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INEVITABLE: unable to be avoided, unable to be evaded, or escaped; certain; necessary:
An inevitable conclusion.
Sure to occur, sure to happen, or sure to come to pass; unavoidable.

Change is not subject to time, change is only subject to change, and even though season's change, time changes, the weather changes, and people change, change is happening all around us, just to let us know, that change is inevitable, it has to happen.
Change is so inevitable, that you cannot stay the same, an infant child cannot stay an infant child forever, for at some point the infant child has to become a teenager, and the teenager has to become an adult, because change is inevitable.
Even a baby in it's mothers womb knows change is inevitable, for the fetus cannot stay in his mothers womb beyond it's time of change, for if it does, it will destroy the mother.
Change is so inevitable, that GOD shows us change in all creation, for even caterpillars change into beautiful flying butterflies.
An ugly green caterpillar with multiple legs knows he has to change into something beautiful someday, because change is inevitable.
Brothers and sisters, change is so inevitable, and it's so important that you change for the better, that time will work against you If you don't change, and time will destroy you if you stay the same, because time is changing whether you accept change or not.
So you might as well submit to change, or time will force you to submit to change, whether you accept change or not.
mj cusson Sep 2013
They keep on talkin’,
but the circle has spoken.
There’s no recession, no progression.
just inevitable repeatin’
Repeatin' repeatin' repeatin'

You run away to not be like your parents.
all the relentless vents
but they did the same.
and now you have the worst of names.

It’s inevitable,
Inevitable.
It’s Inevitable,
The Circle.

Dubstep has no soul,
punk and rap has anarchy as the role.
rock is about ***, and so is the slow songs
why can’t we right any of these wrongs?

Now, your mess on your drugs
buying useless things like your Ug’s
lost in a calm that is perceived as bliss.
When in reality it’s not caring at all. tsk. tsk.

Well, we will do this,
we will get out of the pit.
Rise to be with kings of eden,
just to keep inevitably repeatin’
Repeatin' repeatin' repeatin'

Dubstep has no soul,
Punk and Rap has anarchy as the role.
Rock is about ***, but so are the slow songs
why can’t we right any of these wrongs?

It’s inevitable,
Inevitable.
It’s inevitable
A Circle.
Cut it, cut it down,
Break it, break it now.
Craven Apr 2016
To grasp rather than take in
Defines the inevitable.
Loss will occur.
Being unavoidable.
Lacking precedent, devastation will follow.
Life will spring forth.
Born from wreckage anew.
Until the inevitable
We are born weak but remolded
By the inevitable
Not in likeness but a casting
Of former self
With subtle changes
Provided by the inevitable
Stronger or weaker we are remade
Until the inevitable
Fighting the change brought about
We deny the hand dealt
Asking for another or the one
We had before
Until the inevitable
Lashing out against the form
We seek measures to prevent
To stop
To achieve understanding
Until the inevitable
We grasp the pattern
We see the end
Expecting the inevitable
Until
Meh Feb 2019
"Death is inevitable".
The phrase has circled through my lips to my ears and back again too many times to count.

Maybe it's a sick kind of hope. "Death is inevitable. My suffering is temporary. Everything I despise so much about myself will end".

Maybe it's an excuse. "Death is inevitable. One day, there will be no tomorrow. Why be concerned with building a future that will get demolished".

Maybe it's a reminder, to be strong. "Death is inevitable. Life is a millisecond in an eternity of nothing. I can't afford to let it pass by".

Maybe it's the simple act of recognition of an ugly reality as it is: naked, terrifying. "Death is inevitable. Life is meaningless. I am dust".

Or maybe it's just the silent screams of a childish mind slowly going into insanity. "Death is inevitable. Death is inevitable. Death is inevitable".
Desmond the poet Sep 2017
by Desmond Makatu,

Your visits are unpredictable.
like a ghost, you're invisible.
The attacks are inevitable.
You come like a thief at night.
You seize me day and night.

"Epilepsy: an inevitable thief"

Cruelty unrestricted to age.
Victimising even toddlers.
Unrestricted to ethnic groups.
My life has time gaps.
Gaps, like discrete graphs.
Cracks depict thin line between life and death.
Grace bridges the gaps and life prevails over death.
Seizures still haunt me like a demonic wrath.

"Epilepsy: an inevitable thief"

Attacks are brief, bruises lasts forever.
You offer questions only God can answer.
Quest for answers is like probing for cure of Cancer.
Death seemed to be the answer but God thought otherwise.

First seizure shook like multiple earthquakes.
Followed by a pool of darkness.
woke up confused, crowd's ****** expressions said a thousand words.
Migraines raided my head, exposed to enormous pressure.
Officially baptised by wrath of seizures.

"Epilepsy: an inevitable thief"

You're a physical and psychological culprit.
Like a Yoyo, you take me into a roller-coaster of emotions.
Aftermaths of your theft are etched in my mind as if they’re on stones.
Behind my “poker face” lies devastating pains than physicals seen by the  crowd.

"Epilepsy: an inevitable thief"

Watch video on YouTube. https://youtu.be/VggXerYLOHY
Being epileptic for, I thought I should express how I feel about the condition.
Chetna May 2019
What's inevitable shall come to pass,
Go back, rewind rewind rewind
But, what's inevitable shall come to pass!

Picked up that call,
Went for the troll,
Never saw the car,
You thought was far,
Go back rewind rewind rewind
But, what's inevitable shall come to pass!

Moved out, moved abroad,
You didn't get the call,
Can now just nod,
For she had a terrible fall,
Go back rewind rewind rewind
But, what's inevitable shall come to pass!

Debit credit debit credit,
All the while,
Monet on her mind
All the colours she didn't find,
Go back rewind rewind rewind
But, what's inevitable shall come to pass

Red orange yellow and pink
Bride bride Groom Groom
Let the new now sink
Unsaid dreams though in gloom
Go back rewind rewind rewind
But, what's inevitable shall come to pass

Go back, rewind rewind rewind
To the beginning, change it,
The tiniest of them all, hit it,
Go back rewind rewind rewind,
Maybe just maybe,
What's inevitable might not come to pass!!

- Chetna
I am 50 feet away from the inevitable
It's not how it looks that angers me,
Not even the blabbering of educated words,
I can feel my feet moving and heart pumping,
I am 40 feet from the inevitable
I am lost in a spiral of emotions
Tears gathering for the get away,
Clenched fists swelling with blood and sweat,
I know this is wrong
30 feet from the inevitable I see it's true face
A mirror reflection of decisions all thought just,
Outside forces urging reconcile and ignorance,
Our past and future form the Yin and Yang of the present moment,
Caught off guard by a breeze sent from a god,
I am 20 feet from the inevitable
Counting the steps till I reach hope,
Casting shadows aside like capes,
Craving the philosophy of our blood,
There is only 10 feet between me and the inevitable,
No longer invisible to my friends,
Pursued by biting accusations assuming what's fair,
My breathing stays steady and eyes fixed,
I am face to face with the inevitable
Do I kiss, then cry, or ****,
Is there enough strength in my bones to handle the weight,
Will there be peace in our hearts and minds,
I will challenge the inevitable to battle and see who wins
Paul Butters Nov 2016
Trees are inevitable,
For something must grow higher than the rest.
Grass is inevitable too:
To carpet the world.
So are fish, to swim the seas,
Birds to fly the skies
And human beings to walk the plains.

All Life is inevitable
Springing from a chemical formula or two.
The Universe has Rules
Which make it so.

So, is God inevitable?
I have to ask.
Is there bound to be an Overlord
Responsible for All?
Or is it all an Accident?
Chance Happening?
A spin of some Super-Galactic Wheel?

It’s Logical to have some Being
Who’s Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient –
However many Omnis there may be.
Or even a Race of Gods
As the Greeks and Romans surmised.

Some say that We invented God
And that is very possible.
Some claim there simply is No God,
Which is quite possible too.

All I know is that I’m here right now,
Living in the Hope
That somehow I’ll survive
My Final Demise
A certain thing that is
For all
Inevitable.

Paul Butters
I've gone religiophilosophical again...
Rambo Sep 2016
I remember not too long ago I was just a little boy playing ball in the park it was Little League in the heat anyone in south Florida will tell you “it’s normal” and it’s true it really is normal.

Then it began to rain lightning struck the adjacent field and left a **** in right somehow for some reason the lightning warning system never sounded its fifteen second alarm I wonder why.

Imagine this

A crash as loud as if you were wearing a stainless steel stockpot and someone struck it so hard with a metal spoon and soon you were knocked so silly you felt like the Liberty Bell the day it rung then cracked during the funeral of former Chief Justice John Marshall and you thought you were dead too.

I thought I was a goner so I bolted to the dugout like lightning no pun intended but I didn’t want to be toast.

As the team sat there each about eleven and twelve years old we counted seconds between lighting and thunder between light and sound and what we felt were going to be the very last seconds of our young little lives how naïve we were.

One lightning strike cracked so bright it flashed me to today and here I am at twenty-two not dead just yet and I’m not quite sure how or why maybe there’s a purpose maybe there’s a meaning to life it’s a philosophical thing to sit and contemplate existentialism is such a weird weird thing I think.

I have come to believe that there are multiple reasons for life and one’s to die one’s to survive one’s to figure out every answer to every question and acquiesce all that which satisfies our wants and needs and one’s to love and give and take and share a life and one’s to see all there is to see like cityscapes and oceans and stars and countries one’s to see even more like frowns and births and smiles and deaths and one’s to eat all there is to eat and to drink all there is to drink until we finally figure out a way to accept the inevitable.

Or is the inevitable not inevitable?

What if there’s a way to live forever and there are no consequences extraneous to those of regular everyday life and you can choose to accept the inevitable when you choose to realize that it sure is inevitable?

Ooh-aah! Ain’t that a concept?

This is not quite what I had in mind at birth I thought it would be smooth sailing between fits of crying and long hours of slumber and meals and short naps and diaper changes and seeing my parents’ faces and those of all others gazing about me in awe and wonder and amazement and pride and love I was a deity!

Relative to twenty-two years one figures out that being a god is very short-lived and that twenty-two years ain’t very long hardly even a quarter of the way to the brink of a timely death.

Maybe when we’re babies we’re gods and idols and think about this babies can rule the world if only they knew they command the highest of all expenses in the whole entire world and families and friends willingly shell out money and goods and services for such a tiny little sack of fat and muscle and fastly-forming bones and brains.
Babies are ******* gods.

But gods no less.

My God I wish I was a baby once again.

But I’m twenty-two and slowly but surely growing old living through each quickening day by day by day and so on and so forth it’s been a fun trip so far and I am sure not done so long as there isn’t another flash from the lightning to send me straight to forty-four or eighty-eight—it doubles every time ain’t that a ****** shame?
E C Vadnais Aug 2016
The time is done I fear,
The time composed of all my years.
Soft paws stalk close to me.
Inevitable is its presence upon me.

I have seen it before,
Looming in full sight,
Oblivious to my terror.
Inevitable presence nosing at me.

I often thought merit given, honors achieved,
Wealth amassed would shield me from this:
Foolish that. Soft paws stalking me.
Inevitable is its presence upon me.

I see well the instruments of its will.
Strange, I find fear of it unfulfilled.
What I ran from now I accept. Let me see,
Inevitable presence, the place you have for me.

Closer still. Hesitate not now.
Soft now. Silence now. Upon your back
I go, gently. Conduct me to whatever is my end,
Merciful presence.


© 2016
It is not too far-fetched to imagine death as a stalking animal for we certainly are its prey, and that death is inevitable needs no mentioning, but the idea of death being merciful is still difficult for us to comprehend even as it is at times obvious.
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.
eliza bonnet Jan 2014
conversations run dry
not wanting it to end
but endings are inevitable

you can only talk about something for so long
before the jokes are no longer funny
and the punch line is over used

forcing it to run on makes it awkward
and causes anxiety

but conversations run dry
not wanting it to end
but endings are inevitable
like know just time mind feel life world say people things lost we're does love think there's away long way thought night got words want better day human left right remember man dark end reality memory experience going make really eyes place 'cause good death tell great feeling soul home high consciousness live pain thoughts fear understand fall thing city sky believe god meaning thinking lose change oh felt hard ask heart times years shall need past light living existence choice use dreams power days cause poetry talking state we'll alive knowledge **** true moment little hope old wrong mental stars wave ago gone broken look brain dream far given truth feels head you'll best sensation baby try leave forget young sleep face stop escape blue dare drug lives wish doesn't drugs work earth new acid game nature bad sublime gods break beautiful ah writing hold born trying coming friends hold writing ah space daze burn body reason rain real moments wonder music memories exist psyche control waiting dawn future act philosophy word choose emotion lies deep one's difference self score truly perception actually finally what's story sure spent play happy greatest help start used lie took listen touch run belief fool glass hurt we've gaze goes cold set seek they're yes information anymore longing lonely qualia social land water afraid kind getting came dead hit present keeps gotta pleasure reflection free rave line held pray path sense art black half-light wake question quiet remain longer pill stay course open ego matter places worth lack horizon saw dusk beauty hand makes energy looking gonna data told seeking die **** seen subtle bit caught venturous means freedom yeah divine eternity empathy later rise perfect minds edge comprehend spiritual write couldn't evil care ashes summer knew turn content context accept existential white red sound chance who's consider hide judgement friend 'til realize dimension cast gave tripping praise health la enjoy search universe winter broke empyrean gain family personal spirit flowing wanted point poem lying wander loved wind knowing sleeping rest stuff doubt flow began embrace months knows discovery society hate aeon darkness chemical surely searching meant oneself infinite share forgotten fell late person religious conscious *** you've teenage blame eye instead different clear bring follow known decide forth strange cool stand we'd miss psychedelic passion today wasn't language catch purpose patterns tonight subject madness temporal ready simple sanity asked entheon absurdia entactus psychedelics metaphysics humans particle unto skies inside arms drink smoke bass youth breath listening close depths intangible expression mortal nostalgia practice return loose maybe dancing shadows king war answers morning silent dust ****** party generation near judge define asleep quite machine lines moving learn hath fate ate crowd standing haze guess brought certain fair read ways hours irish scared fine reckon possible ain't year psychedelion ******* apotheon substance isn't study bliss selfish ends warm dopamine explain fix addiction culture respect wisdom calm hurricane problem contradiction heaven forlorn vain gold sweet hidden effort fast she's breaking changed engine faith dance maze alas girl sigma watch grand heavy justice wait tried doors appear phenomena definitions somebody ignore feelings process sonder cybran soft depression chasing taken throw answer action relief having wandering compounds quantum necessary effects empathion ethos begin everybody rising clouds emotions indigo falls ecstasy fresh american walking glow outside speak force grow physical says view voice happiness shame sought age understanding lay individual billion explore crave pretty lights comprehension tears big sands crime waves taught forever venture adolescence welcome humanity comes zero storm wise claim swear sounds pass **** met he's internet mr table company repetition heard playing ***** mirror lets awake sorry doing dreaming states pondering ridiculous simply greater heal hear natural mydriasis mydriatic substances fades asking measure worse scoreboard destroy erase blood leaves worlds abandoned skin twisted walk grace smile fading illuminate hearts bed food ignorance admit drunk spring exile apart killed talk master meet waking chose neon adventure join **** mist aren't breathe psi laughing feet river trance wonderful floor hair desire breeze birth desert fade looked urban continue nation probably second belong willing alike criminals progress cyberspace sole survive names pills fears beginning digital you'd sadness easily depressed perceive surreality poets merely remains sober closer prose fact growing died save insanity defined session soon realm empyreal taste suicide science skins quality peace raise ashamed azure quit yearn piece notions absurd noble liberty entheogenesis reckoning feedback particles object reconcile baseline chain sardonic false weather hallowed intoxication wasted ******'s here's express cover green witness anger treat sacred pure cure ethics code objects level happen room addict smell fun climb pupils mere ok quest roam park meaningless form hour reasoning cyclone laugh nostalgic inspiration takes attention drop written sigh hole statement sand keeping thunderous sight despite grasp lived called drinking west heads spoke daylight staring song calls hell shivering kept recognize granted weekend problems decided aware happened hacker forgive sea key single moral sway definition caused connection channel difficult media strife dangerous ones cleanse imagine running utter ground spend vibrancy trees changes rhythm everyday group deal foolish hurts anxiety painting proud brother crazy amazed value temporality decision journey spinning making ha acknowledge learned scars apotheosis sort serotonin poet safe experienced potential lucky sunyata condition poor witnessed history doth barely pretend taking hero superposition plus suffering prefer offer won't medium empathos essence events reflect apotheotelos actual determine house issues worked begging virtuality swore gleaming sly gentleman wicked abyss feed lands tea moon miracle honest streetlights tale lust nights early chained allow placed life's actions emotional plant plan drizzle speaks spin hypocrite conviction watching rules jump application chains forged angel fail reflections lot illuminating flag grip fly sick wonderfully create freeman shine job supposed eggs draw pupil dripping tremble mescaline singularity subjective darkens alpha needed atlas orange discover rabbit warp joint wonderland perfection ponder souls silence ahead roll magic ease bag sorrow escapism sake chest magnitude chaser cloud infinity replaced revelation survived vs carry yearning school slip games begins curiosity heavens powerful typhoon furious theory hypothesis apathy serenity mind's marks window humankind cybernetic fraternity liberate cut movement excuse stopped thunder tire apparent mastery occurs motion paper masses throes falling race hanging bear follows sardonicism endless burning idea ideas burden court ya verse consume kick method stood temporary flash realized eat kindness occur advice shades properties shores hang shining ink rolling minutes street deem tools autumn empatheon entheos reach echoes remix diamonds gets worthy identity thoroughly stuck happens recall conclusion choices fiend dealing finding gun son stimulant experiencing depth twice starshine whilst chosen thereof hooked confused enables painful desires serotonergic teleology prey loop wishing relation neural animal hallelujah ultimately projection communication actuality significant experiences remind transcendention notion proposition works illusion puppet offers chalk series occasion calling degrees ended sin figure slick ending ash sentence glance rend november eve drum rainy destruction romantic drawn shadow observe ghosts bodies wandered atmosphere box familiar children honor road serve beliefs strong avoid lessons returns poison relax exhale whispered intention liquid stare dope needs ****** smoking club relative glitter reached fractured stones junkiedom aspect ketamine heavenly scares domain excess robes vast euphoria grass thrall elation buzz renew dr waste let's morality wanna bottle immortal owe intuitive wouldn't teachings transcendent nocturnal education eternal divinity drive aligned illegal lamplight sell sail insomnia curious beatific seeing insane continuum kiss beta void soar roar fog basis **** town cost regrets appropriate brave threat using emptiness fountain short stole shield riot shade ghost numbness stained steam dreampt october ion derived hazy money message sing quote metaphysical scene swept plain colors nirvana alright unlike dear low teens nonetheless pick considering teenagers beneath door electronic kids build pulse teaching kid mistake teach tear contextual political civilization vision dissociation completely tells normal nevermind raised brings laughed melody spot streets holding coffee praying violence appreciate vengeance law trust exploits slowly trouble mirror's refrain compassion eats recognition discovered blaze otherworldly pieces darkest angst brothers sit win buckfast vicious binge breaks undead forgot demands able notice lucid dimensions evolution sunrise plans philosopher killing produce working cloth produced painter gazing favourite track bunch haul arrives started chemistry prevent awaits definitive strive versus rule dread bare slow stayed onward altered helps lifestyle losing followed woke fight event innocence charade child ventures higher y'all acceptance pay any-more bay vicissitudes codex cannabis pleasures planes doses awareness steal beat zero-summing narcotic lest strength matters reading easy sons drift solstice half formed normality weren't hungry hopes declare research tales envelope regret tired breed release honestly haven't it'll blow entheogenic stories amidst insofar technology direct binary pushing gotten patience danger symbiosis dilation gleam untitled risk remembering aeons contemplate suppose allows goal certainly virtues well-being popular regard result tornado mescalito usually distant creating skyglow behold manifest psychedelia representation endeavour excitation transcendental resonance odd growth hedonism possibly focus proper assert formation described interpretations reflective determination rational consuming cherish expressed pathos psychoactive eventually significance dissociative strings author experiential specific oxytocin loves glimpse frames loneliness elements created 'pataphysics craft betrayal typical built wall wonders concerning critique signifiers books failing assume effect 'auld subject-object lethe scorn wants shroud understands enhanced ascend tides finality collapse lake reclamation beach proclamation justify junkies hood teen streetlight caressing lips other's comprised harvest midnight blink aching lesson responsible native fortune mistakes nurture grown healthy test mock especially badly boring walked gorgeous innocent villain giveth benediction stone rictus nightmare skystruck insignificance struck **** nothing's thrown unspoken den shatter loss subjugated angels myth fallen demon temples reborn irrelevant thousand clothed plains whispering insert telling everybody's ultimate expand immortality small rapture bound dry comedown starlight whispers contained watched attack mechanism questions palindrome perpetual surreal theme perspective bane heathen basking singular physics sighs rhyme deity sincerely goodbye fit asunder naught comfort adrift -the radiance plunge rock planet twine applause current enhancement zen profit terrible ill weary leaving fierce alchemy luck speed opportunity men arose prophecy steadfast captured sage demand weird estates gathered distance all's foretold sold wrath kinda relentless advance coil anybody columbine ocean drown spoken ancient eden wet blessed crimson concepts yesterday evening deeply whisper flicker enter book apathetic streetlamps trespass spun turned clean underworld disguise viewed despair tunes melancholy reverence unsaid noise o' groups turning swallow dropped lead confident veracious offend talked switch teenager shouldn't paying allure variable humane inspiring ex 11 matrix flickers offering receive signal news chant exhaustion access background commence summer's arcadia deja vu complex realization vivid stick sublimeoblivious deliverance belonging creed symbionts pendent sane smiling rumination plane glint resembles conversation web corporeal solace theft burned they'll sensations shivers satisfied enslaved mire comfortable shattered arch medina's fragmented plead achieve woman stage swaying dismiss entire numb lord type chapter infamous conquest aspects proving leads bloom floating precipitation artificial renewal spill beating midst petrol mad hands exploit movements examine women sublimation occurred eternally notes dizziness perceptive guys haunts spark poems poetic pull remained gazed vagabond presented blanket cried stranger glad lucidity turns sum details pour valuable exceed represent surprise continuity occasionally relinquish gravity likes weeks wrought gathering entirely reaper rays aging root laid balance four-twenty provide double-edged ceased exploration mates world's walls alteration faces breach million grey tidal unknown price absolute garden haunting train jungle aloud allowed habits closed syntax difficulty alter scratch glimmering drifting quenched explained forfeit in-between clearly ideals ubiquitous chemicals happening abandon supreme drifted soothing reveal alcohol stimulants psychonautes indescribable conscience closest dying andor travel gentle foodstuffs tree worried demons pair recognise inability ensure including hey graciously prove logic rhetoric 15 galaxy lately hearth ethereality forsake wanting steps memorable 'round player moves del you- encourage finished suspect frequently intoxicants acts aer veil qualities animals remembered karma kissed burying shooting bold scattered input howling design forsaken banish seraphim wide cola united democracy meandering -one zed's hot commit self-sufficiency thought's psychosis flows unreality immersion aesthetics realms struggle wisely immanence absolutely member add writings coin avoidance naturally boys inseparable standard convinced concerns passed prudence quick external suffer choosing produces letter proclaimed myths pains shroom bright absurdity awhile prospect sad distribution recreation responsibly ghb adrenergic minor neurotransmission cyclica lonesome foolishness cometh 5-ht2a beings golden pitch cathinone suggest conclude cognitive motions ethical condensate precious abuse compound underlying adult bask push damage attachment originally determinative heaviness concept facts today's regress detract step ugly absence cosmic note imagination psychedelos noumena noumenon reader haunt determining error questioning habit measured limitations manifestation learning arcadian joke hallucinogens material diethylamide mysterious exists 'twas response proportionate quantized nervous anyways identify qualify device analysis moderate moderation alterations accompanying totality fascinated gradually 'the represented brief juxtaposition played t'was resides tribe stead vote period liminality delete recurring mirror-neurons alexithymia craic ar positive drank maelstrom pharmahuasca wondered reflecting lovely facebook typing quale implicit dispute occurring fallacy treasure exactly reduction distinction discussion man's construct couple contain lovers failed confidence writer's integrity worst psychiatrist sesh rare chronology scale drug's definitely title sesh-heads who'd asks unable tomorrow plucked picture alphabet named coherence task pretends inevitable contemporary trips graces wrote entertain vice elicit psychoactives feens conform deface replace grin h-bomb atomic bleeding 20 bloodless unequalibrium following quench hunger bent euphoric display interstellar vertigo influence waited sunlight explored paradise soaring faded sitting unafraid aqua tinted source itches optional differently stem rich greed forbidden negative privacy react earned ails charity gift couch courage endlessly fascinating boyfriend phrase movies hopelessly loud admission inherent hypocrites intoned devil laconic sinful vein surrounded movie contempla
Composed on 01:33, 27/02/2017 using Hello Poetry's 'Words' algorithm. We still don't assume this means something.
hashtag1stworldproblems, but
couldn't even win a prize for reading:
'But there was no give in the cat,
no flex anywhere but his tail. And for
a moment their roles reversed, as though it were
the train facing
the inevitable cat...'
'n' dog 69er
vukojebina Tasmaniandevil in a ******
ad under/overbiting off more than I can
chew Escher's pretzel autocannibal
Prometheus in a Faustian ****
stage pacman dragon fusion starbirth centre
of the earth Bruckheimer pileup of me

Meanwhile bombs fall everywhere but here.

Singing 'Suggasuggasugga my art ***,
liggaliggaligga my art hole'

putting out the bins Insta-grommet-
ed Fama-widgetted the world but the world
is washing its ***** homme moyen sensuel
feels neither ****** nor blessed
culdesac wilderness no 'Wot no samo
©' enriches but inside my flat wypipo
surahs are basquiated alll over bones stones
& date palm fronds Newyork Paris London
Norwich supernobody supernova of purple psychology
prisoner between the lines egotistical subprime of me.

Allthewhile bombs immortalise everywhere but here.

Praying ' Ia! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat
of the Woods With a 1000 Young'
  yet still
the DWP send brown envelopes like post-
al millenarian sandwichboards or economic
letterbombs mash of calendars unassailable
nth mph inevitable catastrophe alazonic
file Akashic Bureau declassifies
is conceit of a train facing a rhino of a meme by
necessity a meme of a rhino gardarhino swino
my geworfen gurn of response scenarios
geworfen backatcha megillah galaxy
fillet ubeity is barrow pig cosmic bootyclap of me.

Everyday bombs bombarded the Mousetrap Theatre
but never hereatre.

Isn't everything just advanced basketmaking
everything is advanced basket-
making everything either that or egowanking
like urban legend of the Purple One ouroboros-
ing his purple one Janusjaws bittensmit-
ten by tailtaste once American sawboneses
optimised the Tom Thumb of Funk's
zeroshape with double ribectomy musta hadda sillycunt
implant ah the hiss of hubris human CMBR
soliphissing hero of selflove whited sepulchres
'This is the only musical the mouth & hopefully
the brain attached to the mouth, right?'
X-iestance of me.

The bombs they bombeth everyday, but I'm okay.

Big Gazrilo Princep Bang weltgeschichtlich pinup
modcon slave to my suprachiasmatic nucleus living
l'appel du vide in comfort fatarse sitrep
tragicecstatic bluff transparent as an exhibition-
ist pharaoh mummified in cling-
film hokeycokeying the keys till my right hand's in
court & my leftover hand doesn't count
tallies of tall realities like BasquiAT-ATs or Daliphants
skittled by Tippex the inner crickets' tip-
ple ghost grawlixes sculpsit grazes 00Q's qwerty spype
no carmen triumphale of poetical toothbrushes gets free
from chelseasmiled singularity inadequake scree of me.

But bombs being dropped is not the only way
this 40-yr-old 5'6 din of reverie will stop.
Being the Academy Sports discount punching bag was so yesterday
I love it when you say I'm not good enough
Because I didn't pay you to be my personal coach
It gives me so much depth in my existence
When so many people who barely knew me tried to slow down the inevitable win
C Alyn Apr 2014
Caged I crawl,
Within the filth of society,
Labelled a freak by those who call others blind,
But how does that give them vision?

If you see me as different,
Then obviously I'm a threat,
So you must contain me and chain me,
You call me weak, yet you think you're strong?

But over time,
You cage too many of us,
We are the new society,
With labels we wrote ourselves,
And this inevitable insanity,
Will now only be endured by you,

Because you're normal,
And we're blind,

But we can see you,
And we'll cage you.
Bad Luck Jul 2018
In a wakeful contradiction, it lays fact between my fiction,
Tangling subatomics, it unravels as its tricks spin
deeper toward the outward...
                                      it won’t let up, 'til I give in.

Over matter, lay my mind…
I tell a lie to pass the time...
But there’s no reason nor a rhyme --
                                            Less still, a purpose?
I search for something to remind my mind
                     that there’s truth that isn’t worthless…

But as always, failure appears;
                              in a sort-of amnesic continuity.
And my reality lies to my own mind
                              Just as well
                              as it succeeds in its futility.
With destruction as its manifest,
It tells me that I stand my tallest
                              Upon two buckled knees.

And just as faith will find one’s doubt --
                  a search within has left without.
It seems that an answer, once sought out,
                  will be left lacking its question.
My truth divides itself,
                   as a product of infinite misdirection.

I try to substitute a reason for a rhyme.
But with no lies left to pass the time...
                              I swallow a dose of ignorance.
It goes down smoother than the truth.

In a war that started with a truce,
This world betrayed my faith to show me:
                                 that I'm only tall enough
                                 Once I’ve been
                                                         cut
                                                             down
                                                                ­     slowly.

A pill too large to swallow,
                I think I’m choking on myself . . .
Or the irony of asking,
                     “How could I be so careless?”
Here I stand, Barely standing,
                   Consumed almost entirely
By my own dry-heaving self-awareness...

Left to fight the fears that my nightmares create;
I’m still running from my past,
                          yet, haunted by my fate.
They walk beside me always,
                          shadowing wholeheartedly —
Existing as a duality, both apart from,
                         and a part of me.

These ghosts have taught me very little...
                                    Aside from what I hate.
But, I've come to learn not to fear
                                    The forceful hands of fate.
For I shudder not at the thought of destiny,
                                    Or the inevitable in time...
Instead, I fear the eventuality of the choices
That were solely, and entirely, mine.

I fear that my will may be of enough influence, alone...
That fate itself may collapse beneath decisions like my own.
Or that I, myself, might be constructing
What destruction I will find
Among my shattered spirits and convictions,
In these depths to which I climb.

"Bad Luck: In a Wakeful Contradiction" is now available on Amazon in paperback!

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1691941182
rained-on parade Dec 2016
You can't hold the short arm of the clock
and call it yesterday.
This is what I've learned this year. I think we've all grown up in ways we don't want to admit.

And in the end we're always more lost than ever found. But isn't that what life is all about? Finding your way back to yourself.

Happy new year everyone.
I hope joy gets your address right this time.
Desmond the poet Aug 2018
It’s a good day the lord granted.
Everything seems so perfect.
Weather is sweet.
Sun’s shining.
What could go wrong?

…….Until…..

I felt you coming.
Like a hijacker through a rear view mirror.
How I wish for a false alarm.
Dear lord may this cup pass.
A moment to accept the inevitable arrived.

Oh my God! you seized me once again.
You came like a thief at midnight.
You hijacked my mind.
You exposed me to wrath of migraines.
Horrible 30 seconds in a 24hour day.
It's like a small stain on a white garment.

The cruelty of an epileptic seizure is inevitable.
https://m.facebook.com/EpilepsyandCpfriends
This an expression of how a 30seconds encounter with with an epileptic seizure can ruined the whole 24hour day.
Alyssa Underwood Jul 2017
As the redeemed of Jesus Christ, if we are ever to find true refreshment in our desert wanderings, it will be as we choose to dwell in God’s presence and in the newness of His daily mercies through faith. Our trials tend to force us, like pushy but invaluable friends, to learn hands-on what it is to live in the grace of the moment.

We live in the grace of the moment by continually recognizing both the immense need and the immense blessing of each moment (by developing a conscious and habitual attitude that says, “I am so desperately needy AND I am so abundantly blessed.”) and by relying on the Holy Spirit to teach us exactly how to reconcile the two. This happens as we first learn to live in the reality of the eternal, for it's an ever-present awareness of eternity that liberates us to receive every present moment with thankfulness and live it to the fullest, without setting up false expectations for it or worrying about the next.

When we are convinced that our life is hidden with Christ and He alone is the Prize, that this world is not our home and we are simply on assignment here, and that our pain and failures are only temporary but, with His redemption, the beauty and wisdom to be gained from them are eternal, we are set free from living in the regret of yesterday or in the fear of tomorrow. We can instead live in the blessing of the right now which fully meets the need of the right now because both need and blessing are gifts from the Father to get us ready for eternity and to meet our Bridegroom face to face. We have need of nothing but Him and His grace, and His fullness dwells in us.

The life lived in the grace of the moment is the life absolutely surrendered to the reality of God’s wisdom, God’s character and God’s sovereignty over it, for in entrusting ourselves to those, we acknowledge that He has a set and planned purpose for our lives, that it is good, and that He is powerful enough to carry it to completion. His wisdom assures us that He has always had in mind, down to the smallest details, exactly what He is doing with us; His character, that His heart is ever faithful toward us; and His sovereignty, that His directing arm cannot be shaken or thwarted. They reveal to us explicitly that He loves us with all of His mind and heart and strength, and in that knowledge we find perfect rest. As beloved children we know that we will be taken care of without having to know how it will happen or what it will look like.

In our helplessness we can simply look up to Him, reach out for Him and cry to Him in humility and thanksgiving, for our God cannot resist eyes and arms and hearts doing that. He always picks up and holds close to Himself those who long for Him. We may think that what we most desire are answers and perfectly successful plans and reasonable control over our lives, but what our souls crave is comfort and intimacy and love, and we can have those the instant we fully surrender to His embrace. He may sometimes hide His face from our “Why?”s but never from our “Hold me!” cries.

If we mistakenly suppose this life to be about this life, we will miss the present grace for fretting over and fighting for all the blessings we don’t have or fearing that those we do will be lost, until we find that they have become an unbearable millstone around our necks. If we pin our hope on anything in this temporary world it will be no stronger than that—a mere pin, easily pulled out and easily broken when life weighs too heavily upon it.

Enduring hope can only be based on God’s absolute promises given to us in His Word, not on our own expectations or wishes or impressions of how things ought to be. Enduring hope lets go of everything that can be lost to take hold of everything that cannot, and in doing so is actually able to squeeze the sweetest nectar out of those released and perishable blessings so that even their losses, though painful, do not leave a bitter aftertaste. For it’s often in the loss of a thing that its worth to us becomes most precious, and by letting it go with grace we can best savor its purest delights.

Realizing that the pain runs so deep only because the beauty ran so deep and that without it having once touched us we wouldn’t now know the emptiness of its loss, our grief will eventually turn to thankfulness that it ever touched us at all, and we will be left awed by the mystery of its haunting. There's a peculiar kind of beauty that can only be experienced with the innate knowledge that the moment is fleeting, and the most intense beauty can only be seen in the presence of both light and shadows.

The ability to enjoy our tangible blessings is surely heightened by the conviction that they are not ours to possess, by the acceptance that their loss is inevitable, and by the understanding that they were never meant to satisfy. For the enjoyment, then, will be absent the tainting dread, the taking for granted, and the twisted expectations which so easily and often mar our earthly pleasures. We will relish what we’ve been given today but recognize it may very well be gone tomorrow, and even in that uncertainty we will find a contented peace, for in every loss there lurks a hidden blessing, and all that really matters can never be lost to us. It is just as important to be a good steward of our losses as it is of our more obvious blessings, for the beauty that comes from nobly and graciously accepting loss far exceeds any tangible beauty that can be taken.

Knowing that we belong to another time and place and that this one is only meant to lead us there, like the charming towns one passes through on the way to a better destination, we will take in the sights with wonder and delight but keep traveling on toward our true home. For these sights, though tantalizing, are like mere slivers of light from a crack under the door compared to the glory to be found in God’s Presence. But when received as personal gifts of His grace, they become to us a stage precisely and delicately set by a Lover to attract the attention of His beloved, to show off His greatness and show forth His beauty to win her heart, and our hearts indeed are won.

To live in the grace of the moment is to keep looking to Jesus—to Jesus’ feet to lay our burdens down, to Jesus’ arms to be held securely, to Jesus’ hands to receive all we need, and to Jesus’ face to know our only sure hope and hearts’ true desire.


*Lord Jesus, merciful and all-sufficient One, in every need, small or great, tangible or intangible, give me the discernment to discover Your extravagant gifts of grace, the wisdom to receive them, the eagerness to open them and the passion to cherish them well. Give me eyes to see and a heart to fully enjoy with gratitude each blessing You have prepared for me today, for this very moment, and may I thrill to Your every advance of love.
~~~

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."
~ Colossians 3:1-4

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding..."
~ Ephesians 1:3-8

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness."
~ 2 Peter 1:3

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."
~ Colossians 2:6-7

"Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
    for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is Your faithfulness.
I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for Him.'
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him,
    to the one who seeks Him;
it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the LORD."
~ Lamentations 3:22-26

"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
    my hope comes from Him."
~ Psalm 62:5

"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
~ Romans 8:18

"Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess."
~ Hebrews 3:1
petalsofhope Nov 2013
I love you on sunny days
when the radiant sun enlighten the earth
I love you on rainy days
when drops of drizzle pour from above
I love you in the morning
when the rays beam through the window
I love you at night time
when the moon sings lullaby for the stars

I love you in the summer
when waves crash feets on the beach
I love you in the spring
when birds greet the blooming tots
I love you in the autumn
when brown leaves gracefully touch the ground
I love you in the winter
when a cup of hot chocolate is bliss

no matter what season
nor what weather
without fear
without expectations
this feeling
my love,
is inevitable
Madisen Kuhn Jan 2015
it’s so frustrating because i know you wanted to be with me, on those days you drove almost an hour each way to see me and you kissed me so often and held me so tight and always pulled me closer and i could feel your eyes on me when i wasn’t looking, and we spent day after day like this, just being together and pretending that time could stand still, but at the same time, i feel like it was all just something for you to do while you were home, even though you deny it. i remember starting to tear up one afternoon with my head on your chest while you slept, because i knew it was just a matter of time till this was just a memory. i can’t picture you actually missing me, i can’t imagine you actually wishing i hadn’t said i was done with grey and in between. i feel like i’m so insignificant to you. like you have no feelings, like you couldn’t care less, this is just life, people come and go. and i know that, i know this is just life, and that people come and go, but it hurts that it’d never cross your mind to ask me to stay, that i was fun while i lasted, that you never wanted to make me yours. i’ll fade soon. i want to matter more to you. you’re a thinker, i’m a feeler, you hate that i’m so black and white. but i’m selfish and i want 3am texts that you can’t stop thinking about me and that you need to see me again soon. but that’s not who you are. and it’s unfair of me to want you to feel that way when you don’t. and it’s really okay, because if i extended my hand to you and you took it, i don’t think we would’ve gotten very far anyway. i loved being so close to you, but i’m excited to hold someone’s hand who doesn’t want to let go, to kiss someone who wants to kiss me forever, to not be anticipating an inevitable end, to be able to trust someone fully with my heart, to have someone that wants to hold it. and i don’t need that, i don’t need someone, i don’t need anyone. but if one day it’s what’s meant to be, i’ll let it be. i don’t want to be careless with my heart again. i don’t know why things happen the way they do, and i don’t regret you for a second, and i still think the world of you, but i’m too emotional and i fall too deep to give that much of myself again to someone who never asked for any of it in the first place.
Madisen Kuhn Jul 2013
if you told my heart to beat
it would
but not because you told it to
and if you told me to love you
i would
but not because you told me to
ryan Nov 2015
Some things are inevitable,
Like the sun slipping,
Everyday into the shadows,
So the moon can rise and shine,
For the night,
Some things,
Like the sea,
Eventually reaching the shore,
No matter how many times,
She tries to float away,
Some things,
Like a love that was written in stone,
Before the lovers knew what love was about,
And some people (like me),
Stand at a crossroads,
Knowing that some things are inevitable,
Knowing that some things,
Are never meant to be
Dondaycee Jul 2018
I once heard of name,
Am I death?
Because I never heard of it twice,
I never played the game,
I left it to the rest,
I don’t think it’s right that even the dead lose their life,
What is a legacy, if summarized,
Where’s the integrity if gun aside,
Hearing the melodies of summer nights,
Hennessey and jealousy mixing; some will die,
Memory was therapy, now it is Cherokee,
Longevity became cellularity, no longer a friend to prosperity because the scars attached reiterated a son cry,
This all started with a name,
If I’m escaping parliament, how is it logical to feel obligated to my last?
I tried to explain this to my class,
But I wasn’t named “teacher”,
Instead; a preacher,
And I Practiced what I expressed so that part of me; in the past,
Pardon me for showing class,
I did it because of past,
They taught me to see trash,
I taught me to see the math,
They measured success with material, to validate time,
I expressed choice, I measured it by what constituted the spiritual to validate mind,
These structures are constituted by thoughts that no longer serves a purpose,
With all this baggage, it’s inevitable to replace our self,
I feel innovative because I express what we forgot, they act like they never heard of this,
All this action and acting… it’s inevitable to mistake ourselves, un-appreciate, and deviate to a state in which we hate our self,
Personally speaking, I don’t take advice from people less successful to me,
Your thoughts aren’t medicinal if the archetypes that are habitual aren’t transmuting from distressful to a state in which you are happy to be,
That advice just isn’t attractive to me,
It’s more like I’m back tracking to find the root cause of what’s blinding your perception so that I can heal your expression by removing the thought of neglection and oppression so that you are able to think free,
And I don’t mind…
In the process, I’m judged and crucified,
I’ll reiterate; my intentions are to love and unify,
We’re stagnant because of choice,
If there’s silence in the voice, I throw a nudge to refine, that’s freedom for define, I’m bringing the awareness of choice so that it’s possible to decide on what we personally do with life,
I was stabbed in the back and forgave that,
I was stabbed again and almost resorted to my decision making tactics from way back,
Then came another stabbing that had me lying on the floor,
I got up, but couldn’t find my way back,
Then came a love, she needed an eye,
She took that and saw her way out, I let her go,
Leaning on a wall, I bumped into another,
I gave her my other because she’s a passenger; hetero,
Love comes in trinities; currently dependent on sound,
It was all I had to give; then debt arose,
The next love that came just wanted to hear her name,
I chanted Satchitanada, and that became a death note,
In trials and tribulations I resorted to love and nurturement,
I call this an understanding,
I created this path, there was no one to follow in this century,
If you can’t comprehend that then there’s no possible way for you to understand me,
I never had a plan B, I was dependent on faith,
Independent from wave, I road the waves,
I had to experience what others had experienced, and had to remember myself along the way if I ever wanted to see some type of change,
I played the game and had to retain the focus of me, when I attained the focus to see, all this weight pilling, I was losing my ability to breathe; I was getting hostile,  frustrated, thinking about choosing to lose my ability to breathe,
And it’s because I solidified the W to attract enough attention to reiterate me, if I died I’d be apart of the past with the others; they’d appreciate me, saying my name, expressing a memory lane that would bring change the moment you speak…my name and that’s change,
My arrogance seeks credit, convincing ourselves that we’re victims is easy to me,  
It was difficult for me to exist in this world,
That’s why I decided to live,
That’s how I kept my lid,
That’s why I continue to give,
If I’m bringing truth and love, then this awareness becomes easy to see,
I don’t care about no dollar *****,
I don’t care about your opinions on Donald Trump and Obama; Mister,
I care about our species and our galaxies picture,
I care about the success in reaching the state of nirvana and the help from seven sister’s ,
The Pleiades,
Believe in me,
I heard of a name once,
Does this make me dead?
If so, then my rebirth was captured in everything you just read…
Notice the name.
when Whitman wrote, "I sing the body electric"

I know what he
meant
I know what he
wanted:

to be completely alive every moment
in spite of the inevitable.

we can't cheat death but we can make it
work so hard
that when it does take
us

it will have known a victory just as
perfect as
ours.
Timothy Sep 2012
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
         The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
         And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimm'ring landscape on the sight,
         And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
         And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r
         The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such, as wand'ring near her secret bow'r,
         ****** her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
         Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
         The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
         The swallow twitt'ring from the straw-built shed,
The ****'s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
         No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
         Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
         Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
         Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
         How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
         Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
         The short and simple annals of the poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
         And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour.
         The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,
         If Mem'ry o'er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where thro' the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
         The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn or animated bust
         Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
         Or Flatt'ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
         Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
         Or wak'd to ecstasy the living lyre.

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
         Rich with the spoils of time did ne'er unroll;
Chill Penury repress'd their noble rage,
         And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
         The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen,
         And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
         The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
         Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.

Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
         The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
         And read their hist'ry in a nation's eyes,

Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib'd alone
         Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin'd;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
         And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
         To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
         With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
         Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
         They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Yet ev'n these bones from insult to protect,
         Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
         Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd muse,
         The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
         That teach the rustic moralist to die.

For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
         This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
         Nor cast one longing, ling'ring look behind?

On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
         Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
Ev'n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
         Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires.

For thee, who mindful of th' unhonour'd Dead
         Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
         Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,

Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
         "Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away
         To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.

"There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
         That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
         And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

"Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
         Mutt'ring his wayward fancies he would rove,
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
         Or craz'd with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.

"One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,
         Along the heath and near his fav'rite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
         Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

"The next with dirges due in sad array
         Slow thro' the church-way path we saw him borne.
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay,
         Grav'd on the stone beneath yon aged thorn."

THE EPITAPH

Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
       A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth,
       And Melancholy mark'd him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
       Heav'n did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Mis'ry all he had, a tear,
       He gain'd from Heav'n ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
       Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
(There they alike in trembling hope repose)
       The ***** of his Father and his God.

~Thomas Gray 1716—1771~
The distant hollow of the high mountain pass
swallows the setting sun as it steals away southbound
behind the coastal mountain's tangerine sunset hued silhouettes
Mulberry plashed shadows pointing northward
across the evergreens outstretched dimming,
beneath the waning fade of each fleeting eventide

Sundown ebbing asunder the wafting daylight,
each gloaming of the day, helplessly a moment sooner past,
transfixed further south beyond yesterday's passing azure
The lazy days of summer escape unbounded,
nomadic as the sea I've seen sail away before;
evanescent as the beauty of the bloom summer days beheld
and the memory of the fragrance they exhale

The nebulous weight of the gravity is consciously denied
by the truths a human heart beholds
A moment’s epiphany afflicts like a rogue wave in a calm sea;
the only thing my heart ever wanted remains out of reach

Everything my heart needs consciously surrendering
to the poignant passing moment's beauty,
the falling sun at distance sets more suddenly now
Lost in the undeniable certainty
life's imminent season's change

Eyes drawn stubbornly from presence to a sky so far away,
knowing there'll be no restitution for the welling sense of loss...
A bitter sweet song mummers in the silence of the absorbing spell,
summer's sun stained pages of watermarked soul scribbles,
time tattooed reparation for the indelible ache
of a harsh grey winter loneliness

Perhaps too familiar, this whelming Déjà vu
that tears my soul;     that tugs at these roots
but cannot sever their sacred grasp
But for now, eyes fixed to the sun's
inevitable tightening tether hence —
to wear weary each fraying thread's  impending break

Each sunset leans a deeper angle southward
as it slips down through the firwood shadows;
illuminating other faraway latitudes
far beyond the distant horizon skies

The preordained continuum unfolding what will be ...


someone you used to know ... September 11, 2017 ... 7:30 PM
PoserPersona Sep 2018
A confident man feels not a need to speak
on all things with which he does not agree
Though in the proper time and place
he is not afraid to assert his way

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

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

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

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

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

On his confidence, he does not ponder,
as neither he or anyone wonders
of whether he truly possesses it.
We know it.
Pax Mar 2017

From time to time
I feel blue
and cook my own stew.
Its bland and
taste good enough
for my stomach.

I knew from the start
that my cooking
isn't really that great
nor it's appetising.
Atleast
my milk is
sweet.
I'm not fond of sodas
dislike the fact that
it boils my
stomach.

Food, for now
they're within
reach, though
must someday
will come -
starvation is
inevitable



I cooked up a metaphor...
My life in dual meaning.
Sarah Green Jun 2014
You cannot hide from what is to come
Whether you know it's coming or not

But to know not of what is to come
Is a true blessing,
As knowing your fate
Leaves only space to wait

And waiting, is not living
But rather an inescapable torture

You cannot hide from the inevitable.
daniela Apr 2015
you sent me a love letter, a message in a bottle
but when i cracked it open i cut up my hands.
i guess i’m the same way;
i wrote you a love song
but i forgot i didn’t know how to sing,
so i yelled the words at your window like
i was flinging pebbles and you told me to put down
my boombox because i was going to wake up
the whole **** neighborhood
with my teenage angst,
my painfully naive i love you-s.
i think my heart is too loud for suburb lawns
and white picket fences.
and i guess that’s the trouble with us;
we were always
controlled chaos, a dormant volcano
and all the kids counted down to the eruption
like they were waiting for the other shoe to drop  
and numbered their calendars for a date
that should’ve been on a unmarked grave.
and we’ve just got short fuses,
kisses and bruises
because when someone is the pin to your grenade
when someone is the oil spill to your wildfire
you’ve always got to be wary of explosions.
and we were always going to ***** each other over,
we were always going to
burn too bright, burn out too fast.
because i was just a pretty girl in a sundress,
and this is just a memory you’ve been trying to repress
hand clenched in the fabric of us,
so determined to not let the inevitable happen on schedule.  
and i love you so i’ll ruin you, it’s inevitable
and i love you so you’ll leave, it’s inevitable
and i love you so it’s not going to work out like i want it to.
it’s just... inevitable.
there’s no avoiding it the future unless
you take your own away.
sometimes i have to remind myself five times a day
that destruction, that implosion,
that falling apart isn’t as poetic as i think it is.
and now, i’m biting my tongue to keep from saying
baby, bring home the wreckage
maybe there’s still something there for us to salvage
and if we're a sinking ship, i'll go down with you
and if we’re doomed, i’ll be ****** with you.
because i’m still thinking there’s an off chance,
because i’m still thinking that maybe if you still...
i’m still thinking that all this time
i was just wishing on the wrong star and there’s still a chance,
there’s still wishes to waste
and coins to throw in the fountain
and eyelashes to count on.
but you know somebody once told me
that the stars aren’t really there, we’re just seeing
footprints of where they used to be.
we’re always looking a galactic graveyard, a sky littered
with the star-studded remains of supernovas.  
always thought you were more of a black hole than a star,
but maybe there’s some truth to every cliche;
i see everywhere you used to be clearly,
i can see your presence in every absence.
because i miss you terribly
and i know i’m not supposed to.
but i still wonder what you’re thinking about sometimes.
i still wonder about the stars
you’re looking at sometimes.
i still wonder if we see
the same constellations
anymore.
E Townsend Jan 2016
Lying makes a placeholder for the inevitable truth. The lie will become the truth, as a rectangle can be squeezed back into a square.
WS Warner Oct 2011
Static, memories
Emanating, separating  
The postcard- perfect
Still life speaks
From its storied past.
Invisible, to drift
Among  
The florid aphorisms,
Ending in
Deleterious debris,
Aftermath of
The inevitable.

Empty room, echo hollow
Tabula rasa -
Carpet clean, quite candid in it's
Return to callow.
Consciousness athirst,
Absorbing phenomena
Effervesce, inquisitive
Ideas foment,
Sealed inside a question.
The what -
Against the narrow
Scarcity,
And fatigue of should.

A tender malleable
Youth,
Betrayed, under
An assumed decorum -
Residue of truth,
Flattened emotion
Privations of a self
Unheard;
Misplaced affirmation,
Buried pathologies  
In architecture
Fear manifests symbolic.

Harboring apathy
The lunacy of pious
Pedigree,
Import contagion,
Fetters of benignity
Doubt and indecision  
Into ******
Cognizance,
Fallow spirits
Seep fumes of decay,
Credulity bleeds a human stain.

Social edifice, inoculated  
Heirs of neurosis;
Palpable, sensual pain
And transience, though
Tacit - remain,
Our haunted history,
The blind hyperbole,
Maudlin
Forbearance, this haven,
A portrait
Of immaculate condition,
Nurtured with precision
Under sterling pretense.

Provincial domicile -
House beautiful,
Savage irony -
Unseen treasure
Innocence unabridged,
Faces, tiny creations;
Compliant vessels
Wounded,  
While modernism murmurs  
Its promise.

Brave New World,
In a late model sedan,
Domestic ranch on a
Corner lot,
Suburban natives,
Silence means security.
The misunderstood
Speak louder -
Consumerism beneath    
Unvarnished ambition,
Never could
Repair the brokenness within...

© 2011 & 2018 W. S. Warner
High on a throne of royal state, which far
Outshone the wealth or Ormus and of Ind,
Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand
Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold,
Satan exalted sat, by merit raised
To that bad eminence; and, from despair
Thus high uplifted beyond hope, aspires
Beyond thus high, insatiate to pursue
Vain war with Heaven; and, by success untaught,
His proud imaginations thus displayed:—
  “Powers and Dominions, Deities of Heaven!—
For, since no deep within her gulf can hold
Immortal vigour, though oppressed and fallen,
I give not Heaven for lost: from this descent
Celestial Virtues rising will appear
More glorious and more dread than from no fall,
And trust themselves to fear no second fate!—
Me though just right, and the fixed laws of Heaven,
Did first create your leader—next, free choice
With what besides in council or in fight
Hath been achieved of merit—yet this loss,
Thus far at least recovered, hath much more
Established in a safe, unenvied throne,
Yielded with full consent. The happier state
In Heaven, which follows dignity, might draw
Envy from each inferior; but who here
Will envy whom the highest place exposes
Foremost to stand against the Thunderer’s aim
Your bulwark, and condemns to greatest share
Of endless pain? Where there is, then, no good
For which to strive, no strife can grow up there
From faction: for none sure will claim in Hell
Precedence; none whose portion is so small
Of present pain that with ambitious mind
Will covet more! With this advantage, then,
To union, and firm faith, and firm accord,
More than can be in Heaven, we now return
To claim our just inheritance of old,
Surer to prosper than prosperity
Could have assured us; and by what best way,
Whether of open war or covert guile,
We now debate. Who can advise may speak.”
  He ceased; and next him Moloch, sceptred king,
Stood up—the strongest and the fiercest Spirit
That fought in Heaven, now fiercer by despair.
His trust was with th’ Eternal to be deemed
Equal in strength, and rather than be less
Cared not to be at all; with that care lost
Went all his fear: of God, or Hell, or worse,
He recked not, and these words thereafter spake:—
  “My sentence is for open war. Of wiles,
More unexpert, I boast not: them let those
Contrive who need, or when they need; not now.
For, while they sit contriving, shall the rest—
Millions that stand in arms, and longing wait
The signal to ascend—sit lingering here,
Heaven’s fugitives, and for their dwelling-place
Accept this dark opprobrious den of shame,
The prison of his ryranny who reigns
By our delay? No! let us rather choose,
Armed with Hell-flames and fury, all at once
O’er Heaven’s high towers to force resistless way,
Turning our tortures into horrid arms
Against the Torturer; when, to meet the noise
Of his almighty engine, he shall hear
Infernal thunder, and, for lightning, see
Black fire and horror shot with equal rage
Among his Angels, and his throne itself
Mixed with Tartarean sulphur and strange fire,
His own invented torments. But perhaps
The way seems difficult, and steep to scale
With upright wing against a higher foe!
Let such bethink them, if the sleepy drench
Of that forgetful lake benumb not still,
That in our porper motion we ascend
Up to our native seat; descent and fall
To us is adverse. Who but felt of late,
When the fierce foe hung on our broken rear
Insulting, and pursued us through the Deep,
With what compulsion and laborious flight
We sunk thus low? Th’ ascent is easy, then;
Th’ event is feared! Should we again provoke
Our stronger, some worse way his wrath may find
To our destruction, if there be in Hell
Fear to be worse destroyed! What can be worse
Than to dwell here, driven out from bliss, condemned
In this abhorred deep to utter woe!
Where pain of unextinguishable fire
Must exercise us without hope of end
The vassals of his anger, when the scourge
Inexorably, and the torturing hour,
Calls us to penance? More destroyed than thus,
We should be quite abolished, and expire.
What fear we then? what doubt we to incense
His utmost ire? which, to the height enraged,
Will either quite consume us, and reduce
To nothing this essential—happier far
Than miserable to have eternal being!—
Or, if our substance be indeed divine,
And cannot cease to be, we are at worst
On this side nothing; and by proof we feel
Our power sufficient to disturb his Heaven,
And with perpetual inroads to alarm,
Though inaccessible, his fatal throne:
Which, if not victory, is yet revenge.”
  He ended frowning, and his look denounced
Desperate revenge, and battle dangerous
To less than gods. On th’ other side up rose
Belial, in act more graceful and humane.
A fairer person lost not Heaven; he seemed
For dignity composed, and high exploit.
But all was false and hollow; though his tongue
Dropped manna, and could make the worse appear
The better reason, to perplex and dash
Maturest counsels: for his thoughts were low—
To vice industrious, but to nobler deeds
Timorous and slothful. Yet he pleased the ear,
And with persuasive accent thus began:—
  “I should be much for open war, O Peers,
As not behind in hate, if what was urged
Main reason to persuade immediate war
Did not dissuade me most, and seem to cast
Ominous conjecture on the whole success;
When he who most excels in fact of arms,
In what he counsels and in what excels
Mistrustful, grounds his courage on despair
And utter dissolution, as the scope
Of all his aim, after some dire revenge.
First, what revenge? The towers of Heaven are filled
With armed watch, that render all access
Impregnable: oft on the bodering Deep
Encamp their legions, or with obscure wing
Scout far and wide into the realm of Night,
Scorning surprise. Or, could we break our way
By force, and at our heels all Hell should rise
With blackest insurrection to confound
Heaven’s purest light, yet our great Enemy,
All incorruptible, would on his throne
Sit unpolluted, and th’ ethereal mould,
Incapable of stain, would soon expel
Her mischief, and purge off the baser fire,
Victorious. Thus repulsed, our final hope
Is flat despair: we must exasperate
Th’ Almighty Victor to spend all his rage;
And that must end us; that must be our cure—
To be no more. Sad cure! for who would lose,
Though full of pain, this intellectual being,
Those thoughts that wander through eternity,
To perish rather, swallowed up and lost
In the wide womb of uncreated Night,
Devoid of sense and motion? And who knows,
Let this be good, whether our angry Foe
Can give it, or will ever? How he can
Is doubtful; that he never will is sure.
Will he, so wise, let loose at once his ire,
Belike through impotence or unaware,
To give his enemies their wish, and end
Them in his anger whom his anger saves
To punish endless? ‘Wherefore cease we, then?’
Say they who counsel war; ‘we are decreed,
Reserved, and destined to eternal woe;
Whatever doing, what can we suffer more,
What can we suffer worse?’ Is this, then, worst—
Thus sitting, thus consulting, thus in arms?
What when we fled amain, pursued and struck
With Heaven’s afflicting thunder, and besought
The Deep to shelter us? This Hell then seemed
A refuge from those wounds. Or when we lay
Chained on the burning lake? That sure was worse.
What if the breath that kindled those grim fires,
Awaked, should blow them into sevenfold rage,
And plunge us in the flames; or from above
Should intermitted vengeance arm again
His red right hand to plague us? What if all
Her stores were opened, and this firmament
Of Hell should spout her cataracts of fire,
Impendent horrors, threatening hideous fall
One day upon our heads; while we perhaps,
Designing or exhorting glorious war,
Caught in a fiery tempest, shall be hurled,
Each on his rock transfixed, the sport and prey
Or racking whirlwinds, or for ever sunk
Under yon boiling ocean, wrapt in chains,
There to converse with everlasting groans,
Unrespited, unpitied, unreprieved,
Ages of hopeless end? This would be worse.
War, therefore, open or concealed, alike
My voice dissuades; for what can force or guile
With him, or who deceive his mind, whose eye
Views all things at one view? He from Heaven’s height
All these our motions vain sees and derides,
Not more almighty to resist our might
Than wise to frustrate all our plots and wiles.
Shall we, then, live thus vile—the race of Heaven
Thus trampled, thus expelled, to suffer here
Chains and these torments? Better these than worse,
By my advice; since fate inevitable
Subdues us, and omnipotent decree,
The Victor’s will. To suffer, as to do,
Our strength is equal; nor the law unjust
That so ordains. This was at first resolved,
If we were wise, against so great a foe
Contending, and so doubtful what might fall.
I laugh when those who at the spear are bold
And venturous, if that fail them, shrink, and fear
What yet they know must follow—to endure
Exile, or igominy, or bonds, or pain,
The sentence of their Conqueror. This is now
Our doom; which if we can sustain and bear,
Our Supreme Foe in time may much remit
His anger, and perhaps, thus far removed,
Not mind us not offending, satisfied
With what is punished; whence these raging fires
Will slacken, if his breath stir not their flames.
Our purer essence then will overcome
Their noxious vapour; or, inured, not feel;
Or, changed at length, and to the place conformed
In temper and in nature, will receive
Familiar the fierce heat; and, void of pain,
This horror will grow mild, this darkness light;
Besides what hope the never-ending flight
Of future days may bring, what chance, what change
Worth waiting—since our present lot appears
For happy though but ill, for ill not worst,
If we procure not to ourselves more woe.”
  Thus Belial, with words clothed in reason’s garb,
Counselled ignoble ease and peaceful sloth,
Not peace; and after him thus Mammon spake:—
  “Either to disenthrone the King of Heaven
We war, if war be best, or to regain
Our own right lost. Him to unthrone we then
May hope, when everlasting Fate shall yield
To fickle Chance, and Chaos judge the strife.
The former, vain to hope, argues as vain
The latter; for what place can be for us
Within Heaven’s bound, unless Heaven’s Lord supreme
We overpower? Suppose he should relent
And publish grace to all, on promise made
Of new subjection; with what eyes could we
Stand in his presence humble, and receive
Strict laws imposed, to celebrate his throne
With warbled hyms, and to his Godhead sing
Forced hallelujahs, while he lordly sits
Our envied sovereign, and his altar breathes
Ambrosial odours and ambrosial flowers,
Our servile offerings? This must be our task
In Heaven, this our delight. How wearisome
Eternity so spent in worship paid
To whom we hate! Let us not then pursue,
By force impossible, by leave obtained
Unacceptable, though in Heaven, our state
Of splendid vassalage; but rather seek
Our own good from ourselves, and from our own
Live to ourselves, though in this vast recess,
Free and to none accountable, preferring
Hard liberty before the easy yoke
Of servile pomp. Our greatness will appear
Then most conspicuous when great things of small,
Useful of hurtful, prosperous of adverse,
We can create, and in what place soe’er
Thrive under evil, and work ease out of pain
Through labour and endurance. This deep world
Of darkness do we dread? How oft amidst
Thick clouds and dark doth Heaven’s all-ruling Sire
Choose to reside, his glory unobscured,
And with the majesty of darkness round
Covers his throne, from whence deep thunders roar.
Mustering their rage, and Heaven resembles Hell!
As he our darkness, cannot we his light
Imitate when we please? This desert soil
Wants not her hidden lustre, gems and gold;
Nor want we skill or art from whence to raise
Magnificence; and what can Heaven show more?
Our torments also may, in length of time,
Become our elements, these piercing fires
As soft as now severe, our temper changed
Into their temper; which must needs remove
The sensible of pain. All things invite
To peaceful counsels, and the settled state
Of order, how in safety best we may
Compose our present evils, with regard
Of what we are and where, dismissing quite
All thoughts of war. Ye have what I advise.”
  He scarce had finished, when such murmur filled
Th’ assembly as when hollow rocks retain
The sound of blustering winds, which all night long
Had roused the sea, now with hoarse cadence lull
Seafaring men o’erwatched, whose bark by chance
Or pinnace, anchors in a craggy bay
After the tempest. Such applause was heard
As Mammon ended, and his sentence pleased,
Advising peace: for such another field
They dreaded worse than Hell; so much the fear
Of thunder and the sword of Michael
Wrought still within them; and no less desire
To found this nether empire, which might rise,
By policy and long process of time,
In emulation opposite to Heaven.
Which when Beelzebub perceived—than whom,
Satan except, none higher sat—with grave
Aspect he rose, and in his rising seemed
A pillar of state. Deep on his front engraven
Deliberation sat, and public care;
And princely counsel in his face yet shone,
Majestic, though in ruin. Sage he stood
With Atlantean shoulders, fit to bear
The weight of mightiest monarchies; his look
Drew audience and attention still as night
Or summer’s noontide air, while thus he spake:—
  “Thrones and Imperial Powers, Offspring of Heaven,
Ethereal Virtues! or these titles now
Must we renounce, and, changing style, be called
Princes of Hell? for so the popular vote
Inclines—here to continue, and build up here
A growing empire; doubtless! while we dream,
And know not that the King of Heaven hath doomed
This place our dungeon, not our safe retreat
Beyond his potent arm, to live exempt
From Heaven’s high jurisdiction, in new league
Banded against his throne, but to remain
In strictest *******, though thus far removed,
Under th’ inevitable curb, reserved
His captive multitude. For he, to be sure,
In height or depth, still first and last will reign
Sole king, and of his kingdom lose no part
By our revolt, but over Hell extend
His empire, and with iron sceptre rule
Us here, as with his golden those in Heaven.
What sit we then projecting peace and war?
War hath determined us and foiled with loss
Irreparable; terms of peace yet none
Vouchsafed or sought; for what peace will be given
To us enslaved, but custody severe,
And stripes and arbitrary punishment
Inflicted? and what peace can we return,
But, to our power, hostility and hate,
Untamed reluctance, and revenge, though slow,
Yet ever plotting how the Conqueror least
May reap his conquest, and may least rejoice
In doing what we most in suffering feel?
Nor will occasion want, nor shall we need
With dangerous expedition to invade
Heaven, whose high walls fear no assault or siege,
Or ambush from the Deep. What if we find
Some easier enterprise? There is a place
(If ancient and prophetic fame in Heaven
Err not)—another World, the happy seat
Of some new race, called Man, about this time
To be created like to us, though less
In power and excellence, but favoured more
Of him who rules above; so was his will
Pronounced among the Gods, and by an oath
That shook Heaven’s whole circumference confirmed.
Thither let us bend all our thoughts, to learn
What creatures there inhabit, of what mould
Or substance, how endued, and what their power
And where their weakness: how attempted best,
By force of subtlety. Though Heaven be shut,
And Heaven’s high Arbitrator sit secure
In his own strength, this place may lie exposed,
The utmost border of his kingdom, left
To their defence who hold it: here, perhaps,
Some advantageous act may be achieved
By sudden onset—either with Hell-fire
To waste his whole creation, or possess
All as our own, and drive, as we were driven,
The puny habitants; or, if not drive,
****** them to our party, that their God
May prove their foe, and with repenting hand
Abolish his own works. This would surpass
Common revenge, and interrupt his joy
In our confusion, and our joy upraise
In his disturbance; when his darling sons,
Hurled headlong to partake with us, shall curse
Their frail original, and faded bliss—
Faded so soon! Advise if this be worth
Attempting, or to sit in darkness here
Hatching vain empires.” Thus beelzebub
Pleaded his devilish counsel—first devised
By Satan, and in part proposed: for whence,
But

— The End —