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Before there was anything that mattered everything that would ever be existed , it was the essence of totality , it was without dimensional constriction or necessitated form .  Optimistically speaking time had no relative realism to it’s progression because realistically nothing had happened yet .  As it continued it became according to it’s innate inflections as a functionally integrable form .  The questionably understandable nature of it’s conjunction was an omnipotent directive beyond necessitated action or morphological construction .  The enigmatic consciousness of it’s relatively interrelated conception was spontaneous and yet it continued without elemental omniscience.  

As the relative complexity of it’s interrelations evolved dimensional consistence was born.  Humanly understandable laws of physical integration governed many facets of it’s conjunction yet the totality of it’s ramification was beyond humanly realistic conjecture .  

The organic morphology of biological ontogeny was a conceptually reflective derivative of functional physical mechanics yet it’s diversity exceeded it’s physical complexity , understanding evolved .  Relatively extraneous interpolations of adhesively practical extremity succeeded in a hierarchy of functionally integrable forms .

Retrospectively speaking pragmatic practicality is a humanly rational possibility .  Rational logic can conceive of individually totalitarian structural forms , yet the implosive nature of their rational cohesiveness becomes a practical partiality due to the diversity of their definitive impetus .

Perhaps the essence of our being is the logical counterpart for the matrix of our subjectively conclusive social fragmentation , or perhaps we are evolutionally incapable of cumulatively rational correlation.  Problematic diversity could be perfectible on an individually infinite level or contrarily perhaps ubiquitous causality is the ultimate survivor.  

In any case it is beyond our subjugatively rational cohesive coercion to intercede en masse on our own behalf as an integrated unit. Our conceptual abilities have been thwarted by the unmitigatably individual nature of our extraneous conclusiveness .
Re-post
Ken Pepiton Mar 2018
Anom o ly

Non-named, never imagined much less realized

The left hand can't know what the right is doing,
it's a brain matter, grey area, may be a way to
imagine your unique. task, yours, not doable from here

We can do things as us that we never imagine alone.

Is there a need to negate, wait, think,
must one do any act?
Now, I see, emulating Socrates is thought easier than
emulating Jesus. Christ, you know that ain't easy, eh?

Death is the friend of being. Things change from time to time
but, you know knowledge grows in two directions,
the dark part is not evil.
evil is as evil does. The roots that ever live in the earth,
those roots are required, requirements.

Left brain uses the right hand. Don't tell the left-hand
that nearly all it's skill in serving
and being used right,
is used up by the other side.
Right or wrong, is not a chiral question,  nor is good or bad. ******* Phillips's head screws with a butter knife is wrong.
It can be done right, but not if you turn it the wrong way.
Drawing on the right side of my brain has always symbolized a crossroads experience, in my mind.
I mean I draw, realistically, with my right hand, left brain.
Maybe, brains are no easier to analyze than time in an immaterial medium of messaging.

I am certain life wins.
Meaning everything you think life means.
Do you think evil is required as an activity for life to actively be?
I doubt that.
Death fixes everything. Fret not. Wait.

First make room, what was the Bronte word? Penetrium, no, cut n paste
[A]t once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously - I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason - Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge.

From <https://www.etymonline.com/columns/post/cloud-of-uknowing>

Happiness demands an agreement
Joy is in process, I agree, I am happy, haps happen and I notice

Note: Bronte was one to tweak fine puns with the word Penetralia: 1. The innermost parts of a building, especially the sanctuary of a temple. 2. The most private or secret parts; recesses: the penetralia of the soul. See Chapter one, Wuthering Heights.
----- From
bronteblog.blogspot.com/2006/03/emilys-penetralium_03.html
I checked 13 months later:Before passing the threshold, I paused to admire a quantity of grotesque carving lavished over the front, and especially about the principal door; above which, among a wilderness of crumbling griffins and shameless little boys, I detected the date ‘1500,’ and the name ‘Hareton Earnshaw.’  I would have made a few comments, and requested a short history of the place from the surly owner; but his attitude at the door appeared to demand my speedy entrance, or complete departure, and I had no desire to aggravate his impatience previous to inspecting the penetralium.
I Don't Care Sep 2013
I want to believe that you went home,
And thought about me.
And us,
And all of the places we go could,
Songs we could listen to,
And long late night drives that wouldn't be so lonely.

But realistically,
You probably banged some other ******* your couch,
Not even remembering my name,
While I dreamt beautiful things about you.
My life is a brilliant and vivid mosaic of failures. If depicted horizontally, it would span countless walls, each with its own tapestry. Intertwined in each image would be a visage of myself in yet another battle of me, metaphorically David, and the vastness of the woven problem, here named Goliath. The only difference however, I don't succeed. My slingshot, as it were, isn't good enough.
     "Almost" is a callous and cold word, however it is the most veril word I know. It shouldn't just be something on my body like a tattoo, but rather etched painstakingly into my hardest bones. Always. Always "Almost" is not a fulfilling way to live.
     My Father once said something along the lines of "The only way I wouldn't be proud of you or that I would be disappointed in you is if you did something or made choices that lead to your unhappiness." With that, I feel as though he couldn't have been proud of me in quite some time, and further, there is no evidence that it will change. I am unhappy all of the time. I am disappointed in myself.
     I am afraid, fearful, of the hatred inside myself at times. I try and use it to my advantage, to prove my "worth", to try and do better at the current task (whatever it may be at the time). But as it usually happens, I get so angry, even vengeful, with no explanation. I sit and think about it, come to nothing, and am scared of what I am becoming.
     I am breathing, organic garbage that, because of sentience, assumes too much of, and from, my existence. I am a ******* paradox. I am realistic but full of wishes, longing for what I know does not exist; I am pessimistic, yet full of hopes, or false hopes rather, that I know fullheartedly are hubris and lost time. Whenever I need logic, emotion takes control. Whenever I look for my heart, my mind conceals its help.
     I believe in absolutely nothing but who I think I am, but I doubt myself to my bitter, black core.
I have achieved nothing with what I have been given (everything) and therefore deserve nothing that I have.
     I Am A Fake. I Am A Lie. I pretend to understand, to know, to help, to listen, but I have no idea what the **** I'm doing, who the **** I am, or why the **** I'm even here as undeserving as I am. With that, what right have I at all to "help" anyone else when I, myself, have no idea where my words will lead them? That itself makes me worse than half of the people that have killed others because at least they know who they are and what they were doing.
     I find it hard to believe that I, personally, was crafted in the image of God because I can't imagine that I resemble (in spirit, mind or matter) anything like the Perfect Being that I love and pray to. I am handcrafted debris, trash, attempting (out of place) to be something more.
     I was once told by someone I truly loved, "How can you love someone if you don't love yourself?" It's pretty easy. You first look at them, think of all the things they do and all the things they represent that lead to them making you happy, and you fall in love with that. it isn't a choice, you just do. I do nothing that makes me happy successfully, in the end, I try and fail consistently whereas someone I love is victorious repeatedly just by being them self. Why wouldn't you love someone for making you happy, yet love yourself in spite of your inability to do so?
     I don't believe anything I've ever encountered or experienced in my, as of yet, short life has prepared me for the utmost feeling of loneliness that creeps like the most dark and shadowy oppression. No cigarette is long enough, no vat of bourbon deep enough to escape that thought. Even in upbeat company that fact lingers, and of it, I am afraid.
     Why must I settle and "stay the course"? Why hold onto a sinking ship? I don't mean in terms of living versus dying, I mean in terms of living in insufferable struggle versus changing the reality. Why is this made to seem so impossible?
     Why am I in constant debt before even being old enough, experienced enough, or brave enough to even make decisions with that debt as a possible outcome?
     Since I was old enough to formulate my own opinions of the world I live in, it's been the epitome and meter of one resounding conclusion: "I will try my best and fail, suffer, but in doing this, I will have no choice but to think one day it will get better, and I can hope in my time of struggle that when that day comes, I Might Be Able To Be Happy.
     I'm in love with someone who is half a country away. She even knows, She might even feel the same, but it is for naught. I justify this by telling myself every "writer" needs a Muse.
     I lack the natural talent required to achieve my dreams in this current world. I was born with a gift I should have kept the receipt with; something I could have traded for something more realistically useful.
     Those closest to me have no idea who I am. They are the only thing that glues my sanity, and I'm fearful if they fully knew what I am, they'd leave.
     I've condensed some of these thoughts and feelings into spoken words to those I trust the most, hoping and praying they might say this is normal, that everyone goes through this, that we are all fighting the good fight. Their deaf ears betray their silent mouths.
     The rhythm in music, the voices in plays, the words to poems, the flow of my pencil, are all I have to escape this solitary confinement. But upon realizing the only things I have to help me feel "normal" are inanimate and incapable of understanding, it only further drives me into the chasm.
     I have become everything I hate. A petulant, assuming, and undeserving child ******* about his life when it's not even fully begun, and worse, has been given everything along the way and pitifully has done nothing with ******* any of it.
     I look at my Father and my Mother, and mouth agape, am stunned at their character, their perseverance. Compared to the two people who made me, I am grovelling ****, with absolutely nothing to complain about.
     I have never made a serious decision in my life unless I fully knew the only outcome before the decision was made. This makes me a coward. Logically it might make sense, but this is real life, you shouldn't do that, and **** logic.
     I always have an excuse, I'm not a real man, I'm afraid to take a fall because it's just another piece of the prosecution's evidence pointing to the guilt I possess in relation to my long record of failures.
     I'm cast outside "normalcy" because I don't believe in society. I'm not afraid to die, death actually intrigues me, a lingering curiosity. I adore the macabre because I believe there is truth of humanity in the darkness that everyone ignores exists. We profit and capitalize on procedures that **** thousands, but because it's not us they target, and usually not until the long run, we pay no mind. I believe that more than half of our so called "society", myself included, are no better in most senses than Dahmer or Panzram. At least they were honest about the monsters they were.
     I'm obsessed with thing that don't matter; theories that wouldn't make a difference in the world if proven true, questing for a Love that I rightly don't deserve and that likely doesn't exist, searching for acceptance of anyone but at the same time and equally, in paradox, caring about none of it, especially myself.
     Most nights instead of praying to God as I intend to do, I find myself wondering if I deserve His forgiveness. I know, on some level or another, if the Holy Father, Himself, came to me at any time during those sleepless nights, I would not have an even close to decent answer arguing for His forgiveness, but rather, a full of tears and chopped up, pathetic plea for it anyway.
     I dream of someone to love romantically just for the sake of being able to love someone for exactly who they are and because doing so makes me happy. It has been so long passed of this being even close to a chance of reality, that the thought of ***, or even intimacy, without that love does not even interest me anymore.
     I'm twenty years old and every job I work wants one-hundred percent of my soul and time. Is this normal? Am I not allowed to be a responsible but stupid kid for a while before I have to settle with the reality of a mundane and mind/body numbing job that takes so much of your day that at night you can only imagine the freedom of sleep rather than having a spare few precious seconds for thinking that dying has the upside of never having to show up to that ******* place again? I have no problem with working at all, in fact, I appreciate anything that has a general task and goal that is monotonous enough to keep my mind focused just enough that anything I've written here, the things that upset me, don't leak in and ruin the day, but realistically, how can I give my soul to cutting lawn? To stocking a ******* shelf? I am part of the worst generation on Earth so far, I have potential to be better than ninety--nine percent of the drooling unfortunate vertebrae we call "society", and this is what I'm supposed to wake up for? If this is what I need to accept and I'm just going crazy, fine, I accept it, but in doing this, you need to accept that if I'm crazy, you're batshit ******* nuts.
     I find myself not ever wanting to wake up. I'm not even close to suicidal, I don't want to die yet, I just can't see a logical point, or an emotional reason for any of this nonsense to continue. Can anyone identify with that? Don't misconstrue and worry yourself with me being honest with myself, I DO wake up. I wash my face, but I look in the mirror afterwards and ask "Why?", and I get the day over with anyway so I can hurry up and get home to get ready to do everything over again exactly the same the next day the exact same way, the only difference being the date on the calender and the minutes of the one life I get slowly building themselves into hours and days that will now be an empty black void of memory in my head that could've been used for something worth remembering. Why? Why settle to sulk and squander in ***** and depression when you haven't even tried to bathe in gold and happiness?
     I hate almost everything. The way things are, have been, will be. I hate the faceless sheep that complain yet attempt nothing to change their circumstances. If there is one thing to look on with pride, it is at least I'm better than that. At least if I failed, by default it means I ******* tried.
     I lack the capacity and the capability to voice these kinds of thoughts. As well-spoken as I am, I choke the hardest when I try to speak about any of them. I have to scribble and usually type them, and further, put them in a format a possible reader might be able to understand. Alas, I have failed at that as well. I put my heart and thoughts into my poetry, but anything resonating from within me that I've pounded into the countless pages I've written is lost in a sea of meter and rule-abiding rhetoric as well as aesthetically and audibly pleasing metaphors and rhyme-schemes rather than just blunt structure. No one reads anything with nothing left to the imagination. And justly so, why would they? Why try to decipher someone's heart if it doesn't also apply to you? Why read an ending if you know you won't like it unless it has "happily ever ******* after"? Why not emulate the thoughts and endure the cramping in the thumb an forefinger if it's not something you already know or something you clicked "like" on to impress the friend with the independent mind that was the one who told you to read it in the first place? I may sound bitter, I am, and hateful, but at least I am not a liar.
     If I had one absolute thing, one pure thought, one controversial heading, one cry to all who have ever asked me and I have failed to explain it better; If I can leave you with one thing; If it were possible for me to speak one line to the empty church at my funeral when I die someday and move on to peace, it would be this:
The Words I Seek With Which I Wish To Express My True Misery Elude Me.
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Cody Edwards Mar 2010
I reserved a table for the two of us
at the only restaurant in the world
that not only offers atmosphere and setting
but tone and syntax as well.

First some articles for appetizers. They're
easiest on my pocket you know.

An an, a the, and an a.
Let's not even start on the punctuation,
I'm treating you to a rather large meal.
As large as the entire English language,
now back to the articles.
Sure these taste like lint but they still
taste. Petit fours but there you are.
Try to be disinterested or you'll
put me off my food.

Nouns now. My, what a variety.
Bit meaty, eh? These have staying power.
They taste like a bit of everywhere,
and everyone, and everything.
What's that? Surely they're not that bland.
Maybe you need some seasoning.

"Adjective" comes from the
French for "to the word."
So exotic aren't they? These
really are fantastic.
Exquisite, unique, zesty to say the least.
You must admit, they
make the meal worth it.
I hope you're not allergic,
I could have sworn I just
had something "nutty."
Oh, it had nuts "in it"?
There must be some prepositions
mixed in here.

(I'm glad we're getting through
these now, I've never been a big fan of them.
When I was a kid, I would always push my prepositions to the end
of my sentences. You just can't do
that in a joint like this, it seems.)

Ah finally. The verbs are served.
Well-prepared it would seem.
Yes, anything you can do to a verb
they've done to these.
Infinitives (too good to realistically be believed!),
gerunds, and participles (No, not particles. But we
did have some of those at the Japanese restaurant.)
Fairly lean too, as I can't see
any auxiliary fat.

For some reason
those adverbs (just to your left, under that
thesaurus) really go well with this.
Plus those adjectives from earlier, rather pleasantly.

Now a brief selection
of conjunctions, but don't ruin
yourself. They're not a meal of themselves,
just a link to...

Oh! Look at those interjections.
So delicate, so (Wow!) incisive.
I told you to keep your appetite.
Well, just try a little of this. Goodness, me!

And then everyone proceeds to
die  
from a split infinitive.
© Cody Edwards 2010
Jazmine Moore Aug 2016
How do they realistically expect us to flee from the demanding stereotypes forcefully placed above our heads and in our hearts when they find satisfaction in the thrill of conquering our souls bleeding on the cold pavement?
-they don't. stop killing us, please.
Mike Bergeron Sep 2012
There was a house fire on my street last night …well… not exactly my street, but on a little, sketchy, dead-end strip of asphalt, sidewalks, weeds, and garbage that juts into my block two houses down. It was on that street. Rosewood Court, population: 12, adjusted population: 11, characterized by anonymity and boarded windows, peppered with the swift movements of fat street rats. I’ve never been that close to a real, high-energy, make-sure-to-spray-down-your-roof-with-a-hose-so-it-doesn’t-catch­ fire before. It was the least of my expectations for the evening, though I didn’t expect a crate of Peruvian bananas to fall off a cargo plane either, punching through the ceiling, littering the parking lot with damaged fruit and shingles, tearing paintings and shelves and studs from the third floor walls, and crashing into our kitchen, shattering dishes and cabinets and appliances. Since that never happened, and since neither the former nor the latter situation even crossed my mind, I’ll stick with “least of my expectations,” and bundle up with it inside that inadequate phrase whatever else may have happened that I wouldn’t have expected.



I had been reading in my living room, absently petting the long calico fur of my roommate’s cat Dory. She’s in heat, and does her best to make sure everyone knows it, parading around, *** in the air, an opera of low trilling and loud meows and deep purring. As a consequence of a steady tide of feline hormones, she’s been excessively good humored, showering me with affection, instead of her usual indifference, punctuated by occasional, self-serving shin rubs when she’s hungry. I saw the lights before I heard the trucks or the shouts of firemen or the panicked wail of sirens, spitting their warning into the night in A or A minor, but probably neither, I’m no musician. Besides, Congratulations was playing loud, flowing through the speakers in the corners of the room, connected to the record player via the receiver with the broken volume control, travelling as excited electrons down stretches of wire that are, realistically, too short, and always pull out. The song was filling the space between the speakers and the space between my ears with musings on Brian Eno, so the auditory signal that should have informed me of the trouble that was afoot was blocked out. I saw the lights, the alternating reds and whites that filled my living room, drawing shifting patterns on my walls, ceiling, floor, furniture, and shelves of books, dragging me towards the door leading outside, through the cluttered bike room, past the sleeping, black lump of oblivious fur that is usually my boisterous male kitten, and out into the bedlam I  had previously been ignorant to. I could see the smoke, it was white then gray then white, all the while lending an acrid taste to the air, but I couldn’t see where it was issuing from. The wind was blowing the smoke toward my apartment, away from Empire Mills. I tried to count the firetrucks, but there were so many. I counted six on Wilmarth Ave, one of which was the awkward-looking, heavy-duty special hazards truck. In my part of the city, the post-industrial third-wave ***** river valley, you never know if the grease fire that started with homefries in a frying pan in an old woman’s kitchen will escalate into a full-blown mill fire, the century-old wood floors so saturated with oil and kerosene and ****** and manufacturing chemicals and ghosts and god knows what other flammable **** that it lights up like a fifth of July leftover sparkler, burning and melting the hand of the community that fed it for so many decades, leaving scars that are displayed on the local news for a week and are forgotten in a few years’ time.



The night was windy, and the day had been dry, so precautions were abundant, and I counted two more trucks on Fones Ave. One had the biggest ladder I’ve ever seen. It was parked on the corner of Fones and Wilmarth, directly across from the entrance into the forgotten dead-end where the forgotten house was burning, and the ladder was lifting into the air. By now my two roommates had come outside too, to stand on our rickety, wooden staircase, and Jeff said he could see flames in the windows of one of the three abandoned houses on Rosewood, through the third floor holes where windows once were, where boards of plywood were deemed unnecessary.



“Ay! Daddy!”



My neighbor John called up to us. He serves as the eyes and ears and certainly the mouth of our block, always in everyone’s business, without being too intrusive, always aware of what’s going down and who’s involved. He proceeded to tell us the lowdown on the blaze as far as he knew it, that there were two more firetrucks and an ambulance down Rosewood, that the front and back doors to the house were blocked by something from inside, that those somethings were very heavy, that someone was screaming inside, that the fire was growing.



Val had gone inside to get his jacket, because despite the floodlights from the trucks imitating sunlight, the wind and the low temperature and the thought of a person burning alive made the night chilly. Val thought we should go around the block, to see if we could get a better view, to satisfy our congenital need to witness disaster, to see the passenger car flip over the Jersey barrier, to watch the videos of Jihadist beheadings, to stand in line to look at painted corpses in velvet, underlit parlors, and sit in silence while their family members cry. We walked down the stairs, into full floodlight, and there were first responders and police and fully equipped firefighters moving in all directions. We watched two firemen attempting to open an old, rusty fire hydrant, and it could’ve been inexperience, the stress of the situation, the condition of the hydrant, or just poor luck, but rather than opening as it was supposed to the hydrant burst open, sending the cap flying into the side of a firetruck, the water crashing into the younger of the two men’s face and torso, knocking him back on his ***. While he coughed out surprised air and water and a flood of expletives, his partner got the situation under control and got the hose attached. We turned and walked away from the fire, and as we approached the turn we’d take to cut through the rundown parking lot that would bring us to the other side of the block, two firemen hurried past, one leading the other, carrying between them a stretcher full of machines for monitoring and a shitload of wires and tubing. It was the stiff board-like kind, with handles on each end, the kind of stretcher you might expect to see circus clowns carry out, when it’s time to save their fallen, pie-faced cohort. I wondered why they were using this archaic form of patient transportation, and not one of the padded, electrical ones on wheels. We pushed past the crowd that had begun forming, walked past the Laundromat, the 7Eleven, the carwash, and took a left onto the street on the other side of the parking lot, parallel to Wilmarth. There were several older men standing on the sidewalk, facing the fire, hands either in pockets or bringing a cigarette to and from a frowning mouth. They were standing in the ideal place to witness the action, with an unobstructed view of the top two floors of the burning house, its upper windows glowing orange with internal light and vomiting putrid smoke.  We could taste the burning wires, the rugs, the insulation, the asbestos, the black mold, the trash, and the smell was so strong I had to cover my mouth with my shirt, though it provided little relief. We said hello, they grunted the same, and we all stood, watching, thinking about what we were seeing, not wanting to see what we were thinking.

Two firefighters were on the roof by this point, they were yelling to each other and to the others on the ground, but we couldn’t hear what they were saying because of the sirens from all the emergency vehicles that were arriving.  It seemed to me they sent every firetruck in the city, as well as more than a dozen police cars and a slew of ambulances, all of them arriving from every direction. I guess they expected the fire to get really out of hand, but we could already see the orange glow withdrawing into the dark of the house, steam and smoke rippling out of the stretched, wooden mouths of the rotted window frames. In a gruff, habitual smoker’s voice, we heard

                                      “Chopper called the fire depahtment

We was over at the vet’s home

                He says he saw flames in the windas

                                                                                                                                                We all thought he was shittin’ us

We couldn’t see nothin’.”

A man between fifty-five to sixty-five years old was speaking, no hair on his shiny, tanned head, old tattoos etched in bluish gray on his hands, arms, and neck, menthol smoke rising from between timeworn fingers. He brought the cigarette to his lips, drew a hearty chest full of smoke, and as he let it out he repeated

                                                “Yea, chopper called em’

Says he saw flames.”

The men on the roof were just silhouettes, backlit by the dazzling brightness of the lights on the other side.  The figure to the left of the roof pulled something large up into view, and we knew instantly by the cord pull and the sound that it was a chainsaw. He began cutting directly into the roof. I wasn’t sure what he was doing, wondered if he was scared of falling into the fire, assumed he probably was, but had at least done this before, tried to figure out if he was doing it to gain entry or release pressure or whatever. The man to the right was hacking away at the roof with an axe. It was surreal to watch, to see two men transformed from public servants into fingers of destruction, the pinkie and ring finger fighting the powerful thumb of the controlled chemical reaction eating the air below them, to watch the dark figures shrouded in ethereal light and smoke and sawdust and what must’ve been unbearable heat from below, to be viewing everything with my own home, my belongings, still visible, to know it could easily have gone up in flames as well.

I should’ve brought my jacket. I remember complaining about it, about how the wind was passing through my skin like a window screen, chilling my blood, in sharp contrast to the heat that was morphing and rippling the air above the house as it disappeared as smoke and gas up into the atmosphere from the inside out.

Ten minutes later, or maybe five, or maybe one, the men on the roof were still working diligently cutting and chopping, but we could no longer see any signs of flames, and there were figures moving around in the house, visible in the windows of the upper floors, despite the smoke. Figuring the action must be reaching its end, we decided to walk back to our apartment. We saw Ken’s brown pickup truck parked next to the Laundromat, unable to reach our parking lot due to all the emergency vehicles and people clogging our street. We came around the corner and saw the other two members of the Infamous Summers standing next to our building with the rest of the crowd that had gathered. Dosin told us the fire was out, and that they had pulled someone from inside the gutted house, but no ambulance had left yet, and his normally smiling face was flat and somber, and the beaten guitar case slung over his shoulder, and his messed up hair, and the red in his cheeks from the cold air, and the way he was moving rocks around with the toe of his shoe made him look like a lost child, chasing a dream far from home but finding a nightmare in its place, instead of the professional who never loses his cool or his direction.

The crowd all began talking at once, so I turned around, towards the dead end and the group of firefighters and EMTs that were emerging. Their faces were stoic, not a single expression on all but one of those faces, a young EMT, probably a Basic, or a Cardiac, or neither, but no older than twenty, who was silently weeping, the tears cutting tracks through the soot on his cheeks, his eyes empty of emotion, his lips drawn tight and still. Four of them were each holding a corner of the maroon stretcher that took two to carry when I first saw it, full of equipment. They did not rush, they did not appear to be tending to a person barely holding onto life, they were just carrying the weight. As they got close gasps and cries of horror or disgust or both issued from the crowd, some turned away, some expressions didn’t change, some eyes closed and others stayed fixed on what they came to see. One woman vomited, right there on the sidewalk, splashing the shoes of those near her with the partially digested remains of her EBT dinner. I felt my own stomach start to turn, but I didn’t look away. I couldn’t.

                                                                                It was like I was seven again,

                                in the alleyway running along the side of the junior high school I lived near and would eventually attend,

looking in silent horror at what three eighth graders from my neighborhood were doing.

It was about eight in the evening of a rainy,

late summer day,

and I was walking home with my older brother,

cutting through the alley like we always did.

The three older boys were standing over a small dog,

a terrier of some sort.

They had duct taped its mouth shut and its legs together,

but we could still hear its terrified whines through its clenched teeth.

One of the boys had cut off the dog’s tail.

He had it in one hand,

and was still holding the pocket knife in the other.

None of them were smiling,

or talking,

nor did they take notice of Andrew and I.

There was a garden bag standing up next to them that looked pretty full,

and there was a small pile of leaves on the ground next to it.

In slow motion I watched,

horrified,

as one of the boys,

Brian Jones-Hartlett,

picked up the shaking animal,

put it in the bag,

covered it with the leaves from the ground,

and with wide,

shining eyes,

set the bag

on fire

with a long-necked

candle

lighter.

It was too much for me then. I couldn’t control my nausea. I threw up and sat down while my head swam.

I couldn’t understand. I forgot my brother and the fact that he was older, that he should stop this,

Stop them,

There’s a dog in there,

You’re older, I’m sick,

Why can’t I stop them?

It was like
No delusions of grandeur
No misconceived notions
But there's a thing that beats in my chest
Like the winds against the ocean

I don't crave glory, fortune or fame
I don't even care if you remember my name

I want to be there
On a brightly lit stage
Me and my guitar
Making art
Turn the page

Not in it for the women
(I'm happily spoken for)
I don't do drugs
(They're stupid, and make you poor)
I don't want to get rich
(Money corrupts)
I just love rock
(Stand back. Watch me erupt)

It's all about the music
And what it does for you
I don't write for me
That's for other musicians to do
So if you ever hear me playing
And it stirs something in your heart
I'm doing something right
I'm just doing my part
Seriously. I only play music because I love music. If I can live off of it, sweet. If not, I'll find something, but music will still be there.
Chrysta Ashlock Feb 2013
My Perfect Stranger,

I have a proposal of sorts; I want to start writing a story, in which you are my partner in crime. The crime being – living without one another. Not being sure to know if we’ll ever be apart of one another’s lives again.
Scratch that – the crime, the crime would be a lie because in truth I want to begin a story to where you are my partner in crime, yes; but you’d be my partner in crime for life. We’d commit no crimes, speak no lies, confess all truths with the bluntest honesty that could spring forth from our hearts. Enjoy every possible moment spent together, for they have become few and far apart.
This is not just a start of any typical story, but it will be the start of our story. The real story – It can’t be written, it can’t be spoken by anyone other then you and I. We’re the only ones who know how our story begins, though we’ll never truly know how it’ll end. This is a second chance, if not the first chance.

“A kiss is what tells the beginning to every story… It’s up to you where that story will lead.” –me.

The past may be the past, but we lived in that past, and the past that once was will become recognized, if it has not already. It will not be viewed harshly as it should be. Every possible thing that occurs in life does so for a reason which only fate, or as some people come to say destiny, can tell. We live to forgive and forget, though nothing is truly forgotten. We are here to make mistakes then to learn from those mistakes; if one was to never make a mistake then they’re not truly living a life well lived.

“Welcome the future with open arms; embrace it like an old friend. Learn to forgive and forget the painful memories; keep your tears at bay; have faith in yourself and others. And mostly, remember that love and trust will always be your guiding light into the darkness.” –me.

“Everything happens for a reason; don’t underestimate those reasons… You live to forgive and forget and to move along with the life you’re leading. Therefore, with that said, don’t waste time with melodrama or pity arguments. Don’t put up with people who attempt to drag you down with them. Because I can guarantee that those people; the ones who try to play you like a cheesy board game are never worth a single breath escaping your lips. Those are the ones who will never find happiness, true happiness, bliss, No, they’ll forever be lonely. Keep moving forward, look onto brighter horizons. Love the ones you hold close to your heart. Cherish your children. Lead your own life, not someone else’s, nor let any other being lead yours. Smile. Kiss. Love. Trust. Be honest with yourself and with others. It’s all worth it in the end.” –me.

Maybe our largest mistake together was making stupid decisions when we met. We made the choice to fall in love, to date, to live together and try to be happy all within a mere week of meeting. In doing so, hearts wound up broken; smashed into stardust. Trust was ripped away and friends were lost.
This time, this time will be different. I, in this beginning, will tell you of me. I will tell you everything which has occurred throughout my life, it may be the past, but my past tells a lot of who I was which has made me, well, me. I will be bluntly honest with you. I will answer every question you could possibly fathom to ask me. It’s just, I don’t know where to begin…

“The past will never cease to constantly be snipping at your heels with every step you take; it’ll always be there to remind you who you are and what paths you’ve chosen to lead you to where you are. Don’t break promises, don’t break hearts, because it’s happened before; your sometimes overwhelming past can come toppling down on you at any given moment; so be careful. There’s no one who wants to slip, fall face first, losing all consciousness into what once was.” –me.

“People change… I’ve seen friendships fall apart and relationships destroyed. It happens. Truth hurts. People lie. People cheat. Everyone destroys someone else in some way, it’s an ever going cycle of life. Live your life. Even when something unexpected comes alone, enjoy it, love it. It’s all worth it in the end. I can promise you that.” –me.

“Not everyone can read me like a story book or a torn out page of your favorite fairy tale. There’s more to me then just that. My life, better yet, my story is more complicated then most may think.
I used to be the girl that you would see walking alone down the street at night, cigarette in hand, bag in the other, all the while letting the world completely pass me by. I was the girl with the electric green nail polish and nearly enough eyeliner on my eyes to last most girls the entire year. Though all I am to most is just another pretty face.
There’s always new lives forming, coming alive, seeing this rundown movie for the very first time. Then there are also lives ending, running away from a failing life. Praying that the next world is better then the one they left in their very wake.”
–me.

Let’s begin like this; I am complicated, spontaneous, gullible, unnaturally trusting of others and a big ball of confusion at times. I care too much for others, even when they’ve chewed me up, spit me out and kicked me around in the dirt, I still care. I hand out second chances like a stranger hands children candy from his van. One would assume I would have learned my lesson of doing such nonsense, but nonetheless I continue to forgive too easily. My heart throbs when I am upset and feels as if it is going to burst wide open so all of the world can see. I have the unfortunate tendency to bottle up how I feel because my thoughts process too quickly and I become speechless because the words I am trying to speak just refuse to form into speech.

“Trust; it’s a highly important factor in ones life. I have very little for those I have met here, all except for one in which I trust completely with my life, my heart, my child… Yes, I may be very trusting, but that trust only lasts until you’ve broken it… Everyone of you thus far, besides that one person has broken my trust. So therefore those of you who broke my trust can go **** yourselves and relinquish yourselves from my life; it’ll be much better without you. And you know exactly who I’m referring to.” –me.

I fall in love too easily and too quickly; as you have first handily witnessed. I do intend for that to change, which, with my most recent excuse of a relationship I came to realize that it has changed. I never fell in love with him, I never had a true attachment, just annoyance. There is no excuse to why the relationship was even formed to begin with, let alone why it lasted more then a few short days. That relationship is over now, and that relationship will never get a second chance like others have.
I have changed; I’m no longer the person I once was. I still care and I still love, but I’m no longer the me I used to be. After our first run around, something switched off, or maybe even on inside me. I don’t fight, I may argue my point but it has no intentions to cause any harm. I began to communicate my feelings more, even though it seems to do no good.
I believe that everyone deserves to be happy, and I look for the good in everyone, that’s why I constantly push and try so hard, to bring out the better and happier person in those I am trying to help. And it seems to be the people I end up dating are those I subconsciously am looking to help; I am drawn to those who are in dire need of change without ever realizing so. It’s like a test I’m giving, and so far everyone has failed. I feel as if I’m here to help others, to make their lives better even though sometimes it may not seem like I’m trying to help at all; but I really am.

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

I have had many bad run-ins in this short life I have lived thus far. I became pregnant at seventeen and I was far from ready to have a child of my own; I was still a child who needed to experience more of life before bringing another life into this cruel world. In result my child was removed from my care because I fell into the hands of disastrous acts. I met the wrong people whom only drug me down farther along with them. I fought and I fought to get her back in my arms, and after a year I finally did. Though now, I look at her and I feel as if she belongs to someone else. I don’t have the bond which I should have with my daughter and no matter what I try it just won’t spark. This is a terrible confession, but it is of the truth. I catch myself more and more looking at my baby and asking myself if this is really real. Asking myself where has time gone? I missed so much of her growing up that it’s tearing me to pieces now, years later. Nothing seems to be real anymore. I need that bond between me and my child more then I need anything else, because she is my shining light in this world.

“I can’t find reality; my reality has just become a non-stop ride through hell and back. Send someone to shine a light as bright as a shooting star so I can find my way back to what my reality should be realistically.” –me.

I, myself am indeed an open book, mostly unwritten. All you ever need to do is ask me questions… Tell me of yourself – open up to me completely; because if you can tell me everything and if you can tell me everything that has been hidden, I can do the same. Be adventurous with me, be spontaneous; do things you never thought you would fathom of doing. Live with an open mind to the future; because our future could be blindingly beautiful, and then again it could also be terribly tragic. Though we will never know until we try; that’s how life works, as you’re well aware.

Though I am afraid that the beginning is coming to a slow halt; so I am asking this of you – please consider being my partner in crime, to help me continue writing our story, our fairytale. It may be the most adventurous challenge we’ll ever come across in our lifetime.
I do hope I provided a well spoken beginning, telling of some, let’s say “important” points of me and my past. Just remember, I want to find what once was lost; I want it to be found properly from both parties involved. Maybe we’ll be some of the lucky ones who’ll, one day find true blissfulness; just maybe.


Your Perfect Stranger
this is also NOT a poem... this is a letter I never sent to my "perfect stranger", my ex, the true love of my life even though I never sent it to him.
written: 7.07.12
Kenzee Rae May 2014
Childhood is so happy.
You're so innocent and pure and have the whole world ahead of you.
Your dreams are never too big for anyone to doubt because they think you're just a kid and you'll grow out of them,
But when you never do, the same people say you'll never achieve those dreams.
They tell you to think more realistically.
They never give you a chance to great.
It's quite twisted.
Nihl Jul 2013
Maybe I’ll never make a good father,
the world has shown me it’s ugly face.
I see things too logically,
too realistically.
The things I’ve done and seen,
my dark sense of humour,
twisted sources of entertainment
and sexuality.
My sedated emotions
and even my choice of forensics profession
all these things probably makes me
a pretty bad father,
bad husband,
bad boyfriend…
And probably
a bad person.

N.H.
JR Falk Sep 2018
the gallon of arizona green tea that you only drank a fraction of.
the salt and pepper potato chips you meant to eat, but only did so in the dream i had last night.
the unmade bed that was still unmade when you flew back home, the one i still cannot bring myself to make.
the dyed green hairs i keep finding around the house.
the way you always pronounced 'mosquito' as 'mosk-it-toe' on purpose, and how you pronounced my cat's name 'sullumun' instead of 'solomon' on accident.
the partially closed closet door from the morning i drove you to the airport.
the faint smell of your sweat on my pillow left because of your hyperhidrosis.
the flannel you wore and the longsleeve shirt you doused in your aftershave, that is three sizes too big for me to realistically wear.
the empty taco bell cups in my car from your fourth day here.
the empty shopping bags from our impromptu mall trip.
the polaroids you really wanted to keep, but we couldn't find when you packed.
the pieces of you that you never meant for me to keep that i keep piecing together as though, like an alchemist, i could make you appear again though i cannot, and you are not here, you are gone.
3:16pm
9.21.2018

youre giving me so much more inspiration than i think you intended
anonymous Dec 2015
If I were a peacock,
I would blue-green iridescent burst beauty
pretty would not mean strange or weak
brightness would be bravery, screaming LOOKING THIS GOOD IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN SAFETY FROM PREDATORS
I would love my women drab, concealable, nearly invisible
... maybe some of us are already part peacock

If I were a leopard slug,
I would never worry if I was man enough
I would love all of my hermaphroditic glands equally
or, more realistically, I would be ashamed of all of them equally,
never sure if my gonopore was symmetric enough,
if my translucent blue-white ***** was beautiful enough to ever intertwine and bloom with another's
there would be no gay bars or marriage equality movements or swallowed-wink "no ****"s
no one would tap around your abdomen in search of the right organs before declaring your birthright aptitude in cooking or car repair
you and I, we would follow each other around all night, exchanging playful licks, before impregnating each other, circus-suspended from a tree branch
... I guess that part would be the same

If I were cricket or frog or songbird, my music would be my perfect gift to you.
I would learn guitar and start a band and
everyone would love me
(way more than the bass player)

But I am a man.
I don't know what that means yet.
second in the series; first was http://hellopoetry.com/poem/1496079/gender-studies-part-i/
ending needs work. feedback appreciated.
L A Lamb Sep 2014
It took me years to realize it wasn’t just me, and that the labels for women are created by men’s "standards". I wasn’t a ****. But what does that even mean? Men use “equality” to manipulate women with their standard: its fun to experiment at the time, but the girl will always be remembered as "the girl who did that," in hometown suburbia. Who’s going to end up with a woman they did nasty things to? In traditional marriages, no one wants that kind of wife. In today’s corrupt society, no one wants to know their wife was raunchy and experimental.

But what about the girls who are like that? Can’t you imagine moving away? Moving away from mistakes and stigmas and just start over? The hypocrisy and judgment against experimental women and gay men is still happening today with the "man’s" standards—the holy, good-natured man’s standards. Why are there gender roles? Why are women a minority, the curious exploring people we are? Why deny humanity for power? But humans do it to animals too! So it’s not just among gender, it’s among species! On this earth we should live with animals, but we **** and eat them for power. They **** and eat each other too, but as the knowledgeable species we are, we should respect them for there is a reason we share this earth.

But the hostility with having power is what it is to be a man. That’s how it’s been all along. And in the world men aren’t the majority, so why are they STILL treated like one? THEY are the actual minority, but they still have power! Because of religion! Straight men—who wrote the religious texts— dismissed everyone else! Slavery has been around forever! Also think monarchy and royalty—among humans we’re equal, but the power of civilization and class status and material and monetary value goes against nature. Because religious texts prove how religion started the world. These religious ideas created by certain men of misogynistic, violent, racist, homophobic creatures manipulated! Why aren’t women respected in the holy books? BECAUSE MEN WROTE THEM! And that’s why *** is reserved for marriage in religion, because inadequacies and insecurities branch off of ****** experience and the uncertain nature of what comes with exploring various lovers. It’s complicated for everybody, but men like control because they are the ultimate pessimists.

And religion has its perks by providing the one answer throughout history: "why do we exist," but it’s completely sexist! And within the misogyny formed by the different cultures of various religious men, of an evolving species, they realized manipulation could cause them power. And feminism takes away from the religion! Women are optimists, but they’re impressionable by burdens! Civil rights and democracy and spreading-the-wealth for all humankind help! But money creates problems—including environmental—on and for our earth! But why is it sexist? Because throughout the world these particular different societies created by ignorant men are still letting this happen!

And with this power, they still control women! Equality for humankind starts with feminist movements! And when it comes to sexuality, whether gay or straight, what’s the big deal? Society! Because why are so many homosexuals punished, and why are so many cultures sub missing women? Why does **** and molestation still happen? There is no greater form of disrespect towards another person! But making a consequential decision to have ***, with anyone excluding a “good man,” as according to that society, most-likely founded by a group of men its wrong? Profits don’t exist, because no single person can understand what it is that created the universe.

And hetero-****** *** isn’t supposed to be nice, because it’s aggression towards the other gender and the determination of who won the battle: the gender of child. And that could be why psychology suggests that there is an under-lying ****** nature for fathers and daughters and mothers and sons. And there is: gender aggression. But the gender that actually creates the child is the woman, and knowing this, men have made us submissive because although they’re bigger in size and aggressive, women would be the dominant side. The curiosity of the female reproduction has been a subject of fear throughout the millennia.

Bisexuals who don’t pro-create, however, usually resent straight men unless their having attractions toward them. The philosophical possibilities of experimenting with everyone to know everything is frowned upon by on all governments founded by white men. Wars have been created and people have been slaughtered! There can be peace on earth! But everyone needs to unite and eliminate prejudices and stigmas and live as people naturally, and sexually. There is balance in this universe and "living organisms" are true examples.

Women and men reproduce, to create another part of a balance. The universe, however, is impossible to ever completely understand, and the possibility of understanding it is an idealistic facade. We don’t know why women and men balance out the way they do (with an occasional mutation among humankind), but it balances with the universe. But sexuality is the purpose and the weapon, the heaven and the hell, the good and the bad and the euphoria of possibility. It’s denied in society with a civilization where one certain type of group can be the best and create power. And this balance is the key to all knowledge achieved by biology to "attract to reproduce"/"win wars". That kind of war is not in our power as humankind.

Men are a species and women are a species. To be human is to be an element of the evolving universe. Homosexuality usually isn’t a threat because it provides understanding, but in this world ruled by men, it isn’t! To compare humankind to a basic principle of the universe, the atom, a woman is a proton and a man is an electron. "Mutations" are neutrons. The man has the negative, aggressive nature and women are usually kind-minded and nurturing. But in a society where sexuality defines women, women are up against each other.

People are an element in the universe, and we reproduce due to gender aggression, or realistically, physics. We’re recycled stardust, after all. The point of this hypothesis is to provide an ideal for Utopia, where everyone is bisexual, but men and women are forever reproducing. Everyone is "wild" but wise and having *** to pro-create and understand our kind. We are evolutionary atoms. And love is two very powerful charges reacting strongly in a sequence. That’s what the universe does, it expands and creates.

The products of Earth—topography, geology, history, anatomy, biology, philosophy, physics, chemistry, oceanography, zoology and psychology–expand and create as well. Maybe there is a Great Creator, but it’s not comparable to the negativity created in the religions dominating societies.  It’s essentially what created the entire universe, not just what’s on earth, and not just humans. Humans, animals, plants, weather, planets and stars are all recyclables. We on earth are equally products of the universe, and after we die we’ll become something else. But religion, humanity and science aside, something made this universe. Something made our life and ability to think with secrets and balance, and whatever it is, it’s a ******* creative.
Lucas Keith Aug 2012
Flat and Lifeless
These plains so similar
To the untouched canvas.
On and on, stretched and cracked
Dry, and holding its breath.
Lungs full of a Weary,
Nervous, delusional anticipation,
Desire for a strange beauty
Only bestowed by God.
Who of all people can give beauty,
Save the painter himself?
Slowly, like an Hourglass' sand,
Pouring over an eternity,
The first strokes of color
Grace the horribly eager canvas.
Gentle tingling fills my barren soul
As the brush caresses
The lonely desolate landscape.
With the Care and Focus of a Master
A base layer of basic
Emotion, knowledge, and humanity
Begins the agonizing process
Of becoming Human again,
Of learning to love again.
With the precision of a Surgeon
She cuts the layers of skin
Quickly and full of purpose.
Fingers stroking ribs she pulls
Firmly yet gently revealing
The ivory gleam beneath.
Caressing the bone with her saw,
Painstakingly careful to not harm
Lung and other tissue,
Her eyes burn hot as the rhythmic
Beating of my heart becomes audible.
Slowly shades of green are added
To enhance the gradually growing
Soul being created by the painter.
The virulent viridians soon become shades,
Then shapes resembling greater life forms
Born to represent the many facets
Of a resurrected life.
From the base greens,
New colors are added,
And the scene becomes a field
Of Roses of every color
Singing sweetly beneath
A two o'clock sun
And a scattering of striated clouds.
Her hands close gently
Around my still beating heart.
Deep in my chest, pulsing,
Hands surrounding and holding,
She feeds her essence, her love,
Through her fingers
And the black and white line between
Physical And spiritual fades, disappears
Leaving her fused to my soul,
Keeping her closer than my skin.
Brazen brown eyes open slowly,
I look on her for the first time.
The Pale Moon on a clear night,
Hovering over a crystal lake
In no way compares to her beauty.
The intense immensity of the Universe
Compares not with my Love,
Unconditional in its core,
Quintessential in its structure and design.
Blood-stained white walls
Paint the scene behind her
And this strange iron-scented room lurches.
Black specks begin to invade the walls,
And reach across the distance between
Stretching out to consume
The so recently insipid walls.
Strangely the crimson stays.
The two colors refuse to mix,
Operation room no longer sterile
Starts to spin and swirl,
Black and crimson warring
in a circular, Draining sink motion.
Her image fades back into the color battle,
Leaving me alone on my bed,
Still bleeding through my stitches.
Frantically searching this acid induced nightmare,
I leapt off my bed,
Into a green field full of roses,
Under a two o'clock sun,
And a water color scent.
Naked and bewildered I stand
Surrounded by roses of every shade.
The air is richly permeated,
Overflowing with the smell
Of this lover's flower.
The quintet of senses nearly overload,
The beauty of this haven overwhelming.
Each blossom rendered so realistically,
As if the greatest Painter in the world
Reached out and crafted each
And every single one
With the utmost care and love.
My Nose drowning in the reverie
Is awoken by a new scent.
The aroma of a rose,
Yet deeper and with hints of love,
Like the flavor of mint
Added to the finest chocolate.
Quickly succumbing to curiosity
And the strangely familiar
Lacing this feral fragrance,
I venture off following my nose.
Many of these flowers
Are very beautiful
And offer distraction and respite,
But these lesser scents
Cannot hold sway over me.
Closer and closer,
Stronger and stronger,
This one perfume consumes,
And this body soon hurries,
Quicker, quicker, tearing through the field.
Crimson begins to trickle down my legs,
As each rose latches on and
Tries to forestall
The finding of this strange aroma's source.
Pain and fury lance up and through
As the thorns bite deeper into flesh.
Finally stumbling and blindly falling,
The comfortable green grass
Meets my body in a violent fashion.
Spitting out the pieces of pasture,
My eyes wander upward
And land upon the strangest rose.
The blossom of this flower
Is a mess and spiral of black and crimson,
And the possessor of the haunting scent.
Reaching out to caress this most unique of beings,
My hand wanders down the stem
Only to be stabbed and held
By thorns barbed and twisted.
Screaming in horrified pain,
And hastily pulling back,
This rose attached to my hand
Is completely torn from the earth.
As soon as the roots leave the dirt
My heart convulses as if being
Squeezed tightly by two hands.
Clenched and carnal does this hold become.
Insurmountable pain rages through this body,
And it collapses to the ground.
Slower and more infrequent become the breaths
As my eyelids flutter trying to stay open
Trying to stay closed.
Life and Love leave me dying
Shattered and hopeless are my visions
and frozen is the only sensation I feel.
The breeze blows softly across the viridian field
And all that's living responds to its touch.
The grass and roses sway gently
As the stench of death
Mingled with the aroma of Love
Are mixed and entwined
And blown away.
Setting down his Easel
The painter laughs and walks away.
Sterilizing and putting away her tools
The surgeon silently cries a few unsalted tears.
Covered in dried blood
The fool remains forgotten and eternally comatose.
Flat and Lifeless
These plains so similar
To the untouched canvas.
On and on, stretched and cracked
Dry, and holding its breath.
Lungs full of a Weary,
Nervous, delusional anticipation,
Desire for a strange beauty
Only bestowed by God.
Who of all people can give beauty,
Save the painter himself?
Amanda Goodness Dec 2016
"You know what the sun looks like?"

"No, What?"

"Like he slit his wrists in a bathtub and the blood is all over the water."

"That's gross, Kaye."

"And the moon is just watching. She's just watching him die. She must have driven him to it."


I was driving to work
And this quote invaded my mind
Along with an image of you sitting on the beach.

I haven't thought about you in a while.
Now I cannot decide
Which one of us is the sun,
And which one of us is the moon.
Unfortunately,
I have a feeling.
Before there was anything that mattered everything that would ever be existed , it was the essence of totality , it was without dimensional constriction or necessitated form .  Optimistically speaking time had no relative realism to it’s progression because realistically nothing had happened yet .  As it continued it became according to it’s innate inflections as a functionally integrable form .  The questionably understandable nature of it’s conjunction was an omnipotent directive beyond necessitated action or morphological construction .  The enigmatic consciousness of it’s relatively interrelated conception was spontaneous and yet it continued without elemental omniscience .
As the relative complexity of it’s interrelations evolved dimensional consistence was born.  Humanly understandable laws of physical integration governed many facets of it’s conjunction yet the totality of it’s ramification was beyond humanly realistic conjecture .  
The organic morphology of biological ontogeny was a conceptually reflective derivative of functional physical mechanics yet it’s diversity exceeded it’s physical complexity , understanding evolved .  Relatively extraneous interpolations of adhesively practical extremity succeeded in a hierarchy of functionally integrable forms .
Retrospectively speaking pragmatic practicality is a humanly rational possibility .  Rational logic can conceive of individually totalitarian structural forms , yet the implosive nature of their rational cohesiveness becomes a practical partiality due to the diversity of their definitive impetus .
Perhaps the essence of our being is the logical counterpart for the matrix of our subjectively conclusive social fragmentation , or perhaps we are evolutionally incapable of cumulatively rational correlation .  Problematic diversity could be perfectible on an individually infinite level or contrarily perhaps ubiquitous causality is the ultimate survivor .  
In any case it is beyond our subjugatively rational cohesive coercion to intercede en masse on our own behalf as an integrated unit. Our conceptual abilities have been thwarted by the unmitigatably individual nature of our extraneous conclusiveness .
VISION

You can only dream what you envision,

You can only envision what you really desire to be,

You will only achieve what you,

Honestly,

Realistically,

Passionately,

Assertively,

Int­elligently,

And sometimes desperately pursue.

Be it unto me.
Nigel Morgan Jan 2013
I’m thinking about you today. Hard not to, the specialness of it all. Today you’re putting up of an exhibition. Some artists call it a show, but you’re quite consistent in not calling it that. I admire that of you, being consistent.
 
I was thinking today about your kindness. You phoned me as soon as the children had gone to school, making time to call before you left. I know you were drinking your start-of-the-day coffee, but it was a kind thought all the same, phoning me. You knew I was upset. Upset with myself, as I often am. It’s this being alone. Not so much as a cat to keep me company. Just my work, the reading I do, my thoughts of you, those letters I write, and my attempts at poetry.
 
During the last few days I’ve tried to write directly of what I’ve observed, not felt, observed. Like those wonderful Chinese poets of old describing in just a few characters the wonder of the seen rather than the speculation of the felt, avoiding all emotion and fantasy. I try to write in a way that holds to the ambiguity and spread of meanings the poems those ancient Chinese composed.
 
It’s winter-time. Yesterday we were expecting the first snowfall of winter, and it arrived late in the night making the morning darkness mysteriously different, changing the indistinctness of distant trees to become a web of silver lines, in the no-wind snow resting on branches, clinging to boughs and trunks.  I stood in the pre-dawn park in wonder at it all, holding each moment to myself, in the cold breath-stopping air. I thought of one of the Chinese snow poems I know and some of those different ways it has been translated. Here are three:
 
A thousand mountains without a bird
Ten thousand miles with no trace of man.
A boat. An old man in a straw raincoat.
Alone in the snow, fishing in the freezing river.
 
A thousand peaks: no more birds in flight.
Ten thousand paths: all trace of people gone.
In a lone boat, rain cloak and a hat of reeds
An old man’s fishing the cold river snow.
 
Sur mille montagnes, aucun vol d’oiseau
Sure dix mille sentiers, nulle trace d’homme
Barque solitaire: sous son manteaux de paille
Un vielliard pêche, du figé, la neige.

 
So beautiful, arresting, different. It holds the title River Snow and the poet is the Tang Dynasty philosopher and essayist Lui Zongyuan.  My snow poem First Fall, written last night as the snow fell on the wet street outside, as you were falling through my thoughts, softly, but not onto a wet street, but a distant garden we know and love, but have yet to see in winter’s whiteness.
 
And now today you’re driving to a distant location to hang your work of paper, silk and linen, full of expectation, every contingency and plan in place to enable the work to make its mark in a location you know, where people may recognize your name and will come to say warm words of encouragement, maybe a little praise. And at the end of the week when the exhibition opens I’ll be there, trying to be invisible, taking photographs if I can of you and your admirers and supporters, and thinking (myself) how wonderful you are, your lovely smile lighting up the gallery, being welcoming, beautiful always.
 
Only today you’re further away from me than ever. Around coffee time I miss your quiet explorative ‘it’s me , like a mouse on the telephone. The inflections of those words questioning the appropriateness of the call, meaning ‘Are you busy? Am I interrupting?’ It may take me a little while to ‘come to’, but interruption? Never, just the sheer joy that it’s you colouring the moment.
 
I think of the landscape you’ll be driving through. I’m imagining the snow-sky clearing and becoming a faint blue with the sun’s brightness clarifying those wold lands, those gentle folds of fields between parallelograms of woodland standing stark under the large skies and promulgating the long views gradually, gradually stretching towards the sea coast.
 
I like to imagine you are singing your way through the choruses of Bach’s B Minor Mass, but in reality it’s probably the Be Good Tanyas or Billy Joel playing on the CD player. Such a relief probably after those silent journeys with me. I usually relent on the homeward leg, but I crave silence when I’m a passenger, and I’m now always a passenger, so I crave silence for my thoughts, such as they are.
 
While you are being the emerging artist – but probably on your way homeward - I have taken myself down to my city’s gallery and to an exhibition I’ve already seen. I have a task I’ve been promising myself to undertake: copying an exhibit. I arrive an hour before the gallery closes. I leave my bicycle behind the foyer desk. There are more staff about than visitors. It’s gloriously empty, but the young twenty-somethings invigilating the spaces group themselves strategically near adjoining rooms so they can talk (loudly) to each other. It’s Facebook chat, barely Twitter nonsense. I have to block it all out to focus on the four pages and a P.S of a sculptor’s letter to a critical friend. The sculptor is writing from springtime Cornwall on 6 March 1951. The critical friend will open the letter the next day (when there were 3 deliveries a day) and the Royal Mail invariably arrived on time. He’ll pick it up from his doormat before breakfast in grimy Leeds, though the leafy part near Roundhay Park. The sculptor begins by saying:
 
It is so difficult to find words to convey ideas!
 
In this so efficient Cambria typeface that introductory sentence loses so much of the muscle and flow of the human hand. Written boldly in black ink, and so full of purpose, I read it a month ago, a photocopy in a display case, and knew I had to capture it. And it’s here entire in my note book, on my desk, carefully copied, to share with you my darling, my kind friend, the young woman I hold dear, admire so much, become faint with longing for when, as she crosses that gallery where she has been hanging her work (in my imagination), I am caught as so often by her graceful steps and turn.
 
I don’t feel any difference of intent in or of mood when I paint (or carve) realistically, or when I make abstract carvings. It all feels the same – the same happiness and pain, the same joy in a line, a form, a colour – the same feeling at the end, The two ways of working flow into each other without effort  . . .
 
Outside my warm studio the snow has retreated east and I’ve opened the window to hear the Cathedral bells practising away, the city on a Tuesday night free of revellers, the clubs closed, the pubs quiet. In this building everyone has gone home except this obsessive musician who stays late to write to the woman he adores, who thinks a day is not a day lived without a letter to her at least, a poem if possible.
 
I’d quietly hoped to be with you tonight, but you must have something arranged as I suggested twice I might come, and you said it wasn’t necessary. But I have this letter, and something to write about. Alas, no poem. My muse is having the evening off and I am gently reconciled to the possibility of a few words on the telephone before bed.
Fatıma Jan 2014
The distance ever so touchable
Yet you're still far afield

The glimmering glitter in your blissful
Translucent almond irises
Waiting to deviate from them
Yet they have imprinted themselves
Now affiliated with my heart

Seeing your lips brimming brightly
Rejuvenating your flawless visage
Embodying my love
Not even half your beauty

Inwardly made you mine
Realistically destined for another

Drastic jaundiced waves
Crashing the shores of heartbreak
Sentiments

Thus the eminent work of
Patience
Silence
Benevolence
Enshrouds my blooming admiration
For you
Unfastening my feigned ethos
For you

I comprehend the significance of dignity and family

But my love
Ceaseless and eternal

But my love
Yours only
singingghosts May 2016
triple layer chocolate cake (hint of coconut) with mint lime cream filling completely encased in chocolate.



WHAT YOU NEED

8oz cream cheese
1 and 1/4 stick of butter
possible 3 cups of powder sugar
2 limes
fresh mint
all purpose unbleached flour
white sugar
baking soda
Cocoa power
salt
2 eggs
coconut extract
buttermilk
vegetable oil
water
dark chocolate chips
whipping cream


I can't remember what else but I say what below in case I missed something








FILLING:
8oz cream cheese
1 stick butter
2.5 cups of powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons lime zest
half handful of mint leaves

BLEND mint, lime juice & zest together. you want mint to be tiny tiny.

BEAT butter and cream cheese together. I leave them out, sometimes I heat them up to make it easier to beat.

BLEND lime mint mixture into cream cheese butter.

ADD powder sugar.

MIX all together by hand first.

get a hand mixer or beater or whatever and literally beat the **** outta that stuff. until it whips up as much as possible.

PUT it in the fridge for a few minutes. like 10. just to check how it does. if it's not a consistency like cream, beat it more and add half a cup of confectionary sugar.



CAKE MIX: (realistically you can just buy cake mix)

2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup vegetable oil (or any type of shortening you prefer)
1 cup water
2 teaspoon coconut extract

put all the dry ingredients into a bowl. MIX with a whisk or something. if you have sifter, use that to break up the flour. you wanna get all the dry ingredients mixed pretty well before you add wet.

ok, so flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt. all together. great job.

next, BEAT all the wet ingredients together NOT INCLUDING THE WATER.

you beat the eggs, buttermilk (don't replace this with regular milk), oil, and extract. once it's all blended all nice, add it to the dry and mix it together by hand.

you use an electric mixer or beater now. the reason you hand mix everything first is to avoid a bigger mess when the machine mixes because it can make the dry ingredients spread out like ****. and I hate messes. so I'm extremely **** in the kitchen.

ok now just beat it all baby. add the water slowly. a lot of people will tell you to use boiling water. you can but I don't suggest it to anyone who has never used boiling water in a batter before... so I'm not suggesting it.

it should be runny and also delicious. if it's not, uhm... oops? mine was great. you ****** up. let's continue.

GANACHE!!!!!: (wait until the cakes done AND COOLED to do this part tho!!!)

get a ***
add a bag of dark chocolate or milk chocolate whichever you want. I prefer dark chocolate while baking.
I really eye this so I'm throwing caution to the wind here and pour maybe 3/4 cup of heavy cream or whipping cream.
also, 2 tablespoons of butter. (you don't NEED the butter but I like what it does to the ganache)

ok now on low heat leave those things in the ***. mix it a little. DONT LET IT BURN. MEANING, DONT PUT IT ON HIGH HEAT. YOU WANT A SLOW MELT

Ok so. mix it until it's creamy and silky and soft. but seriously do this part at the very end.

get three 9 inch cake pans. spray, butter, coat, oil WHATEVER just grease the ******* pans.

use a measuring cup because you want each cake layer to be the same. do 1.5 cups of batter in each. if you have left over, divide it by three.

bake it at 300F for 30 minutes

don't open the door between those 30 minutes. when you do, poke middle with toothpick. if toothpick comes out clean, it's done.

let cool completely on a cooling rack.

some people cut the tops off to make the cake layer even. I **** at cutting things evenly unless it's ******* so I have my own method. I suggest cutting though. you can also cut the edges if they're crispy but I like it that way.

ok. the ganache. get a spoon and just coat the top layers of the bottom and soon to be middle layer.

you want all three layers lined up next to each other.

take the *** off the heat while you're doing this. just hold off for a moment. you come back to it.


let the ganache layers cool down. you'll know when it's cool. when this happens  get the cream and do a nice layer over the chocolate. now stack them.

it should be from the bottom up: cake, chocolate, cream, cake, chocolate, cream, cake. (try to stack in on a cooling rack)

take the rest of the cream and evenly spread it over the entire cake.

nice. the rest of the chocolate ganache? double check that it is POURABLE but also that it's NOT HOT. warm is ok but a little less than warm would be ideal.

pour. the. chocolate. over. the. entire. cake. if you can do this on a cooling rack, do it. it'll let the excess chocolate drip down. you can take a knife to spread it around nicely. I think that's it. I can't think of anything else.
Duke Thompson Jul 2014
I look at Sil and start to SCREAM and yell and yammer excitedly with this new idea bursting forth -  Let’s go to Sunday mass hungover, or maybe still drunk. Maybe we can puke in the pews or confess our sins to the pederast priest! Sil, always an easy read, agreed instantly so we left the watering hole in the wall, brimming with stalwart stoic sin and soaking in ***, gin and ugh…pheromones.

“fadder I puked in yer pews. How many hail Marys is dat?”

“fadder I smoked a joint in the rectory.”

“fadder I occasionally sleeps wit men.” I cry,

We see his previously shock beet red face light up.

“Wit MEN fadder wit men.  Not little boys”

Disappointed pederast priest preaching piously about the sins of drugs and alcohol and *** and ****** and y’know, pretty much everything fun ever.

“fadder I sold me mudders dentures for new headshots.”

“fadder I was in a ****” et cetera. After the pederast has a coronary we’ll steal the communion wine and dance on the church *****. You can play a sweet soft soothing melody accompanied soliloquy or Debussy’s Claire de Lune. We’ll remember better days when he could still play and cry red tears, ****** drunk. Stuck in our respective funk ruts our calls to the coronary catholic become more somber.

“fadder I’m afraid. I’m afraid of dying…I’m afraid of living.”

Rolling around on the confession booth floor now,

“fadder I want to die, fadder I tried to **** myself”

Sil shows strong salient scalpel scars that we both still remember suturing shut.

“fadder I should be in the Waterford In-patient wing”

By now we’ve revived the poor old Father…As it happens he’s a rowdy red whiskey noser. Sil’s feeling good, rambunctious and reeling secretly seething I believe.

“So fadder explain to me why it’s a sin to love another man but every other ******* week some ******’ pillar of the community cops for kiddie ****?!” His ire is up, red cheeked wide eyed boiling over.

The priest is mute silent on the subject at first, finally looking up from a leather bound book, he starts to speak in careful, measured words unfamiliar to the impatience of our generation.

“My son, I’ve never ****** any boys, nor do I hate ‘the gays’ and what’s all this about killing yourselves and Waterford Bridge Road?” I feel a lecture coming on…”What’s the allure of this demure throwaway life attitude you have, so many of you.”

This question throws a long echoing silence through the puke stained pews.  A symbol for broken, wasted, busted, beat down lost youth. Or whatever. (Say it like a valley girl honey.)

Breaking the silence I turn to him quietly, “I guess for me I really don’t see the point of any of it beyond a couple of laughs and a lot of highs. I see the corruption that I’m too stupid to fix, that I can’t realistically change.”

Sil interjects “I think generationally we just don’t really have a tether – Everyone exists superficially, digitally we don’t know how to talk to one another we just get drunk or high and crash into each other blindly praying for a little connection on those rare occasions we realize how disconnected we really are.”

“Generationally? Is that even a word?!”

“Shut up milk drinker!” Sil punches me

“Yeah everyone sitting alone in rooms or all together with a *** and coke and a cellphone silently tapping away.”

The pederast nods “you boys need family, children, religion even. You know it brings us together as a community. The ****** of the masses son” He pauses, wagging a finger “and I don’t consider that to be a pejorative.”

Taking a ridiculous swig I nod “I understand the appeal really but I prefer actual opiates  and being alone and not changing.”

After a box of communion wine, (Yes it can come in boxes, look it up) we bid farewell to the swell drunk ‘ol pederast priest, promising to return someday with Irish Mist for his thirsty Irish lips, (Is that bigotry?) the old coot.

“Sil come over and stay in my bed we can binge watch a season of Louie and drink ******’ Borises and I’ll play guitar for you an…” I stammer on

“STOP! You had me at BED” Sil yells at me belligerently as we stagger down Bully Street arms intertwined drunk walking. It’s foggy and misty, our feet soaked and my body is drained of life. Finally we knock into my front door struggling with keys, we must have dropped 5 times.

“I think yer scars are beautiful Sil” (I love it, I do) I tell her softly as I run my hand over them, feeling the slight texture change, the scar raised…We kiss and stare into eyes, not alone not for tonight.
SassyJ Jan 2016
Stencils and pencils
Sharpener mishaps
Doodles, scribbles
Scrambling shades
Blending sketches
Running axis points
Spherical shadows
Tinting hints and hues
Pencilled portraits
Cruel crooked eyes
The bendy nose
Philosophical muse
Artistically inspired
Shading and fading
Realistically amused
Fused within reality
Surreal tuned vices  
Meet-ups and sit ups
Outlines freakily patched
Attended a sketching meet up for the first time. The best ever environment where I can just be myself. Socialising via sketching is cool;)
Where has it gone?
I used to be good,
I used to be a poet,
Who could fine the words and pick and choose,
I could tell you my story and make it relatable,
I could make you feel any emotion and make it real.
Where has that gone, where is my fire my imagination?
I was the best,
And Please I know, its arrogant but I do not mean to deceive,
Even the famous ones, they bore, but with me everything became lore,
So much accolade, so much triumph,
Born under skill and pain the mightiest,
But it’s disappeared,
From misuse and disrespect.
Hopefully hiding, realistically gone.
There is no magic cure no band aid for my loss, my pain.
Do no be me, do not second guess.
No longer regret, don’t fret.
Just go and write your soul,
Don’t forget it, don’t let it pass,
Release it let the talent and emotions flow.
Because one day it will be gone,
And your lone talent no more.
And your going to be alone,
Without even the words to implore.
- From Birds Flying Into The Eclipse Of Mars
Harsh Oct 2012
If I took the lyrics of 'I can't make you love me' and 'See beneath your beautiful',
remixed them into a rap tainted with Eminem's vengeance and Ed Sheeran's soul,
and plagiarized Beethoven's most romantic composition to bring it to life,
maybe I would come a little closer to expressing my true feelings, if at all.
To tell you, though you already know, that I am in desperate need of saving.
I'm showing all the symptoms such as losing control, sense, rationality, sight,
and only you can cure me, not because of the doctor you're studying to be,
but because you are both my Superman and kryptonite.

I spend my days searching for a replacement, an alternative, a pastime,
but of course it's impossible as nothing can substitute perfection.
So I wrestle insomnia to dream of you, but I don't, I'm wide awake,
it's a nightmare. Then I pray only to behold that I'm denied salvation.
However as an intelligent, smart, independent young woman,
with my hair down, head held high and hips swinging to the beat,
I try to channel my energy elsewhere. Amidst all the positive thinking
tequila takes over and I return to my cold bed, with aching feet.

Ideally I want to be the woman you love, or realistically your ****,
on the contrary I'm Neo from Matrix who took both pills.
Bewitched by your once in a blue moon texts, ignoring the red siren
in my head blaring, "nothing makes you stronger, it only kills!"
I have nothing exceptional to offer, so I do not know how to pitch
my average intelligence, talent, wit, personality and body.
Unless God, who you have no faith in, by some miracle
leads you to this, yet another one of my mediocre poetry.
This poem is the sole property of me and cannot be copied or used without permission. [Copyright G.H. Rodrigo 30/10/2011]
Marco Batista Jan 2014
Feels like I'm fighting forever with these demons
Underestimating the toll it's having on my body
Can't let complications control me, just confuse
Killing the negativity could resolve this

Make me realize what I'm worth
Excite me with the possibilities

Harass me with profound positivity
Accept my unpredictable atrociousness,
Realize, realistically,  that I can love.
Dance with my emotions, set me free.
Chrysta Ashlock Feb 2013
me.

1. “A kiss is what tells the beginning to every story; it’s up to you where that story will lead.”
2. “All I could hear escape between your lips were pain strikingly words. Everything spoken after faded into darkness and all I could do to hold the screaming inside my chest from escaping into the world beyond was to cry. The tears disguised those screams so they could fall silently down. It has become positively clear that this masquerade I’ve been considering my life will forever remain the same. There’s no perfection; love, trust and the other feelings of happiness hide comfortably behind enclosed masks. I wished to believe this would be the last game I would play. That you would be the last character in my storybook. Though perhaps I was unmistakably incorrect; the soul never lies. Once one half finds its other they’re forever intertwined. Never losing sight of what’s to be. Always knowing when something is. Love moves at its own speed of blinding light; may it be slow and may it be incredibly fast. Please realize this or it’ll be far too late and hearts will be left broken and poisonous tears will shed.”
3. “All she was to him was just a pretty face; all I am to him is just a pretty face.”
4. “Angels do exist. Though they do not have wings; they live among us.”
5. “As night falls, the world sleeps.”
6. ”Beauty is just another tragedy.”
7. “Boy, shut the **** up because she loves your sorry ***. So smile and be happy.”
8. “Cascading waves of memories flood over you like an ocean swallowing you entirely engulfing your every move and stealing your every breath from within. Screaming and crying are disguised with one last breath. You awaken and to your demise find you were only in a far off dream.”
9. “Confusion all mixed into one creating an atomic bomb of confusion.”
10. “Don’t get attached to me; I’m poison, I’ll destroy your life.”
11. “Everything happens for a reason; don’t underestimate those reasons. You live to forgive and forget and to move along with the life you’re leading. Therefore, with that said, don’t waste time with melodrama or pity arguments. Don’t put up with people who attempt to drag you down with them. Because I can guarantee that those people, the ones who try to play you like a cheesy board game are never worth a single breath escaping your lips. Those are the ones who will never find happiness, true happiness, bliss, No; they’ll forever be lonely. Keep moving forward look onto brighter horizons. Love the ones you hold close to your heart. Cherish your children. Lead your own life, not someone else’s, nor let any other being lead yours. Smile. Kiss. Love. Trust. Be honest with yourself and with others. It’s all worth it in the end.”
12. “Find your forever. Find your never. They’ll always be connected together.”
13. “Forever is never, never is forever.”
14. “**** pretty in pink! I’m pretty in purple!”
15. “**** this. *******. I’m through.”
16. “Have you ever been afraid to say something even though it’s boiling at the brim wanting to be spoken? For the fear of letting those words roll down your tongue and escape your lips will make reality all the more real. Saying something so breathtaking could possibly have your fairytale come to an abrupt stop; even though the tables may turn and your heart will open to whatever this may be.”
17. “I can’t find reality; my reality has just become a non-stop ride through hell and back. Send someone to shine a light as bright as a shooting star so I can find my way back to what my reality should be realistically.”
18. “He calls her pretty face.”
19. “He thinks she’s just a pretty face.”
20. “Hold your breath, count to ten, wish you were only dead again.”
21. “I feel lost within myself and I’ve become blind as to which way to turn.”
22. “I hate being surrounded by people and feel totally alone; because I know that they all hate me.”
23. “I hate feet; so I wish that I had mermaid find and fairy wings instead.”
24. “I hate making my face look like a porcelain doll just to hide what reality has done.”
25. “I have a feeling that drastic changes are approaching quite quickly. I only wish that I were able to see what’s coming. A warning would be magnificently lovely.”
26. “I love moments like this; I’m smoking a cigarette, drinking a wine cooler, writing, just enjoying life. Why couldn’t it be like this all of the time?”
27. “I tend to pass judgment onto others too quickly; yet I’ve realized that if I don’t it typically turns around to bite me hard in the ***.”
28. “I wish my life were like a movie; maybe then it would be easier.”
29. “I’m crazy, you’re crazy, he’s crazy, she’s crazy, we’re all crazy.”
30. “I’m just your typical story.”
31. “Is there truly a such thing as forever? Honestly. Can someone really love me? Can someone handle my roller coaster ride of emotions? I need that somebody here with me now – to protect me from myself. I love you. I loved you. I miss you. I’ve always missed you. Things change. People change in both good and bad ways. Friendships fall apart. Relationships are destroyed. Nothing is ever wonderful anymore. Life just isn’t worth living.”
32. “It seems to happen in threes.”
33. “It’s a two way street, not a one-way road.”
34. “It’s boiling inside of me, reaching closer and closer to the rim, threatening to boil over, destroying everything in it’s destructive path.”
35. “Just a strangers touch and the sound of your voice is all I need to live.”
36. “Let’s run away together, just you and me.”
37. “Love like tomorrow but not like yesterday.”
38. “Make a wish; slit your wrist; never count tomorrow as another day.”
39. “People change – I’ve seen friendships fall apart and relationships destroyed. It happens, truth hurts. People lie, people cheat. Everyone destroys someone else in some way. It’s an ever-going cycle of life. Live your life; even when something unexpected comes along, enjoy it, love it. It’s all worth it in the end. I can promise you that.”
40. “Running away with the boy of your dreams to the far away never land of happiness. But really, there are no dreams of happiness, only an imagination wanting to escape.”
41. “She smells of cigarette-smoke perfume. She’s that lonely girl down the street with only hope and faith to lead her life.”
42. “She’s more then just a pretty face, why can’t you see that?”
43. “Simply a look can break your heart.”
44. “So there’s this boy, I’m not sure if I should like him because I’m an emotional roller coaster ride and I don’t need to **** up again; get hurt again.”
45. “Sometimes I rely on ‘pretend’ way too much.”
46. “Sometimes part of me just wants to run and hide and runaway from this; and then the other half decides it’s for the best to keep looking ahead no matter how breath taxingly terrifying it may be.”
47. “Sometimes when she sees her mother she lets out a scream.”
48. “That boy makes me scream so silently.”
49. “That light that once was has grown extraordinarily dim; hardly a flicker remains. It’s fading quickly, more so as the days press forward. The question arises, should the flame rekindle or should it die out completely?”
50. “The past will never cease to constantly be snipping at your heels with every step you take; it’ll always be there to remind you who you are and what paths you’ve chosen to lead you to where you are. Don’t break promises, don’t break hearts, because it’s happened before; your sometimes overwhelming past can come toppling down on you at any given moment; so be careful. There’s no one who wants to slip, fall face first, losing all consciousness into what once was.”
51. “There is always that one person, that one unforgettable person that never ceases to leave your mind, though you remain invisible to them.”
52. “Things look so much prettier at night – why?”
53. “Thoughts run around all over my mind. Tears fill a pool of solitude and regret.”
54. “Trust; it’s a highly important factor in ones life. I have very little for those I have met here, all except for one in which I trust completely with my life, my heart, my child. Yes, I may be very trusting, but that trust only lasts until you’ve broken it. Every one of you thus far, besides that one person has broken my trust. So therefore those of you who broke my trust can go **** yourselves and relinquish yourselves from my life; it’ll be much better without you. And you know exactly who I’m referring to.”
55. “We all seem like strangers now.”
56. “We learn and we live. We forgive and we forget. We make mistakes because we’re only human. We say things we don’t mean and we hurt others out of our own selfishness. We blind ourselves from what we truly need to see. We believe that happiness will come to us naturally. We wish to believe that there is a happy ever after to end all of our stories. We sometimes dwell in our pasts, and dread a different future. Sometimes things happen because they’re meant to – and I am one who has done these things. I feel as if I can never love again because I hurt that one person. And I think that may never be welcomed back to me.”
57. “Welcome the future with open arms; embrace it like an old friend. Learn to forget and forgive the painful memories; keep your tears at bay; have faith in yourself and others. And mostly, remember that love and trust will always be your guiding light into the darkness.”
58. “What do you do when someone from your past suddenly comes waltzing back into your life? Do you welcome them with open arms or shove them straight back into the darkness from which they emerged?  Does it become a shock that they wish to return? Are apologies relevant? What’s to come now – friendship? Blank stares in amazement that someone so unbelievably stupid could possibly fathom a change in heart. One may never know the truth behind such a possession. Though may it truly be a possession of heart at all? Or is it a matter of fact that it’s real? We all long for answers and truth be told, the most difficult are the ones needed to be released. So may I ask you my dear, what are you going to do? Are you going to welcome me back into your life or shove me away? It was once said I would come back, never knowing when, and that when has become now. After the tedious past, which lay behind me, I view things differently. I no longer want what I had wanted before, because I have experiences them with the wrong person. Could you possibly lend me some much needed answers?”
59. “Why would you keep your beauty locked in an air-tight box?”
60. “Worlds upon worlds are falling upon me; burying me entirely. I run from my demons, though when I turn around there they are.”
61. “You have an everlasting beauty to you. You always will. Never let them bring you down when they fall.”
these are my quotes. not anyone else's. don't steal my writings. -me.
Nick M Jan 2014
key
lit by the sunlight is none other than your skin, intertwining with that of my own,
meshing in the air is our thoughts and beliefs, and our future being carefully devised before us,
it's not hard to think ahead, or at least dream ahead that perhaps just like right now,
our skin will still be touching as you lay softly next to me in five years time,
it's nice to think I will be happy for more than this moment can last
and perhaps you hold that key, its just up to you to use it

I know you more than I know myself, despite you thinking differently,
your smile glows brighter in my thoughts than it does in the sunlight
overwhelming would be a word to describe you,
you've seen me in light, whereas others have only seen me in the dark
thinking realistically maybe this won't last forever, nothing does
but I can dream
Oliver Philip Dec 2018
Virgo  ♍️
~~~~
Virgo needs be a person advocating virginity
I know because I have fusion and experience.
Realistically fusing together two personalities
God knows n loves my approach and approves
Of Peridot,Carnelian, Blue Sapphire,Tourmaline
      Of Green ........
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Written by Philip.
     17th December 2018.
Virgo as a Zodiacal sign.
Aidan A May 2017
I once penned -
To find someone that would
Want you, exactly as you are
Was to find depth
In an ocean of shores.

I look no more.

I could not care less, that
My fear used to get the best
Of me.
It still lingers and creeps
Even in my sleep,
But I know I'm afraid only
Because shes perfect,
Perfect as can be -
Realistically speaking,
Shes just right for me.

I cannot write of beauty,
And that's not for the lack of it.
It is only because I'm so distracted
By her charm and wit -
The funny accents, slightly ***** jokes
But with capacity of depth
Only oceans invoke
I see passionate flames
That just need to be stoked.

At this point I cannot tell
If this will work out well.
I can only say that I will love her fully.
I will let her destroy me
Completely.
I will not back down, I will try
To give myself to her
As if I was never broken
Because shes deserves more
Than the shell of the man
I believe I am.

If she cries in the
Dead of night, I want to hear every last
Word soaked in pain leave her be.
If where she lies
Lacks enough light, I want to be right by
Her side, just so she can sleep peacefully.
And if my eyes
Start to lose sight, I know I need not see.
I know shes got me.
I need not more -
I've got her
To calm my seas.

Let me sing,
Let me soar -
The Left Handed Leo roars

I've found depth
In an ocean of shores.
Daniel K May 2013
I have a lot of friends these days
so fed up with life
so ill at the very thought
that they must fit in with everything around
so angered that they strike out
in just about every wrong way
I would like to tell them this is not the answer
there is of course another way
they are so ****** about how
the world has run them in to the ground
when realistically they should count themselves lucky
at all the blessings that they have
this is the first world for Christ's sake
do we really have that many problems?

They think the whole world is out to get them
they are blue with paranoia
they feel that everyone is watching
everyone is judging
and most importantly absolutely everybody
is trying to drag them down
I think they are fools
to be quite honest nobody really gives a ****
how their lives end up
everyone else is too wrapped up in themselves
to really care about anyone else's

And these people that I talk of
they hit out
and they take out
upon the ones they love
and why?
who knows
they put on a merry face
for the outside world
a show
an absolute fraud that only their nearest and dearest can see
its pitiful
its sad

To be honest these people are losers
complete and utter dregs
from the gutter that is this life
teenage angst is one thing
but complete involvement in this grief is too much
can they not see how they are wasting their time?
that if they spent even a tenth of the minutes they spend moping
actually doing something some what constructive
they would feel a whole lot better
a whole lot more accomplished
and they would not end up hating everyone around
and more importantly hating themselves
as a lot of them end up doing

I guess these are first world problems
inflicted on our youth
infected from having too much time on their hands
from having so much given
for never having to work
it really is a pain
these god forsaken creatures
who expect fame and fortune
money and power
the whole wide world
the universe
and everything in between
to be tossed in to their hands
for no other reason
then they feel they are entitled to it

I feel sorry for these people
I swear I really do
For they will never feel content
They will never feel complete
And I worry that their lives will dwindle
that they will waste their youth in fiery rage
consumed within their mind
until nothing but ash remain

Every now and then I feel
I myself am going that way
and when I do feel like this
I sit
and I write
and I take the anger away
I will not let myself become these people
There is too much to have and to hold and to love
I will not waste my days
Jay M Sep 2019
Realistically,
How could I
Ever be close to good enough
For you?

You're kind,
Funny, thoughtful, sweet,
Adorable, caring,
Overall wonderful.

What am I
Compared to you?

- Jay M
September 6th, 2019
Dorothy A Oct 2011
Objective and Subjective decided to hang out together at the park one day, to get to know each other and to try to become friends. Soaking up the views, and watching the people go by, they just sat and relaxed on a park bench.

Subjective broke the ice, first, and said to Objective:

It is getting a bit nippy outside isn't it? I forgot to bring my sweater with me.

Objective replied:

The daytime high will reach 67 degrees with a NW winds of 12 mph. Humidity is 68%. The weather is forcasted today for a 20% chance of rain, but it is not due until evening.

Subjective replied:

Yes, that is good to know...I guess. Now I know why I am cold. Hey, look over there on the right! Check out those roses! Boy oh boy! Did they ever come up colorful this year! I am getting a good whiff of them right now. Don't they smell like heaven?

Objective replied:  

I have never been to heaven, so I can not give you an accurate report. Roses, though, come from a thorn bearing shrub that typically produce fragrant flowers of various colors. Roses are native to north temperate regions. They are widely cultivated for unpractical reasons such as objects of adornment.

Subjective gave Objective a good sidelong glance like, Are you for real? There was a long period of silence as both appeared awkward in each other's company.

Subjective finally broke the silence and said:

The birds are really chirping up a storm today! Oh, I don't mind at all! They sure tweet nice and sweet! But these pigeons I can do without! I don't want them around me! You know what they say, don't you? Pigeons are just rats with wings!

Objective replied:

Actually, rainstorms are not caused by chirping of birds. Rain is produced when water is condensed into clouds from the water evaporation of oceans, lakes and rivers when the heat of the sun activates the process.  Furthermore, there is no such thing as a flying rodent. Even flying squirrels don't actually fly. Birds and rodents are two separate species that cannot produce offspring. Therefore, a rat with wings would be impossible.

Subjective was now beginning to get red in the face. Maybe this was a bad idea hanging out with Objective, after all. Could he really learn to understand him by getting to know him?

Both Objective and Subjective's attention was soon diverted by a tall, slender woman with blonde hair walking by. She now became the center of their focus. Wearing a form fitting blue dress, that came well above the knees, her shapely. long legs were quite appearant as she walked along in 5 inch, spiked heels.
  
Eagerly, Subjective whistled and said:

Wow! Would you get a look at her? What a knockout! Hey, Objective, I think you just saw heaven, after all!

Objective shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly and replied:

Beauty is said to be in the eye of the beholder. Back in history, it was the full figured woman who was upheld as a virtue of beauty. Her size represented a desired lifestyle of affluence. For example, in the Classical period of art, as well as the Rennaissance and Baroque periods, it was the more voluptuous female that was often the subject of an artist's rendering.

Now Subjective was really ready to blow smoke through his ears, like his blood pressure was going to go through the roof.  No way could he take this for much longer!

He replied:  

That's it! I tried! I did! I really did! But you know what? You are the most annoying being on the planet!

Objective looked stunned at Subjective's outburst of anger. So Subjective continued on in his verbal lashing.

He yelled out:

Yeah, you, Objective! You just don't get it, do you? You really get on my nerves! I can't stand being around you! It is so infuriating!

Objective was at a loss for word. He attempted to utter a reply but could not.    

Subjective added:

I got to get out of here before you drive me crazy! What are you anyway? A walking encyclopedia? A walking dictionary? For the love of Pete, talk like you're normal!!!

As Subjective was ready to storm off Objective meekly replied:

Inanimate objects, such as encyclopedias and dictionaries, cannot realistically have body limbs, nor can they function as living organisms....unless, of course, they are presentated in imaginery situations, such as cartoon figures in cinema, television, comic strips, or storybooks. Also,  I must tell you that I personally don't know anyone named Pete.......

Furious, Subjective got up and stomped off, muttering complaints to himself all the way down the street, leaving Objective sitting on the park bench, by himself. There Objective remained, wondering what he did that was so wrong.



THE MORAL of my LAME story is..........................

OBJECTIVE AND SUBJECTIVE JUST DO NOT BELONG OR GO TOGETHER!!!
I’m literally sitting here. Literally. I’m figuratively doing nothing. This time allows me to think. Contemplate; the future of this mess we call adolescence. You look at the clock. Tick tock…kids stepping over my feet, as I literally sit here. Figuratively doing nothing. I’m breathing. Writing. Forming a collection of words in this memo. They don’t fit together, realistically. I would go for a smoke, but I have no cigarettes. I am a sixteen year old, who is too awkward too phone her boyfriend’s home phone, and too awkward just to pop round. I have to see miss in an hour, there’s a kid who’s sad and I have to talk to him.
   Apparently I am confident. I’m not. I just listen to powerful music which makes me feel like I can be a queen. That’s the idea. To feel comfortable you need to not care, and look after yourself. You are queen, you care for your subjects. You rule with fair point. You go out and buy yourself a crown, or shoplift one. I don’t know, just whatever makes you feel like the main *****. Find what you like about yourself and spark it. Make what you like stand out. Find the things you dislike about yourself and show it off. I don’t like my **** but hey, just shake it a bit and it’s like simple twerking. I have thunder thighs which consist of a fair amount of muscle; I have perfected the **** drop. I have become stronger because of what I put myself through. I am the only one who can hear my thoughts. So if at first you’re thinking ‘******* I’m terrified, what if I look like a ****’ fake it.

After acting like this powerful alter ego you can become her. She takes over at times. I can switch between quiet, shy Sophia; into the proud, queen ***** Patricia. Patricia the stripper. I admit this is my alter ego. She wears red lipstick, a leopard coat and thigh highs. She owns a tiara and blows bubbles in her gum. She struts to punk music and breaths arctic monkeys. She dances to jack white, ***** wiggles and all. She sings Kate Nash and the kooks, because she needs to keep her showgirl ship with class and talent as well as outright hot radiation. She has no idea what she is doing, as long as everyone is happy and entertained; she is satisfied with her life. She loves everyone because they all contain a characteristic she adores.

I also have another alter ego who has no name. This is the first time I’m referring to her as her own alter ego. She’s like a ****** of crows. An unkind of ravens. She wears dangerously applied dark makeup. She always wears full black. She’s pretty much a Goth who thrives on shock, horror and Edgar Allen Poe. Her favorite author is Stephan king and she has murderous thoughts. She pouts. She is, oh so pouty; with darkened lips of a cherry flavor. She makes sassy comments which sometimes come out as unintended bitchiness. She scares people, but they call her cool. She’s a bass player, with a strong stance and a black bra and thong set. She smokes like a chimney. She has ash-ened dark lungs like her mind. She’s my biting ***** ego. She hates anything that’s negative in the human spectrum of life. Ironic. She can’t stand hate but embodies it. She smiles at kids playing or people busking. Under the black shell intended to scared, she has the interior of a marshmallow. Fluffy hair, pastel teddy choker, and a love for giggling. She smells or strawberries, cherries and bubble-gum. She is actually really happy; this drives people mad as they can’t label her…neither can I, unless this pinkie paradise is one of her own. Like all my egos…she is happy.
I started writing out of boredom. Then it became advise for this kid I had to talk to about confidence *the kid who's sad* . Then it became a summary of my alter egos. We share here...this is all just rambling bull...but hey who doesn't like dumb ****, am i right?
ahmo Jan 2015
Light the funeral pyre.
The fleeting fire of desire
will never keep you higher
than a space devoid of *******,
or the clever whiff of wit.
(whether or not I deserve it)
I looked you in the eyes;  I shook.
The embarrassing strength it took.
The longing I have for you
is asymmetrically split in two.
A love for the rendezvous,
but a run from the morning dew.
That's you.
But realistically,
I'll be me.
And to be free,
I'm finally happy.
And she's out there-
a heart of care,
soft, translucent hair,
some lacy underwear,
a smile to defeat despair.
Every time I doubt,
I see you there.
And then you're everywhere.
You're my sturdy, wooden chair,
and the cowlick in my hair.
And to be fair,
I've got some pretty sweet underwear.
But ****, when you’re there,
you're there.
And for me,
you're everywhere.

— The End —