Submit your work, meet writers and drop the ads. Become a member
If we don't realize who we are and why we are here
If we are not happy and just live with stress and fear
If we come to earth and don't realize why we are given this birth
Then, can we say we lived? No, at best, we did exist

Everybody wants happiness, who wants to be sad
Who wouldn't exchange a life of misery for one that is glad
But few are happy with unfullled desires and expectations
They never learn happiness is a journey, not a destination

Are we meant to zoom from our womb to our tomb
Or is life such that we must be locked in a room?
No, life is about living and realizing the Truth
Finding our life purpose, getting to the bottom of the root

The world is chasing success for everyone wants happiness
They cheat, they lie, they steal and cry, and end their life in a mess
They think achievement and money will give pleasure and smiles
Till they learn Success is not Happiness, Happiness is Success

It's crazy but it's true that we earn for others to burn
Silly, we are stingy, we don't spend on what we yearn
Till one day we realize, sadly, that we have money but no life to live
Money that we can't take with us, everything we must give

Achievement creates pleasure, it makes us laugh and smile
But with it come problems that are longer than a mile
With contentment and fulllment, our life is full of peace
There is no stress, there is no worry, just tranquility, and ease

Have you ever wondered why we are anxious and miserable?
We worry about our cough and cold, and how we will pay the bill
The biggest cause of unhappiness is our desires that are not met
We seek something and are disappointed and this makes our eyes wet

What is our life purpose? Why do we come to this earth?
How do these trillion cells together take a magical birth?
If we live and do not nd life's purpose and meaning...
Then we are no better than a tree that is tall but just leaning

Instead of just existing, there are questions that we must ask
Let's make our life interesting by doing this curious task
Where is God and who is He? Is it true that God made me?
Let us nd out what came rst - was it the seed or the tree?

Are we the body that is born starting as a zygote?
Or is the body something that keeps our life aoat?
Fools are those who believe that we are made of bone and skin
The Truth is that we are the Life Energy that lives within

We think and worry and fear, that is our mind
Strange, isn't it, where is the mind, we cannot nd!
It appears like a monkey jumping from trunk to trunk
Spilling thoughts left and right till we make it into a monk

If I am not the body, I am not the mind, then the question is, who am I?
The ego says, “Oh, it's me! This silly question - why?”
The ego tries to fool us with this mistaken identity
The Truth when we know, only then we will be free

We live in ignorance covered by a blanket that is dark
We achieve many things but what is life, we miss the mark
We foolishly live and do not achieve our own life goal
To nd we are not the body or the mind, but the Soul

The body will die, and the mind will y
The soul which is me will leave for the sky
The body will return to dust, that's no lie
That's the simple Truth, I will never die

There is a power that controls this earth and universe
A power that's kind, that's wise, and does not curse
How is it possible otherwise that the earth goes round and round?
Who is the one that causes all the magic on the ground?

We know God exists but who is, where is, what is God?
Why can't you tell us the secret from the skies, Oh Lord!
We know you exist that's for sure, we have no doubt
You are a power that we know, but we pray: please come out

Life on earth is a Cosmic Drama, we come and we go
Nothing is real, it's like a dream, it's just a Cosmic show
Because we think that life is real, we worry and we cry
We ght, we shout, we scream, we suffer right until we die

Karma is a universal Law, what you give is what you get
As you sow, so shall you reap - on this I can bet
Law of Action and Reaction, those who **** will be made to hang
And it all returns back to us, just like a boomerang

Man thinks he can achieve anything but little does he know
There is a mysterious 4th Factor that actually controls the show
Man believes results depend on him, his equipment and his act
Sad it is but the results lie with the 4th Factor, in fact

There is a way to suffer no more, not to worry, not to cry
If only we nd out the Truth of 'who am I?'
Then though the body and mind suffers, that is not me
From regret, fear, worry, pain and misery, I am free

Of course, we all need a good Life Coach who will teach
Otherwise, it is not possible that success we will reach
If we want to nd the Truth and our life to realize
We need a spiritual master, who will open our real eyes

Do you know anybody who has been to heaven or hell?
Are there devils in hell and does heaven have a bell?
The Truth is this, these are not places that anyone can go
Sins or good deeds are redeemed here on earth we must know

If we are not the body and the mind, then who are we?
We are the Soul, the Atman, we are the Life Energy
When the body is born, we enter and we are the cause of birth
We continue to give life to the body till it dies here on earth

We all say that time is ying, but this is not true
We are moving. Time is still. It's stuck like glue
No doubt the clock has a needle. Its ticking doesn't stop
Stop and see time is still. It's we who run and hop

We must realize this Truth that knowledge is not realization
It's the root, it's not the fruit, there must be evolution
From knowledge shall shoot wisdom that will nally make us know
Who we are and why we are here, in our Soul this will glow

What is our goal? All religions say it is liberation
We must realize we are the Soul, whatever be our occupation
Most of humanity thinks that happiness is the goal
No, this is not true. It is to nd that we are the Soul

Where is the mind? We cannot nd but who will make us know?
It is our intellect who is the master to make the mind slow
The intellect discriminates between what is right and what is wrong
We then choose what we must do and sing a happy song

There is a way to stop all our worries and anxiety
If we live with detachment then from misery we are free
It is passion and desire that makes us expect and crave
If we don't live with dispassion, we will take worries to our grave

What is the key to realization? The secret, do you know?
With discipline of mind and body, towards liberation you can go
If you have no control on your body and your mind
In a prison of Body and Mind, yourself you will nd

People think yoga is a physical exercise.
This is believed by fools, not the ones who are wise
Yoga is union. It's a connection with the Divine
That is all that matters, and it is truly sublime

Who is it that kills and destroys our joy and peace?
It is we ourselves who do it. Let's not blame others, please!
When we start, there is happiness and peace all around
But we desire and we crave and anxiety is found

The one who can be happy in this moment, in the NOW
It is he who can be peaceful, grazing like a Happy cow
He doesn't live with regrets of the past that is gone
Nor does he live with the fear of the future not yet born

Why do we nd that people easily believe in the myth?
Why don't they ask questions and Realize the Truth?
Because we believe in rituals and trust superstition
Our life is in turmoil and we live in stress and tension

Maya is a cosmic illusion. It has two amazing powers
With one it conceals the Truth, with the other, it projects the stars
Nothing is real in this cosmic world, everything is a dream
Because we believe in Maya, we fear, worry, and scream

The Law of Causation states that every effect has a cause
Don't just believe it's a gold ring. Ask questions and pause
If you remove gold from the gold ring, you will nd nothing left
The Divine is the cause, the world and we are just effects

To achieve the goal of life, important steps there are three
It starts with the purication of body and mind, then we are free
In the second step, the darkness goes because of illumination
In the nal step we become one with the Lord, that is unication

Every human being on earth has to act and is not free
When we wake up from bed, we wash our faces and be who we must be
While we cannot be free from action and this Truth we do know
We can be free in action and we can let the spirit grow

At death one of two things happen…this is the Divine Truth
If we believe we are body and mind, we will have to take rebirth
But those who realize we are the Soul, from rebirth they are free
At death, their Soul is liberated and one with the Lord, they'll be

Columbus discovered America, the land he could touch and feel
Self-realization can't be discovered. You’ll know it when you peel…
Layer by layer, when you strip apart the body and the mind
You will realize you are neither, you are the Soul that's inside

Even those who realize the ultimate Truth, they are still not free
They still have to ght the war within, then liberation they will see
The Truth you know, you are still prisoner of the mind
When you transcend ego, and mind, then you are free, you will nd
Of course, there is a way to everlasting peace and joy
If we are free from body and mind, this bliss we can enjoy
But rst, we must realize the Truth and know that we are the Soul
Then we can achieve everlasting joy and peace as our goal

Many things are beautiful, with these beautiful eyes we see
And then we can appreciate how beautiful the Creator can be
But when we realize that everything is a manifestation of the Lord
Then we will not just see beauty, but in beauty we will see God

All religions are good for they take us closer to God
But there is one problem, they say their God is the only Lord
Thus, religion is the kindergarten to spirituality we must know
We must go beyond our religion, in spirituality to grow

Realization of the Truth is nothing less than magic
It eliminates regrets, fears and takes away everything tragic
When we realize we are not the body that cries and the rascal mind
This is the realization of the truth, and peace and joy we will nd

When something happens don't wonder, accept the Divine Will
We must trust in the Divine Master, His design and His skill
Rather than hope for something and break our little heart
It is better to surrender to the Divine, just doing our little part

We all have enemies, who doesn't? But the greatest enemy is 'ME'
ME is Mind and Ego, a bigger enemy there cannot be
It bombards us with thoughts and causes anxiety
It makes us suffer in regret and fear and doesn't let us be free

What is life all about, have you ever thought?
Who are we and why we are here, this we have forgot
The purpose of life is to nd the Truth - we are not body and mind
Our goal is to unite with the Divine, and this Truth we must nd

In a transformation, we make a change, though it is better, not worse
We changed our life from what it was, but this change we can reverse
But a metamorphosis is different, it's when a caterpillar starts to y
It can never again crawl on earth as it becomes a buttery

We are all Souls embodied in a body and a mind
Without this body-mind complex, the Soul we cannot nd
Just like mud needs a *** to manifest itself
The Soul too needs a body and mind and can't be seen by itself

Why do we fear, why do we worry, why do we regret?
Because we live in ignorance, we fume and we fret
But once we realize the Truth that we are not body or mind
We dance with joy and peace, and misery we leave behind

It starts with self-realization, knowing who we truly are
Neither are we the body, nor the mind, but the Soul that shines like a
star
This leads to God-realization, we nd God is a power
He is everywhere, on earth and in the sky. He is in every ower

The human mind can't understand all, it has a limit we must know
The nose can smell, but cannot see and show what eyes can show
And so is the human being created, he cannot think beyond
He can realize the self and realize God, but can't go beyond

I live as the happiest man on earth, what is my secret of life?
I live with peace and joy and bliss. I have no strife
I know I am not body or mind. I am a Divine Soul
To unite with my Lord, My God, is my Life's only Goal.
Spiritual Poem By AiR
Danielle Shorr Apr 2014
You don't realize how fragile life is
Until you attend a funeral
And finally understand
Why everyone is crying
You don't realize how fragile life is
Until you realize that
They're never coming back
You don't realize how fragile life is
Until you hear the word cancer
Come from the mouth
Of a loved one
You don't realize how fragile life is
Until you hear it
Multiple times
You don't realize how fragile life is
Until you find yourself praying
To a god you never even believed in Yet hope with all of your heart, exists
You don't realize how fragile life is
Until they say
"there's nothing more we can do for them"
You dont realize how fragile life is
Until someone you know
Tries to take their own
You don't realize how fragile life is
Until someone succeeds
You dont realize how fragile life is
Until someone makes a mistake
And it's permanent
You dont realize how fragile life is
Until drugs
Have claimed another one of your friends lives
You don't realize how fragile life is
Until you're holding your breath
At doctors appointments
Hoping your tests came back alright
You dont realize how fragile life is
Until you come close to losing it
You don't realize how fragile life is
Until you've ever felt
Like it's not worth the fight
You dont realize how fragile life is
Until you've contemplated death
You dont realize how fragile life is
In fact
You might never
Because you truly don't understand
How fragile life is
Until you truly learn
To live.
Shae May 2014
I realize I’m young
I realize life is unfair
I realize I shouldn’t hurt myself
I realize my life will only have value
if I decide to be valuable
I realize some things are difficult
I realize I don’t have to be perfect
I realize not everyone is nice
I realize things will be forgotten
And that some things never will
I realize I don’t know everything
And I realize death is a promise and life is an option
But when will you realize
That in my dreams
I don’t wake up
You won't
You like it when I stay quiet
-{ksf}
Elixa Greene May 2014
Chatter forming round the window panes
Dewdrops falling from your mouth
Splatter into my own mind
Poisoning my own thoughts

You don’t realize how much
I can’t stand to be around you
You don’t realize how much
I hate you when you’re like this
You don’t realize how much
I love to break my heart
You don’t realize how much
I trample myself to stay out of the crossfire

Your voice straining above the others
Sounding to me like music
Trained to move past the barriers
Straight into my soul

You don’t realize how much
I can’t stand to be around you
You don’t realize how much
I hate you when you’re like this
You don’t realize how much
I love to break my heart
You don’t realize how much
I trample myself to stay out of the crossfire

It’s like an addiction
Moving into my blood
One brush isn’t enough to
Cover myself against the pain

You don’t realize how much
I can’t stand to be around you
You don’t realize how much
I hate you when you’re like this
You don’t realize how much
I love to break my heart
You don’t realize how much
I trample myself to stay out of the crossfire
Michelle Sampson Jan 2015
I didn't realize how much I wanted to cry, until no tears came out. I didn't realize how much you affected my life, until you were no longer in it. I didn't realize that you became my best friend, until you walked away. I didn't realize how loving you puts me through pain. I didn't realize that I don't want to drink, until I see the bottle. I didn't realize how much you would haunt me, until it was too late. But I do realize you need your space. I do realize that we need to mature more. I do realize that you're not quite a man yet. We both have a lot of growing left to do. I just hope and pray that we grow back together after awhile. Because I also realize that you've ruined me for anyone else.
Arija E Dec 2015
I didn't realize I had stopped taking pictures of myself
         Maybe because he already knew what I looked like
         Maybe because I had forgotten
I didn't realize I had stopped listening to music
        Maybe because I had found all the songs about him
        Maybe because I had nothing to sing about
I didn't realize I had stopped imaging my future
        Maybe because it was already set in stone
        Maybe because it was not mine
I didn't realize I had stopped writing poetry
        Maybe because one can only write so many love poems
        Maybe because I no longer liked to think about my feelings
I didn't realize I had stopped journaling
        Maybe because he was there to share and remember with
        Maybe because I wasn't doing anything worth writing down
I didn't realize I had stopped working out
        Maybe because he loved me no matter how I looked
        Maybe because I had lost the motivation
I didn't realize I had stopped reading
        Maybe because I didn't need to escape anymore
        Maybe because I never had a moment to myself
I didn't realize I had stopped sleeping in my own bed
        Maybe because I was sleeping with someone I loved
        Maybe because I couldn't stand sleeping alone

I didn't realize I had lost myself
       Maybe because I was too busy taking care of us
       Maybe because I had stopped.
Maddy Kay Oct 2018
Normal -
What a powerful word.
It’s something we expect to happen for everything.
It’s something we all have wanted to be.
Something we wish we were.

But it’s not that simple,
Now is it?
Because normal means you have to go by society’s standards of what “normal” is.
But what is the use?
Why even try?

Because no matter what,
No one is going to meet society’s standards of what this term means.
Now, you will only meet those standards when a powerful authority tells you.
For example, President Donald Trump.
He expects us to be normal by building a wall and not allowing immigrants inside this country.

Or how about this?
He says he accepts the LGBTQ+ community,
But you know he says that just so that he could get votes.
And what about this?
He sexually harasses women no matter what they say.

Why do we want to be this way?
Why does everyone want to fit in?
To be accepted?
To feel appreciated?
To want to feel something?

It starts in our childhood.
Elementary school starts and we make friends.
We talk to girls and boys our age,
Start to figure out how we should dress,
How we should act.

Then, we hit our pre-teen year.
Middle school hits us like a glove impacted by a baseball.
We start to figure out who we hang out with,
What phases we go through,
And what we should say.

Finally, we become teenagers.
High school feels like we get beaten by a bat.
We find out who our true friends are,
Find out what is good for us,
What we identify with.

But it doesn’t end there.
We go into adulthood and face reality.
And it ***** because we don't know what to do.
Who we should talk to.
What we should talk about.

Think about it.
We go through so much stuff to fit in.
To feel needed.
To feel wanted.
To feel normal.

Think back to the high school days.
Remember how it was normal for cheerleaders and football players to date?
How it was normal for the nerds to always be in the library?
How it was normal for the blonde that ran things to bully the girl with glasses and braces?
How normal it was for the gay kids to be called “****”?

Why is it okay for the kids with disabilities to feel left out?
Why is it okay for small kids to be shoved into lockers?
Why is it okay for guys to wear volleyball shorts and do ******-like moves,
But girls get in trouble for it?
Does this make sense at all?

When girls were young,
They were taught that it was wrong to bully.
They were taught that they should wear makeup and wear dresses.
They were taught that it was not okay to act like boys.
They were taught that they were going to become what their parents wanted them to be.

When boys were young,
They were taught that they should always act like a gentleman.
They were taught to wear tuxedos and gel their hair.
They were taught to never hit a girl.
They were taught that it was okay to get into fights.

Girls nowadays starve themselves to look perfect.
They get lip and breast injections.
They put on makeup that nobody recognizes them in.
They wear tight clothes to look skinnier.
They show off their body to look presentable.

Guys nowadays act like they are tough.
They hit the gym a lot to look perfect.
They take pills to feel better.
They rely on money to give them everything.
They do stupid things to get popular.

The cheerleader that was always nice to you?
She is dealing with abuse at home.
The popular blonde girl that picked on you?
She is cutting herself and popping pills to feel better.
That’s not all though.

The nerd that hangs out in the library all the time?
He was born with ADHD and he doesn’t want to be a burden to anyone.
The gay guy that gets called “***” all the time?
He is having problems with his boyfriend that he loves.
That’s not even the beginning of it.

We call each other names,
We say things that we don’t mean,
We give people looks,
We go through phases,
We do things to get attention.

We wear things to express how we are feeling,
We think about what people will think of us,
We listen to songs that we relate to,
We join things that make us feel good,
We hang out with people that give us good vibes.

But behind every smile is a frown.
Behind every layer of makeup is insecurity.
Behind every glance is worryment.
Behind every pair of sunglasses is sadness.
And behind every spoken word is fear.

Behind every song we listen to,
Has a special meaning to it.
Behind every poem we read,
Makes us think of our feelings.
And we what we fear.

Trying to be “normal” in today’s world,
Is like committing suicide to your old self.
Trying to be “normal” in everyone’s eyes,
Is like you are trying to become your own ******.
But why?

Trying to be “normal” for society,
Is like being stabbed to the back by the person you love the most.
Trying to be “normal” for popularity,
Is like a Great White taking a chunk of you.
What for?

We destroy the very core of us.
We take out what makes us important.
We add things to ourselves that we wouldn’t normally do.
We say things that we wouldn’t normally say.
What is the reason for this?

Guys catcall girls.
And they take it personally.
They take it into consideration.
They want to look better.
All they want is to feel like guys want them.

Girls judge guys on how they look.
They get shocked by it.
Their confidence goes down.
They dress better to impress.
All they want is to feel like girls them.

We are so focused on what others think of us,
That we give up on the fact that our own opinion matters.
We soak up every comment,
Every criticized term.
That we drown in the judgment.

To the ones that no longer care,
To the ones that block all the hate,
To the ones that ignore the judges,
To the ones that help spread kindness,
Keep doing it.

To the ones that criticize,
To the ones that judge,
To the ones that give ***** looks,
To the ones that make snarky comments,
Stop what you’re doing.

Do you see the pattern here?
How the mean people get recognized for doing something “good” in society’s eyes.
How the kindest people get ignored with every plea.
How it’s okay for us to do stupid things to get noticed?
Nothing is better than feeling accepted.

But being accepted is a privilege.
It’s not about what you want to see yourself to do.
You have judgmental parents for that.
It’s not about what you want yourself to become.
You have your parents to tell you what you will become.

But being accepted is a privilege.
It’s not about what you want to see yourself to do.
You have judgmental parents for that.
It’s not about what you want yourself to become.
You have your parents to tell you what you will become.

We live by rules and expectations.
Because if we don't,
We will get disowned by the people we trust the most.
Because if we don’t,
We will be seen as not worthy enough to feel good about ourselves.

But if we take the time to look at everything,
To realize that we don’t need to follow expectations,
To know we are worthy,
To see that we are loved for who we are.
One day, we will finally realize that we don’t need society’s expectations.

Elementary school girls are so worried about who will like them.
One day, elementary school girls will realize that they will gain friendships.
Elementary school boys are so focused on being tough.
One day, elementary school boys will realize that it is okay to be a gentleman.
Hopefully, it will happen.

Middle school girls are so worried about the size of their friend group.
One day, middle school girls will realize that popularity will not matter.
Middle school boys are so focused on getting a girlfriend.
One day, middle school boys will realize that girls will like them for who they are.
Possibly it will happen.

High school girls are so worried about the names they will get called.
One day, high school girls will realize that rumors are too stupid to be focused on.
High school boys are so focused on being perfect.
One day, high school boys will realize that it’s okay to be yourself.
Maybe it will happen.

Being normal is so pointless.
But yet, everyone takes it so seriously.
No one wants to stand out.
No one wants to feel different than everyone else.
We just go along with it.

Hopefully one day,
On a day that is just normal,
We will realize what we are doing to ourselves.
We will realize that we don’t need a set of rules to live by.
We will finally want the need to stand out amongst everything that is perfect.

As Brad Pitt once said,
“Stop being perfect,
because being obsessed over
being perfect stops you
from growing”.

So why don’t we just stand up for ourselves?
On what we want to do.
On what we want to look like.
On how we want to act.
Because as soon as we do that.

We will be free.
If you can't tell, this poem is about how we should not have to live by society's expectations in order to feel wanted.
Nadia Apr 2015
I realize I am young
I realize I am small
I realize I'm mature
I realize that I'm really not that mature at all.
I realize that I'm chatty
That I murmur endlessly
I realize I'm not perfect
I realize I'm not skinny
I realize that I'm funny
I could make you laugh for days.
I'd say I know myself pretty well.
But the hardest thing for me to realize
Maybe the hardest thing I've ever had to,
Was that you don't love me.
That you probably never have
And you probably never will.
Dated 7/09/12
Evynne Aug 2013
There is a longing you feel
To know the whole universe
All of its secrets
All of its flaws
Everything
You think about it and wonder if it feels light or heavy
Or maybe even a paradoxical combination of both
But you will never know
Because you do not realize that you are the entire universe
You are all of its flaws
All of its beauties
All of its secrets, all of its wisdom
You are everything and everything is you
You are forever
And you need to be loved
Just as everything and everyone else needs love to survive

Look at the clouds above your home
Notice the way water forms differently on every single surface
Muster every single detail
Increase your awareness
And you will soon discover the secrets of the universe
And if you are feeling sad and quiet turn to your soul and acknowledge your humanness
Love your human nature
Realize it is precious and valuable
You do this and you will feel the soft and kind hand of the universe on your shoulder
You will feel its presence within you
And you'll look down at yourself laying and feeling hurt and hopeless
Slowly holding on to old feelings and new times
You will realize it is time to leave
So you go and you write as you feel that familiar ache all over your body
Resonating from deep within every single corner of your heart and soul

You glance outside of your window and see the green of the trees and revel in their magnificence and beauty
And in that moment you realize how immaculate existence is
So you take a deep breath as you take it all in
Your thoughts are very much alive and pulsating
And your arms tingle and your soul emits strong and powerful waves of unadulterated passion from within
Joy waits at your fingertips as you reach softly
You constantly taste past times of pain and hurt on your tongue
Violently brushing your teeth every night in hopes it will go away
But it is always there and may go away at times but it always comes back
A constant reminder of who you are and what you have come from

Sometimes when you walk your feet feel old and you think about how you haven't even lived an entire lifetime yet so how on earth can you feel so tired?
You wonder when you will actually stop waiting
When a strong ocean wind will knock you over
Cold and hard
And you'll gaze ahead of you with bleary eyes
Your head still in a state of shock
And you'll come closer and closer to the reason that was dug out from the deepest part of your insides
Until everything feels soft and you can stand again
And you'll look to the sky and forget all of the pain
And a small touch of hope will be born upon a tiny spot on the surface of your heart
Beating hard and lovely and powerful

You think of the rain and how it falls completely
You think about how you exist and how it is okay there is no more innocence and just as much loneliness
You realize you've got to keep your dreams alive
You are thinking quietly
Your thoughts are kissing the walls of your mind carefully
"Oh, how beautiful it is to be alive and aware!"
You say in your head
And you wish to meet your perfect heart in the stars
And feel all of the care and warmth as certain waves of truth and ardor crash into you
A tree of sure sadness looks down upon you
Saying you are clean and new and beautiful
And that
It is okay if you do not spend the majority of your days feeling sad and lost and lonely
Until a quiet reverie born from stardust clouds your mind
You feel the secret tingling on the outer parts of your mouth
And things are better and you feel closer
You are no longer searching
And words have always been a dear friend
You are able to realize that now
You used to be broken
For a long, long time
So of course it is going to be extremely difficult getting used to life without being broken beyond repair
A part of you will always be broken
You know that and you are okay with it
Finally you embrace it
There is an ease and comfort with the going of sorrow
And you wonder
How it can feel so wonderful when your bones are free and you feel happy in the deepest part of you
Because really, what are you doing?
WHAT ARE YOU DOING???
You are living and that is all
You are embracing life and all that you feel and it is okay and when it comes down to it, you really do love it
But sometimes your mind refuses to hear that
It shuts itself off from everything and all you can do is guess for why it happens like this
So you take those two horrid
But so essential
White pills
And you sleep and sleep
Never awakening until your alarm sounds
And your lids open
And your lips bring in fresh air to your lungs
Your mind and your heart are engulfed in peace and never are they apart
Together they are one with your soul
The sunlight starts to kiss your face and you start to think about the years you have been living
And how the voice inside of you has changed over those years and the ways it has touched your life

So here you are listening to music
Lonely and sweet
With a strange feeling in your chest as your stomach rests lightly on the surface of your bed
Barely moving, your hand somehow knows how to write without your mind really thinking
You have always held your pen tightly and a lot of great and loving and bright words are capable of surfacing
Maybe differently than before
But even so
Your veins still continuously pump blood throughout your body

You get up out of bed and stagger into your bathroom where you stare into the mirror and know you are supposed to see yourself staring right back but really
You see nothing
All the while knowing your face is sober looking
And your skin is browned and soothing with the beauty of summer's presence hard and golden on your surface
Feeling crazy, your eyes are locked to a spot consisting of nothingness
Void of any control
In a realm that is almost reaching fantasy
Tingling and alluring
So you look for the window
But then it is gone and you feel an aching that gets stronger as the walls close in on you
And you notice the kisses full of blood that set the earth on fire
And you breathe with fear as death sits on your windowsill
Should you reach for it or push it away?
To die or to help this weak and troublesome girl who is far too used to living in darkness and not only asks for but needs trust?

The leaves on the trees don't stay dead forever
Open your mind and your heart and drift away
Far, far away
Your soul lives and exists in every realm of consciousness
You are safe
Even as your secrets build like smoke
Like wandering rays beating down strong upon you
Conquering your emptiness instead of all of the happy thoughts that reside and are inevitably known and lovely and consisting of everything except for unwanted goodbyes
Your heart shines on what it needs
Easy and lovely
And mostly, it has it
Your heart is the sun that shines on his face and makes his own heart race in perfect synchronization with yours
He is something you take like black coffee or straight whiskey because it needs nothing more than what it is
Everything it is
Is enough and beautiful and enticing because of that
But their strength is the most admirable
The sunshine gets stronger throughout the day just as one gets stronger throughout their own life
Accumulating more and more understanding as certain parts are more inviting than others
And still, others escape stability and their reflections whisper on your flesh and send a sense of desire across your cheeks until they reach the middle of your being and are forgotten

You have come close to death many times before
But now it is distant
So you close your eyes as you lie on the itchy, flat floor of your room
And imagine all of those and all of which you have met in the darkness
Staring very surely at nothing in particular
The sound of your heartbeat grows quiet
Changing the bad into nothing but tugging memories
Making you leave true despair behind as you not only grasp, but accept, the endless tears on the sand

Your mind is wandering
Walking to places both near and far
Trying to piece together the point and meaning of past lovers
But that doesn't really matter because nature fully forces you to not only imagine
But realize
The beauty and point of the present that is filled with growing wisdom
So you sit with your back against the wall
And your stomach burns with purpose slightly surrounding nature and the moonlight
And bliss surfaces like cigarette smoke floating then disappearing but still always present in the air around you
And you understand the ruined and intense thoughts of your past and the blessings they have brought
And the pressure you feel on your heart as you admire the luster of the sun on the metal of the railings
And the branches laying in rest
Void of hurt
But listening to conversations harder and more difficult with time
Solid
But struggling entirely with magnitude
Lifeless beings in a sense
But the raindrops make their hearts ache
Beaming ultimately away from conformity until they become another entity compiled of lust and beauty
And as you walk
The grass is loud and green as the dead branches lie hot and broken in the caress of the ground
Void of hate
As you watch the darkness pull them in and swallow them whole
Wanted completely
Written on your flesh with self supposed anxiety
Your kisses are longer and drown in a sea of meaning as you pray with clenched teeth
You feel on your arm a peculiar force and questions, smooth but loud, utter desperately within you as
Heavy but gentle hope swirls like incense around your nose until your spirit is calm and pain is hidden
And you find yourself to be trapped in nothing less than gold and passion
And that is when things were easy again
So in all reality, this could be a lot of different poems combined into one. But for now, I am keeping the thing whole and together because that is how it was written. This was one of those things that manifested itself across nine handwritten pieces of paper with complete and utter ease. One of those things where I had no idea what I had written until after I had finished it and read through it. So pretty much, this is all raw and pure and true and honest in every single aspect. It came from deep within, subconsciously almost. Enjoy.
I Wonder If You Realize*

I wonder if you realize
What it truly means
For me to of finally met
The girl out of my dreams

I wonder if you realize   
Of this love I hold inside
Do you feel it from my heart
Can you see it in my eyes

I wonder if you realize
That you take my breath away
Does my smile show it on my face
Each and every day

I wonder if you realize
As you walk into the room
That you are deep within my soul
Each time I look at you

I wonder if you realize

Poem by: *
Carl Joseph Roberts  (Joe)
If you like please share and help trend. Thanks
Omnis Atrum Aug 2012
i swear tis dreadful my dear
to face ones greatest fear
to have nought and none to hold near
to lose control and let life's wheel steer,
i'll cry out, i swear, in dismay
if for one more fretful day
i hear not the words you say
yet doubt not my intent to stay,
only for your sweet words of peace
that so oft give my soul release
will make these worries cease
and take these fears from me,
they still tell me my dreams are untrue
that my smiles do not come from you
but if, only if, they knew
my desires they would not misconstrue,
so as this day comes to end
my mind to my heart i will send
and i'll see your face my friend
until waking from slumber once again.

with that distant look again overcoming my ability to conceal
all of the things that i try to pretend aren't really real,
trying to find the hope that i once help so close and dear
but i wake up to find myself alone with you no longer here.
i fall to my knees hollow and empty in both arms and soul
smiles have digressed to the bitter glares of old,
i try to capture the tears before they fall from my eyes
so that you cannot see all that i would hide and deny.
i have lost the will that once drove me to strive for more
and this failure has left me in a drunken heap upon the floor,
for that is the only warmth that makes its way into my core
and the fears go away so quickly when i can't remember anymore.
and one more drink i am sure could not hurt at all
until i stumble around lose my feet and start to fall,
i find myself without the strength or will to rise up once again
so i close my eyes and wait for the room's spinning to end.
and in this state i realize that i have not had a drink all night
but the alcohol content of life sometimes is too much to fight,
i am but a lightweight next to the thousand proof bottle of reality
and once again i have drank too much and it has overcome me.

you stand there wide eyed overcome by disbelief
that you find yourself in these situations once again
after your turmoils you will breathe a sigh of relief
and the birth of realization will start to slowly begin

i reach out for something you cannot grasp, believe in something you cannot understand, and long for something you do know know how to feel. it is beyond you. if only i would have known this sooner, i would not have wasted so much time trying to explain it to you.

i count the sleepless nights like some count sheep
it's because of these broken promises that i can't sleep,
this misinterpreted flawed logic that you want to keep
in hopes that eventually into my brain it will seep.

there are some that i gave all to that deserved nothing, when the one that i should have given my everything to is the only one that has really mattered all along. and now she is only in happy memories. the rest of you do not even come close to everything that she is...and i'm tired of trying to find someone who does. she has weighted my scales heavily against all of you, set the standard so high that none of you will ever to be able to tip the scales in your favor, but my soul will never be at rest until i find someone who can.

when you put as much energy into something as you possibly can...you will be selective about where you should direct that energy. and sometimes you find that all of your energy was spent running down a dead-end alley. so you simply walk back to the road and remember to never deviate on that path ever again.

if you feel that you must love, then love with heart, soul, mind, and strength...without all of these your love is incomplete...and destined to fail.

to forget is to lose regret or to misinterpret the goals we set. to gain is to maintain without the possibility of losing it again. to remember is pointless once it is done.

that which you lack none can give you but yourself. there are none that can make you complete or make you feel whole, that is your task. it is not until you have mastered your own mind that you should search for someone to compliment the person that you have become.

your mind is your greatest tool, your thoughts your greatest weapon, your words are everyone else's greatest enemy, and unfortunately being closed minded is your best defense.

vague predictions are rarely untrue. but to see what happens exactly how it happens before it actually happens is a gift and a curse. it gives insight and knowledge beyond the realms of the senses, but if one would share such things with others they would be considered mad.

it is almost surprising how people are so kind and open to people they do not even know. a simple smile, meaningless conversation, or common courtesy shared with a being that has nothing in common with you except that you are both in a state of being referred to as life and are in the same place at the same time. it shows that people really are good at heart. but when you get close to some people they are corrupted by their own emotions, confused by the situation, or scared of what may come. it is not that these people are bad people or bad friends, they have just not yet come to terms with the fact that people can mean well and not expect anything in return. that people can care about them without any logic or reason behind it. when if they would only open their eyes they would see that there are people who would like to do nothing more than celebrate their oddities, their peculiarities, and their differences. the things that make them unique, the things that they would try to hide. there is good in everyone, some just hide it better than others.

in a conversation a friend told me that you can't just drop people out of your life, you can't just burn bridges, and you can't leave people behind so that you can become something greater. and we argued about this for a short while. but by the end of the conversation, after i had explained all of the circumstances and everything else was taken into account, this person looked me in the eyes and assured me that there was nothing else that i could possibly do. the sad thing was...i really didn't believe anything that i was saying, i was just saying it to make me feel better about what i was going to do. are people so eager to agree and fit in that their morals are thrown to the side? i wish i could say no.

i am not telling anyone the secrets of the universe. i am not some great thinker that tells people things that they would have never thought of. i just pay attention and make observations about the things that happen around me on a daily basis. i am not doing anything that most of you could not do. i'm just bored enough and have enough time to actually do it.

when the morning comes and this bliss ends none of the trivial problems that i worry myself with will be gone, the worries that burden my heart will still lay heavy on my being, and there will still be no way for me to do what i wish i could do. but if i can escape it for a few more hours, if i can keep it off of my mind for just a few seconds, then i will feel like i have accomplished something.

i have proven my abilities once again. and they wanted to know how i did what i did so easily, when they knew that they could not do the same even if they knew what i did. but it's really simple, you just have to look straight through people, past all of their fronts and all of the things that they want you to believe, straight through their eyes and into their soul. the body is just a shell to carry around the soul that is within it. once you learn to see through that shell and into the depths of a person's very being, then you will understand how i can do the things that i do.

my body betrays me. when people see me all they see is the shell. this big intimidating guy that seems to stand behind a clear wall of stone, untouchable. but if you only knew what is beyond the surface then you would see why this has all become so difficult for me.

it is better to say nothing when you mean everything than to say everything when you mean nothing.

is a person considered a success or a failure when they can have anything that anyone else in the world could ever want, but they cannot find the only thing that means more than the world to them?

if i could only open your eyes. enlighten your soul. so that you could see the things that i see. feel the things that i feel. then you would see that i am not the one whose thoughts are off target. but truth cannot be taught or learned. it can only be known by those that have found it on their own.

what i have done was no easy feat. it has troubled me greatly but i know that it was the right thing to do. not for myself, but for all concerned. and i now have happiness back in my grasp. i just have to tighten my clinch and pull it closer to my heart. because a person can cry until they drown in their own tears and no one will ever notice, and it will not make them feel better nor will it fix any of the problems. but once they take control of a situation and dispose of the cause of it then the changes themselves will make a world of difference.

i would say i love you more often, but it is often mistaken as a passinng sentiment. because most people do not truly understand what love is. but just as it would make no sense to give a painting to a blind person, or to play a song to those who could not hear it; it is just as senseless to give love to those who do not know how to feel it.

i almost feel as if i should apologize at my inability to show mercy to the ignorant, but i cannot convince myself that they deserve even that much.

sometimes i wonder what it is like to be one of those people that life just leaves behind. the ones that can't keep up. the ones that have gone as far as their potential can carry them. the ones that no amount of power or influence can push them any further. and then i smile, because i know that i will only ever wonder about this.

only fools declare that beauty is only skin deep. because beauty never truly begins until you get past the surface. to the very depths of a person's being. but it is kind of hypocritical for me to say this, because my standards are so high that they get mistaken for me being shallow all the time.

was it hope or the cause that was lost?

the world will never be short of actresses. pulling you into the story, stirring your emotions with their always interesting dialog, and making it so interesting that you can't look away for a single moment. and then one day you wake up and realize that it is not a play at all, it is your life.

i pray that one day that i find the one person that makes everything that's happened so far worth while. i pray that one day i will find love. that one day i will find the one that deserves everything that i want to give someone. one day...very far away. because right now i do not even want to entertain the idea. i'm so sick of love. sick of seeing it. sick of believing in it. sick of it evading me on every corner. so at this point in my life i would just like to say "******* love", i'm better off without you anyways.

all of our fates are the same. death is inevitable. but is a great person one that ignores their fate and enjoys life for what it is, or one that lives day by day evading their fate for as long as possible?

there are questions that we all have in life. and sometimes the answers that we find to those questions do not give us the results that we expected. but i would like to say that the answers that we find are never incorrect, but some of the questions that we try to answer are trick questions and should be thrown out.

never accept what anyone else declares as reality. the only person that you can truly trust in this world is yourself. people try to make this world into something that makes them happy. and as much as this may seem absurd, you should try it for yourself. happiness is nothing but a perception of circumstances. so either change your circumstances or change your perception and you will be the happiest person in the world.

the person that i thought i cared about the most. the one that i could have given the world to. the one that i thought i meant something to. the one that i thought could do no wrong. what foolish thoughts i think. and then i did something that hurt me more than i thought it would, but it hurt less that to keep the foolish thoughts going. to pretend that i didn't feel something that i did. sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is what they really want you to do, so you let them go. and in doing so i lost a dear friend, someone that i did not realize i would miss so much. but i know that i cannot and should not try to undo it now. because some people you just can't help but fall for. and there is nothing you can do for someone that does not want your help.

i am nothing. yet, i am everything. you mean nothing, yet you mean everything. hope is nothing, yet it is all that we have. love is nothing, yet it is all that we look for. it is the things that are intangible that mean the most, yet from the outside they seem so insignificant. so meaningless.

am i nothing but a beast? my soul longs to break free but my mind restrains it. i long for freedom yet my body restrains me. lacking these restraints i truly would be nothing but a beast. but sometimes i think that the beasts are better off than i, because they follow what they know they have to do without any kind of thought or restraint.

if i had the opportunity to apologize a million times i don't think i could bring myself to do it. even knowing that you deserve it. because i have deceived myslef into thinking that i was right. and i know no other way to escape what i know is sure to come when this catches up to me.

some things you do not realize until just before death. you don't realize how much everyone that is close to you means. how much everything you think is important isn't worth anything. that the only things that really matter are what you believe, the people you love, and happiness. so, if i can realize that much now, before death pays me too much attention, then i think that my life could be the way it was meant to be instead of what it has become.

she is everything that no one can understand. could i really be the only one? the only one that sees everything that she is, the beautiful person that she is. people are sick. they call something that is beautiful wrong, just because they do not understand it. they run from something and do not realize what it is that they are losing. i would give anything to be in his shoes, i would do anything to be able to take away her pain. i would cry her tears for her if it would make her happy. but this sounds like insanity. this world knows nothing of sacrifice unless they are sacrificing someone else so that they can get what they want.

breath in. sigh. relax. release. burdens weighing heavy. soul is a stone. pulling me deeper and deeper into the abyss. the heat is spreading. from my heart out to my fingertips. circulating. it burns. all is numb. the fire of my heart and cold of my soul have nullified each other. a void is created. to erase the memories. to forget the pain. the sorrow. the loneliness. and then i am happy. because i can't remember you. because i forget me. everything fades away. meditation is bliss.

sometimes these rhymes are contrived because of lust for the ones i despise. why would someone be so attracted to the things that leave them so distracted? but the melody plays on and i know that nothing could be wrong because your singing all the words to my song. and your singing voice is so beautiful. or is it the tone and the words behind it?

integrate corruption into perfection because of a lack of reason not to. why not just leave it as it was before it was what you wanted it to be? you draw my curiosity. like a disaster. i know it's horrible but i just can't look away.

Though i can't hear her coming i know she's on her way
though she never stays for long i love her while she stays,
no one can be quite like her as hard as they should try
and when she offers herself to me i never can deny.
She creeps in from outside to hold me while i sleep
and never will she whisper the secrets that we keep,
though many fools dislike her, i'll keep her as my friend
and fall fast asleep with Silence in my arms again.


let the cold winds blow the silence away
let the rain drops fall and accumulate,
let the sun subside beneath the horizon line
Amber S Sep 2011
you think you're so high and mighty
with your tight shirt and
backwards cap
you believe you rule

bile rises in my throat while i pass
shivers crawl into my veins
and the words i say are thick
and coated
with something you've
never heard before

i see your eyes
as i speak

they are full of nothing.
black. black.
an emptiness i cannot find
the end to

you lips lift in a twisted swirl
but your eyes tell all

realize. this is more.
realize. that your cowardice will be your own defeat.
realize. that your big words and stupid smile
will do the exact opposite.
realize. that you are nothing to me.
you are the ground beneath my feet
you are the maggots squirming in corpses
you are the bitter frost that creeps
during a winter morning
realize. you are empty.
and your words are empty.
and you look like nothing else
but a fool
Ete Sep 2011
Drugs.
Illegal drugs.
Marijuana, *******, ecstasy, mushrooms, LSD.
All taken by the governments.
And they picked the right drugs to take away from us.

Drugs can be a very good thing as they can also be a very bad thing.

Because with drugs,
one can get closer to what is real, as,
one can get further away to what is real.

Everybody carries the freedom to explore and experiment with what ever they want.

But the governments do not want people to experiment with them-selves and with these substances.

The governments want to keep things organized in their own chosen structure so that they can control people.

And they know that drugs can actually help and be useful.

They know that drugs can be used for spiritual practices and that in these practices one can become a realized man of truth.

Every drug gives you a different effect,
a different experience,
and as you experience the effect of which ever drug,
this will bring about an opportunity to encounter reality.

Because when one sees what is NOT real,
one begins to see what IS real.

Drugs allow you,
the opportunity,
to realize that you are the observer behind the experience.



Marijuana is such an amazing substance,
such an amazing plant.

It brings upon such deep relaxation.

And when one is "high",
present is the opportunity to understand the simplicity of what is truly happening:
that the body and mind are becoming still,
your body feels lighter and more at ease.

Here,
in this state,
it could be easier to watch and recognize your true self.

Your body and mind are elevated by the effects of marijuana,
and if you become very silent and you close your eyes and you stay there,
and you start watching and experiencing,
you might just feel as if you are separate from the body and mind,
and though the body and mind feel so relaxed,
you are somewhere else,
very very still.

Trying **** can change your whole view and perspective towards life.

The simple act of doing something that is illegal,
gives you a sense of freedom.

It can amplify and support the freedom that you have.

There are other drugs,
stronger more intense drugs like ecstasy.

Here is another opportunity to experience a different feeling in the body.

Ecstasy is a little bit riskier and more harmful to the body.

It provokes an amazing feeling called ecstasy.

Though many are not aware,
we all already carry that feeling within us.

One just needs to activate it.

The pill simply skips the whole meditation and takes one straight to  ecstasy.

If you have ever tried ecstasy,
wonder and contemplate the following question:
what happens when in ecstasy...??

When one is  on ecstasy,
there is nothing more but the present moment.

You are totally IN the moment,
you are extremely happy IN the present moment,
you are feeling everything IN the present moment,
you see everything,
hear everything.

You become so utterly loving.

You start sharing your love,
and this brings even more ecstasy.

If you are highly aware and alert,
it will not take too many pills to realize that though you get this awesome feeling of ecstasy,
there is also a bad,
sometimes horrible,
side to it:
When your body doesn't feel healthy with it.



The mushroom is a very,
very,
revealing drug.

Natural to begin with,
And very revealing.

Because the mushroom is a poison,
when the poison is in you,
in a very subtle way,
you experience a slow form of death.

If one eats a sufficient amount of mushrooms,
one might just poison oneself to death.

But when one consumes just a little bit,
One goes threw this interesting experience.

The body recognizes that this is a source of poison,
and with its own intelligence,
it tries to get rid of the mushroom.

So one might **** it, or,
one might ***** it.

The point is that it is a poison.

And as one experiences this poison inside one's body,
because one is coming closer to death,
one is coming closer to life also.

In that moment,
again it happens,
that there is only THAT moment.

You do not care about anything else because you are so in-to that moment.

You feel so connected to nature and the environment,
as if you are one with it all.

And here,
once again,
another opportunity to realize that you are not the one who is experiencing the whole trip,
but that you are the one who is watching the experiencer.

And if you are watching the body-mind go threw this whole process,
you can not be the body-mind.

So it does not matter whether you die or you don't in that moment,
because in that moment you can free yourself from the idea of death.



LSD is the greatest one of them all.
Because LSD does not give  a feeling of being poisoned.

LSD enhances all senses,
one can feel ten times more,
one can see ten times better, hear, taste, etc..

All of ones senses are amplified.

And again ,
this is simply just another opportunity to realize that one is far away as the witnessing presence to what is happening to the body-mind and to the senses.

When you experiment with all these drugs,
and you realize that you are  just the watcher of it all and not the experimenter,
you will not keep experimenting with them.

Because like i said,
drugs can get you closer to the truth,
to what is real.

And once one realizes certain truths like:
one is not the body,
one is not the experiencer,
one will realize deeper truths like:
one is with no form just a watcher,
a witness.

And having gone beyond all drugs and experiences,
one will not continue using drugs,
since one is aware that they will only harm the body.

It does not matter what drug one does,
one has already known the truth about ones self.

The only new thing in a new drug,
would be the new experience,
the new feelings,
the new emotions that come about.

But when one sees that one is greater than all these things,
one realizes,
that thou the body-mind is affected by the effects of drugs,
ones true self is not affected by any-thing.

Your true self does not change at all,
it remains the same,
always,
that peaceful awareness.

If you are not aware and alert,
you will start doing drugs and you will start to get lost in them.

You will get lost in your own mind,
in your own "reality",
in your own projection of life.


I get the feeling that the governments know about the potential transformation that drugs can bring to a person.

Because of this,
they have made all these substances illegal.

Not only because of economical reasons.

But also,
so that people remain firm and steady in the manner and in the way that they want you to be.

They do not want you to experience all these extra-ordinary experiences.

They want to keep you straight in THEIR straight line.

They do not want you to go drifting in-to these realizations.

Beause you might just awaken yourself threw them and realize that you are totally free.

And how then can a fully realized individual be ruled?
Aditi Apr 2014
They Have nothing in common
except their desire to be together
And at times i think,
maybe that's more than enough
or, maybe they have not yet realised
that there's not much difference between his silence and her constant chatter
they supplement each other
in ways they'll never understand
her acting like  mystery, and him decoding her every action with never a tinge of annoyance there replacing his warming smile
his never-ending patience and love and her pain that refuses to fade away
he likes to live in his own world
( A WORLD WHERE THE SUN AND MOON ARE TOGETHER WITHOUT THE SUN BURNING THE MOON )
he likes to dream about touching the stars and enlighten her dark life like moon (while fighting the eclipse in his own life)
she is the one that helps him from flying too close to sun
and get his wings burnt
while he, like a calm to her storm,
fills colors in her grey-life she leads


took me a while to realize,
that the missing piece of us that we were looking for
was in front of us all the time
took time to realize
that there was a reason *
why tears in your eyes caused me pain
took time to realise *
why when I cut, it was you who bled
took time to realize...
why admist this hell,
you felt like a blessing from heaven
an atheist started believing in omens

oh, if I could only make you understand,
but it's never gonna be that simple,
i won't spell it out for you

I'll just wait for you to realize, what I just realized*
if you just realize what I just realize
wrote it way back
Marshall Messi Jun 2018
When did you realize you would die in a car accident?
When did you realize cancer had won the battle?
When did you realize gun shot wounds don’t heal?
When did you realize heart attacks were against you?
When did you realize everyone around you would miss you?
When did you realize death was real and it was on you?
When did you realize reality isn’t real without you?
When did you realize nothing felt real without you?
When did you realize that it doesn’t feel real to me
Why can’t I realize that death and life without you...is real?
Larry Dixon Feb 2018
You don’t realize how fast three years go by till you’ve wasted it.
You don’t realize the angel in the sky till you’ve disgraced it.
You don’t realize how much they lie till you’ve trusted it.
You don’t realize why till you’ve allowed it.
But with the bad comes good.
You realize you feel ways you never thought you would.
Because,
You don’t realize all the love you have inside till you’ve accessed it.
You don’t realize your pride till you’ve applied it.
You don’t realize your satisfied till you’ve verified it.
And you don’t realize your stride till you’ve fortified it.
You don’t always realize the best in your reflection.
There is more to you than your imperfection.
Hunter Sep 2018
Step 1:
Realize that winning at life does not mean that you beat others, but rather that you beat life itself. Realize that the only thing holding you back is life's grip on you that convinces you that you can't beat it. Break free of it. You're not seized by death, but by life.

Step 2:
Take care of yourself. Self-care is the most important, specifically the hard stuff. Clean your house, one room at a time. Shower, brush your hair and teeth, go for a walk outside, exercise, cook proper meals. You're not helping yourself at all by doing things you already do and enjoy. If you don't change yourself then the world won't change around you. Better yourself and everything else will follow closely in your wake.

Step 3:
Accept that happiness is a reward and not a gift. Accept that happiness is fleeting and you will have to continue to work for it if you want to keep getting it.

Step 4:
Listen to music you enjoy. Listen to music that matches your mood. Listen to music that inspires you. Trust me, it's important and you'll even enjoy it.

Step 5:
Be mature, but never grow up. Remember how to be a kid, but keep in mind that you have to be an adult sometimes. If you can decipher when each are appropriate then life will be significantly easier.

Step 6:
Get over it. It's harsh, but it's true. If you keep dwelling on things that happened in the past and are irreversible then how will you find the time to make sure the future turns out better?

Step 7:
Remember that you have plenty of time left, but that you have much control over how plenty. Remember you were born with enough time to do everything you want, but if you waste it then you'll lose it and can never get it back. Remember that if you enjoyed wasting the time then the time wasn't wasted and that you will die eventually.

Step 8:
Acknowledge that forgiveness is not a requirement. You do not have to forgive anyone who has hurt you, but people say it's nice.

Step 9:
Remind yourself that your health is more important than others' comfort. If someone feels better at your expense then they need to stop. Take care of yourself first, other people have their own coping mechanisms and they will get over it. You are your priority, no matter what.

Step 10:
Never forget that all problems have solutions. If you feel stuck, think. You'll eventually realize you know how to solve all of your problems. Never forget that solutions might not solve every problem at once, and you need to pick what's most important and what can be saved for later.

Step 11:
Accept that the future might be worse. Especially if you're in an environment you don't have full control over, things out of your hands could change for the worse. Accept that you can change most things however, and you can decide when things get better.

Step 12:
Know that there will come a time when you'll be forgotten forever and that will be so freeing. After you die, someone will think about you for the very last time and you'll be truly free. Nothing you do in life will last forever and soon everyone will have forgotten you ever existed, and it will be good.

Step 13:
Don't be superstitious. You'll worry more than you already do.

Step 14:
Realize that you won't ever get a positive answer unless you ask. No one will tell you yes unless you express that that's what you want to hear.

Step 15:
Listen to your doctors. Take your medications. Do your exercises. They studies for many years to tell you how to not die, listen to them. I promise they know more about how to help you than a random article online with no sources of sustenance.

Step 16:
Trust your gut. If you even stop to seriously consider something, it's probably at least a little bit true. If something is wrong, you will know it. You also know when that opinion is yours, or the one you've been tricked into believing is yours.

Step 17:
Think about the past. In moderation. Realize that the past is only as good as you remember it, and if you think it's better than the present then you will grow to despise the present. Realize that even if the past was better, you cannot go back and it passed for a reason.

Step 18:
Don't get back together with an ex. You broke up for a reason. Unless everything was a misunderstanding, in which case maybe. Even if you look back on your break up and think the reasons were foolish, remember that they hurt someone enough for you to break up. That will permanently damage your relationship, even if you try your hardest to fix everything.

Step 19:
Realize that you don't need to take advise from a random sixteen year old over the internet. Realize you can and should disregard any previous steps if you disagree.

Step 20:
Die knowing you lived.
Maria Rodrigues Mar 2019
when will he realize that words hurt
when will he realize the stuff he says matter
when will he realize he has to change
when will he realize im not perfect and the **** he says affects me
when will he realize i want to be smart like him
when will he realize i don’t understand things like he does

everyday it’s the same thing;
“your grades ****”
“make friends”
“you’re so stupid”
“no one cares”
“you have no friends”

he’s my brother
how can he say this **** to me
we grew up together
this isn’t a joke anymore it’s not silly comments and small, innocent pranks
it hurts
it really hurts
it hurts he can’t realize that i'm not being dramatic and that this ******* kills me
does he care?
everyone says he does and eventually it will show but,
when is eventually?

i can’t take it, i can’t stand it, i can’t act like it doesn’t affect me
but i have to
i have to pretend im fine because if not i’m the one who’s being a baby
will he be like this with other people?
no, it’s me
no one gets this much **** from him everyday

what did i do to deserve this
why can’t he let me live and be happy
i've always tried and tried and tried
but no matter how hard i try,
it’s never enough

will he ever realize?
Robin Nov 2012
I didn't realize I loved you.
Not when you saved my life
Or when you drove me to hospital and stayed up with me all night
Or when you grabbed my hand because you saw my pain
When you knew I had troubles and helped me change

You were my family at all those soccer games
You always came and screamed my name.
I didn't realize I loved you, though you knew my whole life.
The only friend who looked at me with pride.
The only person in the world who'd seen me cry.

I didn't realize I loved you, no not at all.
Until that night, in the kitchen, alone with you last fall.
Watched you laugh at my stories, the ones you'd heard before.
Saw those eyes of yours that marveled and never seemed bored.
Heard you hum the same song you did every day and smirk when you saw me looking your way.

And when you burnt your fingers on the stove and put them to your lips to cool.
Never, have I envied anything more than those fingers, in that moment with you.
And you didn't pull away when I took them in my hands, and kissed each one.
Felt your heartbeat as I whispered in your ear, both us of coming undone.
I didn't realize I loved you but I knew it then, In that moment,
My skin on your skin, Whispers of love filling the room again and again...
Moving on the road
Passing through the breeze

I realize

Nothing to gain or nothing to loose
But never, I realize

Time had come to face the reality
Then only, I realize

I was the last, everyone ahead
Sorry, no one can help it.
Two ways were there, first was to cry
But i chose the later one
Everyone was against, I realize.

Facing the truth, stick to it
Oh yes, it is satisfactory
Feeling of complete, no one realize
But you, so keep moving on the same road
One day, everyone will realize.
We can be happy living with joy
Tranquility, and peace
Or we can be miserable and cry in pain
Cursing our own disease

It’s a choice to Suffer No More
We must realize we come and go
Why should we live to cry and die?
Suffer No More! Suffer No More!

Why do we suffer, why do we cry?
Why this misery right till we die?
We live in ignorance, the Truth we don’t know
That’s why we don’t fly in the sky

We must realize the Truth that Pain is like Rain
It comes but soon it will go
Why should we live to cry and die?
Suffer No More! Suffer No More!

What is this suffering? What is this pain?
What is this misery again and again?
It’s pain of the body and stress of the mind
Living with fear in vain

We don’t need to suffer, we don’t need to cry
If only in our face the Truth does glow.
Why should we live to cry and die?
Suffer No More! Suffer No More!

Everybody wants happiness, nobody wants pain
We love the sunshine and hate the rain
Still we are miserable, still we don’t smile
And we just choose to whine

The body suffers but that’s not us
Who we are — first we must know
Why should we live to cry and die?
Suffer No More! Suffer No More!

Messengers of misery, they want us to cry
Fear, worry, revenge, and anger stand by
They make us suffer
They make us cry and we don’t question, “Why?”

Because we think we are the mind
We live in agony, our enthusiasm is low
Why should we live to cry and die?
Suffer No More! Suffer No More!

We are not the body that suffers in pain
Nor the rascal mind that thinks again and again
We live in ignorance of this Truth and cry
And lose our peace in vain

It’s a choice to Suffer No More
We must realize we come and go
Why should we live to cry and die?
Suffer No More! Suffer No More!

We can be happy, we can rejoice
Refuse to suffer that is our choice
We can be tranquil and live in peace
For this is the choice of the wise

We must realize the Truth, we must burst the myth
This we must do right now
Why should we live to cry and die?
Suffer No More! Suffer No More!

Accept the past, and don’t regret
What has happened, is now laid to rest
Yesterday is no more, why try going there?
Live in the now, it’s the best

Because we shuttle from the future to the past
Our pain and misery grow
Why should we live to cry and die?
Suffer No More! Suffer No More!

Some people hope, what they want should happen
They live in stress, worry, and fear
If you want joy, live in surrender
Accept what comes, my dear

If only we realize a Power is in charge
Then we can tell sufferings, “Go!”
Why should we live to cry and die?
Suffer No More! Suffer No More!

You can be happy, in joy and peace
Don’t need to suffer and do it with ease
Realize the Truth and throw misery out
Eliminate your fear and doubt

It’s a choice to Suffer No More
We must realize we just come and go
Why should we live to cry and die?
Suffer No More! Suffer No More!

We can be happy living with joy
Tranquillity, and peace
Or we can be miserable and cry in pain
Cursing our own disease

It’s a choice to Suffer No More
We must realize we come and go
Why should we live to cry and die?
Suffer No More! Suffer No More!

Why do we suffer, why do we cry?
Why this misery right till we die?
We live in ignorance, the Truth we don’t know
That’s why we don’t fly in the sky

We must realize the Truth that Pain is like Rain
It comes but soon it will go
Why should we live to cry and die?
Suffer No More! Suffer No More!

What is this suffering? What is this pain?
What is this misery again and again?
It’s pain of the body and stress of the mind
Living with fear in vain

We don’t need to suffer, we don’t need to cry
If only in our face the Truth does glow.
Why should we live to cry and die?
Suffer No More! Suffer No More!
Poem By AiR
If you are SINGLE and keep on saying "I DON'T TRUST MEN OR WOMEN!" Remember your mates are getting married every Saturday. Let me ask you, are they marrying spirits? Wise up!
2. If you are MARRIED and keep saying "I HATE THIS MARRIAGE!" OK! Is it not married people like you that are celebrating Gold, Silver and even Platinum jubilee?
3. If you keep on ranting, ''I'M LEAVING MY MAN, HE CHEATED ON ME!" Please, go to town and see all the fine, cute, ****, hot, hungry and desperate chicks waiting to ****** your man's money and property, they don't even mind sharing. Make it work, my friend!
4. Stop saying "I HATE MY JOB!" Look! 20 million people are jobless and can't even find any not to talk of keeping it! Do you want to join them?
5. You keep saying "I HATE WHERE I LIVE!" Oh please! tears Try visiting those locations that are flooding now, people leaving in tin/zinc shacks in winter or people living/sleeping under the bridge at night and you will be grateful to God that you even have a place to stay!
6. Some say "I AM TIRED OF THIS LIFE!" Well, go to the hospital and see people fighting for their lives! Go to the mortuary and take a look then tell me what you feel after that! The point is, be positive and believe in God, that's all that matters. Be Blessed.
CHERISH EVERY MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE: To realize the value of a sister/brother ask someone Who doesn't have one.
To realize the value of ten years: Ask a newly divorced couple.
To realize the value of four years: Ask a graduate.
To realize the value of one year: Ask a student who Has failed a final exam.
To realize the value of nine months: Ask a mother who gave birth to a stillborn.
To realize the value of one month: Ask a mother Who has given birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of one week: Ask an editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realize the value of one minute: Ask a person Who has missed the train, bus or plane.
To realize the value of one second: Ask a person Who has survived an accident. Time waits for no one. Treasure every moment you have.
Remember. Hold on tight to the ones you love! And don't forget the one who sent it to you! Have a stress free moment in your life.
I hope you will reflect on this.
God Bless Us All and have a wonderful day .
If you are SINGLE and keep on saying "I DON'T TRUST MEN OR WOMEN!" Remember your mates are getting married every Saturday. Let me ask you, are they marrying spirits? Wise up!
2. If you are MARRIED and keep saying "I HATE THIS MARRIAGE!" OK! Is it not married people like you that are celebrating Gold, Silver and even Platinum jubilee?
3. If you keep on ranting, ''I'M LEAVING MY MAN, HE CHEATED ON ME!" Please, go to town and see all the fine, cute, ****, hot, hungry and desperate chicks waiting to ****** your man's money and property, they don't even mind sharing. Make it work, my friend!
4. Stop saying "I HATE MY JOB!" Look! 20 million people are jobless and can't even find any not to talk of keeping it! Do you want to join them?
5. You keep saying "I HATE WHERE I LIVE!" Oh please! tears Try visiting those locations that are flooding now, people leaving in tin/zinc shacks in winter or people living/sleeping under the bridge at night and you will be grateful to God that you even have a place to stay!
6. Some say "I AM TIRED OF THIS LIFE!" Well, go to the hospital and see people fighting for their lives! Go to the mortuary and take a look then tell me what you feel after that! The point is, be positive and believe in God, that's all that matters. Be Blessed.
CHERISH EVERY MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE: To realize the value of a sister/brother ask someone Who doesn't have one.
To realize the value of ten years: Ask a newly divorced couple.
To realize the value of four years: Ask a graduate.
To realize the value of one year: Ask a student who Has failed a final exam.
To realize the value of nine months: Ask a mother who gave birth to a stillborn.
To realize the value of one month: Ask a mother Who has given birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of one week: Ask an editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realize the value of one minute: Ask a person Who has missed the train, bus or plane.
To realize the value of one second: Ask a person Who has survived an accident. Time waits for no one. Treasure every moment you have.
Remember. Hold on tight to the ones you love! And don't forget the one who sent it to you! Have a stress free moment in your life.
I hope you will reflect on this.
God Bless Us All and have a wonderful day
maxine Nov 2017
and as i lay here, alone, smelling your shirt, i cry
i realize that just a week ago, a mere seven days you wrote of being in love with me and now you can't even text me back
i realize that you were my first love
i realize that i'll never get back what we had
i realize you gave everyone a second chance but now you can't even look me in my eyes
i realize i'll see you again and i don't know how to prevent my body from crumbling
i realize i can't erase the memories
the things we shared
the teddy bear
your kisses
your dumb laugh
your voice
your hands in my hair
it's all gone
and i realize i've lost yet another
while i can't help but feel as if i'm just another notch on your belt
im sorry
as i write that and repeat it in my head a million times
i realize that i'm used to taking responsibility for everything
so go ahead and point your finger if you want
as long as you realize my love for you was real
my care
my consideration
my tears
my smiles and laughter
but that's gone now, no happily ever after
another chapter closed off
lonelier now than ever
missing your love
as i'll never receive it again
maybe it just wasn't our time
Gino Aug 2013
You always say you hate to see me hurt, and you hate to see me cry. So all those times that you hurt me, did you close your eyes? Sad isn’t it? How no matter what you do or say to me… when you come running back… when you need me again… I’ll be here… right here waiting for you, I’ll take you back… no questions asked. Sad isn’t it?

So… from now on… when you think of me… just remember that I could’ve been the best thing you ever had You hurt me more then I deserve, how can you be so cruel? I love you more then you deserve, why am I such a fool? You asked me what was wrong, I smiled and said nothing, when you turned around and a tear came down and I whispered to myself… everything is.

You wonder why I don’t talk to you anymore and please believe me when I say it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that everything I want to say I can’t tell you anymore I don’t know which I would rather believe… that you never did care or that you eventually stopped Hold my hand, just one more time, so I can remind myself why it is that I can’t get over you I think its time I let you go… and that is hard to do because part of me will be in love with you for the rest of my life.

While I was holding on all you did was let go Sometimes it’s better to be alone. No one can hurt you that way I just wonder how many people never get the one they want, but end up with the one they’re supposed to have The hardest thing about growing up is that you have to do what is right for you even if it means breaking someone’s heart. Including your own.

All I’m asking for is one night together. Just you and me. All alone. And if you can honestly say you don’t feel anything for me after that night, I will finally let you go Sometimes all you need is a broken heart to realize that something even better is right in front of our eyes, just waiting to be found No one can promise they’ll never hurt you because at one time or another, it will happen. The real promise is if the time you spend together will be worth the pain in the end.

The worst feeling in the world is knowing you’ve been used and lied to Maybe they are right. Maybe I did get my hopes up too high. Maybe I was in over my head. Maybe I am the stupid one for ever thinking that you loved me, but maybe, just maybe, I am tired of being alone I don’t know which is worse, being the one with the broken heart or being the person that breaks the hearts It’s not that we aren’t meant to be together, I think that we’re just not ready for forever You always have an out An exit strategy to make sure you don’t get hurt  You always walk always  You walk away before they can walk away from you There were reasons we met, reasons for the good times and reasons bad times, and most importantly a reason to end. We have more to learn, more to experience and more loving to do in this lifetime.

Somehow I know we’ll meet again, not quite sure where and not sure when, your in my heart so until then good-bye If you think you’ve found that one that you really love… make sure they love you back Don’t hate me. Don’t regret me. Don’t even forget me Wherever you go, whatever you do, don’t say I never loved you It’s hard to love someone who’s in love with someone else, you have to ignore the pain and swallow your pride. Just to be a friend… but that’s all worth it because sometimes friendship last longer than love.

I haven’t been around but that doesn’t mean I'm there for  Even when I was acting like a fool I’ve tried to show you in a million ways but nothing ever got through I cut to prove to you that you are not the only one that can hurt me I wish I saved all the tears I cried for you so I could ******* drown you in them Sometimes I love you, Sometimes you make me blue, Sometimes I feel good, At times I feel used. Loving you darling makes me so confused get weak, that is my problem…

But the thing that I want you to see the most is that I survived without you I don’t think I ever felt that good and that bad at the same time in my life Sometimes I have been thinking a lot about growing up, and all of the relationships and broken hearts we go through. I always wonder how many times I said “I love you” to someone  Love is putting up with someone’s bad qualities because they somehow complete you Stop trying to change yourself for a relationship that’s not meant to be Don’t stay because you think “it will get better”. You’ll be mad at yourself a year later for staying when things are not better.

You cannot change a man’s behavior. Change comes from within I may hate myself in the morning But I’m gonna love you tonight Relationships are like glasses. If they break, let them stay broken, you’ll only hurt yourself trying to fix it. At least the pieces still remain Why do we fall for someone, who really isn’t for us?… should we blame ourselves for falling the wrong one. Or… should we blame the one we fell for, because… they made us believe that they are the right one for us?!

There will always be faces you can never look at without emotion and there are names you can never hear spoken without that same old feelings returning. Just when you think you can move on, you’ll remember all the reasons why you held on so long The only thing worse than a broken heart is knowing you’d give him another chance.
I don’t understand why I let myself stay with you, after all the lies and all the tears cried. What makes you so ******* special?

Too often we don’t realize what we have until it’s gone… too often we wait too long to say “I’m sorry, I was wrong” There’s nothing scarier then getting what you want, cause that’s when you really have something to lose.

I’m mad at myself for crying, I don’t even remember the reason but the tears keep flowing and they just wont stop I’m supposed to be strong but everything’s so wrong Maybe sometimes you just have to say what’s in your heart, not just what you think someone wants to hear I’m sorry that I’m not the one you wanted that I made your life ****** up its not telling you how I feel that scares me. Its what you’ll say back that does.

Learn from your past, move on, grow stronger. People are fake, but let your trust last longer. Do what you got to do, but always stay true, and never let anyone get the best of you.

I think it’s time that I let you go. And it’s really hard for me to do because I know that there’s a part of me that will be in love with you for the rest of my life. But this while running in place and day dreaming is just not healthy for either of us.

Not everything’s gonna be picture perfect… Things sometimes take time and have rough times to get through… Before you can get there but if you give up on things you want, everything you’ve gone through ends up being completely worthless If one day you realize that I haven’t talked to you in a while it’s not because I don’t care anymore it’s because you pushed me away and just left me there…

The higher you build the walls around your heart, the harder you fall when someone tears them down.
Just hit play and watch my life fall apart I can’t help myself I don’t want anyone else You are unmistaken ably my first love. Every guy I am with for the rest of my life will be compared to you Hold me when I cry, sleep with me on my drenched pillow, just for one night.
I know it’s hard to love me, but couldn’t you please just try anyway?
Time and time again, I forgave you. I’ve forgiven you for things that I swore to myself I’d never forgive someone for… and here you are, still hurting me, and I still forgive you And these break up songs Are making sense again And I really wish they didn’t.

It’s amazing after all we’ve been through the good times and the bad how we can walk past each other and pretend like it never happened give each other an awkward smile and move on It’s really painful to say goodbye to someone that you don’t want to let go but its even more painful to ask someone to stay if they never wanted to stay.

A sad thing in life is when you meet someone who means a lot to you, only to find out in the end that it was never meant to be and you just have to let go.
You didn’t intentionally break my heart, you even said you were sorry, but I cried anyway… I know the truth that you’re to scared to admit, you’re with her, but when you look at me, you can’t even remember her name

I’m  hurt. I am always getting my heart broken over and over. My heart has so many scars and bruises all over it. I don’t know how much just one heart can
take really, and I don’t really want to find out either.
After a while, you learn the difference between holding a hand, and falling in love. You’ll learn kisses don’t always mean something. Promises can be broken just as easily as they were made, and as hard as it is to believe, sometimes goodbyes are forever.

Life doesn’t hurt until you have time to yourself to think about how things have changed, who you’ve lost along the way, and how much of it is your fault.
It’s like once you’ve been hurt, you’re so scared to get attached again. you have this fear that every person you start to fall for, is just going to break your heart again If you don’t love me at my worst then you don’t deserve me at my best Make me stay Say something sweet and tender and untrue and make me stay.

The hardest thing about knowing you don’t love me
is that you spent so much time pretending that you did Like being in love there must be a corresponding painful side like losing in love, it’s just a fact of life You really know you love someone when all you want is for them to be happy, even if that means that you are not a part of me It’s not my fault if I can’t help looking at you. It’s not my fault if I can’t stop calling you. It’s not my fault I do like you. My only mistake was to fall to much in love with you Sometimes – no matter how long, or how much you love someone, they will never love you back and somehow you have to learn to be okay with that.

If your gonna make me cry, at least be there to wipe away the tears.
I’m holding on to something that used to be there hoping it will come back, knowing it won’t There’s always that one special person that no matter what they do to you, you just cant let them go At first, I cried because I didn’t have you why do I still cry now that I do?
How could you make me love you and then not be there to love me back?

I sit here and think about everything that happened this past week and not a single tear runs down my cheek. Maybe its because I’m too hurt to cry, or maybe I’m just to mad at you Maybe just  its my hearts way of telling me this isn’t over yet What do you do when the only person who can stop your tears is the one making you cry I’d like to think I’ll be happy again, but I really need to just stop and cry now, and sometimes I wish I could just scream at you, and show you what you do to me.

And even though you lied, and even though you pretended to care I can’t seem to get you out of my mind and even though it seems like I should be over you, with every tear that falls, it reminds me of how much I am still in love with you.

Have you ever hated somebody so much that you wish they would just leave and never come back but yet, loved them so much, you knew you'll die if they did?
I’ve been through this pain before I’ve even cried these tears before but to get you back, I’d go through so much more  I’m going to smile like nothings wrong, talk like everythings perfect, act like its just a dream and pretend that she’s not hurting me The truth of the matter is, I still have feelings for you And no matter how many times I tell myself that I’m better off with out you, a part of me just won’t let go I know I made a lot of stupid mistakes in my life, but the worst one was thinking the person who hurt me the most wouldn’t hurt me again.

I feel like I am sitting in a room full of people that I love, and you know what, they just don’t care that I love them. They don’t care whether or not I live or die. To them I’m just another person , just another stranger. To me, they are my best friends, the only people I have left I’m scared to fall in love, scared to fall fast, because every time I fall in love, it never seems to last You’re the reason I live and the reason I die, you’re the reason.

I smile yet break down and cry, you’re the reason I keep going and the reason I fall, cause without you in my life I’m nothing at all I have waited for you for years and I will wait for you for the rest of my life. Even if that means I have to give you up for the rest of my life, I will wait for you.

I’m gonna smile, because I wanna make you happy, laugh, so you won’t see me cry. I’m gonna let you go in style, and even if it kills me, I’m gonna smile.
Love? It’s kind of complicated, but I’ll tell you this the second you’re willing to make yourself miserable to make someone else happy, that’s love right there.

You asked me what was wrong, I smiled and said nothing, when you turned around and a tear came down and I whispered to myself everything is.
I used to think that if I loved you enough you would realize it and love me back,
I don’t know which is worse, keeping your love for someone a secret or telling them and risk being rejected I don’t know which is worse, loving someone knowing its going to cause you pain or being in pain because you can’t love someone It hurts to realize that them people you thought you’d love for life don’t love you as much as you thought they did and can do without you as if they never knew you at all It seems to me that the harder I try the harder I fall.
Ever notice that the people who hurt you the most are the ones you tend to love more It’s funny the way you can get use to the tears and the pain.
No more crying, I can’t cry anymore. Don’t take my hand this time. Just go please and don’t look back, because I know if you did, I’d come running back to you and I can’t do that.

I’m glad you’re happy. I can’t say that I’m completely happy for you but I guess that’s just a part of life, I’ll always have feelings for you but the rest of the world is forcing me to move on.
I would rather leave now still loving you then to leave later hating you.
Broken heart again. Another lesson learned. Better know your friends. Or you will get burned.

Sometimes we must get hurt in order to grow; we must fail in order to know. Sometimes our vision only clears after our eyes are washed away with tears.
Walk home drowning these memories in the rain biting my lip to transfer this pain, your gone and I’m still going through withdrawals, next time around I’ll build a stronger wall You and me are inevitable, you’re all that makes me happy but if you break my heart again, I’ll **** you.

I’ve been laying here all night, listening to the rain. Talking to my heart and trying to explain. Why sometimes I catch myself wondering what might have been. Yes I do think about you, every now and then I’m not afraid of heights, I’m afraid of falling. I’m not scared of the dark, I’m scared of what’s in it. I’m not afraid of love, I’m afraid of not being loved back.

I didn’t ask for it to be over, but then again, I didn’t ask for it to begin. For that’s the way it is with life, as some of the most beautiful days come completely by chance I wish I saved all the tears I cried for you so I could ******* drown you in them.

I hate the way I could never hate you.
I want to cry, I really do, but I guess I just don’t want to give you the satisfaction of knowing that you hurt me once again I remember when I still believed the things you said You can’t just cling on to something because it’s familiar Difficult or easy, pleasant or bitter, you are the same you; I cannot live, with or without you.

This time its over I’m keeping my heart, I’m gonna be strong and not fall apart it’ll get better, I’ll no longer cryin a couple of weeks I won’t want to die, I won’t want to go back. I’ll be able to sleep, it won’t hurt so bad and it won’t hurt so deep!

It hurts to see someone you love ignoring you, it also hurts to see that he doesn’t feel your love. But it hurts even more to know that he loves you too, and just doesn’t want you to know Love is when someone hurts you. And you get so mad but you don’t yell at them because you know it would hurt their feelings I’d rather be your lover then your friend, but I’d rather be your friend then your nobody.

I’ve convinced everyone else that I don’t like you
Ellie Shelley Feb 2015
Wake up
Put on your face
so you can pretend your demons
Don’t chase you
Realize you don’t love yourself
Go to the kitchen
See all the pills you have to take
to stop the shaking
to stop the voices
to stop the depression
Realize all you are is a mix of pills
Make breakfast and listen to your dad call you fat
As he walks away your confidence with your untouched breakfast
Realize you don’t love yourself
Take your pills
With a glass of water
and a shot of whiskey
Realize all you are is a mix of pills
Go to bed
Dream its okay
Wake up
Realize you don’t love yourself
Ken Manuel Aug 2017
Chorus
Real Eyes,Realize,Real Lies!
Seein right thru your disguise,my eyez minimize in size!
Real Eyes,Realize,Real Lies!
Denial will try n’ dignify, but truth will magnify!
Real Eyes,Realize,Real Lies!
I will only simplify,what you try to mystify!
Verse 1:
Look out, my words bout’ to hit you, like some lyrical ninjitsu! Come on I’m bout’ to get you! I’ma Pegasus n’ your just a shitzu! It’s thru! What the ******* gonna do? All the ******* you runnin thru? Runnin from! Young dumb, Where the ******* comin’ from? Livin a life of denial, hidin behind a fake smile! Actin hard like a crocodile! But you’re a predator like a *******! So delusional you turned senial! Made ya slower than Gomer Pile! While I… learned the truth from a Higher Power! To me you’re just a coward… Chewin on you like green leafs n’ little collards… Holler! Your face looks like it’s getting’ sour! Cuz your ******* lies are getting devoured! Pridin’ yourself on how much you make an hour! ***** ***** the world was already ours!
Chorus
Real Eyes,Realize,Real Lies!
Seein right thru your disguise,my eyez minimize in size!
Real Eyes,Realize,Real Lies!
Denial will try n’ dignify, but truth will magnify!
Real Eyes,Realize,Real Lies!
I will only simplify,what you try to mystify!
Verse 2:
Flippin’ the script, Bout’ to kick flip the **** outcha lips with the way I double dip my tips! Bout ta be a hurricane of thunder n’ rain! Chaos n’ pain! Truth n’ disdain! So much to gain! What you thought was real, was the way you were programmed to feel! It’s like you were electronic, turnin’ you demonic! But the truth rings harmonic! You wanna hear it? I’ll get right on it! You started out with Love,innocence n’ bliss, Though you’re ignorant to this! Like I said denial gave you a fake smile!Seek & you’ll find, the truth is not in your mind, it will only blind! **** & confine! Look deep within your Spirit! Even if you don’t want to hear it! Don’t fear it,clear it! You might shake & shiver, I promise the truth will deliver! And the lies will start to quiver! You’ll become lost in reality, one big large fatality! You’re heart & soul will come to a mutuality! No longer living on technicalities!  
Chorus
Real Eyes,Realize,Real Lies!
Seein right thru your disguise,my eyez minimize in size!
Real Eyes,Realize,Real Lies!
Denial will try n’ dignify, but truth will magnify!
Real Eyes,Realize,Real Lies!
I will only simplify,what you try to mystify!
By: Ken Manuel aka <3 <3 <3 3ye Kvndy <3 <3 <3
Ryan Bowdish Sep 2013
School was always humuorous to a degree in my opinion because of the underlying idea
that the more damaged you were, the cooler you were in the eyes of the rest of the school.
I have heard numerous conversations that began with something along the lines of, "Oh, you
think YOU got it bad, well my dad blah blah and my best friend blah blah and my life is hell."

I decided to get a little personal and share with you guys something I have never actually
told anyone in entirety yet. I am pretty sure the whole story is still only here in my brain.
I will, out of respect for these people, change their names.

It's October 31, 2012. It's about noon, and all of us sixteen to twenty-two year olds are just waking up.
Brianne woke up probably a few hours ago already to tend to her son, Aaron. He is adorable, one
and a half, blond hair, blue eyes. I have been living here for nearly two months. I am supporting her,
Aaron, and myself with food stamps. I get two hundred dollars a month to basically smoke **** and drink
on the government's budget. Trust me, I'm not proud of it either, and if I could I would pay it back.
Since Brianne is a single mother and an adopted child, she has a single-digit monthly rent (I was *******
baffled to hear this) and receives support from her foster parents. Basically, if I want to stay here forever
with absolutely no consequences save to miss out on a life of my own, I can.

Brandon is putting on clown make-up so he can troll the streets as a juggalo. I find this amusing as I always
liked to mess around with ICP fans, but he's a really cool kid so I let it go and I even help him perfect it.
I notice he has a bottle of Stolichnaya in his backpack and it's practically full. That, to me, is temptation.
I ask if he would mind me taking a few drinks here and there from the bottle and he says it's fine, so I proceed
to get a nice one p.m. buzz. It was always my favorite drunk, very light, and airy, almost like you're still asleep.
Something bogs you down, but it doesn't bother you, somehow it makes you lighter.

For the rest of the day, we hook up with a few friends, go out and trick or treat in the pouring rain, get soaked
and wait for two hours under an overpass while Brianne goes and gets her car. From there, we proceed home.

At this point, everyone is over at Breanne's and we're all making dinner and drinking beer and having a good time
(Aaron is with the grandparents tonight). I guess I started getting angry about the recent events (for about a month,
everyone in our group with the exception of Brandon have been slowly losing items...but they're obviously being stolen.
At a point, a few of us did some research and determined the only person who could possibly have stolen
a good deal of these things has to be Brandon) and I decided I was tired of sitting on the news waiting for no one to make
a move after a solid two weeks of being certain that we had our guy. So I called him out... and proceeded
to begin burning bridges slowly and very surely for the next few days. I am pretty sure a fight would have broken out
if Bri hadn't taken me into her room to relax. When I finally do, it turns out I woke up the upstairs neighbor,
her baby, and everyone in the house has left save for my friend Jeff and his girlfriend Marissa. This concludes night one.

I later learned that Brandon was not actually the person who was stealing from us (unless of course
he just happened to not get caught when we found out who had done most of it) and I feel bad for bringing the whole
thing up because I would have liked to stay in touch with him. We got along swimmingly and he actually did have
a lot of interesting things to talk about. Smart, nice, hilarious... Well, maybe he'll turn up one day.

The next morning, I woke up to find the house empty save for Jeff and Marissa in the next room, but where I am,
it simply appears empty. I don't know what happened but I intuit that I have been sleeping all night without
my girlfriend. This upsets me and I begin to weep like a confused child, which is exactly what you do when you're
helpless and too drunk in the brain to figure out how to pull yourself out of a helpless situation (trust me,
I own the handbook). Marissa walks in and begins to explain to me that I had scared her too much and she slept
on the couch and that she had left to go pick up her son. So I realize I need to calm down, but I can feel
Jeff is not happy with me in the slightest, considering he will not come and talk to me (this is extremely painful
because he is probably one of the best friends I have ever had, with a mind that vastly exceeds that of everyone
I have met save one other, and he's a different story). They leave and I decide to stay in the house all day.

This is a very bad idea. I stay home, watch re-runs of a show I have seen billions of times, and considering
that Brandon and I are no longer on good terms, like a complete *******, I drink the rest of his *****.

In walks Bri, it's around 7. She's not happy. She proceeds to tell me that the night before I asked out a friend of mine
and she said yes. And I was a bit shocked because I couldn't remember it at first. Then it all hit me.

A few days before, Aaron called me "dad." Now remember, this is not my child. I am dark, dark, dark, and she had this kid
about two years after we had any past relationship. I am extremely worried in my mind and I realize I am headed toward nothing.
That I am stagnant and can not even afford to go back to school. This scares me, so I drunkenly asked out Tanya.

Tanya...we had been friends for about five years, and I had tried to get with her so many **** times... she was like
one of those girls you see and you're instantly reminded of an anime character. Tall, thin, beautiful hips, perfect
proportions, lovely hair, eyes, voice, and a personality I can liken to a Disney princess/black metal lumberjack.
The kind of girl who has a tough exterior, but inside, she just wants someone to tell her everything is going to be ok.

After about two hours of pleading with Bri to let me stay, I finally send Tanya a message, and we hang out for the next
two days, whence I whisper in her ear that everything is going to be okay and we proceed to have quite passionate ***
for those nights, where I discovered the secret to making a woman ****** with my tongue (tip: if the underside of your
tongue isn't completely torn apart, you're doing something wrong). But alas, I could not stay.

This is the part I dreaded, because I know I have to go back to Jeff's house and ask him if I can stay there for a while.
And I got the answer I expected.

The words he used...

"I'm *******...extremely ******* at you, and disappointed." It was like a father saying it to you. And him and I
have a very interesting friendship built on such an extreme understanding that I knew exactly how badly I had been spiraling.
I began to leave and he gave me a slice of pizza, with that slight smile that told me "just go find yourself, we'll be fine."

I hobbled off into the night drunk, with one piece of pizza and all my food at Bri's, which could have lasted me another few days,
easing the transition into homeless. And it could have prevented a horrible occurance that took place the following afternoon. I
was crying, because I knew I was dying, but I didn't want to ask either of my parents for help, because this was the first time
I was out on my own and I was far too proud to give up and let the world make me its victim. So I walked...

Sixteen ******* miles...

To the next town. Took me all night because I was dodging traffic, easing into trees, avoiding on and off ramps, trying to stay
away from any police that may exist on the road. When I finally arrived in the next town (where I knew I may have one contact)
I decided to sleep until the morning came so I could have the energy to find my next venture.

It was five thirty am. I had 3 hours until sun-up, I had just walked enough to be burning, and there was plenty of whiskey in my veins.
I had left my sleeping bag with Tanya hours earlier, wishing in the park that I had not been so naiive as to think I would be allowed
back in the house. So I pulled out a pile of ***** clothes and put them over me like blankets, in some random corner of the local
park, under some bushes, hidden from cold and sight, with great hope...

Fifteen minutes pass. My eyes shoot open. I am freezing. The sweat has dried and frozen to my body. This is hell.

I grab my things and with the worst effort I can ever remember myself mustering, I drag myself to the toilet.
When I open it, the first thing I check for is cleanliness. It's spotless. I am so relieved. I sit in the corner of the room,
which my knees to my chest, head in my hands, wrapped in a leather jacket I had gotten from Jeff (ha, he really is my
guardian angel, though he would laugh to hear it).

I catch winks, occasionally looking up to check if the sun is rising. When it finally is, I get up, change my clothes (I had
ONE clean set of clothing and it had been rotting with the rest in the backpack) and immediately head to a thrift store where
a family friend is working.

On my way there, I notice in a little parking lot near the store a sight I had never actually come across but I always thought
would be the most amazing luck, and it was timed in such a spot in my life that it was the ultimate miracle...and a curse in
disguise.

In front of my eyes (this miracle appeared in my path as I was walking looking down, so it startled me) was the worst possible thing
for me: A half finished fifth of Smirnoff, and a half smoked pack of Marlboro 100 Reds. I open the pack and sure enough, the celophane
protected every cigarette inside from any water damage. I am ecstatic. This is not only amazing, but highly unlikely.

So I down the bottle in one go and take the rest of the smokes with me.

When I arrive at the thrift shop, it turns out I am there on a day when my potential savior is not working, so I get her number from the clerk
and head over to a payphone and realize... I have no money. So I decide to go on a quest for dropped pocket change.

Before I even leave the parking lot, I see a young man, no older than 23, sitting on a nice red classic-style Corvette and he's
reading William S. Burroughs. So naturally, I decide to strike up a conversation with the young man. Turns out he's the nicest guy
and his name is Jordan. So him and I got together and decided to go out for a game of disc golf (some may not know what this is;
Imagine frisbee but with a golf theme, so you need to get from a tee pad into a basket. Really fun, centering, and extremely popular
with potheads, Californians, beer-drinkers, and hippies) and before we go, he asks if I would like to snag a few beers first.

I tell him a piece of my story and he can tell I am down on my luck and broke so he decides to help me out. He buys us both some beer
and we proceed to disk.

Turns out he's an ex-****** and has been through quite a bit of hell himself, so we find that we're in a good position to help each
other make some better decisions in life. After the game, we go over to a payphone and he gives me money to call my friend.

Buzz (this the only name I am not changing because her name is ******* badass) answers the phone and unfortunately informs me that
though she would take me in any day of the year, she just moved in to a house with one older lady she takes care of, and its a single
bedroom apartment, so there is just no way it can work.

So I go back to his car and tell him the news, and he says he thinks he may be able to put me up for a few days until I can sort
everything out. We go back out to the store and grab ourselves a fifth of *****.

We end up in the park playing music, talking, performing standup for one another, and I begin to realize I am drinking too fast,
so I try to ease back a little. He was playing a version of a Radiohead song I had never heard before

"Everyone this way. Okay, get your hands against the wall. Spread your legs. Don't move."
The doors clanking, some ******* won't shut up in the next cell over.
More slamming of doors, someone rubbing my body all over trying to find my knives, no doubt.
And my AK 47 I conceal, and my ****, and my ... oh ****, I really did have **** on me.

"Move forward. Turn around. Alright, go to bed."

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

"Get up. Come on, slowly... There you go. There's a few more coming in so we got to get you to another cell."

Clank, clank...

"Pick a bed."

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

Something is wrong. This bed is not covered. There is no comfort. It's just a mat. And I have no pillow. This is not a house
of any sort, my bag isnt what I am sleeping on. Something is very wrong here.

I am in jail. Oh of course.

I know the answer before I hear it, but I ask anyway: "What are my charges, ma'am?"

"Drunk in public."

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

I'm about thirty miles or so North of inner Seattle. Not a bad place to be. I'm working for a Safeway. It's somewhere around
the first of June. I receive word that Bri has been on ******. And I may have left at a crucial time in her life thinking
only of myself, but I needed to go somewhere I could be productive. Yet my decision left her in a position where she turned
to hard drugs...

I can't help but feel I am to blame. I am listening to the dull, stupid words of my ex boss, Rod, who is telling me
that even though I may feel like I need to help her, there is nothing I can do for her, so I should bury myself in my work
instead. He tells me this in about six hundred different ways before I leave the room after twenty minutes. Well great.
I may have no focus here at work today, but at least I killed almost a half hour of the day just listening to someone
*******.

I am at a loss of what to do here, but I eventually get a hold of her, and after a long time not talking, we come to
somewhat of a closure, and she is beginning to sober up herself. I realize we were both in incredibly hard times, and I still
wish with all my heart there could have been some way I could have helped her raise that boy and stayed and been her
love, and at the same time, still go to college, and progress and get a good job...but I was in a small Northern California
town. There was nothing left, all the old shops were out of business. It was time for me to move on then, and we have
all seen better days for it. She looks incredible these days by the way. She lost an insane amount of weight, and I know
a lot of it had to do with the drugs, but if she truly is sober like she says she is, she'll be getting much better.

A few weeks ago 3 people I used to know and hang out with died in the span of a week. It was a terrible tragedy, and I have been
thinking back on all the names of people I used to love very, very much before they got lost in some way.

There's Lorne Holly, who killed himself after a few weeks of detoxing from crank.

Layla Harmon, who died in a car crash, blunt head trauma, with a drunk driver (I have a tattoo for this, I will never drive drunk).

Heavy Eagle, who killed himself after years of drug problems.

Chaz Lipman, who died in a car crash as well.

Ren Rain, who I am still not sure about...

And of course, Tray Beraldi, who was my closest friend's cousin... I wish I were there to mourne with him...

Last night I got a text from my best friend, who said he couldn't sleep and he barely eats anything anymore, and he feels like his throat
is going to explode, and he cant swallow and his neck is killing him constantly. He has been this way for a year, and he is talking constantly
about getting a gun and blowing his head off. And no one believes him because he constantly talks about it because he is in so much pain.
No doctor can diagnose him so far, he has no idea what's wrong with him, he's been tested all over the place, he has no hope, he's barely
cligning and he doesn't know how much longer he can hold on.

All I really want to say is

Lord? What I have done? I don't pray, I never pray, I don't even know who I would pray to. But WHAT ELSE DO I HAVE TO DO?!

I bring myself across hell and I pull myself from the worst depression I h
This is autobiographical...so be prepared for somewhat of a story.
Brandi R Lowry Mar 2015
Saying goodbye
To someone you love
Is like reading the final page
Of an amazing book.

As the last chapter ends
You begin to notice
Just how beautiful
And perfect
The plot always was.  

You appreciate the joy
And even the pain
As you read and thumb
Through every page.

Finally understanding
The moral of the story,
You realize you've reached
The end of this journey.

Although the last sentence  
Is the most difficult to read
Another great book awaits
Once you turn the final page.

Eventually you may stumble
Upon yet another great find.
Or maybe you'll return
To the book you left behind.

You may just discover
Once all is said and done
That this particular book  
Was your favorite story
All along.
For Ty & Des ❤️
Al Apr 2017
1:46 am
You wake up and roll over in bed
I ask you to light me a cigarette
but I fall back asleep before you can hand it to me

5:00 am
My alarm clock goes off
the ring is a recording of you screaming that we thought was hilarious
I pull on yesterday's pants and your hoodie
You kiss my wrist before I leave

5:30 am
I get back into bed before my mom realizes I was gone
Curl up in my own bed and go back to sleep

7:53 am
I'm already 2 minutes late for my first hour class
I take my medication before I leave
I kick myself for not taking the cigarette at 1:46 am

10:59 am
You text me three times during my math class,
the teacher hates me for it
"AL."
"Guess what."
"I brought you sandwiches from your favorite restaurant in town."
I love that you end every text with a period

11:20 am
You also brought me a *** brownie

12:30 pm
The brownie kicks in
I can't focus on the documentary about gentrification in India
All I can think about is how your hair looked like ****
I go to the bathroom so I can call you and tell you
You call me an *******
I almost tell you I love you before I hang up
But I bite my tongue

1:04 pm
I walk right out of my sixth hour class
in the middle of a lecture
Because everyone's acting like the fact that Rodion is mentally ill
somehow discredits his theories
And I know you read "Crime and Punishment" last year
and I want to know if you're an extraordinary man

1:22 pm
You get your sober friend Ryan to drive us to the theater
for a 2:10 showing of boss baby
you sit in the back seat with me
my eyes are glued to the way your fingers dance with the cigarette
I think you're the most beautiful person in the world
I think that I love you

1:25 pm
I think that the last person I thought those things about
convinced me I wasn't worth love.
And showed me just how cruel love can be
I don't know if I trust you
if I'm being honest.

2:04 pm
You buy me popcorn
and I buy your movie ticket
Somebody calls us ******* when we kiss in the lobby
Neither of us notice until Ryan points it out later

3:48 pm
Boss Baby's over
Neither of us notice because we're kissing
The theater is empty except for me, you, Ryan, and the employee
Ryan tells us we're gay

3:50 pm
By the time we get outside
We're yelling at each other
I'm telling you to stop talking **** about my friends
You're telling me to stop letting people push me around
I'm screaming a paragraph of information you should know
when you interrupt me with a kiss
Quick
Passionate
Beautiful
It only makes me angrier
Are you stupid?
This isn't a ******* romcom, Pete.

4:00 pm
We don't talk the rest of the car ride home
But we pass a cigarette between the two of us
and it's like we made up

5:13 pm
My friend Andrew picks me up
His car smells like ****
I don't say goodbye to you before I go
but I leave a lighter by your car keys
because I know you'll forget one if I don't.

5:57 pm
Andrew keeps picking up more and more people
He says we're "pre-gaming" for the party tonight
He lets me borrow hair product and cologne
Not so I can impress you, of course
Just so I can look good

6:00 pm
I suddenly realize
that out of 6 people in this car
I'm the only one with a ******
I ask to go to the party early

7:14 pm
I send you a text
"I'm here, motherbitch"
Bring me a hoodie. It's cold."
I almost tag "I love you" on the end
but I settle for
"P.S. you're gross and smell bad."

7:16 pm
You respond
"I'm bringing the blue one."
"Hope it'll cover up that ugly shirt you were wearing earlier."
We both know that it's your shirt
"P.S. you have weird leg hair."
"P.P.S. I think the Boss Baby qualifies as an extraordinary man, by Rodion's definition. He seems above the law. I dunno though. Think on it."
Sometimes I think you're a genius

8:37 pm
You're over an hour late
I'm cold
I yell at you the minute you step out of your car
You yell at me for being so selfish
I tell you to never say that about me again
You know that that's a touchy subject

9:22 pm
We haven't spoken since we got in that fight.
I've been drinking a little more than I should

10:10 pm
I gave one of your exes a lap dance
I wink at you over his shoulder
I want all of your attention,
your eyes glued to me.
I want you to forget the rest of the room exists

10:44 pm
I throw up in the bushes by your car
It's unlocked, so I lay down inside
I think about the look in your eyes,
half anger, half adoration.
I think about how I want to tell you that I love you.
I think about how the last person I said that to convinced me
that I don't deserve love.
I think that maybe she had a point.

12:16 am
I don't know when I fell asleep
but when I woke up,
you were sitting in the car next to me.
You aren't smoking, but you're playing with a match.
I think you look beautiful in this light,
just the flame from the match
and the odd shadows that come from inside the house.
You tell me we need to talk.
I tell you to grow a pair and talk to me when we're sober.
You remind me that we're rarely sober at the same time.

12:18 am
I tell you that I'm sorry I'm so mean to you.
You say you know that I don't mean it.
I tell you that I don't want to be another her.
I don't want to treat you the way my ex treated me
because you deserve better than that.
I tell you that you deserve better than me.
You give me an odd look but don't say anything.
I realize that your eyes aren't bloodshot.

12:31 am
I ask you to drive me to the high school
because I realize that I left my car there
earlier today when I decided to cut class.
As you drive
I realize that you never fixed your hair.
I realize that everything about you is messy
and that the bags under your eyes are just getting worse.
I also realize that I think you're the most beautiful person in the world.

12:40 am
When we got to the high school we didn't talk for awhile.
I didn't get out of the car.
You didn't ask me.
We don't look at each other for awhile
but our fingers keep brushing against each other.
I was supposed to be home 40 minutes ago.

12:41 am
You look at me and I realize what you're gonna say.
I can see it in your eyes.
"Al, I just want you to know..."
I know what happens next.
You're going to say that you love me
that you think I'm beautiful
that I'm your best friend
that you want to spend all your free time with me
that you think maybe you'd wanna marry me someday?
Ryan told me you've been telling him these things lately.
I look you in the eyes, trying to stop myself from crying.
"Seriously? Grow the **** up, Pete." I snap.
You don't say it.

12:42 am
I wish I was a better person.
I wish we'd met before she ****** me up.
I wish I could tell you I love you.
I wish you would stop laughing.

12:43 am
You kiss the inside of my wrist,
and I want to smack you but I don't.
Just before I leave your car,
I grow the **** up and look you in the eyes.
"I think you're the best thing that's ever happened to me."
You look shocked that I said something like that.
I know that you're an extraordinary man.

1:46 am
We're still in the high school parking lot.
I've given up on going home.
I haven't stopped apologizing for every ****** thing I've ever done.
You haven't stopped kissing each of my burnt fingertips in turn.
I ask you to light me a cigarette
but I fall asleep before you can hand it to me.
You're gross and I hate you.
Mariel Ramirez Dec 2016
This year:*

(for those with brave hearts)
I hope you find the strength to make your choices and fight for the life that you want.
I hope you look up from all your hard work and realize how much you've grown.
I hope you find yourself saved sometimes.
I hope you find time to get lost, in your head, in the wilderness, to explore forests, and gaze into rivers.
I hope you find your best self looking back at you. I hope you know you're always growing.
I hope you feel challenged.
I hope you never stop believing in the view from the top of the mountain.
I hope you get there. I hope you find it was worth it.

(for the softhearted)
I hope you find more time to laugh.
With your friends, at yourself, or at the world for ever thinking it could hurt you.
I hope you can take the pain and say "thank you."
i hope you realize it has only made you all the more good, all the more beautiful.
I hope you start looking less at the mirror, start believing more in who you are in other people's eyes, what you know you are in your heart.
I hope life gets sweeter, hope you wake up with your head in the clouds, your soul flying.
I hope you finally find what you're looking for.
I hope you find yourself smiling.

(for those with big hearts)
i hope you realize how important you are, how you make people feel appreciated and loved.
i hope you realize that the world wouldn't be the same if you weren't trying so hard to make it a better place.
i hope the world tucks you into bed, proud of its little soldier.
i hope you appreciate yourself for your efforts.
i hope you never get tired of being a champion of the things people say no longer exist - so much kindness, goodness, love, peace.
i hope that you find fulfillment in the little things because sometimes, that's all we get.
little things like knowing you made someone smile, or that the people you love are doing fine, doing better.
i hope you realize that's all you need.
i hope your heart is proud of itself.
i hope the love that burns in you always keeps you warm.

(for the fainthearted)*
I hope you realize there's so much more to your life than you thought there was.
I hope you find moments that make your breath catch, a million things to marvel at.
I hope life surprises you. I hope you surprise yourself.
I hope you find your horizons expanding, and see that it's not as bad as you thought.
I hope your dreams take you places; I hope you travel paths that you never knew existed, but where you feel you belong.
I hope you discover your longings, what your heart would sing for, what you didn't know you wanted all along.
I hope you get up and chase it.
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.
Realize
( Domestic Violence)


Only when we stop and think
Do we then realize
That the pain we cause to others
Can be seen within their eyes

We think that what we say and do
Wont hurt the ones we love
We must realize our actions
Are seen from up above

We say things out of anger
And expect them to forgive
Not knowing the true danger
Or the fear that they must live

When we strike out in anger
And our actions hurt someone
We create a brand new danger
That is seen by more then one

Know, others see your actions
And your words are heard by all
You may try to hide the pain you cause
But soon the walls will fall

For it's only when we stop and think
That we then realize
That the pain we cause to others
Can be seen within their eyes

Carl Joseph Roberts ( Joe)
We see domestic violence so often and sometimes say nothing. Neighbors hide behind the walls and we hear but do not see what is going on inside. Sometimes we think that it will all work out if we do nothing at all. But if you look into that persons eyes you will see the fear and pain that they have. Take the time and simply make a call. Let the police know for without you we cannot see it all.
Sarah Isma May 2018
I’ve now grown and I turned out alright
But one day I came to realize
That this was not a smooth flight
And the scary things that I saw
Is the reason why I held on to my seat so tight
Now here are the few things
That made me hate this horrible, terrible ride
        The fact once you realize
that your parents are sometimes never right.
To see that they are flawed beings, with broken wings and ****** mistakes.
To realize the truths and the smiles they fake,
Growing up to see only the image portrayed- was only for your sake.
They hide the tears and shower us with laughters
They told us joyful stories and happily ever afters,
But just as soon as i grow
Only now that I understand they were telling their own dreams,
        That had slipped right out their fingers
So ask me what’s the saddest part growing up?
To see the hollow sadness from the two people,
who once i thought was happiest.
i never really knew how much things could effect parents, the slightest action i could now see their subtle response- i understand now. Its just the fire in them burning out, only dim enough for them to keep me going- so i don't burn out too.

— The End —