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Jackie Mead Sep 2017
The Frog and The Bee lived merrily on a log, in a bog in the middle of two Rivers, the River Louse and the River Wry.

They were best friends with the Mouse who had a house on the River Louse and the Elf with one ear and the Fly with one eye who lived on the River Wry.

One day the Frog, on the log in the middle of the bog, said to his dear friend the Bee, it's about time that you and I, the Mouse with the house on the River Louse, Elf and Fly had another adventure.
The Bee buzzed excitedly and said 'what did you have in mind?'
"Well" said the Frog, who lived on the log in the middle of the bog on the River Louse, where the Mouse had his house “I was thinking that you and I and the Fly with one eye could get together with the Mouse, who has a house on the River Louse,and the Elf with one ear and set out for the town of Cry which is on the River Wry”.
” I've heard” said the Frog, who lived on the log in the middle of the bog on the River Louse, where the Mouse had his house “that there is a horse living by the course of the River who because he is getting older needs some help getting his master and friend round the very long bend.”
“I thought you and I and the Fly with one eye and Elf with one ear and the Mouse with a house on the River Louse could come up with a plan to get the barge, the horse, his master and friend around the River bend at the town of Cry on the River Wry”.
“What a great idea” said the Bee to the Frog, who lived on a log in the middle
of a bog, let's go summons our friends, the Mouse with a house on the River Louse and the Fly with one eye and the Elf with one ear and help the master and his horse round the River course”.

So the Frog and Bee set out to find the Mouse with the house on the River Louse and the Fly with one eye and the Elf with one ear and explain to them that there was a horse who needed their help to get a barge and his master and friend around the River bend.
The Mouse with the house on the River Louse and the Fly with one eye and The Elf with one hear were easy to persuade, they all agreed to let Frog, who lived on a log in the middle of the bog, to take the lead.
Frog said to the Elf with one ear “we need to you to be the eyes for the Fly with one eye and help him find his way to the town of Cry on the River Wry”.  
To the Fly with one Eye, Frog, who lived on a log in the middle of the bog said “we need you to help the Elf with one ear and be his ears, working together to find your way to the town of Cry on the River Wry”

The friends set out on their way to the town of Cry on the River Wry, Frog, who, lived on a log in the middle of the bog, croaked very nosily as he hopped from lily pad to lily pad from River Louse, where the Mouse with the house lived, to River Wry and their destination the town of Cry.

The Bee buzzed happily on the shoulder of the Frog, who lived on a log in the middle of the bog, and accepted the ride with his friend to the River bend at the town of Cry on the River Wry.

The Fly with one eye and the Elf with one ear set out together, the Elf with his perfect eye sight led the way to the town of Cry on the River Wry.  The Fly with his perfect hearing kept the Elf safe from harm and alerted him to any creature that may be nearing.

It was a beautiful afternoon and the friends would get to the town of Cry on the River Wry soon, the Frog and the Bee, the Fly and the Elf and the Mouse with the house on the River Louse, would help their friend the horse and his master get around the very long course of the River at the town of Cry on the River Wry.

After several hours, the friends all agreed it wouldn’t be long now until their friend the horse would be in sight and they would use all of their skills and all of their might to help their friend navigate around the bend of the river at the town of Cry on the River Wry.

The Frog croaked to the Bee, look our friend is in front of you and me, the horse is close to the River bend and he will soon need all his friends to help him round the bend close to the town of Cry on the River Wry.

The horse was pleased to see his friends, the Frog, who lived on a log in the middle of the bog, the Bee and the Mouse who had a house on the River Louse, the Fly with one eye and Elf with one ear, he began to neigh and cheer, at last he would have some help from his friends to get him, the barge and his master and friend around the river bend.

The Frog, who lived on a log in the middle of the bog, asked the horse “how can we assist you and your master?”.  The horse replied ” of course I need good eyes and ears and lots of noise to guide the master, the barge and me, the horse, of course, around the river bend.”
The Frog, who lived on a log in the middle of a bog, replied “I have an idea, the Elf with one ear has perfect eyes and the Fly with one eye has perfect ears, myself the Bee and the Mouse with a house on the river louse can all make lots of noise, together we will all work to assist your master and you, the horse, around the river course".
The horse did neigh as if to obey and went to find his master.  With a collar around his neck attached to the barge he lowered his head and began to walk.
The Frog, who lived on a log in the middle of a bog and the Mouse who had a house on the River Louse and the Bee made as much noise as a trio of three could possibly.
The Frog, who lived on a log in the middle of the bog, did croak, the Mouse with a house on the River Louse, did squeak and the Bee did buzz and together they made an awful lot of fuss, and the horse did neigh as if to say, he heard them all just fine.

The horse continued to walk and the Fly with one eye and the Elf with one ear did appear, and encouraged the horse to walk on, the Fly with its perfect ears did listen to his friends, The Frog who lived on a log in the middle of the bog, the Mouse who had a house on the River Louse and The Bee, and talked the horse around the river bend.  
The Elf with one ear and its perfects eyes did talk to the horse and describe the course of the river at the town of Cry on the River Wry.

In no time at all the horse, the barge and the master, his friend had gotten all the way around the large bend of the river at the town of Cry on the River Wry.
The horse did neigh as if to say "Thank You" to his friends, the Frog who lived on a log in the middle of the bog, the Bee, the Mouse with a house on the River Louse, The Fly with one eye and the Elf with one ear and invited them to stay for tea.  
The Master was so pleased that he fell to his knees and said to the creatures big and small "thank you for your help today it is fair to say that without your noise, your perfect sight and perfect talk the horse would not have made the walk around the river bend".
"Now" said the master to the new set of friends "lets set up camp past the river bend and have a cup of tea", "thank you" said the Frog, who lived on a log in the middle of the bog and the Bee, "we’d love a cup of tea".

So this very odd group of friends sat around and made mend with a cup of tea and a fire to keep them warm as they swapped stories for the night and tomorrow the friends would make their way home.

The Frog, who lived on the log in the middle of the bog, turned to his special friend the Bee and said “thank you for believing in me”
Another story based poem, it's a bit epic, thank you to anyone who takes the time to read it.
Caterina Correia Aug 2018
I lived with weakness
I lived with fear
I lived with anxiety
I wanted it all to disappear
I lived angry
I lived depressed
I lived violent
My head was always a mess
I lived with nightmares
I lived with evil
I lived with darkness
I couldnt talk to people
I lived tortured
I lived scared
I lived negative
I lived intoxicating
I lived bruising
I lived bleeding
I chose to abuse me
I lived fighting
I lived crying
I lived screaming
Felt like i was dying
I already sat and drank
I already lay down to cry
I already ran and screamed
I already heard and saw all the lies
I already fought evil
I already played with my fears
I already battled my nightmares
But then i had to face the mirror
I already struggled to breathe
I already felt all the moods squeezing my body
I already made myself bleed
And all the memories are still with me
I went through it all
I felt it all
I witnessed it all
And now i numbed it all
I got comfortable with the pain
Kurt Philip Behm Sep 2016
On my own terms,
  I lived my life
Giving and taking,
  both day and night

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
Some then mistaken,
  some often right

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
Last right of refusal,
  the one holding tight

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
The lows though not many,
  the feelings they wrought bright

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
Words ever radiant,
  the music so fair

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
The sweetness of children,
  my soul they ensnared

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
The darkest of moments,
  their message to share

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
A voice though unchosen,
  inside me declares

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
As the days grew short,
  and the visitors came

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
Their voices cry out,
  now calling my name

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
One verse was enough,
  no time to explain

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
My final breath,
  a lasting refrain

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
The money fleeting,
  any fame now gone

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
A 5-Star boardinghouse,
  no curtains drawn

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
With arms open wide,
  and the peace to move on

On my own terms,
  I ended my life
All that I’ve written,
—turned into song

(Villanova Pennsylvania: September, 2016)
Avien Zurc May 2016
They lived in a cave with darkness and fear.
They lived in a cave with anger and sneer.
They lived in a cave with comments too might.
They lived in cave but not till tonight.

He yelled and he stomped waking them up.
He called and he gathered feeding their minds.
He rallied the many that followed his lead.
Surprise I was well I couldn’t believe.
There are thousands of people that dislike my heartbeat.

They lived in a cave and now they are free,
The words that are spoken aren’t filled with glee.
They lived in a cave and now they demand,
That my kind should leave for this is their land.

But how can I vacate this land of the free,
For my roots are embedded with indigenous plea.
Confused I am left not knowing whom to greet,
Will they extend a hand or spit at my feet?
The more that I wonder the more that I fear,
The lives of my people aren’t safe and its clear.

They lived in a cave but now they’ve come out
They lived in a cave and now there is doubt.

Should we leave?
Should we stay?
Or, should we dig our own grave?

Should we stand?
Should we pray?
Should we fight our own way?

They lived in a cave but not anymore.
That cave has been filled with the hearts of the poor.
They lived in a cave but now they have hope.
His followers will rise and we’ll have to cope.

He called us the plague that infested the land.
Well, I disagree and for that I can chant.
I will fight, I will stand.
They will not cut my wings.
I will rally and scream until we are free.

They lived in a cave and now they are free,
To speak all the nonsense and bigotry.
I thank him now for he’s proved my point,
The minority is not liked, and racism reborn.
Kurt Philip Behm May 2019
On my own terms,
  I lived my life
Giving and taking,
  both day and night

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
Some then mistaken,
  some often right

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
Last right of refusal,
  the one holding tight

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
The lows though not many,
  the pain always right

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
Words ever radiant,
  the music so fair

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
The sweetness of children,
  my soul they ensnared

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
The darkest of moments,
  their message to share

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
A voice though unchosen,
  inside me declares

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
As the days grew short,
  and the visitors came

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
Their voices cry out,
  calling my name

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
One verse was enough,
  no time to explain

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
My final breath,
  a lasting refrain

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
The money fleeting,
  any fame now gone

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
A 5-star boardinghouse,
  no curtains drawn

On my own terms,
  I lived my life
With arms open wide,
  and the peace to move on

On my own terms,
  I ended my life
All that I’ve written
  —turned back into song

(Villanova Pennsylvania: September, 2016)
Heartfillia Dec 2018
There once lived a woman
who at one time had a kind and gentle soul
There once lived a woman
who had soft lips that were as red as a rose
There once lived a woman who's hair was as golden as the prettiest sunflower

There once lived a woman who fell in love with a humble peasant boy
There once lived a woman who was forced to marry a middle aged man because he was rich  
There once lived a woman who's husband would would press his knife on her skin harder and harder until red crimson came out
There once lived a woman who had hopes that her lover would soon save her from her misery..but no one came
There once lived a woman who starved herself to escape her dreadful life

Now whenever locals forget to place stones on her grave the red blood sucker rises to sing her siren song and feed on the blood of those who knew what was going on behind closed doors

Yes Indeed
There once lived a woman
who at one time had a kind and gentle soul
There once lived a woman
who had soft lips that were as red as a rose
There once lived a woman who's hair was as golden as the prettiest sunflower
Aa Harvey Jul 2018
I have lived.  I have loved.


I---I have lived!
I---I have loved!
I---I have lived!
I---I have loved!


In this world of Devils, Angels fly away to escape;
In this world so full of Devils, there is no-one left to save.
When there is nothing left, but the evil in their ways.
We are all to bla---me!  For no-one being saved.


We are surrounded by wolves and I hear their howls;
How am I alone!  Meant to make you feel sa---fe?
When the fires burn and there is nowhere left to turn;
How am I alone!  Meant to act my a---ge?


I---I have lived!
I---I have loved!
I---I have lived!
I---I have loved!


Nothing costs the heart, as much as love.
Nothing makes the heart; feel so good.
Nothing is ever, worth the cost of your soul;
Nothing is lost, when the risk you take is love.


I took the drugs!  I took the pain!
In the end it all fades and it all goes away.
I never did enough; if I could I would change.
My life a waste.  Never be a slave to the wage.


I---I have lived!
I---I have loved!
I---I have lived!
I---I have loved!


What I want, doesn’t matter as much,
As the truth being set free and a new kind of love.
What I’ve lost, never compared to love.
I took the drugs; I took too much.


Now I am gone, heading into the sun;
Breaking bad habits, never did me wrong.
I’ve learned a lot on my journey through love;
Now the end has come, so I will carry on.


I---I have lived!
I---I have loved!
I---I have lived!
And I have loved!


(C)2016 Aa Harvey. All Rights Reserved.
Patrick Austin Sep 2018
Our Backgrounds before we met...

I'm an only child born in Montana in 1983, from a divided home. Parents divorced at seven, Mom was unstable and unfaithful. Dad obtained custody of me and we moved to Oregon Coast to live with my Grandma. I had unhealthy visits and relationship with Mom thereafter. My Grandma died at 12 and at 13 my Dad remarried an alcoholic woman, I had a strained relationship with them until adulthood when she stopped drinking. I had exposure to trauma; alcoholism, mental illness, verbal abuse and juvenile troubles. I rebelled by using drugs in my late teens and early twenties, I lived on my own for a few years after high school but had little direction.

My bride is the eldest with two little brothers, parents stayed in same area of Portland during childhood with lots of family support and her parents stayed married. They had Christian values but some anger and anxiety issues at home. She was sexually assaulted at 17 and never had good closure with this. She told me her parents didn't provide her enough help with things like this growing up. Status quo was the backbone of the family dynamic, challenging emotions were discouraged. She rebelled by being reckless with herself, financially and sexually. She decided to join the Navy at 19. She lived alone briefly, but mostly with Grandparents & Parents before our marriage.

I loved how we both grew up reading Archie comics. No other girl I had ever met had that in common with me. I think we wanted a surreal life like the one in Riverdale.

2002

She and I were 19 when we first met in my home town on the coast at an arcade. We became friends and secretly liked each other. I was too nervous to ever make a move on her. We traveled together, she stayed with me, we used drugs together and drank at times. One night she drank too much and had *** with a guy I knew at a party. I was devastated by this. She was Navy bound and I didn't see a real future for us. The next morning she left and I didn't talk to her again for two years. I figured she would be gone with the Navy soon and that she must not have been interested in a relationship with me despite the time we spent together.

2003

I was depressed about this rejection. I dated an older woman who was interested in me but was no substitute. I eventually moved to the Portland area to work and live. I still had few plans and was lonely, in or out of the few brief relationships I attempted. I never found someone that I felt safe with or had a true connection, let alone true love. She ended up not following through with the Navy and continued working her way up in her job at the call center. She attended community college and dated a few guys. She dated one guy for a couple of years who was not a good match for her but stayed with him off and on despite issues. His family was wealthy and treated her well. He slept around on her as did she. At one point he gave her an STD. She also had an ongoing affair with a married man in the military that she went to high school with. He had a child and a wife with mental health issues. She was still hurting a lot at times and not always doing well.

2004

She reached out to me via email after two years of no contact. We emailed back and forth a couple times over the next few months. We talked about meeting up. We spoke on the phone and eventually met up in Portland. We had an amazing night getting to know each other again and work past the confusion of our earlier days of friendship. I realized that she did in fact like me before but since I was timid and trying to be proper and take things slowly she didn't understand my motives. She apologized for her actions at the party as well. She claimed she was in a really messed up place and was making bad choices at that time. Getting our feelings out in the open was good and she appreciated my attitude towards being slow to make moves on her when we first met. I was worried about falling for her based on our history but eventually I was determined to give it a shot. We soon after starting dating and being intimate. Our love was extremely powerful and beyond all others we had both experienced. She broke ties with other suitors and shortly after we talked about marriage and started planning a wedding for the next year.

I remember when we first held hands. We were so shakey and she was quivering on my couch as I had my arm around her. We felt so safe with each other. We could finally be ourselves and do what our hearts desired. We knew we were on to something new and so amazing. We were so patient with each other as we navigated our new love and emotional thresholds.

I remember when we saw Matisyahu in concert together. That was a once in a lifetime experience and a life-changing moment for us. I feel it set the tone for things to come in our future.

I remember how creative my proposal to her was, in the Arcade where we first met. I hid the ring in a prize container from one of those claw machines. Pretending I got the ring from inside by reaching into the machine on one knee I was so nervous and wasn't sure if I could pull it off before she caught on. She looked so shocked and surprised. I was so excited she said yes! We took pictures in the photo machine and had burgers afterwards, I'd do all of it all over again just to see her face in that moment.

2005

We found an apartment for us in Portland. I moved in while she was still living back with her parents until the wedding. She had to change her number because the married man she was previously involved with kept calling her about changing her mind about marriage and continuing their relationship. She was offered a job in Denver and we decided to move away together after our sandy wedding in Cannon Beach. I still had a very hard time and was embarrassed with my past history with her. Many of my friends knew what had happened at 19 and how much it hurt me but I was so crazy about her I think I tried to pretend it didn't happen or that it was not a big deal because we were younger. We got married and moved to Colorado soon after. We made friends at a church, I became more active as a Christian and really loved being married. We were very involved in keeping spirituality in our marriage. I began to notice her poor financial decisions and practices more. This caused conflict but we always tried to communicate and work on things.

I remember when we went down to my folks for New Year's in 2005. We sipped tea in my Datsun as we drove to the coast over the snowy mountain pass. We told them of our engagement. We were all so blissful and excited. We never knew what was to come. We didn't even know about the opportunity in Denver yet. Our story is amazing!

I remember when I wanted to go see her in Portland and the roads were iced over. I left my car at a park and ride before I caused a wreck. I took the light rail across town then rode a bus to the Eastside shopping mall. The bus to her house was not running because it wasn't safe so I walked the rest of the 4 Miles sometimes having to crawl on my hands and knees to make it up hills in the ice and then I finally made it only to just spend a couple hours with her and fall asleep on her parents couch. Her Dad drove us back the next morning to my car so I could get to work. It was all worth it just to see her for that little extra time. I would have done anything for her.

I remember when she was interviewing for the new position in Denver? I drove all over Portland trying to find little toy cars to help with her illustration about how a team is like a car having all four wheels and how they work together to accomplish a goal. I was so proud of her for giving it her all and succeeding at earning that position. Now that I think of it, that car analogy applies to our family and us. We all need each other to be better and keep on track and be a team. I am so motivated by that and our boys. I lose my way without that and I want to be her reflection and motivation as she has been that for me. I truly thought we brought out the best in each other when we were together.

I remember when we were given tickets to see Fiona Apple. That was so spontaneous and a great way to kick off our time in Denver together. We always used to watch our same movies over and over again. Like the Friends DVDs and White Christmas every winter break and The Wedding Singer. We walked everywhere and lived simply. "I wanna be the guy, who grows old with you"

I remember in our first Denver apartment when we took baths together in our claw foot tub in the big bathroom. We put a board over the top and played cards. I liked playing Uno with her in bed too. She was so funny being slightly color blind and in the dark, mixing up the greens and blues. We played Uno in Breckenridge too at that cool bed and breakfast in the fall.

2006

We had continued fun and adventure in our new home of Denver. She was doing well as a trainer for the bank and I started working in health foods. We went camping in New Mexico a couple times with friends and we both took individual trips to Oregon as well as one together for her uncle's wedding. We had marital spats on occasion but always bounced back. The issues we had seemed like part of a normal marriage and were far better than what I had grown up around. I realized that marriage was a lot of work but I was up for the task. She occasionally became aggressive throwing things at me or breaking things during conflict.  I believed I was the problem and tried to change for her in many ways. With two incomes we still had trouble making our bills at times. She had debts that I never knew about that started to catch up with us but I took care of getting them settled and we paid off her car and traded it for an older Volvo Wagon that we both loved, I even had it repainted her favorite color for a birthday gift. Overall things seemed like they were progressing in a positive way.

I remember when we saw Midnight in concert in Boulder. That was the peak of our hippy days. We were alive with pleasure in our healthy vegetarian diets and practices living in a time and place like no other. I want to be like that again. Reggae was our music. We had much in common.

2007

We really fell into our roles in our marriage and the community; church and culture, friends etc. Things seemed very balanced and appropriate for us at that time and that age (24-25). We had separate bank accounts and jobs. I had money in savings. We started the process of buying a house so we could invest in something. She became pregnant shortly after. I embraced the challenge with positive energy but we were both in for a big change. We started having more fights. I didn't have many friends and would write to old friends via social media just so I could to catch up and tell them things were going great with being married to make myself feel better than I actually did. She hated the dawn of social media and also felt isolated I'm sure. She felt I should be doing more for her and I didn't know how to do what she needed but I failed to ask a lot of the time. After one argument, she left the house. My instinct told me to look at ******* and ******* as a retaliation. I had not done this much once we were married because she always met my needs but when things were difficult between us I felt more emotionally isolated. She walked in and realized what I had been doing. She was very upset, and because she was pregnant, thought I was not attracted to her. The truth is I found her even more beautiful and in fact when I looked at ******* I tried to look at women I found less attractive than her so that I feel good about what I have. I mostly fantasized about how these women were more submissive and loving than her. That is the part I needed to feel good about and feel better about myself with because I felt very dominated and controlled. She has never forgiven me for this and I will never stop feeling sorry to her for my brokenness. During one particular argument that year she was getting close to being violent towards me again and I pushed her away on the chest with my fingertips. She got very mad and said I hurt her. I immediately felt terrible and apologized. I never let something like that happen again. I have always avoided violence towards others especially women and of course her. I was defenseless against physical and emotional abuse.

2008

Our eldest son was born at the beginning of the year, it was a traumatic birth for everyone. We wanted a natural birth with a midwife but we were transferred to a hospital and she ended up having an emergency C-section, nothing went as planned. We had a really hard time coping with the emotions of this experience. A lot of buried feelings and trauma from both of us started coming out. We moved a month later into our new home outside of town. No more walking or biking to places, we had to drive everywhere. This house was next to our friends from church. We thought this would make us feel less isolated but we didn’t really have the community with them that we had hoped for. They were upset that they didn't have a child of their own yet and being around us might have been hard for them. My wife stopped working and stayed home with our son. All these changes made for a very difficult time. I did my best to support them but this was the first time we shared a bank account and needed to follow a budget more than ever before. We had no debt at the beginning of the year with money in savings but then the hospital bills put us down about $7,000 and rising with new home and moving expenses and baby needs. My job could barely keep up. She and I had a hard time adjusting. We could not afford to travel home to Oregon and visit family as much and we felt more and more isolated. She started showing me more signs of instability, locking herself in the bathroom with kitchen knives and scraping her legs which continued off and on for years to come. Talks of divorce and suicide threats seemed to happen more than before. I felt responsible and tried to fix her ever changing issues with me.

I remember when herr ******* were full and swollen with milk. It is so beautiful the way she could feed our babies. I wanted her in every way, our bodies belonged to each other. I was there for her and our shared pleasure. I loved it when she told me that she was mine in the heat of passion. This spark could only be a bandage for so long but I didn't know that yet.

2009

I tried to promote within my company but was not selected, they were cutting budgets and employment all around me. I felt worried about our future. I had always thought the military might be a good opportunity and could move us closer to family back home. My father-in-law encouraged me to look into the Coast Guard. I felt this would be a good way to get moved closer to Oregon.  I ended up joining the Navy because we found out we were pregnant again with our second son and that was the only way I could join a military branch. She worked off and on as a nanny and later in the year at a coffee house working nights. We barely spent time together and when we did it was a lot of hard conversations or arguments about finances with making up intimately in the middle of the night between times of caring for the baby. She once scratched my neck with her fingernails during an argument. People I worked with noticed. It was a hard time and we knew change was on the horizon with jobs and moving. We did visit Oregon that summer though and had a great vacation at the beach with a borrowed 4x4 and staying at a hotel and picnicking out of a cooler as well as going to her brothers wedding. I was 26 and about to join the Navy to provide better for my family at all costs sacrificing myself for their benefit because I would have rather died than look like I didn't try my best for them.

I remember when our babies would kick and move around inside her belly. I loved laying by her and feeling her tummy. I would hum to the baby and hear them move and squirm. I loved giving our boys baths when they were babies too. We had our little bundles of our love, wrapped in a towel in our hands, so tiny and vulnerable. I miss those days and want to remember them with her, aside from this state of melancholy.

2010

The Navy recruiters would only take me if we rented out our home and had her stay with family during boot camp and training. We moved to a furnished apartment in Denver and put our things in storage. She was 5 months pregnant and our eldest was two. I shortly after was let go from my job. Our second son was born in April. I got a contract with the Navy at the last minute but didn't leave until August. We sold our beloved vehicles and lived off retirement funds for six months and moved down to Florida where her parents had just moved out of the blue for work, to stay with them until I left for boot camp. I applied for temporary work in Florida at a dozen places but had no luck in my three months there. I took care of our eldest a lot while she took care of the new baby. Being in Florida was a culture shock for us but we had our moments of romance and made the best of it. Eventually I left for boot camp in August. It was really hard and sad to be gone. She stayed in Florida and came to visit me with the baby at boot camp graduation in October. I then went to Connecticut for five months of training. It was also hard but at least I could call home every day and be in the same time zone. I visited Florida during the winter break and saw my boys and her. We went to Disney world and had a great time on her parents. We also made a romantic home movie I could enjoy while away from her. I flew back to Connecticut and tried to make the best of things. My roommate was very abusive of substances and I resisted the temptation for a long time but the threat of being submarine service bound and missing my family pushed me to drinking every weekend and getting messed up to escape before I left.

I remember when we drove to Key Largo, Florida and stopped at a crazy bird wildlife center. I remember our oldest was so amazed hearing a bird say hello back to us. It was so foreign and fun there. I am glad we all shared that experience together.

I remember our trip to the citrus grove in Florida. That was such a great day for our family. I always look back on that with really fond sentiment. I felt like I was in a beautiful family music video with them.

2011

I finished Submarine Training and got orders back to the Northwest. The plan was all coming together. I arrived first and bought a car and got our items moved from storage in Denver to our townhouse rental in Washington. She and the boys joined me a month later. I didn't report to my Sub for another month as they were at sea. She became pregnant again with our third son right after arriving. We had just bought a small car and were not planning on another child. Towards the end of the year I was working a lot and having a really hard time, being bullied and treated poorly at work plus our financial situation was still very difficult. Adjusting to the military was hard among younger men being 28. I dreaded each day in that environment but I tried to endure it for my family. I went to sea for a couple months at the end of the year stopping in Hawaii and California. During this time She reached out to her ex married affair partner after six years of no contact. She didn't tell me until later. She said she needed closure with him, we were not in counseling yet but she decided this was appropriate. I flew home early from sea and wanted to surprise her. The stress and trauma of this quick transition home after being to sea for the first time (which was also traumatic) made me want to drink and get messed up before flying. I arrived home and surprised her but I seemed off to her which I was but didn’t explain why, I have never done that since. I got to be home for two months almost work free while we celebrated the holidays and prepared for the new baby to be born. She started getting more involved with a church and building a community for us which was great. Our financial struggles almost led us to foreclosure of our home back in Colorado but by the grace of God we got it sold with a short sale just in time.

I remember when I came back from Hawaii and brought her a beaded necklace and she wore it naked with her big beautiful pregnant goddess belly and we made passionate hippy love together. I want to grow out my beard again and spend my life making hippy love and feeling free again.

2012

Our third son was born in January. It was a very positive birth experience and much less stressful than the other two. Shortly after I flew out to finish the other half of the deployment I had missed. I really focused on being positive and spiritually connected by reading my Bible at sea which was helpful. I called her when I arrived in Japan halfway through being gone. She was upset because she tested positive for an STD while trying to get on birth control. I became suspicious of her yet she was suspicious of me. We both got tested again and I was clean, she told me she had a false positive after all. This put a big strain on our trust, especially being so far away. This forced us to be honest with each other about some things such as her contact with her ex lover and my drinking to cope. We were both very upset until I returned home and we could start some counseling to work through things. Forgiveness seemed to be difficult for us. It brought up hurts of the past when we were 19. She also had severe postpartum depression that became worse after each birth. I was still having a hard time with work and the submarine environment. Our church friends tried to counsel us but it was not the most helpful. My submarine was scheduled for extended repairs and not going to sea for three years, I would be transferred before the end of that period. I used this time to bond with her and my boys. I wanted to get better involved in our community and do volunteer work and side jobs to earn extra money. Our boys were all given diagnosis's for autism which begun to fill our lives with appointments and challenges for years to come but we were a good team in dealing with all of it. It gave us something to work together on but took our focus away from working on our own personal issues and relationship with each other as much as we should have.

2013

We had new years with both sides of our family in a snowy mountain setting in Oregon. It looked like it was going to be a great year until her Grandpa passed away suddenly. It ripped our entire family apart but especially her. He kept the family grounded and she was very close to him, he really loved all of us. She and I started going on dates again because we had Navy sponsored child care. It was the beginning of a really good thing for us. Tragically one night after a date we were dancing with the boys on the patio and I tried to pick her up and I lost my balance and fell on her, breaking her collar bone severely. She needed surgery and was very mad at me for years to come. She has a scar, a metal plate and numbness in her chest. We worked through it with our community from church but she still is very mad at me. I feel more terrible about this incident than she could ever know. I would lose a finger in place of that incident if I could. I continued having a really hard time in the Navy and I didn't want to stay in but She insisted our boys needed care only the Navy could offer. She also said she would divorce me if I ever left the Navy. I took this threat seriously even though she assured me later that she would never actually do that. Against my own convictions I reenlisted because I wanted to do the best thing for my family. We moved into base housing at the end of summer and didn’t go out to do things as much anymore. The house was nice but it ****** us in, we also had less community with people around our home. I started volunteering at church more and doing work with special needs people. I felt like I was doing good things and that I had purpose all around. I think she appreciated this about me.

2014

We started seeing a professional counselor together and individually. It became a regular event. I worked on myself and she worked on herself. I had a lot of issues with my Mom and eventually broke off communication with her for my own well-being and the betterment of my family. I got past a lot of the bad feelings I had. She worked on her traumatic experiences and our relationship dynamics. Just when things were going well I got a new boss who made things hard for me and others at work and I started messing up more. I got in trouble for messing up a job at work and was given strike one on my record. She lost respect for me as a provider but I tried to stay strong showing her that I would continue to do my best.

I remember when we had an appointment in Tacoma and we had a brunch date together afterwards. She looked so beautiful that day, I took her picture and was so proud to enjoy  huevos rancheros and momosas with her. I remember going to the Tacoma Art Museum seeing the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit, we have a great time together doing new things and feeding each other's interests. I loved laughing with her too, sometimes we just bust up like nobody's around. I loved the sound of her laughter. I loved watching Portlandia with her, it is so funny to remember the funny place where we became close and be able to relate together.

2015

I kept working hard and being involved with family and appointments for my boys and her. I still maintained my volunteer work and part time side jobs. I got strike two with the Navy for messing up again... I had just gained orders to leave the sub for local shore duty. I could not get out of the extended repair situation soon enough. She was very disappointed in me and not so understanding. I worked through this situation with our counselor as did she. He always told her I am a good man and that I do a lot for her and the boys. It's true, I care more than anything about them, I made mistakes and I feel bad especially when I cause my family stress. I left for shore duty in April. It was a hard time adjusting to the new routine but eventually we seemed to make it work. That summer we took a trip to visit Texas where her parents had just moved from Florida. We spent a great night together for our 10th anniversary in a hotel in Texas and went dancing. We had a lot more time together as my work schedule was less. The more people we had in our home working with our kids on issues the less useful my input seemed. I was not included as much in making family decisions because they all seemed to happen while I was at work, despite my objections. We tried to get our budget under control but she still had anxiety discussing spending. She continued to struggle with depression and was put on medication because she had still been harming herself. She was put on Prozac daily and anti anxiety medication as needed. He family members were not very supportive of medication which upset her but I always tried to be supportive in seeking help and continued care for both of us.

2016

We had a busy routine of kids in school now and home school and preschool and appointments for all of us. She wanted to go to church less and less. I started drinking a couple beers at night almost every day. I tried to mask my stress from her mood swings. She decided not to go to church at all anymore and focused teaching the boys about Jewish traditions exclusively which was hard for me to adjust to and confusing for the boys. I loved her and wanted to be supportive. As usual I was submissive and removed myself from the Christian church and some friendships. I feel like we lost our community at that point. We searched for a good place to have a new community with Jewish people but it was like starting over. I felt like I converted to Christianity for her when we got together and now I had to convert again, either way I would have done it for her because I loved her that much. The kids were confused by this change. After trying and failing at many synagogues we finally found one that seemed right for us.

2017

We finally had some money in savings because I kept it a secret and ended up planning a trip to visit her parents in Texas but it fell through due to lack of military flights. Instead we spent three nights away in a nice hotel resort as a family in February. We had three days of pure family time. Playing Battleship and other games in our room as a family, watching movies and eating at all the different restaurants and getting room service. Going swimming everyday in the foggy pool. I love our family and how we can have a great time together doing nothing but at the same time so much. That was so peaceful and relaxing. I wanted to keep doing things like that together as a family before our boys got too old. Shortly after this vacation she wanted to go back to school, then we bought a third vehicle so she could. Shortly after this she changed her mind about school and wanted to buy another house instead. I went along with it to please her and we practically killed ourselves trying to get the move accomplished with not much help or money. We had a good year over all. We got away for a romantic anniversary together in the summer. Just before the boys were going to start public school in the fall, her parents moved back to the area. She had anxiety with this and cut off contact with her parents and brothers for a while. Her Dad called me very upset and I tried to keep the peace until they reconciled. I was doing better with work and made up for lost progress as well as making arrangements to change jobs in the Navy to something more fitting. Since the boys started public school, I planned on leaving for Navy training in my new position after the beginning of the new year when they would be at a more settled place in their routine.

I remember when we went to the Olympic Club for our anniversary and we stayed there for a night away. We drove the long way through the countryside talking about new music that she wanted to share with me and she made notes of it on my phone notepad. We brought our own cooler and picnic that included Session Lagers and chocolate. We checked in to our room and made noisy bohemian love on the edge of the creaky bed in our small European room inches from the door. Then we went to the theater downstairs and watched the late showing of a really interesting Sci-fi movie "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets". We took showers and slept sweetly together. We made love again in the morning before we had a delicious brunch outside on the patio. We took the long way home and drove around on new roads and found our way out of cell phone reception. We figured out the road less traveled to get back to our home. We loved being alone and away together, just one night can make such a difference and mean so much.

I remember going to the Forest Theater to see Tarzan with our boys. That was such a great time. I would love to get our boys into theater and go see them someday. I wanted to keep our dreams and goals together alive and not lose opportunity and fall short by losing our partnership.

I loved going camping in Seabeck. Loading the truck with all our gear and getting away. Archer got sick from the cowboy caviar and I had to clean him and the tent up in the night. I was glad we had each other to be a team in our marriage in that situation as with all the other times. These sorts of things are what escape a person's mind when they are determined to get a divorce.

2018

We had a lot less money than the year before, again buying a house took its toll on finances as did the boys school and after school activities. I stayed very involved taking the boys to appointments and sporting practices. We stopped going to synagogue but tried to practice Judaism at home as much as possible, which I was very supportive of and involved with. She was still depressed and talking about suicide at times. I encouraged her to get help as I always had. Eventually she was diagnosed as Bipolar 2 and manic depressive by a new provider. She started taking new medicine for this and was worried I would want to leave her. I assured her I would never leave her and that I always wanted to work on things with her and help her. I left for training in Mississippi February 8th. It was going to be hard but I thought it might be good to have some time apart from each other to miss one another and reflect on things as well as prepare for times when I would be away at sea. I got in trouble in Mississippi for giving junior personnel a ride and being negligent of people who might be underage and possibly drinking, this became strike three. I never thought this could happen. I became recommend for separation from the Navy shortly after and was stuck in Mississippi for six months instead of six weeks. She was supportive through most of it but seemed to fall into hopelessness. Money was spent by her that we didn't have without discussion. She quietly leased appliances and tires and purchased a vehicle as well as having a secret bank account and email address. I discovered through our insurance company that she wanted to leave our policy for divorce. I didn't know this and she had even told the boys she wanted a divorce before I even knew. I was caught off guard and confused. I kept trying to communicate and reason with her but she didn't want to talk. I refused to give up and wrote emails and a letter but it only seemed to push her away further. By the time I left Mississippi she had filed for divorce and a restraining order against me saying I was unstable and a threat. I couldn't return to my home. My whole life fell apart in just a couple months. I found out she had been talking to other men in the Navy and keeping more secrets. I assumed this was her way of taking control during a difficult situation. I really needed her support during this hard time of transition out of the military. I became homeless, jobless and without my family in a month. I prayed to God that given time things might change between us but it was of no use. Bipolar had consumed whatever was left of my bride and there was no turning back.

I felt that our love was not one to be cast away. Other people might not understand or agree but what we had was truly special. We may have surely needed some time and space to get counseling as well as reconfigure and repair our marriage but I didn't feel like our relationship was irretrievably broken. She was so important to me and I thought she was the love of my life and would always have my heart. I wanted to be her partner in love and life, watching our boys grow up and being there to support each other. Being that she is Bipolar I knew she will need a lot of help and I was more than willing to assist her in making sure she was taking care of herself and not throwing herself into harm's way, ensuring she sticks with a plan we agree to for consistency. I cared about her deeply and had much compassion for her. I didn't believe she was thinking this through or thinking about the future. I really wanted to look at the long and short game with her, neither seemed appealing to me if we progressed but here we are. Things are not going to be easier. She will still have to face her problems and deal with me on a regular basis for the rest of our lives no matter what happens. She can believe her lawyer when they promise she'll get the moon and stars out of this in the end but they only see half of the story. Above all they want our money. It would have been good for her to face me in person and tell me she wanted to divorce and we could have started talking about it with a counselor to figure out how that could even work. Instead she chose to avoid as much responsibility for her actions as possible by doing everything in my absence as if I am not a real person. I had to find out about it from our insurance company and was last to know.

Immediately after I hear the word divorce I looked into her cell usage history and find she has a new military boyfriend that she talks to 20-30 times a day. She felt she owed me no explanation for this and it was none of my business. A mature person would have let me know about this months before and I would have seen it coming but there was no sign until it was seemingly too late. She strayed down a dark path and never turned back.

Her proposed parenting plan was cruel and had no thought put into it. Two hours a week with supervision, no holidays but father's day? She said she’s not trying to keep me from the kids but this is the exact opposite of what she’s saying with the paperwork she filed. She seems very mixed up and still you continues to make rash and sudden choices. Like a completely bogus restraining order against me that contradicts so many facts she has stated herself on record during my Navy retention process. She was so bold as to want to change her identity and even put it in ink on the divorce paperwork as well to a whole new name. That is not the actions of a stable person. She has since changed her mind again on that just as quickly as everything else in her recent life choices. I can't trust that any decisions she is making right now are for the right reasons or that she is of sound mind. I have never seen her so conflicted and confused, grasping at straws and running scared from herself.

Using the legal system so carelessly and going back and forth makes me feel like she is not ready to be making big choices and changes for her and our family. It is very unfair that she can’t consider my feelings on things and what I wish for the boys as well. Very reckless behavior. She can’t anticipate that the day would come where she has to face me and talk to me like an adult. She wants to hide behind the legal system which only leaves much to be unresolved. Ghosting me is not really an option in a marriage of 13 years with children.

Having relationship conversations is too difficult for her at this time and she would rather avoid it and skip to divorce because she thinks that will somehow be easier. I suspect she knows she is making poor choices, possibly out of fear and lust for something new and less painful than the reality of things right now. Our marriage was nowhere close to divorce when I left. She was sad to see me leave and woke with me at 3:30 am to say goodbye, making me coffee and cookies for me to take with.

Our community and accountability seems to be gone due to the continued trend of isolation that she is drawn to. The God fearing loving committed wife I thought I had is gone or trapped inside a terrified shell of herself. She cut me off from her family members and I can't discuss my concerns about her with them either. She only seems to have community with those who are not going to discourage her from these destructive choices.

I understand we have had issues and struggles but we are no worse off than other couples during challenging times. I think that because we loved each other so much it just hurt more when things got hard. I can't accept or believe this is justified or the right choice based on the positive trend we were on before I left. This was the longest break we have ever had from each other and I think she just needed someone to be there more for her, no matter who it was. Time can heal all wounds and I hope that is true for our relationship as co-parents.

She still refuses to tell me about why she wanted a divorce or talk about anything beyond caring for the kids. I have fought the restraining and I can see my boys again but I am still not allowed to my home without her permission.

I have risen from the ashes in just a couple months. I rent a room from a nice couple from our old church and obtained a good paying job while I continue paying the household bills.

This is a really hard time, this difficult spell could have been a tool to better our relationship. I wanted to experience more beautiful memories with her. We had so many more beautiful memories and dreams left to create. This is what marriage looks like to me now as I lower the casket.
This is a timeline of the major events during my 13 year marriage. Amidst the reality, I injected all the lovely memories that refuse to leave my mind.
Jackie Mead Mar 2018
The Mouse with the House on the River Louse and Miss Molly the Dolly who lived next door.
Called a meeting one day of all their friends, The Horse and Master who lived round the bend,  Frog who lived on a log in the middle of a bog and The Bee,The Elf with one ear and the Fly with one eye.
It was a Council meeting they did cry, to discuss, with a little fuss, how to maintain  the countryside far and wide.
It was decreed they would meet in the  grounds of Miss Molly's house at half past three, the house next door to the Mouse who had a House on the River Louse.
It was a council meeting they declared, to discuss a problem that had come to light.
A problem they did fear if nothing was done, would grow and grow and their children would not be able to play out in the woods all through the day and into the night.
The problem they had identified was plastic cups dropped to the side, plastic wrappers left on the floor and plastic bags caught up and swept away down river where the children did play.
Fish in the pond had begun to die, when they breathed through their gills and inhaled plastic ties.
Everywhere they began to look was covered in plastic far and wide, it was beginning to disfigure the countryside.
The Humans were trying to do their bit but it was taking time and this did not fit.
They must come up with a plan and start today if the countryside as they know it, we're to be saved.
The Horse and Master spoke up first, "We can serve drinks in glass cups for anyone with a thirst, we can put up posters and implore they purchase their drink at the countrystore".
"The money we take can be used to buy a machine to wash the cups for the next ones to sup".
The Mouse with a House on the River Louse and Miss Molly liked the idea and made a note to have a word with the owner of the countrystore and if necessary to beg and implore that they start with immediate effect.
The Frog who lived on a log in the middle of the bog and The Bee did confer and the Frog and Bee did then rise. "We would like to say" said the Frog and Bee "we would like to make some signs to put around and advise people to be plastic wise and not to litter it on the ground"
"The signs would be painted on paper of course and the Master and the Horse could help" "The signs would say"
"People who come by this way today, please be aware that we don't want your plastic left behind!"
"Please be friendly and take your plastic home, don't leave it on the ground for the Fish or our children to swallow and die, you wouldn't like it and nor do I"
"Please take your plastic home with you and we will welcome you again, our Human friend"
Again the Mouse with a House on the River Louse and Miss Molly the Dolly liked the idea and agreed that posters were in much need. They asked the Frog who lived on a log in the middle of the bog and The Bee to make a start and to ask the Horse and Master to also take part.
Finally the Elf with one Ear and The Fly with one eye wanting to do their bit, they looked at each other and did say, "We would like to make brightly coloured bins that can be seen from far and wide, encouraging people to dispose of their plastic in a bin, on the side they would say "littering the countryside is a sin"
The Fly with one eye said "the coloured bins would assist humans and their children to identify the bins from afar and when they dropped their litter inside a loud noise would play indicating to children and those who struggled to hear, like the Elf with only one ear, that they had found the bin and their litter went within and not on the ground"
The Mouse with a House on the River Louse and Miss Molly the Dolly agreed and said "we have all been very inventive and were all agreed on the following  main action points to start right away.
The list was made to save the day and it looked like this:
Action1 bring in glass cups
Action 2 Implore the countrystore to supply drinks to the passerby
Action 3 make posters of paper and paint put them up on tree trunks, fences and gates
Action 4 Make wooden bins painted bright for people to fill with all their might
The Mouse with a House on the River Louse and Miss Molly went off to the store, to request and implore they stocked glasses for the folk who liked a drink this would encourage them to stop and think.
The Frog who lived on a log in the middle of the bog and The Bee together with their friend the Horse and Master who lived around the River bend set about making posters with paper and paint
The Fly with one eye and the Elf with one ear together made wooden bins covered in bright paints, which had a voice within when fed with litter did say 'thank you very much, have a nice day'

They all came together the very next day when Council met again and were very pleased with all that had be done, to keep the countryside spotless and still fun.
They agreed to take a week and then to resume again and discuss if the action points had been a success.
A few days later the friends decided to going swimming in the River Louse where the Mouse had a House and Miss Molly the Dolly lived next door.
The Mouse was pleased to see that all the children were swimming freely, they were not  tangled and tied by the river side with plastic ties.
It seems the glass cups, posters and bins had got the message across:

LITTERING THE COUNTRYSIDE IS A
SIN PUT YOUR ******* IN A BIN
It's a very long read and I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read this story. The use of Plastics is a hot topic at the moment here in the UK and I'm sure it's the same wherever you live, try buying anything that's not plastic wrapped for freshness.
4Anonymous7 Nov 2016
I lived in a world of black or white,
good or bad,
wrong or right.
I lived in a world of black and white,
but he managed to be grey.

I lived in a world of friend or foe,
like or hate,
stay or go.
I lived  in a world of friend or foe,
but he managed to be both.

I lived in a world of false or true,
real or fake, old or new.
I lived in a world of false or true,
but he managed to be a mystery.

I lived in a world of lose or win,
luck or loss, frown or grin.
I lived in a world of lose or win,
and he didn't feel like either.

I lived in a world where he stood out,
challenged who I was,
filled my with doubt.
I lived in a world where he stood out,
where he managed to be silver.
Matthew S Jan 2018
You should have lived
A peaceful life,
Or at least
One with very minimal sorrows
What you got is death

You should have lived
A loving life
If not that
Then one where you at least knew what love tasted like
What you got was lungs filled with water

You should have lived
With your brother
If not that
Then i wish i could have warned you about it
What you two got was a painful death

You should have lived
To 19 this year
20 in march 15th
You should have lived to be two years older
But you didn't
You died with your brother

You should have lived
To bring joy into peoples hearts like you always did
If not that
You being here would be enough for me
That you got was your last day on earth

Today i remember
The short life you lived
And how great it was
And today i learn to let you go, just a little bit,
To let you finally rest in peace

I wish i could
Replace you and your brothers life
With mine
Because above all things
You should have lived
today, on January 10th, 2016, my friend and his brother died in a kayaking accident. two years ago i lost a friend and I'm still dealing with the loss. today is forever going to be a sad day for me, but i will try to have a nice  tomorrow.
Steve Feb 2017
The ultimate Dragon Poem and a childhood favourite of mine which still sends shivers to this day...

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee
Little Jackie paper loved that rascal puff
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on puff's gigantic tail
Noble kings and princes would bow whene'er they came
Pirate ships would lower their flag when puff roared out his name oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane
Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honahlee
I read somewhere that some one did an illustrated version of the song where the final illustration saw Jackie bring his young daughter to the cave and introduced her to Puff. That will always be my ending.
aviisevil Oct 2014
NOTE: this is a surreal story I'm attempting to write in a disguise of a children's tale but progressively with a darker undertone to it, I want to create a magical but yet confusion world where things don't make sense and then try to decode it, I'm afraid I might lose interest once again if I don't get the motivation, inspiration and right amount of critics to guide me, thank you. ( beginnings are always boring but keep your eyes open)

'THE SOMEWHERE LAND'


{ prologue }

Mister Simons was an old man of eighty four,
A very peculiar personality-
Hung his own impending obituary by the blue door.
He was having these visions lately;
A fat man beating him with his own cane outside the local store,
He wondered if it was merely a dream or if that had happened before.
Quiet frankly, he didn't remember much about his past anymore.
It's fair to say it happens to most of us when we grow old.
He lived at the end of the street,
By a house that was burned to the ground when he was only four.
Some say it is haunted,
Others say ghosts don't exist in the age of modern science anymore.
Whatever the case is-
It's clear that mister Simons never had any problem with his neighbor.
Though one time he did complain about someone breaking his mirror-
But that's maybe the work of mischievous kids living down the street.
They always cause trouble for him with many ***** deeds,
That's why mister Simons respectfully filed a case against them-
But lost and could never make them leave.
There is also a rumored dog that lives in his house but no one has heard or seen him in a while.
Some speculate that he has died.
Though, mister Simons is sometimes caught buying dog food at the local grocery store,
The one's who think mister Simons dog is just an old fancy myth say-
It's him for who it is for.
That's a very nasty charge against mister Simons-
But no one can ever dare to ask him.
Only once in the neighborhood history someone tried to approach mister Simons,
But off-course, he didn't let him in.
Mister Simons has a few problems of his own,
A few plants have began to sprout out of his skin.
He has an allergy to flowers,
so he daily shaves them off from within.
Miss molly down the lane is the only one to have ever spoken to him-
And claims she saw him grin.
Some say it was just a trick of light-
Others have a more horrid view and claim she is lying,
And she'll go to hell for this sin.
Mister Simons father built that house around the time he was born,
No one's really sure of who he is because everyone came there after-
A construction company started building homes.
There are stories that unicorns and dinosaurs roamed the land-
They were on a friendly terms with mister Simons,
Since he was the only man-
But the construction company men killed them one by one and it was real ugly.
They said it doesn't makes up for an ideal place to raise a family.
Some say mister Simons retreated in the deepest corner inside of him-
After this tragedy.
Others say it's all a lie and there is no construction company in reality.
Those houses were made by little magical dwarfs,
Who have been cursed by the evil witch to provide comfortable homes to humanity.
She eats their babies if they don't comply with the curse-
So, they'll keep on building and serving humans till eternity.
It's a topic of much debate amongst the residents of this street,
No one is really sure of where the other end of their street leads.
It's barricaded by mister Simons house at one corner,
And the screaming lake at the other end.
The history of the lake is also as much in speculation as mister Simons himself.
Some say it was made by the tears of mister Simons,
As he watched the men slaughter his friends and couldn't help.
Others say it was made by the tears of mister Simons,
When he watched his father die in a drought with a thirst he couldn't quell.
One can hear the screams in the dead of every other night,
It is speculated by some that the screams are of the creatures killed by the men screaming still in fright.
It is very difficult to be precise about who is right,
But one thing is for sure-
The lake makes up for a very beautiful sight.


Chapter: 1 - introduction

[I will be your narrator for the rest of the story,
Guiding you through this wonderful adventure with all of its-
Heart-break and glory.]


--

Everything in somewhere land had always been a little strange as far as I could tell,
The lamp-posts by the streets seemed like they were carved out of trees but weren't exactly wood but something entirely else.
Every house except mister Simons house was a bit too pointy in my opinion and were smaller than the other houses I've ever had been in.
It rained everyday sharply at 3'o clock in the daytime and again 3'o clock in the night-time.
The strangest of all were the residents of this peculiar street,
There were ten houses, four of them on one side and four of them on the other side and then there was mister Simons house at the end of the street right next to the burned haunted house.

Mister Richard and misses Molly lived with their only son svain in the house with the placard no. 1 at the beginning of the street. Mister Richard was big and bulky with black hair and blue eyes, he had a very simple face - the kind you can't recognize when you haven't met that person for a long period of time. He was the manager at the local grocery store and proud owner of a brand new double rocket tractor.
Misses Molly too had black hair and blue eyes, she was even taller than her husband and very pale. She was a very beautiful lady with an aura of sophistication around her but was very polite. Oh.. And she didn't knew how to cook.
Svain was an 12 year old with black hair and blue eyes. he wasn't that tall but was skinny which made him look taller than he was. he always wore red color and was moderately popular in school. Some say it was due to the fact he could eat and swim at the same time, an ability passed down generation to generation in his family.

Grandma frey lived with her dog penny in the house with placard no. 2, she was sixty seven years old but looked even older because of a tragic life in which she had to raise twenty children
- one of her own, two from her husband's marriage before, three of her sister who died with her husband when they both ate the poisonous golden plant at the superficial forest, four more were adopted when she took a trip to afro-icca, five more were adopted from a church in some other part of the world when she came across their 'take-a-child and help-the-lord' campaign. She also raised six of her children's - children but sadly one of them died when it tried to sing and eat at the same time.


Mister and misses Hailey lived in the house with placard no. 3. They were a family of four completed by their son owkwarld and daughter shinying. Owkwarld was fourteen and was speculated to be a bully at the local school, he was big and fat like all the other bullies ever lived and maintained his diet by stolen lunches. He had blonde hair and dark eyes with some freckles around his nose and always wore a cap no matter how windy it was. Shinying was eleven and tiny and cute and caring. She cared for everyone and was ready to help anyone in need. She too had blonde hair and blue eyes but a milky smooth complexion and always wore a smile on her face no matter how windy it could get. She was also a thief when it came to shiny things.


Mister bubbles and misses soapy lived in the house with placard no. 4, they pretty much kept to themselves. They had no social lives as of yet because they had no children and children are must to have a decent social lives in somewhere land unless you are old, dying or out-going and friendly.


Uncle paperazi lived in the house with the placard no. 5, he had white hair and a white beard, he was thin and always wore a black lab coat. He always kept to himself and made things made of paper - like paper beds and paper tables, paper cushions and paper toothbrushes. He couldn't sell a single item all of these years because they came with no guarantee or warranty whatsoever.


Darc and Ulla were the latest residents of the house with placard no. Six, they moved in after the yolo family left after feeling they weren't really important. Darc was tall and Ulla was short, Darc wore a smile and Ulla wore a frown. Darc had a job and Ulla stayed at home. Darc ate the food and Ulla cooked the food. Darc made jokes and Ulla washed the clothes. Darc was a man and Ulla was a woman.


Cofeetea and barcandy moved to the house with placard no. 7 around the time 'Dracula' was released all across the country with much hype and was proved to be a disaster. Cofeetea was sweet and barcandy even sweeter though the excess of them could really make anyone dizzy.


Dhornie - a singleton, lived by herself in the house with placard no. 8 for a long time now, she was a middle-aged twenty nine year old woman who had moved to the street when she was only eighteen to find the one true love of her life, some say she has a crush on Dracula
Notes (optional)
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.
I have lived a life of dreams
Crushed into silk patters
Along a shore of future past
I have lived a life of dreams
Among those only found
In molds of old casts

I have lived a life of dreams
A drummer once
With a dream and beat
Where talent falters and
Naysayers repeat

I have lived a life of dreams
An astronaut perhaps
But not smart enough
No, not quite there
"Maybe something else, ***
Hey, I don't care."

I have lived a life of dreams
A cook, that's it!
"No, you might as well quit."
My cursed tongue
Wrought with flames
When the wrong substance
Graced my lips

I have lived a life of dreams
A writer perhaps
Soon to be
Instead of the shadow
That seems to be me
Instead I'll write my own dreams
On paper
And send them to others
To not let taper

The life of dreams
in which they cope
A life of dreams
That fuels my hope.
I lived.
Before I met you,
I just lived my life.
I lived for books
and rainy nights.
I lived and took on
one day at a time.
I lived but I
get lonely sometimes.
Then I met you,
I lived with happines
by my side.
I lived with excitement
all the time.
I lived with purpose
in life.

I loved.
I loved living life.
I loved having you
by my side.
I loved the endless calls
and sleepless nights.
I loved you being there
when I get nightmares.
I loved every moment
that we shared.
I loved for the
first time in my life.
And I know,
I'm going to love you
for the rest of my life.

I lost.
I lost my perspective
and my will to live.
I lost my motivation
and the fight in me.
I lost the love of my life.
I lost you
and honestly?
I lost my happiness,
I feel like dying
every second that
passes by.

I died.
I died. I hurt. I feel.
I died. I cry. I scream.
I will die.
I die in deep slumber.
I die in endless sorrow.
I died when you left.
Silence in death.
Now all I know is
I'm dead.
PGM
01.01.18.
shan Mar 2018
i have lived under black skies, the atmosphere choking me with every star in the sky that should've burned bright but instead became dull. i have lived under black skies that were empty, as if it were a canvas lacking inspiration. i have lived under black skies and nothing was okay.

i have lived under grey skies. i have lived under grey skies where everything was frozen and good or bad had no balance. i have lived under grey skies that defied change, defied time, defied emotion. i have lived under grey skies that enveloped me in neutrality or, a better term, numbness. i have survived under grey skies, not truly lived, because i didn't care at all.

i would like to live under blue skies. blue skies that reflect in the color of my eyes, that makes every other sound comparable to music. i would like to live under blue skies that create a calming sea rather than a raging storm in my heart, blue skies that replace the red warning sirens in my mind. i would like to live under blue skies.

the skies are not blue.
ahhh this is something i just kinda came up with in a moment of sadness. i really liked it, though, and i hope you guys do too.
A man, who never believed in Gods,
Refused to acknowledge the supremacy of the imperialist British Lords,
Challenged imperialist world empire with stubbornness,
Wished to build a peaceful superpower country, with farsightedness.

Through his reading, kept himself on evolution,
Sowed in the hearts of Indian youth, the seeds of revolution,
Raising and threatening administrative tones,
Stood fearful and could only break his bones.

From, soviet World misunderstood,
Revolution a product of blood & bullet,
He approached and transformed revolution,
A product of inspiring pen and booklet.

Never limited himself to fight for boundaries of administrative right,
Expanded himself in the jail to throw away human plight,
Fought a death-nearing battle to regain the human right,
To finally set all things for his jail mates completely right.

Pen is mightier than sword,
His life bore testimony to prove that record,
When others attempted for freedom movement to nurture,
He dreamt and worked for building his country a beautiful future.

Born an ordinary Sikh man,
Misinterpreted a lunatic gunman,

Lived a life of comrades,
Hated in every step, caste, religious and gender retrogrades,
Wanted to save his country from blood-******* renegades,
Decided to break all the youth-distorting barricades,
And put his life to a mortgaging death trade.

Lived a life of an unselfish tree,
Decided to give his life to witness the country free,
Evolved his life, a chapter of sacrifice,
Offered overprice to fight the imposed injustice & cowardice.


His physical life remained short-lived and temporary,
Lived for the country to set an example for ideal revolutionary,
Beaten by humanimal imperialists, black and blue,
Opened the youths towards fight for freedom, on a new avenue.

Imperialist empire remained pathetically cruel,
His thoughts & phenomenon inspired a never ending fuel,
For the youths, to sacrifice themselves for liberation of the soil,
Through revolutionary paths, filled with constant sufferings and toil.

The world personified, revolution is,
Red, blood, blood and blood,
He defied and responded, revolution is,
Think, evolve, unite, and change, by the act of read, read, read and read.

He proclaimed a desperate need,
To get ourselves away from disturbing ****,
Sowed the fire of revolutionary seed,
Thus stated to read, read and read.

Imperialist empires killed people like blood-******* vampires,
He fought and responded, with the shot of a demonstrative gunfire,
When ordinary humans aimed to save their family,
Every millisecond, lived a life, personifying whole country his family.

Like a wood that offers light, and burns itself in fire,
Gave freedom a ray of light, submitted himself happily into the death wire,
For revolution, turned the court his Centre of propaganda,
Responded the ruthless imperialist, a warning memoranda.

On the imperialist death rope, he was killed
The batons he passed for the youths of next generations,
His final dream for India, still unfulfilled,
On the presence of present blood-******* politicians,

A baby that never cries on starvation,
A child that never starves for education,
A youth who never roams around to get dignified occupation,
Let’s at least work and fight towards, fulfilling this mission.
This poem is about the Indian revolutionary named Bhagat Singh. He was a Sikh youth born in India. He is wrongly misinterpreted with bullets and blood. But his approach towards freedom, worthiness of human life and knowledge, shows him distinct from violent loving extremists. He was not a terrorist. He was the most non-violent person, who valued human life than everything. The bomb he threw never had any harmful chemicals, it was thrown on an empty place of assembly to get the world to hear him. He killed a police, who deliberately lathi-charged and killed people involved in a peaceful protest. He sacrificed his life for Indian freedom movement. He was the highly-read and the best intellectual reader during his life short-lived (1907-1931). At the age of 24, the then imperialist British executed him by hanging him to death. His vision and clarity for India and his predictions are happening today. His vision and thoughts still ignite youths of India when we think of him. In short, he is an icon of the Indian youth and revolutionary.
Jaymi Swift Oct 2013
It seems to me that the happiest people are people who barley have the,( I won't say necessities because that would mean to much to most of us in the US), let's say people who barley scrap by. Every day is a challenge to scrap up enough to eat and drink. These people seem to be closer to their families. They laugh more. They share more. They know what is in their brothers heart as well as what is in their own. They live a simple life spiritually and a hard life physically. No TV, no media, no Hollywood. Sometimes I wish I lived somewhere like Ethiopia or a hundred other places on this earth not bombarded every minute of every day with things. THINGS that are not important. To live where just to survive the day and have people to rejoice in that survival with is enough. Body and soul I long for the happiness that comes from a day well lived. We have become a nation that knows not how to live but how to be entertained. We never slow down to feel what's in our heart or to feed our souls. If we never listen to what is in our own heart how can we know what is in another heart. Oh just to live and not to judge. Is that possible? Can it be possible when we are bombarded with the latest, the greatest, the best of fashion, phone, game, religion? Who knows what I could do if I didn't have everyone telling me who or what I should be. And believe me it changes daily.  We all look at these " less fortunate" people on TV or in a magazine and we feel sorry for them when it is ourselves that we must feel sorry for. What is to become of us. We are a most intriguing people, we who have done so many amazing things, and yet most of us feel sad or lonely. Yes, you have a beautiful home. Yes, you have people who love you. But wait, how do you know they love you?.....well of course they love you, their suppose to love you, after all you love them.....right. I mean that's the way the story goes....right?  You know the story, the one you saw on Lifetime yesterday, while your loved ones were doing....ah what were they doing? Oh yes, your son was playing that new game, you know " **** Zombie ****" on that PlayStation or Nintendo or something like that, and your daughter was at the mall buying the latest thing to make her feel beautiful, and your husband was.....well he was doing something on the computer. How can you love someone if you don't know who they are. How can you love someone if you don't know who you are. All of this technology may be bringing the world closer but who needs to know the world when they don't even know their own family....,or their next door neighbor, the one that shot himself yesterday. No one knows why.  Please people , I beg you, put down the phone turn off the TV, go out on a date( not at the movies), but somewhere you can talk and get to know each other. And if you don't know what to say just say what's in your heart. After all that is what truly matters.  If you can realize that most of the things in your life are meaningless then you too can have a life well lived. In the end isn't that all that matters.  So for now I am signing out and switching off, and tuning in to my life.  For all I wish is to have a life well lived.
If from the public way you turn your steps
Up the tumultuous brook of Green-head Ghyll,
You will suppose that with an upright path
Your feet must struggle; in such bold ascent
The pastoral mountains front you, face to face.
But, courage! for around that boisterous brook
The mountains have all opened out themselves,
And made a hidden valley of their own.
No habitation can be seen; but they
Who journey thither find themselves alone
With a few sheep, with rocks and stones, and kites
That overhead are sailing in the sky.
It is in truth an utter solitude;
Nor should I have made mention of this Dell
But for one object which you might pass by,
Might see and notice not. Beside the brook
Appears a straggling heap of unhewn stones!
And to that simple object appertains
A story—unenriched with strange events,
Yet not unfit, I deem, for the fireside,
Or for the summer shade. It was the first
Of those domestic tales that spake to me
Of Shepherds, dwellers in the valleys, men
Whom I already loved;—not verily
For their own sakes, but for the fields and hills
Where was their occupation and abode.
And hence this Tale, while I was yet a Boy
Careless of books, yet having felt the power
Of Nature, by the gentle agency
Of natural objects, led me on to feel
For passions that were not my own, and think
(At random and imperfectly indeed)
On man, the heart of man, and human life.
Therefore, although it be a history
Homely and rude, I will relate the same
For the delight of a few natural hearts;
And, with yet fonder feeling, for the sake
Of youthful Poets, who among these hills
Will be my second self when I am gone.

     Upon the forest-side in Grasmere Vale
There dwelt a Shepherd, Michael was his name;
An old man, stout of heart, and strong of limb.
His ****** frame had been from youth to age
Of an unusual strength: his mind was keen,
Intense, and frugal, apt for all affairs,
And in his shepherd’s calling he was prompt
And watchful more than ordinary men.
Hence had he learned the meaning of all winds,
Of blasts of every tone; and oftentimes,
When others heeded not, he heard the South
Make subterraneous music, like the noise
Of bagpipers on distant Highland hills.
The Shepherd, at such warning, of his flock
Bethought him, and he to himself would say,
“The winds are now devising work for me!”
And, truly, at all times, the storm, that drives
The traveller to a shelter, summoned him
Up to the mountains: he had been alone
Amid the heart of many thousand mists,
That came to him, and left him, on the heights.
So lived he till his eightieth year was past.
And grossly that man errs, who should suppose
That the green valleys, and the streams and rocks,
Were things indifferent to the Shepherd’s thoughts.
Fields, where with cheerful spirits he had breathed
The common air; hills, which with vigorous step
He had so often climbed; which had impressed
So many incidents upon his mind
Of hardship, skill or courage, joy or fear;
Which, like a book, preserved the memory
Of the dumb animals, whom he had saved,
Had fed or sheltered, linking to such acts
The certainty of honourable gain;
Those fields, those hills—what could they less? had laid
Strong hold on his affections, were to him
A pleasurable feeling of blind love,
The pleasure which there is in life itself .

     His days had not been passed in singleness.
His Helpmate was a comely matron, old—
Though younger than himself full twenty years.
She was a woman of a stirring life,
Whose heart was in her house: two wheels she had
Of antique form; this large, for spinning wool;
That small, for flax; and, if one wheel had rest,
It was because the other was at work.
The Pair had but one inmate in their house,
An only Child, who had been born to them
When Michael, telling o’er his years, began
To deem that he was old,—in shepherd’s phrase,
With one foot in the grave. This only Son,
With two brave sheep-dogs tried in many a storm,
The one of an inestimable worth,
Made all their household. I may truly say,
That they were as a proverb in the vale
For endless industry. When day was gone,
And from their occupations out of doors
The Son and Father were come home, even then,
Their labour did not cease; unless when all
Turned to the cleanly supper-board, and there,
Each with a mess of pottage and skimmed milk,
Sat round the basket piled with oaten cakes,
And their plain home-made cheese. Yet when the meal
Was ended, Luke (for so the Son was named)
And his old Father both betook themselves
To such convenient work as might employ
Their hands by the fireside; perhaps to card
Wool for the Housewife’s spindle, or repair
Some injury done to sickle, flail, or scythe,
Or other implement of house or field.

     Down from the ceiling, by the chimney’s edge,
That in our ancient uncouth country style
With huge and black projection overbrowed
Large space beneath, as duly as the light
Of day grew dim the Housewife hung a lamp,
An aged utensil, which had performed
Service beyond all others of its kind.
Early at evening did it burn—and late,
Surviving comrade of uncounted hours,
Which, going by from year to year, had found,
And left the couple neither gay perhaps
Nor cheerful, yet with objects and with hopes,
Living a life of eager industry.
And now, when Luke had reached his eighteenth year,
There by the light of this old lamp they sate,
Father and Son, while far into the night
The Housewife plied her own peculiar work,
Making the cottage through the silent hours
Murmur as with the sound of summer flies.
This light was famous in its neighbourhood,
And was a public symbol of the life
That thrifty Pair had lived. For, as it chanced,
Their cottage on a plot of rising ground
Stood single, with large prospect, north and south,
High into Easedale, up to Dunmail-Raise,
And westward to the village near the lake;
And from this constant light, so regular
And so far seen, the House itself, by all
Who dwelt within the limits of the vale,
Both old and young, was named The Evening Star.

     Thus living on through such a length of years,
The Shepherd, if he loved himself, must needs
Have loved his Helpmate; but to Michael’s heart
This son of his old age was yet more dear—
Less from instinctive tenderness, the same
Fond spirit that blindly works in the blood of all—
Than that a child, more than all other gifts
That earth can offer to declining man,
Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts,
And stirrings of inquietude, when they
By tendency of nature needs must fail.
Exceeding was the love he bare to him,
His heart and his heart’s joy! For oftentimes
Old Michael, while he was a babe in arms,
Had done him female service, not alone
For pastime and delight, as is the use
Of fathers, but with patient mind enforced
To acts of tenderness; and he had rocked
His cradle, as with a woman’s gentle hand.

     And, in a later time, ere yet the Boy
Had put on boy’s attire, did Michael love,
Albeit of a stern unbending mind,
To have the Young-one in his sight, when he
Wrought in the field, or on his shepherd’s stool
Sate with a fettered sheep before him stretched
Under the large old oak, that near his door
Stood single, and, from matchless depth of shade,
Chosen for the Shearer’s covert from the sun,
Thence in our rustic dialect was called
The Clipping Tree, a name which yet it bears.
There, while they two were sitting in the shade,
With others round them, earnest all and blithe,
Would Michael exercise his heart with looks
Of fond correction and reproof bestowed
Upon the Child, if he disturbed the sheep
By catching at their legs, or with his shouts
Scared them, while they lay still beneath the shears.

     And when by Heaven’s good grace the boy grew up
A healthy Lad, and carried in his cheek
Two steady roses that were five years old;
Then Michael from a winter coppice cut
With his own hand a sapling, which he hooped
With iron, making it throughout in all
Due requisites a perfect shepherd’s staff,
And gave it to the Boy; wherewith equipt
He as a watchman oftentimes was placed
At gate or gap, to stem or turn the flock;
And, to his office prematurely called,
There stood the urchin, as you will divine,
Something between a hindrance and a help,
And for this cause not always, I believe,
Receiving from his Father hire of praise;
Though nought was left undone which staff, or voice,
Or looks, or threatening gestures, could perform.

     But soon as Luke, full ten years old, could stand
Against the mountain blasts; and to the heights,
Not fearing toil, nor length of weary ways,
He with his Father daily went, and they
Were as companions, why should I relate
That objects which the Shepherd loved before
Were dearer now? that from the Boy there came
Feelings and emanations—things which were
Light to the sun and music to the wind;
And that the old Man’s heart seemed born again?

     Thus in his Father’s sight the Boy grew up:
And now, when he had reached his eighteenth year,
He was his comfort and his daily hope.

     While in this sort the simple household lived
From day to day, to Michael’s ear there came
Distressful tidings. Long before the time
Of which I speak, the Shepherd had been bound
In surety for his brother’s son, a man
Of an industrious life, and ample means;
But unforeseen misfortunes suddenly
Had prest upon him; and old Michael now
Was summoned to discharge the forfeiture,
A grievous penalty, but little less
Than half his substance. This unlooked-for claim
At the first hearing, for a moment took
More hope out of his life than he supposed
That any old man ever could have lost.
As soon as he had armed himself with strength
To look his trouble in the face, it seemed
The Shepherd’s sole resource to sell at once
A portion of his patrimonial fields.
Such was his first resolve; he thought again,
And his heart failed him. “Isabel,” said he,
Two evenings after he had heard the news,
“I have been toiling more than seventy years,
And in the open sunshine of God’s love
Have we all lived; yet, if these fields of ours
Should pass into a stranger’s hand, I think
That I could not lie quiet in my grave.
Our lot is a hard lot; the sun himself
Has scarcely been more diligent than I;
And I have lived to be a fool at last
To my own family. An evil man
That was, and made an evil choice, if he
Were false to us; and, if he were not false,
There are ten thousand to whom loss like this
Had been no sorrow. I forgive him;—but
’Twere better to be dumb than to talk thus.

     “When I began, my purpose was to speak
Of remedies and of a cheerful hope.
Our Luke shall leave us, Isabel; the land
Shall not go from us, and it shall be free;
He shall possess it, free as is the wind
That passes over it. We have, thou know’st,
Another kinsman—he will be our friend
In this distress. He is a prosperous man,
Thriving in trade and Luke to him shall go,
And with his kinsman’s help and his own thrift
He quickly will repair this loss, and then
He may return to us. If here he stay,
What can be done? Where every one is poor,
What can be gained?”

                                          At this the old Man paused,
And Isabel sat silent, for her mind
Was busy, looking back into past times.
There’s Richard Bateman, thought she to herself,
He was a parish-boy—at the church-door
They made a gathering for him, shillings, pence,
And halfpennies, wherewith the neighbours bought
A basket, which they filled with pedlar’s wares;
And, with this basket on his arm, the lad
Went up to London, found a master there,
Who, out of many, chose the trusty boy
To go and overlook his merchandise
Beyond the seas; where he grew wondrous rich,
And left estates and monies to the poor,
And, at his birth-place, built a chapel floored
With marble, which he sent from foreign lands.
These thoughts, and many others of like sort,
Passed quickly through the mind of Isabel,
And her face brightened. The old Man was glad,
And thus resumed:—”Well, Isabel! this scheme
These two days has been meat and drink to me.
Far more than we have lost is left us yet.
—We have enough—I wish indeed that I
Were younger;—but this hope is a good hope.
Make ready Luke’s best garments, of the best
Buy for him more, and let us send him forth
To-morrow, or the next day, or to-night:
—If he could go, the boy should go to-night.”

     Here Michael ceased, and to the fields went forth
With a light heart. The Housewife for five days
Was restless morn and night, and all day long
Wrought on with her best fingers to prepare.
Things needful for the journey of her Son.
But Isabel was glad when Sunday came
To stop her in her work: for, when she lay
By Michael’s side, she through the last two nights
Heard him, how he was troubled in his sleep:
And when they rose at morning she could see
That all his hopes were gone. That day at noon
She said to Luke, while they two by themselves
Were sitting at the door, “Thou must not go:
We have no other Child but thee to lose,
None to remember—do not go away,
For if thou leave thy Father he will die.”
The Youth made answer with a jocund voice;
And Isabel, when she had told her fears,
Recovered heart. That evening her best fare
Did she bring forth, and all together sat
Like happy people round a Christmas fire.

     With daylight Isabel resumed her work;
And all the ensuing week the house appeared
As cheerful as a grove in Spring: at length
The expected letter from their kinsman came,
With kind assurances that he would do
His utmost for the welfare of the Boy;
To which requests were added, that forthwith
He might be sent to him. Ten times or more
The letter was read over, Isabel
Went forth to show it to the neighbours round;
Nor was there at that time on English land
A prouder heart than Luke’s. When Isabel
Had to her house returned, the old man said,
“He shall depart to-morrow.” To this word
The Housewife answered, talking much of things
Which, if at such short notice he should go,
Would surely be forgotten. But at length
She gave consent, and Michael was at ease.

     Near the tumultuous brook of Green-head Ghyll,
In that deep valley, Michael had designed
To build a Sheep-fold; and, before he heard
The tidings of his melancholy loss,
For this same purpose he had gathered up
A heap of stones, which by the streamlet’s edge
Lay thrown together, ready for the work.
With Luke that evening thitherward he walked:
And soon as they had reached the place he stopped,
And thus the old Man spake to him:—”My Son,
To-morrow thou wilt leave me: with full heart
I look upon thee, for thou art the same
That wert a promise to me ere thy birth,
And all thy life hast been my daily joy.
I will relate to thee some little part
Of our two histories; ’twill do thee good
When thou art from me, even if I should touch
On things thou canst not know of.—After thou
First cam’st into the world—as oft befalls
To new-born infants—thou didst sleep away
Two days, and blessings from thy Father’s tongue
Then fell upon thee. Day by day passed on,
And still I loved thee with increasing love.
Never to living ear came sweeter sounds
Than when I heard thee by our own fireside
First uttering, without words, a natural tune;
While thou, a feeding babe, didst in thy joy
Sing at thy Mother’s breast. Month followed month,
And in the open fields my life was passed,
And on the mountains; else I think that thou
Hadst been brought up upon thy Father’s knees.
But we were playmates, Luke: among these hills,
As well thou knowest, in us the old and young
Have played together, nor with me didst thou
Lack any pleasure which a boy can know.”
Luke had a manly heart; but at these words
He sobbed aloud. The old Man grasped his hand,
And said, “Nay, do not take it so—I see
That these are things of which I need not speak.
—Even to the utmost I have been to thee
A kind and a good Father: and herein
I but repay a gift which I myself
Received at others’ hands; for, though now old
Beyond the common life of man, I still
Remember them who loved me in my youth.
Both of them sleep together: h
Amour de Monet Jun 2014
blind me
deafen me
take my limbs
for i have lived in love

it is not with my eyes i see
it is not with my ears i hear
it is not with my hands i feel
for i have lived in love

blind me
deafen me
take my limbs
for i have lived in love

i have seen your smile shine
i have heard your laughter sing
i have felt your arms keep
for i have lived in love

blind me
deafen me
take my limbs
for i have lived in love

my heart still sees you
my heart still hears you
my heart still feels you
for i have lived in love

blind me
deafen me
take my limbs
for my heart has lived in love
and i shall live in my hearts memory
I  miss you Andy. I still can’t believe you’re gone. It’s funny - I still want to show you things all the time - and I sometimes even send them to you anyway - where they go I don’t know - I don’t care - You were always in tune with me - no matter what it was or how our distance - You always knew my good, my bad, my happy, my sad… and I wouldn’t even have to tell you how I was doing - you just knew. Wherever your soul went Andy - wherever all that energy and life and love only you could shine with went - I hope it finds its way to me from time to time… just to check in.

Love you. Always Penguin.

Your Puffina

_______________________________________
It was many and many a year ago,
  In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
  By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
  Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
  In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
  I and my ANNABEL LEE;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
  Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
  In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
  My beautiful ANNABEL LEE;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
  And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
  In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
  Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
  In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
  Chilling and killing my ANNABEL LEE.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
  Of those who were older than we—
  Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in heaven above,
  Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
  Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
  Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE;
And the stars never rise but I see the bright eyes
  Of the beautiful ANNABEL LEE;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
  In her sepulchre there by the sea—
  In her tomb by the side of the sea.
There once lived a girl who liked to drift away
Sail through the winds, the seas, the land
Weightless, as light as sand
An escape from everyday

There once lived a girl whose favourite drift of all
Was manned by that as sharp as a knife
As brutal as my life
In skin it made neat scrawls

There once lived a girl who could make wounds speak
How they screamed and shouted and wailed
And rebuked her for having failed
At not giving in to weak

There one lived a girl who asked the stars stop
Cease to twinkle and stare to sigh
Look in pity, helpless up high
Her eyes up, only to drop

There once lived a girl so broken yet so whole
Shattered hope, built-in dreams
Tear of the heart, flowing streams
An abyss, an endless soul

There once lived a girl who stood confused
Love for pain, pain for truth
Life for lesson, lesson for youth
Dilemmas that were gifts to the bruised

But, there once lived a girl who stood still
The blood flowing down clotted
A glimmering hope spotted
Changed the ‘can’ to ‘will’

So, ‘girl who once lived’
Wasn't it your dream
To fly one day?
To swim one day?
To run one day?
Wasn't it your wish
To breathe one day?
To leave one day?
To live one day?
Well, guess what?
You have.
Katie Edmunds Jan 2018
There once lived a girl
Free as can be,
Her smile bright,
Her heart young,
And her eyes full of sympathy

There once lived a girl
Loved by all,
Never sad,
Never lost,
But this was before the fall

There once lived a girl
Crying for help,
No one to turn to,
No one to trust,
Everyone heard her yelp

There once lived a girl
All alone,
No more friends,
No more laughter,
All because she wasn't a clone

There once lived a girl
Horrendously broken,
When her life slipped away,
When her smile disappeared,
So many words left unspoken

There once lived a girl
Free as can be,
Ruined by the world,
Ruined by society,
Now she lays under the oak tree

So many times she was hurt,
So many times she cried
While everyone stood by,
Now she is gone
Everyone has died a little inside
In memory of the girl with the bow in her hair
mark john junor Jun 2014
me and juilet went a walking
in the late day summer sun hand in hand
waving our hello's to neighbor and a few
we lived our smiles
and it did let our souls breath
breath it in deep breath in the worlds beauties
and her hand in mine felt so natural so real
just set the rising sun to the sea of my dreams
felt so natural so real

she lead me into the old town
to this little place where the old woman welcomes
you to her table an feed you a feast
sit and tell the worlds tale
and we lived her smile too
felt so natural so real
the hour grew late
and she passed us the keys to the worlds dream
so we went wanderin under a sea of stars
hand in hand with my true love
just so as they say we lived our smiles
set the rising sun to my sea of dreams

we walked all the way to the beach and back again
so my love lead me once more
this time to our safe harbor of our bed
and we lay entwined and deep with eachother
we lived our smiles once more
felt so natural so real
and just as i drifted to slumbers
i kissed each trinket and bauble woven in her hair
one for her one for me
we lived our smiles on a sea of dreams
so natural so real
Sam Nov 2016
Once upon a time,

there lived a little girl with a red cape,
who laughed at much and cried at little,
whom every one called, "Red Riding Hood."


there lived a beautiful maiden with kindness in spades,
who lived with her vile stepmother and stepsisters,
whom every one called, "Cinderella,"
after the ashes left in her hair from cleaning the fireplace.


there lived a genie in a lamp,
who traveled across the lands from hand to hand,
whom every one called, "genie,"
because none knew it's name,
for it had been lost long ago to
 time.

Right now,

a man climbs Everest,
a woman wins a tournament,
a child is marked as a genius.

we have their names,
sealed in our memories.

as is only
right.

When a few hundred years of time have passed,
They'll say,

Once upon a time,

there lived a man with great determination,
and no small amount of love for climbing,
whom everybody learned to call, "Everest Man."


there lived a woman who dodged every insult,
and practiced until she almost collapsed,
whom everybody called, "Yume,"
because of her inability to stop dreaming.


there lived a child,
who grew up in many different places,
whom everybody called, "prodigy,"
because that was what the child was,
and the child's name was eventually lost to
 time.

Right now,

we haven't anything to say,
because the future isn't over yet,
and nor will it be,
until they talk about us around the campfire,
saying,


*Once upon a time...
LDuler Dec 2012
You tell me that I am young
That life has merely licked me, not stung
That I do not understand, that I have not yet lived
Enough to grasp the substance

I have known disease
Slow tears, muted pleas
Pain that nothing could appease
I have known the smell of hospitals for summers
The beeping and slurping of machine in massive numbers

I have spoken to voiceless loved ones,
Loved ones with teethless mouths and twisted tongues
Distorted jaws and wheezing lungs.
We have spoken with little green charts
And broken hearts
From the inability to connect the mouth to the thoughts in the head
And I left without understanding,
What they had said
Because I eventually had to let it go
(I still don't know)

I have spent countless summer nights
In nature’s garb, floating silently in a river
So warm that my limbs, skimming the surface, didn't shiver
Under a clear sky, the stars like paradisiac lights
Without anyone ever finding out
About these wild and primal escapades

I've drank, I've smoked
I have burned my throat
With coarse lemon gin
Until I could no longer feel my skin.

I have been frightened
Yes I have felt fear, like a noose around my throat being tightened
Like a gruesome black crow, perched on my shoulder
I have often awoken affright at night,
Longing, praying, for the morning light
I have felt fear, wild, fierce and turbulent fear
More than anyone will everyone will ever know
By men, by life, by myself
Desolate under the sheets, like a forsaken toy
All by myself

I have seen Paris in the rain
Traveled the French countryside by train
I've woken up to New York window views
And seen New Orleans afternoons, filled with heat and blues.
I've swam the Mexican Baja waters, turquoise and clear
With snakes as sharp as spears

I have known humiliation
Causing my cheeks to turn carnation
A spoon, emptying my insides out
Like a gourd

I have loved
I have known the aching pain of a swelled heart
And the way it can tear you apart
I have gushed torrents upon my pillows and sleeves
Tears running down my chin like guilty thieves
From a lit-up house

I have known death, and grief
The meaning of "never"
Whimpering in the school bathroom
And cold, lonely nights

I have seen the works of Van Gogh, Mondrian, and Miro,
Modigliani, Cezanne, and Frida Kahlo
Of Monet, Gauguin, Matisse, Magritte, and Picasso
I have wandered through hallways of masterpieces
Holding tight to my grandmother's hand
And I have wept shamelessly for joy
Before Degas's La classe de danse

I have been diagnosed
I have undergone computer programs designed to shift my brain, to better it
To get me to be normal, to submit
I have had brain-altering medicine shoved down my throat,
Like stuffing a goose,
To make my brain run a little less loose
And I have submitted and gotten use to my brain being altered.

I have had kisses that were mere trifles
Frivolous, yet fierce and acute like shots from a rifle
Lips of mere flesh, not sweet godly nectar
And gazes that meant everything
That seemed to connect with an invisible yet indestructible string
Iris like distant galaxies and pupils twinkling like black jewels
Eyes that seemed enkindled by some ethereal fuel
Speaking of emotions far too secluded, cryptic and cluttered
To be worded and uttered

I know the way in which violence resides
Not in commotion, brusqueness, nor physical harm
But in silence
In the time that covers pain and secrets
In the slow impossibility of trust
In the way that some secrets become inconceivable to tell, time has so covered them in rust
In that dull, dismal ache
In all that is doomed to remain forever opaque.

I have read, for pleasure,
The works of Balzac, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, and Voltaire
Of Bobin, Gaude, and Baudelaire
Of Flaubert, Hemingway
and good old Bradbury, Ray
Émile Zola,  Primo Levi
Moliere, Rousseau, and Bukowski
I have read, and loved, and understood

I have known insomnia
The way a beach knows the tides
Sleepless nights of convulsive, feverish panic, of clutching my sides,
Of silent hysteria and salty terror.
I know what happens at night, when sweet slumber seems so far away
The worries and woes seem to multiply and swell in hopeless disarray
My lips grow pale, my eye grow sunken
As a time ticks by, tomorrow darkens




I have witnessed horror
In the form of a blue body bag
Being rolled out with a squeaking drag
By two yellow-vested men
With apologetic eyes
That seemed to say "Oh god
We're so sorry you had to see that
Please, please
Go home
And try to forget
"

But you are right
I am still just a child
Naive, innocent, and pure
I have known nothing dark or obscure
I have not yet lived.
Tryst Sep 2015
What Hope Remained?

What hope remained when hope for hope was spent?
        When putrid plumes dulled morning into night
        Hope lived in heart-struck deeds of bold intent,
        As mortals wept and earthborn angels went
        With downcast eyes to clamber heavens height.

What hope remained when hope for hope was spent?
        When panicked sirens wailed a lost lament
        And backs were bowed beneath ungodly weight,
        Hope lived in heart-struck deeds of bold intent
        As boots bore souls up treadmills burnt and bent
        To scale a void devoid of dawning light.

What hope remained when hope for hope was spent?
        For those in sight of angels heaven sent
        Atop the world to aid their mortal plight,
        Hope lived in heart-struck deeds of bold intent.

        When wingless brethren conquered feared ascent
        To gift last hope to all who saw their might:

                What hope remained when hope for hope was spent?
                Hope lived in heart-struck deeds of bold intent.



In The Fall

I chanced upon a stranger in the fall,
Cosmetic garb of office black and white
Portraying calm demeanor of his plight
As shadows panicked on a stricken wall,

And oft' I find my mind in numb recall
To look upon that helpless human kite
Who tumbled from the terrors of a height,
Yet graceful as an eagle in a stall

Before it plummets earthward --   'Neath the pall
Of twisted steel rended by follied flight,
That stranger lives forever in the light
Suspended in iconic timeless sprawl.

        I wonder, in the briefness of his fall,
        Did he derive the meaning of it all?
What Hope Remained: In memory of the three hundred and forty three firefighters of FDNY that fell on Tuesday 11th September 2001, who fought without hope to bring hope to the lost.

In The Fall: Dedicated to "The Falling Man" of Tuesday September 11th 2001, in memory of him and those like him who chose the manner of their own end, when the only choice on that day of days was how, not if or when.
Mateuš Conrad Aug 2017
it usually happens like this, the moment you expand and exfoliate in vocab gymnastics worthy of poetry, and cannot fathom the mundane lumberjack constraints of writing fiction, were the use of a thesaurus is in plain sight... people start calling your sentence construct a "psychiatric" symptom of making salads... too bad these critics have such a limited vocab bank account, that they still have to use the thesaurus, in order to "spice things up"! i tried and i tried, but i can't make language rigid, systematic; i tried being the bricklayer of language with paragraph rooms: but i just end ******* it up, like a picasso.

a man might as well have said:
                      to have *shared
an experience,
is to also have paid  a remissions for qualms
of having lived a life: mostly apart -

and is that not so?
this "shared" experience,
   is nothing but a reinvention
of the dionysian cult -
and by that i mean:
nothing more than the obliterate
target practice against
any mould, or "biased" glue
to fathom beyond the thought:
something good.

fool the man and folly another,
should he come from an age
of technological "investigations"
and replica interventions -
seems only the nomad,
the less civilised is the one:
who sought wisdom, and found it...
*****-strapped in diapers
and mosquito bites...
    truth to power!
i once had e lake, now aye av a bog,
my my: a fine wide ranging
toilet crouch moment:
but my my, wh'ah a woo!
  i mean view... neever took a ****
and felt so exasperated by the canvas,
than the ease of me giving birth to
a ****-worm...
  oi! armstrong! stretch!

have you noticed why stand-up comedy
is a wholly black vs. white affair?
these days us peeps can't say
anything profound, nothing biblical,
so, we resort to not being taken seriously
and, crack a joke...
    i mean... it doesn't matter that i don't
come from a non-colonial white group,
i still can't say anything profound...
i have to crack a joke, to be taken seriously...

problem is: i might actually crack a bad joke...
i actually might not be that much funny
as a dog chasing its own tail...

a man might as well have said:
to have shared an experience,
is to also have paid
a remissions for qualms
of having lived a life: mostly apart -

and that's true, in that,
a "shared" experience is never a lived
experience...
      the ****'s up with these shamanic
holidays?
   we know we end up on cruise ships
trying to celebrate "thinking",
while at the same time succumbing
to "being" bored...
          
         the only lived we ever had was
down the pub...
    and the "shared" we attempted to
capitalise on?
    bad acid trips, bad shroom trips,
post-scriptum of a white girl
  injecting concentrated ayahuasca...
yeah, really "lived" through it together...
the sharing is not the living,
the week doesn't concentrate with
a weekend, with friday binge, saturday binge,
sunday rest...

     the left? do the capitalist infiltrators
even know what the left stands for,
the left orthodoxy? jew.
you have too much time on your hands,
scrap the 0-hour contracts, and make people
work the mandatory 6, as it was done
in post world-war II "******" states...
less time to riot and chant ******* slogans...
maybe these people can learn
the orthodox way...
        
           people with 2 days off usually waste
one of these days on utopia, and the other
on the status quo...

     **** me, that's decent, i'm going to stutter:

           people with 2 days off usually waste
one of these days on utopia, and the other
on the status quo...

oh yeah, and make army conscription mandatory,
given that universities are obsolete,
just for the boys out there, save the "boys",
bring back mandatory conscription;
it'll be like ilford county high vs.
the ilford ursulines: secular segregation,
and the mosques can just *******;

you know, i this idea of being a social engineer...
it's titillating! like saying the word scone
or crumpet to a russian girlfriend!
**** gives me the giggles!

b.t.w.: shhh, don't tell anyone...
it might be the *** talking...

no, i don't believe in ******* mud sweat
soaking condoms and cheap beer glastenbury of
shared experience...
      i don't believe in "sharing" an experience,
i don't believe in group yoga, group detox,
group schmuck worth of l.s.d. or a dope get-together
to listen to some impromptu jazz and recite
poetry like those beatnik quacks of the 60s...
if it's not a lived experience,
   like preparing dinner, and sitting by the table...
well... nothing is worth sharing... n'est-ce pas?

you either experience a lived experience,
or you experience a mockery of life -
   this... thing, called "shared" experience,
3 days at a festival, and then?
off you go vermin! back into your cages!
chop chop!
            on the ******* treadmills, pronto!
most of these people can't even imitate autism,
or the child, or concentrate within the focus
of solipsism, given the theory, some *******
even claim that it's a mental "illness":
or as i like to call it: the proper state of affairs
of being an only child.

these people do know that they're breeding really
******* patients, hiding behind the label
"mental illness", while at the same time not
calling islamic terrorists as also being mentally ill,
they know that, don't they?
   i mean, the media is breeding really angry people
with this dissociative-dissociation -
yes, i know, but this imminent tautological blunder
can't be metaphorical, akin to plain sighted
interaction of prefix-magnets...

        oh wait... associative-dissociation actually
does make more sense... d'uh: tautological prefixation
never works: the paradoxical blunder...

       oh ****, have a party,
   step it up with "tautological":
as i might also add: existentialism and the inverted
commas - the laziness regarding the aristotelian
genesis of proper nouns, and quick-hand-draw nouns;

and when you write so "confusingly" as to make
your reader distrust you, in that you have read
enough books, for them to not be able to make
identical references of a chronology of reading.

to be honest, given this western media punch-bag?
i'd rather be called a terrorist,
   than someone who's mentally ill...
  god's honest truth, since then i'd be dealing
with puritanical matters of conviction -
and as one theist said to another theist:
much easier contemplating a "non-existent"
being, than being stuck in an atheist's head
pretending to reinvent the wheel,
and the cave man, and return to mama chimp;
just saying... at least the idea of "god"
either brings the desire to procrastinate
by gesticulating the existence of: via prayer -
or being ****** by the void,
    of a non-existence of, the thing that consumes
thought - res edere cogitans;
still, much better than being cannibalised
at an atheist banquet;
i much prefer shoving my ego up his ***,
than into the mind of some atheist,
and then start nodding in approval like
some zombie carrier pigeon,
which scratches its delivery confirmation
with a hook of gangrene.
ughdrey Jun 2013
Before I met her, I wanted to be her. Does that sound stupid? I wanted to be that ****** up ****** that did a bunch of drugs and always had money because she led men on and lived free and just lived life despite a daily brush with death. I was eventually, and I had an amazingly horrible experience.

I met her when I was 13. I spent a lot of time just "babysitting" her really. My other friends hated her. We'd come over and she'd literally go in the closet to shoot up and we'd just be chilling in her bedroom listening to Hole and being really confused as to why she didn't just use the bathroom. But she liked the attention and audience. This might seem cliche or mean or whatever, but it's true.

As my decent friends grew further away from me because I continuously grew closer and closer to her, I did a lot of *******, not nearly as much as I would later on in life. but enough to say, "wow I did a lot of ******* when I was 15" and at the time, it seemed like an accomplishment. Maybe I thought I was cool, I don't know, now I just think I was stupid and weak and regret being like my father.

Obviously, as time went on, I did ******. The first 500 times Natalie offered me it, I said no. I always said no, but she still always asked. If you know a ****** addict, there's something else you probably know. ****** addicts love having other ****** addicts around because you guys will work together to make money and get more. This will probably turn into what it really is and what we were really were, and that's a co-dependent platonic couple, but I didn't know that until just now.

The day I finally did it, my god. My god. My god. My god. My god.

I feel slightly guilty writing this because I don't want to glorify drug abuse but Christ, did it feel good.

We were downstairs watching Hedwig and she gave me the eye to start talking to her mom so she could go upstairs discreetly. Then her mom was like "where'd she go?" so I went to go check, even though I knew.

I walk into the bathroom, scaring the **** out of her. She had lines of ******, diesel, whatever. We called it diesel, I don't know if that's like a common name for it? Is it? Whatever, I said "let me try it."

Why? I don't know why. To this very second I can't remember what I was thinking. She didn't ask, and maybe that's why. But she put some on her hand and I snorted it. I hated the taste. Sometimes I smell it, and I don't know what it is that smells like ******, but I find myself saying out loud, when people are around, "ugh it smells like ******."

This is one of my catchphrases I think, and I am not proud of it anymore.

People always ask me what it felt like the first time. I remember not feeling anything. I remember not feeling guilty for helping Natalie remain a drug addict in her parents house. I remember her pinching me and telling me not be obvious, but oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know that it was going to make me feel like a warm pancake that just wanted to sleep wide awake.

Sleeping wide awake, that's a good way to describe how it feels.

I tell people this a lot, this process of drug use, and how I ended up shooting ****** and kind of just ignoring that I was.

I smoked *** and said "well it's not like I'm doing E"
then I did E and said "I'm not doing coke"
then it was "it's not ******"
and then it was "it's not like I'm shooting it."

Once I started shooting it, I didn't have any excuse or cop out, I was just curious as to what else I could inject into my body and became that glorified drug addict who lived free and did anything she wanted and felt like she came out of a book or a movie or a ****** up story you only hear strangers gabbing about on the train.

I was that girl. Natalie was much worse though. But that didn't come until I was about 18.

I had morals, yes even heavily addicted to ******, I had morals. I didn't steal from my family. This was one thing that would not break for me even when I was maybe putting **** in my mouth for money. But that's not even entirely true because I didn't do it for the money, it just happened that way.

So I'm probably 16 at this point in the story. I'm meeting guys off MySpace with her, guys from rich towns that want *** or coke or ******, just guys who can't get it in their towns. She's ******* them, I'm stealing from them. We don't keep friends very long because they know what we're up to after a few times.

She also sold her parents wedding rings, I didn't even know until after the fact, or I would have tried to stop her.

Her mother was so good to me. I spent a lot of time at their house. Her mom always invited me for holidays, despite the huge family they already had coming, because she knew my home life wasn't too good and she just treated me like I imagine you're supposed to treat a daughter you like. She was also very religious, which added to the blinders she had when it came to Natalie. She thought she could pray the drugs away, the way she tried to pray my gay away.

I was absolutely heart broken and completely beside myself the day her mother yelled, "she told me what you did. She told me you took the rings."

I didn't take the rings but what was I supposed to do? Try and convince her that Natalie did? She knew, somewhere she knew, but she didn't want to believe it so I just walked out of the house and never came back. I cried about that for a long time because I loved her mother, so much more than I am trying to say here. She might have been oblivious, but she was the sweetest woman in the world and I feel horrible that she had a daughter like Natalie.

I met so many characters. Chris. I don't remember his last name but it was something really white boyish. He would drive 45 minutes to us so we could get him 8 bags of ****** when he paid for 10, but we'd pocket two. We did this a lot during the day actually. We'd get drugs for people and just never tell them you get a bundle (10 bags) for 80$, and they'd tell their friends we'd go for them, and they'd think the same thing. Why? Oh, because these were very white people that were afraid of the "ghetto." And it was the ghetto, it was Newark, NJ. The corner of Victoria and Garside, what up, what up. Come see me.

I never really liked Chris. He was a musician but he wasn't that good. I think he thought he was Conor Oberst, and at that time, he kind of looked like him. But he was just some rich white kid with an inflated ego and I didn't feel bad ripping him off, or his Trust Fund Baby friends.

I did feel bad though when one of them died in front of us.

So I guess this is where I'll start writing the "**** got real real fast" stuff, now that I've hopefully explained the type of person I am and how I got to this point.


Why drug dealers cut their drugs with poison and whatever else, I'll never know. Bad for business if you ask me, but I've never been a big fan of the business world, but this seems pretty similar.

Natalie is driving Chris' car and we didn't snort any ****** yet, which was weird, but I'm grateful we didn't. We bring it back to Chris and his friends, who are waiting a few towns over for us. They get in the car and are like "just drive around for a bit so we can do this."

They all have separate bags, and I feel terrible I can't remember the girl's name that died, I want to say it was Karen or something like that but I know it wasn't. She just rolls up a bill and snorts out of the bag and within like 10 seconds she's screaming and everyone in the backseat is screaming and I turn around and there's blood pouring out of her nose and it's all over her hands and the car and her boyfriend and Chris and I think her eyes are bleeding but I'm not entirely sure if that's what was happening. And I'm like "What the **** what the ****" because it wasn't a normal nose bleed, this girl was just, flowing blood out of her face.

Natalie is emotionless as always. I'm screaming "get to the hospital get to the ******* hospital" and the girl is like screaming "it hurts oh my god oh my god it hurts" and her boyfriend is like "yo man, what the **** bb are you okay bb."

It's weird that in situations like this everyone repeats themselves but I think your brain kind of stops working and you need to repeat yourself so the rest of you can process the magnitude of ****** up that your eyes are seeing.

Needless to say, Natalie didn't go straight to the hospital, she stopped the car a few blocks away. The girl died within 15 minutes. I don't know why Natalie or I wasn't held accountable for what happened, but I think it had something to do with me telling Chris who the dealer was, and this was the only time in my life I ever gave out a name, even when I was in jail, I didn't rat anyone out. But death is different and anyone who doesn't believe in being a rat when you're faced with that kind of guilt, is a *******.

Natalie got out and started walking, Chris got in the front seat and I followed after Natalie. He did take his friend to the hospital immediately after but Natalie was being inhumane, and it was just better she got out of the car because she probably would have driven us all into a river to avoid being arrested.

I really have no idea why she got out of the car though, she had no fear, I think she was just annoyed, like this girl's death ruined her day when it ruined my life. I guess making a joke out of it makes it easier for me to deal with, but it still isn't. For me, it was monstrous, it was desensitizing, it was mortality showing itself and I was like "I'll never do ****** again." But that was a lie. I found out a week later via MySpace message that the girl had glass (!?) in her bag as well as ****** and I have no idea. I have no ******* idea what why how. I just don't understand that.

Chris still came around for ****** though. And he still brought his friends, just not the ones that were there that day.

What am I, like 17? I'm still senior in high school and I have really ****** concept of age, and I meet this other guy.

MY GOD WHAT A MAN.

Yeah, I said it. He was 38, built like Hulk Hogan, and had the sweetest smile and the most honest blue eyes I have ever seen.

He also had been out of jail for a whole year before we met him. He was tied to a car ring where people would pay him to steal cars. He was in jail for 6 years and when I turned 21, I heard he landed himself back in jail for trying to **** someone or something.

He was nice though. I couldn't figure out why he was so obsessed with Natalie. But the niceness wore out and I finally learned what a creepy ******* he was.

He used to ride his bicycle to meet up with us and he had a lot of money, he just wasn't allowed a license. He was a construction worker for the union, made like 60$ an hour and what do you know, he was a ****** addict.

He told me how they get drugs inside jail. You get a girl to come visit you and sit down with you. You kiss them, like make out kissing because that's all you need. That like 4 seconds before someone is like HEY CUT IT OUT, and they have the drugs wrapped up in their mouth, and you get the picture. Just in case you were wondering how that works.

He also told me that I reminded him of his sister, that died of a drug overdose.
He also showed me his **** one day when he was at my house alone with me.
He also ****** off on my couch and tried to get me to **** it.
Then he tried to get me just to touch it.
Then I asked him to leave.
And then some other stuff happened that I don't feel comfortable writing about but I probably will another day.

He turned out to be a ******* ****** and I don't really trust anyone with pretty eyes anymore. But he was fun. Once he started trying to impress me, a 17 year old girl, and Natalie who was like 22, he decided he'd go back to his old ways and steal cars. I can't count the amount of porsches I've been in or how many miles per hour we went or how many car accidents there were that we shouldn't have walked away from it unharmed. He never hit anyone else, just walls and guardrails, rolled into ditches.

Seat belts, seriously, wear them. I don't anymore, but I'm going to start again.

He used to give me a lot of money. A Lot Of Money, just to hang out with him and watch him ******* and ****. I don't know sometimes when I think about these things.

Natalie did something stupid, she got caught stealing from him. He didn't mind giving us money and I think that's why he was so mad. He would have just handed it to her if she asked. So he started coming to my house a lot in stolen cars, then I introduced him to my other teenager female friends and it worked out really well for me.

He was gone for good and it was better that way.

I was still only snorting ****** up until this time of my life. The taste of ****** and the amount I puked from it was becoming too much and I was losing a lot of weight and it wasn't healthy looking so I decided to start shooting. I didn't even do it for the normal reason which is, you get higher, faster and harder.

Natalie and I are in a bathroom of my friend's house whose mother is handicapped, bed bound, so we just go there all the time to get high. The mother is also diabetic so there's a lot of unused empty needles. I help her shoot. And it's scary, she would shake and tremble and it was really bad. Sometimes I'd think to myself, "it's like your body is trying to stop you from doing it."

But if you like blood, watching someone shoot up is really cool. You mix water with the powder and, ew now that I'm thinking about it, what the ****. You wrap your arm up, so your veins pop up, put the needle into a vein and you pull some blood out, I don't know the reason behind this, and you shoot it back into yourself.

I'm really uncomfortable with the whole idea of shooting so I shot into my hands because I had very prominent veins there. I eventually started shooting speed *****, ****** and coke, which was too much fun for someone as emotionally unstable as I was, to be doing something so completely unpredictable. The first time I shot ******, I never snorted it again.

I shot Jack Daniels once and never did that again either. I figured I'd get drunk really fast, right? Wrong, it burned like a ***** and I started smashing my hand into the bathroom sink screaming "WHAT THE **** WHY DOES IT BURN."

It's whiskey, Audrey. Whiskey.

I met so many more people when I was shooting. I became friends with an entire *******, all the strippers, their boyfriends, their "daddies" and just, those kinds of people, and like I said before, I'll write about that another day. But that is where I met Janelle and Kevin, aka, Jack and Sally. They were these really gothy ****** addicts and this is going to be ridiculous, but it was so beautiful when they shot up.  

Kevin would be like "okay, baby, ready?" and he'd caress her arm and she'd wrap it, and he'd kiss her and then kiss her arm, then he'd put the needle in and I'd be sitting on the bed sobbing because I thought it was so cute, in like, a really disgusting "I'm clearly on drugs" kind of way.

I didn't hang out with them for that long, Natalie ****** Kevin and that ****** because Kevin and I used to make forts inside the house and talk a lot about nothing, but it was fun and I felt like a child, and I liked feeling like I was a child and that it was okay I was acting the way I was.

A bunch of people that hung out there eventually started doing ****** and I couldn't stand it so I had to get away from a bit because my guilt came back and I felt like I was killing everyone.


Natalie started setting up drug deals so they'd get ripped off if they went without her, she started turning on me, stealing from me, she had me set up for a deal and her dealer put a gun in my mouth when I started arguing with him about how he gave me like wood chips or whatever. It was not ******, but we still ran like thieves together.

She introduced me to the next guy we were going to use, his name was Pablo. He was about 42 and lived in his parents basement. He was an outstanding artist, I mean, I couldn't figure out why he was in his parents basement with the amount of talent he had. We used to smoked embalming fluid with him and angel dust.

Now, if you ever want to know what it feels like to be Alice in Thunderland, smoke embalming fluid. I went on a 4 day drug binge that consisted of nothing but dust, fluid, her
sobie Mar 2015
My mother raised me under the belief that monotony was a worse state than death and she lived her life accordingly. She taught me to do the same. About five years ago, my mother died. Her death steered my course from any sort of seated, settled life and into a spiral of new experiences.
For months after she left, I skulked about each day feeling slumped and cynical and finding everything and everyone coated in the sickly metallic taste of loss. I noticed that without her I had allowed myself to settle into a routine of mourning. I pitied myself, knowing what she would have thought.  Life was already so different without her there and I couldn’t continue with life as if nothing had happened, so I jumped from my stagnancy in attempts to forget my mother’s name and to destroy the mundane just like she had taught me to. I had to learn how to live again, and I wanted to find something that would always be there if she wouldn’t. I had a purpose. I tried to start anew and drown myself in change by throwing all that I knew to the wind and leaving my life behind.

I was running away from the fact that she had died for a long time. When I first picked up and left, I befriended the ocean and for many months I soaked my sorrows in salt water and *****, hoping to forget. I repressed my thoughts. Mom’s Gone would paint the inside of my mind and I would cover it up with parties and Polynesian women.
I was the sand on the shores of Tahiti, living on the waves of my own freedom. A freedom I had borrowed from nature. A gift that had been given to me by my birth, by my mother. I tried to lose myself in those waves and they treated me with limited respect. More often than not, they kicked me up against their black walls of water. They were made of such immense freedom that many times made me scream and **** my pants in fear, but they shoved loads that fear into my arms and forced me to eventually overcome the burden.
As time slipped by unnoticed, I created routine around the unpredictability of the tides and the cycle of developing alcoholism. One night after a full day of making love to the Tahitian waters, my buddies and I celebrated the big waves by filling our aching bodies with a good bit of Bourbon. By morning time, a good bit of Bourbon had become a fog of drink after drink of not-so-good *****? Gin maybe? I awoke to the sight of the godly sunrise glinting off of the wet beach around me, pitying my trouser-less hungover self. With sand in every orifice, I took a swim to wash me of the night before. I floated on my back in silence while the birds taunted me. I felt the ocean fill every nook and cranny of my body, each pulse of my heartbeat sending ripples through it. My heart was the moon that pressed the waves of my freedom onward and it was sore for different waters. The ache for elsewhere was coming back, and the hole she left in my gut that was once filled with Tahiti was now almost gaping. It had been a beautiful ride in Tahiti but I had not found solace, only distraction. The currents were shifting towards something new.
She had always said that the mountains brought her a solace that she never felt in church. They were her place to pray and they were the gods that fulfilled her. She told me this under the sheets at bedtime as if it were her biggest secret. I had delusional hope that she might be somewhere, she might not be gone. I thought if I would find her anywhere it would be there, up in the clouds on the highest peaks.
The next day, I was on the plane back to the States where I would gather gear. The mountains had called and left a needy voicemail, so I told them I was on my way.

In Bozeman, the home I had run from when I left, every street and friend was a reminder of my childhood and of her. I was only there to trade out my dive mask for my goggles. I had sold most of my stuff and had no house, apartment, or any place of residence to return to except for a small public storage unit where I’d stashed the rest of my goods. Almost everything I owned was kept in a roomy 25 square foot space, the rest was in my duffel. I’d left my pick-up in the hands of my good man, Max, and he returned her to me *****, gleaming, and with the tank full. I took her down to the storage yard and opened my unit to see that everything remained untouched. Beautifully, gracefully, precariously piled just as it was when I left. I transitioned what I carried in my duffel from surf to snow. I made my trades: flip flops for boots, bare chest for base layers, board shorts for snow pants, and of course, board for skis. Ah, my skis… sweet and tender pieces of soulful engineering, how I missed them. They still suffered core-shots and scratches from last season. I embraced them like the old friends they were.
I loaded up the pick-up with all the necessities and hit the road before anyone could give me condolences for a loss I didn’t want to believe. I could not stray from my path to forget her or find her or figure out how to live again. I did not know exactly what I wanted but I could not let myself hear my mother’s name. She was not a constant; that was now true.  

My truck made it half way there and across the Canadian border before I had to set her free. She had been my stallion for some time, but her miles got the best of her. It was only another loss, another betrayal of constancy. I walked with everything on my back until I eventually thumbed my way to the edge of the wild forest beneath the mountains that I had dreamt of. They were looming ahead but I swore I caught a whiff of hope in their cool breeze.
With skis and skins strapped to my feet, I took off into the wilderness. My eyes were peeled looking for something more than myself, and I found some things. There were icy streams and a few fattened birds and hidden rocks and tracks from wolves and barks of their pups off in the distance. But what I found within all of these things was just the constant reminder of my own loneliness.
I spent the days pushing on towards some unknown relief from the pain. On good days there fresh snow to carry me and on most days storms came and pounded me further into my seclusion. The trees bowed heavy to me as I inched forward on my skis, my only loyal companions; I only hoped they would not betray me on this journey. I could not afford to lose any more, I was alone enough. My mother was no where to be found. The snow seemed to miss her too and sometimes I think it sympathized with me.
I spent the nights warmed with a whimpy fire lying on my back in wait hoping that from out of the darkness she would speak to me, give me some guidance or explanation on how I could live happily and wildly without her. Where was this solace she had spoken of? Where was she? She was not with me, yet everything told me about her. The sun sparkled with her laughter, the air was as crisp as her wit, the cold carried her scent. I could feel her embrace around me in her hand-me-downs that I wore. They were family heirlooms that had been passed to her through generations, and then to me. The lives that had been lived in these jackets and sweaters were lived on through me. Though the stories hidden in the seams of these Greats had long been forgotten, died off with their original masters, I could feel the warmth of their memories cradle me whenever I wore them. I cringed to think about what was lost from their lives that did not live on. I was the only one left of my family to tell the world of the things they had done. I was all that was left of my mother. She had left her mark on the world, that was clear. It was a mark that stained my existence.
These forested mountain hills held a tragic beauty that I wish I could have appreciated more, but I felt heavy with heartache. Nature was not always sweet to me. For days storms surged without end and I coughed up crystals, feeling the snowflake’s dendrites tickle at my throat. I had gotten a cold. Snot oozed from my nostrils, my eyes itched, my schnoz glowed pink, my voice was hoarse, and I wanted nothing but to go home to a home that no longer existed. But I chose to go it alone on this quest and I knew the dangers in the freedom of going solo. The winds were strong and the snow was sharp. New ice glazed once powdery fields and the storms of yesterday came again and there was nothing I could do except cower at the magnificence of Nature’s sword: a thing so grand and powerful that it has slayed armies of men with merely a windy slash. I was nature’s *****. I felt no promise in pressing on, but I did so only to keep the snow from burying me alive in my tent.
And I am so glad that I did, because when the great storm finally passed I looked up to see the sky so hopeful and blue bordering the mountains I knew to be the ones I was searching for. I recognized them from the bedtime stories. She had said that when she saw them for the first time that she felt a sudden understanding that all the many hundred miles she’d ever walked were supposed to take her here. She said that the mere sight of them gave her purpose. These were those mountains. I knew because the purpose I had lost sight of came bubbling back out of my aching heart, just as it had for her.

These peaks as barren as plucked pelicans and peacocks, but as beautiful as the feathers taken from them, were beacons in the night for those in search of a world of dreams in which to create a new reality. From them I heard laughter jiggle and echo, hefty and deep in the stomachs of the only people truly living it seemed. When I was scouring the vastness of this wilderness for a sign or a purpose, I followed the scent of their delicious living and I guess my nose led me well.
A glide and a hop further on my skis, there the trees parted and powder deepened and sun shone just a bit brighter. Behind the blinding glare of the snow, faces gleamed from tents and huts and igloos and hammocks. Shrieks of children swinging from branches tickled my ears, which had grown accustomed to the silence of winter. As I approached this camp, I saw they were not kids but grown men and women. It seemed I had stumbled down a rabbit hole while following the tracks of a white jackalope. I had found my world of dreams. I had found them. I had found a home.
I was escaping my lonely, wintery existence into a shared haven perfectly placed beneath the peaks that had plagued my dreams. A place where the only directions that existed were up and down the slopes and forwards to the future. Never Eat Soggy Waffles did not matter anymore. By the end of my time there, I had even forgotten my lefts and rights. The camp had been assembled with the leftovers of the modern world and looked like a puzzle with mismatched pieces from fifty different pictures. At first glance, it could have been a snow covered trash heap, but there was a sentimental glow on each broken appliance that told me otherwise. Everything had a use, though it was not usually what was intended. The homes of these families and friends were made of tarp or blankets or animal hides and had smelly socks or utensils or boots or bones hanging from their openings. There were homemade hot springs made of bathtubs placed above fires with water bubbling. Unplugged ovens buried in snow and ice kept the beer cooled. Trees doubled as diving boards for jumping into the deep pits of powder around them. The masterminds behind this camp were geniuses of invention and creation. Their most impressive creation was their lifestyle; it was one that had been deemed impossible by society. This place promised the solace I had been searching for.
A hefty mass of man and dogs galumphed its way through the snow. Rosy cheeks and big hands came to greet me. This was Angus. His face grew a beard that scratched the skies; it was a doppelganger to the mossy branches above us. But his smile shone through the hairs like the moon. There are people in this world whose presence alone is magic, an anomaly among existence. Angus was one of them. Not an ounce of his being made sense. The gut that hung from his broad-shouldered bodice was its own entity and it swung with rhythms unknown to any man; it was known only to the laughter that shook it. Gently perched atop this, was his shaggy white head that flew backwards and into the clouds each time he laughed, which was often. Angus fathered and fed the folks who’d found their way to this wintery oasis, none of which were of the ordinary. There was a lady with snakes tattooed to her temples, parents who’d birthed their babies here beneath the full moon, couples who went bankrupt and eloped to Canada, men and women who felt the itch just as me and my mother had. The itch for something beyond the mundane that left us unsatisfied with life out in the real world. All of them came out of their lives’ hardships with hilarious belligerence and wit, each with their own story to tell. The common thread sewn between all these dangerous minds was an undeniable lust for life.
The man who represented this lust more than any other was Wiley and wily he was. He’d seen near-death countless times and every time he saw the light at the end of the tunnel, he would run like a fool in the other direction. He lived on borrowed time. You could see that restlessness driving him in each step he took. Each step was a leap from the edges of what you thought possible. Wiley was a man of serious grit, skill, and intelligence and never did he let his mortality shake him from living like the animal he was. He’d surely forgotten where and whence he came from and, until finding his way here, had made homes out of any place that offered him beer and some good eatin’. Within moments of shaking hands, he and I created instant brotherhood.
The next few days turned into months and I eventually lost track of time all together. I could have stayed there forever and no day would have been the same. I played with these people in the mountains and pretended it was childhood again. We lived with the wind and the wildness the way my mother had once shown me how to live. I had forgotten how to live this way without her and I was learning it all over again. We awoke when we pleased and trekked about when weather permitted, and sometimes when it didn’t. Each day the sun rose ripe with opportunities for new lines to ski and new peaks to explore. The backcountry was ours and only ours to explore. We were its residents just like the moose and the wolves. My body grew stinky and hairy with joy and pushed limits. Hair that stank of musk and days of labor was washed only with painful whitewashes courtesy of Wiley. Generally after a nice run, we’d exchange them, shoving each other’s faces deep into the icy layers of snow, which would be followed with some hardy wrestling. By the end of each day, if we didn’t have blood coming out of at least two holes in our faces then it wasn’t a good day.
I never could wait to get my life’s adventures in and here I was having them, recalling the unsatisfied ache I had before I left. Life was lost to me before. I had forgotten how to live it after she had died. Modern monotony had taken control until my life became starved of genuine purity and all that was left then was mimicry. But the hair grown long on these men and smiles grown large on these woman showed no remembrance of such an earth I had come from. They had long ago cast themselves away from such a society to relish in all they knew to be right, all their guts told them to pursue: the truth that nature supplies. Still I worried I would not remember these people and these moments, knowing how they would be ****** into the abyss of loss and time like all the others. But we lived too loud and the sounds of my worries were often drowned in fun.
     We spent the nights beside the fire and listened to Wiley softly plucking strings, that was when I always liked to look at Yona. Her curls endlessly waterfalled down her chest and the fire made her hair shimmer gold in its glow. She was the spark among us, and if we weren’t careful she could light up the whole forest.  She was a drum, beating fast and strong. Never did she lose track of herself in the clashing rhythms of the world. She had ripped herself from the hands of the education system at a young age and had learned from the ways of the changing seasons f
Graydon Archer Nov 2012
I've experienced the exuberance of youth.
Through endless summer days, of blissful childhood ignorance.
I have drempt the most glorious dreams. The ability to soar with the eagles was mine, most any night. I was to live, forever.
I have know the delirious intoxication, of boyish infatuation.
And to such a degree, I have tasted the bitterness of rejection.
I have lived amid nonconformists. I shared in their ideological beliefs. Old Guard be ******.
I have witnessed the gatherings of idealists, who's main purpose
was to spread their premise of the brotherhood of man.
I have seen them chained and gagged. Beaten for their beliefs. Shot down in their youth, by those who's superficial dogmas kept them from the truth.
I have been among the ranks of the tens of thousands, shouting my incensement's against a failing war. And I have been to the "wall" and wept for my fallen brothers.I have seen the rise of iconic performers. Some who would pay the ultimate price for their notoriety.
I have felt the power of their karma and reveled in their idioms'.
I have witnessed the miraculous wonder of birth. I've had the privilege to hold the embodiment of purity, God's ultimate creation, in the hollow of my arms.
I have walked among the Angels. And I have delved into the pit of my own iniquity's.
I have loved the un-loved, and scoffed at those who would be cherished.
I have lived as if, there were no tomorrow. I have learned there is just today.
I have lived to be a better man than I was. I live to be a better man than I am.
Hisham Alshaikh Jul 2018
You are beautiful
You are tremendously beautiful
You are marvelously beautiful
You are astonishingly beautiful
You are magnificently beautiful
You are breathtakingly beautiful
Inner and outer

You are beautiful
You are the definition of Beauty
Or shall I say, what is Beauty compared to you
What is Beauty compared to you ?
It feels shy and ashamed when I describe you
A weak meaning it has when I describe you
A meaningless meaning it has when I describe you
Never existed it wishes when I describe you

You are beautiful
For your beauty I searched
Every language ever lived
And every word ever existed
And the romantic era that occurred
Could not find a way to describe your beauty
Could not find a way to tell the world about your beauty

You are beautiful
Vocabulary will be invented
Words never existed
To the dictionaries will be added
In the dictionaries will live
In the lovers tongues will breath
To describe your beauty
The one and the only beauty
The living and the dead will forget about Cleopatra
Because your beauty is ultra
A new period will start, The Beauty Era
Your era

--Hisham Alshaikh
You're Beautiful. Version 1.

— The End —