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Amoy Feb 2019
I said it once or maybe it was thrice
My words are not nice they cut like knife
What did I say? is it a big slice?
My words are not nice they cut like knife
Can’t I be bold? without paying a price
My words are not nice they cut like knife
I thought was being nice and not mean and cold like ice
My words are not nice they cut like knife
What was the line that pierced through you?
My words are not nice they cut knife
My words change the mood and now you brood
My words are not nice they cut like knife
Why do the lyrics to my song always comes out wrong?
My words are not nice they cut like knife
My words creates an uproar in our vibrational sing-along
My words are not nice they cut like knife
Forgive me my love I know I was wrong
My words are not nice they cut like knife
I’m not trying to create a mash up out of our perfect song
My words are not nice the cut like knife
I don’t want to be afraid to say what’s on my mind
My words are not nice they cut like knife
Don’t let these words make our relationship decline
My words are not nice the cut like knife
We have waited an eternity and now is our time
My words are not nice they cut like knife
I’m sorry Babes I was completely out of line
My words are not nice they cut like knife
I swear I’ll try, I’ll do better next time
My words are not nice they cut like knife
Words aren’t my strongest suit they get intertwined and messes with the baseline
My words are not nice they cut like knife
brian has a knife to his neck



today is a horrible day for brian, well, not that horrible, well he went to

the baseball, with cath and michelle from his work, and they all went for

the local team which was the canberra cavalry, and every time the cavalry

scored a home run, brian, cath and michelle would cheer very loudly,

cavalry clap clap clap, cavalry clap clap clap, cavalry clap clap clap

and the cavalry didn’t disappoint their supporters in this match, and

then the hit a beautiful home run and cath caught it, what a absolute whopper

and she said, that she will give it to her 12 year old son, and then daniel sat near

brian and said you are too woosey to be a man like this, how about we leave now

so i can hold a knife to your neck, i don’t want to harm you, i just want to have

a piece of you with each of us, brian said, no, i am watching the baseball, can’t

you understand this, and daniel said, no, i can’t understand why you can’t come

with me, you are too woosey to be a family person anyway, buddy, and brian just sat there

and then young micheal sat next to brian, and he had a little pocket knife, with him

and mate, he was very inexperienced with knives, like he often put a knife at people’s

necks, as if it was a special game or something, and after the game was over, brian

said goodbye to cath and michelle and ran off towards the bus, and daniel followed him

with his pocket knife, if brian stopped, the knife would go straight through his neck, and

as usual, brian was scared that daniel was going to **** him, and ran home saying

leave me alone leave me alone, i am a cool kid, i went out with people from my work

and i don’t deserve what you are doing to me, and brian got home and locked his door

and daniel yelled through his door, saying open up little woosey, you aren’t like the adults,

open up little woosey, you aren’t like adults, and brian went to bed, and the next morning

brian got up and went to work and micheal was in the front, playing with his pocket knife

while daniel was in the back, playing with his pocket knife, and brian hates the idea

of dying, but every time daniel picked up his pocket knife, he would hold it to brian’s neck and

say, come on little woosey, allow me to stab you, man, allow me to stab you, and brian’s mate

from 1989  was screaming through houses,,saying shut up, every time brian tried to be a family

person, despite not really meaning to do that, he just did that to make the other young dudes to like him

and brian massaged nicheals neck, and micheal said, stop it, or i will get this knife, and put it right to

your neck and then daniel jumped into the back seat and said, come on little woosey, except me

as i am holding this knife to ya, i want to scare you off from being a family person, cause youy

are too woosey to be a family person anyway, brian, and daniel picked up the pocket knife and

said, i will stab you woosey, brian said, i am a famous family person, and daniel said, yeah, a

family person to a ****, yeah and famous only to your mothers eyes, only, if you try and be like us, brian

i will get this knife and stab you in the neck, cause you are a little trouble making woosey, and

brian said, leave me alone, i am reformed, i haven’t done a crime for years, and this person

said, no you are not reformed buddy, be like us buddy, your not reformed brian, brian said

i am reformed, it’s daniel and micheal that need to be reformed, and you need to be reformed

too, and then daniel held a knife to brian’s neck and said you ain’t a man, your too woosey

to be a man, your not reformed brian, and brian said, i am so reformed, i don’t need this

awful treatment i am getting from you, you see micheal was playing with his pocket knife

he looked like bart simpson, and daniel kept on holding the knife to brian’s head saying

no your not, you ain’t reformed, buddy, you are a little woosey, and brian screamed out

I AM NOT A LITTLE WOOSEY, I AM FAMILY PERSON, WOULD YOU STOP TREATING ME

LIKE A HOOLIGAN, I HATE HAVING A POCKET KNIFE TO MY HEAD, IT’S NOT A FUCKEN PRISON

brian was horrified that daniel was going to **** him, and micheal wasn’t that gentle with his pocket knife either

and brian said, it’s not a prison, and then said, please don’t treat me like a little woosey, for i am a family person

and then brian jumped out of the window, saying, I AM REFORMED, please leave me the **** alone, and

then brian took off through the paddock, back to his house, and never saw daniel and micheal again,

good riddens to bad ******* thought brian, as brian sat in his house watching foxtel thinking about how stupid micheal and

daniel are, the end
RA Nov 2013
And as the day approaches
the knife slowly corkscrews
its way through your heart.
and though we can see the effects,
the pain that threatens to swallow everything,
we cannot see the knife anymore.
You cannot see the knife anymore.

We stand by helplessly
unable to do anything
but watch its path and the holes it leaves
and watch you grapple with yourself
while still holding the knife.
Sometimes by the handle.
Sometimes by the blade.
We cannot see the knife anymore.
You cannot see the knife anymore.

The knife digs its way deeper with each day
and we don't know if the holes
are there because of the knife
or if the knife is there
to fill the holes.
We cannot see the knife anymore.
You cannot see the knife anymore.

It has grown into a part of you
So much that your silhouettes
Have melded and you have rebuilt yourself
Around it.
You do not know who you would be without it.
You like yourself with the sharp tang
of fresh blood
rather than the complacent scabs
of healed wounds.

I know all this and yet
Given the chance
I would draw out
the knife.
November 17, 2013

for my friend. i'm sorry.
Terry Collett May 2014
Do you want to see
my collection of knives?
Jim asked
sure

I said
so he went
into his
ground floor flat

and I sat
on the grass
outside
his bedroom window

cleaning my
6 shooter gun
with my handkerchief
here

Jim said
have look
at this beauty
and he handed me

a narrow bladed knife
with an eagle
on the handle
and German script

on the blade
Meine Ehre Heisst Treue
what does that mean?
I asked

Dad said it means
my honour is loyalty
Jim said
I ran a finger

along the blade
it was still sharp
it's an SS knife
he said

I handed him
back the knife
and off he went
to get another

this one
had a curved blade
be careful
of the blade

Jim said
it's very sharp
I bet that's taken off
many a head

he said
sliding his thumb
under his throat
what kind

of knife is it?
I asked
it's a Gurkha
combat knife

he said
he took
that knife away
and brought back

a knife with
a knuckleduster handle
what the hell is this?
I said

taking the knife
into my hands
and turning it over
it's an Aussie

fighting knife
Jim said
could have
slit open a ***

he said
I tried not
to think of that
but looked

at the knuckleduster handle
and imagined
a man's hand
and fingers there

at one time
I handed Jim
back the knife
and he went

back inside
there were voices
coming
from Jim's room

and Jim's old man
came to the window
and said
don't tell no one

what you've seen Benny
Jim should
have known better
and backed off

into the room
I looked
at my 6 shooter
in my lap

Jim came
along the grass
back from the flat
sorry about that

he said
Dad has this thing
about knives
and such

he helped
open up
Belsen camp
and saw too much.
TWO BOYS IN 1950S LONDON AND A COLLECTION OF WW2 KNIVES.
What smoother and easier weapon is there but the knife
the cowardly hide behind the cause of chaos and strife-
their hands trembling and mouth quivering but a glitter of accomplishment in their eyes
the windows to the soul show no lies
the smooth and glimmering metal is a weapon in one hand but a peace-maker in another
who to weep but the victim's mother-
who curses in tears the slight knife who brought death to the doorstep
yet, the almighty knife can be avoided by a simple back step
the gleaming metal falls out of the hands of the coward
Death does not stand behind the coward but turns to switch to that of the newly powered
the other man turns to show a face proud and true
and from his hand emerges a knife encrusted with diamonds of great value
the man is quick and plunges the beautiful knife in the coward's beating heart
the pooling blood surrounds the body in pools of art
Death before taking the soul says to the man:
"thou are a great man, yet none including thou canst not 'scape mine grasp
for i  hast many other life takers other than the knife i shall take pleasure  'i  thy perpetual wink and i shall take thou myself would I can"
with that  death gave the man a leer and disappeared
the man smiled to himself and was assured-
that none can take me for my knife will protect me
the man did not know that the knife in the hands of the ignorant would turn on their masters
Death laughed at the man as he walked in the dark and would serve as a witness for what was to come from the man's flatness
Mysterious Aries Jul 2015
________

I have a knife
It can sculpt death
Can slash a pulse
Can slit a neck

I have a knife
It can score an anger
Can bring life a real danger
Can cause cursed that stays forever

I have a knife
It can curve peace
Can tear an anger
Can split a fear

I have a knife
It can draw love
Can mark caress in the blood
Can blade hate into a hug

I have a knife
It has an eraser
It can write an emotion to feel
For my knife .... was a pencil...


Written: August 2, 2014 @ 9:00 am

Mysterious Aries
Michael Marchese Sep 2016
Cutting razor
blade of life
Pointless, dull
existence knife
Sharpened by
the edge of strife

Won't somebody
save my life
From this wretched,
worthless knife
Buried in
my skin of strife

This sorrow stalks
its prey of life
And sets it teeth
of biting knife
Upon my flesh
to feast on strife

Vampiric in its
draining life
This empty, soulless,
cold-heart knife
Shall feel the warmth
of crimson strife

Until the streams
of dripping life
Release my grip
upon this knife
And rivers flow
in tranquil strife

See I know why
you've courted strife
I've tasted lips
of the sweet knife
Her tempting kiss
was my whole life

Through ****** tears
and sweaty strife
I've cried with every
lonely knife
That spends each day
so lost in life

Adrift at sea
shipwreck of strife
Beckoned by
beguiling knife
To drown in siren
songs of life

Through Odysseys
of epic strife
I forged a sword
to replace knife
Allowed this pen
to claim my life

An argonaut
against the strife
To tides of ink
I cast the knife
Now fight with me
write for your life
Tyler Zempel Dec 2018
The Harvester

A long, overly dragged out, deep knock rattles the front door of Ambers new domain.
She knows in her gut who it is and instead of answering the door, would rather be forced to run naked through the street in pouring rain.
She goes and checks on her three-month-old son to make sure he is still asleep.
He is, however every time she looks at him, it causes her to want to weep.
He has his eyes, his nose, that ******* creep!
She struggles to sleep at night no matter how many she counts, the endless sheep.
Being away from that house hasn’t brought with it a sense of relief.
She has yet to find a proper hobby to use as a release,
to extradite from herself all the negative thoughts and energy built up from her previous reality.
She feels worn down and defeated, her self-esteem.
She feels ugly and fat, gone is her once perfect physique.
Her heart feels empty, her soul incomplete.
A healed psyche, deep inner peace are the goals she hopes to achieve,
but she’s felt that way since she was thirteen,
and back then the worst thing she had to live with was her nightmarish daydreams.

Another long, overly dragged out deep knock rattles the front door causing Amber to scream at the person causing the noise.
The person behind the door speaks, but the words are inaudible.
Amber walks up to the door and swings it open.
Standing in front of her is Erin, she thinks her eyes must be joking.
Erin is a few months pregnant herself, Amber can’t escape the feeling of hopeless.
She’s already changed addresses, but Erin has found her again through sheer devotion.

Amber goes to slam the door on Erin’s face but Erin places her hand on the door to stop it in its tracks.
Amber doesn’t want another confrontation, it will surly reach a horrible ******.
Erin is crazy and she wants nothing to do with her.
They will never be on friendly terms, that’s a fact she can assure.

“Amber, please talk to me.
All I want to do is spill my soul and set my conscious free.
I want to make things right between us and end this bad blood.
I don’t want you to feel like I got off easy while you were tortured by being beaten and dragged through the mud.
We don’t ever have to be best friends,
I just want to apologize and for you to listen so we can finally make amends.”

“I have a restraining order against you for a reason Erin.
I don’t want to talk to you or see you, I would rather fill out a hundred boring questionnaires and mail each one individually in.
I know your jealous of me for having Chris’s baby,
but trust me I wasn’t ready to become a proper lady.
I was a teenage girl when he abducted me and ***** me over and over again getting me pregnant.
I begged him to get me an abortion but he wouldn’t listen to that plea even for a second.
The child I’m now forced to raise reminds me of him every single day and I hate him for it!
I hate you as well because inside that unstable mind of yours, you are unfit
to become a mother!
You’re too young, just like me, it’s not too late for you to give up on it and eventually have another
after you meet someone in fall in love.
Who would you rather have a child with, a raven or a dove?”

“I’m sorry Chris put you in this position but that wasn’t my fault.
I was also abducted and a victim of his ****** assaults.”

“You enjoyed spending time with him!
You enjoyed his big **** inside of you!
Sure, he kept you ******* and used you as his personal ***** for a few days,
but you soon won his praise.
He allowed you to walk freely around his house, even when he wasn’t there!
I was ******* and drugged constantly, our situations don’t even compare.
Every day you could have walked out of the house and went to get help.
You did not, instead you cooked, cleaned and read his books.
You acted like his ******* wife!
You ****** him daily, slept next to him in his bed and he provided you with a decent life.
I have nothing more to say to you.
You are despicable and just thinking of you makes me want to chug brew after brew.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t leave to get us help and take down Chris, that is on me, I own that.
The truth is, I was terrified, terrified of what he would do if I tried to leave; I admit I’m no righteous diplomat.
I remained on my best behavior to stay on his good side so he would allow me the freedom to roam around his house.
It sure as hell beat being ******* in a tiny room that stunk worse than an outhouse.
I bartered with him every day to allow you some freedoms as well, but you had blown his trust so badly he always instantly refused to listen to me about it.
Believe me, we came out of the same boat, I’m not a ******* hypocrite.”

“You’re so full of ****!
I don’t believe a word you say, that’s something I just won’t permit.
I saw the way you looked at me.
Your eyes glared at me with contempt you ******* banshee!
You hated, hated, that I was carrying Chris’s baby and wanted me and my unborn child dead.
You wanted to be the only one he bred.
You loved him and wanted him all to yourself.
It’s time for us to now say our final farewell.”

“Ok, I admit that I did think I was in love with him.
I thought we would run off together and live our lives together as husband and wife under a false pseudonym.
However, I didn’t hate your nor did I want to harm you.
I really did advocate for you with Chris but he refused to believe anything I was telling him and couldn’t accept my words as being true.
I’m sorry for my actions and lack of actions in that house, I truly was scared and confused.
We are both his victims and both of us to him were nothing more than a hole to use.”

“Don’t lie to me, you still love him and you are angry that he fled the country without you.
You thought you were going to be by his side forever, attached to him like glue,
but he caught wind that the cops were coming to rescue us and ran before they did,
leaving you behind sleeping in his bed all alone.
He left you behind to raise that child all on your own.
I’m sorry I had to throw that stone
but it’s the truth and you need to hear it.
It’s best to abort that child right now and move on with your life.
Unlike me, you have the option of truly moving on from this ordeal.
Don’t worry, you will find another guy one day that makes you squeal
like his **** made you squeal every night.
With the right choices made, your future can become bright.”

“Chris would never leave me behind you *****!
He will return one day when it’s safe to do so and will reunite with me so we can live a life together that is rich,
satisfying and everlasting!
I won’t listen for another second to your negative forecasting.”

“I knew you weren’t over him Erin, so why are you really here?
Please answer quick because I’m ready for you to disappear.”

Erin, now frowning and filled with rage pushes Amber down hard to the floor.
She’s here for one reason, a reason involving gore.
She jumps on top of Amber and takes out a knife she has hidden in her boot.
This was her plan all along, take out her rival and her fruit.
She wants Chris’s baby and Chris’s love all to herself.
Some call it selfishness; she calls it determination.
Erin, now with knife in hand, stabs it into Amber’s stomach.
She smiles and begins humming
a song of victory over her rival as she cries out in pain.
She pulls the knife out as Amber yells out she’s ******* insane.
Erin gets off of Amber and begins walking deeper into the house.
“No, not my baby,” Amber cries out fearing the worst.

A few moments later, Erin returns to Amber with her son in her arms and her knife placed against his throat.
Erin begins laughing and starts to gloat.
She is moments away from eliminating the two people with ties to Chris.
Then it will be safe for him to return and plant on her a kiss,
before the run off together and live out their lives in bliss.

Erin asks Amber if there are any last words she would like to say to her son.
Amber, moaning in pain on the floor tells Erin this doesn’t need to be done.
Erin says it must be done as a knock on the front door interrupts proceedings.
Erin has no time for this, the child must begin bleeding.
Who dares interrupt her and Amber’s dealings?
Erin has a very bad feeling.

“Police open up!”
“That’s right *****, I called the police the second you knocked on my door.
It’s best to stop this charade and accept the punishment you have in store.
HELP!  I’VE BEEN STABBED AND THE INTRUDER IS TREATENING TO **** MY BABY!
SHE’S COMPLETELY ******* CRAZY!”

The front door breaks down as the police storm the house with guns drawn.
Erin stands in front of them holding the baby with the knife still pressed against his throat now showing off a massive frown.

“Put the knife down, set the child on the floor and put your hands above your head!”

Erin refuses to listen to the cops demands and begins to cut the babies throat.
If she can’t have Chris neither can Amber and the knife is the antidote.
A gun shot is heard as everything begins to move in slow motion.
Erin feels overwhelmed with emotion.

A bullet slowly exits a gun and begins moving through the air directly towards Erin.
Her knife slowly begins tearing into the flesh of the baby’s neck.
The baby lets out a loud scream as the pain created by the knife races through his body.
The bullet continues to move steadily through the air quickly approaching Erin,
who is frozen in place and unable to move.
With the knife now half way across the baby’s neck,
The bullet from the gun enters into Erin’s right eye,
tearing a hole into and through her brain,
and exits out the back of her head.
Erin drops the baby as her head is forced backwards.
She falls lifeless, backwards onto the hard floor dead.
Police rush to the aid of the baby who is still alive but badly injured.
Amber thanks the cops for the efforts as she looks up towards the heavens,
taking in her final breath as the loss of blood has become too much.
“Chris must pay for this,” is her final thought,
as the living world around her turns to black.
little dark girl with
kind eyes
when it comes time to
use the knife
I won't flinch and
i won't blame
you,
as I drive along the shore alone
as the palms wave,
the ugly heavy palms,
as the living does not arrive
as the dead do not leave,
i won't blame you,
instead
i will remember the kisses
our lips raw with love
and how you gave me
everything you had
and how I
offered you what was left of
me,
and I will remember your small room
the feel of you
the light in the window
your records
your books
our morning coffee
our noons our nights
our bodies spilled together
sleeping
the tiny flowing currents
immediate and forever
your leg my leg
your arm my arm
your smile and the warmth
of you
who made me laugh
again.
little dark girl with kind eyes
you have no
knife. the knife is
mine and i won't use it
yet.
Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(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.
As I stand before the mountain of confidence called hope, I see a clear path up, not too steep, not too straight, but this path is embodied with rewards to the top.

At the top, there is a magnificent tree made of gold, silver leaves and Copper roots. Hope mountain held a perfect prize awaiting me, a Tree called Faith.
This sight to behold was everything I wanted, everything before me was so clear, but at the bottom where I was, there was a River.

This River was called Shame.
This river was filthy, the water was calm where I was, but looking downstream I could see the rapids of rage, the ripples of conditioning before the raging rapids were inviting.

The dreary stonewalling fortification on the banks allowed no light through, downstream was scary and looked impossible, why would I go that way? why even look?
I looked upstream and saw a blinding light, what could this be? I was so curious, so I waited, a true gentleman always waits.

Two days later the light took shape, as it came closer I could finally see, I could see a lifeboat with a caring nurturing beautiful woman.

As this beautiful woman came closer, I could see the river was being supplied by this woman, I could see she was the source.

The river of Shame was being fed by this woman, this filth in front of me was coming from her, but the beauty was something I've never seen, this beauty had me curious.

This beauty made me forget of the supply to the river.
  What I saw wasn't real all the sudden, what I believed was now real.
She came close enough for my heart to be heard, since she had no heart she was envious, she hated what others admired.

She wanted my wholesome heart, so she used her falsehood love bombing to create one, dreamingly admiring the mountain, we were planning different paths right then.
As I stared at the golden Tree of Faith glowing upon Hope mountain, I didn't notice the river was rising, as the numbing waters were rising it covered my feet, I didn't notice she also took a piece of my heart to claim as her own.

She used toxic gas and light to create a projection that this heart was hers to give back to me.

I didn't know any better so I accepted this ambient abused heart, this unfelt abuse gave me amnesia, this hidden poison of my cognitive dissonance gave her all of me.

Since she had nothing and that's what she craves, I had everything so she wanted to enslave.
I forget about the mountain with the tree even being there. I forgot I was here.

Her lifeboat was awkward, it was shaky,
it has imperfections, it has holes,
   her lifeboat is sinking,
     her heart is missing.
my knightly kind hearted empathy,
   my buffering and nurturing sympathy         pick this beautiful woman up
      I pick this gem up because of her idealization of me.
I can clean this insidious gem because she makes me believe, but through the veil I cannot see.
I throw her over my shoulder to carry all her weight, it's hard to move, hard to breathe, building a new boat was extremely hard, carrying her pain was extremely hard.

Everyone thought it was impossible to do it, my shear will power to commit ****** one foot in front of the other, I just didn't know that going downstream was impossible.

What about the mountain?

I couldn't remember from the amnesia, the dark night blinded my sight of the mountain, the drug in me was you and it consumed, i fell in love with misery and misery loves it's companies.

I stared the snake behind the veil in the eyes, standing tall on her pedastool made of spackle it breaks, I fall onto piercing confusion, I pull out shrapnel's of dissolution, I'm covered in her blood of invalidation.

I'm already floating in the boat with her, this wasn't my plan, this wasn't my reality.
I gaze upon this woman, sun shining behind her, no clouds in the sky.
floating downstream she tells me it's faster, that we'll end up behind the mountain higher.

I'm not worried now, I'm now contempt with shame.
I already forgot reality, I already forgot i'm going downstream, I forgot the searing pain, I forgot what I believe.

I'm relaxed, I'm tired, I'm still happy in love with this spellbound misery.

As we drift slowly through the stonewalls, no light shines through, I ask her for assurance, it's getting dark, I'm getting scared.

That's when the veil comes off, that's when the unnatural beauty grows quiet, that's when my voice screams silently within these stone walls.

This isn't her, this isn't real,
I know there's love I can feel, that was our bond, that was our deal, not to steal.

I fall over board and the water is cold, there's leaches, the debris is so random, the shameful water is moving faster, the all consuming cold confusion, random gaslighting and triangulations moving in around me faster.

I immediately can't bear it. My heart pulsates hard, my mind misfires my flight mode, i cannot intake the overbearingly unowned toxic Shame, her coldness activated my fawn mode, I froze, I start to doze.

luckily she had my leg, luckily she knew excessive admiration CPR, just as my body went limp in the agonizing River of Shame, she pulls me out. luckily she got me just in time, luckily she saved my life.

I awoke away from the stonewalls, it's sunny and safe again, we're together through impossible odds, we built this boat and she saved my life.

The abuse amnesia made me forget, the cognitive dissonance was real, I am not.

The mountain was now farther away, I was worried, I grew fearful, what I wanted looked farther away, that's when everything became gloomy, my goal was no longer there, but she didn't care, she knew where the river went, I believed her, I still do.

The ambient abuse made me anxious, the atmosphere was maddening of fear, it carried anxiety, I couldn't see it, but I was breathing it in.

Her eyes were so incapacitating, her heart disorienting, her soul captivating, she had a better plan, for us to press on and build another boat, to add another life, to believe in her, to not stare at the knife.

We build another boat, were out of the shame waters finally, she's helping me, were soon to be a real family, but the only thing real here was me.

Everything is better on the land, were dry, it's sunny, it's better to feel the nirvanic sand. It's here we bring our new seed, to be sprouted downstream.

I now believe in this new mountain downstream, I don't even remember the mountain I seen, were pressing on downstream past a levy, were now in the River of Grief, we're off to the end of make believe.

This river is really turbulent with rapids of devaluation, the splashes make me irrelevant, the dinigrating actions around make me small, I feel lost and confused, nothing makes sense anymore at all.

At the mouth of the River of Grief it opens up into a valley. She jumped onto a rock of vanity and pushed the tree of disloyalty upon the boat.

This throws me out head first, but luckily I have our seed safe and sound, luckily I learned how to drown.

I turn around falling and see her at the top staring down, she smirked and throws enormously heavy anvils of bereavement to make me fall harder, to keep me down longer.

Evil is real, but only if you believe, I crave the flattery of illusionary love, I still had amnesia, I love misery, the feeling reminds me I can feel, I love my slow death so I say I'll find you, I have the seed, I'll wait for you.

As I fall the thorns of numbing premeditation pierce, the pain is searing, as I fall i'm locked on her, my falsehood of love is still enduring, I don't feel the discard, I ignore the distaste.

I land in a field of hopium still protecting the seed, my amnesia is now worse, I can't remember her smirk, I can't remember the weighted anvils of bereavement, I can't remember the tree of disloyalty, I still can't remember the mountain.

My movement is heavy like concrete, my heart sits down at my feet, my mind is nowhere to be found, my spirit is fading on this ground.

I gather everyone from a nearby village to find her, it's impossible, they can't see her, she never existed, my amnesia was now delusional, the hopium mixed realities, nothing was real, there was nothing I could truly feel because everything was wrong, but I believe misery needs me and I yearned.

I say she's at the top, we have to throw her a rope,
they say it won't reach what isn't there,
I say we need a ladder to throw the rope, they say the ladder isn't safe that high.
  
I say everyone can hold the ladder while I climb perilously to the top, they say it will never work, but since they can see me, since they see a part of me is still real, everyone holds the ladder for me.
      
While I acend with my broken dignity, I acend with a fatigued heart, I acend to find what I believe, no matter how hard I try, I will be taking my destined decent.

The top of the ladder is shaky, I spent forever getting there, it's scary, the heights bring great fear over me, more than I've ever felt, but my knighthood makes me overcome anything.

I suppress, the seed is safe down below, I'm here to impress, I can see her now, only much less.

Her snake skin is peeling, the sun scorched blistering skin shows immense pain, witnessing this releases empathy, the caring knighthood in me naturally wanted to save her again.

So I wrap what's left of my discarded soul upon my broken fatigued heart and I use my trauma bonded mind as bait.

I throw her the rope,
she catches the rope,
I tell her to tie off the rope,
she ties a noose with the rope,
her neck is now wrapped with this rope.

If she falls I can't stop the tightening of the rope, if she falls I already know I'll jump for her and release from her neck this rope.

We jump together and I release the rope around her neck, I see the ground coming fast, but I love this snake, I'll die for this snake because I believe, false beauty inside is all I see.

I grab her and turn her away from the rushing ground, I fell once, I can take the fall again.

She is already hurt, immense pain, she will not feel no more pain, because I'm not hurting for I'm with misery again, I believe I can take all the pain for her, the hopium was numbing everything I consumed.

I awoke to a distressed angel, flawed personality, beautiful nightmare, mirroring the devil, but what I saw was a veil over the snake eyes, what I saw was what I believed before.

What I had wasn't real, who I am is no longer there, for I had ambience amnesia, nothing around me fit, nothing around me was grounded, nothing around me was divine.

The eyes that gazed upon me were captivating, spriling, time froze and only she was moving, the feeling was there, a drug within me, the drug was her and I longed for the misery, I yearned for the pain to remember what was real, I needed the intermittent reinforcement, I wanted my all bets in investment back and I risked a short sale.

We faded into the black, into a new boat, she made this boat, she had plugs in  holes of the boat I couldn't see, I believed it was perfect, I didn't know what awaited was a life long anguish.

I still didn't know what was downstream is impossible, I didn't know this new River of Anguish has piranhas of triangulation, I didn't know the rapids were of oppression, I didn't know the rocks causing these rapids she already put in place, I didn't know it was so black around me in this place, I didn't know my seed would become two, I didn't know I would have to choose.

I didn't know true love was in front of me in my hands and not behind the veil, I thought it was her, all the villagers knew, but as I drew closer to the snake the darkness only grew and the seeds too.

The feeling of my lingering mortality reverberates, she built me a coffin and chained it to my ankles, with this immense weight, I carry it with me just in case.

We floated very fast down this River of Anguish, everything seemed fine to all others including me, the darkened skies covered the evil, the cold waters made my body numb, the seeds were held up high to be be safe from the tormenting waters.

As I held them up high, I didn't realize she was still holding the schraded butcher knife in the water, I didn't believe she would hurt me, I didn't conceive the possibility that knife I didn't see was there all along for me.

The waters of Anguish smothered me, the triangulating piranhas slowly nibbled on my feet in the water, the rapids of oppression kept me gazing in the water, the rocks of malice in the water tried to tip me over, but my balance was true and the seeds were safe from harm, but I am not safe, I'm dying inside.

I don't know why, but after every agonizing stab from this knife when I'm not looking, it hurts, but the numbing knife only helped me when it was pulled out, it has holes in the knife so she could pull it out without me knowing.

I always turned around and cleaned the knife covered in my blood, I always gave it back to her, but every wipe upon this blade made it grow, and every wipe made the label on the handle more clear.

I find out in the end this knife is called narcissistic rage, the brand of this knife is called gaslighting and my blood is the supply.

I didn't know any of this until it was too late to save myself, my reality wasn't real, my dreams are gone, my nightmare is all consuming and existent, my seeds are still safe, but I am not.

When I start to notice the knife exists, I forgive her, the conditioning made the skies darker, I wipe the blood off and give it back, the knife is now a sword, it's name is discard.

The waters are uneven, the piranhas of triangulation feel like strangulation, my clothes are still soaking wet with anguish, my hair is slimy and covered in Shame, my feet are cold and numb from the grief.

I can't understand why I'm here,
  I can't understand why I'm actually meant to be here.
  
Every turbulence has thrown me down, she pushes me over head first, as I try to lean up to breathe she has her foot on my neck in the cold numbing river, but this river does not affect her, this river is warmer than her, the warmth from anguish pleased her, the piranhas followed her commands to bite, she smirked as the rocks she placed crushed against my head.

She waited until I went limp every time, but she knew idealization CPR, her deceit was without compassion, her rage was without sympathy, but I had severe ambience abuse amnesia, I still couldn't remember the mountain, I am now trauma bonded from the stabs she's counting.

I only saw her veil, her gaze convinced me I placed these rocks here, her gaze made me ignore the stonewalls around me, her pure hatred was covered in false intentions, her illusion was my isolation.

As everything was becoming clearly dangerous, as everything went pitch black, I look back and see the light from the mountain glowing, I see there is something wrong where I'm at, I see the seeds are not growing, I start to see the pain all around me.

Non the wiser, I keep coming back from drowning, I keep falling for misery, I keep wiping my blood off the blade, I keep isolated, but now I feel there is something painfully wrong, the reason abates me but I feel it, it hurts, it's camouflaged by deceit, it's all in my head, my coffin is soon to be my bed.

I look to the shores, there are other villagers worried, they are waving frantically, they're pointing at a waterfall ahead, this waterfall is called Doom, this fall would be death, the sound is raging, the mouth all consuming.

I see the stream to the side that the villagers are pointing to, I see the calm waters awaiting our safety, but the boat will not fit.

Only me and the seeds are real, everything else around me is illusional, the trauma delusional, the possible harm to the seeds was not refutable, my love for misery was unsuitable.

I could see my life was in danger, I could see the stream nearby screaming safety, I knew the seeds needed me, now I can't stop shaking.

Without her knowing what I was doing, I turned my back towards her facing the water, I knew she was going to stab me over and over again until I turned around, I now see the hypnotic eyes behind the veil. Not turning around only enraged her, the blood on the knife was condesating.

  The safety of the stream for my seeds was a new found glory in my exodus.
  
I paddled with my small hands this large weighted boat towards the stream, her knife was venomous, the water was echoless, the air imparted dreadfulness, all of this was dimensionless, all of this was not real, unless I let it be, now I can see, now I can finally flee.

As I came closer to the stream the waterfall grew stronger, the pain larger, the sound louder, I knew we were closer to the end, I knew I needed to jump off with my seeds, but I know the torment will end.

I melted my enduring pain inside with molten lava heartache to mold anew, I compartmentalize because I have to choose.

I had a vision that if I jump, the seeds will be safe, the climb to the mountain can still happen, I knew I was right about how I felt all along, I realized the veil couldn't cover the true self, I now believed In me.

I now know the water air and land were not what she made me believe, I knew I didn't choose this path, I knew I could survive, I know the seeds are going to be safe now. I know because I manifested instead of throwing in the towel.

Once close enough I finally looked at her and smiled I love you, jumping into the river I could feel the bitter cold agonizing tormenting river smash me with bereavement and disillusion by dissociation, I felt the coma of trauma surround, for I am now trauma bound.

I hold my seeds up high, I kept them safe because they don't feel the water, they're starting to sprout already, no more decay.

As I climb out of the frigid waters and still dripping wet, the drops are red, my feeling is coming back, my back is full of knives, I'm scared but I survived.
Knowing the worst is over I look back to her, she is consuming the river because she was the source, everything dark folds in on itself because the light cannot touch here, for this black hole is collapsing in on itself, I cover the seeds to shield them of this exorcist, they're safe here because my love is relentless.

The tormenting pain makes it hard to stand tall, still going through bereavement of a false reality where I lost it all, the answers we're all lost in the waterfall
"" "" "" "" "" "" "" "" "" "" "" "" ”"" "" "" "”" "" ""
Terry Collett Sep 2014
Yiska slides
a knife blade
across her

soft pink palm
a thin line
of blood comes

seeping out
she watches
the blood seeps

down her arm
I watch her
and the knife

but am too
drugged up to
be alarmed

whose's the knife?
I ask her
thin red lines

move downward
I stole it
from the tray

supper time
while the nurse
was busy

with the pills
she tells me
want the knife?

not just now
too drugged up
I tell her

blood drips down
to the floor
pitter pat

Yiska no
a nurse calls
from the door

of the room
put it down
Yiska stares

at the nurse
then at me
up to you

I mutter
the nurse stares
anxiously

another nurse
comes along
don't Yiska

the nurse says
place down please
Yiska sighs

long and deep
then hands me
the handle

of the knife
I give it
to the nurse

the fat nurse
takes Yiska
by the arm

to a room
at the side
marked in red

MEDICAL
they go in
the door shuts

I stand there
while the nurse
the thin one

cleans the floor
of the blood
I study

the knife blade
Yiska's blood
settled there

best be off
the nurse says
how'd she get

the **** knife?
I am dumb
with the words

pack them off
in my head
as I walk

to gaze out
the window
at the fields

and tall trees
white with snow.
YOUNG MAN AND WOMAN IN LOCKED WARD OF PSYCHAITRIC HOSPITAL IN 1971.
Marco Benitez Mar 2018
When my feelings are twisted and my mind distorted,
Hand me a knife
Hand me a knife to slice away my sorrow
To distract my depression with blood
To remember the number of times I felt miserable
One scar at a time
Hand me a knife to tear open my skin
So some of the sewage of my body can leave through the opening that I make
Don’t worry
It does not hurt when I make the cut
It only burns a little afterwards
I promise the knife will not get close to my throat
or at least I don’t think so
You don’t have to see the cuts
They can hide under my sleeves
Just hand me a knife!
You will never suspect I used it
It will not be the first time
It will not be the last time
That I paint a silver knife with my own blood
I promise it will be fast
I will cut,
Wash the knife,
And greet you the next morning
As if nothing ever happened
The gentle drawl of Guy Clark's voice
called me from my sleep,
saying that when his father died
he'd found no tear to weep.

It wasn't that his dad was mean,
nor that he didn't try,
Guy couldn't find a worthy tear--
he wasn't yet ready to cry.

The blade was broken off the knife
a half inch from the tip.
He could almost feel its  jagged edge,
recalling that camping trip

His dad had let him take the knife
to a Boy Scout Jamboree
it was there he broke the blade tip off
throwing at a tree

That knife had served at daddy's side
when he went off to war,
saving his life in combat.
Of that he'd say  no more.

His father never said a word--
put the broken knife away.
It rested in a dresser drawer
until his dying day.

It was only when Guy's hand had found
and closed around the handle
that he knew, amid the sudden tears
Dad had loved him more than Randall.
Inspired by Guy Clark's song, "The Randall knife," on You tube.
JM Romig Jan 2014
I found the wood knife today
it was shoved in the box
squeezed between the wall and a stack of half-used notebooks.

I grabbed it by its rope-
still strung through the hole in the center of the blade -
played with the wood disks and tiny beads that dangle from both sides.

I held it up by the hilt,
the metal ring clinked against the wood disks - imprisoned.

Grandma made these puzzles out of found objects all the time -
Contrpations that were usually a clever a mess of metal and wood.
All based on designs created before electricity was a thing.
The knife was the sole survivor from a box of flood damaged puzzles
    
Smiling to myself, I held the knife behind my back, in my right hand.

"Sometimes, I wish you never even had kids"
I still recall her words to my mother
as I tip the knife and slip the ring down to the base of the blade
"Write?! Josh that's a hobby! You're twenty, what are you going to do for a living?"

I push one disk through the hole with my thumb
"What if you get this girl your with pregnant? Then what?"
I bring the metal ring up and over the tip of the blade by tilting it downwards.

"If your father had done a better job raising you, we wouldn't be having this talk"
with a flick of my wrist, I fling the metal ring
though the hole and off of the knife.

It's been four years.
I still remember how it goes.
Muscle memory, I guess.
Engrained in my mind from years of practice.

Sometimes I think of her,
and I wonder if I miss her
or if that's just muscle memory too.
Martyn Thompson Aug 2011
i - Introduction:
ii - Lismore Park
iii - The Road to Maidenhead
iv - Town Square
v - Contradiction, contraband
vi - Saturday Afternoon
vii - The Circus Comes to Town (Sunday)
viii - The Show
ix - The ringmaster
x - The Fracas
xi - An incident at Upton Park
xii - No ball games
xiii - New found…
xiv - Nearly done
xv - Another time…

i - Introduction:

Come friendly bombs you’ve still to hit
The place whose name means quagmire
The town, the place that’s left bereft
Of soul, of spiritual fire.
But hurry, hurry, please be fast
For the crack dealer plies his trade
With slight of hand and cunning
A ghetto he’ll have made

The peroxide perms have now all grown
And muster outside shops
To wait for the be-suited sales rep
With his rocks and his alco-pops
They’ve all spawned offspring of their own
Fifteen-year-old cradle pushers
Who sold their souls in return for hope
To thirty year old cradle snatchers

Come friendly bombs it’s plain to see
The vacant, empty faces
The lifeless eyes, the pallid skin
The love that leaves no traces
The love that lasts a knee trembling minute
Outside Harry’s and Sluffs
A love that smells of emptiness
O they cannot get enough

Come with me, look over there
To the sculpture in the mall
The stainless tree with it’s stainless birds
And stainless birdsong call
A bird sings and the town all stops
To see from where this sound will show
A bitter disappointment when learned
It was played on the radio

Community service on the airwaves
To draw the crowd together
A song played, a one hit wonder
Reminds us nothing is forever
The sterile radio station plays on
Opiates to which we should yield
And bare our souls and be grateful for
The song of Bedingfield

ii - Lismore Park

The sight of a child playing in the street
Is one of day’s gone bye
But Lismore Park sees them out in droves
Stealing cars and getting high
The twelve year old sent out to play
Whilst mother takes a knap
But really she’s having it away
For a fiver and a brown wrap

The party at the house next door
That never seems to stop
The men all come and go and paw
Girls in this knocking shop
But halt weary traveller, stop!
Come sit and rest your back
The bench awaits you on the green
And the deluded maniac

The man who knows what’s wrong with you
And how to make it better
As long as he keeps his soul filled up
With cheap White Lightening cider
Six large cans for a five-pound note
From the corner shop near the school
An offer really not to be missed
And to make the drunkards drool

A songbird sits on the climbing frame
And sings his cheerful tales
A tune too much for our dear lush
The maniac exhales
The songbird sings and fills the air
With a loving string of notes
That reminds the sitters on the bench
There may still be a hope

A radio plays ‘that’ song again
Should you dare to forget the rhythm
The bird has flown away now
Fed up with this hypnotism
The airwaves are now filled with dross
Thanks to the flat opposite the green
The weary traveller moves on
“Better days has this place seen”

iii - The Road to Maidenhead

O friendly bombs do try to miss
The sweet blossom, the fragrant smell
The flowers, the green grass of the parks
The havens in this hell
Be careful around the Jubilee River
With it’s wildlife and sculpted hills
For a walk in this very man-made place
Will surely heal your ills

But spare no mercy for the superstores
That pollute and destroy our thoughts
“If it’s not on the shelf, we haven’t got it…”
The familiar assistants’ retort
Take no prisoners with the office blocks
That lay empty year after year
For they clutter up the atmosphere
And have no value here

O friendly bombs, o friendly bombs
The cabbages are all grown
They read the Sun and sing along
To the radio’s dreaded drone
Whilst in their vans they speed on by
Jumping all the lights
To price a job – a small brick wall
Based on a thousand nights

The car showrooms… the car dealers
Stack ‘em high and sell them cheap
Chop-chop salesman, soften ‘em up
The rewards are there to reap
Finance, part exchange or cash
Anyhow you like
“No sir, not me sir…
…I’d prefer to use my bike”

The bustle of the weekend crowds
The steamy traffic queues
Stare too hard at that red car
And suffer the abuse
Overtake the blue one now
And make him toot his horn
See him raise his voice in anger
To satisfy his scorn

iv - Town Square

Saturday morning, seven o’clock
The town begins to wake
A pair of sleeping winos
Dream about their fate
They plan their morning sermon
But who will really care
For what they say means nothing
Less than their icy stare

The busker and the balloon man
Wait to take their turns
To entertain and irritate
And suffer being spurned
By a thousand shady shoppers
Who’ve heard it all before
And probably given hard earned cash
To make them play some more

The trickster and the barra’ boys
Set up all their stalls
Selling mobile phone covers
And fake branded hold-alls
Adorn your phone with logos
Hankies for a pound
“Yes sir, we’re here on Sundays…
…(Providing there’s no police around)”

Grab a baked potato and sit
And watch the folk go by
Some will have you in hysterics
Some will make you cry
The man on his double-glazing stand
In his suit and in his tie
The perspiration on his head
Watch him wilt and fry

The songbird settles on the wall
And sings to our delight
A merry sonnet that will inspire
Dreams we’ll have that night
The wino shouts his sermon now
The bird has paused his song
This post-war sprawling Hooverville
Muddles slowly along

v - Contradiction, contraband

On the steps of the library he screams aloud
Through a mist of smuggled gin
“You’re all fools, the lot of you is ****
I’ve not committed sin…”
“It’s not my fault I’m a lush… a drunk
I don’t choose to live this life”
“You’re all wrong in carrying on
It’s you what’s caused my strife”

In his wretched form he abuses the world
Pooh-poohing this and that
A skunk telling the world it stinks
The polemic polecat
“Society has robbed me of everything
And left me less than whole”
“The only day that’s good is Thursday
When the postman brings me dole”

On Friday he meets his dealer
To fuel his pickled mind
The man with the van on Saturday
With the spirit and the wine
By Monday, he’s all skint and broke
The weekend has passed him by
He takes his place on the library steps
We shake our heads and sigh…

Every week the same routine
The same routine again
Like clockwork his life ticks on by
The suffering and the pain
But he tells us it’s all our fault
We’re the ones not right
But it’s very easy for him to say
The man who’s so contrite

The children watch him puzzled
It’s more than they can bear
“It’s very rude…” their mothers say
“To stand like that and stare”
But what, do they expect their young
To ignore this fool a mumbling?
For they will see it for what it is
A stormy weather warning

vi - Saturday Afternoon

I sit on a wall in Slough with friends
Sharing the Dutch export
Watching and laughing at the world
And it’s variety of sorts
A happy bond that we all share
The joy of simple things
Come friendly bombs and gather round
Watch us while we sing

The friendly bombs you call upon
Are they straight off the shelf?
It’s my belief, my firm belief
The bomb is in yourself
Ticking slowly by and by
Just waiting for the code
To trigger you and trip the switch
To make the bomb explode

We watch the people from where we sit
The hellholes they’ve all made
They don’t live they just exist on
The edge of a razor blade
Stop! Step back and take a look
It’s not too late to change
And become what you really want to be
An icon of your age

Over now to Langley Park
To sit and bathe in the sun
O friendly bombs please wait a while
Until this day is done
But what will tomorrow bring my friends?
And will it come too late?
Something that may save us all
The bombs may have to wait

A sedate sleepy Saturday
Away from all the crowds
Share a joke, a ****, a smoke
And laugh together loud
The sun warms our sombre souls
As on our backs we lie
Staring as the clouds roll by
United under the sky

vii - The Circus Comes to Town (Sunday)

Halt now, wait awhile please
Stop the counting down
Today the air is charged with joy
The circus comes to town
Must have arrived last night we think
Under cover of dark
And settled down and pitched it’s tents
In the grounds of Upton Park

The queue to purchase tickets
Trails far along the road
No. 53 offers cups of tea
From outside her abode
The crowds are mum, they say not a word
As they wait their turns to go
Inside the circus big-top tent
And sit and watch the show

We settle down and take our seats
With an ice-cream and a coke
But wait, where are the circus clowns?
Is this some kind of joke?
A wall of mirrors fades into view
And puts us in a spin
Reflecting all the bright lights
The colours and the din

The ringmaster enters, cracks his whip
And hands out little slips
“Everyone’s a winner” was
On every body’s lips
The clowns they all appear now
With a modicum of fuss
Hold on just a minute now!
The clowns we see are us

A spotlight points up to the gods
At the top of the trapeze
A giant money spider glides
Down with greatest ease
He touches each and everyone
All paralysed with fear
And hands out ten pound notes to all
Then promptly disappears

viii – The show

A strongman strolls out slowly with
A length of iron bar
A leopard spotted leotard and
Moustache sealed with tar
He looks around the big top with
A menace and a sneer
Surveying all the audience
He seeks a volunteer

The white van man he raised his hand
The tattoo on his arm
Said this man must not be crossed
To do so would mean harm
The strongman bent the iron bar
Across the van man’s back
Then invited him to strike him down
An unprovoked attack

The van man clenched his hand and hit
And hurt his mighty fist
A statue of the strong man shattered
Turning into mist
The van man stood and stared in fear
The mist it gathered round
And carried out our hero driver
He hardly made a sound

No-one clapped we all just stared
Our faces ghostly white
The strongman re-appeared and looked for
A second stooge that night
No-one raised a hand in fact
No-one said a thing
The strongman shrugged and vanished…
Empty was the ring

A knife thrower was the next to appear
And seek the help of one
With nerves of solid steel and courage
Secondly to none
Down came a fallen woman
Who said she had no fear
A knife was thrown and pierced her skin
Her right large ear-ringed ear

ix – The ringmaster

A second knife it struck her chest
She didn’t seem to weep
She didn’t seem to be in pain
Although the knife was deep
A third knife struck her arm and then
A fourth it struck her head
The knives that should be missing her
Were hitting her instead

Horrified the crowd looked on
Without a fuss or row
The woman now all full of blades
Politely took her bow
She then went back and took her seat
And never said a word
Not another word she said
And not a word she heard

A magician was the next to charm
And thrill us with his tricks
He pulled a rabbit from his hat
Then sat it on some bricks
He then threw watches at this beast
That grew to a great size
The rabbit caught them all and juggled
Them to our surprise

But here’s the rub when we all looked
At places on our wrists
No watches were there to be seen
A cunning little twist
The magician cracked a whip and put
The rabbit in a stew
Which vanished there before our eyes
Vanished out of view

The magician he announced that he
Alone did have this plan
To mystify and amaze us all
With his clever hand
Indeed he was the ringmaster
That owned this circus troupe
That terrified and petrified
Our frightened little group

x – The Fracas

A swarm of bees engulf us now
And cover us with honey
The ringmaster cracks his whip again
The bees all turn to money
Then suddenly the fight begins
As we grab this flying stash
Filling up our purses now
With the hard-grabbed cash

The ringmaster, a clever man
Calms us with his sigh
“There’s plenty here for everyone
…And more than meets the eye”
Suddenly a flock of doves fly
Sweetly through the air
They then attack the baying crowds
Pulling at their hair

Then with a deafening bang, a crack
A flash of burning light
We all cascade towards the floor
The circus out of sight
Confused we all stare around
Thinking it absurd
This bizarre spectacle should vanish
Gone without a word

I look from face to face to face
Whatever could this mean?
We all are laughing nervously
How stupid have we been?
We talk about the day’s events
We talk and talk some more
A voice booms from out the sky
“I’ve opened up the door”

“I’ve brought you all together now
To pander to your greed
To watch you take from fellow man
Deny him what he needs”
I reach in to my pocket
For the money I did place
It reads “Admission: 1 adult
To The Human Race”

xi – An incident at Upton Park

That week the local paper ran
An exclusive full-page ad
“Faland’s Travelling Circus Troupe”
“The most fun ever had”
But no review was there to read
To tell of our event
The strange encounter with this circus
To which we all went

The following Sunday we meet up
In groups of three or four
Since that incident in Upton Park
The spectacle we can’t ignore
No-one knows quite what it means
I don’t think that we’ll ever
Understand all that happened here
That brought us all together

Perhaps there is a deeper message
Given on that day
Faland may be telling us
That we have lost our way
He simply used us all as tools
To illustrate our folly
That had now become too serious
A risk to things so jolly

Every week now we all gather on
This hallowed piece of land
And this is very odd because
Nobody makes the plan
The idea comes to all of us
A self-ignited spark
And draws each of us in turn
To meet in Upton Park

We picnicked then we all played games
Then talked about the rain
We toasted our new friendships
And vowed to meet again
The bombs, the bombs they’ve all slowed down
Compassion saved the day
This newfound love we now all have
Must surely pave the way

xii - No ball games

The joy did not take long to spread
Across our grimy frowns
And bring a little sunshine
To lighten up this town
Happiness is upon us now
The whole of Slough-kind
Depending on how you look at it
And on your state of mind

The lush upon the library steps
The wino on the bench
The Publican and Landlord
The ***** serving *****
They all wear smiles and laugh a lot
And speak of wondrous things
A songbird perches on the fence
And merrily she sings

The children, o the children
How they sing and dance
Always being friendly
In any circumstance
They have no care for politics
You’ll see it in their face
They want to play with everyone
Who’s in the human race

Meanwhile back in Upton Park
The townsfolk meet again
But there’s no talk of horror
Or suffering and pain
Instead though how a monument
Should be erected in our names
And pulling down the signs
That read ‘No Ball Games’

The bombs have all stopped ticking now
And line up by the wall
And every now and then they clang
Just to remind us all
If we get too complacent
And don’t respect our friends
We’re marking down the seconds
To our bitter end

xiii – New found…

We shared our food and shared our tales
Life stories we all told
They made us laugh they made us cry
Left us warm and cold
The suffering we did speak of
Helped us understand
How fellowman and woman kind
Dwelt in other lands

We laughed at tales of folly
And stories of the past
Stories that we are in awe of
Stories that will last
For another thousand years or more
And travel on the wind
A gentle breeze that talks to us
Thrilling to the end

Gathering momentum
Our stories travel far
Picked up and told by new folk
Under glowing stars
They bring warmth and humanity
Softened by the rain
They travel back to each of us
To be re-told again

Who’d have thought this loving joy
This beacon in the dark
Would begin upon the grass
Of hallowed Upton Park
The greed has gone or mostly so
Now happiness is here
We’ve seen the light and now must spread
Our messages of cheer

Looking back it hardly seems
We could have been that way
Not caring if each other lived
To see another day
This new found near Utopia
Must spread across the land
And we must stand to offer all
Our warm and guiding hand

xiv – Nearly done

The story is now almost told
Of how a strange event
Saved us from our selfish selves
A message heaven sent
With cunning tricks and sleight of hand
The error of our ways
Was written up in greasepaint
Shining through the haze

A strange di
I wrote this in about 2004 - loads of literary influences in this poem. It speaks for itself really. Having read through it, I think I ought to revise / review and re-write some of it, but this is the original.... yay!!
Shadow Jan 2020
i have the knife, i have the lead
i have the sorrow and the dread
i have the knife, i have the lead
i hold this suicide in my head.

i have the lead, i have the knife
i have the worries and the strife
i have the lead, i have the knife
i hold the ending to my life.

i have the knife, i have the lead
i have the deathly thoughts of dread
i have the knife, i have the lead
i hold the demons by my bed.

i have the lead, i have the knife
i will not live this dead half life
i have the lead, i have the knife
i think i'll have to stop my flight.

i have the knife
i have the lead
i have the suicide in my head.
Terry Collett Dec 2015
Ingrid's father sat
at the dining table

her mother sat opposite
Ingrid sat between
looking at her plate of stew

what have you done
to your thumb?
her father said
gazing at her hand
a plaster pinky stained

cut it
Ingrid said

how did you cut
your thumb?
he said
raising his eyes
to her eyes

on a knife
she said
looking at the plastered thumb

what knife?
he said

I was cutting an apple
and it slipped
she said

must be careful
her mother said

what knife?
her father said

a knife at Benny's mum's flat
Ingrid said

her mother stiffened
and looked at her husband

you were at his flat?
he said

Ingrid stared at her father
his mum said I could
have an apple
Ingrid said

but you went to his flat?
her father said

it won't hurt the once
her mother said

did I ask for your opinion?
he said
glaring at his wife

just saying
she said

well don't
he said

Ingrid held her knife and fork
above her plate

what did I say
about going to that kid's flat
or even seeing him?
the father said

Ingrid hesitated
then said
not to see him

and what did you do?
he said

saw him but his mum said
I could have an apple

there was a sudden movement
and a hand cuffed Ingrid's head
and she fell backwards
off the chair
the knife and fork flying
out of her hands

her mother jumped
off her chair
and stood over her daughter

leave her alone
you mustn't keep hitting her
she said
glaring at her husband

Ingrid lay stunned
her head spinning
a pain about her ear

she's to do as she's told
he said
and she will
he added
rising from his chair

you touch her again
and I’ll knife you
his wife said
grabbing a knife
from the table
standing over Ingrid

he stared at his wife
anger held in check

his wife glared
fire in her eyes
he sat down
sighed
looked out the window
at the coal wharf
where wagons and lorries
were being loaded with coal

his wife helped Ingrid
up and held her
to her breast

Ingrid held in her tears
uncertain what was happening

sit down
her father said
looking at his wife
please sit down

his wife and Ingrid sat down
there was just the sound
of knives and forks on plates
and Ingrid holding back tears
mouthed stew

who put the plaster on your thumb?
he said

Benny's mum
Ingrid said softly
staring at her plate

thank her did you?
he said

yes
Ingrid said hesitantly

good girl
he said

her mother breathed hard
unsure of her temper anymore

and if you want
to see Benny you can
her father said

silence followed
a chill filled the air
and all Ingrid could do
was stare.
A GIRL AND HER PARENTS AND A SHOWDOWN IN 1958
OnlyEggy Apr 2011
They say, The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain
But I blame, in vain, the rain for the insane, you see
This plain pain hasn't the same name, nor the same game
For the rain's pain is the same sane as they claim
And since the pain's shame resides mainly in Spain,
Neither the rain nor Spain is to blame for the insane, so now
This sane can claim the uneven plane's plain's the name to blame

But the strife of life is held under the knife of a wife
Where strife runs rife throughout the wife's life
The knife, learning from the fife, plays with the life
While the fife excites life, the knife excites strife
The wife with the knife is at fault, fact or fake?
Is the knife to blame for the strife of the wife's life?
Or the fife for teaching the knife to play with strife?

This just goes to show that no one knows the real rose
For the rose, in it's thorny clothes, just shows the nose
The smell, a pose, so close, tingles the nose till it glows
But the finger, too close, chose to trust the nose's prose
Blame the rose who proposed the show and showed the pose?
Or the nose, whose clothes glowed from the smell of the rose?
The finger couldn't 'ave known the true pose of prose from the rose to the nose.
Another Insomniac Poem
I see her in the bed; she's gone to sleep.
Wake up, Love, satisfy my lust.
My hand is wrapped around the knife.
I can't wait to see your flow of blood.
I can't wait to watch it fall.
Are you afraid to be a ghost?

But already in life, you're just a ghost.
You're lucky your floor is soft to break your fall.
I lean over to see my reflection in your pool of blood.
Before I leave I'll have to clean my knife.
I hope you thank me for your everlasting sleep.
Too bad I'll need to find someone else; you didn't satisfy my lust.

In your kitchen I run the water and wash my knife.
I think about your fragile ghost.
I remember the sound you made as you hit the floor from your fall.
I'm glad you're forever going to sleep.
I need to leave now so I can satisfy my lust.
As I leave I still smell your blood.

I'm on the hunt to quench my lust.
I'm on the hunt to find more blood.
I hope my next prey hasn't already fallen victim to sleep.
As I walk I breathe in the cold air of my favorite season; Autumn.
I pull my hand out of my pocket and stare at my sparklingly clean knife.
I can't help but think of your jealous I am of you; I wish so and to be nothing more than a ghost.

Through the window I can hear the pulse of your blood.
You sir, are about to have eternal sleep.
Maybe you will satisfy my lust.
I can't wait to see your ghost.
I can't wait to see you fall.
You're about to meet my knife.

I'm clumsy, and through your window I fall.
Give it back; you've taken my knife!
You're granted my wish; I'll be a ghost.
Thank you, Sir, for stopping my lust.
I feel it flowing out of me, soaking me; my hot , sticky blood.
Thank God I can finally get some sleep.

I'll go to sleep now and when I awaken I'll let you know what it's like to be a ghost.
It seems to be that only my blood was what could have ever cured my lust.
I love my knife. I love my fall.
Found a bunch of poems from high school :) Decided to put them up here today. This one was for an assignment.
storm siren Dec 2016
Take the knife
That they dug into my spine,
And pull it out.

Pull it out.

And take the knife
That they dug into my spine,
And plunge that knife
Into my stomach.

That's what love feels like.

It feels like asking someone
To plunge a knife into your stomach,
Only the knife isn't for stabbing,
It's for cutting out the infection
That everyone else left inside you.

So take the knife out of my stomach,
And stitch me back up
With thread and glue,
Dab at the wound with alcohol and hydrogen peroxide,
And I'll writhe in pain,
Until the aching and the itching subsides.

Didn't you know?
Didn't you hear?

Love is a risk for anybody.

It's all about who you're willing
To jump that cliff for.

And whether or not
You fall
Or you fly.
wayne paskell Apr 2010
Across the universe let your minds fly because it’s there that you are alone.
Where you say?
In some other day
In some other time and life
Hand me the knife.
**** not me but my soul; I have no use for it.
**** not my spirit but cut out my heart and set it aside.
Sit me near the ocean I’m waiting for the tide.
Where will the tide take me?
I say away from life.
Hand me the knife.
**** not my anger but only my threat.
You say I’m crazy and should die?
Well so do I but death is not yours to wish upon others, death is yours to wish for yourself
If you want to die I’ll hand you the knife, which is not really a knife but a piece of life.
Sooner or later life will **** you all. Life is the killer and death is its thriller It’s what we’ve all been waiting for.
It’s the one unopened door.
All you need is the knife of life.
Death is the trip taken by many. For many of us that die  were often dazed by wonder                              .
(c) 2000 wayne andrew paskell
Frank Ruland Mar 2015
Just take the knife and cut the ****. I was there for you for all of it. From the oceans of your tears to the rivers of your ****** wrists. Where was I every night you died? In case the memory resided in your heart, I was by your side. There wasn't a text or call I didn't tell you how I felt. There wasn't a moment you didn't try to pack with guilt.
Just take this knife from my back. The hurt and rage and hate I feel begins to tear and crack. You were a demon in an angel's guise. I guess even devils need a sacrifice. But once you got the taste of blood you soon got drunk. Every night I drowned in the seas of lies upon the ships you sunk.
Just take the knife and **** me now. My pieces don't work right, anyhow. Make some use of this broken husk. Set me ablaze for those to see come dusk. Let my cremation not just create more dust. Let it be a message for those who see you and lust. Jack be nimble? Jack be quick? Jack, don't worry about the candlestick. Worry about the girl with the ****** knife. See that devilish grin, and run for your life
Semihten5 Aug 2017
your every job you've done with it
now,cleaning your knife

you calling to cut whatever
you contaminate your knife always
unwashed your knife can you see
now,cleaning your knife


your knife ******
happened to the ****** weapon
now,cleaning your knife
TS Feb 2020
Trigger warning : aggressive ****** encounters, ****, violence

Walking down an empty street in London, I‌ was drawn to a crumbling, empty church. It's as if ‘decay’ was written on the walls. A sight unseen, I‌ just had to explore. It looks as though no one has been there for years, decades, or maybe even centuries. Wooden trim adorned the boarded up windows and an altar like a hidden stage lay in the very front. Layers of dust coated the floor. Two balconies towered over either side of the altar and what was left of the chairs sat facing the front of the church. The room was almost a half circle, drawing the attention to the front altar. The ceilings seemed to rise for miles and the windows cast haunted shadows on the floor. Everything is dingy and dull in color, as if it was a forgotten coloring book page that has faded overtime. As I tiptoed across the floor, I inspected each little thing almost in search of a lost treasure.

The energy is strange, almost as if it had been frozen in a paradox of time. Everything was left as if they fled in a hurry, untouched by the passing of years. What was it about this place that I was drawn to? What community used to worship here? What happened to them that left this church in this state. I‌ wasn’t sure I would find out the answer to any of these questions until I‌ spotted a dusty old book on a table by the door. Inside was a language I‌ did not know and notes scrawled on the page margins in pencil. “Gratias agimus tibi propter Princeps tenebris, princeps infernum.” it read. Was this latin? That might make sense as many of the Christian religions’ texts derived from the latin language. Since google is a thing now and we have an infinite access to so much information, I decided to give it a go.

‘We worship thee prince of the darkness, ruler of hell.’

I don’t think this was a Christian church…

As I‌ read these words aloud, a whisper seemed to escape from the walls around me. Carefully, I continued to explore, making sure to not disturb anything. Toward the back of the room was a wall trimmed in wainscoting dusted in a faded brown stain. A large hole was torn through a space on the bottom and a faint light flickered from inside. Was I not the only one here?

Next thing I‌ knew, I‌ was on my hands and knees, crawling through this hole. Why am I not able to control myself? I‌ should have left the instant I‌ read the inscription.‌ Something tells me that someone wants me to be here. Through cobwebs and rodent dung, I‌ reached an opening and stood up. It was a room with dirt walls and floor. There was a single oil lamp lit on a desk across the room. The furniture was skewed about and a questionable, almost luminescent red powder on the floor across the room. When I‌ got closer, I‌ also noticed the shards of glass spread on the ground around the powder. I reached down to touch the powder. I‌n the blink of an eye, I‌ was across the room, wondering what had happened. Before I‌ could even form a full thought, there was movement from the hole in the wall I‌ had just climbed through. A‌ little boy appeared, no older than 8, dressed in ***** wool trousers and a half tucked in, stained linen shirt. He wore a newsboy hat on his head that had certainly seen better days. On his shoulder was a worn bag which looked to be carrying something heavy.

“Hi there. My name is Anna. Are you lost?”

He walked by me as if I‌ were a ghost.

He was looking around, almost searching for something.

“Wh-what are you looking for?”

He made his way to the desk in the corner with the oil lamp and laid his bag down on the chair. He looked under and around with a near disappointed look. What was he trying to find? His eyes suddenly widened and he darted toward a nearby bookshelf, pulling down a crystal decanter from the top shelf. It was full of that same ghastly powder I saw before!‌ I‌ turned to look at that spot on the floor, only to find it clear and no broken glass scattered. To my surprise, the decanter came hurdling across the room, right passed my head, and smashed into the wall. I‌ turn quickly to see the little boy and he was gone. I blink and again am across the room where I‌ was before. I‌ shake my head and rub my eyes. What just happened? I‌ should really get out of here - I don’t think its safe to be here.

I‌ turned to leave but caught a glimpse of the little boy’s bag on the chair. Why was this still here? Why wouldn’t he take it with him? I‌ had to see what was inside. I picked up the bag and pulled each item out; a rock-hard loaf of bread nearly mummified, a small black book on elementary mathematics, a very old key, and sort of spherical item wrapped in a brown cloth.

I‌ removed the cloth to reveal a black clouded crystal ball. As soon as my hands touched its surface, I blinked and I‌ was out in the main room of the church with at least 30 people lingering around their chairs talking. I was no longer holding the ball, and everything had a bit brighter of a color to it. The room was still dark but the windows were not boarded up. There still lie some rubble on the ground but much less than before.

“Uhm, hello? Who are you? What is happening?”

I reached out to one of the people and they said nothing - they didn’t even acknowledge my existence. Everyone was dressed in very old clothing. Corsets, bustles, and shiny leather shoes. It was as if I stepped into a chapter of a victorian era book.
Despite the demeanor of the patrons, their clothes were still a little worn, torn, *****, and drab. Everyone carried on their conversations in a reasonable tone until a bell rang - everyone found a seat.

A lanky gentleman appeared at the altar in black clothing and spoke to the crowd.

“My fellow followers of Lucifer, I‌ beseech thee to bow down in worship to our almighty prince. He hath lead us to the depths of the fire and bestowed on us the power to destroy life itself.”

Each person knelt down and faced the ground in what I‌ would assume is reverence.

“For over a thousand years, this temple has held a dark mass for our dark lord, in which we show our dedication to his unholiness in the form of a sacrifice. Who among you has brought a gift to Satan himself?”

A petite, young, beautiful woman rose and approached the altar. Her head bowed in reverence and a veil over her head, she held out her arms. The man took a small item wrapped in a brown cloth from her and set it on the altar. They continued their ritual by spreading what I imagine was blood along the edge of the altar in a circle. As the man worked, the crowd of people mumbled in unison like a prayer. I watched from the side, trying to understand why I‌ was here and why no one would speak with me.

“Ma’am, what is this place?” I‌ asked a nearby worshiper. She said nothing.
“Excuse me,” I‌ nudge a young man to her left, “what is everyone doing?” He did not even look at me.

The mass continued in latin and I‌ watched quietly in confusion.

Nearly an hour passed and the mass seemed over. The people start chatting away as they had before and the gentleman at the front makes his way to the back wall where the hole was before. The young woman stopped him and asked to speak. I follow them to the back of the church. The gentleman quietly opens a door hidden in the wall right where the hole was and they walk in. I sneak in with them as the gentleman closes the door.

“Elizabeth, I am glad you came today. I was starting to worry that your faith was wavering. You haven’t seemed yourself lately since that human left.” the gentleman addressed the young woman as she sat in the chair by the desk. Everything was neater now and the furniture was placed in a purposeful way, much like a room in a house.

“Jonathan was the love of my life, Cain. I miss him every day. I don’t wish to go on in this world any longer.” Elizabeth squawked back with tears in her eyes.

Cain goes to comfort her, sits with her, and holds her in his arms as she sobs gently. He offers her his handkerchief and she accepts gracefully.
“Darling, you have so much more to give here. Lucifer needs your fortitude and dedication. But most of all, I need you.” He says, wiping a tear from her cheek.

As she rests her head on his shoulder, I look around the room. The powder is no longer on the floor and the decanter is on the table. I turn my attention back to the couple and I‌ see him kiss her softly. She turns away,
“Cain, please…” she whimpers, “I am not ready for this yet.” Cain nods and stands up. He walks across the room to a metal bowl with a pitcher and pours a glass of water.

“You should leave, Elizabeth.” he states without making eye contact. “You have no business being here if you will continue to cohort with humans. You have been given a dark gift that you are wasting away. You have been made beautiful to be a glorious gift to our community and you have disgraced us by your unfaithfulness.”

Shocked, Elizabeth stands and walks toward him with more tears in her eyes, “Cain, you know I‌ love you. I‌ want to stay with the community, to contribute and prove my worth. Please give me a chance.” she sobs.

He takes her in his arms and calmly says, “Elizabeth, you know what you must do. You know your purpose. You are the source of intimacy in this coven. You are our only hope to offer what we have to Lucifer.”

Elizabeth sighs and softly agrees. She looks defeated, tired, sad. I just want to wrap my arms around her and tell her it will be okay. I‌ blink back tears from my eyes. As I open them, I‌ am back in the main room surrounded by people. Cain is standing at the altar beside Elizabeth who is dressed in a beautiful black lace gown and veil. Cain lifts the veil from her face and kisses her neck. Her expression unchanged, still flooded with defeat. Cain starts to unbutton her gown. What is happening? Why are all these people watching this? She doesn’t look happy… why is no one stopping this? Cain starts to aggressively remove her clothing until she is standing bare and vulnerable in front of the crowd.

“What are you doing?!” I‌ scream.
“Leave her alone!” I‌ run to the front to try and stop them but I‌ am invisible.

As Cain removes his trousers, Elizabeth stands there calmly but with deep sadness in her eyes. He motions to the altar and Elizabeth lays down. Cain climbs on top of her and starts to penetrate. He begins aggressively … well there is no other word for it besides ****. He is ****** her. Her eyes fill with tears but she blinks them back. He gains speed until he finally ******* inside her. She blankly stares at the ceiling and a single tear rolls down the side of her face, landing in her now unkempt hair.
Why? Why did this happen? What is going on? Why did no one stop this?
A man in the crowd stands up and walks to the front. When he reaches the altar, he begins to undress.

No.

Not again. There is no way. Why would they be doing this? Why is no one stopping this?!

Man after man after man violates Elizabeth while she lays silently on the stone altar. I am sobbing now. Why am I‌ powerless? Why can’t I‌ stop this? Why is this happening?

What seems like hours pass of this horror and Elizabeth finally stands up. She puts her gown back on and replaces her veil. Cain stands beside her and grabs her hand. He recites something in latin then repeats in English, “The marriage of the many.” They begin a ceremony similar to a wedding but instead of a groom, on the altar lies the decanter of powder.
The ceremony continues and I can hear Elizabeth faintly sobbing, “Jonathan…” she whispers. She blinks back her tears and looks up. She sees him standing by the door, tears off her veil and runs to him. He was not there. Men from the crowd drag her back to the altar. She is screaming, “I‌ won’t marry him! Jonathan has my heart. I‌ would rather die than give myself over to Lucifer!” Cain hits her across the face leaving a throbbing red mark.

She cradles her face from the pain as Cain yells,
“Don’t you dare disgrace us! You are the ultimate sacrifice to our king and you must obey!”

Cain drags her back to the altar and chains her down. He pulls a knife from his belt and lifts it in the air yelling, “To thee I‌ offer, oh king of hell, this sacrifice of violated innocence. Come forth and bestow your gifts upon us as we offer her to you.” I‌ lunge forward to try and stop him. Just as he is about to plunge the knife in her chest, the decanter on the altar opens and the powder bursts into the air. A loud voice bellows through the church,

“You dare disgrace this innocence. An offer of such little worth hath no result for a coven such as yours.” A strong gust of wind throws Cain against the wall. The blow kills him instantly. The crowd bursts into chaos. Elizabeth, still chained to the altar, is hysterically sobbing and trying to break free. From the cloud of wind, a man walks toward her. He is tall with dark features. He has deep black eyes and a chiseled jaw line and body. He walks to her. Elizabeth looks up and is speechless. The man crouches down to unchain her and kindly helps her up.
“They hath defiled you, oh innocence. For this they shall burn.” He speaks in a deep voice. He extends his hand and half of the crowd turns to ash. He looks into her eyes and kisses her neck.

Elizabeth looks to the ceiling with tears in her eyes and mutters, “Please don’t hurt me…”
“Why would I hurt the most purest gifts my father has given the world?” He says as he holds her face. “I have removed the human from your life to clear your path to glory. In my father’s spite, we will be betrothed tonight. You shall rule hell beside me and bear my children.”
She sobs, “You … you killed him? I loved him!”
“Girl, you know nothing of love.” He says flatly. She looks at him in surprise, tears still falling down her cheeks. Chaos is still roaring around them as the crowd tried to escape the hellfire. “These filthy creatures are not worthy of your power. You belong to me now.” She tries to break free of his grip but he is far too strong for her. He lifts her up and lays her on the altar and begins to overtake her as she cries.
I stand to the side helplessly. Sobbing with her. I close my eyes and wish it over. I‌ want to leave now. I can’t take this.
Silence. I open my eyes to the sudden stillness and there sits a pregnant Elizabeth in a dark, empty church. Tears are gently running down her face and I realize that I‌ have not yet seen her with a smile on her face. Lucifer appears to her and holds her in his arms. I can’t hear anything. They are speaking but there is no sound. He lays her down and she yells - she is in labor. A small bundle wrapped in a cloth is delivered and the dark lord holds it in his hands and looks down calmly. Elizabeth stands up behind him with anger in her eyes. She pulls a knife from her cloak and plunges it in his neck. He drops the child but Elizabeth reaches to catch it just in time. She runs to the door with the cloth in her arms and slams the door behind her. A furious Satan rips the knife from his neck and runs to the door. He slams on it with his fists and yells. I‌ still cannot hear.
I blink and see Elizabeth on the steps of a church, crying softly. She gently lays the bundle on the door step and runs away. A woman appears at the door and picks it up, cradling it in her arms.
I‌ blink and see Elizabeth back in the church, holding the decanter and stealthy creeping around the corners. She turns around and Lucifer is standing there.
“You have betrayed me. All freedoms have been stripped from you. You will no longer sit beside me and rule hell. You will be caged and retained for only reproduction. You WILL bear my children and I‌ shall take them from you, never to be seen again. This will continue until I‌ have used the last of you and then you will be destroyed.” He exclaims angrily.
Elizabeth stands straight up, holds the decanter in her hand and yells, “I‌ banish thee, Satan, to the confines of this prison. You shall never again walk the face of this earth.”‌ As she opens the lid, the dark lord plunges the knife she used on him into her chest. A gust of wind engulfs him into the decanter. Elizabeth drops to the floor. A‌ knife in her chest, she struggles to put the top on the decanter. She crawls to the wall where the door once was. She begins to peel away the pieces of the wall weakly. She works in pain for what seems like hours until she makes it into the room. She drags herself over to the bookshelf and hoists herself up. She places the decanter up as far up as she can and tries to cover it with a cloth. As she reaches, she falls. Upon hitting the ground, she fades into dust.
I‌ stood there silently, shocked. This woman. I feel like I‌ know her. She is so strong and brave. I‌ am in awe and also in tears. I‌ collapse to the ground in the dust she left behind. I‌ mourn her, her hardships, her life. She deserved so much more.
I open my eyes and I‌ see a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 years old enter the room. She looks around. I yell, “Leave!‌ This place is dangerous!‌”
Bewildered by the things around her, she wanders to the bookshelf. She looks so much like Elizabeth. Could this be? Could it be her daughter? She is holding a small bag. She sits down at the desk and opens it. Its her lunch. She begins to eat and continue looking around. She sees the light from the oil lamp gleam off the crystal decanter. Excited, she pushes the chair up against the bookcase and climbs up. On her tippy toes, she manages to reach the decanter. She sits back down and twirls it around, moving the powder from one side to the other. A small amount of powder escapes in a puff. You can hear a whisper, “Victoria…” I‌ hear. She hears it too.
“Hello? Who’s there?” she squeaks. She puts the decanter down and walks around. She turns around to return to her lunch and is greeted by Lucifer himself, though she doesn’t know this. He is weak. The remainder of his strength lies in the decanter. He can’t speak. He grabs her and yells - she screams and breaks away from his grasp. She takes off in the other direction and crawls back through the hole. She looks behind her then darts toward the door. He is standing there in front of the door. He waves his hand and the large metal door bolts shut. She stops dead in her tracks, stares at him for a moment, then takes off.
Frantically running through the church, Victoria is trying to find any means of escape. Tears in her eyes, she evades Lucifer’s grasp several times. The windows are boarded up, the doors are bolted, and it seems there is no way out. Suddenly a little gleam of light comes from above. The balcony. She starts toward the wall and begins to climb up the trim as quickly as she can. Lucifer is close behind, yelling but unable to speak words to her. She reaches for the balcony and pulls herself up.
Suddenly I‌ am outside on the balcony and Victoria is reaching for the railing. She is reaching for the light. She is reaching for me. She looks into my eyes and yells, “Help me! Please!” and extends her hand. Surprised that she can see me, I reach out to grasp her hand but before I‌ can get her, she is pulled screaming back into the church. I‌ lunge forward to pull her back but land on the floor of the back hidden room breathing heavily. I stand up and dust myself off. I am in the middle of the powder and glass that was on the floor. I grab the book I‌ found and start to run for the door. I‌ can’t get caught by him, he will **** me. A thousand things are running through my mind. I crawl through the hole and head toward the door. Something compels me to look back as I pull open the door.
There he stood.
Staring at me.
“Daughter, fear not. I will find you and we will rule together with your sister.” He says.
Daughter? Sister? Who am I?
Trigger warning : aggressive ****** encounter, ****, violence
Hasan Maruf Jul 2017
I…I heard the footstep
I…I wondered what…what was that?
I…I heard an indistinct rumble
I…I hastily desisted and urged me to rest
Until I heard the vicious whisper
Thundering behind my doorstep
Tremulously had I reached the door
Looking through the mirror conduit
I paused, gasped and breathed deep
What I heard was a staccato shriek
Bludgeoning violently against
My chamber door with a ghastly peep
Suddenly the sound dissipated awhile
But the fiendish murmur did beguile
Thrusting my heart into a pacific exile

It was an unearthly maiden from the yore
Causing me to tingle to hear her dark lore
In the night of my lone and lousy submission
I was metamorphosed into a ghost
Dissevering the soul from my dainty robe

I…I felt a flitting shudder then a flirting flutter
In the middle of a tormenting stutter
Before consummation with this maiden
Brewing out from the obscuration of her colour

I felt torrid phosphorescence on my forlorn bed
While, I envisioned specter of unhallowed dream
Forming like fungus inside my foamy stream
Overpowering the sputter of my night scheme

I...I thought for a while, the montage
Of these dreams must be from the arch evil
But soon the slumber began to feast
On my turbulent bliss, I reveled
At the very opportunity of unwinding
The gospel of her love forsaken Lenore
Laden with the riddle of her dark lore!

I…I lingered a little before lending my ear
To the haunted mysteries of the maiden’s air
I betook my bedraggled knife
Waited for what comes within my purview
Before engaging myself in a valorous view

Meanwhile, in my chamber of cadaverous blue
I noted a rotting odors passing by
In the hallway through my door
Suddenly, it was lit with translucent light
While, the horror tossed me into a grim plight
On the floor, I discovered a casket of a corpse
Irritably birthing the wild bubble of iced trill
It felt like a purring puff then it was all still

I decided to eavesdrop the rasping whimper
Gushing out from its muted shrill
I…I betook my bedraggled knife
More so to scan the harmony of his strife
Enough, enough I deplored wearily with delight
To get to open the portal of his hidden life

I ... I betook my bedraggled knife
I plowed it through his skin
Cautiously, I devised my amputation
With various degrees of incision
From its protoplasm up to chin
But, I could find nothing but meats
Muttering unrequited love
Lisping ominous yearning of his
To be reconciled and resigned with
Demoniacal feat of maiden’s heartbeat

I…I betook my bedraggled knife
Looking into my works, I could
Not thwart a languorous temptation
As the soft, serene and slow cadences
Of the maiden stirred me to waive
Into the vault of unmarked grave

She gave me my disheveled knife
An incandescent beauty I saw therein
Eyes open, shining like the moon
I decided to use my entire prowess within
Speculating my life to be ended soon

The maiden carried me along down the hallway
With the other corpses I am to dwell in all gay
In her livid *****, in her phantom palace of gray
I heard the chuckling corpse open his tongue
Singing all those songs which never were sung
I managed to utter my name with a rusted voice
Intimating that I won’t be alone and forever rejoice

The turbid night ended with a dusky dawn
Being bemused, my blood bedewed knife
Regaled at the sight of this phenomenon
[A horror poem]
Sophia Granada Nov 2012
Sweet-lipped Psyche's pale white skin
All the men in Greece dragged in.
And the poor girl's dark brown eyes
Led Aphrodite her to despise.
For Psyche truly was a beauty,
Reputed as brighter than Aphrodite.
If Aphrodite was a dark red rose,
Of which we've written poetry and prose,
Psyche was a pure-white Aganisia
For which they wrote a deep-sea saga.
But she knew it was sore unwise
To find herself level with a Goddess' eyes.
The only proof needed for Psyche
Was the sad fate of the maiden Arachne,
Who challenged Athena to a weaving contest,
And though her tapestry was judged the best,
It was she that ended as the melancholy loser,
For Athena punished her with the life of a spider.
And so it was that Psyche knew
Aphrodite wold claim her life too.
So Aphrodite sent her son,
The lovely, winged, holy one,
Whose golden arrows fly at night
And relieve bored lovers of their plights.
She sent Eros to shoot his arrow
And pierce it through to Psyche's marrow,
Then set before her a crocodile,
The scaly terror of the Nile,
With which she'd fall in love straightway,
And then she'd come to rue the day.
For crocodiles have no love to give,
So it would eat her, and she'd cease to live.
On the sleeping Psyche Eros descended,
Long before the night had ended,
In whose dainty breast to shove
A golden arrow poisoned with love.
He prepared to bury it to the hilt,
But a drop of love on him was spilt,
At the moment he saw her eyes, dark brown,
Look to him and stare him down.
Then Eros went back to his mother
And told her he could not wed another
Who did not shine quite so brightly
As his sweet-lipped brown-eyed Psyche.
So spiteful Aphrodite cursed
Psyche through her red lips pursed,
That the girl would find no husband
Among God, animal, or man.
And Eros this so greatly angered
He could no more with arrows linger
At the foot of lovers' beds
To foster love in their young heads.
The entire world then ceased to love
Whether it walked on foot or hoof.
Whether it swam or flew on wing
It could not love nor gain others' loving.
When love no longer circulated,
Aphrodite it aggravated
To see her temple lying bare
And to feel the gray growing in her hair.
She told Eros he'd have what he desired
If only he would kindle love's fires.
So at the mountain, Psyche's family offered her
And she was borne away on the back of Zephyr
To Eros' golden gay abode
That he and his ghostly servants called home.
In the golden rooms she wandered by daylight,
But she lay with Eros in the dark when came night.
She knew not who her darling was,
But called her ignorance a test of trust.
Never to look upon him by day,
She continued in this way,
Until she longed to visit her family,
Which her husband granted her gladly.
But he held her, and he warned her
Not to let her sisters persuade her.
"They may try to tear you away
By telling you gruesome stories." he'd say.
Then, trippingly, from Olympus she jumped down
To walk the streets of her hometown.
She told her sisters her whole story
And they turned it into something gory.
"He could be a serpent," they'd say,
"Fattening you up for the day
When he can pop you in his mouth and eat you"
Unfortunately, she took their words as true.
"So, when he comes to you at night,
Just gaze on him by candlelight!
If he's a serpent, use this knife,
And you'll no longer be his wife.
But make sure not to spill the oil,
Or his waking will cause great turmoil!
We'll find out about that young buck!
Use the candle, the knife, don't spill, and good luck!"
She walked back to the palace at their behest,
Butterflies banging within her chest.
Could the faceless man with whom she'd spent her nights
Be revealed as a serpent by candlelight?
She did not have to wait for long
To prove her treacherous sisters wrong.
As she lay in the great soft bed,
The instructions tangled inside her head,
And lighting the candle, she almost fumbled,
But when she saw his face, she truly stumbled!
Eros' beauty knocked her senseless,
Leaving mortal Psyche defenseless,
And causing her to spill the oil, which smoldered
On Eros' godly golden shoulder.
He, awaking with a start
Was disappointed to his heart
That Psyche cold be so unfaithful
And make a decision so egregiously fatal.
Then, jumping from the casing, he flew
Out of Psyche's lustful view.
And she, for her part, suddenly found
That from the palace she'd been cast down
To a field of which she had no memory,
Or very dim, if she had any.
In despair, she began to flounder,
Then resigned herself to wander
Until she came to a temple edifice,
Which was, on Earth, Aphrodite's face,
And begged the unseen Goddess hear her out,
Trying her patience with childish whining shouts.
Aphrodite, trying only to divert,
Cast a basket of grains down to the dirt,
And told the weeping lovely malcontent
That if she sorted the grains 'fore day was spent,
She just may see her sweetheart once again.
All she had to do was sort the grain.
But Psyche, though her fingers were dainty and thin,
To separate the grains could not begin,
And sobbing, lay upon the stony floor
That was as cold as the Goddess had acted before.
The ants, which had been drawn to the golden grain,
Bore her load and relieved her of her pain.
In their famously sure and straight black line,
They each picked up a piece of grain so fine
That it might with ease pass through a needle,
And into order they the sweet grain wheedled.
Then at the very setting of the sun,
Aphrodite found the task was done,
And though she praised the poor girl outwardly,
Inside she felt the bloom of hate for Psyche.
So she set her down on one side of a stream,
Where on the other was a field of green,
In which lived Helios' golden sheep
From which she was to obtain some shining fleece.
Then Aphrodite left her there to play,
And flew to Mount Olympus far away.
But Flumen, God of Rivers, raised his head
To warn sweet Psyche from his riverbed
That the sheep were so fierce, if she but pulled one hair,
They'd all turn on her and eat her then and there.
It was better if she waited 'til midday
When the sheep lay down to sleep the heat away.
Then she could cross where the river rushes,
And pick the wool that had got caught in the bushes.
So Psyche followed Flumen's good advice,
And for Aphrodite's cruelty she paid no price.
Aphrodite's blood boiled when she saw
That Psyche had survived it after all.
Again, she tried to send her to her death
And charged her to collect water from a cleft
Which mortal humans could not enter,
And in which serpents would surely spend her.
But now it was an eagle came to her aid,
Who stormed inside and flew between the snakes,
Then picked a pouch of water in its beak,
And back out of the cleft to Psyche it sneaked.
Aphrodite, at her dastardly wit's end,
Devised a horrible place for her to Psyche send.
"Psyche, caring for my ailing son
Has drained each drop of beauty, every one,
From my former glory of a face.
Therefore, I command you to that place
Where Persephone dwells. Then you must beg
For some of her beauty, just a tiny dreg.
Then you may have my son, I give my promise,
As holding him from you has marred my face."
Then Psyche, with tears streaming from her eyes,
Decided the only way there was to die.
In what she had appointed her fatal hour,
She climbed up to the top of a high tower,
But her melancholy was so disturbingly great,
All the Universe moved to it abate,
So that the very tower she climbed upon,
Awoke and spoke to her as if a person.
"Psyche, there is a way to the Underworld alive,
So that you need not from my roofing dive."
And to the Underworld the tower gave her
A route and some directions just to save her,
Then it sternly warned her that not of meat,
Nor of anything but bread in Hades could she eat.
So she followed the Tower's path back down
And disappeared into the heaving ground.
And when she found herself before Persephone's throne
She asked to take a parcel of her beauty home,
Which the emotionless Queen of the Screaming ******
Without word placed in Psyche's quivering hand.
The hardest part of the impossible task being done,
Psyche headed back up toward the sun,
And, reasoning that she was to see her beloved before nightfall,
Decided to use some beauty from the parcel.
Inside she found not beauty, but a stifling sleep,
Which forever in its clutches would she keep
If Eros had not chancely happened by,
And wiped Persephone's sleep from Psyche's eye.
Then, carrying her on his back, he barged
Into the Hall of the Olympian Gods.
He bade them let him wed himself and Psyche
And disregard the protests of Aphrodite.
Then Jupiter, indeed, allowed it obligingly,
For he was a man who greatly enjoyed a party.
Ambrosia she was given so to seal
Her immortality and place her among the surreal.
Then after many years of love and laughter,
Psyche bore Hedone, their lovely daughter.
This is how the beauty of the Human Soul,
Triumphed over the beauty of lust and gold.
All this Eros and Psyche had to take.
All this they endured for their love's sake.
They demonstrate the purity of love,
That is admired by Gods above.
In the end, it is the pure Mariposa
Who is more deserving of ambrosia.
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
Mike Hauser Jan 2016
A vicious battle did ensue
Between the Knife, the Fork, and the Spoon
While each felt the job that they do
Was far more important than the other two

The Knife sliced the air with sharpened tongue
I'm the only one to get things done
Who do you turn to, to make the cut
When the plate you're served is way too tough

That's when the Spoon sang its tune
You two ever hear of a thing called soup
Can you please tell me what you would do
If they placed a bowl in front of you

Just then is when the Fork spoke up
Okay you two I've had enough
You know you need me just as much
And to prove him right he said let's do lunch

Coming together they had a great time
The Fork, the Spoon, even the Knife
After all they did they all did find
It's good to have friends to help you along in life

— The End —