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Crystal Peterson May 2018
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You've done it a hundred times before
But just when you thought the day would come
When you'd lose track of time
You'd forget when it was
And you wouldn't have to count anymore
You thought you were free of it
You'd made it far enough
You thought you'd gone long enough
You thought it was over....

You fall right back to zero.
Isobel G Dec 2010
4 months,
4 months of nothing,
4 months of silence,
4 months of heartache,
4 months of restraint,
4 months of nights spent crying alone,
4 months of waiting for you to come home,
4 months later,
4 months later, we're fighting,
4 months later, we don't speak,
4 months later, you're sorry,
4 months later, I've lost hope,
4 months later, I can't be with you,
4 months later, you call one last time,
4 months later, you say goodbye again,
4 months later, were back to 4 months ago
©Nicola-Isobel H.     29.12.2010
AllAtOnce Sep 2014
Six months coming, six months gone
Six months going, six months on
Breaking rules and changing minds
Love is coming love is mine
Six months came and six months went
Six months going and six months sent
Twisting tongues like hungry fire
Electric touches, inching higher
Six months left and six months sees
Six months knowing what we'll be
Locking hands and spinning round
Dancing slowly and thinking loud
Six months came and will again
Six months loves what six months ends
Patrick Austin Sep 2018
Our Backgrounds before we met...

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

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

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

2002

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

2003

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

2004

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

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

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

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

2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

2006

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

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

2007

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

2008

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

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

2009

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

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

2010

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

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

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

2011

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

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

2012

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

2013

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

2014

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

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

2015

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

2016

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

2017

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

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

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

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

2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a really hard time, this difficult spell could have been a tool to better our relationship. I wanted to experience more beautiful memories with her. We had so many more beautiful memories and dreams left to create. This is what marriage looks like to me now as I lower the casket.
This is a timeline of the major events during my 13 year marriage. Amidst the reality, I injected all the lovely memories that refuse to leave my mind.
calion May 2014
13 months ago I experienced the biggest heartbreak I ever had.

12 months ago I was on a high.

11 months ago I made new friends.

10 months ago I did new things.

9 months ago I began writing more and more.

8 months ago I began a new school.

7 months ago I found a new best friend.

6 months ago I tried something different.

5 months ago I met a guy who understood.

4 months ago I began feeling cold.

3 months ago I felt nothing.

2 months ago I missed you.

1 month ago I cried every time I saw the color blue.

but now I realize that I am finally over you.

and oh how sweet it finally is.
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.
SVL Jan 2018
It's about 6 months later,
And your name continues to roll off my tongue
Like desperate droplets of water that,
Had by chance, gracefully made it's journey through the canopy of a forest.

It's about 6 months later,
And I continue to be tantalized,
As I reminisce about the moments of your very first touch.
The steady beating of your heart,
As my head lay stolid against your warm bust.

It's about 6 months later,
And your name still feels like home, yet so far away from home.
So close that I can touch it with my heart, but
So far that I can't even reach it with my arm.

It's been roughly 6 months later,
And I'm still not quite over you.
Your poetic stained lips drew me in like a bee to a flower;
******* up every single drop of nectar I could,
Concocting pure honey out of our love for each of us to devour.

It's about 6 months later,
And I am still entangled within your love.
Without the slightest intention of breaking free;
In hopes that I'll be somehow trapped for all of eternity, but,
Then again I have to think.
"Is this really the best thing for me?"
"Is the distance now between our hearts too far out of reach?"

Because it's been about 6 months now,
And it seems like you've moved on...
It's funny because I thought we would be together
Till Michael Jackson decided to sing another song,
Till Perry Christie gets re-elected, or,
Till Donald trump likes black folks at all.
All 3 things simply impossible,
As the thought of me and you not together.

But, it's been about 6 months now, and,
I'm beginning to feel a little bit under the weather.
"Together forever?", my friends would ask.
"Did you not hear me?" I would say
"Together forever, but for real this time...I'm sure of it...Trust me,
I know what I'm doing...I....love...him."

It's about 6 months later,
And I wonder every day if the thought of me ever crosses your mind.
If you think about us laying down watching the starry night sky while you're on your high,
If you happen to laugh from time to time about our silly inside jokes.
Remember baby, sigh...sigh...sigh...todo.

I sometimes ponder as to if it was real or was it just another story that began with "once upon a time",
But I always seem to find myself missing your poetically inclined, open mind, ******* you're fine,
Please take up all my time,
My heart begins to beat faster and faster.
****, I hope this story ends with "Happily Ever After".

It's about 6 months later,
And I pray that 6 months from now,
You will be able to look into my eyes and remember me
As the girl who has the audacity to be beautiful
Even on days when everything around her is ugly.
The girl who correlates your name with angels of a heavenly choir Singing at the beautiful exodus of her flight into the heavens.
The girl who was not afraid to get up in front of an audience
Of people she did not know,
Not only to prove to you that she was worth it,
But to pour out of her heart the startling truth...
That it's about 6 months later, and I am still solely in love with you.
This is something that I wrote over a year ago after ruining a relationship. The situation is long over with, in the past, and has no correlation to the present, but I felt as though I should share. Thanks for reading <3
Redshift Jun 2015
it's so amazing how easily i can determine
that i was not insane for a year and a half
now that you no longer block out the sun.

yeah, maybe i still can't look at your face
because i am so afraid to see you and have you trick me back into sympathy and compassion.

me, the girl who loved a ******.

maybe jesus taught me too well to love those that persecute me
he made me to fall in love with the man who grabbed me by the wrists and held me down.
would my father
would my pastor
would anyone
honor me for the sacrificial love i displayed for a year and a half
holding him
giving myself to him
loving him
would they pat me on the back
and say that i truly understand the love of god
letting a man ravage my life
for a year
and a
half

i don't even know the months anymore.
i've stopped counting
because i've stopped torturing myself
because i no longer can say
"here is the day he took it away from me
and here i am, still letting him over and over again."
the months past do not matter now.

i will start counting for a different reason:

1 month since i told him enough is ******* enough
2 months since i cut my arms open, writing my sins in my flesh
3 months since i decided that jesus was wrong
that loving my enemies will **** me
make my insides rot
that not loving this enemy
is simply
self preservation
4 months since i got my voice back.
5 months since i started to feel a heart beating in my chest again instead of a hollow socket
6 months since i laid in bed my head and tongue bursting with hate at the mere thought of his hands rough against me, mouth against my ear
7 months since i stopped lying to everyone around me about what really happened that first night
8 months since my body revolted as my mind toiled on in utter confusion, darting from one frightened thought to the next
9 months since i had to worry about carrying a child that he conceived alone
10 months since i beat my head against a cement wall, trying to smash the memories
of what he did to me
11 months since i hugged his mother and met his family wanting to tell them they had a ****** predator for a son
1 YEAR SINCE I LET A BOY CONSUME THE ESSENCE AND JOY AND PURITY OF WHO I AM AND WHAT I WISH I COULD BOLDLY STAND FOR.

i will count the future months
on the gritty pockmarked sidewalk to recovery
until i find again my way
to a sound mind
a sound body
and a sound heart
victimize me no longer,
you who removed from me my innocence
and hung it around my neck
like an albatross that i shot
and not you...

to love again, will be an awfully big adventure.
it's not at all perfect or really as well done as it could be but i don't really care. i'm proud of myself.
Ayeshah Jan 2014
Five months ago
  things didn't seem
to matter,
this spiral
             I've crashed down
into was my
every day norm.

           Five months ago
I'd allow myself to
be talked to
any type of way,
find comfort
in your
taunts
lies
    games
            and
   ******

fulfillment
               since
I thought
five months ago
he would change,
            I praised myself for
being in a
toxic relationship
& staying strong,
thought
I'd be weak if I left.

Five
   months
ago
    I thought

I needed
           you,
thought that
I was your soul catcher
the one meant to
protect & support your tyrant ways.

Five
    months
ago
               I'd listen to
you & follow
           your lead,
pray for us
prayed for me,
the answer came
                when I felt lies welling up
constantly
drowning on em choking from
      them swimming deep
like sharks attacking
                   me over & over
I five months ago
felt the magnitude of betrayal
                     felt what I thought was
my world caving in,
          hurt me with your
words then love me
            in bed so slowly,
I laid there most times
                thinking what the ****
am
I doing here-
then
you'd make
       my body react,
make me feel so good,
                  five months ago I'd let you.
Let you control and demand things
                             from me more of myself
                to where
I had barley anything left to give.

        I'm grieving a loss
that's easily mending,

Five months
I'd of begged
        even pleaded,

Five months ago
I'd of ran into those
         strong open arms,
now
       I've recapture
the woman
I wish to become
the woman
     I'm working on.

How's it
         I've allowed you so
  much authority
             over me & courtesies
       of my life,

I made you boss
and
I like the luggage & baggage
I still carry,
you where the one
                  playing with my strings
the puppet- your dummy
a fowl fool

I've been
         but that's
    no longer
relevant
    since
           that was

FIVE Months Ago!*

Always Me Ayeshah ®
Copyright 1977 - Present ©
K.A.C.L.N ©
All right reserved ®
just thinking out loud.... therapeutic.............
Nine months
since My
Last
Drink.

Nine months.

That is
Significant
in an obvious way.

Nine months,
Today.

Nine months since
I last sipped
purposeful poison.
Nine months since
I last heard
the beautiful
tink-tink-tink
of ice
swirling around
into amber
glass
wall.
Nine months since
I last melted
away
into caramel-
and smoke-
flavored
oblivion.
Nine months since
I last felt
the burning hole
in my gut
weep red and raw
and wail for more
More
MORE.

Nine months since.

Nine months today.

Does that make me a new man?
Am I a New Man yet?
Am I re-born?

The bags
under my eyes
are gone
but it's still Me
I see
looking back
from that glass.

It's still Me.
I'm the Same Man.
I just found
some New Pleasures.
And New Problems
to go with them.

Happy Birthday,
Little Man.
Cindy Jan 2018
12 months
12 months of self love
no more self deprivation.
12 months to spread love
no more hatred.
12 months of pure bliss
for myself and no one else.
12 months of pain
to help me grow, not to scar me.
12 months.
all it takes is 12 months to have a fresh start once again.
12 months to forget about you.
i hope it's enough.
12 months all to myself
for my own bliss, not yours.
                                                                                                        i loved you
                                                                                  now its time for myself.
Carly Bunch Mar 2014
it's been 6 months since you've been gone.
that's half a year.
half a life.
half my life.
half your life.
6 months of pain.
of wanting to cry.
to hurt.
to be gone.

it's been 2 months since you've gotten here.
2 more months since hes been gone.
2 months of my life.
of your life.
of his life.
2 months of happiness.
of no tears.
no hurt.

I still feel the pain
but with your 2 months
his 6 months
and those infinities
I think I can survive.
this is based off of the death of my dad and finding the person i love, so if it doesnt really make sense thats why
Ayeshah Sep 2013
He said we'd be happy, in love- together forever.

His Forever was 10 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago,

His Forever was me waiting for a love that wasn't truly there, a loyalty that only I gave,
empty words- promised after your battery and being choked out.

His Forever was me with many lonely nights and calls of concerned &my; ears listening to you laughing,
saying "i love you woman" yet its not me you've said this to, that was,
10 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago.

He said we'd communicate & work things out, be faithful, loyal and always devoted forever.
His Forever was 10 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago,

His Forever was me being an attentive house wife,mother to his children lover and intimate companion,friend, plus budget keeper and everything else he'd might of needed,
That was 10 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago,

His communication was speaking about me in a disrespectful way just to get sympathy from whom ever would sway his way
His communication was lying to me, lying to our children and everyone it'd seem- about everything,
from his wear about the newborn child and the money we, me & his children went with out,
we struggled when we never had to just so he could court a woman who apparently already has a man.

Sharing things with her and doting on her son, given her what should of been the promises he failed to keep with me.
His Forever was 10 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago,

His Forever was 10 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago,
Where he said he'd do anything in his power to make things better,
but that was 10 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago,

For Better become For Worse after only 3 to 4 years of marriage.

Until Death Do Us Part, was the death of what could of been something magical.

His Through Sickness& In Health was carried out by his DWI, and me continuously~ standing,supporting him & sticking by.

Yet when I needed him and stuck in the hospital there was no through sickness or in health.

His Forsaking all other, well that was the year before 10 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago,

Within the first year everything seemed perfect the illusion's of what we or I've striven to achieve...
If you're confused that was, 11 years, 8 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 18 sec ago.

I remember holding hands and laughing for sometimes no reason at all,
Walks in the park sometimes down the street just to enjoy each others company.
Laying in bed gazing into each others eyes,hands entwined.

Love letters handwritten of all the lustrous and love felt feelings expressed where words vocally couldn't express,
A wedding day that made him cry and i watched 1 single tear fall from his eye as he said I do.
He didn't and never been that type of man since.

Fist on my face, slapped down choked and ****** assault, lies and stealing what little i had,
jail became his best friend, where he learned to hone his abilities to deceive.

But truth is,
I blamed me for a lot of it until I realized I gave all I can and did my best.
It wasn't me it was him and i had to leave, taking the children with me.

I can say all in all I've learned a painful lessons...

I'm only sad it took me,
10 years,
8 months,
2 weeks,
4 days,
12 hours,
32 minutes,
and
18 sec!*

Always Me Ayeshah ®
Copyright ©
Ayeshah
K.C.L.N 1977 - Present YEAR(s)
All right reserved ®
Jamie Jun 5
Nine months
Of blissful ignorance

Nine months
Of peace

Nine months
Of rest

Nine months
Of safety

Nine months
Of love

Nine months
Without heartbreak

Nine months
Of growth

Nine months... was all we got

What gave the World the right to rob us of so much?
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M-M-R II safely and effectively. See full prescribing information
for M-M-R II.
M-M-R® II (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Virus Vaccine Live)
Suspension for subcutaneous injection
Initial U.S. Approv al: 1978
-------------------------------INDICATIONS AND USAGE-------------------------------
M-M-R II is a vaccine indicated for active immunization for the
prevention of measles, mumps, and rubella in individuals 12 months of
age and older. (1)
-------------------------- DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION--------------------------
Administer a 0.5-mL dose of M-M-R II subcutaneously. (2.1)
• The first dose is administered at 12 to 15 months of age. (2.1)
• The second dose is administered at 4 to 6 years of age. (2.1)
------------------------DOSAGE FORMS AND STRENGTHS -----------------------
Suspension for injection (0.5-mL dose) supplied as a lyophilized
vaccine to be reconstituted using accompanying sterile diluent. (3)
---------------------------------- CONTRAINDICATIONS ----------------------------------
• Hypersensitivity to any componentof the vaccine. (4.1)
• Immunosuppression. (4.2)
• Moderate or severe febrile illness. (4.3)
• Active untreated tuberculosis. (4.4)
• Pregnancy. (4.5, 8.1)
-------------------------- WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS --------------------------
• Use caution when administering M-M-R II to individuals with a
history of febrile seizures. (5.1)
• Use caution when administering M-M-R II to individuals with
anaphylaxis or immediate hypersensitivity following egg ingestion.
(5.2)
• Use caution when administering M-M-R II to individuals with a
history of thrombocytopenia. (5.3)
• Immune Globulins (IG) and other blood products should not be
given concurrently with M-M-R II. (5.4, 7.2)
----------------------------------ADVERSE REACTIONS----------------------------------
See full prescribing information for adverse reactions occurring duri ng
clinical trialsor the post-marketing period. (6)
To report SUSPECTED ADVERSE REACTIONS, contact Merck
Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., at 1-8 7 7 -
888-4231 or VAERS at 1-800-822-7967 or www.vaers.hhs.gov.
-----------------------------------DRUG INTERACTIONS----------------------------------
• Administration of immune globulins and other blood products
concurrently with M-M-R II vaccine may interfere with the
expected immune response. (7.2)
• M-M-R II vaccination may result in a temporary depression of
purified protein derivative (PPD) tuberculin skin sensitivity. (7.3)
-------------------------- USE IN SPECIFIC POPULATIONS--------------------------
• Pregnancy: Do not administer M-M-R II to females who are
pregnant. Pregnancy should be avoided for 1 month following
vaccination with M-M-R II. (4.5, 8.1, 17)
See 17 for PATIENT COUNSELING INFORMATION and FDA
approv ed patient labeling.
Rev ised: 06/2020
FULL PRESCRIBING INFORMATION: CONTENTS
1 INDICATIONS AND USAGE
2 DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION
2.1 Dose and Schedule
2.2 Preparation andAdministration
3 DOSAGE FORMS AND STRENGTHS
4 CONTRAINDICATIONS
4.1 Hypersensitivity
4.2 Immunosuppression
4.3 Moderate or Severe Febrile Illness
4.4 Active Untreated Tuberculosis
4.5 Pregnancy
5 WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS
5.1 Febrile Seizure
5.2 Hypersensitivity to Eggs
5.3 Thrombocytopenia
5.4 Immune Globulins and Transfusions
6 ADVERSE REACTIONS
7 DRUG INTERACTIONS
7.1 Corticosteroids and Immunosuppressive Drugs
7.2 Immune Globulinsand Transfusions
7.3 Tuberculin Skin Testing
7.4 Use with Other Live Viral Vaccines
8 USE IN SPECIFIC POPULATIONS
8.1 Pregnancy
8.2 Lactation
8.4 Pediatric Use
8.5 Geriatric Use
11 DESCRIPTION
12 CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY
12.1 Mechanism of Action
12.6 Persistence of Antibody Responses After Vaccination
13 NONCLINICAL TOXICOLOGY
13.1 Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
14 CLINICAL STUDIES
14.1 Clinical Efficacy
14.2 Immunogenicity
15 REFERENCES
16 HOW SUPPLIED/STORAGE AND HANDLING
17 PATIENT COUNSELING INFORMATION
Sections or subsections omitted from the full prescribing info rma tion
are not listed.
2
FULL PRESCRIBING INFORMATION
1 INDICATIONS AND USAGE
M-M-R® II is a vaccine indicated for active immunization for the prevention of measles, mumps, and
rubella in individuals 12 months of age and older.
2 DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION
For subcutaneous use only.
2.1 Dose and Schedule
Each 0.5 mL dose is administered subcutaneously.
The first dose is administered at 12 to 15 months of age. A second dose is administered at 4 to 6
years of age.
The second dose may be administered prior to 4 years of age, provided that there is a minimum
interval of one month between the doses of measles, mumps and rubella virus vaccine, live {1-2}.
Children who received an initial dose of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine prior to their first
birthday should receive additional doses of vaccine at 12-15 months of age and at 4-6 years of age to
complete the vaccination series [see Clinical Studies (14.2)].
For post-exposure prophylaxis for measles, administer a dose of M-M-R II vaccine within 72 hours
after exposure.
2.2 Preparation and Administration
Use a sterile syringe free of preservatives, antiseptics, and detergents for each injection and/or
reconstitution of the vaccine because these substances may inactivate the live virus vaccine. To
reconstitute, use only the diluent supplied with the vaccine since it is free of preservatives or other
antiviral substances which might inactivate the vaccine.
Withdraw the entire volume of the supplied diluent from its vial and inject into lyophilized vaccine vial.
Agitate to dissolve completely. Discard if the lyophilized vaccine cannot be dissolved.
Withdraw the entire volume of the reconstituted vaccine and inject subcutaneously into the outer
aspect of the upper arm (deltoid region) or into the higher anterolateral area of the thigh.
Parenteral drug products should be inspected visually for particulate matter and discoloration prior to
administration, whenever solution and container permit. Visually inspect the vaccine before and after
reconstitution prior to administration. Before reconstitution, the lyophilized vaccine is a light yellow
compact crystalline plug, when reconstituted, is a clear yellow liquid. Discard if particulate matter or
discoloration are observed in the reconstituted vaccine.
To minimize loss of potency, administer M-M-R II as soon as possible after reconstitution. If not used
immediately, the reconstituted vaccine may be stored between 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C), protected from
light, for up to 8 hours. Discard reconstituted vaccine if it is not used within 8 hours.
3 DOSAGE FORMS AND STRENGTHS
M-M-R II vaccine is a suspension for injection supplied as a single dose vial of lyophilized vaccine to
be reconstituted using the accompanying sterile diluent [see Dosage and Administration (2.2) and How
Supplied/Storage and Handling (16)]. A single dose after reconstitution is 0.5 mL.
4 CONTRAINDICATIONS
4.1 Hypersensitivity
Do not administer M-M-R II vaccine to individuals with a history of hypersensitivity to any component
of the vaccine (including gelatin) {3} or who have experienced a hypersensitivity reaction following
administration of a previous dose of M-M-R II vaccine or any other measles, mumps and rubellacontaining vaccine. Do not administer M-M-R II vaccine to individuals with a history of anaphylaxis to
neomycin [see Description (11)].
4.2 Immunosuppression
Do not administer M-M-R II vaccine to individuals who are immunodeficient or immunosuppressed due
to disease or medical therapy. Measles inclusion body encephalitis {4} (MIBE), pneumonitis {5} and death
as a direct consequence of disseminated measles vaccine virus infection have been reported in
3
immunocompromised individuals inadvertently vaccinated with measles-containing vaccine. In this
population, disseminated mumps and rubella vaccine virus infection have also been reported.
Do not administer M-M-R II to individuals with a family history of congenital or hereditary
immunodeficiency, until the immune competence of the potential vaccine recipient is demonstrated.
4.3 Moderate or Severe Febrile Illness
Do not administer M-M-R II vaccine to individuals with an active febrile illness with fever >101.3F
(>38.5C).
4.4 Active Untreated Tuberculosis
Do not administer M-M-R II vaccine to individuals with active untreated tuberculosis (TB).
4.5 Pregnancy
Do not administer M-M-R II to individuals who are pregnant or who are planning on becoming
pregnant within the next month [see Use in Specific Populations (8.1) and Patient Counseling Information
(17)].
5 WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS
5.1 Febrile Seizure
There is a risk of fever and associated febrile seizure in the first 2 weeks following immunization with
M-M-R II vaccine. For children who have experienced a previous febrile seizure (from any cause) and
those with a family history of febrile seizures there is a small increase in risk of febrile seizure following
receipt of M-M-R II vaccine [see Adverse Reactions (6)].
5.2 Hypersensitivity to Eggs
Individuals with a history of anaphylactic, anaphylactoid, or other immediate reactions (e.g., hives,
swelling of the mouth and throat, difficulty breathing, hypotension, or shock) subsequent to egg ingestion
may be at an enhanced risk of immediate-type hypersensitivity reactions after receiving M-M-R II vaccine
.The potential risks and known benefits should be evaluated before considering vaccination in these
individuals.
5.3 Thrombocytopenia
Transient thrombocytopenia has been reported within 4-6 weeks following vaccination with measles,
mumps and rubella vaccine. Carefully evaluate the potential risk and benefit of vaccination in children
with thrombocytopenia or in those who experienced thrombocytopenia after vaccination with a previous
dose of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine {6-8} [see Adverse Reactions (6)].
5.4 Immune Globulins and Transfusions
Immune Globulins (IG) and other blood products should not be given concurrently with M-M-R II [see
Drug Interactions (7.2)]. These products may contain antibodies that interfere with vaccine virus
replication and decrease the expected immune response.
The ACIP has specific recommendations for intervals between administration of antibody containing
products and live virus vaccines.
6 ADVERSE REACTIONS
The following adverse reactions include those identified during clinical trials or reported during postapproval use of M-M-R II vaccine or its individual components.
Body as a Whole
Panniculitis; atypical measles; fever; syncope; headache; dizziness; malaise; irritability.
Cardiovascular System
Vasculitis.
Digestive System
Pancreatitis; diarrhea; vomiting; parotitis; nausea.
Hematologic and Lymphatic Systems
Thrombocytopenia; purpura; regional lymphadenopathy; leukocytosis.
Immune System
Anaphylaxis, anaphylactoid reactions, angioedema (including peripheral or ****** edema) and
bronchial spasm.
Musculoskeletal System
Arthritis; arthralgia; myalgia.
4
Nervous System
Encephalitis; encephalopathy; measles inclusion body encephalitis (MIBE) subacute sclerosing
panencephalitis (SSPE); Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS); acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM);
transverse myelitis; febrile convulsions; afebrile convulsions or seizures; ataxia; polyneuritis;
polyneuropathy; ocular palsies; paresthesia.
Respiratory System
Pneumonia; pneumonitis; sore throat; cough; rhinitis.
Skin
Stevens-Johnson syndrome; acute hemorrhagic edema of infancy; Henoch-Schönlein purpura;
erythema multiforme; urticaria; rash; measles-like rash; pruritus; injection site reactions (pain, erythema,
swelling and vesiculation).
Special Senses — Ear
Nerve deafness; otitis media.
Special Senses — Eye
Retinitis; optic neuritis; papillitis; conjunctivitis.
Urogenital System
Epididymitis; orchitis.
7 DRUG INTERACTIONS
7.1 Corticosteroids and Immunosuppressive Drugs
M-M-R II vaccine should not be administered to individuals receiving immunosuppressive therapy,
including high dose corticosteroids. Vaccination with M-M-R II vaccine can result in disseminated disease
due to measles vaccine in individuals on immunosuppressive drugs [see Contraindications (4.2)].
7.2 Immune Globulinsand Transfusions
Administration of immune globulins and other blood products concurrently with M-M-R II vaccine may
interfere with the expected immune response {9-11} [see Warnings and Precautions (5.4)]. The ACIP has
specific recommendations for intervals between administration of antibody containing products and live
virus vaccines.
7.3 Tuberculin Skin Testing
It has been reported that live attenuated measles, mumps and rubella virus vaccines given individually
may result in a temporary depression of tuberculin skin sensitivity. Therefore, if a tuberculin skin test with
tuberculin purified protein derivative (PPD) is to be done, it should be administered before, simultaneously
with, or at least 4 to 6 weeks after vaccination with M-M-R II vaccine.
7.4 Use with Other Live Viral Vaccines
M-M-R II vaccine can be administered concurrently with other live viral vaccines. If not given
concurrently, M-M-R II vaccine should be given one month before or one month after administration of
other live viral vaccines to avoid potential for immune interference.
8 USE IN SPECIFIC POPULATIONS
8.1 Pregnancy
Risk Summary
M-M-R II vaccine is contraindicated for use in pregnant women because infection during pregnancy
with the wild-type viruses has been associated with maternal and fetal adverse outcomes.
Increased rates of spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, premature delivery and congenital defects have
been observed following infection with wild-type measles during pregnancy. {12,13} Wild-type mumps
infection during the first trimester of pregnancy may increase the rate of spontaneous abortion.
Infection with wild-type rubella during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth. If rubella infection
occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy, it can result in severe congenital defects, Congenital
Rubella Syndrome (CRS). Congenital rubella syndrome in the infant includes but is not limited to eye
manifestations (cataracts, glaucoma, retinitis), congenital heart defects, hearing loss, microcephaly, and
intellectual disabilities. M-M-R II vaccine contains live attenuated measles, mumps and rubella viruses. It
is not known whether M-M-R II vaccine can cause fetal harm when administered to pregnant woman.
There are no adequate and well-controlled studies of M-M-R II vaccine administration to pregnant
women.
5
All pregnancies have a risk of birth defect, loss or other adverse outcomes. In the US general
population, the estimated background risk of major birth defects and miscarriage in clinically recognized
pregnancies is 2% to 4% and 15% to 20%, respectively.
Available data suggest the rates of major birth defects and miscarriage in women who received
M-M-R II vaccine within 30 days prior to pregnancy or during pregnancy are consistent with estimated
background rates (see Data).
Data
Human Data
A cumulative assessment of post-marketing reports for M-M-R II vaccine from licensure 01 April 1978
through 31 December 2018, identified 796 reports of inadvertent administration of M-M-R II vaccine
occurring 30 days before or at any time during pregnancy with known pregnancy outcomes. Of the
prospectively followed pregnancies for whom the timing of M-M-R II vaccination was known, 425 women
received M-M-R II vaccine during the 30 days prior to conception through the second trimester. The
outcomes for these 425 prospectively followed pregnancies included 16 infants with major birth defects, 4
cases of fetal death and 50 cases of miscarriage. No abnormalities compatible with congenital rubella
syndrome have been identified in patients who received M-M-R II vaccine. Rubella vaccine viruses can
cross the placenta, leading to asymptomatic infection of the fetus. Mumps vaccine virus has also been
shown to infect the placenta {14}, but there is no evidence that it causes congenital malformations or
disease in the fetus or infant .
The CDC established the Vaccine in Pregnancy registry (1971-1989) of women who had received
rubella vaccines within 3 months before or after conception. Data on 1221 inadvertently vaccinated
pregnant women demonstrated no evidence of an increase in fetal abnormalities or cases of Congenital
Rubella Syndrome (CRS) in the enrolled women {15}.
8.2 Lactation
Risk Summary
It is not known whether measles or mumps vaccine virus is secreted in human milk. Studies have
shown that lactatingpostpartum women vaccinated with live attenuated rubella vaccine may secrete the
virus in breast milk and transmit it to breast-fed infants.{16,17} In the breast-fed infants with serological
evidence of rubella virus vaccine strain antibodies, none exhibited severe disease; however, one
exhibited mild clinical illness typical of acquired rubella.{18,19}
The developmental and health benefits of breastfeeding should be considered along with the mother’s
clinical need for M-M-R II, and any potential adverse effects on the breastfed child from M-M-R II or from
the underlying maternal condition. For preventive vaccines, the underlying maternal condition is
susceptibility to disease prevented by the vaccine.
8.4 Pediatric Use
M-M-R II vaccine is not approved for individuals less than 12 months of age. Safety and effectiveness
of measles vaccine in infants below the age of 6 months have not been established [see Clinical Studies
(14)]. Safety and effectiveness of mumps and rubella vaccine in infants less than 12 months of age have
not been established.
8.5 Geriatric Use
Clinical studies of M-M-R II did not include sufficient numbers of seronegative subjects aged 65 and
over to determine whether they respond differently from younger subjects.
11 Description
M-M-R II vaccine is a sterile lyophilized preparation of (1) Measles Virus Vaccine Live, an attenuated
line of measles virus, derived from Enders' attenuated Edmonston strain and propagated in chick embryo
cell culture; (2) Mumps Virus Vaccine Live, the Jeryl Lynn™ (B level) strain of mumps virus propagated in
chick embryo cell culture; and (3) Rubella Virus Vaccine Live, the Wistar RA 27/3 strain of live attenuated
rubella virus propagated in WI-38 human diploid lung fibroblasts. {20,21} The cells, virus pools,
recombinant human serum albumin and fetal bovine serum used in manufacturing are tested and
determined to be free of adventitious agents.
After reconstitution, each 0.5 mL dose contains not less than 3.0 log10 TCID50 (tissue culture infectious
doses) of measles virus; 4.1 log10 TCID50 of mumps virus; and 3.0 log10 TCID50 of rubella virus.
Each dose is calculated to contain sorbitol (14.5 mg), sucrose(1.9 mg), hydrolyzed gelatin (14.5 mg),
recombinant human albumin (≤0.3 mg), fetal bovine serum (<1 ppm), approximately 25 mcg of neomycin
and other buffer and media ingredients. The product contains no preservative.
6
12 CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY
12.1 Mechanism of Action
M-M-R II vaccination induces antibodies to measles, mumps, and rubella associated with protection
which can be measured by neutralization assays, hemagglutination-inhibition (HI) assays, or enzyme
linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) tests. Results from efficacy studies or effectivenes s studies that
were previously conducted for the component vaccines of M-M-R II were used to define levels of serum
antibodies that correlated with protection against measles, mumps, and rubella [see Clinical Studies (14)].
12.6 Persistence of Antibody Responses After Vaccination
Neutralizing and ELISA antibodies to measles, mumps, and rubella viruses are still detectable in 95-
100%, 74-91%, and 90-100% of individuals respectively, 11 to 13 years after primary vaccination. {22-28}
13 NONCLINICAL TOXICOLOGY
13.1 Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
M-M-R II vaccine has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential or impairment of
fertility.
14 CLINICAL STUDIES
14.1 Clinical Efficacy
Efficacy of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines was established in a series of double-blind
controlled trials. {29-34} These studies also established that seroconversion in response to vaccination
against measles, mumps and rubella paralleled protection. {35-38}
14.2 Immunogenicity
Clinical studies enrolling 284 triple seronegative children, 11 months to 7 years of age, demonstrated
that M-M-R II vaccine is immunogenic. In these studies, a single injection of the vaccine induced measles
HI antibodies in 95%, mumps neutralizing antibodies in 96%, and rubella HI antibodies in 99% of
susceptible individuals.
A study of 6-month-old and 15-month-old infants born to mothers vaccinated with a measles vaccine in
childhood, demonstrated that, following infant and toddler vaccination with Measles Virus Vaccine, Live
(previously US-licensed, manufactured by Merck), 74% of the 6-month-old infants developed detectable
neutralizing antibody titers while 100% of the 15-month-old infants vaccinated with Measles Virus
Vaccine, Live or M-M-R II vaccine developed neutralizing antibodies {39}. When the 6-month-old infants
of immunized mothers were revaccinated at 15 months with M-M-R II vaccine, they developed antibody
titers similar to those of toddlers who were vaccinated previously at 15-months of age.
15 REFERENCES
1. General Recommendations on Immunization, Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, MMWR
43(RR-1): 1-38, January 28, 1994.
2. Measles, Mumps, and Rubella — Vaccine Use and Strategies for Elimination of Measles, Rubella, a n d Co n g e nita l Ru b e lla
Syndrome and Control of Mumps: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice s (ACIP), M M WR
47(RR-8): May 22, 1998.
3. Kelso, J.M.; Jones, R.T.; Yunginger, J.W.: Anaphylaxis to measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine mediated by IgE to gel atin , J.
Allergy Clin. Immunol. 91: 867-872, 1993.
4. Bitnum, A.; et al: Measles Inclusion Body Encephalitis Caused by the Vaccine Strain of Measles Virus. Cl i n . In fect. Di s. 2 9 :
855-861, 1999.
5. Angel, J.B.; et al: Vaccine Associated Measles Pneumonitis in an Adult with AIDS. Annals of Internal Medicine, 129: 1 0 4 -1 06 ,
1998.
6. Cecinati V, et al. Vaccine administration and the development of immune thrombocyto pe ni c p urp u ra i n ch i ld re n. Hu m an
Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics 9:5, 2013.
7. Mantadakis E, Farmaki E, Buchanan GR. Thrombocytopenic Purpura after Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination: A Systematic
Review of the Literature and Guidance for Management. J Ped 156(4): 2010.
8. Andrews N, Stowe J, Miller E, Svanstrom H, Johansen K, Bonhoeffer J, et al. A collaborative approach to investigating th e ri sk
of thrombocytopenic purpura after measles-mumps-rubella vaccination in England and Denmark. Vaccine. 2012;30:3042‐6.
9. Rubella Prevention: Recommendation of the Immunization Practices Advisory Committee (ACIP), MM WR 3 9 (RR-1 5 ): 1 -1 8 ,
November 23, 1990.
7
10. Peter, G.; et al (eds): Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases, Twenty-fourth Edition, American Academy of Pediatri cs,
344-357, 1997.
11. Measles Prevention: Recommendations of the Immunization Practices Advisory Committee (ACIP), MMWR 38(S-9): 5-22,
December 29, 1989.
12. Eberhart-Phillips, J.E.; et al: Measles in pregnancy: a descriptive study of 58 cases. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 82(5): 797-801,
November 1993.
13. Jespersen, C.S.; et al: Measles as a cause of fetal defects: A retrospective study of ten measles epidemics in Greenland. Acta
Paediatr Scand. 66: 367-372, May 1977.
14. Yamauchi T, Wilson C, Geme JW Jr. Transmission of live, attenuated mumps virus to the hu m a n p l ace n ta . N En g l J M e d .
1974;290(13):710‐712.
15. Rubella Vaccination during Pregnancy —United States, 1971-1988. JAMA. 1989;261(23):3374–3383.
16. Losonsky, G.A.; Fishaut, J.M.; Strussenber, J.; Ogra, P.L.: Effect of immunization against rubella on lactation products. II.
Maternal-neonatal interactions, J. Infect. Dis. 145: 661-666,1982.
17. Losonsky, G.A.; Fishaut, J.M.; Strussenber, J.; Ogra, P.L.: Effect of immunization against rubella on lactation products. I.
Development and characterization of specific immunologic reactivity in breast milk, J. Infect. Dis. 145: 654-660, 1982.
18. Landes, R.D.; Bass, J.W.; Millunchick, E.W.; Oetgen, W.J.: Neonatal rubella following postpartum maternal i mm un izatio n , J.
Pediatr. 97: 465-467, 1980.
19. Lerman, S.J.: Neonatal rubella following postpartum maternal immunization, J. Pediatr. 98: 668, 1981. (Letter)
20. Plotkin, S.A.; Cornfeld, D.; Ingalls, T.H.: Studiesof immunization with living rubella virus: Trialsin children with a strain culture d
from an aborted fetus, Am. J. Dis. Child. 110: 381-389, 1965.
21. Plotkin, S.A.; Farquhar, J.; Katz, M.; Ingalls, T.H.: A new attenuated rubella virus grown in human fi bro b la sts: Evi d e n ce fo r
reduced nasopharyngeal excretion, Am. J. Epidemiol. 86: 468-477, 1967.
22. Weibel, R.E.; Carlson, A.J.; Villarejos, V.M.; Buynak, E.B.; McLean, A.A.; Hilleman, M.R.: Clinical and Labo ra tory Stu d ie s o f
Combined Live Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccines Using the RA 27/3 Rubella Virus, Proc. So c. Exp . Bi ol. M e d. 1 6 5 :
323-326, 1980.
23. Watson, J.C.; Pearson, J.S.; Erdman, D.D.; et al: An Evaluation of Measles RevaccinationAmong School-Entry Age Ch i ld re n,
31st Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, Abstract #268, 143, 1991.
24. Unpublished data from the files of Merck Research Laboratories.
25. Davidkin, I.; Jokinen, S.; Broman, M. et al.: Persistence of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Antibodies in a n M M R -Va ccina ted
Cohort: A 20-Year Follow-up, JID 197:950–6, April 2008.
26. LeBaron, W.; Beeler J.; Sullivan, B.; et al.: Persistence of Measles Antibodies After 2 Doses of Measles Vaccine in a
Postelimination Environment, Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 161:294-301, March 2007.
27. LeBaron, C.; Forghani, B.; Beck, C. et al.: Persistence of Mumps Antibodies after 2 Doses of Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine,
JID 199:552– 60 , February 2009.
28. LeBaron, W.; Forghani, B.; Matter, L. et al.: Persistence of Rubella Antibodies after 2 Doses of Measles-Mumps-Rubella
Vaccine, JID 200:888–99, September 2009.
29. Hilleman, M.R.; Buynak, E.B.; Weibel, R.E.; et al: Development and Evaluation of the Moraten MeaslesVirusVa cci n e , JAM A
206(3): 587-590, 1968.
30. Weibel, R.E.; Stokes, J.; Buynak, E.B.; et al: Live, Attenuated Mumps Virus Vaccine 3. Clinical and Serologic Aspects in a Fiel d
Evaluation,N. Engl. J. Med. 276: 245-251, 1967.
31. Hilleman, M.R.; Weibel, R.E.; Buynak, E.B.; et al:Live, Attenuated Mumps VirusVaccine 4. ProtectiveEfficacy as Measure d i n
a Field Evaluation, N. Engl. J. Med. 276: 252-258, 1967.
32. Cutts, F.T.; Henderson, R.H.; Clements, C.J.; et al: Principles of measles control, Bull WHO 69(1): 1-7, 1991.
33. Weibel, R.E.; Buynak, E.B.; Stokes, J.; et al: Evaluation Of Live Attenuated Mumps Virus Vaccine, Strain Jeryl Lynn, First
International Conference on VaccinesAgainst Viral and Rickettsial Diseases of Man, World Health Organization, No. 147, M a y
1967.
34. Leibhaber, H.; Ingalls, T.H.; LeBouvier, G.L.; et al: Vaccination With RA 27/3 Rubella Vaccine, Am. J. Dis. Child. 123: 133-1 3 6,
February 1972.
35. Rosen, L.: Hemagglutination and Hemagglutination-Inhibition with Measles Virus, Virology 13: 139-141, January 1961.
36. Brown, G.C.; et al: Fluorescent-Antibody Marker for Vaccine-Induced Rubella Antibodies, Infection and Immunity 2(4): 360-363,
1970.
8
37. Buynak, E.B.; et al: Live Attenuated Mumps Virus Vaccine 1. Vaccine Development, Proceedings of the Society for
Experimental Biology and Medicine, 123: 768-775, 1966.
38. Hilleman M.R., Studies of Live Attenuated Measles Virus Vaccine in Man: II. Appraisal of Efficacy. Amer. J. o f Pu b l ic He a lth ,
52(2):44-56, 1962.
39. Johnson, C.E.; et al: Measles Vaccine Immunogenicity in 6- Versus 15-Month-Old Infants Born to Mothers in the Measles
Vaccine Era, Pediatrics, 93(6): 939-943, 1994.
16 HOW SUPPLIED/STORAGE AND HANDLING
No. 4681 ⎯ M-M-R II vaccine is supplied as follows:
(1) a box of 10 single-dose vials of lyophilized vaccine (package A), NDC 0006-4681-00
(2) a box of 10 vials of diluent (package B)
Exposure to light may inactivate the vaccine viruses.
Before reconstitution, refrigerate the lyophilized vaccine at 36°F to 46°F, (2°C to 8°C).
Store accompanying diluent in the refrigerator with the lyophilized vaccine or separately at room
temperature (68° to 77°F, 20° to 25°C). Do not freeze the diluent.
Administer M-M-R II vaccine as soon as possible after reconstitution. If not administered immediately,
reconstituted vaccine may be stored between 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C), protected from light, for up to 8
hours. Discard reconstituted vaccine if it is not used within 8 hours.
For information regarding the product or questions regarding storage conditions, call 1-800-
MERCK-90 (1-800-637-2590).
17 PATIENT COUNSELING INFORMATION
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• Instruct patients, parents, or guardians to report any adverse reactions to their health-care
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Emma Chatonoir Sep 2014
It has been about a year
Since I ran from my fear
Eleven months since I said
That without him I wanted to be dead
Ten months since I realize
I liked you, the boy with blue eyes
Nine months since we walked in the cold
And it was your hand I wanted to hold
Eight months since we started to spend
Time with each other every weekend
Seven months since you told me via text
That I was different from all the rest
Six months since while on a trip in band
We were running and you took my hand
Five months since our first date
At the movie theater, which I honestly hate
Four months since the start
Of when I held you close to my heart
Three months since summer began
I'd spend as much time with you as I can
Two months since I was unable to walk
But everyday we were able to talk
One month since I held you close
And realized I was happy it was you I chose
Not a second ever goes by, it's true
When I'm not grateful to now have you.
Karah Wilson Nov 2016
12 months ago, the truth came out and my heart fell into pieces.
11 months ago, you went to be with her. 
10 months ago, you told me you still loved me and we were together again.
9 months ago, we were not together anymore and I had to tell the police what I knew.
8 months ago, I miss you.
7 months ago, I miss you.
6 months ago, I still love you.
5 months ago, I miss you.
4 months ago, come back.
3 months ago, you came back.
2 months ago, you found someone again.
Today, I still love you, I wish that someone was me, but for now, I must let it be.
Rose Feb 2018
4 years and 4 months
4 years and 4 months
4 years and 4 months
And you threw it all away
The things you've done
The things you've said
I can't forgive
I can't forget
4 years and 4 months
4 years and 4 months
4 years and 4 months
Of my time wasted
Of my heart being used
Of my mind being played
You taught me a lesson
One I won't soon forget
4 years and 4 months
I hate myself for knowing that
4 years and 4 months
And although it hurts
I'm so **** glad its over.
4 years and 4 months
4 years and 4 months
4 years and 4 months.
2-9-18
Megan Hoagland Jun 2013
3 months as of today.
Around 3:30. It will be exact.
We didn't know what else to do.
I was tired of trying,
tired of fighting.
I wasn't even worth your trying.
You refused to compromise
and you lied about changing.
You didn't put in the effort,
I don't think
you ever cared enough to try.
our relationship was
worth the fight,
this I swear.
It just gets so exhausting,
fighting for two.
I know better now,
relationships between two people
only work through
communication
and compromise,
and trying to meet each others interests,
doesn't matter if you don't have much in common, the effort will be noticed,
and greatly appreciated,
because it shows your partner
how much you want
to be with them.
But you never saw it that way.
If it wasn't something
that interested you,
you pushed it away,
no matter how much
it meant to me.
No matter if it were me.
I went out
and tried to get on your level
only to be rebuked.
I try to make you see
how much you meant
and still mean to me.
But I never saw,
no,
not even once,
if I had even meant
anything to you
Anything at all.
3 months,
you act like the closest,
most intimate,
love never even moved you.
3 months,
you have pretended
like nothing ever happened
between us.
3 months
and you ignore my presence still.
3 months,
you still haven't said my name.
3 months,
you need someone to talk to,
and I wish that person was me.
3 months,
and I'm still carrying this weight.
3 months
and I'm still in pain.
3 months,
I'd still take you back.
3 months,
I think I'm insane.
Blahhh
JSK Oct 2013
Six months ago was prom
Our anniversary
A year and three months
It certainly hadn't been perfect, but it was perfect for me

Six months ago I was happy
You made me grin from ear to ear
I had a permanent smile
Whenever anyone mentioned your name
My heart would fill with pride

Six months ago I was living a lie
You had quit a while ago
You just drug it out because you weren't sure
You weren't sure about her

Six months ago you moved on
You found someone else
You dumped me in your camouflage seat
And that was that

Six months ago you got over it
Six  months later I'm still hanging on
Franny May 2014
November 28, I met this girl.
She was broken. From the bullies that struck her with their words.

We got to know eachother. I got to know her favorite color, favorite food, favorite song.

Through out the the weeks we talked, I found out how truly broken she was. How words cut like knife, how she had demons inside of her.

I also realized that I was falling for her. I was falling for a broken girl. When I myself was a broken girl.

I fought with my feelings.
I couldn't be. I wouldn't be... Gay.

I found out she liked me too.

It drove me insane. Me liking a girl? Wanting to be with a girl? It was absurd. My mom would never approve.

Months later.
We're 5 months. 5 months of her being mines, and me being hers. 5 months of tears. 5 months of laughs. 5 months of love. 5 months of hate. 5 months of two broken girls trying to fix eachother.

Can we succeed or will more months pass as the little happiness we have left disappear. And our demons strengthen.

I met this girl. She changed everything.
Blah. Idk
She's different....
Lauren Nov 2014
you deserve better.
better than my careless, random, probing texts.
better than the pain you've felt.
i deserve better.
better than your dry, annoyed texts.
better than the emptiness you left me with.

remember when we were together? 9 long months.
i was 14, a child really. you were 17. we didn't mind.
it was after my incident, i was still healing. but you,
you affected me deeply. we didn't start slow, no, we dived in,
holding our breath, because we needed each other.

remember when we kissed for the first time? 3 days after we met.
it was past midnight, we were out exploring.
i stuck my body through the sun roof and i smiled so much it hurt in the best way.
we came back to your house, no one was home. and i looked at you,
and you laughed. then your mouth was on mine and we lay there,
hours, kissing with a passion i craved.

remember my first flashback? 2 months in.
we were in bed, cuddling with no one home. we were content.
my therapist warned me, anything could happen. i didn't even think,
and it was only your hand on my hip, pulling me tight,
and i froze like a cold hand gripped my heart.
you held me loosely while i cried, a pain i didn't know i had,
a pain i didn't know needed to be let out.

remember your truck? 3 months between us.
how the stars were amazing, so we went "exploring," we thought we were clever. we went up a mountain, holding hands while you drove.
when we parked, we climbed into the bed of the truck with blankets.
we laughed and talked and thought,
this is forever. at least i did.

remember our first sleepover? our parents gave in after 4 months.
we stayed at your house, when your mom was gone. i was naive,
yet you didn't mind. the hot tub was perfect, the wine we stole
from the hidden cupboard just right for the moment. we showered together, then climbed into bed. we learned a lot,
that warm, luxurious night.

remember my birthday? 5 months after our kiss.
there was a bad fire at home, lots of evacuations, lots of smoke and fear.
we left and went to the city to get away. we stayed together,
you and me, by ourselves. you made me special that day. you,
it was you that my world revolved around, you, you that i never wanted to leave. my birthday is one of my favorite days
of you and me.

remember when i had to go back to court? 8 months, almost done.
the day i found out, you  came and picked me up. i cried.
you didn't know how to help. you held my hand. i was
helpless, ruined, depressed. we stayed together all night,
and you held me with a nervous expression on your face,
it was one of the worst memories.

9 months.
you and me.
i love you.
you loved me.
you left me
before court
on my own

betrayed.
i loved you.
This is on an ex boyfriend of mine, the first *real* and m*special* boyfriend I had. As much as he was a support to me, he hurt me very much and left me when I needed someone most.
Sarah Flynn Nov 22
one month:

we went mini-golfing
and then to the movies.

you were so nervous.
it was adorable.

you texted me
halfway through the movie

“can I hold your hand?”

I said yes.



two months:

I had an emergency removal
of my wisdom teeth.

you came and took care of me.
I was embarrassed, but
you didn’t care.

with swollen jaws and
slurred speech and a
mouthful of ****** gauze,

you still looked at me
like I was the most
beautiful woman
you had ever met.



three months:

you weren’t paying attention
and you crashed your car.

the car was totaled.
the airbags went off,
the windshield cracked.

I wasn’t hurt at all.
you hurt your neck.

the first thing you did
was get me out of the car
and onto the side of the road

even though you were
the one who was hurting.



four months:

I spent nights at your place.
we made it official.

I let you touch me.
I wanted you to touch me.
I hadn’t felt that way
in a very long time.

we drank.
we kissed.
we had ***.

the next morning,
you weren’t gone like
I thought you would be.

you had your arm
wrapped around me.

you’re a heavy sleeper.
I smiled and went
right back to sleep.



five months:

it was my birthday.
I told you that I never really
celebrated my birthday.

I was still in school,
but I didn’t go that day.
I spent the day
with you instead.

before you,
I never felt so loved.

I spent Christmas
with your family.
I had never
celebrated Christmas.



six months:

I took my shirt off
in front of you.

I hadn’t done that yet.
for half a year,
I slept with my shirt on.
we had *** with my shirt on.
you didn’t push me to.

you saw my scars.
I thought for sure
you would leave.

you didn’t even blink.
you hugged me and
you kissed me and
you didn’t see me
any differently.



seven months:

not much happened
that month.

I got close with
your family.

you’re not American.
you had lived here before
but you had moved back
only seven months earlier.
you weren’t planning
on staying, so you were
living in your parents’ house.

it was awkward
because they were
so nice to me.
I kept waiting for
something bad to happen.
nothing did.

I started leaving
my toothbrush
in your bathroom.



eight months:

you wanted to meet
my family.

family has always been
important to you.

we drove out to Ohio
to meet my uncle
and my little cousins.

they’re the least eccentric
members of my family,
but they’re still dysfunctional.
I didn’t know how
to warn you. so I didn’t.

you met my cousin.
you realized he was nonverbal.
you sat with him and you
talked to him like he was
any other twelve-year-old.

you both played video games.
more like you played, and
he watched. but I had
never seen him so happy.
he didn’t have to talk.
his smile showed me everything.

my youngest cousin
loved you too.
you played with her dolls
and you gave them
funny voices when you did.
she laughed every time.



nine months:

we got into an argument.
it was nothing serious,
but we hadn’t argued before.

you didn’t hit me.
you got up and walked away.
somehow that scared
me even more.

I waited for you to
come back with something
worse than a punch.

you came back
with a hug and an
“I love you.”



ten months:

we went to a
fertility clinic.

obviously we didn’t
want children yet,
but my friend told me
that early treatment might
be the key to helping me.

I didn’t want you
to come with me,
but you insisted.

it was bad news.
I cried. you wiped my tears
and told me that
if we ever had a baby,
it doesn’t matter how.

what would matter
is how we raise that child,
blood or not. I told you again
how much I love you.



eleven months:

I relapsed with
my self-harm addiction.

eighteen new scars
and over sixty stitches later,
I came home.

you took care of me.
you never should’ve had
to do that, but you did.

I healed with you
by my side.



one year:

we moved in together.
you met my brothers.

you weren’t intimidated
by my brother. he tried.

he was so rude to you
and eventually you
snapped and told him
to shut the **** up.
he smiled and so did I.
he said that
you were a keeper.

you weren’t afraid to
stand up to him, even
though he was my brother.
no one had done that before.

your love for me
outweighed your
fear of my family.

my brother loved you
after that.



years:

I graduated school
and you went back
to get another degree.

we hit hard times
and we had great times
and through it all,
we were happy.

it wasn’t easy to stay.
sometimes I felt like
running so that you
couldn’t leave me first.
I stayed. so did you.

you wrote me a letter
and you asked,

“will you marry me?”

I said yes.
Twinkle Jan 2017
He was late.  He rushed forward.  All he could see was a crowd of people standing near a lady.  Her sister he guessed.  Dark sunglasses adorned a cherubic face.  Her red nose was a clear give away, that she had been weeping.  They had closed the grave. He was late. He didn't get a chance to see her one last time.

How could it be possible?  She had met him a few months ago!  She looked fine. He received a message from her sister.  She was dead. It was her funeral.  He could hardly believe it. How did life change in a mere few months?

Her sister was speaking to a group of young women, her friends, he gathered.  They were speaking with her sister. He overheard them say "But she never told us! She called us and said we should go camping and planned the whole trip at such a short notice.  We had so much fun! But she never told us."  

Her sister replied, "She was informed 4 months ago, somewhere at the end of Jan, that she had a few months to live.  She had developed a lung complication and it had taken a turn for the worse. The medication had stopped working. She didn't want any more doctor visits and stuff. She refused to get treated. She decided then she would have fun and live the last few months of her life, memorably.  Surprise friends, meet people she never made time for before. Make happy memories.  She lived her last days simply wanting to be happy.  She met most of the people on her wish list. Except a few who were away."  

Hearing that, his heart sank.  He was one of those she paid a surprise visit to. He remembered that day. He had been avoiding her. He recalled the surprise visit to his house. He was home that day. It caught him off guard.  He was in a spot and didn't expect that she should drop in unannounced. How upset he was! He recalled those words.  Angry words, he had lashed out at her. Then he didn't hear anything from her afterwards. Now it sank in him.  She met him at the end of Jan.  She didn't have time.  Why didn't she tell him that?  She hardly said anything at all.   He was angry with her, again, even now.  Why? Why? Why?  He approached her sister and introduced himself.  "Hi! I am John".  At that his sister interrupted him, "Oh! I have a note for you", With that she took out an envelope from her pocket and handed it over to him.

He was dazed. His sister turned her attention away.  He held the envelope in his hands, shock, disbelief, he couldn't explain what engulfed him at that moment.  He had always, avoided her.  She was irritating, a pain, he thought. She had issues.  Unresolved issues.  He remembered the time, she whispered to him, that she was in love with him.  But he ignored her.  Pretended that he never heard it. She wasn't his type. He opened the note.  It read.  

"Dear John, By the time you receive this note, I will not be physically present in this world. I am sorry for dropping in unannounced at your place, that day. I am really sorry. I realized you were upset, but believe me upsetting you was the last thing I had in mind.  

You see, I had been having issues with breathing for quite some time.  My sickness made me depressed.  A lung infection I caught on, turned into a complication. I was hoping to get better.  I never thought, that it would be the end of me.  But when the doc told me I had a few months to live.  I was shocked.  I asked myself.  What is the only thing you would regret leaving behind. And then I saw your face. You my dear friend, are the 1st person I will regret leaving behind. Not having spent time with you. And not spending time with people who have loved me irrespective of my so called "issues", these are the ones I will regret leaving behind.

So I decided to let the end of my life, albeit a few months, be the happiest days of my life.  And for once let me control what I choose to do with my days, rather than living a schedule of must do things and tasks and priorities.  You see, we have a choice, yet we choose to focus on the priorities that don't add any value or meaning to our lives.  Day and months pass by in meaningless pursuits.  We miss the opportunity to love and share our love with others.

You were in no doubt that I loved you, but I respected your decision. I don't resent it. I chose to give freely and to grow every day by being richer in the experience of just giving for the sake of it. I stopped worrying about how my actions will be interpreted by people around me.  Seriously, they have no clue about my journey and what it has taken me to keep myself alive.  

Having decided this for myself, I've spent the best days of my life in the last few months.  I am truly, happy and satisfied.  The only regret I have is that I didn't get to create a happy memory with you that day.  I also understand completely the reasons you gave me. But it doesn't matter now, does it?  I cannot create any more memories from my grave.  

Love ya always "

He closed the note. Yes, he realized no more memories, no more sorry.  You can't create memories from the grave.
Another attempt at a story.  Food for thought. Do we have time? Can we fool ourselves forever? How long can we put off things?  Think twice.
scully Jul 2016
seven months ago:

i. i will fall asleep and let it infect me like a virus and if i die before i wake up my obituary will explain to you how i felt tonight so i never have to

ii. it’s cosmic, i’m telling you. you’d miss me if i wasn’t here.

iii. it’s all quiet. i am here but no one can see me. they can feel me. it’s easy and unpleasant. i just exist, past their realms and in their blind spots.

iv. i want to go back in time and pick you instead

six months ago:

i. i have a lot of pent up resentment towards people i used to love that are successfully existing without me in their lives while i am struggling without them

ii. cant stand you. cant stand being away from you. thank you for calling me beautiful, even if you didnt mean it. i don't feel that anymore, but i did. even for a moment, it was there. we were there.

iii. of all the things you did to me, the worst was making me believe they were in my best interest.

iv. if i could sit in a puddle of nostalgia and let every memory with you hit me like a rain shower id probably contract pneumonia or something.

five months ago:

i. it’s comforting for me to know that you can miss someone and love them without wanting them in your life.

ii. ive spent too much time treating myself as if my love is not sacred, as if it can’t stop time and heal people and create magic. everyone i love is lucky to have me, whether they know it or not.

iii. i’ve always had vivid dreams but last night made me feel something very weird and unexpected.

iv. it’s exhausting falling in love with and getting your heart broken by every soul you meet but i am strong

four months ago:

i. i surround myself with nice and beautiful people and in turn feel disgusting and destructive and ******.

ii. i know people can see me but i feel entirely translucent and invisible

iii. i can’t wait to be 18 so i can check myself into a psych ward

iv. i have stood where you stand and felt what you feel and it’s tortuous and inhumane but you exist outside of the boundaries it sets for you

three months ago:

i. i feel like my life is balanced between the moment where you realize you are falling and you are going to hit the ground and the second after you feel it beneath you

ii. i am not a savior, i am not an angel. my words will not heal you. don’t put the pressure of your will to live on my shoulders, i am tired and i have a lot to balance.

iii. today i am a raincloud and not even just a raincloud i am a cloud that is full and dark and waiting and it won’t rain it will pour it will storm there will be sirens and lightning bolts and thunder and people will cower in safety and i will stay here and be destructive

iv. i woke up safe yesterday, today none of it is real and i hurt when people touch me

two months ago:

i. i think i am in love and it’s inconvenient it’s pestering, i am trying i am trying i am trying.

ii. i want to feel love but i feel so unattainable like i am so out of touch with my genuine emotions that i wouldn’t even know how to feel it (if i even could?)

iii. you have no ties to the people you have been. every day you grow- every day you leave your mistakes behind you and shed all of your previous versions. keep going.

iv. nothing has changed. dont mistake my compliance for forgiveness.


one month ago:

i. i wish the things i care about in my life were concrete instead of the distorted abstract i deal with everyday like a chore

ii. i think about what being dead would feel like a lot and every time i am done i feel like i have to apologize to my mother.

iii. you are not an antidote, i do not need you to survive, you are not sunlight, i do not need you to grow

iv. i am afraid i will never get better.

v. i have always had a hard time with holding grudges but today i climbed onto the other side of the railroad bridge and sat above the water, in line with the trees, and i felt so high and real i whispered into my own palms “i forgive you.”
i think this is the most honest thing ive ever done
lwethu Dec 2013
People change,like it was only
2 months ago you were this 'I care
About you' typer person, you were
This 'your pain,is my pain' typer
Person,you were this thermometer
Wrapped around my body,feeling
Every emotion that I had,and
You'd take them and make them
Your own.

Like 2 months ago,'you'd send me
Those goodnight and I love you'
Text,'you'd brighten up,and
You know,smile whenever my name
Popped up'

2 months ago 'you'd wipe my tears
And tell me,I'm here'
You'd give me your warm hug,and
Your gentle words would calm me down
,They'd sink deep into my heart,
That my brain would capture them
Like I'd lay down in bed,and recite them when I miss you

2 months ago 'you'd tell me,you love me,and you'd die for me'
2 months ago,you were just a stranger
That I fell inlove with.
And now all that I can think and
Say about you,is that
2 months ago,you lied,and fooled me
I fell for your cover page,never bothered to open and read the book.
Allyson Walsh Jan 2016
Decisions are kind of a funny concept. Some people believe that everything happens for a reason. Others believe that each decision has a domino effect on other parts of life. Have you heard of the butterfly effect? This idea believes that every decision leads to various outcomes, and that there are multiple paths a person can take. I like to agree with this statement.

Decisions are what make a person. At least, they're what show a person's character...

I observe ordinary character on a regular basis. I work at a liquor store in a town of roughly three-thousand people. I know the regulars by name, and I can tell who's had a rough day or who is excited for the weekend by what they purchase. I know when Barb is furious at her husband because she buys two liters of *** and the smokes he hates. I can tell when Dave is on good terms with his fiance because he skips the Fireball and heads straight for his 24-pack. Bob... is really just Bob. He comes in and buys a liter of coke, a liter of Bacardi, and a pack of Marlboro reds every day at 4:30 on the dot. Each of these regular's decisions display part of their character. Many of their purchases can be influenced by their emotions... but what part of life isn't?

You're probably wondering when I'm going to get to my point. That'll be a couple hundred words further. You of all people know how great I am at ranting.

How is my minimum-wage job connected to decisions and character? That's a good question. Each decision leads to a specific outcome. These decisions are based on the character of a customer. Their character is displayed in their decisions at my dead-end job. Anyway, back to your decisions.

Decision Making
Relationships are basically a hurdle of decisions. Deciding how to sleep together. Deciding the best way to kiss despite the height difference. Deciding what to say when meeting the in-laws. Deciding when to say "I love you". It's decision after decision after decision.

I like to think that each decision can lead to various outcomes. For example, if I would have never lost my virginity to a one-night-stand and cried about it to the girl living across from me, I would have never met you. So, if I waited to take off my clothes or if I cried about it to my roommate instead, this last year would have gone a lot differently.

I'm beginning to work my way to your decisions. First, let me state that you were the most indecisive person I have ever met. You were passive. You were lukewarm. You were flat. You were only certain on one thing: your admiration for college basketball.

I have to admit that you were decisive on your verdict to be with me... for a time. I guess I have to give you a little credit. You weren't all bad. There was a lot of good in you. But, there was a lot of rottenness underneath your tall, dark, and handsome physique.

The Beginning of the End
You decided to avoid a decision from the very beginning. Sure, it was me that you wanted. I mean, I was great. I still am. I may be biased, but I don't care. You wanted me... but you didn't want the price-tag I came with.

What did I tell you from the beginning? Let me refresh your memory. We were sitting on a lime green couch in the lobby of our college. It was close to midnight and I was exhausted but didn't want to be without you. I told you that I expected you to:

1. Be honest.
2. Be faithful.
3. Pursue me.
4. Make me a priority.

I didn't ask for much. I was searching for... Oh, I don't know, a relationship that sounded pretty standard in my terms. I wanted something serious, but that doesn't mean that I wasn't looking for fun or liveliness. These requests were normal, in my mind.

I then asked you if you would choose me over your mother. I knew you were close to her... and I hadn't met her yet. Also, for some reason, I already had a feeling that she despised the thought of me, and the idea of her little man bringing a girl home... (God forbid she have a brain on her head).

I didn't want to be tantalizing. I believe I am gentle in nature. But, if everything worked out, I wished to be the number one woman in your life... not your mother. I restated my question after a few beats and you continued to ponder the thought. After a few seconds you told me, "No, probably not. But I might change. I want you." That should have stopped me in my tracks.

But it didn't. We were together for about a year since that night. We kept things quiet for a few months before becoming "official" or whatever. Your decision or avoidance should have sent me running... and it did... to you.

I think part of myself knew that I deserved better. Also, part of myself believed that there was beauty in maltreatment. But, I saw potential in you. You were my best friend.

You were... I was in love with you.

I was willing to fight for us. I was willing to fight for you. I was willing to battle it out... and I saw myself coming out victorious, like the warrior I truly am... but, you were a battle lost from the very beginning.

Whatever "Fighting for Me" Looked like to You
Things got worse when confusion arose between your mother and I. She thought I was sleeping with you (when I wasn't). There was a lot of yelling... most of it was in Spanish. I was scared. I was petrified. She believed I was ******* up her perfect son. This put us on unsteady ground.

This was also the first time I saw you cry.

It was a battle between what she wanted and what I wanted. She wanted me out of the picture. I wanted you to stand up for me, and to stand up for us.

You chose me. This would be the one and only time I came out as the number one priority. I believe this was because you were over three hundred miles away from her piercing eyes and thin lips. It was easy to put us first when she wasn't there to "knock some sense" into her son.

Your mother didn't speak to you for months. She was furious. She was angry. Her dislike toward me grew with every passing day.

Letting the Bruises Heal
For the next six months, things seemed to get better. We fought but made up. We talked of the future while understanding that we were still young. We grew as lovers and as friends. We made promises and kept them.

But, the semester was ending. The snow was gone and the grass was nowhere near green. Three months of separation were just around the corner and I knew of the trials to come. I also knew that if we could make it through the summer, that we could last. That is, if we could make it with your bitter mother by your side.

Seperation Leads To...
Three months of fifteen minute phone calls every once in a while dragged on. I was patient with you. We were both working our tails off. I was taking summer classes. You spent any and all of your extra time off working for your dad or training for soccer preseason. Still, I was patient.

We saw each other twice during the summer. Those days were some of my happiest within this past year. Distance really does make the heart grow fonder. Those first moments of seeing you were like revelations. All of the time away made sense. The eight hour drive to see you made sense. We made sense.

It was during your stay at my house when I realized I didn't want to be with anyone else. Ever. It was the first time you told me you were in love with me. I felt the same. We didn't just love one another, we were in love.

It was during my stay at your house, a few months later, when I realized things were heading south.

Temptation
We fought. We fought a lot during the month before I drove to Wisconsin. It was almost daily. Somehow we made up... somehow. You were stressed and I was anxious. I was anxious and afraid.

But, I came down to see you, nonetheless. Most moments, I believed we were healed. We could conquer anything. Others... I knew your mind was elsewhere.

Although, when we said goodbye, I believed we were true. You made me a promise I was sure you would keep. Our goodbye was the second time I would see you cry.

Looking back, I think I know why. You were tempted. You were more than tempted.

Decisions and Indecisiveness
The day after I got back home, you said you "wanted to take your promise back".

Two days after that, you left home to go to a camp I knew nothing about. You "couldn't take your phone" but I knew better than that.

We went an entire week without talking. And I knew something was wrong. I had never felt so sick in my life.

You eventually returned home from camp. But, it took you two days to respond to me. Once you finally called me, you told me you "couldn't do this right now". Then you hung up. That's when I knew it was over.

I was furious. I was jealous. You were tagged in pictures on social media with a few girls in particular.

1. Phones were allowed.
2. You were awfully close to one girl.
3. You were lying through your teeth.

We met up on campus a few days later. I had a list of questions that just about vanished into thin air when I saw you. You were ruggedly handsome... And I was still in love with you.

You greeted me with a hug. I just about cried.

You explained to me that your parents gave you an ultimatum. It was me or college. Stay with me, and college was out of the funds for you. Break things off with me, and college would be paid for. You told me you chose college.

You explained how you "needed to do this for yourself".

You also told me you didn't love me anymore.

You decided against me.

The Entire Truth
I was confused. I was heartbroken. Nothing made sense. It was like you gave me a puzzle that was missing more than half of the pieces. I spent the next month trying put the thing together. I came up with one single solution... but I didn't want to believe it.

My hypothesis rang true through a friend. I believed you cheated on me. Yes, I was sure your parents pulled their big levers; but I believed you were hiding information from me. You were.

I can't go into the details because I don't know all of them. In fact, I probably never will. I've ran through every scenario a thousand times in my head, and I still come up short.

All I know are your decisions. Your decisions show your character. Your character is flawed. Your decisions broke a large part of me. I am still attempting to put myself back together.

Out of all of your indecision, out of months of tug-of-war, you were so decisive on leaving. You were set on cheating. If anything, I wish I could ask you why.

Why did I always seem to come up short? Why wasn't I good enough for you? Why did you choose money, college, and your family over me? Why did you choose her over me?

So many questions I will never get closure on.

Deciding to Decide
I have moved on... for the most part. There are still days (like today) when I miss you more than anything. But, I am stronger. I am certain that I was good enough for you, even if you couldn't see it. I am also certain that you were the first person I was truly meant to be with.

Remember when I mentioned the butterfly effect? I know that different decisions lead to various outcomes. We have the choice. We decide where our life goes (or we choose indecision).

Your decisions led to a different life. A life without me.

And I think, as of right now, I'm okay with that.
For WY

Not poetry. I don't know where else to put this.

Insanely long. A lot of ranting. A lot of heartache. A lot of decision making.

I can't pack our story into one piece... but I tried.
L H R Sep 2015
12 Months
Spent trying to make you love me
For me.
The way I loved you,
For you.

12 Months.
You ignored me, and left me alone.
By myself.
The way I wouldn't,
Leave you be.

8 Months.
You've apologised for treating me,
So badly.
When I showed you the good
In yourself.

8 Months
Is 8 Months too late.
For me to forgive
The harsh words,
You threw at me

20 Months
Of hurt and heart ache
On both sides

So just leave me alone,
before I can admit
to you

and myself

That I still need to know you're ok.
You are my favorite time of day
Like high noon shining brightly in my eyes
You give me love for my heart which was broken in two
I never expected to meet you
A shock in my daily. Unexpected and true
However it was trial run of love for you

Like a Netflix subscription you get 30 days free. You gave me 90, a promo I didn’t know I’d need.
3 months with you looking at the screen
1,000 miles away never touching me
3 months of love felt so deep
I’ll never forget you my cartoon geek.

3 months with you, and I cannot disregard the fact that I was hurting and love was scarred
You told me im beautiful, and were everything I’d asked God for.
But I wasn’t ready for you, and this you knew.
Childish, and petty. Fights and dismay.
My 90 days were running by quickly
I wasn’t ready for you.

Stuck in my covers, and darkness around me. You were my light trying to guide me.
Support me in my decisions, and correct me when I’m wrong. Laugh at my jokes, and listen to my song.

I here you ringing here comes another call. Late nights with you, sleeping on the phone.
Forever and ever? I thought it was true
However forever ended to soon.

They all said I’m crazy, and that you weren’t real. You couldn’t love me when you aren’t here.
Pictures can’t mean anything, words can’t either. He’s not standing next you. You’re in love with a computer.

Tick tock, tick tock. My trials almost over.
I don’t want it to end, but you’re leaving me it’s clear

A night I regret. I’ve never been so scared. I told you I loved you and another man appeared. Taking my strength the little I had left. No longer can I appreciate your light because that man took my eyes.

I’m really in the dark. Visions to see. You were so unhappy with me. Is it my fault? Did I do this? Should I have listened and reported it? It doesn’t matter now because you no longer care

I did it to myself you said it wth out words. You no longer smiled, or looked at me with love. And here they were again telling me to leave.

This man doesn’t love you. It just can’t be.


I’d fallen so deep in love with your eyes. Your smile had made me want to try.

Leave him they screamed. Forever ever? You’d say. But here we were still 1,000 miles away

My trial is over and it ended with a bang. A long text message I sent with regrets. Knowing I needed you, but listening to everyone else. Knowing you were done with me by the look on your face “let’s see how that works for you” it’s what you said.


3 months I spent on my phone
Late night calls, and I didn’t feel alone
3 months I feel oh so deep. In love with everything you mean so much to me.
3 months and my trial had ended

I had to pay up. What was the cost?
My heart is all that I had to pay.

Worth it I now say, because although you have my heart. I know what it feels to be in love.

Worth the pain, and now the lonely nights. As long I know that you’re alright. These months were worth all of my tribulations.

Now I know to listen myself, and no one else.

I could still be happy. Still in deep. Paying for my subscription for you indeed.

3 months of love
3 months of pain
3 months of hearing your name.
Every picture every word. Remains deep.

I didn’t realize then how much you loved me.

Because I was your Penelope.
Just Me Oct 2015
One year and six moths ago she was a different person.
One who never believed.
One who never lived.

She was a shell of a human
Breathing and blinking
Never once was there happiness in her blinking eyes or excitement in her breath.

One year and six months ago
She never even saw herself living that long.
Her life was suppose to end that fateful cold March night.

But one year and six months ago she found a small glimmer of hope
She can't remember where or who
She can't remember anything really.

One year and six months ago, she chose life.

— The End —