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Em Glass Apr 2013
it wasn't snowing yet, but they'd told us it would.
probably I said something infantile, about how
I could smell it, the frostiness of snowflakes in the
air, because you smiled that knowing smile of yours,
like you were an adult and i was a child and you
didn't have the heart to take my innocence away.

that look always made my heart smile, sadly, and
it also drove me up a wall, partly because it made
me want to hug you close and pity you the
burden of assumed moral superiority, and whisper
that you, too were a child. but mostly because you
were right— I clung to my naiveté while you, you
had already had the good sense to push it away.
it followed you around with sad puppy eyes, but
you knew it and you kept it at arm's length.
you brave, brave soul.

when it did start to snow I wasn't surprised. you
were. you didn't say anything. we were in
a deserted school hallway, listening, removed
from the other kids' cries. we were
delighted too, but the others wanted to run home
early, and we knew the definition
of home better than they. and I can speak only for
myself but it seemed we both wanted only to stay
forever side by side, tucked away in our corner,
me reveling in the softness of love and friendship
and winter, you trying to be there with me but having
trouble leaving your mind, where that sad-eyed
puppy snapped at your heels. it whimpered
but you held your own.

and slowly, we built up moments like this one.
we wallowed in each other and in the coziness
of cloudy days. we read good poetry and
heard good music and took photographs as we
discussed life from our  softer world.
there were moments of such pure white happiness
that they came full circle to being sad,
simply because I knew I would never be that
happy again, and I was not wrong, and I didn't
want to be. and we had
sad moments, too, never ever think I am not
happy to be sad with you.

and slowly, too, your innocence knew its
defeat, and sat obediently at your feet,
and we shared things.
but I was a child, and a weak one at that, and
God knew I was not as strong as you so she
gave me no great suffering to speak of, to
share with you. no way to reciprocate the
vulnerability you gave, and that in
itself was suffering for me.

I regret that I was not good at saying things.
that while
you had to be your own adult and push childhood
away, I clung hopelessly to mine as
I discovered me and watched it slip
from my small hands.

among the plethora of reasons I can give for
bitterly hating sunny days is the
way the sun slanted through the window and lit
up your eyes and swilled particles around
your face like fairy dust on the day you reached
out and pulled my lanyard over your own neck.
look, you said, content. almost proud.
I'm wearing a bit of you around my
neck,
and you wove it through your
sunlit fingers, eyes bright. you tugged on it,
lightly. that's what love does, it strangles
you. and we all want it.


and I gasped at the way that word sounded,
so harsh in such beautiful sunlight on such
a soft face. but I don't want to strangle
you
. I said that. thoughtlessly,
instinctively. I regret it every day. in that regard,
you gave me a strength, but it's no german shepherd—
you are so **** strong.

when your ache tugged and tugged at you,
tore you from reality, or brought you closer to it,
it slipped its finger into that lanyard knot. loosened it.
I could have reached out right then, as you had when you
pulled the sun-soaked string over your head, and
tightened it. tightened us. been a friend.

I didn't tug the knot. if you run.
when you run,
I know that two grown dogs
will follow after you, blocked
from the sun by your receding shadow.
Jennifer French Oct 2012
I know at night
Searching for your warmth,
You're always in arms reach,
but it feels so far.
You're an eternity away,
yet under the same sheet.
I simply roll closer,
Arms searching for skin.
Though it is dark,
Your silhouette is clear.
Briefly I hesitate,
Am I a comfort to you,
As you have become to me?
My arms close the gap.
Your skin it too warm,
My hands are too cold.
You sigh softly, content.
Our legs instinctively intertwine.
Then your hand closes around mine.
When did this become familiar?
Before I can really think,
I'm comforted by your touch.
Your breathing, so steady,
Matched by your heartbeat.
Then, without my consent,
Without my conscious present,
I begin dreaming.
murielle lemaire May 2014
coffee.
we meet at starbucks and i can almost pretend nothing changed until i feel the distance in your voice.
i am calm and quiet. i did not expect this
yet here i am sitting in front of you as you explain how you feel (a rarity).
and you and i are alike in more ways than i realized before.

cantalope.
flying through the young night air
i feel alive and free and happy again.
i meet theresa j hanson. dancer, 19, long thin hair and long thin body.
she says she's heard a lot about me and i am surprised and i like her very much (or my first impression anyways) even though you told me that one time that you had *** with her and other girls would probably instinctively hate her. but i can't. she's just so nice and anyways that *** had nothing to do with me.
she gives us cantalope and me ice water.

cigar smoke.
we go out on the little apartament porch and you smoke the cheap cigar, the kind your grandfather smokes. get a red solo cup for the ashes and i found an old ***** butter knife out here. and we sit. and unexpectedly you say can we start over. and im shocked(you've suprisde me so much tonight) but so grateful and of course we can. you blow smoke rings and when you say whooo are youuu i cannot help but think of alice in wonderland and you are the smoking catepillar who asks life's hard questions and am i alice or the queen or the mad hatter or lewis carroll

coming back.
we reinact a a scene as if we just met and i kiss you as if it's the first time and that is how you will remember me and my lips are cold and your mouth is full of smoke and the kiss is fire and ice it's a wonder we did not steam. something so you'll remember me{i will never forget} and i guess we'll figure out on the way.
Keith Collard May 2013
"When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples.”

― Stephen Crane, The Open Boat

The Ocean Divorce

He rowed away from the sinking hulk. The sky was black, the ocean was black; the rocks emerging out of the inky-eerily-smooth ocean like demonic alters were black. But the ocean nocturne had parts discernible from each other by the same necrotic nuance of a corpse : the calm undulating surface had the stretching wrinkles as if a horde of ***** were trying to break through the skin surface with their claws--that was the waterline; the newly risen rocks were organs, emitting horrible sounds; the sky was the color of a mattress soaked with a rotting corpse--glimpses of white between rotted blackness.  The ocean divorced these survivors from their cruise-ship, and be-told them " you should have went down with the ship." For now, they were with a new family, up from the depths.

They saw their way through the blackness by occasional lightning strikes, stalking the ocean surface for conductive flesh as if a tornado of fifty thousand volts was dancing sinuously with her feet together and her hips out. If the girl at the bow could keep silent, and stop sobbing every time she glanced at the lightning, the rower could steer clear of swimming survivors trying to swamp their hard bottom survivor’s boat. The people in the water were silent and clamored helplessly and spasmodically , as if they were lobsters with the first feeling of heat in a ***.
Patches of white specks in the sky opened up momentarily over the fast moving black clouds, then closed up like clams.  The temporary skylight mixed with the stalking lightning gave visibility in momentary bursts similar to  muzzle flash in a dark room. The rock organs emerging out of the ocean had no nuance and could only be seen by the screams of survivors, who had swam to them for safety. The screams from the newly emerged rocks made the screams of the ships seem like hymns even when the ship split in half and tilted up its two plates—bow and stern--and scooted the sliding passengers into the blazing fire in the fuel and engine rooms as clams in the pan.

A scraping sound over-ruled the screams, they were grounding out on something sharp. The man rowing pressed the oars with all his might and pushed off it, before the rising altar capsized them. In such proximity to the rock all he could hear was "clacking," almost like the rocks were puckering their lips to kiss them repeatedly as if they were babies--and they were just as helpless and lost.

There were four of them in the boat, and they had room for more, but adrenaline made their decisions now. The boat began spinning in circles, as it did a while before, the rip currents tasting them and letting them go. Every time this happened the sobbing women would cry " Oh my God....Oh my God." The man to her left would only grip the gunwhale with alacrity as if he was going to jump out into the ocean. He could not take it, more so than the youngish women, but he was silent about it. The other man, aside from the rower would only stare at the floor, blinking with every lap kissing the bottom of the boat: such a thin piece of wood, separating the devouring liquid blackness from them.

The rower was in a reptilian state, row row, blink, look, row, grit......but slowly he was coming to himself again, with one thought, his son: my son is out there. His son had went into a separate life boat when the stricken vessel was splitting on the giant pitch fork rock that stabbed out of a suddenly black ocean under a suddenly dark sky.

After the rower's shoulder blades completed their circuitous route, an image would appear, then dissipate with a start of another row. But that image was of the last time he had seen his son, before they got onto the cruise liner. They were on a saltwater river, on vacation down the Cape, he had scolded his son harshly for being a… he snapped out of it with the begining of the next row.

He rowed because he was the strongest, and that strength told him to row, for it will sustain his mental vitality at the cost of his physical strength; and by comparison, it was working. The girl to the right of him, was shaking staring at the gunwale, the two men to her left were almost catatonic.

None would look to the horizon of black on black. The lightening cast shadows of the tall rocks they passed on the bottom of the boats making all of them look away, but there was nowhere to look. One of the men, realizing what the rower realized, looked around into the distance, watching the lightening sizzle around the surface like a tornado, watching the lightening was frightening at first but took him away from the mental reflection which was black lightening snake dancing on his closed eye lids.

The Starer looked at that Rower, and without words communicated the first intelligible message among them: keep rowing.

The Sobber, curled up into a fetal postion at a ghastly sound coming from a rock, it was people...not screaming, but people mumbling, babbling, even laughing as if at a cocktail party. Strange.

They hit another current and started spinning rapidly in circles, and that's when the third man became the Babbler. It was like they were loaded like a pinball, wound back, then shot forward on the undulating uncertainty that was this sea that now had a complexion more poisonous than Buckthorn ink. The man pulled up his oars.

Laughs, moans, and ******* noises enveloped them on this real life haunted ocean ride. They all cowered down, they could not look, it was dizzying, like spinning on a ***** inducing amusement park ride. The rock shadows flared on the boat like a flip book of devouring dark monsters. They all hugged eachother.

The Rower, was the first to wake, and notice, the sky was light. He bounce his head up hoping to see society, but alas, no, but they have ran ashore on some rocks just inside a calm clear cove, inky breakers were behind them. A rock island, like a pipe *****, speckled white and black was ahead of them. Over the island, the sky was overcast and still. The Starer looked back beyond the subtle silent breakers, it was black, and the lightening still danced. He looked back to the island.

" We found shore, didn't we, let's go, row, row...." she sobbed.

The Babbler, looked over the side at the clear water. He couldn't tell if it was ten or twenty feet, common to all oceanic still water. The bottom was completely covered in shells of all kinds, but mostly black and white. It looked inviting, and tranquil, and uplifted the Babbler to the Talker.

" Let's go, I'll row if you want--"

The Rower put his oars back in the water without saying anything and rowed toward the ***** shaped island.

They closed, and the Starer said: " look's like it is getting shallower." Then the girl stopped her sobs, and became the ' Complainer."

" Can't you row any faster, what if we get ****** out again...."

The Starer motioned for her to stop, the Rower was responsible for getting them here, and he knew it, and didn't want to change their luck now.

They were a clam skip away from a jagged low lining shoreline that had piers of rock, with coves in between them the length of rowboats. A shark’s ****** grin would be the islands perimeter from an aerial view.

That's when the Starer noticed the cove floor. Every time the Rower rowed, it looked as if he scraped the bottom sea floor. It looked scored, the clam shells moved aside. He took his finger and put it into the water, skimming as the boat moved. He looked aft of his trail; there was a line on the sea floor following his finger. " Must be an optical illusion," he thought.

The bow cracked on the first barnacled rock on dry ground. Well it was not completely dry, it was moist rock and crevice, sharp and inhospitable. The Complainer got out in a hysterical manner, and fell after her second step. She twisted her ankle and skimmed her knee drawing blood. A deafening sound came, almost like it was distant but not; of a mast being broken slowly and painfully broken, the sound was almost on their shoulders but they looked way off to the horizon for the source; the inky breakers of demarcation from the previous location of screams was the only thing they saw. Drip drop noises of an imperceptible ebb was the only sound now, and the survivors welcomed it as they looked away from the necrotic breakers.

" What the hell was that?" the Babbler said rhetorically.

The Rower helped up the woman, and they pulled the boat aboard the jagged shore. " Let's find some level ground for a fire, and look around," he said and they all complied, none of them looking back towards the breakers and the darkness, and it is unfortunate that they didn't.

The island was barren, not even a cave to shelter them from a damp wind, not chilling but heat sapping. They found some sandy level ground and sat in exhaustion.

" What is happening," mumbled the Babbler. None answered, it was immaterial, and dangerous to think of it. The Starer was the first to notice.

" Look at the shore line," he pointed, it was now covered in half shell clams, black and white. They were not there a moment before. A ******* sound, came from the area where the girl skimmed her knee.

" It has to be the tides....." said the Babbler.

" What are we gunna do, we need to build a fire, find food, to wait this out, WHAT IS OUR PLAN...." she yelled breaking the eerie silence.

" We'll build a fire with supplies from the boat, there's enough for some nights, and there is plentiful of shell fish to eat...." as the Rower said that, his stomach turned as he finished the sentence.

" Let's build a fire now, I’m feeling kind of chill, and weak..." said the Babbler. They all were feeling an invisible cold in their bones, not from the wind, but from the rocks, or shells. They made a fire, and huddled down together automatically without thinking. The dampness was unpleasant, the fire felt good. The huddling party looked like muscles clamped together on a rock: still, resting, and quiet. The Babbler was at the outer most of the huddle.

The Rower's dreams were still, quiet, with the occasional seaside cottage breeze. He was with his son, on a salt water river, in an alcove shaped like an L, and they both jumped down into it and the sun bleached stones "chinged" like a register. It was low tide, and he was forcing his son to walk to a sand bar, through the river--rich with life. His son was crying, a horseshoe crab had walked over his foot and a dead sand shark had floated by with a crab crawling out of its eye. " Go," he mouthed to his son, but his words were swept up by the wind. " Be a man, Go." He felt dangerously distant from his son, who was in the middle of the river away from him, and he missed him terribly but still he urged him on. Then the tide started coming in, and bubbled things started to emerge in the water, cries of his son were ate up by a clacking sound, he was so distant, yet he still urged him on. He looked to his right, a jagged sea wall of loose boulders now was opening and shutting like a clam bed posessed, an iron maidon of pinching points. His wife's shadow shone in front of him, her voice came above and behind him on top of the battered-splintered sea wall, the shadow said" That's the last straw, it's over."

He awoke to screams and babbles, and a horrified stare. They were surrounded by one shelled clams, and the Babbler had them up his leg, his arm and one side of his neck. " ahh, they are ....stinging.....me," he tried to pull one off, but it stretched his skin on his arm.

" Help me pull them off him," yelled the Starer at the Rower, and they pulled them off amid screams. Blood was gushing, as the foot or tongue of the soggy clams wiggled in open air. They removed them, and turned to their perimeter, the island was covered in clams making ******* noises.

She ran for the boat, stepping on clams, and picking up her shoe covered feet as if they were getting burned. They formed a boot on her shoe and calf, she tumbled and her face hit the shoreline, depressing into the still water. She moved her arms to her side, as if to do a push up, she struggled to lift her head, it was covered in clams. She gurgled through it and tried to pull them off. The party around the cindering fire just stood motionless. She fell back down, clanging her shell covered head off other shells, picking up more, she tried to raise herself once again, and then dropped her heavy head. She wasn't gurgling, but making moans, as if being caressed, she even rested her body comfortably.

" I can't ....I cat, I can't even see them move......" said the Babbler.

He was right, the clams moved as if they were still underwater, and you were reaching for them, but a wave ripple comes, and they are now more to the right, avoiding your hand.

The Rower started up the fire instinctively; they huddled to it, not speaking. The Babbler became the Trembler, the Starer the Blasempher, and the Rower the Unblinker.

He stared ahead, in a squint, almost like he donned an invisible visor, "hell, war, my son.....and demonic clams" were the words he kept thinking.

" We have to get to the boat, and get the **** out of here," said the Blasphemer despondently.

The Unblinker just staired at the black clouds beyond the breakers, with the lightning dancing gypsy-like and intermitted . He felt it through his pant leg, the cold soggy slush feeling. He looked down, a clam, had moved unnoticed right in front of his field of vision. He pulled at it, but he gave in to the pain, he felt another clam on his other leg, like a cold-squishy french kiss. But the longer they were there, the pain disapeared, and it felt like a warm caressing tongue, and it almost seemed like the sun was coming out on this desolate rock altar. But--he saw a vision of his son wading into the cove. Without looking he pulled the (now) three clams from him-self; his skin snapped back. He crushed the wagging tongued clams under foot. He looked to his side--

The Trembler, was covered, in a clam chain mail, he didn't have the power to pull them off, he became the Wobbler. " Jesus Christ , lets get to the ******* boat," said the Blasphemer.

He looked at the Blasphemer, he was pulling clams off painfully. The Wobbler looked like a Atlantean knight, that just walked out of the sea in his clam armour.

He took steps toward them, clanging his clam armour, with his arms out---

They ran down to the boat, running off a steep clam ridden rock that was once the Sobber--who was now clung with clams making ******* noises. Avoiding the water, the Unblinker made it fully into the row boat, but the Blasphemer's leg submerged into the still water. He screamed, and pulled his leg up then dropped it back down. Massive amounts of clams were forming a deadly anchor on his leg, and slowly ******* him in. He fell into the water as the Unblinker became the Rower again. He looked down at the Blasphemer's sunken shape slowly blending in with the cove's floor. His oars were becoming heavier and heavier; the boat was sinking down more into the waterline, the bottom of the boat was clung with clam also; he could barely move the oars, they clacked and ****** wildly as soon as they were brought out from the still water, as if sea kelp ridden with shrimp was stuffed in his ears. He could hear the sound of a giant mast breaking again, he knew instinctively now what that was, thousands if not millions of clams loosing one of their shells in anticipation of devouring flesh. He pushed off the rock jetty; he screamed and screamed.....row....scream......row..... and before he knew it, he was at deep water, and the clams were gone from his oars. "Thank God, for another second....."

He looked at the blackness beyond the breakers, the breakers that were like black fluid pouring slowly out of a cup into a cauldron, he thought of his son, and rowed into the blackness. He kept on thinking of his son, as he watched the shadows return on the bottom of the boat with the return of lightning stalking on the dark-still-ocean--his heart beat fast, but he was not dead, and he could see his son, he was out there, and
(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.
karin naude Jan 2014
thank god, above all
me, born in age of female equality evolution
in any other age
me, a slave
confined by financial, educational and social inequality
fueled by power deluded women-peons
leaving mountains and dungeons in passing
tears of blood
shed by disillusioned soul
instinctively knowing,
i can create my own destiny
life time spend achieving
smoothing the road for future daughters
BUT
satans has intervened once more
present daughters do not value
their priceless inheritance
many squander it, willingly
but few remain
with noble footing
instinctively calling out, to higher power
uneducated, still knowing
god exist, he is watching
and my inner strength comes from my creator
who created for a purpose
hail the king of kings
Paul Hansford Aug 2018
The first cold letters, alone on the page.
A quick pencil found them,
and the lively and beautiful syllables blossomed.
The pale book felt the pencil,
and the terrifying, hot words entered.
The lines grew, living and sensitive,
gleaming as never before,
and I knew the unheard lines!

First, a tiny and unselfconscious sound.
A noun struggled to appear among overpowering words.
A strong, golden adjective ran out,
a short, fragrant adjective, beautiful in the early spring.
A young verb grew among tiny blue conjunctions,
and a fortuitous adverb understood, instinctively.

The first sentence dreamed of trees, and a sad cloud.
It dreamed a grey rain,
and the tall trees felt the rain.
There was a first and unknown river,
imagined, inconsequential, like snow in summer.
A red bird glided beyond reach,
as if it had never happened.
The soft sounds fitted the lines,
and the quick bird cried,
Remember the short rain!
Remember the sad poem!
This one was a "collaboration" between myself and an app that I imported to my computer. First I entered lists of nouns, adjectives and adverbs (including adverbial phrases), then clicked to start the process.  The computer didn't "compose" the lines that you see here, but it gave me lots of ideas, and I had to work quite a lot on them. Streams of sentences poured out onto my printer, most of them complete nonsense, and when I had enough I pressed Stop, and started the process of weeding out the *******, editing the more promising lines, and re-arranging the order. My favourite line is "There was a first and unknown river," which I could never have dreamed up by myself.
Another ******* knocked
Up a girl now holding a pre-****
And he'll run before 9 months
Is up don't need mrs Cleo to predict

And what's to become of
A single mother who's lonely
Victim of repeated history of many
When an I love u is phony

And wuts worse is she
Rather dead beat dad think shed abort
Before pride would allow her to
Find him for child support

So she works 2 jobs
And is stressed in the worst way
Seeing her child sad and empty
From a fatherless birthday

And when she's in school
Grade 1 her teacher asks
Why she's not making a fathers
Day present during arts and crafts

As many schools do in there class
So holidays always was
A let down as her mother says not
To get her hopes up but still she does

Only to be crushed
When Christmas calls
Even though she made clear
She wanted her father to Santa Claus

In both a letter and at the mall
Maybe she's on the naughty list
Now she starts to feel both her
Dad and Santa just don't exist

And all this time moms gotta
Watch her child in pain
While at the same time jealous
That for her child she always remained

And her father did not so
Y is he so important to this
Child she struggled to raise
Then feels guilty at how foolish

It is to be jealous of a man
Who's wanted but didn't want them
But sadly the child isn't the only
One hoping he returns cause when

Dead beat dad beat being a dad
Not just the child was left
But also a woman in love who's
Heartbroken and equally upset

But the child's obsessed
Making it hard to accept for mom
Who's bitter as tension Builds
as her child's now a teen and less calm

And takes her anger out on mom
While stuck in confusion
Pernicious from lack of a father
Figure adding to the pollution

Which may end concluding
With her herself as a single mom
As another high school drop out
Getting pregnant b4 prom

And when she breaks the news
It's déjà vu for a single mom
Now having to see her child
Be a single mom

But two single mom don't make
A single mom cause they
Won't be single long if that single
Bond grows to mentor protege

And soon the child will say
To her mom and new grandmother
A sincere thank u as What her mom
went through she now discovered

What was covered so well
Cause being a single moms hell
So she apologizes to her mom
As she could never tell

The emotional struggles of
abandonment and Heartache
But still have financial stability
And find time to partake

In school dances and plays
Clothes to wear and food to eat
Exhausted from 2 jobs and no
Support by a loving man to rub her feet

And finally after 18 years of
her high hopes that life would make
Her father come back on her birthday or
Christmas Start to fade

So with her high hopes fading
her lifes void dad left starts filling in
of course thats when chills go up moms
spine instinctively As the phone rings.....
AD Mullin Oct 2014
The first time I truly stepped into the mystic
For a suspended period
Those close to me watched with amused
Concern

Later on I would find out that this place was called hypo-mania
A lower energy level than mania
Recognized by the p-doc's as a creative place
But also a place of warning

Cause what comes next?
Mania
For me it was spiritual; I was playing in the aether
I was living the Tao; I instinctively called it Source

I was studying to be a scientist at the time
So this didn't make a lot of sense
The data didn't support the hypothesis
Had I just eaten one to many mushrooms as a teenager?

I already had a psychiatrist
I was being treated for ADHD
He had prescribed something called Concerta
An amphetamine; a ******-stimulant

At many points along the journey
I cursed the day I ever heard of psychiatry
I'm sure that the neuro-chemical pathways opened up by Concerta
Had something to do with my awakening

Those first days near Source made me realize I needed some guidelines
Mine were informed by my indigenous heritage
Only take what you need (i.e. sip, don't gulp from the River Tao)
Find your foundation: my rock was integrity, eventually leading to authenticity

Even with these guidelines, I couldn't maintain the healthy place they were calling hypo-mania
I had too much toxicity in the relationships around me
I couldn't fully elucidate what I was seeing and feeling
And my 7 kettles were on a full rolling boil

I was draining myself
I drove myself into madness
I was trying to sip from source and live my truth
But I wasn't honouring the nature of the Tao

It was Helter Skelter:
'So you go back to the top of the slide
And you turn and you go for a ride
And I get to the bottom and I see you again'

Over the next 3 years
I would lay down what I now think of as my
4 pillars; four hospitalizations
Well over one hundred days in the Cuckoo's Nest

The first hospitalization I went happily
I was going to teach and inspire the sickies
It's hard to get healthy in a place of illness, though
I came out still a little hypo-manic but went into a deep, dark depression
After finding out what those around me really thought

The second hospitalization, I went against my will
The doctor's were inconsistent, I found flaws in their logic
They looked at me like I was a flaw
They tried to prescribe health at me; I told them to *******

At that point I was not happy with the Canadian health care system
Health, first and foremost, was a public good
This ******* the individual's rights
I wasn't a danger to myself or others but I was a risk so there goes 70 days of my life

I was fortunate to have the support of some important people
They made sure my finances, among other things, were maintained as I tried to make it back to the ordinary
After my second hospitalization I really began to delve into the idea of holistic healthcare

It was after my second hospitalization that I made my first Hero's Journey
I was playing the role of a white blood cell for Gaia
I had my first three sweats within a month of each other
I met many shaman and I'm pretty sure I began my own residency

I put 10,000 km on my trusty steed
Chasing windmills
Sancho Panza by my side
< --- -- - Vancouver, NYC, Los Angeles, 'da bridge - -- --- >

My third hospitalization was the third act of this Hero's Journey
I was pushing it, reckless; I stopped taking my prescribed medicine
I ended up in the City of Angels of all places
Straight outta Compton!

My fourth hospitalization (and final pillar) was last summer
This time I ended up in Billings, Montana
The American model places the onus of health on the individual
I could have stepped out of that hospital at any point but I now had the wisdom to know what I did and did not need

Even though I speak of four pillars
There is always a fifth element
Her; the one
She woke me up to my soul's purpose

We met shortly before my fourth hospitalization
(You've got to use the fourth, Aaron)
She was a stranger in many ways
Still is but why does she feel so familiar?

She walked me through Dante's Inferno
She had spent time in her own non-ordinary reality
She left behind a map and published it
Through her bravery, I was able to find my way out of the inferno

And through her bravery, I was able to publish my map
http://www.bipolarorwakingup.com/
It seems wrong that out of this bird,
Black, bold, a suggestion of dark
Places about it, there yet should come
Such rich music, as though the notes'
Ore were changed to a rare metal
At one touch of that bright bill.

You have heard it often, alone at your desk
In a green April, your mind drawn
Away from its work by sweet disturbance
Of the mild evening outside your room.

A slow singer, but loading each phrase
With history's overtones, love, joy
And grief learned by his dark tribe
In other orchards and passed on
Instinctively as they are now,
But fresh always with new tears.
Eliza Sterling Feb 2014
In a peculiar, far off, world, time and place,
The trivial past would be irrelevant, chased away then erased.
Contrary to the reality of distorted lies in front of my face,
These eyes cannot mask fraudulence or disgrace.
Chasing them down with a trace of a defaced case of toxic waste,
I pace as my thoughts race of the time that’s left until I dissipate.
Looking into the murky vase with dying flowers desperate to be replaced,
Misplaced to the one who’d obliterate the beauty I once embraced.

Within my sorrow I woke, shattered love replaced with a heart no longer broke.
Soaked with what I could never cope, I felt passion and choked on my once false hope.
This vision evoked a note; a call of duty for you, my eternity to devote.
Instinctively I knew, the words stuck in my throat, but blindly every incline eventually has a *****.
Surrounded by mirrors shielded with smoke,
As we stared we shared yet nothing we spoke.
Your presence was felt but disguised with a cloak,
Confined in your skin, comfortably lost afloat, for your soul I searched to perpetually stroke.

With blurred vision I envisioned, stood silent, anxious of your condition,
Division of indecision was nothing less than your frightened inquisition.
A hallucination on a mission of who was out to hurt you with consistence,
I understood as you tried to piece together the suspicion of our composition.
Guarded and in position to react upon intuition then the smoke disappeared and you saw our reflection.
No longer was my presence an imposition now in recognition you accepted the ignition of a united evolution.
Successful revision disposed internal superstition,
Our collision created a premonition for our future decisions of precision.

The past’s paths we chose were restricted to our addiction and careless indifference,
The assistance of negative influence stripped us of our innocence.
Blood shot eyes, negligence of appearance, abstracted resistance only creating distance.
Ambiguous and inexperienced, taking shots and hits in an instance,
Distorted images, lacking clarity, the abuse of substance left an absence of existence.
Building tolerance whilst sabotaging resilience, guilty and unable to admit repentance,
Without a witness, secret and safe, no justice to serve and no one to listen.
A mission incomplete and persistent,
We continue to envelope in our disappearance.

In the seam of my sickness I submerge within these contaminated nerves,
Fearing the silence with thirst not to be disturbed,
But absurdly I yearned your unhealthy and perplexed words to be heard,
My tender nature reserved an exclusive place to keep you conserved,
Unstable but concerned I’d preserve you like an herb,
I slurred for forgiveness but observed perhaps this was my turn,
But with your freedom you turned away and flew away like a bird.
Now relentless and pure I burn the surface of my figure, no intent to return.

Yet once we were young, wild and free,
Conducting our train with no fear of where we’d soon be,
The sweet breeze guaranteed the destination with ease,
Imagination without knowledge, amid glee and degree,  
We’d dive and rise above the salty sea,
Later meet beneath that tree with belief the starry sky we’d seize,
Through the debris you still held in your hand the key,
And we’d conquer our dreams, what we sought and believed.

But as I’ve grown within my questioning dome,
My home of stones has nothing to be shown,
Prone to disown my weakened skin and bones,
Candidly I pacify the clone I’ve never known.
In hopes to be flown far ahead of this zone,
I’d hover above in a whispering tone, draining my disease as it’s blown.
My soul will glisten and roam, looking down at my new golden throne,
As I’ve postponed to recognize the beauty of the Earth & my own – No longer shall I be alone.
The minute I set foot in the place,
a rush of emotion overwhelmed me,
every new one a contradiction of the next.
Familiar.Strange.
Friendly. Hostile.
This place was everything and nothing all at once,
my mind could not comprehend it
and my heart shied from my sleeve.
“Nice to see you again.” Familiar strangers greeted me with at the door,
smiling faces with something different in their eyes,
the teeth echoed there but with an underlying undertone.
Naively I wished to see love, and somewhere I did.
Not love, I reminded myself,
conditional love.
Not the same thing,
not one bit.
I gathered strength.
I crossed the entrance into the main part of the building
and immediately wanted to turn around and run.
I’d been in churches before,
been amazed at first by their beautiful decor,
high ceilings and the way the priests
convincing voice traveled through the room.
But just as quickly as I had noticed the beauty, I noticed what it
cheaply concealed with crayola carvings
and thrift-store folk-lore.
I saw through the supposed messenger of God
and the way his dramatic gestures
and loud attire
drew attention unto himself rather than the message,
that his words were the unfolding of a play,
merely theatrical.
Most of all I noticed the absence of the very thing said to be celebrated in this place,
this building said to be its home.
I recoiled in my seat instinctively,
not from the collection plate,
but from the absence of god.
But this was like no church I’d been in, not really a church at all.
The decorations simple, bright but not gaudy,
the preachers many and seemingly without a need for individual importance. Chairs in rows, comfortable but not overly so,
instead of the wooden pews.
Hues of serenity hug the walls, warmth hovers.
This place, where I’d learned, conquered, crushed, played, cried, mourned.
Grown.
The images seared.
Every one of these people served as mothers and fathers of sorts,
referring to me as their sister,
making me feel so included that they became part of me,
literally.
A family, a growth, a friend, a tumor.
They locked themselves in my every cell,
rooted in my genes.
The blame a disagreement, the loss a limb.

And there she was,
the Queen of the Faithful,
dragging my severed limb behind her as she is warmly welcomed by my family,
into my home.
They flock her with smiles and love,
pure love,
although still conditional,
there are no lies in those eyes.
They cherish their own,
shun the rest,
and she will always be one of them, she was born to play this role.
And she smiles with the same teeth she sank into my gut when she threw me away,
grin stained with my blood.
Had she ever really loved me,
were we ever truly friends, so close as to honestly be pronounced sisters?
Yes, only conditionally.
I miss her,
but the Queen must not mix with the world,
a world I now belong to fully.

Does she bear any of the responsibility
for my retreat into
the dark abyss I had always been warned about,
the sins that seemed as sweet as sugar,
as sultry as silk?
Or was my dwindling self-control and my secret,
impulsive longing for the unknown too strong,
a spiritual suicide waiting to happen?
Rejection lead me astray,
and the world showed me belonging of a different sort.
A place my spontaneity could dig its claws into,
somewhere my talents could be used.
Misused.
As I sit in the room and look towards her,
meeting her eyes, I instinctively look down,
guilty for daring to look at her.
The Slave of Indulgence staring down the Queen of Purity?
It is unacceptable.
This sign of defeat so unlike me,
but my minds been misty on the subject of self as of late.

The one thing on my mind throughout this meeting of worshipers is not god, but of this:
Is the Queen burdened by the ****** limb,
as the Slave is left empty without it?
Forever Draining and
Forever Straining.
No relief.

And that’s it.
They announce it.
I’m cast out, rejected, excommunicated, disfellowshipped, forgotten.
Free.
Dead.
I walk out, out of the door, the parking lot.
Out of the search-light, the prison, the circle, the family. Out of their lives.
I run, lungs tangled dusty plastic bags,
heart begging to collapse.
My body always screams, curses, whines, ******* when I use it.
So I abuse it.
I crawl, I claw, I fly down the street.
To a bench, an oasis, a shelter.
I roll, I light, I exhale.
I wonder what they would think of me now.
I pop, I grind, I inhale.
I see in numbers and feel in colors,
the world equals nothing and my corpus is pumped with cold, black, but I don’t care.
Because the world is uncaring and cruel and the Arcadia promised to me, the one that heals, has marked me unfit. So I quit.
What is it you want, why is it I’m here? Does God love us all, or thrive on our fear?
Whatever is out there, here my plea.
No more illusions or tricks of the eye, show me, unmask reality, strip its disguise.
Flames, smoke, and nothing.
I see me, and my sanity,
and the universe speaks back,
“Conditionally.”
Originally a short story, i thought it'd be nice to share anyways. Comments appreciated
                                                  Copyright Krystelle Bissonnette
ghost queen Apr 2019
It was starting to snow as I entered Pere Lachaise cemetery. The few that had ventured in, were streaming out, as daylight faded, fast giving way to twilight, on this 1st of February night. I had 30 minutes of daylight left, to take the shots that I’d planned for all year.

I knew where I was going, having visited the cemetery in the summer, to scout locations for this moment. I walked up l’Avenue Principale towards Le Monument aux Morts and took the first right on l’Avenue des Puits. My pace quickened, not wanting to waste a single second, of the dying light.

I crossed path with the the last stragglers, most likely having paid homage to Chopin or Morrison. I was entering the oldest and most forested area of the cemetery. It sent a chill up my spine, not because of the cold February air, but because of the surreality of what was in front of me, a cobble stone path, lined with old trees, surrounded by an ocean of tombs, fading into the white and gray of a snowy afternoon.

I arrived at my location, the tomb of Heloise and Abelard. I set down my tripod and camera bag. I stopped to take it in. It was eerily beautiful, the snow slowly falling, lightly covering the tomb, the flowers, the love letters, laying around the plinth.

I was surprised at the number of single roses and love letters that were strewn in the yard, between the wrought iron fence, and the tomb. Even during the dead of winter, young women pilgrimaged to the tomb, leaving letters and prayers, hoping their love will last forever, in life and in death. Sadness overwhelmed me, as I felt the longing and pain of their and my,  unrequited loves.

I pulled out my camera, turned it on, double checking the battery indicator and exposure. I put the viewfinder to my eye, slowly pressed the shutter till I heard a beep, as the auto focus sharpened the view and my world became crystal clear. I zoomed in and out, composing my shot. I was too close for my lens. I picked up my tripod, turned around, and surveyed my work area.

I moved up the path, three tombs over, next to an old wide trunked chestnut tree, set my tripod and bag down, and recomposed my shot. The snowfall had intensified, to a heavy flurry. The snowflakes were thicker, fluffier, slowly drifting down like dandelion seeds. I was swimming in an ocean of white magical specks. Everything around me was dusted in ******, pure white powder.

I unfolded my tripod, mounted the camera to the head, and verified it was securely attached. I zoomed in and out till I composed my shot, stepping down the aperture and up the speed, till I achieved the dark, moody, feel I wanted. I pressed the shutter and captured the shot.

I was looking through the viewfinder when a woman stepped into my shot. For a split second, I was angry, then confused, then intrigued. I looked up, stepped back from my camera, to see and understand what was unfolding before me.

She was wearing a full-length white Lynx fur coat and cap, black leather gloves and boots. She was stunning, breathtaking. Was I hallucinating? Was she real? She hadn’t seen me, as I was behind her, catty corner, partially hidden by the chestnut tree.


She was holding something. I couldn’t quite see. I looked through the viewfinder, zoomed in on her. She held a single long stemmed blue rose in her left hand.  Instinctively, I pressed the shutter, captured the shot, the photo, the image, of this unworldly scene.

It was late, almost dark. What was she doing here? Was she praying, why, to whom, Heloise, Abelard, or both? She moved up to and placed her right hand on the protective wrought iron fence. I took a shot, then another. Then with her left hand, she gently threw the blue rose, time slowed, I pressed the shutter, never letting go, as the flower arched in the air and landed perfectly, on the plinth, at Heloise's side.

I released the shutter, still looking through the viewfinder. She placed her left hand on the wrought iron fence, bowed her head, just stood there, in the darkness, in the snowfall.

She pulled her right hand away from the wrought iron fence and wiped her eyes. Was she crying?

She slowly turned around. I pressed the shutter, held it down, for a continuous shot. I saw her face, her raven black hair, her incandescent blue eyes. Like a cannonball hitting me in the chest, I realized and recognized who she was. It was her, the woman from the metro.

She looked up, turned her head, and looked directly at me. I zoomed in, framed her face, continuously pressing the shutter. Her face expressionless, her eyes aglow. Had she seen me? I don’t know. She took a step, turned her head, and walked back up the cobble stone path, and faded into the night, into the falling snow.
Emilie Mar 2013
It was a Sunday like most and she walked to the store for a can of
Tomato soup
A kid two isles over bumped into her leg with his cart
He didn't apologize, and she was mad at him.
She picked up the last gallon of milk
Then put it back and grabbed the pint
Skim, organic with an expiration date she’d never reach
She stood in a line to pay for her things,
The old woman in front of her was buying cat food and cheddar cheese
And she laughed at her because she was somehow pathetic and strange,
She locked eyes with a boy in the front of the store,
They were blue and bright, he had cropped blonde hair and a brilliant smile,
Maybe she could talk to him when she was done here.
She was next in line but the cashier ignored her, instead she devoted attention to the terrified screams outside.
People ran everywhere and some came into the shop, for shelter and safety.
There’s nothing more painful than listening to a grown man beg for his life from a stranger who’d gone crazy and decided he’d ‘had enough.
She watched them plead for one last look into the brown-edged photos in their wallets.
People laugh and they joke about death but when it’s staring you in the face,
And you feel its warm breath on your cheeks
You can hardly think at all and your mind is like a bad book with all its pages out of order
And you can’t control what comes next.
In those few moments she tried to take everything back, trying to remember what she did this morning where she left her laundry. She tried to take back her cynicism toward the woman and her anger at the boy, she continued to ask herself why she didn't grab the gallon when she knew she could drink a full gallon and she got the store brand when she should have gotten the campbells.
But she didn't.
It’s not safe inside anymore,
The pristine tiles are no longer clean.
Her eyes followed the boy, he was fit and handsome and about her age,
With kind eyes and a blue collared shirt,
She hid with him behind a shelf,
They were quiet, she and this boy whom she’d never met but they smelled the same,
They smelled of fear and words the two of them would never again utter.
He turned to her, a stranger, and confessed that he’d never loved a woman.
Cans of beans and corn that litter the shelves of lovers and families alike topple over onto them
But they don’t move.
Instinctively they clutch each other’s hands and sweat pools in their palms
But they don’t move.
The footsteps that seem to control the store eventually call for them, he’d never loved a woman but in that moment he made the choice to put him between her and the edge of insanity.
She saw that his shirt tag was flipped up and his wallet was sticking out of his back pocket.
So she tucked his tag and touched his shoulder and felt the air leave his lungs for the last time.
She was alone.
The last sound she’d ever hear was echoed by sirens that were just a little too late.
It was a Sunday like any other and she walked to the store for a can of
Tomato soup.
Maggie Emmett Jul 2015
PROLOGUE
               Hyde Park weekend of politics and pop,
Geldof’s gang of divas and mad hatters;
Sergeant Pepper only one heart beating,
resurrected by a once dead Beatle.
The ******, Queen and Irish juggernauts;
The Entertainer and dead bands
re-jigged for the sake of humanity.
   The almighty single named entities
all out for Africa and people power.
Olympics in the bag, a Waterloo
of celebrations in the street that night
Leaping and whooping in sheer delight
Nelson rocking in Trafalgar Square
The promised computer wonderlands
rising from the poisoned dead heart wasteland;
derelict, deserted, still festering.
The Brave Tomorrow in a world of hate.
The flame will be lit, magic rings aloft
and harmony will be our middle name.

On the seventh day of the seventh month,
Festival of the skilful Weaving girl;
the ‘war on terror’ just a tattered trope
drained and exhausted and put out of sight
in a dark corner of a darker shelf.
A power surge the first lie of the day.
Savagely woken from our pleasant dream
al Qa’ida opens up a new franchise
and a new frontier for terror to prowl.

               Howling sirens shatter morning’s progress
Hysterical screech of ambulances
and police cars trying to grip the road.
The oppressive drone of helicopters
gathering like the Furies in the sky;
Blair’s hubris is acknowledged by the gods.
Without warning the deadly game begins.

The Leviathan state machinery,
certain of its strength and authority,
with sheer balletic co-ordination,
steadies itself for a fine performance.
The new citizen army in ‘day glow’
take up their ‘Support Official’ roles,
like air raid wardens in the last big show;
feisty  yet firm, delivering every line
deep voiced and clearly to the whole theatre.
On cue, the Police fan out through Bloomsbury
clearing every emergency exit,
arresting and handcuffing surly streets,
locking down this ancient river city.
Fetching in fluorescent green costuming,
the old Bill nimbly Tangos and Foxtrots
the airways, Oscar, Charlie and Yankee
quickly reply with grid reference Echo;
Whiskey, Sierra, Quebec, November,
beam out from New Scotland Yard,
staccato, nearly lost in static space.
      
              LIVERPOOL STREET STATION
8.51 a.m. Circle Line

Shehezad Tanweer was born in England.
A migrant’s child of hope and better life,
dreaming of his future from his birth.
Only twenty two short years on this earth.
In a madrassah, Lahore, Pakistan,
he spent twelve weeks reading and rote learning
verses chosen from the sacred text.
Chanting the syllables, hour after hour,
swaying back and forth with the word rhythm,
like an underground train rocking the rails,
as it weaves its way beneath the world,
in turning tunnels in the dead of night.

Teve Talevski had a meeting
across the river, he knew he’d be late.
**** trains they do it to you every time.
But something odd happened while he waited
A taut-limbed young woman sashayed past him
in a forget-me-not blue dress of silk.
She rustled on the platform as she turned.
She turned to him and smiled, and he smiled back.
Stale tunnel air pushed along in the rush
of the train arriving in the station.
He found a seat and watched her from afar.
Opened his paper for distraction’s sake
Olympic win exciting like the smile.

Train heading southwest under Whitechapel.
Deafening blast, rushing sound blast, bright flash
of golden light, flying glass and debris
Twisted people thrown to ground, darkness;
the dreadful silent second in blackness.
The stench of human flesh and gunpowder,
burning rubber and fiery acrid smoke.
Screaming bone bare pain, blood-drenched tearing pain.
Pitiful weeping, begging for a god
to come, someone to come, and help them out.

Teve pushes off a dead weighted man.
He stands unsteady trying to balance.
Railway staff with torches, moving spotlights
**** and jolt, catching still life scenery,
lighting the exit in gloomy dimness.
They file down the track to Aldgate Station,
Teve passes the sardine can carriage
torn apart by a fierce hungry giant.
Through the dust, four lifeless bodies take shape
and disappear again in drifting smoke.
It’s only later, when safe above ground,
Teve looks around and starts to wonder
where his blue epiphany girl has gone.

                 KINGS CROSS STATION
8.56 a.m. Piccadilly Line

Many named Lyndsey Germaine, Jamaican,
living with his wife and child in Aylesbury,
laying low, never visited the Mosque.   
                Buckinghamshire bomber known as Jamal,
clean shaven, wearing normal western clothes,
annoyed his neighbours with loud music.
Samantha-wife converted and renamed,
Sherafiyah and took to wearing black.
Devout in that jet black shalmar kameez.
Loving father cradled close his daughter
Caressed her cheek and held her tiny hand
He wondered what the future held for her.

Station of the lost and homeless people,
where you can buy anything at a price.
A place where a face can be lost forever;
where the future’s as real as faded dreams.
Below the mainline trains, deep underground
Piccadilly lines cross the River Thames
Cram-packed, shoulder to shoulder and standing,
the train heading southward for Russell Square,
barely pulls away from Kings Cross Station,
when Arash Kazerouni hears the bang,
‘Almighty bang’ before everything stopped.
Twenty six hearts stopped beating that moment.
But glass flew apart in a shattering wave,
followed by a  huge whoosh of smoky soot.
Panic raced down the line with ice fingers
touching and tagging the living with fear.
Spine chiller blanching faces white with shock.

Gracia Hormigos, a housekeeper,
thought, I am being electrocuted.
Her body was shaking, it seemed her mind
was in free fall, no safety cord to pull,
just disconnected, so she looked around,
saw the man next to her had no right leg,
a shattered shard of bone and gouts of  blood,
Where was the rest of his leg and his foot ?

Level headed ones with serious voices
spoke over the screaming and the sobbing;
Titanic lifeboat voices giving orders;
Iceberg cool voices of reassurance;
We’re stoical British bulldog voices
that organize the mayhem and chaos
into meaty chunks of jobs to be done.
Clear air required - break the windows now;
Lines could be live - so we stay where we are;
Help will be here shortly - try to stay calm.

John, Mark and Emma introduce themselves
They never usually speak underground,
averting your gaze, tube train etiquette.
Disaster has its opportunities;
Try the new mobile, take a photograph;
Ring your Mum and Dad, ****** battery’s flat;
My network’s down; my phone light’s still working
Useful to see the way, step carefully.

   Fiona asks, ‘Am I dreaming all this?’
A shrieking man answers her, “I’m dying!”
Hammered glass finally breaks, fresher air;
too late for the man in the front carriage.
London Transport staff in yellow jackets
start an orderly evacuation
The mobile phones held up to light the way.
Only nineteen minutes in a lifetime.
  
EDGEWARE ROAD STATION
9.17 a.m. Circle Line

               Mohammed Sadique Khan, the oldest one.
Perhaps the leader, at least a mentor.
Yorkshire man born, married with a daughter
Gently spoken man, endlessly patient,
worked in the Hamara, Lodge Lane, Leeds,
Council-funded, multi-faith youth Centre;
and the local Primary school, in Beeston.
No-one could believe this of  Mr Khan;
well educated, caring and very kind
Where did he hide his secret other life  ?

Wise enough to wait for the second train.
Two for the price of one, a real bargain.
Westbound second carriage is blown away,
a commuter blasted from the platform,
hurled under the wheels of the east bound train.
Moon Crater holes, the walls pitted and pocked;
a sparse dark-side landscape with black, black air.
The ripped and shredded metal bursts free
like a surprising party popper;
Steel curlicues corkscrew through wood and glass.
Mass is made atomic in the closed space.
Roasting meat and Auschwitzed cremation stench
saturates the already murky air.              
Our human kindling feeds the greedy fire;
Heads alight like medieval torches;
Fiery liquid skin drops from the faceless;
Punk afro hair is cauterised and singed.  
Heat intensity, like a wayward iron,
scorches clothes, fuses fibres together.
Seven people escape this inferno;
many die in later days, badly burned,
and everyone there will live a scarred life.

               TAVISTOCK ROAD
9.47 a.m. Number 30 Bus  

Hasib Hussain migrant son, English born
barely an adult, loved by his mother;
reported him missing later that night.
Police typed his description in the file
and matched his clothes to fragments from the scene.
A hapless victim or vicious bomber ?
Child of the ‘Ummah’ waging deadly war.
Seventy two black eyed virgins waiting
in jihadist paradise just for you.

Red double-decker bus, number thirty,
going from Hackney Wick to Marble Arch;
stuck in traffic, diversions everywhere.
Driver pulls up next to a tree lined square;
the Parking Inspector, Ade Soji,
tells the driver he’s in Tavistock Road,
British Museum nearby and the Square.
A place of peace and quiet reflection;
the sad history of war is remembered;
symbols to make us never forget death;
Cherry Tree from Hiroshima, Japan;
Holocaust Memorial for Jewish dead;
sturdy statue of  Mahatma Gandhi.
Peaceful resistance that drove the Lion out.
Freedom for India but death for him.

Sudden sonic boom, bus roof tears apart,
seats erupt with volcanic force upward,
hot larva of blood and tissue rains down.
Bloodied road becomes a charnel-house scene;
disembodied limbs among the wreckage,
headless corpses; sinews, muscles and bone.
Buildings spattered and smeared with human paint
Impressionist daubs, blood red like the bus.

Jasmine Gardiner, running late for work;
all trains were cancelled from Euston Station;  
she headed for the square, to catch the bus.
It drove straight past her standing at the stop;
before she could curse aloud - Kaboom !
Instinctively she ran, ran for her life.
Umbrella shield from the shower of gore.

On the lower deck, two Aussies squeezed in;
Catherine Klestov was standing in the aisle,
floored by the bomb, suffered cuts and bruises
She limped to Islington two days later.
Louise Barry was reading the paper,
she was ‘****-scared’ by the explosion;
she crawled out of the remnants of the bus,
broken and burned, she lay flat on the road,
the world of sound had gone, ear drums had burst;
she lay there drowsy, quiet, looking up
and amazingly the sky was still there.

Sam Ly, Vietnamese Australian,
One of the boat people once welcomed here.
A refugee, held in his mother’s arms,
she died of cancer, before he was three.
Hi Ly struggled to raise his son alone;
a tough life, inner city high rise flats.
Education the smart migrant’s revenge,
Monash Uni and an IT degree.
Lucky Sam, perfect job of a lifetime;
in London, with his one love, Mandy Ha,
Life going great until that fateful day;
on the seventh day of the seventh month,
Festival of the skilful Weaving girl.

Three other Aussies on that ****** bus;
no serious physical injuries,
Sam’s luck ran out, in choosing where to sit.
His neck was broken, could not breath alone;
his head smashed and crushed, fractured bones and burns
Wrapped in a cocoon of coma safe
This broken figure lying on white sheets
in an English Intensive Care Unit
did not seem like Hi Ly’s beloved son;
but he sat by Sam’s bed in disbelief,
seven days and seven nights of struggle,
until the final hour, when it was done.

In the pit of our stomach we all knew,
but we kept on deep breathing and hoping
this nauseous reality would pass.
The weary inevitability
of horrific disasters such as these.
Strangely familiar like an old newsreel
Black and white, it happened long ago.
But its happening now right before our eyes
satellite pictures beam and bounce the globe.
Twelve thousand miles we watch the story
Plot unfolds rapidly, chapters emerge
We know the places names of this narrative.
  
It is all subterranean, hidden
from the curious, voyeuristic gaze,
Until the icon bus, we are hopeful
This public spectacle is above ground
We can see the force that mangled the bus,
fury that tore people apart limb by limb
Now we can imagine a bomb below,
far below, people trapped, fiery hell;
fighting to breathe each breath in tunnelled tombs.

Herded from the blast they are strangely calm,
obedient, shuffling this way and that.
Blood-streaked, sooty and dishevelled they come.
Out from the choking darkness far below
Dazzled by the brightness of the morning
of a day they feared might be their last.
They have breathed deeply of Kurtz’s horror.
Sights and sounds unimaginable before
will haunt their waking hours for many years;
a lifetime of nightmares in the making.
They trudge like weary soldiers from the Somme
already see the world with older eyes.

On the surface, they find a world where life
simply goes on as before, unmindful.
Cyclist couriers still defy road laws,
sprint racing again in Le Tour de France;
beer-gutted, real men are loading lorries;
lunch time sandwiches are made as usual,
sold and eaten at desks and in the street.
Roadside cafes sell lots of hot sweet tea.
The Umbrella stand soon does brisk business.
Sign writers' hands, still steady, paint the sign.
The summer blooms are watered in the park.
A ***** stretches on the bench and wakes up,
he folds and stows his newspaper blankets;
mouth dry,  he sips water at the fountain.
A lady scoops up her black poodle’s ****.
A young couple argues over nothing.
Betting shops are full of people losing
money and dreaming of a trifecta.
Martin’s still smoking despite the patches.
There’s a rush on Brandy in nearby pubs
Retired gardener dead heads his flowers
and picks a lettuce for the evening meal

Fifty six minutes from start to finish.
Perfectly orchestrated performance.
Rush hour co-ordination excellent.
Maximum devastation was ensured.
Cruel, merciless killing so coldly done.
Fine detail in the maiming and damage.

A REVIEW

Well activated practical response.
Rehearsals really paid off on the day.
Brilliant touch with bus transport for victims;
Space blankets well deployed for shock effect;
Dramatic improv by Paramedics;
Nurses, medicos and casualty staff
showed great technical E.R. Skills - Bravo !
Plenty of pizzazz and dash as always
from the nifty, London Ambo drivers;
Old fashioned know-how from the Fire fighters
in hosing down the fireworks underground.
Dangerous rescues were undertaken,
accomplished with buckets of common sense.
And what can one say about those Bobbies,
jolly good show, the lips unquivering
and universally stiff, no mean feat
in this Premiere season tear-jerker.
Nail-bitingly brittle, but a smash-hit
Poignant misery and stoic suffering,
fortitude, forbearance and lots of grit
Altogether was quite tickety boo.



NOTES ON THE POEM

Liverpool Street Station

A Circle Line train from Moorgate with six carriages and a capacity of 1272 passengers [ 192 seated; 1080 standing]. 7 dead on the first day.

Southbound, destination Aldgate. Explosion occurs midway between Liverpool Street and Aldgate.

Shehezad Tanweer was reported to have ‘never been political’ by a friend who played cricket with him 10 days before the bombing

Teve Talevski is a real person and I have elaborated a little on reports in the press. He runs a coffee shop in North London.

At the time of writing the fate of the blue dress lady is not known

Kings Cross Station

A Piccadilly Line train with six carriages and a capacity of 1238 passengers [272 seated; 966 standing]. 21 dead on first day.

Southbound, destination Russell Square. Explosion occurs mi
This poem is part of a longer poem called Seasons of Terror. This poem was performed at the University of Adelaide, Bonython Hall as a community event. The poem was read by local poets, broadcasters, personalities and politicians from the South Australia Parliament and a Federal MP & Senator. The State Premier was represented by the Hon. Michael Atkinson, who spoke about the role of the Emergency services in our society. The Chiefs of Police, Fire and Ambulence; all religious and community organisations' senior reprasentatives; the First Secretary of the British High Commission and the general public were present. It was recorded by Radio Adelaide and broadcast live as well as coverage from Channel 7 TV News. The Queen,Tony Blair, Australian Governor General and many other public dignitaries sent messages of support for the work being read. A string quartet and a solo flautist also played at this event.
Steve D'Beard Dec 2012
I love a good debate,
[science mixed with illusion]
and this year was no exception:
the debate on the best shapes for a kite
from design implementation, inception and execution

some sturdy string and industrial-strength glue
the machinations of whether to use plywood or bamboo
and of course built by your own fair hand
such was the intensity of discussion it continued
with an after-lunch stroll on the beach, where the uncles
drew their prize-winning geometry
with a primitive stick
in the sand

a question on the mathematics of aerodynamics aside
its currently a battle of the cyclic quadrilaterals
and documented film of it successfully tested and tried;
years of perfection honed by the skills of Fatherhood
to know instinctively the difference
between the brilliance of genius
and the borderline
just plain good

If nothing else has come from this
I now
know
[so as not to lose]

K = p/q over 2
or
K = ab – sin Ø

[are the formulas to use]
inspired by those festive drink fuelled debates which are lengthy and complex on simple non-life changing matters like this one... and left their crazy mathematics on a beach for a dog walker to ponder over
George Anthony Jul 2016
they say a child can grow up conditioning themselves
to forget
all the trauma they've experienced;
they say they quite literally push it
to the back of their minds, as a way of coping,
a way to deal with the pain―without actually dealing with it.

it'll all come crashing back, eventually
everyone knows that a dam is a temporary structure,
that eventually the chemicals in the water
will erode the wood and
break it apart

it all comes rushing in
and escapes through blood-shot eyes,
drooling, sobbing coughs and panic-slick wheezes.

i never fully managed to forget my father
though i'm sure there are things i don't remember―
after all, that's an awful lot of hatred
and anger
for only several incidents, and a lifetime of an alcoholic's neglect...
isn't it?

but you―you i managed to block out completely
to the point where i knew the phrase "emotional abuse"
but couldn't quite be sure why i applied it to you;
it was just something i knew
instinctively

how foolish it was for me to break the dam myself,
out of some morbid, masochistic curiosity:
"what did she do? what did she do to me? why?"
and then i remembered

all the sleepless nights spent reading to you,
lulling your insomniac mind (though not as bad as mind)
and soothing the supposed nightmares you had:
nightmares that you, conveniently, only suffered
when i was asleep―and i was hardly ever sleeping

all the memories you blurred between me
and your last boyfriend; all the ways
you made me feel like ****, comparing me
to a **** bag that cheated on you
and then lured you in again with falsities and
repeated apologies. you fell for it every time,
and i had to wonder: why am i not good enough
compared to that?

the way you asked me to watch you in the bath,
whilst you drew on your skin and told me:
"this is what i do to avoid cutting myself"
and i thought:
"i'm still cutting"
but i sacrificed my own stability to ensure your safety

******* martyr, i was
how disgusting to allow myself to be manipulated by you,
even after the hours you left me guessing out of spite
whether or not you'd burned your skin with that lighter
just because i didn't want to spoil your mood with my own

the holiday i spent in my dream city was spoiled
and stained and joyless, as you ****** the soul out of me
by burning images into my mind:
you and him, sharing a bath, looking after his family's kids.
why the **** would you do that to me?
more importantly, why the ****
did i let you? and still love you?

so many more incidents, so many more
broken promises and sick lies;
the way you hid me from your family
and only trusted me not to cheat because i'm demisexual;
you made sure i'd never emotionally connect with anybody else
and find attraction in them,
lest i move on from you and find another

one that wouldn't abuse me
like you did
ryn Sep 2014
If I get lost, promise you'd leave me be
Let me walk alone in my circles
I'll find my way back...almost instinctively
Through looping thoughts and scribbles

If I should trip, promise you'd let me fall
Scrape my knee and scream a voiceless scream
Weight of the universe may seem crushing to shoulders so small
I'll walk it off and regain newfound steam

If I show signs of buckling, promise you'd let me collapse into nothing
Let me fold into myself...into an unnoticeable speck
There is solace in this space when the walls are caving
Soon I would reinvent and renew from that wreck

If I suffer a cut, promise you'd just let me bleed
Let the black of my soul gush out
Within it I would find the seed
To which all of my rantings are about

If I should begin to write, promise you'd read my scrawls
Take them as they are and not to heart
Just thoughts versus words that mean much or nothing at all
They'd stitch me anew when I start to break apart

If I keep losing myself, promise that you'd let me be
The circles I tread are very much predictable
They'd always lead me around... Don't treat me differently
Just stay where you are... I'll come back round, fresh and able...
Roy Apr 2014
Instinctively it just happens
Saying I know is self-deceit
Personality overrides common acts/sense
Amazed you can be if you wanna
Reality is I don’t control it
It slips the guard rail and manifests
To full expectation its effects attain
In my defense I have nothing with it
Logically it’s all me with no escape route
What can I say; it makes use of my personality
I don’t wanna be part of it yet enjoy it
Come to reconsider its more of me than I deny
Ok not me even though it all points to me
Äŧül Jun 2013
There they threaten the theologians,
Broadly breaking buoyant blueprints,
Here how humorously humongous,
Under upmarket upholstery undone,
Scaring supermarket's shopkeepers,
Zealously zooming zestfully zapping,
Its importantly impossible irreligious,
Around aroused automatic aromatic,
Giving goodness getaway goosebumps,
Cheekily chronologically caring cans,
Ergonomically exacting expenditure,
Madness making missionary mission,
Naughtily naked nonsense newspapers,
Xylophone's xylophonetic xylems' xyla,
Young-young youthful Yankees yankin,
Gladiators gladly going Godless givers,
Windows woefully wishing weddings,
Peacefully palpitating peeping people,
Fruitfully fitting fabulous framework,
Doubtlessly doubt doubtfully dubious,
Jacking Jillian's jackets jammy jokers,
Kids' kidneys kleptomaniacly kindling,
Ergonomically economically earliest,
Institutionalized Indian instinctively,
Jacking Jill's jolly junkies javelinas,
Victorious Victorians visiting visas,
Loveliest lonely lovebirds lost lives,
Obnoxiously overrule omnipotence.
Just a product of my idle brainstorming.
My HP Poem #321
©Atul Kaushal
Joseph Martinez Jan 2015
The honeybee creeps forward out of necessity to the flower

The *** opens up a box of gemstones

I am looking at the flower

I sit in park and a man walks up to me, instinctively sensing that I need someone, something.  What I want is not what I need.

Nature spreads her view in and of time through perception & stillness
ThoughT Mar 2013
It's those deep-thought induced conversations that bring forth realizations
As to what we're about. and why we're here.  
There can be clarity for some, while many have yet to see it clear-ly.
What's charity for some, in others may produce fear.
If you can hear me, you may know that I've been embedded in a web of silk thread.  
We all are, just labeled differently, accustomed to the various personalities under which we're bred.  
Don't let it mess with your head, but we've been mislead, about what is the vital pulse of this existence.  
You can realize what's toxic, and what's pure in the matter of an instance.  

Before you spew out your sentence,
Make sure you thought it through, and drew out a map of where you intend it to lead.  
No one single person walks into a fight expecting to bleed. 
They've been deceived by a culture based on immediate reaction,
Forming a faction of those who never grow to fully develop their souls to gain full control,
Over their lives.  
Simple words, some that should be left unheard, can hurt worse than knives.  
Thoughtlessly responding to actions is just like ingesting an unknown, and jagged little pill.  
You know nothing of the repercussions, but as the grains of sand pile up, you soon will.  
Believe it or not you can get to your mental destination faster once you learn to sit still.  
So, respond by applying conscious thought to your will,
Ultimately creating a new canvas in which your creativity can spill.  

Perfection is an eyedea,
And forever happened yesterday.
We're the perceived seeds of Gaea,
Equal composers of this magnificent screenplay.

This plane gives us no manual, and no time to rehearse.  
I spent a long time in the lions den, only to find that I must tame me first.  
When I would sting everything, it poisoned my own insides.  
Held on too tight with my claws when I should've just paused, to gain some insight.  
Instinctively we have adopted the means of fight or flight.  
Just make sure actions taken will be those that lead away from spite.  

In your beating *****, the tempo will eventually cease.  
Listen to it's wisdom in order to unwind, release,
Be at peace and defeat the foolish person that sometimes controls your mind.  
It's in this moment that we take off the shades that have kept us blind.  
When your days grow into night, you alone can be the light that shines,
And reminds the world that there are things far more important.
Even measuring the probability of being alive leaves us more than fortunate.  

Warming yourself radiates across what can be known as a cold planet.  
Every single moment I believe, happens for a reason,
Even though it may not be as you planned it.  
A person's karma is what you're presented with, while yours is your response.  
Slowly we're intertwining and aligning; now let's raise a new-age renaissance!
It's up to us to detox ourselves of all of the mind's pollution.  
Close your eyes and ascend to the skies for the Consciousness Revolution.
Elioinai Jul 2018
You were my coffee today
Just walking along the road
to Hell knows where on the last day of July
My car made the turn onto Sheridan
and my eyes caught the motion of your swagger,
dark pants
Black tank
Probably a red shirt wrapped around your waist
corded arms slightly bowed to give the impression of a badass

your long hair flowing in the morning air

In an instant your head came up
Instinctively giving you the image of my nearing car

And then you smiled
It’s funny how seeing a beautiful person instinctively offer up a joyful, innocent smile can brighten up a day completely
Innocent Aug 2014
Soulmate.          
Found too late.                        
You already have a mate.
Our eyes meet from across the street.  
Instinctively knowing we were meant to meet.                                    
You feel entirely whole, healed and intact.                                        
You cross, closing the divide.
Both of you knowing this cannot be denied.    
Right there in the middle of the road.
You touch and the air explodes.  
Eyes locked, all life's experiences communicated.
A soft smile, a nod and a goodbye.      
Another time another July.
Hal Loyd Denton Apr 2012
To serve as a sub title I would call this antidote presented in a flowered bouquet first of flowers then
Thoughts that are found in such gifts of treasured beauty an antidote in the central theme of my life

Trying to give any and all relief from pain and suffering if nothing else it will serve as a brief distraction
As you read unfortunately we can only win small victories but anything to help just possibly it will make
A crack that will lead to understanding and more winning can occur

The gold bejeweled lives I have known they the towers the earth’s perennial flowers they were the all
Consuming hours of my life others view life conceptually one part is a stone wall that grows the figwort

With the other English Ivy Hedera the first has the notation of growing in old ruins here
Is the represented tendrils of the heart ever growing ever showing a map of feelings ether joyful or

Tragic within their sinew your strengths and weakness are displayed yes they are hidden to the natural
Eye but in quiet conversation they reveal themselves in the loveliest ways they are rhythmic waves that

Flow over those that we love instilling in them our secret otherwise unknown selves then now I would
Like to present the main body of this piece what are the first words women say when they receive

Flowers how lovely is their words for this to happen their heavenly Father stood before this blue globe
And spoke to the wayward wind my desire is to make an unquestionable quality that will be the very

Essence from where its fragrance is derived he told the wind go and do my bidding instantly the wind
Split into four parts from that time till now it is called and said gather from the four winds in obedience

To the master one part rushed down and felt the tearing of mountain peaks it screamed with delight
And pain it soothed itself by quietly passing over knolls that stood on lonely hill tops then through vales

And valleys it made progress looked across the great span of earth to see what its kindred brothers and
Sisters were finding in its drift and wonderings it noticed one was awaking the wild African world then it

Turned and whirled as it picked up the scent of Africa’s coffee fields instinctively it knew where it must
Go next to the southern tobacco fields it delighted in the pungent promise where in parlors ever so

Humble the tiny pleasurable string like smoke would lay on the air and from a great distance far from
This domestic scene it could see its fellow kiss and roll across the earth’s great rivers the Nile and its

Rectangular pyramids the burial enclosures of the pharos with reverence they silently passed to deepen
This they drove onward until they felt the sacred Ganges below they drank of the sighs of millions of

India’s people refreshed by this dearness to link themselves to the one true God they set a course that
Would take them to where in future days a Union Jack would have the notoriety that the sun never set

In far off lands without its shadow proudly waving it pointed glory folds back to the Thymes where the
British crown would nobly reign and one of its greatest achievements would be the land of free men

That it spawned so out to sea it turned to visit this kingdom not of royal crowns but the garland of
Freedom that rested on every man woman and child it was home for many waters the Mongolia the

Ohio north lay the Great lakes in its center the old Mississippi it followed it down and made its turn west
To rivers called Rio Grande the Red Brazos on to the Colorado the snake and if they could be heard

Speaking they be saying Chisim Platt fairest blue bells I know your home in these familiar dales and pick
Up the from the arid desert from dry river beds biting sand go to its roots and you would know long

Ago waters that held brimming life over the gold fields it continues and dips into the blue pacific
Washing sand an grit its next stop was turquoise waters rainbows and waterfalls it fell into the swaying

Palms coconut papaya pineapple layered it with richness it would create the fabled trade winds it turned
To view it exact opposite its brother wind that came down from the pole it knew Russia’s Siberia Alaskan

Tundra at this point it heard the Father state you have done well he drew a great breath that captured
All that was gathered in the heart of the wind then he turned to carpeted fields that stood incomplete

Flowers were as a sea but they were empty petals they were the reproductive part of flowers but they
Were barren of vividness and true deep colors but worst of all they were odorless and then God

Breathed upon them the secrets that the wind had stored from the four corners of the earth in that
Moment flowers became the true marvel and were forever established as the hallmark of romantic

Expression first picturesque layered with gratitude stillness the chill from the pole that reached down
Through the Canucks of Canada there is the splash of **** frost felt if not known the enticement of the

Soul of cool contrasted with the deserts heat cacti drenched in sunlight never to be complete always in
Rays that makes it beholden in glimmers it shimmers it touts a glory born from harshness it lingers as

Indescribable beauty burnished sands its court this is also found in the allure of flowers hidden within
Is weariness but it is the refined kind it speaks to you not of tiredness but of rest of shade and shadow

A quest is announced do you not feel a sweet breeze how else does its fragrance come within reach
You’re carried back to mountain meadows meows from baby mountain lion kittens are laced within

The story flowers release through their fragrance and truly this just one of Gods many gifts to man
And the greatest Rose of all is His Son the Rose of Sharon
Harriet Cleve Jan 2019

A Skeleton gunslinger, takes on the Unholy of Hell and wages war against his nemesis Hatchet, as a portal to Hell threatens to unleash the putrid, rancid, Unholy hordes onto a desolate planet. "


The bringer of Death arrived in Dakota. Custer's Seventh lay dying on the Powder river and the Ancients had sent him to walk the Earth and help the Ghost-walkers to hold their land. In his mortal days, he carried a torch for Serela, an outcast from the Mind seekers.That's what got him killed in the first place. The saloon was full that night, and he was called out.
He pulled his gun first and knew he would die. His death was foretold in the ancient scriptures of truth. 'The bone that liveth shall slay the flesh and the flesh will become liveth bone'.
Justice will walk the plains and avenge the truth'.
Serela had looked on as a bullet pierced the gunslinger's skull.The spirit of the ancients swept through her soul then, as she watch his head explode, filtering its entrance into the new receptacle of justice.

No one saw the killer shadow draw or witnessed it's departure but John Bitumen's body lay dead, the blood flowing from a hole in his forehead. Even as he died, he was reborn.
The Skull of Death in search of a gunfight, Deathbringer, Cleanser of Evil.


Hatchet looked at his mangy horse, a wasted beast worn out and at the end of it's road.Two years it carried his weight and the saddle dug deep.Whippings were constant and the calloused cruel fists of Hatchet rained down on it's neck if it slowed any.The nearest town was a mile down the road and it was late in the day.
That was all it took to set the anger in motion.Hatchet took five paces away from his horse and hurled his razor sharp hatchet with violence. The horse's head was split in two.
He hauled his saddle, and wrestled his ****** weapon from the dead horse, then walked into the dusk. All the time, Serela had observed from the Spirit's eye, an artefact of the Ancients, entrusted to the Mind Seekers. Hatchet would pay for his offence against Nature's pure beast, for it was written' All Creatures will walk the Earth and all will be held Holy.Swift will be Divine retribution against those who slay the pure beast'.
Hatchet wasn't one to read the ancient scriptures and could not know that the Skull of Death would search him out in the next town.The Ancients had called forth their Gunslinger and a skeletal hand rested on the sacred Gun of Abe. Hatchet would be called out and a Gunfight would settle scores. A chill in the air unnerved him and he took comfort in carresing his ivory handled pistols.


Darkness fell on the land and the half moon shone on the dead horse.The night crawlers made to cut it's remains and scavenge it's carcass. Two hands were raised to the sky, pleading for forgiveness. Horsemeat was forbidden and a desecration of sacred laws.
A knife was produced and held to the beast's throat. In that moment, all became aware of the onlooker.A tall figure in a drab grey longcoat, black spurred boots, an old black stetson. The Sacred Gun of Abe was in his hands. The Skull of Death, the Ancients Gunslinger, walked the Plains once more.
All seven night crawlers stared in disbelief. Their last minutes of life ebbing from them as the eyes of the Ancients warrior scanned their souls and cremated their bodies.Seven figures suddenly engulfed in flames under the incessant stare of the Skull's empty sockets. Amongst the embers, the Gunslinger knelt beside the horse. In his mortal days, this beast was his closest companion.Hatchet had stolen his possession and the sight of it's remains stirred an anguished scream for the horrific end which befell his steed.

Gently the Gun of Abe was placed on the horse's neck. A small bottle of holy oil was rubbed in it's wounds.' Though death may stalk the pure, truly I say to you that righteousness will prevail and the dead will rise'. Even as the words were uttered, a ball of blue flame enveloped the horse. The light illuminated the darkness and from the light the skeleton of a horse emerged, raising itself up on its hind legs, in defiance of death. Approaching the Gunslinger, it nuzzled it's head to his skull, the brilliance of it's chalk white bones radiating a supernatural hue. Mounting his steed, he galloped into the night.Vengeance was coming.Death on a horse was looking for Hatchet!


Raihna woke suddenly and locked eyes withHatchet. She had been ordered to sleep with him, against her wishes. 'Something wrong with me, *****? Hatchet snarled when he'd paid his ten dollars to the House Madam.
'You better be worth it *****! He had roughed her up before falling into a drunken slumber. Now he was standing in his ragged long johns, at the end of the four poster bed.
A manic look was in his beady eyes, as he swigged his liquor jar. Unkempt rank hair covered his weasel like features. Reeking of horse and trail sweat, an ugly belly adorning his uglier frame, he leered for the longest time.Raihna took it all in, especially the hatchet in his right hand. 'Think you're mighty purdy, don't ya! he sneered. ' Let's see what you look like with a hair cut'!
Raihna noticed then that he had pinned her pigtails to the wooden headboard. Realising a scream would be the end of her, she stared back and waited. Hatchet hurled his weapon and it sliced into the headboard, shorning her hair.From the table, he grabbed his bowie knife and aimed for the other pigtail, slicing it off and nicking her neck. 'Well lookee now' he laughed as a trace of blood ran down her neck. 'Ain't you gonna scream, *****?


An eerie blue glow filtered into the room just then and the whinny and snortin' of a horse filled the air. 'What in Hell's name? muttered Hatchet. Looking out of the curtains, he saw the chalk white Skeleton of a horse and a skeleton rider brandishing a pistol. A fiery blue-red low glow radiated from their eyes and it seemed both rider and steed were on fire. Hatchet shouted out ' You one of them Resurrectionists?!' suddenly remembering the old shaman he had killed back in Piebald.
Hatchet had stolen his runes and kept them for trading with the Mindseekers. He thought now that maybe this was him come looking for him from the afterworld. Hot ***** trickled down his leg and he felt scared and sick to his stomach.

The gallows await !' It was almost a whisper as the ancients gunslinger raised his head towards the window. Hatchet grabbed Raihna and tried to shield himself from the spectre below. His mind raced as he hesitated, panic flooding his brain. 'Take them! We be even! he gambled as he threw the runes at the gunslinger. Even as he did so, they were grabbed instantaneously by a skeletal hand and placed around the gunslinger's neck. For these were the runes of time and in the coming trials would decide the balance of power between the Unholy and the Just.


Hatchet had thrown away his trump card and even as he loaded his gun, he was destined to die. 'Pearls before swine' whispered into the room and Hatchet descended the stairs, with Raihna in front. His pistol was cocked and he would shoot it out. If Hell was waiting, he wasn't going on his own. His hatchet lay in his side belt and he made his way onto the street.
The hallway was pitch black and Hatchet cautiously approached the parlour door hoping to get out the back street. He held a vice-like grip on Raihna's arm as he pushed her along. 'You keep your mouth shut ***** and open that door easy' he whispered, his voice betraying his inner terror. Suddenly and unexpectedly, he felt the cold muzzle of a revolver pressed hard to the back of his head. 'You take your claws offa my girl, Hatchet 'less you wants your **** brains spilled where you stand!
Hatchet knew Charlotte, the House madam, wasn't bluffing. He'd seen her do it too, back in Abilene, when China Jack beat up one of her girls. She'd shot him straight through his throat and followed up with a clean shot to his manhood. It hurt Hatchet even now just thinking about it'. Jesus! he thought as he cursed his situation. Things were moving too fast and nothing was going his way.
Hatchet loosened his grip, carefully holstering his gun.As she moved away, Raihna spat on his face and kneed him in the groin. ****! he bellowed and went to strike Raihna. His hearing saved her, as Charlotte cocked the gun and stopped him where he stood. 'Think I'd sleep easy with you on the premises, Hatchet? Take me for a fool? I don't know what the Hell is out on that street but it wants you!' By Christ, you're going out the front door to face it too!. 'Always were a cowardly *******, now move you lousy **** head!
Raihna had gotten hold of a shotgun and had it trained on Hatchet. 'Drop that hatchet right now, she said. ' You're facing that creature with your gun and nothing else! God knows you don't deserve even that much. Hatchet dropped his hatchet. 'Now kick it over here!' He did so and as Raihna picked it up, she hurled it back immediately into his right thigh, gashing him like a pig for the slaughter. Hatchet screamed in agony and Charlotte pulled it out of his thigh as the room sprayed with the red bloom of imminent death. Now move you *******!


Charlotte and Raihna ushered him towards the front door and kicked him into the dark dusty side street. 'You got it coming, Hatchet!, they shouted and there waiting for him was the Ancients Gunslinger. He had dismounted from his steed and now faced Hatchet.The look of death was in the Skull's eerie sockets and it was all Hatchet could do to stop his hands shaking. He threw up and finally faced the spectre before him.

'For those who have suffered, shall be avenged. The Righteous Light will shine on the Unholy and all dark souls shall be driven from the Plains. Fear will walk amongst them and even the shadows shall despise their ways.'
Thus it had been written and now was coming to pass.


Hatchet went for his gun, and time slowed down as his eyes scanned the scene. A chalk, pure white, skeletal hand reached for a gun and the fluid movement captured his attention. Hatchet knew he had been outdrawn and could see the gunslinger's bullet leave the smoking barrell, pristine, crafted by a master gunsmith. He noticed the leather holster, worn and faded, almost an antiquity, strapped to a dark trousered leg.
The long coat, ghastly grey, adorning the bones of the undead. Empty eyes stared him down, as he heard his own gun's sharp report and watched his bullet sail towards the spectre. Just before the gunslingers bullet blew his brains out, he finally noticed the spectre of the horse and instinctively knew this was the brutalised beast he had so callously slain. Blood and bone exploded violently and the mortal remains of Hatchet dropped to the ground.
Hatchet didn't know it then but he too was about to be reborn; for the Unholy were about to unleash the Scourge of Hossana and the Ancients Gunslinger stood in their way. Hatchet would be forged in the cauldron of Hell and in the coming trials would once again face the Sacred Gun of Abe.


Hatchet became conscious, and felt as ill as a cow in a slaughter house. The smell of death was rancid and his vision seemed out of focus. A nauseating, sickly stench permeated his nostrils and he winced as the pungent odour inflated his lungs. He was aware his whole body was bitter cold and he shivered uncontrollably. If this was a hangover, then it was the worst he'd ever been. Terrifyingly, he noticed that he was manacled, face down, to a massive ice block.
Encased within the block was a dead horse, it's head split in two, exposing brain matter, decayed pulped flesh, and grizzled bone. It's mouth was fixed in a ghastly grimace with it's eyes looking back into Hatchet's, it's gory mane matted in dirt.
His screams were hideous to hear and were lost in the din of the thousands of screams echoing within the air.The sound was deafening and burst his ears as the terror built up within him. Hatchet knew then he was in Hell, amongst the thousands of fallen souls now in the possesion of the Unholy.
His whole being was perished with unbearable, intense cold yet he could see flames, blazing blue and orange, feet away from him taunting him with intense glow.
Still the shrieks and squeals of thousands around him assailed his ears! The amplified volume resonated in his brain as his own screams built to a crescendo!
Yet, no light radiated from the flames and the pitch black illuminated only the horse within the ice block and the grimace which would be eternal. Still Hatchet screamed till he felt his throat would explode and his mind begged for deliverance! It was then that his shoulders and back ignited with agonising pain as he felt the sting of a whip.
Again and again the whip found it's mark and his flesh was pulverised. He cried out for forgiveness and begged to be spared and still he was lashed.He prayed to pass out and knew he never would ! For he was in Hell and the blackest deeds were now held to account.
A voice bellowed at him'Welcome Brother Hatchet! We will have a purpose for you soon! Enjoy the interim! Many more punishments await you yet until you are ready'. The eerie voice trailed off as Hatchet continued to be whipped. His agonising screams drowned the air and was unheard amongst the thousand others. Still the horse fixed it's empty eyes and stared at Hatchet and its grimace took pleasure in his suffering.

Seven days passed since Hatchet was despatched to Hell, and darkness fell on the Plains like a widows veil. No light illuminated the Earth and the Lakota knew this was the sign of the coming trials. The Ghost-walkers had appealed to the Great Spirit and no one who witnessed their victory at the Powder River could deny their courage.Truly this was evidence of the Spirit's intervention in their way of life. Reports had come in to Chief Red Cloud of a figure of flame riding amongst the Buffalo. A Skeleton on fire, riding the Skeleton of a horse at full charge. It seemed the very ground they rode upon was a torch of lightning, and the figure was at one with the Buffalo. Red Cloud rode out to witness it himself and noticed the blue-orange glow, like an aura of defiance, surrounding the figure. In it's hand was a gun, and Red Cloud recognised it as the Sacred Gun of Abe.
Many tales had been passed down from his ancestors, and Red Cloud knew this figure was sacred to his tribe.The Ancients Gunslinger would play a role in the destiny of his People.The Whiteman would pay a heavy price for the desecration of the traditions and way of life of those under the protection of the Great Spirit. He knew too that an enemy would arise which would destroy the Whiteman, and all the Earth's inhabitants. Only the Native American would take the battle to the Enemy, aided by the Ancients and the Mind Seekers.
Red Cloud knew his people looked to him for leadership, and he would provide it.They would hear how Red Cloud rode with the Ghost Rider and take pride in his courage. His fate was tied to the Ancients Gunslinger, and this had been preordained in the ancient Scriptures. Red Cloud looked down at the flaming figure and dug his knees into his horse. Charging down the hill, he shouted out a proud battle cry, and rode like the wind to the side of the Ghost Rider.In their trail the Buffalo followed.The trials ahead would be met and the Unholy would do battle with their most dangerous enemy.



**** it Charlotte! 'It don't make sense!
Hatchet weren't killed by no ghost, for Christ sake! Marshall John Lancaster was tired and couldn't believe the events which occurred in his absence. He had just brought in Ned Marlow.Got two of his men killed doing it, and suffered a leg wound himself in the shoot out. Marlow had been holed up in Tinkers Creek and came out unexpectedly with his guns blazing as the posse approached the log cabin. It had suddenly turned pitch dark, and all the horses got spooked, causing confusion amongst the lawman's officers.
Ned Marlow knew Hatchet; had lost an eye in a bar brawl to him once.It was said Hatchet carried the eye around with him ever since.
Ned was closing in on Hatchet, bent on revenge, and swore he'd see him dead. Suddenly a shot rang out, and startled Lancaster.
Ned had headbutted the Marshall's deputy as he was being placed in the holding cell.He had grabbed the deputy's gun then and blown a hole clean through him. Carelessness, or tiredness, maybe both, had cost him his life. Ned didn't give no quarter when his own life was on the line. He weren't going to no hangman's noose neither. He burst into the Marshall's office then and fired off two shots catching Lancaster in the left arm wounding him badly. The Marshall got off one reactive shot catching Ned's left ear.The sound deafened him and he put a slug through the Marshall's head.The fragrance of gunpowder filled the room and Charlotte could only look on.'You're coming with me, Honey!'bellowed Marlow as he grabbed her hair, pulling her close, and made his way onto the streets. A gun was held to Charlotte's head and Ned was figuring his next move.


He was too busy watching the streets but if he'd looked up, he would have seen a hatchet hurtling towards him with violent intent. The hatchet caught his gun hand and severed it clean off his wrist. Ned now had the indignity of losing his right hand.He screamed in agony as blood squirted from his severed wrist, spraying Charlotte in a plume of lifes red wine. Ned looked to the ground and his own hand lay there, holding his pistol, it's finger still on the trigger. Legend would record the severed hand fired off a shot moments after it's horrific amputation. Ned Marlow didn't know it then, but he too would play a role in the coming trials. The Unholy knew it only too well for it had been written 'The Deaf shall hear, the Blind shall see, and the hand of the sinner will turn on the Unholy'.


There the severed hand lay. A ghastly, grotesque, weather worn obscenity.
The gun had been removed from it's grasp since it's horrific amputatation from Ned Marlow. Three days had passed since the incident and no one dared to remove it from the street.cOminously, no decay had festered to spoil that monstrosity;for life still lingered within it's ghoulish flesh. Mangy street dogs looked at it with curiosity, yet kept a tentative distance. The little finger still wore a silver ring, set with a black stone. Once it had belonged to an ancient Pagan High King, who had been slaughtered in battle. An artefact from a distant time, carried across Europe into the America's. Evil had tainted it's properties and the Sons of the Unholy had sought it since. The ring now sought a new owner as the severed hand, an abomination of creation, crawled, like a filthy worm in the dirt. Slowly, laboriously, with uncanny certainty, the wretched hand made it's way towards the room of the one who had hurled the hatchet.


Raihna sat alone in her bedroom.The hatchet lay across her lap and it was emitting a low hum, almost inaudible, but she had heard it. At first she thought madness was setting in, but she realised that the voices communicating with her were real; the Mind Seekers had chosen her.
Her mind and body became a telepathic conduit and she was absorbed in receiving the messages. The Ancients were channelling through her and a deep trance held her almost comatose.
Slowly, sickening slow, the hand crawled it's way towards her., Grubby, thick, fingers inching themselves stealthily, dangerously close, while Raihna was immersed in the communication.
Her eyes were closed in the deep state between the conscious and the unconscious, so she could not witness the fingers wrap themselves around the handle of the Hatchet. Both hand and clasped hatchet lifted silently from her lap. As the hand moved to distance the weapon from her, the ring glowed a greenish hue, emanating the presence of the Unholy. Suddenly the hand lunged at Raihna's throat!
Raihna's life was ebbing into eternity.The possessed, filthy, unholy amputation squeezed her windpipe with the vengence of perpetual hostility. The ring on the severed hand's finger glowed brighter, as her life force lay on the threshold of destruction. It seemed as though the light of a thousand burning suns illuminated that room. A portal to Hell had been created and Raihna was pulled into that abyss. She was neither dead nor alive, for the Unholy had need of a pawn.The hatchet too was ****** into that void as it was destined to be reunited with Hatchet.The light was blinding and it seemed the very Earth could have been swallowed; as though the Gods had abandoned all of Creation!
Yet there he stood! A blazing figure astride a blazing horse.The chalk white bones of a skeleton horse carrying the Ancients Gunslinger towards the entrance to Hell! The ancient scriptures had written ' The Liveth Bone shall ride into Hell, and the Unholy shall cower'.
The Sacred Gun of Abe shall wield the vengeance of the Ages and the Earth and Heavens shall shake'. Thus it had been written and was now coming to pass.
A portal to Hell had opened and the Gunslinger charged into that cesspool of abomination. No Horse ever galloped with such energy and the Unholy prepared for the skirmish.The Gunslinger was possessed with a relentless rage for Justice. Hell quaked as both rider and horse fearlessly charged into the bowels of Evil's pestilent abode.
Furious at this brazen affront, the Unholy now made to close that portal. Even as they did so, Hatchet was resurrected from his tormented existence. His hatchet was reunited with him as he prepared to once again face the Gunslinger.Raihna must be rescued; for her destiny was tied to the Earth's salvation. For now, she lay in a corner of Hell watched over by a severed hand. The screams and anguished cries of all the lost souls in Hell echoed in the stagnant air. Still the Rider charged furiously as he sought to gather Raihna to his arms. A ****** hatchet sailed towards him and Hell looked on.


Hatchet charged from the cage of demons, his face etched with the pain of perpetual torment. His emaciated form like a malignant Phoenix rising from the ashes of Hell. The pitiful creature carrying his burden reared from his weight. A wretched carcass of a decayed horse which had been ressurected for battle. That same horse which had been encased within the ice block;whose ****** head Hatchet had split open when both were mortals on the Earth. Man and beast now tools for the Unholy; possessed by the collective evil of all who now suffered in Hell.cTheir dark energy would now be harnessed for the coming trials. A gruesome grimace was fixed on the horse's face and it's empty eyes stared ahead as Hatchet charged towards the Gunslinger. His violent countenace expressed the deadly intentions which would be borne down upon his enemy.
He had hurled his weapon and watched as it made it's deadly trajectory towards the Gunslinger. As the hatchet spun and revolved through the air, Hatchet emmitted the scream of the demented. The Gunslinger had lowered in his saddle and the hatchet narrowly missed it's target. Continuing on it's course, it landed in the back of one of the screaming forgotten whose souls were doomed to eternal agony.
Both riders now crashed headlong into one another and Hatchet fell from his horse. The Sacred Gun of Abe was now in the Gunslinger's hand and a skeletal finger pulled the trigger.
Once again, Hatchet would witness a bullet discharge from it's revolving chamber. His head exploded as the bullet entered his brain, exiting in one piece and landing in the dank soil of Hell.The blessed relic purified the soil and the Unholy recoiled with revulsion.
The dead cannot die and Hatchet struggled back to his feet. Grabbing the Gunslinger's reins, he attempted to pull him down. It was then that the runes around the Gunslinger's neck pierced the air with a deafening incantation.
The Unholy screamed as the Holy words of the Ancient Scriptures filtered into the bowels of iniquity and shook the foundations of Hell.
Hatchet reeled back and grabbed his hatchet from the spine of the forgotten sinner. He looked up then and witnessed a warrior's lance sail through the air.It violently struck and impaled the severed hand guarding Raihna.
Red Cloud had accompanied the Gunslinger in his charge into Hell!
Mitchell Duran Jun 2012
The night rested in a humid Spring night as the cable cars
And taxi cabs lazily made their way around the
Soft and silent streets of the city. Stray cats and dogs
Picked away at half-eaten lunch meat and
three day old bread as the moon slowly began to rise.
The restaurants that lined the alley ways and
Side streets were filled with the Saturday evening crowd. The
Clinking echoes of wine glasses and dinner plates spilled
Out onto the sidewalk and into the street. The passerby's would
Occasionally turn their heads to look inside, some envious that they
Were not smiling and drinking and eating that night. Across the
Street and throughout the town, lonely men drank from half empty
Beer mugs, wondering where their passion had gone.

On the corner of Barry and 3rd stood a man alone with
A suitcase in his hand. He wore tattered brown dress
Shoes - two years too old - a black neck tie with a half
Button-up T-shirt and a pair of dark brown slacks he had
Bought from Goodwill for $3. His free hand hung open,
Letting the night breeze snake around his fingers. There
Were the stars above him that shone down onto the street
And the sidewalk and a few spotted puddles that had
Built up from an earlier rain. On the corner of Barry and 3rd
There was only one thing to do with one's time, and that
Was to stand around and think of where to go to next.

Up on 17th, there was a bar the man had heard of
From a woman who had tried to pick him up at the bus
Station, some kind of ******* that was really only looking
For a couple of free drinks and a packet of cigarettes. The man
Thought of this place, and weighed back and forth if it would
Be advantageous to wander up there and see if he couldn't
Find someone to shack up with for the night.
He decided it would be.

As he passed the busy restaurants, listening to the insides
Of the building and its occupants churn like silverware
In a blender, he remembered he had placed a half-loaf
Of bread inside of his suitcase.
He stopped on a rough concrete stoop of a Catholic
Church, where above him, stood a large wooden cross.
Around the cross were plaster sculptures of baby angels and
Gargoyles and a snaking vine made of black stone that made
Its way around the cross, tying itself around the center
Where the horizontal met the vertical, and continued
To spin around and around until it reached the top.
At first, the man thought it was some
Kind of snake signifying Adam and Eve, which was all
He really knew about religion, the basic kid stories, but
When looking closer, realized that it was only an innocent
Plant seeking a spot of sun.

The man placed his suitcase on the 3rd step of 8, where he
Then sat on the 4th. He leaned his weathered, bent back against
The hard stone concrete and listened to the faint cracks
Of his spine inside his body. He realized that he hadn't sat d
Down and relaxed since he had gotten off the train. He threw
His head back in a exaggerated and child-like yawn, and felt the warm tears
Of bashful exhaustion fill the sockets of his heavy eyes. The night was
Warm and he unbuttoned the top two buttons of his shirt
To let the air blow over his sweat drenched chest.

"There are certain times to be alone in life," He mused
To himself, "And I do believe that I have
Found one of them."

In a room above him the window was wide open
And the curtains danced outside with the wind. A head
Poked out from the window sill and peered down to
Look at the man musing, but did not say anything. The man
knew nothing of the stranger's eyes above him and felt
No other presence around him, other than the passing taxi
Cabs and street walker's and - if you counted the one's inside
The church - the saints and the angel's and God that lived
In holy silence enshrined behind him.

"There are things in life that are never meant to be
Solved," he philosophized, "And maybe I am
One of those things. When I think of my life, my entire
Life here on Earth, I don't think I ever found
A straight line to follow that I was ever comfortable
With...not one straight line I could follow that would
Bring me true happiness or a sense of accomplishment.
Now, am I bad in feeling this way? Am I no good
For never feeling that the good ain't ever good enough?
I do my laundry like everybody else and I walk the
Street just the same, but, there is something else that
Smells and feels and can taste the eternity in all things
That makes me restless so I can't sleep sometimes, forces
Me to stare into black infinity with only a mind I feel
That I will never truly meet. There has got to be a word
For whatever feeling this is, but I can't seem to think of it now."

The head above that had poked out before ******
A dark object out the window. It wavered for a moment
In the still warm air of the night, then, whooshing and
Splashing down, a full bucket of water cascaded down
on the man's head and suitcase. The man sat frozen, unsure
Whether it was from the Heaven's itself and paused before
He began to swear and curse at the tenant above him.

"You rat **** eating vanilla ice cream eating convict!" he
Screamed up towards the apartment complex, "I'm going
To come back with a gallon of gasoline, 10,000 tooth-picks, and
Find out your favorite magazine subscription and bring 1,000
Those by, and burn this place down - gifts and all!"

His voice
Echoed in the street
And down the darkened alley-way,
Where the bums of the city
Slumbered, not hearing a sound
Of the rant the man in the now wet
Two year old dress shoes rambled
On with; for bums sleep with
Absolute peace with their lack of
Care or fear of time.

"At last," he muttered underneath his dripping hair,
"I am released unto the Earth for what I truly am: A hung
Sheet - fresh out of the washer - meant only to be
Basking in the moonlight so to be dried by
Morning for the house-guests in the evening."

The man snapped his fingers,
Clicked his tongue, and looked up,
Once more trying to spot the culprit, until
Another bucket of water came crashing
Down upon him.

"QUIET DOWN THERE,"
The voice from above hollered,
"THERE AIN'T A SINGLE WORD ANYONE
IN THIS BUILDING WANTS TO HEAR
RIGHT NOW! CHILDREN ARE SLEEPING AND
THE OLD ONE'S ARE WATCHING THIER PROGRAMS!"

The man ran his hands through his dripping wet hair
And flicked the droplets of water out onto the street. His
Suitcase, which sat to the right of him, was soaked as well and
The man worried about the single baguette he had stored
In there in case he had gotten hungry. He knew it was ruined
Now, but was happy that there was only an extra pair
Of 50 cent socks and an undershirt he had found underneath
A bridge on the way into the city. He cocked his head up to the open window.

"You speak for everyone here in this building?" He
Asked the black and blotchy figure above him.

"I speak for everyone that doesn't have the nerve or
The cajones or the energy to holler down at you at
This Un-Godly hour, if that's what your asking."

"They vote you into that position?" He asked, prodding them.

"No vote. I'm a volunteer," they defended.

"Ha. Always going to be some kind of
Volunteer when there's power involved."

"Isn't power, it's responsibility."

"Responsibility," the man repeated, chewing the
Word in his mouth, seeing it spelled out in his mind.
"Responsibility is quite a subjective thing: some people
Take a liking to it and never want to stop being responsible and
In charge, and some just don't want none of it and
Would rather lay back in the sun and act
Like their in charge, while whoever believes
Their power works under'em and for'em; which one are you?"

"Neither. I'm just here trying to ward off some
Rambling *** with what looks like nothing but a
Suitcase and some old clothes and shoes."

"Well," he said, "You must have some pretty good
Eye-sight in this setting dark, because that's
All I got at the moment."

"Where you hail from?" the voice asked.

"Originally I hail from here, but where I was
Before I hailed from as well. To tell you the truth, I don't
Truly know - that's a good question."

The man tilted his chin up slightly and
Rolled over his response. The question had
Dropped an icy fire into the pit of his stomach and filled it
With hundreds of gnawing, fluttering butterflies; he
Hadn't thought about home in a long time and
Had forgotten why he had even chose to show-up in the first place.

"I'm here for reasons I can't seem to remember at the moment,"
The man admitted to the voice above and to himself.

"Can't remember?" the voice laughed, "How
You gonna' forget why you came home?"

"Don't know," he said, shaking his head," Just
Can't seem to recollect it."

"Scary thing."

"Yes, indeed."

They both paused as a taxi cab passed slowly by. It stopped
And honked its horn trying to signal the man to see
If he needed a ride. The man waved his hand to send the
Cabby off and looked down at his wet clothes and suitcase. The
Chill of the night had gotten its way into his skin and
He noticed that his teeth were chattering and his feet were
Beginning to shake. He worried about getting sick because he
Wouldn't be able to buy any medicine if he did. He looked up
To see the figure still looking down at him in silence. Suddenly,
An object fell, back and forth in the air like a feather,
Down towards the man and onto the stoop where he stood.
It was a blanket and wrapped inside was a tattered pillow.

"Bring it back if you want," the voice called out to him, "Don't
Even care if you sleep on the stoop, but, it's a little wet, as you know."

"There a park around here?"

"Down two blocks and a left. You'll see it."

"Thanks for your kindness," he said looking up at the window.

"Thanks for your silence," the voice said stubbornly.

The man brushed off the remaining water on his clothes
And suitcase and tried to squeeze the water out his hair.
He picked up his suitcase and wrapped the blanket around
His body and fitted the pillow underneath his arm. He walked
Two blocks up from where the figure had told him and took a
Left, illuminated by the stark orange and white street lights. He looked
Around after he took the left and spotted a small children's park
With a few benches spotted along the sidewalk that snaked through it.
He picked a bench near a water fountain, unbuckled his belt and took
Off his wet pants and laid down, wrapping the thick wool blanket
Around his body. He placed his suitcase underneath the bench and
Positioned the pillow so it fitted gently under his head. After he
Closed his eyes and rested for five minutes, he reached down to
Touch his suitcase. He felt the cool, damp leather of it, and
Quickly wrapped himself back up into the blanket,
Eagerly awaiting for dawn to rise and bring warmth back to his body.

At dawn, the sun painted the man's body with dark yellow streaks
of sunlight, heating his body up so much that when he woke, his
Clothes were close to dry again. The small patch of grass and
Weeds underneath him rustled with the wind and the sounds
Of the street a few blocks away drifted into his ear. He stirred
Inside of his blanket but did not rise. The pillow had fallen
To the ground throughout the night, but the man was too tired
To reach for it and kept his head on the hard wooden surface of the bench.
While lying there, half awake, the man thought of the figure that
Had been speaking to him from their window the night before. He
Knew he must return the blanket and pillow, but he was unsure
Whether he should bring something else. He had no money -
No money to spare at least - so he chose to bring only the
The things that were leant to him back, hoping that would suffice.

He shifted his position on the bench and saw through a crack of
The bench, that there were children already playing on the playground
Behind him, their parents leaning over their porches watching them; they
Didn't even seem to notice or care about the man sleeping on the bench.
The man felt embarrassed about this and rolled over to avoid the
Gaze of the parents and any of the children that may have spotted him. He
Laid on his back, his head atop the worn but comfortable pillow, and
Gazed up into the blue sky that was clear save a few passing milky
White clouds, that hovered above him like colossal globs of marshmallows.
He hoped in his mind that he remembered where the house the was that
Had been kind enough to give him the blanket and pillow and he wished
That he had paid more attention to the street signs and physical objects
Surrounding the building. All the man could recall were the bright neon
Orange light posts, a long line of thinly pruned circular bushes, a few
Mailboxes that stood as if attention on the sidewalk of the street, and
Numerous houses that all looked the same when he passed them in the night.
He knew he needed to find the house but was too comfortable to rise and
Too scared of the failure of ever finding the house and the thought
Of carrying around the blanket and pillow made his face flush a deep red.

The man rose cooly, as if rising from a nap spent on a couch in his
Summer cottage that rested on the bank of some far off river somewhere.
He looked over to the children and the parents up on their porches, but
Still, none of them paid him any mind. This relieved him. He was allowed
To be a shadow and embraced the idea of being anonymous rather
Than feeling the helplessness one feels when no one sees you. He folded
The blanket neatly like his mother had taught him to do ever since
He was a little boy, and instinctively fluffed the ***** pillow, even though
It was far beyond repair already. The sun was just peaking over the tops of
The ramshackle apartment buildings and he noticed that he had been
Sleeping in what looked like a very poor part of town; in the night, it
Looked like every other park corner where the elderly would to
Think about their past and the children would play with their present.

"Night and day are two different worlds," the man muttered
To himself, "Some people belong in one and some
The other; I wonder...which one am I?"

He looked up towards the sun and squinted, feeling a
Small droplet of sweat make its way down his right cheek. He
Wiped it away with his fingertip and brought it to his mouth -
He was terribly thirsty and his stomach rumbled within him. He
Had noticed the night before on the way to the park, a sign
For a bakery, but was not sure whether it was open or not because
The night was too dark to reveal any signs of it. The man had 10 dollars to
His name and knew he could buy two loaves of bread for at least 50 cents
If he haggled with whoever was running the place. They would be sure
To see his condition and help him if he showed them a little of the money he had.
There was also a childish charm to the man that he would bring out whenever
He truly was in need - he never liked abusing this gift, if one could call it that -
But in times of desperation and starvation and dehydration, he was
Forced to use it and mustered as much courage up to do so.

He walked through the path that had brought him to the park and
Made a right down the street towards the bakery and possibly the
House where he had been given the blanket and pillow. There was
No one on the street save a few alley cats and dogs and all the window
Blinds were down to block out the intense shining sun rising in the sky. There
Was a light breeze passing through the trees that cooled the man off. He
Had begun to sweat from holding the pillow and blanket so close
To his body, and wished he could have the nerve just to throw it in a
Garbage can and make his way to the neighborhood where he had been told
About the bar, but his conscious weighed him down, so he carried on.

He walked a block down the street and found the bakery on the other side
Of the street. He crossed and saw there was an old woman inside.
He checked his pockets for any spare change and opened his wallet
To make sure the 10 dollars was still there. He needed water and something
To put in his belly and he whispered a prayer before he went inside of the bakery.
When he pushed the door to enter though, it wouldn't budge - it was locked. The
Woman behind the counter turned her head and looked at the man, who
shook her head and waved him off. The man knocked gently on the glass
Door, but the old woman just kept waving and shooing him off like an animal. The
Man checked the clock inside and saw that
Hal Loyd Denton Nov 2012
Priceless Times


To serve as a sub title I would call this antidote presented in a flowered bouquet first of flowers then
Thoughts that are found in such gifts of treasured beauty an antidote in the central theme of my life

Trying to give any and all relief from pain and suffering if nothing else it will serve as a brief distraction
As you read unfortunately we can only win small victories but anything to help just possibly it will make
A crack that will lead to understanding and more winning can occur

The gold bejeweled lives I have known they the towers the earth’s perennial flowers they were the all
Consuming hours of my life others view life conceptually one part is a stone wall that grows the figwort

With the other English Ivy Hedera the first has the notation of growing in old ruins here
Is the represented tendrils of the heart ever growing ever showing a map of feelings ether joyful or

Tragic within their sinew your strengths and weakness are displayed yes they are hidden to the natural
Eye but in quiet conversation they reveal themselves in the loveliest ways they are rhythmic waves that

Flow over those that we love instilling in them our secret otherwise unknown selves then now I would
Like to present the main body of this piece what are the first words women say when they receive

Flowers how lovely is their words for this to happen their heavenly Father stood before this blue globe
And spoke to the wayward wind my desire is to make an unquestionable quality that will be the very

Essence from where its fragrance is derived he told the wind go and do my bidding instantly the wind
Split into four parts from that time till now it is called and said gather from the four winds in obedience

To the master one part rushed down and felt the tearing of mountain peaks it screamed with delight
And pain it soothed itself by quietly passing over knolls that stood on lonely hill tops then through vales

And valleys it made progress looked across the great span of earth to see what its kindred brothers and
Sisters were finding in its drift and wonderings it noticed one was awaking the wild African world then it

Turned and whirled as it picked up the scent of Africa’s coffee fields instinctively it knew where it must
Go next to the southern tobacco fields it delighted in the pungent promise where in parlors ever so

Humble the tiny pleasurable string like smoke would lay on the air and from a great distance far from
This domestic scene it could see its fellow kiss and roll across the earth’s great rivers the Nile and its

Rectangular pyramids the burial enclosures of the pharos with reverence they silently passed to deepen
This they drove onward until they felt the sacred Ganges below they drank of the sighs of millions of

India’s people refreshed by this dearness to link themselves to the one true God they set a course that
Would take them to where in future days a Union Jack would have the notoriety that the sun never set

In far off lands without its shadow proudly waving it pointed glory folds back to the Thymes where the
British crown would nobly reign and one of its greatest achievements would be the land of free men

That it spawned so out to sea it turned to visit this kingdom not of royal crowns but the garland of
Freedom that rested on every man woman and child it was home for many waters the Mongolia the

Ohio north lay the Great lakes in its center the old Mississippi it followed it down and made its turn west
To rivers called Rio Grande the Red Brazos on to the Colorado the snake and if they could be heard

Speaking they be saying Chisim Platt fairest blue bells I know your home in these familiar dales and pick
Up the from the arid desert from dry river beds biting sand go to its roots and you would know long

Ago waters that held brimming life over the gold fields it continues and dips into the blue pacific
Washing sand an grit its next stop was turquoise waters rainbows and waterfalls it fell into the swaying

Palms coconut papaya pineapple layered it with richness it would create the fabled trade winds it turned
To view it exact opposite its brother wind that came down from the pole it knew Russia’s Siberia Alaskan

Tundra at this point it heard the Father state you have done well he drew a great breath that captured
All that was gathered in the heart of the wind then he turned to carpeted fields that stood incomplete

Flowers were as a sea but they were empty petals they were the reproductive part of flowers but they
Were barren of vividness and true deep colors but worst of all they were odorless and then God

Breathed upon them the secrets that the wind had stored from the four corners of the earth in that
Moment flowers became the true marvel and were forever established as the hallmark of romantic

Expression first picturesque layered with gratitude stillness the chill from the pole that reached down
Through the Canucks of Canada there is the splash of **** frost felt if not known the enticement of the

Soul of cool contrasted with the deserts heat cacti drenched in sunlight never to be complete always in
Rays that makes it beholden in glimmers it shimmers it touts a glory born from harshness it lingers as

Indescribable beauty burnished sands its court this is also found in the allure of flowers hidden within
Is weariness but it is the refined kind it speaks to you not of tiredness but of rest of shade and shadow

A quest is announced do you not feel a sweet breeze how else does its fragrance come within reach
You’re carried back to mountain meadows meows from baby mountain lion kittens are laced within

The story flowers release through their fragrance and truly this just one of Gods many gifts to man
And the greatest Rose of all is His Son the Rose of Sharon
Denel Kessler Jan 2016
Petite arctic terns
navigate the sky
on epic migration
wings clocking
45,000 miles each year

it seems they know
how to go
with the flow
by thumbing a lift
on atmospheric airways

that crisscross the planet
adding thousands of
seemingly needless miles
to an already
arduous journey

flocks congregate
in open ocean
to rest and fuel up
on fish and krill
for the last push home

these tenacious birds
understand
the cliché
it's all about
the journey

they synchronize
with invisible currents
because to beat
into the wind
is a futile expenditure

they pause
in community
to re-energize and feed
on unfathomable
bounty

four ounces
of feather
and hollow bone
instinctively holds
these truths

there is much
to be learned
from an
arctic
tern.
Humor me...
: )
Yenson Sep 2018
Cyberbullies get a perverse sense of satisfaction (called gratification) from sending people inflamed materials, hate mail or fabricated poems taunting ot designed to torment. Inflammable materials or poems are writings whose contents are designed to inflame and enrage. Hate writing is hatred or obtuse poetries (including prejudice, racism, sexism or thinly disguised personal references or insinuations etc) in a poetry.

Serial bullies, whose behaviour profile you'll find in full at Bully OnLine, harbour a lot of internal aggression which they direct at others. This may include projection, false criticism and patronising sarcasm whilst contributing nothing of any value. It may also include a common tactic of "a number of people have emailed me backchannel to agree with me". This is standard bully-speak which I've experienced on several forums. In every case it's a fabrication or a distortion - usually the former. It's also a variant of the serial bully headteacher who says "a number of parents have complained to me about you...". When challenged, the identity of the alleged complainants can't be disclosed because it's "confidential". The purpose of this tactic is to wind people up. Don't be fooled into believing it has any validity - it doesn't.

People who bully are adept at creating conflict between those who would otherwise pool negative information about them. The method of creating conflict is provocation which bullies delight in because they know they can always coerce at least one person to respond in a manner which can then be distorted and used to further flame and inflame people. And so it goes on. The bully then sits back and gains gratification from seeing others engage in destructive behaviour towards each other.

Many serial bullies are also serial attention-seekers. More than anything else they want attention. It doesn't matter what type of attention they get, positive or negative, as long as they can provoke someone into paying them attention. It's like a 2-year-old child throwing a tantrum to get attention from a parent. The best way to treat bullies is to refuse to respond and to refuse to engage them - which they really hate. In other words, do not reply to their postings, and on forums carry on posting without reference to their postings as if they didn't exist. In other words, treat nobodies as nobodies.

The anger of a serial bully is especially apparent when they come across someone who can see through them to espy the weak, inadequate, immature, dysfunctional aggressive individual behind the mask. For instance, when serial bullies see themselves described at workbully/serial.htm they usually send me an abusive email.

The objectives of bullies are Power, Control, *******, Subjugation. They get a kick out of seeing you react. It doesn't matter how you react, the fact they've successful provoked a reaction is, to the bully, a sign that their attempt at control have been successful. After that, it's a question of wearing you down. The more your try to explain, negotiate, conciliate, etc the more gratification they obtain from your increasingly desperate attempts to communicate with them. Understand that it is not possible to communicate in a mature adult manner with a disordered individual who's emotionally *******.

The Number One rule for dealing with this type of behaviour is: don't respond, don't interact and don't engage. This is not as easy to do as it sounds. It's a natural response to want to defend yourself, and to put the person right. However, never argue with a serial bully; it's not a mature adult discussion, but like dealing with a child or immature teenager; whilst the serial bully may be an adult on the outside, on the inside they are like a child who's never grown up - and probably never will. Serial bullies and harassers often have disordered thinking patterns and do not share the same thoughts or values as you.

Although you may be the target of the cyberbully's anger, you can train yourself to act as an observer. This takes you out of the firing line and enables you to study the perpetrator and collect evidence.

When people use bullying behaviours they project their own weaknesses, failings and shortcomings on to others. In other words, they are telling you about themselves by fabricating an accusation based on something they themselves have done wrong. Whenever you receive a flame mail or hate mail, train yourself to instinctively ask the question, "What is this person revealing about themselves this time?"
Anthony Perry Sep 2014
Dont come to me with these feelings that you fabricated, dont try and remind me of the times that you made me feel obligated, just dont come close when your feeling lost and conceded because one day I won't be here to take it. I just need time, something you could never give and its been a crime that I let you bite me in the back with teeth like some toothbrush shivs. This is just who I am, these words are the bones that make up a body which emotions flow through like blood, thoughts are the veins that make jet streams shooting out from the end of frayed tips of an amputation gone wrong. With my wounds I bring a flood and like a wolf you were instinctively drawn, the scent of a dying animal brought you close but then you chose to dispose instead of being exposed, you walked away and said sorry but now you come back talking about a decision you loath? Your a wound I was willing to close.
Amber Dec 2013
I never thought I'd have to see her like this so soon. So young. So cold.
I should have listened to her. I should have talked to her more. Seen her more. She always asked me why I seemed so distant from her, I always got frustrated and denied it.

Now she's the distant one.

We would argue often. About communication. Our feelings. Her feelings. She had a very hard life. A violent alcoholic father. She grew up untainted by her surroundings, but scarred. Chronic Anxiety and Depression. She would cry often, and get mad and angry for sometimes no reason. She said she didn't know why it happened; it just did, and that I couldn't understand. That made me angry. Even though she was right; I really couldn't.

I haven't had an easy life in the past few years, but it doesn't compare to hers. I didn't know what is was like to be as depressed as she was. To be as anxious as she was. She would always check up on me, because she always worried about me. I myself, just took it and never did it for her.

What a mistake.

I remember my 17th birthday. She was more excited than I was, and couldn't wait for me to finally see what she had done for me. She was adorable when she talked about it. I spent the day with her and she made me a homemade card themed my favorite video game, and a Key Lime pie from scratch. I love Key Lime pie.
How I wish we could make it together, one last time.

A couple days after my birthday, a package she ordered came and she was ecstatic for me to finally have it. They were custom made genuine dog tags. They had my information on one tag, and a personalized message from her on the other. Her message read, "KNOWING YOU HAS MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE, AND LOVING YOU HAS MADE MY WORLD." I wear them everywhere, even to today.

But when her birthday came around, I didn't get her anything. Not even a card. She was really upset, and I felt guilty when she mentioned it, so I never did get her anything; I felt it was too late.

Whenever she was happy, she shined brighter than the sun. She smiled and laughed and was goofy. She would make up little songs about how much she loved me, and she would do anything for me. Now, I can only imagine how she felt when I left for the night, not doing anything for her.
I knew she had problems even before she met me. I knew she was chronically sad. I knew she had always been a rock, but had slowly started to erode and needed someone.

Why was I so selfish!?

I notice her mother is crying. Hysterically. They were so close. Her mom was so nice, always inviting me over and cooking for me even when they didn't have much food. Now, she looks like an empty husk of what she used to be. Crumpled on the floor, covered in her own tears, mourning the loss of her world.

My world.

Her younger brother sits with their dad, hugging and crying on each other, as well as the rest of her family. You can almost smell the saltiness in the air from all of the tears.

I've cried as much as I can. When I heard the news, I was in shock. I didn't want to believe she was gone. But eventually I screamed, bawled and raged at my loss. She was the only thing that mattered to me.

Now I stand here, silent and empty. My mind is numb, and all I can do is stare at her. Eyes closed, chest still, but still so beautiful. I had to battle with myself to even come and deal with seeing her like this. I finally move my stiff hand towards her curly hair and stroke it, and slowly move my hand to her shoulder. I imagine her opening her eyes and smiling at me with one of her beaming smiles. But I know it won't happen, and that's when the tears come.

I'll never see her smile, feel her lips against mine, hug her small body again. I can never hear her sweet voice again, telling me, "I love you" with a glow in her eyes.

Why didn't I show her how much she meant to me? Why couldn't I swallow my pride and be a little more caring and thoughtful for her the way she never failed to be for me? Why? I'm sobbing now. I collapse to my knees and rest my hand over hers. She's freezing. I rub her hands instinctively as if it will warm them up, but it doesn't.
I just want her to wake up. I feel as if it's my fault she's in eternal silence now. Apart of the world beyond, when I want her so desperately to be back here with me. I don't want her to leave me. I feel as if I can't live without her, she was the only one I'd ever truly loved, but in the end I failed her. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, I should have shown her more instead of using only my words!

I slowly stand up still covered in my tears, and stare at her sleeping body. I watch as one drips down onto her expressionless face. I use my thumb to gently wipe my tear away, just as I used to wipe hers. Now all I can do is think about what could have been, what I could have done, and what will never be.

"I'll miss you." I whisper through my sore choked throat, and kiss her cold forehead.

"I love you."
This is a very touchy short story for me. I did write it myself. I'm not sure exactly what to say about it, other than it's fiction and in the POF of a grieving boyfriend.
Daniel Kenneth Jun 2013
There are times where
We are sitting together
And my hand
Instinctively finds your's
Normally I do not like
Being touched at all
Never a fan of hand holding
Always quick to put distance
Between myself and another
Because the contact
Was suffocating
But with you
It is different
It feels different
And the closeness
Is not a hardship to be endured
But a joy to be celebrated
Because when I look down to find your hand in mine
I smile
And know that for once
All is okay
jeffrey robin Sep 2010
the enemy is.....you

(all of our "you's")

the enemy...........
always fights
the pure simple truth
we know is true
instinctively

the enemy claims
(always)
to love you

the enemy points out there
and says
"see......the ENEMY!

don't worry!

i will protect you!!!"

THE BENEVOLENT ENEMY!!!

but

i will see you on the open field
i will see you in the ancient hall
i will see you in the alleyway
i will see you in chains, in court
i will see you when you start
moving towards the door
that is symbolic of "the heart"

i will see you when i see
in the mirror
my own true face

THE DAY
(OR NIGHT!)
IS
ALWAYS YOUNG
the enemy of the enemy
is only love

the enemy of the enemy
is only love
Alice Burns Jun 2013
An exit for expression
An admittance with no fee
A mind free from excluding
An exhibition without end

The centerpiece- an installation
Ever moving within its frame
Its contents constantly disappearing
To reveal a blank canvas to be filled once more

The artist turns out to be me, and me alone
Leaving my post is an improbability
As the gallery holding me hostage is my own mind
Yet in truth, I find happiness in this prison cell

Without sleep I find energy from passers by
Who refuel my passion with their coins
Thrown into my hat beside me
Tokens of positivity that they cannot directly give

The door is always open
Even to those who find fault with the artist
Who tease me in my chained feet
And hurl their abuse with intent to delay completion

Yet still, I welcome companionship of viewers
Without noticing the deviants who scratch away at my painting
My selflessness renders me unable to notice evils
Blinding me with the future I paint before my eyes

My piece is never mastered
For I am distracted by evils constant approach
Presenting me with gifts of seeds, that grow in my soils
Only to blossom as weeds, and eat away at all goodness

But my grounds are open, and my job demands time
Rarely do I have the time to look upon works accomplished
But I steal a moment as sun and moon change shifts
Only to be met a view that gives no happiness as before

My stubborn positivity keeps defences up
Protecting myself from taunters and ghosts who take refuge in corners
I am distracted by my own optimism, the joy of what I do
But it hinders me, in ways I cannot defeat

My ability to seek vengeance was never yielded nor encouraged
So instinctively as always, I turn not to the voices behind me
And paint upon the canvas once more
The doors still open

— The End —