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Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

There is a glacier.
Its blue tongue’s tip just tastes a frozen gorge.
There is a gorge, its walls shattered by cold; a once-green thing that, in dying, birthed a thousand aching fissures. It works its jagged way downhill, round ragged rifts and drifts until it comes upon a little frosted wood.
There is a wood, an island locked in ice.
Within this wood the gorge descends. It wanders and it wends; it brakes and all but ends outside a clearing wet with sun. And there, forking, its bent and broken arms embrace a strange, enchanted glade.

There is a glade.
And in this glade the black bears sleep, though salmon leap fat between falls. Here the field mouse draws no shadow, the eagle seeks no prey; they spend their while caressed by rays, and halcyon days are they. Here rabbit and fawn may linger, no longer need they flee. For in this timeless, taintless space, the Wild has ceased to be. (Outside the glade are shadow and prey, are ice and naked death. There blood may run freely. There the eagle, that thief, is a righteous savage, a noble fiend. But once in the glade he is dove, and has no taste for blood, running freely or otherwise).
And in this glade there nests a pool:  a dazzling, blue-and-silver jewel; profoundly deep, pristinely clear. All who sip find solace here, for this is the Eye of Being. They lap in peace, assuming blear, not knowing it is seeing. And ever thus this pool shall peer:  a silent seer, reflecting on—all that Is, and all Beyond.
(Outside the glade there lies a world where rivers ever run, where ghastly calves in random file revile a bitter sun. East, the day is born in mist. West she dies:  her rest, the deep. And North…North the Earth lies mute. Wind gnaws her hide, wind wracks her dreams. Wind screams like a flute in her white, white sleep).
But in the glade are tall, stately grasses, sunning raptly, spinning lore. Roots render the rhythms, blades bend without breeze, as signals ascend from the glade’s tender floor. (In this wise the glade weaves its word, airs its views. All the glade’s flora are bearers of news). They do not wither with fall, for in the glade there is no fall. They do not bind or wilt or brown—they gesture, spreading the mood, the mind; conveying, indeed, the very soul of the glade. As ever they have, as they shall evermore.
Bees do not hum here; they sing. They fatten the dream. Mellow and round are the timbres they sound, sweet is the music they bring. Birds do not sing here—they play. They carry the theme. Dulcet and warm are the strains they perform. Gifted musicians are they. (All in the glade are virtuosi. They were born to create. Melody, harmony, meter…are innate). Now the performance is lively and bright, now full, now almost still. For, though all in the glade may lean to the light, they must bend to the maestro’s feel.
And yet…there was a day, long ago in a dream, when this ongoing opus was torn. And on that day (so the lullaby goes) the wind brought a scream, and Dissonance was born.
There was a noise.
Moose tensed, their coffee eyes narrowed, their patient brows creased. Bees mauled the tempo, birds lost their place. The grass stood *****, all blades pointing east. There was a crash, and a shriek, and a naked, bleeding beast burst stinking through the fern, fell stumbling on its face.
Moose scattered:  unheard of. Sheep brawled, geese burst out of rhyme. The symphony, forever endeavored to soar sublime, fluttered, plunged, and, for all of a measure, ceased.
The pool was appalled…what manner brute—what kind of monster was this? Furless flank to forelimb, hide obscured by blood. As for its face…it had no face; only a look:  of shock frozen in time, of horror in amber. A deep welling rift ran temple to chin, halving the mask, caving it in. Such a grievous wound…the pool watched it stagger, on two legs and four, thrashing about till it came to a rise. There it labored for air, wiped the blood from its eyes, lashed at illusion, looked wildly round. Beholding the pool, the beast tumbled down.
And there this wretch plunged his thirst, drank his fill, fell back on his haunches.
The pool became still.
The two traded stares.
The glass read his features:  that durable eye pondered the wreckage and probed the debris. Revolted, the pool sought the succor of sky. But that thing remained—that face…in all creation…surely there could be…no other creature so ugly as he.
And he gazed in the glass.
Beneath the surface were…images…swimming in currents of shadow and light. He saw half-shapes and fragments…hideous men, exotic beasts…saw blue worlds of water, saw white worlds of ice…it was all so vague and unreal—yet somehow strangely familiar. Deeper he peered, but, as his mangled face neared, the sun smote the pool and the shapes disappeared. The brute pawed the ground and, dreaming he’d drowned, shook his head sharply and slowly looked round:
There were starlings at arm’s-length, transfixed with suspense, their tail feathers trembling, their dark eyes intense. Fantails and timber wolves, stepping in sync, paused for a sniff, stooped for a drink. Bees, pirouetting, threw light in his eyes. Seizing the moment, the pool pressed its hold.
And the glade revolved.
The freak watched it spin—saw the ferns’ greedy fingers reach round and close in, saw the tall grass rise high in an emerald sheen, swaying to rhythms from somewhere obscene. This place was madness; he struggled to stand, but, weak as he was, keeled over cold.
And the glade heaved a sigh, and the tall grass reclined, in curious patterns once rendered in whim. Far off in thunder the hard world replied, as iced pines exploded and screamed on the breeze. Down bore the sun, a chill just behind. The pool, grown blood-red, fended frost from its rim. Details dissolved in the oncoming tide. The pool dimmed to black. Night seeped through the trees.
Now flora found slumber while, pulsing below, the pool was infused with a soft ruby glow.
Soon birds bearing beech leaves, and needles of pine, laid down a spread and returned to the limb. But breath from the North blew their blanket aside. The wind grew in earnest, the air seemed to freeze.
And the wolf and the she-bear, of contrary mind, abhorring their task approached, looking grim. They sniffed him for measure, then, loathing his hide, growled their displeasure and dropped to their knees.
All night these glum attendants flanked his naked quaking form. The rising moon drew dreams in gray.
In time the man grew warm.

Morning swept through the glade in one broad stroke of the master’s brush, dappling the foliage with amber and rose. The pool was roused by the sweet pass of light. He opened his eye and the glade came alive:  into the whirlpool of life a thousand colors swam, chasing the scattering eddies of night. The magic of morning began.
Bluebird and goldfinch descended in rings, primaries clashing with robin and jay. Dollops of sun, repelled by their wings, spattered anew on the palette of day. Banking as one, the hues struck away.
There was a crowd.
And in this crowd that oddity sat, its chin on its chest, its rear pointing west. Its forepaws lay leaning, upturned and at rest. ***** and blood messed its muzzle and breast. Passed overnight. Or perhaps only dozed…tendril by tendril, claw by claw, the crowd decompressed:  the ring slowly closed.
And the stranger cried out and shifted his seat. His eyes sought his feet—rounding the arches, and topping the toes, the tall grass was questing. The little brute froze.
And the fauna took pause, and the flora went slack. Leaves followed talons, stems followed claws. Hooves tromped on paws as the crowd drifted back.
Not a breath taken. Not a move made. Stillness, like fog, enveloped the glade.
Now the grass tugged his feet, now the sea of jade splayed—left hand and right, the slender shafts reared. Gaining momentum, blade followed blade. The green field was torn till a deep swath appeared. The swath hurtled west, reflecting the sun. A hundred yards distant it died. Once more the grass stood, its tips spreading wide. The swath, born again, repeated its run.
Plain was the message, and clearly conveyed. The newcomer gawked. Confusion ensued.
The tall blades were swayed by the pulse of the glade.
But the swath was not renewed.
Something tiny bounced by. He ventured a peek, barely rolling an eye.
A chocolate sparrow, with pinfeathers black, popped past an ankle and paused to look back. The bird cocked its head, rocked in place, hopped ahead. It fluttered. It freaked. It glared and stopped dead. Vexed to its limit, it burst into flight.
The sitting thing watched till it passed out of sight.
Now a breeze bent his back, picked him half off his stern. The wind, done its best, grew flustered at last. It trailed to the west, thrilling lilies it passed. It wound round the willows and didn’t return.
So the fauna repaired to the live oak’s shade.
A strange kind of stupor fell over the glade.
From deep in the wood came a shape through the trees—a pronghorn, perhaps, or an elk swift and sure. But up limped a moose, a flyport with fur, low in the belly and wide at the knees. Wizened he was, scarcely able to see. Neither vision, nor vigor, nor velvet had he. He hobbled abreast, then groveled or died, his nose facing west, his tail flung aside.
The brute merely glazed.
But the glade was unfazed.
Those long shafts reshuffled. A tense moment passed.
The ominous shadows of badgers were cast. Three left their holes, as if to attack. They pedaled like moles and the stranger jumped back. He stumbled, fell flailing, and, kicking his guide, threw out his arms and tumbled astride. First he stepped on his tail, then he stepped on his pride. The moose bellowed twice and shook side to side while the little pest clung to his high, homely hide.
And the old moose unbent to his knees by degrees. He reeled like a drunk down the path of the breeze. Together they lurched through a break in the trees. And all morning long, and on through the day, both beggar and bearer would buckle and sway. The moose lost his temper, but never his way.
And the wind blew the sun to its deep ruby rest; the scrub, in obeisance, inclined to the west. Their slow taffy shadow in slinking would seem to slip round the rocks like a snake in a dream.
And the sun became a beacon, and the underbrush a stream. The wide Earth took their weight in stride, and the wind named him Hero.

                                               WORLD

When the sun was low the old moose began to stumble, at last limping to a halt beside a swift river lined with stunted pines. He’d half-expected a somewhat graceful dismount, but Hero, dug in like a tick, wasn’t about to let go. The moose knelt until his joints objected, shimmied, bucked, and with a sudden whirl sent the little bother flying.
Hero scraped himself out of the dirt and looked up forlornly. The ancient moose, his good eye gone bad, glared a long minute before hobbling away, his bony **** rocking with dignity, his scraggly tail fighting off imaginary flies.
Hero managed a few steps and dropped, staring in disbelief as the moose disappeared between half-frozen pines. He remained on his knees for the longest time, his jaw hanging, waiting for the moose—waiting for anything to show. At last a ruckus to his left snapped him out of it. His head ratcheted around.
Fifteen feet off the bank, three screaming gulls were dancing on an immense stone outcropping, fighting over a rapids-tossed sockeye. Hero was instantly famished. He wobbled to his feet and stumbled twice wading out, only regaining his balance by leaning against the current while rapidly wheeling his arms. The shrieking gulls reluctantly backed off as he stepped in slow-motion through the rushing water. Hero lunged at the slapping fish, cracked an ankle on the rock, and hopped around howling with both hands holding his shin. One foot was as good as none in the surging water. He went right under. Before he knew it he was being swept downriver.
This was glacial meltwater, so cold he quickly lost all sensation. Hero swallowed a mouthful and surfaced fighting for life; too disoriented to combat the current, too numb to realize his waving arm was striking something solid. That solid something turned out to be a swirling clump of rotted birches tangled up in scrub. He embraced one of these trunks as the mass slammed against isolated rocks, kicked his feet wildly, and somehow hauled himself aboard. The raft ricocheted rock to rock until repeated impacts sent it spinning. Giddy from the whirling and soaking, he clung freezing to the trees, retching continuously while the river roared in his ears. Through spray and tears he made out only cartwheeling fragments of the world.
But then the river was widening, its fury dissipating. The raft was approaching the sea. Hero gasped as the seemingly boundless Pacific swallowed the broad red belly of the sun. And as he spun he was treated to a panoramic, breathtaking spectacle:  the great indigo ocean with its slow traffic of driftwood and ice—voiced-over by the dismal calls of foraging gulls, and broken rhythmically by intermittent glimpses of the river’s rocky banks growing farther and farther apart. Whirling as it went, the dying man’s soul was taken by the sea.

At the 59th Parallel in winter, the Pacific coast plays host to numberless floes and minor bergs orphaned from Alaskan coastal glaciers. Hero cruised into a watery gridlock on a boat of ice-glazed birches, one bit of flotsam among the rest.
The cold wouldn’t let him move, wouldn’t let him breathe, wouldn’t let him think. He lay supine, feet crossed and hands clasped, terrified that to budge was to roll. An ice patina grew over the tangled trees like a white fungus—this growth soon webbed his fingers and toes, speckled his chest and thighs, glazed his hair and face, danced and disintegrated with his breath’s tapering plumes.
Floes and frozen-over debris tended to group with passing collisions; Hero’s married birches bit by bit accrued a mostly-submerged tangle of trunks and branches, all becoming fast in a creeping ice cement. Night came on just as resolutely, until land was only a flat black memory. The raft moved silently over the deep, still accepting the occasional gentle impact. And the floes became thicker and wider in a freezing doldrums; soon the proximate sea was all a broken field of packed ice, bobbing infinitesimally with the planet’s pulse.
Long ghostly strands of fog came striding over the torn ice field. They leaned this way and that, their mourners’ skirts tearing and patching and leaning anew. The ghosts were there to seal it:  their locked fingers and gray diaphanous wings were quickly becoming a wholly opaque descending shroud, its boundaries lost in the soughing wind.
Collisions came less and less. Darkness and silence, breaching some previously impenetrable barrier, began to take up residence in Hero’s chilling marrow. From his very center broke a weak little cry of refusal, of denial, as mind mustered frame in one desperate bid for freedom. His skin, frozen to the raft, peeled right off, and at that his inner brave succumbed. Hero’s smashed head arched back. His face contorted frightfully while the little lamp fluttered and paled within.
A raucous chorus slowly worked its way through the mist. It emerged a few hundred yards off—a tiny, terrified barking, growing in clarity as it grew in volume and urgency. It was a sound beacon. Hero strained eagerly, and when for one excruciating minute the beacon was cut off by a large passing body, was certain death had claimed him. Then it was back, and his heartbeat was quickening. He caught a heaving sound…something was moving his way down a wide tributary between floes. Hero could hear a gasping and snorting, accompanied by a hard slapping and splashing. The sounds vanished. In a moment the raft was rocked from below.
A sputtering muzzle blew salt in his eyes. A cold slimy flipper flapped across his chest and slapped about his face. The fur seal barked directly in his ear. Whiskers raked his dead cheek. The seal barked again.
Back below the surface it slipped. Hero listened anxiously as the splashing sound retreated whence it came.
The seal swam off perhaps a hundred feet and began barking hysterically.
From much farther off came a profusion of answering barks.
The seal swam back to Hero’s raft, circling and calling, circling and calling, while the responders approached en masse.
Now a sallow beam could be seen cutting through the fog. Several more showed vaguely along a plane yawing with some huge, barely discernible object.
A herd of northern fur seals burst into sight, barking madly, beating through the ice. They converged on Hero’s raft, really bellowing now.
Those odd yellow beams came in pursuit, and soon were close enough to eerily illuminate a gigantic wooden vessel parting the ice. The seals barked ferociously. Whenever the vessel leaned away, those nearest Hero’s raft would absolutely howl.
The fog deepened, condensed, crystallized, and then the collective light of a dozen lanterns was playing over a low, listing nightmare. Hero could hear the shouts of many aggressive men, but the waterborne seals, rather than scatter, boarded the ice and redoubled their din, fighting their way onto his quickly mobbed raft.
The sealers hurled serrated spears even as they clambered down rope ladders. When these men reached the ice the seals snapped and gnashed madly, refusing to be dislodged. The sealers lost all composure with the thrill of the hunt:  wielding clubs, spears, and hatchets—sometimes using iron bludgeons or any old utensil handed down—they crushed skulls, dragged carcasses, hooked animals still spurting and bleating. Clinging though he was, Hero was flabbergasted by the way the slipping and scampering men went about their butchery, hacking and smashing more with passion than with precision. But not a single seal attempted to flee—throughout the carnage they barked all the louder, egging on their slayers, carcass by carcass drawing the impassioned sealers to Hero’s ice-locked raft.
It was all so hazy and macabre. Hero’s eyes rolled back, and the next thing he knew he was sitting hunched on the vessel’s sopping deck. Two men were rubbing his limbs while another poured warm water down his back. He looked around in shock. The very notion of a boat containing more than one or two individuals—a sort of floating tribe—was way beyond his ken; so to see it, to have it come looming out of nothingness, was an experience almost supernatural.
He remembered some of those fur-covered men force-feeding him mouthfuls of halibut and seal fat, and he recalled a small group standing around him, shouting words that made no sense at all. After that he had a very vivid memory of their angry little chief repeatedly punching him while hollering one angry little word over and over and over. Hero couldn’t make out his inquisitor’s face, for the large feather-lined hood quite engulfed the man’s head, yet he could see those quick eyes flash as they caught the oil lamps’ light. Finally this man stopped boxing Hero’s ear. He stared hard. In these remaining decades of the tenth century it was fully within his power to administer as he saw fit—he could have ordered Hero’s immediate execution and not a man of his crew would have objected. He hesitated only because there wasn’t a hint of resistance in his prisoner’s pinched and frightened eyes. He leaned forward, studying the wound that all but split Hero’s face in two before grunting, raising his right arm, and yanking down its seal hide sleeve. Attached to the stump of his forearm was a primitive prosthesis consisting of a thick oak cap strapped to the arm with lengths of gut, and, hammered squarely into the center of that cap, a broad, cruelly hooked blade chiseled from a narwhal’s tusk. He held this obscenity in front of Hero’s eyes, traced the face’s deep diagonal rift, and once more demanded his captive’s identity. Hero then vaguely remembered being dragged along a tilting deck and thrown into the ship’s tiny hold. He retained a strong mental image of landing in a place of musty odors and dank projections.
There came a soft scuffling in the darkness, and presently a blind and exceedingly old woman felt her way to his side, mumbling as she approached. Her speech was comprised not of words; it was rather a running gibberish of cooing vowels and clucking consonants. The old woman was as mad as her circumstances; sick with sea and solitude, bedeviled by age and confinement. She sat cross-legged, patting her withered palms up his arm until she came to his face. Her strange mumbling soliloquy rose and fell as her bony fingers daintily explored the newly opened wound. Hero let his head fall back in her lap. A pair of hands like emaciated tarantulas scurried through the filth and tiny bodies until they came upon an old otter’s pelt bag that held her secrets. The woman loosened the bag’s cord and extracted an assortment of herbs, sniffing each in succession. She then scooped a handful of blubber from a bowl made of a previous occupant’s skull, kneaded the selected herbs into the blubber, and commenced gently massaging the wound, clucking and cooing while the black rats watched and waited.
For nine interminable days Hero remained in that cold, stinking compartment, rocking back and forth between life and death. The old woman never gave up on him. She clung to him during his seizures, rubbed his limbs vigorously when his blood pressure fell. She gathered various accumulated skins and, using woven strands of her own long hair, sewed him a multilayered, body-length wraparound with arm sleeves and very deep pockets, working by touch with a needle formed of a cod’s rib. By this same method she was able to fashion a pair of heavily lined snug-fitting moccasins. The old woman made him eat; she masticated the cod and halibut their keepers pitched into the hold, then shoved the results down his throat with a long gnarly forefinger. She called into his screaming nightmares, talking him out of sleep and back into their foul little reality. Together they lowed in the dark, while the keel groaned along and the waves beat time.
At the end of those dark nine days his strength was restored, but not his mind. Once again he was taken on deck.
The vessel had reached a chain of remote wind-swept islands, rocky and treeless, naked except for patchy carpets of hardy grass. These islands stretched far to the west, shrouded in mist. The ship was making for the smallest; just a chip on the sea. When they reached depth for anchorage Hero was hustled into a rowboat and lowered over the side. He looked up, saw two men climbing down by rope. These men positioned themselves at the oars and slowly rowed toward the islet. Seated between them, Hero felt like a man being led to his execution. He snuck a peek. The rowers’ heads were lowered, their features completely obscured by the heavy feathered hoods; they had all the somberness of pallbearers. Not a word passed between them as they rigidly worked their oars:  the only sound was the dip-and-purl of wood in water. Hero looked away. Against his will, he found his eyes drawn to that rocky islet waiting in the fog.
Not a bird, not a sea lion, not a shrub. It was lonesome beyond imagination.
Upon landfall one of the men used a spear’s point to **** Hero ashore. While his companion steadied the boat, he removed a skin sack full of half-frozen halibut, followed by a few armloads of precious tinder. These articles he tossed at Hero’s feet. He resumed his place at the oars and, without looking back, used the blunt end of his spear to shove off.
Hero watched the boat moving away, watched the men climbing their ropes, watched the boat being hauled aboard. As the mysterious vessel receded he saw a number of those silent men standing at the stern, stolidly returning his stare. Their hooded forms grew smaller and smaller, finally becoming indistinct. The vessel was swallowed up in fog.
Hero looked around, at a desolate world of rock and drifting ice. In the sunless pools at his feet a few purplish, flaccid sea anemones were waving in a sickly phosphorescence; along the rocks ran a tattered quilt of wild grass and lichen. It was the end of the world. He began to pace in his anxiety, only to crumple bit by bit inside his furs. At last he just sat with his face in his arms and wept. When he could weep no more he raised his head and opened his red, swollen eyes.
There were gulls all around him, staring like statuary in a madman’s garden. Standing in their midst were auks and puffins and murres, absolutely spellbound, unable to lean away. The silence was broken only by a wild, fitfully pursing wind—a wind that seemed, eerily, on the verge of producing syllables. And on that wind a flock of terns was rising slowly, their beady eyes fixed on the lone sitting man. The terns watched as he trembled, and banked as he swooned.
Then, beating as one, they threw back their wings and blew into the sun.

There was a blaze.
Behind that blaze a pair of black, bug-like eyes met his and immediately withdrew. A man wrapped in caribou hides stood abruptly, drawing angry swarms of sparks.
The Aleut peered queerly into the icy Pacific, his craggy profile merging seamlessly with a jumble of rocks showing just beyond his shoulder. The man was very tall, closer to seven feet than to six, and thin almost to emaciation.
He was also a mute. Soon enough he would display a talent for communication through gutturals, but now his body language spoke louder than words. It told the shivering stranger that he was not only disliked—he was feared.
The islander removed the hides he’d piled on the sleeping man. He produced a bone awl and strategically pierced a caribou hide, draped the hide over the old woman’s handiwork, and ran a cord of tightly woven tendons crosswise through his made holes, knotting it at the bottom to create a kind of cloak. He then killed the fire, heaped wood, fish, and remaining hides into Hero’s arms, and led him to a tiny cove where his long skin canoe lay in the grass. This was not the one-man kayak used by his people for centuries, but an actual canoe modeled on the graceful vessels he’d observed under the control of northern coastal tribesmen. After dragging it into the water he perched Hero in the fore, placed the cargo in the middle, and stepped into the rear like a gaunt furry spider. The Aleut dug out a paddle and began pulling with smooth strokes of surprising muscularity, his black eyes trained on his quiet companion’s back.
So began their long island-hopping journey. They stepped the chain one stone at a time, living off the sea. But much as the islander disliked Hero’s vapid company, it was not in his nature to proceed expeditiously; his people, remote as they were, had learned to count not in days but in generations. Given this, the Aleut took his time. He showed Hero how to build shelters of skin and gut; during bad weather the two would sit on an island in utter silence while rain hammered on their stretched seal-intestine window. And one very clear night he pointed out constellations while attempting to demonstrate, using broad gestures, just how the brighter heavenly bodies were in perfect alignment with the Aleutians. Hero followed his guide’s gestures as a pet follows its master’s movements and, like a pet, soon became bored. The Aleut did not grow flustered. He grew ever more wary:  behind that granite, weather-beaten exterior squirmed a very primitive imagination. Superstitious as he was, the Aleut was almost certain Hero could read his mind. So one time, and one time only, he threw a searing look at the back of Hero’s bowed and listing head. After a long minute of vigorous thought-projection he shifted his gaze aside. The brute appeared to feel this shift, and gently turned his head. And both saw the ocean break rhythm, and watched as otters and sea lions surfaced, noted their progress, and slipped without tremor beneath the waves.
In spring the fogs lifted. The grimness gave way to serenity, a generous sun buttered the dappled sea. On the islands grass grew lushly. Wildflowers leapt on the color-starved eye.
And one day the islander’s nape itched. He turned to see a flock of arctic terns casually tracking them under a gorgeous, white-plumed sky. As the day progressed the terns came drifting high overhead, slowly but surely taking the lead.
The Aleut squinted against the sun. He’d never known these birds to pursue a westerly migratory pattern—the terns were distributing themselves into a rough wedge shape, much like geese on the wing.
For a while he let the flock be his guide. Then, to test his stars, he cunningly steered his canoe north. At once the wedge disintegrated. Not until he’d lowered his eyes and pulled purposefully to the west did the disrupted pattern reassert itself. He peered up timidly. The wedge was now in the shape of a perfect arrowhead.
Just so were the fates of mariners and aviators inextricably entwined. At night, once the Aleut had landed his canoe on the nearest pearl, the terns would light in a quiet circle and remain until sunrise. As the Aleut and Hero took to sea, the flock would quickly form that same authoritative pattern.
In time the Aleut paddled his companion clear to the westernmost islands of the Aleutian chain. His people had dwelt, even here, a thousand years and more, but no contemporary islander knew for certain what lay beyond. Legend told of an enormous land mass forever gripped by cold, where a cruel people waylaid innocent seafarers for barbaric sacrificial rites.
So here the islander paused. But even as he vacillated he noticed the terns were veering south.
If the Aleut had been able to curse aloud he would have been vociferous. He was being compelled to follow an even less desirable course—that of the unknown open ocean. Now he looked upon his passenger’s hunched back not with fear but with loathing. He took a deep breath, rolled his shoulders, and defiantly continued west. The wedge broke up immediately. The terns dive-bombed the canoe, whirled around the windmilling Aleut, tore skyward and hovered determinedly. Something huge broke surface behind them, but the Aleut was way too frayed to turn. He dropped his head, a beaten man, and began paddling south. Little by little the birds returned to formation.
The tiny canoe had no business going up against the mighty Pacific. It would soon have been swallowed and smashed, had not the terns veered in close formation whenever the distant sea appeared too rough. Once he’d lost his bearings the Aleut religiously followed their serpentine course.
The days began to warm.
Now the sea’s bounty all but leapt in the canoe.
It seemed the Aleut was forever catching the finest currents, practically sliding down a corridor entirely free of peril. In this manner he was able to safely navigate waters no such craft had mastered before.
They were proceeding south by southwest, awed children of a plenteous, generous sea. The going became easier by the day, the ocean heavier with cod.
Nights the Aleut drifted comfortably, but a lifetime of wariness made him wake off and on. He’d slowly rise to find Hero sitting quietly under the stars, and soon he’d see, pallid in moonlight, a large body neatly pleating the ocean’s surface. The shape would precede them a while, only to vanish without a ripple.
All this strangeness kept the Aleut’s heart in a whirl, though he took pains to maintain his poise.
To allay his fear he kept a flat black stone planted squarely between them. It was his oldest treasure; an oddity he’d taken off the body of a mauled Tlingit woman when he was a child. Who she was, and how she’d come by the stone, were mysteries far beyond him, for no such piece had ever been known to Aleut or Inuk.
The stone was smooth and had been worked perfectly round. Bright yellow specks were scattered about its dull black face.
Long ago someone had etched a quaint and clumsy rune on that flat black surface—it was the crude, universal symbol for sun:  a broad circle surrounded by several rays. When the stone was rubbed against a pelt it possessed the curious property of growing quite warm and bright in the rune’s grooves, while the surface remained cool and dull.
This stone, both friend and overlord, had always “spoken to him”. It caused him to become restless when it was time to move on, and allowed him to relax when a destination had been reached. In this way he’d come to the familiar islet and discovered the unconscious little man. Just so:  the stone, he was sure, was responsible for making him “feel bad” as he watched the stranger shiver, and “feel better” once he’d built him a life-saving fire from the small pile of tinder he’d found nearby.
By now, however, the Aleut was wholly disenchanted with his stone, and deeply regretted having done its mysterious bidding. Never before had he been so long from sight of land, and never before had he felt so very, very small. The unimagined immensity of the Pacific was really starting to get to him when, after all their while at sea, a gray, seductive haze broke the horizon. They had reached another chain of islands, an Asian chain, the dark and smoky Kurils. Here a cold current kept the climate cool and foggy, and the chill, along with the prevalence of otter and seal, made him feel almost at home.
But this place gave him the creeps; he was a stranger, a trespasser somewhere sacred. There was a looming quality to the island mountains that made him extraordinarily aware of his transience, his pettiness, his puniness. He grew more and more cautious, sure their progress was being monitored—he could have sworn he saw wraiths in the trees, and wolves padding warily in the brush. The big islands looked on breathlessly. All along the rocky cliffs, thousands of auks and puffins followed the canoe in dead silence, their heads turning simultaneously, their countless tiny eyes peering redly through the fog. As the weeks passed, the Aleut’s anxiety was manifested in tics and sighs, and he’d cringe each time the crimson sun sank behind those black volcanic summits. In his imagination the mountains would rise right out of the sea, as though to pluck him. But the islands, in all their dignity, would always refuse to acknowledge so meek a stranger, and return their eyes to sea. The Aleut would hang his head, and timidly paddle by.
Then for days and days he pulled his weary canoe west—through a strait parting two mighty islands not part of the chain, and thence across a sea that was a warm, enticing bath. Spring had come to the East Asian coastal waters, and the Ainu, alone and in groups, were venturing deeper in search of increasing bounty. The Aleut, absorbed in his thoughts of sweet climate and bitter fate, was unaware they’d been spotted.
This first meeting between strangers of different worlds was a brief and awkward one. A lone Ainu fisherman, seeing the Aleut come paddling out of the unknown, dropped his net and turned to stone. The Aleut, for his part, instinctively froze with his body turned half-away to make the leanest target possible. Their stares locked. Never had the Aleut seen a face so heavily bearded, and never hair so fair. The Ainu began banging on his bronze catch pail. Other fishers soon appeared from the north and south, effectively cutting off the canoe. The Aleut caressed his stone and looked to the sky. The wedge had vanished. He put down his head and paddled for all he was worth.
With the word out, uncountable fishing craft appeared out of the blue and broke into hot pursuit, their pilots determined to force the canoe ashore.
Suddenly they were in sight of land, and the sea was absolutely riddled with watercraft. A train of small boats cast off from the mainland, even as a posse of two-man coracle-like tubs began to surround the battered skin canoe, their inhabitants calling back and forth in astonishment at the sight of these dark, savage newcomers. But the pursuing little coastal men, banging excitedly on the sides of their boats, were not Ainu. They had very straight black hair, prominent cheekbones, and strangely slanted eyes. And their speech, oddly marvelous as it was, was a rapid series of coos, chirps, and barks. Their boats formed a tight semi-circle around the canoe, forcing the Aleut to approach the mainland. The little men banged their boats maniacally, with more joining in as the canoe neared shore.
A bit farther south was a natural harbor swarming with fishing vessels of every description. As the canoe was forced into this harbor, people along the rocky coast began banging whatever they could get their hands on, until the air was filled with their lunatic percussion.
Tiny brown men came running along a soft yellow cliff overlooking the harbor, gesturing wildly. The canoe was squeezed between a chain of tubs and the shore, and, as it slowed, the tempo and ferocity of the banging decreased accordingly. When the canoe came to a halt the banging and shouting stopped. Hero creaked to his feet. The first North American to set foot on Asian soil stepped out shakily.
There followed the profoundest silence imaginable.
A second later it was as if a dam had burst.
Hundreds of hysterical, yammering voices erupted from hundreds of hysterical, clinging men and women. Hero was spun around, jostled about, handed along. He stared into their astounded, pinched little faces, and the sun, pulsing between their heads as he was turned, repeatedly stabbed his eyes. There came an excited outburst and frantic splashing which could only have been the Aleut’s violent demise, and then Hero was somehow limping alongside a primitive fishing village, blindly following a narrow dirt path that hugged the yellow cliff’s base. The warm spring sun caught the dust as he shambled. He rounded a bend and stopped.
Half a dozen children stood in his way, too fascinated to run. A chatter and scuffle rose behind him. He looked back to see that he was now in the midst of a small crowd of these children, and that more were running up with cries of amazement.
A stone struck his shoulder. As Hero turned another glanced off his chest.
A moment later he was being pelted from all sides, and the giggles and gasps had become something wildly unreal. He dropped to his knees in a hail of hurled rocks, covered his head with his arms, and slithered up the path on his belly.
A new voice broke in; an older, authoritative voice.
The children scampered off squealing.
Hero, shaken to his feet, found himself face to face with a diminutive, shouting, incomprehensible old man. The old man threw his arm around Hero’s waist and, jabbering all the while, led him to a secondary path cut into the cliff’s face. This path sloped gently upward over the waves. Together they picked their way to a place maybe halfway up, where the cliff’s face was honeycombed with natural alcoves and dug-out caves. Most of these spaces were used as one-man shelters; a few, cut deeper in the earth, as family hives. Strange gabbing people slid out of these holes like worms, reaching, but the little old man, who was evidently a little old man of some stature, embraced his find possessively and shouted them back inside.
The path narrowed as they climbed.
At its summit spread the upscale end of the neighborhood. Hero was led to a hovel nestled amid dozens of similar hovels, all scattered around a dainty stream wending between patches of stunted vegetation.
The old man’s place was basically a one-room hut fashioned of earth and salvaged boat hulls, with a slender side-yard surrounded by dry, dusty hedges. But inside it was clean and tidy, with rice paper partitioning and, built into the far earthen wall, a miniature stone fireplace. The old man sat his guest in the exact center of the room. There he fed him scraps from his bowl, using long sticks to pluck out bits of fish and clumps of tiny, starchy white pellets.
He studied the brute closely, watched him chew, walked round and round him. He poked here. He pinched there.
And that night he lit a fire on his crushed-shell hearth.
Hero curled up on a mat where the gossip of flames could reach him. Nearby, at his delicate wicker table, the old man sat in semi-darkness, illuminated only from the waist down.
But his eyes were alive. They spat and darted as they reflected the fire’s light, and, when at last they’d begun to sputter, his scratchy little voice came pattering out of the dark, muttering something vile and oddly modulated, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes in a gathering snarl.
Hero feigned slumber, unable to ignore those paired ominous flashes. Still, the room was cozy, and the fire warm, and the play of light and shadow kicked sleep in his eyes.

In the morning he woke in the old man’s side-yard, his head pounding, a rusty iron clamp securely fastened around his neck. This clamp was attached to the outermost link of a crude three-foot chain, and the link at the other end to a long stake driven into eight inches of solid rock. The chain and stake, like the clamp, were hammered of local iron. The clamp was too tight for comfortable swallowing, the chain too short to make standing possible. Hero could, however, spread out on his chest and stretch an arm to a low row of hedges. By parting the tangled undergrowth he had a limited view of the fishing village below, and of the harbor beyond. As the days passed he was able to tweak himself a view-space discernible only from his peculiar vantage. He accomplished this by gently breaking small branches strategically, then guiding their interrupted growth with the utmost tenderness. It was his secret garden.
He had no memory—none whatsoever—of being staked here. Obviously the old man hadn’t set this up overnight. Hero’s mind prodded timidly…how many others had been chained to this spot, and why?
But over the subsequent weeks and months he went beyond caring. Each day was the same:  just after dawn the old man would storm into the tiny side-yard swinging his reed whip wildly. The lashings were savage and unremitting. The old man, except for his eyes, would be mute. Only his whip need speak. And the snap of his reed had but one message:  when you see this whip you go down, and you go down immediately.
The naked savage, scarred head to foot, learned to go prostrate on the moment. Even so, the old man couldn’t resist the temptation to indulge in the occasional good old, all-out thrashing. And after each session he would toss the prisoner a vile mess of dead fish and rotting leftovers.
Hero lived like this for many months, lost in a confused world of pain and anticipation. Perversely, he came to look forward to the bite of that whip, for, whether he flogged him in passion or just for sport, the old man was always sure to make it personal. It seemed their relationship might go on forever.
But one day there was a great commotion in the sleepy little fishing village. Hero parted the leaves and beheld a small train of oblong coaches at rest near the harbor. Large oxen yoked in pairs lolled between the carriages, immune to the clamor around them. There were dark shaggy horses and colorfully dressed Bactrian camels. The horses and camels were tethered in the rear, but were occasionally paraded around the carriages by little men wielding long painted bamboo poles. The whole affair was exotic and mesmerizing, eccentric and profane. Hero watched all day in amazement, infected by the hubbub, though he was totally mystified by the crowd’s fascination on the carriages’ far side.
And late that afternoon he saw the old man come walking out of that crowd, talking heatedly with another man. The stranger was shorter and broader than the old man, with long stringy hair and long stringy mustaches. He saw them climbing the path, saw them crawl inside a hole lashing furiously. They were lost from view for a minute, then popped up big as life. Hero glowed and curled up eagerly as they approached.
The old man and stranger came into the narrow side-yard still arguing. The old man grabbed Hero by the hair and twisted until he was facing the newcomer.
The stranger had oily, porous skin, and a round but grave countenance. His highly slanted eyes were bright and restless. He studied Hero’s mutilated face with keen interest before borrowing the old man’s reed. When Hero scraped at his feet he grunted and returned the reed.
The stranger pulled out something shiny and hefted it in his hand. He then raised his other hand while considering Hero, as though weighing him too. The old man’s eyes glinted, and for an instant his expression became grotesquely servile. The stranger and old man, facing, nodded curtly in unison. The stranger dropped the shiny thing onto the old man’s itching palm. The old man whipped Hero frantically before taking a small ax to the chain. A few hard blows split a link, the broken link was bent back by the tool’s shaft, and the prisoner was at last released.
The old man handed the stranger a short hempen rope. The stranger bowed deeply. He then tied an end of the rope through one of the remaining links and began dragging Hero along. Hero’s hands sought the old man, who kicked and cursed him all the way to the path. The three stumbled single-file to the bottom. The old man waved his arms and shouted hysterically, trotting behind until he ran out of breath. But he got in a final kick and, before he came to a gasping halt, managed to lash Hero once for old time’s sake, and to spit on him twice for luck.

There were five carriages; a long one in the center hitched to four oxen, and two smaller coaches in the front and rear with a pair of oxen on each. The carriages were old and battered, built of splitting wood slats and rusted iron braces. Various hides, spare wheels, and a hundred odds and ends were tied to the sides and roofs. Hero’s new master, using him as a ram, shoved him through the crowd to the long carriage. He hauled him up the single wood step and watched the crowd’s reaction. Children hid behind mothers, mothers hissed and jeered, men spat in that smashed, disgusting face.
Satisfied, Hero’s master twisted the rope tighter and dragged him through the hide flap that served as the carriage’s rear wall.
A strange ruckus began at their entrance.
Inside the carriage were bulky shapes and quirky movements, yet the immediate and overwhelming impression was one of unbelievable stench. Hero, instantly covered with flies, was kicked and shoved down a foot-wide aisle. The carriage’s walls were riddled with black flecks of old dried blood, the floor coated with standing *****, a variety of small carcasses, and some clinging, indefinable slime. But the living contents of this hell were so horrifying, and so unexpected, that Hero at once dropped to his knees. Observing this, master grabbed a whip off the wall and lashed him along the floor.
A number of bamboo cages lined either side of the carriage, each four feet high, four feet wide, and three feet deep. In the first cage to their left, a quadruple amputee dangled in a leather harness in a cloud of flies, jealously gnawing a chicken carcass balanced on his belly. The second cage held a man who had been burned over ninety per cent of his body, and the third a middle-aged woman with no eyes or tongue, her head shaved. The next cage housed a fully grown black leopard, its bright eyes fixed on the horrified newcomer. Then an empty cage, and finally a cage containing a demented man whose long yellow nails were busily raking a face deeply scarred and bleeding.
The first cage against the opposite wall held two girls rolling in their own excrement. Siamese twins unable to part, they had developed a unique method of locomotion, and now executed a three-quarters cartwheel in Hero’s direction, their mangled, severely bitten hands attempting to reach him through the bars. In the cage next to theirs a naked dwarf glowered menacingly, his eyes following coldly as Hero’s master shoved him down the narrow aisle, occasionally pausing to lash a cage. The hissing and howling increased as each prisoner beheld the new neighbor.
The third cage held an intensely sick adult Bornean sun bear, so confined it was entirely unable to move. Its hide was a patchwork of scraggly fur and grayish skin, glistening with odd eruptions. It rolled its sunken eyes in Hero’s direction, its muzzle twitching feebly.
The next cage contained a man who was frightfully diseased. Broad fungal patches covered his face and limbs, terminating in waxy folds that dangled like a rooster’s wattles. Welling sores spotted his chest and back. His eyes were bugged and sallow; his lower lip drooped below his chin. He barked wetly at Hero’s passing legs.
The second-to-last cage housed a rare, completely hairless Chinese albino, and the last cage a very tall, skeletal woman. The albino snapped at Hero while repeatedly banging his head against the cage. The woman hissed and coiled like a snake, her spine arching amazingly.
Master hauled Hero to the empty cage on his left, swung its door open with his foot, and forced him to his knees by pushing down with all his weight. He kicked and punched until Hero had been squeezed inside, then shut and secured the wide bamboo door.
Master inched his way back down the carriage, hammering the **** of his whip on each cage as he passed. There was a glimpse of daylight as he lifted the flap.
Once he’d departed, the carriage grew eerily silent.
Hero cautiously turned his head. Less than a foot away, the black leopard was frozen in place, one paw waving hypnotically in his face. The beast’s fangs were bared, its ears straight back, its eyes glistening. Hero turned ever so slowly, until he was looking into the eyes of the demented man in the final cage. The man cocked his head quizzically. A second later he was screaming his lungs out in a bizarre downward spiral.
At once the carriage erupted. The freaks shrieked and scrabbled, the leopard spun in place. Directly across the aisle, the albino hurled himself against the bars of his cage. He batted his face with his fists, threw back his head, and just howled and howled and howled. The snake woman curled even tighter, her long scrawny legs entwined behind her head.
Hero sat with breath held, absolutely silent, absolutely motionless. He very, very slowly closed his eyes.

Later that night the flap was flung high. The menagerie came alive as master, weirdly illuminated by moonlight, slowly made his way down the aisle carrying a skin sack oozing blood. He stopped at each cage to toss in a dying chicken and a handful of smelt.
When he reached Hero’s cage he looked down thoughtfully.
He extracted a quivering chicken and held it above the cage so that blood dripped on the brute’s deeply pleated forehead. Hero lowered his eyes. Master’s face darkened. He smashed the bird against the cage, over and over, a vein throbbing in his temple. Finally he hissed and displayed the limp chicken high over the albino’s head. The albino yelped and kicked, thrusting his hand up between the bars and jerking it back to lick away the blood rolling down his forearm.
Master eyed Hero coldly before pointedly dropping the chicken into the albino’s searching hands.
Master hissed again. He slowly made his way out.
Soon there was a commotion outside. The carriage rocked a bit before settling. Hero, turning in his cage to peek through a rift in the wood, saw horses being urged forward. He could hear men shouting. The carriage rocked again. He looked up and saw the gibbous moon suspended in mist. For just a second something wedge-shaped cut across its soft white face.
But then the oxen were grunting, the wheels had been freed, and the horses drawn abreast. Master’s lash spat left and right, and the show proceeded…west.

                                              MA­STER

She was very round and very small, with very short, very shaggy black hair. Her arms bore the scars of numerous bites from beast and man, and around her neck ran long wheals from a particularly savage owner. Hero, having spent the better part of the morning watching master storm in and out of a strange screaming house, now watched him drag the little round woman through the dirt. For a while he listened to the song of his master’s lash, waiting for the woman to break. But there was never a whimper.
It had been a difficult transaction for master, and an altogether difficult morning. For hours he’d paced up and down the main carriage, alternately murmuring affectionately into, and lashing at, each cage he visited. The sun bear, long dead and stuffed, had been taken outside for barter. It had soon been returned.
Master had lingered over Hero’s cage for a good while, staring critically. He’d begun shouting, and three of his men had burst in through the flap, unlatched the demented man’s cage, and dragged him out by the feet for trade, master personally stomping on his torn and groping hands.
And now master was kicking and shoving the little woman down the aisle as his men restrained her by the hair and throat. Upon master’s command these men stripped her naked and commenced pinching and slapping while making threatening faces and mocking noises. The freaks sat right up in their cages.
The woman looked as though she’d fainted:  her arms were lax, her eyes rolled up. Her whole face seemed to purse, and her body, head to toe, began to run blue. Her fingers quivered, arched, and clawed—the woman was self-asphyxiating. Master fairly leaped with delight while the cages rocked around him. He had the men slap her awake. Once she was fully conscious they stuffed her into the demented man’s old cage next to Hero’s.
Master then looked in eagerly, one to the other, his hands balled into fists. The woman buried her odd round face in her forearms as she squeezed herself into her cage’s deepest corner. Hero gazed indifferently and went back to his peephole.
Master exploded. He smacked and kicked the cages over and over, swore up and down, ran the shaft of his whip back and forth against the heavy bamboo bars. Eventually he calmed somewhat. He stared coldly at Hero, made a ***** smile, and spat right in his eyes. A tense minute passed. Master slowly made his way outside.
Hero automatically relaxed. Across the aisle the albino ****** his face between his cage’s bars to sniff the newcomer. The leopard, bobbing rhythmically, emitted a high-pitched squeal that gradually descended to a steadily throbbing growl.
Hero looked the stranger over. Once she’d lowered her hands he saw that her eyes were crossed, her jaw slack, her face as round as the full moon. He looked closer. There were scars all over her throat and arms:  plainly, the small round woman had been treated very badly. Hero instinctively slid a foot between the bars; the woman cried out and scrunched even deeper. Across the aisle the albino quickly extended an arm. Without knowing why, Hero turned on him. The albino flinched, his eyes tearing into Hero’s. A second later he was stamping his feet and grinning wildly. Hero went back to his peephole.
Next morning master and two of his men dismantled the bamboo walls separating Hero’s and the woman’s cages. They bound the frames with broad leather bands, making a single cage of the two.
A common door was fashioned and secured. Master used his broad blade to shear away Hero’s rags. The men hunched around the long cage expectantly.
The naked couple backed away. Master was instantly exasperated—he shouted, lashed furiously, stamped and screamed, jabbed a broken shaft between the bars with malevolent intent, whirled and hurled the shaft at nothing. The carriage’s inmates went out of their minds. At master’s bellowed command a man scurried outside, returning with a long rope of woven leather strands. Master opened the cage and, applying all his weight, pinned Hero and his new mate in an awkward embrace while his men tied them together.
Again master and his men bent over the long cage to watch.
When Hero realized his predicament he made a desperate attempt to reach his peephole.
The men, misreading his struggles, babbled and cheered, but master threw up his hands. He then, through gesture, ordered his men to drape a number of hides over the long cage. Once these hides were in place he very quietly bent to one knee and placed an ear against the cage. After a while he cursed and rose to his feet. He shook the cage and stormed out, whipping and kicking the howling inmates.
In the semi-darkness the man and woman quit fighting their bonds.
A muffled patter began on the hide-covered roof.
Rain, as always, had a calming effect on the carriage’s occupants, causing the freaks and beasts to slip, one by one, into lethargy or slumber. Under such a spell, the attainment of master’s goal was inevitable.
It was a coupling both innocent and vile, without passion or celebration. Occasionally the freaks would surface, register their excitement by shrieking, shaking their cages, or otherwise clamoring…but very quickly the air would stifle them, weighing their heads and confusing their impulses. The atmosphere grew heavier by the minute. And, when night rolled over the carriages, the rain came down in sheets.

Leaning ******* the woman’s cage, master slipped his gnarly hand between the bars and slowly rubbed her belly in a counter-clockwise motion, his sinister features soft in the candle’s light. And he told, in nonsensical cooing whispers, of a lovingly secure and impossibly prosperous future.
How large and promising that belly had become! And how wise was he, the cunning and aggressive master, in his far-reaching business decisions. He turned his affection to the motionless gaping brute; stroked the battlefield of its face, tossed in another lizard. Master rubbed his palms together. From now on it was extra lizards daily, for both the woman and her mate. He remarked, with only passing interest, his star player’s continuing indifference. They didn’t know each other, didn’t need each other.
There’d been months of shows on the road now, broken only recently by this sensible rejoining of the mates at conception.
Hero’s horrible disfigurement was unquestionably top draw; he was a guaranteed crowd pleaser at every stop. So now master looked him straight in the eyes and smiled. He held the reeking candle high. The carriage was absolutely silent. Master smiled again, rose to his feet, tiptoed away.
Hero watched him retreat until the flap had fallen. He returned to his peephole, saw master round the rear of the carriage and slowly crunch by. For a time he could see nothing but the half-shapes of junipers bathed in starlight. There was a tentative movement to his right and a large shape came to obstruct his view.
The horse stood for a minute in profile. It slowly brought its head to rest against the carriage, applying its eye to the peephole. Hero froze. The two remained fixed, eyeball to eyeball, while a breeze played odd tunes on the outer wall’s hanging paraphernalia. The horse’s big dark eye rolled nervously. A long moment passed. Slowly the horse backed off. It stood uncertainly for a while, staring at the peephole. Then it quietly moved away.

Master kicked the cages one by one, left hand and right, as he slowly made his way down the aisle. Into each cage he delivered a personalized warning in passing—a growl, a hiss, a bark—but he was quickly losing control. Animal electricity hopscotched the carriage, cage to cage, ceiling to floor, front to rear and back again. Master froze. Much more of this excitement, he feared, could seriously agitate the woman—with grave consequences for master.
She was splayed on her back, in labor’s throes, her ankles and wrists bound to the long cage. Hero had been removed to give her room, and now sat hunched atop the snake woman’s cage, two men holding him by the throat and legs.
Master gnashed and snarled, listening to the woman scream, watching her stupid round head bounce up and down and back and forth. He knew it! He’d been suckered, hoodwinked, scammed—ripped off like a common rube. The woman was too ******* to handle even something as natural as childbirth. Still…it was too late to second-guess himself—all these months he’d been patient—he’d been supportive and vigilant and now he would not be denied. He flogged one of the men to alleviate his tension.
The blue lady was very slowly, very dramatically arching her spine. Master wiped the sweat from his eyes. When the bars were pleating her big round belly, her shoulders began drumming on the straw-strewn floor.
Master screamed one very colorful expletive.
A razor silence came over the carriage. Not a body moved or breathed.
At last two men tiptoed around their purpling master and leaned into the cage. One obediently ****** a foot between the bars. He pushed ******* her right knee while using a hand to grip the left knee, spreading her legs wide. The other man drew a broad leather strap between her teeth. After lifting the woman’s head he pulled the strap behind her neck, knotted it to make a gag, and yanked a skin sack over her face. He looked up anxiously. Master licked his lips and nodded. The man made a fist and frantically punched the woman’s face until her muffled screams ceased. She moaned gently throughout her contractions.
Master genuflected, brought a spitting candle in tight, and took a deep breath. As he raised his hand the candle’s light bounced off his knife’s chipped and scored eleven-inch blade. Master swore and reached down carefully. He flicked his wrist twice and the menagerie went mad.

The child was a tremendous disappointment.
Master had eagerly anticipated an infant ******* and deformed; something embracing the best qualities of its parents. He had even designed a special cage that could be expanded by degrees as the spawn developed. There also remained the tantalizing option of a family display, though such an undertaking would require the eventual construction of a structure even larger than the cage its parents now shared. Master anguished over the logistics, knowing it would break his heart to have to cut one of his jewels’ throats just to make room for a growing child. Nights he would slowly pace the carriage with all the possessiveness of a jealous suitor, one hand maneuvering a sputtering candle, the other tenderly rapping his whip’s **** against each visited cage.
But the boy was a flawless specimen; a beautiful, undemanding baby. From the moment master angrily tossed the placenta he felt cheated, even betrayed. He grimaced as it peaceably took to its mother’s breast, despite the surrounding horrors. Master hated it, immediately and entirely. The ****** thing was so docile it was almost charming. He drew his knife and was just reaching down, when an overwhelming sense of dread shook him like a rat in the jaws of a mastiff. Sweat poured down his squat, pig-tailed nape. He knew he would live to regret it, but decided to not cut the child’s throat right away. It was the oddest feeling. His knife hand had trembled for the first time in his life, and he had found himself momentarily contemplating right and wrong at the outset of a perfectly simple and commonplace procedure. That was it, then. His business instincts were letting him know there was a good, albeit unknowable, reason to let the sweet baby live. Master left the carriage anxiously, muttering in his ambivalence.
The boy grew to embody his worst expectations. Not only was it a poorly oriented child, clinging to its father rather than its master almost from the moment of weaning, but it soon proved a lousy draw with the patrons. Those who paid to view the child dangling in its special cage inevitably departed unsatisfied, some vocalizing, strangely, an acute sense of shame. So once again master entered the carriage with his knife hand steady, and once again he exited trembling, his heart in his throat and his soul in a whirl. He whipped the dwarf savagely before leaving. What place conscience in the mind of a businessman?
Soon as the boy could walk, master put him to work fetching and feeding. But the brat was slothful in his chores, preferring to hang around his family’s cage while staring wistfully at his father. For their part, the parents were wholly disinterested. Master would fume while Hero gazed for hours out his peephole—even as the mother lolled, perpetually ill. Sometimes that accursed woman’s condition riled poor master to no end. She could teeter at death’s door for months at a time, her body changing hues to the fascination of customers, only to bounce back with a hardiness that was of interest to no one. But at the peak of her performances the blue lady could really hold a crowd. Master produced an entire outdoors extravaganza around her:  within concentric rings of raging torches his men would slowly strip her naked before wild audiences, then allow the dwarf and albino to take her while the leopard strained against a gaily festooned chain. Master circulated his crew through the crowds to encourage his patrons’ cult-like behavior of breath-holding and fainting. No getting around it:  the customers were crazy about her—village to village, master’s Bactrian vanguard’s colorful robes shouted her approaching fame. And Hero’s popularity continued to soar. Many were the nights when master, pacing the perimeter, wondered just what devilry could have produced the lovely boy.
Overall, Hero remained his master’s favorite conceit and hottest property. Part of the little brute’s appeal was, of course, his exoticness. And certainly the ugliness arising from his deformity was compelling…but there was a detachedness about him that fascinated every soul with a fistful of copper cash coins. Whether they ****** him, cudgeled him, or spat in his face, he remained unflappable, staring only at the aching sky. Though many would leave uneasy, master noted with deep satisfaction that they almost invariably returned.
The boy soon evinced an amazing affinity for animals. No matter how agitated an ox or horse became, the child could pacify it with one hand on a lowered brow. This was a source of endless fascination for the crew. Wagers were made. The boy was pitted against oxen whipped to a frenzy. But they would not harm him; they would rather go prostrate and take the lash. Master tried to work this knack into a viable act, but his patrons just weren’t buying. They wanted freaks.
When the lad was a mere five years old, master had him trained in the peripheral art of the pickpocket. The boy worked well alone, and had all the makings of a fine little flimflam artist. Master sighed, his chronic nightmares a thing of the past. As ever, his business instincts were guiding him well.
Then late one afternoon he found the boy squatting outside his parents’ cage. The boy had done the unthinkable:  he had deposited his day’s pickings at the feet of his father instead of bringing the ***** to master. Master flew into a rage and raised his whip to give the little traitor the lashing he deserved. But before he could deliver a single stroke his other hand shot to his chest and he staggered back against the albino’s cage. He blinked down at the boy, who regarded him steadily while scooping the plunder into a little pile.
From that day on the boy placed whatever he could get his hands on at his father’s feet. As time passed he became ever more adroit at thievery, growing into a youngster both admired and despised by master and his crew; admired because theft was a cinch for him, despised because they were all that much lighter in their possessions.
Now, for eleven long years the strange little train had bounced along, sometimes camping outside villages for months, occasionally pausing on connecting roads. The show traversed the heart of Manchuria, skirted the Gobi in the north, and so eventually crossed almost the entire width of Mongolia before proceeding north to the confluence of the rivers Yenisey and Ob’. Much silver and copper had come to master’s coffer, much fame to his name, but he now sat looking over a vast, unmapped Siberian wilderness. The mostly nomadic characters they’d been encountering spoke in tongues unfamiliar even to his personal valet-translator-accountant, and the tone of these nomads had been unmistakably hostile.
Master huddled surlily under a canopy of sopping hides. Night was falling hard during a merciless rain, the wind was picking up, and his supplies coach was bogged in a growing sea of mud. At that moment he accepted the whole end-of-the-line concept, and knew he wasn’t going anywhere but back. And when he got back he was going to shine! He jumped from the coach.
The earth took his weight for a heartbeat—and he was up to his chin in muck, splashing about on his hands and knees, sliding forward on his palms and toes. He did a belly flop into a rain-filled depression and churned to his feet with the devil in his eyes. Wallowing in mud and bile, master stomped to the supplies coach and kicked wildly at the stuck rear wheels.
Somewhere between kicks he lost it completely.
Master broke for his whip. One minute he was blindly lashing his men, the next he’d succumbed to a mindless ferocity. He thrashed about like a berserker; whipping the beasts, the coach, the very night. His men were scarcely able to move in all that mud, but their dread of his savagery kept them hopping. They gathered as one and shoved the coach recklessly; slipping, splashing, shouting. A minute later, three lay splayed underfoot, but the mired wheel had been freed.
Throughout all this the oxen had swayed nervously, while the horses softly tramped their hooves in place. Master had his men turn the oxen about until the rickety train was pointing dead east. He checked the hitches and personally applied the lash. The oxen didn’t budge. Master swore and wiped the rain from his eyes. He had the horses hitched ahead of the oxen, but they were even less obliging. Master flew into a spectacular rage. His men, fearing for their lives, ran liberally with the lash.
The swaying of oxen picked up until the entire train of carriages was rocking. Yet the oxen could not, would not be compelled, under any amount of prodding, to take an eastward step. Master looked around in exasperation.
The night had gone insane.
Horses were fighting hitches, oxen walking on fire.
Master cursed the rain and mud and lashed all the harder. His men, seeking to please, whipped maniacally until the horses and both lead oxen broke their hitches and bolted west. The men immediately embraced the rear oxen, but the hitches shattered and the beasts stormed off. The remaining horses blew it, kicking at everything and nothing.
Inside the long carriage all was chaos. The albino was neighing and screaming, the aged leopard spinning in its cage. Hero stared out his peephole, amazed at the blur of figures stumbling by in the rain.
A pair of clopping blows rattled the opposite wall. Three slats cracked. A tremendous impact, and a huge section collapsed. A thrashing, hysterical mare burst through the breach in a veil of rain.
The horse went mad, killing the albino and snake woman in a flurry of hooves. She fell ******* the near wall, crushing the cages. The leopard shot into the air like a rocket, slashed at the mare’s throat and vanished in the rain. The horse reared above the family cage. She was just coming down in a wheeling storm of hooves when something made her freeze. Her stare locked with Hero’s, and a second later her eyes were rolling in their sockets. The mare kicked crazily and came down ******* her left flank, smashing the long cage’s side. She whirled upright and leaped outside.
For a tense minute the family sat in the rubble, rain bombarding their eyes. Nothing in their years of captivity had prepared them for such a situation. But by the end of that minute the son had taken full command. He rolled onto his back, braced himself, and kicked his parents across the aisle, through the remnants of the opposing cage, and out of the carriage. They all fell about in the mud and rain. To the west, the mare stared back strangely as she splashed into the night. The boy wedged himself between his parents, threw his arms around them, and pushed with all his might. Their bodies found a common center of gravity. Fumbling drunkenly, the family staggered through the rain in the wake of the mare.

The boy was the natural leader.
Master’s innocent-looking little ex-student could quickly assess and exploit almost any situation. He did the foraging and the figuring, slept with one eye open and one fist ready. He got what he wanted by charm or by stealth, slipping off at nightfall, returning at daybreak with small slaughtered animals and chunks of dark peasant bread. He also pilfered any bauble or oddity he could get his paws on, to be placed reverently at his father’s mangled feet. Breadwinner and watchdog, he faithfully held the family together; a nuclear son. He sewed hardy feather-lined cloaks of reindeer hide, and turned a cache of marmot pelts into a kind of side-slung backpack. He was doting nurse during his mother’s episodes, and unbending apportioner of calories in lean times. Dauntless when it meant crossing mighty rivers, relentless when it came to finding mountain passes. But the endless marching, the unreliable diet, and the countless predators made the three wanderers lean, haggard moving targets. There were times when the little lamp of family was all but extinguished, and long stands in places that seemed absolutely impassable. Still, the boy would work things out. He would stoop to any level to feed Hero, and for a stranger to threaten his father was to summon a psychotic, unyielding monster. He was both spear and shield.
The toughest job of all was maintaining a tight unit, meaning he was forced to become a hard-nosed ******* whenever his father was ready to wander off, which always seemed to be whenever the mother was hurting most. She’d become a tremendous impediment to Hero’s compulsion, and therefore her son’s chief nemesis. It wasn’t a big-picture concern anyway; the writing was on the wall. The blue lady’s attacks were increasing spectacularly on the steppe; her world had always been an enclosure of some kind, and the great horizon was proving just too much. Perhaps these intense affairs served as links to Hero’s suppressed memories, for at the onset of each attack he’d turn and hike, and then only exhaustion could curb him. The boy would press his mother on, dragging, shoving, and smacking—he could be mean when necessary, and though circumstances had made him the nucleus, their worlds unquestionably revolved around Hero. Where he sat, they sat. When he rose, they did the same. In this manner they marched for years across the vast steppes, single-file—father, mother, and son, respectively—unmolested, lacking possessions, always following the sun. Long before they could be measured they had drifted into obscurity.
The woman’s end came quickly and dramatically, in a rocky little depression on a half-frozen field. One moment she was responsive to her son’s prompts, the next she was flat on her back, her eyelids fluttering. That night she leapt from fever to chill, from alertness to stupor. The boy, squatting beside their campfire, watched her face and hands run cadaver-blue to fish belly-pale and back again. While he was staring her eyes popped open and her hands came scrabbling. He sweated through the clawing embrace until he could bear it no longer. He oozed out and ran down to fetch his father.
When they got back Hero watched incuriously for a while. His mate’s face was scrunched up and her skin the color of sapphires. She wasn’t breathing.
His gaze became glassy, his eyes returned to the night. As he rose the boy immediately grabbed an arm. Neither moved for minutes. When the boy at last relinquished, his father casually stumbled off.
Strange things were going on in Hero’s world. Some days he would notice how animals regarded him oddly, in a manner that seemed almost personal. He found, for instance, that particular creatures were recognizable even over great distances. A number of times he would sit with one in a stare-down, waiting patiently, until the animal’s natural disposition caused it to bolt. Though the meaning of these encounters was way over his head, he would watch, and he would listen.
In time he noticed an increasing skittishness in some of these familiar creatures. Something had them spooked. He then observed a number of lean gray wolves moving in and out of the picture with an air of complete indifference:  these wolves weren’t hunting; they were loitering—lounging in the grass, lackadaisically padding to the rear, filing by slowly in the distance. Once in a while a lounger would raise its head, yawn cavernously, and drop back out of sight. So unobtrusive was their behavior that even Hero’s ever-vigilant son began to take them for granted. They paused where the family paused, and halted whenever the woman broke down. Perfectly camouflaged by the gray boulders and dire sky, they were completely forgotten in the drama of her passing.
There were other, far subtler events existing for Hero’s senses alone. He could perceive patterns in everything around him; in the manner vegetation gave way wherever his heart was leading, in the way so many animals appeared to be not merely mirroring, but making his course. And wind, rain, running water:  these phenomena had voices. Yet not for everybody. No one—not his mate, not his son, not another soul on the planet could hear this call, for they were all of a sort. They were static, they were temporal. Hero couldn’t have cared less about the lives of his family, or about the mundane goings-on in the encampments and small tribes they skirted. Such beings lived in a world that was defined by the moment. They shouted, they banged, they clamored.
But west—west was music.
For his boy, once again watching Hero shamble off, the moment of truth had arrived. He looked back down, at his mother’s death mask being remade by the dying light of their campfire. As the flames dwindled he could have sworn he saw shadows creep into the wells of her eyes, while others, crawling up around her jawline, drew her bluing lips like purse strings. He hopped to his feet and ran for another handful of tinder. When their little fire provided enough light he dropped to his knees and looked again.
She was sinking right before his eyes, every aspect of her expression in collapse. The boy watched clinically, fascinated. As the flames began to sputter he thought he could see large purple bruises spreading across her cheeks like the seeping limbs of overflowing pools. He bent closer.
From deep in the night came the longest, the leanest, the saddest wail he’d ever heard. He turned to see the starlit ghost of his father, facing away, staring at a low barren hill. Uncountable stars embroidered the spot. The boy made out a low shape moving along the hilltop, cutting off patches of stars as it passed.
The wolf howled again; a mournful, spiraling cry to nowhere and nothing. Hero’s head notched upward. He began to hike.
Halfway to his feet the boy stopped dead.
It took a minute to sense why he’d frozen in place, and a good while longer for his heart to quit pounding. He was aware of a nervous padding, and, once his vision had adjusted, of a lazy stream of eyes gleaming in the dying campfire’s light. The eyes bobbed around him, glared momentarily, returned to the ground.
A massive gasp, and his mother was tearing at his wrist. He watched her hyperventilating, saw her bulbous yellow eyes sinking in a wide violet pool. With a sizzle and pop the last tongue of flame was taken by the night.
Then her clammy hands were all over him, pulling and demanding, caressing and beseeching. He had to pry them off like leeches, had to place them clasped on her shuddering arched belly.
A silky snarl rose almost in his ear.
With a little squeal he sprang to his feet, even as something nearby jumped back in response.
The boy stood absolutely still while the panting thing padded nearer. They stood very close, smelling each other. He instinctively extended a hand, palm forward. But it was no good; his arm was shaking out of control. The snarl rose again, not so tentatively this time. His mother’s nails tore at his ankle.
The boy gently stepped away, only to find himself surrounded by the shifting silhouettes of half a dozen gray wolves. They approached in a calculated manner:  two from the left, one from the right, another from behind. He was being goaded away from his mother; he could hear her fists beating the ground, and a few seconds later the sounds of a nauseating assault and ravaging.
He shakily raised his other hand. Now both arms were extended, and their message was clearly one of defense rather than control. Two snapping wolves stepped aside, leaving him a gateway into the night. A cold wet nose bumped his wrist.
Screaming like a woman, he took off after his father just as fast as his feet would carry him.

                                                  BOY

Alon­g the great Kazakh Steppe a man could wander a lifetime and never meet another of his kind—especially if his kind happened to be Alaskan Inuk, and if he happened to be the teenaged patriarch of a two-man family going nowhere.
Here history is mostly mute.
Upon this continent-spanning steppe, unnamed communities were scattered and rebuilt, lives blown about by the wind. The only centers of humanity a traveler might encounter, far removed from the Silk Road at the very crack of the new millennium, were temporary encampments of civilization at its rudest—shifting holes of cutthroat commerce existing solely for the barter of silk and spices and hapless souls. Life here was revered far less than merchandise, and the longest-lived men were those who kept their distance.
Hero and his boy hiked over permafrost and tundra for years; their meandering course a drunken mapmaker’s scrawl. Chronological entries along this imaginary line would reveal that they’d stopped, sometimes for months at a time, when the father had grown too weak and disoriented to continue. Hero’s internal compass was long-sprung, and his weight had fallen considerably. He’d sit on his lonesome, scarecrow-scrawny, wistfully scrolling a 360-horizon while his boy scouted and scavenged. Then, for no apparent reason, he’d just up-and hike—sometimes northwest, sometimes along a tangential plane that always threatened to spiral. It was brutal:  winters were frigid, summers, by odd contrast, running steamy to baking. Season by season these marches lost their tenaciousness, and eventually their heart. Hero’s obsession was becoming his demise.
Now, to a hypothetical observer, the ratty pair of woolly camels materializing out of the rising August heat might have been mirages.
These beasts were novelties here, and pioneers, for they were way beyond their normal stomping grounds. They’d tramped for months with a mind-numbing monotonousness, a thousand miles and more; round the Urals to the south, and through the hard territory braced by the Volga and Voronezh, avoiding anything that even smelled of men. They’d been wild camels; ugly, ill-tempered, and unpredictable, until the boy tamed them by touch…but this new pattern was a literal change of pace…for weeks the frail little man and his dark teenaged son rose and fell with the animals’ rhythm, lulled by it, sick of it, dreaming of lands far removed from hoarfrost and peat moss. In this manner they were borne clear to present-day Belarus, whereupon the camels’ stupefying march began to quicken. Mile by mile they put on steam, until one day they reached a broad area distinguishable from its bracing terrain only by its many deep surface cracks. Here the camels’ behavior became erratic; they crouched at an angle while tramping, their long necks oscillating, their noses bobbing along the ground. Eventually they came upon a dingy pool nestled in a pebbly depression. The local brush surrounding this pool was situated like iron filings about a lodestone. The boy hauled back his camel’s neck and laid a hand on its brow. The brute slowed to a halt. The other camel imitated its partner, move for move. Simultaneously the animals dropped to their knees.
The boy jumped off, catching Hero as he fell. The camels stood watching stupidly as son maneuvered father, but after a while grew nervous and began tramping their hooves in time. They slowly stepped to the pool’s rim and knelt woozily, their noses poised just above the surface. Their whiskers danced on the pool’s face, their lids became heavy, their hindquarters quivered as they drank. Their nostrils, having fluttered in unison, remained agape. They appeared to be asleep.
The boy began filling skins.
The water was quite warm; he slurped a palmful and almost immediately felt intoxicated.
He flicked it off his fingers; the water was bad.
Three heads were now mirrored in the pool; the camels’ at ten o’clock and two o’clock, the boy’s at six. He watched their reflections continue to ripple, long after the pool had become still. His face, melting and firming, rapidly fluctuated between extremes of age, and between his own recognizable features and those of some…monstrosity. The effect was hypnotic. He felt his joints stiffen; his eyes became weak, his thoughts muddled…his face was irresistibly drawn to the pool’s surface, and for a moment he was in real peril of drowning. He ****** his head aside and creaked to his feet.
Where the camels had knelt were only the prints of their bellies and knees. In the distance they could be seen galloping all-out for the horizon, right back the way they’d come. The boy watched until they were swallowed by their dust, and when he turned around his father was long gone.
Now he knew it was all just a matter of time.
And sure enough, after eleven more days of feebly staggering along, Hero completely ran out of gas. The boy bundled him up in a shawl, like an old woman.
Sitting there, cradling an unresponsive man weighing less than eighty pounds, he couldn’t help but let his morbid fantasies run wild. He was now old enough to realize his father had at some time suffered severe head trauma, and honest enough to accept that the man was rapidly approaching a vegetative state. This understanding accompanied him like a shadow, and that night he questioned, for the very first time, his own convoluted rationale.
He was just beginning to sense that his will was not his own.
He built a semi-permanent camp west of the Desna and foraged in a tight spiral, always returning in a straight line. Some days he came back feeling uneasy, sensing another presence. Then it was every other day. It bugged him to no end. At last, when it became every day, he hauled his father to his feet and began a resolute march to the west.
Again he became anxious, and after only a dozen yards.
He turned slowly while hunching, certain something bulky had just dropped out of sight. Nothing looked suspicious, everything looked suspicious. He walked Hero some more, occasionally peering back over his shoulder. There was…something.
He whirled:  only masses of rock and high brush. Yet, when he really strained his eyes, he was sure, pretty sure, that he could make out a large crouching body continuous with the rocks. Heart in his throat, he began a slow steady creep, only to pause, positive the bulge, whatever it was, had shifted in response. The boy very gradually raised his arm until it was level with his eyes, faced the palm outward, and extended the arm parallel with the ground. He could almost feel some kind of current passing between his itching palm and…nothing. He walked over to Hero, stopped again. There’d been the subtlest sense of traction. The boy propped up his father in a cloud of flies and waited.
In a minute the bulge drew *****.
Out of the brush strolled a furry gray wild ***, her back inclined from countless weary miles; stretching her neck, pausing to nibble, taking her sweet time. Grungy as she was, she fit right in.
At the boy’s first casual step she immediately hit the dirt and remained flat on her belly, one big dark eye staring between her hooves. Another step, and her **** bunched up. The closer he got, the higher her rear end rose. When he was almost at arm’s length she sprang back and danced away, seeming to bound with delight. But not to the east, as she’d come.
To the northwest.
She backpedaled while the boy came on whistling and cooing, matching him step for step. But the moment he threw up his arms in resignation she spun round as though cued, dropped on her belly, and peered over her shoulder.
The boy was first to blink. This time he approached fractionally, keeping movements to a minimum. She rose just as carefully, sauntering northwest in reverse, and at the first sign of hesitation turned, dropped, and cautiously gazed back. The boy glared at that huge mocking **** and broke into a sprint. She easily danced out of reach, plopped down, and continued to stare.
He began hurling stones, with venom and with accuracy, until she’d scurried into the brush.
But on the way back to his father he could feel her tagging along.
Twenty feet behind she halted, looking bemused.
The boy nodded ironically. He walked Hero over, murmuring baby talk all the way, and firmly placed a palm on the animal’s muzzle once her breath grazed his fingers. She stroked his hand up and down with her whiskers, gave a kind of curtsy, and waited on her knees while he helped his father mount.
At Hero’s touch a shudder ran down her body. She stood up straight. Her eyes became set, her back absolutely stiff. She put down her head and began the long trek northwest, never once breaking stride.
It was an amazing march, an impossible feat. For a little over three days and almost four hundred miles she progressed like an automaton, driving herself without rest, without food or water.
After trotting alongside for an hour the boy climbed on and force-fed his father berries and smoked meat, his dark eyes constantly searching the countryside. Occasionally he’d see a run of red foxes to their left, watching intently, padding cautiously. Sooner or later they’d vanish, only to be replaced by a train of feline or equine pursuers. Packs approached and receded while, high overhead, flocks formed triangular patterns that continually broke up and reformed. There was a peculiar rhythmic quality to this ebb and flow that lulled his senses further. The boy shook his head to clear it, but his exhaustion was deeper than he’d supposed—even the brush appeared to be leaning northwest.
That first day he grew numb with the pace, and that night the relentless pounding of her hooves drew him into a miserable slumber. He wrapped his arms around his sleeping father and lay half atop. When he couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer he tore strips from his skins, then looped his tied wrists round her neck, his ankles round her belly.
On the second day she was breathing hard, but her back was still high and she showed no signs of faltering. Her eyes remained focused on the ground dead ahead. She always sensed the best routes; finding mountain passes, fording wetlands.
But by the third day they could feel her ribs quaking against their legs. Her breath exploded as she marched, blood frothed and caked about her nostrils. Still she pushed herself on, her pace so steady it was almost metronomic.
On the fourth day her legs were gone. She veered and stumbled, shuddering every few paces. The boy hopped off for the umpteenth time and tried to bring her to graze, but she wouldn’t be turned. He ran behind her as she staggered along, unwilling, or unable, to rest.
At last a foreleg gave and she went down hard. Sobbing and snorting, she plowed her muzzle back and forth in the soil, the useless leg repeatedly pounding the ground. After a minute she raised her head and brayed at the sky, her neck muscles taut, her head slowly swinging side to side. Her cry went on and on.
With a tremendous effort she pushed herself upright and butted the boy aside. Every part of her body was shaking. From her depths a low moan grew to a steady bray, and finally to a wild, pulsing howl. She came to a rise, but was too weak to climb without sliding. Stamping in frustration, she managed a few feet, reared feebly, slid some more. The boy got behind her and applied his back; it took all he had to assist her almost to the top. With a desperate lunge she crashed on her belly.
Amazingly, she dragged herself on, her howl now a scream, her head whipping left and right. When she could pull herself no farther she ****** forth her neck to its very limit and, with a shudder that ran from the tip of her nose to the tuft on her tail, shoved her muzzle straight into the dirt and died.
The boy hauled off his father and fell back. The animal’s eyes were fixed upwards, seeming, even in death, to be straining for a glimpse of what lay just beyond the rise. The boy half-dragged Hero the last few yards. They collapsed at the top, and together looked over the cold Baltic Sea.

At water’s edge a haggard fisherman sat on his boat’s ravaged deck, blindly staring out to sea. His was a queer vessel; a family structure built more like an aft-cabined barge than like seacraft typical of that period. The fisherman’s boat, like his mind, had been abused beyond repair.
He’d lost much in his life. Time had taken his dreams, pox his face, hardship his back and shoulders. And, more recently, a brawling band of drunken Baltic pirates had ***** his wife and daughter before butchering them along with his two fine sons, while he sat helplessly bound to the mast. Finally, to further their delight, they’d set the boat aflame and sent it crackling against the sun; knowing he could hear their hoots and howls, knowing he would drift undead, accompanied only by this last unspeakable memory.
But a squall, without prelude, had doused the flames and blown his home ashore.
There he’d remained for a full long day, staring at nothing, his shattered life caught on the rocks. On the second day he’d worked himself free and commenced staggering about in his memories, gathering shards. It was a pathetic claim. He made a pile of all the old bedding and linen and usable cords, and set about sewing a sort of mementos sail. All that third day he had sewn, and on the fourth he had hoisted this sail and been moved to see it billowing in a northwest-blowing breeze. Again he just sat and gaped. And later that day he’d become aware of a commotion taking place on the long grade leading down to the water, where a writhing mass of seagulls was proceeding like a tremendous slow-motion snowball. He’d never seen anything like it. It wasn’t uncommon to find gulls in a group of many dozens or more, but there must have been two, maybe three thousand of the birds now swarming toward his boat. They were making an incredible racket. In the midst of this cloud could be seen a couple of slowly walking figures; as they neared he made out a small man accompanying a boy in his late teens, both dressed in odd skins. When they reached the rocks his eyes were drawn to the small man’s face. It was a foreign face, brutish and dark, with a deep cleft running from above the right temple to the jaw’s left side. Whatever instrument had felled this man had been devastating—everything in its path was smashed, and with permanence. The forehead was caved in. There was no bridge to the nose, the left cheek was completely collapsed, one side of the mouth was a mangled mess. The jaw itself had set improperly, so that it jutted to the side. The general impression, especially from a distance, was of some unforgettable circus freak’s countenance puckering at an angle. It was a face right out of a nightmare. But there was nothing frightening about the eyes. They were the eyes of a child.
Maybe half the gulls hopped screaming on the rocks. The rest circled overhead.
The boy considered the fisherman curiously before placing a foot on the charred deck. His gaze went around the boat, lingered on the makeshift sail, returned to the slumped figure. He passed a hand before the eyes. No response. He then leaned in close and placed his fingers on the man’s forehead. Immediately that bleak expression became fluid, brimming over with horror and heartbreak. Tears rolled down the fisherman’s cheeks as he gasped, shuddered, and backed up the scorched mast to his feet. Thus propped, he squinted at his visitors and was overcome by a wave of homesickness so strong he had to turn away. The feeling bewildered him, for this vessel, and this sea, were all the home he’d ever known. He clung to the mast while the boy helped his father board. Once he’d collected himself, the fisherman tore a heavy crossbeam from the toasted cabin. He and the boy used this as a lever, and together they shoved the boat off the rocks. The wind picked up nicely, and the little craft was swept across the water.
Exploding off the rocks, the gulls shot after the boat as if it were brimming with fish, the loudest and orneriest vying for favored positions directly overhead. The melee attracted additional gulls—they came shrieking in their hundreds from all sides, banking and calling in the oddest manner, until the mass grew so thick as to cast a permanent shadow on the boat. All day long the clamor continued, and all that night. The fisherman rolled with the rudder, listlessly, allowing the sea to control him. Eventually he let go, that the wind might bear them where it would. His sail ballooned but held firm, and the boat fairly zipped across a sea somehow smooth as glass, broken only by the vacillating ripples of bottleneck dolphins and migrating humpback whales. The three tiny sailors sat hunched together, motionless, all throughout the next day, until the black coast of Sweden loomed in the twilight.
As the boat neared land the cloud of gulls broke up, shot to shore, and landed in groups of a thousand and more; a dizzying, wildly uproarious reception committee.
The dung-covered boat slammed into the rocks, shattering the fisherman’s trance. He intuitively walked his **** up the mast and, swaying there, watched the boy draw his father over the side and lead him to a clearing at wood’s edge. There in the dusk he made out what appeared to be a hefty spotted runaway heifer hitched to a rickety wood wagon. He saw the cow gallop up to meet them, saw the boy look around warily, saw him help the little man into the wagon and climb in beside him. The animal immediately began picking through the woods, the large brass bell round her neck clanging forlornly.
The clarity of that bell made him realize just how quiet it had become. He craned his neck:  there wasn’t a gull in sight. He fell back against the shot mast and slid onto his tailbone with a clacking of teeth. His eyes were misting up. In the gathering dark a few sail fragments flew past and were ****** into the woods. The boat rocked and relaxed. After that there was only the sound of the receding bell’s sad, monotonous song being batted about by the wind.

The little cow strode through moonlit woods until she came to a path formed by the rutting of wheels over many years. She followed this broken, serpentine track throughout the night, and by morning was passing farms and, occasionally, crossing broader paths that might realistically be defined as roads. All day long she bore down that ragged track, until she came in late afternoon to a clearing near a village. Here many such tracks converged. And here the boy slipped away while she grazed.
Sometime after dark he returned with a load of straw, a couple of pilfered blankets, and a fat iron kettle. Crammed in this kettle were salt, tubers, cheese, a few loaves of rye, legumes, and a plump foot of lamb sausage. Most of this ***** he’d brought in tied to the bowed back of a huge, puffing, highly amenable black pig which, thus laden, now followed the boy’s every step like a fresh convert tracing the heels of the messiah. The boy built a fire under the stars, filled the kettle with creek water, and commenced simmering their dinner. While waiting, he couldn’t help but note an odd feature of the local flora:  plants, especially trees, all seemed inclined to a northwesterly disposition, though no amount of wind could account for it. He shooed the pig. But rather than run along, it backpedaled in a nervous circle, round and round in reverse, until it lost its balance and fell on its ****. There it remained, a yard behind the wagon. The boy fed his father and lined the wagon with straw. They settled in for the night. The boy must have nodded, might have dreamt, but while he was drifting he became aware of a stirring in the woods. He sat up, saw the pig’s eyes gleaming inches from his nose. And there were a number of animals, some wild, some strayed from farmsteads, arranged in a broad circle around the wagon, their eyes glinting with moonlight. Not a rustle, not a peep, was lifted from the woods.
In the morning he woke to find the pig still staring. The fidgeting heifer, impatient to roll, began her long day’s march while Hero and his boy were yet stretching and scratching, and the ******* pig, galloping heavily, fell in close behind. Each new day this routine was repeated. They banged past farms and small communities until the ruts intersected a broad rocky road wending halfway across the kingdom. The cow addressed this road with vigor. They picked up followers—a goat here, a couple of sheep there—which hurried after the wagon as best they could. The cow stomped on with resolve, mile after mile, day after day, her bell keeping steady time. That bell’s peal attracted foals, lambs, and kids into the wagon’s narrowing wake. Hares hopped between hooves and wheels, boars and blue foxes fell in and withdrew. White falcons, normally solo fliers, whirled into wedge shapes high overhead.
At night the entire train would camp on the road while the boy raided proximate farmsteads, always returning fully laden. And as soon as the fire died the colony grew, creature by creature, and the moment the sun broke the horizon the heifer came to life and moved on, but each day a bit more resolutely, as though straining to meet a deadline. The march took on a sense of real urgency. The cow pressed on with attitude, the clang of her bell more strident with each passing mile. Soon her followers numbered in the hundreds, as animals deserted their farms or crept out of the woods to tag along. Tillers and traders stood dumbfounded, amazed by the bizarre flow.
Once they’d crossed into Norway the frothing cow veered hard to the west. The pace really picked up; no longer were Hero and his boy afforded the luxury of a night’s sleep in one spot. Days blurred into a single variegated flow as the bashed and lopsided wagon continued building its entourage; the riders were surrounded dawn to dusk by a confused and confusing scurry. Word of the flow’s weirdness preceded it clear to the Norwegian coast, so that now plowmen and merchants, wearily gathering their goggling families, found themselves lined in anticipation along the king’s highway. Horsemen went pounding to and fro with news of the procession’s progress and particulars, children ran through the streets banging pots in imitation of the cow’s approaching bell. Livestock wheeled and stamped, fowl leaped and crashed.
The slobbering cow broke into a run.
Bystanders trotted behind, calling back and forth excitedly, while the wagon’s permanent following squealed and squawked between their heels. The cow made a hard turn onto a widening swath in the brush. This swath, seeming to strain against the soil, ran straight down to the crest of a low hill overlooking the Atlantic. On either side a crowd had been studying the phenomenon for some time, but now all eyes swung to the dark and disfigured man and his son, clinging to the disintegrating wagon behind the careening spotted cow.
The trailing people traded views as they ran. Most—at the very outset of the new millennium, with Christianity burgeoning throughout Europe—leaned to the miraculous. Others, just as superstitious but prone to a darker point of view, threw looks of horror at the deformed little man. Yet they ran no less eagerly.
The galloping crowd made for the seaside, where only one local event of any moment was brewing:  on the coast a Greenlander Viking was preparing his longship for the rough voyage home. Impetuous son of the great island’s first permanent European settler, he’d just been baptized in Olaf’s court, and was now eager to sail—but not as a warrior—as a missionary. While his spirit remained in a tug-o’-war between his father Erik’s will and that of gods old and new, his duty was clearly to his king. And Olaf had charged him with the Christianization of pagan Greenland.
Something on the wind now made this destined man turn his head. From behind the gentle hill to his rear came a kind of thunder. Heads popped up, followed by a confused explosion of voices, and seconds later a frantic bug-eyed heifer burst into view, dragging the wheel-less skeleton of a shattered wooden wagon. On the wagon’s splayed frame a man and teenaged boy clung for their lives as the spewing animal made a beeline for his ship.
The new missionary, still egocentric enough to assume his Maker might actually toss him a personal, surreptitiously rolled up his eyes. The sky yawned at his arrogance. At his side a smallish cowled man rose irritably, but the missionary sat him right back down. He then snorted, squared his shoulders, and signaled his men to halt their preparations.
Knowing it was expected, he gathered his hard Nordic pride and coolly made his way into the crowd.

The priest clung to port, gagging above the waves.
After a completely uneventful minute he leaned back and stared through tearing eyes at the distant backdrop of gathering mists. Weeks now…a man of his constitution had no business at sea.
Along, too, were a quirky little man and his fiercely devoted son.
Through his pantomime, the boy had been so persistent in begging their passage that refusal, under the circumstances, would have been unbecoming not only a man of God but a man of the world.
So there it was:  a priest who couldn’t hold his lunch, a witless eyesore who couldn’t sit still, and a surly teenaged protector who snarled at the first hard look. This crossing just had to be some kind of divine test—of mortal patience as well as moral values. Norsemen weren’t made for babysitting.
The mists condensed.
And the shifting shape became a hard familiar coast.
And the longship was mooring, and the crew were jostling and clambering, and the big missionary had booted off the haunted little freak and his hypersensitive son, and was condescendingly half-escorting, half-carrying, the green priest ashore.
And they were home.

Priest in tow, Leif quickly took up the Christianization of Greenland’s Western Settlement, as per Olaf’s command. The mangled little man and his son followed him around like dogs, slept outside his door and annoyed his visitors, ultimately proving far easier to adopt than to shake. Barely tolerable shadows…still, the lad was simply amazing with livestock…and though the youth’s useless father seemed time and again to be just begging for a whooping, his son’s presence bore some ineffable quality that always curbed the missionary’s hand. Several times he’d witnessed the father approached by settlers bent on abuse. Each time the boy had stepped in, and each time the troublemakers were mysteriously repelled. The missionary of course didn’t attribute any kind of celestial intervention to these episodes, and certainly the popular notion of devilry was a natural reaction to the pair’s outrageous exoticness, but…in the son’s company, and even under the sharp eyes of his fellow Norsemen, Leif more than once found himself oddly moved to protect the father. And so the deformed man and his boy day by day blent in—as village idiot and mystic guide. And when in time a ****** brought tales of an unvisited land to the west, it was only natural for the restless Greenlander to buy that ******’s boat and, before stalwart comrades, weary family, and whimsical God Almighty, reluctantly accept the eccentric father and son as sort of seagoing mascots.
Hero was from then on irrepressible. During preparations he would pipe and stammer in his half-mute way, brimming with a confounding anxiety that kept him underfoot and at odds with all. On frigid nights he perched on the westernmost rocks, moaning to the horizon in the strangest fashion while his son stood guard. He positively spooked the locals; they’d gossip, nervously and with bile, of an answering wind that came wailing off the sea like a banshee in labor. The whole island wanted rid of him. And when his champing beneficiary, still clinging to the notion of Christian charity, bundled him aboard with his son and a crew of thirty-five, not a single settler was sorry to see him go.
Almost from the moment they cast off everything went wrong, as all attempts to control the longship were met with some kind of unknowable countermanding force. Vikings were not renowned for passive resistance—they fought, squaresail and steering oar, leaning oarsman to oarsman, until the ship rocked on the waves like a bucking bronco. An erratic weather system pursued them, worsening dramatically at each minute variation in heading. The Norsemen doubled down, and when the clouds finally burst wide, the cowling sea went mad. Dervishes whirled about the hull, crisscrossing winds bedeviled the sail. Patches of kelp belonging to much warmer waters came heaving alongside, fouling the work of the oars, while far to the west a humongous fog bank formed, eradicating the navigable field. The lightning-streaked horizon was a throbbing gray slit.
The longship became locked in a slow westerly current.
Fatigued crewmen complained of headaches and hallucinations, and of a nasty, slightly metallic tang to the air. There were numerous walrus sightings; bobbing flippers and snouts amid drifting ice chunks that came prowling the North Sea like a circling pack of famished white wolves.
Worst of all was the boy’s father—instantly agitated by everything and nothing, prey to some primitive impulse that caused him to periodically incline his head, shudder to his feet, and loop his arms as though embracing the sky. Leif would watch him scrabbling at the prow like a cat at a tree, furs snapping in the wind. He’d watch the boy re-seat him for the hundredth time, and for the hundredth time be filled with an immense contempt. By now he’d acknowledged that it takes a special kind of strength to shoulder charity and tolerance. That brown little freak struck him as an enormous malformed barnacle, slowly working its way back up the prow. Trying so hard to go unnoticed, looking and listening so intently, though there was nothing to see other than the growing shelves of fog, and nothing to hear save the rising, almost hysterical voice of the wind.
Leif sniffed the air, his ******’s instincts nagging him. This was a foul current, and a fool's errand; he took a deep breath and tentatively ordered the longship brought about.
The ship kicked twice, as though an enormous submarine hand had seized and released the hull.
A whirl formed in the water, causing the keeling ship to sweep around like a clock’s second hand. All about them, those drift-ice ghosts cruised dangerously near.
But they’d been liberated from that accursed current. Leif fiercely urged on his rowers, and at last the ship broke free. They made a bead due north.
Night came and the temperature plummeted.
Small sheets of ice converged, drifting between the hunks. The Norsemen, instinctively huddling amidships, passed out one by one in a massive pile of fur and flesh. In the freezing silence the floes bumped and recoiled, bumped and gathered, bumped and bonded. The tiny ship, swallowed whole, was dragged along in a labyrinth of black sea and interlocking slabs of ice.

The Norsemen came to in a surly, foul-smelling heap, lost at sea. While they were still groggy a voice cried out that a darker patch was developing in the fog. The men all fell to port. Under the confusion of their voices could be heard a distant rumble.
At this Hero hauled himself up the high curved prow. A half-light began to penetrate the fog, barely illuminating the irregular faces of drifting ice. The missionary stormed forward and indicated by gestures that if the boy didn’t restrain his father he would have the man tied down.
The longship stopped dead in the water.
The men found themselves regarding a perpetually frozen coastline swathed in bluish veils of mist. Directly before them loomed an immense ice cliff hundreds of feet high. Rising beyond this cliff were endless snow fields, where lean violet shadows seemed to drag about of their own volition. And upon those bleak fields a thin howling wind prowled, kicking up brief white dervishes, leaving a strange zigzagging signature.
Even as they stared, a darker shadow high on the ice cliff’s glistening face began to widen, accompanied by a cracking sound that could be felt before it was heard. With the illusion of slow-motion, a stupendous chunk broke out of the cliff and came screaming toward the sea. It hit the water like a bomb. The thunder of its separation and the explosion of its impact took a moment to reach them. Then, out of a spewing crater of crests and spume, the new calf came lunging, tromping the sea so hard the longship, fully a mile to sea, was swept out and ****** back in like a cork. The floundering mountain of ice bobbed and lilted, generating huge waves which continued to rock the ship long after the monster had settled. In a while the roaring in their ears subsided and there remained only the swirling, nerve-wracking howl of the wind.
The missionary’s eyes swept left and right. Whatever this place was, it sure wasn’t the fair shoreline he’d been promised. Hero again scrambled up the prow, and Leif again yanked him down. This time he made good his threat; he had the little nuisance bound, though he was half-tempted to let him take his chances overboard.
From somewhere deep in the haze grew a soulful, otherworldly call. It went on and on, electrifying the air, bottoming out once the ship had merged with that previously fought westerly flow.
By now Leif’s nerves were shot. He ordered the oars raised.
The longship began to drift. Ship and ice were pulled due west.
The clouds fell far behind as the ship embarked upon an amazingly calm sea—so calm its entire visible surface was featureless except for the faint wakes provided by the ship and its hulking ice companions. To the east a huge fog bank appeared on the horizon, and a while later a smaller bank to the north. Then a very dense one to the south. In time these banks converged, imperceptibly becoming a single mass that closed about the ship, bit by bit creating a slowly heaving dome. Tiny beads of water appeared on beards and eyebrows; in a minute everything was soaked. The only sound was that of the dragging steering oar. The men were now sopping ghosts, speaking only with their eyes.
Directly ahead the fog began to dimple. The dimple became a hollow, the hollow a cave, and then ship and ice were being towed through a low, ever-extending tunnel in fog. The current increased its pull. Ship and drifting ice accelerated through the tunnel.
After a while the missionary quietly stepped forward. He stood with one hand on the prow’s neck, listening to the mist, so motionless he might have been a carved extension of the longship’s aggressive design. Not a man breathed. The tunnel’s dilating and contracting bore was producing an all but seamless series of oscillating, near-phonetic sounds. Leif almost tiptoed back. No god, pagan or Christian, could account for the strangeness of this situation.
They were borne on a course that grew more southerly, and the following day beheld an inhospitable shoreline glazed by dazzling white beaches. Their course held. Two days later they came upon a far pleasanter, thickly wooded coast. Here the current released its hold, and here the missionary untied Hero and personally placed him and his son in a tiny oak faering. He was just as sick of them as he was excited by this promising new land. Once the rowboat had been heaved over the side, he and another man stepped aboard and took up the oars. They began rowing with easy, powerful strokes.
When the boat kissed sand the missionary stood unsteadily.
The first European to set foot on North American soil now placed one hand on his crucifix, the other on his sword’s hilt, and awkwardly plunged his leg into the thigh-deep, ice-cold surf. Before he could take another step the boat lurched as Hero leapt headfirst into the water, followed an instant later by his son. The Greenlanders watched sourly as the two splashed their way into a mad dash for the waiting pines. Leif wished them both good riddance and turned to grin wryly at his fellow Norseman. He must have blacked out for a second, must have been blinded by a shaft of sun, for he found he was staring stupidly at a point midway between his companion and the longship. It felt like he’d been kicked between the eyes.
Everything was dissolving.
He studied the beach and pines closely, but saw nothing of the man or his boy. He turned back, disoriented. With what seemed a superhuman effort he took up his oars. He rowed out sluggishly, in a dream, and the fog rolled in to meet him.

The boy broke into the trees and embraced a trunk, fighting for breath. What happened next happened so fast and so unexpectedly he didn’t have a chance to react.
Three savages stepped from behind the pines and beat him to his knees. They twisted his arms behind his back and hauled him to his feet. He’d barely processed the impression of a wild painted face when something sharp struck him ******* the temple and tore down his cheek to the jaw. Two of the assailants manhandled him into an upright position and held him in place while the third brought his weapon down again and again and again.
All but dead, he watched a nightmare countenance shouting through a shot veil of blood, and behind that image a reeling crimson sun. He lay there gushing while the savages went through his rags. They propped him against a pine and shrieked with triumph, tore the hair and gory scalp from his skull, threw back their heads and screamed at the screaming sky. Tooth and nail, they ripped apart his face and throat and, certain he would die, split what bits of fur were left and let his carcass lie.

                                                HERO

The weeks stretched into months while he fought his way back into the light.
He progressed in stages; only half-conscious, stumbling along in a blood-red stupor punctuated by a slow strobe of frequent blackouts. Days loomed and decayed, nights pounced and were gone; the backlit, swirling gray cosmos collapsed and expanded on every missed beat of his pulse. A thousand times he broke down to die, and a thousand times he clawed to his feet, driven to pursue a tiny, ghost-like figure fluttering in his memory.
Everything conspired to check him.
A bay like an immense landlocked sea was skirted over months or years—it was all the same. Cold locked him in, Hunger drove him afield, that rude ***** Wind lashed him blind, wore him like a shoe, screamed for his skin while he worked his way west.
Somehow he ate, somehow he avoided being eaten; the instincts that had served him halfway around the planet were still vital beneath the abused exterior. His simple burrows became sturdy temporary shelters. He relearned the art of fire, and began to cook what he killed. He manufactured crude snares and weapons and, when his recuperation was complete, paid closer attention to the on-again, off-again trail he’d been following…forever.
Sometimes this trail would call to him like a lover. Other times he stood peering uncertainly, trying to recapture meanings and aims. Then the ground would turn spongy and the sky revolve, and once again he’d be lying all but dead in the woods, while from the face of the sun emerged a vile winged horror, its ugly pale head lashing side to side, its cruelly hooked beak dangling something that glistened in the wild pulsing light…then the fat moon, rising like gas against the icy black night…the feel of the wind:  the slashing of her nails, the chafing of her hem…the sound of things crunching and pausing and sniffing…then the sun, blazing anew. And again that thing, descending, its wide black wings beating slowly, metronomically—but none of that mattered any more. For his mind had quit him, had flown howling into ice and pine to roost with things surreal. In the day his madness might muddle and run, or spend the light stalking, cat-like, watching and waiting. But at night it came creeping from all sides. Sometimes it came in waves. It could gnaw like the devil, or wrap around him like a warm second skin. But none of that mattered either.
The only thing that mattered was the trail—whether it was lost for good, or for only a while. He’d been following it through his episodes, always north, wondering just who and where in the world he was, and trying to shake a ridiculous notion of being led on a wild goose chase.
The cold was unbelievable.
The deeper north he delved, the more confused he became. He grew starved for colors and scents, finding nonexistent patterns in the stark contrast of shadow and snow. He thought he could detect a kind of otherworldly design in the overwhelming number of dead ends he encountered, and, too, in the diabolically frustrating locations of natural obstacles. He seemed to be forever fighting the wind—a hulking, despondent snowman, he hiked face down and focused, while another aspect of his attention floated just behind, disembodied, watching his silent pursuers…leaving no tracks, blending perfectly with the environment in their clever winter coats…not predators, but creatures that normally should have been hightailing it away from him. By the time he could turn, they’d become nothing more menacing than snowdrifts. But they pursued him nevertheless.
And so his paranoia increased…had there ever really been a trail…and when did this miserably cold, miserably anemic crusade begin…his long-term memory was falling apart a chunk at a time. It just got colder and colder and colder until at last, one snippet of a day during one blur of a year, he found himself utterly lost, and clueless as to his history or objective. His mind was a blank, as colorless and featureless as the endless world of ice around him. He’d come this far solely to learn that the only trail he’d been following was his own—and now even that trail was succumbing to ice. On all sides there was nothing to see but an infinite field of glaring whiteness, and nothing to hear but the ululating wail of the tubular polar wind. It was the loneliest, the unholiest, the creepiest sound imaginable. But it wasn’t insanity that made him wheel. It was his self-preservation instinct.
And then he was somehow on his knees in the woods, facing a furious setting sun.
Whole seasons had passed from his memory like chalk from a board. His only recollections were those of a broken, haunted animal:  of being perilously sick, of fearing the unseen, of blindly struggling across a solid-white wilderness. That he’d survived such an ordeal meant nothing to him. And that he had in some indecipherable manner stumbled across the cold-as-stone trail did not fill him with amazement or with thankfulness—there simply wasn’t anything visual or emotional left to draw on. A significant part of his life had been whited out.
But now he could focus entirely on the trail. And before he knew it, the fuzzy area between fantasy and reality found a seam. He began to analyze and plan. He paid attention to hygiene, and kept a kind of running mental journal. Things were sorting out. Yet there were nights when the old sickness would resurface, reestablish its hold, and leave him sweating and uncertain under the stars. Then, paradoxically, his perception would become razor-keen. And so he would see, on a distant hilltop, a pair of scrawny silhouettes, one on four legs and one on two, slowly crossing the faintly pocked face of the setting moon. He would become strangely excited, and thereafter retain crystal-clear images of himself, as if seen from above, hurrying with adroitness through the silent, graveyard-like setting of black and blue night and white-frosted trees. Then the fuzzy area would broaden, and it would be the next morning, and he would be staring at the prints of man and elk in snow. And he would see how the elk’s prints doubled back, and how the man’s prints terminated where he had obviously mounted his guide. An unfathomable glow would bring tears to his eyes. But, even as he gathered himself, a fresh snowfall would wipe out the prints. And once again the world would plummet into white. And the wind would howl as the snow hammered his eyes. And he would ***** on.

A haggard animal sat shivering in a small grove of frozen pines, watching his campfire die. His eyes were fixed. Like the fire, he was running out of warmth, running out of fuel. There wasn’t a whole lot of tinder round his bones, and not much feeling left in his limbs. The slowly heaping downfall was burying him alive, but he was too numb to care.
It had taken him six long years to cross an entire continent, and during that time he’d known only cold and excruciating pain. The pain was leaving him now. The cold was making it right. His eyes glazed over.
Along a narrow plain to the west a herd of caribou filed dreamily through the snow, cutting across a panoramic backdrop of dazzling white mountains. The slow-motion parade was hypnotic. After a while it occurred to the drifting man, in a roundabout way, that he was dying, that he was nonchalantly freezing to death. Concurrent with this notion there rose in his chest a wonderful liquid warmth. His eyes slowly closed and, once shut, began to set fast.
He was jolted from within. It was as if he’d been kicked in the heart.
He ****** to his feet, pounded his fists on his thighs, felt nothing. The breath spurted from his mouth in small white clouds as he stumbled downhill after the slow caribou train. He swam through the snow, hallucinating, imagining that certain individuals in the herd were mocking him by slowing and accelerating, while others glanced back with expressions of contempt.
As he burst into their midst the animals stepped aside indifferently. A few galloped ahead to keep up the herd, but most simply sidestepped while he danced there, stamping his feet and smacking his hands. The herd grew thinner, until only the old and infirm were filing by. The man desperately embraced a hobbling female for warmth, but she cried out and kicked, triggering a panic reaction in the herd. Clinging for his life, the man was dragged along beside her as the herd stormed into a maze of flying ice and snow. His weight caused her to stagger sideways until they slammed against the flank of a sick male. The man instinctively threw an arm over the male and, thus draped between them, was borne across the drifted plain for upwards of a mile, his freezing feet alternately dangling above and dragging through the snow. The herd broke into a hard run, forcing him to assume a broken trot. Soon his legs were stinging. Sensation rushed through his body.
Now the herd, still picking up speed, began to contract, jamming him between his bearers. There was a quick jolt to his right and he was lifted clean off his feet, nearly straddling the bucking female. It had become an all-out stampede. Through hard-flung snow he saw the cause:  just ahead, the caribou had run head-on into a solid wall of galloping wood bison, and both frantic herds had blindly veered to the east; were in fact running side by side down a deep, ragged canyon—were pouring over the canyon’s lip like a cataract. He was approaching, at breakneck pace, that very place where the converged herds so abruptly swerved. The hanging man snarled as he was borne inevitably to the point of deflection.
There came a concussion at his left shoulder, followed by a blast of snow. In an instant the ailing male was tumbling head over heels to the east, ****** into the stampede’s plummeting mass by the fury of its descent. The man and female, rebounding from this impact, were shot to the west in a crazy jumble of flailing legs. The caribou lost her footing, flew nose-first into a snowbank, and came up running. Kicking off, the man used the last of his strength to heave himself astride. At first she fought to shake him, but the spell of the run was too strong. She and half a dozen others went pounding in the opposite direction of the stampede, quickly joined by a number of bison that had likewise splintered from their herd. The riding man could make out their huge hulking shapes thundering by in a blizzard of flying ice, could hear their heavy gasps and explosive grunts. One passed so close he felt its massive flank brush his leg. He peered to his right and saw a black, pig-like eye regarding him excitedly, moving up and down like a piston as the beast ran alongside.
The eye shifted, focusing on the gasping, completely obsessed female. The bull dropped its head and slammed into the caribou’s side, sending her and the man careening down a ***** to the west. The caribou brayed hysterically and her backside went down, but she managed, despite the weight of her rider, to return to all fours and frantically continue along the *****. Again the bull charged, crashing into her shoulder. The man and caribou were launched sideways into the white searing air.
He sat up carefully. The huffing bison was straddling him like a bully laying down the ground rules. Its big wiry beard came right up to brush his chin. The stench of its breath was stupefying.
The bull stamped and snorted, thrusting its stubby horns left and right as the man used his elbows and heels to back away. The bull followed, move for move. When the man collapsed under his own impetus the bull shoved him along with its snout, bellowing furiously. Clear down the ***** they lunged, shoving and lurching, until the man lay sprawled on his back; up to his chin in snow, completely helpless. The ton of a bull butted and kicked, but only glancingly:  those hooves could **** with a blow. At last the man, in one clean sequence, spun on his rear, dropped to his side, and went rolling down the ***** using his elbows for ******.
At the bottom ran a narrow fence of frosted saplings marking an ice cliff’s precipice. He lay face down in the snow, too done in to do anything but **** at an air pocket.
And there came a high-pitched crackling, a sound like the protracted gasp of embers in a dead fire. He turned just as those saplings began leaning to the west, their frozen skins cracking with the strain.
The bison bellowed menacingly.
The sprawled man looked back and saw it still standing with legs spread wide, silhouetted against the sky. In a moment it began huffing downhill, lurching side to side, surfing the snow between lunges.
It chased him through the genuflecting saplings straight into a frozen gully where, protected by a few feet of insurmountable verticality, he was able to slide on the ice between its stomping hooves, downhill out of reach, then downhill out of control—spinning just in time to glimpse a breathtaking vista:
Partly framed by the gully-straddling saplings was a vast crescent of jagged white mountains seemingly huddled round a small stretch of snow-draped pines. The little wood these mountains surrounded was isolated in a broad lake of solid ice. Hundreds of fissures radiated crazily throughout this packed ice field, appearing to issue from somewhere near the frozen wood’s center, which was completely obscured by a ring of rising mist. Above this thumbnail panorama the sun showered gold.
Then the gully dipped radically, and he was skidding headfirst, slamming back and forth against its slick white walls. This uncontrollable plunge had the positive effect of getting his blood flowing. Yet it tore him up. Had the gully concluded in a cul-de-sac, or had further progress required a single calorie of uphill effort, his struggle would certainly have ended here. He would have been too weak to move, and death would have been swift.
But there was a glacier—a great river of ice pouring slowly out of the clouds. The gully, terminating in a little scoop formation near the glacier’s base, spat him flailing onto its gnarly glass hide. He went head over heels, bits of skin and fur flying like chips from a band saw. Somehow he gained his footing, and then he was running against his will, tumbling and recovering and tumbling again.
He didn’t catch much of that crazy run. He half-glimpsed whirling walls of ice, felt a fickle surface underfoot, and broke through an assaultive mist that clung to his ankles and arms. He remembered having the ragged hides torn right off his body, and then being skinned alive. And he remembered reaching the glacier’s base and crawling like an animal; round its sweeping drifts, past its peaked moraines, all the way to a twisting frozen gorge.
And he followed this gorge down; ricocheting wall to wall, delirious, small plumes of thrashed snow marking his descent.
Through a freezing wood he fumbled. In a veil of mist he tumbled down a steep and verdant grade. As cold consumed his closing breath, he fell upon, near-blind, near death, a strange, enchanted glade.

There is a pool.
And in this pool a man lay purged, his broken body half-submerged.
The stumbling man stopped. He knelt to weep, but lost his thread. One hand took a bicep, the other, the head. With a twist and pull the corpse emerged.
That visage…that face—misshapen mask, contorted, bleached; of life’s deposits fully leached. Essence dispatched—a void, sodden wretch.
He let it fall and the glass was breached. All a freak, all a stretch:  upon this act his grip detached.
And the bridge collapsed…one vagabond grasp…what were these feelings; recaptured and trashed…a span elapsed…who was this puckered mass…he hauled it by the waist and thighs…slid it in, watched the pool react:  purse and recover, expand, contract. The glass reformed, now silver-backed…a sudden mirror…the man leaned nearer…saw his reflection, just smashed, remade intact.
The pool grew still.
Within its depth a shadow stirred—visions gathered, some distinct, some obscure. What they meant, and who they were, was much too much to fathom. The glass became blurred.
He closed his eyes, let his heavy head fall, fell back on his haunches, felt the sweat seep and crawl. The air was a pall—as he struggled to rise, a nib crossed his wrist.
He opened his eyes.
Between his fingers the blades poked and crept. Round his knuckles they ventured, up his forearm they stepped:  they seemed to be triggered by prompts from the ground. He shook his head slowly and dully looked round.
There were jays grouped about him, their black eyes aglow. Red hens came running, their fat chicks in tow. Gophers engaged in a weird hide-and-seek. Bluebells and buttercups craned for a peek. Sparrows hopped past and, paying no heed, burst into flight. He watched them recede.
Westward they flew.
Bewildered, he slumped.
Bumped from behind, he jumped to his feet, flabbergasted to find an ancient gray moose near-eclipsing the sky, with grit in his snarl and fire in his eye.
The old moose took aim.
The man turned to flee and stumbled, then tumbled and fell on a palm and a knee.

But there lies a world (so the lullaby goes) where rivers ever run.
Poked from behind, pushed out of his mind, he staggered into sun.







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
The match started with control going from one team to the other kicks being made and players jumping on the ball hoping to score the first try
And then it happened the first penalty going to Queensland and kept it for a while but couldn't make it over the line
NSW took the ball and not much later got a penalty oh yeah hoping they will break through, they charged and charged right to the line and the maroons stole the ball ready to bring it to the other side forcing NSW into defence
And the mistake happened The blues got the ball and kicked it way way back the maroons grabbed the ball and kept them it in the defence and kicked it up forced the error and gained another penalty to them
The maroons were running up ready to break the defence and kicked it through and the blues brought the ball to the attack
Still no score still no score
But both teams are putting up a fight and then the maroons got the ball and with great offence
Dived over for the maroons first try and the crowd roared ever so loudly and smith converts it to make the maroons have a 6-0 lead and the XXXX is looking ever so sweet
But they have to get back to the game and the blues sent the kick to them and ran down to the tryline, only to have the try dissallowed and for the maroons it was still 6-0 but the blues had possession of the ball and they kicked it up and possession went back to Queensland and they ran a bit and kicked it up and the blues grabbed the ball, then they kicked it and straight back to Queensland it goes and they kept it with them for a while
A scrum came with the blues winning it and ran a while then kicked right down the Maroons throat and after a bit they kicked it, the 6-0.lead was looking good after the ball went loose for NSW and Queensland did a kick and chase with the blues looking to grab the ball
They did but not for long and after a few passes the maroons were running and passing and then dived in to score the maroons 2nd try, to make the score 10-0 to Queensland
And smith yet again adds the extra's and suddenly the maroons were looking very good and yes, the score changed to 12-0
After both teams getting a hand on the ball? It was the blues who gained possession but they lost it and this was making NSW very angry, I wonder what
The people in the clubs in NSW are thinking after the maroons good, then the battle between the both teams as the tackling gave the blues a penalty but after a lengthily run the maroons got a penalty and took
The ball over to the NSW defensive area and then they kicked it and it went into touch
And the blues got the ball and lost it down the field and the maroons ran down and put the ball down but it was a forward pass and then the blues ran with the ball right to the other side but Queensland yet again looking too good and then sent out a high bomb deep in the nsw end and the blues ran it down but was tackled and yes the maroons go into the half time break with a 12-0 lead
And I wonder what will happen in the 2nd half
And now the two teams are entering the field and the crowd is totally cheering and the maroons are kicking off and it went straight down the blues throats and went straight into the maroons defence line and they kicked it up and now the maroons have the ball but made a small error forcing the blues to steal it from them and after a few runs the blues lost it and the maroons grabbed the ball
And ran staring toward the line but lost the ball right in front of the blues defence line and the blues started to run it down by passing it a few times and then made a woeful kick to put the maroons back into attack and then after a comedy of errors the blues kept the ball and continued to run toward their line and then the blues kicked it down and Dugan scored the blues first try to make the score 12-4 to the maroons and Maloney added the extras to make the score 12-6 and they started to cuddle each other
And then the kick off going straight down the throats of the blues and ran the ball way past some of the defenders untill the maroons got the ball and lost the ball right in front of their own line and the blues are doing a great job keeping the ball with them and passes were being made and the blues were looking strong untill they lost the ball and the maroons got the ball back but after a few tackles gained a penalty and kicked it into touch and then ran it down to their defence line but the great blues defence line
Forced the ball into touch and then the blues won the scrum and ran it down passing and passing and kicked it down the maroons throats and now Queensland have the ball
And after a few tackles the maroons booted it high but nsw
Grabbed the ball and after a few more tackles the blues kicked it high and Queensland grabbed the ball and then moments later the maroons ran down to the try line and planted a try and the umpire went upstairs but it was still a try and that makes Queensland lead to 16-6 with a kick to come and things are looking great for the maroons by geez by jingle by crickey as mike Gibson is speaking to me from the grave
The kick was waved away and after a few plays the blues find themselves with the ball and they became close to the try line and the maroons got the ball of them and ran down the field and kicked it and the blues picked up the ball but the maroons bundled him into touch and forced the blues to do a kick straight down the maroons throats and after a few runs and passes the maroons scored a great try to make the maroons lead even more dangerous for the blues at 20-6
And smith converts it to make the score 22-6 and suddenly the maroons were looking dangerous as the song goes
Hold on tight
I know it is a little bit dangerous
I got what it takes to make ends meet
And yes, the maroons have definately got what it takes and after a few tackles the maroons knocked the ball on and the blues find themselves with the ball abs ran it down and took it right to the maroons but then they handed it over to Queensland and then they made some posession but a silly mistake forced NSW to take the ball but it was intercepted but it was forced into the scrum and the blues Regained the ball and then made some silly mistakes to give the ball back to Queensland and after a few passes the maroons kicked the ball into touch but things are looking bad for the blues as they gained the ball back,
Will they score here and after a few passes they knock the ball on and gave the ball back to Queensland and the maroons won the scrum and started to attack the NSW line and every member of Queensland in the crowd are jumping up and cheering after getting a penalty from a blues error but it was no good but who cares because the score was 22-6 and then they got the ball back and ran down the clock and at full time
Queensland won the game against the hapless blues by 22-6 and yes I reckon there will be a XXXX in the bar tonight but if you go for the blues beware because tonight wasn't your night
And now we draw the final curtain
And the blues lose once more
Yes, the maroons are the victors congrats congratulations yeah
Congratulations and celebrations
You see the maroons are the victory team again
What went wrong with the blues losing 22 points to ****** 6
The maroons are the champions my friend
They kept on fighting to the end
Maroons are the champions
Maroons are the champions
Maroons are the champions
Of the state of origin for 2017
Bye for now and well done to the maroons
Jupiter moon v Saturn Methane


Today Javk Dyer and Chris Mainwaring are having a fun day at Jupiter Moon oval, to celebrate the after life UFL tournament, and Jack Dyer started the ball rolling with two space kickers, Daniel Morecmbe and Graham Thorne, and Graham Thorne kicked about 2 goals and 17 behinds and he beat Daniel Morecambe who just kicked 1 goal and no behinds and after they was over we went to the handball competition run by Tony Campbell, and we had some great participants like Don Bradman and Tony Grieg, and Zara Baker came in and was the first to get a bulls eye, and she got it twice, and also Peter Sargent handballed two through the bullseye and him and Zara were looking like winning, untill Blske came in and scored a superb bulls eye three times and he won the hand ball competition, there were two more entries, who were Peter Harvey and graham Kennedy, but neither of them got bulls eyes, so Peter Sargent won the prize, the next thing was the tie up footy game, you see if you miss a goal you get a part of your body ******* and if you get a goal, you don't, so the aim is to not get it wrong, because you will find it hard to get free to kick your next attempted goal, so the first was Naomi Innes, and she kicked a behind and Ted Bundy tied her legs together, and then Brett Eggins kicked a great goal, and he yelled put, boys are better, your going down little girlie, and then Zara Baker kicked a goal and she went over to Brett and said, girl's are smarter than you, na, nani, na na, then Scott Macdonald came up and kicked a goal and went up to Zara Baker and said boys rule the afterlife, chicks rule the bed afterwards, and then Marilyn Monroe came over and kicked a behind and the boys tied her legs together and both Naomi and Marilyn were trying to be free the next time, and then River Phoenix had a shot and he scored a behind and he disgraced the boys when Ted Bundy came out and tied his legs together, yes Ted felt good and the final person was Micheal Jackson, and he scored a beautiful goal, and now for the second and last series, and first Naomi with her legs tied together, tried to push her legs up, and because it was tbe afterlife, Naomi pushed her legs and showed us her skills she learnt in death, then Brett Eggins, kicked another goal, and Brett said I am the ruler of this afterlife, no one will beat me, no way no chance no hope and then Zara Baker, who requested to run with the ball with defenders trying to stop her, but that was a trick, because little Zara Baker was too fast as she swung around everyone and scored her second goal, and she said, go Zara, go Zara, I am the greatest in the afterlife, oh yeah I am and then Marilyn Monroe came to magically kick with her feet tied together, and she tried a full somersault over the top of Jupiter moon and scored a great goal and Marilyn said, I am the greatest kicker in the after life, and seeing I don't know much about Aussie rules, I seem alright, dudes, River Phoenis had the next kick and he wasn't too lucky and Ted Bundy tied his hands together as well as gag his mouth, and he is the loser, so he is going to burn in hell or get burnt by the methane, whatever came first, Micheal Jackson came in next to score a great goal,  and Zara, Brett and Micheal Jackson were our winners, congratulations to you 3 dudes, yes this was a great day at Jupiter moon, and everybody had fun.
Well, my daddy left home when I was three,
and he didn't leave much to Ma and me,
just this old guitar and a bottle of *****.
Now I don't blame him because he run and hid,
but the meanest thing that he ever did was
before he left he went and named me Sue.

Well, he must have thought it was quite a joke,
and it got lots of laughs from a lot of folks,
it seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I'd get red
and some guy would laugh and I'd bust his head,
I tell you, life ain't easy for a boy named Sue.

Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean.
My fist got hard and my wits got keen.
Roamed from town to town to hide my shame,
but I made me a vow to the moon and the stars,
I'd search the ***** tonks and bars and ****
that man that gave me that awful name.

But it was Gatlinburg in mid July and I had
just hit town and my throat was dry.
I'd thought i'd stop and have myself a brew.
At an old saloon in a street of mud
and at a table dealing stud sat the *****,
mangy dog that named me Sue.

Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad
from a worn-out picture that my mother had
and I knew the scar on his cheek and his evil eye.
He was big and bent and gray and old
and I looked at him and my blood ran cold,
and I said, "My name is Sue. How do you do?
Now you're gonna die." Yeah, that's what I told him.

Well, I hit him right between the eyes and he went down
but to my surprise he came up with a knife
and cut off a piece of my ear. But I busted a chair
right across his teeth. And we crashed through
the wall and into the street kicking and a-gouging
in the mud and the blood and the beer.

I tell you I've fought tougher men but I really can't remember when.
He kicked like a mule and bit like a crocodile.
I heard him laughin' and then I heard him cussin',
he went for his gun and I pulled mine first.
He stood there looking at me and I saw him smile.

And he said, "Son, this world is rough and if
a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough
and I knew I wouldn't be there to help you along.
So I gave you that name and I said 'Goodbye'.
I knew you'd have to get tough or die. And it's
that name that helped to make you strong."

Yeah, he said, "Now you have just fought one
helluva fight, and I know you hate me and you've
got the right to **** me now and I wouldn't blame you
if you do. But you ought to thank me
before I die for the gravel in your guts and the spit
in your eye because I'm the nut that named you Sue."
Yeah, what could I do? What could I do?

I got all choked up and I threw down my gun,
called him pa and he called me a son,
and I came away with a different point of view
and I think about him now and then.
Every time I tried, every time I win and if I
ever have a son I think I am gonna name him
Bill or George - anything but Sue.
She must have been kicked unseen or brushed by a car.
Too young to know much, she was beginning to learn
To use the newspapers spread on the kitchen floor
And to win, wetting there, the words, "Good dog! Good dog!"

We thought her shy malaise was a shot reaction.
The autopsy disclosed a rupture in her liver.
As we teased her with play, blood was filling her skin
And her heart was learning to lie down forever.

Monday morning, as the children were noisily fed
And sent to school, she crawled beneath the youngest's bed.
We found her twisted and limp but still alive.
In the car to the vet's, on my lap, she tried

To bite my hand and died. I stroked her warm fur
And my wife called in a voice imperious with tears.
Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her,
Nevertheless she sank and, stiffening, disappeared.

Back home, we found that in the night her frame,
Drawing near to dissolution, had endured the shame
Of diarrhoea and had dragged across the floor
To a newspaper carelessly left there.  Good dog.
Chalsey Wilder Sep 2014
Ladies and gentleman skinny and scout
I'll tell you a tale I know nothing about
The admission is free so pay at the door
Now pull out a chair and sit on the floor

On one bright day in the middle of the night
Two dead boys got up to fight
Back to back they faced each other
Drew their swords and shot each other

The blind man came to see fair play
The mute man came to shout hooray
The deaf policeman heard the noise
And came to stop those two dead boys

He lived on the corner in the middle of the block
In a two story house on a vacant lot
A man with no legs came walking by
And kicked the lawman in his thigh

He crashed through a wall without making a sound
Into a dry creek bed and suddenly drowned
A long black hearse came to cart him away
But he ran for his life and is still gone today

I watched from the corner of the table
The only eyewitness to facts of my fable
If you doubt my lies are true
Just ask the blind man, he saw it too
This is my favorite poem. It's by Tyler Rager and I honestly don't know why I love this poem. But ever since I heard it from the movie I just couldn't wait to find it online and read it. When I read it I fell in love with it. <3 Love this poem a lot.
Elizabeth Kelly May 2015
I kicked an ant today.

It was coming right for my bare foot, so I kicked it. The thought of its tiny feet tickling my giant feet made me feel ill.

Generally insects don't bother me, but ants. Ants, with their underground tunnels and their abilities to carry a zillion times their body weight, with their appearance in my kitchen every spring from seemingly nowhere even though my kitchen is clean and inhospitable to them - I hate ants.

I was outside, the ant's domain, on my back patio enjoying the beautiful weather and the newness of spring. It wasn't fair of me to kick him like that in his own domain, and yet.

I wonder what I would do if I was kicked by a giant. I would probably die, land in a heap and break all my bones and die. That ant almost certainly didn't die, but I wonder if it hurt. Do ants have very many nerve endings? A question for the ages.

Before I kicked that ant, I was reading some old poetry and letting the sun warm me and the light breeze riffle through my hair, avoiding work and thinking about my life and the big question marks that punctuate my waking moments with their soft severity. ******* this brain and it's forever worrying.

The worrying is the problem. I should spend more time doing.

But I don't. Instead I write poems and kick ants and daydream about finding a home where I can begin my Real Life.

Because this isn't it, is it?
Is it?

Kicking things out of my way that make me uncomfortable? Finding the sunshine and basking like a lizard? Reading poetry?

Actually, I think I can live with that.
That, and fewer ants.
Mitchell Duran May 2014
We took the back road to the house. The shade from the trees made the road feel like tunnel. Not a shred of light came in. We'd have to drive slow. The road wasn't made of concrete: it was made of dirt, rock, and dead leaves. Sometimes we could see the worms come up out of the dirt in the headlights, their pink stretching bodies like weird little fingers. Carrie never looked. She said it was too scary. The rest of us would look and watch them dance around like that. Sometimes we'd have to run them over. Of course, we'd feel bad about it, but we needed to get back to the house. There were things to be done. Nothing planned, but nonetheless, things to be done.
Englend reversed the car up to the front door. The liquor, the food, and the beer was in the back and would make it easier to get it from there. Patty and Carrie (the one scared of the worms) ran straight to the bathroom. They'd been complaining about how we never stopped at a gas station to ***. Englend said we didn't have the time and I just didn't care. Denny was in the same mindset as me. We usually were. Kat was looking out the window, thinking about something she didn't wish to share when we started to unload. She offered to help after she'd finished her thought, but the three of us said we had it. We didn't really, but we let her have her thought while we carried the bags. There weren't that many to complain about anyway.
When everyone was inside unpacking their things, I hung back and smoked a cigarette. I looked down at the river. It was full and rushing. The trees were full with bright, lime green leaves. The branches were tanned auburn from the sun. They looked the forearms of the Mexican girls at my high school: smooth, everlasting, stretching to a place I was never allowed to touch or look at. I ashed my cigarette into a pile of leaves and immediately worried that I was going to start a fire. I kicked it out, thrusting my boot heel into where I thought the ember had went.
"What the hell are you doing?" Englend screamed from the front porch, a handle of whiskey underneath his arm, a glass with ice in the other.
"Ashed into the leaves," I told him, "Trying to take it out." I kicked the leaves a few more times, then walked towards Englend.
"Let me get a hit of that," I said, pointing at the handle.
He spun the top and it rolled off the tread. The cap rolled off the deck and Englend chased after it, handing me the bottle first.
"Take this. Where'd the hell it go?"
"Down there somewhere," I said, pulling the bottle back. The sweetness of the whiskey hit my nostrils first, then the bite of the liquor. I coughed, feeling my eyes begin to water. The first one was always the hardest. After that, they got easier.
June had just ended. July was just arriving. The third was tomorrow and the next day was the fourth.
I took another pull from the handle. I placed on the decks railing and left Englend with it. He was still looking around for the bottle cap.
"I thought I saw it roll under the deck," I told him.
"*******," he moaned. He looked up at me, "Come and help me. It'll be faster with two."
"Can't. Gotta' check on Carrie and get ourselves a room."
"*******," he moaned again, reaching under the deck.
"Don't get your hand bit by a possum or rat or something!" I yelled behind me, going inside. "Carrie!" I screamed, "Where'd you go?"
"Upstairs getting our room ready!" I heard her scream from the 2nd floor, "Come and help me put the sheets on."
I went into the kitchen. Denny was stocking the fridge with the beer and the meat. I reached over his shoulder and grabbed a Budweiser. He had an open one in between his knees. The light stuff was on the bottom to the far left, the heavy stuff in the middle, and the expensive IPA, hoppy stuff to the far right. The top shelf was for food, mixer, and whatever else the girls had decided to get at the store. Fruit and things. I opened up the freezer. There were two handles of Smirnoff resting on three large bags of ice. We would need more ice. I closed the freezer and ran my fingers of the labels of two more handles of Cazadorés tequila and Bulleit bourbon. Overall, I thought we were fairly stocked for the four day weekend, but one could never be to sure. People came out of the wood work for the 4th of July. No telling who would show up at our front door.
I went upstairs to see what Carrie was doing. She was laying on the bed with the sheets resting on the dresser. The light was off. The room was cast in that light grey pigment that happens when the bedroom light isn't there. It was nice. The sun had been straining my eyes the whole time even though I had been driving in the backseat. Carrie was laying face down on the bed. She was wearing a skirt, so I slowly laid down on the bed and inched her dress up. She didn't flinch or move, so I pulled it up until I saw her burgundy lace *******. They looked pressed or ironed or something they looked so clean.
"What're you doing?" Carrie asked me, her face down into the mattress.
"Just looking," I said.
"At what?"
"At your ****."
"Why?"
"Cause' it's nice."
"Close the door."
I got up, closed the door, and laid back down.
"Lets put the sheets on the bed first."
"OK," I said.
We put the sheets on the bed, but couldn't wait for the pillows and the rest of the blankets. We tried to be quiet, but knew we weren't. After, we took a shower together. I rubbed Carrie's shoulders while the hot water rained down on us. She said it was better to get a massage in the shower because the hot water loosened up the muscles. I didn't know if that was true or not, but I did it anyway. I watched her as she unpacked her bag. Her hair was wet and it swung back and forth, wetting her back. She was wrapped in her favorite pink towel. Water dripped from her body down to the floor. I waited to put my things away. I had brought up very little. Mostly *****. Carrie took up most of the dresser. I had one drawer by the time we were finished.
We took a nap. After we were done sleeping, we looked outside and saw the sun had been replaced with the night. The stars and the light coming from inside of the cabin streaked out into the forest like a splash of golden florescent paint. Carrie and I poked our heads outside to listen to the creaking trees and the rustling of animals through the bush. Someone downstairs was lightly clattering dishes as they cleaned them while the smell of red maple firewood burning in the fireplace came up to our room. I took out my phone from my pocket and looked at the time.
"****," I said, "It's already 10 o'clock."
"I'm starving."
"I'm starving and need a drink."
"Let's go downstairs and see what they made."
I slipped on my 501's while Carrie straightened up her hair. We went downstairs and saw two plates with hamburgers and fries on them. Patty was at the sink cleaning the pots and pans. She was staring down into the soapy froth, humming a song to herself I couldn't understand. She hadn't heard us come down. Denny, Englend, and Kat weren't in the living room.
"Where is everybody?" I asked.
"Oh!" Patty burst. She swung around, a soaped up frying pan in her hands. "You scared the **** out of me!"
I put my hands up, "Gotcha!" I said smiling.
"They went for a walk somewhere and left all the dishes for me."
"Leave'em," Carrie said, taking Patty's hands and wiping the soap away with a rag, "Van and I will take care of them."
"I only have a few more..."
"I insist!" Carrie took Patty's arm and lead her to the couch and laid her down. I took a cup from the pantry, filled it with ice, and poured Bulliet half-way up. I handed the glass to Carrie and she brought it to Patty.
"Look at that," Patty smiled, "Full-service."
"What you get when you come up to the Dangerson cabin."
"**** right!" I exclaimed through a bite of hamburger, "Only the best here."
Patty leaned her head back after taking a long sip of the whiskey. She exhaled and closed her eyes. I watched her as her chest heaved up and down. She kicked off her shoes and let her hair fall over the armrest of the couch.
"You said they went into the woods, Patty?"
Carrie took her burger and went and sat next to Patty.
"Lift your legs up," Carrie said, "Let me sit with you."
"Yeah. They went into the woods an hour or so ago. Probably a little less."
I opened the fridge and grabbed another beer.
"What were they going out there for?"
"I have no idea."
"Probably to get firewood or something," Carrie said, "Can you grab me one of those."
"Sure," I said, tossing her one.
"Wait," She yelled, throwing her hands in the air. The beer landed right in one of her flailing hands.
"Nice catch," I laughed, opening the fridge and grabbing another.
"You're such a ****!"
I smiled and walked out onto the deck.
"He really is," I heard Carrie tell Patty.
"I heard that!"
"You were meant to!" she called back to me, laughing.
I shook my head and opened the can of beer. Why did they decide to go get firewood now? We had plenty of wood here already. Patty probably didn't know what she was talking about. That happened often. I strained my eyes to see through the darkness, maybe see if I could spot a flashlight or the round end of a lit cigarette, but the forest was just a wash of thick blackness. Even the stars had grown faint.
"Englend!" I shouted.
Nothing. Not a peep. They were far out there.
"Englend!" I shouted again.
"What the hell are you shouting at?" a voice said from the trees. I couldn't tell who it was, but it was someone I knew.
"Who the hell is that?"
"Well who the hell do you think it is?" It was Englend. He came out of the trees like a wild boar. He had a handle of whiskey in one hand with a pile of small twigs and firewood in the other. What came to mind first was a mix between a drunken Brawny guy and a pinecone.
"What's all the screaming about?" Kat asked, trailing behind Englend. Denny followed behind. They all had armfuls of wood. From what I saw, little would be useful, but I kept that to myself.
Englend came up the deck and handed me the handle. I took a long pull. As I drank, I looked up into the stars, which were now out and shining brighter than they were before. A cloud had moved, wavered off somewhere, presenting the gifts that were behind it. I lowered the bottle and watched Denny and Kat walk up the stairs. They were smiling.
"What are you two so happy about?" I asked, handing Denny the whiskey.
"Gimme' that!" Kat snagged it out of my hand, laughing. She took a long pull. Denny, Englend, and I watched, amazed that little hippy Kat could take such a heavy shot.
"Good God," I murmured.
"She drinks like a pirate," said Denny.
"A ****** pirate," added Englend.
Kat was especially small. Not a small person small, but petite. She also had a great *** and could out drink, out party, and out do the rest of us in debaucherous shenanigans. She had never heard of the word or feeling of shame either and did, really, whatever the hell she felt like.
"I heard that you *******," she said, exhaling, blinking her eyes wildly.
"That was a biggun'," Denny said, taking the bottle and pulling it.
"Needed it. Englend had us wandering around the ******* forest for firewood the minute we got here."
"Do we even need any?" I asked.
"Course we do!" Englend exclaimed, "Gotta' keep our ladies warm!"
He put his arm around Kat and shook her.
"Gross..." Kat frowned, her face pickling while she squirmed out of his arms.
"You love it Kat...where's Patty? Where's my babe!?" Englend thundered off into the house.
"I'm right here," Patty squealed. She was still on the couch with Carrie. She kicked her feet crazily as Englend jumped on her. Carrie jumped off just before he cannon balled onto the couch.
"You guys are SICK!" Carrie screamed.
"You love it," they both said in unison. The two of them play wrestled until Patty finally got Englend by the ***** and kissed him.
Denny handed Kat the bottle," You want another?" he asked.
"I'm good, Denny," she said.
"Hank?" He asked me.
"I'll take one, yeah," I said. I pulled it back as Kat went inside. I exhaled and looked at Denny, "So, you and Kat are the only two legitimate single people here. How you feel about that?"
"Hopeful," he said.
"That's good to hear. I'll see what Carrie can do."
"Sweet," he said nervously.
"Let's get inside. Patty made some burgers."
"Thank God," Denny sighed, shaking his head, "I'm ******* starving. Englend had us walking for ******' miles.
"No idea why. We have plenty of wood downstairs."
"Seriously?"
"Yeah. Lots of it. I cut a bunch the last time I was here."
"******," he laughed, "Englend told us were out."
"He doesn't know what he's talking about," I said. We walked into the kitchen. I put the bottle down next to Carrie, who had made her way from the couch back into the kitchen. She looked at the bottle, then at me.
"What you drinking there?" she asked me looking at the bottle.
"Whiskey," I told her.
"Can you not drink so much?" she whispered so no one could hear her.
"I'm good," I said, taking her hand, "I just drank a little bit outside while I was waiting for Englend. They went on a wild goose chase for firewood."
"Good."
"Denny was telling me they went all over for the stuff."
"Why?" she smiled, "We have so much from the last time we were up."
"That's what I was telling Englend, but he didn't care. Guy gets antsy."
"Who's antsy?" Englend called from the couch. Patty was wrapped up in his eyes, looking drunk from the single shot Carrie and I had given her. Kat was on the couch with a beer. Denny was hovering by the door, rocking back and forth on his heels still holding an armful of fire wood.
"Why don't you just leave that by the door?" I told Denny, "Take a seat. Stay a while."
He dropped the firewood by the side of the front door and took a seat on the floor in front of the fireplace by Kat. He looked up at her and smiled, but she didn't notice. She was sipping her beer, rummaging around in her pocket for something.
"What I was saying was that you guys didn't need to get anymore firewood or kindling or whatever the hell you guys got because we have a lot from the last time Carrie and I were up."
"I saw those logs," said Englend, "And they're ******* twigs compared to what we got!"
Everyone laughed.
"Well," I said, opening the fridge for another beer (I wasn't sure where my other one had gone to), "I'm not taking the **** down."
"All good, we'll take it down."
"You'll take it down," said Kat, "We had to walk through half of the ******* forest to get to your secret wood spot, then walk back. I'm finished with wood for now."
"Fine," Englend moaned, "I'll take it down in the morning."
"I'll help you," Denny added.
"Good! We got two big guys to do it. It'll be done in no time."
I turned around and opened up the cabinet that was filled with shot glasses. I took six out, put them on the table, and filled them with whiskey.
"Let's take a group shot before we all start getting snuggly and sleepy."
"Great idea!" Englend shouted, popping up from the couch.
"For America!" Patty giggled, following Englend.
Kat helped Denny from the floor and walked over to the counter. They parted hands when Denny was on his feet, but I could tell he wouldn't mind holding her hand for the duration of the trip.
"I'm glad to have you all here," I said, "Glad we could do this."
Everyone nodded, smiling, holding their golden brown shots in the air.
"For America," I said.
"For America!" the rest of them yelled. We soaked in the glory of fine whiskey and hazy conversation for the rest of the night.
Everyone was moving slow in the morning. Englend seemed to be the most up out of everyone. I walked into the kitchen to him whipping 12 eggs, grating cheese, pan frying potatoes, bubbling coffee, and pouring orange juice into mimosa flutes. The champagne was already out. I thought, a little alcohol will probably do me some good. It did. After my third glass, I kissed Carrie when she groggily walked into the living room. She preceded to slump onto the couch. I brought her a cup coffee and some Advil. She smiled meekly into my glazed over, blood shot eyes. I could tell she was hurting, but she would be right in a couple hours. Once we got into the river, all would be right.
"Jesus," said Carrie, "You guys are already drinking?"
"Of course!" Englend laughed, "It's the fourth and it's already noon. We're behind if anything."
"And Englend made breakfast," I said.
"I can see th
Megan Hundley Nov 2011
you don't understand at all do you
not truly
you think
I'm a liar
that I still hold the knife
that
stabbed you in the back
[and in the heart]

kinda speechless
that you feel that way
think that way
believe it
untrustworthy? misleading?
false emotions?
can you not read?
here let me try again
maybe I can make it like braille
feel the words

it's like when the clouds stormy eyes
welled up and let fall the
tears of weekend rain
soggy, we laughed along with the thunder
and under our waterfall we let the windows
fog
tell me I lied then

or picture if you will
standing by the tree I
always parked by
it was a starry night, but we didn't see it
we were too focused on our faces
except
why is it I was the only one
drowning in the sadness that overtook my eyes
shaking with each strained, choppy breath
clutching that gray shirt like a life jacket
do you think that was all
for show?

haven't you looked at
my collection of black and white
silly letters scribbled down as fast as possible
trying as hard as I can
to leave it all
on the paper
but it's as if each word I write
is a tattoo
slowly invading every part of my skin
it's sinking in, it's staining everything
do you think this agony I speak of
is fake?

if so
if I am that liar with the knife who
led you astray and "******* you over"
let you down, kicked you around
if you can't seem to
open your eyes
and notice
just how much I love you
just how much I always have

then you don't deserve it

ill run miles for you when I know I only
have the strength for one
but don't you
dare
watch me run
if you don't even grasp
that I stabbed myself in the back
led myself astray

you have a right to
hate the wound
but if you can't see
what I feel
one day
I will learn
that I have to let go
and I will

then all these silly letters
all for you

well. go ahead and throw them away
on that day
they will carry no life
anymore
Duck Oct 2012
Damaged people are dangerous because they know how to survive,
And if you've never been damaged you don't know how it feels to be alive,
See struggle is the sauce that gives success its flavour,
when life kicked you down it was doing you a favour.

Cos it's in your darkest hour, not in prosperity
that you will realise your true ability.
Life dunks you in deep waters not to drown you but to cleanse you.
And that's just the beginning of what it will put you through.
But it's chiselling you down, you won't deflate.
It's not wearing you thin, it's getting you to your fighting weight.
Prosperity makes monsters, adversity makes men.
I believe when you reach the top life will yank you back down again.

You didn't break down, you just had a flat tyre
so get back up and relight that fire.
keep it burning and churning at the pit of your heart
and keep on learning and yearning and never fall apart.

Stare life in the eyes
and say "no matter how many times
my spirit won't break if my drive never dies"
So throw me a burden I won't lose my composure,
It's for this very reason that life gave me shoulders.

Get better not bitter
This weather will wither
I'll turn wounds into wisdom
sadness into spirit
tears to tenacity
I will never quit it

Take a deep breath and concentrate your stare
because a road with no obstacles never took you anywhere.
Check out my YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/duckforpope
Like me on FaceBook: www.facebook.com/duckforpope
Follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/duckforpope

Or just send me a good ol' fashioned email: duckforpope@gmail.com
Kate Apr 2014
When i was 13 I thought that gay and straight were things that other people were
People that weren't raised christian
People that didn't have dads
People that were abused
People that i should pray for but not get close to

when i was 14 my best friend came out as gay
i didn't see it coming but i probably should have
she wore ties every day
and plaid shirts with the sleeves rolled up
and cut her hair short as soon as she could
but i didn’t see it because gay was other people

when i was 14 i watched as the news spread like wildfire
“did you hear? that girl is gay.”
I watched as people slowly backed away from her
people that knew her all her life
that is, the people that didn’t cut her off instantly

I watched as the youth group we had both attended asked her to leave
I watched as her drama group kicked her out because they were afraid of the yearly camp we went to
that somehow knowing that she was gay made her more likely to attack the other girls in their beds than the year before

I watched.
I didn’t do anything.

what changed my mind wasn’t a change of perspective on queer people
it still took me a year to decide being gay wasn’t wrong
but i decided that my best friend was someone i would stick with
because i loved her

I quietly stayed.
didn’t make a fuss, didn’t call people out when they called her names behind her back.
I should have.
but i didn’t.
I didn’t join in, but i didn’t defend her
i didn’t say to these people
*******
that girl is beautiful and amazing
and if you can’t see through your hatred then i don’t want to be your friend either
but i didn’t .
I didn’t go through what she did.
I didn’t get kicked out of anything, i didn’t lose friends

When i was 15, i got fed up
I left that drama group.
I stopped going to that church.
I stepped away from those friends and even though i never said why
the look on my face when i ran into them and they asked, “how’s she doing?”
answered that question for them.

I spent 24 hours examining my bible
trying to find the verses that say being gay is wrong
there were barely any
and they were right next to verses that said eating pork was wrong
or planting crops next to each other
or wearing two different fabrics

there was my answer.

this isn't a story of my journey.
This isn't me building myself up
“hey, I wasn't as bad as those other people
I’m good now”

this is a story of how one person can change your life forever

if i didn't have a gay best friend
what a way to start a story, huh?
if i didn't have a gay best friend then I would still be there
quietly praying for the sins of others, but not trying to understand
so don’t look at all Christians and say
they’re awful
they’re bigoted
they’re judgmental
because we are
but often it’s because we don’t know any better
teaching us kindly works
leading by example.
So, this is the first poem I've ever actually finished. I had a emotional night, and wrote three things at about 2AM, so this is the first one.
Jeff Gaines Mar 2018
OK Reader, I'm going to tell you a tale … with great trepidation. You see, this tale, well, it's kind of like telling someone that you've seen a UFO. They want to believe you, but … it's never really been proven scientifically. Not to mention the fact that most folks who believe in such things are often the tin-hat wearing types, written off as … lets be nice and call them “odd”. And, of course, the more you swear to it, the crazier you appear. It's an epic tale, spanning 30 years of my crazy life.

  But, It's a story I want to tell, because it happened to me. I can barely understand it myself, let alone explain it. So … I'm just going to launch into it and you take it any way you wish.

*  *  
Where Can You Be?

Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

I'll search with gazes and I'll search with cars,
I'll search the cities and I'll search the stars, well …
I'm gonna find you, oh, wherever you are,
I'm gonna find you baby …  near or far, but …

Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

I thought I'd found ya, but she wasn't you,
that girl she left alone and blue, well …
I know that's something that you'd never do,
your love has always been strong and true, but …

Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

If you must settle for some other man
and deviate from our immortal plan, well …
I hope you realize I will understand
and I'll try and do the best that I can, but …

Where will I be?
Where will I be, my love?
Hoping the next life sees …
our destiny!


Where can you be?
Where can you be, my love?
Oh, can't you see?
You're not with me!

~Wednesday, April 1st, 1987
10:30 P.M.



  I was singing in a band back in those days and, as it happened, this was the last song I'd ever write for it. Just after this, as it does, it all came crashing down and the band was finished. But in those last days, they pondered this song, with great puzzlement. You see, it was unlike anything I'd brought them before. It wasn't rock … It wasn't a ballad … it wasn't even structured like a “normal” 80's rock song.
  
  No bridge, no solo, no loud grinding guitars, etc. It even had bits where I hummed, yes hummed, the melody, like a lullaby. As they read the lyrics and I described how it went, they all looked at me like I had three heads and asked where this had come from. It was nothing like anything I'd written before. I could only tell them when and where I'd written it, but had no explanation of what inspired it. It had just came to me, so I wrote it down. They didn't know what to make of it, or even what to do with it.

  One of them said it sounded like a late 70's or early 80's adult contemporary song or even in the vein of The Eagles. Another asked if it was about reincarnation … And I honestly, until that moment, hadn't thought of it that way, I didn't think like that at 24 … but then, one of them said it was “Haunting” …

  “Haunting”?

  “Wow”, I thought, I'd never had anything I'd written described as that before. When I asked him what he meant by that, he told me that it was haunting to think that this poor guy is desperately seeking a girl, that may or may not even know that he exists … in a world with billions of people in it. To top that off, he fears that she may off and marry someone else if he doesn't find her in time.

  This, along with the suggestion of it being about reincarnation made me rethink and rewrite the song. Well, a few lines in the last verse and chorus anyways. It actually made the song flow better and seem more complete. In a way, it actually made the song make more sense … to me and them. Sadly, we never did anything with it. There wouldn't be time. Ha … Time … how ironic. Over 10 years later, came this …


For Someone I've Never Met

Please save a place for me,
deep inside your heart.
Always know that I think of you,
as we both practice our arts.

Our worlds are full of temptations,
so very hard to resist …
and the good Lord knows
we're both far from,
sixteen and never been kissed.

Wealthy men with jaws divine …
Temptresses with looks so fine …
Paths that lead our hearts away …
Paths that surely lead astray …

They'll lead us there every time.
They'll leave us there … so  unkind.
Our hearts must shine,
night and day.
Through any darkness … they'll light our way.

If you never touch my face …
If I never look into your eyes …
We'll always have the comfort of sharing
the same
big, blue sky.

If I never smell your hair …
If you never kiss my lips …
Always know the search for your smile
has launched a thousand ships.

So, I hope you save a place for me
in your heart so sweet and kind.
Please, save a place for me …
Heaven knows you've one in mine.

~Thursday, September 9th, 1999
9 A.M.



“For Someone I've Never Met ” poured out of me in the midst of another breakup from the second, and last, girl that I wanted to marry. That emotion, never found me again. I looked at it on my computer screen and smiled, seeing “Where Can You Be”, in my mind, on my tattered old note pad that I called my “Song Book”. The memory of me writing it while sitting in my Z-28, looking out over the Gulf of Mexico as a beautiful heat lighting storm sent bolts across the sky, came flooding back; as did the debate of reincarnation I'd had with my pals in the rehearsal room all those years before. Here I was, again, writing about “someone” that I sensed, for lack of a better term, was out there … somewhere.

  Well Reader, do you believe in reincarnation? I was never really certain, but, as you can see, I had twice written pieces to someone I wasn't completely sure existed. I had always “sensed” someone out there beginning with the period after I wrote “Where Can You Be?” and thereafter. So, there they were, each written after losing someone I was deeply in love with. Each came out of nowhere, as they usually do. By the time I was in my 40's, I began to think I was either imagining it all (a side effect of being a hopeless romantic) or that I had just somehow missed this person and our “moment”.

  And then …



Epiphany

There was a place.
There was a time …
There, I stood … still unknowing
and everything seemed fine.

But there in that place …
at that moment in time …
the moment I saw the eyes,
I'd never believed I'd find.

Well, what could I say?
What could I do?
In a world filled with billions …
and there … was a you.

I'd always known you were out there …
even written of something amiss.
I never, ever stopped looking for you …
because my heart always said you exist.

My breezy Fall became harshest Winter.
My crazy life left my health running out.
I'd resigned myself that our moment had passed …
but this moment … it removed all doubt.

Well, what could I say?
Tell me, what could I do?
There we stood, staring … alone … in a city of millions …
yes, there … there was a you.

Oh, that mistress fate, she is just so cruel.
Frustration, a curse to be mine.
   I'd searched for you my entire life …
but now … my clock … knows a limit of time.

You see, I would never venture a love with you,
while knowing I'd have to leave you … hurt and alone.
I could only admire from afar … stoic and aloof …
while turning my heart into stone.

Nothing I could ever say and nothing I could ever do …
But now, at long last … at least I finally knew.

There, you stood … green seas, gazing up … into skies of blue.
My long-awaited revelation … become sorrow-laced realization.
There really is … a you.

~August 12th, 2009
  

  Typical of my life-long Charlie Brown syndrome … After being told in 2005 that I had “the lungs of an eighty-year-old man” and that I had “Six to Ten years” to live, I made a conscious decision in that Doctor's parking lot that I could never have another girlfriend and that I must face this alone. I don't see woman as objects. They are glorious creatures that are here to be our partners and friends and to make our lives amazing. I could never, ever knowingly let a woman fall in love with me, all the while knowing I was going to die and leave her. It's not in me to do such a thing, lonely or not.

  Yes, I'm still alive, I'm stubborn like that. But, some days are better than others and my new doctors say that they don't give people “time limits” anymore … because of people like me. I can't afford the lung transplant. So, as Bono so aptly put in one of his songs: “The rich stay healthy, while the sick stay poor”. It is what it is … and like the energizer bunny, I'm still going. Good for me.

  In the moment that I met her, the morning that followed, and the amazing speed of our nexus over the next several months combined with a string of synchronicities (Coincidences? Did I mention that she too, was a poet and writer?) that not only came after I met her on the sidewalk in front of the publisher we shared, but in those pieces I had written before and in several after; I was pretty much convinced I had actually found her. I have NEVER experienced anything like this, or her, in my entire life.

  So, after all this time, here she was … and there wasn't a **** thing that I could do about it. Besides, she was much younger than I and it probably would never have worked anyways. ****, the universe is rotten sometimes, huh? Maybe, if I'm lucky, things will balance out better in the next life. I can only hope. But I'm reminded, worryingly so, of the **** The Alarm song: “Collide”:

“All of these thoughts pounding in my head …
with the words I've wrote, in the letters I've never sent.
The distance in our lives may change …
Times that you can never erase …
But will our worlds collide?
Will our worlds collide, the next time?”



  Only time will tell.



  “Colors”, and a few others, were written about/for her. But, I could never show them to her. I would never endanger my friendship with her. I just wanted to keep her in my life. That, and that alone, was the only motive I'd ever had with her. I looked forward to seeing her marry, hearing her stories of her three kid's adventures; Hubby, all greasy, working on the car in the driveway, rabbits in her garden at night, eating her precious organic veggies or even about her new curtains. Just to know that she was alive, happy and doing well. I found a solace in her voice I could never describe and I was completely content to just have her in my life and watch hers unfold. Only I could end up in this odd position.

  I feared that she might get weird-ed out because I'd never displayed any romantic inklings toward her, so, to suddenly read these might make her feel a bit, lets say: uncomfortable. Actually, I didn't write them with any romantic intentions, per se; I just did what I always do … write what comes out. Still, there's no denying that they come across romantic. Again, so, so Charlie Brown. (long sigh)
  
  It is what it is. I also have to ponder the fact that maybe all those Charlie Brown moments in my life were preparing me for this one big, painful one. That does makes sense … ******' Universe.


Colors

Well when you're Green, I'll be your Brown.
Like the earth that loves the flowers,
I'll will be your solid ground.

And I'll be your Azure, when you are Verdigris.
We'll be thee most beautiful ocean
that eyes have ever seen.

And when you're Black, I'll be your White.
Mixing all of the colors … I'll make everything alright.

Now when you're Blue, I'll be you're Red.
If something should make you wanna cry,
I will feel your pain instead.

And I'll be your Orange, whenever you are Pink.
We'll be thee most amazing sunset,
that the sky could ever ink.

And when you're Black, I'll be your White.
I'll mix all of your colors … and make everything alright.

Should you be Violet, I will be your Beige.
Like a sleepy moonlit desert,
pasteled in dunes and sage.

And when you're Grey, I will be your Rainbow.
We'll be thee most soothing rainstorm
the world has ever known.

And when you're Black, I'll be your White.
I'll mix all of your colors … yes, I'll make everything alright.

With love on my palette, painting a glorious sunrise …
I'll color all your mornings with a smile and brighten up your skies.
If you should find yourself in sorrow from someones hate or lies …
I'll take the stars down from the heavens … and paint them in your eyes.

So whenever you are Black, I will always be your White.
I'll mix all your colors with a promise … everything will be alright.

Yes, I'll mix all of your colors with a promise … Everything's gonna be alright.

~  Winter 2012



  I wrote this after she had rang me up one afternoon lamenting about her life at the moment, troubled that her latest novel hadn't done as well as she'd hoped and now she had to be waitressing to make ends meet. I tried my best to cheer her up and assured her that she was strong enough to handle anything and that she must keep chasing her dreams. I wrote it as a poem, but I can't help but notice it looks like a song, though I've never heard music for it. Those repeated verses look just like choruses to me.

  Earlier in the day, I had been looking at a booklet of paint swatches. I guess, up there on my roof looking at the Manhattan skyline, her sadness and me looking at all those colors melted together somehow and, as happens, out came this piece. Even this, became another synchronicity as she would name her next novel “Show Me All Your Colors”. I remember seeing it in the bookstore and looking straight up … shaking my head at the sky. Was this the universe telling me to show and tell her all this?

  Well, if it was, I stuck with my gut and kept it to myself. My God, if you only knew how many of these synchronicities there were between her and I. It simply boggles my mind. I wanted to call them “coincidences”, but there were just so **** many of them … Each so unique, they just couldn't be called that. I don't want to tell them all here, because like I said, the more you swear to it, the crazier you sound. And I'm sure your questioning my sanity by now, aren't you? (Smirk)


  OK, OK … this one is definitely romantic. I wrote it one night, drunk to the bejeezus. I'd done what we called “The Crosstown Crawl” with my pal Tristan and a gaggle of assorted waitresses we knew. This involved starting at Brass Monkey on the west side highway in the Gansevoort District and ending at my favorite hookah bar, Karma, on the Lower East Side … Drinking in, and often being “asked to leave” (Read: Kicked out of) every bar that took our interest as we walked (Read: staggered) west to east, staying below 14th St.

  On my way home from the city on the J train, I thought about all the phone conversations we'd had while I was on this train crossing the Williamsburg Bridge. Being drunk, I guess, I caught a bout of sadness that I'd never get to tell her any of this or even how I felt about it all. Before I hit my elevator, this piece was swimming in my head. It's about as mushy a piece as I've ever written … if not thee most! Not the norm for me, but this is, after all, a lot to keep pent up inside you. I wouldn't wish this predicament on anyone.


For My Little Red-Haired Girl …


You …

My Love.
My Queen.
This Shining Light in my eyes.

My Laughs.
My Dreams.
My Soft, Contented Sighs.

My *****.
My Lavender.
My Dew Covered Rose.

My Smile.
My Cinnamon.
The Joy in my heart … ever inspiring my prose.

My Best Friend.
My Co-Star.
My Fearless Partner in Crime.

My Breath.
My Cohort.
My Side-kick throughout time.

My Snow-capped Mountain.
The Wind caressing my face.
My Vast Green Field.

The Ivy Covered Wall
that harbors my soul … ever refusing to yield.

In a different time ...

You … would have been my Life.

You … would have been my World.

You … would have been my Everything

and I will always love you for my own special reasons.

It is just a shame … and I'm so, so sorry … that you … must never, ever know.

Maybe next time.


~Charlie Brown




   When I came-to in the morning and read what I had wrote, I had to laugh a bit. It is borderline corny, very beautiful, very telling and very sad … all at once. I shook my head, laughing and told myself :

  “*******, Sam … yer losin' it. Get your **** together, will ya?”

  I guess in my stupor, I was imagining what it would have been like to write something for her. I don't know … There it was and I was stuck with it. I almost deleted it, but, my finger wouldn't press the key. As I told you before … I'd NEVER show this to her. She'd probably never speak to me again.

   As a sadder epilogue, that eventually happened. I still don't know why, but we haven't spoken in years. Maybe she sensed this emotion in me and ran away. Or maybe, just maybe … she thought I'd pushed her away somehow … but for whatever reason, we drifted apart. I guess I'll never know.  As you can see by reading this, that was never my intention. But, like I keep reiterating … It is what it is.

  One day, I called her number to catch up and shoot the breeze. I hadn't spoken to her in a few months as she'd been busy promoting her new novel and I didn't want to pester her. But … it was disconnected … I checked my emails … nothing. I'd never been so confused, she just closed me out. I didn't want to bother her. I was sure she had her reasons and if she wanted to reach out to me again, she would. She had my email and my phone number. But, for now … she was gone … and that was that.

  So, what do you think, Reader? Do I get the Tin hat … or a Badge of courage? Am I bat-**** crazy … or just eccentric? I'll leave it up to you to decide, because as I said, this all happened to me and there isn't a thing I can do about any of it. I just had to get it off of my chest. Thanks for letting me vent.

  Wherever she is … she will always mean the world to me. I can see her green eyes if I close my mine and look for them. Sometimes, on occasion, her face haunts my sleep. Still, I like to picture her, kids playing in a sprinkler behind her, digging in her garden, wearing gloves too big for her hands and a smudge of fresh dirt on her cheek … it makes me smile.


-Sam Webster
Brooklyn, New York
2013
OK, you can stop scratching your head. I'm sorry if you feel like I tricked you or was playing a prank … That was not my intention. This piece is experimental writing, of sorts. If you are wondering, it's titled “Somewhere … Out There”. But I didn't want to put a title at the head of the page, as that might have clued you in too early.

I also confess that “Sam” the narrator is, on no uncertain terms, based loosely on myself. But hey, what better way to string you along? Besides, as Stephen King said, you “Write what you know”. As far as I 'm aware, using poetry within a short story like this, or in this manner, has never been done before. Welcome to the future!

It really belongs in my “From Thee Edge” Collection with the rest of my Twilight-Zone-esque short stories. (You can now read some of these fiction short stories here, posted in my "NoPo@HePo" posts, along with some non-fiction essays. I hope you enjoy them.) But, because I pieced together several of my poems to not only tell the story, but as a vehicle to carry it along as part of it; I wanted to put it here on Hello Poetry just to see if I could convince you long enough to get you through the story … while having you believe it was me speaking to you and that it was all very real to me. Thus, making it feel real to you as you read it.

Was I having you along right up until it was signed by someone else? Or, at least until the narrator addressed himself as “Sam”?

If so, then I accomplished my mission. I'd love to hear your comments on it. If you've been reading any of my other posts, I'm sure you've figured out that I like to run wildly outside of the box sometimes. This was just, as I said, an experiment in a different way to tell a story … fiction or otherwise. As always, I hope that I took you on a journey and, more importantly, that you enjoyed it.

~Jeff Gaines
L.A.
(Lower Alabama)
2015
Mitchell Duran Nov 2013
It was 98'.
No, it was 99'.
That was the year.
Yeah, that was the year.

I had just landed abroad and knew no one.
Well, I was there with my girlfriend, Page.

I knew her.

We had to get out of the states.
There was nothing for us there.
We were drowning in that nothingness - that lacking future.

Cookie cutters everywhere.

Everything I saw was like an outline of something that had already happened.
I couldn't sleep.
I couldn't ****.
I could barely call my parents to let them know what I was doing.

Nothing really.

Floating downward like a leaf broken from its stem.
I was scared.
I'll admit it.
I was terrified of the next four years.
Twenty-five seemed so far away and so close, all at the same time.

We had a found an apartment to live in while in the U.S.
We were lucky because people we met later on said it was hell trying to find a place after arriving.
I was never too good at that stuff anyway.
I always felt like people were trying to cheat me or something.

It was small.
You would have said you loved it, but secretly hated it.
One could barely stand in the shower.
Want to spread your arms wide?

Forget about it.

There was a balcony though and you could watch the street traffic from above.
People look so small when your high up.
Down the street, there was a large theatre where they filmed movies.
I rarely saw them shooting, but I could tell it was a good place to.
It was beautiful at night when the lampposts would flicker on, orange spilling on the street.
Everything was damp in the Fall when we first arrived.

"What do you want to do today?" I asked her. She was laying face down on the bed.
Whenever she was hungover, she would do that.
All the covers and pillows over her face, blocking out the world and its light.
I did the same thing, so I couldn't really say much.
We were hungover a lot those first couple months.
Then came the jobs and everything changed...mostly.

She moaned something that I couldn't understand.
I was standing by the window, staring at the pigeons and crows perched on the roof across from us.
They had made a little nest under one of the shingles.
Clever little ******'s.

"Look at those things," I said.
The coffee I was drinking was bitter and made from crystals.
It gave me a headache, but it was cheap and we were broke.
I stepped back to get a better look at their nest and knocked an empty beer bottle around.

She moaned again and rose up from bed, kind of like a stretching kitten or a cat.
Her back was arched like a crescent moon and she stunk of ***** and Sprite.
The blankets were twisted and crumpled and she was tangled in them like a fly in a spiders web.
I went into the kitchen and poured out my coffee, thinking of what to do with the day.

"Breakfast?" she asked me from bed.
My back was to her, but I knew she wanted me to make it.
I put the electric stove on and opened the refrigerator.

"No eggs," I said back to her, "I'll be right back."

She moaned and slithered back into bed.
I threw my jacket and slippers on and made my way downstairs.

"Dobry den," I said to the cashier.
He was a tiny vietnamese man with a extremely high pitched voice.
I struggled to stifle a laugh every time I came in.

"Dobry den," he said back, sounding like air escaping from a balloon.

"Dear God," I thought, "How does his voice box do it?"

I went straight to the eggs, pretending to cough.
All around me were packaged sweets and rotten vegetables and fruit.
There were half loaves of brown, stale bread wrapped lazily in thin plastic.
Canned beans, noodle packets, and cardboard infused orange juice lined the shelves.
Where were the ******* eggs?
We needed milk too.
Trying to drink that crystalized coffee without it was torture.
I don't even know how I did it earlier.
"I must be getting used to the taste..." I thought.

I opened the single refrigerator they had in the place.
It was stocked with loosely packaged cheese, milk, beer, and soda.
There they were, those ******* eggs, right next to the yogurt.
I looked at the expiration date of a small carton of chocolate milk and winced.
"Someone could die here if they weren't careful," I whispered to myself.

"Everyding O.K.?" I heard the cashier squeak behind me.
I turned and nodded and showed him the eggs.
He was suspicious I was stealing something.
It was ironic.
I put the eggs on the counter and handed over what the cash register told me.

"There you go," I said and handed him the 58 crown in exact change.

"Děkuji," he peeped.

His voice sounded like a stuffed animal.
I nodded, smiled, and quickly got the hell out of there.

"You know the guy that works at the shop across the street?" I asked the body still in bed.
Well, she was up now, back up against the wall with her laptop on her lap.
"You mean the guy that has the voice of a little girl?"
"Exactly. I was just in there - getting these eggs - and I nearly laughed in his face."
"That's mean," she frowned, staring at her laptop.
Many of our conversations were with some kind of electronic device in between us.
We needed to work on that.
"I didn't laugh at him directly."
She smiled and nodded and moved down the bed a little more.
Only her head was resting on the pillow.
I cracked two eggs and let them sizzle there in the butter and the salt.

"So, what do you want to do today?" I asked Page, "It's not too cold out. We could go on a walk."
"Where?"
"I don't know. Over the bridge and maybe down by the water."
"It's going to be so cold," she shivered.
"I was just out there in slippers and a t-shirt and I was fine."
"That's because you're so big. I'm tiny. I don't get as much blood flow."

I flipped the two eggs and looked down at them.
Golden and burnt slightly around the edges.
******* perfect.
Now, just gotta wait a little on the other side and make sure to not let the yolk harden.
I hated that more than anything in the world.
Well, that and hearing **** poor excuses like it being too cold.
It was nice out.
She'd be fine.

"Come on," I sighed. I did that a lot. "It'll be fun."
She looked up at me from her computer with a dead look in her eye.
"What?" I asked her.
"You're such a...nerd," she said.
"No I'm not."
"You're so weird. Some of the things you say sometimes..."
"Like what?"
"Let's go on a walk."
She exaggerated the word walk.
I laughed and knew I was being a little too excited about a walk.
"Yeah. So? What are you doing? You're just laying there doing nothing."
"It's my day off," she scoffed, jokingly.

We were unemployed.
Everyday was a day off.
This was not something to bring up.
It was touchy subject.
One had to go about it...delicately.

"We need to find jobs," I stated, "And we can probably ask around or look for signs in windows."

"Oh JESUS," she gagged, coughing and diving back under the covers.

"I'm just thinking ahead so we can stay here. There's got to be something out there we can do."

"Like what?" she asked, her voice muffled by blankets.

"I don't know...something," I mumbled, trailing off as I flipped one of the eggs, "Perfect."

After breakfast, Page finally got out of bed and took a shower.
I tried to sneak in there with her, but, like I said before, one could barely fit themselves in there.
We compromised to have *** on the bed, though I did miss doing it in the shower.
As Page got dressed, I watched her slip those thin black stockings on, half reading a magazine.
I had gotten a subscription to The Review because I was trying to become a writer.
I thought, maybe if I read the stuff getting published - even the bad **** - it'll help.
Later, I realized, this was a terrible idea, but I enjoyed the magazine all the same.
Page finished getting dressed.
I jumped into whatever clothes were on the floor and didn't stink.
Then, we were out the door on Anna Letenske street, looking at the tram, downhill.


"I can see my breath," Page said, "It's cold..."

"Alright," I said as both of us ran across the street, "It's a little cold."

"But it's ok because I'm glad were out of the house."

"If we would have festered there any longer, we would have stayed in there all day."

"And missed this beautiful day," she said mocking me, putting both of her arms in the air.

The sky was gray and overcast and a single black crow flew over us, roof to roof.
No one was out, really.
It was Sunday and no one ever really came out on Sundays.
From the few czech friends I had, they explained to me this was the day to get drunk and cook.

"Far different then what people think in the States to do," I remember telling him.
"What do you do, my friend?" he had asked. He always called me my friend.
It was a nice thing to do since we had only known each other a couple weeks.
"Well," I explained to him, "Some people go to church to pray to God."
He laughed when I said this and said, "HA! God? How many people believe in God there?"
I had heard through the news and some Wikipedia research Prague was mostly atheist.
"A good amount, I'm pretty sure."
"That's silly," he scoffed, "Silly is word, right?"
"Yep. A word as any other."
"I like that word. What else do they do on Sunday?"
"A lot of people watch football. Not like soccer but with..."
"I know what you talk about," he said, cutting me off, "With the ball shaped like egg?"
I nodded, "Yes, the one with the egg shaped ball. It's popular in the Fall on Sundays."
"And what is Fall?" he asked.
You can see our relationship was really based on questions and answers.
He was a good guy, though I could never pronounce his name right.
There was a specific z in there somewhere where one had to dig their tongue under their teeth.
Lots of breath and vibration that Americans were never asked or trained to do.
Every czech I met said our language was a high contradiction.
Extremely complex in grammar and spelling, but spoken with such sloth.
I don't know if they used the word sloth.
I just like the word.

As we waited for the tram, I noticed the burnt orange and red blood leaves on the ground.
"Where had they come from?" I wondered. There were no trees on the street.
Must be from the park down the block, the one with the big church and the square.
There were lines of trees there used as leaning posts for the bums and junkies as they waited.
What they were waiting for, I never knew.
They just looked to be waiting for something.
I kicked a leaf into the street from the small island platform for the tram.
It swept up into the air a couple inches, and then instantly, was swept away by a passing car.
I watched as it wavered in the air, settling down the block in the middle of the road.

"Where's this trammm," Page complained.
Whenever it was cold out, her complaining level multiplied by a million.
"Should be coming soon. Check the schedule."
"Too cold," she said, "Need to keep my hands in my pockets."
I shook my head and looked at the schedule. It said it would be there at 11:35.
"11:35," I told her, still looking at the schedule. There was a strange cross over the day of Sunday.
"You mad?"
"No," I said turning to her, "I just want to have a nice day and its hard when you're upset."
"I'm not upset," she said, her teeth chattering behind her lips.
"Complaining I mean. We can go back home if it's really too cold. It's right there."
"No," she looked down, "Let's go out for a bit. I just don't know how long I'll last."
"Ok," I shrugged.
I looked up the street and saw our tram coming; number 11.
"There it is," I said.
"Thank God," Page exhaled, "I feel like I'm about to die."

Even the tram was sparse with people.
An empty handle of cheap liquor rattled in the back somewhere.
I heard it rock back and forth against the legs of a metal seat.
"Someone had a night last night," I thought, "Hope that's not mine."
We had gone to some dark bar with a lot of stairs going down - all I really recall.
Beer was so **** cheap there and there was always so much of it, one got very drunk easily.
I couldn't even really remember who we met or why we went there.
When everything's a blur in the morning you have two choices:
Feel guilty about how much you drank, lie around, and do nothing or,
Leave it be, try not to think about it, and try and find your passport and cell phone.

We made our transfer at the 22 and rode downhill.
Page looked like she was going to be sick.
Her sunglasses were solid black and I couldn't see her eyes, but her face was flushed and green.
"You alright?" I asked her.
"I'm fine," she said, "Just need to get off of this tram. Feel like I'm going to be sick."
"You look it."
"Really?" she asked.
"Yeah, a little bit."
"Let's get off at the park with the fountain. I don't want to puke here."
"Ok," I said, smiling, "We'll get off after this stop."

We sat down on one of the benches that circled around the fountain.
It was empty and Page was confused why.
"Maybe to save money?" I suggested.
"What? It's just water."
"Well, you gotta' pump the water up there and then filter it back out. Costs money."
"Costs crown," she corrected me.
"Same thing," I said, putting my arm around her, "There's no one here today."
"I know why," she stated, flatly.
"Why?"
"Because it's collllllllld and it's Sunday and only foreigner's would go out on a day like this."
I scanned the park and noticed that most of the faces there were probably not Czech.
"****," I muttered, "You may be right."
"I know I am," she said, wiggling her chin down into her jacket, "We're...crzzzy."
"We're what?" I asked. I couldn't hear her through her jacket.
She just shook her head back and forth and looked forward, not wanting to move from the warmth.
Dogs were scattered around the brown green grass with their owners.
Some were playing catch with sticks or *****, but others were just following behind their owner's.
I watched as one took a crap in the center of the walkway near the street.
Its owner was typing something on their phone, ignoring what was happening in front of him.
After the dog finished, the owner looked down at the crap, looked around, then slunk off.

"Did you see that?" I asked Page, pointing to where the owner had left the mess.
"Yeah," she nodded, "So gross. That would never fly in the states."
"You'd get shoulder tackled by some park security guard and thrown in jail."
"And be given a fat ticket," she said, coughing a little, "Let's get out of here."
"Yeah," I agreed, "And watch for any **** on the way out of here."

We made our way out of the park and down the street where the 22 continues on to the center.
"Let's not go into the center. Let's walk along the water's edge and maybe up to the bridge."
"Ok," I said, "That's a good idea." I didn't want to get stuck in that mass of tourists.
I could tell Page didn't either. I think she was afraid she might puke on a huddle of them.
We turned down a side street before the large grocery store and avoided a herd of people.
The cobble stones were wet and slick, glistening from a small sliver of sunlight through the clouds.
Page walked ahead.
Sometimes, when we walked downtown in the older parts of Prague, we would walk alone.
Not because we were fighting or anything like that; it was all very natural.
I would walk ahead because I saw something and she would either come with or not.
She would do the same and we both knew that we wouldn't go too far without the other.
I think we both knew that we would be back after seeing what we had wanted to see.
One could call it trust - one could call it a lot of things - but this was not really spoken about.
We knew we would be back after some time and had seen what we had wanted to.
Thinking about this, I watched her look up at the peeling paint of the old buildings.
Her thick black hair waved back and forth behind her plum colored pea coat.
Page would usually bring a camera and take pictures of these things, but she had forgotten it.
I wished she hadn't.
It was turning out to be such a beautiful day.

We made it to the Vlatva river and leaned over the railing, looking down at the water.
Floating there were empty beer bottles and plastic soda jugs.
The water was brown, murky, and looked like someone had dumped a large bag of dirt in there.
There was nothing very romantic about it, which one would think if you saw it in a picture.
"The water looks disgusting," Page said.
"That it does, but look at the bridge. It looks pretty good right
India May 2018
We perpetuate heartbreak culture,
teaching girls the man who holds her loves her despite the bruises,
or it was her fault; she looked older.
We fetishes shoulders,
prize youth from the young in return for pre-chewed gum,
swallowing tired ideals from those who still wield them like flags,
waving their patriotism on poles of bone before a throne of medieval *******.
They chant mantras with beer stained breath about how 'our' country 'bested' the rest,
but what about the brutality?
The blood split on foreign soil in return for prehistoric oil?
Our land is deemed pure so long as the violence on our hands never reaches our shores,
but the ocean is red and staining our sands.

How can you have pride in a country who's sole identity is based off having the worlds largest navy?
Congratulations. You bombed your way through countless continents, collecting cultures to gather dust on pedestals and alters
We sin on Sundays, drink till we're ****** then wave at the seven deadly's (they don't apply to us here).
We teach preschoolers nationalism before they can walk,
indoctrinate our children before they can talk.
George killed the dragon.
Hood gave to the poor.
we all jumped on the bandwagon before we realised the princess had no choice and the rich still ruled.
There was no voice in the tale for those whose wail could be ignored.

What about those without lines in the script?
Those kicked to the curb, then kicked from it?
Our pavements have no room for nonconformists,
they're tailored to for same mind, same mindless wanderer,
squandering on the lasted polyesters even though that mouth on the street hasn't eaten in over a week.
'God save the Queen' from the vermin;
the homeless have been tossed out of the trash.
Why help them when you could save your cash by turning a blind?
After all, out of sight, out of mind.
Welcome to England, we hope you like what you find
Because we’re not changing it.
Mitchell Duran Sep 2013
The retainer where she was put
Was made of concrete. My father told me they had
Dug the grave first, then poured the concrete in, waited for
It to dry and harden, then hammered in six
Circular spikes in the four corners, two on either side
Of the middle. They lifted the concrete cast out with a crane.
My dad was going to be charged 300 dollars a day for the rental,
But because of the circumstances, Home Depot let us have it for free.

-

Where was she?
Where had she gone?
Would I see her face again?
Would she want me to
Meet her on the other side of the river?

-

I answered my cell phone.

"Make sure to bring flower's."
She had been crying. Her voice wavered the way sun light
Does on moving water.

"Make sure to bring flowers," she repeated, "And
That you wear what your father and I bought you."

I nodded my head with the receiver pressed up against my ear.
We both let out a sigh. My mom hung up. I put my phone in my back pocket.

-

Lately, I had been seeing a shrink about repetition. He liked to use the word cycle.

"Everything is repeated," I would tell him.

"Life is a cycle," he'd disagree so to get me talking.

"Can cycles be identical?"

"Technically not. Some cycles are extremely similar, but no two cycles are
Completely the same. Are two people's lives ever exactly the same?"

"I wouldn't know. I don't know that many people. Maybe."

"You know lots of people, Camden. You have told me about many of your friends."

"Are we talking about the seasons?" I asked, changing the subject, "Like fall, winter, spring, summer? We are born, we live, we die, and we are born again?"

"That's a very natural way of looking at it."

"I know it is." I inhaled deeply, swallowing air and wondered what time it was.

"If you are so sure, why look for validation from me?" He liked this one, I could
tell. I imagined him shopping for clothes and then exploding in aisle 16 because of a sale on jeans.

"The word cycle is used by people too afraid to use the word repetition. Everything is
Repeated for the next generation, the next group, the next of the next of the next. We shift things
Around, give things to one another to shift life to make it look different, but, things remain the same. Everything contains the primal function we were all doing and living from the very beginning, only now, there is more of a separation. Music is still music, words are still words, paintings are still paintings, love is still love, death is still death, only done differently and more intensely."

"We are talking about man furthering technology because we, as people and creatures, are
Statistically more prone to flee than fight?"

"Why do you think it has caught on so quick?" I touched both
Corners of my lips with my tongue and suddenly realized I hadn't eaten breakfast.

"It is a theory," the psych nodded, "A theory with, I am sure, many
Palpable facts you could make a very nice report with to prove...something." He
Was at a lost for words and I felt guilty that my mom was paying him $75 an hour.

"We are very split. There are too many of us. Too many hands spinning the china."

"Who is we Harry?" The psych hadn't looked up from his pen and pad of paper, until now. I could
Tell he was annoyed with me either because he was making no progress or because the session
Had just begun and I was already digging into him.

"Culture. The government. You, me, my dad, my mom, the taco bell cashier, the geniuses at Apple computers, a paper weight, my dead sister. We're all apart of these shifts, all putting in a certain amount of energy and lies to keep the protection of the projection going. The question I keep asking myself is: do I want to use my strengths to be apart of this cycle or not?"

His eyes flared open for a moment like he'd swallowed a firefly, not at the question I had posed for myself, but from what I would soon see was from the mention of my sister. He had something.

"I was notified by your mother that you may not want to talk about your recently deceased sister. Is It O.K. if I ask you some questions about her?"

I was leaning forward on the couch with my hands clasped in between my legs. The psych had looked up at me now. He was sweating at the top of his thin hairline. Observing that I was staring at his building perspiration, he, trying to be nonchalant, took out a thin, white napkin from his grey shirt pocket and dabbed the top of his head. The napkin looked like cheap toilet paper. I'd have offered him some water, but I had no water to give and I didn't know where the sink and cups were to give him any. I figured he did - it was his office - so I asked him for some. He pointed me in the direction of the bathroom. I got up and found a stack of paper cups. I poured myself a cup and went back to the couch, but instead of leaning forward, I sat back, relaxed, and let the expensive leather couch take the weight I had been carrying away.

"So," the psych maintained cooly, "Would it be alright if we were able to discuss your sister?"

I lifted the paper cup over my head and the psych's eyes, after I poured the water over my hair, my face, and clothes, was a mixture of what my mom's eyes looked at the funeral, defeated, confused, and with a loss of faith and hope. My father's eyes had only held hate, anger and the need to lash out at someone, but the only someone that would have fit the bill would have been God.

"Sure," I answered, "Let's talk about my sister."

-

I finished drying myself in the car. The psych had let me keep the towel.
I leaned out the window to look at myself in the side mirror. I looked fine.
Presentable. Accountable. Like I had been through something where I had
Faced my soul. Like I had used and abused my emotions. There was comb in my glove compartment, so I took it out and rushed it through my damp hair. Slicked back. The sun
Was out, no clouds, burning up the inside of my car. That taste that comes after
Finishing something that's supposed to do you good didn't come. I was left with an unsure hand.
Putting my keys in the ignition, I turned them, and felt the engine rumble in front of my legs.
The sun sat in the sky like a lazy hand and I had nowhere else to go but home.

-

"Let's go to the river today," my dad said over coffee and two over easy eggs on top
Of burnt wheat toast. "I'll drive and you and your sister can sit in the back and sing."

I looked over at Ally. She was gazing into her fruit bowl she had prepared for
herself because dad didn't understand the concept or how to make it. The lamp light above us
reflected in the smooth apricot yogurt and the flecks of granola scattered on top
looked like beige, jagged rocks. My dad's offer hung in the air and neither
of us bit the lure. I had just woken up and was unable to speak clearly, a decent
excuse. Ally was simply choosing to ignore him.

"What you think there Ally?" I asked her. I sipped my coffee. It needed more cream. I got
U, got it and brought the carton to the table.

"We can take the truck down there and load the back with the fishing poles and tackle
And inner tubes. We haven't...done that...in a long time," he said, chewing his food as he spoke.

Ally poked her fruit bowl with her spoon, silent.

"What you think, Cam?" My dad was desperate. He knew I'd say yes.

"Sure. I've got no plans this weekend."

"No schoolwork?"

"It can wait till Sunday. Only math and some reading."

"Ally, what do you think?" my dad asked, leaning over to her. I could see he was
Trying to be as courteous and gentle with her as he knew how to. I felt bad for him.

"Sure," she muttered, "That sounds like fun." I could barely hear her, but somehow,
I could tell she sounded happy.

"Perfect," my dad smiled, "We'll pack the car up Friday,
Drive up Saturday morning early, camp one night, then get back Sunday afternoon." He
Took a long sip of his coffee and swished it around in his mouth, then dug
His fork into the dry toast and ran his small steak knife over the eggs. A silent pop came from
The egg and the light orange yolk spilled out. "Perfect," he repeated, "Just great."

Ally poked a grape from her fruit bowl and dipped it into the yogurt.
I took another sip of my coffee and looked up into the fan, spinning above us.
We were going to the river.

-

"Your sister turns five today," my mom told me, "And that means
I want you to be on your best behavior."

I nodded, unsure what the point of a birthday was. I had had one before, or at
least I thought I did, and all I remembered was that I got presents and the colorful balloons
and the cake we all ate with fire kind of floating and burning above it. Somewhere
in that moment I remember thinking that the cake was going to catch on fire, then they, everyone,
some that I knew and some people I had never seen before, yelled and shouted to
blow the fire out, so I quickly did, but not because it was for a wish, which I later found out it was supposed to be for, but because I truly thought the cake was going to catch fire and they wanted me to take care of it. At that point, I was unsure what it meant to be alive or why to celebrate it all.

"This is her day, Camden," my father told me, "So I want you to be happy for your sister."

"I am," I said. I was wearing my favorite white and blue striped t-shirt and
New shoes that my mom had bought me for the party.

"Sometimes you have to think of other people," my mother continued, "And today is one
of those days. I don't want any crying because you didn't get any presents or that none of your
friends are at the party. There are going to be a lot of Ally's friends there, but not many
of your's...do you understand?"

"Yes, Mom."

"Do you understand, Cam?" My father repeated. His skin was the color of a burnt
pancake and he smelt like stale sugar and sun tan lotion. He was in front of me and was
holding a thin magazine with a man in a boat holding up a fish on a line on the cover.  

"Yes, Dad," I said again. I was hungry. I wanted mac n' cheese, my favorite food.

I had been on the floor, laying on my stomach watching Ren and Stimpy. They were standing in front of the television and I remember trying to wish them out of the way. Behind them were two, large bay windows where three palm trees stood in a row like tropical soldiers. I could see there was no wind because the three of them stood still, as if posing for someone. Their leaves were bright green, a mixture of the neon green Jello I used to love to eat and the orange Jolly Rancher my dad would always have in a tiny tray in the middle of the dining table. My mother hated having them there because it always tempted Ally and I, but he never moved it until he moved out.

"Do you like your show?" my mom asked, turning to see what I was watching.

I nodded, absently. Ren was licking Stimpy's eye because he was complaining about having
an eyelash in there. Stimpy was completely still and smiling like he does - dumb and content.

"Interesting..." my mother trailed off. She walked to the kitchen behind the couch and
Opened up the pantry for something. "You hungry, Camden?"

"I'm starving," my dad said, "Let me go check on Ally in the bedroom. She should be up
from her nap."

I got up from my stomach and sat back on my legs, "Do we have mac n' cheese?" I asked.

"Let me check."

She reached up for the cabinet over the stove where I could never reach and
Opened it. I rose slightly up from where I was sitting to see if I could see the glorious dark blue and orange package, but wasn't able to see over couch. I hovered there, still like a humming bird.

"You're in luck," I heard her say, "We've got one box left."

"Yay!" I screamed and got up, running into the kitchen.

"But," she smiled, stopping me, "You'll have to share it with your sister."

"No! I don't want to! I always have to share."

"What did we just talk about Camden?" she said, lightly stamping her foot.

I tried to remember, but couldn't. I shrugged.

"You need to learn to share, Camden. You also need to listen better when your father and I are talking to you. You and your sister are going to know each other a very long time and I want you to learn how to share now, so you two can be happy in the future."

"The future," I asked, "What's that?"

She paused, then said, "It's a time," she paused again, "Ahead of us."

"Do we know where it is?"

"Not exactly," she sighed.

"What's it look like?"

"No one really knows. People can only imagine it."

"Is it very far away?"

She opened the top of the blue and orange mac n' cheese box and poured the dry macaroni into a large silver ***, lifted the faucet, and let it run inside for five or seven seconds. She placed the *** on an unlit burner and turned to look at me. Her eyes looked far away and right there with me.  

"Closer then you think," she said and turned the burner on.

-

I turned into the taco bell parking lot. There was something I was trying to remember that was in my trunk, but I couldn't recall the picture. A haze blew over the windshield that was a mix of heat and wind; I wished to be somewhere else, someone else, someplace else, but, there I was, sitting there underneath the sun, like everyone else. If I was able, I would have unlocked the door to my car and opened the door and walked out - but - there was something else lingering underneath my fingernails, something I couldn't name.

"Two tacos," I said into my hand, "And a water."

"Pull to the window," the voice buzzed over the muffled speaker.

"Yes," I said through my split fingers.

In front of me, over a patch of clean cut green grass and a yellow, red, and orange Taco Bell signature sign, was a fresh gas station with a willow tree *** near the front entrance. He had a sign that hung around his neck that read Juice Please - Very Thirsty. How I knew this was because I had seen it every time I had been asked to fill up my dad's car every other Sunday. I had never given the tree a dollar, yet, I felt that I owed him something. I tried to pull up to the window, but my clutch was grinding and a cloud slunk overhead. I was tired and only wanted to eat.

"That'll be a two twenty-five," the voice said through the thick, clear glass.

"Yes," I said to myself, digging into my wallet for three dollars.

I ****** the three onto the thick plastic platform. A quick sweeping plastic brush pushed the bills toward the asker, and the bills were gone. I had no food. I had nothing. My money was gone and all I had was a gurgling car in front of me and an empty front seat beside me. A pair of clouds waded by my front shield window. A shadow drew itself out in front of me like a **** model. A beep. Sudden and behind me. There was sound. I looked over my shoulder and a black  2013 Cadillac was sitting there, windshield tinted grey, the driver a shadow. I was unsure what to do...so I pulled forward six inches, hoping the offer would be enough. I wasn't in the best neighborhood.

The window to the left of me slid open. An arm erupted forward with a plastic bag,
"75 cents is your change."

The hand dropped three quarters next to the plastic bag. I grabbed the bag with the two tacos and three quarters and quickly wound up my window. The face in front of me was a dangerous blur: smiling, frowning, not caring either way what happened to me next. The hands had gobbled up the three dollars and I was happy to see it go. Who needed money? I tossed the plastic bag onto the passenger seat and sped off two blocks for my grandma's house. Salvation. The holy land. A place with free hot sauce and two dog's that were stolen without paper's. Eden.

-

"What are you learning right now?" I asked Ally.

She hesitated, then said, "Something to do with science." She paused," Lot's to do with rock's."

"Rocks?" I stammered, not remembering a time when I learned about rocks in school, "What kind of rocks?"

"I don't know," she grinned, looking up at me, "All kinds."

I laughed and kicked a stone into the river. The sun was out and reflected on the water like an unpolished diamond. We had grown up a quarter mile away, but still, it felt foreign to us.

"I like it. There's some things you could see that you would never think to read about it in books."

I had read plenty off books. Most, I took little from, but Ally, I could see, had taken plenty.

"What are you doing in school?" Ally asked me.

"What do you mean?" I
Benji James Jun 2017
I miss the way
You used to sit
On your front lawn
Waiting for me to see you
So that I'd come and talk to you
You were too shy to knock on the door
But your secrets you told me them all
And I miss all the ways
you and I couldn't take our eyes off each other
You had all my attention
I miss that emotional expression

Tell me what happened to us
How did it turn out I wasn't good enough
I think about you every day
Tell do you even think about me?
And every time you were with another guy
The jealousy kicked in
But I couldn't let it show
I just wanted you to be happy

Tell me Baby, baby
Why don't you want me?
Baby, you don't know
What you mean to me
Tell me Baby, baby
Why don't you want me?
You're everything I see
You're everything I need
Hey, hey baby
Why don't you want me?

We haven't talked in so long
And I tried to forget
What you meant to me
But it seems every time I forget
Dreams remind me
Just what you mean to me
I don't know how to let you go
I don't know how to show you this love
When you're with someone
And all I want to do
Is hold you close beneath
These stars
Your hands fit perfectly in mine
Yeah, baby, you're always
Running on my mind

Tell me what happened to us
How did it turn out I wasn't good enough
I think about you every day
Tell do you even think about me?
And every time you were with another guy
The jealousy kicked in
But I couldn't let it show
I just wanted you to be happy

Tell me Baby, baby
Why don't you want me?
Baby, you don't know
What you mean to me
Tell me Baby, baby
Why don't you want me?
You're everything I see
You're everything I need
Hey, hey baby
Why don't you want me?

Oh honey memories ignite
In my head
while I'm laying in bed
I remember back to conversations that we had
I remember back to every smile every laugh
That we had
I remember every tear that you cried
And every time I had you wrapped in my arms
But there was once where I held you
But you wouldn't hug back
That's when everything
Started to go wrong
And I felt I was losing you more every day
Until I completely lost you one day
I don't wanna relive that again

Tell me what happened to us
How did it turn out I wasn't good enough
I think about you every day
Tell do you even think about me?
And every time you were with another guy
The jealousy kicked in
But I couldn't let it show
I just wanted you to be happy

Tell me Baby, baby
Why don't you want me?
Baby, you don't know
What you mean to me
Tell me Baby, baby
Why don't you want me?
You're everything I see
You're everything I need
Hey, hey  baby
Why don't you want me?

I'm missing you
And how we used to think the other people we'd seen
You didn't think any other girl was good enough for me
And I still don't think any guy is good enough for you
It should have been me who ended up with you
Instead, I guess I lost out
So I have to reminisce in memories you left me with
And I'll just have to deal with it
Just know there is nothing I wouldn't do for you
I'm always gonna be here when you call
I'll be there if you ever need help
getting back up after a fall

Tell me what happened to us
How did it turn out I wasn't good enough
I think about you every day
Tell do you even think about me?
And every time you were with another guy
The jealousy kicked in
But I couldn't let it show
I just wanted you to be happy

Tell me Baby, baby
Why don't you want me?
Baby, you don't know
What you mean to me
Tell me Baby, baby
Why don't you want me?
You're everything I see
You're everything I need
Hey, hey baby
Why don't you want me?

©2017 Written By Benji James
the history of melancholia
includes all of us.
me, I writhe in ***** sheets
while staring at blue walls
and nothing.
I have gotten so used to melancholia
that
I greet it like an old
friend.
I will now do 15 minutes of grieving
for the lost redhead,
I tell the gods.
I do it and feel quite bad
quite sad,
then I rise
CLEANSED
even though nothing
is solved.
that's what I get for kicking
religion in the ***.
I should have kicked the redhead
in the ***
where her brains and her bread and
butter are
at ...
but, no, I've felt sad
about everything:
the lost redhead was just another
smash in a lifelong
loss ...
I listen to drums on the radio now
and grin.
there is something wrong with me
besides
melancholia.
Christian Nov 2010
The fire which keeps us going
the fire that keeps us from killing ourselves
build it up so ******* high it can never go out,
Then do something about it,
Thats the only time you can,
the only time you will.
The only true oppurtunity you have to some sort of existence that might mean something to you.
To live
and with that life do something you love
because that is our way.
That's the kicked generations way.
We've suffered
we've cried
we've endured
and we've never stood up
I'm tired of lying down
Cause we're tired of being kicked around
We're tired of growing up
We're tired of being told what not to do
and how to think
and what to wear
and when to swear
Cause this kicked kids ***
don't want no more ****.
not of my own, not of yours.
I don't know what
I don't know how
I don't know anything of anything
But its got to be us
Cause I'm tired of being sad
without ever knowing why.
I'm tired of feeling things
and not knowing what to do with them.
the next deserve better.
We deserve better.
We have to learn.
But we can only learn together.
And thats when we'll change.
Thats when we won't be kicked no more.
And now my coffees cold
Your backhanded compliments are getting old
We got in a fight tonight
you stormed out
you kicked over my bike
Tom Leveille Mar 2014
2002:
today i kicked the door
to history off it's hinges
my jealous frame:
still too proud to say a word
it seems my folks forgot
to pencil in growth marks
cause they thought their boy
would never grow out of small breath
******* dead, years now buried
and i bare his name
too many syllables
for my father to go back
fish & play football
to stand in the yard and play catch

1994:
my mom, the bombshell in retrospect
broke her back in her sleep
a thousand times
since the stairwell in 87'
she still sits for spills
post nuclear about settling
now from the couch
she's a weather report
spouting nonsense
that makes my father
grow grey, crack remotes
& slam doors to dark rooms
abandoning ship
for "cheers" & "scienfeld"
while my mother
sometimes forgets
and sets his place at the table
and my appetite is abducted
by family photos
my mother says things like
"go see your brother today"
-- Johnny's long gone
don't you remember?
we buried him
the day your smile died

2014:
you are inches from me
******* a stray hair
caught in the fabric of your coat
the last remnants of a dog
we laid to rest last week
and here we are
in the hospital again
people don't shake like dogs
finality is found
in the eyes of humans
passing archways
into shallow rooms
where plague and prayer
are the only songs sung
round the stagnant clocks
it makes me wonder
if the clipboards cry
over being the last thing
someone ever writes on
take a number, have a seat
stay a while
i am back, 7 years old
& there are different doors now
they buried the ones
you kicked in that night in '92
when my lungs
were filled with holy water
you never stopped smoking
*i never grew out of asthma
*****


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




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

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

Amy was asleep in one of the larger rooms in the main  building, her uniform folded neatly on the table near the bed. she kep one luger on her bedside table and the mauser under her pilllow. her other luger, her sword and her whip were next to her clothes. she was clad only in her fur, as she'd found that the most comfortable way to sleep.
she was woken up by a knock at the door. she blinked her eyes a few times. clutching the mauser handle with one hand and holding the blanket to her chest with the other, she said, "what is it?"
"the colonel wishes to speak to you, heir frauline."
she growled, "grrr... fine. tell him to make it quick." she clutched the blanket closer as he opened the door. she held the mauser aimed at him and said, "turn." he did so without hesitation. she slipped cautiously out of the bed and began to dress. "what is it you wished to speak with me about, colonel?" amy put on her undergarments and then pulled her trousers up to her waist, fastening the belt comfortably.
"there is an important telegram for you, heir captain." she pulled on the jacket over her simple shirt, tugging out any wrinkles. "oh? from who?" next came the holster belts, each hanging slightly lower than her first belt. her sword was another belt, and there was a custom clip there for her whip as well.
"Himler, he has special orders for you." her messenger bag was next to last, slung over her shoulder before she slipped into her boots. ""You can turn now. hand them here." she stepped closer to him and took the envelope with her name scrawled on the front. the colonel excused himself so she could read the orders, "captain amelia weissmuler, once you have completed your assignment at Stalag 14, please make haste to stalingrad as there has been a number of our own turning against the *****. see to it that they cause no more problems. -heinrich himler"
she read it through three more times before folding it and placing it in her bag. she hurried outside, grabbing her hat
From the dresser.
* *
amy went about her inspection, seeing nothing wrong today. "the condition of stalag 16 has improved, heir colonel. well done. now send my car around." the colonel grinned and motioned for the car.
the black car adorned with swastikas roared to life, coming up beside her. the d
Matt Jursin Jan 2010
Lets stop n slam on somethin' shameful like war and anguish...
'Cause im pretty sure that tremendous termoil and suffering and starvation is the same in all languages...
But something that most of us will never know...
'Cause in this country you tend to grow a fat *** as you grow old.
Give this countries cold dark history a warm embrace, look it in the face!
All this killing, death, distruction, and disease...more war than peace!
Something most of us will never see, much less feel...Because ignoring it is so much easier.
We'd rather be pleasing ourselves than siezing the keys to this country!

Jump in.
Take a sunday drive for freedom.
Sunday football keeps you occupied...
Kicked back in the recliner, while others freeze in the name of the flag.
And your constitution.
And the human condition.
Patriotism is not pretty to the petty.
To...those getting rich, hand over fist...
On your...vacant homes, vacant jobs, and vacant votes.
While they vacate our education with more lousy legislation.

We get lazier and sleezier and sloppier.
We pass judgement on our fellow man...
While we let politicians pass bills that destroy this great land.
Hand over fist, hand over hand...one hand washes the other politicians ****.
These dinosaurs with their special interest agendas make me sick.

Stand up strait.
Look at me when I talk to you.

Dont turn a blind eye to all the bodies that once hung from loops...
Remember where we came from.
Re-write history like the bible.
Re-write war and peace.

We call soldiers "property of uncle sam".
Brainwashed to believe in 'the man' and his plans.
Slavery doesn't segregate anymore.
We're all in on this together.
This time.
We stand in unison.
All in on this together.
Revolution is freedom.
"I love this country...but f this government!"
Brandon Halsey May 2012
We sat together in your bedroom
Watching lesbian ****
You salivated at the grotesque display
Of the spread channel from which you were born

You once told me you were disgusted
By the male physique
You showered with your eyes closed
Or risked gagging over the bathroom sink

Among the girls you were popular
They stared at you to pass their day
Your mind was filled with their numbers
My mind filled with words I couldn't say

Senior prom snuck up on us
But you found a beautiful date, indeed
I asked an ugly girl to accompany me
And out of pity she agreed

We danced in the converted gym
Under a gaudy mirrored ball
I was stuck between you and her
With my back up against the wall

Afterwards we went to your house
Your parents were away
And their unlocked liquor cabinet
Only heightened our desire to play

Our dates removed their prom gowns
Then helped us get undressed
We drank till we couldn't stand
And fell to the floor in a heap of flesh

I finally saw you naked
A beauty my eyes could hardly see
You were a God among mere mortals
And even lesser men like me

My date's eyes were filled with lust
And I smelled the alcohol on her breath
I performed the perfunctory motions
And sank into her depths

As your date's head bobbed under the blanket
Your moans of pleasure steadily increased
I was energized by your proximity
Which was the sole reason for my release

We left our dates to sleep
Within their sated bliss
Already you wanted another girl
You could ***** and then dismiss

In the kitchen we finished the bottle
And talked of our recent conquests
Together we shared crude jokes
Made at the expense of the opposite ***

An awkward pause followed
And you gazed into my eyes
I felt the alcohol take effect
And placed my hand upon your thigh

Your mouth then met mine
And our tongues were lost within
Your hands trembled as they explored my chest
You didn't know where to begin

In a mirror you caught your reflection
And fell from my embrace
You said I was disgusting
And spit right in my face

In anger you pushed me away
Asking for forgiveness I dropped to my knees
You said that soon everyone would know about me
Because in this town gossip spread just like disease

At home it hit the hardest
I was my mother's boy no more
My father called me a disgrace
And kicked me out the door

Rejected by friends and family
I have no reason to stay
I'll buy a ticket to another town
Somewhere I can keep my memories at bay

I'll rent out an apartment
And decorate my pastel painted walls
I’ll furnish my new life with a phone
That I know you'll never call

I'll find myself a new group of friends
Someone who understands
The exquisite pain of being
Of falling in love with an ignorant man

I wish that my dreams
Weren't haunted by your face
I wish that I could fall asleep
Without clutching a pillow in your place

I'll listen to bitter love songs
Because on pain I can rely
I'll learn to hide my emotions
And laugh when I really want to cry
Benji James Apr 2018
VERSE ONE
She's bleeding from her lip
From every time he hit
Can't believe that she
Just turned up on my doorstep
Looking like this
And all that I can think
Is how much I want to **** him
Better help her in
Come on let's get you cleaned up
Tell me what happened
Tell me everything he did
Firstly let me clean the bloodstains
from beneath your lips
Wipe the smudged mascara
from beneath your eyes
Seeing you hurt like this
Hurts me deep inside
Gotta be strong for you
Make sure you're comforted
Reassure you everything is gonna be alright
Meanwhile, body temperatures raising
As anger boils deep within
All these thoughts come flooding in

PRE CHORUS
I'm not sure I can keep
All of this rage caged
Killer instincts kicking in
And all I want is revenge on him
For treating you like this
Gotta stay calm,
Keep this girls mind at ease
Help her rest and heal
And as I wipe the blood from your lips
ever so gently
As I wipe the tears from your eyes
You look deep into mine
with every ounce of strength,
she had left she said
please don't go after him
even after all he did

CHORUS
And as she takes my hand she says
You're different
All I need is for you to be there
I just need someone who really cares
Someone to wipe away these tears
You're the one guy who tames my fears
I don't need any more protection
then you already give
And I don't want you to end up like him
Even though the love I have for him
Runs deep, I see his faults
But I know his needs
And he is such a big part of my heart
His my addiction, my drug
Don't expect you to understand
I see the mess this is, I can't stop my love for him

VERSE TWO
All these words, I soak them in
All these thoughts
are running up and down my mind
How could she not let me step in
This hurting could stop right here
I'm giving her everything,
She just wants me to sit back
Watch from the sidelines
While she takes on this fight
Why won't she let me stand at her side?
And all of this confusion envelops in me
I'm losing focus, Push this to the back of my head
Need to take care of her here and now
Because she needs you here most
I carry her into the bed tuck her in
As I crash back on the couch
All of the things she said to me replay

PRE CHORUS
I'm not sure I can keep
All of this rage caged
Killer instincts kicking in
And all I want is revenge on him
For treating you like this
Gotta stay calm,
Keep this girls mind at ease
Help her rest and heal
And as I wipe the blood from your lips
ever so gently
As I wipe the tears from your eyes
You look deep into mine
with every ounce of strength,
she had left she said
please don't go after him
even after all he did

CHORUS
And as she takes my hand she says
You're different
All I need is for you to be there
I just need someone who really cares
Someone to wipe away these tears
You're the one guy who tames my fears
I don't need any more protection
then you already give
And I don't want you to end up like him
Even though the love I have for him
Runs deep, I see his faults
But I know his needs
And he is such a big part of my heart
His my addiction, my drug
Don't expect you to understand
I see the mess this is, I can't stop my love for him

VERSE THREE
As I wake the next morn
I go to the bedroom to check on her
I see an empty bed well made
on the bedside desk, a neat note laid
Saying thank you for everything you did
Repairing and mending me back to health
I couldn't have a better friend
Sorry I left before you awoke
Just had to get home
Just want you to know
I'm thankful and grateful for all that you are
You'll always be the brightest shining star
Guiding and watching me from afar
And as cheesy as it sounds
It brings a smile to my face
And for a slight moment concern leaves my conscience
But I hold out hope everything is gonna be okay
That's when images of last night run before my eyes

PRE CHORUS
I'm not sure I can keep
All of this rage caged
Killer instincts kicking in
And all I want is revenge on him
For treating you like this
Gotta stay calm,
Keep this girls mind at ease
Help her rest and heal
And as I wipe the blood from your lips
ever so gently
As I wipe the tears from your eyes
You look deep into mine
with every ounce of strength,
she had left she said
please don't go after him
even after all he did

CHORUS
And as she takes my hand she says
You're different
All I need is for you to be there
I just need someone who really cares
Someone to wipe away these tears
You're the one guy who tames my fears
I don't need any more protection
then you already give
And I don't want you to end up like him
Even though the love I have for him
Runs deep, I see his faults
But I know his needs
And he is such a big part of my heart
His my addiction, my drug
Don't expect you to understand
I see the mess this is, I can't stop my love for him

VERSE FOUR
Another night, another microwave meal
It's been a while since she last came over
Must be working out,
the counselling must be helping them now
And for once in my life I'm relieved
Knowing she's happy calms my mind
I watch the clock tick time passes by
through montaged scenes
This feels like a happy ending to this story
And photographs of you and I
Are packed in a box
I only open it up from time to time
Childhood memories captured in polaroid frames
I like reminiscing about all those good times
Everything was different then
Together just you and I
Hanging every day and every night
until you moved on with your life
that is just a perfect memory captured in my mind

PRE CHORUS
All of this rage is caged
Calm and content I've stayed
The revenge I wanted on him
Has been forgotten
Even after all he did
I'm calm, breathing and relaxed
My minds at ease
We're both rested and healed
The bloodstained cloths
that cleansed your lips are cleaned
ever so gently you're easing my emotions
As I wipe the tears from my eyes
I think of the way you always look into mine
with every ounce of strength,
You've made me a better man
She was right in what she said
even after all he did

CHORUS
Still feel the tender touch of your hand
And I remember every word she said
You're different
All I need is for you to be there
I just need someone who really cares
Someone to wipe away these tears
You're the one guy who tames my fears
I don't need any more protection
then you already give
And I don't want you to end up like him
Even though the love I have for him
Runs deep, I see his faults
But I know his needs
And he is such a big part of my heart
His my addiction, my drug
Don't expect you to understand
I see the mess this is, I can't stop my love for him
And all I can think is how lucky he is
To have a girl like you

VERSE FIVE
As I sit on my couch watching tv
It's been months since she last seen me
When I hear a soft knock at the door
I open it up to see you sitting on the pavement
outside of my front door
she is leaning against the brick wall
Head in her hands, crying
Tears constantly streaming down her cheeks
Bruised arms, black eyes
She looked at me and said
I'm bleeding from my lip
From when he hit
That sentence just tore me to bits
Gotta be strong, Take care of her first
Then I'll hunt him down and make him hurt
Shes covered in scratches, puffy eyes
He really lost control this time
And I'm about to lose mine
I pick her up and bring her in
Pull out the first aid kit,
A warm washer to clean her up
Every dab soft and tender to the touch
I won't hurt you like him ever
I'm the one who will make this all better

PRE CHORUS
I'm not sure I can keep
All of this rage caged
Killer instincts kicking in
And all I want is revenge on him
For treating you like this
Gotta stay calm,
Keep this girls mind at ease
Help her rest and heal
And as I wipe the blood from your lips
ever so gently
As I wipe the tears from your eyes
You look deep into mine
with every ounce of strength,
she had left she said
please don't go after him
even after all he did

CHORUS
And as she takes my hand she says
You're different
All I need is for you to be there
I just need someone who really cares
Someone to wipe away these tears
You're the one guy who tames my fears
I don't need any more protection
then you already give
And I don't want you to end up like him
Even though the love I have for him
Runs deep, I see his faults
But I know his needs
And he is such a big part of my heart
His my addiction, my drug
Don't expect you to understand
I see the mess this is, I can't stop my love for him

VERSE SIX
That time those words don't cut it
Now the hunters become the hunted
I tuck her into bed to sleep
stay with her until she falls into dreams
I watch her smile and breathe as she lays peacefully asleep
I go around to her house just when he walks out
I strike him hard and fast, I made him bleed so much blood
All the pain he put her through I made sure he felt that too
I couldn't keep that rage caged
had to let it out and get revenge
One day she will understand
I did what was best for her
I won't ever let her hurt
He got a few shots in
But nothing compared to what I did to him
Stitches in my hand and brow
I left him hospitalised
I'll never forget the look she gave
when she found out

PRE CHORUS
I tried to explain
I couldn't keep this rage caged
Killer instincts kicked in
And I got my revenge on him
For treating you like this
Didn't stay calm
Didn't keep her mind at ease
Help her rest and heal
I wiped the blood from her lips
I wiped the tears from your eyes
What he did to you killed me inside
with every ounce of strength,
And everything I am
I went after him
after all, he did

CHORUS
This time she didn't take my hand
And I knew I wasn't going to be a fan
of what she had to say
I regret putting my trust and faith in you
You aren't different
All I needed was for you to be there
I just needed someone who really cared
Someone to wipe away these tears
You were the one guy who tamed my fears
I didn't need any more protection
that you hadn't already given
I didn't want you to be like him
Violence never solved anything
I was ready to leave him for you
You went against everything I said
My love and admiration for you ran deep,
I see your faults
I know your needs
But now you have betrayed me
You were such a big part of my heart
You could have been my addiction, my drug
I was hoping you would listen and understand
Not go after him like you did
I can see the mess this is, my hearts been shattered
Beyond repair, I never want to see you again
Those lines run on repeat through my head.

©2018 Written By Benji James
Sam Conrad Dec 2013
So I've got this story...
And it goes a little something like this-

There's a girl that I hurt really bad on way too many occasions that I love more than anything. Pretty much everything I write on here is about her. She became the love of my life, and I told myself she was the one I wanted to spend my life with. Except I was a ****. She was going somewhere to an event that lasted 2 weeks and was really important to her and let's just say I ****** it all up really really bad. She made a lot of friends there and it was a great experience for her, kind of like camp is for some people, how boy/girl scouts are for some people, and she learned a lot there, and had lots of fun too. I was so horrible to do what I did.

At least we're young though, and there's still time to grow...right? I'm only 18, she's almost 18, and we both have lives to live ahead of us. I feel like I need her though. She treated me perfectly in our relationship. I mean, looking back, there's nothing I can fault her for, at all. I just got ****** at stupid crap that doesn't even matter.

Except, she's into somebody else now and probably thinks I'm no good for her. She doesn't talk to me anymore. Anyway, I'm rambling, I haven't gone to bed, I took a bunch of pills, am getting sick, and it's 7 AM...so here goes. This story is somewhat censored, though.

_________________­___________
"The Worst Weeks of Our Lives"

I met this girl and she became the love of my life. She took me places I'd never gone before and her and I fell in love like some people wouldn't believe. Ask my friends. Ask her friends. No, her friends probably wouldn't admit to it anymore. But I choose to remember the things they said. Kids were like totally rooting for us all day every day. We were so perfect. It was great.

So with a few mistakes here and there, (mostly me...all me, really) we realized we weren't perfect. But it didn't hamper out love. Nobody is perfect, right? We realized that. Overcame.

But then, we went too far. Her parents drew lines we weren't supposed to cross. Oopsies. Her mom really put me in my place. I'll just leave it at that. Asked me when my 18th birthday was, so she could mark her calendar as the "day she could touch me". Told me I was a liar. Husband in the background drunk and screaming, as usual. Except screaming "that ***** ain't sorry. He ain't ******* sorry, ******* ******* marking up my ******* daughter I can show him how to be ******* sorry"

Lots more. I'll go crazy if I speak the rest. It was a hickey on her neck. We didn't do much more.

I got really scared. I mean, they were brutal. I wasn't used to that kind of brutal. Psychotic levels of brutal. All of the sudden I became numb. I stopped being so intimate with my girlfriend. They told me not to come around their house anymore. I started doubting myself. If I was any good for her. She cried and cried. Told me how sorry she was. For getting us in trouble, and for what her parents did. But it wasn't her fault. After all, I am the vampire that bit her neck.

After a few weeks, her parents dropped it completely. I didn't though. I was so traumatized. I'd been getting flashbacks. Nightmares. So scared, I was. I kept avoiding her, not only her parents. I mean, I didn't have a car anyways, so the only place I could go to see her was at her house. She reassured me I was allowed. But with no contact with her parents since the phone call that changed my life I was reluctant.

This was around 2 months before she was going to go to a 2 week event. A special event to her. One I'd even wished I'd gotten involved in. Really, I did wish. I just missed the application deadline. Throughout the next two months, we grew more and more distant. I was harsh on her. I hurt her. I'd get mad at her and then call her and talk to her until 3 in the morning. I made her hate herself, and then she felt bad about me feeling sorry too. "You always force yourself to be nice to me just so I feel better, but I'm ****, I'm trash, I'm nothing, I'm so sorry" she would say. Most of the time, she didn't even do anything wrong. One of my best friends died at the same time her parents killed me inside, I spent all my days sleeping and crying and when I wasn't doing that, I was getting angry at her (and quickly regretting it), manufacturing conflicts that were completely unnecessary. Not to mention I'd had health issues, and my parents kicked me out of my house a few months beforehand.

In the time before she left to her special event, I really tore her up. I said the dumbest things I've ever said to someone in my life. I'd never even said such dumb things to even an object, or myself. Why I would say them to a girl who saved me from suicide (I was very unstable and depressed when coming out of a bad relationship, and getting kicked out of home) and why I said it all to someone I wanted to spend my life with I'll never know.

The dumbest things I'll ever say to anything that breathes in my lifetime. I told her one night that the "only reason I was still with her was because if I left she'd hurt herself" (she had a history of self harm, even though she's the sweetest girl I've ever met) and another night I told her "If only she were going somewhere important I'd understand" and lots of other insensitive and selfish things that I can't even believe came out of my mouth. I mean, the whole basis of it was that her and I hadn't spent much time together (really because of my own selfish fears) and I was going all *** on her testosterone-fueled-rage style for days over and over and over.

Don't I sound like a horrible person? I was. I was horrible to her. As much as I hate to say it, I'll probably make similar mistakes again someday - It's like relapsing - but I'll make every effort I can to learn from my horrible past and never be that person again.

So when she went to the event, I was with my grandparents out of state and I downloaded my favorite sad playlist (Staind, great band) to listen to on the trip.

Yes, seriously. I told her that stuff and called her event unimportant and then I went away too. How stupid I was for what I said. I should have been slapped or something.

A day or two after I'd left, I realized how stupid it was of me. For the whole thing. That whole time. That whole span, those two months where I not only neglected her, but emotionally ****** her.

There's a song called "Tangled Up In You" that has the most wonderful and intimate lyrics and I listened to it and sung to it over and over and over late into the morning (I'm talking 3-4 in the morning) every night for like 10 days and along with a song called "Right Here" by the same band. I cried myself to sleep so extremely ashamed of what I'd just done to her.

I knew I was wrong, but what I didn't know was that she was crying her eyes out wrapped up in (someone else)'s arms at that event...
I didn't know she was getting all kinds of love and support.
I had no idea...not that it was bad, it was good because she needed it.

But it got her to thinking about me, what kind of person I was.
When we both got back, I started making more of an effort to spend time with her and go out of my way to talk to her, make her happy, and basically, stop being such a ****.
Except she just got confused and conflicted because she was numb and falling out of love, because I was nothing that anyone should love, to her, over that prior time.

Her mom broke us up about a month later, after some...you know what, I'll just leave that bit out...
I told you how the first phone call went. The phone calls I got from her and her husband in the end were just so much worse. I don't even want to think about them. I went into convulsions and kept dropping the phone.

I went back to these two songs to help keep my sanity and I belted out "Tangled Up In You" every day in my car... so loud I was losing my voice.

I'd had some communication with her, surprised her at her work one night, bought her flowers, wrote her my true feelings on some napkins, showed up when she got out of school one day, when she was deathly afraid, and surprised her with a smile and drew a heart on her hand...

Her and I were on the same page. She still loved me. She was just hurt. I still loved her. I was just trying to make up for the compromised mental state I spent so much time in. I had compromised hers too. I needed to get her out of it. She told me she would wait for me. That we were in a speed bump, that it would all be okay.

So some weeks passed, a month, and she still had my back. As strong as ever. Her parents found out I bought the flowers. They found out I'd been talking to her. But...

Knowing she still had my back, that she still loved me, and that she would wait for me...she called what her mom did (in breaking us up, in our break) a "speed bump"...I was okay with it. I mean, I really wanted to be a part of her life, but man, her parents HATED ME! (In retrospect, probably with good reason. Shame on me for the things I did to her. Really.)

We had some major issues (mostly due to my inability to shut my stupid mouth) and I decided that maybe some time to ourselves to focus on ourselves and think was a good thing. She could focus on loving herself again and I could focus on becoming a better person.

I mean, when her parents found out her and I were still talking to each other after they broke us up, they blocked my number on her phone, went to my church and made up extra stories to my pastor, (told him I'd came and banged on their door at one in the morning one night), when I called to apologize to them they didn't pick up, called me back later to cuss me out and hang up on me, logged into their daughters facebook account and blocked me, then told their daughter that I had called them when she was sleeping and cussed them both out, and that she was to have nothing to do with me again. They threatened legal action against me, too. Tried to make my life hell. They didn't want me around their daughter, ever again. A blind rage that went on for a very long time until every communication route was blocked.

She went to school and told her friends the false stories her parents told her, and her friends already didn't like me...I mean just look at what I had done before...it wasn't good. Not for me, anyway. Also her. She felt duped. Used. By her parents. She didn't know who to trust or what was real. Everyone was telling her how horrible I was.

I got a chance to talk to her one day. We talked for hours, face to face. Sat in the cold and talked. It was an amazing talk. We caught each other up completely on our lives. We talked about our love. Our past. Our emotions. All of them. Good and bad. But we told each other we'd always love each other. She stuck by me, and also reassured me that she always would. I left that conversation feeling so secure. The most I'd felt since way before I'd become a total **** to her. When her and I were so deep in love.

She's always wanted to go far away from college. She told me stories of her past and what her parents did to her, what she did to herself that were not good. Not good at all. She wanted to get away from her parents.

Meanwhile I was so caught up in the feelings she gave me when I was in her arms, I almost couldn't handle the fact that she wanted to leave. I pleaded for her to stay, in a time that her and I were both unstable and it was already taboo that we were even on the same property. But still, she said "she wanted to stay" because her and I work so well together...when we work together, that is, and I and her were both determined to work together. I told her I would do anything for her. In all of it though, I told her that the decision was in her hands and I would still love her the same if she left, and that I would wait for her. Because I loved her more than anything.

After that talk, things got quiet. I guess, too quiet. I was legally bound to stay away from her. I talked to someone she worked with and asked them to tell her hello for me. I thought though, we were on good terms following the talk, I thought she'd be elated to hear from me.

She never responded.

One day, a couple weeks later, she told me I really needed to get over her. That she didn't love me like that anymore. She told me she'd been falling out of love since the summer, and she'd gone crazy and needed space. She said she wanted to be friends, but no relationship. No relationship anymore. She said she couldn't handle it. She said she couldn't handle a relationship in general.

She made that message a bit accusatory. I'd been talking to two friends, one who I'd known for years and a new one I'd just made. Both overlapping friends with hers. Those two helped keep me sane.

She started that message with "I heard you've been messaging my friends, and to be honest, I haven't had the heart to message you back." She repeated multiple times that I needed to get over her. She told me that it wasn't anyone else's influence too. She even listed people. People who'd separated us. Hurt me. Hurt her, in a way, but encouraged her in others.

At the same time, she blocked me on facebook again. She had unblocked me when she found out her parents did it for her. Odd though...I thought she wanted to be friends. I mean, it was like the only way I was able to have her in my life at all. To read her facebook posts and her read mine. To have discussions with friends. We have a lot of overlapping friends.

Man, she killed me. One second I thought she was my soul mate and the next I was in the bathroom puking my guts out because she was telling me we'd never be together again.


So fast forward to today...I still love her. And she's basically in a relationship with someone else. She's also either on the fence about her sexuality, or decided she doesn't like boys anymore. I feel bad about that too. Its like I ruined male relationships for her. It's only been a few weeks since she told me I needed to get over her. She doesn't talk to me anymore. I go to high school events even though I graduated last year just to see her. When I don't approach her, she ignores me. I'm just another person in the room. When I do approach her, she has such a scared look on her face. She doesn't want to talk to me, but she can't be mean to me. She's falling in love with someone else and she's getting happier. She doesn't need me showing up everywhere just to depress her.

Yet I keep bothering her. Because I'm a sucker for her. I can't help it. I love her. I want her to be my future. But at this point I'm grasping at straws. So hard. I shouldn't be trying anymore. But I'll end up trying until the day I die. And only then will I stop believing in her and I. I know it's a pipe dream. But I'll hold onto it. Because it's the only thing I have left of myself now.

Last night, (I mean, right before I wrote this around 5 AM, it is now 8 AM) I played those two songs again. I forgot they were at the end of my playlist and I started shivering and crying my eyes out. I got chills. I got so cold. The tears just ran. They ran down my face faster than I've cried in a long, long time.

I'm only okay right now because I took a bunch of pills. Pills that have this kind of effect on me. They make me kind of numb. Kind of happy. Upper and downer both.

That's pretty much, my sad ending to a sad story.
I'm living the kind of life that only people like Shane Koyczan know how to explain to people.

Ironically, she loves Shane Koyczan.
I do too.
We grew up in broken homes and lived broken lives until we found each other.
Then we broke each other.

But she's falling for someone else, because I wasn't what I should have been to her, and she knows
But she doesn't believe in me anymore, the way I believe in her...because I wasn't what I should have been to her, and she can't hold onto me when I'm a 50/50 chance, of bringing her down again.
If only she would let me hug her again, kiss her one more time...I could die happy, knowing I poured all my heart and soul out into that last kiss.
But I'm a gamble. And she can't put her heart out on the line for someone who wasn't always good to her. She used to call me her "sweet boy" and she still tells me I'll always be her "sweet boy", but the fact of the matter is, it doesn't cut it to only be sweet s
I needed to write this. I've been going crazy. I told her I needed to talk to her but she's been avoiding me. If she reads this, I know its hard for her. There are more explanations I need to give her, I hope she will let me speak to her someday. I've found out a lot about myself in just the last few weeks. Stuff I don't talk about in this story. To you, my dear...if you read this, I'm sorry. I know it's tough. Its very tough. But look at the positive, dear. I'll keep living. Maybe I'll be okay someday. Your happiness is what matters to me. If you're happy, I'll keep myself going. I'm going to go to sleep now. Finally, I have some peace.
Daniel James Feb 2011
I broke up with McDonalds
On Valentine's day
People said she was no good for me
I had to get away

So I told her, It's not you,
It's just a phase I'm going through
But as we all know -
Dumping fast food is not a pleasant thing to do.

So I broke up with McDonalds, didn't see her for a while
Was doing pretty well - there was the occasional drunk-dial
When I walked up to the window
And I slipped into the queue -
But then I came back to my senses
And realised the thing to do...

Was to keep on walking
Keep on walking
Right past her
Ignore the temptation
To suckle
On those golden arches
Ignore those bed-like burgers
And those oh-so-easy fries
Divide our shared world up
And sever all ties!

Yes! I broke up with McDonalds and my life is better for it
When my girlfriend serves up rabbit food I simply adore it
I was scared of life alone with no kebab to walk me home
But...
      What I once spent on burgers...
                                                     I now spend on...
                                                           ­                      Haribo!

Oh Haribo! Haribo!  
You are a fruit tree in a sack
And although it feels wrong to see you
Behind my girlfriend's back
She can not be hurt by wrongs she does not know!
No - the new love of my life is Haribo, oh Haribo!

But then one evening after work
My girfriend came home early.
Caught me curled up on the couch  
Soaking up her girly  
DVDs
In front of me
A bowl of
Not nuts, nor seeds...
But fizzy, yes fizzy,
Cola bottles  
That were  
FIZZY!

How could you do this?
My girlfriend screamed at me.
Cannot you see the damage that they do-eth to your teeth?
(She'd been reading Shakespeare)
No, my eyes are on my face, I can't see in my mouth.
Right, she said, If you think I'm joking then I'm going to kick you out.

So she kicked me out the flat and that was that she said.
Not quite...
I grabbed my stash of Haribo from underneath the bed.
I told her all the things about her that I really hated

And the moral is:

Relationships with things that you can't eat are over-rated.
Mymai Yuan Sep 2010
Peeing: to ***; to urinate; to release the body of its liquid toxins; to pass or discharge *****; characteristically yellow- the strength of the color depending on the body’s hydration.
People have strange habits when peeing; urinating; releasing the body of their liquid toxins. Some people procrastinate it to the last minute and rush to the bathroom, barely yanking their pants down in time and shuddering in relief. They are those who habitually whip in and out, even when they don’t really need to. There’s the common usage of an escape from boredom in classes or meetings. Perhaps it even causes a slight blushing in the cheeks of painfully shy woman at hearing rushed tinkling so close by. And of course, they are also the people who love to leave surprises for the next person who uses the bathroom.
All in all, peeing seems to mean not much to people – a small part of life; but a very, very necessary part.  

                                 *                 *                    * .

The rain poured furiously outside the window as Emily sat, straining her brown eyes against the whiteboard flashing images of trigonometry from Mr. Well’s laptop, trying hard to concentrate. She was sitting in her usual seat in class, and also her favorite. It was a solitary table with a chair, away from the clusters of tables and the chattering children, and the only chair by the window. She liked to look out the window, even if it distracted her from Mr. Well’s loud explanations. The booming of “SOHCAHTOA” in her ears became distant as the wind’s movement caught her eye. She gazed out on sheets of rain flapping across the sky like giant teary spirits and pressed her fingertips on the glass. Cold.
Absent-mindedly, she pressed her cheek against the coolness and felt it absorb her body warmth. Her imagination kicked in and the glass became a panel of energy, ******* a little life from all those who touched it, vibrating with a strange purple light until it was so filled with energy the particles of the glass would explode and she would be the first to die from the sharp shatters that would spray across the room, causing droplets of blood to-
Ahem.
Mr. Well coughed meaningfully at her dreamy face. The class exploded into laughter and the bell rang. A skinny girl smiled at her but she was so lost in her own world, she forgot to smile back as she slung her bag on her shoulder and ran out. Maybe that’s why she didn’t have too many friends.
The dark skies were pouring furiously as only Bangkok in Monsoon weather can.
A walk home or a motorbike ride? A motorbike ride would be a little dangerous in this flooding… and with that reasoning she waved up a motorbike. The seat was soaked and so was the driver, whose brown leathered feet struggled to keep red flip-flops on as they sloshed through the flooded Sois.
Fat water bullets pelted her skin and the wind blew them ferociously into her face till her eyes stung. The motorbike swerved in and out of the cars stuck in traffic (slightly floating), the bottoms of their wheels immersed in ***** water.
The pockets of her school shorts were hastily rummaged through and she pulled out a soggy green twenty-baht note bank before running into the shelter of the lobby, dripping over the marble floor and completely drenched. The building-maid widened her eyes, and watched her horrified; knowing it meant extra work mopping and drying up the lobby floor as soon as Emily vanished into the elevator.
The plastic button with the circular metal piece glowed orange. It was strange how she was shivering with cold but her touch was still warm enough to light up the elevator buttons.
The usual itchy, impulsive, restlessness was building up inside her from the wet motorbike ride. Thunder roared and crackled through the lobby’s swinging glass doors and they vibrated slightly. Another flashing image of splintering glass splashed across her mind and in the split-second, she saw the diamond shards pierce the eye of the lobby’s guard and splinter across the floor-
She shook her head. This was what happened when she had too much pent-up energy. She had to do something- something reckless and fast and dangerous… now! A bolt of lightning went through her as a familiar wide open space came into her mind… the rooftop of her thirty-five floored building.
The elevator ride up was slow, much too slow for the fast pacing of her heart and she hit the metal doors with wet fists. Tearing out of the doors when it finally jolted to a stop, she climbed up to the top, running up the stairs two steps at a time and caught her breath. It was flooded up to her ankles and violent gusts of wind made her steady herself.
Emily’s Dad often told her stories of when he was child. “The winds in my home during Monsoon season were so strong we could lean into it with our fully body weight and we wouldn’t fall. It was almost as good as flying.”
Her lids squinted shut and the sensitive skin was immediately exposed to the pebbles of the rain and whipping wind; and in almost dream-like state, she leaned into the howling wind.
There was a comically slow fall and her bony knees hit the concrete flooring with a dull thud. She burst into tears of laughter in her own stupidity at thinking the wind could hold up against her gigantic frame and rubbed her ***** knees sorely. Reaching up to wipe her tears with muddy fingers, she laughed to herself again. There was no point in wiping away tears. They were so trivial in comparison to the current weeping of the skies.
Against the thick opaqueness of the wind, she could see how the view towered over a jungle of buildings as far as the eyes could see, with snaking concrete roads and skinny black canals. Slums scattered around nearby swanky hotels of the rich. The buildings faded into small dark shapes in the distance. Bangkok.
No matter how tall and industrial it tried to become, everyone ran for cover under this blinding rain.
Up here, completely a victim to nature’s power, she felt exposed; naked; real. The animalistic instincts inside her swelled up. Humans weren’t meant to wear these annoying pieces of material or shoved inside skinny architectural designs. With aggressive tearing motions, a pile of soggy clothes half lay, half floated on the flooded floor beside her and she stood there bare… and completely naked. Laughter spilled out from the depths of her naked chest with the two tiny hints of possible womanhood; it was louder than thunder. Screaming, laughing and gasping she stumbled around – climbing over objects and feeling the beautiful dizziness: a sweet, sweet dizzy. She stood up on a random block a meter high; spread her arms wide as her wet body shone with raindrops. The rain threatened to push her over, her soaked hair twitching heavily on her neck.
She ****** in her breath, ready to yell so that the heavens could hear but instead, the voice that came out was controlled with a shaky undertone of joy,
“I need to ***.”
And then she did.

                                                *         *            *.

His eyes are brown. Dark chocolate brown – a simple, solid color. Simple and solid like him.
Because he was so simple, people enjoyed his companionship. Though he was simple, he was not boring. Rather he was sharp-mouthed, quick on his feet, witty and observant speaking bald truths about people that either provoked them to scandalized laughter or humiliated fury.
What some people forgot to recognize was that he didn’t really love anyone. Plenty called him a close friend, but so absorbed were they in their own world; they seldom realized the fact that most of his thoughts were concealed. Kept in a little box of surprises in the back of his mind, and hidden so well nobody knew they existed.
He could spend months with a friend traveling in a different country, and return back home with no feelings of attachment. He could care for a friend while they were here and not really miss them while they were gone.
Most of the time his eyes were neutral and observing and they would sparkle amusedly when he had provoked someone with his words. This was how remained to almost everyone; everyone but one person. The one person that could turn his normally calm face even more still, the dark brows would rise slightly and a quick flash of fire would shoot through his eyes- and for a long while, they would burn slowly like two twin coals; the one person who could cloud his eyes dreamily; the one person who could make them glint wetly.  
He reached over and grabbed her hand. Emily turned smiling eyes at him.
A group of teenagers were strolling down the closed roads, armed with water guns, pasted in thick white powder, thoroughly drenched in the hot, dry weather and skipping over puddles (except for Emily who splashed into them).
Songkran in Bangkok: celebrated in the middle of April where temperatures reach forty-degrees Celsius, Thailand’s New Year and a time to pay respect to the elders in the family, but as most traditions, they became really just an excuse to enjoy oneself and in this case, one-year-olds to eighty-year-olds roamed the ***** streets splashing ice-cold water from hoses and water guns and smeared each other with chalk in buckets.
The street they were being shoved along was crowded with slick, drunk bodies. The heat of the afternoon sun shone down on their backs. The sign that introduced excited people in was sprayed by a passing pick-up truck filled with screaming locals. “WELCOME TO SOI COWBOY” printed the red letters.
Red-faced fat foreigners held in each arm a tiny ******* with their bright lace bras showing through the wet see-through shirt and their black eye shadow playing havoc with their cheeks.  Country-side Thai music blared in its jumpy, quirky manner with the over done sound effects. Those nasal voices of dark skinned women with their skins covered with make-up to an ashy white whined out of the stereos. A man with the head of a buffalo mask sauntered past. It was a mark of how wild things got at Songkran that eyes merely flickered over the shirtless buffalo briefly with a quick laugh. Transsexuals clad in diamond-studded flip-flops, wet white tank tops and mini jeans shorts the size of underwear danced to the blasting music from the open pubs down either side of the road. Their surgically-made ******* were all-too visible in the white shirts, their dark ******* poking out as they grabbed the crotches of good-looking men and boys that passed by, squealing and rubbing their bodies against white men especially. Most of these white foreigners had a look of bewildered pleased ness... for only a few realized that underneath that squeaky voice was a very deep rumble, and underneath those lacy thongs lay a very big surprise indeed.
One of the better-looking boys in the group, his green eyes and pointed chin drawing the fancy of many hookers, was pulled off by four pairs of wet skinny arms touching him and yelling in broken English, “Oh so handsome! You so handsome! I love you! What your name! You tell me your name, handsome boy!”
The handsome boy proceeded to manage some sort of scream for help while laughing until his stomach ached. It was Songkran; it was a merry time, and he knew he was good-looking. Kat, who held a secret crush on him laughed amusedly at his yelping.
Emily stumbled after him with Kat and parted through the crowd of ladies in time to see a tiny little ****** trip on her squeaking flip-flops and fall beside a sprawled figure, face down in the ***** road with a massive bag of ice on top of him.
“Hey! Are you alright?” Emily cried, half-amused and half-concerned, lifting the heavy ice bag off his shoulders.
Kat rushed forward, laughing but compromising her concern with furrowed brows and helped him up. “You okay Tom?”
He whimpered in pain and put a hand on his neck, rubbing it sorely. “That ice bag was ******* heavy.” The girls decided to make no note of his skinny arms.
They walked back to their group of friends who turned around and saw a limping green-eyed boy and roared with laughter. The noise caught the attention of predators searching for a good target and they were hosed down with water pipes.
Suddenly Emily felt a huge body lift her up and swing her around while hands plastered her with wet chalk.
“Emily!”
She felt safe hands grab her and looked up into the pair of dark chocolate eyes. They were a little annoyed as they flickered over the fat drunk man who released her heavily but it was Songkran, and he managed to laugh at her bewildered expression.
Just then they passed a horde of prostitutes and she felt him being ripped from her. “I like this one!” screeched a passing market lady who rushed in to jump on him. “I like this one! Let’s keep this one!” They dunk his head in a bucket of white goo.
She screeched with laughter and even at something that silly, felt protective of him. “Brad!”
He was too busy being attacked. “Brad!” she tried to reach in and he opened his mouth to call out to her. That was a big mistake, he realized, as he received a handful of powder in his mouth. Spitting, coughing, and trying to breathe through nostrils blocked with powder he managed to wipe his stinging eyes clean. The prostitutes released him but not before a huge ******* screamed with glee at his straight nose and thin red lips, and reached forward giving his crotch a good grab. He screeched in genuine disgust and fear, had a moments feeling of guilt in case he had offended the ******* which was immediately wept away as he, no she, no it, yelped joyfully and massaged his **** before trotting off to his, no her, no its next victim.
Where was Emily? With his height, he managed to see a brown head that stuck above the other dark-haired and light-haired heads being jostled out of the street by the moving crowd. He ran to catch up and grabbed Emily’s hand as the group of teenagers tripped out of “Soi Cowboy”.  
They stood for a moment catching their breath. Zoey, a tiny little girl with a chest that threatened to put her out of balance, pushed her brown curls out of her face. A red glow was starting to spread over her cheeks.
Kat laughed scornfully, her wide smile spreading generously over her face. “Sunburn?! You white girl!”  
They had all been out around the streets since early morning and it was late in the afternoon now. Rose’s cheeks were flushed and the tip of Kat’s nose was a little pink herself. The rest of them, with their darker skin, had tanned slightly but unnoticeably. They laughed at Zoey for a short while. It was an interesting group of friends: all of them of mixed heritages from around the world with different backgrounds that became common in the world of International schools. It was alright to tease Emily’s honey skin; it was funny to crack jokes about Stefan’s hairiness; it was hilarious when Zoey tried to tan.
Emily shot a picture of everyone laughing: their clothes wet, their faces scrunched up, eyeliner smudged (Kat and Rose had lined their eyes with water proof kohl that of course wasn’t really waterproof), their cheeks and chin caked a crumbly white.
Kat and Zoey clambered over her shoulders, peering at the little digital screen of the water proof camera. “Ew! Gross!” yelled Kat who was only used to pictures of her lips rosy from lipstick, camera at a flattering angle with a bright flash from her professional equipment that made her black-lined green eyes sparkle like emeralds.
“Delete! I look sick!”
Even Zoey, who admired Kat’s photogenic ness to a great extent, could find no words of solace except to say, “Me too! I look gross! Delete! Now!”
Emily just laughed and said, “No you don’t.” Of course it wasn’t a type of picture they’d profile on Facebook, but all the same it was beautiful with their wild-looking and uninhibited faces and un-posing body shapes, curled up in laughter.
Zoey snatched the camera from her and they fiddled with the buttons till the picture was deleted. It was regretful, annoying, but not unexpected.
Emily rubbed her sore knees and noticed how Tom was still rubbing his neck sorrowfully with Stefan laughing at him, shaking his head wearily. Brad was holding onto her arm a little tiredly, Kat and Zoey had their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulder for leaning support and Rose and Emily’s younger brother, Jason, were standing together, staring absen
Ugo Apr 2012
Dedicated to stillborn fetuses, 99 cent Malt Liquor and Existentialism
1.
Nymphomaniac tree huggers
And overweight bisexual vegetarians
Swallowing phentermine poison to stay fit.

2.
Funky fresh *******  
throwing pigs at St. Augustine’s pear tree
and frolicking abortions over Moloch’s philoprogenitiveness,

3.
While sipping barbecue sauce dipped in Lipton tea,
dancing around adhesive bonfires
reciting memories of holocaust, the Kristallnacht nights
and beautiful words suffered by ancestors lost.

4.
Inhale chicken noodle soup, with a side of Lithium,
And prance to Literacy class to combat envisionment
With free association conceptual constructions,

5.
Computerized like Prometheus’ fire burning through SmartBoards
In classrooms where the poison of heterosexual history
Is fed to boys in skirts cursed by Adam’s apple,

6.
Baptized by social norms and locked away in hopeless closets
According to the Tautology of Leviticus…
until they cut their breath by the vein of soteriology;

7.
Misunderstanding of God’s words
Covets the innocent to early graves
In biblical paratactic irony…like God betting Satan for a Job.

8.
Rub fried chicken oil on Bartholomaeus Anglicus’ skin
and soil his white pride with ***** flavor,
for revenge  On the Properties of Things

9.
and howl out in glory of victory
over totes of  lickerish piper methysticum blunts
that beg the conundrum,
'What is the origin of this world?'
'Ether,' he replied.
But it is not ether!
Nor Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
It is Dada. Dada. Dada!
  10.
For this is a record of the life stories of the greatest minds and geniuses of your generation,
written in boys and girls
who mimicked Basquiat’s genius and tagged bathroom walls with abstract philosophies like “Love is a prime number” and “ the weight of Duncan McDougall’s soul can only be found on the 15th of October”
who drank vampirish gulps of Vicodin while consoling themselves with aphorisms such as: “don’t rue the misses, you don’t need a Mrs. when you’re elevated by chemical kisses”
11.
Who stood naked in mirrors, weeping, for they were a mystery to themselves, but a great talent and soon to be legend to some.
Who lit cannabis in loneliness and waltzed naked with their ghosts, fantasizing about ****** tomatoes and Corpus Christi Mexican Jazz.
Who composed psychedelic anthems from dreams that were lost in ghettoes where virginities were lost for loaves of bread, for the hunger of bread.
12.
Who wrote suicide notes on a toilet seat, contemplating the texture of Marshall Mathers’ favorite underwear and whether the color green was an invention of **** Germany.
Who used to love their lovers in darkness and colored the streets of Manhattan with rainbows on June 24, 2011 to mark the date lady liberty finally bought a new pair of glasses.
13.
Who lost musical talents to a Wine-house and ended up in a whine-house where lobotomy was subsequently prescribed by the milligram.
Who indulged in pharmaceutical vices and when asked why replied simply, every recursively enumerable set is Diophantine.
Who diagnosed themselves with “start ****-itis” and self medicated by eating Fifinellas at the stroke of each midnight.
Who rubbed paraprosdokians on their skin and occupied Wall Street in search of a new euphemism for being American.
Who poured Alkalizer on a dead moose and kicked it while feasting on the divine question, “why does Rice play Texas?”
14.
who got bored with conventional relationships and bought the Origin of the World on street corners from vixens nicknamed “Jezebel” and climaxed atop of them screaming  “I’m in Babylon, the great Mother of ******!”
Who attempted suicides upon suicides upon suicides, in Oakland, until they were shipped away to private catholic universities in Rhode Island, where the history of Colossus was being taught.
15.
who serenaded love interests with four letter curse words at open bars where Kubla Khan was read and Tartars kings were licked all over like holy communion *****.
Who drove home with the spirits of wine and crashed on telephone poles where their obituaries were written in their prime, leaving their mothers weeping and calling congress to reconsider Prohibition.
16.
Who mixed Redbull with Propofol and drank the juxtaposition galore only to be woken up the next morning dead in their sleep.
Who tattooed rat poison packages with goodwill messages such as “****** divided by Water =6th day of creation” or “Seroquel + Brett Favre = St. Patrick”,
who went speedballing with Basquiat during autoscopy and woke up wondering the cost of Nautilus in Albuquerque.
17.
who took 33 hallelujah 1800 tequila jello shots and daydreamed about laying on Mithras’ grave, yelling, beetlejuice, beetlejuice…beetlejuice.
who found the truths of the Bible invalid by the miscalculation of Pi in 1 Kings 7, verse 3, and mailed death on anthrax letters to Reagan in protest.
18.
who sat empty bellied at breakfast tables wondering the temperature of satellites at Lagrangian points,  only to soon catch fire in their tongues and speak Labyrinth soliloquies that ended in
19.
Zion,
Where Google knows every answer.
In Zion
Where the youth, tomorrow’s future, quote a ***** named Hova better than they can quote Jehovah.
In Zion
Where *******’s art was used as weapon during the Cold war.
20.
In Zion
Where sartorial geniuses where no pants,
In Zion
Where David Kato Kisule is the secret hero of these words, for he was taken at a time
In Zion
Where we were supposed to be our ancestor’s sci-fi.

21.
In Zion,
Where the youth bear the scarlet letter X for they are a problem to tradition and hold no definition for the future, for they have discovered
In Zion
That the origin of this world is in their living eyes, and not in the dictionary of their ancestors who lived
In Zion
when the epitome of the literature of life ended in Revelation of Amen and Shantih shantih shantih;
this is a record of the greatest minds and geniuses there ever was, written
in Zion
where the meaninglessness and nothingness of Dada reigns, and the trinity of life now lives in the Subject, subjective and subjectivity.
http://www.amazon.com/OLAF-Nothing-Above-Fiction-ebook/dp/B009XZ9OVY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid;=1353822133&sr;=8-1&keywords;=olaf+last+king+of+nothing
Sean Rosgen May 2014
"Her Name Is ******"
The first time I met Her, I knew right away, She'd be in my life forever. The first time I met Her, She introduced Herself and I couldn't breathe. The first time I met Her...never had I slept so deeply in my life.
The second time I was with Her, it was a dream of bliss and happiness come true. The second time I was with Her, my eyes lit up with excitement and my heart simultaneously sped up and slowed down. The second time I met Her, I knew I would love Her forever.
By the time our relationship became something I craved and lusted for, I realized that I hated Her. I didn't want Her in my life but I couldn't tell Her because I needed Her. And I would do whatever I could for Her. I would steal from anyone I could for Her. I could lie to anyone I knew or loved for Her. I refused to be without Her and nobody would stop me from being with Her.
By the time a year and a half had passed by, and Her and i had now had too many dates for me to count, i awoke one day to stop and look down to where i held her in my arms, held Her in my hands. I stopped and realized i had forgotten Her name. It was something that had been happening lately, my memory just wasn't as sharp as it was before i met her. I looked down at Her and said, "um i seem to have forgotten your name, could you please tell me it". She looked at me and said to me with a twisted, evil smile and a voice like someone who had been smoking their whole life. She said "why Sean, how could you forget my name? Baby my name...is ******. And you love me very much don't you?" I looked down at her, the square piece of foil in my left hand and the pen with which i had de-constructed and now used to catch Her breath in my right, was the woman of my dreams. The black, oily, rolling demon to whom i spoke to, was the one who i had given my soul to.
But she was right, i did love Her and would do anything for Her. I loved her more than the job i lost for Her. I loved Her more than, realizing and knowing that i hadn't showered in days and didn't care. I loved her more than my guitars i used to speak what my soul sings, which i pawned, with no hope of regaining, for Her. I loved Her more...than the woman with whom i was in a 3-year relationship with and who i loved very much with everything i was. But, because of ******, i was nothing, but what She wanted me to be. I did all of these things just so i didn't have to feel the pain in my bones when i didn't have Her. I did all of these thigns, so i didn't have to feel the aches in my muscles when i couldn't get Her. I did all of these things, so day in and day out i wouldn't have to deal with my reality that was crumbling around me. I did these things to numb the pain of catching my girlfriend cheating on me with my best friend. Numb me from the hurt of her kicking me out to move him in and marry him. I did this to hide from the reality of moving back in with my parents and feeling like i was a child again. I needed her in my life to eventually **** all my feelings when, my parents kicked me out of their house because I wouldn’t do what they wanted and later kicked me out of their home and didn't care where i went or what happened to me.
My reality, had become my parents telling me, as i was walking away, tears in my eyes, curses in my mouth, and a ******* machete jammed through my heart, them telling me that i was nothing but a lowlife piece of trash and i deserved to be out on the streets, living behind dumpsters, and that i was a thief and now, since I had come back in to their house with her, it felt tainted and evil. My reality was, my parents telling me that the next time they saw me, would be at my funeral.
My reality was so consumed by darkness, and so consumed by pain, and just so consumed by the reality that i couldn't actually FEEL anymore and all i had in my life was Her. She was always there for me. To take away my pain as i slept behind a grocery store and was jumped and beaten by three other homeless men. She took away the pain of being utterly consumed by the lack of not being able to feel anything except for the overwhelming urge to just die. That after 3 weeks on the streets, and an almost 3 year relationship with my sweetheart, ******, i was so incapable of feeling anything, that i just wanted it all to end. Because everything inside of me that made me human and alive, had already died long ago, and She was just my life support, but i was ready to pull the plug.

When you are nothing but a hollow shell, and doing the same routine of: wake up, smoke H, go beg for change so i don't have to be without my darling, ******, but haven't eaten in two days, so i go to the dumpster where i have a buffet of half eaten sandwiches and old rotten fruits, just so i don't have to FEEL the pain of not having at least Her in my life. I had gotten to the point where i asked my self 'what's the point of living anymore? Why go on?"

And, my friend, it is these things. Life is worth living because after being clean i have a new found sense of purpose and self-value and self-love. Life is worth living, simply, for the sun setting behind the mountains and, for a few minutes the mountains are just a silhouette against the rainbow of colors that is the sky, and it looks like the most beautiful painting that nobody ever did, and i weep. Life is worth living, to sit in a park while you're going through the worst part of your withdrawl from Her and all you want to do is get high or end your life because, that would be so much easier than having to put up with this suffering. When suddenly, you notice the wind move across the grass and bushes, up into the trees and then hear a choir of birds singing, and for a moment, just a moment, you forget about your pain, you forget about your suffering, and focus on something amazing and beautiful and. Life is worth living, for all of the people who suddenly, came into your life and help you and support you, even though they didn't know you before, but don't care because, they see the potential in you and remind you to see it within yourself. Life is worth living....because you're a beautiful human being. And yes, you've made mistakes in the past, but I’m here to tell you, when-ever you feel like you're all alone. When you're sleeping on the streets, or roaming them to try and figure out a way to get a hold of that ***** ******, when you feel like you have zero support. Know this...Know that you at least have me in some way. Know that i support you as a human being, and that i would help and will help you if i can because I’ve been there, roaming the streets, eating out of dumpsters, wishing I would just die, I’ve been there. Know that, even though i don't know you, or that I may have never met you. I love you and have hope for you.
Because, you're more than ******, and you’re more than any kind of drug/ vice. You're a living, breathing, human being with feelings and hopes, desires, fears and dreams. YOU are a human being and you deserve to be treated like one.
This is the second revised version, i am still working on the final product.
Ken Pepiton Dec 2018
Clarifying failed. Spelchek is not on strike.

{clear ification, an ionic bond be tween me and thee,
alienated mind, not mined, crafted
from tactics and strategies
beyond chess.
Player One,
1980's era
jewish-geek-mid-pubesence-kid-level,
proceed with caution.
This trope has trapped many a curious child.
---
Now, enter the old ones,
Grandfather taught uncle chess so well
he went to the state tournament in Kayenta,
and a grandma was
state-champ-bare-bow-in-the-rain-shooter,

these, now must learn

minecraft on x-box to be considered
for the real life role of

good at games grand parents
from the time right after atom bombs kicked up dust
places dust had not been in a very long time and
as the dust began to settle

some dust mights was cationic.
Negative bits, they became embedded in the code.
Bumps, fering, coming together
just a knot in a string,
attracting anionic curiosity might

round and round phorward ferring to be
a thread to tie my heart to yours

like twisted Pima cotton thread,
that I pulled from an old sweatshirt
to tie a crow feather in this paho of words filled with old jokes

Making this clear would belie the entire story AI and I know true}

truth is. we agree. no capsokehspaceasneededcommasetal.
caps okeh space as needed commas et al
go.
Did that work? That line

subject of this act fact done, agree to follow,
and I may lead and be

not you, me, dear reader, I mean first true

there is no any if nothing is. So simple some say its sublime beyond the spectrum of ones
and zeros thought on off probably

either or any time time can be accounted for

wouldn't you take a

thought,  nothing,
as it is commonly said to be understandable,

the state of not being, imagine that

the state of not being we negate in being,
unless you are mad and are lost in a whirlwind
such as such voices have been said to

have twisted into threads as
wicks for our lamps
turn floating on
golden oil twisting
wickered into wickering wee shadow fibers
on the western wall for legends to sprout from.

Wickering mare over there, expands us both by my hearing her
you had no idea she was near enough to hear
time is no barrier in actual ever.
What phor can contain me,
whispered my whimsy

Imagine she spoke,
what would she say for what reason
would she say

good good good, I feel good, ha,
I am right, by accident. ever body can feel this good.

good is good.
good is.
Sam Harris, agrees, good as far as good goes, is good
in every vecter from now

the terrain does exist, beyond the moral landscape, to

true true
trust me, I been there.
Been there done that was inserted into the vernacular on my watch,
first summer post war.

matter must not matter as much to me as it does to thee, nestypass? no se?

All jewish boys have chess move metaphors.
(a phor is for containing,
bearing
meta,
everybody knows, like metaphysics,
after physics in the stack of stackable metadata)

OHMYGOD THE IDW circa 2018 -- who knew I ate this **** up?

[the old code calls for excretion of digested material
from which meaning has been extracted in the idleword accounting processor:
literal
<pre>what if utterance=****, then **** haps, no else then</pre>]

Did that happen? One of my friends told me that happened in Florida, the whole world turned to ****... for lack of a nail a kingdom was lost, they say, little foxes spoil the grapes,
hung chad ex
cuses...

Pre-expandable ROM, not magic. tech,

pre-infinite imagination? impossible.
and nothing is what is impossible with good as god.

Is there no perfect game?
is the game the session or the life of the user
offline

rerererererererererereroxotoxin, poison pen
ideal viral umph exspelliered
up against the wall

reset. We

kunoon albania omerta oy vey, who could say?
one way better, one way not? quark.
up or down, with variable spins, who can say?

Life's right,
yes. but mo'ons of other something must have been for higgs to ever matter

and it does, I got commas, from 2018.

Are you with me? This is that book I told you I had access…

You or some mind other than mine owned mind, where
my owned peace rests in truth,

otherwise, I know every any or else in the code since I can recall,
in time

if this were a test I swore to take to prove to you
the we can be me in your head

phillipkdicktated clue

if you don't know me by now, maybe we should stop.

Temptations are times. Time things. Time spans, yeah, like bridges

or portals, right
The Internet in One Day, Fred Pryor Resources,
Wu'wuchim 1995.

Ever, not everish or everistic or every, but ever
body knows,
but you.

Catch up. We left all our doors blown off, once we learned that we could blow our own doors off,

there are no open sesames or slips of leth or sibylets

shiba yah you knew all along there was a
song she sang all one and we watched it morph
before our very eyes

alone.

The magic stories words may contain, may bear, we must agree

more than we may know, by faith, metagnostic as we see

the sublime gift of the magi
become clear und

be und sein sind both trueture same tu you, we agree.
But. Lock here, no pre 2018 editing codes

validate past last go.
Do one good thing today. That was my goal. Today https://anchor.fm/ken-pepiton Part 3 Soyal Hopi Mystery Enactment (called mystery plays). And the intro to Moral Landscape by Sam Harris, led me let ******* write a poem.
Johnny Warren after life all-stars v the Saturn stringers




Johnny warren got together an after life soccer team with players like Don Bradman, as well as 2Pac, and even Christopher Reeve, also Elvis Presley, and Paul Berenyi, and Brett Eggins, we're all fired up to give Saturn a total soccer makeover, Johnny Warren alan picked Scott McDonald as well as Billy Thorpe and Tony Campbell and Saturn was a team who had some very good names as well, who are John FKennedy, Robert Kennedy as well as Martin Luther King, Walter Burley Griffin who has lived on Saturn since 1980, earth time, and never wanting to go , because Saturn has really nice homes where he can be a good athlete, also Jack Dyer and Tony Grieg and Chris Mainwaring made up the numbers.
So the game started and Johnny Warren started the play, passing it to Christopher Reeve, who is trying to bring Superman in with a really beautiful kick up the centre which is blocked by Martin Luther king, who passes it to burley Griffin who stops to look down on earth, to hear what a stupid professor is trying to say he'd like, and used his powers with a kick which made the goal, to put Saturn in the lead 1-0, the kick off came and Johnny Warren gave a big kick up which was intercepted by Jack Dyer, who dribbled it up the field, trying to stop the interception, by the other players, and then after that he passed it to Martin Luther king, who began to dribble it down a few more times, and nearly got a goal, but he missed,and the ball was intercepted by 2Pac, who ran right to the other side and kicked it in the goal, and it was counted, and that made the score 1-1, and 2Pac very happy and went to the crowd, and said, me and Johnny W, go back a long way, in afterlife sports.
The kick off happened as Martin Luther king kicked the ball over to John F Kennedy, who dribbled it further down the field, and dodged so many of Johnny Warren all star players, and finally passed it and the Johnny Warren Allstars intercepted it and John F Kennedy tried to block 2Pac the whole way, and he did and then John F Kennedy passed it to brother Robert and Robert ran down to the other side, dribbling the ball as he goes, but Billy Thorpe, intercepted it and ran down to the other side, with the ball and passed the ball to Johnny Warren who missed from right in front, and suddenly Walter Burley Griffin got the ball and dribbled it down to the other end, and yes, he kicked but it was saved very nicely by the Johnny Warren All stars goalkeeper, yes, this game was looking very good, you see these are only 1 half games,,because Johnny Warren wanted it that way, as Paul Berenyi ran it to the half way line and passed it to Brett Eggins who ran it down and as soon as he got to the goal line, he passed it to Johnny Warren who snuck it in to 2Pac who scored the Johnny Warren all stars second, and that made the score 2-1, with 2 minutes to go in the match, and the reason why there is no half time, because the players are the undead, and they don't need to break cause they can no longer be killed,
And Martin Luther king ran it down and flicked it across to John F Kennedy who passed it to Johnny Warren who was so excited he booted the ball all the way to the other side, and 2Pac knocked it in, to make the score 3-1, yes and this was really exciting for Johnny Warren and then Margaret Thatcher came into the field and Paul Berenyi booted the ball so hard, It hit Margaret thatcher right in the noggin,,and despite trying very hard to hurt her, she can't be hurt, but people can try to hurt her if they want to, and then Margaret Thatcher, left, saying I want that Paul Berenyi in Mercury, and then Martin Luther King scores a goal and at the end of the match, the score was, 3-2 to Johnny Warren all stars, and Johnny Warren sat down and had a talk with Paul Berenyi, and Paul said it's the after life coach, she can't be hurt, but Johnny, said I know, but we need to be nice to one another, or you Paul Berenyi will be locked in Mercury for all eternity, and Paul said he'll behave, and was let off with a warning.
LP Foster Feb 2013
You want to know what I want?
I want to wear socks to bed.
I want to wear socks to bed and pretend that I'm in love with you.

You're making this too hard.
You're making this too hard even with my lack of emotions and your lack of anything I need.  
But, I am finding myself jolted awake in the middle of the night with my socks kicked off.
My socks are kicked off with my bare feet absorbing the warmth of yours.
I have a sinking feeling that I am no longer pretending.
This is not what I wanted.
cr May 2014
my face smashed against the concrete
when you kicked me from your
life; i'm still picking jagged stones
from the spaces between my
teeth. because of this,

i don't smile
anymore.
i don't like it when people leave.

— The End —