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UMMMMMMMMM SAVE US FROM THESE ONLINE KILLERS

UMMMMMMMMM THEY ARE JUST TRYING TO ENJOY THE FUTURE OF TECHNOLOGY

UMMMMMMMMM PLEASE SAVE OUR YOUNG, UMMMMMMM THEY ARE TREATED LIKE TOYS


UMMMMMMMMM STOP THESE INTERNET PREDATORS, UMMMMMM FROM GETTING THEIR WAY WITH VICTIMS


UMMMMMMMMM  THE COMPUTER ISN’T A TOY, IT CAN BE DANGEROUS, DON’T LET MY OLD ME, IN ANY OF YOU

I DON’T WANT PEOPLE GETTING ME WRONG  UMMMMMMMMM I WANT ANY SIDE OF KIDNAPPER OUT OF ME



UMMMMMMMMM PLEASE COUNCIL BRETT’S FAMILY  UMMMMMMMMMM PLEASE COUNCIL BRETT’S FAMILY


UMMMMMMMMM THESE INTERNET PREDATORS MUST BE STOPPED, UMMMMMMMM  BURT IT’S HARD TO STOP THEM



UMMMMMMMMM YOUTUBE IS FUN AND UMMMMMMMMM DONE IN THE RIGHT WAY, FACEBOOK IS FUN


UMMMMMMMMM  YOUNG DUDES, BE CAREFUL, UMMMMMMM YOUNG DUDES BE CAREFUL


UMMMMMMMMM  DON’T MAKE STRANGE FRIENDS, UMMMMMMM CHOOSE YOUR MATES CAREFULLY


UMMMMMMMMMM CAUSE, THIS IS A HORRIBLE EVENT UMMMMMMM  HELP GIVE EVERYONE PROPER COMPUTER CLASSES



UMMMMMMMMMM ON HOW TO HAVE FUN ON COMPUTER  UMMMMMMM MY DAD WHO DIED AND BORN AGAIN AS ELIZABETH ANN CAMPBELL


UMMMMMMMMMM  ALWAYS TRIED TO UNDERSTAND TECHNOLOGY  UMMMMMM DON’T LET INNOCENT BOYS BE CAPTURED BY COMPUTER GEEKS


UMMMMMMMMMM  NO COMPUTERS ARE FUN, SOCIAL MEDIA IS FUN  UMMMMMM  BUT PREDATORS ARE DANGEROUS


UMMMMMMMMMM DON’T LET WHAT HAPPENED TO BRETT, HAPPEN TO YOU, UMMMMMMMM TECHNOLOGY IS FUN, UMMMMMMM TECHNOLOGY IS FUN


UMMMMMMMMM  BUDDHA ATHENA AND CROBUS, WHO IS ME, TO STOP ONLINE PREDATORS, GET THE HANDS ON OUR YOUNG

UMMMMMMMMM   EVEN IF THEY ARE YOUNG THEMSELVES,    UMMMMMMMMMM  YEAH, BRING US PEACE FROM STUPID PREDATORS



UMMMMMMMMMM  I AIN’T COOL TO ****, UMMMMMMMMMM  LIKE THE MAN DOING BURNOUTS IN THE CARPARK UMMMMMMM IT MIGHT LOOK FUN


UMMMMMMMMMM BUT IT COULD’VE KILLED THAT LADY, UMMMMMMMMMM IS IT REALLY WORTH IT,   UMMMMMMMM IS IT REALLY WORTH IT


UMMMMMMMMMMM IS IT REALLY WORTH IT, TO ****, FOR TECHNOLOGY, UMMMMMMMMM IT DOESN’T IMPROVE THE WORLD

UMMMMMMMM TO SEE ONLINE PREDATORS, GET THEIR WAY, UMMMMMMMMMM UMMMMMMMMMM UMMMMMMMMMM
Dhaye Margaux May 2014
Thick skin, big body and sharp teeth, they slay
These greedy animals hunt for their prey

Their goal is to get all what they want
In the darkness of the night they usually hunt

Crocodiles and snakes, they attack like storms
How big are those reptiles as compared to the worms?

Now modern predators are in tuxedo’s and suits
With shiny eyeglasses or well-polished boots

These greedy creatures scattered in this world
They always make the biggest stories ever told…
Epigram

Epigrams are satirical poems ending with either a humorous retort or a stinging punch line.

Used mainly as expressions of social criticism or political satire, the most common forms are written as a couplet: a pair of rhymed lines in the same meter.

Practitioners of this poetic expression include John Dunne, Ben Jonson, William Blake and Robert Frost.

Credits to: http://www.shadowpoetry.com/resources/wip/epigram.html
Nicole Corea May 2015
I was a caterpillar ,
before I became a butterfly .
The pain I had to endure in order to transform into the beauty I am today .
This is my tale .

In the forest there was,
My cocoon wrapped in the finest silk,
With a power to live in a colorful world.
To dream and conquer goals.
A Vivacious soul spinning in the purest silk
Growing and maturing as I spun.
Wishing for freedom with my beautiful wings,
Counting the days to be free and soar
as a lively butterfly
until
You winded into my community
Lured my queen and her uneven monarch.
Tempted to sabotage my purity.
For that you,
Lured yourself into my vulernable cocoon
with that trust,
you decided to disrupt my process.
How can one man ruin my nesting site?
And I had faith in you ,
to be a figure
I never had.
I wanted.
My heart ached for it.
I needed it.
To be loved .
To be nurtured.
To never be like those stray dogs
looking for a home.
This was the moment .
Where....
Innocence stripped, heart captured.
My Freedom gone.
You were naive to comprehend
On what you were doing...
You would stab my cocoon
with your sickening poison .
Over and over you stabbed .
Ruptured the veins of my innocence .
To break my finest silk .
Purity banished.
Stabbing your poison was
Making my cocoon
useless ,
worthless ,
unwanted,
colorless,
I tried to run and I tried to scream
but I was devoured by this poison
It was the love I deserve.
Couldn't escape , numb to the pain
For every poison injected, I began to
Question God?
Where was he ?
when I shed out a tear of help.
Where was he?
when my cocoon was destroyed.
Was I loved God?
when I muffled help in your name.
I hated myself ,
I stay in my cocoon
afraid to see my future.
I wasn't going to be a beautiful butterfly
Battered Butterfly
My life seemed to be colorless
No one wants a battered butterfly
My life....
It seemed it had ended
when poison sunk onto my helpless body .
No one wants a battered butterfly
Imprisoned to these chains.
Being poisoned every night by different
Predators.
Oh God....
Those predators ...
Battered lifeless little butterfly
Was I ever loved in my nesting site?
But then again nobody loves a battered butterfly
How can I reach to heaven when
I was worthless.
Believed I was a vile *****.
Tricked into a poison of hell.
Battered Ugly Butterfly
***** Little butterfly.
There was no light in tunnel
There was no holes in my silk
To escape this poisonous nest.
Why?
Because I believe nobody wants save a battered butterfly
How can the man I trusted ruined me.
I thought you could be the one to complete my lovely monarch .
To complete the missing piece.
But you continued to misuse me.
To haunt me.
To barricade my heart
To own my soul
But one thing I can truly say
You never once won over me.
You never imprinted my change.
I endured your pain
That was a sign of God
To show me what strength I am capable of.
That was the light that I found,
You had no control to inflict pain anymore.
Because I became impervious to your pain.


I am a beautiful butterfly
reigning over my monarch
with no thought of you.
**That is my freedom
Speaking out on my ****** abuse
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.
Knights Jan 2016
With wings to fly
I might just die
Maybe say my last goodbye
Cause honey I
As the prey they might
Chase me as I scurrie by
The predators hunt me tonight
Cweeta Cwumble Apr 2016
I am a ragdoll cat.
Docile and placid, I bend
to your touch, my silky fur invites
your inquisitive fingers.

Easy come, easy go.
My claws are only for show.
Bred for affection, I'm
the perfect pet. I'll follow you
wherever you go.

But the thing about ragdoll cats is
when danger is near, we do not know.
We see predators the same as friends
because it's in our nature
to go with the flow.

Too many times, I've been ripped to shreds,
been tossed around and thrown
to the wolves.
When I land on my feet and lick my wounds,
I go right back to being a ragdoll.
Tony Luxton Aug 2015
At the end of a long walled garden,
where predators lie in wait,
there's a place for birds, a haven,
a table with food as bait.

Children frighten the birds away,
not meaning any harm,
but predators wait with charm as bait,
stalking children at play.
patty m Jul 2018
In the pale beyond the moon
fossilized predators bay,
while stone footprints lead us nowhere.
We slide across meridians,
masked as silent shadows,
some run with wolves
and sometimes vanish
others are mummified
soon after they're born.
Lost souls, stray cats, fleas on the
backs of ubiquitous rats,
we flail ourselves with twisted hangers
sounding discordant notes.

Tattooed our blood rituals finalized
we peel ourselves from the edge
living knife sharp against the violence always flaring.
Beat up junk, reeking of smoke
the cruelty of it all and yet we reveal nothing,

Lionesque leaders stalk
jabbing their claws, partaking in torture,
now we are random prey;
no tower of control or greetings are chorused,
as we move alone or in pairs conversing only in signs and signals.
We align our sites on the bullet's trajectory,
superimposing ourselves on our enemy's vision,
Like demons spreading disease and infection
we fight until we die, or defiantly dance
in the bloodlust of future freedom.

Idols turned clay, the universe erupting
what do we make of it all?

Nullified regions under siege
and still they fight,
don't they know that we're all dying?
Lou Jul 2017
4
At the Zoo

Patriots and faux exhibit and binge on synonyms of liberty printed on beer and underwear
Advertising what should be unspoken and inspired to pervert and romanticize
Preludes to the parades and finale above us all
Weeks of saturated irony
Cuckoo bird irony and BBQ
As they reform Phoenix, rebirth of distractions and thievery
Predators in ally ways pursing America's diamonds and legs

Then gunpowder
Gunpowder of colors and cuckoos
Layers of streets in gunpowder
Towns built of gunpowder
Sky is gunpowder
We are born addicted to led and gunpowder
Gunpowder ****** in the air
Success, display and diversion and more gunpowder to ingest.

The Grand Finale
The Volta of the evening
The hammer of the judge
*** appeal of death and nature flexing it's muscles-  
show us some skin!

Covering your ears
Eyes fastened-
Ready to burrow back to mothers womb
Binged and free
Chinese celebration hijacked
Red, White and Blue
And a moment of silence  

Orchestrated onomatopoeia in heaven
Chorus of arousal on Earth
Band marching war machines in hell

The showdown of 241 years!
This freedom we are all grateful to only talk about

Only free to battle shackling intoxication
Men and women tugging extra weighted offspring
Sulking for indoors and portable addiction  
Chanting three letter obedience
God being counted by his blessings
Fear and Statism in every breathe for salvation from our stick swatted enemies
Checkpoints that serve and protect asking for a toll;
liberty synonyms.
Arresting the too free

At the Zoo,

The cuckoos regaining reality.
The phoenix red eye and held under oath
To the next day where we are back
To hate each others freedom, again.
Written on the 4th of July.
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
Äŧül Dec 2012
Whom do I tell,
What do I tell...
Whom do I tell,
What do I tell?

The Predators,
Ravished Me...
They did not consider me a human,
They did not,
They did not!

As is the story
You know it...
But have you been affected at all,
Affected at all,
Affected at all?

Whom do I tell,
What do I tell...
Whom do I tell,
What do I tell?

Today the entire nation of India is just asking for the same thing, as they put forward the issue of the girl - death for those Predators!
But the question arises that whether the gallows would suffice, or the predators must be punished like in the Saudi Arabian law - setting an international example? For more info you may refer to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Delhi_gang_rape_case
Brendan Holland Jul 2014
Turtles swim swiftly in the sea
Its fins propellers from its shell
From the predators it can quickly flee
Because turtles can go in land or sea
Which makes this task quite easy
So being a turtle is pretty cool, you can tell
Being able to swim in the deep sea
And having a home that's a shell
This poem has a specific rhyme scheme of "abAaABab" with the lowercase letters being the same word.
MBJ Pancras Dec 2011
Terrorists’ work of devilishness reflected of deterioration of peace,
Surmounted with hellish and purposeless dogma in religion,
What did the innocent do with terrorism?
I watched on the screen how human arms had waved for help,
How victims had fallen from top to the ground zero,
How the splendid tower had been collapsing down
When the monstrous killer plane had plunged into cubicles
When computers had had their tasks with their engineers,
How the second predator dived into the concrete chambers,
How human splendor had crashed in no time:
Might be human pride ‘gainst the Heavenly Glory.
Clouds of smoke and ash had swallowed the hosts and guests,
Sons and daughters had lost their fathers and mothers,
Fathers and mothers had forgotten the memory of their children,
Lovers and lady loves had been shattered without their fulfillment.
What would have happened to the human less predators on flight,
Might be burnt and charred with the steel machine elsewhere?
Do these human less predators work for emptiness in void?
Candles and flowers being carried by the kith and kin of the victims,
And their tribute is the homage to their beloved ones;
Yet is this act done out of ignorance, or of love, or of human bond?
The game was over, but the allusions and metaphors are on stage,
And they are the images of events to come beyond human wit.
A mark of memory and cry diluted by human prayers seen at Ground Zero
With tears rolled down the cheeks of the victims buried beneath.
I could still hear the distant cry of the victims with their arms waved,
The click sounds of the computer buttons can ne’er be erased,
And the bellows of the pounding tower are the death toll still heard.
Terror predators are still awake with their brandishing missiles,
And let’s all break the wings of the predators with our faith in the Lord,
And He will charge them with His Eternal Word on the Day of His Coming.
The Day is not far, and is imminent, must be fair and good in His sight.
Collapse of WTO!   A recall!
Marshal Gebbie Jul 2012
Screaming rage, the old pachyderm charges hard
Scattering predators away from the ravaged corpse of her fallen friend

The carnivorous stork and vulture cloud simultaneously take startled flight & retreat raggedly to the nearest dead tree, there to turn and glare with accusing eyes and cawing clamour. The hyenas and jackals scatter from the stinking cavernous maw of abdomen and scramble for the cover of thorn bush perimeter. Their hideous cackle and yapping adding to the cocophany of the noisy horror in this small, dry and dusty African drama.

Wheeling about the old cow surveys the clearing and, satisfied she has seen the vile things off, turns back to her fallen friend, shuffling through the thick white dust, she stands close by protecting.

Unfurling her massive trunk, she gently wraps it's sensitive tip around the scarred tusk of her fallen companion...and standing there, In a long, long sentinel silence...she remembers.......

Standing flank to flank in waters
Cooling spray upon the hide,
Trunks entwined to rumbled chortle
Bull and cow and calf abide.
Striding through the Serengetti
Grasses tall and sweet and green,
Grazing in this luscious plenty
Happiness in joy unseen.


New born calf cavorts, unsteady
Laughing at her rubber legs,
Keep a watch for lion menace
Always lurking for the dregs.
Cow to cow companionship
Builds the basis of the herd,
One reliant on the other
Cuddly calf to bull absurd.


Sunset on the far horizon
Golden glow across the plain,
Trekking for the waterhole
Through acacia tree domain.
Zebra throng with wilderbeast,
Quail and guinea fowl
Run through grasses long and brown
But leopard on the prowl.


Fun time with marula berries
Dropping from the trees like rain,
Staggering drunk pachyderms
Fall about but feel no pain.
Violence in defensiveness
Circled by enormous rage
Calves protected safe within
Roaring lioness engaged.


Quiet of the evening air
A stillness in the herd
Affection of companionship
'Twixt leather hides doth gird.
Companions together
The wise and the sage,
Companions endureth
Through an elephant's old age.


Kilamanjaro crowned with snow
Though plains are cracked and dry,
Prolonged drought has taken toll
And many creatures die.
Trekking from dry waterhole
A million dusty miles
To find the next one caked with salt
Enough to make you cry.


And when the cloud of death descends
A pachyderm must cry
For the memory of companion
Will bring a sadness to the eye.
Remembering their sister ship
Remembering their pain
Remembering shared elephant-ness
Brings good recall again.


Reluctantly a parting made
And fond and distant memories burn,
The taste of Africa prevails
As  skulking, predators return.




Marshalg
22 July 2012

© 2012 Marshal Gebbie
Poetic T Oct 2014
Thrown back, like unclean
Not even as a second look,
Features great the cold ground,
Feeling more in this moment
Of contact, than in life
Smile,
Laugh,
Fake,
Feelings upon show, not opening
That emotion that shows,
I have hands out, as if trying to cup
Water,
Air,
Charity,
Of others, not wanting to go back,
"I will not look back"
They shut that door, and ended it.
A new harder chapter in my
Walk of life, But the ground is
Cold,
Vacant,
Unfeeling,
But it is upon this I now rest a
Weary head,
Curled up,
Protection of self,
For predators of the night greet darkness
I hope that a new day awakens my eyes,
For I am among many,
Vacant emotion upon many faces
As if the world has won over them,
I just wish to open my eyes and greet a new day
I am among many unwanted but still wish *life.
Aaron LaLux Sep 2018
It’s always easy to say you love me,
when I’m naked,
I only have your undivided attention,
when you’re about to come,

what is it with lust,
and why do all mean act like predators,
walking around looking to stick it in,
while constantly trying to fight all competitors,

gross,
get your sick stick away from me,
I don’t want to fck I don’t want to ****,
I just want to make a way to get away from everything,

even though I know there’s no where I can go,
that will put me far enough away from men,
that I will feel comfortable enough,
to relax enough to meet a man and be his friend,

and I know that sounds a little extreme,
but so does being pinned by my wrists to a bed,
while I’m being stuck from the back my lust,
with a pillow pressed upon my head,

and you don’t even get it,
you think we’re making love,
and I try to explain this,
but you don’t give a fck,

because you don’t make love,
you make lust,
so I’m going to get ghost as soon as I can,
no love lost because all we did was fck,

it’s always easy to say you love me,
when I’m naked,
I only have your undivided attention,
when you’re about to come…

∆ Aaron LaLux ∆
MBJ Pancras Dec 2011
Terrorists’ work of devilishness reflected of deterioration of peace,
Surmounted with hellish and purposeless dogma in religion,
What did the innocent do with terrorism?
I watched on the screen how human arms had waved for help,
How victims had fallen from top to the ground zero,
How the splendid tower had been collapsing down
When the monstrous killer plane had plunged into cubicles
When computers had had their tasks with their engineers,
How the second predator dived into the concrete chambers,
How human splendor had crashed in no time:
Might be human pride ‘gainst the Heavenly Glory.
Clouds of smoke and ash had swallowed the hosts and guests,
Sons and daughters had lost their fathers and mothers,
Fathers and mothers had forgotten the memory of their children,
Lovers and lady loves had been shattered without their fulfillment.
What would have happened to the human less predators on flight,
Might be burnt and charred with the steel machine elsewhere?
Do these human less predators work for emptiness in void?
Candles and flowers being carried by the kith and kin of the victims,
And their tribute is the homage to their beloved ones;
Yet is this act done out of ignorance, or of love, or of human bond?
The game was over, but the allusions and metaphors are on stage,
And they are the images of events to come beyond human wit.
A mark of memory and cry diluted by human prayers seen at Ground Zero
With tears rolled down the cheeks of the victims buried beneath.
I could still hear the distant cry of the victims with their arms waved,
The click sounds of the computer buttons can ne’er be erased,
And the bellows of the pounding tower are the death toll still heard.
Terror predators are still awake with their brandishing missiles,
And let’s all break the wings of the predators with our faith in the Lord,
And He will charge them with His Eternal Word on the Day of His Coming.
The Day is not far, and is imminent, must be fair and good in His sight.
Collapse of WTO!   A recall!
Lawrence Hall Jul 2018
This is the Last Straw –
and Something About Sacred Buckets of Holistic Ice Water

****** predators, human smugglers
Starvation in the Sudan, civil war
in Syria, mass executions in China
Journalists murdered almost everywhere
Fashionable infanticide, homelessness
Unemployment, urban terrorism
Mass ******, school shootings, wildfires, racism
An unstable national government
Anti-Semitism, border desperation
Riots, arson, ecclesiastical corruption
****, alcoholism, historical cleansing
Skinheads, abuse, Khardassianistas
Volcanos, the death penalty, free verse
Affluenza, Jerry Springer, The View
Herbal tea, antifa, anti-antifa
And the soul-******* existential despair
Of inspirational singer-songwriters:

Nah, not a bit worried about plastic straws

But I must go now; The Voices are telling me
To pour a bucket of ice water over my head
(As long as it’s not a plastic bucket)
There is beneath us the progenitor and we call it “Mother”. Above us is the progenitor and we call it “Net” for it takes us and tosses us into the known and the unknown.

Our home star is not as bright as yours. We prefer your temperate lands when we visit, where the vegetation is lush and green. Those of us who remain inhabit your deserts and open spaces.

We are your brothers and sisters. Our development has been to grow in awareness and the development of our power. You have the potential to develop as we have, but your instincts are of a social group who need dominant members. You develop your material reality and your physical world. Your anchor is fixed and you grip the familiar and reject the unknown. There is a comfortable point where you feel the fullness, that is the anchor. In order to maintain this as a static point you develop belief systems to support it. This is your weakness, you are innocent children.

We grew and developed along another pathway, our anchor is not  rigid. We use Net for our anchor and so are able to change our perceptual reality. We move in ways that you do not understand and in any direction. We draw the fibers of Net around us and jump and fly. You see us only from your anchor point so that you see us change shape, appear and disappear.

Our voices and languages are barely accessible to you. You hear deep sounds and high pitched chirruping and whistling. Very few among you have remnants of language incorporating any of these. Those remaining are as clicks and whistles. We prefer direct communication.

We are masters of illusion. Our survival has depended on it and it is our instinct.
Our power developed so that when we pull around us the fibers of Net we create a shield and throw an illusion before those who depend on vision. It is one of our protections and also our hunting technique. We are hidden from your material probes and instruments of increased sight in this way.

Although we have been close neighbours for aeons, you have hardly seen us, except for the Few. Your interpretations have created problems for you. Your reliance on the anchor is so great that some among you do go to great lengths to maintain it. There are those among you who will silence the Few rather than lose the fixed anchor.

You are infants only, a seeding coming to fruition, and you play with dangerous toys. Your anchor is geocentric. You are in danger as is any youngster who plays with fire. If we showed you ourselves openly your rulers would not be gentle in their curiosity. We have technology and use material tools but we have had less to restrict us. We held back your development as much as we were able to enable you to develop power of the mind and independent thought.

Your grasp of Net is strong but you are rigid and anchored. You have learned to stand up and hold on. Now is the time to let go and walk, let go and run, let go and fly.

Around what you name “body” and believe to be “All” is more that you do not perceive with your restricted vision sense. You are aware of this. If you will learn acceptance and filter less from your senses, you will find the beauty of the universe of energy around you and available. A small perceptual shift would show you how you appear to those of us outside your narrow sphere.

Your body has filaments, which when translated to sight, appear as small moving threads which shine with rainbows. They move and ripple inside an energy body of light. This is your true body. It has abilities and senses that are dormant as you do not access them. They are accessible but as your anchor renders you blind to this you do not use them without intense effort or instinctively in extremity. The filaments are drawn together and pass through the anchor. Depending upon your ability to select filaments of the Net, your habitual plane and reality is selected and determined.
Those among you with abilities in your energy senses you ostracise and even ******. You succumb to misinformation to treat them as fools or freaks. This may be instinctive but it is a control mechanism to perpetuate the anchor and maintain the hive of your artificial society. So due to this, you have even less sense of true reality as it could be to you, by breeding out and suppressing your gifts. We have attempted to rectify this with limited effect in successive seedings.

You may notice that our words to you have reference to sight. Your terminology is geared to vision. You rely on visual information  so much that you have neglected physical senses of taste and smell, hearing, touch and proximity. Compared with our perceptions you are as blind as a mole is compared to to your visual abilities.

Your construction of reality is so anchored that your dangerous inclination to gather around you artifacts gives to you a sense of permanence. You are anchoring yourselves in time, yet to you it is dead because your senses are dead. There is an opportunity for your predators to use this to enforce your perception of, and control you within, your anchor's limitations. In this way, producing written or pictorial and symbolic records in permanent form is beneficial only so far as understanding continues to exist of the conditions under which these records were left. By changing current understanding and language to suit their purposes, your enforcers are able to manipulate your branch of humanity on a large scale.

You seal yourselves into the rejuvenation plane of the Mother progenitor where you feed and breed. It is so pleasurable to you to stay within this cocoon of reality that you fail to open your cast and therefore fail to fly into the spaces of Net outside where your true inheritance lies. The end result of this is greed and unrest. Your greed is paramount to you as you seek ever more pleasurable gratification. You enslave one another, buy and sell time and forget what you are. You are allowing the destruction of your home world. Without the home world you will have no place of rejuvenation, and worse neither will the myriads of others who share this progenitor.

There is a song from each mother progenitor within Net. It is a combined song and made up of the host progenitor together with silent voices of each and every life form. Together from each home world, the inhabitants send out a pulse. This is not a song from one species of a world but rather it is a song from all species, in fact every particle of every organism that lives.

To our developed senses the song of a world is brighter than the star it orbits. They are filaments of Net. The varied forms of life all send out their unique song. Many of us interact, harmonise, visit, commune and combine. You feel isolation only because you fail to harmonise and join your own song.

In your past and present we have felt the song of your world. Those of us belonging are part of that song. It is the song of being from the many. It does not end at the perimeters which you imagine. You have a problem in that, for the majority, you do not join your voices to the song. Mainly it is in dreaming, in childhood and in old age that we hear you.

We attempted to observe and commune and found many of you receptive to us. We have taught to you methods of development and given you gifts and tools. You have kept and preserved some of this knowledge only for a select few. Fears and distrust among others has caused destruction of a great proportion of the gifts that we have given to you. We found many lines of breeding where potential for development was possible. Your greed and your predator class destroyed many of them due to the competitive desire to have power over others.

In past seedings upon your progenitor and in the oldest times of your present incarnation, we have been known well and respected. Acknowledged for our seniority and loved as cousins. You did call us gods to distinguish our abilities. Then what did you do? Your control mechanisms changed the meanings of your language, whole languages were lost in wars over territory. You developed power structures and religions. Powerful rulers accumulated and isolated your shared knowledge.

You reduced your development by selective education in the Way. Territorial disputes and greed over resources divided you. You ceased to listen to the Mother. Instead of harmonious living which you had managed in agreement with each other already, you were divided by hormonal impulses, insecurity, violence and greed. The natural openness of the female within it's central domain became enclosed, imprisoned and the natural desire of the male to outwardly discover and interact was turned inwards until it became a sedentary desire for dominance within the female domain. You lost the harmonics of the song. Your religions underestimate the power of borrowed tools. Your ruling classes made deals that they didn't understand, with predators they didn't recognise, in order to save themselves.

We stood on ground over ground and were called Immortals. We gave you wisdom and were called Kings. We moved and played among you and were called Jinn. We moved among the small folk and were called Faerie. We appeared in light and were called Angels. We wandered in places where you too did once wander and were called Ghosts and Demons. Those who spoke to us and attempted to impart to your hive our knowledge, you raised as prophets or slandered and ridiculed. You stole their words to make them your own words of power, changing them to your own ends or you murdered the messengers because you feared the changes that increased understanding brings.

You incorporated the experiences of your murdered victims into a celebration of your own power structures, twisted and out of synchronisation with the song. There are some among you who are in communion with the Great Spirit of life. We seek to heal your song, your complete home world song for the benefit of the myriad sentient beings who rejuvenate here, including yourselves. We seek to set you free to wander the threads of Net. It is within your reach but not in the ways that you  are taught.

Your world is about to change and you must change with it as you are a small part of it. Holding the threads into your own anchor point will break them. You have reached inertia, entropy. The movement has to come, it is inevitable. Imagine one of your large machines of cogs and wheels and bars. Your insistence upon a rigid anchor is like a bar within the machine that doesn't move. A point of inertia in a moving system will be removed. This has happened over and over among your kind and our kind in many places and worlds. You do not remember when worlds underwent cataclysm, forgetful of trauma you have followed a similar path.

We travel along pathways of energy, both upon worlds and in the Net. Moving bodies follow these paths. We follow comets and small bodies able to move freely within Net. Net permeates your mother progenitor.

Survivors mapped the movements of Net after the slate was wiped clean and you were reseeded. There is a secret that your rulers are aware of and you are not. The secret is that there are no rulers within Net. You all have the freedom and capability to access true harmony of the song. You allow a faction, to call themselves an elite class. You fear this as a hidden power, a predator. It's aim is to amass Time: a power based on material wealth. They take this power easily as they have taken and twisted truth and history. The gifts are shared among you equally and these few know this. Resources are plentiful and yet you succumb to their restrictions. A predator cannot survive without it's prey. We are not your predators although we move among you. Your predator is within and feeds upon your fear.

You are not in the tribes now, you have no shaman, no guide to take you in and out of the gate and this role cannot be allocated to parasitic Blind Time Hoarders. These whip up your passions and lead you into war and destruction to further their material wealth. It leads you away from the song, as these think to enhance their own survival which it may do but never can as they understand it. They seek to steal your dreams and make them their own, they are helpless without you. They care nothing for the song because they are aware of successive seedings.

Net is a dream reality, changing, immeasurable, boundless, filled with infinite possibilities and you are creators. Blind time hoarders drive you by combining the minds and dreams and belief systems of many to focus onto what they themselves desire, in order to bring it to fruition. They employ dream stealers to prevent your development. They believe that their own song can exist independently and they guide you only to anchor yourselves into your own prison.

All is a dream, all is ephemeral, changing, dynamic. There is no death after death, no damnation on any particular plane. Reality is how you construct your song. Your rulers create inertia for you the many and profit for themselves using you as the tools of your own entrapment. There is no death and no damnation, they are constructs of your reality made by material anchor points and you are controlled by fear of the inevitable. It is a statecraft to use belief systems to control perceptions of reality in order to fix the anchor point to a rigid point of convenience. In this way you are farmed, you are a crop in each seeding. Who seeds you? You seed yourselves. Sentient beings are all naturally regenerated by the mechanisms of Net when conditions exist that are compatible, world after world, in each growth cycle of every celestial body. In the regeneration, holding to your rigid anchor point, you seed into your prison after each cataclysm, each breaking of the inertia.

If you would be open to the mechanisms of the place you inhabit with it's creative forces, it's sentience and it's dynamics you will learn to fly the progenitor Net's pathways and return home for rejuvenation to your progenitor Mother of the tribes.
I wrote this a few years ago. It's a bit long
zero Nov 2017
Ashen doves float within the waves,
slinking like silent demons in the night.
They curl around my body,
jaws operating like steel machines,
gnashing at my limbs.
I begin to scream for help,
but they ****** my breath,
they drag me under their tides of black,
unleashing my unremitting fear of water predators.
their teeth, sunken into my flesh,
gnawing at my mind,
painting me my new mortality.

These are my demons,
the sharks in the bath when it comes to hygiene.
the fear of the below and the depths of human mentality,
the untraceable percentage of human worthlessness,
the detestable attraction to the demise of our minds,

I float lower into the aqua,
pressure building,
unforgiving and foreboding
I close my lids, and dream of the sand,
praying it to be underfoot when I open my eyes,
but when my lids open, the doves loom closer.

The irony of a hydrophobe,
dying at the hands of the sharks.
The fear of the ocean is the greatest fear I know.
-Z.xo
Chum floats the pool
encircled by sharks and piranha
a pity, nature's fool
as fearful teeth do their work.
Could they be as bad as I?
Apex predator, Invasive species
where it means to die
as a means to live.
Growth from a spineless cherub
to a spiteful formless entity
possessing a cunning golden scarab
controlling wheels of fortune.
Slaves to our own demands
aren't we antagonists to someone else?
With machinations of wicked plans
to justify righteous intentions.
Hypocrites line the tank
tapping their fingers in rumination
Abandoning morals, faces left blank.

I am not your foil, I am a mirror.
Humans*
are not the Apex Predator;
certain ones are:

The Police and Military
are now the Apex Predators
Shaded Lamp Aug 2014
Deep down in the inhospitable gloom
Monterey Canyon welcomes an expectant mother
Unnoticed in the distance a whirring sound
and two parallel laser beams
Miss Cellania finds a nook
That instinct suggests is right
A place to nest and brood
A place to guard and wait

1.4 kilometers up a research institute
Guided the unmanned submarine
Correlated masses of data
Stared at live video feed
A unique event unfolded
Capturing such a moment
in this dark abyss

Clinging to a vertical rock
Her precious babies waiting to hatch
Her final duty to
Wait

Wait

Wait

Wait

Wait
Protect from predators and the icy cold
And so she began the
Inky black wait

Detached

Alone

The research crew returned later that year
Miss Cellania dutifully kept her vigil
They returned again month after month
Still she stubbornly stuck to the task in hand
The months turned to years
And still she protected her unhatched young
Clung to the same vertical spot
With nothing to eat
Alert, defensive
Motherly
Patiently waiting
Wasting away
Waiting
Waiting

Untill

F i f t y   t h r e e   m o n t h s   l a t e r
Four and a half years
Finally her wait ended
With a flurry of independent life

**Then death.
For all mothers
The mothers instinctive love
is surely the most powerful force on earth
we wuz celebratin
40 years of Hip Hop
at 5 Pointz

dashing tags
reclaiming the
lost land

speaking for a
community of peeps
routed from their
last stand

making statements
about remembering

tellin stories
about ourselves

giving the drab
dead industrial
sarcophagi a
a face lift

freeing the
entombed
mummies
to let em
walk with
the living
again

seein things
in a new light

reciting our
biographies

writing an epic
autobiography

splashed across
3D murals

spoken in the
lexicon of
gobsmack
multicolored
neon graffiti

testifying to
the ages with
our urban
hieroglyphs

the symbols of
life in the hood
may history be our
witness to aromas
rising from cracked
pavements teaming
with bodegas,
public projects and
store front fantasies
played out in all its
grueling detail
on the corner of
walk don’t walk

them snaps
real down home
expressions
of real people

until some
capitalist
*******

his pockets filled
with low interest
money

whitewashed
it away

he thinks he
owns the
5 Pointz

he thinks
he can
erase our
memories
with a gallon of
Sherwin Williams

he thinks
he owns our
perdido
graffito

and is well
in his rights
to launder our  
epiphanies over
with the bland
tag of privilege
he thinks his
dollar bills
can buy

we raised this
place from
the dead

that old warehouse
where men and women
once earned a paycheck
was murdered by
Michael Milken
and his posse of well
heeled predators
busy leveraging
livelihoods by
offshoring them
to Third World
plantations
transforming
the natives into
wage slaves
tagging this
strange alchemy
progress

now this
latest incarnation of
Morley’s Ghost stalking
Bloomberg’s Metropolis
haunts the neighborhoods
with a wrecking ball
of entitlement

razing our hood
to build soulless
high rises where
they'll warehouse
dead people
ginned up
on pilates,
chai tea and
elevating
themselves
through life
scoring the
latest fab
yoga gear
on the
urban outfitters
website

the frackers
are gobbling
the land

strip miners are
gnashing away
at the mountains

now the predators
are eating our art

always famished
never satiated
the beast gnaws
away at its
**** scattering
the bones of
of the living

but this
half assed
midnight
whitewash
will never stand

already images
of the holy ghosts
scrawled onto
the Wailing Walls
of 5 Pointz are
bleeding through
the veneer of a
landlords greed

and as the
future tenants
of the proposed
highrise columbarium
snooze away the night
dreaming of leading roles
in star studded schemes

we’ll be taggin
the streets
reciting our
righteous presence
until our last dying
aerosol breath
escapes our
paint stained
hands

Public Enemy:
Fight the Power

Oakland
11/20/13
jbm
http://nypost.com/2013/11/20/5-pointz-fans-try-to-retag-legendary-graffiti-building/
afza ali Oct 2014
Birds leave the nest
No matter what
And yes they can be attacked by predators
But u cant just let them rot in nest all life
Let them fly
Away from predators
Dont cage them because u fear their death
U should fear their oblivion
Their ignorance
Bcx these things are worst than death
Or being attacked by predators
Show them what are predators
Who are them
And show them how to fight
Dont make them hide behind ur feathers
Make them brave
Couragous
Thats what birds are for
They are made to fly in skies
Explore the clouds
Not to rot in nest
Try to understnd
In a sky, dense dark and grey,
when predators lookout for their prey
squirrels scatter every which way,
leading the path for my stay.

Drops of white pearls,
tear down the pink petals
glittering under the sparkling sun,
with beauty ne’er outdone.

Peeking through nature’s looking glass,
lies a beautiful heart of yellow grass
rests a reservoir of sweet gold,
that inveigle the swarm untold.

All the drizzle and haze
that forged an irrational maze,
ended with what may bring
the spell of fragrant spring.

Now bloomed the bud,
in the mucky miry mud
waiting to be plucked
the florid Hibiscus.
Inspired by my garden flower: Hibiscus.
Jeff Dingler Mar 2015
The shells are singing
holy songs now—oceans whistle through
their concert holes. ‘Holes drilled by predators,’
the seashore sings to me.

And I’m reminded there’s
so much more ancient than man.
So much that can never be written down,
for words are the limitations of our knowledge

—not its end.
And there should be something more
but really, how does one write what happened
with the seashells whistling by the seashore?
Andrew Rueter Apr 2018
We are all birds of a flock
That is pervaded by hawks
Predators who sympathy block
Until it's in conflict we're locked
Brought on by hateful conclusions
Conjured from shameful delusions
Trying to avoid societal fusion
Based on a diabolical illusion

They claim to love the man who digs the ditch
But this comes off as a hollow pitch
Because they all seem so rich
And say that the poor have a glitch
And their worst nightmare would be to switch
They're aware of other's values and interests
But they ***** their brothers like ******
Using hatred and ignorance
To make up the difference

They're so jingoistic
Creating misfits
To shift focus
Away from them
They're the locust
That chew the stem
Obtaining the power of love
Inside of their glove
That they use to shove
A misappropriation
That strangles a nation
At the rate of inflation
Yet the hawks show elation

When the going gets tough
We hear the same old stuff
Something about 9/11
Or who gets into heaven
They find simple answers
For complex issues
I hope their sinful cancer
Happens to miss you
But their negativity takes many forms
Anything from budgets to bullet storms
Tearing down bountiful fields of corn
To build another convenience store

These vultures keep consuming
While resources dwindle
Their desperation causes fuming
So they cheat and swindle
Surviving by eating the dead
That died from violent words said
Coming from the greedy vulture's head
Until every single animal has viscerally bled

These hawks used to look so regal
Until we experienced chemotherapy
Now they've become bald eagles
Always trying to steal my hair from me
But we're different species apparently
Because I have no feathers to offer
To further fill their nest egg coffers
So they forcefully take what they want
And then their shameless riches they flaunt
Using perceptions of status to tease and taunt
Hoping we'll forget they're the ghosts that haunt
A world of immutable truths
Even the richest can't elude
They build a curtain that's crude
To protect their fortunate brood
Fearing it will be dismantled
By an activist carrying a candle
So the vast majority can get a handle
On a future other than slavery
But to finally fight back
Requires the utmost bravery
And it's courage we lack
Can be found in my self published poetry book “Icy”.
https://www.amazon.com/Icy-Andrew-Rueter-ebook/dp/B07VDLZT9Y/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Icy+Andrew+Rueter&qid=1572980151&sr=8-1
Ottar Jan 2014
in the wild, there is nothing mild,
oh sure, there are sedate centipedes,
bobbing butterflies,  owl calls that
echo along forest walls, even the plants
can supplant your will to live,

but today

a different sort of experience,
they showed their teeth,
the puffed and snorted,
I didn't dare retort,
and did not make eye contact,

then on the streets,
some physically assault,
some slink in shadows,
take out hockey moms,
and eighty year women
with purses, curse these cowards,

but today,

surrounded in a confrontation zone,
my heart beat wildly in my chest,
my arms and legs felt heavy and tired,
I prayed for protection in this test,
of wills, they flex their muscled limbs and
are not alone, while I flew solo,
at ground level, staring bared teeth,
and territorial ownership at stake,
I was looking for two dumbbells to finish
my work out


©DWE012014
yup at the gym again
muscular workout
and boy those
boys can be aggressive,
must be the juice,
or the lives loose,
they live, working it out
putting on mass, too bad you can't gain class...
maybe when they find their maturity, out from under that rock
Chapter Two

“I think of art, at its most significant, as a DEW line, a Distant Early Warning System that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it.”                Marshall McLuhan  
  
I attended Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania because my father was incarcerated at the prison located in the same town.  My tuition subsidized to a large extent by G.I. Bill, still a significant means of financing an education for generations of emotionally wasted war veterans. “The United States Penitentiary (USP Lewisburg)” is a high-security federal prison for male inmates. An adjacent satellite prison camp houses minimum-security male offenders. My father was strictly high-security, convicted of various crimes against humanity, unindicted for sundry others. My father liked having me close by, someone on the outside he trusted, who also happened to be on his approved Visitor List. As instructed, I became his conduit for substances both illicit, like drugs, and the purely contraband, a variety of Italian cheeses, salamis, prepared baked casseroles of eggplant parmesan, cannoli, Baci chocolate from Perugia, in Tuscany, south of Florence, and numerous bottles of Italian wine, pungent aperitifs, Grappa, digestive stimulants and sweet liquors. I remained the good son until the day he died, the source of most of the mess I got myself into later on, and specifically the main caper at the heart of this story.

I must confess: my father scared the **** out of me.  Particularly during those years when he was not in jail, those years he spent at home, years coinciding roughly with my early adolescence.  These were my molding clay years, what the amateur psychologists write off with the term: “impressionable years hypothesis.” In his own twisted, grease-ball theory of child rearing, my father may have been applying the “guinea padrone hypothesis,” in his mind, nothing more certain would toughen me up for whatever he and/or Life had planned for me. Actually, his aspirations for me-given my peculiar pedigree--were non-existent as far as the family business went. He knew I’d never be either a Don or a Capo di Tutti Capi, or an Underboss or Sotto Capo.)  A Caporegime—mid-management to be sure, with as many as ten crews of soldiers reporting to him-- was also, for me, out of the question. Dad was a soldier in and of the Lucchese Family, strictly a blue-collar, knock-around kind of guy. But even soldier status—which would have meant no rise in Mafioso caste for him—was completely out of the question, never going to happen for me.

A little background: the Lucchese Family originated in the early 1920s with Gaetano “Tommy” Reina, born in 1889 in Corleone, Sicily. You know the town and its environs well. Fran Coppola did an above average job cinematizing the place in his Godfather films.  Coppola: I am a strict critic when it comes to my goombah, would-be French New Wave auteur Francis Ford Coppola.  Ever since “One From the Heart, 1982”--one of the biggest Hollywood box office flops & financial disasters of all time--he’s been a bit thin-skinned when it comes to criticism.  So, I like to zing him when I can. Actually, “One From the Heart” is worth seeing again, not just for Tom Waits soundtrack--the film’s one Academy Award nomination—but also Natasha Kinski’s ***: always Oscar-worthy in my book. My book? Interesting expression, and factually correct for once, given what you are reading right now.

Tommy Reina was the first Lucchese Capo di Tutti Capi, the first Boss of All the Bosses. By the 1930s the Luccheses pretty much controlled all criminal activity in the Bronx and East Harlem. And Reina begat Pinzolo who begat Gagliano who begat Tommy Three Finger Brown Lucchese (who I once believed, moonlighted as a knuckle ball relief pitcher for Yankees.)
Three Finger Brown gave the Lucchese Family its name. And Tommy begat Carmine Tramunti, who begat Anthony Tony Ducks Corallo. From there the succession gets a bit crazy. Tony Ducks, convicted of Rico charges, goes to prison, sentenced to life.  From behind bars he presides through a pair of candidates most deserving the title of boss: enter Vittorio Little Vic Amuso and Anthony Gaspipe Casso.  Although Little Vic becomes Boss after being nominated by Casso, it is Gaspipe really calling the shots, at least until he joins Little Vic behind bars.
Amuso-Casso begat Louis Louie Bagels Daidone, who begat the current official boss, Stephen Wonderboy Crea.  According to legend, Boss Crea got his nickname from Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, a certain part of his prodigious anatomy resembling the baseball bat hand-carved by Roy Hobbs. To me this sounds a bit too literary, given the family’s SRI Lexile/Reading Performance Scores, but who am I to mock my peoples’ lack of liberal arts education?

Begat begat Begato. (I goof on you, kind reader. Always liked the name Begato in the context of Bible-flavored genealogy. Mille grazie, King James.)

Lewisburg Penitentiary has many distinguished alumni: Whitey Bulger (1963-1965), Jimmy Hoffa (1967-1971) and John Gotti (1969-1972), for example.  And fictionally, you can add Paulie Cicero played by Paul Scorvino in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, not to be confused with Paulie Walnuts Gualtieri played by Tony Sirico from the HBO TV series The Sopranos. Nor, do I refer to Paulie Gatto, the punk who ratted out Sonny Corleone in Coppola’s The Godfather, you know: “You won’t see Paulie no more,” according to fat Clemenza, played by the late Richard “Leave the gun, take my career” Castellano, who insisted to the end that he wasn’t bitter about his underwhelming post-Godfather film career. I know this for a fact from one of my cousins in the Gambino Family. I also know that the one thing the actor Castellano would never comment on was a rumor that he had connections to organized crime, specifically that he was a nephew to Paulie Castellano, the Gambino crime family boss who was assassinated in 1985, outside Midtown New York’s Sparks Steak House, an abrupt corporate takeover commissioned by John Teflon Don Gotti. But I’m really starting to digress here, although I am reminded of another interesting historical personage, namely Joseph Crazy Joe Gallo, who was also terminated “with extreme prejudice” while eating dinner at a restaurant.  Confused? And finally--not to be confused with Paul Muldoon, poetry gatekeeper at The New Yorker magazine, that Irish **** scumbag who consistently rejects publication of my work. About two years ago I started including the following comment in my on-line Contact Us, poetry submission:  “Hey Paulie, Eat a Bag of ****!”

This may come as a surprise, Gentle Reader, but I am a poet, not a Wise Guy.  For reasons to be explained, I never had access to the family business. I am also handicapped by the Liberal Arts education I received, infected by a deluge, a veritable Katrina ****** of classic literature.  That stuff in books rubs off after awhile, and I suppose it was inevitable. I couldn’t help evolving for the most part into a warm-blooded creature, unlike the reptiles and frogs I grew up with.

Again, I am a poet not a wise guy. And, first and foremost, I am a human being. Cold-blooded, I am not. I generate my own heat, which is the best definition I know for how a poet operates. But what the hell do I know? Paulie “Eat a Bag of ****” Muldoon doesn’t think much of my work. And he’s the ******* troll guarding the New Yorker’s poetry gate. Nevertheless, I’m a Poet, not a Wise Guy.  I repeat myself, I know, but it is important to establish this point right from the start of this narrative, because, if you don’t get that you’re never going to get my story.

Maybe the best way to explain my predicament—And I mean PREDICAMENT in the sense of George Santayana: "Life is not a spectacle or a feast; it is a predicament." (www.brainyquote.com), not to be confused with George’s son Carlos, the Mexican-American rock star: Oye Como Va, Babaloo!

www.youtube.com/watch?v...YouTube Dec 20, 2011 - Uploaded by a106kirk1, The Best of Santana. This song is owned by Santana and Columbia Records.

Maybe the best way for me to explain my predicament is with a poem, one of my early works, unpublished, of course, by Paulie “Eat a Bag of ****” Muldoon:

“CRAZY JOE REVISITED”  
        
by Benjamin Disraeli Sekaquaptewa-Buonaiuto

We WOPs respect criminality,
Particularly when it’s organized,
Which explains why any of us
Concerned with the purity of our bloodline
Have such a difficult time
Navigating the river of respectability.

To wit: JOEY GALLO.
WEB-BIO: (According to Bob Dylan)
“Born in Red Hook, Brooklyn in the year of who knows when,
Opened up his eyes to the tune of accordion.

“Joey” Lyrics/Send "Joey" Ringtone to your Cell
Joseph Gallo, AKA: "Joey the Blond."
He was a celebrated New York City gangster,
A made member of the Profaci crime family,
Later known as the Colombo crime family,

That’s right, CRAZY JOE!
One time toward the end of a 10-year stretch,
At three different state prisons,
Including Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York,
Joey was interviewed in his prison cell
By a famous NY Daily News reporter named Joe McGinnis.
The first thing the reporter sees?
One complete wall of the cell is lined with books, a
Green leather bound wall of Harvard Classics.
After a few hours mainly listening to Joey
Wax eloquently about his life,
A narrative spiced up with elegant summaries,
Of classic Greek theory, Roman history,
Nietzsche and other 19th Century German philosophers,
McGinnis is completely blown away by Inmate Gallo,
Both Joey’s erudition and the power of his intellect,
The reporter asks a question right outta
The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie:
“Mr. Gallo, I must say,
The power of your erudition and intellect
Is simply overwhelming.
You are a brilliant man.
You could have been anything,
Your heart or ambition desired:
A doctor, a lawyer, an architect . . .
Yet you became a criminal. Why?”

Joey Gallo: (turning his head sideways like Peter Falk or Vincent Donofrio, with a look on his face like Go Back to Nebraska, You ******* Momo!)

“Understand something, Sonny:
Those kids who grew up to be,
Doctors and lawyers and architects . . .

They couldn’t make it on the street.”

Gallo later initiated one of the bloodiest mob conflicts,
Since the 1931 Castellammare War,
And was murdered as a result of it,
While quietly enjoying,
A plate of linguini with clam sauce,
At a table--normally a serene table--
At Umberto’s Clam House.

Italian Restaurant Little Italy - Umberto's Clam House (www.umbertosclamhouse.com)
In Little Italy New York City 132 Mulberry Street, New York City | 212-431-7545.

Whose current manager --in response to all restaurant critics--
Has this to say:
“They keep coming back, don’t they?
The joint is a holy shrine, for chrissakes!
I never claimed it was the food or the service.
Gimme a ******* break, you momo!
I should ask my paisan, Joe Pesci
To put your ******* head in a vise.”

(Again, Martin Scorsese getting it exactly right, This time in  . . . Casino (1995) - IMDb www.imdb.com/title/tt0112641/Internet Movie Database Rating: 8.2/10 - ‎241,478 votes Directed by Martin Scorsese. With Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci, James Woods. Greed, deception, money, power, and ****** occur between two  . . . Full Cast & Crew - ‎Trivia - ‎Awards - ‎(1995) - IMDb)

Given my lifelong, serious exposure to and interest in German philosophy, I subscribe to the same weltanschauung--pronounced: veltˌänˌSHouəNG—that governed Joey Gallo’s behavior.  My point and Mr. Gallo’s are exactly the same:  a man’s ability to make it on the street is the true measure of his worth.  This ethos was a prominent one in the Bronx where and when I grew up, where I came of age during the 1950s and 60s.  Italian organized crime was always an option, actually one of the preferred options--like playing for the Yankees or being a movie star—until, that is, reality set in.  And reality came in many forms. For 100% Italian kids it came in a moment of crystal adolescent clarity and self-evaluation:  Am I tough enough to make it on the street?  Am I ever going to be tough enough to make it on the street? Will I be eaten alive by more cunning, more violent predators on the street?

For me, the setting in of reality took an entirely different form.  I knew I had what it takes, i.e., the requisite ferocity for street life. I had it in spades, as they say. In fact, I’d been blessed with the gift of hyper-volatility—traced back to my great-grandfather, Pietro of the village of Moschiano, in the province of Avellino, in the region of Campania, Italia Sud. Having visited Moschiano in my early 20s and again in my late 50s, I know the place well. The village square sits “down in the holler,” like in West Virginia; the Apennine terrain, like the Appalachians, rugged and thick. Rugged and thick like the people, at least in part my people. And volatile, I am, gifted with a primitive disposition when it comes to what our good friend Abraham Maslow would call lower order needs. And please, don’t ask me to explain myself now; just keep reading, *******.  All your questions will be answered.

Great Grandfather Pietro once, at point blank range, blew a man’s head off with a lumpara, or sawed-off shotgun. It was during an argument over—get this--a penny’s worth of pumpkin seeds--one of many stories I never learned in childhood. He served 10 years in a Neapolitan penitentiary before being paroled and forced to immigrate to America.  The government of the relatively new nation--The Kingdom of Italy (1861)--came up with a unique eugenic solution for the hunger and misery down south, south of Rome, the long shin bone, ankle, foot, toes & kickball that are the remote regions of the Mezzogiorno, Southern Italy: Campania, Basilicata, Calabria, Puglia & Sicilia. Northern politicians asked themselves: how do we flush these skeevy southerners, these crooks and assassins down South, how do we flush the skifosos down the toilet—the flush toilet, a Roman invention, I report proudly and accept the gratitude on behalf of my people. Immigration to America: Fidel Castro did the same thing in the 1980s, hosing out his jails and mental hospitals with that Marielista boatlift/Emma Lazarus Remix: “Give us your tired and poor, your lunatics, thieves and murderers.” But I digress. I’ll give you my entire take on the history of Italy including Berlusconi and the “Bunga Bunga” parties with 14-year old Moroccan pole dancers . . . go ahead, skip ahead.

Yes, genetically speaking, I was sufficiently ferocious to make it on the street, and it took very little spark to light my fuse. Moreover, I’ve always been good at figuring out the angles--call it street smarts--also learned early in life. Likewise, for knowing the territory: The Bronx was my habitat. I was rapacious and predacious by nature, and if there was a loose buck out there, and legs to be broken, I knew where to go.
Yet, alas, despite all my natural talents & acquired skills, I remained persona-non-grata for the Lucchese Family. To my great misfortune, I fell into a category of human being largely shunned by Italian organized crime: Mestizo-Italiano, a diluted form of full strength 100% Italian blood. It’s one of those voodoo blood-brotherhood things practiced by Southern European, Mediterranean tribal people, only in part my people.  Growing up, my predicament was always tricky, always somewhat bizarre. Simply put: I was of a totally different tribe. Blame my exotic mother, a genuine Hopi Corn Maiden from Shungopavi, high up on Second Mesa of the Hopi Reservation, way out in northern Arizona. And if this is not sufficiently, ******* nuts enough for you, add to the child-rearing minestrone that she raised me Jewish in The Bronx.  I **** you not. I took my Bar Mitzvah Hebrew instruction from the infamous Rabbi Meir Kahane, that’s right, Meir “Crazy Rebbe” Kahane himself--pronounced kɑː'hɑːna--if you grok the phonetics.

In light of the previously addressed “impressionable years hypothesis,” I wrote a poem about my early years. It follows in the next chapter. It is an epic tale, a biographical magnum opus, a veritable creation myth, conceived one night several years ago while squatting in a sweat lodge, tripping on peyote. I
Thomas EG Nov 2016
Hold yourself back, girl,
Rest those wretched fists
The laughter is surrounding us
Don't try to make it quick

Your customs may not differ
From those who face the west
But slow your heart rate, girl,
For the hunter can hear best

Whisper behind the willows
And set your secrets free
They don't dominate you, girl,
Yet predate on you and me

Now, if the majority strikes
You should never dare wither
You're safe when I'm around
So... What if, girl?

— The End —