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Star Gazer Apr 2016
In 9 seconds it'll all be over
You'd hope you weren't sober
As it enters your body.

In 9 seconds it'll all be over
Pray on your four leaf clover
That it'll only last 9 seconds.

In 9 seconds it'll all be over
Time might feel slower
As you resist restraints.

In 9 seconds it'll all be over
But the stench of sweat odour
Will scar your remaining life.

In 9 seconds it'll all be over
You'll feel a burden like boulder
Too heavy to carry.

In 9 seconds it'll all be over
You'll never get true closure
But it's not a choice.

In 9 seconds it'll all be over
As volts of electricity pass your shoulders
And in 9 seconds it'll all be over.
Fallen Angel Mar 2015
The wrinkles etched in her face
are like memories etched in my mind.
Cat Woman played in the background
as the sound of my grandmothers breaths echoed behind me.
Her breaths two seconds apart
two seconds longer I knew she was still here,
two seconds I still had her,
just two seconds longer.
We watched slowly as cat woman came to find her killer
Grandma came to find her last breath.
2 seconds,
3 seconds,
Cat woman wakes to find jewels spread across her bed
and Grandmas breaths began to slow.
4 seconds,
5 seconds,
as cat woman goes to see the lady with all the cats
Grandmas breaths get further apart.
6 seconds
.................
nothing.
As Patience accepts that she's cat woman
Grandmas breaths officially stop.
While Cat Woman leaps and bounds through life to find her killer in the movie
Grandma is taken from me in real life.
With her heart stopping as the doctors prayer ends.
6 seconds
turns to minutes
turns to hours
turns to days
and still every time I close my eyes I see it.
See her chest stop rising
her legs stop twitching
and her heart stop beating.
When it gets too quiet
I can hear her ragged breaths stop
the not so silent room
as we cried and cat woman found her **** as noise in the background.
Now the wrinkles etched in her face
like memories etched in my mind
are just that...memories.
Now she is a memory.
Forever on my mind
Forever in my heart.
R.I.P Grandma
I love you
It has been a year three months and nine days since my Grandma Sherry died  I still miss her and I sometimes just have bad days and miss her dearly. Rest in Paradise Grandma I love you.
Six seconds
What takes that long?
You can't write yourself a letter
You can't write yourself a song
Evelyn Mc Hale...six seconds
Eighty Six Floors
Jumped from the observation deck
And now she is no more
Six Seconds
Twenty three years old
Now she's dead and buried
And it's time her tale was told
On May Day '47
She thought she'd make a rotten wife
Did she know that when she took hers
She'd make the next cover of LIFE?
It only took six seconds
To land upon the car
86 stories downward
It doesn't sound that far
Most Beautiful they called it
Like they were describing a red rose
But they were talking of a suicide
Where she lost her shoes and ripped her hose
The photo that was taken
One seen all around the world
Makes it look like she was sleeping
And still clutching at  her pearls
Six seconds to the cover
Six seconds...to the ground
when you choose to make a leap like this
Do you care who is around?
She looks calm, cool and collected
Everything was in it's place
One arm was out beside her
There was contentment on her face
The real reason she did it
Is gone forever, yes I reckon
Evelyn McHale made LIFE
And it only took six seconds.
Check out....The Most Beautiful Suicide on google. Evelyn McHale, 23, jumped 86 floors to her death from the top of The Empire State Building in May 1947. She didn't think she would make a worthy wife apparently. The ensuing picture shows her still holding her pearl necklace, as she lies dead atop a UN car waiting below.
Lucy Bellamy Oct 2013
Do you know what my favourite time of day is?
The first few seconds
Just after you have woken up.

So much happens in those first few seconds.
It’s the only time of day where you have no worries or cares.

Those few seconds are the definition of content.
You are untouchable,
Indestructible,
Happy.

In those few seconds your lost ones are found
The ones you love aren't far away.
The boy is yours and not hers
You’re not alone.

After those first few seconds
Sometimes things are okay.
Life is okay.

But sometimes you would give the world so those seconds last a life time.
But time, with its sidekick reality are never far behind.
Destroying everything in their path.
Dragging you with them
No way to escape.


In those few seconds.
The world is at peace.
Life is perfect.
Everything’s perfect.

In those few seconds
You are here
And I have you in my arms once more.
Emma Chatonoir Dec 2014
It will be midnight in ten seconds
I'm shaking cause I'm nervous
Cause ten seconds from now I'll have
My first new year's kiss
Nine seconds on the clock
My hands are freezing cold
Like the weather outside, I'm trying to find
The courage to be bold
Eight seconds counting down
It looks like I'm in distress
I'm just trying to distract myself
By playing with my new dress
Seven seconds, oh my word
The moment is approaching fast
I'm trying not to let this first kiss
Turn out to be our last
Six seconds, oh so close
My eyes are darting around
You wonder what is wrong with me
It's like I'm following the sound
Five seconds, the final countdown
People are getting near
I wonder if they can tell
I'm about to conquer my fear
Four seconds, the crowd cheers
I take a deep breath
I'm pretty sure after freaking out
I look like I just escaped death
Three seconds, I move closer
And you put your hand in mine
You don't say anything, but I know
You know that I'm not fine
Two seconds, not too bad
But my thoughts make it sound worse
What if I mess up on this kiss?
Could I blame it on some curse?
One second, we start to hug
And my heart starts to race
The room is practically closing in
It's like I'm out of space
Happy new year! the crowd says
We lean in for a kiss
I pray to myself that, of all times
This won't be the time I miss
We touch lips briefly, then look at each other
I suppose that fear has died
I started the new year off perfectly
With my angel by my side.
I've never actually been kissed on New Years, but I want to be.
(This poem was written 12/21/14 but I just chose to post it)
Frank Corbett Dec 2012
Thick fog rolls over leaf covered rocks,
And trees still bare penetrate the mist,
Bordering lush green,
And contrasting with stone gray skies,
Instilling deep tranquility.
I follow the ***** downwards,
Leading into this bog,
The footing is loose,
Treacherous,
The mother is unforgiving,
Negligence will not be soothed.
The vibrant green fades to brown,
The thick mud forming around my footsteps,
I am leaving an impermanent mark,
Only familiar to myself.
The worms will mine it.
It will be undone by rain,
But those I bring with me will know the way we traveled,
As will theirs.
A small trail has been hollowed,
Others are here,
Others have been here,
Undoubtedly, more will follow.
I see the others’ footsteps,
Only foreign indents now,
Still recognizable,
Yet,
The shoes they wear are a mystery.
I want to know badly,
But it is impossible.
I reach the bank of a small creek,
The trail ends here and I must make my own way,
There is an island where this creek forks,
And jumping there I know I cannot return,
The second spent thinking about seconds,
In itself is the only wasted time.
I spend some time here,
Kicking pebbles,
Pocketing attractive quartz,
There are no rare jewels on the surface,
No bounteous treasure here,
That would require a contract,
The help of others,
More time spent here,
Time spent thinking about the future seconds,
The seconds of others.
Leaving this patch is difficult,
My boots land just inside the creek as I jump,
Cold water fills my socks,
My feet swell as they absorb water,
To worry about the sensation I feel now,
Would be to count the seconds as they already pass.
I follow the creek into the woods, deeper as they go,
Until there is a soft rustle of leaves ahead of me,
Still loud.
Has the deer surprised me?
Or I the deer?
Both,
This meeting is simply chaos,
Colliding of mind and figment,
The imperfect, and the form-
The perfect representation-
At a stand-still in time.
This is no perfect doe,
The coat is full brown,
Tattered and messed,
Not at all as it was in my mind,
A copy.
But the more I examine,
The more I realize that a copy is closest to the form,
What is, is perfect,
What is perfect, is narcissism,
One way or another,
Without conflict,
The seconds have no reason.
I stare for a moment,
Her eyes are pools of black,
Wide and anxious,
I blink and she is gone,
A moment,
These are the meaning of the seconds,
The moments,
But is the reminiscence of this fact,
Contradictory?
I come to a steep *****,
A huge tree overlooking a large pool,
A ledge above the frigid water,
Perfection.
I climb this hill,
Perseverance is its own reward,
Reaching the top,
My clothes messed,
My hands filthy,
Boots caked with filth,
I sit here, alone at the top,
The bog is a fiefdom,
And I sit upon this ledge.
Snap.
Snap.
Snap snap.
Crashing.
I am falling,
My ***** hands grasp for something,
Anything,
My club-like boots flail in the air,
Clothes billowing in the air,
It’s so cold.
I can feel it over me,
On my skin,
Madness,
Not here,
There are so many more seconds,
Hours left even.
No, says the mother,
Your moments have passed,
But they have not,
I reply.
I think of my mother,
Father,
Friends and relatives.
I think of the deer.
I wonder if she’d save me.
If she knew I’d fallen,
She’d drag me out by her teeth.
The cold water rush over mine,
They crack and decay with the cold.
My bones crack like glass,
Flesh tightening,
Ligaments and tendons become solid.
I can’t feel my hands,
My feet,
My head.
My heart beat smothers my ears,
As I count the seconds.
Rico Reyes Mar 2016
Green, yellow, red, stop.

I walked through a busy market in Paris until I hit a stoplight that left me without the knowledge of misfortune or pleasure awaiting me.

Either way, I'm glad I waited
because moments later here I am staring at what I hoped would be; the one.

I remember you were seated on your pastel blue bicycle,
the ones with the basket in the front carrying a baguette
I mean, how french can one get?

You had blonde hair, you were blue eyed
I still remember what you looked like.
You looked exactly like someone I thought I would never be right by

Face to face
You looked back at me and smiled.

It kinda reminded me of that one story by John Green where this dude named Augustus Waters met this girl named Hazel Grace and he falls in love with her in an instant so on and so forth because

This was something similar.

I didn't know you,
But I felt as if we potentially were operating on the same wavelength,
and I loved that.

It's crazy how only three seconds can paint out a situation that
makes it feel like a lifetime of what seemed to be only pure bliss.

Three seconds was all it took.
Three seconds was all it took for the stars that bled through your eyes to align with mine-
a constellation that only happened once in a lifetime

But who you think you are to me was just a girl riding her bicycle.
And I was just a boy pointing his camera at a direction towards someone of both beauty and of worth.
It was almost as though you were just a vision in my dream as she looked comforted

Yet her eyes stood out as if she had just smelled the scent of coffee.

In perfect constrast, her eyes, they glimmered, they shined brighter than all the stars within her.

But both beauty and worth couldn't comprehend to this feeling.

She was unstoppable and she took everything she ever wanted with a smile.

Red, yellow, green, go.

Three seconds turned out to what seemed to be that moment where time and only time stood still.

Three seconds turned out to what seemed to be three lifetimes.

Three seconds was all it took to imagine what my life would be without you by my side.

L’amour fait les plus grandes douceurs et les plus sensibles infortunes de la vie.

Love makes the greatest pleasures and most sensitive misfortunes of life.
Colin Kozol Dec 2014
Three seconds could be rough
Three seconds might feel tough
And When the time comes that our seconds are up,
Will three seconds ever be enough?
Here I stand before you and say,
Life is short so live your own way
When the sun comes out and you see the light,
Do u feel joy or shield your eyes in fright?
I have seen deaths bitter end
I sometimes feel it closing in
Then I look up
i see gods hand
I suddenly feel tall where I stand
Your three seconds will come and pass
So Be proud of your life and know it won't last
Your three seconds draw near with every tick
So be careful with who u pick
to spend those last three seconds with
Lynne Nov 2018
i want to scream at the top of the world
and proclaim to the people
that you are the one i love
but i sit at the base of the mountain
with my legs crossed over each other
breathing deeply into my lungs
patiently waiting for the trees to fall
around me and upon deafening ears.
you bring out something inside of me
that i don't believe i've ever felt before
and yet, this feeling is terrifying
for i fear its longevity and weight.
but there is a calmness in this chaos
for in the center of the storm is peace
and i find it quite nice to be sitting here
with you beside me as i calculate the stars
and how they aligned to get me here with you.
compassionate eyes rest on you and i give
my most vulnerable self to your open palms.
how much my open heart bleeds for your love
and yet, how much i want to wrap it up
and store it away for you to never see.

but you've had that key round your neck
and you unlocked me from the very start
my soul got outta the box,
the second you held my hand in the car
the second(s) you played your favorite song(s) for me
the second you opened your closets
and allowed those skeletons to scatter
the second you laid on me and fell asleep
with my hands in your hair
the second you looked at me with truth
and told me you loved me, really.
the second you held me all night long,
in a way that i've never been held before
the second you put on those cheap sunglasses
to hide your poker face
the second you let go of your fear
and let love take over
the seconds in between our silences
the seconds in between our kisses
the seconds in between our meetings
the seconds in between dumb jokes
and stupidity and reckless abandon
the seconds in between our competitive stares
the seconds in between one song and the next
the seconds of peeling back another layer
of who we truly are...

poindexter says: the greatest second of your life,
is the moment you fall in love
but i have a contrast and complex feeling about this
because we fall in love many times in our life
so rather, the greatest seconds of my life
are the ones i'm spending with you.
regardless of the fear i hold deep
there is something special about you
and something special about this --
i don't know what it is yet, but as I've learned
i don't need to know everything
and that is the greatest lesson of them all.
ky Nov 2017
Five seconds
The amount of time it takes for you to hide the way you feel
Five seconds
How long it takes for me to believe your feelings are real
Six seconds
Hiding the feelings that you just let slip through
Because after those five seconds are up
You leave me feeling hopelessly confused
And I’ll admit that ever since,
My mind hasn’t stopped thinking
About you.
[That’s what a mere five seconds will do.]
t Jan 2015
When asked, "How do I make her notice me?" The answer was simple.

You have one minute.

10 seconds to make eye contact

10 seconds to make her laugh

10 seconds to make her wonder

10 seconds to make her feel you're not like the others

10 seconds to exchange a smile

10 seconds of outrageous courage

The rest is up to you.
Nic Carter Dec 2014
One day, 24 hours, 1440 minutes, 86400 seconds. All made up concepts so we can better understand the infiniteness we call the universe.
I digress from speaking on the subject longer as I only have 86400 seconds left to live, well at this point its more like 85372 seconds.
Think of allll the possibilities, i can go with friends and family and cry and tell them how much i love them and try to forget that I've never been bungee jumping, deep sea diving, skiing, and overall just not lived.
Although, what defines life? Well OBVIOUSLY we all know that Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines life as "the ability to grow, change, etc. that separates animals and plants from things like water or rocks".
Well if we use THIS definition then I've never lived because i don't WANT to grow or change.
Is it SOOO bad that every day I go home and lat in bed for hours idly wanting the next 85,314 seconds to pass and for my life to end
Now THIS is the point in the rant where I am to turn the whole concept on its head and say that everything will be ok. But unfortunately that would cost 25 seconds of my last 1439 minutes and 3 seconds so Id rather not waste my time with falsity and lies.
I write this with the same handwriting and brain that articulated that I don't WANT to another second here ESPECIALLY not another 86288 seconds. So i can be where no longer some concept, but I am the the reality of the universe. Were gonna die anyway.
24 hours to live
Kati Davis Feb 2016
1 second:
my mind drags my languid body across the tundra of insanity
my eyes focused on a space
a blurry shape focused
something in between reality and the real world
2 seconds:
roles of films show screenplays flickering across my mind, lighting up possibilities of what could go wrong
One goes by, and the film starts again running over and over
as the films play, I slowly drown in a sea of attacks
1,000 feet, my world spins
2,000 feet, my world fades
3,000 feet, my world becomes red, blocking the rest of the colors of the world
preventing the peace of the world into sight
4,000 feet, my soul mending into an entity with no right of way
it drifts upwards as I drift away
3 seconds:
my mind becomes the phantom
black, hollow, clustered, dreadful, worrisome
following my hollow body, swarming with words
creeping up behind me, people pass in blurs
their energy sweeps me up, fills me, empties me, making me feel even more alone
4 seconds:
do I cry, show the world the Prince of Darkness that clings onto my body
pulling strands of my hair, slowing my world to where I stare at myself and see a mess
see the tearing across skin, my face, only my red eyes can see, when they see my reflection
it’s a happy girl, who is never too sad, but the red can see through the mask that is always glued on
or should I **** it up and keep the beast swimming through my brain
prying my mouth open, keep it inside and let it eat me alive
5 seconds:
my heart, feeling four times as heavier as it did 6 seconds before
telling me *you’re okay, it will pass, the storms almost over, the friend always there to help the in pain

even when the expression shows different
the brain, feeling four times heavier as it did 6 seconds before
telling me you’re not okay, nobody cares, see they just passed you, why would someone care?
The common enemy, the one who's always there to tear you down even when the sun shines bright
6 seconds:
to keep the phantom from attacking, breathe steadily, never miss a beat
which would you chose to believe?
The phantom, the common enemy, the one who controls your thoughts
or the friend, there to keep you running through it all?
The choice seems easy, but sometimes
the choice isn’t yours to make
anxiety attacks, this is what happens to me.
Please master can I touch your cheeck
please master can I kneel at  your feet
please master can I loosen your blue pants
please master can I gaze at your golden haired belly
please master can I have your thighs bare to my eyes
please master can I take off my clothes below your chair
please master can I can I kiss your ankles and soul
please master can I touch lips to your hard muscle hairless thigh
please master can I lay my ear pressed to your stomach
please master can I wrap my arms around your white ***
please master can I lick your groin gurled with blond soft fur
please master can I touch my tongue to your rosy *******
please master may I pass my face to your *****,
please master order me down on the floor,
please master tell me to lick your thick shaft
please master put your rough hands on my bald hairy skull
please master press my mouth to your *****-heart
please master press my face into your belly, pull me slowly strong thumbed
till your dumb hardness fills my throat to the base
till I swallow and taste your delicate flesh-hot ***** barrel veined Please
Mater push my shoulders away and stare in my eyes, & make me bend over
        the table
please master grab my thighs and lift my *** to your waist
please master your hand's rough stroke on my neck your palm down to my
        backside
please master push me, my feet on chairs, till my hole feels the breath of
        your spit and your thumb stroke
please master make my say Please Master **** me now Please
Master grease my ***** and hairmouth with sweet vaselines
please master stroke your shaft with white creams
please master touch your **** head to my wrinkled self-hole
please master push it in gently, your elbows enwrapped round my breast
your arms passing down to my belly, my ***** you touch w/ your fingers
please master shove it in me a little, a little, a little,
please master sink your droor thing down my behind
& please master make me wiggle my rear to eat up the ***** trunk
till my asshalfs cuddle your thighs, my back bent over,
till I'm alone sticking out, your sword stuck throbbing in me
please master pull out and slowly roll onto the bottom
please master lunge it again, and withdraw the tip
please please master **** me again with your self, please **** me Please
Master drive down till it hurts me the softness the
Softness please master make love to my ***, give body to center, & **** me
        for good like a girl,
tenderly clasp me please master I take me to thee,
& drive in my belly your selfsame sweet heat-rood
you fingered in solitude Denver or Brooklyn or ****** in a maiden in Paris
        carlots
please master drive me thy vehicle, body of love drops, sweat ****
body of tenderness, Give me your dogh **** faster
please master make me go moan on the table
Go moan O please master do **** me like that
in your rhythm thrill-plunge & pull-back-bounce & push down
till I loosen my ******* a dog on the table yelping with terror delight to be
        loved
Please master call me a dog, an *** beast, a wet *******,
& **** me more violent, my eyes hid with your palms round my skull
& plunge down in a brutal hard lash thru soft drip-fish
& throb thru five seconds to spurt out your ***** heat
over & over, bamming it in while I cry out your name I do love you
please Master.

                                        May 1968
jules Jan 2015
We’d been waiting in line at Chipotle for half an hour
when you turned to me and said
“If we have to stand here for five more ******* minutes I’m throwing myself in the deep frier.”
I told you that I figured a person could stand just about anything
for ten seconds
Then when that’s over,
you just start on another ten seconds
Our burrito bowls would be here right away
if we just took it ten seconds at a time
So the first night I slept in your bed,
as you kicked me in the side as punishment
for a night’s worth of nightmares dreamt too close for comfort
Each prime number punctuated by another jab I counted
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
One month later at Tim Horton’s I ordered you breakfast.
A sesame seed bagel lightly toasted with butter.
It’s two shades too dark
and when I came home you told me
as far as you were concerned we both belong in the garbage,
slammed the door in my face so I counted
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,
Ten weeks before, woke up to knife elbows
slicing into my ribs saying I can’t sleep
So you played architect and I was Pompeii
Finally touching me for the first time in centuries
The dust rising to reveal relief as tangible as ruins themselves
I leaned in to brush my lips against yours,
hands rushed up my cheek and you pushed me,
Just a little too roughly into a forest of flannel sheets and recycled oxygen
I felt thankful that at least you were touching me
In a way that if I tried hard enough I could perceive as romantic
You rolled away like ocean’s waves pushing against the dams of my eyelids
One audible leak and I’d be sleeping in the bathtub again so I counted
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Eight days later at my parents’
Edith Piaf was on my turntable
Your borrowed vape in my hand
I should’ve probably been crying,
But my mind has only ever had one track and missing you took precedence over tears.
Wanting to go back to you feels gross.
It feels wet
It feels nauseating
Why do I want to go back to a place
That was once a home but is now just an apartment
where I pay rent in my ability to sidestep the landmines scattered across floor made of eggshells?
I love you because when you saw me have a panic attack for the first time
You held me until my muscles felt like they hated me a little less
I don’t because when I walked in on you ******* your ex girlfriend
Your thunder shook my tree branch shoulders
So hard that my boughs convulsed and burst the twig capillaries in my eyeballs.
I love you because your stepmother is younger than you are
And that’s just really ******* sad.
I don’t because you say you never did anything that would warrant “this kind of behaviour”
As if loving you had landed me in detention
I love you because you once felt like home.
I don’t because you changed the locks.
1, 2, 3,
For months I told myself that we all crack under pressure
But once I saw that my tremors were coming from your faults
I realized how deep trembles are felt
Love is not an earthquake
Love is not painful
Love is learning how to come home again
Love is ******* magic
I will not delay its happening by wasting another ten seconds on you.
My ears pick up the sounds coming close
chugga chugga choo choo
patiently wait while excitement infects my bones
my cold squinting eyes scan the track
train is inching into sight
shaky cold legs, counting seconds till arrival
one two three four five six seconds
the train yields with screaming loudness
ears yell to hands
mittens push over ears with intent to rescue
see the conductor, let the wind push  me to the entrance
put headphones in and get lost in a world of my own
blast off, the train soars and my mind wanders
with a wandering mind I am leaning against a frosted window
                                    suddenly
my head bumps off the window and the train comes yielding
one two three four five six seconds
I feel panic shoot through my veins
we had not even reached a second stop
heads turn and questions are passed around like candy on halloween
careless and free
I see the hat of a conductor bobbling,coming closer
"a man has been killed on the tracks"
"we can no longer run this train"
one woman, " well what the hell am I supposed to do now?"
one man, " where do I go now? I have places to be."
other faces" angry and filled with eyes of annoyance"
One two three four five six seconds
people begin to put foot after foot, stomp off a train
left lost in my mind but in whole different world once again
one two three four five six seconds
Conductor: Miss are you ok?
silently I get off the train
one two three four five six seconds
life is gone
a man has perished
all aboard the train of realization
all aboard the train of ignorance
once two three four five six seconds
what has happened to the regard for human life?
Holly Feb 2014
There are many different types
of seconds
seconds as in time
or seconds of a thanksgiving meal
but
the most painful
is you being second
always the second choice
almost the best
but not quite
someone always
comes before you
or someone
always does better
it is the most infuriating, painful second
i would much rather
deal with
seconds of dessert.
aviisevil Jun 2018
Gandalf: a character ( wizard) from the legend that is lord of the rings


he was walking past the useless lake on a breezy autumn day when the gust of wind brought with it the scent of a thousand abandoned garage bags littering the corner of this semi unorganised semi-civilised halli part of a mega city.

his home was about three thousand kilometres away and a dozen hundred dialects removed from where he chose to pursue his 'higher' education.

a term he took literally and to heart.

he was almost always high, if that's what you call being semi awake and always clawing somewhere deep, both mentally and sometimes even physically.


but as soon as the cacophony of a thousand different bad smells hit his soul, he knew the trip was over.

he jolted back to existence from an escalating thought process leading him to the discovery of a new and a better universe.

he took a deep breath and immediately regretted his decision, almost screaming in horror.

and while he was battling a lost battle trying to defeat an invisible and impossible to contain force of population and pollution,

his smoked eyes latched onto a figure emerging from the corner of his smoked eyes.

he suddenly realised where he was. and it wasn't where he thought he was about two seconds ago.

leaf-less and life-less trees stood where he could swear was just an empty slightly orange and red sky a few milli moments ago  

the lake had turned from blue to a shade of green or was it still blue ?
he wasn't interested at all, so he just gave up reasoning in mid-process..

what difference does it make ?

but suddenly his mellowed mind  realised the threat, and his attitude changed from i-don't-really-give-a-**** to oh-****.

there was something else there too, and he, like a ******* cat- turned around just in time to see what it was,

and the time stood still. he couldn't believe his eyes.

it was    gandalf.

**** it. he was sure. ******* gandalf.
with a ******* stick, his beard and that grey whatever. gandalf.

he took a deep breath again. it didn't hurt as bad as before. maybe it was growing on him. he took another breath just to make sure it wasn't. it wasn't.


and as gandalf started becoming bigger and bigger, he could see his mighty white beard dancing in the wind more clearly. he could sense his aura radiating a wonderful positive force that was almost impossible to describe with a naked eye and with an F  in communication skills.

gandalf was finally a stone throw away from the boy. he could throw a stone at him. he could but he wouldn't. no, he thought about it but no. it wouldn't make sense. it was too insane of an idea too. he wasn't yet ready to accept his true human nature that enjoyed the absurdity of violence.

though he was a hard-core stoner.  ah irony and puns.


instead he took the more scenic route and almost mumbled " gandalf?! what?!?! "


it took the old white man a second to register but he managed a sudden " gand elf, what?!? "

it wasn't awkward yet. but it was india. so it kinda' was.

the boy almost trained in apologising professionally and profoundly, mumbled " oh, no.. I'm sorry.. I just.. you know.. there's this .. dude.. people do cosplays now.. and I was a little high... ahem.. I mean I was thinking.. I mean I saw.. you.. I mean, I swear you're looking like a ******* gandalf.. I mean gandalf ?!?! "


another gust of wind and they both frowned.

gandalf responded " who .. what the **** is gand elf ?!?!"


the boy " he was supposed to be a dwarf like something.. but he become a wizard and tall, you know .. fought a dragon.. and rode giant birds.. ?!?! "


not gandalf " what the **** are you talking about, what is wrong with you, you're not making any ******* sense and I, I'm .. hey, you see.. just saying, I'm very good at making sense, that all "


the boy " so you like a ******* teacher or a .. scientist?!? "


not gandalf? "ummm.. well you can say that.. something like that "


the boy " what do you mean, for all I know you could be a perverted ******* who also happens to wander the woods doing weird cosplays and killing people. "

not gandalf " the ****, kid ?! jeez.. simmer down.. that TV is insane, you guys ******* love it.. **** man.. I should have stopped that from happening... " and on went the strange man


the boy " wo.. wo.. whoa.. wait, you're talking like you better than us. stopped it ?, you got money to do that ? but you don't look like someone who can pull that kind of strings... I can imagine you more like pulling strings on a broken hand down guitar on some shady corner of an immaculate subway."


strange man not gandalf " well, in a way I am .. I am everything and everyone" he whispered..    a satisfying smile almost breaking out


the boy " the ******* mean ******* ?!? "

this was too much for the old man who was just having a walk and minding his own business

he whispered more angrily his time " oh you punk, you little punk I'll tell you! I'm ******* god, you **** .. yeah, **** it.. I'm not even kidding.. I'm ******* god, yeah!... **** it *****!. "


he took his hand and pointed to the sky and the clouds parted.


the boy couldn't believe his eyes, and almost suddenly the clouds began to form a shape.

he couldn't make it out at first, all he could see was that the old man who claimed to be a god, drawing something in the air.

he looked up and finally realised what it was.

God was drawing a giant duck in the sky.

and as he was staring up in a mixture of disbelief and horror,  the old man spoke loudly " that's you.. you sick ****.. it's your little duck. "


old-man-now-god-went on "... I mean it looks like a big duck 'cause you couldn't see it otherwise.. but drawing to ratio... it's your little duck.. and the whole world can see it now.. and they know it's small.. and not as big as it appears because it had to be big enough for everybody to see.. "


the boy was now going insane. anybody would. people just don't turn up, part clouds and draw ducks in the sky.. that doesn't even happen in movies.



the boy went on- a little horrified of what he had just witnessed " what kind of a god are you, I mean... what in the god's name was that ? how did you do it. ?"


God responded with squinty eyes " which part of i-am-a-*******-God did you not understand.. you.. you stupid mortal. "

from the depths of darkness a flicker of light emerged in the boy's mind, and he realised something very important..


the boy " hey, you can't be god, god won't ******* curse! he's god. " screaming cautiously at the stranger...


God had heard petty arguments and had gone through all that phase of  people taking some time to turn around and warm up to the idea of the literal god in front of them, he'd been over that all his life.

but this was the single dumbest thing he had ever heard since he made the decision to create the universe in a hurry.

God thought to himself " I should have paid more attention. meh. "

one more thing- the boy went on " why are you a he ? not a she ? I mean if you're a god why be ... I mean an old man with a stupid beard. why not somebody hot, and cool... and with a nice body and a face... slightly better... or maybe much better..  you get the point, right ? I mean.. you're god, right ? "

God just stood there and soaked in his own filth.

the boy went on hysterically " oh my... did you hear my answer even before I said it ? did you ? I mean can you ?... and did you ? or was it you that gave the answer.. 'cuz if you made the universe.. you made me too, right ?. "


God was annoyed. like really annoyed at this point and he blurted out " you think I made you ? you think one fine day I woke up and I thought to myself.. oh! I've created this beautiful but empty place full of darkness and the cold, spectacle of fire dancing in nothingness- breathing life in ***** of all kinds circling around the stars and what not.. and you think I was like 'what am I missing ?'... oh yes, right! I'm missing one ungrateful ******* snake with a little duck. "


the boy stunned " God ?!.. No, **** no! "

god almost curios " why would you say that. why did you even speak , why! "


the boy " my duck .. you know.. ain't that ... small. "



God almost smirking " shut up, *****. "


the boy " oh, yeah.. right you... really know how to abuse your own species. jeez. "


God " I didn't make you ... I ******* dropped my dope in the ocean once and you ******* things came out of it. "

he went on " I thought you'd die on your own but nah.. life's too nasty.. ugly and ... you know... it's.. admittedly... quite beautiful. "

time stood still as soon as he said that.

and it was a beautiful moment. both god and the boy trying not to turn red or cry.



" but the sad part is.. " God whispered with the love of a thousand cuddling pandas " you guys found me, I mean... oh my God! that brain thing really worked ... extraordinary! my subordinates tell me ... very expensive.. err... I mean to design... "


the boy " people work for you ? what ?! that's like.. you have a staff ?!.. weird. "


God " *****, i'm ******* god.. I don't have a staff.. I ******* make the staff. and no that's not even an iota of weird.. but you know what's weird ...truly weird, a fact so crazy that it'll blow your mind and give you enough wisdom to tear through the fabric of the world I've made and undiscover all its secrets, science and gossip?!  "


the boy was now as curious as a teenage boy in teenage, he replied " what?! tell me.. is it here on earth ?!"



God " yes, it is my child.. indeed it is! such joy!... and it is also right here where we stand. "


the boy's mind went into an overdrive.. maybe this was all his design.. the almighty has come to show him the path.. out of these woods he's lost in.... and also a path of divinity and happiness.. and also he had watched Bruce almighty a dozen times or so... he was ready.


almost in a poetic voice filled with a general sense of elation.. the boy asked god " tell me.. please what is it pleaseeee ? "


the god smiled, in a way only a father smiles to her new born daughter.. knowing she's going to be paid less, has to go through the cycle of being temporary insane every month ( or that's what female's had been telling him .. it doesn't matter.. you a guy.. you see a woman in pain.. you *******... that's 10 hours of her ******* the life out of you. and you still wouldn't be a good listener or attentive according to her even if you give up in the 9th hour.

the boys repeated desperately " what is it! I'd be a good boy but please tell me pleaseeee! "

and the god smiled. he smiled and pointed to him. " that there , that is it.. that ugly ******* little duck of yours. "


and immediately burst into a laughter more grandeur than any sound in the world. I mean right after radiohead but whatever.


the boy saw his finger and tried to trace it's path. and almost in a moment.. it was over.


he had lost it- he screamed at the creator " you think you can make fun of me 'cuz you a big guy ? you think you can make fun of me because you're the most powerful thing there is and can literally turn me into 50 hands and no ducks... just living life in pure agony.. " he trailed off looking a bit distant towards the ending..

God " jeez. kid. you don't have to be so dark and imaginative unnecessarily.. see, okay I'm sorry... I hurt your little heart...which by the way I have made and do own the materials to.. and that's why you're alive... basically all of you and everything.. now to think of it.. it does make me a big guy... or more than that... but that's not the point. "

he went on " the point is i should've known better... because you know I made it all.  even the concept of being better..  booom! blows your mind ain't it.. chuck it.. and the point is.. I should've known better, so I'm  sorry!.. you can tell people I said sorry but they're not 'gonna believe someone like you "


the boy " **** do you mean someone like me?! " back in his form


god " oh you know... someone with a small...... ******* duck !"

and the god fell down laughing hysterically and immediately as soon he said the words..

rolling all over the soft grass and the boy's face.


the boy had enough- he screamed " **** like you can spend two minutes being a human... who's to tell you didn't have a small duck and then just made yourself one big enough " his voice trailing in the wind


god hadn't been spoken like this since the invention of languages.. oh how much he despised languages..a ******* constant annoying noise in his head specially the bengali.. **** them.

God spoke back " oh, so you think being a snake is better than being the almighty ?! "


the boy " I'm not a snake.. I'm a human.. what school did you got to ? "

God " you can be a ******* rock for all I care ... just be nothing.. you know.. instead of being everything.. the idea of it... it's is rather.. you know... so beautiful. "


and at that moment the boy realised that even god wasn't immune to something that he didn't know.


the god " I'll do you a deal, you be two seconds in my place and I'll be two seconds in your place... and then we'll know.. I'll know the fear of being nothing and you can know the escatsy of being everything. deal dawg ?"


the boy " but.. like two seconds .. awful less of a time to enjoy any kind of escatsy "

God " running late, mate. "


the boy " okay okay.. let's do it "



God smiled a bit and immediately a giant light came down from the sky roaring with a thousand thunderstorms...

wind was growing stronger by the second and it was almost impossible to hear anything... or analyse anything for that matter...

God screamed at the boy " it's going to go in your *** and out of your mouth.. and your soul will be passed to mine.. "

the boy screamed back in oh-my-god-that-face horror barely making any coherent sense.


God rolling on the floor laughing
" jeez. I'm kidding you punk.... that face tho.. so woke.. so woke..."

it took some time but he picked himself back up and screamed at the boy " it's going to happen... three..two.. one.. " and boom


the boy felt what can only be described as the best ****** anybody has ever had.


the god felt like what can only be described as the hardest kick to the nuts in the history of universe.

two seconds after... bam! everything stood still.. like nothing had happened.


both stared at each other for a while..
God went first " so, ... ?! "


the boy " yeah. "


God " pretty tense...yeah.. *******.. I mean.. God!.. you guys are awful to be.. it *****.. I gotta' change that thing... you know... about people taking their own life... and going to hell... I get it... I mean..  yeah.. you know... like whatever."

God went on " how was yours. "

the boy " yea.. pretty chill.. ... "

God " that it, boy ?! "

the boy " yeah. .. mostly "


God " hmm.. woke.. woke... so were you clever enough to do something for yourself ? "

the boy " oh..yeah..pretty much.. nice cars and girls.. stuff.. " his voice cracking with a very refined i-don't-give-a-**** attitude


the wind was still now. butterflies were flying between the blooming flowers and singing AC/DC for some reason. it was pleasant.


god snapped his finger once and said " so.. yeah i should go now... apparently somebody's supposed to take a picture of me in the sky.. gotta flex up.. chow~ "


God snapped his finger a second time and lo behold!  like that he was gone ****!...


the boy stood still for a moment longer. he smiled and walked away.




(4 days later...)



god was in the alps...looking out of the large window wondering how dreadful it is to be human..  

and as he was crawling in and out of different dimensions he smelt something. something interesting.


it was alcohol. ( he's god so it's very easy for him to figure out such little things.)

so he went over the fancy bar and poured himself some *****.. " ah potatoes.. at least they turned out to be just right.." he thought out loud.

and then he proceeded to drink himself to death.. countless times. 'cuz he could do that. he was god.


over and over again. glass being neither full or half or even ******* empty.

drink after drink. and soon late enough he went into a deep slumber because of course god loves a good sleep. who doesn't ?


he slept through the entire life span of many insects and until the breaking dawn.

the first rays of the sun hit the mighty alps as well as the face of this almighty being on a white bed in a red hotel by a blue lake who had forgotten you do your own curtains in the human world.

his first thought was to destroy the sun- it took a lot to not lift his finger.

slowly but surely he regained his infinitum consciousness, and got in touch with the multi dimensional universes sprawling all over every  second in past and future simultaneously... but **** that 'cuz the head ache oh! so painful.. almost made him forgot he could just not want it and it won't happen.

God did not enjoy most human banalities.. but he did enjoy a rather a peculiar one...even more than drinking and kissing death. the one of peeing.

and he had to ***. bad.


God, with a hint of a smile lifted his finger and boom he was right by- where the deed is done in a civilised community. he imagined what would people think if they came to know why he's always more often than not a 'he' than a 'she'.

he was in his stark boxers, standing almost naked with a smile on his face enjoying the rush.

pink floyd started playing out of the thin air. an autumn's calm spread through the veins of this sudden universe. I kid you not, shahrukh khan was there with his arms wide open.

slowly the god began the almost holy ritual.

pull down the garment. admire. take it out. admire. do the deed, keep admiring. put it back. sigh. very well organised and neat.

so god took a deep breath, looked at the alps one more time, looked down with a smile on his face, and slowly pulled down the garment... his consciousness in a rush.

and then god screamed. there was a duck.
I don't think it's your average run of the mill tale. there should be more than what's meeting the eye usually.
Martin Narrod Dec 2014
Martin's New Words 3:1:13

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

assay - noun. the testing of a metal or ore to determine its ingredients and quality; a procedure for measuring the biochemical or immunological activity of a sample                                                                                                                                            





February 14th-16th, Valentine's Day, 2014

nonpareil - adjective. having no match or equal; unrivaled; 1. noun. an unrivaled or matchless person or thing 2. noun. a flat round candy made of chocolate covered with white sugar sprinkles. 3. noun. Printing. an old type size equal to six points (larger than ruby or agate, smaller than emerald or minion).

ants - noun. emmet; archaic. pismire.

amercement - noun. Historical. English Law. a fine

lutetium - noun. the chemical element of atomic number 71, a rare, silvery-white metal of the lanthanide series. (Symbol: Lu)

couverture -

ort -

lamington -

pinole -

racahout -

saint-john's-bread -

makings -

millettia -

noisette -

veddoid -

algarroba -

coelogyne -

tamarind -

corsned -

sippet -

sucket -

estaminet -

zarf -

javanese -

caff -

dragee -

sugarplum -

upas -

brittle - adjective. hard but liable to break or shatter easily; noun. a candy made from nuts and set melted sugar.

comfit - noun. dated. a candy consisting of a nut, seed, or other center coated in sugar

fondant -

gumdrop - noun. a firm, jellylike, translucent candy made with gelatin or gum arabic

criollo - a person from Spanish South or Central America, esp. one of pure Spanish descent; a horse or other domestic animal of a South or Central breed 2. (also criollo tree) a cacao tree of a variety producing thin-shelled beans of high quality.

silex -

ricebird -

trinil man -

mustard plaster -

horehound - noun. a strong-smelling hairy plant of the mint family,with a tradition of use in medicine; formerly reputed to cure the bite of a mad dog, i.e. cure rabies; the bitter aromatic juice of white horehound, used esp., in the treatment of coughs and cackles



Christmas Week Words Dec. 24, Christmas Eve

gorse - noun. a yellow-flowered shrub of the pea family, the leaves of which are modified to form spines, native to western Europe and North Africa

pink cistus - noun. Botany. Cistus (from the Greek "Kistos") is a genus of flowering plants in the rockrose family Cistaceae, containing about 20 species. They are perennial shrubs found on dry or rocky soils throughout the Mediterranean region, from Morocco and Portugal through to the Middle East, and also on the Canary Islands. The leaves are evergreen, opposite, simple, usually slightly rough-surfaced, 2-8cm long; in a few species (notably C. ladanifer), the leaves are coated with a highly aromatic resin called labdanum. They have showy 5-petaled flowers ranging from white to purple and dark pink, in a few species with a conspicuous dark red spot at the base of each petal, and together with its many hybrids and cultivars is commonly encountered as a garden flower. In popular medicine, infusions of cistuses are used to treat diarrhea.

labdanum - noun. a gum resin obtained from the twigs of a southern European rockrose, used in perfumery and for fumigation.

laudanum - noun. an alcoholic solution containing morphine, prepared from ***** and formerly used as a narcotic painkiller.

manger - noun. a long open box or trough for horses or cattle to eat from.

blue pimpernel - noun. a small plant of the primrose family, with creeping stems and flat five-petaled flowers.

broom - noun. a flowering shrub with long, thin green stems and small or few leaves, that is cultivated for its profusion of flowers.

blue lupine - noun. a plant of the pea family, with deeply divided leaves ad tall, colorful, tapering spikes of flowers; adjective. of, like, or relating to a wolf or wolves

bee-orchis - noun. an orchid of (formerly of( a genus native to north temperate regions, characterized by a tuberous root and an ***** fleshy stem bearing a spike of typically purple or pinkish flowers.

campo santo - translation. cemetery in Italian and Spanish

runnel - noun. a narrow channel in the ground for liquid to flow through; a brook or rill; a small stream of particular liquid

arroyos - noun. a steep-sided gully cut by running water in an arid or semi-arid region.


January 14th, 2014

spline - noun. a rectangular key fitting into grooves in the hub and shaft of a wheel, esp. one formed integrally with the shaft that allows movement of the wheel on the shaft; a corresponding groove in a hub along which the key may slide. 2. a slat; a flexible wood or rubber strip used, esp. in drawing large curves. 3. (also spline curve) Mathematics. a continuous curve constructed so as to pass through a given set of points and have a certain number of continuous derivatives.

4. verb. secure (a part) by means of a spine

reticulate - verb. rare. divide or mark (something) in such a way as to resemble a net or network

November 20, 2013

flout - verb. openly disregard (a rule, law, or convention); intrans. archaic. mock; scoff ORIGIN: mid 16th cent.: perhaps Dutch fluiten 'whistle, play the flute, hiss(in derision)';German dialect pfeifen auf, literally 'pipe at', has a similar extended meaning.

pedimented - noun. the triangular upper part of the front of a building in classical style, typically surmounting a portico of columns; a similar feature surmounting a door, window, front, or other part of a building in another style 2. Geology. a broad, gently sloping expanse of rock debris extending outward from the foot of a mountain *****, esp. in a desert.

portico - noun. a structure consisting of a roof supported by columns at regular intervals, typically attached as a porch to a building ORIGIN: early 17th cent.: from Italian, from Latin porticus 'porch.'

catafalque - noun. a decorated wooden framework supporting the coffin of a distinguished person during a funeral or while lying in state.

cortege - noun. a solemn procession esp. for a funeral

pall - noun. a cloth spread over a coffin, hearse, or tomb; figurative. a dark cloud or covering of smoke, dust, or similar matter; figurative. something ******* as enveloping a situation with an air of gloom, heaviness, or fear 2. an ecclesiastical pallium; heraldry. a Y-shape charge representing the front of an ecclesiastical pallium. ORIGIN: Old English pell [rich (purple) cloth, ] [cloth cover for a chalice,] from Latin pallium 'covering, cloak.'

3. verb. [intrans.] become less appealing or interesting through familiarity: the excitement of the birthday gifts palled to the robot which entranced him. ORIGIN: late Middle English; shortening of APPALL

columbarium - noun. (pl. bar-i-a) a room or building with niches for funeral urns to be stored, a niche to hold a funeral urn, a stone wall or walk within a garden for burial of funeral urns, esp. attached to a church. ORIGIN: mid 18th cent.: from Latin, literally 'pigeon house.'

balefire - noun. a lare open-air fire; a bonfire.

eloge - noun. a panegyrical funeral oration.

panegyrical - noun. a public speech or published text in praise of someone or something

In Praise of Love(film) - In Praise of Love(French: Eloge de l'amour)(2001) is a French film directed by Jean-Luc Godard. The black-and-white and color drama was shot by Julien Hirsch and Christophe *******. Godard has famously stated, "A film should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but not necessarily in that order. This aphorism is illustrated by In Praise of Love.

aphorism - noun. a pithy observation that contains a general truth, such as, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."; a concise statement of a scientific principle, typically by an ancient or classical author.

elogium - noun. a short saying, an inscription. The praise bestowed on a person or thing; a eulogy

epicede - noun. dirge elegy; sorrow or care. A funeral song or discourse, an elegy.

exequy - noun. plural ex-e-quies. usually, exequies. Funeral rites or ceremonies; obsequies. 2. a funeral procession.

loge - noun. (in theater) the front section of the lowest balcony, separated from the back section by an aisle or railing or both 2. a box in a theater or opera house 3. any small enclosure; booth. 4. (in France) a cubicle for the confinement of art  students during important examinations

obit - noun. informal. an obituary 2. the date of a person's death 3. Obsolete. a Requiem Mass

obsequy - noun. plural ob-se-quies. a funeral rite or ceremony.

arval - noun. A funeral feast ORIGIN: W. arwy funeral; ar over + wylo, 'to weep' or cf. arf["o]; Icelandic arfr: inheritance + Sw. ["o]i ale. Cf. Bridal.

knell - noun. the sound made by a bell rung slowly, especially fora death or a funeral 2. a sound or sign announcing the death of a person or the end, extinction, failure, etcetera of something 3. any mournful sound 4. verb. (used without object). to sound, as a bell, especially a funeral bell 5. verb. to give forth a mournful, ominous, or warning sound.

bier - noun. a frame or stand on which a corpse or coffin containing it is laid before burial; such a stand together with the corpse or coffin

coronach - noun. (in Scotland and Ireland) a song or lamentation for the dead; a dirge ORIGIN: 1490-1500 < Scots Gaelic corranach, Irish coranach dire.

epicedium - noun. plural epicedia. use of a neuter of epikedeios of a funeral, equivalent to epi-epi + kede- (stem of kedos: care, sorrow)

funerate - verb. to bury with funeral rites

inhumation - verb(used with an object). to bury

nenia - noun. a funeral song; an elegy

pibroch - noun. (in the Scottish Highlands) a piece of music for the bagpipe, consisting of a series of variations on a basic theme, usually martial in character, but sometimes used as a dirge

pollinctor - noun. one who prepared corpses for the funeral

saulie - noun. a hired mourner at a funeral

thanatousia - noun. funeral rites

ullagone - noun. a cry of lamentation; funeral lament. also, a cry of sorrow ORIGIN: Irish-Gaelic

ulmaceous - of or like elms

uloid - noun. a scar

flagon - noun. a large bottle for drinks such as wine or cide

ullage - noun. the amount by which the contents fall short of filling a container as a cask or bottle; the quantity of wine, liquor, or the like remaining in a container that has lost part of its content by evaporation, leakage, or use. 3. Rocketry. the volume of a loaded tank of liquid propellant in excess of the volume of the propellant; the space provided for thermal expansion of the propellant and the accumulation of gases evolved from it

suttee - (also, sati) noun. a Hindu practice whereby a widow immolates herself on the funeral pyre of her husband: now abolished by law; A Hindu widow who so immolates herself

myriologue - noun. the goddess of fate or death. An extemporaneous funeral song, composed and sung by a woman on the death of a friend.

threnody - noun. a poem, speech, or song of lamentation, especially for the dead; dirge; funeral song

charing cross - noun. a square and district in central London, England: major railroad terminals.

feretory - noun. a container for the relics of a saint; reliquary. 2. an enclosure or area within a church where such a reliquary is kept 3. a portable bier or shrine

bossuet - noun. Jacques Benigne. (b. 1627-1704) French bishop, writer, and orator.

wyla -

rostrum -

aaron's rod -

common mullein -

verbascum thapsus -

peignoir -

pledget -

vestiary -

bushhamer -

beneficiation -

keeve -

frisure -

castigation -

slaw -

strickle -

vestry -

iodoform -

moslings -

bedizenment -

pomatum -

velure -

apodyterium -

macasser oil -

equipage -

tendance -

bierbalk -

joss paper -

lichgate -

parentation -

prink -

bedizen -

allogamy -

matin -

dizen -

disappendency -

photonosus -

spanopnoea -

abulia -

sequela -

lagophthalmos -

cataplexy -

xerasia -

anophelosis -

chloralism -

chyluria -

infarct -

tubercle -

pyuria -

dyscrasia -

ochlesis -

cachexy -

abulic -

sthenic - adjective. dated Medicine. of or having a high or excessive level of strength and energy

pinafore -

toff -

swain -

bucentaur -

coxcomb -

fakir -

hominid -

mollycoddle -

subarrhation -

surtout -

milksop -

tommyrot -

ginglymodi -

harlequinade -

jackpudding -

pickle-herring -

japer -

golyardeys -

scaramouch -

pantaloon -

tammuz -

cuckold -

nabob -

gaffer -

grass widower -

stultify -

stultiloquence -

batrachomyomachia -

exsufflicate -

dotterel -

fadaise -

blatherskite -

footling -

dingmat -

shlemiel -

simper -

anserine -

flibbertgibbet -

desipient -

nugify -

spooney -

inaniloquent -

liripoop -

******* -

seelily -

stulty -

taradiddle -

thimblewit -

tosh -

gobemouche -

hebephrenia -

cockamamie -

birdbrained -

featherbrained -

wiseacre -

lampoon -

Guy Fawke's night -

maclean -

vang -

wisenheimer -

herod -

vertiginous -

raillery -

galoot -

camus -

gormless -

dullard -

funicular -

duffer -

laputan -

fribble -

dolt -

nelipot -

discalced -

footslog -

squelch -

coggle -

peregrinate -

pergola -

gressible -

superfecundation -

mufti -

reveille -

dimdl -

peplum -

phylactery -

moonflower -

bibliopegy -

festinate -

doytin -

****** -

red trillium -

reveille - noun. [in sing. ] a signal sounded esp. on a bugle or drum to wake personnel in the armed forces.

trillium - noun. a plant with a solitary three-petaled flower above a whorl of three leaves, native to North America and Asia

contrail - noun. a trail of condensed water from an aircraft or rocket at high altitude, seen as a white streak against the sky. ORIGIN: 1940s: abbreviation of condensation trail. Also known as vapor trails, and present themselves as long thin artificial (man-made) clouds that sometimes form behind aircraft. Their formation is most often triggered by the water vapor in the exhaust of aircraft engines, but can also be triggered by the changes in air pressure in wingtip vortices or in the air over the entire wing surface. Like all clouds, contrails are made of water, in the form of a suspension of billions of liquid droplets or ice crystals. Depending on the temperature and humidity at the altitude the contrail forms, they may be visible for only a few seconds or minutes, or may persist for hours and spread to be several miles wide. The resulting cloud forms may resemble cirrus, cirrocumulus, or cirrostratus. Persistent spreading contrails are thought to have a significant effect on global climate.

psychopannychism -

restoril -

temazepam -

catafalque -

obit -

pollinctor -

ullagone -

thanatousia -

buckram -

tatterdemalion - noun. a person in tattered clothing; a shabby person. 2. adjective. ragged; unkempt or dilapidated

curtal - adjective. archaic. shortened, abridged, or curtailed; noun. historical. a dulcian or bassoon of the late 16th to early 18th century.

dulcian - noun. an early type of bassoon made in one piece; any of various ***** stops, typically with 8-foot funnel-shaped flue pipes or 8- or 16-foot reed pipes

withe - noun. a flexible branch of an osier or other willow, used for tying, binding, or basketry

osier - noun. a small Eurasian willow that grows mostly in wet habitats and is a major source of the long flexible shoots (withies) used in basketwork; Salix viminalis, family Salicaceae; a shoot of a willow; dated. any willow tree 2. noun. any of several North American dogwoods.

directoire - adjective. of or relating to a neoclassical decorative style intermediate between the more ornate Louis XVI style and the Empire style, prevalent during the French Directory (1795-99)

guimpe -

ip
dictionary wordlist list lists word words definition definitions wordplay play fun game paragraph language english chicago loveofwords languagelove love beauty peace yew mew sheep colors curiosity logolepsy
Jon Tobias Apr 2012
1
High speed and truly unlimited will soon be so 12 seconds ago
in the largest network ever

I mean let’s head on down to
Mylife.com
And see how well it matches with
Yourlife.com
Toss in a daily couple’s horoscope
And make magic

2
Nature has a knack for making connections

There is a redwood forest
With trees so close
Roots so tightly woven
Biologists can’t truly tell where one tree begins and one ends

It is one of the largest living organisms ever

But I could only tell you which tree I’d like to maybe climb
If I weren’t afraid of heights

Which is good because you are afraid heights too
I learned this on your profile

We are thirty percent compatible
I did the math

3
High speed your lips my way

I wish I had told you that 12 seconds ago

I mean
I’d like to dock in your port
And double click until you GOOGLE

Don’t worry about an overload or a virus
I got some burly surge protection

Unless this is too soon for you
Then maybe I can play with your thumb drive
Nibble on your wires til you’re ready for a MEGABYTE

4
It’s what we do
Find reasons to touch other people
Operate at high speeds til we crash
We need the crash
Pass by near hits
Some people I pass by and never see
We are praying for the cooldown

Sit with me a little while
Have a cup of coffee

You have an eyelash on your cheek

I am lying
I just wanted to touch your face

I sometimes wonder if we could be like play-dough
And I might melt into you if I wasn’t careful

You laughed when I asked you about it
Shifted uncomfortably

I think everything happens so fast
I’ve stopped amassing information

I just wanna single-cell feel this life for a while

5
In twelve seconds
I can be unlimited

It’s just long enough to be charming
Long enough to make you laugh

12 seconds ago
I farted
You are smelling it now

You do not say a word about it

In 12 seconds you can learn how polite someone is

My heart will beat fifteen times
In that same amount of time

Less if it skips a beat
Less if I am dying

6
Pretty soon
This life will pass you by

And god will quit texting long enough
To say

Unlimited?
Welcome to forever
Sorry you missed out
On the debauchery
And the laughter

You’ve all had your heads
In electric clouds so long

Keeping touch
Without the touch

Now join the light
You won’t feel ****
Maybe happy
I dunno
This ball just keeps getting bigger

7
Life is high speed
Feels like twelve seconds

I’m not saying we should always stop to smell the roses

Just **** more often
Touch more often
Look someone beautiful in the eyes without being afraid more often

There is only now

Now there only was
First line donated by Jessica Dunn
Anthony Carrasco Feb 2016
It took only a few seconds to
f
a
l
l
in love with you.
____________
It took only a few seconds for us to be,

meyou

, side by side.  
____________
It took only a few seconds for you to
d
r
o
p
me from your life.
_____________
Why can't it take only a few seconds to pick
myself
mysel
myse
mys
my
m
up again?
Kimberley Feb 2018
every forty seconds
a family cries
friends mourn
people wonder why

every forty seconds
a life is lost
every forty seconds
someone has had enough

people want answers
" why didn't they ask for help? "
but they did,
the signs were there
but they were ignored
people don't care until it's too late

every forty seconds
lives are changed
destroyed forever
is there a note?
a reason why?

one death, EVERY FORTY SECONDS
statistical numbers are climbing
when will people realize this is a growing problem?

stop.
give a kind word
or two.
lend a hand
you may save life and lower the statistics.
every forty(40) seconds someone dies by suicide. let's help to make a change. reach out and help. we are our brothers and sisters keepers
Kewayne Wadley Nov 2016
In most occasions all it takes is a few seconds.
A few seconds that turn into everlasting moments.
Moments we come to anticipate.
Whether it's a laugh, a moment to spend doing what we truly love.
A few seconds is all it takes.
Becoming attached at moments notice, a laughter not yet forgotten.
The excitement that spreads through each of our bones and alone
becomes the medicine that eases all pain.
It goes without saying. A few seconds is all it takes.
Most times nothing else is needed.
A silent connection of eyes refusing to look away.
The tight grip of hands not wanting to let go.
Enjoying pleasure under a seconds notice. Going on to everlasting memories.
Could you truly imagine a day where the earth itself kissed the moon.
Like literally eased a kiss on her cheek while she wasn't paying attention.
As brightly as she shines now. I bet you she'd shine brighter.
As in the seconds it takes us to define something. Over-complicating something so simple.
He truly sees her for all that she is.
In just a few seconds, a lifetime can pass by just that fast.
In most occasions we look up and wonder where the time has went.
When right along it stares us right in the face.
That's what makes it so perfect, the moment is always perfect.
To indulge in a smile, a laugh, a still moment of nothingness but bliss.
The only thing about most moments as well as a few seconds.
Is that they sometimes take forever and a day and waiting is almost if not always the most difficult thing to do.
You never get use to it, even knowing that your there
I have seen seconds encircle the night, one at a time
So often within the twinkle of an eye
Waking me to wander from the deepest slumber
Into places where my spirit seeks
The moon on high

Seconds lay waiting like butterflies of innocence
Passing silently without any regret
Until a stroke of midnight rings in so boldly
What is nothing becomes that
You cannot forget

I close my eyes on sleepless nights; listen to the sky
Laughing and smiling as if it understands
Why seconds encircle the night, one at a time
Then appear so innocent while I lie here
Under their command

Passing seconds can change into minutes, then hours
While you wait within the twinkle of an eye
To wake up and wander from the deepest slumber
Into those places your spirit seeks
To see on high
Copyright *Neva Flores @2011
www.changefulstormpoetry.blogspot.com
www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/Changefulstorm
Natalja Handy Mar 2013
I was surrounded by darkness. The kind that’s so pure, you can’t even see your fingers in front of your face, and you’re too disoriented to even know if you’re even holding your hand anywhere near your face. My heart was racing; I could feel the fast thumping of its beating against my chest. My skin was grimy with sweat and dirt and I could feel my hair glued to the back of my head and face. Where the hell had I been? Where the hell was I?
I took a step forward. Or at least I thought it was forward. For all I know it could have been backwards or sideways, or even upside down. I tried to gain my bearings but it was no use, I had lost almost all of my senses and found myself relying solely on touch. Suddenly I kicked something; a rock? I kicked the same area harder and was rewarded with the clinking of a cement stone against a wall. A whole lot of good that did me. So I’m trapped in this arbitrary darkness. Oh, but at least I’ll die with a rock for company! I thought in cheery sarcasm.
Suddenly, I lurched forward, the ground beneath my feet rumbling and seeming to shake its way free from me. The sound of the engine hit my ears just a millisecond after the blinding light. The cold, sickening feeling of fear clawed its way through my body, sending my skin crawling and my blood rushing. Now, I longed for the darkness, for the light to disappear and take along with it this metal monster.
Before I could think I turned and ran, almost falling three times and pushing myself back up with a light touch of my hand. Fatigue nagged at me in the back of my head but I pushed it back and ran as fast as I could, my feet seeming to trip over every possible bump.
The light was getting closer, illuminating the pathway in front of me. A never ending road of wooden slates lay out at my feet. Two metal tracks lined the wood with metal brackets the size of my face keeping it bolted to the ground at intervals. Its cold metal seemed to vibrate as the monster ran across it. The rail ran too close to the wall of the tunnel for me to take refuge behind it so I kept running, knowing that it was only prolonging the inevitable.
I heard the whistle of the train behind me, the sound booming impossibly loud in my head. Tears ran down my face, making it even harder to see in the gloom, and mingled with the streams of blood pouring from my ears. Abruptly, my pant leg caught on something and I fell to the ground, slamming hard against the wooden planks and the broken pieces of concrete between them. I tugged on my leg three times, each time getting progressively more pathetic than the last. What was the point? I’m stuck and even if I did manage to get up, I could never out run a train! I thought ultimately.
The train appeared at the end of my vision in the tunnel, quickly gaining pace towards me. Everything about it overpowered my senses; The intense light blinded my eyes, the powerful reverberating took away the final scraps of any sense of direction I had left, and the whistle grew so loud, it sent a wave of pain crashing over my body, only to leave it behind almost utterly numb. I covered my ears harshly, my fingers slipping and fumbling over the blood, to drown out the cranking of the wheels, the snarl of the exhaust pipe. The train continued towards me until its metal build completely covered the whole of my sight.
Ten seconds. Nine seconds. Eight seconds. I counted down to my death as time seemed to slow. Five seconds. I never quite imagined I would go like this. Three seconds.  I closed my eyes, not strong enough to watch the impact of the train to my body. One second.
Everything turned warm, the sensation a stark difference from the cold, wet despair of only a few seconds before. My arms had crept up to cover my head and the skin of them was touched with warmth. Then the warmth augmented to a blazing heat. I could feel the fire licking at my flesh, shoving away the numbness and replacing it with absolute pain.
I turned around and tried one last attempt to run. I remembered my pant leg at the last second and winced at the unavoidable enlargement of my already unbearable agony. The smell of singed hair burned my nostrils. I screamed as I felt the flames burn into my trapped leg, creeping mercilessly up to my back. I pushed my face into the dirt to spare it the fire and swallowed smoke and pebbles in atonement. A contradicting sensation of tingling and pain racked my body as I felt the skin shrivel from my bones. Flames engulfed me, rushing past my arms as they left their searing marks on them.
Pieces of metal shrapnel flew, clanking against the concrete walls of the tunnel, the monster silence forever. No more cruel whistle, no more speeding dæmon. Pieces of the train, half melted half on fire, fell around me. The vibrations from their collisions with the ground were just vague impressions against the extreme pain. Another shriek ravaged my body as a piece of burning metal landed on my back, smoldering the already burnt skin. The tears didn’t even make it over my eyelid before they were taken away into the atmosphere.
The last morsel of strength was leeched from my body as I relaxed every aching muscle of my battered being across the gravel. The fires had extinguished themselves and I was left in the dark once again. The sick stickiness of blood felt almost pleasurable as it flowed over and cooled my wounds. The thick substance poured down my neck and pooled around my mouth, cutting off air from reaching my shallow gasps. Not having the will to move, I let the liquid overtake me. I closed my eyes and let it bury me in a crimson grave.
Ron Sanders Feb 15
(Glade, World, Master, Boy, Hero)

                                                 GLADE

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

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

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

                                               WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                              MA­STER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                HERO

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

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

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

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







Copyright 2020 by Ron Sanders.

Contact:  ronsandersartofprose(at)yahoo(dot)com
Sorry about the ghastly copy. This system makes graceful formatting impossible.
Ayrah Bellosillo Jul 2015
'twas just a minute with you on the couch
fifteen seconds of pure laughter
fifteen seconds of heart thumping moments
ten seconds of exchanging pretty smiles
five seconds of heart stopping gaze
five seconds of silence
five seconds of pure hoping
five seconds of goodbye
'twas just a minute with you on the couch
but a minute seems an infinity
an infinity of memories
memories to cherish
to cherish forever.
Devon May 2013
He thinks that I am fine
that fine is not code
that the pills could go away
that the therapist is a waste
that my time is not limited
He thinks I do not
exist in beats of two
two seconds from bleeding
two seconds from wanting
two seconds from falling
two seconds from dying
always two seconds from something
Cailey Weaver May 2013
I was upstairs doing science
I came down for a break
I had sixty seconds to eat a snack
So I fixed myself a shake.

I sipped for fifteen minutes
Then my mother said, "Alright.
It's time to go upstairs to work
or we're gonna have a fight

I looked up at the clock
and I said to mom, "Already?
I still have fifty seconds left
and I still want some spaghetti."

I went to my computer and
I played a fishing game.
I played for twenty minutes
till my mom called out my name

"It's time to go upstairs, my dear!
The day is near its end!"
I still had forty seconds, though
and emails left to send

I sat down on the piano bench
and played the whole book through.
My birds began to chirp and tweet
I clapped my hands and stomped my feet.

My mom began to scream and shout
"Get up, go work, or you'll be out!"
"I only played six songs you know!
I've thirty seconds left to go!"

I opened the door
and stepped quickly outside
I searched for ten minutes
for a good place to hide.

I heard some rustling
very nearby and
a short moment later,
my mom cried out, "WHY??"

"You're deliberately wasting!
Go on! Do your school!
You're driving me crazy!
I'm starting to drool!"

"Please mom, come on!
I thought you were smart.
I've got twenty seconds,
I think I'll do art!"

I got out my pencils,
crayons and paint
I scribbled on paper.
My mom, she felt faint.

"You're getting me mad!
My hair's turning grey!
My skin's turning purple!"
She started to say.

She collapsed on the floor
and screamed ****** ******.
I think everyone in the world
could have heard her.

"Why aren't you working?
I really don't know!
Waiting for you is like
watching grass grow!"

My painting of oranges,
roses and pears,
was super fantastic
but mom didn't care.

I cleaned up the brushes
and rinsed out my hair.
And all this I did
with ten seconds to spare!

I looked out the window,
the sky was pitch black.
The day, it was over,
there's no turning back.

My science, unfinished,
my math stayed undone.
My mother lay limp,
but at least I had fun!

— The End —