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Manu M Nov 2016
The crescent moon sings me lullabies
My scars bleed but they don't sleep

The crescent moon is beautiful
I want to sleep in its grey-white folds

But the crescent moon is wicked
Beauty is nothing but deception

My scars bleed but they don't sleep
You see, my scars will never have enough sleep to fall
**To fall beneath the crescent moon
To fall before the crescent moon
Kate Little Jul 2010
On silver star a gleam
Reflecting purest love
And by crescent moon I dream

His love a radiant beam
Glowing warmth from above
On silver star a gleam

Love flitters so supreme
On the wings of a dove
And by crescent moon I dream

Love like a gentle stream
Meanders hand in glove
On silver star a gleam

Time and distance extreme
But ‘tis him I think of
And by crescent moon I dream

Enchanted it may seem
He is my one truelove
On silver star a gleam
And by crescent moon I dream
Words © 2010 K A Little.
All Rights Reserved.
A clouded sky, a shadowed night,
With springtime in the air.
Through the clouds, the crescent peeks,
A sliver in the sky.

Nimue’s seen, beneath the skirts,
Peeking out at us.
Slowly stepping, out to us,
From her Mother’s sacred skirts.

Selene’s crown, the priestess card,
A crown upon her head.
A crescent moon, just a peek,
Hanging in the sky.

Horns up turned, through the clouds,
Her light it lights them up.
A gentle glow, an eerie light,
Upon the darkened clouds.

The moon reborn, Celeste raised,
From the Dark Moon’s silent grave.
Luna grows, from new to full,
A sliver now we see.

Isis stands, before us now,
Rising with the moon.
A crescent moon, upon her brow,
The new born baby in her lap.

Spring has come, the fresh moon too,
New life comes to us.
Growing forth, from Winter’s grasp,
Like the crescent moon above.
Simba Aug 2019
As I sit here under
the crescent Moon
Just about half past 2 a.m.
I realized
how I don't like
being away from you

I sit under the crescent Moon
wishing never to be solitude
For you are
the crescent Moon
Illuminating through
the night sky

I'm thinking of you
in a pleasant tune
Under the stars as well as
the crescent Moon
I truly am missing you

Jumping star to star just
to get to you
Above
the crescent Moon

I will climb it so
I can hold you tight
While we listen
to the stars twinkle
To make a wish
upon a shooting star

My wish is for you
My lady
To love through and through
To be happy with me
for
I am happy
with you

Simba
Nada Syafira Mar 2017
oh my crescent
how are you today?
shine your light on me
i'll capture the slightest glimpse
of your beaming moonlight

a shady night
raindrops from above
cursing every petals
that falls to the ground

oh my crescent,
where are you tonight?
a wondering heart
longing for your presence
to shine your light on me

an empty dull room
with opened windows
crumpled bed sheets
in a night so chilled

oh my crescent,
how do you feel tonight?
sorrow as i do
without my crescent
to shine your light on me,
darling, shine your light on me...
Noel Irion Nov 2011
poems are like the seasons,
constantly changing yet always beautiful in their own way--
ironic, tragic, sadistic, blasphemous.
i can smell the sweet scent of the crescent moon
as it's cold white rays dance across my eyes,
around my head, in one ear and out the other
so quickly that a whistling whisper reverberates inside my dome,
yet unknown to me was the feeling of fleeing--
running away to a land of John and Jane Doe's,
nobodies to me, though somebodies to themselves, I suppose.
here we would sit, regressing our last lines,
of crescent moons, yet now the sun shines.
how can it be?
such a social tragedy, to escape and relate
life as it was to the life chosen to take.
no more "dudes", "dawgs", crude words or flaws--
just life as we know it, no need for applause.
the dying days of life astray have taught us and led us on our way
to the tundra of thunder, it crashes down and haunts us,
once cold, no light, now steaming and much too bright.
go ahead, raise me to the Heavens,
i dread the day my angels no longer beckon,
"His path is now set, we can intervene no longer."
demons will rise in rupturing riptides
as Hell freezes over, yet flames override.
Carpe Diem, Carpe Nox,
i've seized the seasons squealed the silver fox.
the crescent moon looked down that day,
upon us all, upon the choices we made.
result of a 10 minute exercise in class
Bronx Peach Nov 2013
365Nectar #8    Crescent City Blues                      
Tues. Oct 1,2013 10:21 P.M.

In the deepest attic
the thumping blues
paint pastel portraits
of the Crescent City

In burning ripples
words slap strangers
taking refuge in Armstrong Park

Slender, ****, and Shorty
growl muted tones that ravage old bones
whip thru Mid-City
and saunter thru the Garden District
all just practice to sizzle in a wild tap dance in the Quarter

High steppin Indians
march toward God
and defy gravity.

Roaring second line
being led by woman powered Pinettes Brass Band
hold rush hour traffic hostage for days
belting greasy mingling tunes
in the eye of the dusty moon

A pitch black struggle
with the old moon
liberated old souls
entangled in soaked strings
and sobbing fingers

A quintet churns and
challenges the loneliness of pain

Strumming fingers
make out with
humming strings
under a starry blue grey sky

Stomping down long black Oak-lined roads
blowing thru shotgun homes
like winter cold howling
lifting heavy weights
from shoulders
like the sun shifting against bad weather
the blues lady
open the veins
of drunken roses

Lungs full of tears
Irma holla's, cries, and moans remedies
north south east and west of a street called Desire
Oh Etta
At Last

Dim Misty light
cast a heavy shadow
on wiggling spirits
as they cast off pain
Allen Toussaint
in smokeless blaze
tips the night air

Kermit blows
Dusty blues
seducing suffering souls
bounding them to each other in bliss

Whispering around town
in a perfect velvet midnight
sweet exhalations of song birds from corner joints
dance the Ruffin groove

fiery trebles wave at people passing by

Down right ***** blues
muzzles twilight
trombones,tubas, and trumpets
lay harmony
under the harmonious thunder
of the Marsalis Masters
and low down deep
in a musty sleepless corner
is the missing Bass-man..

hung over.

Copyright ©2013  Crescent City Blues
Shofi Ahmed Jun 2018
Hold it with nothing
only behold with the eyes!
Lo, this crescent Moon:
The heaven's smile in the night!

It’s the discovery made
walking down the black moon.
Without a light in the sight
as if walking blindfolded
but didn't go into the blue.

Took a trip into the matrix
without squaring the circle.
With no pattern, no more decimals of pi
undefined by design but found the Moon!
It was a restless night denuded of sleep
So since it was warm and windless
I hit the streets

Walking under ancient oaks draped in Spanish moss
My path inevitably led to where
Everything was at a complete loss

Crescent Moon Memorial Cemetery
For the dead
Where all lie below earthly care
Was where my feet had somehow led

Row upon row of forgotten names
In all of their endeavors
Have been eased of their earthly pains

And now as I trudged by at a quarter to three
A low chorus and chords of music
Through the mists came floating to me

It startled and intrigued
What now is this ?
So I had to go see for myself
And I silently crept to where came the origins of bliss

In a circle of bench seats and monument stones
The strangest thing I saw , that of the unborn
Ghosts and skeletons playing with bones and singing in moans

A see through piano , trombone , bass , saxophone and a silver cornet
And one wailing guitar completed the set

On the translucent petal bass drum
Was the name of the ethereal band
And to a catchy tune I began to hum

Crescent Moon Memorial Buried Blues Band
The epitaph on the vaporous drum stated
And I soon found myself a loyal fan

What seem like a lifetime they continued to play
Quaint rthyms and lyrics now made my day . . . and night !
As the sounds drifted across the river out onto the bay

But far off I heard the mornings ****'s call
Then phiff . . . vanished all into the fog
Not a trace as if covered by an invisible pall

And then a ray caught the gleam in my eye
And I knew that when the time comes
Here's where I want to be placed after I die
A crescent moon
Heaven loves a crescent moon
It is easy to adore
One this lovely. Even more..
It has made the darkness seem
Like a soft and silvery dream
Heaven loves a crescent moon
so much so, it can be torn
Angels tell me this is true
Between the nighttime and the morn
Seán Mac Falls Jun 2012
Lovers entered a forbidden forest bower,
And as they stalked that range, with eyes glazed,
She offered up her hind. Now, with doe eyes,
Deep as his, deep in arousal's sleep, heels fell, 
As he knocked and pulled her dark honey hair 
And whispered, surrender, into wanting ears, 
Softly he drove his hunting command, homing 
To his huntress.

Her body braced, yet bade, with heat and vibrance.
Ruthlessly, he ****** his arrow deeper and then 
Once more and then again.  She bucked fiercely 
And defiant, goading his prodding lance ever more
Ever longer, and parting the pink lines of her white
Rose, he was, and once again, Prince to the dark
Dominion of her quarters.

In the middle of this carnal match they paused.
And looking into the forest beyond they saw
A yearling fawn, a feral Goddess, grazing still, 
Bathing in a vale, virginal, wholly unmoved 
By their act of venery, lustfully playing, in the innocent 
Leaves.  It was as if they were among her kin, a gentle 
Doe and a noble stag. From that moment on 
The human hunters did not speak.

Falling, again, rolling eyes were deep in arousal's sleep.
Her back was a crescent moon pocked and wet with dew.
He could feel her heart beating in time with his piercing 
Prong, her arching back glistened in the suns spittle
As it broke through the dark and vernal ceiling wood.

In the final shot her quivering buck lowered and broke
And a sound not heard, made a scene, a sweet murmuring
Shuddered and sank onto the floor of the forest leaves 
With her tale, taken and told, her breathless breath, 
Her nostrils cold and her heated and lanced openings 
Dripping, draining; here was a New World’s beginning.

Sated, solemn and softly quaking, his woman sweetly laid,
And now, doomed with her doe eyes, two lovers, fated, made;
She glowed, divine, like the rolling brook that mellowed
Slow, in the vine-dark and golden forest stable,
In Artemis’s wood.
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broach bruise brusque buccaneer buffoon bureau buttress buxom caffeine cauldron calisthenics calligraphy callous camouflage campaign campanile cannery cannibal canny cantaloupe cantankerous cantilever capacity capillary capricious carbohydrate caricature carnivorous carouse carriage cartography casserole cassette cataclysm catastrophe cache categorical caterwaul cavalier cauliflower celerity alacrity cellophane cellulose cemetery centennial cereal cerebellum ceremonial cesarean cessation chaff challenge champagne chandelier changeable chaparral charade chargeable chassis chateau chauffer chauvinism Cheshire chiaroscuro chicanery chiffon chigger chrysanthemum cipher circuit citadel clairvoyant clastic clique coalesce coercible coincidental colloquial colossal column combustible communicable community commute complacency compulsory comradery conceit conceal concession confetti conglomerate conjugal connive connoisseur consensus constellation consummate continuity contrivance convalesce convenient convertible convolution copasetic copious corduroy coriolis cornucopia corollary corpse corpuscle correlate correspondent corridor corroborate corrosion corrugate corrupt costume counselor countenance counterfeit courageous courier courtesy covert covetous cranny crease credenza credulity crescent ******* criterion crochet crocodile croissant crotchety crucial cruel cryptic cuddle cuisine cul-de-sac culinary culpable culvert cumbrous cummerbund ******* cunning curare curiosity curtilage curtsy curvaceous custody cylindrical cymbal cynicism cyst dabble daffodil daiquiri damsel dastardly dazzle deceit debilitate debonair debris debutant decency decipher decimate deconcentrate decorum decrepit dedicate defamation defendable defensible deference deficient deficit definitive defoliate delectable deliberate delicatessen delinquent delirious demarcate dementia demolish demure denigrate dentil denunciation deplorable depreciate dereliction derisory derrick descent desirable despair desperate despicable despondent destine deterrent detonate deviance devisal devisor devour dexterous diabolicalness diagnosis dialogue diamond diaphragm diarrhea dichondra dawdle differentia difficulty diffuse dilapidate dilate dilemma diligent dilute diminutive dinghy dinosaur director  dirigible disadvantageous disastrous disperse disciplinary discomfiture discordant discotheque discreet discrete discrepancy disgust disguise dishevel dispersal dissect dissention dissertation dissident dissipate dissolve dissonant distillate distortion distraught disturbance divvy docile docket doctrinal dodder ***** eccentric linguistics domical dominate domineer dominion dossier doubloon douse drawl dreary dubious dulcet dungeon duodenum duress dwindle dynamism dynasty ebullition echinoderm eclectic ecliptic economist ecumenism edifice editor educe effervesce efficacious egalitarian elaborate elapsed eerie elegy eligible eliminate elite elixir elongate elucidate elusion eluviation emaciate embarrass embassy embellish embezzle embroidery embryo emissary emollient emphatic enchilada encore encumbrance endeavor endogenous endure engender ensemble enthusiast entourage entrepreneur epaulet epitome erratic erroneous escapade esophagus espionage esplanade etcetera ethereal etiquette eucalyptus eulogy exaggerate exacerbate excellency exhilarate expectant exquisite facetious Fahrenheit fallacy fanion fealty feisty frisky felicitous fenestration ferocious fertile fervent fickle fictitious fiery finesse finial fjord flaccid fledge flippant flirtatious flivver fluctuate follicle forbearance forbiddance forehand forebode forceps forfeit forgo forlorn formidable foundry foyer fracas fraught frivolous frolic frontier funnel copious furrow fuselage fusillade futile forgone frivolity frolic galaxy galleon galoot galore galoshes gambit gangrene ganglion gargantuan gargoyle gardenia garret garrote gasolier gatling gawky gazebo gazelle gazette geezer geisha gendarme generosity genre genteel gentry genuine geodesic geranium gesticulate ghastly giggle ****** gimmick giraffe gizzard glacier glamour glimmer glimpse glisten glottis gluteus gluttony glyph gnarly gnaw goddess godling gorgeous gorilla gory gossamer gourd gouts gracious gradient granary grandeur granulation grapple gratify gratuitous gregarious grenade committee grievance griffin gristle grotesque gristly grotto grouch groupie grisly grovel grudge gruel gruesome gubernatorial guerrilla guffaw guidable guidon guile guillotine gullet gymnasium gyrate habitable hacienda haggard halibut halitosis hallelujah hallow halyard hammock harangue harass harried hasp hatred haughty hearth hedonism hegira heinous hegemony hemisphere hemophilia hemorrhage herbivorous hereditary heresy heritage heroine hesitate hibiscus hidden hideous hieroglyphic highfalutin high-rise hilarity hippopotamus hoarse holler holocaust holster homicidal horror hosiery hurricane hydrant hydraulic hydronic hyena hygiene hyphen hypnotize hypochondria hypocrisy hypocrite hypotenuse hysteria idiocy igloo ignoramus ignore illicit illiterate illustrate imbecile immaculate immaterial immature immersible immigrant immune impasse impeccable impedance impenetrable impervious imperfect implement implicate implicit important impressible innately inert impression impugn inadequate inanimate inauspicious incandescent incantation incarcerate incentive incinerator inclusion incoercible incompressible incontrovertible controversy indefatigable inconvertible inconvincible incorruptible indices indictment indigent indigestion digestible indignant indiscretion indiscreet indisiplined indiscernible inducible inebriate ineffable inefficacy ineludible inexorable inexpiable inextricable infallible infatuation inferior inflammatory inflexible infuriate inimitable iniquitous infuse infusion ingenuity ingratiate inimical innards innocence innovate innumerable inoculation insatiable insectivorous insincerity insinuation inspection inspirator instability installation insurance insufferable insufficiency insurrection insupportable integrity intellect intelligence intemperance intension interaction interception intercession interdiction interface interference interpolate interrogate interrupt intersperse intervene interstice intractable intergalactic intransigent intravenous intrepid intricate intrigue introductory introject intrude inundate invective invariable invertebrate investigate intuitive invertible investiture inveterate inviable invidious inviolate invigorate invincible invoke invocation invalidate involute invulnerable impregnable ionosphere ipso-facto irascible iridescent eradicable irrational irredeemable irrefragable irrefutable irregular anomalous irrelevant irreproachable irrepressible irresistible irrevocable irreverent irresponsible irritative irrigate irritability isolable isosceles isostasy issuance isthmus italicize iterative itinerary interjection ******* jackhammer jackknife jackpot jackrabbit jaguar jai alai jalopy jalousie jamboree Japanese jacquerie Jacobin jargonize jaunt javelin jealous jehoshaphat jeopardy jocular jouncy journal jubilant jubilee judgment judicature judicious juggernaut jugular juke julep juncture junta jurisprudence juvenilia juxtaposition kahuna kalpa kamikaze kerf kangaroo karat ken katzenjammer katydid kempt kerosene kewpie khaki kibitz kibosh kilter kimono kinesiology kleptomaniac knell knowledge knuckle kook kowtow kulak kyrie labyrinth laccolith laceration lackadaisical laconic lacunar lacquer lagging laissez-faire lamprey languish lanyard lapidary laputan larceny lariat laryngeal larynx lascivious latent latter lattice latrine launderette lavatory laxity lechery legacy bequeath legend leister lei leisure lemming leniency lentic leopard lethal lethargy lettuce leviathan levitate lexical liable levity liaison libation liberate licentious lieutenant ligament lilac limnetic limousine limpid lineage lynchpin lineolate lingerie lingual liniment linoleum liquefy litany literacy lithesome littoral lizard loath local loiter longevous loquacity lottery louver lucidity lucrative ludicrous luminary lummox lurid luscious lyricism machinator machinelike machismo macrocosm besmirched machiavellian mackerel mademoiselle maelstrom maggoty magisterial magnanimous magnifico maintenance malaprop malarkey malediction malamute malicious malign malinger malleable mandarin maneuver mange maniacal mannequin manure manzanita maquette maraca maraschino marauder marbleize marbly marionette marmalade marquee marquetry marrow marshal marshmallow martyr mascara masochism massacre matriarchy maudlin mausoleum maxillary mayonnaise meager meandrous medial medieval megalith mediocre Mediterranean megalomania melancholy melee membrane memorabilia menagerie mercenary mendacity meritorious mesmeric mesquite metallurgy metaphor meticulous metronome metropolitan mezzanine micrometer midriff mien demeanor millennium minarets minion minuscule minutia misanthropic miscellaneous mistletoe moccasin modus operandi monaural mongrel monotony morgue morose morsel moribund mortgage mosaic mosque mosquito motley mottle mucous membrane mucus mullion multifarious munificent museum musketeer mutable mustache mutineer myopic myrmidon mystique naïve narcissism narcosis narrate nausea navigable Neanderthal necklace needle nefarious negligible nemesis neophyte nertsy  nerve-racking nestle nether newfangled nocturnal nonchalant non sequitur normative Norwegian nostalgic nuisance nullify obedient obeisance obelisk obese objectify oblate oblique obliterate oblivious obsess obsolete obsolescence obstacle obstinate occupy occurrence ocelot odious oedipal officiate ogle ogre oligarchy omelet omnificent omniscient ontological argument oodles oomph opaque operable operative opossum optimal orangutan orchard orchestra ordinance oregano orgiastic oriel oriole ornery orphan osculate ostensive ostrich osteology oust overwhelm overwrought oyster pachyderm pacific pageant painstaking palate palaver libel palette pallet palomino pamphleteer panorama pantheism parapet paradigm papier-mâché paraffin paralyze parishioner parliament parody parquetry parsimonious pasteurize pathogenic payola ******* pediment pendant pendentives penicillin pennant pentathlon perception percussion perennial parameter perimeter peripheral peristalsis permissible pernicious perron perseverance persistent persona persnickety personnel persuasion petite pertinacious pessimistic pestilent pestle petticoat petulant phallus phantasmagoria pharaoh pharmaceutical peasant philander phenomenal philosopher phlegm phoenix phooey phosphoresce physique picayune picturesque piety pilfer finagle pilaster pillage pineapple pinnacle piquant pique piteous pitiful pittance pizzazz placate placenta plagiarism plaintiff plateau platypus plausible plinth plunderous pluvial poinsettia pollutant polygamy pommel ponderous portico portiere portentous prairie precipitous predecessor predicate predilection preeminent preempt preferential premier preparation preposition prerogative presumption pretentious preternatural privilege proclivity prodigious proffer progenitor progeny promissory promontory propellant propensity propound proselyte prospectus protégé protocol protuberant pseudonym  ptomaine pulchritudinous pursuant pygmy pylon python qualm quarrel quarry quash queer quell querulous quibble quitter quixotic rabbet rabbit rabbi radiant rambunctious rancor rankle raspberry rethink rebellion recant recital reconcile redundant referral reglet relevant reluctant remiss reminiscent remnant rendezvous renegade repartee reprieve repertoire repetitious reprehensive reprisal repugnant rescind reservoir resistant resurgence resurrect revelry reverie retaliate reticent retrieve retrograde reveille reverberation reversible reversion rhapsody rhetoric rheumatism rhinoceros rhinoceri rhubarb ribaldry ricochet riddance rigmarole risqué rive rollick Romanesque Rosicrucian rotisserie rotunda rogue roulette rubato ruminate rusticate sabotage sabbat saboteur sacrilege sadomasochist salacious salmon salutatory samurai sapphire sarcasm sarcophagus sardonic sarsaparilla sassafras sassy satiate satirical saturate saunter savoir-faire savvy scabbard scaffold scalawag scarcity scathe scenario scenic schism sciatic nerve ******* scintillate scissor scourge scrawny scrimmage scribble scruffy scrounge scrumptious scrunch scrupulous scrutiny scurry scythe sedition seethe seismic self-applause seltzer semiporcelain seniority sensible sensual separate sepulcher sequel sequin sequoia serape serenade sheaves serendipity  servant settee shabby shackle shanghai shanty shellac shenanigan Sherlock shirk shish kebob shoulder shrapnel shriek shrubbery shtick shush shyster Siamese sibyl significant simile simplicity simultaneous sinewy siphon skeptic skiff skillet skirmish skullduggery slaughter ****** sleeve sleuth slither slough sluice smart aleck  smidgen  smithereens  smolder  smorgasbord snazzy sneer snide snivel snorkel sobriety socioeconomic sojourn solder soldier solemn solicit soluble solvent sombrero somersault soothe soprano sophisticate sophomore sortie soufflé sousaphone ***** spiel souvenir sovereign spaghetti spandrel sparrow spatter sphinx spatula species specific spectacle spectral spelt sphincter spinach spinneret spiritual splatter splitting splurge spry  splutter sporadic sprawl sprinkler spree sprightly squawk spurious sputter  squabble squalor squander squeak squeal squeamish squeeze squiggle squinch squirrel stable squoosh stabilizer stagnant stagnate stalactite stalagmite stammer stampede stationary stationery statue statuesque statute staunch stealthy stein stellar stench stencil stoic steppe sterile stickler stifle stimulant stingy stirrup stolid strafe straggle strangulate stratagem strategy strenuous stretch strident stringent strudel streusel strychnine studious stultify stupe stupefy stupendous special stylus stymie styptic sublimate subliminal submergible substitute submersible subpoena subsequent subsidiary substantiate suburb subversion success succession succinct succor succulent succumb sufferance suffocate suggest suicidal sully sultry sumptuous sundae sundry superfluous superior supersede superstitious surreal supplicate surrender surrogate survey surveillance suspension suspicion sustenance swarthy ******* swath swear sweaty swelter swerve swindle swivel swizzle sycamore syllable symphony symposium symptom syndicate syndrome synonym synonymous synopsis synthetic syphilis syringe syrup suffrage tableau tabloid tacit tambourine tandem tangible tarantula tarot taunt technique telekinesis temperamental temperance thence temporal temporary tenuous tequila terrace terrain terrific terrify tetanus tether thatch thistle thither through though throat throttle thwack thwart ticklish tiffany timbre tirade titillate toboggan tolerant tongue top-notch topography  tortoise trauma tortuous torturous tourist tracery tournament tourniquet trachea traffic tragedy tragic traipse traitor tranquility transcend travesty transcribe treachery treatise trellis trepidation trestle trinket triplicate triumphant trivial troglodyte troubadour  trousers truncate tumultuous tundra turbid turpitude turquoise tutelage twixt twiddle twitter tycoon tyke typhoon tyrannical tyrannize tyranny umbrella unfulfilled unanimous usury undulate unequivocally unguent urethra unpre
There was a motion on the floor for the nomination of a proxy to be my epigone.  I feared I didn't have enough votes to challenge so I filibustered.
K Mae Feb 2016
Crescent moon
I am full with void
touching light
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.
sunprincess Feb 2018
February's crescent moon adorns the sky
like a lovely golden pendant one wears
on prom night with that special guy
O' crescent moon, O' crescent moon
leaves all the girls and guys dreamin'
With thoughts of those lazy days in June
when sleeping under diamond stars
and a crystal moon was heaven
ryn Dec 2014
•i        
     was    
         once    
              whole    
               •full and
                    complete•
                       grand desi-
                          gns adorned
                              upon my very
                               soul•always...
              ­                  would land on
                                    my feet•my wo-
                                     rds now partially
                                      broken•resembli-
                     ­               ng that of an ail-
                                   ing crescent• i...
                                 am still here, i...
                               watch and i lis-
                           ten• scouring
                        for mediocre
                 remnants
             that still
         remain
 abs
en  
t•      
.
ryn Oct 2016
The crescent moon be my perch.
        A bough from which I extend my arm.
Careful fingers grasp my brush...
And with it I shall fill the void
with the universe.                

               The crescent moon be my hammock.
Upon which I lean fully into,
to seek restful recluse.                
Should my body start to buckle...
        From the heavy hopes of wistful eyes.

   The crescent moon be my anchor.
From which I draw                
my inspiration and strength.
                   She would cradle and sway me gentle...
      When wilting hearts spill unto me
the callous wiles of the world.    

The crescent moon be my well.        
A fount through which my palette        
remains full with an                                 
abundant array of silvery white.        

Just so...                                 
I could conjure for others,
       what their hearts so desire.

Just so...                      
I could grant them       
             needed solace and tranquillity.

Just so...                 
                          I could infinitely paint for them
the stars...
Stephan Sep 2016



There like the bloom of a mystical flower,
a crescent moon smiles this day
Before the sun comes to offer good morning,
bright its illumined display

While here I stand gazing north towards the heavens,
dreaming of days yet to be
Watching the glow on an autumn horizon,
I feel it grinning at me

Picturing moments of enchanted splendor,
beautiful scenes float my eyes
Seeking a sign as the dawn now awakens,
upon these slumbering skies

When in a whisper this moon sends a message,
softly it says from above
“Here in this smile my crescent is showing,
know she is sending her love”
Mitchell Duran Nov 2013
It was 98'.
No, it was 99'.
That was the year.
Yeah, that was the year.

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

I knew her.

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

Cookie cutters everywhere.

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

Nothing really.

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

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

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

Forget about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Děkuji," he peeped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We made it to the Vlatva river and leaned over the railing, looking down at the water.
Floating there were empty beer bottles and plastic soda jugs.
The water was brown, murky, and looked like someone had dumped a large bag of dirt in there.
There was nothing very romantic about it, which one would think if you saw it in a picture.
"The water looks disgusting," Page said.
"That it does, but look at the bridge. It looks pretty good right
There are colors yet unknown in my finite view of Earth , artistic wonders undiscovered , to this day quite alone .. Geometric shapes where Sweetgum trees silhouette the majestic Dawn .. Enchantment with every turn go I , to study my religion by day , collect my thoughts and observations by night .. To interplay among life undiscovered  , to revel someday in its happenstance ... The weathered profiles of a million botanicals unknown or forgotten . An ocean whose riddles remain unsolved , seventy percent of our precious world where exploration has barely scratched the surface .. Dark , rainy afternoons reconfigured with burst of light , the surface of oceans ever mysterious , highlighted by the Moon on hazy nights .. I flew over Moccasin Creek to sample fresh water and take in mountain greenery ..Walked the treetops of the Oconee Forest to witness the floor of the woodlands as a squirrel , crow or eagle ..Slithered along the Georgia clay like a Black Racer , cautiously studied each image before me with the curiosity of a Red fox .. Enthralled with the Savannah Dancers of Tybee Island , precious gulls , blue ***** and brown pelicans .. Welcome every change of season , Dark pine thickets tell of death and renewal ...

                                                          II­
Jagged , blue grass approaches , green straw tops , quiet
cinnamon needle oceans connected by silver streak spider webbing ..
Warm winds divide earthen cover , lifeless termite ridden forefathers lay in testament to bitter destruction ... Our Noon star nourishes bold , sylvan seedlings , beneath her languishing February predicament however ... Grassy field roads lay locked in period of service , daylight path corrections , marble land buoy sentries within thistle , dandelion and Sawgrass .. Gold , knee high cover caresses , reaching skyward beside the field road , lying forgotten , left to the mercy of kudzu , marble and granite .. Scrags reclaim rusted encroachments , tin in battle with the tepid wail of afternoon wind as stick pines mimic the Appalachians , gently roll toward the awaiting lavender blue horizon ... As pasture returns to woodlands , blanketed in hues of brown with forest echoes , carry whispered voices into tomorrow ... Lively crows live to tell their wintry tale , resting among scuttled pulp wood entanglements , to be born again , covered in the pity of lingering broom sage ...                                                              ­                                                  

                                                        III    ­                                                                 ­Across the edge of twilight where soft lavender hues lay at
rest atop her riparian horizon .. Dandelion blooms pepper the
red clay embankments , lone bucks survey brown fields of harvested
corn ..Mourning doves cry for the end of day , wild hogs lay tracks at the rivers edge . Toms sing of their loneliness  , persimmons lay bitter along country lanes , the meat of Chestnut not harvested , the final years of tall , stately Pecans go shamefully unnoticed .. Barbed wire divisions etch Winter burned pasture , Morgans and Appaloosas graze the fertile , ambrosial green narrows .. Manmade pools dot the Crescent lady , cattle ditches appear along creeks and rivers holding Rock bass , Shell ******* , Yellowbellies and Bluegills ferociously hunting the waters surface , Alligator Snappers and Mudcats work the turbulent bottoms ... Hayfields , peach and muscadine arbors flourish , boiled peanuts and sorghum syrup , collards and sweet potatoes ...Blackberry , grape , watermelon and okra ..Water oaks have taken command of the front yard ,  moss and honeysuckle line fence rows , flowing patches of wild grass and snake berry , rocks from Cotton Indian Creeks line hand built flower beds and walkways .. Rhode Island Reds , Buff Orpington's and White Leghorns work these plantations . Sassafras and dewberry , wild plum and rabbit tobaccos . Gardenia , Crape Myrtle , Magnolia , Pine and Chestnut trees  flourish to this day .. The Old Bridge behind Millers Mill still visible , what stories this elder pass could tell before the confluence of the Indian Creeks .. Crayfish , Bream , Largemouth bass , Crappie , Yellow perch and Flathead catfish ! The tale of the Crescent lady lives forever and ever ..
Copyright February 29 , 2016 by Randolph L Wilson * All Rights Reserved
Radha Gautam Feb 2015
Barely visible
incomplete  
as if with starlight
he were to compete
I was admiring
the crescent moon
wondering what made him
so ****** loon
changing shape and size each night
with such faint white
what did he hope to ignite

But upon grave pondering I realised
that In misery in our disguise
our sights preferred
a darker night

In misery in our disguise
we all hid we all hide
true colours true light
from the worlds oblivious eyes

And In misery in our disguise
we all fume we all gloom
so why should be any different
the beautiful crescent moon
721

Behind Me—dips Eternity—
Before Me—Immortality—
Myself—the Term between—
Death but the Drift of Eastern Gray,
Dissolving into Dawn away,
Before the West begin—

’Tis Kingdoms—afterward—they say—
In perfect—pauseless Monarchy—
Whose Prince—is Son of None—
Himself—His Dateless Dynasty—
Himself—Himself diversify—
In Duplicate divine—

’Tis Miracle before Me—then—
’Tis Miracle behind—between—
A Crescent in the Sea—
With Midnight to the North of Her—
And Midnight to the South of Her—
And Maelstrom—in the Sky—
SøułSurvivør Mar 2015
~.~.~.~


floating
on the breeze
swirling
in a swoon
laments in
blue and purple
are the
petals of the moon

waned a
crescent of a flower
waxed to
cabbage rose
now the
tight held tithes
sift down
in
airy
floes

lying in the grass
of a dark
wide-open
field
sweet
swanning
petals find me
moon's offerings
revealed

i inhale their
fragrance
their light sweet perfume
they cover me
with kisses

the
petals
of
the
moon
soulsurvivor
(c) 2014
rewritten
(c) march 12, 2015

Dedicated to my dear friend Jonnie... she makes me happy!

This is one of my most popular & beloved poems, my dear! I hope you enjoyed it!

God Bless & Happy Thanksgiving!
An old man cocked his car upon a bridge;
He and his friend, their faces to the South,
Had trod the uneven road.  Their hoots were soiled,
Their Connemara cloth worn out of shape;
They had kept a steady pace as though their beds,
Despite a dwindling and late-risen moon,
Were distant still.  An old man cocked his ear.
Aherne. What made that Sound?
Robartes. A rat or water-hen
Splashed, or an otter slid into the stream.
We are on the bridge; that shadow is the tower,
And the light proves that he is reading still.
He has found, after the manner of his kind,
Mere images; chosen this place to live in
Because, it may be, of the candle-light
From the far tower where Milton's Platonist
Sat late, or Shelley's visionary prince:
The lonely light that Samuel Palmer engraved,
An image of mysterious wisdom won by toil;
And now he seeks in book or manuscript
What he shall never find.
Ahernc. Why should not you
Who know it all ring at his door, and speak
Just truth enough to show that his whole life
Will scarcely find for him a broken crust
Of all those truths that are your daily bread;
And when you have spoken take the roads again?
Robartes. He wrote of me in that extravagant style
He had learnt from pater, and to round his tale
Said I was dead; and dead I choose to be.
Aherne. Sing me the changes of the moon once more;
True song, though speech:  "mine author sung it me.'
Robartes. Twenty-and-eight the phases of the moon,
The full and the moon's dark and all the crescents,
Twenty-and-eight, and yet but six-and-twenty
The cradles that a man must needs be rocked in:
For there's no human life at the full or the dark.
From the first crescent to the half, the dream
But summons to adventure and the man
Is always happy like a bird or a beast;
But while the moon is rounding towards the full
He follows whatever whim's most difficult
Among whims not impossible, and though scarred.
As with the cat-o'-nine-tails of the mind,
His body moulded from within his body
Grows comelier.  Eleven pass, and then
Athene takes Achilles by the hair,
Hector is in the dust, Nietzsche is born,
Because the hero's crescent is the twelfth.
And yet, twice born, twice buried, grow he must,
Before the full moon, helpless as a worm.
The thirteenth moon but sets the soul at war
In its own being, and when that war's begun
There is no muscle in the arm; and after,
Under the frenzy of the fourteenth moon,
The soul begins to tremble into stillness,
To die into the labyrinth of itself!
Aherne. Sing out the song; sing to the end, and sing
The strange reward of all that discipline.
Robartes. All thought becomes an image and the soul
Becomes a body:  that body and that soul
Too perfect at the full to lie in a cradle,
Too lonely for the traffic of the world:
Body and soul cast out and cast away
Beyond the visible world.
Aherne. All dreams of the soul
End in a beautiful man's or woman's body.
Robartes, Have you not always known it?
Aherne. The song will have it
That those that we have loved got their long fingers
From death, and wounds, or on Sinai's top,
Or from some ****** whip in their own hands.
They ran from cradle to cradle till at last
Their beauty dropped out of the loneliness
Of body and soul.
Robartes. The lover's heart knows that.
Aherne. It must be that the terror in their eyes
Is memory or foreknowledge of the hour
When all is fed with light and heaven is bare.
Robartes. When the moon's full those creatures of the
full
Are met on the waste hills by countrymen
Who shudder and hurry by:  body and soul
Estranged amid the strangeness of themselves,
Caught up in contemplation, the mind's eye
Fixed upon images that once were thought;
For separate, perfect, and immovable
Images can break the solitude
Of lovely, satisfied, indifferent eyes.
And thereupon with aged, high-pitched voice
Aherne laughed, thinking of the man within,
His sleepless candle and lahorious pen.
Robartes. And after that the crumbling of the moon.
The soul remembering its loneliness
Shudders in many cradles; all is changed,
It would be the world's servant, and as it serves,
Choosing whatever task's most difficult
Among tasks not impossible, it takes
Upon the body and upon the soul
The coarseness of the drudge.
Aherne. Before the full
It sought itself and afterwards the world.
Robartes. Because you are forgotten, half out of life,
And never wrote a book, your thought is clear.
Reformer, merchant, statesman, learned man,
Dutiful husband, honest wife by turn,
Cradle upon cradle, and all in flight and all
Deformed because there is no deformity
But saves us from a dream.
Aherne. And what of those
That the last servile crescent has set free?
Robartes. Because all dark, like those that are all light,
They are cast beyond the verge, and in a cloud,
Crying to one another like the bats;
And having no desire they cannot tell
What's good or bad, or what it is to triumph
At the perfection of one's own obedience;
And yet they speak what's blown into the mind;
Deformed beyond deformity, unformed,
Insipid as the dough before it is baked,
They change their bodies at a word.
Aherne. And then?
Rohartes. When all the dough has been so kneaded up
That it can take what form cook Nature fancies,
The first thin crescent is wheeled round once more.
Aherne. But the escape; the song's not finished yet.
Robartes. Hunchback and Saint and Fool are the last
crescents.
The burning bow that once could shoot an arrow
Out of the up and down, the wagon-wheel
Of beauty's cruelty and wisdom's chatter --
Out of that raving tide -- is drawn betwixt
Deformity of body and of mind.
Aherne. Were not our beds far off I'd ring the bell,
Stand under the rough roof-timbers of the hall
Beside the castle door, where all is stark
Austerity, a place set out for wisdom
That he will never find; I'd play a part;
He would never know me after all these years
But take me for some drunken countryman:
I'd stand and mutter there until he caught
"Hunchback and Sant and Fool,' and that they came
Under the three last crescents of the moon.
And then I'd stagger out.  He'd crack his wits
Day after day, yet never find the meaning.
And then he laughed to think that what seemed hard
Should be so simple -- a bat rose from the hazels
And circled round him with its squeaky cry,
The light in the tower window was put out.
SøułSurvivør Aug 2019
There is a lady in the night
A constellation fair
Lady of the Crescent Moon
You'll see her sitting there.

She wears a diadem of stars
Opals of bright hues
Each color in it represents
A soul who's been abused.

She, who is their patron
Lets them shine like suns
She holds them in the heavens
And cares for every one.

She holds a scepter crystalline
Wears rubies on her sleeves
Her bossom alabaster stones
A tapestry she weaves.

The crescent moon behind her
It's beams are like a flood
It is a second diadem
For she's of royal blood.

AH! You cannot see her?
No. You will not see her soon
You'd only see from VENUS

Lady of the Crescent Moon.
I hope you enjoyed this. It's written for my friend Sar, and based on a picture she drew.
I LOVE that drawing!
Skaidrum Jun 2015
.
Ancient games
tell tales of dust.  |||   A story drawn
from the lips of two poets.



~~~~~


It's the wits that ****, not Queens of ivory or ink. *
Charged with
coal strokes, scraping up the lies.
Pawns & Knights slip between the grasp of the sun, leaking into
   lion jaws of Leo.
Shifting these granite plates, ignoring the Rooks common price of aslant.
Here we have slain kin, crescent traitors that backstab the night and battlefield.
Closed doors and trap floors, trade me a tie, swindling your tactic ruts.
Reality never got the noose around our necks, check turned into manslaughter, and kingdoms ripped asunder by the roar of Jupiter
Get up, get up, get away from these liars, they can't have your rank or your fire.
Peak a notion, this match is spared by a luft.
Toss away the pride buried 'neath your dusty skin, it don't matter no more if   death has you by the lips.
Silence is a language too in our eyes of earth.
Take my hand, knott your soul into this downfall, and brace yourself for the wreckage in our bones.
The Sword of Sorrows will fall 'pon your shoulders, not to slay thee, but to dub thee a new day.
The drums of war will knit the lyrics in the sky,
singing:
"The mighty sharpen their fangs, the weak sharpen their wisdom"
~~~~~
I'm tired of your wishbones, and golden scales, give me the hard-earned truth.
Hot coals of honesty may you tread upon, shadow-bitten remorseful may you be, don't stray off the course of Ursa major.
The North star isn't the one I follow
It's the moon with all of it's phases,
Eclipsing and crescent, tipping the sky with it's beauty.
Now let this sink further than any soul has ever sunk,
no man could ever
rule the moon.
~~~~~~
Shoot on command,
C
h    
      e
c  
      k
m
a
t      
e

~~~~
You could drag me to hell and back and those words wouldn't mean anything.
Let this downfall become a *downfell,

Because last I checked
"Wolves worship the moon"
and I have broke it's reflection in the water
Just
by
throwing
s                    
t          
o
         n
                 e
                              s
                               ­        .

.
A collab between
The Dragon Prince & Skaidrum.

I'll give most credit to
Kalum here.

© Copywrite The Dragon Prince & Skaidrum
Bree Sep 2014
The world is dead
Nothing is breathing, pulsing
An achromatic scheme of dark
But white cannot exist in a black and grey sea

I see a man
Beckoning for me to come
He, dressed in black with a crescent
I need only to follow to escape my fear of this life

I rise to kiss the crescent
Steal one last look at the world of gray
Falling in his arms I see stars for eyes
A dream floating in towards the black of a moonless night

Now I belong with those like me
Escapers of this thing called life
A lie for the optimists
A wish for the best outcomes imaginable

A kiss for the crescent
Before you go home to mother
Will bring you to me, where you belong
I am all you need to breathe, to live, to cry, to die
Cara Grace Nov 2013
Happiness is something pure,
She says, furrowing her brow
Steadily sweeping the stardust from the bottom of her shoes
Bones like blades bursting through her milky translucent skin as if to scream
“Hello world, I’m here! Look at me.”
They clank and clutter the confines of her cage
A gentle burn to quench her thirst
The girl with the crescent moon tear

Friday night and her feet move slow
Trying to decide which direction to go
Looks to the sky then down to her hands
That fold into fists as she quietly stands
And sleep will be lonely
Her heart a strange tick
In darkness she dances
And breaks her last wick
Now nothing is lit and no one can see
Her sad secret shadow drag through the street
But morning will come
And on a day bright and clear
You’ll see her, the girl with the crescent moon tear
Jace Kassem Nov 2015
An arc of a slit
Beautiful to the sight.
Forever brightly lit
Illuminating the night.

What is a crescent
If not a piece of your grin?
What is it if not a present
That everyone gets to win?

Cherish that Crescent of red
And watch me and learn
How I change it instead
How, to a full moon, it would turn
To your smile
Mitchell Duran Sep 2013
We met on the stairs
Of a 15th century cathedral in Rome.
I was wearing my
Light gray suit that she later told me reminded
Her of the color of fresh volcano ash.

She - cut in half by the moonlight -
Wore red flats,
A ******* linen dress that
Effortlessly pronounced her *******,
While her oaken red and auburn hair
Lunged down both of her shoulders like
A waterfall or an avalanche,
Just touching the top of her belly button.

I, looking up toward the marble spires
Spinning into the scattered stillness of the nights
Opaque and cream colored stars,
Did not know she was hovering behind me watching me,
Until she had decided to speak;

If I had known, I would have ran inside.

"The cathedral is very nice, isn't it?"
I heard her ask to my back.
At the sound of her voice, I was not
Filled with that melodramatic cliché dripping
With soap opera fused emotions.

No, I
Was dipped into a large cauldron of ice-water.

There was a tremor
Somewhere
Inside of me and a heat
Ricocheting in her.

"Yes," I replied,"It is
Very nice and very old and I wonder why it is still here."

I did not know what I meant, but
From the pause and inhalation I heard immediately after, I
Believed she must have thought what was said profound.
Was I profound? Why would she believe that if it was only from
The spontaneous question that held no real physical weight? Or
From me jumping so quickly into this little

Game,

No question's asked?

"These buildings still stand because they
Are a physical memory of what we have achieved
And what we must continue to achieve
In the future
." She had come up beside me now.
Vanilla lavender lotion and mint
Toothpaste were the first smells that came to mind.  

"The future..."I said, trailing off, "The future."

"Yes, the future is very important."

"It is all we have."

"Well, all we truly have is the present, don't you agree?" I asked,
Slightly turning my head to look at her.

She was still looking up at the cathedral. She was focused on the large church bell
That hung there like the moon in the night sky. I continued
To stare at her, my question hovering vulnerable in
The air as a butterfly with its wings damaged would. Then, a
Couple passed by us in a hurry. Their hands were clasped tightly together, the man
In front and the woman looking to be dragged by him. I saw
Neither of their faces, but I imagined them both to be calm and red.

"They look to be in a hurry," she said, "Where do
You think they're going?
"

"Somewhere very important I'd imagine."

"And where is very important for you, sir?"

She turned
To meet
My gaze a

As if challenging it.

Her lips were full and painted with red lipstick. Where I thought her eyes would prove to be light colored or forest green, they were actually colorless and black. I inhaled at the sight of her, then immediately blushed. Again, our questions back and forth to each other were more of an interrogation of one's hearts and minds than flirtation. As she stared at me, I sensed that we had met before. There was something in her face that brought the feeling of an old friend or an acquaintance, like the feeling one gets when they see a past school teacher or love interest back in grade school. There was a warmth and giddy tension between us that made me feel eight years old again. I had felt so old recently. There was a sudden wink in her eyes and I then remembered the question I had asked her before.

"You haven't answered my first question," I stated seriously.

"I agree," she answered quickly, "The present is the only thing we have truly and
Do not have, all at the same time."

"What do you mean?"

"Being present 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is a very exhausting,
Trying thing,
Isn't it?

"Yes, I would agree with that."

"And being present for whatever reason, be it socially, romantically,
Professionally, etc., is really all for the future. One's own's private future goals.
Something one desires in the moment and wishes to have for oneself in the future. Our
Motivations are our desires. Our wishes. The lives we wish to own in the future."

"At times, yes, I do believe
One is present for those reasons, but
Sometimes, and I speak for myself,
I wish to lay back and let the sun burn my skin and
The clouds to blanket me, chilling me, so to remind myself
Of my placement on this planet and the miniscule and
Tremendous affect I have on my surroundings. For example...
"

"You are very talkative," she said cutting me off, "I could
Tell from the way you looked up at this cathedral all by yourself,
Lost in thought or lack thereof, that you were a talker."

She smiled and I forced a tight-lipped smirk.

"Well, I am
So talkative because you have made
Me so.
"

"So be it."

"It is so."

"Are you mad? she asked.

"Not the least bit," I returned, unsure whether I was lying to
Her because I didn't want to offend her and scare her off or because
She was so extremely beautiful.

"Well, I am glad that I can do that to you." She looked back
Up at the church bell, trying to hide her satisfied smirk.

"I have said too much. Let us both watch
The cathedral stand on her own for a bit in silence, ok?"

"That sounds good."

She took a step down from the step she had been on with me. Two steps.
There she let her head and hair fall back, taking everything in she possibly could.
I needed a drink and she needed the sky, the cathedral, the city, but I
Could only give her my company, unsure whether she truly needed it or not.
I shifted my glance from the bell tower to what was behind me. There, I saw
A wooden trolley up against the far wall near a trickling fountain
With puppets hanging from their thin clear strings. The light from the oiled lamp posts
Was a dark orange and cast an array of ****** shadows along the walls that
Encircled the square which me and the woman and many others were standing around. Night
Had set on the square, but no one had decided to go anywhere.
The square was perfect for them; anywhere else would have seemed uncomfortable.

She looked at me from two steps back and asked,
"We are being present for a better future, yes?"

"What we hope will be a better future," I said, turning
My head away from the bottom of the square back to the
Cathedral. I emphasized the word hope.

"Yes, men and women must have
Hope for something better."

"Life does not guarantee anything, does it?"

"No, I guess it doesn't. It gives you chance and we give
One another choice."

"Or," I hesitated to say what I wanted to say, "Or God does."

"God," she laughed, "What's He got to do with anything?"

"Everything and nothing, I hear."

"Don't be so vague," she grinned, turning her body completely around to me
So I could see her full figure. Her dress outlined a woman's body,
But I knew, inside, there was so much more precious things then flesh. "Hear
From who and where?"

"You choose what you wish to believe
And no one can tell you otherwise. What
You need and
What others may need can be different and should be.
This does not mean that we cannot get along.

Is there a way to be wrong in what one believes in?
She looked to want an honest answer, so I gave her one.

"Yes."

"That's it?" she asked, wanting more.

"That can't be it?"

"Yes is a decent enough answer,
But because you looked to be so talkative before,
I assumed you would have more to say on the matter."

"Assuming something
Is a very dangerous, childish thing.

"Yes," she agreed, "It is."

"If one believes in something and tries to share
Those beliefs in an unaggressive, listen-if-you-will,
Dangerously friendly, perhaps even musical way, then
The listener has their choice in the matter. They can

Walk away

No questions asked or feelings hurt.

"That," she said, "Sounds good for the listener,
But perhaps not so great for the speaker.

"
Why?"* I asked, surprised.

"Because then the speaker may turn into something
They originally did not want to be. A prophet or voice for something
They may honestly have no interest or passion for.

"I see."

"
But, please, go on."

"
On the other side, someone may believe in something fully, to their bitter core, but there needs to be a validation from another to prove their conviction. This is a weakness in their faith. They secretly doubt themselves and are trying to prove, by the obedience and following of others, that
Their belief, system, God, what have you, is a truth, a fact like the sky is blue or that fishes swim in the sea. These people with their thoughts and beliefs are the one's that are wrong. The one's that push their way onto other's without any room for being challenged or accused of falsity."

"
There are some that do not want follower's, but as soon
As they turn around, there they are.

"Yes," I nodded, "I can think of a few thinker's
That I've read or heard of that happening."

"
God, though," she laughed again lightly, "It
Is
Funny that you bring Him up."

I didn't have anything to say, so I said nothing.

"
Are you a religious man...?" she asked.

"
My name is Robert Commento and no, I am not religious man."

I gave
Her my name
Out of my uncomfortable stance on religion and
To change the subject to less formal and conversational matters.

She put out her hand and I slipped my palm under hers. I was
Never taught to shake a woman's hand - for it is too delicate -
but to let their hand rest atop mine.

I bowed and gently kissed her hand.
Her skin smelled of fresh milk and uncut grass and
What morning dew feels like across raw fingertips.
I tried to force myself not to trip too quickly into love,
But there are some things
Men are absolutely unable to do.

"
Luria Rose," she said, bowing her head, "Very ncie to meet you
Robert Commento."

"
And very nice to meet you."

"
You are from here?" she asked.

"
Yes,"* I said, "Well, not exactly."
"From a city over where the tail of the river ends."

"I know this place, but I cannot recall the name." I could see
She was embarrassed by not knowing the location, telling me she
Was obviously from Rome and proud of it.

"Cuore Tagliente," I told her with zest,"That is where
I am from and where I was raised. My family still lives there to

Manage their small farm of olive trees.

"Do they make very much money?" At this question, I turned
On my heel and stared at her. By her look, she seemed to be
Unsure whether I meant this in seriousness or in jest. So not to scare her
Off again I forced a smiled, left my eyes upon her as if viewing a painting or a statue, and
Answered as truthfully as I could without insulting the name of my family
In truth, I lied a little.

"They were very
Well off when they bought the
Olive farm and they are still very well off
Due to savings and the like, but, because of the business they sold
And the expenses of starting from scratch in the scorching fields of where olives are grown,
They took quite a beating financially. We are quite fine now, very, very fine now,
But not as fine as if we had stayed with the old company. In a way, we were
Asked very professionally and cordially to step down. Of course, my mother, bless
Her body and soul, was very destroyed by this matter and that is why I find it hard to continue.

Luria, staring at me blankly, but with a slight hint of fascination,
Walked up the two steps she had just stepped down and
Two more past where she had been beside me.
She swiveled around on her flats and faced me. Her
Eyes were now impossible to see in the night, though I knew she was
Looking directly at me. Curious why she decided to say nothing in return
To my story, I said something in her place.

"I say so much about myself...well, then, what about you?"

Instantly, she pounced on the question,
"I am
An orphan of Roma
And grew up on the streets stealing and
Running amok quite happily, though
Sometimes I regret what I stole. Every single one was a

Necessary action."

This took me back, for she looked tanned, healthy, and
Well fed, instantly making me think she must be a very skilled
Thief. Eyeing her up and down, I wondered if this was why
She was even talking to me presently. I checked my wallet. It was there,
Though this fact made me feel only slightly better. I watched her
Blow a thick, crescent moon shaped strand of dark brown hair from her eye,
Seeing if the story had settled. Was she lying? Was she telling me the truth?

Why would she tell me anything at all?

"Let us get dinner someplace," I offered, "You can
Take me to your favorite, local restaurant in the city and I
Will pay. No favors thought to receive or anything. All I'd like
Is to have a conversation through the night with whom I have in front of me."

She nodded, said nothing with a smile, and stood still.

"You must lead the way for
I have no idea where you would like to take me. I, of
Course can take you to any of the many restaurants
I know of in my Rome, but I want to go to the one the thieves knows of.

Suddenly, her face contorted into a shape like
A razor had been dragged down the length of her face.

She shouted,"Do not call me a thief, Robert!
Your a poor son of olive farmer's! What do you know about
Anything of the street? So much so that you can ridicule and
Mock whoever's from it? You know nothing!

I immediately tried to tell her I was teasing, but she ran past me, down the stairs, and across the square. I stood stunned, embarrassed to see if anyone had noticed this outburst. No one
Had. Groups of people were still sitting around the fountain, throwing
Coin into the water as some children played and dipped their toes into the
Clear, tranquil water. The puppets waved back and forth in a light, chilled wind,
And the lamp posts still burned casting a curing light over the square. There,
I saw Luria cast in the dark orange light for just a moment. She turned around to look at
Me in the light and there, I saw her eyes were not black, but sky blue, like
The fresh melted ice I had once seen on my travels to Antarctica. Then she was gone.

Pausing, letting myself be hugged by the cathedral behind me,
Half of me wanting to stay in her embrace and the other wanting me to be in hers.
I could not hug stone forever," I told myself, "Man needs to hug a woman
Into eternity, not the church. Maybe later in life, but now, man needs the physical,
Not the metaphysical. There, I see her as she goes through the alley behind the fountain on the
Path toward my favorite bakery, Grano Gorato. I will follow her and find her.

I ran down the stairs carefully for they had become wet and slick from the light
Fog that sometimes rolls into Rome when it is night. There, I moved through the crowd
Which looked to have double in size with people. Where had they all come from?
The alleys, no doubt. They all felt the warmth and comfort of this secret square with Her
Majesty looking down on them from above, the church bell and moon like two great eyes,
The tinted cathedral windows depicting ancient actions Her heart, and the hard square
Slabs of concrete and smoothed stone Her skin. But, Luria did not care for such comforts, She
Believed in no comforts other then the one's another could give. Did she want that from me?

Once through the alley and passing Grano Gorato, I swiveled my head three-hundred-and
Sixty degrees hoping to spot the white dress with the long brown hair. There were many
Women about, but none that were Luria. I sat on the edge of another fountain in a smaller
Square which I had found myself in. Inside the café in front of me, I observed an old man order
A glass of red wine and a mini-short bread crust filled with cream with bright, light green
Kiwi on top. It is was brightly lit inside and everyone was smiling, even the servers. Looking up
At the sign for the restaurant, I saw its name was Mondi. I made a note to go there with
Luria when I found her.

"Luria! I shouted. The name echoed about the numerous walls that
Surrounded me. A few tourists dressed in sandals with socks and cameras
Wrapped around their shoulders and "*****-packs" around their waists

(Terrible Things)

Gave me a concerned glance, but I continued to
Shout, "Luria!

"Yes, Robert?" I heard Lu
Sid Lollan Apr 2018
Gentlemen of Courage and Ladies of Excellence,
Toast to stolen prayers with rarer player’s hands;
Soft in defiant laughter,
when drinking their wine from the bowels of brines

Sing along the Ballads of Heritage with Melodies of Exception;
Boast, not a breathe,
though sullen heirs ghost to fairer wearer’s air(s) of land—
A settlement of Rapture and Resurrection, arid, amid dirt and sand

and King and thy Kingdom sprout flowering tomb, and rosebud temple reach to the sky during the showers of spring
Devours the crescent Moon

in big pink petals of bloom;

A garden so fertile
it could look pretty in wartime—
with Gardeners of Courage and Laborers of Excellence;
(Lapse, not into digressions of Being and Essence
but hands in the soil and planting the actions of kingdom come,
       patient building of Spring Reign sure
as the flame, the architect of rising Sun is
(Daughters and Sons of kingdom came,
      the soldier in a land been conquered and named; abandoned
for the greenness of hope.
)May it never come, Be All The Same; (


be gentle, though whispering wind)

Seeds of Nextyear and the spores of Awhile,
carried by the Wasps and the Clouds
To the Gentlemen of Excellence and Ladies of Courage,
illuminated, eyes from the flora of stars faraway forest floor of foreign

      fears,
      as the hungry Owls of Time prepare a final feast—
      Consume the years between Here and Now;
      Watching from blank perch, among
      the Trees of Afterall; a place beyond expectance.
      Sing the branches of experience, to wake
      in Siren’s cipher; inelegant forms
      of waking,

ugly sleep on rocks of seabed; once was aboard a marooned skyline—

Those Who Are Will Be
again, again a serf in a wave of Time’s refraction. Neverending neverbeginning;

                          Those Gentlemen of Courage and Ladies of Excellence,
on the Day That Is, arrays of seers sayers doers displayers
optimists and pessimists, toast to them
        and their rarer player’s hands,
Boast they, not a breathe, though sullen heirs ghost
to fairer wearer’s air and land;
Laugh and howl and dine, they drink their wine
from disemboweled gourds
        of their own divine—
Warped, in jowls of hungry fix,
no feast they fear, for they prey to the Owls of Time.
Jesse stillwater Apr 2018
Nightbird perches high
beneath the shooting stars
that dapple the bouquet
    of sleepless peace
... his soft downy breast      
    has lent breath
to the sweet April afterglow
     heaving with song

The mystical feathered troubadour's
     swooning echo
A melodic twilight serenade
conjures a moonstruck metamorphosis,
sprouting magical wings of flight;

rousing a lonely heart's esprit
     to fly away unfettered
     in constellations of song

How dare imaginings spilled from the big dipper
enchant such an enrapturing magic spell?
It's so far to fall from swinging on a star!
It's so far beyond nearing crescent moon
     when you wish upon a star  

Thereupon struck by a bewitching bolt of starlight;
Dropping asudden as a shooting-star!

    Rolling like trailing thunder;
        tucked and tumbling ―
             somersaulting,

           celestial rumbling
blossoming with an unearthly joy

A nascent winged heart splayed bare,
soars upon cresting wind waves;
    dreaming of that shapeless  
          w h o  o  o  o  s h ―
         gathering beneath
        ~ uplifting wings ~

  Suddenly ― gliding freely,
       winging gracefully
  upon wafting star drift glitter;
lilting lightly upon the arising cadence
of nightingale's melodious fluted song

Nightingale sings sweet April perfume
beneath the star shed lamplight twinkle

... and it makes no difference if it's only a dream
    if my heart had wings



imagined by:   Jesse Stillwater
22nd  April  2018

Imagination set free ... perhaps rooted in the branches of a tree
https://hellopoetry.com/poem/2397540/a-lost-angels-wings/

Luscinia, nightingale -  songbird noted for its melodious nocturnal song
.
Orion Schwalm Sep 2010
Precious Days
Through the crashing waves
I see the end of
The crescent sky
The sickle moon
Now in death do I lash out to the
Bleeding horizon
In silence watch it fade

In silence I watch it fade
An echo melting in frozen time
In darkness unleash the guillotine
Bring an end to the precious days
In coldness dark silence sublime

I’m fine
Really I’m fine

Oh what I wouldn’t give
To give you all that I have
The king’s kingdom and his crown
And all his castles in the sand
In which during crescent tide I
Drown
By the light of the moon I see your
Blood-stained and wave washed face…….
Your tear-brimming wavering eyes, I can
See my broken body inside of the sorrow within your eyes
With a moment of time, I could
Save you from timeless night
We are deathless in this our vessel of fear
And I am immobilized by the dark beauty
Of our unspoken screams
With a moment of time I could move the moon
To make time flow right
Seaside Song
Daniel Ospina Feb 2016
Night falls.
It’s time for a conversation with the moon.
Its reflection upon the silky pond.
Crescent smile beams for me.
Hoot, hoot goes the owl perched up high,
Letting me know that I’m not alone,
For shadows watch me, a curiosity.
Deep into the forest, to man unknown,
I speak with the moon.
Today I brought tears for it to drink,
As they drop onto the water, sending
Ripples of emotion.
I want the moon to tell me who I am.
It’s been here for eons, surely it must know.
Sometimes silence speaks the loudest,
The moon told me.
It said to listen, and listen closely.
At first all I heard was the forest’s
Harmony of critters and swaying trees.
But then I heard it.
I heard the cooing of my mother
As she cradled me in her arms.
I heard my father’s proud pat on my back.
I heard the adulation of my peers.
But then a dark cloud blocked the
Crescent smile before me.
I then heard the demon within me.
I heard it call me for who I was.
A luscious red apple with a rotten core.
A man with a filthy secret
A man afraid of what awaits him.
A man disgusted of what he’s become.
The dark cloud went on its way,
Crescent smile came to my rescue,
For I heard hope.
What does hope sound like?
Well, it’s the laughter of a friend
Who accepts you for who you are.
It’s the rooster’s crow signaling
A new tomorrow rising with the sun.
The crescent smile beamed once again.
I’ve found myself with the moon’s song.
Ryla Jun 2014
crescent moon smiles
light the path ahead
‘we’re all mad here’
laughed the voices
in your head

strange creatures of Wonderland
transform before your eyes
nothing is the same
because everything that you think is real
is a lie

don’t pretend you have any control
we all know you’re insane
follow the rabbit hole
down to Wonderland
get lost in the madness
let it enter your veins
Indie Rodriguez Apr 2012
As moon beams provide the source of light in darkness,
So shall you provide the source of life.

As one observes supple round waxing and faded waning,
So shall one observe shades of your ebb and flow.

As Mother Diana nurtures the cycles of the ocean's tide,
So shall she pull you to nurture.

Celebrate the crescent moon.
Rejoice another month of life.
Diana was the Roman goddess of the moon, the hunt, and birthing.

— The End —