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Kate Eddy Jun 2019
The blaze took the house with great speed,
Those inside at once had fleed,
But all was not as it appeared,
For when at last the smoke had cleared,
Among the husk of the home
The children discovered they were alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until we meet again  -
I have 2 words and they're The End
This is the first epic poem I've ever written. It's based on a story I wrote as a kid.
Eden Roberts Sep 2013
I should have noticed something wasn’t right when you were crying all the time, over little things and couldn’t deal with long term commitments.
I should have noticed when you started pushing food around your plate and controlling portion size.
I should have noticed when you wore long sleeves during summer.
I should have noticed when medicine started disappearing.
I should have noticed when your friends stopped coming over and you started sitting by yourself.
I should have noticed when you cut your hair short stopped going to parties.
I should have noticed when you would have unexplainable bruises and cuts.
I should have noticed when teachers called with concerns and your attendance dropped with your grades.
I should have noticed when you started seeing a new boy every week and claimed to love them.
I should have noticed when you gave up.
I should have noticed before it was too late.
Lyra Brown Jun 2013
i noticed everything.
i noticed the way you texted me multiple times
after we first met, asking to hang out
one day earlier than the day of our date apologizing
for your impatience.
i noticed the way you called me beautiful and were quick
to recite a poem when i asked you to,
but you didn't know i only asked you to
to fill in the space where i did not know how
to speak.
seduction is boring when it's easy
or perhaps most boys are easy
but either way, i didn't want you to attack my mouth
as soon as i sat on your couch.
i didn't want you to walk me to the bus stop
and i didn't want to always be holding
your hand just because i was walking beside you.
i noticed everything.
i noticed the way you rambled on and on
about your wealthy parents who are still
happily married, about your younger sister
who you don't get along with, and about the
extraordinary places you had been to
throughout your life.
i noticed the way you didn't listen when i told you
that i write poetry every day
and i noticed the way you didn't ask me once
if you could read it.
i noticed the way you tried to pay for the bill
until i handed you 40$ because you weren't expecting
it to be that expensive, i noticed the way you kept saying
"i wish you could stay longer" every time i mentioned
that i had to go home soon.
i noticed the way you talked about yourself
and i noticed the way you looked at me
like i was the most beautiful thing you had ever seen.
but i'm not and i never will be, and i was flattered
but i'm not yours and i don't want
to talk to you anymore and that probably makes me out
to be a ***** but i don't really care because
i'd rather be laying in the sun reading a book about Beethoven
than laying in your arms noticing the various ways in which
i feel like a bruise on a very ripe banana.
Adrian Trejo Sep 2016
No one noticed.
I matured more than ever.
No one noticed.
I got a promotion.
No one noticed.
I stopped smoking.
No one noticed.
I stopped getting drunk.
No one noticed.
I felt out of place.
No one noticed.
I started cutting myself.
No one noticed.
I tried to over dose.
No one noticed.
I was extremely depressed.
No one noticed.
I showed up on the news...
Now everyone noticed.
Jenna Vaitkunas Sep 2013
I noticed
          The way you stared
                   You tried to hide it
But I noticed

I noticed
        How you apologized quickly
                       I shrugged it off
But I noticed

I noticed*
         I said the wrong thing
                    you laughed it off
but I noticed

I noticed
             the sad glances or smiles
                          you'd try and play it off
But I noticed

I noticed
         I am an Anchor made of glass
                      thrown off the edge
                           you try to stop me from sinking
                                           but you can't stop when I shatter
Holly Freeman Oct 2011
Have you noticed,
That when we gaze at each other,
We stare a second longer?
I have.

Have you noticed,
Your eyes get a little brighter,
When i'm looking into them?
I have.

Have you noticed,
We ****** back,
When our hands grazed the other day?
I have.

Have you noticed,
That big smile that stretches across your face,
Gleaming, when i see you?
I have.

Have you noticed,
That i'm there for you,
When she doesn't have a care in the world?
I have.

Have you noticed,
That you comforted me,
When he said unforgiveable things?
I have.

Have you noticed,
When we hugged we held on a little longer,
Through the pain and hurt?
I have.

I have noticed,
The signs that could be leading up to,
Us falling for each other,
Have you?
Haley Jan 2013
I'll complain a lot
if you haven't noticed already.

I'll think too much
if you haven't noticed already.

I'll make myself crazy
if you haven't noticed already.

I'll try to give up
if you haven't noticed already.

I'll never know what to say
if you haven't noticed already.

I'll get jealous easily
if you haven't noticed already.

I'll change my mind quite a bit
if you haven't noticed already

I'll love you forever
if you haven't noticed already.
Allania Berkey Mar 2016
The clock struck midnight
I was restless and thoughtful as could be
I noticed that I had been tossing and turning to a beat and rhythm that plunged above in the sky
It was a thunder-storm
bang, crash, thump
The sky illuminated in glory
Envy

The thunder roared and crashed in the middle of the night and the trees helplessly yearned for serenity
Ironic
It was calm earlier that day
Imagine
The breeze was right where it should have been and the sun was warmer than a hot skillet on a stove top
Peace
The sky was fostered in a pacific blue
And the clouds resembled dreams
Love
I remember it was 1:05 pm to be exact and I was feeling blissful
I decided to ride my bike through a quaint old town, two miles west of my house
Adventure
I stopped and stared at this little old man painting in the park
He was painting a tree, with pink, red, purple and gray
Odd
I couldn't help, but noticed how he was enticed by his surroundings
Interesting
I continued to bike away
It was now 2:45pm and I was feeling a bit famished
To the right of me stayed a cunning unforgettable coffee shop
I insisted to go in
Hesitation
Something about that coffee shop struck me that day, just like the little old man painting his introspection in the park
The room reeked in comfort and patience
Something I did not understand
Silence
Contemplatively, I bought a cup of coffee--black, I also companied that coffee with a blue berry scone--my favorite
I sat by the window to admire the sunlight and how the warmth cherished my skin
I sipped my coffee--startled
I noticed something peculiar about this coffee shop and this day
Instantly, I was left with an uneasy and unsettled feeling
Thoughtful
My black coffee was much more bitter than usual
It is as if the taste could not go down my throat
Something was wrong, I felt it
As I looked around the room everyone else was enjoying their cup of coffee
They also seemed to lack any hesitation
The tone in their voices create a harmonic rhythm in conversation
I noticed that every time they took a sip of their coffee they found it sweet, rather than bitter
I turned my head and looked out the window for a moment
Suddenly, I noticed that the sky was diminishing in its tints of blue
Wonder
I looked down at my watch
It was 3:35pm, I had to get home
I paid my bill and scurried onto my bike
Remember
The sky was calm throughout the entirety of the day
It was lovely and ideal--until it wasn't

No one expected a storm
No one expected disaster
But somehow, I did

I laid in bed that night waiting in anticipation
Waiting for my world to collide
Thunder and lighting seemed to have fought its way through the sky
Time
There wasn't enough
Concurrently, I felt bitter-- just like my cup of coffee in that cunning old shop
Ambiguity
I was left without answers
I was left without sugar and cream
creek, scratch, thump
The tree branch slid against the slide of my house
I noticed it all
It's starting
All the anticipation and anxiety I felt throughout the day was finally coming to its end or maybe to its start
The sky started to illuminate an illusion of sunlight
It was 11:30 pm and the day it almost to its end
I laid in bed thinking
I thought about my day and everything that it was missing
I notice it all
The little old man in the park painted a tree with a usual set of pigments, he defined ordinary, while sat alone comforted by the mere work of his creativity
The people in the coffee shop arrayed and encompassed patience, harmony and happiness
I was struck by discomfort because I unware of all those wonderful things
I knew all about the thunder and how it was provoked in the sky
I understood the lighting and its wish to shine
I thought of the beat and tempo that they would together make
Sometimes it was bitter, but sometimes it was sweet
I understood thunder and lighting
I understood why they danced viciously in the sky  
Finally, the clock struck midnight and it was now tomorrow
Fear
The storm was coming to its peak
The thunder fought its way with the lighting just as viciously written words floated on a piece of paper
The lighting struck back with ferocious and willful ambition
Relentless
The lighting held its ground, but didn't give up its hope
BANG
Memories
It was 1:05 am
The storm had reached its end
The thunder and lighting seemed to have parted their ways
Their fight was tortious
Nobody won, rather they both lost
It was 1:25 am
The rain had finally stopped
The trees have found their peace
It was 1:42 am
As I laid in bed, I thought about my day
I just want the storm to stop
Just like the the thunder and lightening, the little old man in the park and the people in that cunning old coffee shop, all have found their comfort and patience
The thunder and lightening have similarly found it in their bitter sweet good bye
It was wonderful
I noticed that as much as they fought throughout that darling midnight blue sky, they were attracted to their rhythm—A rhythm that was worth saving
The sweetness was found in their beat as they danced throughout the night
The thunder and lighting created a bittersweet combination
Just like the coffee I wish I would of had
A natural disaster that was intended to create a craze in the sky
The thunder wanted to be sweet, as did the lighting
Two peas in two different pods
Their negativity created the sweet appreciation of warm sunlight
I notice it all
The sun was the sweet
The day was calm
The thunder and lightening both knew it all too well
That night, the reminder of it anyways, I laid in bed and I knew that someday the storm would go away
It was 2:25 am and I finally shut my eyes
Jeremy Duff Dec 2013
On the first day I noticed nothing but your hair.
How it caught the sunlight and reflected it tenfold.
How it swayed around your neck.

On the second day I noticed nothing but your lips.
How they individually felt between my teeth.
How they left marks upon my neck and thighs.

On the third day I noticed nothing but your mouth.
How the words flowed out, powerful as an ocean.
How your teeth would bite me ear, drawing blood.

On the fourth day I noticed nothing but your hands.
How they held mine, always eager to calm them.
How they pulled the needle out of your arm, quivering.

On the fifth day I noticed nothing but your legs.
How they powerfully allowed you to stride great lengths.
How they were ever in motion, even in your deepest parts of sleep.

On the day sixth I noticed nothing but collarbones.
How I wanted nothing more but to crawl in to them and rest.
How I could gently **** on them, causing your whole body to palpitate.

On the seventh day and for years since I have noticed nothing but each individual hair on your body.
They each have a name, Kassandra, Jared, Peter, Ryan, Falyn, Jacob, Hammed, Caroline, Audrey, Yo-Landi, Diane, Khajjitt, Daralyn, forever and ever and ever.

On the last day I noticed how I never noticed your eyes.
But you were gone,
and I could not tell you what color they are.
Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Jenna Andrews Apr 2012
I noticed your scars,
You noticed mine,
We understood.

Never spoke a word,
We didn't know how.
Didn't know we could.

We went to the library.
I picked up Cuts,
You picked up Scars.

We were trying to speak up.
Trying to convey a message,
One that was the both of ours.

I noticed that you count calories.
You noticed that I'm always nauseous.
We know the truth.

We'll never speak a word,
But we noticed each other's,
Misunderstood, unstable youth.
Katelynn Sep 2018
You told me today,
That you wanted to die.
I could tell in your voice,
That it wasn’t a lie.

I never noticed till now,
Of how you fidgeted more.
I never noticed till now,
Of the sweaters you now wore.

But I did noticed now,
How your skin seemed pailer,
How your eyes darker.
Have you been eating?
Have you even been sleeping?

But when you told me,
I finally saw.
The darkness that surrounds you.
When did you start to fall?

Why didn’t I noticed,
That your smile missed your eyes.
Why didn’t I noticed,
That your voice told such lies.

If I had noticed sooner,
Would this had ever happened.
If I had noticed sooner,
Would you had never saddened.

I screamed for you,
Wanting it to not be true,
I cried for you,
Though I didn’t have a clue.

I waited for you,
For you to react,
But the mirror stayed still,
My image intact.
Though this poem is in depth about me, I have in the past, and have seen others struggle with suicidal tendencies. I hope that anyone going through this will reach out to others because you are worth it and you deserve to be here. The suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255, please contact this if you need help, because you deserve to have help.
Rigby Nov 2014
I noticed how short your nails were
and that you tried to brush out the cow licks in your hair
and I noticed how you grind your teeth when you dream
and how you would jump at the slightest sound
and I noticed that your favorite colors were blue and black and green.

but you only noticed how pink my lips were
and you only noticed how soft my knees were
and you only noticed how I would give you anything if you didn't ask
and you only noticed what you wanted to know and not what you wanted to wonder

but i wonder if you felt the scars on my thighs as you slid your hand passed them
and i wonder if you heard the nervous chuckles when i came up for air
and i wonder if you remember that my eyes are blue and green and my heart is black and i wanted to be your favorite because parts of me are broken and i wanted you to wonder why.
inez Jul 2013
him
It was his first day at school
I noticed him amongst a crowd of people
I passed him in the hallway and
I admired his hair
At lunch I spoke and
He told me of his day
He smelt like home and he looked like it too.

It was our second year at school
I noticed him amongst a crowd of new people
I glanced at him in the hallway and
I noticed he altered his hairstyle
At lunch I cried and
He told me it would be okay
He smelt like mystery and he looked mysterious too.

It was our third year at school
I noticed him amongst the crowd that do silly things
I peered at him in the hallway and
I noticed he had covered his hair with a hood
At lunch I spoke and
He sneered and left
He smelt a lot older and he looked it too.

It was our fourth year at school
I noticed him amongst the crowd I'd been warned about
I darted from him in the hallway and
I noticed he had grown his hair to cover his eyes
At lunch I sat in silence and
He ridiculed me
He smelt like cigarettes and he looked like he hadn't a clue.

It was his fifth year at school
He drifted from the crowd every one knows about
People shift away from him in the hallway and
They notice his hair covers his sunken eyes
At lunch he sits in silence and
They ridicule him
He smells like regret, because I left too soon.
Styles Dec 2015
I know you love it,
I can feel your vibe.
you don't just see me,
you see my other side.

I saw you looking;
how you stared for a while,
noticing you smiling,
when I caught you,
for the second time.

must of been those stunning eyes
or that curious smile, you caught my eye
Wanted you closer as the seconds went by
instead of just flirting, I wanted to be by your side.
eyes feeling on each - locked out the world
left each other stuck inside.

I saw you notice me,
and I noticed for a while.
As I looked on, I noticed your style.
And now I'm feeling you, lovin your vibe.
noticed your eyes feeling, watching me move
like a movie --- we should roll, and chill
then take a ride

Close your eyes, and
let me climbs inside.
Touch your soul,
while I ease your mind,
rock your body,
sooth it with mine.
giving you the real me,
until you are addicted to that natural high.
Don't rush a think,
lets just take our time.

Relax, baby just enjoy the ride.
Coming into my world,  while I dip inside.
give me the best of you like its already mine.
Introduce your Highness to her new shrine.
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.
nabi 나비 Oct 2016
No one noticed when the girls skinny jeans got baggy
No one noticed when she started shiveing when it was 80 degrees
No one noticed when the girl who was usually very loud became very quiet
No one noticed when her typical t-shirt turned into sweaters everyday
No one noticed her
Because no one notices the outcast
Especially when she's anorexic and depressed
Until she speaks out
Then they noticed her favorite jeans are 3 sizes too big
Then they noticed the goosebups covering her arms and legs
Then they notice how her head is always stuck in a book
Then they noticed the scratches covering her left arm
Because they wouldn't even know something was wrong
Unless she told them
Because nobody notices the girl with the tears on her textbook
Nobody notices the girl that's sad
John Jan 2013
Back when I was about ten or eleven, the only friend I had was the most beautiful girl I knew. Her name was Jessica and her and I did everything together. In school we were inseparable, always chit-chatting before, during and after classes. So much so that teachers bestowed upon us the annoying, yet endearing, encompassing nickname of "Jackica" - a combination of our names; Jack and Jessica.
     I was so thankful for her companionship, and thinking back it might have been a pretty uneven relationship, emotionally. I was an overweight and awkward Harry Potter fanboy and she was a cute little auburn-haired thing who could've won any Miss America Junior competition in the world, as far as I was concerned. She had the most piercing powder blue eyes. The kind that made my skin tingle and mouth curl up into a stupid smile at any given moment. I felt like she saw me, like she really saw ME. Not the blubbery flesh that coated my muscle and bones but what I was made of, the real me. And I loved her for that.
     Along with Jessica's physical blessings, she was also given an insatiable appetite for adventure. She loved to go to the park at night,  after the gates were locked and when everything was drenched in darkness. We'd hop the five foot chain-link fence and roam around the grounds. We'd go the water at the edge of the park and sit on the rocks, look up at the stars and take turns telling stories to each other with intent to scare the **** out of the other one.
     One humid night in mid-June, Jessica told a story that succeeded in making my skin-crawl. She always told decent scary stories, she was gifted in the art of fabricating tales of fright right on the spot, but this story really got to my core for some reason. I just felt uneasy as the words spilled from her mouth to my ears and with each sentence my muscles tightened and strained just from the mere tone of her voice as she told the story. She sounded serious, and she rarely did, even when telling these stories, but with this particular one it sounded like she really believed what she was saying was cold, hard truth.
     What she said was that she heard a story that her older brother's girlfriend had told her. It was about a house on the outskirts of town, placed just a few hundred yards from the mouth of the woods that lined our little suburban utopia. She went on to say that in the house was nothing all that scary. She said it was an old house, a very old house, as it was a log cabin that was built in the 1700s, when the town was first being settled. Supposedly, everything in the house was just as it was back then, little kerosene lamps sitting on home-mad oak tables. The maple-wood floors would moan and creak at the slightest hint of any weight being put on them. And then she said that no one had lived in the house since the man who built it died, around 1785.
     Needless to say, Jessica wrapped up the story by proclaiming that we had to find the house. And we had to go inside and see for ourselves what was so creepy about it. Being the scared, chubby little wimp that I was, I immediately rejected the idea. There was no way I was going to try to find a place that would only succeed in making me **** my pants in front of a girl, especially the one whom I'd placed the delusional label of "future girlfriend" on.  But, as I subconsciously expected, Jessica talked me into it with just a few graceful words: "I'll kiss you if you come with me."
    
     The very next Saturday night, Jessica and I put on some dark jeans and t-shirts and took the bus all the way to the last stop, the edge of town. We hopped off and right in front of the stop the woods were already waiting, I took a deep breath as Jessica's eyes lit up. She took my hand and pulled me as she ran, me clumsily waddling along behind her all the way to a little dirt pathway that paved the only marked entrance we could see. She asked me if I was ready and I shrugged, saying something like "I'm as ready as I'm ever going to be." And so we started down the path. As the tall trees swayed in the wind, I dragged my feet with  Jessica always about five feet ahead of me, as eager as ever. We walked for probably ten or twenty minutes before the foot of the cabin was before us.
     At first sight, it was a very old structure. I'd never seen anything like it outside of paintings in my history textbook and this Abe Lincoln documentary I saw on PBS. I never knew houses like that stood the test of time. But there it was before me, two stories high with wooden shutters clad in severely chipped paint and a big oak door that looked stronger than any door I'd ever seen. Jessica took my hand again, smiled enchantingly and rushed me forward.
     Once at the door, I was speechless. It didn't look as old as the rest of the house and whoever made it obviously meant for it to last a very long time, taking extreme care in carving it out impeccably and sanding it until it shined with a professional touch. Without a word, Jessica rapped on the door. Three hard times, and when no one answered after thirty seconds, she rapped again, and again. She shrugged and turned to me, asked if we should just go in. I said no and she frowned.
     "There's no way we came this far just to go back home with nothing," and then she wrapped her hand around the rusted doorknob and turned.
     The door opened with no hesitation as she pushed it all the way in. She stepped inside, and I followed. The first thing I noticed inside the cabin was the creaking floors. They creaked louder and longer with each step, affirming that part of the story, making my blood run cold. We looked around, going from room to room with wide eyes. We were amazed that we made it, that we got inside and now we were actually investigating a place that no one else supposedly had gone before. Truth be told, though, it was nothing special. There wasn't much at all to see, save for a few tables, the creaking floors and some very old paintings on the wall. We were just leaving when we noticed something on a table nearest the big oak door. It was a metal box with a small lock fastened to the front of it.
     "We have to open it," Jessica proclaimed after a second of curious inspection.
     "There's no way were going to find the key," I told her.
     "So we'll break the lock, Jack. Duh," she replied in her sassiest tone.
     I just shook my head as she grabbed the box and began to furiously slam it in the wooden table. The sound echoed through the house, exacerbating it and making me shiver from head to toe.
     "I don't know if you should keep-" but my sentence was cut off my the lock flying off the box and clinking onto the floor below.
Jessica smiled again, very pleased with herself and looked to me.
     "Wonder what's inside...," She said, lifting the top half of the box open.
     After an initial and cough-inducing puff of thick dust subsided, the contents of the box were revealed. It was a letter, written on old-school parchment in heavy ink. In neatly laid Victorian script, the likes of which I had never seen so simultaneously neat and scattered, like it was written in a hurry or during a time of distress, was a love letter. Well, a kind of love letter. It was addressed to a woman named Tania and it was signed by a William. It told the story of how William had loved Tania since they were children, and Tania was now to be married to a Pastor named Hensley. William told Tania how he couldn't bear the thought of her ever being with anyone else and that the fact that she could never truly be his was killing him. Literally. He ended the note by confessing his plan to **** himself.
     I took a step back, but Jessica just stood at the table with her eyes glued to the crumbling parchment in her hands.
     "I'm leaving," I said after a few moments, mulling over the sorrow that this poor man must've felt. I headed out the door, Jessica following. The walk back through the woods to the bus stop I couldn't get this feeling of dread from subsiding. It seemed like I felt what William felt, but not in a sympathetic sort of way. It felt like I was William and the pain he felt was actually my pain. And then I noticed that, rolled up tightly in her fist, Jessica had taken the letter with her.
     "Why'd you take that," I said, sounding thoroughly upset. "That's not yours to take, go bring it back!"
     "No way. There was no way I was going there and coming back with nothing to show for it," she said, gripping the letter tightly, her knuckles almost whitening.
     I knew how stubborn Jessica could be and I knew whatever I said probably wouldn't even phase her in the slightest so I did what I did best and just shrugged it off. I found myself wishing I could shrug off the terrible feeling the letter put deep inside me just as easily as I could Jessica's stubbornness.

     Over time, Jessica and I lost touch, as kids of that age often do. I grew up, lost weight and opened up, making more friends and acquaintances, no longer hanging onto the thought of Jessica being my only love. I didn't talk to Jessica all that much. Just once in a while we'd meet up and have a chat over some coffee or pizza. We had both changed and morphed into young adults with different agendas and dreams and I had no problem with that. But on one such meeting, Jessica began to worry me. She said that every now and then she'd open her desk drawer and take the piece of parchment out and read it. Over and over again. And lately, she had been opening the drawer more and more, she said that she felt drawn to it. Like something about it made her feel this deep-seated dread that no horror movie or scary story had ever made her feel. She said that she felt like the letter was beginning to take a toll on her. And, by the look of her, it didn't seem like she was lying or kidding around like she always used to love to do. She had dark circles underneath her once striking eyes, which were now darker and had taken on an odd and ominous color. I was scared for her. And I told her so but she hugged me and assured me she was alright. I wanted to believe her, and I tried to, hugging her back and telling her I'd talk to her soon. But when she turned her back I knew something was very wrong.

     I'm writing this now because a few weeks ago Jessica's mom gave me a call. When her number came up on my cell phone, I think I knew, deep down, e actor why I was getting this call but I pushed the thought away and said hello. Jessica's mother called to tell me that a few days before Jessica had gone missing. The only indication to her whereabouts was a note she left with the words "cabin at the edge of town", and below that, instructions on how to get there. Her mother said she took the note and hopped in her car immediately, and made it to the cabin. She said she was breathless by the time she got to the cabin but forged on and barged inside and looked around. She said she found nothing and was about to leave when she noticed a small door behind the big oak door she had swung open to get inside. She opened the little door to find a stairwell. She climbed it, calling Jessica's name all the way, sobbing and wiping tears from her eyes. At the top of the stairs was the attic. And she said she almost died herself when she saw Jessica. She was hanging from a wooden rafter on the ceiling. And next to her was a severely decayed skeleton, dangling from a rope only a few inches away.
It's definitely more of a short story but I felt obligated to post it here for some reason.
Mark Lecuona Feb 2012
Alright, alright, alright... so yesterday my boss says, "Your hair's getting kinda long." Now, he's a very cool dude and it don't confront him at all but he said, "People are talking." Of course I go, "What are they saying?" He said oh you know, "Is Mark having a mid-life crisis? Stuff like that..." So I got ticked and said, "They WISH they were me...." Ha... cocky Mark. By the way I've posted a follow-up to this entitled "Don't Put That Sign On Me." Anyway here's the inevitable poem that always happens:

They say
There's a crisis
Really? Whose?
Mine?
Or yours?
Yeah my hair is longer
Yeah the girls seem younger
Yeah the words are stronger
Yeah the struts in my wander
Yeah... yeah
That's what they say
But... I hadn't noticed
Maybe... just maybe
That's because
It's not my crisis
Maybe
It's yours
But
Like I said
I hadn't noticed
But
You sure did
Why is that?

I'll tell you what
Yeah
I'll tell you
I'll tell you what I've noticed
I've noticed my honesty grow
To match your bank account
With every deposit
Your true self dies
They bought you
Your brain
Your personality
Your heart
Your soul
But I guess
You hadn't noticed
That's because
You are in a crisis
But it's normal for you
You see life from inside
The flames
It's as if everything
And everyone
Is on fire
But one who steps out
From the flames
Is not
In crisis

You locked yourself in
I freed myself
And in freedom
I live
In *******
You die
But you don't want to die
Alone
So you bring me down
Don't bring me down
Just because you locked the door
On your own
Don't bring me into it
That was your choice
Leave my choice to me
When did my choices become painful
To you?
You don't notice me
I won't notice you
Unless you need help
With your crisis
Then I'm here
Otherwise
Don't invent one
For me
Solegrina Jul 2014
Once upon a time
a butterfly noticed its own fragility
and submitted itself to the winds

Once upon a time
the wind noticed its own dispersion
and submitted itself to the hills

Once upon a time
a hill noticed its own hardness
and submitted itself to the grasses

Once upon a time
the grass noticed its own dependency
and submitted itself to the earth

Once upon a time
the earth noticed its own monotony
and submitted itself to the flowers

Once upon a time
a flower noticed its own inaction
and submitted itself to the bees

Once upon a time
a bee noticed its own irrationality
and submitted itself to The Queen

Once upon a time
a human could notice her humanity
and thus she beheaded the king.
K David Mitchell Feb 2012
O!
If I had honest eyes I might have seen you.

I might have noticed how the light
Simply bounces off your messy hair.
I might have noticed the dimples
In your rosy, rounded cheeks.
I might have noticed how angels
Dance at the corner of your lips
When you grace me with a smile.
I might have noticed the calmness
Emanating from your crystalline eyes.
I might have noticed the cheery glow
Around your entire corporal form.
I might have noticed how you
Glide gracefully along the floor.
I might have noticed the perfection
That is so utterly and completely you.

But my eyes are deceitful.
They wander and want.
Too late have they repented.
Like the poor, jealous Moor,
I can only say:
O! O! O!

Too late have I seen what I have done.
Mitchell Duran Nov 2013
It was 98'.
No, it was 99'.
That was the year.
Yeah, that was the year.

I had just landed abroad and knew no one.
Well, I was there with my girlfriend, Page.

I knew her.

We had to get out of the states.
There was nothing for us there.
We were drowning in that nothingness - that lacking future.

Cookie cutters everywhere.

Everything I saw was like an outline of something that had already happened.
I couldn't sleep.
I couldn't ****.
I could barely call my parents to let them know what I was doing.

Nothing really.

Floating downward like a leaf broken from its stem.
I was scared.
I'll admit it.
I was terrified of the next four years.
Twenty-five seemed so far away and so close, all at the same time.

We had a found an apartment to live in while in the U.S.
We were lucky because people we met later on said it was hell trying to find a place after arriving.
I was never too good at that stuff anyway.
I always felt like people were trying to cheat me or something.

It was small.
You would have said you loved it, but secretly hated it.
One could barely stand in the shower.
Want to spread your arms wide?

Forget about it.

There was a balcony though and you could watch the street traffic from above.
People look so small when your high up.
Down the street, there was a large theatre where they filmed movies.
I rarely saw them shooting, but I could tell it was a good place to.
It was beautiful at night when the lampposts would flicker on, orange spilling on the street.
Everything was damp in the Fall when we first arrived.

"What do you want to do today?" I asked her. She was laying face down on the bed.
Whenever she was hungover, she would do that.
All the covers and pillows over her face, blocking out the world and its light.
I did the same thing, so I couldn't really say much.
We were hungover a lot those first couple months.
Then came the jobs and everything changed...mostly.

She moaned something that I couldn't understand.
I was standing by the window, staring at the pigeons and crows perched on the roof across from us.
They had made a little nest under one of the shingles.
Clever little ******'s.

"Look at those things," I said.
The coffee I was drinking was bitter and made from crystals.
It gave me a headache, but it was cheap and we were broke.
I stepped back to get a better look at their nest and knocked an empty beer bottle around.

She moaned again and rose up from bed, kind of like a stretching kitten or a cat.
Her back was arched like a crescent moon and she stunk of ***** and Sprite.
The blankets were twisted and crumpled and she was tangled in them like a fly in a spiders web.
I went into the kitchen and poured out my coffee, thinking of what to do with the day.

"Breakfast?" she asked me from bed.
My back was to her, but I knew she wanted me to make it.
I put the electric stove on and opened the refrigerator.

"No eggs," I said back to her, "I'll be right back."

She moaned and slithered back into bed.
I threw my jacket and slippers on and made my way downstairs.

"Dobry den," I said to the cashier.
He was a tiny vietnamese man with a extremely high pitched voice.
I struggled to stifle a laugh every time I came in.

"Dobry den," he said back, sounding like air escaping from a balloon.

"Dear God," I thought, "How does his voice box do it?"

I went straight to the eggs, pretending to cough.
All around me were packaged sweets and rotten vegetables and fruit.
There were half loaves of brown, stale bread wrapped lazily in thin plastic.
Canned beans, noodle packets, and cardboard infused orange juice lined the shelves.
Where were the ******* eggs?
We needed milk too.
Trying to drink that crystalized coffee without it was torture.
I don't even know how I did it earlier.
"I must be getting used to the taste..." I thought.

I opened the single refrigerator they had in the place.
It was stocked with loosely packaged cheese, milk, beer, and soda.
There they were, those ******* eggs, right next to the yogurt.
I looked at the expiration date of a small carton of chocolate milk and winced.
"Someone could die here if they weren't careful," I whispered to myself.

"Everyding O.K.?" I heard the cashier squeak behind me.
I turned and nodded and showed him the eggs.
He was suspicious I was stealing something.
It was ironic.
I put the eggs on the counter and handed over what the cash register told me.

"There you go," I said and handed him the 58 crown in exact change.

"Děkuji," he peeped.

His voice sounded like a stuffed animal.
I nodded, smiled, and quickly got the hell out of there.

"You know the guy that works at the shop across the street?" I asked the body still in bed.
Well, she was up now, back up against the wall with her laptop on her lap.
"You mean the guy that has the voice of a little girl?"
"Exactly. I was just in there - getting these eggs - and I nearly laughed in his face."
"That's mean," she frowned, staring at her laptop.
Many of our conversations were with some kind of electronic device in between us.
We needed to work on that.
"I didn't laugh at him directly."
She smiled and nodded and moved down the bed a little more.
Only her head was resting on the pillow.
I cracked two eggs and let them sizzle there in the butter and the salt.

"So, what do you want to do today?" I asked Page, "It's not too cold out. We could go on a walk."
"Where?"
"I don't know. Over the bridge and maybe down by the water."
"It's going to be so cold," she shivered.
"I was just out there in slippers and a t-shirt and I was fine."
"That's because you're so big. I'm tiny. I don't get as much blood flow."

I flipped the two eggs and looked down at them.
Golden and burnt slightly around the edges.
******* perfect.
Now, just gotta wait a little on the other side and make sure to not let the yolk harden.
I hated that more than anything in the world.
Well, that and hearing **** poor excuses like it being too cold.
It was nice out.
She'd be fine.

"Come on," I sighed. I did that a lot. "It'll be fun."
She looked up at me from her computer with a dead look in her eye.
"What?" I asked her.
"You're such a...nerd," she said.
"No I'm not."
"You're so weird. Some of the things you say sometimes..."
"Like what?"
"Let's go on a walk."
She exaggerated the word walk.
I laughed and knew I was being a little too excited about a walk.
"Yeah. So? What are you doing? You're just laying there doing nothing."
"It's my day off," she scoffed, jokingly.

We were unemployed.
Everyday was a day off.
This was not something to bring up.
It was touchy subject.
One had to go about it...delicately.

"We need to find jobs," I stated, "And we can probably ask around or look for signs in windows."

"Oh JESUS," she gagged, coughing and diving back under the covers.

"I'm just thinking ahead so we can stay here. There's got to be something out there we can do."

"Like what?" she asked, her voice muffled by blankets.

"I don't know...something," I mumbled, trailing off as I flipped one of the eggs, "Perfect."

After breakfast, Page finally got out of bed and took a shower.
I tried to sneak in there with her, but, like I said before, one could barely fit themselves in there.
We compromised to have *** on the bed, though I did miss doing it in the shower.
As Page got dressed, I watched her slip those thin black stockings on, half reading a magazine.
I had gotten a subscription to The Review because I was trying to become a writer.
I thought, maybe if I read the stuff getting published - even the bad **** - it'll help.
Later, I realized, this was a terrible idea, but I enjoyed the magazine all the same.
Page finished getting dressed.
I jumped into whatever clothes were on the floor and didn't stink.
Then, we were out the door on Anna Letenske street, looking at the tram, downhill.


"I can see my breath," Page said, "It's cold..."

"Alright," I said as both of us ran across the street, "It's a little cold."

"But it's ok because I'm glad were out of the house."

"If we would have festered there any longer, we would have stayed in there all day."

"And missed this beautiful day," she said mocking me, putting both of her arms in the air.

The sky was gray and overcast and a single black crow flew over us, roof to roof.
No one was out, really.
It was Sunday and no one ever really came out on Sundays.
From the few czech friends I had, they explained to me this was the day to get drunk and cook.

"Far different then what people think in the States to do," I remember telling him.
"What do you do, my friend?" he had asked. He always called me my friend.
It was a nice thing to do since we had only known each other a couple weeks.
"Well," I explained to him, "Some people go to church to pray to God."
He laughed when I said this and said, "HA! God? How many people believe in God there?"
I had heard through the news and some Wikipedia research Prague was mostly atheist.
"A good amount, I'm pretty sure."
"That's silly," he scoffed, "Silly is word, right?"
"Yep. A word as any other."
"I like that word. What else do they do on Sunday?"
"A lot of people watch football. Not like soccer but with..."
"I know what you talk about," he said, cutting me off, "With the ball shaped like egg?"
I nodded, "Yes, the one with the egg shaped ball. It's popular in the Fall on Sundays."
"And what is Fall?" he asked.
You can see our relationship was really based on questions and answers.
He was a good guy, though I could never pronounce his name right.
There was a specific z in there somewhere where one had to dig their tongue under their teeth.
Lots of breath and vibration that Americans were never asked or trained to do.
Every czech I met said our language was a high contradiction.
Extremely complex in grammar and spelling, but spoken with such sloth.
I don't know if they used the word sloth.
I just like the word.

As we waited for the tram, I noticed the burnt orange and red blood leaves on the ground.
"Where had they come from?" I wondered. There were no trees on the street.
Must be from the park down the block, the one with the big church and the square.
There were lines of trees there used as leaning posts for the bums and junkies as they waited.
What they were waiting for, I never knew.
They just looked to be waiting for something.
I kicked a leaf into the street from the small island platform for the tram.
It swept up into the air a couple inches, and then instantly, was swept away by a passing car.
I watched as it wavered in the air, settling down the block in the middle of the road.

"Where's this trammm," Page complained.
Whenever it was cold out, her complaining level multiplied by a million.
"Should be coming soon. Check the schedule."
"Too cold," she said, "Need to keep my hands in my pockets."
I shook my head and looked at the schedule. It said it would be there at 11:35.
"11:35," I told her, still looking at the schedule. There was a strange cross over the day of Sunday.
"You mad?"
"No," I said turning to her, "I just want to have a nice day and its hard when you're upset."
"I'm not upset," she said, her teeth chattering behind her lips.
"Complaining I mean. We can go back home if it's really too cold. It's right there."
"No," she looked down, "Let's go out for a bit. I just don't know how long I'll last."
"Ok," I shrugged.
I looked up the street and saw our tram coming; number 11.
"There it is," I said.
"Thank God," Page exhaled, "I feel like I'm about to die."

Even the tram was sparse with people.
An empty handle of cheap liquor rattled in the back somewhere.
I heard it rock back and forth against the legs of a metal seat.
"Someone had a night last night," I thought, "Hope that's not mine."
We had gone to some dark bar with a lot of stairs going down - all I really recall.
Beer was so **** cheap there and there was always so much of it, one got very drunk easily.
I couldn't even really remember who we met or why we went there.
When everything's a blur in the morning you have two choices:
Feel guilty about how much you drank, lie around, and do nothing or,
Leave it be, try not to think about it, and try and find your passport and cell phone.

We made our transfer at the 22 and rode downhill.
Page looked like she was going to be sick.
Her sunglasses were solid black and I couldn't see her eyes, but her face was flushed and green.
"You alright?" I asked her.
"I'm fine," she said, "Just need to get off of this tram. Feel like I'm going to be sick."
"You look it."
"Really?" she asked.
"Yeah, a little bit."
"Let's get off at the park with the fountain. I don't want to puke here."
"Ok," I said, smiling, "We'll get off after this stop."

We sat down on one of the benches that circled around the fountain.
It was empty and Page was confused why.
"Maybe to save money?" I suggested.
"What? It's just water."
"Well, you gotta' pump the water up there and then filter it back out. Costs money."
"Costs crown," she corrected me.
"Same thing," I said, putting my arm around her, "There's no one here today."
"I know why," she stated, flatly.
"Why?"
"Because it's collllllllld and it's Sunday and only foreigner's would go out on a day like this."
I scanned the park and noticed that most of the faces there were probably not Czech.
"****," I muttered, "You may be right."
"I know I am," she said, wiggling her chin down into her jacket, "We're...crzzzy."
"We're what?" I asked. I couldn't hear her through her jacket.
She just shook her head back and forth and looked forward, not wanting to move from the warmth.
Dogs were scattered around the brown green grass with their owners.
Some were playing catch with sticks or *****, but others were just following behind their owner's.
I watched as one took a crap in the center of the walkway near the street.
Its owner was typing something on their phone, ignoring what was happening in front of him.
After the dog finished, the owner looked down at the crap, looked around, then slunk off.

"Did you see that?" I asked Page, pointing to where the owner had left the mess.
"Yeah," she nodded, "So gross. That would never fly in the states."
"You'd get shoulder tackled by some park security guard and thrown in jail."
"And be given a fat ticket," she said, coughing a little, "Let's get out of here."
"Yeah," I agreed, "And watch for any **** on the way out of here."

We made our way out of the park and down the street where the 22 continues on to the center.
"Let's not go into the center. Let's walk along the water's edge and maybe up to the bridge."
"Ok," I said, "That's a good idea." I didn't want to get stuck in that mass of tourists.
I could tell Page didn't either. I think she was afraid she might puke on a huddle of them.
We turned down a side street before the large grocery store and avoided a herd of people.
The cobble stones were wet and slick, glistening from a small sliver of sunlight through the clouds.
Page walked ahead.
Sometimes, when we walked downtown in the older parts of Prague, we would walk alone.
Not because we were fighting or anything like that; it was all very natural.
I would walk ahead because I saw something and she would either come with or not.
She would do the same and we both knew that we wouldn't go too far without the other.
I think we both knew that we would be back after seeing what we had wanted to see.
One could call it trust - one could call it a lot of things - but this was not really spoken about.
We knew we would be back after some time and had seen what we had wanted to.
Thinking about this, I watched her look up at the peeling paint of the old buildings.
Her thick black hair waved back and forth behind her plum colored pea coat.
Page would usually bring a camera and take pictures of these things, but she had forgotten it.
I wished she hadn't.
It was turning out to be such a beautiful day.

We made it to the Vlatva river and leaned over the railing, looking down at the water.
Floating there were empty beer bottles and plastic soda jugs.
The water was brown, murky, and looked like someone had dumped a large bag of dirt in there.
There was nothing very romantic about it, which one would think if you saw it in a picture.
"The water looks disgusting," Page said.
"That it does, but look at the bridge. It looks pretty good right
Frankie Gestone Mar 2013
He woke up in a rapid sweat, darkness surrounding him, his soaked pillow was pressing up on his neck as he could feel the uncomfortable stabbing cold run right threw his whole body. His mouth was dry and his body was in great pain. He lay there practically naked, but not just physically, also emotionally. It was like a catatonic state where the person’s body is paused in reality, but the actual person is far away and isolated even from himself. He wondered why he was so comfortable being uncomfortable and remaining frozen in time.  He saw nothing but the subtle moonlight that peaked through the blinds of his window. A point of existence, he feels nothing because all he has ever felt has drowned him. His numbness was being accepted and he embraced that if he remained this way, he would never have to feel hurt or heartbreak again. It’s better this way, he confirmed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there he was right in the middle of a storm. In so many ways, he realized where he was ending was where he originally began. All the imprints from all he ever knew came back all at once to watch him finally leave all he ever knew from this life. And in the last moments, he found himself with her. He held her hand, while she held his, and the hands of their family and friends. The world was so dark and cold. The wind became much more rapid and an enormous bright light from it came within just miles of them. He kept looking up at the dark black and gray clouds over them, never as frightened as he was now. His focus was on the great strength of the wind. Whatever melancholic thoughts he had of his life, he would not give up hope. Maybe he was just hopelessly hopeful, but holding each other tightly might, in some miraculous way, save them. Then suddenly a deep peace began to sustain his very being. He remembered whose hand he was holding- the only woman to ever understand every level of his being. He looked down at her big, precious eyes pouring out tears. Their eyes locked, as she had been watching him the entire time. No words needed to be said from one another. They knew exactly what they felt and meant. For the first time in his life, everything was all okay. All was beautiful. The whole situation was beautiful, not tragic. In that moment, he understood this was where he was meant to be. This was where he wanted to be, for only in such a life altering moment does one comprehend the very nature of love and life. To just glance into her eyes and see the same person staring back in suspense, while all he ever knew was being born, growing, and dying simultaneously in complete acceptance. They began to fade and disappeared into the light.
Robyn Nov 2012
Have you noticed?
Its right in front of your face
Its all around you
Its in your eyes
Its in your heart
Have you noticed?
It doesn't announce itself
It doesn't speak
It doesn't make a sound
But you can feel it
I can feel it
Have you noticed?
Its standing right behind you
Its inching closer, closer
It can smell your hair
It can feel the heat of your body
It reaches out
It is touching you
It is strangling you
Have you noticed?
Its in the crowds
In the masses
In the people who stand close
In the people who are close
Its in you and all you care about
Its everywhere
Have you noticed?
That we're all alone?
jeffrey conyers May 2020
You noticed his clothes?
You noticed his rings?
You noticed his many cars and various loves.

But you never noticed his personality.
Which explained so many things.

He abused you.
He treated you cruelly.
Before friends to show out he called you a fool.

And then your friends noticed you.

That confidence has been pushed aside.
Many times you showed up to them with two black eyes.
And when asked how?
You told them lies.

But they noticed you selected the wrong guy.
Simply because of the things he could buy.

Somethings we noticed we sit silently by.
Report folks the violence you see before your eyes.
Ayad Gharbawi Dec 2009
THE STORY OF SARA


AYAD GHARBAWI


CHAPTER 3: BEING AN ACTIVIST

  
Gradually, we become ever more radical in our burning quest to uproot every conceivable element of the corrupting culture of the oppressors.
  We soon started to call these oppressors 'Pigs', because that is exactly what they were: overweight, bloated, filthy animals who live simply eat and consume all day, and who love to live in their own excrement.
  The Pigs had to be removed, because you cannot negotiate with a pig.
  It was so obvious to me!
  Some people did, indeed, argue that diplomacy and negotiations were the way to achieve our blessed equality-based society, but that was pure idiocy to me; because, for Heaven's sake, a pig will remain a pig and cannot become an 'enlightened' pig! These criminals, who are creating poverty, and who are killing people, because they do not allow them decent health services, must be completely eradicated, or else, ordinary people will continue to suffer.
  One day I heard Tony give a speech in front of a huge audience: "There's no point in cutting the tail of the snake. No, you must go straight for the head, and that's how you **** it!" And there ensued roars and cheers, from the mainly young crowd. "And, if someone is trying to **** you, what do you do? Negotiate? Talk to them? No, you **** them first, that's what you do! That's who the Pigs are, my friends. They are out there killing you, and so many of you tonight are simply not even remotely aware that you are dying slowly – so, you must, first of all wake up, and realize that someone, somewhere, is draining out the blood of your life, and next you must identify the cancer that is killing you. So, who's the cancer?" Tony screamed, and the by now delirious crowds immediately responded with a thunderous and hate-filled, "Pigs! Pigs! Pigs!"
  "The Pigs talk and teach us about 'morality' and 'respect' and 'decency', and other subjects like that. That's laughable now, isn't it?! I mean, the blood stained mass murderer is teaching us etiquette here?!"
  "No! No!" roared back the audience. "**** the pigs! **** the pigs!" they suddenly and somehow instantaneously started to chant. So, I must correct what many people think about Tony, and that is, he 'invented' and popularized that phrase, '**** the pigs". No, he didn't; it was the audience that night who spontaneously came up with that really exciting and vibrant phrase!
  From then on, violence became more common along with the never ending chants – if not screams – of '**** the pigs!' Every day, and all over the country, the movement had flourished, and there were the most refreshing and gloriously destructive riots in almost every major city.

  It was at this time that I first heard a speech from Omar.
We waited for the man to appear, but he seemed nowhere to be found.
  My God, I heard from so many people that he was the most radical in the deepest sense of the word!
  Apparently, he made Tony sound like a child!
  He also had a well disciplined party – unlike Tony.
  Here was a place that I can find the ‘cause of my life’!
  I could work for Omar and that would be the point of my life!
  The thought thrilled me – because I was already a convert to their ideas, but with Omar, there was a real party that was actively fighting the government, whereas Tony and other leaders like him were independent activists, but with no party behind them.
    Then, Omar suddenly appeared.
  He was of medium height, average looks - but it wasn’t long before you noticed his inexpressibly burning, fanatical eyes!
  I was about a few metres from him, and I could feel the sheer intensity of passion and rage within those eyeballs!
  This man must have absolutely the words of truth, for no Man could look like that and be a liar!
And then he gently spoke:
  "**** the pigs, I hear you say. Well, that's not good enough for me. People like that make me yawn. And, I'm bored of yawning every day. We need more. We need to move on faster. I need speed. It's not just '**** the pigs', it's '**** the cops!', because the cops defend the Pigs and attack us every day; '**** the teachers!' because every teacher does nothing except to teach us with pointless information'. And, '**** every human being' who sides or serves the establishment!”.
  Omar’s eyes were literally able to stab right through your heart and soul simply by staring at you!
  I can well imagine that my reader will not believe me and will say it was because I was a convert to Omar’s ideas that I found his eyes to be so abnormally powerful – but, what do you say to all those people who did not like him, and who met him, and yet, they, too, all said that his eyes were profoundly piercing?!
  So, you see, reader, do believe me – it’s not because I was emotionally enthralled by Omar, that I am describing him to you the way I do!
  He had beautifully framed fingers – I don’t know why I noticed that!
  He had a rather longish nose – maybe, that was one defect in his face, but you hardly noticed that, given the other attractions in this man.
  And then he possessed the deepest, most guttural, and yet so sweetly melodic voice, that I had ever heard, and when he spoke, he simply entranced me – not to mention the thousands of others.
  Omar continued, beginning to raise his ragged voice:
“And, so I order you, tonight, and tomorrow, and every day, to fanatically and ruthlessly exterminate every visible sign, agent, artist, writer, philosopher, painter, sculptor, journalist, teacher, professor, lawyer, doctor, surgeon, banker, engineer, everyone who works in the mass media like the television, every film maker, every scientist, and every single employer and employee of the Pigs."
  The audience now simply shrieked the verb, '****! ****! ****!’ while Omar went silent, amidst this wild orchestra of hate being played out.


  I noticed, that unlike Tony, Omar wouldn't gesticulate or move his hands at all.
  Actually, he just stood there, rock solid, like a statue while only eyes and mouth spoke!
  The man, I swear, looked like a 'human rock'!
  He was the absolute epitome of boundless hatred; of unrestrained defiance against the rulers ruling us!
  Yes, I do admit, and I hesitate to say so, but, yes, he almost did like completely maniacal – were it not for his self control and the beauty of his words!
  The audience relaxed.
  Omar waited until there was silence, and he continued:
  "Do you see the difference between what I am saying and what brothers like Tony say? People like Tony demand from us to uproot the pigs. But what Pigs does he, in fact, mean? Who does he mean, when he says 'Pigs'? He means the rich. That's it.”


  Now, Omar abruptly went silent.
  Tension.
  He was staring at us.
  I could feel that the audience felt nervous precisely because Omar was staring at them.
  Finally, he continued:
  “Can you imagine the limits of his intellect?! To Tony and his misguided followers, the solution facing the problem before us is simple enough: you simply wipe out the rich, and suddenly we have the beautiful society!"
  Omar was sneering, being utterly sarcastic in his voice and tone.
  "So is that it, Brother Tony? Is that all we need to do?”
  There, he stopped again, with a sarcastic, wicked smile on his face.
  The man’s body simply had no motion in it!
  I was waiting to see, if Omar would, at some point, move his body or his arms, but so far nothing!
  He continued:
“My goodness, I never knew that the gigantic problem facing us was to be solved in such a simple manner! But, no, you're being fools. Or, maybe you're fooling your selves. Either way, I don't know, and more importantly, I don't care, because, as I told you all out there listening to me,” suddenly, he began to scream with his rasping voice:
  “I'm a serious man, with a serious mission, and above all, I'm a man in a hurry!"
  Again, Omar went suddenly silent.
  I could sense, that he was deliberately teasing the audience, because they were obviously desperate for him to continue speaking, while he, would every so often stop speaking, thus adding to the tension in the atmosphere!
  The audience laughed, loving the biting sarcasm; obviously there were lots of rivalry and jealousies between the two camps, and so Omar's followers just loved to hear the buckets of insults being poured upon the followers of Tony.
  The mocking tone continued:
  "These fools are retarding our own path to victory! These followers of Brother Tony, are doing the dumbest acts that I have ever seen. I mean, what do you mean and what are you trying to achieve, when you have his followers going to restaurants and disrupting the place? I mean, is this what the definition of 'stupidity' is, or what?!"
  The crowd cheered: "Yes! Yes! Idiots!"
  "Listen here Brother Tony; I would like to say, 'it's all right, you're still young and you'll soon grow up'. But I can't say that. You know why?"
  The audience waited as Omar paused.
  He was staring at his audience.
  Suddenly, he erupted with his deafening scream:
  "I can't wait. Didn't I already tell you that? Didn't I tell you I'm a man IN A HURRY AND I'VE GOT TO DO MY WORK! DON'T YOU PEOPLE OUT THERE GET IT?"
  He roared, and the masses applauded furiously.
  "I don't have time, for children like Tony, and for his own little children, to stand in my way, and wait for them to grow up! I don't have the time, because I have an enemy out there, that needs to be completely, ruthless and fanatically exterminated, root and branch, do you now follow me?"
  "Yes! Yes! We follow!" screamed the masses.
  Silence.
  And then, Omar continued:
  "So, we know who Tony defines as the Pigs. What about myself? We must talk the talk of the brave. If you're scared, then get out of here. Why do I say this? Because this struggle requires the most ruthless behaviour on our part, and to be ruthless, you need to be brave, and to be rave means you have no fear."
  It sounded almost as if he were singing.
  Or maybe it was my imagination.


"So, who are the Pigs, you ask me? Simple. The Pig is a man, woman and child who has any Pig Attributes. What do I mean by 'Pig Attributes'? Very simple. Any human, who has in his brain, any idea, concept, believe and acceptance of any value from the rulers who rule us all. And, what are these 'values' that come from our dear rulers? They are ideas and values such as: there are the simple ones, like the belief in the right to profit, belief in the right of property, inheritance and so on. Then, there are the other beliefs, such as, belief in compassion for the rich, or cooperating with the rich or socialising with the rich. You follow?"
  The audience was silent.
  "That means, any human in our sick society, poor or not, who in any way, not only physically interacts with the rulers is a Pig himself, but also any human, poor or not, who has in his heart and mind, any empathy for the rich is a Pig himself, and so therefore, it follows – and I hope you people out there are listening to me – it means, therefore, that a poor human being who has any Pig Attributes, is a Pig himself, just like the rulers themselves. Do you understand?"
  Silence.
  And then he walked out.


  It was so sudden, because I expect a really screaming end from Omar, but to the surprise of everyone, he ended and simply walked out!
  But, I, understood what he meant.
  Basically, he was enlarging the definition of what it meant to be the 'enemy'.
  This struggle was now going to be infinitely more difficult. With Tony, the war was simple enough.
  We were 'right' while anyone belonging to the ruling class was 'evil' and that was it.
  Obviously, no member in the ruling class can deny that he's in the ruling class! They can even change their accents and their clothes, pretending to be poor, but there are computers and archives, such as birth certificates, school records, and it doesn't take long, to find out a person's origins.
  But now what Omar was proposing, that a Pig is any human being who interacts with the ruling class is evil.
  Also, anyone who has any thoughts that have any Pig Attributes (for example, being pro-ruling class), are also evil, and therefore, had to be eliminated.
  In other words, the poor can be Pigs as well.
  I loved that, because, I was never comfortable with most other left leaders, including Tony, who only focused their ire against the rich.
  To them all the poor were ‘blessed’ and ‘sinless’, and I knew, from my own background, that they simply romanticised the poor, probably because they themselves were all rich people who had never lived one day of their lives in poverty.
  With Omar, being impure, or sinful could be anyone in society – and, your background or class didn’t matter.
  That was far more logical to me!

But with joining Omar’s party, came other problems for me.
How were we supposed to ‘find’ a Pig, or an impure person?
  How can we be sure if a person has the Pig Attributes in his mind?
  It seemed ludicrous to me!
  I had doubts because as attractive an orator that Omar was, once you went home and thought about what he actually said, a lot did not make sense.
  I had so many ideas that contradicted what Omar had to say.
  For example, can’t we achieve our goals by peaceful means – rather than choosing the path of violence?
  And if we must use violence, then why don’t we attack military targets and not civilians?
  Wasn’t it wrong to target civilians and civilian places – like factories, farms, and shops?

  
  There he stood; eyes blazing as ever.
  What makes eyes 'blaze' I wondered.
  They don't actually emit any light, do they?
  So how can one man have such penetrating, piercing eyes that go right to your innermost heart?
  Omar seemed to be made of steel.
  Or, maybe it was all in my imagination, as Sanji would always be telling me.
  It was his personality and also his body language: that stern, stiff way of standing, that seemed to be the epitome of defiance against the evil in the world!
  His whole body seemed to be chiselled from the purest marble; there he stood, this heroic rock, against the tyranny of the storms and the oceans that were crashing on him; and still, there he stood, not only in supreme piety, but also, there he stood, waging a struggle against these very dark forces of evil.
  He will rid our society and our nation from evil, and one day, we shall live in a truly happy country.
  This nation and its sad people, this nation that has so many miserable, poor and unhappy people, will soon be able to live free, happy lives, without the burdens and the shackles imposed on them by the ruling elites.
  He spoke:
"They need to be utterly, and without a shred of human mercy, be exterminated, or else, it is us, who will be exterminated! It is either them or us! We need to cleanse our entire body from these cancerous cockroaches. Don't you people understand? Call it '******', call it 'exterminate', call it 'butchering them' – I do not care; what I do care and what I need in order to breathe uncontaminated, fresh air,  is to surgically and methodically and blindly eliminate the very existence of every Pigs on our land! That is why we have no choice but to fight. The criminals leave us with no choice. If they surrender their corrupting ways agai
first last May 2014
Nobody noticed when she purged herself of her lunch though the scent of ***** was still recognizable through her mint gum.
Nobody noticed when she tore through her untouched skin despite the trickle of blood she forgot to wipe clean.
Nobody noticed her cries of help through her sobs of sorrys.
Nobody noticed the pain in her eyes.
Nobody noticed when she broke.
Nobody noticed and for that she is gone.
RAJ NANDY Jul 2017
THE LEGEND OF HOLLYWOOD IN VERSE
Dear Readers, I have tried to cover the salient features of this True Story in free flowing verse mainly with end rhymes. If you read it loud, you can hear the chimes! Due to the short attention span of my readers I had to cut short this long story, and conclude with the
Golden Era of Hollywood by stretching it up to the 1950's only. When TV began to challenge the Big Screen Cinema seriously! I have used only a part of my notes here. Kindly read the entire poem and don't hesitate to know many interesting facts - which I also did not know! I wish there was a provision for posting a few interesting photographs for you here. Best wishes, - Raj Nandy, New Delhi.  

                 THE LEGEND OF HOLLYWOOD :
                        THE AMERICAN  DREAM
                             BY RAJ NANDY

           A SHORT  HISTORICAL  BACKGROUND
Since the earliest days, optical toys, shadow shows, and ‘magic
lanterns’, had created the illusion of motion.
This concept was first described by Mark Roget in 1824 as  
the 'persistent of vision'.
Giving impetus to the development of big screen cinema with its
close-ups, capturing all controlled and subtle expressions!
The actors were no longer required to shout out their parts with
exaggerated actions as on the Elizabethan Stage.
Now even a single tear drop could get noticed easily by the entire
movie audience!
With the best scene being included and edited after a few retakes.
To Thomas Edison and his able assistant William Rogers we owe the invention of Kinetoscope, the first movie camera.
On the grounds of his West Orange, New Jersey laboratory, Edison
built his first movie studio called the ‘Black Maria’.   (1893)
He also purchased a string of patents related to motion picture
Camera; forming the Edison Trust, - a cartel that took control of
the Film Industry entire!

Fort Lee, New Jersey:
On a small borough on the opposite bank of the Hudson River lay
the deserted Fort Lee.
Here scores of film production crews descended armed with picture Cameras, on this isolated part of New Jersey!
In 1907 Edison’s company came there to shoot a short silent film –
‘Rescue From an Eagle’s Nest’,
Which featured for the first time the actor and director DW Griffith.
The independent Chaplin Film Company built the first permanent
movie studio in 1910 in Fort Lee.
While some of the biggest Hollywood studios like the Universal,
MGM, and 20th Century Fox, had their roots in Fort Lee.
Some of the famous stars of the silent movie era included ‘Fatty’
Arbuckle, Will Rogers, Mary Pickford, Dorothy and Lillian Gish,
Lionel Barrymore, Rudolph Valentine and Pearl White.
In those days there were no reflectors and electric arch lights.
So movies were made on rooftops to capture the bright sunlight!
During unpredictable bad weather days, filming had to be stopped
despite the revolving stage which was made, -
To rotate and capture the sunlight before the lights atarted to fade!

Shift from New Jersey to West Coast California:
Now Edison who held the patents for the bulb, phonograph, and the Camera, had exhibited a near monopoly;
On the production, distribution, and exhibition of the movies which made this budding industry to shift to California from
New Jersey!
California with its natural scenery, its open range, mountains, desert, and snow country, had the basic ingredients for the movie industry.
But most importantly, California had bright Sunshine for almost
365 days of the year!
While eight miles away from Hollywood lay the port city of Los Angeles with its cheap labour.

                        THE RISE  OF  HOLLYWOOD
It was a real estate tycoon Harvey Wilcox and his wife Daeida from
Kansas, who during the 1880s founded ‘Hollywood’ as a community for like-minded temperate followers.
It is generally said that Daeida gave the name Hollywood perhaps
due to the areas abundant red-berried shrubs also known as
California Holly.
Spring blossoms around and above the Hollywood Hills with its rich variety,  gave it a touch of paradise for all to see !
Hollywood was incorporated as a municipality in 1903, and during
1910 unified with the city of Los Angeles.
While a year later, the first film studio had moved in from New
Jersey, to escape Thomas Edison’s monopoly!    (1911)

In 1913 Cecil B. De Mille and Jesse Lasky, had leased a barn with
studio facilities.
And directed the first feature length film ‘Squaw Man’ in 1914.
Today this studio is home to Hollywood Heritage Museum as we get to see.
The timeless symbol of Hollywood film industry that famous sign on top of Mount Lee, was put up by a real estate developer in 1923.  
This sign had read as ‘’HOLLY WOOD LAND’’ initially.
Despite decades of run-ins with vandals and pranksters, it managed to hang on to its prime location near the summit of the Hollywood Hills.
The last restoration work was carried out in 1978 initiated by Hugh
Hefner of the ******* Magazine.
Those nine white letters 45 feet tall now read ‘HOLLYWOOD’, and has become a landmark and America’s cultural icon, and an evocative symbol for ambition, glamour, and dream.
Forever enticing aspiring actors to flock to Hollywood, hypnotised
by lure of the big screen!

                     GOLDEN AGE OF HOLLYWOOD
The Silent Movie Era which began in 1895, ended in 1935 with the
production of ‘Dance of Virgins’, filmed entirely in the island of Bali.
The first Sound film ‘The Jazz Singer’ by Warner Bros. was made with a Vitaphone sound-on-disc technology.  (October 1927)
Despite the Great Depression of the 1930s, this decade along with the 1940s have been regarded by some as Hollywood’s Golden Age.
However, I think that this Golden Age includes the decades of the
1940s and the 1950s instead.
When the advent of Television began to challenge the Film Industry
itself !

First Academy Award:
On 16th May 1929 in the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard,
the First Academy Award presentation was held.
Around 270 people were in attendance, and tickets were priced at
$5 per head.
When the best films of 1927 & 1928 were honored by the Academy
of Motion Production and Sciences, or the AMPS.
Emil Jennings became the best actor, and Janet Gaynor the best actress.
Special Award went to Charlie Chaplin for his contribution to the
silent movie era and for his silent film ‘The Circus’.
While Warren Brothers was commended for making the first talking picture ‘The Jazz Singer’, - also receiving a Special Award!
Now, the origin of the term ‘OSCAR’ has remained disputed.
The Academy adopted this name from 1939 onwards it is stated.
OSCAR award has now become “the stuff dreams are made of”!
It is a gold-plated statuette of a knight 13.5 inches in height, weighing 8.5 pounds, was designed by MGM’s art director Cedric Gibbons.
Annually awarded for honouring and encouraging excellence in all
facets of motion picture production.

Movies During the Great Depression Era (1929-1941):
Musicals and dance movies starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers provided escapism and good entertainment during this age.
“Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did. She just did it
backwards and in high heels,” - the Critics had said.
This compatible pair entertained the viewers for almost one and
a half decade.
During the ‘30s, gangster movies were popular starring James Cagey, Humphrey Bogart, and Edward G. Robinson.
While family movies had their popular child artist Shirley Temple.
Swashbuckler films of the Golden Age saw the sword fighting scenes of Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn.
Flynn got idolized playing ‘Robin Hood’, this film got released in
1938 on the big screen!
Story of the American Civil War got presented in the epic ‘Gone With The Wind’ (1939) with Clarke Gable and Vivian Leigh.
This movie received 8 Oscars including the award for the Best Film, - creating a landmark in motion picture’s history!
More serious movies like John Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’ and
John Ford’s  ‘How Green Was My Valley’, were released in 1940 and 1941 respectively.
While the viewers escaped that depressive age to the magical world
of  ‘Wizard of Oz’ with its actress Judy Garland most eagerly!
Let us not forget John Wayne the King of the Westerns, who began
his acting career in the 1930s with his movie ‘The Big Trail’;
He went on to complete 84 films before his career came to an end.
Beginning of the 40s also saw Bob Hope and the crooner Bing Crosby, who entertained the public and also the fighting troops.
For the Second World War (1939-45) had interrupted the Golden Age of Hollywood.
When actors like Henry Fonda, Clarke Gable, James Stewart and
Douglas Fairbanks joined the armed forces temporarily leaving
Hollywood.
Few propaganda movies supporting the war efforts were also made.
While landmark movies like ‘Philadelphia Story’, ‘Casablanca’, ‘Citizen Kane’,
‘The Best Years of Our Lives’, were some of the most successful movies of that decade.  (The 1940s)
Now I come towards the end of my Hollywood Story with the decade  of the 1950s, thereby extending the period of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Since having past the Great Depression and the Second World War,  the Hollywood movie industry truly matured and came of age.

                        HOLLYWOOD  OF  THE  1950s

BACKGROU­ND:
The decade of the ‘50s was known for its post-war affluence and
choice of leisure time activities.
It was a decade of middle-class values, fast-food restaurants, and
drive-in- movies;
Of ‘baby-boom’, all-electric home, the first credit cards, and new fast moving cars like the Ford, Plymouth, Buick, Hudson, and Chevrolet.
But not forgetting the white racist terrorism in the Southern States!
This era saw the beginning of Cold War, with Eisenhower
succeeding Harry S. Truman as the American President.
But for the film industry, most importantly, what really mattered  
was the advent of the Domestic TV.
When the older viewers preferred to stay at home instead of going
out to the movies.
By 1950, 10.5 million US homes had a television set, and on the
30th December 1953, the first Color TV went on sale!
Film industries used techniques such as Cinemascope, Vista Vision,
and gimmicks like 3-D techniques,
To get back their former movie audience back on their seats!
However, the big scene spectacle films did retain its charm and
fantasy.
Since fantasy epics like ‘The Story of Robin Hood’, and Biblical epics like ‘The Robe’, ‘Quo Vadis’, ‘The Ten Commandments’ and ‘Ben-Hur’, did retain its big screen visual appeal.
‘The Robe’ released on 16th September 1953, was the first film shot
and projected in Cinema Scope;
In which special lenses were used to compress a wide image into a
standard frame and then expanded it again during projection;
Resulting in an image almost two and a half times as high and also as wide, - captivating the viewers imagination!

DEMAND FOR NEW THEMES DURING THE 1950s :
The idealized portrayal of men and women since the Second World War,
Now failed to satisfy the youth who sought exciting symbols for rebellion.
So Hollywood responded with anti-heroes with stars like James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Paul Newman.
They replaced conventional actors like Tyron Power, Van Johnson, and Robert Taylor to a great extent, to meet the requirement of the age.
Anti-heroines included Ava Gardner, Kim Novak, and Marilyn Monroe with her vibrant *** appeal;
She provided excitement for the new generation with a change of scene.
Themes of rebellion against established authority was present in many Rock and Roll songs,
Including the 1954 Bill Hailey and His Comets’ ‘Rock Around the Clock’.
The era also saw rise to stardom of Elvis Presley the teen heartthrob.
Meeting the youthful aspirations with his songs like ‘Jailhouse Rock’!
I recall the lyrics of this 1957 film ‘Jailhouse Rock’ of my school days, which had featured the youth icon Elvis:
   “The Warden threw a party in the county jail,
     The prison band was there and they began to wail.
     The band was jumping and the joint began to sing,
     You should’ve heard them knocked-out jail bird sing.
     Let’s rock, everybody in the whole cell block……………
     Spider Murphy played the tenor saxophone,
     Little Joe was blowing the slide trombone.
     The drummer boy from Illinois went crash, boom, bang!
     The whole rhythm section was the Purple Gang,
      Let's rock,.................... (Lyrics of the song.)

Rock and Roll music began to tear down color barriers, and Afro-
American musicians like Chuck Berry and Little Richard became
very popular!
Now I must caution my readers that thousands of feature films got  released during this eventful decade in Hollywood.
To cover them all within this limited space becomes an impossible
task, which may kindly be understood !
However, I shall try to do so in a summarized form as best as I could.

BOX OFFICE HITS YEAR-WISE FROM 1950 To 1959 :
Top Ten Year-Wise hit films chronologically are: Cinderella (1950),
Quo Vadis, The Greatest Show on Earth, Peter Pan, Rear Window,
Lady and the *****, Ten Commandments, Bridge on the River
Kwai, South Pacific, and Ben-Hur of 1959.

However Taking The Entire Decade Of 1950s Collectively,
The Top Films Get Rated As Follows Respectively:
The Ten Commandments, followed by Lady and the *****, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, Bridge on the River Kwai, Around the World in Eighty Days, This is Cinerama, The Greatest Show on Earth, Rear Window, South Pacific, The Robe, Giant, Seven Wonders of the World, White Christmas, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Sayonara, Demetrius and the Gladiator, Peyton Place, Some Like It Hot, Quo Vadis, and Auntie Mame.

Film Debuts By Rising Stars During The 1950s :
The decade of the ‘50s saw a number of famous film stars making
their first appearance.
There was Peter Sellers in ‘The Black Rose’, Marlon Brando in
‘The Men’, and actress Sophia Loren in ‘Toto Tarzan’.
Following year saw Charles Bronson in ‘You Are in the Navy Now’,
Audrey Hepburn in ‘Our Wild Oats’, and Grace Kelly, the future
Princess of Monaco, in her first film ‘Fourteen Hours’. (1951)
While **** Brigitte Bardot appeared in 1952 movie ‘Crazy for Love’; and 1953 saw Steve Mc Queen in ‘******* The Run’.
Jack Lemon, Paul Newman, and Omar Sharif featured in films
during 1954.
The following year saw Clint Eastwood, Shirley Mc Lean, Walter
Matthau, and Jane Mansfield, all of whom the audience adored.
The British actor Michael Cain appeared in 1956; also Elvis Presley
the youth icon in ‘Love Me Tender’ and as the future Rock and Roll
King!
In 1957 came Sean Connery, followed by Jack Nicholson, Christopher Plummer, and Vanessa Redgrave.
While the closing decade of the ‘50s saw James Coburn, along with
director, script writer, and producer Steven Spielberg, make their
debut appearance.

Deaths During The 1950s: This decade also saw the death of actors
like Humphrey Bogart, Tyron Power and Errol Flynn.
Including the death of producer and director of epic movies the
renowned Cecil B. De Mille!
Though I have conclude the Golden Age of Hollywood with the 50’s Decade,
The glitz and glamour of its Oscar Awards continue even to this day.
With its red carpet and lighted marquee appeal and fashion display!

CONTINUING THE HOLLYWOOD STORY WITH FEW TITBITS :
From Fort Lee of New Jersey we have travelled west to Hollywood,
California.
From the silent movie days to the first ‘talking picture’ with Warren
Bros’ film ‘The Jazz Singer’.  (06 Oct 1927)
On 31st July 1928 for the first time the audience heard the MGM’s
mascot Leo’s mighty roar!
While in July 1929 Warren Bros’ first all-talking and all- Technicolor
Film appeared titled - ‘On With The Show’.
Austrian born Hedy Lamarr shocked the audience appearing **** in a Czechoslovak film ‘Ecstasy’!  (1933)
She fled from her husband to join MGM, becoming a star of the
‘40s and the ‘50s.
The ‘Private Life of Henry VII’ became the first British film to win the  American Academy Award.  (1933)
On 11Dec 1934, FOX released ‘Bright Eyes’ with Shirley Temple,
who became the first Child artist to win this Award!
While in 1937 Walt Disney released the first full animated feature
film titled - ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarf ‘.
The British film director Alfred Hitchcock who came to
Hollywood later;
Between 1940 and 1947, made great thrillers like 'Rebecca', ‘Notorious’, ‘Rear Window’, and ‘Dial M for ******’.
But he never won an Oscar as a Director!

THE GOLDEN GLOBE AWARD:
This award began in 1944 by the Foreign Correspondence Association at
the 20th Century Fox Studio.
To award critically acclaimed films and television shows, by awarding a
Scroll initially.
Later a Golden Globe was made on a pedestal, with a film strip around it.
In 1955 the Cecil B. De Mille Award was created, with De Mille as its first
recipient.

THE GRAMMY AWARD:
In 1959 The National Academy of Recording and Sciences sponsored the
First Grammy Award for music recorded during 1958.
When Frank Sinatra won for his album cover ‘Only The Lonely’, but he
did not sing.
Among the 28 other categories there was Ella Fitzgerald, and Count Basie
for his musical Dance Band Performance.
There was Kingston Trio’s song ‘Tom Dooly’, and the ‘Chipmunk Song’,
which brings back nostalgic memories of my school days!

CONCLUDING HOLLYWOOD STORY  WITH STUDIOS OF THE 1950s

Challenge Faced by the Movie Industry:
Now the challenge before the Movie Industry was how to adjust to the
rapidly changing conditions created by the growing TV Industry.
Resulting in loss of revenue, with viewers getting addicted to
their Domestic TV screen most conveniently!

The late 1950s saw two studios REPUBLIC and the RKO go out of business!
REPUBLIC from 1935- ‘59 based in Los Angeles, developed the careers of
John Wayne and Roy Rogers, and specializing in the Westerns.
RKO was one of the Big Five Studios of Hollywood along with Paramount,
MGM, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Brothers in those days.

RKO Studio which begun with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the ‘30s,
included actress Katherine Hepburn who holds the record for four Oscars
even to this day;
And later had Robert Mitchum and Carry Grant under an agreement.
But in 1948, RKO Studio came under the control Howard Hughes the
temperamental Industrialist.
Soon the scandal drive and litigation prone RKO Studio closed, while
other Big Four Studios had managed to remain afloat!


PARAMOUNT STUDIO:
Paramount Studio split into two separate companies in 1950.
Its Theatre chain later merged with ABC Radio & Television Network;
And they created an independent Production/Distribution Network.
Bing Crosby and Bob Hope had been Paramount’s two biggest stars.
Followed by actors like Alan Ladd, William Holden, Jerry Lewis, Dean
Martin, Charlton Heston, and Dorothy Lamour.
They also had the producer/director Cecil B. De Mille producing high-
grossing Epics like ‘Samson & Delilah’ and ‘The Ten Commandments’.
Also the movie maker Hal Wallis, who discovered Burt Lancaster and
Elvis Presley - two great talents!

20th CENTURY FOX:
Cinema Scope became FOX’s most successful technological innovation
with its hit film ‘The Robe’. (1953)
Its Darryl Zanuck had observed during the early ‘50s, that audience  
were more interested in escapist entertainments mainly.
So he turned to FOX to musicals, comedies, and adventure stories.
Biggest stars of FOX were Gregory Peck & Susan Hayward; also
stars like Victor Mature, Anne Baxter, and Richard Wind Mark.
Not forgetting Marilyn Monroe in her Cinema Scope Box Office hit
movie - ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’, which was also shown on
prime time TV, as a romantic comedy film of 1953.

WARREN BROTHERS:
During 1950 the studio was mainly a family managed company with
three brothers Harry, Albert, and Jack Warren.
To meet the challenges of that period, Warren Bros. released most of
its actors like James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Oliver de Havilland, -
Along with few others from their long-term contractual commitments;
Retaining only Errol Flynn, and Ronald Regan who went on to become
the future President.
Like 20th Century Fox, Warren Bros switched to musicals, comedies,
and adventure movies, with Doris Day as its biggest musical star.
The studio also entered into short term agreements with Gary Copper,
John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Patricia Neal, and Random Scott.
Warren Bros also became the first major studio to invest in 3-D
production of films, scoring a big hit with its 3-D  suspense thriller
‘House of Wax’ in 1953.

MINOR STUDIOS were mainly three, - United Artists, Columbia, and
The Universal.
They did not own any theatre chain, and specialized in low-budgeted
‘B’ Movies those days.
Now to cut a long story short it must be said, that Hollywood finally
did participate in the evolution of Television industry, which led to
their integration eventually.
Though strategies involving hardware development and ownership of
broadcast outlets remained unsuccessful unfortunately.
However, Hollywood did succeed through program supply like prime-
time series, and made-for-TV films for the growing TV market making
things more colorful!
Thus it could be said that the TV industry provided the film industry
with new opportunities,  laying the groundwork for its diversification
and concentration;
That characterized the entertainment industry during the latter half  
of our previous century.
I must now confess that I have not visited the movie theatre over the last
two decades!
I watch movies on my big screen TV and my Computer screen these days.
Old classical movies are all available on ‘You Tube’ for me, and I can watch
them any time whenever I am free!
Thanks for reading patiently, - Raj Nandy.
**ALL COPYRIGHTS ARE WITH THE AUTHOR RAJ NANDY OF NEW DELHI
Nemo Sep 2015
Mr. Isaiah N. Felix had overslept. Again.
He put both hands on his face and grumbled a long, sleepy
"Fuuuuck."

Mr. Felix rose from his bed, resentful of most everything
including himself.
As he stood, he breathed "****" once more before heading to the bathroom.

He made his feet move toward the seashell themed bathroom
his girlfriend had insisted on decorating,
even though she had her own apartment.

While he ******, he thought about the dream he'd had.
He was a child again standing in the fun house,
afraid to go through the spinning tunnel.

He wondered if it had been a real memory.

He didn’t' have time to shower or shave,
but he hurried to get dressed,
and didn't notice he'd missed a button.

On the way out the door he noticed he had a voicemail.
"Mr. Felix, I'm calling again about your father,
please call us when you can."

He coughed into his fist and walked out the door.

After the short walk to his office,
he incorrectly swiped his keycard,
and the machine sang out its small cadence of rejection

It sounded familiar.

Once he sat down in his cubicle
he was called into his boss's office
by a plump women who wore too much blush, he thought.

His boss cleared his throat and said "Isaac-"
"Isaiah." Mr. Felix corrected.
"Isaiah, I'm sorry to have to do this, but you've been coming in late..."

He continued, but Mr. Felix only closed his eyes, slumped in a squeaky leather chair
and thought about the spinning tunnel in the fun house.
He packed up his things and was gone within the hour.

He found himself at the park, sitting on a bench covered in bird ****.
He looked down at the words scribbled on it,
and amongst the profanities, he read "I will always love you guys"

And he thought that was really beautiful.

Then a pigeon **** on him from somewhere way up above
and he thought to himself,
"Man, I really should have seen that coming."

Mr. Felix decided he would walk to his girlfriend's apartment and surprise her.
He picked up two roses on the way for $9.95
and thought that was a little much to be spending on flowers.

After knocking twice without response he used his spare key.
Inside he found his girlfriend with another man,
******* under seashell sheets.

He thought, "She must really like the beach."
And then he thought that was
a strange thought to have at the given moment.

"What are you doing here?"
"Why aren't you at work?"
"Are those flowers for me?"

Mr. Felix fell to the floor
and as his girlfriend rushed to him covered only in bedsheets,
he noticed a reoccurring pattern on her ceiling.

And then he said
"Do you even love me?"
And again heard a small cadence of rejection.

"Isaiah..." she had said.

As his now ex-girlfriend filled a vase with water for the flowers,
he stood and left her apartment, and thought maybe he felt blood on the back of his head.
He heard her call from the door, but marched forward.

He stood in the elevator feeling slightly dizzy
and remembered the time she had wiped vanilla ice cream
from his chin, and kissed him, and said something very beautiful.

She said, "You're always going to remember this moment."

And then Mr. Felix passed out.






He dreamed again he was standing before the spinning tunnel.
He wanted to walk through it, but for some reason
he knew he shouldn't.

When he opened his eyes
he realized he was in a hospital.
The same hospital that his mother had died in.

He blinked.
And then he thought maybe he should cry,
but he didn't. He couldn’t.

His now ex-girlfriend noticed his eyes had opened.
She stood next to the bed holding a bouquet of flowers
and Mr. Felix wondered how much she'd spent on them.

But he didn't ask.

The nurse said that the damage was not serious,
and after a few hours and a few tests,
his room had been replaced by a young girl who had been struck by lightning.

Incidentally, she had been the one who wrote the really beautiful words on the bench.

His now ex-girlfriend had driven him back to his apartment,
and they were now standing in a silence only she thought was awkward
when Mr. Felix noticed he had another voicemail.

"Mr. Felix, um," the voice began,
"I hate to have to do this over voicemail,
but your father has passed. We've been trying to reach you...”

He continued, but Mr. Felix only closed his eyes, slumped on the floor.
Again he saw the spinning tunnel, this time a kaleidoscope appeared at the end,
and the thought he would walk through it.

When he opened his eyes again
He found he was on the roof.
He wondered if God had carried him there, or if it was just the fire escape.

He wasn’t sure which one he preferred.

Mr. Felix stood on the edge of his twenty-story building.
He noticed that from here all the people looked like ants,
And he noticed that he felt like one.

Mr. Felix closed his eyes once more
And saw the kaleidoscope spinning
In front of him, around and around.


He was amazed by how it was constantly changing,
But somehow it was always how
it was supposed to be.

And it was always beautiful.

Mr. Felix finally summoned the courage
To step into the spinning tunnel
And into the colliding colors.

He thought about his funeral,
And how much they would spend on flowers.
And then he wondered who “they” would be.

He thought about his now ex-girlfriend
And how she cared more about flowers and seashells and *******
Than him.

But she could say some very beautiful things.

He tried to think of what his father would say
And then he tried to remember
What his mother looked like


He heard a sharp wind howl,
Maybe an angel singing,
And a scream he thought might be his own.

He heard every small cadence of rejection.

He heard his grandmother playing her grand piano
With arthritic hands
And a gummy but perpetual smile.

He heard someone say,
In a voice both happy and sad,
“I will always love you guys.”

Mr. Felix heard many things on his way down.
Sirens, shouting, and a love so heavy
It was collapsing on itself.

Mr. Felix finally heard the sound
he’d been waiting
His whole life for

The infinite, the sweet,
The intimate, complete,
The absolutely beautiful song of acceptance.
And then Mr. Felix hit the ground.
Morgan Mercury Jul 2013
I found you in the cracks of winter. On our first date, we drank tea from cups bigger than our faces. You also told me you wrote poetry. I noticed how every time you would lick your lips before you would speak. The first time you read me a poem your window was open and it was raining. Your voice cracked and you cleared your throat six times. I was smitten. After our third date, I showed you my favorite place in the world. I took you to a bay on the outskirts of town. I told you the stories I carved into the sand a long time ago. I told you I came here every time the world kept turning but I felt as though I've fallen off, waiting for a guitar solo crash or a midnight knock on my window.

I wanted to tell you, you were my midnight knock. You let me hold your book of poems that night. There were bite marks in them from when you said you climbed up in trees back when you were as tall as the kitchen counter. We had conversations of Bon Iver and soccer as we laid on the sandy bay.

I realized that night I wanted to be there with you when the clock swallows up your time and watch indie movies on Netflix when there is nothing good on TV. I turned to look into space and swallowed all my feelings. I felt hollow when I looked at you and noticed your skin was old and tired. But you looked at me like you were young. You said I was the first to make you feel this way. I was smitten.

At first, I looked at you like a star but ended up seeing the whole solar system.
Robert Guerrero Jan 2014
My talents as a poet
As a master of my sanity
Have began to fade away
My freedom to write
Moving powerful emotional pieces
Has deteriorated before my eyes
I've calmed the monster
To ease my grandmothers fears
Of losing her only successful grandchild
I've silenced the voices
To ease my deceased great grandmothers worry
That I'll join her in the heavens of my fathers memories
I've noticed I'm now nothing
Just the average joe
Watching Netflix and eating popcorn
Listening to music dreaming of being something
I've noticed
You read my work
Watched me perform
Understood the hatred I feel
Felt the pain I've endured so long
Grasped the love I once expressed
Yet now you're only looking for those things again
Looking for the long poems I once enjoyed writing
The ones that erupted with passion
For all things I thought of
Five minute poems
One night stands with lines
****** paper with pen
As I forced it to swallow the inky ***
I've always wanted to write my last and final poem
To finally be free of my insanity
And embrace the story of peace and solitude
But in this world those are just mirages
Boiling from the hallucination of my desert mind
I've noticed
I truly am just Robert Guerrero
The guy who dreamed impossible dreams
Only because his talent dried up
I'm on a train.

One of those red ones with black trimmed windows you can imagine rolling through the suburbs on the way to NYC. Not a subway car but a classier vintage with proper rows of cushioned seats and a lever to pull if there is an emergency. There are sparse shrubberies on one side of the tracks and the ocean on the other. Young trees and bushes stroll by.  A little wind is pushing off the ocean, massaging the car ever so gently back and forth as we move along. A gentle click-clack is on the tips of our ears.

We got on together. I hadn't known you for very long but the connection was stronger than anything I had ever felt or have since. You practically sat on top of me for the first few miles. Couldn't keep your hands off me,  staring in my eyes like you were searching for something lost but you couldn't remember what. The edges of your lips turned upwards permanently as if you were always at the verge of a laugh. You interlaced my fingers with yours and held on like you would be ripped away if your grip loosened for even a second. Slender fingers holding so tightly that they were becoming red.

You were excited to to be riding with me, about where we were going and all the things we would do when we got there. I would see you peer out of the corner of your eye, then lean over to brush your soft cheek against my budding stubble. Kissing and gently biting my lips insatiably. The suns rays coming in at an angle and lighting up your perfect smile and dimple.

I had to remind you we were in public.

I was lost in your blonde curls and the incense of your neck. I had fallen incredibly hard and so fast that my face hurt from smiling and my heart beat with vibrations I had never known. Not even a whiff of anxiety or neurosis. Some of the best memories of my life, as fleeting as they turned out to be.

I yawned and you put your finger in my mouth. I bent over to tie my shoe and you would poke my **** and laugh with your own reflection in the window, like this was the first and best joke of all time. Maybe it was and maybe it is.

The waiter came and informed us that a thing called "the bar car" existed. We both jumped at the idea. I didn't exactly notice at the time, during our excitement, but that's when the train started going faster and everything out the windows began to blur.

The bar car was a wild ride and we took advantage of our lo'cal. All kinds of fine wine, liquors and illicit substances were available. We tried them all. You were beautiful, your laugh infecting everyone around you, I was charming and held a captive audience.   It was a dark, loud and glorious blur. We were the life of the party and it chugged on till dawn.

We woke up in our seats, disheveled and discombobulated. It was dark out already. Did we sleep through the entire day? The train was slowing down, maybe approaching a station. The party was amazing but we were certainly paying the price for the black out. You moved over to the seat across from me to have some more space and lay down. I saw myself in the reflection. My hat, charm and smile from the night before had vanished. I must have left them in the bar car the night before.
      You had changed, beauty uninterrupted but different somehow. I couldn't put my finger on it. Irritated maybe? I invited you to cuddle and battle the hangover together but you ignored me. Like you couldn't hear me or didn't want to. I decided to let you be.

I got up to use the bathroom and thought I would go look for my scattered belongings. Maybe I could find a scrap of leftover dignity while you rested. I inquired to the conductor who directed me to the bartender in the bar car. He hadn't changed a bit, somehow untouched and unaffected by last nights antics that had effected me so dramatically.  Same black suspenders and white pressed shirt with impeccably slicked hair. I asked him what happened and if I had an open tab. While slowly polishing a rocks glass he looked up and made eye contact for a split second before looking away.
He said:  "Oh the bar car takes its toll. In the end we all end up paying one way or another". I still don't know what he meant by that or if he knew.
      I asked him if he found my hat and he said he would check the camera. We walked in to a small back room, while he was reviewing the tape, over his shoulder I noticed a tragedy.

We were drunk. I was going on to a group of new friends on one side of the bar, they were hanging on my words and I was eagerly explaining whatever nonsense they were drooling over. You were in the corner wearing that red dress I love, with your hair up in a tight bun. A few curls had escaped and brushed your high cheekbones, a thin line of pearls dancing delicately across your perfectly symmetrical collar. You were stunning and inebriated, swaying with each bump and motion of the train. A man wearing my hat put his hand on your side to keep you from swaying over and then he left it there.
I took a sharp breath.

It looked like you put your hand on his hand to move it but then it stayed and you both swayed together. As the air left my lungs and the blood drained out of my face I watched your lips touch the strangers. A small piece of my soul slipped away forever. I couldn't watch any further. When I asked the bartender how long it went on he fidgeted for a moment and uncomfortably muttered "quite some time". I never found my hat or the other part of me that left that day.  

The train slowed. I walked to the back, as far away from you as I could get, in utter disbelief. How could you? I thought to myself.
I mourned the loss of the you as I knew you yesterday, quietly and to myself. A tear  escaped my eye and rolled down my now fully formed stubble as I fell in to a random seat in mild shock. There were a few passengers back there so I had to pull together relatively quickly. After gaining some composure I knew it was time to get off. I knew we could never get back to yesterday morning though I would have said or done anything to do so.

The train had stopped. I went back to my seat and you were sleeping. I took my coat and gathered my things. The conductor looked at me confused as to why I would leave something so magnificent, I assume he had no idea what had transpired.   

I walked to the rear of the car and slid the door open slower than required. I stepped to the stairs and put one foot down on the step and the other on the ground. I stopped, rooted with my hand on the railing, lingering between two very different paths.
     I knew that it was time to get off, I knew this was the sensible thing to do, that I couldn't get past this offense regardless of how I had felt earlier the day before. The whistle screamed from the locomotive. The conductor looked at me and shook his head, I'm not sure if he was trying to tell me to stay or go but a decision had to be made.

The train lurched forward and I watched as the station slip away slowly. I sat in between the cars for a while and watched the ocean and birds. With a heavy heart and shoes I walked back to my seat. You were waiting. Crying. You knew. The bartender had told you. You didn't mean do do it, didn't realize what you were doing and thought it was me. He was wearing my hat and the whole world was blurry and dark.

I believed you. Self anguish mixed with alcohol was dripping from your pores. I knew you didn't mean it and were drunk, but could I ever forgive you or trust you again?

I loved you still.

I caught a glimpse of my reflection, a weaker version of myself looked back. As if an invisible chip in my teeth had developed and my shoulders lowered. The charming, confident man from the bar car the day before had been replaced. Something was off but not enough for anyone else to notice, just enough to know a change has happened.
       The train started to pick up speed again as we distanced ourselves from the station.  I second guessed my decision to stay but I didn't look back.

I found the man with my hat and punished him with a few blows in the dark. He knew he ****** up, apologized and took the beating like a man. I never got the hat back.

The engineer announced that we would be going through a tunnel soon and to turn on our lights and keep our hands in the windows.

It would be dark.  

We stayed away from the bar car for a while but the draw was irresistible. After a few hours we were there again but you never left my side.  Then you did. I was looking for you but you would disappear and not answer me when I called you name. The tunnel went deeper and darker and I didn't know where you were and I suspected you liked it that way. The train began to slow down again as we exited the tunnel.

I finally found you back at our seat, you had moved one row away from me. I asked you to come back, tried to hold your hands but you pulled away with vehemence. When I came back from the bathroom you had moved another row farther.
I knew I was losing you.
I begged you to return but you told me calmly that it was time for you to get off. At some point in the tunnel you had decided that you didn't want to go anymore . Your mind was made. You were going to catch another train at the next station.

When the train stopped I thought for sure you would reconsider but you didn't. Didn't even give it a thought. You just grabbed your coat and hat with one big bag under your arm. You kissed me on the cheek like a french stranger and were off. Going somewhere else on a different train. Just like that.

I rode the rails for quite some time by myself , many people getting on and getting off, passing me by. Every once in a while I would think I saw you at a station or in a **** though the window of another train. I often thought I could smell you but when I breathed deeper it was always gone. A ghost dancing on the edge of my senses.

A young girl in a headband got on the train. She was listening to headphones and dancing to herself as she bobbed along. She sat down in the seat next to me flashing a smile. She had a wedding ring on and I dismissed her immediately.  She didn't move from the seat or stop glancing my way. Eventually she confessed that she wanted to talk. I told her I wasn't interested but she persisted.  I hadn't talked to anyone on the train for quite some time and after some more mild persistence, I gave in.

We had a lot in common. We were both riding alone, desperately wanted attention and were thrilled to receive some.  After a few laughs she slid her hand in to mine and interlaced her fingers. I left it there. It was warm, comforting and wrong. She was married but I had been riding alone so long it felt good to have some company. She stayed and we talked. She was broken and I had a knack for fixing things. After a few hours of dramatic conversation I fell asleep with her head on my shoulder.

When I woke up  the train was flying up the track on the side of a mountain. Trees and rocks were a blur of green and grey. The engineer must be trying to make up for lost time I thought to myself.

The girl was asleep with her head on my lap. I looked down at her hand and the rings were gone. I woke her briefly to ask where they went. She said she didn't need them anymore and had thrown  them out the window.  She could of sold them, I said, but she said she just wanted them gone so she could be mine and fell back to sleep.  All of a sudden I couldn't breath. This train was roaring down the tracks, the once gentle click clack had become a loud hum. Suddenly too loud. This girl in my lap who had just gotten on the train wanted to stay. I considered her for a while as she looked up at me with big blue eyes, shining and wet, like a puppy in the shelter, terrified of rejection and desperate to be adopted.

At the peak of the mountain, just when the train began to even out, you waltzed back in to the car with a champagne flute in one hand and your bag in the other.

I don't know when or where you got back on, must have been a few stations ago when I stopped looking for you. Maybe you were wearing a disguise, who knows what you had been up to while you were gone. I'm not sure how long you were away but it was quite some time. That you had been through something was obvious, a new wrinkle had formed on your brow and you're once confident stride had changed to a cautious stroll. What actually happened out there I don't know.  I never asked and I don't want answers.

You looked at me and smiled. It was good to see that smile, like sun on my face on a brisk day.  You took a step toward me and then I looked down in my lap at the girl at the same time you did. I looked up. You and your smile were gone.

Everything I had begun to feel for this broken, head banded girl in my lap dried up like a puddle in  the dessert.  I quietly and gently nudged her awake and told her I had to use the bathroom. She put her head down on my coat and fell back into what ever trance she had been in, eyelids gently fluttering, eyes searching beneath them for what I would never give her.

I dashed up the isle and threw open the door, almost shattering the glass. The conductor glared at me and rolled his eyes as I barged past to the space between the cars.

There you were. Standing on the stairs with your head out the opening. The wind was blowing your perfectly formed curls around your head like a blonde explosion of familiarity. I yelled your name and you dove in to me. My senses erupted, my mind went numb as the train was nearing another station and I inhaled your essence greedily.

We moved to another car. I abandoned my coat with the married girl and never looked back. I hope she found what she was looking for. I  never could have been the answer she was so desperately seeking but I know I  helped steer her towards it.

You told me you had encountered some other people out there on the rails and they had reminded you of what we had when we first left the station. I never forgot.  

The train started to rock and get going again. We were back in the bar car and starting to brown out. We had to get off of this train right ******* now. In a desperate moment we looked at each other and put our hands, together, on the emergency brake cord. I looked in your eyes with your hand on top of mine. You kissed me while yanking down on the cord. Time slowed, the breaks squealed and everything exploded throwing luggage, people and the entire contents of the bar car in to a nondiscriminatory chaos . We got up off the ground, ran to the end of the car, dove off the side in to a soft patch of grass and rolled down a small incline. We watched as the conductor sifted through  the mess and interrogated the passengers, trying to ferret out the party responsible for pulling the brake. He spotted us off the side of the tracks and shook his fist while shouting every conceivable obscenity combination.

We laughed, held each other in the grass and kissed deeply.

We watched the train pick up speed and disappear in to the hills as relief spread over me.

You interlaced your fingers in to mine and we both looked out to where the tracks disappeared into the horizon, wondering how far of a walk it was to the next station.
Montana May 2012
Your lips
Were the first thing I noticed
Gently parted
Breathing in and out

Oh to be your words
Conceived within your mind
Born upon your lips

Poetry.

Your lips are ******* poetry.
5/25/12
dumbdeadpoet Jun 2014
actually, my mother never told me about boys like you. she never said anything about boys at all. all i knew is that i had to be careful around them. she never told me that their "i love yous" are just words and not metaphors they see in your eyes. she never told me that them kissing you is just to **** your soul out and leave you dry. empty. desolate. and she sure as hell never told me that their hugs are only so they could play checkers on your spine. you see, some of us have allowed others to come in through the front and out through the back and well, your heart is the front door and you're so distorted they backslide out the same way they came in. he should've said good morning and never good night. he should've never sat down, he broke the chairs. you see, you're just standing on ice and your problems weigh too ******* much. you should've told him that seat wasn't for him. you should've told him it's been used and used and used and now it's worn out. you should have warned him that you haven't been taking care of yourself lately and the books you've collected throughout the years are filled with pollen. you should have told him that the footprints on the floors aren't of those who have fallen in love with you but rather have come in and walked all over you. when you introduced him to your mother, you should have noticed that no he wasn't smiling, he was smirking. and also, you should have noticed that your mother wasn't trembling because she was happy for you but rather because she feared for you. when you walked off with him, you should have n,oticed when he started rubbing your back and he never ******* held your hand. you should've noticed when you were aching in bed, you were actually dreaming about yourself. you're aching now aren't you. AREN'T YOU. my mother never warned me about boys like those. she never told me that they come inside you and play hopscotch on the bed sheets. you should've noticed the first time he told you he loves like a playground. you should've noticed when he said he loves playing "Don't Step On The White Tiles." you should've noticed when he told you he spent his lifetime playing board games. oh what does your heart print look like now?
2014 me was horrible me lol
Marshal Gebbie Oct 2011
Have you noticed how the music screams,
How children in the mall confront,
How anchormen are filled with glee
When TV news disaster's front?

Noticed how the colours fade
When iridescent seas are fouled
Or skies turn turgid grey from blue
And football crowds scream hatred loud?

And why is it that every time
An ethnic immigrant complains,
He points the finger square at us,
The fools, whose benefits he claims?

And Asiatic hatreds brew
Between the Indian brother’s, brown,
Over Kashmir’s shaky border fight
And Pakistan’s deep, angry frown.

There’s trouble in the Middle East
Kalashnikovs shoot up the town,
Somebody soon, should tell those boys
When slugs go up, they must come down.

And what about the filthy beasts
Who scatter needles in the sand
To leave the fickle fall of dice
To innocents with tender hand.

Have you noticed how the wealthy keep
The good stuff for their selfish self?
The rest of WE are left to fight
Amongst ourselves for lowest shelf

And how about Ghaddafi’s end
So brutal at the sandy drain
Where wild eyed Arabs shot him dead
And TV watchers, fat, complained?

And listen to the moaning Greeks
Who’ve clearly lived beyond their means,
Complain about austerity
And pauperize their Europeans.

And witness now the howling Yanks
Who stand to point recession’s claws
Directing blame at anyone,
But themselves, whom problems cause.

And finally an Arabesque,
Macabre in its grotesque call,
Of skeletal, Ethiopian forlorn
Whose starving end, ignored by all.

There’s beauty in this bounteous world,
There’s Godly, good, and quiet serene,
But just beneath the surface lies
The human filth, deserved, obscene.

Marshalg
Observing my world in turmoil.
Auckland N.Z.
22 October 2011
*****


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




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

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

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

— The End —