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Gandy Lamb Feb 2019
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
Prologue
A raw, unfiltered scream filled the air. The boy dropped the gun and rushed towards the body lying beside the wooden stand. The man before him was clutching his stomach- his t-shirt soaked with blood. His eyes began to well up with tears as he cradled his father in his arms. Groaning softly, the man used his free arm to touch the boy’s cheek.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. I know it was an accident,” the man said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. We’ll get you to a hospital,” the boy choked out. “The doctors will fix you. I promise.”
The boy was trembling with a sob caught in his throat, and his head buried in his father’s chest.
“Hey, you’re gonna be okay, son. Look at me-”
He coughed suddenly and a stream of blood began to spill from his mouth,
“I forgive you. But listen to me, you won’t be able to fix me. Just know that I will always be proud of you and the great man that you will one day become.”
With that final assurance, his hands finally fell limp.
You must understand: when a child opens his eyes for the first time, he is like a caterpillar. As the years go by, his growth is measured by the number of skins he sheds as he outgrows another version of himself. And for each one that he discards, there will be another, buried deep inside of him, that will be drawn closer towards reality. Then one day, he will collapse into himself.
For this freshly-bereaved little boy, it is time to seek refuge and rebuild. For many years he will be consumed with the thought that he is not ready to be a man. He will refuse to leave his chrysalis. Eventually, he will forget about the world that lies beyond its walls until the day finally comes where he will have to make a choice: remain a boy or become the man his father wanted him to be.

SCENE ONE
MANY YEARS LATER…
A medley of voices sounded in the air as hundreds of city-dwellers navigated their way around the rush hour traffic. Horns blared all around them, and the skies were grey and dripped with moisture.
Jaywalking across Oak and fifth with a cold cappuccino in hand, was a frazzled young man named John. His freckled face was lined with worry as he stole another glance at his wristwatch and quickened his pace. On days like this, John really hated having a day-job.
A welcome distraction presented itself as the sudden playing of ‘I Want It that Way’ by Backstreet Boys. The woman beside him raised her eyebrows and glanced at his front pocket. Smiling sheepishly, he pulled out his phone. After pushing up his glasses and bringing it within nanometres of his face, he finally made out the Caller ID. Eyes widening, he hastily answered the call.
“Hello, this is John speaking.”
“I expect that you are ready for tomorrow,” said the voice on the line.
“Of course. The scope I ordered arrived last night,” replied John.
John bit his lip and ran a hand through his messy red hair.
“Yet your last assignment left two of my men in prison” continued the voice. “Do not mistake me, if Oliver Baxter’s heart is still beating by the end of tomorrow, you will suffer the same fate as your father.”  John moved the phone away from his ear- fearful of going deaf.
“Whatever is left of your future relies on this mission. Don’t miss.”
Static took over the line. Then, silence.
John squeezed his eyes shut and became aware of the metallic taste in his mouth. His lip was bleeding. He rummaged through his bag and searched for pack of tissues. In his carelessness, his elbow banged up against his rifle. Quickly extracting the pack, he shoved the weapon further down the bag. He heaved a heavy sigh and nursed his elbow in his hand.
“Stop doubting yourself, John. He’s just another corrupt C.E.O.- he has it coming,” he muttered to himself. “Just get it done, Johnny, get it done.”

SCENE TWO

Just a block away from John, waiting impatiently at the corner of Oak and Robson, was a scowling dark-haired man with a 5 O’Clock morning shadow. The sleeves of his button-down were scrunched up to his elbows and his tie hung loosely around his neck.
Noticing the rain beginning to intensify, the man stuffed the rest of his croissant into his mouth in an attempt to salvage its flaky goodness. No such luck. With a guttural sigh, he tossed his napkin into a nearby trash bin and grumbled to himself about the disgrace that is cold, store-bought pastries.
Thankfully for him, his phone rang and interrupted his reverie of self-pity.
“Who’s calling?” He answered gruffly.
“James. Always the charmer,” drawled the voice from the other line. “Now, that's no way to greet an old friend.”
“Well, I didn’t get an answer for my question now did I?” James said through gritted teeth
Over the line, he could hear his caller clicking his tongue disapprovingly.
“It’s Aaron, my good man. Have you really forgotten?”
Oh yes, Aaron Benson. The pretentious Englishman he shared an apartment with in his college days- the one with a relentless infatuation with Kate Middleton.
“Of course. Aaron. I could never.”
He could only wish he had.
“I hear you’ve made a name for yourself as a photographer?” he questioned.
“What’s it to you?” James said.
“I have a job for you. My cousin is on a business trip to your side of the Atlantic over the weekend. Oliver Baxter, the CEO for some big menswear company in London. Top thirty under thirty kind of bloke. I can’t stand him, but he’s family. Anyway, his birthday’s coming up and my family wants you to have a photoshoot with him.” said Aaron
James sighed. “So you want me to take a couple headshots of pretty boy for his Forbes cover page?”
“No, no. Take my word, he is as unphotogenic as a dung beetle. I say that with love. Partially,” Aaron snickered. “Just take a couple pictures- he doesn’t need to look good. We just want something to add to the slideshow for a couple of laughs.”
“Alright, I’ll do it. Send me his specifics by the end of the day, and I’ll tell you where you should wire the payment.” said James
“I’m grateful. Aside from that, I just wanted to ask you again about that suit I left at our apartment when I flew back to London. Were you able to find-”
James hung up.
He was definitely not getting that suit back.
James didn’t feel too guilty. After all, he thought to himself, the guy has enough money to buy it three times over. If not, he could take a loan from Mr. Thirty under thirty.

SCENE THREE

Later that day, a bleary-eyed and yawning James stepped into a bar. Groaning softly, he massaged the crook of his neck- blistering red patches lined the areas where his camera strap had rested on mere minutes ago.  
The ever-familiar scent of liquor and sweat hung in the air. Suddenly, a cheer erupted from the back corner of the room. As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimly-lit space, he spotted a lanky, red-headed figure by the dart station. A stadium of intoxicated onlookers was chanting his name.
James’ fingers twitched to reach for his camera but he quickly quelled it. The lighting was not in his favour. He strode over towards an empty stool by the bar. Unsurprisingly, his eyes were still fixed on the strange fellow pushing up his tortoiseshell glasses and setting up his stance for another shot at the target.
Bullseye.
The crowd bellowed appreciatively.
Standing up from his table on the other side of the bar, a man called out to the stranger, “Hey kid! Bet you wouldn’t be so tough without those glasses!”
James scoffed. The guy had half of his shirt unbuttoned and a half-emptied beer mug in hand. Regardless, all eyes turned towards the ginger superstar.
The guy scratched the back of his neck and let out a nervous chuckle. Then, with a final shake of his head, he removed his lenses.
“How much?”
Drunken hollering ensued, as well as some severely off-target slaps on the back. James watched as he carefully placed his frames on the counter and caught the stranger’s eye. Leaning back on his stool, James raised his eyebrows at him and tilted his head. A boyish grin spread across the stranger’s face.
Laughing now, the man made his way back towards his station and readied himself. One, two, three…
The crowd roared. The dart, still quivering, was lodged precisely in the centre of the target.
James turned away from the mayhem and ordered a drink. Coming up from behind him, the dart-savvy stranger slid into the seat next to him.
“Just some water, please.”
“Sure thing, hon,” said the bartender.
James looked to the man beside him and nodded curtly. Eyes twinkling, the boy smiled back.
“I take it you weren’t impressed by my little stunt up there.”
No response.
“My name’s John. John Doe actually. I wish I was kidding.”
James finally afforded him his attention.
“Bond. James Bond. I know the struggle.”
“Our parents really did us wrong, didn’t they?” said John.
James raised his glass.
“Cheers to that.” After both men had taken a sip of their drinks, James continued, “So, you don’t really need those glasses do you?”
“Well, of course I need them,” said John “but it’s not like I’m legally blind without them. I take it you don’t have any lenses for yourself?” he asked
“Yes, I do actually- a different kind though. I carry all my lenses with me, even my scope,” James explained, gently patting the bag hanging across his shoulders.
John’s eyes widened.
“It’s nice to finally meet someone from my own line of work,” said John.
“Really? There’s a ton of us in the city. People here pay a pretty penny for just a couple shots,” James replied dubiously.
“Very true. One time an MLA candidate offered me over two million to take care of, and I quote, ‘an old friend,’” agreed John.
“****, that’s a real friend right there,” said James, shaking his head. “So, are you the type to schedule appointments with your assignments, or do you prefer candids?”
“I’d say candids for sure,” replied John. “It’s easier when people aren’t suspecting it. That way it’s just one and done. The real nightmare comes when you’re asked to shoot multiple people.”
“The worst part of the job!” James sighed, rolling his eyes, “It’s so much quicker to find the perfect angle when you only have to worry about one guy.”
“Exactly! Clients are always so demanding! Don’t even get me started on scheduling families,” exclaimed John, throwing his hands into the air. “Married couples are understable, though. I can see why you would want to do both at the same time- so you can make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.”
James nodded in agreement.
“It’s just a pain, given that some jobs can takes hours to complete,” said James. “The subject either keeps on moving, or you can’t get the right angle. It makes my hair turn grey.”
John sat up straighter, enjoying the conversation.“Hear me out, I have seen my fair share of husbands and wives calling in for me to take care of their spouse,” carried on John. “Honestly, it makes me reconsider having a love life…”
Sniggering, James replied, “The only thing worse is when they get their kids involved. It physically pains me to have to include them when I’m taking my shots.”
“Truthfully, I’ve gotten to the point where if a client asks me to take down a kid, I just hang up. It’s not worth the trouble… or the emotional scars.” John said, eyes darkening.
“I wish I had the ***** to do something like that,” said James, looking at John with admiration, “but I just can’t afford to. I have to pay my rent somehow, you know?”
“Well, I started out pretty young so I think I’ve made a name for myself among the more influential circles. Although, for the public, I try to keep a low profile. But it’s getting harder now that more of my shots are making the headlines,” said John.
“Not bad, kid.” said James. “I got into this whole business while I was still in college as a way to pay for my tuition. Man, you go in there, thinking that all those frat-boys and sorority-girls are just a bunch of alcoholic party-goers, but when they go and hire you… I still have nightmares about the things they made me do,” James whispered, shivering.
“Fascinating!” replied John. “I didn’t know that colleges dabbled in our kind of underground operations.”
“They come with occupational hazards,” said James.
“Most of my assignments nowadays consist of old clients calling in a favour,” shared John. “I’ll end up tracking down some really important people- world leaders and such.”
James whistled appreciatively.
John continued, “It’s especially fun to fire your shot while they’re making a speech. It’s all so dramatic, and the shot almost freezes time for a second.”
“Have you been assigned to any higher-ups recently?” Said James.
“Yes, actually. A shareholder for some big entertainment outlet put me on Stan Lee.”
“You shot Stan Lee! I’ve been a fan of him for years! Do you still have the pictures?”
“Uh, I mean, I don’t really save pictures of the people I shoot… “ said John, scratching his head. “It leaves a paper trail, and I prefer to stay anonymous. Their photos usually end up on the news anyway,” said John
“It’s a shame that he died. At least his legacy lives on,” said James, frowning slightly.
“Well, of course he’s dead. I did shoot him...” John said, furrowing his eyebrows, but James didn’t hear him.
The rest of the night passed by quickly as the two continued to share their stories,and marvel at their uncanny similarities. It was a miracle, truly, that they were able to find another man who understood them so deeply.

SCENE FOUR
THE FOLLOWING DAY...
John crept towards the edge of the rooftop. Across from him, a couple stories below, was the window to Oliver Baxter’s suite. His hands were shaking. You’re just cold he thought to himself, It's nothing more. He slowly unzipped the top of his bag and and pulled out his rifle. After he made sure his weapon was loaded, he reached back into his bag to pull out his scope and brought out-
“A camera lens? Why would I have a camera lens”- the realization struck him- “James. I’m so stupid. He’s not another hitman- he’s a photographer. And he’s got my scope, too.”
His musings were stopped short; Oliver Baxter had just re-entered his room.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” he muttered to himself. “Today of all days…”
John reluctantly returned the camera lens to his bag. He couldn’t waste any more time.
“I guess I’ll have to use the old one.”
Annoyed, he reached into the front pocket of his bag and pulled out a small, scratched contraption. A gun scope! Albeit, a rather unimpressive model. “It’s a good thing I kept my old one as a backup. Who doesn’t love a good case of Chanel versus Walmart?”
Hint: Not John.
Unaware of the hitman outside his window, Mr. Baxter finally ended his call and plopped down onto a nearby armchair. With his looming height, his neck easily rose above the top of the chair. Sighing, he ran a callused hand through his hair and leaned back.
John swiftly finished setting up his stand. Just as he was about to about to fire, a butterfly fluttered towards him and landed on top of the trigger. It’s miniature wings were coloured with vivid reds, sparkling greens, and candy-apple oranges. John shrugged it off.
It was time. John exhaled shakily and closed his eyes. Why was he hesitating? This was not his first assignment. Although, it was his first time being assigned to someone from outside the country. He knew nothing of Oliver Baxter. Unlike his past victims, John had no way to gauge that the man was worthy of his fate. Standing alone on the top of an abandoned warehouse, John desperately wished that he wasn’t making a mistake.
Suddenly, the image of his father lying in a pool of crimson flashed beneath his closed eyelids. His ears rang with the sound of the bullet that tore through his skin. His hands still remembered the weight of his dying body- the wetness of his blood that stained his fingertips.
“You won’t be able to fix me,” his father had whispered to him.
He was right.
Suddenly, another voice, booming and full of static, echoed throughout his mind.
“Don’t miss.”
John opened his eyes and a familiar calmness overtook him. He pressed the trigger.
Not so far away, Oliver Baxter slumped into his chair.
“I never miss.”

SCENE FIVE

By the time our friend James Bond came to pay his own visit to Mr. Baxter, John had already slipped in and cleaned up after himself. Assuredly, he had changed the man into a nondescript red hoodie and tucked him securely into his bed. He even took the liberty of placing Mr. Baxter’s phone on silent. John had a feeling that Mr. Baxter wouldn’t mind. When he was finally satisfied with his handiwork, he took his leave.
Not long after, a huffing and puffing James Bond arrived on the 15th floor. With his patchy red cheeks and sweaty brow, he was truly a sight for sore eyes. He stepped out of the stairwell and muttered a series of curse words underneath his breath. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to the shining elevator doors beside him and gave them a hard kick. The “Out of Order” sign hanging off of it floated to the floor, and James whimpered as he nursed his aching toe.
“I’ll be ******- taking a picture of a monkey would’ve been easier than this.”
He stood in the hallway for a little while longer and gathered his wits. After the pain subsided, he strode over to the C.E.O.’s door and knocked. He immediately positioned himself to capture a candid of Mr. Baxter as he opened the door. No one came. John tried again. No answer. Finally, his patience worn thin. James fished out the keys he had flirtatiously convinced the new receptionist downstairs to lend him and carefully unlocked the hotel door. He stepped inside and surveyed the suite in search of his assignment only to find him underneath the freshly-washed blankets of his bed- sound asleep.
“Well then… Aaron did say it didn’t have to be a good photo.”
Shrugging, James reached into his bag for his camera lens and pulled it out.
“What the hell? This isn’t mine.” James said. He narrowed his eyes and examined the object in his hand. The instrument was long and bulbous with two black clamps attached to the bottom. Although, the clamps did not open wide enough to fit a camera- it almost looked as if they were meant to be attached to some some sort of cylinder. He peered through and in the middle of the lens lay a bright red dot. He supposed he and John must have inadvertently swapped lenses in the bar.
Then, he came to a realization.
“I see what’s going on here!” James proclaimed a little too loudly, “John must use this for long range pictures. Must be some new tech- and pretty expensive too. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
For a split-second, James was tempted to pocket it, but a twinge of guilt urged him to return it to his bag. Sighing, he put away his camera and pulled out his phone. Aaron would have to make do with some lesser quality resolution.
James knelt down with his makeshift camera poised for the shot. Aaron had made no exaggerations about his cousin. The man was unnaturally pale and smelled strongly of… detergent? Honestly, a corpse would have looked more alive. His jaw was slack and, peculiarly enough, a red hoodie was pulled over his matted hair. A British thing, maybe? At the very least, he had the decency not to snore or drool.
Once satisfied with his pictures, James walked swiftly out the door and locked it behind him. By the time he had completed the tiresome journey back to the first floor, he had saved the photographs onto his USB drive. The only thing he had left to do was send them to Aaron.

SCENE SIX

When John entered the bar again, his eyes immediately fell on his companion from last night- the cynical James Bond. Given his current state, perhaps it would be wiser to keep his distance. Then again, when had he ever made the smart decision?
John greeted James as he collapsed into the stool next to him.
“Heard the news?” slurred James, “Oliver Baxter, up-and-coming C.E.O. of some big London company was found dead a couple hours ago.”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He responded carefully.
“No, this is news to me. I guess I was a little too busy today at work… You know, shooting my shots. In my photography studio. With my camera. That I use for photography, “ replied John.
James looked at him strangely.
John continued, “Poor guy. Never heard of him before, though. Oliver Brown, was it?”
“Baxter, not Brown,” James corrected him.
“Of course. Baxter. Sorry, I’m bad with names,” said John. He stole a glance at his friend, hoping he wasn’t seeing through him. Fortunately for him, James was too busy staring glumly into the frothy contents of his beer mug. “I’m sorry. Did he mean anything to you?”
“He was my assignment,” replied James. “When I came into his room for his shoot, he was asleep. My client, his cousin, said that he didn’t need to look good for the picture, so I snapped a couple shots of him like that and left. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping. Just dead.”
John’s throat tightened. Out of all the pessimistic photographers in the city, he just had to befriend the one who’s assignment he killed, didn’t he?
“It’s not your fault. No one would have expected him to be dead,” said John.
He had made sure of it.
Chuckling mirthlessly, James replied, “People always see the truth. One way or another, they see people for who they truly are, and see themselves for who they’ve become. They’re only either too scared to admit it, or they cover their eyes. What’s funny is that in our line of work it almost becomes the opposite. You don’t see anybody as either ordinary or extraordinary. You see them simply as people in front of your lens. Then one day, they stop being people at all.”
John’s stomach dropped. His friend did not give himself enough credit; James was not a horrible man. At least, he was not as awful as the man sitting beside him.
“Well, as photographers,” said John, “We also know that the truth can be ugly. And when you capture it with the perfect shot- when you shoot the right person, at the right time, in the right place- it comes back to haunt you.”
James lifted his eyes from the table and met his. Raising his half-empty glass to him, he whispered, “To the shots that haunt us.”
“To the shots that haunt us,” John repeated.

*
Not long after their grim declaration, John decided to return home. By that time, only streetlights continued to shine. His glasses could do little to aid his vision, but he still managed to make out the overstuffed mailbox in front of his house. With a roll of his eyes, he walked over to it, pushed the “No Flyers or Junk Mail” sign aside, and collected their ever-punctual delivery of coupons.
He swiftly unlocked the front door and closed it behind him. Just as he was about to reach for the remote and commence some much-needed binge-therapy, he realized that his mother was already seated on the sofa.
“Hey, mom,” he said as he walked over to her and kissed her forehead.
“You’ve come home late tonight, Johnny,” she said. “I’ve been spending the past few hours rifling through these albums.”
Surely enough, stacked up on the coffee table in front of them was a collection of his family’s photo albums. It was at that moment when the realization struck him.
“It’s been twelve years,” he whispered.
How could he have forgotten what day it was?
“Every day after your dad died feels like a lifetime.”
“Every day after I killed-”
His mother cut him off, “Don’t you finish that sentence.”
John cast his eyes downward and pursed his lips. Her eyes softened and she lifted the album off of her lap and placed it onto the table.
“Johnny, look at me,” she said. “What happened to your father was an accident- it was not your fault.”
John interrupted “I pulled that trigger. Me. I took him away from you.”
His mom sighed “Okay. You did. For years, after that day, I felt like someone had torn off my wings and left me to drown. I felt like I would never be able to fly again, like I would never be happy again. But raising you, watching you grow up, gave me hope. You have so much potential and a long life left to live, but your guilt keeps you trapped inside the past. I have already forgiven you, and I know he has too,” she paused, “It’s time that you forgive yourself.”
“What if I can’t?”
“You need to. You owe it to your father to be the man he wanted you to be. You’ll never be able to do that if you keep on punishing yourself.”
John did not know how to reply. James was right. He knew his mother was speaking the truth but all he wanted to do was cover his ears and shut his eyes. He had spent everyday for the past twelve years training and refining his accuracy- proving to the world that he would never miss another shot. All of this, just to make up for the one shot that took his father's life. Worse yet, he defiled himself; he painted his hands in crimson with the lives of his victims in an effort to conceal the blood he shed twelve years ago. But who was he to decide who would live or die? He was no god. He never was and never would be. He had only ever been a boy: honest, clumsy, and- dare he say it- faultless. Now, however, he was a man. A man who used other people’s lives to indulge in years of self-pity. This sin, he deserved to pay for.
In that moment, Johnny Doe finally broke free of his cocoon and unfurled his wings. For twelve years he had remained in that shell, unready to see the light that lay beyond. But now, he wanted to taste freedom- no matter what the cost may be.

SCENE SEVEN

“In an unexpected turn of events for the ****** case of Oliver Baxter, the city’s most elusive hitman has turned himself in and pleaded guilty,” said the voice from the bar’s flat screen TV.
A well-past-sober James lifted his head from the bar counter and turned up the volume.
“A complete genius, that one is,” he muttered to himself.
“The young man of 24 has identified himself as John Edwards Doe,” she continued.
James froze. He slowly turned his head towards the screen, frightened about what he might see. Plastered on the screen, with his unmistakable tortoise shell glasses and shock of red hair, was a mugshot of the man that sat beside him mere hours ago.
“Thanks to the city much-relieved police force, I can say with confidence that John Doe has finally taken his last shot,” she said.
The newscaster began to elaborate on the details of the trial but James was no longer listening. He rubbed his eyes and looked again at the screen. After a long moment of disbelief, he called out to the bartender.
“I think I need another shot.”
The repetition symbolizes the cycle of life.
(added) Prologue: "we'll get the baron, i swear. the ratings will go through the roof..." nick spoke nervously into the phone he held in his good hand. the other rested at his side, burned beyond use. one of the commandos whispered in his ear. "sir, we have his location.... yes... yes sir..." he hung up the phone and turned to the commando, "scramble the troops, we're going hunting..."


"N-no... not this again..."  Baronyx muttered in his sleep. "I wont... i wont do it..." it was the same nightmare that had plagued him for years. he was what the Two-legs called an Exotic, one of the few hundred dragons left in the world, and a showpeice for the high paying two-legs.
Baronyx had been captured once and forced into slavery as a circus act and performer for many years before he escaped and burned an entire city with his fiery wrath, killing some ten thousand two-legs in his path and sending a message, "don't cage a dragon..." ever since he had been plagued with nightmares of his experiences while enslaved. "stop... No!" he ****** awake and roared in fear. the full moon's light shone on his sapphire scales and temporarily blinded him until his green slit-eyes adjusted. his mate, a green scaled dragoness named Lyra licked his cheek and put a comforting claw around on his shoulder, "its the dreams again, isnt it ***?" Baronyx nodded and stared outside of their cave den.
He glanced over his shoulder at his daughter, Tali, her young yellow scales getting a tinge of green. Baronyx sighed and said, "she's growing so fast... she'll have your scales..."
Lyra looked as well, "and she'll have your eyes, baron." they watched their child sleep a moment longer before Baronyx stood and stepped outside the den. "i'll be right back." lyra nodded and lay back down with her eyes closed. he spread his wings and with a powerful downstroke took flight. Baronyx closed his eyes and glided into the wind currents and to the cliffside where he went to clear his mind and sort out his thoughts. his claws clicked across the hard rock as he landed and tapped rhythmically as he walked to the edge of the cliff and hung his claws off the side. a wild wolf howled in the distance somewhere behind him. something in the air was different tonight and Baronyx felt uneasy. he lay his head down and snoozed for a while, oblivious of what was happening at his den.
- - -
Tali screamed as
Two-legs with metal-spitters swarmed the den and threw heavy nets over her and her mother. "ma! ma! whats going on?!"
"tali! just stay calm.. just stay calm." Lyra roared in protest as the two legs brought lightning-sticks and began prodding at them. "don't you dare touch my daughter you *******!" she shouted even though she knew they wouldnt understand her. to her surprise though, one two leg stepped forward and said, "we won't touch you or your daughter if you tell us where the Baron is."
"i'll never tell you, monster."
the white man chuckled, "from my point of view, you're the monster. and you'll be a wonderful addition to the show..."
- - -
Baronyx heard tali's scream echo In the dark forest surrounding the cliffside. "No!" his roar resonated farther than tali's scream.
at the den a few moments before, the two-legs had caged Tali and Lyra and had set about stabbing at lyra with the shock-prods hoping to draw Baronyx back to the cave. Lyra kept her cries quiet and had refused to satisfy their wishes. the two-leg in charge snarled. "Enough... last chance, dragon. Tell me where he is!"
lyra growled at him, "i'll tell you nothing, worm."
"fine, suit yourself." the man turned his back to her. "lets see if you're daughter has the same resolve, shall we?"
"no! don't touch her!"
"i'm afraid its quite too late for that, dragon."
"tali i'm sorry!"
he turned to Tali and jabbed her in the side with a shock ****. tali groaned and gritted her teeth but did not scream for the man.
she growled at him said, "that tickled." tali grinned at the man with her sharp fangs fully exposed.
the man glared for a moment and then smiled cruelly.
"temporary pain doesnt have an effect on you... maybe something more... permenant will bring him to me. bring the iron!"
two-legs carried a white hot brand in the shape of a greek Omega. the man pointed to tali and said, "on her throat. make it burn."
more two-legs had muzzled lyra to keep her from screaming. the iron cut into tali's scales and burned into the flesh underneath, forcing tali to scream as loud as she could, even after the iron had been taken away. she collapsed on the ground and the tears spilled over her eyes as she continued to scream.
they heard a roar passing over them all as Baronyx rushed back to the den.
"well done, everyone. the prize is near. get your guns ready but DO NOT FIRE!"
* *
baronyx flew faster than he ever had before. he growled  as he swooped down toward his den and saw the two-legs. he screeched in protest as cables wrapped around his wings and limbs. forcing him hard into the ground. "Nick you *******!"
the white man grinned, "so we finally meet
Again, baron. and you have a nice little family i can use to my advantage now."
baronyx looked at tali and Lyra and loosed a mournful moan deep in his throat. "what do you want, nick?"
the man stepped forward and replied, "i want you, back in my show, just like old times. or i'll torture your mate AND this lovely little child of yours. sound like a deal?"
baronyx shut his eyes and nodded as a tear trailed down his cheek. "just know... when i get out, everything will burn... just like old times..."
(add on 1)
The white man and the other two-legs shackled Baronyx and his family with heavy chains and electric collars that would shock them randomly. they were put on a train car headed east and the collars were taken off. Baronyx immediately examined Tali's neck, the brand already scarring over in a whitish pink Omega. tali's voice was hoarse and tears came to her eyes. she buried her head into her father's chest. "i'm so sorry tali, lyra... this is my fault.." the family embraced as they knew there would likely be very little contact with each other after the train stopped.
the train traveled a little while longer and the family shakily said  their goodbyes as the air brakes hissed violently. the doors shrieked open and they were met by Nick. immediately. baronyx pounced on top of him and roared. they stared eye to eye for a moment before they heard the clicking of the two-legs metal spitters. baronyx kept his eyes on Nick and said quietly, "touch her again... touch EITHER of them... and
I swear, no amount of metal spitters or electricity will stop me from hunting you down and tearing off your head."
as baronyx stepped back, nick stood up and replied, "i won't harm either of them, hell, i'll give them whatever they want, as long as you do as you are told, Baronyx."
baronyx thought this over and after a few moments said, "i have one more condition, i want full access to them. whenever i choose."
nick chuckled a bit, "we'll see... we'll see... it all depends on how you perform."
baronyx nodded. "then lets get this over with..." the white man beckoned some two-legs to lead Tali and Lyra to the cages inside the massive pavilion that stood before them. two of the men brought the brand again and put the Omega on Baronyx's throat much like they had done with tali. he gritted his teeth and let the tears come but did not cry out or roar. when the pain had subsided, he asked nick, "when do i start?"
nick looked up at him with a sinister twinkle in his eyes, "right now."
*
Nick and a handful of two-legs escorted baronyx back onto the train, but not the same traincar. this one was blue and had ornate gold lettering on each side. once baronyx was inside, a string of lights came on and he saw his old armor plates each polished and the dents pounded out. he took his helm and stared into his reflection.  "i swore i'd never touch this stuff again..."
an intercom system beeped above him and nick's voice filled the car. "Baron, you have five minutes to suit up. the game starts as soon as we arrive."
baronyx sighed and donned the cold armor one peice at a time. he looked into the mirror on the wall and turned away in disgust.
"for tali and lyra..." there were a few peices left, the ones he never wanted to see again, they were sharp talons that fit over his claws. in the show, he had to use these to **** his opponent. nick's voice came over the intercom again, "arriving at the arena now, the press is fired up for your return, baron. DON'T disappoint them."
Baronyx growled and said a silent prayer for his family. the train screeched to a halt and the door opened. baronyx stepped out onto a black carpet and was assaulted by blinding camera flashes and the deafening roar of the crowding two-legs. over the crowd, an announcer shouted, "Its the Baron! he's back and looks better than ever!"
baronyx kept walking until nick stopped him for the game briefing. "you'll be going up against a group of wyverns, so you should have no problem killing them." the wyverns far outnumbered the dragons, wyverns being the dragons' slightly smaller, less intelligent cousins.
nick began walking away when baronyx asked, "what do they get if i win?"
nick turned, "they?"
baronyx bared his fangs. "my family. what do they get in return for my win?"
nick thought this over for a moment before replying, "they will eat, sleep, and live in their own hovel. and depending on your performance i'll let you stay with them."
baronyx growled, "then lets get this over with."
*
Baronyx was led to the arena doors and he waited patiently for his introduction and call to the game. he looked around at the all too familiar sights, the fight screens, the scoreboard, and the dim light that would signal his entry into the arena. it would be a few minutes before the match and in the meantime, he thought of all his old strategies and gameplans. "i wonder if tali and lyra will be watching..."
nick came out of the shadows and said, "remember, their future depends on what happens next."
the light turned green and the doors opened, spilling light into the room. when baronyx's eyes adjusted, he saw the all too familiar sight of the ****** arena, mangled corpses being dragged away from the last battle. "the baron! he'll be going up against seven wyverns from the northwest territories." baronyx roared as loud as he could as he stormed into the arena. the wyverns on the other side cowered for a moment before charging him. the first one lunged at him and was caught in his
Claws. baronyx looked into the wyverns eyes and saw the fear, the terror of a beast facing his own demise. "for them..." baronyx tore the wyvern's throat out with his claws and threw the body at the next assailant, bowling him over.
the next wyvern was impaled by baronyx's tail and tossed aside to bleed out on the ground while he set about killing the others in various other ways. when the bodies stopped twitching, baronyx's armor was coated in blood. the crowd was silent and he became worried. he looked to the trainer's balcony and spotted nick, who gave a subtle nod of approval. baronyx looked at the timer: one minute seventeen seconds. it was a new record, the shortest match in history. the crowd roared and applauded long after he was led out of the arena. "an amazing, record setting performance by the returning champion, the Baron!"
baronyx was met by the press' cameras outside the arena. Nick's two-legs stripped the ****** armor and allowed him some room to move around.
The camera flashes continued to blind baronyx but his mind was elsewhere. nick finally showed up to answer the press's questions, while baronyx glared at the group of reporters. after an hour of questions and his agitation reached its breaking point, baronyx growled at the reporters, silencing them. when they didn't move, he bared his fangs and roared, forcing them to make hasty retreats and fleeing the conference. once they were gone, nick turned to baronyx and sighed, "thanks. i thought they'd never leave..."
baronyx stared down at him. "we had a deal."
"so we did. and for that breathtaking performance, you will stay with your family in their hovel."
baronyx started walking towards the train, "then i have to go."
*
Based off of a poem i wrote earlier.
'Twas midnight in the schoolroom
And every desk was shut
When suddenly from the alphabet
Was heard a loud "Tut-Tut!"

Said A to B, "I don't like C;
His manners are a lack.
For all I ever see of C
Is a semi-circular back!"

"I disagree," said D to B,
"I've never found C so.
From where I stand he seems to be
An uncompleted O."

C was vexed, "I'm much perplexed,
You criticise my shape.
I'm made like that, to help spell Cat
And Cow and Cool and Cape."

"He's right" said E; said F, "Whoopee!"
Said G, "'Ip, 'Ip, 'ooray!"
"You're dropping me," roared H to G.
"Don't do it please I pray."

"Out of my way," LL said to K.
"I'll make poor I look ILL."
To stop this stunt J stood in front,
And presto! ILL was JILL.

"U know," said V, "that W
Is twice the age of me.
For as a Roman V is five
I'm half as young as he."

X and Y yawned sleepily,
"Look at the time!" they said.
"Let's all get off to beddy byes."
They did, then "Z-z-z."
ConnectHook Feb 2016
by John Greenleaf Whittier  (1807 – 1892)

“As the Spirits of Darkness be stronger in the dark, so Good Spirits which be Angels of Light are augmented not only by the Divine Light of the Sun, but also by our common Wood fire: and as the celestial Fire drives away dark spirits, so also this our Fire of Wood doth the same.”

COR. AGRIPPA, Occult Philosophy, Book I. chap. v.

“Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow; and, driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight; the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier’s feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.”


EMERSON

The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east; we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.

Meanwhile we did our nightly chores, —
Brought in the wood from out of doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd’s-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;
While, peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold’s pole of birch,
The **** his crested helmet bent
And down his querulous challenge sent.

Unwarmed by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag, wavering to and fro,
Crossed and recrossed the wingàd snow:
And ere the early bedtime came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.

So all night long the storm roared on:
The morning broke without a sun;
In tiny spherule traced with lines
Of Nature’s geometric signs,
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below, —
A universe of sky and snow!
The old familiar sights of ours
Took marvellous shapes; strange domes and towers
Rose up where sty or corn-crib stood,
Or garden-wall, or belt of wood;
A smooth white mound the brush-pile showed,
A fenceless drift what once was road;
The bridle-post an old man sat
With loose-flung coat and high cocked hat;
The well-curb had a Chinese roof;
And even the long sweep, high aloof,
In its slant spendor, seemed to tell
Of Pisa’s leaning miracle.

A prompt, decisive man, no breath
Our father wasted: “Boys, a path!”
Well pleased, (for when did farmer boy
Count such a summons less than joy?)
Our buskins on our feet we drew;
With mittened hands, and caps drawn low,
To guard our necks and ears from snow,
We cut the solid whiteness through.
And, where the drift was deepest, made
A tunnel walled and overlaid
With dazzling crystal: we had read
Of rare Aladdin’s wondrous cave,
And to our own his name we gave,
With many a wish the luck were ours
To test his lamp’s supernal powers.
We reached the barn with merry din,
And roused the prisoned brutes within.
The old horse ****** his long head out,
And grave with wonder gazed about;
The **** his ***** greeting said,
And forth his speckled harem led;
The oxen lashed their tails, and hooked,
And mild reproach of hunger looked;
The hornëd patriarch of the sheep,
Like Egypt’s Amun roused from sleep,
Shook his sage head with gesture mute,
And emphasized with stamp of foot.

All day the gusty north-wind bore
The loosening drift its breath before;
Low circling round its southern zone,
The sun through dazzling snow-mist shone.
No church-bell lent its Christian tone
To the savage air, no social smoke
Curled over woods of snow-hung oak.
A solitude made more intense
By dreary-voicëd elements,
The shrieking of the mindless wind,
The moaning tree-boughs swaying blind,
And on the glass the unmeaning beat
Of ghostly finger-tips of sleet.
Beyond the circle of our hearth
No welcome sound of toil or mirth
Unbound the spell, and testified
Of human life and thought outside.
We minded that the sharpest ear
The buried brooklet could not hear,
The music of whose liquid lip
Had been to us companionship,
And, in our lonely life, had grown
To have an almost human tone.

As night drew on, and, from the crest
Of wooded knolls that ridged the west,
The sun, a snow-blown traveller, sank
From sight beneath the smothering bank,
We piled, with care, our nightly stack
Of wood against the chimney-back, —
The oaken log, green, huge, and thick,
And on its top the stout back-stick;
The knotty forestick laid apart,
And filled between with curious art

The ragged brush; then, hovering near,
We watched the first red blaze appear,
Heard the sharp crackle, caught the gleam
On whitewashed wall and sagging beam,
Until the old, rude-furnished room
Burst, flower-like, into rosy bloom;
While radiant with a mimic flame
Outside the sparkling drift became,
And through the bare-boughed lilac-tree
Our own warm hearth seemed blazing free.
The crane and pendent trammels showed,
The Turks’ heads on the andirons glowed;
While childish fancy, prompt to tell
The meaning of the miracle,
Whispered the old rhyme: “Under the tree,
When fire outdoors burns merrily,
There the witches are making tea.”

The moon above the eastern wood
Shone at its full; the hill-range stood
Transfigured in the silver flood,
Its blown snows flashing cold and keen,
Dead white, save where some sharp ravine
Took shadow, or the sombre green
Of hemlocks turned to pitchy black
Against the whiteness at their back.
For such a world and such a night
Most fitting that unwarming light,
Which only seemed where’er it fell
To make the coldness visible.

Shut in from all the world without,
We sat the clean-winged hearth about,
Content to let the north-wind roar
In baffled rage at pane and door,
While the red logs before us beat
The frost-line back with tropic heat;
And ever, when a louder blast
Shook beam and rafter as it passed,
The merrier up its roaring draught
The great throat of the chimney laughed;
The house-dog on his paws outspread
Laid to the fire his drowsy head,
The cat’s dark silhouette on the wall
A couchant tiger’s seemed to fall;
And, for the winter fireside meet,
Between the andirons’ straddling feet,
The mug of cider simmered slow,
The apples sputtered in a row,
And, close at hand, the basket stood
With nuts from brown October’s wood.

What matter how the night behaved?
What matter how the north-wind raved?
Blow high, blow low, not all its snow
Could quench our hearth-fire’s ruddy glow.
O Time and Change! — with hair as gray
As was my sire’s that winter day,
How strange it seems, with so much gone
Of life and love, to still live on!
Ah, brother! only I and thou
Are left of all that circle now, —
The dear home faces whereupon
That fitful firelight paled and shone.
Henceforward, listen as we will,
The voices of that hearth are still;
Look where we may, the wide earth o’er,
Those lighted faces smile no more.

We tread the paths their feet have worn,
We sit beneath their orchard trees,
We hear, like them, the hum of bees
And rustle of the bladed corn;
We turn the pages that they read,
Their written words we linger o’er,
But in the sun they cast no shade,
No voice is heard, no sign is made,
No step is on the conscious floor!
Yet Love will dream, and Faith will trust,
(Since He who knows our need is just,)
That somehow, somewhere, meet we must.
Alas for him who never sees
The stars shine through his cypress-trees!
Who, hopeless, lays his dead away,
Nor looks to see the breaking day
Across the mournful marbles play!
Who hath not learned, in hours of faith,
The truth to flesh and sense unknown,
That Life is ever lord of Death,
And Love can never lose its own!

We sped the time with stories old,
Wrought puzzles out, and riddles told,
Or stammered from our school-book lore
“The Chief of Gambia’s golden shore.”
How often since, when all the land
Was clay in Slavery’s shaping hand,
As if a far-blown trumpet stirred
Dame Mercy Warren’s rousing word:
“Does not the voice of reason cry,
Claim the first right which Nature gave,
From the red scourge of ******* to fly,
Nor deign to live a burdened slave!”
Our father rode again his ride
On Memphremagog’s wooded side;
Sat down again to moose and samp
In trapper’s hut and Indian camp;
Lived o’er the old idyllic ease
Beneath St. François’ hemlock-trees;
Again for him the moonlight shone
On Norman cap and bodiced zone;
Again he heard the violin play
Which led the village dance away.
And mingled in its merry whirl
The grandam and the laughing girl.
Or, nearer home, our steps he led
Where Salisbury’s level marshes spread
Mile-wide as flies the laden bee;
Where merry mowers, hale and strong,
Swept, scythe on scythe, their swaths along
The low green prairies of the sea.
We shared the fishing off Boar’s Head,
And round the rocky Isles of Shoals
The hake-broil on the drift-wood coals;
The chowder on the sand-beach made,
Dipped by the hungry, steaming hot,
With spoons of clam-shell from the ***.
We heard the tales of witchcraft old,
And dream and sign and marvel told
To sleepy listeners as they lay
Stretched idly on the salted hay,
Adrift along the winding shores,
When favoring breezes deigned to blow
The square sail of the gundelow
And idle lay the useless oars.

Our mother, while she turned her wheel
Or run the new-knit stocking-heel,
Told how the Indian hordes came down
At midnight on Concheco town,
And how her own great-uncle bore
His cruel scalp-mark to fourscore.
Recalling, in her fitting phrase,
So rich and picturesque and free
(The common unrhymed poetry
Of simple life and country ways,)
The story of her early days, —
She made us welcome to her home;
Old hearths grew wide to give us room;
We stole with her a frightened look
At the gray wizard’s conjuring-book,
The fame whereof went far and wide
Through all the simple country side;
We heard the hawks at twilight play,
The boat-horn on Piscataqua,
The loon’s weird laughter far away;
We fished her little trout-brook, knew
What flowers in wood and meadow grew,
What sunny hillsides autumn-brown
She climbed to shake the ripe nuts down,
Saw where in sheltered cove and bay,
The ducks’ black squadron anchored lay,
And heard the wild-geese calling loud
Beneath the gray November cloud.
Then, haply, with a look more grave,
And soberer tone, some tale she gave
From painful Sewel’s ancient tome,
Beloved in every Quaker home,
Of faith fire-winged by martyrdom,
Or Chalkley’s Journal, old and quaint, —
Gentlest of skippers, rare sea-saint! —
Who, when the dreary calms prevailed,
And water-**** and bread-cask failed,
And cruel, hungry eyes pursued
His portly presence mad for food,
With dark hints muttered under breath
Of casting lots for life or death,

Offered, if Heaven withheld supplies,
To be himself the sacrifice.
Then, suddenly, as if to save
The good man from his living grave,
A ripple on the water grew,
A school of porpoise flashed in view.
“Take, eat,” he said, “and be content;
These fishes in my stead are sent
By Him who gave the tangled ram
To spare the child of Abraham.”
Our uncle, innocent of books,
Was rich in lore of fields and brooks,
The ancient teachers never dumb
Of Nature’s unhoused lyceum.
In moons and tides and weather wise,
He read the clouds as prophecies,
And foul or fair could well divine,
By many an occult hint and sign,
Holding the cunning-warded keys
To all the woodcraft mysteries;
Himself to Nature’s heart so near
v That all her voices in his ear
Of beast or bird had meanings clear,
Like Apollonius of old,
Who knew the tales the sparrows told,
Or Hermes, who interpreted
What the sage cranes of Nilus said;
A simple, guileless, childlike man,
Content to live where life began;
Strong only on his native grounds,
The little world of sights and sounds
Whose girdle was the parish bounds,
Whereof his fondly partial pride
The common features magnified,
As Surrey hills to mountains grew
In White of Selborne’s loving view, —
He told how teal and loon he shot,
And how the eagle’s eggs he got,
The feats on pond and river done,
The prodigies of rod and gun;
Till, warming with the tales he told,
Forgotten was the outside cold,
The bitter wind unheeded blew,
From ripening corn the pigeons flew,
The partridge drummed i’ the wood, the mink
Went fishing down the river-brink.
In fields with bean or clover gay,
The woodchuck, like a hermit gray,
Peered from the doorway of his cell;
The muskrat plied the mason’s trade,
And tier by tier his mud-walls laid;
And from the shagbark overhead
The grizzled squirrel dropped his shell.

Next, the dear aunt, whose smile of cheer
And voice in dreams I see and hear, —
The sweetest woman ever Fate
Perverse denied a household mate,
Who, lonely, homeless, not the less
Found peace in love’s unselfishness,
And welcome wheresoe’er she went,
A calm and gracious element,
Whose presence seemed the sweet income
And womanly atmosphere of home, —
Called up her girlhood memories,
The huskings and the apple-bees,
The sleigh-rides and the summer sails,
Weaving through all the poor details
And homespun warp of circumstance
A golden woof-thread of romance.
For well she kept her genial mood
And simple faith of maidenhood;
Before her still a cloud-land lay,
The mirage loomed across her way;
The morning dew, that dries so soon
With others, glistened at her noon;
Through years of toil and soil and care,
From glossy tress to thin gray hair,
All unprofaned she held apart
The ****** fancies of the heart.
Be shame to him of woman born
Who hath for such but thought of scorn.
There, too, our elder sister plied
Her evening task the stand beside;
A full, rich nature, free to trust,
Truthful and almost sternly just,
Impulsive, earnest, prompt to act,
And make her generous thought a fact,
Keeping with many a light disguise
The secret of self-sacrifice.

O heart sore-tried! thou hast the best
That Heaven itself could give thee, — rest,
Rest from all bitter thoughts and things!
How many a poor one’s blessing went
With thee beneath the low green tent
Whose curtain never outward swings!

As one who held herself a part
Of all she saw, and let her heart
Against the household ***** lean,
Upon the motley-braided mat
Our youngest and our dearest sat,
Lifting her large, sweet, asking eyes,
Now bathed in the unfading green
And holy peace of Paradise.
Oh, looking from some heavenly hill,
Or from the shade of saintly palms,
Or silver reach of river calms,
Do those large eyes behold me still?
With me one little year ago: —
The chill weight of the winter snow
For months upon her grave has lain;
And now, when summer south-winds blow
And brier and harebell bloom again,
I tread the pleasant paths we trod,
I see the violet-sprinkled sod
Whereon she leaned, too frail and weak
The hillside flowers she loved to seek,
Yet following me where’er I went
With dark eyes full of love’s content.
The birds are glad; the brier-rose fills
The air with sweetness; all the hills
Stretch green to June’s unclouded sky;
But still I wait with ear and eye
For something gone which should be nigh,
A loss in all familiar things,
In flower that blooms, and bird that sings.
And yet, dear heart! remembering thee,
Am I not richer than of old?
Safe in thy immortality,
What change can reach the wealth I hold?
What chance can mar the pearl and gold
Thy love hath left in trust with me?
And while in life’s late afternoon,
Where cool and long the shadows grow,
I walk to meet the night that soon
Shall shape and shadow overflow,
I cannot feel that thou art far,
Since near at need the angels are;
And when the sunset gates unbar,
Shall I not see thee waiting stand,
And, white against the evening star,
The welcome of thy beckoning hand?

Brisk wielder of the birch and rule,
The master of the district school
Held at the fire his favored place,
Its warm glow lit a laughing face
Fresh-hued and fair, where scarce appeared
The uncertain prophecy of beard.
He teased the mitten-blinded cat,
Played cross-pins on my uncle’s hat,
Sang songs, and told us what befalls
In classic Dartmouth’s college halls.
Born the wild Northern hills among,
From whence his yeoman father wrung
By patient toil subsistence scant,
Not competence and yet not want,
He early gained the power to pay
His cheerful, self-reliant way;
Could doff at ease his scholar’s gown
To peddle wares from town to town;
Or through the long vacation’s reach
In lonely lowland districts teach,
Where all the droll experience found
At stranger hearths in boarding round,
The moonlit skater’s keen delight,
The sleigh-drive through the frosty night,
The rustic party, with its rough
Accompaniment of blind-man’s-buff,
And whirling-plate, and forfeits paid,
His winter task a pastime made.
Happy the snow-locked homes wherein
He tuned his merry violin,

Or played the athlete in the barn,
Or held the good dame’s winding-yarn,
Or mirth-provoking versions told
Of classic legends rare and old,
Wherein the scenes of Greece and Rome
Had all the commonplace of home,
And little seemed at best the odds
‘Twixt Yankee pedlers and old gods;
Where Pindus-born Arachthus took
The guise of any grist-mill brook,
And dread Olympus at his will
Became a huckleberry hill.

A careless boy that night he seemed;
But at his desk he had the look
And air of one who wisely schemed,
And hostage from the future took
In trainëd thought and lore of book.
Large-brained, clear-eyed, of such as he
Shall Freedom’s young apostles be,
Who, following in War’s ****** trail,
Shall every lingering wrong assail;
All chains from limb and spirit strike,
Uplift the black and white alike;
Scatter before their swift advance
The darkness and the ignorance,
The pride, the lust, the squalid sloth,
Which nurtured Treason’s monstrous growth,
Made ****** pastime, and the hell
Of prison-torture possible;
The cruel lie of caste refute,
Old forms remould, and substitute
For Slavery’s lash the freeman’s will,
For blind routine, wise-handed skill;
A school-house plant on every hill,
Stretching in radiate nerve-lines thence
The quick wires of intelligence;
Till North and South together brought
Shall own the same electric thought,
In peace a common flag salute,
And, side by side in labor’s free
And unresentful rivalry,
Harvest the fields wherein they fought.

Another guest that winter night
Flashed back from lustrous eyes the light.
Unmarked by time, and yet not young,
The honeyed music of her tongue
And words of meekness scarcely told
A nature passionate and bold,

Strong, self-concentred, spurning guide,
Its milder features dwarfed beside
Her unbent will’s majestic pride.
She sat among us, at the best,
A not unfeared, half-welcome guest,
Rebuking with her cultured phrase
Our homeliness of words and ways.
A certain pard-like, treacherous grace
Swayed the lithe limbs and drooped the lash,
Lent the white teeth their dazzling flash;
And under low brows, black with night,
Rayed out at times a dangerous light;
The sharp heat-lightnings of her face
Presaging ill to him whom Fate
Condemned to share her love or hate.
A woman tropical, intense
In thought and act, in soul and sense,
She blended in a like degree
The ***** and the devotee,
Revealing with each freak or feint
The temper of Petruchio’s Kate,
The raptures of Siena’s saint.
Her tapering hand and rounded wrist
Had facile power to form a fist;
The warm, dark languish of her eyes
Was never safe from wrath’s surprise.
Brows saintly calm and lips devout
Knew every change of scowl and pout;
And the sweet voice had notes more high
And shrill for social battle-cry.

Since then what old cathedral town
Has missed her pilgrim staff and gown,
What convent-gate has held its lock
Against the challenge of her knock!
Through Smyrna’s plague-hushed thoroughfares,
Up sea-set Malta’s rocky stairs,
Gray olive slopes of hills that hem
Thy tombs and shrines, Jerusalem,
Or startling on her desert throne
The crazy Queen of Lebanon
With claims fantastic as her own,
Her tireless feet have held their way;
And still, unrestful, bowed, and gray,
She watches under Eastern skies,
With hope each day renewed and fresh,
The Lord’s quick coming in the flesh,
Whereof she dreams and prophesies!
Where’er her troubled path may be,
The Lord’s sweet pity with her go!
The outward wayward life we see,
The hidden springs we may not know.
Nor is it given us to discern
What threads the fatal sisters spun,
Through what ancestral years has run
The sorrow with the woman born,
What forged her cruel chain of moods,
What set her feet in solitudes,
And held the love within her mute,
What mingled madness in the blood,
A life-long discord and annoy,
Water of tears with oil of joy,
And hid within the folded bud
Perversities of flower and fruit.
It is not ours to separate
The tangled skein of will and fate,
To show what metes and bounds should stand
Upon the soul’s debatable land,
And between choice and Providence
Divide the circle of events;
But He who knows our frame is just,
Merciful and compassionate,
And full of sweet assurances
And hope for all the language is,
That He remembereth we are dust!

At last the great logs, crumbling low,
Sent out a dull and duller glow,
The bull’s-eye watch that hung in view,
Ticking its weary circuit through,
Pointed with mutely warning sign
Its black hand to the hour of nine.
That sign the pleasant circle broke:
My uncle ceased his pipe to smoke,
Knocked from its bowl the refuse gray,
And laid it tenderly away;
Then roused himself to safely cover
The dull red brands with ashes over.
And while, with care, our mother laid
The work aside, her steps she stayed
One moment, seeking to express
Her grateful sense of happiness
For food and shelter, warmth and health,
And love’s contentment more than wealth,
With simple wishes (not the weak,
Vain prayers which no fulfilment seek,
But such as warm the generous heart,
O’er-prompt to do with Heaven its part)
That none might lack, that bitter night,
For bread and clothing, warmth and light.

Within our beds awhile we heard
The wind that round the gables roared,
With now and then a ruder shock,
Which made our very bedsteads rock.
We heard the loosened clapboards tost,
The board-nails snapping in the frost;
And on us, through the unplastered wall,
Felt the light sifted snow-flakes fall.
But sleep stole on, as sleep will do
When hearts are light and life is new;
Faint and more faint the murmurs grew,
Till in the summer-land of dreams
They softened to the sound of streams,
Low stir of leaves, and dip of oars,
And lapsing waves on quiet shores.
Of merry voices high and clear;
And saw the teamsters drawing near
To break the drifted highways out.
Down the long hillside treading slow
We saw the half-buried oxen go,
Shaking the snow from heads uptost,
Their straining nostrils white with frost.
Before our door the straggling train
Drew up, an added team to gain.
The elders threshed their hands a-cold,
Passed, with the cider-mug, their jokes
From lip to lip; the younger folks
Down the loose snow-banks, wrestling, rolled,
Then toiled again the cavalcade
O’er windy hill, through clogged ravine,
And woodland paths that wound between
Low drooping pine-boughs winter-weighed.
From every barn a team afoot,
At every house a new recruit,
Where, drawn by Nature’s subtlest law,
Haply the watchful young men saw
Sweet doorway pictures of the curls
And curious eyes of merry girls,
Lifting their hands in mock defence
Against the snow-ball’s compliments,
And reading in each missive tost
The charm with Eden never lost.
We heard once more the sleigh-bells’ sound;
And, following where the teamsters led,
The wise old Doctor went his round,
Just pausing at our door to say,
In the brief autocratic way
Of one who, prompt at Duty’s call,
Was free to urge her claim on all,
That some poor neighbor sick abed
At night our mother’s aid would need.
For, one in generous thought and deed,
What mattered in the sufferer’s sight
The Quaker matron’s inward light,
The Doctor’s mail of Calvin’s creed?
All hearts confess the saints elect
Who, twain in faith, in love agree,
And melt not in an acid sect
The Christian pearl of charity!

So days went on: a week had passed
Since the great world was heard from last.
The Almanac we studied o’er,
Read and reread our little store
Of books and pamphlets, scarce a score;
One harmless novel, mostly hid
From younger eyes, a book forbid,
And poetry, (or good or bad,
A single book was all we had,)
Where Ellwood’s meek, drab-skirted Muse,
A stranger to the heathen Nine,
Sang, with a somewhat nasal whine,
The wars of David and the Jews.
At last the floundering carrier bore
The village paper to our door.
Lo! broadening outward as we read,
To warmer zones the horizon spread
In panoramic length unrolled
We saw the marvels that it told.
Before us passed the painted Creeks,
A   nd daft McGregor on his raids
In Costa Rica’s everglades.
And up Taygetos winding slow
Rode Ypsilanti’s Mainote Greeks,
A Turk’s head at each saddle-bow!
Welcome to us its week-old news,
Its corner for the rustic Muse,
Its monthly gauge of snow and rain,
Its record, mingling in a breath
The wedding bell and dirge of death:
Jest, anecdote, and love-lorn tale,
The latest culprit sent to jail;
Its hue and cry of stolen and lost,
Its vendue sales and goods at cost,
And traffic calling loud for gain.
We felt the stir of hall and street,
The pulse of life that round us beat;
The chill embargo of the snow
Was melted in the genial glow;
Wide swung again our ice-locked door,
And all the world was ours once more!

Clasp, Angel of the backword look
And folded wings of ashen gray
And voice of echoes far away,
The brazen covers of thy book;
The weird palimpsest old and vast,
Wherein thou hid’st the spectral past;
Where, closely mingling, pale and glow
The characters of joy and woe;
The monographs of outlived years,
Or smile-illumed or dim with tears,
Green hills of life that ***** to death,
And haunts of home, whose vistaed trees
Shade off to mournful cypresses
With the white amaranths underneath.
Even while I look, I can but heed
The restless sands’ incessant fall,
Importunate hours that hours succeed,
Each clamorous with its own sharp need,
And duty keeping pace with all.
Shut down and clasp with heavy lids;
I hear again the voice that bids
The dreamer leave his dream midway
For larger hopes and graver fears:
Life greatens in these later years,
The century’s aloe flowers to-day!

Yet, haply, in some lull of life,
Some Truce of God which breaks its strife,
The worldling’s eyes shall gather dew,
Dreaming in throngful city ways
Of winter joys his boyhood knew;
And dear and early friends — the few
Who yet remain — shall pause to view
These Flemish pictures of old days;
Sit with me by the homestead hearth,
And stretch the hands of memory forth
To warm them at the wood-fire’s blaze!
And thanks untraced to lips unknown
Shall greet me like the odors blown
From unseen meadows newly mown,
Wood-fringed, the wayside gaze beyond;
The traveller owns the grateful sense
Of sweetness near, he knows not whence,
And, pausing, takes with forehead bare
The benediction of the air.

Written in  1865
In its day, 'twas a best-seller and earned significant income for Whittier
Mymai Yuan Sep 2010
Peeing: to ***; to urinate; to release the body of its liquid toxins; to pass or discharge *****; characteristically yellow- the strength of the color depending on the body’s hydration.
People have strange habits when peeing; urinating; releasing the body of their liquid toxins. Some people procrastinate it to the last minute and rush to the bathroom, barely yanking their pants down in time and shuddering in relief. They are those who habitually whip in and out, even when they don’t really need to. There’s the common usage of an escape from boredom in classes or meetings. Perhaps it even causes a slight blushing in the cheeks of painfully shy woman at hearing rushed tinkling so close by. And of course, they are also the people who love to leave surprises for the next person who uses the bathroom.
All in all, peeing seems to mean not much to people – a small part of life; but a very, very necessary part.  

                                 *                 *                    * .

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

                                                *         *            *.

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


Apr 7, 2012, 6:08:21 PM by ~OmegaWolfOfWinter
Journals / Personal




"Name: Amelia Weissmuler. Date of birth: June 6th, 1920. Test subject number 314-X. Specimen: Tiger." Amy heard all of this through a haze of sedatives that had begun to lose their already poor effect. She turned in the direction of the voice and saw a fearsome **** SS General standing behind a white clad scientist with a heavy accent. The general said nothing but listened and watched as Amy was strapped down to a cold metal table, completely **** with various wires, tubes and needles protruding from her flesh. She groaned painfully, the needles were extensive, and the **** scientists had no care of decency or respect. she was hit with another sedative and before she lost consciousness she heard the scientist, who she guessed was Dr. Heismeiller, say, "Name, Mordecai Dansker, former Major of the Third *****. Date of birth: September 19th, 1919. Test subject 14-W. Specimen: Wolf. As you
can see, Heir General, these are both healthy specimens, as are the test subjects." Amy heard a
rattling of cages. Her vison slowly went dark but not before seeing the doctor's face, uncovered and psychotic.
* *
When Amy woke up again, she was being suspended from the floor, the tubes and wires accompanied by menacing electrodes. there was an unnatural blue and white crackling of electricity around her, illuminating the other suspended tables nearby, the bodies in various grotesque positions and levels of decay. she tried to scream but found a machine unceremoniously shoved in her mouth, stretching deep inside her. she looked and saw nothing but obscene machines and various glass tubes of colored bubbling liquids. she tried sluggishly to break free but to no avail. what little strength she had was useless against the torturous devices emplanted in and around her. "Doctor, begin the experiment."
"Yaboe!" She heard a solid click resound through the room and heard a male scream in another room. the screams echoed for a long while, then nothing. she heard a gasp of releif from
the doctor and, "General! Subject 14-W... he has... Survived!"
"Good. now start on the frauline." there was a large thud from outside the room. "Quickly! this facility is under seige!"
"Yes sir, heir general. Test subject 314-X prepped and ready. Begin phase 1." she cried out silently as the needles burned hot inside her and the tubes boiled her insides. the electrodes soon incapacitated her and she fell unconscious.
*
*
"Phase 1 complete, heir general, subject is ready, proceeding to Phase 2."
Amy felt an intense burning around the needles, and an electric fire through her veins. the machine had been taken from her mouth, but she doubted she could scream any more, as her throat was raw from the silent screams of Phase 1. She felt her body shake uncontrollably as more electric shocks were administered. she was left panting and slumped over. "Sequence complete, the bonding process was a success." there was another thud and sediment from the roof fell to the floor. "Get her down now! They will be through soon!" She was lowered to the ground and unstrapped from the table, picked up, and placed on a stretcher. she raised her hands on front her face and nearly fainted, her hands, or paws, resembled that of a tiger, and as she looked, her whole body was covered in a slick orange, black and white fur. She was put into the backseat of an armored car with a simple blanket draped around
her. Amy felt nauseated
as the car sped off. It hit a bump in the road and she moaned painfully, clutching her furry belly and retching. the **** next to her turned away in disgust. the car ride was long and sickening, and she lost consciousness twice, and finally she tried to lay down in the cramped space. when the armored car finally stopped, she was pulled from the back seat and carried over a soldier's shoulder and into a small bunker. Once inside, amy heard a metal door open and was laid down onto a stiff bed with a single pillow and a single cover. There was a small window in the cell, a drab, grey stream of light shining in her eyes. She propped herself up on her elbow and shielded her eyes from the blinding contrast. Once her eyes adjusted, amy noticed that things had a particular sharpness to them and she had an acute awareness of things based on scent. she stood shakily, and noticed she was almost
six inches taller now, and her new tail swished back and forth along the concrete floor. she stepped
forward and grasped the iron bars and peeked out, seeing a black leather messenger bag and a black uniform lined with white. she couldn't quite reach the uniform, but was able to get a claw around the strap of the messenger bag. she pulled it closer to her and saw that her initials were monogrammed into the leather. she pulled it through the bars and opened the bag, pulling out a small, blank, leather bound journal and a pen. still ****, she sat on the bed and practiced writing, tearing out two pages of scratch paper. She began her journal with, "I am no longer the person i once was. i am something new, something... different."
• * *
The **** captain stepped into the bunker and saw amy, half lying, half dangling on the bed, the leather journal clutched close to her chest. he stormed into the cell and backhanded her awake, snatching up the journal as she cowered in the corner, her tail wrapped around her. the captain flipped through the pages of the journal and then closed iit with a snap. he glanced at it and dropped it on the bed. "it is yours now, Frauline. you are very special to the third *****. the fuhrer himself has asked for you to be placed in the Waffen SS and trained." amy glanced at the uniform on the table outside the cell and he nodded, "specially tailored for you, frauline. he stepped outside the cell and grabbed the uniform, setting it down on the bed. "you may Change into your new uniform and join the rest of us outside." he stepped outside and she was alone. she donned the simple uNdergarments then
slipped into the soft black trousers, after which she put on her military boots. next she put on the black and white jacket signature of the SS. the jacket was sleek and menacing, though it did little to flatten her chest, but that, she supposed, was one of her feminine charms. last was her hat and armband, both adorned with the *******. she gathered the leather messenger bag and stepped outside the cell, where a mirror stood, giving her a chance to see what had been done, the black uniform was a dramatic contrast to her brightly colored fur, and her new black stripes added a fierce look to her. she grinned and flashed menacing white teeth. she turned her body, looking at herself from different points of view. she slipped the **** armband onto her right arm and turned to leave. she stopped when she encountered a high pitch noise right next to the door. for the moment she just walked past, opening the door and adjusting her vision to the outside light. the layout was grey and barren,
as it always was in wartime. the captain was waiting for her along with a small squad of SS troops. a
Few laughed and remarked at her appearance, making cat noises and wolf whistling at her. she glared at them with a bright white snarl carved into her soft face. *they will fear me...

she saluted the captain and said, "heil ******." he returned the gesture, "heil. you are now part of the Waffen SS, frauline Amelia."
"please sir, its amy."
he noted her directness and ferocity, "very well, amy. before we assign you a task, though, you must prove yourself." he addressed the squad, "they are all corporal's and sergeants. you are merely a private. you will gain a rank for each one that you ****. however, they have been told that if they do not force you to submit, they will be killed or sent to the russian front. so you best fight your hardest, private amy."
as he finished, the squad set down their Mauser 98K's and MP-40's and stepped closer to her. her eyes widened in shock, then narrowed in ferocious determination. there were twelve of them.
"Fight!"
• *
Amy took a fighting stance and faced her attackers. she attempted a punch at the nearest one but was kneed in the gut, she was thrown back a few feet. she fell to her knees and clutched her stomach with one hand, holding herself upright with the other. tears sprung to life in her eyes and threatened to roll down her cheeks. she fought the tears back and stood, feeling her claws extend. she swiped at a soldier's throat, catching him right in the throat. blood splattered the ground as he choked on his own fluids. the remaining eleven were taken aback slightly, allowing her to pounce another soldier, punching and tearing at his gut with lethal force. her fur was bloodstained and she waited a moment too late, watching the cavity she created fill with blood. she was barreled over, the wind knocked out of her by a sergeant. she lay on her back, gasping for air as the soldiers closed in,
landing a few punches and sending her reeling back. she staggered back, struggling for breath. she
Bumped up against something and realized it was a bunker wall, she was trapped. she thought quickly and decided for a new course of action, she waited for one of them to gather his bravado and throw a solid punch at her, which was useless, she grabbed his wrist and smashed his head against the wall, filling his helmet with blood and brains. in the same move, she had grabbed his Luger and had downed three more of the remaining ten. in their moment of confusion she kicked the closest one in the fork of his legs and followed up with a pistolwhip. the man went down quickly and died by the heel of her merciless boot. the remaining six charged at her, one falling by her last bullet and another caught a swift kick in the ribcage, shattering the bones to peices. the rest of the men were sergeants, and they began to retreat, running into the open field. she was about to chase after them when she
heard another Luger fire. she turned to see the captain shooting the deserters. each fell, one by
One by the captain's gun to her surprise he let a single man go. "you have done very well, frauline amy. you have killed eight out of twelve men, not bad at all."
she was panting, her uniform dirtied, "why.. did you let.. him go?"
the captain smiled, "someone has to spread you're reputation, heir captain."
she gaped at him. "i am... captain?"
"yaboe, heir frauline. you have proved yourself worthy to serve under the fuhrer."
she saluted him, "thank you, heir captain."
*
amy wrote in her journal as they were driven to one of the Stalags: "my promotion to captain has earned me my choice of weapons, ive chosen a few, two long barrel Luger's, a cavalry saber, and a sixteen foot bullwhip. i also carry an automatic Mauser in my messenger bag. other than a few knives carefully hidden on my body, that should be it. ive become the fuhrer's favorite enforcer, though i feel as if i'm forgetting something..."
amy closed the journal and placed it in her bag with a soft snap.
Amy waited for a **** private to open the car door and let her out, tapping her foot impatiently. when he finally came, she had a luger pointed at his chest. "you're late. she got out of the car and shot him, holstering the pistol as he crumpled to the ground. the colonel in charge rushed towards her, "what is the meaning of this?!"
"your man on watch was late, and now he'll never be late again. and also, colonel, as i am a captain in the SS, i am your superior officer and you WILL adjust yourself accordingly or i will replace you with someone who will."
his expression was that of shock, "y-yes, heir captain, please follow me." he escorted her quickly to the main building. amy glanced around at the peering POWs, glaring at them with distaste as they whistled at her. "who's the kitty?" "what the hell is that?"
her hands fell to her lugers and she was ready to fire when she was beckoned inside by the colonel and she followed behind him reluctantly. "you should control your prisoners.
i find an overall lack of order in this camp. you're lucky i'm in a good mood, or i'd have you strung up for incompetence. lets hope my further evaluation of this... facility... does not make me any more inclined to do so."
the colonel stuttered again and dipped his head, "y-yes heir captain."
she stepped outside unopposed by any. she snapped her fingers and a sergeant rushed to her side and saluted. she handed him a journal logbook and he opened it to the page marked with the Stalag number. she entered the closed off areas of the stalag to inspect the barracks.
*
amy's fists were clenched with rag, a prisoner mocked her from within his confines. his fellow prisoners pleaded with him to stop. "she's lethal!" "she killed eight SS sergeants and corporals singelhandedly her first day!"
the prisoner ignored them and began gesturing at her. she snapped her head up and their eyes met for an instant, she growled through a gritted snarl and was over the fence in mere moments. once over,
the prisoner that mocked her was now on the ground, his throat between her fangs. he cried out once and then gurgled blood as she tore out his throat. she spat the flesh onto the dirt and stood, brushing the dusty particles from her uniform. the men around her backed away when she approached them, and watched her cautiously as she stepped back out of the fenceline. amy picked up her cap from the ground and brushed it off. one of the prisoners called for a doctor, and when one of the guards began to look for one, she merely said, "no, he wont survive. leave him be."
the soldier saluted and went back to his post. she walked up to the colonel and said, "your prisoner annoyed me, as do you, colonel. you have three days to turn this place around or you'll end up worse off then your prisoner over there."
the colonel had turned a pale white and whispered, "understood, captain."
she returned to her quarters and listened for a moment as the colonel shouted orders. "that was fun." she remarked.

Amy was asleep in one of the larger rooms in the main  building, her uniform folded neatly on the table near the bed. she kep one luger on her bedside table and the mauser under her pilllow. her other luger, her sword and her whip were next to her clothes. she was clad only in her fur, as she'd found that the most comfortable way to sleep.
she was woken up by a knock at the door. she blinked her eyes a few times. clutching the mauser handle with one hand and holding the blanket to her chest with the other, she said, "what is it?"
"the colonel wishes to speak to you, heir frauline."
she growled, "grrr... fine. tell him to make it quick." she clutched the blanket closer as he opened the door. she held the mauser aimed at him and said, "turn." he did so without hesitation. she slipped cautiously out of the bed and began to dress. "what is it you wished to speak with me about, colonel?" amy put on her undergarments and then pulled her trousers up to her waist, fastening the belt comfortably.
"there is an important telegram for you, heir captain." she pulled on the jacket over her simple shirt, tugging out any wrinkles. "oh? from who?" next came the holster belts, each hanging slightly lower than her first belt. her sword was another belt, and there was a custom clip there for her whip as well.
"Himler, he has special orders for you." her messenger bag was next to last, slung over her shoulder before she slipped into her boots. ""You can turn now. hand them here." she stepped closer to him and took the envelope with her name scrawled on the front. the colonel excused himself so she could read the orders, "captain amelia weissmuler, once you have completed your assignment at Stalag 14, please make haste to stalingrad as there has been a number of our own turning against the *****. see to it that they cause no more problems. -heinrich himler"
she read it through three more times before folding it and placing it in her bag. she hurried outside, grabbing her hat
From the dresser.
* *
amy went about her inspection, seeing nothing wrong today. "the condition of stalag 16 has improved, heir colonel. well done. now send my car around." the colonel grinned and motioned for the car.
the black car adorned with swastikas roared to life, coming up beside her. the d
Part I

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

The bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The guests are met, the feast is set:
Mayst hear the merry din.’

He holds him with his skinny hand,
“There was a ship,” quoth he.
‘Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!’
Eftsoons his hand dropped he.

He holds him with his glittering eye—
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years’ child:
The Mariner hath his will.

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:
He cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

“The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,
Merrily did we drop
Below the kirk, below the hill,
Below the lighthouse top.

The sun came up upon the left,
Out of the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea.

Higher and higher every day,
Till over the mast at noon—”
The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,
For he heard the loud bassoon.

The bride hath paced into the hall,
Red as a rose is she;
Nodding their heads before her goes
The merry minstrelsy.

The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,
Yet he cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

“And now the storm-blast came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o’ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.

With sloping masts and dipping prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe,
And foward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled.

And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken—
The ice was all between.

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.

It ate the food it ne’er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!

And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner’s hollo!

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white moonshine.”

‘God save thee, ancient Mariner,
From the fiends that plague thee thus!—
Why look’st thou so?’—”With my crossbow
I shot the Albatross.”

Part II

“The sun now rose upon the right:
Out of the sea came he,
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea.

And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no sweet bird did follow,
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the mariners’ hollo!

And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work ’em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow!

Nor dim nor red, like God’s own head,
The glorious sun uprist:
Then all averred, I had killed the bird
That brought the fog and mist.
’Twas right, said they, such birds to slay,
That bring the fog and mist.

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.

Down dropped the breeze, the sails dropped down,
’Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!

All in a hot and copper sky,
The ****** sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night;
The water, like a witch’s oils,
Burnt green, and blue, and white.

And some in dreams assured were
Of the Spirit that plagued us so;
Nine fathom deep he had followed us
From the land of mist and snow.

And every tongue, through utter drought,
Was withered at the root;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot.

Ah! well-a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.”

Part III

“There passed a weary time. Each throat
Was parched, and glazed each eye.
A weary time! a weary time!
How glazed each weary eye—
When looking westward, I beheld
A something in the sky.

At first it seemed a little speck,
And then it seemed a mist;
It moved and moved, and took at last
A certain shape, I wist.

A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!
And still it neared and neared:
As if it dodged a water-sprite,
It plunged and tacked and veered.

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
We could nor laugh nor wail;
Through utter drought all dumb we stood!
I bit my arm, I ****** the blood,
And cried, A sail! a sail!

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
Agape they heard me call:
Gramercy! they for joy did grin,
And all at once their breath drew in,
As they were drinking all.

See! see! (I cried) she tacks no more!
Hither to work us weal;
Without a breeze, without a tide,
She steadies with upright keel!

The western wave was all a-flame,
The day was well nigh done!
Almost upon the western wave
Rested the broad bright sun;
When that strange shape drove suddenly
Betwixt us and the sun.

And straight the sun was flecked with bars,
(Heaven’s Mother send us grace!)
As if through a dungeon-grate he peered
With broad and burning face.

Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)
How fast she nears and nears!
Are those her sails that glance in the sun,
Like restless gossameres?

Are those her ribs through which the sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a Death? and are there two?
Is Death that Woman’s mate?

Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.

The naked hulk alongside came,
And the twain were casting dice;
‘The game is done! I’ve won! I’ve won!’
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

The sun’s rim dips; the stars rush out:
At one stride comes the dark;
With far-heard whisper o’er the sea,
Off shot the spectre-bark.

We listened and looked sideways up!
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip!
The stars were dim, and thick the night,
The steersman’s face by his lamp gleamed white;
From the sails the dew did drip—
Till clomb above the eastern bar
The horned moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.

One after one, by the star-dogged moon,
Too quick for groan or sigh,
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,
And cursed me with his eye.

Four times fifty living men,
(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
They dropped down one by one.

The souls did from their bodies fly,—
They fled to bliss or woe!
And every soul it passed me by,
Like the whizz of my crossbow!”

Part IV

‘I fear thee, ancient Mariner!
I fear thy skinny hand!
And thou art long, and lank, and brown,
As is the ribbed sea-sand.

I fear thee and thy glittering eye,
And thy skinny hand, so brown.’—
“Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest!
This body dropped not down.

Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.

The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie;
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I.

I looked upon the rotting sea,
And drew my eyes away;
I looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay.

I looked to heaven, and tried to pray;
But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came and made
My heart as dry as dust.

I closed my lids, and kept them close,
And the ***** like pulses beat;
Forthe sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky,
Lay like a load on my weary eye,
And the dead were at my feet.

The cold sweat melted from their limbs,
Nor rot nor reek did they:
The look with which they looked on me
Had never passed away.

An orphan’s curse would drag to hell
A spirit from on high;
But oh! more horrible than that
Is the curse in a dead man’s eye!
Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,
And yet I could not die.

The moving moon went up the sky,
And no where did abide:
Softly she was going up,
And a star or two beside—

Her beams bemocked the sultry main,
Like April ****-frost spread;
But where the ship’s huge shadow lay,
The charmed water burnt alway
A still and awful red.

Beyond the shadow of the ship
I watched the water-snakes:
They moved in tracks of shining white,
And when they reared, the elfish light
Fell off in hoary flakes.

Within the shadow of the ship
I watched their rich attire:
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
They coiled and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire.

O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.

The selfsame moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.”

Part V

“Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole!
To Mary Queen the praise be given!
She sent the gentle sleep from heaven,
That slid into my soul.

The silly buckets on the deck,
That had so long remained,
I dreamt that they were filled with dew;
And when I awoke, it rained.

My lips were wet, my throat was cold,
My garments all were dank;
Sure I had drunken in my dreams,
And still my body drank.

I moved, and could not feel my limbs:
I was so light—almost
I thought that I had died in sleep,
And was a blessed ghost.

And soon I heard a roaring wind:
It did not come anear;
But with its sound it shook the sails,
That were so thin and sere.

The upper air burst into life!
And a hundred fire-flags sheen,
To and fro they were hurried about!
And to and fro, and in and out,
The wan stars danced between.

And the coming wind did roar more loud,
And the sails did sigh like sedge;
And the rain poured down from one black cloud;
The moon was at its edge.

The thick black cloud was cleft, and still
The moon was at its side:
Like waters shot from some high crag,
The lightning fell with never a jag,
A river steep and wide.

The loud wind never reached the ship,
Yet now the ship moved on!
Beneath the lightning and the moon
The dead men gave a groan.

They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;
It had been strange, even in a dream,
To have seen those dead men rise.

The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
Yet never a breeze up blew;
The mariners all ‘gan work the ropes,
Where they were wont to do;
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools—
We were a ghastly crew.

The body of my brother’s son
Stood by me, knee to knee:
The body and I pulled at one rope,
But he said nought to me.”

‘I fear thee, ancient Mariner!’
“Be calm, thou Wedding-Guest!
’Twas not those souls that fled in pain,
Which to their corses came again,
But a troop of spirits blest:

For when it dawned—they dropped their arms,
And clustered round the mast;
Sweet sounds rose slowly through their mouths,
And from their bodies passed.

Around, around, flew each sweet sound,
Then darted to the sun;
Slowly the sounds came back again,
Now mixed, now one by one.

Sometimes a-dropping from the sky
I heard the skylark sing;
Sometimes all little birds that are,
How they seemed to fill the sea and air
With their sweet jargoning!

And now ’twas like all instruments,
Now like a lonely flute;
And now it is an angel’s song,
That makes the heavens be mute.

It ceased; yet still the sails made on
A pleasant noise till noon,
A noise like of a hidden brook
In the leafy month of June,
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune.

Till noon we quietly sailed on,
Yet never a breeze did breathe;
Slowly and smoothly went the ship,
Moved onward from beneath.

Under the keel nine fathom deep,
From the land of mist and snow,
The spirit slid: and it was he
That made the ship to go.
The sails at noon left off their tune,
And the ship stood still also.

The sun, right up above the mast,
Had fixed her to the ocean:
But in a minute she ‘gan stir,
With a short uneasy motion—
Backwards and forwards half her length
With a short uneasy motion.

Then like a pawing horse let go,
She made a sudden bound:
It flung the blood into my head,
And I fell down in a swound.

How long in that same fit I lay,
I have not to declare;
But ere my living life returned,
I heard and in my soul discerned
Two voices in the air.

‘Is it he?’ quoth one, ‘Is this the man?
By him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low
The harmless Albatross.

The spirit who bideth by himself
In the land of mist and snow,
He loved the bird that loved the man
Who shot him with his bow.’

The other was a softer voice,
As soft as honey-dew:
Quoth he, ‘The man hath penance done,
And penance more will do.’

Part VI

First Voice

But tell me, tell me! speak again,
Thy soft response renewing—
What makes that ship drive on so fast?
What is the ocean doing?

Second Voice

Still as a slave before his lord,
The ocean hath no blast;
His great bright eye most silently
Up to the moon is cast—

If he may know which way to go;
For she guides him smooth or grim.
See, brother, see! how graciously
She looketh down on him.

First Voice

But why drives on that ship so fast,
Without or wave or wind?

Second Voice

The air is cut away before,
And closes from behind.

Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high!
Or we shall be belated:
For slow and slow that ship will go,
When the Mariner’s trance is abated.

“I woke, and we were sailing on
As in a gentle weather:
’Twas night, calm night, the moon was high;
The dead men stood together.

All stood together on the deck,
For a charnel-dungeon fitter:
All fixed on me their stony eyes,
That in the moon did glitter.

The pang, the curse, with which they died,
Had never passed away:
I could not draw my eyes from theirs,
Nor turn them up to pray.

And now this spell was snapped: once more
I viewed the ocean green,
And looked far forth, yet little saw
Of what had else been seen—

Like one that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.

But soon there breathed a wind on me,
Nor sound nor motion made:
Its path was not upon the sea,
In ripple or in shade.

It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek
Like a meadow-gale of spring—
It mingled strangely with my fears,
Yet it felt like a welcoming.

Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,
Yet she sailed softly too:
Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze—
On me alone it blew.

Oh! dream of joy! is this indeed
The lighthouse top I see?
Is this the hill? is this the kirk?
Is this mine own country?

We drifted o’er the harbour-bar,
And I with sobs did pray—
O let me be awake, my God!
Or let me sleep alway.

The harbour-bay was clear as glass,
So smoothly it was strewn!
And on the bay the moonlight lay,
And the shadow of the moon.

The rock shone bright, the kirk no less,
That stands above the rock:
The moonlight steeped in silentness
The steady weathercock.

And the bay was white with silent light,
Till rising from the same,
Full many shapes, that shadows were,
In crimson colours came.

A little distance from the prow
Those crimson shadows were:
I turned my eyes upon the deck—
Oh, Christ! what saw I there!

Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat,
And, by the holy rood!
A man all light, a seraph-man,
On every corse there stood.

This seraph-band, each waved his hand:
It was a heavenly sight!
They stood as signals to the land,
Each one a lovely light;

This seraph-band, each waved his hand,
No voice did they impart—
No voice; but oh! the silence sank
Like music on my heart.

But soon I heard the dash of oars,
I heard the Pilot’s cheer;
My head was turned perforce away,
And I saw a boat appear.

The Pilot and the Pilot’s boy,
I heard them coming fast:
Dear Lord i
Amara Oct 2012
This is a story I created for my 5 year old niece.

During the old times, things were not as they are now.  Dangerous monsters lurked around every corner doing the ***** deeds of the gods. The innocents had no protection. Only their own wits could keep them living another day.
Such was so for Elephant, he was one of the most intelligent of all the animals in the forest. He was large and grey, wizened with age. He had dark eyes, full of knowing. He had a strong face, with a large round nose. He was the guard of the forest, a scholar, and he could even read, unlike so many of his predecessors. He protected the innocent animals from the evil ones who meant them harm. The gods envied his intellect. They were afraid that it surpassed their own.  They wanted the innocents to be consumed by their minions, the dangerous monsters that lurked around the outside of the protection circle.
They devised a plan to destroy Elephant once and for all. They got their scariest, meanest, largest, most determined beast to do their bidding. The Mushika, some called him “The Mouse”. The Mushika had never been seen before, he had only been a whiff of a rumor found in children’s stories. He was said to be as large as the biggest trees, as mean as all of the god’s combined, and as powerful as the forest itself.
The god’s were able to convince the Mushika to do their bidding, by promising to make him even larger, meaner, and more powerful than he already was. He agreed and began his journey towards the innocents’ home where Elephant stood ready to protect and defend.
Elephant could feel it in the wind that something was coming. He read the leaves on the water to be sure. He knew that danger was almost on them and prepared for battle. He stood quietly, his eyes slowly moving from trunk to trunk. The wind blew slightly, ruffling his long ears. Then, THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. It seemed as if the whole forest quaked. Far away, trees began to fall to the left and to the right. Slowly, it got closer and closer. Until the Elephant could see a looming white beast with red eyes, a pink nose, round ears, a long pink tail, and a massive body.
He roared, “Elephant, I have a bone to pick with you!!” Elephant’s face was calm as he stepped forward. The Mouse lunged stepping on the Elephant’s trunk. Elephant howled in pain, jerking and tossing away from the Mushika’s massive foot. The Mushika persisted, realizing that he had made Elephant utterly defenseless. He opened his giant mouth, full of sharp teeth, about to swallow Elephant whole.
Elephant’s eyes filled with fear, then sharp determination. He mustered all of his strength together and made one final, gigantic tug. His round nose stretched and stretched and stretched, then popped out from underneath the mouse’s foot. He realized he was free, and wasn’t focused on how his nose had become elongated. He shoved with all of his might against the Mushika who was very startled sending him back against the trees. The Mushika had been knocked out.
Elephant called out to the innocents, “Family! We must flee now before this mouse wakes up. We must go where not even the God’s can find us!” All of the innocents came out of their huts.
One of the children, Giraffe, asked, “What happened to your nose?”
Elephant replied, “It has been stretched out, but do not worry. I am fine. We must go now!”
So all of the animals packed their things and went to a hiding place. Elephant realized he could grip things with his new nose. He picked up a giant rock and began to crack the ground away from the rest of the forest. It broke off and floated away, millions of galaxies away. They decided to call this place Earth. So that was how Earth became.
Later on, when the Mushika woke up, the gods were waiting for him. “You have failed your mission, therefore you must be punished,” they said in unison. The mouse quivered as they began chanting strange words. Slowly his size diminished to the size of an apple. He squeaked, no longer able to roar. The god’s laughed, snapping their fingers. The Mushika was suddenly on Earth, where his dreadful enemy was. The Mushika had been stripped of his mighty name and put into unfamiliar territory with no allies. Forever to be called Mouse, never to be able to defend himself again.
Elephant knew that Mouse had been punished for loosing their battle, yet he was still terrified that he would change back into that horrible beast. He feared Mouse the rest of his life, and told all of his family to fear him as well. This story explains why the elephant’s trunk is so long, why mice are so small, and why such a large animal as the elephant is scared of such a small animal as the mouse.
Terry O'Leary Feb 2014
The Tale below was carved one night
Upon the Stone, by candlelight
...most won’t believe, but some just might
.........most won’t believe, but some just might



                         Preface

Well James made Beth his lovely bride
(And angels smiled, though teary eyed)
...their bodies bound, their spirits tied
.........their bodies bound, their spirits tied

Upon her hand, a shimmer shone,
As bright as blood, a ruby Stone
...and brighter still, as love had grown
.........and brighter still, as love had grown

Soon James was sent to man a sail
So Beth removed her wedding veil
...her eyes were moist, her face was pale
.........her eyes were moist, her face was pale

“Well, I’ll be here when you return”
Said Beth to James, who kissed in turn
...a kiss that made her body burn
.........a kiss that made her body burn



                         BETH’S TALE

1.              The Dream

One night, within a dream deformed,
The cawing of a Crow informed
“...the Ship was struck where winter stormed
.........the Ship was struck where winter stormed

Midst winds and waves the thunder boomed
The Ship of Death was surely doomed
...the sea engulfed, the surf entombed
.........the sea engulfed, the surf entombed

Your James… deceived by Davy Jones!
With spirit freed, his flesh and bones
...now rest amongst the ashen Stones
.........now rest amongst the ashen Stones”



2.               The Quest

Awoken by the ebon Wight
And beckoned by the baneful bight
...I left before the morning light
.........I left before the morning light

Throughout the realm I rode a roan
Until, in time, I reached the Stone
...where shades in dreams of darkness groan
.........where shades in dreams of darkness groan

While skipping up and down the sky
A missing moonbeam mocked my eye
...enough to make a Swallow cry
.........enough to make a Swallow cry

For someone stole a star or two
And something else that fate withdrew -
...my jewel of joy, my James Bijou  
.........my jewel of joy, my James Bijou

The shadows of the evening swelled
Where demons of the dusk had dwelled
...and in the far, a vesper knelled
.........and in the far, a vesper knelled

The Stone, beneath the sky, stood cold -
Between the runes, a vapour strolled
...a cloak of fleecy fog consoled
.........a cloak of fleecy fog consoled

A Raven on a branch, enthroned,
Her wings waved once, a wail intoned
...beyond the bay, a banshee moaned
.........beyond the bay, a banshee moaned

I lay beside the Stone, his bride
I lay beside the Stone and cried
...but were it I, instead, that died
.........but were it I, instead, that died

The rainbow of the moon fell dim
A midnight Swan soon ceased to swim
...as if to hide all hint of him
.........as if to hide all hint of him

Between the willows in the swale
Bewailed a Bird, a Nightingale
...which left me faint, my body frail
.........which left me faint, my body frail



3.              Contact

I felt him breathe within a breeze  
Responding to my anguished pleas
...and leaves blew by abandoned trees
.........and leaves blew by abandoned trees

“Eternal love, my darling Beth”
Enshrined within a final breath
...re-echoed from the Ship of Death
.........re-echoed from the Ship of Death

The Stone lit up a ruby sheen
And clouds were kindled crystalline
...with consequences, unforeseen
.........with consequences, unforeseen

Above, a wretched Raven soared
To where the Ship of Death’d been moored
...below, the icy ocean roared
.........below, the icy ocean roared



4.               Release

I’m joined with James beneath the Stone,
Though to the Ship my spirit’s flown,
...for nevermore to be alone
.........for nevermore to be alone



                         Epilogue
That night the wayward winds were weird
The Ship of Death had disappeared
...coyotes called and mortals feared
.........coyotes called and mortals feared

At dusk, the craven shadows crawled
At dawn, the winds of mourning called
...upon the Stone two names were scrawled
.........upon the Stone two names were scrawled

The Raven sits, with wings outspread,
Atop the Stone which shades the dead
...it sometimes shimmers ruby red
.........it sometimes shimmers ruby red



                         Epitaph
Between the sounds, where silence seeps,
Their love lives on and never sleeps
...and yet, the weeping willow weeps
.........and yet, the weeping willow weeps
Margo Polo May 2014
Last night I
had a dream that
you died.
Everyone we knew
came, said their I’m-so-sorry’s,
and
left, filtering out the front door
slowly
like sand through a sideways sifter,
leaving behind pieces,
words and memories
and casseroles I
could not taste.

And the whole time
everyone was here,
you were here, too.
I could hear
you, smell
you, feel
you.
I could feel you
surrounding me like the ghost of the baby blanket
I once had and could never leave at home.
I loved you here and here you would stay, with me,
and now you would never leave.
I could keep you.
You were bound to me.

But the ties that bind are tight and you did not like me leaving.
You could not go with me and
you
accidentally
and without words
by holding, enveloping,
suffocating
you told me
that you did not want me to ever leave again.
So I stopped.
I stopped leaving.
And the calls stopped, too.
The invites. The lunches. The impromptu trips to town.
All unnecessary noise.
The people left. And then it was just you and me.

Until one day I saw what you had done.
Tripping
I glanced in the mirror and saw.
You had etched yourself into my face.
Dug with your nails
terrifying ravines
escaping the corners
of my eyes. Pulled down
my mouth and every
shallow natural valley turned to
deep empty bowl, hungry and wanting.
My eyes no longer held light.
I saw this, all evidence against you,
and I still loved you.
You had hurt me in ways you never had
while you were here – here – and I knew.
And I still loved you.

Slinking up the stairs
I called you to me. I felt you surround
faster than before and
closer, tighter, colder.
Suffocating, stifling and
so destructive in how you loved me.

Slowly but faster
I grew to know
I would not become you and
you would not become me.
We were stuck on other sides of the mirror.
I was so angry
at what you had allowed me
made me
begged me to become.
Realizing
I gasped and put
hand to heart
it hurt so.
I stood upright
how long have I been bent
took in one long deep breath of stuffy air
how long since I opened the windows
and called you to me
when have I last heard a voice not my own
called you to listen.

I felt the loss of everything else
friends
family
adventure
excitement.
Nothing was left of that here
and I was so angry
and I am so sorry
and I yelled
      I screamed
      I roared
why are you still here
why are you making me like you
why did you come here and
hold me
and keep me here with you
I am not the one who is dead
and I said
and I regret
and I am so sorry
I can’t have you here
go away
and
leave me alone

and you did.
You left me
all alone.

Why would you leave me?
Sam Irons Nov 2014
#5
The mountain that roared at midnight,
It never heard us.
The mountain that roared, covered up by the oven falling,
smothered by the hard mess of Norway,
and plane tickets, and lonely hearts.
You roared. And I fell asleep knowing
too much
or just enough
to get the sense that the mountains aren't high enough here.

Folly from all, this
was such a sweet summer for lovers,
if only it were so sweet for us.
But the mountain roared.
And this time I couldn't bang the pans loud enough
or shake the slam the door hard enough
or put you into sweat gleaned sleep.
This time you listened.

And from the distance I saw our graves.

All the ***** in Scotland,
the smoke in Netherlands,
the gin and dance of Denmark,
the glacier water in Ålesund,
or the high wire act of our travels,
all that couldn't stop the mountain.

It roared and you listened,
putting me valleys below,
seeking new tops
for just a glimpse of how to drown it out again.
Harriet Cleve Sep 2016
Skinhead Showdown
----------------------------------
Two skinheads rough, hand in hand, were walking down their lane
Rough and gruff, yes very much, and both were swinging chains!
A toothless grin was flashed within the darkened lane  just then
As coming up the other side, two rough old wrinkled hens!

Two old grannies, hand in hand, were walking up that lane
Rough and gruff, yes very much, and both were swinging canes!
Sparks flew then as chain met cane and a massive brawl ensued!
The skinheads knew they'd met their match, that this night would be rued!

You''re both going down! the skinheads roared as violent fists were thrown
But grannies  quick each threw a kick and the skinheads shrieked and moaned
*******! Get out of here! the skinheads roared just then
And a toothless grin flashed within from each old wrinkled hen!

Two skinheads rough, hand in hand, fled back down that lane
Rough and gruff, yes very much, but both were minus chains!
Two old grannies, hand in hand, proudly held that lane
Rough and gruff, yes very much, as each still held their
cane
Both walked off, heads aloft!
Each was swinging a chain!

Old Skinhead
----------------------
His Doc Martens stared back at him from an old tea chest marked East India Company
a wary apprehension settling from the burly skinhead gazing at his past buried amongst
his chain which showed some signs of corrosion even though it was folded in the deep
blue pockets of his denim jacket awaiting the return of an other era lost in the arms of
yesterdays battles in the dingy London backstreets where his blood flowed in rivulets
of anger soaking the concrete with the indifference of violent confrontations in a sacrifice
to his manhood and the enemies of his youth and he inhaled his memories as if they
were a gift from the war gods of ancient times beckoning him to don his armour and
engage in a final battle and he even thought it over as his seventy year old hand lifted
the chain from its resting place and carressed the steel weapon which had slain his enemies
leaving the bodies on the battlefields of his youth and instinctively a guttural cry roared
from his throat ' Gerrup ye *******! ' as he wielded the chain one final time before his
heart packed in leaving him slumped on the old tea chest as silence settled upon the scene
of his final resting place in the shadow of the East India Company

Skinhead Swansong
----------------------------
Cyril laced his Doc Martens
Prescribed for violent altercations
Ox blooded and ****** weapons
Battle scarred and battered
Essential kit for tours of duty
The last of the Skinheads dressed for battle

The intimidating black gum shield
Filled out his gaunted haunted face
Taking pride in his denims
He gripped his chain and took a swing
The old battle cry resonating from his arthrithic throat
'Ger up ye *******!

He worked up a frenzy and beat the crap
Out of his council bedsit
'Taste that steel!  What did ye bleedin' say?
'Are ye lookin' at  me ye toe rag!
He still knew his lines even at eighty one
It was time to  bow out
He needed some one to bow out on
Skinheads are funny like that
Involve other people for the crack

The Teddy boys were juking it up
Fifties nights for the decrepids
Ducks arses groomed and combed
Dry cleaned rockers in dry cleaned crombies
'That'll be the day when I die'
The old vinyl floor filler whippin' up the adrenalin
Defibrillators and oxygen on standby
Cyril burst in then

He took out two Teddys and worked his Docs hard
Hard men are still hard in old age
Once a hardo always a hardo they say
The chain was swinging now
Wrecking the jukebox and escalating the battle
'Come on ye *******! roared Cyril
Five teddies were downed now
Then the beer bottle came crashing down

Cyril staggered as his head burst open
His heart packed in and called it a day
A smile came to his face as he took one final look
His Doc Martens oxblooded and ******
The last of the Skinheads bowed out
His chain by his side
Skinheads are funny like that....
Bouazizi’s heavy eyelids parted as the Muezzin recited the final call for the first Adhan of the day.

“As-salatu Khayrun Minan-nawm”
Prayer is better than sleep

Rising from the torment of another restless night, Bouazizi wiped the sleep from his droopy eyes as his feet touched the cold stone floor.

Throughout the frigid night, the devilish jinn did their work, eagerly jabbing away at Bouazizi with pointed sticks, tormenting his troubled conscience with the worry of his nagging indebtedness. All night the face of the man Bouazizi owed money to haunted him. Bouazizi could see the man’s greasy lips and brown teeth jawing away, inches from his face. He imagined chubby caffeine stained fingers reaching toward him to grab some dinars from Bouazizi’s money box.

Bouazizi turned all night like he was sleeping on a board of spikes. His prayers for a restful night again went unanswered. The pall of a blue fatigue would shadow Bouazizi for most of the day.

Bouazizi’s weariness was compounded by a gnawing hunger. By force of habit, he grudgingly opened the food cupboard with the foreknowledge that it was almost bare. Bouazizi’s premonition proved correct as he surveyed a meager handful of chickpeas, some eggs and a few sparse loaves. It was just enough to feed his dependant family; younger brothers and sisters, cousins and a terminally disabled uncle. That left nothing for Bouazizi but a quick jab to his empty gut. He would start this day without breakfast.

Bouazizi made a living as a street vendor. He hustles to survive. Bouazizi’s father died in a construction accident in Libya when he was three. Since the age of 10, Bouazizi had pushed a cart through the streets of Sidi Bouzid; selling fruit at the public market just a few blocks from the home that he has lived in for almost his entire life.

At 27 years of age, Bouazizi has wrestled the beast of deprivation since his birth. To date, he has bravely fought it to a standstill; but day after day the multi-headed hydra of life has snapped at him. He has squarely met the eyes of the beast with fortitude and resolve; but the sharp fangs of a hardscrabble life has sunken deep into Bouazizi’s spleen. The unjust rules of society are powerful claws that slash away at his flesh, bleeding him dry: while the spiked tendrils of poverty wrap Bouazizi’s neck, seeking to strangle him.

Bouazizi is a workingman hero; a skilled warrior in the fight for daily bread. He is accustomed to living a life of scarcity. His daily deliverance is the grace of another day of labor and the blessed wages of subsistence.

Though Allah has blessed this man with fortitude the acuteness of terminal want and the constant struggle to survive has its limits for any man; even for strong champions like Bouazizi.

This morning as Bouazizi washed he peered into a mirror, closely examining new wrinkles on his stubble strewn face. He fingered his deep black curls dashed with growing streaks of gray. He studied them through the gaze of heavy bloodshot eyes. He looked upward as if to implore Allah to salve the bruises of daily life.

Bouazizi braced himself with the splash of a cold water slap to his face. He wiped his cheeks clean with the tail of his shirt. He dipped his toothbrush into a box of baking powder and scoured an aching back molar in need of a root canal. Bouazizi should see a dentist but it is a luxury he cannot afford so he packed an aspirin on top of the infected tooth. The dissolving aspirin invaded his mouth coating his tongue with a bitter effervescence.

Bouazizi liked the taste and was grateful for the expectation of a dulled pain. He smiled into the mirror to check his chipped front tooth while pinching a cigarette **** from an ashtray. The roach had one hit left in it. He lit it with a long hard drag that consumed a good part of the filter. Bouazizi’s first smoke of the day was more filter then tobacco but it shocked his lungs into the coughing flow of another day.

Bouazizi put on his jacket, slipped into his knockoff NB sneakers and reached for a green apple on a nearby table. He took a big bite and began to chew away the pain of his toothache.

Bouazizi stepped into the street to catch the sun rising over the rooftops. He believed that seeing the sunrise was a good omen that augured well for that day’s business. A sunbeam braking over a far distant wall bathed Bouazizi in a golden light and illumined the alley where he parked his cart holding his remaining stock of week old apples. He lifted the handles and backed his cart out into the street being extra mindful of the cracks in the cobblestone road. Bouazizi sprained his ankle a week ago and it was still tender. Bouazizi had to be careful not to aggravate it with a careless step. Having successfully navigated his cart into the road, Bouazizi made a skillful U Turn and headed up the street limping toward the market.

A winter chill gripped Bouazizi prompting him to zip his jacket up to his neck. The zipper pinched his Adam’s Apple and a few droplets of blood stained his green corduroy jacket. Though it was cold, Bouazizi sensed that spring would arrive early this year triggering a replay of a recurring daydream. Bouazizi imagined himself behind the wheel of a new van on his way to the market. Fresh air and sunshine pouring through the open windows with the cargo space overflowing with fresh vegetables and fruits.

It was a lifelong ambition of Bouazizi to own a van. He dreamed of buying a six cylinder Dodge Caravan. It would be painted red and he would call it The Red Flame. The Red Flame would be fast and powerful and sport chrome spinners. The Red Flame would be filled with music from a Blaupunkt sound system with kick *** speakers. Power windows, air conditioning, leather seats, a moonroof and plenty of space in the back for his produce would complete Bouazizi’s ride.

The Red Flame would be the vehicle Bouazizi required to expand his business beyond the market square. Bouazizi would sell his produce out of the back of the van, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood. No longer would he have to wait for customers to come to his stand in the market. Bouazizi would go to his customers. Bouazizi and the Red Flame would be known in all the neighborhoods throughout the district. Bouazizi shook his head and smiled thinking about all the girls who would like to take rides in the Red Flame. Bouazizi and his Red Flame would be a sight to be noticed and a force to be reckoned with.

“EEEEEYOWWW” a Mercedes horn angrily honked; jarring Bouazizi from the reverie of his daydream. A guy whipping around the corner like a silver streak stuck his head out the window blasting with music yelling, “Hey Mnayek, watch where you push that *******.”

The music faded as the Mercedes roared away. “Barra nikk okhtek” Bouazizi yelled, raising his ******* in the direction of the vanished car. “The big guys in the fancy cars think the road belongs to them”, Bouazizi mumbled to himself.

The insult ****** Bouazizi off, but he was accustomed to them and as he limped along pushing his cart he distracted himself with the amusement of the ascending sun chasing the fleeting shadows of the night, sending them scurrying down narrow alleyways.

Bouazizi imaged himself a character from his favorite movie. He was a giant Transformer, chasing the black shadows of evil away from the city into the desert. After battling evil and conquering the bad guys, he would transform himself back into the regular Bouazizi; selling his produce to the people as he patrolled the highways of Tunisia in the Red Flame, the music blasting out the windows, the chrome spinners flashing in the sunlight. Bouazizi would remain vigilant, always ready to transform the Red Flame to fight the evil doers.

The bumps and potholes in the road jostled Bouazizi’s load of apples. A few fell out of the wooden baskets and were rolling around in the open spaces of the cart. Bouazizi didn’t want to risk bruising them. Damaged merchandise can’t be sold so he was careful to secure his goods and arrange his cart to appeal to women customers. He made sure to display his prized electronic scale in the corner of the cart for all to see.

Bouazizi had a reputation as a fair and generous dealer who always gave good value to his customers. Bouazizi was also known for his kindness. He would give apples to hungry children and families who could not pay. Bouazizi knew the pain of hunger and it brought him great satisfaction to be able to alleviate it in others.

As a man who valued fairness, Bouazizi was particularly proud of his electronic scale. Bouazizi was certain the new measuring device assured all customers that Bouazizi sold just and correct portions. The electronic scale was Bouazizi’s shining lamp. He trusted it. He hung it from the corner post of his cart like it was the beacon of a lighthouse guiding shoppers through the treachery of an unscrupulous market. It would attract all customers who valued fairness to the safe harbor of Bouazizi’s cart.

The electronic scale is Bouazizi’s assurance to his customers that the weights and measures of electronic calculation layed beyond any cloud of doubt. It is a fair, impartial and objective arbiter for any dispute.

Bouazizi believed that the fairness of his scale would distinguish his stand from other produce vendors. Though its purchase put Bouazizi into deep debt, the scale was a source of pride for Bouazizi who believed that it would help his profits to increase and help him to achieve his goal of buying the Red Flame.

As Bouazizi pushed his cart toward the market, he mulled his plan over in his mind for the millionth time. He wasn't great in math but he was able to calculate his financial situation with a degree of precision. His estimations triggered worries that his growing debt to money lenders may be difficult to payoff.

Indebtedness pressed down on Bouazizi’s chest like a mounting pile of stones. It was the source of an ever present fear coercing Bouazizi to live in a constant state of anxiety. His business needed to grow for Bouazizi to get a measure of relief and ultimately prosper from all his hard work. Bouazizi was driven by urgency.

The morning roil of the street was coming alive. Bouazizi quickened his step to secure a good location for his cart at the market. Car horns, the spewing diesel from clunking trucks, the flatulent roar of accelerating buses mixed with the laughs and shrieks of children heading to school composed the rising crescendo of the city square.

As he pushed through the market, Bouazizi inhaled the aromatic eddies of roasting coffee floating on the air. It was a pleasantry Bouazizi looked forward to each morning. The delicious wafts of coffee mingling with the crisp aroma of baking bread instigated a growl from Bouazizi’s empty stomach. He needed to get something to eat. After he got money from his first sale he would by a coffee and some fried dough.

Activity in the market was vigorous, punctuated by the usual arguments of petty territorial disputes between vendors. The disagreements were always amicably resolved, burned away in rising billows of roasting meats and vegetables, the exchange of cigarettes and the plumes of tobacco smoke rising as emanations of peace.

Bouazizi skillfully maneuvered his cart through the market commotion. He slid into his usual space between Aaban and Aameen. His good friend Aaban sold candles, incense, oils and sometimes his wife would make cakes to sell. Aameen was the markets most notorious jokester. He sold hardware and just about anything else he could get his hands on.

Aaban was already burning a few sticks of jasmine incense. It helped to attract customers. The aroma defined the immediate space with the pleasant bouquet of a spring garden. Bouazizi liked the smell and appreciated the increased traffic it brought to his apple cart.

“Hey Basboosa#, do you have any cigarettes?“, Aameen asked as he pulled out a lighter. Bouazizi shook the tip of a Kent from an almost empty pack. Aameen grabbed the cigarette with his lips.

“That's three cartons of Kents you owe me, you cheap *******.” Bouazizi answered half jokingly. Aameen mumbled a laugh through a grin tightly gripping the **** as he exhaled smoke from his nose like a fire breathing dragon. Bouazizi also took out a cigarette for himself.

“Aameem, give me a light”, Bouazizi asked.

Aameen tossed him the lighter.

“Keep it Basboosa. I got others.” Aameen smiled as he showed off a newly opened box of disposable lighters to sell on his stand.

“Made in China, Basboosa. They make everything cheap and colorful. I can make some money with these.”

Bouazizi lit his next to last cigarette. He inhaled deeply. The smoke chased away the cool air in Bouazizi’s lungs with a shot of a hot nicotine rush.

“Merci Aameen” Bouazizi answered. He put the lighter into the almost empty cigarette pack and put it into his hip pocket. The lighter would protect his last cigarette from being crushed.

The laughter and shouts of the bazaar, the harangue of radio voices shouting anxious verses of Imam’s exhorting the masses to submit and the piecing ramble of nondescript AM music flinging piercing unintelligible static surrounded Bouazizi and his cart as he waited for his first customers of the day.

Bouazizi sensed a nervous commotion rise along the line of vendors. A crowd of tourists and locals milling about parted as if to avoid a slithering asp making its way through their midst. The hoots of vendors and the cackle of the crowd made its way to Bouazizi’s knowing ear. He knew what was coming. It was nothing more then another shakedown by city officials acting as bagmen for petty municipal bureaucrats. They claim to be checking vendor licences but they’re just making the rounds collecting protection money from the vendors. Pocketing bribes and payoffs is the municipal authorities idea of good government. They are skilled at using the power of their office to extort tribute from the working poor.

Bouazizi made the mistake of making eye contact with Madame Hamdi. As the municipal authority in charge of vendors and taxis Madame Hamdi held sway over the lives of the street vendors. She relished the power she had over the men who make a meager living selling goods in the square; and this morning she was moving through the market like a bloodhound hot on the trail of an escaped convict. Two burly henchmen lead the way before her. Bouazizi knew Madame Hamdi’s hounds were coming for him.

Bouazizi knew he was ******. Having just made a payment to his money lender, Bouazizi had no extra dinars to grease the palm of Madame Hamdi. He grabbed the handle bars of his cart to make an escape; but Madame Hamdi cut him off and got right into into Bouazizi’s face.

“Ah little Basboosa where are you going? she asked with the tone of playful contempt.

“I suppose you still have no license to sell, ah Basboosa?” Madame Hamdi questioned with the air of a soulless inquisitor.

“You know Madame Hamdi, cart vendors do not need a license.” Bouazizi feebly protested, not daring to look into her eyes.

“Basboosa, you know we can overlook your violations with a small fine for your laxity” a dismissive Madame Hamdi offered.

Bouazizi’s sense of guilt would not permit him to lift his eyes. His head remained bowed. Bouazizi stood convicted of being one of the impoverished.

“I have no spare dinars to offer Madame Hamdi, My pockets are empty, full of holes. My money falls into everyone’s palm but my own. I’m sorry Madame Hamdi. I’ll take my cart home”. He lifted the handlebars in an attempt to escape. One of Madame Hamdi’s henchmen stepped in front of his cart while the other pushed Bouazizi away from it.

“Either you pay me a vendor tax for a license or I will confiscate your goods Basboosa”, Madame Hamdi warned as she lifted Bouazizi’s scale off its hook.

“This will be the first to go”, she said grinning as she examined the scale. “We’ll just keep this.”
Like a mother lion protecting a defenseless cub from the snapping jaws of a pack of ravenous hyenas, Bouazizi lunged to retrieve his prized scale from the clutches of Madame Hamdi. Reaching for it, he touched the scale with his fingertips just as Madame Hamdi delivered a vicious slap to Bouazizi’s cheek. It halted him like a thunderbolt from Zeus.

A henchman overturned Bouazizi’s cart, scatter
Three years ago today Muhammad Bouazizi set himself on fire igniting the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia sparking the Arab Spring Uprisings of 2011.
1
We, whose lungs fill with the sweetness of day.
Who in May admire trees flowering
Are better than those who perished.

We, who taste of exotic dishes,
And enjoy fully the delights of love,
Are better than those who were buried.

We, from the fiery furnaces, from behind barbed wires
On which the winds of endless autumns howled,
We, who remember battles where the wounded air roared in
paroxysms of pain.
We, saved by our own cunning and knowledge.

By sending others to the more exposed positions
Urging them loudly to fight on
Ourselves withdrawing in certainty of the cause lost.

Having the choice of our own death and that of a friend
We chose his, coldly thinking: Let it be done quickly.

We sealed gas chamber doors, stole bread
Knowing the next day would be harder to bear than the day before.

As befits human beings, we explored good and evil.
Our malignant wisdom has no like on this planet.

Accept it as proven that we are better than they,
The gullible, hot-blooded weaklings, careless with their lives.

2
Treasure your legacy of skills, child of Europe.
Inheritor of Gothic cathedrals, of baroque churches.
Of synagogues filled with the wailing of a wronged people.
Successor of Descartes, Spinoza, inheritor of the word 'honor',
Posthumous child of Leonidas
Treasure the skills acquired in the hour of terror.

You have a clever mind which sees instantly
The good and bad of any situation.
You have an elegant, skeptical mind which enjoys pleasures
Quite unknown to primitive races.

Guided by this mind you cannot fail to see
The soundness of the advice we give you:
Let the sweetness of day fill your lungs
For this we have strict but wise rules.

3
There can be no question of force triumphant
We live in the age of victorious justice.

Do not mention force, or you will be accused
Of upholding fallen doctrines in secret.

He who has power, has it by historical logic.
Respectfully bow to that logic.

Let your lips, proposing a hypothesis
Not know about the hand faking the experiment.

Let your hand, faking the experiment
No know about the lips proposing a hypothesis.

Learn to predict a fire with unerring precision
Then burn the house down to fulfill the prediction.

4
Grow your tree of falsehood from a single grain of truth.
Do not follow those who lie in contempt of reality.

Let your lie be even more logical than the truth itself
So the weary travelers may find repose in the lie.

After the Day of the Lie gather in select circles
Shaking with laughter when our real deeds are mentioned.

Dispensing flattery called: perspicacious thinking.
Dispensing flattery called: a great talent.

We, the last who can still draw joy from cynicism.
We, whose cunning is not unlike despair.

A new, humorless generation is now arising
It takes in deadly earnest all we received with laughter.

5
Let your words speak not through their meanings
But through them against whom they are used.

Fashion your weapon from ambiguous words.
Consign clear words to lexical limbo.

Judge no words before the clerks have checked
In their card index by whom they were spoken.

The voice of passion is better than the voice of reason.
The passionless cannot change history.

6
Love no country: countries soon disappear
Love no city: cities are soon rubble.

Throw away keepsakes, or from your desk
A choking, poisonous fume will exude.

Do not love people: people soon perish.
Or they are wronged and call for your help.

Do not gaze into the pools of the past.
Their corroded surface will mirror
A face different from the one you expected.

7
He who invokes history is always secure.
The dead will not rise to witness against him.

You can accuse them of any deeds you like.
Their reply will always be silence.

Their empty faces swim out of the deep dark.
You can fill them with any feature desired.

Proud of dominion over people long vanished,
Change the past into your own, better likeness.

8
The laughter born of the love of truth
Is now the laughter of the enemies of the people.

Gone is the age of satire. We no longer need mock.
The sensible monarch with false courtly phrases.

Stern as befits the servants of a cause,
We will permit ourselves sycophantic humor.

Tight-lipped, guided by reasons only
Cautiously let us step into the era of the unchained fire.
Thus did they make their moan throughout the city, while the
Achaeans when they reached the Hellespont went back every man to his
own ship. But Achilles would not let the Myrmidons go, and spoke to
his brave comrades saying, “Myrmidons, famed horsemen and my own
trusted friends, not yet, forsooth, let us unyoke, but with horse
and chariot draw near to the body and mourn Patroclus, in due honour
to the dead. When we have had full comfort of lamentation we will
unyoke our horses and take supper all of us here.”
  On this they all joined in a cry of wailing and Achilles led them in
their lament. Thrice did they drive their chariots all sorrowing round
the body, and Thetis stirred within them a still deeper yearning.
The sands of the seashore and the men’s armour were wet with their
weeping, so great a minister of fear was he whom they had lost.
Chief in all their mourning was the son of Peleus: he laid his
bloodstained hand on the breast of his friend. “Fare well,” he
cried, “Patroclus, even in the house of Hades. I will now do all
that I erewhile promised you; I will drag Hector hither and let dogs
devour him raw; twelve noble sons of Trojans will I also slay before
your pyre to avenge you.”
  As he spoke he treated the body of noble Hector with contumely,
laying it at full length in the dust beside the bier of Patroclus. The
others then put off every man his armour, took the horses from their
chariots, and seated themselves in great multitude by the ship of
the fleet descendant of Aeacus, who thereon feasted them with an
abundant funeral banquet. Many a goodly ox, with many a sheep and
bleating goat did they butcher and cut up; many a tusked boar
moreover, fat and well-fed, did they singe and set to roast in the
flames of Vulcan; and rivulets of blood flowed all round the place
where the body was lying.
  Then the princes of the Achaeans took the son of Peleus to
Agamemnon, but hardly could they persuade him to come with them, so
wroth was he for the death of his comrade. As soon as they reached
Agamemnon’s tent they told the serving-men to set a large tripod
over the fire in case they might persuade the son of Peleus ‘to wash
the clotted gore from this body, but he denied them sternly, and swore
it with a solemn oath, saying, “Nay, by King Jove, first and mightiest
of all gods, it is not meet that water should touch my body, till I
have laid Patroclus on the flames, have built him a barrow, and shaved
my head—for so long as I live no such second sorrow shall ever draw
nigh me. Now, therefore, let us do all that this sad festival demands,
but at break of day, King Agamemnon, bid your men bring wood, and
provide all else that the dead may duly take into the realm of
darkness; the fire shall thus burn him out of our sight the sooner,
and the people shall turn again to their own labours.”
  Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. They made haste
to prepare the meal, they ate, and every man had his full share so
that all were satisfied. As soon as they had had had enough to eat and
drink, the others went to their rest each in his own tent, but the son
of Peleus lay grieving among his Myrmidons by the shore of the
sounding sea, in an open place where the waves came surging in one
after another. Here a very deep slumber took hold upon him and eased
the burden of his sorrows, for his limbs were weary with chasing
Hector round windy Ilius. Presently the sad spirit of Patroclus drew
near him, like what he had been in stature, voice, and the light of
his beaming eyes, clad, too, as he had been clad in life. The spirit
hovered over his head and said-
  “You sleep, Achilles, and have forgotten me; you loved me living,
but now that I am dead you think for me no further. Bury me with all
speed that I may pass the gates of Hades; the ghosts, vain shadows
of men that can labour no more, drive me away from them; they will not
yet suffer me to join those that are beyond the river, and I wander
all desolate by the wide gates of the house of Hades. Give me now your
hand I pray you, for when you have once given me my dues of fire,
never shall I again come forth out of the house of Hades. Nevermore
shall we sit apart and take sweet counsel among the living; the
cruel fate which was my birth-right has yawned its wide jaws around
me—nay, you too Achilles, peer of gods, are doomed to die beneath the
wall of the noble Trojans.
  “One prayer more will I make you, if you will grant it; let not my
bones be laid apart from yours, Achilles, but with them; even as we
were brought up together in your own home, what time Menoetius brought
me to you as a child from Opoeis because by a sad spite I had killed
the son of Amphidamas—not of set purpose, but in childish quarrel
over the dice. The knight Peleus took me into his house, entreated
me kindly, and named me to be your squire; therefore let our bones lie
in but a single urn, the two-handled golden vase given to you by
your mother.”
  And Achilles answered, “Why, true heart, are you come hither to
lay these charges upon me? will of my own self do all as you have
bidden me. Draw closer to me, let us once more throw our arms around
one another, and find sad comfort in the sharing of our sorrows.”
  He opened his arms towards him as he spoke and would have clasped
him in them, but there was nothing, and the spirit vanished as a
vapour, gibbering and whining into the earth. Achilles sprang to his
feet, smote his two hands, and made lamentation saying, “Of a truth
even in the house of Hades there are ghosts and phantoms that have
no life in them; all night long the sad spirit of Patroclus has
hovered over head making piteous moan, telling me what I am to do
for him, and looking wondrously like himself.”
  Thus did he speak and his words set them all weeping and mourning
about the poor dumb dead, till rosy-fingered morn appeared. Then
King Agamemnon sent men and mules from all parts of the camp, to bring
wood, and Meriones, squire to Idomeneus, was in charge over them. They
went out with woodmen’s axes and strong ropes in their hands, and
before them went the mules. Up hill and down dale did they go, by
straight ways and crooked, and when they reached the heights of
many-fountained Ida, they laid their axes to the roots of many a
tall branching oak that came thundering down as they felled it. They
split the trees and bound them behind the mules, which then wended
their way as they best could through the thick brushwood on to the
plain. All who had been cutting wood bore logs, for so Meriones squire
to Idomeneus had bidden them, and they threw them down in a line
upon the seashore at the place where Achilles would make a mighty
monument for Patroclus and for himself.
  When they had thrown down their great logs of wood over the whole
ground, they stayed all of them where they were, but Achilles
ordered his brave Myrmidons to gird on their armour, and to yoke
each man his horses; they therefore rose, girded on their armour and
mounted each his chariot—they and their charioteers with them. The
chariots went before, and they that were on foot followed as a cloud
in their tens of thousands after. In the midst of them his comrades
bore Patroclus and covered him with the locks of their hair which they
cut off and threw upon his body. Last came Achilles with his head
bowed for sorrow, so noble a comrade was he taking to the house of
Hades.
  When they came to the place of which Achilles had told them they
laid the body down and built up the wood. Achilles then bethought
him of another matter. He went a space away from the pyre, and cut off
the yellow lock which he had let grow for the river Spercheius. He
looked all sorrowfully out upon the dark sea, and said, “Spercheius,
in vain did my father Peleus vow to you that when I returned home to
my loved native land I should cut off this lock and offer you a holy
hecatomb; fifty she-goats was I to sacrifice to you there at your
springs, where is your grove and your altar fragrant with
burnt-offerings. Thus did my father vow, but you have not fulfilled
his prayer; now, therefore, that I shall see my home no more, I give
this lock as a keepsake to the hero Patroclus.”
  As he spoke he placed the lock in the hands of his dear comrade, and
all who stood by were filled with yearning and lamentation. The sun
would have gone down upon their mourning had not Achilles presently
said to Agamemnon, “Son of Atreus, for it is to you that the people
will give ear, there is a time to mourn and a time to cease from
mourning; bid the people now leave the pyre and set about getting
their dinners: we, to whom the dead is dearest, will see to what is
wanted here, and let the other princes also stay by me.”
  When King Agamemnon heard this he dismissed the people to their
ships, but those who were about the dead heaped up wood and built a
pyre a hundred feet this way and that; then they laid the dead all
sorrowfully upon the top of it. They flayed and dressed many fat sheep
and oxen before the pyre, and Achilles took fat from all of them and
wrapped the body therein from head to foot, heaping the flayed
carcases all round it. Against the bier he leaned two-handled jars
of honey and unguents; four proud horses did he then cast upon the
pyre, groaning the while he did so. The dead hero had had
house-dogs; two of them did Achilles slay and threw upon the pyre;
he also put twelve brave sons of noble Trojans to the sword and laid
them with the rest, for he was full of bitterness and fury. Then he
committed all to the resistless and devouring might of the fire; he
groaned aloud and callid on his dead comrade by name. “Fare well,”
he cried, “Patroclus, even in the house of Hades; I am now doing all
that I have promised you. Twelve brave sons of noble Trojans shall the
flames consume along with yourself, but dogs, not fire, shall devour
the flesh of Hector son of Priam.”
  Thus did he vaunt, but the dogs came not about the body of Hector,
for Jove’s daughter Venus kept them off him night and day, and
anointed him with ambrosial oil of roses that his flesh might not be
torn when Achilles was dragging him about. Phoebus Apollo moreover
sent a dark cloud from heaven to earth, which gave shade to the
whole place where Hector lay, that the heat of the sun might not parch
his body.
  Now the pyre about dead Patroclus would not kindle. Achilles
therefore bethought him of another matter; he went apart and prayed to
the two winds Boreas and Zephyrus vowing them goodly offerings. He
made them many drink-offerings from the golden cup and besought them
to come and help him that the wood might make haste to kindle and
the dead bodies be consumed. Fleet Iris heard him praying and
started off to fetch the winds. They were holding high feast in the
house of boisterous Zephyrus when Iris came running up to the stone
threshold of the house and stood there, but as soon as they set eyes
on her they all came towards her and each of them called her to him,
but Iris would not sit down. “I cannot stay,” she said, “I must go
back to the streams of Oceanus and the land of the Ethiopians who
are offering hecatombs to the immortals, and I would have my share;
but Achilles prays that Boreas and shrill Zephyrus will come to him,
and he vows them goodly offerings; he would have you blow upon the
pyre of Patroclus for whom all the Achaeans are lamenting.”
  With this she left them, and the two winds rose with a cry that rent
the air and swept the clouds before them. They blew on and on until
they came to the sea, and the waves rose high beneath them, but when
they reached Troy they fell upon the pyre till the mighty flames
roared under the blast that they blew. All night long did they blow
hard and beat upon the fire, and all night long did Achilles grasp his
double cup, drawing wine from a mixing-bowl of gold, and calling
upon the spirit of dead Patroclus as he poured it upon the ground
until the earth was drenched. As a father mourns when he is burning
the bones of his bridegroom son whose death has wrung the hearts of
his parents, even so did Achilles mourn while burning the body of
his comrade, pacing round the bier with piteous groaning and
lamentation.
  At length as the Morning Star was beginning to herald the light
which saffron-mantled Dawn was soon to suffuse over the sea, the
flames fell and the fire began to die. The winds then went home beyond
the Thracian sea, which roared and boiled as they swept over it. The
son of Peleus now turned away from the pyre and lay down, overcome
with toil, till he fell into a sweet slumber. Presently they who
were about the son of Atreus drew near in a body, and roused him
with the noise and ***** of their coming. He sat upright and said,
“Son of Atreus, and all other princes of the Achaeans, first pour
red wine everywhere upon the fire and quench it; let us then gather
the bones of Patroclus son of Menoetius, singling them out with
care; they are easily found, for they lie in the middle of the pyre,
while all else, both men and horses, has been thrown in a heap and
burned at the outer edge. We will lay the bones in a golden urn, in
two layers of fat, against the time when I shall myself go down into
the house of Hades. As for the barrow, labour not to raise a great one
now, but such as is reasonable. Afterwards, let those Achaeans who may
be left at the ships when I am gone, build it both broad and high.”
  Thus he spoke and they obeyed the word of the son of Peleus. First
they poured red wine upon the thick layer of ashes and quenched the
fire. With many tears they singled out the whitened bones of their
loved comrade and laid them within a golden urn in two layers of
fat: they then covered the urn with a linen cloth and took it inside
the tent. They marked off the circle where the barrow should be,
made a foundation for it about the pyre, and forthwith heaped up the
earth. When they had thus raised a mound they were going away, but
Achilles stayed the people and made them sit in assembly. He brought
prizes from the ships-cauldrons, tripods, horses and mules, noble
oxen, women with fair girdles, and swart iron.
  The first prize he offered was for the chariot races—a woman
skilled in all useful arts, and a three-legged cauldron that had
ears for handles, and would hold twenty-two measures. This was for the
man who came in first. For the second there was a six-year old mare,
unbroken, and in foal to a he-***; the third was to have a goodly
cauldron that had never yet been on the fire; it was still bright as
when it left the maker, and would hold four measures. The fourth prize
was two talents of gold, and the fifth a two-handled urn as yet
unsoiled by smoke. Then he stood up and spoke among the Argives
saying-
  “Son of Atreus, and all other Achaeans, these are the prizes that
lie waiting the winners of the chariot races. At any other time I
should carry off the first prize and take it to my own tent; you
know how far my steeds excel all others—for they are immortal;
Neptune gave them to my father Peleus, who in his turn gave them to
myself; but I shall hold aloof, I and my steeds that have lost their
brave and kind driver, who many a time has washed them in clear
water and anointed their manes with oil. See how they stand weeping
here, with their manes trailing on the ground in the extremity of
their sorrow. But do you others set yourselves in order throughout the
host, whosoever has confidence in his horses and in the strength of
his chariot.”
  Thus spoke the son of Peleus and the drivers of chariots bestirred
themselves. First among them all uprose Eumelus, king of men, son of
Admetus, a man excellent in horsemanship. Next to him rose mighty
Diomed son of Tydeus; he yoked the Trojan horses which he had taken
from Aeneas, when Apollo bore him out of the fight. Next to him,
yellow-haired Menelaus son of Atreus rose and yoked his fleet
horses, Agamemnon’s mare Aethe, and his own horse Podargus. The mare
had been given to Agamemnon by echepolus son of Anchises, that he
might not have to follow him to Ilius, but might stay at home and take
his ease; for Jove had endowed him with great wealth and he lived in
spacious
Nigel Morgan Nov 2012
There’s a film by John Schlesinger called the Go-Between in which the main character, a boy on the cusp of adolescence staying with a school friend on his family’s Norfolk estate, discovers how passion and *** become intertwined with love and desire. As an elderly man he revisits the location of this discovery and the woman, who we learn changed his emotional world forever. At the start of the film we see him on a day of grey cloud and wild wind walking towards the estate cottage where this woman now lives. He glimpses her face at a window – and the film flashes back fifty years to a summer before the First War.
 
It’s a little like that for me. Only, I’m sitting at a desk early on a spring morning about to step back nearly forty years.*
 
It was a two-hour trip from Boston to Booth Bay. We’d flown from New York on the shuttle and met Larry’s dad at St Vincent’s. We waited in his office as he put away the week with his secretary. He’d been in theatre all afternoon. He kept up a two-sided conversation.
 
‘You boys have a good week? Did you get to hear Barenboim at the Tully? I heard him as 14-year old play in Paris. He played the Tempest -  Mary, let’s fit Mrs K in for Tuesday at 5.0 - I was learning that very Beethoven sonata right then. I couldn’t believe it - that one so young could sound –there’s that myocardial infarction to review early Wednesday. I want Jim and Susan there please -  and look so  . . . old, not just mature, but old. And now – Gloria and I went to his last Carnegie – he just looks so **** young.’
 
Down in the basement garage Larry took his dad’s keys and we roared out on to Storow drive heading for the Massachusetts Turnpike. I slept. Too many early mornings copying my teacher’s latest – a concerto for two pianos – all those notes to be placed under the fingers. There was even a third piano in the orchestra. Larry and his Dad talked incessantly. I woke as Dr Benson said ‘The sea at last’. And there we were, the sea a glazed blue shimmering in the July distance. It might be lobster on the beach tonight, Gloria’s clam chowder, the coldest apple juice I’d ever tasted (never tasted apple juice until I came to Maine), settling down to a pile of art books in my bedroom, listening to the bell buoy rocking too and fro in the bay, the beach just below the house, a house over 150 years old, very old they said, in the family all that time.
 
It was a house full that weekend,  4th of July weekend and there would be fireworks over Booth Bay and lots of what Gloria called necessary visiting. I was in love with Gloria from the moment she shook my hand after that first concert when my little cummings setting got a mention in the NYT. It was called forever is now and God knows where it is – scored for tenor and small ensemble (there was certainly a vibraphone and a double bass – I was in love from afar with a bassist at J.). Oh, this being in love at seventeen. It was so difficult not to be. No English reserve here. People talked to you, were interested in you and what you thought, had heard, had read. You only had to say you’d been looking at a book of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings and you’d be whisked off to some uptown gallery to see his early watercolours. And on the way you’d hear a life story or some intimate details of friend’s affair, or a great slice of family history. Lots of eye contact. Just keep the talk going. But Gloria, well, we would meet in the hallway and she’d grasp my hand and say – ‘You know, Larry says that you work too hard. I want you to do nothing this weekend except get some sun and swim. We can go to Johnson’s for tennis you know. I haven’t forgotten you beat me last time we played!’ I suppose she was mid-thirties, a shirt, shorts and sandals woman, not Larry’s mother but Dr Benson’s third. This was all very new to me.
 
Tim was Larry’s elder brother, an intern at Felix-Med in NYC. He had a new girl with him that weekend. Anne-Marie was tall, bespectacled, and supposed to be ferociously clever. Gloria said ‘She models herself on Susan Sontag’. I remember asking who Sontag was and was told she was a feminist writer into politics. I wondered if Anne-Marie was a feminist into politics. She certainly did not dress like anyone else I’d seen as part of the Benson circle. It was July yet she wore a long-sleeved shift buttoned up to the collar and a long linen skirt down to her ankles. She was pretty but shapeless, a long straight person with long straight hair, a clip on one side she fiddled with endlessly, purposefully sometimes. She ignored me but for an introductory ‘Good evening’, when everyone else said ‘Hi’.
 
The next day it was hot. I was about the house very early. The apple juice in the refrigerator came into its own at 6.0 am. The bay was in mist. It was so still the bell buoy stirred only occasionally. I sat on the step with this icy glass of fragrant apple watching the pearls of condensation form and dissolve. I walked the shore, discovering years later that Rachel Carson had walked these paths, combed these beaches. I remember being shocked then at the concern about the environment surfacing in the late sixties. This was a huge country: so much space. The Maine woods – when I first drove up to Quebec – seemed to go on forever.
 
It was later in the day, after tennis, after trying to lie on the beach, I sought my room and took out my latest score, or what little of it there currently was. It was a piano piece, a still piece, the kind of piece I haven’t written in years, but possibly should. Now it’s all movement and complication. Then, I used to write exactly what I heard, and I’d heard Feldman’s ‘still pieces’ in his Greenwich loft with the white Rauschenbergs on the wall. I had admired his writing desk and thought one day I’ll have a desk like that in an apartment like this with very large empty paintings on the wall. But, I went elsewhere . . .
 
I lay on the bed and listened to the buoy out in the bay. I thought of a book of my childhood, We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome. There’s a drawing of a Beach End Buoy in that book, and as the buoy I was listening to was too far out to see (sea?) I imagined it as the one Ransome drew from Lowestoft harbour. I dozed I suppose, to be woken suddenly by voices in the room next door. It was Tim and Anne-Marie. I had thought the house empty but for me. They were in Tim’s room next door. There was movement, whispering, almost speech, more movement.
 
I was curious suddenly. Anne-Marie was an enigma. Tim was a nice guy. Quiet, dedicated (Larry had said), worked hard, read a lot, came to Larry’s concerts, played the cello when he could, Bach was always on his record player. He and Anne-Marie seemed so close, just a wooden wall away. I stood by this wall to listen.
 
‘Why are we whispering’, said Anne-Marie firmly, ‘For goodness sake no one’s here. Look, you’re a doctor, you know what to do surely.’
 
‘Not yet.’
 
‘But people call you Doctor, I’ve heard them.’
 
‘Oh sure. But I’m not, I’m just a lousy intern.’
 
‘A lousy intern who doesn’t want to make love to me.’
 
Then, there was rustling, some heavy movement and Tim saying ‘Oh Anne, you mustn’t. You don’t need to do this.’
 
‘Yes I do. You’re hard and I’m wet between my legs. I want you all over me and inside me.  I wanted you last night so badly I lay on my bed quite naked and masturbated hoping you come to me. But you didn’t. I looked in on you and you were just fast asleep.’
 
‘You forget I did a 22-hour call on Thursday’.
 
“And the rest. Don’t you want me? Maybe your brother or that nice English boy next door?’
 
‘Is he next door? ‘
 
‘If he is, I don’t care. He looks at me you know. He can’t work me out. I’ve been ignoring him. But maybe I shouldn’t. He’s got beautiful eyes and lovely hands’.
 
There was almost silence for what seemed a long time. I could hear my own breathing and became very aware of my own body. I was shaking and suddenly cold. I could hear more breathing next door. There was a shaft of intense white sunlight burning across my bed. I imagined Anne-Marie sitting cross-legged on the floor next door, her hand cupping her right breast fingers touching the ******, waiting. There was a rustle of movement. And the door next door slammed.
 
Thirty seconds later Tim was striding across the garden and on to the beach and into the sea . . .
 
There was probably a naked young woman sitting on the floor next door I thought. Reading perhaps. I stayed quite still imagining she would get up, open her door and peek into my room. So I moved away from the wall and sat on the bed trying hard to look like a composer working on a score. And she did . . . but she had clothes on, though not her glasses or her hair clip, and she wore a bright smile – lovely teeth I recall.
 
‘Good afternoon’, she said. ‘You heard all that I suppose.’
 
I smiled my nicest English smile and said nothing.
 
‘Tell me about your girlfriend in England.’
 
She sat on the bed, cross-legged. I was suddenly overcome by her scent, something complex and earthy.
 
‘My girlfriend in England is called Anne’.
 
‘Really! Is she pretty? ‘
 
I didn’t answer, but looked at my hands, and her feet, her uncovered calves and knees. I could see the shape of her slight ******* beneath her shirt, now partly unbuttoned. I felt very uncomfortable.
 
‘Tell me. Have you been with this Anne in England?’
 
‘No.’ I said, ‘I ‘d like to, but she’s very shy.’
 
‘OK. I’m an Anne who’s not shy.’
 
‘I’ve yet to meet a shy American.’
 
‘They exist. I could find you a nice shy girl you could get to know.’
 
‘I’d quite like to know you, but you’re a good bit older than me.’
 
‘Oh that doesn’t matter. You’re quite a mature guy I think. I’d go out with you.’
 
‘Oh I doubt that.’
 
‘Would you go out with me?’
 
‘You’re interesting.  Gloria says you’re a bit like Susan Sontag. Yes, I would.’
 
‘Wow! did she really? Ok then, that’s a deal. You better read some Simone de Beauvoir pretty quick,’  and she bounced off the bed.
 
After supper  - lobster on the beach - Gloria cornered me and said. ‘I gather you heard all this afternoon.’
 
I remembered mumbling a ‘yes’.
 
‘It’s OK,’ she said, ‘Anne-Marie told me all. Girls do this you know – talk about what goes on in other people’s bedrooms. What could you do? I would have done the same. Tim’s not ready for an Anne-Marie just yet, and I’m not sure you are either. Not my business of course, but gentle advice from one who’s been there. ‘
 
‘Been where?’
 
‘Been with someone older and supposedly wiser. And remembering that wondering-what-to-do-about-those-feelings-around-*** and all that. There’s a right time and you’ll know it when it comes. ‘
 
She kissed me very lightly on my right ear, then got up and walked across the beach back to the house.
Sachin Subedi May 2018
A man is like a flower
Starts with a bud
Blossoms into its nature
Natural ecstasy and perfection
In time it wears out too
Finally falls off the tree
A natural process
A natural phenomenon
Naturally the man
See as a flower
All the nature of being
To the base is the same

The intelligence the man puts into saying
That he is only the creature of importance
And everything in the world are the resource
Resource to be consumed by himself
Is the false flag he is raising
And is in the denial of the very nature

Anything which is resonant
And synchronous to the nature
Has the time in nature to the eternity
Whereas if not
In accordance to the nature
Sooner or later
On the verse of decay
On the verse of extinction

I see the human race is in the path of extinction
As civilization denying nature rather than glorifying
Human beings are far from the true essence
And are not synchronizing in the heart
Of the very nature
The so called intelligence
is what humans praise and glorifying
A lot full of ****
And it is a shame

We see the population of human species
To rise and rise
So may presume the statement
I just stated to be false
But seeing the thought processes
And so called intelligence
Is setting the human species
To a sense of decay
The step to the human race to demolish its own race
Is a unjustified intelligence in itself

The truth and laws of nature
Being in shade
Humans incorporating thoughts
As a tool of destruction
Rather than construction
In the field of criticism rather than motivation
In the field of extinction rather than sustainability
In the field of destruction rather than collaboration
And effort in maintaining the continuity
Of equilibrium and resonance with the nature

On the contrary
Making critics and complain about the others
Not realizing all are the part of the whole
Is creating a challenge to the nature
Going off beat with the nature.

We shall know
Anything not synchronous
And not resonant to the nature
Nature wipes out sooner or later
We cannot accept the very fact it is true

Even seeing our own life
As a child
The bud to the flower
The youth
The perfection in being and entire existence
The new ideas and new world
The fruit of generation brings about
The generation to come
To fertilize the seeds of the existence
The old age
To be renewed thoughts
Nature wipes out as per the plan
of its own
Accept it as a reality
As it is the truth

The sharpness of flower
Remembered as the youthfulness of flower
The bud is treated emotionally
With care as it is to be the perfection
In the time to come
The flower to be wiped out is respected
As it was once a perfection
Once roared the magnificence of itself
Upon this very world
The being-wiped flower doesn’t ask
For its claim in the now world
And indulge the new with its now state
But appreciate the perfection once it had  
Make believe the youthful flower to blossom
And accept its own existence in the present.

Every species and beings
Are in the nature of being
We are no different from the other species
We are no superior and at the same time no inferior
To the other species
And not the other species to us humans

Everybody and everything
Is the part of the whole
The whole is the nature itself.
Salto Angel dances an Aqua-Skirt
Such Fashion pleased the Tourists below
How else can the Latin earn your Fervour
But surpass your Record of height and snow?
Funny, how her Majesty can suppress
Even more when viewing up from this Point
Like a Crone who often tries to oppress
A Revolt which a Priest failed to Anoint
And lowering my Camera, I see
The many Prizes I did Hit-and-Miss
But she roared with showers raining gently
And, enough! They saw Rainbows turn to bliss.
So I sat on a Rock to watch and live
Hoping my Partner would rise to forgive.
Ayad Gharbawi Dec 2009
THE STORY OF SARA


AYAD GHARBAWI


CHAPTER 3: BEING AN ACTIVIST

  
Gradually, we become ever more radical in our burning quest to uproot every conceivable element of the corrupting culture of the oppressors.
  We soon started to call these oppressors 'Pigs', because that is exactly what they were: overweight, bloated, filthy animals who live simply eat and consume all day, and who love to live in their own excrement.
  The Pigs had to be removed, because you cannot negotiate with a pig.
  It was so obvious to me!
  Some people did, indeed, argue that diplomacy and negotiations were the way to achieve our blessed equality-based society, but that was pure idiocy to me; because, for Heaven's sake, a pig will remain a pig and cannot become an 'enlightened' pig! These criminals, who are creating poverty, and who are killing people, because they do not allow them decent health services, must be completely eradicated, or else, ordinary people will continue to suffer.
  One day I heard Tony give a speech in front of a huge audience: "There's no point in cutting the tail of the snake. No, you must go straight for the head, and that's how you **** it!" And there ensued roars and cheers, from the mainly young crowd. "And, if someone is trying to **** you, what do you do? Negotiate? Talk to them? No, you **** them first, that's what you do! That's who the Pigs are, my friends. They are out there killing you, and so many of you tonight are simply not even remotely aware that you are dying slowly – so, you must, first of all wake up, and realize that someone, somewhere, is draining out the blood of your life, and next you must identify the cancer that is killing you. So, who's the cancer?" Tony screamed, and the by now delirious crowds immediately responded with a thunderous and hate-filled, "Pigs! Pigs! Pigs!"
  "The Pigs talk and teach us about 'morality' and 'respect' and 'decency', and other subjects like that. That's laughable now, isn't it?! I mean, the blood stained mass murderer is teaching us etiquette here?!"
  "No! No!" roared back the audience. "**** the pigs! **** the pigs!" they suddenly and somehow instantaneously started to chant. So, I must correct what many people think about Tony, and that is, he 'invented' and popularized that phrase, '**** the pigs". No, he didn't; it was the audience that night who spontaneously came up with that really exciting and vibrant phrase!
  From then on, violence became more common along with the never ending chants – if not screams – of '**** the pigs!' Every day, and all over the country, the movement had flourished, and there were the most refreshing and gloriously destructive riots in almost every major city.

  It was at this time that I first heard a speech from Omar.
We waited for the man to appear, but he seemed nowhere to be found.
  My God, I heard from so many people that he was the most radical in the deepest sense of the word!
  Apparently, he made Tony sound like a child!
  He also had a well disciplined party – unlike Tony.
  Here was a place that I can find the ‘cause of my life’!
  I could work for Omar and that would be the point of my life!
  The thought thrilled me – because I was already a convert to their ideas, but with Omar, there was a real party that was actively fighting the government, whereas Tony and other leaders like him were independent activists, but with no party behind them.
    Then, Omar suddenly appeared.
  He was of medium height, average looks - but it wasn’t long before you noticed his inexpressibly burning, fanatical eyes!
  I was about a few metres from him, and I could feel the sheer intensity of passion and rage within those eyeballs!
  This man must have absolutely the words of truth, for no Man could look like that and be a liar!
And then he gently spoke:
  "**** the pigs, I hear you say. Well, that's not good enough for me. People like that make me yawn. And, I'm bored of yawning every day. We need more. We need to move on faster. I need speed. It's not just '**** the pigs', it's '**** the cops!', because the cops defend the Pigs and attack us every day; '**** the teachers!' because every teacher does nothing except to teach us with pointless information'. And, '**** every human being' who sides or serves the establishment!”.
  Omar’s eyes were literally able to stab right through your heart and soul simply by staring at you!
  I can well imagine that my reader will not believe me and will say it was because I was a convert to Omar’s ideas that I found his eyes to be so abnormally powerful – but, what do you say to all those people who did not like him, and who met him, and yet, they, too, all said that his eyes were profoundly piercing?!
  So, you see, reader, do believe me – it’s not because I was emotionally enthralled by Omar, that I am describing him to you the way I do!
  He had beautifully framed fingers – I don’t know why I noticed that!
  He had a rather longish nose – maybe, that was one defect in his face, but you hardly noticed that, given the other attractions in this man.
  And then he possessed the deepest, most guttural, and yet so sweetly melodic voice, that I had ever heard, and when he spoke, he simply entranced me – not to mention the thousands of others.
  Omar continued, beginning to raise his ragged voice:
“And, so I order you, tonight, and tomorrow, and every day, to fanatically and ruthlessly exterminate every visible sign, agent, artist, writer, philosopher, painter, sculptor, journalist, teacher, professor, lawyer, doctor, surgeon, banker, engineer, everyone who works in the mass media like the television, every film maker, every scientist, and every single employer and employee of the Pigs."
  The audience now simply shrieked the verb, '****! ****! ****!’ while Omar went silent, amidst this wild orchestra of hate being played out.


  I noticed, that unlike Tony, Omar wouldn't gesticulate or move his hands at all.
  Actually, he just stood there, rock solid, like a statue while only eyes and mouth spoke!
  The man, I swear, looked like a 'human rock'!
  He was the absolute epitome of boundless hatred; of unrestrained defiance against the rulers ruling us!
  Yes, I do admit, and I hesitate to say so, but, yes, he almost did like completely maniacal – were it not for his self control and the beauty of his words!
  The audience relaxed.
  Omar waited until there was silence, and he continued:
  "Do you see the difference between what I am saying and what brothers like Tony say? People like Tony demand from us to uproot the pigs. But what Pigs does he, in fact, mean? Who does he mean, when he says 'Pigs'? He means the rich. That's it.”


  Now, Omar abruptly went silent.
  Tension.
  He was staring at us.
  I could feel that the audience felt nervous precisely because Omar was staring at them.
  Finally, he continued:
  “Can you imagine the limits of his intellect?! To Tony and his misguided followers, the solution facing the problem before us is simple enough: you simply wipe out the rich, and suddenly we have the beautiful society!"
  Omar was sneering, being utterly sarcastic in his voice and tone.
  "So is that it, Brother Tony? Is that all we need to do?”
  There, he stopped again, with a sarcastic, wicked smile on his face.
  The man’s body simply had no motion in it!
  I was waiting to see, if Omar would, at some point, move his body or his arms, but so far nothing!
  He continued:
“My goodness, I never knew that the gigantic problem facing us was to be solved in such a simple manner! But, no, you're being fools. Or, maybe you're fooling your selves. Either way, I don't know, and more importantly, I don't care, because, as I told you all out there listening to me,” suddenly, he began to scream with his rasping voice:
  “I'm a serious man, with a serious mission, and above all, I'm a man in a hurry!"
  Again, Omar went suddenly silent.
  I could sense, that he was deliberately teasing the audience, because they were obviously desperate for him to continue speaking, while he, would every so often stop speaking, thus adding to the tension in the atmosphere!
  The audience laughed, loving the biting sarcasm; obviously there were lots of rivalry and jealousies between the two camps, and so Omar's followers just loved to hear the buckets of insults being poured upon the followers of Tony.
  The mocking tone continued:
  "These fools are retarding our own path to victory! These followers of Brother Tony, are doing the dumbest acts that I have ever seen. I mean, what do you mean and what are you trying to achieve, when you have his followers going to restaurants and disrupting the place? I mean, is this what the definition of 'stupidity' is, or what?!"
  The crowd cheered: "Yes! Yes! Idiots!"
  "Listen here Brother Tony; I would like to say, 'it's all right, you're still young and you'll soon grow up'. But I can't say that. You know why?"
  The audience waited as Omar paused.
  He was staring at his audience.
  Suddenly, he erupted with his deafening scream:
  "I can't wait. Didn't I already tell you that? Didn't I tell you I'm a man IN A HURRY AND I'VE GOT TO DO MY WORK! DON'T YOU PEOPLE OUT THERE GET IT?"
  He roared, and the masses applauded furiously.
  "I don't have time, for children like Tony, and for his own little children, to stand in my way, and wait for them to grow up! I don't have the time, because I have an enemy out there, that needs to be completely, ruthless and fanatically exterminated, root and branch, do you now follow me?"
  "Yes! Yes! We follow!" screamed the masses.
  Silence.
  And then, Omar continued:
  "So, we know who Tony defines as the Pigs. What about myself? We must talk the talk of the brave. If you're scared, then get out of here. Why do I say this? Because this struggle requires the most ruthless behaviour on our part, and to be ruthless, you need to be brave, and to be rave means you have no fear."
  It sounded almost as if he were singing.
  Or maybe it was my imagination.


"So, who are the Pigs, you ask me? Simple. The Pig is a man, woman and child who has any Pig Attributes. What do I mean by 'Pig Attributes'? Very simple. Any human, who has in his brain, any idea, concept, believe and acceptance of any value from the rulers who rule us all. And, what are these 'values' that come from our dear rulers? They are ideas and values such as: there are the simple ones, like the belief in the right to profit, belief in the right of property, inheritance and so on. Then, there are the other beliefs, such as, belief in compassion for the rich, or cooperating with the rich or socialising with the rich. You follow?"
  The audience was silent.
  "That means, any human in our sick society, poor or not, who in any way, not only physically interacts with the rulers is a Pig himself, but also any human, poor or not, who has in his heart and mind, any empathy for the rich is a Pig himself, and so therefore, it follows – and I hope you people out there are listening to me – it means, therefore, that a poor human being who has any Pig Attributes, is a Pig himself, just like the rulers themselves. Do you understand?"
  Silence.
  And then he walked out.


  It was so sudden, because I expect a really screaming end from Omar, but to the surprise of everyone, he ended and simply walked out!
  But, I, understood what he meant.
  Basically, he was enlarging the definition of what it meant to be the 'enemy'.
  This struggle was now going to be infinitely more difficult. With Tony, the war was simple enough.
  We were 'right' while anyone belonging to the ruling class was 'evil' and that was it.
  Obviously, no member in the ruling class can deny that he's in the ruling class! They can even change their accents and their clothes, pretending to be poor, but there are computers and archives, such as birth certificates, school records, and it doesn't take long, to find out a person's origins.
  But now what Omar was proposing, that a Pig is any human being who interacts with the ruling class is evil.
  Also, anyone who has any thoughts that have any Pig Attributes (for example, being pro-ruling class), are also evil, and therefore, had to be eliminated.
  In other words, the poor can be Pigs as well.
  I loved that, because, I was never comfortable with most other left leaders, including Tony, who only focused their ire against the rich.
  To them all the poor were ‘blessed’ and ‘sinless’, and I knew, from my own background, that they simply romanticised the poor, probably because they themselves were all rich people who had never lived one day of their lives in poverty.
  With Omar, being impure, or sinful could be anyone in society – and, your background or class didn’t matter.
  That was far more logical to me!

But with joining Omar’s party, came other problems for me.
How were we supposed to ‘find’ a Pig, or an impure person?
  How can we be sure if a person has the Pig Attributes in his mind?
  It seemed ludicrous to me!
  I had doubts because as attractive an orator that Omar was, once you went home and thought about what he actually said, a lot did not make sense.
  I had so many ideas that contradicted what Omar had to say.
  For example, can’t we achieve our goals by peaceful means – rather than choosing the path of violence?
  And if we must use violence, then why don’t we attack military targets and not civilians?
  Wasn’t it wrong to target civilians and civilian places – like factories, farms, and shops?

  
  There he stood; eyes blazing as ever.
  What makes eyes 'blaze' I wondered.
  They don't actually emit any light, do they?
  So how can one man have such penetrating, piercing eyes that go right to your innermost heart?
  Omar seemed to be made of steel.
  Or, maybe it was all in my imagination, as Sanji would always be telling me.
  It was his personality and also his body language: that stern, stiff way of standing, that seemed to be the epitome of defiance against the evil in the world!
  His whole body seemed to be chiselled from the purest marble; there he stood, this heroic rock, against the tyranny of the storms and the oceans that were crashing on him; and still, there he stood, not only in supreme piety, but also, there he stood, waging a struggle against these very dark forces of evil.
  He will rid our society and our nation from evil, and one day, we shall live in a truly happy country.
  This nation and its sad people, this nation that has so many miserable, poor and unhappy people, will soon be able to live free, happy lives, without the burdens and the shackles imposed on them by the ruling elites.
  He spoke:
"They need to be utterly, and without a shred of human mercy, be exterminated, or else, it is us, who will be exterminated! It is either them or us! We need to cleanse our entire body from these cancerous cockroaches. Don't you people understand? Call it '******', call it 'exterminate', call it 'butchering them' – I do not care; what I do care and what I need in order to breathe uncontaminated, fresh air,  is to surgically and methodically and blindly eliminate the very existence of every Pigs on our land! That is why we have no choice but to fight. The criminals leave us with no choice. If they surrender their corrupting ways agai
Sally A Bayan Jun 2018
Something caught me off guard, that hot day,
an unexpected thunder roared its presence,
violent...continuously rose in volume...
the throbbing...the thumping...the
pounding intensified...while swarms of red
and pink fragments simultaneously emerged,
and skillfully created arcs...becoming orbs,
multiplying, spreading...merging...then
shaping into rounds, like atoms...combining,
revealing...bearing a scary realization...
::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::­::::::::::::::
suddenly, arms and hands felt cold,
thunder softened...waned...arcs and orbs stilled,
chest started to rise and fall, peacefully.......yet, here i am,
anticipating a next time...when thunder roars anew...

Sally

© Rosalia Rosario A. Bayan
   June 19, 2018
...heart palpitations yesterday,while far from the house,
tried capturing the images...the feeling...
Sid Lollan Aug 2017
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

(Authors of (obligatory)
Redemption: what is true genius if it ain’t dead yet?
Let you, who **** it, not be present for its resurrection.)

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

i had a nightmare:

i opened the door of my ranch-house in the boonies of
southern pa.
out-into the grasses of the old Congo;
There stood the Lion.
20 feet away
i, frozen in the magnitude of his vision;
spirit, dominated by his
completely;
Not even a growl.
i remained
paralyzed—he licked the backs of his paws
and combed a wiry mane...
…a halfa-second was a year if it was a halfa-second now...
but
somewhere in there
i regained my legs and without knowing
pivoted,
grabbed the doorknob. Twist. Open. Step inside.
turn to close the...doorway is gone, the house has vanished
And
HE WAS RIGHT ON TOP OF ME

i was nothing but-a body of plastic fear
molten,
melted and cast into mannequin limbs and head.
i could feel the Lion’s entire, real
spirit crushing spirt
on my hollow caste self.

his breathe stunk of blood that
forced my replicaego into infant curl…
…Finally, the beast roared a canyon
i shivered!
a shiver that shook inside my head
thru the spine to shake
my bones inside the bed.

Thru the constricting red curtain of bloodclot eye
spy the tiny eclipse
of the Black Crow inna massive sheet of african sun;
i must be dead already.
The Lion feels the Crow perched onna cape fig nearby
and his muscles tighten accordingly, his beastly hunger
displaced by boiled-blood anger.

Eye-to-Eye
with the beast
where Fear has reached saturation-point;
it is Nothing if it is Everything…
…the Crow lets out a hiss
like spikes of radio-static, interrupted by series
of whooping-caws…
…stomach vibrated by the Lion’s low,
almost internal growl. For the
first time, his tranquilizing orbs
divert from mine
to capture the Black Crow perched on the dying cape fig.
uncertainty taps my shoulder…then…i feel my body;
the weight releases
and as i motion to rise from the grass and dirt, the Congo dissolves and i’m
sitting up on my mattress with broken springs in the humid
summer slumber of southern pa.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

-What security?
programmed,
under deep-cover;
jungian re-uploads. Them. Resurrected witha blackmarket
medicine a Witch Doctor devolution;
Replicate, regenerate, forever
<01100101 01100001 01110100 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01110100 01100001 01101001 01101100 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01100111 01110010 01101111 01110111 00100000 01100001 00100000 01101000 01100101 01100001 01100100>
Bottom feeding grave robbers and tomb vandals are all they are!-

-Better check what ya put down here…liable to shape a ghoul,
and you know this haunt is made-up of enough spooks-

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Professors of chaos preach:
O wanderers!
write me the manifesto
walking atop a line of hot coals
-I smell me some burning soles-

(They intend to:
Pour, pure from cold-clear spring-spout
      into muddy-brown-clay, dissolved,
rushing against dried-up bones of gully-walls…
…the Crow just sits above
         and laughs there

Don’t ya see it?)

History
is not about the past,
but
about what the present
can mold the past
into
for the future.
-the marble’s trajectory sure to
flip onnit’s axis d’pending on which record you dig-

(One mistake
can a coward make
or
one accident happen
up-on that a martyr stake’d.
etched in the rut of each separate fate;)


The lion
must roar for his P R I D E
        (or?)
lion wears his hide
as a mascot
Black Crow eats crow egg blues
        black crow spotted me yellow in the bushes
pants down, gun-in-hand
-send your prayers-

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
The passengers from the ‘Bold Dundee’
Were sick as they crawled ashore,
Tossed about in an angry sea
By the God that they knew as Thor.
He’d beat his hammer along their hull,
He’d roared as the thunder clapped,
And ripped the sails from the forward stays
As the sheets and the masts collapsed.

The tide had hidden the rocks from view,
A mist had obscured the shore,
The captain thought he was sailing free
As he’d always done before.
But the ocean swell in its mystery
Hid atolls of murk and myth,
That never appeared on a sailor’s chart
Where the Gods of old still lived.

The ship had shuddered and holed the bow,
Rode up, and sank at the stern,
The swell burst over the after deck
Drowning the crew in turn.
The passengers on the steerage deck
Were swept clean over the side,
Onto the rocks of a thousand wrecks,
But only a few survived.

By dawn that few had struggled ashore,
But the rest of them were dead,
Were floating out on the turn of tide
To rest on the deep seabed,
But Robert Young and his wife Jeanine
Were cast right up on the land,
And so was Emily Wintergreen
And the lad called Adam Shand.

They woke to an alien sunrise,
In a strange, pale purple mist,
And a sound came down from the mountainside
From a thousand years of myth.
A pale white horse bore a surly man
Who was ten feet tall to his head,
And roared, ‘Now bow before Woden, or
By Odin, you will be dead!’

Then striding noisily through the trees
That grew right down to the shore,
Came a giant man, a hammer in hand
Who roared, ‘You can call me Thor!
What brings you here to our hideaway,
To disturb our God’s redoubt?
We left you, hundreds of years away,
Yet now, you seek us out.’

Each one of them bowed, and touched the sand,
‘We don’t know why we’re here.
We didn’t plan it,’ said Adam Shand,
‘It wasn’t our idea.’
‘You turned away from us,’ Woden roared,
‘Sought other gods to please,
Once you were praying to us for help,
Would beg of us, on your knees.’

‘I swear we’ve never forgotten you,
You’re with us, all of our days,
For Woden, you are our Wednesday now,
And that is eternal praise.
While Thor is our every Thursday,
Every week that he comes around,
And Tiw, well he’s become Tuesday
So you’re lost, but you are found.’

The Gods stood back, and then conferred,
‘We’re going to let you go,
But only because you honour us
With your calendar, if that’s so.’
A longboat, free from the wreck came in
And the four of them climbed aboard,
Then waved goodbye to the Isle of Gods,
But at sea, they thanked the Lord!

David Lewis Paget
"Soyez muette pour moi, Idole contemplative..."

I came home and found a lion in my living room
Rushed out on the fire escape screaming Lion! Lion!
Two stenographers pulled their brunnette hair and banged the window shut
I hurried home to Patterson and stayed two days

Called up old Reichian analyst
who'd kicked me out of therapy for smoking marijuana
'It's happened' I panted 'There's a Lion in my living room'
'I'm afraid any discussion would have no value' he hung up

I went to my old boyfriend we got drunk with his girlfriend
I kissed him and announced I had a lion with a mad gleam in my eye
We wound up fighting on the floor I bit his eyebrow he kicked me out
I ended up ******* in his jeep parked in the street moaning 'Lion.'

Found Joey my novelist friend and roared at him 'Lion!'
He looked at me interested and read me his spontaneous ignu high poetries
I listened for lions all I heard was Elephant Tiglon Hippogriff Unicorn
        Ants
But figured he really understood me when we made it in Ignaz Wisdom's
        bathroom.

But next day he sent me a leaf from his Smoky Mountain retreat
'I love you little Bo-Bo with your delicate golden lions
But there being no Self and No Bars therefore the Zoo of your dear Father
        hath no lion
You said your mother was mad don't expect me to produce the Monster for
        your Bridegroom.'

Confused dazed and exalted bethought me of real lion starved in his stink
        in Harlem
Opened the door the room was filled with the bomb blast of his anger
He roaring hungrily at the plaster walls but nobody could hear outside
        thru the window
My eye caught the edge of the red neighbor apartment building standing in
        deafening stillness
We gazed at each other his implacable yellow eye in the red halo of fur
Waxed rhuemy on my own but he stopped roaring and bared a fang
        greeting.
I turned my back and cooked broccoli for supper on an iron gas stove
boilt water and took a hot bath in the old tup under the sink board.

He didn't eat me, tho I regretted him starving in my presence.
Next week he wasted away a sick rug full of bones wheaten hair falling out
enraged and reddening eye as he lay aching huge hairy head on his paws
by the egg-crate bookcase filled up with thin volumes of Plato, & Buddha.

Sat by his side every night averting my eyes from his hungry motheaten
        face
stopped eating myself he got weaker and roared at night while I had
        nightmares
Eaten by lion in bookstore on Cosmic Campus, a lion myself starved by
        Professor Kandisky, dying in a lion's flophouse circus,
I woke up mornings the lion still added dying on the floor--'Terrible
        Presence!'I cried'Eat me or die!'

It got up that afternoon--walked to the door with its paw on the south wall to
        steady its trembling body
Let out a soul-rending creak from the bottomless roof of his mouth
thundering from my floor to heaven heavier than a volcano at night in
        Mexico
Pushed the door open and said in a gravelly voice "Not this time Baby--
        but I will be back again."

Lion that eats my mind now for a decade knowing only your hunger
Not the bliss of your satisfaction O roar of the universe how am I chosen
In this life I have heard your promise I am ready to die I have served
Your starved and ancient Presence O Lord I wait in my room at your
        Mercy.

                                        Paris, March 1958
Daniel Coleman Mar 2011
I was walking through the jungle
When at once i saw a lion.
We each walked to the other
And he immediately roared
"Why aren't you afraid of me?"
But i misinterpretted it as
"Why? Aren't you afraid of me?"
So I responded "No way!"
Well, he looked at me incredulously
As if I were three shades of crazy
Whilst I turned my back
And walked away.
Indeed I thought I had won the day.

Well I got about five steps,
Before lo and behold,
Guess who was in front of me
Taking a long roar to say
"How dare you turn your back to me!
Be it brave or stupidity
I'll have my meal today!"
"Look a gazelle!" I point and say
Immediately running away.
I didn't get far,
No I didnt get far.
But it didn't take much
For the hunter to get his way.
AJM Mar 2018
From an awakening of a glorious shine,
That arose from the horizon of the eastern dawn,
There was once a croon and melody sound.
From Heaven in which it came, to the valley
where it was pertained, though on one day something came,
With a hellish roar.

From Hell it was made, to the valley that gave it no shame;
When it arrived and made its stay, after the moon had made its
Fade, over the darkness of the endless day, it lingered to the
Groundless east and arrived with no ease; for that sullen
Sound was a sound of clashing tides from that of a roaring
Shore, it was nothing more, than a ravishing Storm.

For days it stayed, as the overwatch that prevented
Any ray to come through, like such of the holy ray.
For the Puritans, once holy creatures of He, gave no more
Treasury to the One who was meant to sent them free;
Though on one rainy day came a Man that was made to stay.

A Man of mystic who came from the vast realm to love the
Puritans, who they saw and ran away. Though the Man was
No body of fear, like a roaring and soul eating bear, He was
Only there to make everything fair.

To many of them he was a great and terrifying fate,
To others he was a true revival and a saint;
And throughout these gloomy days, the Storm roared of
Crucial pain and weeping drops of fire like the sounds of their
Unforgiving prays. For the Storm still made its stay,
Underneath the holy ray, the souls in the valley
Were now under way.

And though the Man was dealt to stray,
From the unholy Puritans who they tried to dismay
By their lost of faith and lust for selves,
The Man of He was not there to shame them,
But he was only there to set them free.

The Storm still roared like a terrifying boar above the souls
For its Master that commenced the evil choir.
For darkness the Storm gave, like the perpetual darkness
Of night in which it came, it roared and roared at the tainted
Souls within the doomed valley.

But though the Man was brave and could sense the cry
And unholy rain of the roaring Storm, the Man felt no sore
Like the ones before; and so, the Storm roared once more as
The valley was now to relinquish and release its
New, and forever, peace.

For the Storm was no more, and the Sun was no more to shun.
The Puritans were now in their forevermore, for they had
Fathomed once more, about the Man, who was nothing more,
than a Rider on the Storm.
Javaria Waseem Nov 2014
The back seat of the old Chevy
and that familiar smell of cigar mixed with your scent
Stealing little moments in
the darkness of the night
as the sky lit up and danced
The faint taste of liquor
never felt so good before as it did
from your lips.
Short breaths,
sweaty hands,
whispers echoing.
It all took me to a place better than
the stars
where we collided
feeling mightier than the sky
that roared outside.
The beads of sweat rolling down your back
felt warmer than the
rain drops
that left a trail behind
on the steamy window.

The world outside seemed peaceful
for the thunderstorm
was felt inside.
Valsa George Aug 2018
Dark clouds loomed over the horizon
They broke loose in unprecedented force
Nature’s wrath, sudden violence acquired
It rained down as if unleashing all her fury
It was a downpour without one equal

The heavens let down dark misery for days on end,
Water bodies swelled and hollows filled,
Land mass slipped and trees fell,
Rivers were in spate and dams were full
Waves surfed and waters roared,

Like mountains they rose over the land,
Men in throngs were evicted from their homes,
Hundreds died and livestock perished
Such violence, never ever imagined
Helter-skelter, people fled for life.

Lands inundated and folks marooned,
Homes washed away with all belongings
Power failed and life has come to a halt
Rescue operations go on in full swing
Still many, stranded and crying for help

“Water, water everywhere, nor even a drop to drink”
As Nature thus plays her perfidious trick,
We shall stay united and pool all our might,
To regain for our land what we have lost
When the Deluge chants the dirge of dying souls!
Kerala, the state where I live is hit by a severe flood of horrendous magnitude! We are all in great shock over what has happened in recent days. Though the rain has abated and water level is receding, thousands of people are still in relief camps. Many still stay stranded without being able to be air lifted or rescued by boats. It will take months for life to come back to normalcy. The trail of destruction caused is alarming. Rescue operations from all side, are so commendable. Forgetting all differences, men rally forth for helping the needy. Fortunately we are safe. But for four days, we didn’t have power supply. Hope we will be able to tide over this disaster soon!
m i a Dec 2015
mia shut up, you barely speak and everyone thinks you're mute so let's keep it that way.

and that was the day she roared.

she understood that she was quiet and didn't like to start a ri-ot

but that did not mean she didn't have a voice, so she made a choice

to surprise everyone and show them how *loud
she could be

and oh how she roared and soared

her friends looked at her in disbelief

she smirked to herself, and felt as bold as a chief

she finally took a stand, and decided to not be so bland

and that was the day she finally **roared.
"she may seem quiet, but her voice is loud." it's eleven and im already tired. Obviously
Ayad Gharbawi Dec 2009
THE STORY OF SARA

OR A REFLECTION ON OURSELVES

Ayad Gharbawi

Chapter 4: THE HALLOWED PURIFICATION PROGRAMME




  One night, Omar began to thunder on:
  "No more of the disgusting concepts and ideas created by the Pigs! We should eliminate from our minds every single Pig that is influencing you, and I must say to you all, that I'm not seeing any progress."
  The audience suddenly went all quiet.
  Our leader was not satisfied with our emotional progress.
  We were not purifying our minds in a manner and speed that was satisfactory to the Great Noble Leader Omar.
  "I am looking at you all. I see you; yes, I, Omar, see each one of you. Your eyeballs seem to me to be unsure of what's behind them – I mean, your brains."
  Omar's voice began to talk in a tone that was almost a whisper, whilst the vast audience strained their ears to catch his every precious word.
  "And inside your brains lies our minds. Well, I'm talking about your minds, my friends. I'm not seeing progress. Yes, you do this riot; you **** this Pig; you burn this Pig school – and all of these acts are crucial to our holy cause. But, what about you yourselves? What about your own minds? Maybe you, too, are tainted with some of the Pig mentality yourselves? Now, how about that? Yes? What do you think?"
  The audience gasped.
  Omar began to raise his voice again.
  He was taunting this audience.
  Mocking them.
  Sarcastic.
  "Why, you really are telling me, that you think and feel and believe, that you have the right to **** Pigs?"
  At this question, Omar stopped.
  The audience gasped louder.
  I knew what they were thinking.
  Is our Great Noble Leader questioning our faith in him and in the cause itself?!
  He screamed, almost blowing away the microphones!
  "Why, who gives you the right to be soldiers in this unforgiving, merciless and ferocious war we are waging every day against vastly superior forces? I'll tell you 'who' gives you that right."
  The audience waited in tense anticipation at our leader's answer.
  It was so silent in this vast stadium, you could hear a pin fall.
  "What gives every man, woman and child the right to be a soldier in this brutal struggle is when that soldier has the purest heart and mind. It's as simple as that. And to be 'pure', my friends tonight, is the one who has not a shred, and does not have one ounce of Pig matter. That's right, you heard. Pig matter. Any dog that has even a fleeting Pig thought, is a Pig him or herself!"
  The audience now began to whisper among themselves.
  They seemed to be receiving the light from the words being delivered by Omar.
  Many were saying among themselves, that, 'Yes, we do have Pig thought and ideas and emotions and feelings in our hearts.'


  Omar continued, in a soft voice, after allowing his audience to digest his last words:
  "Yes, that does come as a surprise to you, doesn't it?"
  "Yes!" roared back the audience who now fully submitted to his question and answer.
  "So, I ask you – who are you?" he screamed!
  And the crowds immediately screamed:
  "Pigs! Pigs! Pigs! We are ***** Pigs!"
  Again and again, the crowd seemed to be going a little bit hysterical.
  Some began tearing off their clothes, as if they were trying to 'cleanse' themselves from their Pig thoughts!
  "That's right!" screamed back Omar, furiously and wildly staring with those maniacal eyeballs, like some trapped, ferocious animal, at his audience:
  "Why you yourselves are Pigs! That's right! Come on now! So, what are going to do about you? If you give yourselves the 'right' to **** Pigs, then why don't I have the same 'right' to order my best elite troops to **** you too?"
  "Save us! Save us!" screamed back the audience.
  "Save yourselves!" Omar screamed right back.
  "We are filthy! We are Pigs!" the audience began to insult themselves in all sorts of words and phrases.
  At this point, Omar was shrieking!
  "That's right! You are filthy Pigs yourselves, aren't you now?”
  The audience continued to scream and you couldn’t understand what they were saying anymore.
  Omar went just as suddenly silent.
  He just looked at his followers, and allowed them the need to express themselves.
  After some twenty minutes o this chaotic screaming, Omar became impatient and quickly motioned his followers to be quiet.
  Silence.
  He continued, with a soft tone:
  “So, I hereby announce the following."
  Once again the entire audience become tense.
  What was Omar going to order now?
  "I hereby allow you all, and I mean all our soldiers and not just those sitting with me here in this stadium; I order all of our soldiers to purify themselves of every Pig matter. You will have three months. And then, after that term ends, we will establish courts, to decide wether you have succeeded in cleaning yourselves from these cancerous and murderous feelings and emotions you have. Our courts and our hallowed judges will next decide, case by case, wether you are clean or not!"


  Later, when it appeared that our mostly pathetic, ***** and sick 'soldiers' were simply unable to cleanse their minds from the Pig establishment in three months – since they had no instructions or guidance - Omar, in his eternal grace, patience and humanity, decided to help them, by allowing classes to be held where one teacher would help each and everyone to 'cleanse' themselves.
  Personally, I thought that our Great Noble Leader was decidedly wrong in being so gracious to these so-called soldiers, because, in my opinion, this lot were not worthy of being in our party, and they ought to have been immediately expelled.
  "But, Sara," Omar would gently explain to me in his humble office, surrounded by his most trusted officers, "if we were to purge every undesirable element in the party, I would be left with practically nobody!"
  I took in his gracious words. and then thought about it.
  Why, he was correct, yet again, in his thinking!
  Indeed, if we did purify our party from the filthy ones, we would be left with little more than a handful of true, faithful and clean combatants and that, obviously, meant our self-destruction!
  "You're right, Sir; as usual, I think too hastily. That's why you are the only leader for us; my God, if I, God forbid, were leader, why I would have destroyed the party and our eternally holy cause years ago!"
  "Indeed, indeed, my dear," Omar softly said, but he seemed to have already forgotten my words, and, he was already somewhere else, thinking deeply about another problem.
  And so I, of course, went silent, so as not to disturb him.


  "You know what?" suddenly he asked me, his eyes sparkling with passion.
  "Yes, Sir?"
  "These 'classes' I was talking about. You've studied psychiatry, and I believe that we must use psychiatric methods to purify my subjects."
  Suddenly a strange feeling overcame me; I found the word describing the party members as 'my subjects' a little bit odd.
  Also, didn't Omar call psychiatry a Pig subject for all those years? Indeed, he said everything they taught us at university was evil, and that even the institutions of universities were dens of evil. And, yet, now, he was asking me to help him using what I was learning from my university days?
  "Yes, I can see the path I am talking about Sara. We need to get psychiatrists, like yourself, to tear out, yes, tear out, the filthiness in our party members."
  Suddenly, he got quite excited by his visions.
  "That's right, my dearest one, Sara. Yes, and I appoint you to supervise this programme of purification. That's right, and I shall call it by its simplest name, the 'Programme of Purification'!"
  Suddenly, I got excited as well, forgetting my previous disturbance.
  "That would be such a heroic move on your part, Sir." I gleefully told Omar.
  I feel that not only was he the saviour for our nation, but that he was also a personal saviour for myself.
  "Yes, I see my vision where it is leading us to. My dear Sara; you will set up these classes and you will bring the psychiatrists and you will purify the ***** elements in our classes."
  I got nervous again, for I just realized the magnitude of the job Saviour Omar was demanding I do for him!
  "And therefore, I Omar call for an immediate ceasefire against all Pigs!"
  Everyone in the office stood there in a state of shock!
  A ceasefire against the damnable Pigs?!
  Holy Omar could, of course, read our faces and smiled.
  "But Holy Sir," one officer softly asked, "how can we have a ceasefire against the most evil forces in the history of our country?"
  "And, Sir," asked another officer, "if we stop our eternally pure and humanistic battle against the disease-ridden pigs, wouldn't the latter take that as a sign of weakness on our part?"
  Next, saviour Omar raised his hand.
  Everyone went silent.
  He looked at us.
  There were no words from his mouth.
  We waited humbly.
  Geniuses take their time to formulate the right structure of words, not because they don't know what to say, but they do so that we fools can understand what they have to say.
  It is out of concern for us.
  Omar finally spoke:
  My clean, pure soldiers. We must declare a ceasefire, for I have no other choice. As a humanist, how can I allow impure elements from our party to fight and **** Pigs, when they themselves are still 'impure'? Where is the morality in that?"
  Suddenly, I couldn't help but feel such fanatical love for this man; I can only describe his man and his words, as pieces of Heaven coming down to us inferior beings, and if we are decent, then we must grab every shred and piece that he utters, so we can, in turn, save our impure souls.
  "Beautiful thoughts indeed, my Gracious Leader!" I said.
  Then I turned to the listeners:
   "What's wrong with the rest of you? If, one of our 'own' party members was impure, then by what right does he and she have to fight and **** Pigs? We must cease all out activities, until we have a purified party! It's simple and obvious!"
  Thereupon followed silence.


I was speaking the obvious.
  Finally, a voice spoke:
  "So, how exactly are these psychologists going to 'purify' the 'minds' of our party members?"
Good question – one that I had not thought about.
  Indeed, how, and by what means, were we going to purify the undesirables?
  And then, just at the right moment, Omar spoke his words:
  "Yes, that is a great question. There's no use giving orders that no one knows how they are to be carried out. You see, it will not only be the job of psychiatrists who will purify the filthy ones. No, we will force the filthy ones, to ***** out every filthy thought, feeling, and idea; and we shall make sure that all these impure thoughts and feelings and convictions will be screamed out of their minds."
  At that last phrase, once again, I found myself pausing and thinking, what an odd thing to say!
  I got lost in my thinking.
  After all, Omar always, and I mean always choose his words carefully, for he would always make it a point to be so careful with the choice of his words, so that his credibility would never be in doubt and so people do understand that that he means exactly whatever he says.
  I must confess, I was completely confused.
  On the one hand, I had such deep reverence, complete love and a total need for Omar, and then, there was a part of me, that simply didn’t understand what he was talking about!
  I remembered, once more, how everything was so nice and easy and simple with Tony.
  But, I assume, that Tony was a general doctor, whereas Omar was a surgeon, and so, with Omar, we had to face a far more complex situation.
  "What do you mean by that, Sir?" asked one of the officers, waking me up from my thoughts.
  "I mean, it shall be the duty of every party member to purify every other party member. We must all be psychiatrists! This will be done, of course, under the supervision of the leader psychiatrist in each class. He or she will guide you, as to how to get every party member to rip out every Pig attribute in our party members. It's as simple as that."
  At that, Omar gestured to indicate that the meeting was over, and so we left.
  I kept thinking that his idea was, I'm sure, utterly brilliant, but how in practice were going to do this?


  He left his office far too soon.
  We had too many questions to ask, and yet, by leaving us, Omar was, in effect, giving us a 'programme' to do, but without clear, precise orders.
  So, how were we going to carry out his orders?
  What did he mean that 'we must all become psychiatrists'!
  That was absolutely absurd!
  Untrained people cannot simply 'become' psychiatrists, even if they are 'led' by psychiatrists – or to use Omar's words, to be 'guided' by psychiatrists.
  So, Omar's idea seemed to me, to be really a recipe for a catastrophe for our party.
  The more I thought of it, the more I found my mind asking myself the question: why was Omar insisting on this 'purification programme' in the first place?
  Couldn't the party and its members simply continue the struggle, without having to enforce this ridiculous programme?
  And didn't Omar realize that his insistence on us carrying out his orders to do the purification programme, was going to cause absolute chaos, disruption and ultimately mass desertions and expulsions from our party?
  In other words, Omar's sudden 'need' to 'purify' our own members seemed to me to be a self destructive act that would seriously damage the party.


The ceasefire announcement was barely noticed by the Pigs – which came as a shock to many of us.
  The government didn't seem to actually care at our ceasefire announcement.
  Indeed, the Pigs declared that what they termed as the 'social troubles' was, in effect, 'over' and so, therefore, the country could breathe a sigh of relief, and people could now be 'happy'.
  I didn't believe what the government was saying.
  I was of course nauseated by the hypocrisy of the Pig leaders, because, their pronouncements were lies, as usual, and they would of course, continue their merciless war against us, while we had to cease our fire.
  Yes, Leader Omar was probably correct, but I was **** frustrated, because it seemed to me, for the first time since I joined the party, that the Pigs may now well win the struggle.
  It was obvious to me!
  For how on planet earth could we 'win' a war, when we were not allowed to fight, while the same eternal enemy would continue his war against us?!
  Also, to be very honest, I'm not sure that we could 'purify' Pigs in the first place.
  It seemed to me to be a contradiction!
  I would simply have to swallow whatever Leader Omar ordered us to do.
  God knows, he's proven to be correct every time before, and maybe, he will confound us once more with his superior wisdom.
  Have faith, Sara, have faith!
  Never question the Great Leader, for he is superior to all of us; after all, that’s why he’s the ‘Great Leader’ in the first place!
  Keep the faith!
  How can we understand what a su
Don Bouchard Jun 2014
Art Bouchard,
My father,
Never marched a drill,
Nor fired an angry shot...
Recounted fond memories
I've heard so many times:
How long ago, when I was very young,
He and our neighbor,
Art Pribnow,
Up before the sun,
Engaged in tractor battles
(Dad was very sure he won).

My father woke those mornings,
Early 1960s,
With the popping cough of
Worn diesel pistons
Clattering out white smoke...
Then blue and black,
As engine heat and friction
Tightened gaps,
Sealed compression,
And the motor steadied into an even roar.

Across the county road
Our only neighbor led or followed suit,
Sending smoke and sound
To drown the morning songs
of meadowlarks and robins.

Fifty years later,
Dad laughed in recollection,
"We started rising just a little
Earlier each day.
Started up our tractors
In a sort of game
Called, 'Who's out first?'"

Six became a quarter of,
Then five-thirty backed to four.
One tractor or the other roared,
Early and then earlier
To be the first to pull
Into the waiting fields.
When three-thirty came around
My mother shook her head,
But if she said a word,
I never heard.

These battling neighbors
Even started engines up
Before they ran,
Milking buckets swinging,
to their barns to chore
As early became earlier
in the little farmers' war.

One day in town,
By happenstance,
A meeting came between the two.
My father, being younger,
Had energy for more,
But old Art Pribnow shook his head,
Grabbed my dad's hand and said,
"Let's stop this foolishness
Before one of us is dead!
I don't know about the hours you keep,
Or what got in our heads,
But I admit, I need my sleep!"

The farmer battle ended then.
A hand shake and a smile
Between two farmer friends,
Created country lore,
Remembered here a little while,
As, "The Early, Earlier War."
I remember with a smiling sadness this story told by my father, now gone two years, about a little "friendly war" he and our neighbor, Art Pribnow, engaged in during spring planting time. The year would have been around 1959 or 1960, when I was just a baby. The story still makes me smile. I hope you enjoy it.
Mitchell Duran Apr 2014
Carrie walked down to Fell street through the park. He leaned upon his faithful cane which was split, splintered, and water logged from being left out on the back porch in the rain where he sat every night before bed. His free arm swung by his side, his hand spread wide open, letting the sun warm his palm. His other arm was constricted with his muscles tight as his hand gripped the polished wooden ball handle. Carrie's skin seemed to envelop the ball there was so much of it. The cane and Carrie were one whenever they walked together.
He passed the Japanese Tea Gardens. He had been there many times. He remembered the strong taste of the green tea he had been served and how energized he felt after his third cup. He remembered the sturdy wooden table and chair he sat on while over looking the crystal clear koi ponds, the seaweed underneath the water reaching up to the sun for nutrients like the hands of the long dead. He remembered how the children had gathered near the water as mothers watched them feed the fish food they were not to be fed, anxiety cramping their smooth skin as they watched to make sure they didn't slip in. The waitresses were all so gentle, so quiet, caring for whatever Carrie had wanted. In that solitary moment, he had felt like a newly appointed king, the 5 acres of garden his domain.
The gates were closed for the day, with many frowning tourists sitting on the steps that lead inside. Carrie figured they had been confused by the times but yearned to tell them if they stood on the street, they could still see the ancient replicas the blood red pagodas, stone lanterns, bamboo stalks, and cherry blossom trees which were just beginning to bloom. There was so much one could see from the street. But, Carrie trudged past them, figuring they would not understand an old man trying to show them beauty from afar.
A long line of benches stood before Carrie after he passed the garden. He sat down next to a young, Chinese couple. They both held a map and were looking at it upside down and sideways. Carried smiled. They were speaking rapidly, laughing sporadically, turning the map around and around in a circle as if they were both at the helm of a sinking ship. He wondered what they were so confused about - had they never read a map before? But then, he realized, they were probably on vacation and in love, maybe even on their honeymoon. He laughed, thinking, They're confused about everything.
A few minutes passed and soon the young couple was gone. Carrie sat with the cane between his legs, both of his hands drooped over the handle. In front of him, like a painting, were London plane and Scotch elm trees lined up in symmetrical rows and the Rideout Fountain. Carrie could see the water was still except for when a light breeze brushed over the water or a child threw a hand full of coins in to make a wish. Their hair reflected the bright rays of the sun. The sky was empty, save a few scattered flying birds going to where Carrie knew not where.
He closed his eyes and listened only to the sounds around him: tires rolling along the smooth concrete road; people chattering behind and in front of him; a door closing; the rustling of leaves from a sharp gust of wind; a car horn; a sneeze; two lovers embracing, their kisses sounding like the steps of kitten paws in the sand. Carrie opened his eyes and cast his gaze aside to the left. There was another old man. His back was bent, his cane was worn, and his legs wobbled with every step, much like Carrie's. The man was alone and dressed in a heavy grey sweater, a pair of beige trousers, and simple brown shoes. Carrie wondered where this man was going and at such slow pace. Why was he alone? Who had he been with before? Where was he coming from?
Carrie then realized he was leaning so far forward from the bench, he almost fell off. He ****** his cane out, catching himself, and pushed himself back. He looked around to see if anyone had noticed his mistake. Twenty or so asian people were crowded like sardines inside of the bus stop terminal. They all looked to be avoiding the sun, uninterested in whatever Carrie looked to be doing. The 44 roared by, stopped in front of the crowd, where they all laughed, giggled, and preceded to jumble in. Carrie looked over his shoulder, sure someone was right there keen to make a comment, but there was no one. He sighed, relieved. Being old and falling down with no way to get yourself back up was one of Carrie's biggest fears. The other, of course, was spiders.
Once Carrie reorientated himself, he looked up to see where the other old man was. He was gone. Carrie stood up, his knees shaking slightly. He jammed his cane down to steady himself and took a step forward. His eyes strained from the sun, which was beating down on him now, hotter than it was before. He took a slow step forward, then another, and then another. Once he got in the rhythm, his mind didn't have to focus on it as much. He could let it wander to wherever it wanted to. Sometimes, he let it wander to death, sometimes to past lovers, and sometimes to his late wife, Patty, but never very long on her.
He stopped to catch his breath and wipe his brown. Next to him stood a dark lime green statue of a lion. It was miniature and sun stained. The teeth were dull and the eyes were blank. It was very beautiful and Henry realized he had never seen a lion in the wild, only at the zoo. He wondered if they were any different out in Africa or wherever they were the most and if they roared the same. The one's he had seen at the zoo were sluggish and lazy; almost depressed. He could see why, being cooped in there all day long with only your wife to talk to.
"That wouldn't be so bad," thought Carrie, "To be trapped in a cage with the one you love. That's marriage, isn't it? Isn't that love?"
A cough startled him out of his meandering, love provoked thought. Sitting on a bench across the street where the apple cider press statue stood, was the old man Carrie had seen before. He was hunched over, fishing something out of his bag. Carrie wavered back and forth, watching the old man. A noise rustled behind him and Carrie slowly turned his head to see what it was. Two children were running around the fountain, splashing water at one another.
"Nothing to speak of," grumbled Carrie, "Wasting water all the same."
Carrie turned back around and saw that the man had pulled out a shiny, red and green apple. The man bit into it slowly, taking his time as he broke the outer skin of the apple so the juices spurt into his mouth. Carrie's stomach rumbled when a hard gust of wind hit his back, forcing him to step forward. He put out his cane and felt the peg slide and grind over the rough concrete. A man behind him reached out to help, but Carrie waved him away, mumbling that he was fine and that he didn't need any help. The man on the bench hadn't paid him any notice. The apple in front of him was all he needed. Carrie walked to the other side of  apple cider statue opposite the man and sat down roughly, for the man looked up from his apple a little wide eyed and a little annoyed. Carrie smiled awkwardly at him, but it came out more like a frown. The man relaxed his face, slowly letting it become blank while a line of apple juice rolled down over his lip. He licked it up, coughed, and went back to studying the intricacies of the half-eaten apple.
The mans face, Carrie saw, was *** marked and dented, like a car that had just been through the worst of accidents. His eyes were barely visible behind what seemed like hundreds and hundreds of creases, wrinkles, chicken's feet. The man's bulbous nose was an obvious sign that he was or had been a serious drinker. It was swollen and red, drooping from the mans face like a glob of honey that just wouldn't fall. The lips were creases of an old pair of jeans that had been left out in the sun. Though Carrie couldn't see his hair because the man wore a large, dapper styled hat on his head, he wouldn't doubt there wasn't much of anything under there. The old man was anything but beautiful, but Carrie, who had been staring at the man out of the corners of his eyes while pretending to look at the apple cider statue, could not look away. He was utterly fascinated with how the man held himself. Why was he so ****** interested that apple? Had he never seen one before? Carrie then thought the man was homeless, so he must be crazy, but when he had walked over before, Carrie hadn't smelled the usual musty musk that homeless people give off. He had smelled like nothing, usually meaning he slept in a bed and showered regularly. Then, in the midst of Carrie staring at the man's unbelievably shiny brown loafer, he said something.
"What you looking at there?" asked the man. He was hiding his ragged face behind the apple. A few pieces fell to the ground below. Carrie could see the bite marks were mere nibbles, like a rabbit had been eating it.
"Hm...I...uh," stammered Carrie. He looked up into the sky, trying to spot a bird to hide where his gaze truly had been, then looked down at the ground. There was a tiny pebble that resembled a hermit crab. He focused on that until the man asked the same question again.
"Were you staring at me, my friend?"
My friend, Carrie thought, He thinks I'm his friend? How on Earth did we get to there? I barely know him. I'll say something. He paused. Well, say something!
"I was staring at your apple there," Carrie mumbled, "It's a very nice looking apple."
"It's very tasty," he nodded, looking back it, admiring the colors of the skin that had yet to be bitten in. "Would you like some?" He stretched the half-eaten apple out to Carrie.
"Oh," Carrie laughed, startled, "I'm fine. Quite full." He patted his stomach.
"Are you sure? It's almost dinner time."
Carrie looked the man up and down, then smiled, "I'm fine. I ate just earlier."
"Oh really, where did you eat?" The man inched forward on the bench and rested his eyes on Carrie, waiting for an answer. Carrie's lip quivered with the thought of having to come up with a quick lie. The man had placed the apple back in his bag and was completely focused on Carrie's lie.
"Well, you see, there's a great place up past Lincoln Way toward the beach. I go there all..."
"Lincoln Way!" exclaimed the man, "You can make it all the way up there!"
Carrie was flattered. He could walk far past Lincoln way and up any of the side streets, if he had the energy, but had never been congratulated for the fact. Carrie shifted back and forth in his seat, blushing for being thought of so highly.
"With this cane," Carrie said, tapping the ground with the end, "I can go almost anywhere."
"Wow. Where'd you get it?"
"My son gave it to me when I first started showing signs of getting old," said Carrie, "It was kind of like a joke at first, but then, I really needed to start using it, and I've been attached to it ever since."
"That's nice," the man nodded, "I bought mine for 50 cents down at Salvation Army. You know the one on 3rd?"
Carrie said that he did.
"Spent 50 cents on this thing four years ago and it has taken quite a beating, but still, it works and looks fine as you can see."
"Doesn't look so bad."
"Well thank you, I appreciate that."
The two of them paused, looked each other up and down, then found something other than themselves to look at. Carrie noticed the soft lines of the man in the statue twisting the cider press and how his muscles were as detailed as a real man's. He had never seen so much physicality in a statue before. It really looked like this man was pressing apples in front of his eyes. Carrie was at a loss at how one captured that feeling of true action in stillness. He looked up to where the statues face was and saw that the eyes were cast down to where the press was tightening. He thought maybe the man was thinking if he stared to where he was working, he would twist harder. The statues hair was soft and smooth in the sun. Carrie followed the statues legs down, past the flat stomach and taught ab muscles, to the feet which were pressed into a large stone so to get more leverage. The veins on the feet were almost pulsating with blood and strength. They seemed to rise and fall with what Carrie imagined would be the mans heartbeat, if he had one. He didn't quiet understand why the man was had to be naked, but figured it was for the sake of art. Carrie was not an artist, but with the free time that was allowed to him by growing old, he was starting to appreciate what he saw, feel it a little more often, then when he had no time at all when he was young and busy. He wasn't sure which he enjoyed better: being old and feeling more or being young and always with something to do.
The man had let his eyes wander from Carrie, to the small statue of a boy. His mouth was pressed up to the spicket where the apple juice was being pressed from above. He imagined the statue of the man above the boy was his father or at least he wished that it was. The boys skin was very smooth and reflected the sun softly up back into the mans face. He looked closer at the face of the boy and saw that it was a silent kind of contentment. The man took out the apple from his bag, took a bite, and offered it again to Carrie.
"Take a bite," he persisted, "Sitting in front of this statue, looking at this little boy drink up that apple juice has to be getting you thirsty."
"I'm really fine," said Carrie, smiling uneasily.
"Come on. You don't gotta' worry about me."
Carrie paused, really thought what he was so scared about, and then admitted that was only uncomfortable because of this stranger's hospitality. He hadn't obliged a kind gesture in a long time.
"Alright," he said, "I'll have a bite."
"There you go!" The man handed the apple over to Carrie.
He took a bite and let the cool juices jump into his mouth. A small dribble ran down his cheek, where he quickly wiped it away with his sleeve. He didn't want to look like a slob, much like the man had looked when he first began eating it. Carrie looked down at the apple, nodded, and handed it back to the man.
"It's," he started, still chewing, "Very good. Thank you...I'm sorry, I don't know your name."
"Symon," he said, taking a bite of the apple, which was almost gone, "Symon with a Y."
"Thank you Symon."
"You're welcome..." he paused, "I never did get yours."
"Oh," he laughed, "I'm sorry. I'm Carrie."
They both reached forward and shook hands. Carrie hadn't sat with another man and talked with them since he'd buried Patty. After that, it had grown hard to shake hands with anybody he knew. Maybe it's easier with him because he's a stranger? Carrie thought, Maybe I should meet more strangers? Probably go and get yourself killed. That's a funny thought. I never thought I'd go by getting murdered. I always figured I'd let time take me, rather than the hands of another. He doesn't look like a killer anyway. He's got to be older than me. He's definitely slower. Look at his hand shaking. Your hand doesn't shake. Does it? Carrie looked down at his right hand which was resting on the handle of his cane. Solid as a rock, Carrie mumbled to himself, As a rock.
"What was that?" Symon blurted, eyeing Carrie, "Where'd you go?"
"Just thinking."
"Bout' what?"
"Whether my hand was shaking or not."
"My hands shakes all the ****** time. It's like one of those kitchen timers or chattering teeth you twist, it goes for a while, and then eventually goes off, but me, never. No, never this hand never stops shaking. Got a ******* mind of its own."
Symon raised his right hand so Carrie could see. Sure enough, it was shaking like a leaf in a tree ready to fall off. The shake wasn't violent, but definitely noticeable next to a hand that was still. It was more a buzz than anything else. Carrie couldn't imagine Symon writing his name down and coming out eligible.
"How do you write your name? Does it get all messed up?" Symon looked at him, then looked away. Carrie froze, realizing he may have just asked a very touchy subject.
"Huh?" Symon asked, looking back. "I got something in my eye real quick. I didn't even hear what you said."
"Oh," Carrie stammered, "What I said was..." Symon cut him off.
"I'm just joshing yah!" Symon shouted, "Course I can write my name! Whenever I put pen or pencil to paper, the shake usually calms down. Don't know why, but it does. I never ask que
Megan May Aug 2014
The wind roared
Whipping through the newly leaved trees
The rain drops plummeted down from the clouds
Soaking everything in their path
Including a little girl
Who loved to dance in the rain
Lightning struck a tree not too far from her
Thunder shaking the earth
She laughed as the static and sounds waves coursed through her veins
The storms reminded her of her parents
Violent and loud during their fights
And then clean and peaceful after they made up
They also reminded her of herself
Raw power barely contained inside her little form
The ability to amaze and intimidate all at once
The storm was a glorious force of nature
And she was blessed enough to be one too
cody metcalfe Jan 2010
The beginning of the beginning stage.

In the patterns that my lack of wisdom supports itself with.
Inside of course of my social blinds; and excuse depraved mind.
Yes locked or latched with what you could picture a key,
which has encrypted in its’ gold textures; certainly not pure gold the words, “Good Luck Son.”
Yes a story of unimaginable setbacks, woes, blows, deception so thick that it doesn’t dwindle to meagerness, but yet modifies like a brain being corrected by an assault on the body.
Yes, in the darkness of these patterns a trust in heroes runs rampant enough to muster conquest, and loss, and redemption soured by lust, and open warfare, and crime in it’s purity, in it’s raw form.
Yes, in these patterns created by lack of youthful imagination crucified if you will out of my conscience behavior tracking skills. A light breaks upon my sins,
and yields itself to a pattering method,
and then there is the plot of guts, blood, spit, tears, sweat, beads of dirt from a worked land,
that seems itself to be more ill-tempered than the folks that share its majestic worth.
These patterns only call out to the insane, and to the loathed, and the forsook, and the poor.
I haven’t caught the demons floundering down the dirt road in East Texas with their tails wagging stirring hot dust particles into the sun light atmosphere.
Now when the description techniques take effect in these patterns; the developed story, yes utterly developed in its’ entirety always in content,
and smiling boisterous to the meek,
and ragged dressed in search for their Sunday school Classroom.
End of the beginning stage
Here we are again in this surreal manner seeing first hand a triumph understood and fabled about in the Southern Grotesque shadows that are still apparent at noon,
at noon my good; well, carry on the well, carry on.

The Beginning of the middle.

The young ****** girl we call her a ***** now a days,
  
cause we had the Scopes Monkey Trial once or twice up in Tennessee I think.

She leaps and bounds and then abides to Christ for an instant, like my speech under oath.

She wrinkles her sections of her lips and blow a kiss to the huge white man lurking in the truck a block back.

The white man loves cigarettes towards abatement and then to City Hall.

The young ****** gal,

fell to a seat like it was grace that fixed the radio in the truck or some last twist or turn or **** from her little decreased hand.

The voice of the white man calling back to her,

singled out her emotional distress,

she always seems as if she has be ***** by this white fellow.

Now well I might have lost some folks by this point,

Now well I got to get to the ****** boy,

Yes well let’s see he carries a cursed burden so bad that every acquaintance felt afterward that this boy had picked a fight…

he moped oblivious to the sowed seeds he made desecrated in all truth. No one every pointed out that there is the place where you are supposed to bleed,

No one said, sonny boy right there is the place where you can be saved,

Nothing was delivered to him at Christmas, and it all went to his ***** sister. So therefore

He came upon the scene with this summer rain gesturing fun, and misery all under this sun.

Now well a thunderous voice came out of the church side windows, which were down,

Actually dismissing the pulpit, now well the bigot thundered, “ I want the fire, I want the praise. Stand up,

I want the fire, I want the praise!” The predicament that willowed the **** in the mouth of the skipping

****** boy, in all his glee and grandeur, caused him to straddled the wired fence on the other side of the truck.

Some would call this a grievance to accolades of vengeances long over due, and over due,

The dogs run free in these parts,

that’s just the simple truth.

But this is the beginning of the middle,

The cotton patch circles the road like a rubber tire on its rim,

And trust was never interracial enough to bide the will of saints on the cusp

Of revenge.

The ****** roared, “Get behind thee satan, or some ****, and some **** it was,

The kiddo trip over himself and tangled his way to the feet of the white man,

Who kindly picked him up, and said,

“not only can your sister **** a good ****, she can fix transistor radios’.”

The church service let out in one small horde to the capture the tensions of one of the old American lime lights befuddling Uncle Sam.

Uncle Sam is no pun, he’s a gentlemen to both the North, and the South.

Sos’ with one huge crack the white man fractured the ****** boy’s jaw,

“Good ole boy, get on back to the picking!”

The next stage of the middle

The folklore of shame added to disgrace is looming,
What can one man do when beaten, left for this effect,
“Bubba can’t walk no either,” said a white eyed spectator,
Angels have no trace here,
no trepidation here,
in my lack luster,
Thoughts,
edges of justice tampered torn by impatience at God,
At the Good Lord.
Let’s see I am the son of a clerk,
A nerd to salvation, and more so a nerd in general.
I called for nerves,
In the nerves that were yet,
to be nerves,
and for that fire on the water,
“where’s the,
Hearkening cries that shudder the barns with frantic frolicking of fire men,
and police men,
The, law say psst, where’s the ******* laws!” I laughed to myself I wasn’t in cahoots with the ******,
or the ***** girl who had began to come back for her brother,
but I wasn’t asking a soul to come in and take my place,
if ya, if ya, if ya get my drift hood wink!
Whoa ay,
my indignant monologues must have jived and then shook,
I was to cool for this,
I was to ready to step up in the world,
lo,
behold,
a pale rider,
“The sheriff, from the south, beware Isaac,” I told myself, “beware.”
The girl slithered like snakes to her bother;
her souls bearings were now plastic, and latched under the arms of the fallen boy.
The rain hastened,
then came stronger,
and then the congregation split as the Sheriff took ground.
I scurried like the rodents, and joined the congregation.
The white man, pulled his gun, and shot the sheriff in the stomach.
“It will heal,” the sheriff hands ******.
The truck was gone,
both ******* and all.

The Middle Stage of the Middle.


The river winds and brings enriches through the earth first,
and second in humanly attributes,
Frankness took to front face of the town,
and the outskirts wailed like someone had burned their property,
Dogs still ran free,
cause that is what happens around here,
and I played a harmonica,
and steel guitar,
Serenity which found facets to seep regardless of where the kidnapped traveled,
and the kidnappers force,
spelled a gearing up for a manhunt,
and even possibly a trial.
The mother of the two kiddos that were gobbled out of the town,
worked for a shyster,
and crook keeping his sanctuary wooden like,
and contemporary.
She had the knack that clings to most maidens middle aged and nudged by bouts of,
Grace.
Like a parasite,
which is the whistling you hear,
some hymn,
hymns,
from passed down relics,
called family.
The crime that spindled like the pap she knew setting down to slumber without meaning to,
Was a embezzlement crisis,
piped from the corner store,
to a small methamphetamine lab,
harboring the man Ms. Clawdy worked for,
until the cops were scarce it was hard to grasp for the town,
and anyway the sweet anyway of my sigh as my mother,
and the preacher were in my bedroom making love when I came in from the lake.
It sounded like she was faking it,
I am pretty sure,
but I am so badly endowed that its hard to believe that,
well,
I hadn’t my father say,
“alright.”
I hadn’t heard the word alright,
in ages!
It was poignant,
and disgruntling in the same instant.
By the way,
my mother was having a seizure,
worse than the tiny ones the ****** girl has.
My father a bank manager is his past life,
and a decent accountant,
shut the door on them.
I haven’t whimsical atrophy or empathy at what happens in jail,
what happens to criminals,
what happens to evil persons once exposed pretty well by children of the Lord.
I am old enough to know better,
I let the dog in,
and lead him into the room,
and shot the dog.
My hopes were,
That my ma would snap out of it,
the drugs spilled to the floor,
and I ran out to the tractor,
And got back to work.
I rhetorically thought to myself,
I wonder why I ever attempt to date a girl,
From these here parts of East Texas.
My parts were to be made ***** quite yet….


The later middle stage of the middle.

The Texas Rangers came in cars,
and the blood hounds met and mingled with the townspeople,
This part in the story is delicate,
and stubborn in its youth,
mainly for the dramatic irony I try to forge.
The character of the father of the two kiddos who were kidnapped and battered takes to drinking,
and lays down like that dog in my room.
The sweet corner store elderly sold him a round of beers in a few quarts,
and he says,
“we sure appreciate, you heard.”
“Now Leroy that was a good boy,
and that Vivian was a sweet child.”
“Still is, you’ll see!”
“Our prayers to the saints our with Mr. Clawdy.”
“Yeah ok,
thank you much,
have a good one!”
The Texas Rangers weren’t as captivated by the alcoholic rampage.
They infiltrated my house right off there beaten path….
The fire and praise replaced the preacher and the Texas Rangers ****** him up,
and **** like the chalk coming off the hands.
Ya mean, ya mean!
They spun a tale that half the gang searching for the ******* as they put it,
well two got snake bitten,
and once they thought they had him cornered a tornado mustered up,
Then it was nothing.
How is it nothing?
I wanted to say,
I saw,
how is it nothing,
my mother straightened up,
and wiped her nose,
and put on some make up,
and the preacher or my father didn’t rat her out, for the drugs.
That is when I guess the prejudice, or injustice, or just the wanting,
the yearning to be grown,
or the despair and weird hormones towards women….
I let it out in front of God, and country,
“Tell it like it is ma, ******* it, tell it like it is, that dog will haunt you, in a heart beat,
more than he is going to haunt me,
God dang, tell it like it is, you high, and skipping, cheating, lying, I hate you!
I hate you!”
“Now son,
we are handling this,
seems this little fella needs some restraint from his parents.”
A quid pro quo was in the midst, I knew I wasn’t speaking in vain.
I knew my father was madder than any of them Texas Rangers.
Yes Texas Rangers eww,
I cried,
and search for something more in me,
but there wasn’t anymore to come,
just another day,
and of course the little man in me pretending to be a sheriff like the one a saw get shot,
that I came to know as a piece a fraction of manhood coming of age.
The men later,
sat my mother down,
and she lied time and time again,
and they went to the other streets,
and to the corner store,
and eventually to the ****** side of town.
I came into contact with a passenger of a greyhound,
who was blind,
and his cane tattled,
and ratted,
towards me like the end of time.
“Protect your name, yes, protect your name, and then some!”
“Bless you.”
“Whose that?”
“Yellow belly.”
“Yellow haired.”
“Ah Good man.”
“Two got bitten, you the new sheriff?”
“Sheriff, think again guy, I am the Preacher.”
The crossing cars slowed and crept in splendor and curiosity,
where and who penetrated the ideology of the passers.
“Two steps, and curb, and the name’s Isaac.”
“How do you do. Preacher ***.”
The deception that I spoke about,
and the turmoil that I so to speak promised echoes in the neighborhoods nearby.
I realized he smelled of pickles, and relish like stenches,
but repellant of mosquitoes came out of his jacket,
and immersed us both in a whirlwind of effort.
Gamblers,
ramblers,
antlers,
all part of the commerce spared themselves the grief,
spared themselves the haphazard and soon what was left was lovers,
and bad men.
And Texas Rangers.
The Texas Rangers flooded the countryside,
and snapped me back at the dinner table,
“take us to the house where the drugs are, or draw us a map!”
“A map, gees you guys don’t need no map,
heck,
take a right on Granger,
a left on Tempest,
and it’s the fourth house on the left.
Say the mans name is Jim.
If ya, if ya, if ya catch my drift! Hood wink!


The End of the Middle Stage.

With the Texas Rangers half crazy,
like the people I know,
and the inner thoughts that have came to become an awareness more or less,
the thought that I will never reproduce,
and the thought that I was fallen,
by the actions that broke my wings,
sank beneath my garnered wretched existence,
the lawmen arrested as the heroes,
and the villains came without a fight,
including my mother,
and Mr. Jim.
And Mr. and Ms. Clawdy got into the station with delight,
and exercising emotions about the missing persons,
by the way of a white man.
I don’t ever get dialogue out of this station sequence but I imagine somewhere,
the words we have a lead into finding the whereabouts of your children.
The drug house was linked to other drug house in this jurisdiction and they didn’t stutter in my dialect. Repentance is unlike amending past fights, and arguments.
The harvest was futuristically here,
and danger was trampled by the lawmen,
and peace and order was restored nicely now.
The shyster was quarreled,
and the commercial trucks picked up the slack,
and the Sunday school classes proceeded.
Ms. Clawdy sat one night about a week after the event involving her children,
and she realized that no one could help her, I
n the place where she needed help the most,
and no one would pardon her anger in the night with her husband drinking so heavily.
I went to their place,
and I took the preacher with me,
and I finally felt what it was like to be in cahoots,
or what a partnership is truly like,
short sided to say the least.
I knocked the flap,
and pounded my feet,
and pounded my feet,
like the fire man told me,
once,
“beat feet bub,”
well I did,
and finally Ms. Clawdy answered the door.
“What’s y’all going to do about getting your kids back?”
“We leaving tonight!”
“In the dark?”
“That’s right!”
“I know where they might be kid.”
“Good deal.”
“That’s right.”
“Is he going with you?”
“Yup, yup, now come on let’s go!”
“***** I ain’t going with you any place.
***** I am drinking my sorrows away!”
“Not going huh.”
She was gone into the night like usual circumstances take people away from their homes in the midst of great trusts wedged between wisdom and fault, and to the great beyond murmured as truth.
“He ain’t going with her.”
“Maybe we should leave Isaac.”
But I was already wound,
the good luck key had already been turned in my spine,
and twisted in my blood,
and I watched Mr. Clawdy throw another quart against the wall crashing down in pieces.

The Beginning of the End stage.

Cliché is a muse in the common man,
or if it isn’t well my mind is to thwarted by degradation,
and much to much pride and jealousy to see love work in the most excellent ways,
so excellent it even would make a mother fly out towards danger,
and attempt to rescue her young.
I read about the Scopes evolution trial,
in the tribune,
and bugles sounded at the death of William Jennings Bryan,
and I thought of him disparagingly…
I gulped and supped,
and wanted to bolt in the dark living room,
and tear a piece out of the ole Clawdy for what he really was,
the blind man cause that what he was now,
stopped me,
pulled me back,
“you want a turn,
you want a turn at this mess,
all day,
this whole time you been wanted a turn.
I know,
now I know for the good, so as to end it.
It isn’t anybody place here now!”
And that was it,
we retreated back to the tractor we road in on,
Failure I blamed my mother for,
retribution was only heard by the croaking frogs,
and crickets.
I had seen enough weddings,
and funerals,
and signed enough books,
I was ready to shoot another dog at least.
But we waited.
My father never peered his or reared his head once,
and the morning came the fields were tilled,
and re tilled,
before noon,
and soon the blind man said,
I need to ***.
Yes,
and so we went into the pasture,
and urinated.
When we came back we were confronted
Lior Gavra Nov 2017
The impatient soul awaits.
As crowds push towards the train.
He rushes to pass, can’t be late.
He looked at others, the insane.

He squeezed against and did shove.
They looked at him, silent grunts.
His angry mood, bared no love.
He was used to his way and wants.

One more push and catapults.
Into the air and did not fall.
He laughs at them, at their faults.
As he flies pass human walls.

Surprised, he got no attention.
He roared at them, till the last door.
His super power, that strengthened.
No longer waiting, he could soar.

Everyone looked to the left.
Train now expected delays.
Some tears were dropped as they wept.
A red end to someone’s day.

He flew back in that direction.
A sudden feeling, temptation.
There caught in the intersection.
His body, the impatient.
Nat Lipstadt Jan 2014
Dreams of a Child
Created: Jan 23, 2011 5:44 AM
Finished: Jan 30, 2011 4:23 AM
Posted here  Jan 2014
Warning:
a very, very long poem, but within , I promise,
there is a precise stanza about, for you.  
Take it as my gift.
Let me know which you took home to play.

~~~~~~~


Some poets care not
for the
discipline of rules,
laws of punctuation.

Why bother brother,
with putting poems
in antiquated jailhouses,
prisons of vertical bars,
or afford the reader,
the courtesy of horizontal lines?

Question and quotations marks
these day refuted,
as a Catcher In The Rye
conspiracy symbology of big lies,,
political interventionism,
to the creative, most natural
right to be crude.  

Inconvenient impositions,
symbolic flailings, of an
over regulated civilization
in the throes of declination

Punkuation is but a
societal annoyance to
today's creative geniuses,
periods, commas,
nothing more than
a pause to think -
who needs 'em?
when we want to stink
up the atmosphere with vitriols
of half truths and inhuman
but oh so gleeful,
concentrated disparagement
of any person worthy of
nationwide late night mocking merriment.

Such free spirits, vivid animations,
within me do not reign,
though upon occasion,
boy got permission slips  
for breaking bad by invention
of an occasional new word.

New words, white truffles
vocabulic incantations,
my own cupcake creations,
meant to burr, or purr,
their tasty meanings, always,
were readily apparent.

Sometimes we rhyme,
sometimes  we can't;
doth not a reading of a
poetic periodic table
of rants, chants
love poems, and paeans
to a shhhh! pretend,
overarching, poesy ego
require some minimalist format?

How I envy you,
kind observer,
possessor of literary powers
untoward and untold,
delicate touches of a fingertip
rule and rue
poetic invention.

You can zoom away or in
for a closer examination
of unscripted revelations,
incinerate them like an
yesterday's newspaper,
thus demonstrate contempt for
less-than-historic ruminations,
as time has done before.

Witness the crumbled ruins of Ozymandias,
king of kings,
and how the critic's machinations
with a dash of tabasco time,
his works, now museum pieces,
in the Tate Modern's room of
Laughable Human Aspirations.

Don't panic, sigh or groan,
kind observer,
infection inflictions,
content of discontentment,  
ancient whinings that the publisher
long ago listed as discontinued,
will not herein unfold.

What has all these mumbled asides
to do with the Dreams of a Child?

Apologies prolific I distribute
for this long winded profligate prologue;
and even for prior invasions
of your contemplative fantasias,
but my intention certain:
**** out the weak chaff eaters,
feigners of faux interest,
who stanzas ago deserted us,
this confessional lore.

These prior lines conceived
to mislead and deceive,
to refer and deter
send away, the hangers-on
who litter our lives,
with whimpered falsehoods.


So, we begin anew:

Today's lecture entitled
Dreams of a Child
were formatted on a silver disc;
this communication's originations,
seedlings of block
roman black letters
on background of cleansing white,
re things that jar me in the night.

Easy slights that waken
from a fitful, pitted rest,
mental paintings
natured in gem colors,
tourmaline auras,
and vibratto hues
of blue zircons.  .  

I have never lain upon the couch,
in the inner holy of holies,
where one whispers
to the Father Confessor
an original composition,
subject, title and inspiration
of said unique origination,
decidedly of one's own choosing,
roots of the essay's telling,
harvested in the root garden
of one's dreams,
where grow herbs,
spicy ones,
flavors of childhood.

The lush and wooded smells
of a forest of childhood scars,
and it's concomitant
putrefying, fruited rot,
awoke and brokered
a stilted, tremulous sleep.

Went to bed a a man
of modest success,
of modest scenes,
a bond trader, who trades
exactly that:
his word, his bond,
his blessing to his
deal constructions,
all of which, ended with an
irrevocable cri of "Done!"

Yet like you,
I am oft undone.

Dreams.

In truth, not dreams, but
spectral moments of
our lives relived,
a melange of ancient lyrics,
taunts of childhood abusers and
peer humilators
who could
teach the CIA
torture techniques
of WORD boarding, par excellent.

Angelic faces of human ****
that birthed in me a holy duality,
anger and a,
love of words,
my vaccination serum.

Granted a love of
human kindness
from teachers who cherished their
high and mighty tight
to publicly humiliate,
knowing full well
that human laws could not
attempt to have them
justly incarcerated.

Where, where were
the supervisors
who let me be spit upon
in the back seat of a
Fifty's station wagon,
by the brothers of
a sainted dead shepherd?

I am still eight,
sitting on a stoop in the
modest side of town,
towel in hand, so handy,
to wipe the tears shed
for cause,
for the car-pool of suburban boys
who "forgot" to pick me up for
Sunday swim night.  

In high school,
in the back row,
I silently ******
the juice of a Sarte lemon and
essayed a term paper,
upon multiple mirrored
reflections of a man
called Camus.

As another self styled, only living
teenage expert
on "alien nations"
received with pride and trepidation,
a sentence of Ninety Eight,
on my term paper,
but the pedantic predators
deemed it an accident
for I, was  inscribed in their
Upper East Side
Coda of Prejudice,
as merely,
"just" a
man of USDA,
B grade quality intellect.  

Hand me downs
I did not get
as I was the
younger, sole brother,
but worn lint lines
of humiliation
when and where my pants
were "let down"
to accommodate growth spurts
were my growing marks of Cain.

Those growth lines
were economic reality signs,
and were rich fodder for
childhood monsters,
Scions of Income Superiority
who lived in ranch homes in
two car, color tv garage slums,
wearing band new Levis.

In the Sixties,
time of my unsilent spring
wore a cross of
teenage hood,
my hair,
worn long,
Jesus style

Worn with labor pride,
for it was
Made in the USA,
I was a most conventional
revolutionary.

In the parochial jail
of educated guesses,
where society's lesson plans
of all that was bad
were O so well taught,
I was apart, ahead,
of Our Crowd,
but not too, radically.  

But a spiteful
Principal of No Principle,
deemed my locks a
disruptive influence,
so to exorcise my rebel streak,
so to crucify his "Jesus Freak,"
so to exercise his diminutive spirit
a pompous uber man,
he had me shorn
like a sheep,
thrice
in just one day,

He loved his full employment
of his pharoic entitlement,
The Educator's Power of Abuse,

I was so denuded
of human strength,
the Italian barbers of the
East 86th Street subway station,
wept for me,
their cri du coeur,
Angels in Heaven did hear
and from God
did dare demand
an explanation!

He roared in manner celestial,
"Is he not my child too,
and if he be treated
in style *******,
it is purposed and willful."

Pornographic compilations of
slaps across a child's face,
I've got plenty
of and in My Space,
should you care to
add your own,
down under,
got plenty of room
for all comers    

In a Facebook world,
I pride, not pretend,
that having fewer "friends"  
is my honest and true
reflection of who I am, and,
life lessons learned -
quality, not quantity.  

Victims of discrimination
can be most discriminating
in matters of
human games, associations.  
****** or word,
lack of taking care
is not heart healthy.

Tried to forgive
the despotic progenitors,
of some of that which
is good within me
that, irony of ironies,
they can claim the title,
creator;

Tried to give them
what I had gotten -
from the happy malcontented  
evil spreaders,

That grace, grace is
the only methodology,
an inestimable but
valuable lost leader,
the only way
to survive on
this planet of
hardtack and
caste striation.  

Though still quick to anger
at the cutters and denigrators
I am quick still to
confess my own failings, and forgive those
of plain and honest folk.

Unfortunately, kind observer,
you had to share my brunt,
syllabic Iwo Jima battles
of a decaying verbal moonscape
to reach the denouement,
for now we have,
mostly arrived

Most likely you too
have long ago
deserted me like
so many others,
no matter,
this modulated breath
was born and released
from my heaving chest and
as I knew it,
know this:

My Absaloms
where ever you be,
presumably and hopefully in hell,
I give you thanks
and a mini bar drink
of absolution.
a tin medal of appreciation,
for the
Marked Improvement
you inadvertently nurtured
in this restless,
voyagered soul.

My ancient enemies
till now, be advised,
forgive and forget
was and has not  
fully formed
in my penitential template,

Unlike your natural capacity
for cruelty and mean
birthed unto you
in your third rate
genetic melange,
forgiveness is taught
in a Master Class
at a famous school of Ethical Drama,
that I did not attend

Though resident in
a better place,
my root garden,
the bitter herbs you planted
still grow but,
are welcome in sweet brotherhood,
until the selah days
of just one flavor.

Though the universe's expansion
is of a pace such that
time and space definitions
will stretch and warp
and need be
refined, replaced,
the governing principle here.
need not be rephrased.  

For goodness
from evil
doth come
and should your
evil spectres
once more try
for resurrection
in my benighted
dream world.
you will find the doors
locked and barred,
upon them a sign
not verbose,

**Done.
Whew.
I. The Door

Out of it steps our future, through this door
Enigmas, executioners and rules,
Her Majesty in a bad temper or
A red-nosed Fool who makes a fool of fools.

Great persons eye it in the twilight for
A past it might so carelessly let in,
A widow with a missionary grin,
The foaming inundation at a roar.

We pile our all against it when afraid,
And beat upon its panels when we die:
By happening to be open once, it made

Enormous Alice see a wonderland
That waited for her in the sunshine and,
Simply by being tiny, made her cry.

II. The Preparations

All had been ordered weeks before the start
From the best firms at such work: instruments
To take the measure of all queer events,
And drugs to move the bowels or the heart.

A watch, of course, to watch impatience fly,
Lamps for the dark and shades against the sun;
Foreboding, too, insisted on a gun,
And coloured beads to soothe a savage eye.

In theory they were sound on Expectation,
Had there been situations to be in;
Unluckily they were their situation:

One should not give a poisoner medicine,
A conjurer fine apparatus, nor
A rifle to a melancholic bore.

III. The Crossroads

Two friends who met here and embraced are gone,
Each to his own mistake; one flashes on
To fame and ruin in a rowdy lie,
A village torpor holds the other one,
Some local wrong where it takes time to die:
This empty junction glitters in the sun.

So at all quays and crossroads: who can tell
These places of decision and farewell
To what dishonour all adventure leads,
What parting gift could give that friend protection,
So orientated his vocation needs
The Bad Lands and the sinister direction?

All landscapes and all weathers freeze with fear,
But none have ever thought, the legends say,
The time allowed made it impossible;
For even the most pessimistic set
The limit of their errors at a year.
What friends could there be left then to betray,
What joy take longer to atone for; yet
Who could complete without the extra day
The journey that should take no time at all?

IV. The Traveler

No window in his suburb lights that bedroom where
A little fever heard large afternoons at play:
His meadows multiply; that mill, though, is not there
Which went on grinding at the back of love all day.

Nor all his weeping ways through weary wastes have found
The castle where his Greater Hallows are interned;
For broken bridges halt him, and dark thickets round
Some ruin where an evil heritage was burned.

Could he forget a child's ambition to be old
And institutions where it learned to wash and lie,
He'd tell the truth for which he thinks himself too young,

That everywhere on his horizon, all the sky,
Is now, as always, only waiting to be told
To be his father's house and speak his mother tongue.

V. The City

In villages from which their childhoods came
Seeking Necessity, they had been taught
Necessity by nature is the same
No matter how or by whom it be sought.

The city, though, assumed no such belief,
But welcomed each as if he came alone,
The nature of Necessity like grief
Exactly corresponding to his own.

And offered them so many, every one
Found some temptation fit to govern him,
And settled down to master the whole craft

Of being nobody; sat in the sun
During the lunch-hour round the fountain rim,
And watched the country kids arrive, and laughed.

VI. The First Temptation

Ashamed to be the darling of his grief,
He joined a gang of rowdy stories where
His gift for magic quickly made him chief
Of all these boyish powers of the air;

Who turned his hungers into Roman food,
The town's asymmetry into a park;
All hours took taxis; any solitude
Became his flattered duchess in the dark.

But, if he wished for anything less grand,
The nights came padding after him like wild
Beasts that meant harm, and all the doors cried Thief;

And when Truth had met him and put out her hand,
He clung in panic to his tall belief
And shrank away like an ill-treated child.

VII. The Second Temptation

His library annoyed him with its look
Of calm belief in being really there;
He threw away a rival's boring book,
And clattered panting up the spiral stair.

Swaying upon the parapet he cried:
"O Uncreated Nothing, set me free,
Now let Thy perfect be identified,
Unending passion of the Night, with Thee."

And his long-suffering flesh, that all the time
Had felt the simple cravings of the stone
And hoped to be rewarded for her climb,

Took it to be a promise when he spoke
That now at last she would be left alone,
And plunged into the college quad, and broke.

VIII. The Third Temptation

He watched with all his organs of concern
How princes walk, what wives and children say,
Re-opened old graves in his heart to learn
What laws the dead had died to disobey,

And came reluctantly to his conclusion:
"All the arm-chair philosophies are false;
To love another adds to the confusion;
The song of mercy is the Devil's Waltz."

All that he put his hand to prospered so
That soon he was the very King of creatures,
Yet, in an autumn nightmare trembled, for,

Approaching down a ruined corridor,
Strode someone with his own distorted features
Who wept, and grew enormous, and cried Woe.

IX. The Tower

This is an architecture for the old;
Thus heaven was attacked by the afraid,
So once, unconsciously, a ****** made
Her maidenhead conspicuous to a god.

Here on dark nights while worlds of triumph sleep
Lost Love in abstract speculation burns,
And exiled Will to politics returns
In epic verse that makes its traitors weep.

Yet many come to wish their tower a well;
For those who dread to drown, of thirst may die,
Those who see all become invisible:

Here great magicians, caught in their own spell,
Long for a natural climate as they sigh
"Beware of Magic" to the passer-by.

X. The Presumptuous

They noticed that virginity was needed
To trap the unicorn in every case,
But not that, of those virgins who succeeded,
A high percentage had an ugly face.

The hero was as daring as they thought him,
But his peculiar boyhood missed them all;
The angel of a broken leg had taught him
The right precautions to avoid a fall.

So in presumption they set forth alone
On what, for them, was not compulsory,
And stuck half-way to settle in some cave
With desert lions to domesticity,

Or turned aside to be absurdly brave,
And met the ogre and were turned to stone.

XI. The Average

His peasant parents killed themselves with toil
To let their darling leave a stingy soil
For any of those fine professions which
Encourage shallow breathing, and grow rich.

The pressure of their fond ambition made
Their shy and country-loving child afraid
No sensible career was good enough,
Only a hero could deserve such love.

So here he was without maps or supplies,
A hundred miles from any decent town;
The desert glared into his blood-shot eyes,
The silence roared displeasure:
looking down,
He saw the shadow of an Average Man
Attempting the exceptional, and ran.

XII. Vocation

Incredulous, he stared at the amused
Official writing down his name among
Those whose request to suffer was refused.

The pen ceased scratching: though he came too late
To join the martyrs, there was still a place
Among the tempters for a caustic tongue

To test the resolution of the young
With tales of the small failings of the great,
And shame the eager with ironic praise.

Though mirrors might be hateful for a while,
Women and books would teach his middle age
The fencing wit of an informal style,
To keep the silences at bay and cage
His pacing manias in a worldly smile.

XIII. The Useful

The over-logical fell for the witch
Whose argument converted him to stone,
Thieves rapidly absorbed the over-rich,
The over-popular went mad alone,
And kisses brutalised the over-male.

As agents their importance quickly ceased;
Yet, in proportion as they seemed to fail,
Their instrumental value was increased
For one predestined to attain their wish.

By standing stones the blind can feel their way,
Wild dogs compel the cowardly to fight,
Beggars assist the slow to travel light,
And even madmen manage to convey
Unwelcome truths in lonely gibberish.

XIV. The Way

Fresh addenda are published every day
To the encyclopedia of the Way,

Linguistic notes and scientific explanations,
And texts for schools with modernised spelling and illustrations.

Now everyone knows the hero must choose the old horse,
Abstain from liquor and ****** *******,

And look out for a stranded fish to be kind to:
Now everyone thinks he could find, had he a mind to,

The way through the waste to the chapel in the rock
For a vision of the Triple Rainbow or the Astral Clock,

Forgetting his information comes mostly from married men
Who liked fishing and a flutter on the horses now and then.

And how reliable can any truth be that is got
By observing oneself and then just inserting a Not?

XV. The Lucky

Suppose he'd listened to the erudite committee,
He would have only found where not to look;
Suppose his terrier when he whistled had obeyed,
It would not have unearthed the buried city;
Suppose he had dismissed the careless maid,
The cryptogram would not have fluttered from the book.

"It was not I," he cried as, healthy and astounded,
He stepped across a predecessor's skull;
"A nonsense jingle simply came into my head
And left the intellectual Sphinx dumbfounded;
I won the Queen because my hair was red;
The terrible adventure is a little dull."

Hence Failure's torment: "Was I doomed in any case,
Or would I not have failed had I believed in Grace?"

XVI. The Hero

He parried every question that they hurled:
"What did the Emperor tell you?" "Not to push."
"What is the greatest wonder of the world?"
"The bare man Nothing in the Beggar's Bush."

Some muttered: "He is cagey for effect.
A hero owes a duty to his fame.
He looks too like a grocer for respect."
Soon they slipped back into his Christian name.

The only difference that could be seen
From those who'd never risked their lives at all
Was his delight in details and routine:

For he was always glad to mow the grass,
Pour liquids from large bottles into small,
Or look at clouds through bits of coloured glass.

XVII. Adventure

Others had found it prudent to withdraw
Before official pressure was applied,
Embittered robbers outlawed by the Law,
Lepers in terror of the terrified.

But no one else accused these of a crime;
They did not look ill: old friends, overcome,
Stared as they rolled away from talk and time
Like marbles out into the blank and dumb.

The crowd clung all the closer to convention,
Sunshine and horses, for the sane know why
The even numbers should ignore the odd:

The Nameless is what no free people mention;
Successful men know better than to try
To see the face of their Absconded God.

XVIII. The Adventurers

Spinning upon their central thirst like tops,
They went the Negative Way towards the Dry;
By empty caves beneath an empty sky
They emptied out their memories like slops,

Which made a foul marsh as they dried to death,
Where monsters bred who forced them to forget
The lovelies their consent avoided; yet,
Still praising the Absurd with their last breath,

They seeded out into their miracles:
The images of each grotesque temptation
Became some painter's happiest inspiration,

And barren wives and burning virgins came
To drink the pure cold water of their wells,
And wish for beaux and children in their name.

XIX. The Waters

Poet, oracle, and wit
Like unsuccessful anglers by
The ponds of apperception sit,
Baiting with the wrong request
The vectors of their interest,
At nightfall tell the angler's lie.

With time in tempest everywhere,
To rafts of frail assumption cling
The saintly and the insincere;
Enraged phenomena bear down
In overwhelming waves to drown
Both sufferer and suffering.

The waters long to hear our question put
Which would release their longed-for answer, but.

**. The Garden

Within these gates all opening begins:
White shouts and flickers through its green and red,
Where children play at seven earnest sins
And dogs believe their tall conditions dead.

Here adolescence into number breaks
The perfect circle time can draw on stone,
And flesh forgives division as it makes
Another's moment of consent its own.

All journeys die here: wish and weight are lifted:
Where often round some old maid's desolation
Roses have flung their glory like a cloak,

The gaunt and great, the famed for conversation
Blushed in the stare of evening as they spoke
And felt their centre of volition shifted.
Forgive, the two Joyeous Athletes Robust
And leave this Artist consigned and confessed
His Leaves have matured; But Duty he must
Remember the Gladness they each Possessed
Now I know why I never read his Book
Of I's and Me's so favoured by the Youth
His Grinning Plastic took long seen afoot
And his Spy's Kiss succeeded on its Cue
How much more will the Hell of Lover's Fair
Pour Molten Syrup to Souls, who, in spite
Swallow Stubborn Sugars labelled Beware
And the Green-Eyed Monster roared in Delight.
Now I know why your Picture flashed within
The Secret lies on your Pre-Olympic Ring.
#tomdaleytv #tomdaley1994

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