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Ron Sanders Feb 2020
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
melise hill Apr 2010
When I called Katherine,
she talked to me with the same hollow
raspiness in her voice as when we were children.
I had seen her name on a pamphlet for
a historical exposition before finding the courage to call.
To my disappointment,
she seemed more pre-occupied
rather than pleasantly surprised to hear
my voice
after almost twenty years.  
When she said “Thomas,”
it was like a habit,
drawn from a long stream of monotony.  I listened
intently as she dictated when and where we would meet,
like it was a speech
she was reading off battered queue cards.
During the entire phone call,
I imagined her on the other line,
as I’d remembered her;
too bold for such a fragile body,
with curls the colour of burnt grass,
and a dot of sweaty reflection
on the tip of her pointed nose.  I saw her
mouth move faster than her words,
which trickled from behind her lips
like butterflies. When the phone clicked,
I was left with a sort of dead and empty silence,
mixed with a touch of mystical fantasy.  

This morning,
I ate alone adjacent to the window of a dingy, cheap café.  
I drank my coffee black and carefully.  
It vibrated atop my thin,
quivering
hands; as result in spite of itself and too much thinking.  
I got up from the table,
leaving a disputable tip and began walking towards our arranged meeting place.

Outside,
leaves fell like snowflakes in the dying season
and the frigid air
pressed against my body like tightly bound bandages.  
I blew warmth into my hands,
which have always been cold and dry
as clay when it’s left in the sun too long.  

Katherine,
she had laughed at the dryness of my fingers
throwing her head back
and emitting a sort of pleasant growl.  
We must have only been nine,
and the winter had just begun
to melt into spring,
but the air was still so utterly brisk.  
I was just bony hands,
as cold as a winter pole.  
Katherine had looked down
to where I’d had my hands laced
together like a knotted ball of yarn.  She’d told me
that they looked like sticks of chalk
and looked into my eyes with a warm,
doting gaze,
grinning with folly.  I had
simply stared back at her,
entirely expressionless and coy.  
She had reached into her bag
and held a warm stone out,
new flowing blood to hold.  
Oh, what a contrast you were.  
She had been so warm and light
against the bleakness of a winter day.  
My timid young fingers held a decent animal.


While walking in weather like this,
when the cold arrives so suddenly
that you find yourself awfully unprepared, it seems
like you’re getting nowhere.  
It’s like walking up a descending escalator;
you’re aware of the attempted movement,
but everything is so immobile,
that you seem to be in the same spot
for hours.  Each step is a static, solid crack;
the frozen atmosphere freezes bodies.  
Time has briefly paused and become a solid block,
one that I’ve found myself restrained within.  
The harsh coldness is a strong compression
and the frigidity is so stagnant
that movement seems strangely rare,
and when a gentle wind caresses the air,
it’s like a light stream of reality.  
The falling leaves dance
with the breeze,
but when it stops,
they pause in midair
before descending in harsh increments
onto the cement.


The cool of a temperate breeze,
from dark skies to wet grass, had tickled
the bare arms of Katherine and I one spring morning.  
The sun was still below the horizon,
but its illumination was visible
as an iris blue glow at the edge of the field
we had been walking along.  
Katherine had held my shoulder
as she balanced along a decomposing fallen tree.
All had been absolutely silent
except for the few crickets still awake,
and the miniscule scuffling of Katherine’s feet
on the bark.  In the distance,
we had heard a low cough,
and we looked up to see an old man,
sullen and with a stature similar to a refrigerator,
as he continued walking up the way
toward us.  Katherine had stopped
walking along the log and let go of my shoulder,
watching the old man grow nearer.  
The dark blue sky reflected
against her green eyes that induced aqua flashes,
corresponding with each dart of her eyes.  The old man
carried a branch,
using it as a walking stick.  
We had waited attentively
and still as if trying to camouflage
ourselves as part of the forest behind us.
The man had stopped abruptly and
turned his back to us,
raising one hand to his brow
as if blocking the sun
that hadn’t yet risen.  His head moved,
regarding the vast,
recently planted field.  
Following what seemed like a year,
he turned to us, noted that the sky revealed
what was going to be a beautiful day,
then continued on his walk.
The occurrence had left Katherine and I
in muffled giggles.  I gently pushed
her from the log
and we fell in the field,
the wet immature plants covering us
with bits of morning moisture.  
Water droplets had ricocheted onto us
with each frivolous movement.  
That now seems to me a thousand springs past.  


As I approached our designated place to meet,
I regarded my watch and realized
that I had arrived several minutes tardy.
It being a Sunday morning,
with the weather
not so preferable such as it was,
the park was nearly empty.  
I wasn’t able to see Katherine anywhere,
so I took a seat on a vacant bench to wait.  
In the distance,
I saw two young children
attempting to fly kites.  The kites followed them,
as if on a leash,
bounding up and down from the ground
as they ran.  
A sudden gust of wind sent the kites
high into the air, and
the children continued to run,
in hopes of creating their own wind,
once the present one ceased.  The wind
past under my nose and I inhaled,
absorbing the strong scent of dead leaves.


Katherine and I had once built kites together.  
They had been awfully unfortunate crafts,
made from thin cotton sheets,
twigs and twine.  It was one
of the last days of summer,
and there had been a great amount of wind
one particular day.  
We had taken our makeshift kites to the field,
where the open desolation
seemed the most appropriate.  
With only a few strides taken, our kites
had immediately flown.  
The two had soared side by side,
simultaneously.  
They had been like feathers
floating freely in the sky,
but we controlled the freedom.  
The sun began to set behind us,
painting the sky
like spilled oil in a lake.  Our high-pitched laughter
had echoed off clouds,
and that was all that we heard.  
Katherine and I ran in opposite directions,
then back toward each other.  
As she passed me,
I smelled the scent of her skin
and some foreign flowers.
When the kite lines first crossed, we tied them into knots.  
We again,
had run in opposite directions,
but the kites remained together.  
To finally fly apart, we had to cut them off.


Since then,
it’s been a book you read in reverse;
you understand less
as the pages turn.  I had pushed
memories of Katherine
to the back of my mind.  
I left them obscured,
tied to a brick and as sweet as a song.


I waited just under an hour
and Katherine still had yet to arrive.  
The sidewalks were empty,
no frail women headed towards the park.  
I watched as the last leaves fell
from a nearby tree, and
settled into a groove between exposed roots.  
Another soft wind
passed by me and I caught a brief scent of foreign flowers.  
Katherine’s memory was here.  
My hands were cracking
like an oil painting,
all white and dry in the cold.  
I’d like her to offer me
a warm stone and
stay warm and light on a winter’s day.
I looked up to the clouds sighing
and slowly rising from the bench.  
I saw two loose kites in the distance falling from the sky,
drawn to the ground in an end to flight.
From the song "Pink Bullets" by The Shins.
Sub Pop Records, 2003.
Hello World Dec 2014
Floating, drifting,
Slowly it passed from his hand
To the cold, hard sidewalk.
It once was a pretty flower,
With petals bright and cheerful
And a stem green and healthy.
Johnny’s night had not been great,
As was anticipated by his mom.
“You’ll have fun!” she said.
“But what about…” he trailed off,
Remembering the hulking ex-boyfriend
Of Lily, the girl he thought he loved.
“Just have fun,” she soothed.
Walking- no scuffling -down the street,
He remembered those last words she had said.
Even though this hadn’t been the night of his life,
He could still have a good time, right?
Five minutes later,
Johnny exited the nearby hardware store.
Four cans of spray paint in hand,
He drifted into the community center downtown.
All Johnny needed was a blank canvas
And about an hour before they closed for the night.
I thought I was going to get my first kiss.
I could have sworn she was going to be my girlfriend this time.
If only I wasn’t such a dork,
Then maybe she would be interested in me.
I hate everyone and everything!

The paint sprayed and splattered onto the canvas.
Johnny was breathing hard now.
Now he was ready, he was energized.
Ready to take on the world.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
With a cover over the painting,
Johnny headed back to the dance.
He hadn’t even entered the building before,
Which meant he still had his ticket.
Johnny threw his ticket to the usher
And made his way over to the DJ.
“Turn off the music for like five minutes. Please.”
“Why?”
“Because I’ll give you three dollars
And whatever else is in my pocket.”
“Fine. Five minutes. No more.”
“Thanks.” Johnny smiled.
As soon as the music was off,
Johnny dashed over to Lily
And her giant boyfriend.
He set the painting on the floor
And grabbed her in his arms.
Johnny then kissed her
As passionately as he knew how.
Lily, stunned and confused,
Teetered back onto a chair.
Then, just when the huge brute was about to punch him,
Johnny swiftly clutched the picture and ripped off its cover.
The boyfriend gazed, along with the rest of the crowd,
At the beautiful ******* the canvas.
“You painted this?”
“Yeah.”
“You really love Lily, huh?”
“Yeah.”
“Then you need to kiss her again.”
The ex-boyfriend smiled at Johnny and Johnny smiled back.
He looked over at Lily.
He handed his painting to the ex-boyfriend.
Johnny reached for Lily’s hand,
Wrapped his arms around her.
“Will you, Lily, be my girlfriend?”
Lily gazed into Johnny’s eyes,
Leaned in,
And whispered in his ear,
“Yes.”
The picture that goes with this poem is my new profile picture.
mEb Oct 2010
Upon his glottal’s larynx spreads a lingual deformity. Isolation as a result from tuggo disaffiliates. Misshapen promontory in the direction of upper-body inflammation. Not only above torso alone, location;head/injury;mouth/main informative;tongue.
The boy’s tongue was permanently horned. A horn of 18 inches shy, where taste buds formulate, he owned a lone spike. He wasn’t abraded by the unfoldment of onlookers around. His irregular attachment was a main confidant. Criticized, he was not welcomed by towns near. Citizen’s were baffled and disgusted, ridiculing him daily, he did not impale with grieve over appearance. Enmity he wanted and craved. Among the works of flesh, square inch niches, repugnance revealed. Revenge, revenge. Vindictive spirit shelled so timely and calm. Remaining this state of sumptuous integrity made him stronger each go about. These goes were so stimulus, adding to the *** of hatred. Deep into the tundra’s most vile he intruded. Went so every month or few, for weeks at a time. For this sheet of rigid earth so contiguous to the town made the worried weary, the skeptical seared, and the nautical not so knitted with directional sense. This was his consummation of gathering. The place of being a being. The dry winter amid eight months was restricted, so the moment a due mustn’t be bothered. He had his reason of validness for course. A rich succulent from the bearings of plant life on cliffs. Repelling an obstacle such as was ludicrous for even one born the ever so adequate and society defined norm. Now having a tongue with a horn, some sought might as well die to be reborn. He had to, to stay alive. The liquid, which sit so treacherous, was the mold to mouth medicine. To speak at all it must be attained. Not only a curdling death trap waiting to swallow, the boy had to get a plentiful amount for the hard hitting winters collied. His tongue could swell like the storms, loud crimson on the esophagus. To die of asphyxiation was his dodge of ultimatum.
While passing by a local television in a thrift shop-
“Today’s Newscast: Blizzards, moving in at speeds of 94 mph. Predicted to cover like a blanket for 12 months. Ice Age relative people, this one is gonna be big! Stay indoors at night, the barometric’s indicate that from 9PM to 4AM temperatures as low as 28- will stouten for the next year. Once again people, stay indoors at these hours, get your needs when available. Back to you Ronda with the quintuplets birth today!”
Plucked and grit witted he stood. He felt the trepidation of abhorrence swaying in orbit around him. How to emanate from this delay? At least five clones of self did not exist for him. Merriment struct pro, while the cons derived from which they know. Exultation when despondent, how greatly that gift could gab. Despoilment of that, he weighed options out. To altercate thick snow or simply, let it go. Afraid to die unrivaled, the off cutting is wisest. Since his first second to now he’s flourished with his horn. Obliteration to the occulted manifestation mannered as an antique replica of anyone catching him by twice by day. Remove it, remove it, remove if you want life in your years that follow. Remove it, ever so. Remove it, cut and sew. Cut and sew. Remove.
This plateau poisoned place stay calm, anticipating climate of tempest bold reaches, anyone who was anyone was not so. Negative degrees. How could he retaliate the opposite, while acquiring a surgeon field hay day buck builder? Eruption turns the wave of cons. An only equal precision, deciding, tonight is the night. To assemble the tools, publicly was questionable, no more, through. He will emerge to the lands and people a new man, sustained, and hornless. No more. From scratch he will vender what’s needed. Wood was chiseled under the last moon viewed for three sixty three days ahead. Uprooted vines of old pine will hold the bark tight. Breath revealing around the outsides of his appendage. Like a fork in the road, which way can you go, for him air strides both. Scuffling fearful towards the pike of the tundra, he is where wanted by none. A be all end all as you could alleviate ones slightest sympathy, the courage it takes, ****** immense. His sweat was not seen, but there it consists. One hand grappled around his earthly dagger, tongue positioned in an outward arrangement. Travail glowing all over him as an aura unlanguid with no disruption veering. Abound now, without great weight on his shoulders, he’s lived. Ascending keen eyes towards the blood bath around his feet, going both ways around the fork and road. After relinquishing his steady gavel, the checking of his pulse is counted. 5, 6, 7, 8, seconds, still life to live. For the very first ritual to come, placed in his mouth, the tongue. The rigid roof so unfamiliar and new he bestowed in his joy of such a common flank. The tundra felt warm as he inside let over pour. Once more a milder gasp as he vociferates to the last moon for the year. On his peak, and favored place of being, he let out his tongue. Sharp inclement so hawkish and frosted he felt. The lilliputian of no pain, heeded by first snow to wane.
this was inspired by the album art of Morgul;

http://black-legion-shop.de/catalog/images/Morgul%20-%20Sketch%20Of%20Supposed%20Murderer%20-%20CD.jpg
Mateuš Conrad Jan 2020
sample size excavation:

urbanity forsake the village-metality
of the undisclosed biological
credo...
                     urbanity became
a pawn & pauper in a "clues",
which replaced facts...
                         i am more mushroom
than reptile or genital mutilation
grammar asking...

              finally! cricket has come home!
well... in between watching
roland garros,
and the ICC?
             even i can agree...
of all the h'american sports?
  baseball... sure...
ice hockey... sure...
     basketball... sure...
   h'american football?
esp. when watching rugby?
  i don't get it...
         scuffling in the middle...
pass back... one throw forward...
a decent runner...
         ball hits the deck...
"regroup"...
      reinforced rugby-esque scrum
drama...
    play-stop-play-stop...
ad. revenue interlude...
   start-stop-start-stop...
             doesn't it get boring, ever?!

i had to turn to cricket!
oh i'm enjoying the cricket...
it's like chess + braille + bridge
dynamic of tactic... sure...
it's not baseball...
       it's cricket!

   international test matches...
50 overs...
         50 x 6 = 300 throws of the ball...
1 over = 6 throws...
no other sport was so much
beautiful jargon,
so much stat.,

             and so many idiosyncratic
terms...
what do they call english
cricketers? tourists...
west indies (the carribean team?)
the windies...
          
          349-8 (349 runs...
         8 wickets)...
              
                   imagine a sport...
where it lasts so long that it errodes
your attention span like
a Tolstoy novel...
      come morning,
it finishes in the early hours of
the evening...

                cricket... quintessential
Dickensian replacement narrative...
and i've never seen more
laid back referees (umpires)...
what's a 4 to a 6
in terms of body language?

you have tactic akin to bowlers
throwing spin-accents...
so there's a minimum of a 1-2 1-2
runs... rather than 4 or 6 worth
of smackers...

            cricket isn't the worst
of games... by far h'american football...
that's the worst game, ever...
then, golf...
             **** me... table tennis
beats those two games,
even without all the glamour...
but itching chinese pretending
to be fast paced insect-esque
reaction time automatons...

                 i mean two female sport
events make complete sense...
tennis and gymnastics...

i don't even know why i enjoy cricket...
after all,
i am not exactly english "born and bred"...
bred from the age of 8...
hybrid mongrel...
i would still like to appreciate
the sports celebrated by the land
of my birth...
        żużel (speedway) and
(szczyptarze... almost a googlewhack...
2 results)...
                 hand-ball... and volley-ball...
greek wrestling...
      archery...
             sport is so under-represented
these days...
        only the major sports...
and at times, the monopoly associated
with their funding, their subsequent
traction of spectator numbers...
  it's so boring!
             it becomes too tribal!
totteham hotspur f.c.: born and bred!
there are so many other sports...
that do not entertain tribal ergonomics!
most of the olympic sports, for starters!

  today i was watching pakistan take
on england in the ICC world cup...
             ****- beauties all round...
      and then... for some "weird" reason...
the shadow of Rotherham...
     the cube didn't fit into the square
hole a gorilla was supposed
to push the prism through...
            
       there are just so many underrated
sports! it's not even worth criticising
sports per se...
         it's the sports that appeal to
the masses, that elevate the sport beyond
the sport per se, and craft trivial and
tribal affiliations that bothers me!

           i still think h'american football
is the dumbest sport available...
considering it as, rugby: devolved.
there's as much sense of passing the ball
backwards, imitating a charging wave
against a coastline of defence...
as there will ever be any sense found...
in scuffling in the middle
like some pretend boxing match...
allowing only one pass backwards...
and one runner maneuvering past the pointless
scuffle in the middle...
pass back, one throw, one catch...
                       run Forest! run!

o.k. even i found cricket a bit *******...
asparagus... ****... asperger syndrome
with its overt analysis...
   but even cricket looks better
than that ******* irish pub brawl
take on boxing that h'american football
represents...

bloated egos in armour...
           sorry, even ping pong looks
more appealing...
the ******* sumo diet worthwhile
to compete with...
        it's the cricket world cup...
and the time it takes to play out
100 overs?
    maybe chance upon a 6 run...
   8 wickets...
                      elsewhere
handball is pop, as is volleyball...
ski-jumping...
          
        sport per se isn't the problem...
it becomes a problem when
sport becomes tribal,
and the initial per se pleasure
of the spectacle of a sport is drained...
when people have to take sides...
when the sport per se cannot
be appreciated...
            hence the "concept" of the sport,
the logic of behind the sport is lost,
lost in the fact that it is lost to
it being monetized...

              when sport, resembles....
the kind of live performance,
akin to Heilung - Alfadhirhaiti...
while i am left, bound to the greater desires,
of moving to Greenland...
or the Faroe Islands...
        because even the English summers...
are starting to resemble
Indian summers more and more...
**** being your atypical English
sun-worshipper who "miraculously"
moved outside of London...

                         not, far, enough!
give me Greenland, give me the Faroe Islands,
give me Alaska!
    i can't stand this surge in
the creeping Summer heat about
to grind England to a halt!
                   however long it will take,
i wish to plan my escape to these lands...
i don't want a year's worth more,
in this little saudi land of the north,
with pubescent saudi ******* racers
bragging their diesel lamborghini *******
down Knightsbridge!
(Bergen)SEVEN days all fog, all mist, and the turbines pounding through high seas.
I was a plaything, a rat's neck in the teeth of a scuffling mastiff.
Fog and fog and no stars, sun, moon.
Then an afternoon in fjords, low-lying lands scrawled in granite languages on a gray sky,
A night harbor, blue dusk mountain shoulders against a night sky,
And a circle of lights blinking: Ninety thousand people here.
  Among the Wednesday night thousands in goloshes and coats slickered for rain,
  I learned how hungry I was for streets and people.
  
I would rather be water than anything else.
I saw a drive of salt fog and mist in the North Atlantic and an iceberg dusky as a cloud in the gray of morning.
And I saw the dream pools of fjords in Norway ... and the scarf of dancing water on the rocks and over the edges of mountain shelves.
Bury me in a mountain graveyard in Norway.
Three tongues of water sing around it with snow from the mountains.
  
Bury me in the North Atlantic.
A fog there from Iceland will be a murmur in gray over me and a long deep wind sob always.
  
Bury me in an Illinois cornfield.
The blizzards loosen their pipe ***** voluntaries in winter stubble and the spring rains and the fall rains bring letters from the sea.
Mateuš Conrad Sep 2017
you might only grasp this sentiment, within the framework of in extremo's song melancholie.

for many night i've sat, and thought about
it: for in the night, there come several
questions, namely:
  why is the moon so inconsistent with
respect to the sun,
as in: you see the sun, either with clear
sky, or with the dulling english grey
of overcast, every, single, day...
while some nights, remain devoid of sighting
a moon?
  that glittering scythe of death,
and the eternal sleep?
    why?
           i don't want a scientific answer now,
numbed by fact,
  i want the first generation fruition of
inquisitiveness, of the plague of doubt in
giving the "wrong" answer,
  i want to know as to why:
each & every day we see the sun,
but not in the case the night:
to see moon also apparent as the constellations...
some night, i howled, and didn't see
a moon...
         then again i did see a moon at noon
in the wintry season at noon...
****** did a quantum trick on me...
******? which brings me to language disparity...
gender *neutrality
of pronouns,
does, not, exist!
     i can't believe i'm currently living
in a mental asylum...
  but i am! and so are you!
   play the mad-man's game!
play it! pronouns do not allow "gender"
neutrality... they never will!
what's at stake is noun-genderism...
in a language, far far away:
the moon (księżyc) is male...
the sun (słońce) is, female...
  pronouns are irrelevant in terms of
"gender neutrality" as if ascribing
conjunctions, articles or prepositions with
a gender bias...
you want gender "neutral" pronouns,
i want you to learn french!
go on, ******, learn french for me!
****-****-cat-fiddling-cross-dressing-junk!
learn french!
you want an assault on orthodox grammar
with your "catholicism", go on!
please understand that certain languages
have certain laws!
in polish the moon is male,
in english luna is female...
   while the sun is female -
while in english it's: louis XIV...
you can't attack pronouns with gender-neutrality...
they're already gender-neutral you
****-tards!
    why didn't you notice the ****** nouns?!
why?
   oh wait... 'ere comes the, ******* asylum
brigade with their nag hammadi dictate...
gentlemen! applause!
you can't come around dictating
orthodoxy of a language with your
lunacy!
    try the idea of:
spotting the ******* moon once upon
a night in summer... believe me:
you'll chance to live through a moonless
night!
       unlike a day without the sun!
grrr.... yi ha ha ha ha!
    i'm going to wake up the graeae and
tell you a fourth secret, once you take
to the crucifix being replaced by
a cannibalising cauldron!
     grrr... rattles of branches shaken by
a wind, and the scuffling footprint of brushing
against fallen branches that become twings...
imbeciles! imbeciles!
    english nouns do not possess
gender!
     you can't call a table either a he or a she!
english doesn't have this "luxury"!
  in french or in english you can
attest to the moon being a he,
and the sun being a she,
in english?!
  o.k. i'm so ******* berserk in my observation
that's beyond making an
"objective" injunction:
  moth on my keyboard, the trinity of
0) -_ and p -
  i don't mind attacking religion,
but when it comes to grammar:
   this is probably the worst attack "imaginable";
it's *******! english does not permit
gender distinction to nouns! esp. inanimate
nouns!
     gender "neutral" pronouns conceptualisation
if a lunatic asylum... sorry,
but these people require a safe space,
and a strait-jacket!
you can't reconstruct the "unconscious"
foundations of a language: well,
you can, if you're north american...
      english already has a "gender neutral"
medium: it has gender neutral nouns!
  how can you make pronouns "gender neutral"?!
you already have a gender neutral
pronoun... it!
           just like you have a "noun neutrality"
of thing!
just like you a "neutrality of pensiveness" -
nothing!
  given the current year:
    forest gump seems, quiet the bright fella'.
'But that was nothing to what things came out
From the sea-caves of Criccieth yonder.'
'What were they? Mermaids? dragons? ghosts?'
'Nothing at all of any things like that.'
'What were they, then?'
                                    'All sorts of queer things,
Things never seen or heard or written about,
Very strange, un-Welsh, utterly peculiar
Things. Oh, solid enough they seemed to touch,
Had anyone dared it. Marvellous creation,
All various shapes and sizes, and no sizes,
All new, each perfectly unlike his neighbour,
Though all came moving slowly out together.'
'Describe just one of them.'
                                        'I am unable.'
'What were their colours?'
                                        'Mostly nameless colours,
Colours you'd like to see; but one was puce
Or perhaps more like crimson, but not purplish.
Some had no colour.'
                                'Tell me, had they legs?'
'Not a leg or foot among them that I saw.'
'But did these things come out in any order?'
What o'clock was it? What was the day of the week?
Who else was present? How was the weather?'
'I was coming to that. It was half-past three
On Easter Tuesday last. The sun was shining.
The Harlech Silver Band played Marchog Jesu
On thrity-seven shimmering instruments
Collecting for Caernarvon's (Fever) Hospital Fund.
The populations of Pwllheli, Criccieth,
Portmadoc, Borth, Tremadoc, Penrhyndeudraeth,
Were all assembled. Criccieth's mayor addressed them
First in good Welsh and then in fluent English,
Twisting his fingers in his chain of office,
Welcoming the things. They came out on the sand,
Not keeping time to the band, moving seaward
Silently at a snail's pace. But at last
The most odd, indescribable thing of all
Which hardly one man there could see for wonder
Did something recognizably a something.'
'Well, what?'
                    'It made a noise.'
                                              'A frightening noise?'
'No, no.'
              'A musical noise? A noise of scuffling?'
'No, but a very loud, respectable noise ---
Like groaning to oneself on Sunday morning
In Chapel, close before the second psalm.'
'What did the mayor do?'
                                      'I was coming to that.'
Korey Miller Oct 2012
i'll always be there outside of the box
where you spill out your burdens to god
tell me everything you've done wrong-
just unpend your sins, you're cleansed, now you win

i'm
the convenient answer
to feeling remorseful about what you've done
made a mistake?  i'm here, don't you wait
i've got all the time you need

and on it goes; my shoulder
for you to lean on will always be there
but don't bother to ask me how i'm doing-
you're not supposed to care

i'm tired of being used like an old *****
you rip me to shreds, leave my tongue on the floor
i'm speechless, i'm hurting, held back by my pride
i'm letting my ego take over my mind
i'm playing callous like it's some sort of game
pretending i'm fine when i'm driven insane
you take the wheel from me, steer into a ditch
leaving me battered and broken, unimpressed, not spoken

i've got
my tongue tied in knots
from navigating the tangled webs you drag me through
but i
will never let myself lose

i need to destroy something, run it right through
to reflect my insides after speaking to you
and maybe i'm just a bitter young *****,
but i'll take a hit, and i won't let you miss  

so drive me into the ground
i won't be beaten down
you can't do much to me;
i can't get much lower now
how far can you bring me down?
yeah, i'll hold my ground

i'm tired of hearing each of your confessions
simply not being able is not a transgression
you're weighing me down with your innocent guilt
i won't feel your trauma if no souls were spilt

i'm so sick
of hearing your troubles; don't say what's amiss
take a hint
your drama won't make or break you
it's no calamity if she hates you

i'm tired of hearing about your petty fights
scuffling over my business won't help with your strife
you think being hateful will show me the light?
you're wrong, good riddance, get out of my life
something so intrinsic isn't abomination
no matter your creed or your denomination
your social life will never make you a saint
and confessing won't stave off my hate

i'm so sick
of hearing your troubles; don't say what's amiss
take a hint
get off of my shoulder, take your own ******* boulder
and live your own life for a bit
don't confess, i'm not impressed,
just live your life and leave me be.
SøułSurvivør Oct 2014
~~~@~~~

i break
my chrysalid womb
into a realm
without
protection

my wings
are wet and stunted
cyan jewels lie dew'd
tourmaline
clusters upon the
veins

i'm only beginning
to learn the
nature of flight

i'm at my
most vulnerable
please
protect me
but don't assist me
in my struggle
to break

FREE

~~~@~~~

it took me
disolving time to
emerge
from my own
beautiful
amorphous mess
while I drew
my imaginal discs

i dreamt
of flowers
and their
everlasting
bursting colors

the
celestial skies
and soft
empowering
spring
breeze


~~~@~~~

as i push apart
my place of
safety and security
i find the life
pumping
into my
wingspan

the colors of the
world
entrance me
i am no longer
dreaming
as i drink in
my natural
but still
foreign
home

~~~@~~~

riveting pain
with each
s p r e a d
of these
newly acquiesced
defenseless
delicate
appendiges
this
m e t a m o r p h a s i s
has just begun

my
j o u r n e y
to self discovery
paved with
wrestling and scuffling
everlasting
flight
and
wondering


~~~@~~~

for it is in the
p a I n
we find
g r o w t h

and in the
s t r u g g l e
against
the
safe and secure
that we
at last
find

F R E E D O M

~~~@~~~

dajena m
soulsurvivor
(c) october 10, 2014
There is a story of
A man who saw a
Butterfly struggling
To free itself from the
Confiness of it's
Christalis
He assisted it by
Partially breaking
The leaf like sheath
Later upon
Returning
To the site he found
The butterfly
Dead on the ground

They need the struggle
To push their blood
Into their wings
To live


It has been a great pleasure
Working with
Dajena M
To say the least!

She is a marvel!
Kyle Kulseth Jan 2014
Orange skies alight above urban blight
blinking motherboard of these city lights
the circuits begin fraying
all these alleys lead away from me

I'm only out for the time it takes
for messy thoughts to catch clean escapes
at bus stops and in dive bars,
lonely strides scuffling on sidewalks

               save me something
              just one ******* bite
              run-off melts were raging,
          I aged fast floating through city streets
                          at night

And I----
----Keep on glancing at my wristwatch
tugging collars, setting time bombs.
Doors are locked after the last call
I'll head home, turn my bed down
let my head assess the damage while I dream

Ashen nights are mine to walk borderlines
off-rhyme steps enjambed  as the clocks unwind
I tick off all the checkpoints;
all the scotch sinks and the gin joints

                send me something
              call or text to just say hi
               arctic fronts converging
              I'll be excavating frozen feet
                           all night


Slip and fall out on the sidewalk
          on a frozen pool of puke
                    I'm growing
Old and so detached
          and I am
                    losing all context
But, when the Springtime rolls around
I'll shave my face, stick out my neck
until again I'm winding watches,
strolling sidewalks, naming faces
                    and the lines
                        erased
                       tell tales.
sleeplessnxghts Nov 2013
I stare into the picture frame of life one year ago and I cannot see any truth in what once was, and what now is. The contents of the frame perpetually baffle me as I sense his frozen eyes seeping into my skin and devouring my soul. The naivety I once possessed is long gone along with the nightly tears and daily concerns. All I can think about is my last words to him, "Good. Get some sleep." Is that what people call closure? His heart no longer lingers inside mine, but it does haunt me every now and then. My scarce amount of trust was dumped into his intangible arms without a second thought. Many would find discontent in my scuffling around the past when all is already said and done, but I cannot help my mind from wandering off to the promises he made, the pain I endured, and the lessons I never learned. Trust, became distrust with him. Yet I always made excuses for his inexcusable behavior, and the words he daggered me with. I'm slowly recollecting all of the mistakes I made in falling in love with an disembodied, pain-stricken young man who could only be there in spirit. It was almost as if I loved a ghost. And what exactly brings me to recount every lost promise and every fallen out wish? His ubiquitous presence in my thoughts, the anger he provokes in my emotions. He's still hurting me and he isn't even here to see it, or care. He's moved on to his next victim, most likely telling her everything he told me and the girl before me. He does not tend to vary in his confessions of love. He'll stay on the phone with her all night and tell her that she's the most beautiful, amazing, best girlfriend ever. He will tell her that he cannot live without her, for she is the star in his black sky (yes he told me that). When will they learn that distance is the greatest weakness, not strength? When will he learn to leave the girls alone and be alone as he deserves to be? So stubborn he was. I am not sure what exactly I am searching for with this. Maybe I can't accept the "closure" I thought I had. I do not care what he is doing now, though I feel most of it is out of spite for me leaving him. One million questions lay beside me at night, cramming my brain with endless possibilities, but no concrete answers to ever satisfy my seemingly fixated mind. I am not bitter, nor am I jealous. I do not miss him and I do not miss us. As I stare into the picture frame of one year ago, I'm remorsefully regretted by the decisions I made with him. I will never obtain the answers I desire, but as the tears envelop my cheeks, I wish for all of the memories to flake off of the scrapbook and into oblivion, as if they never existed.
Xiomara Hussein Feb 2014
Tiresome he choked
Scuffling on the cold wood floor
Waxed thoroughly, his eyes meets the cracks of another him
An alternate view adjacent and new
Conquering the present with its futuristic view
Wounds appear, slapping, scrapping, and screeching
He doesn’t want this life
It’s not his for the keeping
Gliding across, fingers numb and broken
His tears fall too loudly, rudely outspoken
Another him gleaming and cunning
Wraps his wrist with grips unreal
Forcefully pulled, head first into another him
Unwillingly christened, knees bandaged and bruised
New, He stands up tall, forgetfully leaves behind
The now scuffed, raw *****, cold, wood floor
There's hedgehogs in my garden
I only see them at night
sniffing and scuffling around
for worms, slugs and termites

They are such particular creatures
with their hardened spins on top
and very little downy fur underneath
they are rather lovely, sniffing underleaf

Those cute little snouts sniffing around
looking for creature that dwell underground
and when they are harassed at all
they do curl up into a tiny ball

I love the hedgehogs in my garden
they are such sweet little things
and when it's cold at night
I bring them warm milk and a bite


By Christos Andreas Kourtis aka NeonSolaris
Sarah Spencer Mar 2013
Soft scuffling of grandpas boots on the wet dirt
As he kicks a rock down the path
A soft sigh escapes his lips
And the rock falls into a small mud bath

The sun slowly rising
The new warmth spread across my face
As i close my eyes
I hear grandpa soothing voice
we’ll be there soon he says

I open my eyes to
The dew covering the fresh cut green grass
In the wide open field
The daffodils and tulips ready to bloom
Forming a shield around the new stone
That has been placed in the middle

The place grandma always loved
Her favorite spot for lunch
We’d share the pies she’d baked
And grandpas ham sandwiches

My nose filled with the smell of fresh soil
Grandpa pulls me in my little red wagon
Down the small hill
Its squeaky wheels and long black handle
A handful of daisies
And me in my white sandals

Grandpa pulls up to the stone
And a soft tears escapes his eyes
down his wrinkled cheeks
As he pulls a single **** that had grown

I squeeze his firm hand
The tears fade
And a smile appears
As he kisses my head
And looks up to the sky

Sometimes,
You can smell grandmas perfume
And pies in the field
She sits and waits
As grandpa returns
Day after day
For lunch.
A poem about a grandfather taking his granddaughter to visit grandmas grave for lunch.
Mateuš Conrad Aug 2016
better than an autobiographer, a chronicler... when you die you'll find me among Bulgarian prostitutes sneezing good luck when your try to reinvented the airs surrounding the English monarch taking a **** into her crown... i know there's this thing concerned with tattoos and peacocks, but established peacocking, passed from generation to generation is just silly; animal plateaus with what man calls democracy - survives as long as the majority is kept asexual and the few engage in the acts of fleshy gymnasiums.

i like nights like these, no poems, no scaffold, nothing
to get to grips with... the last day of the Olympics turns out
to be boring... father talking about Irish Nazis
with that ironic motto of *Abreit Macht Frei

like a singalong - working Sundays,
the Irish **** thinks he has Romanians
under his belt he can goose-strut
toward a failed project... you rarely hear
of construction industry's blunt racism...
but it's there, and they dare call it
the enlightening Europe...
no wonder Islam is attacking former colonial
nations, makes the argument speedy
and solidified... it does **** me off..
you watch these anti-Chinese poets
labour words: but at the same time say
things like: depeche mode's 'words are
unnecessary, words like violence,
words are unnecessary, they can only do harm',
not the poets, those who practice poetry
and try to keep the status quo...
i hope the Irish sinking in the frozen
waters of Titanic met their hamster angels,
i really do... not man enough as a featherweight
to box against a Klitschko, fair enough...
but mind you: words are everything,
this stance to avoid the meaning of words
is not s much anti-biblical (in the beginning was
word, and with god was destined to reside) -
later man came along, and recognising that
certain pieces of information were implanted
in words he decided the stuffing was too much...
better do a Christina Aguilera -
words can't hurt, can't infringe -
so we're basically backing up to the utility of
sign language, or punches...
back in the monkey haven... so much for the theory
of evolution... are you saying we shouldn't be using
words? that's basically what you're saying...
keep it simple... keep it ~friendly....
ensure the idea persists, but that language doesn't...
we were never going to agree,
neither was William the Conqueror with Saxon swine...
i know a schwab when i sehen one...
a stick has two ends... edition of being struck over
the head... edition of being hit in the ******* another...
but i just like days, when there's nothing meaningful in my head...
it's all helium giggles at that point...
going to the supermarket to buy whiskey
two white ****** and a dozen black hyenas march in
with me... **** small? not really... well, the ultimate
freedoms, i'm scuffling speedy Gonzales (next thing
on the censor's list of forbidding acquisition of control),
it's just fun to watch and fun to watch
looking at the stereotype skinheads...
words like violence, break the silence -
words... mm, in general i call that perfected coordination,
Moses and Prometheus, in ideogram of Egyptian
stole the meaning, later translated into skeleton Hebrew...
no prince talks the language of slaves...
no point kissing rosy Christ's backside right now...
i just want them to attempt their **** with success,
i just hate living out a life as an ensured ******* for
their safeties... it gets boring when they fail...
so you get my bearing... Nazis in England on
construction site... mainly Irish Nazis...
taboo or as some would call it: no ***** to attack
their former colonial masters... so attack the
colonisers... **** first... the head comes second...
oh the moaning and groaning of women...
**** ahoy! the men are expendable.
2 white ****** and a dozen hyenas running into
the supermarket after an **** to buy red bull
energy drinks... prancing around the city centre with
wild pride... an alcoholic rat scuttles past with
the words: what the **** are these clowns on about?
you think these girls will be able to raise a family
for their shortcut attempt at impersonal ******?
they're charity shop material... i'm not imposing
a Hijab... just saying...
what a lovely feeling, what gratification after
visiting a *******... moments like these are
just there, i'm hardly fighting for the English rose...
more like fighting over a Scottish thistle...
prostitutes are great tools when looking at society...
you get baptised in their waters lubricated without
any social cohesive reaction... that's the greatness
of prostitutes... you feel nothing when such examples
propose themselves to be viewed...
prostitutes are the greatest anaesthetic providers...
you can or don't have to believe me...
i'd rather be in their company, the fullest spectacle
of transparency... because it's not really the freedom
women and men encounter, i'm in full of support of that...
**** as much and as many as you want...
the problem is bound to Satan... the original fruit
constantly evolves with the evolution of the godhead...
i thought it was about *******... but given this
spectacle... it's actually more about LIES...
lies create spies and governments, they also create
false moral physiques... they're so ******* horrid
that you end up wanting to watch your girlfriend
**** a hundred ***** than to hear her say
that she's a nun... scout's honour... lies are worse
than the acts... everyone wants to be free, un-caged,
and that's the respect derivative...
but being lied to is out of the question...
lying should be in the old testament decalogue -
more important than ****... that's why the power
resides with prostitutes for man's encompassing
some sort of sanity... there are no lies...
there's just obvious promiscuity... those little
Christian boys can gag in their confession booths in
Churches... when you stop lying and feel no guilt
and no need for being redeemed from sins (extended into
crimes, denotative as merely lies) becomes obsolete,
even in Brazilian slums... you see those little
gnomes feeding trivial experiences of threesomes
and ****** the exotica that is simply a bunch of lies;
their exotica is bound to a family meal...
a shared meal... watch them lining up in their
cars at the McDonald drive-through...
or eating alone to a solitary confession...
once you spot them, you're like: what the **** are priests for?
i've just spotted a confession! they're sitting
slouched in some cheesy fast-food conveyor belt
trying to re-enact their tales of the Amazonian rain-forest
escapades for that much more of "exotica".
James Fate Jul 2013
My Face is held on with old shoelaces
loose and sagging at the top
the grease stained hat holds it together
tight and neat till my shift is over.

My leg bones are gone,
transformed into balloon animals.
silly, flimsy things that wouldn't stay inflated
if not for the bicycle pump
I keep in my back pocket.

Every few hours I slip into the bathroom
just to sit and awkwardly fill up my legs,
Tom & Jerry style, through my big toes.

I say I try to live in the moment,
but I don't when I'm here.

Daydreams about suspiciously well prepared hoboes:
"No cash? That's fine. I have a card reader."
Memories of friends and stupid mistakes;
the smile is real, but the eyes...

the eyes are where I fool them
the eyes are where I hide the fact
that my mind is anywhere, everywhere else.
My eyes will never tell you that here,
I wish for summer to be over.
That here, I'm scared to death
that three years from now, I'll still be here,
and summer's end won't mean ****.

The only friend I have here
says I remind him of himself.
He is pushing six years.
I just passed two.

So.

I want you to beat me into unconsciousness
with a giant, squeaky toy hammer.

The kind you can only get at the fair
for fifteen dollars or feats of mild greatness
confiscated within the first ten minutes.
Silliness so intense that our parents
destroyed it as contraband
to protect us from the poison,
our bloodlust of absurdity.

Club me in the head with it.

Please.

I want my legs to deflate.

I want to be a giggling mound of confusion,
rolling around on the floor,
within inches of enlightenment.

I want my hat to fall off,
my shoestrings to come untied,
and this stupid mask to splinter into tiny,
stupid pieces and form onto a real, stupid grin.

But most of all, I want every single note
of your noisy and utterly useless inflatable bludgeon
to be the first thing on my mind
the next time I walk around here
in my slip resistant sneakers
scuffling along the greasy tile floor.
Amanda Sep 2017
How much time passes
between inviting the sun to hunch in the corner of my room
canary and screaming for the world to stop orbiting
and suddenly it’s night
and you realize it’s been seventeen hours since your body has made a request to move
knees pulled up to chest empty and heaving white
every bone in your body an orchestra of creaking
soundly against the crickets leaping off the fourth floor of your balcony dingy
the background noise of your dreams
blood the scent of pennies ripe in the air
smeared here and there
across all things unwanted
where apologies thrive on eleven cold dollars an hour—
you never asked for this.

I am better
at tallying each shade my room turns
because it has nothing to do
with the cerulean in my face
and this is the only place
that I allow warmth to be subjective,
when it’s breaking through windows with hatchets
instead of being waited on
watching the mouth of my wall clock nailed shut
frozen in a minute and speechless,
I have no desire to dial an ambulance
bear witness to the whirring American frequencies
of heads turned 180 even during the scuffling feet rustling rush of rush hour,
I’d rather hear the ringing in my ears
of each ghost that has ever followed me back home
quaking in translucent skin.

I heard that three a.m. belongs to the devil
I haven’t tested that theory since I was seventeen sacrificing and surrendering
but I do know what happens between the hours of thinking without doing
wanting without acting
the bed a fort you are asked to hold down by that hefty feeling
in your feet that reside two blocks from where your legs used to be,
and there is no path filthy with orchids,
when dark is just on the brink of waking,
but you can’t tell the difference anymore.
“They have some cheek!”
A little twitch of the nose,
a little lick on the hands.
Blink once, blink twice, a third.

“I thought we had settled this!”
The hard, white pond makes my
feet sting, the square black puddles
tempting me to stop and have a drink.

“How many times must we do this?”
There is no more stuffiness in the air,
the night inside the walls has vanished.
The acid in the air burns my nose tunnels.

“This had better be the last time!”
Dashing in and out of the polished trees,
covered by the same silky white sky, making
my way to the large silver acorn that never ages.

“We’re going to have to work at this relationship!”
Jumping into the pockets of night hidden in
the crevices, scuffling behind the rubbery ivory.
I wait with anticipation for my yellow beauty.
Eve Redwater Jan 2012
Fixing loose-curl auburn lockets, the pins embed
And turn again. Step, and forward sway the hipbone,
Thirty, forty, a flight of granite looming forward,
Front and back, past my skirt tail – laden laced, pearly

Quiet go the foot pads, front illuminations rest forgotten,
Past the small mouse scuffling four-paw: zigging, zagging
Along the stair stage. Past the morning call in woodpecker
Tongue, squalls and loudly names the dawning. Softly,
I ascend the cold rough stairwell;
careful
Not to spend courage whole.

Wring the rusty thoughts of amorphous dreaming, eat the
Bad thought before the stairwell – ******* orts and morsels thin
Of single tipped barbs, and doubted quenching
alas
Before they mean too much.

Wave with white hands a fare-thee-well, the apparition
That pauses; portentously grinding its nothing on the wall
Seemingly real the whitewash of nothing, he is voided
But lives existent in that other-world well,
Singing, and that much better for it.

Twitch the dreaming skull-bone loose, and question not,
As I mask my tooth-grin with knuckled fingers;
He spots me slinking past the wound in time
and calls me closer,
So that I may meet him.
Emily Nov 2013
I was sitting on a train and it was pitch black except for the occasional light we passed embedded in the tunnel. I don't know why we were in the tunnel. I don't know why I was in a train.
   I was with a man who was older, maybe early 60's, slightly frail looking with a beard and a bowler hat and cane that bled elegance. Although he was frail you could tell he used to be strong.
   A younger man stood to his left, a man that was the image of the older one in his youth. His son I guessed. Same hat, similar clothes, clean shaven and thin, but looking at him there was no doubt he was strong.
   Two children sat on either side of me, very small children. With the same blue eyes, the same golden curls, the same innocent faces. They were twins. A boy and a girl. They weren't completely identical, you could look into their eyes and see the differences inside, but their appearances were an exact match.
   Another woman was with us all, but I don't know exactly what she looked like. I don't know how I saw anyone else for that matter, the train was pitch black. But her name was Anna, and she must have been beautiful, because her voice sounded like music. When she spoke you wanted to smile, I wish I had seen her face.
  
   The train was moving fast. So fast you couldn't feel it. It moved like a ghost. Through that tunnel in the dark, we were just flying.
  
   I couldn't see very well, but sometimes I could see little lights in my eyes of names and things. Flashing in front of my eyes, sometimes. The people around me are tense. As if something's just happened that no one will explain to me.
   The woman walks to the back, calls the children to her with her angels voice and they run to her, giggling maniacally. I get a bad feeling but brush it off as I watch them run off in the dark...
   The two men start to argue in whispered tones. About something serious. I can't understand them but it makes me uneasy. I hear them both scuffling in the corner. But at this point I can't see a thing. I hear a bit of a struggle, and one of them starts to quietly sob. Just a bit of a whimper at first. But it starts to grow as he cries "You promised! You promised!!" I identify the voice as the younger man, and something inside me says that his fathers hands are closed around his sons neck and slowly tightening. But the boy simply continues to cry.
   The woman, Anna, stood at the back of the train in her torn dress and veil with dried blood still on her hands. How I knew this I'll never know, there hadn't been lights in the tunnel for miles. So in the midst of the father murdering his son, Anna began to sing. She sang a song in a language no one has ever heard before. She sang keys no one has ever sang, and she was at peace.
   The children were sitting on the ground, an equal distance away from Anna and the men. They were slouched against each other as they passed a bottle of pills and a bottle of some liquid to each other. I don't know what was in the bottle, or what kind of pills they had, but I could see the life draining from them. They knew they were killing themselves too, and they laughed about it.
   The twins were close to dead and Anna continued to sing. The father continued to tighten his grip around his sons throat, and you could hear the life leaving him. His cries became softer and softer. "You promised! You promised. You promised.." Until his last cry, followed by a mumbled apology, when his father sank to the floor, held his lifeless sons body in his arms, and wept.
   The twins have now stopped drinking and started crying, they cry to me. They scratch at my legs, pull at my clothes. "Help us.. Please... It hurts so much.. Please!!"
   I look up and see Anna with her arms raised to the sky her palms up and smiling as she sings louder and with all of her spirit in it. When I realize I see her.
   I turn back around to look out the front of the train to see another train like ours but headed right for us.
   I almost feel my back break as the trains collide head on and I jolt up in my bed.
This isn't exactly a poem more of a nightmare I had last night.
sofia ortiz Aug 2012
It's been said that
I stain the desert red.
That with my pen
I killed them.

Just like that.

But I don't feel like a monster
when the flint of her fingertips
ignites the spark in my hand.
I watch her toes kiss the floor,
breathes and sighs,
closes her eyes
while I read silently.
Sometimes,
I laugh to relieve the burden
of my decisions.
So I turn on the television.
They're saying
I stain the desert red.

Just like that.

But I don't feel like a butcher
when the soles of their shoes
tap on the bowels on the aircraft.
I watch foreign oceans change shape beneath my
as if I am sitting inside a kaleidoscope.
Over the din of my doubt
I hear them laugh and swear and jab
about their lives
their boring wives
while I sit pensively.
Sometimes, I drink to absolve the burden
of my fears.
So I cradle my vices,
suckle them,
let their fiery liquor caress my soft palate.
Somewhere,
I can hear the radio.
It says I stain the desert red.
That with my hand,
I killed them.

Just like that.

But I don't feel like a murderer
when I am being lifted onto the shoulders
of quiet, hungry adversaries.
Feet scuffling,
papers shuffling.
Sometimes ,
I sigh to relieve the burden of my duty,
if only momentarily
until I am reawakened
by the cooing mantra
that lingers like an aftertaste.
It purrs to me.
It is the voice of my daughters
and it is not about how
I stain the desert red
but how I painted their world with
color.


-for George W. Bush
This poem was actually an assignment I had to write. My classmates and I were told to choose someone we hated (I don't hate anyone) and write a poem about them, turning them into a sympathetic character. Again, I don't hate GWB. He just seemed like a fitting subject.
Kathleen Aug 2013
Some days are hopelessly lost, and the other some are radiantly brilliant. Those lost days sometimes take the majority, but more often than not they are few and far between. Hopeless days fall heavy on our shoulders, and make it difficult to find the shining light of the brilliant days. We take on those days with a stubborn face, and the waves bombard us as they crash into us with empty gravity. We don't take these days as plain sailing, they cause the ships of our minds to toss and sink gracelessly.

Oh, but those days. The effortlessly beautiful days, where you glide through and nothing catches on you. We live for those days, we are alive because of those days. Shimmering happiness floating on the waves that crash against you. The days where you are the beach and the water massages you.  And the sun sparkles down onto you, gently warming you further.

And finally, the days that no one ever told you about. The days that no one ever talks about, because you only want to leave them behind and bury them under the ocean floor. The days where you stagger out of your comfortable tomb of a bed, and stumble into the bathroom. You stare and glare at your mask of a face in the mirror, and begin your day with a sigh. You slowly slide your feet across the floor, scuffling into the darkness. Settling into this feeling of no feeling with a lethargic fall.
Olivia Kent Oct 2014
There's a minute mouse hidden in the darkness under the house.
Hear it scooting around, it's chewing on paper.
All the books are getting distressed.
Notice  the scuffling things.
A peek from the corner of householder's eye.
Wonder why she didn't call upon the services of the exterminator man.
Not the daleks naturally.
See them darting across the room, honed almost invisible darts.
In they pop to empty their bladders and bowels, all over the house.
Discarded broken pencil leads.
Their broods hidden under the host's cosy house.
And they nibbled the wire.
Gnaw, gnaw,nibble,nibble .
Ignited a spark.
Now the house is on fire.
(C) Livvi
H M Groniger Apr 2013
The fingers I rub over the smooth nub
of the newel post weren’t always like this.
When they were rubbed red and raw,
they picked up splinters more easily.
The wood I touched was not as smooth and
silky as the wood the other maids touched;
I was taller then. But now, I find where I
touched; clearly I left a mark.
I follow the trail I made so long ago,
touching it some, but mostly, I know
where it is.
The floorboards, wide and swaybacked,
creak exactly where they used to—hop,
sidestep, the laundry cart is not where it once was.
The bustle in the hallways has calmed; I can no longer
feel the bounce, bounce of the other girls as they
jog past where I could just reach out and touch
their brawny arms, smell their sweaty hands and foreheads
and hear their jangling laughs.
The sun still pours through the windows of the upper
hall, between the offices and the outside, touching the wood and
lighting the incense of pine.
It’s gentle and feels like the touch of the kitchen woman
Mary, who always guided me through the
difficult corridors.
But the kitchen no longer holds its warmth, not
that it had since I tripped over Mary’s body, where she
lay in a slurry of goulash after falling on the stove, and I
had to pull myself upright using
the tangible smell of cold, scorched flesh and tomatoes and onions and
I don’t eat pork anymore.
Avoiding the area where she fell so long ago, I navigate
the low, old room, feeling along the cluttered
remains of a renovation long since abandoned,
and I found the narrow maids’ stair.
Steep and skinny, it folded back on itself at every
floor as it hugged the walls up to the attic
where our beds were shoved together so tight,
where I could run my fingers over the girls’ heads
touching their soft, oily hair, their curls, their braids, and find my way.
I knew that I could not make it up the steps now,
I could barely make it then, but
I could still touch them. The treads worn so deep that
they were like wet clay marred by a huge thumb,
the chaotic scuffling, constantly chugging over the worn
boards. Sometimes the girls slipped on the rounded, clumsy,
silken steps.
Sometimes the sooty, acrid oil lamps on the walls leaked.
The wood felt so familiar under my dried fingers,
each neat grain lying in plane with its sisters,
every step, a family.
Except for the lower three steps, where the lines of wood
remained untouched, save for me, because I could never make
the respectful leap over them.
I kneel now, and stretch my fingers
towards the scratchy corner of the riser and tread
and find the crudely carved letters that say:
Katie died here.
I wasn’t here then, but the girls, the older girls, said
that the man, the fat man, had come with the soot-hauling boys
and taken her to the basement, and they were quiet.
The girls weren’t, but they were just the girls, and
it was a long time ago, when splinters were fresh
in young, sensitive fingertips.
Sobering and straightening, as much as I could, I left.
They would level this station soon, and
I just wanted to touch it again.
Jon Shierling Jul 2014
I once thought that the world was divided between the gifted and the non-gifted. I obviously count myself among the gifted, and why should I not? Do I not possess a superior IQ of 176 and a body worthy of Tier 1 reproduction status? Being born into wealth and position made it only a matter of course that I attended only the most superior of educational facilities, where my vocation as a State Psychiatrist was determined by the Board of Selection at 14. My adolescence was exceptional only in the fact of our Noble Republic's crushing victory when I was 16. I knew little of our Great Enemy's designs or dogma, imbued rather with the glorious teachings of the Ministry of Education and the need for constant vigilance against the corrupting influence of those deemed non-gifted. My blissful ignorance of the Enemy would soon change however, at my first official posting in our province's Mental and Behavioral Correction Compound. My duties for the duration of the year long post consisted or interviewing certain Counter-Revolutionaries, deemed necessary for posterity of course, and for the good of the unborn children of our State's Glorious Future. The twelve undesirables under my charge, six male, four female, and one pre-pubescent child of each gender, were to be disposed of as a matter of precaution upon the conclusion of my study. The preliminary timetable of cataloguing was ten months from inception to disposal with another two for editing and compiling the data. I cannot honestly say I welcomed the assignment, seeing it only as a test, my inception into the apparatus of the State, a mere stepping stone at best. My subjects did not even exist as people like you or me, rather effigies of a decadent past. Subjects had no names, simply numbers and faces. How can I be blamed for what transpired, for my ignorance, when all of them had ceased to be human, even to themselves?

Day 1 - Preliminary with No. 613774-1

Begin Transcript:

"Hello No. 613774-1, my name is Dr. Williams. I will be conducting a study of you and your fellow subjects over the next ten months at the behest of our Noble Republic. It is in your best interests to answer my questions fully and without reservation. This is being recorded for our State's benefit and that of Holy Father Science, so do please be polite. Shall we proceed?"

.....................

"I asked you a question No. 613774-1, it would behoove you to respond in a timely fashion."

"I have a name Herr Doctor. I would like to be addressed by it."

"You will not be disrespectful during these sessions No. 613774-1, it is inappropriate. Nor do I enjoyed having my title abused."

"I am being respectful, possibly even polite. The term Herr is one of respect in a language known as German, and since this entire setting is so very Kafka-esque, I find it quite applicable to you, Herr Doctor. And ironic, as Kafka isn't known to you. "

"Regardless, I must insist that you address me as Doctor or Dr. Williams."

"And I insist that I be addressed by my real name rather than a number assigned to me. Until then I fear I must continue to address you as such, Herr Doctor."

(Door opening)

"Guard, bring No. 613774-2. This session is concluded."
"Yes Sir."

"Good day Herr Doctor. I enjoyed our chat. Do be nice to No. 613774-2 please. She is my wife."

(Scuffling, a thump, door slamming)

End Transcript
Entry #1
Jared Hallenbeck Dec 2016
Room temperature murmurs pour out over steaming cups and dark wood.
Groggy eyes and half cocked smiles flock here for a socially acceptable chemical dependence. Staring out a window, I watch the restless streets buzz by.
Many in their way to work. Some to enjoy an ever so needed day off. Others in a hurry to promise company beside a hospital bed. None of which I will ever be positive of.  Cars driving by. Whirring, feet scuffling on the pavement.  Individual existences pass in front of me.

I take a sip. It's always hotter than I'd expect it to be. I never mind it but I never learn my lesson.
Slightly bitter but today I poured too much creamer and that's fine.Different day, different coffee.

Although I'm not alone.  Sitting across from me, a ghost of memories I'll always hold dear to me.

You look beautiful today. You always look just the way I remember.

You didn't wear makeup. You hardly ever did.

Just sit and stare out the window together. Trading obsessive stares on occasion. I could drown in you. But please do drink your coffee. We've got a long day ahead of us.

I wonder how cold the seat is across where you used to sit. I can actually see the etchings of adolescent behavior carved into the wooden seat where your body made itself comfortable. Tracing the perimiter line where your shoulders descend down onto your arms resting so lazily on the table while you enjoy the warmth of your cup.

I try to not live in the past. It's a place that's often falsified, Romanticized. But today is different.
Different day different coffee.

I refuse to live in the present tense today. Let me take your hand and let's guess what each passer by is going to do. Just as the table across from us might question our motives.

Isn't this wonderful? The touch of your skin in my hands. I can feel your heartbeat in me. It's always been there. You've made a place for love to sit and it's nestled comfortably in my heart.  The light catching your eyes in the slightest way. Illuminating the room. Nobody will notice.

But I do.

I always do.

Turning UV rays into a kaleidoscope of warming images. Turning the old, droll walls into magnificent pieces of art.

Oh, my. This cup is getting cold. It must be time to go. I cannot take you with me, my dear. But I will meet you here tomorrow. I hope to find you here and I hope you'll enjoy your coffee.

Kiss me on the cheek and wave me goodbye. I'm considering a warm refill but I think I'll just take with me this Luke warm drink for once.

Different day. Different coffee.
Zik Malleaux Apr 2014
"Was it something I said?" He asked as she writhed around to the opposite shoulder accompanied by an exasperated sigh.

"No."

"Was it something I did?" He retorted.

"No. It was nothing. Just--nothing. Now, please, turn off the ******* light so I can sleep."

Defeated, he reached over his bedside table with weeks worth of night-time water cups bungling up his path to the switch and turned out the light.

She was gone in the morning.

    He woke up without even noticing at first. She usually woke up before him to have fresh coffee brewed, accompanied with a poached egg or two, but those were better days. He knew they were growing apart, but he never imagined he would wake up to an empty house. He felt her falling out of love-- and it was all his fault.

    The little things he never used to notice seem much bigger in hindsight--but, as they say, "hindsight is 20/20." The way her hand fit so perfectly in his as they would take their nightly walks. Her stories of her workday that used to deem a nuisance to his ears now seem like a beautiful aria of yesterday's loss.

    He stepped out into the hallway and felt a cold breeze coming from the living room. He slowly sauntered from the doorway with his head held low, feet scuffling the carpet. He stepped in to the opening of the living room to find the windows facing the rising morning sun wide open.
    "--the ****?" he muttered. He hated the cold, and it was this particular morning that seemed colder than it actually was. He quickly scurried to the open french-door-type windows and slammed them shut. His head came slamming against the panes followed by a lull of silence, and then a deep and heavy sigh.

"****."
tumelo mogomotsi Jun 2018
a sluggish but proud zulu man
stopped me in my trek to no-
where as my fingers searched
for a grip in the dehydrated sou-
thern sand. he held a leather-bound
book with the words “the holy bible”
struggling to stay embedded. befitting
resemblance of the seminar he gave me;
scuffling through testimonies and biblical
verses that lead into various explanations
which were suspected. i asked him if he
believed anything he had just said. he
confessed, he’d been questioning
everything he had memorised and read.
he guided me into a tangent about
his distain for the greedy and the
need for the restoration of his ancestors
land. i asked why black people get
massacred when we articulate our
desire for economic empowerment and grass.
he listed to me everything which he was
taught was wrong with the indigenous
people, which, supposedly, justified the past.
i stopped him in his own trek through self-hate,
anguish and pity and i said this to him,
“if you change the way black people think,
you change the way white people get money...”

-t.m
Jared Hallenbeck Dec 2016
Autumn leaves make their decent downward taking slight detours on the backs of slight breezes before they kiss the earth below.
Life still breaths through them. Small heartbeats tremble through the stem and spread throughout.
They lay at my feet as if they were rose petals thrown out for me.

It's quiet this evening.
Only the crunching of the leaves scuffling under my tired footsteps make the loudest noises around. Echoing through the streets.

Must be family night. Or some kind of sports event that draws everyone indoors with their friends and family. Nobody to greet me as I walk by.
I can hear you Bouncing off the rooftops and along the power lines.
A calming melody you always seem to sing. You're in the air.
The breeze that gently carries the foliage down from the high branches from the sky above as to not damage the leaves on the fall.
I'm glad you're here. As if you tucked Mother Nature into bed and gave her the night off.
Sing me another song. You always knew the right words to sing.

Stopping in my tracks, clutching the contents of my pockets I look upwards and listen. How I've missed you.
I often stroll along these streets in hope I can tune into your frequency, but my antennae can never get a clear channel. I must have been lucky today.

I breath you in.
Welcome, make yourself comfortable. Permeate my bloodstream and make me feel whole again. Oh, how I've missed this. Please. Don't go just yet. I don't know when I'll be able to find your signal again. Embracing as much if you as I can before the sun goes down and the street lights come on telling me it's time to go back home.
High tides on a hideout
Scuffling high and low  
Sought shelter off sea
At a downward cradle resort
In high land island assort
Cuddled in grip n grasp
To enjoy the balm and calm

Back waters beckoned me
To the wedlock o’ bed lock
Of islands’ land n liquid
I peddled my winding way
The beat about the boat afloat
Swayed away fair and far
The wiling willing precincts
Untidy tide untied my ties

Sea saw swing sang a song
Amidst tunes of windy wand
As though to unwind my mind
***** of breeze doused me to brim
Frills and spills lulled into thrill
Oh! What a symphony of scenery
The treat lasted from dawn to dusk
Waves waved off my retreat not to risk
he was so alone
standing under that tree in the dark
scuffling at the wet leaves with toes of unlaced sneakers
one earbud in, no music playing

i wanted to reach out and touch him, walking by
dig my shoe into the leaves by his foot
make a tunnel for he & i to escape
          ---run from dripping branches and the crushed smell of autumn
          that constricted the air above us---
but i passed the boy by
and pressed myself to a tree twenty feet from his

he dug up the dirt with busy feet
my feet itched, they twitched with his
we deepened our tunnels...
i guess you could say?
would it be right to think,
we are alone together.
kayla Aug 2015
scuffling along the grassy path.
worn out and wondering.
wandering and wandering.
calmly morbid.
lost in the thick scent
of pine trees and dead leaves.
shatter my bones and leave me to the crows.
Heyaless May 2020
She has those striking eyes of an Owl .

She observes, Her stare intense yet clam .
She can see through illusion , thrive beyond illusion .
She can see true self of others , their weakness , their strengths .

Do not scared with her stare but ,
Fear her wisdom , spoken by silence !
The more she sees ,the less she sound .

Her defense is her colours
She can blend into the surroundings ,
She's a nemesis
Difficult to spot even if visible .

If you are a threat to her territory
Better watch your back from her talons .
You surely don't want to be her prey

She is intense .
She will mantle you ,
Not to protect but to finish you off ,
Without leaving any trace behind .

Her keen hearing sense , you cannot escape .
She can hear you scuffling from outrun .
She can sense your decoy ,
Even if you're buried in snow .

So tell me how you will veil those eyes which can see through dark .
This poem is a indirect description of my unconscious self which is actually conscious but hidden from the world .
Olivia Kent May 2016
Will you marry me said he.
From a muddy spot on bended knees.
Sported a smile upon his face.
Wide as the crescent moon.
His was offer was good as solid gold.
But she said no.
He left her cold.
So very sorry to see him cry.
Had a heart you see.

She was too old to start anew.
A madam.
A madman.
Tiffin for two.
And now she bows.
After scuffling away.
(c)LIVVI

— The End —