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Rachel Brooke Dec 2014
She sits alone,
doesn't want anyone to know,
she's not a ******,
but the choice wasn't her own,
by night her oldest protector, and friend
takes a piece of her time and time again.
She doesn't fight, but always cries
"Daddy, how could you do this my protector and friend"
One day I asked her why she's always alone
she started to cry and took off her jacket
behold her arms were covered in scars
when I asked her why she said
" There is a slash for every time my oldest protector and friend has taken a piece of me"
I sat and counted every scar on her pale skin and when I was done I also started to cry
How could someone do this to one so beautiful?
I asked why she didn't eat and she replied
" maybe if I was skinny he would stop"
I told her she was beautiful but she thought  that it was a lie
so I cried
" I asked her why she didn't tell someone and she said
" why should she he's my oldest protector, and friend"
I replied if you told it would stop
she got up and asked if I would come with her
Yes I replied
we walked together and I cried while she told
" he wasn't her oldest protector or friend"
Later that night I talked to her on the phone
she told me her father was arrested and how she felt so lost
I told her if she ever  needed me just pick up her phone
She called me two weeks later and I talked her out of suicide
Three years later
I got another call
she told me how she's pregnant, but not sure if she's ready
I told her to have faith, because things will always work out because she has me her protector and friend.
FIRST DAY

1.
Who wanted me
to go to Chicago
on January 6th?
I did!

The night before,
20 below zero
Fahrenheit
with the wind chill;
as the blizzard of 99
lay in mountains
of blackening snow.

I packed two coats,
two suits,
three sweaters,
multiple sets of long johns
and heavy white socks
for a two-day stay.

I left from Newark.
**** the denseness,
it confounds!

The 2nd City to whom?
2nd ain’t bad.
It’s pretty good.
If you consider
Peking and Prague,
Tokyo and Togo,
Manchester and Moscow,
Port Au Prince and Paris,
Athens and Amsterdam,
Buenos Aries and Johannesburg;
that’s pretty good.

What’s going on here today?
It’s friggin frozen.
To the bone!

But Chi Town is still cool.
Buddy Guy’s is open.
Bartenders mixing drinks,
cabbies jamming on their breaks,
honey dew waitresses serving sugar,
buildings swerving,
fire tongued preachers are preaching
and the farmers are measuring the moon.

The lake,
unlike Ontario
is in the midst of freezing.
Bones of ice
threaten to gel
into a solid mass
over the expanse
of the Michigan Lake.
If this keeps up,
you can walk
clear to Toronto
on a silver carpet.

Along the shore
the ice is permanent.
It’s the first big frost
of winter
after a long
Indian Summer.

Thank God
I caught a cab.
Outside I hear
The Hawk
nippin hard.
It’ll get your ear,
finger or toe.
Bite you on the nose too
if you ain’t careful.

Thank God,
I’m not walking
the Wabash tonight;
but if you do cover up,
wear layers.

Chicago,
could this be
Sandburg’s City?

I’m overwhelmed
and this is my tenth time here.

It’s almost better,
sometimes it is better,
a lot of times it is better
and denser then New York.

Ask any Bull’s fan.
I’m a Knickerbocker.
Yes Nueva York,
a city that has placed last
in the standings
for many years.
Except the last two.
Yanks are # 1!

But Chicago
is a dynasty,
as big as
Sammy Sosa’s heart,
rich and wide
as Michael Jordan’s grin.

Middle of a country,
center of a continent,
smack dab in the mean
of a hemisphere,
vortex to a world,
Chicago!

Kansas City,
Nashville,
St. Louis,
Detroit,
Cleveland,
Pittsburgh,
Denver,
New Orleans,
Dallas,
Cairo,
Singapore,
Auckland,
Baghdad,
Mexico City
and Montreal
salute her.



2.
Cities,
A collection of vanities?
Engineered complex utilitarianism?
The need for community a social necessity?
Ego one with the mass?
Civilization’s latest *******?
Chicago is more then that.

Jefferson’s yeoman farmer
is long gone
but this capitol
of the Great Plains
is still democratic.

The citizen’s of this city
would vote daily,
if they could.

Chicago,
Sandburg’s Chicago,
Could it be?

The namesake river
segments the city,
canals of commerce,
all perpendicular,
is rife throughout,
still guiding barges
to the Mississippi
and St. Laurence.

Now also
tourist attractions
for a cafe society.

Chicago is really jazzy,
swanky clubs,
big steaks,
juices and drinks.

You get the best
coffee from Seattle
and the finest teas
from China.

Great restaurants
serve liquid jazz
al la carte.

Jazz Jazz Jazz
All they serve is Jazz
Rock me steady
Keep the beat
Keep it flowin
Feel the heat!

Jazz Jazz Jazz
All they is, is Jazz
Fast cars will take ya
To the show
Round bout midnight
Where’d the time go?

Flows into the Mississippi,
the mother of America’s rivers,
an empires aorta.

Great Lakes wonder of water.
Niagara Falls
still her heart gushes forth.

Buffalo connected to this holy heart.
Finger Lakes and Adirondacks
are part of this watershed,
all the way down to the
Delaware and Chesapeake.

Sandburg’s Chicago?
Oh my my,
the wonder of him.
Who captured the imagination
of the wonders of rivers.

Down stream other holy cities
from the Mississippi delta
all mapped by him.

Its mouth our Dixie Trumpet
guarded by righteous Cajun brethren.

Midwest?
Midwest from where?
It’s north of Caracas and Los Angeles,
east of Fairbanks,
west of Dublin
and south of not much.

Him,
who spoke of honest men
and loving women.
Working men and mothers
bearing citizens to build a nation.
The New World’s
precocious adolescent
caught in a stream
of endless and exciting change,
much pain and sacrifice,
dedication and loss,
pride and tribulations.

From him we know
all the people’s faces.
All their stories are told.
Never defeating the
idea of Chicago.

Sandburg had the courage to say
what was in the heart of the people, who:

Defeated the Indians,
Mapped the terrain,
Aided slavers,
Fought a terrible civil war,
Hoisted the barges,
Grew the food,
Whacked the wheat,
Sang the songs,
Fought many wars of conquest,
Cleared the land,
Erected the bridges,
Trapped the game,
Netted the fish,
Mined the coal,
Forged the steel,
Laid the tracks,
Fired the tenders,
Cut the stone,
Mixed the mortar,
Plumbed the line,
And laid the bricks
Of this nation of cities!

Pardon the Marlboro Man shtick.
It’s a poor expostulation of
crass commercial symbolism.

Like I said, I’m a
Devil Fan from Jersey
and Madison Avenue
has done its work on me.

It’s a strange alchemy
that changes
a proud Nation of Blackhawks
into a merchandising bonanza
of hometown hockey shirts,
making the native seem alien,
and the interloper at home chillin out,
warming his feet atop a block of ice,
guzzling Old Style
with clicker in hand.

Give him his beer
and other diversions.
If he bowls with his buddy’s
on Tuesday night
I hope he bowls
a perfect game.

He’s earned it.
He works hard.
Hard work and faith
built this city.

And it’s not just the faith
that fills the cities
thousand churches,
temples and
mosques on the Sabbath.

3.
There is faith in everything in Chicago!

An alcoholic broker named Bill
lives the Twelve Steps
to banish fear and loathing
for one more day.
Bill believes in sobriety.

A tug captain named Moe
waits for the spring thaw
so he can get the barges up to Duluth.
Moe believes in the seasons.

A farmer named Tom
hopes he has reaped the last
of many bitter harvests.
Tom believes in a new start.

A homeless man named Earl
wills himself a cot and a hot
at the local shelter.
Earl believes in deliverance.

A Pullman porter
named George
works overtime
to get his first born
through medical school.
George believes in opportunity.

A folk singer named Woody
sings about his
countrymen inheritance
and implores them to take it.
Woody believes in people.

A Wobbly named Joe
organizes fellow steelworkers
to fight for a workers paradise
here on earth.
Joe believes in ideals.

A bookkeeper named Edith
is certain she’ll see the Cubs
win the World Series
in her lifetime.
Edith believes in miracles.

An electrician named ****
saves money
to bring his family over from Gdansk.
**** believes in America.

A banker named Leah
knows Ditka will return
and lead the Bears
to another Super Bowl.
Leah believes in nostalgia.

A cantor named Samuel
prays for another 20 years
so he can properly train
his Temple’s replacement.

Samuel believes in tradition.
A high school girl named Sally
refuses to get an abortion.
She knows she carries
something special within her.
Sally believes in life.

A city worker named Mazie
ceaselessly prays
for her incarcerated son
doing 10 years at Cook.
Mazie believes in redemption.

A jazzer named Bix
helps to invent a new art form
out of the mist.
Bix believes in creativity.

An architect named Frank
restores the Rookery.
Frank believes in space.

A soldier named Ike
fights wars for democracy.
Ike believes in peace.

A Rabbi named Jesse
sermonizes on Moses.
Jesse believes in liberation.

Somewhere in Chicago
a kid still believes in Shoeless Joe.
The kid believes in
the integrity of the game.

An Imam named Louis
is busy building a nation
within a nation.
Louis believes in
self-determination.

A teacher named Heidi
gives all she has to her students.
She has great expectations for them all.
Heidi believes in the future.

4.
Does Chicago have a future?

This city,
full of cowboys
and wildcatters
is predicated
on a future!

Bang, bang
Shoot em up
Stake the claim
It’s your terrain
Drill the hole
Strike it rich
Top it off
You’re the boss
Take a chance
Watch it wane
Try again
Heavenly gains

Chicago
city of futures
is a Holy Mecca
to all day traders.

Their skin is gray,
hair disheveled,
loud ties and
funny coats,
thumb through
slips of paper
held by nail
chewed hands.
Selling promises
with no derivative value
for out of the money calls
and in the money puts.
Strike is not a labor action
in this city of unionists,
but a speculators mark,
a capitalist wish,
a hedgers bet,
a public debt
and a farmers
fair return.

Indexes for everything.
Quantitative models
that could burst a kazoo.

You know the measure
of everything in Chicago.
But is it truly objective?
Have mathematics banished
subjective intentions,
routing it in fair practice
of market efficiencies,
a kind of scientific absolution?

I heard that there
is a dispute brewing
over the amount of snowfall
that fell on the 1st.

The mayor’s office,
using the official city ruler
measured 22”
of snow on the ground.

The National Weather Service
says it cannot detect more
then 17” of snow.

The mayor thinks
he’ll catch less heat
for the trains that don’t run
the buses that don’t arrive
and the schools that stand empty
with the addition of 5”.

The analysts say
it’s all about capturing liquidity.

Liquidity,
can you place a great lake
into an eyedropper?

Its 20 below
and all liquid things
are solid masses
or a gooey viscosity at best.

Water is frozen everywhere.
But Chi town is still liquid,
flowing faster
then the digital blips
flashing on the walls
of the CBOT.

Dreams
are never frozen in Chicago.
The exchanges trade
without missing a beat.

Trading wet dreams,
the crystallized vapor
of an IPO
pledging a billion points
of Internet access
or raiding the public treasuries
of a central bank’s
huge stores of gold
with currency swaps.

Using the tools
of butterfly spreads
and candlesticks
to achieve the goal.

Short the Russell
or buy the Dow,
go long the
CAC and DAX.
Are you trading in euro’s?
You better be
or soon will.
I know
you’re Chicago,
you’ll trade anything.
WEBS,
Spiders,
and Leaps
are traded here,
along with sweet crude,
North Sea Brent,
plywood and T-Bill futures;
and most importantly
the commodities,
the loam
that formed this city
of broad shoulders.

What about our wheat?
Still whacking and
breadbasket to the world.

Oil,
an important fossil fuel
denominated in
good ole greenbacks.

Porkbellies,
not just hogwash
on the Wabash,
but bacon, eggs
and flapjacks
are on the menu
of every diner in Jersey
as the “All American.”

Cotton,
our contribution
to the Golden Triangle,
once the global currency
used to enrich a
gentlemen class
of cultured
southern slavers,
now Tommy Hilfiger’s
preferred fabric.

I think he sends it
to Bangkok where
child slaves
spin it into
gold lame'.

Sorghum,
I think its hardy.

Soybeans,
the new age substitute
for hamburger
goes great with tofu lasagna.

Corn,
ADM creates ethanol,
they want us to drive cleaner cars.

Cattle,
once driven into this city’s
bloodhouses for slaughter,
now ground into
a billion Big Macs
every year.

When does a seed
become a commodity?
When does a commodity
become a future?
When does a future expire?

You can find the answers
to these questions in Chicago
and find a fortune in a hole in the floor.

Look down into the pits.
Hear the screams of anguish
and profitable delights.

Frenzied men
swarming like a mass
of epileptic ants
atop the worlds largest sugar cube
auger the worlds free markets.

The scene is
more chaotic then
100 Haymarket Square Riots
multiplied by 100
1968 Democratic Conventions.

Amidst inverted anthills,
they scurry forth and to
in distinguished
black and red coats.

Fighting each other
as counterparties
to a life and death transaction.

This is an efficient market
that crosses the globe.

Oil from the Sultan of Brunei,
Yen from the land of Hitachi,
Long Bonds from the Fed,
nickel from Quebec,
platinum and palladium
from Siberia,
FTSE’s from London
and crewel cane from Havana
circle these pits.

Tijuana,
Shanghai
and Istanbul's
best traders
are only half as good
as the average trader in Chicago.

Chicago,
this hog butcher to the world,
specializes in packaging and distribution.

Men in blood soaked smocks,
still count the heads
entering the gates of the city.

Their handiwork
is sent out on barges
and rail lines as frozen packages
of futures
waiting for delivery
to an anonymous counterparty
half a world away.

This nation’s hub
has grown into the
premier purveyor
to the world;
along all the rivers,
highways,
railways
and estuaries
it’s tentacles reach.

5.
Sandburg’s Chicago,
is a city of the world’s people.

Many striver rows compose
its many neighborhoods.

Nordic stoicism,
Eastern European orthodoxy
and Afro-American
calypso vibrations
are three of many cords
strumming the strings
of Chicago.

Sandburg’s Chicago,
if you wrote forever
you would only scratch its surface.

People wait for trains
to enter the city from O’Hare.
Frozen tears
lock their eyes
onto distant skyscrapers,
solid chunks
of snot blocks their nose
and green icicles of slime
crust mustaches.
They fight to breathe.

Sandburg’s Chicago
is The Land of Lincoln,
Savior of the Union,
protector of the Republic.
Sent armies
of sons and daughters,
barges, boxcars,
gunboats, foodstuffs,
cannon and shot
to raze the south
and stamp out succession.

Old Abe’s biography
are still unknown volumes to me.
I must see and read the great words.
You can never learn enough;
but I’ve been to Washington
and seen the man’s memorial.
The Free World’s 8th wonder,
guarded by General Grant,
who still keeps an eye on Richmond
and a hand on his sword.

Through this American winter
Abe ponders.
The vista he surveys is dire and tragic.

Our sitting President
impeached
for lying about a *******.

Party partisans
in the senate are sworn and seated.
Our Chief Justice,
adorned with golden bars
will adjudicate the proceedings.
It is the perfect counterpoint
to an ageless Abe thinking
with malice toward none
and charity towards all,
will heal the wounds
of the nation.

Abe our granite angel,
Chicago goes on,
The Union is strong!


SECOND DAY

1.
Out my window
the sun has risen.

According to
the local forecast
its minus 9
going up to
6 today.

The lake,
a golden pillow of clouds
is frozen in time.

I marvel
at the ancients ones
resourcefulness
and how
they mastered
these extreme elements.

Past, present and future
has no meaning
in the Citadel
of the Prairie today.

I set my watch
to Central Standard Time.

Stepping into
the hotel lobby
the concierge
with oil smooth hair,
perfect tie
and English lilt
impeccably asks,
“Do you know where you are going Sir?
Can I give you a map?”

He hands me one of Chicago.
I see he recently had his nails done.
He paints a green line
along Whacker Drive and says,
“turn on Jackson, LaSalle, Wabash or Madison
and you’ll get to where you want to go.”
A walk of 14 or 15 blocks from Streeterville-
(I start at The Chicago White House.
They call it that because Hillary Rodham
stays here when she’s in town.
Its’ also alleged that Stedman
eats his breakfast here
but Opra
has never been seen
on the premises.
I wonder how I gained entry
into this place of elite’s?)
-down into the center of The Loop.

Stepping out of the hotel,
The Doorman
sporting the epaulets of a colonel
on his corporate winter coat
and furry Cossack hat
swaddling his round black face
accosts me.

The skin of his face
is flaking from
the subzero windburn.

He asks me
with a gapped toothy grin,
“Can I get you a cab?”
“No I think I’ll walk,” I answer.
“Good woolen hat,
thick gloves you should be alright.”
He winks and lets me pass.

I step outside.
The Windy City
flings stabbing cold spears
flying on wings of 30-mph gusts.
My outside hardens.
I can feel the freeze
deepen
into my internalness.
I can’t be sure
but inside
my heart still feels warm.
For how long
I cannot say.

I commence
my walk
among the spires
of this great city,
the vertical leaps
that anchor the great lake,
holding its place
against the historic
frigid assault.

The buildings’ sway,
modulating to the blows
of natures wicked blasts.

It’s a hard imposition
on a city and its people.

The gloves,
skullcap,
long underwear,
sweater,
jacket
and overcoat
not enough
to keep the cold
from penetrating
the person.

Like discerning
the layers of this city,
even many layers,
still not enough
to understand
the depth of meaning
of the heart
of this heartland city.

Sandburg knew the city well.
Set amidst groves of suburbs
that extend outward in every direction.
Concentric circles
surround the city.
After the burbs come farms,
Great Plains, and mountains.
Appalachians and Rockies
are but mere molehills
in the city’s back yard.
It’s terra firma
stops only at the sea.
Pt. Barrow to the Horn,
many capes extended.

On the periphery
its appendages,
its extremities,
its outward extremes.
All connected by the idea,
blown by the incessant wind
of this great nation.
The Windy City’s message
is sent to the world’s four corners.
It is a message of power.
English the worlds
common language
is spoken here,
along with Ebonics,
Espanol,
Mandarin,
Czech,
Russian,
Korean,
Arabic,
Hindi­,
German,
French,
electronics,
steel,
cars,
cartoons,
rap,
sports­,
movies,
capital,
wheat
and more.

Always more.
Much much more
in Chicago.

2.
Sandburg
spoke all the dialects.

He heard them all,
he understood
with great precision
to the finest tolerances
of a lathe workers micrometer.

Sandburg understood
what it meant to laugh
and be happy.

He understood
the working mans day,
the learned treatises
of university chairs,
the endless tomes
of the city’s
great libraries,
the lost languages
of the ancient ones,
the secret codes
of abstract art,
the impact of architecture,
the street dialects and idioms
of everymans expression of life.

All fighting for life,
trying to build a life,
a new life
in this modern world.

Walking across
the Michigan Avenue Bridge
I see the Wrigley Building
is neatly carved,
catty cornered on the plaza.

I wonder if Old Man Wrigley
watched his barges
loaded with spearmint
and double-mint
move out onto the lake
from one of those Gothic windows
perched high above the street.

Would he open a window
and shout to the men below
to quit slaking and work harder
or would he
between the snapping sound
he made with his mouth
full of his chewing gum
offer them tickets
to a ballgame at Wrigley Field
that afternoon?

Would the men below
be able to understand
the man communing
from such a great height?

I listen to a man
and woman conversing.
They are one step behind me
as we meander along Wacker Drive.

"You are in Chicago now.”
The man states with profundity.
“If I let you go
you will soon find your level
in this city.
Do you know what I mean?”

No I don’t.
I think to myself.
What level are you I wonder?
Are you perched atop
the transmission spire
of the Hancock Tower?

I wouldn’t think so
or your ears would melt
from the windburn.

I’m thinking.
Is she a kept woman?
She is majestically clothed
in fur hat and coat.
In animal pelts
not trapped like her,
but slaughtered
from farms
I’m sure.

What level
is he speaking of?

Many levels
are evident in this city;
many layers of cobbled stone,
Pennsylvania iron,
Hoosier Granite
and vertical drops.

I wonder
if I detect
condensation
in his voice?

What is
his intention?
Is it a warning
of a broken affair?
A pending pink slip?
Advise to an addict
refusing to adhere
to a recovery regimen?

What is his level anyway?
Is he so high and mighty,
Higher and mightier
then this great city
which we are all a part of,
which we all helped to build,
which we all need
in order to keep this nation
the thriving democratic
empire it is?

This seditious talk!

3.
The Loop’s El
still courses through
the main thoroughfares of the city.

People are transported
above the din of the street,
looking down
on the common pedestrians
like me.

Super CEO’s
populating the upper floors
of Romanesque,
Greek Revivalist,
New Bauhaus,
Art Deco
and Post Nouveau
Neo-Modern
Avant-Garde towers
are too far up
to see me
shivering on the street.

The cars, busses,
trains and trucks
are all covered
with the film
of rock salt.

Salt covers
my bootless feet
and smudges
my cloths as well.

The salt,
the primal element
of the earth
covers everything
in Chicago.

It is the true level
of this city.

The layer
beneath
all layers,
on which
everything
rests,
is built,
grows,
thrives
then dies.
To be
returned again
to the lower
layers
where it can
take root
again
and grow
out onto
the great plains.

Splashing
the nation,
anointing
its people
with its
blessing.

A blessing,
Chicago?

All rivers
come here.

All things
found its way here
through the canals
and back bays
of the world’s
greatest lakes.

All roads,
rails and
air routes
begin and
end here.

Mrs. O’Leary’s cow
got a *** rap.
It did not start the fire,
we did.

We lit the torch
that flamed
the city to cinders.
From a pile of ash
Chicago rose again.

Forever Chicago!
Forever the lamp
that burns bright
on a Great Lake’s
western shore!

Chicago
the beacon
sends the
message to the world
with its windy blasts,
on chugging barges,
clapping trains,
flying tandems,
T1 circuits
and roaring jets.

Sandburg knew
a Chicago
I will never know.

He knew
the rhythm of life
the people walked to.
The tools they used,
the dreams they dreamed
the songs they sang,
the things they built,
the things they loved,
the pains that hurt,
the motives that grew,
the actions that destroyed
the prayers they prayed,
the food they ate
their moments of death.

Sandburg knew
the layers of the city
to the depths
and windy heights
I cannot fathom.

The Blues
came to this city,
on the wing
of a chirping bird,
on the taps
of a rickety train,
on the blast
of an angry sax
rushing on the wind,
on the Westend blitz
of Pop's brash coronet,
on the tink of
a twinkling piano
on a paddle-wheel boat
and on the strings
of a lonely man’s guitar.

Walk into the clubs,
tenements,
row houses,
speakeasies
and you’ll hear the Blues
whispered like
a quiet prayer.

Tidewater Blues
from Virginia,
Delta Blues
from the lower
Mississippi,
Boogie Woogie
from Appalachia,
Texas Blues
from some Lone Star,
Big Band Blues
from Kansas City,
Blues from
Beal Street,
Jelly Roll’s Blues
from the Latin Quarter.

Hell even Chicago
got its own brand
of Blues.

Its all here.
It ended up here
and was sent away
on the winds of westerly blows
to the ear of an eager world
on strong jet streams
of simple melodies
and hard truths.

A broad
shouldered woman,
a single mother stands
on the street
with three crying babes.
Their cloths
are covered
in salt.
She pleads
for a break,
praying
for a new start.
Poor and
under-clothed
against the torrent
of frigid weather
she begs for help.
Her blond hair
and ****** features
suggests her
Scandinavian heritage.
I wonder if
she is related to Sandburg
as I walk past
her on the street.
Her feet
are bleeding
through her
canvass sneakers.
Her babes mouths
are zipped shut
with frozen drivel
and mucous.

The Blues live
on in Chicago.

The Blues
will forever live in her.
As I turn the corner
to walk the Miracle Mile
I see her engulfed
in a funnel cloud of salt,
snow and bits
of white paper,
swirling around her
and her children
in an angry
unforgiving
maelstrom.

The family
begins to
dissolve
like a snail
sprinkled with salt;
and a mother
and her children
just disappear
into the pavement
at the corner
of Dearborn,
in Chicago.

Music:

Robert Johnson
Sweet Home Chicago


jbm
Chicago
1/7/99
Added today to commemorate the birthday of Carl Sandburg
Xaela San Jul 2018
He is trully a brave protector indeed

Neither rain nor shine there he stand

And with the pain of sun and heat

Still he maintains his composure


Everyday he brings hope and protection

As citizen and policeman of this nation

Even if a lack of sleep hinder his stand

Wearing his uniform makes him proud


And later at sunrise he goes home

Looking down on his little angels

Sleeping peacefully in their own dreams

And imagining their bright future


Yet he still sacrifice his life for us

He is trully a brave protector and a father.
I am proud of you Dad
Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Oh pat is the great protector.
He realises that your still getting teased so he got up from his arm chair and took the Teasie out of me
I know it looks like I am suffering
But I am doing fine
But pat the real protector
He is my bodyguard all day long
I know he doesn’t wanna, but he is a protector no matter what
He is a stuck up poor bludger
He cares nothing for us men you see
Pat is the great protector
He sits there watching me on the computer saying you are too shy mate
But I say no, I am not shy
I am cool dude to the men
Some say I hate life
But that is a bunch of crap
The truth is I love life even if it looks like i don’t pat is the big protector he says you aren’t getting robbed but he is easily fooled when he mucks with the poor but I am too smart to answer the door
Cause I am a family person
Who loves life more than anyone
Diana Silva Nov 2014
You are my protector
You are my strength
You are my light in my darkness,
and my friend till the very end

You do not make me suffer
You never let me down
When I fall, you reach out your hand,
and you lift me up to higher ground

You've opened my heart
and taught me to love once more
When I cry, I know you have broken through
Because all my tears are for you
You have made me, made me yours, and made me whole
for your salvation has brought me here

I just want to say thank you for what you've done,
because I know there is still more to come
What more do I need, for I have you
You are my protector
and I love you.
#protection #love# company# salvation# heart # tears #strength # higher # brought # you#thank you#made#me##yours#broken#ground#light#
False Poets Oct 2017
does the moon get tired?

~for the children who never tire of moon gazing upon the dock,
by the light of the fireflies,
till the angels are dispatched by Nana,
to sprinkle sleepy dust in their eyelashes so long and fine~


<•>
while walking the dog I no longer have,
a happenstance glanceable up over the River East,
there you were, mr. moon, in all your fulsomeness ,
surrounded by a potpourri of courtier clouds,
all deferentially bowing, waving,
passing past you at a demure royal speed on their way
perhaps,
to Rebecca's northern London,
of was it south to grace of  v V v's Texas^,
in any event,
the cloudy ladies, all bustling and curvaceous,  
all high stepping in recognition of your exalted place,
Master of the Night Sky

We,
the word careless, poets excessive,
sometimes called silly poppies, old men,
left footed, still crazy after many years,
most assuredly poets false all of us,
without a proper prior organized thought train,
outed,
bludgeon blurted,
an inquiry preposterous and strange,
strait directed to the sombre face,
to mister moon himself!

tell me moon, do you ever tire?*

the obeisant clouds shocked
as that face we all uniform know,
unchanged anywhere you might go  to gaze, be looking upon it,
watched the moon's face turn askew.

He looking down at our rude puzzlement,
with a Most Parisian askance,
a look of French ahem moustacheoed disbelief,
while we watched as the moon cherubic cheeks
filled with airy atmosphere,
then he sighed

so windy winding, was it,
so mountain high and river deep,
that those chubby clouds were blown off course,
from a starless NYC sky
all the way past Victoria Station,
only to stop at Pradip and Bala's
mysterious land of
bolly-dancing India,
on their way to Sally's Bay of Manila,
magic places all!

Mr. Moon looked down at this one tremulous fool representative  
(me) and in a voice
basso beaming and starry sonorous,
befitting its stellar positioning,
squinting to get a closer look at the
who in whom
dare address him in such an emboldened manner!

Mmmmm, recognize you, you are among those
who use my presence, steal my lighted beams, my silver aura,
my supermoon powered light, borrow my eclipses,
reveal my changeling shaped mystery without permission,
only mine to give, you tiny borrowers who write that thing,
p o e t r y

head and kneed, bowed and bent,
I confessed
(on y'alls behalf)

we take your luminosity and don't spare you
even a tuppence, a lonely rupee, no royalties paid
to you-up-so-highness,
and we hereby apologize for all the poets
without exception,
especially those moon besotted,
only love poem writing,
vraiment misbegotten scoundrels....

with another sigh equality powerful,
mr moon pushed those clouds across the Pacifica,
all the way to the  US's West Coast,
up to Colorado,
where moon-takings from the lake's reflecting light
so perfect for rhyming, kayaking,
and moonlight overthrowing,
once more, the moon taken and begotten,
nightly,
as heaven- freely-granted

yes, I tire
and though  here I am much beloved,
usually admired though sometimes even blackened cursed,
seen in every school child's drawing,
in Nasa's calculations,
of my influential gravitational pull,
moving human hearts
to love and giving Leonard a musical compositional hint,
and while this admirable devotion is most delighting,
would it upset some vast eternal plan,
if but one of you once asked,
you fiddler scribblers
my prior permission,
even by just, a lowly
mesmerizing evening tide's tenderizing glance?

yes, I tire,
even though my cycles are variable,
my shape shifting unique, my names so at variance
in all your many musical sing-song dialectical languages,
my sway, my tidal currents so powerful a deterrence,
unlike my boring older sunny cousine  who just cannot get over
how hot looking she is,
I,  so more personally interesting,
yet you use me as if I were a fixture,
on and off with
a tug of the chain string,
never failing to appear,
even when feeling pale yellow and orange wan,
and worse,
mocked as an amore pizza pie,
do you ever ask how I am doing?

yes, I tire,
of my constant circuitous route that changes ever so slowly,
but yet, too fast for me to make some nice human acquaintances, especially those young adoring children
who give me their morn pleasurable squeals when they awake and my presence still there,
a shining ghost of a guardianship protector still
watching over them

how oft in life do we presume,
take for granted
grants so extra-ordinary
that we forget to remember
the extra
and see only the ordinary

how oft in life do we assume,
the every day is always every,
until it is not,
only an only
a now and then,
till then,
is no longer a
now*

<>
oh moon, oh moon,
our richest apologies
we hereby tender and surrender,
our arrogance beyond belief,
what can we offer in relief?

silence heard loud and clear,
mr. moon was gone,
a satellite in motion,
so our words burnt up in the atmosphere
unheard

we did not weep
nor huff and puff,
blow those clouds back to us,
for we knew
the extraordinary
would return tomorrow,
we will be ready,
better another day,
to prepare
a lunar composition,
a psalm of hallelujah praise,
for mr. moon
of which
mr moon will never tire,
for filled with the perma-warmth
of our affection
for the one we call mr.moon
False Poets is a collective of different poets who write here, in a single voice,
hence the confusing interchangeable switching of the pronouns.    sorry bout that.


^ HP - give them back the claimed  V name!
jeffrey conyers Sep 2012
Safe and secured in my arms.
Is your love.
Safe and secured in my heart.
Is your love.
Safe and secured with your trust.
Is my heart.
I'm the protector of your love.

Don't bother worrying about a thief appearing.
And making my heart weak.
Simply because my feelings for you runs deep.
Sometimes to steep to mention.

Safely under my eyes.
Is your love.
Tighly held within my heart.
Is your love.

I see the creepers venture out.
Then gets upset and apologize.
When their lover's leaves.
Safely and secured within measure.
Is your love.
All because it's a treasure being in love.
And I'm glad to be the protector of your love.
Umi Feb 2018
The nightsky is alike a mighty mansion of the stars which then
twinkle in elegance, beauty and transience until the dawn outshines them in a graceful manner.
As the night turns away from the sun and from her light, danger
in our imagination could await, from the corners of our very mind.
Yet the stars make up a soft blanket, a cover of the calmest of light,
which could bring peace to a soul which is performing a rampage.
All the constilations, all the names and forms which reveal themselves, are but a heavenly spectra for those who are nocturnal.
Or for those, whom have meet the cruel fate to be allergic to the natural, straight forward, warming and blissful sunlight.
There is no soul with no protector, in the nightsky such would be
a bright,piercing star, standing proud,manifest its location is over you
Holding many wonders, the beauty of the night comes with shooting stars, which at times shortly sweep over the heaven before fading.
Wishes are made upon, hope fills their hearts, for a better future
or a fulfilment of their desires, tangled up within the depth of mind.
Night becomes bright once the moon shines, in its fullest posture.
Becomes dark once the rainclouds drive near, calling in thunder.
But most importantly, it is a time of rest, from all this earth beholds


~ Umi
Raven Apr 2015
It started as warning, which turned to threats.
A threat, a threat which was fulfilled
He didn't want anyone close to her
Scared them all away

For her she was panicked, unsure of what to say.
He hid in the shadows never spoke to her
But protected her in his own way  

She final bucked up courage and asked "What do you want from me?"
Only to receive a long poem which made her heartache
Her  protector vanished  and her heart broke.
She fell for the mysterious guy who tried saving her heart
Now she weeps heart set on finding
Her mysterious protector
Senteno Oracle Of The Shadows: So Aziel what's your plan with Frank?
Aziel: Well he is going to help me destroy the Order Of The Silver Knights and in return I shall help him get the Witch who cursed the Forest Of Whispers.
Senteno Oracle Of The Shadows: Well I'll give you some valuable information who your looking for is Bethilda N. Lement. She is a very powerful Witch who with her Elemental Plowness is able to obtain what she wants.
Aziel: Well well ...so the Old Hag still holds the grip over the Forest doesn't she
Senteno Oracle Of The Shadows: Indeed she isn't someone to take lightly now she is well rounded and knows how to fight. She controls The Tavern Of Doom Dragons. In her possession are 3 fully grown Dragons. Blair the Oldest Dragon Claire The Mother Dragon and Aurora the youngest one of them three.
Blair the Black Dragon Claire The White Dragon and Aurora the Stone/Lighting Dragon. Many have meet their doom entering in her territory Cyclop Human and Vampire Alike.
Aziel: I don't have anything to fear.

~Meanwhile...~

Bethilda Lement: Adreanna I want you to learn more about my Dragons start training with Aurora but be cautious she may be only three years old but she is powerful and robust. Lement screeches then Aurora hovers over the Mountain Of Shen* where the Tavern Of Doom Dragons is located. Adrianna Develve places a strong spell in the Dragon Aurora she finally succumbs to her authority.
Adrianna and Aurora go take down the Golem Of Steel  in the Hidden Ruins Of Odom.* The Golem stands 15 ft high weighs 2,500 pounds. Holding a crest of an almost impenetrable diamond in the middle of his chest. Emanating from the Crystal comes all his power and it's his only weak spot. Then Aurora and Adrianna make an impressionable entrance to the ruins and attack the Golem head on. Golem Of Steel: Here stands the infamous Adrianna Develve...well isn't  this a surprise.  I see that you have grown some and are able to maintain your powers well to face me. I know what you want you want the Crystal in my chest...that will be over my dead body. Audon's Crystal* is powerful enough to consume 1000 Well Trained Witches therefore young Witch you don't scare me. Now as for that Dragon well ... perhaps you stand a chance after all.  Adrianna Develve: I usually don't pick fights with powerful DemiGods like yourself but I  am in desperate need for your Crystal. Therefore, you will hand it over or I'll take it by force.  Golem Of Steel:  Good Luck.
Aurora shields herself with Stone Armor and goes head on collision with the Golem. He dodges the attack and  counterattacks with a strong fist to the  Dragons body and knocks Aurora down cracking part of her Stone Armor. The young female Dragon counterattacks with a powerful lighting blast hitting The Steel Golem in the right shoulder injuring him. Develve attacks with a powerful mind blast knocking down the Golem Of Steel on it's back. The Golem Of Steel bleeds blue blood out of his shoulder blade and runs full force towards Adrianna Develve.  She  dashes the attack and counterattacks  with a Shadow Ball attack hitting him in the chest and expanding all over its body. It's a possession Ninjutsu technique making him practically paralyzed for about 2 minutes till he breaks free from the technique but sustains a considerable amount of damage. Adrianna Develve seeing that the Golem Of Steel is showing a sign of weakness she takes advantage to try to inflict him with a spear of lighting into the chest impairing him and he bleeds out the mouth but as the last resolution The Golem Of Steel punches the Audon Crystal shattering it into 5 individual pieces him losing his life in the process however what he didn't know is that Adrianna Develve collected all the pieces however there was a violent explosion at the site shattering huge boulders of steel and inflicting Aurora gravely. Adrianna Develve  hurries and performs a powerful healing spell leaving her drained of all power. Adrianna Develve hurries to get out of the ruins because they are crumbling down. She manages to recover Aurora briefly from there they fly to The Tavern Of Doom Dragons Of Doom Dragons right when she pulls in with Aurora who is injured from the boulders hitting her body and face at high velocity even the Rock Armor was perforated. The Dragon lands barely with Adrianna Develve who gets the Wrath of Granny Bethilda N. Lement. Aurora breathing heavily and bleeding out the mouth slipping in and out of consciousness ...Adrianna Develve barely getting off the Dragon.
Bethilda Lement: What the hell  happened to Aurora she is in really bad shape. Adrianna your completely drained I see you did good by healing her however, she must rest for about 3-4 days now and fully recover from that gruesome fight with that **** Golem Of Steel. Adrianna are you Ok darling? Go get some rest I see you used the forbidden technique of Soul Healing Transfer. Well now you'll live 12 years less thanks to your little sharede. Develve I am thankful that you saved my Dragon from dying but hell consequences are quite dire.
Develve: Here Granny Lement I got Audon's Diamond however it's shattered in 5 separate pieces.
Bethilda N. Lement:  Let me guess the Golem Of Steel did not want this to fall under the wrong hands for it is a powerful relic. Smart move buying time however, useless due to the fact that we got the diamond under our possession. Adrianna we are going to search the Master Forger Of Relics* who can aid us recover this valuable relic to it's original state. It's said that he resides in one of the headquarters of the Order however, he has worked with Witches, Pagans and Nacromancers before so am sure that as long as we provide the right monetary value to repair the relic he'll work for us.
Develve: Why don't we just kidnap him and make him do the work or he pays with his life?
Lement:  Good objective it may have to work that way for us.
Develve: Im aware that the Cyclop population in the Village Of Chalekathan are not taking your threats seriously well ElderLord Gromm has not paid his fee from allowing them to live and not be consumed by the curse itself.
Lement: By killing him we can set an example of what can happen to them if they don't cooperate with our cause.
Develve: It dangerous though he is a strong Leader with lots of powerful influences. Plus he is a highly skilled Witch Doctor/Shaman able to manipulate the forces of nature. Known to use 3 Godly Deities Aikune Chalekathan & Eion. Aikune the cherubim of the Northern Side Of Heaven. Chalekathan the Spirit God embodiment of The Forest Of Whispers and last but not least Eion the mythical creature with an Eagle face 6 wings and the body of a Lion. Embuted with heavenly essence making him a very formidable foe.
Develve:  We will take care of our responsibilities soon but our primary mission is to talk Ayeiton Balderoux III* the Master Forger Of Relics.
: Whoa had no idea he was The Kings kin.
Lement: Indeed he is now go and lay your head and recover some energy because we need to practice your magical plowness.
Adrianna heads towards the Guest Room.

~Meanwhile in The Forest Of Whispers~
Frank Deltoro gets introduced to Gromm ElderLord Of Chalekathan by Jhino.  He also introduces Navarro Castleworth who is pleased to meet the famous Elder.
Gromm: Hello young man I am the protector of this village which has sustained numerous attacks by Lement's Dragons. Develve also partook enthusiastically with her Grandmother in attacking innocent hard working Cyclops. Making them slaves of the Curse which drives them mad and homicidal attacking friends brothers and family so we had to do the inevitable put them down.
Nevertheless, I pray to Deynave Dion High Saint/Priestess Queen Of All Shamanism to protect the lost souls of them Cyclops who fought the curse till the very end but unfortunately lost the fight and in turn lost their lives.
Frank: My condolences to your friends ElderLord Gromm.Am sure they in a better place now at least not suffering. However, I have a personal matter to score with Lement. She kidnapped and murdered my only daughter 10 years ago she was a...his voice gets trembly and he lightly clears his throat..at the same time a solid solo tear drops from his only Eye symbolizing a Fathers great pain and suffering from such an atrocious act." Gromm regains his composure. I got a personal score to settle with Mrs.Lement due to the fact that she took a piece of my heart and soul she killed my daughter. Develve played her part in the kidnapping of my baby girl 10 years ago she would be 18 years old today if Shaila Dair Sultran were alive...her appointed time to be brutally killed by my hand is coming...Bethilda N. Lement has been suppressing her powers for the last 300 years I believe she has some sort of powerful anti-chi barrier put up extending tremendous lengths so even if she is active in The Forest Of Whispers we wouldn't know how to tell due to this **** barrier.
Frank: So your bloodline comes from the Ancient times from the powerful Cyclop Of Royal Priests/Witch Doctors family Sultran.
"A gentle wind blows and Aziel telepathically communicates with Frank.  Aziel: Frank, be careful where you thread I been informed that Lement's Grand-Daughter Adrianna Develve recently gathered Audon's Crystal a powerful diamond known to give its user Bending Steel abilities and higher sustainability. Adrianna Develve has plans to use the Crystal to fully cover the Forest Of Whispers covering every inch of Forest with the Curse which drives all living creatures with a conscious mad totally subseptable to their influence.
However, to you those must be terrible news so my question is...you been in Chalekathan Village for 1 hr and a half you have 5.3 hrs till daylight removing the Darkness powers you currently control.
Frank: I am aware of this Aziel don't worry I'll take care of business.
Aziel: Keep an eye out Navarro I don't  trust him I don't know what intentions he has...plus he is part  of that shady Tower Of Frejoird but perhaps you can use his hatred towards the Order Of The Silver Knights. He can maybe be a reliable source. Be careful Frank.

~Meanwhile in Aziel Castle~
Isis: Well...Aziel aren't  you such a concerned individual...I didn't  know you had a soft spot towards mere humans.
Aziel: I usually don't...but Frank is different from the rest. He is courageous trustworthy and he put his life at risk by helping me regain all my vampiric power. I am in much debt to him...am having second thoughts on your plans to **** him after he completes his assignments that we have agreed upon. If he makes it out alive after all this...he at least deserves a reward and to live.
Isis: Chuckles at Aziel Aziel looks at the Empress with great focus.
Isis: C'mon I'll just have some fun with Frank I wasn't planning to ****** him.
Aziel: I'll  think about it now leave me be I got couple of things I need to take care of.
Isis: Fine Darling I'll  leave you be. You know you are the handsomest of all the brothers you have.
Aziel: Well now Isis you flirting with me...I doubt you'll want my erected tool up your stash. Don't you remember am a Vampire?
Isis: I'm aware of that. Adventure sounds fun plus I never had *** with a hot vampire like yourself.
Isis: Well Doll that is going to be some other time I am working against the clock right now.
Isis: Fine you *****...I'll leave. However, keep in mind that Im watching you closely. Plus remember I still keep contact with DarkLord for soon your Father will be back in this plane of reality.
Aziel: So I have heard.
Isis: Well I have found some juicy
Information about Uriels wereabouts he is in a Modern Castle in America. Amelia St and Cross. Residency 106. He is a huge celebrity in Russia and Germany. Keeps his bloodlust at check with fresh blood always for him to self medicate. Looking only 19 years old he is quite the chick magnet though not my taste his Gothic Progressive Horror Rock made him quite famous. Got 5 albums however kept his personal life well hidden from his fans. Many fake and supportive accounts claiming to know the real Uriel Governale. Though no one truly knows he is a vampire for certain. I know because I searched the private records and found out that he belongs to a High Ranking Secret Society known as Maximillion Vampire Clan. Which performs innocent human babies to be given as a sacrifice towards Baphomet and Azmodeus* 2 Of the Demon Lords of Hell. Your brother belongs to this hidden organization that operates in the Shadows but their latest project is to revive your Father the Progenitor most infamous VampireLord of all time. Dracula! Humanity will cease to exist if he were to be revived. All they need is a vial of blood from all of the current 8 saints and they have their eye on Saint Lauren Glennwald from the Eastern Side of Germany from a small rural community town known as Hertzentmort. She currently 25 years old is on a mission to collect Papal papers for the Order for you know they are closely tied to the papalcy. However, she got body guards that are Elite Knights with very powerful Anti-Witch spells and very accurate at pinpointing weak points in any battle with powerful Witches. So going alone isn't very advisable.<br>
Aziel: I greatly appreciate your information I'll take a look on what my little brother is looking to do. I'll take care of him. Don't you worry I'll be seeing you later. <br>
Isis: Alright..."She steps towards Aziel and rubs his chest and says...my reward is waiting for me...and looks down his pants" <br>
Aziel:  Now your tempting me to destroy that *****... but here this is what you'll get "he shows her his ****"<br>
Isis: Mmmm I can't wait baby...well that's a massive apparatus you got in there just hiding.<br>
Aziel: Hahaha...right. Soon enough I'll be all yours to play with. No leave me.<br>
Isis transforms to a cloud of dark myst and leaves the premises of the Castle.<br>
<br>
~Meanwhile in Uriel's Castle~<br>
<br>
The Maximillion Vampire Club had a secret meeting in the Uriel's Castle. There where many prestigious and famous guests there and so was the Highest Ranking Vampire of the Club Maximillion Virgil Vann himself. Inside the Castle where also uninvited guests from The Order Of The Silver Knights pretending to be Vampires. His name Michael Neil Stalwart & his partner Aalyaah Black. Both of them infiltrated the party somehow the Order Of The Silver Knights caught wind of shady operations in the occult club and decided to check it out. Michael & Aalyaah belong to Stealth/Infiltration part of the Order known as The Dark Ones
. Even the last 5 remaining Dark Priests from the Cathedral Of Skylor* where 13 years ago Baphomet was revived and mortalized to walk upon humans granting favors for a price. Ultimately the price Demon Lords require of humans is their souls to consume them and become more powerful. This 5 Dark Priests where very important in the ceremony taking place because tonight at 3 a.m. they will unify their powers to revive Azmodeus. They were successful on bringing back Baphomet back to life so they are trying to revive another Demon Lord. In Baphomet's revival they used 666 unborn fetuses with 6 babies 3 male and 3 female all born under the sign of Capricorn and all must be 3 months premature. With this requirements met...Baphomet was revived to this plane of existence, however since he was violent and still hellbent from transitioning from the hellish plane to a mortal one he killed and consumed 3 Dark Priests in the process of fully coming to his senses and being able to recognize them and thank them for what they done. Baphomet promised that he would aid them 5 Dark Priests revive all 13 Demon Lords and in turn 2 Of the 5 remaining Dark Priests must sacrifice themselves to the Demon Lords for the strongest remaining 3 get a extraordinary reward.
John Doe Jun 2015
They called him the protector
They called him the savior
They called him the guardian
The watchdog
The knight in shining armour
Bodyguard
Defender
The list goes on and on
And in him they placed their faith
They're wholehearted trust
But one evening
A child disappeared
And they trusted him to take care of it
As they always do
She was an average child he had said
Not particularly pretty
Not particularly plain

But that was just how it liked them.

But then
Each and every night
One by one
The children had gone
The villagers protested
So the protector got to work.
He set up dainty little pitchforks
And dug a moat shallow enough to climb in
And planted brambles and thorns that could not bring blood
No matter how new or old
But little did they know
It was already inside
And they had trapped themselves in.
Every day it attacked
And then children slowly ran out
Except for one

And the protector
The savior
The guardian
The watchdog
The knight in shining armour
Was the first one to run
So it started on others
Whoever is the only one left they said
Whoever is the last survivor
Would be the stealer of children
And the breaker of hearts
Until finally there was just a priest
A blacksmith
A craftsman
And that little girl

Then the craftsman went missing

And the blacksmith disappeared

And then there was just the priest
And the little girl.

And then there was just the little girl.
The only one left
The last survivor
The stealer of children
And the breaker of hearts.
People are not always who you think they are. Beware. **
Holly Freeman Mar 2013
Tea is my consolation,
From anxiety and fears that strike
Like venomous slithering snakes,
Who have missions to poison my resolve.

The most recent attack occurred,
During the late evening,
With their voices in my head shrieking and lashing,
Their troublesome words coiling around my air supply.

I dashed to the cupboard panicked,
To ensue Tea’s warm embrace,
And waited for the kettle to boil,
While tears trickled wordlessly down my face.

Tea greeted me warmly that night,
With a pleasant aroma of spices swirling up my nose,
And became the only thing I wanted;
A comforting liquid cascading down my throat.

I drank my blend of love in silence,
While my protector drew its steadfast sword,
And lashed those demons and the sorrows,
Into the dismal despair from whence they came.

Not long after the battle,
My silent friend with the warmth of a thousand suns crooned,
And watched as I fell soundlessly asleep,
Until the renewal of the afternoon.
This was inspired by a good friend of mine that suffers from anxiety. Since I usually write poems based on my thoughts or feelings, I wanted to challenge myself and put into words what she experiences.
vircapio gale Oct 2012
'
his vacuum free hand
tidies wires in a storm--
surge protector wife!













.
wrapping dumplings in
bamboo leaves, with one finger
she tidies her hair

(Bashō 1644 - 1694)
Dayana Feb 2015
I wrote about you, day and night
You are my moon, you are my sun
I wished for the day when we would finally unite
Like the stars in the galaxy, shining bright
I was dreading the fact that the day might never come
When you wrap me in your arms and tell me it's fine
When you utter those words and protect me for life
My dread was increasing, my hopes were decreasing
I slowly shattered into a deep despair
Losing all senses of a fulfilled life and hope
I thought that the fantasies and dreams in my head are unrealistic and are merely an illusion
But then there you were, my protector, my hero
You grabbed me right at the end of the cliff and held me tight
You reassured and brought my soul back to life
You were my protector, and I was yours
We are now, now and forever, inseparable
For we suffered too long in the absence of one another
Auss Nov 2013
i hid my face
i was a disgrace
i was the oddball
i hated the hall

you saw that i was hurt
you came and helped me
i was a crude and short
you gave me a taste of free

free of fears
free of the bully
free of conformity
free of tears

you became my brother
a quiet protector
you kept away what i hated
even if you were a lil twisted

you cared
you helped
you supported
you heard

there is no way
i could repay
all the things you did
so all i can say is thank you
david you kept me alive through the worst years so far
shayla ennis Oct 2016
(Narrator):
Upon a sunny day you see a girl leading a horse up a beach in the heated sun of the Roman Empire. She is a princess to a great roman king. This king’s name be Alexander the Great who in our history died young. The king dressed in white with red sashes covered over it is in the mist of trying to find his daughter a husband, one who will be fit to be king when he no longer can. The beach being sunny and warm princess Auria has chosen to take her horse for a ride while her father speaks to his men of the council.
Princess Auria: [riding her horse down the beach in a gentle stride] [clip clop………]

(Narrator):
Suddenly the horse rears up into the air throwing the princess from its back!

Princess Auria: [haa… … screaming [smacking into the ground] thump!]

Enters: Tibius [walking up to the horse who threw the princess tibius calls for it to calm itself and then walks up to Princess Auria asking… …]

Tibius: dear lady do you need some assistance?

Princess Auria: no but I thank you for retrieving my horse. Asking herself under her breath… What could have scared you so…?

Tibius: I believe it may have been that serpent over there near the sands edge.

Princess Auria: oh that must be the reason, Thank you again. What be your name young man.

Tibius: my name lady be Tibius and you are most welcome.
Princess Auria: Tibius you say. Would you be willing to come with me to see my father and gain his thanks as well for he would be most grateful to you for what you have done this day.

Tibius: I know not why this is needed but I will follow lead the way my lady.

Princess Auria: please call me Auria.

(Narrator):
Princess Auria leading the way takes Tibius to the king her father who sits in the throne room talking to friends and family. Walking up to her father she tells him what tibius has done. Tibius stands there after being shocked that the lady he helped was actually the princess. Not knowing what to say to the king tibius stands before him in silence.
King Alexander: you a man so young and by the looks of it having little coin save my daughter! This cannot be…

Tibius: if I may speak great king.

King Alexander: you may do so.

Tibius: I was walking along the beach when I saw a horse running in my direction but without rider. I choosing to find said owner came upon your daughter the princess Auria and thus I am now before you.

King Alexander: if this be true what my daughter says than you must in some way be rewarded. But how is the question…

(Narrator):
Enters Princess Auria’s mother Dayanara, coming from tending the gardens within the palace walls dressed in a blue dress trimmed in silver she walks towards her husband the king.

Dayanara: my husband may I say a word or two for I have heard what was said and have an idea.

King Alexander: what idea would you have dear wife.

Dayanara: I speak this let him guard Auria from this time forward both within the walls and without them so as we her parents need not fret so when she goes off alone. I know it may be much for so small a thing. Let him be her personal protector. My other words spoken, I have word of someone who wishes marriage to our daughter.

King Alexander: this is a wondrous idea about Tibius being a protector, let as my wife speaks be done. Do you agree daughter? What about this marriage you speak of Dayanara? Who?

Princess Auria: yes father it is a pleasing reward.

King Alexander: and you Tibius. What do you say to this?

Tibius: I can do nothing else but agree for not too would be a dishonor to both you and your family king Alexander. So yes I say to what has been spoken.

(Narrator):
Scene changes to a battle on the high mountains behind the palace near the ocean. Hundreds of men from Rome and far off Greece that comes by ship battle on the damp sands and grasses of roman earth to take what is not theirs the Greeks wish. Blood and life be spilled at all ends and innocent’s being slaughtered without care. The roman princess waiting in the palace by her mother’s side wondering what is to become of them because no word has yet come about how the battle fares.
[On the battle field]

King Alexander: men raise your blades, your shields, do not yield! Do not I say!
[Clashing, banging of armor and weapons]

King Alexander: men forward March, lances and horses ready. [Forward……!]

(Narrator):

Enters: solder sadeen

Sadeen: my king the battle falls not to us but our enemy we lose men to fast.

King Alexander: we must find a way to get them into the water and then hit them with fire and oil that will burn greatly.

Sadeen: we could place oil along the hills and light it aflame this may drive them back if we make it strong and high.

King Alexander: see it done sadeen; see it done fast for I fear we will lose as you spoke before if you do not.

Sadeen: [riding away from the king at full gallop towards his men to carry out the orders given]
[Gallop… gallop…]

(Narrator): Sadeen follows the Kings orders by lighting aflame ***** of hay covered in oil his soldiers pushing them down the green grass hills where battle takes place to weaken the Greeks ground and might. [Greeks screaming]
[Outcry…… Shrieking…… Men dying]

King Alexander: [praying to himself that what he has asked of his men does not fail] you boy over their go to my family and give them this letter see to it that it is only to them you give it.
[Yes my lord]

(Narrator):
The boy with the letter runs as fast as his legs can carry him back threw the roman streets to the palace and gives the letter to the queen. The queen opens it and read the news of how the battle fares and the instructions given if the king falls.

Dayanara: [calling her daughter] auria… auria…

Princess Auria: what is it mother? Why do you yell so?

Dayanara: your father has written of the battle he pleads with us to leave and go to the villa where you grew as a child for the battle does not fare well and he fears that they will lose. He speaks to us that he will send someone to find us if they win. Come we must go.

Princess Auria: I will find Tibius he can see us to safety out of Rome and to the villa.

Dayanara: go to him in silence speak to no one else only him.

Princess Auria: yes mother [off she runs with her footed sandals slapping on the marble floors as she does].

(Narrator):
Princess Auria runs to the solders corridor and finds Tibius telling him in hurried breath that they must leave fathers words for they are in danger. Tibius gathers up his things and follows the princess back to the royal halls and they silently leave threw the gardens heading to were the villa rests dressed in peasants clothing they be. The king back in the battle hopes that the letter he wrote as found them in time. [He once more prays]

Tibius: come my ladies this way but be careful and quite

Dayanara: we walk silent but you must call us by our names not by title Tibius

Auria: mother is right do as she says for doing so will make others think we are peasants and family. It be less likely they will look our way with suspicion.

(Narrator):
[Suddenly Greek soldiers come of darkened shadows intending to strike and **** the ladies Tibius raises his blade to stop them].

Tibius: [Crash…… his blade smashing into another]

Soldier: his blade striking back [Clashing……]

Tibius: striking the soldier down leaving blood pooling upon the marble path [rushing away]

(Scene):
Days later the three peasants make it to a quite villa outside of Rome and begin a new life as mere workers for those who live there. Any who ask about the owners the peasants simple tell them that they are away due to the battle. They being servants were made to stay behind to keep the place clean for when the owners returned, when that is they do not know. Weeks and more months pass with no word from the king they begin to fear that all is lost when one day a man wearing roman armor rides up asking for the lady Dayanara. Tibius stepping forward asks why? They must return this man says for the king calls them to him.

Tibius: who is the king?

Stanger:  King Alexander of course

Tibius: wait here go nowhere else

Dayanara: what is it?

Tibius: there is a roman outside he says the king calls for us

Dayanara: then we go; this is the sign, find my daughter and gather our things.

Tibius: yes lady right away

(Narrator): They return home going back the way they had left, but through the city rather than the village.

(Scene change): they are home at the royal palace before the king once more, but he was not alone.

King Alexander: you have returned safe, this makes me happy, and rushing to them he smiles [giving them fierce hugs]

Dayanara/ Auria: we are glad to be with you once more, it was worrisome and lonely without your presence being with us.

Dayanara/ Auria: who is this man that stands before us with Greek Armor?  Why is he not dead or imprisoned like the others?

King alexander: he is the prince of the Greek people and the son of King Simentos. Please be polite let me explain what has come about from the great battle on Mount Tear. [He explains]

(Narrator): alexander tells both his wife and daughter that the battle was won due to the son calling up a white flag of truce and asking that no more blood of their people be shed. (Enters Brontes).

Brontes: I am the son and prince of Greek and I wish to come up with a way to unite our lands and people. Your father mentioned that he was looking to finding you Auria a husband; I know that me being Greek may not seem a pleasant thing but I hope for a chance to prove my worth to you.

Auria: I know you be Greek but what does that have to do with the man you have become I see not. The place we are born and live helps us to grow but does not make us who we are.

Dayanara: husband I believe that Auria likes him and they seem to be getting along well [she whispers to him].

King alexander: do you think then that the idea of marriage to Brontes will suit her well, that she will love and or care for him as he will to her.

Dayanara: I do, but let them decide what their choice will be.

(Scene):  the princess and prince wonder into the garden that is covered with the roman flower called the Gladiolus which means sword lily. Speaking of many things that have happened in their lives they continue walking. She tells him that she would hope to see both her homes often if she were to say yes to this peace proposal.

Alexander/Dayanara:  we must speak with the two of you. Have you come to a decision about what this marriage may mean?

Auria/Brontes:  we have come to a final choice after our long talk. We believe that this marriage would be well placed for both of us to accept. We have chosen to wed here and stay till the spring then to travel to Brontes’s home and have a smaller wedding there to please his father. Though this set of weddings we will sign a truce treaty combining our to lands and people.

Dayanara/ Alexander: that is well thought of from both of you. Well done, I believe that this is going to be a very happy time for all of us. Let the wedding be within a months’ time.

(Narrator): the wedding takes place upon the hill where the battle was once fought this is where they will make peace and sign the treaty. The wedding is beautiful and the flowers that are thrown around them show their unity. Both are dressed in the colors of the ocean and their prospective homes. {This is the end of their tale and perhaps a new beginning for us all on earth}.

THE END
playwrite
Myriah Apr 2015
I can't promise you
That dark clouds
Will never hover
Over our lives Or that the future
Will bring us many rainbows .
I can't promise you that
Tomorrow will be perfect
Or that our lives will be easy.
I can promise you my everlasting
Devotion, my loyalty, my respect,
And my unconditional love for a lifetime .
I can promise you that
I'll always be here for you,
To listen and to hold your hand,
And I'll do my best to make you happy,
And make you feel loved.
I can promise you that
I can see you through a crisis
And pray with you,
  Dream with you,
   Build with you,
And always cheer you on
And encourage you.
I can promise you that
I'll willingly be your protector,
Your advisor, your counselor,
Your friend, your family,
Your everything.
I promise you
RAJ NANDY Jul 2015
INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST WORLD WAR
            BY RAJ NANDY: PART ONE

                   INTRODUCTION
  “What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?
         Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
        Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
    Can patter out their hasty orisons.”
      -by Wilfred Owen, British Army Lt. killed in
        action in France on 04th Nov 1918.

The Socialists called it the ‘Imperialist’s War’,
and it was the ‘Trench War’ for the soldiers;
But Europe hailed it as ‘The War to End All Wars’,                
Expecting it to end prior to 1914’s Christmas!
But alas, it soon became a mighty global war
fueled by national and ethnic aspirations and
territorial lust!
The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, heir
to the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, -
On the 28thof June 1914 at Sarajevo, was the
spark which triggered off this great catastrophe!
During 1876 when German Chancellor Bismarck
was asked about chances of an European War at
a future date;
He felt that Europe was like a big store house of
gunpowder keg!
While pointing to the volatile BALKANS he had said,
That European leaders were smoking in an arsenal,
where a small spark could cause a mighty explosion!
And 38 years later the world had witnessed,
Bismarck’s unfortunate prediction!
This war ended on 11th of November 1918, after a
four and half year’s long duration;
With 16.5 million military and civilian deaths, and
many more wounded and missing in action!
For the War had spread beyond the traditional
killing fields,
Killing many innocent civilians following the
bombing raids by German Zeppelins!
Now, before proceeding further some background
information here becomes necessary,
To understand the socio-political events leading
to the unfolding of this Great War Story!

         PRELUDE TO THE GREAT WAR
The Nationalistic fervor aroused by Napoleon,
And the February Revolution of 1848 in France,
Inspired Europe’s inhabitants to preserve their
ethnic and racial identities, without leaving
things to chance!
The Italian and German unification, and the
Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian polarization,
Aroused the expectations of the Slavic people,
Who remained spread all over Central and
Eastern Europe!
The various ethnic groups forming the Slavic race,
Always dreamt of an independent Balkan State!

         CAUSES FOR ‘THE GREAT WAR’
Imperialism, Nationalism, Militarization, Alliances,
and finally the assassination of the Archduke
Ferdinand,
Are the five main causes for this war, which is
generally mentioned by our Historians!
However, I shall now try to acquaint you briefly,  
With some relevant events from our recorded
History.

BRITISH IMPERIALISM:
Towards the turn of the 20th century Britain was
the dominant global imperial power;
And since the mid-19th Century it was seen that
the sun never set over the British Empire!
The British had a vast mercantile and a naval fleet,
To trade with, and administer their far flung colonies.
At the turn of the 20th Century the British Navy was
changing over from steam to oil power like other
big nations;
So the oil fields of the Middle East was important
for British militarization.
Also passage through the Suez Canal was vital for
maintaining their colonial possessions!
These facts will get linked up in Part Two of my
later composition!

GERMAN NATIONALISM:
The nationalistic fervor aroused in Germany
since Chancellor Bismarck’s days,
Made the Germans try to outstrip the British
in many ways!
This fervor was reflected in Goethe’s poetry and
through Richard Wagner’s musical notes;
Between 1898 and 1912 five Naval Laws were
passed in the German Reichstag, by majority
votes,
For building battleships, cruisers, and 96 torpedo
boats;
Which later became a scourge for Allied and
British shipping, known as the U-Boats!
The German nationalism and militarization went
hand in hand during those days,
While her industrialization also progressed at a
rapid pace.
Kaiser Wilhelm II had sought “a place in the sun”
by trying to outstrip the British in the arms race!
Statistic show more number of German scientists
had received the Noble Prize for their inventions,
Between this period and World War- II, when
compared with the combined winners of other
Western nations!

AUSTRIA-HUNGARIAN MONARCHY:
In 1867 by a comprising agreement between
Vienna and Budapest the capital cities,
The Austro-Hungarian kingdom became a Dual
Monarchy!
Many ethnic groups had composed this Monarchy
in those early days as we see;
With Germans, Hungarians, Romanians, and Slavic
people like the Czechs, Poles, Croats, Slovaks,
Serbs, and the Slovenes!
While the Austrian Officers of this Monarchy spoke
German, the majority of the soldiers were Hungarians,
Czechs, Slovaks, who never spoke German!
So the soldiers were taught 68 single-words of
German commands,
For the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army to function
collectively as one!
While Francis Joseph their sovereign and emperor,
aspired to become a strong centralized European
power.
But out of the 50 million people of this Monarchy
around 23 million were Slavs,
Who always dreamed of an independent Slavic
Kingdom in the Balkans!

THE BALKANS & THE KINGDOM OF SERBIA
After the Iberian and the Italian peninsulas of
Europe, the BALKAN peninsular is seen to be
lying in Europe’s extreme south east, -
South of the Danube and Sava River, bounded
in the west by the Adriatic and Ionian Sea.
In the east is the Aegean and Black Sea,
With the Mediterranean Sea in the south, -
washing the tip formed by Greece with its many
islands around!
Now much of the Balkan areas were under the
Ottoman Empire since early 14th Century;
And here I cut across many centuries of past
European History!
Following a series of revolutions since 1804
against the Turks,
The Principality of Serbia was carved out in the
area of the Balkans!
A new constitution in 1869 defined it as an
independent State of Serbia;
Was internationally recognized at the Treaty
of Berlin in 1878, to later become the Kingdom
of Serbia!
This kingdom was located south adjoining the
Monarchy of Austro-Hungarians, much to their
annoyance those days,
Since the Kingdom of Serbia was looked upon
as a ‘beacon of liberty’ by the Southern Slavic
race!

THE BOSNIAN CRISIS (1908-1909)  
This dual provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina
in the Balkans,
Were formally under the control of the
Ottoman Sultan.
With permission of the Congress of Berlin in
1878, it was administered by Austria-Hungary;
Though the legal rights remained with Turkey!
But the Slavic population present there had
Nationalistic ambitions,
Aspired to join the Slavs in nearby Kingdom of
Serbia, to form a pan-Slavic nation!
The Slavic population in Austria-Hungary, also
entertained such dreams wistfully!
Now in 1908 a ‘Young Turk Movement’ based
at Macedonia,
Had planned to replace the absolute Turkish
rule in Bosnia!
And by modernizing the Constitution hoped
to rejuvenate the sick Ottoman Empire.
These developments set alarm bells ringing
in Austrian capital Vienna!
So on the 6th of October 1908 they quickly
annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina!
After having lost a war with Japan, and following
an internal Revolution of 1905 the Russians,
Prevented an escalation by staying out of the
Bosnian Crisis!
But the annexation of Bosnia had angered the
Serbs greatly,
So they started to train secret terrorist groups to
liberate Bosnia from Austria-Hungary!
These terrorist groups operated in small cells,
Under the leadership of Col. Dimitrijevic, also
known as the ‘Apis’ those days.
Now, a secret cell called the ‘Black Hand’ operated
in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo with Gavrilo
Princep as one of its members;
Who was trained and equipped in Serbia along
with other ‘Black Hand’ members.
The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy had remained
distressed about these subversive activities by
the Slavic race!
So in Jan 1909 they obtained the unconditional
support from Germany, in the event of a war
with Serbia even if Austria was the aggressor!
And also secretly hoped in a war to annex
Serbian territory!
For in the two Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913,
Serbia had greatly extended its territory to
become a powerful adversary!
Serbia had also obtained an assurance from
its protector Russia, should a war break out with
Austria!
Now, as tension mounted upsetting the delicate
balance of power in the Balkans gradually,
Archduke Franz Ferdinand with his wife Sophie,
planned to visit Sarajevo from Austria-Hungary!
It was a God sent moment for the secret
organization the ‘Black Hand’,
To plan the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand!

THE ASSASSINATION: SARAJEVO 28TH JUNE 1914
Now when I look back in time I pause to wonder,
How such an amateurish assassination plot could
have ever succeeded,
Without the cruel hands of destiny and fate!
The 28th of June was a bright summer’s St. Vitus
Day and a holiday in Serbia;
And also the 14th marriage anniversary of Franz
Fernandez and his wife Sophia!
Several assassins were positioned along the route,
Which was to be taken by the Archduke!
While the motorcade proceeded to the Town Hall
a bomb was thrown,
Which bounced off the rear of Archduke’s car,
Injuring few bystanders and a passenger in the
rear car!
The Archduke however refused to cancel his trip,
Saying that it was the act of some lunatic!
After completion of the Town Hall ceremony, the
Archduke wanted a change of plan deviating from
the laid down route;
By wanting to visit the patients in the hospital,
Injured by the bomb which had struck his cars
rear hood!
But the Czech driver was not briefed and took
a wrong turn by mistake;
Reversed trying to correct himself, stalled the car
stoppling next to Gavrilo Princep!
Presenting Princep with a stationary target, a
cruel work of destiny and fate!
Prince pulled out his pistol and fired two shots  
at a point blank range, killing both Ferdinand
and  wife Sophie;
When Ferdinand cried out ‘’Sophie, Sophie,
don’t die, live for the children’’, - words which
now remain enshrined in History!

TRIAL OF PRINCEP & THE CONSPIRATORS
The trial began in a military court on 12th of
October at Sarajevo,
With three judges and no jury, when Princep
pleaded 'Not Guilty'!
Killing of Duchess Sophie was an unplanned
accident,
Since he wanted to **** the Governor instead!
He claimed to be a Serbian nationalist working
for the unification of the Slavic race,
and detested the annexation of Bosnia by the
Austo-Hungarians!
Along with 15 other accused, Princep was found
guilty of high treason;
But being underage, was sentenced to 20 years
labour in prison.
But died three year's later from tuberculosis!

           CONCLUDING PART ONE
  ''Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
   There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
   But dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold."
      -Rupert Brook, part of the British Naval Expeditionary
       Force, buried in Skyros, Greece 1914.
Now, looking back over a hundred years in
hindsight I do realize,
That this assassination was not the immediate
cause or the spark which triggered this War,
But only an excuse and a pretext for the
Austro-Hungarians to carve up Serbia,
And distribute those territories between
Allies and friends of Austria;
Also enhance the prestige of their Empire!
Since the war had commenced almost two
months after the Archduke’s assassination,
Austria had lost the high moral ground for
vengeance with righteous indignation!
It was a cynical and a predetermined plan
of Austria in connivance with Germany,
To destroy Serbia and squash the hopes of
Slavic people for a pan-Slavic State, - as we
now get to see!
This war ended with the dissolution of four old
Empires of the Austro-Hungarians, Ottomans,
Tsarist Russians, and the Germans!
While new nations of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia,
Austria, and Hungary, got created from the
dissolved Empire of Austria-Hungary.
Russia gave up lands creating Finland, Estonia,
Latvia, and Lithuania.
The Ottomans gave up lands in SW Asia and the
Middle East, and in Europe retained only Turkey!
Thus this Great War had creating new nation states,
And gave Europe its new revamped face!
Composed by Raj Nandy of New Delhi,
Thanks for reading patiently!
   TO BE CONTINUED LATER AS PART TWO
**ALL COPY RIGHTS ARE WITH THE AUTHOR
Dear Readers, this is a product of three weeks of my research work, put across in simplified verse! Hope to compose Part Two at a later date, and tell you about trench warfare & the poems composed about this War! On the 28th of June 2015, 101 years of this First World War was completed! Kindly give Comments only after reading in your spare time, for this Great War  took place during our grandfather's time! Thanks! -Raj
RAJ NANDY Dec 2017
THE TRUE STORY OF JERUSALEM IN VERSE :
  FOLLOWING DONALD TRUMP'S RECOGNITION
Dear Readers, to usher in the spirit of Christmas, I wish to
share with you the true Story of Jerusalem in Verse. Based on
Biblical chronology, and several articles about its Early History.
Though the three of our World’s greatest religions have a common
lineage, yet religious bickering and hatred continues to exist in
our present age! Let this Season of Christmas bring peace with
goodwill and love. Let us all pray together for a peaceful World!
If you like this true story, kindly recommend it to all your poet
friends to read this slice of History. Thanks, from Raj Nandy.

   STORY OF JERUSALEM - GOD'S “PROMISED LAND”
                         IN VERSE: By Raj Nandy
                  
                       INTRODUCTION
After reading my ‘Arab Contribution to Science’ and the
downfall of Islam’s Golden Age,
A friend had requested me to write about The Crusades.
Now the Mongol contribution was far greater towards
Islamic Empire’s downfall,
For though the First Crusade besieged the Holy City of
Jerusalem making it fall,
The subsequent Crusades to the Seljuk Turks lost all!
But before writing about the Nine Crusades proper,
To acquaint my readers with the historic city of
Jerusalem becomes my present endeavor.
For Jerusalem is sacred to the Jews, Christian, and the
Muslims alike,
As their holy relics and shrines are housed in that Old
City’s revered sites!
But prior to narrating the story of Old Jerusalem City,
Let me tell you briefly about its early history.
About the patriarch Abraham, whom God led to this
‘Promised Land’.
From where this true story of Jerusalem really began.

                 HISTORICAL  BACKGROUND
The city of Jerusalem was twice razed to the ground.
Besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, captured and
recaptured 44 times, surprising as it all may sound!
In an era of idolatry and multiple gods, Abraham born*
in the ancient City of Ur,# believed in a single God!
(1800 BC)
So God was pleased and in a covenant with Patriarch
Abraham,
Blessed him to become the ‘Father of Many Nations’
in a distant ‘Promised Land’!
Thus Abraham with his wife Sarah and nephew Lot,
Entered the Land of Canaan as promised by God.
But when a famine ravaged the Land of Canaan,
Abraham had moved onto Egypt on his own!
Having suffered there for some ungodly acts, his
return to the Land of Canaan remains a historical fact.
Through Abraham and Sarah’s Egyptian maid Hagar, -
his son Ishmael was born.
From Ishmael descended the ‘Ishmaelites’, to
become the Twelve Arab Tribes later on!
Next, with the blessings of the Lord, to Abraham
and Sarah son Isaac was born.
Isaac’s son Jacob fathered the Twelve Jewish Tribes,
Who became collectively known as the ‘Israelites’.
From the ‘Tribe of Benjamin’ came King Saul, the
first King of united Israel rising tall.
From the ‘Tribe of Judah’ King David, Solomon, and
several Kings of Judah did rise;
As proud forefathers of the Messiah Jesus Christ!
Thus in Judaism both the Arabs and the Christians
find a common lineage;
Yet unfortunately bitter differences continue to
exist even in our present age!
NOTES: Canaan was the ancient name of a large & prosperous
country (at times independent, at others a territory to Egypt),
which roughly corresponds to present day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel. Canaan
was also known as ‘Phoenicia’ between 3200 BC & 539 BC. # Ur = an important
Sumerian city-state in ancient Mesopotamia.


           ORIGINS OF JERUSALEM
Jerusalem has been hailed by many names,
Gets mentioned as ‘Rushalium’ in an ancient
Egyptian text!  (2000 BC)
Also as Salem, Moriah, Jebus and Zion, this capital city
of the Israelites had been known.
Jerusalem as the remnant town of Salem, is also
mentioned in the ‘Book of Joshua’ Chapter Ten.
It was earlier a Jebusite City, which was conquered by  
King David around 1003 BC;
When David shifted his capital to Jerusalem from Hebron.
In Jerusalem he kept the Holy Ark in a sacred Tabernacle,
For which his son King Solomon had built the First Great
Temple.
This Sacred Ark contained the ‘Ten Commandments’,
Which accompanied the Israelites during their 40 years
of desert wandering with Moses, as their guidance!
But since majority of the tribes were hesitant to fight the
Canaanites for their ‘Promised Land’,
God blessed Joshua, the successor of Moses, to lead the
Tribes to their ‘Promised Land’.
NOTE: Jebusite was one of the ancient Canaanite tribes, conquered by
King David.

        TURBULENT HISTORY OF JERUSALEM
Now cutting across several centuries of its dynamic
history, let me continue with Jerusalem’s Story.
The death of King Solomon (931 BC) ended Israel’s
‘Golden Age’,
And this united Kingdom of Israel was split into
Northern and Southern states.
Ten Tribes formed the Northern Kingdom of Israel
with its capital at Samaria;
While Jerusalem became the capital of the Southern
half called Judea.
In unity lies strength, and in division further dissention;
This kingdom of King David and Solomon now becomes
prey to several foreign invasions!
Jerusalem gets attacked by the Egyptians, Assyrians,
Babylonians, Persians, and those imperial Romans, who
had initially built but later destroyed the Second
Jewish Temple!
The cruel King Herod, Judea’s Roman Protector,
Though of unstable mind, was a great builder!
‘The Wailing Wall’ and most of the ruins visible today,
Were built by the despot Herod as Archeologists say!
King Herod enlarged the Temple Mount with a massive
retaining wall around it.
Renovated the Second Temple which finally acquired  
his name!
But in 70 AD the Roman Emperor Titus, razed this
Second Temple to the ground, as Historians inform us!
Jerusalem had some peace under the Christian Byzantine
Emperor Constantine,
Who upheld Christianity, and his mother Helena inspired
the building of many hallowed shrines;
Only to be occupied by the Seljuk Turks later, who
desecrated those shrines!
Till the First Crusade in 1099 captured Jerusalem, to
provide eighty eight years of respite.
Next in 1187 the Seljuk Turk Saladin conquered Jerusalem;
When a peace treaty with Richard ‘The Lion Heart’ allowed
the visit of its ‘Holy Shrines’ by the Christians.
The British captured Jerusalem from the Ottoman Turks
in Nineteen hundred and seventeen;
And in 1948 the State of Israel was born, realizing
Abraham’s dream!
But surrounded by hostile enemies on all sides, Israel
had to fight continuously for its survival as a Nation;
And now I pause to pay my humble tribute to those
valiant Israelites with salutation!

           THE OLD CITY OF JERUSALEM
Nestled on the hollow of the hills of Judea this city
spreads out on a plateau 800 meters above the sea.
With its Dome shining in the sun, dominating  some five
thousand years of history!
The City stretches 0.9 square kilometers surrounded by
retaining walls between 16 to 46 feet in height.
Which includes more than 200 monuments and sacred
sites!
Until the 1860s the Old City had represented entire
Jerusalem collectively.
But later under the initiative of the British, settlements
outside its wall began confidently.
During 1946 when Israel declared its Independence,
The ‘old city’ remained under the control of the Jordanians;
Only to be liberated during the Six Day’s War in 1967!

           OLD CITY GATES AND QUARTERS
The walls around the Old City stretch for 4.5 kilometers,
With its height varying between five to sixteen meters.
It has 43 surveillance towers and eleven gates.
However, only seven gates remain open as on date.
The current wall was built in 1538 by Sultan Suleiman
the Magnificent.
On the southern side of this wall is the Zion Gate, leading
to the Armenian Quarters overlooking Mount Zion outside;
Where lies King David’s tomb, a Holy Site.
The Dung Gate leads to the Jewish Quarters from the south;
And the way to Al-Aksa Mosque inside the Temple Mount.
The Jaffa or the Main Gate is on the west, with its famous
Citadel and the ‘Tower of David’ built by King Herod.
This gate leads to the Christian Quarters inside, while the
road goes to the port of Jaffa outside.
A New Gate was also built further up on the north-western
side,    (in1898)
For entry of the German Emperor William the Second,
through the Christian side!
The Damascus Gate in the middle of the Northern Wall
was the largest and the most heavily defended Gate.
Where excavations have revealed an old ‘Roman Gate’
beneath it.
Through this Gate had entered the Holy Crusade!
Further east on the northern wall is the ‘Herod’s Gate’,
Leading to the Muslim Quarters and the ‘Souk’, – the
Arab markets.
On the East is the Lions Gate, with carved figure of
lions on the gate’s crest;
Both for the Christian and the Jews this gate has a
special significance!
For this gate marks the walk ‘Via Dolorosa’, the path
taken by Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane to
his Crucifixion Site,
Where stands the Church of Holy Sepulcher built by
the Emperor Constantine.
In 1967 the Israeli 55th Para Brigade entered through this
‘Lions Gate’, after a hand-to-hand fight with the Jordanians.
When they hoisted the Star of David on the Temple Mount  
to reclaim Jerusalem!
Jerusalem was declared as their Capital City,
Concluding a chapter of its turbulent History!

Since the time of the Crusades Jerusalem has remained
traditionally divided into Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and
Armenian sections;
Each with its sacred Synagogues, Churches, and Mosques,
defying the City’s unification!
Yet amidst the gong of church bells, the call of Muezzin,
and recitation of the Torah,
Old Jerusalem reverberates with a unique religious
euphoria!

           SACRED MONUMENTS AND SITES
‘The Wailing Wall’ is the more popular name for that part
of Western Wall built by King Herod during 19 BC,
Around the Second Jewish Temple which he renovated,
for the world to see!
Today only 167 feet of this exposed ‘Wall’ remains,
which is 62 feet high.
As a solitary witness to that once glorious past, which
evokes a deep sighs!
It is the holiest of Jewish shrines today where they
congregate.
To pray in front of this Sacred Wall and to loudly lament,
The loss of their Great Temple which was once made!
Inside the cracks in the wall many folded papers can be
seen;
Coating their petitions to God with prayers from within!

The Temple Mount is perhaps the oldest of all shrines.
Sacred to both the Christians and the Muslims alike!
For here on a rock alter Abraham had bound his son
Isaac,
Ready to sacrifice him when the Lord put him to a test!
Here King Solomon had built the First Jewish Temple;
Which during 587 BC, was destroyed by the King of
Babylon!
The King also took the Jews into captivity lasting nearly
seventy long years;
And Psalm 137 tells us how the Jews remembering Zion
on the banks of River of Babylon, - shed their tears!
That old song by ‘Bonny M’, now rings in my ears!
This was also the site of the Second Temple destroyed
by the Romans.
Who renamed Jerusalem as ‘Aelia Capitolina’, making
the City pagan!
Al-Aqsa Mosque or ‘The Farthest Mosque’, located on the
Mount, was completed around 705 AD they say.
Has been claimed by the Muslims as the site where their
Prophet traveled ‘during the night’ from Mecca to pray;
And from where angle Gabriel accompanied him to
Heaven or ‘Jannat,’ - all the way!
So they constructed the ‘Dome of The Rock’ to mark
this ascension;
Which around 691 AD saw its completion.
The Golden Gate on the east leading to the Temple Mount,
Was sealed by the Muslims during Sixth Century following
their fears and doubts.
For the Jew’s claim their Messiah will enter through this
Golden Gate one day.
Which unnerved the Muslims whatever one may say.
So outside this sealed gate they also built a cemetery;
Let future events gradually unfold in Jerusalem’s Story!

                       CONCLUSION
Now dear readers I conclude this narration, with some
food for thought and contemplation.
‘Jerusalem’ is mentioned in the Jewish Bible 669 times,
and 154 times as ‘Zion’. (‘Land of Israel’)
In the Christian Bible it is mentioned 161 times; but not
once in the Hindu ‘Gita’, the Buddhist Scriptures, or in
the Muslim Koran;
Not forgetting the fact that God is Supreme and One!
The Koran speaks only of “The Furthest Mosque” where  
the Prophet went to pray,
From Mecca we know Holy Medina comes on the way.*
(please see notes below)
The Holy Bible is also a record of Early Civilizations ,
Supported by Archaeological finds, carbon dating, and
countless excavations.
The Jewish claim to the ‘Land of Canaan’ is more than
3000 years old;
And Israel today occupies 75% of that historic piece of
land we know and have been told!
The Old City in 1981 has been declared as UNESCO’s
Heritage Site.
Let the ‘Spirit of Humanity’ overtake all religious divide!
It is true that History has evolved from the Myths and
Legends of the past.
But it is for us to separate the wheat from the chaff.
I have done adequate research of this Ancient History.
Now I leave it to You my Readers for drawing your own conclusions after reading this true Story!
Thank you readers for reading patiently,
From Raj Nandy of New Delhi .
ALL COPY RIGHTS ARE WITH THE AUTHOR ONLY
*** Dear Readers, I have pointed out in the concluding portion that as per all available evidence, claim of the Holy Kaaba on the Temple Mount by the Muslims is not supported by the true History of Jerusalem!
Thinking
Thinking
My head can't stop thinking
My scars are healing
I'm no longer bleeding
Beating
Beating
My hearts quickly beating
My heart is beating
And I can't stop thinking
You
You
You're the thoughts on my mind
You're the beating in my heart
Without you I'm blind
Wait
Wait
Slow down
Take a breath
Stop thinking so much
Make this moment last
This moment right here
My heart--it warms
Lying down
You safe in my arms
A protected protector
Saved from my mind's hell
I'll do anything to protect you
As you protect me from myself.
Not any character of the jungle,
At the time power was kept by the single
Lion kind, risked jumping into the lions’ jaws,
Against their rapacity raising paws:
The hares and hyenas they could strangle
And devour; in their minds best were their laws
Providing rights of the mighty
As common and full sovereignty.

The era was worsened by men-hunting,
Whose guns were used the wildlife menacing.
The weak of the forest saw that succumbed
The lions, who were the first shot at, welcomed
The hunters and their faces showed, smiling.
They were deceived when the first seen were harmed
Like the lions by the same haughty
Men set against their sovereignty.

Some lions who survived called the animals
For a meeting, and the men-criminals
Were the main topic of their discussion.
The lions warned, “Will wipe us away those men
If can’t stand together as animals,
Fight them and save lion, hypo, hare and wren…”
Mocked and heckled the assembly
That ne’er had enjoyed sovereignty.

Each one’s motion was that there was no need
Of obeying on the lions, who to feed
Their cubs with their flesh used to take pleasure.
They thought their forest had become seizure
Of the men for lack of unity; freed
It’d be with or ‘thout a lion as major:
They’d trust who would bring unity
And help them enjoy sovereignty.

There came a time and there came protectors
Of the animals to stop the hunters
From destroying on the environment.
They showed in killing there’s no contentment.
So the hunters ceased to be predators,
And the fauna had no more sentiment
Of hating the humanity
That brought them peace and sovereignty.

Some of them were kept in zoo
And the kingship of the lions they did boo.
Cows, rabbits, goats - were domesticated,
And more than ever they were protected.
Such treatment them gave of humans new view:
The protectors or authors of the deed
Looked like who’d brought brutality,
But in their hearts reigned sovereignty.

Later on the lions found that in the strong
Claws dwelt no good power, but can be for long
Which is applied to all comfort giving,
That a king marching in front of trembling
Souls, as if to hell angels would belong,
One day will see his strength brought to nothing,
But where freedom ain’t scarcity
Kings and subjects share sovereignty.

What the beasts failed to know was the keepers
Of the zoo were children of the poachers,
Who’d found unfair deed what their fathers did,
To take good care of them had decided
And did not want to be called game-seekers’
Generation. In the action could read
Great kindness and humanity
The beasts savoring sovereignty.

A former foe may become a good friend,
Who breaks off with the past and turns his hand
Into protector, support provider –
Like Human Rights Activists. No wonder
Where they are from, people’s torn hearts they mend.
A protector has ne’er been intruder
As long as for tranquility
He works and preserves sovereignty.

A sovereign nation is not like a house
With its closed doors, and inside, like a mouse,
A wife is beaten and loses her life
Without neighbours’ intervention as if
Not hearkening the victim, and the louse
Of man not stopping is to save the life.
Is a land where people’s safety
Is denied full of sovereignty?

If at The Hague someone is indicted,
It means not people he has protected,
Nor that he has well governed Liberia,
But ‘cause people’s hearts he has filled with fear
And a lot of trouble he’s invited.
After shedding blood there and here,
The lions who’ve made their claws *****
Should be there washed for sovereignty.

Wherever the lions rage it’s no matter:
Matters the will to keep the world better.
Some Devil’s advocates would call nations
Not in Syria to find indications
Of crimes as if is found a wife-beater
At Holy Land or brothels it opens.
In a place where reigns sanctity
Won’t dwell breakers of sovereignty.


A rot of conception of sovereignty
Reeks when gangrene holds sway o’er a country,
In which Democracy swings at cannons;
Debates are feared that aim ruling with brains;
Wear noose as necklace who would change carry,
And the song “Independence” is hangmen’s.
Where lions and lambs live with loyalty,
There is unshaken sovereignty.
This poem aims to think of what sovereignty is and especially of its true concept.
http://www.amazon.com/author/bonim007
John S Petralito Dec 2014
Lighthouse, He Is.

To be the light for which a ship seeks
To be the beam that travels the seas
To be the star from a distant shore
To be a sign of hazardous boundaries
To be the guidance for safe passage
I am your Guiding Light
I am your Protector
I am your Safe Haven
I am your Lighthouse
I am He above all
I am your Lord

By: J.S. Petralito
March 25, 2012
God Bless
Raziel Jan 2018
Follower of none, protector of one,
A door once open, oh what happened?
Chains once firm, when will I learn?
What once was dawn, has now become dusk,
Now I am cold, and I was once told,
“follow or fall, crawl down this hall,
Bow and grovel, conform to your mold,
You are a sin, let go of your hopeless hold,
No one can help, not even your kin,
So trust me when I say don't trust,
Follow me when I say don't follow,
A cell is just another word for home,
This bed is where you wallow,
I hear the dirt of a grave,
Is just a blanket so plain,
Deeper you fall,
Down this hall,
Chains once firm,
Door once open,
Follower of one, protector of none.
Breanna Smith Feb 2013
"Don't bother going to school, your not smart enough."
"No one will ever love you, your not thin."
"You will not get respect, your not worthy."
"Your to young to know anything."
"All you need to do is live your life the way we tell you to."

Every word out of their mouths
Is meant to crush
My mind
My soul
To enslave
Me

They hide
Behind their religion
Judging everyone
Especially their own kin
Using prayer as a threat  
God as a weapon
For their own ****** up agendas  
Why can't I tell them
I think they are full of ****
Tell them where they can shove
All the ******* coming from their lips
They don't care about me
They use their supposed love
As a method for
Control

Finally
I have found my own weapon
Against their brand of evil
I went to school,
Worked hard,
Worked even harder
for good grades,
Graduated High School
College graduate
Found a great man
I am going to live the rest of my life with
I have NOT given up God but
  I will not fear him
For he is
My best friend
My protector

As for my greatest weapon
It is my
Brain
Emma Chatonoir Feb 2015
From day one
You promised to protect me
From the demon that followed me
It was for the best

You fell in love with me
Despite my long backstory
A tale of romance and betrayal
Ending when I met you

You have been my comfort
When the nightmares came
Letting me hold onto you
As tight as I can

You've been my teddy bear
My keeper
The love of my life
My protector

One time I thought
Someone loved me more than you
You've taught me me true love
Leaves no bruises.
xoK Mar 2014
Tiny wrists.
Tiny rivers of blue.
Translucent.
I'm thinking about making myself a home
Beneath your pale skin.
I'd float along your lazy blue river
Until I make my way to your ghost chest
And burrow myself a tunnel
Deep inside your heart.
Light myself a campfire,
And pitch a tent.
Looks like I'm gonna be here for a while.
I am rocked to sleep with each beat:
Onetwo. Onetwo. Onetwo.
And my heart-house dreams
Intermingle with yours.
Maybe if we dream hard enough,
We can create a world of our own.
Where red blood cells sing like angels
Housed in four chapel-chambers,
And each artery stretches up far
Like a rainforest canopy
Riddled with exotic capillary-flowers.
Can we be safe here?
The heart has tender walls
But it is a soldier.
Though it may be kicked down,
It forges on
And picks itself right back up again.
Always beating,
Always winning.
Your heart is a soldier.
A fighter.
A protector.
I think I feel safe,
For the first time in a long time,
Within the home I've made for myself
Inside of who you are.
LDR life.
Rowan Deysel Mar 2016
Fresh from the kennels. A whole world away.  
Companion conversion for a young castaway.  
A darling of distraction with irrational fears.
The clumsiest canine with ever aware ears.
Guardian of gourmet. Suspect of all sounds.
He'll catch himself someday, spinning around.
A tug of war here. A muddy mess there.
A lick to the face of the humans in his care.
How thrilled his tail and tremendous his teeth.
How dug up the planet from paw underneath.
The running for fun. The claiming of trees.
The car window ride along - face full of breeze.

--------------------------------------------------------

But now he's a master of "Stay!".
His eagle ears succumbing to gravity's sway.
Napping much more, barking much less.
Now rarer the cuddle, the clean, the caress.
Patch protector. Owner of no debts.
A veteran of various villainous vets.
Birds as trivial as the tennis ball is far.
Eyes now as hazy as the indistinguishable stars.
A howl at the moon. A loosening tooth.
An ode to memories of a modest youth.
They still love this pup. He still loves them back.
May he long be remembered as he faces the black.
Akemi Oct 2013
Chapter 1

There was a woman. The cost to love her was your life. No other payment but a sending off, a revolver cocked to your temple’s side.
There was no spite in your death, just business.
Hell of a business to run.

I was protecting someone. Never been one to stick around, but this drag had carried for the past year. That gang-owned joint lay but two doors and a cold alley away. Popular place, maybe not the classiest but it had its patrons. Packed with your essentials: pool tables, dirt-licked walls and chairs, mean folk mixed in with the nice. Old fashioned joint with a history. You could almost feel it when you walked in. That small pressure when it’s about to rain? Felt like that had been building up for a decade there.
Some Madonna owned it. Names elude me, but she was just another front; as was the barkeep, the hired bouncers and those mean-eyed slingers that spoke loud in company, silent alone. Heh, almost like an old-fashioned saloon. Who the hell am I in this tale of cowboys and crooks?
I was holed up in that apartment block for the winter. Stiff drapes covering a stiff cold that seeped through the cracks anyway. Cold chills to wake to, and the whiskey don’t warm a **** thing. Maybe it was the ache of a past flame that led me to her. That old touch had languished and misted away in the night of some long dead memory, leaving an old kiss from a young lover on my shivering body. It grew faint with every year’s passing. I struggle to remember this keepsake.
Every night.
I was a no name protector protecting a no name ghost of a man. Yeah we knew each other. I’m no stranger to keep past talking terms . . . but, hell if I remember his name, how we got into this **** situation and why. Mind’s a little off. Been like that for years.

It was a stumble through the wrong door at the wrong time. Some spiteful voices in the back of the joint or the back of my mind telling me I’m headed for hell and ain’t coming back. See, every day is a crossroad, and I happened upon the worst one yet.
I remember that flaking paint; grime-covered white on a moulding door **** near off its hinges. That suited me, and I hated it. Maybe I grew sick of wandering the same way and turned my life on its spinning head. Spun me all the ways I couldn’t face. Saw a glimmer that fate had readied for me. Don’t think I’ve looked at anything with such eyes since; nor have they looked back at me.
The room was a cramped, dilapidated hellhole like every other room, but with her laying on that bed of hers . . . she was the only clean thing in the whole of this cursed city. Save, she wasn’t clean. No such thing exists; no such thing as clean since your adolescent innocence, and even that went up in flames. Hell, in a city like this I wouldn’t be surprised if the skeletons we kept so tightly locked in our closets outnumbered us ten to one.
Should have remembered that when I saw her, but my mind lay a blank canvas and I couldn’t help but fill it with all the details of this pretty bird. Even those that weren’t there.
No Name yanked me out quick. Never seen him so pale, ghosting further and further from a human being. He’d been running so long I don’t think he even knew what he was running from anymore. His past? Some cop chase from years back, ending with blood stains and shaky hands? A dead kid in the arms of a suicidal wife? Maybe he’s running from himself. Fear in the capacity we contain, and fear in the ways we unleash it around loved ones. I don’t blame him for running. If I was a worse man I’d run from him as well.
Now No Name has it all figured out, even if he won’t let on; and that bird in there ain’t part of the plan. Cash cash, first train out to some no name city for this no name man. In this together, he keeps repeating, like some broke down record player that only plays one song. Well I guess we share more similarities than I’d like to think so.

One night, about a month after settling in that old apartment, I hear raised voices. Not uncommon, but something about this still night woke some fear inside me. A fear I needed to meet with my eyes, a score to settle with myself. Sounded like some ******* outside was hoping to bring down the sky with volume alone. No type of gentleman, just a no ***** kid who doesn’t know the difference between command and screaming like a babe.
One gets you respect. Now, the other. . . .
I open those stiff drapes with stiffer fingers. Brush that layer of frozen breath and mist to find some mid-twenty good for nothing punk holding a struggling figure. The apartment ain’t exactly ground floor but even up here I can spot the difference between a gent and a sally. Some broad was in trouble.
Grab that six shooter, old man. The holster smooth from years of wear, small frays on the weathered jacket rubbing against goose-pricked skin. Comfort clothing that never really brings comfort. Not anymore. Guess I’m as bad as No Name. I’m just repeating routine.
Out the hall, no doors left in this apartment block. Stolen, broken, ain’t exactly your family fun lifestyle we’re living. No Name’s holed up in this fortress of upturned furniture and dresser-barred doorways. Lights flicker from between the cracks. The devil ain’t gonna bother with the door, I tell him. He doesn’t reply. Maybe he’s a religious man with one too many sins above his head.
There’s another yell and I feel my blood rise, hairs picking up static, a storm brewing inside that clenched stomach of mine. Take a tumble down the stairs in my haste. **** crooked balsa wood. Those stairs are gonna end me one day, I swear.
Ground floor. I slam that kitchen door and it cracks against the brick wall outside. ****. No Name’s gonna burst an artery. Call out for that ******* punk but he’s already eyeing me up. Only a few steps away and I can see the white in his eyes. No . . . those are his pupils. Wide, all cloud-like, he’s ******* dusted up. . . . Almost like looking into the past. Thrice-cursed ****. I’m in trouble.
This ain’t some lover’s quarrel, some twisted ****’s thought of a good way to end the night. This is a dusthead addict and I’m out of my league. His mid-snarl distorts and stretches past his cheeks and that devil grin sends an electric jolt from the wires of my brain to my heart.
This six shooter is as good as a pea gun against a Smiley.
He’s spouting some glossolalia drifts, layering it like an abominable duet. The coked-up boy in me yearns to understand again, but stiff joints and washed-out dreams have made me a cynic. Ain’t no beauty when you’re tearing things apart to see it. ******* Smiley’s on the edge and he’s ready to pounce right off. If that broad’s sobbing didn’t **** at those heart strings of mine I’d be running for my ******* life.
I lift that pea shooter and aim it straight at that devil smile.
He howls. Glass shatters from above. Some black monstrous thing comes speeding at me. I leap through that apartment doorway in time to see ******* Smiley consumed by it. All sharp, all solid that beast slams into Smiley, screaming loud enough to wake this dead city twice over. Smiley thrashes, he splays out to the ground, the beast’s seared flesh erupting in front of me. A piece slices past my cheek and I’m on the ground in tears. I hear No Name scream an incomprehensible curse above. I’m bawling now. Through my tears I spot that chunk of flesh. ******* balsa wood. Thrice-cursed balsa wood.
No Name had thrown a piano out that barricaded window of his. Tears of pure comedy, that’s what left my face. A Smiley taken out by No Name, I’ll never live this down. His mangled body lies under polished wood. Someone’s yearly worth gone in a second of frantic panic, reduced to twisted wires and cracked ivory. To see something so beautiful destroyed in seconds makes me wonder if the Smiley had gotten the better of us after all.
That broad’s in shock. Splinters covered every inch of ground save that around her; looked like a comet, trailing emptiness behind.  Should have noticed it then that something wasn’t right with that scene. Perfectly unscathed beauty sitting there with not a single scratch nor splinter on her, but I was too **** amazed I was alive. Knelt close to her and caught a whiff of some exotic scent on her skin. Some flower. Saw her face and it added another colour to that filling canvas of mine. This pretty bird from the joint. The one men died for. At least No Name had saved one life worth saving, funny it happened to be the one who could take yours in a night.
Names elude me, but the way I remember her . . . the way I remember her is Blossom, for when she came into my life she gave colours to my black and white memory, colours I didn’t know existed, and my black and white morals took a turn down some dawning grey-blurred alley.
So I’m a ******* gentleman and I walk Blossom home while No Name shifts furniture above us. Scrapes of hard wood against wood, filling that void in his once impenetrable bastion. I told you No Name’s got it all planned out already. Guess I’m just here for the ride.
Welcome to the paranormal neo-noir gangster world of Devil Smiles.
MaFer Velarde Aug 2013
I am not quite sure how an angel looks like
Not quite sure if their beauty is as inspiring as yours
Or if their soul can light up my sky as you do

But angels are kind of heavenly
And those are hard to reach
So unfair to you to be compared with this
But you are so perfect, so close to heavenly
That you could easily be part of this

May I be part of your world?
Could you shield me with your wings?
My little angel, my own protector
My only stairway to heaven
jeffrey conyers Mar 2014
Love, let me be the one to share you.
When others find various ways to blame you.
For their sadness.
For their headache.
For their heartbreak.
For their mistakes.

Love, let me be the one to protect you.
Lift up your importance for others to see.
To know.
To care.
To love and to have.

Blame, does not lie with you.
When people treat themselves as a fool.
When others uses you to be attracted to others.

Love, let me be your protector.
Melissa Hardie Aug 2013
Taurus, bull goddess, strong and proud.
Sometimes lazy, quite often loud.
Mother, protector, stubborn as hell.
Obstinate, difficult, but meaning well.
She sharpens her horns on whoever comes near
And more than her horns, it’s her mouth you should fear.
Creature of earth, Taurus woman is strong.
Won’t let you forget that she’s never wrong.
She’ll love you forever, loyal ‘till death.
She’ll defend you fiercely, give her last breath.
If you love one be thankful, she’ll not let you fall.
She’s Taurus, proud mother, and she’s standing tall.
I'm a Taurus. Thought it would be fun to write about my zodiac sign.
Lady Narnia Jul 2016
Keep me in your arms
Cherish me, like you always do
Twirl my curls and stroke my hair
Kiss me on the fore head sweetly
I always want to be here

My cheek on your chest
Hearing the sound of your love
Thumping a beautiful tune to my ear
The beats gently reminds me
Just how much you truly care

Serenity surrounds me and I drift away
Escaping the world and falling into us
I see you in this little dream
Meeting my eyes, inspecting my soul
You're lost in me as I am lost in you

The air filled with a careful chill
I'm untouched for I am of fire
A flame kindled by your fiery heart
Of which burns of love, deep for me
Clad in armor, you kneel at my side

Oh dear and humble knight
I'm honored to be your lady
Like the wardrobe meets Narnia
We're dreams that cross paths
To a whole new world unlike any other

A place of splendor and awe
Radiating with gentle magic
That is what we are, my dear protector
Stay by my side a humble knight
And I will be your faithful lady

~Lady Narnia
AB Jul 2014
On this night
The king-god Zeus does battle
With the titans of old.
The sky is livened
By his hurled bolts of lightening.
Their targets simply
Unseen to the mortal eye.

The calm is shattered
By the clash of thunderbolt
On stone and molten rock.
Our protector, he remains.
Though many have forgotten him
To myth, legend, and lore
We have forgotten the safety
That his lightning strikes provide.

On sunny days
Cloudless nights
We are allowed to forget his ways.
But on this night
In these dark and stormy hours,
The true believers remember.
That Zeus has watched over us
For millennia. Battling an unseen
War, waged in the tales of old
But carried out before our eyes.

We must recall that he,
The one King-God, Zeus, has
Watched over us dutifully since time
Before time before memory.
He has kept us safe
From the titans of old.
And the lightening strikes
Remind us of stories untold

— The End —