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

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Keith J Collard Dec 2012
I still have flashbacks, horrifying and spectral: of conference meetings, projectors and efficiency meetings...corporate metrics, acronymic value cards that read like a Masonic Temple's pledge.. ...honesty, commitment, sacrifice, the dutiful worship of mercury and saltpeter; also customer satisfaction.
           Those flashbacks frequent my mind alot--especially when I am ramming my co-workers into the trash compactor with the blades of the fork truck. They say " ooooh" and " ahhhhh" as if they are getting a massage. They dull my blades with their dull heads.
          I have to ram them with the blades of the fork-trucks, or they will scramble out. They still say things like, " make sure that has a tag,".....and " wear your safety goggles," making chills run down my spine. I haven't put all the workers from the " Do-Wee depot" in the compactor only corporate cadavers and not zombies.
          But I have to forewarn, the zombies are not a threat, it is a few cadavers and the "consumers" that pose a threat to me and what I have built. The zombies are producers, even only if it is moans and putrefaction, but they are good sports, and my only friends.
         Some co-workers, who I was friends with before, I have spared from the compactor--owing mostly to that the part of their brain that was corporate, either fell out on the floor, or was gnawed on by a fellow zombie rendering them good sports and not cadavers.
        I use the building material section to chain them to their previous aisles. Jose, was my best friend, he was shaped like a slug, with a huge lower lip, and slicked back greasy hair, he always cheered me up, how busy it was and how slow he remained. Him and I worked together in the ' outside-lawn-and-garden' section. Even his zombie self has kept his lisp.
          I chain him to the outside lawn and garden section, where he likes to water the flowers. He lunges at me sometimes, but the chain is thick, and Jose is still a cool zombie.
Angry Joe is out there too. He is chained to the 'reach' truck. He is always mumbling about overtime.....or " Im not staying late."
         I have disabled the riding engine, so he just stands on it and runs the fork blades all the way up then all the way down, beeping the horn the whole while. He is the only one I kept, that has some vestige of corporacy in his brain, for the reason that he watches the back gate. The consumers are constantly probing this outside metal fence gate, and Joe has eaten all of them. Don't get me wrong, Joe can be a good sport, when he is not drooling about 'overtime' or ' I havn't took a lunch yet.' He can be quite funny.
          He banters with Ryan from inside 'lawn-and-garden' all the time. Ryan is alot younger, alittle younger than me. He has a mullet(what I call a mullet and he say's a hockey cut) and verily is--before he become a zombie-- the laziest person ever, and now that he is a zombie, well let's just say, I don't have to chain him anywhere, I know where to find him.....at the back gate smoking a ciqerette backwards with his mullet on fire or in the break room. He had the most squeeky voice when he was a human, but now odd fully enough, he sounds like Tom Jones.
         " You ate my cosumer Ryan," drools Angry Joe, " No I didn't Joe, you ate your own consumer," Ryan rejoins in his acapella voice ( I like hearing Ryan's deep zombie voice).
There are others, in the various departments of the Do-Wee Store, but this journal is to relate the first most pressing concern, two cadavers have escaped the compactor.
             The store manager Joyce and her minion(the assistant manager Damien) have escaped. They were ******* humans, and remained so in corporate cadaver form. They hide from me, as I plow through the aisles with the inside forklift. I have used wire from the fencing aisle to reinforce my forklifts. Sometimes a cadaver co-worker will jump out with a price gun, drooling " where is your spootterrrr...."( a safety regulation in the store).....I run them over with great gladness, but then wishing I heeded their advice of safety glasses."Splat."
            I have my theories, on how everyone turned to zombies. It started with over-ocurring routine, which my a.d.d could have been impervious to. But I couldn't have been the only one in the store with a.d.d? But that seems the case. The first day when I showed up to ' outside-lawn-and-garden' it took me six hours before I noticed everyone was zombies. I didn't notice they were zombies until I noticed them in good spirits.
               But the first day of the zombies, was concurrent with the rise of the consumers--ever more dangerous, greedy, and audacious are the consumers. They consume everything in their path, they consume good conversation, good manners, and replace with their mark, which is this....your life with the current moment is to be sacrificed to get them what they need to continue resuming their lives. They do not enjoy shopping, but enjoy holding you in place, consuming you and your values into their value, which has no value at all, since their mind has consigned the present moment that has you and not them, to a number that always has too much value, and they will bring you and it down while you are subject to time and they are not.  
             They turned my friends into prisoners of arbitrary time; and like putting a rabbit in a dank dark basement, with plenty of food and treats and space, it will slowly get diarrhea and die.  Everyday I marked the sunrise, and I would always pay thanks to it, no matter if I was on break or not.  The nine hour day could not ruin me, but my friends being ruined, that started to ruin me.
                       And that is what I believed started all this, nature has no room for two kingdoms of Consumers. So the producers(zombies) were created from the routine of being divested of life, and from nothing they came to produce: producing gases, vile ****** smiles, human  cannibalism, hearty conversation, practical jokes, moaning questions to the infinite sky.... they were created human again, given value, and most of all, I have my friends back, and they are happy again. But, the corporate cadavers that escaped the compactor , put my creation in risk, they look to let in the consumers again, they are up to something...
             But presently with the corporate cadavers gone, and the consumers held at bay, I have my Depot of Eden, I can grow anything, make anything, and soon will be able to ferment everything, especially fuel.   Now monday morning conferences that threaten you to pick it up because there are alot of people out there that want your job( iterated by the frizzy headed gangly Joyce) are replaced with 'zombie dance parties'.  
            " Zombies, what is the first rule of zombie dance party," they reply to me, " dohmp talk bout damp party," then we make a music video.  I let loose a couple of cat's in the break room, and presto, an agile cat make's flesh eating zombies look like Micheal Jackson.  Even I get busy with them, I feel so comfortable with them; dancing to Juvenile "back that *** up,".the best dancer gets to eat the cat...sure beat's listening Joyce's depressing morning pep talks about quotas while I am watching a bird outside the front glass trying to eat a dragonfly, " Keith you paying attention."  I just want to say, " No I am not you frizzy headed gangly walking skeleton key(she is skinnier than the gang of keys jingling on her belt)."    I will find her and put a roofing nail in her temple and her plans.
                The sound of zombies walking in here is music to my ears, like gypsys walking barefoot on a strawberry patch.  I don't know what that has to do with anything, but I like it, and don't care who knows.

            I fortified the outside of the store with everything within the store. I grew a garden, with all the fertilizers, and acids and alkilines of outside garden. I also use the garden chemicals to sprinkle on the brains of my co-worker zombies to change their acidity(almost like a hyrdrangea shrub). The purpose to get them somewhat coherent to play poker and darts in the breakroom. I figured out how to make explosives, with the nitrogen fertilizer and pool cleaning acid, well actually HeyZues did, he always eats both, and one day he moaned really loud  " BLOOOONDEEE " ( his nickname for me from The Good The Bad And The Ugly) and  gestured his expanding stomach, he blew up and gave me my first wound, he destroyed my dart board.   I took his head and posted it on the back loading dock, I know there are consumers trying to infiltrate when he sounds off with " BLOOONDEEEE..."  resounding through the whole store (almost like when he was a human).   I created another dartboard, I can create anything here, sometimes I think, that feeling is what........
                But the point of this journal is the two who escaped the trash compactor, Joyce and Damien. They haunted me before and haunt me still. When I leave to venture outside for gasoline for the generators(the only thing I need, not for long hopefully) they run amok. I will see new ' sale signs' in zombie penmanship, and I can see that they have hidden co-workers to have cadaver meetings, where they talk about ' customer satisfaction.'  I can sometimes hear keys jangle, it has to be Joyce, for the sound is to the cadence of her John Wayne walk, like she has been on horseback her whole life.
            Outside is very dangerous. There are many consumers out there.
                 I was outisde in the parking lot, where consumers still wallow around when a consumer asked "which product is better." I had to drop a cinder block pallet on him with the forklift; they are more adacious then my zombie co-workers. Even after a pallet of concrete is forklifted on them, they wave fliers with sale advertisments from underneath.
            Well, this particular trip, I returned inside and was startled by the loudspeaker, it was Damien's voice, the same as before, paging the hardware department. I jumped on the fast slim forklift to hunt for him. There are phone terminals everywhere, and he could be in the upper level offices. I saw Joyce's shape through the window once.
          They are up to something.
Everytime I ventured outside, the store became altered. I even saw a consumer waiting in line with the cashier machine now on. I sent the consumer to Angry Joe, who was due for a lunch break.
          There is a gap in my wire somewhere, I know it.
            I was at the gas station, getting propane and gas, when a consumer was scowling " where is the gas attendant, is everyone stupid or what?" while he was trying to figure out how to pump gas. I disabled the safety pumps, they do not shut off, and do not coincide with numbers, you hold the handle it pumps out as much as you need.
              He was pacing around like a little kid denied recess and suffering from sounds of frolic and kickball--dragging his feet due to the fact he had to pump his own gas, I heard a scraping metallic clicking noise. My eyes were caught by a bright glare on his shoe tread, I gripped my nail gun..... then he dropped the hose and walked back to his car with gasoline gushing as his wake. I saw what it was on his tread, I had no time to flee....it was a push button grill ignitor with the orange tint of a " Do-Wee" label on it......" ****."
              The last thing I registered was the consumer saying " ahhh don't touch me," apparently talking to flames. I woke up in a ditch, the big fork truck and my gas station destroyed.
I limped back to the " Do-Wee" store, and utter horror greeted my singed and surprised eyebrows.
              " Grand Re-Opening, 50% off everything." I squeezed the trigger of the nail gun, the nail harmlessly echoed off the parking pavement at which it was aimed. "They set me up at the gas station. "
               They had to do better than that to separate me from my zombies.

             I entered through the store in a nun-plussed state. I woke out of my unbelieving stupor with the sound of Jose's voice. " Welcome to Doooooo-Weeee....can I eat your...."
            "Jose it's me, who chained you to the entrance?"
         " Dammian, Keeeeeth, they are waiiiting....here's a newsletter...." --he smacked me across the face with the newsletter.
        " I don't want that ****.....' as I clutched the newspaper the loudspeaker went off in Dammians annoyingly over-polite and late-night-voice.
       " Attention shoooppers. all prices are feeeefty percent off, ask our associate Keeeeeth for a 80% discount, he is the skinny deleeecious looking kid with spicy skin, and a boston red sox hat on."
Hundreds of consumers pivoted their heads to my direction. " Hey, that kid has a Boston Yankees hat on."
         " Run Keeeth," zombie-lisped Jose.
           Fifty million imbecilic questions assailed me at once......" can I return this sprinkler for a jacuzzi.....can I get 120% off.....can you come to my house and fix my television for free"-- it was unabashed audacity, survial of the most annoying and repetitious; and the corporate cadavers have let this consuming flood in on me and my poor zombies.
           I needed to find my steed, my inside forklift. It was not where I left it near the entrance.            
        Surely they have sabotaged it. " the riding mowers," the thought uplifted my fading resolve. I darted past wallowing consumers before they could get my scent. I heard a consumer, " you obviously don't know what Im talking about," talking to zombie George, who was munching roofing nails.
         The consumer grabbed me, and said "here he is, this is Keith, he is wearing a Phoenix red sox cap"--panic bit into my brain, this consumers grip was implaccable. The grip that holds the steering wheel tightly driving nowhere fast, with anything in that interstice of commuting, not worthy of manners and the least of which being a friendly wave to 'go ahead.'
           They formed a wall of uttering stupidity, escape was cut off. They scratched at me, hissed, tore at my flesh and screamed demonistically in my ears. I caved and and called the hoard m'am and sir, they choked me, and loosened their grip only so I could tell them " Im sorry, sorry for your inconvenience, take my life and personality as tribute, take my imagination rendered prostrate by these sceptic corporate words that this mouth emits, betraying my personal form, the human element to this lifeless purposeless machine....destroy me, for finding the infinity between letters of corporate law and none between nature's laws......"
        I was almost unconscious, giving a speech to imagined hooded phantoms......" destroy me, for valuing friendship and imagination, and seeing infinity, in the shadow of a letter, eternity in the numeral of a number, and for defying the order to see things as others do....."...." destroy me, for seeing that people are unhappy and trying to uplift people for the sake of seeing them smile....destroy me, destroy my smirk, and add a lifeless smile to my corpse."
              I heard a horn, the riding floor mopper/buffer, it was Ryan, he commandeered the machine with precision-like drunkenness. He knocked down the consumers like twenty pin bowling. " What's up ***** cat," he possibly said, and I climbed to my feet.
         I walked to the riding mowers, and turned the key on the floor model. I sped the main aisle, with caresses of consumers that would be deep clawings at a slower speed. I dodged stupid question, and swerved from unabashed frugality. I turned up the tool aisle, grabbed a battery nail gun.
              " It says batteries are included, but are they included?" I answered with a 12 gauge nail, and resumed my course to the upper offices, that for too long looked down on me and my friends. I climbed the stairs and entered. The office was abuzz in corporate banalities. " Hello, this is Damian how may I help you.....oh helloooooo keeeeeth, one minute.......sir hold one second thaaaanx."
                I aimed the nail gun muzzle at his ugly overly polite mug." I finally found you, I will get the store back in shape Damian...."
          He cut me off, " no yoou woonn't, they are pouring in, we will meet our quota for the year...."
        " Me and my friends
1

I am a house, says Senlin, locked and darkened,
Sealed from the sun with wall and door and blind.
Summon me loudly, and you'll hear slow footsteps
Ring far and faint in the galleries of my mind.
You'll hear soft steps on an old and dusty stairway;
Peer darkly through some corner of a pane,
You'll see me with a faint light coming slowly,
Pausing above some gallery of the brain . . .

I am a city . . . In the blue light of evening
Wind wanders among my streets and makes them fair;
I am a room of rock . . . a maiden dances
Lifting her hands, tossing her golden hair.
She combs her hair, the room of rock is darkened,
She extends herself in me, and I am sleep.
It is my pride that starlight is above me;
I dream amid waves of air, my walls are deep.

I am a door . . . before me roils the darkness,
Behind me ring clear waves of sound and light.
Stand in the shadowy street outside, and listen-
The crying of violins assails the night . . .
My walls are deep, but the cries of music pierce them;
They shake with the sound of drums . . . yet it is strange
That I should know so little what means this music,
Hearing it always within me change and change.

Knock on the door,-and you shall have an answer.
Open the heavy walls to set me free,
And blow a horn to call me into the sunlight,-
And startled, then, what a strange thing you will see!
Nuns, murderers, and drunkards, saints and sinners,
Lover and dancing girl and sage and clown
Will laugh upon you, and you will find me nowhere.
I am a room, a house, a street, a town.

2

It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
When the light drips through the shutters like the dew,
I arise, I face the sunrise,
And do the things my fathers learned to do.
Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops
Pale in a saffron mist and seem to die,
And I myself on a swiftly tilting planet
Stand before a glass and tie my tie.

Vine leaves tap my window,
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
The robin chips in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones.

It is morning. I stand by the mirror
And tie my tie once more.
While waves far off in a pale rose twilight
Crash on a white sand shore.
I stand by a mirror and comb my hair:
How small and white my face!-
The green earth tilts through a sphere of air
And bathes in a flame of space.
There are houses hanging above the stars
And stars hung under a sea . . .
And a sun far off in a shell of silence
Dapples my walls for me . . .

It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
Should I not pause in the light to remember God?
Upright and firm I stand on a star unstable,
He is immense and lonely as a cloud.
I will dedicate this moment before my mirror
To him alone, and for him I will comb my hair.
Accept these humble offerings, cloud of silence!
I will think of you as I descend the stair.

Vine leaves tap my window,
The snail-track shines on the stones,
Dew-drops flash from the chinaberry tree
Repeating two clear tones.

It is morning, I awake from a bed of silence,
Shining I rise from the starless waters of sleep.
The walls are about me still as in the evening,
I am the same, and the same name still I keep.
The earth revolves with me, yet makes no motion,
The stars pale silently in a coral sky.
In a whistling void I stand before my mirror,
Unconcerned, I tie my tie.

There are horses neighing on far-off hills
Tossing their long white manes,
And mountains flash in the rose-white dusk,
Their shoulders black with rains . . .

It is morning. I stand by the mirror
And surprise my soul once more;
The blue air rushes above my ceiling,
There are suns beneath my floor . . .

. . . It is morning, Senlin says, I ascend from darkness
And depart on the winds of space for I know not where,
My watch is wound, a key is in my pocket,
And the sky is darkened as I descend the stair.
There are shadows across the windows, clouds in heaven,
And a god among the stars; and I will go
Thinking of him as I might think of daybreak
And humming a tune I know . . .

Vine-leaves tap at the window,
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones.

3

I walk to my work, says Senlin, along a street
Superbly hung in space.
I lift these mortal stones, and with my trowel
I tap them into place.
But is god, perhaps, a giant who ties his tie
Grimacing before a colossal glass of sky?

These stones are heavy, these stones decay,
These stones are wet with rain,
I build them into a wall today,
Tomorrow they fall again.

Does god arise from a chaos of starless sleep,
Rise from the dark and stretch his arms and yawn;
And drowsily look from the window at his garden;
And rejoice at the dewdrop sparkeling on his lawn?

Does he remember, suddenly, with amazement,
The yesterday he left in sleep,-his name,-
Or the glittering street superbly hung in wind
Along which, in the dusk, he slowly came?

I devise new patterns for laying stones
And build a stronger wall.
One drop of rain astonishes me
And I let my trowel fall.

The flashing of leaves delights my eyes,
Blue air delights my face;
I will dedicate this stone to god
And tap it into its place.

4

That woman-did she try to attract my attention?
Is it true I saw her smile and nod?
She turned her head and smiled . . . was it for me?
It is better to think of work or god.
The clouds pile coldly above the houses
Slow wind revolves the leaves:
It begins to rain, and the first long drops
Are slantingly blown from eaves.

But it is true she tried to attract my attention!
She pressed a rose to her chin and smiled.
Her hand was white by the richness of her hair,
Her eyes were those of a child.
It is true she looked at me as if she liked me.
And turned away, afraid to look too long!
She watched me out of the corners of her eyes;
And, tapping time with fingers, hummed a song.

. . . Nevertheless, I will think of work,
With a trowel in my hands;
Or the vague god who blows like clouds
Above these dripping lands . . .

But . . . is it sure she tried to attract my attention?
She leaned her elbow in a peculiar way
There in the crowded room . . . she touched my hand . . .
She must have known, and yet,-she let it stay.
Music of flesh! Music of root and sod!
Leaf touching leaf in the rain!
Impalpable clouds of red ascend,
Red clouds blow over my brain.

Did she await from me some sign of acceptance?
I smoothed my hair with a faltering hand.
I started a feeble smile, but the smile was frozen:
Perhaps, I thought, I misunderstood.
Is it to be conceived that I could attract her-
This dull and futile flesh attract such fire?
I,-with a trowel's dullness in hand and brain!-
Take on some godlike aspect, rouse desire?
Incredible! . . . delicious! . . . I will wear
A brighter color of tie, arranged with care,
I will delight in god as I comb my hair.

And the conquests of my bolder past return
Like strains of music, some lost tune
Recalled from youth and a happier time.
I take my sweetheart's arm in the dusk once more;
One more we climb

Up the forbidden stairway,
Under the flickering light, along the railing:
I catch her hand in the dark, we laugh once more,
I hear the rustle of silk, and follow swiftly,
And softly at last we close the door.

Yes, it is true that woman tried to attract me:
It is true she came out of time for me,
Came from the swirling and savage forest of earth,
The cruel eternity of the sea.
She parted the leaves of waves and rose from silence
Shining with secrets she did not know.
Music of dust! Music of web and web!
And I, bewildered, let her go.

I light my pipe. The flame is yellow,
Edged underneath with blue.
These thoughts are truer of god, perhaps,
Than thoughts of god are true.

5

It is noontime, Senlin says, and a street piano
Strikes sharply against the sunshine a harsh chord,
And the universe is suddenly agitated,
And pain to my heart goes glittering like a sword.
Do I imagine it? The dust is shaken,
The sunlight quivers, the brittle oak-leaves tremble.
The world, disturbed, conceals its agitation;
And I, too, will dissemble.

Yet it is sorrow has found my heart,
Sorrow for beauty, sorrow for death;
And pain twirls slowly among the trees.

The street-piano revolves its glittering music,
The sharp notes flash and dazzle and turn,
Memory's knives are in this sunlit silence,
They ripple and lazily burn.
The star on which my shadow falls is frightened,-
It does not move; my trowel taps a stone,
The sweet note wavers amid derisive music;
And I, in horror of sunlight, stand alone.

Do not recall my weakness, savage music!
Let the knives rest!
Impersonal, harsh, the music revolves and glitters,
And the notes like poniards pierce my breast.
And I remember the shadows of webs on stones,
And the sound or rain on withered grass,
And a sorrowful face that looked without illusions
At its image in the glass.

Do not recall my childhood, pitiless music!
The green blades flicker and gleam,
The red bee bends the clover, deeply humming;
In the blue sea above me lazily stream
Cloud upon thin-brown cloud, revolving, scattering;
The mulberry tree rakes heaven and drops its fruit;
Amazing sunlight sings in the opened vault
On dust and bones, and I am mute.

It is noon; the bells let fall soft flowers of sound.
They turn on the air, they shrink in the flare of noon.
It is night; and I lie alone, and watch through the window
The terrible ice-white emptiness of the moon.
Small bells, far off, spill jewels of sound like rain,
A long wind hurries them whirled and far,
A cloud creeps over the moon, my bed is darkened,
I hold my breath and watch a star.

Do not disturb my memories, heartless music!
I stand once more by a vine-dark moonlit wall,
The sound of my footsteps dies in a void of moonlight,
And I watch white jasmine fall.
Is it my heart that falls? Does earth itself
Drift, a white petal, down the sky?
One bell-note goes to the stars in the blue-white silence,
Solitary and mournful, a somnolent cry.

6

Death himself in the rain . . . death himself . . .
Death in the savage sunlight . . . skeletal death . . .
I hear the clack of his feet,
Clearly on stones, softly in dust;
He hurries among the trees
Whirling the leaves, tossing he hands from waves.
Listen! the immortal footsteps beat.

Death himself in the grass, death himself,
Gyrating invisibly in the sun,
Scatters the grass-blades, whips the wind,
Tears at boughs with malignant laughter:
On the long echoing air I hear him run.

Death himself in the dusk, gathering lilacs,
Breaking a white-fleshed bough,
Strewing purple on a cobwebbed lawn,
Dancing, dancing,
The long red sun-rays glancing
On flailing arms, skipping with hideous knees
Cavorting grotesque ecstasies:
I do not see him, but I see the lilacs fall,
I hear the scrape of knuckles against the wall,
The leaves are tossed and tremble where he plunges among them,
And I hear the sound of his breath,
Sharp and whistling, the rythm of death.

It is evening: the lights on a long street balance and sway.
In the purple ether they swing and silently sing,
The street is a gossamer swung in space,
And death himself in the wind comes dancing along it,
And the lights, like raindrops, tremble and swing.
Hurry, spider, and spread your glistening web,
For death approaches!
Hurry, rose, and open your heart to the bee,
For death approaches!
Maiden, let down your hair for the hands of your lover,
Comb it with moonlight and wreathe it with leaves,
For death approaches!

Death, huge in the star; small in the sand-grain;
Death himself in the rain,
Drawing the rain about him like a garment of jewels:
I hear the sound of his feet
On the stairs of the wind, in the sun,
In the forests of the sea . . .
Listen! the immortal footsteps beat!

7

It is noontime, Senlin says. The sky is brilliant
Above a green and dreaming hill.
I lay my trowel down. The pool is cloudless,
The grass, the wall, the peach-tree, all are still.

It appears to me that I am one with these:
A hill, upon whose back are a wall and trees.
It is noontime: all seems still
Upon this green and flowering hill.

Yet suddenly out of nowhere in the sky,
A cloud comes whirling, and flings
A lazily coiled vortex of shade on the hill.
It crosses the hill, and a bird in the peach-tree sings.
Amazing! Is there a change?
The hill seems somehow strange.
It is noontime. And in the tree
The leaves are delicately disturbed
Where the bird descends invisibly.
It is noontime. And in the pool
The sky is blue and cool.

Yet suddenly out of nowhere,
Something flings itself at the hill,
Tears with claws at the earth,
Lunges and hisses and softly recoils,
Crashing against the green.
The peach-tree braces itself, the pool is frightened,
The grass-blades quiver, the bird is still;
The wall silently struggles against the sunlight;
A terror stiffens the hill.
The trees turn rigidly, to face
Something that circles with slow pace:
The blue pool seems to shrink
From something that slides above its brink.
What struggle is this, ferocious and still-
What war in sunlight on this hill?
What is it creeping to dart
Like a knife-blade at my heart?

It is noontime, Senlin says, and all is tranquil:
The brilliant sky burns over a greenbright earth.
The peach-tree dreams in the sun, the wall is contented.
A bird in the peach-leaves, moving from sun to shadow,
Phrases again his unremembering mirth,
His lazily beautiful, foolish, mechanical mirth.

8

The pale blue gloom of evening comes
Among the phantom forests and walls
With a mournful and rythmic sound of drums.
My heart is disturbed with a sound of myriad throbbing,
Persuasive and sinister, near and far:
In the blue evening of my heart
I hear the thrum of the evening star.

My work is uncompleted; and yet I hurry,-
Hearing the whispered pulsing of those drums,-
To enter the luminous walls and woods of night.
It is the eternal mistress of the world
Who shakes these drums for my delight.
Listen! the drums of the leaves, the drums of the dust,
The delicious quivering of this air!

I will leave my work unfinished, and I will go
With ringing and certain step through the laughter of chaos
To the one small room in the void I know.
Yesterday it was there,-
Will I find it tonight once more when I climb the stair?
The drums of the street beat swift and soft:
In the blue evening of my heart
I hear the throb of the bridal star.
It weaves deliciously in my brain
A tyrannous melody of her:
Hands in sunlight, threads of rain
Against a weeping face that fades,
Snow on a blackened window-pane;
Fire, in a dusk of hair entangled;
Flesh, more delicate than fruit;
And a voice that searches quivering nerves
For a string to mute.

My life is uncompleted: and yet I hurry
Among the tinkling forests and walls of evening
To a certain fragrant room.
Who is it that dances there, to a beating of drums,
While stars on a grey sea bud and bloom?
She stands at the top of the stair,
With the lamplight on her hair.
I will walk through the snarling of streams of space
And climb the long steps carved from wind
And rise once more towards her face.
Listen! the drums of the drowsy trees
Beating our nuptial ecstasies!

Music spins from the heart of silence
And twirls me softly upon the air:
It takes my hand and whispers to me:
It draws the web of the moonlight down.
There are hands, it says, as cool as snow,
The hands of the Venus of the sea;
There are waves of sound in a mermaid-cave;-
Come-then-come with me!
The flesh of the sea-rose new and cool,
The wavering image of her who comes
At dusk by a blue sea-pool.

Whispers upon the haunted air-
Whisper of foam-white arm and thigh;
And a shower of delicate lights blown down
Fro the laughing sky! . . .
Music spins from a far-off room.
Do you remember,-it seems to say,-
The mouth that smiled, beneath your mouth,
And kissed you . . . yesterday?
It is your own flesh waits for you.
Come! you are incomplete! . . .
The drums of the universe once more
Morosely beat.
It is the harlot of the world
Who clashes the leaves like ghostly drums
And disturbs the solitude of my heart
As evening comes!

I leave my work once more and walk
Along a street that sways in the wind.
I leave these st
Fenix Flight Feb 2015
.               "Peter Look at me." Lexi whispers moving closer to him, The hot spray from the shower head scalding her back. Peter had his back flushed against the back of the shower, his eyes, the red of an Alpha wolf, wild with pure animistic rage. He's lost his humanity, she thinks, I have to bring it back, Peter Snarls and lunges for her. Lexi just holds out her palm and water tentacles from the streaming water behind her snake out and wrap themselves around his wrists and ankles, locking him in places, vicious snarls escaping him, his eyes burning red. Anger wells up in her chest making her own eyes Flash violet, her powers rising inside her. She closes her palms and the water restraints tighten cruelly against him, a small whimper coming from him. She looks him in the eyes and steps even closer, leaving the comfort of the water. "Peter please, come back to me my love." She whispers moving closer still until she was standing right in front of him, his breathing echoing off the shower tiles. She stretches her hand out and touches the hard muscles of his stomach, making him flinch violently, struggling against his restraints as he tries to move away. Lexi thinks back to the time when he would have done anything just to feel her touch, now with his humanity lost,  and the wherewolf taking hold he couldn't bare it. She splays her hand across his abs, tracing the hard muscles, trying not to wince as sounds of pure distress came from him. Looking back up into his eyes she searches for the Peter she had fallen in love with, imprinted with, and found nothing but a cruel cold hearted Animal staring back at her. She takes her hands away and sees the distress turn quickly back into a murderous glare as he pulls against the restraints trying grab her, his claws glistening with spray from the water. With a flick of her wrist the tentacles pull at his arms until they are spread out, far from touching her, another viscous growl, more tugging against them. "Peter I know you can hear me,try to fight this I know you can." She says pleading to any shred of humanity that might still be lurking within his soul. For a split second his eyes lose some of the bloodlust as her words penetrate the wolf that was rising, his face twists in concentration

               "Lexi- I can't Save yourself" He gasps through clenched teeth, His eyes begging her to run before he closes them. She steps near, her heart soaring with hope that she might be able to save him. When he opens his eyes again though all hope she just had shatters as the cruel animal returns. With renewed strength He lets out a harsh howl and yanks his arms, the water tentacles turning to puddles, slipping down the drain with the rest of the water, in the small space of the shower he lunges toward her. Fear ripples through her but she quickly shakes it off and once again lifts her palm stronger tentacles obeying her command wrap themselves around him just in time, as his sharpened fangs came three inches from her face. His body is slammed back against the shower wall, his head bouncing painfully off the tiles. As he trashes and pulls at the restraints Lexi moves back close to him, shutting her eyes in concentration. "His ego cuffs concatenata bestiam, relaxare scintillis humanitas seen, With these cuffs I chain the beast, only loosen with sparks of Humanity seen." The Latin words falling easily from her lips as she casts her spell on the water, knowing they would hold and only lessen their grip when the Peter she knew and loved came back. Her strength leaves her as the spell takes hold and she sags against the other wall, seeking its help to keep her upright. She leans her forehead onto the water slicked tiles and breaths in the steamy air, her eyes drift close. Knowing she was safe from anymore escape tempts she turns her back toward the beast that wore Peters face and steps back into the scalding water of the shower, letting the heat seep into her cold riddled body, and washing away any remaining fear as she lifts her face to the spray. Anger toward herself bubbles up inside her, how can she be afraid of the man she loves? whimpers fro behind her make her sigh and step out of the comforting spray. Turning around, she opens her eyes which were flashing Violet with her rejuvenated powers, she once again faces the love of her life. Hope once against swells inside her as she faces her task of Being Back Peter's humanity.

               "Peter I know you are still in there, I'm going to touch you now." She says with confidence as she steps closer once more. Hot spittle flies from his mouth as a deadly snarl comes from deep within, his fangs fully elongated, his claws at full length, clawing wilding at the air trying to tear her apart. She ignores the snarls and the beast and focuses souly on her task, She reaches out and touches his chest, right above his pounding heart. Moving her hand upward she runs her hands up his muscled well toned arms and with her left hand she places it carefully on his cheek, keeping away from his deadly venom coated fangs, knowing that one bite would have her transforming into a werewolf like him. The terrified whimpers he made makes her heart squeeze, knowing that the touch of a human in his wolf fill brain was torture for him. She looks in his eyes and silently pleads for this to work, knowing that with each touch the Peter she loved would have a fighting chance to break through and once again take hold of his body. She steps closer and kicking his feet apart she presses flush against him, the roughness of his soaked jeans rubbing against her naked body, his shirtless upper half smooth against her own chest. A strangled growl leaves him as he tries to shrink away from the closeness. She takes her hands and places them on either side of his face yanking it back to look at her. "Peter come on love FIGHT THIS!" She hisses pressing herself closer to him. The blood lust fades slightly, his arms sagging slightly as the restrains register a spark of his humanity. Her eyes shine with joy when she realizes it was working. She takes her hands away from his face and wraps them around his neck, stretching up on her toes to reach his mouth with hers. She kisses his mouth, not afraid of the snapping teeth, and feels the growls dissipating in his throat, as his arms continue to sag with the loosing cuffs. She watches as his eyes close and feels his lips returning the pressure to hers. A small gasps escapes her as she feels his arms finally wrapping around her body crushing her to him.

               "Lexi Stop, I can't fight this for long," he pleads against her lips, and on Que his arms are softly yanked from around her as the restraints sense the animal rising again. Going against her intuition she lifts her hand and the spell is broken letting his arms sag fully to his sides, giving him full use of them. He growls "That was a mistake, Lexi AH" He chokes out shutting his eyes and shrinking away from her half turning his body, trying to keep himself from slipping away. She moves, easily deflecting his feeble attempts to push her away, she takes hold of his arm and turns him to face her again and softly pushes him up against the wall which they had started to stray from, pressing herself firmly against him.

               "You can fight this Peter," She whispers in his ear before claiming his mouth again. It was her mistake. He kisses her with desperation trying to fight back the Wolf that was clawing it way through him. IN a split second He looses control and the beast takes hold. Giving off a murderous howl he sinks his claws deep within her back, Her scream tears through her, echoing off the tiles. She sags against his claws, making them sink in deeper as whimpers of agony spill from her kiss swollen lips.  With a grunt he rips his claws out and watches as she crumples to the ground, her strength deserting her. She splashes in the water built up in the tub , barely noticing the sting as her knees and hands hit the porcelain. Her arms wobble as she tries to keep herself up, her eyes cast down as she stares at his bare feet, the hem of his jeans dark with the water sloshing around him. "Pe-Peter Fight, pl-please" she mumbles as a fog starts to creep into her mind. Her arms fail her and she splashes face first into the ***** water. The water was tinged red and tasted like cooper with her life's blood as it oozed out of the ten claw marks on her back. Her breath quickens as it become shallow, the fog creeper faster, her vision starting to unfocused. Tears spill down her face and mix with the ****** water as she realizes she was going to die, and without saving Peter.

               "I failed you Peter, I'm sorry, Forgive me," She whispers unable to lift her head to look at the beast that claimed him. " I- I love You" She manages to sputter out before the fog took hold of her, rendering her unconscious.

               Those three words reached the beast, traveling down to Peter who was growing weaker by the minute LEXI! he screams mentally and pushes past the beast. He throws his head back, letting out a tortuous howl, as his eyes go from blood red to the Ice blue some Beta wherewolves posses, his original state. The beast retreats, never fully gone, just hibernating until the next best moment to strike. Peter looks down at the naked girl at his feet, and he drops to his knees in the red waters.

               "Lexi My love" He whispers his voice full of agony. He lifts her limp body out of the water and cradles her in his arms, He wipes away the hair that was plastered to her face and rests his hand against her cheek. "Open your eyes my love, you didn't fail me, you saved me, I'm right here, just open your eyes." He says, his voice choked with unshed tears. When she doesn't respond he cries out , placing his head on her chest, taking his hand away to wrap around her body in a tight grief stricken embrace, his blond hair making a curtain around his face as his grief pours out of him unchecked. A strangled Gasp makes her chest rise and he wipes his head up to find her eyes fluttering open, focusing weakly on him.

               "Peter, you're-" her words fade away as her strength seeps out of her. she lifts her hand and he quickly grasps it in his lifting it to his mouth kissing the fragile pale skin before putting his face in her hand, trapping it between his face and his hand.

               "Yes Lexi I'm me, I'm here, Don't give up" He says smiling through his tears. A faint smile spreads across her bloodless lips as she closes her eyes, her breathing was struggled but she clinged to the last bites of life in her as she pulls her power in, drawing strength from the water around them, the air that fought it's way to her lungs, the Fire from the small candle she had lit in the bathroom earlier for strength, the minuet grands of dirt that always managed to find their way in the house. But most of all she Draws on the Spiritual world the one that swirled around every living creature. She draws all this power inside her and wills her body to heal itself, Fighting for her life. Her power pulls and a soft warm glow fills her body as the wounds slowly pull themselves closed healing themselves. Her breathing becomes easier and she gulps huge mouth fulls, coughing as she takes too much in. Peter tighten's his hold on her and stares at her in wonder as she pulls her broken battered body together. "Oh Lexi," he gushes as color returns to her body, making it flush a pale pink, her eyes going from their crystal green to the purple as she works her magic. Finally the wounds were sealed shut, and her eyes return to their crystal green, her body sagging in exhaustion in his arms.

               "You're you, you're really you." She whispers, happiness ringing in her soft sleepy voice. Peter smiles at her and strokes her cheek, his fangs had vanishes and his claws had retracted.

               "Yes Lexi I'm really me."

               "I thought you're humanity was lost,"

               Peter just shakes his head at her, tightening his hold on her he stands up, carrying her bride style he steps out of the shower, not bothering to shut off the water. Holding her close to his body she rests her head against his bare chest and sighs as she hears his heart thumping at a normal pace. Leaving the bathroom he pads down the hall to their room. Once inside, with one hand he pulls back the covers on their king sized bed and gently deposit her onto it. going to his side of the bed he quickly strips out of his wet clothing and slides under the covers with her, drawing her close to his body, skin to skin. Lifting her eyes to his he smiles at her.

               "NO Lexi, I don't think I can ever lose my humanity again, want to know why?" He says, his eyes hypnotizing her. She snuggles closer to him, her legs tangling with his,

               "Why?"

               "Because YOU are my humanity." He says as his lips crush her in a passion filled kiss.
This was A Dream I had. I have no other back story or anything This was jsut my dream and I was Lexi. Peter was Peter Hale From TV show Teen Wolf. ( IDK why but my dreams awalys end up staring someone from that **** show)
honor Aug 2013
speculation pulls down on the body
the quick switch into panic, akin to the comedic drop of an anvil
when you realise that things aren't as simple as they seemed
it's amazing that you could even be shocked

but when has anything ever been simple?
what else is life to you but a riddle?
the questions which rush through your brain
sweeping you off your feet and onto the gravel

curiosity lunges at you, hungry and ready to feed
to claim another life, to rip each "what if?" out from your curled fists
you should have already known the murders it is capable of
but you would never take the proverb literally, would you

"things are the way they are, because they are"
do not lie back in the mud and be defeated
pull the mystery apart, unravel the string with your mighty claws
seize the day and avenge the cat
curiosity can **** a cat but maybe you'll survive
Hal Loyd Denton Sep 2012
I need to finish the story for convenience I have the original Aftermath to be read first on the bottom
What was not stated in Aftermath was my concern for my writing you can’t write with two legs
Screaming when I got to the hospital my kidneys were of a concern eight alieve three times a day about
Thirty aspirins something like Tylenol didn’t count them no relief my mistake I would bang my ****** leg
Against the wood of the desk that would make it crazy for a few seconds so I finally had to stop for over
Two months well the devil won it seemed when I talked to my cousin I was at eighteen thousand reads a
Little while let me break in here for a second I know I’m talking about numbers it isn’t ego if I come in
Contact with any of you in any setting and I pass you by with just a glance I am your sworn Godless
Enemy I have just joined the cruelest damnable assassins Hell has ever released on the world I know
What awaits the lost even the Apostle Paul worked fervently because he knew the end cost of God’s
Holy severity can I do less I look but I take in all manner caring thoughts but without fail I am led to that
Future now no one even gives the last day a thought I will put this in as an excerpt this is the dream I
Had when I was seventeen or it starts this way your life began in the great head waters at Eden they will
End at the mouth of eternity. I was given a view into the celestial I was just a teenager while a sleep this
Dream came I looked into the heavens and saw two great wheels made of stars the hands of God started
To pull the wheels down as I continued I knew what was occurring God was stopping time. The wheels
Stopped then God turned to the seamless darkness grasped it and started to lift as he did it tore away
Reveling the bright true world of the spirit that was before hidden this was alarming since I hadn’t made
My peace with him Not long after this I was seventeen working at the refinery I just walked out of the
Boiler room into the section that was known as the flathead when a voice said time is finished all life and
Its concerns flowed out leaving me with the greatest sadness other men standing by laid down their
Tools and started milling about mindlessly on this wise in some manner this will happen all over the
World the great enterprises so important to man and society will halt government rule and authority
Abolished in an instant majesty and power will take the reins the river previously known will be
Empowered its first charge make the deserts bloom as a rose…

And I take the liberty to insert I am a person of deep feelings to make the case I wrote two pieces for
Roberta Merrifield’s birthday sorry your flowers are late then I forgot your card this was talking about
Her friends as flowers each of them need to go to their door and imagine nine hundred people standing
There reading about their lives that are filled with grace and beauty and earthen treasures that are in
Vessels of clay but to see them truly you will be speechless so I return to the numbers so it was
Eighteen thousand a little later when I couldn’t stand the pain any longer I called my retired preacher
Uncle and our pastor brother Russell I explained to them about being whipped and my writing had to be
Shut down it was thirty five thousand reads then so keys were stilled my lifeline to needy souls was at
A deadly stillness so then two months later I wrote fourteen pieces bringing the total to four hundred
And fourteen pieces and then Gods love demands the his heart be represented this is the one I am
Pleased about the most I wrote a piece called the mirrored pool over four hundred souls read this I’m
Sorry this is too important to excerpt it in you are not obligated to read I leave that to your discretion

Mirrored Pool
Wonder for all the hurts
First I knelt just to see my reflection then the depths started to reveal first the flowing thoughts were
Restrained and then a bubbling seemed to dislodge from greater depths hard truths churned with
Violent twisting but the motion made it impossible to turn away there were great large white clouds
From depths then even above the pool they rose fourteen stories high the sensation was you were
Standing outside clear air intoxicating views the pulse of many were throbbing in your ears their
Thoughts and dreams were known and their sorrows were weights that pulled you from the heights
It was a colossal game of tag and you were it first reaction fear then the appearance of bundled gifts
Broke down the fear it was promise in different sizes that met the required needs it was like a divine
Warehouse had just made a delivery there were cards with names and writing gave clarification tears
And smiles intermingled then the outer knowing postulated the difficulty the puzzle an enormous
Streaming that was now congested and it was beginning a vortex all was understood now human thought
With doubts was pulling the answer into this destructive hole where was one to find the lever to stop
This action that would disallow was the answer to touch the water bring the finger to my lips possibly
A blazing thought would occur that would strike the mind no all that brought was words that had the
Letters jumbled they made no sense unless there is a special book that is alive in it the letters and words
Are already set but they cover every act in the human condition the broken can pour over the pages
You won’t find thorns to repel your efforts there are thorns but they will speak and assuage your hurts
At the most basic and needed levels the points of your hurts will begin to dissolve from your eyes to
Your mind this inward rush and power will dislodge even spears driven deep by enemies carried for
Years you searched in vain over sad and lonely paths and days now you journey is at an end thorns of
Suffering for another produces profound power and mercy go in peace beloved one another bears your
Burden now maybe words cut you at depths you can’t even identify what if there is an antidote in a
Book you pick it up with trembling hands your body tingles from the knowledge that this is ancient texts
It will have a revival of appreciation in this world of texting but with gentle fingers and eyes that glow
With respect as you see the wisdom and the love cannot be denied you leave the world you know and
With total abandonment you swim in this sea of words until the your tears spill on this rich world of
Words those cruel barbed words that pierced tender skin and have bled internally all of these years
Begin to dissolve with stories and accounts of betrayals then the swells love and mercy you read about
Restoration not always found after apologies are given but the teaching of forgiveness strikes a cord
You have been made free from your prison the tangles of life are great as a great black cloud it hangs
Over head many are its troubles this isn’t mild but the disruptive made to strike and pierce deep the
Hidden that steals the morning blessing while other feast your hunger and unrest only enlarges a
Tormenting unquenchable fire a slow burn this is a forest being burned at the thermal level the hidden
Roots a slow process destructive but not so visible agony torture I have seen men crawl in war or fire
Fighting that where all else is lost you will know greater thrills than any other living soul with the
Desperate and those heavy burdened unable to stand a word will flow it puts out fires and gives
The luxurious buoyancy heaviness changed to joy the bouncy laughter every outward blast attack
The enemy launches is within its pages they are repelled overwhelmed by love you suffer unduly
If you don’t hold this fortress this informative book of stratagems that have made everyone a victor
Who has ever found themselves at their wits end no place on earth has a contingency plan though it
Will make the greatest claims all is just empty air when life as it too often does ***** the very air of life
Out we practically are unconscious but this help this rescue is activated by one name it’s not just a book
But the word is a person what a pool you will find what a reflection will engage you beyond your hope
To imagine just say Jesus all will be total peace your heart will know no more sorrow peace will surpass
Sorrow love will disallow the specter that was once a constant it will disappear it will return to the
Darkness from which it came stand in this newness totally free abide by still waters as the good
Sheppard stands by bless you

So the success against the evil one stands like this while he body slammed me the number of
Souls touched has risen to sixty three thousand five thousand while I was in Braidwood so I
Thank the father whose love and concern never wavers by Christmas I am hopeful I will reach
A hundred thousand if I make heaven I don’t want to see you at judgment and hear you say the
Words of that old song he knew I was lost but said nothing to me!!!!!!!!!!

The Aftermath
Please read this to see in my limited way I want to show you your true worth and value and you will see
what the devil never can get.
This is what I would stand and testify in church but what I have to say is lengthy here it can be read or
Not I would first say this to love souls is agonizing it comes with pain and great tears I went to the site
Where they started the church years ago on my Grandma Brown’s front porch as I set there I pleaded
With God to help me make a difference I turned and looked down the old street that held so many
Memories of course Tommy and Elise and Glena are the only ones that remain but I looked farther
That’s when God moved wave after wave of hard rocking sobs that lasted for thirty minutes or more
And after getting back home some will say this is foolish and I’m the first to know we can’t take the devil
On by ourselves but overcome with emotion I turned from the computer and spoke to evil its self that I
Was declaring total war for souls this is what it has cost me so far at the time I had one open wound on
My shin above the ankle two appeared directly above the first one then one to the side and then I knew
What was to come because I have sleep apnea I sleep in a recliner I knew the sores would ring my leg
And they did you can’t lay your leg out on the ledge with open wounds with nerve endings screaming
Then it jumped to my other leg so that was the first volley when I write I get lost time doesn’t exist many
A time daylight would surprise me coming through the window then the onslaught increases I go to the
Hospital I got there in early afternoon they got me in the room at ten thirty but just before a lady comes
In and takes my blood pressure it is close to perfect and then she comes back in five minutes and tells
Me take these three blood pressure pills trusting her I take them well about twelve or one they come
Into and take my blood pressure they had driven it down to seventy over thirty and plus my first
Experience with morphine I was sick and strangely loopy I wasn’t in the bed I couldn’t lay my legs
Down and no one else was in the room only one bed I did set at the end of the bed with it all the way up
In the back I put my head on it and slept comfortably one funny they have it posted call don’t fall I didn’t
Do this on purpose but when I was pulling the drawer out of the stand it came out with a wonderful
Crash Steve the male nurse made record time from down the hall at the nurse station he lunges in the
Room it wasn’t humpty dumpty just the drawer I couldn’t tell if he was relived or ticked off then it was
Their shot back over the net intravenous antibiotics five days needed a doctor from disease control to
Release me then there version of cons scarring kids with tales about prison to keep them messing with
Drugs scared straight now was scared healthy I walked out the same as I walked in I got a bill for thirty
Thousand well at least I didn’t have a bad heart then it was eleven weeks at the wound center this was
Where I met as I lovingly call them my healing angels they finally got all twelve open sores to close then
for the rest of the problem it was six weeks three times a week forty five miles to and from hundred
Degree heat every day you have to pay a hundred and seventy dollars yourself for the compress wrap
Material then you turn around a pay for compress socks that insurance doesn’t cover least the inside is
Pure silver so missed the Olympics but I got silver in fact every six months I will get silver again this is
Kind apropos I asked the compress wrap therapist where Lymph edema comes from and I will spare you
The pictures but the infection and lymph edema pictures even grossed me out but interestingly the
Therapist said an ancient king in Israel had the disease hello devil no cure just mange it from now on
This is the biggest cut of all someone else has to put them on I have always been called a free spirit
Try to take off on your own and what say hey stranger would you put these on my leg it’s like trying to
Put a baby squirrel skin on a full grown body the therapist does speeches internationally with a doctor
From India she asked permission after taking pictures to show the audience I wouldn’t want to see that
Show give the devil his due he is good at being bad I crossed swords with him he rampaged all over me
I didn’t include everything I have gone through and that doesn’t include my poor wife but I am profane
Corrupt undone should I speak to you of such great things as eternal verities matters that involve where
You will spend eternity there is the cleansing of the word the cleansing of changing my corrupt nature to
His by the spirit but know this no one will ever approach or in any way defile the very ones that as the
Finest gems will be placed in his Holy diadem this takes the cleansing of suffering and brokenness with
The heart Broken for souls and the most necessary of all this nature that is too much like the evil one
That’s what he doesn’t get the more he beats up on a person he is doing God’s work of purifying the
Most elemental evil that must be scourged if I touch you it has to be purist intentions of holy deign
We are awash in the lowest dregs dare I say quick sand only holiness can enable us to traverse this
Killing place of a dark and ever turning evil that compounds itself the devil will never lose the majority
On The Broad way that leads to destruction but there are the blessed few that stop and say oh no this is
Not for Me I was his child and I will be again thanks for the load you made me bear serving you devil now Only Love will be the weight I feel it comes by a great price of God Himself and His people

I need to finish the story for convenience I have the original Aftermath to be read first on the bottom
What was not stated in Aftermath was my concern for my writing you can’t write with two legs
Screaming when I got to the hospital my kidneys were of a concern eight alieve three times a day about
Thirty aspirins something like Tylenol didn’t count them no relief my mistake I would bang my ****** leg
Against the wood of the desk that would make it crazy for a few seconds so I finally had to stop for over
Two months well the devil won it seemed when I talked to my cousin I was at eighteen thousand reads a
Little while let me break in here for a second I know I’m talking about numbers it isn’t ego if I come in
Contact with any of you in any setting and I pass you by with just a glance I am your sworn Godless
Enemy I have just joined the cruelest damnable assassins Hell has ever released on the world I know
What awaits the lost even the Apostle Paul worked fervently because he knew the end cost of God’s
Holy severity can I do less I look but I take in all manner caring thoughts but without fail I am led to that
Future now no one even gives the last day a thought I will put this in as an excerpt this is the dream I
Had when I was seventeen or it starts this way your life began in the great head waters at Eden they will
End at the mouth of eternity. I was given a view into the celestial I was just a teenager while a sleep this
Dream came I looked into the heavens and saw two great wheels made of stars the hands of God started
To pull the wheels down as I continued I knew what was occurring God w
spysgrandson Aug 2018
the green grove a magnet to my eye
on these sun baked plains

I enter the glade to take shade with the cicadas
and vampire mosquitos

then I see it, Eden’s villain, coiled and rattling,
red ready to strike

I raise my staff, I too programmed to survive, do to what millennia
have taught

still we are in this staring standoff—silent save its rattle, deaf
I am to the chorus of insects

neither of us moves for an eternity of seconds, until the snake lunges at my feet

where its fangs find a field mouse, and devour it while I watch, an unwitting witness to expiry other than my own  

I leave the copse, whole, content another creature has, for today, taken my place in the bloodletting
The hyenas cackled maniacally , gasping and choking and she lunges at them, jaws snapping, eyes glittering gold. Throats were torn and yet the laughing continued, wheezing and guttural, shakey with their final breathes. Life leaves them and she roars to her enemies; She was sunlight, she was stardust, she was the warrior queen.
((About me trying to fight depression))
There are people in this world who only show up on your door step after they have used and abused everyone they know or could possibly get to know.  They steal for drugs.  They think nothing of what they do to others.

Earlier: Purple hair a flame SHE LUNGES AND GROWLS AT HER OTT and he loves seeing her strong and BRAVE FIERCE and UNAFRAID.  She lunges at him with PASSION.  
She thinks she is a mess.  He responds. "No, mess. Beautiful anarchy. Beautiful energy."
She Lunges at him again tells Him to Rest.  Quickly shuts off her camera.  She is feeling powerful.  He smiles..she knows it feels it and moves on in her day.......

TEXT MESSAGES FROM THIN THIN LADY I DO NOT KNOW..OR DO I?
My Ex's child fills my facebook and phone with texts.  She calls she begs..but we checked all the police reports and warrents and they are far worse than she told me.  LAST NIGHT KNOCKS AT THE DOOR..ignore ignore.  Yes I know who it is.
I recall lunging at him and being so strong.  ****** at my door got a lunge and more.  I snapped..I roared.  I SET HER ON IGNORE.  I have been there for everyone all the time..I take care of who is MINE.  I cared for his 6 other children when he had their entire LIFE ON IGNORE.  I tired to set her straight.  I tried tender loving Karen First.  I tried but I cannot give my happiness away and risk everything for someone who continues to steal and rob and fraud.  I will not do it..I do NOT CHOOSE IT..it is NOT MY RESPONSIBILITY.  I am MINE.  You are yours.  I will never choose you over mine, me, kind.  Negativity not longer has a place.  MY SPACE is a HAPPY PLACE.  I remain SEATED IN THE SEAT OF THE SOUL..BALANCED..TRUE TO MYSELF THROUGH AND THROUGH.  I FEEL NO GUILT FOR YOU.  I FEEL NOTHING BUT EQUALITY AND NEUTRALITY & Grace..I am a LADY BUT I WILL BITE YOUR FACE
Madam Eri Apr 2014
I do not greet the water for I never really left its embrace
Although it evaporated from my skin it never dried from my heart
A familiar chill rests upon me as my body falls below the surface
The water rushes into my lunges like an avalanche of bliss
It fills up every corner of me anchoring my soul deeper
With the waves crashing over me and the waters arms around me
My last breath slips to the surface as I slip into serenity...into my home
Atlas Apr 2017
My heart lunges out of my chest
Over and over and over again
Its getting harder to breathe
And even harder to think

My bodys been taken over
I’m possessed with obsession
And over thinking

Please just stop

The thoughts are like spiders
Crawling in my brain

GET OUT OF MY HEAD

I curl into a ball
And try to go to bed
poem/song i don't remember writing
guy scutellaro Oct 2018
(Kathleen's birthday, part two,  unedited version)


"Daddy," the little girl has her hands folded and is looking up at her father. "When will it stop? I want to get on."

"Soon, darling," her father assures her.

"I don't think it'll ever stop." The little girl says.

"Sweetie it'll stop." Daddy takes her gently by the hand, gently squeezes. "See it's stopping now."


When the carousel slows down but has not quite stopped, Kathleen steps onto the platform and grabs the brass support pole. The momentum of the machine grabs her with a **** onto the ride and into a white horse with big blue eyes. Dropping her cigarette, she takes hold of the pole that goes through the center of the horse. She struggles to put her foot into the stirrup, finds it, and throws her leg over the horse. The carousel music begins to play. The ride trembles and starts with a jolt.

A man is staring at Kathleen. Sitting on the pony has made her short skirt ride well up on her shapely legs, but she is too drunk to care. When the man comes over, she hands him her ticket.

The ticket man goes over to the little girl and her daddy who are sitting in a gold chariot pulled by two red horses.

The little girl looks at her father, and says, "Ooooh, daddy, I love this."

The man smiles back and strokes his daughter's hair.


The heat makes the dizziness that Kathleen is feeling grow worse and as the ride picks up speed, she begins to see two of everything. There are two rows of pinball machines, eight flashing signs, and too many prize machines. The red , blue, and green lights from the ride signs blend together like when a car drives at night down a wet street. She feels the impulse to *****.

"Can we go on again?" The little girl asks.

"But honey the ride isn't over yet."

Kathleen finds that if she concentrates on other things the dizziness and the nausea become less severe. She tries to perceive the images as a montage like the elements that make up a painting or life. When she does this, and as she becomes accustom to the movement of the machine, the floating , spinning objects come together. The circling ride creates a cooling breeze and the blurring of lights becomes a beautiful waterfall.

The horses in front are always becoming the horses in the back and the horses in back are always turning into the horses in front. All horses gallop ahead. Settling back into the saddle, she follows them riding her white pony towards the receding waterfall.

You can lose all sense of the clock and who you are and that is alright with Kathleen. That is the way she feels. She has left something behind her. She does not know what, but whatever it is, the merry-go- round will chase it away.

She leans forward to embrace the ride.

Then just as suddenly as it started, the ride is slowing down. The music stops playing.

First she feels the heat and then the sickness in her stomach as the dizziness returns. Kathleen climbs down off the pony. She goes careening backwards and then she lunges for balance falling forward. The merry-go-round trembles, starts with a **** , and rights her. Slowly, it picks up speed bringing her to the exit of the building. Kathleen stumbles down off the platform and goes through the  exit door careening into a railing and almost falling into Wesley Lake.

All the terrible things that people did to her comes crawling back to her like the sounds of an animal dying in its hidden place. The wisdom is heavy and centers just below her naval.

She takes a few steps to the curb, hears the carousel music and knows the ride is beginning again. Kathleen sits down on the sidewalk curb and it all comes out choking her, taking her breath away. The ****** abuse, self doubt, the alienation and loneliness, it all comes out, and she is enlightened.

There is so much of it so she lies down facing a world of decaying buildings and broken dreams. Her marvelous mind holds a perfect picture of the memories. Years in various foster homes where she felt like she never had a home. 

 Her son comes and sits with her on the couch. Her arm around him as they listen to the din of thunder.

Jack's sad face stares up at her from the table where he is sitting on the night they met. "I'm one -third Sioux, " she tells him, tasting the smoke from her cigarette as she exhales, and he smiles at her so she sits down.

But the mockingbird is singing from the world of scattered thoughts and empty lots. The images shoot off into a dark land, exploding, illuminating, then growing dim and dimmer, light and warmth fading into cold and darkness.

(next part resumes with Jack  playing pool at the bar)
Diane Aug 2016
Our temporal lobes have neurons whose sole purpose
Is to recognize faces
You see, humans are meant to be connected
Our bodies should vibrate
From the sounds of emotional resonance
We are meant to be seen,
Really seen, delving deeply into streams of running water
Where our vulnerability makes love with our experience
And this need is so great, that day after day, year after year,
We open our mouths with hope
That our words can share a meaning with someone
But mostly, we are left colliding
Or surviving near misses
Driving through relationship guardrails
Over the edge into desperation  
We are left holed up in separate hospital beds  
Isolated by IV drips of disappointment
Until we tell ourselves that true happiness is a myth
And the word “soulmate” was intended for everyone else
This used to be me
And it used to be you

When I awoke this morning
Remnants of our laughter were singing on your pillow  
There are 86 lashes on your right, upper eye lid
I can almost see them listening to me
Conduits for comprehension
As I speak,
You turn your ear so it can graze my lips
I whisper while I stare at your profile
Blinking, gentle smile lines
And my heart lunges toward yours like a magnet
I have crawled inside your pupils
To be covered with wet, black paint shining
From your spirit outward
Opposite of indifferent
Our faces so close that I can taste you breathing
This strange sensation is the absence of fear
I. See. You.
I have always known you
I can pull the IV out of my arm
Because what keeps me alive,
Is that you know me too
It creeps in the night, a drag in its step.
It looks at me, those blood shot eyes.
It is something I have started to despise.
A small but strong foe.
I hoped it wasn't so as I walked in.
I could feel the heaviness in the air.
Beware. I wont be scared.
I will be fine. I'll confront it, it will then deny.
It doesn't matter though, I'll try.
That blank look peers into my soul.
Selfish, out to destroy me.
The troops wont be deployed.
With my brain it has toyed.
Beware, I need to be prepared.
A step at a time inching toward this beast that awaits.
Then it sees me……
It lunges forward, toward my heart.
It starts to tear me apart.
I crumble to the floor, looking to the door that the beasts is walking toward.
I lay there, now looking at the ceiling, overcome with this sad feeling.
Was this really my meaning?
Breaths getting shorter, it's harder to breathe.  
In my final seconds my eyes start to close.
The beast is at ease.
It is now pleased, standing in the doorway watching me drift away.
The beast then walks away, off to bed.
It rests it head on the pillow getting ready for work tomorrow.
I wake alone in bed.
I walk around the empty house.
It is quiet, it is cold.
I know the story isn't done being told.
When it comes home, I start to have the feeling again.        
With all my fright I walk into the room just to make sure the beast isn't out to play.
I hold it tight, then I look up to see its bloodshot eyes.
It's been a short day, It will be a long arduous night.
aka mom
John Thomas Aug 2010
Heading to nowhere, trudging, one foot falls a step in front of the last...
left battles right as one lunges for the future and one stays in the past..

Eyes scan the horizon, new possibilities with every step…
the mind grows wiser and ejects hostilities with every breath..

Gazing into the heavens selfishly to accept it’s warm love..
As sunlight falls helplessly from its ancient home above..

It traveled all the way to give me and this amazing planet life..
No turning back today, every ray makes the ultimate sacrifice..

Crashing through the darkness until it finds a reaction..
Fate and destiny have yet again have proven the laws of attraction…

Sometimes it just takes being in the right place at the right time..
For inspiration to follow the narrow path into an open mind..

This why I find myself drawn to every distant corner of the earth...
Subconsciously searching for my little section of sand, stone, or dirt..

Something keeps pulling me along to witness the unseen..
Embracing it with blind obedience leads me on to another dream..

So I'll follow this attraction no matter what's written on the scroll..
It's what the future holds, the unseen paints the missing half of my soul...
By John Thomas

read more at:

http://johnsbigpicture.blogspot.com
Murphy Hanhart Jun 2010
His rasping grumbles define hunger, louder than my stomach
      complains about the seven hours since breakfast,
Grunts replace the pry of a commanding tongue, eager to devour, or a feathery graze past the
      hook in my collarbone, a tender nip at the crescent of flesh that
      peeks below my white plastic earring.
Gutturals guide our transition from a stained mattress to a rickety desk where
Frenetic eyes validate the arch of my back.
Wild thrusts push us perpendicular.

Undoubtedly, my howls alert the neighbors.
If not, then the neglected crashes of my plummeting clutter or the unfaltering thud of my head
        pounding the half closed window can attest:
We mean business.

The tired floor creaks ‘nd cranks as erratic lunges hasten.
(grasping his shoulders tighter than a lone, wrinkled hand grips the pepper spray in her bag)
I brace that swelling itch, my hips shudder as it consumes, throbs, and then
Electrifies to axons from dendrites.
And he doesn’t miss a beat— more jabs **** my liver.
Hal Loyd Denton Aug 2012
The Aftermath

Please read this to see in my limited way I want to show you your true worth and value and you will see
What the devil never can get.

This is what I would stand and testify in church but what I have to say is lengthy here it can be read or
Not I would first say this to love souls is agonizing it comes with pain and great tears I went to the site
Where they started the church years ago on my Grandma Brown’s front porch as I set there I pleaded
With God to help me make a difference I turned and looked down the old street that held so many
Memories of course Tommy and Elise and Glena are the only ones that remain but I looked farther
That’s when God moved wave after wave of hard rocking sobs that lasted for thirty minutes or more
And after getting back home some will say this is foolish and I’m the first to know we can’t take the devil
On by ourselves but overcome with emotion I turned from the computer and spoke to evil its self that I
Was declaring total war for souls this is what it has cost me so far at the time I had one open wound on
My shin above the ankle two appeared directly above the first one then one to the side and then I knew
What was to come because I have sleep apnea I sleep in a recliner I knew the sores would ring my leg
And they did you can’t lay your leg out on the ledge with open wounds with nerve endings screaming
Then it jumped to my other leg so that was the first volley when I write I get lost time doesn’t exist many
A time daylight would surprise me coming through the window then the onslaught increases I go to the
Hospital I got there in early afternoon they got me in the room at ten thirty but just before a lady comes
In and takes my blood pressure it is close to perfect and then she comes back in five minutes and tells
Me take these three blood pressure pills trusting her I take them well about twelve or one they come
Into and take my blood pressure they had driven it down to seventy over thirty and plus my first
Experience with morphine I was sick and strangely loopy I wasn’t in the bed I couldn’t lay my legs
Down and no one else was in the room only one bed I did set at the end of the bed with it all the way up
In the back I put my head on it and slept comfortably one funny they have it posted call don’t fall I didn’t
Do this on purpose but when I was pulling the drawer out of the stand it came out with a wonderful
Crash Steve the male nurse made record time from down the hall at the nurse station he lunges in the
Room it wasn’t humpty dumpty just the drawer I couldn’t tell if he was relived or ticked off then it was
Their shot back over the net intravenous antibiotics five days needed a doctor from disease control to
Release me then there version of cons scarring kids with tales about prison to keep them messing with
Drugs scared straight now was scared healthy I walked out the same as I walked in I got a bill for thirty
Thousand well at least I didn’t have a bad heart then it was eleven weeks at the wound center this was
Where I met as I lovingly call them my healing angels they finally got all twelve open sores to close then
for the rest of the problem it was six weeks three times a week forty five miles to and from hundred
Degree heat every day you have to pay a hundred and seventy dollars yourself for the compress wrap
Material then you turn around a pay for compress socks that insurance doesn’t cover least the inside is
Pure silver so missed the Olympics but I got silver in fact every six months I will get silver again this is
Kind apropos I asked the compress wrap therapist where Lymph edema comes from and I will spare you
The pictures but the infection and lymph edema pictures even grossed me out but interestingly the
Therapist said an ancient king in Israel had the disease hello devil no cure just mange it from now on
This is the biggest cut of all someone else has to put them on I have always been called a free spirit
Try to take off on your own and what say hey stranger would you put these on my leg it’s like trying to
Put a baby squirrel skin on a full grown body the therapist does speeches internationally with a doctor
From India she asked permission after taking pictures to show the audience I wouldn’t want to see that
Show give the devil his due he is good at being bad I crossed swords with him he rampaged all over me
I didn’t include everything I have gone through and that doesn’t include my poor wife but I am profane
Corrupt undone should I speak to you of such great things as eternal verities matters that involve where
You will spend eternity there is the cleansing of the word the cleansing of changing my corrupt nature to
His by the spirit but know this no one will ever approach or in any way defile the very ones that as the
Finest gems will be placed in his Holy diadem this takes the cleansing of suffering and brokenness with
The heart Broken for souls and the most necessary of all this nature that is too much like the evil one
That’s what he doesn’t get the more he beats up on a person he is doing God’s work of purifying the
Most elemental evil that must be scourged if I touch you it has to be purist intentions of holy deign
We are awash in the lowest dregs dare I say quick sand only holiness can enable us to traverse this
Killing place of a dark and ever turning evil that compounds itself the devil will never lose the majority
On The Broad way that leads to destruction but there are the blessed few that stop and say oh no this is
Not for Me I was his child and I will be again thanks for the load you made me bear serving you devil
now Only Love will be the weight I feel it comes by a great price of God Himself and His people
Brycical Dec 2013
Buzzing emerald jungle swoons—
           hip kitty soul eyes embrace the red wanderer.
It’s a tactical chess game,
        both aware of the other’s presence.

Nebulous black perched in shadows,
     desert red fool skips like a rock.
          when eyes eclipse each other
an electric hummmmmmm buzzes
as their hearts start glowing like a peridot ember
the wind whizzes and twists
through their perfect curly hirsute
           rushing luscious aurora energy pulsing
           to and fro like giddy hearts exchanging notes in class…
Their blurry bodies bound forward
    fox scorching ground while panther burns branches
        lightning leg movements paws calls thunder
          sun red hot fuzz lunges up
           midnight cool moon goddess panther slams down  
            colors collide and crash and cling and clap
            spines ignited in tye-dye holographic rainbows
their claws singe each other’s skin
their eyes swirl black holes
holy howls and breath coalesce
as one love
as one sight,
all encompassing
mythical tail told to all
through campfire gypsies and artists canvas
panting the dancing fox and panther
the bhavacakka.
Joe Cottonwood Jul 2015
At your breast he likes to play
     dive-for-the-******.
Like an Olympian on the high platform
     he rears back,
     contemplates the distance,
     the object,
then lunges.

Today he grabs his own hair, pulls.
     And screams.
The more he pulls, the more he screams
     until I unclutch his fingers.

Don’t we all wish sometimes
     a big hand would swoop down
     to unclutch us
     from our mistakes?
Then, oh! to rear back
     and lunge
at life’s big love.
Sheena Snell Jun 2010
In the darkness of the night she looks to the moon for help, falling to her
knees she prays.  Seeing the darkest of nights she feels more alone then she ever has.  The hairs on the back of her neck rising she raises to her feet and runs, knowing there is something deadly wrong.

Hearing footsteps up ahead he rushes on ahead praying to the stars that the girl hi is after has not rushed to far ahead.  Leaves crunching under his feet he hurries on panting and gasping for breath, heart beating loudly he surely thinks that if she were near she would be able to hear the beating.

Her eyes glowing like the eyes of a cat, she feels her reflexes going into full affect as she runs as fast as a cheetah.  She pounces up into a tree hissing at the figure behind her.  Her emerald green eyes glowing in the darkness she sees the figure stop and bend over their knees to catch their breath she assumes.  Getting into attack position she sits and waits.

Looking up ahead in the darkness he sees the bright green eyes in a tree staring dead at him, feeling shivers go down his spine he slowly goes forward not knowing what to expect.  The coolness of the night tightens around him making him shiver with cold and fear.

Waiting, waiting, and stalking she sits on a limb looking down on the figure.  No know that it is a man that has come after her.  Her hind legs drawn
tight with adrenaline she still waits for the right moment to pounce.

Fear clutching his heart he fears for his life and the girls.  Looking up in the tree where he had first seen the green eyes he sees them again staring at him once again.  He stands there not moving just looking.  Could it be, he wonders.  No, it could not be the girl he is after.  Could the legend he has heard be true?

Her claws digging into the bark of the tree she hisses down at the man just standing there, she can smell the fear off of him knowing that it is not her he fears, but the thought of loosing her to the panther that she has become.  
Growling she leaps down onto the ground and circles him growling and hissing under her breath.

Seeing the large cat jumps down from the tree he stands perfectly still not longer fearful.  As the panther circles him he watches the sleek black body moving, noting the powerful muscles within the legs.  Not daring to move he sits and waits.

Shock that he would sit down she stops and walks to the front of him and sits down herself.  Looking into his gray eyes feeling her soul tinge she lays to her stomach and waits to see what he'll do next.

Not knowing how to react he stares into her emerald green eyes as she stares into his.  How could a sweet beautiful girl all of a sudden turn into a dangerous cat?  He quietly and slowly rises to his feet as the panther jumps to hers he stands still not knowing what she will do if angered.

As he stares into her eyes her soul feels weird once again.  She is angered that he had the nerve to stand and still not be afraid.  As she lunges to her feet she growls, daring him to be afraid.

The wind howls through the trees as he watches the panther as she growls he knows that she is extremely angered.  What is he to do?  He cannot make himself feel something he has no need for.  He knows that she wants him to be frightened yet he cannot, for he knows in his soul that she will not harm him.

Growling she tackles him to the ground.  Pinning him down she looks into his gray eyes feeling that tingling sensation through her soul once again.  She hisses at him for making her feel this way.

No longer fearing for him or the girl’s life he lays pinned to the ground feeling the panther’s hot breath on his face, he waits for her next move.

With the moon high in the sky and the wind blowing she fears that the time has come where she will have to return back to her normal body form.
She growls one more time at the man on the ground and races off into the darkness growling all the while as she runs feeling the wind on her face.

Stunned at just what happened he jumps to his feet and takes off after the panther not wanting to lose it.  Desperately trying to remember the legend that his grandfather had told him the night before about the panther girl.  He looks up into the stars and sees them in a pattern of a panther.

Still racing through the night hearing her own breathing growing heavy and her hair flying behind her wildly as she runs.  Knowing that she has
returned.  Hoping that she will feel the power of the panther again.

Now remember the legend of the panther girl he recalls it so he will be prepared when he comes up on her again.  His grandfather had told him that long ago a young girl had wondered into the forest for comfort after her mother's death.  She had asked for protection of the lord above, and he had given it to her by when the night is dark and the moon is high with the stars bright, only when she be either afraid for her life or when she would just want to feel the cool wind flowing through her black fur, would she turn into the black powerful panther.

Gasping for air she stops and looks around feeling cornered she climbs a tree once again for protection.  She sits and thinks of her mother that she had lost long ago.  Thanks to the angels above she had found protection and comfort.  She looks down and sees the man that has been after her coming down the trail.  She sits and watches him, wondering what he sees in her.

His legs feeling ready to give out he knows he must rest if he is to be of any good in searching for the girl, he drops to the ground and leans against the tree starring off into the distance wondering where the panther girl
was now.  He hopes and prays she is not to far off.  Feeling sleep take over him he has now power to resist, he falls into a dream filled sleep of running panthers.

Feeling more trapped then she has ever felt she looks down again and still the man sleeps under the tree.  How is she to get out of the tree without waking him up?  Looking for an escape route and finding none, she quietly climbs down the trunk of the tree leaping over the sleeping man.  She stands in front of him and looks him dead in the face while he sleeps.  Seeing a scar along his neck she shudders now knowing that it is he.

Opening his eyes he is starring at the beautiful girl that he had helped so long ago, no remember why the eyes of the panther were so familiar, it is she, the panther girl.  He reaches out his hand, hoping that she will take it.

Seeing his eyes open she blinks like the deer caught in the brightness of the light.  It could not be the man she had to look to for help that long ago, no it could not be.  The scar on his neck however says so otherwise.  He extends his hand to her she gently takes it not knowing what else to do.

He is the lord from the heavens that gave her the power to turn into the panther.  He is the lord that his grandfather talked about.  He came to her
when she prayed up to the heavens for protection and came down to show her that there was hope and that he would indeed help her, scratching his neck she had sat there crying and watching his neck bleed, taking her wrist he had slit it to mingle their blood together, and there he stood chanting.  And that is how she became the panther girl for he was the panther man.

Dropping to her knees she sits in front of him again, once again as she did three years ago.  Looking into those warm hopeful gray eyes, she smiles at him knowing he will not harm her for he is her father.

Rising to his feet he gently pulls her to hers.  Taking his daughter in his arms he whoppers that the time has come for them to finally go home.  Looking to the moon he growls as his fur is rustled by the wind.

Feeling free once again standing on all fours by her father she races through the **** of a new day with her blood father finally going home.
Eva Rushton Jul 2019
With a suitcase
Of a past
Belonging to
Another of me

Strain keeps pulling
In steps already taken
Scanning the beauty ahead
Looking at the swamp behind

Earth flys with the release
As the baggage crashes
Splaying open
It’s contents no longer contained

Dust devils swirl
As torments fly upward
Upon clearing
Vision magnifies

Movement is smooth
Freedom lunges me
Freeing mind and heart
Allowing achievement

Written by E. M. Rushton
July 2019
Jindomess Jul 2015
You hear it
Outside your room,
Almost like a whisper.
You lean closer
Knowing no one else is home.

All night
Things have been
Out of place:
Moved, scattered, tampered
Destroyed.
You keep looking
Over your shoulder.
Is someone there?
You ask yourself.
But only darkness
Awaits your gaze
Until now...

A figure, almost golden
Yet, you know you are alone
Only the stranger outside your room.
Again, you lean closer,
The breathing now a faint whisper:
"Reactivated"
The voice says
As you turn on your flashlight.
Shia surprise
He lunges towards you.
Slamming the door,
You are now safe
From Shia Labeouf
I wrote this after being inspired by Krešimir Kocijan's comment on Markiplier's "THEY'RE RIGHT BEHIND YOU... | Five Nights at Freddy's 4 - Part 2" video.
P.S. Thanks to Kagami for proof reading it
At goodwill Buy the Pound
every day is black friday
Hundreds of soccer moms line up their
white sneakers on a black and yellow caution tape line
zombie over it streching for yu-gi-oh cards
wait for hazmat suits to wheel out eight bins full of trash gone treasure.
When the bins are locked in place the hazmat suits go back to pack another load

The air horn sounds.
You do not want to be anywhere near that caution tape line when this happens.
At goodwill buy the pound
If you're not part of the fight,
you're part of the floor.
They need to find their
puzzle peices lost in cat liter
Johnny really needs
every single nerf dart
DID YOU TAKE A NERF DART?!
WE TALKED ABOUT THIS JO-ANN
THOSE WERE FOR JOHNNY.
Johnnys grandma is not the only elder throwing elbows
varacose veins are curb stomping dads hauling consoles to make a quick buck
Skinny College aged video game collectors swim through the mom-pocalypse
raid the stashes for disguarded NES cartridges
Jo-ann grabs a twinky boy by the black graphic hoodie.
Tosses him back into the horde
lunges for a barbie doll hidden under some wires.
This is not a place for nice children.
If you aren't willing to push around some nanas
you will leave covered in nike prints.
This place turns people.
Ever look at someones mom and think
She looks like she's always wearing a mask.
She is!
Buy the pound is her natural habitat.
One grandma keeps so many cats, her living room is a Petrie dish
I think she just wants to be in charge of a small third world countrey.
Granny needs to go rally up the soccer moms at buy the pound.
To lead those cats into a mother thirfting revolution
These woman leave feeling like they saved their family a fortune
Dumpster diving for sport.
Every tossed or trampled stranger
One flip flop closer to
feeding their children
clawing through poverty

When that airhorn sounds again.
They scurry back to their carts.
Tell their children
"Make sure nobody steals this"
as they line back up in haste.
Touch their all white nikes to the caution tape line.
Hold their family close like brass knuckles.
when that airhorn sounds.
It's time to fight.
manicsurvival Aug 2013
My eyes weren't burned blind with hot oil
I am not a brainwashed cult member
I do not think ignorance is bliss
And I see lies and truth as night and day
Some people speak to me
Like I've never walked outside my door
As if the truth could **** me
"But I'll tell you anyway"
We've all heard that one before
I know what's happening
I know that I am not the only person you're seeing
I know that you're vicious in your animalistic ways
The animalism that society identifies as "manly"
I'm sure others have received the text
The phone call
The words that make us feel needed
The words that make me feel like I am doing something I want to do
Even if I don't
I know that you're not perfect
I know that your mind is obsessive
And compulsive
And meticulous like neat stacks of paper
Or freshly cut grass
I still don't know how you value me
As a person
As an object
As a heart
As a brain
It could be any of the listed above
And even though you're not the perfect gentleman
I understand that people aren't perfect
I'm not blind to your mistakes
No one is covering my ears
Or hindering my senses
The truth is right in front of me
You are the truth
People look at me
As if I am an orphaned child
A recent widow
Still in denial because of the trauma
That life has presented to us
I know that you can be horrible
Cruel and abusive
At the same time
I know you can make me feel like the only person who has ever rested in your arms
And even if I'm not the only one
I know I'm not the only one
I accept it
Because your presence makes me feel better about myself
Your face motivates me to do well in all I do
Your body encourages me to run for miles and do hundreds of lunges
Maybe I'm using you just as much as you may be using me
We're messed up and mortified and scarred
"You can do better" they say
"You deserve someone who will treat you like a princess because you're intellectual and pretty"
What if I don't want that
What if all I want is to complacently stay
In a place that I don't necessarily belong
But it feels right
So I do
And that's why they think I'm blind
Senseless
Savannah N Nov 2014
slithers up the stairs
black as night his mutant skin drips upward
one
more
stair

she can hear him slink
one foot in front of the other
she retreats her hallowed head

the stalker climbs higher
higher than his arrogance could ever take him
and higher than the noose he has hung
for the depredation of her

screams forewarning in her head
this is the man which shares her bed
lunges forth and bolts the latches
head heart body spirit

bites the tattered tenderness
feels it bleed between his teeth
swallows her last atonement
so that there is nothing left to offer
envy rips through shivering splinters of a man
with nothing left to cover

she stalks across the bedroom
where she can see a hopeful face
where peaceful air once drifted high
will return again that way
a pis aller leap
from where she never stood again
this man will not be the death of her
for all the housewives afraid of their husbands
Maggie Dec 2010
I stare down at the enemy, or friend,
it lunges for me
it seems to give up,
but it lunges again.
Life?
No matter.
I gave that up a long time ago.
Love?
No matter.
No one loves me anymore.
Nature?
No matter
Nature holds no meaning for me.
There is one last gift I can give to this world.
The only thing I can give.  
Why?
The reasons to stay here?
Nada.
I watch him smoke the cigaret
And I hand him another one
Because I want to defect his lunges  
The way he neglected my heart
Mark Oct 2019
The Frog That Took A Giant Leap For Their Kind"  
 
Forever being laughed at for not being able to leap  
Always last in the frog army sport, called ‘Jumping over the Jeep’
The little jump frog was embarrassed to belong to such an army  
So he packed his things and headed off on a long journey  
He crossed all over, the large wetlands of Florida USA  
Even made a makeshift home, made out of some hay  
After feeling a very warm heat, from about a mile away  
He came across some steps, but when climbing, they began to sway  
Frightened by a loud bang and an almighty explosive roar  
He hopped inside the nearest room, via a big white door  
Then, all of a sudden, he felt his feet, effortlessly lift off the floor  
Floating past a small window, he couldn’t see the earth, anymore  
After a while, the room hit the ground, with an almighty thump  
Looking out, he saw a strangely dressed man, pray and then jump  
He followed the man and went on down a few gigantic steps  
After making his biggest ever leap and without special effects  
Luckily, the frog was caught on camera, so became the first of his kind  
To reach the faraway moon and take a great leap, if you don't mind.  
 
 
 
"The Hare That Looked Out Of Place"  
 
The local country fair had arrived in town  
But one animal was looking angry and down  
For the farmworker had placed the hare at the fair  
With another breed of animal, without any care  
He looked out of place, while sitting in the dog pound  
To the hare it felt more like a very scary hunting ground  
One child yelled out, "That's a very small doggy, Mummy"  
No it's not, said Mummy, but it'll make the dogs meal taste so yummy  
She ran to the ticket seller and said, "There's a hare out of place"  
He said, I think your hair is fine madam, but here's some gel, just in case  
When the farmer found out, he ordered the workers to quickly catch it  
And to make sure there's no more hares where the dogs will sit.  
 
 
 
"The Sheep That Escaped From The Bars"  
 
The large family farm was not really up to par  
Because the farmer would keep the sheep behind an iron bar  
They wanted to escape from behind the metal brass  
And wander about and eat more of the fresh green grass  
Eating packaged food was not treating them well  
But they were getting upset tummies and not feeling that swell  
So they hatched a plan so they could graze on the vast land  
A billy goat agreed to fetch a plank of wood and give them a hand  
In return he would get all the leftovers of the sheep's fake food  
So one by one they took the plunge and escaped for a better mood  
The goat had a ball opening and then eating so much more  
And the sheep could be heard for miles, laughing Baa-Baa galore.  
 
 
 
"The Monkey That Lost His Grip"  
 
His name is Chip and he just can't get a grip  
He has to hold on tight for the entire round trip  
His friends in the troop said he wasn't very hip  
Always having to wear a parachute with a safety clip  
He tried to branch out one day, but fell and hurt his hip  
Then one day he got up early and decided to leave without the equip  
Now the monkey named Chip was so brave and he ran with a skip  
And he swung from branch to branch without any major slip  
His friends were in awe of his huge lunges and gave no more lip  
So from that day forth, everybody said he had great grip to do his solo flip.  
 
 
 
"The Cheetah That Wished For No Spots"  
 
Cleaning his teeth using long green grass as dental floss  
The healthy Cheetah often wished he had no more spots  
He was tired of hearing, while playing Hide n Seek, the sound,  
Of his animal friends yelling, "We give up, for you can't be found"  
He thought, maybe he could wash away his camouflage dots  
By soaking himself for a while, in some warm water and soap in pots  
It might be a long shot to remove those game wrecking blots  
But at least his friends would have fun playing in Africa's back lots  
No said his friends, you were born with all of them  
And after all, your spots make us all different, Amen  
So stay like you are and we will find you one day  
But never ever try and wash those unique spots of yours away.  
 
 
 
"The Zebra That Painted Her Stripes"  
 
She looked in the river and saw her reflection  
Her skin colour made males look in another direction  
For her colours were not really that bright  
With her body stripes painted in black and white  
So the next day the lady zebra decided to get a makeover  
By getting colourful paint and brushing it all over and over  
Now she felt like a beautiful diamond of a gem  
And maybe others would take notice, especially the men  
But the day she went back to her favourite watering hole  
Everyone thought she belonged on a merry-go-round pole  
Then it started pouring down, the hail and the wet rain  
And washed off all her colourful paint down the drain  
She wasn't that sad when she heard the laughter of other zebras  
For she was now world famous, from all of the tourist cameras.  
 
 
 
"The Mouse That Was Forever Getting Trapped"  
 
The poor little mouse was forever getting himself trapped  
He couldn't stop from smelling the cheese, even when wrapped  
His concerned mother told him to visit a hypnotist  
To try and help him get off cheese, you get the gist  
If he gets trapped again, he might not be able to tell the tale  
Because if the help he receives fails, his face will turn pale  
So let's hope this short tale of some very sore mouse tails  
Helps the other obsessed cheese loving females and males  
Can the poor little mouse keep away from the snap?  
Let's all hope that he doesn't forget, after taking a quick catnap.  
 
 
 
"The Panda That Got Bored Of Giant Plain Bamboo"  
 
Sitting under the tree eating gigantic bamboo stalks, sat a cute Panda  
But eating one thing all day long was boring for the cutie named Sandra  
So the workers at the zoo tried to change her diet to see what it would take  
They tried strawberries, oranges, pizza, meatballs and even rib-eye fillet steak  
But none of this food worked, to make Sandra the cute Panda, less bored  
The workers were confused why the delicious food was simply ignored  
She started to lose weight and became very agitated  
Quickly the zoo staff asked for help, but really they had to be educated  
For pandas only eat bamboo and not much of the world's fine food  
By just adding a bit of spice would've changed her boring mood  
They hurried back to the zoo kitchen to prepare a spicy dish  
Chopping and stewing and even adding a few drops of relish  
Sandra loved the change in her daily food of bamboo  
And was happy again chewing on her new tasting food at the zoo.  
 
 
 
"The Owl That Didn't Give A Hoot"  
 
When the sun went down and the moon came out  
Some owls could be seen in the trees hooting about  
But a strange noise one owl gave, was worse than a toot  
For the owl, for some reason, didn't give a hoot  
This strange sounding owl instead, made more of a screech  
A sound that the English owls have never been able to reach  
For this different style speaking owl, is on holidays from afar  
And his spoken language is so unusual to ours, by far  
The other owls wanted to know how to screech like this alien bird  
For they were so bored, with only knowing how to speak one word  
So they all took quick language classes to learn how to French speak  
And their guest also learnt to belt out a bit of a hoot, from his foreign beak.  
 
 
 
"The Spider That Stood Too Tall To Crawl"  
 
A large daddy long leg spider named Paul  
Had such long legs he stood too tall to crawl  
He looked like a gigantic monster, standing way up top  
All other spiders who saw him, would come to a complete stop  
Frozen in their tracks, insects would free fall and dive  
And go so low between his legs to hopefully survive  
The spider himself would get a face full of cobwebs  
As he walked so tall into his own hand made project  
Enough he thought, and off he went for a professional opinion  
The doctor said, he had a name for his rather tall condition  
It was called nothing at all, you are like this on earth  
For all daddy long leg spiders are like this since birth  
So he was told to bend down more often, stretch and do some exercise  
And to watch out for that high floating killer insect spider pesticide.  
 
 
 
"The Elephant That Couldn't Make A Trunk Call"  
 
While playing a game of elephant soccer together  
Using a coconut for a ball which was as light as a feather  
The elephant herd had finally ran out of pace  
One player named Noel didn't stop until he fell flat on his face  
When he got home later that night after his great fall  
He tried, but couldn't make his routine long distance trunk call  
But nothing came out and he went into shock  
Noel the elephant thought he had swallowed a rock  
So off down the road to the local doctor he went  
Also complaining about his loss of his favourite flowers scent  
The doctor first said, it could be all in your mind  
But after shinning a light he saw what it was, well down behind  
For it was the coconut the herd had been playing with before, with Noel  
After a tickle on the trunk, Noel shot it out and somehow scored a goal.  
 
 
 
"The Koala That Was Always Bare"  
 
Kyle the Koala loved to just sit in the trees and eat his leaves  
The tourist would come and take photos without having to pay any fees  
But he once took a peek at one of those friendly tourist's cameras Polaroid  
He saw some family pets wearing fashionable clothes and was rather annoyed  
For you see, Kyle then noticed, that he was always totally bare  
Dogs with jackets and cats with gloves, but he had nothing at all to wear  
So he decided to make all of the paparazzi pay for their shots  
When he saved enough money, he dressed up with the lots  
He purchased some pants, a hat and T-shirt and a colourful woolly scarf  
He felt more natural and not as bare, but mainly because, he made all of the tourists laugh.  
 
 
 
"The Rabbit That Stared Into The Light"  
 
When Warren the rabbit went out on the town  
He wore a lucky tail, pinned all the way down  
Hiding from cars, buses and motorbikes driving past  
Then hurriedly crossing the road, hoping not to be the last  
For if you were left behind, you'd be all alone to cross again  
And be able to have the strength to not look into the lights of the men  
But on this night he kept on staring straight into the light  
His mother always told him, to wear sunglasses at night  
The car stopped and out stepped the driver and along with his passenger  
Warren couldn't move even a bit, luckily for him, it was just a messenger  
The driver picked him up and placed him on the other side of the road  
Thanks, he said to himself, next time I might've got no respect, like that man showed.
© Fetchitnow
20 October 2019.
This children’s fun, colorful and rhyming, little THAT animal book is only for children from ages, 1-100. So please enjoy.
[December 30, 2016]

A brilliant statue of golden illuminated scales dances effortlessly in the sky
Twisting and turning like a bird changing air currents as if it were alive
Enormous in it's stature it blocks out the sun with powerful wings of luminosity
Flames of a dozen colors lick the air, sizzling with a hint of animosity

An evil shadow shrouds the village as the gemstone serpent soars overhead
Roaring with a thousand echoing voices, the world turns silent with dread
With a sudden shift in posture, it dives like a freshly loosed flaming arrow
The people scatter like ants beneath its hungry gaze, calling for their hero

Like a meteor, the serpent crashes into the earth with an explosion of dirt
Tendrils of fire stream from the crater as the houses erupt in bursts
Unseen mangled screams of anguish fill the scene from covered smoke
With a flap, a gust and a roar of fury, it separates air from choking cloak

Villagers stare in awe at the legendary creature standing ominously before them
Scales of crimson ruby glisten behind a furious glare of murderous intent
One brave villager steps forward, adorned in polished silver mail
The hero draws a sword, raises his shield and prepares to fail

The dragon charges forward, lashing out with tooth and claw
The knight lunges back, narrowly missing a bite from its maw
It spits fire of molten lava, melting the armor to his skin
Burning alive inside his armor, his flesh sizzles beneath his grin

Defeated and broken, he places his sword into the earth
Stumbling and shaking, he limps to the burning church
He returns with a large ruby stone in his trembling arms
He places the egg at it's mother's feet, safely unharmed

The crimson dragon solidified into a glimmering golden statue
Caressing her ruby egg against her breast, love forever true
The legends tell not a tale of a ferocious and unstoppable creature
But of a gemstone serpent, who wanted to protect her piece of nature
Author Note: The first of my "Gemstone" Series.
Gemstone Serpent [December 30, 2016]
Category: Fiction/Fantasy/Gemstone Series I.
A story about a dragon whom destroys a village in an attempt to save her child.
Alicia Strong Nov 2011
Someone.
One person is all I ask.
Maybe they'll find the time to read this.
Even though it's sad;
One persons greatest fear,
Never quite finding it's way to the surface,
Even though it's always just below it.

Heaven finds a way to taunt me now and then,
Even though I medicate my thoughts away,
Light always fades, and darkness
Plunges through.

My story is one of fear, of despair,
Even. But maybe, I'll find a way out of this

Insanity.

Sex.
Everyone expects me to believe that it doesn't hurt,
Even though they see how tentative I am,

They plainly see how scared I am.
History goes on for...
Ever. And ever and ever and ever.

Why can't anyone let me be in peace?
Hello, I'm looking for a way out.
Instead of helping me,
They just shut me down and out.
Everyone seems to think they know me.

Luckily for them, they don't.
Inside, I hide my true thoughts away, but that turned me into a
Ghost. A former shell of myself, wandering around aimlessly.
Help me? When will it stop? Because the white light at the end of the
T**unnel, was just a freight train coming my way.
Why do people tend to add *** to everything? Everyone seems to think that because I'm a teenager, *** is on my mind constantly. Oh, world, you don't seem to understand that I'm the absolute complete opposite. No, media, I won't sell myself out, I have my own morals to stick to, thanks.
Steam rises to meet my face as I slip lower into the bath. I can hear John in the living room, hear the floor stretch under his weight.
Though I know he's aware of my presence, I shallow my breathing. Slow my movement to a crawl.
Oh God, don't let him hear me...
The click of the T.V. says he's out for the night, gone to those around him. I breathe a sigh of relief and lift my neck from the water.
The door of the bathroom opens, and carried in on the rush of air conditioning, I catch his sickly sweet smell.
He's been drinking.
His eyes are lazy, yellow and sunk in his skull. He smiles at me, for a moment I see the man I married. The illusion is gone with the realiziation that it's false. The room is cool, but not from the fresh air.
I can feel his chill, the chill of unobtained dreams.
"Hey, honey." He breathes as he stumbles to the tub. "Did you miss me?"
I look at him wide eyed. After 12 years in this mess, it still frightens me to hear his slur.
He takes my silence like poisin.
"No, of course you didn't. Ungrateful *****...."
He turns to leave the bathroom, I stand and reach for my towel.
He spins and lunges for me like an animal let out of a cage.
I feel the blows, heavy thuds. My face, and arms. He shakes me, and I hear my head crack on the tiled wall.
"Why don't you love me...?" He asks, but I'm not sure who he wants the answer from. I lie still, tasting the salt and iron.
I hear him collapse on the couch once more, hear the child I gave him stir in the other room.
Momma's coming, baby. Hold on.
I open the drain, and let the water run down with my blood.
IncadesentCat Aug 2014
My foggy breath crawls up the inside of my throat
And lunges past my teeth
With a happy turbulence.
Spreading over the crest of the hill,
It graces the treeline with joy
And disappears deep into the forest.

Stags wander through it's remains,
In an absolute nobility
And earthly humility,
As they catch the sound of icy grass beneath my boots
Bounding far, like children who
Imagine creepy-crawlers biting at their feet.

My appearance scatters the sleepy branches
Of somber firs,
And new-born scotch;
Leaving them to dance and flirt
With the timeless frost, suspended in air
Lifted and churned by my foggy breath.

Resting against the mossy logs
Just beyond the treeline,
I watch brittle flakes fall
And blanket a gently robust field with crystal
That comes to a final rest and conclusion.
My day has gone to waste.
It is noontime, Senlin says. The sky is brilliant
Above a green and dreaming hill.
I lay my trowel down. The pool is cloudless,
The grass, the wall, the peach-tree, all are still.
It appears to me that I am one with these:
A hill, upon whose back are a wall and trees.
It is noontime: all seems still
Upon this green and flowering hill.
Yet suddenly out of nowhere in the sky,
A cloud comes whirling, and flings
A lazily coiled vortex of shade on the hill.
It crosses the hill, and a bird in the peach-tree sings.
Amazing! Is there a change?
The hill seems somehow strange.
It is noontime. And in the tree
The leaves are delicately disturbed
Where the bird descends invisibly.
It is noontime. And in the pool
The sky is blue and cool.
Yet suddenly out of nowhere,
Something flings itself at the hill,
Tears with claws at the earth,
Lunges and hisses and softly recoils,
Crashing against the green.
The peach-tree braces itself, the pool is frightened,
The grass-blades quiver, the bird is still;
The wall silently struggles against the sunlight;
A terror stiffens the hill.
The trees turn rigidly, to face
Something that circles with slow pace:
The blue pool seems to shrink
From something that slides above its brink.
What struggle is this, ferocious and still--
What war in sunlight on this hill?
What is it creeping to dart
Like a knife-blade at my heart?
It is noontime, Senlin says, and all is tranquil:
The brilliant sky burns over a greenbright earth.
The peach-tree dreams in the sun, the wall is contented.
A bird in the peach-leaves, moving from sun to shadow,
Phrases again his unremembering mirth,
His lazily beautiful, foolish, mechanical mirth.
It cuts through shallow waters
darting in and out of coral shelf's
fish poke their heads from crevasses
waiting for this lone hunter to pass

On the white sandy ocean floor
a flounder gains purchase and digs deep
an Octopus moves into the open
then panics, retreats as ink it seeps

A sudden splash from the surface
takes this killer of the deeps attentions
acute is the smell of blood that is fresh
turning to it's fate that is beyond it's comprehension

With muscular movements it is propelled
heading to the warmth of sun drenched surface
in the distance it see's it's quarry complete
it speeds up just another twenty or so feet

With powerful jaws it lunges and snaps at it's prey
and as it tries to pull it's victim to the depths
it knows not that this is the last day of it's life
does not comprehend that it's fin will be cut off with a knife

Knows not that it will be wriggling on a wooden deck
held down by killers that don't give a ******'s heck
for they mean to cut off it's fin
then offer this poor creature to the sea again


By Christos Andreas Kourtis aka NeonSolaris
Poetic T Jun 2016
We were frolicking through the streets, amusing ourselves
with what was noting less than bliss.

"Points mean prizes my friends,

"Knock the door go on,
"You do it man,

As they walk up to the door one is smiling the other of a
nervous disposition, "relax man,  they discuss the doorbell
or the policeman knock?
The knock is better louder of course attention grabbing
but then other neighbours will hear its echo and curiosity
will awaken them to phones and regrettably police.

The door bell is rang, but not a murmur so repeatedly
they tap it until luminosity awakens and words of
profanity dripped out like a leaky tap. "Dam,
Looking at each other, as hallway lights emerged and
footsteps danced down the stairs a melody of F's P's
and a kaleidoscope of others painted the air.

If I had a swear jar on this house I 'd be a rich man,
as he unlocks the many bolts. "Not a trusting man I see,
The door takes an age to open as we wait eagerly and
then he grinds it open slower than a snail in a race
with a bullet we start to get frustrated.

"Foot meet door, door meet foot,

As the door releases back and the chain is deprived of
its clasping the gentlemen is thrown back not with a
racket but more like slow motion. Then he hits the floor
Like china thrown from a fourth storey balcony.
Then there is silence, "Check his pulse man,
As one of them linger over him listening to what
ever sign of life is left and then like he was reanimated
from the dead he lunges forward and grabs a clump of
hair. One laughs while the other one screams in a girly
kind of shrike. Composing himself quickly, one swift
five knuckle plant and again the gentlemen is out cold.

"You scream like a girl man,
"Did you see that, it was like one of those zombie flicks,
"Ye right, your just a wetter ma man,

As they stood over the man, now joined by his hysterical wife.
Luckily they always carried a roll of duck tape, you never know
when this will come in handy. As the other wrapped it tightly
around her thin lined lips, and the storm became a drizzle of
crying murmurers. Looking at each other knowing that this only
works in the dark they thought of ways to awaken the sleeping
beauty?

"I'll punch him, "Really that got us here in the first place,
Pondering on thoughts one skipped into the adjacent room,
"Dude what are you six,  A silence of embarrassment lingered
as into the kitchen he rummaged through the cupboards like a
homeless dog in the litter bin. Looking in the fridge he found
what was needed.
"What ya going to do rub it under his nose that kipper stinks,
"Some thing like that,

He unwraps it gagging at the odour that perforates the air,
"How can you eat this it smells like a prostitutes well used bits,
The woman smirks in a half terrorized quarter amused mumble.
As he nears his prey fish wrapped in a hand towel, whiffing it
below his nostrils. This isn't working the thought, "F#ck it,
Raising his arm up in the air he slaps the unconscious gent clear
in the chops. He stutters awake in confusion wandering what
was happening then in realization he speaks in ferocity.

"What the hell you doing my house, violating our residency,

"Now that's we like the feisty ones,

An edged smile greets the bound hostages, then the rules are
read out, "Are we listening, the untapped swear tin is about
to release a tirade of profanity on both so they bind his mouth
with what is needed (Shut Um Up Duck Tape) [tm] then silence
is blessed on there ears and they begin quickly to explain the
happenings they find themselves in.

"Why you slumbered we went through your thinks,
"Madam that was quiet a section we found in the bedroom,
"Sir are we on the limp list, there are tablets for that,

"Rules stick to them and maybe you'll survive,
"Not and a lot of bad things can happen,

1. Try to alert anyone they and you die.
2. If you try to escape we have family members addresses
we will hunt them and end them with no hesitation.
3. Have fun as your life depends on it, be imaginative.
4. We have rid the house of any and all knives and blades
5. creativity is the master of invention, you understand.

As the old guy rumbles on trying to speak, he un-tapes
his mouth and listens to his frustrated rabbling's.


"How we know you'll not just **** us,
"This isn't our first or 26th no 27th in fact rodeo.
"There were six of us unfortunately there have been
winners and losers on both sides,

"We are but three lonely shepherds now,
"Three I only see two?
"Our friend is outside guarding the entertainment value
of this diverting fun tonight,


And then without words he said two his playthings,
"You have to the count of 100 to hide to do what must be done
make your peace fight or die its your choice,


They untapped there mouths as to not be muffled of sound
easier to hear on the ear if there crying in fear, and with that
the gentleman gives a capture a five knuckle tap.

"Good shot, and good on you, now run dead man walking,

They both scarpered hand in hand, love will **** you the
other man thought as he watched them run like rabbits.
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.................100,
You wouldn't believe it but a hundred seconds takes
quite a long time in the aspect of what were doing.

They at first play games as stomping upon the laminated floor,
so many had ran when they had done this, Idiots. but these
two never flinched, hats off to there courage. Then tactic No2,
we know where you are, were going to come to play with your
insides with our loving blades they like to penetrate you deeply.

As wandering feet did walk on the cold floor they heard the
scurrying of ill footsteps, "we have a rat scampering beneath
our very feet,
Both with smiles lingered on the basement footsteps
and slowly descended as what was waiting clambered around in
aimless wondering. Both thought it was the lonely cowering wife.
Not as once thought as the swear box in the darkness gave birth
to profanities and in the midst of our arrival he was weeping like
a new born child. Our knifes were his voice as blood silenced it.

We wiped the memories of his last lingering moments from
the existence of his blade, this fool thought he had strength but
in the end it bled out faster than others before him.
But wait a moment what about the one that blubbered her
fear in a cascade of tears where was she hiding?
"I can smell your fear it sweetens the air,
Both separated to find and cull the last of this herd.

"Please don't hurt me,
"I'm all alone,

He snuck through the hall way hearing here speech in the
darkened bedroom. His knife drawn, to plunge into its
awaiting pray. heading towards the cupboard he thinks
the prey is getting easier these days. "Found you, as
he opens it wide to find a tape recording on repeated play
and a note saying heel *****.... A confused look on his face
till blood seeped silently down his face. In rage he swipes
missing her by millimetres, then she says one final word.
"These are $500 shoes, and gouges it deeply into his throat.

Screaming in gargled silence, his last sight was her giving him
the finger and her foot gently crushing his throat. She got her
manicured fingers and gently grabbed her neck, cracking the
stress out with each crunch.
"There were three little pigs now there are two...
"Oink, Oink, she giggled in nervous thought.

He stood on the stairs shouting in a lulled voice his partners
name, but with no echo of voices he knew that the game was a
foot and another of his clan had paid the ultimate price.
So the husband with all his voice was a lamb to the slaughter
but the wife, the quiet ones are always the ones to look out for.

He was more cautious now that only the two of them breathed,
they were both the prey but who would be the winner of this contest?
he looked upon the box emptied earlier in haste, the gun?
looking inside a note was penned in scribbled in quickened haste.
"If your reading this well done you found only one of my guns,
"BANG,

He jumped back in embarrassment, he looked around in case the
other was lingering in silence behind him. But no one was there
to his pride and ego he sighed out loud. now was the time to seek
the prize, the hunt was needed as in the next room he found the
still warm but deceased comrade with the heel still in his neck.
"That is so not your colour my man,
He thought there isn't many places to hide in this house, yes it
was larger than the pervious ones but that was half the fun or
was It half there down fall?

She crept within the walls this house was of the cotton days,
hiding those needing escape, through the mirror she saw him
wanting nothing more than to end his life.. but she had no
weapon, or was that a false thought as there were the old swords
Sitting ideal in the loft. They were still sharp as she had found out
not but a few months ago. Paper cut my ****... it needed six stitches
but that had now healed as she subconsciously ****** her finger.

He was getting agitated at the aspect that he maybe next,
but brushing aside that thought he went into the mode of hunter,
seeing if odours of perfume lingered in the air but noting greeted
senses except the smell of blood festering on the air.

"Come out and play I haven't got all night to linger in this place,

She could hear fear in his voice he tried to hide it beneath his manly
fasard that was crumbling like a weather worn cliff on the presapace
of collapse. She was a very varied woman that they didn't know,
fear had collapsed her in the first moments but now that had faded
like a sunset, she was a ventriloquist by trade in her youth quite the
entertainer. But she was retired and welcomed the rest, but no time
was there to catch a breath let alone to breathe.

He was starting to think, he should count his loses and leave.
then he heard voices but not from one spot but other places in
the house. Unbeknown to him there was an intercom system
and she was throwing her voices though out the house.
"Who is that , what do you want, How could there be more
than one? There was only two he thought, were  they wrong when
they entered this house? A lone wolf that needed the blood before
his blood was spilt.

She was happy that she took out one with her skills, now it was
the other two players turns she was going to quarter back slap the
hell out of this final invader of her sanity. But how could she play
him? Her husband was dead, she knew that for a fact they were bragging it through out there gloating verses. This was her moment
to show who the wolf was and that they were the sheep herded to
the optimistic place of the final ****, her or them.

She saw him silent and still, she had never seen him this weak, but
this was his chance to save her skin, she found fishing wire, and a
pardon the pun, a broom you know where that went to keep him
stable and up right. The intercom crackled she played his voice
over and over again she used to drive him crazy with he
impersonations of him, it always brought a laugh but the were silent now.

"Come on think I'm dead you cant **** anger you child of
pathetic consequence,
  

He feverishly thought of moments past was he dead?
they had gutted him like a fish, how could this be.
Phoning the cover outside he said this was his play and
if It ended he was exiting stage left. One final voice spoke
that he knew the rules if he was to exit then he was to end
his existence, there were rules for a reason.

She was had it planned the recorder the fish wire and that broom,
saying her apologies to her dearly departed but it wasn't anything
strange those toys upstairs weren't only hers you know.
Calling over the intercom, "Lets party you, swear box was
blessed with over a hundred coins the tirade of vocal words she
expelled on the air waves. He recognized that expel of vocabulary
as that person he ended not so few hours ago and confusion ignited
on his features to what the hell was going on in this place.

Stepping in palpitating haste he descended in slow motion, not
with the vigour of what was replayed earlier in the night.
"I killed you once old man I'll do it again,
But fear was expelled this time not courage of the **** like before,
He took played his fingers on the wall to find the switch.
No longer did it enlighten the surroundings, he was in darkness,
and then before him he stood, but he cant stand he had gutted him
and no one comes back from that.

"Who says I'm dead, your just a poor excuse for a mummies boy
go on cry ya little...,


Then in haste he lunged at the oldd man, not thinking straight.
fear and anger eclipsed ratinal thought as he sang his blade into
his skull. Cold eyes stared back, then he realized It was a trap,
He felt it but it was not as he thought he would have felt his
skin screamed out in tears of crimson. A sword was visual
through the front and back of his own self. He swore at her
knowing his time was moments away. she spoke from the dark,

"Its not this that's going to **** you, remember what you found
in the bedroom,


"Oh come on lady just plunge the blade in again I cant move,

But she didn't listen  as she bludgeoned his face with it, different features greeted with each impact till his features were just blooded and
he no longer moved anymore. Her face was a collage of blood from
those she had ended, holding her husband in her arms stroking his
remaining hair. Kissing him on the head she gently put him down.
Opening the porch door she spoke out, "I have ended this playtime
I am the queen of this house, the others are still, static you going to
end me now?

"Rules are rules I'm sorry but I must leave you now,
"Congratulations for winning your life,
"Sorry you lost whoever pasted in the game,
"Know if they had walked out they would have been dead,
"Rules are rules,

There was silence, then on the doorstep she rested her bloodied hands
on her knees and tears of fear, of courage poured out.
She was the winner of this even though she felt totally lost.
Sirens were heard in the distance and she just sat there still....
2684 words wholly poo... this is my longest most difficult write to date.. thanks to all who take the time to read it there maybe a few grammar mistakes but I`m so tired it took three days to write...
Face, Hands, Feet
Feet, Face, Hands
Hands, Feet, Face

I read life in faces
in smiles
in wrinkles
and crinkles
and crow’s feet
I read life in faces
in tears
in eyes
and byes
and wibbly wobbly lips
I read life in faces
in blushes
in glances
and tilted winks
and looks of surprise
I read life in faces
in eyebrows
in eye-rolls
and shakes of the head
I read life in faces
In expressions
In language
And voices
And accents
I read life in hands
In calluses
In knuckles
and bitten fingernails
I read life in hands
In lines
In creases
and lefts
And rights
I read life in hands
In paper cuts
in ink stains
and picked at cuticles
I read life in hands
In holds
In handshakes
and chin resting places
I read life in hands
In puppets
In tickles
And pinky promises

I read life in feet
In walks
In tip-toes
And dances
I read life in feet
In heels
In flats
and grass between toes
I read life in feet
In steps
In lunges
And plunges
And climbs
I read life in feet
in far-a way’s
In nearbyes
And sock-feet at home
I read life in feet
Not inches
Not yards
Nor meters
Not miles per hour
But feet.

Face,Feet,Hands
Hands,Face,Feet
Feet,Hands,Face

— The End —