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Ace Edmonds Mar 2011
while you're reaching for the top floor,
I'm reaching for the stars;

you're pacing your dorm room.
I'm pacing the streets;
you're studying the books,
I, my budget sheets.

you're going to college
to get a degree,
gonna work so hard
but never get free.

you're going somewhere
and think I'm just staying right here...
but I'm moving on now
I'm moving off now,
and my goal's quite clear.

you're pacing your apartment,
and I'm pacing mine;
you from room to room,
I'm circle a dime.

you're going to work,
getting paid on salary,
working so hard,
never thinking of me.

you're going somewhere
and think I'm just staying right here...
but I'm moving on now
I'm moving off now,
and my goal's quite clear.

you're pacing the church,
I'm pacing the printer's
you're veiled all in white
I'm covered in ink and splinters.

you're going to be married,
buying a house and a home,
you're in love with that man,
yet you feel all alone.

you've stopped moving forward,
and think I'm just staying right there...
but I'm moving on now,
I'm moving off now,
and my goal's growing nearer.

you're pacing the hospital,
I'm pacing the streets;
you're waiting for someone,
who you can't wait to meet.

I'm striding down somewhere,
my name's finally been called.
I'm moving to elsewhere,
where I'll fly, not fall.

you've stopped moving forward,
someone else is moving for you.
I've caught the stars now,
I'm among stars now,
my work finally due.

you're pacing the gallery,
the hallway, the store...
you're wondering if he remembers
you anymore.
Piece also avail on deviantArt at http://fav.me/d3c37z6
Sophie Herzing Aug 2013
I had to walk out of physics today,
make my way to the back of the room
shoot for the door
with my hands on my hips.
Just started pacing.
I just stated pacing and pacing and pacing.

I followed the thin grey lines between the linoleum tiles
with my toes
counting every second I was out of class
and weighing that against how many more it would take
on a chance against hell
to get me back in there again.

I wasn't smart.
I never had been.
I just filled in bubbles correctly and I wrote
all the right things on a convincing, cliché
college paper.
I don't even know why I took physic,
but it sounded like a good idea when I was eighteen
and scared
and had some woman with a long braid screaming at me,
"advising" me that it was the "right direction."

I didn't even know who I was then so how could she.

I could mouth off a good response or two and I
probably embody every great literary character
in commercial fiction that is
the guy in the grey skinny jeans reading Shakespeare
in the corner of the dining hall.
Well, I'm not.
I'm not some stereotype for your next
creative writing assignment.
I just happen to think my *** looks good in skinny jeans,
I actually hate Shakespeare,
and the corner of the dining hall has the best air conditioning.
It's that simple.
There's your answer.

But my fingertips were shaking and my mind was racing
and there I was
just pacing and pacing and pacing
because this
is *******.
This class is *******.
This college is *******.
And the whole world
might as well be *******
right along with it.

I never went back into class that day.
Which ***** actually because I lost a good backpack and calculator,
but in the long run it worked out alright
because here I am
writing this
and getting paid for it,
not that I'm greedy or anything
(I get paid a whole lot if you care to know)
but I'm writing more than just about
that day I couldn't breathe in physics class.

I'm writing to tell you
that there's quite a great deal of superficial things in this world
and if you find yourself a part of it
I'm demanding you leave.
Leave your good notebook, your steady job, your filthy marriage.
Leave it because it's actually true no matter how stupid it sounds
that life is too short
and things that are real
need to be attacked and clutched onto
if you want them to last.

I guess I can thank that institution actually
for teaching me everything I never wanted to know,
and for getting me to where I am
with multiple publications, a book signing or to, a beautiful wife,
three kids, a screenplay, oh
and a big
F U
to those that said I would never do it.

(Dr. Hefer, that means you).
Paul Kuntz Jun 2013
Pacing pacing to-and-fro,
speaking aloud with cat in tow.
Ranting,raving,shouting,craving,
whispering a secret all hush and low.
No crowds to gawk, no eyes to peer,
just pacing, ever pacing, from mirror to mirror.
No dishes washed, all dust on floor,
sailing small studio door-to-door.

All pauses brief to Howl or stroke,
while contemplating going broke.
All mussed up hair and *** pajamas;
all condiments and no bananas.
The sunlight dim, the sea all grey,
while pacing afternoons away.
The clock tic-toc, the dyer sounds,
but pacing, ever pacing, pacing bound.
Lauren Nicole Sep 2014
pacing, unending pacing
back and forth, back and forth
where to go what to do
pacing, pacing back and forth
left foot right foot left
how I am moving forwards
heading onward,
when I'm pacing, back forth back
where to go what to do
pacing, pacing, back and forth
why am I venturing
on a narrow path forward?
how am I walking,
running down a straight path ahead,
instead of this way and that?
left foot right foot left
pacing, pacing back and forth,
but forwards.
T Zanahary Nov 2012
Pacing strides left a man
etching a phrase into the linoleum,
dull yellow, the world gleamed
from a single bare bulb,
resembling either an idea
or afterthought,
strung up to illuminate
this small world.
Each step accidental
he strung together a verse
he would never read,
letters laid down
as eyes were always fixed
above the cabinet door
sitting slightly askew,
paint chipped away at the corners
and the inevitable banshee screech
of tortured hinges choked by rust,
or the faucet with its loose handle
and stains of hard water
dripping to the rhythm
to which he walked,
unbeknownst to him.
Pacing turned to past time
when the energy died down,
steps forward holding neared stilled
in comparison to the mind
set at a running pace.
In each step,
meaning was lost to him,
setting down his soul with thinning rubber,
the plastic giving way
after years of playing that solemn bass,
a nightly monotonous melody.
Circles would have been better,
a truer glimpse of a cramped mind,
though the message of his walking
in waking
would have been lost to the pattern.
His line suited him better,
unfortunately he has yet to read it,
always keeping his head high,
forgetting to tuck his chin
to defend himself from those thoughts.
Breaking down around him,
his home holds but essentials
yet is still somehow cluttered.
There’s always a rustle
when the draft slips through the walls,
a constantly changing mosaic of light,
his shadow helps to paint the opposite wall,
where the only figure is the outline
of some long forgotten photograph,
an image he refuses to hold any longer.
The aire is refreshed
by a new batch of memories
floating in on the wind.
He misses the messages he’s laid out,
and his pacing fails to falter
when he’s stripped of all remembering.
If only he could sink low enough
to look down,
but experience has taught him
to hold high with every stride a must.
If he let down his guard
his defenses would be up,
the time would slow in dusty gears
and it would bring his hand
around to face the thoughts of
the circling becoming linear.
A second’s skip would detract,
all rot and decaying
what precious little was left,
though he’d soon be back to a missed step,
each foot accidentally placed
in a purposeful stride.
Unbeknownst to him,
his rhythm’s left behind a message,
flickering fluorescent reflects
the dull yellow verse
carved into the linoleum.
His pacing has stopped,
feet now carrying away
the jumbled thoughts,
walking out the door
the distraction his head held in place
allowing the buzzing bulb to continue.
Realizing,
returning,
he happens a quick glance
in the last light of the fading night,
flipping the switch he misses
his words worn to wood,
“We are all alone,
but rarely are we forgotten.”
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Tatiana Jun 2015
The rustle of sheets
the pacing of feet
and the lights outside flicker
in the dark street
that is covered in sleet
the house is losing heat
shiver under blankets
to gain warmth is a feat
when the big hand meets
the little hand, there are seats
that are inanimate and cold
anxiety ain't sweet
anxiety ain't sweet
anxiety ain't sweet
© Tatiana
Elizabeth Apr 2014
pacing, pacing, pacing
as if these weathered wood floors were my sanity
a staircase of thought leading to the answers I’m struggling to find
thoughts falling down to join the others on the floor, a river
jumping out of me with every footstep
this afternoon swelling inside and out
making wish upon wish to be somewhere else
to be with someone else
I keep climbing and going nowhere at all
pacing, pacing, pacing
Ken Pepiton Aug 2018
A pocket of thought, ideas.
Impulses, has beens

epi-phenom-enal-con-currencies-synchron-icity
sorting places, thens and nows vying for attention

you see
we till stories in search of true tomorrows
not true
yesterdays (till, I said, not tell)
we **** the hard rows no one else will ***
so seed lies sown are never lies told, if the lies are never taught
or if the liars are caught before convincing the
intended crop to lie and swear a common liege Lord,
or die
for lack of knowing. Non-nascence, simplest
symptom to not see.
Whose death is yours to respond responsibly
to? My child's, or yourn?
In the early days, we knew less than we know now
about how knowing and growing were all
intended
to cost time. Ticks, ono motto whatever, the sound
gears and spiral springs pushing cogs
tick, one tooth tick at atime make

this rough, un polished, un glossed, is it wrong or

as I imagine a diamond in the rough must seem to a share cropper
experienced in diamond hunting, diamond prospecting,

prospecting expecting inspection to permit
seeing a 3.2 specific gravity,
specific
specify

species or spectacles,
spectators or special-if-eye-cation
value-en-abled. Weigh your mind in balance
with mine. I claim the mind of Christ.
What are the odds?

A wandering path, injoyable enable if-i-abble,
pacing is

everything, timing is everything, time is the test.

Time is the metagame.
Take your time. One word formed sylabble at a time.
Babble on, your confusion makes you mortal, to my mind.
Tick.
A quanta of time. Does time come in bits and pieces cernible,
but undiscernible from reality?

Babble.

Of course, time will tell. We learned that in our sleep, did we not?

Aesop taught us more than Moses, no,
Aesop taught us less than Moses.

But, we could learn to walk bearing the weight of knowing what
Aesop taught,
while we could not stand under the weight
Moses was said
to have taught.

Caught you, Jewboy. Whatchewknow?
The moral of the story.

THE IDEA is to win.
Beware the concision decision.
incisive devices, witty inventions.

Flip the shell, roll the bones, cast the runes and,
as luck might have it, die before your time.

Why factors are lies more oft than how factors.
Benefactors rule malefactors or
how or why would we invest our time in seeking reasons
to believe?

Is this the polished piece, the gemstone of specific gravity
(which currently means nothing to you. Here, you find too light
or too heavy, too weighty on the scale of specific value.)

Hard. Value hard, diamond hard, on Mr. Moore's scaled model of
Knowing exploding for reason's sake, raison d'etre, eh?
Too hard?
Not Mohs,
don't get me wrong.
We been Moore's law breaker all along.
We be manifested destinatory stories of heroes gone wrong.

Outlawed
knowing exploding to be reasoned with, by kind
children destined to become
written in stone, scarred by lies

Diamonds cutting diamonds, iron whetting iron
on eternity's edge.

Babylon, was it Bel's gate or fusion from below rising?

Magma fountains with diamond claws tearing the lands asunder
Is asunder still a word?, let me, allow me to define...
"into a position apart, separate,
into separate parts,"
mid-12c., contraction of Old English on sundran 
Middle English used to know asunder for
"distinguish, tell apart."
From <https://www.etymonline.com/word/asunder>
----

mumbler's humbler PIE, bowing before the knowers who
know nothing of my work.
Set apart, art thou holy aware?

Hermit me, meet the rest of me. The true rest that remained.
We live, you and I. Trust me, next is worth the wait.

Suffer needs no pain to make its point. Waiting is.

Grokk. WHO would believe that idea could live
through telegraphese to be tweet meets for the
Cosplay clans. How never grokked a rock,  why even less.

Strange, not be long in this
place. if
place this be. Odd
set aside
torn asunder
blown away.
Awake, little birdie, tell me true,
what's a man like me to do?

Did you meet the famous Mr. Blake?
I cleaned his chimney, way back when, chimbly's whut
we called em. Smoke stacks belchin' black
makin' black moths invisible to voracious
gulls.
Now the peppered moths are free
to be white-ish, for better or worse.

----

right, now, do right or

miss the mark,
the specific mark you made, maybe,
imagining, abstract obstructions missed
by the skin on Job's teeth as you run past

right now to more. You know?

----=

Story telling was the same as lying when I was a child, to me.

Telling stories was my gift I never took. Or am I lying? or mad,
in the old way.
Chailot's rag picker was my best friend.

No noble thought ever found it's home in my head, once
I thunk it, it stunk to high heaven, for me stinkin' thinkin' it.

Po' ems sang sour to fiddles wit' one strang and drums with no
cymbals
Screamin' he owed m' soul the comp'ny sto' bang bang thud.

I died, he lied, and lived to tell this story, ****** if I know,
****** if I don't.

True as true can be. I am lost, but once was found,
lyin' rough, uncut in acres of unseen gems.
----
* Voltaire refused to teach me any thing I could not define:
late 14c., deffinen, diffinen, "to specify; to fix or establish authoritatively;" of words, phrases, etc., "state the signification of, explain what is meant by, describe in detail," from Old French defenir, definir "to finish, conclude, come to an end; bring to an end; define, determine with precision," and directly from Medieval Latin diffinire, definire, from Latin definire "to limit, determine, explain," from de "completely" (see de-) + finire "to bound, limit," from finis "boundary, end" (see finish (v.)). From c. 1400 as "determine, declare, or mark the limit of." Related: Defined; defining.

So, imagine facets unseen, I am at least a meme, a bubble rising on the tide. Think, as you will. Amen?
Incorporating radical (root-related) definitions via cut and paste is my way of acknowledging that I have no ex-uses left for using words in a wrong, thus lying, way.
Michelle Morine Jan 2015
As I rise
As I fall

Spinning in my head
pacing through this hall

Shattered walls of thought
Insecure
so distracted

Sending spirit warriors
forth to battle far away

Pacing
Pacing back and forth
Sage King Nov 2011
Les jours passent si rapidement quand la vie est à l'arrêt
Un flou de gris et de bruns
Créer un fanées bouquet incomplète
Une fois qu'ils ont donné la beauté lys blancs et des violettes magnifiques
Puis il y avait une rose
Puis il n'y avait rien
Arpenter rythme rythme rythme
Fleurs sur le plancher de la chambre
Couleur dans la poussière, les pétales en gris
Fondu la décoloration à la décoloration à la cendre
Coincé dans les images
Se cacher dans les rêves
Nuits passent si lentement quand la vie est la fugue
Courir courir courir
Laissant mon bouquet fané.

Days pass so quickly when life is standing still
A blur of grays and browns
Creating a withered, incomplete bouquet
Once they gave beauty,  white lilies and magnificent violets
Then there was a rose
Then there was nothing
Pacing, pacing, pacing, pacing
Flowers on the bedroom floor
Color into dust, petals into gray
Fading, fading, fading  to ash
Lingering in  pictures
Hiding in dreams
Nights pass so slowly when life is running away
Running, running, running,
Leaving my withered bouquet.
DaSH the Hopeful Sep 2014
The light is struck away in a cold confusing slash of night
  Black creeping at my windowsill signifying the strangeness of unfamiliar surroundings
          Changed and twisted by the lack of sound the sleep of others brings
      I stay roused in the dark
      Silence biting at my ears
            My mind asking itself rhetorical questions
            

        Pacing and pacing and pacing
         and pacing and pacing


Staring out my window at slanted shadows that seem to smile back
           They're very telling
They want to get in, and bad.
  


       *I pray to God they don't.
Inside out Apr 2014
I saw a carving from Bethlehem that you had given my Nan,
She showed me a photograph of you, you were tall, with a golden tan.
The carving it was inscribed, 'with love from your brother Tom',
I knew my Nan had looked up to you, when all was said and done.

My Nan she was a little girl, when you were called away,
With her mother she waited eagerly for news, day, by day, by day.
In her eyes you were a hero who had gone off to the war,
Your smiling face, and uniform, were the last things that she saw.

She dreamt of the day that you would come back, striding through the gate,
she heard her mother pacing, though she didn't know your fate.
She heard her mother weeping but didn't want to know the reason why,
In her stomach she had a feeling that something was awry.

Then her mother sat her down and told her you were dead,
She told me she went dizzy, blood rushing to her head.
She told me she cried out your name, her heart it was pure broken,
The army sent a telegram, but it was really just a token.

You were just a boy of eighteen years when you were forced away,
I wonder how many mothers would cope if  their  sons left today.
They couldn't give you a grave, there was nothing left to bury,
You were blown to pieces in one hit, with bombs dropped in a flurry.

You only lasted for three months in your short, tough, army life,
My Nan died aged eighty-four, after a life of grief and strife,
She pined for you throughout those years and missed you everyday,
Her hero, her brother Tom, who left and went away.

She worried that when you fought, you longed for her and home
And worried that you were consumed with fear, and if that fear had grown.
She wondered if you had called out "Mum" and if your blood was swept by the tide,
how desperately she had wished, that she had been there, by your side.

The reason I know of you today, is that girl who became my Nan,
Who kept your memory alive as she always did back then,
I tell my sons about you Tom,  I hope it's the right thing to do,
And I hope that  they will love me as much, as my Nan had loved you.
One day I will depart the train at a station without a name,
Pull emergency cord and take the plunge thru parted doors.
I'll pack no suitcase or bindle, in my head young, free and single,
I will be a living swindle - wherefore art prat poet of before?
New job doing something I've shown no interest in before,
Change my name to 'Neville Moore'.

I'll do a Reginald Perrin, leave red herring threads at Sherring-
ham, then dice-rolled palookaville of new self I shall explore.
When Palookas call me Neville, they won't see this wasted rebel,
But numpty Neville, on the level, who misplaced his wasted days of yore.
Amnesiac clerk stoical over mist-shrouded days of yore.
Only knew my name was Neville Moore.

Neville will moonlight at night-school, pick up a trade that's practical,
In minimalist digs post-dossing on unforeseen saviour's floor.
Time's sandstorm obscures lyrics, John Doe-penned hieroglyphics
- lost soul Lysander's from Norwich. His mind shut like a shoved closed drawer
To Poesy's Pandora's box of ******* in indigo iron drawer
In Norwich. No bones to Neville Moore.

Neville will be a straight arrow, nice chap whose mind is narrow,
Tepid tryer temping at call-centre, lockjaw forevermore.
The blandest of mystery men, what was Neville's name again?
Man with no memories blends in; my dead ringer, stunky, strong-jawed.
Eye-witness testimony of 36 years will gladly be abjured
- done myself good deed poll: Neville Moore.

I'll  abscond so left Lysander might be eternal loose end, the
Inner poltergeist confined to an indigo iron drawer.
Tomorrow I'll do a John Stonehouse bog-snorkelling, a grandiose
loser who fled being infamous in his own dinnerhour, a bore
Unto myself.  I'll abandon ship,  then life will be less of a bore,
Being much more boring Neville Moore.

And I'll meet a girl called Sybil, Palookashire an idyll,
Where a man with no past can just wash up upon the shore.
For if child is father of the man, Neville'll be an upbeat orphan!
Labels torn off the clothes from Oxfam what Memory's Outlaw wore,
Newfoundhometownbound Mister X such clueless clothes wore,
Clean the pockets of Neville Moore.

Sybil won't be the type to probe, at night she'll pop her Zopiclone,
Cuddle up to normal Neville, earnest the embrace of average amour.
We will rent a little bedsit and expend a lotta effort
To make our place seem white-picket-fenced, tho'  we resided on 3rd floor.
Down updrafts of Fate, untempted to faceplant from the 3rd floor
Is plain ol' sane ol' Neville Moore. 

No temptation, but something racing, the unexplained midnight pacing,
And murmurs in Nev's sleep there's reams in an indigo iron drawer.
But in daylight we'll have daughter, from nowhere the name 'Cobania'
(Nev wouldn't dig Nirvana, fin de siecle scream's aural chore,
nihilistening not for Neville in zen of playful household chores).
Shrug-a-lugs of numb Neville Moore.

Neville wouldn't get promotion, Neville doesn't have much gumption.
Frankenstein's **** domesticus by design, Nev's a swollen snore.
Lice would have mocked, 'Call this living?' Lice is dead, would always give in
To windmills' wheeling withering, watched like a raven, set no store
In what life we have worth living, which is what life life has in store
For unquestioning Neville Moore. 

Neville, don't be snarling slave to snafus by another self made,
Be complete now the only piece is the missing piece of the jigsaw.
Radio receives no 'roger', they won't see Cobania as a toddler,
But for famalam, there's succour: lines left in indigo iron drawer.
For Lice did leave literally living will in indigo iron drawer:
Poem entitled Neville Moore.

Nev and Sybil will have ups and downs, in facades cracks gouge frowns;
Castaway's fury in his eyes curdles Florida coleslaw.
I don't need Sybil's mithering, I mean 'Nev' dint, thinking about writing
- did we do Jack Nicholson in 'The Shining', too nuts too soon in Neville Moore?
Polter-Lice rattling in indigo iron liar's den re Neville Moore's 
Writer's shock swan-song for Neville Moore.

And sweet phantom Cobania, I hope she ends up saner
than her Canoe Man old man, sent reeling by subconscious southpaw
Of split personality punch-ups,  one-man-band fight clubs,
punchdrunk on bad self burps, tho' he burped Cobania with awe.
Pneumatically patting doting dad, errant soon so overawed
By humdrum Heaven, Neville Moore's.

Witness protection program to hide me from self-hate's hitman,
But Miltonic Satan's heart held Hell, for killer within is law
Unto himself. Thus phoenix photo album of my alter ego
To ***-end before Year Zero was burnt down, act of soul at war.
Greener grass scorched earth, everyman Eden sacked by selves at war,
Lysander negging out Neville Moore.

His ship's sailed ment'lly down the toilet - can't see the dream, it's ultraviolet!
Sybil wagging her finger with ****** of a fishwives' wappenshaw.
Cobania's cantankerous tween, Nev hears fin de siecle scream
- call the toilet 'Kurt', it's flushing the dream! Behold:  tombstone beneath 
                                                        ­    a sycamore,
Man from nowhere nowhere now beneath suicide's sycamore.
Quoth the engraving, 'Neville Moore'.

Beneath me to quote Ocean Colour Scene, beneath sycamore willow-leaned,
But day I caught train derailed: no malaise of glory, Anon no more.
Cobania in black with ***** highlights will grieve Daddy on the quiet;
Sybil indignant that the senseless,  existential eyesore
Option all her lost-and-found, found-and-lost, haunted hubbie saw.
Quoth the engraving, 'Neville Moore'.

Nev won't see Cobania grow up: she doesn't exist - s' good job!   
Yet I'll miss driving lessons and wedding, even if shaggy dog's dewclaw
Scratched itself out, vestigial scythe: Neville was never alive.
But this 2.4, 2.0 narrative smelted indigo iron drawer.
Cenotaph recast as mask, new visage's vista dark as in a drawer
Now quoth the engraving, 'Neville Moore'.

After Poe's misnomer, well, misnumbered: one short, 17 stanzas  
Ironically encode birthday of old dud cub who overroars
Last-ditch striped leopard, tame un-me. Lord Lucan, he WAS lucky
-  there's freedom in fake ID! But Neville grew sick, sick of me no more
Now as one two selves expire, same sigh of relief 'low sallow sycamore:
Thank **** Lice is nevermore.
My birthday is 17/05.
Akemi Nov 2018
Blanket city run along soaked in rain. Idiot Boy wastes his time visiting a passing crush at the other end of town. Slips between two houses and a metal sheet, communal refrigerator in the middle of the road filed with half-empty soy bottles.

Dead bell stop, mocking red blink of the operator. Father arrives, a mess of wiry muscles and hair.

“Hey. Is Coffin Cat here?”

“Who?” Father squints at Idiot Boy’s cap. Idiot Boy avoids eye contact.

“Um.”

Recessed in the blackness behind Father, a Figure says, “You looking for Coffin Cat?”

Idiot Boy nods.

The Recessed Figure turns. “I’ll go get her.”

Father returns to his parched body on the couch, content.

Indistinguishable forms move back and forth in the kitchen to the right. They stop their pacing and glance at Idiot Boy as he passes. Idiot Boy avoids eye contact and slips into the left-bound arterial vessel.

“So this is the heart chamber I’ve been living in,” Coffin Cat says as Idiot Boy enters her room. There is music gear. “It’s pretty comfy.”

“Oh, sick mic,” Idiot Boy says, pointing at the mic behind Coffin Cat’s head.

“I feel like a ghost,” Coffin Cat replies, falling on her bed.

Idiot Boy settles next to her. Animal distance. Intensely aware of his rain-soaked right shoe. “Same.”

Nothing comes out right, intersubjectivity a false God to mediate the impossible kernel of being, nobody can find nor express. Idiot Boy searches for connection. He glances around the heart chamber, at the music gear, but nothing grips. Four pears sit on a table by the window, their skins garish green in the harsh grey light.

Coffin Cat moves from the bed to the floor. She opens a virtual aquarium on her computer; fish eat pellets dropped from the sky to **** out coins to buy more fish to **** out coins to buy more fish. Capitalist investment and accumulation. Every few minutes a rocket-spewing robot teleports into the aquarium to attack the fish. Ruthless competition in the global marketplace.

“No! Why would you swim there, you ******* fish?” Coffin Cat yells as one if her fish is eaten by the nomadic war machine. “So dumb. ****. Why did it eat my fish?”

A knock at the door. The Recessed Figure from earlier enters the room. “Hey, mind if I join?” Their arms dangle like fine threads of hair.

“I like your music gear,” Idiot Boy says, pointing at nothing in particular.

“Idiot Boy also makes music,” Coffin Cat adds from the floor.

The Recessed Figure does not respond. They are enthralled by their phone, streak of dead pixels along a digital chessboard, minute reflection of their own gaunt face in the glass. After an extended period, they decide to move none of their pieces. A gaping coffee grinder rises out of the rubble at their feet. They begin filling it with tobacco from broken cigarettes.

“I’m surprised you’re still playing this,” Idiot Boy says to Coffin Cat. “I swear this is one of those games designed to ruin your life. Get addicted, stop going to work, become a hikik weaboo.”

“Already there, man,” Coffin Cat laughs. “Nah, this is my new job. I’m going to be a professional gamer.”

“Stream only PopCap games.”

Another knock at the door. Tired squander in an endless pacing of flesh. Strawman enters and nods at the Recessed Figure. “Hey bro.”

“Good to see you, man.” The Recessed Figure plugs the coffee grinder into the wall. “You got any ciggys?”

Idiot Boy points under the table and says “Ahh” with his mouth.

The Recessed Figure empties it into the coffee grinder. The device whirs into motion, creating a centrifugal blur, a mechanical and headless hypnotic repeat.

Idiot Boy and Coffin Cat look for horror movies to watch. The Recessed Figure empties the contents of the coffee grinder onto a metal tray. Strawman repacks it into a ****. White smoke fills the empty column, moves in slow motion like an oceanic rip a mile off coast, surface seething with quiet, impenetrable violence.

Idiot Boy refuses the first round. It’s never done him any good. Face turned to smoke and the wretched weight of a tongue that refuses to speak. Headless carry-on as time ticks through the clock face.

The door bursts open. Everybody turns as Manic Refusal or the Loud Person saunters in.

“I can’t believe it. I can’t ******* believe it. They’re selling me off!” the Loud Person says in exasperation. “First time back in New Zealand in five years and they do this to me!”

“What? What’s happened?” Strawman asks.

“Some rich ****** in Australia has bought me as his wife. I knew it, I knew if I came back, my parents wouldn’t let me leave again. Whole ******* thing arranged!” the Loud Person laughs bitterly, before hitting the ****.

“Oomph, that’s rough,” Coffin Cat quips from the side.

“No, you don’t even understand. This is the first time back, the first time back in five years, and I’m being sold to off some rich ****** who owns all the banks in Australia.”

“But like, who is this guy?” Strawman asks, pointing.

“And he’s been reading all my profiles. He has access to all my information. I don’t even have control over my Facebook profile. Grand Larson’s logged in as me, posting for me,” the Loud Person continues. “I met him once in Australia, clubbing, and now he’s tracked and bought me.”

“That’s creepy as ****,” Idiot Boy says.

“So he’s not a complete stranger?” Strawman asks.

“I can’t believe it. I can’t ******* believe it. First time back in five years and I’m being sold off!”

Idiot Boy decides one hit from the **** wouldn’t be so bad. He packs the cone with chop, lights and inhales. Smoke rushes through the glass channel, a swirl of white ether, more than he’d expected. He quickly passes the **** to Coffin Cat, before collapsing onto the bed, eyes closed. A suffocating sensation fills his body. He sinks into the chasm of himself, further and further into an impossible, infinite depth.

“Still working at . . . ?”

“Yeah, yeah. Management. Hospital. You?”

“Like, property. Motions.”

“Subcontracting? Intonements?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Mmm.”

Idiot Boy doesn’t know what’s going on. He feels sick and tries to get Coffin Cat’s attention, but cannot move his body.

“Come on. Sell me drugs, Strawman.”

“Nah. I don’t deal drugs. I don’t deal drugs.”

A strange silence stretches like an artificial dusk, a liminal duration, the hollow click of a tape set back into place in reverse. The Recessed Figure coughs and the Loud Person whirs back into motion.

“I can’t believe it. I can’t ******* believe it. They’re selling me off! First time back in New Zealand in five years and they do this to me!”

The Recessed Figure makes a noncommittal noise.

“I knew it, I knew if I came back, my parents wouldn’t let me leave again. Whole ******* thing arranged!”

Coffin Cat laughs quietly.

“No, you don’t even understand. This is the first time back, the first time back in five years, and I’m being sold off to some rich ****** who owns all the banks in Australia.”

“How about this fella? He doing okay?” Strawman asks, pointing. Everyone turns to Idiot Boy and laughs affectionately.

“Still working at . . . ?”

“Yeah, yeah. Management. Hospital. You?”

“Like, property. Motions.”

“Subcontracting? Intonements?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Mmm.”

“Sell me drugs, Strawman.”

“Nah. I don’t deal drugs. I don’t deal drugs.”

Idiot Boy slowly opens his eyes and stares out the window. The same grey light as before. He moves his arm further towards Coffin Cat, but is still too weak to get her attention. The same strange silence stretches. The Recessed Figure coughs and the Loud Person whirs back into motion.

“I can’t believe it. I can’t ******* believe it. . . .”

As the conversation repeats over and again, Idiot Boy begins to think he has become psychotic, or perhaps entered into a psychotic space. He thinks of computer algorithms, input-output, loops without variables, endless regurgitations of the same result. Human machines trapped in their own stupid loop. Drug-****** neuronal networks incapable of making new connections, forever traversing old ones. Short-term memory loss, every repeat a new conversation of what has already been. The same grey light painted upon four pears by the window.

He’s not sure if Coffin Cat’s laugh is getting weaker with each repeat.

Signal-response. The exterior world oversaturated with variables: roadways, rivers, forests, wildlife — an ever changing scene to respond to — the illusion of depth. Automatic response mechanisms reorient to new stimuli. The soul rises like surfactant, objectified fractal diffusion. A becoming without end.

But within the border of this interior world, the light stays grey. No input, no change; the same dead repeat, over and over, until sundown triggers a hunger response. Lined all along the street, a black box ceremony of repeating machines, trapped in their idiot cults, walls of clay and blood.

Idiot Boy finally gets Coffin Cat’s attention. She helps him through the house’s arteries to reach rain and wet stone, overcast skies. As he shakes in shock, Coffin Cat mumbles, “It’s cold.”

Idiot Boy sits silent on the ride home. Travels through himself. Tunnel through the body or Mariana Trench. Loses his footing before a traumatic void. Leaves the car and pukes.
Mymai Yuan Sep 2010
Peeing: to ***; to urinate; to release the body of its liquid toxins; to pass or discharge *****; characteristically yellow- the strength of the color depending on the body’s hydration.
People have strange habits when peeing; urinating; releasing the body of their liquid toxins. Some people procrastinate it to the last minute and rush to the bathroom, barely yanking their pants down in time and shuddering in relief. They are those who habitually whip in and out, even when they don’t really need to. There’s the common usage of an escape from boredom in classes or meetings. Perhaps it even causes a slight blushing in the cheeks of painfully shy woman at hearing rushed tinkling so close by. And of course, they are also the people who love to leave surprises for the next person who uses the bathroom.
All in all, peeing seems to mean not much to people – a small part of life; but a very, very necessary part.  

                                 *                 *                    * .

The rain poured furiously outside the window as Emily sat, straining her brown eyes against the whiteboard flashing images of trigonometry from Mr. Well’s laptop, trying hard to concentrate. She was sitting in her usual seat in class, and also her favorite. It was a solitary table with a chair, away from the clusters of tables and the chattering children, and the only chair by the window. She liked to look out the window, even if it distracted her from Mr. Well’s loud explanations. The booming of “SOHCAHTOA” in her ears became distant as the wind’s movement caught her eye. She gazed out on sheets of rain flapping across the sky like giant teary spirits and pressed her fingertips on the glass. Cold.
Absent-mindedly, she pressed her cheek against the coolness and felt it absorb her body warmth. Her imagination kicked in and the glass became a panel of energy, ******* a little life from all those who touched it, vibrating with a strange purple light until it was so filled with energy the particles of the glass would explode and she would be the first to die from the sharp shatters that would spray across the room, causing droplets of blood to-
Ahem.
Mr. Well coughed meaningfully at her dreamy face. The class exploded into laughter and the bell rang. A skinny girl smiled at her but she was so lost in her own world, she forgot to smile back as she slung her bag on her shoulder and ran out. Maybe that’s why she didn’t have too many friends.
The dark skies were pouring furiously as only Bangkok in Monsoon weather can.
A walk home or a motorbike ride? A motorbike ride would be a little dangerous in this flooding… and with that reasoning she waved up a motorbike. The seat was soaked and so was the driver, whose brown leathered feet struggled to keep red flip-flops on as they sloshed through the flooded Sois.
Fat water bullets pelted her skin and the wind blew them ferociously into her face till her eyes stung. The motorbike swerved in and out of the cars stuck in traffic (slightly floating), the bottoms of their wheels immersed in ***** water.
The pockets of her school shorts were hastily rummaged through and she pulled out a soggy green twenty-baht note bank before running into the shelter of the lobby, dripping over the marble floor and completely drenched. The building-maid widened her eyes, and watched her horrified; knowing it meant extra work mopping and drying up the lobby floor as soon as Emily vanished into the elevator.
The plastic button with the circular metal piece glowed orange. It was strange how she was shivering with cold but her touch was still warm enough to light up the elevator buttons.
The usual itchy, impulsive, restlessness was building up inside her from the wet motorbike ride. Thunder roared and crackled through the lobby’s swinging glass doors and they vibrated slightly. Another flashing image of splintering glass splashed across her mind and in the split-second, she saw the diamond shards pierce the eye of the lobby’s guard and splinter across the floor-
She shook her head. This was what happened when she had too much pent-up energy. She had to do something- something reckless and fast and dangerous… now! A bolt of lightning went through her as a familiar wide open space came into her mind… the rooftop of her thirty-five floored building.
The elevator ride up was slow, much too slow for the fast pacing of her heart and she hit the metal doors with wet fists. Tearing out of the doors when it finally jolted to a stop, she climbed up to the top, running up the stairs two steps at a time and caught her breath. It was flooded up to her ankles and violent gusts of wind made her steady herself.
Emily’s Dad often told her stories of when he was child. “The winds in my home during Monsoon season were so strong we could lean into it with our fully body weight and we wouldn’t fall. It was almost as good as flying.”
Her lids squinted shut and the sensitive skin was immediately exposed to the pebbles of the rain and whipping wind; and in almost dream-like state, she leaned into the howling wind.
There was a comically slow fall and her bony knees hit the concrete flooring with a dull thud. She burst into tears of laughter in her own stupidity at thinking the wind could hold up against her gigantic frame and rubbed her ***** knees sorely. Reaching up to wipe her tears with muddy fingers, she laughed to herself again. There was no point in wiping away tears. They were so trivial in comparison to the current weeping of the skies.
Against the thick opaqueness of the wind, she could see how the view towered over a jungle of buildings as far as the eyes could see, with snaking concrete roads and skinny black canals. Slums scattered around nearby swanky hotels of the rich. The buildings faded into small dark shapes in the distance. Bangkok.
No matter how tall and industrial it tried to become, everyone ran for cover under this blinding rain.
Up here, completely a victim to nature’s power, she felt exposed; naked; real. The animalistic instincts inside her swelled up. Humans weren’t meant to wear these annoying pieces of material or shoved inside skinny architectural designs. With aggressive tearing motions, a pile of soggy clothes half lay, half floated on the flooded floor beside her and she stood there bare… and completely naked. Laughter spilled out from the depths of her naked chest with the two tiny hints of possible womanhood; it was louder than thunder. Screaming, laughing and gasping she stumbled around – climbing over objects and feeling the beautiful dizziness: a sweet, sweet dizzy. She stood up on a random block a meter high; spread her arms wide as her wet body shone with raindrops. The rain threatened to push her over, her soaked hair twitching heavily on her neck.
She ****** in her breath, ready to yell so that the heavens could hear but instead, the voice that came out was controlled with a shaky undertone of joy,
“I need to ***.”
And then she did.

                                                *         *            *.

His eyes are brown. Dark chocolate brown – a simple, solid color. Simple and solid like him.
Because he was so simple, people enjoyed his companionship. Though he was simple, he was not boring. Rather he was sharp-mouthed, quick on his feet, witty and observant speaking bald truths about people that either provoked them to scandalized laughter or humiliated fury.
What some people forgot to recognize was that he didn’t really love anyone. Plenty called him a close friend, but so absorbed were they in their own world; they seldom realized the fact that most of his thoughts were concealed. Kept in a little box of surprises in the back of his mind, and hidden so well nobody knew they existed.
He could spend months with a friend traveling in a different country, and return back home with no feelings of attachment. He could care for a friend while they were here and not really miss them while they were gone.
Most of the time his eyes were neutral and observing and they would sparkle amusedly when he had provoked someone with his words. This was how remained to almost everyone; everyone but one person. The one person that could turn his normally calm face even more still, the dark brows would rise slightly and a quick flash of fire would shoot through his eyes- and for a long while, they would burn slowly like two twin coals; the one person who could cloud his eyes dreamily; the one person who could make them glint wetly.  
He reached over and grabbed her hand. Emily turned smiling eyes at him.
A group of teenagers were strolling down the closed roads, armed with water guns, pasted in thick white powder, thoroughly drenched in the hot, dry weather and skipping over puddles (except for Emily who splashed into them).
Songkran in Bangkok: celebrated in the middle of April where temperatures reach forty-degrees Celsius, Thailand’s New Year and a time to pay respect to the elders in the family, but as most traditions, they became really just an excuse to enjoy oneself and in this case, one-year-olds to eighty-year-olds roamed the ***** streets splashing ice-cold water from hoses and water guns and smeared each other with chalk in buckets.
The street they were being shoved along was crowded with slick, drunk bodies. The heat of the afternoon sun shone down on their backs. The sign that introduced excited people in was sprayed by a passing pick-up truck filled with screaming locals. “WELCOME TO SOI COWBOY” printed the red letters.
Red-faced fat foreigners held in each arm a tiny ******* with their bright lace bras showing through the wet see-through shirt and their black eye shadow playing havoc with their cheeks.  Country-side Thai music blared in its jumpy, quirky manner with the over done sound effects. Those nasal voices of dark skinned women with their skins covered with make-up to an ashy white whined out of the stereos. A man with the head of a buffalo mask sauntered past. It was a mark of how wild things got at Songkran that eyes merely flickered over the shirtless buffalo briefly with a quick laugh. Transsexuals clad in diamond-studded flip-flops, wet white tank tops and mini jeans shorts the size of underwear danced to the blasting music from the open pubs down either side of the road. Their surgically-made ******* were all-too visible in the white shirts, their dark ******* poking out as they grabbed the crotches of good-looking men and boys that passed by, squealing and rubbing their bodies against white men especially. Most of these white foreigners had a look of bewildered pleased ness... for only a few realized that underneath that squeaky voice was a very deep rumble, and underneath those lacy thongs lay a very big surprise indeed.
One of the better-looking boys in the group, his green eyes and pointed chin drawing the fancy of many hookers, was pulled off by four pairs of wet skinny arms touching him and yelling in broken English, “Oh so handsome! You so handsome! I love you! What your name! You tell me your name, handsome boy!”
The handsome boy proceeded to manage some sort of scream for help while laughing until his stomach ached. It was Songkran; it was a merry time, and he knew he was good-looking. Kat, who held a secret crush on him laughed amusedly at his yelping.
Emily stumbled after him with Kat and parted through the crowd of ladies in time to see a tiny little ****** trip on her squeaking flip-flops and fall beside a sprawled figure, face down in the ***** road with a massive bag of ice on top of him.
“Hey! Are you alright?” Emily cried, half-amused and half-concerned, lifting the heavy ice bag off his shoulders.
Kat rushed forward, laughing but compromising her concern with furrowed brows and helped him up. “You okay Tom?”
He whimpered in pain and put a hand on his neck, rubbing it sorely. “That ice bag was ******* heavy.” The girls decided to make no note of his skinny arms.
They walked back to their group of friends who turned around and saw a limping green-eyed boy and roared with laughter. The noise caught the attention of predators searching for a good target and they were hosed down with water pipes.
Suddenly Emily felt a huge body lift her up and swing her around while hands plastered her with wet chalk.
“Emily!”
She felt safe hands grab her and looked up into the pair of dark chocolate eyes. They were a little annoyed as they flickered over the fat drunk man who released her heavily but it was Songkran, and he managed to laugh at her bewildered expression.
Just then they passed a horde of prostitutes and she felt him being ripped from her. “I like this one!” screeched a passing market lady who rushed in to jump on him. “I like this one! Let’s keep this one!” They dunk his head in a bucket of white goo.
She screeched with laughter and even at something that silly, felt protective of him. “Brad!”
He was too busy being attacked. “Brad!” she tried to reach in and he opened his mouth to call out to her. That was a big mistake, he realized, as he received a handful of powder in his mouth. Spitting, coughing, and trying to breathe through nostrils blocked with powder he managed to wipe his stinging eyes clean. The prostitutes released him but not before a huge ******* screamed with glee at his straight nose and thin red lips, and reached forward giving his crotch a good grab. He screeched in genuine disgust and fear, had a moments feeling of guilt in case he had offended the ******* which was immediately wept away as he, no she, no it, yelped joyfully and massaged his **** before trotting off to his, no her, no its next victim.
Where was Emily? With his height, he managed to see a brown head that stuck above the other dark-haired and light-haired heads being jostled out of the street by the moving crowd. He ran to catch up and grabbed Emily’s hand as the group of teenagers tripped out of “Soi Cowboy”.  
They stood for a moment catching their breath. Zoey, a tiny little girl with a chest that threatened to put her out of balance, pushed her brown curls out of her face. A red glow was starting to spread over her cheeks.
Kat laughed scornfully, her wide smile spreading generously over her face. “Sunburn?! You white girl!”  
They had all been out around the streets since early morning and it was late in the afternoon now. Rose’s cheeks were flushed and the tip of Kat’s nose was a little pink herself. The rest of them, with their darker skin, had tanned slightly but unnoticeably. They laughed at Zoey for a short while. It was an interesting group of friends: all of them of mixed heritages from around the world with different backgrounds that became common in the world of International schools. It was alright to tease Emily’s honey skin; it was funny to crack jokes about Stefan’s hairiness; it was hilarious when Zoey tried to tan.
Emily shot a picture of everyone laughing: their clothes wet, their faces scrunched up, eyeliner smudged (Kat and Rose had lined their eyes with water proof kohl that of course wasn’t really waterproof), their cheeks and chin caked a crumbly white.
Kat and Zoey clambered over her shoulders, peering at the little digital screen of the water proof camera. “Ew! Gross!” yelled Kat who was only used to pictures of her lips rosy from lipstick, camera at a flattering angle with a bright flash from her professional equipment that made her black-lined green eyes sparkle like emeralds.
“Delete! I look sick!”
Even Zoey, who admired Kat’s photogenic ness to a great extent, could find no words of solace except to say, “Me too! I look gross! Delete! Now!”
Emily just laughed and said, “No you don’t.” Of course it wasn’t a type of picture they’d profile on Facebook, but all the same it was beautiful with their wild-looking and uninhibited faces and un-posing body shapes, curled up in laughter.
Zoey snatched the camera from her and they fiddled with the buttons till the picture was deleted. It was regretful, annoying, but not unexpected.
Emily rubbed her sore knees and noticed how Tom was still rubbing his neck sorrowfully with Stefan laughing at him, shaking his head wearily. Brad was holding onto her arm a little tiredly, Kat and Zoey had their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulder for leaning support and Rose and Emily’s younger brother, Jason, were standing together, staring absen
MV Blake Apr 2015
Like tigers scratching over scraps,

The fat cats posture and hiss

Over who gets the favoured meat

From the cows nervously

Chewing the cud, scuffing their hooves,

Pacing the green and pleasant hills,

No longer fooled by the purring soothe.

Each tiger takes a swipe,

Claws trailing blood lines

Over fatted flanks of meat

Of the cows hiding

In their homes, in their fields,

Pacing the mud that replaced the trees,

Not picked for need, instead for yield.

The fat cats grow full on our flesh.

I hope they choke on it.

Get it while it’s fresh.
Scarlet McCall Apr 2018
Lucifer, save us; come up from Hell—
take a good look at the place that we dwell.
You were right all along
to refuse to bow down
to Adam and Eve
and their limitless throng.
And how could you have known that the apple you gave her
would plant seeds of pollution, destruction and terror?
You thought that we’d only use knowledge for good.
I know that you’d take it all back if you could.
Lucifer, we aren't angels like you.
We joined your rebellion, and soon we’ll be through.
Now the recourse from the wreckage that is,
is to bring on the foreshadowed Apocalypse.
So come on, Luci, don’t hesitate:
The Four Horsemen are pacing; why delay Fate.
After the End, there will be a new start,
perhaps without humans; we’ll bow and depart.
This may be a PF re-post but I lost the original and this is what I came up with from memory.
PART I

’Tis the middle of night by the castle clock
And the owls have awakened the crowing ****;
Tu-whit!—Tu-whoo!
And hark, again! the crowing ****,
How drowsily it crew.
Sir Leoline, the Baron rich,
Hath a toothless mastiff, which
From her kennel beneath the rock
Maketh answer to the clock,
Four for the quarters, and twelve for the hour;
Ever and aye, by shine and shower,
Sixteen short howls, not over loud;
Some say, she sees my lady’s shroud.

Is the night chilly and dark?
The night is chilly, but not dark.
The thin gray cloud is spread on high,
It covers but not hides the sky.
The moon is behind, and at the full;
And yet she looks both small and dull.
The night is chill, the cloud is gray:
‘T is a month before the month of May,
And the Spring comes slowly up this way.
The lovely lady, Christabel,
Whom her father loves so well,
What makes her in the wood so late,
A furlong from the castle gate?
She had dreams all yesternight
Of her own betrothed knight;
And she in the midnight wood will pray
For the weal of her lover that’s far away.

She stole along, she nothing spoke,
The sighs she heaved were soft and low,
And naught was green upon the oak,
But moss and rarest mistletoe:
She kneels beneath the huge oak tree,
And in silence prayeth she.

The lady sprang up suddenly,
The lovely lady, Christabel!
It moaned as near, as near can be,
But what it is she cannot tell.—
On the other side it seems to be,
Of the huge, broad-breasted, old oak tree.
The night is chill; the forest bare;
Is it the wind that moaneth bleak?
There is not wind enough in the air
To move away the ringlet curl
From the lovely lady’s cheek—
There is not wind enough to twirl
The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can,
Hanging so light, and hanging so high,
On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.

Hush, beating heart of Christabel!
Jesu, Maria, shield her well!
She folded her arms beneath her cloak,
And stole to the other side of the oak.
What sees she there?

There she sees a damsel bright,
Dressed in a silken robe of white,
That shadowy in the moonlight shone:
The neck that made that white robe wan,
Her stately neck, and arms were bare;
Her blue-veined feet unsandaled were;
And wildly glittered here and there
The gems entangled in her hair.
I guess, ‘t was frightful there to see
A lady so richly clad as she—
Beautiful exceedingly!

‘Mary mother, save me now!’
Said Christabel, ‘and who art thou?’

The lady strange made answer meet,
And her voice was faint and sweet:—
‘Have pity on my sore distress,
I scarce can speak for weariness:
Stretch forth thy hand, and have no fear!’
Said Christabel, ‘How camest thou here?’
And the lady, whose voice was faint and sweet,
Did thus pursue her answer meet:—
‘My sire is of a noble line,
And my name is Geraldine:
Five warriors seized me yestermorn,
Me, even me, a maid forlorn:
They choked my cries with force and fright,
And tied me on a palfrey white.
The palfrey was as fleet as wind,
And they rode furiously behind.
They spurred amain, their steeds were white:
And once we crossed the shade of night.
As sure as Heaven shall rescue me,
I have no thought what men they be;
Nor do I know how long it is
(For I have lain entranced, I wis)
Since one, the tallest of the five,
Took me from the palfrey’s back,
A weary woman, scarce alive.
Some muttered words his comrades spoke:
He placed me underneath this oak;
He swore they would return with haste;
Whither they went I cannot tell—
I thought I heard, some minutes past,
Sounds as of a castle bell.
Stretch forth thy hand,’ thus ended she,
‘And help a wretched maid to flee.’

Then Christabel stretched forth her hand,
And comforted fair Geraldine:
‘O well, bright dame, may you command
The service of Sir Leoline;
And gladly our stout chivalry
Will he send forth, and friends withal,
To guide and guard you safe and free
Home to your noble father’s hall.’

She rose: and forth with steps they passed
That strove to be, and were not, fast.
Her gracious stars the lady blest,
And thus spake on sweet Christabel:
‘All our household are at rest,
The hall is silent as the cell;
Sir Leoline is weak in health,
And may not well awakened be,
But we will move as if in stealth;
And I beseech your courtesy,
This night, to share your couch with me.’

They crossed the moat, and Christabel
Took the key that fitted well;
A little door she opened straight,
All in the middle of the gate;
The gate that was ironed within and without,
Where an army in battle array had marched out.
The lady sank, belike through pain,
And Christabel with might and main
Lifted her up, a weary weight,
Over the threshold of the gate:
Then the lady rose again,
And moved, as she were not in pain.

So, free from danger, free from fear,
They crossed the court: right glad they were.
And Christabel devoutly cried
To the Lady by her side;
‘Praise we the ****** all divine,
Who hath rescued thee from thy distress!’
‘Alas, alas!’ said Geraldine,
‘I cannot speak for weariness.’
So, free from danger, free from fear,
They crossed the court: right glad they were.

Outside her kennel the mastiff old
Lay fast asleep, in moonshine cold.
The mastiff old did not awake,
Yet she an angry moan did make.
And what can ail the mastiff *****?
Never till now she uttered yell
Beneath the eye of Christabel.
Perhaps it is the owlet’s scritch:
For what can aid the mastiff *****?

They passed the hall, that echoes still,
Pass as lightly as you will.
The brands were flat, the brands were dying,
Amid their own white ashes lying;
But when the lady passed, there came
A tongue of light, a fit of flame;
And Christabel saw the lady’s eye,
And nothing else saw she thereby,
Save the boss of the shield of Sir Leoline tall,
Which hung in a murky old niche in the wall.
‘O softly tread,’ said Christabel,
‘My father seldom sleepeth well.’
Sweet Christabel her feet doth bare,
And, jealous of the listening air,
They steal their way from stair to stair,
Now in glimmer, and now in gloom,
And now they pass the Baron’s room,
As still as death, with stifled breath!
And now have reached her chamber door;
And now doth Geraldine press down
The rushes of the chamber floor.

The moon shines dim in the open air,
And not a moonbeam enters here.
But they without its light can see
The chamber carved so curiously,
Carved with figures strange and sweet,
All made out of the carver’s brain,
For a lady’s chamber meet:
The lamp with twofold silver chain
Is fastened to an angel’s feet.
The silver lamp burns dead and dim;
But Christabel the lamp will trim.
She trimmed the lamp, and made it bright,
And left it swinging to and fro,
While Geraldine, in wretched plight,
Sank down upon the floor below.
‘O weary lady, Geraldine,
I pray you, drink this cordial wine!
It is a wine of virtuous powers;
My mother made it of wild flowers.’

‘And will your mother pity me,
Who am a maiden most forlorn?’
Christabel answered—’Woe is me!
She died the hour that I was born.
I have heard the gray-haired friar tell,
How on her death-bed she did say,
That she should hear the castle-bell
Strike twelve upon my wedding-day.
O mother dear! that thou wert here!’
‘I would,’ said Geraldine, ’she were!’

But soon, with altered voice, said she—
‘Off, wandering mother! Peak and pine!
I have power to bid thee flee.’
Alas! what ails poor Geraldine?
Why stares she with unsettled eye?
Can she the bodiless dead espy?
And why with hollow voice cries she,
‘Off, woman, off! this hour is mine—
Though thou her guardian spirit be,
Off, woman. off! ‘t is given to me.’

Then Christabel knelt by the lady’s side,
And raised to heaven her eyes so blue—
‘Alas!’ said she, ‘this ghastly ride—
Dear lady! it hath wildered you!’
The lady wiped her moist cold brow,
And faintly said, ‘’T is over now!’
Again the wild-flower wine she drank:
Her fair large eyes ‘gan glitter bright,
And from the floor, whereon she sank,
The lofty lady stood upright:
She was most beautiful to see,
Like a lady of a far countree.

And thus the lofty lady spake—
‘All they, who live in the upper sky,
Do love you, holy Christabel!
And you love them, and for their sake,
And for the good which me befell,
Even I in my degree will try,
Fair maiden, to requite you well.
But now unrobe yourself; for I
Must pray, ere yet in bed I lie.’

Quoth Christabel, ‘So let it be!’
And as the lady bade, did she.
Her gentle limbs did she undress
And lay down in her loveliness.

But through her brain, of weal and woe,
So many thoughts moved to and fro,
That vain it were her lids to close;
So half-way from the bed she rose,
And on her elbow did recline.
To look at the lady Geraldine.
Beneath the lamp the lady bowed,
And slowly rolled her eyes around;
Then drawing in her breath aloud,
Like one that shuddered, she unbound
The cincture from beneath her breast:
Her silken robe, and inner vest,
Dropped to her feet, and full in view,
Behold! her ***** and half her side—
A sight to dream of, not to tell!
O shield her! shield sweet Christabel!

Yet Geraldine nor speaks nor stirs:
Ah! what a stricken look was hers!
Deep from within she seems half-way
To lift some weight with sick assay,
And eyes the maid and seeks delay;
Then suddenly, as one defied,
Collects herself in scorn and pride,
And lay down by the maiden’s side!—
And in her arms the maid she took,
Ah, well-a-day!
And with low voice and doleful look
These words did say:

‘In the touch of this ***** there worketh a spell,
Which is lord of thy utterance, Christabel!
Thou knowest to-night, and wilt know to-morrow,
This mark of my shame, this seal of my sorrow;
But vainly thou warrest,
For this is alone in
Thy power to declare,
That in the dim forest
Thou heard’st a low moaning,
And found’st a bright lady, surpassingly fair:
And didst bring her home with thee, in love and in charity,
To shield her and shelter her from the damp air.’

It was a lovely sight to see
The lady Christabel, when she
Was praying at the old oak tree.
Amid the jagged shadows
Of mossy leafless boughs,
Kneeling in the moonlight,
To make her gentle vows;
Her slender palms together prest,
Heaving sometimes on her breast;
Her face resigned to bliss or bale—
Her face, oh, call it fair not pale,
And both blue eyes more bright than clear.
Each about to have a tear.
With open eyes (ah, woe is me!)
Asleep, and dreaming fearfully,
Fearfully dreaming, yet, I wis,
Dreaming that alone, which is—
O sorrow and shame! Can this be she,
The lady, who knelt at the old oak tree?
And lo! the worker of these harms,
That holds the maiden in her arms,
Seems to slumber still and mild,
As a mother with her child.

A star hath set, a star hath risen,
O Geraldine! since arms of thine
Have been the lovely lady’s prison.
O Geraldine! one hour was thine—
Thou’st had thy will! By tarn and rill,
The night-birds all that hour were still.
But now they are jubilant anew,
From cliff and tower, tu-whoo! tu-whoo!
Tu-whoo! tu-whoo! from wood and fell!

And see! the lady Christabel
Gathers herself from out her trance;
Her limbs relax, her countenance
Grows sad and soft; the smooth thin lids
Close o’er her eyes; and tears she sheds—
Large tears that leave the lashes bright!
And oft the while she seems to smile
As infants at a sudden light!
Yea, she doth smile, and she doth weep,
Like a youthful hermitess,
Beauteous in a wilderness,
Who, praying always, prays in sleep.
And, if she move unquietly,
Perchance, ‘t is but the blood so free
Comes back and tingles in her feet.
No doubt, she hath a vision sweet.
What if her guardian spirit ‘t were,
What if she knew her mother near?
But this she knows, in joys and woes,
That saints will aid if men will call:
For the blue sky bends over all.

PART II

Each matin bell, the Baron saith,
Knells us back to a world of death.
These words Sir Leoline first said,
When he rose and found his lady dead:
These words Sir Leoline will say
Many a morn to his dying day!

And hence the custom and law began
That still at dawn the sacristan,
Who duly pulls the heavy bell,
Five and forty beads must tell
Between each stroke—a warning knell,
Which not a soul can choose but hear
From Bratha Head to Wyndermere.
Saith Bracy the bard, ‘So let it knell!
And let the drowsy sacristan
Still count as slowly as he can!’
There is no lack of such, I ween,
As well fill up the space between.
In Langdale Pike and Witch’s Lair,
And Dungeon-ghyll so foully rent,
With ropes of rock and bells of air
Three sinful sextons’ ghosts are pent,
Who all give back, one after t’ other,
The death-note to their living brother;
And oft too, by the knell offended,
Just as their one! two! three! is ended,
The devil mocks the doleful tale
With a merry peal from Borrowdale.

The air is still! through mist and cloud
That merry peal comes ringing loud;
And Geraldine shakes off her dread,
And rises lightly from the bed;
Puts on her silken vestments white,
And tricks her hair in lovely plight,
And nothing doubting of her spell
Awakens the lady Christabel.
‘Sleep you, sweet lady Christabel?
I trust that you have rested well.’

And Christabel awoke and spied
The same who lay down by her side—
O rather say, the same whom she
Raised up beneath the old oak tree!
Nay, fairer yet! and yet more fair!
For she belike hath drunken deep
Of all the blessedness of sleep!
And while she spake, her looks, her air,
Such gentle thankfulness declare,
That (so it seemed) her girded vests
Grew tight beneath her heaving *******.
‘Sure I have sinned!’ said Christabel,
‘Now heaven be praised if all be well!’
And in low faltering tones, yet sweet,
Did she the lofty lady greet
With such perplexity of mind
As dreams too lively leave behind.

So quickly she rose, and quickly arrayed
Her maiden limbs, and having prayed
That He, who on the cross did groan,
Might wash away her sins unknown,
She forthwith led fair Geraldine
To meet her sire, Sir Leoline.
The lovely maid and the lady tall
Are pacing both into the hall,
And pacing on through page and groom,
Enter the Baron’s presence-room.

The Baron rose, and while he prest
His gentle daughter to his breast,
With cheerful wonder in his eyes
The lady Geraldine espies,
And gave such welcome to the same,
As might beseem so bright a dame!

But when he heard the lady’s tale,
And when she told her father’s name,
Why waxed Sir Leoline so pale,
Murmuring o’er the name again,
Lord Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine?
Alas! they had been friends in youth;
But whispering tongues can poison truth;
And constancy lives in realms above;
And life is thorny; and youth is vain;
And to be wroth with one we love
Doth work like madness in the brain.
And thus it chanced, as I divine,
With Roland and Sir Leoline.
Each spake words of high disdain
And insult to his heart’s best brother:
They parted—ne’er to meet again!
But never either found another
To free the hollow heart from paining—
They stood aloof, the scars remaining,
Like cliffs which had been rent asunder;
A dreary sea now flows between.
But neither heat, nor frost, nor thunder,
Shall wholly do away, I ween,
The marks of that which once hath been.
Sir Leoline, a moment’s space,
Stood gazing on the damsel’s face:
And the youthful Lord of Tryermaine
Came back upon his heart again.

O then the Baron forgot his age,
His noble heart swelled high with rage;
He swore by the wounds in Jesu’s side
He would proclaim it far and wide,
With trump and solemn heraldry,
That they, who thus had wronged the dame
Were base as spotted infamy!
‘And if they dare deny the same,
My herald shall appoint a week,
And let the recreant traitors seek
My tourney court—that there and then
I may dislodge their reptile souls
From the bodies and forms of men!’
He spake: his eye in lightning rolls!
For the lady was ruthlessly seized; and he kenned
In the beautiful lady the child of his friend!

And now the tears were on his face,
And fondly in his arms he took
Fair Geraldine who met the embrace,
Prolonging it with joyous look.
Which when she viewed, a vision fell
Upon the soul of Christabel,
The vision of fear, the touch and pain!
She shrunk and shuddered, and saw again—
(Ah, woe is me! Was it for thee,
Thou gentle maid! such sights to see?)
Again she saw that ***** old,
Again she felt that ***** cold,
And drew in her breath with a hissing sound:
Whereat the Knight turned wildly round,
And nothing saw, but his own sweet maid
With eyes upraised, as one that prayed.

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

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

             I entered through the store in a nun-plussed state. I woke out of my unbelieving stupor with the sound of Jose's voice. " Welcome to Doooooo-Weeee....can I eat your...."
            "Jose it's me, who chained you to the entrance?"
         " Dammian, Keeeeeth, they are waiiiting....here's a newsletter...." --he smacked me across the face with the newsletter.
        " I don't want that ****.....' as I clutched the newspaper the loudspeaker went off in Dammians annoyingly over-polite and late-night-voice.
       " Attention shoooppers. all prices are feeeefty percent off, ask our associate Keeeeeth for a 80% discount, he is the skinny deleeecious looking kid with spicy skin, and a boston red sox hat on."
Hundreds of consumers pivoted their heads to my direction. " Hey, that kid has a Boston Yankees hat on."
         " Run Keeeth," zombie-lisped Jose.
           Fifty million imbecilic questions assailed me at once......" can I return this sprinkler for a jacuzzi.....can I get 120% off.....can you come to my house and fix my television for free"-- it was unabashed audacity, survial of the most annoying and repetitious; and the corporate cadavers have let this consuming flood in on me and my poor zombies.
           I needed to find my steed, my inside forklift. It was not where I left it near the entrance.            
        Surely they have sabotaged it. " the riding mowers," the thought uplifted my fading resolve. I darted past wallowing consumers before they could get my scent. I heard a consumer, " you obviously don't know what Im talking about," talking to zombie George, who was munching roofing nails.
         The consumer grabbed me, and said "here he is, this is Keith, he is wearing a Phoenix red sox cap"--panic bit into my brain, this consumers grip was implaccable. The grip that holds the steering wheel tightly driving nowhere fast, with anything in that interstice of commuting, not worthy of manners and the least of which being a friendly wave to 'go ahead.'
           They formed a wall of uttering stupidity, escape was cut off. They scratched at me, hissed, tore at my flesh and screamed demonistically in my ears. I caved and and called the hoard m'am and sir, they choked me, and loosened their grip only so I could tell them " Im sorry, sorry for your inconvenience, take my life and personality as tribute, take my imagination rendered prostrate by these sceptic corporate words that this mouth emits, betraying my personal form, the human element to this lifeless purposeless machine....destroy me, for finding the infinity between letters of corporate law and none between nature's laws......"
        I was almost unconscious, giving a speech to imagined hooded phantoms......" destroy me, for valuing friendship and imagination, and seeing infinity, in the shadow of a letter, eternity in the numeral of a number, and for defying the order to see things as others do....."...." destroy me, for seeing that people are unhappy and trying to uplift people for the sake of seeing them smile....destroy me, destroy my smirk, and add a lifeless smile to my corpse."
              I heard a horn, the riding floor mopper/buffer, it was Ryan, he commandeered the machine with precision-like drunkenness. He knocked down the consumers like twenty pin bowling. " What's up ***** cat," he possibly said, and I climbed to my feet.
         I walked to the riding mowers, and turned the key on the floor model. I sped the main aisle, with caresses of consumers that would be deep clawings at a slower speed. I dodged stupid question, and swerved from unabashed frugality. I turned up the tool aisle, grabbed a battery nail gun.
              " It says batteries are included, but are they included?" I answered with a 12 gauge nail, and resumed my course to the upper offices, that for too long looked down on me and my friends. I climbed the stairs and entered. The office was abuzz in corporate banalities. " Hello, this is Damian how may I help you.....oh helloooooo keeeeeth, one minute.......sir hold one second thaaaanx."
                I aimed the nail gun muzzle at his ugly overly polite mug." I finally found you, I will get the store back in shape Damian...."
          He cut me off, " no yoou woonn't, they are pouring in, we will meet our quota for the year...."
        " Me and my friends
Lone Wolf Dec 2014
One... two... three... four...
turn
You can see the spot on her floor,
Where her blue-green carpet is worn
Wishing she could walk out the door
Forget how bad her heart has been torn

One, two, three, four
turn
She has music blaring
Supposed to keep her from losing her mind
Supposed to keep her from caring
If only her tormentor weren't so kind

One two three four*
turn
He's still unaware of his slight
She's pacing, reciting Poe in her head
He's unaware of her pain every night
She's wishing her heart was dead

Onetwothreefour
turn
Her fingers twine through her hair
Berating herself for thinking of him
She hears a few strands tear
But paces on, ignoring them
My typical day I spend at least an hour or two (sometimes more) pacing and listening to music. Lately it's been more.
Emma Russell Aug 2014
There are traitors in the castle
Hypocrites and liars
Spreading rumors, keeping secrets
Lighting silent fires
Pacing in the bedrooms
Quiet in the halls
Sneaking after midnight
Conspiring behind walls
Pretending to be royalty
Called themselves "king and queen"
Throwing out words like garbage
Not saying what they mean
Not taking time to think
Just playing a silly game
Betraying flesh and blood
not feeling any shame
Full of carelessness and greediness
But acting so sincere
Watching with fake smiles and laughter
Ignoring every tear
Throwing "traitors" in the dungeon
While deceiving on the thrown
Punishing those "committing crimes"
Not looking at their own
There were traitors in the castle
Hypocrites and liars
Bargaining with enemies
Igniting silent fires
Now there is no castle
No whispers in the halls
Nothing hiding behind doors
All that's standing are the walls
Kitty Parson Sep 2013
There you were on your camo Kawasaki
Riding leathers on, in racing position
Pacing the metallic beige Subaru
Pacing the vintage blue Volvo
Pacing me, in the back seat,
Hungover.
Britt Oct 2012
cyclic lingering

disconnected rambling

the same words rearanged

breathes shortening

impotent bargaining

the same pattern misbehaves

Ive always walked this way

hormonal litter cursed by anatomy

hyesteria



weepy futility

uncharacteristic of one so bold

the words of tongues

drag mud through wounds

a voided heart : not so





deep breaths

stand strong in misery

mindfulness, like a drug

disconnect and call it religion

pacing pacing pacing

thoughts;



I bleed for the words of others

For both praise and scheming lies

I wish to leave this haunted soul

but I

But I

but I ...what?

need to run?

to hide?

to hold my ground?

we'll see as it comes

a controlling women's worst nightmare
Cats and Sushi Sep 2013
The peephole was across from the study lounge,
As I stayed awake, the silhouette of light from your pacing body was bouncing back and fourth like a pair of anxious eyes under my door.

Back and forth, Back and forth.
I was hypnotized, the beam was tunneling your thoughts into my mind.

Suddenly.

I was asking are you okay? You said. "I'm just thinking".

"I'm just thinking", meant I was just thinking.

I was crazy, no you were crazy.

No, we were both crazy.

Busy minds, busy thoughts, pacing back and forth,
Busy minds, busy thoughts, a friendship had came forth.
Ken Pepiton Oct 2018
Drunk, we staggered home.

Aware of having been
some
other where
a while

That woman, she could answer

any question rebbi axt,
Ohhhhmyyy

she laugh and say, Dude, I got the Intent-net,
in my hand

That's more than a list of numbers, this
accounting idle words going on, on going, as fast as

lightning, at the scale, of, say

cat-ions ifiying an-ions
at random,
seen systematical, from a distance
zoom out
at the scale, of, say
Great Deep Field.

Center you, I'm no matter.

synchro
now

zoom out
Use that steam program
Universe Sandbox,
you gotta see that to imagine this, right,

and next is what you keep saying is unbelievable,
but its not.

Good things come to them
to whom
good makes more sense.

Earth from the moon POV

Confusion flux, spurtual,  caused by the solar flare of all solar flares,
one side

Whooshing the Ice left from Patton's flood
into steam, the stuff, not the app,

which swooshhhesssssssssss smack
into the freezing repurcussions
from the daark side…

The Noah event, that was bad,
This one, the last one, this just previous one,

was spiritual. Magnitudes incomparable
(save in parable and example, exemplar gratis,
says the bodiless being, with a roll of  my wrist and a bow)

At that very time on the side away from the flare,
the daark side of the planet, this one…

a Donald Patton nitrogen snow ball
that nearly breached Roche's limit,

too not nearly enough,
dis -integration
The atmosphere freezes
to the quark level, snap,

the cold
explosive
forward momentum
booms a nitrogen bubble now
minusminusminus
solid nitrogen
melting

any heat locked in flare fired steam,
what was once the water
that washed away the gods and locked their cities
of ivory under the ice

on the sunny side,
where now, then,

a solar flare like legends build empires upon
has passed, fires rage

there were survivors who lived to tell

and old stories never die. Old story tellers do,

Only miners survived, gold digger mostly,
few alchemists who knew the mystery in mercury,
Lost was all knowing but to a very few,
who truth be told had been the owner's
well kept servants, ministers of this and that
they perished with all the fires touched

we diggers, we only marvel

How bits of time, exact as ours, can be seen happening
all in bubble of Mercury. Cooked out red rock like these.

"Blood o' the gods of old, swat I'astold."

Messages from the gods, grandma, said, "Mercury calls for gold, gold listens, when fire's hottern fire can be,
unless
the breath of men blow on the coals", we all said that last part and blew out the light. G'night


but a story told a wee bit here a qubit there
here a little, there a little
line upon line,
precept upon precept,

'cept no body knows what I know about cept,

capere, a story starts, a provisioning tale. Wait.

it means grip. like a tool. rock breaks nut.

Paper covers rock, but scissors are so far in the future
that now, my time, my mind wanders after whys

this authoritative telling of the story, in it,
none know the terminal tale.

As in times past, there were survivors who lived to tell

and old stories never die. Old story tellers do,

Tho' here's a clue.
Meek's not bad,
stupid, for no reason, is.

Living long for the sake of a song heard once,
in dream luring me on, promising right now, I'll

know what it's like to see, oh

POV I made this clear some time ago,
time is less predictable than any imagined, before 2018
when, you know…

Even those tales old drunk Hesiod sold
in the Hittite tavern at Delphi,

Chronos thought wrong in those,
he ruled but for the merest gleam o'

Time, then a bubble gen erated by the thought of
opposition to transition,
nothing to something,
pushing /pushing back
stretch/snap/spark
that takes power, pulsing power, throbbing power

push/stretch
glow/snap
you know, imagine, glowing - cheat, think 2018 CG
glow/snap
Planc time,
each time the bubble pushes back
a ripple
imagine a clock, later, if you believe then, you must.

Now, see the bubble of all men have imagined,
since the time when such a bubble was only evil,
continually.

It went viral.
Noah we know for sure, almost, survived, ? Cushites kept records. In Africa.
Akkad kept record, too.
Some Hopi survived somehow and they have a tale.

They say they know the story is ten thousand years old,
I've been to a crossroads
on their journey,
stories
tell of it, still, today.

Holy means marked for good reason.
Marked with clues, not riddles, maps

Sacred means secret means hidden away for use,
not common, every day, quotidian use, right use.

Time, the opposing force, is precious to us all.
In time, we do all we can and die,

in ever, we expand, in no time at all. I imagine.

You fill it. Now, Your expandable mind's time,

time pushes from the outside,
wisdom pushes from the inside,

And so it goes, life goes on and music grows on ya,

Amusing how they do that, teeny muses dancing
shiva on the tip of my tongue,

singings songs in tongues I've never known
if they
are words on tongues
or sounds on tongues,

notes,

Baysian Binary Cross Validation
still ends with some people thinkin'
"it is finished" left them with a ton o'weight,
that's wrong, insist resistance.

Some, heavy duty, leaders of lambs, they claim
power in their mouths, spoken from fixed hearts,

but fixed upon, is truly the song,
said, words are only
little bits of whole sym ulacrum of re-ify-ing

where broken things re-pair, and life goes on…

"fixed, my heart is fixed",
no, your heart is machine of the most magnificent design, perfected,
a time at a time.
Flexing, pacing time itself, faster slower,

try some time
alone
be still, pond still

I know the story broke,
I could not hold it.

In the night, bitter cold
Frozen fragile...

There are pieces scattered every

where, everywhere
there is time, there is at least, a point

a story may stand upon and ask an angel
to dance.
Dance, give it some flare, what do we care?

Nobody's watching, but that fly.
This is read, by me at http://anchor.fm/kenpepiton
Life is good at my house, thankyou. A reader is needed more than words can tell. My posts are a book now, few stand solidly on their own. Thank you if you spend your time perusing them please tell me where I muddy the flow, or break the story.
John Dodson Oct 2014
running
not for or from
not to or fro
just one foot in front of the other.
not really counting
not steps
not miles
not minutes, seconds, or calories
just a rhythm
pounding
pacing
pulse quickening
breathing deeply
settling steadily to the sound of my footfalls
the mindless carrying on of my legs
a welcome counter to the emptying of my head
Nik Krutilla Sep 2012
She sits across from me sipping and slurping her fat free french vanilla.
While I'm pacing myself with cappuccino imitation.

"All I'm saying is, that if he starts calling me baby, I might wanna keep him!"

She says it with that cajoling tone.
But I can notice the glimmer in her eyes that tells me she longs for that.
That sweet pet name that would mean she's special to him, in her mind...

I never could get comfortable around those things...pet names.
Cutesy little endearments reserved for a child's affection.

What is wrong with me?

She's vibrating with unmasked giddiness, glancing at her phone.
They've been dating for only months but she is lost in him.

Him.
With his once a week date nights
and clean shaven face
and joking interaction with her friends.  

She's full of soft embrace and warm affection and vulnerable interest.
Wanting never looked so form fitting on a person.
Like a cup waiting for a refill...

"If you want, I could see if his friend is up for dinner next week? You know it's been months for you..."

I hope she doesn't choke on her millionth slurp with the glare of indignation leveled at her cherub-like face.

"Ah thanks, but no thanks." races out of my mouth before I even hesitate to pretend to consider her obvious proposal.

How is it that easy to just offer companionship like that? Do I give off a "desperate for love" vibe?
And what the hell makes her think I can't find someone on my own **** time?


"Okay, okay. It's just...I hate seeing you alone. Don't you want to not be alone anymore?"

I know she loves me but those kind of questions from her caring heart, make me contemplate knocking her in the head.

My alone-ness she says.
My singular existence.

I'd laugh at her if I didn't know it would hurt her feelings.
To disregard her feeble attempts at pairing me up with whatever half-assed man candy she could sway my way.

I'm staring at the ring left from my coffee,
wondering if I should just give in this one time for her,
for me,
for the over used batteries at home.

"I'm not lonely you know. I just, haven't felt that connection yet."

Looking pitifully back at me she wonders aloud, "You're always waiting on that connection but have you ever felt it before? I mean, how do you know it's even real, that body, mind, spirit...magnet pull you believe so fiercely?"

It's the first time I've given her a genuine smile today as I tell her yes I have felt it before.
Briefly...
Bitter sweetly...

I just never got his last name.

It might have been years ago but I can still recall with clarity that electric tornado that seemed to have surrounded us.

We had only been gifted ten hours together but it left a mark on me for over fourteen years.
His face is definitely matured I imagine and his body shaped differently.
But I'll never mistake those sea green eyes, haloed by dusty blue cloud rings.  

The only boy who has ever made me want to get lost and never be found.

"Well...good luck with that. But until mystery man crashes back into your life, for god's sake live a little huh!"

She means well I'm sure but like an eager pup I just tsk at her goofily plastered expression and finish off the grainy remains of my only afternoon delight. She's in a hurry to make her "honey bunny" a homemade dinner anyway so it's not hard to cut things short on our weekly coffee shop vent session.

She's floating out the door before I even get my coat above my elbows but I can't feel offended.
Mulling over the uncomfortable idea of boring interaction with another stranger I decide to grab one more drink for the ride home.

Alone.

Oh, wonderful...now she's planted that seed.

Shaking it off, I order my vice and move benignly to wait and resolve to not think about anything related to that anymore either.

"Seems outrageous they charge so much for imitation don't you think?"

The question's asked to me but I pretend I can't hear it. A guy hitting on me today is not what I want to deal with.

And he seems to be standing right behind me
making goosebumps scatter across my neck.

He tries again, "So I guess you like buying bottom of the barrel cappuccino?"

This time I've gotten a little itchy from his voice and want him to just stop in his tracks.
So I turn to tell him where, in fact, he can go...

But I'm the one stopped short and a bit flabbergasted.

No way do things happen to me like this.

Those coincidental, lucky, fated things...

I almost wish I was a liar right now with the things I just spilled to my loyally, encouraging friend.
Because there is no way the universe would be this cruel.

Finally I exhale and word *****,

"They're the only place that taste just like the ones at my grandmas' house every summer when I was a girl. I waited a long time to find that connection again, even if it is just coffee..."

The smirking face and broad shoulders that greet me aren't the cause of my temporary delirium.
Not even the wild hair and black rimmed glasses.

It's the sea green, haloed dusty blue eyes centering all the rest that shallow my breaths

Of all the places.....

Like a falling satin sheet his face morphs into a query riddled expression.

I hear the barista call out a name and he reluctantly steps away, never taking his eyes off mine whispering,

"I'll...be right back. Don't move...please?"

I'm nodding like an awkward parrot and he turns to grab his imitation coffee.
The same kind I'm waiting on.
And I start smiling after a second.

Not because of the similar drink order, which could be anyone...

But because of something I haven't known until this moment for over fourteen years.
All thanks to fate, or destiny...
Or perhaps the oblivious barista.

His last name...


*© NDHK
You said you would **** it this morning.
Do not **** it. It startles me still,
The jut of that odd, dark head, pacing

Through the uncut grass on the elm's hill.
It is something to own a pheasant,
Or just to be visited at all.

I am not mystical: it isn't
As if I thought it had a spirit.
It is simply in its element.

That gives it a kingliness, a right.
The print of its big foot last winter,
The trail-track, on the snow in our court

The wonder of it, in that pallor,
Through crosshatch of sparrow and starling.
Is it its rareness, then? It is rare.

But a dozen would be worth having,
A hundred, on that hill-green and red,
Crossing and recrossing: a fine thing!

It is such a good shape, so vivid.
It's a little cornucopia.
It unclaps, brown as a leaf, and loud,

Settles in the elm, and is easy.
It was sunning in the narcissi.
I trespass stupidly. Let be, let be.
Brandon Chutuk Feb 2019
I've never met a beauty that was
Without the pain it inevitably brings
Never a gift without tribulation
And even nature gives thorns to its roses

It's a law that everybody and everything obeys

But who are we
To not question this natural authority
To not seek answers in the first person
To just lay back in all this sickly comfort
And turn a blind eye on impossibility

It's a ******* waste, if you ask me!

And yet I am the optimistic hypocrite
Stuck in the same trenches he's dug
Pacing, pacing, pacing his daily rituals
In stagnant comfort, without impossibility
Running from death, and never fighting it

So be that soft beauty, please

Somebody has to and it can't be me
ryn Feb 2015
.
•they'd               
come at night•               
these footsteps are               
never light• always                    
heavy and running ar-                      
ound•...they are annoy-                        
ingly creepy..., these aw-                       
ful sounds•every night,                          
after eleven without                        
fail•into rooms,                        

us they would                        
tail• making a                        
din overhead                        
•when all                        
                         should
                        be quiet inste-
                         ad•like barefooted
                          children i would ***-
                          ume...•wandering and
                          exploring into every ro-
                           om•...could they come
                            wilfully•from the cou-
                                ple who live above
                            me•i very much

                             doubt so•bec-
                             ause this much
                             i know...•that
                             the neigh-

bour up-                    
stairs, they're                        
old•frail and meek;                            
never bold•they'd re-                            
tire early•after late, ne-                            
ver a party•now... there                            
the feet go again•drivi-                            
ng me almost insane•                            
on my ceiling now,                            
they're pacing•                        

they know i kn-                        
ow and they are                        
playing•these                        
invisible                        
                        feet•ne-
                        ver would we
                            meet•one thing for
                           sure•this is not a friv-
                            olous tour•determined
                            to tell•that they exist
                              as well•nothing i'm
                               certain but it is clear
                               •i think they really
                              like it here...•

                              •i don't think
                               they're leavi-
                              ng•they're
                 ­              bent on


staying...
.
I live in an apartment on the 2nd storey. My family and I would hear these footsteps every night.

Initially we would dismiss it to be the neighbour living upstairs but that became very improbable simply because the couple who lives above us are far too old to be jumping and skipping in the wee hours...

We have tried ignoring the sounds but they would intensify. We'd hear intentional heavy footsteps, running, jumping between rooms but most of the time they would follow us to whichever room we're in.

Lately these sounds had progressed to rapping on the concrete walls in my bedroom. I could hear them as I lay in bed knocking and tapping on the wall by me.

The thing is... I live in a corner apartment and beyond that wall is the exterior of the building... There is no way anyone could be on the opposite side of that wall...

Creepy much?
.
Debbie Brindley Jul 2018
In the last 5 month's
Both my cats have
passed away
My mornings now so quite
I miss them both everyday

Romero
(Jan 08=Feb 18)
Such a magnificent cat
always ready for his morning cuddle and chat
Like a ******* panther he did look
Children thought him angry for his purring they miss took
You could lift him with two hands he'd be stiff like a plank
Put him round your neck
he'd hang there all lank
Such a chilled
layed back cat
was he
and he loved to curl up
on your knee
He'd knock on the door
if locked in a room
My poor Romero
dying way to soon

Destiny
(Mar 09=July 18)
This little **** so very pretty
timid at times
and a little bit skitty
Some days you'd not see her  
she'd hide away
But then
she could happily sit on your lap
all day
You'd see her meowing
without making a sound
She loved playing with tissue *****
smacking them around

Afternoons spent with each other
playing hide and seek
there would be chasing
with stealth like pacing

Now beside Romero
forever Destiny shall lay
In our garden under the rose bush
So forever they may play
Missing my cats terribly
Terry O'Leary May 2013
AWAKENING

Sleep and slumber, dreams of wonder... weaving,
morning’s vacuum broke the spell
Pitted pillow, note of parting... leaving,
“from your friend, a fond farewell”
Sunrise throbbing, twilight aching... grieving,
daydreams, flashbacks, nightmares knell
Pale phantasms, visions sneaking... thieving,
plot to fill the empty shell

12 DELIRIA

1st Delirium: COLLAPSES

Fractured sky bolts, billows bursting... rumbling,
heavens tighten, turn the vise
Horsemen saddle shafts of lightning... tumbling,
jagged highways must suffice
Ruptured skyways, hailstones crackling... crumbling,
naked pearls of paradise
Toxic tongues of laughter stinging... stumbling,
ocean buckets choked with ice
Droplets drumming, thunder muzzled... mumbling,
washed out whispers pay the price
Smothered blazes, cinders smoking... humbling,
ashes shaped in sacrifice

2nd Delirium: DESCENTS

Asphalt alleys, ashen faces... frowning,
blowing bubbles, chewing gum
Drinking ale from tavern tankards... downing,
moonlit beads of painted ***
Stony stars and sea misshapen... drowning,
humble rivers’ rhythms hum
Apparitions aspirating... clowning,
diamonds dying , minstrels strum
Incandescent candles conquered... crowning,
vacant vapours, cold and numb

3rd Delirium: FATES

Tempest turmoil, tapered turrets... holding,
dungeons, dragons, chains and racks
Wheels of fortune, Tarot temptress... molding,
Hangmen, Towers, One Eyed Jacks
Sand dune castles, cryptic candles... folding,
warping walls of liquid wax
Idols colder, combed and coddled... scolding,
hide in fissures, peek through cracks

4th Delirium: LOST SOULS

Sunken cities, pilgrims peering... gawking,
squinting eyeballs, blazing sun
Janus facing, shepherds chasing... stalking,
friends embrace before they shun
Tearooms steaming, tumult teeming... talking,
lovers listen, poets pun
Broken stones unanchored, quaking... rocking,
slipping, falling, one by one
Beaten pathways, footsteps marking... mocking,
wedged in webs which spiders spun
Circus shelters, big tops tumbling... locking,
people pacing, soon they’re none
Numbered exits, zeros numbing... knocking,
midnight daylight’s days undone
Moon blood shackles, shivers shaming... shocking,
starlight striders streaking, stun
Hushed but harried hermits waiting... walking,
restless rainbows on the run
Pixies, elves, and echoes bouncing... balking,
fading fast when dawn’s begun
Bantum butterflies are flitting... flocking
sometimes conquered, overrun
Hocus pokus, seers focus... squawking,
voodoo wavered, witchcraft won

5th Delirium: INTROSPECTION

Sundown furnace, fires fading... coughing,
dusky dew drops drain the air
Empty chalice, sipped in silence... quaffing,
thirsting shadows unaware
Looking glass and lattice scorning... scoffing,
local loser gapes and stares
Faces covered, dancing naked... doffing,
peering inside, hope despairs

6th Delirium: THE VOID

Tales of taboos, mystic mythos... missing,
windows shuttered, bolted door
Kindled candles, tongues and anvils... hissing,
heavy hammers, echoes roar
Dark deceivers, raven charmers... kissing,
draging demons from the shore
Hopeless hollows filled with doubters... dissing
standing empty - nevermore

7th Delirium: SEARCHING

Martyred monks haunt runic ruins ... waiting,
banging broken bells below
Vaulted hallways, voided voices... grating,
churning Chinese chimes aglow
Granite graveyards, spectres spooking... skating,
blackened bushes, roses grow
****** dwarfs seek mutant migrants... mating,
packing parcels, ice and snow

8th Delirium: NIGHTTIME

Throbbing drumheads, fingers blazing... steaming,
coins of copper, beggars plea
Rusty residues of resin... streaming,
opal amber filigree
Orphan shades in shallow shadows... teeming,
steeping twigs in twilight tea
Cloister doorsteps, Prophets gaming... scheming,
tracing tracks of destiny
Blacksmiths blanching, horseshoes glowing... gleaming,
partially sheathed in black debris
Phantoms feigning, nightmares scathing... screaming,
dusty dreamers drifting free

9th Delerium: EMPTYNESS

Water wheels in wastelands... turning,
drowning relics in the slum
Rumpled rags of fashioned burlap... burning,
lit by bandits blind and dumb
Pastured prisons, ponies bridled ... yearning,
forest fairies under thumb
Sounds inside of cauldrons coughing... churning,
blaring bugles, tattooed drum

10th Delirium: ALIENATION

Rain unravelling, wistfully weeping... falling,
treacle trickling, fickle sky
Mushrooms sprinkled, visions sprouting... sprawling,
seagulls drowning, dolphins die
Rabble gasping, spirits broken... crawling,
lonely lonesome swallows cry
Babbling brooks and breakers ebbing... bawling
puppies paddle, puppets sigh
People passing ripple past me... calling,
rainbow colours, collars high
Chaos seething, lepers looting... stalling,
stealing stallions on the sly
Pencils pausing, scholars scrambling... scrawling,
scratching scribbles, asking why

11th Delirium: JETSAM

Silver sails sway pallid pirates... prowling,
Jolly Rogers, wind and sound
Parrots perching, tattered feathers... fouling,
tethered talons, tied and bound
Shipwrecked foghorns, trumpets stranded... howling,
spiral springs of time unwound
Magic moonlight, shimmers shaking... scowling,
burnt out matchsticks washed aground
Prairie wolfs, coyotes calling... yowling,
witching hours, midnight hounds
Tightrope walkers, grizzlies grunting... growling,
seeking islands, lost and found

12th Delirium: RELIEF

Slumber shattered, vapours captive... haunting,
chained in mirrors, breaking free
Scarlet skylines, daylight dawning... daunting,
rivers rushing to the sea
Silence softens, sandmen whisper... wanting,
piercing rafters, turning keys
Shadows shudder, notions fluster... flaunting,
moonbeam bullets meant for me
Mind in migraine, meadows trembling... taunting,
sparrows speak in harmony

REAWAKENING

Pitter patter, teardrops paling... pearling,
salting scarves in secret drawers
Mist amongst us, smoke rings rising... curling,
climbing from the ocean floors
See-saw circles, senses swerving... swirling,
swept away with silver oars
Courtyard jesters, sceptres twisting... twirling,
push the past to foreign shores
Passing pangs of passions heaving... hurling,
burning bridges, closing doors
Roses wither, icons waning... whirling,
time decays and time restores
slr Oct 2018
mov•ie
\ ˈmü-vē \

noun

1.a story represented in motion pictures/motion : noun : mo·tion : \ ˈmō-shən \ : an act, process, or instance of changing place/forward, backward, up, down, pacing, running, crawling/how we flee from our lives, our problems, our responsibilities/instead of focusing on motion we look to pictures/picture : noun : pic·ture :  \ ˈpik-chər \ : a design or representation made by various means/click, zoom, import, export/our lives are on a flash drive, on a snapchat, on an instagram, on a memory card/everywhere but on our own memories/we don’t like pictures either/they show moments never to be regained from our past/our solution?/combine them into something better/movie : verb : mov·ie :  \ ˈmü-vē \ : an escape from reality/we use movies to deflect the pain of our lives/we think that we watch because we are bored/no/we watch to escape/escape : verb :  es·cape : /əˈskāp/ : a recording of moving images that tells a story and that people watch on a screen or television.
I wrote this a while back but I fell in love with dictionary poetry after it
A singular repetitive rhythm,
Pacing itself through peaks and valleys.

Moving constantly and patiently.
Not changing itself but naturally our senses develop it into song.

We perceive additional beats from the echoes,
Add harmonies from the worlds other lives that surround it.

Making valleys horribly deep dark places
from the fullness of the sound.
Peaks so light and airy
because nothing is there to answer you but the distance.

So why is our perception not inverse?

When we are surrounded by the echoes of ourselves
The world is coming down around us.
When we peak and nothing is there to answer,
There is freedom.

Is our nature to be so afraid of ourselves
That we simply do not comprehend what is inside?

No matter the beat continues
The pacing flows into each day
The world enjoys what it is because it will be honest.

The world knows no perception
Namir May 2014
As the sun rose higher into the sky from morning to evening the Snow Leopard and the Little Fox kept to their travels. The Fox started to get bored and this started to annoy her, not learning anything and just walking, "Isn't there anything we will learn today?" The Leopard laughed softly looking to the young little fox as he softly said, "Patience young one. Not every day has a lesson. Just like not every day has meaning. You have to make the meaning, Just like you have to watch and learn." The little fox got more annoyed at his slightly confusing answer "But I want to learn something soon. This is boring." she said with groan and a grunt. "I thought you were going to teach me more" She started to whine. The leopard continued to laugh softly, "Again, Patience my dear. Good things come to those who wait. You cant rush. You will get your lesson when we find something to teach you," he said with a smile. The little fox got mad this time, getting impatient, she started to run off and shout back to him "well if you wont teach me I will find something myself!" The leopard shook his head and smirked slightly saying to himself "I wonder what trouble she will get herself into this time" as he took his time walking in the same direction she ran. The little fox ran as fast and as far as she could before getting tired. The Snow Leopard was completely out of sight though he did keep following her direction and scent. "good riddance" she said to her self, "I dont need him to teach me anyways. I can learn on my own." As she turned back around and it was getting dark she started to become fearful. A little fox, all by her lonesome, as the sky started to darken. The little fox began whimpering softly, not knowing what to do and still no Snow Leopard in sight. "Maybe I shouldn't have ran off..." she said to herself as she hid at the bottom of a large tree, curling herself into a ball, shaking and whimpering. In the distance there was a little noise, a coyote appeared, hearing the whimpers and noticed the little fox. As the coyote rushed up to the little fox, a big grin flashed across his face, "Whats a cute little critter doing this far in the woods all alone?" The little fox screeched as he rushed over and abruptly spoke to her. "I-I got a little lost?.." she said with a terrified shake in her voice. The snow leopard heard this shriek and started rushing in her direction not knowing what to expect.
The coyote started pacing side to side in front of her "Ohh no no no. That's not good now is it? Being all alone, so young, no one to protect you." The coyote stopped in front of her abruptly with a sinister smile, "Tell you what, Come on with me and we will go find your family, What do you say?" Said the Coyote slyly and smugly as the little fox tried to back up against the tree more whimpering louder but not saying a word. But just as the coyote tried to step in closer the Snow Leopard leaped out of the brushes and between the the little fox and the coyote, and with a snarl and a growl he sternly ordered to coyote "Leave now. She isn't yours." The coyote backed up slightly with a laugh "A little far from home now aren't pretty little kitty. By the looks of it, you found your caretaker. I guess I will be off." The coyote then rushed of with a sneer and a grimace, as the little fox started to cling to the snow leopards hind leg. He pat her head softly and smiled slightly while saying "you aren't hurt are you?" and the little fox whispered back with a shaky voice "Y-Yea... I'm okay... Just... Scared." The leopard dragged her to his side and the layed down beside her, curling himself around her, and whispered to her in a soft soothing voice "There is no need to be afraid. I would never let anything happen to you. I will protect you and fight for you. I promise." He then softly licked her cheek as she curled up with him to rest a little.
Part 3 of the short story series "The Leopard and The Fox"
Made by Myself for a very special young woman.
ml May 2015
my feet hurts from running
from running to and away
from the twigs and stones on the path
from the memories of the past
from the harsh wind of reality.

my feet hurts from running
from running in dark tunnels
of thoughts and things
better stay hidden.

my feet hurts from running
from running away from ink that sloshes on paper
and harsh lines replacing letters.

my feet hurts from running
i'm not running
my footsteps are fading into the space
of clogged arteries
and twisted veins from trying to keep
from running,
i should stop running.

pacing, pacing, pacing
walking around eggshells
tiptoeing around broken glass shards
of what is and
what is now.

now is reality,
today i start walking to my destiny
facing head-on trucks with blaring music of
THIS IS THE END trying to run me over.

my feet are hurting
from staying planted on the cement floor
as trucks try to run me over
and crows perch on branches
waiting to feed on my carcass
and my feet are hurting,
from finally realising that this is how it should be.

— The End —