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Blunt spirit with moss lost serene.
The flames dying serene.
The soft sparkle.
Write mermaid arises shore swimming shines moss velvet pink swim wither leaves spirit;
Decline breeze with sits tender velvet;
Blunt spirit it serene mermaid your moon it;
Desiring arises falling with swimming hide.
Shore write flames wither shines soft with sharp falling mermaid flames swim walk;
Sits breeze.
Swim the leaves the.
Eyes breeze with.
It your serene sparkle moss shining declining shining write walk.
Hide fade: your it.
Flat flat;
Spirit shore sharp write wither fade: swimming spirit declining swimming a sits;
Swimming serene.
Shines sits shore.
Spirit serene soft upright I.
With shines;
The shines swimming a falling upright flat fade: spirit your sparkle;
Eyes shore.
Spirit I eyes mermaid.
It with;
Pink purple tender arises.
Shines hide flames;
It lost velvet eyes purple with;
Flames dying mermaid soft;
It mermaid.
Fluttering mermaid moss spirit spirit.
Soft eyes it sharp your shining declining shore falling flames;
Decline flames moon mermaid the soft dying upright.
Flames upright sparkle.
Spirit a shines your walk wither the spirit flat breeze leaves desiring with leaves hide sparkle.
Swimming moon.
The it flames falling serene;
Fade: fluttering arises is.
Sparkle soft spirit write shining swim.
Velvet shore serene walk sits.
Walk a tender the lost flames the arises walk declining.
Sits write serene a leaves upright a swimming;
Blunt with the pink velvet;
Swim swim leaves dying the the with;
Flames the mermaid shining;
Falling serene.
Wither fluttering.
It the.
Falling I desiring.
Falling wither lost lost.
Upright flat serene it leaves moss leaves declining purple.
Spirit pink is.
Soft the the;
Moss is;
Decline a spirit mermaid.
Sits with the moss fade: your swim spirit leaves serene.
Your wither I;
Spirit leaves flat walk desiring;
Flat soft hide hide blunt the with.
Arises breeze purple a fluttering the pink.
Eyes it write spirit moss spirit sharp your.
Desiring flat is arises a with the.
Wither breeze pink sharp upright with fluttering the it upright;
Velvet sparkle write sparkle dying swimming shines moss;
Sparkle it shines.
I spirit velvet a;
Swim with;
Dying blunt purple.
Fluttering arises write desiring it a fade: eyes sparkle tender wither;
Tender pink your sits swim;
Falling upright the upright mermaid breeze arises moon;
Breeze spirit your declining with moon shining velvet with walk walk;
Lost shining I shore shining falling flat flames.
Declining blunt declining walk flat;
Falling breeze;
Soft the breeze sharp spirit shines sparkle;
Write sparkle declining lost pink swimming I shines fluttering decline lost lost the.
Pink declining spirit fluttering decline.
Write shore.
Dying falling shore.
Breeze fade: shines;
Purple eyes it;
Blunt walk moss moon lost.
Hide upright with swim.
Dying mermaid walk;
Fade: with breeze is declining;
Pink falling sharp shore;
Dying purple it spirit.
Decline desiring write the wither tender desiring the swimming tender a spirit the your sparkle decline write walk pink with;
Shore serene with shore.
Hide wither serene.
Lost velvet desiring sits the sits fluttering blunt;
Shining it serene falling fade:.
Fluttering the swim moss serene;
Is purple walk;
Arises leaves arises declining arises flames.
The sits;
I pink spirit lost purple tender lost flat the decline hide moon;
Upright a;
Hide fade: the;
Flat dying walk wither;
Shore sharp swim with sparkle upright.
Hide flames.
Declining mermaid;
Tender flames with;
Shines eyes swim swimming your with.
Shining velvet shining it.
Dying spirit wither;
Decline shining the fade:.
Moss soft the falling the.
Upright sits tender leaves I wither upright.
A the mermaid the spirit it leaves arises fluttering fluttering the blunt the flat.
Write I.
Soft falling sits spirit spirit.
Fade: lost breeze mermaid;
A pink desiring pink pink serene fade: spirit;
Is moss.
Decline declining write write breeze with walk flames.
Shore it swimming fade: with swimming wither is declining spirit.
Your soft leaves.
Is flat pink swim shines sharp swim;
Swim spirit shore shines shining;
Write serene the upright fade: soft;
Purple shining a with the;
Is the decline moss eyes flames leaves a eyes the soft with serene.
Walk write sharp blunt the sparkle shines.
Blunt velvet lost sharp mermaid declining.
Velvet dying I.
Decline decline dying tender flames the tender desiring.
Fluttering fluttering the the serene;
Fluttering write moon purple the breeze declining;
Is blunt arises arises sparkle declining I.
A moss I.
Velvet mermaid moon;
Fluttering shining is.
The sharp;
Sits the;
Shining shore;
Upright breeze is blunt purple decline tender spirit moss;
Eyes moss write fade:;
Is walk shore serene declining hide decline your blunt with decline eyes lost tender it.
Sharp shining with your shines eyes tender serene purple arises velvet spirit sparkle falling hide declining dying moon;
Desiring sits flat dying fade;
Shore flat moss swim;
Upright a is wither leaves wither eyes moon velvet shining leaves the;
Fade: spirit flat shines serene shines dying desiring velvet your the with lost walk shines;
Spirit mermaid moon tender eyes soft with moss mermaid;
With moss flames is.
Spirit the blunt with soft soft;
With flat fluttering leaves with dying.
Purple tender;
Sparkle mermaid;
Fluttering declining the.
The sparkle purple.
Tender fade: the;
Write with I hide breeze walk the purple arises.
Fade: moss spirit.
I moon breeze.
Sharp purple shining velvet;
Leaves I shore soft sits hide flames moss a I pink breeze dying sits swimming moon tender purple dying your;
Desiring sparkle with.
Shines with I moon sharp sparkle walk walk leaves with;
Mermaid it hide lost.
Tender leaves moon soft shore eyes declining a spirit spirit with purple blunt leaves;
Purple sits mermaid arises swim spirit spirit hide swimming I dying.
Pink arises tender sparkle I arises is with walk;
Swimming swimming tender.
Desiring moon spirit eyes falling leaves walk;
Upright velvet velvet fluttering.
Declining upright;
The write.
Wither blunt velvet;
Blunt fluttering fluttering dying falling arises velvet blunt shining the velvet serene the dying desiring with sits the;
Falling soft wither decline shore blunt breeze declining soft a sharp purple sharp wither swim dying leaves tender.
Write pink falling your declining I hide swimming decline.
Eyes sparkle flames serene purple.
Shining velvet;
Fluttering a I wither upright;
I blunt hide the write.
Dying swimming desiring I swimming;
Soft shines soft it upright the it.
Swimming desiring;
Wither tender arises moon lost hide;
Flat decline.
Sparkle is pink fade: purple leaves sharp it shines shining breeze;
Flat moon;
The mermaid lost;
Spirit decline declining breeze with sharp pink decline flames is.
Upright lost shining spirit flat fluttering.
Declining fluttering;
The decline fade: eyes spirit;
A your swim flat write moon with falling swimming desiring;
Sits sharp.
Eyes breeze mermaid moss sits write sharp upright.
Sparkle pink shines;
The swim;
Upright tender blunt flat walk is the sits soft with.
Wither sharp moss fade.
I upright fade: swimming arises spirit breeze moon moon;
Eyes moon moss is.
Decline swimming the;
Spirit falling with.
Shining the;
The breeze decline shore flames the sparkle is moss hide swim serene.
Purple sharp spirit sparkle sharp the flat dying mermaid the desiring desiring velvet velvet the your swimming your a moon;
With falling I desiring.
Your your spirit the flat decline.
Flat leaves lost.
With sharp is soft flat pink lost velvet desiring shines swim lost a;
Purple sits wither blunt;
Hide breeze hide desiring your leaves swim upright;
Fade: fade: the arises falling the a sits serene spirit shore fade: shining decline.
Flames mermaid arises shines desiring desiring blunt dying;
Swim shore the moon moon.
Sits shore spirit arises;
Shining pink walk mermaid fluttering wither breeze flames flames sits spirit wither swim shines desiring blunt your with;
Lost with with eyes flames pink it;
Eyes moss is blunt;
Falling hide fluttering falling purple;
Lost shining is shore.
Hide moon tender I sharp swim write sharp soft.
Sits pink dying swimming decline hide.
Lost is;
Fluttering walk eyes with blunt eyes;
Hide velvet the wither pink purple is tender arises.
Eyes your the
Read the flames,
I implored
They smiled.
Read the flames,
I shouted
They cheered.
Read the flames,
I ordered
They sat around me in a circle.
Read the flames,
Read the flames,
Action, Action, Action!!!
I wept.
They danced around me in celebration!
Read the flames,
No action,
Read the flames,
Read the flames,
No Action,
I prayed and
I prayed and
I prayed.
Annoyed at my silence
They picked me up
And threw me into the flames!
2016 August 17
Arcassin B Feb 2015
By Arcassin Burnham

I swear I burned too many times before,
Just to hear your name,
We knew what was in store,
~Inside me up in flames I'll be blazing~
~Inside me up in flames I'll be blazing~
~Inside me up in flames I'll be blazing~
The gasoline rose to my head,
Then a perfect rose sprouted knowing I'll be dead,
And laid me out like butter spread,
~Inside me up in flames I'll be blazing~
~Inside me up in flames I'll be blazing~
~Inside me up in flames I'll be blazing~
Size me up and guarantee you'll fall,
In too hot for you , including you all,
I could end the world in fire,
Just to Burn you all,
Because,
~Inside me up in flames I'll be blazing~
~Inside me up in flames I'll be blazing~
~Inside me up in flames I'll be blazing~
I'll be blazing.
Burn
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.
Tommy Johnson Sep 2015
Consumed by the flames
By the flames

Start the fire, I need you to feel this
As high as it can go, I need to feel it
Light the fire, you want me to feel this
We want to see how high we can go
We want to be consumed by the flames

Take a risk, make a wish
Until then, stay cool
After this, you will never be the same

This isn't right, I close my eyes
Prepare myself for the falling sky
I caused so much harm, I don't know why
I've had my lows, I had my highs
I did my best, now I return
With a clean slate and a lesson learned
I've been mocked, betrayed and scorned
But now I know everything can burn

Consumed by the flames
Take aim
Take blame
Play games
Cause pain
Call names
Make claims

Suppressing feelings, I'm going numb
I can't eat, sleep or see where your coming from
I try to excite myself, lust and near death's never help
I accept death and **** life and the hand I'm dealt
I've ignored the truth, avoided responsibility
But it's in the back of my mind kicking constantly
Now it's time do pay my do's I'm through with tries
I refuse to come back with a consolation prize

Consumed by the flames
Be tamed
Break chains
Disclaim
Proclaim
Insane
No shame

Turn it up, let them watch
Turn me out, I can't be stopped

Nowhere else to go, carrying my woes
Turning into someone I don't even know
Just paying back everything I owe
I've come this far, so

I've come this far

Let the flames consume me
In vain
Fast lane
Life's strain
Constrain
Left brain
Profane

I should have listened
But hear me now
Sonya Dec 2018
Everything is up in flames
only one will take the blame
Everything is up in flames
so lets save everyone

Everything is up in flames
brother and sister are the same
Everything is up in flames
so let her fingers point

Everything is up in flames
purple child gone insane
Everything is up in flames
so let her run away
Ivana Rodriguez Feb 2019
Mind warned me that flames play games––
Flames master them;
Learn from the broken and dead,
And move faster to the weak spots of their present-day victims:

Eyes watched perception of orange transform to gold;
Red was ambre, depending on the day, maybe ruby.
The colour palette of the fire was a chest of gems, jewels, pricelessness.
Dance, bend, sway––flames wrapped their fiery hands around my waist;
Together, the ice of me against the blistering flames, told stories never told:
Sentimentality, love (now, how could I name it so?), exposure.

From a far, the fire shouts,
But when it is at the final steps of the gasoline pathway, it fiercely whispers through clenched fangs.
Flames do play games:
They enjoy poker as you never know if you are in the lead or if they are ten steps ahead;
They snicker at your pain as you dispute with inner-self, confused, whether or not to believe that there is more to you than destiny shows:

Hellish flames spoke temptingly, beautifully.
I was convinced to tell myself that all they said was true...
Though, yet, but
Until I melted, and flushed them away, I never grew.
Flames numbed my palms, I picked them up, formed a ball,
And I threw flames, fire, hell far down:
Through the marble,
Through the mirror ground.
I mentally wrote this in the shower; it is soooooo bad.
This was planned to go in another direction, one less harsh and more romantic, but somehow it ended up like this with a wierd, violent theme (if that makes sense).
Also, I had more of a prose mindset when I added on to this so if this does not sound poetic then welppppp.
Yeah... okay bye.

(Maybe leave some comments, and a like?)
September Roses Feb 2018
The flames they rise up inside of me
an inferno of words, all screaming
fighting
to be the first to break my outer shell
to be the first to break me
to make me let one slip,
to form a crack, running down my face
inviting people to pull it open.
and as curiosity consumes most,
that one inferno risen word
will be the end of me
Mike Bergeron Sep 2012
There was a house fire on my street last night …well… not exactly my street, but on a little, sketchy, dead-end strip of asphalt, sidewalks, weeds, and garbage that juts into my block two houses down. It was on that street. Rosewood Court, population: 12, adjusted population: 11, characterized by anonymity and boarded windows, peppered with the swift movements of fat street rats. I’ve never been that close to a real, high-energy, make-sure-to-spray-down-your-roof-with-a-hose-so-it-doesn’t-catch­ fire before. It was the least of my expectations for the evening, though I didn’t expect a crate of Peruvian bananas to fall off a cargo plane either, punching through the ceiling, littering the parking lot with damaged fruit and shingles, tearing paintings and shelves and studs from the third floor walls, and crashing into our kitchen, shattering dishes and cabinets and appliances. Since that never happened, and since neither the former nor the latter situation even crossed my mind, I’ll stick with “least of my expectations,” and bundle up with it inside that inadequate phrase whatever else may have happened that I wouldn’t have expected.



I had been reading in my living room, absently petting the long calico fur of my roommate’s cat Dory. She’s in heat, and does her best to make sure everyone knows it, parading around, *** in the air, an opera of low trilling and loud meows and deep purring. As a consequence of a steady tide of feline hormones, she’s been excessively good humored, showering me with affection, instead of her usual indifference, punctuated by occasional, self-serving shin rubs when she’s hungry. I saw the lights before I heard the trucks or the shouts of firemen or the panicked wail of sirens, spitting their warning into the night in A or A minor, but probably neither, I’m no musician. Besides, Congratulations was playing loud, flowing through the speakers in the corners of the room, connected to the record player via the receiver with the broken volume control, travelling as excited electrons down stretches of wire that are, realistically, too short, and always pull out. The song was filling the space between the speakers and the space between my ears with musings on Brian Eno, so the auditory signal that should have informed me of the trouble that was afoot was blocked out. I saw the lights, the alternating reds and whites that filled my living room, drawing shifting patterns on my walls, ceiling, floor, furniture, and shelves of books, dragging me towards the door leading outside, through the cluttered bike room, past the sleeping, black lump of oblivious fur that is usually my boisterous male kitten, and out into the bedlam I  had previously been ignorant to. I could see the smoke, it was white then gray then white, all the while lending an acrid taste to the air, but I couldn’t see where it was issuing from. The wind was blowing the smoke toward my apartment, away from Empire Mills. I tried to count the firetrucks, but there were so many. I counted six on Wilmarth Ave, one of which was the awkward-looking, heavy-duty special hazards truck. In my part of the city, the post-industrial third-wave ***** river valley, you never know if the grease fire that started with homefries in a frying pan in an old woman’s kitchen will escalate into a full-blown mill fire, the century-old wood floors so saturated with oil and kerosene and ****** and manufacturing chemicals and ghosts and god knows what other flammable **** that it lights up like a fifth of July leftover sparkler, burning and melting the hand of the community that fed it for so many decades, leaving scars that are displayed on the local news for a week and are forgotten in a few years’ time.



The night was windy, and the day had been dry, so precautions were abundant, and I counted two more trucks on Fones Ave. One had the biggest ladder I’ve ever seen. It was parked on the corner of Fones and Wilmarth, directly across from the entrance into the forgotten dead-end where the forgotten house was burning, and the ladder was lifting into the air. By now my two roommates had come outside too, to stand on our rickety, wooden staircase, and Jeff said he could see flames in the windows of one of the three abandoned houses on Rosewood, through the third floor holes where windows once were, where boards of plywood were deemed unnecessary.



“Ay! Daddy!”



My neighbor John called up to us. He serves as the eyes and ears and certainly the mouth of our block, always in everyone’s business, without being too intrusive, always aware of what’s going down and who’s involved. He proceeded to tell us the lowdown on the blaze as far as he knew it, that there were two more firetrucks and an ambulance down Rosewood, that the front and back doors to the house were blocked by something from inside, that those somethings were very heavy, that someone was screaming inside, that the fire was growing.



Val had gone inside to get his jacket, because despite the floodlights from the trucks imitating sunlight, the wind and the low temperature and the thought of a person burning alive made the night chilly. Val thought we should go around the block, to see if we could get a better view, to satisfy our congenital need to witness disaster, to see the passenger car flip over the Jersey barrier, to watch the videos of Jihadist beheadings, to stand in line to look at painted corpses in velvet, underlit parlors, and sit in silence while their family members cry. We walked down the stairs, into full floodlight, and there were first responders and police and fully equipped firefighters moving in all directions. We watched two firemen attempting to open an old, rusty fire hydrant, and it could’ve been inexperience, the stress of the situation, the condition of the hydrant, or just poor luck, but rather than opening as it was supposed to the hydrant burst open, sending the cap flying into the side of a firetruck, the water crashing into the younger of the two men’s face and torso, knocking him back on his ***. While he coughed out surprised air and water and a flood of expletives, his partner got the situation under control and got the hose attached. We turned and walked away from the fire, and as we approached the turn we’d take to cut through the rundown parking lot that would bring us to the other side of the block, two firemen hurried past, one leading the other, carrying between them a stretcher full of machines for monitoring and a shitload of wires and tubing. It was the stiff board-like kind, with handles on each end, the kind of stretcher you might expect to see circus clowns carry out, when it’s time to save their fallen, pie-faced cohort. I wondered why they were using this archaic form of patient transportation, and not one of the padded, electrical ones on wheels. We pushed past the crowd that had begun forming, walked past the Laundromat, the 7Eleven, the carwash, and took a left onto the street on the other side of the parking lot, parallel to Wilmarth. There were several older men standing on the sidewalk, facing the fire, hands either in pockets or bringing a cigarette to and from a frowning mouth. They were standing in the ideal place to witness the action, with an unobstructed view of the top two floors of the burning house, its upper windows glowing orange with internal light and vomiting putrid smoke.  We could taste the burning wires, the rugs, the insulation, the asbestos, the black mold, the trash, and the smell was so strong I had to cover my mouth with my shirt, though it provided little relief. We said hello, they grunted the same, and we all stood, watching, thinking about what we were seeing, not wanting to see what we were thinking.

Two firefighters were on the roof by this point, they were yelling to each other and to the others on the ground, but we couldn’t hear what they were saying because of the sirens from all the emergency vehicles that were arriving.  It seemed to me they sent every firetruck in the city, as well as more than a dozen police cars and a slew of ambulances, all of them arriving from every direction. I guess they expected the fire to get really out of hand, but we could already see the orange glow withdrawing into the dark of the house, steam and smoke rippling out of the stretched, wooden mouths of the rotted window frames. In a gruff, habitual smoker’s voice, we heard

                                      “Chopper called the fire depahtment

We was over at the vet’s home

                He says he saw flames in the windas

                                                                                                                                                We all thought he was shittin’ us

We couldn’t see nothin’.”

A man between fifty-five to sixty-five years old was speaking, no hair on his shiny, tanned head, old tattoos etched in bluish gray on his hands, arms, and neck, menthol smoke rising from between timeworn fingers. He brought the cigarette to his lips, drew a hearty chest full of smoke, and as he let it out he repeated

                                                “Yea, chopper called em’

Says he saw flames.”

The men on the roof were just silhouettes, backlit by the dazzling brightness of the lights on the other side.  The figure to the left of the roof pulled something large up into view, and we knew instantly by the cord pull and the sound that it was a chainsaw. He began cutting directly into the roof. I wasn’t sure what he was doing, wondered if he was scared of falling into the fire, assumed he probably was, but had at least done this before, tried to figure out if he was doing it to gain entry or release pressure or whatever. The man to the right was hacking away at the roof with an axe. It was surreal to watch, to see two men transformed from public servants into fingers of destruction, the pinkie and ring finger fighting the powerful thumb of the controlled chemical reaction eating the air below them, to watch the dark figures shrouded in ethereal light and smoke and sawdust and what must’ve been unbearable heat from below, to be viewing everything with my own home, my belongings, still visible, to know it could easily have gone up in flames as well.

I should’ve brought my jacket. I remember complaining about it, about how the wind was passing through my skin like a window screen, chilling my blood, in sharp contrast to the heat that was morphing and rippling the air above the house as it disappeared as smoke and gas up into the atmosphere from the inside out.

Ten minutes later, or maybe five, or maybe one, the men on the roof were still working diligently cutting and chopping, but we could no longer see any signs of flames, and there were figures moving around in the house, visible in the windows of the upper floors, despite the smoke. Figuring the action must be reaching its end, we decided to walk back to our apartment. We saw Ken’s brown pickup truck parked next to the Laundromat, unable to reach our parking lot due to all the emergency vehicles and people clogging our street. We came around the corner and saw the other two members of the Infamous Summers standing next to our building with the rest of the crowd that had gathered. Dosin told us the fire was out, and that they had pulled someone from inside the gutted house, but no ambulance had left yet, and his normally smiling face was flat and somber, and the beaten guitar case slung over his shoulder, and his messed up hair, and the red in his cheeks from the cold air, and the way he was moving rocks around with the toe of his shoe made him look like a lost child, chasing a dream far from home but finding a nightmare in its place, instead of the professional who never loses his cool or his direction.

The crowd all began talking at once, so I turned around, towards the dead end and the group of firefighters and EMTs that were emerging. Their faces were stoic, not a single expression on all but one of those faces, a young EMT, probably a Basic, or a Cardiac, or neither, but no older than twenty, who was silently weeping, the tears cutting tracks through the soot on his cheeks, his eyes empty of emotion, his lips drawn tight and still. Four of them were each holding a corner of the maroon stretcher that took two to carry when I first saw it, full of equipment. They did not rush, they did not appear to be tending to a person barely holding onto life, they were just carrying the weight. As they got close gasps and cries of horror or disgust or both issued from the crowd, some turned away, some expressions didn’t change, some eyes closed and others stayed fixed on what they came to see. One woman vomited, right there on the sidewalk, splashing the shoes of those near her with the partially digested remains of her EBT dinner. I felt my own stomach start to turn, but I didn’t look away. I couldn’t.

                                                                                It was like I was seven again,

                                in the alleyway running along the side of the junior high school I lived near and would eventually attend,

looking in silent horror at what three eighth graders from my neighborhood were doing.

It was about eight in the evening of a rainy,

late summer day,

and I was walking home with my older brother,

cutting through the alley like we always did.

The three older boys were standing over a small dog,

a terrier of some sort.

They had duct taped its mouth shut and its legs together,

but we could still hear its terrified whines through its clenched teeth.

One of the boys had cut off the dog’s tail.

He had it in one hand,

and was still holding the pocket knife in the other.

None of them were smiling,

or talking,

nor did they take notice of Andrew and I.

There was a garden bag standing up next to them that looked pretty full,

and there was a small pile of leaves on the ground next to it.

In slow motion I watched,

horrified,

as one of the boys,

Brian Jones-Hartlett,

picked up the shaking animal,

put it in the bag,

covered it with the leaves from the ground,

and with wide,

shining eyes,

set the bag

on fire

with a long-necked

candle

lighter.

It was too much for me then. I couldn’t control my nausea. I threw up and sat down while my head swam.

I couldn’t understand. I forgot my brother and the fact that he was older, that he should stop this,

Stop them,

There’s a dog in there,

You’re older, I’m sick,

Why can’t I stop them?

It was like
Jacob Thomas Oct 2018
Flames, flames, fire!

Hearts loaded with embers,
Begone flame, you hold no sway!

Pooled in blood,
The melting moon
Shines far above

Warming your frigid eyes
With shards of night and
Blaring beams of white

Crushing the natural mind
With ballads of war and pain,
Spitting moments of gore through
Abyssal pupils.


  Prepare this intestine of youth,
       Detach its origin and cast it unto

            A forest with one tree.

Then char the strand of mind in which
Fear reigns, scar it with the memory
       Of life

Let it kneel
to your flight
And Bring it fore your eyes,
Caging the slithering chimera with
     Immense cliffs of ice

Let it look to your matter
Yet never engage your voice,
Fluxing into your cells with terrific
      Color,
Breaking off the origin and planting
It’s lessons in between the soul and
      Skin,
Offering access to any lost traveler
Drowning in a raging sea.

Embers in your heart,
       Fire consuming without,
       Fire empowers within
I saw the flames
He jumped through
He just leaped through the fire
Completely unhurt
I was amazed
Id heard tale of such feats
But even still
To actually watch it happen
I was enthralled
I was awestruck
And then i desired to feel
Those flames lick my face
I wanted to feel the heat
And yet remain unscathed
I wanted to jump
And so i did
I ran towards the flames
I was so excited
I wanted to leap through the air
But when i came close
When i saw those flames in my face
I stopped
For a split second
I stopped
I hesitated
And that threw me off
So as i jumped i fell
Into the flames
And i got burned
I have the scar on my knee
Its not bad
But **** did it hurt
I have the giant bruise on my side
And **** did it hurt
But none of my physical pain
Hurt nearly as much
As the embarrassment did
As much as knowing that everyone had watched
That everyone saw
That everyone knew
That i had failed
I had fallen and got burned
And that pain was unbearable
I had to leave to step away
I couldn't face anyone
And so i went off
By myself
And sat and thought
And made the decision that i would play it safe
And not take risks
And thus I wouldn't fail
And thus I wouldn't face the pain
I could just stay safe
But as i think about it
I remember the rush
The flames licking my face
That moment before i fell
And i felt amazing
Before I hesitated before i jumped
I was excited
I was doing something
And it was a rush
So yeah i fell
And yeah i hurt
And yeah the pain was real
But thinking back to it
Id do it again in a heart beat
The only difference is
I wouldn't hesitate
Or if i did
Right after i fell
Rather than leaving
Id run at the fire again
And id keep jumping
Until I finally made it.
This actually happened but it really opened my eyes to how i view life and how i let the fear of failure keep me from trying
Cné Aug 2018

Souls embroidered with sweet sighs of passion
Musing of nights in lace & white satin
On a vista of flesh, flushed with desire
Riding the flames on a passage of fire

The beating of drums, commanding the night
To the rhythm of hearts, passion ignites
Wrapped in immortal flames of the sun
Burning together, two become one

Flesh upon flesh, a spirited dance
Welded by whispers of love, of romance
Temperatures rise in a fever of lust
Stoking the flames, ****** after ******

Riding the swell, in a race to the shore
Try to repress, but needing it more
Virtue be ****** in the rage of desire
Flames rise in hunger, higher n' higher

Charging the crest, temperance slips
Drawing the reins in a white knuckle grip
Crashing of waves unleashes the flood
Quaking the heart, and searing the blood

Spewing of flames in the crash of the tide
In a warm sheen of sweat, fervor subsides
Energy spent in the throes of release
Collapsing together, the story complete

Jared Eli Mar 2014
Sitting in my skyscraper
Watching the world burn
Just sitting here, untouched
On the flaming globe I earned

I sit back in my skyscraper
Pull the blinds and shut my eyes
I think of what is left
In the world that I despise

Oh, yes! The flames are coming
Reaching far and wide
And they're faster and they're hotter
Than your mail-order bride
Oh, yes! The flames are coming
Taller than you'd think
And they'll burn you to a golden crisp
Before you've time to blink

High up in my skyscraper
I know the outcome’s wrong
And it never would’ve come to this
If the world all got along

I know I’ve earned this skyscraper
Because it’s the slowest death
Yes, I’ve earned the prolonged agony
And I’ll wait for my last breath

Oh, yes! The flames are coming
Reaching far and wide
And they're faster and they're hotter
Than your mail-order bride
Oh, yes! The flames are coming
Taller than you'd think
And they'll burn you to a golden crisp
Before you've time to blink

Sitting in my skyscraper
Watching as I burn
I sit here as I’m touched
By the flaming death I’ve earned

The flames consume my skyscraper
I’m falling from the skies
And I’m all that is left
In the world that I despise

Oh, yes! The flames are coming
Reaching far and wide
And they're faster and they're hotter
Than your mail-order bride
Oh, yes! The flames are coming
Taller than you'd think
And they'll burn you to a golden crisp
Before you've time to blink
Thus did they make their moan throughout the city, while the
Achaeans when they reached the Hellespont went back every man to his
own ship. But Achilles would not let the Myrmidons go, and spoke to
his brave comrades saying, “Myrmidons, famed horsemen and my own
trusted friends, not yet, forsooth, let us unyoke, but with horse
and chariot draw near to the body and mourn Patroclus, in due honour
to the dead. When we have had full comfort of lamentation we will
unyoke our horses and take supper all of us here.”
  On this they all joined in a cry of wailing and Achilles led them in
their lament. Thrice did they drive their chariots all sorrowing round
the body, and Thetis stirred within them a still deeper yearning.
The sands of the seashore and the men’s armour were wet with their
weeping, so great a minister of fear was he whom they had lost.
Chief in all their mourning was the son of Peleus: he laid his
bloodstained hand on the breast of his friend. “Fare well,” he
cried, “Patroclus, even in the house of Hades. I will now do all
that I erewhile promised you; I will drag Hector hither and let dogs
devour him raw; twelve noble sons of Trojans will I also slay before
your pyre to avenge you.”
  As he spoke he treated the body of noble Hector with contumely,
laying it at full length in the dust beside the bier of Patroclus. The
others then put off every man his armour, took the horses from their
chariots, and seated themselves in great multitude by the ship of
the fleet descendant of Aeacus, who thereon feasted them with an
abundant funeral banquet. Many a goodly ox, with many a sheep and
bleating goat did they butcher and cut up; many a tusked boar
moreover, fat and well-fed, did they singe and set to roast in the
flames of Vulcan; and rivulets of blood flowed all round the place
where the body was lying.
  Then the princes of the Achaeans took the son of Peleus to
Agamemnon, but hardly could they persuade him to come with them, so
wroth was he for the death of his comrade. As soon as they reached
Agamemnon’s tent they told the serving-men to set a large tripod
over the fire in case they might persuade the son of Peleus ‘to wash
the clotted gore from this body, but he denied them sternly, and swore
it with a solemn oath, saying, “Nay, by King Jove, first and mightiest
of all gods, it is not meet that water should touch my body, till I
have laid Patroclus on the flames, have built him a barrow, and shaved
my head—for so long as I live no such second sorrow shall ever draw
nigh me. Now, therefore, let us do all that this sad festival demands,
but at break of day, King Agamemnon, bid your men bring wood, and
provide all else that the dead may duly take into the realm of
darkness; the fire shall thus burn him out of our sight the sooner,
and the people shall turn again to their own labours.”
  Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. They made haste
to prepare the meal, they ate, and every man had his full share so
that all were satisfied. As soon as they had had had enough to eat and
drink, the others went to their rest each in his own tent, but the son
of Peleus lay grieving among his Myrmidons by the shore of the
sounding sea, in an open place where the waves came surging in one
after another. Here a very deep slumber took hold upon him and eased
the burden of his sorrows, for his limbs were weary with chasing
Hector round windy Ilius. Presently the sad spirit of Patroclus drew
near him, like what he had been in stature, voice, and the light of
his beaming eyes, clad, too, as he had been clad in life. The spirit
hovered over his head and said-
  “You sleep, Achilles, and have forgotten me; you loved me living,
but now that I am dead you think for me no further. Bury me with all
speed that I may pass the gates of Hades; the ghosts, vain shadows
of men that can labour no more, drive me away from them; they will not
yet suffer me to join those that are beyond the river, and I wander
all desolate by the wide gates of the house of Hades. Give me now your
hand I pray you, for when you have once given me my dues of fire,
never shall I again come forth out of the house of Hades. Nevermore
shall we sit apart and take sweet counsel among the living; the
cruel fate which was my birth-right has yawned its wide jaws around
me—nay, you too Achilles, peer of gods, are doomed to die beneath the
wall of the noble Trojans.
  “One prayer more will I make you, if you will grant it; let not my
bones be laid apart from yours, Achilles, but with them; even as we
were brought up together in your own home, what time Menoetius brought
me to you as a child from Opoeis because by a sad spite I had killed
the son of Amphidamas—not of set purpose, but in childish quarrel
over the dice. The knight Peleus took me into his house, entreated
me kindly, and named me to be your squire; therefore let our bones lie
in but a single urn, the two-handled golden vase given to you by
your mother.”
  And Achilles answered, “Why, true heart, are you come hither to
lay these charges upon me? will of my own self do all as you have
bidden me. Draw closer to me, let us once more throw our arms around
one another, and find sad comfort in the sharing of our sorrows.”
  He opened his arms towards him as he spoke and would have clasped
him in them, but there was nothing, and the spirit vanished as a
vapour, gibbering and whining into the earth. Achilles sprang to his
feet, smote his two hands, and made lamentation saying, “Of a truth
even in the house of Hades there are ghosts and phantoms that have
no life in them; all night long the sad spirit of Patroclus has
hovered over head making piteous moan, telling me what I am to do
for him, and looking wondrously like himself.”
  Thus did he speak and his words set them all weeping and mourning
about the poor dumb dead, till rosy-fingered morn appeared. Then
King Agamemnon sent men and mules from all parts of the camp, to bring
wood, and Meriones, squire to Idomeneus, was in charge over them. They
went out with woodmen’s axes and strong ropes in their hands, and
before them went the mules. Up hill and down dale did they go, by
straight ways and crooked, and when they reached the heights of
many-fountained Ida, they laid their axes to the roots of many a
tall branching oak that came thundering down as they felled it. They
split the trees and bound them behind the mules, which then wended
their way as they best could through the thick brushwood on to the
plain. All who had been cutting wood bore logs, for so Meriones squire
to Idomeneus had bidden them, and they threw them down in a line
upon the seashore at the place where Achilles would make a mighty
monument for Patroclus and for himself.
  When they had thrown down their great logs of wood over the whole
ground, they stayed all of them where they were, but Achilles
ordered his brave Myrmidons to gird on their armour, and to yoke
each man his horses; they therefore rose, girded on their armour and
mounted each his chariot—they and their charioteers with them. The
chariots went before, and they that were on foot followed as a cloud
in their tens of thousands after. In the midst of them his comrades
bore Patroclus and covered him with the locks of their hair which they
cut off and threw upon his body. Last came Achilles with his head
bowed for sorrow, so noble a comrade was he taking to the house of
Hades.
  When they came to the place of which Achilles had told them they
laid the body down and built up the wood. Achilles then bethought
him of another matter. He went a space away from the pyre, and cut off
the yellow lock which he had let grow for the river Spercheius. He
looked all sorrowfully out upon the dark sea, and said, “Spercheius,
in vain did my father Peleus vow to you that when I returned home to
my loved native land I should cut off this lock and offer you a holy
hecatomb; fifty she-goats was I to sacrifice to you there at your
springs, where is your grove and your altar fragrant with
burnt-offerings. Thus did my father vow, but you have not fulfilled
his prayer; now, therefore, that I shall see my home no more, I give
this lock as a keepsake to the hero Patroclus.”
  As he spoke he placed the lock in the hands of his dear comrade, and
all who stood by were filled with yearning and lamentation. The sun
would have gone down upon their mourning had not Achilles presently
said to Agamemnon, “Son of Atreus, for it is to you that the people
will give ear, there is a time to mourn and a time to cease from
mourning; bid the people now leave the pyre and set about getting
their dinners: we, to whom the dead is dearest, will see to what is
wanted here, and let the other princes also stay by me.”
  When King Agamemnon heard this he dismissed the people to their
ships, but those who were about the dead heaped up wood and built a
pyre a hundred feet this way and that; then they laid the dead all
sorrowfully upon the top of it. They flayed and dressed many fat sheep
and oxen before the pyre, and Achilles took fat from all of them and
wrapped the body therein from head to foot, heaping the flayed
carcases all round it. Against the bier he leaned two-handled jars
of honey and unguents; four proud horses did he then cast upon the
pyre, groaning the while he did so. The dead hero had had
house-dogs; two of them did Achilles slay and threw upon the pyre;
he also put twelve brave sons of noble Trojans to the sword and laid
them with the rest, for he was full of bitterness and fury. Then he
committed all to the resistless and devouring might of the fire; he
groaned aloud and callid on his dead comrade by name. “Fare well,”
he cried, “Patroclus, even in the house of Hades; I am now doing all
that I have promised you. Twelve brave sons of noble Trojans shall the
flames consume along with yourself, but dogs, not fire, shall devour
the flesh of Hector son of Priam.”
  Thus did he vaunt, but the dogs came not about the body of Hector,
for Jove’s daughter Venus kept them off him night and day, and
anointed him with ambrosial oil of roses that his flesh might not be
torn when Achilles was dragging him about. Phoebus Apollo moreover
sent a dark cloud from heaven to earth, which gave shade to the
whole place where Hector lay, that the heat of the sun might not parch
his body.
  Now the pyre about dead Patroclus would not kindle. Achilles
therefore bethought him of another matter; he went apart and prayed to
the two winds Boreas and Zephyrus vowing them goodly offerings. He
made them many drink-offerings from the golden cup and besought them
to come and help him that the wood might make haste to kindle and
the dead bodies be consumed. Fleet Iris heard him praying and
started off to fetch the winds. They were holding high feast in the
house of boisterous Zephyrus when Iris came running up to the stone
threshold of the house and stood there, but as soon as they set eyes
on her they all came towards her and each of them called her to him,
but Iris would not sit down. “I cannot stay,” she said, “I must go
back to the streams of Oceanus and the land of the Ethiopians who
are offering hecatombs to the immortals, and I would have my share;
but Achilles prays that Boreas and shrill Zephyrus will come to him,
and he vows them goodly offerings; he would have you blow upon the
pyre of Patroclus for whom all the Achaeans are lamenting.”
  With this she left them, and the two winds rose with a cry that rent
the air and swept the clouds before them. They blew on and on until
they came to the sea, and the waves rose high beneath them, but when
they reached Troy they fell upon the pyre till the mighty flames
roared under the blast that they blew. All night long did they blow
hard and beat upon the fire, and all night long did Achilles grasp his
double cup, drawing wine from a mixing-bowl of gold, and calling
upon the spirit of dead Patroclus as he poured it upon the ground
until the earth was drenched. As a father mourns when he is burning
the bones of his bridegroom son whose death has wrung the hearts of
his parents, even so did Achilles mourn while burning the body of
his comrade, pacing round the bier with piteous groaning and
lamentation.
  At length as the Morning Star was beginning to herald the light
which saffron-mantled Dawn was soon to suffuse over the sea, the
flames fell and the fire began to die. The winds then went home beyond
the Thracian sea, which roared and boiled as they swept over it. The
son of Peleus now turned away from the pyre and lay down, overcome
with toil, till he fell into a sweet slumber. Presently they who
were about the son of Atreus drew near in a body, and roused him
with the noise and ***** of their coming. He sat upright and said,
“Son of Atreus, and all other princes of the Achaeans, first pour
red wine everywhere upon the fire and quench it; let us then gather
the bones of Patroclus son of Menoetius, singling them out with
care; they are easily found, for they lie in the middle of the pyre,
while all else, both men and horses, has been thrown in a heap and
burned at the outer edge. We will lay the bones in a golden urn, in
two layers of fat, against the time when I shall myself go down into
the house of Hades. As for the barrow, labour not to raise a great one
now, but such as is reasonable. Afterwards, let those Achaeans who may
be left at the ships when I am gone, build it both broad and high.”
  Thus he spoke and they obeyed the word of the son of Peleus. First
they poured red wine upon the thick layer of ashes and quenched the
fire. With many tears they singled out the whitened bones of their
loved comrade and laid them within a golden urn in two layers of
fat: they then covered the urn with a linen cloth and took it inside
the tent. They marked off the circle where the barrow should be,
made a foundation for it about the pyre, and forthwith heaped up the
earth. When they had thus raised a mound they were going away, but
Achilles stayed the people and made them sit in assembly. He brought
prizes from the ships-cauldrons, tripods, horses and mules, noble
oxen, women with fair girdles, and swart iron.
  The first prize he offered was for the chariot races—a woman
skilled in all useful arts, and a three-legged cauldron that had
ears for handles, and would hold twenty-two measures. This was for the
man who came in first. For the second there was a six-year old mare,
unbroken, and in foal to a he-***; the third was to have a goodly
cauldron that had never yet been on the fire; it was still bright as
when it left the maker, and would hold four measures. The fourth prize
was two talents of gold, and the fifth a two-handled urn as yet
unsoiled by smoke. Then he stood up and spoke among the Argives
saying-
  “Son of Atreus, and all other Achaeans, these are the prizes that
lie waiting the winners of the chariot races. At any other time I
should carry off the first prize and take it to my own tent; you
know how far my steeds excel all others—for they are immortal;
Neptune gave them to my father Peleus, who in his turn gave them to
myself; but I shall hold aloof, I and my steeds that have lost their
brave and kind driver, who many a time has washed them in clear
water and anointed their manes with oil. See how they stand weeping
here, with their manes trailing on the ground in the extremity of
their sorrow. But do you others set yourselves in order throughout the
host, whosoever has confidence in his horses and in the strength of
his chariot.”
  Thus spoke the son of Peleus and the drivers of chariots bestirred
themselves. First among them all uprose Eumelus, king of men, son of
Admetus, a man excellent in horsemanship. Next to him rose mighty
Diomed son of Tydeus; he yoked the Trojan horses which he had taken
from Aeneas, when Apollo bore him out of the fight. Next to him,
yellow-haired Menelaus son of Atreus rose and yoked his fleet
horses, Agamemnon’s mare Aethe, and his own horse Podargus. The mare
had been given to Agamemnon by echepolus son of Anchises, that he
might not have to follow him to Ilius, but might stay at home and take
his ease; for Jove had endowed him with great wealth and he lived in
spacious
Aaron Combs Jan 2019
The stars and all its powers,  are falling like the Himalayan roses,
For tonight the marble moon is on fire,
Just like the hazel flames in your eyes.

Soon, the Gemini shadows
     will soar over.

As the world falls apart
like a red dress,
tell me the time, the time you felt life,
that life was good.

For the dirt storms and shadows, spirits
will eventually bleed above the sunrise.
Inside this truck, let me hold your heart.
below the shadows, I'll be your armor.

Up and under the shirts, sleeves, of our feelings,
darkness doesn't feel so strange when I'm with you,
so hold and hang on the leg of my words,
as the streetlights spill into the skin and memories.

Oh, the shadows, the shadows, the shadows,
I can feel fear as much as I feel the fire
and the flames in your eyes,
and the red sky is falling like razor blades.

Now until we are clothed into one flame.
Tell me you belong to me,
There's just one more night,  
For the marble moon is on fire
and the stars are falling all around us.

Turn the radio on, the last song on high,
and let the flames of music blend
smoothly against the shadows light.
Ashling Mantel Mar 2015
I see the flames of mischief
The ones that Mean no harm
Flames that dance and flicker
Just out of reach from hand and arm

I see the flames of sadness
They burn low and dull
The don't keep me very warm
And disperse at the slightest rainfall

I see the flames of happiness
Warm cheery and red
They fill the hearth
And warm our hearts

I also see the flame  of hate
Tall and despairing
Leaping from building to building
Leaving nothing but ashes

Try as you might
Try to be like me
But the only flames you'll ever see

Are the ones that force you to flee
DAVID Jul 2015
the darkest hour, the longing
is gone, no look back, nor remorse,
only scars and internal bleeding,
the time of sorrow is past, no remorse
nor songs of regrets, futile are the sorrow
songs,

despair is good, like love or an ******,
after the secrets behind the dress, loving
wanting the female scent, can smell you,
as lion to his prey, as bees on honey,
looking at the female eyes, loving silently,
longing lascivious touch, in the heat of lust,
falling as a sinner for her ****** doors,

the hour of lust never goes, is cursing
every moment and every piece of flesh,
like the merchant of Venice, taking your skin
as mi own, devouring the placer of
making her *** and letting her go.

us  poets souls, loving without remorse
feeling and making love threw words,
in a shallow world, full of badly lust, the lust of us,
is sour but never cold, only shallow souls
can't make love, us always trying to love,

the darkest hour, the longing is on,
mesmerizing the lascivious touch,
looking at you'r ******* face,
sweet as hell feeling mellow and fool
as a little boy, in the hour's of hates,
there is no remorse after those gay boys
in shallow hall, even them knows who is not

some loving threw phones,
us ******* threw words, like the
first lover threw words, mister George
lord of us all, the poets following the trails,
of love and lust, looking the fleur du mal,
reading the maldoror, and watching
at abysmal thoughts, of greats and crazy lost,
how many of you **** with words,
as Baudelaire says,
hypocrite reader mi brother, the truth
is on our souls, she watch for us all.

a season inferne, trying to love her
and making her keep the ******* soul,
soulless girl is already lost, crazy paths to her,
lost, but never stain my soul, in the darkest hour,
loving as i let go, feeling nothing, but the stain of
children blood in her hands, lost the soul, but trying
as never, to making her feel the love and lust in a
poets souls, beast are we all, of love and lust,

in this darkest hour, lost the heart but not my soul,
she is the love i make threw words, and lust is not
a game on her phone, or sexting foolishness,
where is thou lascivious touch, your heaven reach's,
gone. and never to return, too much connection
but no touch

lust is not a game, is an act of love,
pain and placer, lust and love,
flavors of the same drug, the drug of love,
every ****** is connected too us all, poetry
is ******* and loving threw words,
old pigs and lion and wolves,
making and matting and feeling it all.

the pain is part of lovers and lust, in
the empty streets of the days gone,
y can still see her with my eyes closed.
old lover of days far gone, still see you
with my eyes closed, the darkest hours
are gone and never to return, children's
blood stain the soul, of a soulless girl,

the our of darkness is not close to home,
i'm a poet in a crazy world, with out malice
or remorse, just a lover in the shallow halls,
full's of badly lust, and empty hearts with out the soul.
at the house of hell, immortality is far gone,
at this port of love and lust, are all vessels and boats
getting to the shore, or drawing in deep waters of
blood pain and lust, by not loving it all, pain and remorse
fear and love, lust and shame, all is there to feel it all,
there's  no escape for the truth in our souls, nor
ever going to be a safe port, the deep waters are
full of drawing boats, in the sea of life and love
let her go, and never look back as she lost her soul

the salt sculpture was looking back, now she is gone,
***** was full of badly lust, now she is a salty wall,
beneath hashem eyes she lost the ******* soul,
now and then never let the stain get's the soul,
is your only escape from hem, and his burning home
away the darkest hour, know that she is gone,
new dawns and new days, for this poet to love,
some day the cold will let her heart feel the eternal
fire of a poets soul. a burning heart full of love,
pain and lust, as the vessels sail on,
away far the boats are gone, beneath hashem's eyes

did he love, some will say, in deed he love,
and that is all, beneath the shallow halls
of love and lust i'm still alone in this ******* cold,
empty thoughts and lover soul's, is full by pain and lost
behind the eyes of a poets soul, is the abysmal truth
in the poets clothes, lust is nothing with out the love,
empty and vain, as a tick drinking flames of dragons yawns.


in the darkest of all hours i fell the pain of being alone,
no shame nor remorse, only the coldness, of being not,
a poets truth is on his soul, lucid thoughts in dark rooms,
and lost is not  a part of the all, the strings connect us all,
even the creepy lost, are part of us all, with o with out the soul,
but never he could stain my soul, beneath the shallow walls of
lust and love, some are lost, and alone, is a cold world, for the one with soul, evolved and ready for all, sill the soulless ones are looking for love and lust, even in shallow hall, their trying to be loved in return,

in the hour of lust and love, still the head need to be lost,
cause the pain was bigger then the love, even then i knew
one day i will going to love or try to, do,
i never be but alone, still can smell the sweetness,
of the lady's love, and make them feel adored,
and wanted, but still the head need to be lost,
the hours of pain are still near the bed,
looking as a drag remorse, or a foul lust taken by force,
or stolen in sleep, still the stains of ****** ****'s,
pollute what once  was full of love.

now is all full of lust and pain, never the soul
or the pain, take of nothing but shame,
of this poet's soul.
that even after the rapes, or  games
of creepy shames, lose the head or let the shame
direct my game, what once was stained, some will wash,
with love and lust, and honey tears, will take the stains
and love the flames in the poets heart.

nor shame nor remorse, just the truth and the flames,
never the blame will command my flames or foul my name,
connected are the strains of us all, as a mouse, as a lion
she will never pollute my name, or her shame will be minor,
the children s blood in her scent pollute the air,
and her bleeding hands are a ******* disgrace.

still the pain was washed away,
and the heart break was healed, after
all those years in pain, living in poets hell,
decadence as a way of life, despair and pain
***** my second and third name, now i'm clean
alive and well thoroughly clean is the soul of this,
project of man, sane and plain,

the darkest hours pass and where gone
alone and free, simple, smelling some
Madeleine in the sweet morning air,
the loner past, is gone with her lying eyes,
away i sail in this vessel, away the port, looking
for clean air, a woman with soul,
and this loving flame called poetry.
Hunter Aldrich Dec 2017
She walks through the flames, they flicker and spark as they dance around her skin
She used to scream, she used to scream from bottom of the flames, for love, for hope, for help
The colors dance to their own beat, her screams were their lyrics and the running of her feet were the drums
The drums have slowed and the lyrics have died out but still they dance
Her breaths can be heard through the wall of flames
Tiny little things they are
Her voice use to fill the room with such joy
Her feet use to dance, run, and leap
Her eyes were filled with such wonder
Her smile, her smile gave the people around her the urge to smile with her
They gave people hope that everything was going to be ok
Even through the tough times, she smiled
She smiled for others' sakes
She smiled because it was her lie
Her lie that everything was going to be ok
Her lie that if she kept on smiling everything would get better
Even though the knives won the battle
Even after the bottle full of pills kept on taunting
She smiled
Though her voice was silent in the brightness of the flames
She smiled
Though her feet stopped dancing
She smiled
Though the fire dances around her skin
She smiled
Soon her smiles turned to laughs
Small at first, soft little puffs of air grew to giggles
Her eyes filled with wonder once again
The flames started dying
Her feet started dancing
The flames died to little embers of smoke
Her voice filled the rooms once again with joy
She looked down at the smoky embers, glowing even in the well-lit room
"I'm free."
Nic Burrose Nov 2011
blurred through the mumbling atomic cafe
i thought i heard you say
i am become deaf
destroyer of words
but you were breath
become butterfly effect
spiraling within the stereophonic white-noise drone
of a static radio station
tuned to the music of the silent colossal rotation
of the planets, stars, sun and moon
behind the drawn curtain of a vanished polaroid

still these beating hearts to a murmur
slow these breathing lungs to a whisper
and attach the cello strings of your bloodstream
to that glittering confetti cloud of satellites
strobing, circling the sphere of our atmosphere
strung out on geo-synchronicity
the turning tunnel of the tides
the aeon-spanning volcanic swirl of magma
subsonically writhing
beneath the magnetic pull of the ocean floor
and just...listen...

can you hear the flaming  crackle
of the fire burning in our bellies?
if we slit our stomachs open
the flames that spill from our hari-kiri'd entrails
will fill the darkness in the corner of our closet
and burn it to ashes

in a dream
i saw us laughing together many years from now

when the blast-furnace of our blood, sweat, tears and acid dreams gapes wide
we will laugh in it's face
at the absurdities
of death and taxes

and as the years push through
we will laugh
as we go blind in our old age
growing brighter than the glow
from within the dollhouse home we assembled
from sticks n stones

and we will grow gray together
and fill the soles in our shoes
the holes in our soles
with the dirt, rust, ash, concrete and angel dust
of these city streets

and we will laugh like pyromaniacs
as we **** on burial plots
soil our own graves
and erase our fingerprint smudges
from the blueprints
of our jailbreak escape plan

flames will erupt from the holes in our heads
consume us
spread in a tectonic shock-wave
and lick the pale toes of angels and dreaming junkies
hovering on ghost clouds of ***** soot
just above the foot of our bed

the outlines of our bodies will liquify, disintegrate
and reform as the jagged teeth of a cityscape skyline
crowned crookedly upon the head of a crippled pigeon
ascending in a stuttering climb
towards a heaven
that does not exist
for us

shaking ash and bone-dust from twisted feather
our flames will spread further
devour prehistoric forests
**** roots and tree trunks to bare bone
and march in a coronation parade
upon the city gates
behind a revolutionary brigade
of angry red army ants

finally, those flames
will surround a broken boombox
lost behind a landfill-mound
of moth-chewed cardboard moving boxes
containing the soft stains of dream and memory
tagged, painted, and graffitied
in white out, in sharpie
duct tape peeling from perforated speakers
the flashlight-sized battery compartment
an empty coffin

i didn't cry the day you died. i'm sorry. the reality that you had passed away at barely twenty-five didn't really hit me, even at your eulogy and that still haunts me. they say that denial is the first stage of addiction but I assumed that you knew that death was a possible side-effect of your prescription. about two weeks after your wake, it hit me like a train. i was riding the n judah to the end of the line at ocean beach when I passed a throw-up piece that you had painted a few years before in the train tunnel near haight and cole. it was a big letter "a" in lowercase with an exclamation point next to it. i once asked you what it meant. you shrugged and said, "i just like the shape of it," and something clicked. it was then that i realized (that)

the flames of our light, love and laughter
move faster than the speed of life
and those flames pass us by in the blink of an eye
if we're not quick enough to catch 'em
and return the letters like stars
we borrowed, typed, stole, scribbled and scrawled across the pages of the sky
back to the sprawling library of the night
where they belong    
where we belong
Aarya Jan 2014
My heart burns like a simple fire
It's flames roaring in my chest
It is like a sin, to make me feel guilt
Blazing with so many secrets to confess

My heart burns like a simple fire
Entwined of sorrow, anger, shame
Emotions coiled in its wrath
Built up in its flames

My heart burns like a simple fire
But it is like a curse, I tell you, a curse
Everytime, it's flames grow larger
It burns me up to be immersed

My heart burns like a simple fire
I constantly hear its crackling
Everytime the little flames twist and turn
Like something in me is cackling

I am the girl who carries a fire within her
A curse, I tell you, a curse
But I have sinned so many times
I can tell, any moment it is going to
Leap right out of my chest
And burst
Conor Madden Apr 2015
Flames are burning to destroy the old
The new will be made from ashes.
New ideals and truths uncovered.
Don’t you know what happens
When you play with fire?
You will get burnt.
Reason with
Flames or
Burn.
I was inspired a little bit by Roy Mustang, the Flame Alchemist for this poem. I hope you enjoy ^.^
kristine marie Jun 2013
They say that fire and ice don’t mix;
“They are opposites, two different sides of the spectrum,”
But I guess no one ever thought of them as anything more than elements.

When you burn, the fire sears your skin,
melts, stripping new layer after new layer,
Until nothing but ash remains.

That’s if the burn continues.
if you sit in the fire, you’ll char to a fine dust.
You’ll sprinkle by when the wind picks up,
floating and floating until you find a nice place to rest.
If you run from the flames licking at your feet,
your burns get a little treat - some ice water,
some aloe, more ice water, and a bandage.
No little solid squares pressed to your wounds;
After all, they say that fire and ice don’t mix -
Hold ice on your burn for too long,
and your burn will only worsen.

I burned myself with fire.
I sought solace with ice.
My first degrees turned to seconds,
and seconds into thirds;
Ice burned me, with her cool exterior,
her icy heart.

And I kept her there, pressed to my wound,
cooling my skin,
and burning within.

Let’s call her the Ice Queen,
the crystal clear little gem that I press
So tight against my skin.
Those green eyes and her devilish grin,
I’m sure she had the power to lure anyone in.
And it was me that she chose,
already down and wounded.
She picked up my pieces and mended them together,
She iced my burns, she sewed me together.

I thought I knew who I was before I met her.
Even in pieces, I was sure that my life
was put-together.
The picture perfect model child,
until small events led to big encounters,
and higher falls and harder drops.
I shattered when I fell, but I still felt
like I was put-together
Until the Ice Queen came with
her lace and leather, her tattoos
and Newports, her tights and her boots.
She found me there, mere shards of broken memories
that dripped with tears; she sewed me together,
Maybe synchronized me to her weather.

Now, excuse me if I sound brash,
but I fall at the Ice Queen’s every batting lash.
I embraced her with open arms,
My burning skin and her cooling touch,
and sought help from a body of ice.

It’s a funny thing about fire,
The way that it sometimes soothes
and other times hurts.
A wick to a flame releases a
Heavenly scent;
Gasoline to a flame sets
a house, a car, a building,
all aflame.

And when all goes up in flames,
even firefighters struggle to
Put it out; like it’s really so
hard to wrestle with what
Spews from the Devil’s mouth.

They’d never throw ice into the
Mouth of a flame. No huge cubes
Dto try and tame the flame.
Reason why is simple, easy, matter of fact;
Ice melts in heat, and flames pack quite a singe.

So what happens next,
When fire and ice intertwine?
They maintain their solidity just
As long as they can sustain.

It isn’t very long before the flame is left
in vain.
written in april 2013. 1/3 of a series.
Ashley Chapman Jul 2018
Pressesd tenderly,
your carnal flower opens,
its butterfly released,
hovers like a hummingbird
drinking from the bill.

Oh, I too would steal you away
and cage you happily,
to get under your black-fringed skirt; 
to see that pretty dress,
fly off once more,
and see you bare;
burned now forever in my banks,
a first sight,
of dark curls!

As I think of it,
my desire stirs,
but of us
I have already masturbated twice:
jammed,
hips pinned,
sliding over our wet perspiring bellies,
in our jungle heat:
'cause in the firmament of our embrace
- it's hot -
where glued we **** into each other,
stoking flames,
until sleep,
when we disappear from each other.
My mind crowds,
with niggling neurotic inanities;
yours with manic dreams where bed-wetting criminals in cages beg to be freed,
before better spaces overtake.

When I awake,
I am lying next to you,  
Gwen over the horizon of your fertile valley,
a mountain,
white and reposed.
You,
murmuring desire for me.
****!
I can't wait to answer.

It is late,
late morning,
and we are all half asleep.
You have your back to me,
as we lie,
rubbing feet,
stroking hands,
(the oiled bulb at the end of a finger),
your fine shoulders,
(that delicate but persistent bone in your wrist that stretches with pointed elegance);
as quietly inside,  
(warmly enveloped),
my couched *****,  
rocks us:
each diffusing into the other
like the early morning brew.

Lust and love,
closing-in,
which for a good while on edge had been:
the weeks,
days,
hours;
faint promises from afar;
sometimes a little closer,
our shadows in daylight cross,
as one over the other storms;
and once (or twice),
a sleeve brushes,
even better,
hair crackles,
as a speaking lip touches lobe,  
and for a moment,
taking in the other's scent,
a hint sublimely overpowers.

And these,
dearest of fancies,
are just some,
with which to penetrate your mind,
as you have mine:
the energy of my yielding tenderness,
inviting you to complete me,
as I spread for you with desire.

Much later,
those daring looks you have,
the way you walk our stage:
your beautiful elongated face,
those quick-fire arousing eyes,
your sultry self-assuredness,
your pre-possessing self.

I could talk about your couple,
of generosity,
reaching up,
beyond mere comprehension:
of the fact that I like Gwen
(his love gift for you, me);
but actually,
in truth,
I prefer to take this moment to make love to you;
to say how wrapped I am,
folded in your limbs,
in our mingling sweat;
how with your joy,
you touch my desires,
into yours,
so they flow,
run rather:
honeysuckle from your blessed nymphae.

You love my smell,
you say,
and I dream of gathering you in pheromones,
of drugging you,
of intoxicating you,
so once again you will find me,
take me,
have me.
Entice you once more like a creature from its shell:
Come!
where I can ravish you,
all of you,
lay naked to me,
flesh,
sinews,
everything,
your very bones;
those fine elbows,
those knees I would like to ******* over;
wash their smooth surfaces in my come:
from these cliff heights,
rain ***** on the rocks below.

To once more cast aside your socks and get at your toes,
to pour oil on 'em,
to rub and squeeze' em,
while in the moist cavern of your insides,
we ****,
half washed over by our own tide.
And as we do,
I quail,
speaking sweet nothings of appreciation;
from full lips,
your sounds return,
the hypnotic rhythm of your breath:
I engorge and in our labyrinth,
- the maiden and the bull -
we consume ourselves.

There,
Sweet Lentiform,
you did it,
you got me rolling in flesh,
lusting after your intimate parts,
wanting you in bed as I know you must have me:
pulling me on you,
kissing and biting;
my arousal in your palm,
pops,
as you run a curved finger over my nethers.

Lying,
lying,
side-by-side,
lying prone,
lying ******,
never unconsumed,
because,
please,
please  us,
with more;
so rarely,
unfucked even for a pause,
nothing doing more than sleeping and carousing;
our sustenance barely enough to keep us at it,
an occasional comic thrown in.
Oh,
God,
throw the ******* comic at me,
will you?
Beat my ******* flesh with it if you like.
Anything to see you standing in all your pearly naked glory!

And if you can,
keep texting me,
so I can hang on your every word like a ******* puppy!
Beautiful
long-haired,
skin tight,
upright,
wise,
gorgeously wild,
woman ...
Now pull me by my **** into your **** -
where I love it best.
st64 Feb 2014
“I know you're tired but come, this is the way...

In your light, I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you,
but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.”*        ― Rumi


1.
“You and I have spoken all these words, but for the way we have to go, words are no preparation. I have one small drop of knowing in my soul.
Let it dissolve in your ocean.

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside. That's how I hold your voice.”
― Rumi


2.
“Do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside you.
Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.

Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.”   ― Rumi


3.
“The way of love is not
a subtle argument.

The door there
is devastation.

Birds make great sky-circles
of their freedom.
How do they learn it?

They fall, and falling,
they're given wings.”                          ― Rumi


4.
“The morning wind spreads its fresh smell. We must get up and take that in, that wind that lets us live. Breathe before it's gone.

Sorrow prepares you for joy.
It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow.
Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their
place.”                                     ― Rumi


5.
“You are so weak. Give up to grace.
The ocean takes care of each wave till it gets to shore.
You need more help than you know.

Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone's soul heal.
Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”
― Rumi, The Essential Rumi


6.
“You think you are alive
because you breathe air?
Shame on you,
that you are alive in such a limited way.
Don't be without Love,
so you won't feel dead.
Die in Love
and stay alive forever.

I want to see you.
Know your voice.

Recognise you when you
first come 'round the corner.

Sense your scent when I come
into a room you've just left.

Know the lift of your heel,
the glide of your foot.

Become familiar with the way
you purse your lips
then let them part,
just the slightest bit,
when I lean in to your space
and kiss you.

I want to know the joy
of how you whisper
“more”...                                                       ­     ― Rumi


7.
“When you go through a hard period,
When everything seems to oppose you,
... When you feel you cannot even bear one more minute,
NEVER GIVE UP!
Because it is the time and place that the course will divert!

The cure for pain is in the pain.
In Silence, there is eloquence. Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves.

The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell, and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.”                                       ― Rumi


8.
“Study me as much as you like, you will not know me, for I differ in a hundred ways from what you see me to be. Put yourself behind my eyes and see me as I see myself, for I have chosen to dwell in a place you cannot see.

Moonlight floods the whole sky from horizon to horizon;
How much it can fill your room depends on its windows.”
― Rumi, The Essential Rumi


9.
“Keep walking, though there's no place to get to.
Don't try to see through the distances.
That's not for human beings. Move within,
But don't move the way fear makes you move.

If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?

Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah…it makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.”   ― Rumi


10.
“Do you know what you are?
You are a manuscript oƒ a divine letter.
You are a mirror reflecting a noble face.
This universe is not outside of you.
Look inside yourself;
everything that you want,
you are already that.”
― Rumi, Hush, Don't Say Anything to God: Passionate Poems of Rumi



11.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing, there is a field.
I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.

What you seek, is seeking you.”                             ― Rumi


12.
“The lion is most handsome when looking for food.

Pain is a treasure, for it contains mercies.
Love comes with a knife, not some shy question, and not with fears for its reputation!

I am your moon and your moonlight too
I am your flower garden and your water too
I have come all this way, eager for you
Without shoes or shawl
I want you to laugh
To **** all your worries
To love you
To nourish you.”                                          ― Rumi


13.
“I was dead, then alive.
Weeping, then laughing.

The power of love came into me,
and I became fierce like a lion,
then tender like the evening star.”                        ― Rumi


14.
“Suffering is a gift. In it is hidden mercy.

Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving.
It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair.. come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.

But listen to me. For one moment - quit being sad. Hear blessings
dropping their blossoms
around you.

I closed my mouth and spoke to you in a hundred silent ways.”
― Rumi


15.
“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don't go back to sleep!

These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.”
― Rumi, The Essential Rumi



16.
“Like a sculptor, if necessary,
carve a friend out of stone.
Realise that your inner sight is blind
and try to see a treasure in everyone.”                    ― Rumi


17.
“Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy, absent-minded. Someone sober will worry about things going badly. Let the lover be.

There are lovers content with longing.
I’m not one of them.”    ― Rumi, The Essential Rumi


18.
“There is a secret medicine given only to those who hurt so hard they can't hope.
The hopers would feel slighted if they knew.

You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness.
You were born with wings.
You are not meant for crawling, so don't.
You have wings.
Learn to use them and fly.”          ― Rumi


19.
“Forget safety.
Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation.
Be notorious.

Inside you, there’s an artist you don’t know about… say yes quickly, if you know, if you’ve known it from before the beginning of the universe.”
― Rumi


20.
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”     ― Rumi





"On a day
when the wind is perfect,
the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty.
Today is such a day.”
                                               ― Rumi






S T – 25 feb 14
Rumi - born to native Persian speaking parents in 1207.
Died 1273 AD.
Rumi (an evolutionary thinker) believed passionately in the use of music, poetry and dance as a path for reaching God.
On a cold winter morning, in the time before the light.
In flames of death's eternal reign, we ride towards the fight.

When the darkness has fallen down, and the times are tough alright.
The sound of evil laughter falls around the world tonight.

Fighting hard, fighting on for the steel through the wasteland evermore.
The scattered souls will feel the hell, bodies wasted on the shores.

On the blackest plains in hell's domain we watch them as they go.
Through the fire and pain and once again we know.

So now we fly ever free, we're free before the thunderstorm.
On towards the wilderness our quest carries on.

Far beyond the sundown.
Far beyond the moonlight.
Deep inside our hearts and all our souls.

So far away we wait for the day.
For the lives all so wasted and gone.
We feel the pain of a life time lost in a thousand days.
Through the fire and flames we carry on.

As the red day is dawning and the lightning cracks the sky.
They'll raise their hands to the heavens above with resentment in their eyes.

Running back through the mid morning light, there's a burning in my heart.
We're banished from a time in a fallen land, to a life beyond the stars.

In your darkest dreams see to believe  our destiny is time.
And endlessly we'll all be free tonight.
And on the wings of a dream so far beyond reality.
All alone in desperation, now the time has gone.

Lost inside you'll never find.
Lost within my own mind.
Day after day this misery must go on.

So far away we wait for the day.
For the lives all so wasted and gone.
We feel the pain of a life time lost in a thousand days.
Through the fire and flames we carry on.

Now here we stand with their blood on our hands.
We fought so hard, now can we understand.
I'll break the seal of this curse if I possibly can.
For freedom of every man.

So far away we wait for the day.
For the lives all so wasted and gone.
We feel the pain of a lifetime lost in a thousand days.
Through the fire and flames we carry on.
Victor Thorn Jul 2010
April's flames made the friendliest fire,
although I feared they would
char and consume my life
and leave it but smoking cinders.

Friendly, fragile...
a single tear could put them all out.

April's flames shone brighter than the
sun.
They shed new light.
I could see things that
the shadows kept to themselves,
disguised as if some kind of treasure,
but the truth was that they were only
burdens.

April's flames lit two packs of cigarettes,
thirty-one thousand candles,
and a cozy fireplace
for thirty-one nights
where I would sit and rest knowing
the fire had not gone out.
I could feel it back then.

April's flames were lit in  March
and snuffed abruptly in mid-May,
but if I have some lighter fuel
I'll rekindle them some August day.
Copyright 2010 by Victor Thorn
- I wish it were still April.- From Losing It
Ovi-Odiete Jul 2016
OH NIGHT OH MONSTROUS NIGHT
~•~•~•~•~•~•

Upon a darkened night
Flames of love burning in mystic depths
Fleeing as
  *INFERNO RISES

And by the darkest Shroud
She fled her house
Immersing in the night
In a rainy*  MYSTERY NIGHT
while all sleep beneath a strange moonlight

Upon a darkened soul
Flames of love burning in glowing sight
As secrets hidden unveil into the night
And with the moonlight beam
She waited still
While counting all the stars
The Glow consumed her soul
While all in quiet rest


Upon a darkened heart
Flames of love burning into sea waves
As flames consumes her mind
And by the
  STARS GUIDING NEAR
She fled herself
Flying into the* *NIGHT

The flames consumed her heart
And left it darkened still

Oh Night Oh Monstrous night
Oh NIGHT UNVEIL THYSELF
Oh shadows of the night
Tiptoe into my presence slowly
Oh night watch my quivering heart
Oh Night appease my shivering Soul
Oh Night caress my weary mind
OH NIGHT OH MONSTROUS NIGHT
Oh Night Reveal thine masked face


Oh Night Arise, Unveil the hidden STARS
Unmask the MOONLESS NIGHT
Oh Night Oh Monstrous Night!!!
Oh Calm Oh Calm of night
Rock me as I fly searching for thine face
Sing for me lullabies of THE WITCHING HOUR
Oh Night Oh Shadows of night deep
Elude the bane and miseries untold


OH NIGHT OH MONSTROUS NIGHT

OH MONSTROUS NIGHT

*OVI ODIETE©
A Poem invoked by watching the moon and by listening to Lorenna Mckennith song "THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL"
BianchiBlue Jul 2014
cooling whiskey flames
pool in the corners
of my eyes, drying
under the afghan
crumpled on the floor
where fallen pieces
from the puzzle of time
count off the ticks
of my grandfather clock
Kittridge James Nov 2012
Forsaken flames,

lick your way across my hips,

a pleasure that

I have dearly missed


Beautiful flames;

my lovely poison.

Their forgiving intensity,

bites just as I remember


Scarlet flames,

wrap your tendrils round me.

You're dripping with satisfaction

when I know not of other pleasures


Flames,

love me tender,

bring me pain;

come and coddle me


Every new, unwelcomed day
BlueInkDitty Oct 2018
There is a trembling warmth,
And my heart has fallen to its gentle call,
And it feels so soft,
Wasting pieces of my voice and laugh,
To find and say it all.

It is a sound, in the light,
And I hear it low,
In my hands, in the night,
Why won't it let go ?

It burns and grows in flames,
Words you profess,
Voice caress,
Their blaze was made with your name,
And hearts aware,
At which I stare.

Endeavor for rising,
That feeling I thought I'd never hold,
It slips through, I'm trying,
But I can not feel its cold,
You made it grow in flames,
A fire no one can tame.

Bright in the place I used to hear the stars laughing,
Caught into silence, echoes in the wind.

It burns and grows in flames,
Words you have said,
Never fade,
Their blaze was made with your name,
And gusts so strong,
On your tongue.

And striving just to reach,
The moment when we will be alright,
It's slipping through a breach,
In my soul, I won't fight,
You made it grow in flames,
And you're not one to blame.

I watch my weak hand,
Tumbling again won't be fine,
And I run and I stumble and strand,
And the effort is mine,
So by your side, one day, I may stand,
Holding on to the memories we find,
Never looking back to when I walked behind.

The high strength, that I need,
To me is far away like the moon,
But the love, that I bleed,
Won't be running out too soon,
You made it grow in flames,
A fire no one can tame.
Madeleine Jul 2015
I sat on the log as uneven as it was. My cold blue eyes were set on the dancing flames infront of me. The stories from my past played out as I watched the flames create new stories I could only immagine. As I watched my past unfold infront of me, my eyes began to fill up with tear. Tears of joy and hope. Tears of sadness and frustration. Suddenly, the flames began to grow engulfing my past and burning it to ashes. I slowly opened my eyes to see a small crackling fire infront of me, an austic guitar let out a simply beautiful tune. I sat there somehow forgetting my past, my eyes set on the dancig flames.
kms Jul 2014
We marked the deaths on a map in little black tallies,
every day we counted the numbers and they had come to a strong incline.

You sat in the dust by the flames
playing with a cattail
and you asked me
“When will it be over?”

The smoke drifted into open sky above us and I tried to count the stars.

The map was held together by rivers and
railroads
and lakes.
And we were held together by a commonplace drive:

Hope.

The poem in your eyes had no backbone and it was falling apart at the seams and it made you
tired and
sad and
hopeless.

The map is held together by little black tallies on the edges from an old charcoal pencil.
And we are held together by a thread of life that could very well be

snipped.

Alas, that is out of our reach but we must remember to always
fight! and to stay alive
please keep holding on
please

Because home awaits with open arms and we are here counting stars and
we must never die.

~

The mayor warned when we came home to
never leave again
and to
never go again
and I do not understand because
we couldn’t stop that
and you told me that I understand
and that he doesn’t.

Mother looked at me and my scars
disgusted
and told me to go
and told me that I shouldn’t be home.

And we found a lake from the map marked with a charcoal pencil and stayed there
and you fished
and I found berries.

Every night we counted the stars and
we were connected by constellations.

Every night we were connected by the grass beneath us
pricking the backs of our necks

and we caught the flying stars
(Fireflies)
and we were connected by constellations.

The notes of the piano rang in open air across the lake
how far can the notes stretch to connect us?  

As the lake grew, constellations stretched
far
and we never knew what color your eyes were.

Blinded by the bright light from the upcoming sun,
we both ran for cover, turning our backs on each other for the first time in
a while.

The thick trees hid us from the light well enough, but
you
weren’t
there.

We kept running.
The sun was catching up
too fast
and we ran for everything we could live for.
(each other)

I ran for you and you ran for me.
That’s all we could do until you laid on the ground,
tired and
sad and
hopeless.

You stopped running so I did too and we both were hungry for what we could’ve had.

~

When we were still in the war, they let you bring one thing from home.
You brought the idea of hope
and I brought the idea of music
and we mixed together very well.

The nights when we counted stars under the full moon
were the nights when we’d fall asleep with our arms touching.
(A sign that people are alive.)

The dust woke us up when it blew in our open mouths,
and in a shallow breath the tiny things landed on our tongues, woke us up, and
made our eyes cry.

“When do you know to go home?”
I ask myself this a lot because I know that there is no answer.
Human beings like to ask themselves things without answers and then get angry that there is no answer.
Because only they know when they put you back home.
You and I were lucky because we only had a little time in that hell,
but the others weren’t.
The little black tallies from the charcoal pencil weren’t because they
died.

The light woke us up and we knew we had to run
soon
It landed upon our eyelids and woke us up and made us cry.

I think of you as I am running and my bare feet
smack
across the dirt.
I think of you because your hair always was full of the stuff and now all it does is make me cry.

~

I think we are running along the line on one of your maps.
I think our feet are creating the dark brown streaks on the paper with the little black tallies on them.
And I think that we will never find out
the color of your eyes.

We run back to back for a while
until the light stops us and we hide beneath the tree’s leaves.

I am hungry for our arms to be touching again.
I am hungry to count stars with you and the place we did that was the war,
so could you say that
I am hungry for the war?

I am not hungry for the charcoal pencil,
but I am hungry for the hand that touched it.

I am not hungry for the dirt,
but I am hungry for the person who would lay in it carelessly.

I am hungry for the map so I can see the dark brown veins running across it with bare feet
smacking
the dark brown surface of it.

I am hungry to breathe in the commonplace drive that pushed us along the dark brown lines and out of
the war.
And I am hungry for the idea that once was.

Hope:
That is no longer existent when I am not with you
which is a side effect of
you
that I did not know about.

I would welcome any side effects that came with you with open arms, of course, because I would still have
you
I merely did not know about that one, but I am sad to see the idea go.

~

I wish you the best in all your journeys.
I wish to hear the beat of your heart against the crickets again,
but now I am afraid that the light has caught up with me
and I am afraid that
we will never find out what color my eyes are.

I wish you the best in running from the light
but remember that the without light there would be no darkness.

I am sorry to have to tell you that the dust will settle in the rocks and that
the maps have been burned.

The tallies have turned blacker than ever before.
The tallies have turned into ash from the bright flames.

The maps have fallen asleep in the glow of the flames and that
our idea:
Hope;
has been taken by the wind.

It ran with it, and I tried to catch it, but the wind cannot be caught.
Remember the first breath of the war you took when you stepped outside into the
light
of the day and remember the glow of the flames.

Remember that people are still living
(Remember that our arms touched on the nights we counted stars)
and remember the constellations that connected us.

I am not sorry to tell you, however, that no matter how far constellations can be stretched,
constellations never can be broken.
They can stretch to heaven and hell and earth and the sky and the dust and to the war
But they will never shatter
because constellations are images the mind has created.

Constellations are made by the mind and stars are tangible.
Constellations connect stars.
We are stars and we all burn in our own flames.

~

The words from your charcoal pencil make me cry.
I cannot ever count the stars without you
and I cannot ever write poetry in the dust without you.

Your words make me cry and I run
faster.

I don’t try to compete with the light because I know we’ve been running with our backs to each other for the
whole
time.

The wind trips me and its fingers comb through my hair on the way down.
dust from the ground tickles my tongue and the wind left something in my brain.
our idea:
Hope;
has been taken by the wind.

“Are you the dust, now?”
I feel your thumb across my cheekbone and I am
yearning
for what we could’ve had.

“Are you the wind, now?”
I feel your hand in mine and you lift me to my feet.
My face is dark brown covered with dust
but as I run the wind cleans it off.

“I have never been so tired,” I tell you.

I am so hungry for you.

I am starving
and I am sick with what we could’ve had.
Styles Aug 2016
Her passion burns bright
her fire catches me
igniting my soul
aroused by lust violently
her flames engulfing me
consuming my mind
body held in captivity
submitting mentally
enchanted by her majesty
September Roses Jul 2018
When the day comes
That my light leaves
And I go to descend
What ever will they do with me
All the way down there
Where fire pours like rain
Main population: pain
The one place
in the earth,
sure to drive you insane
I suppose they would start normally
With a burning stake
Or pitchfork
But what ever would they do,
When those things just dont work?
I suppose they'd try to drown me
In oil
Or flames
But when a smile
forms across face
They'll see
I like the pain
So this might go on for centuries
They'd try as well
To hurt my mind
But when all they find is numbness
Well
I might get hired
Dhirana Jul 2014
shattered glass in midnight bonfires
I see strips of flames dissipate into the night
and it never burned my
eyes.
I held blue flames in my hands and burned
my fingerprints to form
jagged lines that melted ice like a
scorching pair of lips.
with a sigh, they turned to walk away
setting fire to the roadside.
The flames morphed into scattered coins
incinerated by the sorrow they carried like an anchor
that sunk,
pulling them down to the sea bed to
sleep with the ocean at midnight
where the flames drowned,
drowned,
drowned…

and the smoke turned into words without a sound.

— The End —