Submit your work, meet writers and drop the ads. Become a member
HOLDING MY BREATH FOR YOU.

Time’s not on my side
It’s running away like a thief in the night
But the warmth of your touch
And the smile in your eyes
Is telling me that I should stand and fight

I’m battered and bruised
And sometimes I’ll lose
And I surely will hit the ground
But if you’re there at my side
And you don’t count me out
I’m willing to go one more round

I’m holding my breath for you
I trust in my heart
Cos it keeps running to you
I won’t let you fall
If you give me your all
Come on save me, and I’ll save you right back

I’m holding my breath
Holding my breath
Holding my breath for you
I’m holding my breath
Holding my breath
Holding my breath for you

So much wisdom and so much grace
Too much hurt for one small face
Too many lessons in too short a time
So much love that just wasn’t mine


Minutes to hours and days into years
It’s taken so long but you’re finally here
People will wonder just where can he be
And when they ask you just tell them he’s holding his breath

I’m holding my breath for you
I trust in my heart
Cos it keeps running to you
I won’t let you fall
If you give me your all
Come on save me, and I’ll save you right back

I’m holding my breath
Holding my breath
Holding my breath for you
I’m holding my breath
Holding my breath
Holding my breath for you
I apologize
Baby I’ve been trying, nothing seems to cover up the pain
I’ve been trying, holding on, holding on
Baby I’ve been trying, nothing seems to cover up the pain
I’ve been trying, holding on, holding on
Holding on to your pain forever
I'm just holding on, holding on to your pain

I been holding on to this pain for such a long time, trying to outfight my demons put it to rest, had to get it off my chest ease this dreaded stress, first let me start off by stating I take full responsibility this is an apology, I know sorry can't fix everything but maybe it'll soothe your pain

Sitting here sniffing the pleasant stench of your favorite sweater, reminding me it makes no sense of how I treated you, your love was innocent so raw it's pure, I made you ashamed you got taken for granted caused you so much pain a strain on your heart, it's all my fault failed my part couldn't protect your heart it turned dark, decayed your love it's nonexistent for a new lover you spite men you hate me, sinister you plot vengeance a demon I created leaving you frustrated caused you to miscarriage you want me castrated cause of dying breed, you forgot how to love tormenting your heart to cover up the pain a demon I created attempted sucide your soul can't take it, Seems you survived respawned just to destroy to me trama that I created

I apologize for your pain these words are not confessed in vain, repeated karma my father did the same thing to mama warfare of generational curse trying to break the shackles can't drag this heavy chain no more my strength deteriorating,  emotional abuse I cause in the past is my irresonspility of love I rebuke it painful mistakes I made I apologize I am ashamed in due time I hope this poem ease your pain love is a learned lesson but still can't fix pain

I want you to forgive me for yourself
not for me, can't keep holding on
I want you to love again no suffering

I apologize
Baby I’ve been trying, nothing seems to cover up the pain
I’ve been trying, holding on, holding on
Baby I’ve been trying, nothing seems to cover up the pain
I’ve been trying, holding on, holding on
Holding on to your pain forever
I'm just holding on, holding on to your pain
This poem is inspired by Phora "Holding On" and is dedicated to anyone who you may know who faced domestic violence as a victim, or is guilty as an abuser of such a crime. How do you apologize when the pain won't stop from the wrongs committed?
Mike Hauser Dec 2013
So young and newly married
Hanging on by the thread of love
Sometimes though in life we see
That thread isn't wound tight enough

Through the daily struggles
Most of them unseen
What happened to the newlywed
Where went all the dreams

Holding on
Barely holding on...

A father and husband out of work
A family living out of the car
Is this the American dream we've built
Is this now where we are

Cardboard serves a purpose
As a bed and a homemade sign
To keep the cold off of the floor
Hey brother can you spare a dime

Holding on
Barely holding on...

The doctors diagnosis
Doesn't give much hope for life
Just a simple six months ago
There was no thought of dying

Even less hope in your case
Just prolonging time
You could spend what little you have left
Or go ahead and say your goodbyes

Holding on
Barely holding on...

No matter your life's lot
The position that you hold
We're all in the same boat on the same stream
Trying to stay afloat

There are so many different scenarios
Which could haunt many a page
That in life continually follow us
Throughout all our days of

Holding on
Barely holding on...
Kristi D Oct 2013
Walking up and down the street, just like we used to,
Holding hands, holding conversations, holding each other in our hearts.
Now I walk that same street alone,
Holding nothing, holding emptiness, holding memories in my heart.
Memories of how we used to be, back when we were in love,
Holding everything together, never standing alone.
Then things changed, but we tried to fight it,
Holding on to something that was already too far gone to save.
So now I walk that same street alone, holding on to the knowledge that we can never get that back, Holding on to the love that's not worth holding on to anymore.
Who’re holding it ?
How are they holding it?
Why are they doing such ?
Maybe to break world records
He can hold breath ten minutes
Shall I go for ten and one ?
Eminem ; breathless ; HELL yeah-a
Rap god and Godzilla-a

Some holding breath before making decisions
And most of em holding to not to cry
After their wrong decisions
(Two strangers)x2
Friends and best friends
In love but holding breath
She’s waiting if he proposes first
And he ; doing the same

Today is his result day
He is holding his breath
Bowing in front of god
Saying this time give me B+
Atheist before
But in fear realized god

Alia father is going to give her surprise
She is holding breath
Is that make-up box , iphone or scent made up of wine ?

Neighbor uncle working in field
Holding the breath
Hoping sun will be shielded
By the cloud and will rain

Meanwhile,
People in the street
Holding the breath
Hoping it won’t rain
Until they reach home

All are holding
I am not holding for him
He is not holding for her
She is not doing such for em
But all doin’ the same !
Nepaliminds
Copyright © IshudhiDahal
Katryna Mar 2014
"what are you holding on to?"

the question wasn't rhetorical but the earth stood still. the clocks stopped ticking and the distant hum of car engines was silenced. even the street lights with their comforting buzz, stopped abruptly to take a pause. the stars nearly fell out of the sky, and nothing twinkled and danced in your dilated pupils. the air was dead and the strands of hair the wind had taken hostage were offered respite as they fell like pins down my back. the world faded - not into black - into nothing, into complete and absolute emptiness. your cigarette smoke hung in the air and the filter never came nearer and nearer. my heart, by some miraculous count, stopped racing long enough to reduce the sound in my ears to complete and utter silence.

i tried to answer, but all that came out was "I think we should paint the apartment soon."

you stared, "we should paint the apartment?"

"yes, I think so, it's so awfully bland. it makes me feel cold."

"why does it make you feel cold?"

"because of the absence of colour."

"what do you make of the absence of warmth?" your eyes were saying less than your mouth, and my words kept getting stuck in my throat.

"I think it's somewhere, maybe beneath the floorboards. we should change the floor, put in carpet. carpet is comforting."

"is that what you think? we can repaint and re-floor and we will be warm."

"I should think so. maybe a new bedspread, what do you think? we could go shopping maybe. tomorrow? or the day after?" my voice trailed off when your gaze shifted from my face to the ground.

"you're not holding on to renovation prospects and you're not answering my question."

in this state of universal paralysis, i became the focal point of the entire universe, to everything but you. i took a breath, and held it in, i thought and thought and though carbon copied hallmark responses danced around my brain, i had no words. i had only this moment, of complete and utter stasis, of company among solitude, of enlightenment as my senses betrayed me and my emotions were given room to embrace this artificial reality.

"the colour of light"

i know this surprised you, and i know you don't know why, even to this day. so i continued.

"i'm holding on to the sound of silence, and the taste of reassurance despite. the cathartic feeling of abandoning the conscious mind and licking mercury from your eyelids. the putrefaction of tactile and the vicious assimilation of awareness. the relentless burning of the merriem-webster definition of what it means to feel, to be. i'm holding on to everything you've cultivated within my mind, every stream of consciousness you diverted and corrupted, every single thought you've planted and watered and allowed to spiral out of control. i'm holding on to the challenge. i'm holding on to knowing - and what i know, is nothing."

you blinked, one hundred and twenty three times exactly - before you spoke, "you're holding on to what you know."

it was less of a question than a statement but I answered nonetheless, my voice was meek, "yes"

"well then," you flicked your cigarette and exhaled a breath, "we should pick out paint colours tomorrow. what were you thinking? red?"

"red is alive."

"grey it is then."

"but grey is oh so dull," I said, devoid of emotion.

you looked up for the first time in a while, "yes, I know, i'm holding on to what I know."

i heard a car horn or two. the colours returned and the sky had in fact remained full of stardust. we walked, quite a distance, until our senses once again became the paragon of normalcy. we both knew the ambiguity of my answer, we both knew that it ran deeper than we wanted to face, and we both knew that despite the inundation of motion in the perceivable world, the earth had not yet, begun to spin again.
Dennis Bielanski Dec 2013
All thought the night
The stars and the moon are so bright
My feelings are hard to constrain
But I stand here alone with my pain

Now here I stand
The cold bitter wind on my hands
But I got a firm grip understand
These feelings for you were not planed

Holding on
To these feelings for you
Holding on
Not sure what to do
Holding on
And it's not fair to you
Holding on

Now comes the dawn
A golden blue sky coming on
The warmth on my face I can feel
Please tell me this pain is not real

And in my heart
These feelings for you I impart
And the tears I don't want them to start
Cause that's when it all falls apart

Holding on
To these feelings for you
Holding on
Not sure what to do
Holding on
And it's not fair to you
Holding on
So how are you holding up?
The decaying chatter by the coffee shop,
The fragile fleshy décor dolls,
The long forgotten scented lull,

So how are you holding up?
The bloke who learned to gulp,
The tears that grew, unborn,
That well perfected summer shawl,

So how are you holding up?
The wrinkled abandoned love,
The ears that await son’s hum,
Across oceans, across heavenly calms,

So how are you holding up?
The flickering light on the street across,
The lad who learnt to scream and dub,
A much too much needed undone?

So how are you holding up?
The ones too tough to glide and quake,
Broken seraphim’s cradled heartache ,
Fettered beings unheard,unquestioned!

So how are you holding up?
Glistening eyes keeping this song,
Vanquished warriors done and undone,
Slain and reborn by dawn,

So how are u holding up?
Thought I'd ask to me and us,
Woe, worry, atrocious treachery,
Condemned, entwined are we not?

So how are you holding up?
Thought I'd share in the red huff,
Thought I'd comfort, care and surrender,
If we are all alone, are we not together?
Saw a pair of mascara smeared eyes in the train today, my best friend half choking and facetiming me, then I realised there is doom and despair in every corner and this was born
Holding on is sometimes harder than letting go
I’m holding on to something i’ll never know
Holding on to my feeling for you
I’m not quite sure what to do
Holding on to what i want so bad
I’m grasping at what i never had
Holding on just for a chance
To maybe find romance
Hold on with a firm grip
Afraid if i let go i’ll rip
Holding on to what will never be mine
Why oh why for you do i pine?
Holding on as if for dear life
My heart and my brain in a strife
Holding on to feelings i’ll never show
Fearing the pain of letting go
valencia May 2019
September

from dust and broken glass, from silver and stone, an army arises from their shallow graves. and to this day, no one can remember that this is how it all began.

demons run when a good man goes to war.
that’s what they have always told me. there haven’t been any good men here for a while then, because I can still see demons lurking around corners like shadows.


there have always been things in my life I have learned not to question. you do not doubt the stars in the sky, the ground beneath your feet, or the strength of the northernland. we do not question the northernland.

i like to ask myself questions-
after the sky fell, who gathered it all up and put it back in the sky?
they won’t tell us in school.
when the sky fell, what did the stars taste like?
i think it would taste like fire and pain and sugar, like drinking lighting hot lemonade in the summer.
we don’t ask in school.

thursday



there has never been enough. money, food, water. in school, they teach us about the war. the war has no name, it is just the war. maybe it will someday. no one dares to name it. you do not name the devil.

we bow to the throne of the northernland, unaware that is was born of lies. the cameras are our leader now. they are all we have ever known.

on Sundays we go to church and pray. the crosses will never hang right and are always turning upside down and the priest is always looking pale. we all look pale, now. the cloud of dust from northernland blocks out the sun most days.


friday
I went to Lou's house today. she has a red front gate and ivy growing in her garden. we kicked a deflated kickball around for a bit, but she kept looking over her shoulder. she pretended to drop the ball behind her but couldn't bend down to grab it because her arm is broken, so I went over. tears were hiding beneath her eyes, but she did not say anything. then her dad came out and watched us play. i didn’t like his smile, it was too wide.




when i wanted to go home, he offered to walk me home. i said i could do it by myself. wouldn’t want you to get into trouble he said, somehow smiling wider. lou made herself laugh and smiled too, but it wasn’t a real smile. as we walked home, he didn’t turn his head away from me, even to cross the street. i looked deep into his pupils, which were so wide they covered the colored part. i swore i could see someone behind them, watching. i didn’t say anything. after i went into my house,
he stood out front for a long time, watching. then i heard. shout from the basement but the door was locked as always so i got scared about that instead and when i looked out front again he was gone.

saturday

today in school i fell and skinned my knuckles. the blood that came was strange, reddish-orange. teacher grabbed my hand and bandaged it right away before i could get a good look at it. she said you mustn’t tell your mother.


teacher doesn’t know that mother went to go live in the White Building, a place for people who hear voices and don’t like the government and have to be restrained so they don’t hurt people. i don’t say any of this, i just nod my head ok.

sometimes i worry, about alistair. he’s a gravedigger and everyday when he comes home he looks so empty. he won’t tell me why he’s so sad but once i heard him tell canary that the graves just get bigger everyday and then after a long time he said but there are always to many bodies

i tried to listen more but he found me behind the wall and when i asked him why there were so many bodies he said there’s a sickness, that’s all
then after that teacher made us all wear cottons masks that are itchy and make it hard to breathe.


sunday

on the telly today the man in the suit announcer we had another victory but i don’t understand how we can have victories without winning the war. the man in the suit tried to show a picture but all we saw was a blurry mess because alistair said sometimes things can’t be shown on the telly but i don’t know why. i doesn’t make sense why they would restrict anything anymore. we now what it looks like. a flat landscape paved with bodiesaccented with blood.
we aren’t supposed to know about that though.

in school, teacher tells us there have been no casualties of the war. but only when principal is watching. when he’s not she’s stuffs our coats beneath the crack and the door and tunes the telly to a different station- one that’s fuzzy that she has to hold a hanger to in order for us to see anything. and she’ll flip back and forth between leader of the northernland and say this is propagandam  and then turn the **** back to the man in the suit, and then say this is the truth

i don’t know why teacher tells us these things.

monday

listen- do you hear it? i can hear planes buzzing overhead. teacher says to ignore it. teacher says we aren’t supposed to hear.
alistair never lets me go in the basement. he keys the key round his neck, even when he’s sleeping. he says it’s dangerous down there. but i’ve always been too curious- that’s what principal says. he looks at me with those stern different colored eyes and says curiosity killed the cat every time ms. hoth brings me to his office for doodling. i still have no idea what a cat is. cardeully, he erases my drawings and put the paper neatly into his desk. we waste nothing here. go home is all he says. but i know what he means. walk home in silence and do not ask questions, do not look behind curtains and do not wander off.

today mari has her birthday party. her mum wasn’t there. i can tell lou noticed because her eyes were scanning the room all strange, but she didn’t say anything. i didn’t ask. mari looked all scared and the camera of the ceiling fan hadn’t moved from her in a long time. i wondered who was watching her.

later, mari pulled me beneath her bed. i tried to say something but she covered my mouth with her hand. they’ll take me for telling you
was all she said.
but i have to tell someone.

i knew the feeling.
after a long time she took her hand off of my mouth and said mums in the garden








while she opened her presents, the mandatory ones from the northernland that are no fun, i tried to look out the window to see her mum. the only thing i could see in the garden was a pile of freshly turned earth. lou caught me looking and grabbed my wrist. she said you mustn’t look.


tuesday
when i come home there is a woman sitting at the kitchen table, and with her there are four ravens. she is royal, i can feel it in the way she sits and breathes and just exists. she looks at her hands and then at me. but this lady is not a guardian angel, like the kind canary says is always looking out for us. i am not an angel. she says. she is not from the northernland, but not from here either. i know is all i say, because i am not alarmed that she is here and that there are cameras and that she does not belong. i know she is not real. and she says i am a godess. i do not doubt her. she sits up, and puts the ravens about her in her hair and on her shoulders and the like. this is an omen. i nod, because why else would a goddess be at my kitchen table? and then she is gone because she was never really there, and i wash my face and make sure i am no longer seeing people that are not there, because i don’t want to go live in the White Building like mum.


wednesday

they are always watching us at recess- we mustn’t stand or walk anymore. we have never been allowed to run. there are cameras everywhere now, too. they see everything like a great waking monster that never sleeps. i thought i would feel safe with the cameras, but the back of my neck feels prickly like there’s somebody standing behind me and when i spin around and look the mushroom is empty except for me.

the only place there aren’t cameras is under alistair bed. i go and hide there sometimes, just to forget the feeling of being watched. that’s where i read the stories that alistair’s written. in them, he talks about a sky as blue as the ocean.
i have never been to the ocean. i remember the sky used to be blue, but never really. now it is a sickly grey.
canary caught me looking at the sky once and pushed my head down. she said don’t let them catch you looking or they’ll put cameras in your eyes.
i believe her.

wednesday

today we went to mandatory meeting, where they passed out rations. there is always less and less then there was last time. while we were there they made us watch a video where the leader of the northernland talked about how well we were doing in the war and how this would almost be over soon. he also reminded us that if we were past curfew there would be serious punishments.
for rations we got a red powder called kool-aid that you mix with water to make juice. we also got a loaf of white bread, a browned banana, circular crackers and a warm jacket. alistair took the jacket and left for work.

canary always looks worried. ever since mom went bonkers i haven’t seen her not wearing her worry lines. i can’t believe she’s only six years older than me. to alistair that doesn’t seem like a long time. to me, six years is an eternity. as long as a war.

canary watched alistair go at the window for a long time, long after he disappeared into the fog. then, all of a sudden, she turned around and said i’ll help you with your homework. i didn’t tell her that i knew how to multiply fractions. mom always used to say that if you were busy you weren’t worried. canary made me a cup of red juice and her hands shook so much she dropped the glass.
pity, that was our last one. it seemed to shatter in slow motion, and i could see every piece break slower and slower.

the day seemed to go by slowly, the cold sleeping into my bones and making me sleepy. i wa so thirsty, so thirsty. i wasn’t allowed anymore water till friday though. if you drink to much of it at once you get sick. i begged canary to let me drink from the stream in the garden but she wouldn’t. it’s black and thick, and smells like nail polish.

the last time i punted my nails was for dads funeral. i remember canary used her last bottle of nail polish to paint my fingers black, so as not to have anybody see the dirt under my fingernails. it didn’t matter, in the end. we were the only ones who attended.

canary is flying together the pieces of the glass with tacky glue. i can’t bear to tell her that all the glue in the world would never be enough. the shards are too small. she’s fills it back up with red juice and fora moment all is well, but then the glass can’t take it anymore and collapses with force into her hands. kool-aid runs down her fingers like blood. intermixed is real blood, from the cuts the glass left. she looked at it for a long time, letting the blood run down her fingers like that.

then she said what a waste

november

alistair is sick. principal gave us ibuprofen but all it does it make him feel empty. he begs us not to give him more but it’s the only things that will take his fever down. he thrashes in bed and screams ****** ****** and i worry he is going to be like mom, always seeing things and hearing things. maybe he can go live with mom in the White Building. mom would like that, if she could remember alistair.

i have been sleeping at school, because canary doesn’t want me to get sick. the dorms are cold and empty and heavily sanitized. i miss canary and i miss alistair but canary won’t let me come home. i don’t know what she would do if i was sick. so i stay. and every night, i say to myself i hate the northernland i hate the northernland i hate
but i say it in my head,  because i am worried they will come for me.
sometimes i worry about canary getting sick. she says promise i wont, sunshine but i know she never worries about herself. teacher gave me flowers to send to alistair. the card says “get well soon” it has been a long time since i have seen real flowers. most are fake, like the ones teacher sent alistair. i don’t mind. it’s the sentiment that is important.





sunday

today at church preacher said and let us pray for our sick
they have stopped re adjusting the crosses. the remain upside down and no one looks. except me. i was looking, while we were supposed to be praying, but canary pushed my head down and said  pretend you can’t see them.
that’s  when i knew she sees things too.

saturday
i remember when i came home from school and found mum. there was paper all over the house, because she’s been doing her drawings. it was on the walls and floor and crinkled up under the boxes, all pictures of the northernland and the pastor and everything. and she said there is no god. there is no god. there is no god. alistair covered her mouth but it was too late, the northernland men were already here. she drew here pictures more violently scribbling and slashing with my art pencils. she drew alistair and canary and father, but not me or her. there was lump in my throat. she picked a new piece of paper and drew god, above us all, but she kept saying there are no gods there are no gods there are no gods, and she slashed and scribbled at the paper, and the northernland men were knocking, watching us through the cameras, and mum pulled me down next to her. i could see blood beneath my skin she held me so tight, and she had. a thousand stars in her eyes that were all spinning, saliva dripped down her chin and  she did not look my my mum anymore. she looked lost. she said the gods have abandoned us.


after the northernland men took her to live in the White Building, her drawings were left on the floor. alistair gathered them all up and threw them in the basement and locked the door. then he put the key around his neck. at least, i think that’s what’s in the basement. i have never told alistair, but i took the last drawing she did, of me and her and a boy. i stuck it with glue to the very back of my dresser drawer, so no one will ever find it. in the picture, my lips looks like there are sewn together with greenish yarn. this has always scared me. mums mouth is open and she is screaming, but there is no tounge inside her mouth. the boy looks normal, and he is holding my hand. this boy is not alistair. this has always scared me. this has always scared me. this has always scared me. it’s only a picture.



monday

i keep finding myself in that moment-
when canary broke the glass and cut her hands, spilling red juice and blood like lines on her hands. she sat there for a long time, just looking. maybe it’s stuck with me because she was just looking, when we’re never supposed to look.

the clocks tick slower and slower everyday.


tuesday

teacher wasn’t at school today. instead we have a woman with blinding hair and an accent from the northernland. nobody asked where teacher went.
we don’t want to know. the hanger and the telly were gone, too.

when i got home i was feeling really sick with tears. i told alistair they’ve taken teacher. his eyes widened and he ****** his head toward the camera. canary dig her fingernails into my arm. of course they haven’t was all he said. that’s silly.

then he looked off into nothing for a long time. i just looked straight into the camera.


wednesday

at recess the northernland woman was acting real strange. she sat with us on the pavement and when the camera tune we it’s invasive x-ray eyes away she whispered your teacher has been taken by the northernland.

nobody said anything. nobody says anything, anymore. i think if we even spoke to many of us would cry. and then the cameras would look at us. so we just stared into space.
in our hearts, we already knew. but i still wanted to scream.


thursday

today was idyllic. sun came through the smoke and lit the sidewalk up orange. the woman from the northernland asked us what we would want if we could have any powers. almost everyone said healing. i said flying. maybe it’s because i’m selfish, all i want to do is fly away. but maybe it’s because i’m honest. i’m getting tired of not hearing the truth.

just to see if i could do it i ran all the way home. my feet seemed to leave the ground, its was as if i was actually flying every time i took a step. but then i landed and took off again.
i hadn’t run in a long time.
my chest seemed to hurt with a good  pain, if pain can be good.
i wanted to tell alistair but canary wouldn’t let me see him. i just need to you to get warm was all she said. over and over. but i’m boiling he said. it was quiet for a long time. it’s going to be alright. she said it again. twice. three times.

you know that feeling when you feel sick to your stomach, not because of disease but of fear. and mixed up in that sickness are tears and realization and you feel weak and helpless.  that’s how i felt when they took mum. that’s how i feel now.

i don’t know why, but a sudden hatred for the northernland boils up in my stomach. i think i am going to be sick. i turn around and run, run as fast as i can until i am at a strange gravel alleyway hidden behind some trees. i rest there for a long time, looking into the darkness after the cliff face. i know where i am. i am in the abyss, a place forbidden so long ago by alistair i had never thought to come here. i don’t break rules, i just ask questions. but i am here. at the abyss. where nobody should ever be.

friday
death is a sense. just like touch or smell, death is a feeling. i could feel it in my heart. in my bones and in my veins. it crowded about our house like fog in the summer. and all i wanted in the world was for it to go away.

teacher today told us about the northernland, how it was kind and safe and loved it’s people. the lie seemed to cuddle in her throat. nobody has ever gotten kindness from the northernland. the northernland started the war and has starved and survieled us to no avail. i know there was a time before, but i do not understand how that could have been. but i still haven’t  made peace with the cameras.


the abyss is where people go to go crazy. your screams bounce off the walls of the hole, but you cannot see them because it does not have edges. you cannot see the bottom or the sides of anything, just darkness. then the northernland men in the gas masks come in their yellow trolley and take you away. the abyss is where the devil lives, in a bottomless hole to the middle of the world.







saturday

i met a boy who lives in the abyss. he is made of sunshine and glitter, and plastic and paint and peace and everything that is beautiful.

but he is not really there. instead, he is almost see through. sometimes he is there and sometimes he is not. i know he isn’t real, just an imaginary friend. i am not like mum, who saw imaginary people and thought they were becoming real.

i did not say much to enyo, instead i said the only thing i was thinking. saying it made me feel sick.

i think alistair is going to die.













as i said it, it echoed off the walls of the cliff.
suddenly it was all too much. i was all too much. my heart started beating fast and my mouth felt dry and i stood up. i didn’t mean to cry but i did, big wet tears the dried my skin. i don’t want him to die. i said over and over.
my words echoed against the cliffs, i didn’t  sound like me.
HE CANT DIE
i shouted. HE CANT DIE HE CANT DIE HE CANT DIE HE CANT DIE HE CANT DIE HE  CANT


i woke up a long time later next to enyo. i looked into the void that filled the space between the cliffs and the beyond. i wonder of that’s where heaven is i said. i pointed into the nothingness that felt all consuming. enyo said nothing. he looked as empty as i felt.
a long silence later i said he’s not going to die is he? enyo looked me in the eyes for the first time and i realized his were a beautiful black, layer upon layer of black and brown. he said what do you fear more, the echo or the answer

but enyo was not there at all. he is only imaginary.




sunday

preacher came again to the house and said that alistair is better. that his fever had broken. i didn’t know fevers could break. i asked him about what being sick feels like, and he took me outside to the garden and we sat on the piles of rubble that used to be the neighbors. he said that your brain gets confused, and everything seems fuzzy and mixed up. i can’t help but think that must be awful for alistair, he was always orderly.

monday
today mari has her birthday party. her mum wasn’t there. i can tell lou noticed because her eyes were scanning the room all strange, but she didn’t say anything. i didn’t ask. mari looked all scared and the camera of the ceiling fan hadn’t moved from her in a long time. i wondered who was watching her. i know who was watching her.


tuesday

i go down to the cliffs, but enyo isn’t there. schools closed for sanitization, so i have nothing to do.  i swing my legs off the edge for a long time. i don’t dare say anything, i hate how it echoes back. i look deep into the bottom but i can see nothing.  it is only darkness. something at the bottom feels like is calling to me, tugging at me to come. i turn my back.
was this before or after the preacher came? i am trying to remeber in order, tell you this story radially like teacher says.

i go home and canary’s there waiting at the window. she says here i’ll help you with your homework. no, no, no NO NO NO NO NO NO. that did not happen after, that happened before.

i can hear the ticking of the clock in my ears, slowing down.
maybe i’m going crazy.


wednesday
i’m sitting on a bench, but i cannot remember where. enyo is beside me and he is talking. in my chest i feel something strange, like it is moving and jumping. i feel queasy but it also feels nice.
i look over and he’s bleeding, golden blood from his eyes and mouth running down his chest. i want to scream but it stops in my throat. enyo puts a finger to my lips and the scream goes away.

he isn’t bleeding anymore. we’re holding hands. are we holding hands? teacher tells us not too, it will make us sick. but enyo is different. enyo doesn’t go to school. i feel as if my hands are sweating but it doesn’t matter, he doesn’t say anything.





i wake up cold. it felt so real, it all felt so real. my arms feel heavy.
i’m alone on a bench by the abyss. smoke fills the air and makes it hard to breathe.

friday
mari wansnt at school today. i know the northernland took her, broken bones and all. i remebemer becaus lou told me while alistair was sick. but that was days ago. i am sorry, it’s just so hard to tell the story in the proper order. my head hurts.

tuesday
i’m sorry if i cross out bits, it’s just that as i understand more i change the words. doctor says to stop doing this, but i want you to know the truth. the clocks are going slower and slower lately. alistair can’t work anymore, the preacher said so. i was going to tell him about enyo, how he is real now, not imaginary, but i didn’t know how. there aren’t words to describe him. looking at him makes crows beat their wings beneath my ribs, but i don’t know why. I sit with alistair after class but i can’t think of much to say. he doesn’t seem like my brother anymore, just a body lying on the floor.



thursday
doctor says i am defamilirazing myself, telling the story like it did not happen to me. telling it in all the wrong bits. i will try and tell it in the right order, but my head hurts. my head hurts so much. doctor won’t tell me why i need to explain, what the tape recorders are for or the make i have to wear the mask or why i’m here, what happened to my family. he won’t tell me why every time i say it like it was in the past and not happening right now he checks me for a fever. all he tells me is to start at the begging.

friday
the blonde woman from the northernland has a ring in her nose, but i do not know why. when i ask her she doesn’t seem to understand. she doesn’t talk anymore, either. just points at things on the board. i dreamt that she had her tounge cut off, but that was just a dream. the northernland would never do that to someone.

saturday
alistair is dead.
preacher says the disease took him, but i do not know which. the real sickness or the brain washing of the northernland. i think it was both, because the sickness made his brain weak so the mind-poisoners could break in. it’s okay, he wasn’t my brother anymore. doctor says that i never loved him.

sunday
church has ended and we are walking home, just arrived when our door opens. i wonder who would w at to come to this house, where the walls smell like death. the northernland woman is at our door, standing in the place the cameras cannot see her. she is smart. canary opens it and the northernland woman opens her mouth. there is no tounge or teeth, and the sides of her throat are black. i scream, so loud and shrill that i cannot believe that i am making this noise. my heart is in the center of the earth, fear running through my brain and i am screaming. canary covers my mouth. it doesn’t matter, the cameras were already looking.

canary pushed me to the floor and dragged me under the bed. i could feel the cameras following us the entire way. when she sat up, her pupils looked strange, the ways moms did when she ways seeing the people in the walls. anger seemed to hide in her voice, she was trying not to be loud but to me it felt like she was screaming, she had never thrown words that hit me like knives before. she told me never to scream or else the men behind the spying eyes of the camera would come for me. what would i do without you she yelled, but it wasn’t yelling it was crying. she help me close to her chest and i could feel her breathing and her heart beating, sparratic and short. she cried into my hair, until it was soaking wet with tears. this was when i knew canary was lost.

tuesday
enyo is in the void, just there. he is very pale today, and he doesn’t say anything for a long time. we have gotten to holding hands now. i have never held hands with anyone, and my fingers feel strange and clumsy. tecaher used to say that touching was against the rules, but i am so sick of rules that i am now glad to break them.
all at once, it occurs to me that there could be cameras here. there are cameras everywhere. i don’t know why this has never occurred to me before. suddenly i dont care, i want them to see. i stand up and scream as loud as i can.


thursday
after i screamed, no one came for me. even when i go back, i don’t feel safe anymore. i ruined the only place i felt safe.


saturday
enyo is gone. i go everyday and yell for him, but he left when i screamed. he is still missing. i’m worried for him, but at least i know the northernland has not taken him. a sick feeling in my stomach asks me if enyo was ever real. i know he was. but it is still there, pulling at my head. of course he was. i felt his skin, rough and broken. imagination can’t conjure up real people.
but then i think of mom. how her fever got so high she started to see people that weren’t there. my head hurts so much, like someone is trying to break out of jail in my skull. i am angry, for the first time in my life. enyo was my only friend, the only one who could see through the blanket of the northernland skies. i scream for him ENYO ENYO ENYO ENYO ENYO ENYO, but i am not mad, i am crying and crying so much and loud that someone puts their hand over my mouth, but there is no one there. i am suffocating. i turn around and i can’t breathe, my vision is tunneling into the abyss.
i am sick.



someone is holding my body, but their skin is cold. i open my eyes but i can only see shapes. i am on the gravel and the sun is orange, just like always. i am alone. but can feel someone’s tears, touching my cheeks. i sit up as fast as i can, and i am seeing stars but i just need to look. we are never supposed to look but i am going to see.


the northernland is punishing me.
enyo is making me sick.


enyo is there beside me, crying. i have never seen him cry and something rises inside me, and all i want to do is put my arms around him, so i do. slowly he gets warmer and feels more solid. let the cameras watch, let them see.


sunday
im running, running by the tips of my feet and pushing me off the ground, i’m flying. i have to get home.  i think of the first time i ran, letvthe cameras watch, talked to enyo. all the times i’ve broken the rules. i has always hated the northernland, but i had witnessed something better. i had talked to enyo, heard stories of what it was like before. a hatred so strong curcdled beneath my ribs and made me want to punch someone. i ran and ran and ran and ran, shouting HE CANT DIE
i shouted. HE CANT DIE HE CANT DIE HE CANT DIE HE CANT DIE HE CANT DIE HE  CANT.     he is going to die.






monday
i saw a raven in the wire pole today. it was big against the grey sky and he watched me as i walked into the house. i hadn’t seen a raven in a long time, so i turn to enyo to tell him he looks like a raven. he smiles, but he is. if there. enyo was never there.

wednesday
alistair has gone back to work, though i think he shouldn’t have. he tells me the symptoms of the disease when he gets home. headache,seeing things, bleeding from your insides. i play with the ring on my finger, trying not to ask if that’s what happened to mom. i open my mouth but a rock lives there, and i cannot move it without crying.


sunday
doctor tells me to get off the floor, that i can stand now. i stand up and he puts me on the table. he is old and pale, with shiny grayish eyes. tell me what happened to alistair he says. i do not understand. what happened to alistair?

friday
mari wansnt at school today. i know the northernland took her, broken bones and all. i remebemer becaus lou told me while alistair was sick. i go home alone, and cold. i feel like there is a little green man in my lungs running a garden hose. i think back to the time when i ran, the first time i broke the rules. nobody came for me.
i can’t run anymore, my arms feel heavy and when i cough thick red bloods comes out of my mouth. it must be the smoke. I go home, and canary is at the window. she is crying in reckless abandon, shamshing on the door with her fists. two men from the northernland are holding her back, and one hits over the head with a black stick. alistair is being carried out on a stretcher.
look what the northernland has done to my family. all for the sake of this stupid war. i can’t remember who we’re fighting and yet my sister and my brother have died for the cause.
enyo says they are not dead. but enyo is not there, he was never there.

wednesday
i screamed again. i know canary told me not to, that cameras would look into my eyes and into my head. but i saw the northernland man coming up the street in his yellow trolley, straight for lou’s house. when the door opens she is wheeled out on a stretcher. so i screamed, because lou is dead and the war with no name had killed her. the devil had killed her.

canary grabbed me as the camera looked at me, as every camera in the house was trained on me. there was a disturbance in her eyes i had never seen before, like she was not all there. she grabs my arms and is much stinger than she should be. she opens the basement door and i scream again, because now i know what’s in the basement.








more northernland men than i have ever seen are in the basement, and when the door opens they look up. somebody take sme from canary and i scream and writhe and kick, but they pull at my body until my skin tears.





when i wake up, i am holding very still, and i cannot move if i want too. doctor says this is called  paralysis. there is a very bright light and a searing pain, it’s hurts so much my body is burning. cascades of blood come down into my mouth, and someone is sticking my lips with pins. this hurts more than anything that  has ever happened to me. it hurts in a deep ache, not just on the surface, and my entire body wants to shudder. my lungs are filling up with blood, because it hurts to much to breathe.





saturday
when i wake up i am in my bed, in my house. more relief than i have ever felt washed over me, because it was just a nightmare.

i used to have nightmares where there was a man in my room, saying numbers out of order. but then preacher says that if i talk to god before bed and make sure my blood is pure of doubt for the northernland, then i will not have nightmares. this is why i have had this nightmare, because i was disbelief the northernland. i do not care, because it was only a dream. i will never hail the northernland.


my lips hurt, and i wonder if in the night i bit my lips because of the dream. that happens sometimes. i dress and get ready for school, and catch myself in the mirror before i go. i turn fully toward it to make sure i am not hallucinating. in the great horror of it all, i try to scream, but it stays in my throat. i cannot scream, or make any sound at all.

my lips are sewn shut with green thread.


friday
everyone at school is quiet. anna covers her mouth and big wet tears fall on the ground. mrs. hoth takes her to the office, and the cameras follow them all the way there. we say our pledge and do our arithmetic, but i cannot say anything. i hate the northernland.
i hate it, i hate it. and i realize this is why they have silenced me.
the northernland woman is gone, and a man in a yellow coat teaches us arthimatic.
the clock on the wall is barley ticking now.
lou sits at the desk in front of me, her hair greasy and skin pale blue. she turns round, just like the old days, but isstead of telling me what the answer is or who’s the cutest or any of the normal things, all she says is run. her mouth makes an o and she closes her eyes and rests her head on the desk.

when i blink, she is not there. i am alone in the classroom.


sunday
i go to church by myself, because i havent seen canary since she sewed my mouth shut. she is not my sister anymore, and i pretend i don’t care what happens to her in that basement.

when i get there preacher is not there, there is nobody there except the northernland woman. she comes and sits next to me and runs her fingers across the stitches. we pray together, even though we can’t say anything and there is no sermon. when we walk outside there is an officers car, and she is handcuffed an put in the back. the man who has taken her gives me a sticker, with a little white cloud on it. it says trust in the northernland. i do not trust the northernland. i do not trust anyone.
i run away as fast as i can and throw the sticker into the ground, but it still seems to follow me inside my head. trust in the northernland. trust in the northernland. trust in the northernland. trust in the northernland. trust in the northernland. trust in the northernland. trust in the northernland.



monday
enyo is at the abyss, waiting. he says i am killing you. and i understand, it all makes sense now. but he is all i have now. if the only thing worth living for is killing me, that is what doctor would call dramatic irony. i do not feel dramatic, i feel used. the northernland has used me and used my family.


saturday
doctor says that when telling a story i need to define who is the antagonist and the protagonist. the antagonist is someone who antagonizes people. doctor says this means evil. this is hard for me to understand, because everyone is evil. this is not a story, and it does not have characters. the peoples i have met in my life are all complex and strange, evil and good and unpredictable. doctor says ok and that we will try again tomarrow.

thursday
mari wansnt at school today. i know the northernland took her, broken bones and all.
mari wansnt at school today. i know the northernland took her, broken bones and all.
mari wansnt at school today. i know the northernland took her, broken bones and all.

friday

enyo is at the abyss, waiting. he says i am killing you. and i understand, it all makes sense now. but he is all i have now. if the only thing worth living for is killing me, that is what doctor would call dramatic irony. i do not feel dramatic, i feel used. the northernland has used me and used my family. doctor says to be thankful of the northernland, that they did not use me. i turn away from enyo because even though i love him, i am loyal to the northernland.
i am thankful to the northernland.
i am thankful to the northernland.
all hail, all hail.






love alistair
fire element
exposing government secrets
cult
enyo gets more real as he is dying.
preacher dies.
alistair goes crazy, then dies.
something in basement.
Very low IQ but the only one smart enough to see
enyo is a ghost
canary goes crazy and sews our mouth shut.
fall in love with enyo.
not told radially
told in sgememgs like cross cross
deep symboling
Two kids
watching life go by
while learning
how to live it
moving slow
but learning fast
blink and
you will miss it

same two kids
ten years on now
still learning
and advancing
less watching
life as it moves on
but, a little
more romancing

holding hands out on the porch
drinking sweet tea too
knowing eyes are watching us
and everything we do
always must be proper
on the swing with you at night
they're watching us hold hands with one
while the other's out of sight

married now
and it's twenty years
since we
first sat out here
still watching life
and time pass by
holding hands
tea switched for beer

we've two kids
the house
is ours
thirty years
since we first sat
we're now the age
our parents were
sitting exactly
where we're at

holding hands out on the porch
drinking sweet tea too
knowing eyes are watching us
and everything we do
always must be proper
on the swing with you at night
they're watching us hold hands with one
while the other's out of sight


we've been married
forty years
we still sit
watching time pass
funny how
the simple things
stay a constant
from the past

fifty years now
we're still here
and just like it
used to be
we're still sitting
holding hands
still being watched
by grandkids three

holding hands out on the porch
drinking sweet tea too
knowing eyes are watching us
and everything we do
always must be proper
on the swing with you at night
they're watching us hold hands with one
while the other's out of sight


nothing changes
still the same
being watched
just like before
the house is now
our daughters
and the grandkids
number four

some days
we're still the
same two kids
moving slow
and learning fast
we don't watch
time go by no more
we close our eyes
and watch the past


still.....holding hands out on the porch
drinking sweet tea too
knowing eyes are watching us
and everything we do
always must be proper
on the swing with you at night
they're watching us hold hands with one
while the other's out of sight
Sitting at the table
Cards have all been dealt
The direction of my future
Lies before me on the felt

I'll play the cards before me
I have to go all in
If I do not take the gamble
I guess I'll never win

I'm a dollar short of holding
I'll ride the highs and lows
I'm a dollar short of folding
I guess that's the way it goes
I'm a dollar short of holding
I'll ride the highs and lows
I'm a dollar short of folding
I guess that's the way it goes

The cards can tell your future
These cards tell mine so well
A dollar short of holding
It's my fear I smell

Do I bluff and risk my losing?
Do I fold and walk away?
The lord, he hates a coward
*******, I'm gonna play

I'm a dollar short of holding
I've got to go all  in
I'm a dollar short of folding
With not gamble, I don't win
I'm a dollar short of holding
It's up to me, just how I play
I'm a dollar short of folding
To live to see another day
Katie Apr 7
It was great at the very start
Hands on each other
Couldn't stand to be far apart
Closer the better

Now we're picking fights
And slamming doors
Magnifying all our flaws
And I wonder why
Wonder what for
Why we keep coming back for more

Is it just our bodies?
Are we both losing our minds?
Is the only reason you're holding me tonight
'Cause we're scared to be lonely?
Do we need somebody
Just to feel like we're alright?
Is the only reason you're holding me tonight
'Cause we're scared to be lonely?

Too much time, losing track of us
Where was the real?
Undefined, spiraling out of touch
Forgot how it feels

All the messed up fights
And slamming doors
Magnifying all our flaws
And I wonder why
Wonder what for
It's like we keep coming back for more

Is it just our bodies?
Are we both losing our minds?
Is the only reason you're holding me tonight
'Cause we're scared to be lonely?
Do we need somebody
Just to feel like we're alright?
Is the only reason you're holding me tonight
'Cause we're scared to be lonely?

Scared to be lonely

Even when we know it's wrong
Been somebody better for us all along
Tell me, how can we keep holding on?
Holding on tonight
'Cause we're scared to be lonely
Even when we know it's wrong
Been somebody better for us all along
Tell me, how can we keep holding on?
Holding on tonight
'Cause we're scared to be lonely

Is it just our bodies?
Are we both losing our minds?
Is the only reason you're holding me tonight
'Cause we're scared to be lonely?
“Scared to be Lonely” -Dua Lipa
Ashley Jack Nov 2017
Holding your hand as tight as could be
skin to skin care-
aid my racing heart and your uncertainty,

holding yours when mine seems to be as small as a seed,
yesterday taught me how one step is all it takes,
expanding ones mind is all one needs-

holding yours when mine seems to be as small as a seed,
at this moment and many to come
has me looking through your eyes and many more than I could hope to seize,
leading me to educate myself on the spirit that lives on in other shoes.

Holding yours when mine seems to be as small as a seed,
today when yours seemed to be a withering tree-
from the worlds many vast secrets.

Holding yours when mine seems to be as small as a seed,
tomorrow it taught me how to lift my head high-
seeking sight is silly when it’s in the palm of your hand.

Holding yours when mine seems to be as small as a seed,
next fall it can only grow into  blossoming flower,
the colors you believed it to be-

holding yours when mine seems to be as small as a seed,
growth continues with you in my heart, mind and soul,
no fatigue was gained in the labor endured.

Holding yours when mine once seemed to be as small as a seed,
from the touch of many souls-
linking one to many.

Holding your hand as tight as could be-
aid your racing heart and my uncertainty.
11.6.2017 - Biggie
Benji James Jun 2018
I remember when you were four
I caught you drawing on the wall
I couldn't get mad
Instead I just laughed
And I still have
The finger print painting
that you made
In fact I had it framed
I have every art piece you made
To remind me that your always here
with me spiritually

All These tear drops
That fall upon the page
Creating smudged ink stains
As this pen bleeds
Words drenched in sorrow
An empty heart slowly fades
Can't seem to find a way
To release all this pain
Can't seem to find the words to say
I miss you each and everyday
Can't find a logical reason to explain
Why you were taken away

Can't forgive God
For what he's done
Just hope he's
Holding you in his arms
Keeping you safe and warm
You got the voices of angels
Who can serenade
And sing you to sleep
I'll keep you safe
Inside of your dreams

We were at the hospital
I was sitting beside your bed
And you wiped the tears
Underneath my eyes
Then I heard you say
Daddy please don't cry
I like it better when you smile
So I smiled
Don't say no goodnights or goodbyes
Yeah princess your my little fighter
My inspiration, my perfection
My saviour, my hope, my strength
Your everything I am
I'll carry that with me forever

All these tear drops
That fall upon the page
Creating smudged ink stains
As this pen bleeds
Words drenched in sorrow
An empty heart slowly fades
Can't seem to find a way
To release all this pain
Can't seem to find the words to say
I miss you each and everyday
Can't find a logical reason to explain
Why you were taken away

Can't forgive God
For what he's done
Just hope he's
Holding you in his arms
Keeping you safe and warm
You got the voices of angels
Who can serenade
And sing you to sleep
I'll keep you safe
Inside of your dreams

I still remember
when I heard the doctor say
(There's no heart rate)
That line still haunts me
Your mother and I fell to the floor
Neither of us wanted to get back up
It felt like we cried for hours
And then I felt
something give me strength
Then I remembered what you said
Daddy please don't cry
I like it better when you smile
So I pulled myself back up
from the floor
Took your mother in my arms
Carried her back to the car
You were every step
You were every breath

All These tear drops
That fall upon the page
Creating smudged ink stains
As this pen bleeds
Words drenched in sorrow
An empty heart slowly fades
Can't seem to find a way
To release all this pain
Can't seem to find the words to say
I miss you each and everyday
Can't find a logical reason to explain
Why you were taken away

Can't forgive God
For what he's done
Just hope he's holding
You in his arms
Keeping you safe and warm
You got the voices of angels
Who can serenade
And sing you to sleep
And I'll keep you safe
Inside of your dreams

I still remember when
I heard the priest say
May she rest with angels
watching over her
May they share there
infinite love on high
May they protect
her blessed soul
Let the Lord take her
Into his loving arms
To keep her safe from harm
I said Amen to that princess
And I've seen you in the stars
Yeah you'll never be to far
For we are always
With in each other's hearts

All these tear drops
That fall upon the page
Creating smudged ink stains
As this pen bleeds
Words drenched in sorrow
An empty heart slowly fades
Can't seem to find a way
To release all this pain
Can't seem to find the words to say
I miss you each and everyday
Can't find a logical reason to explain
Why you were taken away

Can't forgive God
For what he's done
Just hope he's holding
You in his arms
Keeping you safe and warm
You got the voices of angels
Who can serenade
And sing you to sleep
And I'll keep you safe
Inside of your dreams

Sometimes I sit in your empty room
Imagine you playing, drawing
Creating all those games
You used to play
With your vivid imagination
A world of your creation
It's like your still here
I can feel your essence
I can feel your presence
In this place
It's where I go to relive your memory
That you left for me

All these tear drops
That fall upon the page
Creating smudged ink stains
As this pen bleeds
Words drenched in sorrow
An empty heart slowly fades
Can't seem to find a way
To release all this pain
Can't seem to find the words to say
I miss you each and everyday
Can't find a logical reason to explain
Why you were taken away

Can't forgive God
For what he's done
Just hope he's holding
You in his arms
Keeping you safe and warm
You got the voices of angels
Who can serenade
And sing you to sleep
And I'll keep you safe
Inside of your dreams

©2018 Written By Benji James
This is a fictional piece of work that I wrote back in 2015 I wanted people to experience and feel through a heart-wrenching piece of writing and this is what I came up with and the journey that I chose to take people on.
Raf Reyes Dec 2015
What am I still holding on to?
Why do I still seem to care so much for you?

You never really seem to care anymore anyway

When I reach out to you, you block me out
When I try to talk to you, you close yourself from me
Every word I say passes through your ears
Every smile I give leaves you emtionless
Everything I do goes by unnoticed
Brushed off by a mere swipe of a hand
Every poem I write and every song I sing, they're all for you
But you didn't even seem to care
Brick by brick, you've built a wall around yourself
A wall too high to climb
A wall too thick to push my way through
A wall too strong to for me take down
Forcing me to give all my effort
To take each and every brick in my grasp
And bring them down
One by one
Leaving my hands broken
tired
and bruised

Let's face it: We're drifting, and that *****
Our daily conversations have run dry
We used to talk about our dreams, our interests, our passions
Our plans for the world to see
People we want to be
Our pasts, our present and our futures
We used to talk about OURSELVES
But now I feel like you've run out of interest for me
And I feel like every word I say takes so much effort
Because I try so hard to keep the conversation alive
Even though deep down
I know it's slowly dying
Because I don't want to let it die
Because I don't ever wanna stop talking to you
Because I don't want to drift from the person I used to spend hours on end having endless chats with
Maybe we're just running out of things to talk about
And I don't really know why

Sometimes I feel that us drifting is one sided
Like I spend all this time thinking about you
When I wonder if you even realize that I still exist
I'm still here
I think about how long we haven't talked
I think about our last texts, our last messages
When you probably don't even remember the conversations we've had

So what the hell am I still holding on to?

I'm holding on to the memories we've made
I'm holding on the conversations we used to share
I'm holding on the the laughs, the smiles, the good times we've
had
I'm holding on to the poems
the letters
the songs
All written in your name
Hoping that someday you'll find the time
To read them
To remember and look back on what once was
But most of all, I'm holding on to those 3 words that you said
"I Love You!!!"

I miss you, I really do
I miss the old us
I miss our friendship

And it's sad to think that I'm still here
Holding on to all those things
All the things that we've been through
When you've already let go
A long time ago
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.
Bryan Lunsford Aug 2018
It is within an unusually warm and early spring night,
Here, where I begin to feel something ever so unusual while looking deeply into this goddess' eyes,

With her eyes like a pair of diamonds sparkling in the sky,
It's at this moment–in this part of the night–
Love simply didn't need a reply,

With candles lit,
As it's surely to her delight,
And with rose petals all over the bed–
That, surely, was to her surprise,

Though, right now,
Can you really blame me for having this nervous butterfly-feeling whirling around inside?

For this will be the first-ever night that I'll get to hold this beauty tight,

And for such a divine beauty,
Surely I'd make any sacrifice to make sure her every whim and need is perfectly sufficed,

Yes, with our feelings for each other that couldn't be more pure or refined,
I already know, without hesitance, our love would satisfy any god's most delicate appetite inside,

And although, this world may never know how I truly feel inside,
I, myself, know with certainty that I love this woman more than anything I've ever loved in my whole life,

Yet, with nothing more than the sound of crickets chirping within the night,
I proceed to lay this beauty down–
Here, pulling her close to my side (where I tell her)
"I love you, angel, good night",

And even though our love never did need a reply,
She said
"I love you too, sweet dreams baby, don't forget to hold me ever so tight",

And thus with this crazy, whirling, butterfly-feeling, again, that I begin to feel take over inside,
She rolls over unexpectedly and surprises me with a kiss to seal any other reply–
To only roll back over and close her eyes,

Oh, and in the midst of her every action–every move leaving me mesmerized,
She decides to move an inch closer to me,
(Where I wrap my arm around her thighs)
As it's also nearly simultaneously that I hear the clock's stride finally hit midnight,

With a chime that struck once–
Then struck twice,
I begin to hear a set of chimes strike–and strike until they chime twelve times,  
(As these chimes come from this evilly wicked, horrid and heinous clock of mine)

Yes!–with this clock being a clock that through time I have come to slowly hate and despise!

Though, this tower of a clock reminds me of its presence with not the tics nor the tocs–
No, only when the minute hand climbs and the hour's hand meets another notch,

As only then, within that second of the minute, does my mind's thoughts get crossed and rocked–
With my thoughts that become locked within a box
(As it'll be for the next sixty minutes)
I'll just lie there and remain distraught,

Oh, and you ask why?–
Simply because of this chiming noise that won't stop!

With these reoccurring chimes that take my sleep and make most nights a loss–
I can assure you that if I don't go to bed by one or two o'clock,
Any sleep for me will become more and more implausible by every tic of the clock,

Yes, nearly impossible–
For it'll be with the next four or five hours, I'll just lie there, roll, and toss,

Though this is a different night!–
As I'm reminded with our legs crossed and with our fingers interlocked,

Yet, here as I begin to feel the warmth of her body block and fend off any kind or sorts of lingering winter's frost,
I also sense that numerous candles are still glowing bright,
(With the sight of their ambient light flickering off of the bedside's wall from abroad)

And, within this room filled with sentiment as I hear not a sound at all,
I smell the candle's aromatic scents,
With the atmosphere within the air being ever so calm,

Until that is, I hear another chime of a ****–
With it sounding like a melody that's gone ever so wrong–
It's with this tower of a clock, right here, that has just let me know it's now the hour of one o'clock–
And one o'clock, right on the dot,

With only one lone chime that I heard–as everything then simply paused and stopped,

Though, within my mind and with these thoughts that refuse to stop,
I reassure myself–
Knowing that the time is only one o'clock,

For I know I still have an aplenty of time to close my eyes and make these endless lines of thoughts stop,

So to this brilliant mind of mine,
You know that it's clearly time to let these thoughts wander off,

Just close your eyes and let your mind stop–

Though, didn't I just say enough with your thoughts?

Oh, and I can see you might think a lot,
But clearly and obviously you're not thinking about squat!

So just stop or I swear to god,
If you don't stop with these god awful thoughts,
I'll have no other option than to smash and squash your head against these bricks outside of this wall and then leave you there to rot–

For if you don't stop this exact instant then I am almost certain your beautiful woman will become a loss,

And I'm sure you don't want that to happen again, now do you?

So just stop with these thoughts–
Quit fooling around and whatever you do–
Oh, and whatever you do,
Don't let this beauty see that crazed loony side inside of you,

Just fall asleep now and you both can wake up tomorrow around noon,

Yes, just close your eyes and count these sheep jumping over the moon,
And count them jumping one by one–then two by two,

Yet, between one and two,
Surely I knew I was bound to come unglued,
(With the loony that came right out of me as I hear a tune)

With a chime that struck once and then twice,
It left my mind to know not what to do,

Though, that doesn't mean I am confused,
With the duo of chimes that struck–
Only letting me know it's now into the minutes of the night that come directly after two,

And though,
As I begin feeling as if a disaster was nearing in soon,
Still, I knew not what to do–

Because I know nothing as I'm thinking of nothing and just fading away within the scents of her perfume,

(Where I begin fading away within this serenity and hearing not a tune)
I feel the weight of my eyelids begin to feel like a caving-in roof weighing at least a ton or two,

And with just one of a few wondrous thoughts still wandering on through,
I wonder
"Could this be sleep that is nearing in soon?”,

With this feeling of a wonderful tranquil sensation subduing and leaving my whole body consumed,
(As I'm weary and with clearly not a thought left in this room)
I take one last deep breath
(With my lungs swelling like a balloon)

And within a dream is where I have just entered into–:
UNTIL ABRUPTLY I HEAR A SNOOZING OF A TUNE!

Yes!–As I'm awakened and with the insanity within in me being let loose to roam throughout this room,
My mind, then, begins to shift back and forth (like something caught drifting between a typhoon and a monsoon)

Where realizing as I view that I've opened my eyes too soon–
With it being this beauty here of mine that is the one who is creating this horrendous little tune,

And feeling, as I hear–
With every single breath that she breathes rattling the room–the walls–and even the shingles upon the roof,
I feel my mind, here, completely coming all the way unglued–
For all I want to do is make everything within this room mute!

Yes, that's all I want to do!–

For I’m sure I wouldn't even be in such a foul mood if I wasn’t sleep deprived,
And if this beauty here of mine and her snoring roar weren’t the main culprits of keeping me, my mind, and this night alive,

Though, hearing with her roaring of a snore that is beginning to drive me crazy inside–
Yes, as she snores, there!–just an inch or two away from my side–
I hear with her snore only growing more and more–

As I, then, within this second, try to ignore a chord of chimes striking once, and then striking twice,
(With this clock striking three times to remind me once again of the time)

–With this night now being at least 3:03, 3:04, and could possibly even be 3:05,
I know this night is at the most three or four hours away from seeing the sun shine bright through my window blinds,

Oh, and surely I already know I probably would just close my eyes–
Yes, that's probably what I would do!
But this little beauty here of mine is worse than any set of chimes,

And surely indecisive,
(As I move the pillow over my ears while I'm consumed by an irritating form of fright)
I move my body a little to the left and then a few inches to the right,
Where I hear her demon's rumbling from inside,
And screaming as if they're trying to come out and fight–

(Which is where I begin thinking)
“Is waking her up really that much of a crime?”

For if she knew she was snoring at such a high decibel level,
Then I'm sure she wouldn't even mind,

And thus with my decisions that couldn't agree more with my mind,
I decide to slightly lift her head and wiggle her,
(As I nearly tickle her left side)

Whispering to her as I say,
"Baby, wake up, I just had the worst dream of my life!
Oh, baby, wake up, I just need to see those sweet little angel eyes!",

Though motionless–
There, as I try to keep my insane and crazy side inside,
My whisper begins to intensify to a scream
(As she refuses to open her eyes or give me a reply)

I continued to scream–SCREAMED!

"Oh, why, oh, why won't you open your eyes!",

And with her snore being the only reply that she could give me,
It literally drove me crazy inside–
Thus driving me as it drove me to climb on top of her body,
(Where I grab her nose and squeeze)

As it's within the silence and in this exact instant,
Instantly and unbelievably, I see I've hit a stride that I couldn't believe,

Yes, mesmerized!
And content beyond belief–
With her snoring, here, that has finally ceased–

–Casually, I proceed to climb off of her body
(Wherein realization I finally can go back to sleep)

And in the silence, again, as I hear not a peep,
I roll over, close my eyes, and before I could even count one jumping sheep,
I hear a roar once more coming from this treacherous little beast,

And surely with not a second more could I go without sleep,
(As this pillow, right here, has just become my best friend, and the most plausible way to get any sleep)
I decide to move this pillow over her face–with my exertion at first lacking any tenacity,

But what I'd end up hearing would be like a growl or a roar of a wicked beast,

With this sinister snore of hers only increasing more and more with every tic of my heart's beat,
I begin to feel my thoughts shift toward the sentiment of either insane or crazy,

(As my hands push with more and more of an intensity)
I begin sweating–feeling the smothering warmth of her body's heat,

Though, simultaneously as I hear her heart throb and knock an unstoppable and irregular beat,
I begin putting even more weight upon this pillowcase
(With a galore of my sweat dripping upon these sheets)

And surely I have to know,
(For it should be as obvious as could be)
That if I put any more weight upon this pillowcase,
I'd likely break through the toughest of the most unbreakable concretes,

And thus coming to the realization–
With this crazy side of me that has taken over and been unleashed surely not being me,

It's here, against the greatest of restraints
(As I'm barely able to climb off of her body)
I climb off and begin waiting within the silence–

Waiting and hearing not a peep,
Where seemingly prompting myself to say,
Here, as I speak!
"Good night baby–sweet dreams",

Though, I'd hear not a reply–
As a reply was something our love never did need,

Yet, as I roll over to climb under these sheets and close my eyes
(Where simultaneously it all has seemed)
I have fallen fast asleep within a dream while holding my sleeping beauty tight–

Holding her as I squeeze–
Holding her!–
With her heart that holds not a beat–.
The shadow of a man
I am nothing less
I am holding on
Still holding on
And every now and then
Life begins again
I am holding on
Still holding on

I'm not like you
Your faceless lies
Your weak dead heart
Your black dead eyes
I'll make it through
But not this time
Your hope is gone
And so is mine

Live, fight
Crawl back inside
Sick, die
Love left behind
And I won't live
Your weak wicked lie
You pull me in
I'm one step behind

Show me where it hurts, and I will make it worse
Are you holding on
Still holding on
Dilated eyes shine for one last time
Are you holding on
Keep holding on

You're not like me
Your faceless lies
Your weak dead heart
Your black dead eyes
I'll break you in
And let this die
Your hope is gone
And so is mine

Live, fight
Crawl back inside
Sick, die
Love left behind
And I won't live
Your weak wicked lie
You pull me in
I'm one step behind

I'm becoming a monster
Just like you
After it all
You'll try to break me too
Falling forever
Chasing dreams
I brought you to life
So I could hear you scream

Live, fight
Crawl back inside
Sick, die
Love left behind
And I won't live
Your weak wicked lie
You pull me in
I'm one step behind
I'm one step behind
I'm one step behind
Katlyn Orthman Apr 2014
Keep holding on,
they tell me thoughts are but fleeting
wisps chanting for your attention

Keep holding on,
they say that in finding peace you're beating
the darkness that surrounds you

Keep holding on,
they praise the light, but maybe it's the light
that makes on suffer when wounds are
clear for everyone to see

Keep holding on,
they tell me, yet they've never dangled in fright
of the clutches of the unknown

Keep holding on,
but I can't
Martin Narrod Feb 2014
The Checkout Line

I wish to speak with you
ten years from now, you'll be ten years behind.

The words and meanings you carry in your pants, the pick-pocket steals your hopes from time.
and the visions of empty trash receptacles
with their late evening drunken lovers' bouts, at restless end tables. And the bums with their ******* attitudes **** covered clothes, and soiled minds

the clarity of the curbside drunk, picking up shades of filtered cigarettes of twilight scandalous
pickup lovers in their evening best.

And to talk with you ten years from now, you'll be ten years behind.

They're Green Beret head ornaments
detailing the porcelain platforms of Delft
Lining up for one last line to carry them into another faded sunrise at dawn's forgotten memory of yester night
and they walk their gallows holding pride fully their flags of exalted countrymen.

The republic of teacups of literary proficiency.
Wearing the necklaces of paid tolls to an afterlife they find in the miniscule car crashes of engagement with a grinless driving mate in a neighboring car in its pass into the forethought of turned corners.
Where they befell the great disappointment of failure in the frosted eyes of their fathers' expectations.

Who carried the shame of their mother's incessant discontent through short skirts, and high heels.

Who disapproved of the **** whom wore the sneak-out-of-the-house-wear clothing line, and traveled by night over turbulent asphalt by way of sidecar through turn and turnabout hand-over-hand contracts of lover's affection, and slept in tall grasses of wet nightfall with views of San Francisco, and were trapped in the inescapable Alcatraz and Statesville of unconsenting parents and their curfews,

through trials and trails of Skittles leading to after school Doctor visits in the basement of a doting mother, whilst she sits quietly in her exclusive quilting parties with noble equities of partners in knowledge, listening to Edith Piaf and the like,

All the while condemned to time, trapped in the second hand, hand me downs of the 21st century, decades of decadent introverts with their table top unread notebooks, and old forgotten score cards, and the numbers of scholars of years past,

and to talk with you ten years from now will be my greatest pleasure, for you will be....ten year's behind.


They push the sterile elevator buttons, and descend upon the floor of scents flourishing from their crowded family rooms, only aware of distinctive flavors, in their middle eastern shades of desert gumbo,

Who speak ribbit and alfalfa until midnight of the afternoon, sharing fables of slaughtered giraffes and camels that walked from Kiev to Baghdad in a fortnight,

Who are aware the power is out, but continue to scour for candles in a dark room where candles once burned, where candle wax seals the drawers of where candles can be found. Where once sat gluttonous kings and queens in Sunday attire waiting for words of freedom from the North.

of Florence, Sochi,Shanghai
of Dempster, Foster, Lincoln
of Dodge, Ford, Shelby

Of concrete fortune tellers in 2nd story tenement blocks with hairy legs, and head lice, wearing beautiful sachets of India speaking ribbit and alfalfa.

On their unbirthdays they walk the fish tanks wearing their birthday suits to remind them who serves the food on the floors of the family room fish mongers tactics.

The old men wear gargoyles on their shoulders.

Lo! Fear has crept the glass marbles of their wisdom and fortune, blearing rocket ships and kazoos on the sidewalks of their Portuguese forefathers.

Where ancestry burns cigarette holes in the short-haired blue carpet, where Hoover breaks flood waters of insignificance across hard headed Evangelical trinities.

Who share construction techniques one early morning at four, where questions of Hammer and **** build intelligence in secondary faces of nameless twilight lovers, who possess bear blankets, and upheavals, finely wired bushes of ***** maturity. Eating *** and check, tongue and pen.

Where police caress emergency flame retardants over the fire between their legs, wielding the chauvinistic blade of comfort in the backseat of a Yellow faced driving patron.

With their innocent daughters with their nubile thighs, and malleable personalities, which require elite words and jewelry. Wearing wheat buns, Longfellow, and squire.

Holding postmarked cellular structure within their mobile anguish.

Who go curling in their showers, pushing afternoon naps and pretentious frou-frou hats over tainted friendships with their girlfriend's brothers with minimum paychecks'.

Through their narcissus and narcosis, their mirrored perceptions of medicinal scripture of Methamphetamine and elegant five-star meat.

Who amend their words with constitutional forgiveness, in their fascist cloth rampages through groves of learning strategies. And the closets, cupboards, and coins
with rubber hearts, steel *****, and gold *****,

Tall-tales of sock puppet hands with friendly sharing ******* techniques, dry with envy, colorful scabs, and coagulation of eccentric ****** endeavors, With their social lubricants and their tile feet wardrobes with B-quality Adidas and Reeboks gods of the souls of us. Who possess piceous syndromes of Ouiji boards in their parent’s basements.

When will fire burn another Bush? Spread the fire walls of Chicago, and part grocery store fields of food. Wrapping towels under the doors of smoke filled lungs, on the fingernails of a sleepover between business executives with the neoprene finish of their sons and daughters who attend finishing school, with resumes of oak furnishings,

And I long to talk with you ten years from now,
For you'll be talking ten years behind.

Who profligate their padded inventories breaking Mohammed and Hearst,
laying the pillows of cirrus minor
waiting for the rain to paint the eyes of the scriptures which waft through concrete corridors,
and scent the air with their exalted personas,

With the different channels of confusions, watching dimple past freckle, eating the palms of our tropical mental vocations to achieve purity from the indignation of those whom are contemptuous for lack of innocence in America,
this America, of lack of peace,
of America hold me,
Let me be.

Whom read the letters off music, blearing Sinatra and Krall, Manson where is your contempt?

Manson where is your manipulation of place settings?, you deserve fork and knife, the wounded commandments that regretfully fall like timber in an abandoned sanctuary of Yellowstone,
Manson, with your claws of the heart.
Manson, with your sheik vulgarity of **** cloaks exposing your ladies undercarriage,

Those who take their pets to walk the aisles of famished eyes,
allowing the dorsals of their backsides to wonder aimlessly through Vietnam and Chinaman,
holding peace of mind aware of their chemical leashes and fifteen calorie mental meals, holding hands, unaware of repercussion,

With their vivid recollections of sprinkler and slide, through dew and beyond,
Holding citrus drinks to themselves, apart from pleasure, trapped with excite from sunsets, and in-between.

Withholding reservation of tongue to lung.
Flowing ribbit and alfalfa, in the corridors of expected fragrance.

and to speak with you of ten years from now, will be a pleasure all my own, for you will be talking ten years behind.

They walked outside climbing over mountains of shrapnel, popped collars
and endless buffets of emotion,
driving Claremont all the way to art gallery premiers
and forever waited for plane crash landings
and the phone calls that never came

Glowing black and white cameras
giving modelesque perceptions to all-you-can-eat eyes
giving cigarettes endless chasms of light

Colored pavement trenches and divots
cliff note alibis
and surgery that lasted until the seamstress had gone into an
endless rest
and
empty cupboards

Classic stools painted with sleepless white smoke and bleached canvas rolling tobacco with the stained yellow window panes of feral tapestry and overindulgent vernacular

Like a satiated cheeseburger weeping smile simple emotion
on November the 18th celebrations
and Wisconsin out of business sales

Too much comfort, stealing switchboards from the the elderly, constantly putting gibberish into
effortless conversation.

Dormant doormats, with the greetings that never
reached as far as coffee table favelas,
arriving to homes of famished
furniture, awaiting temperate lifestyles and the window sill arguments from pedantic literacy

Silver shillings and corporate discovery clogged the persuasive
push and shove
to and from

Killing enterprise
loquacious attempt at too soon
much too soon
too soon for forever

Wall to wall post-card collages
happy reminders of the places never visited by drinks in the hands of
those received

Registered to the clouded skies of clip board artists
this arthritis of envy
of bathtub old age
wrinkled matted faces
logged with quick-fixes, anemia, and heart-break

disposed of off the streets
of youth, wheeling and wailing
rolling down striped stairs
of shock and arraignment
holding the hand rails of a wheelchair
suitcase
packed away in a life

Down I-37
into the ochre autumn fallen down leaves
and left memories behind
their green Syphilis eyeglasses

weeping tumuli
recalcitrant
mulish, furrow of beast and beyond

yelling, screaming, howling
at the prurient puerile tilling
of sheets

****** the voices of words
and vomiting the mind into the pockets of the turbulent perambulations
expelled from meat-packing
whispering condescension
and coercing adolescent obsessions
with fame, glamour, and *****

Creeping out into the naked
light of the Darger scale janitorial
closets, carrying the notorious gowns
of red wine spells, backpacks, and pins

henchmen, plaintiff, and youth

All the while
ripping at the incantations of the soul
whispering ribbit and alfalfa
in the guard-rail scars
of the dawns decadent forgotten
valencia Dec 2018
i am holding hands with a girl at a pet store.
i love how her voice changes for each of the animals, high and breathy for the calicos, round and bubbly for the angelfish, sonorous and slithery for the python. she loves them all, even the great hairy tarantulas that scare me beyond my age.

i am holding hands with this girl who’s halo of hair glows banana yellow beneath the heat lamps in the reptile section, a girl who offers a finger to the teething kittens.
“can’t we have one?” she asks, in the voice she uses only for me.

a voice i can’t describe without using her name, the kind of voice that makes all of time and space obsolete, oblivion just aftermath. i imagine joan of arc heard something similar the first time she picked up a sword.

she is still holding my hand, and i feel like im drowning in my affection for her, sinking into cartoon quicksand. i don’t want to let go. so i don’t.

“are you two...together?”

this is not unfamiliar, but the womans voice, the voice she has chosen, is strangely acdic. this woman has laced her tone with arsenic, without even a teaspoon of passive aggressive sugar to hide her poison. she inhaled, puffing herself up like a frightened lizard before her final words.

“there are children here, you know.”

in the future, i think of a thousand things to say. we are children too.

two girls holding hands after school, two girls holding hands in the movie theatre, two girls in a booth at tony’s pizza, two girls sharing akward first kisses while they hide behind the wall of a library.

two girls holding hands in a pet store on a saturday afternoon.

i know now they see us through funhouse mirrors: distorted, disturbed, our monstrous bodies taking up too much space, spoiling innocent spaces with our imposing sexualities.

our innocence never ours to begin with.
Viseract Feb 2017
Judgement is offered without being asked for,
Just remember that.
Vyscern

To be a good judge of character
You gotta see further than the books front cover
You have to look deeper, must find meaning
Between the pages and the paragraphs and what it is you're seeing

Know that every page number is another day on scene
Know that pages are stained from the blood we bleed
Know that pages crumple with the words unspoken
And know each new chapter is a lifetime token

Some may label "money", "corruption", "greed"
But know you can help swiftly as Godspeed
They opened up to you and it's up to you to see
That crazy times make people do crazy things

I'm just holding out the hope,
Standing still as I reel against the ropes
Tell me how long til I fall down
Weightless as a feather, gone without a sound

I'm just holding out the hope,
Standing still as I reel against the ropes
Tell me how long til I fall down
Weightless as a feather, gone without a sound

She opened up to me, for strangers advice
Is easier to get than from others in your life
There's no fear of judgement, disappointment, or people
Who like to spill secrets that are too dark and evil

I looked in the mirror and it became see-through
Not a reflection of myself just Myself Mark 2
It's funny how that works, the lies we pursue
The hope that something worse will surely make a better you

Know that the engravings on each book spine
Is a scar from the past, another mark in time
As you run your fingers you ask "where is the beauty?"
If you look past the cover you may finally see

I'm just holding out the hope,
Standing still as I reel against the ropes
Tell me how long til I fall down
Weightless as a feather, gone without a sound

I'm just holding out the hope,
Standing still as I reel against the ropes
Tell me how long til I fall down
Weightless as a feather, gone without a sound

I can't tell you how to run your life
But I tell you it's dangerous to run with knives
Maybe you don't care because pains the prize
Trust me, it's a trap that'll **** you as you fly

Icarus himself fell from the clouds
And plummeted to the ocean, an arrow straight down
I will help you surely as Jesus Christ
Has been told from three days to come back to life

So I may die, but that's okay
With wax wings I flew too high anyway
The pain is a trap that'll **** you as you fly
And I'm not ready to ready another goodbye

I'm just holding out the hope,
Standing still as I reel against the ropes
Tell me how long til I fall down
Weightless as a feather, gone without a sound

I'm just holding out the hope,
Standing still as I reel against the ropes
Tell me how long til I fall down
Weightless as a feather, gone without a sound

I will hold out for you
Talk to me, make me see
Convince me that its true
That it's not worth helping you

I'm just holding out the hope,
Standing still as I reel against the ropes
Tell me how long til I fall down
Weightless as a feather, gone without a sound
For every denial of beauty, I will say that you are beautiful until it is ingrained that I love you
Cass was the youngest and most beautiful of 5 sisters. Cass was the most beautiful girl
in town. 1/2 Indian with a supple and strange body, a snake-like and fiery body with eyes
to go with it. Cass was fluid moving fire. She was like a spirit stuck into a form that
would not hold her. Her hair was black and long and silken and whirled about as did her
body. Her spirit was either very high or very low. There was no in between for Cass. Some
said she was crazy. The dull ones said that. The dull ones would never understand Cass. To
the men she was simply a *** machine and they didn't care whether she was crazy or not.
And Cass danced and flirted, kissed the men, but except for an instance or two, when it
came time to make it with Cass, Cass had somehow slipped away, eluded the men.
Her sisters accused her of misusing her beauty, of not using her mind enough, but Cass
had mind and spirit; she painted, she danced, she sang, she made things of clay, and when
people were hurt either in the spirit or the flesh, Cass felt a deep grieving for them.
Her mind was simply different; her mind was simply not practical. Her sisters were jealous
of her because she attracted their men, and they were angry because they felt she didn't
make the best use of them. She had a habit of being kind to the uglier ones; the so-called
handsome men revolted her- "No guts," she said, "no zap. They are riding on
their perfect little earlobes and well- shaped nostrils...all surface and no
insides..." She had a temper that came close to insanity, she had a temper that some
call insanity. Her father had died of alcohol and her mother had run off leaving the
girls alone. The girls went to a relative who placed them in a convent. The convent had
been an unhappy place, more for Cass than the sisters. The girls were jealous of Cass and
Cass fought most of them. She had razor marks all along her left arm from defending
herself in two fights. There was also a permanent scar along the left cheek but the scar
rather than lessening her beauty only seemed to highlight it. I met her at the West End
Bar several nights after her release from the convent. Being youngest, she was the last of
the sisters to be released. She simply came in and sat next to me. I was probably the
ugliest man in town and this might have had something to do with it.
"Drink?" I asked.
"Sure, why not?"
I don't suppose there was anything unusual in our conversation that night, it was
simply in the feeling Cass gave. She had chosen me and it was as simple as that. No
pressure. She liked her drinks and had a great number of them. She didn't seem quite of
age but they served he anyhow. Perhaps she had forged i.d., I don't know. Anyhow, each
time she came back from the restroom and sat down next to me, I did feel some pride. She
was not only the most beautiful woman in town but also one of the most beautiful I had
ever seen. I placed my arm about her waist and kissed her once.
"Do you think I'm pretty?" she asked.
"Yes, of course, but there's something else... there's more than your
looks..."
"People are always accusing me of being pretty. Do you really think I'm
pretty?"
"Pretty isn't the word, it hardly does you fair."
Cass reached into her handbag. I thought she was reaching for her handkerchief. She
came out with a long hatpin. Before I could stop her she had run this long hatpin through
her nose, sideways, just above the nostrils. I felt disgust and horror. She looked at me
and laughed, "Now do you think me pretty? What do you think now, man?" I pulled
the hatpin out and held my handkerchief over the bleeding. Several people, including the
bartender, had seen the act. The bartender came down:
"Look," he said to Cass, "you act up again and you're out. We don't need
your dramatics here."
"Oh, *******, man!" she said.
"Better keep her straight," the bartender said to me.
"She'll be all right," I said.
"It's my nose, I can do what I want with my nose."
"No," I said, "it hurts me."
"You mean it hurts you when I stick a pin in my nose?"
"Yes, it does, I mean it."
"All right, I won't do it again. Cheer up."
She kissed me, rather grinning through the kiss and holding the handkerchief to her
nose. We left for my place at closing time. I had some beer and we sat there talking. It
was then that I got the perception of her as a person full of kindness and caring. She
gave herself away without knowing it. At the same time she would leap back into areas of
wildness and incoherence. Schitzi. A beautiful and spiritual schitzi. Perhaps some man,
something, would ruin her forever. I hoped that it wouldn't be me. We went to bed and
after I turned out the lights Cass asked me,
"When do you want it? Now or in the morning?"
"In the morning," I said and turned my back.
In the morning I got up and made a couple of coffees, brought her one in bed. She
laughed.
"You're the first man who has turned it down at night."
"It's o.k.," I said, "we needn't do it at all."
"No, wait, I want to now. Let me freshen up a bit."
Cass went into the bathroom. She came out shortly, looking quite wonderful, her long
black hair glistening, her eyes and lips glistening, her glistening... She displayed her
body calmly, as a good thing. She got under the sheet.
"Come on, lover man."
I got in. She kissed with abandon but without haste. I let my hands run over her body,
through her hair. I mounted. It was hot, and tight. I began to stroke slowly, wanting to
make it last. Her eyes looked directly into mine.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"What the hell difference does it make?" she asked.
I laughed and went on ahead. Afterwards she dressed and I drove her back to the bar but
she was difficult to forget. I wasn't working and I slept until 2 p.m. then got up and
read the paper. I was in the bathtub when she came in with a large leaf- an elephant ear.
"I knew you'd be in the bathtub," she said, "so I brought you something
to cover that thing with, nature boy."
She threw the elephant leaf down on me in the bathtub.
"How did you know I'd be in the tub?"
"I knew."
Almost every day Cass arrived when I was in the tub. The times were different but she
seldom missed, and there was the elephant leaf. And then we'd make love. One or two nights
she phoned and I had to bail her out of jail for drunkenness and fighting.
"These sons of *******," she said, "just because they buy you a few
drinks they think they can get into your pants."
"Once you accept a drink you create your own trouble."
"I thought they were interested in me, not just my body."
"I'm interested in you and your body. I doubt, though, that most men can see
beyond your body."
I left town for 6 months, bummed around, came back. I had never forgotten Cass, but
we'd had some type of argument and I felt like moving anyhow, and when I got back i
figured she'd be gone, but I had been sitting in the West End Bar about 30 minutes when
she walked in and sat down next to me.
"Well, *******, I see you've come back."
I ordered her a drink. Then I looked at her. She had on a high- necked dress. I had
never seen her in one of those. And under each eye, driven in, were 2 pins with glass
heads. All you could see were the heads of the pins, but the pins were driven down into
her face.
"******* you, still trying to destroy your beauty, eh?"
"No, it's the fad, you fool."
"You're crazy."
"I've missed you," she said.
"Is there anybody else?"
"No there isn't anybody else. Just you. But I'm hustling. It costs ten bucks. But
you get it free."
"Pull those pins out."
"No, it's the fad."
"It's making me very unhappy."
"Are you sure?"
"Hell yes, I'm sure."
Cass slowly pulled the pins out and put them back in her purse.
"Why do you haggle your beauty?" I asked. "Why don't you just live with
it?"
"Because people think it's all I have. Beauty is nothing, beauty won't stay. You
don't know how lucky you are to be ugly, because if people like you you know it's for
something else."
"O.k.," I said, "I'm lucky."
"I don't mean you're ugly. People just think you're ugly. You have a fascinating
face."
"Thanks."
We had another drink.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Nothing. I can't get on to anything. No interest."
"Me neither. If you were a woman you could hustle."
"I don't think I could ever make contact with that many strangers, it's
wearing."
"You're right, it's wearing, everything is wearing."
We left together. People still stared at Cass on the streets. She was a beautiful
woman, perhaps more beautiful than ever. We made it to my place and I opened a bottle of
wine and we talked. With Cass and I, it always came easy. She talked a while and I would
listen and then i would talk. Our conversation simply went along without strain. We seemed
to discover secrets together. When we discovered a good one Cass would laugh that laugh-
only the way she could. It was like joy out of fire. Through the talking we kissed and
moved closer together. We became quite heated and decided to go to bed. It was then that
Cass took off her high -necked dress and I saw it- the ugly jagged scar across her throat.
It was large and thick.
"******* you, woman," I said from the bed, "******* you, what have you
done?
"I tried it with a broken bottle one night. Don't you like me any more? Am I still
beautiful?"
I pulled her down on the bed and kissed her. She pushed away and laughed, "Some
men pay me ten and I undress and they don't want to do it. I keep the ten. It's very
funny."
"Yes," I said, "I can't stop laughing... Cass, *****, I love you...stop
destroying yourself; you're the most alive woman I've ever met."
We kissed again. Cass was crying without sound. I could feel the tears. The long black
hair lay beside me like a flag of death. We enjoined and made slow and somber and
wonderful love. In the morning Cass was up making breakfast. She seemed quite calm and
happy. She was singing. I stayed in bed and enjoyed her happiness. Finally she came over
and shook me,
"Up, *******! Throw some cold water on your face and pecker and come enjoy the
feast!"
I drove her to the beach that day. It was a weekday and not yet summer so things were
splendidly deserted. Beach bums in rags slept on the lawns above the sand. Others sat on
stone benches sharing a lone bottle. The gulls whirled about, mindless yet distracted. Old
ladies in their 70's and 80's sat on the benches and discussed selling real estate left
behind by husbands long ago killed by the pace and stupidity of survival. For it all,
there was peace in the air and we walked about and stretched on the lawns and didn't say
much. It simply felt good being together. I bought a couple of sandwiches, some chips and
drinks and we sat on the sand eating. Then I held Cass and we slept together about an
hour. It was somehow better than *******. There was flowing together without tension.
When we awakened we drove back to my place and I cooked a dinner. After dinner I suggested
to Cass that we shack together. She waited a long time, looking at me, then she slowly
said, "No." I drove her back to the bar, bought her a drink and walked out. I
found a job as a parker in a factory the next day and the rest of the week went to
working. I was too tired to get about much but that Friday night I did get to the West End
Bar. I sat and waited for Cass. Hours went by . After I was fairly drunk the bartender
said to me, "I'm sorry about your girlfriend."
"What is it?" I asked.
"I'm sorry, didn't you know?"
"No."
"Suicide. She was buried yesterday."
"Buried?" I asked. It seemed as though she would walk through the doorway at
any moment. How could she be gone?
"Her sisters buried her."
"A suicide? Mind telling me how?"
"She cut her throat."
"I see. Give me another drink."
I drank until closing time. Cass was the most beautiful of 5 sisters, the most
beautiful in town. I managed to drive to my place and I kept thinking, I should have
insisted she stay with me instead of accepting that "no." Everything about her
had indicated that she had cared. I simply had been too offhand about it, lazy, too
unconcerned. I deserved my death and hers. I was a dog. No, why blame the dogs? I got up
and found a bottle of wine and drank from it heavily. Cass the most beautiful girl in town
was dead at 20. Outside somebody honked their automobile horn. They were very loud and
persistent. I sat the bottle down and screamed out: "******* YOU, YOU *******
,SHUT UP!" The night kept coming and there was nothing I could do.
Graff1980 Sep 2017
I’m holding onto
the abused child
who used to
play in realms
of fairytales,
myths, legends,
comics
movies, tv shows,
and books.

I’m holding onto
the ones I long to
reunite with,
dead people
I still miss,
ghosts who painfully
wake me
from sleep,
crying.

I’m holding onto
the guy I always
wanted to be
stronger, more creative,
more compassionate
more patient,
more giving,
and a more intelligent
self-sacrificing gentleman.
Despite how easy it would be
to be greedy and deceive
I always strive to be
a better version of me.

I’m Holding on to
a silver sliver
Of slimmer hope
that glimmers
in the distance,
just a small chance
at a romance
with someone
I’ve loved
for almost twenty years.

I’m holding onto
slightly subdued
versions of dreams
I used to dream
for me
and all humanity.

Till, the end
I am holding onto
my friends
and this one life
we all get to live,
cause I’m not waiting
for the sequel
that is supposed to be
coming after this.
victor tripp Jan 2014
In the ghetto, time and grime,don't hold back, the years or the tears, scream out, in the night, nobody hears or cares, but, I'm still holding on, there are  fears, out here, nobody has  met yet, I'm still holding on,walking city streets,praying that, death,won;t get to me, sooner or later,I'm still holding on,strangled, by the secret wishes,inside, hoping the fake,dreams of smoke, entering the bodies, and noses, I see,don't **** off , the real dreams, of those, not on the pipe, *** being used, to sooth, away each tired,ache or lack, people, being used, to escape, from the ghetto blues, so, I'm still holding on,watching  kids, doubledutch, on sidewalk cracks, lots seeded, with tossed mattresses, junked cars, rotting trash,stray dogs, I see dice thrown down, roller hoping to get lucky, and I'm still holding on
Jon Beller Jan 2016
They say that some things are worth holding on to.
So I hold you dearly close to me, because it feels so good. I don't ever wanted to let you go.
Holding you close washes my loneliness away. Just holding you, makes me feel better.
You're worth holding onto. Even if it's briefly or temporarily, there's nothing to replace you. I don't want to let go and never wanted to.
This is to a person that I know that I wish I could spend more time with.
Mateuš Conrad Feb 2018
well, wasn't it so oh so beautiful
once upon a time:
a naked man holding a fruit -
fast-forward....
            a monkey holding a rat:
hmm...
      enter Elvis: ahum ahum hum:
shimmies aways...
if genesis was to be rewritten again
it would be a monkey holding a rat
thinking about a tailor and a barber
with a schizoid format of interpretation
of an octopus!
  said whaaaaaaaa-t?
said that.
   maze needs no rat,
         rat needs no maze,
man needs both rat and maze -
but man doesn't need
      rat, when he's already
acquired a need for a maze...
    and there's the: a need
to acquire a maze and disavow
a rat...
                  the human "concept"
of a soul: or animation force -
has become degenerate from
monkey through to rat...
             if the ancient Adam was
naked holding a bitten-into apple;
modern "man" is
but a monkey holding a rat.
   i'm far from casting the logic of
counting or spelling...
even though i can do both...
   that man needs a maze
but not the rat...
     in reality: the rat is not welcome...
but to conduct a proof /
  pirson of meaning there is a rat:
in a maze...
               so Tetris is debunked...
and?
               the monkey has evolved
and thus devolved to a rat status!
no... wrong...
                  technology supports
the antithesis...
             the rat is the proof
that a monkey is in a cage, and can peel
a banana!
       ****, wrong answer:
the rat can bite off its own snout!
                            ¡ay, caramba!
wrong again?
                can anyone be right using
this ******* spreschen?!
If you feel you have no reason to forgive someone,
Consider this one - forgive because you deserve peace of mind.
Holding a grudge is like making your worst enemy the center of your life,
Don't give such authority to anyone,
A grudge only hurts you,so what's the point of holding it?
Its like holding a really sharp edged knife hoping it'll slice your enemys fingers when in the actual sense its slicing your own.
We all wish grudges could hurt the ones we hold them against but sadly they only hurt us.
zebra Aug 2016
on the first date
she confided in me
i have a chromosomal disorder, disorder, disorder
i need love and pain strangely mixed together
my elixirs
i suffer reality distoooorrtions
a ghastly Vatican of ****** compulsions
my soul is black matter
my **** a seething cauldron of despicable desire
my *** cries for homicidal cruelty

mold me into a *******
fold me like a two dollar beach chair
the wrong way
tear me to bits
unwind my intestine
eat me like a blood ******* ghoul
make me squirm like an anime victim

i thought oh finally a soul mate
with soul

strange as a Dionysian mad hatter on hallucinogenics
hot girl creeping
grimacing at me
meandering conjurations by ****** contortions
stunning impersonations of a Fellini impaling
shes a famous artist
keeps broodish bowels and blood tampons in stainless vitrines
spot lighted
ready for her debut at the
Museum of Modern Art

she blows torrents of snot like ****
her beautiful desperate tongue searching the upper lip
a salty runny viscoses snack
oozy
finding it finally with her frenetic tongue
feeding her gooey ****
with wet fingers
oh yummy yum goo
up her *** too

first smiling then hideous scowls
exposed teeth
posing with a knife
wana see me cut my self bad boy, she taunts
wana see my impersonation of pizza with extra tomato sauce

blood blood *** in the be in the bed
wipe it up with ginger bread

some how she miraculously bulges her eyes out
then performs, ******* lips as if a minnow in a fish jar

pointing to her ***
giving me that **** hurt me twisted look
how about a peanut butter jelly ******* sandwich
with a side of ****** feet
**** and **** on toes
its especially prized this day of the month
as her **** tears like a vampires mouth, a torrent of blood
pouting **** with white red stained thighs that break a mans heart
*** nothing at all she quips
just a little accident
do you like it?
as she glares like an invitation
to play slip and slide bare foot in her puddle of blood

oh she made me *****
my cherry red **** having a nervous breakdown
from apoplectic horror gasms
a dose of heavens hell

i want her
she is voluptuous like a dozen venomous snakes
copulating in warm soup dark water everglades
she is slither theater

curdling screams
then muggling *******
brought on by the first belly stab
falling to her knees
looking up shocked
mouth gaping
eyes wide
grinning
glance steady
holding holding holding
the belly cut
a cacophonous modern dance of agony
followed by rapturous convulsing *******
that went on and on and on

get a bat she implored

she is a real ******* movie star
the Greta Garbo of *****
a dark jewel
a must have
a hell wife
goddess of dread
a ******* *** genius
my best girl ever

fused by desire
we kissed like **** loving catholic priests
in adoration of their savior
young boy *** castrato hitting the high notes


she looked up with desperation
eyes with glittering tears
and said
are you my black knight?
do you know how to hurt a girl
are you my
Vex Mallus
Dr Satan
Marquis De Sick
Nick Nick
Dark Officer
Remus the Werewolf
Dom Sugar Daddy
Pit Bull
Tommy the Tummy Gutter
5 o'clock Shadow
London Cabby
Amputee ******
Uncle Surgery Gone Wrong
King of the Carpathian Vampires
my sweet kissy Kitten

ooohh yes i said
i am all that for loves sake
albeit twisted
i am what you crave.. your no taboo lover boy
your ******* licking foot slave with a razor in hand
a bubble of poison between my legs
your homicidal suicidal cockealiciousness

she said good,
now that we have that settled
can we go out for dinner
ill be dressed in a jiffy
if i can find my dead skirt
of soft white gauze
with that lovely motif of dread red
and my precious toe tag jewelery
My poems remain explorations of the subconscious ******
If i where a film maker or a novelist  you  would see me telling a story, not judge me, although i admit to my paraphilias  
These poems  are lunar anamorphic streams of consciousness from the deep chaotic subterranean glitz of transgressive  impulses we all share
Read them if you dare...You might find that part of yourself that you don't want you to know about and then again  you may feel more complete some how if you do....I always loved that dark thing that sleeps with in me
victor tripp Jan 2014
In the ghetto, time and grime,don't hold back, the years or the tears, scream out, in the night, nobody hears or cares, but, I'm still holding on, there are  fears, out here, nobody has  met yet, I'm still holding on,walking city streets,praying that, death,won;t get to me, sooner or later,I'm still holding on,strangled, by the secret wishes,inside, hoping the fake,dreams of smoke, entering the bodies, and noses, I see,don't **** off , the real dreams, of those, not on the pipe, *** being used, to sooth, away each tired,ache or lack, people, being used, to escape, from the ghetto blues, so, I'm still holding on,watching  kids, doubledutch, on sidewalk cracks, lots seeded, with tossed mattresses, junked cars, rotting trash,stray dogs, I see dice thrown down, roller hoping to get lucky, and I'm still holding on
victor tripp Jan 2014
So many people gone,death  came, and took them. all away, but I keep holding on, because in time, and life, I want to stay, there are no more tears, as onward, this man goes, looking forward,to greet the coming years,before  moving on, so I keep holding on, won't sing no more sad , and mournful songs. got to keep holding on, through the mist of disappointment, you know, at every  funeral, I  wept  a lot of real, falling tears, and when no one, was looking on, at me, wrestled with each, new hidden fear, I keep  holding on, got a lot of living,yet to do, until each, and every single moment,left is gone, I keep holding on
Cherry Rae Lynn Apr 2013
You're still holding on*
let go of me, or what we used to be
ive changed, and not for the worse

You're still holding on
but ive moved,
say goodbye to our memories

You're still holding on
if you really loved me you would let go.
You know im done with this chapter of life
and i read much faster than you,

You're still holding on
but could you let go of the past,
of the pain, of me.

*Its time to let go
'Holding my breath for you''

Time's not on my side
It's running away like a  thief in the night
But the smile on your face
And the warm of your eyes
Keeps telling me that I should stand and fight.

So here I am
Battered and bruised
But willing to go another round
If you stay in my corner
And don't count me out
I will make you believe that it's love
i have found.

So I'm holding my breath for you
I know in my heart cos it keeps running to you.
I'm not gonna let  you fall.
Hold out for us lover
And give it your  all
If your willing to save me
I'll save you right back
I'm holding my breath
I'm holding my breath
Im holding my breath for you.
victor tripp Jan 2014
In the ghetto, time and grime,don't hold back, the years or the tears, scream out, in the night, nobody hears or cares, but, I'm still holding on, there are  fears, out here, nobody has  met yet, I'm still holding on,walking city streets,praying that, death,won;t get to me, sooner or later,I'm still holding on,strangled, by the secret wishes,inside, hoping the fake,dreams of smoke, entering the bodies, and noses, I see,don't **** off , the real dreams, of those, not on the pipe, *** being used, to sooth, away each tired,ache or lack, people, being used, to escape, from the ghetto blues, so, I'm still holding on,watching  kids, doubledutch, on sidewalk cracks, lots seeded, with tossed mattresses, junked cars, rotting trash,stray dogs, I see dice thrown down, roller hoping to get lucky, and I'm still holding on
Victor Tripp Jul 2014
So many people gone
Death came and took them all away but I keep holding on
Because in time and life I want to stay there are no more tears
As onward this man goes looking forward to greet the coming years
Before moving on.So I keep holding on
Won't sing no more sad mournful songs. Got to keep holding on
Through the mist of disappointment you know at every funeral
I wept a lot of  real falling tears and no one was looking on at me
Wresled with each new hidden fear
I keep holding on .Got a lot of living yet to do
Until each and every single moment left is gone
I keep holding on
Kewayne Wadley Jan 2017
You've crossed my mind many nights.
Sometimes I just lay there, holding you tight in mind.
Wandering your body with my hands.
Filling my fingers with the skin I've dreamt so much about.
The things you keep hidden. unraveled in empty sheets, blankets.
Your warmth becoming the only comforter that dictates whether or not I'll have sweet dreams.
What justifies the stain our breath has left on one another's.
The press of your face against my neck.
The marks left on each other in anticipation. Refusing to pull ourselves away.
Clinging tight to the ****** of being beside ourselves.
Deliberately keeping each other awake in the promise of sleeping wild moments later.
To watch your face scrunch up as it breaks your gasp. Bringing a halt to anticipation,
The comfort of bodies becoming pillows harboring us into a deep sleep. Soft, still.
My head laying on your shoulder.
As we ourselves become lost in the sheets

— The End —