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Mohd Arshad Oct 2014
I listened, I listened, I listened,
I listened to my dream
that spoke to me in solitude,
I listened its heartbeats
as it was alone in the corner,
I listened to its grievances,
and it was breathing its last,
and I was a dying ember in ashes.
listen to you dream
before it is too late
to drink the cups of happiness
that keeps life's momentum going,
listen to your dream
before you crawl
on rough pebbles in rough weather.
Notes (optional)
Jayme M Yaroch Oct 2011
I don't know how this came to be
How I forgot myself in your eyes
Something happened after I left that day
That made all of the good things vanish
Or is this my illusion?

You said you cared and I believed
What is wrong with me?!
How could I forget who you really are
So fickle and indecisive
Unable to face up to what you feel
Though what it is I'm not entirely sure
That you even know

I listened to you, even after you were gone
I listened so hard that I changed
I understood things I hadn't before
I grew up
Every day I would hear your voice
Chastising, lecturing
And still you were right
About everything
So I changed, and I learned, and I listened.

Then you couldn't let me go
I was content to smile at you
To talk to you
To be friends once more
But then you kissed me
And all of that easy complacency
Was out the door
It was wild, and it was fun
And I'd never take it back
Because no matter what you say
I know how you feel
Even if you won't admit it

I listened to the words you said
And the ones that you didn't
I listened when you would start to speak
And I listened when there was silence
I have been listening to you
Because you asked me to
But I didn't change for you
I changed for me
To be happier, brighter, bubbly
To find myself again
To do it I had to listen
And you were right, all along
Why can't you see that?
I changed, and I learned, and I listened.

Didn't you hear me?
I LISTENED
Melissa S Mar 2018
I listened to my inner voice....
When I was filled with fear, when I learned at a young age that real monsters do exist and they are not like the ones in any story book I ever read. The monsters stole away any normal childhood that I could of or should of had.  Pain muted my words from flowing and poisoned my thoughts into growing... this is why I trusted no one.  
At the time I had no other choice... when I was
really the only friend I could totally depend on and count on
I listened to my inner voice...


I listened to my heart...
When all I could hear was a pounding in my ears, when all around me was like a crazy chaotic whirlwind screeching like a barred owl that would then break apart into tiny pieces and sink into a cold abyss forgotten by the sea.  I couldn’t forget the grief as it was real and still inside me. There was a brokenness about me my
heart was fragile and it balanced on the tip of my own desperation
but still I listened to my heart...
          
I listened to the words...
Slowly but surely I was able to come out from that darkened sea and was finally able to try and heal me. Words became my saving grace. I learned to not have muted lips and could give myself a fighting chance. I was able to tear down some of those protective walls to try again to live only in this moment without the armor and the hesitation. Writing became my new love... together we became an inseparable piece of one existence...
I felt so much better after I listened to the words ....
Leah Apr 2016
My art teacher used to say.
“Don’t add the black paint until you’re ready for a finished product”
and I never listened.
So I painted with my black paint
a little too soon,
a little too much,
a little too dark,
a little too passionate,
a little too addicted,
to the night,
I always enjoyed the starry sky.
My art teacher used to say
“Keit, I know that you love her, I see it, you two are my favorite couple”
and I never listened.
So I broke her heart at night
as she gripped her chest
while I did,
as she hid her heart
while I bit,
as she held her tongue
while I kissed,
as she ran from me,
while I chased.
I always enjoyed the lustful parts,
but I miss the gentle parts more.
My art teacher used to say.
“black is dominance,
black is overwhelming,
and black is torture,
but black must be controlled”
but I never listened.
Because it never made much sense, I didn’t make much sense of anything except for her. I tried to make sense out of a human being, my human being. A lover, my lover, and you know what the trust it all about?
People don’t make sense.
Love has no sense of direction.
People are chaotic.
Love is chaos.
People are nature’s kiss,
Love, the lips.
People are timeless.
Love is timed.
She was natural.
I was the ******* disaster.
There is a quote out there that goes,
and you’ll know why people are named after storms, why hurricanes are named after girls and you know what?
She wasn’t any of those things,
I was.
I was the earthquake that
shook her buildings down
and they crashed into her heart;
that explains the cracks.
I was the wildfire that
burnt through her magical forest
and the rabbit lost more time;
that explains Alice in wonderland.
I was the calm eye of the storm that
had one sweet angle and 20 more reasons to **** her over;
my insides said I love you,
but my outsides and I hate you
that explains the obsession,
this hopeless romantic poetry *******.
I was a flood,
and her eyes the land,
her eyes the gates,
her eyes the drowned city.
I was the big bang,
and her soul the many universes
within universes, the many stars
followed by comet showers,
the wishing stars that never came true,
the first time the moon met the sun,
love at first sight, forever separated,
the moon crashing into the sun,
night and dat never being one
until dawn came and twilight clouds
rained her name and my name
was shot across the enos of lightyears
and no one hears my scream in space
except for her an she does care,
but these type of blackholes
**** up everything!
They destroy everything,
a still painting dripping with black paint and I wanted to lover her
and all of this time I thought
that she was the black paint,
but it was me, who was the paint.
And I took all of her light,
a black hope in space
kissing the suns of my theory
one last time,
into the darkness they went
and back to the darkness
that they came from.
And my art teacher used to say
“Don’t add the black paint until you’re ready for the finished product.”
I finally listened.
So I let go of her a few days ago.
I told myself that I needed to stop.
Stop talking to her like she was
the sunset we all adored
and how her eyes meant the world,
and it it meant that she’d wink
butterflies into the pit of my stomach,
I’d die as a self-imploding star.
So I stopped myself from being
more black paint, I crossed out
her face with my own fingers
and kissed her one last time.
My art teacher used to say
“because this black is undoing, you cannot paint over it with white the black is so dense, it’s raw, it’s real it stops all hints of color under it over and over it. Because this is art and art is life, art is poetry and art is love, because art it everything and anything”
So I became the nights she had to sleep alone, so I became the nights I cried to sleep, so I became free from her love and I finally understood my art teacher, I finally understood my ex.
“Black paint is the purest color and lightest of color if used correctly with the right amount of care and tender”
Add a little black with white
and you’ll have grey.
Add a little black with red
and you you’ll have my bleeding heart.
and a little black and blue
and you’ll have her bruised lips.
And a little black with yellow
and you’ll have her eye color.
add a little black to my soul,
and you’ll have lust.
Add a little black to my heart,
and you’ll have her.
And I could swear I head my art teacher say.
“You’ll let go of her one day when you’re ready, you’ll add red aver all of your paintings because they’ll remind you of her lips, it’ll be you favorite color, you’ll ad blue over your roses because red has too much passion, it’s on fire and sometimes we have to appreciate the beauty of weirdness, poetry and art is weird, the best kind, you’ll add pale yellow for her skin tome and you’ll add dark, dark brown near lonely tree trunks because it’ll remind you of her eyes that cried every night because you didn’t know how to love, young kids finding slipped pants unhooked bras more satisfying than adding black paint to solidify a relationship that could’ve been, and you’ll add your last drop, the finishing touch, you’ll be the black paint, and she’ll be the finished product.”
And I finally listened.
I finally listened to art teacher.
So I let you of, baby.
The world is your canvas
and I was the black paint.
His lips your new black paint,
and you, his unfinished product.
TheRhymeRenegade Feb 2018
You and I we lived a lie
And spread it to the masses
I made sure to tidy up and wore rose tinted glasses
I saw the flags and all the bad but couldn't understand
I cried myself to sleep and stuck my head under the sand
But somehow baby I just never could be what you needed
Accusing me of everything, yet you're the one who cheated
Such a sad realization when you wake up to a stranger
That you somehow knew for years and yet your connection's weaker

So goodbye goodbye goodbye I walk out with a bang (Just like I walked in)
Goodbye, goodbye goodbye we'll never meet again (you should have listened)
I know I told you baby that this was til the end (for better or worse)
But eternity don't work for me, if youre hurting me, my friend (you were my curse)

You told me I was heartless when I left without a tear
I guess you didn't count all the times I cried those years
You wounded me in different ways in which I still can't heal
Still I was devoted, my hearts not an easy one to steal
I gave you enough chances, time and time again
If you really cared about me, than you should have listened
So call me this and call me that
I really dont give a ****
I know that for some other man someday I'll be more than enough

So goodbye goodbye goodbye I walk out with a bang (Just like I walked in)
Goodbye, goodbye goodbye we'll never meet again (you should have listened)
I know I told you baby that this was til the end (for better or worse)
But eternity don't work for me, if youre hurting me, my friend (you were my curse)

How can I learn to trust again after such a failure?
You were just another waste of time, you weren't my savior
Sometimes I still think of things you said I get lost inside your lies
But I've grown so much since I stood my ground, you'll never realize
I won't allow myself to act stupid over another guy
I deserve the world and will except no less than the moon, the stars, and sky

So goodbye goodbye goodbye I walk out with a bang (Just like I walked in)
Goodbye, goodbye goodbye we'll never meet again (you should have listened)
I know I told you baby that this was til the end (for better or worse)
But eternity don't work for me, if youre hurting me, my friend (you were my curse)

Fast forward to the future and look how much I've grown
Can't believe how good I'm doing out here all on my own
I became my own support system, my own best friend
I don't need nobody else baby I got this til the end
But then a pair of eyes caught mine in a way I can't explain
They look not a thing like yours and I'm over the moon again
But this time will be different, this time Ill be stronger
I refuse to be abused or suffer any longer

So goodbye goodbye goodbye I walk out with a bang (Just like I walked in)
Goodbye, goodbye goodbye we'll never meet again (you should have listened)
I know I told you baby that this was til the end (for better or worse)
But eternity don't work for me, if youre hurting me, my friend (you were my curse)

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye
I'm done with all your heartache
And I promise you by the time you notice what you threw away
I'll be someone else's cherished "mistake"
Haylin Mar 2018
I listened to my inner voice....
When I was filled with fear, when I learned at a young age that real monsters do exist and they are not like the ones in any story book I ever read. The monsters stole away any normal childhood that I could of or should of had.  Pain muted my words from flowing and poisoned my thoughts into growing... this is why I trusted no one.  
At the time I had no other choice... when I was
really the only friend I could totally depend on and count on
I listened to my inner voice...


I listened to my heart...
When all I could hear was a pounding in my ears, when all around me was like a crazy chaotic whirlwind screeching like a barred owl that would then break apart into tiny pieces and sink into a cold abyss forgotten by the sea.  I couldn’t forget the grief as it was real and still inside me. There was a brokenness about me my
heart was fragile and it balanced on the tip of my own desperation
but still I listened to my heart...
          
I listened to the words...
Slowly but surely I was able to come out from that darkened sea and was finally able to try and heal me. Words became my saving grace. I learned to not have muted lips and could give myself a fighting chance. I was able to tear down some of those protective walls to try again to live only in this moment without the armor and the hesitation. Writing became my new love... together we became an inseparable piece of one existence...
I felt so much better after I listened to the words ....
Travis Barefoot Feb 2014
I stood in the falling snow, hearing the hushed roar of innumerable flakes swishing past my ears in their random plummet; their collective crash as they slammed into earth. It's a quiet roar. It's a loud whisper. It's a cacophony of crystalline chaos, beautiful in its silent symphony. As the flakes hit the layer of unraked leaves of Fall, with a pit-pat, pit-pat, browns turned to white. They covered the dormant grasses, asleep until Spring, turning yellows to softening ivory. The song switched as the snow piled layer upon layer on this sleepy land, the tune turning from the tinny clatter of clear crystal to a muffled sound of falling cotton.

I stood in this snowfall beyond my threshold of tolerance. Snow is beautiful, but cold and wet, and yet I remained, through the wind chilling my bones. I remained, through the melting snow that found its way under the collar of my coat and over the rim of my shoes. I shivered as I stood and as I stood, I listened. I shushed my inner battles and listened for inner peace. I quieted myself and listened to the world outside. Aside from its song, I listened for clarity.

I listened for answers to questions unasked.
I listened for voices from faces unmasked.
I heard but a whimper, as the snow turned to slush.
I heard my soul speaking, whispering, "Hush."

"Quiet the world for just a moment in time. Quiet the worries that do nothing but cause grief. Look into silence and hear your reflection."

I stood there. I stood and listened and looked. Snow covered the trees and the road that was recently clear was now blanketed as well. No cars, just building layers of Nature's cold majesty making thoughts of getting to work in the morning just that; merely thoughts. And just like the grey of the sky, nothing was clear. Just lovely white noise...

And even now, in a bed of blankets, I know
Outside, there's still falling snow.
And as I saw before the darkness of my room,
The window showed a brightness in the night's gloom.
The whole of the land is luminous white,
Snow still falling,
Song still calling,
A song that still plays into the night.

And a hush as I turn out the light...
Sean Kassab Apr 2012
I listened to my heart…

When it shook with fear, as its scars sung the songs of yesterday.

I listened to my heart…

Pounding in my ears like chaos in a silent symphony.
It screeched as it broke apart, fragmented pieces shorn and twisted.
Tearing away as it sank into the cold abyss.
The rusted wreckage of a once great ship, forgotten beneath a greater sea.

I listened to my heart…

It whispered “My God” when I saw you.
When I was so afraid to take the last of a hundred second chances.
Tear down my defenses and trust again.
Try again to live only in this moment, this time without the armor, without the hesitation.

I listened to my heart…

As it became attached to yours, running blindly into a new forest.
Chasing the footprints of wolves.
Two worlds that were meant to collide and become one big mess together.
The inseparable pieces of one existence.

I listened to my heart…

On that day you took my hand, dressed in white and promises.
I spoke the words “I do, I love you”.
They flowed across my lips like liquid, like a prayer I was unworthy of saying.
It was the day I began to live again, and I said your name as you took mine.

I listened to my heart…

In the years to pass, looking back on my life as it was, and as it is.
Lying next to you, enshrouded by the dark silk of night skies.
I took you in my arms, laid my head upon your chest.

I listened to your heart.
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Mike Hauser Mar 2016
You never listened much to what she had to say
Don't act surprised now that it's over
Why do we always see the truth when it's much too late
Did you ever really know her

You should have listened to her heart
That if nothing else
Then you would have known
Exactly how she felt

You spent all that time looking into her eyes
And yet can't recall the color
Now you wonder what was on your mind
When you were together

You should have listened to her heart
As the heart will speak the truth
Then you would have known
Exactly what to do

You've been given lessons but have yet to learn
Back to the same old you come morning
Spent all the brownie points you have ever earned
As you were deaf and dumb to any warning

You should have listened to her heart
Perhaps you would not have been set loose
Then you would have known
Exactly what she needed from you
Shofi Ahmed Mar 2017
I
A flower that smells of pure bliss keeps an ear to the ground
It's a serene one sitting beneath the stars down on earth
The moon, far, far, seven seas away, loves to drop into her lap.

The Bay of Bengal billows, music has gotten beneath the skin.
The leaves furl out off the deep wood with the birds
singing out to the top of the trees, rhyming with the leafy dance.
Heavensent, that was in one sanguine day in the spring.
The Mother’s Language Movement in 1952 sprouted like this
on the eighth of native Falgun month—oh magic did it unleash!

On that day our beloved brothers were shot dead
They could swallow the bullets with smiles but won’t give up
demanding the official status for the Bangla mother tongue.
Angels wrapped round the martyrs amid lamenting mothers
Laid them on Falgun’s perfumed ground bleeding corpses
Seas of roses bloomed and blew them out red, red kisses!

They are gone not the stone wall of consciousness they raised
Ah, at the sprout of the spring what were they echoing?
Ingrained deep in the soil the pre-designing voice in the planning?
Who can tell? The world gels on February 21 in celebrating!

The angels then snapped up our martyrs’ souls off the land,
placed them on a piece of Heaven where they can hear the jingle.
Down on earth, a nation springs up, has gotten its wake up call!
Stepping on the sweetening arc of the mother tongue melody
the stone turns a flower, all in a butterfly moment soaring to victory.
Thanks to the movement - Bangladesh itself later comes to be!

II
The sun comes down to the rose painting on the land
In the heavenly Falgun hues it nibbles some wild summer dreams.
“Serene songs of earth stirring the water,” like it comes into play,
rowing the cloud bubbles singing in southern breeze.
Ah, a walk on the sun-kissed kaleidoscope land is a pure bliss.  
Every blossom spray of the wind is soothing sweet
Hop on and play straight to the ruby heart, as if it's a flute.

Mother tongue means speak free, fearless, in full streaming.
Speak the heart to the world without the fear of losing the cloud
that will listen, bouncing back on the brink of the sky river.
Then what did one say, hear, or was awed by in the blooming Falgun?
Could it have been the spring humming in her native lingua
or King David singing in mother tongue by babbling brooks
what in any other language, even with a silver tongue, isn’t possible?

Allah has listened to our martyrs’ crying mothers and fathers
The martyrs’ souls whisk through the galaxies and starry fair.

Soar high over the clouds, take the rainbow's *** of gold away,
Like a hue turns 360-degree in the colourwheel bask into the colour.
Still, dip the toes in Bangla mother’s soil salted with perfumed art
Like Himalayan water swirling down melting deeper deep down
This magicland is polished for everyone be it you, a fairy, a star
or off the ploughed-out barrow a walked out wonder!

A pristine voice duo’s voiceprint gleans to the spring in muse,
Pops in a beauteous scurry and speaks in the mother tongue!
Hidden within the earthy depth, only emerges with time,
only dances in tangent, that day slipped out with the butterflies.
And finally the blue nymphs take the plunge drop down the sky  
That day the mother’s voice triumphed, whose is the most original!
This is a poem from my book Zero and One available on Amazon.
Nobody listened when I had whispered
They still didn't when I had shouted.
Even when I had opened my mouth and had belted
My voice could have been heard from mountains

But the tears I had cried were in vain.
Even when my tears became rain
And i was engulfed in some deep raw pain
Still no one listened!

I called,I cried,I beseeched!
If they had only listened ,if they had only given an ear unto my complicated situation
Then they would have known that my situation was dire.

I felt that the cops needed notification of my implacable grief!
I cooed ,I wailed,I begged,I demanded
But  still no one listened.

Then the enormous gigantic rat that had resided in my bed,
bit me and I was dead.
I awoke then and realized it was all in my head.
Frankie Gestone Mar 2013
He woke up in a rapid sweat, darkness surrounding him, his soaked pillow was pressing up on his neck as he could feel the uncomfortable stabbing cold run right threw his whole body. His mouth was dry and his body was in great pain. He lay there practically naked, but not just physically, also emotionally. It was like a catatonic state where the person’s body is paused in reality, but the actual person is far away and isolated even from himself. He wondered why he was so comfortable being uncomfortable and remaining frozen in time.  He saw nothing but the subtle moonlight that peaked through the blinds of his window. A point of existence, he feels nothing because all he has ever felt has drowned him. His numbness was being accepted and he embraced that if he remained this way, he would never have to feel hurt or heartbreak again. It’s better this way, he confirmed.

Eventually he got up out of his bed, walked outside to a nearby empty field. He looked up at the infinite night sky and contemplated the moon, the stars, and the endless space that sustained all of its existence. A tear fell down his cheek as he remembered the beautiful wonder of life and the universe; his realization that he is just a small spec of dust compared to all that is and all that is wonderful. Whatever happened to that universal happiness he used to feel? The feelings of the unseen, the cosmos, the mysteries that remain unsolved were all love. He then felt ancient and brand new at the same time-always being around all that is, but recently born into the unknown. The silence of the night swarmed him, and he suddenly embraced all the things he could not accept. The lullaby of the wind put him to sleep.

When he awoke, it was twilight. The sky was a lighter, deep blue and the sun in the far distance was rising in a fiery halo of mixed red, orange, and yellow colors, and the early morning clouds were clear and transparent. He heard the sound of a train horn in the far distance. He followed the sound with his ears as the sound became slightly louder and louder. Then, suddenly he could see the light of the early morning train.

The train had stopped as he approached it, and he hopped on with no hesitation or looking back. This runaway train was going to take him to where he needs to be, and he blindly and faithfully accepted that his fate was out of his hands now. No more heartbreak, no more reminders of the past, and most importantly no more drowning in his tears. As the train proceeded to move forward, he could feel fresh air gently touch his face, and all that he saw and ever knew were now flashing lights disappearing into eternity.

It was hours into the late morning when the train made its first stop. He listened to the train conductor speak out over the intercom, almost incoherently, say, “This is Brightstone Park. Next stop will be Riverhead.” A nostalgic feeling suddenly came over him as he could remember that his very first kiss was in Brightstone Park with Jessica Garzi. That was not his first true love, but his very first heartbreak. Riverhead was a forbidden memory, as he knew a classmate who had committed suicide off the Riverhead Bridge. He had not returned there in five years because of his haunting memories that would always come back to remind him just how cold and frightening the world really is.

While lost in thought, he felt a rough, sand paper-like wet feeling on his forearm. He looked down and it was a black cat, but not all black. The paws were all white like socks, and the chest and stomach were snow white. The loud prominent purr was a very peculiar reminder of a cat he once owned. Her name was Midnight. She was not the friendliest cat to strangers, but she loved him, especially when he massaged her paws. This cat was practically identical to Midnight. Midnight was put down three years ago though. As he began petting the cat’s back, it ran away and jumped off the moving train. He looked out in a hurry, but it was gone. It was just like everything else he loved. There for one moment, then gone the next. The strange thought that has one wondering if anything had actually existed that is now no more. A person, or a thing, could mean everything to you, but once they slip away, they become like the wind: occasionally brushing up against you, but never revealing its form.

On the train he began to wonder how he got where he was, and in general how the smallest decisions he made lead to bigger events and all in all, everything was all connected. There are no isolated events, or isolated people- it is all proven fact and science. Everything depends on each other to survive. The trees depend on the sun to keep themselves alive; we give off carbon dioxide to the trees and in return, we receive the oxygen we need from the leaves of the trees. He thought about the potential of a seed-for example, a tomato seed. Within that tiny seed is unlimited potential of life: The seed may produce one plant of several tomatoes, and within all those tomatoes are countless other seeds. This is all from one seed. Then, one may take a couple of seeds from a picked tomato and plant them throughout the yard creating a garden. That original seed came from another tomato seed inside a tomato on a plant, and that seed came from another seed. When did this cycle of reproduction begin and when does it end? Is it just another form of the infinite? When a person eats a tomato from that original seed, he receives certain essential vitamins his body needs for surviving and sustaining good health. This good health will effect his offspring and so on and so on. When he defecates, that will all return to the earth for potential fertilizer used for other tomato seeds. This is the same when he returns to the earth again. His dust will fertilize the same world that he came from, for all things come from it just to inevitably return to it.

He continued to think about how matter is never created nor destroyed and the same for energy. Nothing ever truly dies; the form changes into something new, like how water becomes a cloud and the cloud becomes water. Though this comforted him, he noticed that a few feet away from him was a former coworker and friend, Natasha Karev. She always infatuated him and they became close friends, but he always wished it had continued and gone even further than it did. One night, only a couple of years ago, they were at a friend’s party. Both were drinking, but not so heavily. That night they bonded and got so close, that she admitted she loved him. He was never quite sure how real that “I love you” was, but it was burned inside his heart ever since. That night there were moments she would tell him how much she wanted to make love to another guy at the party, Kevin, but was afraid to approach him. She told him she desperately wanted to lose her virginity that night to somebody because she was eighteen and only getting older. This was like a sharp knife slowly penetrating into his heart. He remained speechless for quite a few minutes. Finally he decided to go up in a bedroom alone. To his surprise, she followed him up and kissed him. He felt her clothed body up and down, and she touched areas not many have touched before. She told him she wanted to have *** and that she wanted him to rob her of her virginity. He was speechless, but extremely excited. Then, abruptly, she told him she could not because everything was happening way too soon. Why couldn’t she just make up her mind? He sat frustrated in the darkness, again, all alone. After that night, they spoke and remained close, yet that night was never mentioned again. It was as if it had never happened. After about two years of an on and off friendship, they just went their own ways. There were no fights or disagreements. Life just separated them.

“You’re just a figment inside somebody’s dream. So far from reality, you are a dream within a dream within a dream.” Startled by this soft voice, he quickly turned around to see Natasha smiling at him. “Ha-ha! I knew I could scare you. Were you abused as a kid, or something?” No words could come out at that moment, but he hugged her tightly. She explained to him that she is getting off at the next stop to meet a friend. He was sure he wanted to follow her and see where life would take him. She reminisced and told him how she had been away inside her own cave for several months, but is now very happy to meet up with everyone she had lost contact with.

The next stop arrived, but he did not catch the name of the stop he was getting off. As he got off with several others, both he and Natasha met up with her friend, Valeria, who he found quite cute. She resembled Natasha a bit in that they both had ***** blonde hair and blue eyes. They walked right into a giant street fair with a crowd of people looking at the foods and desserts, the trendy clothes, cheap jewelry, and children play rides.

As he looked around, he began seeing many familiar faces. He saw Kevin, a childhood and grammar school mate there with another co-worker of his, Jenny. Jenny was a Colombian beauty in his eyes and who was a flirt and tease to him, but never actually gave him any time alone. Incidentally, he knew both of them at different times in his life and had no idea they knew of each other. Kevin stopped contacting him during high school without any arguments or disloyalties that would tear a friendship apart. Keeping his head down, he walked a few feet to discover another childhood best friend, Jack, who was with a mutual childhood friend, Melanie. Melanie was a best friend of his and also a first childhood crush who also had a crush on him. He thought it was odd because even though Melanie and Jack were also best friends, Melanie never liked Jack in a special boy/girl way. He felt a moment of heartbreak, but quickly turned away and kept walking. A little further up the road, he saw two more childhood friends, Chris and Jimmy, who as children did not get along that well and only hung out with each other in the company of him. How peculiar it was suddenly seeing them together after ten years, and as seemingly best of friends.

That was not all. Things were getting stranger and stranger. It was like all the people who had made an imprint on his life were now coming together around him. He saw his two therapists, one he had gone to as a teenager and the other as a young adult, stand next to each other selling prescription drug samples. Both stared at him with a blank face, but with a prominent smile. He could barely nod at them. Natasha directed them to a local bar. Inside the bar was huge and also had a second floor. He noticed the music playing in the background was, Nocturne In E Flat Major, Op.9 No.2, by Polish born Romantic composer, Frederic Chopin. He became fixated on the elegant eighth note, left hand arpeggios, and the sweet and peaceful fast moving seven, eleven, twenty, and twenty-two notes from the right hand. If he thought about the most beautiful song ever written and all that is wonderful in one, this was the song.

They all took a seat and began looking at people and laughing at their behavior. Everyone was wearing masks. Social masks. They observed how different people act when they are in social gatherings, and how if you carefully study their body language, it will become clear that what they are saying and trying to put out is not what is actually being expressed through the body. One young man was frantically shaking his right leg as he tried to flirt confidently with a young woman he had just recently met. His face began to turn noticeably red, in an embarrassed flush, and he was making sudden hand gestures and quick eye blinking. She, on the other hand, pretended to be interested in what he was saying; yet her eyes would often look around the room and her body was a good distance from him with her arms folded.

Then as they were all laughing, he abruptly stopped and looked ahead to see two drunken women making out two tables away from them. As his eyes focused in on them, he realized they were two of his former crushes, Claire and Veronica, who he had no idea knew of each other because in fact, they were from different time periods of his life. He began seeing former teachers and professors from each stage of his school career, laughing hysterically with one another. Some of his most inspiring teachers and professors were gathered with other teachers and professors he despised. A young, tattooed hipster woman entered the scenery with a little Cairn Terrier that had an uncanny resemblance to his recently passed dog, Petey, who was put to sleep when he was away on a vacation, unexpectedly. His sorrow began to overwhelm him for not being able to say good-bye and see him for a proper last time. Everything about the dog’s high energy, playfulness, and watchdog attitude was exactly like Petey. A tear ran and fell off his cheek from his left eye right into the hand of Natasha. He looked up at her and she said, “Your tears are my tears. For what pain you withhold, I take and share with you.” She then wiped her right eye with the hand that held his tear. Natasha’s friend began to speak slowly into his left ear in Russian. Though he could not understand a word she was saying, it sounded just like a poem based on the pattern and rhythm’s consistency. It made him feel free of melancholy, but then thought of Angela Antonaci entered his mind.

He thought that the last painful experience ended with the break up of his closest best friend ever to play a part in his life. She was his girlfriend for the last three and a half years. They had known each other for ten years before they broke up their entire relationship. She was thirteen and he was fifteen when they first met in a park. She was always all over him like a little schoolgirl and he would often get frustrated with her obsession over him, for he believed he was no big deal. She was the first person to ever make him feel special and important, and even though he would resent her likeness towards him, he could never keep his eyes off of her or stop himself from always coming to her when he felt lonely. After about seven years, he realized he was in love with her. He had always been in love with her from the first time they met eyes. His long road had always lead back to her home in life. Every time he tried forgetting her and moving on, they would meet again. That person people search their entire lives for, he had found.

He rose out of his seat and briefly said goodbye to Natasha and her friend and went upstairs. He wanted time to be alone and walk around until he suddenly saw Jessica walking towards him. He stopped and waited for her to say hello, but she walked right by him, as if he had never existed. He felt a little insulted, yet relieved as any awkwardness that would arise was avoided. Looking ahead, he saw Angela’s two best friends, Kate and Julie, with her high school crush, John. John was playing an acoustic guitar on a lounge chair, singing to the two friends, almost enticing them with his eyes and voice. His jealousy overcame him, as Angela had been infatuated with him on and off even though he had played with her feelings throughout high school and college. John would tell her he loved her and make her believe he was a romantic, then when she fell into his words, he would leave her and keep a distance for long periods of time, leaving her in despair.

The conclusion occurred to him that maybe she was nearby. He searched throughout the entire bar not finding any other clues that she was around. When he went downstairs, he saw Natasha and her friend asleep, as well as most of the bar, except for the bartender. It was like everyone just passed out from the alcohol or possibly inhaled some type of knockout drug. The bartender was watching the news forecast of a tornado watch and dangerous thunderstorms. The bartender looked at him and said, “It’s better if you stay in here. It’s dangerous out there. I recommend you don’t go out!” He just listened, but decided to leave to the outside anyway.

He walked three blocks through the heavy rain and strong winds. He took a moment to stop and look at the black and gray clouds above him. As he looked across the street, he saw her. She was with her mother, sister, and mutual friends of theirs, Chrystal and Mike. He also saw behind them, his own mother and sister. He ran across the street to her and she shockingly with excitement screamed, “Hey!!! Oh my God!! Please stay with us. I missed you so much. You have no idea. We have to get to a shelter away from this storm. Hold my hand…” Smiling, he kept walking with them. They walked for twenty minutes and entered a giant field. After ten minutes of walking restlessly through the field, they all stopped to catch their breath. Angela’s mom ordered everyone to hold one another’s hand. An enormous gust of wind pushed them all to the grassy ground. He began to shake violently as he felt the touch of death nearby. He wondered if this would be the end, as he felt unaccomplished and left with so much left unsaid to her. Thoughts raced through his mind like a speeding highway about how to get to safety. Unable to control and remain focused on one rational thought at a time, he blacked out for a minute.

Then there he was right in the middle of a storm. In so many ways, he realized where he was ending was where he originally began. All the imprints from all he ever knew came back all at once to watch him finally leave all he ever knew from this life. And in the last moments, he found himself with her. He held her hand, while she held his, and the hands of their family and friends. The world was so dark and cold. The wind became much more rapid and an enormous bright light from it came within just miles of them. He kept looking up at the dark black and gray clouds over them, never as frightened as he was now. His focus was on the great strength of the wind. Whatever melancholic thoughts he had of his life, he would not give up hope. Maybe he was just hopelessly hopeful, but holding each other tightly might, in some miraculous way, save them. Then suddenly a deep peace began to sustain his very being. He remembered whose hand he was holding- the only woman to ever understand every level of his being. He looked down at her big, precious eyes pouring out tears. Their eyes locked, as she had been watching him the entire time. No words needed to be said from one another. They knew exactly what they felt and meant. For the first time in his life, everything was all okay. All was beautiful. The whole situation was beautiful, not tragic. In that moment, he understood this was where he was meant to be. This was where he wanted to be, for only in such a life altering moment does one comprehend the very nature of love and life. To just glance into her eyes and see the same person staring back in suspense, while all he ever knew was being born, growing, and dying simultaneously in complete acceptance. They began to fade and disappeared into the light.
September Roses May 2018
We are tied together by our stories, our history
Tales woven through our ancestry, when our parents talk of their younger days,
When their life was ahead of them,
the future was anything and everything,
they speak of their old friends with ache in their soul,
Of times when their hearts were filled with fire and passion,
running through fields growing memories  planted by the world around them
When they could sprint the wind in their hair,
adventure ahead,
hope in their heart.
They speak of the days behind with woe
Because essentially just their ideas of the future as a young mind, were more enticing than reality.
As dreams failed and hope faded
As their minds wear
and their treasured stories that made them who they are fog over
As threads begin to wear
As tales they once yelled to the world with pride fray at the ends
Your whole world slipping away as the thread unwinds
But they get the joy of passing down the tapestry to their pride and joy,
to the life they made,
Every moment we live with ease of no appreciation for every experience every laugh
Moments we take for granted
Moments we will pine for when they run out
Moments the elderly urge us with fire to cherish
Moments we'll wish we listened about
There is a vast tapestry of memories behind you and infinite thread panning out in front of you, connecting to other tapestries,
visiting at friends,
at enemies,
joining with soul-mates future.
Some cut away,
some ripped from the tapestries too soon before they could weave their own.
A loose thread cannot be fixed once more are made,
and the patterns will never be what you want them to be, savour each stitch
Take time on every thread
You don't want to be sitting there 50 years old thinking about the life you wasted
About the memories faded,
About how every slipping memory's never like the moment you made it.
Don't be sitting 90 filled with regret
Filled with hatred for every opportunity you left
Screaming into the void about how much you hate what your life become.
because they say time flys when your having fun truth is time only flies when you're young.
Christina Testa Jul 2014
Uncertainty is laughing in my mind, teasing me with the possibility that your reach for me is only to keep me from going before you find my replacement.
It catches my breath in a net of anxiety, telling me that the pounding in my chest is the broken heart that will be further shattered soon enough.
Am I playing the part of an absolute fool?
Should I have just listened when you told me I was nothing to you?
Around and around I am spun, I am in love with you and you are to be mine til death, no I'm not it was just a ploy because I want you to stay close.
All the benefits of a marriage without the fidelity commitment and intimacy, this was your request.
Now you tell me that was not true, and promise to open yourself to the love in your heart and show me the truth.
A promise I've heard a thousand times before only to have brief relief.
Once before I heard this same thing from you, never was in love, made love to keep you convinced but never meant any of it, you abandoned your woman and your unborn son.
Upon your return you said you never meant it, you were just panicking, but here you have brought it up again.
Claiming that it was my fault for not listening to you then, but I did listen.
I listened so hard it nearly killed us both and only one survived.
But I also listened to all of you're proclamations of love and devotion that followed.
I listened to you speak of our union as one, or future together, I listened carefully as you described a home filed with unity, loyalty and love.
I heard and I listened carefully as you started to speak in we, us, and our.
Here we are again the ferris wheel has come full circle with the same dropping feeling in the pit of my stomach as you obliterate all that I thought was pure and true only to say you didn't mean it.
From the second I decided to give you one more chance, my heart and mind are screaming at me, "you fool!" My soul is screaming and begging not to suffer any more damage. I am terrified that that is the truth and this is the lie, that you don't want to do it but you have not found someone to take my place to feed your ego.
May God have mercy and let the real truth be known and his will be done so that I can plant my feet on solid earth. I am waiting, I am watching, I am horrified at the possibility that this is all wrong..
*****


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




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

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

Amy was asleep in one of the larger rooms in the main  building, her uniform folded neatly on the table near the bed. she kep one luger on her bedside table and the mauser under her pilllow. her other luger, her sword and her whip were next to her clothes. she was clad only in her fur, as she'd found that the most comfortable way to sleep.
she was woken up by a knock at the door. she blinked her eyes a few times. clutching the mauser handle with one hand and holding the blanket to her chest with the other, she said, "what is it?"
"the colonel wishes to speak to you, heir frauline."
she growled, "grrr... fine. tell him to make it quick." she clutched the blanket closer as he opened the door. she held the mauser aimed at him and said, "turn." he did so without hesitation. she slipped cautiously out of the bed and began to dress. "what is it you wished to speak with me about, colonel?" amy put on her undergarments and then pulled her trousers up to her waist, fastening the belt comfortably.
"there is an important telegram for you, heir captain." she pulled on the jacket over her simple shirt, tugging out any wrinkles. "oh? from who?" next came the holster belts, each hanging slightly lower than her first belt. her sword was another belt, and there was a custom clip there for her whip as well.
"Himler, he has special orders for you." her messenger bag was next to last, slung over her shoulder before she slipped into her boots. ""You can turn now. hand them here." she stepped closer to him and took the envelope with her name scrawled on the front. the colonel excused himself so she could read the orders, "captain amelia weissmuler, once you have completed your assignment at Stalag 14, please make haste to stalingrad as there has been a number of our own turning against the *****. see to it that they cause no more problems. -heinrich himler"
she read it through three more times before folding it and placing it in her bag. she hurried outside, grabbing her hat
From the dresser.
* *
amy went about her inspection, seeing nothing wrong today. "the condition of stalag 16 has improved, heir colonel. well done. now send my car around." the colonel grinned and motioned for the car.
the black car adorned with swastikas roared to life, coming up beside her. the d
Journal of Darkness: Assassin and Deceptress


Nov 21, 2011, 8:17:32 PM by ~OmegaWolfOfWinter
Journals / Personal




(description of storyline: all characters in this work are dragons, with the ability to change into a human form. they live in present day society, but have a base in the middle of the desert. there is a library with the history of the world, which is operated by stacra, an organization to preserve the peace in the world. there is a rival organization, the dracra, who wish to take it over. the dracra is led by a dragon named Darkheart, a dragon who has haunted the Scar line for millenia.)
"... sahsa...."
what was that mumbled sasha, a small town girl in modern day USA. she was nearly asleep when the voice called to her.
sasha was usually described as a freak. she was a dragon fanatic, and she carried her favorite books wherever she went, Brink of Insanity: journal of the Wild and the Broken; and its companion, Blood curse:  journal of the Destroyer and the Savage. they told of dragons living in new york who had to bear a family curse and sought a way to release it. the author was only known as "Lucian".
"....sasha...."
i'm sure i heard it that time...
"....come to me sasha...."
she didnt know why but she felt as if she absolutely had to find the source. she was barely clothed but quietly snuck out, leaving small footprints in the snow.
"....sasha!...."
she felt panicked. as the voice grew louder so did her heart, beating quickly in her ears. some sort of animal instinct took over and she somehow Managed to run on all fours. her whole body began tingling, her skin writhing. she looked back and nearly choked: wings and a tail... had grown from her body. her whole body turned white as scales etched their way into life over her skin. her body began elongating and enlarging, becoming streamlined and lizardlike. she was transforming...
"...yes!... just as you said, master...."
"...quiet, kovu..."
sashas vision went dark as she stumbled, barrelling through the snow. when she looked up, she saw an enormous dragon, with scars just like the ones in her book. "she will be a fine student."
sasha was dumbfounded as she saw her parents walk up behind them. "greetings, master Lucian, kovu." said her father.
"and you, rydon."
"y-you...know...?" stammered sasha.
"all will be explained in the morning, sasha," replied her mother.
sasha felt tired and her eyes shut as the ground came up to meet her.
sasha sat alone at the picnic table, surrounded by lucian, her father rydon, her mother sophia, and kovu. "so... you're all.... dragons.... like in my books..." she gestured to the two books.
lucian stepped forward and placed a hand on the books. his hand glowed and the glossy books turned to worn, leather journals. "yes, we are dragons. sasha. and you have done well guarding my journals."
"your... journals? but i thought that these were best-selling novels..."
lucian chuckled, "no no. young one, there are only two other copies of each of these in existence."
"wow..."
her father spoke up now, "so what are you here for, master? is it time for her to leave us?"
"leave?! what do you mean leave?!"
rydon looked worriedly at lucian and then at sasha,"you are dragon, and it is tradition for you to be trained."
"but what if i dont want to leave?!"
her father began to become angry,"its not your choice!"
"then whose-"
lucian's eyes glowed red in anger, "rydon, haven't you taught your daughter respect? surely you would know of my ways by now."
rydon nodded, "i- i'm sorry, master. i don't know whats come over her."
sasha ran, shifting to her new dragon form and flying away. darkheart had warned her of this, that lucian was a dictatoria leader. she asked herself, "why had her father taken his side? why did this have to happen so suddenly? and most of all, what was she going to do next?"
darkheart had given her directions to meet her after lucian made contact. sasha flew, tired as she was not used to the extra limbs.
once she reached the spot that darkheart had told her, she waited and thought things through.
once darkheart arrived, she spoke, "i want to join you. i beleive everything you've said."
darkheart chuckled, "i knew you would dear girl, lucian is the same as his grandfather, they both hounded me and tortured me, for their own twisted ways. i've tried to keep as many as possible from falling into their cluthces. i wasn't able to **** scarheart, as he captured me and forced me into his own body as an energy slave. he tortured me even there, and after he died, lucian, his grandson, got me. he too tortured me."
sasha looked at her in sock, "thats terrible. i didnt know..."
"you couldnt have, darling. those evil dragons keep everything from those who should know."
sasha stood, "i want to be trained. by you."
"really? i warn you, it is quite tough. not all survive. you must be willing to do whatever it takes to stop those vile dragons."
*     *     * 3 years later
sasha was 20 years old, and it was time for her to take on her first big mission: infiltrate lucian's schol and learn everything she could.
sasha had already talked to lucian, apologizing for her behavior so long ago. lucian had seemed hesitant but allowed her in. foolish old bat. she thought. she had been at the compund for a year and a half now and had become familiar with their ways.  sasha would often wonder why she was doing this, and she remembered, darkheart had said that lucian killed sashs's father. she always looked at him with scorn and wished to **** him. but she restrained herself and kept on the facade.
today she felt especially hating towards every master she came in contact with. she passed tsai, lucian's right hand dragon, as he went to talk with the master. she tried to eavesdrop but they were speaking in an ancient, coded language. she growled and her white scales flashed in the sun.


"Lucian, somethings not right about that youngling sasha... she's always watching us, like she's gathering information."
"yes, tsai, i know. i know exactly what she is."
"what?" tsai looked skeptical.
"she's an agent, an informant. for darkheart."
tsai stared, incredulous."wha?! how do you know?!"
"ive been under the influence of darkheart before, as have you. something about sasha is of darkheart's doing."
tsai nodded "even still, is she possessed by her or under orders?"
lucian thought for a moment "i beleive under orders..."
both stared as lucian's son, kovu, walked up to sasha.
*       *        
"sasha! hi!" kovu had taken a liking to sasha since his father took her as an apprentice.
"oh, um. hi. kovu..." *i cant let my emotions get in the way of my mission!
"how have you been?" sasha felt herself blush under the gaze of the drake. he wasnt half-bad to look at, and she often caught herself watching him.
"i'm doing great, training with tsai is always fun. what about you and master lucian?"
her eyes darted to her master, her target, then back at kovu. "you mean you're... dad?"
"yeah... my dad... but we students can only call them by their designation. even master scaleweaver calls some elders master."
sasha's ears pricked up as she heard scaleweaver's name. she was assigned to gather information on all of the masters. i must make madame darkheart proud... i am worthy... she must see that...
"is... something wrong, sasha?"
she caught herself, "n-no i'm just tired is all... just tired..."
her master lucian came toward her what a fool, he doesnt even know about me... "sasha, i need to speak with you.... alone."
kovu difpped his head and backed away respectfully.
"sasha, come."
she swallowed her pride and said, "yes... master..." and followed him.
once they were outside, lucian turned to her and said, "i know, sasha. i know that darkheart sent u here to gather information on us."
sasha's eyes widened and her mouth dropped. she thought hard how?! how does he know?! this cant be possible....
"i-i dont know what youre talking about, master..."
lucian turned on her with a peircing gaze, and made her wince as he studied her. "there are better ways to lie, youngling... but not to me. ive known for quite some time now."
sasha felt her legs give out beneath her. she sat, looking into the dust, listening incredulously at lucian. "how... how do you know?!?!"
sasha ran forward, clawing at lucian's throat. she was instantly frozen in place, an immensely strong spell holding her legs in place.  "let me go, lucian!"
"its master to you, youngling. and why would i let you go? you just tried to **** me." sasha struggled helplessly against her bonds. she saw lucian mutter something and felt her legs grow suddenly cold. she looked and gasped as ice started to creep up her haunches.
"lucia-master, please let me go... i was only under orders."
lucian chuckled, "how did darkheart get to you?"
"i can't tell you..."
"oh? then let me guess; theres another informant, a higher up in stacra, who told darkheart about you and she arrived, possibly a week before us? she fed you a story of stacra destroying the world and trying to take over the one that they created. she told you that she was only trying to help restore order. am i close?"
sasha felt naked under the gaze of the elder, who saw straight through her act and through her commander's plan. it made her heart quicken and her scales writhe. she felt a sharp pain as the ice crept up and chilled her thighs, creeping steadily upwards. "how... how can you know these things?! darkheart said you wouldnt be able to know... she said that you held her prisoner... that you tortured her... she said that you- you killed my father."
lucian shook his head and wiped something from his face, revealing gruesome scars. "she altered her face to look like mine... look, and know the truth." he placed a claw on her forehead and she gasped as a flood of memories flooded her, darkheart inside lucian's mind, taking over him, taunting him, and forcing him to do terrible things. she heard lucian say, "she tortured me, she held me captive. its true that stacra destroyed the world, but look also;" she saw the corrupt government of old, and their wretched attrocities. "they brought about their own destruction. we created the world you know, but dont wish it to be taken over, we merely want peace...We act as peacekeepers. darkheart seeks to enslave all to do her bidding. and your father died at darkheart's talons, not mine." sasha saw a gruesome scene as lucian tried to save her father.
she felt him withdraw, and felt the magic and ice withdraw from her, the ice's touch fading from her ****. she shivered and crouched low, warming her body.
"sasha, darkheart is a liar... she's been at it for thousands of years." he watched her shiver and said. "come, sit around the fire."
sasha noddded and followed close behind lucian, hiding her vulnerable state.
"i'm sorry, master."
"all will be okay, sasha... all will be fine.."
lucian brought sasha into his study under his wing. he had her sit down in front of the fire and draped a blanket over her. he sat down behind her, looking over the latest reports, waiting for her to speak. after a few minutes she sighed and looked back at lucian, tears forming in her eyes. "is everything you said true? Is darkheart nothing but a deceptionist?"
lucian looked up at her and nodded. "all of it was true. I'm sorry, sasha. darkheart is a gifted deceptionist and many of us have fallen for her tricks.  including me."
sasha turned back and looked into the fire with sad eyes, tears rolling down her cheek. she shuddered and took a shaky breath. lucian came up beside her and placed a comforting paw on her shoulder.
"darkheart forced me to **** my best friend... a she-drake named Clia... in front of her other followers to show that we must be able to turn on anyone to fulfill the mission..."
lucian nodded, "so I had heard... darkheart has become more cruel than ever."
"l-lucian, what can i do to make her pay?"
lucian thought for a while and then shook his head. "let me think more on this, sasha. for now, let no one know that you are an affiliate of darkheart, it could have deadly consequence. you may remain in here if you wish, or you may return to your own quarters. i have some things to attend to."
sasha nodded to him and gasped as everything went still and dimmed, even the fire seemed grey and frozen.
"wha-"
"sasha... you must tell me now, will you work with me?"
she was stunned. "where are you? what do you mean?"
"you want to get back at her, i know how to. but you must tell me if you will work with me."
"i-i will, lucian. but whhy ask now, and in this way?"
"because, there is someone here, that is going to try to **** you. he was listening to us and is going to attack you with magic. ive cast a spell that will give an apearance of death. just let the magic do its stuff and u'll do fine">
"but wait!"
"you must trust me, sasha."
all of a sudden, everything went back to normal, and lucian was gone, she could hear his fading footsteps.
what was that abou- wait! the killer... she kept facing the fire and listened as she had been taught to the clawsteps of the incoming dragon.
"is it true? you're one of them?!"
sasha turned and gasped, flashing him a shocked, innocent look over her shoulder. "what are you talking about, kovu?"
he was angry, and she was struck with fear. "i overheard you and lucian talking. i heard everything."
sasha turned to face him."y-you, heard everything..."
"then you are one of them! i cant beleive it... i cant beleive i trusted you."
kovu stepped forward and sasha's eyes shifted, trying to find a way out. "kovu, i- i can explain."
"you're nothing but a trickster, a deceptress! dont try to talk me out of this."
her heartbeat quickened, stricken with dread. "out of... out of what, kovu?"
he said nothing but uttered the death spell.
*      *    
sasha let herself go, remembering lucian's spell. but as she did so, she thought about why she was doing this. *to make darkheart suffer...
she heard lucian in her mind. "you'll be going to death-sleep for a while, a few days to make it beleivable. now sleep, sasha... sleep and i will awaken you soon."
"o-okay, master lucian..."
"there is no need to call me master anymore, sasha. from now on, you no longer exist. which is why darkheart will never see you coming. its time... dont worry."
the death-sleep overcame her and she fell to darkness.
*   * *
lucian ran downstairs and saw kovu standing over sasha's body. he put on a facade of dread and said, "kovu.... what have you done?!"
kovu looked at lucian angrily. "you were going to harbor a killer... i took care of the problem."
lucian became angry now, "no, you made more problems. you didnt think... you didnt listen. she was willing to help."
kovu snarled at lucian, "i did what needed to be done. I killed her for you, father."
lucian responded quietly, "you killed a helpless dragoness in cold blood. i have no choice but to arrest you for ******, my son." he muttered a binding spell and blocked kovu's magic. he watched kovu struggle for a moment then went to pick up sasha's seemingly lifeless body. he contacted her mentally, saying, "i'm taking your body in to the infirmary, i'll oversee your examination. in 2 days, i will wake you, when i do, be very quiet."
"yes, sir."
sasha's new appearance was stunning, quite different from the black color of her original scales, she now looked like each scale was a glittering saphire, and her horns and underside were now a shimmering silver. sasha was astonished by what lucian had done, he had also changed her voice and form, making her more slender and agile, he altered her voice in such a way that it seemed that she could charm the heart out of a rock. even lucian who had a mate of his own had to keep himself composed. but he was undoubtedly pleased that things were turning out well. lucian had to change everything about her, her eyes now a deep green, her draconic fingerprint being her tail-tip and spine, were changed to furry mane and a slender diamond tip.
she looked at herself in amirror and remarked how mature she looked.
"you may have to be put in certain situations which may have you exploit some... erm... feminine charms."
"so i'll have to...."
"only if you let it go that far. it depends on you. you said that you'd  do anything to get back at darkheart. these matters are up to your own discretion."
she thought long about this. "i want to g
this is a book i'm still writing.
Chris Balase Aug 2017
Once, we met in our old secret place
Under the sea of stars
You can feel from your back...
the blanket of clouds dancing in the air
the pulse of emotion
captive stories that shouts freedom from imprisoned hearts

That night, the crickets were silent
the trees stopped swaying
I silenced the entire universe to listen
to you...
And on that day, I knew you.

You told me stories of your past
I answered the hows and the whens
the whos and the wheres
your happiest and saddest experiences

I will never forget that night.

When your finger hushed you lips already trembling in cold
And the moment you opened you mouth
The floor you were lying on became a stage...
where you began to sing.
I listened
to the beat,
the beat,
the beat,
the beat of your heart
under your voice as you enunciate your words
of the lyrics of a familiar song
which we had both written
and I listened to your every little word
every little breath
the highs and the lows
In every whisper and every shout
The world was shouting with you
but I listened to no one but you
because I know
that on that night you didn't need promises
you didn't need gifts
you didn't need praises
you didn't need roses from anyone's mouth
or flattering words
I know what you need is a pair of ears who will listen
so I listened...

While you were telling stories about your favorite childhood toy
that one time you cried in a singing contest because you were nervous
about the first love that you had
I listened to you.

I listened to you because
I love you
If you failed to hear it the first time we met
I will say it again
"I love you"
And this is not the same love that you hear from the world
this is the love that is the most genuine of all...
the love that will listen to you

So tell me how you discovered love
and I will tell you how I created love
so tell me how they hurt you
and I will tell you how they humiliated me,
how they beat me,
how they crucified me
and how I agreed to all of this because of a promise
Remind me how many times you were lost
and I will remind you how many times I searched
remind me how many times you failed
and I will remind you how many times I embraced you

Show me that you are ready to trust
that you are ready to love
and I will show you how to pray...

So don't be afraid to tell me

I am listening to you, I understand
because I know what it feels
to be unheard


One time...
I saw you in our secret place
underneath the sea of stars
you can feel from your back
the blanket of clouds dancing in the wind
the pulse of emotions...
captive stories that shouts freedom from imprisoned hearts

But on that night
on that night...
the crickets were all angry
trees' branches were swaying unceasingly
the whole universe was making noises for you
and on that day...
I held you in my arms
but your numb body failed to realize I was there
I said "I love you"
but you did not listen to me
you would rather listen to the world
the world that says "You are ready to love, if you are ready to get hurt."
But always remember this:
Not every wounded heart fought the right battle.

Now there is a battle happening in your heart...
tell me about them...
and I will listen.
Translated from a Tagalog slam poem. Credit goes to the original author: Brian Vee
pluie d'été Apr 2014
the old people
advised
the young people
to never
trust someone who lies
or who talks badly
about someone
that they love
or barely know
but the young people
never listened
and now
they don't trust
anyone
Mitchell Duran Dec 2013
In the Fall, when the temperature of the Bay would drop and the wind blew ice, frost would gather on the lawn near Henry Oldez's room. It was not a heavy frost that spread across the paralyzed lawn, but one that just covered each blade of grass with a fine, white, almost dusty coat. Most mornings, he would stumble out of the garage where he slept and tip toe past the ice speckled patch of brown and green spotted grass, so to make his way inside to relieve himself. If he was in no hurry, he would stand on the four stepped stoop and look back at the dried, dead leaves hanging from the wiry branches of three trees lined up against the neighbors fence. The picture reminded him of what the old gallows must have looked like. Henry Oldez had been living in this routine for twenty some years.

He had moved to California with his mother, father, and three brothers 35 years ago. Henry's father, born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, had traveled across the Meixcan border on a bent, full jalopy with his wife, Betria Gonzalez and their three kids. They were all mostly babies then and none of the brothers claimed to remember anything of the ride, except one, Leo, recalled there was "A lotta dust in the car." Santiago Oldez, San for short, had fought in World War II and died of cancer ten years later. San drank most nights and smoked two packs of Marlboro Reds a day. Henry had never heard his father talk about the fighting or the war. If he was lucky to hear anything, it would have been when San was dead drunk, talking to himself mostly, not paying very much attention to anyone except his memories and his music.

"San loved two things in this world," Henry would say, "*****, Betria, and Johnny Cash."

Betria Gonzalez grew up in Tijuana, Mexico as well. She was a stout, short woman, wide but with pretty eyes and a mess of orange golden hair. Betria could talk to anyone about anything. Her nick names were the conversationalist or the old crow because she never found a reason to stop talking. Santiago had met her through a friend of a friend. After a couple of dates, they were married. There is some talk of a dispute among the two families, that they didn't agree to the marriage and that they were too young, which they probably were. Santiago being Santiago, didn't listen to anybody, only to his heart. They were married in a small church outside of town overlooking the Pacific. Betria told the kids that the waves thundered and crashed against the rocks that day and the sea looked endless. There were no pictures taken and only three people were at the ceremony: Betria, San, and the priest.

Of course, the four boys went to elementary and high school, and, of course, none of them went to college. One brother moved down to LA and eventually started working for a law firm doing their books. Another got married at 18 years old and was in and out of the house until getting under the wing of the union, doing construction and electrical work for the city. The third brother followed suit. Henry Oldez, after high school, stayed put. Nothing in school interested him. Henry only liked what he could get into after school. The people of the streets were his muse, leaving him with the tramps, the dealers, the struggling restaurateurs, the laundry mat hookers, the crooked cops and the addicts, the gang bangers, the bible humpers, the window washers, the jesus freaks, the EMT's, the old ladies pushing salvation by every bus stop, the guy on the corner and the guy in the alley, and the DOA's. Henry didn't have much time for anyone else after all of them.

Henry looked at himself in the mirror. The light was off and the room was dim. Sunlight streaked in through the dusty blinds from outside, reflecting into the mirror and onto Henry's face. He was short, 5' 2'' or 5' 3'' at most with stubby, skinny legs, and a wide, barrel shaped chest. He examined his face, which was a ravine of wrinkles and deep crows feet. His eyes were sunken and small in his head. Somehow, his pants were always one or two inches below his waistline, so the crack of his *** would constantly be peeking out. Henry's deep, chocolate colored hair was  that of an ancient Native American, long and nearly touched the tip of his belt if he stood up straight. No one knew how long he had been growing it out for. No one knew him any other way. He would comb his hair incessantly: before and after a shower, walking around the house, watching television with Betria on the couch, talking to friends when they came by, and when he drove to work, when he had it.

Normal work, nine to five work, did not work for Henry. "I need to be my own boss," he'd say. With that fact stubbornly put in place, Henry turned to being a handy man, a roofer, and a pioneer of construction. No one knew where he would get the jobs that he would get, he would just have them one day. And whenever he 'd finish a job, he'd complain about how much they'd shorted him, soon to move on to the next one. Henry never had to listen to anyone and, most of the time, he got free lunches out of it. It was a very strange routine, but it worked for him and Betria had no complaints as long as he was bringing some money in and keeping busy. After Santiago died, she became the head of the house, but really let her boys do whatever they wanted.

Henry took a quick shower and blow dried his hair, something he never did unless he was in a hurry. He had a job in the east bay at a sorority house near the Berkley campus. At the table, still in his pajamas, he ate three leftover chicken thighs, toast, and two over easy eggs. Betria was still in bed, awake and reading. Henry heard her two dogs barking and scratching on her bedroom door. He got up as he combed his damp hair, tugging and straining to get each individual knot out. When he opened the door, the smaller, thinner dog, Boy Boy, shot under his legs and to the front door where his toy was. The fat, beige, pig-like one waddled out beside Henry and went straight for its food bowl.

"Good morning," said Henry to Betria.

Betria looked at Henry over her glasses, "You eat already?"

"Yep," he announced, "Got to go to work." He tugged on a knot.

"That's good. Dondé?" Betria looked back down at her spanish TV guide booklet.

"Berkley somewhere," Henry said, bringing the comb smoothly down through his hair.

"That's good, that's good."

"OK!" Henry sighed loudly, shutting the door behind him. He walked back to the dinner table and finished his meal. Then, Betria shouted something from her room that Henry couldn't hear.

"What?" yelled Henry, so she could hear him over the television. She shouted again, but Henry still couldn't hear her. Henry got up and went back to her room, ***** dish in hand. He opened her door and looked at her without saying anything.

"Take the dogs out to ***," Betria told him, "Out the back, not the front."

"Yeah," Henry said and shut the door.

"Come on you dogs," Henry mumbled, dropping his dish in the sink. Betria always did everyones dishes. She called it "her exercise."

Henry let the two dogs out on the lawn. The sun was curling up into the sky and its heat had melted all of the frost on the lawn. Now, the grass was bright green and Henry barely noticed the dark brown dead spots. He watched as the fat beige one squatted to ***. It was too fat to lifts its own leg up. The thing was built like a tank or a sea turtle. Henry laughed to himself as it looked up at him, both of its eyes going in opposite directions, its tongue jutted out one corner of his mouth. Boy boy was on the far end of the lawn, searching for something in the bushes. After a minute, he pulled out another one of his toys and brought it to Henry. Henry picked up the neon green chew toy shaped like a bone and threw it back to where Boy boy had dug it out from. Boy boy shot after it and the fat one just watched, waddling a few feet away from it had peed and laid down. Henry threw the toy a couple more times for Boy boy, but soon he realized it was time to go.

"Alright!" said Henry, "Get inside. Gotta' go to work." He picked up the fat one and threw it inside the laundry room hallway that led to the kitchen and the rest of the house. Boy boy bounded up the stairs into the kitchen. He didn't need anyone lifting him up anywhere. Henry shut the door behind them and went to back to his room to get into his work clothes.

Henry's girlfriend was still asleep and he made sure to be quiet while he got dressed. Tia, Henry's girlfriend, didn't work, but occasionally would put up garage sales of various junk she found around town. She was strangely obsessed with beanie babies, those tiny plush toys usually made up in different costumes. Henry's favorite was the hunter. It was dressed up in camouflage and wore an eye patch. You could take off its brown, polyester hat too, if you wanted. Henry made no complaint about Tia not having a job because she usually brought some money home somehow, along with groceries and cleaning the house and their room. Betria, again, made no complain and only wanted to know if she was going to eat there or not for the day.

A boat sized bright blue GMC sat in the street. This was Henry's car. The stick shift was so mangled and bent that only Henry and his older brother could drive it. He had traded a new car stereo for it, or something like that. He believed it got ten miles to the gallon, but it really only got six or seven. The stereo was the cleanest piece of equipment inside the thing. It played CD's, had a shoddy cassette player, and a decent radio that picked up all the local stations. Henry reached under the seat and attached the radio to the front panel. He never left the radio just sitting there in plain sight. Someone walking by could just as soon as put their elbow into the window, pluck the thing out, and make a clean 200 bucks or so. Henry wasn't that stupid. He'd been living there his whole life and sure enough, done the same thing to other cars when he was low on money. He knew the tricks of every trade when it came to how to make money on the street.

On the road, Henry passed La Rosa, the Mexican food mart around the corner from the house. Two short, tanned men stood in front of a stand of CD's, talking. He usually bought pirated music or movies there. One of the guys names was Bertie, but he didn't know the other guy. He figured either a customer or a friend. There were a lot of friends in this neighborhood. Everyone knew each other somehow. From the bars, from the grocery, from the laundromat, from the taco stands or from just walking around the streets at night when you were too bored to stay inside and watch TV. It wasn't usually safe for non-locals to walk the streets at night, but if you were from around there and could prove it to someone that was going to jump you, one could usually get away from losing a wallet or an eyeball if you had the proof. Henry, to people on the street, also went as Monk. Whenever he would drive through the neighborhood, the window open with his arm hanging out the side, he would usually hear a distant yell of "Hey Monk!" or "What's up Monk!". Henry would always wave back, unsure who's voice it was or in what direction to wave, but knowing it was a friend from somewhere.

There was heavy traffic on the way to Berkley and as he waited in line, cursing his luck, he looked over at the wet swamp, sitting there beside highway like a dead frog. A few scattered egrets waded through the brown water, their long legs keeping their clean white bodies safe from the muddy water. Beyond the swamp laid the pacific and the Golden Gate bridge. San Francisco sat there too: still, majestic, and silver. Next to the city, was the Bay Bridge stretched out over the water like long gray yard stick. Henry compared the Golden Gate's beauty with the Bay Bridge. Both were beautiful in there own way, but the Bay Bridge's color was that of a gravestone, while the Golden Gate's color was a heavy red, that made it seem alive. Why they had never decided to pain the Bay Bridge, Henry had no idea. He thought it would look very nice with a nice coat of burgundy to match the Golden gate, but knew they would never spend the money. They never do.

After reeling through the downtown streets of Berkley, dodging college kids crossing the street on their cell phones and bicyclists, he finally reached the large, A-frame house. The house was lifted, four or five feet off the ground and you had to walk up five or seven stairs to get to the front door. Surrounded by tall, dark green bushes, Henry knew these kids had money coming from somewhere. In the windows hung spinning colored glass and in front of the house was an old-timey dinner bell in the shape of triangle. Potted plants lined the red brick walkway that led to the stairs. Young tomatoes and small peas hung from the tender arms of the stems leaf stalks. The lawn was manicured and clean. "Must be studying agriculture or something," Henry thought, "Or they got a really good gardener."

He parked right in front of the house and looked the building up and down, estimating how long it would take to get the old shingles off and the new one's on. Someone was up on the deck of the house, rocking back and forth in an old wooden chair. He listened to the creaking wood of the chair and the deck, judging it would take him two days for the job. Henry knew there was no scheduled rain, but with the Bay weather, one could never be sure. He had worked in rain before - even hail - and it never really bothered him. The thing was, he never strapped himself in and when it would rain and he was working roofs, he was afraid to slip and fall. He turned his truck off, got out, and locked both of the doors. He stepped heavily up the walkway and up the stairs. The someone who was rocking back and forth was a skinny beauty with loose jean shorts on and a thick looking, black and red plaid shirt. She had long, chunky dread locks and was smoking a joint, blowing the smoke out over the tips of the bushes and onto the street. Henry was no stranger to the smell. He smoked himself. This was California.

"Who're you?" the dreaded girl asked.

"I'm the roofer," Henry told her.

The girl looked puzzled and disinterested. Henry leaned back on his heels and wondered if the whole thing was lemon. She looked beyond him, down on the street, awkwardly annoying Henry's gaze. The tools in Henry's hands began to grow heavy, so he put them down on the deck with a thud. The noise seemed to startle the girl out of whatever haze her brain was in and she looked back at Henry. Her eyes were dark brown and her skin was smooth and clear like lake water. She couldn't have been more then 20 or 21 years old. Henry realized that he was staring and looked away at the various potted plants near the rocking chair. He liked them all.

"Do you know who called you?" She took a drag from her joint.

"Brett, " Henry told her, "But they didn't leave a last name."

For a moment, the girl looked like she had been struck across the chin with a brick, but then her face relaxed and she smiled.

"Oh ****," she laughed, "That's me. I called you. I'm Brett."

Henry smiled uneasily and picked up his tools, "Ok."

"Nice to meet you," she said, putting out her hand.

Henry awkwardly put out his left hand, "Nice to meet you too."

She took another drag and exhaled, the smoke rolling over her lips, "Want to see the roof?"

The two of them stood underneath a five foot by five foot hole. Henry was a little uneasy by the fact they had cleaned up none of the shattered wood and the birds pecking at the bird seed sitting in a bowl on the coffee table facing the TV. The arms of the couch were covered in bird **** and someone had draped a large, zebra printed blanket across the middle of it. Henry figured the blanket wasn't for decoration, but to hide the rest of the bird droppings. Next to the couch sat a large, antique lamp with its lamp shade missing. Underneath the dim light, was a nice portrait of the entire house. Henry looked away from the hole, leaving Brett with her head cocked back, the joint still pinched between her lips, to get a closer look. There looked to be four in total: Brett, a very large man, a woman with longer, thick dread locks than Brett, and a extremely short man with a very large, brown beard. Henry went back
Kate Eddy Jun 2019
The blaze took the house with great speed,
Those inside at once had fleed,
But all was not as it appeared,
For when at last the smoke had cleared,
Among the husk of the home
The children discovered they were alone.

They dashed about at a frantic pace,
Looking around for the smallest trace,
Fearing the worst was yet to pass,
One last glance the children cast,
It was then they noticed her cloth of blue,
And the fate of their mother they finally knew.

Running to where their mother laid,
They knew a farewell they'd have to bade,
Knowing that they couldn't stay
For their only relative live far away,
When their mother was put to rest at last
Julie knew she had to push them past.

Leaving the ashes of their past behind,
Hoping a new home they would find,
Julie did for her sisters all she could,
Knowing that reliving the past would do no good.
And so at last Julie and sisters journey began
To reach their home was the only plan.

When the sky turned black as night,
Julie knew something was not quite right,
Stopping their ride Julie and Linda can tell
That something must not be going well,
As they returned they were alarmed to see
Their sister Clotild drowning in the sea.

Julie at once knew what to do,
Into the water at once she flew,
Clotild's head went slowly down below,
The fate of her sister Linda afraid to know,
But when Julie came to the surface at last
Seeing Clotild, Linda knew the danger had passed.

"Clotild, what were you thinking?" they wished to know,
Clotild answered simply saying she was hot and wished to go,
To cool her feet with the fresh feel of the sea
At the time not seeing where the fault could be,
Please don't do that again, they'd scold,
For had they not known, a different story would of been told.

Racing to where the smoke had led,
Each took in the scene with dread,
As flames spread across the little town
Chaos had evidently ensued all around,
Julie looked about the destroyed land,
Knowing what it was like to see the damage firsthand.

What Julie saw then made her blood go cold,
For upon a burning threshold
A girl lay unconscious in need of aid,
Julie knew if she stayed
Or if she delayed-
A heavy price the girl would of paid.

Julie ran as fast as she ever had before,
Diving last minute towards the floor,
Dragging the girl safely away,
The girl opened her eyes as if to say,
She felt she was going to be okay,
Julie couldn't imagine how she'd come to be alone,
Thankfully, evidence of life had clearly shown.

Many had seen what had transpired,
The courage of Julie they had all admired,
But when asked why she put herself in harm's way,
She said, I couldn't very well let her stay,
Julie then took her to where Linda and Clotild stood
Knowing that she'd done all that she could.

It was clear that the girl had no home,
As tattered clothes had clearly shown,
Julie realized that there was one thing she could do,
Knowing that the girl's options were few,
She decided to offer her a chance to restart,
For with them she'd always be a part.

Frightened she was when she finally awoke,
Noticing in gentle tones the sisters spoke,
What happened? They wished to know,
Tears at once began to flow,
They listened to the tale she wished to be told,
As the story of Chloe began to unfold.

I'm an only child, I only had my mom and dad,
In fact they were the only family that I had,
I had to do homeschooling for we were too poor,
Yet, even with that I'd been happy as none before,
Then today fire took my home and the next I'd known
I was fighting for life on my own.

Julie didn't know what to say,
Yet she noticed even now Chloe seemed to be okay,
As if she'd accepted what had passed,
Hoping her parents would feel peace at last,
Linda and Clotild felt like they could relate,
It seemed as if tragedy was the common trait.

As they continued on their way,
Julie and her sister's story they relay,
Finishing with when they had met,
There was something Chloe couldn't forget,
She looked at Julie asking,"Why help me?"
For the reasoning she did not see.

Julie looked at her kindly and without hesitation said,
If I didn't move I knew you'd be dead,
I knew I couldn't leave you there to die
Hopeless though it seemed at the time I had to try,
I took a emergency class a few weeks ago you see,
And the first thing I was taught was never to flee.

The spell of silence was suddenly shattered,
When Julie noticed a girl pale and battered,
Who suddenly collapsed in a heap
As if she'd fallen fast asleep,
Julie went at once to her side,
Sweat thick on her brow she spied.

They knew something had to be done,
Already the setting of the sun had begun,
Julie drove as fast as she could,
And into view a little town stood,
Spotting a doctor's office the girls go,
Hoping the illness the doctor will know.

Slowly the girl began to groan,
Opening her eyes confusion shown,
Seeing her awake Chloe asked her name,
Instead of an answer a blank look came,
The doctor took the girl into another room
Returning a few moments later with a look of gloom.

"Please, she said gesturing to some seats,
With a critical look she asked,"How'd you meet?"
We were driving along when we saw her in the road,
The girls said as their concern clearly showed,
The girl sat in quiet destress as the doctor stressed
This poor child's memory is quite a mess.

"What could you possibly mean?" Julie asked at last,
The doctor answered as a pitiful glance she cast,
She doesn't know who she is or where she's from,
Linda asked," Then for her.....what is to come?"
She will have to go into foster care I'm afraid,
Yet as she said that the girl had swayed.  

Julie was at her side rather quickly,
As the girl appeared even more sickly,
Against Julie the girl then went,
As if to show her energy was clearly spent,
Julie and Linda laid her in a bed,
Knowing she heard all that was said.

The next day when the first ray of sun appeared,
The girl's condition seemed to have cleared,
She said to the doctor as if to get her to see,
I think those girls are my only family,
Julie heard what she said wondering where this would lead
For it appeared as if she planted a seed.

The doctor went to the girls asking if this was true,
"Yes, was the answer that Julie threw,
As the doctor could not prove them wrong,
The girl was allowed to come along,
Leaving the little town behind,
All appeared to have recent events on mind.

Finally Julie asked the girl as she wished to understand,
What was it that made it so she lied to change the plan,
The girl said at last, I felt a bit safer with you,
And I'm not saying that the doctor wouldn't know what to do,
But you helped me , even though you didn't know me at all,
I didn't want to be alone, she said appearing small .

They looked at the girl in a kind way,
At first not knowing what to say,
Finally, Linda asked if she remembered her name,
The girl responded with much disdain,
I'm afraid no name comes to mind,
And I want to leave my past behind.

It's time I start again she proclaimed,
As things can never be the same,
I think we should start with who I am,
So you can call me and all can understand,
How do you like Lucy as a name?
I think that will do nicely as it is simple and plain.

And Lucy was what the girl was to be known,
As if to show how she felt, relief was what had shown,
Lucy then listened to their adventure,
Ending with when they'd met her,
Lucy looked at Julie in a new light,
Saying, "now I know my decision was right."

When the day had come to an end ,
A night under the stars the girls did spend,
Do you ever think about that day ? Asked Clotild
Her voice was sadness filled,
Julie and Linda glanced at her and with pity said,
Clotild we've got to move ahead.

Clotild said nothing and proceeded to bed,
As if to shut out her sister's presence instead,
The next day away from her sisters Clotild did stay,
And not one word did she say,
They came at last to a city to see,
And angry mob corner a girl while she looked back defiantly.

The girls went at once to the scene,
So the situation they could glean,
Linda asked what they were doing,
The mob answered saying, a thief is who we're pursuing,
Linda got in front of the girl asking, "what has she stolen?"
A shop owner pointed saying, it's in the bag she's pullin.

Linda took the bag and looked inside,
In which many foods did reside,
The group glanced at the girl asking the cost,
Paying for the items they had lost,
As the mob slowly trickled away –
the girls asked why she didn't pay .

The girl hung her head Shamed,
you can't blame me she claimed,
at first they had not caught on,
it was then that a girl came along ,
she doesn't have any Home,
she's with me and we're on our own.

My name is Nancy and this is Carol she said,
saying this as if on thin Ice they did tread,
Julie stepped forward and said then,
We won't hurt you, we are friends,
Linda went to them with the bag
knowing that it was all they had.

Once the bag was in their possession,
Nancy said as her weariness began to lessen,
"Thank you for all that you did,"
and with that the farewell they bid
later that night where the girls stayed,
an unexpected visit Nancy and Carol paid.

Hey , Chloe said is everything okay?
Carol answered saying we decided not to stay,
the girls looked at each other asking where they go,
as all of them now wish to know ,
Nancy looked at the girls with hopeful pleasure,
Hoping to find a life that was better.

We were wondering if we could join you guys
and find out where our future lies,
Come and join us, Lucy said to them,
for now they only saw friends,
it was then their story they began to tell,
and at once silence fell.

We are sisters you see,
For so long we'd no where to be,
Believe it or not we had a home,
Better than any have ever known,
For a minute not a word was said,
Carol continued with a look of dread.

"We were well off because of our parents occupations,
The girls listened with much anticipation,
My mom was a doctor and dad was a lawyer you see,
That's why we were such a wealthy family,
One day, said Nancy picking up the story, that changed
Dad came and with mom words were exchanged.

Apparently, dad was being sued,
For as far as his client viewed,
Dad hadn't done all that he could,
Therefore to his client he was no good,
I don't know how much they took,
But the nerves of our parents it clearly shook.

Soon word spread throughout our town,
And eventually people stopped coming to him all around,
Soon mom had to pay for all of bills on her own,
And the stress of it had clearly shown,
One day our parents argued whether or not to send us away,
Carol and I didn't bother to stay.

The girls looked at them with dismay,
Wishing there was something they could say,
Nancy continued saying, the next day we packed our bags,
As she said this  her shoulders sagged,
We knew then that we'd never see our home again,
I thought Carol and I eventually mend.

We ran away from every place we were sent,
Even though no unkindness any family meant,
Since that time we've been alone with nowhere to go,
Sighing, Nancy said, now our story you know,
Julie put her hand reassuringly on Nancy's shoulder,
Thanks for letting us know, she had told her.

What about you? The two sisters wish to be told ,
So to the sisters the story did unfold,
Nancy and Carol stared at Julie with the look of awe,
As if realizing only now who it was that they saw,
Is this really true? They asked as if yet to believe,
It's true, they said as if to show they didn't deceive.

"We've heard of you! Carol said suddenly,
As if the memories of those events surfaced finally,
You were on the news a few days ago,
She looked at Nancy as if she'd know,
Yes, Nancy slowly said as if the story began to return,
Julie was surprised at what the news people had learned.

I just helped those who I thought I could,
Just like I think anyone should,
Carol and Nancy smiled at Julie as if happy to know,
To a new home with Julie they would go,
Several weeks had passed since their journey began,
And out of Europe they were as they planned.

Six days later in New York they came,
And though tired they were happy to be on land all the same,
Through the vast city the girls drove,
Right down New York's main roads,
Throughout the day many had noticed the girls go,
As recognition slowly began to grow.

Comments circled about them regularly,
"Can't we be left alone!", Clotild said sullenly,
Linda and Julie glanced at Clotild momentarily,
She was worse then they thought, they noticed worryingly,
They went to a park and set up camp for the night,
Somewhere that was out of sight.

The glow of the moon lit up their camp in soft light,
Julie and Linda had a feeling that Clotild wasn't alright,
She hardly paid them any heed,
And when they approached she'd recede,
They wished they could make her feel better,
But she was just too bitter.

The next day the girls went through  to Nebraska's state,
Clotild what's wrong? Chloe asked seeing a look of hate,
"I'm fine!" Clotild said violently,
The girls stared at her silently,
It was then that Linda and Chloe swapped,
As the others continued to look at Clotild shocked.

A village came out of the blue,
Those in the village had looked at them as if the girls they knew,
As they set up camp villagers watched in awe
Not believing who it was that they saw,
A girl said, " mommy it's the girl from tv,
The mother glanced in their direction saying-it is indeed.

Looking in their direction Julie sees,
Sheltered in the shade of the shops a girl looked on miserably,
Julie went at once to her to see what was wrong,
All at once had withdrawn,
As the girl noticed and began to retreat, Julie shouted wait!
Catching up Julie noticed that she was pale and under weight.

Are you okay? Lucy asked then,
As a cut Julie did tend,
Linda went and got her food and drink,
And looking at the girl Julie began to think,
Looking at the girl seeing the bleeding,
Julie asked her what was wrong and she said," I was fleeing."

Julie glanced at the others with concern,
Trouble at once they began to discern,
Julie took the girl into her tent,
The other girls to guard the tent they went,
An hour later Julie came out at last,
How bad is it? They asked noticing the look she cast.

Her name is Rose and she's frightened and has good reason,
Julie said this her voice began to lessen,
Last night her parents were robbed and killed,
She witnessed it Julie said her voice with concern filled,
After a minute she continued, apparently the robber knew,
She ran because she didn't know what to do.

She's still in shock unfortunately,
Since no one's caught him he's still at large you see,
She no longer has a home,
She's afraid and she's on her own,
We can't leave her alone with that man on the run,
Okay we'll leave tomorrow at the rising of the sun.

The next day at first light the girls left the village behind,
Each one with the thought of home on their mind,
The sky was crystal clear the air crisp and sweet,
For a minute a pair of eyes Julie did meet,
It was a figure of a boy her age she saw then,
She did not see him again.

For the rest of the day Julie's attention seemed to stray,
To that boy that didn't stay,
Who was it who she had seen?
Was it an illusion or a dream?
As she watched the smoke from their fire burn into the night,
Something went across Julie's sight in flight.

Julie got up and said,"whose out there?"
As this reaction seemed quite fair,
It was then a boy had appeared as a silhouette in the night,
Julie went up to him before he went out of sight,
Why are you following us? she asked her voice tight,
Looking at him Julie can tell something's not right.

Hello Julie, I've come to warn you,
So when the time comes you'll know what to do,
There is one among you you call your friend,
That person you'll lose in the end,
Julie glaring said, " What do you mean then?"
The boy said," the one you call a friend will betray you in the end

Beware he said on and on,
Then as suddenly as he appeared he was gone,
Julie looked at the place where the girls laid,
Suddenly feeling very afraid,
She didn't know why for she thought it couldn't be true,
So to bed she went and thoughts of that night flew.

The next day into Colorado they appeared,
For all the girls weariness at last had cleared,
As each knew their journey was about to end,
And soon all of them would have a home again,
Keeping that in mind, the girls look until a clearing they find
Where a cabin lay with trees behind.

The group went to work setting up camp,
As the air turned cool and damp,
The girls sat to eat dinner at 6:00 that night,
Finishing they feel tired and Julie knows something isn't right,
Because try as they did to stay awake,
Julie knew a drug was placed in something they ate or drank.

As Julie was the last to go down,
The closing of a door was her last sound,
When she woke at last around a room a glance was thrown,
As this room she had not known,
Wondering where you are? Asked Clotild in a mocking tone,
Julie looked at her as confusion shown.

Clotild what.....Julie stopped as understanding grew,
Julie felt as if she'd been hit in the face as she said,"It's you!"
"Why? Julie asked, what have any of us done to deserve this?"
Looking at the others who she originally missed,
Clotild glared as she said, " you don't care or know
To hear Julie this and Julie that wherever you go.

Yet even with that- before any of this began,
Instead of taking command,
You left mom in that fire to die,
And you didn't even bother to try!
So yes Julie, it was me
Because I had every right to be.

"Clotild, how could I have known this would of occurred?"
Yet even as she said this, she knew she wasn't heard,
Goodbye Julie, said Clotild as she stood,
"Clotild, Julie said realizing it'd do no good,
Julie tried to stand only to find her hands and feet tied,
Clotild ran out the door as the binds she tried.

When Julie freed herself to the door she went,
Without luck opening the door her energy she spent,
The others finally woke with a groan,
All went to Julie as she sat alone,
Linda came to her asking, Where are we?
And where is Clotild? For it was her they didn't see.

As they looked at Julie they knew something was wrong,
For she had an expression that didn't belong,
Julie told what happened and the girls began to dispute,
"It's true, said Julie at last , an answer they couldn't refute,
"What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do?
The answer of which nobody knew.

The door was locked from the outside,
And yet no matter how hard they tried,
The door had stayed in it's place,
It seemed like too much for the girls to face,
When all seemed lost and hopeless then,
The door opened revealing only a friend.

The boy Julie had met came at once to her side,
As a look of depression on her face he spied,
"Who are you? asked Rose suspicion clear in her voice,
I'm a friend and I'm here to help, he said by choice,
"How did you find us?" asked Julie her annoyance plain,
"I followed your sister as she took you away", he claimed.

We might as well leave as there is no reason to stay,
"Be wary, your sister intends to make you pay,
What on earth could you mean? asked Linda upset,
Wondering how much worse things could possibly get,
But again as suddenly as he had come to their aid,
He vanished as if to show they were too much delayed.

Their journey home they still went,
To each other their strength they lent,
Not one word had anyone said,
For due to recent events their hearts were filled with lead,
Finally a town came into sight,
As they came they noticed a girl in flight.

From trouble the girl ran,
Behind her as she went she scanned,
Glancing to where her eyes lead,
The group at once to guard the girl they sped,
For a few thieves at once took chase,
Stop! Julie said intent on putting them in their place.

They stopped asking, And why would we listen to you?
At once a fist Julie threw and away they flew,
At last the girl the group had found,
Julie went to her saying, "they're gone, no one's around."
The girl glanced shyly about,
Sure it was now safe she then came out.

"Why bother to help me when you didn't know me at all?"
With them after me, I don't see why on you responsibility'd fall,
They had no right to take from you,
And I knew there was something I could do,
The girl said, I don't even have a home,
I was going to try and  find a life of my own.

Would you like to come with us? asked Rose,
Really...yes please the girl said as the door on her past closed,
What is your name? asked Rose facing their new friend,
Sky, said the girl as a note of confidence she did send,
Where you heading? asked Sky as they left the town behind
Linda said, we're hoping our dad we'll find.

Sky asked confused, what could you mean?
So the girls explained how their journey came into being,
Sky was so amazed that for a minute she could only say,
Julie there's no way
They looked at her and Lucy said, it's true,
And her admiration of Julie quickly grew.

Sky then said, I am sorry that your sister lost her way,
For the wound was still fresh and twas a heavy price to pay,
Thank you, Julie said to break the ice,
For silence had latched on as a vice,
At long last to their father's house they came,
Realizing to each girl life wouldn't be the same.

Knocking on the door as anticipation did build,
Throughout Julie's being fear had filled,
For Clotild's eyes Julie had met,
A look Clotild sent as if to say Julie's actions she'd regret,
At once Clotild took flight-
Quickly vanishing from Julie's sight.

"We need to get inside now, Julie said urgently,
The girls glanced at Julie not seeing what the trouble could be,
Julie? Asked Linda with growing concern,
Seeing what she could learn,
She's here, was all Julie had said,
The girls heard and looked around with dread.

The door opened to show a man with a serious look,
Asking angrily," where is the money that you took?
Your money was stolen? Was it by a girl with blond hair?
The man looked annoyed saying yes as if he'd despaired,
We'll get it back, Julie said taking off with speed,
To the place where Clotild had fleed.

Clotild was hiding in a group of trees in view of all,
"Clotild, Julie's voice did call,
Don't make this harder than it needs to be,
Julie ran into the area as the threat she didn't see,
Running at Julie blind with rage a knife she drew,
Yet as the knife was ****** in Julie it didn't go to.

For right as it came it was Rose who took the blow,
And slowly to the ground she did go,
Dropping the knife Clotild ran,
As she noticed the failure of her plan,
"Rose, Julie said as she sank into her arms weakly,
Her breath came rather futility.

Rose weakly noticed all the girls had gathered around,
They watched shocked and no one made a sound,
Julie asked her voice sad "Why did you jump in front of me?"
Rose smiling said, Julie you taught us all what we should be,
Wincing she said, I didn't want my friend to die,
So futile though it appeared at the time, I knew I had to try.

Rose had tears in her eyes,You gave more than I ever dream of,
Julie cried as Rose went to be with the ones she loved,
After everything Rose had been through,
Julie felt peace for she knew
At last her wish came true,
At once Clotild Julie went to pursue.  

But Julie didn't have to go long,
Seeing Clotild's hands tied Julie's eyes were drawn,
For next her a boy stood tall,
Seeing Julie a serious look did fall,
The money taken to their dad they returned,
Julie then to her dad she turned.

Do I know you? Her dad asked looking at her hard,
Suddenly appearing on guard,
"Dad, It's me Julie, she said as her voice cracked,
"Julie, is it really you? Her dad said as to react,
Why are you here? And why are these girls with you?
So introducing the girls, Julie explained what they'd been through.

For a while, Joe hung his head in shame,
Your mother's dead? As if he was to blame,
"It's not your fault!"Julie said with conviction,
"Yes it is, he said looking stricken,
I was a cop and I promised our plan wouldn't change,
For a time it worked until...as he said this he aged.

What? Julie said wanting to understand,
Joe didn't meet her eyes, my job kinda took command,
I missed our anniversary and your birthday,
After a time your mother said she couldn't stay,
That was the last I'd heard from her unfortunately,
For years you girls were all I wanted to see.

"Dad,  we can be a family again,
Linda said jumping in hoping strength she'd lend,
Joe looked up with a sad look in his eyes,
But why would Clotild blame us for your mother's demise?
Julie said, She's broken and just looking for someone to blame,
I'm sad to say, she is not at all happy we came.

Joe looked at his girls and said, you truly wish to live with me?
Wondering where the reasoning could be,
Yes, said Julie I promised these girls a chance to restart,
I told them with us they'd always be a part,
Then yes, you can come and live with me here,
Hearing the girls did cheer.

Turning to the boy Julie smiled back,
You like me, she said as if it were fact,
What makes you think that? the boy asked in a mocking tone,
Looking up Julie noticed a smile had shown,
So why then did you come to our aid?
Because to the those girls survival a huge part you played.

So who are you? Julie asked then,
A tone of curiosity she did send,
My name is john if you really wish to know,
And as of now I don't intend to ever go,
Leading John into her home
A happy ending the girls at last had known.

Until we meet again  -
I have 2 words and they're The End
This is the first epic poem I've ever written. It's based on a story I wrote as a kid.
jake aller Mar 2019
World According to Cosmos Updates March 3, 2019

Note: I am taking a two week trip to Vietnam and will update my blog when I return with my reflections on my trip, updated publications etc.

Cosmic Dreams and Nightmares

I don't dream dreams.  I dream movies complete with action, music, food, smells everything.  In this one I had a vision of  a possible future. it was so vivid, almost as if I were watching the hearing take place.

Three stories

Dream Girl (true story)
General Zod (flash fiction
Sam Adams Vs. the Social Cleansing Board
Six Poems
Morphing Images from Hellish Nightmare
Endless Movie
Worlds within Worlds Lost in Hell
Rafting to Hell
Satanic Torture
Micro Stories

Don’t Go Jogging in the Middle of the Night
Don’t touch this button!
Don’t open the door
Don’t go to the theater tonight stay home with me
Don’t go to Dallas I have a bad feeling about the trip


Dream Girl
Cheating Death 100 Times
Guardian Angel
Medical Mystery
SLA Hit List

Dream Girl – A true Story – reprinted from Dreams and the Unexplainable
You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.

Author Unknown

The dreams started when I was a senior at Berkeley High School in 1974. About a month before I graduated, I fell asleep in a physics class after lunch and had the first dream:

A beautiful Asian woman was standing next to me, talking in a strange language. She was stunning—the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She was in her early twenties, with long black hair, and piercing black eyes. She had the look of royalty. She looked at me and then disappeared, beamed out of my dream like in Star Trek. I fell out of my chair screaming, “Who are you?” She did not answer.

About a month went by, and then I started having the dream repeatedly. Always the same pattern.

Early morning, she would stand next to me talking. I would ask who she was, and she would disappear. She was the most beautiful, alluring woman I had ever seen.

I was struck speechless every time I had the dream.

I had the dream every month during the eight years during which I went to college and served in the Peace Corps. In fact, when I joined the Peace Corps, I had to decide whether to go Korea or Thailand. The night before I had to submit my decision, I had the dream again and it made me sure that she was in Korea waiting for me.

After the Peace Corps, I still hadn’t met my dream woman. I got a job working for the U.S. Army as an instructor and stayed in Korea. I kept having the dream, until I had the very last one:
She was standing next to me, speaking to me in Korean, but I finally understood her. She said, “Don’t worry, we will be together soon.”

Why was that the last time I had the dream? Because the very next night, the girl in my dream got off the bus in front of me. She went on to the base with an acquaintance of mine, a fellow teacher, and they went to see a movie. I saw her and found the courage to speak with her.

We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to meet that weekend.

The next night, she was waiting for me as I entered the Army base to teach a class. She told me she was a college senior and she had something to tell me. I signed her on to the base and left her at the library to study while I taught, and then we went out for coffee after class. She told me she was madly in love with me, and that I was the man for her. I told her not to worry as I felt the same.

That weekend, we met Saturday and Sunday and hung out all day. On Sunday night, I proposed to her. It was only three days after we had met, but for me it felt like we had met eight years ago. I had been waiting all my life for her to walk out of my dreams and into my life, and here she was.

Her mother did not want her to marry a foreigner. One day, about a month after we met, she invited me to meet her parents. I brought a bottle of Jack Daniels for her father and drank the entire bottle with him. He approved of me, but her mother still had reservations. After a Buddhist priest told her my future wife and I were a perfect astrological combination, she agreed, and we planned our wedding.

The wedding was a media sensation in South Korea. My wife explained it to me years later. At the time, I was overwhelmed just by the fact that we were getting married and I didn’t fully understand how unusual this was. My wife was of the old royal clan, distant relatives to the former kings of Korea. In the clan’s history, only two people had ever married foreigners: my wife, and Rhee Syngman, who was the first President of South Korea. My father, who was a former Undersecretary of Labor, came out for the wedding, which fueled even more media interest. Our marriage defied the stereotypical Korean-foreign marriage where the women married some hapless GI just to escape poverty and immigrate to the U.S. We were the first foreign/Korean couple to get married at a Korean Army base. Over 1,000 people came to the wedding, and my father was interviewed on the morning news programs.

This all happened thirty-seven years ago, (45 years since the first dream) and I am still married to the girl in my dreams. Now in my dreams she watches over me when we are apart.

General Zod Conquers the World
SETI and the search for extraterrestrial life goes on overdrive when scientists report what appears to be radio and television broadcasts from a planet eight light years from earth, the same planet as the Vulcans came from in the Star Trek universe.  The programs show a world where dinosaur-like creatures are running the world and there appears to be a civil war.  Over the next six months, the world is transfixed watching the alien broadcasts which are translated in English via a supercomputer program.  In the broadcast, a nuclear war has occurred. The surviving party regains absolute control and announces the formation of the Galactic Empire.  General Zod is the First Emperor.  They have discovered Earth as well. The aliens launch a crash project to develop interstellar travel so they can come to earth and conquer the earth.

The revelations that there is an external threat to the planet causes the United Nations to get together with the help of the United States and Russia another space powers, they put together Space defense International organization and also invigorates efforts to make the UN a real Planetary government including finally conquering climate change.

But it was too late. General Zod’s son arrives to take over the earth. He makes a broadcast saying that they were liberating Earth in the name of the Galactic Empire and that resistance would be futile.

They land at the White House and when President Trump comes out to greet them,

General Zod cuts off his head, and then cuts off the heads of all the staffers as they come out White House. After an hour of unimaginable horrors, including mass rapes, blowing up the Pentagon and the CIA,  General Zod announces that he had taken over the world.

Life will continue as before as long as people behave and follow the rules they would be fine Resistance to the new empire will be met with instant death.  Life in the Empire is not a democracy. They would not tolerate Freedom of speech, and Freedom of Press, and Freedom of Assembly And the freedom to oppose the State. The state is everything.  As long as humans remember that they would be just fine. They took over the United States because it was the biggest country in the world. And that his forces will take over the rest of the world but in the next couple weeks. If people on earth accept the new order, their safety would be guaranteed. Companies would be taken over by Galactic Empire companies, and everybody would have to learn Galactic standard. Within one year older languages will be banned.

Sam Adams Vs. the Social Cleansing Board

the summons
Sam Adams was worried. He could not sleep. He got up at 4 am and wrote in his journal and tried to cope with the dread that was overwhelming him. He had received the summons yesterday that he was to report to the social cleansing board for a review on whether he would allow to continue to be on the automatic permit list or would be referred for final status determination. Sam was a retired Federal worker trying to live on dwindling savings.

Sam had Alzheimer’s and was rapidly depleting his life’s savings. Two years before he had been released from prison, one of millions of ex political prisoners. His crime? Authoring anti-government poems just before the beginning of the Christian States of America, right after the second civil war. Unfortunately for him and his millions of ex-prisoners, his side lost the war. He wanted to flee to the United Provinces and settle down in California but lacked money to move. And getting a job at his age, with Alzheimer’s and his political rating was proving difficult at best.

All of which added up to a 90 percent probability his last days were approaching.

Under the new rules imposed by the Christian republican party in the newly established Christian states, all citizens over the age of 18 were on the permitted list if they met all of the following criteria. He tried to think why he was being referred to the board. Perhaps it was because of the recent crackdown on social deviancy. Millions of homosexuals, transgenered people, atheists, drug users, alcoholics, and non-religious people had been rounded up and eliminated according to the rumors. Perhaps someone had fingered him as a possible deviant. He fit the stereotype, no children, known drug user, known alcohol user, suspect politically, atheist and now Alzheimer’s patient. And he was not racially pure having some black blood, some Asian blood and some Jewish blood. And he had married across the racial divide which was now illegal.

The story was that if you flipped and named names you would sometimes be spared for now, and if your info was correct, you could be rewarded. Of course, those whom you flipped were not too fortunate. That was probably the story or someone could have heard that he was an ex political prisoner, or simply that he had Alzheimer’s’.

He had no children. And he was a secret atheist and had been involved with the dissent movement and had spent five years as a political prisoner at the start of the Christian Revolution. He was determined to make a stand and denounce the whole rotten system before the board although that would probably seal his fate.

As an Alzheimer’s patient he could no longer work. His wife had died the year before while he was in prison after she had been deported to her native Korea. She left him some assets but he had little idea how to manage his finances and he was behind in his rent and had received an eviction notice which had probably triggered the visit by the social cleansing staff who recommend a final status determination. But it was just as likely he was on the list because someone flipped on him.

He also did not make it last time when they came for him at midnight. Always at midnight the story goes.

The soldiers came took him away from his wife and locked him up for two years. They deported his wife whom he heard had died shortly afterwards. He spend two years at hard labor in the dessert near Las Vegas and was released into Las Vegas.

Las Vegas was a different town now that the casinos had left town. All that was left were back office operations, and underground ***** and *** operations and underground casinos. It was a hot bed of political dissent and there was an underground railroad to California, which was not part of the Christian states. Sam had been preparing to leave which was a crime and perhaps that is why he was on the list.

The hearing would be at 10 am. He was meeting his lawyer at the hearing board but his lawyer was not too optimistic.
the Permit Criteria
The basic criteria for being on the permit list were:

For Males

Age 18 to age 70
White race
Married to a white woman with children
Must be either working, in school full time, serving in military duty, or working in prison if convicted of a crime.

Homelessness was not allowed. If unemployed and or homeless, would be referred to social cleansing department unless one had a relative who was willing to take care of your needs.

Since there were no pensions or social security anymore and no government provided health care, one must have sufficient assets through one’s work, or savings or through one’s relatives to provide for one ‘s needs. If not you would be sent to the social cleansing board for final status determination.

For Females

Same basic rules applied but if one were married, and had children one would be on the permitted list, if children are older, if spouse’s income is sufficient one would be on the list.
If single or divorced, and homeless one would also be subject to social cleansing unless one’s relatives would willing to sponsor you. Since there were no pensions or social security anymore and no government provided health care, one must have sufficient assets through one’s work, or savings or through one’s relatives to provide for one ‘s needs. If not you would be sent to the social cleansing board for final status determination.

For Aged People

Additional requirements for the age you were expected to take care of your basic needs through employment and savings and the help of relatives. If you were evicted for non-payment of rent, or judged to not have sufficient assets left to sustain your basic needs including medical care, you would be referred for final status determination.

For all people additional requirements applied.

****** deviancy, drug use, alcohol use, gambling, *** outside of marriage, homosexuality would result in immediate referral to the social cleansing board as all were banned conduct that could result in final termination.   Being a member of a prohibited religious class could also be grounds for referral as would a pattern of not attending Christian services. Finally, if one had been arrested for political crimes one would be marked forever.
<h2>Sam's Rating</h2>
One had a government social rating. Sam knew that his rating was a D meaning that the government would be watching him all the time, and it would be difficult to get a job. Only the A’s and B’s were guaranteed to be on the permit list.

To be a A you had be to a true believer, had to be white, had to attend church on a regular basis, and had to be employed naturally.

To be a B same thing but you could be a B if you were a minority, or had engaged in alcohol or drug use under the old rules.

C meant that there was something wrong with your background, you were an atheist, you were a minority etc.

D mean that you were a serious threat to the regime.

E meant that you would be terminated.

F met you were terminated as it met Failure to survive, and family members of F were also labeled F as they were usually terminated at the same time.

Being associated with banned political movements, including reading banned materials could also lead one to being referred to the social cleansing board as all were grounds for either termination or criminal prosecution if under the age of 70.

The board has three choices - granted temporary status extension, referral for termination, or referral to criminal prosecution.

The termination would be carried out quickly. There would be an optional funeral at your Church, then the execution through the method of your choice - firing squad, beheading, electric chair, or gas. The default was gas where you were put in a room with up to ten other people and put to sleep.

Afterwards your body would be cremated in an electricity generating plant with the ashes turned into fertilizer products. There were no burials allowed unless one was rich enough and connected enough to request a burial exception. Most people did not qualify.
the Hearing
The hearing started. The presiding Judge, Judge Miller was a stern face white man in his 70’s and a true believer. He was sent to Las Vegas to clean it up as Las Vegas was the wild west, a hot bed of dissent, illegal drug use, illegal prostitution and illegal casinos. It was also near several political prisons so many ex cons lived there.

The Judge was the chairman of the Nevada state committee that did not exist and was a senior official in the Federal committee that did not exist that brought together government, business and church leaders to coordinate government policies and that secretly ran the Christian States of America.

Probably a score of A thought Sam.

The judge announced that he had reviewed Sam’s file and was shocked that Sam had escaped final termination. He said that the previous board had erred in simply sending him to prison. He should have been eradicated as a social evil, as a cancer that needs to be removed from the pure body politics. Sam and his ilk sickened him. Sam was a free thinker, an atheist, a mix race mongrel, married to a non-white and was therefore guilty of crimes against the white race which was a crime. The Judge was determined to see justice done.

He asked Sam a series of questions. Sam’s answers sealed his fate.

Sam, what is your occupation?

None for now.

You realize that under the law you must be working, in service, in school or in prison?

I can’t find a job due to my age, my Alzheimer’s; and my political record.

That’s irrelevant. You are just a lousy atheist *******. You deserve no sympathy. And have none from me.

Are you white?

No, I am mixed race, part native, part Asian, part black.

I see you were married to a non-white and had no children. Good for you we would not want to see more mongrel children. Such children should be eliminated at birth in my opinion and will be starting next month when we begin enforcing the racial purity laws.

What was your crime? Let’s see reading prohibited writings, keeping a journal, publishing an anti-government blog, authoring anti-government poems and stories. You served two years at hard labor?

Yes

Do you still write?

Yes, everyday but I no longer publish on line.

Good. No one would want to read that trash anyway.

Do you go to church?

No

Do you believe in God?

No, I do not believe in an imaginary man in the sky.

One more anti-religious statement from you will result in an immediate ruling of termination.

Do you drink?

If I can find it yes

Do you gamble

Yes, when I can

Do you support the Christian Republican Party and the Christian States of America?

No, I do not.

Okay, I have enough for a ruling. Sam Adams, you are hereby sentence to termination. Tomorrow morning at 7 am you will be turned into electricity and fertilizer. Take him away.

Next please.

At midnight there was a knock at the door. A black man appeared and said he was a friend and he was being smuggled to California. Sam rejoiced and went with his new friend and reached SF in the morning, escaping death for the 23rd time in his life.

the End

Poetic Nightmares

Morphing Images from a Hellish Nightmare
Note: From a real nightmare End Note

I am in a room
Drinking at a party
And smoking ****

Watching people all around me

Change into hideous creatures
Monsters from the deepest depths of hell

Everyone in the room
Has been transformed except me

The Chief of them all
Wears a Trumpian mask

Complete with orange hair

Half human half pig

His deputy
Wears the face of Putin
But his body
Half human, half horse: if

The other creatures wear masks
Many of them wear
Green Pepe the alt-right
Symbolic frog masks

And have T-shirts
Bearing alt right slogans
And **** symbols

And as they prance about
They chant alt. Right slogans
And neo-**** chants

Jews will not Replace us

And the rest of these creatures
Are hideous ugly beasts
With only a vestige of humanity left

And these monsters are engaged
In all sorts of foul evil deeds
****** violence death

All around
And non-stop
violent drug-fueled ******

As these creatures
Half human half monsters
Half male, half female creatures

Snort coke, *******, speed
Smoke **** and drink ***** shots
Scotch, bourbon and beer

The Trumpian Pig leads the charge
Starts engaging in ****** with Putin
Who chases after people

Cutting off their heads with his sword
They turn on to their fellow creatures
****** and killing each other
and eating their fellow creatures

All night long

Then they attack me
Screaming

Jews will not replace us
And I wake up
Screaming

As the sun comes up
Just another nightmare


The Endless Movie

Watching the TV coverage
Of the great government shut down
Of 2018-2019

I am reminded of a movie
As I fall asleep
Listening to the TV

Blather on and on
About what it all means

Mr. Natural pops up
And screams

"It don’t mean s….

“Dude, the endless movie
Is about to begin”!

A middle-aged white man
Down on his proverbial luck
Just been fired

Replaced by a foreign worker
Or a robot

Or just fired
Because he was no longer
Deemed useful
To the masters of the universe

If he was lucky
He'd  be given a watch
And an IOU worthless pension

And the man wanders into a restaurant
Pulls out a gun

Eats his breakfast
After the official breakfast hour

Puts on a Pepe the green frog mask
Drops acid, Snorts speed
Drinks a shot of *****
And coffee smokes a joint

Snorts ******* for good measure
and smokes a cigarette

And walks outside
steals a bus at gun point
Filled with passengers

He tells them
They are hostages

And he puts on his vest
With the dead man switch
Next to the bomb

He announces
Via tweet

He is going to take the bus
To the proverbial *** of gold

Hidden deep in a cave
And when he got there

He would release the hostages
And disappear into the mine
And never be found again

And as the bus careens around the mountain
At 100 miles an hour
The dude sprouts out

Conspiracy after conspiracy theory
About Obama the Muslim communist

secret gay working with George Soros
the Jewish money people
in league with the shapeshifting lizards

and Mueller is one of them
they are all after him
because he knows the deal

And the passengers are transfixed
Half hoping, he would make it
Half hoping, he would be blown away

And as the bus careens out of control
With the wheels falling off

And the cliff looming ahead
You realize we are all doomed


Worlds Within Worlds Lost in Inner Space
A man woke up one day
Lost in inner space
Went so far down
The proverbial rabbit hole

That he did not know
Where he was
Nor what time it was
Nor when it was

As he stared out
At a bewildering world
A world lost in inner space
Deep down in his dreams

Filled with nightmarishly real
Monsters, demons and ghostly apparitions
He saw them and began running
Running running running

With the hell hounds behind him
Leading him to the edge
of the pits of hell itself

abandon all hope
ye who enter here
the sign read
above the entrance to the pit

and there was a devil standing there
armed with a clipboard
and a computer spreadsheet
Satan was the ultimate bureaucrat

Name barked the devil
Date of Birth ?
Date of Death?
Don’t know? That won’t do at all
Hmm

Car accident due to drunk driving
And you killed a child
Bad on you

But here in hell
The punishment fits the crime
And the devil laughed
Joined in by the hell hounds
And other nightmare creatures

A bell ran out
In the purple crystalline sky
And slowly the worlds receded
And he found himself alive

In his room
And vowed
That today
Was the day

He would quit drinking
Quit taking drugs
And quit chasing strange woman
And having wild libertine ***

He picked up the phone
It was Satan’s aid
Be careful what you vow
We are listening

If you fulfil your vows
You might find yourself
Escaping life in Hell
It is up to you to choose

And the man got dressed
Went to work
Thinking deep thoughts

And drove off a cliff
And back down the endless
Worlds within worlds

Satanic Torture

I find myself
In a dark room
Strapped to a bed

The light turns on
The large TV comes on

A smiling image
Of Satan fills the TV
He is dressed
In a conservative business suit

Looks like he came
Out of a corporate
board meeting

surrounded by demonic aides
who constantly shove papers
at him

He looks up from his lap top
And smiles
A deadly so insincere smile

His voice booms out

Welcome to Hell
My satanic slaves

I am Satan
Your new master

Each of you
Has been sentenced
To an eternity of torture

And the punishment
Must fit the crime

So, for you
Mr. Jake Cosmos Aller
Failed aspiring poet
And novelist

Your torture
Is to be strapped
To that bed

Unable to move
As you are filled
With the need
To **** and ****

But you cannot move
And your skin
Is crawling with bugs

And itchy
as Hell so to speak
and you are so sleepy

but you cannot sleep

the TV will play
endless repeats

Of some of the worst TV
and movie shows
ever produced

Starting with my favorite
A Series of Unfortunate Events

Featuring your favor annoying little girl
Carmetta! Singing for you forever
As you are the ultimate cake sniffer

Welcome to Hell


Rafting Towards Hell
I woke up
To find myself
Rafting down a river

I looked up
At the cliffs
Towering above
the roaring torrent

and see the dark demons
of my terrible nightmares
chasing the boat
firing flaming arrows

and I see werewolves
goblins, ghosts and monsters
running along the river bed
screaming obscenities

as they chase me
to my doom

and I see the waterfall ahead
and see my pending doom

as I rush over the edge
of reason



Micro Stories
53 word stories regarding unheeded warnings
Don’t Go Jogging in the Middle of the Night
It all started with a jog in the middle of the night. Despite my wife’s warning don’t go jogging in the middle of the night.  Broke me heal in a million pieces, 14 operations ensured, mutant MDR Staff almost killed me, almost lost the leg. . should have listened to her warning.

Don’t touch this button!
Don’t touch this button the former President said.  I said, what this button? And that led to the launching of nuclear weapons, going to defon three, and world war 3 with millions of people dead end of civilization moment. Should not have touched the red button.
Don’t open the door
When you find yourself running for your life chased by demons from hell and backed into a corner in a burning house filled with flames and are about to die in a million horrible ways you remembered that they warned you not to open door number three in this crazy reality TV show.
Don’t go to the theater tonight stay home with me
Mary Todd Lincoln had a vicious headache and was not in the mood to go out.  The President though ignored her wishes and told her that he had to go to the theater that night to show the world everything was okay now the war was ending.  Should have listened to her.
Don’t go to Dallas I have a bad feeling about the trip
Jackie was known for her moods and her premonitions. Something the President found both amusing an annoying. She told him that she a vision of death waiting for him in Dallas that day.  The President dismissed her foolishness as he put it and went to Dallas to meet his fate.
true love story.
In 1974 I had the first dream. While sleeping in a boring class, I saw a beautiful Asian woman standing at me speaking a foreign language. I fell out of chair yelling who are you?   I began having the same dream month after month for eight years.  One day I realized she was in Korea so I went there in the Peace Corps to meet her. In 1982 I had the last dream.  She said don’t worry we meet soon. That night she walked off a bus, out of the dream and into my life.  We’ve been married 37 years.
Cheating Death 22 Times
Also, a true story.
I have cheated death 22 times in my life.  I was born a preemie, almost died at birth, and had all the childhood illness at once.  In 1979 I came down with Typhoid  fever in Korea in the Peace Corps.  In 1991 almost got hit by a train. In 1996-1997 had 14 operations due to a mutant drug resistant staph infection, almost died several times.  In 1997 I had an acute stomach ailment that almost killed me, due to excessive antibiotic usage, if I had waited 30 minutes more would have been dead.  And had dengue in 2010.
Guardian Angel Saves My Life
Another true story
In 1990, I was teaching ESL in Korea.  My wife and I drove to the East Coast of Korea for a weekend away. She was in the US Army then.  As we drove towards Sorak mountain, I was filled with the need to get off the road right then. I had a premonition of doom, so did my wife. We got off to drive around another park returned a few minutes later and saw a 25 car pileup. We would have been dead if we had not listened to that inner voice telling us get off now.

Medical Mystery
Another true story
Back in 1996, when I was in the hospital fighting a mutant staph infection after a disastrous jogging accident that led to 14 operations, the internal medicine doctor said that there was something else going on. He finally discovered that I had a rare parasite, a tape worm of sorts that remained inert, its only becomes active if you take steroids then it blows up like a basketball killing you instantly. Six months later I had to take steroids due to frozen shoulder syndrome, and if I had not gotten rid of it, I would have died a medical mystery.

SLA Hit List
True story

Back in 1974 my father was a local politician in Berkeley, California who was on the SLA’***** list as “an enemy of the people, a fascist insect that needed to be killed”.  His crime?  As President of the community college district, he began requiring IDS for students and staff to combat campus crime at the local community colleges.  We had 24/7 police coverage for a while. One morning I saluted my father, “good morning fascist insect”.  My father, being of Germanic stock did not like the joke as jokes are alien to the German DNA.


the End
based on dreams and nightmares
Tea Oct 2013
I remember crying during lunch my senior year of high school
My math teacher’s eyebrows colliding turning one plane into a fractal image
He had sat there every day for nearly four years
Helping me struggle through an unreal number of numbers
Literaly and figuratively
And again and again the numbers on my math test said
You are less than average
You
Are
Stupid.

But behind the eyes of a determined math teacher
Never read, what my insecurities where screaming
Refusing to believe the numbers, I sought one thing
Some unspoken meaning
I almost found it the day of my graduation
I almost found it between my teacher’s eyebrows
Wearing it like a point of pride
I was the first of my family to hold
Such a light thing as a diploma
Instead of a heavy head
Weighed down by ******
It nodding under all the pressure
The first to feel the lightness of feather
Instead of a sixpack
A lame back, from manual labor
I was flying
College was my next undefeated feat
Again I let an institution tell me what I was
Test scores tell me what I should meet
Intelligent measured by something
That couldn’t understand its diversity
Trying to tell me I was less than average
When I was just an individual
Above a point of comparison
Excelling in conceptual understanding
Debating and good energy

I could construct social interaction
Like gold, I learn to read people
The power in my phone
I learned that it wasn’t the diploma that I should be proud of
Not the thing I sought after
Not what I would show my little sisters and brothers
To show them how to live better, how to be stronger
Burn brighter. Burn longer.
So here I am
Red faced and scared
spoken word
was hiding, but always there
in between my math teachers scrunched brow
Was the answer
I could have cheated if I had known how
If I knew what question that needed answered
Had realized it was never in his book
I should have listened to what I saw
Not to the math test I took
I
Am
Not
Stupid
I haven’t failed by choosing something outside of school
That I am not defined by the score
By numbers or lines
By this institutional rules
Test scores or even rhymes
I am not less than average
I just don’t average out
That power isn’t really in a piece of paper
Power is found in your words
And chosen behavior
That silence and insecurity
Means nothing really
The answer wasn’t in his book
It was in his look
And his persistence to prove
I
Am
Not
Stupid
He just wasn’t good enough with words to prove it.
Laura Robin Nov 2012
from the mind of an anxious depressive

from the time i, as a little girl,
dressed up like a princess
[tiara and all,
pouffy, pink dress and all]
listened to my mother tell me
a fairy tale
of a woman who finds
her prince charming,
and is rescued by him,
and lives happily, happily ever after
in a magnificent palace by the sea…
and i, as a brooding teenager,
insecure and reclusive,
observed a
[now viewed as ridiculous]
romantic film
about a woman who finds her
one true Love,
and he rescues her,
and they live happily, happily ever after
in a beautiful three-bedroom home
where they raise two,
perfect children…
and i, as a young woman,
fully aware and adept,
recognizing the world for what it is
as *i
see it,
seeing love dismantle time,
and time again....

i am fully aware that nothing can possibly last for a happily ever after.

the doubt is consuming,
the wall is well-built and
unyielding.
my heart remains too crippled
to possibly endure the grief that
falling in Love elicits.

but,
Love finds you even if you have
given up the notion of it.
it gallops in on its white horse.
has bright blue eyes.
sparks a smile that can illuminate
my somber heart.
has no regard for my opposition to itself.
is selfish and greedy and exhausting.

it is utterly impossible to avoid
being seduced
into the black hole
from which i will never leave
precisely the same.
from which i will surrender
a piece of myself
essential to my functioning.

Love sweeps in like a tornado
[destroying everything in its path]
and so the five stages of falling in Love,
and falling apart,
begin.

denial.
i feign disinterest.
i pretend as if he doesn’t
engross my thoughts
as if my heart doesn’t encroach upon my stomach
when he enters the room.
if asked by a friend,
“why does your face turn bright red
when he dares to utter your name?”
i pretend like she is the insane one
[when i am the one denying my heart.]

anger.
i become enraged.
Love has taken control.
the knowledge that i let Love
dismantle the wall,
that i have spent years building,
and reinforcing,
[brick by brick, piece by piece]
infuriates me.
i let him gradually demolish it.
and now i am powerless and susceptible,
and now he has me by the heartstrings.
he holds me in his greedy palms.

bargaining.
i avoid the fact that i am falling,
yes, i am falling.
oh, so deeply for him.
i watch myself fall from such great heights
straight into the ground
crashing through to the
center of
the world.
i even pray to God,
the one i'm not even sure i believe in.
i tell Him that i would do anything,
anything just to take back control.
to have two firm hands on the wheel.
to be the driver
instead of the passenger.

depression.
i cannot bring myself
to shove off the covers.
to crawl out of bed.
i am miserable and helpless and
he is all i can think about.
he is my first thought
when i am awake.
my last when my mind
finally tires of him,
and i fall into a
fitful night of sleep.
yet, i do not tell him any of this.
he wonders why i am so distant,
so removed from him.
what he does not know is that
he carries part of myself with him
wherever he goes.

acceptance.
when my nerves have finally worn themselves down,
when my heart has reached an understanding with my mind,
when Love does not appear as something to be grieved,
that is when i fall in Love.

never once have i
accepted Love from a man,
Love that could alter
my melancholy mind,
nor have i trusted a man with my heart.
[although i have been forced by Love itself to relinquish it.]

i have been obstinate and headstrong
and refused to give all of myself
in fear of losing myself.
but maybe one day, i will be
rescued from myself.
Hilda Nov 2012
You must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear;
To-morrow 'ill be the happiest time of all the glad New-year;
Of all the glad New-year, mother, the maddest merriest day;
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

There's many a black, black eye, they say, but none so bright as mine;
There's Margaret and Mary, there's Kate and Caroline:
But none so fair as little Alice in all the land they say,
So I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

I sleep so sound all night, mother, that I shall never wake,
If you do not call me loud when the day begins to break:
But I must gather knots of flowers, and buds and garlands gay,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

As I came up the valley whom think ye should I see,
But Robin leaning on the bridge beneath the hazel-tree?
He thought of that sharp look, mother, I gave him yesterday,--
But I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

He thought I was a ghost, mother, for I was all in white,
And I ran by him without speaking, like a flash of light.
They call me cruel-hearted, but I care not what they say,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

They say he's dying all for love, but that can never be:
They say his heart is breaking, mother--what is that to me?
There's many a bolder lad 'ill woo me any summer day,
And I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

Little Effie shall go with me to-morrow to the green,
And you'll be there, too, mother, to see me made the Queen;
For the shepherd lads on every side 'ill come from far away,
And I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

The honeysuckle round the porch has wov'n its wavy bowers,
And by the meadow-trenches blow the faint sweet cuckoo-flowers;
And the wild marsh-marigold shines like fire in swamps and hollows gray,
And I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

The night-winds come and go, mother, upon the meadow-grass,
And the happy stars above them seem to brighten as they pass;
There will not be a drop of rain the whole of the live-long day,
And I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

All the valley, mother, 'ill be fresh and green and still,
And the cowslip and the crowfoot are over all the hill,
And the rivulet in the flowery dale 'ill merrily glance and play,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

So you must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear,
To-morrow 'ill be the happiest time of all the glad New-year:
To-morrow 'ill be of all the year the maddest merriest day,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.

New Year's Eve

If you're waking, call me early, call me early, mother dear,
For I would see the sun rise upon the glad new-year.
It is the last new-year that I shall ever see,—
Then you may lay me low i' the mold, and think no more of me.

To-night I saw the sun set,—he set and left behind
The good old year, the dear old time, and all my peace of mind;
And the new-year's coming, mother; but I shall never see
The blossom on the blackthorn, the leaf upon the tree.

Last May we made a crown of flowers; we had a merry day,—
Beneath the hawthorn on the green they made me Queen of May;
And we danced about the May-pole and in the hazel copse,
Till Charles's Wain came out above the tall white chimney-tops.

There's not a flower on all the hills,—the frost is on the pane;
I only wish to live till the snowdrops come again.
I wish wish the snow would melt and the sun come out on high,—
I long to see a flower so before the day I die.

The building-rook'll caw from the windy tall elm-tree,
And the tufted plover pipe along the fallow lea,
And the swallow'll come back again with summer o'er wave,
But I shall lie alone, mother, within the mouldering grave.

Upon the chancel casement, and upon that grave of mine,
In the early morning the summer sun'll shine,
Before the red **** crows from the farm upon the hill,—
When you are warm-asleep, mother, and all the world is still.

When the flowers come again, mother, beneath the waning light
You'll never see me more in the long grey fields at night;
When from the dry dark wold the summer airs blow cool
On the oat-grass and the sword-grass, and the bullrush in the pool.

You'll bury me, my mother, just beneath the hawthorn shade,
And you'll come sometimes and see me where I am lowly laid.
I shall not forget you, mother; I shall hear you when you pass,
With your feet above my head in the long and pleasant grass.

I have been wild and wayward, but you'll forgive me now;
You'll kiss me, my own mother, upon my cheek and brow;
Nay, nay, you must no weep, nor let your grief be wild;
You should not fret for me, mother—you have another child.

If I can, I'll come again, mother, from out my resting-place;
Though you'll not see me, mother, I shall look upon your face;
Though I cannot speak a word, I shall harken what you say,
And be often, often with you when you think I'm far away.

Good night! good night! when I have said good night forevermore,
And you see me carried out from the threshold of the door,
Don't let Effie come to see me till my grave be growing green,—
She'll be a better child to you then ever I have been.

She'll find my garden tools upon the granary floor.
Let her take 'em—they are hers; I shall never garden more.
But tell her, when I'm gone, to train the rosebush that I set
About the parlour window and box of mignonette.

Good night, sweet-mother! Call me before the day is born.
All night I lie awake, but I fall asleep at morn;
But I would see the sun rise upon the glad new-year,—
So, if you're waking, call me, call me early, mother dear.

Conclusion.

I thought to pass away before, and yet alive I am;
And in the fields all around I hear the bleating of the lamb.
How sadly, I remember, rose the morning of the year!
To die before the snowdrop came, and now the violet's here.

O, sweet is the new violet, that comes beneath the skies;
And sweeter is the young lamb's voice to me that cannot rise;
And sweet is all the land about, and all the flowers that blow;
And sweeter far is death than life, to me that long to go.

I seemed so hard at first, mother, to leave the blessed sun,
And now it seems as hard to stay; and yet, His will be done!
But still I think it can't be long before I find release;
And that good man, the clergyman, has told me words of peace.

O, blessings on his kindly voice, and on his silver hair,
And blessings on his whole life long, until he meet me there!
O, blessings on his kindly heart and on his silver head!
A thousand times I blest him, as he knelt beside my bed.

He taught me all the mercy for he showed me all the sin;
Now, though my lamp was lighted late, there's One will let me in.
Nor would I now be well, mother, again, if that could be;
For my desire is but to pass to Him that died for me.

I did not hear the dog howl, mother, or the death-watch beat,—
There came a sweeter token when the night and morning meet;
But sit beside my bed, mother, and put your hand in mine,
And Effie on the other side, and I will tell the sign.

All in the wild March-morning I heard the angels call,—
It was when the moon was setting, and the dark was over all;
The trees began to whisper, and the wind began to roll,
And in the wild March-morning I heard them call my soul.

For, lying broad awake, I thought of you and Effie dear;
I saw you sitting in the house, and I no longer here;
With all my strength I prayed for both—and so I felt resigned,
And up the valley came a swell of music on the wind.

I thought that is was fancy, and I listened in my bed;
And then did something speak to me,—I know not what was said;
For great delight and shuddering took hold of all my mind,
And up the valley came again the music on the wind.

But you were sleeping; and I said, "It's not for them,—it's mine;"
And if it comes three times, I thought, I take it for a sign.
And once again it came, and close beside the window-bars;
Then seemed to go right up to heaven and die among the stars.

So now I think my time is near; I trust it is. I know
The blessèd music went that way my soul will have to go.
And for myself, indeed, I care not if I go to-day;
But Effie, you must comfort her when I am past away.

And say to Robin a kind word, and tell him not to fret;
There's many a worthier than I, would make him happy yet.
If I had lived—I cannot tell—I might have been his wife;
But all these things have ceased to be, with my desire of life.

O, look! the sun begins to rise! the heavens are in a glow;
He shines upon a hundred fields, and all of them I know.
And there I move no longer now, and there his light may shine,—
Wild flowers in the valley for other hands than mine.

O, sweet and strange it seems to me, that ere this day is done
The voice that now is speaking may be beyond the sun,—
Forever and forever with those just souls and true,—
And what is life, that we should moan? why make we such ado?

Forever and forever, all in a blessèd home,—
And there to wait a little while till you and Effie come,—
To lie within light of God, as I lie upon your breast,—
And the wicked cease from troubling, and weary are at rest.

**~By Alfred Lord Tennyson 1809—1892~
Cyril Blythe Sep 2012
I followed him down the trail until we got to the mouth of the mines. The life and energy of the surrounding maples and birches seemed to come to a still and then die as we walked closer, closer. The air was cold and dark and damp and smelt of mold and moths. Delvos stepped into the darkness anyways.
“Well, girl, you coming or aren’t you?”
I could see his yellowed tobacco teeth form into a slimy smile as I stepped out of the sun. It was still inside. The canary chirped.
“This tunnel is just the mouth to over two hundred others exactly like it. Stay close. Last thing I need this month is National Geographic on my *** for losing one of their puppet girls.”
“Delvos, ****. I have two masters degrees.” He rolled his eyes.
“Spare me.” He trotted off around the corner to the left, whistling.
“I survived alone in the jungles of Bolivia alone for two months chasing an Azara’s Spinetail. I climbed the tallest mountain in Nepal shooting Satyr Tragopans along the cliff faces. In Peru I…” Suddenly I felt the weight of the darkness. In my blinding anger I lost track of his lantern. I stopped, my heartbeat picked up, and I tried to remind myself of what I did in Peru.
I followed a Diurnal Peruvian Pygmy-Owl across the gravel tops of the Andes Mountains, no light but the Southern Cross and waning moon above. I am not scared of darkness. I am not scared of darkness.
I stopped to listen. Somewhere in front of me the canary chirped.

When I first got the job in Vermont I couldn’t have been more frustrated. Mining canaries? Never had I ever ‘chased’ a more mundane bird. Nonetheless, when Jack Reynolds sends you on a shoot you don’t say no, so I packed up my camera bag and hoped on the next plane out of Washington.
“His name is John Delvos.” Jack said. He handed me the manila case envelope. “He’s lived in rural Vermont his entire life. Apparently his family bred the canaries for the miners of the Sheldon Quarry since the early twenties. When the accident happened the whole town basically shut down. There were no canaries in the mines the day the gas killed the miners. His mother died in a fire of some sort shortly after. The town blamed the Delvos family and ran them into the woods. His father built a cabin and once his father died, Delvos continued to breed the birds. He ships them to other mining towns across the country now. We want to run a piece about the inhumanity of breeding animals to die so humans won’t.” I stood in silence in front of his deep mahogany desk, suddenly aware of the lack of make-up on my face. He smiled, “You’re leaving on Tuesday.”
“Yes sir.”
“Don’t look so smug, Lila. This may not be the most exotic bird you’ve shot but the humanity of this piece has the potential to be a cover story. Get the shots, write the story.”

“Do you understand the darkness now, Ms. Rivers? Your prestigious masters degrees don’t mean **** down here.” Delvos reappeared behind the crack of his match in a side tunnel not twenty yards in front of me. He relit the oily lantern and turned his back without another word. I reluctantly followed deeper into the damp darkness.
“Why were there no canaries in the mine on, you know, that day?” The shadows of the lantern flickered against the iron canary cage chained on his hip and the yellow bird hopped inside.
“I was nine, Ms. Rivers. I didn’t understand much at the time.” We turned right into the next tunnel and our shoes crunched on jagged stones. All the stones were black.
“But surely you understand now?”
The canary chirped.

When I first got to Sheldon and began asking about the location of the Delvos’ cabin you would have thought I was asking where the first gate to hell was located. Mothers would smile and say, “Sorry, Miss, I can’t say,” and hurriedly flock their children in the opposite direction. After two hours of polite refusals I gave up. I spent the rest of the first day photographing the town square. It was quaint; old stone barbershops surrounded by oaks and black squirrels, a western themed whiskey bar, and a few greasy spoon restaurants interspersed in-between. I booked a room in the Walking Horse Motel for Wednesday night, determined to get a good nights sleep and defeat this towns fear of John Delvos tomorrow.
My room was a tiny one bed square with no TV. Surprise, surprise. At least I had my camera and computer to entertain myself. I reached into the side of my camera bag and pulled out my Turkish Golds and Macaw-beak yellow BIC. I stepped out onto the dirt in front of my door and lit up. I looked up and the stars stole all the oxygen surrounding me. They were dancing and smiling above me and I forgot Delvos, Jack, and all of Sheldon except it’s sky. Puffing away, I stepped farther and farther from my door and deeper into the darkness of night. The father into the darkness the more dizzying the stars dancing became.
“Ma’am? Everything okay?”
Startled, I dropped my cigarette on the ground and the ember fell off.
“I’m sorry, sir. I was just, um, the stars…” I snuffed out the orange glow in the dirt with my boot and extended my hand, “Lila Waters, and you are?”
“Ian Benet. I haven’t seen you around here before, Ms. Waters, are you new to town?”
“I’m here for work. I’m a bird photographer and journalist for National Geographic. I’m looking for John Delvos but I’m starting to think he’s going to be harder to track than a Magpie Robin.”
The stars tiptoed in their tiny circles above in the silence. Then, they disappeared with a spark as Ian lit up his wooden pipe. It was a light colored wood, stained with rich brown tobacco and ash. He passed me his matches, smiling.
“What do you want with that old *******? Don’t tell me National Geographic is interested in the Delvos canaries.”
I lit up another stick and took a drag. “Shocking, right?”
“Actually, it’s about time their story is told.” Benet walked to the wooden bench to our left and patted the seat beside him. I walked over. “The Delvos canaries saved hundreds of Sheldonian lives over the years. But the day a crew went into the mines without one, my father came out of the ground as cold as when we put him back into it in his coffin.”
I sat in silence, unsure what to say. “Mr. Benet, I’m so sorry…”
“Please, just Ian. My father was the last Mr. Benet.”
We sat on the wooden bench, heat leaving our bodies to warm the dead wood beneath our legs. I shivered; the stars dance suddenly colder and more violent.
“Delvos canaries are martyrs, Ms. Waters. This whole town indebted to those tiny yellow birds, but nobody cares to remember that anymore.”
“Can you tell me where I can find Mr. Delvos and his, erm, martyrs?” The ember of my second cigarette was close to my pinching fingertips.
“Follow me.” Ian stood up and walked to the edge of the woods in front of us. We crunched the cold dust beneath our feet, making me aware of how silent it was. Ian stopped at a large elm and pointed, “See that yellow notch?” Sure enough, there was a notch cut and dyed yellow at his finger’s end. “If you follow true north from this tree into the woods you’ll find this notch about every fifty yards or so. Follow the yellow and it’ll spit you out onto the Delvos property.”
“Thank you, Ian. I really can’t begin to tell you how thankful I am to find out where to find this elusive Mr. Delvos and his canaries.”
“You don’t have to,” he knocked the ash out of his pipe against the tree, “Just do those birds justice in your article. Remember, martyrs. Tell old Delvos Ian Benet sends his regards.” He turned and walked back to the motel and I stood and watched in silence. It was then I realized I hadn’t heard a single bird since I got to Sheldon. The stars dance was manic above me as I walked back to my room and shut the door.

The canary chirped and Delvos stopped.
“This is a good place to break out fast. Sit.”
I sat obediently, squirming around until the rocks formed a more comfortable nest around my bony hips. We left for the mines as the stars were fading in the vermillion Vermont sky this morning and had been walking for what seemed like an eternity. I was definitely ready to eat. He handed me a gallon Ziploc bag from his backpack filled with raisins, nuts, various dried fruits, and a stiff piece of bread. I attacked the food like a raven.
“I was the reason no canaries entered the mines that day, Ms. Waters.” Delvos broke a piece of his bread off and wrapped it around a dried piece of apricot, or maybe apple. I was suddenly aware of my every motion and swallowed, loudly. I crinkled into my Ziploc and crunched on the pecans I dug out, waiting.
“Aren’t you going to ask why?”
“I’m not a parrot, Mr. Delvos, I don’t answer expectedly on command. You’ll tell me if you want.” I hurriedly stuffed a fistful of dried pears into my mouth.
Delvos chuckled and my nerves eased, “You’ve got steel in you, Ms. Rivers, I’ll give you that much.”
I nodded and continued cramming pears in my mouth.
“I was only nine. The canaries were my pets, all of them. I hated when Dad would send them into the mines to die for men I couldn’t give two ***** about. It was my birthday and I asked for an afternoon of freedom with my pets and Dad obliged. I was in the aviary with pocketfuls of sunflower-seeds. Whenever I threw a handful into the air above me, the air came to life with flickering yellow brushes and songs of joy. It was the happiest I have ever been, wholly surrounded and protected by my friends. Around twelve thirty that afternoon the Sheriff pulled up, lights ablaze. The blue and red lights stilled my yellow sky to green again and that’s when I heard the shouting. He cuffed my Dad on the hood of the car and Mom was crying and pushing her fists into the sheriff’s chest. I didn’t understand at all. The Sheriff ended up putting Mom in the car too and they all left me in the aviary. I sat there until around four that afternoon before they sent anyone to come get me.”
Delvos took a small bite of his bread and chewed a moment. “No matter how many handfuls of seeds I threw in the air after that, the birds wouldn’t stir. They wouldn’t even sing. I think they knew what was happening.”
I was at a loss for words so of course I blurted, “I didn’t see an aviary at your house…”
Delvos laughed. “Someone burnt down the house I was raised in the next week while we were sleeping. Mom died that night. The whole dark was burning with screams and my yellow canaries were orange and hot against the black sky. That’s the only night I’ve seen black canaries and the only night I’ve heard them scream.”
I swallowed some mixed nuts and they rubbed against my dry throat.
“They never caught the person. A week later Dad took the remainder of the birds and we marched into the woods. We worked for months clearing the land and rebuilding our lives. We spent most of the time in silence, except for the canary cries. When the house was finally built and the birds little coops were as well, Dad finally talked. The only thing he could say was ‘Canaries are not the same as a Phoenix, John. Not the same at all.”
The canary chirped, still only visible by the lanterns flame. Not fully yellow, I realized, here in the mines, but not fully orange either.

When I first walked onto John Delvos’ property on Thursday morning he was scattering feed into the bird coops in the front of his cabin. Everything was made of wood and still wet with the morning’s dew.
“Mr. Delvos?” He spun around, startled, and walked up to me a little too fast.
“Why are you here? Who are you?”
“My name is Lila Waters, sir, I am a photographer and journalist for National Geographic Magazine and we are going to run an article on your canaries.”
“Not interested”
“Please, sir, can I ask you just a few quick questions as take a couple pictures of your, erm, martyrs?”
His eyes narrowed and he walked up to me, studying my face with an intense, glowering gaze. He spit a mouthful of dip onto the ground without breaking eye contact. I shifted my camera bag’s weight to the other shoulder.
“Who told you to call them that?”
“I met Ian Benet last night, he told me how important your birds are to this community, sir. He sends his regards.”
Delvos laughed and motioned for me to follow as he turned his back. “You can take pictures but I have to approve which ones you publish. That’s my rule.”
“Sir, it’s really not up to me, you see, my boss, Jack Reynolds, is one of the CEO’s for the magazine and he...”
“Those are my rules, Ms. Waters.” He turned and picked back up the bucket of seed and began to walk back to the birds. “You want to interview me then we do it in the mine. Be back here at four thirty in the morning.”
“Sir…?”
“Get some sleep, Ms. Waters. You’ll want to be rested for the mine.” He turned, walked up his wooden stairs, and closed the door to his cabin.
I was left alone in the woods and spent the next hour snapping pictures of the little, yellow canaries in their cages. I took a couple pictures of his house and the surrounding trees, packed up my camera and trekked back to my motel.

“You finished yet?” Delvos stood up and the memory of his green and brown wooded homestead fled from my memory as the mine again consumed my consciousness. Dark, quiet, and stagnant. I closed the Ziploc and stuffed the bag, mainly filled with the raisins I sifted through, into my pocket.
Delvos grunted and the canary flapped in its cage as he stood again and, swinging the lantern, rounded another corner. The path we were on began to take a noticeable ***** downward and the moisture on the walls and air multiplied.
The canary chirped.
The lantern flickered against the moist, black stones, sleek and piled in the corners we past. The path stopped ahead at a wall of solid black and brown Earth.
The canary chirped twice.
It smelt of clay and mildew and Delvos said, “Go on, touch it.”
I reached my hand out, camera uselessly hanging like a bat over my shoulder. The rock was cold and hard. It felt dead.
The Canary was flitting its wings in the cage now, chirping every few seconds.
“This is the last tunnel they were digging when the gas under our feet broke free from hell and killed those men.”
Delvos hoisted the lantern above our heads, illuminating the surrounding gloom. All was completely still and even my own vapor seemed to fall out of my mouth and simply die. The canary was dancing a frantic jig, now, similar to the mating dance of the Great Frigate Bird I shot in the Amazon jungle. As I watched the canary and listened to its small wings beat against the cold metal cage I begin to feel dizzy. The bird’s cries had transformed into a scream colder than fire and somehow more fierce.
The ability to fly is what always made me jealous of birds as a child, but as my temple throbbed and the canary danced I realized I was amiss. Screaming, yellow feathers whipped and the entire inside of the cage was instantaneously filled. It was beautiful until the very end. Dizzying, really.
Defeated, the canary sank to the floor, one beaten wing hanging out of the iron bars at a most unnatural angle. Its claws were opening and closing, grasping the tainted cave air, or, perhaps, trying to push it away. Delvos unclipped the cage and sat it on the floor in the space between us, lantern still held swaying above his head. The bird was aflame now, the silent red blood absorbing into the apologetic, yellow feathers. Orange, a living fire. I pulled out my camera as I sat on the ground beside the cage. I took a few shots, the camera’s clicks louder than the feeble chirps sounding out of the canary’s tattered, yellow beak. My head was spinning. Its coal-black eyes reflected the lantern’s flame above. I could see its tiny, red tongue in the bottom of its mouth.
Opening.
Closing.
Opening, wider, too wide, then,
Silence.


I felt dizzy. I remember feeling the darkness surround me; it felt warm.

“I vaguely remember Delvos helping me to my feet, but leaving the mine was a complete haze.” I told the panel back in D.C., “It wasn’t until we had crossed the stream on the way back to the cabin that I began to feel myself again. Even then, I felt like I was living a dream. When we got back to the cabin the sight of the lively yellow canaries in their coops made me cry. Delvos brought me a bottle of water and told me I needed to hit the trail because the sun set early in the winter, so I le
Hae Sun Aug 2018
I could’ve woken you up in the morning and could’ve been the sun that rises even when we both live in a place where it never does.
I could’ve taken you to museums, at least 2 of where I’ve been to. The first one, we’ll have to take the bus because I’d tell you that I’m too lazy to drive but for the second one, I will tell you that I’ll drive you there.
My car would look at me as though it knows that there is another soul seating in the passenger seat – it was no longer some books, a box of pizza, or my dog.
I could’ve taken photos of you in that place, post them everywhere but subtly so that they can see that there are at least 2 forms of art in that photo — the one you’re looking at and the one I’m looking at.
I could’ve talked to you at night under the stars, in the same rooftop where I told you that I liked the cathartic experience of doing just what we could’ve done; the same rooftop where you talked about your life, at least some pieces of it.
I could’ve brought you to where I used to study. We could’ve walked the halls that stared at me for being too alone and too lonely only so I could tell them, “Hey, here he is, finally.” and they could’ve smiled at me because they know how long the longing lasted.
We could’ve taken a stroll in the shade of the trees or could’ve had a picnic there while watching the joggers and the sunset.
I could’ve introduced you to my friends – they’ve been meaning to meet you. They too know how long I’ve been stuck on an island by myself. They know who I was when I was eleven and when I was sixteen and I bet, if you gave them a chance, you could’ve heard the crazy things we did.
And maybe they could’ve liked you. They could’ve told me how lucky I was and probably would’ve warned me that if I hurt you, they’d stick with you instead of me.
I could’ve introduced you to my family — my mom liked you even then. I could’ve introduced you to my little brother who I would consider as the biggest and most important judge of character because I believe that children can sense goodness in people and he could’ve seen that in you.
I could’ve written you letters, could’ve left random little tokens I would've used for all the words I cannot muster to say.
I could’ve played the piano for you even if I just know, at most, 3 songs; even though I don’t really know how to read notes at all.
I could’ve introduced you to the artists I like and I could’ve known more of yours. I could’ve listened to them and I would have had to remember you every time.
I could’ve held your hand, could’ve eaten brunch with you, could’ve read you a poem.
I could’ve loved you — could have – if I was the given the chance.
But, I was and I could’ve used it but I didn’t.
my idea of an “us”
Savio Feb 2013
We listened to jazz all night,
I had no wine in the tiny fridge,
that was,
supposed to be the kitchen,
we took *****,
I kissed her stomach,
as she lit,
red cigarettes,
with a yellow lighter,
that was thin,
like her neck,
long long long like her,
legs,
we made love with the lights burnt out,
from staying up,
for so many nights,
laying on the hardwood floor,
discovering silver-wear underneath the couch,
and coffee mugs,
to pour our,
Gin into,
that costs 3 dollars,
at the downtown,
liquor store,
we made the city,
smell like cigarettes Gin and ***,
the dogs barked,
2 blocks away,
when she moaned,
and Norwegian birds,
migrated here,
to nest,
to listen to her sing,
when she,
took a bath,
we listened to jazz all night,
on the tiny radio,
that blinked the incorrect time,
and when she left,
I kept the bills paid,
the tiny fridge,
full of wine,
and grew my beard,
when she left,
the jazz at 2 AM,
seemed sadder,
and the piano,
sounded,
more like a her saying goodbye.
Melissa Koe Nov 2014
The wind blew strongly. Out at sea, the fisherman’s small boat swayed in rhythm with the waves. He stood up and adjusted the sail, in case the wind blew it off. After so many years of earning a living as a fisherman, he has made peace with the sea – he no longer feels sea sick. Oh, but he feels a certain kind of sickness…… a different kind. His eyes filled with tears as he shifted his gaze from his worn out canvas sails to the horizon where the sun is just about to set. The sky above him is slightly orange – but is dulled by the gray of the storm clouds shifting in.

                He thanked the gods for the sky above and the sea below him, albeit the upcoming storm. He has recently lost his daughter, Fatema to the sea. His grief is still fresh, it still cuts deep. He lost his daughter to the tsunami that destroyed the fishing village. He has lost all his belongings – but nothing belonging to him will ever be as valuable as Fatema. Yes, grief makes him sick – and he has a good reason for that. When they found her, her body was trapped between five pieces of driftwood – it was a gruesome sight. How ironic is it? The arms of Neptune have always supported him throughout his life – making sure he earned a living and yet, the same menacing arms betrayed him and took Fatema away.

                For that, he was angry with the gods. How could they take away a life as easily as they gave it? He snapped out of his thoughts and raised the back of his hand to his eyes to wipe away the tears. His musings aren’t going to help. He has to begin sailing to find a shelter from the storm that is rolling in or else he won’t make it through the night. For the past week or so, he has been living in his small boat, making sure his stomach is full by fishing for small fish and crustaceans. He fixed his sail and began to sail in the direction of a small cove he is familiar with which will provide adequate shelter for tonight.

                As he sailed, he started to feel lonely. He reached his hand into his pocket and pulled out a locket with Fatema’s picture in it. He brought it to his face and gently kissed it, gripping it in his hand. As he sailed nearer the cove, moonlight began to illuminate the prow of his boat. When he is near enough to the shore, he skillfully measured the depth with sight alone, and lowered the anchor to make sure his boat remained in that position till dawn.
                As he descended from his boat, he waded through the water. Both of his arms are full of dried driftwood for him to start a fire tonight. He heard the distant sound of crickets and an owl. He walked toward the beach, heading towards a small cave and entered it. He checked the ground to make sure it was dry before he started a fire using the driftwood. The crackling of fire accompanied by the distant rumbling of thunder brought comfort to his ears. The flames that rose and vanished combined with the smell of the smoke left a silage – a lingering presence that soothed him. They reminded him of how he used to read stories of beasts and princesses alike to Fatema when she was a young girl until she fell asleep in his arms. Those days are long gone now. He stood up and headed back to his boat to set up the fishing nets for his meal later on tonight. He fixed the nets close to the shore before walking back to the cave to the warmth of the fire. He did not know what to do. He was supposed to sail back to the mainland by next week but the storm has been slowing him down. He listened to the rhythm of the waves crashing against his boat and drifted off to sleep……

                He opened his eyes. He did not hear any crackling from the fire nor feel the warmth from it. When he looked down, the fire has been extinguished. The moon was so high and bright now he only needed the fire for warmth. Just as he was about to stand up to fetch more wood from the boat, he heard a sound. Yes, there was a slight drizzle but it wasn’t the sound of rain hitting the sand. It was a soft, melodious voice which was….singing.
“May you sail fair to the far fields of fortune,
with diamonds and pearls at your head and your feet
and may you need never to banish misfortune,
may you find kindness in all that you meet.”

                It was the lullaby he sang to Fatema as a young girl. He began to feel excited and ignored the voice at the back of his head telling him he was insane. He looked out and saw her – Fatema, sitting on a rock. He called out to her and she looked back at him, saying something he has been yearning to hear from her – “Papa.” He was speechless and could not believe his eyes. She donned the black dress they found her in, but she barely had any scratches on her; she did not even look wounded. Instead of walking towards him, she flashed her sweetest smile and started walking towards the beach. She beckoned for him to follow her. He ran towards her, constantly calling out to her but she did not reply. She held out her hand for him to hold, and he did.

                One more step and she will reach the water now. “Fatema, what are you doing?” “Papa, just come along with me.” With those few words…..he felt like he was in a trance. There were so many questions running through the back of his mind but he ignored all of them. Was he hallucinating? He turned to his left as they waded nearer to the sea – the fishing net that he placed near his boat had a small crab in it. The moonlight that shone onto the sea reflected on her beautiful features – her curly, black hair and light brown eyes. With every step he took, he felt more nervous, confused, and excited at the same time.

                The water level is up to their chest now.  On the second day after Fatema died, when he was very much in pain, he made an analogy about grief by comparing it to the nearest thing to him. Grief is like the sea. It drowns you while everyone else is swimming. He felt more familiar towards it….. it did not seem as foreign to him anymore. If so, he is “literally” being consumed by grief as they waded deeper into the sea. He did not mind though – this is the story of a man who desperately wants his daughter back. He did not care if he was hallucinating or if she was a ghost. He does not know where she is taking him, but he wants to follow his daughter to who-knows-where; for to him, that is paradise, be it in the depths of the sea or the height of the skies.

                He can no longer see the moon.
An essay I wrote for English exam.
one hour write-up.
He watched as she fell
He watched as he did what he had to
He watched as she hit the ground
He listened
There was no sound

He watched as their world split
He cringed at the spectacle
Unfolding before his eyes
He listened
There were no cries

He felt the shockwave
As her reality exploded
He marveled at the colors the wound
He listened
And then it boomed

Violent
                             Force
     Wreckage  
                                                   Shrapnel
            Fallout
                             Screams
Weeping
                                          Unrestrained
  ­                    Anguish
   Betrayal
                                    Hatred

But hold on child
This is not the end
This is just a pothole
On the Warpath of Love
So look to the Bittersweet Bystander
His hand extended now
Take the help he offers
You need it to continue
Even in the worst disaster, there's someone. You might have to look hard, but the Bittersweet Bystander is there
Sitting on the patio, drinking margaritas

Letting summers glow wash over me

Listening to the radio, taking in the summertime

Sitting, being single being free

Suddenly, "our song" came on

The first time that I'd heard it

Freezing me just exactly where I was

Overcome with feelings, I almost had a fit

We'd been married nearly 15 years

And this song, it defined us

But at that minute on the patio

I'd been thrown I was making quite a fuss

At first I went to change it

Turn the station, find another

Then I took another sip

And sat down with my Mother

She said "I always like that singer, dear"

"I thought you liked him too'

"Didn't you dance to one of his songs"

"When you wed in ninety two?"

I said I did and it was playing

Didn't want to hear it though

She said "Why, it's just some music dear,"

"It'll help the feelings go"

"I know it hurts at first to hear"

"And be taken to the past"

"But, the heart will heal so quickly"

"And you'll forget about the past"

I sat back and I listened,

To the singer and his song

"San Francisco Mabel Joy"

and I knew she wasn't wrong

His voice, the words so pleasing

New memories would I find

I would take this song of sixpence

And I would hide it in my mind

We danced to it in Frisco

Saw Mickey Newbury at a bar

And it etched into my consciousness

And it never ventured far

For every time we heard it

"Our song" as we would say

We'd dance no matter where we were

And we would listen to him play

So here I am twenty years on

From the first time that it got me

Sitting drinking with my mother

Being single, being free

I wasn 't going to lose it

Miss out on this piece of music

Just because my life changed

I was just divorced, not sick

I wondered about Mabel Joy

and listened to his words

And I thought about their heartbreak

As I listened to the birds

I thought "would he be listening"

"Would he feel the same"

"Was it just our song to me?"

"Did he even know it's name?

A few songs later, we went in

And we ordered in some food

I went down to the basement

At the risk of being rude

"I'll be right back" I told my mum

I had to find that song

And I pulled out the old album

That "Mabel Joy" was first played on

I thought of all the good times

Sat, and held the record near

Then I let them empty from my head

There was none that I'd hold dear

Across town at the very time

"Mabel Joy" was on the air

The other half of "our song"

Was just sitting in his chair

He thought, she used to like that song

Although I don't know why

We'd always dance when it came on

And she would always cry

He went to turn it over

but the voice went to his core

So he sat down and he listened

to "....frisco Mabel Joy" some more

He thought, that ain't a bad tune

It's one that tells the facts

So, he popped another beer cap off

And he sat back to relax

Across town in the kitchen

It was then she chose to laugh

Beside the title , "Our song"

written by her other half

So , it once meant something to them both

It's what made them both believe

That music makes you whole

The heart's hard to decieve

Across town, he thought about the tune

And who the singer was

He knew it wasn't chapin

and he though it was "The Boss"

He thought, I might go out and find

The cd, by that guy

Even though it used to be "our song"

it never made me cry

Now, back inside the kitchen

drinking more than being fed

She pulled out the lp, for to play

Before she went to bed

"San Francisco Mabel Joy"

was the third song on side two

She would listen till "our song" was done

And her mind would fill with new

Memories of this great song

Sitting drinking with her Ma

And these memories would stay with her

They never would venture far

So if you have an "our song"

Put it on, go back in time

For when you exorcise your demons

That's when "our song" becomes "Mine"!
LaNita Nov 2014
they called me here
to this home
to this time.
I listened
I've always been a good listener.
as soon as I learned the
definition
of heed, I began.
it's my favorite word

and so I listened
and we're here
and it all just keeps working.
paying attention to the subtleties ,
the wind breeze,
the crows tease,
the bugs glowing, blue eye…
the crimson show,
the earth moved,
the air beneath this ground,
the vines lasting
stretch to protect the fruit
obviously
grown for us.
never a year before?
I truly wonder still.

when?
now, as he said.
it's now.
I'm only now.

there is nothing to await
though impatience is a mental normalcy.

our friend in the desert
made the connections.
she must have told me
though I don't
remember
hearing her.
I ramble sometimes
and listening is impaired.

of course I'm a work in progress…
it's mostly due to
depending on my memory
its impermanent in its
very nature.

now!
if I lived there, I would
have it a little easier
but I'm still scared of the dark.
one of the remaining fears,
a part of the message
sent;
called me here.
the lessons continue to
self realize
and appear, right
at my eyes,
never before
always on time.
always.
LONG ago I learned how to sleep,
In an old apple orchard where the wind swept by counting its money and throwing it away,
In a wind-gaunt orchard where the limbs forked out and listened or never listened at all,
In a passel of trees where the branches trapped the wind into whistling, "Who, who are you?"
I slept with my head in an elbow on a summer afternoon and there I took a sleep lesson.
There I went away saying: I know why they sleep, I know how they trap the tricky winds.
Long ago I learned how to listen to the singing wind and how to forget and how to hear the deep whine,
Slapping and lapsing under the day blue and the night stars:
  Who, who are you?
  
Who can ever forget
listening to the wind go by
counting its money
and throwing it away?
Lily Barrett Feb 8
We cry silent tears
We mourn forgotten years
We search for a reason
Wanting only to run away
You haven’t listened

We scream into the abyss
Until we learn that what we miss
Will never truly belong
In a world we dream of and long
You haven’t listened

We break boundaries
We conquer the seven seas
Just waiting to be found
Yet without a sound
You haven’t listened
I'm honestly not too sure what I was getting at with this one...

— The End —