls cars clothes condos boats yeah i’m dealing coke to Chris’s friends it’s my only leverage remember the Columbian dude Armando we met at tittie bar? i score from him and keep it clean Chris’s buddies pay up for the quality i don’t remember my last painting maybe the black painting i never finished after breaking up with Reiko Lee a girl falls off bar stool crashing to floor at other end of bar Cal says Odys, you better play it careful you’re messing with the devil got any blow on you suddenly bar grows quiet someone turns up TV volume they watch overhead as news anchorman speaks slow solemn camera pans splattered puddle of blood pieces of broken glass on steps to Dakota Building Cal looks to Odysseus John Lennon has been murdered Cal waits for Odysseus to say something tear rolls down cheek Cal glances away stares down at floor they drink in silence
Alan S Bailey Feb 2019
To the tune of Five For Fighting's "100 Years to Live"

From "Frogs For Fighting"
Kermit Sings:

I'm just a simple green Muppet,
Good old friends with Scooter and Fuzzy,
And I'm small and skinny,
A quiet frog that's on the roam.

Animal's clearing out the whole fridge,
There's a Muppet chef inside the kitchen,
Making gibberish sounds,
Boiling a goose or baking rolls.

Piggy I'm alright with you,
No other Muppet pig will do,
MRS. PIGGY-there's never a wish better than this,
When you've got a hundred Muppet Tears TO GIVE...

I'm searching stars at the moment,
Still the frog-I'm just in love with a pig,
Dream of a connection,
A constellation for a sign,

Count goes "AH AH AH" when counting,
Cookie Monster's nomming on the cookies,
Snuffleupagus sounds like he just might have a cold...

But Piggy I'm alright with you,
You've got much might-no one can kick **** quite like you...

But piggy I'm OK with you,
MRS. PIGGY-there's never a wish better than this,
When you've got a hundred Muppet Tears TO GIVE...

Through a small Muppet's eyes
Can tell you no lies,
Bunson's Lab-a surprise,
Madness, havoc explode,
Beaker's running to hide,
We're moving on...

I'm feeling light at the moment,
Small as can be-the sky-all I view,
And I'm just reeling,
High up in the clouds-a message in blue,  
...Mrs. Piggy I'm alright with you,
You're black belt in Karate and Kung Fu,
Super Grover's on his way,
Every Muppet has their dog day...

Wooohooo-oohoohoo
Wooohooo-oohoohoo
Wooohooo-oohoohoo-ooh­oohoo

Piggy I'm alright with you,
There's no other Muppet pig like you,
MRS. PIGGY, there's never a wish-better than this...

When you've got a hundred Muppet Tears TO GIVE...
Sang to the tune of 100 Years to Live by Five For Fighting.

Frog's For Fighting, 100 Muppet Tears To Give.


"Well, no KIDDING Mrs. PIGGING!"
Clarissa Clark Feb 2011
In the heart wrenching storm
eyes that see, cannot
through the dimming mist
of a dusk that unravels time.

Thunder clashes
as lightening bolts
representing our own
torment and fire.
The torment and fire
that rage within our
starving souls,
our starving souls.

How weak, yet powerful
is the hate
that tears through
our delicate flesh.
Wounded are we,
by the unmasked monster
that lives inside of us.

We are not
to let that guilt thrive;
we are not
to let our hate survive,
but to let the sunshine
that glows through our weeping eyes
be revived.
Smile
every once in a while,
for no storm
ever lasts forever.

Let our love be free,
and our hate be lost,
for we cannot afford
to let both
go unfounded.

In the end
of a heart wrenching storm
eyes that see, can
through the clearing mist
of a dawn that unravels time.
Nat Nov 2012
After moving to Windowville from a smelly pet shop,
Lord Lispy Lizard felt he would soon be on top.
The view from his new place was quite superb,
Lispy couldn’t believe he’d had doubts about the burbs.
“This year will be swell,” he thought, “It’s my time to shine.”
It was easier to think this away from mildew and brine.
However, Lispy was in for quite the surprise,
as there was a roommate in his highrise.
Shy, she had been watching from behind the plants,
nervously eating handfuls of ants.
Being alone for so long had taken quite a toll,
her former good looks had faded and left a troll.
Still, she was determined to confront this stranger,
in order to see if he presented any danger.
She was not too worried, he didn’t look like much,
and she was certain she could take him with only a touch.
Hardening her resolve, she lept out with a shout,
forgetting she had forgotten to pluck her mustache out.
This was not all, she had not bathed either,
And the yell she let out sounded like a deranged ******.
Needless to say, Lispy lept up, screamed, and bolted.
Both because he was scared, and a little revolted.
“Just my luck,” he thought, cowering behind a rock.
“But I’m a man, I’ll go out there and at least try to talk.”
So Lispy stood up and brushed himself off,
clearing his throat with a less than manly cough.
“I’m sorry…miss? I didn’t mean to run
It’s just that I’m allergic to the sun.
I got scared when it’s rays reflected off your pretty smile,
And thought it best I took off for awhile.”
The girl was a little confused, her teeth were very mossy,
she knew this because she never did any flossing.
But she decided to go along with his claim,
saying “That’s okay sir, let me tell you my name.
They used to call me Elenor, back when I feasted on Orange Roughy,
But the fatty whose cage we’re in just calls me Fluffy.”
Lispy couldn’t believe this thing had been rich,
especially when she looked even worse than a witch.
Still, he was a gentleman and did not want to be rude
so he said “What a pretty name, where does Fatty put the food?”
“I’ll show you,” she said, “C’mon, follow me.”
Beginning to think how nice it would be
if they ended up married and had lots of kids,
as it must have been fate that Lispy showed up when he did.
So later that night Elenor jumped in the pool,
scrubbing away dust, dirt, grime and drool.
She plucked out the unsightly hair on her face,
and pulled out a ribbon from inside an old case.
When Lispy was awoken by bright sunlight streams,
the vision he saw was that of his dreams.
There Elenor stood, shining like a star,
looking nothing like the former monster all covered in tar.
He couldn’t believe she had cleaned up so well,
with not even a hint of her old sour smell.
With this one look Lispy fell in love,
as if he had been struck by something up from above.
To this day Elenor and Lispy live in bliss,
even though she had not brushed her teeth before their first kiss.
Philip Mitchener Mar 2017
From the start there has been friction
for nearly as long as I have lived
the signs say that I'm going the wrong way
but I refuse to listen
I choose to fight the system
for the betterment of my life
people disagree with me for the sole purpose of conformity
because they think they know what is best for me
Things have always been uncertain
the path, the method, the destination, the purpose
but that will all change
because I say it will
because I will make it change
because I have found the clearing

The people of my life come in two
Those that question
Those that admire
each are of value to me
learning and defying
are my specialties
until now I've never been able to prove
that my way is worth the fighting
the blood, sweat, and tears
of this experience
until now, the clearing has eluded me

It has shown me what the real foe is
what needs to be done to fix it
Life is cannot be fantasized
love everything you fight for
fight for everything you love
in spite of short comings and failures
because everything is worth it when the clearing comes.
Marlena R Aug 2014
This morning
I awoke from a tangle of dreams
from wild feelings
in the jungle of my heart
The morning sun
sliced through
the slumber
like machetes
just in time
to bring me to
a clearing
to my reality.

(c) 2014
I went for a walk this morning in New Hampshire & I had to stop and snap this picture. Here is the inspiration for the poem.  http://s1285.photobucket.com/user/marlenarawfee/media/8257_10151403134856656_1348413472_n_zps2a1c95fe.jpg.html
LexiSully Jan 2018
Perched quietly in the shadows of the night,
Observing completely, using all her might,
Untouched the landscape sat; she breathed a sigh,
She leapt and began to fly

She soared through the trees, dark and murky,
Weaving in and out, the ride a little jerky,
Until she reached the clearing, blooming and sprouting,
Where she landed and began scouting

She spotted a baby, small and alone,
Hungry and confused, wanting to be shown,
Flying over to the area in which it sat,
She pulled some wisdom from her hat

Unmoving and silent, she sat as an example,
Showing her apprentice just a little sample,
Teaching patience and perseverance was first on the list,
She didn’t quit until it got the gist

Next thing she knew, her student was growing,
In no time, it was the one doing all the showing,
She took a step back, gazing proudly at her work,
While the child continued doing all the groundwork

Rays peaked out across the horizon in all hues,
Most of which consisted of reds and blues,
She looked at the child, beckoning it to fly on home,
Although she longed to stay and roam

As the sun rose, slow and bright,
She decided to turn and take off in flight,
Twisting and turning through trees and brush,
She flew on quickly, as if in a rush

She spotted it then, modest and small,
The place she longed to go most of all,
Adventures are fun and she liked to roam,
But there’s definitely no place quite like home.
L Aug 2018
Meticulous and true. They are so careful. So skilled. Deftly and with a swift and sure hand, the words,    
Oh the words, they flow like a brooke. The one in the forest, you know the one. The one out there, out far. In the deep of the wood, over root, under canopy. Through the branches you have to look real hard. And the hard part is not knowing at all what youre looking for. And then there,    
After an eternity and in an instant it is there infront of you. What you have been looking for. A vast clearing. Wide and open. The sun glints through the salt-and-peppered leaf roof. It crawls and stretches and lightly caresses everything you lay your eyes upon. Even matte mossy rocks, they seem to shine. You look down and it caresses you as well. Gentle and warm the embrace that you cant quite put your finger on. The location. The origin. It is everywhere, it surrounds you. Close your eyes. Embrace the sun back. But i digress my digression. The brook. It flows over, around, through. There is no stopping the water. It is relentless, it WILL get to its destination. You cannot change its mind. It is immovable.

That is what it is. It is beauty.

I know i should not compare. There is beauty in it all. But, goodness, the feelings invoked when reading others' poetry in admiration.
Brooke brook, glints?
Yeah my grammar. I break the rules sometimes. But im allowed to because i have learned them.
Invocation Jul 2014
I swear
somebody is following my inner footprint
recording and analyzing
hemming and coughing and clearing their throat
assessing my
"situation"

Stalking stalking stalking me

and filling my fortune cookies with relevant words
to psyche me out



i swear
seriously spot-on, again
Paul Hansford Nov 2016
Ganges, dawn, a luminous haze
over the water. The bathing ghats
are busy with the faithful. (But India
is inconceivable without faith.)  
The robed bathers, raising river water
to the sun, pouring it back
to mother Ganges, are they worshipping
the sun or the river?
For them God is everywhere
and everything.  Water, sun,
the river and the twinkling lamps floating on it
are part of one consciousness.

The burning ghats too (such quantities of wood
stacked ready) are beginning their day.
The funeral party approaching in respectful haste
have a job to do. They build their pile,
move the body to the wood,
start the fire. I watch, but not for long.
This moment, so intimate, so public, reminds me
I am an intruder here. The ashes
will return to Ganga unwitnessed by me.

Away from the river, the vendors of tea
do their trade among the stalls. Monkeys,
cheerfully pilfering, are chased away
half-heartedly, for they are Hanuman’s representatives,
and they, with the sacred, garbage-clearing cows,
are part of the one consciousness. In this land
all are “the faithful”, everything is God’s creation.
In this poverty is richness.
Varanasi is the Hindu holy city formerly called Benares. The "ghats" are a series of steps leading down to the river, and are divided into areas for various purposes. Hanuman is the Hindu monkey-god.
Icarus M May 2016
Yes or No, The Crow Cawed(./?)
What Does it Entail, The Fox Chuckled as it enticingly twitched its hindquarters.
Who, crowed the Owl?
No. What, cried the Crow.
Is it For her or For him, questioned the quail.
This drew the eyes of the Predators and The quail hurried along into the long grass defining the other side of the clearing.
It made a point, chimed in the vulture, Which startled the cat Who Was Lying at the base of the tree, grooming itself as if To Seem to not be paying any attention at all.
But with a flick of a paw, the Cat covered it up, and reached Back to scratch Its Ear.
That Would Be the Question, wouldn't it, yowled the cat suddenly, Startling everyone In the Clearing, save the fox, which glinted with a bit Of Light Just for a moment as its jaws split into a Small smug Smile.
As it It were Expecting it, Harrumphed the Cat,
Settling back down across the roots to resume Grooming.  
It certainly is the question, whispered the human in the clearing.
All 6 pairs of eyes turned toward the center, the Sixth seen just outside the clearing. Do you have an answer, whispered the quail.
I don't know.
The fox chuckled again, but the rest stayed Silent. Until the human looked up and the animals had faded away.
Only one pair of eyes remained,
looking back from the mirror,
reflected from the human's own face.
I don't know yet, the human whispered again.
Äŧül Apr 2017
Angel?
In That Moonlit Night Standing In The Abaft,
Watching The Towed Flaccid Wooden Raft,
I Thought That I Saw An Angel Resting,
Lying Exhausted There In That Craft.

I Called The Girl Out Without Knowing Her Name,
"Hey Young Lady!" To Which She Didn't Much Respond,
She Looked Up Towards Me Once In Anguish & Collapsed,
I Thought I Saw Despair In Her Amber Eyes & Must Help Her.

The Crewmen Had Now Been Doing The Paddles After Resting,
I Called My Captain & Asked, "Do You See A Girl In That Raft?"
The Captain Just Replied Kindly, "Commodore, Get Married,"
I Looked Apprehensive And He Just Said, "There's No Girl."

True He Was As She Had Simply Disappeared,
I Started Thinking Of My Sleep Needs That Day,
Looked Around Again In A Hope To Find The Girl,
I Had Compromised My Routine As The Commodore.

Then I Immediately Realized It Was My Wild Phantasm,
Now This Was Just A Plain Illusion Of A Tired Sailor's Mind,
No Mermaids Could Have Ever Existed In Reality & Were Fake,
I Turned Towards The Deck To Go Back To My Bunk For Sleeping.

As I Enter My Room Down The Stairs Amazed & Confused,
She Floated There As She Waited By The Side Of My Bunk,
I Accepted That Delusion Of Hers And Start To Lie Down,
She Said, "I'm As Real As Your Thoughts, Don't Fear Me."

She & I-Me & Her, Had The Best Time That Night,
In The Morning She Was Gone & Was Just Gone,
Disappeared Into Thin Air While I Was Asleep,
Each Day I So Dearly Long For Her To Return.

7 Paragraphs of a Beautiful Open-Eyed Dream

Angel Again?
Now I reached the lands again,
Still dazzled and confused I was,
From encounter with that Angel,
Oh how she had filled my twilight,
Unable to forget her divinely touch.

Magical touch had enchanted me,
Able to recall it from the voyage,
I stumbled when disembarking,
Oh it was the first time for me,
My thoughts would last along.

After so many days at the sea,
I planned of bathing properly,
Her illusion tricked me thereto,
Oh how her traces remained on,
Facing mirror, I stood perplexed.

Still unable to accept the reality,
I longed for that night to repeat,
Heart beats Angel in each beat,
Life staged a drama too crazy,
Unwilling to take the reality.

My body carries the vestiges,
I turn crazier with each bath,
Her lips' traces keep appearing,
Driving me mad is her memory,
God! Bring her to life once more.

I had my powers as a commodore,
I sent for the captain of my ship,
"What bothers you, my commodore,"
And so he asked of me kindly,
Then I told him of her traces.

Smiling he told me yet again,
"I had told you to get married,"
I agreed this time and nodded,
"Alright, search for me a bride,"
Going outside, he smiled plainly.

Angel Surely?
Till Few Months Of Reaching Back,
I Kept Seeing Her Images All Over,
It Drove Me Crazy Her Presence...

Taking Time Out To Search Her Out,
I Went For The Mountainous Path,
It May Cease I Hope These Dreams.

The Horse Made Me Look A Knight,
I Set Out Solo For The Dark Creeks,
It Helped Me Realize My Solo Aim...

Then She Came Into My View Again,
I Prepared For Tackling My Illusion,
It Started Snowing Out Of Nowhere.

Took Me To A Safer Place She Then,
I Was Bewildered Again Once More,
It Was Clearing But She Vanished...

Then On My Way I Stopped To Rest,
I Looked Around For A Place To Sit,
It Came To My View A Huge Tavern.

Tavern On A Mountain Was Weird,
I Still Went To It Hoping Some Rest,
It Had Appeared Out Of Nowhere...

Angel Illusion?
I Peered Out Of The Room Windows,
I Was In This Desolate Guesthouse,
It Was A Comfortable Rest House,
And Here I Was In Anticipation,
Angel Or Whosoever Was Awaited,
Will She Pop Into My Vision Here Too,
Was It Only A Seasick Mind's Illusion?

Was All That Really Just An Illusion,
Thinking This I Prepared For Bed,
Then I Felt A Flute Was Playing,
Looked Into Sound's Direction,
All I Saw Then Was Foggy Night,
My Own Reflection Was Also Visible,
Slightly If Not Entirely Can Be Seen.

I Recalled The First Night At The Sea,
She Did Appear On The Towed Raft,
A Beautiful Mermaid I Had Seen,
Now I Did Remember It Clearly,
My Face Was No Longer Mine,
Yes It Was The Beautiful face of hers,
She Wasn't Sad As I Did Remember.

She Was Smiling So Very Divinely,
Her Brown Eyes Stared So Cutely,
More Divine Felt She Was Really,
I Thought That It Was So Early,
My Pocket Watch Showed Three,
I Took My Eyes Off And Went To Bed,
Then & There She Was Lying For Me.

I Again Let My Mind Play Games,
Never Did Imagine Turning Mad,
Now I Was Not Feeling As Bad,
Neither I Wanted To Break It,
Nor It Felt Like One Anymore,
This Was The Dream I Loved To Live,
As If The Boon Was Presented To Me.

She Smiled As I Sat On The Bed,
I Asked Her, "Are You Real?"
"Yes, Just As Your Thoughts,"
I Then Stared At Her Lips,
She Then Touched Me Again,
Hands As Soft As That Night At Sea,
I Just Felt Like Opposing Her Touch.

I Blankly Smiled And Thought,
'My Thoughts Are Surely Real,'
Then I Just Let Her Guide Me,
The Moon Shone So Bright,
It Just Felt Really So Very Right,
Resigning I Just Let My Illusion Win,
It's Love We Were Sharing, Not A Sin.

Angel Not Again!!!
I recovered from the night again,
She had disappeared once more,
Was she using me as a ******???

I was frustrated & also saddened,
My self-control got strengthened,
For I was not a tissue to be used!!!

I have my feelings & my emotions,
Presence and absence torture me,
Ego I had tamed got hurt by now...

I won't let that elusive Angel come,
Questioning I must be her realities,
Illusions will end this time finally!!!

I'll establish an identity of my own,
Dependent I'll not be on the angel,
Was she only a dream & no more???

I had duly asked the aged captain,
To search a lovely bride very soon,
Oh, so sure I am about afterwards...

I was tailed by the spirit-like angel,
So irritated by her dreary dreams,
On-off, came-gone, again & again!!!

I now would learn to catch angels,
With the plan, I went to the mage,
Should I now learn some spells???

I entered through a dark alleyway,
Was told to visit this strange place,
What comes across - I wondered...

I knocked the door & she appeared,
Very young she seemed to me now,
Just the age of the angel of dreams!!!

I noticed that she wore a long robe,
So shiny it was silvery like her hair,
Just like the angel of dreams wore...

I rubbed my tired eyes in disbelief,
"Who're you?" I asked very loudly,
"Are you the mage's daughter???"

I wondered for long & she replied,
"Your guess is correct, kind Sailor,"
She beckoned me into the shack...

I set my foot on the wooden floor,
I looked for any sign of the mage,
I want to be set free of the cage!!!

I just thought & thought about it,
But the witch was not to be seen,
Curious I asked, "Where is she???"

"I am my mother," she said calmly,
Perplexed I couldn't say a thing,
My mouth opened once & shut...

I was now about to rise & go away,
But she stopped me with her arms,
"I must show you," so she did say!!!

I did not believe what my eyes saw,
How she changed into the old mage,
Then back into her own daughter???

O I had become confused a lot now,
Why would she transform like this,
I feared if it was actually the angel...

Angel Forever?
Seeing me anxious more than a lot,
The old witch relented a little,
She let me breathe freely,
Back transformed into her daughter,
She touched my forehead,
Then I realized it was sweaty,
Seeing her lovely care I smiled a bit.

So she now lit up a fragrant incense,
The incense seemed so soothing,
She then edged closer to me,
Transcendental wings were visible,
She came even closer to me,
Then the wings simply vanished,
So traceless as if never been there.

It must have been another illusion,
The very day I had set sail to sea,
It was probably carrying over,
Troubling me each non and then,
In my wild dreams I had seen,
True she could not be & was not,
In my life the torment was written.

Soon I was pleading to her teary-eyed,
"Please don't torment me, it hurts!"
She looked at me with affection,
And said, "But I truly love you, sailor,"
She advanced forwards further,
"Have you forgotten all those nights?
Did you even forget the night at sea?"

I first remembered that night at sea,
The night back at home came next,
I had been seduced by her magic,
This was the real picture every time,
I was weak but I still felt warmer,
The night ship feels like yesterday,
I was in confusion about what to do.

Her face was transitioning rapidly,
The old mother to her daughter,
Her daughter to that very angel,
And back to the old mother witch,
Her smile turned into laughter,
The witch laughing at my cries,
Her face here was contorted a lot.

She seemed to be struggling a lot,
As though fight ensued within,
Soon I figured it out by myself,
First I must **** the witch to help,
So I looked around & grabbed,
Axe that I did spot lying there,
Spot on I killed the witch right then.

Angel Ultimately?
The saga in her eyes converts into a constant downpour soon after she realized her freedom from the spell of the dark witch, the curse had turned her a prisoner in the evil witch's body.

"Kind sailor thank thee for freeing me."
Her words reverberating throughout,
What wind - what land - what sea,
Everywhere is her presence as I can see,
The wind whispers her name in my ear,
Since a long long time now all I wear,
Is her scent in my immortalized memory.

"Will you stay with me forever, or,
Will you go back to the heavens?"
Though I really wanted her to stay,
I love her and realize what she felt,
I offered her freedom and a choice,
I was not binding her to me in turn,
Everything was instinctive from me.

She seemed in a serious dilemma,
Struggling hard she was in herself,
I again offered & insisted this time,
"It's better you went back to your world,"
But I knew that she loved me a lot,
She tried hard controlling but said,
"I am in love with you since long."

So I am quite right that she loves me,
I am sure even she can forget me not,
Beading all our memories together,
I now know how I can gain salvation,
Not being another self-centric tantric,
"But you don't belong here dear,
So you shouldn't restrict yourself."

After this, she now looks comfortable & composed,
Ready for making a choice she wore a heart of stone,
Her lips slowly parted revealing a perfect smile,
Pearly smile again ensured me of permanent happiness,
Bright eyes and shiny eyelids of hers seemed so good,
"You can't make me stay away because you love me too,
I will keep coming in your dreams and entice your nights."

But I wanted her in my real world now,
I prevented her from vanishing again,
I said, "Please stay, now do not go away,
Because I really can not bear that pain,"
She had almost vanished by then,
Listening to my words she chose to wait,
She said, "Even I want forever to stay."

Continuing with her divine dialog she said,
"Say those golden words to make me stay,"
I immediately confessed, "I love you, Angel,"
"Say you love me too, oh my divine Angel,"
She didn't wait for anything more to say it,
"I love you too, oh my kind & loving sailor,"
Her powers soon left her in a flash of light.
On public demand I clubbed The "Angel?" Series into one poem.
Not in a mood to write new poems as I have just lost my inspiration to live.
But I will still write some more poems till the day I say goodbye.
Seán Mac Falls Jul 2014
In a forest clearing deep in wood,

I spied the grace of doe and fawn

And stopped my track as I should,

To set my gate about face in song.
Ashley Judd Oct 2013
Honey I came home, to the clearing by the creek.
To the place where our smiles are lit by the roaring midnight flame.
To the place where the lullaby water sings us to sleep,
So we can dream our whiskey dreams.

Where the stars watch over, with their hundred million eyes.
Where we hold one another, in the rainy month of May.

Honey I came home, but not a soul is near.
Only ashes in the ring dare to hint that we were here.

Those summer months have faded in to fall,
It makes me wonder if we were ever here at all.

Honey, won’t you meet me at the clearing by the creek?
Melody Nov 2012
Tread lightly near the clearing;
there is no telling which plants
contain pure poison nestled in
waxy smooth petals and stems

Pretend not to notice effervescent
purple flowers strewn about the forest floor -
vulnerable creatures pulled from nesting places
and carelessly tossed aside

Curiously seek and find near a clump of irises -
the silent, cold sparrow without a pulse,
cramped on its side, lurid flesh showing
more than it had in life, features oddly twisted

And grasp the knowledge that it belongs
to the earth now, requiring neither proper burial
nor the slightest acknowledgment of the fact
that it is no longer among the living
©MW

— The End —