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Mitchell Duran Jan 2014
There is
A hesitation in
Creation

So burdensome
That even the GREATS
Were cursed by it.

One cannot escape it
Master it or
Defeat it;

It is as apart of us
As our breathe, our sweat,
Our blood, our death.

Hesitation rests on your
Shoulders
Heavy and wet

Hesitation sits lodged in your throat
Like a boat stuck in ice

Hesitation:

The moment before
The beauty of
Creation.

Thoughts bubble and gurgle
Like water at the mouth of a river.

There, thought waits for action,
For courage, for someone to say go.

Because there can be no creation
Without a trigger.

We are machines waiting to be turned on,
Used, abused, and one day, thrown out.

The mechanism slowly spins within.
Each one of us molded, oiled, and shipped.
Our destination partly our own
And partly another.

Who is calling us out in the world
But our own selves?
Why don't we just stay the **** put?
What adventure do we seek to experience?
What has life got to offer?

Sensation.
Hesitation.
Creation

Or none.

My eyes drift to the edge of my desk.
I listen to noises I do not appreciate.
Most days everything sounds like white noise.
On the horizon, a fog rolls in, heavy gray.

I am so very tired these days.
Someone give me a pick me up.
I'll pay, I promise, I will.
Someone give me a pick me up, please.

Fortunately, fantasy has no definition, only hesitation.
Within the glass holds both the truth and the lie.
Brown paper sacks filled with groceries sit along the curb.
Rhyme and words smell like cranberries and thyme.

Cross your fingers
Allow your mind to burn like tinder
Abdicate the hierarchy

Push the pen
One more stroke
Hesitations grips me
Sometimes with a soft gentle squeeze and sometimes with an iron fist
That split second where you see that girl with whimsical hair and a playful smile and your body is screaming at the top of its lungs “GO AFTER HER YOU FOOL!!!” while your brain mulls over the endless stream of stressful situations
I can hear Robin Williams calling out to me “Let me hear your YAWP!” and I’m shaking, quivering, rattling, generating the vocal ferocity of a lion! And all that comes out is a whimpering “yawp…”
Hesitation grips me
A harmless compliment to brighten someone’s day, no harm done, just a quick simple “I like your pants” a smile and I’m on my way
Simple! Wrong!
That flickering candle of pleasantries is cut short by a swiftly shutting window of opportunity
The breeze not hesitating to extinguish its light
Hesitation grips me
How many moments must I suffer paralyzed lips before my can of complimentary worms is opened?
How many lovely strangers will continue to mill about their days in unblissful ignorance of my enjoyment of their simple, subtle or overt characteristics?
This hesitation grips me!
It shackles me and holds the key in front of my face and all it requires is one real Yawp! The mustering has begun! That key is my freedom of hesitant chains! Just! One! Yawp! I think I can I think I can I think I can! Just! One! Yawp! “yawp…”
Hesitation grips me
Meant to be read aloud, quotes are whispers.
daisies Jun 2014
Your love got no more taste.
I'm saying this with no sign of hesitation.
I would like to sacrifice my appetite for something better.
I'm saying this with no sign of hesitation.
I can't feel the bitterness when losing you.
I can't feel the sweetness when staying with you.
I can't feel saltiness when when you insult me.
I can't feel the sourness of your words.
I'm immune from them all.
And I'm saying this with no sign of hesitation.
Because your love to me got no taste.
-Hydourella
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.
French rose Aug 2018
You smell like love
The scent of arousal with a hint of lust
Desire of an unknown perfume

You taste like ***  
A taste that will last forever
The flavor fresh when my face slipped inbetween your legs

You felt so wet but was as sweet as honey
My hand feeling every inch of your body
Fingered inbetween your virginity

You sound like heaven
Your whining intoxicating like poison
Your voice seductive as it gets

You felt swift as you showed me the woman in you
Riding your hips gliding without hesitation
You felt innocent and naive as I guided your hips

You loved the taste of me thrusting into you
Crying out my name your face filled with pleasure and lust
You love the flavor of me going further than before

You drowned in my attention relished it
Hungered for it you were lit up by my infatuation
You felt a hot spark and electric energy that sent tingles to the very center of you

You just made love my dear
Isabelle Sep 2018
you’ve tried to hide it
but it’s too late
i already saw it
the hesitation
the hesitation
in your eyes, in your voice
i told you it’s fine
to spare you from explaining
and to save me from shame
but i saw it, i knew it
the hesitation
the hesitation in your heart
I saw it </3
observation
lady in red
imagination
in my head
flirtation
“someone said,
in a book I read,
that men are misled:
beauty kills us dead.”
frustration
get out of my head!
jubilation
“To where shall we head?”
hesitation
“my creaky twin
or a hotel bed?”
migration
our minds are led
by hurried legs
pulsation
as her lips, red,
push me to the bed
excitation
tinged with dread
salivation
ventilation
transpiration
saturation
*******­
annihilation
Rapped version: https://vimeo.com/286097673
(password is "stand").
Nicklaus Bailey Oct 2019
1-Establish Lux as a farmer with his brother, father, mother. Show dissatisfaction at a lot in life, yearning for more, however Lux feels compelled to stay with family and help them. Establish a close relationship between the brothers, a good mother/son relationship, though a testy relationship with his father. Strange symbol branded on Lux’s chest, been there since he was a baby, no one is sure what it means- or no one is telling him. This is Lux’s L.S. beginning. Establish also is the world Lux is in, the facts of the ministry and the church, the knights and wars of before.
2-Introduce a festival in town with knights from “The Brotherhood” being present, establish them as knights capable of magic and swordplay, “The Brotherhood” knights are taking new recruits at the festival. Wanting to join, Lux goes through the trials and passes, though after a harsh reaction from his father, Lux does not leave with the knights. With Lux out of scene, a conversation between the mother and father should reveal the man is not in actuality Lux’s father, but his uncle, and his brother had been married to Lux’s mother (now his wife) though died fighting in a war between “The Brotherhood” as a member of their ranks, against a rival faction known as “The Order”  peak lux’s curiosity and focus on the desire to leave as established in the previous chapter. This and the next chapter are Lux’s “Go The Distance”
3-The end of the week long festival nears, and Lux is on a hunting trip with his younger brother, returns and is questioned by his father why he wants to leave so much. The truth of Lux’s true father is revealed, and though Lux’s uncle expected this to convince Lux to stay and not go into danger, Lux is angered rather, and leaves in a hurry to catch “The Brotherhood” knights before they leave. Lux is put under the tutelage of a man who claims to have known Lux’s father, though it is revealed Lux’s little brother followed him, and is taken into the recruit pool as well, despite never going through the testing. Note- perhaps have Lux refuse to go with the knights if his brother is not also offered a spot? Hero’s journey, he needs a moment of hesitation and refusal to go. This should be reflected like Lukes refusal to join ben, or Bilbos refusal of gandalf, but quickly change their minds.
4-Training begins the moment they arrive at a camp. Lux and his brother are immediately outfitted with leather armor, dark and gritty in contrast of the shining metal of the rest of the knights. Lux is doing well in training, sword play coming natural, shakey with a bow, and ofcourse a natural talent at magic, (though make a point that in fire spells Lux only manages to start small flames that he can throw, and struggles with healing magic) though his brother is struggling in all aspects and is beat by his trainer. Lux’s trainer urges Lux to ignore it,though Lux finally snaps and challenges the man. The two enter a circle made in the dirt with training swords, and though Lux appears to have the advantage at first, he is quickly beaten and left gasping and ****** on the floor. The trainer leaves Lux there, and soon a hand reaches down to Lux. A female trainee named Ciara picks up Lux and, joined by his brother, the three wander off for more training for the instructors. Introduce Peter, a man deeply infatuated by Ciara, rather than a knight Peter is a Father to the holy church, unable to fall in love and forbidden to marry. Subtle on Peter’s infatuation with Ciara, should really build Peter as a good friend to Ciara,
5. Lux, his trainer, CIara, and her trainer are all out in the forest doing patrol after reports that remnants of “The Order” have picked up their pace in activity in the surrounding areas, raiding small towns and taking young men and women as recruits. Lux and Ciara are separated for a time and grow closer through talk and laughter when they see two knights in armor that is shining silver on almost the entire body though the right arm and pec are a scarlet red, drinking water from a stream. Confirming with each other that is the description of “The Order” Ciara says they should find their trainers though Lux charges. Ciara is close behind, catching the two off guard. Both are quickly overpowered through the use of advanced magic from “The Order” but Ciara’s trainer jumps in, kills one, but is killed by the second. As he turns, Lux throws his dagger and hits the man in the eye, killing him. Lux and Ciara carry her trainers body back to camp. Ciara refuses to speak and when greeted at the gate by Peter, she embraces him and cries into his shoulder. Have both Lux and Ciara attempt healing magic to no avail. Have Lux grow frustrated at feeling the ABILITY to heal, but unable to do so.
6. Lux is punished for charging, while his trainer is taken to a secret meeting where they discuss what to do with Lux, but out of respect for his father, they keep him in “The Brotherhood”. Lux has not seen Ciara since the incident, though he can see her in the crowd when he is being taken to be whipped, and receives 10 lashes, to Peter’s dismay who recommends either banishment or death. After the punishment, he is cut loose from the posts holding him up and Lux’s brother charges the ground, picking his brother up and taking him to his bed. As they pass Lux manages an apology, but is unsure if she accepts it. Lux is informed she will be trained alongside him. Make Peter do some ******* **** idk. Resenting “The Brotherhood” Lux should vent to his brother about his growing distrust of the situation, asking if his brother has felt the growing gap between what they feel they can do, and what they can do.
7. Show training between Lux, Ciara, and brother, distinguish a growing connection between Lux and Ciara, much to Ciara’s surprise and reluctance. Show Lux go into his trainers room while he is absent, and sees a sword on the wall, bearing a strange symbol. Lux trainer will explain that the sword should belong to Lux as it was his fathers, and when it is time he will inherit the blade but for now he must leave the blade alone. Lux asks about the situation behind his father's death. Explain the following: The Brotherhood were not always the knights guarding the royal family, before his birth the royal family was guarded by The Order, who are the reason The Brotherhood practice both swordplay and magic, as the Order are master swordsman and powerful wizards, prolific in blood magic and necromancy. When one member of The Order desired the throne for himself, he split The Order in 2. The Brotherhood worship the Gods, but in his desire and lust for power, the man struck a deal with the old gods, evil barbaric entities who require blood and death as sacrifices for their eternal power. This is Nero, a man that Lux’s father took in and treated as a brother, both being trained as knights for The Order. During the civil war, Nero attacked the Royal Palace and though he was badly defeated, he did **** Lux’s father in the battle. End chapter on this story. This chapter should be shows as Lux is uncertain of The Brotherhood and his trainer, but with the story of his father, he is conflicted. If it is true, then they are just. If it is wrong, how many more lies has he been told?
8. Show Lux becoming prolific with a blade and very intimidating magically. When he, Ciara, and his brother are sent on a mission with no trainers for the first time, Lux naturally takes charge. They track knights of The Order down to a cave, where they are tested both physically and magically. Ciara and Lux both protect brother as much as they can, though brother is able to hold his own. They manage to corner one who instead of being taken prisoner, stabbed himself in the stomach after giving an ominous warning. As Lux approaches the body, he sees on the cave wall a crude drawing of a man with the same symbol on his chest as Lux’s, holding a sword with the same symbol as Lux’s fathers, a figure resembling a large black and red dragon behind the man. Dismissing it, Lux tells Ciara and brother to not bother approaching, and the last of the knights are dead. The report back to base, and Lux informs trainer of what happened, leaving out the symbol.
9. Word carries out on base that more and more caves are being found with members of The Order, all with strange paintings on the walls. Peter speaks with the knights, explaining he has been praying and granted visions of a large scale battle. Have Ciara grab Lux’s arm at the sound of war, which Peter will notice (important for later) and in a hesitation to prepare for a battle that may or may not come, the commander of the camp demands the trainees be knighted, their proper gear be made, and to meet with the main force.
Cut from Lux to Peter alone in a church, praying to the Holy Mother begging for guidance away from the desires of his heart, and in his prayers Peter slowly realizes that he will not give up his desire for Ciara and decides to betray the Brotherhood in hopes Lux may die and he may be able to gain Ciara’s affection. Peter is seen leaving by Lux, though when questioned says he is going for more Fathers to pray and meditate on the matter.
10. Peter tracks down members of The Order, informing them that he wishes to give them valuable information, surrendering to them. Peter is taken to the leader of the knights operating in the area, and in exchange for one thing, is willing to tell The Order where The Brotherhood is, where they are going, their numbers, and anything else that will be of use. All he wants is them to make Ciara fall in love with him./ While Peter is doing this, Lux is kneeling in front of his trainer who knights him with fathers sword. (maybe do a crusader knight knighting, this is oath/this is how you remember it) When Lux is handed his father's sword, the cold metal instantly feels warm and the grip adjusts to his fingers and though it looks heavy, appears just the right weight to Lux. Lux is given armor, though when he takes his shirt off he sees the symbol on his chest glowing, same as the symbol on the sword. Trainer only says “magic is a strange thing, boy” and Lux is put into armor and finally leaves the shed a knight after only 2 months of training./back to Peter who is given a potion, told to have Ciara drink it and leave with her before they make their move. As Peter leaves, the leader barks orders to men who address him as Nero. Perhaps instead of Peter getting the potion straight from Nero, have him get it on a witch in the woods who is secretly affiliated with Nero, have to work out how she gets the information from Peter, but she could use magic to contact Nero after. Perhaps part of the agreement is Peter must turn his back on his abandoned faith and be her student and as a test of loyalty he must tell her everything he knows.
11. As The Order masses its numbers, knights of the Brotherhood are entering the giant city dedicated to The Brotherhood(Remulus? Romulus?) and Lux is in awe as he sees the a giant palace, and near it a graveyard with tombs. The tombs are the resting place of knights of The Order who gave their lives in service to the royal family, and now knights of The Brotherhood join their numbers. A newly marked grave is standing as a monument to Ciara’s trainer. The day is given to them to explore the city, and Lux/Ciara are alone together. Share a kiss. Witnessing the kiss, Peter comes from the shadows and informs them that curfew is near, and they should be heading back to the castle/as Peter watches the two make way to the castle laughing/holding hands, he heads to a monastery. He kneels before a picture of his god, praying asking to be told what to do. He knows he is a man of faith, so why are lust and desire even capable of entering his heart? He begs for pardon from sin as he sets his heart on giving Ciara the potion.
12. Now that the trainees have been knighted and the generals have been informed of Peter’s vision, prepare for war. The inhabitants of the city and many villages around are all pulled into the Castle’s walls, able bodied men and boys are given swords, women and girls find refuge in the newly emptied dungeons (all criminals hung/drafted?) Lux is witness to a battle plan, and overhears that during the last battle at the capitol city, The Order had used dragons to its aid, and though there were no confirmed sightings of dragons now, The Brotherhood should still set up catapults and bastilles on the off chance. Lux finds his brother and Ciara and informs them of what he has heard, though Peter comes and informs them that Lux must just be tired from nerves, and no one has seen a dragon in a generation. End with Ciara stopping a near brawl between the two, and Lux heading to his bed alone, and Peter now with Ciara, when a sound fills the halls. Scouts are reporting a massive army on the outskirts of the city.
13. Rain. Silence. Lux, Ciara, and his brother are among the numbers at the front gate. Rain hitting the ground. Hitting armor. Men are vomiting. Peter along with other priests are swinging burning incense between the rows of men, chanting prayers and songs of their god. Pounding. Pounding so hard that when it hits the front gate, the rain flies off the door and hits Lux’s face. Lux looks to his brother. The two nod. Lux looks into Ciara’s eyes. The two kiss. Confess love. The gate is broken open and the war begins with a thunderous roar in the sky, a dragon spewing fire on archers perched on castle walls as troops charge. Lux and the other knights hold their positions with a great clash the two armies finally meet. In screaming and fighting, Lux loses his brother, and The Brotherhood are pushed back, further and further. Lux manages to grab Ciara’s arm and the two run to a set of stairs going down to one of the dungeon entrances to warn the others that they are losing, when the dragon knocks over a giant pillar, stones hitting the two. Lux stays conscious from the first hit, and sees Peter approaching an unconscious Ciara with the potion in hand. Stuck beneath rubble, Lux watches as Peter pours it in her mouth and wakes her with a kiss. Begging Ciara for help frantically, she walks away with Peter, and as Lux cries out for his brother, more stones hit, causing him to go unconscious.
14. Lux awakens in an unfamiliar setting, on his knees. His hands shackled to the wall, his armor and sword feet in front of him, a man standing behind them. The man asks if Lux knows who he is. Looking up, Lux can see from the torches a tired face. Shaking his head, the man informs Lux, “I am Nero, commander of The Order, Captain of the Conquered Reaches, and rightful heir to the throne. And you are Lux. My nephew,” Nero smiles, touching Lux’s face. Accusing Nero of killing his father, Nero softens his eyes at Lux and stops moving. A look of sadness. “Your father's mistake is the single most regrettable accident in my life,” tells Lux more and more about his father. Informs Lux why the symbol is on his chest. Its magically bonded to the blade. It makes blood magic more powerful. Nero then informs Lux that his father had found a dragon egg just like Nero did, as Nero pulls the egg from his robes, shiney and black with streaks of scarlet. Nero offers Lux out of this cell, and he will gladly show him the ways of blood magic and make sure that Peter pays for his betrayal of the other knights. “I do not find The Brotherhoods newest members traitors, how can they betray a cause they never were offered? But how do you think we knew you were going to be there when we did? All of this has been for you, Lux.” with a wave of his hand, the shackles fall off Lux’s wrists and he falls forward. Reaching to the egg, Lux hesitates slightly, looking down and seeing his reflection in the water. With a wave of his hand, Nero projects the image of Peter kissing Ciara deeply. “That passion she gives him should be yours. I cannot create love. Only transfer it with a potion. When peter described the man who took his beloved, I should have realized. But together, I can rid the potions course and Peter will pay, Lux,” and as Lux watch Ciara enter Peter’s bed, he firmly grabs the egg, which begins to shake and crack in his hand, emerging a tiny dragon. Nero’s past: Nero will portray his story as such: He discovered that Lux’s mother is the illegitimate daughter of the queen. When Nero went to tell Lux’s father, he was stopped by the queen who attempted to have him killed, for if it was discovered that her late husband had an offspring, she would have a claim to the throne. In the ongoing fight, Nero claims he accidentally killed the queen and was discovered by Lux’s father. The fight was a misunderstanding and he was never able to tell him the truth of his soon to be (pregnant) wife. The split of The Order were those who believed Nero and those horrified at the death of the queen. Nero claims the royals betrayed him and those who followed the truth. Show a refusal to believe at first, though as his imprisonment lasts, and he goes over it again and again in his head, for weeks as Peter gets further away with Ciara, left with visions of Peter and Ciara making love, his Nero pleading with Lux’s father, and the conflict. Ambiguous if this is actually true or just indoctrination.
15. Lux’s training begins immediately. He is placed in the middle of a circle, men attacking from all directions and must fight them off with his blade and newly learned blood magic. Slicing his palm before gripping his blade, the warm metal now burns hot in Lux’s hands, and he drops the blade. Scolded with beatings and lashings, Lux learns how to embrace the pain. Magic flows through him stronger than ever as he adapts. Fire flows from his tips when before he could only manage an ember. He heals fatal wounds when before he could hardly manage a small cuts and broken bones. Lux is routinely beaten and whipped, his dragon growing and watching all the while. Weeks go by. Lux concentrates only on killing Peter and revenge. Pain, anger, and of course blood fuel blood magic to its extremes.
16. Lux’s brother is brought into a small room with other generals who managed to escape the battle of the capitol. He is questioned if he has heard from Lux, Peter, or Ciara as their bodies were never found. All the remaining forces are falling back to the capital, where a final stand will once again be made. Lux’s brother is told he may visit home one last time and must report to the capital in no more than 5 days, and his trainer will accompanying him/Lux is kneeling once again before Nero, though he feels the sword tap either shoulder as he is knighted into the brotherhood. He is given shiney armor and as he puts it on, is instructed to place his sliced palm on the opposite shoulder and watches as his blood flows into the metal, turning that arm and shoulder scarlet red. He is officially in The Order. Lux is tasked with one task to prove his loyalty. **** his stepfather and attempt to convince his mother to come swear loyalty to nero if she refuses, **** her too. If he does that, when he returns his dragon will feed on the personal sacrifice and be ready for battle, and in return Nero will make sure both Peter and Ciara are waiting for him. “It will be done, Lord Nero.” show conflict in Lux if he is truly willing to do all of this, and conflict on loyalty to Nero. The Dragons growth and power is connected to Lux’s ability in blood magic. The more anger, hate, and pain he puts into his abilities, the stronger the dragon will become.
17. Chapter starts with Lux standing outside his old house in the early hours of the morning, the sun peeking out of the mountains but being quickly covered by storm clouds. As darkness settles over the brief light illuminating the house. Lux enters the house. His stepfather enters the room hearing the door open but is grabbed by the throat.during the fighting, Lux manages to strangle his step father and throws his body to the door as his mother is running into the room. As she surveys the situation, there is a cry from the door, and Lux’s brother and trainer are standing in the door, sword in hand. Lux begins to unsheathe his sword but his mother moves between them, talking to the brothers. Lux demands to know from his trainer if what Nero said is true and that his mother is the rightful heir. Confirming Nero’s story partially, though claims that Nero attempted to blackmail the queen with the knowledge of the heir to gain more power. Lux tries to persuade his mother to join him and come be with Nero, that his father would have wanted this. When she refuses, he explains that she would not understand what he HAS to do to end this war, and when he is done the conflict will be resolved and order restored. Argument between lux and brother over oaths broken. Mother approaches Lux, touching his face tenderly speaking softly watching as her son is breaking. She offers him to leave the conflict entirely and to just live home with her, though as she turns to face Lux’s brother, Lux stabs her. Gasping she looks back to Lux, touching his face once more, “You look so much like your father in that armor” Lux , trainer and brother fight, Lux leaves his brother unconscious in the house quickly, though he kills his trainer outside, taking the bodies with him back to Nero.
18.Lux returns to the agreed upon spot to meet Nero, but is instead met by Ciara, who in his confusion and hesitation desperately tries to convince her to leave with him when out steps Peter with a staff in hand, who has now learned the magic of the old gods. When Lux raises his hand, his dragon lands behind him with a mighty roar. With a smirk, peter does the same, and a white and blue dragon lands behind him, a roar just as mighty. The dragons take to the air, circling and roaring, spitting blue and black flames at one another as Lux and Peter fight to the death. Just as Lux manages to defeat Peter after taunting and back and forth, there is a loud crash as Lux’s dragon lands on the other teeth in its neck, ripping its head off entirely. Ciara comes to her senses immediately, seeing Lux in armor of The Order standing over a wounded and ****** Peter, the blood spraying on them. Stepping toward Ciara, Lux is surprised when she steps back in fear. Allowing her to leave, Lux watches as she sprints away. The conversation between Lux and Ciara should be that of both trying to convert the other. When no understanding is made between the two, it is Lux’s love for Ciara that allows her to leave, she sprints to the horses and makes her way back to The Brotherhood. Turning back to a wounded Peter, Lux raises his sword when his eye catches sight of a faint glow on Peter’s chest. Kneeling to rip the man's shirt out of the way, Lux finds the same symbol that is on his sword and own chest. Peter is Lux’s lost twin.
Will add more, unsure how to end the first book. (Have a trilogy in mind)
Ahmad Cox Dec 2012
In life
We can
Hesitate
Not knowing
Which way
We are going
Feeling lost
Not knowing
If we should go
Right or left
Making decisions
In general
Having a hard
Time even
Moving
Forward
Not knowing
Being stuck in
Fear of knowing
That they might
Not know
What is going on
Sometimes
You have to learn
To trust in the moment
Trust that things
Will turn out ok
Trust in the chaos
Taking time
To learn from
Every experience
Even if life might
Seem uncertain
Even though fear
Can grip our hearts
In hesitation and
Indecision
We have to be
Willing to step
Forward
As long
As you
Are moving
Moving
Forward
Taking
That extra
Step
Allowing
Yourself
To soar
To fly
Above
Everything
Living life
In the moment
Instead of
Living in fear
And hesitation
Frankie Gestone Mar 2013
He woke up in a rapid sweat, darkness surrounding him, his soaked pillow was pressing up on his neck as he could feel the uncomfortable stabbing cold run right threw his whole body. His mouth was dry and his body was in great pain. He lay there practically naked, but not just physically, also emotionally. It was like a catatonic state where the person’s body is paused in reality, but the actual person is far away and isolated even from himself. He wondered why he was so comfortable being uncomfortable and remaining frozen in time.  He saw nothing but the subtle moonlight that peaked through the blinds of his window. A point of existence, he feels nothing because all he has ever felt has drowned him. His numbness was being accepted and he embraced that if he remained this way, he would never have to feel hurt or heartbreak again. It’s better this way, he confirmed.

Eventually he got up out of his bed, walked outside to a nearby empty field. He looked up at the infinite night sky and contemplated the moon, the stars, and the endless space that sustained all of its existence. A tear fell down his cheek as he remembered the beautiful wonder of life and the universe; his realization that he is just a small spec of dust compared to all that is and all that is wonderful. Whatever happened to that universal happiness he used to feel? The feelings of the unseen, the cosmos, the mysteries that remain unsolved were all love. He then felt ancient and brand new at the same time-always being around all that is, but recently born into the unknown. The silence of the night swarmed him, and he suddenly embraced all the things he could not accept. The lullaby of the wind put him to sleep.

When he awoke, it was twilight. The sky was a lighter, deep blue and the sun in the far distance was rising in a fiery halo of mixed red, orange, and yellow colors, and the early morning clouds were clear and transparent. He heard the sound of a train horn in the far distance. He followed the sound with his ears as the sound became slightly louder and louder. Then, suddenly he could see the light of the early morning train.

The train had stopped as he approached it, and he hopped on with no hesitation or looking back. This runaway train was going to take him to where he needs to be, and he blindly and faithfully accepted that his fate was out of his hands now. No more heartbreak, no more reminders of the past, and most importantly no more drowning in his tears. As the train proceeded to move forward, he could feel fresh air gently touch his face, and all that he saw and ever knew were now flashing lights disappearing into eternity.

It was hours into the late morning when the train made its first stop. He listened to the train conductor speak out over the intercom, almost incoherently, say, “This is Brightstone Park. Next stop will be Riverhead.” A nostalgic feeling suddenly came over him as he could remember that his very first kiss was in Brightstone Park with Jessica Garzi. That was not his first true love, but his very first heartbreak. Riverhead was a forbidden memory, as he knew a classmate who had committed suicide off the Riverhead Bridge. He had not returned there in five years because of his haunting memories that would always come back to remind him just how cold and frightening the world really is.

While lost in thought, he felt a rough, sand paper-like wet feeling on his forearm. He looked down and it was a black cat, but not all black. The paws were all white like socks, and the chest and stomach were snow white. The loud prominent purr was a very peculiar reminder of a cat he once owned. Her name was Midnight. She was not the friendliest cat to strangers, but she loved him, especially when he massaged her paws. This cat was practically identical to Midnight. Midnight was put down three years ago though. As he began petting the cat’s back, it ran away and jumped off the moving train. He looked out in a hurry, but it was gone. It was just like everything else he loved. There for one moment, then gone the next. The strange thought that has one wondering if anything had actually existed that is now no more. A person, or a thing, could mean everything to you, but once they slip away, they become like the wind: occasionally brushing up against you, but never revealing its form.

On the train he began to wonder how he got where he was, and in general how the smallest decisions he made lead to bigger events and all in all, everything was all connected. There are no isolated events, or isolated people- it is all proven fact and science. Everything depends on each other to survive. The trees depend on the sun to keep themselves alive; we give off carbon dioxide to the trees and in return, we receive the oxygen we need from the leaves of the trees. He thought about the potential of a seed-for example, a tomato seed. Within that tiny seed is unlimited potential of life: The seed may produce one plant of several tomatoes, and within all those tomatoes are countless other seeds. This is all from one seed. Then, one may take a couple of seeds from a picked tomato and plant them throughout the yard creating a garden. That original seed came from another tomato seed inside a tomato on a plant, and that seed came from another seed. When did this cycle of reproduction begin and when does it end? Is it just another form of the infinite? When a person eats a tomato from that original seed, he receives certain essential vitamins his body needs for surviving and sustaining good health. This good health will effect his offspring and so on and so on. When he defecates, that will all return to the earth for potential fertilizer used for other tomato seeds. This is the same when he returns to the earth again. His dust will fertilize the same world that he came from, for all things come from it just to inevitably return to it.

He continued to think about how matter is never created nor destroyed and the same for energy. Nothing ever truly dies; the form changes into something new, like how water becomes a cloud and the cloud becomes water. Though this comforted him, he noticed that a few feet away from him was a former coworker and friend, Natasha Karev. She always infatuated him and they became close friends, but he always wished it had continued and gone even further than it did. One night, only a couple of years ago, they were at a friend’s party. Both were drinking, but not so heavily. That night they bonded and got so close, that she admitted she loved him. He was never quite sure how real that “I love you” was, but it was burned inside his heart ever since. That night there were moments she would tell him how much she wanted to make love to another guy at the party, Kevin, but was afraid to approach him. She told him she desperately wanted to lose her virginity that night to somebody because she was eighteen and only getting older. This was like a sharp knife slowly penetrating into his heart. He remained speechless for quite a few minutes. Finally he decided to go up in a bedroom alone. To his surprise, she followed him up and kissed him. He felt her clothed body up and down, and she touched areas not many have touched before. She told him she wanted to have *** and that she wanted him to rob her of her virginity. He was speechless, but extremely excited. Then, abruptly, she told him she could not because everything was happening way too soon. Why couldn’t she just make up her mind? He sat frustrated in the darkness, again, all alone. After that night, they spoke and remained close, yet that night was never mentioned again. It was as if it had never happened. After about two years of an on and off friendship, they just went their own ways. There were no fights or disagreements. Life just separated them.

“You’re just a figment inside somebody’s dream. So far from reality, you are a dream within a dream within a dream.” Startled by this soft voice, he quickly turned around to see Natasha smiling at him. “Ha-ha! I knew I could scare you. Were you abused as a kid, or something?” No words could come out at that moment, but he hugged her tightly. She explained to him that she is getting off at the next stop to meet a friend. He was sure he wanted to follow her and see where life would take him. She reminisced and told him how she had been away inside her own cave for several months, but is now very happy to meet up with everyone she had lost contact with.

The next stop arrived, but he did not catch the name of the stop he was getting off. As he got off with several others, both he and Natasha met up with her friend, Valeria, who he found quite cute. She resembled Natasha a bit in that they both had ***** blonde hair and blue eyes. They walked right into a giant street fair with a crowd of people looking at the foods and desserts, the trendy clothes, cheap jewelry, and children play rides.

As he looked around, he began seeing many familiar faces. He saw Kevin, a childhood and grammar school mate there with another co-worker of his, Jenny. Jenny was a Colombian beauty in his eyes and who was a flirt and tease to him, but never actually gave him any time alone. Incidentally, he knew both of them at different times in his life and had no idea they knew of each other. Kevin stopped contacting him during high school without any arguments or disloyalties that would tear a friendship apart. Keeping his head down, he walked a few feet to discover another childhood best friend, Jack, who was with a mutual childhood friend, Melanie. Melanie was a best friend of his and also a first childhood crush who also had a crush on him. He thought it was odd because even though Melanie and Jack were also best friends, Melanie never liked Jack in a special boy/girl way. He felt a moment of heartbreak, but quickly turned away and kept walking. A little further up the road, he saw two more childhood friends, Chris and Jimmy, who as children did not get along that well and only hung out with each other in the company of him. How peculiar it was suddenly seeing them together after ten years, and as seemingly best of friends.

That was not all. Things were getting stranger and stranger. It was like all the people who had made an imprint on his life were now coming together around him. He saw his two therapists, one he had gone to as a teenager and the other as a young adult, stand next to each other selling prescription drug samples. Both stared at him with a blank face, but with a prominent smile. He could barely nod at them. Natasha directed them to a local bar. Inside the bar was huge and also had a second floor. He noticed the music playing in the background was, Nocturne In E Flat Major, Op.9 No.2, by Polish born Romantic composer, Frederic Chopin. He became fixated on the elegant eighth note, left hand arpeggios, and the sweet and peaceful fast moving seven, eleven, twenty, and twenty-two notes from the right hand. If he thought about the most beautiful song ever written and all that is wonderful in one, this was the song.

They all took a seat and began looking at people and laughing at their behavior. Everyone was wearing masks. Social masks. They observed how different people act when they are in social gatherings, and how if you carefully study their body language, it will become clear that what they are saying and trying to put out is not what is actually being expressed through the body. One young man was frantically shaking his right leg as he tried to flirt confidently with a young woman he had just recently met. His face began to turn noticeably red, in an embarrassed flush, and he was making sudden hand gestures and quick eye blinking. She, on the other hand, pretended to be interested in what he was saying; yet her eyes would often look around the room and her body was a good distance from him with her arms folded.

Then as they were all laughing, he abruptly stopped and looked ahead to see two drunken women making out two tables away from them. As his eyes focused in on them, he realized they were two of his former crushes, Claire and Veronica, who he had no idea knew of each other because in fact, they were from different time periods of his life. He began seeing former teachers and professors from each stage of his school career, laughing hysterically with one another. Some of his most inspiring teachers and professors were gathered with other teachers and professors he despised. A young, tattooed hipster woman entered the scenery with a little Cairn Terrier that had an uncanny resemblance to his recently passed dog, Petey, who was put to sleep when he was away on a vacation, unexpectedly. His sorrow began to overwhelm him for not being able to say good-bye and see him for a proper last time. Everything about the dog’s high energy, playfulness, and watchdog attitude was exactly like Petey. A tear ran and fell off his cheek from his left eye right into the hand of Natasha. He looked up at her and she said, “Your tears are my tears. For what pain you withhold, I take and share with you.” She then wiped her right eye with the hand that held his tear. Natasha’s friend began to speak slowly into his left ear in Russian. Though he could not understand a word she was saying, it sounded just like a poem based on the pattern and rhythm’s consistency. It made him feel free of melancholy, but then thought of Angela Antonaci entered his mind.

He thought that the last painful experience ended with the break up of his closest best friend ever to play a part in his life. She was his girlfriend for the last three and a half years. They had known each other for ten years before they broke up their entire relationship. She was thirteen and he was fifteen when they first met in a park. She was always all over him like a little schoolgirl and he would often get frustrated with her obsession over him, for he believed he was no big deal. She was the first person to ever make him feel special and important, and even though he would resent her likeness towards him, he could never keep his eyes off of her or stop himself from always coming to her when he felt lonely. After about seven years, he realized he was in love with her. He had always been in love with her from the first time they met eyes. His long road had always lead back to her home in life. Every time he tried forgetting her and moving on, they would meet again. That person people search their entire lives for, he had found.

He rose out of his seat and briefly said goodbye to Natasha and her friend and went upstairs. He wanted time to be alone and walk around until he suddenly saw Jessica walking towards him. He stopped and waited for her to say hello, but she walked right by him, as if he had never existed. He felt a little insulted, yet relieved as any awkwardness that would arise was avoided. Looking ahead, he saw Angela’s two best friends, Kate and Julie, with her high school crush, John. John was playing an acoustic guitar on a lounge chair, singing to the two friends, almost enticing them with his eyes and voice. His jealousy overcame him, as Angela had been infatuated with him on and off even though he had played with her feelings throughout high school and college. John would tell her he loved her and make her believe he was a romantic, then when she fell into his words, he would leave her and keep a distance for long periods of time, leaving her in despair.

The conclusion occurred to him that maybe she was nearby. He searched throughout the entire bar not finding any other clues that she was around. When he went downstairs, he saw Natasha and her friend asleep, as well as most of the bar, except for the bartender. It was like everyone just passed out from the alcohol or possibly inhaled some type of knockout drug. The bartender was watching the news forecast of a tornado watch and dangerous thunderstorms. The bartender looked at him and said, “It’s better if you stay in here. It’s dangerous out there. I recommend you don’t go out!” He just listened, but decided to leave to the outside anyway.

He walked three blocks through the heavy rain and strong winds. He took a moment to stop and look at the black and gray clouds above him. As he looked across the street, he saw her. She was with her mother, sister, and mutual friends of theirs, Chrystal and Mike. He also saw behind them, his own mother and sister. He ran across the street to her and she shockingly with excitement screamed, “Hey!!! Oh my God!! Please stay with us. I missed you so much. You have no idea. We have to get to a shelter away from this storm. Hold my hand…” Smiling, he kept walking with them. They walked for twenty minutes and entered a giant field. After ten minutes of walking restlessly through the field, they all stopped to catch their breath. Angela’s mom ordered everyone to hold one another’s hand. An enormous gust of wind pushed them all to the grassy ground. He began to shake violently as he felt the touch of death nearby. He wondered if this would be the end, as he felt unaccomplished and left with so much left unsaid to her. Thoughts raced through his mind like a speeding highway about how to get to safety. Unable to control and remain focused on one rational thought at a time, he blacked out for a minute.

Then there he was right in the middle of a storm. In so many ways, he realized where he was ending was where he originally began. All the imprints from all he ever knew came back all at once to watch him finally leave all he ever knew from this life. And in the last moments, he found himself with her. He held her hand, while she held his, and the hands of their family and friends. The world was so dark and cold. The wind became much more rapid and an enormous bright light from it came within just miles of them. He kept looking up at the dark black and gray clouds over them, never as frightened as he was now. His focus was on the great strength of the wind. Whatever melancholic thoughts he had of his life, he would not give up hope. Maybe he was just hopelessly hopeful, but holding each other tightly might, in some miraculous way, save them. Then suddenly a deep peace began to sustain his very being. He remembered whose hand he was holding- the only woman to ever understand every level of his being. He looked down at her big, precious eyes pouring out tears. Their eyes locked, as she had been watching him the entire time. No words needed to be said from one another. They knew exactly what they felt and meant. For the first time in his life, everything was all okay. All was beautiful. The whole situation was beautiful, not tragic. In that moment, he understood this was where he was meant to be. This was where he wanted to be, for only in such a life altering moment does one comprehend the very nature of love and life. To just glance into her eyes and see the same person staring back in suspense, while all he ever knew was being born, growing, and dying simultaneously in complete acceptance. They began to fade and disappeared into the light.
Liliana Jaworska Oct 2014
You left me without remorse and hesitation.
I stayed in exhaustion in bedding of ice.
I see your ghostly outlines.
You are like polar ice cap in distant horizon.
I can not stand insulation.
I reached irreversible aspects of survival.
Little heat of my body has left.
My whole body embraces the numbness to the core of bones.
Dark hallicunations penetrate my mind.

You left me without remorse and hesitation.
Maybe unconsciousness will rescue me from pain.
My heart will stop functioning soon.
I wish I could do something to save myself.
I need anesthetic of your kisses,
your sweet morphine of saliva.
I barely close my eyes to sleep.
I tremble and search for answers
why you left me,
why God allows for loud cry,
why destiny walks dark paths.
Will mountain of ice in you crumble?

You left me without remorse and hesitation.
Nothing makes sense.
Haviness is growing inside of me.
I try to speak with flames of grief.
I try to play with them
but soon I will stop breathing.
Inaudible lullaby lulls me to sleep.
You are my attacker now, my conspirator.
Obviously you feel innocent and blame me
for sinfulness which I carry with me,
for lies that were not spoken.

You left me without remorse and hesitation.
I am waiting here in pain for your endorsement.
I vowed to be with you forever.
Promises fade away in the cold
from lack of heartbeat and breathing
as I now died here for you.
After this initial death may come  
second and third death
until I wake up with you
staring into the ocean of your  eyes
like a shore waiting for waves.

You left me without remorse and hesitation.
Without you all parts of my body screams in pain.
I am churned sea wishing calmness,
lost molasse on your journey through world,
underwater sounds not heared by anyone.
My thoughts are inquisitive for your words not said.
I am kneeling in beseeching prayers.
Maybe this will save us from disdain and sorrow.
My confusion is mixed with panic attacks
that I will never kiss your eyes again,
that love floated like frightened bird,
that world would die with my dreams.
Egg May 2018
We cannot write silence.
The beats.
The pause.
The breath.
The way it aches
and persists

and begs that,

if only for a moment,

our consciousness is only a whisper.
our bodies,
our lips,
the air that passes through falling chests
and stillness.

A melody of emotion.
Sleeping in the quiet of a heartbeat skipped
a word lost to the wind.

The wickedness of reticence
Encapsulated in air and time.

The moment stretched too long.
Hesitation perpetuated in the grip of fingernails
pressed into palms.

We cannot write silence,
but we can try.

to find a way to immortalize emotion
to create space
in the ceaseless drone of words that speak and spin.

I cannot write silence. But I can write
tears and years
and the burn of long-stretched lies.

I can write goodbyes and hellos
And dozen ways to say
I love to hate you
Or
I hate to love you
and sometimes
I cannot tell the difference.
Silence.
The space I have upheld for myself.

I love to hate you
Heart.

I hate to love you too.

I cannot write silence.
But I know it.
and I have held it in my hand.
Inspired by the Vanity Fair article of André Aciman's reaction to his book *Call Me By Your Name* being made into a movie. Specifically the quote, "I couldn't write silence."
Neath Sep 2014
She was there smiling for me
without
hesitation
without
**medication
Cherish the ones that are there for you.
Damian Acosta Jan 2014
Life and non-Life are part of a system-- a "system-like" system, but one nonetheless.
Where Entropy's that which is hidden from us--
and Information without meaning is total chaos.
But hold.

Poets, Bards & Thieves.
Of shame, of game, of blame, they speak
of secrets on the leaves.
In more or less a drunken mess, their simmered shimmered consciousness
could barely rarely quite express what causes them to grieve.

After some hesitation and liquid persuasion, the only collusion this final conclusion:

*Pain is entropic; Extra-sensory stimulation
received as distortion via sensory limitations--
Confusing the mind refusing the signs, forcing us to shutter the blinds.
But what is behind? Unveil pain's curtain and what do we find?
Contextualisation, possible causation-- Mind-Body integration without hesitation--
palpable, abstract Information dissemination!
Jesse stillwater Jul 2018
there are the ones
that feel it climb up
the shadow towards the light,
hesitation on every rung,
each wave of the arising
      overwhelms  unabated ―
and woe betides those
who are on the run
from a storm's deluge


A rousing ocean breeze
stirs inside the memory
of an unframed seashell
lying on the hearth mantel;
heightened sensitivity
lapping soundlessly,
spindrift plashing
the shoreline
of another world's
feigned peace


Perhaps the muted voice
of guilty pleasures,
hushed by their own
hidden truths
Feeling the unfelt textures
of every stifled vibration
left unbreathed


The naked truth befallen
so cold and lonely
Running in circles,
volatile as all those
     unspoken excitations raging ―
and the whispers of those
who hear not
the voices in the wind


An emotionally enslaved  heart
tarries,  marooned high and dry
in a memory on a distant sand bar
     lain fallow for so long ―
stagnant darkness
of an unsated soul
gathered on the back
of a parched tongue
sullied wordless


Rising up through
a dusty hieroglyph corridor
through an unlocked
labyrinth gate;  vestige echoes
from somewhere left behind
in an incomprehensible
abandoned wake


It's getting harder and harder
   for an insatiable soul to breathe ...
   climbing up a tree trunk―
up within the silence
of the listening tree


  Toes dug into
the rough bark furrows ―
fingers reaching upwards
beyond their deepest known grasp


A shadow stranded
out on a hangin' bough
hearkening without ears that hear:
“perhaps they’ll listen now“  
the wingless bird sings
in psalms that fly away
on tattered feathers
over untamed waters roil


Back to nature’s waning youth,
the bough bends unbroken
to taste the freedom
of the wild absolving seas



Jesse Stillwater
June     2018
Notes:                                                                                                          
a friend sent  a link to a deeply thought provoking modern classic 70's song about Vincent Van Gogh and the complexities of imperfection some of us relate .... i'd listened to the words prior but never heard before now.

  Title is last final lyric line from:  "Vincent" (Starry, Starry night) 1971
Writer(s): DON MCLEAN, ENRICO NASCIMBENI,
ROBERTO VECCHIONI
Tea Jan 2013
Hesitation when I say hello

I step into your space
Hovering right above the place
I wish to put my lips
Sigh, leaning into kiss
Press my palm
On your chest
Your heart beat
Beats the best
Images of me wrestling
Smiles settling
As we roll around the floor
Just imagining
What could be happening,
In that moment of hesitation
Before I say hello
A Thomas Hawkins Aug 2010
Is it wrong to want to see you
to know just where we stand
To take a walk along the beach
together hand in hand.

To talk about each other
and say just what we feel
about this and that and everything
just the thought seems so surreal

Is it possible to find someone
who's both a lover and a friend
As our boundaries of discussion
have no limits, have no end

And that for me, well its a first
to be so open, laid so bare
yet without slightest hesitation
we let ourselves be guided there

I cant help but think and wonder,
as I sit here on the sand
when we'll walk here together
you and I just hand in hand.
Follow me on Twitter @athomashawkins
http://twitter.com/athomashawkins
*****


Apr 7, 2012, 6:08:21 PM by ~OmegaWolfOfWinter
Journals / Personal




"Name: Amelia Weissmuler. Date of birth: June 6th, 1920. Test subject number 314-X. Specimen: Tiger." Amy heard all of this through a haze of sedatives that had begun to lose their already poor effect. She turned in the direction of the voice and saw a fearsome **** SS General standing behind a white clad scientist with a heavy accent. The general said nothing but listened and watched as Amy was strapped down to a cold metal table, completely **** with various wires, tubes and needles protruding from her flesh. She groaned painfully, the needles were extensive, and the **** scientists had no care of decency or respect. she was hit with another sedative and before she lost consciousness she heard the scientist, who she guessed was Dr. Heismeiller, say, "Name, Mordecai Dansker, former Major of the Third *****. Date of birth: September 19th, 1919. Test subject 14-W. Specimen: Wolf. As you
can see, Heir General, these are both healthy specimens, as are the test subjects." Amy heard a
rattling of cages. Her vison slowly went dark but not before seeing the doctor's face, uncovered and psychotic.
* *
When Amy woke up again, she was being suspended from the floor, the tubes and wires accompanied by menacing electrodes. there was an unnatural blue and white crackling of electricity around her, illuminating the other suspended tables nearby, the bodies in various grotesque positions and levels of decay. she tried to scream but found a machine unceremoniously shoved in her mouth, stretching deep inside her. she looked and saw nothing but obscene machines and various glass tubes of colored bubbling liquids. she tried sluggishly to break free but to no avail. what little strength she had was useless against the torturous devices emplanted in and around her. "Doctor, begin the experiment."
"Yaboe!" She heard a solid click resound through the room and heard a male scream in another room. the screams echoed for a long while, then nothing. she heard a gasp of releif from
the doctor and, "General! Subject 14-W... he has... Survived!"
"Good. now start on the frauline." there was a large thud from outside the room. "Quickly! this facility is under seige!"
"Yes sir, heir general. Test subject 314-X prepped and ready. Begin phase 1." she cried out silently as the needles burned hot inside her and the tubes boiled her insides. the electrodes soon incapacitated her and she fell unconscious.
*
*
"Phase 1 complete, heir general, subject is ready, proceeding to Phase 2."
Amy felt an intense burning around the needles, and an electric fire through her veins. the machine had been taken from her mouth, but she doubted she could scream any more, as her throat was raw from the silent screams of Phase 1. She felt her body shake uncontrollably as more electric shocks were administered. she was left panting and slumped over. "Sequence complete, the bonding process was a success." there was another thud and sediment from the roof fell to the floor. "Get her down now! They will be through soon!" She was lowered to the ground and unstrapped from the table, picked up, and placed on a stretcher. she raised her hands on front her face and nearly fainted, her hands, or paws, resembled that of a tiger, and as she looked, her whole body was covered in a slick orange, black and white fur. She was put into the backseat of an armored car with a simple blanket draped around
her. Amy felt nauseated
as the car sped off. It hit a bump in the road and she moaned painfully, clutching her furry belly and retching. the **** next to her turned away in disgust. the car ride was long and sickening, and she lost consciousness twice, and finally she tried to lay down in the cramped space. when the armored car finally stopped, she was pulled from the back seat and carried over a soldier's shoulder and into a small bunker. Once inside, amy heard a metal door open and was laid down onto a stiff bed with a single pillow and a single cover. There was a small window in the cell, a drab, grey stream of light shining in her eyes. She propped herself up on her elbow and shielded her eyes from the blinding contrast. Once her eyes adjusted, amy noticed that things had a particular sharpness to them and she had an acute awareness of things based on scent. she stood shakily, and noticed she was almost
six inches taller now, and her new tail swished back and forth along the concrete floor. she stepped
forward and grasped the iron bars and peeked out, seeing a black leather messenger bag and a black uniform lined with white. she couldn't quite reach the uniform, but was able to get a claw around the strap of the messenger bag. she pulled it closer to her and saw that her initials were monogrammed into the leather. she pulled it through the bars and opened the bag, pulling out a small, blank, leather bound journal and a pen. still ****, she sat on the bed and practiced writing, tearing out two pages of scratch paper. She began her journal with, "I am no longer the person i once was. i am something new, something... different."
• * *
The **** captain stepped into the bunker and saw amy, half lying, half dangling on the bed, the leather journal clutched close to her chest. he stormed into the cell and backhanded her awake, snatching up the journal as she cowered in the corner, her tail wrapped around her. the captain flipped through the pages of the journal and then closed iit with a snap. he glanced at it and dropped it on the bed. "it is yours now, Frauline. you are very special to the third *****. the fuhrer himself has asked for you to be placed in the Waffen SS and trained." amy glanced at the uniform on the table outside the cell and he nodded, "specially tailored for you, frauline. he stepped outside the cell and grabbed the uniform, setting it down on the bed. "you may Change into your new uniform and join the rest of us outside." he stepped outside and she was alone. she donned the simple uNdergarments then
slipped into the soft black trousers, after which she put on her military boots. next she put on the black and white jacket signature of the SS. the jacket was sleek and menacing, though it did little to flatten her chest, but that, she supposed, was one of her feminine charms. last was her hat and armband, both adorned with the *******. she gathered the leather messenger bag and stepped outside the cell, where a mirror stood, giving her a chance to see what had been done, the black uniform was a dramatic contrast to her brightly colored fur, and her new black stripes added a fierce look to her. she grinned and flashed menacing white teeth. she turned her body, looking at herself from different points of view. she slipped the **** armband onto her right arm and turned to leave. she stopped when she encountered a high pitch noise right next to the door. for the moment she just walked past, opening the door and adjusting her vision to the outside light. the layout was grey and barren,
as it always was in wartime. the captain was waiting for her along with a small squad of SS troops. a
Few laughed and remarked at her appearance, making cat noises and wolf whistling at her. she glared at them with a bright white snarl carved into her soft face. *they will fear me...

she saluted the captain and said, "heil ******." he returned the gesture, "heil. you are now part of the Waffen SS, frauline Amelia."
"please sir, its amy."
he noted her directness and ferocity, "very well, amy. before we assign you a task, though, you must prove yourself." he addressed the squad, "they are all corporal's and sergeants. you are merely a private. you will gain a rank for each one that you ****. however, they have been told that if they do not force you to submit, they will be killed or sent to the russian front. so you best fight your hardest, private amy."
as he finished, the squad set down their Mauser 98K's and MP-40's and stepped closer to her. her eyes widened in shock, then narrowed in ferocious determination. there were twelve of them.
"Fight!"
• *
Amy took a fighting stance and faced her attackers. she attempted a punch at the nearest one but was kneed in the gut, she was thrown back a few feet. she fell to her knees and clutched her stomach with one hand, holding herself upright with the other. tears sprung to life in her eyes and threatened to roll down her cheeks. she fought the tears back and stood, feeling her claws extend. she swiped at a soldier's throat, catching him right in the throat. blood splattered the ground as he choked on his own fluids. the remaining eleven were taken aback slightly, allowing her to pounce another soldier, punching and tearing at his gut with lethal force. her fur was bloodstained and she waited a moment too late, watching the cavity she created fill with blood. she was barreled over, the wind knocked out of her by a sergeant. she lay on her back, gasping for air as the soldiers closed in,
landing a few punches and sending her reeling back. she staggered back, struggling for breath. she
Bumped up against something and realized it was a bunker wall, she was trapped. she thought quickly and decided for a new course of action, she waited for one of them to gather his bravado and throw a solid punch at her, which was useless, she grabbed his wrist and smashed his head against the wall, filling his helmet with blood and brains. in the same move, she had grabbed his Luger and had downed three more of the remaining ten. in their moment of confusion she kicked the closest one in the fork of his legs and followed up with a pistolwhip. the man went down quickly and died by the heel of her merciless boot. the remaining six charged at her, one falling by her last bullet and another caught a swift kick in the ribcage, shattering the bones to peices. the rest of the men were sergeants, and they began to retreat, running into the open field. she was about to chase after them when she
heard another Luger fire. she turned to see the captain shooting the deserters. each fell, one by
One by the captain's gun to her surprise he let a single man go. "you have done very well, frauline amy. you have killed eight out of twelve men, not bad at all."
she was panting, her uniform dirtied, "why.. did you let.. him go?"
the captain smiled, "someone has to spread you're reputation, heir captain."
she gaped at him. "i am... captain?"
"yaboe, heir frauline. you have proved yourself worthy to serve under the fuhrer."
she saluted him, "thank you, heir captain."
*
amy wrote in her journal as they were driven to one of the Stalags: "my promotion to captain has earned me my choice of weapons, ive chosen a few, two long barrel Luger's, a cavalry saber, and a sixteen foot bullwhip. i also carry an automatic Mauser in my messenger bag. other than a few knives carefully hidden on my body, that should be it. ive become the fuhrer's favorite enforcer, though i feel as if i'm forgetting something..."
amy closed the journal and placed it in her bag with a soft snap.
Amy waited for a **** private to open the car door and let her out, tapping her foot impatiently. when he finally came, she had a luger pointed at his chest. "you're late. she got out of the car and shot him, holstering the pistol as he crumpled to the ground. the colonel in charge rushed towards her, "what is the meaning of this?!"
"your man on watch was late, and now he'll never be late again. and also, colonel, as i am a captain in the SS, i am your superior officer and you WILL adjust yourself accordingly or i will replace you with someone who will."
his expression was that of shock, "y-yes, heir captain, please follow me." he escorted her quickly to the main building. amy glanced around at the peering POWs, glaring at them with distaste as they whistled at her. "who's the kitty?" "what the hell is that?"
her hands fell to her lugers and she was ready to fire when she was beckoned inside by the colonel and she followed behind him reluctantly. "you should control your prisoners.
i find an overall lack of order in this camp. you're lucky i'm in a good mood, or i'd have you strung up for incompetence. lets hope my further evaluation of this... facility... does not make me any more inclined to do so."
the colonel stuttered again and dipped his head, "y-yes heir captain."
she stepped outside unopposed by any. she snapped her fingers and a sergeant rushed to her side and saluted. she handed him a journal logbook and he opened it to the page marked with the Stalag number. she entered the closed off areas of the stalag to inspect the barracks.
*
amy's fists were clenched with rag, a prisoner mocked her from within his confines. his fellow prisoners pleaded with him to stop. "she's lethal!" "she killed eight SS sergeants and corporals singelhandedly her first day!"
the prisoner ignored them and began gesturing at her. she snapped her head up and their eyes met for an instant, she growled through a gritted snarl and was over the fence in mere moments. once over,
the prisoner that mocked her was now on the ground, his throat between her fangs. he cried out once and then gurgled blood as she tore out his throat. she spat the flesh onto the dirt and stood, brushing the dusty particles from her uniform. the men around her backed away when she approached them, and watched her cautiously as she stepped back out of the fenceline. amy picked up her cap from the ground and brushed it off. one of the prisoners called for a doctor, and when one of the guards began to look for one, she merely said, "no, he wont survive. leave him be."
the soldier saluted and went back to his post. she walked up to the colonel and said, "your prisoner annoyed me, as do you, colonel. you have three days to turn this place around or you'll end up worse off then your prisoner over there."
the colonel had turned a pale white and whispered, "understood, captain."
she returned to her quarters and listened for a moment as the colonel shouted orders. "that was fun." she remarked.

Amy was asleep in one of the larger rooms in the main  building, her uniform folded neatly on the table near the bed. she kep one luger on her bedside table and the mauser under her pilllow. her other luger, her sword and her whip were next to her clothes. she was clad only in her fur, as she'd found that the most comfortable way to sleep.
she was woken up by a knock at the door. she blinked her eyes a few times. clutching the mauser handle with one hand and holding the blanket to her chest with the other, she said, "what is it?"
"the colonel wishes to speak to you, heir frauline."
she growled, "grrr... fine. tell him to make it quick." she clutched the blanket closer as he opened the door. she held the mauser aimed at him and said, "turn." he did so without hesitation. she slipped cautiously out of the bed and began to dress. "what is it you wished to speak with me about, colonel?" amy put on her undergarments and then pulled her trousers up to her waist, fastening the belt comfortably.
"there is an important telegram for you, heir captain." she pulled on the jacket over her simple shirt, tugging out any wrinkles. "oh? from who?" next came the holster belts, each hanging slightly lower than her first belt. her sword was another belt, and there was a custom clip there for her whip as well.
"Himler, he has special orders for you." her messenger bag was next to last, slung over her shoulder before she slipped into her boots. ""You can turn now. hand them here." she stepped closer to him and took the envelope with her name scrawled on the front. the colonel excused himself so she could read the orders, "captain amelia weissmuler, once you have completed your assignment at Stalag 14, please make haste to stalingrad as there has been a number of our own turning against the *****. see to it that they cause no more problems. -heinrich himler"
she read it through three more times before folding it and placing it in her bag. she hurried outside, grabbing her hat
From the dresser.
* *
amy went about her inspection, seeing nothing wrong today. "the condition of stalag 16 has improved, heir colonel. well done. now send my car around." the colonel grinned and motioned for the car.
the black car adorned with swastikas roared to life, coming up beside her. the d

This coup
A new nation
Loyal dedication
Its classification

‘Species procreation’
Prevents us from facing
A human cessation
selective mutation
Gestation
Creation

It may help explaining
The reasons
Behaving
But not the foundation
Or actions
We’re basing


A simplification
is “continuation”
A checkbox
left vacant
Fulfillment
We’re chasing


We sweat
Eyes are gazing
A slight
palpitation
In need of hydration
Complete excitation
Without
hesitation
Intense stimulation
Deep urges
Heart racing

Driven
By sensations


Unbounded fixation
Pelvic
Undulations
Clothing
Perforations
Time no longer wasting

This capitulation
a Sanctification
****** gyrations
Hint of *******


The bedroom
Safe haven
For what
we are craving
Once out
and displaying

It all had been taken
Before
Feeling vacant
Freed imagination
A resuscitation
Indulged depravation

A rhythm
we’re setting
The giving and getting
Destroying
the bedding

All else I’m forgetting
Entwined
with each other
Like entangled netting
Both
on the same trip
In a unified heading


Now comes
the summation
A true
Revelation
Final
culmination
Smash all expectations
Volcanic
eruption

That lasts the duration
Loud gasp
We unlock

Filled with gratification
Written: July 8, 2018

All rights reserved.
Stephen E Yocum Aug 2013
Went to the County Fair today,
I have always liked to go,
So many animals,
and things to see,
It's truly quite a show.

The Carnival Games are fun,
But certainly never free,
Most are surely rigged,
You hardly ever succeed.

There are Side Shows galore,
Some bring, right out in the open
******* clad young women for
perusal, to tease men into arousal.
But you need to pay to go inside,
To get a better peek.

Best of all though, for me,
Is the vast array of Junk Food,
Right there on display,
for everyone to see.
Forbidden none healthy stuff,
that the rest of the year,
I never get to eat.

While walking around,
The sights and the sounds,
of these many prohibited treats,
Their enticing smells do so delight,
That my stomach begins to growl.

It does not help, that huge colorfull,
signs, on each food stalls does adorn,
Advertising it's tantalizing offerings,
making them all the harder to ignore.

The combination of these deeds,
of visual, and nose sensory sensations,
Can doubtless render this person,
incredibly weak in the knees.

Next up jumps a big dilemma,
Which one thing should it be?
Pop Corn, with lots of salt and  butter,
Better yet, that fresh corn on the cobb
I see.

Look over there, Oh MY!
It's fried dough Elephant Ears, I spy,
Sprinkled with honey and cinnamon,
I seldom, almost never pass them by.

Oh YES, Bright Red Candy Apples!
A boyhood favorite of mine,
and a sure win.
An apple a day, they say,
Keeps the Doctor away,
The candy is just there for a grin.

Fried Chirreo's and Corn Dogs on a stick,
Both I could do, making that combination,
a bona fide Hat Trick.

Nachos dripping with melted cheese,
Oh sure, that's bound to please.

Pulled Pork on a bun would be kind of fun,
But the Barbeque Sauce gives me gas.

One that I'd almost forgotten,
How 'bout Candy Cotton?
A marvelous Incantation,
Sugar dropped into a machine's
whirring vat, spun like magic,  
Puff, just like that.
No slight of hand required.
Really quite a sweet sensation.

I've spent now over an hour,
Just wandering all around,
Looking at the stalls and signs.
And yet,
Still can't make up my mind.

Racked with indecision,
This perplexing dilemma,
Rests with no other,
This one is all about me.
Yet another half hour,
from the clock has expired,
and still no decision is rendered.

The day is ending,
it's nearly Six,
Not long 'till Supper Time.
Before I left home,
My wife did inform,
"It's *** Roast tonight,
your favorite,
Make sure you're here by seven!"

With a certain hesitation,
And twinge of remorse,
Disappointment etched on my face,
I turn listlessly towards my car,
With slow pace resignation,
Still pondering all those treats,
I might have had,
If it weren't for my procrastination.

Decision making,
I've been slow to admit,
Has never been my forte.

Well perhaps, No for sure.
Maybe, I'll probably come back.
Tomorrow, or even the next day.
It could, or might possibly be,
That by then, I will have thought,
this all through,
And come to some decision.
And we know he won't, poor guy,
his sort never can.
Which of the treats would you have
picked? Bet you can make up your mind.
That's an easy bet. Writers make instant
decisions all the time.
PoserPersona Sep 2018
A confident man feels not a need to speak
on all things with which he does not agree
Though in the proper time and place
he is not afraid to assert his way

And though his words at times cause spurn,
he will admit when they are out of turn
Fearing not the inevitable mistake,
but rather owning it too late

Caring and feeling without hesitation
and not for reciprocal adulation
Emotions are expressed appropriately;
either subtlety or rationally

As honest with others as with himself;
recognizing what he does and doesn’t do well
Claiming to know what he does know
and asks when he don’t

Pursuing tasks for their benefit and or joy
rather than status or fleeting ploys
Those latter things are often great fun,
but worry of them yields none

While in his mind there is good thinking,
he is more occupied with good acting
In order to have concerns of the ideological,
requires labors that are practical

On his confidence, he does not ponder,
as neither he or anyone wonders
of whether he truly possesses it.
We know it.
There is no more painful love
than unrequited love
A heart that is open
pouring out to another
but an empty space
like a vacuum
with nothing in return

Like giving a gift
‘Tis better to give than receive
And the heart offers freely
all of its wonderful presents

Free of expectations
when truly filled with love
It blindly releases itself to another
With a simple creed
‘I am for you’

Like the wall of a dam
suddenly letting go
A deluge of emotions
Thoughtful, interest, caring, warmth, love
A flowing waterfall
of Niagara proportions

However, without intention

which goes without saying
since the truer the love
the blinder it be

The vacated space
creates a sudden vacuum
A sharp, deep pit left
where once all of itself was housed

For a brief time
the heart is unaware
still glowing in the warmth
from the happiness and joy
of the love it gives

But slowly the glow fades
And the presence of the empty space
becomes more obvious
and apparent

A coldness sets in
An addict looking for a fix
The heart desperately seeks
in return what it has given

Never intending to give with strings
but so it finds itself
now tied to another
with the strongest of bonds

The intense fulfilling feeling
once experienced
Replaced with anguish,
longing, loneliness and pain

The mind and heart begin
an epic civil war
Feeling the torment
and seeing the destruction
the mind invokes all its resources
to break the bonds
the heart has created

But with hope that is
almost sad and pitiful
the heart refuses to let go
So sure of the ties it made
And fighting back with all
of its might to defeat
any attempt
the mind has
to remove the bonds of love

A man at war with himself
will find himself at war with others
And so, the inner conflict
resonates outwardly
displayed aptly with defiance
and destruction

Like a pebble in a pond
each action creates ripples
Slowly at first
but then with exponential speed
a life is destroyed
leaving only a broken
and beaten shell

And after all the destruction
and loss
All of the pain and suffering
The tears and sorrow
At this moment
standing on a pile
of nothing but debris
The mind,
with a sense of arrogance
and certainty,
confronts the heart
and pointedly asks,
“Do you see now?!
Do you see the
error of your ways??
Look what it has cost us!
Do you see the
mistake you’ve made?!”

Without hesitation or waiver
the heart responds
with a steady certainty
that is calm and cool in nature,
“No. Love is a risky venture.
One always, ‘takes a chance at love’.
But I will not admit
fault for trying.
When I love
I love freely and openly
I offer all of myself
without expectations
It’s only when you get involved
and create conflict within
that we have problems
To love is to love
It brings joy and happiness within itself
If it is not returned
then it is not returned
but an open and loving heart
can not feel emptiness and pain for it is filled with love
And there is no greater reward
than finding that love in another
and having another
find that love
in you
Written: March 4, 2018

All rights reserved
farahD Nov 2014
Tired,
Suspended in mind,
Take the leap of freedom,
Break through illusion,
To a world without,
Fear,
Hesitation,
Hypocrisy,
Freedom from these chains,
Nothing will hold,
My life now,
For my soul,
Is free.
zebra Jun 2017
she loved thunder storms most of all
the crackle of white hot bolts ripping through the sky
the sheer immensity of power
she always thought it was him
her beloved God
big boy
Thor
with his flowing blond hair
blue aquatic eyes
washboard stomach
and delicately curved *****
finally a man good enough for her
even if he was fly by night

when the heavens thickened gray
like soggy cotton
she could feel atmospheres shift
it made her ******* pert
her mouth would salivate
like a lurid peach
her ***** swelled and dampened
tears of adoration and enchantment
filled her eyes

no longer able to contain her self
she would strip naked
fling off her *******
and run out to the lush verdant meadows
calling at the top of her lungs
yoooooooooo hooooooooooo

as the cool rain descended
she ran thrilled to the mud between her toes
seeing great claws of white lightening  echo
through the sky

without hesitation
she fell to the cool earth beneath her
wallowing in the delicious sloshing ooze
positioning her self on all fours
head thrown back
*** up high
calling to the heavens
come on, come on big boy
ive been waiting for you
let me have it good
her clitoral lips
drooled with anticipation
her ******
a pulsating aching

the sky rumbled
with stretching streaks of fire
like a great freight train
spanning infinity
while the earth shook like a
hollow moon
she swayed her hips
rhythmically to and fro
whispering a love song

oh sir
i need a man like you
wont you love me
adorations true

i kneel before
my sweet Lord Thor
where's that hammer
come on and score

you are so big
and im so little
how about it God
just a tickle

hit it now
give it to me good
kisses baby
like only you could


tears of desire cascaded
down her pink cheeks
as she recited her love mantra
her mouth naked wet

suddenly
a great bolt of lightening
shot down from heavens throne
entering her ******
splitting her in flames
her head turned dark mahogany
sent careening fifty yards
leaving her mouth
a yawning twisted smudge
of fossilized obsidian
with eyes
blackened flaring hollows

her tender pink ****
a charred flower
smoldering
like a
petite
grilled
calamari
Allania Berkey Mar 2016
The clock struck midnight
I was restless and thoughtful as could be
I noticed that I had been tossing and turning to a beat and rhythm that plunged above in the sky
It was a thunder-storm
bang, crash, thump
The sky illuminated in glory
Envy

The thunder roared and crashed in the middle of the night and the trees helplessly yearned for serenity
Ironic
It was calm earlier that day
Imagine
The breeze was right where it should have been and the sun was warmer than a hot skillet on a stove top
Peace
The sky was fostered in a pacific blue
And the clouds resembled dreams
Love
I remember it was 1:05 pm to be exact and I was feeling blissful
I decided to ride my bike through a quaint old town, two miles west of my house
Adventure
I stopped and stared at this little old man painting in the park
He was painting a tree, with pink, red, purple and gray
Odd
I couldn't help, but noticed how he was enticed by his surroundings
Interesting
I continued to bike away
It was now 2:45pm and I was feeling a bit famished
To the right of me stayed a cunning unforgettable coffee shop
I insisted to go in
Hesitation
Something about that coffee shop struck me that day, just like the little old man painting his introspection in the park
The room reeked in comfort and patience
Something I did not understand
Silence
Contemplatively, I bought a cup of coffee--black, I also companied that coffee with a blue berry scone--my favorite
I sat by the window to admire the sunlight and how the warmth cherished my skin
I sipped my coffee--startled
I noticed something peculiar about this coffee shop and this day
Instantly, I was left with an uneasy and unsettled feeling
Thoughtful
My black coffee was much more bitter than usual
It is as if the taste could not go down my throat
Something was wrong, I felt it
As I looked around the room everyone else was enjoying their cup of coffee
They also seemed to lack any hesitation
The tone in their voices create a harmonic rhythm in conversation
I noticed that every time they took a sip of their coffee they found it sweet, rather than bitter
I turned my head and looked out the window for a moment
Suddenly, I noticed that the sky was diminishing in its tints of blue
Wonder
I looked down at my watch
It was 3:35pm, I had to get home
I paid my bill and scurried onto my bike
Remember
The sky was calm throughout the entirety of the day
It was lovely and ideal--until it wasn't

No one expected a storm
No one expected disaster
But somehow, I did

I laid in bed that night waiting in anticipation
Waiting for my world to collide
Thunder and lighting seemed to have fought its way through the sky
Time
There wasn't enough
Concurrently, I felt bitter-- just like my cup of coffee in that cunning old shop
Ambiguity
I was left without answers
I was left without sugar and cream
creek, scratch, thump
The tree branch slid against the slide of my house
I noticed it all
It's starting
All the anticipation and anxiety I felt throughout the day was finally coming to its end or maybe to its start
The sky started to illuminate an illusion of sunlight
It was 11:30 pm and the day it almost to its end
I laid in bed thinking
I thought about my day and everything that it was missing
I notice it all
The little old man in the park painted a tree with a usual set of pigments, he defined ordinary, while sat alone comforted by the mere work of his creativity
The people in the coffee shop arrayed and encompassed patience, harmony and happiness
I was struck by discomfort because I unware of all those wonderful things
I knew all about the thunder and how it was provoked in the sky
I understood the lighting and its wish to shine
I thought of the beat and tempo that they would together make
Sometimes it was bitter, but sometimes it was sweet
I understood thunder and lighting
I understood why they danced viciously in the sky  
Finally, the clock struck midnight and it was now tomorrow
Fear
The storm was coming to its peak
The thunder fought its way with the lighting just as viciously written words floated on a piece of paper
The lighting struck back with ferocious and willful ambition
Relentless
The lighting held its ground, but didn't give up its hope
BANG
Memories
It was 1:05 am
The storm had reached its end
The thunder and lighting seemed to have parted their ways
Their fight was tortious
Nobody won, rather they both lost
It was 1:25 am
The rain had finally stopped
The trees have found their peace
It was 1:42 am
As I laid in bed, I thought about my day
I just want the storm to stop
Just like the the thunder and lightening, the little old man in the park and the people in that cunning old coffee shop, all have found their comfort and patience
The thunder and lightening have similarly found it in their bitter sweet good bye
It was wonderful
I noticed that as much as they fought throughout that darling midnight blue sky, they were attracted to their rhythm—A rhythm that was worth saving
The sweetness was found in their beat as they danced throughout the night
The thunder and lighting created a bittersweet combination
Just like the coffee I wish I would of had
A natural disaster that was intended to create a craze in the sky
The thunder wanted to be sweet, as did the lighting
Two peas in two different pods
Their negativity created the sweet appreciation of warm sunlight
I notice it all
The sun was the sweet
The day was calm
The thunder and lightening both knew it all too well
That night, the reminder of it anyways, I laid in bed and I knew that someday the storm would go away
It was 2:25 am and I finally shut my eyes
Brittny S Jun 2015
Fatherless Child
Brittny Shaffer

Life hurts
Emotions hidden deep down in the dirt
Your not sure which direction to go in
There's to much confusion, you have no time because your life is thin
Trying to walk right but your on the path of sin
No feelings of your own being self centered just within
I always had a vision in mind
When I grow up I want to be just like my father
Hoping that he become the next African American doctor
My dream was that he'd become something powerful and he showed he cared
But my deepest fear was that he'd never be there
But who am I to say
Everything does not go right
Everything is not fair
Because with the power of God only thing you have to do is decree and declare
I wish my father would've realized
He had a purpose that he was not placed on this earth to get chastised
When i look out of the window
There is something that I see
A father not caring about his child he didn't believe
What was it about me that you didn't want to receive
Why was it that your hopes was always in the streets
Did you ever look back to say I have a child who is in need
Or was your focus on woman who didn't put fourth  good deeds
But DAD you loved them over me
Strangers came first they was people that you pleased
Your family was a meaning fairytale
It was make belief
I paint the picture I have an image
You took life as a game and not as a privilege
You was in your own world
You had your own village
Not even concerned
The devil had you he was in control
Had you in the streets doing a daily role
Stealing
Dope dealing
Got you locked up
and you said that it was wrong
But never thought about me you left me at home on my own
No food, no shelter, no comfort all alone
Your game was just a cattle to **** it was so strong
Before time your life was over it was gone
I remember the time I saw you on your death bed about to die
You held your hand out and said ill make it don't drop a tear don't cry
But you never realized the pain I went through because of your lies
The hurt I carried with me because you never tried
I lived 16 years no father a long ride
A father concerned only about him full of pride
Where was the love that needed to be supplied
Where was the hope that I put in to be prescribed
But people
Im here to share a message with all of the fathers
We as people need to rise up and set a standard as a generation
Become more of a father hood for kids all around the nation.
Its never to late stop with the procrastination
ALL aboard join the father hood station
We shouldn't be built of frustration
Fathers should be a role model to daughters and sons to say I strive for determination
Im tired of seeing children suffer due to separation
Fight for what you love, fight for your children
Having them apart of your life should never be a hesitation
They should be # 1! Make that your expectation
Looking for a father who never look back to get me
But on his way out said baby please forgive me
Father why
You only want me in your life because your about to die
Now I should walk out of the room and  just say GOODBYE
When i needed you DADDY COME HOME DADDY WHERE ARE YOU DADDY FATHER never got a reply
We as children shouldn't have to wonder if our fathers could be a rely
Free at last free at last thank GOD almighty were free at last
But where are our fathers
No new outfits, no new shoes
  Fathers are Found as killers now on the news
I just wanted you in my life
Me as your daughter why couldn't you make that sacrifice
FATHERS your daughters need you
FATHERS your sons need you
They need that fatherly advice
If I could get one wish
It would be for my father to hug me and give me that one big kiss
My fathers coming back he didn't forget about me
For all the fathers out there who abandon there children
FIX IT NOW let that be your fulfillment
We are all meant to shine as most of us do
But we as children don't deserve to be hurt and go through
SO change take action make your children happy and experience something NEW
Im out make sure you be about that positive life

Be Blessed
NeroameeAlucard Nov 2014
We've been texting and calling for six months
and now it's reached its culmination
when you surprised me one day
you're coming here for vacation

I ran out to the store immediately
bought condoms, **** n toys
I also warned the neighbors
because we were gonna Make lots of noise,

I met you at the airport
you're even more beautiful in person
we talked on the way to my apartment
you wouldn't forget this I'd be certain

when we finally arrived you saw I lit some candles and laid some flowers on my bed
we kissed caught up with the moment
and lust flowing through our heads

I laid down below you because you wanted to be in charge
we kissed again while between your legs
I got ever so hard

You slid my shaft out of its pocket
and bounced on me without hesitation
As we got caught up in all the passion
you screamed MY GOD WHAT A VACATION!
Brandi R Lowry Jul 2015
Life is a test
A series of choices

Your time here is measured
By the venom in your voices

Give unto others without reservation

Help your neighbor
With no hesitation

Feed the hungry

Remove discrimination

Offer a hand

Become an inspiration

Open your mind
Start a revolution
Inspire a change
To create the solution

With our eyes cast downward
We pretend not to see
The misery and demise  
In the wake of our greed

If someone is hungry...
Cold or unloved
Offer your heart
Give them a hug

What you share
Will return tenfold
So offer a hand
Help carry the load

Offer a smile
Share your bliss
Inspire others
Change what is

Share your joy
Inspire others to love
Together
We can change the world.

Namaste
ShareInspireChange
Jesse stillwater Apr 2018
The woman in the window
  Looks out beyond the glass
Beyond the reach of her whispers
  Befogged upon windowpanes glance

Farther  than  the  bounds
  Her own breathe imbues
Out of reach her long fingered touch
  Tracing her murmurs on looking glass dew
Grasping for the shadowed artifacts
  Only time does nonchalantly drift past

Perched alone upon a cloud of silence
  Her thoughts eddy in soundless swirl
Spinning like dizzying shadows
  Swallowed by a thirst for light

The other side of window beckons
  Only she knows she’s looking out through a sigh;
Seeing no one familiar looking back ―  
  For what hidden jewels within abide

She dreams of dancing leafless by daylight
  Twirling beneath the whispering willows sway
Just a step away from being free
  Just a step away from feeling alive

With first step beyond imprisoning hesitation
  Crossing over the threshold of a dream
Through a liberating portal outside the glass
  Just on the other side of the windowsill ...


                  Jesse e Stillwater
13th  April  2018
Bree Clayton Jan 2014
I pushed you away
but when you left
with no hesitation,
no fight,
it hurt.
Almost as if
you planned on
leaving me.
Cate Jan 2017
Whispering eternally into the void
Hoping internally
It can turn the black
churning bile of thoughts
into incandescent showers,
specific epiphany.

Lately, I've been laden
with the epitome of anomaly.
Loner labotomy,
living in self devised autonomy
A private economy of thoughts,
exchanging deranged for sane

Only to flip back again
Turn around, full swing
Indignant incantations ring,
Echoing down the corridors


This skeletal paradigm
Of rusted pipes
I've unwittingly installed
above once placid pools,
A wellspring for many muses.


Caught in a rift of dimension
Words begin to leak
Without direct intention
And with little attention for the details
My thoughts quickly become words
That derail more than just a conversation.
My hesitation to engage
Is a fair wage for holding my silence
Tightly,
But the precarious musings of my mind
Must tumble out to spite me.


I tried cutting out my tongue to save face
But a poet who can't speak is a disgrace.

1.8.2017
C.e.M.
axr Sep 2014
In the corner of the street
a man plays an old guitar
Nobody notices him
He continues to gaze at the stars
The city's noise
Is capable of drowning his voice.
He plays without hesitation
Never asking for attention.
He can't afford anything new
The kindest,
give him a dollar or two.
His lifestyle is frugal.
They say he owned a fancy hotel.
His strings are worn out
but the sound is clear
His only love is his beer.
In the corner of the street,
a man plays an old guitar
The same one
who never sang about his broken heart.
Reflecting a story through a poem
onlylovepoetry Apr 2018
zelle ma belle

(zelle is an interbank system for sending cash in an instant to someone else’s bank account)

sent her an unexpected $250,
at 4:00am, of course,
a check-plus for her life,
because she revel reviews her day at school,
as special person day, teaches them well, and
anointed, appointed unsolicited confirmation by them
“as part of our family”
how they crave her body, her touch, at scary movie parts,
her kitchens diner size menu,
her refusal to ever disappoint,
her candy drawer supreme,
her crayon color visions which they execute,
her zen sense of their moods,
and for me,
for calling them without hesitation
my grandchildren

indeed more here hers than mine
she asks me why the $$ and poet doesn’t lie
but thinks quick at 7:30 am while bed prone,
“you won Nana of the Day award”
the only (grandparent) on the floor with two kids in her lap,
for the magic show,
all the rest,
benched, chattingly adultry things


she thinks on it and says
“ok, I accept!”

p.s. also,  I have yet to inform her of the (my) elimination of a
crystal champagne flute while doing my manly cleanup  from Friday night lights dinner pink champagne celebrating  
le weekend’s arrival


olp
Sebastian Macias Sep 2018
The artist must become a whole
Completely obsessed with their art
Obsessed with who they are
Truly, who they are
Without hesitation
Infatuated about how they create
The art that makes them be,
What it makes them live for
From how they take their coffee
To every moment of a good ****
Reading in peace at dawn,
Picking fruit from a grocery store
The truest of artists are always lost
Lost in their own mind
Unconcerned with the lashing of
Society's moral tongue
Pushing themselves out to sea
Creating only to be alive from within
Where it all counts,
And it all has some value
MG Sep 2011
Two star-crossed lovers,
their eyes bridged by a glance
both busy and hurried
with little faith in daily chance
destined for fallen love,
their hopes arisen by circumstance.

He sees
an intrinsic beauty
inside her resides
the epitome of purity
where an ephemeral stare
lulls him into abyss, eternity
and he longs beyond longing
to live life in unity
with her.


She sees
the embodiment of perfection
a soul bright gold
seeking a lover's impression
a confidant to quarter
her every thought, every recollection
so she pleas God, please
let there be a connection
with him.


And so they pass
mulling in mutual isolation
over fortunes unfulfilled
for a moment's hesitation
over lives of love lost
for lack of fate's cooperation.
Cyril Blythe Nov 2012
Janie pushes the metal book cart back into its parking space in the Document Delivery Department of the St. Louis Public Library and hangs the last sticky note for October 30, 2012 on the wall by the head of the department’s closed door. She retightens her brown scarf under her chin, tucking the wispy hairs above her ears back into hiding. Having your hair begin to prematurely gray as a teenager has dramatic effects on a person. Her mother wore scarves around her wrists when Janie was growing up and when Janie begin to wear scarves to conceal her salt-and-pepper hair, her mother just smiled. The clock hanging on the wall above the children’s section reads 11:28pm.
Two more minutes.
She reorganized the pens and books on her desk and set the box reading NOTES onto the right corner or her desk with three blue pens and a stack of note cards. Her coworkers learned fast that Janie does not like to talk. She does not like eye contact. She loves the silence, and never ever to ask her about her hair. Her manager gave her the NOTES box after about a month of horrible miscommunication and everyday it fills with requests for books or tasks that Janie has to complete. She completes the tasks one by one, alone, in her back office in the Reference Department and hangs the completed sticky notes on the wall by her manager’s door. She works the night shift and locks the library up every night. When she’s alone she can talk out loud to herself and those are the only voices she cares to hear.
“Goodnight, books. Good night, rooms.” Janie shut the heavy wooden door to the library, placed the color-coded keys in the front right pocket of her jacket, and began her walk to the bus stop one corner away. She avoids the main road, taking her first right onto a side street that she knows would spit her out right beside the bus stop.
“Goodnight Taco Bell Sign. Goodnight Rite-Aide. Goodnight Westside Apartments. Goodnight Jack-o-Lantern smile.” She stopped in the middle of the alley and peered up at the Jack-o-Lantern grinning down at her from the third story window above. “Mother wouldn’t’ve liked your smirk, Jack. She would’ve slapped that **** right off your face.” Janie, satisfied the pumpkin was put in its rightful place, smiled as she trotted on.
“Mother carved smiles into her arms and that’s why Daddy left, it is, it is.” She kicked at a crushed Mountain Dew can as she remembered that night from years ago.

“Mommy?” Janie pushed opened the door to her mother’s bedroom and saw the moving-boxes torn open and all their contents scattered across the floor. She tiptoed through piles of scarves and silverware and corkscrews until she reached the bathroom in her mom’s room.
“Come to us like rain, oh lord, come and stay and sting a while more, oh lord…” her mother’s voice was slipping off the tiled bathroom walls. Janie pushed open the door and saw the blood for the first time pouring from her mother’s wrist. Her mother was naked and perched on the bathroom sink, singing to a red razor blade.
“Mommy?”
“GET OUT!” Her mother jumped from the counter and perched on all fours on the floor. She began to growl and speak in a voice too deep to be coming from her own throat.
“Mommy! It’s Janie!” She began to cry as her mother, still naked and bleeding, twisted and writhed onto her back and began to crawl towards the door that Janie hid behind.


“Thirty-Three percent, dear. Just a thirty-three percent chance.” She shivered trying to clear the last memory of her mother with the words that all the shrinks had echoed to her over the years. “Schizophrenia is directly related to genetics, little is known about the type of Schizophrenia mother was diagnosed with except that it is definitely passed on genetically. But, there is only a thirty-three percent chance you could have it, dear. Thirty-three percent.” The sound of the bus stop ahead reminds her it is time to be silent again.
“Disorganized Schizophrenia.” She mouthed to herself as she stepped back out onto the busy street from her alleyway. She tightened her scarf and saw the bus pull into the pickup spot. She walked forward to the bus, again immersed in her self-imposed silence.
Stepping out of the February cold, Janie removes her wool scarf as the bus doors close behind her.
“Where to baby?” The driver smiles a sticky smile. Her nametag reads, “Shannon” and has a decaying Hello-Kitty sticker in the bottom left corner.
“The Clinton Street drop.” She hands the driver her $2.50 fare and avoids the woman’s questioning eyes. The night drivers are always more talkative, curious.
“Your ticket hon.” She tears Janie a ticket stub. “Everything is pretty dead this late, I’ll have you there in ten minutes top.”
Janie begins to shuffle towards the seats, ignoring the woman.
“You mind if I crank up the music?” The bus driver asks, purple fingernails scratching in her thick blonde hair. “I need to keep my eyes open and blood flowing and music is my fire of choice you know?”
“Sure.” Janie shrugs her bag onto her shoulder and walks on before the woman can say anything else.
“Route E-2, homebound.” Shannon’s voice crackles over the loudspeaker.
She shuffles down the bus towards her usual seat; second from the back right side.  Shannon starts the bus rolling before she reaches her seat and Janie can hear her singing along to “Summertime” by Janis Joplin. The bus floor, today, is sticky because of the morning rain. Two years of riding public transportation has taught Janie that staring at the floor as she walks to her seat is better than the risk of making eye contact. The bus is usually empty this late but if there ever happens to be anyone else on, it’s better not to converse. Safer that way.
She plops into her seat filling the indention that ghosts of past passengers left. The seat is still warm and Janie squirms around until the stranger heat is forgotten. She tightens her scarf and sighs. The brown pleather seatback in front of her is peeling towards the top. Janie leans forward and idly picks at the scab-like dangles of brown as she watches the sodden city canvas roll past her out the foggy window. As she picks, the hole grows. She twists and digs her unpainted nails into the seat until her hands feel wet, warm. Looking down, they are covered in blood and mud.
“What. The. Actual. ****.” she whispers, wiping her hands on her pants leg. She cautiously picks off another piece of pleather and a trickle of deep red begins to run from the seat back, clumps of mud now falling onto her knees. A puddle of blood and mire splatter down her legs and pool around her feet as she picks at the seat. Her white tights are definitely beyond saving now, so she digs faster until her thumbnail catches on something, bends back, and cracks. She gasps and withdraws her shaking hand, watching her own blood mix with the clotting muck in the seat, half of her thumbnail completely stripped off.
Looking around, all else seems normal. The driver is now muttering along to some banter by Kanye West, completely unaware of Janie’s predicament. She closes her eyes.
This is a dream, this is a dream, wake the **** up.
She opens her eyes to see the pool of filth around her feet trickling towards the front of the bus. Panic sets in with a whisper, They’re going to think it was you, your fault, you’ll be thrown in jail.
“But I didn’t do this.” She lashes out to herself. “I didn’t hurt anyone.”
Next stop, E-2. Shannon blares on the intercom.
“It’s just a dream, get your **** together, Janie.” She laughs at herself, manic.
Prove it! Her subconscious screams.
Convinced to end this moment she has to continue; Janie plunges her hand into the pleather grave one more time. Frantic and confused she laughs as she digs, spittle of muck splashing on her bus window.
Faster, faster, faster.
Deeper, deeper, deeper.
Realer, realer, real.
Wake up, now!
Then, as the bus slows, one last chuck of mud splatters to the floor and Janie sees a pink piece of her thumbnail stabbed into the white of a bone in the bottom of the seatback pit. Her white Ked’s were becoming so red they were almost black. She pulls her knees up to her chest and begins to rock back and forth. Clenching shut her eyes she begins to hum. Janie’s sweet soprano harmonizes with the buses deep droning purr, their wet melody interweaving with the driver’s alto and Lil Wayne’s screech made her feel dizzy as the bus turned right.
She take my money when I'm in need
Yeah she's a trifling friend indeed
Oh she's a gold digger way over town
That dig's on me
The bus slows to a stop and the bass is shaking. Janie is cold. She slowly peeks out of her right eye, expecting to be instantly immersed into the same dismal scene. The seatback is whole again. Releasing her knees, her feet fall back to the floor and her shaking fingers stroke the solid pleather.

“Ma’am? We’re at the Clinton Drop.”
Janie hurriedly picks up her bag and flees down the aisle to the bus doors.
“Everything alright, dear?” The bus driver asks, smiling.
“Fine, just fine.”
“You be safe out there tonight. The night is dark and only ghouls stroll the streets this late.”  Shannon laughed as Janie’s jaw dropped. “Happy Halloween, dear. It’s midnight, today is October 31st.”
The bus doors opened and a cold wind ****** the warm bot-air surrounding Janie into the streets. She begrudgingly followed, her mind spinning as she stepped onto the pavement. The doors slammed behind her and she turned to see Shannon pull out a tube of lipstick and smear it, red, across her cracked lips. Shannon made a duck-face in the mirror and reached down to crank up the music as loud as it would go. The bus exhaled and rolled forward, leaving Janie behind as it splashed through the potholes.
She surveys the surrounding midnight gloom and the street is quiet and dark. Even the stars are hidden behind swirling clouds. She begins to hum, hands in her pocket, and shuffle towards her apartment.
“Goodnight, stars. Goodnight, street.”
As she approaches her single-bedroom apartment, digging through her coat pocket for her keys, her thumb pulsates. She grasps the keys and pulls them out as she steps up to the apartment. Sticking the cold, silver key in the lock she looks down at her thumb and in the shadows of the porch sees half of the nail completely missing. She laughs as she pushes the door open to her bare apartment, light flooding out. Without any hesitation she closes the door behind her, sheds her clothes, and slips onto the mattress in the corner of the room gripping her thumb tight. She reaches out for the glass of milk on the floor beside her bed from the morning and it’s still cold. Nursing the milk, surrounded by blankets and solitude, she reminds herself,  “Only a thirty-three percent chance. A nice, small, round number. Small.”  
She sets down the empty glass and curls into the fetal position under the heavy blankets, pointer finger tracing circles on her thumb. Only when she has heated her blanket cocoon enough to feel safe does she remove her scarf and allow her thick white hair to fall around her face.
“Goodnight, room. Goodnight, mother,”
Kate Eddy Jun 2019
The blaze took the house with great speed,
Those inside at once had fleed,
But all was not as it appeared,
For when at last the smoke had cleared,
Among the husk of the home
The children discovered they were alone.

They dashed about at a frantic pace,
Looking around for the smallest trace,
Fearing the worst was yet to pass,
One last glance the children cast,
It was then they noticed her cloth of blue,
And the fate of their mother they finally knew.

Running to where their mother laid,
They knew a farewell they'd have to bade,
Knowing that they couldn't stay
For their only relative live far away,
When their mother was put to rest at last
Julie knew she had to push them past.

Leaving the ashes of their past behind,
Hoping a new home they would find,
Julie did for her sisters all she could,
Knowing that reliving the past would do no good.
And so at last Julie and sisters journey began
To reach their home was the only plan.

When the sky turned black as night,
Julie knew something was not quite right,
Stopping their ride Julie and Linda can tell
That something must not be going well,
As they returned they were alarmed to see
Their sister Clotild drowning in the sea.

Julie at once knew what to do,
Into the water at once she flew,
Clotild's head went slowly down below,
The fate of her sister Linda afraid to know,
But when Julie came to the surface at last
Seeing Clotild, Linda knew the danger had passed.

"Clotild, what were you thinking?" they wished to know,
Clotild answered simply saying she was hot and wished to go,
To cool her feet with the fresh feel of the sea
At the time not seeing where the fault could be,
Please don't do that again, they'd scold,
For had they not known, a different story would of been told.

Racing to where the smoke had led,
Each took in the scene with dread,
As flames spread across the little town
Chaos had evidently ensued all around,
Julie looked about the destroyed land,
Knowing what it was like to see the damage firsthand.

What Julie saw then made her blood go cold,
For upon a burning threshold
A girl lay unconscious in need of aid,
Julie knew if she stayed
Or if she delayed-
A heavy price the girl would of paid.

Julie ran as fast as she ever had before,
Diving last minute towards the floor,
Dragging the girl safely away,
The girl opened her eyes as if to say,
She felt she was going to be okay,
Julie couldn't imagine how she'd come to be alone,
Thankfully, evidence of life had clearly shown.

Many had seen what had transpired,
The courage of Julie they had all admired,
But when asked why she put herself in harm's way,
She said, I couldn't very well let her stay,
Julie then took her to where Linda and Clotild stood
Knowing that she'd done all that she could.

It was clear that the girl had no home,
As tattered clothes had clearly shown,
Julie realized that there was one thing she could do,
Knowing that the girl's options were few,
She decided to offer her a chance to restart,
For with them she'd always be a part.

Frightened she was when she finally awoke,
Noticing in gentle tones the sisters spoke,
What happened? They wished to know,
Tears at once began to flow,
They listened to the tale she wished to be told,
As the story of Chloe began to unfold.

I'm an only child, I only had my mom and dad,
In fact they were the only family that I had,
I had to do homeschooling for we were too poor,
Yet, even with that I'd been happy as none before,
Then today fire took my home and the next I'd known
I was fighting for life on my own.

Julie didn't know what to say,
Yet she noticed even now Chloe seemed to be okay,
As if she'd accepted what had passed,
Hoping her parents would feel peace at last,
Linda and Clotild felt like they could relate,
It seemed as if tragedy was the common trait.

As they continued on their way,
Julie and her sister's story they relay,
Finishing with when they had met,
There was something Chloe couldn't forget,
She looked at Julie asking,"Why help me?"
For the reasoning she did not see.

Julie looked at her kindly and without hesitation said,
If I didn't move I knew you'd be dead,
I knew I couldn't leave you there to die
Hopeless though it seemed at the time I had to try,
I took a emergency class a few weeks ago you see,
And the first thing I was taught was never to flee.

The spell of silence was suddenly shattered,
When Julie noticed a girl pale and battered,
Who suddenly collapsed in a heap
As if she'd fallen fast asleep,
Julie went at once to her side,
Sweat thick on her brow she spied.

They knew something had to be done,
Already the setting of the sun had begun,
Julie drove as fast as she could,
And into view a little town stood,
Spotting a doctor's office the girls go,
Hoping the illness the doctor will know.

Slowly the girl began to groan,
Opening her eyes confusion shown,
Seeing her awake Chloe asked her name,
Instead of an answer a blank look came,
The doctor took the girl into another room
Returning a few moments later with a look of gloom.

"Please, she said gesturing to some seats,
With a critical look she asked,"How'd you meet?"
We were driving along when we saw her in the road,
The girls said as their concern clearly showed,
The girl sat in quiet destress as the doctor stressed
This poor child's memory is quite a mess.

"What could you possibly mean?" Julie asked at last,
The doctor answered as a pitiful glance she cast,
She doesn't know who she is or where she's from,
Linda asked," Then for her.....what is to come?"
She will have to go into foster care I'm afraid,
Yet as she said that the girl had swayed.  

Julie was at her side rather quickly,
As the girl appeared even more sickly,
Against Julie the girl then went,
As if to show her energy was clearly spent,
Julie and Linda laid her in a bed,
Knowing she heard all that was said.

The next day when the first ray of sun appeared,
The girl's condition seemed to have cleared,
She said to the doctor as if to get her to see,
I think those girls are my only family,
Julie heard what she said wondering where this would lead
For it appeared as if she planted a seed.

The doctor went to the girls asking if this was true,
"Yes, was the answer that Julie threw,
As the doctor could not prove them wrong,
The girl was allowed to come along,
Leaving the little town behind,
All appeared to have recent events on mind.

Finally Julie asked the girl as she wished to understand,
What was it that made it so she lied to change the plan,
The girl said at last, I felt a bit safer with you,
And I'm not saying that the doctor wouldn't know what to do,
But you helped me , even though you didn't know me at all,
I didn't want to be alone, she said appearing small .

They looked at the girl in a kind way,
At first not knowing what to say,
Finally, Linda asked if she remembered her name,
The girl responded with much disdain,
I'm afraid no name comes to mind,
And I want to leave my past behind.

It's time I start again she proclaimed,
As things can never be the same,
I think we should start with who I am,
So you can call me and all can understand,
How do you like Lucy as a name?
I think that will do nicely as it is simple and plain.

And Lucy was what the girl was to be known,
As if to show how she felt, relief was what had shown,
Lucy then listened to their adventure,
Ending with when they'd met her,
Lucy looked at Julie in a new light,
Saying, "now I know my decision was right."

When the day had come to an end ,
A night under the stars the girls did spend,
Do you ever think about that day ? Asked Clotild
Her voice was sadness filled,
Julie and Linda glanced at her and with pity said,
Clotild we've got to move ahead.

Clotild said nothing and proceeded to bed,
As if to shut out her sister's presence instead,
The next day away from her sisters Clotild did stay,
And not one word did she say,
They came at last to a city to see,
And angry mob corner a girl while she looked back defiantly.

The girls went at once to the scene,
So the situation they could glean,
Linda asked what they were doing,
The mob answered saying, a thief is who we're pursuing,
Linda got in front of the girl asking, "what has she stolen?"
A shop owner pointed saying, it's in the bag she's pullin.

Linda took the bag and looked inside,
In which many foods did reside,
The group glanced at the girl asking the cost,
Paying for the items they had lost,
As the mob slowly trickled away –
the girls asked why she didn't pay .

The girl hung her head Shamed,
you can't blame me she claimed,
at first they had not caught on,
it was then that a girl came along ,
she doesn't have any Home,
she's with me and we're on our own.

My name is Nancy and this is Carol she said,
saying this as if on thin Ice they did tread,
Julie stepped forward and said then,
We won't hurt you, we are friends,
Linda went to them with the bag
knowing that it was all they had.

Once the bag was in their possession,
Nancy said as her weariness began to lessen,
"Thank you for all that you did,"
and with that the farewell they bid
later that night where the girls stayed,
an unexpected visit Nancy and Carol paid.

Hey , Chloe said is everything okay?
Carol answered saying we decided not to stay,
the girls looked at each other asking where they go,
as all of them now wish to know ,
Nancy looked at the girls with hopeful pleasure,
Hoping to find a life that was better.

We were wondering if we could join you guys
and find out where our future lies,
Come and join us, Lucy said to them,
for now they only saw friends,
it was then their story they began to tell,
and at once silence fell.

We are sisters you see,
For so long we'd no where to be,
Believe it or not we had a home,
Better than any have ever known,
For a minute not a word was said,
Carol continued with a look of dread.

"We were well off because of our parents occupations,
The girls listened with much anticipation,
My mom was a doctor and dad was a lawyer you see,
That's why we were such a wealthy family,
One day, said Nancy picking up the story, that changed
Dad came and with mom words were exchanged.

Apparently, dad was being sued,
For as far as his client viewed,
Dad hadn't done all that he could,
Therefore to his client he was no good,
I don't know how much they took,
But the nerves of our parents it clearly shook.

Soon word spread throughout our town,
And eventually people stopped coming to him all around,
Soon mom had to pay for all of bills on her own,
And the stress of it had clearly shown,
One day our parents argued whether or not to send us away,
Carol and I didn't bother to stay.

The girls looked at them with dismay,
Wishing there was something they could say,
Nancy continued saying, the next day we packed our bags,
As she said this  her shoulders sagged,
We knew then that we'd never see our home again,
I thought Carol and I eventually mend.

We ran away from every place we were sent,
Even though no unkindness any family meant,
Since that time we've been alone with nowhere to go,
Sighing, Nancy said, now our story you know,
Julie put her hand reassuringly on Nancy's shoulder,
Thanks for letting us know, she had told her.

What about you? The two sisters wish to be told ,
So to the sisters the story did unfold,
Nancy and Carol stared at Julie with the look of awe,
As if realizing only now who it was that they saw,
Is this really true? They asked as if yet to believe,
It's true, they said as if to show they didn't deceive.

"We've heard of you! Carol said suddenly,
As if the memories of those events surfaced finally,
You were on the news a few days ago,
She looked at Nancy as if she'd know,
Yes, Nancy slowly said as if the story began to return,
Julie was surprised at what the news people had learned.

I just helped those who I thought I could,
Just like I think anyone should,
Carol and Nancy smiled at Julie as if happy to know,
To a new home with Julie they would go,
Several weeks had passed since their journey began,
And out of Europe they were as they planned.

Six days later in New York they came,
And though tired they were happy to be on land all the same,
Through the vast city the girls drove,
Right down New York's main roads,
Throughout the day many had noticed the girls go,
As recognition slowly began to grow.

Comments circled about them regularly,
"Can't we be left alone!", Clotild said sullenly,
Linda and Julie glanced at Clotild momentarily,
She was worse then they thought, they noticed worryingly,
They went to a park and set up camp for the night,
Somewhere that was out of sight.

The glow of the moon lit up their camp in soft light,
Julie and Linda had a feeling that Clotild wasn't alright,
She hardly paid them any heed,
And when they approached she'd recede,
They wished they could make her feel better,
But she was just too bitter.

The next day the girls went through  to Nebraska's state,
Clotild what's wrong? Chloe asked seeing a look of hate,
"I'm fine!" Clotild said violently,
The girls stared at her silently,
It was then that Linda and Chloe swapped,
As the others continued to look at Clotild shocked.

A village came out of the blue,
Those in the village had looked at them as if the girls they knew,
As they set up camp villagers watched in awe
Not believing who it was that they saw,
A girl said, " mommy it's the girl from tv,
The mother glanced in their direction saying-it is indeed.

Looking in their direction Julie sees,
Sheltered in the shade of the shops a girl looked on miserably,
Julie went at once to her to see what was wrong,
All at once had withdrawn,
As the girl noticed and began to retreat, Julie shouted wait!
Catching up Julie noticed that she was pale and under weight.

Are you okay? Lucy asked then,
As a cut Julie did tend,
Linda went and got her food and drink,
And looking at the girl Julie began to think,
Looking at the girl seeing the bleeding,
Julie asked her what was wrong and she said," I was fleeing."

Julie glanced at the others with concern,
Trouble at once they began to discern,
Julie took the girl into her tent,
The other girls to guard the tent they went,
An hour later Julie came out at last,
How bad is it? They asked noticing the look she cast.

Her name is Rose and she's frightened and has good reason,
Julie said this her voice began to lessen,
Last night her parents were robbed and killed,
She witnessed it Julie said her voice with concern filled,
After a minute she continued, apparently the robber knew,
She ran because she didn't know what to do.

She's still in shock unfortunately,
Since no one's caught him he's still at large you see,
She no longer has a home,
She's afraid and she's on her own,
We can't leave her alone with that man on the run,
Okay we'll leave tomorrow at the rising of the sun.

The next day at first light the girls left the village behind,
Each one with the thought of home on their mind,
The sky was crystal clear the air crisp and sweet,
For a minute a pair of eyes Julie did meet,
It was a figure of a boy her age she saw then,
She did not see him again.

For the rest of the day Julie's attention seemed to stray,
To that boy that didn't stay,
Who was it who she had seen?
Was it an illusion or a dream?
As she watched the smoke from their fire burn into the night,
Something went across Julie's sight in flight.

Julie got up and said,"whose out there?"
As this reaction seemed quite fair,
It was then a boy had appeared as a silhouette in the night,
Julie went up to him before he went out of sight,
Why are you following us? she asked her voice tight,
Looking at him Julie can tell something's not right.

Hello Julie, I've come to warn you,
So when the time comes you'll know what to do,
There is one among you you call your friend,
That person you'll lose in the end,
Julie glaring said, " What do you mean then?"
The boy said," the one you call a friend will betray you in the end

Beware he said on and on,
Then as suddenly as he appeared he was gone,
Julie looked at the place where the girls laid,
Suddenly feeling very afraid,
She didn't know why for she thought it couldn't be true,
So to bed she went and thoughts of that night flew.

The next day into Colorado they appeared,
For all the girls weariness at last had cleared,
As each knew their journey was about to end,
And soon all of them would have a home again,
Keeping that in mind, the girls look until a clearing they find
Where a cabin lay with trees behind.

The group went to work setting up camp,
As the air turned cool and damp,
The girls sat to eat dinner at 6:00 that night,
Finishing they feel tired and Julie knows something isn't right,
Because try as they did to stay awake,
Julie knew a drug was placed in something they ate or drank.

As Julie was the last to go down,
The closing of a door was her last sound,
When she woke at last around a room a glance was thrown,
As this room she had not known,
Wondering where you are? Asked Clotild in a mocking tone,
Julie looked at her as confusion shown.

Clotild what.....Julie stopped as understanding grew,
Julie felt as if she'd been hit in the face as she said,"It's you!"
"Why? Julie asked, what have any of us done to deserve this?"
Looking at the others who she originally missed,
Clotild glared as she said, " you don't care or know
To hear Julie this and Julie that wherever you go.

Yet even with that- before any of this began,
Instead of taking command,
You left mom in that fire to die,
And you didn't even bother to try!
So yes Julie, it was me
Because I had every right to be.

"Clotild, how could I have known this would of occurred?"
Yet even as she said this, she knew she wasn't heard,
Goodbye Julie, said Clotild as she stood,
"Clotild, Julie said realizing it'd do no good,
Julie tried to stand only to find her hands and feet tied,
Clotild ran out the door as the binds she tried.

When Julie freed herself to the door she went,
Without luck opening the door her energy she spent,
The others finally woke with a groan,
All went to Julie as she sat alone,
Linda came to her asking, Where are we?
And where is Clotild? For it was her they didn't see.

As they looked at Julie they knew something was wrong,
For she had an expression that didn't belong,
Julie told what happened and the girls began to dispute,
"It's true, said Julie at last , an answer they couldn't refute,
"What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do?
The answer of which nobody knew.

The door was locked from the outside,
And yet no matter how hard they tried,
The door had stayed in it's place,
It seemed like too much for the girls to face,
When all seemed lost and hopeless then,
The door opened revealing only a friend.

The boy Julie had met came at once to her side,
As a look of depression on her face he spied,
"Who are you? asked Rose suspicion clear in her voice,
I'm a friend and I'm here to help, he said by choice,
"How did you find us?" asked Julie her annoyance plain,
"I followed your sister as she took you away", he claimed.

We might as well leave as there is no reason to stay,
"Be wary, your sister intends to make you pay,
What on earth could you mean? asked Linda upset,
Wondering how much worse things could possibly get,
But again as suddenly as he had come to their aid,
He vanished as if to show they were too much delayed.

Their journey home they still went,
To each other their strength they lent,
Not one word had anyone said,
For due to recent events their hearts were filled with lead,
Finally a town came into sight,
As they came they noticed a girl in flight.

From trouble the girl ran,
Behind her as she went she scanned,
Glancing to where her eyes lead,
The group at once to guard the girl they sped,
For a few thieves at once took chase,
Stop! Julie said intent on putting them in their place.

They stopped asking, And why would we listen to you?
At once a fist Julie threw and away they flew,
At last the girl the group had found,
Julie went to her saying, "they're gone, no one's around."
The girl glanced shyly about,
Sure it was now safe she then came out.

"Why bother to help me when you didn't know me at all?"
With them after me, I don't see why on you responsibility'd fall,
They had no right to take from you,
And I knew there was something I could do,
The girl said, I don't even have a home,
I was going to try and  find a life of my own.

Would you like to come with us? asked Rose,
Really...yes please the girl said as the door on her past closed,
What is your name? asked Rose facing their new friend,
Sky, said the girl as a note of confidence she did send,
Where you heading? asked Sky as they left the town behind
Linda said, we're hoping our dad we'll find.

Sky asked confused, what could you mean?
So the girls explained how their journey came into being,
Sky was so amazed that for a minute she could only say,
Julie there's no way
They looked at her and Lucy said, it's true,
And her admiration of Julie quickly grew.

Sky then said, I am sorry that your sister lost her way,
For the wound was still fresh and twas a heavy price to pay,
Thank you, Julie said to break the ice,
For silence had latched on as a vice,
At long last to their father's house they came,
Realizing to each girl life wouldn't be the same.

Knocking on the door as anticipation did build,
Throughout Julie's being fear had filled,
For Clotild's eyes Julie had met,
A look Clotild sent as if to say Julie's actions she'd regret,
At once Clotild took flight-
Quickly vanishing from Julie's sight.

"We need to get inside now, Julie said urgently,
The girls glanced at Julie not seeing what the trouble could be,
Julie? Asked Linda with growing concern,
Seeing what she could learn,
She's here, was all Julie had said,
The girls heard and looked around with dread.

The door opened to show a man with a serious look,
Asking angrily," where is the money that you took?
Your money was stolen? Was it by a girl with blond hair?
The man looked annoyed saying yes as if he'd despaired,
We'll get it back, Julie said taking off with speed,
To the place where Clotild had fleed.

Clotild was hiding in a group of trees in view of all,
"Clotild, Julie's voice did call,
Don't make this harder than it needs to be,
Julie ran into the area as the threat she didn't see,
Running at Julie blind with rage a knife she drew,
Yet as the knife was ****** in Julie it didn't go to.

For right as it came it was Rose who took the blow,
And slowly to the ground she did go,
Dropping the knife Clotild ran,
As she noticed the failure of her plan,
"Rose, Julie said as she sank into her arms weakly,
Her breath came rather futility.

Rose weakly noticed all the girls had gathered around,
They watched shocked and no one made a sound,
Julie asked her voice sad "Why did you jump in front of me?"
Rose smiling said, Julie you taught us all what we should be,
Wincing she said, I didn't want my friend to die,
So futile though it appeared at the time, I knew I had to try.

Rose had tears in her eyes,You gave more than I ever dream of,
Julie cried as Rose went to be with the ones she loved,
After everything Rose had been through,
Julie felt peace for she knew
At last her wish came true,
At once Clotild Julie went to pursue.  

But Julie didn't have to go long,
Seeing Clotild's hands tied Julie's eyes were drawn,
For next her a boy stood tall,
Seeing Julie a serious look did fall,
The money taken to their dad they returned,
Julie then to her dad she turned.

Do I know you? Her dad asked looking at her hard,
Suddenly appearing on guard,
"Dad, It's me Julie, she said as her voice cracked,
"Julie, is it really you? Her dad said as to react,
Why are you here? And why are these girls with you?
So introducing the girls, Julie explained what they'd been through.

For a while, Joe hung his head in shame,
Your mother's dead? As if he was to blame,
"It's not your fault!"Julie said with conviction,
"Yes it is, he said looking stricken,
I was a cop and I promised our plan wouldn't change,
For a time it worked until...as he said this he aged.

What? Julie said wanting to understand,
Joe didn't meet her eyes, my job kinda took command,
I missed our anniversary and your birthday,
After a time your mother said she couldn't stay,
That was the last I'd heard from her unfortunately,
For years you girls were all I wanted to see.

"Dad,  we can be a family again,
Linda said jumping in hoping strength she'd lend,
Joe looked up with a sad look in his eyes,
But why would Clotild blame us for your mother's demise?
Julie said, She's broken and just looking for someone to blame,
I'm sad to say, she is not at all happy we came.

Joe looked at his girls and said, you truly wish to live with me?
Wondering where the reasoning could be,
Yes, said Julie I promised these girls a chance to restart,
I told them with us they'd always be a part,
Then yes, you can come and live with me here,
Hearing the girls did cheer.

Turning to the boy Julie smiled back,
You like me, she said as if it were fact,
What makes you think that? the boy asked in a mocking tone,
Looking up Julie noticed a smile had shown,
So why then did you come to our aid?
Because to the those girls survival a huge part you played.

So who are you? Julie asked then,
A tone of curiosity she did send,
My name is john if you really wish to know,
And as of now I don't intend to ever go,
Leading John into her home
A happy ending the girls at last had known.

Until we meet again  -
I have 2 words and they're The End
This is the first epic poem I've ever written. It's based on a story I wrote as a kid.
ShenequaMonroe Feb 2013
Oh you a gangsta now?
Let me guess cause you got those "hard" tattoos
Jordans as shoes
And blow more green in your in between time
Oh you a gangsta now?
Cause you fight a little bit
Stay on that corner and quick to pollute your nation
With the wicked ways of degredation
Oh you a gangster now?
Cause you roll with a clique
To weak to stand on your own
But there validation gives you the courage
To steal without hesitation
Peddle drugs with no reservation
Take life as quick as a minute passes...
Well I hope those tats come with teflon
Cause while you out here playing the don
There's plenty associates that'll aim at your head
For your place just to save face with a few so called good men
I hope that corner has insurance or at least comes with benefits
Cause as past gangstas before you predicts there are only two outcomes present
Lifetime in a 6x8
Or 6 feet under while your soul patiently waits the outcome of where it will spend eternity
I guess this is what our forefathers gave their lives for
For this ignorance of the so called gangasta
loric Jan 2013
I am scarred with hesitation marks.
I have to die to myself, and so I keep trying. But my will to live keeps winning.
This time, I close my eyes and determine to slice through my wrists.
Breathing hard and gritting my teeth, I go for it. This is right. I must die so He can live.
But again, something stops me and I leave only another nick in my skin. My will to live is strong. My will is strong.

These nicks are ugly. I am left alive and scarred. If I must live, I will need plastic surgery. Much easier.
Why can others do this and I can’t? I sit in silence and stare at the floor.
I tell Him I’m sorry that I cannot do it. I pretend the effort is enough, but I know it’s not true.
I cannot find the strength to overpower my own self.
Whispering defeat, I throw down the knife. It is hopeless. Each time I create more scar tissue, and it is tougher to cut.

He picks up the knife and puts it in my hand. He covers my hand with His and I feel the strength in it.
The slice is deep, complete and precise. In glorious light, He finally lives. I cry, at first from the pain and then from the beautiful release. It is finished.

I fall down, and through my shaking voice I cannot find the words to thank Him.
He lifts my head and looks at me, penetrating my being with His eyes. He speaks and my soul drinks deeply.
His voice is deep and strong as he says, “Same time tomorrow?”
Daniel Ruiz Aug 2018
Emotions fuels my writing,
Like gasoline fuels cars,
Like depression fueled the
Success of those good songs
That i listen to while
My mind is driving
Probably on his way towards
Thinking of you.

Do you know who I am?
Please tell me who I am,
Then I wouldn’t be so
Lost trying to find myself,
I try to find myself in other people,

I’m just a poet,
A college student
A “writer”
A person that lost an opportunity
To be with someone who cared about him,
A person that, without consent, loses friends,
Thinking it’ll be better for them,
That they don’t get to know more about me.

And as you can see,
Emotions are the raw energy that
Keeps me writing,
The same as writing keeps me sane
From these emotions that burn into my skull
As the same temperature the stars emit,
Those little flying rocks in the sky,
That without hesitation fall
From the place they find more dearest,

It’s a good thing the sun doesn’t let us
Escape his grip,
And keeps us around
So he can show the moon,
How much he cares about her.

That’s why I adore space so much,
The stars,
The fact that the light I see and adore,
Is probably a star that’s about to die,
Wishing me goodbye,

So farewell little star,
It’s a good thing,
That you can’t see my last shining moments
On this earth,

So Goodbye,
Goodbye to the constellations of dying stars,
That fueled with emotions
Shine the dark away.

Goodbye old friend,
I’ll keep observing you for a while,
Hope you still have more stories to tell.

Because I’ll keep listening,
Until my light fades away too.
Ah, Nikolaas, my love for him is not the same, as my love for thee;
My love for thee was once, and may still be, sweeter, purer, more elegant, and free;
But still, how unfortunate! imprisoned in mockery, and liberated not-by destiny;
It still hath to come and go; it cannot stay cheerfully-about thee forever, and within my company.

And but tonight-shall Amsterdam still be cold?
But to cold temper thou shalt remain unheeded; thou shalt be tough, and bold;
Sadly I am definite about having another nightmare, meanwhile, here;
For thy voice and longings shall be too far; with presumptions and poems, I cannot hear.

Sleep, my loveliest, sleep; for unlike thine, none other temper, or love-is in some ways too fragrant, and sweet;
All of which shall neither tempt me to flirt, nor hasten me to meet;
My love for thee is still undoubted, defined, and unhesitant;
Like all t'is summer weather around; 'tis both imminent, and pleasant.

My love for thee, back then, was but one youthful-and reeking of temporal vitality;
But now 'tis different-for fathom I now-the distinction between sincerity, and affectation.
Ah, Nikolaas, how once we strolled about roads, and nearby spheres-in living vivacity;
With sweets amongst our tongues-wouldst we attend every song, and laugh at an excessively pretentious lamentation.

Again-we wouldst stop in front of every farm of lavender;
As though they wanted to know, and couldst but contribute their breaths, and make our love better.
We were both in blooming youth, and still prevailed on-to keep our chastity;
And t'is we obeyed gladly, and by each ot'er, days passed and every second went even lovelier.

But in one minute thou wert but all gone away;
Leaving me astray; leaving me to utter dismay.
I had no more felicity in me-for all was but, in my mind, a dream of thee;
And every step was thus felt like an irretrievable path of agony.

Ah, yon agony I loathe! The very agony I wanted but to slaughter, to redeem-and to bury!
For at t'at time I had known not the beauty of souls, and poetry;
I thought but the world was wholly insipid and arrogant;
T'at was so far as I had seen, so far as I was concerned.

I hath now, seen thy image-from more a lawful angle-and lucidity;
And duly seen more of which-and all start to fall into place-and more indolent, clarity;
All is fair now, though nothing was once as fair;
And now with peace, I want to be friends; I want to be paired.

Perhaps thou couldst once more be part of my tale;
But beforehand, I entreat thee to see, and listen to it;
A tale t'at once sent into my heart great distrust and sadness, and made it pale;
But from which now my heart hath found a way out, and even satisfactorily flirted with it,

For every tale, the more I approach it, is as genuine as thee;
And in t'is way-and t'is way only, I want thee to witness me, I want thee to see me.
I still twitch with tender madness at every figure, and image-I hath privately, of thine;
They are still so captivatingly clear-and a most fabulous treasure to my mind.

My love for thee might hath now ended; and shall from now on-be dead forever;
It hath been buried as a piece of unimportance, and a dear old, obsolete wonder;
And thus worry not, for in my mind it hath become a shadow, and ceased to exist;
I hath made thee resign, I hath made thee drift rapidly away, and desist.

Ah, but again, I shall deny everything I hath said-'fore betraying myself once more;
Or leading myself into the winds of painful gravity, or dismissive cold tremor;
For nothing couldst stray me so well as having thee not by my side;
An image of having thee just faraway-amidst the fierceness of morns, and the very tightness of nights.

And for seconds-t'ese pains shall want to bury me away, want to make me shout;
And shout thy very name indeed; thy very own aggravated silence, and sins out loud;
Ah, for all t'ese shadows about are too vehement-but eagerly eerie;
Like bursts of outspread vigilance, misunderstood but lasting forever, like eternity.

'Twas thy own mistake-and thus thou ought'a blame anyone not;
Thou wert the one to storm away; thou wert the one who cut our story short.
Thou wert the one who took whole leave, of the kind entity-of my precious time and space;
And for nothingness thou obediently set out; leaving all we had built, to abundant waste.

Thou disappeared all too quickly-and wert never seen again;
Thou disappeared like a column of smoke, to whom t'is virtual world is partial;
And none of thy story, since when-hath stayed nor thoughtfully remained;
Nor any threads of thy voice were left behind, to stir and ring, about yon hall.

Thou gaily sailed back into thy proud former motherland;
Ah, and the stirring noises of thy meticulous Amsterdam;
Invariably as a man of royalty, in thy old arduous way back again;
Amongst the holiness of thy mortality; 'twixt the demure hesitations, of thy royal charms.

And thou art strange! For once thou mocked and regarded royalty as *******;
But again, to which itself, as credulous, and soulless victim, thou couldst serenely fall;
Thus thou hath perpetually been loyal not, to thy own pride, and neatly sworn words;
Thou art forever divided in his dilemma; and the unforgiving sweat, of thy frightening two worlds.

Indeed thy godlike eyes once pierced me-and touched my very fleshly happiness;
But with a glory in which I couldst not rejoice; at which I couldst not blush with tenderness.
Thy charms, although didst once burn and throttle me with a ripe vitality;
Still wert not smooth-and ever offered to cuddle me more gallantly; nor kiss my boiling lips, more softly.

Every one of t'ese remembrances shall make me hate thee more;
But thou thyself hath made more forgiving, and excellent-like never before;
'Ah, sweet,' thou wouldst again protested-last night, 'Who in t'is very life wouldst make no sin?'
'Forgiveth every sinned soul thereof; for 'tis unfaithful, for 'tis all inherently mean.'

'Aye, aye,' and thou wouldst assent to my subsequent query,
'I hath changed forever-not for nothingness, but for eternitie.'
'To me love o' gold is now but nothing as succulent',
'I shall offer elegantly myself to not be of any more torment, but as a loyal friend.'

'I shall calleth my former self mad; and be endued with nothing but truths, of rifles and hate;'
'But now I shall attempt to be obedient; and naughty not-towards my fate.'
'Ah, let me amendst thereof-my initial nights, my impetuous mistakes,'
'Let me amendst what was once not dignified; what was once said as false, and fake.'

'So t'at whenst autumn once more findeth its lapse, and in its very grandness arrive,'
'I hopeth thy wealth of love shall hath been restored, and all shall be alive,'
'For nothing hath I attempted to achieve, and for nothing else I hath struggled to strive;'
'But only to propose for thy affection; and thy willingness to be my saluted wife.'

And t'is small confession didst, didst tear my dear heart into pieces!
But canst I say-it was ceremoniously established once more-into settlements of wishes;
I was soon enlivened, and no longer blurred by tumult, nor discourteous-hesitation;
Ah, thee, so sweetly thou hath consoled, and removed from me-the sanctity of any livid strands of my dejection.

For in vain I thought-had I struggled, to solicit merely affection-and genuinity from thee;
For in vain I deemed-thou couldst neither appreciate me-nor thy coral-like eyes, couldst see;
And t'is peril I perched myself in was indeed dangerous to my night and day;
For it robbed me of my mirth; and shrank insolently my pride and conscience, stuffing my wholeness into dismay.

But thou hath now released me from any further embarkation of mineth sorrow;
Thou who hath pleased me yesterday; and shall no more be distant-tomorrow;
Thou who couldst brighten my hours by jokes so fine-and at times, ridiculous;
Thou who canst but, from now on, as satisfactory, irredeemable, and virtuous.

Ah, Nikolaas, farther I shall be no more to calleth thee mad; or render thee insidious;
Thou shall urge me to forget everything, as hating souls is not right, and perilous;
Thou remindeth me of forgiving's glorious, and profound elegance;
And again 'tis the holiest deed we ought to do; the most blessed, and by God-most desired contrivance.

Oh, my sweet, perhaps thou hath sinned about; but amongst the blessed, thou might still be the most blessed;
For nothing else but gratitude and innocence are now seen-in thy chest;
Even when I chastised thee-and called thee but an impediment;
Thou still forgave me, and turned myself back again into elastic merriment.

Thou art now pure-and not by any means meek, but cruel-like thy old self is;
For unlike 'tis now, it couldst never be satisfied, nor satiated, nor pleased;
'Twas far too immersed in his pursuit of bloodied silver, and gold;
And to love it had grown blind, and its greedy woes, healthily too bold.

And just like its bloodied silver-it might be but the evil blood itself;
For it valued, and still doth-every piece with madness, and insatiable hunger;
Its works taint his senses, and hastened thee to want more-of what thou couldst procure-and have,
But it realised not that as time passed by, it made thee but grew worse-and in the most virtuous of truth, no better.

But thou bore it like a piece of godlike, stainless ivory;
Thou showered, and endured it with love; and blessed it with well-established vanity.
Now it hath been purified, and subdued-and any more teaches thee not-how to be impatient, nor imprudent;
As how it prattled only, over crude, limitless delights; and the want of reckless impediments.

Thou nurtured it, and exhorted it to discover love-all day and night;
And now love in whose soul hath been accordingly sought, and found;
And led thee to absorb life like a delicate butterfly-and raiseth thy light;
The light thou hath now secured and refined within me; and duly left me safe, and sound.

Thou hath restored me fully, and made me feel but all charmed, awesome, and way more heavenly;
Thou hath toughened my pride and love; and whispered the loving words he hath never spoken to me.
Ah, I hope thou art now blessed and safely pampered in thy cold, mischievous Amsterdam;
Amsterdam which as thou hath professed-is as windy, and oft' makes thy fingers grow wildly numb.

Amsterdam which is sick with superior lamentations, and fame;
But never adorned with exact, or at least-honest means of scrutiny;
For in every home exists nothing but bursts of madness, and flames;
And in which thereof, lives 'twixt nothing-but meaningless grandeur, and a poorest harmony.

Amsterdam which once placed thee in pallid, dire, and terrible horror;
Amsterdam which gave thy spines thrills of disgust, and infamous tremor;
But from which thou wert once failed, fatefully, neither to flee, nor escape;
Nor out of whose stupor, been able to worm thy way out, or put which, into shape.

But I am sure out of which thou art now delightful-and irresistibly fine;
For t'ere is no more suspicion in thy chest-and all of which hath gone safely to rest;
All in thy very own peace-and the courteous abode of our finest poetry;
Which lulls thee always to sleep-and confer on thee forever, degrees of a warmest, pleasantry.

Ah, Nikolaas-as thou hath always been, a child of night, but born within daylight;
Poor-poor child as well, of the moon, whose life hath been betrayed but by dullness, and fright.
Ah, Nikolaas-but should hath it been otherwise-wouldst thou be able to see thine light?
And be my son of gladness, be my prince of all the more peaceful days; and ratified nights.

And should it be like which-couldst I be the one; the very one idyll-to restore thy grandeur?
As thou art now, everything might be too blasphemous, and in every way obscure;
But perhaps-I couldst turn every of thine nightmare away, and maketh thee secure;
Perhaps I couldst make thee safe and glad and sleep soundly; perfectly ensured.

Ah, Nikolaas! For thy delight is pure-and exceptionally pure, pure, and pure!
And thy innocence is why I shall craft thee again in my mind, and adore thee;
For thy absurdity is as shy, and the same as thy purity;
But in thy hands royalty is unstained, flawless, and just too sure.

For in tales of eternal kingdoms-thou shalt be the dignified king himself;
Thou shalt be blessed with all godly finery, and jewels-which thou thyself deserve;
And not any other tyrant in t'ese worlds-who mock ot'er souls and pretend to be brave;
But trapped within t'eir own discordant souls, and wonders of deceit and curses of reserve.

Oh, sweet-sweet Nikolaas! Please then, help my poetry-and define t'is heart of me!
Listen to its heartbeat-and tellest me, if it might still love thee;
Like how it wants to stretch about, and perhaps touch the moonlight;
The moonlight that does look and seem to far, but means still as much-to our very night.

Ah! Look, my darling-as the moonlight shall smile again, to our resumed story;
If our story is, in unseen future, ever truly resumed-and thus shall cure everything;
As well t'is unperturbed, and still adorably-longing feeling;
The feeling that once grew into remorse-as soon as thou stomped about, and faraway left me.

Again love shall be, in thy purest heart-reincarnated,
For 'tis the only single being t'at is wondrous-and inexhaustible,
To our souls, 'tis but the only salvation-and which is utterly edible,
To console and praise our desperate beings-t'at were once left adrift, and unheartily, infuriated.

Love shall be the cure to all due breathlessness, and trepidations;
Love shall be infallible, and on top of all, indefatigable;
And love shall be our new invite-to the recklessness of our exhausted temptations;
Once more, shall love be our merit, which is sacred and unalterable; and thus unresentful, and infallible.

Love shall fill us once more to the brim-and make our souls eloquent;
Love be the key to a life so full-and lakes of passion so ardent;
Enabling our souls to flit about and lay united hands on every possible distinction;
Which to society is perhaps not free; and barrier as they be, to the gaiety of our destination.

Thus on the rings of union again-shall our dainty hearts feast;
As though the entire world hath torn into a beast;
But above all, they shan't have any more regrets, nor hate;
Or even frets, for every fit of satisfaction hath been reached; and all thus, hath been repaid.

Thus t'is might be thee; t'at after all-shall be worthy of my every single respect;
As once thou once opened my eyes-and show me everything t'at t'is very world might lack.
Whilst thou wert striving to be admirable and strong; t'is world was but too prone and weak;
And whilst have thy words and poetry; everyone was just perhaps too innocent-and had no clue, about what to utter, what to speak.

Thou might just be the very merit I hath prayed for, and always loved;
Thou might hath lifted, and relieved me prettily; like the stars very well doth the moon above.
And among your lips, lie your sweet kisses t'at made me live;
A miracle he still possesses not; a specialty he might be predestined not-to give.

Thou might be the song I hath always wanted to written;
But sadly torn in one day of storm; and thus be secretly left forgotten;
Ah, Nikolaas, but who is to say t'at love is not at all virile, easily deceived, and languid?
For any soul saying t'at might be too delirious, or perhaps very much customary, and insipid.

And in such darkness of death; thou shalt always be the tongue to whom I promise;
One with whom I shall entrust the very care of my poetry; and ot'er words of mouth;
One I shall remember, one I once so frightfully adored, and desired to kiss;
One whose name I wouldst celebrate; as I still shall-and pronounce every day, triumphantly and aggressively, out loud.

For thy name still rings within me with craze, but patterned accusation, of enjoyment;
For thy art still fits me into bliss, and hopeful expectations of one bewitching kiss;
Ah, having thee in my imagination canst turn me idle, and my cordial soul-indolent;
A picture so naughty it snares my whole mind-more than everything, even more than his.

Oh, Nikolaas, and perhaps so thereafter, I shall love, and praise thee once more-like I doth my poetry;
For as how my poetry is, thou art rooted in me already; and thus breathe within me.
Thou art somehow a vein in my blood, and although fictitious still-in my everyday bliss;
Thou art worth more than any other lov

— The End —