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Mr Bigglesworth Apr 2013
It was only the other day you fell asleep in your old chair
The one that was in your front room decades ago
You didn't see Andy Murray lose but you didn't care
You’d eaten well and heavy eyed you dozed

I’m sorry but when I lost the house it had to go
I know throwing it out was a bit wrong
But if chairs go to heaven though
At least you’ll have something there to sit on

I wish I’d never told you off for smoking by the pump
You looked so sad that I’d made you feel a fool
But imagine how you would have made those people jump
As they were all engulfed by a massive fireball

Enjoy your new lungs and try keeping them clean for a few hours
Enjoy your time with Granddad it’s been thirty years too long
Enjoy strolling through those heavenly gardens with all your favourite flowers
But in heaven, please don’t bag cuttings; I’m sure up there it’s wrong!
Stephen E Yocum Oct 2013
The Island Moorea,
backpacking Tahiti,
In the heat, the sun,
The rhythm of my footfalls
crunching loose gravel road,
The swish of pack swaying
in conert to my measured pace.

Breeze pushing branches of Palm,
Ocean waves breaching shoreline long.
Island vehicles passing, occupant's laughing,
a man laboring under large pack, alone walking,
Who could have been freely riding,
Unthinkable to Island Folk,
in hot tropical places.

Some humble homes pasted along the way.
Greetings exchanged with smiling faces there.
Not long afterward a new sound approaching,
crunching gravel, rolling up behind me.

A lovely young girl, perhaps nineteen,
long brown naked legs bike a peddling.
Hair jet black, long to her waist, wearing
a sarong, split up the side,
Shoulders bare and brown.
Dark eyes of wonder, sparkling of youth.
A radiant smile adorning a splendid face.

We went for a time at my even pace,
looking and smiling each in our place.
"Hello there," I said, she giggled, beamed
even bigger. Perfect teeth displayed.

"Why you walk?" She asked in heavily
accented puzzlement.

"To get to where I'm going". I replied
This response producing a pleasant laugh
from the girl. In which I too joined in.

"You go One Chicken?" She asked
I stopped then and turned to her.
"Where is One Chicken?" I questioned
with a grin.

She raised her graceful arm,
one finger pointing up the road.
"One Chicken there," she informed.

It was a store/bar, sort of place,
In the very midst of nowhere.
Indeed, more than one chicken roamed,
Many chickens did and a pig or two,
mingling free and doing their thing.

We entered out of the bright daylight,
into the deepest of darks,
Like in a movie theater, when arriving late.
Eyes adjusting slowly to what lay ahead.

A few Island Beers later,
I had acquired several new friends,
The girl my invitation to the party of
already happy people a little drunk on beer.
The Music was mostly of French persuasion,
With a bit of Bob Dylan thrown in.
The Beatles also had a tune or two.
The Liverpool beat resounding down Tahiti way.

Before the light did fail, I shouldered my pack
and walked some distance from Chickens and Pigs.
Found the beach, hung my Hammock for the night.
Built a small fire and opened a can of Spam delight.

She appeared again about ten,
looking beautiful in the new moonlight.
Newly washed hair, still damp and
smelling fresh of Lilacs,
Or some such aromatic scent.
We did not speak, no words were needed,

Made love on the sand, 'till the retreat of the
tide and sand ***** did come out, in their
eerie numbers, to eat what was at hand.
I suppose even us if we let them.

We retired then both to my hammock,
A pretty neat trick if you can swing it.
And we did.

She was so childlike and yet,
very much a woman grown.
There was no pretense shown,
no false inhibitions rendered.
These were not limitations of her culture.
people that respond to their emotional impulses.
An open and free spirited people living
passionately within each minute.

It all felt more akin to a dream than real,
All around me there was beauty,
Loving and being loved without hurry,
Free of guilt or even a single expectation.
Living in that wondrous moment,
of uncomplicated human splendor.
Like some Garden of Eden surrender.
A real life Gauguin painting.

In the morning, we swam naked in the sea,
frolicked like kids having a day at the beach.
Made love in the sand, I dozed in the sun.
Upon awaking she was gone.

I waited an hour or two, packed up my camp,
shouldered my load and returned to the road.
A few minutes later, again I heard the now
familiar crunch of rubber tires,
rolling road surface and there she was,
a straw basket in her Bike's basket,  
A huge smile on her unforgettable,
beautiful face.

We sat in a grove of trees,
among birds singing, in sight of the sea,
Upon a Palm log and ate fresh bread and
fruit. Drank strong black coffee (French Roast
I presume,) nibbling some marvelous cheese.
We tried to talk, but she understood little of
what I tried to say, my French was nearly
nonexistent, only adding to confusions sake .

She leaned her head on my shoulder,
the way lovers do and tenderly held
my hand within her two,
As if not wanting to let go,
Those gestures said all there was to say,
And we savored each silent moment.

We parted there, she on blue, rusty bike
and me on "shanks mare",
Off in two different directions,
Each out into the depths of our own lives,
Gone just like that. . . And yet,
Indelible, never to be forgotten or replaced.
Some days and nights, that young maiden of
Moorea does still visit me, in dreams as real
as can be. She never grows old, nor does the
beauty we shared for that one brief moment in
time immortal.

Someplace among the Islands of Tahiti
there is a woman in her sixties, most likely
a Mother, even a Grandmother yet living.
I hope she recalls as fondly the American blond
man with the big Orange Backpack, that in 1972
she met upon the road, near "One Chicken" and
loved freely and completely for two days and a
night, as that man does so fondly remember her.
utatane ni
koFisiki Fito wo
mitesi yori
yume teFu mono Fa
tanomisometeki


As I dozed
The man I love
Appeared, so
It is dreams that
Have begun to comfort me.
I

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

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

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

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

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

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

                        II

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

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

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

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

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

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

                        III

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

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

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

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

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

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

                        IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

                        V

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

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

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

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

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

To clearing opalescence. Then the sea
And heaven rolled as one and from the two
Came fresh transfigurings of freshest blue.
Kuzhur Wilson Apr 2014
No, it wasn’t happening for the first time

I don’t know whether anyone wrote ‘Tattered sky’ in a poem before. Maybe it was me. I haven’t met a poet in whose life memory and forgetting are so mixed up. Even if I wrote, maybe I had forgotten it..

Still, I am sure I am the first poet to write ‘tattered sky in the lake’ for the first time in the world. Otherwise, ask those crows pecking it to tatters. Or ask the kingfishers who fly in that tattered sky.

It is not the first time it is happening, you know?

I have cried in keka and kakali meters. I have begged in kalakanchi. I have lied in kalyani. I have laughed and guffawed  in anushtup and sardula vikriditham. I have masturbated in slathakakali, and ****** in anna nada, and let it flow innathonnatha. I have dozed in manjari and died in maakandamanjari. I have gone mad in mandakranta, and have lost myself in meters i don’t know the names of.

Two nuns who went to Aluva river sands to pay annual obeisance to the dead to Jesus

One day, while going via Aluva, i saw two nuns. They were two poor women going to Aluva river sands to pay to Jesus the annual obeisance to the dead.  One among them had the looks of my mother, and the other, that of my girl friend at the church compound. Even when i recited aloud VG Thampi’s lines ‘I am Jesus, unfinished’ they didn’t listen to it. They were not in any way related to me. Then, i was a handicapped Jesus.

It is not the first time it is happening, you know?

I have cried in keka and kakali meters. I have begged in kalakanchi. I have lied in kalyani. I have laughed and guffawed  in anushtup and sardula vikriditham. I have masturbated in slathakakali, and ****** in anna nada, and let it flow innathonnatha. I have dozed in manjari and died in maakandamanjari. I have gone mad in mandakranta, and have lost myself in meters i don’t know the names of.

My name was Shemeer then

In the hospital at NAD, my job was to sleep in the place of that fat insomniac doctor. My name then was Shemeer. I can’t prove through my writing how well I performed my job snoring loudly all the way.  I don’t think anyone would have worked like this so totally oblivious of oneself. My sleep was not in the least affected by the rounded ******* of doctor’s jasmine vine of a wife, or by the odour (i wanted to say smell) which was capable of bringing the dead back to life. Moreover, his two candle-like daughters used to play hopscotch on my bed sheet, which was my work place.  But what to say? They dismissed me from my job for opening my eyes a wee bit on a day at dusk. I heard a shriek. That too, a familiar one. They had brought Madhavi Chothi to the hospital when her asthma got worse. True, i did open my eyes. I am Shemeer, the one who was dismissed from his job for the first time in history, for having startled awake from sleep.

It is not the first time it is happening, you know?

I have cried in keka and kakali meters. I have begged in kalakanchi. I have lied in kalyani. I have laughed and guffawed  in anushtup and sardula vikriditham. I have masturbated in slathakakali, and ****** in anna nada, and let it flow innathonnatha. I have dozed in manjari and died in maakandamanjari. I have gone mad in mandakranta, and have lost myself in meters i don’t know the names of.

One could have adjusted at least a day..**

Something that smelt of breast milk. I think my name was Shinto or so at that time. I was an altar boy who had lost his belief in names after having cognac from a bar in Chicago. There was a little bird too. From that day, i developed the habit of calling even a crow a little bird. Whatever it maybe, there was a little bird. And that bird was building a nest. The bird brings the twigs, strands of hay, a bit of a flex sheet broken at the edge of a word. The bird brings a red wire, the bird brings. It was beginning to take life in the address ‘The Little Bird, Nest, Tree PO ‘. A day. A week. An year. Yes, it took a long, long time. Bird, nest, tree.. tree, nest, bird.. The moment i asked ‘Hey little bird, don’t you have kids?’,  it flew away. Here it comes with its little ones to occupy its home. Yes, that very day. On that day, just after those who won the tender contract, had cut that tree down. This was too much. They could have adjusted at least a day..

It is not the first time it is happening..
Translated by C.S Venkiteswaran
Nigel Morgan Nov 2012
There’s a film by John Schlesinger called the Go-Between in which the main character, a boy on the cusp of adolescence staying with a school friend on his family’s Norfolk estate, discovers how passion and *** become intertwined with love and desire. As an elderly man he revisits the location of this discovery and the woman, who we learn changed his emotional world forever. At the start of the film we see him on a day of grey cloud and wild wind walking towards the estate cottage where this woman now lives. He glimpses her face at a window – and the film flashes back fifty years to a summer before the First War.
 
It’s a little like that for me. Only, I’m sitting at a desk early on a spring morning about to step back nearly forty years.*
 
It was a two-hour trip from Boston to Booth Bay. We’d flown from New York on the shuttle and met Larry’s dad at St Vincent’s. We waited in his office as he put away the week with his secretary. He’d been in theatre all afternoon. He kept up a two-sided conversation.
 
‘You boys have a good week? Did you get to hear Barenboim at the Tully? I heard him as 14-year old play in Paris. He played the Tempest -  Mary, let’s fit Mrs K in for Tuesday at 5.0 - I was learning that very Beethoven sonata right then. I couldn’t believe it - that one so young could sound –there’s that myocardial infarction to review early Wednesday. I want Jim and Susan there please -  and look so  . . . old, not just mature, but old. And now – Gloria and I went to his last Carnegie – he just looks so **** young.’
 
Down in the basement garage Larry took his dad’s keys and we roared out on to Storow drive heading for the Massachusetts Turnpike. I slept. Too many early mornings copying my teacher’s latest – a concerto for two pianos – all those notes to be placed under the fingers. There was even a third piano in the orchestra. Larry and his Dad talked incessantly. I woke as Dr Benson said ‘The sea at last’. And there we were, the sea a glazed blue shimmering in the July distance. It might be lobster on the beach tonight, Gloria’s clam chowder, the coldest apple juice I’d ever tasted (never tasted apple juice until I came to Maine), settling down to a pile of art books in my bedroom, listening to the bell buoy rocking too and fro in the bay, the beach just below the house, a house over 150 years old, very old they said, in the family all that time.
 
It was a house full that weekend,  4th of July weekend and there would be fireworks over Booth Bay and lots of what Gloria called necessary visiting. I was in love with Gloria from the moment she shook my hand after that first concert when my little cummings setting got a mention in the NYT. It was called forever is now and God knows where it is – scored for tenor and small ensemble (there was certainly a vibraphone and a double bass – I was in love from afar with a bassist at J.). Oh, this being in love at seventeen. It was so difficult not to be. No English reserve here. People talked to you, were interested in you and what you thought, had heard, had read. You only had to say you’d been looking at a book of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings and you’d be whisked off to some uptown gallery to see his early watercolours. And on the way you’d hear a life story or some intimate details of friend’s affair, or a great slice of family history. Lots of eye contact. Just keep the talk going. But Gloria, well, we would meet in the hallway and she’d grasp my hand and say – ‘You know, Larry says that you work too hard. I want you to do nothing this weekend except get some sun and swim. We can go to Johnson’s for tennis you know. I haven’t forgotten you beat me last time we played!’ I suppose she was mid-thirties, a shirt, shorts and sandals woman, not Larry’s mother but Dr Benson’s third. This was all very new to me.
 
Tim was Larry’s elder brother, an intern at Felix-Med in NYC. He had a new girl with him that weekend. Anne-Marie was tall, bespectacled, and supposed to be ferociously clever. Gloria said ‘She models herself on Susan Sontag’. I remember asking who Sontag was and was told she was a feminist writer into politics. I wondered if Anne-Marie was a feminist into politics. She certainly did not dress like anyone else I’d seen as part of the Benson circle. It was July yet she wore a long-sleeved shift buttoned up to the collar and a long linen skirt down to her ankles. She was pretty but shapeless, a long straight person with long straight hair, a clip on one side she fiddled with endlessly, purposefully sometimes. She ignored me but for an introductory ‘Good evening’, when everyone else said ‘Hi’.
 
The next day it was hot. I was about the house very early. The apple juice in the refrigerator came into its own at 6.0 am. The bay was in mist. It was so still the bell buoy stirred only occasionally. I sat on the step with this icy glass of fragrant apple watching the pearls of condensation form and dissolve. I walked the shore, discovering years later that Rachel Carson had walked these paths, combed these beaches. I remember being shocked then at the concern about the environment surfacing in the late sixties. This was a huge country: so much space. The Maine woods – when I first drove up to Quebec – seemed to go on forever.
 
It was later in the day, after tennis, after trying to lie on the beach, I sought my room and took out my latest score, or what little of it there currently was. It was a piano piece, a still piece, the kind of piece I haven’t written in years, but possibly should. Now it’s all movement and complication. Then, I used to write exactly what I heard, and I’d heard Feldman’s ‘still pieces’ in his Greenwich loft with the white Rauschenbergs on the wall. I had admired his writing desk and thought one day I’ll have a desk like that in an apartment like this with very large empty paintings on the wall. But, I went elsewhere . . .
 
I lay on the bed and listened to the buoy out in the bay. I thought of a book of my childhood, We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome. There’s a drawing of a Beach End Buoy in that book, and as the buoy I was listening to was too far out to see (sea?) I imagined it as the one Ransome drew from Lowestoft harbour. I dozed I suppose, to be woken suddenly by voices in the room next door. It was Tim and Anne-Marie. I had thought the house empty but for me. They were in Tim’s room next door. There was movement, whispering, almost speech, more movement.
 
I was curious suddenly. Anne-Marie was an enigma. Tim was a nice guy. Quiet, dedicated (Larry had said), worked hard, read a lot, came to Larry’s concerts, played the cello when he could, Bach was always on his record player. He and Anne-Marie seemed so close, just a wooden wall away. I stood by this wall to listen.
 
‘Why are we whispering’, said Anne-Marie firmly, ‘For goodness sake no one’s here. Look, you’re a doctor, you know what to do surely.’
 
‘Not yet.’
 
‘But people call you Doctor, I’ve heard them.’
 
‘Oh sure. But I’m not, I’m just a lousy intern.’
 
‘A lousy intern who doesn’t want to make love to me.’
 
Then, there was rustling, some heavy movement and Tim saying ‘Oh Anne, you mustn’t. You don’t need to do this.’
 
‘Yes I do. You’re hard and I’m wet between my legs. I want you all over me and inside me.  I wanted you last night so badly I lay on my bed quite naked and masturbated hoping you come to me. But you didn’t. I looked in on you and you were just fast asleep.’
 
‘You forget I did a 22-hour call on Thursday’.
 
“And the rest. Don’t you want me? Maybe your brother or that nice English boy next door?’
 
‘Is he next door? ‘
 
‘If he is, I don’t care. He looks at me you know. He can’t work me out. I’ve been ignoring him. But maybe I shouldn’t. He’s got beautiful eyes and lovely hands’.
 
There was almost silence for what seemed a long time. I could hear my own breathing and became very aware of my own body. I was shaking and suddenly cold. I could hear more breathing next door. There was a shaft of intense white sunlight burning across my bed. I imagined Anne-Marie sitting cross-legged on the floor next door, her hand cupping her right breast fingers touching the ******, waiting. There was a rustle of movement. And the door next door slammed.
 
Thirty seconds later Tim was striding across the garden and on to the beach and into the sea . . .
 
There was probably a naked young woman sitting on the floor next door I thought. Reading perhaps. I stayed quite still imagining she would get up, open her door and peek into my room. So I moved away from the wall and sat on the bed trying hard to look like a composer working on a score. And she did . . . but she had clothes on, though not her glasses or her hair clip, and she wore a bright smile – lovely teeth I recall.
 
‘Good afternoon’, she said. ‘You heard all that I suppose.’
 
I smiled my nicest English smile and said nothing.
 
‘Tell me about your girlfriend in England.’
 
She sat on the bed, cross-legged. I was suddenly overcome by her scent, something complex and earthy.
 
‘My girlfriend in England is called Anne’.
 
‘Really! Is she pretty? ‘
 
I didn’t answer, but looked at my hands, and her feet, her uncovered calves and knees. I could see the shape of her slight ******* beneath her shirt, now partly unbuttoned. I felt very uncomfortable.
 
‘Tell me. Have you been with this Anne in England?’
 
‘No.’ I said, ‘I ‘d like to, but she’s very shy.’
 
‘OK. I’m an Anne who’s not shy.’
 
‘I’ve yet to meet a shy American.’
 
‘They exist. I could find you a nice shy girl you could get to know.’
 
‘I’d quite like to know you, but you’re a good bit older than me.’
 
‘Oh that doesn’t matter. You’re quite a mature guy I think. I’d go out with you.’
 
‘Oh I doubt that.’
 
‘Would you go out with me?’
 
‘You’re interesting.  Gloria says you’re a bit like Susan Sontag. Yes, I would.’
 
‘Wow! did she really? Ok then, that’s a deal. You better read some Simone de Beauvoir pretty quick,’  and she bounced off the bed.
 
After supper  - lobster on the beach - Gloria cornered me and said. ‘I gather you heard all this afternoon.’
 
I remembered mumbling a ‘yes’.
 
‘It’s OK,’ she said, ‘Anne-Marie told me all. Girls do this you know – talk about what goes on in other people’s bedrooms. What could you do? I would have done the same. Tim’s not ready for an Anne-Marie just yet, and I’m not sure you are either. Not my business of course, but gentle advice from one who’s been there. ‘
 
‘Been where?’
 
‘Been with someone older and supposedly wiser. And remembering that wondering-what-to-do-about-those-feelings-around-*** and all that. There’s a right time and you’ll know it when it comes. ‘
 
She kissed me very lightly on my right ear, then got up and walked across the beach back to the house.
Sean Flaherty Jul 2015
[page 1] I'm a narcissist. I'm self-aggrandizing. I'm self-centered. I'm selfish. I'm ungrateful. I'm ugly. I'm emaciated. I'm neither here nor there. I'm almost androgynous. I'm awake at odd times. I'm asleep too often. I'm always on something. I'm always off-the-wagon. I'm incomprehensible. I'm rarely belligerent. I'm out of control. I'm out of cigarettes. I'm awful with money. I'm awful with your money. I'm spending all your money. I'm smoking all your ****. I'm not coming out today. I'm trying for tomorrow. I'm not really trying. I'm really sorry. I'm always sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I'm sorry. I'm not letting that get out-of-hand too. I'm lying to myself. I'm trying to catch myself, dozed-off. I'm trying to convince myself I'm better. I'm convincing a lot of people I'm better. I'm better. I'm lying to 

[page 2] myself. I'm trying to catch myself, dozed-off. I'm trying to catch myself, before I fall into another loop of mundane infinities. I'm often repeating myself. I'm okay with repeating myself. I'm pretty sure you've heard me say this before. I'm saying it again, anyway. I'm so glad you'd listen. I'm so glad you still call on Sundays, and some Thursdays. I'm working this Thursday. I'm sorry. I'm dreaming of breaking hearts. I'm the one breaking my heart. I'm heavy-hearted, but barely broken. I'm buried in a journal of mine, from 2009. I'm disgusted by its contents. I'm not that person anymore. I'm not capable of describing the totality of my purpose with sentences, so blank-yet-still-slovenly as: "I have no other motivation for anything. I just love, want, and respect you." I'm not okay with having meant

[page 3] those words sincerely, and without even the tip of a tongue grazing the closest part to the teeth, of the inner cheek. I'm disappointed in my past selves. I'm motivated by my mission to make memories of them. I'm not letting them take that away from me.  I'm not angry. I'm better. I'm trying to catch myself, dozed-off, in the big-leather-recliner. I'm just wondering what time you all left last night. I'm not sure of when I passed out exactly. I'm not as embarrassed as I should be. I'm making it part of my routine. I'm not sure Dad would like that, though. I'm, either way, etching my own aphorisms into the infrastructure of the eternity. I'm attempting prose. I'm, admittedly, copping-out. I'm lying to myself. I'm trying to catch Myself, not paying attention to Itself. I'm failing, up to this point. I'm

[page 4] aware of my "exacerbating the issues." I'm aware this means I "don't want to get better." I'm a lot more aware of what I want, than you've been. I'm unable to catch myself, dozed-off, tranquil-for-once. I'm decided upon a signal of my impending arrival. I'm banging pots and pans, on the stoop, outside. I'm only a few minutes late. I'm not sure it'll make "a huge difference." (I'm sure it won't make any difference.) I'm finished, arguing about it. I'm proud. I'm light-footed, but proud. I'm lucky, beyond only the extent of my imagination's furthest limit. I'm in-flight, towards that boundary, searching for clues. I'm too close to the sun, considering my wax wings. I'm falling. I'm trying to catch

[page 5] myself, nose-dove. I'm amazed by the enormity of the earth below me. I'm running out of air underneath me. I'm evolving my opinions on God. I'm looking up at another-Icarus-ending. I'm staring down, at Salvation Incarnate. I'm calculating the time it'd take. I'm not-trustworthy. I'm awake. I'm not strong enough. I'm wide-awake. I'm not gonna survive this. I'm sick of being awoken by That Unmistakable Whistle. I'm out-of-breath. I'm all-out-of-breath. I'm lost in my lungs, and the Earth only grows. I'm telling lies to myself. I'm sure, I'll catch myself. I'm the only help I'm gonna get. I'm content now, in freefall. I'm watching the wax melt, onto my face. I'm wiping the wax off my face, while I laugh.

[page 6] I'm holding my own forearms, in a tight circle, tangential to my shoulders, too small to cradle a falling seagull, and motioning, as if I mean to help myself catch myself.
Started just writing all the negative things I could think about myself. It became six pages of a poetic... something.
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.
Lazhar Bouazzi Jun 2018
A mock pack of sea dogs
Lay on the hot, white shore;
Their wrinkles said
They'd been too long
In the sea.
Next to them dozed a tyrian crab
Whose sleep in a foot-trace deep
Commenced to crumble
In the green rumble
Of a lecherous tide.

Then a dark, awkward sound  
(Not too far from the drowsing crab)
Was heard.
He came forth from the mountain
To sun himself on the shore
And send the frightened rocks  
Back to the deep.

(c) LazharBouazzi, 11 June, 2018
Äŧül Apr 2013
It was nightfall,
I felt very sleepy,
And I dozed-off
To the stud in my
Dreams-Dreams.

Oh how strong he was!
All muscle unlike my body,
Stiffer, stronger & ***** he was!

She gave a bath,
And a massage too,
To the stud in my
Dreams-Dreams.

She caresses it sweetly,
And she kisses it too,
Yes, the stud in my
Dreams-Dreams.

She kissed my stud,
A bit too much and,
The stud spewed its stomach
Out on her face,
In my most wild
Dreams-Dreams.

The girl's eyes were,
Teeming with tears,
To the stud in my
Dreams-Dreams.

As she was happy,
Tears were of joy,
To the stud in my
Dreams-Dreams.
111 Words Of
My HP Poem #150
© Atul Kaushal
Time for an adventure,
3 a.m. and raining
Sitting in my FUBU hoodie
My brain was really straining
To keep awake until the bus
Pulled into Detroit Station
So I could start my trip across
This once great and mighty nation
I wasn't there alone this night
Others dozed and slept
Some just sat there silently
While some just sat and wept
I looked at those around me
Who had assembled for this ride
I hoped we would get along
When in walked a young bride
She was dressed in white from head to feet
Her veil was ripped and torn
Behind the ruined makeup
You could see her face was worn
No groom came in, she was alone
She changed, sat, made no fuss
It was almost one more hour
Before we finally saw our bus
A Greyhound, drab and dreary
Pulled up at our loading door
They announced "210 to Vegas"
And they didn't say no more
Most people fly when heading there
They want to get there and get home
Our band of silent travellers
Wanted to just get out and roam
They loaded up our cases
I just had a backpack, that
I was gonna take on board and
Just load it where I sat
They said fifteen more minutes
They would have to fill with fuel
At this point I made contact
With a man....to have a duel
He was sitting right across from me
He had a ball out, on his knees
He was tossing it into the air
So...I brought out my keys
He tossed it up and caught it
So, with my keys I did the same
He smiled and flipped it to his left
and with my keys I played his game
He moved it round from hand to hand
Made it hover in mid air
He did it all so gracefully
I did the same with out a care
His ball, my keys...time slipping by
Just then he gave a smile
He bounced the ball upon the floor
He had beat my by a mile
I nodded, slipped my keys away
I'd been outdone through and through
By a man with a red rubber ball
What else was there to do?
We lodaded up and took our seats
The crowd was pretty thin
With the lights low on inside the bus
It was looking rather dim
The married folks and partners
paired up in seats as pairs
The singles spread out randomly
As they collected up our fares
Vegas, was our hallowed ground
The final destination for us all
Then on the station P.A
they made the final loading call
Thirty three hours was the time
We'd take to drive
Give or take some time for food stops
We'd all get there safe, alive
We hit the road directly
My adventure had begun
It was still dark in the distance
We were driving towards the sun
Across the aisle all alone
An old lady sat and wrote
She was trying to get comfortable
She was wrapped up in her coat
The seat behind me, vacant
I was grateful for this fact
It afforded me the space so I
Could put my seat right back
With the blind pulled down,
I tried to sleep, at last I drifted off
There was the sound of the bus motor
And of the occasional, dry, hoarse cough
I heard music in my head at first
So I thought it was a dream
It turned out to be a radio
Owned by our runaway, bridal queen
she sat two rows down and to my left
She had changed into some jeans, and shirt
She had one ear plug in, one out
You could see how she did hurt
I got up, stretched, went to the back
I'd freshen up and have a ***
As I walked I felt so ill at ease
As all eyes followed me
The back two seats were occupied
by  two nuns, one old, one not
The smiled as I came near them
I smiled back, and then I thought
This cast of wayward characters
Was not at all like those
That were portrayed in "Homeward Bound"
The song most folkies all shoud know
On my way back I noticed a man
Reading, or at least that's how it looked
I saw no print upon his page
No letters in his book
I stood and watched, his fingers flew
Like they were moving on a rail
Then I realized that he was blind
And his book was all in braile
I stood there in amazement
At this sight that I'd just seen
Then I chuckled at the cover
From an old ******* Magazine
We pulled into a diner
We'd been out for nine hours now
We had an hour to ourselves
Time to change and get some chow
Most folks sat as they had come
In pairs or all alone
Some went out for a ciggy
One old man went to the phone
We all made sure to void ourselves
Before we got  on board
For the smell from eighteen greasy meals
would test the nuns faith in our lord
The background noise was louder
Than it had been at the start
We were eighteen lonely travellers
Travelling together, but apart
A father and his daughter
Played "eye spy" and sang some songs
They played "license plate bingo"
Most lyrics they got wrong
The old lady across the aisle
was watching, intently like a hawk
She was scratching things inside her book
You'd expect her just to squak
The man who had the ball sat
Alone, said not a word
I walked by and said "good morning"
But I don't think he heard
He sat there, still not moving
staring out the window at the world
He was taking in the movie
Of our trip as it unfurled
The trip was uneventful
It went on mostly the same
People reading, people watching
Father, daughter and their games
The driver pointed out some stuff
As we passed by on the way
"To the left you'll find the largest
ball of string made to this day"
He pointed out old houses,
Fields of battle, lost and won
Just a couple took real notice
Most wished the trip was done
A repeat after five more hours
A new driver came on board
She was blond, blue eyed and beautiful
Inside, my heart just soared
In my imagination
She would pick me from the crowd
When we made it to Las Vegas
I would go with her, I'd be proud
But, she sat there pointing out the sights
Like her predecessor had
My fantasy went up in smoke
It was really kind of sad
We ventured on till Vegas
getting off to eat and then
We would all repeat our actions
And get back and sleep again
It was quiet for the most part
Most folks waiting for the end
When we came out of the mountains
We could see the strip around the bend
"Ten minutes till Las Vegas"
our blond driver told us all
Make sure you've your belongings
I looked at the man who had the ball
He smiled tossed it in the air
I tossed my keys just one more time
In a way, we had a friendship
In a way , it was a crime
We had one thing in common
It would stick with me for good
It would always make me smile
And a smile's always good
We pulled up into the station
We were all tired from the ride
Most grabbed their extra luggage
I grabbed mine and went inside
There, I went up to the window
Bought another ticket, heading east
Turned and bumped into a fellow
He was a slight, buy friendly priest
"I'm heading to Detroit, my son"
"Where is it you're off to"
"I'm just off on an adventure"
"I think I'll go back there with you"
He smiled, opened his bible
We had three hours still to wait
Before our bus was ready to go back
Across the United States
You might ask yourself, why do this?
Why go back and not take time
To see the city that I'd come to
It just seems so sublime
to me the whole adventure
Isn't in the place I go
The adventure is the people
Each trips a brand new show
The cities that I visit
Really never, ever change
But the people....oh the people
Man, some are really strange
If you now would please excuse me
I must go and change my clothes
For I'm off on adventure
How it turns out...no one knows.
this one is a long one, so sit down, grab a beer....and come away on a bus trip from Detroit to Las Vegas.
Amy Perry Apr 2016
The cemetery was my circus I found
After outgrowing fantasy and the playground.
Golden afternoons in the country after school,
My blood having no resemblance, no ancestors,
To all the Sutton's and Smotherman's and Suddeth's
Who here resided with Tennessee pride. Inside and outside.
The still silence of my childhood cemetery carried an eerie air. I wanted to be here.
The peaceful calm, it called me back,
The king cawing crow, attending in black.
As for any of the lost, perhaps content, Confederate souls,
Who have yet to cross over, lamenting or dozed.
I suspect now, that it was I who startled those ghosts.
My blood, my frequency, my scent of the coast,
Sent from a Union ancestry my vibration still boasts...
How unexpected was I to those Tennessee ghosts.
abp
the Sandman Jan 2015
I want to grow a pair of wings
-Sharp, beautiful, majestic ones-
To hold you in and press you tight
inside them, Like the tender silken
roses you sent, That dozed deep in
the pages Of our favourite book,
So I can keep you
For ever.
~
loveless Jul 2016
Knock knock

"Anyone there?" he heard someone saying it while knocking at the door. That one knocking the door had a voice of a child. The voice was soft and with this the old man inside the house guessed the age of child to be probably five to six years.

"Hellooo" the kid said again. He was continuously knocking the door.

Child continued to knock for a little while.

"I know you are inside there, please respond"
Child said pleadingly.

"Go away, no one is here" the old man said furiously. He was frustrated.

"Oh! Here you are" child responded "Dr Adam, I need help, I am..." the child couldn't complete the sentence, and the old man's heard a thud which was supposedly bigger than a knock. Possibly his head had banged against the door. Something had happened, the old man knew.

The old man was a loner but he wasn't heartless to not check on the kid. He bookmarked the page and kept the book he was reading on the table. He stood up and started to walk towards the door. He put down the chain and then opened the door slowly.

The child was holding on the door. As the old man opened the door the child could barely keep standing for some moments and he started to fall near the man's legs. Old man was quick and he put his hand below the child so he couldn't fall on the floor.

The old man grasped the hand of the boy to check his pulse. The boy was still alive though there was something weird about his pulse. It was weak, he could barely sense it and the pulse was low to around forty per minute. He was still breathing. The child was unconscious.

The old man grasped that kid in his arms and took him to his bedroom, situated upstairs on right corner of the house. He placed that kid on the bed which was still as fluffy as a new bed would be. It's been years since that old man was back to his bedroom. He used to sleep mostly in his chair while reading. He placed pillow under the kid's head and went back downstairs to other room.

That room didn't looked like a room, it looked more like a library. The room was large and there were books everywhere. His hand written notes and research was all scattered in the room. And the old man grasped they book he left on the table and continued reading.

Some hours passed and the old man heard the door opening upstairs. The child had woken up, he knew. The old man grabbed some fruits lying in the basket and went upstairs. The kid was just out of the room.

"Hey kid, you can still rest a little, and if you don't want to rest, you can have these fruits and go"

"Dr. Adam!?"

"Yes"

"I'm dying."

The old man was speechless as he heard these words from that little child. Many patients had come to him before, knocking on his door, to help them but he had left his profession because of one accident. All of them had to go back. He didn't even opened his door to anyone before. But now he had a child in front of him, who said he was dying and this left the old man speechless.

"Go to the hospital kid, I can't help you. I do not operate anymore"

"I went to the hospital. The disease I have have no cure. Not a single of them can cure me"

"Then how do you think I'd be able to cure you?"

"My disease makes my heart weaker by the moment it beats"

The old man knew this disease. All he could do was just stare at that kid and listen to him.

"They told me that long ago, a genius researched upon something and came across a cure to everything. And in that time, a kid had the same disease as me. He could die anytime. That genius used his talents to give that kid a new life. He cured that child and that child lived for a day but something happened and the disease of kid returned. This time, a million time worse and the kid died."

A silence followed after the kid.

"That genius was you Dr Adam . You had saved that kid before, even for just some days, but only you were the one to be able to find its cure. Save me doctor. Save me."

"I... I can't..." for the first time in years, the old man was not rude. His voice was trembling. In his eyes was fear. His north had dried up. He couldn't speak another word.

He was taken aback. He was looking in the eyes of that kid and in those little eyes of that kid was hope. Blue eyes of that kid were same as that of Nicholas, that kid the old man failed to save life of.

And the old man went to a state of trance and started to wonder in the memories thirty years back.

He was young back then. He was a genius. He learned to speak when he was just six months old. At three he used to solve maths problems easily that were hard for child double his age. His parents knew he was talented and so they gave him best education they could. He completed his doctorate degree at the age of seventeen when most of the people his age would be looking for what to do. He was a prodigy.

He joined a hospital. And started to operate on people. The operations that looked hard to normal one, he was able to do without a sweat. He wanted to do more. And so he got a home for himself where he could work in peace. He started on researching the cure of everything. He would think, search and experimented alone.

One morning, two years later, he found that any disease can be cured using magic. The magic that provides energy and makes life energy so strong that the body itself heals itself.

He was happy that day. He went to hospital to break out the news to everyone. But on his way, he found a small kid, of five years, laying on the bed.

"Hey kid" he said to the child.

"Hello doctor..."

"My name is Adam. What's your name"

"I'm Nicholas, doctor Adam"

"What happened to you Nicholas"

"I don't know."

"Don't worry, you'll be alright. I promise you"

"Thank you Dr Adam" the child smiled. That smile was so full of feelings that it made Adam more happy from inside. That smile had touched his heart. He just wanted to make that kid more happy by curing him of whatever he had. He made a promise to himself that he would cure that kid before telling upon his research to everyone.

He ran across the hospital and went to the other room where the doctors handling the patients of that room were.

"Hey Robert"

"Hello sir" though Robert was ten years older than Adam but still he used to call Adam sir because Adam was a lot more senior than him because of his knowledge.

"Whats up with Nicholas"

"That small boy"

"Yes"

"Actually, we don't know anything yet"

"What?"

"We've never seen such disease yet"

"What is with that disease"

"His heart is losing strength by the moment it beats. A severe pain was in his heart for unknown reasons pops up whenever. And he sometimes loses his consciousness at random times. That's one of a kind case. He can die at any time."

The young prodigy was speechless for the first time. His thoughts took him to another world. He was broken because he thought he couldn't help that kid. And then he heard a scream coming from the same place Nicholas was in.

He ran back to there. Nicholas was holding his heart with one hand and screaming. The pain was immense. Beyond measure of one's imagination. The eyes were flooded with tears. This view shocked Adam. He had never heard anyone shriek that loud in his whole life.

He went near Nicholas and held him up in his arms. He hugged him close and said that everything will be alright. The child's voice somehow lowered. After some moments, that. stopped crying and just stayed in his arms.

"Save me Dr Adam! Save me" the kid said sobbingly and then collapsed under his hands and got unconscious.

For the first time in his life the doctor felt helpless. He realized how precious life was. And he could not help that kid. The young man started crying. And suddenly a bright idea struck his mind. He thought of using the magic he researched for to cure this child.

"I will save you kiddo, I definitely will" he said to that small kid and then turned to Robert who had followed him

"Robert, can you take him to the operating table please"

"Yes but first tell me what are you going to do"

"I will tell you later. Just trust me and take him to there" Adam gave that kid to Robert and started to go out "I need to go back home for a bit. I'll be back quick" he said to Robert hurriedly and ran back to home. He needed to see the procedure again. He didn't wanted to do any mistake. Though he had not done any experiment to any animal, he was still confident in his research.

He came back to home, took out some notes of his from his book and started to read them. Then after some minutes, he ran back to hospital along with those notes. He just went to the room where the kid was. Robert was there near the table and the child still knocked unconscious and laying on the operating table.

"Thank you Robert. Can you please leave us alone now"

"But what are you going to do now?"

"Cure him"

"But how?"

"I can't tell you now but I will surely cure him"

Robert was still reluctant but he knew that Adam may have come up with some way of curing that child

"Trust me, I will surely" Adam said

And with that Robert finally left from there.

The doctor begin the procedure and he placed his palm on the child's heart tenderly. Then he closed his eyes and then had his other hand up. The other hand was open like he was gathering something from sky inside his hand. He was channeling the energy of the universe too the life energy of the kid.

The man could feel it running through his body. It was like the kid's energy was faint green in color and the energy in his hand was vibrant blue which was intense. The blue energy went from his hand to the other hand was going to the child's energy and making it stronger. But Adam didn't knew why there were two colors of energy. There was something wrong, he felt but nevertheless he continued to channel. Gradually the energy inside kid began to grow and it was full again. Like the color of child's energy was not blue but with little faint green inside.

Adam withdrew his hand. Nicholas was still breathing and seemed to be in good shape. Adam knew he was successful but he knew something,even if it were a little thing, had been wrong. And he sank back in the chair nearby.

After some moments the kid opened his eyes and sat on the table

"How are you feeling kiddo?" he asked standing from chair

"I... I feel... I feel fine doctor" Nicholas said. He was touching his heart like he was wondering what happened. He felt better than before. He felt that he is all alright.

"I feel good doctor" Nicholas said "I feel great" he added. He had a smile on his face. He felt rejuvenated. He was happy. Adam had a sigh of relief.

"How did you do it doctor?"

"Do what?"

"Cure me. How did you cure me? They said that my disease couldn't be cured by any medicine or surgery"

"Well...." Adam didn't knew what to say

"Tell me please. How did you?"

"Magic" and Adam smiled. He had told the truth though Nicholas didn't thought it was truth. This made nicholas laugh.

"Thank you... My magician" and they both started to laugh again. They both were happy.

"Come on now. Let me take you to your bed" and he grasped Nicholas in his arms and took him to his bed.

"I want to go home, not this bed"

"We still need to keep you under observation for a while still kiddo. So be a good boy"

"Ok magician, I will be a good boy"

Robert was there. Looking for other patients. He looked at the boy and observed him. He saw no marks, and realized surgery or something had not been done. And he later real used that pulse of the kid was normal now. And the child was smiling.

"How did you did that sir?" he asked Adam

"Ask the kid, he knows" and Robert looked at the kid

"He did magic doctor" and they both started to laugh while Robert looked puzzled. But Robert knew that the prodigy must have made some discovery and that's how he cured him and Adam want to give surprise to others.

"Congrats magician" Robert joined them.

"Robert can you help me in observing this child. I want to make sure he is all alright"

"I will sir" Robert said

They both did some tests that day along with looking after other patients. The strength of the heart of that boy had returned and heart beat was normal with no pain burst or unconsciousness for whole day.

Adam said final good night to the kid and went to his home to get some rest after informing Nicholas they he will be discharged tomorrow.

Adam dozed off to sleep quick that night. But he had a nightmare. He saw those two energies blue and faint green that were slowly disappearing. Darkness was consuming them both as they mixed. And then there was complete darkness. He heard a terrible scream of pain an then he woke up.

He couldn't wait there. He had to go back to hospital to check on Nicholas again. He dressed quick and ran to hospital. The was doctor Jack at night duty near the bed of that kid.

And that kid was laying silent. Adam held his hand. But he felt nothing. He then tried to feel heart beats but nothing again.

"What happened here?" Adam asked furiously to Jack

"Some minutes ago, we hard a loud scream for just a second or two and we realized it was Nicholas. By the time we reached here, it was all over. His heart had stopped beating"

"No that can't be" Adam said. How heart had broke.

"That disease had no cure Adam. At least you tried" Jack said

"No I should have been able to save him, I could have if I knew more, I could have" the tears of Adam flowed like an endless river of grief.

He left his profession that day. He wanted to search for the answers. He wanted to perfect his magic. He wanted not to let someone else die like that kid again. He made his home a library. He got many books. He kept on studying. He studied so much that many times he forgot to eat for days. Some books he wrote himself while researching upon. And so years passed. Life went on till today when a little child knocked his door.

His state of trance was broken by the scream of that little kid. He was holding his heart as the same way Nicholas did when he was in pain. Adam got himself and got that little boy on bed again. Kid stopped to cry after a little while. When kid had a breath of relief, he said to the old man again

"Dr Adam, I do not have much time left. Please. Help me"

"I have not finished that research yet. I may need more years to finish that cure of everything"

"I do not have years, I may not even have today and you know it"

"Kid, you may meet same fate as that kid. My procedure somehow accelerated that disease because it was wrong"

"I have to die one day if it's a week or I am left with a day after the procedure. It won't matter. I have to die anyway"

"But..." he couldn't say anything more. The child was wise and he was saying up to point.

"Can you please just try. I promise I won't regret it"

Even though thirty years had passed. Adam had made little progression towards that cure to everything. In the meantime he had found out many cures of many other diseases that was thought to be incurable but Adam wanted to perfect his procedure of cure of everything.

"Are you sure?"

"Dead sure" the kid replied. They both laughed a little on that pun.

"Get some rest. I'll be back in a bit"

He was going to do that again. He was going to use magic again. He went downstairs and started to read as much as he can of his notes. He wanted to do it perfect this time. Though he didn't knew how. After some time he went back upstairs.

"Hello again" the child said

"Are you ready kiddo?"

"I am. And by the way, my name is Nick"

"You're still kiddo for me" and they both laughed.

"Lay on the bed and don't move or say anything. Just close your eyes. I'm going to do magic"

"Ok magician" boy said. He was so much alike to Nicholas, Adam thought.

Nick did what he was told. The old man placed one hand on the boy's heart and other hand in exact same position as before years ago. He could feel the energies as he closed his eyes. The energy of the boy was faint green again. And a little more fainter than Nicholas when he was on the operating table that night. Adam felt the same blue energy in his other hand. No he thought. He couldn't put that blue energy again inside that boy. He knew the consequence. He searched for the same green one in outside universe but he couldn't. And then he heard.

"Dr Adam"

It was
I'm too lazy to add all the details in the story. Maybe one day I'll detail it.
Danny Valdez Dec 2011
I’d get a call over the walkie-talkie, write down what parts were needed, find them in the parts’ warehouse tent, load ’em up, and deliver them to the job site. It was pretty easygoing. In between orders I’d just sit in the air-conditioned truck, listening to Howard Stern and napping here and there. When I could. After a month, they hired another guy to be my partner. He was a computer programming geek, married with kids, and he had these stupid cartoon tattoos all over his arms. Japanese anime **** and Hanna-Barbara characters. The guy really got on my nerves, one of those know-it-all nerds.
Our boss was the biggest Native I’d ever seen. Looked like a Navajo Andre the Giant, only he had a big, black, handlebar mustache. Which as surprising, because, I was under the impression Navajo’s couldn’t grow ****** hair. He stood at nearly 6’6” with long skinny legs, a barrel chest covered in silver and turquoise jewelry. When he got angry, his eyes went wild, like fire raging out of control. Like the time I got the flatbed truck stuck on an embankment and the back axle snapped off. “******* JUNIOR!” he shouted. My old man was one of the foremen there, so everyone just called me Junior. Oh yes, my boss, Darren, was a scary guy to say the least. So me and my delivery partner were making a run to the jobsite one day, the radio blaring “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, just getting into the fast final part of the song. The good part. Right in the middle of the guitar solo, my partner changed the station to Nickleback, of all things. I quickly switched it back to the Skynyrd.
“What’s wrong with you? Don’t change it in the middle of “Free Bird,” I said.
My partner rolled his eyes and switched it back to Nicklecrap.
“Come on, get with the times, man. This is the new ****.”
“Yeah, **** is right.”
I switched it back AGAIN, but the song was ending.
“You made me miss the song, ya’ ******’ *****.’
“Why don’t ya’ just cry about it then?”
“*******.”
We delivered the parts and parked the truck back inside the parts’ warehouse tent. With no calls coming in over the radio, we cranked the a/c and dozed off to Howard Stern talking about an “**** ring toss” game they were going to play. I woke up an hour later to Darren’s angry voice coming in over the radio. “Where the **** are you guys? *******, we got parts that gotta go out. I’m headed to the tent …”
I looked over to my partner, snoring away in the driver’s seat. For a second, I contemplated waking him up. Then I remembered the Lynard Skynyrd/Nickleback incident, and I left him sleeping in the truck. I walked out of the tent, to the Port-John to take a squirt. When I returned to the tent, Darren was staring at my partner, who was still asleep in the truck. Darren’s eyes were big and crazy; he was furious. He turned to me.
“What the ****, Junior?”
“I’ve been trying to get him up, but he just won’t budge. I’m having to do all this work myself!”
“******* …” Darren said, with a heavy sigh, before pounding on the driver’s side window.
“Andy! Wake the **** up, *******! Junior’s carrying all the weight here!”
Andy did wake up. He glared at me, and I smiled back with a ****-eating grin.
You don’t ever interrupt The Free Bird. I don't care what your name is.
effie ebbtide Dec 2015
On my way from DC to Manhattan, the sky an odd indigo.
Got some donuts from the local bakery, which I'm munching on.
Some girl sits next to me.
After a couple hours she dozed off, and I whisper to her:
"You might be stardust, but you're no nebula."
She can't see the window through my silhouette.
I hate that inky nothing, I hate that
shadow, I hate
that silhouette.
Saudade.
Hewasminemoon Jul 2014
It was almost February and winter still hadn’t hit. I was beginning to
think that it wouldn’t arrive, and that spring was here. One evening as I was walking down the streets of the city I looked up to see a single snowflake falling down to meet my face. It was tiny and looked lonely, but a few moments later, it was followed by several more snowflakes. Sooner than later, the ground was covered in a white sheet of snow. and I was stuffing my hands in my coat pockets and pulling my hood on to brace myself against the bone-chilling wind. I made my way into a small coffee shop that was still open and was greeted by a short stocky man in his mid thirties with a dark, curly mustache and sleeves of faded tattoos.
“Hello” he said, his voice sounding deep and smooth. I pulled out my headphones that were burning in my ears, pressed pause on my phone and shoved them carelessly in my messenger bag.
“Hello”, I replied back with a slight smile, pulling my hands out of my
pockets and making my way to the counter.
The shop was small, but it had a staircase leading upstairs with more room for seating. The man who stood behind the counter continued to unpack small plastic covered packages, putting them away in cupboards and freezers. I pulled out my wallet from my bag and plopped it on the counter, feebly attempting to pull out my card with my hands shaking violently from the cold.
“What a night”, the man said, his eyes still focused on his duties.
“Hmm.” I said, nodding. “Can I get a 12oz mocha, please?” The man looked up from his package, and giggled coyly.
“Sure you can, sweetheart." He put the package that he was holding down below him, and began making the drink I had just ordered. My credit card held tightly in my hand, still shaking. There was awkward silence between us and I got the feeling the man understood I didn’t feel like talking. He finished my order, filling a small, white ceramic mug, and pushed it across the counter towards me.
“Anything else?”
I shook my head, implying no and handed him the cold card. He swiped it and handed it back to me, along with a receipt and a pen to sign. I signed the receipt, grabbed my coffee and headed up the stairs to my right. Upstairs, there was a large room with a dining room looking table and several chairs, and to the left, and a small hole in the wall with several cushions. I smiled at the welcoming spot, and took a seat. Pulling a small table up next to me, I set my coffee down, and rested my bag on the floor below me. The upstairs was completely empty. In fact; the entire shop was empty besides the man working downstairs. I took a deep breath in and let my head rest on some of the cushions behind me. Closing my eyes, I let out my breath and felt the warmth and the vast history of the shop run envelop me. I grabbed at the cup beside me and sipped at my coffee. It was still too hot to drink comfortably, so I set it down. Out of my bag, I pulled out my phone with the headphones still attached and scrunched into a tight tangled ball.
Untangling them, I placed each bud in my ear, and pressed play, continuing the song I had stopped when I had entered the coffee shop. I felt my eyelids grow heavy and I sunk deeper and deeper into the pillows around me, the smell of old books seeping into my skin. Finally, I closed my eyes, and after a few moments, was sound asleep.
When I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was a man’s face, unfamiliar but comforting.
“Excuse me…” he said, with a wide grin.
I jumped with embarrassment; ripping my headphones out of my ears, although they were no longer playing anything. How long had I been asleep? And who was this young man? An employee of the shop? A customer?
“Sorry!” I yelped.
The man chuckled as I swung my feet around to the floor and pulled out my phone to check the time. Realizing it was dead, I scanned the room for a clock and with no success I asked the stranger “What time is it?”
He rolled up his sleep, and checked what to be a rather expensive watch. The man was dressed nicely, but nothing too formal. A clean pair of black jeans, a plaid shirt and a sweater over it. His hair, a dark brown looked thick and slightly curled. He ran his fingers through it as he responded. “It’s quarter past.”
“Past what?”
He blinked at me. “Eight…” he paused at my confused look. “A.M”
I gasped at the time. It was just past nine at night when I had dozed off.
Why did the short stalky man not wake me? Did he forget I was upstairs?
Maybe he assumed I had left, and just missed me doing so.
“I…I…” I stumbled upon my words. I wasn’t quite sure what to say, still
unsure who this man was.
“My boss told me you’d be up here.” He lifted my cup of cold coffee and
handed it to me. “I can get you a warm cup if you’d like. We don’t open for another half hour.”
I nodded, and with the cup in hand, the man turned and headed down the stairs. I gathered my things, smoothed out my shirt, tossed my hair to one side and followed the man down the stairs.
“My names Elliot” he shouted from behind the counter and the noises of the coffee machine.
“Ellie.” I shouted back.
A door swung open and in Elliot’s hand was a new cup of coffee.
“That’s a coincidence.”
I smiled nervously and took the cup from the man.
“Sit.” he said, nodded to a table.
I followed his instructions and set my cup down and pulled out a chair.
He stared at me for a moment as I stared at my coffee. After a long moment of silence, I started.
“I am so sorr-”
He stopped me and reached out, resting his hand on top of mine.
“It’s alright Ellie…really.”
I had a few questions but didn’t know where to start. So I let the silence
continue.
“My boss figured you needed a place to stay.”
I wasn’t homeless. Did I look homeless?
“Do you...have somewhere to go…?”
I nodded. “I’m not homeless…” I proclaimed. I couldn’t help but stare at
his hands. There was something different about them from the rest of the
man.
“I figured. You’re too well dressed to be homeless.” He smiled, and his
hands moved up and through his hair again.
“So, if you’re not homeless then what’s your story?”
My story? I didn’t have a story. I was a young single girl. Lonely. Living
on her own in the city. On her way home when a snow storm hit. I just stopped into the coffee shop to get warm, not to spend the night like some refugee.
“My story?”
“Yeah, your story.” he continued to grin at me.
I paused to think of an answer.
“I was just on my way home. Stopped in for a cup of coffee. Guess I didn’t
drink enough of it.”
He laughed at the comment, showing a set of pearly white teeth.
“Maybe it wasn’t a very good cup of coffee.” He glanced at the cup in front of me. I lifted it and took a sip.
“This cup’s better.” We both laughed softly, then found each other staring
for long while at one another.
“I’ll make sure not to tell my boss you said that.”
I took another sip. “I should probably go…” I said, standing up.
“Go where?”
“Home.”
He shook his head chuckling slightly. “Hang out. I’ll open late.”
“I don’t want to be more of an inconvenience than I already have been.”
Elliot reached out and took my hand in his, squeezing it softly.
“Ellie.”
My eyes grew wide, and I felt my heart beat quickly within my chest.
“Let’s not play games with one another. Stay.”
I pulled my hand away, and bit my lip.
“I can’t. I’m sorry Elliot.” I grabbed my bag from under the table, and thew
it across my shoulder. “Thank you…” I said, thinking of his hands but
staring at the blue in his eyes. I turned around, and pushed the door open.


---------------------------------------------------------­--------------------------------

It was Valentine’s Day (or as I like to call it “Singles Awareness Day” ) and my friend had dragged me out to this terrible bar in the suburbs  titled “Distraction” My friend, who was newly single and “ready to mingle” laughed when she saw the big blue sign with the name.
“That’s an ironic name” she said, snickering.
I nodded my head and groaned as we headed inside. She was right. What was this bar distracting me from? If anything, it was drawing more attention to the things I was supposed to be distracted from by just existing with such a name. My friend walked up to the bar, leaned against a stool and ordered something sweet. She asked me if I wanted anything, but I shook my head no. After a few minutes of small talking with her, and watching her sip at her watered down drink, I noticed a young man walking towards us. The bar was dimly lit, and I couldn’t quite make him out but I sighed and turned towards the bartender.
“*** and coke” I hollered out to the man. “Pour heavy!”
I stayed facing the shelves of drinks, the different bottles organized by color and type. Whiskey, Tequila, *****. Suddenly, I felt someone tap me on the shoulder and with a deep inhale, I turned; expecting some man with sleeked back hair and a bad tan to be facing me.
Instead, it was Elliot. Staring at me, standing inches from my face. I took a step back into a bar stool, and fell into a seat.
“Ellie” he said, smiling.
I couldn’t help but smile for a moment too, but then I quickly wiped it away as the bartender slid my drink to the right of me. Before I could do anything, Elliot placed a few dollars on the counter.
“You don’t have to -“
“It’s fine”  He continued to smile widely.
I looked around the room for my friend, she was across the room playing darts with some broad shouldered man. I took my glass, placed the straw on the counter and gulped down about half of it in one drink.  
“Happy Valentines Day” he said, almost sarcastically following the statement with a slight laugh.
I felt myself smiling again and took another gulp. The bartender definitely poured heavy. The liquid burned as it slid down my throat, and I clenched my teeth. I could tell Elliot was trying hard not to laugh.
“Would you like to dan-“
I bursted out laughing.
“Dance? Oh god, please. Don’t do this Elliot.”
He stared at me widely for a moment. “What are you so afraid of Ellie?”
I scoffed, and shook my head, taking another drink I responded
“I’m not afraid of anything”
He blinked at me, then ran through his fingers through his hair and breathed out loudly.
“Is it me?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer this, or what he was really even asking. I stumbled on my words, stuttering. I finished my drink, and set the glass down on the counter.
“Another?” he asked.
“No...” I paused. “Thank you”
He stared at me for a moment, his brows furrowed. He reached out to touch me, and I pulled away.
“Ellie...Let me-“
I interrupted him and shouted out “space!”
He looked puzzled, then chuckled.
“What?”
“I’m afraid of space”
“Space....? Please elaborate.”
“Like the sky, and the planets and the stars and ****”
He laughed softly. “And ****...”
“Think about it. We have no idea what’s out there. We have no idea what’s coming for us. We are so small, comparatively.”
“So you believe in aliens?”
“I believe in possibility”
“Anything could happen.”
“Exactly! Right now, as we speak, the sun could explode.”
“Or, aliens could invade!”
“You’re really stuck on the alien thing.”
“It’s a possibility”
We both sat in silence for a moment, his eyes felt heavy on me. I stood up from my stool, our bodies were almost touching.
“I’ve got to go see if my friends OK.” I said, glancing over at her. She was still playing darts with the broad shoulder man. He had his arms wrapped around her, ‘showing’ her how to hold the dart now.
“She looks like she’s doing ok to me” Elliot said with a snicker.
I didn’t argue.
“What’s your last name?” he asked.
I shook my head violently. “Look, Elliot. You seem-“ I stopped and thought of how I wanted to finish my sentence, but before I could, Elliot grabbed my hand and held it tightly.
“Ellie. I’m just a man. I’m not some comet coming down or some alien race a million light years away. You don’t need to be afraid of me.”
I took a few shallow breaths, my heart was pounding. I tried pulling away, but Elliot just pulled himself closer to me.
“You said you believe in possibility. You can’t deny the possibility of you and me.”
“I...”
He reached up, and tucked a hair that was falling down my face behind my ear then stepped back, letting go of my hand.
“I have an idea.”
“What’s that?”
“I want to help you conquer your fear”
“Oh?”
He grabbed my hand again and pulled me towards the door, I looked over to my friend, but didn’t fight him.
“She’ll be okay.” he said, still tugging me.
I followed him out the door and down the street. We stopped and hailed a cab, as one pulled up, he opened the door for me.
“Get in.”
“I don’t even know you. You could be taking me to some wear house to **** and ****** me!”
“Ellie. Don’t be so dramatic. Get in”
“Where are we going?”
“To the moon.”
“And back again?”
“We’ll see. Maybe once you get there, you’ll never want to leave.”
“It’s a possibility”
I stepped inside the cab, and so did he.

------------------------------------------------------------­--------------------------------


Once we were in the cab, the rush of excitement I was feeling in the bar and in the street had faded. Elliot handed the man his phone, which had an address written on it. The cabbie put the address into his GPS and started the meter as he drove on.
“So are we taking the cab to the moon? Or are we just taking the cab to NASA and then a spaceship to the moon?” I said sarcastically, my voice breaking from nervousness. Elliot put his hand on my leg, and sat back into his seat without saying anything.
“Who’s paying for the cab Elliot?”
He continued to be silent. I turned at stared out the window, I noticed the cab was taking us out of the city and I began to get a little worried.
“Can you please tell me where we’re going?” I asked quickly. I looked back at Elliot, he was sweating.
“Elliot? Is everything OK?” His eyes were shut and his breathing was heavy.
“I’m afraid of things in motion.” he muttered softly.
“Isn’t everything in motion?” he opened his eyes, raised his brows and then smiled at me.
“I mean, the world is always turning and we’re walking, or breathing. So we’re moving, no matter what-“
“Can you be quiet please?”
I looked back out the window again for what felt like a long while. Finally, the cab stopped in front a large abandoned dome like building in a town I had never been in. Elliot was quick to exit the cab, and circle the car to open my door. I stepped out, Elliot paid the driver and the cab drove away.
“So you ARE going to **** and ****** me?”
Elliot looked at me, and took my hand.
“I’m sorry about in the car. What mean by things in motion is like, cars and trains and planes and...” he paused, “and ****...”
We both laughed.
“I knew what you meant. I’m sorry if I was being difficult.”
He gave me a look and I nodded at him. He took me by the hand and led me closer to the building. We reached a door that had been boarded up.
“This doesn’t look like the moon...Or NASA...”
“Ellie. Do you trust me?”
“I...I don’t really even know you so-“
Elliot pried back at the board, slipping into the building through a small space and pulled me inside with him. The room we stepped into was a circle, and in the center; a large telescope.
“Does that even work?”
He squeezed my hand, then let go. Approaching the telescope, he stepped up a small set of stairs to a control panel. He pushed a few buttons and a few moments later, I heard a whirring and a low rattle followed by a deep sound. I felt a slight vibration and suddenly the roof was opening above me, exposing the night sky. On this night, the stars were bright, and the moon was full.
“Come here” Elliot called out from near the telescope.
I started to shake only slightly at the sight of the sky above me, I felt frozen and tense, as if I couldn’t move. Elliot made his way down the stairs and towards me.
“It’s okay Ellie.” he said, reaching for my hand and guiding me towards the telescope. We stepped up the stairs, and he stood next to me, still holding my hand as he adjusted a few things, looking in the telescope, then at me, then back through the telescope. He turned towards me, nudging me.
“Go ahead.”
I looked at the giant metal telescope, and shook my head.
“I really appreciate what you’re trying to do here but-“
He put his hand on my lower back, and pushed me towards the telescope.
“Just look.”
I put my face close to the telescope, an
Jaderbug dreams Apr 2015
He came into my life at a summer camp that felt like a prison.
We didn't know each other then; but we do now.
During the first few weeks that fate brought him into my life were the best I've had so far.
We were so deep, so exciting, so vulnerable.
We knew each other more in those few weeks than most married couples know in nine years...

I went back to Colorado, he went back to Oklahoma.
We never left each other really...
Late night phone calls and video chats.
Text messages and snapchats.
We were together even when we were apart.

Then that day changed everything.
That horribly wonderful day...
Those three words people long to hear spilt from his mouth.
I rejected them.
We still talked, yet not like we used to.

Months went by and I realized that I needed that crazy boy in my life.
I flew to him, his presence near my body made me tingle.
Cuddles and snuggles came and went.
I was just about to repeat the three words he once spoke to me when there was a knocking at the door.
There she stood, looking like a goddess...

He stuttered trying to introduce us.
The best friend to the girlfriend.
I was mortified.
I was crushed.
He could see the pain in my eyes and returned the look.
She could care less for the sad atmosphere we gave off.
The next two days were nothing but her.
Then it was time for me to leave.

Another two months went pass.
He called one day crying.
I tried to comfort him even when these tears gave me joy.
She was gone, that I knew.
What I would do, I didn't.
Comforting him as best I could, he stopped crying and started laughing.

I knew my time to tell him was near.
Time stopped when he called.
Midnight chats turned into midnight slurs when I dozed off.
He thought I couldn't hear him when he said the words that make my heart jump.

The next day he called again and again.
Confused I called back in a panic.
Come get me from the airport he said.
I went and brought him back.
A movie marathon was needed when we arrived.
Anchorman was the first choice.
Him in boxers, I in yoga pants cuddling on the bed.
Laughing at the words said.
He dozed off, I mindlessly said those three words in a whisper.
He answered them with the same.

Surprised I looked at the beautiful man laying next to me.
He said them again yet louder and while looking into my eyes.
A spark, a fire, burning inside took over and finally our lips met after all these years.
I

The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.

And then the lighting of the lamps.

     II

The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.

With the other masquerades
That time resumes,
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.

     III

You tossed a blanket from the bed,
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters,
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed’s edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.

     IV

His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o’clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.

Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.
Stanley Mungai Jun 2012
Upon the arboreal dozed and limb,
Extended coccyx serpentine loose,
Throne of inspection, tenet and dumb
Stillness hunts akin stealthy Mongoose;

Except for the natal locomotive
Soft deep sufficiently immense purr
Emanating from some industry; effective
In the cover of the thick supple fur.

The lord of his unconquered empire,
Thrives on flesh and quenches on milk,
Wintering unperturbed reading the fire
That flickers, gleaming his bed of silk.

Ever landing on appendage quadruple
Acrobatic athlete not soiling once his back
Consummating in strict concealment marble
Couch of perpetual indulgence buried black.
Audrey Bautz Mar 2013
I remember the frost that morning,
- painting the window in a satin-white.
How it burned my throat when I inhaled;
the distant scent of someone’s open-fire,
- curling through the atmosphere a thick fragrance of Maple.
The trees dressed in winter’s coat of freshly lain snow.
The sky was hanging low in the mountains as I looked ahead.
I even heard the soft landing of snowdrops
- From the surrounding branches.

My skin felt rough and tight
- as I walked further on,
My nose feeling of someone else’s.
I could feel the pangs of old age hit me
- like a time-bomb.
But it was no use returning,
I only had to march on. Crunch, crunch,
below my snow-boots,
When at last I realized I had reached a gravel road.

The dawn awoke behind the somber mists of clouds.
I could just catch a glimpse of sun-rays within a break.
Oh, how glorious
she bathed me in a pool of warmth
before dispersing at once,
alone again in my frozen world;
Though, I never faltered
and continued to walk down the snowy path.
Crunch, crunch, continued my boots,
my arms swinging right after the other,
Front-to-back, front-to-back.
I scaled the peak of the hill,
(the hill I’d spend all my days upon as a child)
covered in a thick layer of snow;
Its’ features all too familiar to hide.
It aged with me through a life of joy and pain
as though an old friend. And now I stood
- in the place no longer welcoming like it used to be.
My heart filled with a void that I could not process,
- could not or would not.
And the sad scene of my past
only plunged deeper into my consciousness
- pulling from its’ depth a Charles Dickens’s quote.
It is as follows:
“Happy, happy Christmas that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home.”
And deep within a melancholic-faze,
I departed from the distant view of my home.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The bag I carried seemed to grow with each step
and after what I only could have guessed was hours in,
I found myself stooped over a rock
- rummaging the contents of my pack.
I leaned back beneath a frozen Willow and munched on an apple.
Gazing out at the flourishing scene God had bestowed me; the trees mid-thought,
and I wondered what they must have been thinking
- when at that moment, winter’s angry hand
- broke the silent beauty of autumn and shook the trees bare;
their life strewn upon the ground
- and replaced by a thick layer of ice.
But what of the brushes or flowers?
Were they not too silenced, frozen in time?
A thousand questions buzzed through the hemispheres of my brain.

When the clouds would split
- the sunshine would pour in heaping rays of gold in my walk,
- just as she ripened through the morning hours.  
The snow had stopped falling and the stillness of the land comforted me;
Only my thoughts and the random flutter of birds broke the silence.
The snow surrendered beneath my feet,
crunch, crunch,
- gravel shooting high into the air.
My legs carried me aimlessly unbeknownst of the destination.
And overtime, the cold seemed to eat away through my suit, wrapping tightly around my joints;
the pain was more than my aged body would let me bear
- with my heart pumping bitterly through the frozen hemisphere.
The very thought of the beautiful landscape which beheld my gaze,
having ever play a part in bitter sorrow of those even most fortunate,
- boggled the very life of me. And Mother Nature seemed not quite finished,
as she whipped a brisk chill breeze through the bristly oaks.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sun was my only comfort and I longed for its’ presence.
It danced around the complexities of my synapses with a cruelness,
- Its image just as vibrant in thought, as it would have been before me;
- As though, someone, had pulled the earth closer to the sun.
And the excruciating thought only made the ice colder,
- snow deeper, and wind harder.
I felt tiny needle-like ****** where my skin was bare
- and a cruel pressure as though a force was splitting my flesh in two.
Then, that blinding flash flooding my sight;
I couldn’t see my feet. So strong and powerful,
- I thought I had unknowingly fallen into the center of the earth.
Though my eyes adjusted before any real panic set in, becoming clear.
I looked up and marveled in the exposing warmth;
God smiled upon my weak, aging soul, one last time.
Colors in majestic tones and lifetimes apart
- overlapped the silk shimmer of afternoon sunlight.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Two o’clock and I trudged through the thick snow
- as adamant and determined as the moment I first set foot outside.
My moist hair protruded from beneath my hat,
- a result from the sporadic snowfall.
The trees echoed with the call of birds; their beautiful songs
- bellowed clear and shook the boughs in harmonious celebration.
I felt as though a surge of relentless joy lifted me from the heartache of the walk.
I, was a part of something bigger than I could ever imagine,
- the unity of blood and soul, the bond of humanity and their heritage.
I could see my Ancestors pillaging the forest floors for scraps of food
- walking this very path. Such dream was mine,
to walk hand-in-hand with my family again,
- to rejoice at the sight of snow rather than cringe.
To hear the floorboards creak from the mass of human pressure
- rather than the creeping age of the foundation;
- to hear the echo of my sweetheart down the hall.
There was nothing left to show for a lifetime of love
- but a broken heart and memories, all of which haunted me.
I became so distracted from my journey that I hadn’t realized
- how far off course I was. I gazed at the empty, bare trees,
- for the first time unfamiliar with their presence.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Hours passed and I could feel the wind grow heavy and frequent.
The sky showed no sign of improvement, but only seemed to increase in clouds.
I pulled my coat to me tighter and tucked my hands beneath my arms.
It was not long after, that I found a suitable place to rest.
I gathered all the sticks nearby and cleaned a shallow area of snow.
The wood burned slowly as the surrounding snow liquefied at light-speed.
Its’ immense heat covered my frozen-self in a blanket of warmth
- and I felt the bulk of the journey fall over me.
My eyelids became as heavy as cement blocks.
I decided to compromise this by giving in
- and falling deep into unconsciousness.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
It was not too clear at first
- the hazy grounds in which I found myself.
There wasn’t snow but that of soft spring grass
- and I was no longer aching from frostbite.
I smelled an overwhelming ample of spring blossoms
- accompanying the gentle breezes. The sunlight sat upon my cheek,
- no cloud in sight. Birds swarmed the open sky
- rejoicing the beautiful weather. What was this place? Where was I?  
There were the plumped-fields encircling the full oak trees,
- the wonderful sun showering the land in a ravishing golden light.
“There you are! I’ve been waiting for you.”
The voice startled me in its’ familiarity.
I opened my mouth to speak but no words came.  
“I’ve missed you so much!” It continued.      
Still not a single syllable could I form.
I looked all around,
- but no source could be found as to the whereabouts of the voice.
I forced myself up and stood at a loss.
Searching every corner, every shaded area but returned with no results.
Crunch, crunch, sounded the pitter patter of feet;
I looked around frantically but just as the voice, I remained alone in the field.
Only the crunch, increased, in speed and numbers;
I closed my eyes tightly and covered my ears
- until it was only the pounding of my heart that broke the silence.
A harsh, cold wind began to blow violently against my face
- and my hands stung with the feeling of my skin being pulled from my fingernails.
I strained to open my eyes and then
- found nothing but the thick suffocation of darkness.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Charred-wood remained beneath the remnants of smoke;
Its base still grasping a hint of light within the pile.
My face felt exposed and raw to the chill,
- burning with the intensity of a bonfire.
My fingers beyond that, to the point of numbness;
I couldn’t even feel my lips. I had lost control of my nerves;
I felt a madness possess my senses
and I struggled to contain as much rationality as possible.
I reached into my coat pocket for my matchbox
and with one strike of the flint,
- a tiny brilliant flame danced in direction with the wind.
And the light as though a disease,
- spread rapidly to the remaining wood. My environment became clear
- and I gazed up noticing the presence of the moon.
What time was it?
A sudden grumble arose from within the darkness
and I, continuing to fall in and out of unconsciousness.
But it wasn’t until I nearly dozed off
- that I recognized a most foreign presence; I was no longer alone.
A fierce set of eyes had been watching me; inching closer and closer.
They stared with the intensity of a 1000 hungry eyes
- coming closer until at last I caught a glimpse more of my visitor.
Her fur displayed sheen like that of the ocean at dawn;
Her eyes radiated a beautiful emerald hue.
She refrained from baring her teeth, though I knew why she was there.
I leaned up and between my chattering-teeth I spoke:
“I know why you’re here,”
The words did not come without consequence
for my lips split wide open from the sudden ****.
“. . . But it's not your job . . . not today!”
She studied my indigent-state, as grasped my coat to me tighter.
She sat down where she stood gazing with a longing.
her full-coat folding over her joints as she sunk further into the snow
- resting her head upon her paws, slowly closing her eyes.
And soon I followed suit, closing mine, and drifting off. ©
This is the first chapter in my poetry book called, "The Howl of the Wolf."
Day
Slumbering on and off
I must have dozed into a side street
My memory on a go slow
Having vacated the premises
Beads rolled and filled the gaps
Settling into the spaces in my head
Overflowing into folds of the pillow
Their circular bodies probing my cheeks
Pulling faces at me in disturbance
The light switch to my brain remained off
The beads multiplied, the pillow
Like a giant bead bean bag
Impacted its air bag mode
Wham....I was awake
Not knowing for a moment quite what day it was
Come into the garden, Maud,
  For the black bat, Night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
  I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
  And the musk of the roses blown.

For a breeze of morning moves,
  And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves
  On a bed of daffodil sky,
To faint in the light of the sun she loves,
  To faint in his light, and to die.

All night have the roses heard
  The flute, violin, bassoon;
All night has the casement jessamine stirr'd
  To the dancers dancing in tune;
Till a silence fell with the waking bird,
  And a hush with the setting moon.

I said to the lily, 'There is but one
  With whom she has heart to be gay.
When will the dancers leave her alone?
  She is weary of dance and play.'
Now half to the setting moon are gone,
  And half to the rising day;
Low on the sand and loud on the stone
  The last wheel echoes away.

I said to the rose, 'The brief night goes
  In babble and revel and wine.
O young lord-lover, what sighs are those
  For one that will never be thine?
But mine, but mine,' so I sware to the rose,
  'For ever and ever, mine.'

And the soul of the rose went into my blood,
  As the music clash'd in the hall;
And long by the garden lake I stood,
  For I heard your rivulet fall
From the lake to the meadow and on to the wood,
  Our wood, that is dearer than all;

From the meadow your walks have left so sweet
  That whenever a March-wind sighs
He sets the jewel-print of your feet
  In violets blue as your eyes,
To the woody hollows in which we meet
  And the valleys of Paradise.

The slender acacia would not shake
  One long milk-bloom on the tree;
The white lake-blossom fell into the lake,
  As the pimpernel dozed on the lea;
But the rose was awake all night for your sake,
  Knowing your promise to me;
The lilies and roses were all awake,
  They sigh'd for the dawn and thee.

Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls,
  Come hither, the dances are done,
In gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls,
  Queen lily and rose in one;
Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls.
  To the flowers, and be their sun.

There has fallen a splendid tear
  From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
  She is coming, my life, my fate;
The red rose cries, 'She is near, she is near;'
  And the white rose weeps, 'She is late;'
The larkspur listens, 'I hear, I hear;'
  And the lily whispers, 'I wait.'

She is coming, my own, my sweet;
  Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear her and beat,
  Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
  Had I lain for a century dead;
Would start and tremble under her feet,
  And blossom in purple and red.
I

1 Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife us ...
2 Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent ...
3 Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient ...
4 Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous,
5 But nothing happens.

6 Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire.
7 Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.
8 Northward incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles,
9 Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war.
10 What are we doing here?

11 The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow ...
12 We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.
13 Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army
14 Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of gray,
15 But nothing happens.

16 Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.
17 Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow,
18 With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause and renew,
19 We watch them wandering up and down the wind's nonchalance,
20 But nothing happens.

II

21 Pale flakes with lingering stealth come feeling for our faces--
22 We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed,
23 Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed,
24 Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.
25 Is it that we are dying?

26 Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires glozed
27 With crusted dark-red jewels; crickets jingle there;
28 For hours the innocent mice rejoice: the house is theirs;
29 Shutters and doors all closed: on us the doors are closed--
30 We turn back to our dying.

31 Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn;
32 Now ever suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit.
33 For God's invincible spring our love is made afraid;
34 Therefore, not loath, we lie out here; therefore were born,
35 For love of God seems dying.

36 To-night, His frost will fasten on this mud and us,
37 Shrivelling many hands and puckering foreheads crisp.
38 The burying-party, picks and shovels in their shaking grasp,
39 Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,
40 But nothing happens.
Homunculus Apr 2015
One night . . . a pitiful -looking skeleton appeared and said these words:

A melancholy autumn wind
Blows through the world;
The pampas grass waves,
As we drift to the moor,
Drift to the sea.

What can be done
With the mind of a man
That should be clear
But though he is dressed up in a monk’s robe,
Just lets life pass him by?

Toward dawn I dozed off, and in my dream I found myself surrounded by a group of skeletons . . . . One skeleton came over to me and said:

Memories
Flee and
Are no more.
All are empty dreams
Devoid of meaning.

Violate the reality of things
And babble about
"God" and "the Buddha"
And you will never find
the true Way.

I liked this skeleton . . . . He saw things clearly, just as they are. I lay there with the wind in the pines whispering in my ears and the autumn moonlight dancing across my face.

What is not a dream? Who will not end up as a skeleton? We appear as skeletons covered with skin -- male and female -- and lust after each other. When the breath expires, though, the skin ruptures, *** disappears, and there is no more high or low. Underneath the skin of the person we ****** and caress right now is nothing more than a set of bare bones. Think about it -- high and low, young and old, male and female, all are the same. Awaken to this one great matter and you will immediately comprehend the meaning of "unborn and undying."

If chunks of rock
Can serve as a memento
To the dead,
A better headstone
Would be a simple tea-mortar.

Humans are indeed frightful beings.
A single moon
Bright and clear
In an unclouded sky;
Yet still we stumble
In the world’s darkness.

Have a good look -- stop the breath, peel off the skin, and everybody ends up looking the same. No matter how long you live the result is not altered[even for emperors]. Cast off the notion that "I exist." Entrust yourself to the wind-blown clouds, and do not wish to live for ever.

This world
Is but
A fleeting dream
So why by alarmed
At its evanescence?

The vagaries of life,
Though painful
Teach us
Not to cling
To this floating world.

Why do people
Lavish decorations
On this set of bones
Destined to disappear
Without a trace?

No one really knows
The nature of birth
Nor the true dwelling place.
We return to the source
And turn to dust.

Many paths lead from the foot of the mountain,
But at the peak
We all gaze at the
Single bright moon.

If at the end of our journey
There is no final
Resting place,
Then we need not fear
Losing our Way.

No beginning,
No end.
Our mind
is born and dies:
The emptiness of emptiness!
.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

Rain, hail, snow and ice:
All are different,
But when they fall
They become the same water
As the valley stream.

The ways of proclaiming
The Mind vary,
But the same heavenly truth
Can be seen
In each and every one.

Cover your path
With the fallen pine needles
So no one will be able
To locate your
True dwelling place.
I was profoundly impacted by this, and felt it was worth sharing.
The bar was deserted
But for The Captain and me
I was tending the bar
He was watching the sea
The North Wind was 'a howlin'
As the door opened wide
It was The North Wind just checkin'
To see who's inside

The Captain, was quiet looking out at the sea
He said on days like today, that is no place to be
She'll swallow you whole
Take your ship in one gulp
Crush all your riggings
And make the rest into pulp
When she opens her maw
The Sea don't care who
Is there for the taking
It's just what she do

I ventured on over
A fresh glass, with some ice
He said "what took you?"
I said ..."now, be nice"
"With weather like this"
"There's leaks front and back"
"And if I don't mop them up"
"Then I will get the sack"

He smiled as he drank up
One gulp and all done
He used to come here
With his grandson and son
But, that story is longer
And a good one to know
But, today, t'was just him
And he was rarin' to go

"The Sea is a monster, you can be sure of that"
"That's a fact I am saying, as sure as I'm sat"
"She'll swat you down hard, like a little old gnat"
"And to her it'll be nothing more than a pat"
"To Davy Jones Locker, she'll take you today"
"And once you are down there, in the locker you'll stay"
"A witch like the Ocean, she doesn't half play"
"When the water starts talking....you hear what she say!!!"

He swirled round the cubes
Made a noise, looked my way
I was already pouring
His fifth of the day
"Barkeep, be wary"
"The wind is the start"
"It's the voice of the water"
"It'll sure break your heart"
"She'll take what you give her"
"And she'll return you squat"
"Like a big old hard game"
"Of 'x's and noughts"
"She's a powerful mistress"
"And fickle as well"
"But, be on her today"
"And she'll take you to hell"

We sat watching closely
As the storm rattled glass
We both were quite nervous
And we hoped it would pass
The storm  came in early
Two weeks 'fore the season
And we knew out today
That the water'd be freezin'
The Captain dozed off
Facing out to the sea
There was now just the storm
A sleeping Captain....and me.
Y Rada Aug 2016
I sat by the window side at the bus
And ate some chocolate cake with gusto
Headaches from last night's partying
And suddenly I dozed off while eating

How strange...

Someone tapped me on the shoulder
I ****** and opened up my eyes
And saw you with your gentle smile
My face with smudges of chocolate

How embarrassing...

You asked if the seat beside me was vacant
I nodded unable to speak for shame and fear
Of opening my mouth full with chocolate cake
Too conscious how my teeth would look like

How pathetic...

Side by side, hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder
Instantly felt the warmth of your smooth skin
You glanced at me and smiled again very slowly
My cheeks were blushing of my indecent thoughts

How pitiful...

You asked softly if where my destination was
I answered politely afraid of looking directly
Too distracted by the musky scent you have in you
I wanted to ask what perfume you were wearing

How awkward...

The journey was tediously long and I had hangover
We sat there for five hours in companionable silence
But my insides were screaming with excitement
By your mere presence, I felt I was safe and sound

How weird...

"Excuse me sir, may I pass?" I nudged you respectfully
Your eyes widened a little bit and nodded in silence
I got off the bus and stared as it continued on the road
Regretted that I never even dared to ask for your name

How hopeless...
Dedicated to that beautiful stranger who was my seatmate at the bus. He was really handsome, with beautiful eyes and wonderful smell. One of the things I regretted in my life was I never asked his name. And four years later, I still wonder about that 5 hour drive.

I know I will never meet him again.
Kathy Z Jun 2013
I never really believed in the concept called soulmates.
Sure, I could say that I believed in true love.
But to say both are the same,
would be a lie to my ears.

But you-
were different, somehow, entirely.
The moment I met you, there was a frantic beating to my heart,
the muscle that had stayed dormant, hibernating for years.
Sometime around then, the exact time I still don't know,
I accepted that ideal of near foolishness,
awkwardly holding it like a hot ember,
crackling with the fading glow of silver fireflies.

And it seemed like you knew too,
spluttering and grinning while food was stuck to your face,
three years ago.

...And I wonder, if we were both born sixty years from now,
across the far continent, would we know?

"Do you believe in the afterlife?" I asked you, one day-
You thought deeply for a moment; clutching twisted pieces of grass to your hands.
No, you replied finally. It seems to be something created in this life for wishful thinking.
You, were always optimistic.
Smiling.
Laughing.
Even in a less than fifty percent rating, you just waved it off with a grin.
So that answer, surprised me,
to the bowels of my heart.

If the heart was a maze, there would be tunnels in mine,
which were too dark even to see with a melted torch.
But yours-
was the exact white, to my black.
It was so light-
that a person would not see,
but shield their eyes instead,
from that burning ray.

Happiness is so frightening,
because there's always a withering darkness,
wavering nearby to take over.

"You have leukemia."
the doctor told you professionally,
quietly.
the moment those words were said,
you looked gently surprised,
but almost completely detached, as if you knew it all
along.
"Okay." You said those words with a smile
that only I knew was shaky.
"I'm scared."
"Don't leave me."
"Will I die?"
You, who'd been strong for me through everything,
broke down crying for the second time.
In that pressurized space,
it was as if
my conjecture of despair had been confirmed.
Hardship..
sorrow..
during such times, what was I to do?

And sometimes, I would wake up crying. I didn't know anymore weather I was sad or not-
it was too dim to remember.
Because I wished that dreams were reality, and this reality was a dream,
maybe that was the reason.
But it wasn't because I was sad, I think.
When you return from a happy dream to a desperate reality,
there's a chasm that you have to step across,
one that you can't cross without shedding tears.

All your fears became reality.
Your hair started falling out,
You couldn't hold back vomiting, even in front of me.
I cursed how powerless I was.

Finally, you broke down.
"I want to die." that voice that I loved was a mere whisper, quiet against the rustle of hospital bed sheets.
"You don't really want that." Foolishly, I took it as a joke.
You screamed.
"I know the truth! I'm not going to get better! I'm tired of you being so optimistic! I'm just tired of it all!
I never want to see you again!"
Those words stung me, straight into a dark circus of my mind.
And the world, which I thought was perfect as long as you were there, broke down.
"I love you!" That was the first time.
"I love you." The second.
I loved you.
I loved you.
I loved you.
And that emotion hurt, so much.

And I thought, what we needed the most, was to believe that there was hope,
somewhere in the world.
"Let's go to Australia."
And you, who held back for everything,
broke down crying, for the third and final time.
"Yes."  

And little by little, I planned our wonderful trip to Australia.
And after everything was set..
I didn't want to cry.
I refused to look at the darkness.
And pretending that it was not there,
was enough to keep me propelling forward.


And on the train, we shared a cake,
because it was your birthday.
And we laughed for the first time in a while,
hoping that that moment could go on for eternity.
"It's like a dream..to be here with you." You murmered against my shoulder.
"It's not a dream. We'll be together forever."
Forever, however, is endless,
spiraling along with the stars of the galaxy,
and I listened to your voice as we dozed off.

"Did you know that I read a book about aborigines? It said something about how the world is perfect and doesn't lack anything.
After I read it, I thought if there was such a thing like heaven, it might already be in this world.
It's kind of hard to explain..
We don't know what heaven is because we don't have enough understanding.
I mean, people lose each other, even when alive.
It's definitely not easy to find someone after death.
but, you can always search for me.
No matter how many times you lose me.
That's why I'm doing okay."

I wonder why I hoped that that train would go on forever,
without ever reaching a destination.
"Please keep looking for me. I'll always be here."
And a cool pair of lips brushed against my forehead,
sealing that pact.

Suddenly, blood started dripping from your nose,
landing on the cold train station floor,
spots of red and ruby.
You started coughing, hacking.
I ran, as far as my legs would take me.
When I got back-
you were collapsed.
Cold.
Still.
On the floor.
Shouting shapeless words, I ran to your side.
And in that moment, I remember thinking-
Why? Why us?!

And I kept telling myself, over and over again,
not to cry. I felt like if I cried, even the tiniest hope, would crumble to pieces.
And even though I knew from the beginning that there was no hope,
I could not come to grips with it.
i was in the darkness all along.
I was filled with resentment, and remorse.
I cried the whole time

You can come in now.
The voice of the nurse was monotone. How many times has she had to do this before?
When I saw you, I thought-
that person in white,
surrounded by plastic,
that person who's dying,
is that really you?
was that real?

But I understood,
that it was real.
There seemed to be a faint film over everything,
surrounded by sandwich wrap.
It was ridiclous.
At that moment, I felt hatred towards everything.
I even felt resentment towards you,
who would leave me.
"Please..please don't hate me."
You shook your head, looking too dry for tears.
"I love you." That was the third and final time.  
"Forever and always."

"Ah..where are you? I can't see.." You groped blindly with your hand, eyes half-closed.
I clutched it tightly to my side.
"I'm here, I'm here!"
---
---
"Good." Your eyes closed at that, sliding shut with a gentle click.
I screamed at the top of my lungs, but could not make a sound.
Why?
At that time, I wondered.
Who was hurting more?
---
---
The ashes scattered in the wind, flying away along the current lines.
And in that moment I realized..
I was born one week after you.
I had never lived in a world where you weren't there.

It's ten years later.
Can you still see me?
Those precious people that we talk about,
we have to take care not to lose them in this vast world of ours.
And another precious person,
who I love almost as dearly as you,
has not taken the place that you so carefully inhabited,
but has stretched out my heart,
making room
for more.

*Thank you for everything.
Inspired by the novel-Socrates in Love.
Andre Baez Oct 2013
Remain in your cocoon,
Or you'll be bound and found,
With your mouth chewing the ground,
Allow yourself to be spoon-fed,
All the while keeping thoughts,
To yourself, neglect your health,
But what about wealth?
Never settle without the better,
Regret each intersection,
With the same interceptor,  
Search for the feeling,
The one that keeps you alive,
Or you'll be sent reeling,
And fighting for your life,
You'll lose your two children,
And your once devoted wife,
Who got fed up with the fools games,
And all the gorgeously smooth lies,
That manifested into ugly filthy ties,
That held the darkest parts in tow,
Making a saints row to destroy,
The evil, but he cannot be defeated,
Nor can he be thwarted, because
He has exposed all his forces,
And exalted all his horses,
As he listens to the theme,
every twang when the chorus hits,
Signals the next step in his chores,
The remaining cords,
Of the movements of music,
That grows with the rose,
Which bloomed from concrete,
But has now been bull-dozed,
This is the monster that haunts you,
The one that breathes in your ear,
And makes you say "I've Won,"
When truly your work isn't done,
Because you're still alive,
With no where to run and survive,
The motions set into play,
Once you began that chess game,
Which rose from a manuscript,
That you truly thought would fit,
Each and every word,
And while most of it occurred,
You had not accounted for fate,
And the people at the gate,
And the demons that await,
The food that is you,
Your body isn't enough,
Your mind and soul they consume,
With a moaning and gnashing,
And a clashing of silver spoons,
As the lustful creature swoons,
At the very thought of you,
And the mention of your entrance,
Makes her beckon for the reckoning,
That will yank you in a second,
Breaking good wasn't an option,
No, not any longer, why bother?
No one respects the facade,
That you engaged in in order to absolve,
Thyself of the dreams that had been killed,
With blood that was spilled ,
Thus flowing slowly into murky cracks,
Holding onto attacks, cooly
Calculated foolery, will not fool thee,
Into thinking any less of the dream,
The one that made you deadly,
One of the Seven Sins,
Personified in the actions,
And the reactions that happened,
With endless repercussions,
That something that one thing,
The suffering the offspring,
Of a deferred intention neglected,
Often thought of as disrespected,
Became respected, became feared
As the strands of hair greyed,
And the length of the beard,
Grew like bountiful hay,
Until crimson showers filled the bay,
Rivers of tears lead the way,
Destruction lies in your wake,
Oh poor devil, no one will cry for you,
Not a single tear will lend you grace,
Everyone you love faces your friend,
The one that determines all fate,
At the end, he sends, and upends,
And bends, and extends, a hand,
With a scythe to hold over you,
Oh poor devil, poor you,
A butterfly did not bear fruit,
But a moth birthed from the cocoon,
And into the flame it went,
Consumed.
Stanley Mungai Feb 2012
Upon the arboreal dozed and limb,
Extended coccyx serpentine loose,
Throne of inspection, tenet and dumb
Stillness hunts akin stealthy Mongoose;

Except for the natal locomotive
Soft deep sufficiently immense purr
Emanating from some industry; effective
In the cover of the thick supple fur.

The lord of his unconquered empire,
Thrives on flesh and quenches on milk,
Wintering unperturbed reading the fire
That flickers, gleaming his bed of silk.

Ever landing on appendage quadruple
Acrobatic athlete not soiling once his back
Consummating in strict concealment marble
Couch of perpetual indulgence buried black
ottaross Apr 2015
Where were you, you little *******?
Where were you hiding
As I turned out the lights last night?

Were you in the closet as I came into the bedroom?
Did you seep like a flood
Across the floor in the darkness
Rising up the leg of the bed
And into my ears like liquid toxic waste?

Were you under the pillow
And as my fingers slid under there
Between the crisp, smooth layers of white cotton?
Did you coil about my fingers
And up my arm
To spread over my scalp
All fuming-acid corrosive?

Were you in under the folds
Of the welcoming, white-striped comforter
As we turned in after a perfectly pleasant day?
Waiting, still, in the dark
As I pulled the blankets up taught?
And just below my chin
As the cold sheets around me warmed
To stop the just-into-bed shivers?

Did you crawl up then as I dozed
And twist around my throat
To tighten slowly until I awoke in your grip?

Where ever you were hiding,
You got the drop on me.
You turned the tiny dim lights
That peek into the room at night
Into piercing lasers.

You amplified the tiniest odours
Into dizzying, eye-watering stenches.

You traded the rising-sun's rays
As they finally pierced the curtains
After my hours of sleepless discomfort
For a blasts of neutron-bomb radiation.

Worst of all
You stole the cool, soothing side of the pillow
Every time I managed to find it
Giving me instead a sickly, warm bundle of gorse.

Where were you, you little *******?
Where were you hiding?
Samantha Nov 2013
Seven days spent lost in the rogue North
Octagonal windows framed a snowed in view.
In the kitchen, sun soaking in like honey,
The kids sat eating oranges.
Two cats humming and a sheepdog dozed
Under a thick maple table, flavoured as last nights fresh game
Lullabies deep as eyes were heavy
Fire stoked and a Mickey Mouse Christmas shining brightly,
playing cards, I  laughed that it was just November.
Two sets of ice blue eyes, no blood in between.
And six sets, shades of green-blue-brown,
Each the nicest pair you'd ever seen.
I fell in love with the eight,
Always their eyes first I'll admit.
And now my heart lay in
A long house, teepee on the dock.
The purest cold blue I'd ever know
To crash upon iced rock.
All the trees you would ever need,
A conglomerate of green;
Until the day I die, the holiest place I've been
Bunhead17 Nov 2013
[Hook: Legacy]
Lock me up throw away the key
I'll make sure I won't stop
If you make sure it's wet for me
You got me trapped for life
I'm probably gonna die in you
Prisoner inside I'm a prisoner inside you

[Verse 1: Legacy]
Imagine your face after our lips touch
One time it's cool for you to kiss your daddy
You say that your last couldn't make you bust
Well baby my love will make you trigger happy
Once you let it off it's gonna sound like
I'm a bring yo **** back and put it down like
I Know that I'm good I got that loud pipe
They hear it outside (baby don't that sound like... ***!)
Baby come hear I swear I'll slow it down
All you kno is weak and stroke
Well I'm wat you don't know about
We close I know I know ***** got you opened now
Into deep in that ******* hope he drownds
Started talkin **** like I couldn't hold it down
Baby came up broke I know **** sure dat ain't oprahs child
She love tha *** so much that she wrote her vows
This is my third strike I guess I'm goin down

[Hook: Legacy]
Lock me up throw away the key
I'll make sure I won't stop
If you make sure it's wet for me
You got me trapped for life
I'm probably gonna die in you
Prisoner inside I'm a prisoner inside you
Lock me up throw away the key
I'll make sure I won't stop
If you make sure it's wet for me
You got me trapped for life
I'm probably gonna die in you
Prisoner inside I'm a prisoner inside you

[Verse 2: Legacy]
I asked her for a rubber (I asked her for a rubber)
She said that she ain't got one (she said that she ain't got one)
I said I'll only do one pump then
**** it I ain't stoppin
She said that she can't *** no more
Can I catch my breath please? "I said yeah"
She dozed off then woke up to a *******
She told me stop it *****
I can't be around you bust when you touch it
And now I'm ****** when I think about you
She asked me how I do it? and I'm like "hell if I know"
My toungue just hunting gold your ***** El Dorado
And I'm enjoying it never ashamed
My head could stay under that blancket for days
You'll have to pull me away
Now her belly wasn't fakin'
She waz humble to my gift cause she said she couldn't take it
I don't kno why they act like prison is the worst place
As long as it's witchu I'll be missing every court date

[Hook: Legacy]
Lock me up throw away the key
I'll make sure I won't stop
If you make sure it's wet for me
You got me trapped for life
I'm probably gonna die in you
Prisoner inside I'm a prisoner inside you
Lock me up throw away the key
I'll make sure I won't stop
If you make sure it's wet for me
You got me trapped for life
I'm probably gonna die in you
Prisoner inside I'm a prisoner inside you
"Prisoner" by Legacy from the New Boyz. In this songs he's is explaining how great his *** is. And how he is hooked on this girl’s ****** and it makes him never want to leave. He is “trapped for life”. lol :D  #This song is weird
Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the rose is blown.

For a breeze of morning moves,
And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves
In a bed of daffodil sky,
To faint in the light of the sun she loves,
To faint in his light, and to die.

All night have the roses heard
The flute, violin, bassoon;
All night has the casement jessamine stirr'd
To the dancers dancing in tune;
Till a silence fell with the waking bird,
And a hush with the setting moon.

I said to the lily, "There is but one
With whom she has heart to be gay.
When will the dancers leave her alone?
She is weary of dance and play."
Now half to the setting moon are gone,
And half to the rising day;
Low on the sand and loud on the stone
The last wheel echoes away.

I said to the rose, "The brief night goes
In babble and revel and wine.
O young lord-lover, what sighs are those,
For one that will never be thine?
But mine, but mine," so I sware to the rose,
"For ever and ever, mine."

And the soul of the rose went into my blood,
As the music clash'd in the hall;
And long by the garden lake I stood,
For I heard your rivulet fall
From the lake to the meadow and on to the wood,
Our wood, that is dearer than all;

From the meadow your walks have left so sweet
That whenever a March-wind sighs
He sets the jewel-print of your feet
In violets blue as your eyes,
To the woody hollows in which we meet
And the valleys of Paradise.

The slender acacia would not shake
One long milk-bloom on the tree;
The white lake-blossom fell into the lake
As the pimpernel dozed on the lea;
But the rose was awake all night for your sake,
Knowing your promise to me;
The lilies and roses were all awake,
They sigh'd for the dawn and thee.

Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls,
Come hither, the dances are done,
In gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls,
Queen lily and rose in one;
Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls,
To the flowers, and be their sun.

There has fallen a splendid tear
From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
She is coming, my life, my fate;
The red rose cries, "She is near, she is near;"
And the white rose weeps, "She is late;"
The larkspur listens, "I hear, I hear;"
And the lily whispers, "I wait."

She is coming, my own, my sweet;
Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear her and beat,
Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
Had I lain for a century dead,
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red.
AM Jan 2013
I woke up this morning to the heat of your body and the pounding of the rain.

The blanket was heavy and I found that I had been rolled partially under the Christmas tree and into the piano bench. Your hair was a mess and you smelled amazing and I tucked myself into the back of your neck and listened to you breathe until I dozed off again. I kept myself from touching you more than absolutely necessary and let the blanket fall between us.

The second time I woke up, it was because you rolled over and stretched out on top of my head.

I laughed and sat halfway up and watched you for a while. This time, I noticed your always-long eyelashes and the sprinkles of freckles that had been dotted up your cheekbones and to your temples. Your were my breath of summer as the December rain came down harder and harder and I spent some time selfishly soaking in your sunlight. The moment passed as my shoulder began to ache and I manhandled you into a better position for sleeping on the floor before settling into you and reflecting the warmth back to you like the down comforter that swamped us.

The third time I woke up, it was because my cat was rattling around like a bird in a box in the window blinds.

I tried to shush her, but you were already half-awake and instead lifted the blanket and invited her under. (She’s a shy cat, you know. And really likes you. Makes me confident that even though we didn’t last, I still picked a good one.) I stopped wussing out and finally touched you without restraint. You dozed off once more and I brushed my lips against the freckles just below your temple and traced my fingers up and down your stomach and held you close to me in the early, grey, winter light.

It was the best morning I’d had in a very, very long time.
Moon Humor Nov 2014
What is it about this drunken town where the snow falls like cement
that made it so easy to fall in love with the delirious nightlife that never sleeps?
It seems like when I’m with you at night I never sleep.

We’re dancing around the cemetery like we threw a ball for souls.
No one believes you when you say you see something from the corner of your eye
but we all feel the chill and agree that tonight we will never sleep.

Do you remember the night you told me to never hold back? ******* I wanted
to cry but I forced a smile through my lips and eyes. I laid next to you with a blank mind
for hours knowing that you think I‘m a mystery. I learned that the train yard never sleeps.

The ******* microwave is broken again when you come home drunk.
You called me a **** and punched another hole in the wall and
I’m scared enough to know that tonight I’ll never sleep.

That bag of ice clutched tight won’t leave his hand jammed in his pocket. When
he gets home he feeds the crystals into the glass and heats it up. Tweaked out
and wandering the streets at three. A woman mutters, “**** addicts never sleep.”

Have you ever dozed off in warm grass while watching
clouds passing lazily by? My god I swear there’s nothing better than
a nap in the sun for someone who never sleeps.

Glass rips my forehead clean open and exposes my frontal skull bone while
strange men hold me down and taunt me with knives and chain saws.
Reoccurring nightmares are why many insomniacs never sleep.

A sensual shower at midnight, that fat hit at two did nothing. Lavender and candles
aren’t working. I’m staring at the ceiling. You roll over and pull me close.
“Leah, please, go to bed. It kills me that you never sleep.”
A ghazal.
Terry Jordan Apr 2016
I got locked out of the house today
While feeding my cat on the porch
In a bathrobe without my purse
No phone, no key, barefoot of course

So I sprinted to the driveway
Where my man was still backing out
Engrossed in checking his emails
He must have missed my screaming shout

Backed out all the way to the street
His eyes ahead in the early dawn
He didn't see my panicky dance
Off to work, in a flash, he was gone

Despite my last ditch effort
Racing after him down the street
He never looked back, not once
I was abandoned with ****** feet

It's only half past 7am
Time to problem-solve my way inside
Even though I had a ladder to climb
Every lock and bolt let all hope die

That day I spent on the patio
Long and hot it was to be sure
Feeling neglected and left behind
I cried a few tears in a blur

Then I did some overdue yard work
Drank out of the hose like my dog
Relaxed in the hammock instead of lunch
Dozed off in an afternoon fog

Till I found a book on reflexology
I'd been meaning to read for so long
Practiced a few techniques on my cat
And planned how I'd tell Bill he'd done me wrong
true story
Come into the garden, Maud,
     For the black bat, Night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
     I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
     And the musk of the roses blown.

For a breeze of morning moves,
     And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves
     On a bed of daffodil sky,
To faint in the light of the sun she loves,
     To faint in his light, and to die.

All night have the roses heard
     The flute, violin, bassoon;
All night has the casement jessamine stirr'd
     To the dancers dancing in tune:
Till a silence fell with the waking bird,
     And a hush with the setting moon.

I said to the lily, "There is but one
     With whom she has heart to be gay.
When will the dancers leave her alone?
     She is weary of dance and play."
Now half to the setting moon are gone,
     And half to the rising day;
Low on the sand and loud on the stone
     The last wheel echoes away.

I said to the rose, "The brief night goes
     In babble and revel and wine.
O young lordlover, what sighs are those
     For one that will never be thine?
But mine, but mine," so I sware to the rose,
     "For ever and ever, mine."

And the soul of the rose went into my blood,
     As the music clash'd in the hall;
And long by the garden lake I stood,
     For I heard your rivulet fall
From the lake to the meadow and on to the wood,
     Our wood, that is dearer than all;

From the meadow your walks have left so sweet
     That whenever a March-wind sighs
He sets the jewelprint of your feet
     In violets blue as your eyes,
To the woody hollows in which we meet
     And the valleys of Paradise.

The slender acacia would not shake
     One long milk-bloom on the tree;
The white lake-blossom fell into the lake,
     As the pimpernel dozed on the lea;
But the rose was awake all night for your sake,
     Knowing your promise to me;
The lilies and roses were all awake,
     They sigh'd for the dawn and thee.

Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls,
     Come hither, the dances are done,
In gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls,
     Queen lily and rose in one;
Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls,
     To the flowers, and be their sun.

There has fallen a splendid tear
     From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
     She is coming, my life, my fate;
The red rose cries, "She is near, she is near;"
     And the white rose weeps, "She is late;"
The larkspur listens, "I hear, I hear;"
     And the lily whispers, "I wait."

She is coming, my own, my sweet;
     Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear her and beat,
     Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
     Had I lain for a century dead;
Would start and tremble under her feet,
     And blossom in purple and red.

— The End —